Last Waltz With Luthor
Dick Malverne had come by to have dinner with the Danverses and to ogle Linda. All present figured he was entitled to, considering he'd be marrying her in a short time. Linda, shyly, didn't seem to be minding it, even though she was conservatively clad in a purple dress whose hemline wasn't far from her knees. She smiled at him over the coffee and he grinned back.
"All those years we spent together in the orphanage and school, all those years apart, and now this," said Dick, who had a few more lines in his face then when Linda had gone off to college. "When I caught up to you in Chicago, you blew me off, Linda. Remember that?"
"Yup," said Linda, digging into a sweet potato Edna had fixed for her. "Kinda vaguely, though. What kind of excuse did I give?"
Malverne, who still wore a crew cut, said, "You said you just couldn't manage to fit me into your life again. That you weren't the same little girl I knew at Midvale. And that you weren't ready for marriage. Do you remember what I said?"
Edna sidled a nervous glance at her second adopted daughter. Not giving herself away, Linda, the fusion of several small and depowered clones of Supergirl, shook her head. She didn't have memories of Kara's reunion with Dick. That had come after the time she was separated from Kara's body. But she had the cover story of an amnesiac spell, which Dick accepted.
She didn't know if he'd accept the story of who she truly was. But she'd save that for later, after the marriage. Or maybe never.
"I said, ‘Well, you're about 30. So if you don't get ready for marriage, chances are you're never gonna be.' Don't know why I decided to give it one more try later on."
"Oh, I know why," said Edna, mischievously.
"Mother!" Linda grinned at Edna and kicked her gently under the table.
"Don't send your mother messages by shoe-telegraph, Linda," said Fred, cutting up his roast beef. "It's tough on the ankles."
"It's all right, dear," Edna said. "She didn't nudge me hard enough to pulp a fly. So, Dick, how is your practice going?"
"Going swell," said Dick. "America isn't running out of emotional cripples, nut cases, and closet fruitcakes, and they're all descending on my office. Well, maybe not all. But I'm in good in the psych clinic as a partner, and I get enough referrals to keep my appointment book busy. I do pretty well, financially, I mean. Bet Linda remembers how I wanted to be a psychologist, back in the orphanage."
"Sure do," said Linda. "You wanted to find out why somebody would abandon their children. Like your parents abandoned you."
"Yeah," he said, and sobered immediately. "Yeah, and you know, I never did find out why they did that. Or what their real names were. I was--a real mess, emotionally, when I was a kid. Before you met me. I stole stuff. I ran away from the orphanage, four times. Didn't pick any fights, didn't want to get my nose broken any more than it had been, but I was a surly son of a you-know-what. Didn't say much to the teachers, or Mrs. Hart, and when I did, I got punished for cussing."
Linda's eyes widened. "Dick! Come off it, you were nothing like that, all the years I've known you."
He looked at her, seriously. "That's because I was through with that phase by the time you met me. One afternoon Mr. Dixon had me come to his office and he told me that there were other homes for boys that were a lot less nice than Midvale, and if I didn't show improvement in a week, I was headed for one of ‘em. I was about to run away when I got back to my room. But Mrs. Hart came to me that night, and she--well, she just talked to me. It turned out she'd lost kids, too, one of ‘em to MS, the other through a divorce. That's why she'd applied for the job at the orphanage. She just talked to me, just let me know that I wasn't alone if I didn't want to be, and that I could make it work if I wanted to. But I was the one who had to make the changes. I don't say it as well as she did--and here I am, a psychologist--but you get the gist of it. After that night, I forgot about running away. An orphanage isn't the same as having parents, but it's better than having nothing.
"So I straightened myself out. Mrs. Hart helped out, sure, but I had to do most of it myself. That's why I wanted to become a psych. By the end of that year, Mr. Dixon had me as one of his honor students. That's what I was all the way through high school. That's what you saw when you came to Midvale. Be glad you didn't see me earlier." He looked up. "Linda?"
"Did you ever get back your memories of your real parents?"
A beat of silence.
"Some," she admitted. "But I can't talk about that to you now."
