The final battle with him took over thirty-six hours. Had the JLA not placed Captain Universes body into ultra-secure lock-up at Stronghold-2, hundreds of lives would've been lost. Here's the situation from the top, to refresh your memories:
People were disappearing around UAB. Students, professors, doctors, and visitors. 90% of the victims were biologists, geneticists, or the parents or significant others of same. The other 10% were simply very attractive people. For four years these kidnappings went unsolved, and were largely thought unrelated &unexplained until a Birmingham Police Detective went missing from Cooper-Green Hospital Genetics Wing. Since traditional crime-solving had failed, the mystic & telepaths of the paranormals were brought in. Evidence of mental tampering, and brushes with a psionic entity calling itself "The Dark Mind" and strange devices found at the paranormals morgue led to a case, but no solutions.
The JLA found a foreign device hooked up to the head of Captain Universe's body. They disconnected the device and found miniscule signs of life or electrical activity in the body. Cptn. Universe had been dead 22 years, but the body did not decay. Security tapes did not reveal the placement of the device, or who installed it. From one frame on the film to the next it simply appeared. The staff at the morgue all seemed to show signs of mental tampering.
Still the truth was not suspected. Nor was the JLA any closer to solving the kidnappings. They had figured out the modus operandi of the kidnapper though: an attractive geneticist would be snatched, almost guaranteed. So Scarlett "brushed up" on genetics by touching and borrowing the the memories of Obsidian, of the DC Champions. Then she was insinuated into a staff position in the genetics wing with some faked credentials. Sure enough, in about a week, she would've been kidnapped, but fate intervened. Other safeguards the JLA had put in place, to keep an eye on the genetics wing and the paranormals morgue tripped off alarms.
Unseen to all, another device had been placed in the morgue slab, hooked up behind the ears on Captain Universe's head. The JLA arranged to have the body's "annual maintenance wash-up" and check-out moved up. While the body was out of the morgue, they disconnected the device, Magic Michael crafted a dummy look-alike body out of the corpse of a cow, they connected the device to the cow, and put the fake corpse and the device back into the morgue. Then they wheeled the real Cptn. Universe corpse into JLA HQ, for safekeeping.
While they had the body, the 3 mystics of the group, Magic Michael, Zatanna, and Mind-Wave, sat down and had a seance over the corpse, to see into the past, to see what in the world was going on a round it. Well they started way back in time, when the man who became Cptn. Universe was born, his life, and his possession by the Universe Force in the 70's when he fought crime and helped the US win the Vietnam War. Then Cptn. Universe was killed in a massive battle in 1979, and his body, unscarred and intact, though dead, was placed in a federal morgue, then later moved to UAB for study, and then later became the 1st body referred to the paranormals morgue. There it lay until 1993, when a dark armored form was seen to appear beside the body and vanish. Further inspection revealed that the Dark Form had actually shrank to microscopic size and crawled inside the ear-canals of the body. Later, more and more materiel and people were taken in by being shrunk.
They ended the seance and went into a session of scanning & casting. They fired up all kinds of esoteric and microscopic senses. They found 3 medium-sized cities, populated by droids, clones, robots, Baron Karza, and his minions. And it appeared they were mobilizing for war. Battalion after battalion of futuristic shock troops could be counted, along with mechanized war-machines. Being microscopic didn't make the army any less frightening, when one considered the air-lift possibilities of taking an entire force anywhere and then enlarging it to normal size. Lacking a contigency plan for army-scale emergencies like this, they did the first thing that popped into their head: take the body to Stronghold-2.
Karza was busy marshalling troops and did not notice the move. He knew he'd been discovered, so he started his invasion process. Here's Karza's problem: his army is microscopic, right? So he needs a method for enlargement. He personally with his own powers can shrink or grow up to eight others. Too slow to assemble an army. He had 4 machines in Cptn. Universe's tear-ducts that could enlarge one person at a time. Also too slow. This is what the secret device was; an external amplifier of Karza's own powers, by which he could shrink/enlarge up to 99 troops at a time. Now his "fortress" was inside Stronghold-2, and his device was at UAB.
