Hellsister: Part 5
 by  DarkMark

The fact that everyone on Saturn's moon of Titan has telepathic abilities didn't seem to make much difference.  When the Fatal Five attack, they don't much give a darn whether you know what they're going to do or not.

The Emerald Empress's mystic, floating eye phased them in just outside of the presidential palace.  It's been a long time since Titan faced outside invasion, but they still kept a crack regiment of guards on the premises.  Validus scooped up a double handful of them and crushed them like jelly doughnuts.  Mano took a ray-blast on his palm, his hand's disintegrator disk eating it up like candy.  Then he walked up the beam of force and destroyed the weapon, and the unfortunate soldier who wielded it.

The Persuader's atomic axe sheared through the bodies of two defenders like a scythe, armor and all.  The Empress, less bloodthirsty than her fellows, simply blasted a couple of war-machines out of the way.

Tharok, human and robot arms folded, surveyed the carnage.  Then he spoke through a throat mike amplifier to the rest of the defenders.

"Had enough?  Or do we have to go through the rest of you?"

Some of the men threw themselves in the villains' path as they advanced into the building.  A lucky few were shoved out of the way.  The Empress's eye turned another into a lizard.  Validus just crushed a couple uncaringly underfoot, and tried to tear a bigger doorway into the palace.  "You stay here," ordered Tharok.

Compliantly, Validus sighed and sat down against the outside wall, buckling it in at several points and causing several secretaries and officials to run into the halls, screaming about construction flaws.

Tharok, Mano, the Persuader and the Empress made their way inside the building.  Several interior guards showed up, weapons drawn.  "Gently, Empress," said Tharok.

She telepathed a command to the Emerald Eye of Ekron.  It spewed forth a burst of green energy that pushed the guardsmen against a wall and held them there, immobile.  "Is that good enough?" she asked.  Tharok said nothing, but they proceeded on.

President Arda Foran was ready for them when they smashed through her inner door.  She had done a quick mind-probe on each of them.  Gray-haired and red-suited, she stood up from her desk, and motioned her three guards to put down their weapons.  "I know who you are," she said, quietly.  "You can take me, if you wish, but please spare these men."

Tharok pointed to one of the guards, and nodded to Mano.  "Shake hands with him," he said.

"No!" shouted Foran.  "No, that's not necessary.  I surrender.  Please cease hostilities.  We simply have no force on this planet sufficient to resist you."

Mano held his smoking hand up, palm first.  "What do you say, Big Papa?"

"I say, I accept your surrender," said Tharok.  "You can put your glove back on, Mano."

Arda Foran resisted her fears and looked the half-man-half-robot straight in the eyes...both the one that was human, and the one that was an optic sensing device.  "I sensed in your minds that you don't have any real concern with Titan.  You're only doing this for another power...Mordru."

Tharok said nothing.

The Persuader said, "Stop reading our minds or I'll chop you in half."

"Persuader, that will be enough," said Tharok, not looking at him.  "We merely wish the lady to broadcast a message of surrender to her people, and give us lodging in the palace for right now.  She's our hostage for the moment."

Arda Foran sighed.  "I sent an alarm to the Legion of Super-Heroes before you broke in."

Tharok put his unnerving face only six inches away from hers.  "I was counting on it," he said.
 

Brainiac 5 had gotten one of his spare force-field belts and buckled it about his midsection.  He'd been talking almost nonstop to Colossal Boy on the way to and back from his room.

"Speed, that's the only way you could break in here, besides a pinpoint warp, and we have inhibitor fields that discourage that, Gim," he rattled.  "Has to be somebody or something incredibly fast, at least as fast as Mon, Kal, Kara, or Jo, perhaps faster.  Has anyone talked to Don and Dawn Allen?  They might be repowered, they might be Flashes again, they might be controlled..."

"Oy gevalt," said Colossal Boy, putting his hands to his ears.  "Brainy, Brainy, Brainy, would you please do me a slow-down?  You may have a twelfth-level mind, but I only have first-level ears."

