Hellsister: Part 20
 by  DarkMark

Mordru had penetrated enough of the veil to look beyond the final barriers.

He gazed upon the plain where once Light and Darkness had battled through pawns, and then reached an agreement, and put their pawns away.  That was a millenium ago.

Little had changed of Hell, at least from the exterior.  The whole living or semi-living mass which formed its outer walls was still a nauseating bulwark of incomprehensible complexity.  Mordru felt that, if he stared at it long enough, perhaps he, too, would lose his mind trying to fathom it.  He heard the shrieks of the damned, and wondered how many were from people he knew.

The gate was still what it was, an unimaginative gate with a keeper whose form could not be told in three dimensions.

There was a vasting plain stretching away from that, and on the other side was Heaven.

At least, he thought it was Heaven.  Never having been there, he could not be an authority.  But the emerald's lore tended to confirm that this was, indeed, a version of Paradise.  So much greenery, pleasant hills, silvery mansions, and no gates to speak of.  But Mordru guessed that anyone trying to enter without permission would find it an even harder place to storm than Hell.

He saw no one in the shining city, and supposed that he was not meant to see anyone there.  But he suspected their existence.

He vouchsafed himself a glance at the skies above the plain.

There it was.  Yes, indeed, there it was.  The ultimate objective.

A circular pattern that seemed to have grown into the sky itself, the dark area with the one white dot, the light area with the one black dot.  Perhaps, somehow, they really were hands, not quite clasped but abutting on each other's territory.

He had used much energy in getting as far as he had.  Now, he would rest a bit, before the final assault, which would take much power and would need much swiftness.  Should he falter, The Dark might not take kindly to an attempted invasion of its being.  Not even Mordru could imagine what it might do, in such a case.

But he would not falter.  He felt confident of that.

So Mordru rested awhile, and watched The Dark and The Light.

And wondered if they were watching him back.

 -S-

White Witch and Constantine had the floor, for the moment.  Mysa was talking.

"We're going to attempt to open a portal to the Netherworld as soon as we hear from Dev and his crew.  If we don't hear from him in about an hour, we're going to have to go on ahead.  We all know that we have no choice."

Mysa stopped and took a deep breath, then swept the faces about the meeting table with her gaze.  John was fiddling with a cigarette to give his hands something to do.

"Let me emphasize that what we are doing is opening a passageway to the land of the Dead.  From what I have learned in my research, and from what John has told me...the people we send through the gate will probably be in the vicinity of the White Realm...and of Hell.  Kara and Gim will be facing not only Mordru, but the embodiments of Light and Dark in our universe.  I...cannot reduce this in mere words to you.  I have been an adept most of my life.  It scares the hell out of me.  And I'm not even one of those who are going over.  I recommend Supergirl and Colossal Boy for our highest citation of courage, in doing so."

"Motion is carried unanimously," said Phantom Girl, without authority but, she knew, with everyone's agreement.

"We have faced Mordru many times before, and beaten him.  This time, it's going to be different.  He's boosted his power to an unimaginable level.  So much so, that he may not even take notice of us.  At least, he hasn't yet."

Thank the Lord for small favors, thought Gim, holding the Spear of Destiny between his knees.

"But we do have several things on our side.  For one, we apparently have some higher forces working for us, or perhaps we're working for them.  The vision Gim had of Nabu and Melderkin seems to confirm that.  For another, we've got the Spear of Destiny.  Just the possession of this artifact by certain people has changed the course of history.  It may be the only weapon that can be of proof against Mordru now.  For a third, you've got John and myself, and I have to admit now that we're one of the best magic teams you could have in your corner.  For a fourth...we're the Legion.  We've never been beaten yet.  And even if we have to go to the gates of Hell to do it...we're going to bring back another win."

"That's a truth," said Ultra Boy.  "Long live the Legion!"

After the "Long Live the Legion!" chant was answered and died down, Mysa permitted herself a smile.  Then she said, "I'm going to let John talk to you for a little bit, and then we'll break for the rest of the hour.  There will be things you'll want to get done, I'm sure.  All right, John, they're all yours."

"Thank'oo very much, Mysa," said John.  He lit his twisted cigarette, stood up, took a couple of drags, and gathered his thoughts.  Crikey, guv, you're acting more of a wuss than when you had to give a speech in your seventh year, he thought.  He pulled out the cigarette and used the thumb of that hand to scratch between his eyes.  The Legionnaires grew a bit restive, waiting.

