Black Adam had gotten the hell knocked out of him by the Marvel Family during the Crisis. Now, with a little help from Dr. Fate of Earth-Two, he was imprisoned in a magical stasis field. Even his thoughts were frozen. In essence, the World's Mightiest Villain was in a dreamless sleep.
Then came Mordru's messenger.
With a flash of borrowed power, the herald of chaos dissipated the stasis energies. Black Adam fluttered his eyelids, leaped back to angry life. He tried to say, "Who are you?", but there was no air in this pocket-dimension.
Instead, the messenger touched Black Adam's arm and transported him
across space and time. They popped into the reality that was Mordru's
throneroom on Zerox in the 30th Century
"Who are you?" asked Black Adam, finally able to make his words be heard. "Why have I been brought here?"
His mien was cruel and arrogant. Black Adam was the first man to be granted the powers later wielded by Captain Marvel. His strength, speed, and invulnerability rivalled that of Superman. But his evil had led to his exile from Earth for thousands of years, and only in recent times had he returned to his homeworld.
Calmly, the bearded giant on the throne before him answered, "I am Mordru. You have been brought here to serve me."
Angrily, the black-and-gold-clad villain launched himself at Mordru. His power and velocity should have carried him straight through the wizard's body.
But Mordru raised a hand, and a lightning bolt sprang from his fingers. Black Adam was knocked out of the air. A flash of energy almost blinded Mordru's messenger.
Now, a slim Egyptian man with no powers whatever cowered on the floor of Mordru's chamber. And the over-villain's hand still glowed with eldrich power.
"Spare me!" begged Teth-Adam, who would never have spared a foe himself.
"Agree to serve me, then," said Mordru, not giving an iota.
Teth-Adam knelt before his new master, touching his forehead to the floor three times.
Mordru sent another thunderbolt exploding from his palm. The loinclothed Egyptian was replaced in a flash with the powerful identity-form of Black Adam again. But this time, Black Adam was not so confident. He looked up at Mordru with more cautious eyes.
The wizard placed his hand back upon his throne arm. "I have enemies whom I will allow you to deal with. They are called Legionnaires. You may kill some of them."
Black Adam grinned. "That, O wizard, is something I understand indeed."
Supergirl, Laurel Kent, and Dev-Em were wearing earplugs that transmitted top-level thoughts when activated, like a walkie-talkie. It was the only way they could communicate while streaking through airless space.
Kara, flying abreast with her two companions, reflected on how
nice it was to have two fellow
Kryptonians with her, even if they were separated from her time by a millenium. Usually, she worked only with Superboy in this century. She became quite schizophrenic, acclimating herself to a young Kal when she went on Legion missions, and then an adult Kal in her regular era.
On top of that, Superboy's memories of her always faded when he returned to his home-time, and always returned when he came back to the 30th century. It was unsettling for both of them, and sometimes she was glad that she hadn't attended any more cases than she did.
The Legion couldn't take many more missions with young Kal. They had to keep bringing him in from a straight time-line, each mission at a time after the previous one, so as not to produce dissonance in his memory cells. Time-travel was a hard thing for the mind to adjust to, as it was. And by now, Kal had graduated from Smallville High and was about to enter college. The Legion had decided not to bother him anymore, except in the direst of emergencies.
This time, they voted to exclude him, and prayed they could handle it with the members they had.
<It's totally ulterior getting to see you like this, Kara,> gushed
Laurel. <I mean, every time I get
to work with you and Kal, it's like experiencing living history. Uh, did I say that right?>
Supergirl turned and smiled. <Sure, Laurel. I understand,
hon, and I appreciate it. I was so glad
when I got to meet you. Know why?>
Laurel bit her lower lip and grinned. <'Cause that means Superman got married?>
<You got it,> said Kara.
Kara had worked with Laurel and Dev before in the big Legion war against Darkseid. Laurel was one of Superman's 30th-century descendants. She was a tall, beautiful black-haired girl, about an inch over Kara's height, with a long red cape that bore a Superman shield. Her costume was a black bikini-type affair, and she was barefoot. Kara smiled, and reflected that if she'd considered going out like that as Supergirl, her mother would have pulled a wall-eyed fit. It took Allura months just to accept Kara's hotpants.
