Justice League of America: The Beginning of the Ennead, Chapter 2: Three Talismans

by HarveyKent

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“Hi-yaa!” Golden Glider cried out as she streaked across the impromptu ice-slide. She lifted one shapely leg, aiming the razor-sharp skate blade like a sword.

Olé!” Batwoman countered, whipping off her cloak and using it like a matador’s cape. She expertly caught Glider’s leg in it and flipped her off the ice-slide onto the grassy forest floor.

Another one of you Super-people?” Killer Frost sneered, staring at Superwoman. “They must be handing out franchises!

“Oh, you — shut up!” Superwoman retorted, charging the alabaster villainess. Even after living more than two years in the present, she was still somewhat new to the ways of twentieth-century battle and had not yet mastered the art of repartee.

“Don’t you mean ‘chill out’?” Killer Frost asked, throwing out her slender fingers. Instantly a ring of ice, two feet thick, encircled Superwoman’s torso, pinning her arms.

The Cheetah and Katana did not exchange words, merely savage grunts and feral hisses as sword blade and knifelike claws sliced through the air, always missing their targets by the narrowest of margins. The two women circled each other like jungle cats, looking for an opening.

***

“Nubia, wait!” Mera said in a tone of command. “We need a battle pla–“

The current Wonder Woman did not wait, but leaped into battle, her mighty fist prepared to strike. New-Wave placed herself in the Amazon’s path, and her mighty fist connected with water. The force of her blow carried Wonder Woman right through the liquified villainess and into the swamp water with a deafening splash.

“What, no costume for you, honey?” Gem Girl asked Sue Dibny. “I do like the dress, though; Donna Karan?”

“Yves St. Laurent,” Sue corrected. “Uh, how about coming along quietly?”

“Gee, let me think about that. No,” Gem Girl responded, whipping out a small, diamond-like object. A bolt of golden light lanced from it, and Sue barely dodged it in time.

“It’s been a long time, Huntress,” Mera said to the woman in the tiger-striped bikini and scuba gear. “I see you haven’t learned your lesson in all that while!”

“Oh, please!” the costumed criminal replied. “Huntress was so last year. It’s Sea Tigress now!”

“Really,” Mera responded. “In that case, Tigress, here’s a cage for you.” Mera lifted her hand, and a cell of solid-water bars sprang up around Sea Tigress from the swamp water at her feet.

“Nice,” Sea Tigress commented. “Too much space between the bars, though!” She raised her miniature spear-gun and fired. A metal shaft with a rounded end rocketed between the watery bars and struck Mera expertly in the forehead.

***

“I knew you’d be at this party somewhere, Ivy,” Black Canary declared, facing the sylvan-garbed seductress. “Didn’t figure you for the alpine setting, though.”

“Oh?” the former botanist smirked. “You’d be surprised, little bird, how hardy plants are, how they can thrive where you least expect them!” With that, a thick green vine burst out of the ground from under the snow and wrapped itself around Black Canary’s legs and waist like a python.

“Where’s the rest of your Flush, Queen?” Hawkwoman asked, taking to the air above the Queen of Spades and unclipping the mace from her belt.

“They’re out this hand, bird-brain,” Queen replied. “But here’s two of a kind to open! Can you trump them?” The Queen threw a pair of cards into the air; Hawkwoman didn’t get more than a glimpse at their faces, could only tell that they had black pips. Suddenly, the cards began darting around in the air like homing missiles, headed right for her.

“Thanagar’s moons!” Hawkwoman cried, arcing away from the cards. They instantly turned to follow her. She did not know what would happen if they touched her and hoped not to find out.

“Well, well… Bertha, isn’t it?” Zatanna asked. “My friends told me about your Secret Sorority routine. I mean, really; not very feminine-empowering, is it?” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Black Canary and Hawkwoman: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.]

“Says the chick who usually hangs out in fishnets and no pants,” Mirror Mistress said. “You’d better watch your step — you’re tangling with the Mirror Mistress now!”

