A Force of Four
President Ronald Reagan had put through a call to the Justice Society of America as soon as the satellite data had come through. Unfortunately, nobody was home at the time. This was quite disturbing to the president, as he had met them as far back as the Evil Star incident in Hollywood in the late Forties and had admired them ever since then. All the president got was an answering machine.
So he had a call put through to Infinity, Inc. The call was high-enough priority to be relayed directly to the Infinijet, which was parked on Transformation Island. The male Infinitors still were not allowed to touch the ground there, so they had to stay inside the craft.
After exchanging greetings, Reagan told the Star-Spangled Kid what was on his mind. "Our defense satellites have picked up an image and radar scans of a UFO the size of a whole building leaving Earth and heading into outer space," he said. "From what few visuals we've been able to get, the thing does look like a building. We've also been trying to get hold of your mentors--"
"With all due respect, sir, we prefer the term ‘predecessors', if you're talking about the Justice Society," the Kid demurred.
"Yes, well, your predecessors, and I do mean the Society. They aren't available. First, I need to know if you have any information on this, well, ‘flying building' I might call it. Second, I need to know where the Justice Society is. Third, I need to know what you can do in the present situation."
Syl Pemberton paused. Nuklon, Hourman II, Northwind, and Silver Scarab were listening intently to the conversation.
"Okay, Mr. President, taking it from the top," said Syl. "The ‘flying building' was taken from Paradise Island, the home of the Amazons. We're near there right now."
"Ah, Wonder Woman," said Reagan, glad that he still had a familiar touchstone in the matter. "Who took the building?"
"Apparently several criminals from Krypton, sir. They were also apparently responsible for the abduction of the Justice Society."
"From Krypton? Like Superman? Oh, my."
Syl stifled a sigh. "Yes, Mr. President. Like Superman. There are at least two of them, possibly more. They attacked Paradise Island and attacked Power Girl. We had a brush with them, but they got away."
"Hmm," said Reagan. "This does sound serious."
Silver Scarab said, laconically, "Brilliant grasp of the situation, Mr. President."
"Thank you," said the voice on the communicator. "Superman's dead, of course. How is Power Girl? And where is Wonder Woman?"
"Power Girl is recuperating," the Kid answered. "Wonder Woman and Fury, her daughter, have apparently also been captured. And yes, Superman is still seriously dead."
"A little humor on your part," Reagan said. "But let's not daunt the image of a fine American from Krypton, Mr. Kid."
Syl signalled the rest to silence, afraid their groans would be heard. "Wouldn't think of it, Mr. President. As to what we can do about it...first, we have to find out where they've gone. Then we can try and form a plan of battle."
"Two last things, Mr. Kid. Do you think your group can hold off three individuals with the power of Superman?"
The Star-Spangled Kid paused for a long moment. "Don't know, sir. But we'll give it our very best, when we learn their location."
Reagan said, "The final thing, Mr. Kid. What happens if they attack us first?"
Pemberton looked at the faces of his teammates before answering. Each of them gave him a very sober look.
"Well, Mr. President," said Syl, "we'll just have to deal with things as they come."
"All right, son. Keep me informed. This line will always be open."
"Will do, Mr. President," Syl replied. "Will do."
Power Girl arose from a welcome session of sleep and saw a breakfast tray, the food covered by metal lids, beside her bed. She swung her bare legs over the side of the bed, uncovered the bread, honey, meat, eggs, and milk, and wolfed the meal. Normally she would have been more ladylike in her eating, but damned if time wasn't getting away from her in the present situation.
An Amazon nurse heard the sounds of her repast and stopped before the open doorway. "Hola, Kara Zor-L. ‘Tis good to see you risen. What messages does your body convey to your brain?"
The Kryptonian girl pressed a hand to her head. "A bit woozy, honey, but that's to be expected. Where are my suit and boots?" She was clad in the Paradise Island version of a hospital johnny.
The nurse, in a short-skirted blue uniform, stepped closer to Kara's bedside. "In the closet. But orders have been given to keep you abed for at least another day, that your recovery may be--"
Power Girl finished off her last morsel of bread and honey. Then she grabbed the nurse under the arms and drew her very close.
"Two things I want from you," she said, firmly. "First, I want you to tell Queen Hippolye that we have to talk. Then, I want the recipe for this bread. I've never made a loaf this good in my own oven, and I'm jealous. Okay?"
