Written by Team Acenaut :: [Wednesday, 06 September 2006 16:31] Last updated by :: [Tuesday, 08 April 2014 11:57]
I know I haven't written in a while. Between school and my "secret activities," I've been a very busy girl! But so much happened today, I just have to tell you all about it!
This afternoon I went swimming in the Chukchi Sea, way up above the Arctic Circle, about two hundred miles from the coast of Alaska. I just love that part of the world! It's so spacious, and the ice and the ocean sparkle like diamonds, and I can use my super-powers without having to worry about being seen. Of course, the freezing temperatures didn't bother me at all, even though I was only wearing a swimsuit!
I'd been swimming underwater for about fifteen minutes when I met up with a pod of orcas. There were about a dozen of them, heading for the surface, and I joined them. We all shot out of the water together, and you should have heard the splash they made! The biggest of the orcas -- he must have been twenty feet long -- rolled over next to me, and when I rubbed his belly, he started purring like an enormous kitten! It was so cute!
But I had to be getting back to Smallville, or I'd be late for dinner. So I waved good-bye to my new friends and flew up into a rain cloud to rinse away the salt water. I let the wind dry me off as I flew back to the secluded shingle where I'd left my clothes. I changed out of my swimsuit and into a pair of black leather motorcycle pants and a snug leather jacket that zipped up to my chin ...
That's right, dear diary! I wonder what my friends in Smallville would say if they saw shy, modest Lana Lang decked out in tight black leather? Of course, Mom wouldn't hear of it at first. She said it wasn't ladylike. But I pointed out that other fabrics just don't stand up to the kinds of wear and tear I put them through. "You don't want to go on replacing my cotton dresses?" I asked. "Or have me flying around naked?" Of course, that settled it!
But not even leather is as indestructible as I am, so I still have to be careful -- especially when I want to fly at super-speed.
Did you know that meteors don't really turn white-hot from friction when they fall through earth's atmosphere? It's the air around the meteor that does that. And that's just what happens to me when I pour on the speed. The air around me turns red, then orange, then yellow, then white as it gets hotter and hotter from friction. It doesn't bother me, of course, but whatever I'm wearing, or carrying with me, turns to ashes pretty quickly.
So here's what I do: I start flying straight up -- slowly at first (merely a few hundred feet per second!), but faster and faster as I go higher. You see, as the air becomes thinner, combustion becomes more difficult. In just a couple of minutes, I'm in the upper stratosphere, where air friction isn't really a problem. Then I can really pour it on until I'm directly over my destination, and down I go!
It works, but think how convenient it would be to have an indestructible costume!
So there I was, flying straight down toward Smallville. Big dark thunderclouds were covering most of Kansas, and lightning was flickering all around me as I dove through. Did you know that lightning can heat the air around it to a temperature of 30,000 degrees? I can take it, of course, but my clothes sure couldn't!
But what I saw, when I broke out from under the clouds, put everything else out of my mind. Bearing down on Smallville was the biggest tornado I've ever seen!
Okay, I haven't seen that many tornados. But I've lived in Kansas all my life, and I've seen a few -- small ones, from far away. This one was big and scary. It was coming from the direction of Crawfordsville, and it was heading straight for the Kents' farm!
I used my super-vision to make sure that the Kents were safe in their basement shelter, and that my parents were safe in ours. It looked as if everyone in Smallville had taken cover, so nobody would see me if I went into action. Not that it mattered, of course, with my friends' and family's lives at stake!
This was a job for the world's mightiest girl!
I flew straight at the twister. I could see that it was spinning counter-clockwise, carrying all kinds of debris with it -- branches torn off trees, and fence posts ripped out of the ground, and a child's tricycle, and what looked like part of a roof ... As I got right up close to it, a barn door smashed into me and broke up into dozens of pieces.
I began flying clockwise around the tornado, hoping that I could slow it down by setting up a powerful wind in the opposite direction. It was already moving across the Kents' farm. I saw it pick up a tool shed and tear it apart. In a few moments it would reach their house! I began to pour on the speed. The sleeves of my jacket began to shred. The air around me began to glow red-hot. But that didn't matter. I flew faster ... faster ...
The winds began to slow down. The howling in my ears began to diminish. A few moments later, everything was quiet and still. I looked around. There was a big mess to clean up, but at least the Kents were safe -- and so were my parents.
I used my super-vision to check out the damage the tornado had caused. Luckily, its path led mostly across open farmland. It hadn't come near the center of town, and from what I heard later, there hadn't been any casualties -- although part of the DuPont chemical laboratory outside Crawfordsville had been destroyed.
Speaking of damage, though -- my clothes were ruined. The sleeves of my jacket and the legs of my pants hung in tatters, and what wasn't shredded was scorched. I reeked of burnt leather. Ewww!
I was just about to fly home when something caught my eye. It was lying amid the debris that the twister had dumped on the Kents' property. It was a blanket-sized piece of bright blue cloth. What caught my eye was the fact that it seemed completely intact. It wasn't ripped -- it wasn't even smudged or wrinkled. I picked it up. It felt soft and smooth to the touch. I grabbed one edge of it in both hands and tried to tear it. Nothing happened -- even though I can rip sheet metal as if it were cardboard.
I looked around. There was another piece of cloth hanging intact from the branch of a tree. It was the same size as the first, but bright red. And a quick search with my x-ray vision turned up a third piece of cloth, yellow in color, lying under a piece of corrugated siding from somebody's barn.
