by Dan Swanson
Lois Lane and Lily DeLuna had both argued when Libby Lawrence had assigned their opponents, Lois because she was paired against the weakest of the three opponents, and Lily because she wanted a rematch with the Sportsmaster. But Libby was adamant.
“Last time you fought him, Lily, he didn’t have his weapons. He’s a lot more dangerous now!” Lily thought she was more dangerous now, too. The last time she’d fought the Sportsmaster, she’d just been a teenager. But she was willing to let Liberty Belle take the lead, for now.
“Lois, you should be able to beat the kid easily, and then you can help whoever needs it!” The flattery worked, and Lois subsided. Lily realized that Lois must know about Libby, too, or she probably wouldn’t have deferred so readily to Libby’s direction.
Biff Redondo was bigger than Lois, and according to Lily, he had been through U.S. Army boot camp. In fact, he’d been an outstanding soldier-in-training until the accident that gave him his power as the Oculist. Still, Lois had unflinchingly faced the most dangerous beings on Earth, human and otherwise, and she wasn’t going to be intimidated by this thug. Well, she might have flinched inwardly, just a little, but Biff didn’t know that. She was glad she was carrying her small purse with the long straps today. Dumping everything out, she filled it up with gravel. It was about four pounds, she decided, which was just about perfect.
The Oculist turned to watch when Lily and Libby attacked his ex-partners. He almost didn’t hear Lois rush toward him, but she made some kind of noise at the last second, and he managed to turn so her shoulder smashed into his stomach rather than the small of his back. He flew backward and crashed to the lawn. Lois managed to land on top of him, and she wished the two of them were on the cobblestones rather than the grass. She reached for her purse to club him on the head, but it was missing. She looked around and realized she’d dropped it during the tackle.
Biff was used to getting tackled, and he recovered much more quickly than Lois had expected. He threw her off, and managed to whack her in the head with his elbow while doing so. Lois was somewhat stunned, but she shook it off and dropped into a martial arts stance.
“Geez, does everybody fight like that these days?” Biff was disgusted. “Well, it won’t do you any good!” He lowered his head and rushed at her, arms outstretched. Lois didn’t really know any martial arts. She had been hoping to intimidate him. No luck. But she remembered something she had seen the Phantom Lady do once, back in the early years of the war. She started to fall backward, and when Biff reached her, she grabbed his shirt and pulled him toward her, falling backward the whole time. He was off-balance, and with the added momentum she gave him, he flew over top of her. She added her own twist, a kick between the legs, and Biff screamed as he rolled several times. Lois felt her jacket tear, and she had time for an irrelevant thought — how had Phantom Lady managed to fight in that skimpy outfit she wore?
Biff was back on his feet and moving gingerly, almost as if he was trying to limp on both feet at the same time. He pulled aside his eye-patch and glared at Lois, but there was no effect. His power apparently didn’t work on her. He wasn’t completely surprised; it hadn’t worked on the Huntress, either. He moved back to the attack, but this time he was more careful.
The Oculist went into a boxing stance, both arms up in front of himself, on guard, and approached Lois. She wasn’t about to let him close with her, so she backed away. She had one trick left, and it had better do the job, so she needed to set it up perfectly. She backed onto the gravel, and it hurt her feet through the stockings — and, of course, wrecked a brand-new pair of silk stockings, something he would pay for — so she changed direction. She risked a quick glance behind her, and Biff used the chance to rush her. When Lois turned and saw him leaping forward, she tried to run backward, but instead stumbled and fell. Biff roared with triumph — he had her now.
But as Lois had planned, her right hand fell on the purse strap. She had time to whip her arm around once, and then she threw the purse, almost like a stone from a sling.
“Just like David and Goliath!” she yelled in satisfaction as it hit Biff smack in the middle of the forehead. There was a sickening thud, and the Oculist fell to the ground, unconscious. His own momentum, added to the force of her throw, had done the trick. She hoped she hadn’t cracked his skull, but that was her problem, not his.
The strap from her purse doubled as a rope to tie up the unconscious villain. She tore up his shirt and used some strips to bind his eye-patch in place. Enough people had taken unexpected naps today already. She was about to kick him, in revenge for her stockings, but she wanted him conscious for that.
Lois Lane began shaking as she realized after the fact the danger she’d been in, and she realized that she ought to get some formal training in self-defense. Maybe Superman knew some tricks he could show her.