Fred and Edna kept still.
"Too painful?" said Dick, holding his coffee cup in both hands. "I can understand that. I never tried to find my birth parents, either. Maybe someday, they'll see my name on some textbook, if I get to write one, and look me up. If they're still alive."
Fred said, "There are detective agencies who could do the job, I'm sure, Dick."
"Yeah," said Dick Malverne. "But I--well, I just don't want to. If they had a good reason for dumping me, or a bad one...I'm not so sure I want to know the story."
Linda reached over, touched his arm. "You'll know, someday, darling. When we're both ready to know."
"Thanks, Linda. Maybe." They looked into each other's eyes for a long moment.
Fred finally said, "So. If we're done with that, what do you think of the Bears' chances this year?"
Dick turned to him and laughed. "Talk about a save. Okay, I've seen them at training camp, and let me tell you--"
The conversation remained appropriately light for the rest of the dinner. Dick stayed for an hour afterward, spending some of that in a private session with Fred Danvers and more of it with Linda. But, sitting on the front porch with her and looking up at the Little Dipper, he finally had to say what he felt.
"Linda, why are you nervous?"
She turned her head to him a tad too quickly. "Nervous? Oh, Dick." She laughed. "We're going to be married in such a short time, and you have to ask me why I'm nervous?"
"Just pre-wedding jitters? Is that all?"
Linda shrugged. "What am I supposed to feel? Like I get married every week? I've never even--uh--"
"I know, honey." He put his arm around her. "Don't worry about that. You'll do just fine. Can I ask you a stupid question?"
"Well, that's probably what people do before they get married. Ask stupid questions. What stupid question do you need a stupid answer for?"
"When we were dating, did you have...you know...any fantasies?"
She looked at him, not sure whether she wanted to slap him or laugh at him. "Richard James Malverne, what do you want to know that for? As if your ego wasn't the size of a watermelon already?"
"Okay, okay. But I just thought...well...I used to have fantasies about you."
"Oh. Really? Never would have guessed."
"Come on, now! I mean, I saw you every day, and even in those pigtails you used to wear, I don't know...you had something. Then after you got adopted, the first time I saw you, we were both at the beach. You in that one-piece, conservative bathing suit. But even then, man, you had the best pair of legs I'd seen since Ursula Andress in Dr. No."
"I knew that's why you took me to James Bond movies!"
"Naw, it was just for the Aston Martin! But seriously, you had good enough sense by then to wear your hair in something like a decent style, and use makeup better. Yeah, you still had that innocence. But you were still sexy. Plus, you weren't a bitch about it. You didn't act like, ‘Oh, here I am, little miss high school beauty queen.' Add in the fact that you had half a brain, at least, and hey--total package."
"That's nice, Dick. So you had fantasies about me?"
"Oh, yeah! Sometimes I saw you coming out of the surf in a white bikini like Honey Ryder. Lots of times I just imagined how you'd be, well, in bed. Sometimes I'd...well, this sounds stupid."
"Go ahead, Dick. This is our night for stupid things, remember?"
"Okay. Maybe this will sound stupid, maybe it won't. But sometimes I'd fantasize about you being Supergirl."
"Oh." Linda paused. "So that was why you were always trying to see if I was really Supergirl? Because you wanted me to be her?"
"I don't know. Maybe. But now I know you're not her, because she's on some other planet, and you're still here. And you know what? I'm glad you're here." He squeezed her hand. "So. What about yours?"
"My what? Fantasies?"
Linda stretched her long legs out on the porch before her. "That's pretty well a loaded subject, Dick. Well, girls do have fantasies. I'll admit you weren't the only guy I fantasized about."
"But you, uh, did?"
"Yes I, uh, did. Remember, when you were looking at me in my bathing suit, I was looking at you in yours. You had a fine body back then, Dick. Still do. Plus I did like your personality, even though you were kind of, I don't know, a little too Captain Whitebread back then."
"Yeah. Maybe I overdid my remake job."
