by Starsky Hutch 76
“They’re all gathered in the ballroom,” the Huntress said.
“This place has a ballroom?” U.S. Avenger asked.
“The Waynes were always big into entertaining,” she replied. “Before Mom died, we used to have some really great parties here.”
“It seems like they’re having one now,” Sparrow said.
“They’re about to find out their celebration is premature,” the Huntress said grimly.
The entire throng of gang members had gathered in the ballroom of Wayne Manor. One of them had found the controls, so heavy metal music now blared from the built-in sound system. Each gang banger held a bottle of wine from Wayne Manor’s private wine cellar. They partied with reckless abandon, having been reassured by Winforth and Franko Morelli that distractions had been set in place to make sure all activities remained undisturbed. If they had held onto all their faculties, they might have noticed the old crooks were no longer with them.
They were so lost in their revelry that they were oblivious to the three secret doors that opened on opposite ends of the glass-domed ballroom. Three smoke bombs went off, raising cries of alarm from the drunken gang bangers as the three cloaked vigilantes waded into them.
“These are everything I had hoped for and more!” Melody Jones said ecstatically.
“Enough for all of us,” Franko Morelli said, reminding her of their deal.
“Yes, enough for all of us,” Melody said, rolling her eyes. She turned to William Defoe and said, “You really don’t want a share?”
“No,” Defoe said sourly. “I want no part of Grayson. Being in his home is distasteful enough. You should have let me wait in the limo.”
“And miss the culmination of all our planning?” Melody said. “What kind of friend would I be if I let you do that?”
Defoe let out a suspicious snort. “So what do you do now?”
“Now the ceremony begins,” Melody said. “And I don’t mean Dick’s wedding.”
U.S. Avenger, alias Terry Lee Travis, backhanded yet another gang member while simultaneously felling another with a roundhouse kick. “It feels like we’ve been at this forever.”
“There are just so many of them!” Sparrow said, flipping a gang member who had attempted to grab her from behind.
“Pipe down, you two!” the Huntress hissed through the smoke. “You’re giving up your position and the element of surprise!”
“Oh, I’ve still got a few surprises up my sleeve,” U.S. Avenger said. He lifted up his communicator and said, “EAGLE One, lock on my position. Now’s the time.”
With a loud crash, a large, golden cybernetic eagle suddenly crashed through the center of the glass dome and into the ballroom, raining glass down on the crowd.
Rays fired from the eyes of the electronic bird of prey, striking down gang member after gang member. It swooped down to pick up one panicked thug with its large robotic talons and rose to send him flinging into other fleeing gang bangers.
“Friend of yours?” the Huntress asked.
“You could say that,” Terry said, smiling.
The furniture in Dick Grayson’s study was moved aside. In the center of the room, a stone dais had been brought in and hastily assembled. In the center of it rested the jewels that Merlin had bequeathed to Dick Grayson and his bride.
The four conspirators now wore ceremonial robes. Franko and Defoe, however, stood back as Melody and Winforth unrolled ancient parchments covered in hieroglyphics.
“Are you sure you don’t want to take part?” Melody asked coyly. “Last chance.”
“No, thank you,” Defoe said. “I prefer to hang on to my humanity.”
“Yeah,” Franko said. “Who wants to live forever, anyway?”
“I do,” Melody replied. “I do.”
The two began reciting from the scrolls, each holding out one hand above the jewels. Franko and DeFoe each pulled out ceremonial daggers and ran them across the offered palms. Melody and Winforth clenched their fists, causing the blood to trickle down onto the crystals, which began to glow brightly.
Power Girl flew south from Vermont toward Gotham City with a sick feeling in her gut. She knew something was wrong, but she wasn’t sure what it was that was making her feel that way.
Over the horizon, a bright light flashed. The sick feeling grew stronger when she realized it was coming from the location of Wayne Manor.
The tide of battle was quickly turning with the addition of EAGLE One. The smoke screen had left the gang members in a confused panic. But to the infrared sensors of the mechanized bird, it was prectically non-existent. It repeatedly swept down to fire upon the crowd, dropping one after another with its stun ray, then back up to make another pass.
Between the group of heroes and EAGLE One, the army of gang bangers was nearly finished off by the time the smoke cleared. Their moment of triumph was cut short when an explosion suddenly rocked the mansion.
“Wonderful… so wonderful,” Melody cooed, closing her eyes and running her hand across her face as energy continued to flood the forms of both her and her butler.
“Jesus,” Defoe said, watching her reaction. “If I wasn’t so completely freaked out by all this, I’d be pretty turned on right about now.”
“Amazing…” Melody gasped once more, “…the power…” It felt as if her very consciousness was expanding with the rush of power. She could see beyond the room, beyond the planet, beyond the stars, and even beyond this very reality.
