by Dan Swanson
When Bat-Mite stomped like this, it was wise for anyone and anything to just get out of his way, fast. Like an irresistible force, heedless of whatever might be in his way, he strode ruthlessly through the dust clouds like a conquering god — admittedly a small god, but ruthless, heedless, and irresistible, nonetheless. Lucky for the junk around him, his path was clear.
As he neared a large hole in the floor, he slowed and began to study it closely. Applying all the lessons he had learned from observing Batman and Robin for so long, he was able to make some startling deductions.
“Boyoboyoboy! Won’t Helena be impressed? I might just solve this whole case for her!” He created a magical notebook to record his priceless observations; even if the dangers he was sure to face overcame him, he wanted to be sure Helena Wayne would benefit from his observations. He had a lot of faith in her abilities, but he was Bat-Mite, master detective, after all, and she might miss some of the more subtle clues.
“Hmm… Something pretty powerful made a hole in the floor, and it goes right through to the room below…” he muttered to himself, recording this vital observation. “Must have been something pretty powerful! And from the way the floor is twisted up and back, whatever it was came up from underneath!” Another notation. He had actually seen a missile of some kind crash through the floor, but his notes would make the sequence of events clear to anyone who didn’t have either the advantage of having been an eyewitness or possessing his awesome deductive talents.
“By the way the debris is scattered, and the angle at which the bent girders are pointing, there should probably be an exit point from this room right about…” He turned until he was looking forward along the trail of debris, then raised his head. “There! Yes, indeedy, there it is. A brilliant piece of deductive reasoning, if I do say so myself!”
I’ve pretty much deducted everything there is to be deduced here! he thought smugly. Time to move on! He jumped over the edge of the hole in the floor. A parachute about the size of an umbrella popped out of his back, and he swung back and forth as he drifted gently down to the floor below. He looked around, and once again made some astonishing deductions.
“Nothing damaged but this glass case! Looks like the case used to hold a missile, and somebody launched it! Boyoboy, is Helena gonna be impressed.” He finished writing in his notebook and was so happy he began dancing around until he tripped on the parachute. He glared at it, and it disappeared with an apologetic poof.
“Why would anyone pen up a missile, though? It’s not like it can run away!”
Suddenly, he looked worried, and an awful thought occurred to him. “Hel ought to be here by now! She’s not quite the detective I am, but she’s had plenty of time to follow the clues. I wonder if she’s in trouble?” A TV appeared in the air in front of him, and on the screen he could see Helena and Blackwing battling a very large flying man dressed in brown with a red cape and cowl. He was so startled, he dropped his notebook.
“Don’t worry, Hel! I’m on my way!” He floated into the air, accelerating as he flew higher. And then he stopped. The TV crashed to the floor and exploded, sparks showered the fallen notebook, and it caught fire. Bat-Mite didn’t notice. Hel was in danger, and she needed his help.
Yet he could hear her stern voice clearly in his mind. “Do not, under any circumstances, use your powers to help me!” He realized, again, that she had not been kidding. Still, she was in trouble, and he had to help. As he puzzled this out, there was a shimmering over his head, and an old-fashioned light bulb slowly materialized, the kind with the big curly filament and the transparent glass. An instant after it was completely materialized, he reached up and pulled the chain, and the bulb flashed on.
“I got it! I can’t use my powers, but what if I use someone else’s powers?!” Something still bothered him, though; he realized that if Helena recognized him, even though he was keeping his promise and using someone else’s powers, she would be cross with him. He needed a disguise. He looked around for inspiration.
Next to the shattered glass case was another case, this one still whole. And inside that was what looked sort of like a large, shiny, silver-skinned man with an opaque silver basketball over his head. Closer examination showed that it was some kind of costume or suit of armor.
“Useful, but not quite what I have in mind.” He made a florid gesture with his hand, and spoke out loud. “Presto, change-o!”
The glass case vanished, and the armor morphed slightly and changed colors. Now it looked like a tall man, with a decathlete’s build and an opaque silver basketball over his head, wearing a dull silver costume with a short red cape. He snapped his fingers, and a panel opened in the chest. He floated inside, and as the panel closed, the figure came to life.
“Into the blue!” he yelled, and leaped up through the hole in the ceiling. “Hold on, Hel! I’m on my way — for real, this time!” An observer might have heard a snatch of song coming from inside that opaque helmet, fading into inaudibility as he rocketed away. “Who stands for you and for me and for principle…”
Fortunately, for anyone else who happened to be in the building, the sprinklers came on and drowned out the fire the exploding TV had started, incidentally. But Bat-Mite, or whatever mysterious hero he was impersonating, was long gone by that time.