"Sorry, sorry," said Brainiac.  "When I get nerved, I talk a lot, you know that.  Wait a minute.  Slow-down, slow down.  Gim, you're inspired, you know that?"

"I--" began Gim.

"Computo!" called Brainiac.  "Instructions."

"Functioning," responded the voice of their computer system, from a wall speaker above their heads.

"Monitor room holo playback, twenty minutes previous to ten minutes previous.  Slowed down, Computo, to maximum level.  Review.  Inform me of unidentified intruder images.  Out."

"Processing," Computo said.

"I catch," said Gim Allon, as the doors hissed open between them and the main meeting room.  "Computo can catch what we couldn't see, on a slow-mo playback.  Maybe."

"Maybe," echoed Brainiac.

Colossal Boy was first across the threshhold.  "Hey, Jan," he called to Element Lad, standing at the monitor bank with White Witch.  "Two amazing things.  First, Brainy may have found a way to find out who just broke in and stole his belt.  Second, I just heard the first bit of conversation from Brainy that was only one word long."

Element Lad, Jan Arrah, looked tired and irritated.  "Yeah, yeah, just great.  And the president of Titan's being held hostage by the Fatal Five."

"Titan?" said Colossal Boy.  "That's in our solar system.  If Mordru's trying to lure us off-planet, that's not too far off it."

"With those guys, it doesn't have to be far," said Jan.  "We have to commit major forces to getting them out, and it's Saturn Girl's homeworld to boot.  He knows we can't ignore it.  Blast."  He slapped the plastic desktop he was leaning against.  "Get the others in here.  Heard from Kara, Dev, and Laurel yet?"

Gim called out, "Computo, general summons."  The computer sent a chime pulse through the building.  It would be echoed in the flight-rings of the Legionnaires who were not at Headquarters but still on duty.

Brainiac 5 looked at White Witch.  "Mysa, any idea of what Mordru's objective could be on Earth yet?"

The white-haired, white-clad, antennaed woman shook her head.  "Not yet.  There could be undetected power objects here, but I'm not familiar enough with Earth history to tell.  I'm interfacing with the Sorceror's Database through Computo.  Nothing conclusive yet."

The green-skinned youth wrinkled his nose.  "Sorcery.  With my computer."

Element Lad snapped a look at him.  "You've got a better idea?"

Brainiac started to say something.  Gim stepped in front of him.  "Hold it, guys.  It's getting too intense here.  Down the tension level a few drops, Jan.  You could use an hour of quicksleep.  Nu?"

Jan Arrah sighed, and said nothing.  "Right, sorry, Brainy.  I'm on edge, I know it.  Cos had to be pulled back from vacation, Kara had to be sent for, nobody's happy, and this right after we lost Kid Psycho and Wildfire.  Great One, I wish sometimes there was more than one hero team aound here.  Besides the Lallorians, the Wanderers, et cetera.  Sorry."

Mysa Nal, the White Witch, lay her hands on Jan's bowed shoulders.  She whispered several words in her native tongue.

Two seconds later, Element Lad's posture straightened and his head came up.  He looked surprised, stretched his arms, flexed his biceps.  "Mysa, I feel great.  What spell did you use?"

"It's kind of an upper," she admitted.  "I can't do it for you very often, or your sleep-cycles would get really blonked."

Blok and Dawnstar were entering as they spoke.  Brainiac 5 noted a light activated under Kara's symbol on the row of members' monitors.

"They're coming back in," he said.  "Maybe they can help us make some sense of this, after all."

"Or maybe somebody got Kara's flight ring," said Colossal Boy, grimly.

Dawnstar muttered something that only Blok caught.

"Too much to hope for," she said.
 

Kara, Dev, and Laurel joined the group within a half hour.    Mon-El, Tellus, Polar Boy, Magnetic Kid, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, the mystery woman called Sensor Girl, and one Reservist were on hand.  The Reservist was Power Boy, aka Jed Rikane, and he had insisted on being there.  When Laurel stepped through the doorway, he raced from his seat to intercept her.

"Laurel, baby, what's happened to you?" he blurted.  "What did they let you get into?  Who did this?"

