Superman heard Green Arrow sputter in indignation before he saw the odd, cavern-like domain in which Doctor Mist had assembled the heroes fade away. He now saw something that struck his mind as even stranger. He stood in a small community with rows of self-contained, neighborhood units consisting of shops, homes, and other nondescript if still uniformly designed structures.
“What is this place? Smallville as dreamed up by Big Brother?” he muttered. Turning as a warm female laugh echoed above him, he looked up to see a beautiful blonde woman in a brief white costume with blue trim that left her shapely legs bare above matching boots. However, it was not her costume or her pretty face that made her stand out to the Man of Steel. What made Superman gaze at the woman with surprise etched on his handsome features was the fact that her body was supported in thin air by masses of voluminous blonde hair that had shaped itself into the form of two huge wings. “Great Krypton — Godiva!” he said. “I met you when the Global Guardians were formed, and Ralph Dibny told me about working with you, but I’ve never seen you in action before! (*) Forgive me for staring like that.”
The British beauty smiled and said, “What’s the matter, luv? Don’tcha believe a woman can fly?”
Superman nodded ruefully and said, “Godiva, you’ve got me there. I see from a quick scan with my super-vision that this community is called Skelmersdale. We’re close to Liverpool. I assume Doctor Mist brought us here for a reason!”
“Cor, but e’s a right nutter, that one is!” said Godiva. “Still, he’s never misled the Global Guardians before, and somethin’ about him makes me trust him. Me own connections had already told me that there’s a think tank o’ sorts based ‘ere, although why the MI-5 boys decided to place it in one of the so-called new towns is beyond me!”
“If there’s a lab of some type here, then it must be the target our enemies are after,” replied Superman. “Doctor Mist said the criminals wanted to gather parts for a doomsday device!”
Godiva nodded and said, “My hair responds to my mental commands. It can shape itself into various formations of varying levels of durability. Using it to fly helps me get around without waiting on the subway — mind the gap and all that, you know — but I can’t match your speed.”
“I see you’ve suddenly lost your Eliza Doolittle diction,” said Superman. “I suppose that kind of thing helps you protect your secret identity.”
Godiva grinned and said, “Sorry, luv. It comes and goes. I fear it has become a habit of sorts. I should have realized Superman is not some Yank who thinks all Brits talk like Cockney flower girls!”
Superman picked up the heroine of Britain and quickly followed her directions until they landed before a small row of neat but drab buildings. “They appear to be individual dwellings, but my vision reveals them to truly be one hollowed-out complex,” said Superman. “This must be the place.”
“The new towns sprang up after the war,” explained Godiva. “They were supposed to provide modern and practical housing for returnin’ soldiers, but the whole bloomin’ idea was daffy. The communities were ugly and left no room for expression or originality. The project was canceled in the ’60s.”
“For a community designed on such a uniform scheme, the area certainly has more than its share of flora!” noted Superman.
Godiva eyed the masses of ivy and vines that hung across the complex, and she shook her head. “That greenery comes from someone a lot more sinister than the Village Planning Institute! Those artificially stimulated plants are the hallmark of one of my old foes.”
At that moment, the vines smashed through the building’s windows and slowly emerged with a metal-encased device with a spherical shape. A woman with flowing, curly brown hair and a costume consisting of nothing more than strategically placed leaves darted into view, posing defiantly before them.
“Eglantine, or Wild Rose!” cried Godiva. “And here I thought the way I made yer petals wilt the last time we had a read and write would have left you shaking in your eggs and kippers!”
“I can’t claim that even my super-mind can translate the Cockney rhyming slang Godiva uses at times,” said Superman, “but I can certain recognize the fact that a villainess who controls plant life could be a problem! Poison Ivy has proven that on more than one occasion.” He blasted out with his heat-vision and burned the vines away from the stolen device.
Eglantine screamed in anger and said, “Superman, every time you hurt my babies, you hurt me! I’ll teach you and fancy knickers, there, to respect the Green!” She gestured, and a plant lifted itself from the ground and emitted a cloud of noxious vapors.
“Don’t worry none, ducks! Me hair can be a right good blower!” said Godiva, her amazing hair shaping itself into the form of a fan as she spun the golden locks around and around until they created a wind that swept the toxic spores back at the angry crook.
“I’m immune to my pretties and their natural defenses!” said Eglantine. “Too bad you can’t say the same, Superman!” She darted forward, and Superman reeled backward as a thorn struck him in the hand.
Her thorny projectile actually wounded me! he thought, staggering forward as waves of dizziness threatened to overcome him.