“Well, Ms. Lang, considering the chaos in here, I doubt that you’ll get a chance to talk to the lovely professor tonight.” Lana Lang was talking to herself. She also owned an Egyptian talisman of power, and she was interested in what Professor Andre might know about the broach that gave her the powers of the Insect Queen. “There are a lot of similarities between my broach and the amulet of the goddess Isis. I wonder if my powers somehow derive from the goddess as well?” But the presence of ISIS seemed to have canceled the question-and-answer session that had been scheduled following Joanna Andre’s lecture.
Maybe Insect Queen can help with the crowd control problem. And I may have an easier time getting Professor Andre’s attention later as Insect Queen than as plain old Lana Lang — well, not all that plain, and no longer old! she thought with a smug smile. (*) This actually seemed like a better plan; she had been wondering how she could ask questions about the broach without revealing her secret. She ran into the cloakroom, where she pulled on her blonde wig and started taking off her well-tailored casual suit.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Insect Queen: The Last Laugh, or Cocoon.]
The teenage cloakroom attendant, who had hidden among the racks at the first sign of trouble, couldn’t believe his eyes when this drop-dead gorgeous redhead started taking off her clothes. She must be crazy, but he wasn’t about to complain. Much to his disappointment, her unknowing striptease didn’t reveal what he was hoping for — instead, she wore a tight yellow and black super-hero costume under her suit, and she put on a blonde wig. He did get an eyeful as she bent over to pull on the high-heeled yellow boots she had produced from her handbag, and of course, the stories he told his friends later on embellished the truth a little — well, actually a little more each time he told the story.
As Insect Queen zipped back into the lecture hall, a tremendous explosion rocked the building.
Most of the people in the lecture hall, including the fanatics of ISIS, panicked and tried to force their way out through the two doors. However, Insect Queen saw no evidence of an explosion in the hall itself. It must have happened nearby.
“It looks like I’m not needed here. The Gotham U. Campus Police are well on their way to restoring order,” she said. The officers had just arrived, after receiving a call from Joanna. “Maybe I can help deal with the explosion.”
She willed her skin to be as hard as the shell of a lobster, and flashed toward the window. But she pulled up short as she made a realization.
“I can’t just smash through the window — there are too many people around who could get cut by falling glass! Besides, coming right after that explosion, a window breaking might really freak out some of these folks, and cause the riot that the cops are trying to prevent!”
She quickly turned her back to the window, and her wings blurred into ultra-high-speed vibrations. The powerful ultrasonic blast this produced immediately reduced the glass to harmless powder, and Insect Queen was out. She concentrated on communicating with the insects and spiders nearby, trying to gather as much news as she could. Of course, the best an insect could tell her was that there had been a loud disturbance in one direction.
Insect Queen put all the information together. “The explosion was a couple of blocks due west of here.” She headed in that direction. There must be something dangerous going on at or near the brownstone headquarters of the JSA.
Alex DeWitt had trouble believing that, only seconds ago, she had been bored out of her mind. She was attending Joanna Andre’s public lecture as part of her background research on a freelance photojournalist assignment, a biography of the new generation of super-heroines that had sprung up since the Crisis on Infinite Earths — Corona, Mighty Isis, Queen Arrow, Flare, and Arrowette, just to name a few. The ten minutes that Professor Andre had devoted to Mighty Isis had been interesting and useful, but the rest of the lecture had just been boring. She already knew more about Doctor Fate and the Hawks than Professor Andre would ever be able to talk about in a public lecture.
Things sure could change in a hurry. First a near riot, and then a massive explosion, and then some super-powered blonde in yellow had blasted through the window, heading in the direction of the explosion. Well, there was another super-powered blonde in yellow who could play that game.
She willed her power ring to transform her, and too quickly for any observer to follow, Alex DeWitt vanished and Corona took her place.
“Looks like the campus cops could use a hand — or six!” Six long, flexible yellow arms sprouted from her power ring, each lifting an ISIS member by the seat of her outfit. Corona floated out the missing window, her hapless captives ridiculously dangling behind her. Once outside, she deposited the furious International Sisterhood of Isis Servants on the Gotham University football field, which would keep them out of trouble for a few minutes, at least. Then she headed in the direction of the explosion. Not far ahead of her, she could see the other yellow-costumed woman speeding toward the danger zone.
Assistant Professor Joanna Andre had not been prepared for this kind of reaction to her lecture, and certainly not for the appearance of the strident Sisterhood. She tried using the public address system to get people to calm down, but one of the black-leather-and-white-clad women yanked the microphone away from her, breaking it in the process. She then approached Joanna, and the archaeologist didn’t like what she saw in the other’s face. She wasn’t exactly the same helpless wallflower she’d been a year ago.
“Why are you lunatics doing this? It’s against everything Isis stands for!”
“You know nothing of ISIS or our ideals, and you blaspheme our patron goddess! We do nothing more than the will of Isis!”
