On the world of Apokolips, Granny Goodness scowled as Knockout prostrated herself before the sturdy old hag. The tall, reddish-blonde woman had kidnapped little Princess Diana, the former Wonder Woman, in an effort to redeem herself in the eyes of her fierce mistress. The redemption was needed, because the warrior woman had earlier fallen into the magical clutches of the mortal called the Enchantress before being freed by another of Granny’s pupils from the elite warrior band called the Female Furies. (*) This shame had caused Knockout to lose her old position, and she now found herself even beneath such youths as Gilotina and Malice Vundabar in status.
“You bring this Earthly whelp to me? You think that I desire another mewling infant?” mocked Granny.
“She is no mere infant,” said Knockout. “She carries within her tiny form the blessings and powers of the Olympians — the old gods.”
Granny knew all this. She was even pleased by what her pupil had done, yet she knew not to show too much favor. “Oh, well. I’ll make some use of her, I suppose,” she growled. “Return to your sisters and prepare for the arrival of the baby’s heroic peers.”
The New Titans arrived in the nightmarish area called Armagetto, where the oppressed, poverty-stricken people, known as hunger dogs, lived in perpetual fear of their dread master Darkseid and his cruel group of warriors.
Cyborg whistled softly. “Man! This place makes my apartment look like Michael Jackson’s ranch.”
Changeling nodded. “You can just feel the misery. It’s like something out of the concentration camps from old films.”
“Indeed,” agreed Raven, “the sense of overwhelming fear and hopelessness weighs heavily upon me. I would give much to offer hope to these poor souls.”
“Raven,” said Artemis, “there’s just so much even we can do. Our first step to to find Diana.”
Brandishing a sword, Queen Hippolyta said, “Truly, that is my only priority.”
Arsenal glanced at the Flash as he looked at the bleak gray faces of those who lived in the slums and felt little elation or even curiosity at the arrival of the colorful New Titans. “Imagine what it’s like growing up here,” said Roy Harper. “I’d die before I let Lian be taken to this kind of place. I can sympathize with Hippy.”
“Me, too,” replied the Flash. He added in a hushed voice, “I can also pity you if she hears you call her ‘Hippy’ again.”
Lilith Clay frowned. “The Olympian spark that the patrons granted to little Diana is like a shining beacon to me — yet I feel nothing.”
Azrael held her hand and said, “This place fills me with a sense of doom. Let us save the child and be away.”
Artemis turned to the winged youth and said, “Azrael, I forgot that you also possess assorted empathic and tracking abilities. Can you detect any trace of where we need to go?”
Listening to the current leader of the New Titans, Azrael seemed appreciative of her attention. Too often he had felt as if the Titans saw him only as an annoyance. “I also feel as if the princess is not here,” he said.
“Enough!” cried Hippolyta. “I will have the truth, if I must ring it from the lips of Darkseid himself!”
She charged toward a dark building looking like military barracks that loomed above the slums like some grim watchtower, moving with the grace of one who had been called Mistress of the Horses in ancient Greek. She kicked against the door, and it shattered into kindling even as the blonde queen broke through to demand answers.
“Where has the Princess Diana been taken? I want her and nothing else!” she cried in a stentorian voice.
Artemis raced forward to keep up with her angry mother. “Mother, that armament matches what I pulled from JLA records. We’ve found some of the Female Furies,” she said as she saw a hulking woman hurry out to face them.
Lilith caught the Flash by the arm. “Flash, could you accompany me and Azrael to another locale? I sense we may be needed there.”
The Flash shrugged and obeyed the reddish-blonde beauty. Both he and Arsenal joined her and Azrael as they teleported to a large chamber.
“This is the only point in this foul realm in which we together sense any sign of Diana,” Lilith explained.
Arsenal glanced left and right, and saw that it was more of a personal room than a public one. Perhaps, he figured, this room full of weapons and horror was Granny Goodness’ personal abode.
Noticing something, the Flash said, “Lilith, there’s a blanket — too clean, too fresh to belong here.”
Lilith fingered the delicate weave, and pointed to an inscription.
Before the woman from Olympus could speak, Arsenal interrupted her, saying, “That’s Greek, right? I speak a bit of it.”
The Flash blinked. “You speak Greek?”
Arsenal shrugged. “A guy gets around.”
Lilith nodded as she sat on a rough bed and crossed her legs, light gleaming from her silvery sandals. “This was indeed Diana’s,” she said. “She was here, and that is what tempted me to take this path. But where could she be now?”
A hag of a woman rose from the floor in the shadows, scowling and cursing at the youths. “Granny will kill you all for coming here and attacking a poor, defenseless lady,” she hissed.
Meanwhile, Hippolyta charged the woman called Stompa. Grabbing the heavy-set woman by the heavy armor she wore, she heaved her high in the air. Stompa crashed down on her shoulders and gasped as her special boots had been rendered useless by the Amazon.
Hippolyta spun to kick the screaming Mad Harriet backward. “Bring me my child, you Stygian harpies!” she cried.
Artemis danced high to avoid a coiling lash that cut toward her from the darkly sinister Lashina. She felt one coil slice across her shoulder and tear her skin in a deep swath.
