Supergirl (Kara of Rokyn):
Pain and Jasmine, part 4

by DarkMark

             On Earth, Kara and Shiva played out the last weeks allotted to them. The
             girl of steel was a girl of flesh and bone, but her body was even tougher
             and more capable than it had ever been. Her skills were greater, even
             potentially deadly, though her morality would never have allowed her to
             use some moves to their deadliest intent.

             Her spirit was stronger, too. The confidence Kara had gained when she
             first trained her body for the wrestling ring returned. Now, when she
             sparred with her sensei, she wore a tough but eager smile and gave almost
             as good as she got.

             Whether in a bikini, an athletic shirt and shorts with a headband confining
             her hair, or a judo outfit, Kara Zor-El was proving herself Shiva's prize

             Hira beamed, noted what training techniques she could adapt for later use
             with her charge, and joined both ladies in calisthenics. She pooped out
             regularly before the others, but they grinned and forgave her. Well, at least
             Kara grinned, and Shiva gave her equivalent thereof.

             Finally the days were past.

             Three weeks and five days had gone by in the world outside. Kara wanted
             to stay longer, but Shiva insisted that she return to her world and
             reintegrate herself into it, and rest for the two days before the battle.

             Even Hira ended up hating to say goodbye to Shiva, and admitted it. Shiva
             said, "You were correct to be wary, Hira. I am a most unknown quantity.
             Come tomorrow, my pupil will be in your hands...and in her own."

             "You've done a hell of a job," said the older woman, smiling at her. "A lot
             more than I would have known how to do." She tried to take Shiva's
             hands in friendship, but the Asian woman raised hers away.

             "That is not necessary, Hira," said Shiva. "My job is done, almost. A
             sensei's thanks is in the performance of her pupil."

             Hira moved in and hugged her. "And an old Rokynian broad's thanks is
             like this," she replied.

             Kara looked on amusedly at Shiva's astonished expression. But the sensei
             didn't resist. Finally, Hira let her go and stepped away. Shiva exhaled and
             shook her head.

             "Can we come see you again after the match?" asked Hira.

             "No!" said Shiva. Then, catching herself, she said, "Such would be most
             difficult, Hira. I have assignments which must be completed. Do not take
             my outburst as coldness. After today, we shall travel separate paths."

             Kara, sitting before a heater on a rug, wearing green silk p.j.'s,
             contemplated her two trainers. Such different women, helping her in such
             different ways, earning her love and respect in different manner. And
             tomorrow, Shiva would be gone from her life, possibly forever. Gone to a
             way of life and to deadly doings Kara didn't want to even contemplate.

             It was reassuring to know that she would not be on Earth to learn of them.

             Hira, standing away from Shiva, nodded. "Take care of yourself," she said.

             Shiva gave an expression which was as much of an approval as she ever
             allowed. She was hard to read at first, but both ladies knew how to
             interpret her by now.

             Now, in black pajamas, barefoot like Kara, Shiva came and sat
             crosslegged before her student. "Your time to return to Rokyn is almost at
             hand, Kara. Are you afraid?"

             "A little," admitted Kara. "I'd be a fool not to be. But not nearly as much as
             I would have been without this time with you. Thank you, sensei."

             "Just so, pupil. Honest, reasoning fear is never a warrior's enemy. Know,
             too, that your enemy also fears you. And with good reason. Not only have
             you vengeance on your side, Kara, but rightness as well. That in itself will
             not be enough. But it will be of help."

             Kara waited, looking into Shiva's eyes.

             "To train you as well as you should be trained would require more time
             than either you or I had at hand," admitted Shiva. "But this is not
             necessarily a detriment. I have forced as much knowledge into your brain
             and body as you possibly could have absorbed in this period. One rarely
             has the opportunity to prepare for war in as leisurely a time as one would

             "Do you wish an evaluation, pupil?" asked Shiva.

             Kara replied, "Such a thing from a teacher of your caliber is no small thing,
             sensei. Yes, I do, if it is your pleasure."

             Shiva settled herself. Kara knew she was signalling approval of Kara's
             statement and of the way she phrased it. Yet, there was something else in
             the woman's demeanor that was harder to tell.

             "What you have learned, and what I have seen in you, is not one single
             school, but a bastardized form taken from many schools. This is quite
             probably a good thing. A reference you may understand--Bruce Lee did
             much the same thing, integrating the moves of many into one, his one. But
             because it was his one, it could never really be another's, nor be taught
             fully to another.

             "However, one can put a pupil through a similar process, and let that pupil
             master what he can from many schools, as if he were choosing food from
             many different trays. It may produce the school the West would call, 'Jack
             of all trades, master of none.' Or, rather than that, the pupil may be the
             master of his trade...a trade only one person can master.

             "I believe this latter to be true with you, Kara. Your fighting style is unique,
             and that will be of as much advantage, perhaps, as if you had studied one
             discipline for six months. But be mindful of what you have not
             mastered...for every foe you face will know something you do not. Do you

             "I do, sensei," said Kara, unwavering. "And I know that every foe who
             faces me will, in turn, face something unknown to them."

             Shiva paused, approving. "As you say. Were I your master, Kara, I would
             teach you not to place all your self-worth upon the outcome of your next
             fight. There is worth untold in you, and it will remain whatever that fight's
             outcome. You are as good a woman as I have ever known, Kara. And I
             have known many. This, keep to yourself. It is a thing of honor."

             Kara breathed heavily. "As you say, sensei. I will keep it, as a thing of

             Hira shook her head. She almost wanted to do a somersault between the
             both of them to change the atmosphere. But this was, after all, Kara's
             graduation ceremony.

             "This I would tell you. She has an advantage over you as well. She has
             beaten you before, and will be counting upon your reaction to that in fear,
             recklessness, and anger. Too, what she has been doing in these past
             weeks is unknown to us as well. And Jasmine, too, is strong and skilled.

             "Definitely strong and skilled, sensei," said Kara.

             "You will feel pain in this match," said Shiva. "Not as in the match before.
             This woman will be trying to tear you apart, perhaps even to injure you.
             Do you know this?"

             Kara hesitated a second before answering. "I have no way of knowing
             what honor means to her. She is brutal, at times. Yes, sensei, I believe she
             may try this."

             "She will try it. You must be on guard against this. But you must not fight to
             kill, for this is not killing combat, no matter what she would visit upon you.
             And, Kara--such is not your way." Shiva emphasized this last so strongly
             that Kara and Hira both gazed at her in surprise.

             "Your way is the way of honor," said Shiva. "You know that as well as I.
             Fight her, pain her, and defeat her, even break her body if you must...but
             only if you must, and do not kill. Were your life at stake, you would be
             justified in any moves in your repertoire. But this is contest, not
             death-combat...though, sometimes, only a hair may seem to separate the
             two. And once lifeblood stains your hands, Kara..."

             She paused several seconds. Kara and Hira were entirely silent.

             "...if it stain them ever, rightfully or wrongfully, think not that you will ever
             scrub that stain away entire," finished Shiva. "And I would not be the one
             to make a murderess of the Girl of Steel."

             Kara breathed in and out several times. "As you say, sensei."

             "Well, then, that is all there is to be said for it," responded Shiva, and sat
             back a bit more easily. "Now, there was a payment agreed upon, was
             there not?"

             Gratefully, Kara grinned. "You bet, sensei. Hira, shut off the red sun lamp.
             I'm going to get the bag of coal."

             "I will rejoin you here in five minutes," said Shiva. Both women rose and
             padded off to their rooms.

             Hira moved to the wall control and threw a switch. After such a long time
             under a red-sun light prism, she wondered how the rush of super-power
             would feel. She drew in a deep breath as their environiment changed.

             It felt good. She jumped into the air, did a flip, and straightened out,
             levitating herself to the ceiling. "Whoop!" she cried out, bumping joyously
             against the rafters.

             Kara returned from her room with a cloth bag. Shiva came back with a
             small valise. Both sat the objects between the two of them, and sat down
             again, facing each other on the rug.

             Then Kara began to smile, and she reached inside the bag. She produced
             a lump of coal, displayed it to Shiva, and then tightened her hand about it.
             An audible crunching noise was heard, and Shiva detected a rise of heat
             from the area around Kara's hand. The blonde opened her hand again, and
             revealed a sizable uncut diamond. She placed it on the floor near the valise,

             Then she repeated the process again and again. Diamonds sprang from her
             hands as if from the sleeve of a magician, joining their fellows on the rug in
             neat rows of eight apiece.

             Kara's hand grew as sooty as a Welsh coal miner's. Shiva had expected
             the count to stop at 16. But the Argonian girl kept crunching coal lumps,
             producing diamonds, and laying them neatly before her, row on row.

             She didn't stop until the count had reached 32.

             "Consider the rest a bonus," said Kara. Even Shiva's eyes had gone wide,
             before the last lump had been squeezed.

             Shiva considered the row of diamonds for a few seconds, as Kara burned
             her hand clean with heat vision. Then she picked out two diamonds from
             the total. One she handed to Kara. She beckoned the hovering Hira over,
             and handed her the second.

             "From much pressure, beauty and hardness grow," said Shiva. "My
             ancestors forgive my triteness."

             Kara snickered. "Sensei, if I didn't know better, I'd assume you just
             cracked a joke."

             "Just so," said Shiva. "Now, I have something of equal durability and
             beauty for you." She popped open the lock tabs on the valise.

             Even without using her X-ray vision, Kara knew what was inside.

             Shiva held up the uniform of Supergirl, displaying it to both her charges.

             "You may wear it again," she said.

