THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (III)
Written by MalloryDyatlov59 :: [Wednesday, 03 May 2023 14:02] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 16 December 2023 23:21]
This is the third chapter of my fanfic about Superwoman.
In this installment we learn more about the bizarre love triangle between Clara Kent, Superwoman and Louis Lane, as well as about the first appearance of Superwoman the first interview between the reporter and the superheroine
For character context, introduction and fanart you can check here
For the first chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (I) - SuperWomenMania
For the second chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (II) - SuperWomenMania
For a fanfilm about the story see here! SUPERWOMAN 1948 - YouTube
Smalville, Kansas, May 1948
On the veranda of a large but modest farmhouse a woman was enjoying the afternoon breeze. Martha Kent was an older woman in her sixties. Despite her austere dress she was still flirtatious, she still dyed her hair auburn and painted her lips. Her late husband Joe loved it when she did it...how she missed him. She pulled a newspaper out of a cloth bag and unfolded it. It was the Metropolis' Daily Planet, last Friday's edition. It wasn't the main headline, but one of the main lead-ins on the front page read "ARMY AND AVIATION INDUSTRY LAUNCH JOINT CORPORATION. TELCORP AND LORD INDUSTRIES MAIN CIVIL PARTNERS, a story by Clara J. Kent." How proud she was of her daughter. Not only was she an excellent reporter in Metropolis who had already made the front page of her paper several times, but, although no one in the world knew it except her and a couple of others, her daughter was Superwoman, the world's most powerful superheroine flying through the sky in her red cape helping others.
Her thoughts were a kind of omen because from the sky came the sound of a kind of fast and strong breeze. Her daughter landed gently right in front of her.
-Good afternoon mother," Clara went over to kiss her mother, she took her hand.
-How was your day?
-Great Scott, it was terrible! Among other things I had to intervene this morning in China in a train derailment. It turned out to be a prisoner train. They are in a civil war. I don't even know if the prisoners were from the communist or nationalist side. I refused to capture the escaping ones and stopped the guards' bullets. I have taken the wounded to Red Cross field hospitals...I have just heard that the head of our troops in Asia has asked me not to intervene in any country in Asia without military authorization...not even if it is a humanitarian emergency", Clara dropped into a rocking chair on the terrace and closed her eyes.
Martha held her daughter's hand.
-Well, you'll get by, you always do...
-Mom, Can I bring Krypto to you this afternoon? You can keep him for a few days' The poor boy can't be alone all the time in the apartment, and I don't want to ask the neighbors for more favors for a few days.
-Sure, he'll keep me company. Will you stay for dinner tonight?
-No, I'm having dinner with Jimmy, my friend from the newspaper.
-Is that the photographer?
-He's a very nice guy, he's funny.
-Yes, he is.
-You could invite him here to Smalville.
-It would be complicated; it takes several days to get here and back if it's done the normal way...I'm not going to fly him here.
-Will you tell him someday?
-Mother...it is very difficult.
-And Mr. Lane?
-It's even more complicated.
-He is a gentleman.
-He is very good to me at the newspaper. He gives me the freedom to run my stories and makes sure our boss leaves me alone.
-Clara, but he's a married man and...
Clara remembered the last time she as Superwoman had spoken to Louis... it had been a few months earlier. After defeating Metallo, saving Louis' life from Luthor's henchmen and preventing the flood caused by the blowing up of three large dams. A catastrophe Luthor had used to blackmail her into confronting Metallo. She wanted to turn Luthor over to the police...Metallo had died of exhaustion caused by the very heavy armor Luthor forced him to wear, she had done everything she could to save his life, but John Corben, the man who had been Metallo, was poisoned and collapsed from the billionaire's bloody invention. Luthor smiled, "It was just an experiment, training."
She had no evidence to take him to the police despite all the chaos caused by Metallo and the blowing up of the dams. Still, she grabbed Luthor and lifted him into the air. She flew with him up to five or six thousand feet. He knew she wouldn't do anything to him. And that she wouldn't take him to the police...he even laughingly threatened to reveal to the world the identities of Flash and Batman that he had already discovered. She accepted her defeat and then flew Louis back to the Daily Planet. They were both exhausted, she couldn't remember why she had been so reckless as to try to kiss him, he rejected her.
"-Why don't you trust me Mr. Lane?
-Well, Miss Superwoman...
-Don't call me Superwoman please, call me Kala.
-That's your alien name.
-I can tell you my human name if you want, I can tell you who I am, were I do live, where I work...
-I prefer not to, believe me.
-Why don't you trust me?
-Nobody with such a power can be trusted, nobody with such a power can be quietly accepted in our society. It is an atrocity to allow it.
-You really think like Luthor.
-No, Luthor would be capable of anything, and he also dreams of having absolute power. I don't. I just want everything to go back to the way it was.
-Before the last war, or the one before. And of course, before you and all the superpowered beings appeared.
- You always claim to be a realistic and pragmatic man, but to the past we shall never return. I only tried to help. I don't want to be above anyone.
-The best help you can give us is withdrawing from the scene.
-If I didn't have that power that terrifies you so much, you'd be dead. And millions of people too...
