Libby Lawrence wore a black evening gown with high heels, and she looked divine as she danced across the floor in the arms of her date, John Chambers. He was her ex-husband, yet they had begun dating again recently, as if drawn together by a fate that knew them better than they knew themselves. (*)
She did feel right in his arms. She had always loved him, but in the past the loss of a child and his refusal to grow up had distanced them. (*) She now saw the adventurous life as the right one for both of them after years in which she remained a mother and career woman alone. Liberty Belle was young again. (*) In fact, she looked more like a teenager than she had when she had started her famous Channel swim long ago.
Johnny smiled. “A post-recession penny for your thoughts?”
Libby laughed and said, “Oh, just enjoying the moment. We should have always done that.”
“Miss Responsibility saying that? The world is ending!” he quipped.
She tossed back her long blonde locks as they fell forward. “No, really, I mean it. Life is not to be used for all work. You were wiser than I was to know that back then. I guess things just moved so fast for me, from Poland with Daddy’s death in the bombing, to the race across France to Dunkirk and my swim, then to America and my career as an anti-Nazi speaker and broadcaster from radio to TV reporter, not to mention my time in that outfit you loved so.”
“You mean the pink teddy?” he joked.
“Perhaps,” she said. “I still have that one, too.”
She enjoyed the moment, and it was good that she did, for the days to come would be dangerous ones for the all-American girl, Liberty Belle.
“Helena Wayne!” cried Manhunter to another costumed woman. “That’s the one! Look at her face — it’s bright pink when I use this lens.”
They watched from Gotham Tower as the pretty lawyer made her way to work the day after she had fought Nightshade as the Huntress.
“I’m tempted to wring her neck myself, but don’t worry, I know your family had a history with hers, and I feel as if I beat her by bringing you to her unmasked,” said Manhunter.
Her ally wore a black suit and hood. “I hate her!” said the intense woman. “I hate that symbol she wears! It tormented me all my life! Daddy used it to punish me, and he called it his aversion therapy. Well, it worked. That bat emblem has haunted me for my entire life. Tonight I slay Helena ‘Huntress’ Wayne for my father, and more personally for myself!”
Manhunter felt cocky. “See? The spore Nightshade hit Huntress with left an odorless, colorless stain on her face,” bragged Manhunter. “She can’t see or feel it, but this lens allows me to see it. The pink marks her as the Huntress, even as Helena Wayne. The Cheetah taught me this trick — actually, I stole it from her, but why quibble? I knew Batman had to be wealthy, and I knew his last known appearance and his first one. The only men that were in Gotham those dates with enough money and the right build were few. Those with daughters of the age and size of the Huntress were exactly three. Only Wayne has that telltale mark.”
Her ally said, “Leave her to me! She won’t be attending that Law’s Legionnaires meeting with her pals.”
Manhunter nodded. This one is crazy, she thought. But she may hate the Bat enough to actually slay his daughter!
Helena Wayne entered her apartment after a long day, only to immediately sense that she was not alone. She noticed nothing out of place, yet she had that trained detective’s sense of her environment, and she knew that something was wrong.
She rolled to the floor even as a knife planted itself where her chest had been moments before. She tucked herself up into a ball and rolled to cover before looking up to see a black-clad female. “Who are you?” she asked.
“I am Sharon Strange,” she said. “My father, Professor Hugo Strange, was the sworn enemy of your father, Bruce ‘Batman’ Wayne! I have been raised in the shadow of the Bat, as it were. It is my tormentor. It is what drives me onward to perfection. It is the bane of my existence, and I am Lady Bane — the slayer of Batman’s heirs!” The woman reached for a sword.
Helena gasped and ripped off her blouse and skirt. The boots could wait. She stood costumed partially and unmasked — half-Helena and half-Huntress. She stood ready and blocked the lethal sword thrust with her hands placed precisely against each side of the blade as it rested inches from her nose. She was unprepared for an assault in her own home, and she felt exposed in more ways than one.
Elsewhere, at the Star City Plaza Hotel, the would-be members of the new Law’s Legionnaires gathered at Queen Arrow’s summons. The new Tarantula clung to a wall and watched as a famous pair entered together. Liberty Belle and Wonder Woman had chosen to come out of respect for their peers, though neither had plans to join any new team.
“Diana, I can’t say how happy I am for you and Steve,” said Libby.
“Thank you!” Diana Trevor answered the blonde beauty, holding her swollen belly. “Parenthood is a blessing, but it’s never easy. How is Jesse?”
