Hellsister: Part 21
 by  DarkMark

The old wizard wasn't too surprised by the fact that his protégé was coming back, looking very tired, dragging the six fellows he'd seen before all wrapped up in one of those garish red capes, with a beautiful winged Indian maiden in a scanty costume following.

What did surprise him was that he seemed to recognize the costumes on five of them.

He pulled a pair of spectacles from a pocket in his robe, shined them a bit on his sleeve, and peered through them out into warpspace at the party of eight that was coming nearer to the Rock of Eternity.

"Holy Moley," he said.  Then he sat down on a bench outside his house and waited for them to land.

It didn't take long.  Even pushing 54, the youngster was as speedy as he had ever been.  Before long, his two yellow-booted feet thumped down on the flat surface of the Rock's crest.  The cape was still clutched in his hand, and the other end of it was still wound about the six men he had been dragging, who thumped down like a bundle of lumber.  The Indian girl fluttered her huge white wings and touched down daintily beside them.

The red-costumed man let go of the cape and clumped tiredly over to the wizard.  "Great one...I am...very tired...", he rasped.

"I should say so," said the wizard, and propped him up with his arms.  "Your uniform is all soaked with sweat.  Seems to me you could use a day in Venus's bath chamber.  Before that, though, I think you could use some sack time and foodstuffs."

"Oh, aye," said the hero.  "But see...to our...guests first."

"Just you sit right down here," the old man said, and plunked him down on the bench, where he sat, wiping his face with his hands.  The wizard walked over, bowed slightly to the woman, took hold of the cape where it was wrapped under itself around the six men, and unwrapped it.  The sextet rolled free, like barrels whose stay has been taken away.  They were breathing, but they were exhausted, and most of them didn't even seem conscious.

And he did recognize their costumes.

"Young lady," he said.  "We have not been introduced, but I may know one of your friends."

Dawnstar approached, warily.  "Good life, father.  My name is Dawnstar.  I am a Legionnaire, and these are my friends.  Five of them are Supermen."

"Supermen?" The whitebeard's eyes crinkled in amusement.  "Well, now, I knew a Superman.  A good man, he was.  It was...let me see...must have been almost a thousand years back by now, give or take a decade.  Forgive me for not introducing myself.  Around here they call me the Old Man."  He laughed.

"Is that funny?" asked Dawnstar, cocking her head.

"Oh, yes, missy, it is.  I'm very, very old for a man, but the others who live on this Rock make me look like a spring chicken indeed.  My lad over there, he's taken the option of Aging.  It took me a long while to decide to Age, and I didn't do it very well.  That's why I've gotten this desk job, so to speak."  He leaned forward conspiratorially.  "I intend to be here for a long time."

Dawnstar, not knowing what to make of him, replied, "Well, we don't.  That is, we have to be off as soon as my friends are recovered.  Can you help them, somehow?"

"I'll have some of the staff look to their needs," he said.  "If I know what their needs are.  Young-fellow-my-son, what have you and these gentlemen been about?"

"I helped them turn a great shaft in the warp," said the hero, somewhat recovered now but still tired.  "They were at it a bit longer than I, which is why they sleep.  But I helped.  Their power is like unto my own."

"I don't doubt it, if they were even able to get here," said the wizard.  "It sounds as if you were fooling a bit with the Cosmic Axis.  Now that's a terribly foolish thing to do, unless it needed doing.  Did it?"  He was looking at Dawnstar.

She said, "Oh, yes, old one, it did indeed.  A foul one called Black Adam--"

"Him?"  The old wizard's visage suddenly contorted.  He changed from benign halfwit to threatening necromancer.  "If that traitor now fouls this time, I'll have him--"

"When last I saw him, he was our prisoner," said Dawnstar, interrupting.  The wizard subsided, somewhat.  "Black Adam had placed a small bit of Eternity Rock on the Axis's arm.  It caused a fluctuation, and threatened to destroy a planet...the Supermen's homeworld, and the homeworld of this other.  I was along as a guide.  But we are not done yet, and when they recover, we needs must go home to our Earth."

The sweaty superbeing on the bench looked up.  "You are from another Earth, then.  That's where you teleported from when I saw you at the political rally."

"Then you are from Superman's Earth," mused the old man.  "I remember when I first heard of it.  There seemed to be a lot of Earths.  So many they had to number them all.  Except ours, as I recall.  They gave us a letter.  That seemed odd.  Don't know that I much liked it."  He sniffed.

Dawnstar was headed towards exasperation.  "I beg your pardon, old father, but we must return to my world as soon as possible.  If you can, I would request sustenance and care for my friends.   If it please you."

The wizard lifted his well-veined hands and clapped.  From the trees about his house, a host of small people emerged.  Dawnstar was startled.  They might be gnomes, elves, trolls, sprites, or a kind of generic smallbeing.  Their skin was swarthy, they wore loincloths or toga-like garments and headbands, and had strangely-shaped ears and smiled a lot.

"Get our guests to bed, and prepare a feast," said the old man.  The little people rushed to the sleeping Supermen and Dev, four to a man, picking them up by their sides and hustling them into the wizard's home, which did not seem big enough to hold them all.  But it evidently was.  Dawnstar became wary.

The wizard noticed that.  "You can go in there with them, if you wish.  We've victuals enough for us all.  Captain, join us at the table.  But freshen up a bit in my bathing area.  You smell like a moose."

The hero grinned.  "With pleasure, my liege."  He got up, appraised Dawnstar a few seconds, and then strode inside the house.  She looked after him for a moment.

"His costume looks familiar," she said.  "But I've seen so many in the Crisis."

The wizard stepped to her shoulder.  "Well, now, there've been crises and crises.  What crisis would this one be?"

She looked at him appraisingly.  "It became known as the Crisis on Infinite Earths.  I might have seen him in it."

He returned her gaze for several moments before he said, "No, not him.  But you might have seen me.  Perhaps he's familiar because his suit is like one I once wore.  But that was a long time ago."

Dawnstar parted her lips to ask the question, but he answered it first.

"My protégé is known, thankfully for good reasons, as the current Captain Marvel."

"Then--" she said, trying to remember.  "You must be the old wizard, called Sha--"

"Don't," he said, holding up a hand.  "When you say it here, that word can get out of hand.  No, I'm not that one you're thinking about.  But I'm the latest in the line.  It always runs like this...first mortal, then hero, then wizard.  I'm not sure what comes next.  But I do know what came before.  You see--"

And here he smiled a smile of bashful proudness.

"--You see, before I was the Old Man, I became Captain Marvel.  And before Captain Marvel, I was called William Batson."
 -S-

"Stranger," said John Constantine, "you'll forgive me my bluntness, but we're in a rush here.  What the hell are you doing here?  And who's the homeless gent?"

The Legionnaires were becoming uneasy.  None could quite discern the eyes below the hatbrim of the dark-clothed man.  The white-dressed old duffer with the cane was unsettling, as well, and smelly.

