by Starsky Hutch 76
Faora Hu-Ul stepped through the skylight of the darkened building. She moved without making a sound as she landed to the waiting floor before. She walked on her toes over the railing of the overhang, grabbed hold of it, and swung herself over to leap to the floor beneath it. She landed nimbly on her feet, again without making a sound.
In the center of the room was her intended target: Var-Sri, the cousin of Bru-Sri. She thought she had taken care of the business of the commercialization of the martial art of klurkor when she took down Bru-Sri. But there he was — the upstart who dared to challenge her by picking up where his cousin left off. She’d take care of that soon enough.
She moved silently forward toward the kneeling figure. He seemed to be deep into a meditative state and completely oblivious to her presence. This would be too easy. She was hoping for a fight — a true test of her skills. His cousin had proven a good challenge, though his students had barely even proven a decent warm-up.
As it turned out, her disappointment was misplaced. As soon as she swung her arm, ready to deliver the killing blow, Var-Sri was upon his feet. He spun quickly, deftly dodging her blow, and spun once again to deliver one of his own.
Faora Hu-Ul hit the floor hard. She looked up at him with a lascivious grin as she wiped away the trickle of blood running from the corner of her mouth. She quickly leaped up and spun in midair, attempting to deliver a series of kicks. Var-Sri’s arms moved with lighting motion, blocking her kicks.
Var-Sri returned to the offensive, rushing at her with a series of punches, which she blocked just as easily. On the last punch, she grabbed his arm, used it for leverage, and spun around to deliver a blow to his back that actually made him cry out in pain.
As he turned to face her again, she lashed out with her hand, raking his face. What she saw made her gasp with astonishment. From her nails hung a large strip of synthetic skin. Beneath the skin was a masked face.
“Nightwing,” she said, smiling cruelly. “This match will be more rewarding than I had even dared hope.”
“Funny. I was about to say the same thing,” he replied, and Nightwing began pressing his attack with even more vigor than he had before. Faora Hu-Ul began to look alarmed. No man had ever managed to put her on the defensive before. Even Superman had fallen to her in their last encounter before she was spirited away by the crystalline entity of the Phantom Zone.
Faora kicked out at him, and he spun, nimbly dodging the kick and returning his own, and she fell to the floor. In a panic, she lashed out with a psionic blast, making him fall to the ground, holding his head in agony. “You dare?!” she snarled as she leaped to her feet and delivered a sharp kick to his ribs. “No man does that to me! I’ll peel your skin from your body like the rind of a twellian fruit!” She moved forward, preparing to deliver a crippling blow.
Suddenly, a roar filled the room, and the Rondor came charging forward. He slammed into her back and sent her flying. She crashed against the far wall and hit with a sickening thud.
Nightwing rose shakily to his feet. “I… told you to… hold back!” he coughed.
“Would you rather I had let her kill you?” Nam-Ek said.
“She’s no good to us dead,” Nightwing said.
“Do not worry. I will not let her die,” the large, gray-skinned hulk of a man said. “Though it is the least she deserves.” He moved toward where she had landed. She was bent at a horrific angle.
Flamebird entered behind the Rondor. “He did save your life,” he reminded Nightwing.
“Yes, he did,” Nightwing said, holding his ribs. “Now let’s just hope he can save hers.”
“Dammit!” Zod bellowed, hurling his newsreader against the wall. “That damnable little fool!“
“What is it?” Jax-Ur said in alarm, rushing into the room. He saw the smashed news-vid reader and looked back at his leader anxiously.
“Faora Hu-Ul has managed to get herself apprehended by our own world’s version of Batman and Robin,” Zod said grimly. “And here all I thought I had to worry about were the authorities.”
“Nightwing and Flamebird took down… her?” Jax-Ur said, visibly stunned.
“Obviously, I’ve severely underestimated them. I won’t do so again. Prepare to relocate.”
“But the Earth plants!” Jax-Ur said. “There’s a small fortune out th–“
“Leave them,” Zod said. “As long as we have samples, we can breed more. And, of course, you can always go back.”
Jax-Ur groaned as he left the room, “Yes, General.”
“Good news,” Don-El told Nightwing as he stepped into the office where the masked vigilante awaited him. “We’ve gotten everything we needed from Faora Hu-Ul.”
“How is that?” Nightwing asked. “Last I saw of her, she was in a coma.”
“We used the mind probe to extract the information we needed,” Don-El replied.
“The mind probe?” Nightwing said. “But that device is used to treat the mentally ill. The original plan was to get her to plea bargain in return for the whereabouts of Zod. To use a device created for healing in such a way…”
“I’d certainly say she qualifies as mentally ill,” Don-El said. “And we could hardly wait for her to fully recover so she could testify willingly. As chief of police, it was my duty to make the call. Who knows how many more lives would have been destroyed in the meantime.”
“I… suppose you’re right,” Nightwing said. He knew his cousin was right, but part of him wondered how much more they would be required to compromise their ethics in the future in this new world on which they now lived.
“This is beyond belief,” Don-El said to his cousin Van-Zee, who was there as a representative of the Science Council. They stared out at the huge fields of drugs growing outside of Zod’s villa — rows of marijuana plants and coca and opium poppies growing side by side. Inside, there were labs to process them, as well as to create assorted manmade hallucinogens.
“I assume you’ll destroy it,” Van-Zee said.
“As a scientist, I’m surprised you would suggest that,” Don-El said. “This evidence is far too important. It has to be studied.” He turned to one of his lieutenants and said, “Get some men out there to start harvesting those plants.”
“Yes, sir,” the lieutenant replied.
“Don’t you think that it’s too dangerous to allow to exist?!” Van-Zee exclaimed.
“Trust me on this,” Don-El said. “I have more experience in these matters.”
Van-Zee suddenly wished he had come there as Nightwing. Then he might’ve been able to get his cousin to listen to reason.
Zod stared out the window of his new home, looking down at the distantly recreated Fire Falls of Krypton. Mutant fish, specially designed to live in its fiery conditions, frolicked and leaped from its blazing surface, just as they had on Krypton.
As Zod watched this, he sipped cognac from a crystal goblet. It was one of the Earth delicacies Jax-Ur had brought back on his last trip. I’ll have to keep it in mind, he thought. There might be money in other imports from Earth besides illicit drugs.
“Va-Kox has begun the seeding process from the samples we brought with us,” Jax-Hur sighed, stepping into the room. “Eventually, we’ll have new crops again.”
“Why do you sound so sad, my friend?” Zod asked, turning to him.
“The… the loss!” Jax-Ur said in a tone that suggested it should be obvious.
“Don’t worry,” Zod said, returning his gaze back to the Fire Falls. “Call it a gut instinct, but I have a feeling it won’t have been entirely wasted.”
Officer Gem-Ar snorted up the white powder, exulting in the feeling of elation and power it brought him. He’d have to remember to replace the evidence with a substitute before its absence was noticed.
At first, it had only been professional curiosity that had made him try it to begin with, as had been the case with many of his fellow officers. Now he wondered how he had ever functioned without it. He felt a hundred feet tall every time he used it. He’d have to remember to stop by the evidence labs before he left for the day. After all, the weekend was coming up, and he needed something to help him unwind.