Power Girl:
 A Force of Four
 by DarkMark

NOTE:  All characters in this and succeeding chapters are property of DC Comics.  No money is being made from this story, no infringement is intended.

Kara Zor-L stood beside the big star on the top of the Daily Star building and looked down at Metropolis.

Below her the cars meshed in traffic as they had been for most of this crazy century.  The headlights, the streetlights, the glow of display windows or eateries or all-night shops, the occasional panhandler, prostitute, innocent bystander, kid needing supervision (but not the kind of super-vision she had, a joke which failed to cheer her up), dope dealer, policeman, wife, husband, teenager, and, yes, reporter, all of them milling in the maze of Metropolis.

Superman had called this city home since 1938.  Now it was 1985, and whatever responsibilities it held for superhumans had been passed on to her own white-clad, red-caped shoulders.  Some people below saw her, pointed, shouted at her, waved their hands wildly.  She gave a half-hearted wave back, not really looking at them.

Power Girl wore a white leotard, cut high on the thighs and low on the chest...a great distraction for evildoers, and any other males past puberty.  Her feet were hidden in blue buccaneer boots, she wore blue gloves (none of that stupid bare-handed stuff for her; Kal's leaving fingerprints had gotten him in trouble more than once), and had a red belt with a gold buckle slung low on her hips (she had it and wasn't afraid to show it).

She had been born in 1916, and had the body of a 29-year-old.   Her origin was far, far stranger than Kal's.

"Ms. Kara?"

Power Girl wheeled to face the speaker.  She already knew the voice.

Jimmy Olsen, white at the temples but still retaining his trademark red hair--all of it--grinned through the wrinkles on his face and held out a couple of beefeater sandwiches from the First Floor Deli.

"You look kinda lonely," he said.  "Hoagies are the best way of getting over depression, believe it."

The Kryptonian girl smiled, though her eyes still showed the sadness.  "Thanks, Jimmy.  How much do I owe you?"

Jimmy chuckled.  "Just let me look at you.  That'll take care of it all."

She took off her gloves, stuck them in her belt, walked over, and took the sandwich from him--beef and melted swiss cheese on a roll; it was good--and chomped some of it, getting the grease on her hands.  She'd burn it off later with her heat-vision.  In between bites she said, "Thanks, Jim.  But remember--you owe me scale for any appearances I make in your chauvinistic little fantasies tonight."

"In that case, I'll go bankrupt, even if I do get the co-editor's slot, for sure," he said.  Then, after a pause, he said, "You wanna sit down over there?"  He pointed to a spot behind the big star-sign, where they would be screened off from the sight of the crowds.

"Sure, why not?"  She gave a short hop and landed expertly on the concrete roof, clearing away some stray gravel and bird guano with the sole of her left boot.  Then she sat down crosslegged on the roof and began working on the sandwich again.  Jimmy trudged over, still eating, and sat down gingerly, his old man's frame letting him know it felt insulted.

"So, like I gotta ask," he said, after he'd wolfed half of the beefeater, "you're here--why?  Is Gotham slow tonight?"

Power Girl finished up the meat, cheese, and roll, licked her fingers, then burned the residue from them.  Then, while she pulled on her gloves again, she said, "Gotham has a whole colony of heroes.  The Justice Society's there at least once a month.  Plus Green Lantern, Robin, Huntress.  You know why I'm here."  She looked him straight in the eyes.

He gave her the look right back.  "Yeah.  Because he's dead."

Kara Zor-L hugged her knees as she sat on the roof.  "Jimmy?"

"What, Ms. Kara?"

"First, don't call me ‘Ms. Kara'.  Just ‘Kara' will do, or ‘Ms. Zor-L', or ‘Power Girl'.  But that's not what I wanted to ask you about."

He shifted his position against one of the concrete roof edges.  "Then what?"

She said, "You knew him a lot longer than I did.  What was he like...back then?"

Jimmy spread his hands in bewilderment, smiling.  "Like when, ‘back then'?  I was born in ‘31, Depression baby, sold the Star on a street corner when I was seven, and that was the year he showed up.  Nothing was ever the same after that, for anybody in the city...maybe for anybody in the world."  He laughed.  "I mean, hell, a man who could fly? A man who could clean-and-jerk Fords and Chevys?  A man who could laugh off machine-gun bullets like they were spitballs?  Yeah...he was something.  And every day, from that day in June of ‘38 for the longest time, there was almost always an article in the Star about Superman.  Y'know what I used to do?"