-Well, the first case you describe I don't consider it a great loss."
A month later Superwoman had to return to rescue Louis in Greece when he was kidnapped by a communist guerrilla. When she learned of the kidnapping Clara was in the office. She was so nervous that she threw herself out of her own office window, tearing to shreds the dress she was wearing. It took her only a few minutes to reach Greece. She found him quickly, she had Louis's heartbeat memorized like her mother's. She plucked him from his captors and flew him back to Athens. No words were exchanged, he mumbled a "thank you" and she neither looked at him nor answered him.
Clara looked at the rows of isolated crops and trees approaching the horizon.
-Mom, I'm going to see dad now. Don't you have any flowers around the house? If not, I'll pick some wild ones.
-What do you think, Mr. Lane?
Louis Lane was reviewing some color photos that Jimmy Olsen, dressed in a bow tie and green vest, passed to him. They were versions of the same photo. It was Fifth Avenue. Most of the passersby were not looking up, where a blurry figure was flying across the sky.
-I think it's interesting, Mr. Lane, because it shows most bystanders completely indifferent to Superwoman in the sky. We're used to it by now. It might be a good contrast to illustrate General McArthur's concern about Superwoman's early morning intervention in China, Jimmy insisted.
-Olsen, the one with the best color and focus is this one, but here Superwoman looks like a blurry blob, printed in black and white it will look like a bird or a plane. These photos are no good if we don't print them in color. Maybe they should go to the Sunday magazine.
-Mr. Lane, I also have these. They are unoriginal, but they also offer a contrast, they are from this morning. Mrs. Grant told me they were the ones that were going into Sunday's issue.
Louis stopped at this other set of photos. A smiling Superwoman barely levitating off the ground was handing a cat to a little girl. In another a kneeling Superwoman was chatting with the girl, and in another one she was petting the cat perched atop a tree.
-Yes, these are the kind people love...plus they can go in black and white in tomorrow's issue. They could use a subtitle, maybe "PROBLEMS IN ASIA...NORMALITY IN METROPOLIS" or something like that. For my part let's go with these for tomorrow's edition and the others for Sunday. Talk to Bob Mailer on the phone who is the one who wrote the McArthur story to see if he would be ok with illustrating it with this photo. Tell him I'll take care of it. Leave the others and see if they'll let you put them in Sunday's magazine.
-Thank you very much, Mr. Lane.
Louis looked at the pictures of Superwoman again. That smile...the hand gesture as she talked to the girl. He sighed and lit a cigarette. Whenever the thought of Clara Kent's extraordinary resemblance to Superwoman assailed him...the eyes, the features...whenever that suspicion made its way inside his head, he felt a chasm open up beneath his feet. He felt like someone sleeping on the edge of a cliff with his back to it, and coincidentally when he turned for a second to see it... he couldn't bear the sight of the abyss. If it were so, all his hopes would be shattered, and he would be deep in an unfathomable lie. No, there was simply an uncanny resemblance. The voice was not the same, the body was not the same. He had practically seen Clara and Superwoman almost at the same time in the same place several times. Clara had such strange behaviors, so many absences...but that didn't mean anything. There had always been an explanation. He knew Clara. She was a sweet, humble, clueless, compassionate, sometimes clumsy Kansas girl except when she had tried to remember how she danced Ballet...she was also kind, headstrong, sensitive, stubborn, cultured, impatient and touchy. A normal woman of flesh and blood, he adored with her faults and virtues. She had nothing to do with that kind of beautiful flying creature, calm, dominant and challenging. The eyes, the smile and the hair color, yes, but that could not be.
His thoughts were interrupted by Clara's entrance. She was wearing a suit between tan and pink. Over time she had ended up dressing very elegantly. She gave them a shy smile and a sidelong glance at Louis.
-Hi Major Lane! Hello Jimmy!
-What's up Clara?
Louis was somewhat disturbed and tried to feign normality.
-Where were you this morning Clara? I needed you with me at Congressman Marcantonio's press conference.
-Krypto was very sick, I had to take him to the vet.
-How is the dog, is he ok? The thing is, while you were at the vet, and I was trying to corral that commie...Superwoman must have made a big mess in China. She must have saved a train from derailment...and that train was filled among other things with prisoners from the communists, some of whom had fled. McArthur has requested that Superwoman shall not operate in asian countries without authorization due to war escalation risks. Bob Mailer has the exclusive.
-I don't want to hear again from McArthur or Marcantonio, at least for today.
-Well, it's your work my dear Clara. Anyways Jimmy has some photographs of Superwoman saving a damn cat on South Metropolis this morning. I'll leave it up to you to decide which picture you like best to go with Bob's article.
-Oki douki, Louis.
-Another thing, Cat Grant is looking for you, she wants to congratulate you on Friday's article. A lot of politicians must have called complaining and people from Lockheed and Lord Industries. That delighted Perry and Cat. Congratulations Clara.
Clara blushed and looked down.
-How strange that Cat is happy with me.
-Nonsense, deep down she loves you. The few girls in the newsroom are on her team at the end of the day.
-Oh, Louis, stop talking nonsense.
