A Force of Four
Anyone who attacked 100 Amazons were not doing themselves a great favor.
Each one of them had physical power far in excess of normal humans, thanks
to the science of the ancients and constant training. Wonder Woman
was only their mightiest member.
But the attack came from afar, and two who attacked them had the power to fire terrible bolts of heat from their eyes. Even the marble of the Amazons' buildings were cracked by it, and even the steel supports within were melted by it. It was far beyond what the women could endure.
The hundred Amazons within the dining hall rushed out of the building, suffering the effects of the heat-vision blasts. Wonder Woman supported her mother, Lyta made sure that the Gunthers and Mala got out, and all of them ran for someplace outside the range of the fiery climate.
Provided there was such a place.
"Mala," gasped Fury. "What the hell--is going on here?"
"Don't know," replied the older Amazon. "This way. Run for it." Mala was pointing towards the cliff, a half-mile distant, off of which lie the sea.
"I'm burning up," said Paula Von Gunter, a human despite all her Amazon training. "Mein Gott, I'm burning up."
Lyta scooped Paula up in her arms and began running flat-out for the cliffs. Mala was attempting to shield Gerta, who was stronger than her mother but not as strong as a native-born Amazon, from the heat. It was lessening the further they got from the dining hall, but not slackened enough for comfort.
Grass fires were springing up nearby. The great oak trees which had given shade to the area were starting to burst into flame. Paradise Island was in danger of becoming a ruin.
Lyta covered the last couple of hundred yards within seconds and leaped, carrying herself and Paula over the cliff's edge and outward, past the shoreline below and into deeper water. Several seconds later, the two of them cleaved the waters and plunged many feet below the surface. Lyta was still holding fast to the German woman. Paula's face showed the fear, but, Lyta noted, she was a bit relieved, as well.
The young Amazon wrapped Paula's arms about her neck and kicked up to fight their downward motion. With her hands free, she added an upward stroke that headed them back towards the surface. She heard the muffled noises of bodies hitting the water above and soon saw others of the Amazons following her lead, trailing bubbles as they sank within the cooling waves.
Their heads broke the surface a few seconds later. Paula gasped for air. "Gerta," she said. "Lyta, we have to find Gerta."
"Right now we have to find who's doing this to us, and do it back to them," asserted Fury. "Keep hanging on, Paula, I'm going to get you on dry land and then see what I can do."
Transformation Island, where the Amazons kept their prisoners, was a few miles distant. Lyta could swim it easily, but that would take time. Too, she didn't want to be burdened by Paula while she did it. She swam towards the shoreline just below the cliffs, Paula hanging dutifully onto her neck.
Many of the other Amazons were following her lead. They didn't know what was coming off, but if there was a way to strike back, they were going to attempt it. So the mighty women in the Grecian outfits swam in the general direction of the shore, even as more of their sisters were jumping off the cliff or into the shore from the flatter, opposite end of the island.
They heard a tremendous wrenching sound. As if couplings of stone and steel were being torn apart by the hand of a giant.
"What in Tartarus is that?" asked Lyta, still stroking like blazes for shore.
Paula looked up. "I think it's that," she said. "Up there. Look."
Lyta Trevor looked, as did many of her sister Amazons in the surf.
An entire building, the Temple of Science, was being lifted quickly into the sky, trailing its underpinnings. Three figures were supporting it, and pushing it forward at ever-increasing speed. Lyta couldn't tell from that distance if the superbeings who held it were male or female.
"Oh, hell," she said, aloud. If any of the interlopers were male, if any of them had set foot on Amazon soil, it could be the end of their powers, by Aphrodite's Law.
The threesome seemed possessed of speed even beyond that of Amazons. Within seconds, the great white Greek-styled temple was beyond the horizon, out of sight.
Lyta's feet felt beach sand underwater and she scurried onto the tiny beach abutting the cliff, letting Paula loose as they made dry land. The German woman was tough, but shaken. "Lyta, we have to find Gerta. Please. You must do this thing for me, in the name of your Aphrodite."
Fury sighed. "The last time I saw Gerta, she was heading in another direction with Mom, Mala, and the Queen. If those three couldn't get her to safety, even Superman couldn't. She should be all right, Paula."
"Should be is not enough, Lyta," said Paula. "We must locate her at once. If you were a mother, you would understand."
Fury looked at her for a few moments. The other Amazons were pulling themselves up onto the band of beach beside them. Lyta's cape was as wet as a flounder, and sand had worked its way into her boots. But she still looked every inch the young and powerful Amazon warrior she was.
