The Apokolips Agenda
“Use your X-ray vision on me, Clark. Not all the way, just enough to penetrate the first layer of clothing.”
The 16-year-old obeyed. What else, after all, was there to do? If this was a trap, he’d already walked into it. If this woman was what she claimed to be...
His eyes saw, below the surface of her blouse, a blue shirt with a familiar red and yellow shield.
“Holy spit,” said Clark Kent, softly, with awe. “This just can’t be. I mean, this really, really cannot be.” He paused. “You’re a Supergirl?”
“I’m the Supergirl, Clark,” said Kara. “The one the comics of your world are based on. We could use your help.”
Both of them were standing behind a tool shed on the Kent family’s property. They were within eyeshot of Jerome and Naomi Kent, his foster parents, and of D’reema and Lyla, who were all clustered about the Kents’ front porch. Neither one of the Kents really liked it. “What are they talking about?” asked Jerome.
Lyla said, “Mr. Kent, how did you find Clark, when you adopted him?”
“You know he’s adopted?” asked Naomi, a thirtysomething, strawberry-blonde lawyer in a lounging suit. True, they’d never kept secret the fact that Clark wasn’t their natural son, but it was unnerving that these strangers seemed to know that much about him. About them.
D’reema said, “They know a little about him, but not much. I know even less than they do. In a way, Linda is his relative.”
“In what way?” asked Jerome. “That’s what I’d like to know.”
“Linda will have to tell you herself,” said Lyla. “Is it all right if I ask how you found Clark?”
Naomi said, resignedly, “We were out on a nature hike and we found an abandoned baby wrapped up in a white blanket, left in a field. We couldn’t believe somebody would just have dumped a baby like that. So we took him in.”
“I see,” said Lyla, nodding.
“You still haven’t told us what this is about,” said Jerome, in an accusatory tone. “Are you spies? Do you know who his parents are?”
“We can make an educated guess,” said Lyla. “But I believe he should tell you himself.”
“And we are not spies,” said D’reema.
Naomi sat down on the steps. “Dear Lord. Are you going to take him away from us? Are his parents still alive?”
“If Clark wishes to come with us, he may,” said Lyla. “That will be his decision. As to his parents...no. I do not believe they live.”
“Oh,” said Naomi. “I’m sorry. Can you...can you tell me about them?”
“Clark will be the one to do that, if it is done,” Lyla replied.
D’reema stepped up to Naomi, and, tentatively, took her hand and looked her in the eye, with sympathy. “Please do not think ill of us, Mistress Kent. I know how unsettling this may seem to you, but we mean no harm. Neither to Clark, nor you, nor Master Kent. We are, in a sense, refugees. And, like your Clark, I am an orphan. Or I believe myself to be.”
Naomi’s eyes softened a little, and she didn’t pull back from D’reema. But she said, “That doesn’t reassure me a whole lot. For all I know, you could be spies. In fact, that hair-change trick your Linda did almost convinces me of it. How did she do that?”
“With her comb,” said D’reema.
Naomi rolled her eyes skyward.
“That’s it,” said Jerome. “That is it. I’m calling the cops.” He turned and started walking into the house.
“Mr. Kent, wait,” said Lyla, starting to follow. “Please.”
“Don’t come in my house,” said Jerome, almost within reach of the phone in his living room.
Then there was a hand on his hand, restraining him. “Hold it, Dad,” said a voice.
He looked up, and saw Clark’s face. Clark looked very serious.
“How did you get here so fast?” asked Jerome Kent. “You were out by the shed a moment ago.”
Clark said, “You’d better call Mom in here. We need to have a talk.”
Within the next few minutes, the Kents’ lives changed.
They sat, astonished, before Clark and Linda, who had both stripped off their outer clothes and stood revealed in costumes straight out of the comic books. Comic books Jerome had read as a youth.
It was like finding out that the son you had raised for almost fifteen years had secretly turned out to be James Bond, with an Aston Martin hidden under your garage.
“This can’t be,” said Naomi. “It simply cannot be.”
“It can, Mom,” said Clark, standing in his Superboy suit. “It is.”
“You...I...” Jerome couldn’t find the right words for it. Then he burst out: “Why didn’t you tell us? Why didn’t you let us know, Clark? Why?”