“It’s magnificent, exhilarating… it’s… it’s…” Her eyes suddenly shot open in panic. “It’s too much!” she screamed. “It’s too much! It’s consuming me! There’s something wrong with the crystals! Those aren’t diamonds!”
Winforth screamed as well, making both Franko and Defoe jump. “What the hell does she mean those aren’t diamonds?” said Franko. “What the hell is happening?”
Defoe backed up against the wall. “I don’t know, but I’m getting the hell out of here!”
“Dammit!” Franko cursed. He grabbed one of the marble busts that decorated Dick Grayson’s study and brought it down on the ceremonial tablet closest to his old friend. There was a great burst of light that exploded outward, sending Franko flying through the window before Winforth slumped to the ground.
Melody screamed even louder now that she was bearing the full brunt of the transformation. She was now so full of the strange energy from the crystals that her skin glowed a bright white. Her clothing was burned away by the energy, but her radiance was such that her nudity was completely hidden. Her voice was no longer even human, and her hair had taken on the appearance of white flames.
Defoe shrieked and ran out the door. In a mindless rage, Melody took off after him and blasted through the walls, greatly overshooting her mark and leaving him behind.
In her crazed state, she knew that she wanted something — something in this house — but she could barely remember what it was. All she had left was her rage and a growing thirst for destruction.
All eyes turned in the direction of the booming sound. “What the hell was that?” Rachel exclaimed through the clearing smoke.
“An explosion,” Terry said.
Both Sparrow and Huntress turned and looked at him with an expression that said, Duh! Terry couldn’t help but smile.
“Maybe you should change your handle to Mister Obvious,” the Huntress said.
One of the remaining gang bangers tried to jump U.S. Avenger, but he used his leverage to spin around and drive an elbow into the back of his head, knocking him unconscious. That appeared to be the last of them. The Huntress and Sparrow had dealt with the other two.
Suddenly, the wall exploded outward as the transformed Melody Jones burst through. She let out an inhuman shriek that reminded Rachel of something out of a monster movie created by one of Maury’s Japanese clients.
U.S. Avenger braced himself for the coming onslaught. Facing down street thugs was one thing — a full-fledged super-villain was another. “Talk about your trial by fire,” he muttered.
“Yeah,” Sparrow said, nodding.
EAGLE One’s sensors locked onto her glowing form, detecting her as a hostile life form. The mechanized bird soared at her, firing rays from his eyes. “Surrender now, and your punishment will be less severe,” he commanded.
Melody let out a shriek and swept her arm out, letting loose a blast of force that sent the cybernetic bird flying into the wall on the other side of the room.
“EAGLE One!” Terry cried. In the brief time they had come to work together, he had come to think of him as less of a machine and more like a friend and partner. He was relieved to see the robotic bird move, letting him know he could be repaired.
“Oh, great,” Sparrow said. “There goes our last line of defense.”
“Maybe not,” the Huntress said, smiling knowingly as she looked up at the shattered dome and saw a figure streaking toward them.
Power Girl soared through the broken dome and into the ballroom, immediately slamming into Melody. The glowing figure responded with a right cross that sent the super-heroine flying through the opposite wall.
Stepping back through the hole in the wall, Power Girl brought her hand up to her lip, raising her eyebrow in surprise at the blood she saw on her fingertip. “Good,” she said with determination. “This means I don’t have to hold back.”
Power Girl soared toward the glowing intruder, fueled by her anger at the sight of the chaos and wreckage of the room where she had planned to have her wedding reception. “I can’t even have this one day without some super-powered crazy ruining it for me,” she growled under her breath.
Melody fired a blast at Power Girl, knocking her backward. Three more blasts followed, knocking her to her knees.
“Her power is unreal,” Power Girl gasped, reeling under the onslaught. She knew she had to get up. This was her home now, as much as it was Dick’s and the many generations of Waynes who had lived there. It was her job to protect it.
“We’ve got to do something,” Rachel said.
“Yeah, but what?” U.S. Avenger said. “We’re hopelessly outclassed here.”
“I’ve hit the JSA distress on my communicator,” the Huntress said. “I don’t know if they’ll be here in time. I don’t know who else to call.”
There was a sudden flash, and Bat-Mite appeared. “Hi! Sonia was wondering when you’d be back home, so I thought I’d check in on you, since you’d been gone so long.”
He looked over at Power Girl and Melody Jones as they fought and exclaimed, “Hey! They’re wrecking the place!”
“That’s right,” the Huntress said, pointing to Melody. “Can you do something about her?”
“You bet I will!” Bat-Mite exclaimed. He waved his hands, and Melody suddenly dissappeared — and Power Girl with her.
