Supergirl (Kara of Rokyn):
Pain and Jasmine, part 3

by DarkMark

             Hira arrived a few seconds later, and Kara had to let her in. "Oh, Kara,
             you wouldn't believe it!" bubbled the older woman. "I went to that city you
             called Chicago and rode the El Train, they must have named it after your
             family, and then I went to New York and rode that one that goes all under
             the ground, and I flew all around that big statue of the woman holding her
             arm up, and paced one of those big aircraft things coming into Gotham
             City, I could hear the pilot talking about me to his base, and oh, it was just
             ever so much fun!"

             Kara laughed and mussed her hair. "That's my Hira, a born tourist. There's
             hot stuff in the kitchen. Try some coffee, you'll love it. Shiva?"

             Shiva had her coat off and folded over one arm, still holding her suitcase
             with the other. "Show me to my room, pupil, and then we will both dress
             for combat."

             Kara gave her the once-over. "Sure you don't want something to eat first?"

             "I will eat when I hunger. One more thing."

             Kara waited. Finally she said, "Yes, Shiva?"

             "In these halls you will address me as 'sensei'. Not 'Shiva'. Anything less,
             and I will box your ear when you are vulnerable. Also, once you remove
             that costume, you will not don it again until I direct you to. Such an outfit
             might connote superiority of pupil to instructor, and I shall not permit such
             a connotation. If you expect me to be teacher, you must first become my
             student. Is that clear?"

             Kara pulled off her shirt and cape, unbuckled her belt, shoved her skirt off,
             removed her boots, and stood revealed in a tiny white bikini. She made a
             slight bow.

             "Most assuredly, sensei," she said.

             "I shall teach you how to bow properly after your first defeat from me,"
             said Shiva.

                                        - S -


             And true to her word, she did.

             The biggest room in the small Fortress was the "gymnasium", which
             contained the ring, the weights, the horse, the gymnastic equipment, and all
             the rest. The red-sun lamp in the ceiling, when activated, bathed the entire
             room. A smaller projector beside it would throw most of the building into a
             tesseract, when such was necessary. Hira, balancing a hot Kandorian drink
             on one knee and a cup of coffee on the other, sat and watched the two
             women enter the combat area. Kara went to a computer console, entered
             a command, and turned on the lamps.

             "Oh! Dear me," exclaimed Hira, feeling the power fade from her body as
             she returned to normalcy. She sloshed the coffee all over one knee.

             Shiva was magnificent in a black thong bikini. Even Kara had to admire her
             with a tinge of jealousy, though her own body was enough to make a
             swimsuit-mag photographer ask for her phone number. (Some had. She'd
             turned them down.) The woman's subtle muscles weren't steroidal, but
             Kara felt that Shiva could still hold her own in a weightlifting competition.

             "Are you ready to begin, student?" said Shiva, impassively.

             Kara nodded. "Yes. Absolutely."

             "Then lengthen our time here, however you may do that. And join me in the

             Supergirl grinned, threw another switch, and shifted them into the tesseract.

                                        - S -

             It took some getting used to.

             The floor and the interior walls were still there. But the exterior walls had
             seemingly fallen away. In their place was a flux of changing color, like a
             gentle light show left over from the Sixties. In between the flickerings was
             darkness. The ceiling lights still provided illumination.

             "Ooh!" said Hira, with a start. "Can't you shut those off, somehow?" She
             took her chair and put it firmly against a wall, and sat down in it, crossing
             her legs and arms.

             "You'll get used to it, Hira," smiled Kara. "It's just energy-flux. The walls
             are still there, you can touch them, but the field has shifted us into an
             altered-time pocket."

             Shiva stared at the color-flux for a few moments, then padded over
             barefoot to the ring. She grasped the top rope and vaulted effortlessly over
             it. "We have no more altered-time to waste, pupil. Come. Show me what
             skills you possess."

             The intonation she gave her last words nettled Kara. She guessed it was
             supposed to. Well, Shiva might be tough, but she was about to see that
             Kara of Rokyn was no puffed pastry when it came to combat. The blonde
             heroine slipped quickly between the top and center ropes and faced her
             tutor with a crouch.

             Shiva still stood. "How can you show me anything when you stay so far
             away from me? Come, pupil, attack me. Make me earn my diamonds."

             "Oh-kay," agreed Kara, and closed with her.

             Supergirl wasn't a ring novice anymore, and had done a fair bit of fighting
             before becoming a wrestler. She knew klurkor from training sessions with
             Superman. She was also proficient at the modified Greco-Roman grapple
             Wonder Woman and the Amazons employed. Thus, she figured that she
             had a great chance of figuring out what moves Shiva would use on her first.
             Perhaps, if she was good enough, she could counter them and put the
             Oriental on her pretty ass.

             Nope. Didn't work out that way.

             Three seconds after her approach, Kara was lying face down in a tangle of
             limbs, several feet away from Shiva. "Wupff," she gulped. "What

             Shiva's voice came from behind her. "On your feet, pupil. An enemy would
             be wrecking your body by now. I give you a second chance."

             Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, Kara raised herself from the
             mat, got back up, and made another approach. Superman said you were
             better off watching an opponent's shoulders, not their eyes. The body gave
             a better "tell" than the face, many times. Shiva was standing motionless,
             legs spread apart, arms at her sides.

             Kara closed in, going for an arm this time.

             This time she found herself upended, flipped, airplane-spun, and then laid
             bodily back-first over Shiva's shoulders in a mild backbreaker that still
             hurt. "Umph!" Kara grunted. Shiva shrugged and threw her to the mat. She
             got up and sat there on her knees, looking at Shiva.

             "Aren't you going to try a third time?" asked Shiva.

             Impressed, Kara said nothing.

             "Well, then, perhaps I should come for you," the villainess said, and an
             unmistakable light came into her eyes. She moved towards Kara.

             A second's pinprick of fear invaded Kara's breast. What was this witch
             trying now? Did she intend to try to injure or kill her, to make a reputation
             as Supergirl's killer, regardless of what Kal and the law would do to her

             There wasn't time to worry about that for very long. Shiva was poised to

             Well, to Sheol with that, Kara decided. If she was going to go, may as well
             go out fighting.

             She bounded at Shiva's midsection and, despite the Asian's attempt to
             avoid her, snagged her as prettily as a footballer bringing down a
             broken-field runner. Both went down on the mat. Kara tried for a cover.
             Now, she asked herself, how did Shiva's elbow end up in her throat, and
             her knee right there? She was propelled away.

