Last Waltz With Luthor
The government of Rokyn didn't want just anyone going to Earth. Considering that anyone who arrived there would automatically have the powers of Superman, that meant they had the potential to do considerable damage. To property, and to people.
Therefore, Shyla Kor-Onn, who had been a criminal, a Phantom Zoner, and an enemy of Supergirl before reforming, becoming a spy for the Covert Corps, and saving Kara's life, had a hell of a time getting permission from the powers that be to be allowed passage through the WarPort to Terra.
She was really, really, really not in a mood to be brooked. Shyla had little or no political clout herself, but she had brashness, drive, and the ear of her superior, who knew she had done a great job with the affair of Jax-Ur and his three companions not long ago. So she and he had gone to see the Immigration Authority, a day after Shyla had her encounter with Van-Ol, the scripter who was working on Kara's upcoming picture.
Shyla had laid it out for the man: "Whatever's big enough to take care of Superman is bound to be big enough to take care of Supergirl. Let me in on it, and I'll throw the odds in her favor. I know what my record looks like, Tanth Ebo, but, frab it, Kara is my friend."
Treg-Ebo, the immigration official, sighed. "I can sympathize, Tynth. But you do have a criminal record, and, despite your pardon, the rules are quite clear on that point. No immigration to former Zoners."
"Frab," swore Shyla under her breath. Her hands clenched and unclenched on the armrests of her chair. Though she had been a scientist, she had become a woman of action. Now, standpatting while a friend was in danger went against her grain. She stood, hands spread.
"Tanth Ebo, don't you see? It's because Kara Zor-El is endangered that I have to be involved. She was a woman I hated, true enough, years ago. But I changed, and it was because of that change that I went to her aid. At considerable risk to myself, you know."
Her boss, Commander Treg, spoke up. "Shyla doesn't tell the half of it. She was a sleeper agent in the deadliest part of Separatist's Alley for a long time. She managed to free Tynth Zor-El from a cell where she was being illegally held, put a gun to Phi-Zor's head in order to save Zor-El and her associates, and then joined the team that accompanied Captain Tog to fight Jax-Ur's group at the reservoir."
"I see," said Ebo, impressed. "Nonetheless--"
Treg overrode him. "She personally stopped Faora Hu-Ul from killing Kara. Shyla Kor-Onn killed Faora Hu-Ul."
Ebo, who had been wearing his gold headband for twenty years, massaged his temples. "Tanth Treg, Tynth Kor-Onn, don't you see? If the decision was in my hands, I'd sign you straight through the Port without delay. But my authority in this matter is quite circumscribed. It wasn't so long ago, I believe, that Tynth Kor-Onn herself was in the same category as, forgive me, Jax-Ur."
The commander started to rise from his chair. Shyla, subdued a bit, held out a hand to stop him. "Hold, please, Commander. Tynth Ebo, I--must admit to your facts. But I must point out another fact, which is: if Kara Zor-El and Kal-El die as a result of your intransigence--"
Ebo crossed his fingers.
Shyla, breaking courtesy, got up, took his hands, and moved his fingers apart.
Commander Treg sat dead-still in his chair and knew that Shyla had blown it. The crossed fingers were the traditional Kryptonian sign that an argument was over. To negate that was a faux pas indeed, and signified that the cross-breaker considered himself (or herself) superior to the crosser.
The fact was not lost on Ebo. But he only kept his silence for a few seconds.
"The procedure can be waived by order of the Drygur Moliom," he said. "He might listen to the recommendation of an Immigration official."
Shyla's expression changed from forceful to pleading, as if a mask was dropped. "Official Ebo...may I address you as Eboior...I apologize for my conduct. But Kara's life means much to me. If I can..."
"May I offer my apologies as well," said Treg, cutting in. "We're all under considerable stress, Tanth Ebo."
"Apologies accepted," said Ebo, and, with a motion over his CompUnit's control surface, began to make a connection to the Moliom's office.
He thought Tynth Zor-El could use the help, too.