Lyla and D’reema, now in their Harbinger and Beautiful Dreamer garb, respectively, sat in chairs in the Kents’ den and kept silent, waiting for the Kents to sort things out, if they could. Even Supergirl was silent, respectfully. But she gave the Kent family a look of empathy, and that seemed to register with them.
“I just didn’t know how,” said Superboy. “I didn’t know if I could. I mean...it’s my secret. My secret identity. I’m really Superboy, Dad. I’m the kid you see on the TV news, or on that Time cover.”
Naomi said, “I threw that issue away.”
“It’s all right,” said Kara. “You can have the one I bought.”
“Linda, please,” said Superboy.
“You’ve been...” Jerome was trying to fit proper words to the concept. “You’ve been out there for the last month or two, sneaking off, catching crooks in Boston and New York and...and...everywhere else?”
“Not everywhere, Dad,” said Superboy. “I haven’t been all that active. I just help out where I can. I’m not much of a detective, but...well, what would you do if you had these powers, and you saw somebody try to hold up a 7-11, or try a drive-by in the Combat Zone? You can shoot bullets at me, real bullets, and they just bounce off. Like in the comic books. Like George Reeves, or Christopher Reeve in the shows.”
“Dear God,” said Naomi, and began to cry.
Superboy and Jerome went over to her, as did Kara, but Clark motioned her back. “It’ll be all right, Omie,”said Jerome. “He won’t do it again.”
“Mom, look, I’m really all right,” protested Superboy. “There’s nothing I’ve seen that can hurt me, so far.”
Naomi sobbed into her hands. “My son,” she said. “My son is a freak.”
A look of deepest sadness came into Kara’s face, and both D’reema and Lyla saw it. Then she spoke up. “Mrs. Kent,” she said, firmly. “Your son is anything but a freak.”
Naomi Kent looked up at Supergirl with tear-filled eyes. “Shut up! He’s not your son! You don’t know what he is!”
The girl from Argo City moved closer. “That’s where you’re wrong, Mrs. Kent. I know exactly what he is. Because I know what I am, and what the Clark on my world is. To you, it’s just something out of a kid’s comic book. To us, it’s the life we had to live.”
“It’s not his life! It’s not his!”
“Naomi, please, calm down,” said Jerome, wishing he had never set eyes on the three who didn’t exactly come for dinner.
“Mrs. Kent,” said Kara. “Do you know what it’s like to have everyone in your hometown, everyone you knew, loved, hated, didn’t care about, or even didn’t know, everyone except your parents, die?” A beat. “Because I do.”
Naomi Kent was silent.
“That happened when I was 15,” said Supergirl, quietly. “My parents bundled me into an experimental rocket. They sent me to Earth. To a world I knew nothing about. Everybody left behind in Argo City died. All those hundreds of thousands of people. Like all those millions of people on Krypton died, before I was born. I was frightened to death. If I’d stayed, I would have died, too.”
Superboy looked at her with an expression of pity, and even Jerome Kent was silent. Kara went on.
“I had to cross a large part of the galaxy to get here,” she said. “If it hadn’t been for the space warp drive in my father’s ship, I wouldn’t have made it. As it was, the automatic controls kicked out when I was in Earth-orbit space and I had to bring the thing down manually myself. My dad had me spend some time in a simulator, because I thought it was fun. It wasn’t fun when I had to do it.
“He sent me to the place where the only being on Earth who might believe my story lived. I landed near Metropolis. I don’t know if that city exists on your world, or Midvale either. I was wearing a suit like this one, because my mother had made it for me. They’d seen Superman operating on Earth by probescope, and she figured that if I went to Earth dressed like him, and showing off the powers that I’d have once I got there, he’d believe me. I had to break out of the rocket on my own, because the door got stuck in the crash. He saw me flying out. He just about had a cow. He told me that he thought I was an illusion, or some trick of his enemies. Then, once I convinced him I was for real, we both found out we were cousins.
“He told me that there was a whole community of Kryptonians on Earth, and I asked him where. It turned out they were stuck in some tiny bottle in his Fortress. That meant I would have to live among Earth people, and pretend to be an Earth girl. Try doing that, try carrying off that kind of act, when you don’t know a thing about Earth, when your parents, as far as you know, have died and left you alone, when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep. Some nights, I did.
