by Starsky Hutch 76
With her x-ray vision, Power Girl watched the gunfire from a nearby storage closet as the Joker’s men fought Will Magnus. One of the henchmen managed to nail him as he jumped from behind one desk to another, firing the machine gun he’d taken from one of them. Several others then hit him as well. He backed up, slumping toward his office, a bloody mess.
“Hold fire!” the Joker screamed. “That’s the man in charge, you idiots! We need him alive!”
“I think it’s a little late for that,” Franko Morelli said. “Ain’t no way anyone could live through that.”
Power Girl watched as Magnus held himself up as he walked into his office, leaving a trail of blood behind him. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a syringe, injecting it into his arm before slumping into his chair. He remained motionless for a few seconds, and Kara Zor-L was certain he’d killed himself to escape the pain.
Suddenly, he bolted to his feet as if completely uninjured, despite several bullet holes dotting his body. He checked the clip of his gun and then darted out of his office to engage the gunmen once more.
“What in the hell?!” Franko cursed. “This guy ain’t human!”
“Whatever secret he’s got, I want it, too,” the Joker said.
“Too bad,” Power Girl said, bursting in. “The only secret you’ll be discovering is how long you can last in a jail cell since your revitalization.”
“Power Girl?!” the Joker gulped. “What’s she doing here?”
A blast suddenly connected with Kara’s back, making her collapse in a heap. “Speaking of secrets,” said Harley Quinn, stepping in, carrying an enormous blaster. “This place seems to be doing all kinds o’ research with kryptonite!”
“Hah-hah-hah-hah! Life is rich!” Joker said. “And here she had me more scared than if her red-breasted boyfriend had suddenly come walking through the door.”
Will Magnus let off another burst of fire. “Get down, Harley!” the Joker screamed. “She’s not the only one we’ve got to worry about. Bullets don’t faze him, either.”
Several of the Joker’s men fired rounds into Magnus, but they only seemed to knock him backward. His suit was a red tattered mess, but now as the bullets hit him, he no longer even seemed to bleed.
Harley suddenly leveled the blaster at Power Girl’s head and said, “Drop the gun, Magnus! Or the Barbie doll gets it!”
“You helped design the gun, Magnus,” the Joker said. “You know what it could do to her pretty little face.”
“OK,” Magnus said, dropping the machine gun. “You’ve got me.”
Power Girl woke up feeling something akin to a horrible hangover pounding away in her head. Her muscles ached horribly, and she felt nauseous. She realized she was chained to a chair, and for some reason, she couldn’t snap her bonds.
She raised her head and let out a gasp as she saw what looked like a pale, lifeless corpse tied to another chair, dressed in bloody rags that once were a finely tailored suit.
“Don’t be alarmed,” the corpse said, slowly raising its head. “I’m not dead.”
“I don’t hear a heartbeat,” Power Girl said.
“Well, I suppose my body is dead, in the traditional sense,” he amended. “But the nanites I injected myself with are working overtime to keep my brain alive.”
“Nanites…” Power Girl said in wonder as she began to grasp the situation.
“Yes, microscopic machines. Part of a top-secret project I was working on for the government. There wasn’t an approved test subject yet, but when the Joker’s men fatally wounded me, I decided I’d keep it out of their hands by making myself the perfect guinea pig. Lord knows what sort of transformations are taking place within me now.”
“Apparently, that wasn’t the only secret project you were working on,” Power Girl said, shifting in her chair uncomfortably.
“Yes, I apologize for that,” Magnus said. “We have been under contract to develop weapons capable of handling Kryptonians since the incident where your cousin fell under the influence of the waters of Koehaha. (*) It was decided that there should be a line of defense if if that sort of thing should ever happen again and prove irreversible this time.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Past Glories, Future Tears,” Infinity Inc. #7 (October, 1984).]
“Understandable,” Power Girl said. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
“That’s also understandable,” Magnus said. He suddenly grew silent.
“What is it?” Power Girl said.
“The nanites seem to be affecting my perception. Everything looks… different.” He turned and looked at her, and his eyes reflected metallically in the moonlight coming in from the window.
“Where is it?” the Joker screamed, tossing files behind him. “Where’s the anti-aging secret?”
“Hey, boss? Ain’t this the guy that found it in the first place?” Franko said, dragging Dr. Van Winkler by the collar.
“Dr. Van Winkler,” the Joker said cheerfully. “So good of you to join us. I understand you have something of interest to me.”
“I have nothing for you,” spat Rip.
“Now, don’t be rude,” Franko said, jabbing Dr. Van Winkler menacingly with his gun.
“I think you do,” Joker said. “I think your employer does, too, which really makes this my lucky day. A two for one in the eternal life department. Lenny…” He turned to Franko’s nephew. “…wheel our special guests back in here. I’m sure they’ve both had a good rest by now.” Lenny signaled to two other henchmen, and they wheeled the office chairs containing Magnus and Power Girl into the room.
“Ugh,” Franko grimaced.
“My, my, Dr. Magnus,” the Joker said. “You don’t look so good. Frankly, you look like the leftover meatloaf I had for dinner last night. It wasn’t very appetizing, either. Yet you keep walking and talking. That is, when you’re not tied to a chair. You must tell me what your secret is.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Magnus said.
The Joker pulled out his pistol and fired it into Magnus’ stomach. “That!” he snapped. “And that!” he said, firing again. “And that and that and that!” He fired three more times. “No matter how many times you get shot, you just don’t die!”