             After a restful night's sleep, the three ladies arose, had breakfast, dressed
             for travel, gathered what they needed to take with them, and shut off the
             tesseract. The brick walls of the small Fortress came into view as the flux
             patterns before them faded. Kara shut off the power supply, put her hand
             to the door plate, and took the three of them back out into the howling

             Once they were all outside, Kara, dressed in her Supergirl uniform, quickly
             scooped up a mass of snow and ice, covered the mini-Fortress with it, and
             froze it into place with a blast of super-breath. Later, Kal could come and
             take the red-sun ring back to his digs. She intended to ask him to restore
             the roof and the concealing ice cover after he had done so. The efficiency
             Fortress was a nice little place, after all.

             Then, carrying their baggage, all three women went to Star City to see off
             the strange woman who had come to mean so much to both of them in the
             four months of tesseract time.

             Shiva asked Kara to take her to the airport, so they did. She was carrying
             one suitcase and her purse, within which was the bag of diamonds. Kara
             thought about asking whether she really wanted to carry it there, but
             decided that anybody who tried to snatch her purse really wasn't doing
             himself a favor.

             They stopped just beyond the automatic doors before the ticket area. "This
             is as far as you should accompany me," said Shiva.

             Kara guessed that she really didn't want them to know where she was
             going. Just as well.

             "One more request I make of you, Kara," she added, lengthening her purse
             strap to make it go around her neck and shoulder.

             "Name it," said Kara, standing there in blue denim pants and jacket and a
             light blue t-shirt with the slogan ARGO CITY LIVES! in Kryptonese on
             the chest.

             "That you give me a videotape of your match with Jasmine," Shiva said.
             "Standard VHS mode. You may leave it with Dinah." She stepped closer
             to Kara. "You have been a good pupil. May your Rao grant that you be an
             equally good fighter. Farewell, Kara and Hira. I will look towards your
             star tonight, and hope for your success."

             She bussed Kara on the cheek. Then she turned and left.

             The blonde only came back to reality when Hira put a hand on her
             shoulder and shook her.

             "Amazing, Kara," said Hira. "You can even make a human being out of
             somebody like her."

             Then Kara and Hira walked away from the airport building and the parking
             area, and, when they were far enough away from most prying eyes, took
             to the skies at blinding super-speed. Luckily, their luggage was as
             friction-proof as their bodies and clothes.

             "I hope White Star still remembers me," said Kara, loudly enough for Hira,
             speeding by at her side, to hear. "It's been four weeks since I saw the little

             Hira smiled. "Yeah, but just think of what hell a Kryptonian cat would have
             raised here. He might have gone on a crusade against dog pounds or

             Kara yelled, "More likely, tried to father a whole generation of supercats."
             Both of them grinned. Earth zipped by in rotation as they soared
             northward. Up past Canada, up to the Arctic ice pack.

             Kal was not at the Fortress of Solitude. Instead, after they had opened the
             big yellow metal door, they found in the entrance hall a mannikin wearing a
             Supergirl costume, and bearing around its neck a large, heart-shaped
             diamond pendant.

             The pendant had a small "S" insignia shield engraven on its surface by
             precision heat-vision. It hung on a chain of pearls.

             A note was pinned on the breast of the costume. It read:


                  It's best I don't see you off. I might be tempted to try and
                  make you stay. I hope you like this. I'm not too good at
                  figuring out what gifts to give (as you know!).

                  Prayers and luck accompany you back home. Show
                  Jasmine what it's like to go up against the brand- new
                  Kara! We both know that you've got what it takes...and
                  you should know I'm very proud of you.

                  Regards, Kal

             Kara shook her head in wonder as she folded the note and then took the
             pendant and put it around her neck. "My crazy cousin," she said. "My
             wonderful, loving, bull-headed, old-fashioned, hopeless, and utterly
             fantastic crazy cousin."

             Hira said nothing, but nothing needed to be said.

             The two of them hit the WarPort and were gone.

                                        - S -

             When they materialized in the New Kandor WarPort, it was a down-time
             period for the most part, but they still turned heads. Kara's was one of the
             most famous faces in Rokyn. Even as an attendant checked their bags, a
             stringer was calling one of the Rokyn news agencies. Seeing it, Kara was
             tempted to go over and tell him to give them some peace for a few hours.
             Then she decided, Sheol with it, and let him call.

             The two fairly tired women managed to grab a hovercab almost before
             some newsies showed up and started asking questions and shooting
             holovid data. One of them said, "It's great to have you back, Kara.
             Where've you been?"

             She put on a weary smile. "Off-planet, boys. Had some work to do. Now
             we've got a cab to catch."

             "Are you ready for your title bout with Lady Jasmine?" said another.

             "She's ready," asserted Hira, a finger outthrust towards the reporter who
             asked it. "Jasmine had darned well be ready for her."

             Kara threw her arm about Hira's shoulders. "Make sure you spell my
             trainer's name right. It's Hira, H- I-R-A. Couldn't have gotten through the
             thing without her."

             A brassy girl with a mike asked, "What do you think about Zora Vi-Lar
             hooking up to co-manage Jasmine?"

             The two women couldn't hide their surprised reaction. And it would be
             replayed on all the sports shows as THE moment from the interview.

             Kara took a deep breath and let it out. "Well, as long as the Black
             Flameout keeps her head out of the ring, it should be okay. That's all,
             gents. Talk to you later."

             "Place your bets on Kara here," said Hira. "Our girl is going to take back
             the belt in three days."

             It was bravado. Getting into the cab, Kara was heartened by Hira's faith.

             But it would take a lot more than just faith to get the belt back from

             "Take me home," said Kara to the driver. "And don't tell your dispatcher,
             okay? I've got enough trouble as it is."

                                        - S -

             There was a similar gantlet of newsies just outside Kara's home. But she
             also noted the presence of her parents' and Nar's hovercars in the parking
             area. She smiled and gave them much the same answer. "Irregardless of
             whoever manages Jasmine, I'm going to show up for it," said Kara.
             "Thanks, tanthi and tyntho, and now, please excuse me, I'm hungry!"

             Once inside the door, the two women were intercepted by Nar, Zor-El,
             Allura, and White Star, the latter of whom was curled up sleeping in
             Allura's arms. The front room was festooned with party wrappings and a
             big WELCOME HOME, KARA! sign which hung across the wall facing
             the door.

             Nar insisted on being first, spreading his arms. "My little girl, excuse me,
             our little girl is back! Happy homecoming, Karaish!"

             "Daughter, come over here so I can give you this big lump of fur and hug
             you one," said Allura.

             "I assert fatherly privelage, Kara, and demand the first hug," said Zor,
             decked out in his formal red-and- green suit. "But be gentle with me, all

             "Yeah, after a month in training, she might not know her own strength,"
             grinned Allura.

             Kara shook her head. "Come here, you three." When they did, she
             encircled the trio as best she could with her arms and they did a group hug.
             "Blessings on you and your houses all over the place. Thanks for being
             here. Does the cat still remember me?"

             Allura handed White Star over. He wakened, yawned, looked up at Kara,
             and purred. Best way to con a meal out of these big ones who didn't even
             know well enough to walk on all fours, he thought.

             Hira grabbed Nar's arm. "Nar, you've gotta get a travel permit and go
             there, too! You can fly all over the place and not have to pay for cabs.
             And I've got to show you that big statue of the woman holding her arm up
             and the train that goes all under the ground. You'll love it."

             "We'll give it a try later," said Nar. "I knew Kara wouldn't be able to keep
             you tied down for long, Hira. Just tell me you didn't rack up a big clothes
             and hotel bill and I'll be happy."

             "Nar." Hira simpered.

             "I'm not going to stand up much longer when I could be sitting down
             eating," said Zor. "The homecoming meal awaits, Karaish. Bring the cat
             and tell us how it went."

             And Kara went, wondering how much she could eat while her stomach
             was churning with a terminal case of nerves.

             After the meal, the party adjourned to the den and turned the lights low for
             atmosphere. The war council was about to begin.

             "You can stay for a while, tanth and tynth," said Nar to Zor and Allura.
             "But Hira and I will have to be alone with the lady here pretty soon. Hope
             you understand."

             Allura said, "We want to be in this all the way, Nar. If Kara can take what
             she's going through in the ring, we can stand listening to it."

             Zor-El wasn't so sure he could, but said nothing.

             Nar leaned forward. "The tough stuff is only part of it. Some things I've
             been told in confidence. Kara, Hira, and I are pretty good at keeping the
             lid on about fight stuff. No offense, but I don't know if the two of you can."

             "We'll try," said Zor. "Go ahead and talk, Nar, we don't have that much

             Hira held Kara's hand in her own, and felt the dampness in her friend's

             Nar knew he was going to regret letting Zor and Allura stay. Looking
             straight at Kara, he began.

             "Okay. You know about Zora and Jasmine getting together. You know
             how together they are now?"

             Kara said, "I can guess. I didn't know Zora had any inclinations that way.
             But if it meant getting back at me, I think she could make the sacrifice."

             Allura paled. Zor-El put an arm around her.

             Nar sighed. "I really don't want to talk in front of your parents. Please,
             folks, could you leave us alone for awhile?"

             "She's going to try to get Jasmine to hurt Kara, isn't that it?" asked Allura.

             "Oh, Sheol," breathed Hira, tightening her grip on Kara's hand.

             Nar said, "There's a strong possibility. Jasmine's gotten tougher, meaner,
             even put a fracture or two on opponents. I've got intelligence she took on a
             klurkor trainer and ran through her like wind through a net. Could be bad,
             Kara. At this point, I don't see any way of getting out of it."

             Kara focussed on Nar. "There's no way I would get out of it, Nar. I've
             been a super-heroine. I've faced a lot of people bigger and nastier than
             Jasmine, all the way up to Darkseid. I've even been close to death a few
             times. I'm not going to duck out on this one."

             "You had super-powers then," said Nar. "Fighting on a human level is
             different, like I don't have to tell you. So I'm giving you the last chance.
             You stay, you're facing somebody who's probably out to do you some
             permanent damage in that ring. You go, you lose some face, maybe have a
             tougher time getting into the movies, but you're still whole and healthy. We
             put the best spin on it we can. But whatever you choose, this is the last
             point. You have to stick with whatever you decide, from this moment on.
             You want me and the folks should leave, so you can make up your mind?"