"No, that's all right, that's fine. If you hadn't been a good guy, my parents wouldn't have let me near you. But...I don't know. There was something about you that made me want to find out if you weren't such a good guy all the time. And maybe that I didn't have to be a good girl, sometime."
"So, what? Why did we break up?"
She sighed. "Because we did, Dick. Because I had to build a life for myself. I didn't just want to be somebody's wifey. I had to see if I could make it in the real world, on my own. And I did. I mean, I've changed jobs a lot, moved around the country, but every time, when I've had to, I performed."
"Oh, I know. I remember you on Secret Hearts! I watched you playing Margo Hatton on videotape when I got home."
"Well? What'd you think?"
"I thought you did a good job. And I thought, ‘I knew it! I knew Linda had a bitch in her, somewhere! This is just great!'" Linda came down with a case of the giggles, leaning her head on his shoulder. "Hey, it's true. You had to have something mean in you, somewhere, to play that part. But I'm glad it's there. You know, a little bit of bitch brings out the flavor in the rest of you."
"If you expect me in spike heels with a whip, you've come to the wrong place."
"Nope. Don't worry. I said a little bit, not the whole package." He paused. "So. No fantasies, huh?"
"Didn't say that. I used to watch Zorro reruns in the afternoon and think, ‘That's a role Dick could play, if he'd drop a little goody-two-shoes from his personality, get a bit beefier, and grow a mustache.' And I'd think of how much fun it'd be to have Zorro come in through my window, rapier in hand, not waking my roomies, just me, carry me off on his horse and out to the woods."
"Then we'd make love. But he wouldn't take his mask off."
"Okay. The mask will cost you extra."
"We'll haggle about price later."
Dick said, "I don't mind there being other guys in your life. I wasn't exactly a monk after we split up. Almost got married myself, several times. I imagine you--"
"Yeah, Dick. I had my share of offers." From guys who turned out to be aliens, or underground princes, or robots, or super-villains, or Hakawee, or escaped Phantom Zone prisoners, or...and that's not even talking about the green-skinned computer guy or the fish-tailed merman. "But I never went through with any of them."
"So why'd you decide on me?"
"Because there used to be something big in my life that kind of kept me from a lot of the things that normal people do. My career, you know. Being a TV actress, even on an afternoon soap, isn't a small thing. Even in Chicago, there'd be women who'd stop me on the street and tell me they just about wanted to slap me for being such a bitch on Secret Hearts."
And we can't tell him about being Supergirl at the time, can we?, she thought. Even if we're just drawing on the memories from when you and Kara shared a body.
"And when you came to see me in Chicago, at first, it was just too much of, ‘Well, he thinks things are gonna be the way it was back in Midvale. But we're not in Midvale anymore.' I still wanted to be my own woman, see who I wanted to see, do what I wanted to do. But I had to admit that, all too darned often, I was doing it alone, or with somebody I didn't care that much for.
"So I started thinking of you, and how you must have cared for me, to seek me out even after all those years we were apart. I started thinking that you just might really be in love with me. If you were, I don't know, it might be worth trying out, as an experiment, to see if I could fall in love, too. And you know what? I think it worked."
"I'm awfully glad to hear that, Linda."
"So am I, Dick. I intend to be my own gal, sure. But I don't think I have to be alone to do that anymore. And I hope your tush still looks the way it did in that bathing suit!"
"You'll find out, soon enough."
"Yeah." She leaned her head on his shoulder and looked up at a certain point in the sky. She pointed. "See that?"
"See what, Linda?"
"Well, you probably can't see much of anything from here. But that part up there...that's where Krypton used to be."
"Krypton?" He looked at her, wide-eyed. "Why in heck did you think of that just now? Because of...well..."
"Supergirl," she said.
"Uh, yeah," he fumfuhed. "Um. She told you that was where Krypton was?"
"Yes." Linda held one of Dick's hands in both of hers. "I kind of thought of her as the ‘other woman' for a long time, Dick. Thought you were in love with her, instead of me."
"Well, I, uh...for a long time there, I thought you might really be Supergirl. When I saw that Supergirl robot way back there at the orphanage, and connected you with it, and it turned out to just be a robot Superman had made. That was before anybody knew there really was a Supergirl."
