A Gift of the Future
Written by shadar :: [Saturday, 24 November 2018 23:22] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 25 November 2018 10:15]
A Gift of the Future
November 25, 2018
A story written for those who remember, or want to get to know, the original Kara Zor-El from the comic book universe.
The first Kara Zor-El in the comics was the version of the character that I grew up with in the 60’s. DC decided to kill her off in 1985, but I asked myself the question... what if she'd lived on? Not as a reboot or a retconned version, but the original Kara Zor-El?
This story is the beginning of my answer to that question, as I try to imagine what her life was and could have been. I’m trying to avoid any retcons that were done after 1985, most specifically the TV show and movie retcons of her background. I’ll introduce some tweaks of my own, some through ignorance and a few by intent, but always with the goal of capturing what I feel is the truest essence of the original Kara Zor-El. Following that, I intend to publish a novel that depicts her future during a time when she has a large and growing family with many children.
This story, and another one or two that may follow it, is set in 1961, which was when I first discovered her in the pages of the comics.
The novel that follows later this winter is set in the year 2096, and captures my perspective on Kara's later life, with a focus on her children, starting with her eldest daughter, Alura, who is 20 years old and off at college.
But I am beginning my quest to understand Kara's life by going back and taking the earliest version of Kara out for a test drive in a story that was inspired by a comic book pane published in 1963. The setting is several years after she came to Earth, and just before she was adopted by the Danvers, a time period during which she has acted mostly in secret as Superman's backup. A time when she was not yet a famous and respected superhero. Superman has just introduced her to the world to take his place while he flies off on a planetary rescue mission in deep space.
Not everyone is happy about that.
Kara ignored the noise and the sulfurous stench of coal smoke from the nearby steel mills as she flew around the Federal building in Chicago, looking for a particular group of men in a particular room. This was not her favorite city by far, but it would be well worth coming here if she could get these men to listen. Lives could be saved.
She was on her fifth circuit of the building when she found them in the 33rd story conference room. Floating downward, she landed as lightly as a bird in the room’s large open window. Kneeling, she ducked her head under the upper glass pane to face the men as Supergirl.
There were several uniformed men in the room, one of them an Air Force General, along with three men in civilian suits, one of whom was FBI Deputy Director Arthur Banning, the second most powerful man in law enforcement. His suit matched his red hair, and his hair matched his infamously bad temper.
He rose from his chair to point at her.
“There she is, Gentlemen — And as head of this committee charged with the responsibility of co-ordinating all our forces to locate and destroy the space monster —I am ordering you, Supergirl, not to interfere with our efforts.”
Kara remained in the window opening, hands pressing lightly on either side of the window frame, cape and long hair billowing softly in the warm breezes behind her. She struggled not to show any anger as she stared at Banning's rudely pointed finger, resisting the sudden urge to focus a little heat vision on the tip of his finger. Instead, she took a deep breath and politely addressed the men.
“Gentlemen, I'm afraid you do not understand the situation as clearly as you should. What you call a space monster did not come here to attack Earth. I believe that it is a sentient being who lives in interstellar space, and it has merely paused here to eat — apparently only crops. I’m sure I can convince it to move on to another world after it has had its fill.”
“That monster destroyed a half dozen Patton tanks and injured ten men,” Director Banning replied angrily. “If that’s not an attack, I don’t know what is.”
"Gentlemen, it was happy eating its way through that corn field when you opened fire on it. What was it supposed to do when attacked by terrifying metal monsters? Just die?”
“Ideally, yes,” Banning growled. “But no worries. We’re putting together a stronger force. General Adams here is convinced he can either kill it or drive it away from Earth. I’m sure he’ll be happy to stop you too if you try to protect that thing.”
Kara hung her head for a long moment, her blonde hair briefly hiding the emotions that crossed her face. She was struggling not to act rashly, and she was losing. She snapped her head up sharply to glare at Banning, and then at the other men, the anger in her eyes making them glow a brighter shade of blue. Each man felt a brief wave of heat wash over their face when her eyes met theirs. “No disrespect to the good General here, but none of his weapons could possibly injure me, and that creature is probably as powerful as I am. If you attack it again, you’ll risk getting some men killed. Good men with wives and children and parents and friends. Dead because you can only think of attacking and killing things you don’t understand.”
“You are not welcome here, Supergirl,” Banning said forcefully, his voice rising almost to a shout. “Coming here and ordering us around, threatening us. I mean, what are you, sixteen?”
“I’ve done neither of those things, Deputy Director. And as for my age, that’s irrelevant to this discussion.”
“It’s damn relevant if you came here to control us. I have a daughter your age and I’m hardly inviting her here to run this committee.”
“Your daughter can’t fly nor does she have my physical strength or other abilities. Or my responsibilities. My role of protecting Earth goes both ways.”
“Then protect us by killing that thing.”
“I will do no such thing. But if you agree to keep your weapons away from the alien, I’ll ensure it doesn’t hurt anyone else and that it leaves Earth as soon as it can. You can easily reimburse the farmers for their lost corn.“
“We’re not taking orders from a teenager,” Banning sneered. “Get Superman to come here and tell us that, and maybe we'll listen."
Kara struggled again to hide her growing anger, telling herself that it was her age, not her gender, that bothered Banning. But she knew it was both. “Well, I’m all you've got. Superman is far away on a space mission and won't be back for some time. But I can do whatever he can do."
“I rather doubt that,” Banning fumed. “This is totally irresponsible of him, leaving us with a girl who’s probably in the 9th grade. Assuming you even go to school. Maybe it's time to review the special status you and Superman have with the US government.“
Kara had had enough of him. She jumped down from the window to reach inside Banning’s coat to grab his revolver from his holster, moving too quickly for him to try and stop her. She thumbed open the cylinder of his Smith & Wesson and dumped the five bullets on the floor, and then held the stubby revolver in front of Banning’s face as she gripped it with such force that she wrung it out, the hard gun steel squishing from between her fingers. She then used both hands to form it into a ball with such ease that it might as well have been a snowball. Turning, she rolled the smoking, mangled remains across the conference room table to stop directly in front of the Air Force General. Her message was clear.
