Supergirl (Kara of Rokyn):

                                  Pain and Jasmine

                                    by DarkMark

NOTE:  Characters in this story are property of DC Comics.  No money is being made from this story, no infringement is intended.


             Kara Zor-El was sitting in her purple robe on the couch in her New
             Kandor home.

             She had not stirred from it for the past few hours, except to use the
             bathroom every once in awhile.

             When she got hungry enough, she would eat. Then she would come back
             to the couch. She might go to sleep on it tonight, if she didn't feel like
             walking to her bedroom.

             Her eyes were puffy and her hair had not been brushed or combed in
             days. There were a few food stains on the robe. When something she had
             been eating had splashed on it, she rubbed the stain with a little water from
             her glass, but didn't bother to wash it. Her robe and nightdress had been
             worn for several days now, and not changed in all that time.

             Kara thought she had taken a bath three days ago, maybe four. It was
             hard to remember.

             Part of her mind told her that she had to face the world someday. The
             other part argued, convincingly, What for?

             Her windows were opaqued. The messages on her CompUnit were piling
             up. She had disconnected the audiovid communicator after the first few

             Kara wished she had a cat. It would be nice to have a pet now, one like
             Streaky. A pet you could stroke, feed, talk to, listen to its purr, and love,
             and imagine you received love from it in turn. A cat would be nice.

             She had money enough to make the house payments and keep the food
             deliveries coming. She'd eventually tell Ar-Rom she couldn't do the movie
             deal. But she could put that off for a few days further. Maybe he'd just get
             the hint and call the deal off himself. That would be easier. That would be

             A pad of paper and a golden pen were on the crystal table in front of her
             couch. On the paper were several phrases she had written.

                  Girl of Steel
                  Girl from Argo City
                  Golden Girl of Rokyn
                  Kara Zo
                  Linda D

             And Kara sat and watched the holoscreen, as she had for the last six days
             and nights.

             It was replaying her title match with Lady Jasmine.

             Her eyes watched the holovid, while her mind replayed the events of the
             two weeks before.


             Kara Zor-El was working out.

             She put her body through a grim routine of calisthenics, weight training
             (with a variable gravity weight set), aerobics, and combat training. She was
             at a peak, and she needed to be.

             Lady Jasmine had defeated her in a tag-team match, and now the title belt
             was at stake.

             Even her manager Nar-Es and her trainer Hira were worried about Kara.
             "Look, kid, get ready for the match, yeah, but don't kill yourself for it,"
             Nar-Es had advised.

             "Cut it, Nar," snapped Kara, as she pushed hard against a force-field disk
             that returned her force. The sweaty, tanned blonde stood in a workout
             outfit and bare feet, a Venus with fitness-girl muscle.

             "I can't," said Nar, running a hand through what remained of his blonde
             hair. "You're not eating right. You're not sleeping right. You'll burn yourself
             out long before the match. How you gonna win it that way?"

             Kara fixed him with a baleful stare. "I'll win it because I have to win it. I
             can make my body do whatever I want it to."

             Hira, Kara's 48-year-old athletic trainer, stepped before her charge. "No,
             Kara." She shook her head. "There's only so long you can operate on
             overdrive. Then the body fails you, and the mind with it. Get some rest."

             Kara grunted, straining her lovely arms against the force-disc. "Turn it up,
             Hira! Give me the pressure!"

             Hira turned the machine off. The force-field dissipated. Kara's arms thrust
             against open air, and her hands flailed.

             "Oh. Really funny, Hira," snapped Kara. "Get that back on."

             Nar stood in front of her. "Karaish. Am I your manager?"

             Kara breathed heavily, bent at the waist and putting her hands on her
             knees. "What kind of question is that?"

             "Am I your manager?"

             Her head swung up. Nar had the grimmest visage she'd ever seen on him.

             "Of course you're my manager, Narior. Certainly. What's the punch line?"
             she asked, trying to back and fill a bit.

             He thrust a forefinger at her. "Then let me manage! You get dressed. I'm
             taking you home. I'm going to give you a sleep-treatment. I'm going to get
             you a force-ray massage. When you wake up, you will eat, and eat what I
             order for you. If you disobey me in any of this, you will have to get another
             manager. Clear?"

             Kara studied Nar's face, then looked at Hira's. Both of them had a similar
             expression. It was that of a detention hall master looking at a high school
             kid who turned up there three too many times. She tossed her mane of
             gold back and drew in a tired breath.

             "I understand."

             "Say it again," said Nar.

             "I understand."

             Nar-Es took her by the shoulders. "Now listen. If you want to have me in
             your corner for that match, you will learn to do what I say. Very clear?"

             "Very clear, Nar." She didn't look him in the eyes.

             "Make sure of that, Kara. Because, at this moment, we care a lot more
             about you than you care about yourself." Nar-Es raised her head with a
             hand under her chin. "And I want you to look at me while I'm talking."

             She nodded.

             Hira sighed. "Kara, we all want you to win this one. But you won't if you
             give yourself a heart attack on the way. You've forgotten all about pace."

             Kara mumbled, "I've forgotten a lot of things. I just remember my cousin
             Kal helping me blow a match. I've gotta show that witch Jasmine just who
             owns the belt, after all."

             "Nobody owns that belt, Kara," Nar retorted. "You only keep it for a
             while, and then pass it on. If you lose this match, you can win it later. But if
             you don't start using some sense, you'll have to win it or lose it without

             "And me," put in Hira.

             Kara sat on the floor, encircling her knees with her arms and resting her
             head on her legs. "I'm sorry. Really, Nar, Hira, I am. I apologize. I know
             I've been a pain in the rear these last two weeks. It's's just..."

             After a pause, Nar-Es said, "Call us a TransCab, Hira. I'm taking her

                                        - S -

             On the way there, Nar tried talking to Kara. "What's really got under your
             hide about this, Karaish? It's got to be more than just losing that last

             Kara sat and looked out the window of the cab.

             "Talk to me, Kara," said Nar, not putting the -ish on the end of it.

             "She made me look bad," said Kara, at last. "She made me look bad in
             front of Kal."

             Despite himself, Nar laughed.

             She whipped her head back to him. "You think that's funny, Nar? You
             think that's real funny? Why is it so funny, Nar? You think I'm doing a
             stand-up routine, or something?"

