When the glow faded, the Star Sapphire found herself strangely weakened. She leaned on the enslaved Monocle’s arm even as Black Arrow rushed forward to support her. Sumac stood nearby with an equal amount of adoration on his face.
“That witch severed my connection to my natural power source!” she said. “I still control these lesser beings, but I am nearly crippled by loss of true communion!”
Nearby, Dart, Bellatrix, and Harlequin remained free of her spell. Dart ran over to her enslaved husband and tried to get his attention. “Connor, darling? What did she do to you?” she cried. But the blond archer made no reply, his will no longer his own.
Bellatrix glared at Harlequin as they watched each other warily while also trying to keep Star Sapphire in view.
This serves no purpose of mine! thought the new Harlequin. All I wanted was to get enough power to confront my father. This madwoman wants to rule the world. I’m not crazy enough to help her! The Monocle may have equipped me, but I don’t owe him a thing now! I helped him get Corona. My debt is paid!
She concentrated, and her illusion-casting powers cloaked her part of room with the illusion that she was still immobile. In truth, she slipped out of the room and raced out of the ruins of the old house.
Stopping at the edge of the estate, she glanced backward. “Now what do I do? I can’t let her take my father like she took those others. I want him fully aware of the facts before he meets his fate!” With a toss of her flowing white-blonde hair, the purple-clad mystery woman hurried away from the scene of battle. She had a lot of thinking to do.
Back inside the house, Bellatrix watched as Dart’s husband ignored her pleas.
Star Sapphire laughed coldly and said, “I do not know what happened to the others, but I will make them pay for injuring me as they did! When the brazen woman in fishnets changed probability, I lost most of my power. Still, with an army of enslaved men to serve me, I will quickly regain all I need!”
Dart whirled to face the other-dimensional queen and shrieked, “You man-hungry tramp! Let my husband go, or I’ll rip your eyes out!”
Bellatrix hesitated as she balanced her weight on her heels. She could leap in either direction, but for the moment she didn’t know which action to take. I don’t know what happened to Artemis, she thought. She came for me. I can’t let her death be in vain. I owe it to Paul to avenge her, or rescue her if she is alive. Can the babe in the fluffy skirt help me, or is Dart just dead weight?
She made her decision as Star Sapphire’s cold smile turned cruel, and Black Arrow slapped his bride to the ground with one blow. The Monocle’s lens emitted a stinging energy beam that left her stunned on the floor.
By that time, Bellatrix had dived out of the room and rolled to safety. She crashed out a window and swung up and over the broken porch rails to dash away. I couldn’t risk being caught by that group, she mused. I have to warn Paul and get his help in order to take down the Star Sapphire. Goldie Mallory sealed her own fate when she decided to follow her crooked father into a life of crime!
Inside the house, Star Sapphire turned to her pawns. “Come. We must secure the aid of other men of power. Where once I could dominate a world of males with a thought, I must now enslave them one by one. As for those craven women, they can never hope to oppose me.”
Her laughter echoed through the ruins as the odd group departed and left the battered and stunned Dart behind in the rubble.
Perhaps somewhere within his altered mind, Black Arrow yearned to check on his wife, but if so, that urge was deeply suppressed.
Elsewhere, when the golden glow from Corona’s ring faded, she found herself in the shadows of a massive golden obelisk. Artemis, Hazard, Alchemy, a stricken Oleander, and the Monster were clustered around her.
“What did you do? I felt like my guts were being ripped out!” growled the Monster.
Artemis Crock whistled softly. “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” she said.
The obelisk loomed over a massive chamber that, while dominated by the huge structure, was not entirely devoid of other objects or beings. Eight golden armored men and women, all marked by shaven heads and slightly unusual eyes, stood at each side of the obelisk. As they circled the newcomers, they withdrew jagged weapons that resembled stylized lightning bolts from their quivers.
“I willed the ring to protect us,” explained Corona. “It seems to have pulled us inside and through to some other dimension!”
She frowned as she recalled a past adventure in which the ring’s original programming had almost imposed the mindset of its intended owner, Sinestro, upon her. She had resisted, and with the help of Green Lantern she had reset the ring until it conformed to her own mind. (*) However, there was no denying the ring was still linked to its place of origin, and apparently, if only because Hazard altered probability, it was an avenue to that dimension.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Corona: Photograph Smile.]
“Qward!” she cried. “We’re on a planet called Qward. It was sealed from our own universe, or so we thought!”
“Indeed, intruders, you are on Qward, and we are the celebrated Thunder Guard. Your deaths shall be swift, but not painless!” announced the leader of the Qwardian troops. His helmet rested upon a bald head, but the helm had ornate wings on each side to proclaim his rank.
“Out of the frying pan!” muttered Hazard. She concentrated, and a blazing bolt of energy erupted from the weapon of one of the attackers before he could throw it. He yelped in pain and grabbed his injured hand.
“I don’t care who these twits are,” said the Monster. “If they want to fight, then I’ll give them all the bloodshed they could want.” The handsome fiend dived into their midst and began pounding away at the Thunder Guard, even as Artemis disarmed another with a well-place crossbow bolt.
Alchemy was still shaking off her own injuries, but she had several tricks of her own, and the lithe girl shook off the soporific drugs she had been given and stood her ground. I hope that armor is enough like normal metal for this to work! she thought. Zabora Zodiac tossed powder at the nearest Thunder Guard, and to her relief, the alchemical substance began to decay and dissolve the golden armor he wore.
Oleander was still in a state of shock from her own injuries. She lay in a ball on the ground and made a soft keening noise.
