In a world without heroes
There's nothing to be
It's no place for me
-Music From the Elder
The small office area, separated from the main floor of the laboratory by a thick pane of lead lined, shatter proof glass, was dimly lit by the glow from the computer terminal. Hooked into the massive mainframe which filled the first two sub levels of the great multi-story building, Reed was able to pull up any information he needed, assuming of course, that the desired information had first been fed into the custom built computer. Though more advanced than any other computer in use on Earth, with the possible exception of the systems being used by Dr. Doom in the country of Latavia, it was still only capable of giving out what had already been put in.
It was here, in this office, that Reed did most of his research and brainstorming. It was here that he would spend hours on end, pausing in his work only when exhaustion or Sue drug him away.
Within hours of Kara’s breakdown, Reed had made a command decision and transported every one out of the Otherverse Probability. To be brutally honest, Sherri had tried to warn them of Otherverse. Though he would be the first to admit his stubbornness, Reed was not a stupid man. And only a stupid man would not take time to re-evaluate the situation.
Using the Probability Broach, a term coined by Johnny Storm in honor of one of his favorite Science Fiction authors, Reed worked consistently since their return to gather data from the Otherverse Probability. Within a matter of days, he had accumulated a sizeable amount of data. Now he sat in the darkened room, scanning screen after screen. Everything from newspaper clippings to news programs flashed across the screen at a rate most people would find impossible to comprehend.
As he had some many times in the past day of study, Reed pushed away from the terminal, rubbing his eyes. He had known that things here on this Earth were bad, just not how bad.
Here, in this Otherverse, the world had gone crazy. With a shudder, he gave silent thanks that his own world had not suffered as this one had. Even without the added problems of super powered criminals, this world had hovered on the brink of destruction for decades. That was, of course, according to their history, he reminded himself. As far as the people here were concerned, their history stretched as far into the past as the history of his Probability. Yet he knew that this entire…Otherverse, had not existed prior to 1985.
Be that as it may, their history was as real to them as his was to him. Older people could give vivid accounts of events that had taken place thirty to fifty years ago. Events they knew they had experienced and lived through.
“Another indication that time is what we perceive it to be.” He muttered to himself. He returned to the screen and began to flip through the various records, glancing through the contents, looking for anything…
He froze the screen, staring in disbelief. There, a copy of a newspaper headline proclaimed a day of celebration as the world’s most wanted and feared criminal met his death at the hands of an alien monster.
Why? Why hadn’t Sherri told them? He recalled that she had insisted that both Kara and Rogue be dressed as she had been when they made the initial transfer to this Probability. Now he understood her reasoning. It was not, as she had claimed, simply a way of keeping a low profile. It was to hide their uniforms. Or, to be more specific, to hide Kara’s uniform and the symbol it bore.
The newspaper headline seemed to mock him as the pictures below showed crowds of people ripping, tearing, burning replicas of the Super criminal and his symbol. The whole world had heaved a giant sigh of relief the day Superman was finally killed!
The soft, blue walls. The gentle, relaxing music that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. The atmosphere of peace.
All these things, placed and prepared to aid in healing, both physical and mental, were sharp contrasts to the seething, roiling turmoil in Kara’s soul.
Whether or not she could even see the walls or hear the music, only Xavier or perhaps Jean Grey could say. Kara herself had withdrawn within herself and not even the voices of her parents could bring her out.
She lay on the bed, it’s clean white sheets and light cover pulled up to her neck, staring with unblinking eyes at something perhaps only she could see.
“Rejection.” Xavier had announced, soon after their return from the Otherverse. “She’s going through rejection.”
“You mean she is having problems dealing with the killing?” Jen had asked, confused. She placed a comforting hand on Rogue’s shoulder, squeezing. Though she knew the other woman might not even feel the grip, she would know it was there and would know the comfort it was intended to convey.
Ever since the incident, Rogue and Jen had leaned on each other, helping each other as they waited to learn Kara’s condition.