One of Computo's modules came out, hovering, with a small tray which it positioned under John's cigarette.  He smiled briefly and tapped off the ashes.  "With perks like these, I might jolly well stay here," he cracked.  There was some laughter, and he and they were grateful for it.

He began.  "All right, let me give you all summat of the plan.  Kara and Gim are gonna be our away team this time.  What we're gonna be is the home team.  That means that Mr. Fin here...er, Tellish?...well, anyway, he's the telepath on hand.  So what I'm gonna ask you to do, Mr., eh..."

"Tellus," spoke the amphibian, through his meaty lips.

"Right, Tellush, I'm going to ask you to form a mind-bind with Ms. Kara here and give us bulletins from the front, so to speak.  I don't want you to mess with her mind, just be able to tell us what she sees.  This, mind you, is gonna be the roughest job on the whole team.  The last mate I had at this position is still a candidate for the rubber room.  So look me in the ruddy eye and tell me if you're up to it."

Tellus turned his helmeted head towards John.  It was Constantine who had to swallow.

"I am a Legionnaire," he said, and that was all there was to it.

"Right," said John, and dug in his ear with his little finger.  "Sorry, wax buildup.  Now comes the fun part.  This is a game that the whole family can play.  Or most of ‘em, anyway."

He leaned on the table with both hands, the Silk Cut still smoking between two fingers.  "What we're going to do is run your basic seance number.  I'm on one end of the circuit.  Ms. Witch is on the other.  We're all going to hold hands like we were in a maypole dance.  ‘Cept there ain't no bloody maypole."

"John, we know what a seance is," said Cosmic Boy.

"What's a maypole?" asked Shrinking Violet.

"I wish we had more mystics'n just us two, to kind of spread the load around, but it's going to be just us," said Constantine.  "At any rate..."

"You do have more than just the two of you," said another voice.

The group turned in the direction it came from.

Sensor Girl had spoken.

"Sense, what are you saying?" asked Laurel.  "Who are you?"

The masked woman folded her hands on the table.  "That is not important.  I have some small familiarity with the mystic arts.  I shall serve as third."

"Now see here, luv, this isn't amateur night," said Constantine.  "You could get yourself bloody well killed.  Two gents I did this number with last time around did.  The corners catch the action."

"John's right, Sensor Girl," said Mysa.  "Even for top-line mystics, this is going to be an ordeal."

"I have been through an ordeal!" said the red-and-white-clad woman, with surprising force.  "I am a Legionnaire.  And I have been a Legionnaire longer than you.  I shall be the third."

The rest of the group was astonished at her statement.  Minds raced, trying to put together data to fit a possible face behind the mask.  Supergirl still looked thoughtful.

John broke the silence.  "If that's the way you want it, dear.  All right, three's better'n two, I hope.  But any number can play, in a way.  Here's what I want the rest of you to do.

"All the rest of you are going to be holding hands, completing the circle.  We're going to concentrate our power on keeping things together...kinda bein' the away team's backstop.  Now, I've gotta ask you first, do any of you have a power of some sort that could hurt the rest of us if it went off when we were linked up?  ‘Cause if you do, I'd prefer you out.  Thing is, The Dark might notice us.  It did last time.  Sargon the Sorceror burnt to a bloody crisp.  One second, he was alive.  Next second, he was crepes suzette.  Dead.

"And we had to hang on to his bloody dead hands.

"I'm not jokin' about that one.  The people on both sides of him got superficial burns.  We still had to keep the circle together.  If we didn't, we'd get worse'n if we were all soakin' our feet and somebody dropped us a live power cable.  A minute later, Miss Zatanna started puttin' out smoke.  Her dad, Zatara, took the power inside himself instead.  He went like a sonofa--like a Roman candle.  Roast beef, down to his burnin' top hat.  We still had to hold onto him.  I got my mitt burned right smartly, an' counted myself lucky."

Nobody was talking.  Outside of very quiet breathing, nobody was making a sound.

"So what I'm tryin' to say is, expect casualties.  We're about to plug into something that's very real, what could have the world on toast if it wanted to, and get up hungry the next morning.  I hate to sound like the damn wing commander in a World War Number Two thingy, but anybody doesn't want to come along on this'n, for personals...I'll understand."  He looked at Captain Action and Action's son.  "Cap, you two, you're just pinch-batters.  The kid's got a lot of livin' to do, I trow, and he could use a dad.  I'd really rather leave you out, no offense.  S'up to you."

