by Starsky Hutch 76
Meanwhile, Artemiz continued to fire explosive arrows at Salkor’s force-shield. Salkor suddenly felt a horrible jolt from his side. He turned to see Bernadeth slashing away at his shield with her fahren-knife. Another jolt came from behind him, and he looked back to see a blonde with a Betty Page haircut and pink and gold armor delivering karate blows with lethal force.
“Very good, Gilotina,” Bernadeth said. “Between the three of us, we can crack his shield open like an eggshell and get to the morsel inside.”
With a telekinetic push, Salkor diverted one of Artemiz’s explosive arrows to strike at Bernadeth. The force of its blast sent her flying into the computer banks upon the wall behind her. Her fahren-knife lodged into the machine with a shower of sparks. Bernadeth’s body was flooded with electricity, and she slumped to the ground, inert.
Salkor sent a telekinetic energy burst flying back at Gilotina. Blinded, she began chopping her hands through the air wildly. Salkor quickly sent her flying toward Artemiz. With one final swing of her hand, she chopped through Artemiz’s bow.
“You idiot!” the archer cried. In anger, she backhanded Gilotina.
Gilotina brought her hand up to her mouth and looked at the blood on her fingertips. “Oh, you’re going to regret that.” She brought her hand down in a karate chop in an attempt to slice into Artemiz, who quickly dived out of the way. As another karate chop came down, Artemiz grabbed another trick arrow out of her quiver and held it up. When Gilotina’s hand hit the end of the arrow, she suddenly froze solid.
Artemiz stood up and said, “You should learn to respect your superiors, girl.” She reared back and was about to strike her and shatter her into about a thousand pieces, when her head was alight with telekinetic energy.
“Pathetic,” Salkor said, watching as she fell to the ground.
Supergirl, Superwoman, and Valor stepped out of the hole in the wall. “Thanks for the help,” Valor said, smiling. “We sure showed her.”
“Yeah,” Superwoman said, swinging her leg up into Valor’s stomach, making her double over.
“We sure did!” Supergirl said, clenching her fists together and bringing them down on Valor’s back.
“What are you doing?” Valor cried out as she fell to her knees.
“What I tell them to,” a cold voice said. A red-headed, white-skinned vampiric figure stepped through the hole in the wall from the outside hallway. “All must eventually fall to the whim of Bloody Mary.”
Superwoman and Supergirl continued to punch and kick at Valor. Valor threw up her hands in self-defense, generating a pulse wave to drive them back. Bloody Mary threw back her head in laughter.
Just then, there was a sound much like a great gust of wind, and the shadowy creature that was Chessure blew in her direction. Chessure let out a whine and then was suddenly upon her. Superman, rising up, continued to blast the creature with his super-breath until she was completely enveloped by it.
Superman stood up, analyzing his shredded costume. “I’ll need to find a good tailor the next time I’m on Rokyn.”
From inside the inky blackness could be heard the growling and snarling of Chessure and the screeching and cursing of Bloody Mary as the shadowy mass jerked and spasmed toward the exit. “Oh, my face! You wretched creature! I’ll rip you apart!”
“Don’t you hurt Chessure!” Malice Vundabar cried, chasing after them.
While this was happening, Salkor turned toward the platform that was holding Jasma. “Now that the unpleasantness is over, I’ll get you out of these bonds, my little Jasma.”
“You most certainly will not!” a brassy voice said as two hands clamped his shoulders in an iron grip, pushing him downward. Salkor twisted in their grasp and turned to face Granny Goodness.
“How dare you try to steal from me what has been charged to me by the great Lord Darkseid himself!” Granny Goodness began to gasp for air as a force-field enclosed her head, cutting off all oxygen.
“And how dare you hold my daughter?!” Salkor roared. “How dare you think that you could try to keep her from me, and that I would suffer you to live! Now you shall pay the price!”
Granny Goodness clawed at the force-field covering her head in desperation, her eyes bugging out in terror. With shaking hands, she reached for her mega rod and fired at him.
“Pitiful,” Salkor sneered as the blast bounced harmlessly off another erected shield.
Superman, Superwoman, Valor, and Supergirl all turned in shock. “Salkor! Don’t!” Superman said.
“Whatever for?” Salkor said.
“Because we’re the good guys!” Superwoman said. “Heroes don’t kill!”
“We have a more final concept of justice on Makorr, and as protector of Makorr, I have found her guilty of crimes against its citizens and am passing sentence… Unless she would care to reveal the whereabouts of Powergirl.”
Granny Goodness shook her head in eager agreement. “Where is she?” Salkor said as the force-field dropped away and Granny Goodness fell to her hands and knees, coughing and gasping.
Suddenly, two smoking spots appeared on Salkor’s chest. “Right behind you,” a cold voice said. “But my name isn’t Powergirl. Or even Karen Sorrell. It’s Pandora.”
Salkor staggered forward, and as he fell, he revealed the shadowy figure behind him. She bore the same features as the woman they had known as Powergirl, but her skin was gray and stone-like, making her look like a statue come to life. Her eyes glowed a fierce blood red. She was clad in a blue leotard and thigh-high boots.
