"THE MENACE OF CHEETAH'S WORLD
ALL-STAR COMICS #58
A Justice Society Of America "lost" story
By Bill K., from plot ideas by "Grimbor Chainsman"

This story and all characters not previously copyrighted are (c)2000 by Bill
Kropfhauser. Green Lantern is (c) 2000 by Martin Nodell; Superman is (c) 2000
by DC Comics and the Jerry Siegel estate; Wonder Woman, The Cheetah, Hawkman,
Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Johnny Thunder, Phantom Lady, Liberty Belle, Merry the
Gimmick Girl, Batman, Flash, Dr. Midnite, The Atom, The Huntress, Lois Lane, and
all other characters previously published by DC Comics contained within are
(c)2000 by DC Comics Inc., and are used without permission, but with respect.
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Since DC Comics changes their continuity on the average of every four days and
I can't keep up, this story uses the original continuity of the forties with a
few implants from All-Star Squadron and a perspective of fifty years.

This story would not be possible if not for the foundation built by Gardner Fox,
Robert Kanigher, John Broome, Dr. William Moulton Marston, Bill Finger and
Sheldon Mayer on which it rests.
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It was the year nineteen fifty-one and a new era was dawning. The
hierarchy of "society" was beginning to crumble under the strain of the war
years, the threat of the bomb and the upward mobility of more and more
Americans. Yet, like dinosaurs who knew no better, the matrons clung to their
old ways with stubborn tenacity.

One such matron was Sybil Kensington. A stout woman of fifty-five years,
she used the wealth left to her by her dead husband to show the world her
superior position with superfluous galas that occasionally did some good. The
prematurely white-haired woman, gliding through the party of only those she
recognized as worthy of one of her parties, had locked onto a couple she wished
to speak to. Her crushed velvet royal blue gown, which actually managed to
flatter her figure, brushed along the immaculate floor as she walked
purposefully through the gathered.

The couple was an odd pair. The man was tall, thin, almost gaunt, with
almost unkempt black hair and black horn-rimmed glasses. His tuxedo barely
augmented his slight frame. The man, Gordon Lankford, was quiet and reflective,
though clearly enamored with his companion. The woman was a lithe, stunning
blonde nearly half a foot shorted than he. Her blonde locks poured down to her
shoulders and her body had an innate grace and coiled power that was evident
even when she stood still. Her gown, a light blue silk cut modestly at the
bodice and draped to the floor, seemed overkill, as she would have radiated
class and style naked. The picture was marred only by her face. Though the
woman, Priscilla Rich, possessed classically beautiful features, there was a
continuous presence of fear that haunted her blue eyes. It was a look you
expected to see only in returning war veterans, not the daughter of a society
uppercrust such as Jack Rich.

"Gordon," Sybil smiled with practiced warmth. "Priscilla," she said and
the smile faded. "Are you enjoying the party?"

"Yes," Gordon replied. Priscilla looked down, stung by Sybil's put-down.
Sybil, like everyone else in the room, knew that Priscilla Rich had on several
occasions surrendered to her alternate personality, the psychotic killer known
as The Cheetah. "These artifacts are quite unusual. Where did you find them?"

"They are, aren't they?" Sybil smiled pretentiously. "Dr. Leeds found
them on one of her digs. I'm sponsoring her, you know."

"Really?" Gordon replied, feigning being impressed. "They're certainly
unusual artifacts. I'm particularly taken with that circular piece with the
pentagram carved into it. Where did you say they came from?"

"Oh, I don't know," laughed Sybil. "You'd have to ask Dr. Leeds."

"Gordon," whimpered Priscilla, a pained expression on her face. "Would
you excuse me? I, um, have to use the ladies room."

"Are you feeling all right, Peaches?" Gordon asked, noticing the distress
on his companion's face.

"Just...give me a few minutes," Priscilla whispered and hurried off.

"She isn't going to go crazy again, is she?" sniffed Sybil.

"Priscilla has a problem," Gordon replied through clenched teeth. "A
problem she has worked two long, hard years to defeat. She could probably do
it with a great deal more ease if she wasn't constantly dealing with ignorant
people bent on building themselves up by tearing her down."

"Well!" snorted Sybil. "Seems like the doctor has lost his objectivity."

In the ladies room, Priscilla sat at the vanity shaking in fear. She knew
at once the feelings that were welling up inside of her and was fighting
desperately to use everything both Gordon and the psychiatrists on Reform
Island had taught her to suppress what she could feel bubbling beneath the
surface. Her head was down, her thick blonde hair falling into her face. She
didn't look in the mirror. She didn't dare.

"Go away," she whispered. "I don't need you! I don't want you! It's my
life! Leave me alone!"

Priscilla waited, keening slightly. Nothing happened. She swallowed, her
throat dry. Still nothing happened and Priscilla allowed herself a glimmer of
hope.

"Why do you always fight me, Priscilla?" asked a feral voice that was only
in her head. "I only want to protect you."

"No."

"You need me, Priscilla."

"No!"

"You need me to protect you. Protect you from fat baggage like Sybil
Kensington who are only out to destroy you! Protect you from people like
Gordon..."

"Gordon loves me!" Priscilla wailed.

"Look at me."

Priscilla hesitated.

"Look at me!"

Priscilla's head moved up, despite her overwhelming dread. When her eyes
focused on the mirror before her, she knew what she would see. Despite her
fervent prayers, The Cheetah's reflection was in the mirror.

"Gordon doesn't love you," The Cheetah snarled. "He's using you!"

"He does!"

"He's a man! He's not capable!"

"No! Gordon's good and kind, and he understands and," and Priscilla began
weeping, "and he loves me anyway!"

"Your father 'loved' you," sneered The Cheetah. "You know what he did."

"It was so long ago," whimpered Priscilla.

"And now we've been given the means to punish them all and make sure no
one can ever harm us again," Cheetah sighed orgasmicly. "Look in your purse,
Priscilla."

"I don't want to."

"Do it."

Helplessly, Priscilla opened the purse. She reached down with her tapered
fingers and manicured nails and dug into the purse. Finding something, she
began mechanically pulling it out. It was cloth. The cloth was yellow with
black spots.

"No!" Priscilla wailed.

"Priscilla?" Gordon called, knocking on the door to the ladies room.
"Priscilla, are you all right?" No response. "Priscilla?"

When there was no response, Gordon tried the door. It opened easily. He
found Priscilla bent over the vanity, her head bent forward. She sat with an
eerie stillness.

"Priscilla, what's wrong?" Gordon asked. "Did Sybil upset you?" He
walked over to the woman. She didn't move. "Peaches, you have to let things
like that slide off your back. One snotty comment by an old dinosaur like Sybil
Kensington isn't worth getting upset over." His hand touched her shoulder.

With the speed of thought, Priscilla was on him. She leaped at him with
animal ferocity, throwing the surprised Gordon off balance and onto his back.
He had only a fleeting second to see the wild, bestial look in her eyes and her
bared teeth before she sank them into his throat. Sixty seconds later, Gordon
was dead. Priscilla straddled the body, looking around with narrow eyes. Her
bloody lips curled into a feral grin.

The party continued, unaware of the horror just perpetrated upstairs.
Guests milled about, while Sybil cornered her protégé.

"Dr. Leeds," Sybil smiled in her uniquely condescending manner, "I think
it might be time to give your little account of your adventures to our guests."

"As you wish, Sybil," Dr. Leeds replied, trying to conceal her
discomfort. Joanna Leeds, thirty-one, was an archaeologist of growing renown,
due in no small part to Sybil Kensington. The striking raven-haired woman had a
burning passion for antiquities and some radical theories as to where the
treasures of the past lurked. The universities and those with money dismissed
her, though. Either they scoffed at her theories or her sex, or both, or else
they were too preoccupied with the threat of nuclear annihilation looming over
the world and communists lurking under every bed.

Her passion, however, had caught the interest of Sybil Kensington and she
agreed to finance Dr. Leed's expedition. Three years of exploration had ended
in success and the party she now attended.

The doctor steeled herself, shunting her discomfort aside. Joanna
disliked being in the forest green silk gown and the matching opera gloves;
furthermore, she disliked being on display like one of her artifacts. It wasn't
that she didn't look lovely in the gown--many of the males in attendance locked
onto her early and were loathe to return their attention to their companions - -
or didn't deserve the adulation. She just felt more comfortable in shorts and a
khaki shirt, her hair pinned back and her face smudged with dirt, digging up
some new key to the past. Dr. Leeds shook herself as she noticed Sybil
finishing her introduction.

"And now - - " continued Sybil. Suddenly the room exploded in gasps and
cries as a shapely, lithe woman dressed in a cheetah skin landed nimbly atop the
showcase of artifacts. Her eyes, crackling with menace and hatred, scanned the
crowd. Seeing no immediate challenge, her fist shot down through the glass top,
splintering it into razor shards. She pulled out the metal disk with the
pentagram carved on it.

"I knew it!" sputtered Sybil angrily, advancing on The Cheetah. "I knew
inviting you was a mistake! You put that back, you horrid woman!"

Cheetah bared her teeth angrily. Her hand lashed out at Sybil and the
talons on her glove turned red in an eye-blink. Sybil spun one-hundred eighty
degrees and fell to the floor, coughing up blood. A pall of terror fell over
the assembled guests.

"Leeds!" demanded The Cheetah. "Where is she?!"

The eyes of several guests darted reflexively to Dr. Leeds, who was
pressed back against a closet door. Cheetah followed the gaze, then her mouth
curled up into a malevolent smile. A terrified shriek wrenched itself from Dr.
Leed's mouth as Cheetah cleared the eight foot distance between them in a single
leap. But rather than gut the archaeologist, Cheetah scooped her up
effortlessly and flung the wriggling woman over her shoulder.

"Come, dear," Cheetah said as she fled through the horrified crowd, her
talons digging into Dr. Leed's bottom. "We have work to do."
* * * *
Carter Hall heard the door to his lab close. He looked up from his
calculations and saw Shiera Sanders, her back and arms pressed against the door.
The still beautiful, auburn-tressed woman wore a very tight red pullover knit
top and a flowing floral skirt. She also wore a look on her face that instantly
told Carter he was in trouble.

"We had a date - - " began Shiera peevishly.

"A picnic," Carter replied in his usual calm, controlled manner. "I
remember."

"Then this must be more important," she continued in a tone that Carter
took as a warning to tread lightly.

"Shiera," he sighed patiently. "I'm on the brink of a very important
discovery - - "

"I know," huffed Shiera impatiently. "I see the signs: the newspapers on
the stoop, the mail collected in the box. When was the last time you ate
something besides crackers?" She sniffed as she neared him. "And when was the
last time you bathed?"

Carter waved his hand dismissively. "Perhaps you didn't hear me. I'm on
the brink of something very important - - "

"That's waited five thousand years to be discovered," Shiera interrupted.
"It can wait a little longer! Carter, what have I told you about locking
yourself up in your lab for days on end every time you find a mystery that
intrigues you?! It's not healthy!"

"Would it help if I apologized?" he offered grudgingly, rubbing his eyes.

"Oh no! You don't get out of it that easily! We are going on a picnic;
today! You will get a good meal into you and a chance to reconnect with some
natural surroundings!" Then Shiera played her ace. "And afterwards," she said,
posing provocatively with her chest out-thrust and her eyes hooded seductively,
"maybe we could do something else that comes naturally."

Carter looked from Shiera's eyes to her chest and realized he didn't stand
a chance. Invariably Shiera could stir his passions with a bared leg or a
casual swing of a hip or just a look. It had been that way for four thousand
years.

But he didn't get a chance to respond. Reality seemed to ripple around
them and suddenly Carter Hall was gone.

"Carter?" Shiera gasped. "Carter?! Carter, where are you?!" and she
whirled around frantically, searching for some sign of where her lover went.
There was nothing to find. "Carter!!

"Oh my god," gasped Shiera. "Oh my god!" Her hands shot out and grasped
a table. "Get a hold of yourself! Think! Carter's not here to think for you!
You've got to do it yourself!" Her eyes glazed over blankly as she searched her
brain for a solution.

"The JSA!" she gasped, darting out of the lab and up the stairs. "Green L
antern! Or Wonder Woman, or Flash! One of them must have some power that can
find him!"

Shiera ripped her costume out of its drawer in her dresser and threw it
on. She tore open the false panel in the closet that concealed their wings.
Without a care about who saw her, Hawkgirl raced downstairs and out the back
door, then leaped up into the air. The nth metal belt and her wings took over
and Hawkgirl soared off into the sky on a direct course for Gotham City.

An hour later, sick with worry, Hawkgirl landed on the doorstep of the
Gotham townhouse of The Justice Society Of America. She rapped on the door and,
after a moment for closed-circuit cameras to identify her, was buzzed in.

"Green Lantern!" she called out, racing toward the conference room. "Are
you here?" Black Canary met her in the conference room. "Black Canary! Is
Green Lantern here?!"

"Has Hawkman disappeared?" Black Canary asked.