The nurse tried to keep her composure. "I will try to accomplish both things."
"I'm sure you will." Kara released the nurse, and watched her leave, not looking back at her. Then, smiling, she got out of bed, tested her legs, and decided that the floor was level enough for her to walk on.
She went to the closet--actually, a painted wardrobe box--and, opening it, was glad they had washed her white leotard.
Badra and the Kryptonian trio had concluded that it was impractical to keep Wonder Woman and Fury chained to the wall. After all, there was the problem of certain messy physical needs. Badra really didn't feel like cleaning up after her captives. So the men had bopped both women smartly at the spot on the backs of their heads in which Amazons are famously vulnerable. The mother and daughter had fallen unconscious, and were brought to two separate side-by-side rooms in which bars were installed--and toilets. Their chains were affixed to the walls again by the men's heat vision, but gave them enough reach to do what must be done.
Despite her planning, sometimes the Hatorian had to admit she wasn't the most practical person.
Well, it mattered little. She positioned herself at a spot in which she could see, and be seen by, both her captives as they awoke. Wonder Woman revived first. She groaned, and Badra could see she had a bit of trouble focusing her eyes at first. "It's really me, Diana," confided the villainess. "You're not having a bad dream. Don't worry, your daughter is in the cell next door."
The aging Amazon breathed heavily, through her mouth, and the expression of anger on her face made her look somewhat frightening even to Badra, though the latter concealed her response. "If you've harmed her, witch, I'll visit punishments on your body even Tartarus couldn't match."
Badra moved closer to the bars, still smirking. "Such gratitude. I moved you both into a place in which you can take care of yourselves, be fed, even have a little privacy. And all you want to do to me is what I'm eventually going to do to you. Oh, Diana, you amuse me so very much."
Wonder Woman lunged at the cell door. Her chains drew her up a few inches from it. Badra pressed her face to the bars.
"Would you like to punish me, Wonder Woman?" she cooed. "Would you like to try your famous Amazon strength against my mere Hatorian body?"
"You know the answer, coward," said Princess Diana. "But unchain me now, and I'll let you have the first three blows. If your might is all you claim it is, then that should be enough, should it not?" Diana plastered a sneer on her face, trying to incite the woman to rage.
Badra replied, "I am not so foolish as to relinquish my own advantage, Diana. Held by those man-joined chains, your power is negated. Freed, you might be a threat to me...so the fetters will remain until the time of your execution. Or should I say, your murder?"
Wonder Woman said, "Greater than you have tried. I assume you keep me alive to see your masterstroke? That's the usual pattern with you mediocrities."
The evil woman's eyes blazed for a moment, then she got herself under control. "Mediocrities? No, Diana, the murder of a planet will be more than enough to satisfy even the harshest standards of those in my profession. I will allow you and your daughter to see it. You will know that, with your world's passing, your husband, your mother, your Amazon sisters, and your friends will pass as well. Then we will kill your daughter before your eyes."
Diana could not repress a start of terror, and Badra was quite pleased. She continued, "And then we will kill you."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've heard it all before. Can't we just cut to the final reel, where we slap you back in jail, go back to the clubhouse, and crack a few corny jokes before the credits reel?"
Both women turned their heads reflexively to the direction from which the voice was coming. Fury had spoken those words. There was no telling how long the girl had been awake.
Badra was in no mood to put up with any more. "Your whelp needs a lesson in manners," she said, and turned on her heel.
"Badra, no!" yelled Wonder Woman. "Take it out on me! You hate me more than her. I beat you once in battle--"
The Hatorian wasn't listening. Fury was standing in the middle of her cell, her arms still shackled to the chains that were embedded in the back wall. She struck a defiant pose.
Badra touched the latch of her cell door and opened it. She stepped inside. "Do with me as you will," she told Fury.
The blonde Amazon girl didn't need to be told twice. Badra was within her reach. She launched herself forward in a snarling, kicking, smashing attack.
Fury was a skilled enough fighter to hold her own. Her blows contacted vital parts of Badra's anatomy, with force enough to lay low any normal opponent, even possibly to destroy them.
But all the woman who faced her did was smile, so maddeningly.
"Your strength is negated by the chaining of your bracelets by a man," Badra said. "I don't have that sort of limitation."