"I ran into a rough Kryptonian, Jed," sighed Laurel.  "Good to see you, too."  She shook hands with him.  Both of them had been classmates at the Legion Academy and members of the Reserve together, and they were longtime friends.  Power Boy was a grayish-purple-skinned youth in a yellow-and-blue outfit with red trim.  He could increase his molecular density to give him super-strength and super-durability.

Kara was introduced to the newbies.  The water-breathing telepath Tellus was big, bulky, and reminded her of Blok, but he was polite and friendly.  His handshake was a tad on the slimy side, but she'd had worse.  Sensor Girl concealed her identity from the other Legionnaires in a full-body red-and-white outfit that covered her entirely, except for her blonde hair.  She gave Supergirl a slight bow and, in a synthesized voice, asked her not to use her x-ray vision to detect her identity.

"Heavens, no," said Kara, taken aback a little.  "I've got better manners than that.  As long as you're cleared by the Legion."

<I'll vouch for her, Kara,> sent Saturn Girl. <I know who she really is.>

<From your brain to Rao's,> replied Kara.  She thought she recognized Sensor Girl's stance, but decided not to try and play Nancy Drew just then.  No hero appreciated an identity snooper.

"Seems you can't stay away from us for long, Dev," smiled Dream Girl, draping her bathing-suited body over a white plastoid seat.  "The Dark Circle thing, and now this."

Dev gave her a grim smile.  "If they'd mass-cloned me like they wanted to, Nura, I probably wouldn't have stayed away from anyone very long.  There'd've been too many of me.   Good to see you, too."  Several of the Legionnaires were turned off by Dev's manner, but he and Dream Girl had always gotten along fine.

Element Lad gavelled the table.  "Hate to remind you, people, but we're still at crisis status.  For those who haven't heard, the Fatal Five have struck at Titan.  Here's what we know."  He reported the incident.  Saturn Girl was tight-lipped as she listened, and Lightning Lad put his hand on her shoulder.

"Before we hit tactics and team assignment, let's hear from Kara, Dev, and Laurel," said Jan, at the end of his short briefing.

"He's sprung a few surprises this time," said Dev.  "Took a tip from you blokes.  You recruited Kara and Kal from the past.  He's done the same thing.  Help me out on the specifics, you two."

"When we emerged from the warp, we ran into Satan Girl, Black Adam, and Ar-Ual.  The last two are 20th Century villains, both Krypton-class.  Ar-Ual is a Zoner."

"One of the few that wasn't documented when the mass release went into effect," put in Laurel, hugging a knee.  "Here's what I know of her from research--help me out if I blow a point, Kara.  Ar-Ual was the only one present when an automated spacecraft landed on Krypton a few years before the Destruction.  The ship had a message in Kryptonese for whomever found it.  It contained apparatus for synthesizing food from common objects for use in times of famine.  But Ar-Ual figurd that she could patent the process and make a mint for herself with it.  A couple of police showed up to spoil things.  She blew up the ship, rather than let them have it.  But the recorded message was unharmed, and the cops took her into custody for destruction of valuable property.  Since they were able to determine the craft was worth billions of credits, thanks to the scientific information that was lost, she got a sentence of fifty years."

"Not the most violent offender in the Zone, but pretty vindictive, nonetheless," added Kara.  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Dawnstar glancing at her, and didn't like the character of the glance.

"Naturally, she survived the Destruction by being in the Zone," Laurel continued.  "Later, a rift was opened in it by accident, and she got Out.  She impersonated Wonder Woman and made a big play for Superman I.  I think her intent was to have him marry her, then catch him off-guard and kill him.  He found her out, saved Wonder Woman, and sent her back to the Zone.  When her sentence was up, the Rokynians couldn't find her to release her.  The other Zoners claimed she'd just disappeared..  Have I got it right, mostly, Kara?"