"Yes!" gaped Hawkgirl. "How did you know? Do you know where he is?"

Black Canary only looked at her with sympathetic sadness.

"We knew," Wonder Woman said, striding into the room like a goddess
walking upon Earth, "because every man on the planet has disappeared."

"What?" gasped Hawkgirl.

"I've been in mental contact with Paradise Island. Paula's instruments
confirm it. Every man on Earth has vanished."

"I was alerted to the problem when a - - close friend of mine - - disappeared
before my eyes," the youthful Black Canary said, her poker face unreadable.

"But how?" stammered Hawkgirl. "Who?"

"How?" Wonder Woman replied. "It might be matter transportation or
enhanced molecular vibration or something as simple as magic. As to who, it
could be aliens, or some new menace we're not aware of. And of course," and the
amazon nodded to the library shelves on the far wall, "we've all got entire
casebooks full of suspects, as does the group."

"How can you be so calm about this?" cried Hawkgirl, staring at the
seemingly implacable amazon.

Wonder Woman gathered Hawkgirl's hands in hers. For all their power,
they were remarkably soft and feminine.

"Because we have to be," she replied with serene confidence. "I
understand how you feel. I've lost someone very dear to me in this, too. But
the only way I can get him back is to be strong and rational. So I am."

Hawkgirl looked down, ashamed.

"I'm glad you're here," Wonder Woman said with an easy smile. "We can use
the help."

"Hmmph," snorted Hawkgirl. "Hawkman was the brains of our partnership.
All I'm good for is keeping him company."

"Ah ah," the amazon replied, wagging her finger playfully at Hawkgirl.
"None of that. You're a woman. You can do anything you set your mind to."

"What she said," Black Canary added, her hand squeezing Hawkgirl's bare
shoulder.

"So what do we do?" Hawkgirl asked.

"We track down who did this," Black Canary said with a natural confidence
that belied her tender years. Hawkgirl could see she was a girl barely in her
twenties and was gifted with no special abilities other than some judo skills,
yet she possessed a reservoir of determination that seemed bottomless. It again
put Hawkgirl to shame. "We've already got what might be a lead."

As Black Canary outlined what they had to the newcomer, Wonder Woman felt
a familiar pressure in her brain. She closed her eyes to concentrate on it and
immediately heard Etta Candy's voice in her head.

"Woo Woo!" screeched Etta excitedly. "Chief, you gotta get down here to
D.C. right now!"

"What is it, Etta?" Wonder Woman thought.

"It's The Cheetah! She's turned the burg into her personal--sput! Hey!"

"Etta? Etta!" Wonder Woman thought, but the transmission was gone.

"Wonder Woman?" she heard Hawkgirl ask with concern. "Are you all right?"

"Yes," the amazon replied, pushing her worry down below the surface. "We
have to go to Washington. The Cheetah has somehow taken over."

"But what about Hawkman?" cried Hawkgirl.

"Maybe this is related," Black Canary offered. "Remember, I told you she
stole that artifact. The two events may have a connection."

"Regardless, there are people in immediate danger," Wonder Woman said.
"We can't ignore them for personal reasons."

Hawkgirl gulped, looking down. "That's just what Hawkman would have
said."
* * * *
No one in the world truly realized exactly how much of a man's world it
was in 1951. When women all over the world rose from their sleep, they found a
world ground to a halt. There was no transportation, because no one was there
to drive the buses and trains. There was no electricity, because there was no
one to run the power plants. When they turned on their radios to find out what
had happened, they found no one broadcasting because there were no radio
engineers to send the transmission and few radio personalities to read the news.
There were no papers on their front steps or at the newsstand. And when they
phoned the police, they found only the operator on the other line. No one was
at the police or fire stations. By mid-morning, some industrious souls,
recalling the experience they'd gained subbing for men in industry during the
war, had the power plants going again at reduced capacity.

With power restored, the majority of the remaining populace instantly ran
to their radios. After frantically tuning their dials back and forth, a single
intrepid voice was heard out of the clear channel WMTR in Metropolis. All
forty-five states that could receive the signal clung to their radios to learn
what had happened.

"This is Lois Lane speaking to you from Metropolis," came the voice, a
feminine voice not used to public speaking or reading news, but an authoritative
voice just the same. "We've managed to get WMTR back on the air and will begin
broadcasting continuous newscasts for the duration of the emergency. As near as
can be pieced together, some mysterious force has caused every male in the
United States to disappear. There are also reports of this in Europe, so it may
be a worldwide occurrence. At this time, we have no confirmed reports of how
this may have happened or who is behind it."

Lois seemed to choke on the next statement, but she managed to get it out.

"No one has been able to contact Superman, so he may have been affected as
well. Eyewitness accounts have spotted the mystery woman known as Hawkgirl in
the skies near Gotham City."

A paper rattled off mike and Lois stopped broadcasting.

"This just in. The criminal mastermind known as The Cheetah has taken
control of the White House in lieu of the disappearance of the President, his
staff and the marine corps sentries that guard the building. She has proclaimed
herself ruler of the world and has issued a challenge to Wonder Woman to meet
her on the White House lawn to discuss," and Lois swallowed, "the surrender of
the Justice Society. Clearly we now know who is behind this."

A strong feminine hand reached over and twisted the knob on her radio,
silencing the appliance. Her eyes narrowed and her jaw set in fury, the woman
turned and strode purposefully to a closet, brushing a lock of jet-black hair
from her eyes. Reaching inside the closet, she removed an archer's bow and
began notching a string on it.

"Cheetah," the woman said as she expertly readied the bow, "you just
crossed the wrong person."
* * * *
"What's wrong, Wonder Woman?" Black Canary asked. She sat in the co-pilot
seat of Wonder Woman's invisible plane, a unique experience for the youthful
mystery woman to say the least. "Are you worried about Cheetah's challenge?"

"Hmm?" Wonder Woman replied, seeming preoccupied. "No. The Cheetah is as
fearsome a foe as I've ever fought, but I can beat her. I've just been trying
to contact Paradise Island and get some information about that talisman The
Cheetah stole earlier. But I can't contact anyone there. Either something is
blocking my mental transmissions or . . ." and Wonder Woman stopped.

It was the first time Black Canary had ever seen her worried. Usually
Wonder Woman was an implacable fountain of confidence and optimism. Nothing
daunted her because she seemed to believe nothing could defeat her, yet she was
always so humble and indifferent about her great power, as if she expected any
woman to be capable of the same feats, that it was impossible not to like her.
Yet at this moment, Wonder Woman was worried, perhaps even scared. Black Canary
was a kid, barely twenty-one. If Wonder Woman was scared, what chance did she
have? Yet, she reached out and confidently patted the amazon's hand.

"If they're gone, we'll get them back," Black Canary said gently. Then
her mouth curled up in a wry smile. "Remember, you're a woman. There's nothing
you can't do if you set your mind to it."

Wonder Woman smiled at her words being reflected back at her. Her fears
seemed to evaporate.

"Quite true," beamed the amazon. "You would make a very good amazon,
Black Canary."

"Well, thanks," smirked Black Canary, "but I've heard stories about your
little group and I like men too much."

Wonder Woman chuckled. "Don't spread this around," she laughed, "but so
do I."

Hawkgirl arced across the plane's flight path at three o'clock. Wonder
Woman brought the plane to hover. Washington was beneath them and the White
House was in the distance. Hawkgirl flapped just above them, waiting.

"The Cheetah's expecting me, so I'll just walk in the front gate," Wonder
Woman said. "We don't know if she's taken any precautions against either of
you, so there's no reason to announce you're with me. Hawkgirl, can you fly
Black Canary down to a secluded spot?"

"What do you weigh, ninety pounds?" Hawkgirl asked Black Canary, some of
her jaunty confidence returning. "Piece of cake with my ninth metal belt."

"Once we're on the ground, I'll do what I do best," Black Canary added.

"I think the key is the talisman," Wonder Woman said. "If you can find it
and get it away from her, or find whoever she's using to help her operate it and
stop them, we'll stand a better chance of beating her."

"You don't think Cheetah's in this by herself?" Black Canary asked.

"No. Priscilla knows nothing about such things and Cheetah draws most of
her knowledge from Priscilla's memories. She may have recognized the talisman,
but she doesn't know how to operate it on her own." Wonder Woman sighed. "I
wish Dr. Fate were here. This would be his specialty. But no one's seen him in
years."

"Heck, right now I'd settle for Johnny," mused Black Canary.

Instantly she looked up, a wry grin on her face. The grin was matched by
her two companions.

"Well, maybe not Johnny," chuckled Black Canary. The three women giggled
girlishly together, then Hawkgirl and Black Canary flew off.
* * * *
Wonder Woman pushed the gate to the White House grounds open. It didn't
take much effort, as they were unlocked. She strode across the lawn with a
steady, confident gate. The grounds were deserted. An eerie silence covered
the Presidential Mansion and the surrounding area. Of course, the men were gone
and Bess Truman and her daughter Margaret were back in Missouri. Still, there
was the White House domestic staff, who were mostly female. Where were they?

More importantly, where was The Cheetah? Years of training on Paradise
Island flooded back to her and Wonder Woman's senses were alive for the
slightest movement or the slightest sound.

As she neared the front door of the White House, she could see a throne
carved from stone sitting on the front porch. Atop the throne was a replica of
the talisman. As she got a few steps closer, Wonder Woman could hear movement
behind the throne. She stopped, ready for anything. At once, The Cheetah
emerged from behind the throne, followed by four very scared black women dressed
in slave chains connecting their wrists and their ankles. The women were
attired in white bras and short white skirts, all with zebra patterns printed
on them.

"The domestic staff," mused Wonder Woman. "She's made them into zebra
slaves."

"We meet again, amazon," The Cheetah said. There was a wicked smile on
her lips and a feral glint in her eye.

"Priscilla, don't do this," appealed Wonder Woman.

"Don't!" snapped The Cheetah. "Don't try to get at me through Priscilla!
She won't listen to your lies! If you're going to talk, you talk to me!"

"There's no point talking to you, Cheetah. There's no reasoning with you.
You're all hatred and fury wrapped around an intellect you stole from Priscilla.
And I vow to you that I'll see that intellect returned to her if I have to
battle you a thousand times."

"Pretty words," smiled The Cheetah. "You've always managed to defeat me
in the past through tricks or the extra weapons you have or the extra allies
you have. But I've got an equalizer now."

"The talisman?" asked Wonder Woman. "What does it do for you?"

"Watch and learn," leered The Cheetah.

The air around Wonder Woman's head shimmered. She took a startled step
back and found a emerald bubble formed around her head. The amazon took a
breath and found there was no air to breathe.

"I've been given power over the world, Wonder Woman," The Cheetah
continued, relishing the turn of events. "I control the world and all who
reside within it."

Her hands flew up to the bubble. She tried to shatter it, but the
substance was too strong. Her lungs began burning. Wonder Woman slammed her
bracelets against it, but the bubble didn't shatter.

"For all of your vaunted powers, Amazon, you still need to breathe!"
chortled The Cheetah, inching closer to the spectacle to get a better view of
her hated enemy. "Breathe in a vacuum, Amazon!"

Lack of oxygen was taking its toll on the amazon. As her hands pressed
to either side of the bubble, Wonder Woman's legs began to turn rubbery and she
sank to one knee. Doggedly she pressed against the sides of the bubble with her
hands.
"Don't worry, dear," cooed The Cheetah with mock sympathy. "I won't let
you suffocate. I have so many more exquisite demises planned for you. I'll
dissolve the bubble soon."

Just then the bubble shattered. Wonder Woman sucked in a hearty lung
full of air.

"Don't bother," gasped Wonder Woman, her voice raspy with stale air.

"How?!" Cheetah sputtered angrily.

"Nature abhors a vacuum," Wonder Woman replied, rising slowly to her
feet. "The outside air pressure was pressing against your barrier. I just
added enough pressure to help things along."

With a speed that belied the fatigue she had previously demonstrated,
Wonder Woman cast her golden lasso out. The loop shot directly at The Cheetah.
With characteristic speed, the lightning-like reflexes of the feral criminal
carried her up and over the cast by the merest fraction of an inch. Her leap
and midair somersault carried her forward out into the lawn area. Wonder Woman
was waiting for her when she landed, though, and seized The Cheetah by her
wrists in twin grips of steel.

"Rrrraaarrr!" snarled The Cheetah, instantly falling on her back and
flinging the amazon up into space.

In midair, Wonder Woman executed a twisting somersault of her own,
bringing her face to face with her opponent. While still airborne, the lasso
cast out again with the speed of a lightning bolt. For an instant it seemed to
encircle The Cheetah, but the woman faded into nothingness even as the lasso
closed around her. Wonder Woman landed nimbly and looked around, but there was
no sign of her foe. Convinced that The Cheetah was gone for now, Wonder Woman
made her way over to the four black women huddled fearfully next to the throne.

"Please, get us out of here," whispered the nearest one, a fairly comely
wisp of a woman with straightened black hair and delicate features. "That woman
is crazy!"