             Nar grabbed her chin. "Listen, Kara. I laughed because if anybody looked
             bad in that ring, it was your cousin, the great Superman. He didn't have
             enough training to wrestle in a pro ring. He was green as grass, and he
             looked it. He threw off your rhythm, you had to carry more than your fair
             share of that match, and that's why you lost."

             Kara pulled his hand away, fiercely. "I lost because she made me give up,
             Nar. That's what burns me. She made me give up in front of Mr. Critical
             Big Cousin Kal himself. Mr. Cousin Kal who wanted me to be him in a
             skirt. He hated what I do for a living, practically called me a slut for it. I
             wanted to show him what it was like, and then show him how it felt when I
             won one in front of his face. And I blew it. I blew it!"

             "You didn't blow it, you just lost, and if you don't get your head into a
             different space, you're going to lose this one!" said Nar. At this point, he
             didn't give a damn whether the cabbie was listening in on a monitor mike or
             not. "Listen. Kara. I've been a fighter, too. Want to hear about it? Good. I
             knew you would."

             Nar settled back, and pushed a button on a control panel. "Driver, keep us
             going for a little while. I want to talk to the lady here. Okay?"

             "Will do, sir," came the cabbie's voice from a

             hidden speaker. Nar turned back to Kara.

             "It was back in the old days, probably about the time your dad and your
             uncle Jor were getting into quantum physics and learning how to shave and
             such. My folks were not what you would call the scientist type. Dad did
             low-level maintenance work on robots and hovercars. Mom had me and
             my brother brothers and two sisters, and worked in Food Prep for one of
             the factories. Nothing big. Not like your family. But it was a hell of a good
             thing, by our standards. Do you understand me so far?"

             Kara sighed and nodded.

             "Good. Now here's where we come to the defining part of the story, as far
             as myself is concerned. Dad had another gig on the weekends. He did
             announcements at the glove-fighter bouts in town. It's more or less what
             boxing is on Earth, only they use littler gloves over there than we do."

             "I know, Nar. We had a few glove-fighters in Argo City, too. Dad did it a
             time or two with uncle Jor for fun when they were kids."

             "They did?" said Nar, incredulously. "What happened, they didn't like it?"

             "They liked it. But Jor Senior, their dad, made them stop. He said they had
             to spend their spare time honing their brains and that he, uh, didn't want
             any stupid glove-fighters in the family."

             "Okay," said Nar. "But back to my story. You know how big Krypton has
             always pushed scientists, the think-boys. The government's even called the
             Science Council, Rao help us. Me, I could barely get through classes a
             year behind my age group. They called me a dummy. Maybe I am."

             Kara looked straight at Nar, incredulous. "You never told me that before.
             Nar, you're anything but a dummy. In many ways, you're smarter than

             Nar looked at her with his mouth open for a second. Then he said, "Well,
             thanks, Karaish. But if you don't stop interrupting, we'll never get to the
             end of the story. And remember, you are paying the cab fare. Okay?"

             "Okay, Nar."

             "The thing is, when I was five, Dad took me along to see my first
             glove-fighter match. So here we were at the Kryptonopolis Stadium,
             among several thousand Jors and Jaras. I'm sitting in the front row. All
             around me are all these folks. Some of 'em workers, some cops, some
             teachers, even some think-boys. Yeah, the think-boys followed the
             fighters, too. But we're all like the same thing, there...what matters is in the
             ring, and we're all part of the same group, the same family, for a little while.
             That impresses itself on me.

             "And now, my dad enters. He isn't in his work clothes. He isn't even in the
             suit he wears when we go to Raotian services. He's in this bright red
             number with the blue and green trim, and he's standing straight and proud,
             not like when he's playing yes-sir to a customer, but like he's the master of
             the whole shebang up there. And he's smiling, and saying into the
             hovermike, 'For the first bout of the evening, tanthi and tyntho, from the
             state of Nioz, the challenger, Ti-Rex!' Then the applause. Then he goes,
             'And from Vathlo Island, the midweight champion, Re-Kur the Younger!'
             And the crowd goes wild for this big black hunk of power out there.

             "Then Dad steps out, comes and sits beside me, and the two guys go at it.
             Like pistons, their arms and fists were. Like machines, working in
             precision, going after each other. And as much as I loved my dad that
             night, I could see what those guys were doing was so much more than
             what he did. The whole damn crowd was cheering them on. They got
             knocked down, got pounded, got up and kept going on, and nobody
             cared about what their credit rating or i.q. card said. Everybody in that
             crowd, from the think-boys on down to the waste treatment men, was in
             love with 'em."

             Nar waited for Kara to say something. She said, "So that's why you
             decided to become a fighter?"

             "Oh, yeah. And I did. Not very big, but in my class, I got the Iron Gloves.
             I was one of the Men by the time I was nineteen. I could tell you more
             about that, but it'd take all night. You've been there, or something like it.

             "Now: there I was. I had this intermediate bout which was nothing big, but
             I had to eat, so we booked one for Kandor. Uh-huh, but don't get ahead
             of my story, Kara. Mom's feeling sick back home, and Dad can't come to
             every one of my matches, and this one, like I say, is no big deal. Even my
             girlfriend Flara is staying home. I say, 'Fine, I'll be back in tomorrow for
             dinner.' I could tell you about Flara, but I'll just say that we were getting
             ready for the Matchmaker machine. Okay? That far.

             "So I go to Kandor, and I went by and saw my uncle, who lives there, and
             I'm about an hour away from the fight. The date is 33 Ogtal, 9998. What

             "Brainiac," said Kara.

             "Right. Brainiac. The big green goon of a babootch in the pink shirt. The
             two-legged computer creep. Right when I'm at the arena, talking with my
             manager, we hear this big rumble, like there's gonna be a quake or
             something. Only it's different from that. We all ran outside, and it's hard to
             tell...but it looked like there was a big canyon getting cut in the ground, just
             outside of town, and everything on the horizon is kinda getting smaller, like
             you were running backwards away from it. We were trying to find
             lightpoles or trashcans or parked hovercars or something to grab, and the
             cops are zipping around in their skygrabbers, telling us not to panic, and
             that not too convincingly. Then...we're going up. We can tell that,
             somehow, because we're getting plastered right flat against the ground. The
             skygrabbers are plunking flat against the pavement. Most of us are
             throwing up like crazy. I didn't even knew I had anything to spew, and I
             spewed like a geyser. Ears popping. Noses were bleeding. We were all
             praying to Rao, or something. I don't know what we were doing.

