The dream came again. This time, however, she was not alone. The green mists parted to reveal a very confused Lar Gand by her side.
She knew, without knowing how, that this was no simple dream. Both she and Lar were lying in infirmary beds in Superman’s Fortress, yet they were here, in this place beyond space and time…with the Starheart!
Together they stood as the Starheart showed them world after world…all existing beyond the acknowledged sphere of influence of the Guardians of Oa.
These worlds, not yet under the protection of the Green Lanterns, would be her charge. And one of those worlds, she learned, was Earth!
But then the Starheart paused and began to reveal more. This was, she was shown, only part of her charge. For worlds beyond the space and time where Earth existed required aid as well.
And Jenny and Lar watched as history unfolded before them.
In the beginning, there had been many worlds…many universes, all existing together in the same space, at the same time, but in different…alternate timelines.
And then had come Crisis: A force of destruction, sweeping though the alternate timelines, destroying them, one by one.
Yet even as this force of…anti-nature…ravaged through the realities, it created more than it destroyed, despite an unachievable goal of total annihilation, new worlds…new timelines appeared in its wake.
One such world, one such timeline, would become the Multiverse in which they now found themselves.
Time had started anew, what had gone was swept away. And as time progressed, as the present raced forward to make the future history, new timelines were formed. Splits at various junctions of history, where major decisions and events could have gone any number of different directions. Multiple Probabilities.
And so the Multiverse grew.
And then on one timeline, disaster struck!
Disaster in the form of an invasion of beings from a long dead world and their new allies…The Khund…and Mordru!
Jenny and Lar watched as Mordru opened a portal into the Phantom Zone, releasing the prisoners. Lar closed his eyes, not even trying to suppress the shudders that shook his frame as he saw himself…or a version of himself…drug from the Zone and left lying before the entrance to the Fortress…dying of the lead poisoning that racked his body.
They watched as countless millions died in the horrific battles that followed. They stood there, spellbound, as the population of the Earth dwindled under the onslaught of these merciless killers from the stars!
They watched as hero after hero flew against the invaders…and they watched those heroes die!
They saw Superman, bloody and broken, lying on the floor of a crumbled building in a ruined city, his enemies lying all around…with one ally left standing…Lex Luthor.
And then the unthinkable happened!
One enemy, one of the Phantom Zone Criminals activated a device! A device that should never have been in the hands of a lesser race. A device meant to be a source of amusement for the children of a race so far advanced that their science would have made them gods!
The device, a probability device, meant for the creation and then instant destruction of alternate realities, released its energies and, in that single instant, what had been one timeline, became three!
Like any other creator of toys, the creators of the device had built in safeguards for the protection of the children. It was the function of one such safeguard to remove anything harmful from the vicinity of the child, placing the harmful things in a separate reality. In this case, the device had tagged the Phantom Zone Criminals as the most harmful of objects…and so they were swept away.
Yet the device could not work from nothingness. It was built to create alternate timelines by using models supplied by the user as the base for each. This device had no such models. And so it fulfilled its secondary function, it sought models.
Through space and time it searched until it discovered, in another Multiverse, one which now no longer existed, what it sought…worlds on which to base it’s new timelines.
And Jenny felt Lar stiffen beside her. She knew that, though she did not recognize what the Starheart was showing her, he did!
The device did not copy those worlds…it merely used them as a base from which to build.
The first world, what the inhabitants that knew of the split now called Earth–1 saw the least change. Or change caused by the Device, rather.
The second which they, in their arrogance, called Earth–2, saw more change. The world was aged…its people, with very few exceptions, aged to match the model.
The third world suffered the worst change. A world of reversals. A timeline and universe that was a personal affront to the Starheart!
What had been good, was now evil and what had been evil was now good.
And that reversal extended to every living thing within the universe! Including the Starheart!
Through all the timelines within the Multiverse…there had always been just a single Starheart that spanned the temporal/dimensional barriers. Until the device was activated! On that day, the Starheart felt itself torn asunder as a portion…a single piece in one single timeline…became – corrupted!
The lessons continued and, as they continued to watch, Jenny came to realize that the Ripple, through which she, Kara, and the others had been thrown, had changed the Multiverse even more.
As the Ripple heralded the formation of a new Continuum, so it had been the death of a small micro continuum. The continuum in which Otherverse had been formed.
Even as they had been whisked from that world, the world itself had been pulled unknowingly into the Multiverse… Annexed by the Starheart… even as the Multiverse itself was swept up into a larger Continuum. Though not…bundled…with the device created timelines, Otherverse had been settled neatly into place…separate from the rest of the Multiverse…and yet still a part. Even as the Multiverse was now but a part of the infinitely larger Continuum!
And Jenny realized one other thing. She realized that her time with Kara and Rogue was over. The tight-knit team they had formed so long ago had finally run its course.
They would still work together and, as far as Jenny was concerned, Kara was still the leader, but they now had different paths to follow. Kara and Rogue and the Twins would concern themselves with Earth and the nearby sectors of space and help out wherever they were needed. Jenny and Lar now had a far larger sphere of responsibility.
After, of course, they both received training! While Jenny had been a super-hero long before she was given the power by Parallax, she had not learned to use that power effectively. And Lar, despite the memories of being Mon-El of the Legion of Super-Heroes, would need to retrain as well…so that they could work as a team, complimenting each other’s abilities.
The visions returned to the current Probability as Jenny and Lar saw a proposed future…a future made possible by the Starheart.
Daxam, a lifeless ball of radioactive dirt, was being reborn. Forces, whether they were natural or Starheart instigated, moved across the surface of the giant planet and began cleansing…reshaping.
What should have taken millions, if not billions of years, was now being accomplished in a matter of a decade.