The man in the captain's cap gave him back a solid look.  "I agree about Carl, John.  He can sit this one out, but as long as I'm here, I'm--"

"Hold it, Dad," said Action Boy, putting a hand on his father's shoulder.  "Seriously.  You told me never to back down in the face of a challenge.  You had faith enough in my guts to let me be your partner.  We both know that hasn't exactly been hazard-free, don't we?  I'm in on this one, with you or not."

"Carl, I could order you to go."  There was a beat of silence.

"And Dad, I could tell you I'm not going."  Action Boy's gaze didn't waver from his father's.

Clive Arno turned back to Constantine.  "All right, then.  But you'd better bring my boy through this thing, if he still wants to participate."

John looked at them both intently.  "I make no friggin' promises, Cap'n.  If you're not prepared to see your son burn up before your eyes, and if you, kid, aren't prepared to see the same about your father, get the hell up and go.  Like I said, I'm not hot on the idea of your participation."

Carl Arno said, "The coins we take our powers from have some magical properties.  I think we're here for a good reason.  I'm staying, Mr. Constantine."

Captain Action gave his son a tender but stony look.  Then he turned back to John, and said nothing.

"If'n I had a basin here, I'd wash my hands like Pontius bloody Pilate," said Constantine.  "What about the rest of you?  Anyone else?"

Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Tellus, Polar Boy, Power Boy, Sensor Girl, Shrinking Violet, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Captain Action, Action Boy, Dream Girl, Star Boy, Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Laurel Kent, and Supergirl all did their share of looking at each other, wondering if any were going to back down, looking and finding the fear and courage in their fellows' eyes.

"All right, then.  See you in about half an hour."  Constantine got up and, sticking his hands in his coat pockets, ambled off  to the door.

Power Boy grasped Laurel Kent's hand before she could get up from the table.  "Laurel, I, uh, wanna let you know that you've always been a really, really great friend to me.  I mean, through the Academy, on up to now.  And, um, could I sit beside you at the table when we start?  Y'know, just as a friend kind of thing?"

Laurel favored him with a tired smile.  "If it's okay with John and Mysa, it's okay with me.  Now I've got to go, Jed.  And thanks, you've been a good friend, too."  She pecked him on the forehead.

Shrinking Violet was standing before Colossal Boy, who held the Spear in one hand.  They were silent for a moment.  Then she blinked back tears, and embraced him.  He hugged her back.

Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy sat at the table and held hands.  Neither smiled.  "If one of us has to go, or both of us, I'm glad we'll be together, Jo," she said.

"I'm very glad we're together," said Jo Nah.  "But don't sell Legion Luck short yet.  And if we get through this thing, I want to marry you."

"If we do, I will," she said.  Then they sadly kissed and hugged for a long time.

Tellus and Polar Boy found themselves together.  "Well, we're the newest hands here, if Sensor Girl told us the truth," said Brek Bannin.  "Interesting if we have to die this soon in the game, right?"

Tellus shifted his great yellow-and-purple-hued bulk.  "It is terrifying," he rumbled.  "But within a short time, it will be done.  Thank you for being my teammate, Polar Boy."

Polar Boy swallowed.  "Thanks right back at ya, you big, swivel-headed slug."  They shook hands.

Dream Girl and Star Boy were together, holding one hand apiece and looking sick and in love at the same time.  They'd been on the edge many times before, faced Darkseid, the Time-Trapper, the Legion of Super-Villains, and all the rest.  But this time it felt different.  It felt so nauseatingly different.

Finally, Thom said to her, "Do you think we'd have time to before they get started?"

Dream Girl, not smiling, but still looking into his eyes, said, "I can't imagine anything I'd rather do first, if we might not be here to do it afterward."

They walked out of the room and headed for Nura's quarters.

Shadow Lass and Timber Wolf found themselves across from each other at the table.  "Know what I'm thinking, Tasmia?" said Wolf, looking casually at her.

"What?"

"Both that I'm glad Ayla isn't here right now, and wishing that she was."

Shadow Lass nodded, slowly.  "Just the way I'm feeling about Mon.  Brin, I'm sorry it didn't work between you and Lightning Lass."

"Yeah," he said.

