Zoners, Part 9
Kara quickly surveyed the site. She figured on maybe ten seconds, tops, before she would have to engage in battle.
The room was a hundred feet square, with the floor opened at the far end and half of its great expanse given over to the rushing river waters being pumped through that area of the filtration system. The other half was floored in the Kryptonian equivalent of concrete, with some plastic matting over a large part of it. The part that overhung the waters was fenced in with a metal railing. Sometimes a force screen was in use as well, but not now.
On the side of the room that was to Kara's right, the heavy machinery which maintained the motion of the below-level force-filters churned away. A slim walkway led to the section beyond where the worker's lounge and cafeteria was contained, as well as the locker room. General Zod was about twenty feet from the wall and not far from the railing, standing with arms folded and face impassive.
To Kara's left was the wall which held the control bank and monitor system, one of which--the one equipped with a spy-ray--showed the entrance room which she had passed through just now. Vakox was still turned to the monitors, dutifully, but she saw him sneak a look at her over his shoulder.
Jax-Ur was on that side of the room, only three feet from the railing, one arm about the canister of Virus X and the other one gripping its lid, ready to open it. He looked sternly but hungrily at Kara, and at Faora. He was smiling, tightly.
In front of her was Faora Hu-Ul.
Faora Hu-Ul, in her form-fitting green jumpsuit with the white front, wide black belt, and calf-high blue boots. Faora Hu-Ul, mistress of the martial arts, including the deadly Horu-Kanu, that fighting skill that paralyzed an opponent through strikes to the pressure points of the body. Faora Hu-Ul, a psychotic man-killer who had murdered 23 males before she was sent to the Zone, and several more each time she managed to briefly get Out.
Faora Hu-Ul, the deadly brunette beauty who only wanted to kill one woman in combat: Kara Zor-El, who had knocked her unconscious after she had been badly burned by a fellow Zoner. That had been years ago.
Now Faora Hu-Ul was less than a hundred yards before her, only a few feet away from the bottom of the metal stairs, waiting. Smiling. Waiting.
Kara reflected gratefully on the fact that Faora was unable to project deadly psychic bolts anymore, or to use telepathy. After she had gotten Out the first time, she had briefly released the Zoners on Earth, sent the Kandorians to the Zone, and almost conquered the planet. She kept the male Zoners in line with painful psychic bolts, generated by her natual psi-abilities and magnified under Earth's yellow sun. But she had no such power here, and she had apparenly exhausted her regular, but slight, telepathic powers with the mind-games she played on Hal-Lorr. Thank Rao for small favors.
Kara was still wearing the yellow-and-brown jumpsuit with brown boots that she had gotten into yesterday morning. It wasn't a Supergirl costume, or her wrestling bikini...but at least she could fight in it.
"Interfere in this fight, you three, and I will kill you," said Faora, not wavering her eyes from Kara's as she advanced. "I swear on the Name, I will do that."
Jax was about to make a comment, but Zod caught his eye and signalled him not to. In the state of mind Faora had, that could prove unhealthy for him. Jax stood silent, running his hands over the canister and its lid, and lusting for a great show.
Zod watched attentively. He had no great hate for the blonde. She was just another soldier on the other side. But she was troublesome, and her death was necessitated by that and the need to give Faora what she wanted.
Sooner or later, though, that woman Faora would have to be dealt with. Too much of a loose cannon. He half-suspected Jax intended for him to do it. Well, there were operations after this one, if it was successful. She'd be of great help in dealing with Superman and his friends.
On the other hand, it might be just easier to kill her here, where she didn't have powers, and trust to Kru-El and company to supply the Kal-El-killing muscle. A decision would be made soon, and then a plan, and then its execution. And if Faora found out, Zod well knew that his would be the next neck she broke.
Oh, well, there was the fight, and all military men of any salt enjoyed such a thing. Zod settled in for the show.
Vakox hated Kara. He loved Faora. And he wanted to see one hell of a girl fight. He kept one monitor firmly in sight: the one with a view of the room behind him, where the battle was about to take place.