             "Then everything goes grey in front of us for a second. And then it winks

             "And when it comes back, there's this big green face on the horizon,
             looking at us. Just looking. I mean, if that was Rao, I was ready to change
             my religion! R** forgive me, but he understands. We were about to go
             crazy. There were suicides, no fooling. I thought about it...but not for long.
             I was too busy wondering what was going to happen next.

             "And this voice comes out of the air, like nothing I ever heard. It tells us
             that the green guy is called Brainiac, that we've been shrunken down and
             stuck in some kind of a bottle, and that no harm will come to us, we're just
             part of a scientific exhibit. Really big reassurance, I can tell you.

             "Well, what could we do? After the initial nutso wave passed, the city
             started getting its stuff together again. The big green guy wasn't interfering
             with us much, so the Council got together, told everybody to stay cool,
             and worked out a way of living. That's what we had to do, and that's what
             we did do. You know that much of it.

             "We were expecting, or hoping, that all the folks left back on-planet would
             find a way of coming and getting us. Wrong on both counts. Like you
             know, Krypton wasn't much into space travel yet. And Brainiac was way
             out a zillion light-years from where they could reach him, if they could even
             find him. Which they couldn't.

             "Okay. The upshot of it is, there I am. Mom, Dad, my girl, my brother and
             sisters...all gone. For a while, people could have cared less about the
             glove- matches. I could have, too.

             "But the government wants to get people's minds off their troubles. So they
             come to the sports consortia and say, 'Hey, we want you to get back in
             action. Put on some fights, give the people some entertainment. Make 'em
             yell and scream and stomp their feet for awhile.' And the sports bosses
             said, 'Okay.' So a month after that, I find myself back in the ring against
             To-Lot, the 'Golden Mace'. He had blonde hair. If it'd happened the day
             before Brainiac, I coulda took him. Don't doubt me, Kara, I coulda.

             "It was the worst damn fight of my life.

             "I couldn't get Mom and Dad and the family and Flara out of my mind.
             Especially Flara. Concentration shot. I got pounded. Even To didn't want
             to do it to me, I could tell. But in the clinches, I told him, 'Don't stop. You
             gotta carry the show.' And he did. And they carried me out after Round

             "I wasn't bad hurt. But I knew from then on that I wasn't a glove-fighter
             anymore. The fire had gone out, Kara. I just couldn't get it up to go in
             there again. And it wasn't because of what To did to me, he was a nice
             enough guy about it. It's because of what I did to myself.

             "So I started being a trainer. And I got good at it. I really did...managed,
             too, and got me some champs. The sports guys hit on the idea of female
             combat to get the Jors minds off the big green galoot looking through the
             glass. You know, sex and combat combined. They came to me, and I said,
             'I'll do it,' and I connected with Hira, who'd been a coach. And we got
             started. This was, of course, a couple years later...right after the big

             Kara was sniffling. So much tragedy had been visited upon the men and
             women of Krypton. She felt it had been harder on the survivors than on the
             billions lucky enough to be annihilated in an instant. But she was glad that
             Nar was one of the survivors.

             "The rest of it you know. So that's the bit, Kara. I don't think the flame is
             there for me, anymore. The flame that could make me get in the ring and
             take the punches, even if I could go back and get twenty years younger.
             But even then, when I had it, I knew it had to be a controlled flame.
             You've got to direct the heat, keep it going in the right direction, not burn
             yourself out or burn yourself up.

             "That's what I'm seeing in you now, Karaish. You've got the flame. But
             you're not controlling it. It's controlling you."

             "I'm sorry, Nar," she said, putting her hands on top of his. "I wasn't there
             to see old Krypton, but I did lose Argo City. I know how it hurts. I didn't
             mean to add to your hurt."

             "Well, you didn't. Just remember the flame, Kara. Remember how to use
             it." He pushed the intercom button again. "Cabby, go ahead. Get her home
             now and you can take me back."

             "At once, sir," said the voice.

             Kara and Nar went inside her door. Nar got a sleep-patch from her
             medical cabinet and made her get into bed, putting the patch on the back
             of her neck. He kneaded the tense muscles in her back. She sighed with
             pleasure. My little girl, thought Nar.

             Within five minutes, she was sleeping.

             Nar went out and got in the cab. It took to the night skies again.

                                        - S -

             So it was that a weary Kara got a good night's sleep for the first time in
             three days, and woke up at 11 a.m. the next morning. She yawned,
             stretched catlike in the comfortable four-poster Earthstyle bed. She
             halfway expected Mom to be telling her she was late for school.

             Kara sat up in bed, rubbing her eyes with both hands. Jeez-Louise, she
             couldn't afford to get this way. Her looks would go to hell, for one thing.
             She checked her reflection in the mirror on the wall beside her, stuck out
             her tongue at the girl she saw, and decided she still had a long ways to go
             in that department before worrying.

             She swung her long legs out of bed and checked the message receiver on
             her CompUnit. 36 of them, most of which she could skim and delete
             without worry. There was a message from Allura, her mother, asking why
             she hadn't called in the last two days. There was a short bit from Kal,
             wishing her well in the coming match, and hoping they could get together
             soon, either on Earth or Rokyn. There was one from her fan mag editor,
             asking for some more pix and a letter to the troops. There was another
             notifying her of a short meeting with a couple of guys from Kara's Power
             Pizzas, which was becoming a nice cash cow. Rokynians liked pizza, it
             turned out.

             The most important one was from Ar-Rom, one of the czars of Rokyn
             vid-entertainment. It concerned what could be one of Kara's hottest
             business ideas yet. Ar- Rom wanted to talk to her as soon as she awoke.
             Well, for the bucks he could put in her pocket, thought Kara, it was time
             to be officially awake. She threw on a robe and padded to her bathroom
             to freshen up.

             Then she moved to the living room, activated a command circuit, and a
             hologram of Ar-Rom appeared before her, business-suited and gruff, at his

             "Greetings to you, Arior," she smiled, with her best Vanna White
             demeanor. "Is this a good time?"