“I want to work with all of you to save lives. But if you won’t let me help you, I’ll simply have to do it my way. So I’ll say this as clearly as I can: if any tanks approach the so-called monster again, or any other kind of weapon is used against it, I’ll do to those weapons what I just did to your gun.”
Banning growled as he turned to the other men, waving his arm toward Kara. “See! Just what I said. She thinks she's above the law." He walked closer to tower menancingly over her. "Well, you’re not. You’re just a little girl who pretends to be Superman's sidekick.”
Kara floated off the floor to bring her eyes level with his. “Director Banning,” she said forcefully. “I may indeed be both young and female, but I do not PRETEND to be anything. I am Supergirl, and I am more powerful than you can imagine. Don’t force me to prove that.” And with her words still hanging in the air, she spun around to dive out the window.
A few seconds later, a powerful double sonic-boom rattled the windows and knocked a picture off the wall.
Kara flew high and fast toward Iowa while replaying the Director’s words, and her own. She was already regretting her emotional outburst, wincing as she replayed her arrogant boast at the end. That wasn’t like her, but everything about Banning drove her crazy. It hadn’t helped that he’d been right about one thing — her alterego, Linda Lee, had just finished Junior High.
As Linda, she'd found the school curriculum horribly backward and boring after growing up in Argo City, especially given that she forced herself to get only average grades. Deciding what questions to get wrong on every test became a game, one where she sent simple messages encoded in the list of wrong answers. But nobody ever got it.
Even harder was learning to live convincingly as a human teenager. The other kids at school cut her some slack at first because she was an orphan, but she still struggled to make friends and enjoy normal activities. She found it particularly hard to invite a friend home to play at the… orphanage? The other kids didn’t invite her to their homes because they thought it would make her feel bad, seeing how much better their lives were.
Linda adjusted, and in some ways preferred it this way. She already struggled to find opportunities every day to disappear, usually when she was supposed to be sleeping or studying. She had to work with Superman andS.T.A.R Labsto train and prepare for her role as Supergirl. And now, Supergirl had to respond quickly to deal with the most critical events given Kal was off-planet.
As Linda, she pretended to be weak and shy and demure and she wore a mousy-brown wig and hand-me-down clothing that made her unattractive. Kal had told her to dress and act as differently from Supergirl as she could. But it wasn’t all an act. She truly was an orphan living in an orphanage after her whole world and everyone she'd cared for had died.
Kal had tried to be a father-figure when she first arrived, but Kara wasn’t looking for that. She just wanted advice and training while she learned Earth’s customs. While the two cousins shared the same amazing genetics, they had otherwise grown up on very different worlds and in radically different cultures.
Kal was thoroughly human on the inside. He’d grown up with powers from his first memories, while Kara had lived as a normal girl until she left the Kryptonian star system. She was still learning how best to use her abilities.
Kal had never experienced Kryptonian culture, and he hadn’t suffered through the horror of Krypton’s destruction, nor had he grown up in a failing and darkening environment the way Kara had, what with Argo City drifting further and further from Rao. And despite all his amazing experiences, Clark lived a simple life. At his heart, he was a farm boy from rural Kansas who worked as a newspaper reporter. A boy who had grown up with mostly positive experiences and expectations. A man who believed that EVERY problem had a solution if you looked hard enough.
He would never really understand how it felt to lose an entire world and all of its people, all its culture, all its knowledge. A loss so great that it had no boundaries, and no hope of redemption. It terrified Kara to realize that she was the last Kryptonian-born person in the universe.
In contrast, Earth was Kal’s true home given he’d come here as a baby. He knew no other life and no other world, least of all Krypton as it had been.
But he was still an amazing cousin to have. Nearly everyone on Earth loved him, and much of that goodwill washed over her now as well. It had been difficult for her to avoid the intense public and Press interest after Superman had presented her to the world. She’d made some initial appearances, mostly photo-ops, and then disappeared. She wasn’t ready for the crowds, or the constant responsibility to rush off to save people.
Kal tried to be protective of her, which sometimes felt confining and other times was fine. Like when some reporters tried to pry into her background, asking about Supergirl’s age. Superman told them that her age could not be compared to anything because of time-warps, different lengths of year on Krypton and Earth — Kryptonian years are exactly 1.3879 Earth years long he said — and the different ways that Kryptonians matured and aged, especially under a yellow sun.
Kal tried to plant a seed of thought with the Press that said Supergirl was older than she looked. And the newspapers ran with it, each of them estimating her real age with differing results. Superman was a master at planting stories that made it onto newspaper front pages, and everyone read at least the front page. He was brilliant at getting his point across seemingly by accident while frustrating anyone who asked questions, which made him seem alien and different. It was like his brain worked on another level.
But it was just an act.
He also liked to throw tidbits out there to make a reporter’s day if they were being polite. But he saved the best stuff for Lois Lane. Which was hard to avoid in any case given she was tenacious and refused to accept that there were boundaries she shouldn’t cross. She was the one who’d named him Superman, and she made sure she knew more about Superman than anyone else.
Kara was pretty sure that one of the boundaries Lois had recently crossed involved her bed and a long weekend, with Superman’s cape and costume hanging over the back of her bedroom chair the entire time. But Kal would never admit such a thing, nor would Lois, given it would destroy her credibility as a reporter.
And then there was Clark Kent. Kara smiled as she saw him work with Lois as an associate at the Daily Planet. Clark was completely outmatched in every way by the dominating woman whose mission in life was to reveal all aspects of Superman’s life. Yet for all her curiosity and drive and tenacity, and even after her likely intimate encounter with Superman, Lois had no clue that her clumsy co-worker was the same man that she had focused her life on. Clark Kent was absolute proof that body language and mannerisms, along with a prop like a pair of glasses or a wig and some ill-fitting clothing, could be the ultimate disguise. Clark Kent was precisely everything that Superman was not, so of course, Lois was blinded. She walked all over him. It was painful to watch at times.
Based on Clark’s example, Kara had created her Linda Lee persona, which turned out to be easier than she'd expected. Like all Kryptonians, she had the kind of compartmentalized mind that a human psychiatrist might mistakenly label as clinically schizophrenic.