Thus the JLA had unwittingly hosed up Karza's otherwise well-planned invasion. Karza had enough troops and heavy weapons to subdue the entire southeastern US. But only twelve guys at a time put a real crimp in his deployment. Oh did I mention the hostages? Everyone Karza had ever kidnapped was still inside the tiny citadels. They had been used as breeding stock for the servitors, clones, and grunts in Karza's Klone Kommandos. Those original victims, plus all their children they were forced to have, were still in there. JLA hard-liners and the Pentagon both said "Tough there's enough of a threat in there to warrant tossing the whole corpse into a nuclear autoclave and sterilizing it with radiation, hostages and all". Of course the more moderate members of the JLA and government officials said "Wait we've got to save those people before we pacify those armies".
Here's how the JLA solved this one: They said: "We'll take an all volunteer squad into the main micro-citadel. We'll mop up the palace guards, rescue all innocents, bring'em back out, then you can slag this whole thing" The hard-liners said, if you're not back out in four hours, we still melt you all down. Fair enough. Now Cptn. Universe's corpse was in a small cell, about 10 foot by 10 foot, and Karza had only sent out two robots so far. Also he himself had popped out for a micro-second, to confirm his suspicions. Everyone hoped that Karza couldn't read minds so quickly as to pre-determine their every move.
The Extraction Team: Magic Michael & Gargoyle, Mind-Wave, Gamma-Gargoyle, Dark Avenger, Hi-Voltage, Wang-Chiun, Scarlett, Red-Star, and Enforcer all went in. Recent instabilities in Dr.Chaos's mega-zap made everyone feel safer that he didn't go inside.
The Guardian Team: Dr.Chaos, Snake-fist, Zatanna, Sea-Strike, Garv, Technician. All these heroes were to assist Stronghold-2 personnel in the event of a breakout attempt, or if the Extraction team should fail, ensure that all suspect items were dumped into the nuclear incinerator and destroyed.
Zatanna prepared all of them with aiding and girding spells. Then Michael made a bridge into the heart of Karza's realms, and they had to hit the ground running. Now due to it's super secret location, Karza's citadel were not really designed for intruder control, since being microscopic keeps away 99% of all known heroes and good guys. So even though they didn't meet any large squads of goons specifically hunting for them, they met and fought plenty of Karza's Internal Security Forces. Eventually word got to Karza himself that some kind of insurgents were storming his main palace. So he zipped back there as quick as he could from the marshalling grounds. Dark Avenger was ready for this and rushed Karza right as they laid eyes on each other, Dark Avenger held BK off for 10 minutes while the rest of the heroes started rounding up innocents & babies. BK didn't take Dark Avenger down, special squads of guards equipped with x-ray guns, set to a frequency that Karza was completely immune to, hosed Dark Avenger with harsh NND rad shots. As far as anyone could tell, Dark Avenger was dead. So Karza and his Ace Guard Squad catch up to the heroes just as they had sent the first pack of refugees back up the bridge to the real-world. This time Wang-Chiun leapt onto Karza, brandishing a huge mace that electrified on contact with the enemy. No one had ever seen this kind of weapon come out of the Shebanigan, and it seemed particularly effective versus Karza. Or so it seemed. Karza was only pretending to fall-back. What he was doing was parrying all of WC's blows, and BK was looking for an opening. . . which he found in Scarlett's mind.
Time passes differently inside the microcosm of Cptn. Universe's body, and Karza had
already taken the equivalent of 25 years of prep time before this battle.