“Bat-Mite!” the Huntress exclaimed, horrified. “You got rid of both of them!”
“Oh, no!” Bat-Mite wailed, slapping his hands up to his cheeks in dismay.
Power Girl and the mystically transformed Melody Jones reappeared in a far-flung sector of space. With an inhuman shriek, Melody charged at Power Girl, almost as if their change of locale had gone completely unnoticed. The momentum of her attack drove them into a nearby planetoid, sending debris flying in all directions.
The battered super-heroine, whose Kryptonian name was Kara Zor-L, knew that she would have to end this soon. Melody appeared to have an endless supply of energy, whereas the battle was definitely taking its toll upon her. With that thought, Melody soared at her again, knocking her through three more planetoids.
Holding the front of her uniform with one hand, Melody back-handed her with the other, delivering a blow that left Kara seeing stars. She brought her hand forward with another blow, and Kara could taste her own blood. After another three blows, she could feel her blood running from her nose over her upper lip. The weightlessness of space carried it out into droplets before her eyes, almost as if taunting her.
With a quick jerk, Power Girl tore free from her grasp, losing the right sleeve and shoulder of her uniform in the process. The torn piece of her uniform was incinerated in Melody’s fiery grasp.
Power Girl knew the fight would be ending soon. Whether she would survive was the question. She poured everything she had left into her next move, flying in the opposite direction from Melody at super-speed. She then did a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn and flew back toward her, multiplying her speed with every millisecond. Power Girl drove into her with explosive force, sending her flying backward with just as much force.
The attack caught Melody totally by surprise and left her stunned as she was carried off by the momentum.
The move had also taken a great deal out of Power Girl. She struggled to maintain her consciousness as she watched the glowing form of Melody soar backward, fiery arms and legs dangling before her. She finally landed in the heart of a nearby star.
“I didn’t mean to do that!” Kara exclaimed. “I’ve got to help her.”
She watched with horror as whatever power fueled Melody suddenly caused the star to impossibly go from an exploding yellow to a red giant. She dared not get any closer.
Time itself seemed to move rapidly forward as the star suddenly drew in upon itself, becoming a white dwarf. It then imploded into a black hole and began sucking in everything around it. Space debris began flying toward the ravenous spatial rift. Kara then found herself being sucked toward the black hole. Her fingers sank into a nearby space rock left over from her earlier battle as she hung on with futility for dear life. She let out a scream of horror and frustration as she continued to be pulled toward her final doom.
Suddenly, a portal opened before her. She couldn’t believe her eyes. She was looking back into Wayne Manor.
“Go ahead and grab her,” she heard a high-pitched voice say.
“Reach into space?” she heard the Huntress ask.
“My magic will protect you, Hel,” the voice said.
“Like it did her?”
“That’s not fair,” the voice whined.
“OK, OK, I’m sorry. I know you tried your best.” The Huntress leaned through the portal and grabbed Power Girl’s wrists. “It’s OK, Kara. I’ve got you now.” With a quick pull, Kara was through the portal and back into the ballroom of the mansion.
“I hate magic,” Power Girl said as she lay sprawled across the floor. Her head rested in Helena’s lap.
“Oh, sweety,” the Huntress said. “You look almost as rough as Dick.”
“Should make one heck of a wedding album, huh?” Kara said with a weak smile before passing out.
Franko Morelli’s walk was more like an angry march as he stalked along the sidewalk. It felt as if it had taken him hours to get back within the city limits of Gotham. Common sense had told him to get up and start walking once he was thrown from the house. He hoped his old friend had somehow managed to make it out of the mansion as well, but he doubted it. The old ex-con would be a con once more.
Passersby stared at him with slack-jawed interest. He realized he must look quite a sight with his tattered robe over his suit.
I really should try to fix myself up a little bit, he thought, pulling the robe over his head and tossing it to a nearby garbage can. The last thing he needed was for anyone who knew him to see him and say something to Harley Quinn.
He stepped in front of a drug store window to try to groom himself a little bit. When he saw his reflection, he nearly fell over.
“Cripes!” he exclaimed, bringing his hand up to his hair, which was now a rich chestnut brown. Most of the wrinkles in his face had smoothed over as well.
He dusted his suit off and then headed for the entrance to the drug store, stopping for a pair of little old ladies who were exiting. “Thank you, young man,” one of them said, beaming up at him.
“My pleasure,” he said, bringing his hand up to tip his fedora before remembering he had lost it at the mansion.
“Young man…” he muttered to himself as he entered. “The last thing I need to be is a young man.”
He walked over to the hair care aisle and picked up a box of Clairol silver hair dye No. 3 and headed for the register. He hoped it would be enough to fool Harley the next time he had to see her.