“No. I mean she is going through rejection. Either her spirit is trying to reject the clone body, or the body is trying to reject the spirit.” Xavier clarified in grim tones. “It was something we had feared in the beginning. Much like a transplant patient’s body may reject the transplanted organ. We had hoped that, since so much time had gone by, rejection was no longer a possibility. Obviously that is not the case.”
Rogue, her eyes and face red from tears, reached over to grasp one of Kara’s hands. Though limp and lifeless, she grasped it tightly, as if she could, through her own force of will, bring healing to Kara.
Standing well behind the two women, Lar Gand looked on. Since he had watched Kara from the Zone for many years, even watching her die as she battled the Anti-Monitor, he felt a connection to this woman. He had watched her grow from a young alien with a heavy Kryptonian accent to a young woman every bit as deserving of honor as her mighty cousin. Now she was also the only link he had to that past which no longer existed.
Of course, the analytical part of his mind countered, if Reed Richards was correct in his hypothesis, then somewhere, some...when, there still existed a time and place that both he and Kara would recognize. A place where Kara never died. A place where, eventually, after a thousand years of imprisonment within the Phantom Zone, Lar Gand would be freed and join a Legion of Super-Heroes under the code name given him by Superboy – Mon El!
Then and there, looking down at Kara’s motionless form, he made his decision. He would, in honor of her and the man that had saved his life by placing him within the zone, change his name. From then on, he would be Mon El. Silently he mad a vow to Kara. He would carry on the El name and would continue working as she had worked.
He stepped up, and slipped an arm around Jenny’s waist. His other arm he placed around Rogue’s shoulder.
“You both need some rest.” He told them as he gently pulled them away. He caught Xavier’s eye and saw his grim smile of agreement. “Come on. We’ll get Sue to set up a room across the hall so you can be nearby if there are any changes.”
Somewhat reluctantly, the women allowed themselves to be led away.
Xavier nodded as the door slid shut behind the trio and moved his hover chair to the head of the bed. He would need help with this and the needed help was on the way in the form of Jean Grey and Dr. Strange. Yet a fear that he had not voiced to the others spurred him to reach out and touch his mind to Kara’s. A very real fear that help would arrive too late.
Softly at first, then with more confidence, Xavier allowed his thoughts to merge with Kara’s. When the storm hit, it took him by surprise. Gasping with surprise, he gripped his chair as the storm of Kara’s emotions rushed over him, threatening to drag him down.
Xavier anchored himself, assuring that, despite the violence of Kara’s emotions, he would be able to return to himself. He then took the mental equivalent of a deep breath and plunged in.
He was no stranger to Kara’s mind. After her initial resurrection, he had spent hours working with her, many times without her knowledge. Attempting to ease the merger between body and soul. Though in his case, he preferred to think of it as a merger of body and mind.
Images swirled around him in a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns as he swam through the turmoil, attempting to reach the core of her being. Each mentalist had his or her own method of perceiving thoughts. In his case, he translated those thoughts into images and sounds. From his own perspective, he was physically swimming through a sea of chaos.
Years earlier, he had performed much the same task with Rogue as she battled that portion of Carol Danvers that she had absorbed. He had used images then to aid Rogue. From her perspective, she had been transported to an ethereal landscape to face the caged Carol Danvers.
Now he used the same tactics to bring a small island of calm to the chaos of Kara’s mind. Like Rogue had then, Kara now had focused inwards and so he found her, atop a grassy knoll, spattered with blood, cradling the body of a child. She was dressed, surprisingly enough, in the Supergirl costume that she had worn so many years earlier. A quick glance was all Xavier needed to tell him that the girl being held was not the same little girl Kara had seen killed. The resemblance was strong, yet stronger still were the resemblances to her mother. The resemblances to Kara!
“Kara.” As with any such mental voyages, Xavier did not bother to project an image of his hover chair. Here, in this world of thought and images and energy, Charles Xavier walked on two good legs. He walked slowly up the knoll until he stood by the huddled figure.
“Go away.” Kara huddled over the child even more, tightening her grip. “Go away!”
