Super-Stars of Space: The Universe and Mr. Leiber, Chapter 2: Queen Bee No More

by Libbylawrence

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The streets of Metropolis were teeming with life as urban dwellers and their individual routines combined to make the city hum like some man-made bee hive. But even the most jaded of the residents of the city alternately called the Home of Superman or the Big Apricot found themselves gaping with awe as the weird alien called Karb-Brak meticulously tried to kill the beautiful blonde Stacy Macklin, who was dressed in her Lady Lunar costume but now fully in control of her faculties.

Stacy struggled to pry his burning fingers away from her throat by clawing, punching, and kicking. She found herself desperately wishing she had never left the Galaxy Building. What was I thinking? she thought. I’m no super-heroine like Wonder Woman!

Suddenly, she felt an odd sensation as her body phased directly through her attacker, and she found herself hovering above him. Bringing both legs down, she kicked him through the pavement into the sewer below. Stacy realized that she had manifested a new power she’d never had before as Lady Lunar. “I’ve lost my old magnetic power, but I’ve gained the ability to make my body intangible!” she said.

But she yelped as a hand closed over her ankle and yanked her through the hole in the street. In the sewer, she placed both hands on Karb-Brak’s head and released a burst of energy that caused the alien powerhouse to release her leg. He staggered as sweat beaded his brow, and he swayed on unsteady legs.

He’s sick, she realized. I mean, I can actually feel his fever from here! Perhaps a burst of energy might burn his fever out and bring him back to his senses!

A brilliant green energy-field covered the alien for moments until Stacy knew she couldn’t generate it any more.

Karb-Brak looked at her with a new sense of awareness, then suddenly fainted into the waters below.

Carefully lifting him up, Stacy smiled as she realized he was now cool to the touch. He began changing until he resembled a typical human male with red hair and ordinary but handsome features. He’s changed into a normal man, she realized. Perhaps he’s like me — a victim of a change he couldn’t control!

She carried him skyward to where police and emergency workers were assembled.

“You saved us all! That guy was crazy!” cried one onlooker.

An officer nodded and said, “You’re a heroine, miss, no doubt about that. That was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen! Superman himself couldn’t have done any better!”

Stacy smiled as cameras flashed, and she felt something she hadn’t felt in far too long. She felt good about herself, and felt she might have found a new purpose for her life. If I’ve got these powers again, I’m going to use them the way I want, she thought. I’m going to be a super-heroine, and not some insane “moon maiden”!

Looking around, she said, “Does anyone know this man?” She held up the still body of the transformed Karb-Brak as a balding man in a red coat came closer.

“That’s one o’ my best crewmen,” said the burly old man. “Andy Meda. He works construction for me!”

“Exactly what happened back at the work site?” she asked.

“You tell me, lady!” said the foreman. “We was doin’ our job like normal when this freak appeared from no place and started wreckin’ the joint! I guess Meda got hurt when the place came down around us!”

Stacy frowned as she realized, Clearly, no one saw this Andy Meda turn into Karb-Brak. I may regret this, but I feel a certain sympathy for him. I don’t know what made him sick or turned him into that rampaging monster, but I’m not going to tell anyone that Meda was the monster if I can help it. Aloud she said, “I think you’re right. He needs medical care!”

Handing his prone form to the emergency medical workers, Stacy flew off, deep in thought. Maybe other heroes would have handled that differently, but I’m new to the game. I’m just going to count this as a victory and try to figure out what’s going on. Why are my powers different, and how did I reacquire them without also succumbing to the Lady Lunar madness? I’ve got to find the answers somehow!

***

Meanwhile, a sinister but decidedly sultry woman watched the flying woman from a distance.

“I’ve tracked the energy surge here, and I’m just in time,” she said, an inscrutable smile on her flawless features. “From what I’ve seen, this Stacy Macklin may be exactly what I’m looking for!”

***

As hive-queen of the planet Korll, Zazzala exulted in the power that was hers alone to command. She relished the adoration of her people, savoring the fact that the only thoughts in their tiny minds were to meet her slightest whims, no matter how selfish, capricious, or cruel they might be.

Truly, it was good to be queen.

Stretching and yawning as she rested in a dramatic pose on a plush divan in the palace royal, she knew that she was impossibly alluring with her flowing lavender hair, curvy figure, and seductive manner. She was aware of the fact that her every need would always be met by the drones who lived only to serve her. Zazzala even realized that she had no reason to doubt that her privileged and pampered lifestyle would continue exactly as it had thus far for eons to come, since she wasn’t just powerful and clever, but was also immortal.

Queen Bee, as she was called by the lesser alien beings she deigned to occasionally allow to address her exalted presence, was virtually invulnerable to traditional dangers such as aging or disease. She owed this amazing longevity to a potion developed by a brilliant scientist long ago. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Drones of the Queen Bee,” Justice League of America #23 (November, 1963).]

Though being immortal does have its drawbacks, she thought, fluffing her hair as she watched her slaves rush around in search of ways to please her.