Karza attempted a psionic trick he had never quite pulled off before. He projected 95% of his consciousness into Scarlett's mind, like a possessor demon. His own body was able only to stand there dumbly and punch back at whatever was in front of it. Meanwhile, his control of Scarlett's body was nearly complete. She was standing between Mind-Wave and Gargoyle at the time. Totally by surprise she reaches up and with unexpected strength grabs them by the neck and cracks their heads together. This stuns both of them, not to mention her absorption power which kicks in and really puts the whammie on both of them. She teleports away still holding Mind-Wave to between Magic Michael and some of the refugees, and dares Michael to shoot her. Ace Guard Squad catches up to the fight, and they spray Gargoyle while he was down, putting him out for the count. Karza himself "falls" front of Wang, and then, as Wang closes in to pound in Karza's helmet and finish him off, Karza trips Wang and they struggle for the Shebanigan in the confusion. Karza and Wang-Chiun roll down a long flight of stairs as they fight, right into a mob of escaped slaves.
These people, crazed by years of servitude to Karza, begin to beat the crap out of both combatants, because they had no idea who he was, and assumed he was some minion of Karza since he wore black. So let's review the fight count: Hi-Voltage and Gamma Gargoyle were at the top of the bridge putting hostages to safety, and because of time dilation were out of the fight. Gargoyle and Dark Avenger were at "GM's Option To Recover". Wang & Karza couldn't even be seen by anyone due to the Kirby-esque pile of goons they had fallen into. This leaves Mind-Wave still in Scarlett's grasp, as she holds him over her head and rails at the wizard.
Magic Michael's fine, but his supporting cast is down, Scarlett is between him and the last of the hostages, Ace Guard Squad is forming up outside the hall and preparing to storm the scene, and things aren't looking good for the home team. Just then, Mind-Wave is able to crack open one eye and squeak off one telepathic phrase to Michael: "Life-Chain" This code word, worked out by Michael and Mind-Wave in some Danger-Room scenarios, was this: Michael weaves 3 strands of his own hair into an ever-lengthening coil which seeks out and latches onto every friendly body in the general area, thus fulfilling the requirements for the "touch range" teleport of Mind-Wave. Michael activates the spell just as Scarlett was advancing to use Mind-Wave as a blunt instrument on him. Mind-Wave sense the touch of the strand, and teleports the group blindly, anywhere, just to get out of the palace. The fight had been near the center of Cptn. Universe's brain, but now they had teleported to somewhere in the sternum, many many "miles" from Karza's main territory. Who had teleported? All the heroes plus Karza and Scarlett.
This was Mind-Wave's last gasp as Scarlett now drained him thoroughly, once she recovered from the disorientation of the teleport. Karza and Wang were both completely pasted & stunned, and the Shebanigan lay in between them, resheathed as it always was when Wang blacked out. Gargoyle's just laying there, practically inert. Dark Avenger sprawls on the floor of this chamber they're in, his skin practically steaming from the rad burns. Mind-Wave, burnt out in both body and mind, has no strength, all stolen. Only Scarlett stands triumphant, actually glowing in the dark due to all the powers she had absorbed, and grinning a demoniac grimace as Karza's mentality runs the circus show inside her brain.
Red-Star and Enforcer had been captured earlier by Karza's goons and hauled to a detention center, but apparently they had "talked" there way out of incarceration.
The only other person moving in the place was Michael, and he's just about out of spell juice. He decides to call in a favor he didn't even really have, but he shoots off all but the last point of his mana in a message to break the barrier to the outside and summon the Angel of Birmingham, hoping she'll come in time to save the now distant hostages. He doesn't summon her to his location, but to the palace where hopefully she'll somehow scoop up all the innocents. He thinks "Possibly she'll have to save the whole southeast from Karza", as he doesn't know if the Guardian Team can get the body destroyed in time before Karza & his new queen Scarlett break out. Scarlett/Karza ignores him, as a new look of greed comes over her face.