“I knew the Mirror Master,” Zatanna said. “The Mirror Master was an enemy of mine. And you, ma’am, are no Mirror Master.”

“Better believe it,” the derivative demoness snapped back. “I’m better!” Her gloved hand snapped up from her belt, holding a ladies’ compact. It flipped open, and a bolt of energy lanced out from the mirror within.

***

“Ollie, I have no idea,” Hawkman said.

“Come on, Hawky, guess something,” Green Arrow encouraged. “Never know, might get lucky.”

“All right,” Hawkman sighed. “I don’t know, David Berkowitz.”

“Nope,” Green Arrow said, flipping the card over. “Carl Chessman.”

“I’ve never even heard of him,” Hawkman said, getting up. “Do you want a cup of coffee?”

“That’d be great, thanks.” Green Arrow stretched his powerful arms over his head, yawning.

“I wonder how the ladies are doing?” Hawkman asked, pouring the coffee.

“Probably having the time of their lives without us,” Green Arrow predicted.

***

Ngh-aah!” Superwoman grunted, straining her muscles until the icy ring pinning her arms shattered, sending chunks flying everywhere.

“Oh!” Killer Frost cried in surprise, ducking the flying ice fragments.

“Took a tumble on the final turn, Glider,” Batwoman quipped, uncoiling the bat-rope from her utility belt. “May have to settle for the bronze.”

“You’re a tough judge, Batty,” Glider observed, lifting her leg from her position sprawled on the jungle floor. The blade of her skate shot from her boot like a guided missle. Taken off-guard, the amazingly agile Batwoman managed to narrowly avoid the killing stroke, and instead of slashing her throat, the side of the blade struck her temple, and she went down in a crumpled heap.

“Batwoman!” Superwoman cried, her head whirling around at the sound of her companion’s moan of pain. She started to move in Golden Glider’s direction, then felt her entire body seized in a numbing, paralyzing cold. She realized with sickening clarity that she was entombed in a solid block of ice, like a fly in amber. In this position, she did not have the leverage to use her strength to free herself.

“Hey, Red,” Killer Frost taunted. “Is it cold out here, or is it just you?” Superwoman’s enhanced hearing just barely allowed her to hear the taunt from her prison.

The battle still raged between the Cheetah and Katana. Both women had tears in their costumes, the Cheetah’s clean and straight, Katana’s ragged. Both women were also bleeding from shallow cuts they had sustained. The look of rage on both women’s faces was purely savage.

“AIEE!” Katana cried, raising her sword high over her head for a mighty stroke. But suddenly, the blade was weighted down with ice, and the blow was thrown off-course, landing in the trunk of a tree. The Cheetah pressed the advantage with a powerful blow of the heel of her hand to the bridge of Katana’s nose. The samurai warrior fought to maintain consciousness, but a second such blow robbed her of it.

The Cheetah whirled on Killer Frost. “I could have beaten her on my own, if you hadn’t horned in!” she hissed.

Sure you could have, freckles,” Killer Frost said coolly. “But we’re wasting time here, aren’t we?”

“Hey, gang!” Golden Glider cried out. “I went over here to get my blade back, and my necklace started glowing!”

“Let me see!” the Cheetah cried, leaping to Glider’s side in two bounds. Golden Glider knelt beside the blackened hulk of a tree that had been felled by lightning, fitting her blade back on her boot. The Cheetah’s necklace began to glow as well. The leonine villainess plunged her hand inside the rotting stump and withdrew it, holding a small globe about the size of a tennis ball, pulsing with an eerie golden light.

“Is that it?” Killer Frost asked.

“Must be,” the Cheetah responded.

“Let’s kill the heroines!” Golden Glider suggested gleefully. “We don’t need them dogging our trail!”

“Yes, that’s a good–” Cheetah began, but was unable to finish the thought before the trio of villainesses faded away, drawn back to their headquarters by Tala’s magic.