Faora couldn't hold herself back any longer.
Like a cheetah, he dashed to the metal stairs.
Kara, halfway down the 33 steps, swung herself over the side and landed cat-footed on the floor below, boots touching plastic matting. She crouched with impact, straightened again, and sensed the motion before she saw Faora leap from the stairs to a spot only a few feet before her.
The woman was in a fighting stance, a smile of lust on her lips, her eyes deadly and bright and all-encompassing. Kara assumed a defensive stance, her side to Faora, an arm and fist upraised and a leg ready to strike.
"WHOOAAHH!" shrieked Faora, and unleashed a deadly spin-kick.
The Girl of Steel was ready.
She fell flat as if ducking a propellor blade and struck out with a leg-sweep of her own, catching Faora in the ankle. The villainess, despite her control, couldn't repeal gravity and fell on one knee, her other leg outstretched. Kara rolled, bounced to her feet, and was not at all surprised to see Faora upright again.
Faora was tired of play.
With another kiiaii, she savate-kicked at Kara again. And again. And again. Kara backed away, caught one kick on her forearm, danced backward, still playing defensively. One part of her mind knew that she couldn't keep this up for long. To beat Faora, she had to hit her. And she herself was going to take a hit, very soon.
Possibly a lot of them.
"HIYAAA!" yelled Kara, not even realizing she was doing it, and grabbed for Faora's leg on the next kick, smashing her own booted foot in for a kick to the back of her foe's thigh. For a split-instant, Faora was surprised by the pain, and by Kara's action. The Supergirl she knew was nowhere near this quick and skilled a fighter.
But that only lasted a fraction of a second.
Before Kara could manage to do more than what she had, Faora drew in her leg, brought her foe closer, and punched the two first fingers of each of her hands into two nerve centers at Kara's sides.
"Unghhh!" Kara was forced to let go, forced to double, forced to curl up like a ball, feeling for the first time the Horu-Kanu punch that had disabled Superman once before. She willed her body to throw off the pain and nerve-numbness, willed herself to get back into action. But it just wasn't working!
Faora grabbed her by the hair and kneed her in the face.
Kara fell backwards, helpless, arms still clutched to her side. The three other Zoners were immobilized. If a troop of soldiers had emerged from the concrete, Jax-Ur wouldn't have noticed them for five seconds' length.
Faora sent a rib-bruising kick into Kara's side. The heroine groaned and rolled. It was as much as she could do. She was at the back wall, panting.
Kara became aware that Faora had not attacked her in those seconds.
Still in pain, but less numb, Kara turned her body and head around to face Faora. The witch was standing several yards away from her, smirking, hands on hips.
"I'm giving you a chance, weakling. Get up!"
The blonde warrior-girl panted and felt sensation returning to her sides and limbs. Adrenalin was helping. She licked the side of her mouth and tasted blood. Not too much, but, insanely, she was glad that she was having this fight after she'd wrapped the picture. This would be hell for makeup to fix.
For a moment, she considered going back to the attack, straightening her body and limbs and facing Faora for whatever would come. But...what had she learned in the wrestling ring about putting a false face on your injuries? What if she could sucker Faora?
It was dangerous. But in this situation, what the hell wasn't?
Kara continued to pant. She writhed her body as if she were trying to straighten out, but just couldn't make it, and then finally gave up. She lay there, not looking directly at her foe. More seconds passed.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Faora. The smile was replaced by a glare of impatience. The woman finally started walking towards her.
"I just don't know how I'm going to be able to have any fun with you," said Faora, like a pouting child.
Hold it...keep the fake...one more second...another...
Kara sprang up, darted to the wall, launched herself backwards from it, and plowed into Faora, knocking her on her kiester. An elbow smash caught the brunette in the head, at the side of the eye. Faora flopped face-down on the floor. Kara whirled, smashed her foot down hard into Faora's right kidney, and was astonished to hear her opponent's groan.