She said nothing, looking at him and resting her chin on one fist.

"Oh, man, I used to do the red-towel bit.  Y'know, tuck the end of the towel in my collar, climb out onto the fire escape, and yell, ‘This is a job...for Superman!'  Mrs. Hacken from across the street would always open her window and tell me to get back in the house, you no-good bum kid, and stop waking up her uncle Morris with my yelling.  But I'd zip down the dad-blamed escape, and I'd run down the alley, in between the back of the dress shop and the bakery, and pretend that I was walloping up on the whole Capone outfit.  Capone was in jail then, but I pretended he was out...wouldn't have been any fun without him, you know.  And I tell you, I saved one copy of every issue of the Star, which is why I started selling it, because we needed money, sure, but more because I just had to read about Superman.  And then the radio show..."

"Jimmy."  Kara decided to bring him down to Earth.  "That's all very fine, but that's about you, not about my cousin.  You met him in what, 1940?"

Olsen looked a little deflated, then grinned sheepishly.  "Uh, 1941 to be exact.  There I was, 10 years old, and I just had to get into the Star somehow.  I mean, not just pickin' up my papers at the circulation office, but in there, with the big reporters like Clark Kent, and Lois, and Perry White, and even George Taylor, the damn editor.  Because that's where Superman would show up.  Always at the Daily Star.  He had to be somebody there, or have friends there.  So there was an opening for an office boy.  Two of us kids got the idea of going after it.  I beat the other kid out, and I had to fight him in the alley after that.  And I won."

She smiled.

"Yeah, well, there was Miss Lane there--"

"Ms. Lane," corrected Power Girl.

"Okay, Ms. Lane, although there wasn't a ‘Ms.' back then, and she was kinda snooty.  But George Taylor gave me the big tour on my first day, and there was Mr. Kent.  He was really nice to me, Clark was.  When Mr. Taylor introduced him to me, he gave the big smile, shook my hand like I was a real wheel, and asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I told him I wanted to be Superman!  He cracked up."  Kara was cracking up, too.  "I did, really.  He said, ‘Aside from being Superman, what would be your second choice as a profession?'  I said I wanted to write about him and be his best pal in the whole wide world.  If I couldn't do that, I wanted to be a cop and help on all his cases.  He said that being a reporter was the best way to do my second choice.  I told him, ‘Mr. Kent, I want your job whenever you decide you don't want it!'  Taylor made a joke about if Kent didn't bring in the story about Lex Luthor, he might just try me out for the job."

Kara said, "Lex Luthor?  That long ago, and you remember which villain it was?"

"Oh, yeah!" Jimmy's face was the face of a 12-year-old kid, giddy with hero-worship, behind his wrinkles.  Even his delivery was faster, like a wise-guy kid from the Dead End movies.  "I'll never forget that day, Kara.  So Mr. Kent bent down, and put his hand on my shoulder, like he was gonna tell me something just between us guys, y'know.  And he said to me, ‘Jimmy, I tell you what.  If you're a really good office boy, and work really hard at it and make Mr. Taylor happy, the next time I see Superman, I'm going to ask him to come see you at the Star.  But only you.  And you can't tell anyone else about this.  You know why?'  I asked him why.  He says, real serious now, ‘Because if anyone knew you had met Superman, some crook might think you and Superman were best buddies, and you could get kidnapped that way.  So if Superman were to meet you, he'd want to know you could keep a secret.  Okay?'  And I said, just as serious as if I was being made a Junior G-Man, ‘You bet okay, Mr. Kent.  Adolf Hitler couldn't get me to squeal.'  And he smiled and ruffled up my hair.  Gosh, I remember that smile."

Power Girl was smiling, too.  But Jimmy didn't notice.  He was still in 1941.