So saying, she drew back her fist and drove it deeply into Fury's stomach.
The girl expelled her breath in a choked "Uh!" and went to her knees, clutching her stomach, fighting for breath. Badra looked down on her for a long moment, listening vaguely to Wonder Woman screaming at her from the next cell, and thought that one blow would probably be enough to teach the little blonde bitch a lesson.
Then she sent her foot crashing up into Fury's jaw. The force of the blow drove the red-and-gold-clad girl onto her back. She did not move from the spot where she lay.
One blow wasn't as much fun as two.
Badra calmly stepped from the cell, slammed the door shut behind her, and walked away, ignoring Wonder Woman's cries of tearful wrath.
She utilized her flight power, and soon arrived at another chamber of the Temple of Science. There, Mala was working with microscopic vision and tools of great precision on a device which an Amazon had created. He looked up at her. "The work proceeds, but I'm hardly finished," he said.
The Hatorian stepped closer. "It will wait. I have been speaking to our prisoners below, Mala. It was quite a stimulating conversation."
He almost did a double take.
"And you wish to tell me about it?", he said, cautiously.
"If you can keep it a secret from your brothers," she said, smiling carnally.
Work on the project was halted for over an hour.
After all, it had been decades since Mala had had a woman who could converse so well.
And Badra had to admit that he spoke very well himself.
"What you require may be more than what I can provide," admitted Queen Hippolyta to Kara.
Both were sitting among Amazon guards in what remained of the Queen's throne room. The tapestries were charred and the marble had not been entirely cleaned of smoke damage, but, for the most part, it remained regal. The female Infinitors were also in on the conference, as was Mala, the Amazon.
"We need help, Hippolyta," said Power Girl, stretching forth her palms. "Mala and his boys are stronger than any single Amazon, but with all the women on Paradise Island we should be able to take them. And they've got your daughter and granddaughter."
"For that, alone, we would be justified in pursuing them to the ends of the universe," said Hippolyta. "But we Amazons are--well--your world has the term, ‘homebodies'. For the most part, we have not ventured into Man's World for decades. We repel threats to our island, but Diana has been our ambassador to the outer world, and that is the extent of our involvement."
Dr. Midnight showed concern. "You're telling me that you're a race of agoraphobes? You're afraid to leave the island even when it comes down to rescuing Wonder Woman and Fury? I cannot believe this, Hippolyta."
"Believe what you will," the queen said. "My daughter has escaped from worse deathtraps in the past. I must trust in her abilities--ohhh, gods."
With that, she put her head in her hands and began to weep.
"I will help, oh, yes, by the gods I will help," she said. "But to get my sisters to leave the Isle...it has been ages, ages..."
The Girl of Steel and her friends and Mala looked upon the weeping woman in embarrassed silence. Power Girl cleared her throat, and, finally, hesitantly, put her hand on Hippolyta's shoulder.
"We need the help of the Amazons, Hippolyta," said Power Girl, softly. "We'll do all we can to save Diana and Lyta, but the sisterhood has to help. The power of Badra and her allies is above our level."
"I have prayed to Aphrodite about this thing," wailed Hippolyta. "Yes, I have prayed. But she has tendered me no answer. Not even in the holiest of holies. We are separated from her until this breach is healed."
Wildcat said, "With all respect, my reigna, when I speak to God, I do not expect a verbal reply. Such a thing would scare me unto death, actually."
Hippolyta wiped her eyes. "Our religions are different, catwoman. But--I will accompany you. I can do no less. Mala."
"My queen," said Mala, standing at attention.
"You will be in charge of Paradise Island until I return. I will not return without my daughter and grandchild."
Mala looked uneasy, then said, "My queen, may I suggest that I be the one to accompany our guests back to Man's World? You are sorely needed here in our time of trouble. I am a warrior, too, and Diana and Lyta are my friends."
"But they are my blood," said Hippolyta. "And, though we are the spawn of Aphrodite, sometimes we must use the methods of Mars against him. If I appeal to you for help via subwave, Mala, you must rally the sisterhood and come to our aid, regardless of their fears. That is an order."
The warrior-woman had to take some time before replying. "An order I accept, O queen. But one which, regrettably, in your abscence, may be hard to implement. Nonetheless, I shall come."