But she didn't have much time for astonishment. She was too busy.
With one arm, she grabbed Faora's left arm to keep it under control. With the other, she grabbed Faora's head and smashed it down hard on the plastic-covered concrete. Her knee was already grinding into Faora's back, near the spot where she had struck. There was no telling how long she'd be able to maintain this position, so Kara had to squeeze in every bit of painmaking she could muster.
It was only a few seconds before Faora bucked her off and hit her with a palmstrike to the belly. That hurt. But Kara was tensed for it, and smashed both fists down on the back of Faora's head as hard as she could, and even managed a gut-kick before she backed off, gasping.
Faora was hurting too, now.
She was facing Kara, ten feet away, as mad as a nest of maroon Rokyn wasps, getting ready to strike again. But her breath was coming harder now, and she was doubled a bit where the kick had hit her, and she was walking a bit more carefully now, and she was hurting.
Kara, her hands upraised and in motion, began the kata she loved the most, actually circling towards her foe. No time to be overconfident, but maybe it'd be okay to needle her a bit, get her offbalance.
"If you need a little time off to visit the ladies' room, that's okay by me, I'll wait," murmured Kara, sweetly.
Faora's eyes saucered. The closest approximation of what came out of her mouth would just be a long string of "A"'s, all in caps, boldfaced. She raced forward like a comet.
As she plowed into Kara, two words went through the blonde's mind: Wrong move.
The women smashed, grappled, kneed, even scratched and bit as they rolled on the floor. Kara took a terrible blow to the face that snapped back her head. Down with her back to the floor, she looked up and saw Faora's hand descending, two fingers pronged and headed for her eyes. Her arms whipped up, crossed, and caught the descending wrist. She send a knee up hard into Faora's crotch. It wouldn't end the fight, but it did get her foe off her and over to the side. Kara got to her feet, but took an agonizing kick to the side, right where the Horu-Kanu blow had been struck. White and black spots danced before her eyes for a ghastly second.
She still had to move.
Kara lurched away from where she had been, but Faora grabbed her hair from behind, bent her backward, and landed a quick blow to the throat. Not Horu-Kanu, but enough to cut off the breath for a moment. On instinct, Kara sent her hands clawing up. In a move half-catfight, half-tiger claw strike, she raked her nails across Faora's eyes. It halted the villainess for a moment. With another elbow to the gut, Kara went free and danced towards the metal staircase, pulling sweet breath into her lungs.
Faora swore and ran a hand over her face, gazing at the blood in her palm. That babootch-whelped slut of an Argonian bitch! This was getting entirely too ridiculous.
But something worse happened.
She heard Jax-Ur's voice.
Only a sotto voce aside, more to himself than anyone else, but she heard it. "Holy sun of Krypton, why in Sheol is she taking so long?"
To have taken some blows from an inferior foe was something. But to be made to look bad in front of spectators...that was a crime beyond imagining!
Faora saw Kara underneath the entrance platform, behind the metal stairsteps that linked it to the main floor. Time to slow down, time to start fighting with the brain as well as the spirit. Time to make the little girl dirty her diapers with fear.
The smile of the hunting leopardess returned to Faora as she stalked her prey.
She closed on Kara slowly, deliberately, motioning for her to come closer. Naturally, the blonde backed away. "Come here, little Kara. I'm going to give you your medicine. Come right here...I'll fix all your troubles."
Despite herself, Kara shuddered. This was no wrestling opponent, satisfied to torture and punish and degrade. This was a genuinely homicidal maniac that faced her, a woman with the mindset of a Speck or Manson. A woman who could fight like Bruce Lee...and kill like The Joker.
The vision reoccured to her, one that had plagued her during the short time between knowing she had to fight Faora and the beginning of the fight.
It was a vision of herself, bloodied, broken, all but lifeless, with Faora sending a knife-thrust hand beneath her ribcage, ripping free her heart, and holding it before her eyes to beat one...last...time...
That was all she had time to imagine before Faora's kiiaii and the sweeping of her deadly leg-kick.