Zazzala had discovered long ago that the substance that made her immortal also robbed her of mobility. However, being crafty and cunning, she had managed to find a means to overcome this obstacle; magnetic force was capable of restoring the languid queen’s mobility. (*) Despite recent setbacks to her mobility requiring her brief involvement in a civil war on Thanagar, Zazzala’s mobility was restored to her once again. Thanks to a combination of diplomatic immunity and an appeal to the plight of her poor drones, who could not survive as a society without her leadership, Zazzala was also allowed to return to her hive-world on the condition that she would never interfere in Thanagarian matters again. Now, beneath her gossamer-like wings and black-and-gold-striped costume, she wore a sheath that held a narrow wand created from a modified Dimensiometer, which served as her personal magnetic field generator. (*) She could move freely and not even have unsightly budges to detract from her stunning figure.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Winged Warriors of the Immortal Queen,” Justice League of America #60 (February, 1968) and Hawkman and Hawkwoman: Liberty or Death.]

In spite of her arrogant certainty that life would remain perfect for her in every way, Queen Bee was about to be proven fatally wrong.

The normal buzz of life on the hive-world was suddenly drowned out by the sonic screams of invading spacecraft.

Spotting the unwelcome arrivals, the drone sentries flew boldly into the air over Korll to confront the strange ships, each drone carrying a long staff or lance capable of producing stinging bolts of energy. The winged men and women of Korll were mindlessly brave and fanatically loyal in the defense of their beloved hive-queen. Any human observer would marvel at these traits, for better or worse, but the invaders were not human, and they met the Korllites with emotionless calm.

As the energy-lances blazed with crackling power, the invading ships were engulfed in their fiery glow, only to emerge seconds later, unscathed.

“Queen Zazzala, we are under attack!” cried one slave who was nominally in charge of the other palace drones.

Zazzala pursed her lavender lips in scorn and waved dismissively. “Unleash the drone army,” she said calmly. “Send three swarms, if necessary.”

When the same drone returned moments later to announce the astonishing news that all of the drones had been destroyed, she finally sat up.

“Highness, your forces have been unable to stop the advance of the alien crafts. The stingers failed to even penetrate the metallic hulls of the ships.”

Queen Bee got to her feet and walked calmly out to a viewing deck on one side of the palace royal. Beneath eyelashes adorned with heavy mascara, Zazzala’s eyes widened as she began to understand the enormity of the situation. Her drones had been swatted away with ease.

The small drones were unable to stop or even slow the approaching fleet of warships. Each ship was able to generate energy bolts of its own, and unlike the cold metal of the alien craft, the flesh and blood drones felt every sizzling burst of fiery energy all too completely.

Queen Bee began feeling a growing sense of alarm. “Send out the remaining swarms. Send out all of them!” she said, her girlish voice becoming higher as a twinge of alarm reached past her normal calm.

She watched as thousands of drones filled the skies above Korll, and her commands were passed from one drone to another. The buzzing of their cries was music to her ears until silence reigned over the planet.

“By the ancestral queen!” she whispered as she felt the result of the onslaught within some forgotten hive memory.

Every drone has fallen! What shall we do?” cried the palace slave.

Queen Zazzala smiled coldly as she walked over to a massive computer that filled the royal chambers on one entire wall, the intricate patterns of its golden screen designed to resemble honeycombs. “If the drones cannot stop the invaders, then I shall merely enslave the invaders by transferring their minds into the hive computer!” she said. “Better that they live as disembodied minds to serve me, and long regret their folly in attacking my world!”

She had used this remarkable tactic many times over the years. She could literally transfer a mind, or at least all of that mind’s knowledge, into the huge hive computer, then draw upon such data for her own use at any moment.

Removing the narrow rod that gave her mobility, she prepared to use it to render the invaders harmless once they came within range. It was the means by which she could transfer each mind into the wonderful hive computer.

Flying upward, Queen Bee waited on the silent spacecraft to open and reveal their occupants. Even in the face of such tragedy, Zazzala almost posed for effect as she waited. She may have mourned the loss of so many of her subjects, but her features betrayed no signs of loss or grief. Rather, Queen Bee of Korll remained rather smug and superior to all those around her.

Then that smug expression melted swiftly away to become a look of real fear. The metal crafts had landed and discharged their occupants as she’d expected them to do, but the alien invaders that marched relentlessly closer to her palace royal betrayed no fear or emotion.

When she aimed the powerful rod she carried, nothing happened. The energy had always managed to transfer living minds into the hive computer before, but it was completely ineffectual against the rows of approaching invaders for one simple reason.

“They’re robots! They are mindless!” she cried despairingly.

She started to fly away from the robotic troops as they smashed their way through the gates and entered her palace, but she moved a bit too slowly, and Zazzala was caught by a silvery beam of energy that lanced neatly through the sky to strike her down.

The robotic attackers caught the falling queen before she could hit the ground, and her still body was carried back inside one of the ships.

If they could have read her mind, they might have found a certain ironic humor in the fact that the once-proud Queen Bee who had battled so many super-heroes in the past now wished desperately for a hero of her own as she lost all awareness of her surroundings.

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