             Kara didn't hesitate a second.

             "There's nothing else I can do, Nar. I didn't spend almost sixteen weeks in
             that time-warp just to throw it away. I'm not going back to watching vids
             of me getting beaten while I vegetate on the couch. I'm still scared as hell.
             But that doesn't really matter. I'm as good now as I've ever been. That has
             to be good enough, and I think it is. I know it is."

             She sighed. "You knew what I'd tell you, you old thought-beast. I'm going
             on with the fight. And we're gonna beat her."

             Nar relaxed. He noted, out of the corner of his eye, that Zor-El and Allura,
             despite themselves, were sitting more easily. "You got that wrong, Kara,"
             he said. "You're going to beat her."

                                        - S -

             Zora and Jasmine had another meeting from which Vara was pointedly
             excluded. After they finished the first part of it, Zora embraced Jara again
             and said, "Tell me what you're going to do to Kara."

             Jasmine responded, "You know what I'm going to do. Don't have to tell
             you again."

             "This is all part of prep," said Zora. "Verbal reinforcement. Tell me. Now."

             Jasmine said, "Break her body, crush her spirit, all that good stuff. I'm also
             going to take two out of three falls. Is that good enough for you, Zora?"

             Zora disengaged and sat looking at Jasmine. "What's the matter? Going
             soft on her all of a sudden? The high-banded little bitch from an
             upper-reaches family of think-boys? The one who's been off-planet a
             month, training to beat you? Is that good enough for you, Jara?"

             "I want to fight her, sure," said Jasmine. "I wouldn't mind even sending her
             to the med-center for a few days. But I'm a wrestler, not a killer, Zora. If I
             really hurt her, there goes my liscence and a shot at the movies."

             Zora's eyes blazed. "You're still in love with her? Are you Travelling Clan
             people as dumb as they say? You want to put this--"

             Jasmine sat up straight in bed, her eyes blazing. "What's that about the
             Clan? You want to repeat that?"

             Zora backtracked. "Hold it, hold on, Jara. Really, I'm sorry. I'm not
             downing the Clan, really, I'm not. That's just part of verbal motivation. I'm
             trying to get your back up for the match."

             "You've just about got it up for me to give you a preview of the match right
             here. There aren't enough of the Clan left hardly to count anymore, and
             you want to down them. I ought to pull your tongue out through your

             Zora tried laying a reassuring hand on Jasmine's shoulder, but it got
             knocked away. "Jara. Don't you remember how I talked to you when we
             were sparring? And didn't that work, to get you going?"

             Jasmine was still stone-faced. "It sure did. You said if I couldn't do better
             than that, I might as well go back to making a living on my back. I damned
             near pulled your arm off for that one."

             "Exactly!" said Zora, mustering all her salesmanship for the task. "I had to
             say something like that to get you mad. Without the rage, you don't have a
             chance against her. Put it together, Jara. She's got to get her pride back.
             She's got to show everybody out there she still has what it takes. She
             wants revenge. She wants to do to you what you did to her. And she's
             been off-planet for four weeks, learning to do just that. Now she knows
             about us. You don't think she's going to give you a hell of a fight?"

             "I can handle all that," said Jara. "What I don't like is you downing the
             Travellers. Don't you ever try that again or I'll knock your front teeth out."

             Zora paused. "You're absolutely right, Jara. I was wrong, and I apologize.
             There's Traveller blood in my family as well."

             "If there is, it's because one of your ancestors got it on him when he killed
             one of us," said Jasmine. "You're a lying bitch, Zora."

             Zora got up, not looking at Jasmine, and started getting dressed.

             "What are you doing?" said Jasmine.

             "I never thought it'd happen, Jara," said Zora, getting into her underwear. "I
             never thought you'd let Kara come between us. But you did."

             Jasmine swung her legs off the bed. "Who said anything like that? I never
             said anything like that."

             The brown-haired, tall woman pulled a maroon shirt over her head. "Oh,
             dear Jara. You didn't have to. Some things don't have to be said. I've been
             in this ride to help you against your worst enemy. Now if you want me out
             of the wagon, fine. Just fine. Do the next couple of days yourself. Fight her
             on your own. Maybe you can get Vara to do what I did for you." She
             pulled up her pants, and touched the circuit that made the material contract
             about her body like a sheath. Then she looked back at Jasmine. "Have a
             fun time of it," she said, and put on her shoes.

             Jasmine was after her like a shot. "Zora, stop. I didn't say anything about
             you leaving. I didn't say anything about it."

             "You didn't have to, dear," said Zora, with Jasmine's hands on her
             forearms. "I try to motivate you. I give you the best training you've ever
             had. I want to see the little Argonian wretch beaten for both our sakes, and
             you're mad at me after all that. All right, I can deal with it. Let go, now."

             "No," said Jasmine. "You can't duck out this close to the end. Quit doing a
             laugh-up, Zora."

             "Is anybody laughing?" said Zora, coldly, not moving.

             Jasmine swallowed bile. "All right, Zora, I'm sorry. You say you're sorry
             about the Clan, and I'm sorry about doing a blast on you. All right, please
             don't run out on me. Just please don't do that."

             Zora, still hard as slate, said, "What are you going to do to Kara?"

             Jasmine paused, then said, "I'm going to hurt her. Hurt her so badly she
             won't be able to ever fight again. Take her out of circulation forever.
             I'm...gonna injure her."

             "And are you still in love with her?" asked Zora.

             "No," Jasmine lied.

             Zora pulled her shirt off. "Then show me."

             After Jasmine showed her one more time, Zora gave her a sleep-patch,
             dressed again and left. Jasmine was such a child, she thought. Always
             equating sex with caring. But it hardly mattered. After the match, she'd
             collect her percentage of the purse and be quit of her forever.

             And everybody would be quit of Kara Zor-El.


             Then, at the end of it all, there was a crowd, a ring, and two women ready
             to fight as never before.

             Jasmine had a sizeable crowd of supporters. She was the current
             champion, after all. But most of the crowd was out there to see Rokyn's
             Golden Girl make her comeback. There were enough "S" shield pins worn
             in the audience to make it look like a convention of the Superman
             Emergency Squad.

             Zor-El and Allura sat in the front row. Also attending were Van-Zee, who
             was secretly Kandor's masked hero Nightwing, and Sylvia, his wife, the
             only Earthwoman on Rokyn, given enough power by a special serum to
             withstand the planet's crushing gravity. Van's partner Ar-Val, who was
             also Flamebird, sat beside him with his own wife. Van's father Nim-Zee
             was there, too, along with Kara's scientist friend Lon-Es, the creator of the
             device that became the WarPort. Professor Kimda, who had aided
             Superman in the latter's first battle with the hated Brainiac, was now so old
             a nurse had to accompany him, but he wouldn't have missed the match for
             anything. Reg-En, Than-Ar, Vol-Don, Don- El, and practically all the
             membership of the old Superman and Supergirl Emergency Squads who
             were still around had managed to cadge seats. Their membership had been
             lessened by the departure of adventurous souls who set out to conquer the
             unexplored regions of Rokyn, but there were still many left. And they all
             loved Kara.

             There were very few of the Travelling Clan left. And, though many of them
             still held Supergirl as their heroine for her part in the enlargement of
             Kandor, Jasmine was still a Clanswoman, and they turned out in force for
             the battle. Though privately they admitted Jasmine wasn't the best choice
             to represent them as a champion, they nonetheless had pride for her, and
             would cheer her lustily.

             The rest of the arena was filled out by thousands of fans, most for Kara,
             some for Jasmine, but none impartial. Millions more watched the coverage
             of the match on live holovid.

             And more than a few prayers went up for Kara.

             It had been decided by the Sports Consortium directors that both women
             would enter at the same time, to forego politicking about which could
             make the last impression. So Kara and Jasmine sat in their dressing rooms
             with their small staff, and awaited the signal light.

             The last thing Nar said before it went on was, "You've already made me
             proud, Kara. Now go and make yourself proud. And be very, very

             The last thing Zora said before the light was activated was, "Don't let Kara
             leave that ring under her own power, darling. Show them what a
             Clanswoman can do to a high-banded bitch."

             Then both women left their dressing rooms, clad in robes and bikinis, and
             their managers and closest associates followed them as long as they could
             before taking their seats.

             Kara sucked in a deep breath, just as she heard the crowd chanting her
             name loud enough to rock the house.

             It felt great to hear that chant again!

             Shoulders back, the white-robed Kara beamed and waved to the crowd,
             managing to shake a few hands on her way down the runway. She had
             style and presence once again, and the woman of sorrows from two
             months ago was long forgotten.

             Rokyn had their Supergirl back, and they were glad to have her.

             On the opposite side of the stadium, Jasmine played to the crowd, not
             bothering with a robe at all, just her barely-there orange bikini and sandals.
             She walked with a harlot's saunter, grabbed a few unsuspecting guys and
             kissed them, and was generally disapproved of by the women in the
             audience. That last fact bothered her not a bit.

             When she passed by the small area of the arena commanded by the
             Travelling Clan, she received a token bouquet from one of their number.
             For once, Jasmine was genuinely moved. "Honored by the Blood," she
             said. "This, tanth, is something I will not soon forget." She had no smile
             when she said this.

             "Make sure you do not, Tynth Jara, and honor the Clan," responded T'Jer
             Thi-Hali, the old man who was first among them. "Fight honorably, and

             Jasmine hesitated, then said, "I will do my best, First Tanth. My house
             blesses your house."

             "Blessings returned," said the old man, revealing nothing with his eyes.

             Jasmine thanked the clan as a whole. Then she continued to the ring, still
             holding the flowers, much subdued and not aping a prostitute anymore.

             Zora, who had seen the thing on an overhead monitor, fumed. But there
             was nothing she could do about it now. From here till the end of the match,
             Jasmine was on her own.