"I know," sighed Wonder Woman. "I'll have you loose in a moment," and she
reached for the woman's chains.
* * * *
Hawkgirl landed just outside the fence of the White House, opposite from
the Treasury Building. She set Black Canary down and the pair observed the East
Wing from outside the grounds.

"What now?" asked Hawkgirl. "I can see movement on the grounds."

"Looks like Cheetah's recruited some help," Black Canary murmured.
Hawkgirl glanced at her and noticed the intensity of the woman's stare. You
could almost hear the gears in her head moving, plotting a course of action.
"I wish you were a little more inconspicuous."

"I know," mused Hawkgirl. "Five foot wings on your back tend to stand out
in a crowd."

"Maybe we better split up, then," Black Canary suggested. "I'll make my
way to the East Wing and try to gain entry. Why don't you try the roof? They
may not have put anyone there and you could gain entry from above." Hawkgirl
moved to go. "Oh, and try to angle your descent from the direction of the sun.
They'll be less likely to spot you."

"Thanks," bristled Hawkgirl. "I have been at this a few years."

"Sorry," Black Canary replied, looking away. She was up and over the
twelve-foot fence in seconds and weaving her way from tree to tree.

Hawkgirl flung herself into the air, regretting her remark. She was sure
the young woman meant nothing by it. It was just that Black Canary was so
unusual. She remembered Carter talking about the first time she'd shown up at
the mansion. The JSA were literally dying, felled by the spirits of history's
greatest murderers. Only the quick thinking and quicker action of this strange
girl in blue tights and fishnet stockings, a girl he could see was barely
eighteen if that, saved seven of the world's great heroes from an untimely
demise. Well, six heroes and Johnny Thunder.

Even then, though, Hawkman had her checked out. Johnny vouched for her up
and down, but Johnny was hardly a reliable source. She'd hung around as
Johnny's guest for six months while Hawkman made inquiries and studied her.
Part of what took him so long was the girl's demeanor.

She should have been in awe. She should have been nervous being in the
same room with a famous amazon princess, a man who could circle the globe in an
eye blink and another who could shift planets by thinking hard. Yet she acted
like she belonged the moment she walked in the door. She wasn't cocky or
arrogant; she just had supreme belief in her ability to triumph, no matter the
situation. It rivaled Wonder Woman's confidence and the amazon was quickly won
over. Flash and Atom were next - - Flash because he believed in the innate good
nature of anybody and often took people at their word, while Atom was of the
opinion that anyone as stunningly beautiful as her couldn't be bad. Green
Lantern was convinced by the next case. Dr. Midnite fell in line soon after.
Hawkman held out the longest, but after she helped beat the Injustice Gang, he
laid his suspicions to rest and made her admission unanimous.

Hawkgirl soared up into the afternoon sky, gaining as much height as
possible before making her descent. She scanned the roof of the White House as
she rose and saw two women on the roof in what looked like skin-tight costumes.

Was that what bothered her? Black Canary had shoved her way into the JSA
at the tender age of eighteen and immediately proved she could run with the big
boys (and girl). Meanwhile she had fallen into her Hawkgirl role as a prank,
nearly gotten killed for it and then spent months begging, wheedling, arguing
and finally seducing Hawkman before he let her resume the role. She'd never
fought with the JSA; they'd never asked and Carter had forbidden her from
broaching the subject. Besides, she'd always been in it for the thrills,
anyway. She wasn't a serious crimebuster, like Hawkman or Dr. Midnite - - or
Black Canary. The girl was ten years younger than Shiera was and was instantly
better the moment she'd appeared on the scene.

The thin air shook her out of her reverie. She was high enough. With a
malicious grin, Hawkgirl arced around and swooped down, remembering to come out
of the sun for camouflage. With the nth metal belt counteracting gravity,
Shiera had to rely on her wings for speed. She set them to flapping furiously
as she arced down out of the high heavens. She began to pick up speed and the
White House roof began to rapidly grow in her vision. There were two women on
the roof, shapely young things wearing replicas of The Cheetah's costume, but
without the cowl. One had flowing thick black hair, while the other one was a
silky fine blonde cut shoulder length. They each were armed with angry looking
guns. Hawkgirl smirked; like that would help.

The blonde had just enough time to turn before Shiera's shoulder slammed
into her middle. With the momentum Hawkgirl had built up, the woman was flung
six feet before she skidded along the tarpaper roof, rolling to a stop with a
low moan. Her partner was bringing her weapon to bear, but Hawkgirl had angled
her ascent enough to whip the woman's face with her wings. The gun clattered to
the roof as her hands shot to her face. Hawkgirl reached the apex of her arc,
then simply dropped. She landed feet first directly in the raven-haired woman's
chest, driving her hard to the roof. Her head hit hard and she lost
consciousness.

By now her first quarry had managed to pull herself up to a sitting
position. Shiera was on her in a second, leaping the distance effortlessly
with the assistance of her belt. One punch - - Carter had always been amazed at
how well Shiera punched for a debutante - - and the threat was neutralized.
Scanning the roof quickly, Hawkgirl spotted the access hatch. After
examining it cautiously, she opened it. Inside was a metal ladder leading to
the floor below. Hawkgirl took a step into space and, with a dramatic flair for
no one else but herself, floated down to the floor below. She remembered how
many times Carter had admonished her about her tendency to show off and
realized, now that he wasn't here to do it, that she missed it terribly, that
she did it just to get him to notice her. Carter could be so aloof sometimes.

A shoulder drove into Hawkgirl's back and she pitched forward onto the
ground. In an instant, bodies were on top of her, striking her with their fists
and pressing down on her to pin her to the floor. She couldn't tell how many,
but it didn't matter. Hawkgirl began flapping her wings, trying to knock them
away. However, more bodies caught her wings and held them down. There were too
many for the anti-gravity field of her nth metal belt to dislodge. She
desperately clawed at the rug, trying to pull herself from under the dogpile as
blows rained down on her. Finally it became too much and Shiera slipped into
unconsciousness.

"Woo Woo," huffed the leader of the group, a pudgy little redhead in a
Cheetah costume, "but she was tough to bring down! We better clue the chief in
on this one, girls!" Four of the Cheetah guards, all slim, college age women,
hoisted Hawkgirl up by her limbs, while the leader trailed them, munching on
candy.
* * * *
Armed women patrolled the grounds. They were of diverse races and ethnic
backgrounds and had only two things in common: they were all physically fit,
prime female specimens and they all wore replica Cheetah costumes without the
cowl.

"That and they've got machine guns," thought Black Canary from her perch
in a tree about a hundred yards from the East Wing.

Getting to this point had taken Black Canary far longer than she'd have
liked. It was slow going avoiding every sentry rather than confronting them.
But she felt that was the best plan and Black Canary didn't second guess herself.
Right now she was waiting for an opportunity to present itself.

"This bunch doesn't seem very friendly with one another," Black Canary
thought. "It's as though they're being controlled instead of being voluntary
participants." She set her jaw and her red lips almost curled into a smile.
"Maybe I can use that if the right girl comes along."

In between sentry passes, Black Canary dropped from the tree and sprinted
over to another tree near a shrub. She ducked behind it and waited. Several
sentries passed by before the right one came. Black Canary crouched behind the
bush like a cat waiting to pounce until the sentry came into position.

With the speed of light, she struck. Before the guard knew what was
happening, Black Canary had her trigger wrist in a grip of iron and was twisting.
The machine gun fell to the ground. The young heroine pivoted on one hip
while hooking her free hand under the sentry's arm and flung the woman over her
hip onto the woman's back. She landed hard and had the wind further knocked out
when Black Canary straddled her, landing hard on her chest. Before she could
mount any defense, Black Canary delivered double chop blows to either side of
the base of the woman's neck. She was momentarily paralyzed and it was all the
moment Black Canary needed. She delivered a wicked palm thrust to the side of
her opponent's head and the woman was out.

Black Canary quickly looked around. No alarm seemed to be passing. She
snatched the fallen machine gun and pulled it behind the shrub. Then, alert the
entire time for signs of approaching guards, she stripped the Cheetah costume
off of the fallen sentry and donned it, placing her own on the unconscious
woman. Lastly, she pulled the blonde wig off of her head and affixed it to the
sentry.
"Hmm," thought Black Canary as she straightened the Cheetah costume, "it's
a bit tighter through the bust than I'm comfortable with." She patted the fake
Black Canary on the hip. "Guess you should have done your isometrics, sweetie."

She threw the limp woman over her shoulder in a fireman's carry, then
picked up the gun and waited for things to clear. When it was safe, she emerged
from behind the shrub and marched straight for the White House.

"What happened?" asked the first sentry she met. "Isn't that - -"

"Stay with your assignments!" the raven-haired woman replied gruffly.
"There may be more of them! I think Liberty Belle was sighted, also. I'm
taking this one to The Cheetah!"

The sentry instantly complied. Black Canary used the same story when she
was confronted two more times and walked unmolested into the White House through
the south doors. At the south doors, more guards confronted her. A black
woman, standing almost five foot ten and weighing nearly one hundred and fifty
pounds seemed in the lead.

"What you got there?" the gigantic woman asked.

"Black Canary tried an assault on the East Wing," Dinah replied. "We
were able to subdue her. There may be others out there."

"Yeah, I know," smirked the black woman. "Caught one of them on the
roof." Dinah's blood ran cold. "Take her to the holding cells. She can join
her friend."

"Right," Dinah replied. "Which way? This place is so big, I'm still
trying to figure it out."

The black woman's eyes seemed to narrow. "You know, I don't recall
seeing you around."

"You probably haven't. I'm a new addition. The Cheetah's army keeps
growing by the minute. Ask her, if you want to bother her with something that
trivial."

"The basement," the black woman said. Dinah didn't like the look in the
woman's eyes, but she didn't think she could risk a confrontation right now.
She turned and headed for the stairs to the basement.

Once downstairs, she found the rooms had been converted into holding
cells. It wasn't just a makeshift prison; the basement offices had been
converted into actual marble and cement cells with iron bars, as if through
molecular transmutation. They were sturdy cells, too. Dinah immediately didn't
like the looks of them. She observed at least six guards milling about the
place. One at a desk stopped her.

"Another prisoner?" the woman, a healthy brown-haired woman, asked.

"Yes," Dinah said. "Just captured."

"Need some help with her?" the sentry inquired, handing Dinah some inch
wide leather straps.

"No, I can manage."

"Better be sure," warned the sentry. "She escapes and The Cheetah will
have your hide - - literally."

Carrying the prisoner to the nearest open cell, Dinah passed several
luckless women who had already been captured. Each cell had two Cheetah
sentries standing guard. Every one carried an army issue .45 sidearm. One
cell contained a raven-haired woman who eyed Dinah with ill-concealed contempt.
Her striking figure was draped in one of Cheetah's zebra slave bra and skirt
sets. She lay on a bunk, her arms roped behind her at the wrist and elbow with
cord. Her legs were cinched at the ankle and knee and pulled back behind her
to her wrists in a strict hog-tie. The woman's mouth was plastered shut with
tape. Dinah didn't recognize her, but something about the woman told her she
was some sort of threat to The Cheetah.

In the next cell, Dinah saw something that nearly caused her to reveal
herself. Hawkgirl was in the cell, her yellow cowl and wings removed. She was
standing in the center of the cell, her legs crossed and bound at the knee and
ankle with rope. Her arms were bound crossed at the wrist and elbow, then
pulled up to the ceiling and tied to a bolt, forcing her to bend over almost
double. Her mouth was packed with cloth and another tied over her lips to hold
it in. The strain was clear on Shiera's face. Dinah was glad, though, that the
woman's eyes were jammed shut. Shiera might have recognized her and given her
away.

Dinah set her victim down inside the cell and began strapping her arms
behind her back. She had incentive to make it look good, both for the guard's
sake and to keep this one from getting loose and tattling on her. She bound the
woman's arms at the wrists and the elbows, then pinned the arms to her torso
with straps across the chest and waist. Dinah then strapped the woman's legs at
the ankle, knee and thigh.

"Here," the desk sentry said, appearing at the door of the cell and
tossing a roll of adhesive tape to Dinah. "The Cheetah wants them gagged until
she says otherwise."

"Fine with me," commented Dinah and she sealed the woman's mouth shut with
several strips. She was about to leave, when she glanced back at the woman.
Seeing her so stringently bound and gagged, dressed up in her own wig and
costume, gave Dinah an uneasy shudder. It wasn't an image she liked seeing.
The moment she was clear of the cell, Dinah was seized around the chest by
two powerful arms and lifted up off of the floor. It was the black woman from
earlier. Either she'd checked or she just didn't trust Dinah, but either way
her deception was blown. The woman was incredibly powerful, almost as strong
as a man.

"Get her, quick!" snapped the black woman. "I can't hold her all day!"

Instantly, Dinah snapped her head back and butted the woman in the nose.
The black woman staggered back, stunned, but her grip didn't dislodge. Quickly
looking down, Dinah slammed her heel hard into the side of her attacker's knee.
The woman let out a howl of pain and the pair tumbled in a heap to the floor,
but she tenaciously held on.