             "And greetings to you, Karavia," he said, with the ending to her name that
             denoted "female business associate, subordinate", or something near to it.
             "I'm time-crunched, sorry. Think you can work the deal?"

             She crossed her legs and looked straight at him. "I think I'm your best bet
             to do it. The response from the audience tests at the vidfest seem to
             demonstrate that there's a decent market for Terran movies. We can do
             dubbing and shoot some contextual footage to clue the viewers in if there's
             something that might confuse them. But I've floated the idea to Fox,
             Warner's, Paramount, and some of the Terran studios outside the U.S.
             They're hot on it."

             Ar-Rom popped an antacid into his mouth. "The first interplanetary
             entertainment exchange," he mused. "Well, we're still working out the
             medium of trade, the monetary equivalent. Hope you'll be out front in this.
             You've got profile on both worlds. The vidnews will want you for the

             "Couldn't keep me away, Arior," said Kara. "But I get to filter what we get
             and what we don't. I don't want any Friday the 13th garbage in Rokyn. I'll
             also dub a few of the female voices myself, and I insist on doing it on

             "Whatever that is," muttered Ar-Rom. "All right, see what you can do.
             That 3 per cent cut of yours only stands if we manage to do the deal with
             the Terran studios. And if these things don't draw enough, all you get is
             expenses. Clear?"

             "That's all I ask for, Arior," said Kara, seriously. "All I've ever asked for
             since I came to Rokyn is a chance to show what I can do."

             He looked at her for a long moment and then said, "I'd say you've done all
             right in that department, Kara."

             She smiled and fingered the collar of her robe. "Thanks, Arior."

             "And good luck on your upcoming match."

             "Thank you very much, Arior. Break?"

             "Break," he agreed, and the image faded.

             Kara barked an order at the CompUnit to fix her breakfast. It was hard to
             digest it.

             She was thinking about Jasmine again.

                                        - S -

             Jara, aka Lady Jasmine, was thinking about Kara Zor-El. And not just as
             an enemy.

             Her manager, Vara Tol-Orri, was trying to get through to her. "We've got
             one studio saying maybe. Just maybe. But you know what's keeping the
             others out."

             "Tell me," she said.

             Vara, a black-haired woman in a red suit, swung around to face Jasmine,
             who was hanging upside-down from a rod suspended by force-beams and
             doing sit-ups. Jasmine wore only a sports bra and shorts. The effect of her
             sweaty, toned body was not lost on the manager, but Vara was still griped.

             "First, that vid from way-back when."

             Jasmine said nothing.

             "Second, they still like the idea of using Kara Zor-El better than you. But
             she's still not committed to an acting career yet. Look, Jara, can you stop
             doing those things long enough for me to get through to you?"

             Jasmine grunted, touching elbows to knees and then easing back down.
             She'd lost count after 50. "I'm listening."

             Vara sighed, clicking her gold-plated nails on the scanplate in her hands.
             "What it amounts to is: nothing definite. But if you beat her, and take the
             belt, we've got more negotiating power. So that's what we're looking at.
             You hear me?"

             "I hear you," said Jasmine. She came up again, at the apex of another
             sit-up. A 3-D portrait was hung on the wall where she could see it every
             time she touched elbows to knees. The picture was of Kara Zor- El.

             Jasmine said, "Where is Kara today? Can you tell me?"

             Vara, checking her scanplate, frowned. "What do you want her for today?
             You're not supposed to be in contact with her. You know that."

             Jasmine grasped the bar, swung her legs down, and lighted on her feet.
             Then she grabbed her manager by the tunic and touched foreheads with
             her. "Tell me where she is. Now."

             Vara tried to hide her fear. "Take it easy, Jara. Don't go acting like a
             thought-beast in the Scarlet Jungle. What is it? You want to try some
             psychowar on her?"

             "Something like that," said Jasmine, still touching foreheads with her.

             She didn't let Vara go until she got the information.

                                        - S -

             Kara was in the pool at the New Sun Ladies' Spa alone. She preferred it
             that way, and, since she was Supergirl, the owners let her have it to herself
             for a full hour. All she had had to do was appear in a commercial, and that
             she had done. For right now, Kara was enjoying her daily hour of renewal.

             Clad in an orange swimsuit, Kara did several laps and then floated on her
             back. When she was done, she touched a control on her bracelet. A
             magnetic device drew her swiftly to a metal ring around the pool.
             Rokynians equipped all swimming pools with these rings and required
             bathers to wear the safety bracelets. Very few people managed to drown
             in a Rokyn pool. Kara made her way to a ladder, emerged from the water,
             and padded off dripping wet to the dressing room.

             She smiled. Her tension was finally receding. As long as she kept her
             thoughts about...well, you know the background, it worked.

             Kara entered the dressing room, and found that she was not alone.

             Jasmine was there, clad only in a short robe. She was looking straight at

             Kara Zor-El dropped her towel and her jaw at the same time.

             At last, she realized just what kind of look Jasmine had given her in their
             first match. The brunette was making her intentions very clear. Jasmine
             opened her red robe, placed her hands on her hips, and stood with feet
             spread wide.

             "I don't believe in subtlety, Kara," purred Jasmine. "I go after what I want.
             And I've wanted you ever since I saw you fight. What about it?" She
             doffed her robe, letting it drop to the floor behind her, and stood naked
             before the blonde. "Want a little new experience? I won't tell."

             Kara finally found her voice. "Get out."

             Jasmine's face had a pleading expression now. She held her hands palms
             up. "You don't understand, Kara. Sure, this is a physical thing. But I may,
             well, love you. If you haven't done it with a girl before, you don't know
             what you're missing. And if you haven't done it with me, you should know
             what you're missing."

             "I'm going to stay ignorant," snapped Kara. "You disgust me. You,
             personally, make me sick. I don't like to be propositioned. Especially by
             you! Get out!"

             The seductress instantly became a maddened cat. "I warn you, Kara--"

             "Warn me? One word of this to the commission and they'll yank your

             "I don't think you'll do that," said Jasmine, dangerously. "You want this
             fight as much as I do. Don't you?" Kara had to admit to herself that she
             did. After a pause, Jasmine went on.