Before either could form a question in their minds, the questions were answered as each was given a vision of Daxam…and then Kandor. The Starheart was going to repopulate Daxam with the survivors of Krypton! The descendants of those that had fled Daxam long ago to colonize a similar world would now return to repopulate the home world. It mattered little to the Starheart that the Kandorians in question were from a Krypton in another Probability…A Probability that no longer existed.
And, they were assured, such a move would be voluntary…and permanent.
The Starheart showed them what such a future would be like and they gasped as they realized that the Starheart intended to enlarge the Kandorians…and in the process, alter their very genetic make up. No longer would they be vulnerable to Kryptonite…nor would they develop the allergy to lead. On the other hand, there would be no more super powers should they inadvertently stray into the path of a yellow sun! They would have the normal abilities of a heavy gravity person and no more…unless of course…
Abruptly the images began to fade and Jenny felt…concern. She felt a touch and knew that the Starheart was speeding her healing process. She was needed! She was given a glimpse of a golden skinned, battle weary gold-skinned blonde woman in a Green Lantern uniform in desperate peril. Yes she was indeed needed.
Lucy had watched spellbound as the one named Rogue drifted up and over the crowd to deposit the child into the waiting arms of the worried father.
She had then smiled and arched her back, swooping upward to form a quick loop before settling back to the ground next to the blonde woman…the one she had claimed to be a cousin of Superman!
At that thought, she remembered that she was a reporter and that this was news! She pushed forward until she stood directly before the blonde woman.
“Excuse me…Excuse me…Miss…” Lucy almost tripped over a tangle of wires and found herself being steadied by the blonde woman. She had an amused, but not unkind, look in her eyes.
She glanced at Lucy and then out at the crowd again, as if looking for someone…then her gaze seemed to go out over the city.
Kara had found who she was looking for in the crowd with her x-ray vision…and then activated her telescopic vision as a strange sound was picked up by her super hearing. She directed a thought towards the crowd, felt an answering thought in return…and knew that the Legion of Super-Heroes would return…soon. She then turned to Rogue.
“I see it.” Rogue nodded and then glanced upward. “You take it.” She said. “I am going to check out the Lunar bases and see if they need help.”
Kara nodded and Lucy, listening to the sudden change of tone…watched in awe as Rogue shot upwards, quickly disappearing into the upper atmosphere.
“Miss Lane, I am afraid we’ll have to talk at some other time. It appears this is going to be a busy day!” The blonde told her before she too shot into the air. Yet instead of following the one named Rogue, the blonde angled out and over the crowd, heading in the general direction of the Metropolis Downtown Airport!
For the next several hours, the people of Earth watched spellbound as first the blonde and then the red-headed woman spanned the globe on missions of rescue and law enforcement.
One incident, in Los Angles California, was caught on tape and gave many viewers their first look at these strange women.
Six members of the notorious Mutant League had elected to make mass withdrawals from the local Federal Reserve. In broad daylight, serene in the knowledge that the local authorities had nothing that could hinder them, they had waltzed into the building. Some time later, they had attempted to waltz back out with the involuntary donations they had collected. Instead, they had run into a solid wall of red and blue. And then the dance truly started.
“Who the hell are you supposed to be? Superwoman?” The leader of the group, a particularly nasty mutant known to law enforcement officials around the world only as Crusher, demanded.
“As a matter of fact…yes.” The blonde smiled and made a waving motion with her hand. “Now why don’t you be good little boys and put that money down and…”
“Bitch shut the hell up!” Crusher yelled. “You are…” His voice gurgled as a sudden blow to the chest sent him bowling backwards, past his quickly scrambling team mates.
“Hit them!” One ordered.
The woman Crusher had called Superwoman suddenly found herself engulfed in flames as a mousy looking mutant, known only as Fire-Bug…or just Bug to his team…unleashed his flame-casting abilities.
Lightning flashed out and struck the red head over and over again as the one called, aptly enough, Lightning discharged massive amounts of electrical energy in her direction.
A third mutant, exhibiting an ability similar to one Rogue had seen before, seemed to create bombs out of thin air which he tossed at the pair of women.
A fourth, his back to them until that moment, turned and lifted his dark glasses. Both women gasped as the one known as Cyclops unleashed his devastating optical blasts! They were both knocked backwards into the middle of the four lane street.
The final member of Crusher’s little strike team did nothing, simply watching and keeping a lookout.
Crusher had regained his feet and his breath even as the women, to the astonishment of the other mutants, picked themselves up and started walking back in their direction…neither showing any apparent damage despite the devastating attack.
After she had regained her feet, Kara glanced around, using her telescopic and x-ray visions. The street had been blocked off by the local authorities and the neighboring buildings evacuated. That meant the only bystanders that could get hurt were either in the Fed Reserve building or part of the news crew that had some how slipped the blockade and set up to film the entire episode.
They had nearly reached the entrance when Crusher, his face red with anger stepped out. And with one swing of a great meaty fist, showed why he was named Crusher.
A light pole, set in a cement base that stood at least three feet high, blocked his progress. With a snarl of rage he lashed out and, with an ear shattering crash, the cement support crumbled and the light pole began to lean.
“Well now you’ve done it.” Kara quipped, though the look in her face was anything but amused. “You’ve gone and added destruction of public property to the list.” She walked up and, as Crusher, with a growl of hatred, swung; she lifted a hand to catch his.
There was a ground shaking thud…and the cameraman with the film crew zoomed in to see Crusher, his face a study of astonishment, standing in the street, his crushing fist caught in Kara’s vice-like grip.
Muscles popped out on the Crusher’s arm and sweat began to stream down his face as he strained to move his hand. Kara, for her part, seemed almost bored, showing no strain whatsoever.