“ I can’t go away, Kara.” Xavier answered gently. He made no move to touch her. Instead, he crossed his legs and lowered himself to the ground beside her. He did not speak. He simply sat nearby, watching as Kara cradled the body, rocking back and forth gently.
“Yes. I knew about it.” Sherri acknowledged Reed’s accusation. Reed had gathered her, Lar, and Sue in the conference room soon after his discover. He had, at first, demanded that Rogue and Jenny be present as well.
Lar…no, Mon El, he would have to get used to that since the young man was insistent, had merely shook his head and stated flatly that there was no reason to disturb either woman.
“They’re resting now. Perhaps for the first time since we’ve been back.” He had told Reed. “I don’t see any need to disturb them right now.” At first, Reed had been inclined to argue. After all, this was the FFHQ and he was in charge here. One look at Mon El’s face had told him that arguing would be pointless and possibly counterproductive.
“Superman was the worst thing that had ever happened to our world.” Sherri was saying. She held her head up straight and looked Reed in the eye. “He’s the one that brought the Artifact to Earth.” She turned to look at Mon El. “I imagine that the Artifact and this Shard you are looking for are one and the same thing.” She stood, turning her back to the others as she went on.
“You can’t imagine the terror that went through me when I first saw Kara and that…that symbol.”
“Sherri, in his own world and in our own to a smaller degree, that Symbol is one of justice.” Sue interjected.
“But not in my world!” Sherri turned around, planting her hands on the low table. “That symbol means death there. It stands for nothing but death and destruction.” She shook her head. “No, it wasn’t always that way. At one time, he was considered the greatest thing to ever happen to us. At that time, we called him Superboy. At that time, he and his dog did what Kara has told me her cousin did.”
“Dog?” Mon perked up, leaning forward. “White? Named Krypto?”
“Yes.” Sherri acknowledged. “Supposedly he came from the same planet Superboy came from, though I find that hard to believe. It’s hard enough to imagine that evolution followed similar paths with humanoids on other planets.”
“Depends.” Mon sat back, a thoughtful look on his face. The absent way in which he continued showed that his mind was only partially on his words. “If you give credence to the theory that many worlds were seeded with similar life forms, then it stands to reason that those life forms might evolve along similar paths.”
“Possibly,” Sherri conceded. “ In any case, it was after he returned to Earth after a mission in space, bringing the Artifact with him, that he changed. There are many that believe that it was the Artifact that caused him to change. Personally, I don’t know.”
“Is that possible?” Reed looked to Mon, hoping that his look conveyed his thought that they would not have to guess if Jenny were there.
“Oh yes.” Mon nodded. “Kal, in later years, would often go on missions with and for the Guardian’s of Oa. He knew of the Great Battery and the Battery knew him as well. In fact, I believe he was even invited to join the Green Lantern Corps at one time, but he refused. But he never made it a secret that he could be affected by the Lantern’s Energy.”
“So!” Reed rubbed his chin as he thought. He let his eyes close as he fan things through his mind. “If Superman could be affected by the Lantern, then so could Kara.”
“Possibly, but not to the degree Superman could be affected. Remember, I said the Battery knew Kal. To the best of my knowledge, Kara has never been anywhere near the Battery.”
“And you think this might make a difference.” Reed demanded.
“Again, possibly.” Mon nodded. “Since the Battery knew Kal, it is even probable that this Artifact, this Shard, called out to the Otherverse’s Kal El for help after Hal Jordan destroyed the battery. Being twisted and tainted, it is quite possible that it would pass along those tainted traits. Twisting him to conform to it’s own tainted image.”
“Well, this will add a bit of a problem for Kara if she insists on retaining her uniform.” Reed sighed. He reached out and touched a control on the comm screen he had set up. “On to the next item of business. I have finished a preliminary analysis of the current state of affairs on the Otherverse Earth. It appears that both Americas, North and South, are in total disarray. South America, as well as Mexico and Central America, are the worst with the United States running a close second. It does not appear that there are any central governments left in existence in any of those countries. Canada, while in almost as bad shape, appears to be dragging themselves up by the bootstraps. They have reestablished a central government, based more on the original United States Republic than their previous form. Also, they are quite small and their return to normalcy has been hindered by open warfare between them and the new Republic of Quebec.” He shook his head.