             Kara had seen the exchange as well. Her attitude softened a bit towards
             Jara. She was, after all, only a human being, not an avatar of Evil. And if
             Jasmine had brought herself up from the dregs through wrestling, who was
             she to deny her a moment of glory?

             Then she caught herself. After this match, she could build bridges. For
             now, Jasmine was the enemy, and would certainly treat her as such. Now
             was the time for war, like it or not.

             There was no referee in the ring, only side judges. If they decided that
             either girl was injured, or truly endangered, they could activate mobile
             force-screens to separate the combatants. But, given the importance of this
             fight to both women, they didn't intend to use the screens unless it was
             Condition Red.

             "Rao, your thanks for getting me this far," murmured Kara. "Stand or fall, I
             am not the woman I was. Victory, if I be worthy..." She couldn't get the
             rest out.

             Jasmine looked up at Kara for the first time in two months.

             Kara read an expression of anger, but, somehow, of sadness and longing.

             Better not count too much on that, she told herself. She flexed on the ropes
             and gave the crowd a great view of her beautiful, muscular body. They

             Ordinarily, Jasmine would have flaunted herself like an ecdysiast. Now,
             she was more somber. She waved a microphone down. A tractor beam
             brought it within speaking range.

             "I dedicate...this the Travelling Clan, my people," she said,

             There was a gasp from part of the audience, those who knew nothing of
             her origins and were, perhaps, not disposed kindly towards the diminished
             gypsy band. But the Travellers, no matter how they had felt about her
             before, stood and cheered for her now.

             Zora swore. "When in Sheol are they going to start this thing!" Vara,
             beside her, flashed her a look and then went back to watching the ring.

             After a second's reflection, Kara motioned for a mike herself. When it
             came, she spoke, noting Jasmine's wary expression.

             "I honor Jasmine and the Travelling Clan. They have produced a worthy
             warrior." More gasps. Kara waited. Within three seconds, the Clan was
             cheering again, and this time the crowd as a whole joined in, applauding
             the show of good sportsmanship.

             "This match is not between clans, classes, or good and evil," Kara
             continued. "It is simply a contest between two women. I bear Jasmine no
             malice, and hope she bears me none for her part." She noted Jasmine
             tensely clutching the ropes with a torn-up expression on her face.

             "If I must dedicate this match, I dedicate it to my parents, to my manager
             and trainer, and to my sensei. And not least to my opponent and her
             people. Regardless of the outcome of our contest...may we both show

             "Oh, Sheol," said Nar.

             "Shut up, Nar," said Hira, grabbing the back of his neck.

             Kara waved the mike away. It was drawn back up to the ceiling. The
             ambiance had changed. Zora didn't like it a bit.

             Jasmine blinked back tears. Damn it, why did Kara Zor-El have to be so
             good? Why did she have to be so kind, so damnably noble? What could
             Jara, herself, do to reach whatever pinnacle that high-bander always
             seemed to live on?

             Even though Jasmine held the belt, Kara was the champion.

             The only thing left to do was tear her down.

             That, or lose Zora...

             The bell rang.

             Jasmine and Kara began doing the circle dance, moving closer.

             "Oh, Zor," breathed Allura, and clutched his hand tighter.

             "Win, Kara," muttered Nar as he banged the handrest with his fist.

             "Tear her to pieces, Jara," snarled Zora.

             Vara said nothing.

             The crowd came to life again in a roar.

             Kara and Jasmine closed on each other quickly. There was no point in
             putting off contact any longer. They grappled, arms locked for a moment
             of strength- test, and each was surprised at the other's power. Had either
             of them gotten stronger, or was it just the two months' abscence making
             them forget?

             Jasmine, still holding Kara's hands, tried to jump up and get one leg in her
             foe's stomach in prep for falling back and throwing Kara overhead.
             Instead, Kara grimaced, lurched back herself, and threw the villainess. Jara
             landed hard on her back, more suprrised than hurt, but quickly shook off

             It didn't matter. Kara was on her before she could recover. With an arm
             levering back her head under the chin, and Jasmine's left arm twisted
             behind her back, her hand trapped somewhere between her shoulder
             blades. Jas slapped the mat in pain and tried to groan, but the headlock
             wasn't making it easy to do so.

             Kara ventured a tight smile, but didn't dare verbally taunt her. This was a
             good start, and that's all it was.

             Yor and Val, handling the announcing chores again, felt the powersurge of
             excitement but tried to keep their enthusiasm in check. "Well executed
             indeed, Val," said Yor. "Kara's back with a vengeance, and Jasmine's
             riding the pain wagon now."

             "True enough, Yor, but the wagon's got a lot of stops to make before it
             drops load," said Val. "Nonetheless, it's good to see the Golden Girl
             getting her own back. And is that Zora Vi-Lar on our monitor?"

             "Yes, indeed. The Black Flame herself, now Jasmine's co-manager.
             Doesn't look very happy about events now, does she?"

             Yor couldn't keep the pleasure out of his voice. "Well, would you?"

             "Probably not. But looks like Jasmine's applying some counter-pressure of
             her own...Kara's trying to hang in there, but Jasmine's rolled over, got
             Kara on her back against the mat. Kara can't keep the hold, and now
             Jasmine's free!"

             And so she was. And before Kara could arise, Jasmine was on her feet
             and had dealt her a terrific stomp to the stomach.

             Kara's eyes went wide as she doubled up in pain. She had managed to
             tense her gut muscles a bit before the foot-blow fell, but not enough to
             escape much of the effect. As her head came up, Jasmine grabbed her by
             it, pulled her up to a standing position, and wrapped her arm about Kara's
             head in a powerful headlock. Trapped between Jasmine's arm and side,
             Kara was subjected to awful pressure. She grunted in pain. Jasmine added
             to the discomfort with a hair-pull and by walking swiftly about the ring,
             keeping Kara from getting much purchase with her feet.

             A surge of lust hit Zora Vi-Lar. Now! If only the little idiot would keep at
             her long enough, and not drop the ball before the goal line. Sheol, if there
             wasn't a force-field barrier around the ring, she'd jump in the ring herself
             and rain blows down on the blonde bitch till she looked like ground chuck.

             Vara cheered Jasmine, but still didn't look at Zora.

             Jasmine finally went to one knee and dropped Kara across her
             outstretched kneecap, making sure her chest was the point of contact. A
             horrible groan escaped Kara's mouth. Smiling, Jasmine rolled her off and
             knee-dropped to her stomach.

             Kara was in pain, and Jasmine was reverting to her wicked ways.

             If Shiva sees this on tape, I'll never hear the end of it, thought Kara. Time
             to get back in the game.

             Before Jasmine could make a grab for her enemy's throat, Kara slammed
             an elbow into Jasmine's own gullet. The brunette gulped in pain and
             surprise, her own eyes widening. Kara quickly grabbed Jasmine in a
             headlock of her own, and swung her legs around to fasten them around
             Jasmine's midsection.

             "What in Sheol do you think you're doing?" grunted Jasmine.

             "Squeezing you, I think," said Kara, and did so.

             Nar and Hira were on their feet with the rest of the crowd. Zor stood up
             and shouted with the rest. Allura felt a surge of relief, but knew it was too
             early to rejoice. Why couldn't that Jasmine bitch just have a heart attack in
             the ring and die?

             Zora made her hands into claws. "If she loses this, I'll kill her," she snarled,
             to everyone and no one. "I'll go up into the ring myself and claw her eyes

             "Watch the blood pressure, Zora, it's gonna be a long match," said Vara,
             smiling. She didn't want Jasmine losing, but seeing Zora upset was almost
             worth it.

             Jasmine's hands were free, and she pulled Kara's hair until she loosened
             the headlock. Then she turned her attention to the blonde's strong legs, and
             ground her teeth to fight back the pain of the increased pressure Kara was
             subjecting her to now. Her hands were at Kara's bare feet, trying to unlock
             her ankles and separate the legs.

             "Not just yet," said Kara. She grabbed Jasmine by the hair, fell back until
             her back touched the mat, and then pushed forward to slam Jasmine's rear
             end against the mat in a bustle bounce. As soon as Jasmine had time to yell
             "OW!", Kara was at it again, falling back and slamming forward. Jasmine
             felt the impact all the way to her teeth.

             Kara had her in a full-nelson by this time, her arms snaked beneath her
             foe's armpits and her hands locked behind Jasmine's head to pressure her
             shoulders and neck. All the while, her long legs were crunching Jasmine's
             abs with the body scissors.

             The blonde was grinning devilishly, and Jasmine was wondering why in hell
             she'd ever thought about going easy on her.

             Kara performed another bounce on Jasmine before the latter reared back
             herself, jolting Kara against the mat and causing her to slacken the scissors
             a moment. Jasmine bridged up, lifting her body off of the mat, only her toes
             contacting it. Then she slammed her body back down hard on Kara, and
             the blonde, sighing, freed her legs. Jasmine was still pent in the full-nelson,
             but an arching back-flip took care of that.

             "Now, little girl, you're going to see what I've learned this last month,"
             snapped Jasmine.

             And before Kara could swing away, Jasmine's foot descended right into
             her crotch.

             The crowd was screaming in protest. Even the Travelling Clan let out a
             groan, displeased with their erstwhile champion. But it didn't drown out
             Kara's screech of pain, or Zora's howl of triumph.

             Kara's four biggest supporters were in shock.

             Jasmine grabbed Kara's ankles, separated her legs into a split, and, with
             her foe still in shock, ground her knee cruelly into her opponent's groin.
             The heroine screamed in pain, tears spurting to her eyes. A sadistic
             half-smile came to Jasmine's face.

             The heroine's hands grabbed for Jasmine's knee, but the villainess leaned
             forward and increased the painful split. Kara howled in pain. Jasmine
             muttered, "You could have avoided this, Kara. You could have loved me."
             And she gave her another grind just to emphasize her point.