By now others had run up. One had a cloth in her hand and jammed it over
Dinah's nose and mouth. Immediately Dinah recognized the intrusive, cloying
scent of chloroform. She shook her head to try to pull free of the cloth, but
the desk sentry kept it firmly in place. The fumes began to replace oxygen in
her system and Dinah's senses swam. Her efforts to wriggle free of the grip
around her chest became more feeble and uncoordinated. Dinah lashed out with
her right leg and caught someone hard between the legs. Then she slipped into
unconsciousness.
* * * *
As she touched the chains of the zebra slave, Wonder Woman completed a
circuit. Instantly electricity from the links between the two shackles on the
slave's wrists leaped up into Wonder Woman's hands. Her reflexes being those of
legend, Wonder Woman felt the bite of the electricity and instantly released the
chains. Though it didn't prevent her receiving a nasty shock, one that hurled
her backwards onto the White House front lawn, it did keep her from being
electrocuted. The zebra slave was not so lucky and she shuddered helplessly in
place amid the horrified squeals of her fellows. Finally the current spent
itself and the smoldering body tumbled to the floor.

"Unbelievable," Wonder Woman gasped as she pulled herself off of the turf
and put a hand to her head to steady her senses. "Cheetah's gotten even more
vicious than before."

At once, the blades of grass began rapidly growing. They seemed to
transmute as they grew, becoming something akin to tentacles. Before the still
groggy amazon could react, tendrils had wrapped around her arms and waist. They
constricted as they wrapped around her, trying to squeeze her like a grape.
Wonder Woman braced her feet against the ground and tried to pull up. The
tendrils held like steel chains and more began slithering around her legs and
across her throat.

"I bet they never trained you to battle anything like this on your
precious Paradise Island," The Cheetah said, rematerializing a few feet ahead
of her. She wore a cheshire grin and stood tall and proud over the fallen
amazon. The remaining zebras cowered in a corner of the porch.

The tendrils were wrapped up her arms to the shoulders and were working up
her legs and torso. The ones wrapped around her throat were cutting off her air
just enough to hamper her and were beginning to spin around her head. Wonder
Woman strained against them, trying to break free or to rip them from the
ground, but they were unnaturally strong and continued to constrict her.

"How?" was all she could gasp out as the green tentacles continued to wrap
around her.

"How is it you can't break them?" Cheetah asked. "They're not of this
Earth, Wonder Woman. "They're from a dimension of sight and of mind.
Terrifying, isn't it, to struggle in their grip and know you can't break them,
you can't slip them, you can only be dragged down by them."

With that, the tendrils began to pull on the near-mummified amazon,
drawing her inexorably into the rich soil of the White House lawn. Wonder Woman
had to use all her amazon discipline to keep herself from panicking.

"I know how it feels," Cheetah said bitterly. "To be dragged down into
darkness, buried alive with no hope of ever seeing the light again. I know,
Amazon. It's not something I ever want to experience again."

"Mother! Hear me!" Wonder Woman thought desperately as she sank into the
Earth, reaching out with her mind to her family on Paradise Island in a wild
final bid for assistance.

"Calling Paradise Island?" grinned The Cheetah as Wonder Woman sank up to
her nose in Earth. "Don't bother," and she lightly tossed a round metal disk
with a pentagram inscribed on it into the air. "I made them disappear - - just
like all the men."

Wonder Woman's head slid beneath the surface of the ground with a final
thrash.

"With one important exception," Cheetah leered, ready to burst with
elation over her triumph.
* * * *
Shiera hung from her wrists in the dimly lit cell, bent over almost
double. She'd long ago given up struggling. It hurt her wrists too much to do
so--and her back--and her arms. The blood pounded in her head and made it hard
for her to concentrate on anything besides her pain. She was tired, she was
sore, she was hungry and she had to suppress the rampaging fear that no one was
ever going to rescue her.

Black Canary wasn't going to help. She'd seen that Cheetah guard earlier
carrying Black Canary's limp form over her shoulder to a cell. For what seemed
like hours, she'd pinned her hopes on Wonder Woman. However, there had been a
ruckus among the guards recently and she heard the name "Wonder Woman" amid the
din. At first, she thought deliverance was at hand, but when the din calmed
down and no one came, Shiera realized that Wonder Woman had probably been
captured as well. And the men were still gone.

Who was left to save them? Liberty Belle? Firebrand? No one had heard
from them since just after the war. Phantom Lady? She was a slim hope, but if
they'd beaten Wonder Woman - -? Merry the Gimmick Girl? Please! They needed
Superman or Batman, but they were gone, gone to wherever Hawkman had gone.

A tear trickled down Shiera's cheek and struck the dry concrete floor.
She wished Hawkman were here to scoop her up in his strong arms and crush her
against his masculine chest and tell her everything would be all right, because
when he said it, no matter how dire the circumstances were, she believed it.
Failing that, she wished someone would let her down. They didn't have to untie
her, just let her sit and rest.

The click of toenails echoed in the hall of the White House basement.
Shiera twisted her head to look up. Two menacing women in Cheetah costumes
stood guard outside the door, armed, as if she could mount any kind of offense
against them. Shiera wasn't sure if they were the same two women who'd been
there when she was first locked in this cell. It didn't really matter.

The lock opened loudly and the cell door swung open. Shiera looked up
again, wondering what was going on. Instantly her blood froze. Framed in the
door was The Cheetah, moving like a great cat stalking its prey. Shiera tried
to swallow and couldn't. Was this it? She'd thought earlier that she didn't
want to live in a world without Carter, but suddenly that seemed like the
romantic prattle of a foolish little girl. The Cheetah padded over, her
toenails clicking on the concrete. She hooked taloned fingers into Shiera's
thick auburn hair and pulled her head up at a painful angle.

"I was hoping seeing you with your mask off would be some sort of thrill,"
Cheetah said softly, but with a venomous tone. "But I don't know you. I know
the type, though. Debutante; party girl; I saw enough of your type through
Priscilla's eyes. You attend your parties and your galas, you trade your
gossip and try to outdo each other's gowns and whore yourselves out to only the
right men. All the while you're completely oblivious to the hell one of your
own might be going through."

She flung Shiera's head down, then undid the gag tied in her mouth. When
it was removed, Shiera sighed in exhausted gratitude.

"Anything to say for yourself, party girl?" spat Cheetah.

"What have you done with Hawkman?" she croaked out.

Cheetah responded by laughing, loud and long, in genuine surprise and
amusement. Shiera desperately wanted to close her hands around the woman's
neck, but could only endure it.

"What do you care?" roared Cheetah finally. "He's only a man!"

"He's worth more than you'll ever be," grumbled Shiera.

"Wake up! Men are users! They're leeches! They find a woman who's
either too stupid or too helpless to resist them and they defile her until she's
destroyed - - or until they find someone prettier."

"Sounds like somebody got dumped," Shiera replied uncautiously.

Cheetah responded with a wicked backhand across Shiera's mouth that nearly
took her head off of her neck. When her brain stopped rattling, Shiera glared
up at the woman, feeling for loose teeth with her tongue.

"The only time I let a man touch me is when I rip his throat out with my
teeth," Cheetah hissed. Shiera looked into her eyes and believed it.

"So now what?" Shiera asked, trying not to show fear.

"A good question," Cheetah replied, calming. "You've got the body for it,
but you're too stupid to become one of my Cheetah army. I may make you one of
my zebra slaves--it's the job most suited to someone like you--if I find you can
be properly cowed. If it becomes too much trouble, I'll simply kill you. And
if you think I can't - -"

Cheetah walked over to Hawkgirl's wings, propped up in the corner of the
cell. She stood there placidly for a moment, then began attacking the wings
with the claws on her hands like a vicious wild animal. In seconds, gray
feathers were floating everywhere and the miniature motor that drove the wings
had been reduced to rended metal scrap.

Before she could respond, Cheetah shoved the gag back into Hawkgirl's
mouth and tied it in place, making sure to pull the knot extra tight. Shiera
groaned into the gag and was left to hang in the center of the cell.

Cheetah's next stop was the next cell. Inside was a sight that pleased
her. Black Canary dangled from the center of the room, redressed in her own
costume. Her arms were fastened together crossed opposite behind her back with
one inch leather straps securing each wrist to the opposite elbow, then another
strap was brought across her chest and behind her to pin her arms to her sides.
Another strap drew across her waist like a sling and was attached to a chain
hanging from the ceiling. Her ankles were bound crossed with a strap, her legs
strapped again above the knees, then bent double and strapped again with a
length of leather that ran across her thighs and down across her shins. Black
Canary's blonde wig lay on the floor to her right.

Cheetah signaled the guards, two healthy, armed women in Cheetah costumes
standing at the door. They parted after one unlocked the cell. Dinah looked up
as she dangled from the ceiling. There was no malice in the woman's eyes.
Instead, she seemed to take in every detail. Cheetah took an instant dislike to
the woman. She was a plotter and The Cheetah hated plotters, preferring open
and above board people of action to those who skulked and plotted.

"Honestly, you'd think one of you would be famous," scowled The Cheetah,
bending over to pick up the wig. "A wig? I admit, it's more original than a
mask, but - -"

Black Canary didn't take the bait. She just hung there, watching
Cheetah's every move and plotting silently. Eyes narrowing, Cheetah approached
the captive. She caught the edge of the adhesive tape plastered over the
woman's mouth with her very deadly claw and pulled the tape away. Black Canary
didn't flinch.

"Did you think you'd be able to sneak in here and not get caught?" scowled
Cheetah.
"I'll have to do better next time," replied Dinah with unsettling calm.
This woman really believed there'd be a next time.

"I'll have to ensure that there won't be one," countered Cheetah.

"How did you do it?" Dinah asked. "Make all the men disappear, brainwash
all of these people, reconstruct the White House overnight to suit your needs?"

"Is this where I tell you all of my plans while you work on a means of
escape?" mocked Cheetah.

"I'm just curious," Black Canary replied, still eerily confident. "I know
you're power source is The Talisman of Sharaee that you stole from Sybil
Kensington's party. I know you kidnapped Dr. Joanna Leeds, the archaeologist
who found the talisman, so she must have helped you find a way to invoke its
power. I just didn't know the talisman's power was this big. Is it attuned
just to you or can anyone use it?"

Cheetah's skin burned with embarrassment. She wanted to lash out at this
arrogant little cub barely out of high school, to rip her face open and laugh as
she bled. But that was always how Wonder Woman had defeated her in the past, by
provoking her and taking advantage of her rage. It was an effort, but Cheetah
quelled the fire within her.

"I was going to make you a zebra slave, but you're clearly too clever for
that," Cheetah replied, seeking to regain the upper hand. "Obviously you can't
be one of my army, because you're a sneaky little plotter. I guess I'll just
have to kill you."

Black Canary's face remained unmoved, but Cheetah saw her body squirm a
little within the grip of the leather straps. It gave her some small
satisfaction.

"Since you haven't done it already," Dinah asked cooly, "may I ask when?"

"When it suits me," Cheetah replied.

She extended a hand to a guard. The guard placed a roll of adhesive tape
in her palm. Cheetah pulled off several strips and plastered Black Canary's
mouth shut. The woman didn't resist and that annoyed Cheetah as well. She left
the room wondering why Black Canary was so confident. Had she overlooked
something, or was the woman just crazy?

After Cheetah was gone, Black Canary returned to her work. She wished she
had the blade she kept or her Canary amulet, but Cheetah's guards had been very
thorough in searching her and her costume before replacing it. She wished the
others were free, but that wasn't a rational hope. Right now she'd even settle
for Johnny, but he wasn't around. The only one she could depend on right now
was herself. The thing about being bound in leather was that leather stretched.
If enough perspiration soaked in, and it was a hot enough day in Washington that
Dinah's body was covered in perspiration, she could possibly stretch the straps
around her wrists and arms just enough to slip out of them.

Of course, once her arms were free she would have to release herself from
the sling that was cutting painfully into her stomach and diaphragm, free her
legs and escape, all the while dodging the gunfire from the two sentries keeping
her under constant guard.

Black Canary smiled to herself. At least she wasn't completely without
hope.

Wonder Woman sat in her cell, nearly oblivious to the world. Her buxom
body was wrapped from head to toe in her golden lasso, the fine links cutting
into her skin at one inch intervals, then the loose end passing up between her
heels, over her bottom and up to her wrists, which were secured between her
shoulder blades. The binding forced her to kneel, which Cheetah probably had
intended. A leather gag covered the lower portion of her jaw, running across
her mouth and underneath, while it was secured to her head by a buckle in back
of her head and a strap that ran across the top of her head from ear to ear and
buckled on top. Wonder Woman couldn't move her jaw, let alone speak.