To Michael's amazement, she steps right by him, ignoring him as she works herway across the pile of heroes to the end. Now Michael knows why he saved back one power pip, he takes his belt buckle off his costume and uses this last mana point to morph the metal buckle into a large impressive scimitar. Why? Scarlett had walked over to Wang's body, taken the scabbard from him, and strapped the Shebanigan around her waist. Michael didn't hope to fence with her, but he did want to at least have a chance to parry whatever monstrosity of a weapon she pulled out. He looks on in alert yet puzzled horror as Scarlett draws the Shebanigan, instead of a sword or katana, she gets what every uninvited guest gets when they draw the Shebanigan, a puppet. Michael had never seen this puppet before: a little man wearing a dark purple robe, but if Wang had been awake, he could've have told them it was the Instructor of the Ways of Khi. Scarlett/Karza was confused, she had been expecting a massive weapon of some sort, and so she was flabbergasted when the puppet told her very matter-of-factly: "There is more than one unwelcome gaijin at this temple". She didn't care, she reached out with her left hand to the puppet, seeking to touch it and drain it's powers, whatever they may be. The Instructor very calmly pulls what looks like a large needle just as she reaches him and uses her own strength against her to ram the point all the way through her palm, neatly puncturing both a major nerve and a blood vessel. She yelps in pain, draws back, and the Instructor takes the moment to both admonish her on the foolishness of hasty anger and to jump back into the scabbard.
She reaches down and yanks Wang's silk belt off, and wraps her bleeding hand up, after she pulled the pin out. Ready again, she pulls the Shebanigan out, thinking surely she'll get a weapon this time, surely the puppet was a fluke. But no, always when a wrong person draws the Shebanigan, they get a puppet: This time a hideous snake-headed demon appears on her hand. In a distinct Norse accent it asks her, "what is the door to the ocean?" Unable to answer the riddle, she disgustedly reaches for the serpent to drain power from it. She touches it and feels a wondrous rush. The serpent, being so powerful, seems completely unaffected by her absorption. It repeats to her, louder: "What Is The Door To The Ocean?" She screams at it to stifle, as its accent and strange question annoy her and Karza. Last Chance, hisses the Serpent, and it bellows at her: WHAT IS THE DOOR TO THE OCEAN? She screams back: "who gives a fuck what you think about the ocean!", for Karza/Scarlett assumes shell soon be able to absorb the snake into silence, and then soon shove it back in the scabbard, and then finally draw a real weapon.
This is not the destiny. Upon hearing no correct answer to his riddle, the Midgard Serpent Puppet must wreak his inevitable doom. He begins to lengthen noticeably, with more & more of his sinuous serpentine flanks issuing out of the Shebanigan's handle where the puppet begins. Scarlett has still got the Serpent in a hand-lock, and has been absorbing strength and toughness from it for almost a minute now. The snake loops out around her and gets the first coil in place. No problemo, thinks Karza/Scarlett, my strength is ungodly at this point, I'll just break free. Which she does. She shoves the coil over her head, breaking the serpent's grip with a smirk. Then she proceeds to try to shove the serpent back into the scabbard. While she wrestles with it's head, it loops out some more and comes up around her waist with 2 coils this time. These she breaks out of, butslower. You can see where this is going, can't you?
Well Michael could see it as well, and he hadn't been idle while this little drama was playing out. He had been busy carrying friendly bodies over to the far side of this bone chamber they were in. So everyone was over on one side, and back where the fight landed was just Scarlett-Karza, the Serpent-Shebanigan wrapped around her, and Karza's armored form. But Michael didn't care about them, he was trying to do first aid and/or revive his JLA comrades. As he's working, a telepathic message from Zatanna pierces his mind, and she tells him "turn on your radios or something, give us a homing beacon. . . . " It's all she can get through, there's no time for him to ask questions. So he reaches down and turns on his, and Mind-Wave's, and Wang's belt radios. He then hears a quavering mystic whine and electric tingle, so he instinctively dives to the side. Just in time too: Hi-Voltage had been projected (by Zatanna) at a very high delta-vee (temporally & magically speaking) to that location, in the form of a lightning bolt. Of course he lands somewhere just in between Mind-Wave's and Wang-Chiun's radios, so he stunned them further into oblivion, undoing Michael's efforts to revive them. Oh well. They worked quickly, they grabbed Karza, and drug him away from the Serpent+Scarlett mess. Michael pries up a corner of Karza's face mask with his scimitar, and Hi-Voltage jumps in, frying and short-circuiting his armor, and making as big of a mess as possible of all the cybernetics and hardware inside.