"But if we can't be with our lovers right now, I'm glad to be with friends.  Like you."

"Yeah," he said, smiling briefly, and sighed as he settled back.  "Me, too.  Cripes, why don't we just get this thing done?"

She had no ready answer for that, so they talked of other things.

Captain Action and his son sat beside each other and tried to find words.  "I didn't want to lose you," said the elder hero.  "I know you're going to be draft bait before much longer, but I still didn't want to lose you."

"I know, Dad," said Carl.  "Listen, for what it's worth, you're the best father I can imagine a kid ever having.  It's been hard on you, with Mom gone, but still..."

"Ah, your mother," said Captain Action.  "Well, there's one thing to be said for this.  If we die, at least we'll have somebody who'll welcome us over.  And we'll both be glad to see her."

Carl grasped his father's hand.  "We will, Dad.  But we're not going to see Mom for a good while yet."

"Maybe not, son," said Captain Action.  And they talked of other things.

Supergirl ducked out, noticing Cosmic Boy and Colossal Boy talking.  Laurel called to her, but she only waved.  She wanted to talk to Constantine, get as much data as she could about the Other Side.  Kara still shivered, not knowing what she was going to face, and glad of it.

When she went into the hall, she saw Constantine going into the kitchen and schussing the door shut behind him.  The Kryptonian girl pushed off the carpet and flew to the door, thought about opening it, and opted to use her super-hearing first to find out what he was doing.

She heard John Constantine talking in an empty room.

"Hello, I know You're listening," he said.  "Sorry to bother You in the middle of the day and all.  Look, we're in a bit of a bind.  I know y'got summat y'could have against me.  Let's not get into that now, all right?  I'm not askin' any favors for me, in particular.  Well, I'd prefer not to go like instant-start charcoal, but what the hell, excuse me, that just slipped out.

"I'm askin' for the kids.  If they could be brought through this thing simon-pure, I'd really appreciate it.  And the two Action guys, they shouldn't even be in this.  Them gettin' their trousers burnt really wouldn't be Marquis of Queensbury.  Now, would it?

"But the thing I'm really askin'...the thing I'm really askin'...is for Miss, excuse me, Ms. Kara there.  And maybe for her guy, too.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not poaching her.  But the kid's got something to her.  Makes me feel kinda good, hangin' around her.  You know what I'm talkin' about?  Well, I expect so.  She's one solid gal, she is.  And from what I've gathered here, she and that Dev guy haven't had much time together.  So it'd be really bleedin' improper for one or both of ‘em to catch the night train prematurely, now, wouldn't it?  I mean, wouldn't it?

"So it's like...if'n You can bring ‘er through this...and maybe her man, too...You've got my marker.  For whatever that's worth.  I may have walked the fence, but I don't welsh.  Ask me mates.  I've gone hungry till next week's payday to pay off a bet."

Constantine was silent for a second.  Kara made no sound at all.

"Want me to sweeten the pot?  Well, what?  All right, I'll go to church.  Just once!  What else?  Ah, lemme see...oh, cripes, I would think of that.  I don't really wanna do that.  Oh, all right.  If you get ‘em both through, I'll...I'll vote for Maggie Thatcher.

"But just once!"

There was a pause, and a sound of shoes scuffing.  Then Constantine said, "Oh, one more thing.  If that bloke Rao is anywhere in the block, he better come through for them.  He blew it with Krypton.  If he blows it with this one, I'll come up there and kick his ruddy pants for him.  That's all."

Kara floated up to the ceiling and spread-eagled herself against it as John opened the door.  He looked both ways, then walked in the direction of the guest quarters.

She looked after him for a few seconds, then flew back to the meeting room.

And she wondered about Dev.

 -S-

Dev rocketed upward, willing himself to multi-light speed, and knowing well it might not be enough against the deadly rotating arm of the Cosmic Axis.

He went up at an angle, his super-brain calculating the point at which his path would bisect that of the Axis's arm at the point in which the mite of Eternity Rock was embedded in its surface.  Optimistically, he thought he might avoid the Axis's sweep even if he missed the rock fragment, and swoop over it to safety, ready for another try.

More realistically, he knew he had a chance with a decimal point and a whole bunch of zeroes after it before you saw a number of one or higher.  The probability was much greater that he'd turn into a splattered bug on a hovercraft windshield.

