Panoply

1

There was a time when Kara Zor-L was afraid of heights. But that was a lifetime ago; in another universe. Now she routinely found solace in the high places - in the clouds above it all - where the thin air made the muffled sounds of tribulation below easier to ignore. It was a different world up in the sky. As far as she could see, her eyes were treated to a panorama of tranquility. She dipped her hand along one of the peaks and watched the microscopic ice crystals dance across her palm. They would eventually melt in her warmth; only to refreeze after dripping off, glistening in the moonlight, as if Rao himself seeded the firmament with diamonds. It was like Krypton on Earth.

"Power Girl, you're on."

She would have breathed a heavy sigh, if there were enough air to make the effort worth it. Instead she gave an abbreviated reply via the communicator clipped behind her ear:

"I'm on it."

She turned her gaze Earthward, penetrating the cloud cover with her X-ray and telescopic vision. She found Batman where she had left him: perched in that same hiding spot, in that same position – like some sort of goth statue. She diverted her gaze to DARPA Headquarters directly below. Keeping her eyes fixed on the target, she allowed herself to fall, welcoming mother Earth to draw her into its gravitational embrace. When she broke through the clouds, she tensed her body and flew downward, adding her speed to the momentum of the free fall – flying faster than a speeding bullet. She momentarily closed her eyes until she heard the familiar "boom" in her wake. She opened them to see the rooftop getting closer by the second. The air was thicker by now; she could taste the pollution and scum floating around in particulate form.

By force of will, she stopped just short of alighting on the roof. Narrowing her eyes she peered deeper into the building, her gaze penetrating concrete and steel. She saw four men suited in black paramilitary gear. They fanned out on the floor, sweeping the area in a two-by-two cross-cover formation, until they converged upon the central mainframe. She was almost impressed: their gear was state of the art, their insertion technique was flawless, they were equipped for every contingency – except for her.

She focused her hearing so as to zero in on their voices:

"Thirty-six seconds. What's the status, Backgammon?"

"Downloading the data now, boss."

"Dice where are you?"

"I'm keeping watch by the third guard station. All's clear," Dice said, over the squelch of the radio.

"Forty-five seconds..."

Backgammon pulled the flash drive out of the server and handed it to the leader. "This is the easiest hundred-grand I've ever made."

He took the flash drive and put it in his vest pocket. "That's what has me worried." He tapped his communicator. "Checker's report...Checkers?"

There was no response. They went over to Checkers' position and found him slumped in a nearby corner.

Backgammon knelt beside him and checked his pulse. "Someone took him out Ninja-style. He didn't even get a shot off."

"Pack him up. We're taking him with us." He tapped his communicator again. "Dice, we are leaving. Cover our six."

"Roger," Dice replied over the comm before signing off.

WHOOOOSH!

A rush of air, caused by a blur of red, white and blue, knocked them both over.

"What in the hell was that?" said Backgammon. He dropped Checkers and shouldered his weapon.

Both men fired into the shadows but hit nothing. Another gust of wind and Backgammon disappeared. The last mercenary raised his assault rifle when it started to burn his hands, forcing him to drop it. He reached to pick it up when he noticed that it was now melted, having scorched the surrounding tile.

"Superman!"

"Wrong."

He whipped his head in the direction of the sultry voice and gasped. He rubbed his eyes as she floated above him: A goddess whose countenance demanded worship. The shiny leather of her blue knee-high boots contrasted the matte flawless skin of her toned thighs. Her white bodysuit clung to the contours of her perfect figure; The muscles that bulged underneath did nothing to belie her femininity. Her eyes glowed a bright red, which served to hide the features of her face, save for the bob of blond hair that topped her head.

The fire in her eyes dimmed to reveal a smirk. "So what are you supposed to be? Hopscotch?"

His hand shook as he tapped his communicator one last time. "Dice! It's time to start earning your pay!"

It was then that she realized that she forgot about the fourth merc. The skin on the back of her neck caught a faint rush of wind. She turned just as a large hand grabbed her ankle. Before she realized it, she was aggressively whipped out of the air and sent crashing to the ground.

Dice capitalized on the element of surprise. He reached into the cleavage window of her uniform, grasping his fingers firmly under her collar, and hoisted her into the air. Her eyes widened when he punched her in the stomach, having almost knocked the wind out of her. A follow-up to the chin sent her upwards to bounce off the ceiling. On her way down, he caught her in midair by the edge of her cape and pile-drived her head-first into the hard tile. He clasped his hands together over his head as she struggled to pull her head out of the floor. Before she could free herself, he smashed his fists in her back – splitting the floor open and sending her violently to the levels below.

Dice gathered up his fallen teammates and followed "Hopscotch" to the stairway leading to the roof. Before they made it to the exit, however, they were separated by an eruption from the floor beneath. Power Girl emerged from the hole, her eyes blazing.

