Supergirl (Kara of Rokyn):

    Kal & Lyla
    
    By DarkMark

    part 16

Two weeks passed while the final preps were made on the holo and the critics got their preview screening.  Thankfully, they were as drop-mouthed as the newsies had been when they’d seen the five-minute teaser.  That buoyed Kara up considerably, but she was still nervous.  After all, these were critics, not filmgoers.  But the reviews they wrote praising her acting and artistry (and Van-Zee’s performance, too) were enough to make her cross her fingers and pray.  At any rate, the first week take would probably be huge.

Finally, everything was done that could be done to it.  To-Bin gave his okay.  The techs at Ar-Rom Studios transmitted Kal & Lyla to receivers in every theater that had signed up for the premiere showing.  It turned out to be a very large number of theaters.  Kara and the two Vans showed up for the New Kandor showing in a bit that made all the news networks.  Van-Zee waved resignedly.  Kara waved more enthusiastically, smiled, and hoped the butterflies in her stomach wouldn’t find their way out.

In the midst of the showing, Kara decided she had to visit the women’s room.  On a hunch, Van got up, followed her, and waited outside with his arms folded.  After fifteen minutes, he banged on the door and called her name.

“Not finished yet, Van.”

“Kara.  I’ve lived with you long enough to know how long you take.  Come on out.”

“I’m scared, Van.”

He leaned against the wall beside the door.  “You fought the Zoners, Brainiac, Lex Luthor, and Lesla-Lar and you’re scared.”

“Exactly.”

“Is there anybody in there with you?”

“Half the female population of Rokyn.”

“I’m coming in there, Kara.”

The door opened.  Kara, looking lovely in a blue outfit, clutched her mini-purse hard with one gloved hand.  “Sorry, Van.”

“Don’t apologize, Kara,” he said, putting an arm around her.  “Just get back to your seat.”

“I hate this part of the process most of all.  What if they hate it?  What if they think that I’ve exploited Kal too much?  Or gotten Lyla wrong?”

“What if they think you’ve made one of the best pictures since Kandor got enlarged?”

She said nothing.

“Come on, honey.  Let’s get back to our seats.”

Not without nervousness, Kara allowed herself to be led back.

    -K-

At the end of the showing, there was silence.  It lasted a long time...about 38 seconds, to be exact, as the recordings showed.

Kara had time to look at Van, her anxiety showing.  He squeezed her hand.  To-Bin sat stone-faced.

Then, finally, somebody began to clap.

That started the avalanche.  Kryptonians had never been shy about showing approval.  From all ends of the theatre, hands separated, boomed together, separated again, repeated.  Feet stamped the flooring.  Voices were raised in confirmation of the din.  The sound of affirmation was very loud, and very long.  Incredibly so.

Even To-Bin acted as if he couldn’t believe it.  Van knew his jaw was trying to meet his chest.  He looked at Kara.  There were tears in her eyes.  They didn’t stop flowing.  She sobbed, happily, and hugged him hard.  Then, because of who she was and what she was, she pushed to the front of the box where they sat, waved for the cameras, and smiled through her tears.  She knew the cameras would catch them, and that was all to the good.

The applause, loud before, became deafening.  They called her name, over and over again.  She waved Van forward and took his hand, holding it above her head.  To-Bin came up beside her on the other side.  She took his hand with her free hand, and held it at the same height as Van’s.

She couldn’t hear anything but the aircraft-roar of applause.  Not, that is, until To-Bin leaned in to her ear and whispered three words:

“Kara.  We’ve won.”

    -K-

Which, to all appearances, they had.

The movie’s gross and net broke box-office records, not only for the year, but for all the time on Rokyn since the Enlargement.  Even To-Bin’s greed was exceeded, and he cancelled his intake of anxiety drugs.  

Kara made the rounds of the interview shows, always with Van-Ol in tow.  Van-Zee had to give a few grudging sound-bites, and much speculation was placed on his reticence for the spotlight.  But all agreed he’d given an excellent performance as Kal-El, and he had to fend off a steady drumbeat of offers for further holo work.