The hard reality was that Kara had barely turned fifteen when she left Argo City — in Kryptonian years — and she didn’t look all that much older now. She’d been lost and utterly alone in the universe after Krypton’s destruction came back to haunt her a second time — as a swarm of huge rocks that were part of Krypton’s remains crashed through the dome and lead shielding of Argo City to expose everyone to Kryptonite. She escaped in a small rocket ship just before she succombed to its radiation like everyone else.
It was not lost on her that Argo City had been the only surviving colony after Krypton’s destruction, and now she was the only person to survive the destruction of Argo City. Why her, she wondered, when there were so many, many people who deserved life as much as she did?
Now she’d followed Kal’s early journey to a planet full of people that she resembled, but in reality were made of very different stuff. Without the dampening effect of Rao’s radiation, plus the extreme stimulation from being near a yellow sun, she’d arrived with all of Kal’s adult powers, but without any ability to use them. While baby Kal had grown up at seemingly normal speed on Earth, his powers gradually growing with him, there was something about being mostly mature before entering the influence of Earth's yellow sun that maximized Kara’s powers and slowed her aging to a crawl. She’d worked nearly every day since she arrived on Earth to learn how to become Supergirl.
The downside of her gift of agelessness was that she had to deal with the Bannings of the world, who dismissed her for her youth. But not so the general public. They were dazzled when they saw her dressed in her tiny red and blue costume, her hair gloriously blonde and her eyes a startling shade of blue, her slender legs so long and bare, her red cape floating on the breeze as she flew like a bird. Some fashion magazines had written that she might be the most beautiful girl on the planet.
Kara didn't buy that, but it did influence the way she created Supergirl. She wanted Supergirl to be visually startling and attractive, as much from her natural good looks as well as the way she dressed. She was always confident and direct, looking everyone squarely in the eye. Her personality was extremely outgoing, and she was aggressively engaged in whatever she was doing, and everything she did was very physical, up to and including superhuman feats that rivaled Superman’s. She loved using her fantastic strength and powers to help people.
But whether she was shrinking into the corners as sad little Linda or flaunting her physical powers as the mighty Supergirl, Kara was always playing a character she’d created. Sometimes she wondered why she worked so hard to maintain Linda’s bland and unassuming secret identity, but Kal thought it was vitally important. He claimed that retreating back to being invisible and insignificant after displaying great power was the point of it all. It was the only way to stay connected to ordinary people and to remain humble. Clark Kent was his “social Kryptonite” to keep him from falling into the fatal trap of thinking like a god.
Yet humble was the last thing Kara wanted to feel when she was facing arrogant, powerful men like Director Banning, who dismissed her for her youthfulness. Still, she knew she’d gone too far today. But sometimes she just had to deliver a message. She might look like a teenage girl, she might even be one, depending on which calendar you used, but she was one of the mightiest beings in the universe.
Sighing, she let go of her anger as she instead gave herself up to the simple joy of flight. The air was warm and the sky was blue once she left the city and it felt wonderful to just fly, cape billowing behind her. Scanning ahead with her remarkable eyes to locate the alien, she found it in a different field of corn now, eating the ears and stalks and whatever else it could shove into its huge maw by the bushelful. The creature paused to look up at her as she arrived to hover over it — or at least that’s what she thought it was doing, for it had no visible eyes — and then resumed eating. It didn’t perceive her as a threat, which was one more bit of proof that it was intelligent.
She soared upward until she was fifteen miles high to get a good field of view, suspecting the General’s forces would be coming despite her warning. Men like Banning were not easily dissuaded. Her fears were confirmed when she spotted four F-100 fighters approaching from 200 miles out. They carried bombs and rockets in addition to their own guns. Without hesitation, she turned and flew directly toward them.
The on-coming fighters were traveling just under the Mach, but Kara was doing Mach 6 when she flew head-on through the loose formation of fighters, her hypersonic shock wave tossing the planes around wildly. Two of them fell into spins before the pilots regained control and turned back toward the alien.
She went after the leader first, who was now trying to escape her in afterburner. She caught up with him in seconds to fly backwards as she landed on the front of his canopy, her legs spread wide around the thick plastic. When the pilot looked up in astonishment, she motioned for him to turn his plane around. He replied by diving his Super Sabre to go supersonic, the shock waves pushing her back along the canopy. She allowed herself to slide back to the root of the swept wings where she hooked her legs over the leading edge of the left wing, and then slid down it to the wingtip. Her disruption of the supersonic airflow over the wing caused the fighter to shake violently, and that shaking grew worse yet when she pushed down on the wingtip, forcing the plane to turn left.
The pilot reacted by pushing his stick and rudder all the way to the right, but even with the plane’s powerful hydraulic controls to help him, he couldn’t overpower her. Within seconds, he was flying back the way he’d come.
She’d expected the other planes to follow their flight leader, but they proved her wrong by continuing toward the creature, racing away in afterburner. They clearly had some highly-placed orders to engage the alien no matter what. Even worse, as soon as she released the flight leader’s wing, he also turned back to resume his attack. These men weren’t afraid of her. The whole world knew that she, like Superman, would never deliberately endanger a life.
Which meant she had a new problem to solve — how to disable the fighters without injuring the pilots. Stripping the weapons from their wings would be easy, but that would endanger people on the ground.
She decided instead to fly into the oval intake of the leader’s F-100 to force a compressor stall. As expected, the fire-walled J57 engine coughed and banged as shock waves came back up the air intake to flame it out. She quickly did the same to the other Super Sabres, but by the time she’d flamed out the last one, the first pilot had restarted his engine as he dove far below her. He began turning back toward the alien.
Convinced now that they weren’t going to respond to polite persuasion — if you assume forcing a flame-out at supersonic speed was considered polite — she once again landed with legs spread on the canopy of the lead fighter. She began carefully squeezing her thighs together this time with just enough strength to bulge the front of the canopy upward to break the pressure seal and latch. The violent slipstream got under the canopy and tore it off, leaving the visored pilot exposed with no pressurization or climate control in -50C air. The pilot did the only thing he could — he cut power and began to descend steeply toward thicker and warmer air while turning back to base. Encouraged, she landed on the windscreens of the other three fighters in sequence, removing their canopies the same way. The pilots followed their leader back to base, low and slow.
Satisfied that she’d pulled the Air Force’s teeth without injuring anyone, Kara climbed high enough to verify there were no other threats in sight, and then followed the fighters at a distance, prepared to help a pilot if need be, or to safely get his plane to the ground if someone decided to eject. None did. These were experienced pilots and they all found their way back to base.