             Shiva was bound to try for a counterstrike. To avoid it, Kara kicked out
             her legs in an attempted mule-kick as she spun her body on the mat. It was
             enough to fend off her foe for the moments necessary to bound to her feet.
             She got her forearms up in front of her for defense, like an old
             bare-knuckle boxer, as Shiva approached again.

             Shiva thrust a knife-palm expertly between her arms, forced them apart,
             and stopped her fingers a couple of inches away from Kara's face. She
             didn't have to tell Kara what she could have done if she had been really

             Regardless, Kara was still fighting. Scissoring her foe's forearm between
             her own arms, Kara thrust it aside and smashed a knee into Shiva's hard
             abdomen. An underkick from Shiva knocked Kara's kicking leg upward,
             and an arm-sweep under that leg sent her back down to the mat. Kara
             tried to spin out of the way. But this time, she wasn't quite fast enough.

             Shiva had her right foot and was doing something terribly painful to it with
             her hands.

             Kara clenched her teeth and kicked out, but Shiva avoided her, scissored
             Kara's right leg with her own legs, and sat down on the mat, not stopping
             the torture for a moment. The heroine grunted in pain. "Stop it," she said.

             "No," answered Shiva.

             Kara banged the mat with her left arm, then her right. She clamped her
             jaws shut, but finally moaned. Her eyes went to Shiva's face. The villainess
             was as cold as a poker champion. Was she supposed to submit so easily?

             Or maybe she wasn't supposed to submit at all.

             Gritting her teeth, Kara drew herself up to a sitting position, then launched
             herself forward in what amounted to an aborted somersault. It didn't get
             her foot and ankle free, but it did put her within reaching distance of Shiva.
             She locked on a head hold and pulled it tight, jackknifing Shiva. The
             torture-grip on her foot and ankle lessened. She pushed her leg out of the
             scissors, parting Shiva's crossed ankles by force.

             A painful palm-thrust got her right under the ribs. "Ohhhh!" groaned Kara.

             She tried to maintain the pressure on the headlock. Shiva grabbed her hair
             close to the scalp, yanked hard for position and punishment, and delivered
             a crushing blow to Kara's abdomen with the other. Kara tried hard to hang
             with it, but another couple of blows were convincing enough, and she let
             Shiva slip free. Her stomach hurt like hell.

             Still, she had come to grips with Shiva, and probably done some damage.
             As they separated and faced each other, Kara felt a tiny bit more

             Big mistake.

             The Asian woman somehow shifted into high gear, closed on the blonde,
             and proceeded to flip her around the ring time after time, by the head, by
             the hair, by either arm, over either shoulder, until Kara's back was red
             from all the impacts on the canvas. Loggy, she tried to lunge at Shiva's
             ankles. The woman leaped over her, came down hard on her back, and
             then turned around to face the back of Kara's head, still sitting on her.
             Rapidly, Shiva grabbed Kara's wrists and forced both hands between her
             shoulder blades, pushing them higher and higher. Kara's bare feet beat a
             tattoo of pain on the mat. Her groans of agony were enough of a voucher
             to the punishment she was suffering.

             "Quarter?" asked Shiva.

             "Yes, definitely, quarter!" yelled Kara. "Half! Three-fourths! Let me up!"

             Shiva released her and let her get up. Kara arose warily, assuming a
             defensive position. She wasn't about to try a sneak attack, but it was hard
             to judge the woman she faced.

             The Asian's body relaxed. "Actually, you're quite good for a wrestler," she
             said. "But you have a lot to learn. Tell me the shape and form of what you
             would learn."

             Kara, sucking in breath, relaxed herself and gave a shy smile. "Thank you,
             sensei. I...well, I would learn better fighting techniques. I certainly want to
             learn all I could possibly use in the ring. But there's more."

             Shiva waited, arms folded.

             "I think there's a lot more you could teach me," Kara continued. "I want to
             expand my martial arts knowledge a lot. On Rokyn, I don't have
             super-powers. There's no telling what I could face there, in years to come.
             If better fighting skills could help, I want to learn them. And I have a
             feeling--scratch that. I know that you're the most skilled teacher I could

             Shiva replied, "Many of these techniques you could never use in a wrestling
             ring, pupil. They are far too deadly."

             "I don't intend to use them in a wrestling match. Not even against Jasmine.
             But there's a lot I can learn in sixteen weeks. What can you teach me in
             that time?"

             Shiva said, "Whatever you are prepared to learn. Are you prepared to
             learn, now?"

             Kara nodded.

             Hira had been standing just outside the ring, almost ready to leap in herself.
             She realized that she was out of her chair. She took a look at the flux
             outside the walls, decided that was a bad idea, and looked back at the two
             women in the ring.

             "Then we shall begin," said Shiva.

                                        - S -

             All the rest of that "day", which was only six hours to the world outside the
             tesseract, Shiva explored the extent of Kara's combat knowledge.
             Sometimes she did this by acting as Kara's opponent. Sometimes it was by
             letting Kara do a shadowbox run- through on her own.

             By the end of the session, Kara was sweaty but invigorated, and not as
             tired as she thought she would be. Shiva said, "By this time, we both smell
             like horses. Let us shower, eat, and talk. And I hope you and your cousin
             were astute enough to include a laundry room here."

             "Sure enough, Shiv--" Kara began.

             Before she had time to finish the word, Shiva had swept her feet out from
             under her and sent her sprawling to the mat.

             "Not 'Shiva', pupil. Remember: 'Sensei'. And the next time you call me by
             another name before you earn permission, I really will box your ear.

             Lying with her head on her crossed arms, Kara sighed.

             Hira, having overcome her warp-sight vertigo, stood indignantly outside the
             ring. "And you understand something yourself, Miss Sensei. If you try
             boxing any ears around here, you just may find a 48-year-old over- the-hill
             trainer hanging onto one of your ears by her good Rokynian teeth. So play
             nice, okay?"

             Shiva smirked. Kara broke in with, "No, Hira, she's right. If we don't play
             it her way, I'll never learn what she needs to teach me. Don't worry, I'll be
             fine...but thanks a lot, anyway."

             Hira wasn't entirely convinced. "We'll see. Anyway, get washed and get
             into some clothes. I'll fix dinner. Just hope I can figure out what people eat
             on this planet."