“Sometimes I still don’t know how I managed it, but I managed. I kept my secret, and later, after Superman let the world know about me, I kept a secret identity. I lived in an orphanage and I was lucky enough to get adopted by two wonderful people.”
“Fred and Edna Danvers,” said Jerome, without thinking.
“You know about them,” said Kara. “Good. My Earth Dad and Mom. At first, they didn’t know I was anything but a normal American girl, because I hadn’t been revealed to the world as Supergirl. Then I lost my powers, and it didn’t look as though Supergirl was an option. I got them back, and I saved Mom and Dad from a car accident. That was when they learned. I had Kal there, Superman, to confirm it. Just like I’m confirming your son’s identity to you.”
“So you’re essentially saying, Kara, that everything I read in DC Comics, on another world, is true,” said Superboy.
“Within limits, Clark, yes,” said Supergirl.
He shook his head in wonder. “Next thing you know, the Three Little Pigs are gonna walk through the front door.”
“Don’t even joke about that,” said Jerome.
Supergirl said, “I’ve been through a lot since then. High school, college, several jobs. I don’t always like what I have to do. Lots of times, I’d just as soon forget about fighting bad guys and just go live with my guy. But it can’t always be that way. This is one of the times that it can’t.”
“Your guy?” said Superboy. “You mean Dick Malverne?”
Kara shook her head. “No. Dick came back for awhile and tried to make a go of it with me, but it just didn’t work. They put that in the comics, did they?”
“Not really,” Superboy admitted. “He just showed up in the last issue of your book, and it was cancelled before we learned anything.”
“Oh,” said Kara, with a rueful smile. “Well.”
“You said, ‘This is one of the times that it can’t,’” said Jerome. “I heard you say that. What did you mean by that?”
Lyla and D’reema stole glances at each other. Instinctively, Harbinger crossed her fingers.
“My world, and worlds linked to it, are under attack,” said Supergirl.
“By whom?” Jerome wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the answer.
“I don’t know that I should say,” Kara began. But before she could get another sentence out, Beautiful Dreamer spoke up.
“By Darkseid,” she said. “By the ruler of Apokolips.”
Naomi looked at her adopted son and her husband. Both of them were open-mouthed. Numbly, she wondered if she should have read more comic books when she was a girl.
“The one, uh, the one Jack Kirby used to draw?” said Superboy, after a long moment.
“I don’t know Jack Kirby,” Kara admitted.
Jerome moaned. “Oh, no. No way. If you’re real, if he’s real, we are not getting involved.”
“Jerome,” said Naomi.
“We are not getting involved, Omie,” Jerome insisted. “I read about him. If he’s anything like the comic books, we are not putting ourselves in that kind of danger. No way. Just forget it.”
“Is he like Lex Luthor?” asked Naomi.
“Cubed, Mom,” Superboy confided.
“He was the Hitler of super-villains,” Jerome confirmed. “Josef Stalin in grey face. Even if my son, even if I can accept that my son has super-powers, is really this Superboy that’s turned up on what you call ‘our’ world...no. I will not have my son risking his life. The answer is no.”
“Dad, I don’t know what I want to do, either,” admitted Superboy. “But it’s my life. Isn’t it?”
“Not till you get to be 18 and graduated, it isn’t,” said Jerome.
“Mr. Kent, if I may,” said Lyla. “Darkseid has mounted an attack which threatens not only a world, not only a universe, but several universes. Virtually every villain I catalogued with the Monitor seems to be involved. If our worlds fall, no one can guarantee that yours will be safe.”
“Stop it!” yelled Naomi. “You will not take my son from me!”
Kara held up her hand. “That’s all right, Mrs. Kent. That’s all right. If you don’t want Clark to go with us, he doesn’t have to. I will admit, he could be a great help to us in our fight. But that’s his decision, and, I suppose, yours.”
“You’re blamed well right it is!” said Naomi, defiantly. “My son is not a, a fr...an alien from another planet.”
“Mom,” said Clark, with infinite gentleness and a bit of sadness, “I am.”