"Uh huh," said Linda. "You kept pestering me to try and admit I was Supergirl for a long time. I don't know how many times I had to convince you it just wasn't so."
"About as many times as Superman's supposed to have thrown off Lois Lane, when she tried to find out who he was," said Dick. "You wanna go back inside? We stay out here any longer, and they'll think we've decided to rush things."
"No, they trust you. So do I."
"If Supergirl showed up on Earth again, and she were in trouble, would you be willing to help her out again if you could?"
"Do you know something I don't?"
"Well, I guess I sure would. I mean, we've both met her, she's an old friend, and she's the cousin of the greatest superhero on Earth. So, yeah, I think I would help her." A pause. "Linda. Is she back?"
Linda got up. "I'm so glad you told me that, Dick. It does mean something, you know. That you'd go the extra mile for your friends, even if they've been gone a long time." She kissed him. "Now, I gotta go. See you tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay," said Dick, wonderingly. He watched her open the storm door and the regular door, walk inside, and head back towards her room. With that, Dick went in briefly, did a shake-hands thing with Fred, went back to his car, and drove to his hotel.
When she was certain Dick couldn't hear her, Linda went to the kitchen. Her mother was there, taking dishes out of the washer. Edna looked up. "Linda? Something wrong?"
"I hope not, but it feels like it, Mom, don't ask me why. I feel like something's happened to Supergirl."
Kara had been braced for a super-punch. But no matter how much you braced for it, the reality of it always seemed to knock you on your can. When two super-powered women hit her simultaneously, there was little she could do except try and ride with the impact. At least for the first nanosecond.
Starfire, she of the martial arts mastery and eyepatch, and this other flying brunette broad in a metal mask, had slammed into her in the skies not far from Metropolis. Neither one of them looked like they were going to give her a chance to track a radio communication back to Luthor's Lair. Instead, Starfire had hung one on her jaw while the other gal had tackled her around the midsection like a linebacker. All three of them were moving so quickly that an aura of red-hot air formed a dull corona about them.
Passersby and motorists below wondered what the shooting star above them was all about, and a few accidents were caused by people who had seen one too many meteor movies.
The three flying women went through a billboard for Ford Trucks and crashed into an empty lot on commercial property below. Their bodies sank a bit into the ground on impact. Kara was the first one out of her impression, but only by a thousandth of a second. Dr. Cyber leapt up and slammed a hard fist into her belly. Kara grunted at the impact. Starfire was already behind her, trying to get her in a restraining full-nelson.
Enough of this, she thought. So they've got super-powers? Good. So do I.
She whirled her body at super-speed, causing Starfire's legs to leave the ground and become parallel to it from the centrifugal force. The legs slammed into Cyber, knocking her off her feet. Kara, not stopping the turn, reached behind her, grabbed Starfire by the head, and threw her over her shoulder with a spurt of super-force. Her eyepatched foe whammed the ground, back-first. It didn't seem to hurt Starfire, but at least it got her off her back.
Cyber tried for a sneak attack behind Kara, but the blonde pivoted and caught Cyber with a looping right. It left a five-knuckle impression in Cyber's mask and made the villainess yelp. "Super-hearing," said Kara, matter-of-factly. "Hard to sneak up on a girl who's got that."
"Supergirl!" yelled Starfire.
Kara whirled, in a defensive stance. But it still wasn't fast enough. Starfire kiaiied and caught her in the face with a karate kick. The woman knew her business and the kick could have knocked a small mountain off its moorings. Starfire had black belts in several martial arts disciplines and had used several of those disciplines on Kara's body, years ago, in a fight in which Supergirl had lost her powers. Neither of them had ever forgotten that Kara had lost that fight.
The Kryptonian was a better fighter now than she had been then, but the kick still hurt her just as much.
The blonde heroine planed backwards and didn't stop till she hit a lightpole, whose metal shaft broke and fell across the nearby roadway. At super-speed, Kara picked it up and threw it into a field before it could endanger any cars.
Then she turned back to her foes. Both Starfire and the other woman were approaching her, cautiously, from opposite directions. She kept her eyes on one and her ears on the other, her body in a klurkor stance.
"Been awhile since I threw down on you, Starfire," said Kara, evenly. "Who's your friend, the Girl in the Iron Mask?"
"My sister," said Starfire, not taking her eye from Kara's. "You may call her Dr. Cyber. If you live long enough."
With that, the villainess streaked forward, half-running, half-flying, hands readied for a tiger strike. Cyber hurtled at Kara from the other direction. For a barely perceptible instant, Kara remained stock-still.
Then she leapt up into the sky and kept going, and kept her super-ears trained till she heard the satisfying double "Umph!" of both women crashing together.
From several hundred feet in the air, she was barely visible to anyone on the ground without super-vision. But Cyber and Starfire were too dangerous with their newfound powers to be fought near normal humans. Kara decided that she couldn't count either on them having vision powers, or knowing how to use them.
She looked down on the two women, sprawled and tangled in each other on the empty lot below.
"I'm up here, honeys," she called down, using enough of her super-lungpower to make sure they heard. "Quite a view. Care to join me?"
"Don't get in my way again, sister," snapped Starfire, pushing Cyber away from her.
"Me?" groused Cyber, regaining her feet. "You use powers like you learned dancing. Two left feet!"
"Shut up and get her," Starfire growled, launching herself into the air.
Cyber followed suit, heading for the speck in the sky that was Supergirl. For a moment, she marvelled at her new abilities. To be able to accomplish unaided flight, to have the speed of Mercury and the strength of Hercules. To be endowed with the very powers of Superman. It was a thing beyond belief, the substance of a dream.
The accomplishment of Lex Luthor.
There was time for such speculation later, she told herself. Right now, they had to concentrate on smashing this bitch.
Steve Lombard had fallen on hard times since his dismissal from Galaxy Broadcasting System on account of low ratings. Now, the sportscaster who had set innumerable buckets of water on doors baited for Clark Kent was just glad that his old colleagues hadn't forgotten him. In fact, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane were together with him in the back of his sporting goods store, having a planning session.
Jimmy and Lois were doing most of the planning.
"I've called up Batman, and the JLA is supposed to be doing something," said Jimmy. "But I haven't heard from him since then, and I don't feel safe in thinking they've found Clark or Superman just yet."
"So what do we do?" said Steve. "If somebody's run the hidden ball on Clarkie and Supes, and those superguys can't even find out where he is, I mean, shee--look at us! We're only civilians, y'know."
Lois gave him a glare. "We're also their friends, Steve. And I'll be damned if I give up on either one of them before finding out what's happened. I've been a snoop sister for too long to do that."
Jimmy said, "I've pressed this signal-watch at least once every day, hoping Superman would be able to respond to it. The fact that he hasn't, in over a month's time, proves that he's either not on Earth, or captured."
Lois drew a deep breath. "Or dead, Jimmy."
"Or dead, yeah, Lois," said Olsen with a look of distaste. "We can't rule that out. But I want to keep that as a last hypothesis. Let's assume that both of them have just been captured."
Steve, caressing a pigskin football with both hands in a manner that showed his itch for the gridiron, said, "Like you said, maybe captured. But what if the guys who captured him ain't even from Earth? Remember, there's supposed to be a whole Revenge Squad floatin' out around there in outer space. Maybe they got him."
"Steve's got a point, Jim, and don't make a joke about his head," said Lois. "If he has been abducted by aliens or the Revenge Squad, there's nothing we can do to investigate it. The Justice League could."
Jimmy put the heels of his hands against his carrotty temples. "We've got to go on the assumption that he's on Earth, guys, until we prove he isn't. There've got to be a thousand guys on this planet who, theoretically, could be behind this. Super-villains, enemy heads of state, maybe more."
"Lex Luthor's our best bet for a perp," said Lois. "He's been out of jail and missing even longer than Superman or Clark. Going down from him, there's Brainiac, Terra-Man..."
"Mr. Mxyzptlk," offered Steve. "He could pull off a caper like this."
"Yeah, but if he was behind it, you could bet we'd be seeing skyscrapers stood on their heads long before this," said Jimmy. "I want to get with Henderson. Ever since Captain Strong turned up in Edge's office when he was there, I think something's in the wind."
"I tried reaching Lex's sister today by phone, Jim," Lois revealed. "Nothing but an answering machine. Doesn't sound good, in this context. I could go to her town and do some scouting."
"Hold on till I make a call to Henderson," said Jimmy. "He may know more about it now than we do."
"And be willing to tell us?" said Lois. "Yeah. And the Hindenburg never fell down."
Jimmy picked up the phone at Steve's adjacent desk and dialed it. Steve pitched the football in the air idly and caught it. "I'd like t'help, Lois. It's not like I hated Clarkie or anything."
"Yeah," said Lois, not looking at him.
"No, I really didn't," protested Lombard. "Sure, he was a four-eyed foulup, but he was one hell of an anchorman. You tell him I said that. That is, if and when."
"Be sure to, Steve," said Lois.
"But, well...I'm not much of an investigator. I mean, I would've loved to be a private eye, like the one Mickey Spillane wrote about, except that I got to bash faces and be with broa--I mean, I got to bash faces like he did when I was just a football player, without any detective training. So, like, I never saw the need to. What I mean is, how can I help? I've got a store to run, Lois, and it takes about all I can do just to make it work every month."
Lois looked at him with compassion, and put a hand on his shoulder.
"You can do just what you've done tonight, Steve. You can provide us with a place to meet, another head to put together with ours, and maybe another warm body when we need it. You're not exactly a shrimp, you know."
For the first time, Lois saw a sheepish smile on Lombard's face.
"Yeah, well," said Steve. "If it is Luthor, and he's in that warsuit, I won't be much good against him. But get him out of that suit, and let me at ‘im! Before I'm done, he'll wish it was Supes poundin' him again!"
Lois grinned. "Keep that in mind, Steve. Just be sure to keep that in mind."
Jimmy turned to both of them, his face a bit grimmer. "I talked to someone in Henderson's office. From what we can tell, crazy stuff's happening. Somebody flew a whole van off the freeway just north of town, dumped it in a police parking lot, and took off. The van was full of bad guys, but the one who dumped it wasn't Superman."
"Oh," said Lois, quietly. "Who was it?"
"Don't know. Conflicting reports. But there's apparently some big bashup a few miles down the freeway from that. Sounds like super-types. That's all the guy had, and if he didn't owe me a favor, he wouldn't have given me that much."
Steve stood up suddenly. "So, do we help nail ‘em?"
"Not you, Steve," said Jimmy, dialing another number. "Lois and I. Investigating, not fighting. But I want to try for some help."
"Who's he calling?" asked Steve. Lois shook her head.
The party on the other end answered the phone. "Salutations," he said.
"Big Words? This is Olsen. I could use some help."
Kara Zor-El was facing two opponents who had power roughly equal to her own, it was true. Both of them were trained very effectively in martial arts, and one of them, Starfire, had given Supergirl a beating she had never forgotten when the latter's powers were in an on-again-off-again phase.
But Kara had two things in her favor: experience, and the fighting skills she had learned not only in the wrestling ring, but at the hands of Lady Shiva, possibly the deadliest female fighter on Earth. She couldn't match skills with Shiva. But she had gone against Faora Hu-Ul in a harrowing hand-to-hand battle, and beaten her decisively.
Thus, the woman who faced Starfire and Cyber in the skies over Metropolis wasn't overwhelmed by her enemies. Challenged, yes. But so far, she was holding her own.
And she had to admit, when she hung one on Starfire's jaw at almost full force, it sure felt good.
Starfire was driven back, her face starting to bruise where Kara had slugged her. Cyber tried to fly in and rake Kara's eyes with her fingers, but Supergirl grabbed both her wrists and held them, then slammed a kick into her midsection and propelled her foe away. As long as she could keep their attention focussed on her, she could keep them from using their powers to threaten human onlookers below.