“I think this has gone on long enough.” She hissed, her eyes narrowing. Crusher paled as bones began to crack in his hand. So intent on the pain was he that he did not even notice the twin beams of hell that sprang from Kara’s eyes, sizzling past his ear.
Fire-bug jumped as the beams struck the ground between his feet.
“You want to play with fire? Let’s play!” Kara called out.
Lightning and Cyclops were shocked and disoriented when the red-head suddenly disappeared.
“Right behind you, boys.” They heard the chilling voice. They turned and each felt iron-like grips on the backs of their necks and then each saw stars as the red head casually knocked their heads together. She released them and then brushed her hands together, as if to clean off dust, as they dropped into stunned heaps. She took a moment to study Cyclops and sighed.
So many things would be different.
The final member of the group, the one that had done nothing so far, panicked. Dropping the bags of loot he carried, he rushed from the building entrance until he was next to Crusher.
“You have just made a big mistake, bitch.” He snarled. He shot out a hand to touch Crusher. With a pop, as air rushed into to fill the suddenly vacant places they had occupied, both disappeared.
Fire-Bug, seeing Crusher and the obvious emergency escape plan disappear, suddenly dropped to his knees and raised his hands in the air, his eyes glued to the scorch marks in the floor between his knees.
Glancing around with her various visions, Kara determined that the area was safe and waved towards one end of the street where the local police were gathered.
As the police moved in, with understandable hesitancy and casting numerous awe and fear filled looks towards the women, Kara and Rogue shot in to the sky
Within an hour the news crew had returned to their station and around the nation, and soon the world, the name Crusher had bestowed upon the blonde, a name he had unknowingly echoed when Lex Luthor had used it hours earlier in the Fortress, was being echoed by news anchors every where…Superwoman!
“Something is happening!”
Stephanie bolted up out of her chair the instant her observation panel began to go haywire.
Rushing into the infirmary, with Sue on her heels, she stopped dead and gaped.
Jennifer Walters-Gand, who just hours before had undergone an emergency c-section to save the life of her unborn baby girl, was sitting up in her bed, pulling on a pair of black knee high boots.
Sitting on the bed next to hers, Lar Gand had just finished pulling his on and now stood to attach a long blue cape to the gold buttons on his red uniform.
“What…what is going on here?” Stephanie tried her best to sound like the gruff, outraged physician…it had no effect. Lar merely looked at her and smiled.
“You must be Dr. Strange.” His voice, deep and firm, was full of warmth. “I hear I have you to thank for saving our child.”
“But…But…You can’t be awake! And you!” She turned to Jenny. “You should still be sleeping! And you damn sure shouldn’t be out of bed!”
“Don’t worry Doc.” Jenny flashed her a smile and lifted the bottom of her black and white top to reveal a completely unblemished bikini line. “See? As good as new.”
“Uh…Steph!” Sue indicated the ceiling and, for the first time, Stephanie noticed that the red sun emulators were not activated. Which meant Lar, at least, was either at full power or well on his way.
“Look Doc.” Jenny stepped over to her. “We can’t explain much right now…just accept that fact that we have both been healed and are in top shape. Now…do you think you can tell us where Kara might be?”
After a bit more griping, Stephanie finally gave in and told Jenny what she knew.
“Lex Luthor huh?” Lar’s eyes had narrowed.
“Let it go, Lar.” Jenny told him. “If Kara can talk to him without killing him I am sure you can too!”
“I suppose.” Lar groused. “Just where is this Lex Luthor now?”
“At the moment, he is back in Metropolis getting ready to give a Press Conference concerning the sudden appearance of Superwoman.”
“Where the devil are they?”
Lex Luthor fumed as Mercy, ignoring his grumpiness, adjusted his tie and brushed some dirt off his shoulder. The two were standing off in the wings of the press conference auditorium as the LexCorps’ Public Relations representative fielded a few preliminary questions from the gathered reporters and laid a few simple ground rules before introducing Lex himself.
“Lex, tell me how a man with no hair still manages to get dandruff!” She scolded.
“Dandruff? What?” He tried to look down on his shoulders and then saw the twinkle in Mercy’s eyes. “Very funny.”
“Chill, Lex.” Mercy pulled his arm through hers and squeezed.
“Easy for you to say.” Lex grumbled, but he didn’t pull away. “Mercy, those women have been gone for hours! There have been reports of sightings all over the world…and they have been awake for less than a full day!”
“Why Lex, you’re worried about them!”
He looked down at Mercy, surprise plain in his face.
“Of course I am.” He replied, puzzled by her reaction. “Mercy, the problem between Kara and I is all one sided…her side. I have nothing against her. In fact…I feel a…kinship…you might say. Though she may not be truly related to Clark…she is…or was…the cousin of another version of Clark in a different reality.”
“Lex,” Mercy frowned. “If Kara is the cousin of Superman from another reality…does that mean there might still be a version of Kara here…in this reality? One that has simply not reached Earth yet?”
“Yes…yes it is possible.” Lex nodded slowly. “I don’t believe it probable but it is possible. And if another Kara does show up…well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But from what I have been able to gather from notes Clark had taken and history he has been able to track down, there was never any mention Jor-El having a brother. Nor, going over the atlas of Krypton, was there any city called Argo.”
“And that is another thing.” Mercy shook her head. “I can’t see how her story can be true. How could a city survive virtually unscathed? The concussion of the blast alone would have killed every one in the city…and leveled the city! And what about atmosphere?” She shook her head. “It’s just not possible!”
“On the contrary.” Lex shook his head as well. “It is entirely possible. Perhaps we could not do it…not even with the technology we have now…but that technology leads me to believe that it is possible…to a civilization with a much higher technology level…such as the Kryptonians!” He was about to continue when the PR representative quickly walked off the stage.
