Looker, Halo, Windfall, and Katana awoke to find themselves bound in power-deadening manacles.
New-Wave gripped Wendy’s chin and said, “I shall kill you after I kill your little friend, you weak traitor.”
“No, Becky!” cried out Wendy. “Please don’t hurt Gaby. I am the one you hate!”
“I hate you all!” laughed New-Wave madly.
Kyack also laughed as he led out his evil cloned ally. “Bedlam!” cried Katana. “You, back once more? Incredible!”
“Indeed, I have returned,” said Baron Bedlam, “and that is all the worse for you, my old foes.”
“Halo, are you OK?” whispered Wendy.
The pretty blond smiled and said, “Yes. Just feeling so helpless.”
Looker frowned. “Helpless isn’t the worst part. Have you seen my hair? It is a total fright!” Halo knew — or thought she knew — that Lia Briggs was merely joking to raise their spirits.
Bedlam turned to Kyack and said, “These women have allies who will come for them, allies for whom I possess a special hatred. Allow me to rid your kingdom of them, if you will.”
Kyack grinned with pleasure. “Certainly! And what may I do for you in return?”
Baron Bedlam smiled coldly. “When the time is right, I shall inform you.”
The male Outsiders knew their foes were the Masters of Disaster and assumed that they could handle them as they had in the past, so they hurried to the land of Abyssia, where they were greeted by a sight of destruction and conquest.
“Man!” said Black Lightning, whistling. “Kyack must be pretty brutal to have trashed this pocket kingdom so completely. I see traces of burning and frost from Heatstroke and Coldsnap. That has to mean the M. of D., all right.”
Metamorpho nodded. “Look — over there!” he cried. “A survivor. Hey, honey, let us talk to you. We mean no harm.” A small girl peeped out from the rubble and approached the men. “Here, see what I can do,” he said, reshaping his hands into odd shapes.
The girl smiled and said, “You’re silly.”
“Sure he is, but we keep him around, anyway,” said Black Lightning.
“Who did this?” asked Geo-Force. “Were there any women with odd costumes fighting your invaders? One with big glowing eyes and another with a sharp sword?”
She nodded. “They got taken away.”
“So he does have Looker and the others,” Geo-Force concluded grimly.
“Then let’s go free them and trash the Masters for good,” said Black Lightning.
The castle of Kyack the Cruel was large and foreboding. Geo-Force nullified gravity to allow his allies to fly in his wake toward the old castle.
“I wish that Vee-Raa babe had joined us,” said Metamorpho. “She was so worried about her folks that she insisted on staying back in their kingdom.”
“She would have been a fine guide,” said Geo-Force. “Still, we shall triumph.”
They entered the castle and noticed few occupants in sight. “They must be down below in the lower levels,” said Black Lightning. “These upper areas seem unused.” Slowly making their way down, they stopped when they heard someone approaching. “Get back,” whispered Lightning.
Guards approached with the air of men about to do some distasteful duty. “I don’t like taking orders from that outworlder,” said a barbaric-looking guard. “His red uniform and that weird scar marks him as one with the madness of those who dwell in the sunlit realms.”
“They are all demons,” said a second.
“Still, this Baron pleases Kyack, and we fail Kyack at peril of our lives.”
Geo-Force hissed, “Baron? Not that viper Bedlam!”
Black Lightning hushed his excited partner, but it was too late.
“Who’s there?” cried a guard. “More outworlders!”
Metmorpho had flattened himself on the floor beneath the guard’s feet, and now he rose up to bring them all down to the floor. Black Lightning touched his friend’s suddenly liquid form, and the troops fell to the ground, stunned by his expertly regulated shock.
“Smooth work, bud,” said Rex.
They hurried down the stairs to find cells full of captured Abyssians, including Rema, who recognized the male Outsiders from their last visit, when Emily Briggs had been transformed into Looker as the last descendant of Abyssia’s founder.
“You are friends of the heir!” she said.
“She does spend way too much time on her locks,” joked Metamorpho.
“Yes, we are — where is she?” asked Black Lightning.
“She was taken with the other women warriors to be executed by Baron Bedlam!” said Rema.
“We shall save them and return to free all of you,” promised Geo-Force as he hurried the others onward.
“Settle down, Brion,” said Metamorpho. “We’ll save them.”
“Yes, but this matter is more than a mere rescue of beloved allies,” said the prince of Markovia, “it is also a matter of justice for the worst foe my people have ever known. No longer shall Bedlam be allowed to go free to plague those helpless against his vile aggression. This I swear!”
The Masters of Disaster watched as Baron Bedlam supervised the final execution of the female Outsiders.
“What’s he doin’?” asked Shakedown.
“He’s using the white light of that meteor thingie to slay them,” said Coldsnap. “Or that seems to be his plan.”
“Yeah, some kind of radiation from that thing must be the means of their death,” said Heatstroke.