-Well, I'm off, I have a meeting at the Arkham Alumni Club for Republican Party affiliates and I'm going to take the opportunity to find out what the political temperature is over there. Phone me there if there is anything important. One other thing Clara, Lex Luthor has called Perry personally. He wanted to know why the author of the article didn't contact anyone at TELCORP...he has offered to be interviewed. Clearly you should go yourself.
Clara made a surprised and nervous expression.
-Jeepers! Yes, of course, of course.
Louis said goodbye and closed the door behind him as Jimmy Olsen showed the photos to a distracted and surprised Clara. He had already gotten rid of the sinister thoughts that distressed him about Superwoman and Clara, but he had returned to much more important ones…What to do about Clara? What to do about Patricia? What to do about his daughter? He was in love; he knew that well. There was no longer any point in denying it to himself.
Louis understood that Clara knew it, although he had not dared to verbalize it. Out of cowardice he recognized himself and so as not to aggravate the situation. What is not named does not exist or at least does not exist so much. That love was requited…Why else would Clara go with him everywhere, spend so much time together and be so fond of his daughter?
Just as he was incapable of confessing his love and had limited himself to telling her that she was crucial to him... she, the one time he had gone up to Clara's small apartment, had shown him her room and had shown him the dedicated picture of himself on the bedside table while saying "Well, Louis, and there you are, always by my side". She was being generous, and she knew his situation. He was trying to be a gentleman and not go beyond a close friendship. He understood she was giving him time, but he had to reciprocate. He had to talk to Patricia soon. His marriage was over, it was always a sham. He married Patricia knowing she didn't love him just because she was pregnant. His daughter was the best thing in his life. Her well-being was the priority. Maybe he could find a way for him and Patricia to agree on some formula so that they could both live close and be together permanently with their daughter. If he couldn't at least get a Catholic annulment in place, they could agree to a separation. Louis was clear that he would never sign a divorce. Neither would Patricia. But she was indebted to him after her infidelities. He had to make a decision.
He couldn't keep Clara waiting for him forever. It wasn't fair. And he dreamed that Clara would one day be his wife and that it wouldn't mean being in sin. He had to decide now if he wanted that to be possible and stop making her suffer. Louis decided to stop by St. Ignatius Church, next to his house, before going to the Arkham Alumni Club and chat with Father Morris again about Patricia and Clara.
Almost three years earlier, October 1945.
The elegant Hotel room was a hive of people, about a dozen. Perry Weiss's emphatic stature with his cigar impossible to take out of his mouth stood in the center.
-Well, the little man you all know who lives inside my chest and regulates my intuition tells me that we are about to achieve something historic for the press and especially for our newspaper. No applause nor thanks until it's done. Major Lane and our young recruit Miss Kent have a hard night ahead of them. Everyone else back to the paper and to your posts. We have to launch a special edition and we have to inform our partner newspapers with whom we are going to share the exclusive. So everyone out and back to the paper except Miss Kent and Major Lane.
Clara smiled proudly at Louis Lane, but he was staring nervously at Perry. The reporter tied his mustache and turned to Jimmy Olsen.
-Olsen, again, I only have five photos and I have to be very careful with the flash. Is that correct?
-Yes Major Lane, please be careful, it's the best color camera in the paper. If we lose any equipment, I won't make it through the trial period.
-Well Jimmy, I'll be careful, but if Superwoman breaks it, there's nothing I can do.
-Major Lane, why would Superwoman do anything to the camera?
-I don't know, maybe she won't be amused when we try to photograph her, or she will react badly or accidentally show her powers and do something to the mechanism without meaning to.
-As far as I know, the so-called Superwoman has always behaved correctly and kindly, and has allowed herself to be photographed without any problems. I think we don't have to be afraid of the camera", Clara winked at Jimmy who smiled at her.
-Miss Kent, Superwoman has not allowed to be interviewed for three weeks so far. We can't know how she's going to react.
-Major Lane, I'm more concerned that we are trying to record her. She was nice to agree to the interview. Tell her first that we are going to record her. Don't try to do it in secret. I'm sure with her skills she can figure it out.
-Even if you don't believe me, Miss Kent, it was she who offered to be interviewed.
Meanwhile the rest of the team was leaving the room. Perry approached Clara and Louis.
-Good luck Louis my boy and dearest Clara", He gave them a pat on the back and a huge puff of Habano smoke in the face.
When everyone had left Louis Lane turned to Clara Kent.
-Well, Miss Kent, are you at ease?
-You were right in the end about the whole thing. Are you happy?
Clara pouted in affirmation and turned away.
-Shall we go over what I must do, please?
-Yes. When it's ten past nine I'll cross to the other room. I'll wait for her on the terrace. We won't go inside the room unless it rains. I will try to have a friendly informal conversation while keeping my distance. I will try to lead Superwoman to the corner of the terrace adjoining this room, so that you can record it. Just put the microphone on the window and cover it with the curtain. We have already verified that it records, even at low volume, the conversations on the neighboring terrace.
-I insist, Major Lane, that we should inform her as soon as it appears that we want to record the interview. That we do so in order not to misquote it. Let it be up to her.