I stood there for a moment, wondering where the cloth had come from. But the Kents might be coming out of their basement any moment now, and I'd better not let them see me -- especially looking like this! So I draped the cloth over my arm and flew toward home, keeping low to the ground. Wait till I told my parents how I'd stopped a tornado!
Well, dear diary, that's all for now. But I have a feeling you'll be hearing more about that "super-cloth" ...
There was nobody on the porch, or in the living room, or in the kitchen. Lana opened the door to the basement and peered down the stairs.
Mrs. Lang came rushing up the stairs, followed by her husband.
"Oh, Lana!" she cried, throwing her arms around her daughter. "Thank goodness! Your father and I were so -- " She stepped back, staring at Lana's tattered attire. "Lana! What happened to your clothes?"
"Sorry, Mom. I got into a fight with a twister."
"Well," Professor Lang remarked dryly, "I guess I don't need to ask who won."
Lana sighed. "I'll tell you all about it later. Right now I want a nice hot bath."
Her father nodded. "Of course. Just not too hot, okay?" A few weeks earlier, Lana had used her heat vision to bring her bathwater to a rolling boil. The steam had blistered the ceiling plaster and peeled away the wallpaper.
Lana grinned. "Okay." She hugged her parents. "Love you." She trotted up the stairs to the second floor.
AN HOUR LATER ...
"Well," said Professor Lang, "it sounds like you did a super job!"
"Yes," said Mrs. Lang. "I'm very proud of you, Lana ... even if you did take a risk by flying around in the open -- and in the daytime."
Lana was sitting at the kitchen table, dressed in a terry-cloth robe. A towel was wrapped around her hair like a turban, and the three pieces of brightly colored cloth lay neatly folded in front of her.
"Well," she explained, "I did check with my super-vision to make sure nobody was around. But would that have made a difference? Should I have let the tornado destroy the Kents' home just because someone might have seen me?"
"Well, no, of course not, honey," said Mrs. Lang. "But we've gone over this. Once people know that you have these amazing powers -- "
"But people won't know that I have super-powers," said Lana. "That is, they won't know that Lana Lang has super-powers. Look, I've been wearing a brunette wig ever since the day I changed. I've been wearing glasses for six months. I wear loose clothes to hide my figure, and I pretend to be shy and awkward. Just like Sir Percy Blakeney pretended to be stupid and lazy so that no one would suspect he was the Scarlet Pimpernel."
Lana saw that she had her parents' attention.
"Now if I wore a colorful costume like Mary Marvel's whenever I do something super in public," she went on, "and if I used a flashy name like hers ... why, who'd ever guess that the red-headed girl with super-powers was secretly mousy Lana Lang?"
"But do you think you're ready, dear?" asked Mrs. Lang.
"I've been practicing with my powers for a year now," Lana pointed out. "I've memorized books on first aid and firefighting and all sorts of things I'll need to know. It's just a matter of time before some big emergency happens in broad daylight -- and you said yourself that I shouldn't sit back just because people might see me."
"Lana did stop a tornado today," said Professor Lang, filling his pipe. "I'd say she's ready to handle just about anything." He patted his pockets, looking for a match.
"Here, Daddy," said Lana. "I'll get that." She focused her heat-vision on the bowl of his pipe. The tobacco began to glow red-hot and an aromatic plume of smoke rose into the air.
"So the only problem now," Lana went on, "is how to keep my costume from falling apart every time I go into action. And I think I may have found a solution." She nodded at the three pieces of cloth on the table and explained how she had found them.
Professor Lang was intrigued. "And you say they're indestructible?" he asked, scrutinizing the red cloth.
Lana nodded. "I can't tear them, or scratch them, or burn them."
Mrs. Lang was fingering the yellow cloth. "Where do you suppose they come from, Henry?"
"Well, I heard on the radio that the tornado destroyed a wing of the DuPont laboratory outside Crawfordsville. And I know that DuPont has been developing some ultra-tough new miracle fabrics. There was an article about a material called 'Kevlar' in Scientific American a few months ago. But this goes way beyond anything I've heard of."
"Wherever this cloth came from," said Lana, "I can use it to make an indestructible costume for myself."
"I don't know, Lana," said Mrs. Lang. "If it belongs to DuPont -- "
"Oh, I'm sure a big company like DuPont won't miss three pieces of cloth," said Professor Lang. "They must have other samples -- and notes, lab reports ... "
"Besides, Mom, you said my powers are a gift from God," said Lana. "And now, just when I need an indestructible costume, this cloth practically falls out of the sky!"
Mrs. Lang pursed her lips, considering. "Well." she said at last, "I suppose we could say that this is a case of finders-keepers."
"But aren't you forgetting something, Pumpkin?" asked Professor Lang. "You can't cut this cloth with scissors, or poke a needle through it. So how are you going to make a costume from it?"
Lana leaned back and gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling. Idly, she cast her x-ray vision up through two floors and into the cluttered attic ...
A broad smile spread across her face as she sat up again. "Just leave that to me, Daddy," she said. "I've got an idea."
THREE DAYS LATER ...
"Okay," said Lana. "You can look now!"
Her parents opened their eyes. Lana was standing in front of the fireplace. She had removed her wig and glasses. Throwing her shoulders back and placing her hands on her hips, she struck a dramatic pose as she modeled the costume she'd been at work on for the last three days.
