Later, Artemis groaned and sat up slowly. She was no longer in the house on Park Place. She was in a wooded glade near Raeburn University, and she could hear snarls and see feral eyes gleaming in the darkness. She pushed herself to her feet and frowned as she noticed that red and white boots had replaced her customary black boots. She also realized that her star-spangled hot pants and golden eagle top came from another famous costume not all that different from the one she had worn as Wonder Girl.
“She dressed me in Diana’s old costume! Why?” she muttered.
Laughter greeted her comment as her foe pounced down from a tree above. “Why? I want to kill Wonder Woman, and you are one of the two closest copies I have left to me!” said the woman in the animal print.
“The Cheetah! I thought you had reformed! Still, with an alias like Panthea and an attack on a lab that used animal experimentation, I should have known it was you,” said Artemis.
“What’s wrong, my pretty? Feeling dizzy? That’s to be expected. I drugged you heavily while you were out cold,” sneered the Cheetah.
“You lured me here on purpose!” cried Artemis as she stalled for time to clear her head.
The Cheetah said, “Right. When you and your hubby showed up at Raeburn, I just couldn’t allow you to escape my wrath. I was so pleased when Terry Long joined the staff. I had planned to attack the town’s lab because of their animal experimentation. You were just a lovely surprise!”
Artemis said, “You used the cybernetic devices to control those poor men. You want their work for yourself.”
The Cheetah hissed like a true feline. “You wrong me! I am the living champion of the natural world. I abhor animal experimentation. I simply used that deluded Brinkley to gain access to his lab, and then I decided to see how he and his friends liked being experimented on themselves. They had mistreated animals for years. I have no desire to use their creation on animals — I merely wanted to stop their work and apply their devices to humans. I value animal life much more than humanity. When you arrived, I gladly waited to order them to destroy the lab until I could use them to lure you here.”
Artemis said, “I can still stop you.” She hurled her lasso as the Cheetah rolled forward and tumbled across the ground just under the lasso.
The Cheetah leaped forward to tackle Artemis and knock her to the ground. Her red claws raked across Artemis’ bare arms as Artemis brought them up along with her legs to flip the Cheetah through the air. As she expected, her feline foe landed on her feet in a feral crouch. She snarled as Artemis kicked out at her and missed by inches.
“You recover quickly. I suppose I should even the playing field. Come, my pets!” she called.
From out of the night emerged three growling catlike humanoids. Artemis gasped as the creatures surrounded her. “These things are mutated animals!” she said.
The Cheetah laughed bitterly. “Get with the program! They are evolved men. I do not experiment on animals. They are my sisters and brothers! I merely offered the gift of transformation to these men. One Dr. Moreau who fought Black Canary and Green Arrow perfected the process.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Marcel Moreau fought Green Arrow and Black Canary in “Isle of Hate, Island of Dreams,” World’s Finest Comics #247 (October-November, 1977). Although Moreau seemingly died in an explosion, he evidently survived.]
Artemis jumped high into the air and landed just beyond the three beast-men. She spun around to kick the first one down as his allies leaped for her nimble form. She hurled herself flat and allowed them to sail over her body. She quickly rose up to snare one with her lasso. She pulled him down and used his bulk to block the path of the remaining creatures.
I don’t wish to hurt these poor victims of Debbi Domaine’s madness! Still, I can’t let them make me their nightly snack, either! she thought.
She wrestled the huge, black panther-man down and shoved him into the cheetah-men. A rapid twist of her arm sent the nearest cheetah-man crashing into his partner. Artemis delivered three swift blows directly to their snouts and watched them back away in pain.
They react like animals! Just maybe I can try something new, she mused. “Down! Get down!” she cried in a commanding tone.
The creatures waited in uncertainty.
“You’ve left them so confused that they respond to any female voice!” said Artemis triumphantly. She used the moment of hesitancy to stretch her lasso around them with the speed of Hermes.
The Cheetah growled and said, “Little does it matter! I have the cyber-technology. I have Moreau’s process. I have destroyed Raeburn’s little torture chamber. I’ve bested you in battle. Oh, and I delivered a warning to one of the worst polluters in the nation! Mr. Preston Wainwright should know by now that those who harm nature suffer the claws of the Cheetah!”
Artemis stopped in her tracks. “Wainwright! No, you didn’t!”
The Cheetah laughed. “Right, Donna, honey! I captured Wainwright’s trophy girlfriend, Marcia Long. I only meant to use her to force him to stop the polluting ways of his company, but she was wearing a fur coat. That made me angry enough to deliver a fatal lesson to her boyfriend. I skinned Marcia and sent her carcass to his office!”
Artemis gasped in shock, not only at this horrible act but the fact that she realized Cheetah knew her real name. She thought of Jennifer and Terry and the pain they would feel at the murder of Marcia Long. She had always been rude to Donna, but she was Jennifer’s mother.
“How could you? It gives you pleasure to hurt others! You knew of her connection to my family!” cried Artemis.
The Cheetah raised one hand and idly licked it clean. “My, how angry you are! How like a mother defending her cubs! I admit that the fact that the late and now bare Mrs. Long was connected to you made me crueler than I might have been otherwise. You should really get a mask. Kory Anders is obviously Starfire, and her photographer Donna Long is clearly her partner Artemis. It took little deduction.”
Artemis jumped through the air to grab at the Cheetah’s foot, but the agile female dodged and clicked a switch on a device in her palm. The explosion shook the night air as flames spouted back at the college’s lab. Artemis could just see the smoke.
“I’d run into town and put out the fires, if I were you. I left that little bomb there when I first seduced Brinkley. It should give me time to escape. Ta-ta for now!” the Cheetah said in a mocking tone as she pursed her lips and blew a kiss to Artemis.
Artemis frowned and ran for the nearby community. The beast-men were bound by her lasso, and she knew she’d see the Cheetah again. She had to help put out the fire before others died.
Poor Marcia! What am I going to do? How can I tell Jen and Terry? I guess Jen will need to move in with us now, she thought as her mind reeled at the sudden shock.
She soon reached the burning science building and joined firemen into smothering the blaze.
She noticed Terry and Jen watching from the parking lot. She knew they had not heard about Marcia’s murder yet. Wainwright would be getting the grim news now, too. She realized that her sister’s old foe was back with a vengeance, and already many lives would never be the same.