             In desperation, Kara jackknifed her body up and raked her fingernails
             against Jasmine's face. They weren't long enough to do real damage, but
             they hurt. Jasmine cried, "AAAHHH!" in surprise and pain. She lurched
             back. Kara, bending forward farther still, launched a punch into her rival's
             face with all the force she could muster.

             She didn't have the world's greatest leverage, but Jasmine went
             backwards, both hands to her face.

             The crowd roared in approval...all save Zora, it seemed. Even the
             Travelling Clan refrained from giving Jara much support, though they hadn't
             come to the point of yelling for Kara.

             And Kara herself was still very, very sore. But she was also very angry.

             Within seconds, she was on top of Jasmine, smashing punches into her
             face. Jasmine got her arms up and threw Kara off. Both women got to
             their feet and faced each other in a crouch, breathing heavily. Any good
             feeling between the two had been nulled for now.

             They rocketed forward and grappled. Kara gave Jasmine a knee to the
             stomach. Jasmine administered a klurkor blow to Kara's neck. Both
             strikes hurt, and they separated, only to attack anew.

             This time, when Jasmine lunged for her, Kara tried an aikado maneuver
             and sent her foe flying. Jasmine rebounded from the ropes to carom right
             off Kara's kicking foot, and hit the mat trying to piece her senses back

             Kara wasn't about to give her that chance.

             She smashed several more kicks into Jasmine's side and one into the side
             of her head. Then, with a sweep, she knocked her foe's legs out from
             under her. A knee- drop to the stomach paid back Jasmine for some of
             her villainy, though Kara had no intention of mimicking Jasmine's low
             blows. Unless she had to.

             Almost before Jasmine could complete her gasp, Kara had her legs around
             her foe's bare midsection again. This time, she grabbed Jasmine's right arm
             and held it in control with both her arms. Laying back straight on the mat,
             locking her ankles, Kara put all her strength into the punishing scissors,
             working the hold right below Jasmine's breasts.

             For the next few minutes, Jasmine was in hell.

             No trick she could muster would make the sweaty blonde loosen her grip.
             Kara just lay back and pressured her, watching Jasmine's face redden and
             her eyes alternately pop open widely and then squint shut in pain. The
             dark-haired girl didn't bother to hide her groans of pain. And, as the hold
             passed its third minute, Jara realized that Kara just wasn't going to let her
             out of this one.

             Whoever Kara's trainer had been, Jasmine decided she wanted her
             number. But that would come later.

             For now, she chose the sensible alternative. "I give!" she shouted.

             Kara was genuinely surprised. "So soon?" she blurted, as the crowd
             thundered its approval.

             "Yes, frab it, let go of me!" groused Jasmine. Kara obliged her, separating
             her legs and letting go of Jasmine's arm. She got to a defensive position,
             awaiting a sneak-strike from her foe, but Jasmine merely got to her feet,
             glowered, and went to her corner.

             Kara, breathing heavily, waved to the crowd and basked in their approval
             for a few moments. There was still one fall to go, maybe two. But it was
             good to be back on top, even for this long. She finally headed for her
             corner. The freshening sprays descended and made both women look
             more presentable during their five-minute break.

             Allura was choking back tears. "Zor, I'm glad she came through it, but...I
             don't ever want to come to one of these things again."

             "I know, dear," said Zor, holding her head to his shoulder. "I know just
             what you mean."

             And we've got to go through it again probably twice more, he thought.

             Hira muttered to Nar, "I should have known she'd try a move like that. Just
             like Zora did to her back then."

             "Worry about this fall, Hira," said Nar, not looking at her. "This is when
             they're going to start unloading on each other."

             Vara was uncharacteristically chipper. "Well, looks like she's down one.
             What can I say, Zora? Maybe you shouldn't have taught her that knee
             business after all."

             Zora whipped her head around to face Vara and grabbed her arm and
             gave Vara a look that almost scared her into a bowel movement. "One
             more word out of you and I may just teach it to you myself. Clear?"

             Vara didn't say a word. Zora let her go after three more seconds. Both
             went back to watching the ring.

             Round two. Kara was still sore between the legs, but Jasmine's ribs were
             feeling like she'd been crunched between two I-beams. As they circled and
             feinted, neither woman was thinking of friendship.

             Jasmine thrust a hand out in an attempted feint. The unexpected part was
             when Kara caught it between her crossed forearms. The brunette had a
             chance to gape before Kara delivered three knee-blows into her hurting
             ribcage. "Ahhh!" gasped Jasmine, going to one knee and then flat on her
             front from the pain.

             Kara dropped butt-first to Jasmine's back (mean, but not too mean),
             hauled Jasmine's arms up till her armpits rested on Kara's knees, laced her
             fingers under Jasmine's chin, and pulled back. The camel clutch was
             effective in punishing the spine and shoulders. Jasmine clawed at Kara's
             fingers and kicked the mat.

             The crowd approved as Kara increased the pressure. It was too early for
             a victory, she knew, but Jasmine had to be hurt as much as possible in this
             fall. She'd be doing her damnedest to win it and stay in the fight. Grimly,
             Kara pulled back harder on Jasmine's head and heard the villainess slap
             the mat.

             Somehow, Jasmine ignored the pain in her neck and back and shoulders.
             Somehow, she managed to get her hands around Kara's ankles, get
             enough leverage to rear back, and dislodged her tormentress. And
             somehow, Kara fell for it and rolled away quickly, but not quickly enough
             to avoid Jasmine nailing her with a cross-body drop. Not really punishing,
             but she had Kara dead to rights.

             "My turn, honey," breathed Jasmine. Grabbing Kara by the shoulder and
             crotch, she stood up and held her overhead. Kara's foot flailed out and
             caught her foe a good clout on the head, but she didn't drop her.

             Oh, Sheol, thought Kara. Shiva's going to be disappointed.

             A second after that, Jasmine dropped her back-first across her
             outstretched knee.

             "AGHHH!" screamed Kara, hot wires of pain going up and down her
             jarred spine. She labored for breath. Jasmine still hadn't gotten her off of
             her knee yet. Kara tensed her abdominal muscles.

             It was just in time to dilute the impact of a double-handed smash to the
             stomach. But only to dilute it.

             Got to get past it, thought Kara, desperately. Got to ignore this
             pain...ohhhh, damn, it hurts! Sheol, got to breathe!

             She used what muscular control was left to her to roll off of Jasmine's
             knee. But she was lying on the mat with her back up, not yet on her hands
             and knees. Jasmine knee-dropped right to her spine.

             Kara howled in agony.

             "Yes," whispered Zora, hands clenched in excitement. "Yes!"

             Gasping and smiling, Jasmine stood, straddled her stunned opponent,
             stooped, grabbed both of her legs, and tucked Kara's feet under her
             armpits. Then she stood, leaning back.

             The blonde's screams indicated that the Boston crab was doing its work.

             Kara hammered the mat helplessly. Her eyes were closed in pain, tears
             streaming out from between them. The torture inflicted on her
             already-hurting back was getting near the max point. She just couldn't take
             it much longer.

             Jasmine laughed. "Still think you'll be able to make it into the third fall,
             baby?" She yanked back on Kara's legs again. The blonde screamed.

             In another incarnation, Jasmine might have showboated. She might have
             released Kara from this hold to apply another, and still another, just to give
             the crowd a good show.

             Not tonight.

             Kara tried all the meditative techniques she had learned from Shiva to fight
             back the pain. They helped, but not enough. She was bent almost into a C-
             shape, without enough leverage to bend out of it. Jasmine knew just how
             to apply the hold, and she was going to keep it on all night if she had to.

             Five minutes in the hold. Six. Jasmine was afraid Kara might be losing
             consciousness. She wiggled from side to side and was rewarded with
             another groan of pain.

             Six and a half minutes into the hold, Kara finally had to face reality.

             "I yield," she said.

             With a sigh of relief, Jasmine released her hold. Kara's legs and lower
             body thumped upon the mat. Jasmine paraded about the ring, her arms
             raised in triumph, posing for a second with a bare foot on Kara's side.
             Kara whacked it away with her hand.

             She's gonna wish she hadn't done that, thought Kara.

             The side judges were almost ready to let the force- field down and help
             Kara to her feet. As it turned out, that wasn't necessary.

             Kara slowly raised herself to her hands and knees, got one foot under her
             and then the other, and rose to a full stand.

             For a second, she seemed not to know where she was.

             Then, still panting, still hurting, she faced the crowd, managed a smile, and
             pumped her fist in the air.

             The crowd gave her back a standing O.

             Nar, who'd almost been ready to rip off his headband and turn it into a
             twisted mass in his hands, stood and applauded his charge. So did Hira,
             who yelled encouragement.

             Zor-El clapped, but Allura's face was turned away from the ring.

             "Cheap shot, Kara," muttered Zora, fidgeting in her seat. But that could be
             forgiven. After all, Jasmine still had one fall in which to pull her

             And if she didn't, Zora swore she would break Jasmine's neck herself.

             The five minutes passed. Jasmine looked on Kara with great confliction.
             She had been on the point of helping her up, just as Kara got to her feet.
             And Jasmine had won that fall. But who got the applause? Kara. Just by
             getting up, grinning, and pumping her fist.

             Now came the third fall. The one in which she had to injure Kara,
             somehow. That, or lose Zora's love...if it was love. It probably wasn't. But
             she was the only thing close to it that Jasmine had.

             Damn it, Kara, thought Jasmine, why in Sheol didn't you love me when I
             needed you? Why?

             She put her hands to her face as if to wipe away sweat. The cameras didn't
             see that she was wiping away tears.

             For her part, Kara sat on the force-stool, leaning back into the corner,
             eyes closed, breathing open- mouthed, letting the spray pour over her, and
             concentrating. Her back hurt like hell, but it was becoming manageable.