“Over all, it appears that Australia has come out the best.” He went on to describe conditions in other parts of the world; Russia, China, Europe, Africa, the Middle-East. Finally, he sat back. “I had, at first counted out global warfare. But it appears that they did try to slaughter each other. Oddly enough, it was the super-criminals that saved them all from nuclear destruction. While they could not stop all the nuclear strikes, they did get a majority of them.”
“Yes.” Sherri nodded. “It was, from what I was able to piece together later, a major case of misunderstanding. It started in the Middle-East. Israel was being threatened by super-criminals and it was finally decided that nukes should be used to remove the threat. It was not an easy decision. But all other avenues had failed and too many soldiers had died with no obvious effect on the criminals. So they launched a short range tac-nuke. Unfortunately, one of the Arabian states took this as an attack on themselves and launched a retaliation. It all escalated from there. The United States tried to stay out of it, until China launched on Russia and the UK…”
“I couldn’t save her.” The words were whispered so lightly that Xavier had to lean forward to hear. He still sat on the grassy knoll deep within Kara’s mind. He was no longer alone, however. Just beyond the scope of his vision, he knew Jean Grey floated in the chaos, waiting to lend a hand should he need help. He had noticed her arrival and had sent a small thought to her, a request that, for the time being she keep her distance. Though he could not sense him in any ordinary sense, he knew that Dr. Strange was also there, using his magick to insert himself into Kara’s mind.
“My little girl and I couldn’t save her.” Kara’s hair hung down, obscuring her face as she bent over the body in her arms.
“Kara.” Xavier started. He stopped as her head jerked up, her eyes blazing.
“Don’t call me that!” She hissed. “My name is…” She stopped, bewildered.
“Your name is Kara Zor-El.” Xavier told her, his voice pitched to induce calmness. He moved closer and wiped a strand of blond hair away from the blue, lifeless face of the little girl.
“What was her name?” He asked. He knew what the answer would be, but he had to start the ball rolling.
“I…I…” Kara looked down at the little girl, her face a mask of agony. “By Rao, I can’t remember.”
“Do you know why you can’t remember?” Xavier asked gently. In the chaos, he could feel Jean tense, readying herself. Kara looked at the little face a moment longer and then glanced up at him, her eyes pleading as she shook her head.
“Names are a form of abstract thought.” He told her. He reached up and wiped a tear from her face. “All that was left in the brain of the clone were images. Solid, simplex images.”
“Clone?” She started to shake her head then stopped. For the first time, her hands left the little girl to clutch her temples, as if she were, by pure physical power, trying to keep her mind from exploding. “I’m a clone? No…This body is a clone.” Her voice grew stronger as she talked.
“That’s right Kara.” Xavier nodded. He didn’t say anything else, knowing she would have to work this out her self.
“The body was a clone. I was killed.” She took a deep breath. “Reed Richards and Dr. Strange merged my spirit with the clone body.” Suddenly she stiffened. She started to stand, once again holding the child as a look of horror swept her face.
“Kara, stop.” Xavier laid a hand on hers, using his will to make her remain seated. “Think it through. You are Kara Zor-El. This was a clone body. An empty shell.”
“But I…she…had a daughter.” Kara wailed. “Oh Gods of Krypton!”
“And the body remembers that, in it’s own way.” Xavier confirmed. “When you merged with the body, you shut away any images that did not fit in with your previous existence. Yet it is now obvious that there are some residual images that you are going to have to deal with.”
“You don’t understand!” Kara rounded on him, her face a mask of fury. She tapped her skull with a finger. I have the images here. I can’t pretend that I understand what they mean. But I can get a pretty good feeling from them. And some of those images…” She paused, looking at the girl in her arms. Slowly the girl dissolved into nothingness. “She could still be alive!”
