Supergirl on Rokyn:
ZONERS: Part I
Kara Zor-El stood there, in the door of the air transport, blood at one corner of her mouth and a bruise on her left cheek. She was wearing a blue coverall suit and the woman she was facing had hit her very, very hard.
The woman, a brunette, one of Kara's old rivals, had lost her blaster earlier when the blonde heroine had kicked it out of her hand and thrown it through the open door. But someone still had to get to the controls of this craft soon, if they wanted to stop it from crashing into a mountain some miles distant and taking with it the vaccine that could save a High Councilman's life.
Also there was the matter of the man Kara had come to love, unconscious on the floor of the cockpit.
But the sneering, catsuited Tyra Gi-Orr, a Phantom Zone escapee, was willing for them all to die. She had already beaten back Kara to the very edge in a martial arts duel, and she was preparing for the blow that would send her foe out the doorway and plummeting to the ground two miles below.
"Now, Kara, let me show you why you should have mastered the art of killing," said Tyra, and launched a tiger-paw strike.
The blonde launched herself forward in an amazing move for one so battered. She bent her arm and caught the crook of Tyra's leading arm in her own. The brunette, surprised, was whipped right off her feet. She howled, landed on her ass, slipped free of Kara's arm, and started sliding out the doorway.
Kara grabbed her wrists (the transport was at a tilt now), hooked a foot behind a seat, and pulled her back in. The transport righted itself. Both women got to their feet.
Tyra was astonished. "Why? Why?" she asked aloud.
"Because killing is the easy way," snapped Kara, her hands up and her body in a defensive position. "And I never do things easy."
The women attacked each other, swung, parried blows, tried takedowns, even catfought. Tyra scratched at Kara's eyes, half-blinding her for a few seconds, and kicked her towards the doorway. Kara pulled an incredible acrobatic flip, startling her opponent. Then she lashed out at Tyra with a klurkor kick that caught her in the gut. She sensed where Tyra was, rather than seeing her. But it worked.
Kara quickly followed through with more blows and kicks, kiaiing repeatedly. Tyra was on the ropes. An elbow smash, then a knee, then a bang up against the transport wall, and finally a big drawback of the right fist that resulted in a terrific haymaker smashing right into the loggy Tyra's jaw.
The villainess slid down the wall of the transport, right next to the doorway.
Kara fireman-carried her over to a seat, strapped her in, and tied her with a restraining line. "Now behave!" she snapped at her unconscious foe.
Then she pulled her way up
the seats, bucking another tilt, till she could wrench the cockpit door
open. She gave her man a glance of concern, then noted through the
window that the mountain was getting very close indeed. Without time
to strap herself in the chair, Kara pulled back on the controls, hailing
the craft straight up into the sky. It climbed, its metal protesting
the strain, as Kara fought to push it high enough to keep its forward motion
from pancaking the
craft into the mountainside.
A few seconds later, the peak slid under them--just--and Kara wrestled the controls down to pull them out of the climb and into a level course.
Just as the transport got back on an even keel, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She whipped her head around, and was relieved to see Lor-Onn, the man she loved, at her side.
"You sure you've got a liscence
for this?" he smiled.
Then there were scenes showing the delivery of the vaccine just in time to save the High Councilman's life, and Kara and Lor seeing Tyra taken off in chains. Tyra screamed that next time Kara would have to kill her to stop her. Kara got in her face and calmly said, "No. That would be the easy way. I'll do it the hard way next time. A lot harder." Tyra rattled her chains in frustration.
There were hollers and whistles of appreciation.
Kara and Lor walked off arm in arm.
The credits rolled and the movie was over.
The lights came up in the Theater Prime 12 of New Kandor on Rokyn. Kara Zor-El, in black dress, silver headband with jewels, and white gloves, smiled, stood, and took her bows beside Nor-Vall, the black-haired leading man of the picture, and the director, Ghi-Sonn III, who had learned a lot by studying imported action movies from Earth.
The applause filled the theater, and it wasn't just a polite response to a visiting star. They loved Kara, and they liked the show. True, she told herself, it wasn't the Great Art Movie, but it was a lot of fun, a good career move, and good money.
It was great, she reflected, to be loved as a woman, rather than as a heroine.
And it was time that acting session she'd done on a soap opera back on Earth was put to use again.