"So, for the next few days, I was a demon.  I dumped every trashbasket twice an hour, even if it didn't have anything in it.  I did the boss's spittoon every 30 minutes, and I washed it clean at the end of the day."  (Kara made a face.)  "Mr. Taylor said that anytime somebody hollered ‘Copy boy!', I was there before they got to the ‘boy'.  I started on a Monday.  By Thursday--" Jimmy paused for emphasis.  "--Lex Luthor had been caught.  Mr. Kent wrote up the story.  I asked him, ‘Mr. Kent, did you see...y'know...him?'

"Mr. Kent, he looked at me with a little smile and said, ‘Yes, Jimmy.  And furthermore, if you'll stay for a few minutes after work, and not blab to anybody, he told me he just might be able to visit.  But you mustn't tell anybody, and especially you mustn't tell Miss Lane'--he said Miss Lane, not me, I'm just repeating what he said--'because she likes to take up his time.  Promise?'

"Well, I promised on seven stacks of Bibles that I wouldn't tell.  But I didn't think it did any good, because everybody seemed to know from the way they said I was acting.  Taylor said if I'd been grinning any bigger, I'd've had to go sideways through doors.  I didn't think I'd ever get through that lousy afternoon.  But I worked extra hard, ‘cause, y'know, he might be looking with his X-ray vision.  I promise you, I even made sure I went to the bathroom fast.  The worst thing I could've imagined would've been to miss Superman because I was on the toilet."

Kara was bent double laughing.

"Yeah, believe it!  That's what I felt like.  So, come 6:00, everybody filed out of the city desk.  Normally, the night crew would'a come on.  But I think somebody'd made arrangements with Mr. Taylor about that.  And there I was, sittin' and sittin', all alone in that big room, wondering when he was gonna show up.  If he was gonna show up.  I didn't wonder about what I was gonna tell Mom, about why I was late.  If I got a busting, so what?  I was going to meet a guy that, I mean, even Babe Ruth didn't rate against!  A guy that was tougher than Jack Dempsey, even.  A guy who could fly!  I thought I was waiting forever.  But it only took about seven minutes.

"I heard kind of a whoosh outside the window.  I swear, my heart quit beating.  Most of my mind went into cold storage.  I heard the window being lifted up.  That was how I knew it was him.  There wasn't anyone else in the room, and the only way you could lift up a window on our floor was from the outside.

"I spun around in Mr. Kent's swivel chair and darn near pitched myself out on the floor.  ‘Cause there, comin' through the window, lookin' at nobody else but me, and smiling like I was his best friend...was Superman."

The girl from Krypton was silent.  Jimmy wasn't registering her presence at all.  He was as awestruck as if he were Saul recounting his vision.

"There he was.  In that blue shirt with the big ‘S' shield on it, and the red cape, and the boots, and muscles on top of his muscles, muscles that made Joe Bonomo and Charles Atlas look like shrimps.  I mean, muscles.  And that face that looked like a movie hero's, with that spitcurl on his forehead, and those blue eyes that looked like they could size up your soul.  I couldn't imagine a bad guy ever standing up against him.  Still can't.  He came inside, stood there with his hands on his hips like he always used to do, and he said to me--'Hello, Jimmy.  Clark Kent tells me you've been a really good office boy this week.  Congratulations.'  And he reaches out--" Jimmy reached out his hand, not even knowing he was doing it. "--and he takes my hand, and shakes it.  I mean, I'm shaking hands with Superman.  With him!  I thought his hand'd feel like metal, like I was shaking hands with a robot.  But it was like shaking hands with a regular guy, like my dad.  Only he had a better grip than my dad.  And I was shaking hands with Superman."

"So he pulls up another chair in front of me, sits down, crossing one leg over the other, and said, ‘You seem like a fine young man.  Anything you want to ask me, while I'm here?'  Oh, man, what I didn't want to ask him!  I asked him how it felt to fly, and he smiled and said, ‘Like nothing you'll ever believe.  It's my favorite power.  If I could, I think I'd be flying just about every minute of the day.'  I asked him how strong he was, and he said, ‘Well, Jimmy, I'm about strong enough and fast enough to get the job done, whatever it is I have to do.  How about you?  Doing well in school?'  I said I was doing pretty all right in school, but from then on I was gonna try and make straight A's.  He smiled and said, ‘That's good.  If you work as hard at school as Clark tells me you do around here, you might end up running the Daily Star someday.  But you'll have to work at it, understand?'