“The Krypton bit, the comic book thing, it’s the only thing that makes sense, even though it doesn’t seem to,” said Superboy. “I mean, there I was, a kid, and I looked something like the guy from Dad’s comics, and I even had a name like his. You know what kinda razzing I took from the kids about that.”
“I know,” said Jerome. “You got into more fights about that name. I thought you lived in the principal’s office, for a long time.”
“But it didn’t really mean anything, at least, I didn’t think so, because I could get hurt, and scraped and cut and bruised and all that,” Clark went on. “I didn’t have super-power one. Then a few months back, I went out to that costume party on the beach. Remember, Mom? I dressed up in this costume.”
Naomi nodded, sadly.
“I was out there with Laurie. Laurie Lemmon. She was dressed up in that mermaid costume. We were on the beach, just looking up at the stars. I was wondering if I could see Halley’s Comet. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t come within range till December. But I still...I looked up. Looked as hard as I could. And it was like some kind of relay was thrown in my head, and I was looking out there, farther and farther, able to see...to see stars and planets and meteors, in closeup. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like Ray Milland in that old horror movie, about the guy with the eyes.
“And I saw Halley’s Comet.
“It was like I was close enough to it to touch it. I reached up, like I was going to touch it. I kept reaching, and reaching, and...and I didn’t feel anything under my feet anymore. I heard Laurie. She was screaming.
“Then it was like my vision, my telescope powers, whatever you wanna call them, they just shut off and went back inside my eyes. I looked down, and...and I was floating in the air. About forty feet off the ground! I felt like, I don’t know, like one of those cartoon characters that realizes he’s just walked off a cliff, and he’s trying to scramble back before the air he’s walking on runs out, and then whonk! He falls. And I fell. Right on my red tuchis. It didn’t hurt. That was the weird thing. One more of the weird things.
“Laurie was looking at me, and breathing hard with her mouth open, and I thought she was going into hysterics again. So I just hugged her, and tried to get her to calm down. I squeezed her a little too hard, and she just said, ‘You’re hurting me!’ So I eased up a bit. It was like...I don’t know, even my strength was going haywire. I was probably more scared than her. But I didn’t...I didn’t have the luxury of being scared. Not while she was.”
Kara nodded, approvingly.
“So she said, ‘Did that really happen?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know.’ She said, ‘I don’t want to know if that really happened.’ I told her I didn’t blame her. But that she shouldn’t tell anybody what we thought we saw, or what I thought I did. We hadn’t been drinking, even, and we thought we saw what we thought we saw. That made it even worse.
“Laurie said she wouldn’t tell, and me, I figured I’d wake up in the morning and it’d be all over like the end of a Tales From the Unexpected, or something. So we went back to the party and tried to forget it. But we couldn’t. Everybody was giving us the eye, ‘cause of the way we looked. They asked us if we’d found anything out there to scare us, like the weird tides that were acting up back then. We said no. I guess after that they figured we’d been making out, gone all the way or tried to, and it hadn’t gone good. We didn’t tell ‘em anything one way or the other. I hope...I hope she hasn’t gotten a reputation because of that.
“But I...I couldn’t forget about it. I mean, I didn’t dare to remember, but I didn’t know how not to remember. So the next night, I looked out my window, up in the sky, and wham. The same thing happened. I could see Halley’s Comet. I could see the asteroid belt. I could see the surface of Jupiter. I could see...I could see more than I ever wanted to.
“And I found the place in my mind where I could shut it off so that I couldn’t see things.
“A couple of nights after that, I snuck out at night and tried the flight thing again. I flew. I just went up about twenty feet, then I levelled off and flew forward, and I didn’t know how to land, and I just kinda pancaked. That’s how I got all those grass stains on my shirt, Mom. Remember?”
“I remember,” she said, wanly.
“After that I wore the costume. I found out about how much I could lift, how fast I could run, how far I could fly. I smashed my hand right through a fencepost, Dad, the one out there on the north forty, and it didn’t even hurt. I tried to cut myself with a knife, and I couldn’t. There wasn’t any way I could escape from it, and don’t think I didn’t want to. But I couldn’t. I was a Superboy.”
