The Forgotten Heroes: Devastation (Unnatural Woman) Chapter 2: The Ghosts of Zor

by Libbylawrence

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The Cometeer, expertly piloted by Lady Blackhawk, soon orbited the planet Zor while its owner spoke quickly to his team.

“We need to help the Zorians stop this Devastation,” Captain Comet explained to his team. “They know we are coming and are appreciative, if a bit humbled, by having to seek the help of a world they see as somewhat primitive compared with their own. The atmosphere is similar enough to Earth’s that we will be able to breathe and move freely on this planet, but be mindful that the force of gravity is much weaker here.”

“I’ll remain in the ship as you asked,” said Lady Blackhawk, “although I’d love to explore.”

Captain Comet patted his cousin’s arm and said, “Maybe, once we settle this crisis, we can enjoy the sights a bit.”

“It’s odd,” said Volar, “but I feel uneasy being a champion and a woman in yet another alien society. I’d hoped my old inhibitions would fade with the change of location. I see women on the council below — that means Zor is more enlightened than my home of Torma.”

“You’re doing just fine,” said Starman. “Don’t let the perceptions you grew up with color how you imagine others perceive you. Just do what comes naturally.”

Volar shrugged. “That’s my problem. I have to fight against a lifetime of rigidly maintained efforts to appear masculine while acting as Volar.”

“I found my own identity after years of questions,” said Dolphin. “Trust me — it is normal under your circumstances to feel like a fish out of water.”

Robotgirl looked impassive as she thought, It’s so easy for Dolphin to fit in despite her strange life. She is stunning. Men fall all over her, and she doesn’t even notice. Volar’s looks will work the same magic for her, too. Only I am forced to live in this cold metal shell.

Captain Comet pointed below and cried, “Great guns! I see it has already begun! The so-called merchant of death, Zurnnulaxi-Vraxil, just departed in his own craft. That means the peril he predicted is beginning.”

As he spoke, he saw through the mist to where chaos reigned below. The Zorian buildings, all constructed out of plastic rather than metals, which were very scarce here, shattered and people fled screaming as a woman with deathly white skin and an ornate blue tunic rampaged through the city. She stood eight feet tall, and she looked human, but with chalk-white skin and a regal malice and inhumanity in her eyes.

“I think we just found our Devastation,” said Starman.

Robotgirl heard Will Payton speak, but she also heard the seductive voice of Pandora. Since her first encounter with the hologram of Darkseid’s daughter, she had been plagued, even tormented, by constant whispers within her audio receptors. The voice urged her to surrender her will and serve Pandora in exchange for a human body.

Joan Carter was not by nature an evil woman, but she had once been both a beauty and an heiress, and as such she had enjoyed all the perks society gave to a woman who had both traits. Now she could no longer live in her altered state. She had tried valiantly to make a name for herself as a super-heroine on this Earth not her own, but recent events had broken her dreams and shown them to be mere illusions.

She followed her friends down to the city as Starman, Captain Comet, and Volar flew down at top speed. Joan flew as well via small boosters in her robotic body. She noticed Dolphin was in Volar’s arms, while Starman shot forward in advance of the rest.

Starman had already battled some heavy-hitters in his relatively short career thus far, but he knew this weird Zorian goddess was by far the strangest. He saw her casually slay all who fell in her path, with no regard for their cries and no diminution in her apparent joy.

That witch is having a ball, thought Will Payton. She must think Zorian life is worth nothing. I guess if she is some weird goddess summoned from some limbo by the blood of one of her people, she wouldn’t care about their pain.

Starman generated a blast of stellar energy and saw it strike her directly in the chest. The attack did nothing beyond allowing her victims to escape while she turned toward him. Great Scott — she ignored my best effort! he thought.

As Volar set her down, Dolphin gasped as they saw Starman fall beneath a blazing energy blast from the white-skinned creature’s eyes. “He’s hurt! I didn’t know any energy could harm him,” she said.