"And I told him, oh, yes, by golly gosh all hemlock, you bet I understood.

"He said that it was his greatest wish that all boys and girls everywhere would learn how to live a good life, and not turn to crime or oppression, because then his job would be so much easier.  I asked him if he liked putting crooks in jail.  He said sometimes he did, if they were big crooks like Lex Luthor.  Other times, it was just some poor guy down on his luck, not knowing how to do anything but steal to keep himself and his family fed.  He tried to help those fellows as much as he could, but--stealing was stealing.  Those guys he said he wished he'd met as kids, to see if he could've kept them on the straight and narrow.

"So I asked him how would he have known they'd be crooks when they grew up.  He looked at me, dead serious, and said, ‘I wouldn't.  That's why I hope I can meet as many young boys and girls as I can, if it'll help them to stay out of a life of crime.'  And I promised him then I wouldn't ever turn into a crook, ever, even if I was starving.  And he smiled and said, ‘I don't think you'll ever starve, Jimmy.  But what about your mother?  Have you told her you're staying late at the paper?'
"About that time I think my jaw fell down to my shoelaces.  And I said, ‘Oh, jeez!  My mom!  She's gonna tie a rope around my neck and throw me off the fire escape, Mr. Superman!  She'll drown me in the sewer!  I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, I really am.'  And he took my shoulder and said, ‘I believe you, Jimmy.  But don't you think you should call her and tell her?'

"I knew he was testing me.  And I knew what Mom would say.  And with all that, Kara, I promise you: I ran over to that phone, had the lady at the front desk connect me with Mom, and I told her I was staying late at the newspaper, and when she said what for, I said somebody was talking to me.  And she said, ‘Who?'  And I looked at him, and he was looking at me with his arms folded.  And I just said, ‘Aw, someone, Mom.  I promise, I'll be in as soon as I'm finished here.'  She said, ‘Jimmy, who are you talking with?'  In that tone of voice she used when she meant, ‘It better damn well be the Pope or you're gettin' a hiding when you get home.'

"I said, ‘Mom, my boss wouldn't like it if I told you.  It's a secret.'  Then I thought of something. I said,  ‘Hitler wouldn't like it.'  ‘Cause you know my family's Norwegian, and you know what the Nazis had done to Norway back then, and when I grew up, from listening to my folks, I thought Adolf's middle name was ‘sonofabitch'.

"But Mom says, ‘Are you calling your boss Hitler?'  And I didn't know what to say."

Power Girl was rolling on the roof with laughter, knowing she was getting her costume dirty.

"Yeah, believe it!  Then, at that moment, I felt somebody taking the phone from me.  And I mean...I tell you...there was Superman talking on the phone to my mom!  He just said, ‘Mrs. Olsen, this is Superman.  Jimmy's been talking with me.  And he's right...Hitler wouldn't like it.  So please, keep this a secret.  All right?  Yes, ma'am.  No, he's been a very good boy.  Yes, he is bright for his age, Mrs. Olsen.  Thank you.  I'll bring him by in just a few minutes.  Thank you.  Remember, keep this a secret.  Good night.' And he hung up.

"Then he looked at me and said, ‘Well, Jimmy, looks like we'd better get you home.'  I figured I'd catch a cab, and I said, ‘Thanks very much, Mr. Superman', and I started for the door.

"That's when he said, ‘Jimmy--don't you think you'd rather fly?'"

Jimmy paused for a long time.  But Kara was still a captive audience.

"I said something like, ‘Gee, Mr. Superman, I don't know, I mean, isn't it dangerous?'  And he said, ‘Not if you're with me, Jimmy.  Would you like to try it?'  I don't know what I said after that, but it must've been something in the neighborhood of, ‘Betcher life I would!'  So he grinned, and came over, and picked me up in his arms, and said, ‘Grab hold of my neck and hold on tight.'  Better believe I did.

"And he carried me over to the window, like I didn't weigh any more than a potato chip, put one foot on the window sill, and pushed up with it, and that was when he said it:



"‘And away!'