Brainiac Five was curious, but somewhat hostile.  "We don't have any more time for stunts, gentlemen.  If we delay any longer, Mordru may do his merger while we're still in protocol."

"What he said, " agreed Constantine.

Supergirl, standing near Colossal Boy, wasn't so sure she didn't appreciate the delay.  After all, the place they were sending her to...it was enough to daunt the soul of the hardiest Kryptonian.  It was beyond death, for Rao's sake.  And she wasn't that eager for a preview of the other side.

She glanced at Gim's face.  The clenched teeth and tensed muscles on his arms as he grasped the spear bespoke his own difficulties of spirit.  But he was going through with it, and he didn't even have the power she did.  Kara was ashamed of herself a bit, and straightened her shoulders.

"Do I know him?" asked the white-haired man, speaking to the Stranger about Constantine.

"There are two answers for that one, my friend," the Stranger said to the old man.  "From your point of view, you did know him, though it was a long time ago.  From his point of view, he does not know you, as you have not met before.  Time travel makes these things difficult."

"Yes.  Difficult."  The old man probed the floor with the tip of his cane, still content to have his arm grasped by the dark man.

"Will somebody get this show on the road?" snapped Timber Wolf, angrily.  "We can't keep sitting here while the Sorceror's Glee Club makes small talk.  We've got a job to do."

"Enough, Brin," said White Witch.  "Gentlemen, I can sense power in you.  Tell me how you are called, and why you have come."

Supergirl recognized the man in the hat now.  She'd only met him once, but if she wasn't wrong, he was possibly one of the strangest Justice Leaguers alive...or whatever.

"Nark it, luv, he'll just tell you ‘I'm a stranger,'" said Constantine.  "He's--"

"He's the Phantom Stranger," said Kara, butting in.  "He's one of the Justice League of America in my time.  We met during the Atom's wedding.  I'm right, aren't I?"

"You are, Supergirl, and it is good to see you once again," the Stranger replied.  "We have come to participate in the crusade.  As I aided you once, Constantine, so I will aid you again, as will my friend, who was once called Mr. E."

The snowy-crested man livened a bit at that, bouncing the bottom of his cane off the floor.  "Mr. E.  Yes.  That is what I have been called.  This one is called Constantine.  You say I have known him?"

Constantine's nose wrinkled.  "Cripes, I hope not."

White Witch said, "Stranger, you have two persons here to vouch for you.  Will you vouch for your Mister E, and control him?  He seems rather unstable for our lot.  And we need to get moving."

The Phantom Stranger said, "Mr. E is but weary from his walk.  He has walked here from the end of time, and perhaps a bit beyond.  After this, he has but a thousand years to walk.  But I knew his path would cross mine this day, and I knew you had need of mystics.  And yes, he is a warrior among wizards.  The hour grows late.  Please make places for us at your table."

Action Boy whispered to his son, "I don't like the looks of that guy, Dad."

Captain Action whispered back, "Appearances aren't everything, Carl.  But I don't either, to tell the truth."

Mr. E turned, and gestured with his cane to Drang, who was still sitting within the chalk circle.  "And what is this?  Why do you harbor this entity?"

"We're harborin' him till we get through with the sending, then we'll figure out what to do with him," said Constantine.  "All right, Stranger, I've worked with you, so we'll deal you in, but this is positively the last interruption.  The three mystics on tap right now are me, the lady with the white dress and the V-for-Victory on her forehead, and that one over there with the red-'n'-white mask.  You want to position yourselves so we're all equidistant from each other.  Sit down, an' let's go to it."

There was some shifting from seat to seat, and grumbling.  The Stranger urged Mr. E to sit between Shrinking Violet and Polar Boy, which did not endear him to either of them.  "This is a seance, my friend, and you must not let go of their hands."

E still held his cane between his knees.  "A seance, yes.  To strike at the Dark?"

"We may hope so," said the Stranger, and left to take his place.

Finally, almost all was done, and all were holding hands, save the two that would be connected to Constantine, and save Gim and Kara.  Constantine snapped his fingers and gestured to the two of them.  "Come up here, you lot. Right on the table."

"On the table?" said Kara, with disbelief.

"Yes, on the table.  Can't send you nowhere if you're over there strap-hangin'.  And I got some stuff to do once you're on it.  Up, darlin'."

Gingerly, Supergirl picked up Gim around the chest, being careful not to touch the Spear of Destiny, and flew them both onto the top of the meeting table.  Constantine got up, knelt on the table top, and took out his blue chalk.

"Um, John, what are you doing?" asked Kara.  Gim was wide-eyed.

"It's best you don't know, Kara," said White Witch.  "Don't look too long at the symbols.  Trust me."

She drew in a breath and said, "We couldn't wait to hear from Dev, could we?"

"You know better'n that, Kara," said Constantine.  "Like it or not, it's boarding for departure time."  He finished scrawling his symbols on the table top.  He looked at her.  "Scared?"

"A little," she admitted.

"That's good.  It could keep you alert.  Scary as hell over there, precisely.  But where there's Hell, there's also Heaven, Kara.  And just remember...neither one of you are going alone.  Telly here will help us track you.  How's about you, Colossus?  You holdin' up?"

"The Lord is my shepherd, Mr. Constantine," said Gim.

"S'good, also.  ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil, ‘cause I'm the meanest sonofayouknowwhat in the valley.'   Now, Gim.  Now, Kara.  There's not much else I can say to yer.  You've got the biggest load in the whole journey.  Without you doin' what we send you to do, everything we've done, you might as well hit the delete key on.  Get me?"

"I get you," she said, simply.

"You get in there, you hit Mordru, and you get out.  I know you don't like killin', point in your favor. But this one's just too big.  So you'll do it, right?"

"We'll do what we have to," said Colossal Boy.

"You'd better.  You won't get more than once."  Constantine sat down, shot his cuffs, and sighed.  Then he took the hands of the Legionnaires on either side of him, who were Cosmic Boy and Power Boy.

"Uh, Mr. Constantine, one thing."

John looked up, irritatedly.  "What?"

It was Laurel who had spoken.  "I'm, like, Kryptonian.  And we can't usually do magic.  So, will I be a damper on things if I still sit in?"

"You're not doin' the magic, darlin', I am.  It'll go through you and around you, and you'll help add to it, magical or no.  Maybe you'll be like a resistor, and build up the power.  Do what I tell you, and we should be all right."  Yeah, right, he told himself.  "All right, Telly, do the mind-bind with her."

Tellus looked at Supergirl, who was still holding Gim across the chest.  She felt a bit of presence in her mind from Outside. <Kara, can you hear me?>, Tellus sent.

<Yes, Tellus,> she replied. <Coming in loud and clear.>

<Good.  I'll try to stay out of the way and monitor you.  If we need to communicate, I'll be the conduit.>

<You're very brave, Tellus,> she thought.

<Not as much as you and Gim, Kara.> Then, out loud he said, "It is done."