                                        - S -

             As it turned out, Hira made do creditably. Poultry and vegetables are
             poultry and vegetables on Rokyn as well as Earth, and Kara was there to
             point out to Hira that you don't cook chicken in catsup. Shiva lent a hand
             as well, and it turned out to be a creditable three-chef meal. The
             Oriental-style veggies turned out so tasty that, despite her antipathy, Hira
             asked Shiva for the recipe, and got it.

             Despite herself, Kara found herself warming to this strange woman whose
             morality was so different from her own. She even ventured to ask Shiva
             about her past.

             "I was born in America," said Shiva. "I have not seen my parents in many
             years. I had a sister. Both of us were once employed as agents of a man
             called Cravat. He caused her death. A man named Richard Dragon killed
             Cravat. I regret that, but under the circumstances he had no choice."

             Kara looked at Shiva. After swallowing her mouthful of rice and chicken,
             she said, "I understand, sensei. It isn't an easy thing to cause a death."

             Shiva looked at her sharply. "I regret that he did not save Cravat for me."

             "Oh," said Kara.

             Hira rolled her eyes, looking away from the other two.

             "What is your world like?" asked Shiva.

             Kara was grateful for the save. "Rokyn? I love it. It's like the home I
             always dreamed of, even though it's a tough life at times. It's not like Earth.
             Kryptonian people, language, society."

             "Do you feel at home there?" asked Shiva.

             Kara nodded. "Yes, sensei. Very much at home."

             Shiva seemed thoughtful. "That is very good. Perhaps you have found your
             Nanda Parbat."

             Hira said, "What in Sheol is a Nanda Parbat? Like a Happy Lands on

             Shiva answered, "It is a land I found, took joy in, and then had to leave. It
             was my Rokyn, in a way. Count yourself lucky you can return to your
             Nanda Parbat, pupil. Very few of us have that privelage."

             Kara knew she'd have to ask her more about the matter later. Just as she
             knew enough not to ask her tonight.

             "I have a holovid of my last match with Jasmine, sensei," she said. "Would
             you like to see it after dinner?"

             Shiva looked at Kara with almost a smile. "I should like that very much."

                                        - S -

             The Asian woman sat and watched the vid attentively, but mostly with a
             poker face. When Kara tried to point out something, she was waved to
             silence. Soon, the Kryptonian knew that Shiva was picking up on
             everything in the taped match, possibly better than Kara herself could.

             Hira had to steel herself to watch the match again. She didn't like it. But
             she just couldn't manage to excuse herself and walk away. If Kara had to
             see it again...the least she could do was be there for her.

             Kara was saddened by what she saw. But, she noted, she wasn't as
             devastated by it as she had been before. And at one point, when she gave
             all-too-obvious signs of her agitation, Shiva's hand went out and covered
             her own hand.

             She almost thanked Shiva. But she kept her silence. And that, she sensed,
             was the right thing to do. Shiva knew her gratitude, and accepted it.

             Holy sun of Krypton, thought Kara, are we starting to bond?

             When the match was finally done, Shiva took her customary pause before
             saying anything.

             "Why do you think she beat you?"

             Kara took her own time about answering.

             "Because I lost my focus?" she ventured.

             Shiva said nothing.

             Kara said, "Is that a right or a wrong answer, sensei?"

             "Do I have all the answers written down under your questions, like an
             examination book?" snapped Shiva. "I asked you what you thought. What
             did you think was the reason she beat you?"

             Kara looked at her. "The focus. That and I just lost my head there. I was
             too mad, too hell-bent on revenge. I fought crazy."

             Hira put in, "We knew that, too, Shiva. Nar-Es and I both tried to get her
             back on track, but she wouldn't listen."

             Shiva said, "If I had treated my sensei as such, I would have been banished
             on my first day of tutelage. You Westerners are idiots about the relation of
             student to master. In America, children come to class with guns and
             cocaine. In the East, the pupil comes to school to learn, and respects the
             teacher. If he does not, he will no longer be a pupil...anywhere."

             "I'm not a Westerner or an Easterner," said Hira.

             Kara said, "There is much to be said for that approach, sensei. But we also
             value our independence of mind, and our willingness to challenge accepted
             wisdom and try new schools of thought. And there are bad teachers, as

             Shiva looked at her coldly. "Do you think I know nothing of that? My first
             sensei demanded payment for lessons in more coin than I could muster. So
             he told me I must pay him the balance in another manner. And I did. The
             payments continued almost every night for all my pupilhood. But I learned
             his skills, and improved upon them. Then, in a sparring session, I took my
             own payment. He survived."

             "What did you--" began Kara.

             "He survived."

             Kara said nothing.

             "But I valued him as a teacher," continued Shiva. "Now: your answers.
             Why did she beat you?"

             Hira was silent, but tense. Kara said, "She's very good. As good a wrestler
             as I am, at least. She's also very strong. I took her skills for granted, I

             "And she will not be resting on her laurels in the interim, will she?"

             "No, sensei," said Kara. "She'll be training, too."

             Shiva said, "You have several advantages over her. You must pray they
             are enough.

             "First: you have myself as a teacher. Second: you have four times the
             training period that she has. Third: you have spirit. You sought to crush it
             for a time, because hope was too painful. But with a slight bit of tending,
             your garden of hope shoots forth new buddings. Is this not so?"

             "Yes, sensei," Kara agreed.

             "We have spent enough time on our haunches. Is that not so?"

             "Indeed, sensei," said Kara, starting to smile.

             "Then get yourself in that ring and let us begin anew."

             "Absolutely, sensei!"

                                        - S -

             On the world of Rokyn, Lady Jasmine was having a match.

             Rina Fra-Tov, by no means a lightweight in terms of power and skill, faced
             Jasmine in the ring.

             She was a blonde, which pleased Jasmine no end. Rina wore a light green
             bikini, had her hair cut short, and was enough of a weightlifting devotee to
             sport more well-defined muscles than Jasmine's. Rina didn't expect to take
             home the title belt, but figured on giving Jasmine a run for her money.

             Jasmine wore a silver bikini and radiated power and scorn. As far as she
             was concerned, until Kara, all her matches were appetizers.

             Vara and Zora Vi-Lar sat in the front row. Vara didn't much like Zora, and
             Zora didn't care. Zora had been working with Jasmine for the last week,
             showing her some of her best work, strengthening her, and cementing their
             alliance with sex.

             From Jasmine's side, it was edging into love.

             From Zora's side, it was just something she had to do.

             But now, watching her new ally at work in the ring, Zora felt the familiar
             stirring in her loins. It might as well be her in the ring, inhabiting Jasmine's
             body. And she leaned forward, lips parted, ready for the slaughter.