Of course Karza, being well nigh the ultimate sneaky evil bastard, has a dead-man switch rigged for just such an emergency. When his on-board computer senses irrevocable life-support failure, it sets all batteries and suit weapons to overload as much as possible. Hi-Voltage jumps out of the circuits, and tells Michael they got about fifteen seconds to live. Quickly they drag Karza's body over on top of the Serpent-Scarlett tangle, in which they can't see any more of Scarlett at all, due to about 17 coils of Midgard Serpent being around her totally. Then they sprint across the chamber, and they hide everyone behind Gargoyle's body and wings. BADDA-BOOMBASTIC, Karza explodes, and the psionic, pyrotechnic, and mystic backlash (similar to when the Emperor bit it in the ventilation shaft in Star Wars) shakes up the whole chamber, but basically everyone's alright. When they begin to wake up: Michael's healthy, Wang's okay, Mind-Wave will live, Hi-Voltage is fine, Gargoyle's sun burnt but will recover. Dark Avenger didn't seem to want tobe waking up. Scarlett, or rather what was left of her, lay over in the corner where the explosion tossed her broken remains. The only thing left of Karza was his left gauntlet. Laying calmly in the midst of all the chaos, the Shebanigan, mystically resheathed. Wang walks over and cleans it off and puts it back on his belt. Michael tells him of the Midgard Serpent Puppet and of it's riddle. Had Wang ever seen that puppet before? No. Did he know the answer to it's riddle? No. That's not good, they all agree.
But what's important right now is to get out. Their time pieces have all gone screwy inside the body, and they don't know how long they have left before the whole micro-world inside this body goes ZAP from the autoclave. Hi-Voltage can't get'em home without wires. Mind-Wave can probably 'port everyone back to Stronghold-2, but he doesn't think so, since they're technically millions of miles away. Magic Michael has some mana back, but he is still so low on power he can't even conjure up the setup for the bridge, much less activate it to take them home. Wang decides to pull the Shebanigan, maybe he'll get something to take them home. Everyone thinks this is a good idea except Michael, who doesn't want to risk the Midgard Serpent again until he's researched that riddle, Just In Case. . .
Wang-Chiun draws the Shebanigan, and pulls out a massive gleaming machete. Michaels regained a few spell points, so he pumps up Wangs endurance, and he starts hacking a path right through the walls, and thanks to Hi-Voltages ability to home in on the rest of the teams radios, they set off to reunite with the rest of the Extraction team. Mind-Wave is convinced they dont have enough time, and hes right. Just then, the Angel of Birmingham gets through to Michael telepathically. She cannot help directly, but she sends along enough spiritual energy to empower Michael to haste all of them.
