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TSOS - The Supergirl of Smallville - Chapter 25

Written by Team Acenaut :: [Wednesday, 07 September 2011 14:39] Last updated by :: [Tuesday, 08 April 2014 11:56]

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CHAPTER 25

 

MARCH ...

 

CHICAGO. SATURDAY MORNING.

 

Lieutenant O'Malley raised his bullhorn. "Let the woman go, Scanlon!"

 

A dozen police officers were crouching behind a row of patrol cars, watching the brick tenement across the street. A volley of bullets rained down from the sixth-floor window and traced a line of pockmarks in the asphalt. Cursing under his breath, Lieutenant O'Malley stepped back.

 

"Is there anything I can do, Officer?"

 

Startled, Lieutenant O'Malley turned around. "Supergirl!" His expression hardened. "This is police business. You shouldn't even be here."

 

Be tactful, Lana told herself. She knew that policemen tended to resent interference from a civilian -- especially when the civilian was a teenage girl.

 

"Please," she said. "I'd like to help. If you'll just tell me -- "

 

"You want to help?" Lieutenant O'Malley snapped. "Fine. Go get me a cup of coffee. Black, two sugars."

 

Lana sighed. She looked around to see if there was someone who might be willing to talk with her.

 

"Supergirl?"

 

A stocky middle-aged man with close-cut gray hair was hurrying toward her. "I'm Commissioner Donnelly," he said. "What can I do for you?"

 

"Hello, Commissioner," said Lana. "I was out on my morning patrol when I heard gunshots. What's going on?"

 

The Commissioner jerked his thumb at the building across the street. "That's Ricky Scanlon. I don't know if you've heard of him, but he's got a rap sheet as long as the Mayor's expense account. We got a tip he was holed up in this fleabag, but before my men could collar him, he managed to grab a hostage. Now we've got a stand-off."

 

"I think I can help. I can -- "

 

The Commissioner held up a hand. "I appreciate the offer. Really. But this is a hostage situation. I can't let a civilian get involved -- not even you. If anything should go wrong -- "

 

"Please. I've handled hostage situations before. Maybe you heard about that bank robbery in San Francisco last summer? And that kidnapping in Colorado? If you'll just give me a minute to explain -- "

 

Briefly, Lana described her plan. The Commissioner rubbed his unshaven chin, considering, then nodded.

 

"All right," he said. "But please, please, don't make me regret this."

 

Moments later, Lana had flown around the block and up over the rooftops. The Chicago skyline was a dark silhouette against the early morning sky. Lana descended into the alleyway beside the run-down building and landed gently on the fire-escape by the sixth floor.

 

A glance through the grimy window confirmed that the hallway was empty. The window was latched from the inside. Lana narrowed her eyes, using her heat-vision to cut a neat circular hole, about eight inches in diameter, in the glass. Reaching through the hole, she turned the latch and raised the window, careful not to make any noise ...

 

She stepped quietly into the hallway and turned toward the wall on her left, using her x-ray vision to peer into the shabby furnished room where Scanlon had taken his hostage. Scanlon -- a wiry man with dark hair and hard features -- stood with his back to the wall by the window, holding an automatic rifle. His hostage was tied to a wooden chair on the other side of the room. She was a neatly-dressed young woman -- probably a waitress or salesgirl who'd been on her way to work when Scanlon grabbed her.

 

Lana waited ...

 

A bullet from a police rifle flew through the window and struck the ceiling, knocking a few chips of plaster onto the scuffed wooden floor.Scanlon sprang to the window and fired at the street below. His back was turned -- only for a moment, but a moment was all Lana needed. She flung her shoulder against the wall. Lath splintered, sheetrock cracked, and chunks of plaster clattered to the floor ...

 

 

Scanlon spun round. His hostage was gone. Through a cloud of dust he saw a figure striding toward him -- a red-haired girl in a colorful costume with a familiar symbol emblazoned on her chest ...

 

"Supergirl!" he snarled, raising his rifle.

 

Lana shook her head. "Since you know who I am," she said, "you probably know that I'm bullet-proof."

 

Trembling, Scanlon stood with his back pressed against the wall. "Get back!" he stammered.

 

Lana ignored him. She reached toward the rifle and pulled it from his shaking hands.

 

"And I'm pretty strong," she added as she bent the barrel into a ninety-degree angle. Dropping the rifle, she grabbed Scanlon's collar with her free hand and dragged him across the room toward the hole she'd smashed in the wall.

 

Lana peered into the hallway. The hostage, still tied to the chair, stared up at her with wide, frightened eyes.

 

"You're safe now," Lana said reassuringly. "Someone will be up in a minute to untie those ropes. Will you be okay?"

 

The woman nodded.