Captain Comet had conferred quickly with Narkin and the other council members, but the news he had received had done little to comfort him. They are rebuilding and changing as a society, as would any world after a destructive interstellar war, yet this sudden assault threatens to destroy these people before they ever yet attain their lost stability, he thought.

Devastation reached for the fallen Starman with a silent malice that was almost palpable. Twisting out of her path, he slammed into her again, but she remained unhurt. Dolphin rushed forward to aid him, effortlessly leaping the length of a football field in one jump thanks to the lower gravity, but Captain Comet stood firmly in her path. He remained in place as the hulking goddess closed in on him. I doubt my strength can slow her, but perhaps I can stop her with a few tricks of my own, he mused.

Starman staggered in Dolphin’s arms. “That one blast wiped me out! It was unlike any energy I’ve ever encountered. It didn’t drain me of my own energy, but it almost smothered my very life-force. I may be some human-slash-star hybrid, but that thing was more than a match for me!”

Devastation drew closer as Captain Comet frowned and suddenly blasted away on his jet-belt.

The nearby Zorian council gasped as one. “The Earthman fled! He turned coward!”

Starman could not believe his eyes as he saw Captain Comet vanish in the distance. I won’t believe that Captain Comet would flee from battle, he mused. Swooping down, he wrestled with the giantess, who smiled in pleasure at the sight of another foe. However, the mad goddess overpowered him and held him, even as Starman tried to break free with a variety of wrestling moves and energy-blasts.

***

Meanwhile, as Volar charged toward a fallen wall and lifted it off of some wounded Zorians, Robotgirl faced her inner demons made manifest for all to see. Energy flashed, and Pandora transported to the surface with her blonde companion.

“Now, Joan Carter!” she hissed. “Act as I commanded, and I shall give you the body you dream of having!”

Robotgirl nodded and reached out to choke Volar from behind. Her metal fingers formed a tight weave across the girl’s throat as she twisted ever more tightly. “I’m sorry — I can’t live like this any longer,” she said softly as she wrestled Volar to the ground.

The Torman champion’s eyes flashed, and ice formed across the robotic woman’s hands. Volar flexed and shattered the elongated fingers now made so brittle by her magna-vision.

“Robotgirl, I heard it all,” gasped Volar as she fought for breath. “Don’t listen to this witch! She seeks to use you!”

Pandora tossed her long gray mane and laughed. “Volar, I did seek to also make you another of my elite guard like my pet Gilotina, here, but if you are too stubborn to admit defeat, then I’ll just have you fight to the death!”

Dolphin pointed at the blonde in the pink outfit, who rushed from Pandora’s side to pummel Volar with super-strong blows. “That’s Gilotina of the Female Furies! She’s serving that psycho space-witch,” she said.

Pandora nodded. “Indeed! Granny Goodness gave her to me body and soul to be my plaything. I hoped to add Volar to my ranks, but if she dies, she dies!”

Robotgirl emerged from the icy sheath Volar had cast around her and said, “What of me? I tried to defeat her! Please — grant me my body!”

“You called that pathetic effort service?” sneered Pandor. “You are not fit to stoke the fire pits of my homeland!” She slapped Robotgirl to the ground and kicked her down a slope.

***

Meanwhile, Starman was falling beneath Devastation’s attack. Her expression is pure hatred. All she feels or knows is inflicting pain, he realized. “I have to help the others!” said Starman to the others. “Get back to the ship and call the JLA!” he ordered.

Dolphin was torn between her desire to help her lover and practicality. In the end, the lovely blonde realized that she could better serve by obeying. She made a huge leap over the frightened Zorians who drew near her, and sought a means of returning to the ship above.

Starman surged forward with all of his flight momentum and managed to drive Devastation over a sand dune. She fell out of sight as he rushed to help his friends.

Volar had long been her world’s greatest champion, thanks to possessing super-strength, but much the same could be said for Gilotina, one of Granny Goodness’s trained warrior elite known as the Female Furies, who could use her dainty hands as lethal weapons. Volar brought both hands up and slapped them against Gilotina’s ears, punching her with a swift right hook. She tried to fly her upward while struggling to contain her.