             "I'm offering you a choice. If you take me, I'll go easy on you in the ring. If
             you don't--" She gave Kara as venomous a look as she'd ever seen, and
             the heroine replayed all the cliches she'd heard about a woman scorned. "If
             you don't, I promise you twenty- five minutes of sheer hell. And you know
             I can deliver. Now, what'll it be? Ecstasy--or agony?"

             Jasmine was being deadly serious. Kara felt fear for an instant, then steeled

             "Neither one, baby. I'm going to beat you. Now get that robe on and get
             out of here. You'd better hope I can pretend this didn't happen."

             The woman looked at Kara with the air of a butcher wondering which part
             of a carcass to start on. Then she turned, stooped, and picked her robe off
             the floor tiles. She slid it back on, did up the sash, and then looked up.

             "You will regret this day," said Jasmine, without due emphasis.

             Kara found that the scariest part of their encounter.

             The dark-hued brunette turned and walked away, not looking back.

                                        - S -

             Kara told Hira about the incident the next day. Hira talked to Nar-Es, who
             talked to Vara, who talked to Jasmine. Jasmine pooh-poohed Kara's
             version of the facts, asserting first that there had been no incident, then
             saying Kara had been the one to ask her over and make the advances.
             Nobody believed her. But it didn't change anything.

             They still had a match to wrestle.

             In the end, Nar and Vara agreed to keep the women apart until the fight,
             with a stiff financial penalty for violations. Both managers knew that
             Jasmine would be fighting with greater intensity now, to gain the title belt
             and to repay Kara for rejecting her. It was shaping up to be a blood

             But the tickets had been sold, the cash outlay was too great for them to
             cancel it, and Jasmine would publicly accuse Kara of cowardice if she
             failed to appear. (The swimming pool incident, however, had been kept
             out of the media.) There was no way out.

             Both women trained vengefully for the fight of their lives.

                                        - S -

             And then, the fight of their lives was about to begin.

             Kara made her entrance triumphantly, in a white gown of purity. It was
             clasped at the neck, allowing her lovely, bikini-clad body to be displayed
             to the crowds at the stadium and to the vid-cameras. The latter transmitted
             it live to many of Rokyn's time- zones. For the others, it was being
             recorded for later replay and for sale later, as a holovid, to Kara fans-
             -and Jasmine fans--everywhere.

             Kara was clad, barely, in her famed blue bikini top with the red and yellow
             "S" shield on the right breast and her red bikini bottom, plus sandals. She
             also sported the gold championship belt. One section of it bore her face in
             a hologram. There was a button below it that could cancel it out if she lost
             the match.

             Normally, Kara blew kisses to the crowd, waved to them, posed teasingly
             and sweetly for their grateful attention. This time she was silent, focused,
             intent on covering the distance to the ring.

             She was also nervous, angry, fearful, and resolute, all at the same time.

             Nar-Es and Hira sat in the front row, looking up at her image on the big
             holoscreen above the ring. "This doesn't look good, Hira," said Nar,
             nervously twiddling his thumbs. "She needs to be a lot looser. She's turned
             herself into a zombie."

             "A zombie's supposed to be the walking dead," said Hira, her arms
             clasped below her breasts. "You would have to make me think of that. Oh,
             dammit, Nar, why didn't she listen to us?"

             Nar delivered a silent prayer to Rao. Kara was going to need it.

             The blonde passed the first row, gave a tense look to Nar and Hira. They
             returned it to her, Nar wishing her well with a hand-signal. But Kara was
             looking at his eyes. They gave a different message.

             She parted the ring ropes and stepped inside. Kara doffed her gown, gave
             it to the attendants, and waved briefly to the crowd. She did a few
             limbering-up exercises, more cursory than anything else. Even the ring
             announcers and vid-men were picking up on the tension.

             In a small room far from New Kandor, Zora Vi-Lar picked up on it too,
             watching on a small vid-screen, and grinned viciously.

             Then it was time for Jasmine's entry.

             She emerged from the performers' tunnel just seconds after Kara finished
             her exercises. She was wearing her trademarked orange mini-bikini, but
             she also had on a black cape with a short flared collar. It was thin enough
             on both sides to give the onlookers behind her a great shot of her
             shoulders, back, ass, and legs. But it also had a train that trailed two feet
             on the floor. The Wicked Witch was making her entrance.

             Jasmine was focused, but she had on a confident half-smile. She walked
             with authority, and even grinned at some of the crowd to either side of her.
             Kara noted that her arm muscles seemed bigger than before, though not
             like that of a pro bodybuilder.

             The Sexy Sadist hadn't been sitting just sitting on her sofa this month.

             "If I had to put money on this fight, I'd divide it in half and cover both girls,"
             said one of the announcers. "It's going to be a tough fight for Miss Zor-El
             tonight, Yor."

             Yor, the other mike-man, said, "If I had to bet, I might put it on Jasmine.
             She does look tough."

             "She does. But so does Kara. Let's wait till the match is underway before
             any more speculation, shall we?"

             "Like you said," allowed Yor.

             Jasmine had gained the loyalty of a sizable contingent of fans, much to
             Kara's dislike. She entered the ring, refusing--irritatingly--to look at Kara
             yet. Jasmine took off her black cape, flexed and posed seductively for the
             crowd, threw her head back and closed her eyes with an expression of
             ecstasy (the males let up a howl), and then whipped back into a readiness
             position and shot Kara a look of hatred. If Jasmine had been a cobra sizing
             up a victim, the gaze could have been no less deadly.

             Kara shot one back at her, but she flinched nevertheless.

             Both women, barefoot, waited for the bell. One fall, submissions only, for
             the title. Nar had wanted Kara to go for three, but the blonde had insisted
             on only one. She said she wanted to wrap things up quickly. Nar
             wondered if Kara just didn't dare to go against Jasmine for three rounds.

             Kara had wondered that, too.

             The bell rang.

             Both women stepped from their corners and began the dance of destiny.

             Kara and Jasmine circled closer, walking on their toes and the balls of their
             feet, ready to close, eager to do damage. The crowd's roar was a wall of
             sound, but neither woman took much note of it.

             "I gave you the chance of love," said Jasmine, sotto voce. "Now I give you
             the penalty of pain."

             "I'm pretty good at that penalty myself, honey," said Supergirl, tautly. "And
             you overestimate your charms."