“Good, clean living, I guess,” Will Magnus said.
“Well, what say we put it to the test,” the Joker said. “Everyone have at ‘im!”
All of the Joker’s men fired at Dr. Magnus. He twitched spastically with the impact as the machine gun fire riddled his body.
“Cut it out!” Power Girl exclaimed. Could even the nanites fight off this much damage?
“Better hold your tongue, super-bimbo,” the Joker said. “Bullets might not bounce off you right now.”
“I wanna shoot him, too! I wanna shoot him, too!” Harley Quinn squealed.
“Well go ahead, puddin’,” the Joker said.
Harley raised the blaster to her shoulder, leveled it at Magnus, and then fired. The impact slammed his chair against the wall and left a hole the size of a softball in his midsection.
“That… may have done it,” the Joker said.
Lenny whistled and said, “Guess the kryptonite weapon works on humans, too.”
“Considering it fires rays like that, sure,” Franko said.
Suddenly, metal tendrils came down from the edges of the hole and began to pull together. More tendrils joined those and thickened until what looked like coiled, silver muscle filled the hole completely.
“My goodness,” the Joker said.
“I don’t freakin’ believe it!” Franko exclaimed.
“He cheated!” Harley said, raising the blaster and preparing to fire again.
“Not so fast, puddin’,” the Joker said with a wave. “So that’s your secret, Magnus.”
“That’s right,” Magnus said. “Immortality. If you’re willing to sacrifice your humanity.”
“I don’t know about that,” the Joker said, wincing. Magnus looked even worse now than before. Fresh metal shined through the shredded remains of his suit. Obviously, as more damage was caused to his body, the nanites converted even more of his body to repair it. There were even places on his head where bullets had grazed it, and metal showed through the slices of pale flesh.
“Luckily, more than one option is open to me,” the Joker said. “Which brings me to you, Dr. Winkler.”
“I have nothing to tell you,” Van Winkler said stubbornly.
“Spill your guts, Rip,” the Joker said. “Or your co-workers will begin to spill theirs.”
“Very well,” Rip sighed. “It’s in my lab.”
“Rip, no!” Chuck Grayson exclaimed.
“I can’t very well let him harm all of you, can I?” Dr. Van Winkler said.
“Smart man,” the Joker said. “But then, that’s why you have the Ph.D., isn’t it? Let’s go.”
The Red Racer pulled up outside of the STAR Labs building, and Red Robin and Batwing stepped out. “The parking lot’s still full of cars. Isn’t that a little weird for this time of night?” Batwing said.
“Not really,” Red Robin said. “These people don’t exactly keep nine to five hours like the rest of the world. Most of them eat, sleep, and breathe their jobs. It’s more of a mission than a career.”
“Kind of like what we do,” Batwing said.
“You could say that,” Red Robin replied.
Red Robin pulled out a pair of spy glasses and aimed it at the floor Kara worked on. As he adjusted the lens, it pierced the veil of the reflective surface to show what was happening inside. A henchman walked past, intently gazing at the hostage staff of STAR. “Dominic de Largo,” he said, “a longtime Joker goon. At least we know who we’re dealing with.”
They stepped back into the Red Racer and pulled up the plans for the STAR building. “If we come in the fire exit here, we’ll have a direct shot to their floor,” Red Robin said, pointing to an area on the map.
“Won’t that leave us open to an attack?” Batwing said. “There’s only one entranceway to their area, and they’ve probably got it covered.”
“You mean there’s only one doorway,” Red Robin said.
They pulled the car around to the back and the emergency exit. After carefully tripping the lock, taking care not to set off the alarm, they were in the building.
“Duck!” Batwing screamed as an armed goon turned his gun in their direction. He only got off a brief round of fire before a batarang connected with his head.
“Great,” Batwing said. “Now they know we’re here.”
“Maybe not,” Red Robin said. “Most of these floors are sound-protected because of the work they do here.” They continued on toward Kara’s floor.
Red Robin and Batwing moved stealthily up the stairwell to the floor where Kara and the other members of STAR Labs were being held. Once there, rather than simply charge in, Red Robin removed one of the ceiling panels and climbed in, pulling Batwing in behind him.
He removed a computerized device and wired it into the circuitry of the building. “I’m accessing the security system,” he said. The screen on the device switched on, went to static, and then a picture began to form. It showed the main room where the prisoners were being held. At one side were Kara and Will Magnus, tied to their chairs.
“I can’t believe they managed to capture Power Girl,” Batwing said.
“Kryptonite weapons,” Red Robin said.
“STAR Labs has been developing weapons with kryptonite capable of handling Superman and Power Girl.”
“You knew about this?!” Batwing exclaimed.
“I make it a business to know what goes on in my city.”
“I can’t believe you wouldn’t say something about it — or do something about it!”
“Because I don’t think it’s wrong. Superman proved how dangerous a deranged Kryptonian could be when we fell under the influence of Koehaha. And he and Kara are no longer even the only Kryptonians on the planet. There’s Superboy now, and another Kryptonian on the way with Lois’ pregnancy. So far they’re all on the right side of the law, but who’s to know what future generations will be like? The law has to have some way of dealing with them.”
Batwing gave a noncommital grunt and pointed to Magnus on the screen. “Is that a machine? They didn’t do a very good job of making it look human.”
“That’s no machine,” Red Robin said. “It’s Will Magnus.”