“I’ll kill you!” screamed Gilotina. “My mistress demands it. She wants your service, but only I will live for Pandora’s every whim!”

Starman blasted an energy bolt toward Pandora, who fell aside and turned to face him.

“You are a handsome mortal!” she said with a sigh. “Daring, too! Still, I think I should murder you now. Enslavement would be nice, but I do have other worlds to conquer!”

“Listen, don’t rush into anything on my account,” said Starman. “Don’t let me keep you from your beautician. That skin tone will never get you on Cosmo.”

He dodged aside as her eyes flashed energy, and twin bolts of power exploded toward him. Even though he streaked upward, they followed his path unerringly.

Robotgirl suddenly bounced many feet off the sandy ground to intercept the blast, which shattered her body into broken fragments. As she lost awareness, she breathed a silent plea for forgiveness.

Starman caught her damaged head and said, “She absorbed that energy bolt, but it destroyed her body. Still, maybe Captain Comet can yet save her brain. She turned on us but proved loyal at the end.”

Pandora stomped one booted foot in annoyance. “How trite. Nobility makes me want to retch!

Captain Comet returned with a heavy device in his arms. “Then maybe this will really make you sick.” He activated the device, and a funnel of white light enveloped Pandora. As he swung it around, it caught Devastation as she loomed over the sand dune.

She disappeared, even as an erupting boom tube ripped Pandora to freedom before the light vanished, along with the captured Devastation.

Volar ducked under Gilotina’s slice and clipped her with a left cross. “You can’t beat me,” said Volar. “I’ve held back too long. I’m going to use my magna-powers at their highest level and be proud of who I am from now on! I’ve been as much a slave to my own self-doubts as you’ve become to that monster.”

She shook her blonde foe and crashed to the ground with stunning impact. The fallen Gilotina vanished in a boom tube of her own.

Captain Comet and Starman joined Volar and Dolphin. “Darkseid reclaimed his servants,” said Comet. “Imagine — all that effort and pain out of one woman’s desire to hurt others. She’s Darskeid’s daughter, all right. Superman recently warned me about her. But I never expected to meet her so soon.”

“You saved us all,” said Narkin of the Zorian council. “We have lost many to her rampage, but thanks to you all, we shall survive. She might have eliminated the Zorian race itself while in our weakened postwar state if you had not stopped her.”

“OK,” said Starman, turning to Comet, “I know you only ran off to get that weapon, but what is it, and how’d you know about it?”

Captain Comet smiled and explained, “When I started to probe Devastation’s mind, I was stopped by what I’d call static. I picked up the powerful but different hum of other disembodied minds all around the city — the ghosts of Zor, if you will. I drew from their minds images of the device that could trap her in the same limbo in which the minds that spoke to my own were located. I built the device, which magnified those mental signals to whoever was caught within the range of the energy. That made Devastation attuned to them. She entered their limbo through the mental connection they formed and sought to slay them all. Apparently, they were millions of disembodied Zorians from eons ago. Something had robbed them of life in many centuries past, and their minds were more like hers. Perhaps they were even her original worshippers. She wanted to reach them and opened the portal leading to them. All I did was make her more sensitive to their mental signals.” He stopped for a moment and then added, “She had little mind beyond rage. Thus, I had to amplify her perceptions to the point in which she could detect what my advanced mind already had.”

“We have a legend that millions of Zorians once died at the devices of a being called Starbreaker,” explained Narkin. “They must linger here as wraiths. They saved this world by luring Devastation to their cold realm.”

Dolphin and Lady Blackhawk rushed over and congratulated their friends, and Dolphin flung herself into Starman’s arms. “Thank goodness you are all right,” she said.

Starman held her and said, “Captain Comet saved the day as usual. One question, Cap. What is to stop Devastation from escaping from that limbo in which you lured her?”