“That’s a boatload of crap!” Joanna yelled back. “I know a lot more about your patron than you ever will, and she would never approve of your actions here!”
The other woman screamed and leaped forward, and Joanna realized that, if she didn’t react quickly, she was about to get mauled. She blocked the rush of her attacker with a straight arm that would have made football legend Walter Paydirt smile, with a result similar to what he usually had. Her attacker staggered and fell backward, crashing into several other members of the audience.
Joanna used that instant to call the campus police from the telephone on the podium. The ISIS fanatic got back into the fight by lunging at Joanna’s legs, and the two collapsed in a heap on the podium.
Nothing in Joanna’s earlier life, or her recent career as Mighty Isis, had taught her anything about dirty infighting, while the other woman seemed to be an expert. Joanna was taking a terrific beating as the other pummeled her with fists, elbows, knees, and an occasional head butt. Her immaculate business suit was being shredded, as the ISIS member attempted to pull her jacket down to her waist to immobilize her arms. But she gathered her new fortitude and fought back as best she could.
In the heat of battle, neither woman had any attention to spare when the explosion rattled the lecture hall.
Joanna finally forced enough separation between them to throw a punch. She twisted to add momentum to her right cross, and she wasn’t holding anything back. At that same instant, something jerked her assailant up and back away from her, and her sudden freedom of movement only added speed to her swing. The ISIS fanatic was unable to block or dodge, and Joanna’s punch struck her on the left side of her chin, snapping her head around and battering her instantly into unconsciousness.
Stunned at the sudden end of the fight, Joanna slowly got to her feet. She let a campus policeman guide her out the door. “Once you get outside, ma’am, head east and keep going until you hear some kind of all-clear. You want to be as far away as you can get!”
“Excuse me, officer — what else is going on?”
“You don’t know? A super-villain has attacked the JSA, and there is a big fight going on outside their headquarters. For your own safety, get as far away as you can!” He turned to help the next person.
Joanna slipped behind a hedge. She looked up, spread her hands wide to the heavens, and uttered two words in a clear, proud voice: “Mighty Isis.”
The transformation was different this time. Instead of changing into Mighty Isis, she found herself floating weightless, surrounded by infinite darkness. She had been here before.
“Welcome back, my daughter,” a kind voice spoke in the darkness — a woman’s voice. Andrea had not expected to hear it tonight, but she recognized it instantly.
“Hatshepsut,” she breathed. “Why am I here, mother? My help is needed on Earth! Have I done something wrong?”
“I am displeased, my daughter,” the spirit of the ancient queen spoke gently. “Yet not with you; the fault is my own. Worry not, as no time will pass while we converse. When we finish, you can still aid those in need!
“I should have foreseen the effects of introducing you to the world in the guise of Isis. The Sisterhood of ISIS is my own ancient creation, created long ago. It has gone through many changes, daughter, but still, it was created by my own hand to honor our patron. And as long as it has been, there have always been those sisters in ISIS who felt that the goddess demanded more… passionate actions from her followers.
“These more zealous sisters believe that the appearance of Mighty Isis is a sign, that the goddess herself has returned to lead them to greatness. Until the rest of the Sisterhood can educate them, I believe it would be wisest to blur, and perhaps even conceal, your relationship with the goddess Isis.”
Joanna nodded. It seemed a somewhat drastic step to her, but she could see the necessity. Still, she liked being Mighty Isis. Before she could say anything, Hatshepsut continued.
“Your abilities shall remain the same, though your appearance will change… somewhat. You will still call upon the goddess to grant you her power, yet you will use the name of another when wielding the power of Isis. Behold…” She paused dramatically for a few instants. “Zephyr!”
Out of the darkness a magical mirror appeared, allowing Joanna to inspect her new appearance, which was pretty much the same as her old appearance, except that the color scheme had altered.
The white thigh-length shift now shimmered with the colors of life — ivy green and a dark ocean blue, flowing from one color to the other. The black leather of her belt and neckpiece were now an earth-tone brown, and the sliver inlays were now golden. Most striking of all, the iridescent aura that had surrounded her as Mighty Isis no longer glowed white, and her natural coffee and cream complexion beautifully complemented the new colors of her costume.
“I trust that you find the changes satisfactory, daughter?”
A couple of years ago, the bashful Joanna would have hidden her beauty away, but her recent successes in life, not just as Mighty Isis, but also as Joanna Andre, had given her a serenity and sense of self-worth, allowing her to accept and encompass her new image.
“Yes, mother. This is quite satisfactory.”
“Then I know you are anxious to return to your world and aid those in need. Until we meet again!” The darkness morphed into a landscape, and Zephyr was once again on the grounds of Gotham University. She smiled as she chanted the words that let her fly.
“O zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly.”
A gentle breeze ruffled her waist-length black hair, which hung behind her like a cape, and she rose majestically into the sky.