Constantine said, "Awright.  Everybody join hands."  They did.  He said, "I hope none of you has to go to the lavatory, because until we're done here, you've just lost your chance."

Cosmic Boy wondered what the others would think, either Element Lad's or Dev's group, if they came in during the seance.  Then again, there's a chance that some of the seance members might not be here when they arrived...if the six Kryptonians and Dawnstar were even still alive.

Then Constantine started a low chant.

It was picked up in counterpoint by White Witch.

To this chant, Mr. E added his voice.  It startled the others in the room.

Sensor Girl knew little of what they were doing, but added her will.

Phantom Stranger sat, and did not chant, but stared at Dev, Kara, and the Spear of Destiny.

The runes John had drawn on the table around them began to glow.  Some of the Legionnaires felt unwelcome sensations up and down their spines.  But they were smart enough to keep their hands together.

Afterward, they couldn't have told you if there was a sound, or a flash of light, or anything.  There were several opinions as to what really happened.

One second, Kara and Gim were there.  The next, they weren't.  That was the whole of it.

A few moments after the two vanished, Tellus broke the silence.

"They're in," he said.

 -S-

Supergirl didn't even have time to complete a prayer to Rao before the bottom dropped out from under her and Gim.  She grabbed him tightly about the chest as he fell.  He yelped, "Ouch!  Watch it!" and she eased up.  He was still grasping the Spear of Destiny.  She wasn't going to let him drop it.  She didn't want to have to pick it up.

But the darkness they fell through was different from warp-space.  It was a kind of warp, to be sure, but not through distance or time...it was between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

It was cold, and Kara wondered if Gim needed to breathe.  After all, this space could not be designed with the comfort and needs of living people in mind.

She looked him in the eye.  He seemed to be breathing, but what he was pumping in and out of his lungs she couldn't say.  It didn't seem to be hurting him.  Perhaps the Spear was protecting him.  Perhaps it was something else.  Thankfully, the temperature didn't seem to be affecting him much.

What the light-source was, she could not guess.  All she knew was that she and Gim were able to see each other, and were falling like a plummet towards whatever their destination was.  She tried, experimentally, to use her flight power.  All she did was change their orientation by about 90 degrees, but they were still dropping.

Well, that was to be expected.  This sending-spell was expected to take them to the Netherworld, and she doubted even her powers would be proof against it.

<Gim, are you okay?> she sent.

Colossal Boy, also wearing a telepathic plug, smiled. <Sure, and it's good to hear from you.  Uh, how long do you think it is till the lift hits bottom?>

She shrugged. <Don't know.  Are you really that eager to find out?>

<I just want to get this thing over and get back,> said Gim. <Or...ah, well, y'gotta admit one thing.  If we don't get back, we won't have far to go.>

Gallows humor. <Yeah, we'll have curb service,> she sent.

<Kara?>, he asked, looking serious.

<What, Gim?>

<Wonder why we've been chosen?>, said Gim.

She shook her head. <I've no idea about that.  I'm not even sure who's supposed to have chosen us.  It might be Nabu, like Constantine said.  It might be Rao, himself.  It might be...I don't know.  But...I've been thinking, Gim.>

He made half a smile. <Maybe it's because I'm the only Jew in the Legion?>

Supergirl looked at him solemnly. <Maybe.  You never know, Gim.  If that spear penetrated the body of Jesus...maybe one of His people has to be the one to wield it.>

Gim looked nervous. <I don't believe this.  I mean, I believe Jesus was a prophet...but the Messiah?  Am I going to have to believe that?>

She said, <It's between you and your God, Gim.  I'm still chanting to Rao, in part of my mind.>

<Don't blame you,> he said. <Kara, when you were adopted, did you have to go to church?  Did your parents make you?>

<Sure did.  I'm a good Presbyterian in lots of ways.  They didn't make me, but I went with them.  I didn't mind learning about Earth religion, learning about Jesus.  I learned about your religion, on the side, and about Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, all the rest...but what I really believe is what I was taught in Argo City.  That comforts me, as it comforts Kal.> She was thoughtful for a second. <It's surprising how much he remembered of it...and he only got three years of it, on Krypton.  But he used his memory-prober machine to dredge up a lot of what he'd seen and heard as a kid, before Krypton exploded.  When I came to Earth, there were some parts of the Scrolls he knew that I didn't.  But there was a lot I knew that he didn't, either.>

<You know there are certain parts of the past we can't get to?> said Gim. <The historians have tried, we've even tried, and we can't get there.  The scientists call them "discontinuities".  I think maybe we weren't meant to get there.  And a couple of them are around Biblical times, as best we can reckon.>

<Yeah,> said Kara. <Kal and I can't get to some times, either.  Makes you wonder what caused them...or Who caused them...>

She started. <Gim,> she sent. <I'm starting to notice something-->

The darkness was beginning to become more defined.  She tried using her super-vision on the vague shapes she saw, but couldn't get much more definition that way than she could with normal vision.  It was what she perceived, not what she saw.

Supergirl looked down. <Gim,> she said. <Lift your legs.>

He had time to obey, sticking his legs out perpendicular to his upper body, by the time Kara's red-booted feet hit ground and her knee joints buckled a bit and then straightened, absorbing the shock for him.  Gim put his feet on the ground as well.  But she hung onto his chest for a bit longer, wary of losing him to a surprise attack from whatever quarter.

They both drew in breaths, and were grateful they still could.  Was their physicality made spirit in this realm?  No way to tell, and it didn't seem relevant.

They stood on a plain of great strangeness.  There appeared to be land and vegetation of some sort, like a grass cover, below their feet, but the vegetation waned away in one direction and was replaced by a darker, spiner, more sinister growth of plant in one direction.  Kara's and Gim's eyes were drawn that way, along a cleared path leading to a domain some distance to their left.

They didn't really want to look there.  But they had no choice.

The city at the end of that path was circled by a wall of great complexity.  Its surface looked harder than any substance she had ever seen, but sometimes...it seemed to shift.  Perhaps even to writhe.  There were shapes on its surface that flowed, and she wasn't certain she wanted to examine them very closely.

Above the wall protruded the upper stories and spires of black, red, and whatever other colors she could perceive, in shapes that no human builder would have conceived.  They were obviously not designed for human habitation.  But many who had been humans, she guessed, had found their way there.

There were screams, and she heard them.  She was too nerved to even shudder.  Holy Rao, did Auschwitz sound like this?  There were even odors, and probably even tastes she could sense from this distance.

<Kara!>

It was Gim.  He put a hand in front of her eyes. <Don't look too long at it.  It's dangerous.>

She sighed, and felt his muscle tension as well. <You're telling me.  Thanks, Gim.  That--whatever--it's like a rattlesnake, mesmerizing its prey.  Okay.  Let's look in the other direction.>

They kept their eyes shut, turned their heads to their right with more effort than either of them would have believed necessary, and finally opened their eyes again.