“Kara.” Xavier took one of her hands in his. In this mental world, his strength could match hers if he wished it. “Please. Remember that the reality you are from no longer exists. It never existed.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Kara hissed. “Believe me, I know that every well. But that has nothing to do with what I am talking about. I still exist, so she could to. From these images, I can tell you that she was not on Earth when the Anti-Monitor showed up.”
“What do you mean?”
“Prof. I see images of this child. The daughter of this body. And I know that the effects of the Yellow K were not passed on to the child!”
“But, that would mean she would…”
“Have the powers of a Kryptonian of my reality.” Kara confirmed. “Some of those images show her flying, exhibiting super-strength. And one of those images shows her disappearing in a ripple of energy!”
“I don’t think I understand.” Xavier said, though he was beginning to believe that he knew very well where Kara was going with this. And if she was, he was not sure she would be wrong.
“Prof. That little girl did not fade out of existence. She either accidentally transported herself or was transported out of my reality!”
Rogue sat at the side of the bed, gently brushing the hair away from Kara’s eyes. . She had tried to get some rest as Mon had suggested, but had soon found herself back in Kara’s room. She had been surprised to see Dr. Strange and Jean there. They, like the Prof., sat near Kara, their faces devoid of expression. From her own experiences, she knew this meant that they were telepathically linking.
She had moved quietly and carefully to the head of the bed so that she could be near Kara. She really didn’t care what the others thought or wanted of her. Right now, all that mattered was getting Kara better
The thought sent shivers down her spine as she considered it fully. Even during the most hot and heavy times with Gambit, she never, ever considered shirking from her duty. And now…
“What would you do?” She whispered. There was no answer. She hadn’t really expected one. In the end, she answered her own question. “You would do what needed to be done.” She stood and bent over the bed, kissing Kara lightly on the forehead. “I love you, Kara.” It was the first time she had ever admitted it; even to herself. She straightened and, knowing she would leave her heart here in this room, she headed towards the door.
“Love…you.” The words were hesitant, almost as if they were being forced out. Rogue was back at the bedside instantly. The Prof., Jean, and Dr. Strange were all moving as they came back to themselves.
Kara was breathing heavy and the look she cast in Rogue’s direction was haunted.
‘Kara?” Rogue felt like crawling into the bed and holding her. She settled for running her fingers through her hair.
“I…I had a daughter, Rogue.” She sat up, her arms wrapped around herself as sobs began to rack her body. This time, Rogue didn’t hesitate to wrap her arms around her and pull her close.
“I know.” She whispered. “Xavier told us.”
“It was this body.” Kara said, somewhat viciously. She tapped the side of her head. “The memories are here. Some of them, anyway. Gods, I can see her as if she were standing right in front of me. I can remember the pain of birth. But I don’t know what her name was!” She cried for a bit, clutching Rogue to her like a drowning victim will clutch a live buoy or a life guard that has swam out to save her. Hiccupping between every other word she went on, as if the need to talk it out was greater than the need to cry it out.
“I remember all those things….yet I know that I never experienced any of it.” She went on. “I never had a daughter, yet my memory says I did.” She paused and looked Rogue in the eyes. “And Rao help me, she may still be alive!”
Shocked, Rogue looked quickly to Xavier.
“It is possible.” He said, confirming Kara’s statement. “It is something that we will have to look into.” He squared his shoulders and, after a quick glance to Jean and Dr. Strange, turned his face to Kara. “But that is not all that is bothering you, Kara.”
Rogue looked at Xavier sharply, wondering what he was getting at.
“You killed, Supergirl!” Rogue and never heard Xavier call Kara by that name. Yet she saw the effect it had on Kara. “You let yourself go and you killed those that killed the little girl.”
Kara had stiffened at Xavier’s words, then just as quickly, she slumped into Rogue’s arms. Rogue glared at Xavier. How dare he…..
Xavier ignored Rogue’s look, his attention focused on Kara.
“Isn’t that it?” He demanded, his voice rough now. “Supergirl killed.”