A blue jersey hugged every contour of her torso and clung tightly to the sleek musculature of her arms. A strip of yellow cloth encircled her hips, and a short blue skirt fell halfway down her thighs. Snug red boots accentuated the lines of her calves, and a red cape hung from her shoulders to her waist. And emblazoned in red across the front of her jersey was a stylized "S" set in a shield-shaped outline like the escutcheon of a knight.
"Well?" she asked, turning around and striking a few more poses. "What do you think?"
"I don't know, Lana," said Mrs. Lang. "Isn't it a little ... tight?"
"That's the way the cloth fits, Mom. It's very clingy. Besides, a snug fit is aerodynamically efficient."
"And the skirt -- don't you think it's too short?"
"It's no shorter than what the cheerleaders wear. And I didn't have that much material to work with."
Mrs. Lang shook her head. "I don't know," she repeated. "It just doesn't look like something I'd want my daughter to wear in public."
"That's the point, dear," Professor Lang said. "Lana is the last person anyone would expect to wear something that, um, dramatic. How'd you do it, Pumpkin?"
Lana grinned. "Simple. I unraveled the cloth ... then I wove this costume on Grandma Potter's old loom up in the attic!"
"Lana!" gasped Mrs. Lang. "I didn't know you could work a loom!"
"I couldn't, three days ago. But I'm a pretty quick study."
"Very impressive," declared Professor Lang. "But something just occurred to me. If you want to protect your, uh, 'secret identity,' you shouldn't go around leaving fingerprints on everything you touch."
"Way ahead of you, Daddy." Lana reached into a pouch in the lining of her cape and took out a pair of red gloves. She pulled them on. They fit snugly over her hands and flared dramatically along her wrists.
"And here's something else I've been thinking about," said Lana. "I've looked at the geological survey maps of Crawford County, and I'm pretty sure I can dig a structurally stable tunnel from our basement out to the woods near Strawberry Lake. That way, nobody will see me flying out of this house when I'm in my costume."
Professor Lang nodded approvingly. "Super," he said. He turned to his wife. "Well, dear, it looks like our Lana has thought of everything. What do you say?"
Mrs. Lang still looked dubious, but she slowly nodded her head. "I suppose. And those colors do go nicely with your hair and complexion."
"Just one thing, Pumpkin," said Professor Lang. He pointed the stem of his pipe at the emblem on Lana's jersey. "What does the 'S' stand for?"
"Hmmm ... Susie Strong?"
Lana giggled. "No!"
"How about ... Smallville Sensation?"
Lana shook her head.
"I've got it! Scarlet Pimpernel!"
"Silly!" Lana tossed her head, once again striking a defiant pose. "It stands for ... Supergirl!"
TWO WEEKS LATER ...
Hank pulled up by the Smallville Orphanage. He set the parking brake and shut his eyes for a moment. He'd been delivering propane since five o'clock, and he still had two more stops to make before lunch. Sighing, he stepped out of the truck. These double shifts were taking it out of him, but he needed the overtime.
Making sure the hose was securely attached to the supply valve, Hank dragged the other end toward the old livery stable and connected it to the tank by the entrance. The wooden double doors were shut, but he could hear noises inside. It sounded like the youngsters were watching a movie.
He took out a large red handkerchief and mopped his face. It had been hot for the past week -- hot and dry. He checked the reading on the tank, then reached into his shirt pocket. Dang! Now where did I leave my pencil? Sighing, he walked back to the truck.
He was reaching into the glove compartment when he heard the sudden roar of flames.
Lana was strolling toward the Smallville Public Library when her super-hearing alerted her to an unusual sound. It was a muffled pop -- like the sound a Bunsen burner makes when it's lit, only louder -- and it came from the direction of the orphanage.
Lana lowered her glasses and cast her super-vision off to her right. She absorbed every detail of the scene at a glance: the propane truck -- the sandy-haired man fumbling with the supply valve -- the black hose, writhing about like an injured snake and spewing fire -- and the flames consuming the front wall of the old stable. Her x-ray vision revealed that six children, and one of the orphanage matrons, were trapped inside.
Uh-oh, thought Lana. This looks like a job for ...
She was already hurrying toward a little grove of poplars, sweeping the area with her super-vision. The coast was clear ; there was nobody around to see what she was about to do ...
In a blur of super-speed, Lana pulled off her dress and laid it on the ground. She removed her wig and her glasses, her saddle shoes and bobby sox, and rolled everything up into a bundle. She rolled down the sleeves of her super-costume, pulled on her boots and her gloves ... and in the blink of an eye, the mousy teenager had transformed herself into --
Lana could barely suppress a giggle of nervous excitement at the thought of going into action, publicly, for the first time. But there was no time to lose. She picked up the bundle of clothes at her feet and flew straight up into the leafy canopy of the tallest poplar. She shoved the bundle into a cleft in the trunk, then -- faster than a speeding bullet -- rocketed toward the orphanage.
The hose was still thrashing about, vomiting flame, as Lana swooped down toward the propane truck. A quick check with her x-ray vision revealed that the supply valve was firmly shut. Still, she'd better make sure the burning gas didn't get any closer to the truck. She grabbed the end of the hose and squeezed, suffocating the flame.
She turned toward the driver. "Get the truck away from here!" she shouted. "Move!"
The driver was staring at her, open-mouthed, but at the sound of her voice he jumped into the truck and released the parking brake. Lana heard the truck rumble off as she turned toward the burning stable.