“Everything’s ready, Mr. Luthor.” She told him. “Be careful though. Those reporters are going to be asking some tough questions and simple answers won’t get it.”
“I believe I can handle it.” Lex told her, giving her an amused look. The Representative blushed.
“Yes sir.” She responded in a somewhat small voice. And then she frowned, seeing something behind Lex.
Both Lex and Mercy turned, not really surprised to see Damien Tyler walking right past Lex’s constant bodyguard detail. Most of them had worked for Damien in the past…Just as Damien had once worked for Mercy.
“Yes Damien…what is it?” Lex demanded in a weary tone.
“I want you to call off this conference.” Damien pulled no punches. “We’ve had some good Intel that says you have at least two UIA agents on your staff. We’ve been able to locate one…but the other has disappeared.”
“UIA…in my….” It was Mercy, not Lex, that responded with indignation. “I don’t believe it!”
“Believe it, Ma’am.” Damien nodded to her. “We got the Intel from Nightwing the day before yesterday. He also mentioned two UIA moles planted within Sec-Pol. We rooted them out first.” By the look on his face Lex knew better than to ask what had become of the moles.
“I am afraid canceling is not an option at this time, Damien.” Lex shook his head. “If it would make you feel better, you can, of course, station some men throughout the room…just in case.”
Damien was thoughtful for a moment and then gave a sharp nod and turned away.
“Don’t worry, Mercy.” Lex smiled down at her. “I’ve survived assassination attempts before…And if someone is gunning for me today…I’ll survive this too!”
“Simply unbelievable!” Tony Stark put a steadying hand on his desk as the man Batgirl had introduced simply as Lord Ian released his hold on it.
After showing up in his office, and declaring her knowledge of his secret identity, Batgirl had then preceded to explain the situation to him.
She was, she claimed, from the same reality Kara had come from. Until recently, she had been in another reality…one called Alterverse.
And to prove her point, she had pulled what appeared to be an over-sized playing card from her utility belt and…
Lord Ian had appeared out of thin air!
From there it had only gotten worse…or more interesting…depending on ones point of view.
At Batgirl’s request, Ian had taken them both and…walked shadow…as he called it. Taking them both back to the place Kara and the others had come from…to Otherverse.
There Ian had shown him his tower…the fortress Kara and the others had lived in…and the dire situation in which Otherverse now found itself.
He had discovered one reason Kara hated Lex Luthor!
Now, after that whirlwind journey, they were once again in his office.
Ian, the picture perfect aristocratic gentleman, had taken a seat, his right leg crossed over his left knee, his elbows firmly on the arm seats.
Batgirl, as she had when she had first appeared in his office, chose to perch herself on a corner of his desk.
“A time anomaly?” He asked, though he already knew the answer. He was merely buying time to think.
“In a manner of speaking, yes.” Ian nodded. The look on his face revealed that he considered the anomaly to be a personal affront. “This Multiverse and Otherverse are still fluctuating. This will subside as Otherverse settles into its new…location, so to speak.” He held his right hand up, palm facing the ceiling. “Until then, I will have to be very careful not to double back on myself.” He looked to Batgirl. “I will have to make a note not to show recognition when I meet you in Alterverse.”
For the first time, Tony saw uncertainty in Batgirl’s eyes.
“When you…you mean…”
“Correct. I have not yet had the pleasure. But it is nice to know that I will be giving you a Trump. This will give me time to have one created for you.”
Batgirl was at a complete loss and, at the look in her eyes, Tony did the only thing he could…he laughed.
“What is so damned funny?” Batgirl demanded, turning to him.
“Let me see if I understand this.” Tony stifled laughter and looked back and forth between the two. “You cannot approach Kara because she has not yet traveled to this Alterverse to discover that you are still alive. But once she goes to Alterverse, she discovers you…and introduces you to Lord Ian. At that time, Ian gives you that strange card. You call on him sometime later and he takes you first to Otherverse and then brings you here. But due to a temporal instability between Otherverse…and what did you call our reality?…this Multiverse, you arrived here a few months too early.” He paused while both Batgirl and Ian nodded. “Okay.” He turned to Batgirl. “You then show up here and pull out the card and contact Ian. But because of that same temporal instability…which I assume will be settling down rather quickly from what Lord Ian has said…you contact Lord Ian…but it is an earlier Lord Ian!” He looked back to Ian. “Okay, I can buy that. What I don’t understand is…if you know already, before hand, that you will be dropping her off before she is supposed to be here…why not wait and drop her off at the right time?”
“Because it has already happened.” Ian explained in a matter-of-fact tone. “I cannot change what has happened any more than you can.” Though Ian hid his feelings well, Tony was positive that Ian had, at some time in the past, tried to change history…somewhere along the way, he had lost something dear…and he had tried and tried again to get it back…and again and again he had failed. “She arrived here at the time she did…and so I will have to make sure she arrives here at that time!”
Tony thought about it a moment and then nodded. He was not sure he understood all the implications…but it would change nothing.
As the quiet grew, Ian stood.
“I fear I must be going.” He inclined his head towards Tony and took one of Batgirl’s gloved hands in his. “As the twins are now taking time with their uncle, I will have my dryads gather their things, as well as those of Kara and the others. When you are ready, contact me and I will deliver them to you.”
“Th-thank you.” Batgirl was still shaken and, after tossing an undecipherable smile towards Tony, Ian simply stepped into…nothingness…and was gone.
Tony heaved a sigh and moved to sit behind his desk, remaining quiet as Batgirl took time to compose herself.
“I don’t understand!” She finally spat.