Naomi shook her head, and Jerome squeezed her hand.
“But...it wasn’t like in the comic books. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with it. I didn’t want to spend half my life fighting bad guys. I didn’t even know what bad guys I was supposed to fight. Then, well, you know what happened.”
“I know,” said Jerome.
“Forgive me, Mr. Kent,” said Supergirl, “but I don’t.”
Jerome Kent took a deep breath, then began.
“A postal worker in the local p.o., well...went postal. He’d been fired and came back with a gun. Took hostages. Was going to kill them, but he was going to have his say first, so he demanded that his outgoing calls be broadcast on radio. The negotiators just kept him ranting, playing for time, but time was just about to run out.
“Then we heard something like an explosion, and we thought he had a bomb. But the man’s voice came on, and he sounded as confused and terrified as we were. ‘Hey, what.’ That’s what he said. That’s all he said. ‘Hey, what.’ Then it sounded like...well, it sounded like a sound effect in the movies, when somebody gets hit.”
“It did,” Clark confirmed. “I hit him.”
“Turned out there was a big hole in the back wall, like somebody had blasted it with a cannon shell,” said Jerome. “Or maybe just punched through. But someone else’s voice was heard on the telephone, and it sounded like he was trying to disguise his voice. I thought it sounded familiar. Now, I know it was familiar.”
“I’m sorry, Dad,” said Clark.
“The voice said that the cops could get in there now, and the crisis was over. Then it was gone. The witnesses said the man practically flew out the back way, after knocking the postal guy unconscious. None of them could agree on what happened. But all of them agreed on who did it, and nobody believed them when they said it.
“They said, ‘Superman saved us.’”
“I couldn’t just let it happen,” said Superboy, sitting down on a chair and toying with his hands. “I just couldn’t. I heard it on the radio and I...well, that’s all.”
“You did the right thing, Clark,” said Kara. “I’m proud of you.”
“Thank you,” said Superboy, and she could see he meant it.
Lyla said, “The primal starting point for heroes on Earths is very often Superman. Or Superboy. I think you’ll find yourselves an important part of history from now on, Clark, and Mr. and Mrs. Kent as well.”
“I do not want to be part of history,” said Naomi Kent, with a tone she usually reserved for courtrooms. “I want my son to grow up to be a normal human being, not some Saturday morning cartoon character.”
“I’m not a cartoon character, Mom,” said Clark. “I’m Superboy!”
“In Supertown, he would not be unusual at all,” said D’reema. “Brother Superman felt as though it was the first place he could think of himself as an equal.”
Supergirl held up her hand for quiet. “We just need a place to stay for a couple of days, Mr. and Mrs. Kent. Our main objective is making certain D’reema here is safe from Darkseid. But if he isn’t stopped, as I said, then Earth-Prime will only be endangered as well. I also don’t want her staying here long enough to tip off Darkseid as to this world’s existence. If he doesn’t already know about it.”
“You’d better hope he doesn’t know about it,” said Jerome. “But...Omie, what do you think?”
“I think I want to negate this entire day,” she said. “I think I want to forget everything I’ve just heard in the past two hours.”
“That’s not an option, Mom,” said Superboy.
“I know it isn’t, Clark! I just wish that it was.”
“We do need a place to stay, sir,” said Lyla. “If you’ll take us on for a couple of days, we’ll be glad to pay whatever you wish. Then we’ll leave.”
“You don’t...oh, blazes,” said Jerome. “Why here? Couldn’t you have gotten a hotel or something?”
“We could,” confirmed D’reema. “If you don’t wish us here, we will.”
“Actually, we were kind of hoping we could find out if Clark here could give us a hand,” admitted Kara. “I didn’t know his situation. As it is, it’s just important that we made him aware of what we’re facing. If the conflict spreads here...it’s imperative he know about it.”
Naomi paled. “You mean there might be super-characters on our world? Making crazy wars and...”
“Hopefully not,” said Supergirl. “That’s why we’re leaving after a couple of days. Also to get back to the battle. This woman, D’reema, is one of the enemy’s great objectives. We have to keep her out of his hands. But we also have to do our part.”
Clark gave her a solid look at that last sentence. Jerome didn’t like to see it.