The front of the stable was a sheet of flame that crackled and roared as it poured billows of black smoke into the sky. Lana saw that the blaze had crept round the side of the building -- and that a jet of blue flame was spurting from the open valve of the propane tank.
Uh-oh, she thought. If that tank explodes before I can get those kids to safety ...
A searing wind tossed her hair about and tugged at her cape as she ran toward the tank. She yanked it off the wall and held it over her head, then soared up, up into the air. She drew her arms back and heaved the tank high over a stubbled cornfield. Two beams of incandescent heat shot from her eyes, igniting the tank into a colossal fireball that drew oohs and aahs, and even some scattered applause, from the crowd that had begun to gather below.
Lana swooped back down to the orphanage. The town's one and only fire engine had arrived, and half a dozen volunteer firemen were moving about -- connecting hoses, setting up pumps -- under the direction of Smallville's veteran fire chief Amos Parker. Locals, young and old, were converging on the scene from every direction, a few to help, most merely to gawk.
A murmur of astonishment rose from the crowd as Lana smashed her way through the flaming wall of the stable. Scanning the smoke-filled interior with her super-vision, she stepped forward and gathered a child under each arm ; then, moving as quickly as she dared with her precious load, she ran back outside and set the children down in the shade of some trees a hundred yards away. A streak of blue and red, she dashed back to the stable and returned with two more children ; and in just a few more seconds, she was setting down the last two children ... dazed, breathless, sooty-faced and teary-eyed -- but safe.
But the matron was still in the burning building. Lana's legs churned like a flywheel and her feet tore a rut along the lawn as she raced back into the stable. The entire building was now ablaze ; the fire roared like a torrent and threw out a wall of heat like a blast from a forge. Desperately, Lana peered through the smoke ...
Outside, the crowd watched in horror as the stable came crashing down. The walls buckled, the roof caved in, and a thousand sparks flew upward through the smoke like a swarm of fireflies. Chief Parker shook his head grimly. Anybody inside that building was beyond saving now ...
Suddenly, a charred timber flew upward from the blazing wreckage, spinning like a baton ; then another ; and a shape, indistinct in the smoke, rose into the sky.
Lana hovered for a moment above the flames, looking around her, getting her bearings. Her red cape no longer hung from her shoulders ; it was wrapped around something that she held cradled in her arms.
Slowly she descended, touching down some distance from the burning heap of lumber. Carefully she laid down the bundle in her arms ; gently she unwrapped it. The matron lay motionless on the grass. Her eyes were closed, her breathing was shallow and labored. But she was alive.
A fireman was already hurrying forward with an oxygen tank and a mask. Lana stood up, putting her cape back on, and surveyed the scene. Chief Parker and his men were laboring away, trying desperately to quench the blaze and prevent it from spreading to the main building ; but the antiquated pumper was fighting a losing battle.
Lana sprang into the air. She had an idea.
Moments later, she was hovering over the placid surface of Strawberry Lake. She flung out her arms and began spinning like a human top. Faster and faster she spun, whipping up a vortex that began drawing water up out of the lake. Lana rose higher and higher, pulling the column of water up with her until it reached a height of fifty feet.
Still spinning, Lana began making her way back to the orphanage, pulling the waterspout across cornfields and pastures until she was directly above the flaming ruins of the stable. She stopped spinning -- and two thousand cubic feet of water came splashing down, dousing the blaze with an enormous hiss and a cloud of steam.
Lana strode across the sodden lawn and approached Chief Parker.
"Er -- hello," she said. She felt somewhat nervous, speaking to someone in her new persona. Smile, she told herself. Act confident -- just like Mary Marvel. "I got everyone out safely," she said. "I'm, uh, sorry I couldn't save the building."
"Don't be," said Chief Parker. "That old stable was a firetrap. I've been trying to get the trustees to tear it down for years." His mild blue eyes regarded Lana curiously. "Who are you, miss?" he asked. "And how -- how --?"
"I'm ... Supergirl," Lana replied. Somewhat self-consciously, she put her hands on her hips and threw her shoulders back. "And I just want to help people."
A corner of Chief Parker's mouth twitched. "Well ... Supergirl ... I'm Amos Parker. I'm Smallville's fire chief -- and police chief -- and I want to help people, too. So it looks like we have something in common." He regarded Lana with growing wonder. "I'm sixty-two years old," he said at last. I've seen a lot of things in my lifetime -- automobiles and airplanes and rockets and talking pictures and television and who knows what else. My grandson even tells me I'll see men walk on the moon someday. But I must say, I never expected to see -- " He shook his head. "It beats me how a pretty little gal like you can do those things. But if it hadn't been for you -- well, a lot of people might have lost their lives, and I'm not just talking about the young'uns in that tinderbox."
Lana blushed and looked down. "It's what I'm here for," she said. "Any time you need me -- "
"Well, could you drop by my office sometime this afternoon? You can help me write up my report on this fire. And maybe tell me a bit more about yourself."
"I'll do that," Lana smiled. "But right now I've got to be going. See you later, Chief Parker."
Turning, Lana was about to spring into the air when she felt a tug on her cape. She looked down. A little girl -- one of the children she had rescued -- was gazing up at her with wide, solemn eyes.
"Ascuse me," she said. "Did you save my kitty, too?"
Lana knelt down and smiled reassuringly. "I didn't see your kitty inside, sweetie," she said. "And I have very good eyes. I bet he ran outside when the fire started."
"Then where is he?"