Lily DeLuna was physically overmatched by the Huntress, who was stronger, more savage, and who wore gloves with held razor-sharp claws attached. She moved like a cat. Fortunately, she also fought like a cat, savagely but with no science. Using all her skill, Lily still had to fall back or be torn to shreds. She needed a weapon of some sort to offset the advantage of those claws.
The Huntress drew back after a blocked attack, and instead of counterattacking, Lily jumped backward and quickly scanned the nearby cobblestones. Behind the Huntress, out of reach, she saw a pool cue, and off to her left she saw a sword, both of which had fallen from the Sportsmaster’s equipment bag. This was no blunt fencing épée, but a real sword, probably a Civil War cavalry sword.
Lily looked at the sword for a split instant too long, and just barely escaped being gutted by a lunge. She managed to block the claws down and away, and returned her full attention to the fight. She was still retreating, but she altered her direction a bit, so she would pass closer to the lost sword. She was getting tired, and her blocks were a little slower. The Huntress sensed that Lily was tiring, eagerly pressed the attack, and left herself open. Lily launched a desperate counterattack, battering aside the Huntress’ defense and actually managing to land a blow to the head. She couldn’t keep this up long. But she wasn’t planning to. She suddenly broke off and ran for the sword.
The Huntress wasn’t surprised. She had seen Lily notice the sword, and she was expecting this break toward the weapon. She launched herself forward, faster than Lily was moving, and landed between Lily and her target, hissing like an angry cat. She expected Lily to run right into her attack, and a quick end to this fight would follow.
But Lily had all along been following her own plan. She turned, and before the Huntress could change directions, she had the pool cue in her hands. It was a little short for quarterstaff work, but it wasn’t bad. She wasn’t too surprised to discover that it seemed to be made of a light metal alloy rather than wood; the Sportsmaster had obviously designed this for use as a weapon when he wasn’t hustling pool.
A staff increased her effective striking range and speed, and any blows she landed would hurt a lot more. She felt much more confident than she had just seconds ago.
Lily held her staff vertically between them, the top closer to the Huntress than the bottom. The Huntress leaped forward, then dodged to Lily’s right, slashing as she flashed by. Lily rotated the top of the staff quickly to the right, and it smashed into the top of the villain’s right arm, knocking it down, and the Huntress felt her entire hand go numb. Lily turned easily, keeping her foe in front of her.
The Huntress spun completely around, and as she did, her leg came up in a backhand sweep. Lily barely pulled the staff back in line in time to block the kick. She realized that the Huntress had claws in her shoes as well, and that kick had been aimed at her throat.
Even though she managed to block, Lily was knocked back. She turned a stumble into a leap, and put another four feet between herself and her foe.
“You can’t win, little mouse, even with your stick! I was trained to fight by Manhunter, the greatest fighter ever!” The Huntress launched another attack, spinning, slashing, kicking, and snarling, and Lily was hard-pressed to block everything. One slashing blow would have ripped across her throat, but she barely managed to twist in time, and took the blow on her shoulder, tearing the shoulder of her blouse to tatters. She had never liked the padded shoulders look for women, but just now that shoulder pad had reduced a potentially deadly wound to an irritating slash. Lily hoped the Huntress kept her claws clean.
“Whatever happened to you? When you were Manhunter’s partner, the Tigress, you were one of my heroes!” Lily needed a break. She had noticed that, for some reason, many super-villains felt some need to talk to their opponents during a fight. But it was tough to talk and fight your best at the same time.
The Huntress screamed and leaped. Lily was astonished — she would need a run and a springboard to duplicate a leap like that. The villainess was coming at her like a missile, claws outstretched. With no time to counter, Lily simply collapsed to the ground, then rolled quickly to one side and used her momentum to spring to her feet. As she turned to face the Huntress, her skirt tangled around her legs, and she stumbled, making her wish she’d said to hell with convention that morning and worn a pantsuit. This outfit was already ruined. And that stumble was probably going to get her killed.
She was astonished when she recovered, and the Huntress still hadn’t attacked again. But the villainess was talking.
“You don’t know what I’ve been through since then!” she hissed. “I died in battle — and my soul was carried to Valhalla by the Valkyrie, Gudra. You can’t imagine how awful it was!”
Lily was stunned. She knew a little Norse mythology. “Valhalla is heaven, isn’t it? How could you not like it there?”