All the prayers had been said.  He barely had time to think of Kara, and of Rokyn.  He had already considered that, if he went splat, the five Supermen might not have power enough to realign the Axis.  Hell, the six of them might not have enough.

Then the mighty shaft of whiteness was on a plane with him, and it was coming at him with insane velocity.

Dev hurled himself up in a curve, one hand stretched downward, his head bent down towards the Axis arm, his microscopic vision picking the rock fragment out as it circled rapidly on the spinning curved surface.

He reached out.

He made contact.

The super-tactile sense of a Kryptonian told him that his scraping fingers had made contact with the curved, spinning smoothness of the Axis.  Its swiftness burned his hand.  If he spent more than another instant holding it, he felt that his fingers would be sanded off to the nubs.

Then, as he completed the thought, an irregular surface.  He bent his fingers deliberately, his body still in motion, still arcing over the Axis arm, and damned well wouldn't let go.

Dev was spun around the arm by its centrifugal motion, while the Supermen below made ready to grab him, if they could do so and not risk tearing him apart.

The green-suited son of Krypton whipped away from the Axis arm, hurtling into warpspace.  The five others had their telepathic plugs turned up as high as they could, straining for a thought from him.

There was none, simply because Dev didn't have time enough to formulate a thought.  He was volplaning away from the Axis, out of control, trying madly to halt his flight, and barely aware that he might be flung millions of miles away--or whatever was their warpspace equivalent--before he could halt his motion, or even slow it.

However, he didn't go that far.

Dev's body impacted against an object that moved backwards a bit with him, but with controlled speed.  The object was about his size, and was acting as a shock absorber.  He grunted, hurt, bruised by the contact, but not injured.  He guessed, wildly, that he had hit something human.  One of the Supermen, probably. <Who-->, he began.

Without responding, the other flung Dev back in the direction from whence he came.  Dev didn't have time to crane his head back and see which Superman it was.  He was busy taking note of two things.

First, the fingers of one hand were hurting.  But they were still wrapped tightly about something, and he felt it, and was almost-but-not-quite afraid to open them, even as he hurtled back towards the Axis.  He looked in his hand, and knew what he would find there.

The small, craggy, yellowish brown, and incredibly hard fragment of Eternity Rock.

<I've got it,> he broadcast wildly to himself, to the Supermen, and to whomever else might be listening, including even Rao. <I'VE GOT IT!>

Dev looked below him, even as he added his speed to that of the one who had hurled him, and saw he was bypassing all five of the Supermen.  He blinked and checked again.  All five of them saw him, and were shouting words of congratulation and encouragement to him, words which, when he had a chance to consider them later, would almost reduce him to tears of gratitude.  For Dev, despite it all, was a sentimental and courageous man.

He shoved the small fragment of rock into his pants and soared back towards the Axis.  The Supermen were flying towards it as well, in individual parabolas that would position them on opposite sides of the great arm.

Five Supermen.  That meant none of them could have caught him, and hurled him back.

It could be Mon-El, thought Dev, if he got back in time.  It could even be Kal, if he'd been contacted, and he selfishly hoped he hadn't.  It didn't feel like a woman, so it probably wasn't Kara.  And he knew Dawnstar didn't have enough power to hurl him that way.

That was about all the time he had before he swung into position alongside two of the Supermen, his arms thrust foward, palms curved, and prepared to make contact again with the Cosmic Axis.

They had worked it out beforehand.   Dev and Supermen II and III would latch on to one end of the Axis's spinning arm, far away from its pivot point.   Supermen IV through VI would pit themselves against the other arm, from the opposite side, and try and slow its motion long enough to realign the Axis, correcting its deadly wobble.

There was a damned good chance that they'd all get their fool arms torn off doing it.  But there wasn't anything else they could do.

No time to worry about what time paradoxes would be created if any of all of the Supermen died in this action.  He'd chosen all of them after they had fathered the next generation of Supermen, anyway.  A Superman VII would be left to carry on the line.

A safe distance from the Axis, but still close enough to watch everything, Dawnstar hung in the warp-void, and continued her prayer-chant.  Manitou, she said, lend strength to our warriors' arms.  Let the great shaft be corrected, and let us save their world.

It was the only thing she could do now.  It was all up to the Krypts, and to Manitou.

Dev, Superman II, and Superman III swung under the great Axis arm, their bodies lying flat as it passed over them, looking up at it, and grabbed its spinning surface with their mighty hands.

The contact force was astonishing.