“If this keeps up,” he said to Ak-Var in private, “we’ll never be able to work as Nightwing and Flamebird again.”

“Hey, nobody’d believe that a guy making as much money as you would be stupid enough to risk his life fighting crime,” said Ak.  “Give it time, Van.”

The publicity was almost as much work as making the picture.  Kara had to map out time to host a party at her home the week afterward for her parents, Nar, Hira, and Sylvia Van-Zee.  Van himself begged off, but Sylvia was glad he’d done it.

“We can use the money,” she said.  “Besides, Dad’ll never believe it when I send a message home.”

“He has a hard time believing anything you send him home,” said Zor-El.

“That, too,” she agreed.

Nar-Es made a point of seeking out Kara in private.  “You did what you had to do,” he said.  “I’m proud of you.”

She sighed.  “Well, Nar, I wish I could say the same.”

“Tell me about it.”

Kara sat down in a kitchen chair.  “A gap’s been opening between Kal and me for some time.  It started probably when he found out I was wrestling.  Then I handled the Zoners without him.  Now, this.  I think he could accept that I wasn’t going to wear the ‘S’ again, at least not on a going basis.  But, Nar...I hurt him.”

“Yeah.”

“So there’s that.”

Nar sat before her and took one of her hands.  “Want to hear what an old wrestling manager has to say?”

“Always, Nar.  Always.”

“Well, to begin, Kara, you left something out of that list.  You left out the fact that you saved his life.”

“Oh, yeah, that.  But we did that a lot, Nar.”

“Does that make it any less special?  Talk to me, Karaish.”

“......No.  I suppose not.”

“You know it doesn’t.  You charged down to Earth, rallied the troops, saved him, and saw Lex Luthor cash the change at long last.”

“After I brought him back to life, a long time ago.”

“So you owe him nothing.  But don’t you think that Kal knows he owes you everything?  Including getting that Lois woman to marry him?”

Kara fidgeted.  “Well, I suppose you could look at it that way.”

“You suppose!  Kara, I can’t afford to die.  You’re too oblivious to leave on your own.”  

She laughed.

“But the gap, darling, was there before I ever taught you your first hold.  It was probably there before you came to fight with Zora, the time she beat you.  If you hadn’t been pulling away from him, if you hadn’t wanted to do something with your life other than fly around in that copy of his costume, doing what he did, when he wanted you to, why would you have decided to come here?”

The silence hung in the air like dust motes.

“Maybe we were growing apart, after all,” she said.  “Maybe I just didn’t see it.  Not for a long time.”

Nar crossed his arms over his chest and laughed, softly.  “You almost make it sound like a divorce.”

“No.  Not a divorce.  From my fifteenth year on up to...somewhen...Kal was like a parent.  Or he thought he was.  I’ve told him about this, probably haven’t told you.  Sheol, back then I needed a parent, or a big brother, or whatever.  I thought my mom and dad were dead, and I hadn’t been adopted.  I cried, Nar.  Cried a lot.  But Kal was always there for me, always buoying me up, always guiding me on a path he thought was best for me.”

“He loved you, too.”

“Oh, yeah!  This was the first time he’d had another Krypt on Earth he could interact with, not a bunch of teeny people in a bottle...uh, no offense, Nar.”

“None taken.”

“But he...but he loved it.  He loved me, and he loved having me around.  Teaching me how to fly, teaching me how to use my other powers.  Mostly, teaching me how to keep a secret identity and act like an Earth girl.  It was like having a big brother.  And, Nar...it isn’t uncommon for an only child, like Kal and I were, to want a, a sibling of the opposite sex.  Kal said he’d always wanted a sister when he was growing up.  I wouldn’t have minded a brother, either.  But for him, it was harder.  He grew up among Earthers, people who weren’t his kind.  Till I was 15, I grew up with Krypts.”