"And there we both were, climbin' like a prop plane, with me hanging my mouth open, and the wind blowing his hair and the cape out behind him, and that grip around me that let me know I wasn't gonna fall, no matter what.  We were over half a mile above the streets.  I could see some of the folks who worked late in offices in the skyscrapers. They were wavin' at us...at Superman and me.  We probably weren't any higher off the ground then than we are now, but I thought we could go up about a hundred more feet and be on the moon.  There were about six million people in Metropolis back then.  I thought every last one of ‘em must be looking at us that night.  Nobody much recognized me, I don't think.  We were going too fast for ‘em to know more than Superman was carryin' some kid.  I've flown with Superman more times than I can count.  But I've never felt so great about it as on that night.  Heaven is going to have to go a long way to beat that, I can tell you.'

"Then, Superman let me off in an alley about a block or two from our building.  He said, ‘That's close enough.  Goodbye, Jimmy.  And remember...it's a secret.'  Then he took off again, just pushed himself up into the sky, and I kept watching, and kept running and trying to see him, till I couldn't see him anymore.  You talk about a shaping experience...that was it.

"I went back home.  I must have.  I don't remember a thing about it.  But Mom said I walked in like Superman was still carrying me through the clouds.  I think she tried to ask me about it.  I don't recall what I said, if I said anything.  I do remember she sent out and got a steak, and we ate it around 8:00 that evening, with potatoes and ice cream.  That was one of the best dad-blamed meals I had, when I was a kid...and I didn't even remember eating it.  When I woke up in the morning, I couldn't believe it had happened.   But Mom looked so concerned, asked me how I was feeling and all, that I knew it must have happened."

Power Girl, sitting crosslegged again, resting her arms on her shapely bare lower limbs, said, "And what after that, Jimmy?"

Jimmy came down out of the clouds a bit, then smiled again.  "After that, I knew I was going to have to be a reporter. That was the only way I could stay at the Star, and it was sacred ground.  The next week, I stowed away in Miss, excuse me, Ms. Lane's car when she went after The Archer, and I saved her life--at least I think so--when I pushed her out of the way of an arrow.  We were there when Superman caught the Archer, and since I'd been pushin' Mr. Taylor to let me cover a story, Ms. Lane and Mr. Kent let me write up the case.  I think Clark did a rewrite on me later, but I got a damn byline on the story.  Imagine it...two weeks there, and I'd already met Superman, helped him catch a crook, and got my first story on the front page.  I mean, after that, I would've worked there if I'd had to pay them."  He sighed.

Kara smiled.  Jimmy was 54 years old, and it was a trip to see how fast he'd subtracted 44 of those years, in his mind.

"You know, lots of the oldsters in the JSA had similar reactions to Kal, from what they told me," said Power Girl, shifting her position a bit on the rooftop.  "He was like the big ur-hero.  No matter who they were, all of them said more or less that Superman inspired them to put on the masks and costumes and beat up bad guys.  If he hadn't done it first, been the prototype for the super-hero, I don't think many of them would have taken the same path.  They might have used the powers, but not as super-heroes.  And as far as I can tell, Kal was the first Superman on any Earth.  Though I don't know how many Earths there are, of course."

Jimmy sat down beside her.  "Yeah.  From what I've heard, there's another Jimmy Olsen on Earth-One.  He's Superman's best pal, too.  Maybe I was the ur-Olsen."

"Maybe.  I guess I might be the ur-Kara, too."  She hugged herself and looked down, not talking.

"Something wrong, Kara?" asked Jimmy.

She sighed and leaned back against the raised edge of the roof.  "It's just that I got to know her...and met another Supergirl, too...for the first time when Kal died.  We'd met one time before, when we were both working with Wonder Woman on that Adjuciator thing.  He was a bad guy who kidnapped the superwomen from three Earths.  Not much of a meeting.  We were in separate cells, Wonder Woman of the JLA's Earth got us out, and we fought him for about ten minutes before we all got sent back to our own Earths.   So there wasn't much time to socialize.

"Then, we met in the Crisis, in that big bash in the anti-matter world.  We didn't have much time to talk beforehand.  You know, ‘Oh, you must be Supergirl.  I'm Power Girl...Kara on my Earth.  Glad to meet you.'  ‘Oh, hi.  I'm Kara on my Earth.  Really glad to meet you, cousin Kal's told me about meeting you...we'll have to talk after we get finished here.'  Of course, after we got finished, I didn't feel much like talking."

