Within the Puleski Institute in Siberia, Cassiopeia Orloff had decided her moment had come. As Parketa, she had continued her speed trials for the benefit of the Silver Lady and Director Demitriov while secretly preparing for the escape she envisioned for her father Pytor and herself.
The young woman’s red leotard and flowing brown hair made her an easy target when she was moving at normal speed. However, she was difficult to see at all when she employed the wonderful super-speed her father’s process had given her. She thought to herself, Father’s efforts failed to empower the males he experimented upon at the bidding of the Silver Lady, but he told me that it was not my gender but something unique about my body chemistry that allowed the process to work upon me and not harm me. That means I may be the only person his process will work upon, and that in turn makes me very valuable to that alien witch and her slaves.
She raced into a lab and gulped with concern as she made a resolute decision. “This is it! I either save us both or doom all on this frozen base,” she said.
Parketa opened a heavily sealed chamber and covered her mouth with one hand as she started to scream at the sight of what rested within the prison. The proto-matter taken from a battle in New York City during the Crisis had mutated even more than I knew. Father was not directly involved in this project, so I only knew that such a thing existed. I expected to find a means of distracting our captors. Now I fear I have unleashed a true monster.
She looked up at a beast who towered above the woman. He — or it — was huge and covered with heavy shaggy fur like some kind of animal. It is more beast than man, and yet I detected the cunning of the hunter in its red eyes, she thought as she drew back in horror and raced out even as the creature raised its head and roared in rage.
Parketa heard its heavy footsteps and nodded to herself. “It is loose. Now to get my father and hope the beast will occupy the security staff,” she said.
She raced inside her father’s lab and jumped into the air like her namesake. Parketa crashed into the startled Silver Lady before the Venusian could react. Even her odd silvery eyes could not see Cassie Orloff’s super-fast figure in action.
Parketa knocked the bigger woman down in spite of her alien physiology, which seemed to give her far more strength and stamina than a woman of her type would possess.
She grabbed her father, who was still working in a trance. “We must go! You must come with me!” she cried.
She led the startled man out of the chamber as the Silver Lady moved serpentlike to her feet. How did she manage to look so alluring in even these circumstances? “My friends! We have a would-be escapee! Stop her!” said the confident alien beauty. Her male slaves hurried to obey her.
To Cassie, they were all moving in slow motion, and she veered left and right around them with ease. Father is unhurt by my extreme speed, she mused, since anything I carry is shielded from such friction. Parketa also knew that her aura gave her limited protection from the cold. That would be vital to their survival.
Dr. Pytor Orloff slowly regained his wits as he moved ever away from the influence of the hypnotic Silver Lady. “Cassie, my child, where are we going? What shelter can we find? Our government will never allow us to rest,” he said as he shouted to make himself heard above the wind.
“Father, we are not stopping until we reach sanctuary. We will not return to Soviet space again!” she cried.
She hoped her brave words were not merely words desired to raise the old man’s hopes. She truly did not know if her power could get them from Siberia to safety before they would fail.
Back at the base, the Silver Lady’s troops, led by the ever-loyal Director Demitriov, raced out into the cold only to be faced by the horror of the hulking shaggy brute Cassie had freed.
That very uneven struggle between the hapless staffers of Puleski Institute and the Shaggy Man ended abruptly as the monster smashed them to the ground without ever tiring.
At that moment, Svarog the cyborg was called into action. The former Lt. Christopher Pike saw the creature through his one human eye and studied it with the red sensor that served as his other orb.
“Wild thing!” he sang as he raised his cabled arms, now turned into massive guns, and prepared to fire at the monster.
Before he could do so, he was driven backward by a near avalanche of snow and rock tossed at him by the creature. Clearly, the Shaggy Man was smarter than he appeared to be. Svarog raced out of the line of fire and prepared to try again. He was more machine than man, and thus he was patient.
The Peacemaker and Steel Wolf saw it all as well. The burly Soviet superman turned to the American hero and said, “You spoke of a distraction, but clearly you Americans have a gift for understatement. That thing looks like the Bigfoot your myths celebrate. Our own nation has had such creatures in popular lore as well. Indeed, the writer Turgenov wrote of encountering such a monster while swimming in an icy river during a hunting trip.”
“Well, be it myth or fact,” said the Peacemaker, “I can’t sit here while it tears a good American apart.”
Steel Wolf sighed and threw up his hands in resignation. “I expected as much of you. I do not agree with the sentiment, but it was expected.”
They charged down the slope, and Svarog whirled as his audio-sensors allowed him to detect them. He hesitated for a moment as his memory banks produced images and data about both men. He knew them to be enemy agents of his current masters and trespassers in this region. However, his cold logic also enabled him to see that they were potential allies against the creature. Thus he waited. The Peacemaker hoped that this was more than the logical reaction of a machine. He hoped that Christopher Pike was fighting to assert himself through more than mere muttered lyrics of rock ‘n’ roll.
They closed on the Shaggy Man, and Steel Wolf leaped through the air to attack the monster with a speed and strength that surprised the Peacemaker. He may have been civil to me, the Peacemaker thought. He may be helping our side out of a desire to get back at the commies who tossed him aside after Stalin died, but he sure doesn’t seem like the same man I was talking with moments ago.
Steel Wolf clawed at the Shaggy Man as if he too was an animal in humanoid form. The old warrior may have had the edge in raw strength, but he lost far too much when it came to a contest in size. The Shaggy Man finally pinned him down and used his greater mass to trap the struggling man.