“I wouldn’t let it bother you too much.” Tony leaned forward and propped his elbows on his desk. “It is obvious Lord Ian is a bit more…experienced…in such matters than either you or I…Barbara.”
Batgirl froze…and then turned slowly to face Tony.
“What did you say?”
“Barbara.” Tony leaned back again. “As in Barbara Gordon, Daughter of the Late Commissioner Gordon of Gotham City. Or should I say, the Late Daughter?”
“How could you possibly know something like that?” Batgirl demanded. “I have been with you every moment since you entered your office! There is no way you could have known!”
“But there is.” Tony smiled…yet it was a sad smile. “You see I knew Bruce Wayne! In fact, it was Bruce who helped me develop the gear I needed to stay alive.” He rapped his knuckles on his chest and was rewarded with a muffled clank. “It was not until later that I discovered that Bruce was actually Batman.” He gave another sad smile. “I had always dreamed of fighting crime next to Batman…but my heart…I couldn’t do it. I helped him though when I could…and when his first partner…the one that took the role I wanted above all else…was killed, I was the one he came to.”
He looked her in the eyes.
“I was there when they laid the first Batgirl to rest. I was there when they buried Barbara Gordon!” He gestured in her direction. “And now here, before me, I see the woman that girl would have grown into. Alive, and still wearing the bat!” He stood and walked around the desk and, hesitating only a moment, reached up and eased the half mask back over the top of her head, revealing her face and the confused look it held. “And very, very, beautiful!”
“I…” was all Babs could utter before Tony lowered his lips to hers.
“You’re paying for that door!” Rogue teased as she and Kara drifted in to land before the wrecked entrance to the Fortress.
“Me?” Kara gave her a look. “If I remember correctly, you are the one that punched through first!”
Both women reentered the Fortress and, after consulting the nearest terminal and discovering Sue and Stephanie’s location, quickly made their way to the infirmary.
“What in Rao’s name are you doing out of bed?” Kara demanded as she stepped through the door and found Jenny and Lar sitting on one bed with Sue and Stephanie on the other…all chatting amicably.
“Well, technically I’m still in bed.” Jenny patted the mattress with one hand and gave Rogue and Kara a beatific smile.
“And I’m feeling pretty good myself, thank you for inquiring.” Lar gave them both a sardonic grin.
“Oh Lar!” Kara had the grace to blush. She rushed over and gave the Daxamite a hug with such strength that he actually winced.
“Hey…easy…I’m a Daxamite, not a Kryptonian…there is a difference you know!”
“What…that Daxamite’s are easy? Tell us something we didn’t know.” Rogue quipped. Both Sue and Stephanie were finding it hard not to laugh.
Kara plopped down on the bed next to Lar while Rogue made Sue and Stephanie scoot over to make room for her. Then they listened while Jenny and Lar related their shared dream.
“I hate to see it end…but I can see the logic in it.” Rogue, suddenly somber, remarked. “Somehow I think I have always known that you would end up traveling in the stars.”
“First we start at Oa!” Lar announced, gesturing towards Jenny. “The Starheart seems to believe that we need more training…and it thinks the best place to get that training is with this Universe’s Green Lantern Corps.”
The next several days were a whirlwind of activity as Kara and Rogue put in more appearances around the globe. Yet neither had stopped to talk to reporters or Law enforcement officials for longer than was absolutely necessary.
As soon as Dr. Strange had reluctantly given Lar and Jenny clean bills of health, the two had departed Earth for Oa…but not before Jenny gifted Kara and Rogue with four rings. Each depicting a starburst similar to the one on her uniform.
“They aren’t much.” She had warned them. “But they will give you communications with the Green Lantern network and will allow you to communicate in space. They will also keep you covered in an atmospheric field that will allow you to breathe while in space. Just in case you need to stay out for extended periods while I am gone.”
Kara and Rogue had set two aside for the girls, as Jenny had intended, and then tried the remaining two out at once.
While they could spend several hours in deep space without environmental equipment, longer periods would be difficult. So they took their time ferrying equipment from the moon to the terraforming teams on Mars and even went so far as to help position a new observation station in Mars orbit.
That accomplished they had returned to the Fortress only long enough to make sure the Kandorians were doing okay.
The news was not good.
“The final reports are in, Kara.” Allura told her daughter, shaking her head. “People are still in shock…but are already demanding that something be done to remove us from this habitat.”
She shook her head at the chagrined look on Kara’s face.
“No one is blaming you, my daughter. Either of you.” She added this, making sure Rogue knew that she was included. “Indeed Rogue, though you have been adopted into the house of El, there are members of my parent’s family here in Kandor and they have insisted that the House of El has too many heroes. That being the case, they have sued,” She smiled to show that the ‘suit’ was friendly and a mere formality “to be allowed to claim you as part of their house!”
Kara smiled softly as tears welled up in Rogue’s eyes.
“Henceforth, Rogue, you shall be known as Rogue In-Zee!” Allura smiled sadly and then shook her head. “No they do not blame you. The people understand that, without you, they would not have lived as long as they have. They would have died as Rokyn died. But this latest tragedy.” She shook her head yet again. “And they are right daughter. We cannot survive another incident such as this…and it is not certain we shall survive this one.”
“What do you mean?” Kara gripped the arms of the chair she was seated in and leaned towards the terminal.
“According to the latest figures, we have dropped below the viable gene pool limit.” Allura explained. “If we do not do something soon, then Kandor will die. Slowly, to be sure, but die we shall as our population continues to decrease in an ever-accelerating rate!”
After that depressing conversation with Allura, during which both Kara and Rogue promised they would do what they could, the two had flown south.