 

Lana dragged Scanlon back toward to the window. "It's all right!" she shouted to the policemen below. "I'm coming down with him now!"

 

Stepping up onto the window sill, she tightened her grasp on Scanlon's collar and pulled him up beside her. "What are you doing?" Scanlon yelped. "You can't -- yiiiiiiii!"

 

Lana hopped off the window sill. Scanlon screamed as the pavement rushed toward them. But a moment later, they slowed to a stop, three stories above the street.

 

"And did I mention I can fly?" Lana asked casually as she descended slowly toward the waiting policemen. Alighting gently, she let go of her reluctant passenger, who dropped, trembling and gasping, down on the asphalt.

 

Commissioner Donnelly came hurrying forward, mopping his forehead with a large handkerchief as one of the officers hauled Scanlon up on his feet and snapped a pair of handcuffs on his wrists. "Thank you, Supergirl!"

 

"Happy to help." said Lana. "You'd better send some of your men up to look after that woman. I don't think she's hurt, but she might need to be treated for shock."

 

As several policemen ran across the street and into the building, Lana took a card from the pouch in her cape. "If you need me to make a statement, just call Chief Parker at this number. Oh, and before I go -- "

 

A sudden gust of wind blew down the street as Lana ran off at super-speed. Moments later, she was back again, carrying a paper cup with a plastic lid in her gloved hand.

 

"Here," she said sweetly, as she handed it to Lieutenant O'Malley. "Black with two sugars, right?" The officer stood gawking at the cup in his hand as Lana sprang into the air and flew off.

 

* * * * * * * *

 

Lana put on her glasses as she stepped out of the tornado shelter and into the basement. Her father was hunched over the workbench, poking at the innards of the old teletype that Lex had brought from the radio station and watching a needle jump back and forth across a meter.

 

"Hi, Daddy."

 

"Oh, hello, Pumpkin." Professor Lang didn't take his eyes off the needle. "How was your patrol?"

 

"It was pretty exciting. I helped the police catch a crook in Chicago."

 

"Uh-huh." He picked up a soldering iron from the workbench. Lana wondered if he was even listening.

 

"But I was too late to stop a meteor from destroying London."

 

"That's nice."

 

Sighing, Lana stepped over to the row of long narrow windows, set high in the adjacent wall, that looked out on the back yard. Lex was standing by the clothesline, holding a meter attached to a long wire that ran up the radio tower.

 

"Hi, Lex," Lana called through an open window. "What's up?"

 

"Oh -- hi, Lana. Just a sec." He raised his voice. "Are you getting a signal yet?"

 

"No, not yet," Professor Lang shouted.

 

Shaking her head in exasperation, Lana went up the stairs into the kitchen. Her mother was sitting at the kitchen table, sorting through a pile of bills and receipts and turning the pages of the family checkbook. She looked up as Lana walked over to the cupboard.

 

"Hello, dear. Would you like some breakfast?"

 

"I'll just have some cereal, thanks." Lana filled a bowl with cornflakes and took a bottle of milk from the refrigerator. "So when did Lex get here?"

 

"About an hour ago. He and your father have been trying to get that old teletype working. The two of them have been running in and out of the house and hollering back and forth and carrying on like a couple of children on Christmas morning."

 

Lana set her bowl on the table and sat down. "Maybe Daddy's the one who should be going out with Lex instead of me," she grumbled.

 

Mrs. Lang put down the checkbook. "Now, honey, you ought to be glad that the two of them get along so well. My parents weren't too pleased when I started dating your father."

 

"They weren't?"

 

"Well, Henry was still in graduate school. He didn't have a job or -- "

 

A sudden clattering noise erupted from the cellar, along with an excited shout from Professor Lang: "Lex! Come take a look!" Moments later, the kitchen door flew open and Lex ran toward the cellar door. "Come on, Lana!" he said as he hurried down the stairs. "I think we finally got it working!"

 

* * * * * * * *

 

MONDAY MORNING.

 

Jake Ryder glanced inside the school office as he walked past. Mrs. Hanson, the school secretary, was busy at her typewriter, and -- yes! -- her key-ring was lying on a corner of her desk. Jake straightened his shoulders and put on his most ingratiating smile as he stepped inside.

 

Mrs. Hanson looked up from her typewriter. "Hello, Jake. What can I do for you?"

 

"Good morning, Mrs. Hanson." Jake took a folded sheet of stationery from his shirt pocket. "I've got a note from my aunt to excuse me from sixth period. Dentist appointment."

 

Mrs. Hanson glanced at the note. "All right, Jake. Thank you."

 

"Thank you," said Jake. "By the way, that's a lovely scarf you're wearing. Is it genuine silk?"

 

Mrs. Hanson blushed slightly. "I -- I'm not sure -- "

 

Jake picked up the key-ring. "Gosh, look at all those keys!" he said, dangling the ring from his finger. "How do you ever manage to tell them apart?"

 

"Well, most of them are color-coded. But when you've worked here as long as I have, you get to know which is which."

 

"I see. Oops!" The key-ring slipped off Jake's finger and fell to the floor. Jake stooped to pick it up.

 

"Well," he said, standing up and putting the key-ring back on the desk, "I'll let you get back to work. It was really nice talking with you."

 

"Thank you, Jake. Have a nice day."

 

My! she thought, as she resumed her typing. What a polite young man!

 

Jake hurried down the hallway and into the cafeteria. Clark was sitting at a table by himself. A chemistry textbook lay beside his plate of franks and beans. Jake slid into the seat across from him.

 

"Did you get the lists?" he asked.

 

Clark nodded. "What about you?"

 

Grinning, Jake took a key from his pocket and put it on the table. "Piece of cake," he smirked. "A fake note from my aunt, a little of the old Ryder charm, and voila! Now here's my plan -- "

 

"Shouldn't we wait for Lex?"

 

Jake scowled. He hadn't been pleased when Clark told him that Lex would be joining in their plan to discover Supergirl's secret identity, but it was too late to do anything about it. "It's okay," Clark had assured him. "I used psychology. This is his chance to prove that he can be a great detective like Sherlock Holmes."

 

Jake looked round the cafeteria. "Well, where is he?"

 

"Here he comes," said Clark. "Lex! Over here!"

 

"Hi, guys." Lex sat down next to Clark. "Open your book so it looks like I'm tutoring you."

 

"All right," said Jake. "Now that we're all here, let's get down to business." He lowered his voice. "The way I figure, whoever Supergirl is, she must wear her costume under her regular clothes or else she carries it around in her handbag or something. Make sense?"

 

Clark and Lex nodded.

 

"But," Jake went on. "What does she do during gym class? She can't wear her costume under her gym clothes, or carry it around with her, so she has to stash it someplace safe -- like her locker."

 

Jake held up the key he'd slipped off Mrs. Hanson's key-ring. "This is the master key to all the combination locks in the girls' locker room. Clark, show us what you got from the Coach's filing cabinet."

 

Clark took some folded papers from the pocket of his varsity jacket. "This is a list of the girls' locker numbers,:" he said, unfolding the sheets. "And here are the rosters for the girls' gym classes."

 

"Good work," said Jake. "So all we have to do is go into the girls' locker room during their gym classes and check out the lockers belonging to the girls on our list. And now that we've got the key and everything, we can get started right away. How does that sound?"

 

Lex nodded thoughtfully. "It's a good plan," he said. "But listen -- I can make a duplicate of the key. That way, we can check the lockers twice as fast."

 

"Yeah?" Jake looked impressed. "How long will that take?"

 

"I can do it today, right after school. And another thing -- we should have a lookout to give a warning in case someone is about to go into the locker room."

 

"You mean like a secret knock?"

 

Lex shook his head. "I've got a better idea. If you'll give me a couple of days, I can rig a transmitter that can send a signal through your transistor radios. Then if the lookout sounds an alarm, whoever is in the locker room can slip out the door by the athletic field."

 

Jake frowned. "A couple of days, you say?" Lex nodded. "All right. Let me know when that's ready. And don't lose that key."

 

"I won't." Lex put the key in his pocket. "Listen, I've got to grab lunch before the next period. I'll talk to you guys later."

 

"See?" said Clark as Lex hurried off. "I told you he'd have some good ideas."

 

"Yeah?" said Jake. "We'll see."

 

* * * * * * * *

 

MONDAY AFTERNOON.

 

As Lana pedaled up the driveway, she saw that the garage was empty. Mrs. Luthor wasn't home yet from her shift at the hospital. Lana leaned her bicycle against the front porch and walked across the lawn toward the old tool shed. It was a mild March afternoon, and the door stood open. Lana tapped on the frame and peered inside. "Lex?"

 

Lex had turned the shed into a laboratory and workshop. Worktables lined three of the walls, cluttered with electronic parts, beakers and test tubes, a Bunsen burner, a microscope, and other scientific paraphernalia. A ham radio set and a chessboard occupied a table by the window, and several model airplanes and rockets hung from the ceiling.

 

Lex was sitting at one of the worktables, carefully smoothing a tray filled with fine sand. He turned at the sound of Lana's knock. "Lana!" he said. "Come on in."

 

Lana stepped inside. "So what did you find out?"

 

Briefly, Lex described his conversation with Jake and Clark.

 

Lana grimaced. "They're going to look in the girls' lockers? That's kind of creepy."

 

"Well, it buys us some time," said Lex. He picked up the key Jake had given him and pressed it carefully into the sand, then removed it with a pair of tweezers. "There. Now I can duplicate the key."

 

"Gosh, Lex, if you weren't going to be a scientist, you could be a criminal mastermind."

 

Lex grinned. "You mean like Professor Moriarty?"

 

"Or Dr. Sivana."

 

Lex looked puzzled. "Who?"

 

Lana blushed. "From the Mary Marvel comics? Never mind. So now what?"

 

"Well, if you don't mind being my accomplice -- " Lex held up a small piece of dull gray metal. "Could you use your heat-vision to melt this into the impression? It's got a pretty low melting point, so be careful not to vaporize it."

 

"Okay." Holding the metal between her thumb and forefinger, Lana lowered her glasses and narrowed her eyes. Lex watched, intrigued, as the metal began to glow and soften in Lana's grip. Drops of the molten metal fell from her fingers and into the key-shaped depression in the sand.

 

"Perfect," said Lex a few moments later. The molten metal was flush with the surface of the sand. "As soon as it cools, I can -- "

 

They heard the sound of a car in the driveway. "My mother's home," said Lex. He stood up and headed for the door. "Hi, Mom!"

 

Lana followed him outside. Mrs. Luthor was getting out of her car.

 

"Hello, Lex," she said. She smiled at Lana. "Hello, Lana."

 

"Hello, Mrs. Luthor."

 

"You should feel honored. Lex usually doesn't let anyone else inside his workshop -- not even his own mother. I call it his fortress of solitude."

 

"That's very poetic."

 

"Lex, I hope you offered your guest something to eat."

 

Lex looked down sheepishly. "Well -- "

 

"Honestly, Lex, where are your manners? I'll fix you two a snack. Lana, could you give me a hand in the kitchen?"

 

"Sure thing." Lana followed Mrs. Luthor into the house.

 

In the kitchen, Mrs. Luthor put some oatmeal cookies on a tray and took a pitcher of lemonade from the refrigerator. Turning, she regarded Lana for a moment.

 

"Lana, I had a -- special reason for asking you to come inside." She glanced down, then looked up again. "I wanted to thank you for -- for being Lex's friend."

 

"Oh, Mrs. Luthor," said Lana, embarrassed. "You don't have to thank me for that."

 

"Please -- sit down." Curious, Lana took a chair at the kitchen table. Mrs. Luthor sat down across from her. Clasping her hands on the table, she began to speak -- slowly, choosing her words with care.

 

"You know that Lex's father was a chemist at the Dow Chemical plant in Crawfordsville," she began. "Lex always looked up to him. Even when he was a little boy, he knew he wanted to be a scientist, too. So when Mark was killed in that automobile accident, Lex took it hard -- very hard. For months, he was moody -- withdrawn -- angry at the world. That's why I decided to move to Smallville, so Lex could be close to his uncle Max -- our only living relative."

 

She paused. "Don't get me wrong. Max is a good man, and he's done a lot for us. But Lex didn't start to come out of his -- his dark place until he met you. A mother knows these things. The way his eyes lit up whenever he mentioned your name -- I could tell you were a very special person to him. And he was happier -- more like the boy he used to be... "

 

Lana could feel tears welling up in her eyes as Mrs. Luthor went on. "You know that Lex is a very bright young man. I wanted to send him to a private school. He could have won a scholarship easily. Or if not, I would have found the money somehow. But Lex wouldn't hear of it. He said he wanted to stay in Smallville, with his friends. But I knew he meant you."

 

Lana started to speak. "I -- "

 

Mrs. Luthor held up a hand. "There's one more thing I want to say. Most people don't realize just how smart Lex is. Yes, everyone knows that he gets A's in school and wins first prize in science fairs. But they don't know that he's reading college textbooks on nuclear physics and electrical engineering and Heaven knows what else. Lex doesn't like to show that side of himself to other people. I guess he's afraid they'll think he's a show-off, or some kind of freak."

 

Mrs. Luthor gazed earnestly into Lana's eyes. "Having special gifts but keeping them a secret -- that means there's a part of you that you can't share with other people. I imagine it must feel very lonely at times. So I'm glad Lex has a ... special friend -- someone he can feel close to."    

 

Mrs. Luthor stood up. "Well," she said, smiling. "I'm sorry if I've embarrassed you. But I wanted you to know how much your friendship means to Lex."

 

Lana stood up and put her arms around Mrs. Luthor. "I'm glad," she said. "But -- you have no idea how much Lex's friendship means to me."

 

Mrs. Luthor returned Lana's hug, then gently stepped back. "Well!" she said, picking up the tray of cookies and handing Lana the pitcher of lemonade. "I guess we'd better take this outside before Lex starts wondering what's taking us so long."

 

Lana grinned. "I don't think you have to worry about that. Once Lex gets wrapped up in something, he forgets all about the time. He's like my dad that way."

 

* * * * * * * *

 

TUESDAY AFTERNOON.

 

Lana grabbed her schoolbooks and hopped out of the car. "So long, Suzy. Thanks for the lift."

 

Suzy gave a short toot on the horn as she turned the car around and drove off down the long dirt driveway. Lana hurried through the front porch and into the kitchen. Her parents were sitting at the table in dungarees and work shirts, sipping glasses of iced tea.

 

"Hello, dear," said Mrs. Lang. "How was school today?"

 

"It was okay," said Lana, setting her books on the table. "How come you and Daddy are in your grubbies?"

 

"We thought we'd take advantage of this nice weather and get a head start on the garden. We're just taking a break."

 

"Great. I'll give you a hand as soon as I get back from my patrol." Lana opened the cellar door and disappeared down the stairs -- but a few moments later, she came hurrying back up.

 

"Mom ... Dad," she said seriously. "I just read something on the teletype. There's been a terrible earthquake in Mexico City. Hundreds of people are dead, and the city's in ruins. I'm going there to help."

 

Professor Lang frowned. "Mexico?" he said. "Now, Lana, we've talked about this. You don't have any legal standing outside the U.S. You don't even have a passport."

 

"Please, Daddy. Do you think anyone's going to care about that? I just want to help. I can get people to hospitals and -- "

 

"And what if you run into another one of those green rocks?" Professor Lang glanced out the kitchen window. The day after Lana's near-fatal ordeal in the woods, he and Lex had retrieved the green rock and placed it in a lead canister and buried it deep in the back yard, under the locust tree.

 

Lana rolled her eyes. "For all we know, that's the only one there is. And if there are any more, they could be anywhere. You're not saying I should never leave the house, are you?"

 

Mrs. Lang reached across the table and took her husband's hand. "We should let her go, Henry," she said gently. "Lana was given her powers to help people, no matter where they happen to live. Remember the story of the good Samaritan?"

 

Sighing, Professor Lang shut his eyes for a moment. "All right," he said. "But humanitarian aid only, understand? Don't get involved with police business, or anything political."

 

"I won't." Lana stooped to kiss her father lightly on the forehead. "Don't worry, Daddy. I'll be fine." She turned and ran back down into the cellar.

 

"She's right, Henry," said Mrs. Lang as a muffled slam signaled Lana's departure through the secret tunnel. "Lana may be a teenager, but she's got a good head on her shoulders. Trust me, she won't let you down."

 

* * * * * * * *

 

Minutes later, high above the plateaus and valleys of central Mexico, Lana gazed down upon a devastated city.

 

As Supergirl, she'd seen communities destroyed by floods and fires and tornadoes. But she'd never seen a disaster of this magnitude before.

 

Buildings lay in ruins. Rubble filled the streets. Here and there, columns of black smoke rose into the air, along with the wail of sirens. Lana's heart sank. So much destruction, so many people in need ... Even with all her super-powers, what could she do? Where could she even begin?

 

As if in answer to her question, a child's voice reached her ears from the street below: "Vuelve aqui, Chucho! Come back!"

 

Looking down with her super-vision, she saw a little boy chasing a puppy down a narrow alley. Stooping, the boy grabbed the puppy and lifted it up off the cobblestones. But just as he was turning around, his eyes widened with fear. A brick wall, weakened by the tremors, was starting to topple towards him. He began to run back toward the street, but he stumbled and fell. A loose brick struck the cobblestones beside him, then another. Hugging the puppy close to his chest, the boy hunched over, squeezing his eyes shut ...

 

A long moment went by, then another ... Hardly daring to breathe, the boy opened his eyes and looked back over his shoulder.

 

A pretty girl with red hair and a colorful costume stood with her arms and shoulders pressed against the teetering wall. Wide cracks were spreading through the bricks and mortar as she slowly straightened her back, carefully pushing the crumbling masonry into an upright position. Next moment, the wall collapsed behind her in a great cloud of dust. 

 

The boy stared, open-mouthed. "Superchica?"

 

Lana smiled reassuringly. "Non te preocupes, pequeno. Ahora estas a salvo."

 

"Miguel!" A man was hurrying toward them from the street.

 

"Papa!" Still holding his puppy, the boy ran into his father's outstretched arms.

 

"Gracias, Superchica!" the man cried. "Gracias!"

 

"I'm glad I could help. Please, stay safe. Adios!" And off she flew. Her super-hearing was summoning her to another job ...

 

As the rocketed across the devastated city, her super-vision revealed a family huddled in the cellar of their home, where they'd fled for safety when the earthquake struck. Now the cellar stairs were blocked with rubble, while the ceiling sagged ominously under the wreckage of the house.

 

Lana flew down at an angle. Her fists struck the pavement with the force of a jackhammer, moving back and forth at super-speed as she blasted her way down through earth and bedrock  ...

 

The family in the cellar jumped back in alarm as Lana came crashing through the wall. Daylight streamed through a tunnel leading up toward the street.

 

"Apurense! Hurry!"Lana exclaimed, pointing to the tunnel. Picking their way through the rubble littering the floor, the family hurried forward and began crawling to safety -- the children first, then the mother. As the father scrambled frantically after them, he heard a loud prolonged rumbling from behind ...

 

Gasping, he climbed out of the tunnel and stood blinking in the daylight, embracing his wife and children. They watched as the ruins of their house broke through the ground floor, filling the cellar with an enormous mound of broken brick, crumbling plaster, splintered wood ... and burying the girl who'd saved them.

 

The mother began to murmur a prayer. But the next moment, Supergirl burst upward from the rubble like a blue and red rocket. Hovering above the ruins of the house, she pointed down the street.

 

"Go to the plaza," she said. "There are people who can help you." And without waiting for a reply, she flew off as the family stood gaping after her.

 

A sheet of flame was reaching high into the air toward the west. As she flew across the city, a bright streak against the smoke-filled sky, people looked up, pointing eagerly.

 

"Miren! En el cielo!"

 

"Es un avia?"

 

"Es una avion?"

 

"No -- es Superchica!"

 

Lana's super-vision had already revealed the cause of the fire by the time she arrived at the scene. A broken gas main was sticking up from a crack in the pavement, and sparks from a broken power line had turned the escaping gas into a roaring fireball.

 

First things first, she thought. Striding through the flame, oblivious to the fierce heat, she grasped the broken pipe and squeezed it shut. Tracing the gas main underground with her x-ray vision, she saw that the regulator valve was still intact. Good. The valve would shut off the flow of gas.

 

Now she turned toward the broken power line. Its ends lay coiled on the pavement, spitting sparks and hissing like a pair of angry snakes. Stooping, Lana picked up the cables, her red hair fanning out behind her as thousands of volts coursed harmlessly through her invulnerable body.

 

Twin beams of heat vision lanced from her eyes, welding the broken cable together, as she rose off the ground and hung the line back on the pole it had fallen from. Turning slowly in mid-air, she began scanning the city in an ever-widening spiral ...

 

Several blocks away, a telephone pole had fallen on a taxicab, crushing the roof and trapping the unconscious driver inside. Two men were struggling to move the heavy pole, but without success.

 

"Alejense! Stand back!"

 

Stepping forward, Lana lifted the telephone pole effortlessly off the cab and tossed it aside. But when she tried to open the door, the handle snapped off in her hand. The door was caught in the crumpled frame. Lana plunged her fingers into the steel and pulled back. There was a popping of rivets and a loud metallic groan as she ripped the door loose from its frame. She set it down and turned her attention to the burly man slumped, unconscious, behind the steering wheel..

 

Quickly, she assessed his condition. Shallow breathing ...a weak but steady pulse ... no broken bones. It should be safe to move him. As gently as possible, she slid one hand behind his back and another beneath his legs and drew him out of the cab. Cradling the heavy man in her arms, she rose slowly into the air and flew off toward the center of the city. A first-aid station had been set up near the Plaza de la Constitucion. But she'd have to hurry. Her super-hearing was picking up the clang of a fire alarm ...

 

And so it went. Hours went by as Lana flew back and forth across the devastated city --  clearing streets, digging out victims, carrying the wounded to hospitals and first-aid stations, putting out fires, repairing water mains and power lines... Hardly had she finished one task before her super-senses told her she was needed in another part of the city.

 

The sun was low in the sky when she spotted a group of people working frantically to clear a heap of brick and plaster from a narrow street on the outskirts of the city. She flew down.

 

"Que pasa?" she asked a tearful woman.

 

"It's my father," the woman wailed. "He's buried under that -- "

 

But Lana was already at work, flinging the rubble aside at super-speed. The onlookers stepped back, watching in awe as the mound dwindled away before their eyes, until ...

 

An elderly man lay groaning on the cobblestones. His clothes were torn and dusty, his face and hands were cut and bruised. His breath came in short painful gasps. Lana could see that several of his ribs were broken and his right lung was punctured.

 

The old man's eyelids flickered feebly. "Ma ... Maria?" he whispered.

 

"Father!" The old man's daughter was kneeling beside him, along with her husband and children, while the other onlookers stood by in solemn silence.

 

Lana spoke quietly to one of them. "I can't move him. He's too badly hurt. I'll bring a doctor -- "

 

But the man shook his head. Laying a finger to his lips, he pointed to where the old man was lying. Lana saw that a priest was kneeling by his side. Taking a small vial from a leather case and pouring a few drops on the dying man's forehead, the priest traced the sign of the cross and murmured a few words in Latin. The old man stopped breathing. The priest laid a gentle hand on his face and closed his eyelids.

 

Tears sprang to Lana's eyes as she approached the daughter. "Lo -- lo siento mucho," she said. "I'm sorry. I wish I had been here sooner. But -- so many people -- I -- "

 

The woman looked earnestly into Lana's eyes, shaking her head. "Sorry? No. You did a wonderful thing. My father -- he saw his family before he died, and received the sacrament. Thank you!"

 

The priest approached. Reaching into his case, he took out a small disk of pewter attached to a thin chain and pressed it into Lana's hand.

 

"It is a St. Christopher medal," he explained. He spoke in English, with only a trace of an accent. "He is the patron of travelers, and you have come a long way to be here in our time of need. May he help you in all your journeys."

 

Lana put the medal in the pouch of her cape. "Thank you, Father." The wail of an ambulance was reaching her ears from the center of the city ...

 

* * * * * * * *

 

Mrs. Lang had put away the last of the dinner dishes and Professor Lang had finished his cup of coffee, but they lingered in the kitchen, waiting for Lana to return. At last they heard the slam of the trapdoor and slow footsteps coming up the cellar stairs.

 

"Hi, Mom. Hi, Daddy." Lana was usually full of excitement when she returned from a mission, eager to tell her parents all about it, but now she was quiet, pensive. "I'm sorry I missed dinner."

 

"That's all right, honey," said Mrs. Lang. "I've been keeping it warm in the oven for you."

 

Lana didn't feel much like eating, but she forced a smile. "Thanks, Mom." She sat at the table in silence while her mother brought over a plate of tuna casserole.

 

Professor Lang cleared his throat. "So how was -- ?"

 

Lana put down her fork and looked up, her eyes glistening with tears. "It was awful," she said. "The whole city was in ruins -- families lost their homes -- people were hurt and -- and dying -- " She broke down sobbing as her mother rushed over to put her arms around her and Professor Lang laid his hand on hers.

 

"I tried to help," she said, sniffling. "But there were so many -- I couldn't be everywhere -- I tried -- "

 

"It's all right, honey," said Mrs. Lang. "Not even Supergirl can save everybody. You did what you could, and that's what's important. God knows you did your best, and so do we."

 

"Your mother's right," said Professor Lang. "You did the right thing, going there to help. I'm very proud of you."

 

Lana wiped the tears from her cheeks. "Thanks."

 

"What do you say we all go out for ice cream?" her father suggested.

 

Lana shook her head. "Thanks, but I think I'll just do my homework and go to bed, if that's okay." She stood up and gave her parents a hug. "Goodnight, Mom. Goodnight, Daddy. I love you."

 

"We love you, too." Her parents watched as she went slowly up the stairs to her room. 

 

 

* * * * * * * *

 

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON.

 

Lex was waiting by the door of the girls' locker room when Jake and Clark showed up.

 

"Did you bring your transistor radios?" he asked.

 

They nodded. Lex took Jake's radio and carefully adjusted the dial. Then he did the same to Clark's.

 

"I've set your radios to a clear frequency," he explained as he handed them back. "It's the same frequency I can use to send a signal with this." He took a small transmitter from his pocket. "So if anyone comes along while you two are in there, I'll just push this button, like so -- "

 

A soft beep came from the boys' radios.

 

"And you can leave by the outside door."

 

Jake nodded. "Good." He turned to Clark. "Got your key? All right, then." He tore two pages from his pocket notebook and handed one to Clark. "These are the lockers we want to check. You take the ones on this list, I'll take the others. Let's go."

 

He pushed open the door of the locker room and stepped inside, followed by Clark. Lex sat down on a bench next to the trophy case and took out a calculus textbook.

 

Only a few minutes had gone by when the door opened and the boys came back out into the hallway. Jake was clutching a brown paper bag. From the way it bulged, and its apparent weight, it might have contained a few articles of clothing. "Got it!"

 

Lex stared. "Gosh. That didn't take long. Who -- ?"

 

"Meet us on the football field at 3:30 and you'll find out. Come on, Clark." The two of them hurried down the hallway toward the classrooms.

 

* * * * * * * *

 

Shading his eyes against the afternoon sun, Clark squinted along the empty football field toward the school building.

 

"Think she'll show?" he asked.

 

Jake was reclining lazily in the bleachers with one hand resting lightly on the paper bag.

 

"She'll be here," he said. "If she cares about her precious secret."

