Liz Jones spent over six months at Blair House. During that time, the violet-eyed woman worked out extensively and dieted according to Donna Adams’ strict but efficient regime. She admired her own reflection in the gym mirror one day near the end of her sixth month with the other two women. I never expected to be able to wear my Dragon Fly costume again! she thought. I actually look pretty good, too. Nowadays I do wonder about the revealed stomach style, but then again I’ve got my abs back, so the fact that I was a rash kid when I designed this outfit doesn’t matter so much!
She did look impressive, and she felt good about herself as well. Having a purpose had given her back much of her lost confidence. She had also developed a warm friendship with Donna Adams, and she had gained a sense of hope for her future that extended beyond the cinema-inspired fantasies that had kept her going during her time as a waitress. If we do capture Starfire, it could be the start of a whole new life for me! I’m certain to gain something out of it beyond personal satisfaction. It will be easy to pick up something from Starfire’s base. Cash, jewels, or even a new wardrobe are among the possibilities. Plus, with Starfire deposed, perhaps I could reclaim my old gang! Then again, do I really want to return to crime?
“Penny for your thoughts?” said a cheery voice from above.
Liz gasped and looked up to see Silken Spider standing upside down above her. “Donna! You nearly scared me senseless!” she said. “The way those shoes and gloves allow you to cling to surfaces really lets you get the drop on a gal! I bet you really excite your dates with that kind of agility!”
She winced as her words hung in empty air, and she said, “I’m sorry, Donna! I didn’t even think before I opened my big mouth! I know you still aren’t over poor Dean!”
Donna Adams smiled sadly and dropped down to hug Liz. Donna wore a brief costume of black silk with an elaborate pattern of fishnet hosiery on her otherwise exposed legs and arms. The spiderweb pattern was distinctive, as were her soft brown eyes. “Lizzie, don’t worry about it,” she said. “I do miss Dean. I think about him all the time, in fact, but I’m not some fragile flower that wilts when someone mentions men or life going onward! I will always love him, but I’m able to talk and laugh now, too!”
Liz nodded and said, “You’ve lost so much. I know you said it was the death of your parents that left you stranded and vulnerable to Starfire when you were a girl in Europe. Your Dean was a special guy. He stood by you during your time in jail!”
Donna smiled, seemingly gazing at something or someone beyond Liz’s range of vision as she recalled her husband. “Dean was big, strong, loyal, and able to make me feel secure and loved. He was my lawyer at first, but we soon fell in love, and he remained faithful during my years in prison. I came to love him, and when I got out, we married. It was blissful. I know that sounds trite or like something from one of those old sitcoms. Still, it was true! I was brokenhearted when he died. I had dinner on, and I was putting on some music when the police came to tell me that he had been shot. They caught the young punk who mugged him, but I really didn’t care about that. I didn’t want to get revenge. I just wanted Dean back. I still do!”
Kitty Blair flew inside the gym in her own orange and black Tiger Moth costume. “Ladies, I have news for you both. My sources have located Starfire. She has been living in seclusion in Italy. It cost my father a pretty sum, but out of the dozen private investigators I hired, one of them came up with exactly what we wanted. I found out about one of her lairs months ago, but it turned out to be a dead end. Fire gutted the place shortly afterward. She has been very careful in keeping her existence a secret. From what I was able to gather, she even managed to fool her old enemy, the late Supergirl, into thinking that she had died during their last encounter years ago!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Starfire’s Revenge,” Adventure Comics #405 (April, 1971); unknown to Kitty, Starfire resurfaced not long after and was finally arrested by Supergirl in “Suspicion Confirmed,” Adventure Comics #407 (June, 1971), though she likely escaped soon after.]
Having noticed the warmth between the two women, Kitty understood all too well that they had just shared some emotional moment. She knew that while she had won Donna’s loyalty and devotion, she had no claim on her affection, nor did she desire anything from either of them except for their service in her cause. She dismissed things like friendship with the casual disdain of a superficial woman who never really valued anything she had.
“Kitty, I see you’ve mastered the flight capability of your costume!” said Donna. “That would have made you far more capable years ago. You could have escaped from Batman and Robin had you possessed that technology years ago!”
“When I’m in costume, I prefer to be called Tiger Moth,” said Kitty. “Still, you have a point. That is why, during my time in prison, I hired several agents to secure this kind of technology for my future use. I even managed to acquire the hidden technology of a dead genius that had a fixation with insects. I figured we could employ the fruits of his labors, since we all have insect motifs!”
“I have to admit that you’ve really improved my old gear,” said Liz. “I could give Batman a good fight with this kind of weaponry! Not that I have any desire to tangle with him again!”