Of course, one flex of her jaw muscles at normal strength would have burst
the buckles on the gag. That meant she wasn't at normal strength, which could
only mean a man had chained her bracelets of submission. But Cheetah had made
all the men on Earth disappear. Had she kept one around, just for this
purpose? If so, who? Perhaps it was Steve. Wonder Woman's heart skipped a
beat at the thought of Steve Trevor still existing, even as a slave of the
Cheetah. That would be just like Cheetah, too.

With only two sentries to keep her company, Wonder Woman had slipped into
a state of semi-alertness. She was aware of her surroundings, but at a
distance. Her consciousness was busy, blanketing the world mentally in hopes of
contacting someone who could help. It was hard work without the mental radio to
augment the rudimentary telepathy amazons possessed. Diana had to maintain a
level of almost absolute concentration to try to receive the thoughts of
whomever her telepathic S.O.S. might reach. Weary though she might be, Diana
pressed doggedly on.

"Princess?" came a thought out of the blue. Diana seized it desperately.

"Mala? Sister, is that you?" Wonder Woman thought.

"Princess, where are you? I'd given up hope!"

"In Cheetah's clutches, I'm afraid. She's got me wrapped up in
Aphrodite's magic lasso the way I used to wrap you up when I was a girl."

"That's not good," she heard Mala think.

"Are you free?"

"No," and Wonder Woman could sense the helplessness in the blonde
amazon's thoughts. "I'm in a dark room. My hands and feet are bound, I'm
gagged, and I have a Venus Girdle on."

"Cheetah?"

"It must be."

"What happened? She said Paradise Island is gone."

"The last thing I remember was being on Reform Island, tending to Giganta.
You know how irritable she can get at that time of the month. Suddenly
everything around me began to fade. I passed through the last wisp the island
and into the ocean. Everything around me had vanished, as if I'd dreamed it.
I began swimming toward Puerto Rico - - it was only five hundred miles - - when
just as suddenly I found myself in this dark place. At once I couldn't breathe
and blacked out. When I awoke, I found myself in my current situation. How is
she doing it, Princess? Priscilla never commanded this much power!"

"We think it's a man's world mystic object called the Talisman of Sharaee.
It's about all I know about the subject, though."

"Is there anyone out there who can help us?"

"Perhaps not, with Paradise Island gone. My last transmission with Etta
was cut off and I can't contact her or the other Holliday girls and all the men
of the world have vanished. Maybe one of my Justice Society colleagues are
still free."

"Perhaps Aphrodite will take pity upon us," offered Mala.

"Perhaps," Wonder Woman replied. "I mean no disrespect, but perhaps her
help lies within ourselves and we as yet do not recognize it." Wonder Woman
became aware of the click of toenails. "Cheetah's coming. I'll try to contact
you again, Mala."

"Aphrodite and her retinue be with you, Princess."

"Glad you could join us," Cheetah said as Wonder Woman descended back into
full consciousness. "Calling home? Just nod your head. I'll keep the
questions simple."

Wonder Woman nodded.

"Didn't find it, did you? It's gone. Consigned to the oblivion it
deserves. Nevermore will I have to listen to the ceaseless, sanctimonious
drivel about submitting to loving authority! They're gone! All except you,
and my other chief tormentor, Mala. Oh, I've got lovely plans in store for
you."

Cheetah was kneeling down in front of Wonder Woman, staring her in the
eye. Her hand absently brushed the amazon's chest, the claws on her fingers
lightly scraping the skin. Wonder Woman held herself still, quite an easy feat
the way she was bound.

"I've got some more surprises for you, too," Cheetah grinned, and snapped
her fingers. Four women, all dressed in Cheetah costumes, entered the cell and
stood at attention. Three were willowy youths of college age, while the fourth
was short and squat with copper red hair in thick curls around her head. She
recognized them as Gail, Denise, Gillian and Etta Candy, all of the Holliday
College sorority Beeta Lamda.

"I've taken them all and made them part of my Cheetah army," crowed
Cheetah. "No help from the junior Wonder Woman squad for you. Trevor's gone,
too. Gone to a place every male deserves to go. Although I might bring him
back just so I can torture him in front of your eyes. It depends if the mood
strikes me." Cheetah rose to her feet and flung her head back in ecstasy. "Oh,
Wonder Woman, you don't know the possibilities that are suddenly before me!
There are so many things I want to do, I can't decide which one to do first."

Suddenly her balled fist shot out and caught Wonder Woman flush against
the side of the head. Normally such a blow would be barely noticed by the
amazing amazon, but in her weakened state it was more than enough to rattle her
teeth and send the woman toppling helplessly over onto her side.

"That was one," Cheetah sighed happily. She towered over Wonder Woman,
straddling her prostrate form. "As you may have noticed, I did keep one man in
our reality. Guards!" she snapped angrily. "Bring him!"

Gail and Etta scurried to obey.

"Do you know just how badly I want to let my feral side loose and tear you
into hamburger with my bare hands!" bellowed The Cheetah. "When I think of how
you've opposed me, thwarted me, how you turned Priscilla against me, how you and
your amazon storm troopers kept me locked away in the dark for years on end!"

Wonder Woman looked up helplessly at The Cheetah. She knew the woman well
enough to recognize the maniacal hatred and bloodlust building up to a
crescendo. If something didn't rein her in, Cheetah would succumb and she would
be the killer's next victim. But years of training allowed the amazon to
control her fear and she projected a calm, neutral stare. If she died this day,
she died in the service of Aphrodite and all her beliefs.

Just then, the guards returned with their prisoner. As Cheetah whirled
angrily, a moment away from lunging, Wonder Woman craned her neck to see over
her hip. It was Priscilla's father, Jack Rich. Of course, he'd be the one
above all else Cheetah would spare from oblivion so she could torture him. Upon
seeing the burly man, now fifty-six and graying rapidly from a lifetime of
self-indulgence, Cheetah relaxed visibly, even smiled. Rich was stringently
bound and gagged, his sagging frame shorn of all clothing. Wonder Woman could
see heavy bruising and fresh scars all over his body. Cheetah must have used
her every free moment since acquiring the talisman to beat and torture
Priscilla's father, the one man above all others she held responsible for the
greatest pain in Priscilla's life.

The guards flung their captive down on the floor at Cheetah's feet. Jack
Rich pulled up as much as possible into a fetal ball, shaking openly in terror.
He wouldn't look at Cheetah.

"I've won," Cheetah proclaimed. "I HAVE WON! Do you understand, Amazon?"
and she turned back to Wonder Woman. "I have everybody who has ever harmed me
or Priscilla writhing helplessly at my feet! I have eliminated every potential
threat to me! I have taken possession of the seat of government of the most
powerful nation on Earth and even as we speak my Cheetah army is spreading out
across the country to impose my will on those who have yet to be converted!"
Her arms clasped across her breasts and her head flung back, Cheetah shook
orgasmically. "And my fun with you has only just begun!"

With that, Cheetah turned on her heel and headed for the door.

"Let Wonder Woman contemplate her fate a little while longer. I have to
prepare the exact hell to fling her into. As for this," and she viciously
kicked Jack Rich, "drag it back to its cell."

The guards complied. The last thing Wonder Woman heard was the cell door
slamming shut. She lay nearly immobile on the cell floor, wracking her brain
for a means to escape. Cheetah had to be stopped.
* * * *
Outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, atop the wall surrounding the
grounds, the fleeting glimpse of something human could just be spotted leaping
silently to the ground. There was a cast of yellow and black amid the flesh
color as it sprinted across an open part of the grounds to cover. Though the
grounds were teaming with athletic women dressed in Cheetah costumes and armed
with the very latest in army issue weaponry, no one saw her. The woman crouched
behind a bush, eyes open and alert for her next move.

She was a comely woman, though her features were hard and cruel. Black
bangs peeked out from under a yellow tiger-skin cowl. A cloak of the same
material covered lean shoulders and a one-piece leotard of the same covered a
hard, lean, sinewy female frame. Muscles bunched in her long, lean legs, much
like a great cat ready to pounce. A bow was slung across her shoulder and
arrows rested in the quiver on her hip.

Seeing an opening, the woman sprang and made her next hideaway safely. No
one saw her. Few ever saw The Huntress when she was tracking prey.

Having achieved cover as close to the White House as she could without
being seen, The Huntress contemplated her next move. The numbers facing her
didn't daunt her. They merely presented a problem to be solved. If anything,
this should be more simple than many things she had attempted previously. After
all, one happy fallout of this entire unacceptable situation was there was no
more Wildcat to foil her plans.

There was no safe way she could make it any closer to the White House.
The guards were just too thick. She'd just have to thin them out. Reaching
into her belt, she pulled out a small explosive, just enough to make a loud
noise. Affixing it to an arrow, she notched it and quickly scanned the area.
Seeing nobody looking her direction, The Huntress quickly aimed up into the air
and let the arrow fly. It flew up into the air in a slight northerly arc until
gravity got hold of it and sent it down on the north grounds.

Upon impact, the explosive detonated. Alerted by the noise, the guards
converged together. Roughly a third of them were sent to investigate the noise
while the remainder fanned out over the territory they were assigned to guard.
With the contingent thinned, The Huntress easily made it from cover to cover and
to the White House.
* * * *
Black Canary felt the leather stretching as she tried to pull her left
wrist under the loop that held it to her right forearm. She could also feel the
thumb dislocating, but it couldn't be helped. Dislocated thumbs could be
repaired and pain could be endured. She knew she was under the gun and there
wasn't any time for any other course of action. She could ignore the pain in
her hand, and her ribs, and her legs. As she worked, she watched the guards in
front of the door to her cell. Every time they glanced back at her, she froze.
* * * *
In her cell, Wonder Woman was trying to reestablish contact with Mala.
She worried about her friend, plus she needed to bounce escape ideas off of her.
Being a jailer, Mala could spot the flaws in an escape plan better than she
could. And it was just nice to hear Mala's thoughts in her mind.

However, when she reached out, all she got was a jumble of impressions.
It seemed like Mala's mind, but her thoughts were fragmented and excited.
Wonder Woman's concern for her friend grew.

"Mala?" thought Wonder Woman. "Mala! Can you feel me? Answer!"

Nothing; either Mala didn't sense her or couldn't respond. Just then she
heard a retinue of guards approach. They stopped at Wonder Woman's cell and the
Amazon twisted her neck up to observe them.

While the two guarding the door kept her covered with their weapons, four
others entered with a stretcher. It was placed on the floor next to her and
Wonder Woman was rolled onto the stretcher. Once she was in place, the guards
hoisted the litter up and carried Wonder Woman out of the cell. Etta was one of
the guards. Wonder Woman looked up at her, trying to find some glimmer of her
friend in her eyes.

Finding none, the Amazon began trying to communicate mentally. It wasn't
a normal Amazon power, but Etta Candy was as close to Wonder Woman as Mala was
and with all the times they'd communicated with each other mentally, there was a
small rapport between them. Include her proximity and Wonder Woman thought she
might be able to see into her mind and reach the real Etta.

She focused her concentration and tried to link with Etta. At first there
was nothing. Then she met with some alien force, something psychic that wasn't
Etta inside of her mind. Wonder Woman tried harder and managed to slip passed
it. She delved further into the girl's brain, trying to find the core of her
identity. Onward she pushed until she glimpsed it.

Eventually she glimpsed them. There was a mental image of Etta in a
Cheetah costume standing over another image of Etta. This Etta was sitting at
the feet of the Cheetah-Etta, bound and gagged, naked as her first day. The
captive Etta spotted Wonder Woman's psychic image and called to her through the
gag. That alerted the Cheetah-Etta. Her eyes rolled back into her head and
Wonder Woman suddenly found herself forced out.

"Hold it," the real life Etta said. The litter procession stopped. She
looked down and slapped Wonder Woman hard across the face with her free hand.
"Stay out of my mind!"

The procession moved on.

Wonder Woman was carried into the room that used to serve as the White
House Ballroom. The cavernous structure had been reshaped into a gigantic
arena, no doubt by whatever sinister power The Cheetah now wielded. Twenty
Cheetah guards ringed the room, all of them armed. As she was carried into the
arena, Wonder Woman caught sight of The Cheetah, reclining on a marble throne
that stood on the north wall atop twenty-one marble steps so she could look down
regally from on high and view whatever took place.

Reaching a designated spot, the amazon was unceremoniously dumped from the
stretcher onto the cold marble floor. Instantly three guards sprang on her.
Wonder Woman was rolled onto her knees and strapped down to the floor with thick
leather straps. Her body, already folded in upon itself from the way the lasso
bound her, was crushed into a compact ball. Even if she had her full strength,
the lasso would keep her from escaping, but Cheetah was taking no chances. The
leather criss-crossed her body and was anchored to metal rings in the floor,
until the only thing she could do was swivel her head on her neck and flutter
her hands up and down. Her discomfort level increased severely, but Diana tried
to shunt it aside. What disturbed her more was seeing Mala bound just as she
was and anchored directly opposite from her. The two sisters locked eyes and
each could read the trepidation in the other.

"Wonder Woman," The Cheetah said slowly, savoring her power over the
heroine, "Mala; I can't begin to describe how wonderful it is to see my two
chief antagonists in the world kneeling at my feet. How I wish I could keep you
this way forever."

