by Starsky Hutch 76
The Supergirl from 500,000 years in the future swung the detector around wildly in hopes of picking up the energy signature they’d detected only a few moments earlier. A loud series of beeps erupted from the detector, and the needle began darting wildly when it passed over a large rock. It was lead-based, so her x-ray vision could not penetrate it. She tossed the detector aside, then brought her fist up and smashed it into the asteroid, making it explode into a shower of rubble. When the dust cleared, the hilt of the Sword of Superman was revealed.
Supergirl went to reach for it, and it slipped from her grasp. She reached for it a second time, and it slipped away again. “It’s deliberately avoiding me!” Supergirl snapped.
“The legends must be true,” Superwoman said. “But we don’t have time for these games. Not if we’re to save Superman.” She reached out with her tractor beam and pulled it to her, taking the hilt in her hand.
Suddenly, space dust and other matter began to fly toward the hilt, gathering above it to form the blade. “It responds to you,” Supergirl said in awe. “I have Superman’s blood in my veins, yet you were the one who was chosen.”
“No!” King Kosmos shouted, flying toward them. “I will not be denied!”
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you there, pal,” Superwoman said, firing a force blast at him from the mechanism concealed beneath her S-insignia.
“Your attacks are insignificant compared to my righteous anger,” he growled, struggling toward her against the force of the blast.
Supergirl leaped on his back, wrapping her arm around his neck. “He’s… almost as strong as Superman himself!” she gasped.
“Why do you think he sought to imprison me within the very folds of the time barrier?” Kosmos said, grunting beneath Supergirl’s attempted chokehold and Superwoman’s blast. “He was afraid to face me again in my true form. When I have the Sword, the first thing I shall do is recreate it. Then I shall use its blade to sever his head from his neck!” With those words, he reached through Superwoman’s force-field, grabbed ahold of the S-insigna on her chest, and ripped it from her costume in a shower of sparks.
A horrible gasp escaped from Superwoman’s throat. She could feel the circuitry of her suit shutting down. She knew that, in just a few seconds, her unprotected, all-too-human body would be exposed to the vacuum of space and explode into a fine red mist. She wished that they were no longer in space.
As the oxygen escaped her lungs into the vacuum of space, everything started to go black, then a brilliant, blinding white.
“Are you damaged?” Supergirl said, helping Superwoman to her feet.
“Just my modesty,” Superwoman said, looking down at the huge, gaping hole in the front of her costume. “I don’t usually show this much cleavage.”
“That’s right,” Supergirl said. “You still held on to such outdated concepts in your time.”
“If we held on to them, then they weren’t outdated for us,” the twenty-ninth-century Superwoman said, holding her shirt front together and wishing she had a safety pin. Not only was Supergirl’s tone annoying, but it irritated history professor Kristin Wells to hear herself referred to as if she were primitive, when she was from the future as well. (*) Compared to Supergirl from five hundred centuries in the future, though, she was practically prehistoric.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Miracle Monday (1981) by Elliot S! Maggin, “The Last Secret Identity,” DC Comics Presents Annual #2 (1983), and “Welcome to Luthorcon III,” DC Comics Presents Annual #4 (1985).]
She suddenly realized she was back in the Fortress of Solitude. Somehow, wishing they were back while holding the Sword of Superman had brought them there.
“I don’t believe it,” they heard a voice say. They both looked over to see King Kosmos, who was on his knees, staring at his hands in amazement. “I am flesh and blood once more!”
“And so you can receive the thrashing you deserve!” Supergirl shouted, flying toward him.
“Simply because I wear flesh once more, do not think me weak,” Kosmos said, backhanding her and knocking her sideways into the Fortress wall.
Supergirl ripped a thick stalagmite from the ground and sent it flying base first into Kosmos. He let out an oof that was as much of surprise as it was of pain, as it knocked the wind out of him and sent him flying.
King Kosmos returned the favor by firing a blast into the base of a stalactite above, sending it plummeting down on her to drive her into the floor.
I hate being powerless like this, Superwoman thought, having to watch Supergirl try to handle Kosmos by herself. I should be by her side helping her.
King Kosmos released another blast, sending more rubble down on top of Supergirl. He then enveloped it in an aura that bonded it all together, encasing her. “The real Supergirl would not have been so easily defeated,” Kosmos said. “How fortunate you fear your own powers in this era. I can see it in your mind.” He brought his hand up to his lip, looked at his fingers, and laughed. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my own blood.”
He turned his attention back to Superwoman. “The Sword, woman,” he said, holding out his hand.
“Forget it,” she said, backing up.
“Your courage is admirable, but misplaced,” he said, walking toward her. “Without your technology, you are powerless. The only other person with the power to stop me is in no condition to help you. The pallor of death hangs heavy over this dwelling.”
“You’re not getting the Sword,” she said defiantly.
“I grow tired of these games!” he bellowed, grabbing the edges of the rip in her shirt and bringing her face close to his. “Is this really worth dying for?”