“That is wise,” said Kitty. “I learned a very powerful lesson in humility when Batman and Robin took us all away. I had such an ego back then! I had managed to control a whole gang. I was measuring all my foes by the standards of the rival gangsters, thugs, or witless police and private security teams I always beat! Little did I know that running into Poison Ivy and then Batman would ruin me!”
“I’m surprised you don’t want to hunt down Ivy as well!” said Donna. “Her taunts still annoy me after all these years! She made us all look foolish!”
“Yeah!” said Liz. “I have no problem with whipping her pert little you-know-what if I ever run across her!”
“That would be foolish,” said Kitty. “We have nothing to gain from fighting her. She was nothing more than a pawn of Starfire’s as well. We’ll go to Italy and use the training and gear I’ve given you to bring her down. That will be all the payback I require!”
The three costumed women did exactly what Tiger Moth had stated. They flew to Italy in a rented plane. Donna was a pilot, and she flew with a serenity that made the other two women feel as if their plan was as natural a venture as going on vacation. She smiled as she glanced at the others. They were an odd duo.
Liz is so earthy, but her frankness is refreshing, thought Donna Adams. I also like the way she sees life in a romantic way. You’d expect the one trait to completely make that kind of romanticism impossible. She’s a real living contradiction. As for Kitty, I owe her everything! She’s given me a home and a purpose. I wish I could help her learn to relate to people on a more personal level. She sees everything and everyone as a commodity.
Admiring the view, Liz Jones thought of several old films. I always saw myself as Elizabeth Taylor or Audrey Hepburn during my previous time in Europe. The whole experience was like a great adventure! Being back in Europe brings back those old feelings, but now I see past the glitter. I can’t take anything for granted. Starfire was brilliant when I first met her. She has depths none of us ever imagined. I can only imagine what kind of security she has now. She may have even traded her private army of thugs for super-powered creeps! A lot of them have popped up since I was put in jail!
As for Kitty Blair, she merely brooded, having grown accustomed to her companions, and her previous intellectual curiosity about their individual quirks had faded. Now she saw them as people, and she considered them of value to her beyond mere amusement. She knew that she needed help to bring down Starfire. She was proud, but she was also a good judge of character. She accepted that she simply could not handle the European criminal without assistance. She knew her own feelings of being used and manipulated so long ago colored her every thought where Starfire was concerned.
They were met at the airport by one of Kitty’s staff, and after loading their gear into his car and leaving him at the hotel, they made their way deep into the Italian countryside. They now wore their colorful costumes, except that Tiger Moth’s mask was on the dashboard.
As they reached an isolated region with mostly agricultural land and a few villas, Kitty pulled off the road. “We’re about two miles from Starfire’s villa. The detective I hired is certain that this is where our old mentor is hiding out. I suppose we need to split up and approach the place as we discussed earlier. You are all familiar with the lay of the land? The photos I paid for were accurate and revealing. The sleuth came through for us in spite of her rather eccentric appearance and her curious partner.” She placed her black mask over her eyes and flew into the twilight.
Dragon Fly and Silken Spider watched her disappear silently into the deepening shadows, and they embraced briefly. “Good luck, honey!” said Donna as she fired a thin cable from out of her wristband. It stuck to the walls of a small storage building, and in moments the agile woman had scaled to the roof and vanished over the other side.
Liz whispered her own well-wishes, then ran swiftly across the slightly elevated landscape. She felt the old rush of excitement, and she relished it. I can’t imagine going back to life at Alvin’s Diner! That place and my job there seems like a fading dream! I don’t know what is in store for me but this moment is enough for now! She hid behind an elegantly sculpted hedge and stared up at the old but lovely villa.
Starfire always loved the good life. She surrounded herself with hunks and spent her money like it was going out of style. I can only imagine how she has lived it up these last few years. I guess she laughed at us all! She used us and eliminated us without a thought. She’ll pay for that now!
Dragon Fly spotted three men in costly suits and dark glasses who were clearly guards. Smiling, she opened a small pouch concealed on her hip. Removing a sphere from it, she flipped a switch, then hurled it in their path.
A shrill sound echoed along the terrace, and they grabbed their ears in pain.
Dragon Fly moved swiftly, crossing the open area before they could react. She could ignore the shrill siren because of special plugs she wore within each ear. My Dragon Fly buzz has left them dazed! Now to finish the job with some hands-on action!
Leaping into the air, Dragon Fly performed a perfect flip before landing on one of the thugs. She knocked him into his nearest partner, then punched the third man flat. Her arm hurt slightly from the impact, and she cursed herself for not using her shoulder correctly. Liz was still rusty.