“Keep talking,” said Nar.

“I’d come here to Kandor, but I’d always have to leave.  I’d have to go back to Earth, to play Linda Danvers or be Supergirl.  I was never...never just plain Kara.  Then we enlarged the city, Nar.  And when I had that fight with Zora, even though I lost the first one, it made me know something.  It made me know that I belonged on Rokyn, with my own people.  Here...I could be Kara Zor-El.  And I loved it.

“Here, I don’t have to be Kal’s shadow anymore.  I really learned how to use my sexuality, and I love it!  I learned how to fight, and while I don’t love it as much, I do like to be able to do it.  I can act, like I never did before on those Earth soaps...I can make something of myself, Nar.  Not for Kal.  For myself.  For Kara.”

After a long pause, Nar said, “And you know what, Karaish?  I believe you have.”

She went to her old mentor and hugged him for a very long time.

    -K-

Shortly thereafter, Lady Jasmine called up and asked if Kara would spar with her.  To say the least, Kara was taken aback.  That was a retreat to a world she thought she’d left far behind.  But, after a lot of wheedling, reassurances that Jasmine wouldn’t be out to cripple her, promises of secrecy, and the insisted-on presence of Van-Ol as a chaperone, which he didn’t exactly refuse, she consented.

Both of them agreed to rent a hovercar, as paparazzi (or their Rokynian equivalent) were starting the stalk syndrome.  Jasmine’s house was in a secluded but middle-class area, and Kara was thankful for that: Jara must have enough money to take care of herself.  There was one hovercar in the port besides theirs.  It wasn’t new, but it looked functional.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Karaish?” asked Van.

“I’m not sure of a Rao-blessed thing,” said Kara, feeling her palms sweat under her white gloves.  “Just stand by and let me handle things.”

“As usual.”

“Hush.”

Jara opened the door and stood there, smiling, in an orange blouse, black pants, and brown leather sandals.  She smiled at Kara and gave her a big hug before the nonplused blonde could get a word out.  “It’s great to see you again, Kara,” she said.  “Come on in, and introduce me.”

“Uh,” said Kara, still in Jara’s embrace.  “Jara, this is Van-Ol, my man and my scriptwriter.   Van, this is Jara Zot-Or, Lady Jasmine.”

“Pleased, I’m sure,” said Van, wryly.

“I’ve got the mat set up in the back,” said Jara.  “Let me show you where to get changed.”  She looked at Van.  “No pictures.”

“Wouldn’t think of it,” he said.

“Oh, I’m sure you wouldn’t,” said Kara.  “You still really want to do this, Jara?”

“Of course,” she said.  “It’s the only way I know to talk to you.”

“I’ll have to make a note of that,” said Van.

The two of them changed into bikinis, white for Kara, orange for Jasmine, and went to a large room in the back Jara had outfitted as a gym.  Kara looked at the blue mat on the floor.  “We’re not going to talk while we’re wrestling, are we?”

“No,” said Jara.  “After.”

So the two women grappled their hearts out in competitive but friendly fashion, while Van-Ol looked on, as wide-eyed as he might be expected to be.  A couple of times he felt like intervening and calling the match to a halt, but Kara managed to escape the hold she was in and retaliate.  He’d never seen her fight live before, only on holos.  To see her pitting her strength and skills against another woman, both of them clad only in bikinis, was, he had to admit...stimulating.

But then again, Kara had never had a problem with that, as far as he was concerned.

Finally, Kara, sweaty and hair-mussed, got Jara in an armlock and really cranked it, sitting on her back.  “Can we call it a day, Jara?”

“Not giving!”

“Not asking you to.  Just asking if we can call it a draw and get to talking.”

“All right.  In that case, it’s a draw.”

Immediately, Kara let go of Jasmine’s arm and got off her back.  In her pro ring days, she would have been wary of a counterstrike.  But those days had been left behind.  Jasmine, on her hands and knees, panted for breath.  Then she smiled.  “Whoo!  You’ve still got it, Kara.”