With that, she nodded to the guards. A wooden rod was thrust into Wonder
Woman's hands. She saw a similar one put in Mala's hands, and that there was a
rope running from the center of the rod up to pulleys anchored in the ceiling.
Nothing was connected to the rope, however.

"I know the danger of keeping you two alive, particularly you Wonder
Woman. But I just can't bring myself to kill you too quickly. Therefore," and
she produced the talisman in her right hand, "oh, and I suggest you get a very
good grip on those rods."

An unearthly green glow eminated from the talisman. At once, the rod
jerked against Wonder Woman's grip, nearly wrenching free. She looked up to
see why and found huge boulders now dangled from each of the ropes, one directly
over Mala, one directly over her.

"Consider this a test," Cheetah said, barely containing her glee. "A
normal amazon could hold one of these boulders aloft for hours, maybe days. But
an amazon with her bracelets chained or one wearing a venus girdle doesn't have
such reserves of strength. So I've given you some motivation: Wonder Woman, the
rod you hold suspends the boulder over Mala. If you let go, she gets crushed
before your eyes. But you won't have that much time to grieve, because the
moment she's crushed, she'll probably let go of her rod and the boulder over
you will drop on top of your head." A Satanic leer curled her red mouth. "Now
what's the foremost question on your mind? I can't seem to decide between how
long it'll take for one of you to break or which one will break first. Oh, but
I'm going to have such a wonderful time finding out!"

The strain on Wonder Woman's hands, arms and shoulders were already
becoming apparent. They shook as she kept a tight grip on the wooden rod. The
massive weight would be child's play for her to hold under normal conditions.
In fact, holding great weights aloft while bound was child's play in the
rigorous training programs of Paradise Island. But with just the strength of a
normal man's world woman left to her, this was hard. She mentally whipped
herself to endure until some sort of help arrived or some means of escape
presented itself.

"Diana?" and Wonder Woman mentally heard Mala's thoughts in her mind. The
transmission was louder than necessary and seemed to tremble. "I'm not sure how
long I can do this!"

"Be strong, Mala," Wonder Woman thought back, grateful for the distraction
from her own plight. "We're women and amazons. We can triumph if we believe.
Trust in the wisdom of Aphrodite." Mala didn't reply. "And, if in her wisdom
we are fated to die this day, know that we died as we lived, in her service."

"I'm not afraid to die, Diana," Mala replied. "I-I just don't want to see
you die. I couldn't take knowing I was the instrument of your death, even for
the instant that I'd know."

Wonder Woman felt a tear well up in her eye.

"I wouldn't want to be the instrument of your death, either, Mala," Diana
replied. "But if I am in this case, at least you'll know you were finally able
to beat me at something."

Mala glared angrily for an instant, then saw the love and affection in
Diana's eyes that were behind the taunt.

"When we get out of this," Mala thought back, "I'm challenging you to a
wrestling match. And I'm going to pin you this time!"

"I accept your challenge," Wonder Woman replied gladly.

From a vantage point above both the prisoners and The Cheetah, The
Huntress notched an arrow. She had discovered a passageway in the White House
that the Secret Service used to oversee the ballroom during balls and
receptions. The villainess began pulling back on her bowstring as she took aim
at The Cheetah's chest at a point just above the woman's cleavage. The Huntress
began to grin, just as she always did before a kill. The woman would be dead
before she even heard the arrow.

Then she stopped. The pressure on the bowstring eased gently. The
Huntress realized she couldn't kill The Cheetah just yet. That wouldn't achieve
her objective. It might even put it out of reach. Her lips pressed together
and thinned into a frustrated grimace.

"I'm going to have to find out how to operate that talisman first,"
Huntress whispered absently to herself.

As she crept back down the stairs to the access panel, The Huntress
mentally cursed herself for speaking. A good hunter never did anything to give
her position away. However, despite all of her training and prowess, it wasn't
like she was completely thinking straight.
* * * *
Black Canary felt her hand pull another fraction of an inch through the
stretched leather strap around her wrists. She also felt another sharp pain
shoot up her arm and through her neck. It was getting harder to ignore the
pain. Her entire body seemed wracked with it. Her energy was flagging and her
ability to breath was hampered by being suspended across her diaphragm for so
long. Another bead of sweat trickled down into her eyes. It seemed like she'd
lost a good five pounds in water weight and she didn't have that much to lose
in the first place.

Suddenly she froze, alerted by a movement her guards made. One was
crumpling to the floor while the other was drawing her weapon up to fire at
someone in the hall. She was too slow, though and an arrow buried itself in
her chest, an arrow just like the one resting in her partner's chest. The woman
hit the floor in an awkward heap. Dinah could hear soft moans of agony from the
second guard.

Feverishly working to free her hands, Dinah listened intently to hear what
was going on. For the longest time all she could hear was the moaning of the
guard as she bled to death. The young heroine wondered what was happening and
would it be a rescue or another threat. As she felt her right hand finally pull
free of its imprisoning strap, she heard one of the cell doors opening. She
didn't know who opened it, but she didn't want to find out unless she was free
of her bonds.

With her right hand free, Dinah was able to reach underneath herself and
fumble for the buckle of the strap across her waist, though not without pinching
her left wrist, which was still bound to her right elbow. With her weight
resting on the buckle, it took all of her strength to pull it free. Once freed
from the supporting buckle, Black Canary plummeted to the concrete floor. She
was able to roll just enough, even with her bound legs, to minimize the shock of
the impact.

Allowing herself just a second to let the reaction to the sudden jolt
dissipate, Dinah was once again at work. She began wriggling her arms and torso
to squirm out of the strap across her chest. Once she was free of that, she
could undo the straps around her legs with her right hand, then work her left
hand free.

If the White House's mysterious new guest gave her enough time.
* * * *
Joanna Leeds lay on her bunk in miserable defeat. She had long since
given up trying to free herself from her restraints. She had seen first
Hawkgirl then Black Canary carried down here to be imprisoned. She'd heard the
guards talking about how The Cheetah planned to execute Wonder Woman. Her body
hurt, she felt humiliated by the slave bra and skirt Cheetah had forced her to
wear and there seemed to be no hope of rescue. Powered by the magic of the
Talisman of Sharaee, it seemed she and everyone else who survived The Cheetah's
wrath were doomed to live out their days as prisoners in her fantasy kingdom.

"What if I'd never found it?" Joanna thought. "The world would be normal
and I'd be off in Ecuador searching for something else to make my reputation."
She shifted, trying to ease the pain on one side, only to dredge up a new pain
in a new place. "What I don't understand is why the talisman worked for her and
not me? Even if I believed in the inscription that the talisman worked only for
'those blessed by Sharaee', I can't believe that The Cheetah, of all people,
could be one of 'the blessed'. It has to be something else."

A sudden commotion outside of her cell shook Dr. Leeds from her thoughts.
She craned her neck around to try to see what was happening. As she looked, a
sudden icy fear gripped her. What if it was The Cheetah? What if she had
decided the woman had outlived her usefulness and was coming to put an end to it
all? She frantically tugged at the ropes tethering her wrists behind her back
and to her ankles, but they stubbornly held. Her eyes jammed shut as she
strained against them in a single, futile attempt to pull free.

The clatter of the cell door opening struck into her heart like a dagger.
Though she desperately wanted to be sitting in the arms of her mother at that
moment, Dr. Leeds summoned up what little courage she could muster and peeked
over her shoulder to see her fate.

What stood in the doorway was not The Cheetah, but seemed no less
frightening. A slender, yet powerfully built woman dressed in tiger skins with
white fur trim walked toward her. There was an unspoken word of warning
radiating from this woman. From the hard leanness of her musculature to the
hardened, merciless look of her features, Joanna knew she was dangerous. Her
gloved hand reached out to Joanna's face and caught the edge of the tape gagging
her. Before she pulled it away, the woman silently gestured for Joanna to stay
silent.

"Who are you," The Huntress asked softly, but with a tone demanding
obedience, "and why does The Cheetah hold you a prisoner? Answer quickly and
truthfully, while you're able."

"I-I'm Dr. Joanna Leeds," gulped the prisoner. "She took me when she
stole the Talisman of Sharaee."

"That disk with the pentagram?"

Joanna nodded.

"Why does she need you?"

"She needed me to show her how it worked," Joanna said.

"And how does it work?"

"Could you untie me," Joanna asked hopefully, the strain of her position
coming through in her voice. "Please?"

The Huntress responded with a lightning move of her hand. Suddenly Joanna
found a very big, very sharp hunting knife at her throat.

"How does it work?" asked The Huntress.

"It, um," gasped Dr. Leeds, her terror mounting, "according to the ancient
writings, it only responds to the will of those blessed by Sharaee. It just
seemed like ancient myth, but somehow it responds to The Cheetah's will!"

"That's it?"

"There were stories attached to the history of the Talisman. Stories of
it bringing the dead to life. Stories of it granting immense power to some and
striking down others. Standard mythology, but . . ."

"How does it work?"

"I don't know. Magic?"

The Huntress didn't slit her throat, so apparently she'd run across items
with mystic power before.

"How do we undo everything?" the woman asked, a hint of desperation in her
voice.

"We can't," Leeds replied. "Only the possessor of the talisman can undo
what he or she's done."

Dr. Leeds could tell it wasn't what the woman holding the knife to her
throat wanted to hear. She waited fearfully for the blade to draw across her
windpipe. But just then, The Huntress whirled, looking warily behind her toward
the door, the knife flying away from Leeds' throat to be brought to bear against
a new attacker that only she had heard.
* * * *
The muscles in Wonder Woman's shoulders and upper arms burned from their
exertion. The tendons in her fingers had long since ceased their futile
protests and had simply gone into hibernation. She could feel her hands shaking
from holding the boulder aloft. If she knew The Cheetah, the psychotic villain
was probably staring intently at her, drinking in her pain and misery.

She allowed herself a glance up at Cheetah, sitting in the marble throne
overlooking the ballroom. The woman was staring with rapt attention at the
amazon, just as she'd predicted. The light danced in The Cheetah's eyes and her
lips were pulled back from her white teeth in a feral grin of anticipation. If
she noticed Wonder Woman looking at her, she didn't acknowledge it. No doubt
she was taking in the entire picture, savoring the whole scenario as it fed her
lust for revenge.

"I am an amazon," Wonder Woman thought to herself, looking away from The
Cheetah and returning her concentration to her flagging body. "Aphrodite's
curse or no, I can do anything I put my mind to doing. There is no weight to
the boulder. Its weight is meaningless to an amazon. I am an amazon."

As she preached her silent mantra to herself, Diana once more locked eyes
with Mala. She could tell her friend was failing, too, though she was also
mounting a valiant effort to sustain her position. There was no attempt at
mental communication. It was better to conserve energy to use in holding up the
boulder. So she tried to communicate her belief to her friend through her
gaze.

The boulder shivered above her.
* * * *
As Black Canary cautiously eased herself down the hall, silently stepping
over the dead bodies of the ten sentries that had been guarding the makeshift
prison, her gaze shot from right to left, taking in all detail. The guards had
each been struck down by a single arrow, save the furthest one; her throat had
been neatly slit. Hackles began to rise on Black Canary. This work was eerily
familiar. She scanned the area for something that might hold her canary amulet
and other tricks or Hawkgirl's nth metal belt. They were going to need them.

She passed by Hawkgirl's cell. Hawkgirl was still inside, dangling limply
from her wrists, bent over awkwardly. Black Canary searched for the key to the
cell door, but stopped when she heard voices from the next cell. Easing herself
over to the edge of the bars to Hawkgirl's cell, the darkly dressed blonde
listened intently as The Huntress questioned Dr. Leeds.

"Mmmmph!" groaned Hawkgirl plaintively. Black Canary looked around and
saw Hawkgirl had turned her head just enough to spot her teammate and appealed
for her freedom. Instead, Black Canary gestured for quiet. She returned her
concentration to the next cell, but heard no more words, only the faint scrapes
of soles against concrete.

"Uh oh," Dinah thought to herself and began easing away from the cell,
searching for some cover. Too late, though, for The Huntress swiftly entered
the hall, knife at the ready.

"Black Canary," the tiger-skinned villain hissed with unconcealed malice.

"Huntress," Black Canary replied calmly, though her body language spoke of
her readiness. "Don't let me interrupt. It was a fascinating conversation."

Huntress sized Black Canary up. The woman was slightly older than before
and, from her posture, clearly more skilled. But Huntress could see the
exhaustion in her face and movements. She saw the pressure marks on her face
and wrists. The woman was still dangerous, but she was wounded prey and off her
game. But how far? The villain sheathed the hunting knife. She knew better
than to engage Black Canary at close quarters. As she pulled her bow down and
retrieved an arrow, she spotted Black Canary lean forward.

"Too slow!" snapped The Huntress, an arrow notched and aimed in an eye
blink. "I'm going to enjoy this."