Dev-Em, flying to the left of them, said, <Not that I want to clog your exhaust, ladies, but we're getting near the warp. Once we're out, we'll be within a few light-years of Zerox. You can expect detection by Mordru once we get out. Now, here's something to watch out for.
<Kara, here, is the only one with any experience against this 'Satan
Girl'. If it's a three-on-one
battle, like we're hoping, I'm pretty sure we can take her. But Mordru isn't a dummy. He knows that there's more than one full Legionnaire or Reservist, like us, that are in Rokynian / Daxamite power class. I don't think he'll rely on just her. If he does, chances are she'll be augmented somehow. That may indicate magic...and we're all vulnerable to that.>
Supergirl shot an appraising glance at Dev, her send-switch on the thoughtcaster off for good measure.
She liked the youth's brown-black eyes, the jut of his chin, his muscular-but-not-bodybuilderish frame, his strong legs, and, yes, she had to admit it, a tush that really turned her on.
She was almost ashamed of herself, and hoped Dev wasn't watching her too closely. She wasn't sure how furtive her furtive glances were, to him.
Laurel sent a private message to her. <I know what you're thinking!>
<That obvious, huh?> Kara p.m.'ed back to her. <Sorry, Laurel. Need to keep my mind on the job.>
<Don't worry about it, we're not an item,> Laurel replied.
Kara sighed. She liked the heck out of
Laurel, but, like it or not, the girl still had a high-school mentality.
Dev wasn't exactly Captain Whitebread. He was a good guy, but had a harder edge than Kal...more like James Dean, or even Sean Connery, Kara thought. That comparison wasn't far off, because, in his regular life, Dev-Em was a spy.
She recalled what she had learned of him, both from Superman and from
the Legion's case files.
Though he looked like he was in his early twenties, Dev was actually older than her. He was, in fact, a 20th Century Kryptonian and even older than Kal. When Kal was a baby, Dev was a teenager, Kal's next-door neighbor.
He had also been a juvenile delinquent.
Nobody really knew why Dev had gone bad. It may have been a case of too much privelage and not enough responsibilty. His father, Ron-Em, had been a fairly successful banker and as high up in the social food chain as the El's. If Krypton society had held moneymaking ability above scientific smarts, as Earth did, Jor-El wouldn't even have been in the Ems' neighborhood.
As it was, Dev didn't appear to think he could match his father's achievements. Thus, he ran with a gang, vandalized, played pranks, and got in trouble on a semi-regular basis. After one spree, when Dev was 15, the Youth Police had nabbed him, proven his guilt, and told his parents that the next such offense would land him in juvenile hall. He promised his parents that they'd never have to go through such an ordeal again, and they believed him, or wanted to.
Of course, all he meant was that he didn't intend to get caught.
Dev had had somewhat of a reputation as a genius. He had gained it by exercising one of his real talents: thievery. No matter how good the security net of a laboratory, factory, or scientist's office, Dev could penetrate it. He claimed that the inventions he thus came by were his own invention. But he refused to let anyone but his parents, and sometimes, his gang, know about them. "I'll let 'em know when I'm good and ready," he told Ron-Em and his mother Leeta.
If his thefts had been discovered, Dev could have gotten a long prison sentence for industrial espionage. So he usually returned the inventions, or the plans (after he photocopied them), within a few days. The companies didn't want to admit to the outside world that they'd been burgled. They didn't talk with each other that much. So far, Dev had gotten away with it.
Then, Dev and his family watched a holovid that had altered his life forever.
Zor-El and Jor-El had paid for time on one of the big waveworks, and the Ems had watched their neighbor try to convince the people of Krypton once again that their planet was about to explode.
Jor had been on this kick for a couple of years now, and it was wearing thin. "The core of Krypton is composed of uranium, and it has finally become fissionable," warned Jor-El. "It is my belief, supported by what data are available, that this substance is quickly approaching critical mass. Tanthi and tyntho, we cannot ignore the fact: we are all walking upon a titanic atomic bomb."
"Is he sober?" asked Leeta.
"Quiet, Leetaish," said Ron-Em, who believed.
For all his brashness, Dev had watched, and listened.