***

As the pain surged through Mera’s skull, her hard-water cage fell back to the swamp water from whence it was molded. Mera’s body was capable of withstanding the pressures of the ocean depths, but the concentrated impact of the blow caused her to lose the concentration necessary to maintain her creation. The queen of Atlantis gritted her teeth in rage and summoned the strength to attack her foe anew. But before Mera could reassemble the cage, Sea Tigress vanished beneath the swamp waters.

Mera cautiously looked around. The water was not very deep where she stood, not even to her waist. Was there a drop-off of some kind?

Suddenly she heard a splash behind her, as of something breaking the water. She whirled and threw out her hand, and a hard-water fist slammed into a spear that had rocketed up from underwater. Before Mera could react, another blunt spear smashed into her temple. Blackness closed over her eyes as she sank into the filthy water.

“Oldest trick in the book,” Sea Tigress sneered, “but one that’s never failed me.”

“What’s the matter, Wonder Token?” New-Wave chuckled as Nubia’s fist smashed through her liquid form. “Can’t hit a handful of water?”

Rraah!” Nubia snarled with rage, swinging her arm in a vicious karate blow that sliced through New-Wave’s fluid neck. The onetime leader of the Masters of Disaster only laughed at her efforts.

“Kind of tickles,” she commented. “Really, I could keep this up all day, but we’re on a timetable here, so…” And with that, New-Wave’s liquid body surged forward, covering Wonder Woman completely. The Amazon was capable of holding her breath longer than a normal woman, but not indefinitely. Nubia began to spin on her toes, whirling faster and faster.

Hee-ee-eey!” New-Wave complained as the centrifugal force grew faster and faster. She fought to maintain her hold on Wonder Woman, but it was no use; she was flung from the rapidly spinning super-heroine’s body like droplets from a garden sprinkler, scattered all over the swamp.

Wonder Woman rapidly came to a stop, looking around cautiously. She did not know how quickly New-Wave would be able to re-form herself. She never did learn, for as she searched in one direction, a golden bolt of energy lanced out from behind her, slamming into her back and sending her sprawling into the swamp.

“Score one for Gem Girl!” the jeweled jailbird cried gleefully. “Diamonds really are a girl’s best friend!”

“Yours are flawed, dearie,” Sue shot back, coming up behind Gem Girl and grasping her wrist. As the non-powered wife of a super-hero with no secret identity, Sue Dibny had realized she was in constant danger and had received personal combat training from Batman and Black Canary. With an expert judo flip, she sent Gem Girl flying over her head to land on a muddy bank of the swamp with a sickening squelch.

But Sue had little time to celebrate her victory before a miniature spear fired by Sea Tigress rocketed over her head. It broke apart in flight, releasing a fine mesh net that dropped over her like a blanket. The strands of the net were gummed with adhesive, and Sue was well and truly trapped.

“Sorry about the outfit; St. Laurent, wasn’t it?” Sea Tigress asked. “A little club soda should get the adhesive out.” Sea Tigress snapped another spear into her gun and aimed it at the helpless Sue. “Now, the blood — that’ll be more tricky.”

“Hey!” New-Wave cried out. “I found it!”

Sea Tigress looked away from her target. “Found what? The thingie?”

“Yeah!” New-Wave confirmed. “Wonder Chick spread me all over the swamp, and I re-formed about half a mile from here. That necklace Tala gave me started blinking like crazy!”

“The necklace stayed on through all that?” Sea Tigress asked.

“Magic, I guess,” New-Wave said. “Come on, collect the diamond doll and let’s get out of here!”

“What’s your hurry?” Sea Tigress asked, turning her attention back to Sue. “I need a little target practice!”

“Yeah, shoot her!” Gem Girl encouraged, wading through the swamp. “Oh! This mud! Do you know what this outfit cost me?”

Sue steeled herself, waiting for Sea Tigress to strike. Her thoughts turned to her husband and her daughter.

But the killing strike never came. The three villainesses faded away, drawn back by Tala’s magic as the talisman was found.