They beheld the Silver City.

Gim felt the terror ebbing, to be replaced by an awe he had never felt before, not even at the holy sites of his home town.  There was no visible wall about the city.  The vegetation about it appeared to be fresh green grass, wet with spring dew, and the buildings within its belt were of a majesty no human hand could have constructed.  Not with the conditions present in the world of the Living.  It was incredibly challenging, incomprehensibly intricate, yet all of a piece.  His jaw slackened.  There seemed to be more of it forming as he looked at it.

And yet...

...He did not seem to see any people in it, nor any living thing.  He sensed presences. Perhaps, he thought wildly, they were beyond human sight.  Perhaps he was not meant to see them, unless they wished to be seen.  This place was holy.  It might be a terrible holiness.  He might be looking at something...or Someone...who did not want his form revealed.   Gim shivered.

To a mortal man, a mixture of sinfulness and virtue, Light can be as terrifying as Dark, in its own way.

<Gim, don't,> Kara said, and clapped her own hands across his eyes. <The sight of that might overpower you, too.>

He relaxed for a second, then turned around and faced the blonde girl. <Thanks, Kara.> He let the spear go with one of his hands and chucked her under the chin. <Well, guess we're really in No Man's Land.  Uh, wonder when...>

She was looking up, and he followed her gaze, not wanting to know if he shouldn't.

Above them, there was blue sky to the right, reddish sky to the left, a pleasing light-violet combination in between.  But directly above them, extending for miles in either direction, was a titanic circle of black and white.

The circle was divided by an S-shaped boundary in the middle.  One side was black, one side was white, and a dot of white was seen in the black and a similar dot of black in the white.  The black and white sides swirled, alive-seeming, yet keeping their boundary.  It was a strange force-dance.

<Yin and yang,> sent Kara. <The concept personified.  This is what Constantine was telling us about.  I think I remember some of it from my dream.>

They were awed by it, but not as terrified as they had been by the two cities.  Nonetheless, Kara wasn't eager to fly up and touch it.

<Wonder when the main event's supposed to start?> Kara sent. <I hope we haven't gotten here too late, Gim.>

The last thing she saw before the power-bolt struck was Gim looking back at her to answer.

 -S-

"What's going on?" said Constantine, his cigarette burnt to a nub in Computo's ash tray, his hands tight and sweaty on those of Cosmic Boy and Brainiac 5.  His gaze was fixed on Tellus, who was parked at the opposite end of the table from him, his beefy fins clutched by Phantom Girl and Action Boy.

"I--it is difficult to interpret," Tellus pronounced.  "She saw...the black and white circle-device above...then a discharge of force, of some sort, and her viewpoint shifted, as if she were tumbling from a heavy impact.  Now she seems to be getting up.  She sees Gim."

"What about the spear?" snapped Constantine.

"I think it is still in his hand, or near it."  Tellus's head seemed to turn in orientation to Supergirl's.  "Now...she is scanning...she stops.  There is a cancellation of color in front of her.  Gaze shifts to Gim, for a second.  He is getting up, groping for the spear.  Her gaze shifts back, but she is shifting position, rushing towards Gim, and she wishes to shield him.  She's looking up...the circle above...it seems more alive--"

"Constantine, do you know what's going on?" asked Star Boy, the most skeptical of all the hoodooing they were doing.

John swung his face towards the Legionnaire, and his expression of rage would have done a Marine drill instructor proud.  "Shurrup!  The girl's been hit.  Something's coming at them.  It's probably our boy.  Keep those hands tight.  What's going to start has already started."

Mr. E, whose grip was iron on that of Shrinking Violet and Polar Boy, pronounced, "The Dark is roused.  So is The Light.  They see."

Timber Wolf thought about asking how E knew that, being blind.  But he thought better of it.

For the first time since they began, they heard the voice of Drang.

"He'll be coming for you," he said, and snickered.

 -S-
Supergirl's breath came fast as she hurled herself in front of Gim.  She had to be in time.  She had to buy time for him to recover the Spear of Destiny.  Damn it, they should have just taken a rope and tied it to his wrist.  Maybe not, though, you never knew when you'd have to drop something like that, if what she had felt from it was any indication.

She had time enough to notice the very large figure pushing in through a dimensional veil before she took another blast, right in the chest.  For three seconds, she could not breathe.  What started her breath again was the contact of her back with the spear.  She screamed, and took in air, and lurched away from it, falling face-front on the ground.

Behind her, she heard feet scrabbling, and looked behind her.  Gim had grabbed the Spear again.  He was holding it with the business end towards the point at which their opponent was coming through.

The being stepped through the warp and they beheld his great height and the green of his pants and the purple of his tunic, and the white of his beard and the brilliant blueness of the metal helmet he had jammed on his head, and the dangerous, dangerous brightness of the many-faceted emerald he had embedded on the helmet over his forehead.

They also saw, through the slits in the helmet, the fury in his eyes.

<Must I always deal with you?>, he sent, and the force of it was pain to Kara and Gim. <Even here, must I always see a Legionnaire before me?>

Kara, hurting in her chest, had pushed herself to a standing position and launched herself at Mordru with all her power.  She had both fists out before her and was going full-power.  With this kind of force, she might have pierced a planet.

She smashed into Mordru's chest and hurled him backward.  She could tell from the grunt of pain that she had hurt him.  Not broken anything, perhaps, but it was a start.

One great hand of Mordru's came up and wrapped itself tightly about her head.  He began forcing energies outward from his palm.  She screamed, in pain.  But she did two other things at the same time: she blasted at his hand with heat-vision, and she bit him.

Mordru was not, he found, immune to a certain level of pain.

He shrieked, the sound echoing about the strange landscape and perhaps rebounding from the two cities.  He swung his arm about and shook it, the palm open, like a man trying to shake a biting  rat from his palm.  Kara tried to hang on but she was still hurting from his magic attack.  She went flying...

...in the direction of the Evil City.

Supergirl threw all of her effort into flight power.  She had to right herself, had to get herself away from the terrible direction in which she was heading, had to get back there against Mordru, had to had to had to...

Then a huge wall of red was in her path, like a backstop at a ballpark, and she hit hard enough to make Colossal Boy grunt in pain.

Gim had grown to titanic size, and placed his hand behind her.

"Thanks, Gim," she said, as she regained her footing.  She noticed he had his other hand in front of his face, to shield him from the sight of the city behind them.  The Spear of Destiny was stuck in his belt, no bigger than a toothpick against him.  "Where's Mordru?"

Gim pointed.  "Over...there..."

Looking in that direction, she noticed what had made Gim hesitate.

It wasn't Mordru.

 -S-

"Come on, Kara," murmured Laurel.  "Come on, oh, Rao, come on."

Tellus was forming words with an effort, as if each one were a concrete block he was heaving up with his tongue.  "They have recovered...but...they see Mordru...but...the city...there are...things coming from it..."