“I can answer that,” said Narkin. “It is bloodshed that summons her, and in that realm all she will find are the minds or disembodied spirits of our ancient dead. There will be no more blood to empower her, now that our world is at peace once more, and she will remain there forever. I cannot imagine a renewal of the sacrifice ritual would free her, since this time she will be alone, and will soon be helpless with no one to empower her.”

Captain Comet nodded. “That was my hope as well.”

***

Having gone briefly back to Earth to retrieve the injured Tharka the Superwoman, the Forgotten Heroes returned to the planet Zor, where Tharka had made her home. It was, after all, the Earth-One universe’s version of her own Zor in the Earth-Two universe.

Narkin carefully lifted Tharka and said, “Captain, I fear her ordeal has left her badly hurt.”

“Poor Tharka,” said Dolphin. “I recall that Nadir said that she was a mutant who had super-powers only on Zor due to its much-lesser gravity and was actually powerless while visiting Earth-Two. (*) It must have been some fluke in the crossing from one universe to another after Atoman abducted her that caused her to gain Kryptonian-like super-powers that worked even in Earth’s greater gravity. But what if we were wrong, and our very universe proved to be toxic to her mind or body over time?”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Superwoman from Space,” Superman #81 (March-April, 1953).]

Captain Comet and the rest entered the Zorian Science Council Hall and waited for hours as Zorian scientists worked to save the blonde heroine.

Volar paced restlessly. “I blame myself. Joan needed my understanding, and I was so wrapped up in my own problems that I ignored her. That drove her into Pandora’s clutches.”

“Listen, Rena, you did all you could do,” said Starman. “Don’t forget that, above and beyond any gender issues you may have, you are still human.”

Narkin emerged from the medical wing and announced his success. “Tharka is weak, but alive. She will recover, but perhaps as some form of mental protection due to her suffering at the hands of Pandora, she has lost the special powers that she gained recently, retaining only the powers that make her stronger than other Zorians in our weaker gravity, yet no stronger than someone from Earth. This condition may only be temporary, but it could be permanent as well.”

“We’ll help her find some way to live and recover, even if it means no longer being a super-hero,” said Captain Comet.

Turning to the other Forgotten Heroes, Comet added, “As for poor Joan, I have one other idea that the Zorians may be able to help us with.”

Lady Blackhawk laughed. “When my cousin has an idea, it’s usually a big one.”

Captain Comet smiled enigmatically. “We’ll see.”

***

Back on Earth on the island of Vumania, the Forgotten Heroes team greeted a thrilled and very lovely Joan Carter. She now was fully human and looked as young and lovely as she had before her accident. She hugged Captain Comet warmly.

“Adam, your idea saved me,” she gushed. “You took a cell sample from this world’s Joan Carter Crane, who is married to the Bob Crane of this world — although his mind resides in the body of the late Chuck Grayson — and had the Zorians clone a body from that cell.”

“A mindless body to house your brain,” added Dolphin. “Adam thought of the idea when you told him about your meeting with Bob and his wife. I know you were crushed when you discovered that he had a spouse on our Earth.”

“I chalk it up to the wonders of Zorian science,” said Captain Comet.

***

Meanwhile, on the planet Apokolips, Pandora stood before her solemn sire. His face was craggy, yet he was apparently pleased with his child’s report.

“I did initially plan to only unleash that white-skinned creature on the Zorians for genocide and giggles,” she said, “but when I detected those disembodied minds from Zor’s ancient past, I figured I could convince them to contact Captain Comet and give him the idea to have Devastation open the portal to their realm. I knew it would cost me her services, but she was such a mindless engine of destruction, anyway. So once Comet led her to open their realm up, I used dear Doctor Bedlam’s automatons to house all their precious vengeful minds. Now I have millions of Zorian minds housed in Bedlam’s silvery automatons, all waiting for my command.”

“You killed many of those on Zor,” said Darkseid. “You eliminated two of Captain Comet’s allies. You fooled him as well. I respect him, and thus I am very pleased with you.”

Pandora smiled coldly. “Anything for Daddy. Now, may I have Thanagar?

Darkseid said, “I’ll consider it.”

The End

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