Superman swooped down to confront the mocking Magpie as she stood by a slum building in Star City.
“So, my insipid double sent in the Super-Marines?” she laughed.
Superman scooped her up in his arms and said, “Black Canary is busy. I can take you to an appropriate cell as well as she can.”
Magpie’s blonde hair was dyed and not a wig. She tossed her head back, and a sonic cry struck Superman. He was prepared, but he still released her as she agilely flipped out of his arms and continued to spin about to the tenement below.
She’s as good as Dinah! he thought. I underestimated her. He zoomed down and prepared to enter the old building, when it erupted into flames and rubble cascaded down on him. He scanned the ruins with his super-vision and shoved his way free when he saw no other living beings around.
Got to keep this place from hitting the neighboring areas, he mused. This place is so tightly packed — like pictures of the slums of ancient Rome. He pressed the rubble into a huge cone and hurled it skyward. It entered the sun and was seen no more. I just saved the city money for demolition, he mused.
“No sign of Magpie,” he said. “Not even of the energy by which we originally traced her and her allies.”
He flew off, and miles away Magpie smirked at a man in yellow and black. “Detonator, is it? You saved me but almost buried me alive,” she shouted. “I can’t say I’m all that thrilled about your invitation to ally myself with your group.”
Detonator grinned. “I can bring down a building on a dime, legs. Trust me. Our boss does.”
She smiled seductively. “So take me to your leader.” That new partnership would form the basis of another tale. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Super-Team Family: Starman and Black Canary: The Star Czar.]
In Gotham City, Hawkwoman conferred with Commissioner James W. Gordon in his office.
“Tell me, have you any idea why this renegade Caped Crusader is on a rampage?” asked Gordon. “He’s killed four thugs and shows no sign of stopping.”
Shayera Hol smiled. “He is a more driven version of our Batman, hard as that concept is to imagine. I can track him down now, but I wanted to alert you as a courtesy — policewoman to policeman.”
Gordon nodded at the shapely feathered femme fatale. “I appreciate it,” he said. “You and Hawkman are real cops. We understand each other. If my men and I can help in any manner, just say the word.” She thanked him and flew off.
“A brave woman to so calmly go off to face any version of Batman,” mused Gordon.
Hawkwoman had an idea where she’d find this darkest of Dark Knights. Arkham, she thought. The energy trail led to the infamous asylum, as I figured it would. He must want to eliminate all his old foes at once.
She circled the walls and spoke to a bird. “The dark one is on the slope west of here!” said the bird. She smiled and swooped down toward a dark figure.
“Batman or Dark Knight or whatever you’re called, killing was one line you vowed never to cross. Why have you taken such harsh steps in your crusade?” she asked.
“Robin… Jason died,” he said. “Ra’s freed many of my foes. The Joker shot Batgirl. The League of Assassins killed Batwoman. I had no choice but to ally with Ra’s when he offered to aid me. That deal cost me my soul. I can’t be the man I once was — not in this darker world.”
Hawkwoman frowned; his pain was evident. He was so like the Batman she knew, yet he was so twisted by pain. It was difficult facing these counterparts who shared so much with friends she had fought beside for years.
She spun and connected with a photon lance against the rocky soil. An eruption of energy caught them both. The energy stunned him and left her dazed beside him on the slope. She had recklessly broken open the alien weapon, knowing it would knock them both cold. She knew hitting the agile man would be too hard. He was just too good. Thus, the alien weapon served to stun them both. She awoke before he did due to her alien metabolism, and she beamed along with the fallen Dark Knight to JLA Headquarters.
“My head aches like a tiger cat set up housekeeping in my hair,” she moaned as she arrived, and Red Tornado and the rest greeted her eagerly.
Hawkman kissed her and said, “You should have let me go.”
“What, and spoil my fun?” she said. “You needed to stay here to help Reddy track the source that brought these doubles here.”
“We have located the ship,” said Red Tornado, “and Superman has identified it as a variant of Brainiac’s original craft.”
“We know now that the purpose of these pawns was to keep us busy or kill us while their master or mistress used a ploy all-too well-known to me,” said Superman. “He wants to shrink and steal all of our home cities — Gotham, Metropolis, Central City, Star City, et cetera. The energies are building as we speak.”
“Then we’d better board that craft immediately,” said Hawkwoman.
Hawkman nodded. “As for these doubles, I’d suggest we leave them in holding here until we get the answers we need.”
“Indeed,” said Red Tornado. “Time is of the essence.”
Black Canary smiled as they boarded the JLA shuttle.
“Why the grin, Canary?” asked Aquaman.
“Just trying to imagine a six-inch-high Green Arrow. His constant chatter would shatter any bottle,” she joked.
They reached the red craft, which made no effort to evade or repel them as the shuttle docked.
“Who is behind this?” asked Black Canary. “Not Brainiac?”
The Elongated Man snaked his neck around to spot the craft’s owner. “Definitely not Brainiac. Not with curves like those!” He gulped.
“Married man… happily married man!” said Aquaman, elbowing Ralph Dibny.
Batman saw the striking, green-hued blonde beauty in the purple jumpsuit and black boots. “Genia!” he said. “Her looks have changed — she originally had brown hair and human skin tone — but she is definitely Genia. She is a female humanoid computer like her creator Brainiac originally was before he altered into the skull-faced creep we know now. But she was supposed to have been reprogrammed for good by the Kandorians years ago. (*) What changed her? His own change to a living machine?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Brainiac’s Super Brain-Child,” World’s Finest Comics #164 (February, 1967).]