***

“Dleihs raeppa!” Zatanna cried, thankful that she had practiced key battle phrases backwards until she could snap them off in an instant. A glowing barrier appeared in the air between her and Mirror Mistress, and the golden energy-bolt from the villainess’ compact struck it with no effect.

Black Canary tightened the muscles in her throat, made her mouth a perfect circle, and issued forth her sonic scream in a tightly channeled burst that struck the base of the monster vine, snapping it in two. As she fell to the snow, the agile heroine was already untwisting the tendrils from her limbs.

Hawkwoman poured on an extra burst of speed, all that she could muster. She widened the gap between herself and the playing cards just enough. Suddenly she hurled her mace backward at the cards, then cut her wing-power altogether, dropping like a stone. Above her the cards struck the mace and exploded with all the force of a hand grenade.

“Yes, that’s about what I thought would happen,” Hawkwoman commented.

Poison Ivy charged at Black Canary. “Let’s see how well you fight woman-to-woman!”

“You’re kidding, right?” Black Canary asked. As Poison Ivy hurled herself at the heroine, Black Canary reached out, grabbed her foe’s wrists, and used her own momentum to hurl her high over her head in a wide arc. Poison Ivy came down in a snowbank as Black Canary rose to her feet, prepared for another attack.

“Learned your lesson,” Black Canary asked, “or do you want… to try… two out of… of…” The glare of the sun from the white snow was dazzling; colored spots swam before Black Canary’s eyes. Her knees grew wobbly beneath her.

“Out of three?” Poison Ivy asked, rising to her feet and brushing snow from her sylvan garb. “No thanks. It’d be too easy, now. I figure right about now, you’re discovering that the outside of my costume was coated with a deadly herbal poison. Isn’t that right, songbird?”

But Black Canary could not answer, as she sank down in the snow.

“Canary!” Hawkwoman cried, seeing her friend fall. She rocketed toward Poison Ivy like a falcon diving at a mouse. “You witch — if you’ve hurt her–“

“She’ll have good company,” Queen cried out. Hawkwoman felt something grasp her from behind, something tight and constricting, wrapping itself about her like a sheet. She figured it for one of the Queen’s gimmicked playing cards as she fell to the snow, unable to stay aloft. And still the card grew tighter. “Never turn show your back to a Queen,” the villainess laughed, taking another sip from her flask.

“Nice trick, magic lady,” Mirror Mistress sneered. “What else do you have?”

“See how you like this one,” Zatanna said. “Sniahc dnib eeht!”

As the words left Zatanna’s mouth, however, the flaps on the sides of Mirror Mistress’ cowl popped open to reveal a strange reflective surface. Zatanna cried out in shock as steel chains appeared from nowhere, pinning her own arms to her sides.

“Great Merlin!” the sorceress cried in shock. Never had she been a victim of her own spell before.

“How do you like those tricks, Zat-rat?” Mirror Mistress chortled with glee. “My extra special mirror; it reflects sound as well as light! It turned your own spell back on you!” While Zatanna was still in shock, Mirror Mistress pulled a cloth from a pouch at her belt and stuffed it into Zatanna’s mouth. “And this should keep you from reciting any more spells!”

“Not bad, newbie,” Poison Ivy said with a touch of admiration. “Hey, wait a second — I think I’ve got it!”

“Got what?” Queen asked. “A run in your tights from when Black Canary tossed you in the snow?”

“No — wait, damn, I do!” Poison Ivy said, inspecting her leg. “But no, I found the talisman! While we’ve been fighting, my plants have been searching under the snow, and one of them just found it!”

“Cool!” Mirror Mistress said. “Should we kill these witches before we go?”

“Black Canary will be dead from my poison in minutes, anyway,” Poison Ivy said as a green tendril dropped a glowing golden sphere in her palm.

“And my trump card will crush Hawkwoman to death,” Queen said. “We can leave Zatanna out here to die slowly in the snow.”

“Works for me,” Mirror Mistress said as the trio began to fade away, drawn back by Tala’s spell.

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