In the embrace of the purple glop, Kara wondered if she'd heard the telepathy right.
<Help you get your body back?>, she asked. <Isn't that a hard thing to misplace?>
The mind-voice came back, a little more surly. <You wanna crack wise, or you wanna listen? I can suck out everything your cousin and you have, including your lives. But that won't get me what I want. You want to listen?>
She didn't hesitate. <I'm listening. Are you who I think you are?>
<Yeah,> he sent. <I'm the Parasite.>
A chill of confirmation went through her mind and soul. One of Superman's deadliest enemies, a foe she herself had faced, and the one being she knew of with the ability to sap the powers from her and Kal's bodies and transfer them to his own corpus, if he did it slowly enough that he didn't overload and explode.
If he'd been doing it to Kal for a month, that was slower than government work.
The Parasite, she remembered, was once a normal man named Maxwell Jensen. A chemical explosion had transformed him into a purple-skinned, star-eyed humanoid with the new ability to leach away power, knowledge, and even life from anyone within his vicinity, at will. He had first used it to take Superman's powers, intending to destroy Kal and employ his Kryptonian might for personal gain. But the Parasite had taken too much, too fast, and his mortal body could not contain the energies he had stolen.
So he exploded, and the powers went back to Kal.
However, the Parasite had not died. Indeed, it wasn't certain that he could die in his new state. Or if he did, it would have to be by some means undiscovered so far. He had merely been converted to energy, which an alien had inadvertently reassembled into a body-form again. Since then, the Parasite had plagued Superman numerous times, and herself once, each time being defeated, but each time coming uncomfortably close to total victory.
Now, somehow Luthor had rendered him into this liquid state. Moreover, he must have divided the Parasite's essence into at least two containers. One for Superman, and this one for her.
<Lex-baby told me that he had a hype for my powers that'd make it easy for me to roll over Big Blue,> the Parasite continued. <I thought it might be a scam, sure. But I also couldn't pass it up. I didn't sap his mind to confirm it. He had a field to protect himself.>
<How lovely,> thought Kara. She whacked the side of the metal capsule. All she did was hurt her hand.
<Anyway, the treatment did what he said--at first,> sent the purple liquid. <I threw down on Supes, beat him. He got in his licks, but I won. Then, just about that time, my feet turned into puddles. I felt it, looked down--my legs were joinin' them. I tried to get to Luthor-buddy, had my hands out to rip into his damn warsuit and tear his throat out. But I didn't even slosh a step. I was all--this stuff--by then. He picked me up in a suction hose.>
Kara rolled herself into a position in which her shoulders were braced against the top of the capsule, her knees and lower legs against the bottom. She strained against it. <Don't do that, you'll only hurt yourself,> sent the Parasite.
She opened her eyes, but only saw the grape-colored gel and the smooth walls of the capsule beyond it. <Then how do you propose to get me out of here?> she asked.
<First you've gotta listen,> he replied.
Supergirl shifted position, allowing herself to sit in a rather cramped fashion. She leaned back against the capsule wall. <All right. But the quicker, the better.>
<Okay,> sent the Parasite. <In this state, I can't tell too much about what's happening outside me. No visual, aural, or anything like that. Just touch, a little telepathy, and energy-transfer stuff. I can't tell you where he's got your cousin. Can't even tell you where you are, now. But I can tell you that he's duping Superman's powers off into others. He's using me to do it.>
Kara sent, <That's how Starfire and Cyber got their Kryptonian powers. But something doesn't make sense, Parasite.>
She explained, <Both of them had the same level of powers, that of a normal Krypton woman on Earth. You only had one Kryptonian to draw from--Kal. Logically, each one of them should have had half of his powers. I might have been able to take them, separately.>
<I could tell he was sapping me into two recipients,> confirmed the Parasite. <I felt the power-drain two times. But, hell. I can't tell why he was able to duplicate the power-flow twice. Like you said, it should have just been fifty percent of his powers for each of them.>
Kara banged her hand against the hatch again. She could tell that her power-loss was increasing. <If you don't tell me how you're going to get me out of here, it may be too late to do any good,> she warned.