“Thank you,” said Kara.  She hoped Jara, who was bent towards women, didn’t still have a crush on her.  She sat cross-legged on the mat, getting her own breath back.   “Now, what’s this all about?”

Jara lay on her back and said, “Comp, drinks for all.  Non-alk okay for you?”

“Nothing but.”

“I’ll take it, too,” said Van.  “Thanks for the show, ladies.”

Jara beamed.  Kara shot him a look of sarcasm.  A hovering robot zipped in a few feet above the floor with a tray in its servoarms, bearing three glasses of iced juice.  It went to Jasmine first, then Kara, then Van.  Jara sat up to sip from the glass, sighed, threw back her long black hair with one move of her head.  “Okay.  Now we can talk.”

“You’re not in trouble, are you?”

“No.”  She shook her head.  “Not in danger, anyway.  If Zora gets out of the Zone, that might be another thing.  But so far, I’m pretty safe.”

Van remembered Kara’s story of how Zora Vi-Lar, the Black Flame, had conspired with Jara once to bring Kara down.  But Jasmine had a change of heart, and Zora tried vengeance on her own.  It failed, and she was sent back to the Phantom Zone.  He reckoned they were all better off if she never got out.

“Then what?  You know Van and I are an item.”

“Oh, it’s not that, anymore, Kara.  It’s just...”  Jasmine looked wistful.  “Does it make any sense if I say I’m depressed, and I wanted to see you?”

“You don’t have any friends?”

“None like you.”  She massaged her foot with her free hand.  “You’ve been where I’ve been for awhile, Kara.  I can talk to you.”

“Okay, Jara.  But I hope you don’t think you can only talk to wrestlers.”

Jasmine laughed.  “I’ve got other friends, Kara.  The Traveling Clan loves me.  But...well...does it make any sense to say I’m jealous?  Just a little bit?”

“Of what?  Of me?”

“Yeah.  I’m still in the ring, and you’ve gone so far beyond that.”

“Oh, Jara...”

“No, no, Kara.  To think that a couple of years ago we were showing off our bods to thousands of people and trying to tear each other apart on camera, and now you’re gonna be probably the biggest holo star on Rokyn.  That’s something, Kara.”

“Well, yeah, it is, Jara.  But so’s being the champion wrestler, too.”

“Yeah,” Jasmine conceded.  “I make good enough money.  But I can’t do this forever, not more than a few more years, I think.  How did you get out of it, Kara?  How’d you become an actress?”

Kara blew out a long sigh.  “Jara, I didn’t just become an actress over here.  I was in a couple of movies and a soap on Earth, you know.”

“You did cleaning commercials?”

Big laughter.  “No, no.  A soap, on Earth vids, is what they call a soap opera...a women’s afternoon show.  It was a show called Secret Hearts.  I played this bitch called Margo Hatton.  It was a lot of fun.  I’d also been in a couple of movies before that, all of it as little ol’ Linda Danvers.  So I had some experience before I got into holos over here.”

“Oh.  Okay.  So how do I get that experience?”

Before answering, Kara ran multiple word choices through her brain’s computer.  Finally, she decided on honesty.  “Jara, first you have to have talent.  And, honey, I just don’t think you have the talent to do what I do on screen.”

The dark-skinned girl looked as though her dog had died.

“Hold on, Jara.  That’s just to do what I do.  What I used to do, the action movies...you might have a place there.  Maybe not as a star, but in a secondary role, you might just make it.  If you work like hell.”

Jara’s grin seemed to fill each side of the room.  “I’ve done that all my life.”

“Yep.  And we used you for stunt work on one of my pics.  But don’t forget, you were in some of those other kind of holos before.”

“I can’t do anything about that,” said Jara.

“No.  I think the public will forgive you, too.  It’s just that sometimes those things will come up to try and bite you in the rear when you start making it.  Just be upfront about them to your bosses and to the newsies.  Tell the bosses what you used to do, and if the newsies bring it up, just say that’s part of your past and you aren’t ever going to do that anymore.”