Quickly quickly they make their own tunnel, till they find a major venal highway that takes them right back up to the head area. Theyre all starting to recover a bit, and making good progress. They have a few skirmishes with a few pockets of Karzas goons, but with him dead, they are easily dispatched. They arrive exhausted at the palace, and they find the remaining hostages & prisoners being interrogated by Karzas lieutenant Urg. Tired but not showing it, Wang goes into a confrontational fighting stance, and draws the Shebanigan again. Instead of getting the weapon he desired, the handle forms into the familiar puppet form of Rita-Fujen, the old Korean lady who was the expert on ghost, spirits and haunts. Lod-Urg busts out laughing and advances to lay waste on Wang and the rest of the currently weakened JLA, but Rita freezes him with a cold stare and pointedly asks him "Does your father sleep comfortably, Urggie? Does your mother miss him terribly, no? Perhaps not. " Lod-Urg is completely stunned by this sudden insight to his hidden past and he starts to gibber and protest, but while hes staring at the Rita puppet in amazement, Hi-Voltage has snuck around and blind-sides Lod-Urg full in the temple and lays him out cold. Wang looks at Rita: "Urggie?" She says "lucky guess on nick-name. Call man by his child-name and you may have handle to his soul. but the part about fathers ghost is true, and a terrible tale. I tell it to you while we have the tea. " Rita produces over twenty cups, and all partake. Mind-Wave is almost going insane at this point, and hes practically shouting at the others about how much time this is all taking. Rita Fujen waves her tiny finger in the air at him, and chides. "You sea-man not know about time in this place. Time, like all things, a very small concept here" Mind-Wave and all the others except Michael are convinced that they cant get out of here. Michael knows he can get everyone out with the bridge spell, IF he ever gets the time to recover his energy. Hes completely spent all his own plus all of the bonus mana the angel sent him, mainly because hes taken the time to heal Gargoyle, plus all the injured among the JLA and the refugees. "Arranging deck chairs on torpedoed cruise liner" was Red-Stars review of Michaels healing people in the face of the impending autoclave dump.
Heres whats left of the extraction team: Magic Michael & Gargoyle, Mind-Wave, Hi-Voltage, Wang-Chiun, Red-Star, and about 25 remaining of Karzas victims.
Heres whose already gotten out: Enforcer: left on 1st previous bridge with about 35 hostages & babies. Gamma-Gargoyle: left on 2nd previous bridge with about 50 hostages & prisoners. Dark Avenger: dead Scarlett: dead.
So Rita Fujen, analyzing all this situation, turns to focus her talking on Mind-Wave.
Slowly she goads him into discussing the hopelessness of ever getting out. She turns the
talk to Mind-Waves past, and starts giving him the third degree: "Who taught
you use powers you got?" "Where he now?" "What he say to you before he
die?" "What that mean?" "That mean nothing to you, especially
now?" "How many people you ever teleport before?" "Who tell you
thats limit?" " How far you ever go before?" "How did instructor
teach you go farther?" and so on, Rita verbally pounding on Mind-Waves
confidence level. Then she "drop bomb" on our Atlantean hero by saying this in
conclusion: "You realize friend Dr.Chaos only sixteen feet away, yes? Reach for his
mind, you find this be true"
Mind-Wave jumps up and shushes everybody, thinks for a moment, and then says a very harsh Atlantean word that only has 4 letters. "Were going home, everybody link hands"
"You were exhausted" says Wang. "Shut up and hang-on" BAMPH!.
They all appear in the big corridor outside the cell. A big round of cheers goes up, and everybody congratulating. "You were only gone 2 hours" says Dr.Chaos. Really? Everyones happy, shaking hands, and the techs start to take Captain Universes body off the autoclave for disposal. All of a sudden someone says, wheres Zatanna? Michael & Mind-Wave reach out to her with telepathy, and they find her about 20 feet away in an unused cell there in Stronghold-2, meditating. They rush to her and coax her back to consciousness. Michael asks her what she was working on. Well I had seen the future, you guys definitely were going to take way too long, and General Killion was definitely going to dump the body on schedule, and Dr.Chaos was definitely going to lose the argument to delay, and you were all going to die, I saw it very plainly. So what did you do? Zatanna had put up a massive temporal distortion field inside all of Stronghold-2, and everyone inside was moving about 85% slower than normal. The Extraction team had been gone almost a day, but Zatanna made it seem like 2 hours. The minute she stopped meditating, everyone immediately got real hungry and realized their watches were wrong, etc. Time had been her enemy, so she disabled it.
Later, Wang drew Rita Fujen out again and asked her how she got Mind-Wave to teleport them out, that seemed very selfless of her, she saved everyone, etc. Nonsense, she said. I only save my skin. Rita Fujens destiny, and yours also, not include being burned up in silly overpriced caucasian incinerator.