Superman: The Apokolips Factor, Chapter 3: Legends

by PDebord and JSAGL

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As Superman made his way back through time, he began to think over the events of his adventure with Lady Death.

Odd that both the Secret Society of Super-Villains and the Injustice Gang popped up just as Lady Death was about to make her appearance, he thought. After checking with the Legionnaires, I found out that Lady Death showed up just three days after Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl left Earth to visit Winath for an extended period of time. There’s something very fishy about that. As Bruce would say, “I smell a rat.” It seems that Lady Death was placed at a precise moment and place when J’onn J’onzz, Captain Comet, and Saturn Girl would be out of the way. Darkseid doesn’t want her near a telepath. “I wonder what secrets are hidden inside her mind?” he muttered to himself.

Superman came back to the twentieth century only moments after he had left it. He flew over Smallville and waited for the sounds of trouble that would surely follow Lady Death’s arrival. As he hovered over his boyhood home town, he was nearly blinded by a bright yellow flash on one side and a place in the air that seemed to fold and turn green on the other side. As the yellow flash took an all-too-familiar shape, Superman smiled.

“I see Darkseid went way over the line this time,” Superman said as Doctor Fate and the Spectre appeared on either side of him.

“You could say that, Superman,” a young blonde in a white, red, and blue uniform said as she appeared in Doctor Fate’s ankh.

Kara?!” Superman exclaimed as he faced his cousin’s Earth-Two doppleganger, Kara Zor-L, better known as Power Girl.

Earth-Two’s Green Lantern, the Flash, and the Star-Spangled Kid followed Power Girl out of the portal created by Doctor Fate.

“Why would the actions of Darkseid bring the Justice Society to Earth-One?” Superman asked. He knew the barriers between the Earths were solid. Could they really be who they appeared to be?

“We came at the request of the Phantom Stranger, or at least I think that’s what Fate called him,” the Star-Spangled Kid answered.

“The Justice League is being occupied with part of Darkseid’s scheme,” said the Spectre, “and you yourself noted you cannot stop Lady Death and Darkseid alone.”

“I’m not even going to ask how you know I said that,” Superman said.

“So do you have any idea where to find Lady Death?” the Flash of Earth-Two asked.

“I was waiting for her to show up. Darkseid isn’t one for beating around the bush,” Superman answered.

“When facing such a vile enemy, it is always best to strike at the head of the serpent,” Doctor Fate said.

“Does that mean what I think it does?” Power Girl asked.

“I’m afraid so. Pack your long johns, guys and gals, we’re off to Apokolips,” the Star-Spangled Kid said as a pair of ankhs began to form around Doctor Fate’s hands.

As they flew through a portal apparently created by Doctor Fate’s magic, Superman was amazed to find himself able to speak and hear in spite of his vulnerability to magic.

“We’ve been trying for months now to get a message through to those of you left on Earth-Two,” said Superman. “Do you have any idea why they didn’t get through, Spectre?”

“The Crisis destroyed the vibrational barriers between the infinite Earths, leaving only five remaining,” the Spectre answered, already prepared with an answer to that question. “They could no longer exist in the same point in time. To prevent the chaos of their joining, the Lords of Order moved each Earth to their own separate universe in what would be called a quantum reality. The barriers between the Earths are now nearly impossible to breach. The only way through them is by transmutation, such as how Doctor Fate brought our colleagues through and how he is carrying us to our destiny now.”

Superman nodded, satisfied with the explanation for the moment. “I hope old stone face is in a really good mood, because he hates unexpected visitors,” he said as an opening formed in front of the group.

A moment later, Superman and the five members of the Justice Society of America flew out of the ankh-shaped portal into the throne room of Darkseid. The tyrant himself sat at the end of the room on his throne, flanked by Mantis the energy vampire and Lady Death. A horde of armed Parademons stood between the heroes and Darkseid.

“I take it we were expected?” the Star-Spangled Kid said.

“My future self was gracious enough to warn Lady Death of the arrival of the Justice Society,” said Darkseid, “although he is as baffled as I am now as to how you breached the barriers.”

“Darkness is always baffled by its fate,” Doctor Fate replied.

And I was complaining about the Phantom Stranger’s purple prose, Superman thought to himself.

“Attack, Parademons. The yellow beams of your lasers will destroy this Green Lantern,” Mantis ordered.