             The two women circled. Rina Fra-Tov was about to make her opening
             move, reaching forward.

             And then she was doubled over in pain. Jasmine had hit her three times
             almost faster than she could see the blows. Hard punches, right to the gut.

             Jasmine, smiling, jabbed a nerve center in Rina's shoulder and filled her
             with pain. "Ahhh!" the girl shouted. Rina tried to ignore the pain and rally.
             That proved to be difficult, as Jasmine was already yanking her backward
             by the hair and slamming her to the mat. A leg-drop across the throat had
             Rina gasping. Jasmine's eyes were bright as flaming coal.

             Time for fun.

             As Zora watched in rapture, Jasmine unleashed six minutes of
             uninterrupted punishment on Rina's half-clad body. It wasn't wrestling so
             much as it was savage domination. Intricate and painful holds, catfight
             moves, punches, knees, elbows, and kicks, and even some klurkor to cap
             it all off. Jasmine fractured a bone in Rina's thigh with a knee drop. Then,
             before the howling girl could surrender, she scissored Rina's head and
             squeezed her mercilessly.

             Jasmine let off the pressure three times to drag out her pleasure, but didn't
             let her opponent go.

             Finally, throwing back her head with both eyes closed in enjoyment, she
             tightened her crushing legs and squeezed Rina into unconsciousness.

             Jasmine was given the title belt by a scowling ring judge and Rina was
             given CPR and two attendants to help her back to the dressing area. From
             there, she'd go to the medical center for a healing-ray treatment on her leg.

             To be sure, there were a lot of boos.

             But there were a good number of cheers. Jasmine's popularity was picking

             Jasmine, holding her belt arrogantly before the crowd, sought out and
             found Zora's face in the crowd.

             She mouthed out some words, and the Black Flame caught them: Meet me
             in the dressing room. And keep Vira out until we're finished.

             Zora smiled with her face. Her thoughts were of how grateful she would be
             to see Kara beaten once and for all so she could dump this bimbo and go
             back to her own life.

             But for now, she was useful.

                                        - S -

             Nar was eating at his usual lunch place, wolfing thion stew and brown
             bread along with hot, sour G'Neesh juice. He had a standing agreement
             with Wal-Uk, the owner, that if he was left undisturbed by persons wanting
             to get a line on contacting Kara, his tips would be kept generous.

             This time, Wal gave him a buzz on a booth speaker. "Nar, somebody here
             I really think you should talk to," he said.

             "Tell 'em to wait," said Nar, trusting in Wal's judgment. He took a look at
             the fighters' pictures lining the walls just above head-height. The
             establishment had been thoughtful enough to hang a shot of Nar laying a
             hard glove on an opponent, from back when he was 20. Glove-fighters
             differed from Earth boxers in that they hit their opponent with the stiff,
             reinforced surface of the part of their gloves that extended far beyond their
             hand. The blow in the picture hadn't put Nar's rival away, but it had made
             for the best picture of the bout.

             That was why Wal had put it facing Nar's booth, of course.

             The potbellied manager finished up, thumbed his bankcard through the
             sensor machine on the side of the booth, and pushed a button on the Tip
             Prompter below it to leave them a 20 per cent bonus. Then he got up and
             made his way to the front.

             The person he saw waiting across the counter from Wal gave him pause.


             Well, he reflected, it wasn't the first time he'd had to talk to a manager in
             the enemy camp. Besides, he'd long before learned to keep his lip zipped
             in the presence of such people. He'd learned that after another manager
             had gotten him drunk and learned the weak point of his fighter, Lo-Bat,
             many years ago. The next one had been Lo-Bat's last fight.

             "The lady asked to see you, Nar," said Wal, and waited for the

             Nar walked around her, sizing her up, and stopped a few feet away from
             her. She didn't say anything, either, and she kept her eye on him. "Well,
             Vara," he said, "try the thion stew. You'll love it."

             "Sure I will, Nar," she said, neutrally. "Truce, brother. You got a place we
             can talk?"

             "Places we can, sure. Places we will, that becomes more difficult," said

             She took a hand mirror and cosmetic spray from her shoulder bag and
             touched up her cheeks. "I'm not out here to fight, Nar," she said, not
             looking at him. "That's for our franchises. If we waste ten more seconds,
             you may as well call the newsies yourself. I'll be gone long before then.
             What'll it be?"

             Nar made up his mind. He looked at Wal. "Your office?"

             "My office," he said.

                                        - S -

             Wal showed them both to the room where he did his business. A desk,
             four chairs counting the one behind it, a vidscreen, a CompUnit, and a
             drinks dispenser. Not much else, except for the holovid of his family.

             "Don't sit in my chair, okay?" said Wal as he closed the door behind them.

             Nar sat in the corner, his back against the wall, and put his hands behind
             his head. He let her make the opening move.

             "If it gets out I'm here, I'm probably fired," she said. "Bad news for me,
             worse for Jasmine. We got honor on this?"

             "Maybe," said Nar, looking at her out of the corner of his eyes.

             "Zora's got Jara dancing to her pulse," said Vara. "I don't like that."

             "Like to offer you a job, Vara, but we're full up," said Nar, not cracking a

             "Frab that!" snapped Vara, turning an angry face towards him. He sat up,
             ready for anything. "Sure, I'm worried for my job. But I'm worried about
             Jara, too. Does that surprise you?"

             "It might," admitted Nar. He'd known about Zora's involvement since her
             first public appearance at one of Jasmine's matches. That she might be
             edging Vara out was old news to everyone inside the fight community.

             Vara opened her purse, popped out a StressMint, and put it in her mouth.
             She sucked on it while they were talking. "This is keyed to my pulserate,
             Nar. I could give a damn less about your girl. I want to see her beaten."

             Nar hoped his eyes weren't giving away too much.

             "But if anything really dirty happens to her, it'll wipe out Jara's chances at
             the acting racket. That's what I'm worried about."

             "What're you piping on, Vara?"

             "I can't control her as well as I used to. Rao, I don't even get to watch her
             training much with Zora. They won't let me. When I put up a gripe,
             Jasmine lets on that she'll dump me for blacksmacking Zora. Am I on the
             line with you so far?"

             "I'm coding you, Vara," said Nar, impassively.

             "The bit is, Jara's definitely untwig on Kara. She's going to keep that belt,
             and I want her to. Anything that puts little honey-hair in the hospital is okay
             by me, so long as it's something from which she can get out of the hospital
             in more or less the same state as before the fight. Are we still pulsing?"