"Why is it always, wham-bam thank you ma'am with you men?"

She flew into Dice, ramming with both fists. As he flew backwards from the force, she caught up to him and began punching him in rapid succession, faster than he could see. By the time he slammed into the opposite wall, he was winded – but she wasn't done. She reached down, grabbing him by the hem of his crotch, and flung him through the wall. With her x-ray vision, she followed his trek out of the side of the building to the pavement below, where he lay unconscious.

She turned to face the last one and was blinded by a flash grenade. With a yelp she stumbled backwards and covered her eyes. She took a moment to rub them – all she could see were bright spots. She listened: she could hear his heart racing as he ran up the stairs to the roof. Availing herself of the hole she made in the wall, she flew outside and arced upward. With her hand, she fumbled up the side of the building until she reached the roof. She set down and massaged her eyes again. Her vision was improved, but everything was a haze. She listened: this time she heard two heartbeats, but she recognized the second one. She peered into the darkness with infra-red and could barely make out Hopscotch fumbling with a suitcase.

She lumbered along as she continued to track the second heartbeat getting closer to the first until sounds of a scuffle broke out. By the time she got there, her vision had cleared up enough to see Batman standing over a hogtied Hopscotch.

She approached the Dark Knight, saying, "Did you know they had a Meta on their team?"

He looked at her, his expression remained guarded as he replied, "It would fit their M.O."

"You could have helped."

"And ruin your fun?"

"True," she replied with a grin, "But you could have at least offered."

Her vision was starting to return to normal. She heard the sirens of the military police converging on the building. Her eyes spied the security detail racing up the stairs below to their position. "The DoD is probably going to charge JSA for the damages."

"Not likely, considering the embarrassment and legal ramifications had this technology ended up in the wrong hands," he said, as he illustratively showed her the flash drive that Hopscotch was carrying.

"Sounds like the same old grind. So, who did we save the world from today?"

He took out a device from his utility belt and used it to scan Hopscotch's suitcase. "I wish I knew for sure."

"Well, Bats, If it's information you want, there's always the old-fashioned way." She walked over to the mercenary, grabbing him by the restraints, and hoisted him up at eye-level. "... Ok scumbag, something tells me this isn't your first time. So all you gotta decide is how much pain do you want to go through before you finally tell us who you're working for?"

He regarded her briefly, then looked down with his eyes. "If my wife had a set like yours, I'd never leave the house."

She rolled her eyes. "A breast joke? How original. Let's try this again...Hey! My eyes are up here, moron!"

"I'm not trying to look at your eyes; It's amazing how those things didn't pop out once during the fight--"

"Maybe you'll be able to focus better after I scorch your eyeballs!"

"Can the act sweetheart. We both know you're not going to do anything. The Batman - maybe; Wonder Woman - definitely. But You?" He snorted before continuing, "You're just another Superman wanabee--"

She clenched her teeth. "Wanabee? Do you see a frikkin' "S" on my chest?"

"Nope, not with those big titties in the way."

Batman interrupted them, saying, "Don't waste your time Power Girl. He's trying to stall us."

She shrugged. "I know that." She tossed him aside, without regard for his comfort, as he landed precariously on his chin. Without giving him further thought, she walked over to Batman, who had by now opened the suitcase and started removing components from the machine inside.

"This is what they used to slip onto the grounds unnoticed."

Power Girl stared at the device, observing its innards with her x-ray vision. "It looks Apokolipsian."

He nodded. "It's a crude attempt at emulating a Boom Tube. The military sector has been trying to reverse engineer the technology for years. However, most leading edge R&D firms have only managed to transfer the quantum states of small clusters of atoms over a distance of a few feet. Nothing on this scale has ever been attempted without a Mother Box."

"Until now. So who has the means to pull this off? Lexcorp? STAR Labs?" She smirked. "Wayne Industries?"

Batman, ignoring the inference, continued, "I've been tracking an Intergang sect based out of Gotham. They pulled off a similar heist on Waynetech Labs in order to steal research on a Quantum Entanglement solution. This crew was contracted to raid DARPA's proposal on a solution to workaround Heisenberg's uncertainty principle."

"So it sounds like Intergang is looking to break into the Boom-Tube race?"

"Doubtful. These punks are obviously second-string. This technology is so radically advanced and unproven, that if they had any idea of the risk involved in using it, they wouldn't have tried it."

"What kind of risk?"

"Heating up your molecules millions of degrees with the explosive force of Neutron bomb."

"I see." She arched an eyebrow at Batman's reticence. "So where do we go from here?"

"The jump points have to be situated line-of-site. I would guess the other side of this one has to be no more than a few miles from here. That's where we'll find their boss."

Her brow furrowed as she put her hands on her hips. "Well how are gonna—oh right."

Frowning as she rose into the air, she began to understand why he specifically requested her or, more specifically, a Kryptonian for this mission.