"Until then," said Hippolyta. She appeared a bit more composed, but Power Girl could still sense the grief beneath her veneer. "Well, then, Kara, let us join your male comrades, and leave."
Kara sighed. "All right. But Mala has a point. I'd rather see you leading an Amazon phalanx against the guy who's got her name and his two brothers than have you as another team member."
"It is all I can give, for now," said Hippolyta.
Thus, the four of them left the palace and were flown by Power Girl to the islet where the Infinijet had landed. The male Infinitors greeted the quartet and were introduced to Hippolyta. "She's going to be trying to help us against the Fruitcake Four," explained Kara.
"And to rescue my daughter and Lyta," confirmed the queen.
"We've gotten a call from the president," reported the Star-Spangled Kid. "Badra and the Krypts have already left Earth." He related what they had learned. Then he said, "Of course, we haven't learned yet exactly where in outer space they've taken themselves, the building, and Wonder Woman and Fury, but--"
"Mars," said Hippolyta.
"Huh?" All heads turned towards her.
"Mars," she repeated. "The home of our greatest enemy. The god of war has oftimes operated from the world men have named after him. He did so in the Great War, but we have had little conflict with him since then, at least overtly."
Nuklon said, "Um, Mrs., that is, Queen, nobody's demonstrated a connection between the ‘god of war' and the parties we're fighting. They could be out of the solar system, for all we know."
"He could have influenced her subconsciously to choose his world," said Hippolyta, petulantly. "Only investigate the planet. That is all I ask. If I am wrong, we may still have time."
"If you are wrong, the whole world could be destroyed by the time we get back," retorted Kara. "But you've got a point. It's in the relative neighborhood. Unless they're on the moon."
"No," the Amazon Queen replied. "My daughter and granddaughter are on Mars. I feel certain of this. But be prepared for more than the opposition you have faced hitherto. You may find yourself facing the god of combat himself."
Northwind spoke up. "In such times as these, the Justice Society turned to their friends from Earth-One for help. Wouldn't it be prudent to try and contact them now?"
Silver Scarab, still uptight over Lyta's loss, said, "Point well taken, Norda, even though conditions aren't optimum for inter-Earth crossovers. I vote yes to that suggestion."
"Sounds good to me," said Power Girl. "If we can enlist Kal, Kara, and Diana from Earth-One, and some of the other JLA members, we may be able to match Badra and company. Or outpower them."
"Let's hit it," said Syl, turning towards their craft. "We can use the teleporter cube in the JSA's headquarters in Gotham. Shouldn't take us more than a couple of hours to get there."
"Too long, Syl," Kara declared. "All of you get in, and I'll transport you more efficiently."
Thus it was that the members of Infinity, Inc. and Queen Hippolyta soared across the sea in an Infinijet propelled from underneath not by its own engines, but by Power Girl herself.
And, to her credit, she got them to Gotham in a lot less time than two hours.
On Mars, Badra lie in her bed, still aglow from her conversation with Mala, the Kryptonian, who had returned to work with a new inspiration.
She smoothed back her hair and wondered if she would have to perform similar duties with Kizo and U-Ban, if they learned of it. Badra decided against it, for the moment. She enjoyed men, but would not play the trollop.
Perhaps Diana and Fury?
Well, that was a fate she wouldn't wish on even them. But if the two boys became impossible to control, then it might be the lesser of two evils.
Badra luxuriated and closed her eyes. The Amazons themselves had delivered unto them the only weapon they needed. The Purple Ray had been intended by its inventor, Paula Von Gunther, to be an instrument of healing, and so it had been used. But modified in a certain manner, and connected to the proper source, its spectrum could be shifted. It would then become an instrument of death.
A ray that could erase life from an entire planet, which would be Earth.
A ray which could become a tool of conquest. Threatened by its destruction, other inhabited worlds could be persuaded to become part of an empire she planned to carve among the galaxy. Such a destiny was fitting for the last Hatorian. The reestablishment of a hegemony they should never have lost, save for the workings of that star-spangled witch she now held prisoner below. If planets had to die to convince other worlds to capitulate, such was the necessity.
But Earth? Well, Badra had never liked that world, anyway.
There was no sense in letting it have the chance to surrender to them.
"Surrender to me," she corrected herself, aloud.
At that, she felt a burst of uncanny chill, then of heat, and the atmosphere of her room visibly darkened a bit.
