by Martin Maenza and Starsky Hutch 76
Batman’s team, which now included a few dozen rescued humans who had survived experimentation, only to be augmented with meta-human abilities, fought their way back toward the hangar bay. It seemed that the group of alien troops who were opposing them wanted to take out a few more victims before vacating the base. Still, the heroes were up to the challenge.
“Keep them at a distance, but keep moving forward, too!” Batman ordered. Geo-Force, Katana, and Black Lightning, all accustomed to following the Caped Crusader’s lead, did so with precision. Mister Miracle, too, had worked with the detective and thus was comfortable with Batman’s style. Cyborg fell in easily enough, for he too was familiar with the style; Nightwing had picked up a number of positive leadership traits from his longtime partner and mentor.
Snapper Carr kept to the back with some of those fellow prisoners he had become close to during captivity. Unlike him though, a few of them had been subjected to the Dominator’s experiments that released their dormant meta-gene abilities. Young Moshe Levy of Israel now could generate whirlwinds. Model Carlotta Rivera could create electrical charges. Fritz Klein’s body had been altered to that of a metallic scrap pile. And Dexter Fairfax found he could absorb and redirect light.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” said Amos Monroe, the con-man from New Orleans. “How normal folk can become superhuman?”
Snapper glanced at the man with a funny look. It was almost if Amos had read Snapper’s mind. “Yeah, it is.”
“Batman! They’re falling back quickly!” Geo-Force said as he fired another molten blast. “We’ve got them on the run!”
“Good!” Batman said. “Keep moving!”
There was a loud roar up ahead, coming from the intersection of the halls that the aliens were at. The aliens turned to see a huge figure bearing down on them. The aliens took fire. A hulking figure came into view, his flesh now having more of a purplish hue to it.
“That’s Behemoth!” Prometheus, the armored-skinned member of the Hybrid exclaimed.
Cyborg watched as the giant Chinese man tore into the aliens with a savage anger, slamming the bodies around and crushing them under his nine-foot-tall mass. “My God! What did they do to him?” the man-machine asked.
Prometheus pushed past the heroes and called “Behemoth! Behemoth!” The giant turned at the sound of his name, roared threateningly at his former teammate, and then took off down one of the other halls. “No! Come back!” The armored man went after him.
“Prometheus, wait!” Cyborg called. But his occasional sparring partner refused to heed the calls as he ran after Behemoth. Some blaster doors dropped down from the ceiling, no doubt activated by the aliens to slow the heroes in their escape. The two Hybrid members were instantly cut off from the others. “Batman, we have to go after them!”
The Caped Crusader looked grim. “Cyborg, we can’t! We know this place has been primed for auto-destruct! We have to get ourselves out of here now!”
“But what about them?” Katana asked.
“As soon as we get to the hangar and get clear, I’ll be able to radio Supergirl,” Batman told his teammate. “At the moment, all this equipment and the thick ice of the planet is interfering with the signal. From what I know of Prometheus, he’s damn near indestructible! If he can save his teammate, maybe Supergirl will be able to save them both. But first we have to save the rest of the group!” The heroes moved ever closer to the hangar and freedom.
Protected by the Metal Man named Iron, Mike Tempest fired at the aliens in the hangar bay. “Let’s go, people!” he shouted. Blaster fire ricocheted off the wall behind him.
Cyborg was first up the ramp, followed by the others. Batman joined the man-machine in the cockpit. “How long do you need to get the engines ready for launch?” he asked.
“It’ll be a lot quicker this time,” the New Titan replied. “Two minutes good enough?”
“If that’s what we’ve got,” Batman said as he started to move back to the main cabin, “we’ll pray it’s enough!” Cyborg nodded and went to work. The Caped Crusader moved through the back cabin where those that had boarded were already getting seated. “Everyone, strap in! We’ll be out of here ASAP!”
“Anything I can help with?” Mister Miracle said as he met the man near the boarding ramp.
“In the cockpit there’s a radio,” Batman said. “See if you can raise Supergirl.”
“Right,” Mister Miracle said. His green cape swirled behind him as he headed up front.
Batman’s caped swirled as he headed down the ramp. Blaster fire echoed through out the hangar. He moved out of the way so that the last of the rescued could board.
“That’s everyone,” Katana said as she ducked next to him.
“Good! Get up there and get a seat.” Batman watched as Geo-Force, Black Lightning, and the combo of Mike Tempest and Iron held the attackers at bay. “Guys, just hold them off for a bit more!”