Batman flipped a transponder inside his utility belt. After a few seconds, a stealth craft appeared over the roof. A grappling hook descended, which raised him into the cockpit. Once inside, he turned off the autopilot then hovered next to her while she scanned the distance:

"Anything?"

"Don't rush me - these peepers don't come with a Boom-Tube detector. There's quite a few places around where they could have jumped from...Hmph."

"What is it? Tell me exactly what you see."

"I see a structure four miles away. It's weird: There's a lot of residual solar radiation around it that I would normally see only during the daytime."

"Follow it. That's most likely an energy signature from a gamma pulse generator."

She headed for the building, with Batman close behind. "Would you mind telling me how you would know that and why it matters?"

"It's the only power source known to earth science portable enough to power a Boom-Tube."

They arrived at a small office building. Most of the spaces were available for lease, so there were a minimum of tenants – making it an ideal base of operations. They landed on the roof and entered the building quietly through the maintenance entry. They took the stairs to the floor below. They entered a lobby leading to a large unmarked office with blackened windows. She looked through the windows, sweeping the area, before approaching the door. Upon touching the handle, she jerked back as it creaked open, unlocked.

"The particles are concentrated in here," she said, before venturing into the darkened room.

Batman nodded and let her enter first. The office space was bare, save for a crude work area with a single light shining over a laptop computer. They split up and circled around before converging back to the workstation.

"Looks like they left in a rush. They didn't even bother to take all of their equipment."

He shook his head. "That's not it. The laptop was left behind as a booby-trap."

She snorted as she concentrated her gaze. "You're right. I can see the wire running under the flooring leading to a brick of C-4 hidden in the wall.

"Can you burn the wire?"

Her eyes glowed red momentarily before returning to their usual blue color. "Done."

Batman felt around the edges before slowly opening the lid. The display lit up and the word "BOOM" flashed across the screen. He ignored the message and started to explore its file system.

Power Girl rubbed her ears warily. "Something's wrong. Now I'm hearing a high-pitch squelch."

He jerked away from the computer. "The detonator must have a wireless backup! Get us out of here!"

She hopped over too the wall. "No time. There're innocents in the floors below."

Faster than Batman could blink, she punched into the plaster and pulled out a clay brick. At the last second, she rose off the ground and cradled the explosive in a tight embrace before:

KA-BOOM!

Batman rose to his feet, having been knocked over from the concussive force of the blast. Even though Power Girl absorbed most of the energy, it was still enough to rattle the building. When he looked over to Power Girl he immediately averted his eyes, saying, "A-Are you alright."

"Yea, I'm fine," she replied, perplexed as to why Batman became so stand-offish all of a sudden (more so than he already is.) She heard his heart skip briefly before returning to its usual steady rhythm.

She then started to brush off the debris from the explosion when, to her surprise, she saw that the blast had scorched away most of her clothing. Batman's behavior suddenly started to make sense. It brought a smile to her face to see him shaken from his usual stoic demeanor, but she was careful not to laugh at him. On Krypton, where she grew up, there wasn't such a stigma placed upon nudity; however, in the interest of modesty, she turned her back to him.

Eager to break the uncomfortable silence she gave the area one last look before finally saying, "I don't see any other emissions in the area. Should I call in the rest of the JSA?"

Batman, cleared his throat. "No, The League can take it from here. I don't need you contaminating the crime scene."

She frowned and folded her arms over her chest as she floated away, You're welcome asshole!

She paused when she heard something punch through the glass from the window, followed by the whistle of air cut by metal. Her hyper-awareness tracked the motion of a bullet as it passed by her harmlessly – but she wasn't the target. The room shook when she zoomed after the projectile. She gritted her teeth, unsure if she was going to be fast enough. Her hand cracked the air when it broke the sound barrier to catch the bullet a hairs-width before it struck Batman's temple.

"Ouch!" she exclaimed as she instinctively dropped the bullet like a hot potato.

Before the bullet hit the ground, Batman rolled out of the line of fire. "What happened?"

"Sniper." She pulled off her glove and stuck her finger into the hole left behind. "This guy's persistent. And he owes me a new outfit."

Batman walked over and picked up the mangled bullet at her feet. He examined it briefly before saying, "Fifty caliber armor-piercing round: they have a maximum effective range of 2000 meters."

She nodded in understanding before flying off. "I'm on it."

She curled her lip as she crashed through the window. She stopped and hovered outside, unconcerned with her state of dress. At super speed she scanned the area 2000 meters out at 360 degrees – searching the entire EM spectrum. She cursed in frustration: there was no errant heat signatures, no invisible puff of smoke from a sniper's weapon, no movement, and no heartbeats.

Giving up the search, she was distracted by the faint itching in her hand that caught the bullet – spurring her to massage her palm.

End Chapter 1.