Reed and Sue had returned to Gotham City while Dr. Strange, at Lex Luthor’s insistence, had temporarily moved into a spare wing of his personal penthouse at the top of the LexCorps building in Metropolis. The same wing he had graciously offered to Kara and Rogue until they decided what their future plans were. As yet, neither had informed him of whether or not they were going to stay…or return to Otherverse.
They both lightly touched down on the landing pad on the roof. By now, after seeing the Kryptonians coming and going over the past several days, the landing crews merely smiled and waved as they landed and made their way to the elevator that would take them down to the next level…the Penthouse.
Rather than heading directly into the living area of Lex’s home, the two had turned and headed into the wing they occupied.
“If we are going to stay, we can’t stay here.” Kara remarked as they stepped into the rooms they had been using.
“Well forgive me for saying so…but I would rather stay here than at that Fortress.” Rogue shivered. “That place isn’t a home…it’s a tomb!”
“I agree.” Kara nodded. She started to shrug out of her uniform, stopping at the sound of light tapping at the entrance. Casting a sidelong glance at Rogue she walked back to the door and palmed it open, somewhat surprised to see Stephanie standing there.
Over the past couple of days, they had seen a lot of the Doctor. She would stop by frequently, just to talk and, more often than not, pump them for information about the Dr. Strange they had known.
“It sounds like your Dr. Strange followed a belief system closer to my own than my father’s.” She had told them. “What you describe is more…western. My father was a follower of the Eastern styles.”
Now she stood at the entrance, smiling.
“I have news!” She told them, waltzing in at Kara’s invitation.
“What news?” Rogue plopped down in a seat and tossed a leg up over one arm…a pose more suited to a teenager than a grown woman.
But then, by looking at them, if one did not know them, one could easily believe that neither of the women could possibly be past their mid twenties.
“Lex got a call from Tony Stark today. Though he would not say why, he did say that he had had a sudden urge to purchase a section of land in Colorado…the same section of land where you were found!” Stephanie told them. “And he has decided to hand it over to you so you can build a Fortress there like the one you said you had in that Otherverse!”
“Now that is news!” Rogue sat up, smiling at Kara. “Hey, Colorado beats the Arctic or Antarctic any time!”
“I wonder why?” Kara mused.
“He wouldn’t say.” Stephanie shrugged. “Though Lex thinks that it may have something to do with his social life.”
“His social life?” Kara frowned.
“Yeah. According to Lex, Tony has been seen around Phoenix with a gorgeous red-head. No one knows where she came from…but Tony seems to be taken with her!”
“There’s your answer.” Rogue smiled. “Tony’s in love and feeling extremely generous. I know how he feels!” She batted her eyes at Kara, which caused Stephanie to burst out laughing as Kara pulled a cushion off the couch and tossed it at Rogue! Stephanie then sobered a bit.
“Any way. Lex and Mercy would like us to join them for dinner tonight.” She went on. “He’s been fielding questions left and right about you two and I think he is getting tired of hearing complaints that neither of you will take the time to talk to the press. Plus…the President of the UEG has contacted Lex and demanded that you be presented to the UEG council for Judgment.”
“Judgment?” Rogue was instantly serious. “Judgment for what? Being Kryptonians?”
Kara had assured Stephanie they would be at the dinner and then eased her out the door so she and Rogue could get ready.
After changing into jeans and flannel shirts, furnished by Mercy, the two had left their rooms and made their way to the main living area where they were met by a butler who showed them out to the balcony where Lex, Mercy, and Stephanie were seated around a table, enjoying drinks.
Kara had to stop and shake her head at the situation. Lex, seeing this, put his drink down and smiled.
“Let me guess.” He said. “You never thought you would see the day when you would be having dinner with the notorious Lex Luthor.”
“Something like that, yes.” Kara admitted as she and Rogue took their seats at the table. “Old habits and thought patterns are not easily forgotten…nor are past hurts.”
“Understandable.” Lex nodded. “Trust is not given or taken…it is earned.”
“Exactly.” Kara regarded the bald scientist-turned-president-turned businessman with grudging respect. “Though I must admit, you have done nothing since we have been here to warrant my distrust.”
“And I hope I never shall.” Lex raised his glass to emphasize his point and then drained it.
“Lex was going through some things he was able to retrieve from the Kent Farm after it was destroyed by the Phantom Zone Criminals.” Mercy spoke into the ensuing silence. She lifted a small wooden box from under the table and opened it, lifting out a small band of red cloth, which, after a questioning look at Luthor, she passed to Kara.
“Ma Kent made that for Clark while he was a boy…right after I rigged up a red sunlight emulator for her so she could sew the material.” Lex explained.
It was a headband.
Kara turned the band over and over in her hands, noting the intricate detail in the symbols sewn around it.
“Ma never knew what those symbols meant. It was something she traced off the side of the rocket.”
“A Kryptonian blessing.” Kara’s voice was nearly a whisper. “From parents to a child. ‘May the light of Rao watch over you, our son. You are of the House of El…Make us proud!’”
“A blessing? Rao?” Lex looked confused and Rogue, remembering his questions concerning Rao when they had first awakened, accessed those memories of Kara’s that she retained and answered.
“The house of El was known to be one of the few major houses of Krypton that retained many of the old traditions and belief systems.” She told him. “At least in our reality. It would not be strange for an El to put such a blessing on the rocket. Though among the top scientists, neither Jor nor Zor accepted the fallacy that advanced scientific mastery negated the need for spiritual belief systems.”
“Though Jor-El was a bit more self-conscious about it than my father.” Kara put in, still turning the headband in her hand. “My father, thanks, I believe to my mother, was the more spiritual of the brothers.”
Kara spun the headband in her hands one more time and then started to hand it back to Mercy.