"Substantially, Laurel," said Kara.  "Well, Black Adam.  I'm ‘lucky' enough--yeah, right--to have met him before.  He's from a parallel Earth we called Earth-S, which stands for ‘Shazam'.  That's the name of an Egyptian wizard who gave powers to the Marvel Family, that Earth's greatest heroes.  All three of them are basically on a power footing with Kryptonians and Daxamites.  I ran into Black Adam on the case in which I first met two of those heroes, Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel."

"Mary Marvel?"  Dream Girl wrinkled her nose.  "Isn't that like saying ‘Susie Super' or something?"

"Knock it, Nura," warned Laurel.

"It's her choice," said Kara.  "She didn't want to be known as ‘Marvel Girl', she told me she thought that'd be a really dumb name.   Anyway, here's what I've heard: about 5,000 years before our time, and 6,000 before yours, this wizard Shazam wanted to pass on his powers to a successor.  So he chose this guy called Teth-Adam, hit him with a magic lightning bolt, and, bang, instant superhero.   He gave him a black and yellow costume, and called him Mighty Adam.

"But it turned out he'd chosen wrong.

"All that power went right to Teth-Adam's head.  He killed the ruling Pharaoh of the time and tried to take his place.  Shazam turned up, found out the Pharoah wasn't too far gone for his magic, and just barely restored him to life...no interrupted dynasties.  He couldn't take the powers back from Teth-Adam, but he could teleport him out to the farthest reaches of their universe.  And he did.  Just before he sent him away, Shazam renamed him Black Adam, and the guy swore he'd come back someday and get revenge.

"By the time he came back, it was just after World War II on their Earth, and the Marvel Family had been operating for some years.  Even three-on-one, they couldn't do much against him.  But they finally got to him by a trick, and he reverted to his mortal form and crumbled into 5000-year-old dust."

Blok rumbled, "What stratagem did they use, Supergirl?"

Kara looked up at the teenager of stone.  "They got him to say ‘Shazam', Blok.  That's a signal word all of them except Captain Marvel, Jr. use to change identities.  A bolt of magic force, joined to an electric charge, strikes them when they say it, and they go from super-beings to regular humans.  Their ‘magic lightning bolt'."

"What word does the Junior one say?" asked Dream Girl.

"Captain Marvel," said Kara.

"No, I mean Junior," said Dream Girl.  "What word does he say."

"Captain Marvel," Kara repeated.

Dream Girl swung her legs off the side of the chair and looked miffed.  "Listen, Kara Zor-El, quit being such a smart-ass with me.  I asked you very nicely, just trying to make conversation, what word that Junior kid uses to change, not his father, and here you are treating me like the nether-end of a gargantabeast--"

"I don't think Captain Marvel is Junior's father," said Brainiac 5.

"Well, then, why do they call him Junior, hmmm?" asked Dream Girl, standing up and facing him with her fists on her hips.  Laurel was hiding her mouth behind her clamped hand and was turning red from trying to hold the giggles back, which went well with her blue bruises.

Kara grinned.  Dream Girl was an easy mark.  "I could do this Abbott and Costello number for a lot longer, Nura--don't ask who Abbott and Costello were--but I'll be merciful.  Junior says the words ‘Captain Marvel' to change, because his powers were passed on by way of Cap.  He and Junior aren't related by blood.  Cap and Mary are, they're brother and sister.  And I really want to thank you, because after what we've been through, I can use a laugh anywhere I can find it!"

Dream Girl pouted.  "So I'm not up on ancient history.  Ought to ask you how much you know about Orando.  See if I give you any personal prophecies."

White Witch said, "Sister, shut up.  Continue, Kara."

"You said he was turned into dust," said Mon-El.  "Obviously, Mordru found a way of bringing him back to life."

"Not Mordru, another one of Captain Marvel's enemies," said Kara.  "After that, he could change back and forth without aging to death.  Later on, a Martian sorceror used Black Adam and one of Superman's old villains as catspaws in a plot to destroy our Earths.  He hypnotized Superman and Cap into fighting each other, and when Mary and I met, we pretty much had the ball all to ourselves.   She and I took care of the bad guys, and Kal and Cap saved the two Earths.  Black Adam was imprisoned again, but you know how those things go."