The reporter looked at Clara Kent with suspicion, but then relaxed his expression.
-Ah, you are right, Miss Kent, absolutely right, if she has any way of finding out we are recording her we will lose her forever and this interview will have been a failure.
Louis looked in the mirror and adjusted his dark tie. He wore an elegant but austere suit, dark blue double-breasted jacket, white shirt, and a dark brown tie. That and a crutch. Louis looked at himself in the mirror again. He had barely been back in civilian life for four months and how many things had happened since the end of the war.
-Miss Kent, when did you say you left the front?
-In December 1944, when I survived the torpedoing of the USS Shuster. I was given six months leave but then the Navy never called me back to rejoin as a nurse.
-You've been away from the front for a year, and you were there for another three. More or less like me
-A lot of changes for you: city, job, the end of the war...and now this madness of a wonderful flying woman.
-I don't see it as crazy Major, it's fantastic and incredible...but I don't know, it seems like good news. From the looks of it she's just trying to help.
Louis gave her a sidelong glance.
-Don't be naive, Miss Kent. You've read the note from the White House and the United Nations. She is an alien. We don't even know if her beautiful appearance is real or some kind of disguise. She has tried to present herself as an American girl born in outer space who just wants to help others with her fantastic skills, her red cape and her big smile. It's all too fantastic and nice. It's a children's fantasy, it looks like something out of a comic book. I'm suspicious.
Clara Kent also approached the bedroom mirror. Louis looked at her discreetly. She was a tall woman, almost as tall as any man, and very pretty. Perhaps a little broad in the back and a little too buxom for his taste, a brunette with deep blue eyes. She would have attracted a lot of attention in the office if she didn't speak with such a small-town accent and always looking down at the floor. She dressed like a schoolteacher with those suits buttoned all the way up, thick round glasses and that old-fashioned straight bun. Gregor Katz had defined her as "Ava Gardner and Gene Tierney merge with Alice B. Toklas, tough luck." Louis had chided Katz for the definition which seemed ungentlemanly, but deep down he had laughed.
-If she agrees to be recorded, I understand I can go to the terrace with you, is that right?
-Yes Miss Kent.
Clara had barely been in the paper for a month and a half. She had appeared two days after the surrender of Japan. Louis had received her still in uniform and on crutches, having rejoined the paper in July. She was still wearing her Navy nurse's uniform. She was highly recommended by a couple of small newspapers in California and Kansas that were associated with the Daily Planet and reproduced its major articles and distributed its publishing group's magazines. Clara Kent was an assistant elementary teacher before the war and then had been a nurse in the Pacific. However, during the war she had sent in two dozen articles about the concerns and thoughts of the wounded, the doctors and nurses, and their determination to win the war. They had been well liked. They were very well written. Perry had loved them "this girl has talent, she understands and likes people, she knows how to describe environments and sensations very well, she is sensitive but not corny at all, she can complement you in local and international reporting". Louis had been more skeptical at first, it is true that she wrote very well but too feminine for his taste and he didn't see what she could bring to him. For the moment except on the subject of Superwoman he found her a bit naive and lacking in intuition. On the other hand, she was an excellent typist and translator. She translated articles from French, German or Spanish with astonishing ease and could type a page in less time than anyone else. She was very bad with authority and although she was gaining the esteem of the editorial staff, with Louis she brought out too much character. If he wasn't so tired and the girl wasn't really that useful to him, he would have recommended to Perry that Kent should be fired at the end of the probationary period.
But with Superwoman she had earned a place on the Daily Planet forever. Since the beginning of September there were strange rumors among the Metropolis police of a mysterious woman dressed in an aviator jacket and flying goggles who rescued people and captured thieves and criminals, and then disappeared. Lane, like everyone else in the period took no notice, just some delusional rumor brought on by the end of the war. Kent had taken it seriously and had managed to interview some children, one of them rescued from falling into the void by the mysterious woman, and leaked police testimonies acknowledging that they had found thieves and other criminals tied up for arrest and with their guns broken or bent by an incredible force. She wrote a couple of articles. Louis turned them down "it's end of war madness, people are exhausted and ecstatic, they are pulling your leg Miss Kent, they don't even know what they are seeing at best". So it went until the evening of October 1, when Louis was testing with reporters the new helium mini-dirigibles built by TELCORP. The mini dirigible hit the Chrysler Building and tilted too far. He fell, barely managed to grab hold of one of the outer bars but could only hang on for a couple of minutes before plunging into the void. He had only just managed to pray the first few lines of the Lord's Prayer when he felt himself gently in the arms of a sort of angel with curly hair and blue eyes "I've got you, don't worry, you're safe" said a sweet but authoritative female voice. When Louis turned around, he saw that they were flying... "What the hell is going on, who's holding you?" "Please calm down sir, I'm grounding you now. Everything is under control."