"Don't tell me you're still mad because I helped bust up that 'Patriotic
Crimes' deal?" Black Canary replied, a smile curling on her red mouth. "You
need to get on with your life." Huntress felt her eyes blaze red; the
confidence of that little snip of a girl was just so irritating.

The shaft let fly. It whizzed across the short space between the two
women, headed straight for a point bisecting Black Canary's eyes. Huntress had
a fraction of a second and she savored the anticipated kill. Then the arrow
disappeared. It took a second to register the clatter of metal on linoleum.
Huntress shifted her gaze quickly and spotted the arrow coming to rest against
the far wall to her right and Black Canary's left.

She'd blocked it. The little snip had swatted it out of the air.

Even as her mind came to this conclusion, Huntress had a second arrow up
and ready.

"This isn't going to accomplish anything," Black Canary replied.

"It'll give me the satisfaction of seeing you dead, you arrogant little
pup!" snarled The Huntress.

"But it won't stop Cheetah!" Black Canary bristled. "That's why I'm
here! I heard you in there and it sounds like that's why you're here, too! I
admit I haven't gotten very far. It doesn't look like you have, either."

"I'll stop her," Huntress proclaimed.

"How? You heard that doctor. The talisman only works for her. What were
you going to do, put that knife to her throat and threaten her? She'd dissolve
you into mist before you could move."

"Well what were you planning?" snapped Huntress.

"I don't know. I'm making this up as I go," Black Canary replied. "But I
do know that we'll all have a better chance working together than as cross
purposes."

"Me, work with you?"

"Afraid of working with me? Given our objective this time compared to
last, that'd be a little silly, don't you think?"

Huntress seemed about to throw out another angry response.

"Forget about why you hate me and remember why you want to stop Cheetah."
That seemed to halt Huntress in her tracks, so Black Canary pressed the point.
"I don't know what she's done to cross you, but you need to stay focused on
that."

Huntress considered the words. Reluctantly she lowered her bow.

"You're lucky there's something in this world I value more than revenge on
you," Huntress said coldly.

Keeping the villain in sight, Black Canary opened the cell and freed
Hawkgirl from her strenuous position. Hawkgirl slumped to the floor, in obvious
pain.

"I thought you two were never going to stop arguing," gasped Hawkgirl.
"Oh, every inch of my body hurts!"

"I know," Black Canary said, rubbing Shiera's wrists and forearms to
restore circulation. "I'm not in too great a shape myself. Can you walk?"

Hawkgirl looked up at her teammate. She could see the obvious signs of
stress in the woman's face and hear it in her voice. Yet she acted as if
nothing had happened. It put Shiera to shame once again.

"I can make it."

"Good," Black Canary said, standing up a little less vigorously than
usual. "We've got to get that doctor out of the next cell, then get out of
here before someone notices the carnage."

"Allow me," Huntress said neutrally.

"You didn't see my ninth metal belt out there, did you?" asked Hawkgirl,
pulling the yellow cowl back on over her head." They went out to look for it.
"You don't really trust her, do you?"

"Naturally not," Black Canary whispered. "But we've got a mutual enemy,
so it's better this way for now." Dinah pulled open a desk drawer and found
their devices.

"A desk drawer?" smiled Hawkgirl. "That was careless of her."

"No one can think of everything, no matter how well they plan," Black
Canary replied. "Besides, Cheetah was pretty occupied with Wonder Woman."

"You seem so experienced and knowledgeable for someone so young," marveled
Hawkgirl.

Black Canary looked away. "I've had some good teachers."

Huntress walked out of the cell with the newly freed Dr. Leeds. Together,
the four moved up the stairs and eased into an unoccupied office on the first
floor.

"Doctor," Black Canary said in a low, but commanding voice, "do you know
the exact origin of that talisman?"

"Only what was written in the scrolls," Joanna replied. "In Ecuador,
roughly 1200 AD, the scrolls speak of a great fire in the heavens, but a fire
not the color of normal fire. They called it the jungle fire or the fire of
life. A fragment of it crashed to the ground and was thought to be a message
from their god, Sharaee. It says that some men of the tribe approached the
rock, led by the priest of the temple of Sharaee, but that they were not the
chosen of Sharaee and were struck down by the green fire as evil heretics."

"Is there more?" asked Black Canary.

"Yes. It describes a lone man named Pipon approaching the rock later. It
says he was spared the wrath of Sharaee because of his piety. The tribe made
him the new priest and, in return, he fashioned the rock into the talisman. It
speaks of the talisman curing disease in the tribe.

"Then it describes Pipon being killed by a rival tribe with a spear
through the heart. The talisman was taken up by a young girl named Suuf.
Using the talisman, she engulfed the rival village in an inferno of green flame,
then was never heard from again. From that point on, many tried to use the
talisman, but it either refused to work for them or struck them dead."

"A pretty story, but it doesn't help us," Huntress replied.

"Oh, but it does," Black Canary said. She glanced at Hawkgirl. "Don't
you recognize it?"

Hawkgirl shook her head, confused.

"Think back to the origin of Green Lantern's lamp and ring. A great green
flame over China about 1200 AD; a meteorite crashes to earth; a craftsman makes
it into a lamp, then is killed by superstitious villagers. The lamp flares and
kills them with a green fire."

"You don't think . . ." Hawkgirl gasped.

"What was the story of the lamp? 'Three times shall I flame: first to
bring death, second to give life, third to give power.' Who's to say only one
fragment crashed to earth?"

"That talisman's made of the same thing as Green Lantern's ring?" asked
Huntress. "No wonder it's so powerful."

"And no wonder it obeys only Cheetah. It must respond to powerful wills
and she strikes me as about as willful a person as I've ever met."

"So what do we do?" asked Hawkgirl.

"You get Dr. Leeds to safety. If Huntress and I can separate Cheetah from
that talisman, we can beat her."

"But," Hawkgirl began, trying not to sound juvenile and whiny, "Can't I
come with you? I know I don't have my wings . . ."

"This isn't the place for little rich girls playing mystery man!" snapped
The Huntress. "You'd just get in our way; then I'd have to kill you and
probably upset Black Canary!"

Hawkgirl stared at her, stunned and flushing with anger.

"I've seen you in action," sneered the villainess. "You have to be
sharing Hawkman's bed. It's the only possible reason he could have to keep you
around."

Shiera felt tears welling in her eyes. She struggled to hold them back,
not wanting to give this sharp-tongued shrew the satisfaction of seeing just how
close she'd come to the truth.

"That's enough!" hissed Black Canary, interjecting herself between the two
women. "If she wants to go with us, she goes with us. She's earned that
uniform."

"She's barely competent rested!" Huntress protested. "In this state,
she's a liability!"

"Maybe so," Black Canary argued, and Hawkgirl felt her spirits fall a
little more, "maybe not! One thing I do know: I trust HER with my back."

Black Canary and Huntress stared each other down for a few seconds.

"We need to go," nudged Dr. Leeds, "now."

"Then let's go," huffed Huntress, turning to leave.

"You should be a little safer here," Black Canary told Dr. Leeds.

"If it's all the same to you, I'll come, too," Dr. Leeds replied. "I like
my odds better."

"Why not invite the D.A.R. while you're at it," grumbled Huntress.

As they made their way to the ballroom, Black Canary questioned Huntress
about her actions inside the White House. Once she found out about the
observation catwalk, a plan tumbled into place in the nimble-minded crime
fighter's brain. Huntress would wait on the catwalk for a good shot, while
Hawkgirl and Black Canary observed from vantage points at the two doors to the
ballroom. Once they saw the arrow fly and knock the talisman from Cheetah's
grasp, they would spring in from different sides and attempt to grasp it. It
was a desperate ploy, but all they had at the moment.

Neither woman was prepared for the sight that greeted them. Wonder Woman
and another blonde bound in kneeling positions, struggling to keep huge boulders
suspended above each other. Dr. Leeds, behind Hawkgirl, was horrified as well.

"We have to help them!" she gasped softly.

"The only way we can help them is to get that talisman away from Cheetah,"
Hawkgirl whispered.

"But look at how Wonder Woman's suffering!"

"She'd understand," Hawkgirl whispered through clenched teeth.
* * * *
Cheetah fidgeted on her marble throne. The amazons had persevered longer
than she'd anticipated them doing so. It had given her much more pleasure than
she'd anticipated watching them suffer. However, she was now anticipating one
of them finally giving in. The waiting began to prey on her mind. They were
hampered, their powers reduced. How could they hold on so long?

Then a subtle movement caught her eye. The boulder above Wonder Woman was
trembling ever so slightly. Cheetah sat bolt upright in her seat. She leaned
forward, her lips pulling back from her teeth in a feral smile. This was it.

Wonder Woman struggled to keep the pain and exhaustion from her mind, to
concentrate only on holding the rope that kept the boulder suspended.

"Diana!" a voice wailed within her mind. "Sister, I'm sorry!"

Diana's eyes shot up. She saw the boulder begin to descend toward her,
gathering speed. She strained against the fine links of the golden lasso,
knowing they wouldn't release her. Then, like a modern Hercules, Hawkgirl
appeared from nowhere. She straddled Wonder Woman's bound form, her hands
shooting up above her head, and caught the boulder as if it weighed mere ounces.
A great sense of relief flooded over the amazon. But how? As if in answer,
Hawkgirl glanced down and grinned.

"The anti-gravity field from my ninth metal belt," Hawkgirl whispered. "I
can extend the field for short distances to reduce the gravity of objects around
me. Carter said it was a piece of cake."

"Rrrrrrrraaarrrrr!" hissed The Cheetah. Standing up on her throne, eyes
blazing, she raised the talisman up to use it on Hawkgirl, even as a dozen guns
leveled their muzzles at the heroine.

In self-defense, Hawkgirl tossed the boulder at the elevated throne. It
collided with the marble structure and nearly pitched Cheetah off. With
cat-like balance, she kept her perch.

"You should have stayed in your cell, debutante!" snarled Cheetah.

The talisman came up, glowing green. It stopped above her head for a
single second, ready to bring it's destructive power forth. The guards held
back on their fire, deferring to their leader. The air buzzed with the sound of
a single shaft. The arrow struck, embedding itself in Cheetah's right arm an
inch below the wrist. Nerves in her hand reflexively released the talisman and
it bounced to the bottom step of the throne and off, even as the momentum of
the shaft pulled Cheetah's arm backward, stopped only when it struck the back of
the throne.

As Cheetah's cry of agony echoed through the cavernous ballroom, Black
Canary went into action. She kicked the nearest guard in the back, then
somersaulted over the distance between her and the talisman. Her hand scooped
up the green object and she whirled, ready to roll away from the gunfire another
guard might bring to bear. But the guards, freed from the control of The
Cheetah, dropped their guns and fell to the floor like marionettes with their
strings cut.

The Huntress made a prodigious leap from the observation window. Landing
with uncanny grace, the woman was up in an instant, her bow in her hands and an
arrow aimed at The Cheetah and ready to fire. Hawkgirl was under the boulder
over Mala, waiting to catch it, while Black Canary ran to free Wonder Woman, all
the while casting a wary eye toward both Cheetah and Huntress.

The Cheetah, with the desperation of a wild animal, tugged at the arrow in
her arm, but it was buried too deeply in the marble and wouldn't pull loose.
With the fury of complete madness, she turned and glared accusingly at Huntress.

"You side with them!" Cheetah spat. "Why? If it's money or power you
want, I'll cut you in!"

"The one thing I want from you is the one thing I know you won't give me,"
hissed The Huntress. "That's Crusher!"

"Crusher?" thought Black Canary, bowled over and momentarily too stunned
to work on the knots binding Wonder Woman. "The Sportsmaster? And The
Huntress? Yuck!"

"A man?" raged The Cheetah. "You defy me over a sniveling, disgusting
man?"

"Crusher's more than just a man," Huntress replied with a fervency that
was almost noble, a fervency none of the others thought she could possess. The
Huntress never had demonstrated this much fervency about anything, not even the
riches she stole. "He's the greatest man I've ever known! He's strong and he's
exciting," and Huntress realized she was betraying too much. "You should try
it, honey. A good man might be just what you need."

"You traitorous cow!" snarled The Cheetah. "The day I let a man touch
me is the day I slit my own throat! Your precious Crusher will use you and
throw . . ."

An arrow buried itself in the marble throne, inches from where Cheetah's
head had been. She dodged with cat-like ease, but when she looked back, she saw
another arrow ready in the bow and a look on the face of The Huntress that told
Cheetah she shouldn't pursue her line of reasoning.

By now, Black Canary had worked the intricate lattice of knots out of the
lasso and removed it from Wonder Woman. Hawkgirl had caught the other boulder,
set it aside, and freed Mala from her tether, though she was helpless to remove
the Venus Girdle. Wonder Woman, her bracelets still chained behind her, rose to
unsteady feet, supported by Black Canary.

"Thank you, sister," whispered Wonder Woman, her throat hoarse from her
gag and her breath stolen by her exertions. "If you can break these chains. . ."