Jor-El was not the most effective speaker. The tension of the
last two years had aged him visibly.
Even the makeup artists couldn't hide the bags under his eyes or the tenseness of his jaw muscles. For all his sincerity, Jor was not the best of salesmen. His lecture included too much scientific arcana for the laymen. His very tension made him smack too much of the mad prophet.
Comedians were already doing Jor-El routines, in which the "mad scientist" leaped under a table for safety when he heard somebody pop a blown-up paper bag. Everybody laughed, and that was comforting to most. Krypton had been around for billions of years with a uranium core, and was bound to be around for a billion or two more.
But some believed. Not enough to get Jor-El and Zor-El the finances and government permission to construct the giant space-arks they wanted to build, but a few did take him seriously.
That night, Dev-Em became one of them.
It might not happen, but, if it did, Dev wanted himself and his family to be among the survivors.
There was an Invasion Shelter in the front yard, a big metal dome with provisions and sleeping cots inside. If aliens really did ravage Krypton again, Dev figured it would be as much use as trying to put out a forest fire by spitting on it. But it could, with some doing, be made into a survival chamber for Krypton's destruction.
Dev went about the task the most efficient way, in his mind. He stole the necessary equipment. Lead plating, rocket tubes, oxygen canisters, food pills, water containers, and three suspended animation chambers. All of them went into the Alien Shelter. It took a good long while.
Mom and Dad were pleased that he finally had a worthwhile project to work on. His buddies in the gang had given up on him, carried out their prank-raids without him, and were now cooling their heels in Juvie Hall. He grinned when he heard of it.
He finished the job about a month before the first tremors hit.
The emergency broadcast left no doubt: the entire globe was suffering incredible seismic damage. Quakes off the scale, volcanic activity, boiling seas, even radiation emissions from the cracks.
That day, the Ems had gone outside, and saw the little rocket bearing Kal-El take to the skies.
A second later, Dev told his parents, "Come on. He won't be the only one."
The three members of the Em family had entered the shelter, activated the rockets, strapped themselves into the capsules, and breathed in a gas that put them in suspended animation.
Those in the neighborhood still alive to see it had witnessed the big
dome taking to the skies, had
screamed that it wasn't fair, and were still screaming it thirty minutes later when Krypton finally blew up.
The shelter's rockets had automatically stopped firing when enough distance had been gained from what had been Krypton. Thus, even though the Em's shelter had passed through the space-warp emerging in Terra's solar system, it drifted. Kal-El's ship still rocketed forward, its internal guidance system heading it unerringly towards Earth.
The Ems' shelter took ten more years to get there, but it, too, landed
on Earth. The jolt of landing
accidentally cracked Dev's chamber, and he revived from his comatose state, not physically a day older.
When he sat up, impulsively, he broke the metal bands restraining him.
That was how he learned what happened to Kryptonians on Earth.
Dev-Em's parents were still in their dreamless sleep. An adventure
ensued in which Dev learned of Superboy, learned he was the young neighbor
boy whom he used to torment at times, and implemented a scheme to humiliate
him by impersonating him and playing super-pranks. In the end, Dev
used his own powers to propel himself and the shelter bearing his parents
into the far future. Superboy's reputation was so badly tarnished
that he was on the point of leaving Earth.
Luckily, Chief Parker, Superboy's best friend on the police force, concocted a hoax that made it appear the Boy of Steel had been maddened by Red Kryptonite, and he was allowed to stay on his new homeworld.
Some months after that, Superboy attended a Legion meeting, and learned just where Dev-Em had gone. Or, to be more precise, when.
Supergirl broke out of her reverie. She turned her head towards Dev and p.m.'ed him. <Dev, tell me: just why did you go straight when you came here, anyway?>
He looked at her. He had a half-smile on his face. She knew he was sizing her up.
<I'll tell you after we get out of the warp, Kara,> he said.
Before them, within immediate flying distance, was a space-warp.
It would be impossible to discern without training or proper instruments. But all three of them, veteran space-travellers, could recognize the subtle changes of a patch in which Space collided with Sub-Space. These continuua holes were the things which made interstellar and intergalactic travel possible.
<Follow me,> said Dev, and they plunged into the warp.