"What things?" rapped Constantine.  "What city?"

The atmosphere in the meeting room had somehow become darker and more dense, despite the lighting elements above.  The Legionnaires and their guests almost heard a hum of power, somewhere just under the audible range of sound.  Laurel had powered on just before the seance began, but even her super-hearing, and Ultra Boy's, were not enough to detect it fully.

It might just have been an aural illusion.

But neither of them believed that.

"From the silvery city," said Tellus.  "They are looking in that direction. There are...they appear globular, glowing, iridescent...cannot tell the number...AHH!"

Tellus lurched and threw back his head as if someone had stuck a cattle prod in his spine.

"Hold him, hold him, hold him!" yelled Constantine.  "Don't break the contact!"

Phantom Girl held Tellus's hand, which was tenser, but not painful yet, and wondered how long she could keep doing this.  Action Boy held Tellus's other hand, and felt its power, and wondered whether his father, who had the strength power, wouldn't be a better choice to restrain the big amphibian.

"Other direction," rasped Tellus.  "She looked in the other direction.  Emerging from the other city.  Things."

"Don't look any longer than you have to, Tellus," said Constantine.

"Things."

"I said, don't look."

The Phantom Stranger said, "It is too late for that, Constantine.  It was too late the second after you chose him."

Constantine, for once, said nothing.

Drang was openly laughing.  "He'll have you all.  He'll spit you on spikes of adamantine and make glory hands and corpse-charms of you.  Ah, darkness, he'll have you all."

"Go to hell!" yelled Polar Boy, half in fear and half in anger.

Mr. E, not moving his head, spoke in strong and measured tones.  "An unnecessary statement.  For any present, possibly."  He did not smile.

Silence for a second.  Then they heard the voice of Shrinking Violet.

"Oh, God," she said.  "God, I think I'm smelling smoke."

 -S-

Supergirl and Gim, who was still giant-size, were standing back to back (though Kara was high off the ground, to touch his back), and wheeling about, beholding the spectacle before them.

From the Silver City, presences had emerged.

They appeared to be floating globes, as iridescent and many-hued as Tellus's description.  At least, that was how Kara saw them. <You see globes, too?> she sent.

<Yeah,> he said, nervously. <Yeah, I see globes.  Plenty of globes.>

But in the other direction, towards the too-close city of evil, they saw something else coming up.

Up.  Or out.

She saw shapes that were more amorphous, less defined, than the globe-beings, seeming to flow through the walls of that city, or up from the ground surrounding it.  They were approaching, slogging over the ground in their direction.  She didn't see anything that could serve for eyes, but she knew that the things were watching them.  Somehow.

Then, why the gate in the wall? she thought.  If things can get through the wall, or the ground, why a barred portal?

The gate seemed to open outward, more like an iris than a barred double-gate, and it disgorged other beings.  It closed after them.

There were things riding other things.  Spiny things.  They had some form of armor.  And the armor was alive, and in pain.  The riders were of vaguely human shape.  At least, some of them were.  They were riding, or being ridden, and they were coming towards them.

Kara had her answer.

Without even a sending, she grabbed as much of Gim as she could get her hands on, and lifted him up.

The hordes below sent a sound up through vocal apparati that were not designed for human speech.

The globes seemed to emanate a tinkling, but powerful hum.

Kara and Gim were in the air, high enough to see down into the Evil City, if she had dared to, but she didn't much want to.  Mordru stood not far distant from them, his hands akimbo, watching the spectacle.

<Get the spear ready,> she sent. <Here we go.>

<Do it,> sent Gim, and reduced his size quickly so that the spear became something he could hold and point forward with both hands, which he did.  His face was grim and his teeth were clenched, and the spearhead was pointed towards Mordru.

Mordru seemed to sneer.

He lifted his tunic, exposed a golden belt, and touched a control on a portion of it.

A purplish aura surrounded him, visibly extending itself at least a foot in all directions from his body, if their perceptions of distance were reliable here.

Supergirl comprehended it instantly.  The belt.  Brainy's force-field belt.  That's why he stole it.

It was too late to stop, even though Gim realized what was going on as well.

They hit an immovable object, bounced off, struck the vegetation, and rolled, separately.

Supergirl was down.  Gim was down.  The Spear of Destiny was down.

None of the three were touching.

 -S-

By the time Violet had the last word of her sentence out, the rest of them could smell the smoke, too.

It hadn't gotten to the point at which flames would be visible.  That would take only a few more seconds.  Constantine looked at the brunette girl in green with wide eyes, a grim expression, and the knowledge that nothing could be done by him to save her.  At all.

The complement of heroes about the table were suddenly plunged into cold-washed realization.  Before this, it had almost seemed like a game, a grim game, to be sure, but something they could possibly push off as almost a fantasy.  After all, they were the Legion of Super-Heroes.  They had faced the biggest, the toughest, the meanest the Universe could throw at them, and come through it all.

Except sometimes some of them didn't come back.

Those who had been present at the respective occasions remembered vividly the passings of Invisible Kid, Ferro Lad, Kid Psycho, Chemical King, Karate Kid, Wildfire.  Those who had not remembered the tales.

Now, they knew what they were facing was very, very real.

"I'm burning," said Violet.  "Oh, God, I'm burning up--"

Brainiac 5, holding Constantine's hand, shot him a look of purest distilled venom and said his name.

They heard the words, "Into me."

Nineteen heroes, including Violet, suddenly swung their heads toward the speaker.

The Phantom Stranger was holding on, very tightly, to the hands of Timber Wolf and Laurel Kent.  They felt no heat conducted through his palms, and thought that very odd, but were grateful.

But they could see his eyes, or what passed for them, at last.

They were blazing.

Burning with power.

Some of them shot a quick look at Shrinking Violet.   She was no longer speaking of burning.  She was no longer smelling smoke, or feeling great heat.

Constantine licked his lips.  "Stranger--I--"

The mystery man's lips were pulled back from his teeth in a grimace.  "I can yet hold on," he said.  "I can yet maintain.  As long as I can, I will contain this power.  If it must have one of us, let it be me."

The Stranger quivered, holding in the onslaught with a great effort.  But the time that it took to immolate Sargon and Zatara had been far exceeded.   His non-human nature was enabling it.  But for how long could even he contain such force?

How long until the heroes saw, with their own eyes, what he had seen when the two wizards burned up?

"John," said the White Witch, suddenly.  "Link your will with mine.  You too, E and Sensor.  If you can repeat my chant, do so.  If not, do not try."  And she began to utter syllables.

Drang had been laughing, but now, even he was curious and had shut up.

Mr. E joined her chant, and Constantine, hesitating at first, finally threw in.

Timber Wolf said, "John, if we get through this alive, you may not."

Tellus spoke, without prompting.

"Mordru's coming for them," he said.

 -S-

Supergirl was hurt.  She wanted the luxury of lying there and feeling hurt and having her body push that hurt away.  She knew she didn't have that privelage.

<Gim,> she sent. <Gim.>

She raised herself from the ground a few inches, tasting blood which was dripping down her nose where she'd bunged it on Mordru's force-field.

She was staring straight at an insectoid horror that was staring back at her with she didn't know how many eyes.

<Get away!> she shrieked, and blasted it with heat vision.  The being retreated, but there were others beside it.

A many-tentacled thing was slithering up, curiously.  She smacked her hand against the ground, hard.  A tremor made itself felt and the thing kept a decent distance.

There were many, many more, presenting themselves in what looked like and probably was a line of battle.  She swung her gaze away from them, wondering how long she could look at such things and not flash-fry her mind.

Gim was trying to get up.  He was sluggish.  Mordru was nearing him, and he had his foot, protected by the force-field, pressing down on the Spear of Destiny.

<Get away from him!> snarled Supergirl, and rocketed forward.  She knew enough about Mordru's defense now not to hit him straight-on, but smashed into him at an angle, spinning.  She ricocheted away with minimal damage, and Mordru went back on his kiester, then fell flat on his back.

A host of the globe-beings made way from him, parting as he crashed.  They, too, had formed a battle line of sorts on the other side.

She stung Gim back into wakefulness with a blast of heat on his hand.  He had shrunk to 12-foot height.  Mordru was off of the spear, but just barely.  And he was reaching for it.

He could not match her speed.

Kara swooped down and grabbed the Spear of Destiny in her two hands.

Her eyes were wide with pain and awe as she grasped it.

But she did not let go.

The force of cold fire and agony coursed up and down her slender frame, picking out each individual bone, nerve, and sinew, making her vibrate with pain as she flew, but it was not enough to make her scream, and not enough yet to make her let go.

Colossal Boy was getting up off his ass.  He was awakened, which was a very good thing, because she was getting rid of this hot potato right then.

<Take it,> she yelled, and tossed the spear to him.

It arced through the air, and Mordru put out his hand for a catch at its midpoint.

Kara hurtled upward and knocked his arm up, letting the shaft tumble by.

Gim caught the spear in his right hand.  For a second, he almost laughed, thinking about what a lousy catch he'd been on the kibbutz baseball team.

Supergirl flew back in front of him, positioning herself between Gim and Mordru.  She was still hurt.  She was dripping sweat, and wasn't quite sure she hadn't voided herself while holding the spear.  That didn't matter.  She gave him a very cold and determined grimace.

<Come and get it,> she said, her arms crossed before her.

She and Gim both looked at the beings surrounding them.  They described a circle about the three of them, with their presences.  A flash of recognition came to her: they were probably just below the yin-yang symbol in the sky, and the warriors from both sides were just outside its circumference.

<Wonder if they can get in here?> sent Gim.

Mordru finally sent another message. <Insects,> he said.

His left hand was raised and a bolt of killing power was coming through it.

 -S-

White Witch's head was thrown back and her eyes were almost blank and she was chanting nonstop and Dream Girl was very frightened, looking at her.  "Mysa," she called.  "Mysa!"

"Nura, shut up," said Star Boy.  "This is precision work."

Captain Action held his son's hand very tightly and Carl Arno gave him a hand-squeeze that transmitted the love between them effectively.  A lot of him was scared as hell, but a part of him was going, What a hell of a show.

A very, very small portal was opening in the middle of the table, above the spot where Supergirl and Colossal Boy had stood.

Mr. E chanted, in a powerful voice that belied his aged appearance.   John Constantine chanted, with all the force he knew how to bear.  Even Sensor Girl managed to lend her muffled voice to some parts of their incantation.

The Phantom Stranger was still holding on, and burning inside.

Then, suddenly, a line of fire streaked from him towards the portal and went through.

With that, his body seemed to deflate, barely perceptibly.  The fire-line went from his opened mouth to the warp-portal and stayed there, a tightrope of fearsome power.

Brainiac 5 looked upon it with awe and comprehension.  "They've channeled it," he said.  "They took the power and fed it back through.  It must be looping."

Violet said, "I'm not burning anymore.  I'm not burning.  Stranger, what's happening to you?"

Polar Boy, on the other side of Mr. E, said, "I don't think he can talk right now, Vi.  And the others are kinda busy."

Cosmic Boy, holding Constantine's left hand and looking at him in wonder, said, "You know, group, we might get through this one yet."

Tellus was talking.  "The Dark.  The Light.  They see them.  They see us."

Drang himself, at that, began to quake in fear.  But nobody was paying attention to him.
 -S-

This time, there was no getting Gim to safety.  There was no time to knock them both flat.  Kara did the only thing she could think of to do, automatically, which was to place her body between the bolt and Gim, and hope he could do something after she was dead.

Something got between her and the bolt, at roughly the same time.

A phalanx of glowing globes formed a wall and interposed themselves against Mordru's killing force.  The beam coruscated off their surfaces, and Supergirl would have testified that she somehow heard them scream.

The globes reared up and covered the two of them, like a living igloo, shielding them on all sides.  She could hear Mordru swearing and directing more and more power against them.  The glow of the globes that were taking the most force was dimming.  Even against these, his power was indescribable.  She sensed that he might yet cut a path through the circular beings and destroy them.

But she seemed to see something else, through the gaps between the globes.  A layer of another sort of being, or beings, ones more sharply defined and fearsome to look upon.  Though she could scarcely believe it, the evil things were reinforcing the globe-beings with their own bodies.

Gim was crouched, still holding the spear, and looking at her.   <Kara.  How long will they last?>

<I don't know, Gim,> she admitted. <So let me try something.>

Supergirl had no idea what lurked beneath the sod they stood on.  But anything was worth a try, at this point.

She jumped up, jackknifed in the air, came down with her hands pointed at the ground, and began to spin.

She corkscrewed herself into the ground, boring through it, coming up under Mordru, poking her hands up behind where her X-ray vision told her his heels were.

Then she grabbed as much as she could of the force-field surrounding him, and dragged him into the ground.

It took a bit of doing to drag an 18-foot-tall sorceror with his powers into the sod, but she managed it within a single second.  Then she shoved in more dirt on top of him, compressed it, and baked it hard with her heat-vision.  She stood beside the plot of dirt for a few seconds, drawing in breath, and began to wonder if this, finally, might work.

After all, Mordru had always been beaten before when they entombed him in Earth.

She turned her gaze to the igloo of good and evil beings surrounding Gim.  She held back her nausea of looking at the outer layer of...things. <It's all right,> sent Kara, not knowing whether they could hear her or not. <Let my friend out.  I think Mordru is done.>

The creatures atop the igloo looked very, very battered by the power Mordru had exerted on them.  She couldn't feel pity for them, but did not enjoy their hurt.  Nothing seemed to be moving.

Then the globes and things parted, in a large enough slit to let out Gim, who was holding the spear before him. <Hi, Kara,> he said, and he was tiredly grinning.

She sighed. <Hi, Gim.  They decided to let you out.  Good.>

He hefted the spear. <It's this.  They don't seem to want to come in contact with it.  Maybe it's like Kryptonite to them.  Or maybe something else.>

<Whatever,> said Supergirl. <Maybe Mordru's out of the picture again.> She approached the beings, and noticed the ones which seemed most hurt.  They seemed to be having more trouble following their fellows, who were exiting the area of the circle and rejoining their comrades on the fringes.  She knelt and tried to touch one of the globes.  It sped out of her reach, and reached the boundary.

Gim and Kara looked at each other. <Well, do you think they can get us back from here?>, she asked.

As soon as she said it, Mordru erupted from the earth.

 -S-

"He's back," said Tellus.  "They...forced him...into the ground...but he's back."

Phantom Girl, beside him, asked, "How could he do that?  He's always lost his power when he was buried before.  How did it happen, Tellus?"

"Force field," gasped the big amphibian.  "Keeps...the soil...at a sufficient...distance.  They...can't hurt him...like that...now."

More eyes looked at Brainiac 5 now than he was comfortable with.

Constantine, E, White Witch, and Sensor Girl chanted in relays now, since the loop-link had already been established.  The gleaming power-stream still stretched from the Phantom Stranger's open mouth to the hole in space.  Timber Wolf, sitting beside him, wondered why he wasn't drooling all over his shirt like that.

"Damnation," said Constantine.  "We can't stick him.  We can't bury him.  What in bloody blue hell can we do with him?"

"We can't do a thing, John," said Laurel Kent, with a touch of pride.  "It's all up to Kara, and Gim.  And Rao."

"Oh, Raolly?" he said, allowing himself a slight smile.  Then he caught the chant as it was coming around again.  Couldn't afford to drop it, not by a sight.

The Dark had to be aware of them all by now.

And if they dropped the ball by so much as a syllable, you could bet the lot of them would be burnt sausages on a string.

Tellus was giving them another war bulletin.  "Mordru is looking at them, now.  He's saying something."

The door opened and Element Lad, looking very tousled, stepped through first.  "What's going on?" he asked.

"Siddown and shut up!" yelled Timber Wolf.  "Can'tcha see we're busy?"

 -S-

Mordru stood regarding Kara, Gim, and the host of beings gathered about them in a circle, and his hands clenched and unclenched.  A last bit of dirt fell away from his force-field.

Supergirl considered her attack options, and was on the point of hitting him with heat-vision, super-strength, super-speed, even super-breath, if she could suck in enough wind before she got there.  Gim began to step forward, spear held before him.

<It is aware of me,> he said. <I can delay no longer.  I will deal with you after.>

And with that, he lifted off from the ground and soared upward.

Right towards the circle-symbol of Dark and Light.

Supergirl cursed herself, and Gim said, "Oy gevalt."  Stupid, stupid, stupid, she told herself.  We forgot about his main objective.  He's not here to fight us, he's here to merge with The Dark.

The beings round about them weren't doing a thing about it.  They were more terrified of the force that hung above them than they were of the Spear of Destiny.

Now he was heading right up to the thing, and he was going to take a good old refreshing dip in an ocean of evil.  Once inside, he was aiming to become chief executive officer of the whole enterprise.  For all she knew of him, he might well get it.

<I'd like to take this pole and ram it right up his--you know,> snapped Colossal Boy, helplessly.

She looked at him, and, an instant later, had Gim grabbed about the chest again and was hurtling upward at super-speed.  At the highest speed she could muster.

Luckily, Gim had the spear stuck out in the right direction, because there sure wasn't time to tell him what to do.

 -S-

Element Lad, Blok, Magnetic Kid, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Saturn Girl, Sun Boy, and Mon-El, who had just taken a Kryptonite-cuffed Ar-Ual to an inertron-walled recovery room, were standing near their hand-linked comrades, not daring to come too close to them.  The seance members who were not chanting had quickly brought the others up to speed on the situation.   Saturn Girl said, "John, this is killing Tellus.  Let me take part of the load on myself."

"Bugger that," said Constantine.  "We're on a most delicate balance right now, missy.  Tip it a hair one way or t'other, we're napalmed.  Thanks, but stay in the bleachers."

"What's going on, Tellus?" said Sun Boy, concernedly.  "What are they doing?"

"They are," Tellus rasped, spitting a bit of blood as he did so, "chasing...him...into the sky."

Element Lad clenched his fists, and felt as powerless as he ever had during his term as leader.

It was all in Kara's and Gim's hands.  In the hands of two Legionnaires within reaching distance of Heaven, and Hell.

 -S-

Mordru was picking up speed as he rose.  He sensed their presence and accelerated.  The damnable Legion...even this close to his objective, they dogged him.

It mattered nothing.  Within a second's time, two at the most, he would plunge into the mass of Darkness.

Kara saw his trajectory.  He was swooping far out into the dark area, and would contact it solidly, even though the circle was rotating and flowing.  Once he was within it, they could bet that there would be no hopes of their survival.  If they were lucky.

She had no idea of what her speed was doing to Gim.  He wasn't even sending.  Luckily, he was still holding the spear in front of him, and wasn't about to let go.  Not yet, anyway.

There was still a chance.  Mordru was almost close enough to make physical contact...insomuch as the thing was physical...with the dark area of the disk.  His force-field still protected him from direct contact with the spear.

But it didn't mean they couldn't nudge him with it.

She reached the disk at a nanoinstant before Mordru.  Using all her power, she changed their course so that they skimmed across the top of it, just above the surface.  It was not solid.  It was very, very deep...and aware.

Gim felt its energies, and barely got off a thought to Kara. <This is it,> he sent. <Hear, O Israel-->

Mordru reached out his hand.  His fingertips brushed The Dark.

Supergirl, Gim, and the spearhead hit him in the side and knocked him away.

It did not penetrate him, but it was bending him double, nailing him against its tip.  He wrapped his hands, gloved in the force-field, about its shaft, feeling some of its power even through his shield.  He made ready to loose his power at the troublesome Legionnaire slimeworms.  He lifted a hand, and it glowed.

Then Kara halted, and pulled back.  Mordru toppled off the point of the spear.

His body arced, and fell towards the dark area, and then a little further.

<No!> sent Mordru.  It was a small thing to say, a common thing to say, but it seemed to sum everything up.

He fell, at the end of his arc, directly above the small dot of Light that alleviated the darkness.

To his credit, Mordru did everything he knew how to keep out of its reach.  He pointed his hands downward, released incredible energy in an attempt to thrust himself upward, and just felt the power sucked down and himself with it.

He came in contact with The Light.

Whether he saw a Presence within, or not, will not be known, at least on this side of the veil.  For, whenever a being of his evil comes physically in contact with a force of purity that strong, there can be no resisting its power.

In the end, the force-field might have been of some use in delaying the outcome for a fraction of a second.  But only that.

He exploded.

 -S-
"Mordru is...he was..." said Tellus, in pain.  "He is...she does not perceive him...no...there is a piece or two of him flying up...and it comes up and goes back down...a piece more...they are not...connected to each other...now, something is...hurled forth..."

"What is it?" said Element Lad.  "Say it, Tellus."

"The helmet," Tellus rasped.  "No...two helmets.  One blue.  One yellow.  They...explode.  Kara is shielding Gim...she screams.  A bit has...hit her...in the back.  It burns.  She throws it away.  It was...an emerald."

White Witch, still chanting, knew what had happened. The Helms of Order and Chaos were destroyed.  The Emerald would fall somewhere, but that wasn't their problem right now.

"Kara is...faltering," he ground out.  "She is...almost...spent."

"No," said Mon-El, rushing forward.  "Great Creator, no!"

Rao, protect your daughter, beseeched Laurel.

"They are falling," said Tellus.  "Falling.  No...wait...something has caught them.  They are...caught."

The heroes were whipsawed between hope and terror.  "Caught by what?" asked Polar Boy.  "Caught by what, Tellus?"

"An arm," Tellus answered.

 -S-

Supergirl had overtaxed herself.  She could barely hang onto Gim.  The worst part was, they were falling up.  Towards the circle.  Attracted by its power.  No wonder the beings below didn't get into the circle's area, they were afraid of getting sucked up into it.

Maybe she could head them towards the light area, she thought.  Maybe, if they died there, it'd be better...

She felt something grabbing her ankle.  It felt like a hand.

She tightened her grip around the silent Gim as much as she could.  Something was tugging on her ankle.  It was countering the pull of the yin-yang circle.

It was strong enough to pull her back down, and it did.  She wondered what being was responsible.  She wondered if she dared look.

But it pulled her down to safety, and held both her and Gim in massive, snowy arms.  The arms were big enough to cradle them both.  And the hands were gloved.  The gloves were green.

She looked up at their rescuer.  He was wearing a green hood.

<This is the second time I have had to do this,> said The Spectre. <I do not want to have to do it again.  After this, stay out of our realm till your time comes.>

She was almost too tired to be awed. <Second time?> she sent. <I've never even met you, that I know of.>

<I am called The Spectre,> he said, shrinking his mass to more human dimensions.   Gim seemed unconscious.

<The Spectre,> repeated Kara. <Kal's met you, but I never have.  Thank you for your help.  Is Gim all right?>

<He is merely unconscious,> the Grim Ghost said, depositing them both on the ground. <You were unconscious when we met before.  Superman has not told you of your passage.  It is just as well.>

Kara knelt on the ground beside Gim.  She examined him with her X-ray vision, and was satisfied with The Spectre's diagnosis.  She looked up at the ghost. <Why didn't you help us?> she asked.

<The battle had to be won by yourselves,> he said. <Or lost.  Sometimes I am held back in these matters.  But I was allowed to rescue you, once the battle was done.>

<Allowed?> asked Kara, sitting on the ground and looking up at him. <By whom?>

He didn't answer.

<What about Mordru?> she said. <Where is the spear?>

The Spectre paused before answering. <Elsewhere,> he admitted. <As for Mordru, he is bodily destroyed.  His spirit is...>  He gave a nod in the direction of the Evil City.  Kara didn't look over there.  There were screams from it, but none she discerned as Mordru's.  Not that she was trying that hard.

<Why did you bother with us?> she asked.

<I would have been at your side from the beginning, had I been allowed,> said the ghost. <But I am rarely permitted on your side of the veil anymore.  A specific intercession was made on your behalf.  I was granted power to save you, if you had triumphed.  If you did not, you would still be among the honored dead.>

<Thank you,> she sighed, and ran both hands against the side of her face. <I must look a sight.  What specific intercession was it that was made for us?>

The Spectre considered his answer again. <Again, I am not certain,> he admitted. <Sometimes it is because such is in the grand design.  Sometimes, I believe it is only a small thing.  Perhaps a prayer.>

She looked around and noticed that the globe-beings and the things from the other city were gone from the field of battle. <Can you get us out of here?> she asked.

<Most assuredly,> he said. <Your allies are already casting a spell for your return.  I will simply connect you with it.> He raised his green-gloved hand, and directed a beam of power towards her and the sleeping Gim.  She felt the sensation of crossing over into the warp beginning, again.

Suddenly, the Spectre looked up.  She followed his gaze.

Some presence was there.  She couldn't quite make it out, and didn't really want to.  But she did know what city it had come from, and didn't want to contemplate it too much.

The Spectre was standing guard, but its power was far beyond his.  Luckily, it had no interest in battle.  It just sent one word:

 GO.

They went.

Kara and Gim were falling again.  Falling into warpspace.  A blessed sensation, after what she had just undergone.  She wondered if she could estimate, from their earlier journey, how long it would take to return home.

Somewhere nearby, she heard an explosion.  (Heard?  In warpspace?)

She felt herself drawn laterally, into a cylindrical channel.  She was not touching Gim, he was falling on without her, and all her powers didn't seem to be of much use against this thing.

And she didn't think The Spectre had anything to do with it.

 -S-

Back in the Legion's headquarters room, the assembled heroes saw Colossal Boy fall through a suddenly-enlarged warp, landing flat on his back, obscuring the mystic runes chalked on it.  At the same time, the line of fiery power retracted itself from the Phantom Stranger's mouth, sped back up itself into the warp, and was done.

The warp itself irised shut, and was there no more.

Gim Allon opened his eyes.  He looked around.  He was the first one of all the assemblage to speak.

"Hi, group," he said, wearily.  "Guess we made it, after all."

The standing Legionnaires surged forward, ready to grab Gim and welcome him back as never before.  Before he could do much more than pull himself up to a sitting position, Constantine's voice rang out.

"Don't break contact.  We sent two out, we only got one back.  We've got to get Kara."

Laurel Kent bleated, "John!  Gim!  What's happened to her?"

Gim, concerned, got off the table, stepping over the linked hands of Power Boy and Sensor Girl.  "I don't know.  She was with me, last I knew.  Good Lord, where's she gone?"

White Witch, Mr. E, and Sensor Girl weren't chanting anymore, and the Phantom Stranger was still recovering.  Constantine said, "Tell us, Telly."

Tellus groaned.  "She is...passing through a circle...she hears a blast...and she is falling out on solid ground.   Someone before her..."

"Who?" said Constantine.  "Dammit, who?"

 -S-

Supergirl, bone-weary, fell out of whatever had been sucking her through its interior and tumbled into solid reality.  Rocky ground, sand, a blue sky, ahhh, that was nice, that was very nice indeed.  She lay on the ground and was very glad that there was ground to lay on.

"Get up," said a familiar voice.

Kara roused herself, looked up, saw the speaker not twelve feet away.

"They took my baby," said Satan Girl, her face belying her rage.  "And now, I'm going to take your life."

 next chapter

 (HOME)