“I hope it flails the skin from Windfall’s body,” said her demented sister, New-Wave.
The Outsiders were still bound by the power-dampening clamps, and they knew the radioactive meteor’s power could prove deadly at close exposure.
“I have a feeling that I am immune to the meteor’s power, since energy like that one made me the gorgeous thing you see before you,” said Looker.
“I hope you are correct,” offered Katana. “But I am freeing my hands slowly, too.”
“Good. I knew no trap could hold you, Tatsu,” said Halo.
Windfall looked scared as the cart that held them moved slowly nearer the hovering comet.
The radiation will kill them, mused Baron Bedlam. And then I will use that meteor’s power for a greater purpose.
Kyack stood by his allies. “Victory is ours, and I owe it to you all.”
“All debts will be paid in full,” promised Bedlam.
At that moment the Outsiders struck, and Black Lightning led the attack. As Jefferson Pierce, he had been an Olympian and still had all the right moves as he darted through the guards. With electrical energy flaring, he confronted the Masters of Disaster.
“You! I’d love the chance to kill you, sparky,” said New-Wave.
“You just can’t take the fact that I make you all steamed,” said Black Lightning as his current surged through the water-woman, leaving her displaced and helpless for the moment.
Geo-Force sought to finish Baron Bedlam as he had before and offered no banter as he crashed at full force into Shakedown and carried the bruiser high into the sky. He pounded the hulking man without comment as he scanned the crowd below for his hated foe. Seeing him, he threw Shakedown’s battered form directly at Bedlam, who screamed and fled at the sight of the Markovian avenger.
“The Outsiders!” Halo cried happily as her teammates came into view.
Metamorpho had stayed in a gaseous form and now hovered over his female partners. Swooping down to shatter their bonds, he suddenly yelped in pain as Heatstroke and Coldsnap attacked his now-solid form. Looker sat up and blasted Coldsnap with a mental bolt, and he fell to the ground, where Katana kicked him in the face. Halo blasted Syonide aside with her tractor beam and towed the raging contract killer with a special whip across the field until she slammed into the re-formed New-Wave. The current from Syonide’s whip scattered New-Wave once more, to her helpless rage.
Windfall blew Kyack to his knees with a gust of localized wind. “Bow to me, bigshot!” she teased.
As Syonide wearily struggled to her feet, Katana struck out with a spinning side-kick that shattered her nose and left her helpless.
“Halo, where is Bedlam?” asked Geo-Force as he searched for his old foe. “Can you spot him from on high?”
“No luck from here,” she cried.
Then they spotted Baron Bedlam. He had added a device of his own to the white-hot radioactive meteor. “No use fighting me, you clod!” he cried. “I will activate the lethal power of this meteor to destroy your precious Markovia if it takes my life doing so. This focusing device will release its power in one burst directly at your home!”
“No! You’ll plunge this world into darkness and cold!” cried Kyack.
“Oh, never fear,” called Starstriker as he and Prince Raynor zoomed into view. “He won’t do anything like that! I will absorb the meteor’s power myself! Of course, the effect for you folks will be roughly the same.”
“Stop him!” cried Kyack.
Windfall flew upward along with Halo as they tried to stop the meteor’s powers from being used by either faction. Halo created a force beam around it, only to be slapped down by Raynor.
“No one touches my power source,” cried Starstriker. “A comet gave me power at my birth, and no one will stop me from reclaiming it all with the use of this meteor.”
“So that’s the nutcase who enslaved Raynor!” cried Metamorpho. “We take him down, and Raynor’s back to his old self.”
Looker flew toward them and waited. Starstriker had mental powers and flight but seemed drained of his other old abilities. Hadn’t she read something recently about him being beaten by that hunky Captain Comet? (*) She bided her time even as her friends fell to the handsome Prince Raynor’s power.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Heroes and Villains, Chapter 3: The Conjunction.]
Geo-Force swatted several guards aside, grimly using his energy to close in on Baron Bedlam, who was trying to activate his ray-beam before Starstriker could absorb the meteor’s power. Black Lightning blasted at Prince Raynor to no avail.
Metamorpho slipped nearer the radioactive meteor in the form of a nearly invisible gas and flattened himself across its glowing crust. Pain is terrific. Got to hold out, he thought. And he did the job well, blocking the stellar fire from both men who sought to master its deadly force. But they both noticed him at the same moment.
Coldsnap and Heatstroke flew forward and tried to blast Metamorpho away for their leader. The hero shimmered, and as a mirror-like sheath, he reflected the energy of their twin blasts — as well as some of the meteor’s power — back at the couple. The two screamed and fell to earth, only to merge and lay still as an alternatingly male and female being of fire and ice.
“What did I do?” wondered Rex Mason, witnessing the shocking sight.