             "Still pulsing," said Nar, "except my girl is the one who's going to take the
             strap. Go on."

             "We'll drape that for right now," said Vara, working her hands together as
             if to keep warm. "There's some big, big differences between Zora and my
             girl. Zora: ex-Zoner, three-time loser against Supergirl from Back When.
             Criminal scientist. She's got a real reason to see blondie in a bad way. As
             long as it's level, I'm for it. Even a little that isn't."

             Nar gave his full attention to her. "What do you know?"

             Vara hesitated. "Nothing definite. And it's no big secret that Zora and Jara
             are probably makin' change. But when they bar me from the gym, when
             Zora starts makin' up the schedule, and when she busts up as many girls as
             she's been doin' recently, it does give the claws pause."

             After a second, Zor said, "Talk it."

             "Honor, this time?"


             "All it amounts to is: watch out. If all Zora wanted was to see Kara beaten,
             she'd just watch a vid of old matches and tickle the pickle while it's on. My
             guess is, it may be heavier than that."

             Nar's jaw tightened.

             "You think she'd really do that?" he said.

             She sucked at her mint for a second, then looked at him. "Not when I was
             pushing her. She might break a leg, but nothing you couldn't eventually
             come back from. And I don't know anything. They could just be making
             change while they're in the gym."

             "But you don't think so."

             "No," said Vara. "I'm scared for her, Nar. I really am."

             Nar sighed. "So you just brought me in here to lay a scare on us?"

             "Sheol," said Vara, impatiently. "She's scared, and she'd better be. I just
             want her to be ready. If something happens, this way...I told you first.

             "How about it with you?" said Vara, seriously. "Kara hasn't been seen in
             two weeks. She's offworld, right?"

             Nar spread his hands. "Only know what I see in the newsies, Vara. But my
             girl isn't a killer."

             "Mine isn't either," she said. "So far. You know she used to be part of the
             Travelling Clan, Nar? Yeah, a gypsy. Not that there's many of them left
             since the Blowup. Her mama had to do certain things to survive. Jasmine
             learned to do some of those things, too. But she also learned how to fight
             like hell. I heard of a brawl she'd been in at an erotovid studio.
             Somebody'd insulted her family, or maybe just agreed with what she
             usually said about them, and she beat the heck out of the guy and it took
             two or three guards to hold her for a stun. I got ahold of her after that and
             showed her another way to make money. So, yeah, I care about her.
             Maybe she ain't had the chances in life little blondie has...but I care about

             Nar stood up. "Thanks, Vara. This conversation never happened."

             She smiled. "You got it. And I gotta lay thanks on you for not ever letting it
             happen. Truce is over once I walk out the door. Wait about ten minutes
             before you come out, okay? Don't know who's listening."

             He shrugged. "I got nothin' to do today much, anyway."

             Vara stood up, debated herself for a moment, and then said, "Nar--you're
             decent." Then she walked out.

             Nar rested his chin on his hands. It was one of the damnedest scenes he'd
             ever beheld in all his years in the fight game.

             How much was disinformation, and how much of it came from her own
             pulse, he didn't know.

             But he was worried as hell about Kara.

                                        - S -

             In her tiny training camp, Kara Zor-El was learning, fighting, working,
             communing, eating, and sleeping. The three women got close, got on each
             other's nerves, blew up, made up, and bonded as closely as Shiva would
             allow herself.

             The lady kept some emotional firewalls up, and did insist on the distance
             between master and pupil. But Kara could sense her affection, and
             believed that Shiva was glad for it. She also believed that the Asian would
             never do this sort of thing again. Affectionate bonding would be a liability in
             her line of work.

             "Aikido is the form developed by Morihei Uyeshiba, a Shintoist of Japan,
             from 1917 to circa 1938," lectured Shiva. "Though primarily it is an art of
             throwing, using the circle of centrifugal force, his earlier teachings were
             more combat-oriented. I have learned both forms and so will you."

             They spent two days on that, and Kara picked up some of the
             fundamentals. In a way, it was similar to her wrestling techniques, with the
             locks, throws, and grips, but it refined her abilities. Even Hira insisted on
             sparring with the sensei. She got her butt kicked, got up, swallowed her
             anger, grinned, and bowed.

             Shiva had Kara go outside the little Fortress and cut two staffs from tree
             branches hundreds of miles away, accomplishing this at super-speed so as
             not to lose much time outside the tesseract. When she returned, Shiva took
             one of the staffs and Kara the other. Hira was aghast.

             The Asian woman said, "I cannot teach Shaolin-ssu without a drill,
             however brief, in the bo."

             Kara's hands were sweating as she gripped the staff.

             Shiva drilled her briefly in the proper holding and motion of using the bo
             staff. They battled briefly on a mat outside the ring, Kara doing her best
             but getting her knuckles cracked. Finally, Shiva swept the bo out of her
             pupil's hands. Then she brought the staff in a savage stroke towards Kara's

             "No!" shouted Hira, and moved to intercept them.

             It stopped so close to Kara's head she could feel the breeze.

             "You have learned trust," said Shiva, and that was as close to a
             compliment as she had given in a long time.

             Shiva tossed the bo aside. "Shaolin-ssu, or Shaolin Temple boxing, was
             developed by Doshin So, a Japanese spy who studied the combat
             techniques of China while stationed in that land. In Japan, it is known as a
             religion, not a martial art. Doshin So sought to bring together the
             mechanical principles of the West, using the analogies of levers, centrifugal
             force, and using the arm as an uncoiling spring, with the Eastern knowledge
             of the body's vital points, and how pain, paralysis, or unconsciousness can
             be produced by using these points. Its intent is to restrain rather than hurt,
             or to hurt rather than kill. I will show you how to restrain and hurt, and
             pray that Doshin So will forgive me."

             "As you wish, sensei," responded Kara, paying attention.

             Shiva put both her hands together, fingers spread out, level with her face.
             "Do this, pupil." Kara imitated Shiva's gesture. "This signifies equality,
             respect for the opponent, and the tenet, 'above Man, there is no man.'"
             They held their salutes for a few more moments.

             Hira was fascinated. Shiva would not teach the physical, before touching
             on the spiritual. It was as though it were part of a combination without
             which a lock could not be opened.

             Then both women assumed a defensive stance, and Shiva instructed Kara
             in yet another series of blows, kicks, throws, holds, breakfalls, and
             avoidance moves. After a couple of run-throughs, Kara began picking up
             on it.