Only, the onlookers were far, far below by now. Their fight had carried them up, and up, and up. The two Earthwomen had both almost panicked for a moment, realizing their great height. But they just as quickly realized that they didn't have to be worried about the height, and kept on fighting.
Kara had to admit that, with a little more practice, both women (or either of them) might be far more effective foes. But as it was, only one of them had much experience at fighting in mid-air, or using super-powers in coordination with each other. Thus, she was able to rocket into them repeatedly and inflict her damage, though she suffered a bit herself. The women weren't wimps, and both of them could fight.
By now, the Lena Thorul dress had been ripped away by the fury of the fight and the air friction, and Kara was revealed in her Supergirl outfit. Neither Starfire's nor Cyber's clothing had been damaged, so she guessed the garments had been friction-proofed.
Cyber, whose name she recognized as one of Wonder Woman's old enemies, tried to make a strike on her. Kara hovered for a moment, then dove, made an Immelman turn, came up behind her foe, and swung a red-booted leg at the back of Cyber's head. It connected, hard. The villainess groaned and almost fell out of the sky.
Now the entire Earth was visible below them, cloud-shrouded in parts, blue-oceaned, with continents of a vaguely brown and green color. It was a pretty sight, Kara had to admit, and admired it out of the corner of her eyes while cracking two heads together with her arms. No matter how many times she had seen it from this high or higher, the Earth was definitely a lovely planet.
She raked both women with heat-vision, saw them recoil, and wondered if either of them had known of such a power before. Starfire, a second later, tried it out herself and gave Kara a brief taste of heat against her face. It hurt a bit, but she had taken worse. She hurled herself at Starfire and made ready to deliver a klurkor punch.
But Dr. Cyber shouted, loud enough to carry in the almost nonexistent atmosphere, "STOP!"
Kara didn't, but she hesitated long enough for the blow not to be effective enough on Starfire. Grabbing her opponent from behind in a headlock, the girl from Rokyn whipped Starfire around so that her body was between Kara and Cyber.
But Cyber was not turned towards Kara. Her metal-masked face was staring down at the Earth.
Specifically, it was turned towards the polar ice cap.
"This heat vision is an effective thing," said Cyber, though it took Kara's super-hearing to pick it up. "I've already trained it on that mass of ice and snow below us. They say that if only a bit of it is melted, the sea level could rise by many feet. Perhaps hundreds."
"No!" yelled Kara, and let Starfire go to leap at Cyber. She had her hands about Cyber's neck by the time Starfire spoke to her.
"I'm starting to melt the stuff right now, Supergirl," said the woman in the eyepatch. "You want to surrender now, or see how many people we can drown before you can stop us both?"
Cyber, holding Kara's hands with her own, said, "Take a look with your super-eyes, witch. See if we're joking."
Her telescopic vision automatically kicked in. Far below, on the cap of ice that covered the Earth's north pole, she could see great fissures developing. She quickly surveyed the rest of the cap, as only one with super-speed could do. The evidence of melting was obvious. She sent a great puff of super-cooled breath down at the ice, refreezing some of it. But both her opponents, now, were using their laser-like vision on the cap below.
Glaciers were beginning to crumble.
Icebergs were breaking away.
The water level was rising...
She turned to the both of them. "Damn you," she snarled.
Neither one of them was looking at her. They both had their eyes pointed at the ice. She could take out one, perhaps both. But would it be in time?
And what was her objective? To beat them both, or to find where they had taken Superman?
She was confident, given time, she could take them both. She knew how to use super-powers. The edge that gave her had been obvious in the fight. What if she played along, got taken back to wherever they had taken Kal? These witches had to be connected with that somehow. They knew where to find her, seconds after she had dumped off Luthor's mob.
Play for time, Kara, she told herself. Pray that the time will be enough.
"All right," she said. "I surrender."
Both of them looked up at her. Kara was still holding Cyber's hands, but the masked woman pushed her away, almost gently. The three of them hovered, far above the world.