Gritting her teeth, the former Wonder Girl grabbed the lash. With steely determination, Artemis bore down with her high-heeled boots and swung the surprised Lashina into the wall. “Going for a ride?” she said with a smile. “Good. That makes these metal coils useful.”
Starfire’s eyes were a luminous green as she crashed directly into three Female Furies. The princess of Tamaran kicked the gaunt Bernadeth in the chin as she ducked a grinning Speed Queen’s lunge and blasted the shadowy Chessure aside.
X’hal! That creature seemed to resist even my star-bolts! she thought as the catlike monster, little more than disembodied teeth in a field of shadows, growled and grew nearer. Not far away, the childlike Malice Vundabar grinned as she egged on her pet to attack the Tamaranian.
Starfire tensed as the monster crouched low and pounced for her. She whirled in mid-flight to blast away at the beast with all her considerable power, and it began to whimper as Starfire fought with all inhibitions unleashed.
“Hey, no fair!” cried Malice, stomping up and down in her blue dress and pigtails as she threw a temper tantrum. “Leave poor Chessure alone!”
Raven vanished as Gilotina, a petite blonde dressed in pink, sliced at her dress with razor-sharp hands. The fabric tore before the empath could teleport. She appeared behind her foe, who whirled to face her.
“My hands can cut you to pieces!” Gilotina said, smiling.
Raven, repulsed by the girl’s sheer bloodlust, drew back and said, “You are in thrall to hatred. Let me help you become at peace.” She projected calming emotions, but the raging girl merely continued to slice at her remorselessly.
Cyborg pushed between them as Raven fell back, her white gown in rags, her expression one of disgust and pity. “Get back, Raven! You’re gonna be the Naked Witch of the West in a minute,” he joked.
But Vic Stone frowned as he realized the blonde girl’s lethal hands were damaging even his reinforced metal frame. Activating a white-sound blaster, Cyborg dropped her to the ground. “My tunes seem to be just what we needed,” he joked. “These gals must not dig our Earth grooves.”
“‘Dig’? ‘Grooves’?” joked Garfield Logan, the Changeling. “How did Vic suddenly switch vocabularies with Greg Brady?” He was in a green gorilla form, and he struggled with a sexy but vampiric beauty called Bloody Mary.
Holding his gaze with her red eyes, Bloody Mary smiled as she revealed her fangs and announced, “I’ll dine upon this odd mortal!”
Spinning crystal furiously, Kole Weathers created a crystal cage that encircled the pale redhead. “Not if I can stop you, Elvira!” she said.
Queen Hippolyta continued to fight like a she-demon as she slammed Mad Harriet to the ground and blocked a dagger with her golden shield. “These monsters fight like the Furies of lore, true enough,” she said. “Still, I see nothing in their hate and venom that quells the warrior spirit of a true Amazon — especially one fighting for her very daughter!”
Artemis was proud of her mother as she saw her take down one foe after another with skill and precision. She still ached where Lashina’s coil had cut into her shoulder, but she also fought on, blocking other coils with her flashing bracelets. “We only want Diana!” she shouted. “Surrender her, and we’ll leave!”
“Impudent witch!” cackled Bernadeth as she hurled a glowing dagger toward Artemis’ back.
Gar Logan deflected it as he switched into a bird form, barely managing to match its flight path as he did so. “Watch your back, Arty — I always do,” he said. She grinned and kicked her foe down.
Starfire flew higher and yelled, “Artemis, I see Flash and the others. I think they’ve found her!”
Hearing those words, Hippolyta leaped over the streets to reach the spot where the Flash and his allies now faced a rampaging Granny Goodness. The Apokoliptian fired a baton-shaped weapon, and the entire street was gutted by golden fire.
“Man, that’s one souped-up joystick,” called Arsenal as he fired an arrow that tore the weapon out of the old woman’s fists and pinned it to a wall with metal clamps. “Good ol’ magno-arrow.”
Racing forward, the Flash vibrated enough to skirt the gaping hole in the street, and shoved onlookers aside as their evil mistress fired without regard for anyone’s safety. She couldn’t care less if she wipes out all these poor people and their homes, he realized. She’s pure evil!
As Lilith bent low, Azrael stood over her protectively. “What is wrong?” he asked. “You look dismayed.”
Lilith nodded. “Diana has been taken by someone else, someone… close to me in some manner.”
Changeling changed his form from a soaring hawk to a plummeting whale, crashing down on top of Bloody Mary. “Kinda soft for a psycho vampire,” he said with a smile.
Jumping through the dark streets, Cyborg crashed into the hulking Speed Queen. “Hated roller derby,” he said, dropping her flat.
Kole soared on a ramp of her own creation as she led the others across the city to the battle with Granny Goodness.
Hippolyta’s sword flashed as the dynamic blonde charged Granny Goodness and struck her across the chest. “Be thankful to whatever fiends you hold sacred that I use the flat of my blade only,” she said, forcing the evil woman back relentlessly.
“My, what a pretty little thing you are!” she replied. “Granny could make a decorative slave of you.”