Circling high over their base as the last fighter touched down, its drag chute blossoming, she smiled as she imagined the kind of stories the pilots would soon be telling. Thank Rao she’d recently stopped wearing the outfit she’d worn during her panicked escape from Argo City — a blue dress with a Kryptonian-styled microskirt — and had adopted her new and more secure favorite: hot pants.
Accelerating back to Mach 6, she returned to the alien’s location in minutes, arriving just in time to catch sight of a large bomber coming in from the opposite direction. The B52D was flying very high, nearly 50,000 feet, each of its eight engines leaving a vapor trail of tiny ice crystals. She flew toward it, intercepting it nearly two hundred miles out as she straddled its fat nose to stare through the windshield at the astonished pilots. She motioned for them to turn back, but like the fighter pilots, they continued onward. Frustrated, she dropped behind the huge bomber while debating how to safely disable it, only to have the tail gunner open fire on her. Likely he’d gotten word that she’d stopped the fighters and was panicking. She thought it was cruel that he had to sit alone in the back of that huge bomber, jammed inside his small pressurized cabin and physically cut off from the other crew.
She flew into the lethal streams of .50 caliber bullets from his quad turret, waving her arms to scatter them until she’d almost reached the tail, at which point the guns swiveled to allow one .50 cal to fire a long burst directly into her face. The stinging impacts from the mixture of armor-piercing, high-explosive and incendiary rounds knocked her backward as she ducked under the plane. Blinking hot metal fragments from her eyes as she spit out a few smoking bullets, she darted back up to jam her thumbs into two of the huge barrels as she blocked the other two with her chest. The gunner fired again, and this time the barrels exploded to tear the back of the turret off. The gunner stared wide-eyed out his thick window at her, terrified but unharmed behind his armor.
She left him there as she flew along the belly of the long bomber until she came to the bomb bay doors. Jamming her fingers into the crack where the doors met, she pulled outward with her powerful shoulders to rip the huge doors open. She found a very large bomb hanging in the bomb bay. Her eyes flashed brightly as she scanned it, thankfully confirming it was a conventional explosive. But she’d never seen a bomb so large. She certainly wasn’t going to let them drop that on the alien.
Rising up inside the bomb bay, she straddled the top of the wide bomb while reaching fore and aft to tear apart the massive mounting hooks that secured it. The bomb crashed through the partially-open bomb bay doors as she rode it downward, still straddling it. A small propellor at the front of the bomb spun in the slipstream before suddenly stopping — the bomb was now armed. She gripped it tightly as she began to climb with it, flying just ahead of the huge bomber as she headed skyward, climbing until the sky began to turn purple. The now unarmed bomber was ten miles below her and turning back to base. So far, so good.
Now her problem was what to do with the live bomb, which felt like it weighed about twenty tons. Even if she tossed it into an empty farm field, it was going to cause a great deal of damage over a wide area. The safest solution was to deactivate it up here, twenty miles from the ground. Grimacing as she knew this was going to be iffy, she scooted her way to the front of the bomb where a scan with her x-ray vision showed that the detonator was screwed two feet into it. Wrapping herself tightly around the nose of the bomb as she held its weight with her legs, she reached gently for the detonator. She began to delicately unscrew it the way bomb disposal technicians had taught her. She'd blown herself up several times on the EOD range with small explosives before she’d learned how extremely dangerous this was with live fuses, but she figured it was worth a try. Unfortunately, the fuse jammed in its threads after just a few turns. She gritted her teeth and gave the stuck fuse a harder twist.
She never felt the explosion as the incredible blast briefly knocked her out. She woke to find she was floating in the blackness of space, her body glowing so hot that her skin seemed transparent. Her clothing was gone except for the choker around her neck and her attached cape, both of which were made of true Kryptonian fabric and were as invulnerable as she was. She had taken to wearing a number of backup outfits whose style she liked better, all of them developed byS.T.A.R Labsusing some elements of Kryptonian science, and nominally bulletproof and fireproof. But clearly, no fabric made on Earth could withstand being that close to such a massive bomb.
Nudity was the least of her concerns as she dropped back down into the atmosphere over the alien's location. Scanning around for any more threats, she spotted something coming in from very high overhead. It had to be a ballistic missile given the way it was arcing downward at very high Mach. Ignoring her wardrobe malfunction, she pointed her toes and stretched out her arms as she tensed every muscle in her body to accelerate back upward. She had no idea what kind of warhead it might have, but Kal had taught her that if she hit an explosive device fast enough, she could destroy the fusing system before it could detonate the main explosive. Theoretically speaking.
She was doing Mach 8 and the warhead was coming down at Mach 10 when she spread her arms and legs wide to stop it with her body.
She never felt this impact either, but when she regained consciousness she was falling in the middle of a bubble of superheated plasma, blonde hair sticking out in all directions. So much for Kal’s theory. It took her a moment to focus her eyes well enough to search for more incoming warheads, and she spotted a second as it flashed by her in the terminal phase of its flight. She dove after it, using every erg of flight power she had to catch up with it, her skin glowing so hot now that she looked like a meteor. Even then, she barely caught it in time. Turning the warhead upward as she skimmed just above the corn stalks at hypersonic speed, shockwave sent a rooster-tail of uprooted corn stalks hundreds of yards up into the air. She turned to climb straight upward, arms and legs wrapped around the warhead. The sky soon turned black as stars started to appear. She was about to toss the warhead into the vastness of space when it exploded with fantastic power.
Three mighty explosions detonating against her skin only minutes apart was too much for even a Kryptonian girl. Kara woke some time later to find herself half buried in the corn field, with the huge creature leaning over her. Before she could move away from it, an appendage extended to wrap itself gently around her head, and everything around her disappeared. She suddenly saw herself soaring upward from the Earth, flying at fantastic speed. She felt as if she was watching a greatly speeded-up movie as the creature flew past stars, past constellations, flying outward from Earth’s minor spiral of the Milky Way galaxy toward a singular blue star. One powerful thought filled her entire being — Home!
She realized with a start that she was seeing the creature’s thoughts as it visualized its future, which it could somehow see. It was going home. It was no threat to Earth, just as she’d hoped.