The Peacemaker grunted as he raced to reach the scene. The way those two are bounding around, I may not reach them in time to do more than pick up the pieces, he thought.
Svarog matched his stride, and the Peacemaker heard the cyborg whisper, “Secret agent man!”
“Christopher Pike,” said the Peacemaker. “I know that’s you in there. You’re a good American. I’m here to take you home. You know, Surfin’ USA?”
Svarog frowned and then fired his guns at the Shaggy Man, who took the blast in his chest, roaring in anger and pain. He bounded away from the battered Steel Wolf and grabbed at Svarog even as the Peacemaker drew and fired his own gun. Blast it! thought the Peacemaker. The shells don’t even get through that coat of fur. I’m going to have to use a heavier weapon.
Steel Wolf groaned and tried to rise, but the battle had weakened him, and he fell back into the snow again.
The Peacemaker hurled a small grenade from his belt, and the explosion shook the ground but only left the Shaggy Man unharmed and angry. The monster caught the Peacemaker and exerted crushing force, but the hero managed to survive the experience as he fell to freedom. After that accident I suffered during the Crisis, he thought, I vowed to improve my costume’s body armor. That may have just saved my life.
Svarog sang, “Live and let die!” His chest slid apart, and a massive barrage of energy surged out to ignite the Shaggy Man. The beast roared in pain and rolled through the snow to smother the flames.
As he rose once more, he was confronted by a new costumed figure. An archer in solid blue, with a blue cowl that opened to allow his long hair to flow out the back, stood before them and calmly drew and fired a shaft from a trick bow. The shaft struck the monster, and as his eyes widened with what could possibly be called recognition, he exploded.
The archer smiled in a cocky manner and said, “This creature was reputed to have the power to learn from past defeats and create what was needed to prevent such a second defeat from occurring in the same manner. I am glad the version our lab boys created must lack that particular skill.”
The Peacemaker said, “You handle that bow like a man who died by my side in the Crisis. I’d even wager those trick arrows came from his designs.” He referred to the heroic Green Arrow of Earth-Two, but in truth the trick arrows had been copied from another not entirely unrelated source.
The costumed Vladimir Vostov replied, “I do not know who created my weapons. In truth, it does not matter to me, the Huntsman, nor will it matter to you, American, when I turn you into a walking target.” He aimed another arrow at the Peacemaker. “This will put your curiosity to rest.”
Svarog suddenly lurched forward and gripped the Huntsman’s arm. “Don’t be cruel… to a heart that’s true,” he sang.
The Huntsman tried to pull free of the cyborg’s grip, but he failed. “Release me, comrade. We have a pair of notable targets before us,” he said.
Steel Wolf struggled to his feet and came closer. “I am not a target, little archer. Not for you, not this day,” he said.
The Peacemaker said, “Pike, does this mean you remember? Will you join us?”
Svarog was silent for a moment, as if he struggled for the right words. Finally, he spoke in American-accented Russian, “It means in memory of what I was, and in thanks to you for trying to find me, I will allow you to depart. For better or worse, my place is here now.”
“He speaks Russian without resorting to your lyrical nonsense!” said Steel Wolf.
Svarog said, “Go. When we meet again, it will not be as allies.”
The Peacemaker glanced from left to right. He saw troops pouring out of the Puleski Institute, and he knew he had no choice but to depart. “Pike, if you change your mind, there will be a place for you back home,” he said.
“We must go,” urged Steel Wolf. “He will only delay us. We have learned what you came here to learn. He is loyal to the Party now. Be it his programming like that of an automaton or be it his choice, he has no loyalty left to your people.”
They raced into the darkness as Svarog released the Huntsman.
“You stupid machine! You may have lost us a vital link to American secrets,” said the Huntsman.
Svarog merely stood in the snow and wind and looked into the distance. “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make,” he sang.
The Silver Lady approached them and smiled. “You know your mistress well even from afar, do you not, my pet?” she said.
Above, the Peacemaker soared through the sky in his U-X jet. He had received word from the mysterious Agent X of CHESS that Nightshade was also safely out of the USSR, and he was well on his way to freedom as well.
He regretted that Svarog had refused to join him, and he could not fully decide if this was due to his alteration by the Soviets or some hidden motive. He knew that Steel Wolf had vowed to remain a fugitive within the Soviet Union. The older man would continue his fight in his own way.
Perhaps it really is through a few good warriors that peace will finally come to this world, he thought.
Cassie Orloff (code-named Parketa) and her father, Dr. Pytor Orloff, now sat inside a rough compound, where they faced three Asian men.
“We welcome you in China,” said the man wearing the rank of a Chinese general. “Your brilliance will enrich us, and we will reward you as well. Do not fear your Soviet tormenters. While our nations are allies, we have our own agenda, and you will help us greatly through your work. We will shelter you and honor you, and together you shall make China greater than before.”
Dr. Orloff nodded and said, “I am weary. Just to know I will be safe, and my daughter and I will be allowed to work at our own pace is reward enough. I serve science, not any government, although I now have nothing but malice for my former country.”
Cassie held his hand and said, “We will be happy here. I know it.”
Dr. Orloff said, “I even have some ideas in mind. What do you gentlemen think of the term Sino-Supermen?”
The Chinese soldiers nodded in interest and approval as the Orloffs began their new life there together. It was a career that would make things difficult for many American heroes in the future.