Eglantine laughed and said, “That’s right, you bloody alien freak! The Conqueror gave me a lovely little specimen from your own precious Fortress. With my nurturing care, these thorns carry enough poison to drop you cold. It’s like the toxic venom of your Kryptonian serpent, the drang!”
Godiva jumped forward and covered the fallen hero with a shield of her elongating hair. I don’t know what good my solidified hair will do against something from Krypton, but I can’t let her kill Superman! she thought.
“I’m not dying,” said Superman. “I’m just weakened. I diluted all the toxic items in my Fortress long ago in case some other Kryptonian like the Phantom Zone villains ever escaped and tried to use them against me. I’ll live, but my powers will be much weaker for a few minutes.”
Godiva shook her head and pointed at the laughing woman in the green bikini through a section of her hair that she had rendered transparent. “You don’t know her strength. She is not human. She comes from some other realm and is more plant than person. She could have boosted that poison back up to levels that could kill even you.”
“I’m not going to quit just yet!” said Superman, standing himself up. “Release me. I have a plan!”
Godiva retracted her hair even as Eglantine drew closer and prepared to release another barrage of thorns. As Godiva opened her golden shield, Superman used his super-breath to encase Eglantine in a block of ice. “That’s not solid enough to hold her for long, but I figured that if she was as closely akin to plant life as you said, then a blast of super-cold air would knock her out just like a sudden frost harms normal plants.
Smiling, Godiva watched as men in lab coats rushed out to recover their device and help secure the frozen criminal. “I think they have things well in hand here. Let’s get you inside, and we’ll try to get to the bottom of things. Maybe Wild Rose, there, can lead us to her boss, the Conqueror!”
Superman had started to reply when Doctor Mist’s powerful magic teleported the pair away once more.
Green Arrow found himself on a rooftop in the old city of Montpelier, France. He could see the River Lez in the distance, and he admired the city even as his keen eyes detected a crowd of marching figures. He had started to fire an arrow-line across the city in order to secure a more advantageous vantage point when he saw a woman drop down from an ornate cornice that decorated one of the remaining wool-processing centers in the region.
She wore a tight white costume with a cowl that concealed her upper face. The costume’s only marking was a flower pattern across her chest. Her hair was very long and auburn, and it flowed out of the back of her cowl. “Bonjour, Green Arrow! I’m wounded,” she said in a friendly but bemused tone. “You come all the way to France without so much as a call. Of course, Fleur-de-Lis is not listed in the public minitel, oui?”
“Fleur-de-Lis?” said Green Arrow. “Yeah, that’s the name of your flower symbol. I guess you’re my dance partner for this crazy mission?”
The national heroine of France made a slight curtsey and said, “I am pleased to meet you. I know my allies have spoken well of you!”
“Thanks,” said Green Arrow. “I’ve been to this side of the pond more than once, and a fellow archer of mine called the Phantom is from France. Still, I’ve never seen that kind of crowd milling around below. What’s going on? Are they protesting the fact that the Nutty Kid hasn’t been given an Oscar?”
The French woman smiled slightly and said, “Not all citizens of France revere Danny Harris. That is a stereotype painted in all-too broad a color. No doubt the same may be said for the impression many French people have that Americans are all crass boors.”
Green Arrow winced slightly and raised his hands in a mock gesture of placation. “OK, OK,” he said. “For a guy who carries around a quiver of sharp arrows, I’m slow to get the point at times. I was just mouthing off. Call it a habit of mine, not an American trait in general. What’s going on down there?”
Fleur balanced gracefully on a narrow ledge and said, “Have you heard of the Beurs? They are a group of second- and third-generation immigrants who came largely from Algiers. They lack any role in the political process, since none have ever been elected to office, and thus they gather in a display of civil resistance. You might find the action akin to your own nation’s civil rights movement. Beur itself is something of a questionable term, since it originates in a form of backward slang known as verlan. It is a peaceful protest thus far, and the call from Doctor Mist makes me concerned. I would better serve my people by helping them all achieve equality than by dueling with some cosmic threat!”
Green Arrow smiled and said, “I like the way you think. You may wear fake hair, but you sound like the real deal to me.”
“You can tell my hair is artificial?” said Fleur. “It is truly superbly designed. It is but one means I use to protect my secret. I am surprised you detected what has fooled many, many people.”
Green Arrow didn’t bother to conceal his slightly smug smile as he said, “Well, between us, a lady friend of mine uses a wig, too!”
Fleur smiled and said, “Let us be going. The movement below is likely to be but a distraction by which less civil-minded types will gain their objective. I know of a lab nearby, and that must be the target our foes seek. After you, Mr. Queen.”