             Like it or not, Hira sensed that Kara was becoming a deadly young

             After days of this, Shiva treated Kara to another lecture and another style
             of fighting.

             "Kung fu is not as simple a thing as the Western mind would make it,"
             Shiva told them. "It does contain the styles based upon the monkey, the
             mantis, the crane, the inebriated monk, and the dancing lion." (Dancing
             lion? thought Kara, for an instant, then put it out of her thoughts.) "It is all
             that, and more than that. It is part of the history, the lore, the medicine, the
             theatre, the dance of the Chinese people. And it is more than that. It
             belongs to the people of many different countries, and is never the same in
             China, or Korea, or Japan, or America. Its techniques have been revealed
             in dreams, through meditation, or in crisis moments. It is all that, and more.

             "One could speak of Bodhidharma, the Buddhist priest who had to
             meditate in a cave for nine years before being allowed admission to a
             Shaolin temple. It is said his gaze bored a hole in the cave wall itself. He
             became the founder of the traditional kung fu discipline, insisting on
             calisthenics and strength training in addition to spiritual strengthening. One
             could speak of Sun Wu-K'ung, the Monkey, who was the bodyguard of
             the Buddhist monk Hsuan Tsang for 16 years, and developed the Monkey
             discipline. One could speak of the Tibetans, who gave us the white crane
             style after seeing a crane defend its nest of eggs from an attacking ape.
             One could speak of the lin kuei, the 'forest demons', the Chinese
             forerunners of the Ninja.

             "But our time here is not limitless. I will only say that 'kung' means more
             than discipline, learning, and dedication. It is the unremitting concentration
             which a student must master, that which focuses the mind and keeps one
             going long beyond her body's wishes to stop. This is, of course, a
             dangerous thing. The body is wise, and its signals must be needed. But the
             body may also be deceived, when such deception is necessary. There is a
             price which must be paid for such a work, pupil, and be very careful that
             you can pay it before you ask its boon.

             "Now: to the mat."

             And, for a long time, Kara was drilled in several forms of kung fu. Without
             Shiva's degree of control, it would have been life-threatening. Hira was so
             agitated at one point that both other women asked her to busy herself
             elsewhere until the session was done. To her credit, Hira now trusted
             Shiva enough with Kara to do just that.

             Shiva gave Kara a smattering of Hsing-I Chuan and of Pakua, which some
             called the "lady dancing and tiger fighting" form of martial art. There was
             also a time spent on Wing Chun, more specifically Bruce Lee's style of jeet
             kune do, the "way of the intercepting fist."

             The girl from Krypton could not master all these disciplines. But she did
             what Jasmine intended her to do, mastering some moves from each and
             integrating them into a fighting style.

             And, each day, Shiva spent an hour with her in wrestling. For Kara was
             not to be allowed to forget the aim of all her strivings. Also, Shiva wanted
             her pupil to be sure of what movements and techniques not to use in a
             wrestling ring, not even against a hated enemy. Whenever she forgot
             herself and used a forbidden move, Shiva instantly blocked it, cracked
             Kara a wicked blow, and gave her a tongue-lashing. She took the lectures
             seriously, and before long, learned just what Shiva wanted of her.

             Even better, she could sense when she was hurting Shiva. The Asian would
             not groan in pain, or slap the mat, but the Argonian girl knew just when
             Shiva was increasing her concentration to withstand the hurt Kara was
             producing in her body. Shiva never submitted, but that wasn't important.
             Progress was.

             There were also the high-kicking style of taekwondo, the kattaram
             grappling techniques of India, and the meditative and easing aspects of tai
             chi, which Shiva insisted that Hira join in on, to Hira's subsequent delight.

             And in the midst of all that, one day Shiva aroused Kara from sleep with a

             The blonde trundled out of bed, wiping her eyes, and opened the door to
             see her sensei standing there in a formal black dress.

             "Have you forgotten, pupil? We have a wedding to attend."

             "Holy sun!" shouted Kara, and ran for the shower.

                                        - S -

             Within an hour, the two Rokynian women were hurtling through the open
             air outside, clad in friction-resistant dresses, with Shiva carried in the crook
             of Kara's arm, wrapped up in Supergirl's red cape.

             All three of them arrived in plenty of time to meet Dinah before the
             ceremony. At first, Dinah was hesitant in Shiva's presence. But she noted
             Kara's ebullience around her new teacher, and, finally, Dinah said, "I'm
             glad you could make it, Shiva."

             "And I am glad you referred me to my new pupil," said Shiva. "Be at ease,
             Dinah, we are not foes here."

             "We never will be, unless we have to be," said Dinah, shaking her hand.
             "And I hope that day never comes."

             Shiva replied, "As do I." Her expression gave little away.

             After Kara explained how much she'd been learning, Dinah beamed at her.
             "Kara, if we had the time, and if you could ever run me up to that Fortress
             ring, I'd just love to get the chance to spar with you. Do you think we
             could, sometime, after everything gets settled down for both of us?"

             "Sometime later on, sure," said Kara. "My schedule depends on how the
             match comes out. But, next time I can manage it, we'll try and manage it.
             Kal doesn't have any problems with you."

             "Glad to hear it," she said. "I wasn't sure that she could be trusted with
             you. I was wrong. be careful, okay?" She looked at Kara

             "I will, Dinah. Honestly. Now, come on, let's get you married."

             And Ollie and Dinah exchanged vows at the Star City First Methodist
             Church (Ollie had wanted a civil ceremony, but Dinah insisted on a church
             wedding), with the Justice League, the Teen Titans, and several JSA
             members in attendance, all incognito. Even the Green Arrow of Earth-Two
             made the scene, posing as Oliver Queen's Uncle Oliver, for whom Ollie
             claimed he had been named. The two Ollies tried to get along, but there
             was a gap; the Earth-Two Green Arrow had never lost his fortune, and
             was a staunch Republican.

             Hal Jordan, the best man at the wedding, confided to both Ollie and Dinah,
             "You've convinced us. Carol and I are going to get married next month.
             And you get to carry the ring at this one, okay?"

             "As long as it isn't a green one, amigo," cracked Ollie. For a long moment,
             both men looked at each other and remembered the long, strange trip they
             had shared across America, and the many subsequent adventures together
             before splitting up. Then they hugged each other.

             Roy Harper was proud to see his guardian tying the knot, their animosity
             long gone by the wayside. He also enjoyed his meeting with the older
             Oliver. But both Ollie and Dinah warned him not to tell the elder Queen
             that he had once briefly been a junkie.