By the next morning everyone knew how a mysterious and beautiful woman in red cape and blue tights, with a strange red and yellow stylized "S" symbol on her chest, had performed rescues and arrested criminals all over Metropolis, and even all over the world. Louis' own testimony about how he had been rescued went relatively unnoticed. Clara Kent appeared mid-morning with a series of interviews with witnesses and impressions of shocked Metropolis residents that ran in the afternoon edition. The Daily Planet baptized the woman as "Caped Wonder", the Herald Tribune as "Wonder Woman" and the Post as "Flying Beauty" but soon the name "Superwoman" was imposed. And so, to that day, not to mention the strange and brief encounter Louis had had with Superwoman on the Planet's rooftop where the flying woman had asked him if it was true that he was the best interviewer on the East Coast. Clara Kent had had the two articles she had written about the performances of the mystery aviator-clad woman published in the Sunday magazine with this entry written by Louis "Weeks before Superwoman's appearance, the heroine apparently made several rescues and arrests of criminals undercover dressed as a pilot. A young contributor to the Daily Planet, Clara Kent, tracked her down. The paper's editorial staff did not publish these articles believing them to be some sort of contagious craze. Today, as the unthinkable has become reality, we acknowledge our mistake and publish them as the testimony of extraordinary interest that they are."
-I'm going outside Clara, turn on the wire recorder please, be ready to go out if she accepts to be recorded.
Clara nodded with a half-smile. Louis crossed to the other room, poured himself a glass of cold water, lit a pipe and went out onto the terrace. It was a little chilly, but the sky was clear. Louis set up a table, sat in a chair outside and began to draw spirals in the notebook, something he did whenever he was restless. Then he wrote down the date, October 21, 1945. Behind him he noticed a slight breeze and a soft noise, like a blowing or a curtain being torn. He turned around.
-Good evening, Mr. Lane.
Louis concentrated on looking at her coolly. She was looking down at him from above with a kind but regal expression, her blue eyes were beautiful. The red cape floated behind her. She was wearing some sort of one-piece tights that covered her entire body from heel to neck. Those tights were red from toe to knee, then blue down to stylized red briefs that had produced scandalous comments, and again blue all over her body except for a red and gold crest containing a stylized "S" symbol that was what had originated her being called "Superwoman". She was a tall and voluptuous woman, very muscular, but without being unpleasant, the tights-whose texture was strange, between metallic and leathered-were very thin and highlighted all the shapes of her body. "That thing she's wearing is absolutely scandalous and improper actually, it's worse than a swimsuit" thought Louis trying to hide from himself the impression the woman had made on him.
-Mrs. Superwoman, good evening, and thank you very much for coming.
She stood levitating, her feet level with Louis' face, who had sat up with his pipe smoking like a liner chimney.
-Excuse me, Mr. Lane, I beg you not to smoke while I am with you. I resent smoking, it is a very unhealthy habit, and I don't think it will do you any good. I hope you don't mind my request.
Louis felt that request was invasive, but he smiled at the superheroine and took off his pipe.
-Of course, it doesn't bother me. We smokers, because there are so many of us, sometimes transgress essential rules of politeness. I apologize.
Superwoman landed softly and took a little walk on the terrace.
-It's a very nice place Mr. Lane, you have had a very good taste in choosing it for this interview, it is also quite intimate.
The tone of voice was kind but also aristocratic and distant, Louis felt dwarfed by her, he decided to regain his poise by being somewhat impolite and indifferent.
-I'm just going to drink water; I don't know if you want anything special...
-I don't need anything, thank you very much Mr. Lane.
Louis remembered the existence of Clara, crouched with the wire recorder in the other room. He was about to open his mouth when the superheroine, without losing an ounce of friendliness, turned around with a somewhat questioning smile and said to him.
-Mr. Lane, I can see there is a woman in the other room with a wire recorder.
-Yes, madam, I was going to explain it to you now. Given the sensitivity of the interview we don't want to misquote you, not even a comma. If you say six words, they will be analyzed in detail including the order in which you pronounce them. My assistant is ready to record if you allow us to do so.
-I'd rather not, Mr. Lane, let's have an informal chat. I don't want a press conference or to be recorded on tape. I have every confidence in your journalistic skills and that I will not be misquoted. If so, I will ask to exercise my right of reply. Please, if you don't mind, ask your assistant to leave," said the Superheroine politely but it sounded like an order to Louis.
-Of course, if you'll excuse me.
Louis entered the room, poured himself another glass of water and crossed to the next room. There in the corner under the window and covered by the curtain was Clara Kent, fumbling with the tape recorder and trying to adjust her glasses.
-I have not been able to turn it on Major Lane, excuse me. On the other hand, I believe she has asked me to leave.
-Yes, that's right, Miss Kent.
-You could have asked her to let me assist as a stenographer to take notes.
-I don't think she wants more than one person at the interview. I'll help you pack up and walk you out. Can you look out and see if she's still on the terrace?
-I can't see the terrace in the other room from my window. But I have seen her flying in.
-I hope she doesn't leave…Anyways, bring that thing, I'll help you.
Louis and Clara dismantled the wire recorder. Clara packed her bag and put a copy of the book "Wuthering Heights" in it. They hurried out of the room. Louis escorted Clara to the elevator.
-Go to the newsroom and prepare me a not-too-emphatic summary of everything Superwoman has done abroad these past two weeks. About a thousand words. I'll come as soon as I finish the interview.