"I'll try and find her," said Fury. "But I've got other stuff to do, as well. Like maybe help get the Temple back."
She gathered herself, crouched down, than sprang upward. Her great leap carried her almost to the top of the cliff. Lyta reached out her hands, dug handholds into the cliff face, and scampered up to the top, wondering if the heat would still be there in the brigands' abscence.
It wasn't. But enough heat and smoke were being raised from the fires round about the island to almost make up for it. Wood and grass and plants were being consumed in a blaze like unto Nero's Rome. The Amazons did have fire-fighting equipment, but even Lyta couldn't fight this blaze single-handed.
The dining hall was almost wrecked. The roof had fallen in, and a blaze was poking its way through the hole and the burned-out front door. Smoke blocked her view of all but the closest buildings.
Lyta turned back to the cliff. A couple of women had just finished scaling it, and the others would be close behind. "Hola, sisters," she said. "If you can show me, like, where the hoses and the foamers are, I'll give you a hand, for sure."
"Look," said one of them, pointing above and behind Lyta. Fury turned her head, and gaped at what she saw.
The great Robot Plane of her mother, with Wonder Woman inside it, was coming through the smoke of the island's burning. It was transparent, but its outline was caught by the black fumes about it. The Amazon princess sat at the controls, with a microphone at her mouth, and looked resolute.
Lyta was most impressed, to say the least.
Wonder Woman spoke. Her voice was carried through the plane's PA system from speakers mounted above the wings. "Hola, sisters," she said. "Queen Hippolyte is safe. There is no apparent loss of life. If you will stay here and control yon blaze, I will pursue our foes. Out."
A spontaneous cheer went up from the women, most of whom were still on the stretch of beach. Even after all these years, Diana was their champion and favorite daughter. Only Hippolyte was higher than her, in their affections. While she lived, there would only be one Wonder Woman.
Fury made a decision, crouched again, and leaped.
It was a tribute to Amazon strength, speed, endurance, and guts, plus her own general cussedness and stupidity, that she was able to grab hold of the Robot Plane's wing edge as it passed overhead. She grunted with the strain, then pulled herself up until her stomach abutted the wing, then lay herself flat on it, grasping its edges with her hands and feet.
Lyta gasped in breath, lying face down on the Robot Plane's wing. Then she felt something landing on her back, and wondered what sort of bird would be able to make so accurate a touchdown.
She reached onto her back with one hand and grabbed it. It was the loop of Wonder Woman's magic lasso. Strangely enough, it wasn't glowing.
The door of the Robot Plane was open and Wonder Woman had the other end of the rope wrapped tightly about her hand. She was not looking pleased. Lyta got the lasso's loop under her arms and let go of the wing. Her slim body flew into the open air, swinging parallel with the plane. She grasped the lasso in her hands and began pulling herself up along its length. Wonder Woman helped by putting the autopilot on and using both hands to drag her daugher inside. Within fifteen seconds, the red-and-yellow-clad girl was holding onto the doorframe of the cockpit.
"Get in," said Wonder Woman.
"Absolutely," said Lyta, and slid the door shut behind her. She looked back and saw the blazing Isle of Paradise. She hoped the herders had gotten most of the livestock to safety. "Are we headed after the bad guys?"
"In a moment," she said. "I got an alarm on the mental radio from Transformation Island. It was cut off before a message could get through. We're headed there first. I hope you're up to fighting, daughter."
Fury gave her mother a look. "Would I be your daughter, Mom, if I wasn't?"
Wonder Woman smiled. "Let's go kick some butt."
The Robot Plane headed towards Transformation Island. It could make the journey in seconds.
Unfortunately, something got between them and their destination in that time. It soared up and put itself square in the path of the great transparent aircraft.
Diana and Lyta had time to note that it looked somewhat like a man, before they crashed into it.
Nuklon was glad that the other members of the team were on tap. This thing was beginning to sound damned serious.
"Something's taken out the whole Justice Society, as far as we know," he said. "Whatever or whoever it is, is hitting Paradise Island. We've got to head out there, and do it now. While there's still something left to save."
Syl Pemberton, the Star-Spangled Kid, was sitting on the edge of a table, his mask off. The rest of the bunch, Jade, Obsidian, Northwind, Dr. Midnight, Hourman II, Silver Scarab, Nuklon, Wildcat II, and even Brainwave Jr., were gathered tensely in their meeting room. Hector Hall, the Scarab, looked the worst. If Paradise Island was in danger, so was Lyta. And he was her lover.
The Kid, Infinity, Inc.'s leader, said, "We're going, Nuke. But we're not all going."