             She was still thinking and fighting like a wrestler. Shiva would have had her
             for breakfast like that. She'd have been right to, at that.

             Of course there were a lot of moves that couldn't be employed against
             Jasmine. But that still left quite a few which could be. And if what Vara had
             passed on to Nar was the straight pulse, she could expect something really,
             really dirty from Jasmine this time around.

             Whatever, thought Kara, straightening up and fixing her gaze on her foe in
             the corner opposite. It was time to take the fight to Jasmine.

             "This time it's for you, sensei," muttered Kara, and stood, hands on hips
             and breathing easily, a full minute before the rest period was over.

             The crowd gave up another cheer. "What are you doing up already?"
             griped Jasmine. She kept her seat until the bell rang again. A fine thing.
             Here she'd had Kara scared and depressed for a good two weeks after
             the match. Now she was raring to go in again just four minutes after she'd
             conceded a fall.

             She struggled to turn her disgust into rage. Time to pull out the stops, put
             out her lights, and use the klurkor.

             That, or she might as well go back to being a hooker.

             Jasmine moved out with a more deliberate step. Kara noted it, and struck
             a defensive posture, offering Jasmine only her side, with her arm and elbow
             up ready to defend her face. Both women circled, trying to manuever
             towards each other's front. Jasmine threw out a couple of feints. Kara
             dodged one, slapped the other away.

             Since neither of them was getting anything done like that, Kara finally went
             ahead and launched a kick that caught Jasmine in the back, near the
             kidneys. The villainess cried out and hit the mat on her hands and knees.
             Kara bent lower, trying to grab Jasmine's head.

             Instead, Jasmine's leg lashed out in a sweep and knocked Kara off her

             The heroine fell hard, barely able to get her arms up to protect her chest.
             She tried to kick out, but-- too late! Jasmine had first one leg, then the
             other, and had her turned over on her back...and Kara could figure out
             what was coming next.

             Jasmine had Kara's right leg bent at the knee and the lower part of the leg
             laid across Kara's outstretched left leg, making a figure four. Jasmine's own
             legs were entwined with Kara's, one on either side of Kara's crossed leg,
             holding it in place. Kara's left leg rested against Jasmine's stomach, with
             her foe holding her left foot with both hands to keep her in position.

             In short, Kara was now in a figure-four leglock, one of the most painful
             holds that can be applied to the legs. A leg could even be broken by this
             hold, given enough pressure.

             And Jasmine was putting pressure on Kara's lovely legs as if she meant to
             give her joints in two or three new places.

             "Ohhhhhh!" Kara groaned, arching her back against the pain. Jasmine
             smiled triumphantly, glad to be back on top and putting Kara just where
             she pain, and on bottom. She eased off a half-second, then
             sent a surge of pressure into the hold again. Jasmine was rewarded with
             another terrible groan of pain.

             This was serious business. If Kara couldn't get out of the hold within a
             short time, she'd be finished, perhaps even injured. Sweat stained her
             bikini. She shut her eyes against the pain, put her hands to her head, and
             then groaned and slammed her palms down on the mat as Jasmine turned
             up the pressure again.

             To intensify the pain, Jasmine took Kara's left foot with both hands and
             started working over her bare toes. The blonde sobbed in pain, almost
             helpless under the assault.

             Nar and Hira were standing on their seats, yelling encouragement to Kara.
             Allura was sobbing, unable to watch. Zor-El's jaw muscles showed the
             tension, but he couldn't tear his eyes from the ring. Vara looked on in fear
             as she saw Zora working on her own ecstasy.

             But the only thing that mattered was what Kara was suffering in the ring,
             and whether or not she could take it.

             Four minutes of torture had already passed. Tears stained Kara's eyes.
             Jasmine, a cruel wrestling goddess, hadn't slackened her assault. The
             heroine simply refused to submit thus far. It took every bit of physical
             courage and mental stamina she had, plus the pain-enduring techniques she
             had learned from Shiva. The best of these, simply, was the fact that she
             was just not willing to let her sensei see a video in which she lost the match

             But even Kara could only take so much, and both of them knew it.

             At the five-minute point, Jasmine grimly realized something. This hold could
             torture Kara--Sheol! It HAD tortured her--and it could even break her
             leg. But that would not be a permanent injury. A broken leg could heal.

             Zora demanded more than that. Kara had to be disabled so badly that she
             would never fight again.

             Damn, she didn't want to do it...but one she'd rejected against one who
             had accepted her...what was she to do?

             Reluctantly, Jasmine loosened her hold on Kara's legs. The heroine,
             astonished, felt the throb of pain die to a dull ache. What had happened?

             Jasmine's face was cold as Antarctic tundra. Kara was still lying on the
             mat, getting her senses together. Her throat was exposed.

             She brought her leg up, prepared for a stomp in just the right place.

             She hesitated.

             "What are you waiting for?" yelled Zora, sensing that the moment of truth
             had come. "Do it, damn you!"

             She hesitated one second more.

             Kara, now fully aware of what was happening to her, looked up.

             "Nooooooooo!" hollered Jasmine, and slammed her foot down.

             It impacted two inches away from Kara's head, striking the mat and
             catching the edge of her hair.

             Kara looked at the foot, then at Jasmine. There was no fury in her face
             anymore. Just sadness.

             "We're not done with the fight yet, Kara," said Jasmine, and, stooping,
             grasped her hand and hauled her upright.

             There was a moment of silence, which ended when the crowd gave
             Jasmine her first standing ovation of the night.

             And Vara noted that Zora was unable to say a thing, or to close her
             opened mouth.

             Both girls were crouched, ready for combat, but they weren't starting just
             yet. Jasmine had something to confide.

             "I'll make you give, but I won't injure you, no matter what Zora says," said
             Jasmine. "You're better than that."

             "You know, for the first time, Jara, I think you might be too," said Kara,
             still circling. "Thank you. Ready to give 'em a show?"

             "You know it!" Jasmine was smiling, and, for the first time, it wasn't the
             smile of a sadist.

             They leapt at each other and fought like furies.

             The thousands of Rokynians in the arena formed a circular wall of standing
             people, emitting sound that practically disabled the holocrews' pick-up
             equipment. But it meant less than Muzak to the two women in the ring. All
             they heard were their own gasps, grunts, groans, and shrieks.

             Jasmine and Kara broke out the klurkor full-force now, chopping,
             elbowing, throwing, kneeing, and smashing. Each woman targeted the
             other's pain centers, reaped anguish, and withstood it. But, despite it all, a
             new note had entered the battle. It was no longer a blood match, but a

             They battered each other about the ring, caromed off ropes and
             turnbuckles, vaulted through the air to land on an opponent's back or
             stomach, pulled hair, wrenched head or legs or arms, stretched each
             other's near-nude body into painful positions, and scissored each other

             But no deadly blows were dealt or taken. No punishment was dealt to the
             breasts or groin, and no scissors was laid over the throat.

             Kara kept her promise to her sensei, and Jasmine kept a new promise to

             Still, it was a real fight. Neither woman wanted to leave the arena without
             the belt, no matter what they felt for each other now. And both Kara and
             Jasmine were taking fearful punishment. The fall had lasted over
             twenty-five minutes now, and no clear victor was seen.

             Jasmine broke out of a standing armlock Kara had on her, whipped
             around, and smashed Kara hard in the stomach. Panting, she drove Kara
             backward with blow after blow, getting her up against the turnbuckle. The
             blonde looked semi-conscious, her arms draped against the top ropes.

             Jasmine stepped back, shook her head, and balled her fist. "Nothing
             personal, Kara," she said, and sped her fist forward.

             Kara's arms came up in an X and caught Jasmine's wrist between them.

             "No problem," said Kara, smiling and gasping, and kicked Jasmine back
             down to the mat. Then, before Jasmine could arise, she did a double
             knee-drop to her foe's stomach.

             Nar was beyond incredulity. He turned for a second to Hira. "Honey,
             whatever they fed you on Earth...I want some of it!"

             Kara got up from Jasmine's prone body. She stood away, facing her foe,
             bent double, resting her hands on her knees, catching her breath. Jasmine
             was bringing herself back to her feet, slowly but surely.

             She waited until Jasmine was back on her feet, standing, and facing her
             from five feet away.

             "Let's end it," said Kara.

             "Let's try," said Jasmine.

             Both women backed off several paces. Then, with a kiiaii that resounded
             through the subdued arena, Jasmine and Kara hurtled forward at each
             other like two samurai ready for a side-clash of swords.

             Both contacted the other's jaw with blows of incredible force.

             They impacted with each other, bounced off, rolled. Both of them fought
             for consciousness. Blackness closed on Kara's brain. It was time to let it
             all go, to embrace sweet and soothing nothingness...

             Except, of course, for the disapproving image of Shiva, standing there in
             her mind's eye, hands on hips, and a look on her face that indicated she
             would kick Kara's behind from the Fortress of Solitude all the way down
             to Paraguay if she did.

             Damn it, thought Supergirl. You're not just a sensei,'re a
             Mother Superior.

             Get up. Back on hands and knees. On hands and knees, yes. There we
             are. A good start. Not good enough. Still see her giving me the look.
             Okay, I've got one foot down flat on the mat. I'm pushing up with one
             hand. There, I've done it. Satisfied? No?

             Open your eyes. Kind of hazy. Sheol, that light hurts. Jasmine isn't bashing
             me, so that's something to be thankful for. Keep the eyes open! Can't win
             anything if you can't see where your corner is. Gotta get back to it. Get the
             other leg up...

             There. There. Whooo, walking on stilts, we are! Don't laugh, it'll make
             your head hurt worse. Where's the right corner? Deja vu from the Zora
             match. There! That's the one. Why's it so far away?

             Walk. One foot...oops! Fell down. Get back UP. On knees. Okay, we'll
             do it that way. Not much progress this way. Jasmine must be behind me.
             One foot down, then get up on the other, that's better...want to give up and
             SLEEP...ouch! Sorry, sensei mother superior.