Mordru's messenger had just plucked two more recruits from their various
places in time. Neither
had been able to resist them. After they had settled down, fuming, he had informed them, "Be not arrogant in the Master's presence. He needs persons to perform certain tasks. If you are not compliant, you will be destroyed and others will be found to take your place."
"If we do something for him, can we go home?" said the male of the pair.
"You may," he said. "Or you may not, as is the Master's whim.
Watch this." He had replayed a
simulation of Black Adam's humiliation at Mordru's hands. Neither of them knew who Black Adam was, but they could gauge Mordru's power.
"Looks like we've got rings through our lips," commented the female. And they were ushered into Mordru's presence.
Mordru had made his offer. Both of them agreed. Mordru had turned to the costumed male. "You will be sent to Earth, on a mission of thievery. My aide will give you instructions. Go."
"Got it," he said, and left with the messenger.
Then Mordru turned to the woman. "You will join two other of my pawns immediately. Undoubtedly, the Supergirl has been alerted of a certain occurrence and is on her way. She will not be alone. Capture her and her allies if you can. Kill them if you must."
For the first time since her arrival on Zerox, the woman smiled.
"Supergirl I've heard of," she said. "When do I get to break her?"
Supergirl, Dev, and Laurel propelled themselves through warp-space. Magnetic patterns, light waves, radiation, all were visible there, whirling patterns that startled and stunned the untrained eye.
Each of them could still see themselves and the other two. It
was difficult to gauge speed here, or
even the fact that they were flying. In the constantly-changing warpscape, there was little by
which to measure distance covered. Yet they were able to navigate it, by means of a device in their earplugs that beeped louder when they were online with the other aperture of the warp. So
there was distance in subspace, after all, distorted though it be to their senses.
Kara wondered if there were living beings in subspace, and if they had ever made their way out into the "normal" dimension. If so, would humans--even enhanced humans from Krypton--have senses that would perceive them?
She sighed. So much fascinating universe to explore, and all she ever ended up doing was fighting.
<My breakfast wants to make a fashion statement all over my suit,> sent Laurel.
Kara laughed. <Don't worry, Laurel, we'll be out of here before long.>
Dev said nothing. On impulse, Kara p.m.'ed Laurel, <What do you know about Dev?>
Laurel sent back, <Dev? Oh, just the usual. Came from your time, ended up here, enlisted in the United Planets Intelligence Corps. He's also their Legion liason.>
<Has he been on lots of spy missions?>, asked Kara, thinking about what would be the 30th century equivalent of an Ian Fleming venue.
The brunette girl laughed. <Honestly. I mean, like, how
would I know? They don't, like, tell you
about spies until after they've quit being spies. And maybe not, you know, even for a long time after that. I think he's pretty good, though. You like him, don't
<Laurel!> Supergirl grinned at her.
Laurel stuck her tongue out at Supergirl. <You're not in the least bit enigmatic, you know.>
<I'm sure.> Then she said, <It'd make things a lot easier if we could get a whole squad of Daxamites or Rokynians to back us up.>
Laurel looked back soberly. <You know they won't let us do that.>
One of the strangest aspects of this era to her, besides the fact that billions of Rokynians were alive, was the fact that both they and the Daxamites were by and large restricted to their own solar systems.
Express permission of the United Planets had to be granted to each individual from Rokyn or Daxam who wanted to leave the confines of their planets. Quite often, such permission was denied.
The rationale was simple. Rokynians and Daxamites were among the most powerful mortal beings in the universe. In a world of lesser gravity and a non-red sun, a single Rokynian or Daxamite could gain enough power to conquer that world singlehandedly--or to destroy it.
Indeed, one of the Legion's deadliest battles was fought against the
entire population of Daxam,
mesmerized by Darkseid and turned into an unstoppable army of supermen. Kara shuddered at the memory, recalling how she herself had come to grips with the tyrant of Apokolips and almost had her skull crushed by him. But Darkseid's thousand-year-old powers had waned, and he was unable to keep the Daxamites in thrall. Rather than face their might, he teleported away.
If anything, that had reinforced the will of the U.P. Daxam's
and Rokyn's people enjoyed the full
benefits of United Planets technology, communications, trade, and protection. They just had to stay on-planet to do it.