Superman frowned. “She might have been infected by a virus during their initial contact. Perhaps she is now driven by his original programming — the desire to take cities from worlds to the planet Colu to enable the Computer Tyrants to be better prepared to eventually invade those worlds.”
Genia laughed coldly. “Analysis: They try to understand how I have evolved. Prognosis: Bewilderment followed by a futile attempt to reason with me.” She touched a switch, and reddish energy erupted toward the heroes.
“Red Tornado, you know the plan — I’ll block the energy as long as I can!” cried Superman as his super-body deflected the burning beam.
Aquaman punched an alien guard in the chin. “This big brute needs a lesson in hygiene!” he said.
“We can’t all live in water all the time,” said Black Canary as she kicked another in the chin.
Batman used a batarang to disarm a laser-rifle-toting guard and said, “Genia, the Coluans rebelled against the Computer Tyrants long ago. You serve a mere memory.”
Genia kicked a trooper forward into battle as the Elongated Man dodged a spear. Hawkman slammed his mace into a computer, even as Red Tornado plugged his hand into an outlet. Genia then slapped Superman across the face.
“My strength is greater than before,” she said. “Perhaps I could kill you, Kryptonian, with my bare hands. However, I prefer to see you face your worst nightmares.” She clapped her hands, and the previously captive counterparts appeared.
“She brought them here from our headquarters!” gasped Hawkwoman as she swooped low and knocked three troopers flat. “What kind of power does this Barbie Doll Brainiac have?”
“Power enough to rob your world of your homes!” cackled Genia.
Superman was struggling briefly with Genia and said, “Misguided or mad, we’re still stopping you! No other city will suffer Kandor’s fate while I live!”
The Eradicator punched out at Hawkman, who blocked his Kryptonian martial arts and knocked him cold. “Crude but effective,” said Katar Hol.
The evil Batman pounced for his double, who caught his cape and slammed him into a computer. “You want to damage the ship during our fight,” sneered the Dark Knight, his double. “I see your ploy, because once it would have been mine!”
Black canary danced high as Raptor grabbed for her legs. She rolled over his back and bounced off a prepared Elongated Man to slingshot into the winged foe’s midsection. She chopped his shoulder and spun to kick him into the waiting arms of Elongated Man.
“This is a no fly zone!” quipped Ralph as he bound the furious Thanagarian.
“Shayera, you should be mine!” cried Raptor.
Hawkwoman emerged from beneath a pile of goons and scattered them all with a sudden burst of speed. “Dream on,” she said.
Speed Fiend gasped as his circle of smothering air pressure slowed Aquaman down barely at all. The sea champion tackled the red-garbed alternate-universe Barry Allen and said, “You’ll have to do better than that!”
“I want that witch who posed as Fiona!” cried Speed Fiend.
Black Arrow sneered. “Had her. No big deal.” He fired a concussive shaft toward Hawkman, who fell as he dodged the blast. Superman then froze the quiver solid and tapped the evil archer into a stunned state.
Raptor roared in laughter. “I never did like that cocky bowman!”
The Dark Knight kicked Batman down but gasped as Black Canary’s canary cry slammed into him.
Genia stomped one booted foot in rage. “Stop them! Stop them, or I’ll send you all back to your timelines!” she cried.
“Calculation: I located the code to reverse the process myself,” said a smiling Superman as he worked a computer at super-speed. “The doubles are going, going, gone!”
The evil doubles flickered away to their own timelines as the Justice League faced Genia. “Now for their mistress!” said Batman.
“The robot invades my systems,” said Genia. “This violation won’t stand. I’ll destroy you!”
“I have countered the shrinking ray and reversed its direction,” agreed the android Red Tornado. “I suggest surrender as your most logical option.”
Genia raced forward and said, “Never! You’ll all pay!”
The Elongated Man snatched Black Canary and led his friends to their shuttle.
Superman melted the hallway and closed off Genia’s ship. “She refused to leave,” he explained.
Batman nodded. “She is a part of the craft, in a manner of speaking. Its fate is hers as well.”
They boarded their shuttle as the energy beams struck the red craft, and it vanished on the screen in a blinding flash of light.
“Did you blow it up?” asked Ralph with concern.
“No,” said Aquaman. “We merely shrank it, just as the owner meant to do to us.”
Red Tornado nodded slowly. “Odd that she should suffer the fate she planned for our homes. Stranger still was the data I gained from my contact with her systems.”
“Tornado, what did you learn?” asked Batman.
The robotic hero replied, “Her motive was largely a need to hurt those whom she blamed for the change in Brainiac from his more humanoid state to his current one.”
Black Canary shook her head in dismay. “A woman scorned. One of the oldest motives in the book.”
Hawkman agreed. “She proved more human than she would ever admit to being. Her emotions led to her downfall.”
“She is now in some microverse,” said Superman. “I hope she finds peace.”
Batman agreed. “I also hope those distorted doubles of ours find peace.”
“I wonder if Magpie is still out there somewhere,” said Black Canary. “She was never captured or brought back here with the rest.” But that would be another story.