Suddenly the images in her mind changed. She saw herself as Linda now, and she was in trouble when she returned to the orphanage after being gone for so long. A runaway. But a man and a woman appeared and said she could come home with them. She saw images of a large bedroom, all her own, and parents and a house and going to a nice school. She saw herself standing in the kitchen, dressed as Linda but without her wig, using her eyes to light her father’s pipe as her mother brushed out her long, blonde hair.
They knew who she was!
The movie began to rush forward, faster and faster now. She saw a name on a desk:Linda Danvers, Counselor. And then another one,Linda Danvers, GovernorShe saw images of unknown people and places, of great battles fought and won, of Earth becoming more prosperous and safe even as its enemies became more powerful. She saw herself soaring around a huge tower that looked like the ones she remembered from Krypton, except it was clearly on Earth. And with her were children, many of them of all ages, all of them flying beside her, some blonde and some with black hair, boys and girls, and she knew immediately that they were her own.
Then the movie speeded up even more, her children grew and had their own children, some blonde, some brunette and some with flaming red hair, and then those children grew up and had more children, great-grandkids, some of them very diverse in appearance, and then she was lying on a bed, her huge family gathered around her, touching her, lending her their strength. But she had to leave, her eyes closing on blackness for a time, only to blink open to find they were filled with stars. She was racing outward from Earth, stars flashing by as she flew toward a singular red sun that looked so very familiar — she was going Home!
She came back to herself to find she was curled up among the torn corn stalks, laughing and crying at the same time. The creature had just given her a marvelous gift, a glimpse of both its future and her own. She was going to have important roles in the world as Linda, and she would always be Supergirl. And she would have a family. A very large family. And in the end, impossibly, she would go home to a place that no longer existed in this realm.
The creature waved what almost looked like an arm at her, and then rose into the air, accelerating so quickly that she had trouble tracking it even with her eyes, its supersonic shock wave flattening the corn stalks for a quarter mile in every direction.
Rising to her feet, covered in mud and corn silk and bits of shredded leaves and stalks, wearing only her cape, she was astounded by the gift the creature had freely given her. She now knew her future, or at least the general shape of it, and it was wonderful. And the next step of that future was about to happen at the orphanage.
But first, she had a warning to deliver. While most leaders and pundits had openly worried that it was dangerous for a teenage girl to have Superman’s powers, what with her inexperience and the infamous volatility of teenage thinking, President Kennedy had been the first to open his door to her, saying that he would always be available if she needed his help or advice. While those who knew Jack Kennedy best thought that was a bit creepy given his infamous womanizing, something only insiders knew about given the coziness between the media and men in power in 1961. But Kara truly enjoyed his company. He seemed to be a very nice man who respected her abilities and her thoughts on whatever subject they discussed. He made her feel somehow older when she was close to him. He made her feel warm inside.
It took her less than ten minutes to fly from Iowa to Washington, DC where she landed on the roof of the building that held the Governmental Outreach office ofS.T.A.R Labs. WhileS.T.A.Rwas famously independent of any government or corporate interests, their Washington office served as a fire-walled scientific conduit to the US Government.
Kara looked down between her feet as she opened her penetrating eyes wide, and the entire building turned transparent, looking much like a wire-frame drawing. She was looking for Director Lana Lang’s office. The same Lana Lang that had been Clark Kent’s first girlfriend, and also the first person outside his adoptive family to learn the secret of Clark Kent and Superman. A secret Lana maintained to this day, even from her co-workers atS.T.A.R Labs.
After a portion of that famous lab decided to specialize in Kryptonian technology, and then became the scientific arm of Superman’s agenda,S.T.A.R. decided to open a Washington outreach office. Lana heard they were looking for a director to manage that office, and given she was working in Advertising, she knew she could make the adjustment to running a lobbying firm. She got the job after Superman personally vouched for her. Now, as a registered lobbyist, it was her job to manage the communication between Superman and government officials, the military, members of congress and the President.
She had also been one of the first people to befriend Kara, although she didn’t know anything about her Linda Lee identity. Lana just assumed there was some kind of female Clark Kent living out there somewhere.
Lana looked startled as Kara floated through her window, her cape floating free. She couldn’t help but laugh. “Let me guess. You’re headed for a meeting and have nothing to wear. Literally. Or is this how you celebrate the joys of summer, sans clothing?”
Kara floated down to land barefooted on the carpet. “More the first. I hope you don’t mind, but I figured since we’re about the same size that you might have an outfit I can borrow. Besides, it's been a while since we talked.”
Lana rose to give her a hug, finding as she did that Kara's skin was uncomfortably hot. "You've been flying fast," she said as she stepped back. "What happened to your red and blues?"
Kara tossed her cape back over her shoulders as she stood with her hands on her hips. “Blasted off by a very big bada boom. Who do I complain to about that in DC?"
Lana smiled. "While dressed like that? I suspect everyone's door will be open for you. Not sure they'd be listening though."
She walked over to open a large walk-in closet that was full of clothing on hangars and in drawers and on shelves. “I'm always running off to this meeting or that, or off on some trip with zero notice, and I don’t usually time to go home and change. So I keep some outfits here. I also anticipated your needing to dress appropriately for a meeting someday, so I brought in a few outfits that are too small for me now. Check the hangars on the right.”
“This stuff is great,” Kara gushed as she walked into the closet, checking out the outfits. “You have an amazing eye for interesting clothing.”
“It was easier in LA. It’s hard to find anything here that’s both interesting and still suitable for wearing in these gray government offices. DC is so backward compared to LA.”
Kara nodded as she took off her cape to hang it on a hook.
Lana shook her head as she studied the nude Kryptonian. Kara looked too perfect to be real. Not even a single freckle to break the perfection, not to mention incredibly fit and impossibly firm. “Gravity really doesn’t affect you, does it?”
“What do you mean?” Kara asked.
“As in, how useless a bra must be for the Girl of Steel.”
Kara laughed as she cupped herself. “Wrong. I tend to be very nipply.”
Kara stil looked startlingly young to Lana, although she knew that Kara was actually in her early twenties in terms of life experience, given the different length of Kryptonian and Earth years. But other than filling out slightly, she hadn’t changed much since she’d first arrived on Earth.