Geo-Force saw Starstriker make his move and did something that was difficult for this prince. He trusted his team to handle Baron Bedlam while he personally slammed into the protective Prince Raynor. Looker was one step ahead of him, and when she saw her chance, she drew close and kissed Starstriker on the lips. The mutant villain was startled, and her overwhelming personal mental energies shocked him so that he lost his hold on Raynor. Seeing this, Geo-Force cried, “Stop Bedlam with your power, Raynor!”
Prince Raynor turned, and with Geo-Force in tow, he tore the energy-focusing device free and threw it directly at Baron Bedlam. The cloned tyrant screamed as it released a fraction of its might, not at Starstriker, who could have absorbed it, but at the Baron, who burned and vanished as if he had never been reborn. Looker led the now-docile Starstriker back down to the ground.
The Outsiders glanced around the scene. Baron Bedlam was gone, slain by the royal pair as if by their own regal sense of justice. The Masters of Disaster were beaten, with Heatstroke and Coldsnap lying unconscious and merged as one strange being. Kyack and his humbled warriors stood by helplessly at the destruction wrought by his former allies. Prince Raynor, freed from Starstriker’s hold, thanked them all profusely.
The white radioactive meteor pulsed and gave its light and energy to the Inner-World once more.
At a peace banquet for the now-tranquil leaders of the subterranean lands, the Outsiders were honored by the people of Abyssia, led by Rema, and by Prince Raynor and Princess Vee-Raa’s parents, who ruled the Inner-World.
“We are allowing Kyack’s realm to be governed by a ruler selected by the underground people,” said Rema. “He rots in jail for his crimes, which should please your outer world Superman, who once battled him as a young man.”
“I thank you for freeing my mind,” said Prince Raynor. “I have much to do here to atone for what Starstriker ordered me to do when he controlled me.”
His father stood tall and said, “It is time our two worlds found some common ground. I wish for the Princess Vee-Raa to join you above and use her powers to aid you Outsiders in your duties.”
Princess Vee-Raa smiled, delighted at the news. “Father, I would love that. And perhaps I might see Superman once more. I have much to apologize for.”
She explained how she and her brother had once come up with a scheme to win the hearts of both Superman and his cousin Supergirl of the upper world and take them as their consorts. The princess was the first to make her move, introducing herself to Superman as a visiting alien on Earth called Princess Vee-Raa of Galaxy XL-9. She and Superman together flew off to explore the solar system.
Shortly after, Prince Raynor posed as a fellow Stanhope University student named Steve Robbins. It was under this guise that he won the heart of Linda Danvers, the secret identity of Supergirl, and soon revealed his true identity and powers and even proposed. Supergirl, completely smitten by this young man with powers like hers, eagerly agreed and went with him to his homeland of the Inner-World to meet his parents, sending a message to Superman about the upcoming nuptials. But the radioactive meteor that shone white light over the Inner-World also sapped Supergirl of her powers. Even though Supergirl was convinced it was a temporary effect caused by something like red kryptonite, Prince Raynor insisted that she return to the surface world for her own good and his. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Jilting of Supergirl,” Adventure Comics #385 (October, 1969) for the first appearance of Prince Raynor and Princess Vee-Raa, who indeed posed as a princess from Galaxy XL-9, but her part in that story was never revealed until now.]
Meanwhile, as Princess Vee-Raa of Galaxy XL-9, Vee-Raa had also failed. But unlike Raynor, she simply hadn’t been able to win the heart of her potential mate, even with the super-powers she had on the surface world and in outer space. Superman was much too focused on his career as the world’s greatest super-hero to give that up to become romantically involved with her, let alone marry her. He had even guessed she was not of extraterrestrial origin when he found that she lacked even basic knowledge of the stars; after all, her subterranean world knew almost nothing of the skies. She returned to the Inner-World, where she lacked super-powers, and shared her brother’s disappointment. Although she had given up on making Superman her consort, she still wanted to offer him an apology for her deception years ago. She also wanted to offer him her condolences for the death of his cousin Supergirl, which the Outsiders had told her about.
Finishing her story, she turned to her father and asked, “I will still gain super-powers in the world above by using the chalice nectar, right?”
King Nobic smiled at his beautiful daughter. “Indeed, the chalice nectar that allows your brother to be superhuman everywhere still gives you such power in the world above alone,” he explained.
Princess Vee-Raa nodded eagerly and turned to the guests from the upper world. “Then may I join you Outsiders?”
Katana nodded. “Consider yourself one of us for as long as you decide to stay.”
Looker frowned and said teasingly, “Do we really need two leggy redheads on the team?”
The freed Cave Carson and his team laughed as they watched their liberators celebrate their victory. “Rex, needless to say, we will keep our findings to ourself, even though the meteor doesn’t hurt you,” Cave told Metamorpho. “We had no idea Stagg had such lethal intentions. I’d assumed he only backed us in search of more wealth, not to find a weapon to hurt his son-in-law.”
Rex Mason grinned. “Thanks, pal. You’re all right — even the lemur!”
Lena jabbered happily on Bulldozer Smith’s broad shoulders.