All's Fair, part 14

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"

Green Lantern fought off a sense of disgust as he dropped the next-to-last hostage off at a base camp for a group of Everest climbers. Somehow saving the world and a large number of lives didn't seem to ameliorate the climbers anger at having their supplies depleted and their ascent postponed. The climb coordinator and the Sherpas were sympathetic enough, accepting his assurances that the JLA would restock their food and supplies and tending to the tired and frostbitten women. They understood the dangers of the mountain and were happy enough to provide succor in light of the times they themselves had - and likely would - need the same. But the first time climbers? He could only shake his head. There was no time to lecture; his team needed him more than the climbers needed an attitude adjustment.

Once the unconscious teen was shuttled by caring hands into one of the crammed and overly crowded tents, Kyle shot up the mountain. "This is Green Lantern coming in. Priority?"

"Lantern, we're holding our own here," Wonder Woman's voice came through. "Help Superman before Mordru can draw enough strength to come through."

"I copy," he replied, aiming for the showering sparks that marked the location of the Centurian as he bid the ring to armor him. He was glad Batman and Zatanna had stressed the possibility that the bad guys would have magic weapons - if Superman had merely stood his ground and let the Centurian strike him, he would have been mowed down and their mission would have died right there. Still, evasion while injured wasn't Superman's strong suit, and as Kyle approached, he could see the bloodied Man of Steel moving too slowly to avoid another slice from the big blade.

"Uhn-uh," Kyle scolded, throwing a shield of energy between Superman and the Centurian's sword. The skies actually rang with the impact. "No killing my friends on my watch."

"NGRAUUGGHR!" the Centurian replied, whirling to face Kyle. "More tasty bites of revenge. Bring it on!"

Superman drove a punch toward the distracted warrior and met empty air.

"You think I'm such a novice?" the Centurian spat, his eyes wild. "I battled entire armies to a stand still." He made another cut at Superman, sweeping his blade down as he did so to bounce off Green Lantern's armor as the latter sought to tackle him. He didn't draw blood, but the blow rang in Kyle's ears.

He backed off and shook his head, aware as he did so of the Atom's voice coming through his earpiece. "Look out up there - Mordru has taken possession of Fire's body. She's just plowed through Steel and-"

Kyle glanced down at the streak of flame rising toward them. "I see her, Atom," he yelled, raising a shield against another heavy blow from the Centurian just as Fire slammed into Superman. Kyle winced as her light frame somehow budged the Man of Steel, and he hoped that meant that Superman had yielded to her body. They both tumbled for a moment and came up at some distance from one another.

"Centurian!" Fire barked, gesturing toward Superman. "Finish him so I can rise triumphant!"

The Centurian leveled a crippling side kick at Kyle's knee, striking with enough force to unbalance the Green Lantern for a minute, and whirled. "With pleasure," he growled, flying at Superman.

"Superman!" Kyle called, willing a sword into his teammate's hands.

Superman grasped the hilt firmly, managing to inexpertly deflect most of the Centurian's rapid-fire blows. A couple of strikes made it through his defenses enough to nick Superman's skin before Kyle could regroup enough to throw himself into the fight. He could hear Fire's voice humming with pleasure as more blood flowed down Superman's limbs, and as Kyle toppled the Centurian into a rolling tumble away from his teammate, he noticed small flames lapping at the dripping blood.

"Need a little help here," he said urgently into his comlink.

The answer was a series of grunts. "Working on it," Wonder Woman replied.

Now Fire - no, he reminded himself, not Fire: Mordru - was laughing, the sound bouncing off the mountain face and creating disorienting echoes. He fought for concentration, gasping as the Centurian's blade pressed into his uniform, somehow prevented at the last instant from actually slicing into Kyle's flesh. He saw Superman over his attacker's shoulder, swinging down with his blade-

The Centurian blocked effortlessly. "At least your Batman knows what to do with that," he mocked, turning to unleash a sweeping cut that Superman barely evaded.

Kyle rose to try to take the Centurian from behind, only to be flung back by a surge of fire against his chest. "I don't think so," Mordru crowed, looming over him in Fire's body.

Her face was truly frightening, transformed by Mordru's possession into a leering mask of cruelty. Her eyes glowed blackly without a hint of color as she drew power into her hands. "You won't do as nicely as a sacrifice," she intoned, "but you'll definitely help me solidify my hold."

"I don't think so," Kyle rebutted, allowing himself to drop precipitously and roll away from Fire's position. "And neither do you!" he called back, righting himself and shooting up like a battering ram toward the Centurian.

He was quick enough this time to send the warrior flying, although he also found himself fending off a blow from Superman as he took over the space the Centurian once occupied. "You might have control of Fire's body," he continued, bracing himself for another attack, "but her spirit is still in there, making you doubt."

Okay, he didn't know that, but maybe if he could convince Mordru...