The Green Lantern of Earth-Two hardly had time to muse over Mantis’ mistake as he found himself in the midst of battle. The Flash of Earth-Two ran from Parademon to Parademon, landing punches right and left at high speeds. Much to their surprise, the Parademons found that not only would their yellow lasers not penetrate Green Lantern’s force shield, but many of them also found themselves contained in one. Beams of pure stellar energy blasted from the Star-Spangled Kid’s cosmic belt left several companies of Parademons on the floor, while barriers of mystical ankhs surrounded others. As the befuddled and obviously outclassed Parademons began firing at the Spectre, they found their own weapons being turned against them in acts of ironic justice. Superman and Power Girl flew over the fray and to the heart of the problem — Darkseid and Lady Death.

Power Girl smiled as she landed in front of Lady Death. “Kal-El is a gentleman and wouldn’t hit a lady. I’ve never really liked that about him.” She swung toward Lady Death.

Blocking her blow, Lady Death swung toward Power Girl, who caught her armored fist, grunting with the effort to stop it. As Superman flew toward Darkseid, Mantis threw himself in front of his master. The time it took Superman to tap Mantis into unconsciousness gave Darkseid’s throne enough time to turn into the wall and allow Darkseid to make good his escape. No one noticed at first that the Spectre had also disappeared amidst the fray.

***

In a hidden laboratory somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, a man watched intently on the monitor screen, the images supplied courtesy of his ally’s mystical abilities. On the screen, Superman, Doctor Fate, Power Girl, the Earth-Two Flash, and the Earth-Two Green Lantern, the Star-Spangled Kid, and the Spectre were battling on Apokolips.

“Magnificent. Superman does not suspect a thing. My children battle as though they were the real JSA!”

Suddenly, the Spectre vanished from the battle on the screen, unnoticed by most. At the same moment, that green-cloaked figure appeared in the hidden sanctum behind his chair. “I have returned.”

“Oh, please. Just because you dressed up as the Spectre doesn’t mean you have to act like him, Tannarak.”

The Spectre’s guise dissolved, revealing the dark hair and white suit of the Phantom Stranger’s old foe, Tannarak. “Nonsense, old man. It was my acting as the Spectre that got Superman to believe that it was indeed the JSA that appeared to him.”

“And yet, I still do not understand why you aided the Man of Steel.”

Tannarak and his host looked at the new arrival. “You’ve always been the slow one, Stranger. Do you think we want to live under the thumb of Darkseid? You could have summoned the JLA, you know. You could probably even have brought over the real JSA. Instead, you turn to us.”

The Phantom Stranger studied the two villains for a moment, then said, “I could not risk the JLA’s involvement at this point. Bringing over the real JSA was not an option, either, as the barrier between Earths is still unbreachable. I tried. You were a… reasonable alternative.”

Tannarak laughed. “Freeing me from where Zatanna imprisoned me was more than worth it, and now I must make my last appearance on the stage in another guise before I take my final leave of you.” Altering his appearance into that of the Phantom Stranger himself, Tannarak grinned and vanished.

“And you,” said the real Stranger, “what will you do with the faux JSA when they return here?”

“I will study them, of course, in preparation for my final defeat of the JLA. Remember, you promised not to interfere in exchange for my help.”

“So I did. I will not mention your name to the JLA or your plan. Such is my word,” the Stranger said as he, too, vanished.

Professor Anthony Ivo turned back to his monitor screen. “My Ivo-Droids. My children. Do your father proud.”

***

Back on Apokolips, Lady Death landed an uppercut to Power Girl’s jaw that sent her reeling backward, knocking down several retreating Parademons in the process. The Kryptonian blonde shook her head to clear her blurred vision. Power Girl’s vision cleared just in time to see Lady Death flying toward her. The wind was knocked out of her as she was caught by what was no less than a flying tackle, in this case flying being the operative word, since it carried both of them across the room. Power Girl wrapped her arm around Lady Death’s helmet as she was slammed into the wall hard enough to crack it. Out of desperation, Power Girl put her left boot against Lady Death’s stomach and pushed her back as hard as her slightly overtaxed Kryptonian muscles would allow. Lady Death was sent flying across the room and hit the wall above where the throne had been. Lady Death was curled up in pain as she slid down the wall.

Power Girl flew after Lady Death, realizing only seconds before she landed that she still had Lady Death’s helmet in her hands. As Lady Death got to her feet, Power Girl let out an audible gasp, and the helmet clanked to the floor. Superman heard the gasp from across the room, where he had been helping the Flash round up some stray Parademons, and looked toward Power Girl.

“You?!” Superman exclaimed.

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