-Major Lane, I need to stop by my house, please. I just adopted a puppy and he's lonely, I must feed him dinner. Let me come to my house first. I'll be in the newsroom in an hour.
-Well, whatever you want.
Louis came striding back into the room and out onto the terrace. There she was, leaning elegantly on the terrace railing wrapped in her red cape.
-I hope your assistant is not upset with me, but I prefer a more informal and briefer interview.
-Don't worry, there is no problem. I understand that you are very busy.
Louis sat down and pulled out the notebook.
-I don't want to waste your time, let's try to deal with some essential issues. The note from the White House and the United Nations reported that you are an alien from the planet Krypton. A refugee on Earth since almost birth and educated in the United States.
-That is correct, Mr. Lane.
-You grew up in an American home.
-In an American family that gave me love and values. My values are theirs: love, freedom, truth, and democracy. What the American Way should be.
-Do you understand that it is strange for millions of people to see a flying alien identify herself as an all-American girl?
For the first time Louis saw the superheroine somewhat uncomfortable or uneasy and smiled to himself.
-I am as American as you are, Mr. Lane. I am no different from any American citizen who loves his country but was born abroad.
-May I ask you a question that may seem strange to you?
-Is this your true form?
-I beg your pardon?
-Well, you're almost identical to any woman, any human being...I don't know if you've read Lovecraft or H.G. Wells but most of the public believed that aliens were terrible octopuses or lizards, not a fully human-looking lady.
The superheroine tried to stifle a laugh and gave Louis a knowing look, which threw him off.
-Mr. Lane, this is the only appearance I have, I'm not a space octopus in disguise, you can rest assured. I imagine my parents sent me to this planet precisely because in Krypton we were identical to you. Perhaps we have the same creator. Perhaps the number of designs that all creatures in the universe have is limited.
Louis smiled at her.
-What do you know about your planet?
-There are many things I don't know, and others that are private. It was a planet that had been in decay for a long time, heading extinction, and finally collapsed. Before its core collapsed my biological parents sent me to Earth to save my life.
-Where was it?
Superwoman approached him and held out her hand with a graceful gesture. Louis took it and stood up. She led him to the edge of the terrace and directed his hand pointing to Orion's belt.
-Do you like astronomy?
-Not too much, but I know the skies, I often sail.
-Do you see the Orion belt? Above the third star, somewhat above it, until 1893 or 1894 you could sometimes see, with a very good telescope, the faint glow of my planet. Although it was not really a planet but a very large moon, although smaller than the Earth. It is a very small galaxy.
Superwoman smiled wistfully at Louis and let go of his hand.
Louis sat down again.
-The big question on everyone's mind is why have you appeared now? Where were you during the war? The world has been traumatized by the greatest calamities ever seen...hundreds of thousands of our boys killed at the front, millions of Jews in the gas chambers, millions of Chinese killed, some by Japanese bacteriological weapons, even thousands upon thousands of Japanese and German civilians disintegrated by our own bombs...
The question was direct and startled Superwoman. For the first time she let a pained and melancholy expression creep in and lowered her gaze. There was something familiar about her expression, Louis thought.
-Are you familiar with the parable of the talents, Mr. Lane?
-Yes, I know about it.
-I felt that way, Mr. Lane. That was my fault. I have not accounted for my...well...extraordinary abilities. I was terrified of the abilities I possessed; many I did not know. For most of the war I thought that if I used my abilities, I would cause far more harm than good, that I would destroy millions of lives. I was not in control of my powers. By the end of the war, I was too distraught, but I found a way to get some information, some knowledge of myself. How to use my powers. It was too late for many. I have seen the pictures of Auschwitz, Hiroshima, other cities and places…so many homeless children...I don't want anything like that to happen again.
-Would you then participate in a new war if there were one?
Louis could see a glint in Superwoman's eye, she was perhaps holding back tears.
-Not as a fighter. With my skills I could wipe out an army and raze a city to the ground in minutes. I'd rather die than do something like that. I could disarm our attackers and protect civilians.
-It would be enough to tip the balance of a war. What are you going to do?
-I will propose to the President as a personal initiative that I be allowed in case of attacks on any civilian anywhere in the world, to disarm the attackers and keep them away from the civilians, while I bring the latter to safety. Perhaps it will be accepted by the United Nations.
-I understand. Aren't you concerned about the consequences of your actions in politics?
-I don't want to get involved in politics. I will not reveal my political positions...or my religious feelings to you or anyone else.
-There are people who are afraid of what you might do.
-I will obey all American laws, I will not interfere in politics and I will always submit to the United Nations. I only want to help people with my skills, prevent crimes and catastrophes.
Superwoman seemed to have regained her poise and was once again speaking in a confident, sweet voice. Louis nodded.
-Let's get back to the subject of your skills. What are they? What is their origin? In your world did everyone have them?
-As you know I can fly, it took me a long time to learn how to do it well, and I discovered it by chance. I can also, well...go places fast. I can be very fast.
-I was able to fly around the world in fifteen minutes. But it was very hard and almost unbearable for me.
-You also have extraordinary strength and well, human weapons can't hurt you.
-I can lift, as far as I have been able to ascertain with a ship, up to fifty thousand tons without much effort. I don't know the limits of my strength, Mr. Lane. But I have spent a lifetime learning to control and conceal it. As for weapons, my tissues must probably require an attack with a speed and hardness that human weapons do not yet know...but I am perfectly mortal and I age normally, at least in the years of my life.
-I've never asked a woman her age before, and you won't be the first one I've asked.
Superwoman laughed at the journalist's witticism, and the journalist insisted.
-What other powers do you have?
-I can see through walls and bodies. And I can also hear things at a great distance.
-I could hear you arguing with your assistant about whether or not to record me without my consent, and then I could see her through the walls as she was unable to start the wire recorder. I can also see the scars, I imagine battle scars, that you have on your chest and hips, and that your lungs would truly appreciate it if you would stop smoking, Mr. Lane.
Louis blushed with embarrassment and tried to hide it with a half-smile. Superwoman smiled at him complicitly and took the glass of water from Louis. She blew on it gently and froze it, the water turned to ice and the glass frosted. Louis pressed his lips together feigning a lack of surprise. Then Superwoman's eyes lit up as if covered by a strange whitish light and the ice began to melt, until the water in the glass was boiling. Superwoman turned to Louis and then carefully blew again into the glass, which was again filled with cold water.
-Believe it or not, this kind of heat vision I have and the freezing breath has helped a lot of people," said Superwoman, returning to an authoritative tone.
Louis felt like a child who had just had a magic trick performed on him and he cleared his throat.
-And what is the origin of these powers? Do you get them from your suit?
-I don't know Mr. Lane, if I knew in detail its origin, I wouldn't tell anyone either. On Krypton no one had abilities...let's say extraordinary, like these. I probably acquired them on my journey to Earth due to some kind of radiation, or by the adaptation of my body to this planet.
-What about your suit... your cape? You were the one who was secretly acting in an aviator costume a few weeks ago?
-This costume is a ceremonial costume from my planet. It is very useful to me because it is extraordinarily strong- Superwoman turned on herself and spread her cape like a model- the cape is quite useful. Human clothing would disintegrate if I flew or acted in it constantly. Plus, it's a way to well, reacquaint myself with my Kryptonian heritage. It's recognizable by people and they'll know who I am and that I'm coming to their aid. It's like a police or nurse's uniform.
-And that "S"?
Superwoman traced with her finger the outlines of the red S on a golden crest shining on her chest. Proudly she replied:
-It's not an "S" Mr. Lane. And it certainly doesn't stand for "Superwoman." It's a Kryptonian ideogram. My family symbol, and my name. It means "hope."
-You carry hope on your heart, it's poetic," Louis could not help but express a certain cynicism.
-Believe it or not, it is the most important value, after love and generosity. I am very proud that it is the emblem of my family and that it is my name.
-Your name is "Hope"?
-It's not my Earth name that I live by every day, but it's my Kryptonian name...I didn't discover it long ago.
-What is it?" Louis asked gravely.
-That's your name
-Yes, my Kryptonian name.
-Can that be published?
-Yes, Mr. Lane.
-You don't like to be called Superwoman.
-No, I'm not excited about it...but I think it will be hard for the public to forget it.
-Mrs. Kala, do you have a title or patronymic?
-No-Superwoman laughed coquettishly, I am not Princess Kala-My Kryptonian name is Kala-El.
-Mrs. El then.
-You can call me Kala.
-Do you live in Metropolis?
-I'm not going to tell you, Mr. Lane," said Superwoman.
The Superheroine paced around the terrace. Louis struggled not to gawk at her. Occasionally she would give him discreet glances that shocked or disturbed him.
-You spend a lot of time here, that's a fact.
-It's the largest city in America, the second most dangerous after Gotham, it's where the UN is, and it's a gateway to the Atlantic, as well as Europe and Africa. It's a good base of operations, but I could very well live and work hundreds of miles away.
-I'm sorry we're giving you so much work in this city.
-Don't worry, I do my bit as much as anyone else.
-Not like anyone else...
Louis was taking notes in his notebook and inadvertently resumed smoking from the Pipe. Superwoman stood behind Louis and gently took the pipe from his mouth.
-I have asked you not to smoke, Mr. Lane.
Louis' heart was pounding at full speed. He turned to apologize but was met with an amused look from Superwoman.
-Mr. Lane, I will have to leave very soon...if you would like to ask me a few last questions.
-Of course... How do you live normally? What is your daily life like? Do you live among us?
Superwoman again approached the railing and looked to the horizon.
-As I told you, I'm just an American girl born abroad who wants to help. I live like an ordinary woman. I have my family, my friends, my job. Nothing that can be revealed. I wish to keep my life as it is. I have the right to live like someone else and to be happy. I can't be Superwoman twenty-four hours a day. I have to pay the rent and go to the Supermarket. And it makes me happy to have to do that. I wouldn't want to lose it in any way.
-And no one realizes? No one realizes that you...well...that you're really you?
-No, Mr. Lane, a couple of people know and no one else. I have my tricks.
-I have no doubt. Can I photograph you?