Jerome sighed. “It’s up to Naomi. What do you say, dear?”
Superboy said, “Mom, please. I need to learn so much more about who I am. And Kara, here...if I’m from Krypton...if there ever was a Krypton...she’s practically a blood relative.”
Naomi said, “If they come here, what will you do?”
“We’ll fight them off,” said Kara. “And we’ll get you to safety.”
She paused for a long moment. Then she said, “We’ll get the guest room fixed up. One of you will have to take the couch.”
It was decided that D’reema would share the guest room with Kara, in case of attack. Neither one of them told the Kents about that part. Before the women retired, Clark, back in his normal clothing, asked to see Kara. They went out on the back steps, sat down, and talked.
“This has been one incredible day,” Clark said, inadequately.
Kara nodded. “I know, Clark. I’m sorry for what we put your parents through.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I was trying to keep it from them. Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“You’ll have to work something out with them,” she said. “But if you were destined to be a Superboy, I honestly don’t see how you can shirk your responsibilities. On this planet, I mean.”
“You want me to go with you,” he said. “You want me to help you fight a guy out of the comic books.”
“It isn’t comic books where I come from, Clark. And what you do is up to you.”
“And my folks.”
“Be glad you have them,” said Kara. “Kal doesn’t. But your foster parents are a lot younger than his was.”
“Kal is your Superman?”
“Yes. Your Kryptonian name was probably Kal-El, like his.”
Clark paused. “You’re alive. That’s the weird bit. You’re Supergirl, and you’re really alive.”
“You mean, a comic book character came to life?” She smiled.
He paused again. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s exactly what I mean. Did you know about this world, before you came to it?”
“Oh, yes. I didn’t know where we were headed, but after we got here, a few clues tipped me off to it. We called it Earth-Prime.”
“It’s a lower number concept than Earth-One,” she said, “which is what we call Kal’s and my universe. The Flash was the first one to find it. Kal told me about it, after he did.”
“The...Flash?” Clark Kent was astonished. “You mean, there’s really a Flash?”
“Was,” said Kara. “He’s dead now.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“So are we,” said Kara. “There were a few other times our heroes came to your world, or vice versa. Let’s see if I can remember...” She thought for a moment. “A writer from your Earth, Cary Bates, came to Earth-Two and got turned into a super-villain for awhile by the Wizard. He fought the Justice Society and the Justice League. Then there was a time when Kal and some of the League wound up here and fought a guy called Ultraa. He’s on our world, now. If there were any other incidents like these, I don’t know about them.”
“That’s weird. Barriers between dimensions, and you walk through them like they were cheesecloth.”
“It’s not that easy, Clark. Even with super-powers, it takes some training.”
“Do you think you could teach me?” He looked at her.
“I could teach you some, and I’d be glad to,” she said. “But to vibrate between Earths? That takes a lot of control, and I don’t know if I could do it in just a couple of days.”
“But would you teach me something about my powers, Linda? I’ve got ‘em, I know how to use ‘em. But I haven’t had any training, other than what I do myself.”
“Be glad to,” she said. “Just get your parents’ permission first.” She smiled.
“Why are you grinning?” he asked.
“Because that’s what Kal had to do for me, when I came to Earth. He did it for the Earth-2 Clark Kent, too, when he got caught in a space-and-time warp. I guess it just runs in the family.”
“I guess.” Clark laughed, briefly. “I just cannot believe this. I just can’t. You knew what Earth you were on when you saw my picture on a Time cover?”
“No, not then,” said Kara, crossing her legs and holding her knees. “I just knew we were in an Earth in our primary system. When I knew that, I used my super-vision to pick up some clues. I saw that there were comic books with super-heroes in them in your world, and they’re not the true-crime sort we have on our Earth. Then I looked at the DC Comics offices here, in New York. There’s a man named Julius Schwartz. The one from Earth-Prime has a certain device the Flash built for him. It’s still in his office, in storage. Turned out that the thing was still in his office, on this world. That’s how I knew where we were.”
“So this all comes down to comic books,” said Clark.