Kara kicked out herself in a counter-sweep, blocking, but was driven back. Again, the sweep, again the counter, without pause, Faora driving on like a bullet train, Kara backing off as if trying to power a handcar and keep it ahead of that train. She contacted the wall, sprang away just as Faora's foot smashed at the place where her body had been.
But she wasn't fast enough to escape Faora's hands.
They met and got Kara's neck in a powerful cross-strike.
Kara groaned and fell on her hands and knees.
Chuckling for only a fraction of a second, Faora smashed a great rib-fracturing kick into Kara's side and sent her rolling over.
She followed with a stomp to the solar plexus. Kara's head came up, eyes wide, mouth gasping. Faora smashed at her and sent her head back down to the floor. Then she came down hard on Kara's chest, right where it hurt, with both knees. A scream of pain wrenched itself from Kara's larnyx.
Faora smashed a fist into the right side of Kara's face.
Then she smashed a fist into the left side of her face.
Again and again, hammering six more blows into the heroine's face, blackening her eyes, bruising her cheeks, bloodying her nose. After the eighth blow, Faora paused for a moment to survey her work. Kara's head hung limp against the plastic-covered floor. Was she unconscious? It didn't matter.
Faora drew back her right hand, two fingers pronged out, and sent it forward as fast as a cobra's strike on a route that would travel through Kara's eyes and into her brain.
Somewhere between that route's start and finish, Kara's right hand whipped up and grabbed Faora's two fingers and started bending them murderously back.
Faora cried out in pain and surprise. This? What was this?? The stupid blonde wimp-bitch didn't even know when to go unconscious? Well, she had another hand, and she was just about as good with her left as with her right.
Except that Kara grabbed the two forefingers of that hand as well, and started bending them.
And it was really, truly, honest-to-Rao-ly starting to hurt.
She looked down at Kara. Through all of the bruises and blood, the girl had a strange expression.
Kara was actually grinning. Like a wolf.
Faora tried a head-butt, but Kara caught her with a counter-butt and rocked her backwards. She was actually being pushed backwards, and Kara was getting up!
"Get back down there!" snarled Faora, like a teacher calling a schoolboy out for bad behavior.
"No," said Kara, and didn't stop smiling.
The brunette Amazon twisted in the girl's grip, trying to get free, but it was just too damned strong. And now Kara was on her feet, and Faora was on one knee. This could just, not, BE!
And Kara was still bending back those four fingers, two on each hand, and Faora just couldn't get any purchase for counterleverage anymore.
No way to bring a leg up, no way to even bite. What in the hell was going on? How in the hell was this happening?
"There's a thing about Horu-Kanu," Kara was saying, and there was real hardness behind her smile and in her voice. "Mostly, it depends on your two forefingers to hit those pressure points. You can strike the points with the elbows, knees, or feet, but they're not as effective as those pinpoint finger strikes. So the best way to disable a Horu-Kanu fighter...is like this."
And Kara broke Faora Hu-Ul's four fingers.
Faora Hu-Ul screamed in pain.
Kara shoved her away. But the fight was not over. With a foe as deadly as Faora, there was no telling what it would take to stop her, short of death.
The brunette was in pain, her two hands hanging useless, the first and second fingers of each of them hanging broken at grisly angles. Faora's teeth were clenched, and her eyes were wide, and her breath was coming heavily. But she still intended to try and make a fight of it. With a deadly quickness, she spun out a kick.
"Not this time, baby," muttered Kara, and smashed a foot hard into Faora's pelvis. The villainess went down, rolled, tried to get up, got up.
Kara came on, kiiaiing, smashing out powerful kicks of her own. To the ribs, the face, the stomach. Faora couldn't avoid them. She tried to spin with the force of the blows, but it was just too much. Hand-strikes and elbow strikes caromed off her body. Groans erupted from her mouth, and Faora wanted to vomit. But an uppercut ratcheted her head back, and an elbow-smash tortured her stomach.