“Like wrestling with you?”

Van struggled not to laugh out loud.  Kara blushed.  “In a way.”

“Can you help me?”

“I’ll see about getting you some contacts.  For the rest, you’re on your own.”

Jasmine hugged her again.  “That’s all I ask.  A fighting chance.  Thank you, Kara.”

“You’re welcome, Jas,” said Kara, not daring to return the hug.  “Now, can we hit the shower?”

Jara gave her a hopeful look.

“Separately,” said Kara.

    -K-

The reviews came out and, for the most part, praised the movie to Heaven.  Even those who had critical remarks about her performance (which were few) negated them with rave notes about the rest of the show.  It was greatly regretted that Van-Zee had called off his acting career.  Regretted, that is, by everyone save Van-Zee and Sylvia.

The newscasts were certain to add items about Kal & Lyla to their playlists.  Most of the people concerned in any substantial way to the holo, from Kal, Van, and Gro-Nas on down to the sound and lighting people, had to make the rounds of interviews.  They didn’t mind, for the most part.  Much speculation was made about the revealing of Lyla’s daughter.  Kara admitted that it was an extrapolation from facts, and while nobody could call it absolute truth, they couldn’t call it any less than a strong possibility.  Not too many objections were raised.

Much more problematic was the question of Kal’s reaction to the movie.  Kara stonewalled, as did most of the officials at Ar-Rom.  Superman could not be reached for comment.  There was much speculation, and some pundits ate out on the belief that Kal-El would be incensed at the holo.  But none could do more than speculate, and the problem was, for the moment, swept under the table.

Lyla Lerrol’s old holos were unearthed and reissued with great success.  Old interview clips with her were rerun, and many of the folks Kara had interviewed in her research were interviewed again, on camera.  A few new biographies were announced.  Indeed, Lyla Lerrol had become a cottage industry.  When they asked Kara what she thought Lyla’s reaction to that would be, she said she didn’t know.

One thing was for certain.  Kara Zor-El had made it as a serious actress.

There were more offers than ever before for her to play leads.  She rejected some, optioned others, considered a few out of the latter.  Within a few months, she knew she’d have to decide on next year’s project.  But at least she had a few months.

She took two weeks from one of them to go to a secluded part of the coast with Van.

The two of them sat on the beach, in shirts, shorts, and bare feet, watching the tide come in and go out, talking and often not talking.  At one point, Van said, “So.  What do you think Lyla Lerrol would have thought about all this?”

Kara said, “She’d probably be asking for a big cut of the action.”

“Seriously.”

She looked at the horizon.  “I think she’d be grateful, Van.  All of us, actors and actresses, we do it for the attention.  It hurts a little when nobody’s paying attention to us.  To know that people were paying attention to her, decades after she was dead...that’d mean something to her, I bet.  It’d mean a lot.”

“At least they’ll remember you,” he said.  “Supergirl, one of the three survivors of Argo, the first baby born there after the destruction, one of the two who enlarged Kandor, a movie star, the one who fought the Zoners.”

“Oh, Van.”

“And a wrestler.”

“Van!”

“They probably won’t remember me,” he said.  “I’m just the writer.”

“Like Sheol,” she said.  “If they remember me, they’re gonna remember you.”

“Why should that be?”

“Van.” She looked at him.  “Are you too dumb to ask the question?”

“What question?”  He looked puzzled.  “What—“

He had to stop, mouth open.

She grinned.  “I can’t say yes until you ask the question.”

“You want to...”

“Say it, Van.”

“You want to marry me?”

“Say it right!”

“Kara, will you marry me?”

She embraced him.  “Mother Moon.  These days a girl’s got to do all the work herself.”

It wasn’t until high tide that they got off the beach.

*******

This one’s for Jerry Siegel, who created both Kal and Lyla.  You won’t be forgotten, either, pal.

–DarkMark

4/27/07