"Well, I might be able to pry them off," Black Canary replied. She got
one of the machine guns from one of the fallen guards, wedged the barrel into
the links and pried. Wonder Woman, despite her great fatigue, held still even
though it had to be hurting her wrists and arms. Instead, the amazon princess
looked over to Mala. The blonde approached with tears of joy and relief mixed
with shame pouring down her face.

"Diana," Mala sobbed. "I almost. . ."

"Shh," Wonder Woman said. "You did your best. It's all we can ask of
anyone. I bear you no grudge." Mala wrapped her arms around Wonder Woman and
squeezed their bodies together. "Still, I do have a bit of a headache from your
last mental message. I wish you wouldn't shout so."

"Ohh!" Mala replied, good-natured anger in her eyes as she pulled back to
look her friend. "I am going to beat you so badly the next time we are matched!"
Wonder Woman grinned mischievously.

"Can you hurry!" prodded The Huntress, her eyes never leaving The Cheetah.

"Almost. . ." Black Canary grunted. Hawkgirl added her strength to it and
the link ripped away from the bracelet. "That got it!"

Wonder Woman, her strength renewed, pulled the rest of the chain from her
opposite bracelet, then tore the Venus Girdle from Mala's waist as if it were
tissue.

"That's that," Wonder Woman commented. "Now how do we restore things?"

"We can't," Dr. Leeds said. "The talisman will only obey The Cheetah
until she's dead. She's the only one who can restore things."

"And I'll never do it!" bellowed The Cheetah. "You haven't won yet! I've
remade this world in my own image and that's the way it will stay!"

"Until she's dead, eh?" Huntress replied, eyes narrowing. A glare from
Black Canary stayed her hand momentarily.

"I think I can get you to change your mind," Wonder Woman replied, the
lasso in her hand.

"NOOO!" howled The Cheetah. Her eyes were bugged out and her body tugged
at the arrow that pinned her with a frantic, fearful urgency. "NO! You won't
trap me again! You won't cast me down again! I won't let you!"

With a final, desperate tug, Cheetah pulled her forearm through the shaft
and away from the marble throne. Blood spattered in all directions and exposed
tendons and muscle hung from the wound. She pivoted to leap to freedom, but at
that moment the golden links of the lasso snapped around her arms and torso and
pulled tight.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" she sobbed, falling to her knees atop the raised
throne. "I won't go back! I have to protect Priscilla! I WON'T GO BACK!"

"Enough!" snapped Wonder Woman. "Conduct yourself with some dignity. Act
like a woman."

"Compelled," sobbed The Cheetah quietly, "to obey. . ."

"Come to me, Cheetah, like the docile prisoner you are," Wonder Woman
said. Cheetah complied, covering the twenty feet in a single leap. She knelt
before Wonder Woman in enforced supplication. "When you receive the talisman,
you will use it only as I instruct you."

"Yes," choked the prisoner, "mistress."

Black Canary glanced at Wonder Woman, clearly unsure about giving the
talisman back to The Cheetah. Wonder Woman gave her a reassuring nod and she
complied. The talisman glowed green for a moment, then dimmed.

"Restore the world to what it was before you changed everything," Wonder
Woman commanded.

A tear trickled down Cheetah's face. She closed her eyes tightly,
grimacing. The talisman glowed a brilliant emerald, then light flooded the
room. When it dissipated, the ballroom was as it had been. Two male members of
the White House maintenance staff looked up from the molding they were cleaning
with puzzled glances. The female members of the JSA glanced at one another and
exchanged hopeful smiles.

"Is it done?" asked The Huntress.

"I think so," Wonder Woman replied confidently.

Instantly The Huntress raised her bow and fired an arrow directly at The
Cheetah. In an eye blink, the arrow was snatched out of the air by Wonder
Woman.

"Don't spare her!" raged The Huntress. "After what she did!"

"You do not have the right," Wonder Woman replied, standing firm in the
face of the challenge.

"Do it!" wailed the prisoner, the voice belonging to the tortured
Priscilla Rich. "Please! Kill me before I do this again!" and Priscilla,
dressed in The Cheetah's skin, dissolved into mournful sobs. Wonder Woman knelt
down next to her, cradling the crying woman.

"No, Priscilla," the amazon whispered. "I haven't given up on you, even
if you've given up on yourself. You can be saved."

"She's too strong!" Priscilla howled. "I can't keep her at bay! I'm too
weak!"

"Diana," Mala said, squeezing her friend's shoulder. "Perhaps we could
keep her on Paradise Island - - permanently. She'd be safe from the man's world
there, and the man's world would be safe from her." Wonder Woman was silent for
a few moments.

"Would you like that, Priscilla?" she asked.

"I don't care," the blonde squeaked. "Just keep me from killing again."

Wonder Woman hugged her tightly.

A movement from The Huntress caught Black Canary's attention. For a tense
moment, they locked eyes.

"If everything's back to the way it was," Huntress announced, the hint of
a challenge in her voice, "I'll be leaving now."

She kept focus on Black Canary, daring her to object. Black Canary stood
her ground, but didn't move to stop her. Huntress took three steps toward the
door, then turned back.

"This doesn't change things between us," Huntress said to Black Canary.
Then she seemed to struggle to vocalize her next thought. Finally, she grunted,
"Thank you."

"I'm grateful for the help," Black Canary replied neutrally. "Keep your
nose clean."

"Don't take on prey you're not ready to handle," Huntress replied with a
hint of a smirk and a gleam in her eye. Then she was gone.
* * * *
With Mala in charge of Priscilla and Dr. Leeds under the watchful care of
the FBI, who would see her home, the three heroines took off in Wonder Woman's
invisible plane to be ferried home.

"So what do we do with the talisman?" asked Hawkgirl.

"I think this is something Green Lantern may be best suited for," Wonder
Woman replied. "From what you've told me, it's far too dangerous to remain on
display. Should anyone else try to activate its power, they could very well
kill themselves."

"And God forbid it chooses to obey anyone like The Cheetah again," added
Black Canary. "We just barely won this one."

"But we persevered and we won," Wonder Woman said. "You both fought
bravely. Thank you both for saving me, and Mala, and the world. . .and even
Priscilla."

"Hey, we're coming up on my stop," Black Canary said. "You girls stay out
of trouble. See you at the next meeting." She started to climb out of the
hovering plane, then stopped and turned to Hawkgirl. "Why don't you come, too.
If Hawkman objects, tell him you're my guest."

"I. . ." hesitated Hawkgirl.

"I won't take no for an answer."

"I'll," she pondered, "think about it."

Black Canary nodded and dropped down to the roof of the florist shop Dinah
Drake ran. She climbed down the fire escape and went to unlock the front door.
It was unlocked. Smiling to herself, Black Canary entered and found, as she
expected, Larry Lance sitting at her desk, his feet propped up, munching on the
cold chicken she had been saving for her dinner.

"Hey, Doll," Larry grinned, winking at her, "glad you're back. Dinah's
not around. . ."

Black Canary marched right over to him. Swatting his feet off of the
desk, she pulled him to his feet by the lapels of his jacket. . .then wrapped
her arms around his neck and jammed her lips to those of the startled detective.
They kissed until Black Canary was reeling.

"D-Doll," gasped Larry, stunned. Then he flashed her a goofy grin.
"Finally came to your senses?"

"More like finally lost them," smirked Black Canary. Then her smile
softened into a wide loving one. "Larry, I've got something to tell you."
* * * *
"You fought very well, Hawkgirl," Wonder Woman said. She seemed to read
the brooding woman's mind.

"Huntress was right," Hawkgirl said. "I'm a glorified amateur among
dedicated professionals. Every time I look at Black Canary, or you, I know I'm
putting a fraud over on the world."

"The measure of a heroic heart is nothing more than the willingness to
give all you're able in order to assist another in need," Wonder Woman replied.
"It's not the battles you've won or the skills you possess. It's the
willingness to try. As amazons, we're taught that from early childhood. It's
the glory of Aphrodite and the wisdom of Athene. You have a heroic heart,
Hawkgirl. You should be content in that fact, and not chastise yourself because
you are not the equal of others. We all do what we can with what we have, and
we honor ourselves when we do."

"Pretty words," Hawkgirl whispered.

"My mother taught me that," Wonder Woman smiled.

"My mother taught me which shoes go with which evening gown."

"Another valuable piece of knowledge," commented Wonder Woman. Hawkgirl
giggled. "I'm serious. You haven't seen me at a Washington social function as
Diana Prince. Honestly, I don't know how you man's world women do it."

"I think this is my stop," smiled Hawkgirl. She climbed out of the plane.

"See you at the meeting?" Wonder Woman asked.

"Maybe. Maybe I'll just chuck these rags and go do something more suited
to the skills I possess."

"Whatever you decide, I know you'll succeed with a heroic heart." The plane arced and in an instant was off. Moments later, it was over Washington. Wonder Woman sat, thinking for just a moment, then flung herself from the cockpit to the roof of the Pentagon. She mentally sent her plane to its secret hangar as she quietly made her way to Diana Prince's office. Passing unseen, she donned the starched white blouse, black tie and blue skirt of her Army Air Corps uniform, then slid the horn-rimmed glasses onto her face. Emerging from the bathroom, she saw the door open.

After Hawkgirl's feet touched ground, the plane ascended and arced. In an
instant was off, circling over Washington moments later. Wonder Woman sat in
the cockpit, thinking for just a moment, then flung herself from the plane to
the roof of the Pentagon. She mentally sent her plane to its secret hangar as
she quietly made her way to Diana Prince's office. Passing unseen, she donned
the starched white blouse, black tie and blue skirt of her Army Air Corps
uniform, then slid the horn-rimmed glasses onto her face. Emerging from the
bathroom, she saw the door open.

Col. Steve Trevor was framed in the door. Diana suppressed the urge to
grab him and crush him to her bosom, instead flashing a friendly smile.

"Diana! There you are!" Trevor said, seeing Diana as nothing more than an
efficient co-worker. "What the devil's going on around here? I've lost a day
and so has Darnell."

"We had a bit of trouble with The Cheetah," Diana said, unable to hide the
glow on her face, "but Wonder Woman and the JSA handled it. Let me give you
both a full report."

Trevor sighed. "Figures my Angel would handle it. She's something else,
isn't she?" Smirking at her, he teased, "Why can't you be more like her?"

"Would you want me to be?" Diana asked, brushing Trevor's chin with her
fingers, then walking into the hall toward General Darnell's office.

Trevor hung back in the doorway, contemplating as he suddenly noticed
Lt. Prince's bottom shimmying beneath the tight blue skirt.

"Nah," he said softly. "Why ask for the impossible?"
* * * *
Hawkgirl opened the back door to the house.

"Carter?" she called out. When no one answered, the dread welled up in
her once again. "Carter?" she called with more urgency. Headed for the lab,
her pace quickening, she struggled to keep from bursting into tears. "Carter!"

Opening the door to the lab, Hawkgirl found Carter Hall bent over his
desk, scribbling complex computations on a legal pad. Her shoulders sagged and
a breath of relief and just a little irritation escaped her lungs. Hawkgirl
pulled her cowl off and crossed over to him. Sure he was exasperating. But
she'd just experienced life without him. She could tolerate a little
exasperation after that.

Shiera folded her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek, then
hugged him tightly. Carter noticed her for the first time.

"Shiera, there you are," he said, dividing his attention from his
calculations rather than abandoning them. "Do you realize we've lost a day? I
only noticed when I looked at my laboratory chronometer." He glanced at her for
the first time to gauge her reaction. "You're in costume. What's happened?"

"I know all about it," Shiera smiled gently, pressing her fingers to his
lips. "It's over. Wonder Woman, Black Canary and I handled it - - with a
little unexpected help."

"Then you know what happened," Carter said, his curiosity aroused. "Tell
me."

"How about I tell you in the shower," she whispered seductively.

"Why can't you tell me now?" Carter asked, annoyed.

"Because, my prince," Shiera sighed, growing frustrated, "you still reek.
And frankly, I could use a shower myself. And after all I've been through and
as close to death as I came, I'm horny as hell!" Shiera minced suggestively to
the door, her bottom undulating under the red shorts of her costume. "So you're
going to march that cute butt of yours upstairs - - now. We're going to share a
very interesting shower, then you're going to get some baby oil and give me the
back rub of my life. After that, we can spend the rest of the day rutting like
two wild animals in heat. You will not think. You will not calculate. And the
only thing you will invent is a new sexual position. Got it?"

"Shiera," sighed Carter, his exasperation growing. "What about the
missing day?"

Shiera Sanders shrugged. "It might come up," she smiled coquettishly.
"Race you upstairs." With that, she bounded up the stairs.

Carter Hall sighed and rubbed his temples. Shiera was hard enough to
resist by herself. Shiera wrapped in a mystery was just too much. He knew his
life would be a lot less complex without Shiera Sanders cluttering it up with
her illogic and impulsiveness. He got up, closed the door to the lab behind him
and walked up the stairs.

It would also be very, very lonely.

THE END