<I've got something that may work,> the Parasite said. <But I wanna know. If I let you loose, will you help me get back my body?>
<If that's the price, then I'll pay it,> thought Supergirl. <You have my word on it. I won't guarantee we'll leave you your Parasite powers, though. If we can find a way to shut them off, we will.>
<I'll deal with that later,> the villain thought. <Do you know what it's been like for a month? Not being able to breathe, to see, to hear, just to suck powers out of Big S at a rate that this capsule controls? He--Luthor--controls my flow like a freakin' bathtub faucet.>
Kara thought for a moment, then sent. <So your contact with Kal must be kind of like a circuit, then. You haven't sapped everything from him past a certain point. He's still alive. Correct?>
<Oh, yeah,> the Parasite confirmed. <He's still kickin'. Lex-baby doesn't want him to die. Yet.>
The girl from Krypton managed to hug her knees to her chest. <Can you tell me where Luthor was when he gave you the treatment? That might tell me where Kal is.>
<It was my hideout, in upstate Jersey,> replied the Parasite. <He came to me. Brought his stuff with him. So I don't know where he is.>
<All right,> Supergirl answered. <Are you in contact with the rest of you? The part that has Kal?>
<Yeah,> he replied. <But I don't talk to the schmuck. I don't like him.>
<What about me?>
<Don't like you that much, either. But with you, it's more a secondary thing. Okay?>
<Okay,> sent Kara. <I want you to do something for me.>
<I'm gonna try to get you out of here so you can put me back together again. What else do you want?>
<I want you to talk to Kal for me.>
She felt a wave of revulsion. <Oh, now, wait a minute. No. No, that's totally out of the picture. Not in the deal. I repeat, not. I hate the guy. I mean, this is a guy I've tried to kill I don't know how many times.>
She sent, <Well, you tried to kill me once. And we're talking now.>
<I DON'T WANT TO TALK TO SUPERMAN!>
<Do it. Or you can take all my powers and stay grape jello for the rest of your life.>
A long pause. <You're bluffing.>
Finally, he sent, <All right, dammit. What do I gotta say to him?>
<Tell him Kara is here to help, that I'm gonna try to get us both out of this thing, and that he needs to hold on and hang tight until I can. And that I love him very, very much.>
<I. Don't. Wanna. Talk. To. Superman.>
<I could care frabbing less what you want. Do it.>
A pause. <Okay. I told him. That enough?>
<Did he send anything back?>
<His laundry list.>
<All RIGHT, dammit! He sends back his love, says he thought his mind was going to eat itself, but now that he's gotten some input from you, he's going to try and see this thing out. He says hurry, asks if Lois is all right, and what's happening with Luthor.>
<TELL HIM that Lois is all right, that I'm going to try to find Lex as soon as I get out, and that we both have the obligation to get your body back once we're free. Now. What about getting me out? Can you get Kal out, as well?>
<Can't get him out. I may be able to get you out. Listen up.>
The Justice League was prepared for a lot of things, but not for two Krypton-class females who stormed their satellite headquarters with the force of twin comets.
Actually, the metaphor of comets is ill-chosen. Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Firestorm each would probably be able to cope with a comet, and in concert could certainly deal with two or more. But Starfire and Dr. Cyber were much more powerful than that.
The satellite, hanging in geosynchronous orbit above the United States, began losing air as Starfire's body smashed through the top portion and Cyber's penetrated its bottom. Five Leaguers were on duty, four having come up to buttress Aquaman after their civilian workday was over. The others were Hawkman, Hawkwoman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern.
Hal Jordan was quick-witted enough to blast at the two women with a force that smashed them both back outside and sealed the satellite, but only for a moment. He had never met either Starfire or Cyber, knew not that their powers were Kryptonian in derivation, and thus employed his Power Ring in the most effective way he knew, given what little information he had to work on.
But Princess Diana did recognize Dr. Cyber, had time to exclaim "Great Hera!", and grabbed her magic lasso from its clasp at her belt.