"Why?" snapped the Scarab. "And don't tell me you're going to leave me behind, Pemberton."
Jade, Green Lantern's emerald-skinned daughter, said, "Chill, Hec. We know how you feel."
"No, you don't," fumed the armored son of Hawkman. "Believe it: you don't."
"Hector," said Star. "I'm talking. Okay? What I want is for someone to volunteer to stay here and monitor in case something happens. The Society has some of the heaviest hitters on Earth in its ranks, as you all know. Right? The Amazons are also not known as losers, power-wise. So if we're walking into a trap, something above our power level, I want somebody back here who doesn't get caught in it. Somebody who can put out an APB to Helix, or what's left of the Seven Soldiers, or even Earth-One if we have to."
"This isn't a time when it's easy to cross," reminded Northwind.
"Maybe not, but it can be done," Syl Pemberton acknowledged. "So. I want a volunteer to play housesitter here, and to listen on the radio for our reports. Who's our volunteer?"
The other eight heroes looked among themselves, wondering. Brainwave, Jr. raised his hand. "I'll stay," he said. "It's been awhile since I've worked with the group."
Dr. Midnight also raised her hand. "No, Hank," she said to the red-costumed youth. "Your mind-blasts will probably be more effective than my blackout powers. I should stay here."
Hank King, the son of the original Brain Wave, shook his head. "Not that I'm chicken, I'd like to get into the action myself. But you've been in more recently than me."
Wildcat II, the beautiful Latino girl who had adopted the ailing Ted Grant's costume and name, spoke up. "We both have less experience than you, Hank, but that shouldn't be a factor. Rick, Beth, and I can work with the team. You all know that."
Obsidian spoke up. "That message indicated they needed help back then. The longer we argue, the more people could get dead." Then he looked uneasy himself, took a breath, and said, "But we've got something to tell you. Jennie-Lynn and I, that is."
Syl Pemberton turned to Jade, who was Jennie-Lynn Hayden, and Obsidian, her brother Todd Rice, sitting beside each other. The green-skinned girl was looking nervous as well.
"It's our powers, Syl," said Jade. "They've stopped working."
The Star-Spangled Kid looked concerned. "When did this happen? Are you certain?"
Obsidian said, "Since yesterday night. I've tried turning into a shadow, Jennie's tried using her power-pulse. They don't work. Something's interrupted our powers."
All of the Infinitors gave the twosome their attention. Jade, who had power over a self-generated green magical power centered on a palm birthmark, which derived from her father's power battery, was one of their most powerful members. Obsidian's shadow-powers, which gave him the ability to turn himself into a living shadow with super-strength, immateriality, and fear-causing powers, were also a great advantage to the group.
Both were the offspring of Alan Scott, the Green Lantern, and both of their powers were ultimately derived from magic.
Hourman II, who was Rex Tyler's only offspring and the inheritor of his name and Miraclo-pill powers, if not his costume, said, "Great. All of a sudden, we're down two members when we need to go save the Justice Society. Syl, can you give these guys an exam with your Cosmic Belt or something?"
Syl said, "Jennie, would it help if you could get to your dad's Power Battery? Maybe you need to recharge yourself, or something."
She shook her head. "I don't know, Syl. I'll try, but Gotham City's a long ways away, and you'll need the jet for this mission."
Northwind said, "This has to be linked to what happened to the JSA. There's no way this could be an unconnected incident."
"We can figure that out, Norda," said Hector, roughly. "But until we know who's behind this thing, we've got no way of counteracting the problem."
The Kid made his decision. "Obie, you stay behind on monitor duty. Jennie, I'm going to book you a flight to Gotham City. Don't worry, Infinc will pay for it. Hank, Midnight, you'll both come with us."
"All right," said Jade. "All right, Syl. I'll go. It's just that...dammit, something's happened to Dad. I know it. And just when he needs me...I can't do a thing about it."
Rick Tyler, the second Hourman, said, "You're not the only one who's got a father tied up in this thing, Jennie. And you know it."
"That's enough, Tyler," said Syl. "Okay, Todd, are you all right with staying on monitor duty?"
Wordlessly, Obsidian nodded.
"Okay. All right, people, let's hit the Infinijet. Takeoff in ten minutes. I'll make the reservation for you, Jennie. Todd, make sure to be listening to us."
"I will," said Obsidian, sadly.
Power Girl streaked in through the night sky over the ocean waters a few hundred feet below. Even at super-speed, the isle of the Amazons lay a few hundred miles distant. She chanced a look with her telescopic vision again, to ascertain what was going on there. It wasn't as powerful as Supergirl's farsight, but it did the job.