For an instant, Faora wished like hell she'd been fighting her when she was Supergirl. Then, she stood a chance!
Zod was slightly drop-mouthed at Kara, despite his knowledge of combat. The woman was a marvel! If they'd only had her on their side...ah, well, if this kept on, at least the Faora problem might be out of his hands.
Jax-Ur's mouth worked. He'd been as astonished as Faora at the turnaround, but now his mind was diffused between the more rational part which told him that this had to be a setup, that Faora was only shamming and about to make a comeback, that it might just be a damned hallucination or something, or anything but what he saw, and the part that told lhim what he saw was actually happening. How could that broad who used to wear that stupid short blue skirt and cavort with that flying horse and cat be doing THIS kind of stuff?
But the more honest part of his mind was registering it and saying, No, this really is almost a worst-case scenario for this part of the operation, and Faora Hu-Ul is really getting the crap beaten out of her by Kara Zor-El!
Vakox called Jax's name and looked at him in fury. "The deadline's been over for ten minutes..."
"Frab the deadline!" raged Jax. "Shut up till this is done, Vakox, or I'll make you eat this virus!"
Disgusted, Vakox turned back to the monitor and deliberately broke wind in Jax's direction.
It was uncertain how much of a threat Faora still was at this
point. But Kara knew all about comebacks, having done a few herself.
And at any rate, she didn't intend to quit. She smashed and punched
and kneed and elbowed and kicked. When Faora tried for one last rally
and swung an arm at her, Kara caught it with two hands at points a foot
apart, gritted her teeth, and
brought it down full force across her outstretched knee. She broke Faora's arm.
That meant she was still conscious, and that meant things were still not safe. Kara leaned her foe against the wall and sent blow after blow into her, targeting her jaw and stomach. When the villainess slumped down the wall, Kara kept with her and kept punching. And punching. And punching.
And then, crouching over Faora, with one hand raised up for a blow that she knew would be too much for the woman beneath her...a woman whose face now looked worse than Kara's, and who had been rendered unconscious a minute and a half ago...the red haze around Kara's brain shimmered for a moment, to allow a point of whiteness.
"No," she whispered. "No."
Yes, the red haze told her. Yes. The blow must be struck. The murderess must be punished. The slayer must be slain.
Her fist was clenched rock-solid and trembled with the effort. If this blow was struck, it would be the killing strike. Kara knew that in her heart, even if she couldn't explain it with her brain.
"Killing is the easy way," she muttered. "And I never do things easy."
But that was only the verbalization of it. Underneath, she knew the reason why Batman had never killed The Joker, despite the madman's scores of murders. It was because killing was killing, and the blood, however justified, never left one's hands.
There was blood enough on her hands already...but not so much as that.
With a great effort, more slowly than she would have liked, she unclenched her fist. She brought it down, and laid two fingers on Faora's throat, still spattered with the blood from her foe's beaten face.
A pulse still throbbed. Faora still lived. Kara sighed with relief.
She heard someone clapping.
Turning, Kara saw General Zod. "Well done, Kara," he said. "Didn't think you had it in you."
Jax-Ur was looking at her with white-hot anger. Vakox had turned from his monitors for the first time. The negotiators were in a viewscreen, but they'd just have to wait.
"I should like to point out several things, Kara. First: there are three of us, and one of you. Second: after that fight, I doubt even you will be able to handle us all. Third: I've got a lot of Virus X in this canister, and I'm sure I can spare a drop or two to pour down your pretty throat...just as a demonstration."
Kara, beginning to register all the punishment and pain her body had taken, somehow got the floor under her feet again, sighed, looked down once at Faora, and then fumbled with her belt buckle until it popped open.
A small circular object, wrapped in lead foil, dropped out and hit the floor. Kara stooped and caught it. Despite themselves, the three Zoners halted in curiosity.
"What's that?" said Vakox.
Kara tore off the foil and held the object within out at arm's length. "Rao, I hope you're really on my side today," she said in a hoarse voice.
The object began to glow.