“Not sure how much longer–” Black Lightning muttered as he hurled another electric blast. He staggered back and started to fall.
“Jeff!” Geo-Force yelled. He bent down to his teammate, trying to support him with one arm while still firing with the other. “All the probing and whatnot by those aliens must have been too much for him!”
“Get him inside, Brion!” Batman ordered. He reached into his utility belt, grabbing one of his batarangs. He pressed something else to it, cocked his arm back, and let it fly. The metal weapon spun through the air with great precision into a pack of alien fighters. The red indicator blinked three times fast, and a large explosive blast blew outward, sending the fighters scattering.
He continued to use whatever tools he had to attack long distance, while Geo-Force carried the passed-out Black Lightning up the ramp. Come on, Victor! Batman thought to himself. Come on!
The engines of the ship kicked in. Yes! Batman turned to Mike Tempest and Iron. “OK, guys, let’s move out!” They quickly boarded the ship, and the ramp went up.
Deep within the Pluto complex, the armored Prometheus finally caught up to his altered teammate. The hulking Behemoth had stopped at the end of a corridor and was pounding his mighty fists against one of the bulkheads.
“Behemoth! Stop!” Prometheus said, grabbing him by the arms.
Behemoth roared and pushed his ally backward. Prometheus was taken aback by the increase in his strength. Behemoth pounded on the wall once more, and it started to give way.
“We have to leave here!” Prometheus said. “Come on!” He grabbed Behemoth’s one arm. His monstrous friend merely dug in his feet, held his position, and pounded through the wall with his other hand.
A red glow of light poured out of the room and washed over them. A loud hum could be heard from the opening. Behemoth grunted and gestured wildly to the room.
“What the–?” Prometheus asked. He released his friend and started to move toward the opening to peer in. “Oh, my God!” It was huge reactor, one that powered the entire complex. And it was glowing brightly and humming loudly. The console before it was lit up and flashing like a Christmas tree.
Behemoth ran into the room, roared, and started to pound on the console.
Prometheus put it all together. The reactor was about to blow. “Behemoth, no!” He ran toward his friend, but the warning was too late.
The reactor exploded.
Supergirl had cut away from the ship with the civilians that was safely out of Pluto’s orbit when she got the message from Mister Miracle. The heroes launched from the hangar in the ship she recognized.
“–two left behind–“ was the snippet of the message.
“What?” Supergirl said, tapping the earpiece. “Say again?”
She saw some of the last leaving alien crafts starting to fire toward the heroes’ ship. “Oh, no, you don’t!” Supergirl said. She rocketed through space, cutting in front of the blasts. The laser fire bounced off her invulnerable body. Using her heat-vision, she aimed for the turrets and melted the ends. “That should stop them from using those!”
“Supergirl, we have two left behind on the planet!” the message came in her ear again.
“Oh!” Supergirl’s eyes grew wide. “I’m on it!” She turned and started for Pluto when her super-vision saw an explosion erupt from the planet’s surface. She streaked in for a closer look.
There were a number of other explosions across the surface as the alien’s base underneath was destroyed by the explosion of the reactor and the various systems. The icy surface jutted upward with the blasts, only to cave back in upon itself.
Supergirl started to look about frantically with her x-ray vision, hoping to see some sign of something. Through the destroyed complex and tons upon tons of ice, she saw dead bodies of those aliens who hadn’t evacuated in time. She could not, however, locate the remains of either of the missing two. “Nothing,” she muttered.
“Supergirl!” Batman’s voice called over the radio. “We need you! The transport needs guarding from attack!”
Lydia dropped her head for a brief moment in respect to those who died here today. Then the Maid of Steel rocketed back into the atmosphere and space. No more would die on her watch today, she vowed.
Big Barda and Nubia, the second woman to bear the title of Wonder Woman, stood back to back with their swords drawn as the defense globes flew at them and blasted away. With a fling of their blades, the lasers were blocked and reflected back at the attacking machines. “We waste time with these infernal contraptions,” Nubia cursed. “We need to find a way inside.”
“If anyone could get past these defenses and find a way in, my husband could,” Big Barda said. “It is a shame he is not here.”
“We’ll just have to make do with what we have,” Nubia said, slicing through one of the battle globes, “And carve our way in!”
“I like the way you think,” Barda said with a fierce grin as she hacked away at a globe coming toward her.