“Diana is no longer here,” Lilith pronounced. “We may leave.”
Artemis caught Raven’s eye. “Get us out of here!”
The girl’s soul self rose up and enveloped some of them, even as Lilith teleported the rest away.
Granny Goodness was left angry and humiliated at how Hippolyta had defeated her before all of her pupils. She also raged because she’d lost Diana to another mysterious abductor. “By Tigra’s lips, I’m glad I never reported the babe’s arrival to the master,” she sighed.
The heroes and heroines rested in a spot separate from normal realms, one much akin to Raven’s old favored limbo, where they caught their breath and took stock of the situation.
Hippolyta stalked forward toward Raven and Lilith. “Why in Athena’s name did you take us from the scene of battle?” she demanded. “I was ready to force the truth from that ancient harpy!”
“Please, Hippolyta, calm yourself,” said Raven. “Diana had been in that dark realm, but was no longer there. Only her blanket remained. Granny Goodness experienced considerable anger at her loss. She knew nothing more.”
Hippolyta frowned. “Forgive my haste. I only fear for my child. Where do we go from here? Mars attempted to take her before. Perhaps he has her now.”
“What about Jericho?” cried Kole. “Where is he? He hid within me as we planned.”
“Kind of our ace in the Kole,” Gar whispered, and Cyborg elbowed him to be quiet.
“But he departed to possess Knockout,” explained Kole. “He figured she could lead him to your child. He was right, I guess. Before I could join him, I had to help Gar against that vampire woman. So what became of Jericho?”
“We know he travels from one body to another,” said the Flash, “and it’s all too easy to lose track of him. Maybe we can track him via the new com-links.”
Arsenal grinned. “If he is in his own body.”
“The JLA keep up with each other in such a manner,” said Artemis, “and it was long overdue that we develop the same kind of technology. That could have saved us much searching during the Crisis.” She smiled as a signal beeped from her belt. “Joe’s active. He’s on another world entirely,” she said with a worried tone.
“Let me run the data through my internal CPU,” said Cyborg. “Man, never heard of this world.”
Kory shook her head. “It is not known to the Citadel worlds, either.”
“But I have heard of it as legend long ago,” said Hippolyta. “New Cronus.”
“Mother, I have never heard of New Cronus,” said Artemis.
“Chronus is a Titan,” said Lilith. “Does that world honor him in some manner?”
“That world was rumored to be one created by the Titans eons ago when man first walked the earth,” explained Hippolyta. “It was an experiment of sorts. They took selected unwanted infants from Earth and brought them to that world to raise. Such was their plan before Zeus rebelled and brought them all down to imprisonment for eons. What became of the world and their infant charges is unknown to me.”
Artemis nodded. “Diana once told me that the other Wonder Woman of Earth-Two said her Amazons had such worlds as well. Duxo was the name of one. Unwanted children were raised there in the ways of the Amazons, while on another world, infants were trained by Mars.”
“That’s where she is!” said Hippolyta.
“Then that’s where we’ll go,” said Donna Troy Long.
“The thought of your venturing to another world worries me, beloved,” said Azrael. “I will not leave your side.”
Lilith caressed his face. “That goes without saying. I want Diana to be safe, yet I feel good about this New Cronus. Perhaps it is only due to the fact that I come from Titan stock, but more may be behind my feelings as well.”
Arsenal rolled his eyes. “You know, I liked her better when she was just a go-go dancer.”
“How do we get to New Cronus?” asked the Flash.
“The ship we took during the invasion is working well,” said Starfire, “right, Vic?”
Cyborg grinned. “Yeah, Kory. It runs real fine now.” He referred to a Thanagarian craft they’d captured during the invasion at the end of January. It had become theirs by default, and they’d hoped to use it in place of the one they’d lost when Blackfire destroyed it.
Soon enough, the spacecraft hurtled through space to approach the coordinates of a red world called New Cronus.
“It excites me to be in space again,” said Kory. “If only Nightwing could be with us.”
Raven smiled. “Koriand’r, he will rejoin us. I feel that. Perhaps sooner than you anticipate.”
Kory hugged her and said, “Thanks for your support. I know it’s hard for you, since you believed you had feelings for him, too.”
Arsenal frowned. “Raven, just stick close to me, and I’ll show you how to cut loose and have more fun than Mr. Bat-this and Bat-that could ever do.” Sitting near him, she smiled appreciatively.
“Jericho is on this world,” said Kole. “We assume that means so is the baby. I only hope he is unhurt.”
Turning to the flame-haired girl, the Flash said, “You really are crazy about him, aren’t you?”
Kole smiled as she thought of the curly-haired hero. “He’s wonderful,” she gushed. “He paints, he plays guitar, he writes poems. What woman would not love him?”
Gar turned to a snake and curled around her legs. “Listen, Kole, I’m something of a charmer myself, get it? Snake charmer?” he said. Kory laughed as Kole forcefully pushed him away.
Artemis sat near Hippolyta, who tried to hide her worry but failed. I pray to Hera that Mother does not lose Diana a second time, she mused. Her guilt over their troubled past haunts her so.