Mon-El shifted in his seat, rubbing his jaw with his knuckles.  "I've met the Marvels, too, Kara.  I was there at the Crisis with you."

"And with Wildfire!" snapped Dawnstar.

Everyone in the room turned to look at her.  The Indian heroine's gaze was fixed only on Supergirl.  And Kara couldn't believe the rage in it.

"Dawny, what--" said Kara, knowing even as she said it, finally, what the girl's anger stemmed from.

"He died saving you!" Dawnstar spat.  "I loved him, and if you hadn't been in trouble, he wouldn't have had to save you--he wouldn't have had to die!"

Element Lad wheeled on her.  "Dawny, stop it.  You're getting near a court-martial offense."

"No, let her talk," said Kara, holding up a hand towards him.  "This has got to come out somewhere down the line.  It's best it happen now.  Go ahead, Dawny.  Let it all out."

The other Legionnaires were silent as a funeral congregation, even Dream Girl, who had a knuckle stuffed in her mouth.  Unconsciously, Dev moved behind Kara in a protective gesture.  Dawnstar couldn't hurt her, but he'd be there if needed to set things to order.

Laurel didn't miss it.

"What else is there to say?" asked the Native American from space.  She spread her hands.  "May the Great Spirit blast the Crisis from memory.   They acted as though you were the hero in that thing, Kara.  It was Wildfire, my Drake, who was the hero.  He saved your life.  He took the Anti-Monitor's head into himself, and sacrificed himself to destroy the monster.  And now he has burned for a thousand years in the heart of a sun that he created...he is gone..."  She lowered her head till it was level with the table, and did not speak for a moment.  "I regret my conduct, o' brothers and sisters of the Legion.  But ask me not to love this woman."

Brainiac 5 was very cold and icy, and Kara, flashing on it, decided she had never seen him quite so dangerous before.  Rao's light, he still loves me, she realized.  What if he has a breakdown again, and goes psycho like in that Omega case they told me about?

Before he spoke, Saturn Girl sent a quick burst of telepathy into Kara's brain. <It's not just anger on Dawny's part, Kara.  It's guilt.  She fell for a guy named Jhodan not long before the Crisis.  Now she sees this as punishment for not keeping faith.>

<You read her mind?> thought Supergirl, aghast.

<I didn't have to,> replied Imra.

"Better take it easy, Brainy," said Element Lad, half-rising from his seat.  He made a quick gesture to Mon-El, who picked it up and was ready to roll if needed.

Brainiac 5 was looking straight at Dawnstar, pointing a green finger at her.  "I suggest you give that advice to our younger Legionnaire here, Jan.  Young lady, have you heard that Kara here almost died, in battle with the Anti-Monitor?  That her very guts were hanging out of her body during that battle?  A battle she joined to save the life of the first Superman?  Yes, or no?"

Dawnstar said, "Yes, Querl, but..."

"And are you aware that it was this woman, and another Supergirl from an unknown Earth, who tore the enemy's body apart, thus saving the entire contingent of heroes, including our friend Mon-El, not to mention uncounted universes, from utter destruction?"

"Yes, but she did not save him!"

"He did not ask her to save him," said Brainiac 5.  "He was saving her, and everyone involved in the Crisis.  He did so without a moment's hesitation.   I have spoken to witnesses of that battle.  Neither she, nor the other Supergirl, was capable of stopping Wildfire from what he did.  And he was the only one of us who could have done it.  Without this woman, and her heroic deeds in the face of certain death, none of us would have been alive to bear witness to what he did.  I tell you, girl, you owe this woman your very life."  He slammed the table, hard, with his open palm as he said the last word.  Everyone was waiting to see what Dawnstar would say.  She said nothing.

Brainy turned to Kara.  "You know how I felt about you...how I feel about you.  I think, deep down inside of me, I always knew that it was hopeless.  I know history, Kara, at least that which has survived.  Don't ask me to tell you more, because it might not get quite forgotten when you go back to your home time.  But I'm not ashamed of it.  I've got a 12th-level brain, but I'm glad I'm stupid in some matters.  I'm glad I was stupid enough to love you."