             A second later, she realized she shouldn't have gone there.

             Jasmine leaped forward, smashed an iron-fisted blow to Kara's face, and
             sent her careening to the mat. Before the heroine could recover, Jasmine
             kicked her in the abdomen, doubling her up. Then pulled her to her feet by
             the hair, headlocked her, scratched her eyes, and bulldogged her to the

             Kara gasped and the crowd groaned.

             Jasmine smiled.

             She released her foe and stood away from her, beckoning her up. "Come
             on, little beast. We have to give the crowd a show, you know."

             The look of pain on Kara's face was replaced by an angry grimace. She
             launched herself at Jasmine's midsection, taking the half-nude villainess
             down to the mat, and smashed at her with fists once she was down. Kara
             landed four blows before Jasmine made a strike with stiff fingers to the
             underside of Kara's jaw, causing her to grab her throat. Jasmine raked
             Kara's face with her hands and pushed her off.

             Both women got to their feet, but Kara still had a hand to her eyes.
             Jasmine moved in and scored with three powerful knees to Kara's bare
             belly. Kara doubled, clutching her gut, then took a knee-lift to the front that
             sent her back-first to the mat. Jasmine knee-dropped to her rib cage.
             Kara's eyes went wide as she gasped in pain.

             Where had all her training gone? Why wasn't she making a better fight of

             The crowd was hollering for Kara to get back in the fight, none more
             vehemently than Nar-Es and Hira. But, right then, it wasn't yet to be.

             Jasmine dropped a knee over Kara's throat, put all her weight on it, and
             watched as the tanned, gulping blonde tried to push up on Jasmine's leg
             with both hands. Kara finally managed to heave her rival off, sending
             Jasmine stumbling and falling flat on the mat. Still gasping in breath, she fell
             on her rival, elbowing her in the chest. But Kara was still in pain, still
             playing catchup.

             Jasmine grasped both of Kara's hands and held them back, straining, even
             as she wound both of her long bare legs about Kara's middle and
             squeezed. The heroine gasped, "No! No!" and shook her head. But the
             brunette had her at too great a disadvantage. Kara slipped to the side, but
             that only allowed Jasmine to get a better position, maintaining the body
             scissors from the side.

             Kara felt as though two bars of steel, bolted together at one end, were
             crushing her just underneath her breasts. Her ribcage was bruising. She
             tried to kick, tried to bridge, flailed her arms, but Jasmine had her. The
             pain was terrible.

             Jasmine was applying the scissors straight-leg fashion, putting as much
             power as she could into it. The heroine's moans and groans of pain were
             turning the villainess on. Jasmine shook her head to whip her hair about,
             giving the camera's a great look at her lovely face. She had Kara right
             where she wanted pain.

             The ring announcers were picking up on it.

             "It looks very bad for the champion right now," said Val. "Jasmine has
             controlled the action for too long. She's really punishing Kara with that
             scissors...get a load of the pain on her face. How long do you think Kara
             can stay in the fight in this circumstance, Yor?"

             "Hard to say, Val," admitted Yor, clenching his hands in empathy for the
             blonde. "Kara's a very tough girl. But I have to admit that Jasmine made
             her look pretty bad in their last encounter, and did beat her. Unless the
             Golden Girl can get back on track in a very short time, I'm afraid she's
             thrown this one in the disposer."

             "It's bound to be a heartbreaker," added Val.

             "And a body-breaker, too," said Yor.

             Kara was struggling to be free of the terrible scissors, pushing with all her
             might against the legs which encircled her body while Jasmine held one of
             her arms immobile. Finally, she gave up, laying back on the mat with an
             exhausted groan. The only thing she could do is wait this out. A surge of
             pressure made the blood rush to her head. She sensed she might be
             blacking out...

             Jasmine seemed to sense it, too, and eased the scissors. Feeling rushed
             back to Kara's body. No time to enjoy the feeling now, the heavenly,
             heavenly feeling of not being crushed by a python. Use the time to strike

             She bucked, pushed against Jasmine's legs, landed some painful blows to
             taut muscles, and broke free. The villainess and the heroine separated, got
             to their feet, and faced each other. Both were gasping, one from effort, the
             other from pain. Kara had a look of sullen rage, and Jasmine bore a smile
             of wicked triumph and conceit.

             "Ready to go again, Kara?" sneered Jasmine. "I might be as merciful this
             time as when I eased my scissors. Then again, I might not."

             Kara's eyes flashed, at the knowledge her rival had deliberately let her go
             free. "You bitch, it's time I made you scream for a little mercy!" she
             snarled, and launched herself at the bad girl again.

             Jasmine didn't dodge, even though she got tackled around the middle and
             was driven back against the ropes. She smashed at Kara's back with her
             fists. Angrily, Kara raised a hand and forearm-smashed her foe in the jaw.
             Jasmine reeled back, hurt. Finally, the Golden Girl of Rokyn had scored a

             The crowd let up a cheer of encouragement. Kara had Jasmine's back
             bent over the ropes, leaning over her as she slammed more blows into the
             brunette's jaw and neck. She had her opponent in trouble and it felt

             Jasmine landed a hard blow to Kara's sternum area and knocked her

             Then she slid away on the ropes, faced Kara, whose chest ached, and
             made ready for another attack. The heroine rallied and attacked first.

             With a kiai yell, Supergirl landed a savate kick to the side of Jasmine's
             head, slamming her back with a grunt and making her land on her hands
             and knees. Jasmine's head sagged. It was obvious she was hurt, trying to
             keep the comets from coursing about in her head. Kara was out to do
             whatever it took to keep them in orbit.

             The blonde hair-mared her foe over her shoulder to the mat. Jasmine's ass
             struck the canvas with a thud. Her eyes were shut in pain. Kara quickly
             grabbed her rival's right wrist and put her bare feet against Jasmine's head
             and armpit in an arm stretch.

             Now it was the villainess's turn to grunt and groan.

             Nar-Es and Hira were on their feet, optimistic for the first time in the bout.
             "Yes! Yes! Yes!" shouted Nar, pumping a fist in the air. Hira jumped up,
             clapped, and held her hands clasped in front of her chin, girlishly. Kara
             finally had a chance! Jasmine was fighting it, trying to get up, but Kara held
             the shoulder-straining tension tight and made her flop back down. Jasmine
             banged the mat with her bare feet. At last, Kara was wearing her down!