“Salkor!” Superman cried in alarm, rushing to his side.
“Please… care for my daughter,” Salkor gasped, falling forward into Superman’s waiting hands. “Care for her as if she were your own.”
“I will,” Superman promised.
“So touching,” Pandora said, smiling evilly.
“You murdering witch!” Superwoman shouted.
“What?” Pandora said with mock hurt. “Did your concern for me suddenly vanish? Are you not glad to see your old friend?”
“Karen, what’s happened to you?!” Valor exclaimed.
“I am as I was always meant to be,” Pandora said. “I have assumed my rightful destiny as the daughter of Darkseid.” With that, she let loose with a beam from her eyes that struck the still form of Salkor, disintegrating him.
“The omega beam,” Superwoman gasped, remembering it from her studies of history.
Jasma was now in hysterics. “Silence, child!” Pandora commanded. “You have a higher destiny serving your Lord Darkseid, and there’s no room for old sentimental attachments.”
Superman flew toward her. “Of all the cold–” He was immediately knocked back by a blast of her omega beam.
“Did I offend your sense of righteousness, Superman? Too bad,” Pandora chided. “I am so much more than I was before. So don’t think you can put me away like some second-rate super-villain. I can’t believe I’d ever fought this!”
“What do you want with her?” Supergirl asked.
“I want what my father wants,” Pandora said. “To pave the way for the next generation of his progeny. She will be raised, groomed, and conditioned here, and when she comes of age, she will give me new brothers and sisters. Don’t try to fight it. You can’t win.”
“That remains to be seen,” Superman said.
“Are you kidding?” Pandora scoffed. “First, you have to get through me. Then there’s the rest of the elite guard: Mantis, Kalibak, Kano, Baron Vundabar, and the rest of the gang. Not to mention about a million Parademons. And if all else fails, you’ll have to deal with Darkseid himself. Face it, Superman, you’ve already lost. Give up.”
“After all the time you’ve spent on Earth, you should know that’s not going to happen,” Superman said.
“Suit yourself,” Pandora said, her eyes crackling with crimson energy as they prepared to deliver another omega beam.
Pandora let loose with a powerful blast. As Superman dived out of the way, it changed direction in midair. Like father, like daughter, flashed through his mind as he braced himself for the coming blast.
Amazingly, the blast never connected. Instead, it froze in midair, as did Pandora. “What the–?” Superman gasped.
“Perhaps I can explain,” a distinguished voice said from behind them. They all turned to see the stoic New God known as Metron who was, as always, sitting in his Mobius chair. “I have taken the liberty of transporting you outside the normal flow of time. And outside her reach.”
“You’re not known for involving yourself, Metron,” Superman said. “So why now?”
“Darkseid found that Kryptonian DNA carries his traits better than other races he’s tried in the past, such as Orion’s mother. Particularly the Krypton of Earth-Two’s universe, as you can see in the daughter of that world’s Power Girl.” He waved one hand in Pandora’s direction without looking at her. “But since that route is now blocked, he hoped to duplicate his previous success with Jasma, a hybrid who might have given him very unique results. That would have greatly upset the balance of power, which is something I cannot allow. I also know Jasma has a greater destiny than as a future brood mare to Darkseid.”
Metron hit a control on the arm of his chair, and a Boom Tube opened up. “Free the child and take her to safety.”
Superman walked over to the platform and ripped away her bonds. Jasma immediately threw her arms around him and sobbed into his neck. He turned to Metron and said, “Thank you,” before stepping into the Boom Tube. Superwoman and Supergirl followed.
Valor, just before stepping into the Boom Tube, gave an enraged scream and fired an energy blast at Pandora, knocking her across the room, and then stepped into the Boom Tube. Metron, alarmed, hit a control on his chair that caused him to depart for parts unknown just as the Boom Tube closed.
The omega beam, having lost its intended target, flowed unobstructed. It smashed through fourteen walls before leaving the palace.
Darkseid walked into the room as Pandora rose to her feet. He looked around at the war-torn surroundings and at Granny Goodness and the Female Furies nursing their wounds, and he said, “I am not pleased.”
“Forgive us, great Darkseid,” Granny Goodness said, prostrating herself.
“You are lucky you have proven so useful to me in the past, or you would surely be wiped from the face of Apokolips for this,” Darkseid said.
“And what do you have to say for yourself, daughter?” he said, turning to Pandora.
“There was outside help,” she said. “Someone has spirited them away. I managed to slay one of them.”
“I am aware of that. That is why I do not feed you to the fire pits,” he said. “And you,” he bellowed, turning to the platform. “Why are you hiding?!”
“I was scared,” a childish voice said.
“A child of Darkseid knows no fear! Come out from there!”
A small, blond-haired, blue-eyed boy clad in blue similar to Darkseid’s attire stepped out from behind the lead platform. “I’m sorry. Don’t be mad.”
In spite of himself, Darkseid smiled. “I am not angry with you, my son.” He took his hand. “Come, Prometheus. Today we lost your sister. But your other sister is with us once again. And I have much to teach both of you.” And with that, the royal family of Apokolips exited the room.