             Ted Knight and Johnny Thunder both told Dinah what it had been like
             working with her mother. Dinah, who shared a lot of the elder Canary's
             memories, knew a lot of it, but thanked them nonetheless, and tried not to
             show her sadness.

             And there was a time in which Clark Kent and Kara were alone together
             at the reception.

             "Hal is going to take care of things after the reception," Clark told her.
             "Dinah and Ollie don't mind her knowing them, but she won't remember
             anybody else's faces or names here, except for yours and Hira's."

             "Guess that's the best way," said Kara. "Too many people, too many

             "I always figured they'd tie the knot, but when?" said Clark. "We almost
             had a betting pool going on at the Satellite, in the old days."

             "Yeah," said Linda, sitting in an orange plastic chair, swirling ice in her cup
             of punch. "You know, Clark, I'm glad my parents aren't here."

             He looked at her a trifle harshly. "Why? You haven't seen them in over a

             She gave the look back. "I've been busy. My affair, okay, Clark?" Kara
             kept having to remind herself not to call him Kal. "But if Mom and Dad
             were here, Fred and Edna, I mean, they'd probably be nagging me to get
             married. And I'd be making excuses."

             "Know just what you mean," said Clark. "Lois has just about given up on


             He shrugged. "I guess she's just tired. Even when I'm wearing blue, she's
             turned me down for a date a couple of times lately. But I know she isn't
             seeing anybody else."

             She grinned. "You keep track of her, huh, cousin?"

             Clark smiled. "You know it, honey! But...I don't know. With both of us,
             it's like something we know isn't really going to reach fruition, and yet we
             love each other too much to really want to let go."

             Kara took a sip of punch. "Clark, she's getting nearly past childbearing
             age. Part of it may be that she knows there may not be a chance of getting
             a Clark, Jr."

             He considered it. "I hope that isn't the case," he said. "I hope that isn't the
             way she feels."

             "Ever asked her?"

             Clark looked at her. "About that?"

             "What the hell do you talk about, when you're together? Lex Luthor can't
             be all that fascinating a topic of conversation."

             He held his cup in both hands and looked into it. "Lots of things. I try to
             keep Clark and the other guy in two separate pockets."

             "But she knows."

             He exhaled heavily and sat up, not looking at her. "Yeah. I think she does."

             "What's left, Kal?" She forgot herself, but even he didn't think to reprimand

             "What do you mean?"

             "What's left of your life?" she said. "You've done all the things you could
             have expected to do. Nailed down scoops, made a successful career in
             print and TV, fought all the bad guys, made a household name for yourself
             in most of the galaxy. Why don't you go ahead and get married?"

             "Well, what about you?" he said, indignantly. "Why aren't you married,

             She shook her head. "I don't know either, other than 'no Mr. Right'. But
             that'll come. I'm learning how to be an ordinary woman. I'm also working
             on a career...if I win this fight."

             He lay a hand affectionately on her wrist. "It's crazy, Kara, but I'm pulling
             for you all the way. You know that, don't you?"

             "Sure." She pecked him on the cheek. "But it's sweet of you to say that,
             big cousin. Shiva's doing a real job on me. I feel like I could take on Emma
             Peel now, and win." The muscles in one arm tightened. "But, Rao's love,
             Kal, I'm still scared. I really am."

             Clark put one arm softly about her. "I know, Kara," he said, not caring
             who heard. "Do you want me to be there for you? I might be able to work

             Heart-warmth welled up within her. "I love you for saying that. Thanks,
             Kal. But I'd rather have you there in spirit. Is that all right?"

             "Sure," he said. "Guess I wasn't much help last time, anyway."

             "Oh, Kal, don't worry about that," she said, looking into his eyes. "We
             were both wrong about that. I'm sorry I was so bitchy at the end there.
             That was uncalled for, and I apologize."

             "No, don't," he said. "You were right. That scene's not for me. And Xar
             showed me!" He smiled, very widely. "But...even though I don't much care
             for wrestling...I'm proud of you, Kara."

             She stared up at him, amazed.

             "Yes. I'm proud of you, because you're out there, on your own, and you're
             making it. And regardless of what happens, I want you to know that I'll
             always be proud of you. I always...have been."

             Kara tried to form words. There were so many, they jammed between her
             brain and her mouth.

             "Don't you know that I realize what you've been up against here?" Clark
             went on. "When you first came to Earth, a scared little fifteen-year-old girl
             putting a brave face on everything? You'd lost everyone you'd known,
             including, you thought, your parents. You had to come here, pretend to be
             a little girl who didn't really exist, learn how to be an Earthwoman and an
             American, hide all your sorrow for the people and the way of life you'd
             lost, and learn how to cope with all these incredible powers...and keep that
             all a secret. All within a single year. I don't know how you coped.

             "You were so tough, Kara. So very tough. I had it easy. I was raised an
             American, with powers since the age of three. You had to learn in
             adolescence, one of the toughest times of life. I didn't know if you could do
             it. But you did. You have strength that you're not even conscious of.
             Perhaps, in that sense, more strength even than myself.

             "Let's face it. I love you more than just anybody else I know in the
             universe. And that's a lot of universe."

             She was hugging him. Her head was on his shoulder, and she was crying.
             Clark embraced her, comfortingly. Neither of them had to say a word.

             Dinah and Diana Prince, talking nearby, looked at them in concern.
             "Something wrong, Clark?" asked Diana.

             He looked up at them. "Can't anybody cry at a wedding?"

             Dinah regarded them and then steered the Amazon back to the table with
             the big wedding cake.

             Fifteen minutes later, Hira and Shiva appeared before Kara and Clark.
             "We must go, pupil," said Shiva.

             "Sorry we can't spend more time, Clark," said Hira, naming him carefully.
             "But we want to see you again when this is all over."

             "I'll try and make it, Hira," said Clark, shaking her hand. Then he looked
             appraisingly at Shiva. "She tells me you've really been helping her."

             "Such is a sensei's duty," answered Shiva, neutrally.

             "Thank you," said Clark, in an equal tone. "Very much. You have given me
             some cause for trust. I hope you will continue in that vein."

             Shiva said nothing.

             "Well, then, goodbye, ladies," Clark said. He held onto Kara's hand for a
             long moment. "And good luck, Linda. Knock 'em dead."

             She held onto his hand after he tried to let go. "Will you do something for
             me, Clark?"


             "Will you go to Lois and talk to her? Really talk to her? Not worry about
             what to keep secret, and what to show, just talk to her. About things.
             Things you've not yet talked about. At least, not in the same way as
             before. Will you do that?"