             "Well, what do you think of that one, Yor?" beamed Var, with a voice that
             seemed to have gold ballast. "Is she making a comeback, or not?"

             "She's doing well," admitted Var. "Kara Zor-El's taken a lot of punishment,
             and to come back from it and start punishing her opponent is one of the
             marks of a champion. But one thing worries me, Var: there's been so little
             finesse in this match. It's just been smashing without strategy. Neither one
             is thinking through her moves."

             "I guess that's primitive wrestling," offered Var. "Smash at your opponent
             till she can't stand up any more. But if that's the way it's played tonight..."
             He let the sentence trail off. It was an important match. But it was not
             really a skillful one. Instead, it was a brawl.

             On a second try, Jasmine did succeed in getting up and dislodging Kara's
             feet. But the heroine retained her grip on Jasmine's wrist and got to her
             own feet. She wrenched and twisted the dark girl's arm in a terrific armbar
             and made her squeal in pain. Jasmine went to one knee, then went down
             on her stomach and slapped the mat, wailing.

             "No, no!" howled Jasmine. "No, no, no! Stop it!"

             It was time for Kara to smile sharkishly, and she did.

             The blonde Valkyie wrung the arm again, making Jasmine scream anew.
             "Give it up, honey. It's the only way you'll get free of this."

             Jasmine moaned and beat and kicked the mat. But she wouldn't give. She
             was tough and determined in her own right, and her pride was at stake as
             well. And she had her hatred, born of rejection and burning like rocket fuel
             within her.

             With Kara still on her arm, the villainess began to rise, getting the blonde
             off of her back. She was taking brutal punishment, but refused to submit.
             Kara couldn't prevent Jasmine from getting to her knees. Then, aching as
             she did it, the brunette reached behind her at last with her free hand,
             grabbed Kara by the head, and pulled her in front of her. With that, it was
             a simple matter to break the armlock.

             In another second's time, she hauled off and punched Kara hard in the

             Before the blonde could hit the mat, Jasmine kicked her in the body.

             White lights went on and off in Kara's brain. When she recovered a few
             seconds later, Jasmine had her hoisted overhead and was subjecting her to
             a backbreaker across her shoulder. It hurt.

             Nar-Es and Hira watched, without sound or motion.

             Still holding Kara across her shoulder, Jasmine walked over to the ring
             corner. She dropped her roughly across the corner ropes. Kara's legs
             were draped over one set of ropes and her head, arms, and upper body
             across the other, her torso sagging.

             Then Jasmine raised her clenched hands and smashed Kara hard in the gut,
             producing an "Umph!", and knocking her to the second set of ropes. A
             knee-drop to the same area sent Kara down another rung. Jasmine
             stepped on Kara's left breast and held onto the ropes for leverage. Kara
             couldn't stand it and shrieked with pain, her hands trying to dislodge
             Jasmine's bare foot. Grabbing the girl's ankle, she yanked hard and
             dumped Jasmine on her ass. But Kara got up, rubbing her chest, still hurt.

             The sweaty Jasmine and the harried Kara tried to stalk each other. They
             grappled awkwardly in center ring, Kara trying to take Jasmine down with
             a headlock, Jasmine pushing Kara's head back with a hand on her chin and
             landing punches to Kara's abdomen. Neither was willing to submit yet, but
             Jasmine was in better shape. Kara was running on courage and

             Finally, Jasmine prevailed, and both women separated. They circled and
             attacked anew. Kara leaped up, wrapping her arms about Jasmine's head
             in a headlock and wrapping her legs around Jasmine's middle in a standing
             body scissors. But Jasmine grabbed Kara in a brutal bear-hug. Both
             women's muscles stood out as they exerted terrible force on each other's
             half- nude body.

             Jasmine went to her knees, but didn't stop squeezing. Kara didn't, either. It
             was a remarkable display of female strength and stamina. The audience
             was awed at how much each woman could give and take. But everybody
             present, audience, announcers, managers, and wrestlers, knew one of the
             girls had to break.

             It turned out to be Kara.

             Gasping, the blonde beauty pushed against Jasmine with her forearms,
             tried throwing punches, even pulled hair, all to no avail. To her credit, she
             didn't scratch eyes. Jasmine, baring her teeth in a feral grin, just kept the
             pressure coming. Kara felt her strength fading. She refused to give up, but
             her rival's strength was just too much.

             Not unconscious, she went limp in Jasmine's grasp.

             Jasmine kept the pressure up, second after second, till Supergirl was all but
             done for. Then she let go. Kara flopped onto the mat, gasping.

             The villainess got up, swayed, sucking in air herself, and fell bodily over
             Kara. Then, a few seconds later, she raised up, got to her feet, went to the
             blonde's legs, and entwined her own limbs with Kara's in a figure-four
             leglock. "", gasped Kara, knowing what she was in for.

             Jasmine's lithe gams flexed, her leg muscles coming into definition as she
             exerted as much pressure as she possibly could on Kara's beautiful bare
             legs. The heroine writhed in torture. She moaned and groaned in pain.

             Jasmine took strength from those groans, her face in a terrible expression
             of lust.

             Kara was a helpless wrestling beauty tortured by a gorgeous and powerful
             wrestling villainess. "Let's just see how loud you can scream," said Jasmine,
             cruelly flexing her leg muscles again. The blonde howled in agony, her back
             arched in pain. She was too spent to try to reverse the hold.

             Supergirl was doomed, and everybody knew it.

             "Oh, Rao," said Nar-Es, burying his face in his hands. "Get her out of

             Hira could barely watch it.

             On a small screen in his home office which was getting the live feed, Zor-El
             wiped away tears from his own eyes. This one he dared not let Allura see.

             The crowd was sympathetic to Supergirl's plight. Some yelled for her to
             free herself, the others for her to give in. Kara couldn't do the one and
             didn't want to do the other.

             Her bare arms were spread wide on the mat, her eyes closed against the
             torture. Sweat stained her bikini. Kara clenched her fists, trying to fight
             back the agony, and then yelled, "OHHH!" as the villainess hit her with
             another surge of pressure.

             The officials were flatly worried that Jasmine would break Kara's legs
             before she surrendered.