A few miles away on another section of Warworld, the Doom Patrol also fought against the battle globes. Cliff Steele, once known as Robotman, brought up his metallic fist, smashing one as Element Girl stretched her fist out and engulfed another, crushing it. “We can’t keep this up forever,” Cliff said.
“Speak for yourself,” Element Girl said, enjoying the release of combat.
“We won’t have to, Cliff,” Mento said. “All I need is for you to buy me enough time while I find us a way in.” Mechanical apertures came out of the chair and began probing the surface of Warworld. As he worked, a battle globe came close to him, and another arm bearing a laser-gun shot out from his chair and blasted the globe from the air.
Another battle globe flew toward the Odd Man. He clapped his hands together, creating a huge cloud of dust. Blinded, the globe crashed into another oncoming globe. “I’m a little outgunned here, chief,” the Odd Man said. “I hope you find one soon!”
“I’m working on it!” Mento snapped.
“Blossom outgunned, too!” Blossom said. “No plants!”
As soon as she spoke those words, a globe flew toward her. Cliff moved to help her, but before he could offer his aid, the globe was suddenly covered in an increasingly thick layer of mold. It fell to the ground, inert. The same thing then happened with several other nearby battle-globes.
“Excellent use of your talents, Blossom,” Mento said. “Speaking of using one’s talents, I believe I’ve done it.” A small section of the surface suddenly rose up on hydraulics, creating an entrance to Warworld.
“Chief, you’re amazing,” Cliff said.
“I guess I am, at that,” Mento said as his chair rolled toward the entrance. “Now let’s get inside and have a look around. Perhaps we’ll get lucky, and it’ll have a self-destruct switch somewhere.”
“It had one in Star Wars,” the Odd Man said.
Mongul’s hands tightened around Superman’s throat. Three stripes of black blood formed down the left side of Mongul’s face as Superman’s fingers dug in during his struggle to push him off. “Coming here is a mistake you will not live to regret, Kryptonian!” Mongul growled.
Superman swung his legs up, knocking Mongul off of him through the ceiling, and then the next one after that. He flew up after the tyrant and then slammed him down through three levels. Mongul’s foot-soldiers scattered at the approaching chaos created by the two combatants. “Give it up, Mongul!” Superman said. “You’ve already lost!”
“That is your opinion, Superman,” Mongul spat. “Mine is that after today, your head shall decorate my trophy room!” He dived at Superman, and the two of them crashed through five walls, destroying a hydroponics lab for creating food, an interrogation cell, a plumbing facility, and a locker room.
Mongul leaped up and brought both feet down on Superman, sending them crashing down through five more floors. They landed in the midst of one of the many control rooms of Warworld, much to the shock of the men inside. “Sire! Sire! You must contain this battle!” a uniformed man exclaimed. “The destruction!”
Mongul reached over and grabbed the man’s head in his enormous hand. With a sickening crunch, the man’s body went slack. “What do I care of the destruction?!” Mongul snarled. “All that matters to me is the Kryptonian’s death!”
“Murderer!” Superman exclaimed, slamming into Mongul. They smashed through a computer consul in a shower of sparks and flame and crashed into the next room. The other men in room dashed to the other computers to try to contain the damage created by its loss. An emergency siren began to blare from the speakers.
Plastic Man and Elongated Man oozed into the hairline cracks upon the surface of Warworld and slowly began expanding, with a loud creak of rending metal. With one more loud lurch, a small section of the hull was pried away, and a new opening was created.
“Good job!” Arsenal said eagerly as the New Titans followed them in.
Once inside, they heard the wailing of sirens and saw foot-soldiers running about madly. Plastic Man morphed into the form of C-3PO and said in a mock effeminate dialect, “Oh, goodness me, there seems to be quite the ruckus going on.”
Changeling morphed into a big green wookie and let out his best Chewbacca wail. “Waaaugghhh!”
“Oh great. Now there’s two of them,” Arsenal said.
“Heads up, people. Looks like we didn’t exactly go unnoticed,” Elongated Man said as the chaotic forces of Warworld suddenly seemed to gain focus and began moving in their direction.
“Great! I could use a little action!” Changeling said, turning into a rhinoceros and charging the troops. “It’s time Earth got a little payback!”
“What he said!” Plastic Man exclaimed, turning into a giant beach ball and bouncing into the group, charging from the other direction.