Green Arrow’s smile faded as the name sank in, and he met her gaze. “You’re good, Mademoiselle, very, very good,” he said. The two champions swiftly reached a large complex located a few blocks away from the heart of the city. “What’s the meaning of that green hand some of the marchers were waving?” he asked as he swung down nimbly on a line. “Back home, that kind of thing is usually seen at football games.”
Fleur-de-Lis flipped through the air in an impressive show of agility and speed as she replied, “Non. It stands for the phrase hands off my pal. It is a slogan of a group that seeks equality for the immigrants and their children. Perhaps in time it will become famous or infamous. For the most part, I assure you such protests are peaceful. The groups that seek a simple life or a return to agrarian ways do things like fill public squares with artichokes.”
“You’re pretty proud and protective of your people, yet you clearly aren’t blind to their faults,” noted Green Arrow. “I like that a lot!”
“Flattery will get you everywhere,” said Fleur. “Still, duty calls, and we have our foe in sight.” She pointed to where a shadowy form darted through the halls of the laboratory. The heroes could see through the tall windows, and Green Arrow also caught sight of a speeding figure within.
“Catwoman?” he said. “That looked like a woman that gives a pal of mine more than one kind of heartache!”
“No,” said Fleur-de-Lis. “She is known to me. She is a feline-patterned criminal, but she is not your Catwoman. Rather, she is known loosely as Le Maître Chat or Le Chat Botté as drawn from the fairy story that originated elsewhere but is often associated with France.”
Green Arrow scowled and said, “Le Chat Botté? Is that Puss in Boots? I’m a bit rusty in French.”
Fleur-de-Lis smiled and said, “You must be careful. Franglais is frowned upon in the official circles.”
Green Arrow followed the lithe-but-beautiful woman as she walked across the street and reached the lab via a thin wire. “You know, you move better than some of my pals, and I wouldn’t have expected anybody to touch them when it comes to sheer agility,” he said.
“I can open the window easily,” said Fleur-de-Lis. “The security system is down already. That is a sure sign of Le Chat!”
Green Arrow shrugged, whipped out an arrow, and fired with precise skill. The shaft shattered the window, and Fleur shook her head in dismay.
“She will know we are here!” she said.
“Yeah, well, let her,” said Green Arrow. “I’m not one to pussyfoot around, if you’ll excuse the expression.” They raced inside, and a low growl stopped them in their tracks. “Sounds like some kind of jungle cat,” he mused.
“Oui! That’s her specialty,” said Fleur-de-Lis. “She trains such beasts to do her bidding. That is part of her allure. She calls herself the Master Cat — Le Maître Chat.”
“That is because I am mistress of all felines and enjoy nothing more than playing the cat and the mouse games with lovely little rodents like you, my sweet!” The words came from a woman with slightly wild but short blonde hair. She wore a black halter top and shorts along with thigh-high black boots. She had the silhouette of a cat painted on her forehead.
Green Arrow rolled aside and fired three shafts with lightning-quick speed. The trick arrows released a net that bound a black panther as it charged forward. “That net won’t hold Leo, there, for long!” he said.
“It won’t need to,” said Fleur-de-Lis. “Your knockout gas arrow should put him to sleep.”
Green Arrow shrugged and whipped out an arrow, holding it near the struggling panther. “OK, I’ll do it your way,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Master Cat laughed a deep, throaty laugh and raised her hands in a threatening gesture. “My claws will bite deeply in your alabaster complexion, pretty flower!” she said. While she did not move from where she rested gracefully and seductively on her high-heeled boots, tiny, razor-sharp projectiles shot off her hands and sliced through the air toward the heroes.
Green Arrow felt one cut across his chest as he subdued the panther. Even as he did so, Fleur was spinning into explosive action of her own. She hurled a shiny throwing star across the room as she dodged the claw darts. Her star struck the feline killer in the leg, and she cursed in anger as she raised her other hand to attack anew.
Before she could do so, Fleur was on top of her, and three swift blows had stunned the villainess. Green Arrow nodded in approval. “Well, you sure know how to put the cat out!” he said. “I see she dropped a circuit board in the shape of a torso. It looks like our mystery man wants his gang to help him put together a robot!”
Fleur-de-Lis wrapped Master Cat up in one of Green Arrow’s lines and replied, “I agree. This piece would act as a type of central unit with functions as a mobile arsenal.”
As Doctor Mist’s power washed over them and they felt the tug of his teleportation, Fleur smiled demurely and said, “G.A., in truth, I do like Danny Harris!”