"I'm sorry, Kara."  Jimmy was sobered.  "I couldn't believe it when I heard he was dead, either.  It was like November 22, 1963, except I never got to know Jack Kennedy all that well...so it hurt a lot more."

"You knew him a lot longer than I did," said Kara.  "I loved him, even though I didn't show it much, even though he used to piss me off a lot."  She chuckled, shook her head.  "I really was a bitch."

Jimmy put a hand on her shoulder.  She didn't respond, so after a few seconds he withdrew it.  "Well, he, uh, I didn't see him a lot after you showed up.  He wasn't as active as he had been.  But, uh, he did have...you know, problems and such...but he did really care about you."

"We both cared about each other.  We were both glad that we weren't the only Kryptonians left alive, when we found each other.  But he wanted to play Daddy, because he'd never had a child.  And I...couldn't do that, Jimmy.  I had a daddy, and it wasn't Kal."

She looked out at the night sky.  "You know, Jimmy, I spent twenty years of my life--about fifty-eight of them, in your time--in a dream.  In the Symbioship.  There was no way I could have stayed sane on a rocket journey that took twenty years to complete.  My father, Zor-L, he anticipated that and created the dream programming.  I was dreaming for twenty years, with the computer making a simulation in which I...lived...I went to school, I met people, all based on real people my parents knew on Krypton, I did things, had adventures, fell in love--and the guys whom I fell in love with always had to leave.  I never knew why.  Then to find out it was part of a frabbing computer...great Rao, I almost hated Daddy.  But I knew why he had to do it.  I would have gone insane otherwise.  We didn't know enough about suspended animation, and the spacewarp Kal's rocket went through had moved on."  Kara covered her face with her blue-gloved hands.  Jimmy, his hands back in his lap, said nothing.

"So I got educated by a computer.  I lived with my parents, but they were part of a computer, too.  I met Kal, grew up with him, and he was just a program on a computer.  When I...when I met him on Earth, I couldn't believe the way he was dressed.  I said, ‘Kal, what is this?  Where are we?  Why are you dressed that way?  Why are you so old?  Where's your headband, for Rao's sake?'  And he...told me...he told me he'd been on Earth for 58 years.

"I didn't believe him.  I thought it was just a dream.   Then I thought I was going crazy.  I started beating on his chest with my fists.  He grabbed my wrists, and I was screaming, and he finally had to shake me and yelled at me.  At first, he told me later, he wasn't sure if I was for real or if I was some kind of decoy for one of his enemies, like Luthor.  But when he asked me about Krypton, and I told him what I knew from what I'd dreamed, and the program's information dovetailed with what he'd learned about Krypton, he decided I was for real."

Kara looked out at the stars, a wild look on her face.  "It's just that I wasn't so sure I was for real.  I was so damnably scared.  Either everything I'd lived had been a dream...or I was living a dream right then.  I guess that's one of the reasons I didn't like him as much as I might have. Because I liked what I'd been living for 20 years a lot better than what I woke up to.  I liked having the Kal around who was my age, who was a good friend to me, not this old man who looked a lot like Kal in a funny suit, lifting mountains and flying around.  And I found out I could lift mountains and fly around, too.  That was weird...when he took me by the hand, and told me that I could fly, and he leaped into the air and dragged me with him, and I realized I was flying on my own, and let go of him, and got so scared I dropped like a rock."  She snickered, even as she was fighting back tears.  "I dropped into a big ol' pine tree.  Ka-runch!  It didn't hurt too much, but I was as embarrassed as heck.  And Kal swooped down, and I said, ‘You did this to me, dammit!'  He tried hard not to laugh, but I said, ‘Oh, go ahead,' and he cracked up, and in a few seconds I was laughing harder than he was."

Jimmy chuckled.  "I never heard that one before.  He didn't tell me about you before you made your public debut and such."

"Oh, we had some fun.  But I resented it, a bit.  I mean, Superman wasn't like Kal in my dream.  How could he have been?  He'd developed in different ways.  Daddy couldn't program the Kal that became Superman into my dream.  The dream-Kal was my best friend.  We hardly ever had an argument.  We hung out with the same crowd, got into trouble, got out of trouble, worked on some of the same projects in school, thought about composing a music-show together, all of that.  That Kal...was a lot of fun.