“Yes!” Kara hissed. She sat up straight, her hands clinched into fist. “I killed those boys. I didn’t think. I just acted. I…” she shook her head, her blond hair falling down to cover her face. She took a deep breath and looked back up, brushing the hair back. “From the day I came to Earth, Kal keep reinforcing the need for thought and the need to use our powers responsibly. Above all, he tried to instill within me his own code against killing.”
“Kara.” Xavier’s voice was gentler now that he had broken through, “You are not the innocent young woman you were 15 years ago. You are no longer Supergirl. You’re a grown woman. What you have gone through has changed you. Whether for the better or worse is for you to decide. Yet consider this: This world is not the same world you helped your cousin protect. This world is teetering on the edge of extermination and perhaps that gentle, innocent Supergirl you were would be unable to cope with this.”
“That does not give me the right to kill wantonly.” Kara insisted.
“No. No it doesn’t.” Xavier agreed. “Are you afraid that you might go on a killing spree? Are you afraid that you might let loose and start slaughtering innocent people?”
“No.” Kara shook her head. “But then, I did not believe that I would ever be able to kill as I did.”
“Let me ask you this.” Xavier changed tactics. “How do you feel about those young men? Can you honestly tell me that you are sorry they are dead?”
“No.” Kara answered softly after a moments thought. “Their deaths do not bother me. And that is just as scary. It should bother me.”
“It does.” Xavier confided. “But it is not their death’s that bother you, rather it is the fact that you were the instrument of their deaths.” He sighed. “I know it will not make you feel any better, but you should know that Sherri sees nothing wrong in what you did. In fact, she is slightly puzzled by your reaction. Just remember, this is not the world you grew up in. Here, violence and death are the norm.” He moved his hover chair towards the door. “Perhaps, someday in the future, things will change. Maybe they just need someone to help them find their way. Maybe they need a protector. We can only hope they find some one after we leave.” He moved through the door, allowing it to close behind him.
“After we leave.” Kara repeated. She stood and hugged Rogue close. “Come on. Let’s see what’s going on.”
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Rogue asked, her voice full of concern. Personally, she was not sure. In her opinion, Kara was far from being ready. She should take time to deal with her feelings.
“No, I’m not sure.” Kara answered honestly. “But I can’t sit back and feel sorry for myself.” She smiled bitterly. “I’m Supergirl, remember?”
“No, you’re not.” Rogue insisted. “Not anymore. Linda Danvers is Supergirl now. You are Kara Zor-El. And by Rao you have every right to take some time for yourself.”
“Rao, Rogue?” Despite her inner turmoil, Kara found a smile. “My, we are making a Kryptonian of you, aren’t we?”
“Yes.” Rogue replied, somewhat forcefully, “And this Kryptonian thinks that Kryptonian” she pointed to Kara “should take time to get her shit together.”
“Such language.” Kara took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. “You may be right. But right now, we have a job to do. After that is done, perhaps I will try to work all this out.” She walked out the door, Rogue walking behind her, shaking her head. She would have to talk to Jenny and let her know that they would have to keep an eye on Kara. As much as she hated to admit it, she was afraid that Kara would snap.
“…that’s the way it’s been for the past few years.” Sherri was winding down. The story she had told had wrenched all their hearts. The world she had depicted with her words was a world of fear, death, and destruction. A world without hope.
Without hope! Jenny sat up in her seat. She had come into the middle of Sherri’s description. Like Rogue, she had not been able to rest and, rather than intrude on Rogue and those trying to help Kara, she had made her way to the conference room. Now she contemplated the emerald ring on her finger. Though she cold not say why, her thoughts had turned to Parallax. A visitor from another Probability. Without him, She would still be She-Hulk.
“Without him.” She amended to herself, “I’d be dead!”
“I think I may have an idea.” She spoke hesitantly when Sherri grew quiet. “I think I know of a way we can introduce a little hope. We just need the right person. And since Kara is sorta out of it, I know just the person to call!” Everyone’s eyes widened as a small green figure formed in the center of the table. “Linda Danvers!”
End of A World Without Heroes: