Late Monday afternoon found a weary but excited Wendy Doe sinking down on her bed and sighing with relief.
Tatsu Yamashiro knocked on her open door, then stepped inside with her characteristic grace. “How did things go today?” she asked.
Wendy smiled and sat up. “Great!” she said. “Ms. Dempsey agreed to be my sponsor. I ran through one regular cheer, and she helped me fix up a new one totally my own! She says she thinks I’ll earn one of the spots on Wednesday!”
Tatsu nodded and said, “I am happy for you. You have worked hard all weekend. How many openings are there?”
“Well, seven, I think,” said Wendy.
Tatsu frowned and drew closer to the pretty blonde teen. “What is troubling you? I can tell you are concerned about something. Did Gabrielle and you have a spat?”
“Yes, I mean… no, I don’t think so,” said Wendy. “She didn’t wait for me. She just left earlier. I think she skipped band practice. She wasn’t home when I got here. Do you think she’s mad about something? Have I been too pom-pom crazy?”
“No,” said Tatsu. “Don’t be silly. She was as excited about it as you were.” She was careful to reassure Wendy, since she was all too aware of the girl’s low self-esteem. Years of being insulted by her real sister had left their mark on her psyche. She was emotionally fragile in many ways and desperately sought reassurance from her new family. “When I pulled into the drive, I saw her playing with her kitten in the rear of the estate,” she continued. “She did seem a bit preoccupied. She ignored my greeting. Let’s go talk with her.”
Wendy nodded, and the two women made their way down to where Gaby could be seen watching a kitten as it rested on a low stone wall.
“Gaby, are you ill?” asked Tatsu. “You’ve been acting oddly since you arrived. We were worried about you.”
Gaby turned and faced the others with a pleasant smile on her face. While her expression did not change, her entire demeanor abruptly shifted until a man in a hooded green robe stood before them where the girl had been seconds earlier.
Tatsu stepped protectively in front of Wendy and said, “Who are you? What is the meaning of this?”
The hooded man laughed and said, “The meaning? Well, I’m not much for philosophy, but if you want a more specific answer, I can tell you that you’ve been had! I’m Holo. See, I used my ability to cloak myself in a holographic display to pose as your girl long enough to occupy you folks. I couldn’t talk, of course. That would blow my cover, but I figured a bit of moody teen angst might just be the explanation you’d come to for why Blondie was all silent and sulky!”
“Where is Gabrielle?” demanded Tatsu fiercely.
“Some of my allies nabbed her right after her final class,” he said. “Let me tell you, it was a blast to walk around that school with my Gaby holo up. You’d be surprised at the things I saw!”
“If you’ve hurt her, you’ll be sorry!” cried Wendy. She rushed at him, only to pass directly through the light-based illusion.
“He could be anywhere,” warned Tatsu. “Apparently he can generate the appearance of anyone or anything! The empty air we think we’re seeing could hide him!”
She searched the grounds with a quick but careful turn of her head. “There! The wind is blowing, but the grass to the left is not moving! That means we’re not really seeing the actual grass, but a hologram!”
She dived forward and connected with an unseen figure. Three swift jabs left him stunned and visible beneath her.
“You got him!” said Wendy. “I guess I could have found him by wind generation! I could have swept him off the ground with a mini-whirlwind! I didn’t think in time!”
Tatsu snapped a small device off the fallen man’s chest and said, “This projection machine created the holograms. Summon the others. We must find Gaby swiftly. The fact that our enemy knew so much about us suggests he is a capable and deadly foe.”
Wendy allowed a carefully contained whirlwind to lift her skyward as she hurried toward the house with all thoughts of cheerleading replaced by concern for her sister.
Later, a concerned group of Outsiders surrounded the bound Holo and questioned him in a grimly determined manner.
Katana fingered her sword’s hilt as she glared at the captive. “You have clearly been deserted by your allies,” she said. “You now owe them nothing. You have a duty to preserve yourself if possible. You may do so if — and only if — you reveal the nature of your mission and where our friend has been taken!”
Holo was a rather ordinary man with thinning hair and a slight paunch, but his fingerprints revealed little about him except that he was a career criminal with a record of petty thefts.
“Your name is Eric Lindsey,” said Negative Woman as she stepped closer to him. “Nothing in your past suggests you could gain access to equipment like the device you used to generate the hologram.”
Black Lightning nodded and said, “I’d talk, if I was you. See, I’m a walking dynamo. Celsius, over there, can give you frostbite or sunburn any place she wants, but Katana and Negative Woman are the really mean ones. You don’t want to make them any angrier!”
Lindsey swallowed hard as he looked back and forth from the grim swordswoman to the blonde whose face and body were wrapped in eerie bandages. “I’m no fool! I was cocky. I thought I could waltz in and out and make you all look like dopes. I was wrong. You got me! Still, like you said, my pals don’t care about me. I’ll talk!”
“Who are you working with, and why did you take Gaby?” demanded Celsius.
He frowned as his eyes widened in surprise, and he gasped, “I don’t know! So help me, I can’t remember! I don’t even know how I got this costume! Last thing I recall was being released from jail!”
“He is telling the truth,” said Negative Woman. “Some type of post-hypnotic suggestion has been activated by the sound of his full name or some other mental trigger.”
“The wise ones who raised me spoke of such means of mental domination,” said Celsius. “Perhaps we may break through the barriers imposed upon his mind.”
Geo-Force entered the room and said, “There is no need. I’ve brought the best way to find her. Batman graciously shortened the trip by giving us use of the JLA Satellite’s transporter. Placing such a device in my homeland was considerate and brilliant of him.” He stepped aside to reveal an elderly woman with iron gray hair.
“Dr. Jace? Of course! You can trace Halo’s unique energy signature!” said Black Lightning.
Helga Jace, the grim-looking scientist from Markovia, nodded and said, “I have done so. This device will guide you to her.”
Black Lightning smiled and said, “Lady, remind me to send you roses as soon as we get back with Halo!”
Shortly thereafter, the Outsiders had used the small detection device to locate their missing partner within the spacious confines of the closed Krohn’s Observatory in Eden Park.
“Lightning, I am curious about the nature of this device,” said Celsius. “What is it about Halo that enables it to detect her? I am rather troubled by the idea that mutants could be singled out from the rest of humanity by such detectors. In the wrong hands, such technology could be used to persecute those who are different due to their birth powers!”
“Don’t worry,” said Black Lightning. “The device doesn’t seek out mutants. Halo is not a mutant. I suppose we should have shared her origin with you and Val earlier. She’s a bit sensitive about it. She ran away right after she first learned the truth about herself. That is one reason we’ve avoided the topic ever since.”
“The story is complex,” explained Katana. “I may abridge it at the cost of some details. When a girl named Violet Harper was murdered, an observing being of pure energy or light inhabited her body. We learned the entity was known as an Aurakle, and it was this being of sentient light that bonded with Violet’s body to create Halo. Batman named her Halo when he found her as a ‘newborn’ of sorts. She had no memory of either of her past lives. When she learned the truth, it frightened her. She had to come to terms with mortality, which is apparently not an issue for the Aurakles.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Who She is and How She Came to Be,” Batman and the Outsiders #22 (June, 1985).]
The poor child! thought Negative Woman. Perhaps I am not as much of a true outsider as I thought! I am still human!”
Arani Caulder nodded and said, “I see. So Dr. Jace’s device detects the Aurakle energy within Halo.”
“Exactly,” said Katana. “Now we must be swift!”
Negative Woman said, “Allow me to fly ahead in my energy form!” The Soviet blonde collapsed into Geo-Force’s waiting arms as a purple-black feminine-shaped being of crackling energy emerged from her still body and soared into the observatory. The others followed quickly as strange sounds filled the darkened observatory.
As the Outsiders rushed deeper inside the building, they saw Negative Woman’s powerful energy being hovering overhead within what appeared to be a giant vise of solid light. She would emerge from its confines, only to be caught in a rapidly re-forming new construct.
A big man with a long beard stood directly before the struggling woman, and his gloved hands gleamed with a brilliant glow. “I’ll crush her like a bug!” he bellowed.
Geo-Force started to leap into action when he felt his willpower begin to fade away. He still held Valentina’s human body, but otherwise he could neither move nor speak. Little lights flickered before his eyes.
As Negative Woman was continually swallowed up by various light-based shapes, several sinister figures appeared to cheer on the big man with the beard.
“Good going, Hardlight! That thing can pass through solid matter, but your light constructs are slowing her down!” said a blurry figure in gold and black. The super-swift man spoke in a reedy, high-pitched voice, but his rapidly speeding form was too indistinct to be glimpsed clearly. He circled Celsius like a living whirlwind and used his speed to weave in and out of her heat or cold blasts.
Before the Indian beauty could react, he was upon her, and his flying fists had battered her to the ground. He stopped to stand over her still form, displaying a gold and black costume that was decorated with a small letter C within a larger letter V, and nodded admiringly. “She is a real doll! I hated to damage the goods!” he said.
Black Lightning leaped forward to stand protectively over Celisus, and he said, “Get away from her! What’s the C.V. for? Captain Velocity?”