What she saw was a paradise aflame.
Grimly, Kara Zor-L poured on the speed, channelling as much energy as possible into her flight power. It taxed her somewhat, but she would have enough left by far to help with rescue work and, if she got there in time, to fight whatever was doing this to Wonder Woman's tribe.
But if they had the power to wreak havoc to the Amazons, she wondered if even her Kryptonian might would be enough to cope with it.
Well, there wasn't any use in speculating about that, she told herself. Defeatist thinking wasn't her forte. She chose to believe she could cope with whatever lay before her, and pressed on.
Before much longer, she was within sight of the blazing isle. She had also resolved to try an old Superman tactic and see if she could make it work.
Flying downward, she skimmed the surface of the sea not half a mile away from Paradise Island. Power Girl came to a stop, hovered, then spun about in place only a few feet above the water. Her whirl grew more and more rapid, till the woman in blue and white was only a blur to those who would have watched.
A vacuum was produced, and the bit of sea below it rushed up to fill it.
Power Girl threw herself into flight again, still spinning like a drill bit in an oil well, and the finger of seawater followed her in a man-made waterspout. Over Paradise Isle she soared, with the Amazons looking up and pointing, still at their hoses and foamers and fire-axes.
When she judged herself to be in the proper position, Kara slackened and stopped her spin. The water hurtled forward and splashed her thoroughly, but the bulk of it, robbed of upward motion, fell in a mini-deluge on Paradise Island.
Some water damage was done, and a few of the animals were drowned, but none of the women. The burned and blackened trees poked upward, sad digits accusing the sky. All of the majestic buildings had suffered some damage, and one or two were ruined.
But the fire was out.
Power Girl gasped with effort and sent herself towards the ground, which was only slightly more soggy than herself right now. The Amazons were picking themselves up, spitting out water, coughing, but surviving.
One of them staggered to her feet, clad in the wet, short Grecian dress that was characteristic of the Paradise Isle women. "Hola," she coughed. "Many, thanks for this. You, you are..."
"I'm Power Girl, honey," she said, helping the girl to stand up straight. "Tell me what's happened here?"
"I, I hardly know," admitted the Amazon. "From above, great bolts of heat beset us. We took to the sea. The Temple of Science was ripped from the ground, borne away into the sky."
"By what?" Power Girl was astonished. Only someone with the power of one of the JSA's mightier members, or some kind of Star Trek tractor beam, could have lifted a structure that big and heavy into the air.
"I could not tell," the woman answered. "Some said they saw people in flight with it. I did not. We were busy fighting the fire."
Some of the other Amazons were gathering round. Power Girl turned to them. "Uh, hola, group. I'm Power Girl, one of the Justice Society, like Princess Diana. Can anybody fill me in on things? Where's Wonder Woman?"
A gaggle of conflicting voices were heard, each one of the women trying to impart their version of the disaster. Then one voice rang above them, with a sound of command. "Cease," demanded Queen Hippolyta.
The women fell silent.
The Amazon Queen, seeming regal despite the bedraggled state of her garments, walked forward unhurriedly and the others parted way for her. Despite her composure, Kara could tell from her eyes that she was worried.
"O Kara," she said, "we are well met today. We have been struck from above by at least three interlopers. Transformation Island, our prison isle, has also been attacked. My own daughter and granddaughter, whom you know as Wonder Woman and Fury, did pursue the attackers who bore away our Temple of Science. That was only a few minutes ago, but I fear for their safety. Will you--"
"Of course I will, Queen Hippolyta," said Power Girl. "Can you tell me how many there were, and what they looked like? Also which way they went?"
"There must have been a phalanx of them," exclaimed one of the Amazons, a younger-looking one. "It would have taken at least a score of us to lift--"
"Silence," ordered Hippolyta. The girl subsided. To Kara, the queen said, "No more than three were seen, possibly less. We could not tell any more than that. They went in that direction." Hippolyta pointed to the north. "Transformation Island must be accounted for, however."
"Hang on, Queen," said Power Girl. "We're gonna do just that."
She scooped up the astonished queen of the Amazons, held her easily in both hands, and leaped into the air. She thought of yelling, "Up, up, and away!", but she was already in flight by that time, and judged it might be too corny, anyway.
The young Amazon turned to one of the women beside her. "Is the blond-hair one of our number, sister?"
The other answered, "If we but knew the way, we might be better off to be one of hers."
Within seconds, the girl from Krypton's heels hit ground again on Transformation Isle, the smaller atoll not far distant from Paradise Island. "Great Holy Rao," she breathed, looking out on the sight before her.