Hawkman had presence of mind to grab Aquaman, shove him into the teleporter, and trigger it for Gotham City, despite Arthur's protests. Of all the Leaguers there, his body was the least equipped to withstand the ravages of space.
The two women burst back into the satellite, despite Green Lantern's defenses, and, smiling at their increasing proficiency with their newfound powers, slammed into him with blows intended to kill. The automatic life-protecting faculty of the Lantern's ring kicked in and shielded him from the full impact of the blows, but couldn't keep him conscious. To prevent further damage, the ring turned Hal's body immaterial. Like a ghost, he drifted through the floor of the chamber.
Starfire and Cyber had other concerns.
Hawkman had his mace in hand, never far from him, and swung the ancient Terran weapon at Starfire's shoulder. The brunette in the eyepatch let it bounce off her like a tennis ball. The hero of Thanagar backed away, cagily, luring them away from Hawkwomanl. The latter was at the communications console, trying to send a signal to the League members not present and give them data on what was occurring there.
Starfire slapped Katar Hol disdainfully, sending him caroming off a wall. He slid down it, senseless from the impact. His attacker was already at Hawkwoman's side, fending off the heroine's useless attack. Shayera found herself gripped by neck and arm and thrown with irresistable power out through the hole their foes had made in the hull. A second later, Hawkman's hurtling body joined hers in airless space.
That left Wonder Woman to make her stand, and she was determined to do just that.
Even though the amount of air within the ruptured satellite was quite diminished, the Amazon princess had the ability to withstand the conditions for a decent amount of time. Her magic lasso had already enlooped Cyber's body, and not even Kryptonian powers were proof against it.
"Cyber," said Wonder Woman, her voice sounding different against the lessened air volume. "I order you to--"
"--do nothing," finished Starfire, who hit the Amazon from behind, in the back of the head. Wonder Woman planed away from the impact, striking metal and plastic near the ceiling of the structure. She felt the pain, and knew from the force of Starfire's blow that her foe's might was within reach, but greater than her own.
"She is mine," snapped Cyber, behind her golden mask. The villainess slipped the lasso from around her body, it having lost its power over her when its end dropped from Wonder Woman's hand. Starfire stood back, slightly smiling. Wonder Woman regained her feet and stood in a crouch, facing her deadly enemy. Her expression was resolute, her right hand balled in a fist.
"I've never had the power to match strength with you," said Cyber. "Never, until now."
The women came together in a clash that threw the satellite off its axis momentarily.
Fists went up, crashed down with immeasurable force. Knees, kicks, martial arts blows, all were used against each opponent, all within the space of a few seconds. Without her super-speed-enhanced vision, Starfire knew that she would not be able to keep up with her sister's combat.
But she made do just fine.
Wonder Woman had traded punches with Supergirl before, and hurt her. She did the same to Dr. Cyber on this occasion. But the masked woman with the borrowed powers was now above Diana's level, and knew it. She burned the Amazon's shoulders and chest with heat-vision, hammered blows at her with the speed and force of a Daxamite jackhammer. Wonder Woman tried to answer the punches, but found her senses and strength fading under the assault. She slammed up a mighty two-handed uppercut in a desperation move.
Cyber, her mask torn away to expose her horrific face, was thrown against the side of the satellite.
But she recovered and pistoned forward with a stiff right that Wonder Woman had no hope of avoiding. The worst part was that Diana knew it, and couldn't even manage to evade it.
As the blackness hit her, she wondered if she would wake up in a villain's lair, or in the Elysian Fields.
The holding tank of the police station where Supergirl had deposited Luthor's henchmen was now a mob scene. None of the local cops, despite their proximity to Metropolis, had been prepared for the sight of a Whiz Wagon dropping down from the skies. Those who emerged from the flying car, the five Newsboy Legionnaires along with Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Steve Lombard, were presently joined by Inspector Henderson and Captain Strong. Both parties wanted to know what the hell the other was doing there, and the local authorities weren't keen on having any of the newcomers shove their noses into the thing.