The other man laughed and said, “The C stands for Celeritus, as Asimov renamed the C that once stood for constant in the equation for the speed of light. The V is for the earlier symbol for light speed!”
Black Lightning’s fists crackled with electrical power as he circled the other man. “I asked for your name, not for a fast fact!” he said.
Meanwhile, Windfall concentrated and created a tightly focused whirlwind that swept toward two other costumed figures.
A strikingly lovely woman with pale white skin and elaborately upswept black hair that was pulled back from her face except for two dangling curls that framed her narrow cheeks wore a leotard that was colored in contrasting bands of white and black that met at her torso to become solid gray. She glanced over at a second woman who wore a long gown of midnight black. “I’ll hand the others!” she said as she turned into a shadow and moved straight through the windstorm without any visible effect.
“Sure, Chiaroscuro,” said the woman in the gown as her own long, reddish hair fell wildly across her face, and she fought to keep her footing against the buffeting winds.
Windfall smiled as she drew closer to the woman. She was winning. Hopefully, they would soon find and rescue Gaby. Her smile faded as the black-clad woman touched her face, and her world became pitch dark. She cried out, “I can’t see!”
A gloating voice grated in her ears before a fist connected with her head, and she knew no more. “That’s why I’m called Blackout! I can absorb all light, including the light you need in order to see!”
Katana had hurled a throwing star at the slinky woman called Chiaroscuro, but the weapon passed through her shadowy form. She became solid again as a blinding flash of light erupted from her body and blinded the Japanese warrior-woman.
But Katana did not stop fighting with the brief loss of her sight. She instead lashed out with a spinning kick that flattened the startled villainess.
“Help me!” she cried as she returned to shadow form, and the light faded to normal levels.
The brute called Hardlight released Negative Woman and sent a solid light javelin into Katana’s head, and she collapsed.
Geo-Force found his own path blocked by a woman who seemed to be transparent. “Step aside! I don’t want to harm you!” he said in a stentorian tone.
“I’m Crystal,” she said. “You can call me the Prismatic Girl!”
The Markovian marvel had already hesitated as Negative Woman’s energy being was surrounded by a narrow tunnel of hard light that led her directly into a leaden safe that slammed shut behind her. Now he stood mesmerized by the glistening Prismatic Girl as tiny pinpoints of light danced before his eyes.
“He’s all yours, Bruno!” she said. “My hypnotic power has sapped his will!”
Hardlight nodded and started to pummel the dazed hero with solid light projectiles. Geo-Force fell beneath the onslaught but rose up again as if the physical contact had shaken the other woman’s mental hold. He slammed into the bigger man and flattened him with a stinging punch that sent him crashing to the ground like a falling tree.
Geo-Force saw Black Lightning triumph over Celeritas by generating a widespread burst of electrical energy that managed to touch the darting speedster. Before Brion Markov could continue his own actions, Blackout had touched him, and his eyesight had failed. By my crown! he thought as he lost his way beneath inky darkness. Finally, even Geo-Force fell as a bolt of blazing energy struck him from behind.
Black Lightning frowned as he recognized the newcomer. “Doctor Light!” he said. “You’re the jerk who set this whole thing up! All their powers revolve around some misuse of light! It figures!”
A man in white with a black goatee bowed low as he stepped forward. “Of course! Is that not fitting for a team known as the Light Brigade?” he asked.
Black Lightning failed to see a bolt from Hardlight as it snaked around the room and caught him from behind. He fell to the ground as Doctor Light smiled triumphantly.
“Well done!” said Light. “Even with the loss of Holo, this is a victory!”
“You are going to free him, ain’t you?” asked Blackout.
“Perhaps, in due time,” said Doctor Light. “Still, I have larger concerns! He can’t harm me. As soon as Holo hears his full name spoken aloud, he will lose all memory of his time with us. That is why I had Prismatic Girl use her hypnotic powers on the team. None of you will endanger the rest of us. It is for the greater good!” The others exchanged concerned glances as their leader boasted of his triumph.
“Secure them,” he said. “I have work to do. I’ve planned this for a long time. Oh, it is true, I allowed other endeavors such as my humbling of Superman in Japan to delay me, but it was never fully out of my mind of off my agenda!” (*) He walked deeper into the hideout as his team obeyed his commands.
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Comics Presents: Superman and Doctor Light: Reflections and Refractions.]
“We gotta do what he says. I mean, he can turn off all our powers at will!” whispered Blackout.
Chiaroscuro nodded and said, “He made us what we are. He calls the shots. I can live with it!”
Prismatic Girl sniffed disdainfully. “What choice do we have?” she said.