She saw the final man scramble over his fallen pal and draw a small gun. Smiling, she kicked the weapon out of his grip, then spun around and delivered a final stunning kick to his head.
Dragon Fly bent over them and grabbed all their guns. After hurling them into the hedge, she slipped inside the glass doors beyond. That wasn’t bad at all! mused Liz.
Meanwhile, having reached a point high above the villa, Tiger Moth waited for a moment directly above the skylight. Stretching her hands out in front of her, she used the microcircuitry in each glove to generate a pulse of heat that melted the reinforced glass and allowed the lithe blonde easy access. She landed nimbly and smiled as four guards raced in with guns drawn.
“Stay put! Keep your hands behind your head!” shouted the leader of the security team.
Tiger Moth smiled and said, “Certainly! I wouldn’t want to do anything to upset you gentleman!” She placed her hands behind her head.
They circled her, and one drew closer to pat her down. As he touched her back, a blinding flash of intense light erupted, and the men fell back in pain and surprise.
Tiger Moth kicked one man’s weapon aside and melted the other guns to pulp with three bursts of her glove lasers. She belted the final man in the face and smiled as he fell. “I do appreciate the strobe feature built into my suit!” she said. Seeing a long staircase, she flew to the top.
Meanwhile, Silken Spider had crawled through the villa’s narrow air shafts, and now stood over four bound men. Her web line had wrapped them tightly, and she had made it into the house with very little trouble. Jumping into the air, she placed her heels against the roof. She ran across the room and found herself heading up to a narrow landing above a wide staircase. She smiled as she heard noises and met up with her friends.
“We made it! That was almost too easy!” said Dragon Fly.
“She didn’t expect to have to deal with super-powered types,” said Tiger Moth. “Now, let’s get inside that main room. It has a shielded door and looks like it must be her stronghold!”
“My web spray should be able to mess up her electric lock!” said Silken Spider, spraying the gooey substance into the lock. They waited for a few moments. “Now that shut down the defenses built into the door. All we need to do is get it open!”
“Allow me!” said Dragon Fly, throwing herself into the door, which crashed open. “That exoskeleton weave gives me added strength for brief time periods, and still it is so small I can wear this bare-stomached outfit without a budge!” She led the other two inside the room.
It was spacious, and it was quiet. It contained elegant furniture and a large bed. A frail woman stood next to a sleeping woman. “What do you want here?” cried the old woman. “This is a sick room. Have you no decency?”
Tiger Moth gasped and said, “That’s Starfire in the bed! She looks horrible!” She gestured to a gaunt, bald woman who slept fitfully. She wasn’t stirring, in spite of the noise their entrance had made. A simple patch covered one eye.
“She’s my child,” said the old woman. “Starfire was a name she stopped using long ago. We live here and bother no one. She is ill — very ill! Cancer has robbed her of all her old energy!”
Dragon Fly frowned and said, “She used us all! She made us criminals and then set us up to take the fall. We wanted to bring her to justice!”
The old woman laughed bitterly. “There is no justice in this world, and if there was, she has paid in full. Leave us, or end her suffering. I will do nothing. I can do nothing!”
“We’re sorry,” said Silken Spider. “We’re leaving. You have nothing to fear from us!”
Dragon Fly hesitated, and then, as the woman in the bed groaned softly, Lizzie nodded and turned away.
Tiger Moth stared from one to the other, and then, with a last look at the dying woman in the bed, she said, “There is nothing for us here. Why even bother with the authorities? She’s beyond help or harm.”
The trio departed, and as they reached their car after a silent journey, Liz said, “Starfire is dying. That disease has claimed her. We sure can’t do more to her than it already has!”
“I agree,” said Silken Spider. “The fact is, I feel sorry for her.”
“I can’t go that far, but I feel justice has been served,” said Tiger Moth. “I also have an offer for you two. I enjoyed the excitement of this effort. It brought me back to why I first put on this costume. I have more money than I need. Why don’t you two stay at Blair House with me? We could do something. We could be hired agents for those in need.”
“I would love to help people,” said Silken Spider. “I’d like to feel useful.”
“If you’re willing to support me, I’m more than ready to join your team,” said Dragon Fly. “I can’t face life without some thrills again! Maybe we could be like Cannonball, that hero in the reality TV show!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: Cannonball: Hero for Hire.]
Tiger Moth smiled and said, “Or maybe we could just fight crime for kicks. All I know is that, even without getting Starfire as I’d planned, I gained something from this. I want to stay in the costumed life. We can decide what role we’ll play when we get home. We’ve got all the time in the world!”
They drove off into the night, and indeed they did have all the time they wanted.