As they bantered, Black Canary entered. Angel O’Day looked so much like her predecessor that Liberty Belle did a double take. “Dinah Lance revisited,” she breathed.
On the podium and stage stood Queen Arrow in her bikini outfit with her bow and quiver ready. “Welcome, ladies, to the first meeting of the new Law’s Legionnaires,” began Diana Dare. “This is what I hope to be the start of a new heroic era!”
Then fire gutted a wall as a few costumed foes entered suddenly, led by the Manhunter. “Sorry, ladies, but this is not a beginning at all. It is rather the end of your lives!” she laughed.
Liberty Belle shattered the hotel windows with a sonic blast as Artemis Crock fired gas arrows into their midst.
Despite being seven months pregnant, Wonder Woman fearlessly and agilely stepped forward and swirled her magic lasso at super-speed until the fumes had dissipated harmlessly. Thank Hera for Belle’s quick thinking, she thought. She and I are the only ones here with much experience.
Manhunter kicked her in the face as she was thinking. The blow did no harm, but it did delay her from helping the others. “A mommy-to-be like you should be resting — perhaps I can give you your final rest!” she said, sneering. Diana blocked a second punch with her bracelet and grabbed for the agile Manhunter, who rolled aside.
Liberty Belle frowned. “This group may not be enough to handle these killers. Wish Hawkgirl had shown up, or Firebrand.”
She ducked under a kick from the blonde Artemis, whom she had beaten once before. “I know it was you who left me in jail last time!” she said. (*) “I’ll rip your hair out for that!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Liberty Belle: The Future Is Now, Chapter 2: Ghosts of the Past.]
Belle smiled. “I’d do the same to you, but peroxide stains so!” She fired a sonic blast directly at the Manhunter’s child. She yelped in pain and fell hard.
Black Canary had flipped through the air to avoid a fiery blast from Killer Moth’s gloves, only to be snared in a net tossed by Barracuda. The blonde bombshell did not panic. She bided her time, and when Moth closed in for the kill, Angel reached through the heavy net to pull her in closer by her flared wings. They tumbled to the ground, and Canary rolled aside to keep free of any deadly firepower. “Anybody got any Raid?” she quipped.
Tarantula clung to the roof and raced across it to drop down on Barracuda’s solid shoulders. The impact almost stunned Angela Leonard, but she stayed plastered to her foe’s back with one adhesive glove while she fired an odd pellet from her wrist webpoon into Barracuda’s snarling mouth with her other hand. The savage daughter of the Shark gasped and fell down, choking as a modification of Wes Dodds’ knockout gas sent her to dream land. Tarantula smiled and tossed back her blonde locks. “All right! This stuff really works!” she said, smiling.
Black Canary ripped free of the net in time to dodge a slamming fist from the Moth. “I’ll kill you, legs!” yelled the villainess. Angel twisted back with a smoothly executed side kick to Moth’s helmet. It flew off and revealed the redhead’s pretty features.
Then Queen Arrow fired three precise bolts into the air. A blinding flash burst from one, while a shocking spray discharged around the other two as they dropped squarely in front of the armored Killer Moth. She screamed as the voltage ripped through her armor. She passed out at a startled Black Canary’s feet.
Winking to Angel O’day, Queen Arrow leaped for Artemis. Liberty Belle had spun her around and flipped her over her back, only to be kicked forward as the blonde fell. Now, Diana Dare landed on Artemis and was elbowed in the face as she landed. Belle took her chance while Artemis fought with the bikini-clad Queen Arrow, connecting with a solid right hook that dropped Artemis flat.
Queen Arrow gasped as her hair was pulled back by Manhunter, who had deserted her fight with Wonder Woman after being slapped across the entire room. “I’ll slit your throat, Green Arrow Barbie!” laughed Manhunter.
Tarantula fired a web-line that hit Manhunter in the face right over Diana Dare’s ear. She pulled, and the sticky line yanked Manhunter away from the beautiful archer. Manhunter cried out and cut herself free with a gleaming knife.
“Magic!” cried Liberty Belle. Manhunter tossed the magic knife — a gift from her mother — at Belle, who rolled out of the path even as Wonder Woman dived in front of her and knocked it away.
Then a black-robed woman burst inside. “Lady Bane!” said Manhunter, catching her breath. “Just in time! I suppose you have slain the Huntress?”
Lady Bane dropped down and suddenly landed a kick to Manhunter’s head. She revealed the Huntress uniform beneath the Bane robe. “No,” said Helena Wayne. “Actually, she lost, and I thought I’d borrow her cloak to slip in here.”