"Let me see if I can find him." Lana thought for a moment. Where would a frightened kitten run off to? She looked up and scanned the branches of a nearby tree with her x-ray vision -- then another -- then ... Aha!
"Is your kitty gray, with one white foot?" she asked the little girl.
The girl nodded.
"Well, I see him way up in that big elm tree over there."
The girl's eyes widened. "You can see him all the way over there?"
"I told you -- I have very good eyes. Shall we go get him?"
The girl nodded.
Hand in hand, Lana and the little girl strolled over to the elm tree and gazed up into its leafy branches.
"Do you want to help me get him down?"
The girl nodded.
Lana leaned over and picked up the girl. "Now I'm going to fly up into those branches. You're not scared, are you?"
The girl shook her head.
Lana rose, slowly and gently, up along the trunk of the tree. "Watch your head." She wove her way carefully among the branches until they were eye to eye with a scruffy grey kitten who crouched low on a branch and regarded his rescuers suspiciously through narrowed green eyes.
"Nice kitty," said Lana, holding out her hand. The kitten swiped at it.
The little girl tapped the kitten on the nose with a forefinger. "That's not very polite, Mr. White Paw!" she said scoldingly. "We've come to wescue you!" Sulkily, the kitten allowed the girl to pick him up.
"All set?" asked Lana. Mr. White Paw glared at her ; the girl nodded. Lana carried her two passengers back down to the ground. The other five children had gathered round the tree. They jumped up and down excitedly as Lana set the girl back down on the ground.
"Can you give me a ride?" asked another girl eagerly.
"Me too!" cried a little boy.
"Me three!" chimed in another.
Lana laughed. "I'm sorry," she said, "but I have to go now. But I'll come back and give you all rides some day soon -- okay?"
She took a few running steps and launched herself up into the air. Faces looked up ; fingers pointed ; and a loud murmur of excitement ran through the crowd.
"Three cheers for Supergirl!" Chief Parker shouted through his bullhorn. "Hip hip ..."
"Hip hip ... "
"Hip hip ..."
Lana hovered, blushing yet poised, before the cheering crowd. She smiled and waved ; then she turned and flew off.
"Pete Ross!" scolded a tall blonde girl in the crowd below.
"What are you staring at?"
"Huh?" Pete was gazing up at Supergirl as she flew off. "Oh --
sorry, Tami. I -- uh -- "
"Hmpf!" she pouted, folding her arms and turning away from
her boy-friend. "Maybe you'd like me to wear an outfit like
Pete tore his eyes away from the receding figure and looked
appraisingly at his girl-friend. I wonder if she would, he thought ...
Clark Kent pushed his way through the crowd. He'd missed all the excitement and looked around for someone who could tell him what had happened.
"Wow!" he exclaimed, staring at the charred remains of the stable and the soggy ground. "What happened here?"
"Never mind that," Pete Ross told him. He pointed toward a small black figure moving across the pale blue sky. "Look up in the sky!"
Clark squinted, shading his eyes with his hand. "What is it? A bird? A plane?"
And Clark, dumbstruck, peered after the figure until it had disappeared from sight.
THE NEXT DAY ...
The wind streamed through Lana's hair and snapped at her cape as she flew along, following the two-lane road that stretched from Smallville to Shelbyville like a black ribbon. Finally! she thought. I can fly around in broad daylight, without worrying that someone might see me. Off to her left, a woman was hanging laundry on a clothesline in her back yard. Lana smiled and waved as the woman stared up at her.
Maybe I should start patrolling Smallville every afternoon, she thought, just so people can get used to seeing me up in the sky ...
But right now she was on an errand for Chief Parker. Fighting had broken out between two meat-packers' unions in Shelbyville. Chief Parker's brother-in-law Jimmy Whelan was the head of one of the unions, and he'd been warned to back down -- or else.
"Jimmy sent his wife and kids off to Kansas City, but he refuses to leave Shelbyville," Chief Parker had told Lana. "He's half Irish and half German, and as stubborn as they come. Needless to say, I'm worried about him. So is my wife. Could you -- well, keep an eye on him for me?"
"Don't you worry, Chief Parker," Lana had replied. "Nobody's going to hurt your brother-in-law -- not if I have anything to say about it!"
Lana felt quite proud of having been entrusted with such a big responsibility, and she was determined not to let Chief Parker down. She had decided to pay Mr. Whelan a visit. She would introduce herself, explain that she'd be looking out for him ...
Now she was approaching the outskirts of Shelbyville -- a depressing town of crumbling brick warehouses, cinderblock taverns, and derelict vacant lots. Jimmy Whelan lived in one of the housing tracts that spread out beyond the city limits, and Lana soon located his house with her super-vision. It was a plain one-level house, virtually indistinguishable from its neighbors, but the name on the mailbox outside told her that this was the house she was looking for.
Her eyes grew wide with alarm as she peered inside the house with her x-ray vision. Mr. Whelan -- Lana recognized him from a photograph Chief Parker had shown her -- was sitting on a sofa in the living room, tense with fear, staring up at two roughly-dressed men who stood menacingly over him. One of them was tapping a baseball bat against his left palm; the other -- a smaller, wiry man -- was holding a length of lead pipe inches from Mr. Whelan's face.
Lana listened in with her super-hearing.
"Now," the smaller man was saying, "can we tell our boss that you're gonna play ball with us -- or do we have to get rough?"
It looks as if I picked a good time to drop by, thought Lana. She swooped down to the front door and let herself inside. The door to the living room had been closed and locked. Lana grabbed the doorknob and pushed. There was a squeal, followed by a splintering sound, as the bolt tore through the casing of the lock and the wood of the door frame. Lana stepped inside to confront Mr. Whelan's visitors.
They had been standing with their backs to the door ; now they spun round, startled by the noise and by the sight that met their eyes -- a pretty redhead in a colorful costume who stood facing them with her gloved hands set defiantly on her hips.
"Stop picking on Mr. Whelan, you -- you bullies!"
"Who's the skirt?" said the smaller man. "This your daughter, Whelan? I thought you sent your wife and kids away."
"Run along, sweetcheeks," said the man with the baseball bat. "We don't want any Girl Scout cookies."
Lana ignored them. "I'm Supergirl, Mr. Whelan, and I'm not going to let these men hurt you." She turned to the two intruders. "I suggest you leave this house immediately -- oh, and you can give this message to your boss: Mr. Whelan is under my protection now."
"Hey, you got us all wrong, doll-face," said the larger man. "My friend and I, we just dropped by to have a nice friendly chat about baseball -- ain't that right, Frankie?"
"Yeah," grinned his partner. "Baseball. Now you just run along, girlie -- hey!"
Lana had snatched the lead pipe from his hand at super-speed ; now she was wrapping it around his wrists as smoothly as if she were tying a ribbon around a parcel. Before the man knew what was happening, his hands were bound tightly by the twisted pipe.
"What the -- ?"
Lana laid a forefinger on his chest and pushed. The man staggered backwards into an armchair.
"Don't move," Lana warned him. She turned toward the other man, who had stepped back involuntarily. He held out the baseball bat, his hand shaking, his face pale..
"Get -- get out of here!" he said. Questions were swarming in his mind. Who was this girl -- what was she doing here -- and what the hell had she done to Frankie? "This ain't none of your business! I'm warning you, missy!" he said, shaking the bat in Lana's face. "If you know what's good for you -- "
Lana yanked the bat from his outstretched hand and broke it over her knee. She flung the pieces to the floor and took a step forward. She could hear the man's heart pounding frantically in his chest as he retreated, never taking his eyes off her, until his broad back was pressing against the wall. Lana reached out and grabbed the front of his shirt ...
Terrified, the man began flailing about with his fists. His arms were longer than the girl's, and he managed to swing his right fist directly into her abdomen with a strength born of desperation ...
"Owww!" he bellowed. His knuckles were throbbing, and tears sprang into his eyes. It had been like punching a slab of steel.
Lana tilted her head to one side and arched an eyebrow. "Awww," she cooed. "Did the widdle girl give the big stwong man a boo-boo?" She frowned. "Who sent you?" she demanded, giving the man a vigorous shake.
"N - nobody!" he gasped. "I told you -- "
Lana rolled her eyes. "I know, I know -- you just dropped by to talk about baseball."
They were standing by a window. Lana reached out and raised the sash with her free hand. "Maybe a little fresh air will clear your head." She leapt through the opening and up into the sky, dragging the man behind her ...
The man had squeezed his eyes shut. He felt a hollow sensation in the pit of his stomach, as if he were going up in a fast elevator. A few moments later, he could feel himself slowing down, then coming to a stop. It seemed strangely quiet, and a cool wind was blowing across his sweaty forehead.
Cautiously, he opened one eye. The red-haired girl was standing in front of him. One hand was resting on her hip, the other was still clutching his shirt. He glanced down. His bowels turned watery with terror when he saw that they were hundreds of feet up in the air, the cars and houses below them seemingly reduced to the size of toys ...
"Let go of me!" he shouted.
The girl raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
He corrected himself hastily. "I mean -- I mean, don't let go!"
"Don't worry, Mr. -- " Lana used her x-ray vision to inspect the wallet in the man's hip pocket. "Mr. Stroud. I'll set you down safe and sound just as soon as you tell me who sent you and your friend to hurt Mr. Whelan."
"We weren't gonna hurt him -- honest! We were just gonna put a scare into him -- "
"You mean like this?" Lana released her grip on Stroud's shirt. He plunged, screaming, toward the ground far below ...
The next moment, Lana swooped down and caught him by the ankle. She dangled him upside-down, still high above terra firma.
"Now let's see if the blood rushing to your head helps your memory," she said. "For the last time, who sent you?"
"Tony! It was Tony!"
"Fat Tony! Tony D'Amato!"
Lana nodded. She recognized the name. Chief Parker had told her that "Fat Tony" was the head of the rival union -- and the biggest racketeer in the tri-county area.
"That's better," she said. "And where can I find Mr. D'Amato?"
"He -- he gets around, you know? Try the Diamond Bar. He's got an office in the back room ... "
"Corner of Main and Canal."
Lana smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Stroud. You've been very helpful. I'll take you back down now. Oh, and you don't have to worry about taking that message to Mr. D'Amato."
She smiled. "I'll deliver it personally."
The Diamond Bar was a low cinderblock building at the corner of Main and Canal. Lana swooped down and landed nimbly on the sidewalk by the front door. A neon sign in the window advertised Duff Beer ; another proclaimed "GIRLS! GIRLS!! GIRLS!!!" in garish purple letters.
Lana felt somewhat nervous as she stood in front of the door, listening to the cacophony from within. She had never set foot in a place like this before, and she wondered what her mother might say. But she straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin resolutely, reminding herself that she had nothing to fear -- and a job to do.