Laurel was an Earthwoman, one of the descendants of Superman and
Lois Lane. (Kara did a mental double-take when she realized she had
just witnessed the marriage that would make Laurel's existence possible.)
Some of the 30th Century Kent / El family had full Kryptonian
powers. In other branches, the powers had been weakened or altered by intermarriage with persons of other races or planets. So far, the only power Laurel exhibited was invulnerability, and, recently, a bit of super-strength...the legacy of long intermarriages with non-Kryptonians.
There had been a case or two in history in which one of the family went renegade. It had required the efforts of other family members to take down their errant spawn. Only recently had the Kent / El family been allowed to return to Earth, within the last 200 years.
In the cases of Kara, young Kal, and Mon-El, the U.P. had waived their rulings. But most Kryptonians or Daxamites were only allowed off-world after careful screening, and only for a limited time. The few who were allowed to live on other worlds had to check in periodically for review, like parolees facing a prison board.
After enough of such treatment, the Rokynians and Daxamites usually got disgusted enough to return to their homeworlds. And that was just fine, as far as the U.P. was concerned.
The beeping of the teleplug in her ear alerted Kara to the warp-hole's nearness. Up ahead, a gateway into the regular universe. She glimpsed constellations through it. Stars rarely ever looked so good to her.
<Let's make the jump, ladies,> said Dev, flying point. <We may come out on calm space. But I've got a feeling Mordru may have a reception committee waiting for us.>
<You don't get to be a space tyrant by not watching your back,> said Kara. <Lead on, Devian.>
Dev preceded them into normal space by half the length of his body.
Kara's eyes followed that body all the way, even as she and Laurel punched through the boundary into their own universe.
Satan Girl was less than pleased.
<If it had been any less than Mordru himself who sent you, I'd tear
your eyes out,> she snapped,
telepathically. She and the other two also had teleplugs.
<Watch your tone, woman,> said the Egyptian. <Had you spoken thus to me in my youth, I would have had you fed living, bit by bit, to the crocodiles.>
The other woman, hovering in space near them, retorted, <Frab that.
Save the static for Kara and
whomever she comes with. But if you give me a line like that again, Satan Girl, I'm likely to remember you look like somebody I don't like very much.>
The masked girl turned to her. <And I would make you look like somebody no one would recognize,> she retorted, in a p.m.
Black Adam raised his arm, pointing towards the warp. <There they are. Confirm it.>
He had no super-senses. But the powerful eyes of the two Kryptonians beside him registered the threesome emerging into normal space, just as those three were scrutinizing the three villains from afar.
<Kara,> said the woman. <I don't know the other two, but they've got to be Kryptonian or Daxamite.>
Satan Girl sneered. <The others are Laurel Kent and Dev-Em. I have her memories. I warn you, leave Supergirl to me.>
<Fine by me,> the other woman replied. By that time, all three of them were in flight.
For Black Adam, it was merely a job. For the female Kryptonian, it was that, and a chance to have a little vicious, violent fun. For Satan Girl, it was the pleasure of a lifetime, the fulfillment of her short and terrible existence.
Killing hundreds of meaningless people could never equal the thrill of destroying Supergirl.
She let forth a silent scream of rage and pleasure.
Dev, Kara, and Laurel were hurtling forward themselves. <I.d., Kara,> Dev sent, not wavering his gaze from them.
<That's...Satan Girl in the middle,> Kara ground out. <The guy is Black Adam. He's one of Captain Marvel's enemies in my time. His powers are Krypton-class. The other one looks like a Zoner, but I'm not sure which.>
Laurel, grim and earnest as only a young warrior can be, belted out, <Ar-Ual. That's Ar-Ual. She was absent from the Zone when they let most of the inmates out. She fought Superman and Wonder Woman once. I read up on it.>
Dev's face was granite. <Mordru was prepared for us.
He's raiding other times for soldiers.
Ladies...prepare to engage.>
Kara was about to suggest a tactic from 20th Century air warfare, all or two of them concentrating on taking out one foe.
But before she could do that, a purple-clad figure missled towards her, preceded only by her telepathic communication.
Then Satan Girl hit her.