The answer was laughter. "That measly excuse for a hero? She could never have the will to stop me."

"Oh yeah?" Green Lantern shot off a volley of energy bullets and Superman peeled off to reengage the Centurian. "Wanna try my will for size?"

He watched in horror as his bullets - never intended to be lethal - proved to be not even stunning as they were absorbed into Fire's body and intensified the flame around her. "Mmmm," Mordru cooed. "Gotta get me some more of that." She lunged toward Green Lantern, impossibly stretching her hands through his defenses, wrapping fingers around his neck in a strangling hold. He struggled against her, but she was impossibly strong. He rolled with her, his eyes desperately seeking Superman, but Superman was dropping under rapid strikes from the Centurian, deflecting only mortal blows as the blade nicked and sliced at him.

"Oh, do you feel good," Fire's voice moaned as her body straddled and writhed against him. Kyle struggled, trying to stave off unconsciousness, to at least maintain the sword that was only just preserving Superman's life. His vision swam, and his eyes rolled to stare up at his attacker, still grinning maniacally...

And winking?

Her face leaned down to his ear, lips brushing against the lobe as she whispered, "Thanks."

Then abruptly one of her hands left his throat, raising unerringly in the direction of the battle above, and a tangle of power shot out from her fingers.

Kyle gasped for breath, following the trajectory of the bolt with dread. He couldn't stop it, couldn't protect - the Centurian?

His mind couldn't quite process what he was seeing as Fire drifted off his body, raising her other hand to join the first, intensifying the blast. A howl split the skies as spirals of ice caged the Centurian in a vortex of flame, intensifying until it was too bright to watch. Kyle looked away, fighting the spots dancing in front of his eyes to watch Fire rising through the air, moving her hands in serpentine motions, fueling the trap in which she had snared the Centurian. The glow illuminated Superman, slumping exhausted beneath it, staring with eyes more able than a human's to withstand the fierce light. Green Lantern began cautiously moving toward him, aware as he did so that Wonder Woman was flying up from the mountain, determination on her face.

Of course, he thought. The ghost warriors fell back to their rest when Fire caged their master.

The inhuman howling continued as Fire carried both herself and her enemy higher into the sky, creating an artificial daylight on the mountain below. Wonder Woman touched Green Lantern's elbow. "What-?"

He shook his head, still staring as Fire suddenly barked, "GO BACK!"

Without warning, the night was plunged back into darkness and Wonder Woman was calling, "Lantern, light!"

He fumbled for a split second, dazed by what he had seen, but he finally produced an even brightness which bathed the mountain in green and reflected back off the snow. A streak of blue and red flashed through his line of sight and he followed it in time to see Superman catch Fire's falling body, slowing gradually to absorb the impact of her fall and settling down into the snow.

Green Lantern and Wonder Woman raced to Superman's side. "Wonder Woman to Batman," Wonder Woman was saying, "it appears Mordru is vanquished. I repeat -"

"Acknowledged," Batman's voice replied as Kyle touched down beside Superman. Superman looked terrible, his skin pale and his eyes hollow. The snow around him was already reddening as he clutched Fire to him.

"Clark," Wonder Woman whispered as she knelt caught hold of Fire's wrist. "You're in shock." She lifted her free hand to brush across his forehead lightly, disarraying the curl that normally sat so perfectly over his face.

"Wonder Woman?" Kyle queried.

"She's alive," Diana reported, keeping her focus on Superman.

"She was - she would've -" Superman mumbled, his eyes pleading.

"Shh. It's what heroes do, remember? Take the gamble, save the world, trust their hearts." She laid her hand on Superman's chest, over the tear across the "S" and the still oozing wound beneath it. She opened her comlink.

"Steel, Atom, Plasticman - it's over. Batman, have the infirmary ready. We have three injured. Green Lantern and I will stay here to help with the hostages. Plasticman and Atom can help you tend to the others."

"We've still got a hostage here," Atom reminded.

"Right. Leave Atom until we relieve him."

"Acknowledged. Flash, home in on their signals and 'port them up. Collect Atom on Wonder Woman's order," Kyle heard Batman order, and after a moment, Superman and Fire shimmered and were gone. Kyle stared for a moment at the red snow and then shook himself, reaching out to help Wonder Woman to her feet.

"Wonder Woman, your team has been safely retrieved," Batman reported.

"Understood," Wonder Woman replied. "And beta team?"

Kyle winced. In the heat of the battle he had forgotten the other team.

"Still working," Batman answered.

"They'll make it," Wonder Woman said firmly, and Kyle wasn't sure if she was speaking for his benefit or for Batman's. She gave Kyle's hand a squeeze. "Go get the girl. I'll meet you at the camp."

Kyle nodded, willing his body into the air against the post-adrenaline shakes that threatened if he stood still any longer. The battle might be over, but the work was far from done.

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