But Henderson had managed to calm things down, persuaded the local chief
that they'd try not to step on his bust, and were finally allowed to interview
a captive Louto, Pluto, Plato, and Wanda.
The foursome proved less than tractable. They were seated behind a metal and plastic barrier and communicated via a speaker system.
Wanda did most of the talking for their side, what little there was. "We refuse to answer on the grounds it might incriminate us," she said.
Captain Strong flexed his biceps. "Oh, we cans do a lot more'n incriminate ya's, darlin'."
Henderson almost jumped out of his seat. "No, we can't! This is a police inquiry, Strong, and you're only here as a guest. Any real or implied threats of violence will not only get you ejected, but will probably get you in a cell right beside them."
Strong shrugged. "I apologizes." His face didn't look very apologetic.
Jimmy Olsen said, "This isn't a little matter, you guys. Superman's been missing for over a month now. So has Clark Kent. If you're implicated in it, you can expect to be thrown into the worst hellhole the American penal system has to offer. At best."
"Let ‘em try," said Louto Marono. He didn't have his metal arm anymore, but he was still fearsome enough.
Lois sighed, and spoke to Wanda. "I want to ask you something as a woman. Have you ever been in love?"
"I refuse to answer on the grounds it might incriminate me," she said.
"Well, I am in love, Wanda. With a guy who's been missing for a month. A man who's probably the most important guy in the world. I want him back. Or--" She steeled herself to say it. "--if he isn't with us anymore, I want to know about that, too."
"Do you?" Wanda smirked. "Well, I can't tell you nothin'."
"Please, Wanda," said Lois. "We can help you with the authorities. If you cooperate, and if we put in a good word for you, you could end up in a lot easier place to do the time in. Am I right, Inspector, Chief Byrne?"
Byrne, a black man with a mustache and the physique of a part-time bodybuilder, rumbled, "Could be, Miss Lane. That is, if I add my reccomendation."
Tommy of the Newsboys said, "What if we take ‘em for a little ride in the Whiz-Wagon...upside down?"
Henderson said, "Shut up, you. That's in the same category with Strong's words. We don't do things like that. We can cut a deal, but we can't threaten."
Steve Lombard finally said something. "Look. You guys are in enough trouble as it is for various charges on past crimes. Add to that escaping jail, collaboration with Luthor, and kidnapping, and you're in for hell on Earth once they slam the door. Once they do, we can't help you. And...and Jimmy's right. This is the kidnapping of Superman. That's like taking a Pope, or a president. This isn't some little thing. You're in custody. Luthor's abandoned you. I mean--"
Jimmy put a hand on Steve's shoulder. He said nothing, but didn't have to.
The holding cell was built to withstand even bomb blasts, and was situated well within the structure of the P.D. itself. There were cops all over the building, and they were trained to cope with emergency situations, including jailbreaks.
That was of absolutely no use when a figure in a green-and-purple metal warsuit burst through the concrete and steel wall, the fragments managing to miss the persons within. He had used an X-ray scope to make certain of the best point to strike.
Jimmy, Lois, Henderson, Byrne, Strong, and the five Newsboys turned with surprise and horror. The four crooks, after an instant of shock, looked on with relief.
"He's here," said Pluto Statler.
"He's really here," said Plato Statler.
Captain Strong launched himself forward like a sauncha-powered juggernaut. Captain Byrne had his gun out and was yelling at Strong and the rest to get back. Outside the hole he could see some of his men on the floor. He hoped they were just unconscious.
Luthor extended his metal-gloved hand. A blinding crackle of blue light burst from his fingertips.
Captain Strong took its force head-on and was dropped to the floor. The secondary force of the blast caught Byrne, then Jimmy, Lois, Lombard, Henderson, and the Newsboy Legion. One by one, they fell. It didn't take very long.
Calmly, Luthor stepped to the metal-and-plastic barrier between him and his gang and, laying his hands on it, tore it apart.
"We can go now," he said.