Manhunter raged at her namesake and tackled her fiercely. Then, as they fought, the Tigress appeared in a puff of smoke. Black Canary swung at her, only to connect with Liberty Belle somehow. “My magical misdirection fooled you!” sneered the witch. “And let me say that I knew the first Canary, and you, poor child, are too, too soft!” Canary screamed as electric fire suddenly radiated over her body.
Tarantula fired a knockout pellet that stopped in midair and then looped back to hit her with alarming accuracy. She passed out due to the magical spell. The Tigress laughed. “I have not had such fun since I killed the greatest man I ever knew!”
Manhunter smiled as Wonder Woman stood alone. Queen Arrow had been disposed of by a dart from Manhunter’s crossbow. The Huntress was choking from a blow delivered by Manhunter earlier. She yelled hoarsely, and a blonde flew inside defiantly. “Kara!” the Huntress sighed with relief.
Power Girl had been summoned by her friend earlier after the Huntress had beaten Lady Bane. She had played backup long enough. “OK, you geriatric crones, this stops here!” said a grinning Power Girl. “Your AARP meeting is in the next hotel over!”
Wonder Woman warned her. “Kara, be careful — magic!”
The Tigress smiled and gestured. Power Girl glowed bright red, and Manhunter darted forward and decked her with one punch.
“Nice work, mother! You made her normal under that red sun spell,” said Manhunter.
The Tigress laughed. “As I once did with her cousin when he aided him.”
Wonder Woman tossed her lasso over Tigress. “Surrender! And who is this him you keep speaking of?” she demanded.
The Tigress ignored the magic with her own spells and said, “I always refer to the only man I ever loved as him,” said the pretty blonde. “No one else is worthy, except Zatara the Magician, my loving enemy. I studied magic after a career as a simple jewel thief and femme fatale because I loved him. I had to kill him in our last battle, and life has held no meaning for me ever since!”
“But he’s not dead,” croaked a sore and battered Huntress.
“What?” cried the Tigress, and she sent lightning at Wonder Woman. The bolt did not bounce off her bracelets as expected.
Wonder Woman fell to her knees in pain as magic fire played across her body. “Hera, help me!” she muttered and surged forward against all the pain.
The Huntress cried out, gasping, “Zatara did not die in your last battle — he was banished to another Earth, where the Justice League live.”
Manhunter started to kick her when the Tigress stopped her. “My magic senses the girl speaks truth!” cried the Tigress with a gleam in her blue eyes. “I did not kill Giovanni! I assumed I had, but he lives! (*) Then I must find him and slay him or win his love at long last!”
[(*) Editor’s note: Doctor Occult is the only one on Earth-Two who knows that Zatara died trying to save the world from a great evil a few months earlier; see The Night Force: The War of Darkness and Light.]
Wonder Woman grabbed Manhunter as the Tigress vanished in a puff of smoke. “Don’t have time for delicacies,” she said, delivering one stunning blow that knocked Manhunter cold.
The heroic women then gathered their friends and tended to their injuries.
“Huntress, are you OK?” asked Power Girl. “Bane must have hurt you more than you let on.”
“She almost broke my back, but I managed to beat her with a trick Dad once used,” explained the Huntress. “A bit of martial arts and luck.”
Liberty Belle helped Queen Arrow up and said, “I can’t join your team, since I’m still considering an All-Star Squadron reunion, but I admire your desire to start one.”
Wonder Woman chided Power Girl. “Kara, having your power is not enough if you are careless in its use. Tigress could have killed you when you charged her so recklessly.” Power Girl frowned and bit back a sharp retort.
Tarantula and Black Canary approached Queen Arrow. “We’d be happy to join your team,” said Angela. “What do you say? A new Law’s Legionnaires!”
“I say welcome aboard,” said the smiling blonde archer. “Now we just need some men.”
Wonder Woman turned to the Huntress. “Your father would be proud of you. Your quick wits may have saved us all. Well done, sister!” Helena Wayne smiled at what she considered to be the highest praise possible.
Liberty Belle had been talking to Angela Leonard. “Jon Law is dying?” she said. “Could Wonder Woman’s purple healing ray save him? I hate to think of him sick, like you say.”
Tarantula glanced at a nodding Diana Trevor. “Oh, please!” she pleaded. “Do take him to your ray and try.” Wonder Woman promised to try, and the women filed out slowly.
“Diana, the other Earth is shut off from us, according to the Flash,” said Liberty Belle. “Where do you think Tigress ended up?”
“Some nameless limbo, I fear,” said Wonder Woman.