             He hesitated. "I'll try."

             "I didn't ask you that," she said, still waiting.

             Finally, Clark plastered a tough grin on his face. "Oh, what the he--why
             not? Sure. Okay. I'll give it a shot. Now, please, let go of my hand. Or
             you'll be late."

             "We have wasted three days already," prompted Shiva. "Let us make

             Kara hugged him tightly. "I love you so much, cousin," she said. "And Lois
             does, too. Just give her a chance to show it."

             He sighed. "That's some chance. But...we'll see. Best of luck, honey. I
             really mean that."

             "I know you do," she said. "Now, more than ever, I know you do.
             Goodbye, Kal."

             "Goodbye, Kara."

             And the three women left the church, taking to the skies shortly thereafter.

                                        - S -

             Jasmine was locked in battle with one of the best klurkor instructresses in
             New Kandor. Vara and Zora watched from the sidelines and made little

             Ria Klen-Kor, clad in athletic suit and fighting barefoot, had her red hair
             cut short and was confident she could at least hold her own with her foe.
             After all, wrestling wasn't klurkor, and she was no creampuff.

             Before long, she realized her error.

             Jasmine, battling in a wrestling bikini, had been picking up martial arts
             knowledge from Zora and from male instructors she had hired. The
             dark-haired grappler held nothing back in her attack on Ria. The klurkora
             overcame her surprise and got back in the fight quickly. But, despite her
             expertise, it was too far uphill for her.

             The wrestlerette had incredible pain tolerance, quickness, energy, and
             strength. She also had a great aptitude for learning combat moves...and a
             pronounced streak of sadism. Before long, Ria was down and groaning,
             and it wasn't an act.

             Jasmine blitzed her with a barrage of blows and barefoot kicks. The
             powerful martial artist was soon dazed and helpless on the mat. Zora was
             breathing heavily, staring with pleasure at the sight. Vara was horrified, and

             Quickly, Jasmine stooped, raised the foundering Ria to a standing position,
             and placed her crossed hands on either side of her neck for a deadly
             guillotine stroke. Her hands, crossed at the forearms, were holding Ria up
             under the chin. Numbly, the klurkor instructor tried to protest.

             Jasmine's face was a mask of cruelty and pleasure. "I could do it, you
             know. I really could."

             "Quarter," Ria mumbled.

             Jasmine didn't move.

             "Let her go, Jara," said Vara, gripping the bottom of her chair seat tightly.

             Jasmine still didn't move.

             "That's enough, honey," said Zora, and crossed her legs.

             With a single movement, Jasmine whipped her hands away from the
             woman's neck. Ria fell to her hands and knees, gasping.

             Vara was at Ria's side immediately. "Ria, babe, are you all right? I didn't
             plan on this much going down. You need a doctor?"

             Ria found her voice. "Be all right. I think. Get me out of here, okay?"

             "There'll be a bonus for you in your check, I promise," said Vara, helping
             her to her feet. She didn't dare look at Jasmine right now. She was too
             afraid of what she'd see.

             Massaging her neck, Ria glanced up at Jasmine. For a second, she thought
             she saw the mask of arrogance slip, just an instant of concern in her eyes.
             Then it went back up again. The girl looked at her with a cold sneer.

             Whatever the case, Ria didn't ever want to go against that woman again.

             And Rao help Kara Zor-El when she did.

                                        - S -

             Vara got Ria a hovercab and wrote her a fat check for the session. After
             that, she came back in and faced Zora and Jasmine, who were almost in
             each other's arms.

             "You didn't have to do that, y'know," Vara said, bravely. "You didn't have
             any grudge going with her. We didn't pay her for a blood match."

             "I didn't see any blood there," smirked Zora, coldly. "Did you see any
             blood, Jara?"

             "Nope," said Jasmine, stroking Zora's hair with one hand. "And if there had
             been any, it sure wouldn't have been mine." She giggled.

             Shaking a bit, Vara stepped closer and pointed an accusing finger. "Now,
             look, honey. A wrestling match is a tough fight, but it isn't a battle to the
             death. Sure, I wanna see Blondie beaten. Beaten bad, too. But I won't be
             a party to murder."

             Jasmine stood away from Zora, and regarded Vara coldly. "I never said
             anything about murder. I didn't even damage your little klurkor cutie, did I?
             Not much, anyway. She walked away, didn't she?"

             Vara stepped as close as she dared to Jasmine. "If you'd lost control there,
             she wouldn't have. And you looked like you were just bustin' for the
             chance to do it."

             "So what?"

             "So if you do, you go up for murder. Is that what you want?"

             "No, it isn't," said Zora, butting in. "Nobody's talking murder here, Vara.
             But Kara's off-planet, and you can bet she's not just sitting in the sack
             writing her biography all these weeks."

             "Probably writing her will," said Jasmine, doing an isometric exercise with
             her hands.

             Zora continued, "We hired Ria to see how Jara would do under combat
             conditions. You agreed to that. They fought, Jasmine handed her her head,
             and Ria didn't get anything worse out of it than a headache and a tough
             time getting out of bed in the morning. Case closed. What's your

             Vara looked straight at her. "My problem is you. I've got no problems with
             Jasmine being a tough girl. I've got a lot of problems with what you're
             turning her into."

             Zora shrugged. "Well, then, fire me."

             "I can't," said Vara. "Jasmine hired you."

             Zora smiled, spreading her hands. "So quit."

             Vara stared back at her in anger. "And leave her to you, all the way? Not
             yet, baby. Not just yet."

             Jasmine snapped, "That's enough, both of you. Nobody on this team is
             quitting. I want you, Vara, but nobody's kickin' Zora nowhere." She put
             her arm around Vara in an attempt at conciliation. "Vara, baby, go get
             supper. We'll do talking tomorrow. Go eat, sweetie."

             Vara sighed. "Jara, Jara, I could talk at you till the Equinox and not one
             word would get through. Not anymore. You're on top now. Don't throw it
             all away just for this..."

             "Watch it," said Jasmine, coldly. "We need harmony here, Vara, not static.
             After the match, we can sort things out. For now...let's stay together,

             "I gotta get something to eat," said Vara. "If I can." She left, and closed the

             Jasmine turned back to Zora. "Where were we, honey?"

             "Oh, probably just about right here," said Zora.

             "Ohhh, yeah," breathed Jasmine. "Uh...that's...probably...where you were."

         (next chapter)