“Maybe in your world,” she said. “Clark, I think I know what you’re feeling. I felt something like it when I came to my Earth. I just wanted a place to live. But Kal said that I had the powers, and convinced me I had the responsibility to use them. Sometimes I wish I didn’t. Sometimes I’ve even thought of chucking it and going to live on Rokyn.”
“That’s the world in my universe the Kandorians have colonized. You know about the Kandorians?”
“Uh, yeah. Little people in a bottle, right?”
“Right. But they’re not so little anymore, and they’re not in a bottle. But I haven’t quit yet. I may, if my man and I ever work things out. Right now, though...I have to admit I’d miss being Supergirl. It’s a good feeling, to have these powers, to be able to fly. To be able to help people, when they need it. I’m not that big on fighting bad guys, but I do it when I have to. Right now...I have to. All of us have to.”
“You wanted me to join you.”
“Yes. But that would have been if your parents already knew about you, and approved. It’ll take some time before they’ll understand, or start to.”
“Is there stuff in your universe that could harm me?”
She nodded, seriously.
“I wish I could help,” he said.
She clapped him on the shoulder. “For now, the best thing is for you to learn how to use your powers. Let’s get some sleep, then we’ll start out bright and early in the morning. That be all right with you?”
“Sure.” He hesitated, then said, “I’m glad you came here, Linda. I’m really glad you exist.” He offered his hand.
Kara smiled and shook it. “Same here. And when it’s just the two of us together, you can call me Kara.”
“In that case...well...I guess you can call me Kal.”
“Be glad to. Kal. Now let’s get some sleep.” She stood up.
“Okay. Is it okay if I ask who you’re dating? On your world?”
“His name is Dev. Dev-Em. I’m not sure you’d know him.”
“Dev-Em? Like, the guy from the Legion?”
She shot him a look of astonishment. “You know about the Legion? How could you?”
“Um. From the comic books.” He looked embarrassed.
“But they won’t even exist for a thousand years!”
Clark Kent stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at her, awkwardly.
“I guess on this Earth, they’ve got really good reception.”
She sighed. “Whatever you do, don’t tell anyone if they come here from another Earth. If they know about it, they might be able to create a future in which the Legion doesn’t exist.”
“I’ll keep it secret,” he promised. “Honest.”
The two of them went inside, then, and Clark was silent. He knew he could keep the Legion of Super-Heroes a secret, as could his father, if some crazy invaders from another dimension came to his world and didn’t notice the comic books.
All the same, he wondered if he could take one of the comics in his stash and hide it before any of the newcomers saw it.
It just wouldn’t do for them to see the cover of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7.
Lady Quark, freed from her bonds, had seared open Zatanna’s jaw-clamp with a laser-thin line of her nuclear power. The Harbinger-self that had been a captive with them was also freed. On the way, they and Pariah had literally run into Mr. Miracle and Barda during a fight with the guards. Now the five of them, freed, quickly pondered their next move there in Darkseid’s prison complex.
“We need to pull out,” said Zatanna. “They know we’re here, already. Mongul’s on our trail. I can get us out with a spell.”
“No,” said Miracle. “Orion is still here. Still a captive. Still, probably, tortured.”
Pariah nodded. “If Desaad did to him physically what he did to me, mentally, we have to get him out.”
Barda said, “That’s noble thinking. But I stand with Zatanna on this. We will not benefit Orion by getting recaptured. If we leave, we may return with greater forces.”
Lady Quark’s hands glowed with atomic power. “Now that we are prepared, I say we stand and fight. I will not see another world fall.”
“This world fell a long time ago,” replied Scott Free, and that was all he could get out before the stone wall behind them smashed asunder, covering them in dust.
Beyond the newly-made opening, they saw two hulking figures. Mongul and Kalibak. Both were grinning.
Immediately, Lady Quark unleashed an atomic bolt at Mongul’s chest. It spattered off like water from a hose. Zatanna said, “Tropelet ruo seof yawa,” and a spell burst forth from her fingers to do just that.
It petered out a few inches before it reached their two enemies. Pariah was first to see the new arrival, and knew he was responsible. He had not been there an instant before. Pariah would have sworn to that.
Darkseid, his hand still glowing with power, said, “That will suffice. Mongul, Kalibak, I would have Barda and Free alive. For the rest...take your exercise.”
The two of them moved forward.