She opened the door and stepped inside. It was dark in the Diamond Bar, even though the clear twilight of early summer lay on the street outside. Her eyes needed no time to adjust to the dim light, however, and she glanced swiftly around the bar. Fifty or sixty men, recently released from their shift at the plant and eager to start spending their paychecks, crowded the bar and filled the tables. Loud banter and raucous laughter, accentuated by the clatter of billiard balls, nearly drowned out the Tony Bennett song wafting from the jukebox. The air was thick with cigarette smoke, and Lana's nose wrinkled in distaste at the mingled smells of stale beer and cheap liquor. Several hard-faced women were sitting among the men at the bar, and a couple of scantily-dressed girls, who looked only a few years older than Lana, scurried back and forth with trays of drinks. Few of the patrons seemed to have taken notice of the colorfully-garbed newcomer.
Lana strode up to a vacant space at the bar. "Excuse me," she said to the bartender. "I'm looking for Tony D'Amato."
The bartender, a broad-shouldered man with a thick mustache. peered curiously at Lana through the haze of cigarette smoke. "Listen, miss," he said. "In the first place, Mr. D'Amato don't see anybody without an appointment. In the second place, didn't you read the sign on the door -- 'NO ONE ADMITTED UNDER THE AGE OF 18'? You look a little young to me."
"Aw, let her stay, Mitch," said a plump man in a badly-fitting corduroy jacket, perched on the stool to Lana's left. He grinned wolfishly. "Can I buy you a drink, honey?"
Lana ignored him. "Please?" she asked the bartender, tilting her head to one side and batting her eyelashes, the way she'd seen Lauren Bacall do in the movies. "It's very important. I have a message for him from Frank Patterson and Jasper Stroud." She lowered her voice confidentially. "It's about Jimmy Whelan. Mr. D'Amato needs to hear it right away."
The bartender frowned, considering. Evidently the names meant something to him. He chewed the fringe of his mustache for a moment, then jerked his head toward a door at the back of the room. "Right through that door," he said.
Lana smiled sweetly. "Thank you so much."
"I wonder if she's looking for a job," said the man in the corduroy jacket as Lana walked off. "Whatever she does, I'd hire her."
"For crying out loud, Stan," said the man sitting next to him. "She's got 'jailbait' written all over her. The pretzels here are older than she is."
"You know what they say," said the bartender, drawing a beer. "Sixteen will get you twenty."
The door of Tony D'Amato's private office flew open, swung round on its hinges, and banged against the dingy plaster wall. Lana strode into the room, taking in every detail at a glance: the metal filing cabinets, the pool table, the threadbare armchairs, the cluttered desk. A thin, narrow-faced man in a grey suit was slouched in one of the armchairs, twiddling a billiard cue. A man in khaki trousers and a sleeveless jersey sat impassively on a wooden chair, his massive arms folded across his chest. And behind the desk sat a jowly, heavy-set man with iron-grey hair and deep-set eyes.
Startled by the unexpected intrusion, the three men stared as Lana shut the door and turned to face the desk, her red-gloved hands set defiantly on her hips.
"Are you Tony D'Amato?" she asked.
The heavy-set man regarded her from beneath a pair of bushy grey eyebrows. "At your service," he replied. His voice was soft and husky, and he spoke with slow deliberation, as if he were accustomed to choosing his words carefully. "Can I help you, miss? If you're looking for cheerleading tryouts, the high school is on the other side of town."
"Maybe she wants a job at the Paradise or the Pussycat," said the man in the armchair. Reaching forward with his billiard cue, he ran its tip up Lana's thigh and lifted the hem of her skirt. "She's got the goods -- "
Lana spun round, eyes blazing. Her arm was a blur as she slapped the cue aside, breaking it in two and sending the pieces clattering across the room.
"Hey!" The thin man was on his feet, his face flushed with anger. Lana raised her chin and glared back at him.
"Louie, sit down." The man behind the desk had not raised his voice, but he was clearly giving an order and expected to be obeyed. Louie sat back down, regarding Lana sullenly through narrowed eyes.
"Please forgive my associate," said Tony. "Sometimes he forgets to extend the proper courtesy to our guests." He frowned at Louie, then smiled affably at Lana, exposing the glint of a gold tooth. "And now, what may I do for you? Are you indeed seeking employment in one of my establishments? I can always use an attractive young lady such as yourself in the capacity of a cocktail waitress. Or perhaps you are a singer, or a dancer, Miss -- ah?"
Lana tossed her head. "You can call me Supergirl."
A smile flickered at the corners of Tony's mouth. "My," he said. "What a ... colorful sobriquet."
"And I don't want a job in one of your sleazy bars," Lana went on. "I've just come from Jimmy Whelan's house, where I stopped two of your hoods from beating him with a baseball bat."
Tony's eyes remained fixed steadily on Lana. "You have me mistaken for somebody else, miss," he said. "I am a humble but honest entrepreneur. My taverns and cabarets provide refreshment and entertainment for the hard-working people of Shelbyville. I do not have the pleasure of this Mr. Whelan's acquaintance, and I certainly do not employ any ... ah, 'hoods,' as you call them."
"It's no use, Mr. D'Amato. Mr. Whelan will be happy to testify against you, and so will the two thugs you sent after him. Now you and I are going to pay a little visit to the Shelbyville police station -- "
"Now you listen to me, missy," Tony rasped. "If you are an officer of the law, show me your badge and your warrant. If not, these premises are the property of the Businessmen's Social Club, and you, young lady, are trespassing." He placed his palms on the desktop and pushed himself out of his chair. "Bruno," he said, addressing the brawny man on the wooden chair, "kindly escort our guest outside."