He attempted to pry her fingers from the hilt but found they would not budge. To both their shock, when she brought her hand up to his armored chest plate, it bent beneath the pressure of her hand, providing her with the hold she needed to throw him across the room.
Superwoman stared at the hand that had thrown King Kosmos in disbelief. Apparently, wishing she had the power to help in the fight had been enough to give it to her. She was beginning to understand why Superman had found having the power of the Sword of Superman to be too much of a temptation.
“Your physiology has been transformed to that of a Kryptonian,” Kosmos said, sitting up and then rising to his feet. “But it will not be enough to help you. I have beaten Superman in the past. A female certainly won’t be enough to stop me.”
“How about two females?” Supergirl said, bursting forth from her prison of rock and ice. She quickly looped her arms in his, pinning them behind his back. Superwoman locked her fists together and delivered a hammering blow to his head.
“Enough!” King Kosmos shouted in outrage, issuing a blast aura that knocked them both away from him. One Kryptonian he could handle. But two?
“I have not come so far to be beaten by the likes of you!” he said, fleeing. “If your power is too much for me, then I shall turn all the weapons of Superman’s Fortress against you.”
Suddenly, the many weapons Superman had taken as trophies over the years came to life and began to turn in their direction. As the rays from several blasters began firing wildly, the two criss-crossed around them in a deadly obstacle course as they flew after their foe in pursuit. One errant beam struck Superwoman, knocking her from the air. As she plummeted, she collided with two more beams.
“Superwoman!” Supergirl exclaimed, dodging beams as she flew to where Superwoman lay.
“I’m OK,” Superwoman said. “But I’m glad I’m invulnerable now. Otherwise, there’d be nothing left of me.” She looked at the tattered remains of her cape and the enormous hole now in the side of one of her leggings. “First thing after this is over, I’m going to New Krypton to have a new costume made.”
King Kosmos laughed as he looked back to see Superwoman struggling to her feet, helped by Supergirl. He stopped short when he realized there was someone in front of him. The weapons suddenly shut off.
“What are you doing in my Fortress?” Superman demanded, trying to sound forceful despite the fact that he was weaving as he stood there in his sleeping clothes.
“Ah, the sleeper awakes,” Kosmos said. “You look like hell, my friend. Allow me to put you out of your misery.”
Superwoman realized with horror that one of the rays had sliced through her belt that had held the Sword to her side. Kosmos held out his hand and began to pull it toward him telekinetically. “I’ve waited a long time for this moment,” he said with grim satisfaction.
“You’ll have to wait a bit longer,” Supergirl said. In front of her sat the Phantom Zone projector. She pressed the button, and Kosmos was suddenly engulfed in dark light. He let out an anguished scream as he vanished, and the Sword of Superman dropped to the floor.
“I believe this belongs to you,” Superwoman said, stepping forward to lift the Sword from the floor and hand it to him. As he placed his hand on the hilt once more, Superman was suddenly engulfed in a bright aura, and the greenish hue of kryptonite poisoning began to leave his skin as health and vigor returned to him. His sleeping clothes were also transformed to his familiar uniform as the aura subsided.
“Looks like I have a spare,” he said, smiling as he looked down at his uniform. “I’m thankful to see both of you, but surprised. Especially you, Louise.”
“You remember me.”
“Seeing you brought the memories back,” explained Superman. After their teamup years ago, the future Supergirl at Superman’s request had used super-hypnosis to block his memory of her. “What are you doing in the present?”
“There is nothing left for me in my own time, thanks to the Crisis,” she replied solemnly. “The floating cities of Hattan are no more, and my oldest friend Lydia-T is dead. In her memory, I have abandoned my old Louise-L identity — which was merely a false name, much like your Supergirl’s identity of Linda Lee Danvers — and have adopted the new name of Lydia-7.”
“I’m sorry to hear that… Lydia,” Superman said. “I know what it’s like not to be able to save what matters the most.”
“At least we were able to save you,” Superwoman said.
“And King Kosmos is trapped in the Phantom Zone, where he will pay for his many crimes,” Supergirl said.
“No, he’s not,” Superman said.
Superwoman’s eyes grew wide. “That’s right! The Phantom Zone is gone! Then where did he go?”
King Kosmos laughed heartily, firing blast after blast as the scampering sheep ran away from him, screaming in panic. He had thought himself destroyed at first, but was shocked to discover himself in what looked to be Metropolis. If he could not destroy Superman, then he would destroy his city.
He sent another blast at the surrounding cars, making fire and burning metal rain down from the sky. “All shall perish before the might of King Kosmos!” he bellowed. “There is no one to challenge me!”
“That’s where you’re wrong, mister!” boomed a voice from behind him. He could make out the sickeningly familiar nobility in every word. He turned and was confronted by a shield-bearing super-soldier, an armor-clad avenger, an archer, an android, a female mystic, and a thunder god.
“You mess with Manhattan, you mess with us,” the shield-bearer said.
“So be it,” Kosmos said. He raised his hands, preparing to level a blast at his new enemies.