             One step. Another. Don't sway like that, you'll tip over. They shouldn't
             make these damn rings so big. I'll put in a complaint to the commission, I
             will. Just see if I won't. One more step. This is the right direction, isn't it?
             Yeah, that's the red corner.

             Here we go. Heeeere we go....

             Kara fell forward and grabbed the ring ropes. Three seconds later, she
             cursed softly, turned herself around, and planted her rear more-or-less
             firmly on the force-stool.

             From her new position, she could finally see Jasmine sprawled out
             unconscious on the mat, her head on one arm.

             Unconsciousness...what a concept, thought Kara. Think I'll try it out.

             She lay her head back and let everything warp out.

             Not even the roar of ten thousand Kandorians could bring Kara back to
             wakefulness. Let alone the grateful tears of Allura, the uncontrolled bellows
             of pride from Zor-El, the whoops and hollers from Nar and Hira, who
             each had an arm wrapped about the other, or even the stampings and
             swearings and screamings of Zora Vi-Lar.

             Even the Travelling Clan was happy. They approved of Jasmine's change
             of heart and tactics, of the good sportsmanship she had shown to Kara at
             the end, and of her fighting spirit. And they approved of Kara Zor-El, who,
             though she had beaten one of their own, had shown herself a worthy
             woman. They broke forth with the lusty cheers of Krypton's gypsies, and
             were entirely proud.

             The force-fields were lowered with a slight hum. Medics rushed in to
             check Kara and Jasmine. Both women were bruised, battered, and
             showing every bit of the effects of their battle. But the concussive damage
             was minimal. Kara and Jara would awaken soon, on their own.

             "Should I bring them back around, sir?" asked one of the attendants,
             holding a stimulator.

             "Let 'em sleep," said his superior. "And let's get 'em out of here. Bring up
             the transport."

             A medical hovervan ascended from its parking space outside the arena,
             descended over the ring, and popped open a flat section that formed a
             ramp leading inside. The medics gingerly carried Kara and Jasmine inside,
             while the p.a. system assured everyone, especially Zor- El and Allura, that
             both ladies were all right and just in need of some prolonged rest.

             Zora moved out of her seat and headed for the exit. "I'll give them rest,
             R**damn it," she muttered. "I'll give them all the rest they can handle.

             In the hovervan, Kara and Jara were given neural treatment to check for
             possible brain swelling--combat was never a no-risk proposition--and
             gave negative readings. Satisfied, the medics did scan-readings and found
             that both women had taken one hell of a beating, but would be up and
             around after pain treatment and a couple of days recouping in the hospital.

                                        - S -

             When Kara awoke, about an hour later, she was surrounded by Zor-El,
             Allura, Hira, Nar, Professor Kimda, Van-Zee and Sylvia, Ar-Val and his
             wife, Lon-Es, Casa-Ti (who was the head of her fan club), and one other,
             who was holding the belt. Before she focused her eyes, she heard her
             mother say, "Hush, all of you! Kara's waking up."

             "Ouch," said Kara, emphatically. She saw the championship belt, with her
             own picture in the holoscreen of it.

             The hands that held it were very familiar, and the man holding it had bright
             blue shirtsleeves.

             "Kal!" exclaimed Kara, and grabbed for the belt and his sleeves at the
             same time.

             "Karaish," he said, and pulled her up to a sitting position in order to hug
             her. "Tell me this is the last match."

             "Oh, Kal," Kara said, hugging him back. "I thought you couldn't make it. I
             thought you were still on Earth."

             Zor-El laid his hand on Kal's shoulder. "He didn't want you to know he
             was there, Kara. Said it might 'throw off your rhythm.'"

             Kal had to wait a few moments before speaking. "I had to take off a day
             of vacation. Morgan Edge was mad enough to fry those egg creams he's
             always drinking right in his mouth. And I've got to get back, now, and get
             ready for tomorrow's broadcast. But there was no way I was going to miss
             this fight.'re really tough."

             "'re really sweet," she said. "Thank you so very, very much.
             Knowing you were there for me tonight, that's worth a million times the
             value of some dumb old diamond. offense, the diamond was nice."

             "I know what you mean," said Kal. "Is it the last time?"

             She sighed. "Well, that depends on the movies. I suppose I'll hear from
             Ar-Rom in a few days, and I'll let you know."

             Allura beamed. "Oh, we've got something already," she said. She popped
             open a little holomessage box. The image of Ar-Rom's head popped up
             like a laser-light jack-in-the-box.

             "Kara Zor-El: That was the greatest fight I've seen in a long time, on screen
             or off. And it's a great advertisement for your action pic. When you're
             good enough to get out of bed, get down to the studio and let's start work.
             The contract is in the text portion of this thing. Show it to your lawyer, sign
             it, and get it back to me. That's all. Break."

             Kara was gaping by the end of the vid. Her hands shook, slightly. Nar
             broke his silence. "Better let me take it, Kara. You might break it."

             "Yes!" yelled Kara, the message box held aloft in one hand, Ar-Rom's
             head going through the shpiel again.
             "YesyesyesyesyesloveofRaoYESSSS!!" She whooped.

             Kimda smiled with one corner of his mouth and said to Sylvia, "I knew her
             when, you know."

             "Will Hollywood spoil Kara Zor-El?" cracked Sylvia, in return.

             Ar-Val looked puzzled. "How could some kind of tree hurt Kara? Is she

             "Never mind," said Sylvia.

             Casa-Ti gushed, "Karaila, I have to tell you all of us in the Booster
             Brigade, well, us girls were about to hurl when we saw some of the things
             she did to you! I mean, I had to hold back Shara-Ar from running up to
             the force-field and screaming at Jasmine to come beat on her, if she
             wanted somebody to beat on, you know, and the guys were just...well,
             you know how guys are, and now you've got the contract, and I was there
             to see it myself, and you've got to give us an exclusive now, and I've got

             "Casa, Casa, Casa, CASA, dear...SHUT UP! Please!", said Kara, with a
             grin, laying a hand on the girl's mouth. "Thanks very much for being there,
             you and all the rest of the club. Don't worry, I was 16 once myself. I'm
             probably 18, mentally. But right now I'm still pretty worn out. About 50
             per cent of my bruises are insulted that I haven't felt them enough yet. I'll
             talk to you later, when I get a chance. You tell the rest of the group thanks
             for me, okay? I'll have an update for you later, I promise."

             "Thanks, Kara," she breathed. "I'll see you." She turned to Zor-El and
             Allura, trying not to notice how the others in the room were stifling giggles.
             "Rao's light, Tanth and Tynth Zor-El, I'm sorry to look so jiggled in front of

             Allura smiled. "No worse than that girl in the bed was, when she was 15. I
             know. And so does she. Be good, Casa."

             Shyly, Casa took her leave. Wow. Getting to see Kara get the movie
             contract, and Kal-El himself not two feet away from me, and all the rest...

             That settled it. From here on in, she was going to have to be Kara's official
             unauthorized biographer.

             Kal looked at her, a bit sadly. "I have to go, Kara. I'm sorry. But I've seen
             Secret Hearts a few times. You're going to do a great job as an actress
             here, I know."

             "Thanks, Kal. You're the greatest big brother a cousin could ever have.
             And Kal?"

             "Yes, Kara?"

             "Have you talked to her yet?"

             Superman's jaw tensed. "Yes. I need to be going. It's great to see you all
             again, uncle Zor, aunt Allura, Professor, Van, Sylvia, Ar, Nar, Hira, all of
             you, and especially you, Kara. Rao's blessing, and I really have to go."

             A chorus of "Rao's blessings" returned to him. Kara was the last to say it,
             still hoping he'd give her more information, somehow.

             Kal left, red cape trailing, shaking as few hands as he could get away with
             in the hall beyond. A hovercab was waiting to take him to the WarPort.

             How could he tell her that he'd tried to talk to Lois? How could he tell her
             that he'd let her know, in indirect ways, that he knew she knew who he
             was, in both identities, and maybe it was time to drop the pretense? How
             could he tell her that Lois had replied that, whoever he was, whether or not
             this was just some other stupid stunt like all the others he'd played over the
             years, after all this time, it just wasn't enough?

             Superman got into the hovercab, signed an autograph for the cabbie, and
             wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to chuck it all and
             live on Rokyn.

             After most of the rest had left, Kara was alone with Zor-El and Allura.
             "The best gift I've ever gotten from anybody was you," said Allura, holding
             her daughter's head cradled in her arms. "And learning you're getting out of
             this fighting is almost the second-best."

             "Oh, Mom," sighed Kara. "There's a lot of it I enjoy. I'm not a sadist. But
             the action really gets in your blood."

             "Maybe we can arrange for a transfusion from a pacifist," joked Zor-El,
             only semi-humorously.

             "Don't you dare," Kara replied, smiling at him. "You and Mom did fine
             with what you gave me. Even Kal didn't have better parents than I did."

             Tears welled up in Allura's eyes. "Mom, what's wrong?" said Kara. "What
             did I say? What did I do?"

             "Nothing," said Allura. "Everything. We had to give you up when you were
             a fifteen-year-old girl...we thought we were going to die, but that you'd
             have another chance, on Earth. And you did. But then we ended up in the
             Survival Zone. And for two years, we saw you on Earth, how lonely you
             were, even with Kal, and, oh, Kara...don't you think I wanted to take you
             in my arms? Don't you think both of us wanted to let you know that you
             really, really weren't alone?"

             "Oh, Mom." Kara didn't even try to hide her sobs. "Oh, Rao, Mom, I'm
             sorry. If I could...only have known you were there...I..."

             Zor-El was shedding tears, too. But he moved over to cradle both women
             in his arms. "You couldn't have, Kara. But...the important thing...we were
             there. And you were still alive. You had to make it on your own then, even
             with Kal, even when Fred and Edna adopted you. You had to pretend to
             be an Earthgirl, and to learn how to be a heroine. And when we needed
             you, that day when we got out of the were there for us."