“Keep it.” Lex told her. “I can’t think of anyone better suited.”
Kara locked eyes with Lex and slowly nodded, tears welling up in her eyes and threatening to spill over. She then clutched the headband and, with an evil glance towards Rogue, slipped it over her head, reaching back to pull her long blonde hair through and over the back. Rogue groaned and fixed Lex with a baleful stare.
“Do you know how long it took me to get her to stop wearing her old headband?” She told him. “Now I have to live with the eighties look again!” She then turned to Kara. “Don’t you even think of wearing that with your leather outfit!”
Everyone broke out laughing but Kara soon brought them all back to Earth.
“What is this about the UEG and judgment?” She demanded as the butler slid plates of food in front of the diners.
“A formality.” Lex assured her. “The Council, the legislative branch of the UEG, simply wants assurance that neither of you are members of the Phantom Zone Criminals.” He shook his head. “I say formality but, the truth is, anything is possible. I set the Council up to be a check against the Administrative Branch of the UEG. But now days, they are little more than President Golder’s rubber stamp.” He picked at his food, twirling his fork as he grimaced. “I simply do not understand it. I instituted a system that should be as damned close to perfect as humanly possible. Yet in a scant seventeen years it is threatening to fall apart. There is not a section in that government that has not become corrupted, I believe. Unless, perhaps, it’s Sec-Pol.”
“You made a simple mistake, Lex.” Kara observed, causing the others at the table to grow quiet. Lex stopped picking and looked up at her, his eyes narrowed.
“And what mistake would that have been?” He demanded.
Kara ignored his tone and shrugged.
“You tried to go to fast.” She answered. “You tried to pull a civilization that was already having difficulties living in the twentieth century into the twenty-third, technologically and sociologically speaking.” She stabbed a piece of meat with her fork and pointed it at Lex like a weapon. “You tried to make them grow up too quick, Lex. That’s all. While it all seems so simple to you, you have to remember that you are not an average person. You make Einstein look dumb. So the answers seem so clear to you. You just did not take into account that not everyone is going to be able to see what you see. This world was not ready for a one world Government when you created the UEG…and it is still not ready. The problem is; it is here. You can’t go back. So we deal with the situation we have and try to ease people into the next century…hopefully preventing them from blowing the hell out of themselves in the process.”
“We?” Mercy leaned forward. “Have you decided to stay then?”
Kara hesitated but, after a glance towards and a nod from Rogue, she nodded.
“We have.” She said, recalling her dream. “I don’t think we ever really had a choice. But, we will not stay where we are not welcome, nor will we surrender ourselves to authorities for punishment, simply because we are Kryptonian. If that turns out to be the case, then we will bring the girls from Otherverse and then leave Earth…forever!”
Lex was thoughtful for a moment and then nodded.
“Fair enough.” He said. “I would not worry too much about the judgment, though. I cannot believe that Golder is stupid enough to risk a complete, open schism. And that is exactly what would happen after the events of the past few days.” He leaned back in his chair, smiling, and everyone relaxed. Mercy was one of the few people that could tell Lex he was wrong without incurring his wrath. Now it seemed that Kara had joined that small club. “Whether you two believe it or not, you have become the darlings of the press. And I am not even going to attempt to guess what they will do when they find out about Carrie and Karen.” He shook his head. “In just a few short days you two have turned the news around. Where there had been nothing but problems here and problems there…there are sudden glimmers of light in the gloom. Finally, after so long, the news people are able to report on something they have not been able to report on for so long. Real, tangible hope!”
“Superwoman and Rogue.” Mercy put her two cents in, shaking her head. “You cannot open a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch T.V. without hearing something about you two.” She blushed. “There was even a report of one guy that was going to seek you out, wherever you were, so that he could become your love slave.”
Kara sputtered and Rogue quickly slapped her on the back, dislodging the piece of meat she had nearly swallowed. Kryptonian or not, she could still choke to death.
“He what?” She waved it aside. “Nevermind, I don’t think I want to know.”
“I saw that report!” Stephanie chimed in. “The guy was rather cute.” She looked at Kara. “If you don’t want him can I…” She trailed off as everyone looked at her…and then Lex burst out laughing again.
As everyone joined in Kara leaned back in her seat, shaking her head. No, she would never have dreamed that she would be sitting down to dinner with Lex Luthor…Much less enjoying it.
Rogue awoke to an empty bed.
At first, the fact did not concern her. Kara was often up and around much earlier than she…a sickness Rogue was sure could be cured eventually.
It was only after she dressed, noting as she did that Kara had elected to wear her uniform rather than the civilian attire Mercy had provided, and made her way to the guest kitchen of the penthouse, that she began to have wonder.
In the Fortress, before the Ripple, Rogue would wake and find Kara relaxing in the kitchen with her second or third cup of coffee. A strange thing in it self, according to Kara. Before her death, she had never had a taste for coffee. Since her resurrection, it had become a daily ritual.
Over the past few days in Lex’s Penthouse, she had kept to the same habits and Rogue would find her skimming through the early morning edition of the Daily Planet (she was surprised to discover that the Daily Planet was one of the few papers since the invasion to return to the old tradition of putting out both morning and evening edition papers Monday through Saturday).
After a quick morning kiss, Rogue would then shuffle to the coffee pot, pour herself a cup and then join Kara to spend an hour or so waking up and reading the paper…A good way, Kara had claimed, of learning about the people in this new world.
Kara had, however, been saddened to discover that none of the names she had associated with the Daily Planet could be found.
Today the kitchen was empty…though a full pot of hot coffee had been made. An indication that Kara had made the pot for Rogue before leaving.
She poured a cup and moved to the table where the still rolled up paper lay.