Kara choked back tears.  Oh, Brainy, if only...but I don't...

After a pause, Dev-Em said, "Well said, Brainy.  And now, if nobody minds, we've got a little business about Tharok's Quintuplets and that crazy bitch in purple to take care of."

"Just a minute," said Element Lad.  "If you please, Dev, I'm still acting leader here.  We've been making jokes, backbiting, giving angry speeches and defenses...and none of it matters a cursed thing.  We're just trying to get our minds off two things.

"One: we've got to deal with the two toughest menaces we've ever faced, this side of Darkseid.  And God only knows what else, because I don't think Mordru will leave it just there.

"Two: a lot of us have died in action.  In battles just like the ones we're about to undertake.  You know, Garth."  He turned to Lightning Lad.  "For all intents and purposes, you died.  Then there was Ferro Lad.  Lyle Norg, the first Invisible Kid.  Chemical King.  Karate Kid.  Kid Psycho.  And Wildfire.  Even Luornu...there's a reason why we don't call her Triplicate Girl anymore, Dawny.   And from what I can tell, it looked for a while there, back in the Crisis, like we'd be adding Supergirl's name to that list.

"You think you know something about having someone die on you, Dawny?"  Element Lad fixed her with a hard look, and she didn't dare look away.  "Ask Kara about it.  She had all of Argo City, everybody she knew for fifteen years, die on her.  Ask me about it.  I've had a whole planet die on me.  Or maybe you'd like to ask Dev, here, about Krypton?  Would you like him to tell you about it, Dawny?"

"No," she said, in a small voice.  Then she said, "I have apologized--"

"I don't care about your apologies," he shouted.  "To hell with your apologies.  Listen well to me, Dawnstar, because you'd cursed well better be able to give me the right answer once I'm done.  And I don't want to hear you or anyone else in this room before I am.  All right?  Good.

"Every one of us makes a choice, when he or she enters this hall and is allowed membership--no, before that, when you're just trying for membership--that puts him or her right on the edge of death every time he or she is called up for a mission.  That's not an abstract, as I've just pointed out.  The Legion has had the highest casualty rate of almost any superheroic group in history, so far.  The ancient Doom Patrol beat us proportionately, but not in actual numbers.  We fight, and we die, because we're the only ones in the known universe who can do it.  If we don't, we lose every world we love to possible tyranny or destruction.  You know that.  You've been around here long enough to know it.

"And let me point out to you, Dawny, that you came to us as an applicant, and we accepted you.  You fell in love with a fellow Legionnaire, our Wildfire, and he died on you.  Imra."  Jan turned to Saturn Girl.  "What did you feel like the day Lightning Lad died?"

"Like someone had ripped me up and down my torso with a knife in deep space," said Imra Ardeen, quietly.

"So why didn't you quit?" asked Element Lad.  "Why did you stay with it?  Why didn't you even step down from being our leader?"

She gently held onto Garth's hand as she spoke.  "Because the Legion needed me, and the worlds needed the Legion," she said.  "And I needed the Legion, too.  More then than ever before."

Element Lad tented his fingers, pausing before he spoke to Dawnstar.  "Now, Dawny, I've got me a problem here.  It's pretty tough.  Maybe you could help me out?  I've got a girl who's been solid as a rock before.  We could all depend on her.  And that's how the Legion survives, by interdependence.  But now, she's forgotten some of that.  Maybe even getting insubordinate.  She's got a big problem, and maybe she has a right to one.  But she's letting that big problem get in the way of letting her see the big picture.  So...I've got a really tough decision to make, Dawny.

"I could keep her out of this one.  Maybe even court-martial her.  Then, no problems for her with the Legion, and none for me with her.  But we lose her power.  Understand?