“It’s heaven for fallen male warriors, little mouse — big, strong, Viking he-men who only want four things: food, ale, fighting, and supple, willing women, usually in that order, too! It’s not heaven — it’s Odin’s own personal blue movie!”
This break was helping Lily get her second wind. “Not every man who dies bravely in combat is like that, surely?”
“Isn’t that how all men are?” The Huntress whirled into another attack. This time she feinted a leap, and rushed forward along the ground instead. Lily swung the heavy cue two-handed like a baseball bat, forcing the Huntress to duck under it. She then leaped again, and Lily spun to the side. She went the same way as she had rolled before, and the Huntress seemed to have anticipated it. Her claw slashed out and shredded the front of Lily’s oh-so-expensive blouse. Lily wondered why she wasn’t dead.
“You’re right, though — the human definition of a hero has changed since Odin set up Valhalla, but not their entrance criteria. Back then, men were monsters and women submitted — or they were beaten! Well, I submit to no one, little mouse!”
Then, without warning, the Huntress charged, and when Lily blocked, she grabbed the staff with both hands and twisted, then swept her foot out in a kick. The claws struck Lily at waist-level, tearing through her leather belt and slicing through the material of her skirt. Once again she wondered why she wasn’t dead. Then she realized — cats liked to play with their prey.
“Nor do I, ghost! And I am no one’s prey!” Lily was furious. She began an angry, determined attack. A wide sweep with the staff, and the Huntress jumped straight up to avoid it. As she whirled, Lily swept a back-kick at the villainess, who tried to roll with the kick, but still was knocked sideways. Lily kept whirling, and the staff struck the Huntress in the ribs with an audible crack while she was still in the air. She yowled in pain, but managed to wrap herself around the staff, and her momentum managed to pull it from Lily’s hands. She then threw it as far as she could.
“Enough! No more games, no more toys!”
A baseball fell to the ground between the two women and exploded, releasing a gas of some kind. Lily’s eyes were irritated immediately, and she recognized that it must be tear gas. She quickly backed away and tore a patch from her shredded blouse, which she held over her mouth and nose. That effectively put an end to her battle with the Huntress, which was what the Sportsmaster had intended.
The Sportsmaster had his duffel bag back in his left hand, with another baseball in the right. “Hey, doll!” he yelled at the Huntress. “This dame…” He threw the baseball at Libby Lawrence, who dodged lithely. “…has some connection with the JSA!” The ball hit the courtyard wall and exploded, blasting a hole through it. “I think she’s managed to contact the Bat! We better beat it.” He looked over where Lois had Biff tied up. “Too bad the punk got captured, but he’d never make it in the Injustice Gang!”
The two ducked through the hole in the wall, with Sportsmaster providing cover by throwing various pieces of exploding sporting equipment he pulled from the duffel bag — some tennis balls, a hockey puck, a boomerang, and a handful of arrows. Lily had seen the corresponding bow somewhere on the ground during her battle with the Huntress. They hopped in a very fast-looking roadster.
The Huntress was complaining loudly as they roared off. “I thought you were going to get that Cord for me!” was the last thing they heard from the Sportsmaster and the Huntress.
Libby Lawrence came up to Lily with a sly smile on her face. “Wow, hon, where do you shop for lingerie? Johnny would absolute kill to see me dressed like that! Nice color combination, too! But, I don’t suppose you planned to let the whole school see your unmentionables, did you?”
Lily looked down and gasped in shock. Her blouse was in tatters, and her skirt had fallen into shreds, no doubt exactly what the Huntress had intended. “That witch! To think she used to be one of my heroes!”
Lois Lane ran up with the blazers that the women had discarded earlier. “Here, these will help — but there really isn’t anyone else to see. Biff put them all to sleep, and I put him to sleep myself.” She looked Lily over critically. “I think I want to know where you do your shopping, too!” She grinned at Libby.
“OK, you guys, it isn’t funny anymore! Libby, is Batman really about to show up?” Libby just smiled. Lily grabbed the blazers from Lois and put her own on, then tried to figure out how to tie the other two together to make a skirt.
“Lois, I have a duffel bag with some workout gear in my car. Do you think you could go get it for me?” She handed Lois the key. “The gold Cord in the main lot, on the passenger seat! I’ll meet you in the little girls’ room right inside the entrance.” She turned and ran.
Lois headed for the parking lot, and Libby found a phone in the main administrative office and called in the story.