"But that's not all.  I had my mom and daddy in the dream, too.  They were always there for me...taking my side when I got into trouble, disciplining me when I did bad, or didn't do well enough in school, taking me on trips, having get-togethers with Jor-L and Lora.  We were family.  Thinking back on it now, I realize a lot of the basic patterns were repeated, over and over again, with a few variations. But I didn't have anything else to compare it to.  To me, it was life.

"Then, wham.  I get out, no Mom, no Daddy, no Jor-L or Lora, no Krypton, even.  Just a guy who looked like Kal--who was Kal--and called himself Superman.  He could tell I was going to need some--orientation--and time.  So he said, ‘All right.  For awhile, we're going to have to keep you a secret.  You'll have to learn about Earth, you'll have to learn about life, and once you've learned enough, we can talk about letting the people of Earth know about your existence.  But for right now, I'm glad I'm not the only one of our kind on Earth.'  Then he gave me a big hug.  And I cried, because I was glad I had him around, too.

"But, like I said, he pissed me off, too, in time."

Jimmy said, quietly, "So you spent two years, in training?"

"I spent two years learning about my powers, learning about Earth, learning Earth languages, learning about other people.  He showed me how to pretend I was somebody else.  On Earth, we can reshape our features a bit, by will power.  He showed me how to change my face, and he brought me wigs and Earth clothes, and introduced me to Lois.  She helped me learn about American women, and I'd go out sometimes with Kal, in disguise, and he'd pretend I was a foreigner and we'd go out to restaurants or ballgames or political things or even movies.  Lois would take me to places where women congregated.  She took me to my first NOW meeting.  That was one of the first things I really enjoyed on Earth.  Kal didn't much like that!"

"No, he didn't!" said Jimmy, laughing.  "I remember him saying once, ‘The only female Kryptonian on Earth, and she has to act like Jane Fonda crossed with Gloria Steinem.'  And I think I said, ‘Yeah, and she looks like Jane Fonda crossed with Ursula Andress.'"

"Oh, you!" Power Girl smirked at him.  "Just don't get any ideas you'd be tempted to follow up on."

"Aw, Kara.  I'm a gent.  But with your looks, you should excuse me saying I've suspected your secret i.d. is Christie Brinkley."

Power Girl stood up.  "Male chauvinist.  You know what I'm going to do to you for that?"

Jimmy drew in a breath, sitting unmoving against the roof edge.  Oh, great, what have I gotten myself into now?, he thought.  "What?" he said, quietly.

"This," she said, and, taking hold of him, poised herself with one foot on the top of the edge.  "Up--up--and away!"

They flew.

Jimmy Olsen looked down at the streets of Metropolis, about a half-mile below them.  Kara grinned.  From the look in his eyes, he was feeling ten years old again.

It was nice to perpetuate an old family tradition.  Even if, she thought sadly, you were the last living Kryptonian who could do so.


Except she wasn't.

In the reaches of outer space, a green-glowing globe floated, undisturbed for 31 years.  The three beings inside it were numb, in suspended animation, as they had been for almost all of their imprisonment.

A female figure appeared, lancing in from a point unknown, laying her hands on the globe, and propelling it before her in the direction of Earth's sun.  She was black-haired, beautiful, and colder than the emptiness about her.  She wore a strange green dress with red trim, had Roman-style sandals on her feet, and wore ornate jewelry on her neck, her wrists, and her earlobes.

Her top speed was far in excess of light.  Her destination, Mars, had enough of an atmosphere to make communications possible, even though it was not an atmosphere normal humans could breathe.  Neither she, nor the three inside the glowing globe, were normal humans.

She landed on the red sands, the globe beside her.  Then she struck it a mighty blow, and it fell asunder.

Within were three men.  They began to rouse themselves from their lengthy sleep.

They stared, wonderingly, at the lovely woman before them.

"My name is Badra," she said to them, through Mars's alien gases.  "I believe you are Mala, Kizo, and U-Ban, of Krypton.  We have enemies in common.  Let us talk."

  (next chapter)