"Or I could give her a chance to make good again.  And only a chance.  If she can be a bigger woman than she's ever allowed herself to be before.  If she can swallow that big, bitter egg inside her for awhile, and act like a Legionnaire one more time.   It might be the last time any one of us gets to act like a Legionnaire, Dawny.  Because one of Tharok's good buddies killed a Legionnaire, some years ago.  And Mordru hasn't yet, but not because he hasn't been trying.  This might be the last mission for that Legionnaire, Dawny.  Or maybe for someone else.  And I certainly wouldn't want that last mission for someone else to be because the other Legionnaire wasn't doing her cursedest to perform--even when it meant saving the life of a person she hates the most.

"I leave it in your hands.  What should I do?"

All eyes were on Dawnstar.

She drew a deep breath, her head rising, at last, proudly, and the great white wings on her back rising to accompany it.  Dawnstar wiped the beginning of a tear away from the corner of one eye.

"I will do my best on this mission," she said.  "To prove so, I wish to accompany Supergirl."

Element Lad said, "I haven't said that you can accompany her yet.  They may not want you."

Kara put out her hand.  "Hold, Jan.  It's all right.  If it'll help heal some of her bitterness--Rao knows how I'd feel, in her place--I'll be more than happy to welcome her on our mission."

Dev's eyes widened.  "All due respect, Kara, this is a spy mission.  I'm commanding it.  It'd be next to impossible to conceal a woman with wings."

Laurel put in, "She doesn't have to join us on-planet.  We could use somebody who could navigate us to a back-door warp to get into Zerox."

Dawnstar looked at them hopefully.

Finally, Element Lad said, "I want Chameleon Boy to go along with you.  He's the head of the Espionage Squad."

"This is my billet," said Dev, indignantly.

"And this is my command," said Jan, flatly.  "Take it, or go solo for the UPIC."

Dev clapped his hands together mirthlessly.  "All right, commander.  Rao knows, he'll probably be useful.  But I'm still point on this."

"We all are, Dev," said Kara.  Then she went over to Dawnstar.  "Dawny...I'm sorry."

Dawnstar hugged Kara and broke down crying.

Embracing her, Supergirl caught something on the edge of her hearing and sharpened it with her super-power.  It was muffled, and she was the only other one who could hear it, unless Mon-El was tuned in.

But Dawnstar wasn't the only one shedding tears.

Behind her mask, Sensor Girl was crying, too.

 -S-

On Zerox, another Supergirl sprawled nude in bed with Mordru.

She had put her incredible body to a purpose that Kara had never undertaken, and her efforts in that direction were, Mordru judged, as impressive as her other abilities.   Even he, the sorceror with the power of a million mages, was a bit spent, and very satisfied.

It was a matter of no small pride to him that he had made her climax twice.

"If only you would let me conquer for you, as well as I have conquered..."

"Conquered?"  Despite it all, Mordru turned a baleful eye on her, and grasped her slim, tanned arm with a hand that was burning with cold white fire.

She caught herself.  "A mere slip of the tongue, Lord Mordru.  You know how impetuous my nature is, how strong my fires burn.  I meant, as I have been conquered by your great...eh...talents."  Satan Girl smiled and stroked him.  Mordru responded as all men respond, and the fire left his hand to be replaced by another sort of flame-source.

"The pieces are not all set into play yet," he said to her, putting a mighty arm about her naked back.  "When they are, my forward thrust will begin at the Earthworld.  Their many knights must be lured to other corners of the board first."

"Yes, the conquering thrust," said Satan Girl, one bare, beautiful leg now swung over his own.  "But what of--her?"  She paused, not giving him more.

He said, "You shall have her.  I will see to it."

"To slay with my own hands?" she breathed, eyes half-closed in passion.  "To dismember and eviscerate and, finally, when I deign, to murder?"

"With your own hands, you shall have her."

"When?" she breathed, her hands on his chest.  "When shall this be?"

He shrugged.  "Should all go on schedule, possibly within a week.  We shall see."

Before he could say anything more, she grasped him with her body and raised him from the bed.  She turned her head and burned a hole through the outer wall, scattering its rocks and masonry with her mighty breath.  Then, entwined with Mordru, she levitated them through the opening, and, to the astonished gazes of guardsmen, villains, and innocent bystanders below, soared with him towards the heavens.

"Take me!" she roared.  "Take me among the stars!"

He did.

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