She was standing, sipping her coffee, looking down at the table, when Stephanie, yawning, almost stumbled into the room.
“I have got to get back to work.” The Doctor remarked as she poured herself a cup. “I am not used to sleeping so late and if I keep it up…I am going to get spoiled.”
“Late?” Rogue lifted an eyebrow. “It’s barely six thirty in the morning.”
“Like I said…late. Half the day is wasted.”
“You and Kara…you are both mentally ill.” Rogue shook her head.
“Speaking of Kara.” Stephanie stirred cream and sugar in to her cup and looked over at the table. “I’m surprised she’s not up yet.”
“She’s up.” Rogue replied. “Up and out, would be my guess.”
“Out?” Stephanie glanced up at the clock above the small kitchen sink and frowned. Rogue had been correct about the time. “We have to be in Geneva in a few hours!”
“I know.” Rogue put her cup down and headed out of the kitchen. “Tell Lex that we will meet him there.” She told Stephanie.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to go find Kara. I think I know where she might be.”
Rogue stepped out onto the roof and, after a quick wave to the guards and landing pad crew, leapt into the air, sailing far out and over Metropolis.
From here she could get a good view of the entire sprawling metroplex.
It bore scant resemblance to the images of Metropolis she pulled from those memories of Kara’s locked deep within her own mind. But then, after seeing the images of what this city had looked like after the invasion, she was surprised it even existed at all.
Tall buildings and spires, looking like a city from the future far more than it did a city that should exist at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Vehicles, some powered by electricity and others powered by various other sources, crawled along the massive highway and interstate systems as the early morning commuters made their way into the city.
Sirens sounded in the distance and a quick check with telescopic and x-ray vision showed that emergency crews already had the situation well in hand…her help would not be needed.
She sailed out over the bay, dropping low enough that she could feel the spray of salt water in her face as she buzzed the fishing trawlers heading out for the day.
Here and there a figure would look up and, hesitantly at first, wave in her direction. The waves becoming more enthusiastic when she responded by waving back or performing some aerial acrobatics.
Back in towards the heart of the city she once again gained altitude and wondered what kind of fits she was giving the air traffic controllers at the downtown airport.
As she neared her final destination she once again activated her telescopic vision…this time to confirm her earlier guess that she knew where Kara had gone. She had been right.
Her first thought was that Kara might have gone to the Fortress, or even to the Superman Memorial exhibit in Central Park.
Right on the heels of those thoughts, however, had come the most likely answer.
And so now she checked her speed and flipped her legs out in front of her as she lit easily on the roof of the Daily Planet…directly beneath the great, golden, spinning globe.
While she had expected to find Kara here, she had not expected to see what she saw.
Kara must have been to the Fortress after all.
She stood on the edge of the platform on which the great spinning globe perched, her hands to her side, looking out over the city. Behind her, a long red cape flapped in the wing.
She wore a long sleeved one piece, black on the sleeves, sides, and back with a wide blue stripe down the front. A large stylized S, the symbol of the House of El, nearly covered both breasts and protruded just above the low cut one piece that left her shoulders and chest bare.
“Love, we are going to have to build an extra large Fortress…just to hold your clothes.” Rogue teased as she touched down next to her.
“I’ve always liked having a variety.” Kara remarked, somewhat distantly.
“Okay. Spill it. What’s up?” Rogue demanded, placing a hand on one of Kara’s bare shoulders and rubbing gently.
“I’m scared, Rogue.” Kara whispered. “I didn’t feel it so much in your world. There I was just one of many heroes. I knew there were more experienced people around if I ever got in over my head.” She took a deep breath. “And it wasn’t so bad in Otherverse…especially after Zal arrived. Again, I knew that, even if I failed, someone would be there to carry on…or to clean up my mess. But here…” She turned and looked at Rogue. “Here it’s different. Here we are on our own. What if we screw up? These people will be counting on us!”
“What is it you are always saying?” Rogue understood what Kara was feeling. “We’ll find a way?” She patted Kara’s shoulder. “That is what we will do. We’ll find a way. Kara, no one is perfect, not even you. But you’ve already proven you have what it takes. Who else do you know that has sacrificed her life for everything…and lives to tell about it?”
Kara smiled and turned, pulling Rogue close.
“I love you, you know that?”
“Of course…what’s not to love?” Rogue laughed and gave Kara a quick kiss. “But right now, we have a meeting to get to. It’s time to introduce Superwoman to the world!”
“You’re right.” Kara sighed and then brightened. “But I don’t think we’ll wait for the UEG to introduce us.” She took Rogue’s hand and pulled, sending them both tumbling off the edge of the building. Halfway down, they slowed and Kara, after a quick search with x-ray vision, flew to a window. “If I recall, WGN is housed in the same building with the Planet. And I promised Lucy Lane an interview!”
End of Arrival: Chapter 5
-- Story written and copyrighted (C) 2003 by Dylan Clearbrook
-- and may not be reprinted without permission.
-- The Continuum Worlds Concept is a joint creation of
-- Dylan Clearbrook and Eldric.
-- The Otherverse and The Multiverse, as depicted in the
-- Continuum Worlds, are original creations of Dylan Clearbrook.
-- Alterverse and The Inheritors, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,
-- are original creations of Eldric.
-- The Realm and Shadowverse, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,
-- are original creations of John P. and Jason G respectively.
-- Some characters in Continuum Worlds stories are original creations
-- of Dylan Clearbrook, Eldric, Michael Liebhart, Jake H., Jason G.,
-- Andrew Shields, Kyle M., Brian, or Jason Froikin and may not
-- be used without express permission of the respective author.
-- All DC characters are property of D.C. Comics.
-- All Marvel characters are property of Marvel Comics.