Artemis high-kicked a Thunder Guard and elbowed a second one in the face as she tried to make sense of what had happened. This is another dimension! she mused. That isn’t so weird to me. I mean, I visited one once with Starman and Granny. (*) Still, I want to go home before this gets any uglier!
[(*) Editor’s note: See Starman: Brave New World.]
Corona raised her own ring and blasted a new group of guards as they entered the huge chamber. Thank goodness my ring followed me after it passed us all through its interior into this place! she thought. I suppose it always had the potential ability to return here like some homing device, but without Hazard’s added power, it couldn’t breach the barriers! I know I’m not still inside the ring. It now matches my own mind, and I sure never dreamed up this place!
The Monster was pummeling a guardsman, and his face reflected his inner anger. “Bah! These fascists are no better than the ones back home!” he said.
Corona flew upward toward the massive obelisk and inhaled sharply. Something about that thing triggered some response from my ring, she thought. Did we come here by chance, or did that giant structure draw us here on purpose?
Meanwhile, as more troops rushed to join the fight, an unseen figure watched from the shadows. She wore a simple gray tunic and had very closely cut black hair. Her movements were stealthy and graceful, and her expression was one of fascination. “Beyonders! Those beings come from beyond our world! I have read of such worlds in the forbidden books my father secured in the Keep. I little thought I would ever gaze upon them, though!”
Artemis barely dodged a bolt of blinding energy as it shot over her shoulder. She flipped forward and sprang to safety, but she was growing tired, and she knew that her odd group could not defeat what had the potential to grow into a whole planet’s army. “Get us out of here!” she bellowed.
Corona still hovered high above. She had been drawn to the obelisk for some reason known only to the inner workings of the ring.
“The city of Qwardeen shall never fall to the likes of you!” screamed a Thunder Guard.
“Heed the words of the Master Thunderer!” replied another guard as she brandished her own bolt.
Hazard danced away from an exploding bolt, only to fall over the still form of Oleander. “Honey, hang on! We’ll get you help!” she said as she touched the fallen plant elemental and wished for something to go their way.
As if on cue, Oleander sat up, and a greenish substance sealed over her damaged eye.
“What did you do?” asked Hazard as she led the girl to a hiding place.
Oleander spoke slowly at first, and then her pitch and pace increased. “The Green! I made contact with this dimension’s natural world! It exists out there, and it has begun to heal me! I feel like a new woman!”
Hazard nodded as she wondered again if it had been the added touch or boost of her own powers that had enabled Oleander to accomplish something she had not necessarily been able to do on their own world.
The Monster roared as a newcomer shot him with a ray-gun. He collapsed in pain as the armored man laughed harshly.
“No man can defeat a Destroyer!” he said.
From her own hiding place, the dark-haired Qwardian woman watched and frowned as she saw the rank of the newcomers. The Master Thunderer has summoned the Destroyers! she thought. These Beyonders are truly lost now!
Back on Earth, Bellatrix had managed to escape to a place of cover in the nearby woods, and to her relief, some unexpected allies had managed to track her down. She smiled as she saw several unusual figures emerge from a small flying craft.
“Bella, it took the combined efforts of Blue and White to locate you. Where is Artemis?” asked a very tall blonde woman who had commanding crystal blue eyes. She stood around six feet, three inches tall and wore a brief pink bodysuit that left her arms and legs bare, except for very narrow decorative pink bands that wrapped around each leg slightly above her knees and went around each arm above the elbow. Her feet were covered by pink slippers.
“I don’t know, Bombshell,” replied Bellatrix as she glanced up at the daughter of the former hero and current politician who had once been known as Dan the Dyna-Mite. “She vanished along with Corona. We’ve got a bigger problem. An alien queen named the Star Sapphire is loose. She was the object of Monocle’s whole routine. He wanted to liberate her. Well, he did, and she might just be strong enough to rule this planet! Men can’t resist her!”
Nearby, a strange figure made out of gleaming red metal lurched forward. It was a robotic being with a block-shaped head and a deeply inset eye lens. A metallic voice echoed from within its broad chest.
“Don’t worry — it’s me, Red. Dr. Morrow knew I couldn’t stand being bedfast, so he whipped up this beauty. I call him Cyclone!”
Bellatrix frowned and said, “Red, are you inside that machine?”
The robot shook its head and said, “No! I’m back at home base. My mind guides the robot’s body from there. I’ve got two broken legs. I’m not reckless enough to actually go out on a case in that condition!”
Bellatrix grinned and said, “Well, yeah, you are that reckless. Still, if your lovesick scientist can build something like that for you, all the better!”
“It isn’t just a robotic body,” said Red. “It can generate and control wind. I call it Cyclone! It is roughly like the second Red Tornado the other Morrow built years ago! You know, the Morrow who is a criminal? The one from that other Earth? Not like my sweetie!”
Bombshell yawned and said, “I’m bored. Have your junior women’s club chat later! Lead me to the bad guys, so I can smash their heads in!”
Bellatrix nodded and said, “She’s right. We need help. I think we better have Paul call in the JSA!”
Before she could continue her story, Bellatrix was interrupted by the pilot of the craft. She was also blonde but wore a red, white, and blue costume with a domino mask. Her codename was Americana. Her father was the publicly presumed dead mystery-man once called Mister America. (*) In truth, Tex Thomson was alive and well and was Paul Kirk Jr.’s secret benefactor. “I’ve picked up a news report. The Monocle and his gang have made the news already. They are rampaging through Gotham City. Green Lantern is battling them!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: Tex Thomson: An American Tale.]
“Let’s move!” yelled Bombshell.