Louis went to get the camera and came back. Superwoman was levitating above him a few feet. He took several pictures of her. Then she landed on the terrace and put her hands on her hips. Louis took another couple of pictures of her. He had no film left.
-What do you want from humanity? What do you expect from us?
-I consider myself to be part of humanity, so I do not expect anything special, nor do I feel that anyone owes me anything. I would like, after what we have seen in the last few years, that we all work to put love, hope, respect, empathy and truth at the center of our lives. I think most people do that anyway.
-Ms. El, please don't speak lightly. Are you not aware of the enormous disruption that your presence and your powers are causing? The paradigm shift? The doubt, the fear it creates?
Superwoman made a somewhat melancholy gesture of doubt that seemed strangely familiar to Louis.
-I have lived my whole life knowing and suffering that I am... very different. That I am totally different. But I only want to be a good citizen...a good woman...to help others as far as my abilities and the laws I must obey will allow. I would like you all to give me a vote of confidence. I understand that my abilities are shocking...they have been shocking to me for a long time. Now I have hope and confidence that I can do something useful with them by using them to serve others.
-What if you turn out to be our enemy? What would we do?
-I don't know, Mr. Lane, all I know is that I'm nobody's enemy.
-You don't have to worry about people's trust, almost everyone is ecstatic about you.
-I hope they’ll give me a chance…and you?
Louis was startled by the question and tried to smile at Superwoman, who had her back to him. A breeze had picked up and the long, bright red cape floated gently in front of him.
-Mrs. El, like everyone else, I want to trust you. And I thank you for saving my life and for saving so many lives every day. I just feel, like millions of people, overwhelmed by something that is beyond us and seems like a fairy tale.
-You have no idea, Mr. Lane, what an unsophisticated, small-town woman I am. Right now, I'm saving up to go to Radio City to meet James Stewart and get his autograph. Please do not publish that last thing.
Superwoman turned with a rapturous look from those deep blue eyes that made Louis' legs tremble. Damn, what a woman, she's a born manipulator.
-Can you read minds Mrs. El?
-Not by a long shot, I'm afraid telepathy has been denied me. In fact, I'm very bad at understanding people's true intentions and feelings. I am very outspoken and come from a very outspoken family.
-Your human adoptive family, I understand.
-Then you lack psychic abilities.
-Yes, Mr. Lane, I lack them completely.
-If I had telepathy, I could know what you're thinking about me right now, which I won't deny I'm curious about.
-Why did you choose me to interview you, Mrs. El?
-I read you in your newspaper and listened to you on the radio, and most of all, I was surprised to see you fall out of a zeppelin. Yours was the first name that came to my mind.
-If you want to know what I think, it's very simple, I think you go beyond what the human mind can understand and accept without resorting to the hand of God, and I think you seem to be on our side.
-Thank you, Mr. Lane.
-Thank you very much for this interview, Mrs. El. I hope it will soothe many spirits.
-Has it calmed yours?
-I still must reflect on everything we have discussed.
Superwoman approached Louis and stood just inches from his face. Louis felt a vague fear and stood up straight.
-Mr. Lane...I may have been a little blunt in my conversation. The other day you also had a bad experience falling from so high and I think you must have a bad memory of our flight...would you like to fly with me for a few minutes...fly on my arm, so that you can see what a wonderful feeling it is and that you have talked to a lady?
Louis was completely taken aback by the offer. It seemed absolutely improper. No matter how hard he searched his mind for several seconds he couldn't find a good reason. He wanted to say "No" but instead bowed and said:
-It will be a pleasure.
Superwoman slipped her arm behind his back and with a smile said.
-Hold on tight, we're going to take off gently.
Slowly they began to levitate and Louis saw the Hotel under their feet. Superwoman gently leaned down and the two of them were lying horizontally in the air. Then Superwoman brought her other arm forward and began to propel herself gently over the buildings. They were flying very slowly. Although it was cold, the sensation was strangely pleasant. Louis couldn't believe it. He felt strangely embarrassed and his thoughts ended up turning to his wife and daughter.
-Are you freezing, Mr. Lane?" asked the Superheroine.
-Stand under my cape," Superwoman wrapped him as they flew in her red cape that emitted a strange warmth.
By now they must have been more than three thousand feet above sea level. Below them they could see all of Metropolis, the dark sea and the lights of some ships.
-It's a very beautiful view, Mrs. El.
-I will never get used to how absolutely wonderful flying is, Mr. Lane.
They began a gentle descent and returned to a vertical position. The Superheroine's face was again just inches away from Louis'. She smiled but he looked down. They landed slowly on the terrace as her cape floated down, enveloping them.
-Well, you have seen that it is pleasant, haven't you?
-Thank you for the interview, Mr. Lane. I think there are a lot of people with a lot of questions. I hope to reassure them. I'm just an American girl who wants to help.
-And who can fly.
-And who can fly," repeated Superwoman.
The Superheroine extended her hand toward Louis with a remarkably elegant and old-fashioned gesture.
Louis leaned over and kissed her hand.
-Good evening, Mrs. El of Krypton.
-Good evening, Mr. Lane of Metropolis.