Bruno shifted his toothpick to the other side of his mouth and rose slowly to his feet. He strolled toward Lana and placed a massive hand on her elbow. "Come along, miss," he mumbled. "Mr. D'Amato is a busy -- ow!"
It had happened in an instant. Bruno was kneeling on the floor, his wrist held tightly in Lana's hand, his face contorted with pain. "Ow!" he groaned. "You -- you broke my wrist!"
Lana raised Bruno's arm and inspected it quickly with her x-ray vision. "It's not broken," she informed him. "Don't be such a crybaby. Put a little ice on it and it'll be fine."
Louie had leaped up from his armchair. "So -- this dame knows judo, huh?" He grabbed Lana's free arm and tried to turn her toward the door. "What the --?" It was like trying to move a marble statue. He tugged harder ...
Without letting go of Bruno, Lana reached behind her with her right hand and seized Louie by the front of his shirt. An effortless sweep of her arm sent Louie flying over her head. He landed in the armchair, knocked it backwards, and went tumbling toward the pool table.
Tony was still standing behind the desk. His face was pale and there was a glint of fear in his deep-set eyes. "Now you listen here," he said. He spoke rapidly now, and his voice cracked with emotion. "Get out of my office. Get out right now, or I'll -- "
Lana caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. She raised her hand and closed her fingers around the billiard ball that Louie had hurled at her. Smiling, she squeezed the ball slightly -- and a crack split it in two. She squeezed harder -- and the ball broke into half a dozen pieces. One final squeeze reduced the ball to a coarse powder that trickled through her gloved fingers and onto Tony's desk.
Tony stared open-mouthed at the heap of chalky powder ; then he raised his eyes and glared at Lana. "I don't know how you did that, missy," he said. "But if you're not out of here in three seconds, I'll -- I'll -- "
Lana took a step forward. "You'll do what?"
"I'll call the police, that's what," he rasped, banging his fist on the desktop.
Lana's arm was a blur as she swung her own fist down on the desk, splitting it down the middle with a loud crack. The two halves collapsed inward, and the litter of papers slid down to the bottom of the "V." Tony reached out and grabbed his "Businessman of the Year" trophy just as it was about to fall to the floor.
"Go ahead and call the police!" said Lana. "I'm sure they'll be very interested in what Mr. Whelan has to say -- and those two thugs you sent to beat him up." Lana was scanning the wall behind Tony with her x-ray vision. Aha! A framed photograph of Frank Sinatra -- inscribed "To my pal Tony" -- concealed the door of a combination safe.
"And I'm sure they'll be very interested in these ledgers," she went on, taking down the photograph and setting it on the floor. She drew back her fist ...
"Hey!" Tony sputtered. "What do you think you're doing?"
Lana didn't bother to reply. She drove her fist into the wall with the force of a pile driver. Chunks of plaster fell to the floor and there was a groan of crumpling metal as her fist went through the front of the safe. She dug her fingers into the jagged hole and peeled the metal back as if it were tin-foil ; then she reached inside and took out a well-thumbed ledger.
"That's private property!" Tony hollered.
Ignoring him, Lana flipped through the ledger at super-speed, scanning its contents at a glance. "Mr. D'Amato!" she said reproachfully. "Why, you should be ashamed! Bribery -- extortion -- racketeering -- it's all here!" She shut the book and tucked it under her arm. "What will those people outside think when they hear about this? I bet they'll make you give back that trophy. And what do you suppose your friend Mr. Sinatra will say?"
She seized Tony's shirtfront and lifted him six inches off the floor. Tony grabbed her arm with both hands in a futile effort to break her grip. His eyes shifted desperately toward the other two men. "Don't just stand there!" he bellowed. "This is assault! Go on -- drill her!"
Bruno had risen to his feet. He was holding a .38, but he simply gazed at it stupidly. "Please, Tony!" he said. "Don't make me do it! I -- I got a daughter her age -- "
"You moron!" snapped Louie. He grabbed the gun from Bruno and pointed it at Lana. "Hey, doll-face!" he shouted.
Lana pushed Tony back against the wall and turned to face a round of bullets from the gun in Louie's hand. Hands on hips, shoulders thrown back, she let the bullets ricochet from her torso. They went flying in all directions, making pockmarks in the plaster walls and denting the metal filing cabinets. The last bullet bounced off her left shoulder and drilled a neat hole in the grimy window.
Louie stared at the .38 for a moment, then flung it toward Lana as hard as he could. She caught it deftly in her right hand and began to squeeze. The gun crumpled in her grip ; then the gray metal began oozing between her fingers like soft clay. She tossed the misshapen lump back at Louie. "Here, catch," she said. "You can use it for a paperweight."
She turned back toward Tony. "And now, Mr. D'Amato, you and I have a date with the Shelbyville police."
Tony was still leaning against the spot where Lana had pushed him. His face was ashen and his jowls were trembling. "Who -- what -- who are you?" he stammered.
"I told you -- I'm Supergirl."
Lana reached out and grabbed Tony by the front of his shirt. Louie and Bruno looked on, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, as Lana dragged Tony toward the door. She yanked the door open and strode back into the smoky din of the Diamond Bar, pulling Tony behind her…