Kara held up a very fashionable outfit as she turned to look at Lana. It had a pale blue frilly top that tapered to a golden choker, leaving her shoulders and arms bare, along with much of her back. It also had a scandalously short hemline.
“Oh no,” Lana said loudly, shaking her head. “No way. That skirt was way too short even by LA standards, and the whole outfit is styled all wrong for DC. Belongs in a Parisian nightclub, not the White House. I brought it here to donate it, but nobody wants it.”
“It is kind of my style, especially with the choker.” Kara held it in front of herself while looking in the mirror. “I really like it.”
“Well, I can’t fault your taste, just your choice. It’s an edgy experimental outfit from an avant-garde designer in Paris who thinks miniskirts are going to catch on. I think he’s crazy. Maybe in Paris, but even there, and certainly not this short. This can be a very prudish country.”
Kara floated off the floor as she pulled the outfit on, fastening the choker tightly around her neck. She then spun around slowly in mid-air while watching herself in the opposing mirrors.
Lana chuckled as she stared. “Amazing. I have to admit, it really does work for you, Kara. The blue brings out your eyes, and you’ve got the legs for it. Not to mention the shoulders. It looked really trashy when I wore it, but I swear everything looks good on you. The less the better. So who are you off to see?”
“President Kennedy. He’s kind of a friend.”
Lana stared at Kara, eyes wide. “No shit! How well do you know him?”
“We’ve met a few times in his office, and twice at his place in Boston. He’s always very nice. He listens to me. Like he really cares what I think. He has this amazing way of looking at people. He really sees you.”
“Ah, then you definitely should wear something a bit less revealing, Kara.” Lana walked into the closet to return with a long gray dress that had a formal, business-like top.
“That’s really ugly,” Kara said. “I like short skirts and color. Bare shoulders are cool too.”
She wasn’t going to explain it to Lana, but as Supergirl she wanted to dress as differently from Linda as possible. That meant hot pants or microskirts and other modern styles that she doubted would ever catch on in the fashion mainstream. Lots of bright colors too. Daring and bold and somehow advanced. The ‘girl from a distant star’ thing. Or maybe just ‘the girl of the future’.
Lana shook her head. “I’m telling you, there is absolutely no way you should wear anything that edgy to the White House, Kara. Formal and conservative is the rule.”
“I’m not the usual visitor, Lana.”
“Even more so, especially with Jack Kennedy there. I only wore that outfit once, back when I was in Advertising. I was just starting out and was too young and too dumb to know any better. I was meeting a high-flying client for dinner in LA while wearing that. It was a big mistake. We didn’t get any work done at dinner — he just wanted to talk about me. He wanted to show me his amazing hotel room at the Beverly Hills. The dinner ended with an invite to fly to London with him. To finalize the paperwork.”
“Did you go?”
“I had to. I wasn’t going back to my boss without a signed contract. I was brand new in the business. He’d have fired me.”
“So you got the contract?”
"Of course. And he got me. Until his wife found us. That was ugly. I never did that again, and I never wore this dress again.“
Kara turned back to look at herself in the mirror. “This looks almost Kryptonian. People wore stuff like this all the time.”
Lana chuckled. “Yeah. Where everyone was genetically-engineered for perfection. That dress might work on one in a thousand women here on Earth, and even then, only late at night in Paris.”
“So it’s really that wrong to wear it?”
“For me? For any other woman born on Earth? Yes. Absolutely wrong. But you get to make your own rules. And what the heck, everything else you wear is teensy tiny as well. Still, you need to be careful, Kara. Jack Kennedy has a bit of reputation. Actually, more than a bit.”
“What do you mean?”
“He likes women too much. And vice-versa. And from what I hear, more than just Jackie.”
“I doubt that. He is very charming, and very polite. A true gentleman. He would certainly be faithful to his wife.”
Lana laughed. “Lesson one, Kara. Whenever you find yourself thinking that way, you know it’s going all wrong. He’s a career politician. He didn’t get to where he is by being nice. He knows how to get what he wants and he uses people. Especially women.”
Kara shook her head. “But… that’s not even possible, Lana. With me, anyway.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s put it this way. I had this appointment once with this woman atS.T.A.Rwho worked in the Social Liaison office. They’re the folks trying to document all the differences in Kryptonian and Terran social conventions. I had asked a question about human/Kryptonian sex to one of the researchers the day before, but he acted embarrassed and sent me to see this woman. I figured she was going to some kind of birds and the bees thing. Instead, she did this silly demonstration. She attached a balloon to this compressed air cylinder and blew it up until it popped. Then she held this egg over a bowl and crushed it in her grip. She was wiping her hand off when she asked me if I had any questions. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. What a weirdo.”
Lana laughed as she started to say something, and then stopped. She wanted to say that she’d figured the first part out way back in Smallville, back when she and Clark were a thing. The patched holes in her bedroom ceiling from their youthful experimentation were still visible. She’d known that Clark was super before they started making out, but not in that way. Clark was terribly embarrassed afterward, but Lana thought it was amazing. She claimed it just a matter of timing — that and making sure they were in the older part of the barn, which already had roof damage from a winter storm. Lana began calling the Man of Steel a long time before Lois coined that phrase for a Daily Planet article. She closed her eyes, struggling with those memories, many still vivid. She angrily pushed them away to smile weakly at Kara. “But… you got the message, right Kara?”
“Yeah. It was pretty obvious. But who wrote the memo to put that subject off limits atS.T.A.R? I thought they were all about science.”
“Whoever it was, I’m betting Jack Kennedy didn’t get the memo.”
Kara shrugged off Lana’s warning as she tried on a pair of high heels with golden ankle straps. “How do these look with this outfit? They feel fun to wear.”
“A miniskirt with gold stiletto heels? Oh, yes, Mr. Jack is going to love you. How old does he think you are?”
“That’s not what this is about. He needs to listen to me. I have to warn him about someone.”
“Anyone I know?”
“Deputy Director Banning. FBI. I don’t trust him.”
Lana paled. “You need to be careful with him, Kara.”
Kara laughed. “Or what? He’ll arrest me? Like anyone could.”
“You don’t think the FBI has any Kryptonite?”
“I'm sure they do. But I’m not worried about myself. I need to warn the President.”