Starfire was smiling. "You really mean that? You'll go along peacefully?"
"I said, ‘I surrender,' Starfire. What do you want, a written statement? That'd be kind of hard to do, up here."
The beautiful woman in the eyepatch and chic green outfit was closer to Kara now, her body at ease. "Do we have your word on that? The word of--Supergirl?"
"Yes," sighed Kara. "You have my word."
Then Starfire rocketed forward and hit her as hard as possible in the stomach.
Kara doubled, managed to look up, gasping. She cursed herself for being suckered, and tried to bring up a hand to strike back.
"Take it easy, Supergirl," said Starfire, with a smile. "Remember, you've surrendered. Or do you want us to start in on the ice again?"
The Kryptonian woman went ahead and slugged her in the mouth.
Then Cyber was behind her in a restraining grip. Her arms wrapped themselves under Kara's armpits and behind her head, forcing the heroine's head forward, painfully. Her legs were wrapped partway around Kara's waist and then against her upper legs, restraining her lower body movement. The woman was strong, and knew how to use her flight power now to counter Kara's.
Cyber was learning. It would take time to break the grip. Kara strained against it. Her straining was interrupted by a blow Starfire gave her against the side of her face. Her eyes closed in pain as she tried to shake off its numbing effects. Her body lurched against Cyber's, trying to force her way out of the hold.
Starfire sent an uppercut to Kara's jaw, then smashed her on the other side of her head. By the time the girl from Argo finally wrenched herself free from Cyber, she had taken five more punches. She tried to rally, sent herself forward towards Starfire in a battering-ram tactic. But Cyber's hand reached out, grabbed her by the hair, and yanked her back painfully.
At the same time, Starfire's foot smashed into her midsection in a kick so powerful it destroyed the villainess's Luthor-treated black leather boot.
Kara gasped for breath. Technically, she didn't need to breathe, but the pain reaction was automatic. White lights seemed to have come up between her and Starfire. She wondered if Starfire would be able to reach past them to get her.
As it turned out, she was. And she did. Again and again, with Cyber grabbing her with one arm across her throat from behind, administering blows and knees from the back. There were blows to the jaw, to the chest, to the stomach, to the kidneys. Cyber brought a knee up hard between Kara's thighs. Starfire thought it was a good idea, and did the same thing, from the front.
Miraculously, Kara managed to get a few blows in, during the beating. But it wasn't enough.
Cyber had regained her restraining full-nelson-and-scissors hold on Kara from the back, and the Argonian wasn't able to resist much. Since Starfire was the girl with a grudge against Kara, Cyber decided to let her have the honors. When Wonder Woman was the target, she intended to have first dibs.
Starfire took her time, enjoying her sadism, enjoying Kara's pain, and enjoying the chance to relive her first beating of Supergirl one more time.
She was enjoying it so much she didn't even notice that Supergirl wasn't trying to fight back anymore.
Cyber had picked up on it, though. She realized that Kara's head was drifting back and forth without conscious movement, and that her eyes were glassy.
Cyber said, "Le...our friend wants her alive. Maybe you should stop now."
Starfire sneered, pulling Kara's head back by the hair. "She's just faking it." She buried her right hand in Kara's stomach.
"I don't think so. Her heartbeat is getting irregular," said Cyber.
Starfire looked at her sister. "You mean, you know how to use that hearing thing?"
"Try it yourself, Stella," said Cyber.
So Starfire listened. At first, she heard nothing more than what a normal woman could have heard. But, as with the vision powers, she found that when she willed herself to, she could go beyond.
She heard three sets of breathing lungs, one of them seeming to labor.
She also heard three hearts, two of them pounding with the thrill of battle, the other lower and laboring.
"All right," said Starfire, disappointedly, and gave Kara a great slap to the side of her face out of frustration.
Cyber continued to hold the Kryptonian girl's limp body under the shoulders. Starfire positioned herself between Kara's lower legs and wrapped her arms about them. Then they flew down with her towards the planet below.
Super-powers were a disorienting thing. But they were getting the hang of them.