"Womanhood of Aphrodite," said Hippolyta, looking at the scene.
The main prison building had been destroyed. Something had apparently sheared right through the roof of the structure and pitched it some hundred yards distant, crushing anything under it. Thankfully, this did not include people; the Amazons and prisoners had apparently managed to get out of the way. The thirty-odd armored women who worked as guards there were strewn about the area, either unconscious or not far from it. Some of them were injured. Kara did a quick X-ray checkout of the women that she saw. A few were seriously hurt.
"Hang on, Queen," said Kara. She let Hippolyta down gently and rushed to the side of a guard whose broken ribs were puncturing her right lung. As carefully as possible under the circumstances, Power Girl lifted her, sprang into the air, and soared towards Paradise Island. She was lost to Aphrodite's sight very quickly.
Withn two minutes, the Kryptonian woman was back. Hippolyta saw her take another injured Amazon into the skies, then return rapidly and repeat the procedure until all the women whose injuries were gravest were in the hands of Amazon healers. Finally, Kara touched ground again near the queen. "You can handle the rest, I think," she said. "Looks like a full-scale prison break."
"Aye," said Hippolyta, grimly. "There were not many who still wore the Venus girdles, but there were enow. The belt compels obedience. They'll follow foul mistress as well as fair, if the fair ones be overcome."
"I need to talk to one of the guards, and fast," Kara said.
The two of them went to Menippe, a guardswoman who felt as though the mother of all migraines had recently left her skull. When they told her what they wanted to know, the Amazon explained, "T'was a single figure, with the apparent speed of Mercury. At least as great as the Princess, perhaps greater. It struck the prison roof like a thunderbolt, and I had to pull one of my girls to safety. Then the thing flew about us, reaping us like wheat. It needed no more than one blow ‘pon most of us, two at the limit, to lay us low. But some attempted resistance, to their credit, and these were the ones you saw stricken most barbarously."
"I need to get after this character," said Power Girl, hands on hips. "Was it a man or a woman?"
Menippe shook her head, then fought back nausea and wished she hadn't done it. "I suppose it was like unto a man, sister, yet t'was done so quickly that I've no proper perception of it. But for all that, I think t'was only one."
Queen Hippolyta turned to Power Girl. "This is a foe that may daunt even you, O Kara. Yet, my children have gone in search of him. Would you join their battle, pray?"
"You don't even have to ask, Queen," Kara replied. "Infinity, Inc. will be arriving soon. I'm setting the homing device on my belt. Tell them to track it. And once you get things sorted out..."
"We will come to your aid," said Hippolyta. "Never fear on that account. None may destroy our home, and not feel our wrath."
Power Girl made no reply. She gathered herself and pushed off from the isle's rocky soil, scouring the area towards the north of them with her telescopic vision. Within a minute she was out of sight of Paradise Island.
In a way she was glad that the foe seemed this formidable. She was sick and tired of human-level punks that folded up like a rollaway bed after one little punch to the gut or chin. The Superman and Supergirl of Earth-One seemed to run into enough menaces that really tested them. Enemies that could really trade punches with Kryptonians.
Getting into a fight with somebody like that could be a lot of fun.
On the other hand, this could be something more powerful even than a Kryptonian. Perhaps a forerunner of an invasion force of ultrabeings. If so, that would explain why only superhumans had been targeted.
She did not see Wonder Woman, Fury, or the Robot Plane ahead, and she had, by that time, covered enough area to have either caught up with them or caught sight of them.
On impulse, she trained her x-ray and telescopic vision below, into the sea.
It was hard to discern what she was looking for, since it was well-nigh transparent, but her super-vision was up to the job. She shuddered involuntarily when she saw it.
Kara plunged into the sea, hurtled downward, and went for a mile before coming up with a fragment of the Robot Plane's transparent fuselage. She broke surface only after she had covered the sea bottom with both her powerful vision and some first-hand observation, determining, thankfully, that Wonder Woman and Fury were not down there.
But it wasn't too reassuring, she told herself as she flew, trailing seawater from her costume and body, into the sky. There were lots of pieces of plane down there. What had become of the two women within it?
That was when she heard the sound.
If she had been using her hearing powers, maybe she would have caught it more quickly. But it might not have mattered.
Still holding the fragment of plastic / metal in one hand, she turned her head one way and then the other, scoping out with her telescopic eyes what was heading for her from two directions.
Two men. Both in what appeared to be Kryptonian dress.
They also looked like they were smiling.
That was all she had time to register before they hit her.