“I suspect he knows Banning better than you do.”
“Maybe. But I’d feel terrible if I didn’t say anything and something happened to him.”
“He’s got the Secret Service, Kara. I think he’s plenty safe. I’m more concerned with you.”
“Me? The kid’s invulnerable, don’t you know? Or more appropriate to this twisted discussion, inviolate.”
“Not all wounds are of the flesh, Kara.”
“I’ll be in and out like a flash. Thanks for loaning me the outfit. And don’t worry. This is absolutely what people would expect Supergirl to wear when not in uniform.”
“I guess. I’m just glad I had something interesting in my closet. Consider my office a safe harbor, Kara. A place where you can be you.”
Kara reached out to hug her again. “You are very kind, Lana. No wonder Kal likes you so very much.”
Lana's eyes grew moist. “That was a long time ago, Kara.”
“People shouldn’t stop liking people just because they don’t feel the same way back.”
“Go, Kara,” Lana said as a tear ran down her cheek. “Have fun. Just don’t let anyone take pictures.”
“I know how to cloud film with my x-rays. No problemo.”
And with that, Kara dove out the window and was gone.
She landed on the White House lawn two minutes later, only to find it was hard to walk on the soft grass in her unfamiliar heels. Two Secret Service agents intercepted her, but she gently rose to float over their heads, which established her credentials, even without her cape. The same scene was repeated twice more before she finally opened the door into the Oval Office without being announced. The President’s eyes rose from the papers he was reading. He took off his glasses as he looked startled at first, and then smiled his famous smile.
“Welcome, Supergirl. I almost didn’t recognize you without the bright colors and the cape.”
“Twenty-ton bombs are kind of hard on clothing, Mr. President. Especially when you’re carrying them when they go off. But I figured wearing just my cape here might be a bit too much. Or too little.”
“Yes, well I imagine it would be for some,” Kennedy said in a way that suggested he really wished she had. “I don’t know where you came across a bomb that big, but Director Banning just called to say that he's convinced that space monster to leave Earth — with a little of your help, I suspect. Thank you. And may I say, I really like your taste in clothing. That outfit truly suits you.“
Kara frowned. “Lets talk about the bomb. The Air Force was trying to drop it on the alien visitor from a B-52. Right after they tried to bomb and rocket it with jet fighters. Not to mention two ballistic missiles at the end.”
Kennedy’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t understand. Director Banning said a minimal use of force was involved.”
“Minimal? I soaked up a hell of a lot of firepower to protect the alien. Or more likely, to keep it from fighting back in self-defense. Banning was about to get a bunch of good men killed. Since he didn’t want to listen to me, I had to convince several of the USAF’s finest that I could handle the alien better without them. I’m afraid I might have slightly dented a few pieces of US government property.”
“Now who is being the politician?” the President smiled. “Banning actually told me you broke a dozen laws and caused millions in damage, Supergirl. He wants you clasped in Kryptonite and locked up. But I think I have the power to pardon you.”
“Deputy Director Banning is dangerous, Mr. President. Dangerous possibly even to the President. He doesn't listen to anyone. Sometimes I’m not sure who he really works for.”
“He works for the American people, Supergirl. But General Adams told me how your meeting went in Chicago, and I apologize for the way Banning talked to you. But in the end, while his social skills need a bit of work, Director Banning is a true patriot. I can handle him.”
“I don’t agree, Mr. President, that’s what I came to warn you about. I’ve been watching him for some time. He seems to have hooks in every corner of the government, not just his own agency. Even deep inside the military. Presidents come and go but he perseveres. He and the Director have been there forever.”
“That’s how he knows how to get things done, Kara. Any kind of thing. But I’ll have a talk with him about the way he treated you. It won’t happen again. We’re all on the same team.”
“I’m not so sure of that, Mr. President. But thank you for letting me share my concerns."
President Kennedy sat down on one end of his office couch, patting the spot next to him. "Sit down and tell me what happened out there. With the space creature.”
Kara correctly sat on the other end of the long couch, folding one leg beneath herself as she faced him. She quickly took him through everything, except, of course, the visions the creature had planted in her mind.
Kennedy looked puzzled by the time she finished. "It seems the Deputy Director left a few things out of his report. I'm the only one who can order the US military to deploy inside our borders, let alone attack an intruder.“
"Yeah. That's about what I figured. Yet I’m betting the Press will never print anything more revealing than “mysterious explosions damage corn crop”. The operation was probably classified Top Secret to keep it covered up. Everyone’s afraid of Banning.“
Kennedy looked oddly at her, both surprised and impressed. He hadn’t expected such a young woman, least of all a girl from another star to understand the black, inner workings of Washington, DC. ”Let's keep this discussion to ourselves for the moment, if you don’t mind, Kara. I’ll get back to you on it. More importantly right now, are you Ok? After all those explosions and impacts? Should my doctor look at you?"
Kara rose to hover in mid-air as she turned to face him while he remained sitting. She found it easier to float than to stand on those heels. "I'm absolutely perfectly fine, thank you, Mr. President. It takes a lot more than that to hurt me."
“I can see that now. Which amazes me. I'd love to learn more about how that works, Kara. You aren't really made from steel are you?"
"S.T.A.R Labshas all the test data, Mr. President. I'm sure they can brief you at whatever level you need."
“Perhaps,” Kennedy mused as he smiled at her in his special way. “But sometimes true understanding doesn't come from reading scientific reports. And please, call me Jack. All my friends do.”
Kara smiled softly. So, Lana had been right about him. “Unfortunately, Mr… Jack. I’ve got to fly."
“Well, my door is always open for you, Kara. Maybe someday you and your cousin will come and dine with Jackie and me. Consider it an open invitation once he returns from his space mission.”
Kara nodded as she turned to head back the way she’d come in, using a touch of flight power to steady her walk. Nobody tried to stop her this time. A young woman in an overly sexy outfit leaving the Oval Office should have set off alarms, but not in this White House.
She returned the outfit to Lana’s closet before pulling her cape from its hook. She draped it over her bare shoulders as she fastened the choker tightly around her neck, enjoying the silky warmth of true Kryptonian fabric against her skin.
Lana wasn’t there, so she left a simple Thank You note on her desk.