             The only winner in the entire house seemed to be Jasmine, and she was
             grinning like the Joker. Her near-nude body was proving superior to
             Kara's. She had the blonde beaten. Her satisfaction went on, and on, and

             So did Kara's moans of pain.

             Val and Yor were exchanging nervous glances in the booth, and couldn't
             keep the concern out of their faces.

             "I hate to say it, Yor, but she needs to give up," admitted Val. "This may
             be an abrogation of my responsibility as a commentator, but she's taking
             entirely too much punishment out there."

             "You're probably right, Val," replied the other. "This is as mean a situation
             as I've ever seen in wrestling, and my experience in the field goes back
             more than a few years, as you know. If Kara doesn't submit, she'll possibly
             get her legs broken. If she does, she loses the belt...and, possibly, her

             Val paused a second and said, "In our history, and on that of her foster
             home, Earth, ancient athletes would prefer to die in the ring rather than face
             humiliation. I'm sure that Kara doesn't intend to take it that far...but I think
             the spirit of those athletes lives on today in her heart. I just wish it didn't."

             And the pain went on.

             Finally, Kara had to admit to herself two cruel facts: that she wasn't going
             to get out of this hold on her own, and that Jasmine wasn't about to let up
             before she submitted.

             On one end of the mental scale she placed her belt and pride.

             On the other end, she placed her desire to be free of pain.

             The scale wavered, dipped one way and then the other.

             Finally, Kara flung the words out from her mouth, tears of pain and rage
             streaming from her eyes:

             "I give!"

             And Jasmine gave a gasp of ecstasy, her eyes shut tight and her teeth

             The camera didn't miss it, and Nar-Es didn't miss its import. He clutched
             the handrests of his seat in rage.

             Wordlessly, Jasmine got up from Kara's beaten body. She was breathing
             heavily. It took her a few seconds to come back to reality. Kara was still in
             pain, still trying to massage life back into her aching legs.

             The mikes were still active, so Jasmine chose her next words carefully. "I
             told you," she said to Kara, and that was it.

             She posed with one foot on Kara's side, her arms raised in victory. There
             were a lot of boos. But there were also quite a few cheers. Jasmine smiled
             even more sinfully. She was gaining in popularity. >From here on in, she
             would eclipse the blonde bitch. The cameras feasted on her sweaty,
             half-nude body and her look of evil triumph.

             They also caught the defeat and humiliation on the face of Kara Zor-El.

             It wasn't over yet.

             Reluctantly, like pallbearers, two officials of the wrestling federation
             entered the ring and handed over the championship belt to Jasmine. She
             grasped it eagerly and pressed the stud that extinguished the hologram of
             Kara in its buckle. In its place formed an image of Jasmine.

             She spoke directly into the hovering mikes now, holding the belt up to the

             "This belt is now in the hands of its rightful owner. It never really belonged
             to that--to her. I have made her suffer in equal combat, and I have beaten
             her. She was never my equal, and never will be. From here on, the title
             belongs to a true woman, a real woman, a superior woman to this cringing
             mess beneath us belongs to Jasmine. And it always will, till the day I
             willingly pass it on! It will NEVER return to the hands of Kara Zor-El!"

             The boos and cheers returned. The referees were helping Kara up. She
             was facing Jasmine.

             She turned her head away. Jasmine saw it and smiled.

             "That is all that needs be said," sneered Jasmine, and turned to leave the
             mat, receiving a grateful hug from her manager, and giving herself to the
             newsies and coterie of fans who crowded round about. After a few more
             remarks to them and some acknowledgments of the crowd's presence, she
             was allowed to return to her dressing area.

             Nar-Es and Hira went to Supergirl's side. Their girl was hurt, and that was
             all that mattered. "Here, let me help you, Karaish," said Nar, and took her
             in a semi-fireman's carry.

             A few reporters still stuck mikes in her face. They still caught the look of
             pain and defeat Kara wore. One of them said, "How do you feel, Miss
             Zor- El?"

             She caught her breath. "Like hell. How do you think I'd feel?" Nar shot her
             a look that said: Don't treat them like that, you need them. It broke through
             her wall of pain and despair. She composed herself as best she could.

             "Strike that, sorry. I've been hurt, in more ways than one. I wasn't
             prepared for this match. I was ready physically, but not mentally. Nar here,
             my manager, knew that, and so did my trainer Hira. But I didn't listen to
             their advice. So I lost the belt.

             "And because I didn't listen to them...I deserved to lose it." A gasp went
             up from some present. Kara went on.

             "I don't know what's going to happen next. But I can assure you that,
             whatever does, I'll be listening to both of these good people as hard as I
             possibly can. And for all of you folks out there who came to the match,
             and who watched me out there, and who stuck beside me and welcomed
             me to a new home...I can only say, Thanks, and I'll try to make this one up
             to you." She was still panting, but was holding her head a bit higher now.

             Hira beamed. And Nar-Es was prouder of her than he'd been in many

             Sometimes it took a loss to get a fighter back on track. In Kara's case,
             Nar reflected, maybe that's just what needed to happen. But she was too
             complex a person to read that easily, as he well knew.

             Finally, another reporter asked, "Do you think you'll be seeking another
             shot at Jasmine for the belt?"

             A look of wariness and fear crept into her face. Nar saw it and went tense.

             Like it or not, Kara was developing a fear of Jasmine.

             "For right now, she can enjoy it," said Kara. "We'll see what happens later
             on. Thank you I have to get to my dressing room."

             The three were allowed to go on their way, with well-wishers on either
             side cheering her on. It made her walk a little prouder, but she still had a
             haunted look in her eyes.

             As they entered the room, Nar-Es said, "You did good back there, Kara.
             Now you'll listen to me, all right?"

             She sighed, laying down on the rubdown bench. "I'll listen, Nar."

             "You took a lot of pain tonight. But you gave her some back. You're going
             to get over this fear and get back in there against her and win next time. I'm
             going to help you."

             Hira was massaging Kara. "He's right, hon," said the older woman. "You'll
             have to get back in there against her, but we'll make sure you're ready for
             her next time."

             Kara didn't look at either of them as she spoke.

             "I'm not sure that I want to go against her anymore, Hira. I just don't know
             about that."

             And, at that moment, Nar had to admit he didn't know about it, either.


   (next chapter)