If a cosmic baseball pitcher had thrown a white dwarf star past a batter and Dev had been the catcher, he felt that the impact could have been no greater.

His lips came away from his teeth in a terrible grimace of effort and pain.  All of the others were hanging on, spinning about the arm, not letting go, but all about as agonized as himself.

The six Kryptonians exerted every iota of their energy.  Mentally, they all had a clear picture of the angle towards which the Axis had to be aligned.  They also had an accurate calculation of how far off the Axis presently was.  Each of them, singly, was capable of moving an Earth-sized planet out of orbit.

And it still wasn't enough.

The mighty Axis was only slowing infitesimally.  The angle of correction was not great enough.  They would not yield, they would continue their effort till each of them fell dead in warpspace.  And yet, Dev sensed that they would not succeed. Their power was not quite enough.  Not quite...

Then, suddenly, he felt a shock of new contact along the Axis arm.

A new presence had been added to his end of the arm.  With sweat pouring off his brow and evaporating into the void, Dev wrenched his head to the right to see who it was.

There, positioned just to the right of the Dev-Superman II-Superman III grouping, was a man, clad in a red-and-yellow costume, a white cape trimmed with gold hanging from a golden rope about his neck, a yellow lightning bolt on his chest, and white epaulets of some sort on his shoulders.  He, too, was pushing against the great arm, and putting his utmost effort into it, and showing the strain.

At the same time, he was giving Dev a grin, like an excited kid.

<Who in Sheol is that?>, rasped Dev, in between grunts of effort.

<Who in Sheol cares?  Keep pushing!>, snapped Superman II, beside him.

One side was imbalanced now, it was true.  But the power of seven was more than the power of six.  And now, the six dared hope that this, finally, might be enough for their task.

<Raaaao,> groaned Dev, shoving away as hard as he could against the hurtling arm. <Rokynnnnn.>

The others began to take up the two-word chant as well, like laborers at a terrible task. <Raoooo,> their telepathy resounded in six brains. <Rokyn.>

And what the newcomer thought, they had no idea, for he had no telepathic plug.  But he seemed to know what he was doing.

Dev looked at the angle of the Axis.  He checked it again, and again, in the space of a second.

<It's changing,> he sent with an effort.

<Keep pushing,> ordered one of the Supermen, and nobody knew or cared which one.

How much time they had left before Rokyn burst into nova-space, none of them accurately knew, but they sensed that not a large amount of it remained.  The blood in Dev's body rushed to and from his heart at terrible pressure.  Numbly, he knew he could suffer heart attack, the rupture of a blood vessel in his brain, death by overstrain, or even a plain and simple hernia.  He knew all of the others were feeling the same.  He also knew that he didn't dare let it matter.

The angle changed yet again.  It was coming closer to the mark.

<Rao-Rokyn,> sent the Kryptonian sextet.   Their uniforms were stained by sweat.  Superman V had developed a nosebleed, sending globules of red into the darkness.

Even the stranger was showing the effort, not grinning anymore, but applying his grinding, mighty power against the shaft of indefinable matter or quasi-matter.   Whoever he was, thought Dev, he had as much power as a son of Krypton or Daxam.  Luckily for them all.

Their strength would not hold forever, and they all knew it.

What had to be done, had to be done now.  Dev looked towards Supermen II, III, and the stranger. <Up,> he sent. <Now.>

And the four men on his side bent their efforts upward, as the three on the other side forced downward.

The cosmos seemed to creak.  Everything in Dev's vision seemed tinged with red.

The angle was still changing, steadily.  A little more.  A little more.

A wordless scream of effort from Dev was manifested as static across the telepathic band.  However many joined in that scream, he knew not.

But Superman VI overrode it all, sending, <Just a bit more...just a bit more...Rao...

<THERE!>

The other six received the word, and wondered, dumbly, what it meant.

<Disengage!> hollered the Sixth Superman with his mind. <The angle...is corrected.  The Axis...is aligned.>

It was done.

Dev looked at the arc of the centrifuge to which he still clung, and calculated its angle twice.

It was done.

It was...

Done.

The six Kryptonians, weakly, loosed themselves one by one from the Cosmic Axis, and were sent flying.  The seventh of the group followed suit, tired, exhausted, but still in possession of his faculties.  He flew in a path that intersected those of several flying Supermen, and caught them, till there were four of them in a bundle.  They hung tiredly in the void, the Axis churning away in a plane overhead.

Dev, noting the stranger's effort, exerted his flight power and managed to latch onto the ankle of Superman II.  The red-caped man swung Dev in a parabola with the force of their spin, but after a few turns they slowed.  They looked at each other, tried to form thoughts, gave up, and kept looking at each other.

Superman III managed to arc his body so as to curve him back towards the others, sighted the clump of three Supermen and the man in red and yellow, and whumped into them with some force.  The other four were trying to shake themselves back to sanity.

There were some attempts at sending, somewhere along the lines of, <We did it,> or, <Are we all here?>, or, <Dad, did you make it?  Did I make it?>.  But they were too tired to do much conversing, even mentally.  Two of the Supermen, for all intents and purposes, had fallen asleep.

Dev sent two words. <Kara,> he said.  He sent it twice.

The newcomer had no telepathic plug, and thus no way of conversing with the others.  He marshalled his remaining strength, which he guessed was a bit more intact at the moment than his weary fellows, and tried something, which worked.

He checked the elasticity of one of the Supermen's capes (it was Superman IV's), found it would do, and detatched it from the Superman's costume.  Then he flew about the floating Kryptonians and pushed them towards a central point, making a mass of them.  They felt themselves bumping against each other's bodies, but decided that nothing untoward was being done to them.

Then the newcomer encircled them all with the cape, as if tying together a bundle of sticks, and knotted one end of the cape about the midpoint of the cape's body.  Dev and the five Supermen were bunched together as if they were standing in a very crowded elevator.

Their newfound friend took the other end of the cape and began to tow them.  He was tired, almost spent, but wagered that he could reach the Rock of Eternity before long.  There was atmosphere on the Rock that would permit communication, and he could introduce them to his aged mentor.

By that time, they might even be awake enough for him to ask them about the Axis.  But he decided that, all in all, it had been a good decision to follow his hunch and give the six strangers a hand.

And if Zeus was around, he could ask him about it.  He seemed to know about these things.

Dawnstar, who had watched what he did carefully, decided that he meant her friends no harm, and followed, at what she reckoned a safe distance.

The eight of them sped across the void.

 -S-

Brainiac 5 came out of his Quicksleep slumber and shook himself awake.  He was stripped down to his white shorts, lying in the folds of the deep-blue covered bed which hung suspended above the floor and molded its contours to his body's position.  He spoke a command and it firmed back into flatness.  Then he picked out a fresh purple uniform from his closet, got into it, put on his boots and force-field belt, and had the door whisk open.  Once in the hall, he headed directly for the meeting room.

"Computo," he said, on the way.

"Functioning," responded Computo's voice from a wall speaker.

"Current status of Daxam and Rokyn," said Brainy, steeling himself.

"Report from Legion Cruiser Two indicates Daxam operation was successful," Computo reported.  "No report yet from Rokyn rescue party.  All contact channels monitored."

"Thank you, off."  Brainy sighed, even as he faced the opening meeting room door.  At least one of their efforts had been rewarded.  But two things remained.

He looked and saw the entire complement of Legionnaires present seated about the meeting table, with John Constantine at one end and White Witch at the other, a pattern of some complexity drawn in blue chalk on its surface--which repulsed him.   Their faces swung towards him as he entered.  "Brainy," said Laurel.  "My powers work now!  And we've saved Daxam!"  She was smiling, despite the tension of the moment.

"Mr. Five, glad to have you back," said Constantine.  "We've got a seat ready for you.  Here's the rules: you hold hands with the bloke and shiela on either side of you, and you don't let go, or we're all dead.  Got that?"

Brainiac 5 said nothing.  Condoning sorcery was one thing.  But participating in it...this turned his stomach.

Before anyone else could speak, Computo's tone rang out, signifying someone at the entrance, wishing admission.  The viewscreen appeared, and the aspects of the persons at their doorstep were revealed.

One was the man in the hat and dark clothing.  Beside him was the white-haired, white-suited man with a cane.  The Science Police didn't seem to notice them, for some reason.

"Who in heck are they?" asked Ultra Boy.

Supergirl, standing beside Colossal Boy, who still held the spear, looked at Constantine.  "John, who are these people?  Do you know them?"

Constantine's jaw had dropped.  Finally, he said, "Bloody hell.  Yeah, I know one of ‘em.  Send ‘em up."

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