             There wasn't anything else much to say.

             But the tears felt very good to all of them.

                                        - S -

             Sometime in the middle of the night, Kara was awakened by a chime
             sounding through the hospital's communication system. A voice was saying,
             "Kara Zor- El, please acknowledge," over and over again.

             She sat up with a start, still in her green nightdress. "Lights," she said, and
             the servos in the room turned on the ceiling bulbs.

             "Kara Zor-El," she said. "What's wrong?"

             A desk nurse's voice came from the wall plate that concealed the
             communications system speaker. "If you can manage it, the police have
             something for you at the front desk."

             Oh, great, thought Kara. Gotten out of bed to go sign autographs for a
             bunch of cops. Nar was gonna hear about this. "I'll be there," she said.
             "Break." The speaker fell silent.

             Kara pulled on a purple robe with the El's star symbol over her right
             breast, slipped on a pair of sandals, left her room, and plodded through the
             hall, past the surprised gazes of the night staff. Surprisingly, there seemed
             to be a whole crowd of people ahead in the open area that served as the
             admissions desk.

             Getting closer, she made out cops, civilians, and some others who looked
             quite familiar. Her legs still hurt a bit, but she sped her pace.

             "There she is!" said Jasmine. "Hi, Kara! Look what we've got for you!"

             Stepping into the reception area, she saw clearly that the civilians were
             members of the Travelling Clan. Jasmine, in a hospital gown, was grinning
             at her, with Vara, smiling a bit wanly, hanging on to her arm. Thi- Hali,
             First Tanth of the Clan, was nearby, smiling a grizzled but dignified smile.

             But what really drew Kara's attention was a figure between two
             blue-shirted cops. She was cuffed at her hands and legs, and around her
             neck was a shiny metal collar. It could deliver a stun-shock at the touch of
             a button in a policeman's control-device, if she got out of hand.

             Zora Vi-Lar. The Black Flame.

             She looked at Kara, spitting volumes of silent curses with her eyes.

             Kara rubbed her eyes. "Uh, folks, I have to tell you, I'm really not my best
             before eight in the morning." Some general chuckles. "It's good to see you,
             Jara, nice to meet you, Vara, I think, and good to see the Clan as well."

             "I deliver Outsider's Blessing to you, Tynth Kara," said Thi-Hali, holding
             his hand out, palm up. She knew enough about the Clan to recognize the
             form of greeting. She clapped her hand down on top of his, and they
             gripped each other in that position for three seconds. It honored the Clan,
             according to their legend that in the first second, the plants were
             materialized on Krypton's surface; in the second, the animals came into
             being; and, in the third, the Clan were created.

             Officer Win-Tha, the senior of the cops, explained the situation. "Tynth
             Zor-El, this woman was caught trying to activate and contract an illegal
             force-field of her own device around the hospital. We have no idea
             whether the hospital's defense system could have coped or not. All I can
             say is, we're glad we didn't find out."

             Zora still said nothing.

             "How'd you nab her?" said Kara.

             Jasmine nodded to Vara. "You tell her."

             Vara looked like she wished she were at least seventeen blocks away.
             "Ah, it's like this, more or less the straight pulse," she said. "Zora was so
             mad after the match she lipflipped to me about wanting to shy the two of
             you together. You and Jaz, here. She didn't think I was listening, or maybe
             she didn't know she was saying it."

             "I didn't give a calot's ass," snapped Zora, and fell silent.

             "The lady came to me, and the Clan kept an eye on your enemy," said
             Thi-Hali. "We are not as many as we were before the Destruction, but we
             use our numbers well. We are told she is a Thinker. She went to her home,
             came back with a device in concealment, went to her hovercar. In these
             things she was observed. We notified the police."

             "Three interceptors had tractor-beams on her vehicle by the time she got in
             range of the hospital," said Win-Tha. "She didn't get anywhere. When we
             forced her down and saw the force-field generator, we put it all together."

             "The thing was strong enough to have crushed the whole hospital if she'd
             contracted the field," said Jasmine. "And everyone in it, including you and

             Kara said, "When you go in for vengeance, you do it big, don't you, Zora?
             Finally got tired of trying to have me beaten to a pulp and just decided to
             do it the old way."

             Zora lurched forward, straining at her bonds, trying to get close enough to
             Kara to at least spit at her. A cop touched a button on his control box. A
             spark bridged the gap between the collar and Zora's neck.

             Zora's eyes went up and she sagged limp, supported between two cops.

             Kara looked on, impassively. "I hope she hasn't forgotten her friends in the
             Zone," she said. "She'll probably be seeing them before too much longer."

             "And this time, it's for life," said one of the cops.

             Jasmine looked on with some sadness as she was hauled away.

             Then she turned to Vara. "Do you still want to leave, Vara?"

             Vara didn't look at her. "Yeah, babe. No hate there, you understand. Just
             not enough faith, is all."

             Kara found herself feeling sorry for Jasmine. "Vara, can't you give her
             another chance? You know how Zora made her play."

             The manager looked up at Kara. "Honey, you weren't there. I'll float Jara's
             name to some of the other skiz in the biz. But I'm blocking now." She gave
             a last look to Jasmine. "Keep your chin up, Jara. You know you were a

             Jara didn't say anything as she left.

             "You may come back to the Clan, Jara," said Win- Tha. "Not as
             glamorous a life as you have here. But you cannot wrestle forever."

             "I thank you, First Tynth," said Jara, her head bowed in obeisance. "But
             first I must speak with Kara. Then I will make my decisions."

             Whatever the case, Kara thought, I'll make sure that girl doesn't have to go
             back to hooking, if that's what she did.

             "If you would excuse us, First Tynth," said Jara. They covered each other's
             hand for three seconds. Then Win-Tha nodded over her shoulder, catching
             Kara's eyes, giving her a look of approval. She nodded back.

             "Come on, Jara," said Kara, steering her towards the night commissary. "I
             have a feeling we're both going to be sleeping late tomorrow."

             Jasmine put her arm about Kara's shoulder. "As a friend," she told her.

             "As a friend," echoed Kara, as she encircled Jasmine's shoulder with her
             own arm.

             By the time they both got back to bed, Kara and Jasmine had worked out
             some plan for Jara's immediate future.

             Kara would retire undefeated. Jasmine would face another contender for
             the now-vacant championship. In the meantime, both Vara and, with some
             prodding from Kara, Nar would seek out a new manager for her. Jasmine
             assured Kara that her tactics would be more sportsmanlike in the future.
             Kara just hoped that her opponents wouldn't force her not to be.

             Also, Kara would put her name forth as a candidate for stunt work at the
             studios. Not all things could be holosimulated, and, even then, the studios
             often had to use live actors to scan for holomodels.

             Jasmine wouldn't starve. In fact, she might come out ahead on the deal.

             At the end, Jasmine gave Kara a big hug. Kara made it clear that she
             couldn't expect physical love from her, but they could at least be friendly

             All that, a day after trying to kick each other's brains out in the ring.

             Kara dispatched a copy of the video, adapted for play on a VCR, to
             Black Canary to give to Shiva. A month later, the Asian woman appeared
             at Dinah's shop. "I understand you have something for me," she said.

             "You understand right," said Dinah, who had left a message for her in a
             secret drop. She reached under the cash register and produced a
             videotape in a clear plastic box. It was autographed, To my sensei, in
             appreciation, Kara

             Before Shiva could look at the inscription, she said to Dinah, "You may
             convey my congratulations back to Kara through her cousin, when next
             you see him."

             Dinah handed the tape over, her face neutral. "I will. But...wait a minute. If
             you haven't seen him, how did you know about the match? How did you
             know she won?"

             "I knew," said Shiva. She turned and was gone into the bright afternoon

             Dinah sighed, put her gloves on again, and went back to tend some

             On Rokyn, a few days later, with some makeup to hide a few lingering
             bruises, Kara Zor-El drove to the Ar-Rom studios with Nar and Hira. On
             the way, Nar held Hira's hand in the back seat and finally mustered his
             courage. "Karaish, let me go ahead and tell you. The lady here and I are
             getting married next weekend. If you can't make it with your new schedule,
             hey, I understand."

             Kara dropped her jaw and was glad she had the hovercar on autopilot.

             "Nar, if you think I would miss you and Hira getting married even if the city
             got shrunk again in the middle of the ceremony, then you must've been
             kidnapped and replaced by a Bizarro. Check him, Hira, is this the same

             Hira smiled. "It's him, all right. Nobody else would be so sweet and

             Nar cleared his throat. "Uh, thanks, Kara. And I'm glad you're giving us a
             chance to see the studio, too. I've been here on a tour before, but I'm sure
             it's changed since then."

             The car was nearing the studio, some 80 feet below them. "You're going to
             get a chance to see a lot of it, Nar, for a very long time." She set the
             controls for a descent.

             "Like--what?" said Nar.

             "The business deal on the movie import-export deal went through. I'll be
             making money on that even before I step in front of a camera. Thus, I've
             got more than enough cash to keep you two on my payroll." She looked
             back at the two startled people in the rear seat. "What about it? They'll
             have people up there to tell me what to do in the movies and such, but I
             could still use a personal manager and a trainer. You wouldn't want me to
             get fat because you weren't here to work with me, would you, Hira? And
             it's bound to be better- paying work than you'd find in the wrestling racket,

             It took Nar three seconds just to say, "Kara, I--"

             "Good. I'm glad you see it my way," said Kara, as the car touched down in
             the parking area. "Come on, we've got a meeting with Ghi-Sonn III. We're
             going to get you an office, and then I'm going to look at a script.

             The big head of security was approaching their car, three brand-new
             passes in his hand.

             Nar settled back, still holding Hira's hand.

             "I guess I could get to like it here, after all," he said.