"And to yourself, of course," she said, quickly. "I have never forgotten you."
The darkness receded.
It took Badra a few moments to fight the terror back from her own soul, but she managed it. At least, for the most part.
She resolved never again to forget her patron.
Andrew Vinson was among the reporters who were huddled on the steps of the Justice Society's headquarters brownstone in Gotham as the members of Infinity, Inc. dropped from the sky, along with Queen Hippolyte. Some of them were flying under their own power. Others were buoyed up by Star-Spangled Kid's cosmic belt. The crowd on the sidewalk cleared a space for them all. "Sorry, folks, we've got business inside," said Syl, and began parting the civilians and newsies between them and the doors.
Vinson eagerly sought out Power Girl as the heroes and heroines pushed through, and thrust a mike into her face. "I'm speaking with Power Girl, a member of Infinity, Inc. Ms. Zor-L, we're hoping you have word on the alleged disappearance of the JSA."
She gave him a knowing smile. "Sorry, no comment," she said, and pushed past him. Vinson's jaw dropped.
Kara berated herself mentally for doing that, as Andrew was a great friend. But he didn't need to be involved in this one, and she didn't have time to talk with him.
The Infinitors and Hippolyta opened the doors and entered. The news types, in full feeding frenzy, started to push forward, mikes and lenses outthrust. The Star-Spangled Kid extended both arms towards them, and activated his belt.
The entire complement of newspersons were pushed firmly down the steps, and stayed there, tangled in each others' bodies, wires, and cameras.
Syl shut the doors behind them.
With very little talk, the heroes went to the room in which the transporter cube was held.
This device was the primary method the Justice League and Justice Society used to cross between their worlds and others like them. It could teleport any persons within its confines across vibrational boundaries, into the parallel universes normally separate from each other and thus undetectable.
"I'll go first," said Power Girl. "I was the late one on this case, anyway."
Jade, still guilty over her lack of involvement, said, "Let me do the controls."
"All yours," said the Kid.
Kara stood, hands on her hips, and waited for the familiar charge of energy that would teleport her into the world of a younger Superman and of a Supergirl. The hum of power was heard.
"Well?" she snapped, impatient. "What's happened?"
Jade looked up from the controls. "It's not working. I can't figure it, Kara, but--it just can't complete the transition."
"Here, let me help," said Syl, and directed a bolt of cosmic energy from his belt into the workings of the transporter device. Jade pushed the activator button again, and they waited.
After five minutes' time, Power Girl still stood within the cube.
"Great," said Obsidian, bitterly. "Just great. We can't even get out of our own world, now."
Power Girl stepped out of the cube. "What's wrong, Syl? Anything we can detect?"
Star-Spangled Kid pushed his hood back, revealing his exasperated face. "Everything checks out okay. But we can't get the thing to work. I guess whatever inhibits magic on our Earth is keeping us from making a trans-dimensional trip, as well."
"Which means, we've got to handle this one on our own," said Hourman II. "If we can."
"Let's keep the ‘if's to a minimum," interjected Brainwave, Jr. "I'd rather hear a ‘when'...as unrealistic as that might seem, at present."
Hippolyta was next to speak. "Then, if I may say so, our next course of action must take us to Mars."
Kara looked at her. "Let me try something first," she said. "Don't leave till I get back. I won't be long, I'm just going across the river. To Metropolis."
For another night, Lois Kent burned the midnight oil at the Daily Planet. Jimmy Olsen was in the office, helping out on a few editing chores, and both enjoyed the other's companionship, as they had for over 40 years. But neither had been able to pick up much more on the Justice Society case, and Lois had told the JSA wives that kept calling her that she'd be back to them whenever she got anything. Which she had not.
There was a rapping at the window.
Lois and Jimmy looked out the 55th story window and saw a woman in a white leotard crouching on the ledge outside.
"Holy jeez, it's Power Girl," exclaimed Jimmy, and smiled.
"Kara," said Lois, and didn't smile, as she opened the window and admitted their visitor.
"Hi, Lois, Jimmy," said the Kryptonian, stepping into the office from the window ledge. "Sorry to break in on you this way, but I need your help."
"Have you got any information on the JSA?" asked Lois.
"Not much," said Kara. "Do either of you know where I can get some Kryptonite?"