She was soon soaring toward Metropolis, or more specifically, towards the small town just on the other side named Midvale.
It was sunset when she landed in a grove of trees behind an ugly brick building just outside Midvale. A wispy ground fog was rising, the gray vapor feeling good on her bare skin as she rose upward ten feet to reach into a hole in a tree to retrieve Linda’s clothing. Closing her eyes as she got dressed, she focused on her mental image of Linda, and her posture and facial expressions started to melt. The last hint of the day’s colors faded to gray tones as she tucked the last of her blonde hair beneath her mousy brown wig. The thickening fog seemed a suitable welcome for entering the orphanage.
Taking a deep breath, she walked through the front door, only to have Miss Littleton grab her arm tightly to drag her into her office. There she accused Linda of running away and getting involved with unsavory characters. That was Miss Littleton’s code for “men”. She waved her arms as she threatened to call the sheriff and have her locked up as a delinquent. She demanded she tell her where she’d been.
Linda mumbled something about searching for her real parents — a recuring theme she’d used before — and then sat with her head hanging as she endured browbeating and threats until she could finally escape to her room. There she lay on her narrow bed with eyes closed as she replayed the images the creature had shown her, searching for nuances that she’d missed earlier. She was smiling by the time she drifted off to an exhausted sleep, at peace for the first time in a very long time.
She was awakened by someone banging loudly on her door, the sun already high in the sky. Looking through the wall, she saw Sally Reid standing in the hallway. She was one of the mean older girls who worked for Miss Littleton.
“Miss Littleton says to get showered and put on your best clothes and come to her office right away, Linda. Immediately. Some people have come to see you.”
“I hear you.” Turning her head, Linda looked through a dozen walls to see a middle-aged couple sitting in Miss Littleton’s office. Straining her ears, she heard Miss Littleton telling the couple that Linda Lee was a perfect young lady.
Linda smiled. Last night Miss Littleton had threatened to have her arrested. Jailed for delinquency. Now she was an angel. No surprise. Everyone knew Miss Littleton got a bonus for every child she placed with adoptive parents. Which meant she wasn’t too fussy about qualifications as long as they filled out the application for adoption correctly, paid the right fees and the Sheriff had no objections. He never did.
She headed into her tiny bathroom to shower and then got dressed in a cheap hand-me-down yellow dress that was only one size too large. She dried her blonde hair quickly by reflecting her heat vision off the mirror before binding it up to stuff it tightly under her wig. She finished by forcing herself to think only sad thoughts as she walked shyly into Miss Littleton’s office.
She’d been interviewed by potential adoptive parents before, and she’d always acted up so they wouldn’t want her. Kal had told her it would be much harder to hide herself while living with an actual family. A quick scan of the documents on Miss Littleton’s desk told her that the couple were Fred and Edna Danvers, and that their son had been killed while on active duty in the US Army.
Danvers. That was the name on the nameplates she’d seen in the images the creature had shown her! If not for the creature’s foresight, she would have deliberately messed up this interview just like the others. Instead, she looked at the floor while watching the Danvers carefully from the edges of her vision. Anyone could see the huge hole in their lives that the loss of their son had created. They appeared to be kindly but ordinary people, but very sad, and she knew in that moment that they would adopt her to fill the void in their lives. Linda Lee Danvers would grow up in a warm and loving home.
Her heart soared as she remembered the vision of herself in their kitchen, wearing a regular dress but without her wig as her mother brushed her long, blonde hair. More than anything, she looked forward to having someone she could talk to about the problems of her two selves, Linda and Supergirl. Someone who would give her advice, who would act as her sounding board, someone she could share her fears and her joys with. Someone who would accept that Linda Lee Danvers and Supergirl were merely her alter-egos. That she was really Kara Zor-El.
Not even Kal could do that. Kara was convinced that Clark Kent was Kal's true identity, and Superman was his alter-ego. He didn't really know how to be Kal-El, other than in name.
Linda was so lost in such thoughts that she barely heard Miss Littleton call the Sheriff, who said the Danvers were truly fine people. Truly fine.
Signatures were then signed and official stamps were put on official papers and a check was written, and soon Linda Lee Danvers became her legal name. And a half hour after that, with her meager belongings packed into the trunk of the Danver’s Ford convertible, she sat in the back seat as her adoptive father drove them toward their home. Edna said they lived near the top of a hill just above Midvale.
Linda couldn't help but feel like she'd just been bought. Like a horse or something. Except this was probably easier and cheaper.
She pushed that bizarre thought away as she clung to the sketchy future vision the creature had shown her. She had no idea how to tell the Danver’s the truth about herself, or how they’d find out if she didn’t, and what they’d first think when they did, but she knew it would work out somehow. For the first time since she’d left Argo City, she looked forward to a bright future. One that she would increasingly control.
That was the greatest gift of all.
She relaxed in the back seat as she and her new mother chatted about little things, trying to get to know each other. They were halfway up the steep road that led to their home when a pickup truck came down the narrow road, driving way too fast for the steepest and curviest section. It crossed the center line as it came around the curve in front of them and Fred had to swerve to the right to avoid a collision. His Ford began to skid on the dirt shoulder as he sawed on the wheel, and a half second later they crashed through a wooden guardrail and out into space. Edna screamed as they began falling hundreds of feet toward the rocky creek bed below.
Linda instinctively leaped from the backseat to fly under the convertible to grab the frame of the Ford with both hands, her fingers digging into the steel as she stopped its fall at the last possible moment. She then flew upward with the car to set the back wheels gently down on a small turnout on the road. When she lowered the front of the car to brush off her hands, she found the Danvers staring through the windshield at her, eyes wide as they gulped for air. They’d just faced certain death before witnessing a miracle of salvation, all in the space of a few seconds.
Standing there, unsure what to do now as events seemed to race ahead on their own, Linda knew the next move was up to her. Given the pickup was long gone and the road was empty and she'd just done something completely impossible for a human, she reached up to remove her wig to allow her long, blonde hair to fall down her back.
“You’re… you’re HER!” Edna cried, looking both shocked and amazed and somehow thrilled all at the same time.
“Yup,” was all Kara could think of to say.
(There is much more to come about Kara in a follow-on story, and then a major saga about her family in the novelLittle Krypton, due out during the winter of 2018/2019.)