 

"Heads up," said Clark. "Someone's coming."

 

Grabbing the bag, Jake stood up and looked toward the school building. Sure enough, a dark figure was approaching, casting a long shadow down the field. "Maybe it's Lex."

 

"No, it's a girl," said Clark. "I think it's -- "

 

"It's her, all right." Jake grinned in anticipation.

 

Clark felt suddenly nervous. "What do we say?"

 

"You don't say anything," Jake told him. "Just let me do the talking. Now shut up. Here she comes." He smiled at the girl striding toward him. "Hello, Molly. I see you got my message."

 

Molly Driscoll stood glaring up at him, a scowl darkening her pretty face. "This better be important," she said. "I'm having a pretty crummy day."

 

"Oh, it's important, all right," said Jake. Reaching inside the bag, he pulled out a few inches of red cloth. "Recognize this?"

 

Molly stared. "Is that my costume?" she demanded. "How did you -- ? Were you -- ? Did you take that out of my locker, you creep?"

 

Jake smirked. "Never mind that," he said. "What's important is that I know your secret."

 

"Big deal!" Molly snapped. "So you know that I'm going to the costume party as Supergirl. Some secret."

 

Jake's jaw dropped. "Costume party?" Now he remembered -- there was going to be a costume party and dance at the school on Saturday night.

 

"So -- so you're telling me you're not really Supergirl?" he demanded.

 

Molly drew her arm back and slapped Jake firmly across his cheek.

 

"Thank your lucky stars I'm not Supergirl," she said. "Or that slap would have knocked you clear to Shelbyville!"

 

Jake touched the red welt that Molly's slap had left on his cheek. His eyes glittered with cold fury and his lips curled into a snarl as he raised his arm. Clark had never seen Jake like this before. It frightened him a little.

 

"Uh, Jake?" he said. "Maybe we should -- "

 

But Jake wasn't listening. His arm lashed out, ready to return Molly's blow. Clark tried to step between them ...

 

There was a sudden rustle of wind, a blur of red and blue against the sky. A gloved hand was holding Jake's wrist in a grip of steel.

 

"Is there a problem?"

 

Jake turned and stared at Supergirl for a moment, speechless; then he regained his composure.

 

"No problem," he said. "We were just talking. No crime in that, is there?"

 

Supergirl regarded him evenly for a few moments, then released his wrist. Slowly, deliberately, Jake brushed a strand of hair away from his forehead.

 

"I thought I heard my name," Supergirl said. She looked at Molly. "Is everything okay?"

 

Molly stood blinking up at Supergirl. "I -- I -- " She cleared her throat. "I mean -- yes -- everything's fine -- thanks!" Picking up the bag, she turned and hurried off, back toward the school building.

 

Supergirl watched her for several moments, then looked down at Jake and Clark. "Well, I'd better get back to my patrol," she said. "You never know when there might be trouble."

 

The boys stood watching as Supergirl flew off, a streak of red against the blue sky. "Listen, Jake," said Clark. "Maybe this whole thing isn't such a good idea."

 

"Are you kidding?" Jake was looking at the list of names in his pocket notebook. He took out a ball-point pen and crossed out the name "Molly Driscoll." Then he shut the notebook and put it back in his hip pocket. "We're just getting started."

 

 

* * * * * * * *

 

THURSDAY MORNING.

 

"Lana! Wait up!"

 

Lex and Lana turned around. Hurrying toward them, through the crowd of students making their way to the entrance of the school building, was Molly Driscoll.

 

"Hi, Lana. Hi, Lex," she said, slightly out of breath. "Lana, I just wanted to thank you again for making those adjustments to my Supergirl costume. I tried it on last night and it fits perfectly."

 

"I was happy to do it," said Lana. "You and I are just about the same size, so that made it easy."

 

"Sorry I had to rush off when you gave it to me yesterday. I was on my way to gym class."

 

"That's okay."

 

Molly nodded. "Listen, speaking of Supergirl, wait'll I tell you -- "

 

A bell shrilled loudly.

 

"Oh, golly, there's the first bell. I've gotta run. I'll tell you at lunch, okay? Unless -- " She looked at the two of them inquiringly.

 

"That's okay," said Lex. "I'm going to eat lunch with Clark. He's got a chem test this afternoon."

 

"Great!" said Molly. "See you at lunch, Lana." She hurried into the school building.

 

Lex grinned at Lana. "So you knew those guys would find a Supergirl costume in Molly's locker."

 

"Yeah. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. Besides, I wanted to see what they'd do once they thought they'd found out who Supergirl is."

 

"You don't suppose they'll give up, do you?"

 

Lana shook her head. "I'm afraid they're just getting started."

 

 

 

 

   

  

 

 

 

 

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