"Give 'em a wave, Kara, the rubes love it," whispered the director. She complied, and the hands banged together with vigor again. Nar-Es and Hira, her manager and handler from her pro wrestling career, beamed and applauded from their nearby seats.
Kara Zor-El. Wrestler, action-movie star, and celebrity. But the roles that gave her most pleasure were two others: woman, and citizen of Rokyn.
On Earth, she had had the most unbelievable powers of any woman on the planet. But she was denied a real life because of those powers. Her attempts to make a civilian career for herself--as a newsperson, as a counsellor, as an actress, even as a grad student--had been frustrated because of "the Supergirl thing". More than once she had wanted to chuck her "Linda Danvers" identity and simply be Supergirl full-time, or, failing that, abandon the Supergirl role.
But Cousin Kal had said no, she must do what he had done, serve humanity in his way. And back then, she did what Cousin Kal said do, because he had come to Earth first, knew his way around, was a hero, and was her friend.
When, by challenge, she came to Rokyn to face Black Flame in a wrestling match and got beaten, it turned out to be the greatest step forward she had ever taken. She could be a woman. She could be part of a society she loved. All she had to do was relinquish her super-powers, under the red sun and heavy gravity of the Kryptonians' new home.
She didn't pull up stakes all at once. But gradually, she realized that Rokyn was the home she had always wanted. A place where she could be something other than Supergirl, or Linda Danvers. A place where she could be Kara Zor-El, and be loved for it...and love herself for it.
Not far from her, in the honored seats, were her parents, Zor-El and Allura, clapping and smiling with pride. Convincing them to accept her career as a wrestler was the hardest step. At first her dad had hit the ceiling, while her mother was tentatively supportive. Then her mother had seen her darling daughter getting the hell knocked out of her in the ring, and screamed to get her baby home. But Zor-El, watching the Black Flame rematch to its end, while aghast at the punishment Kara had to take, realized that his daughter showed guts enough to take it and smarts and brawn enough to come back and win. So he finally said, "If that's what Kara wants to do with her life, I guess we'll have to let her do it, dear."
When Allura realized that Kara was going to do it, approval or not (and this after many arguments with her on the comlink), she finally gave in. Better yet, she became one of Kara's best fans. All along, she was hoping she'd find a nice Rokynian boy and get married. But even Allura realized that, for Kara, her life and career came first.
The Science Council of Rokyn had sent representatives to the showing. Superman was unable to attend but sent a holovid in praise of his cousin, and slyly joking at his miserable showing in a recent tag-team with her. It wasn't the greatest movie in existence, but it was fun, and it was the event of the season.
But none of Kara's relatives, or her coterie, or the Science Council members were aware of two celebs-to-be in their midst, and neither of these could predict how infamous they would become in a few short days.
They were two computer nerds who had come with their parents. Their names were Hal-Lorr and Bar-Bann, both 15 years old, both fighting acne and trying to get girls, at which pursuits they had had microscopic success.
Hal thought the special effects
on the scene where they released the Zoners were so cool.
And he wondered if, just hypothetically, someone could do it for real...
"I know the construction is classified, Bar, but if they can do it, somebody else can backengineer it," Hal explained, his hands pumping air as they talked in Bar's bedroom. A big autographed poster of Kara in a bikini looked down on them from one wall.
Bar, lying on his stomach on the bed, looked up from his girlie comic. "And the somebody else would get his ass thrown in detention for a year, too. You know that, for R's sake!"
Hal whumped down on the bed and grabbed his partner in crime by the head. "Loosen the headband, Bar, it's tightening your brains! I'm not talking about using it to free anybody. I'm talking about building it because we can. As a challenge. And you can use the viewer on it to see those cons. Just think, Jax-Ur, Vakox, General Dru-Zod, all those desperadoes..."
"Faora Hu-Ul," said Bar, grinning ear-to-ear.
"You're hopeless," sighed Hal, and sat on the floor with his back to the bed.
Bar turned on his side. "Hal? What d'you think you'd need to build it?"
"Power element, for one thing. A base-board, plus enough stuff from the electronics store. Projector casing, lens..."
Bar said, "You can't get all that stuff at the electronics store."
"Yeah, but I think I know how to get around it. Cannibalize, substitute. Like Dad said, there's never just one way to build something. Given the principle, you can go at it a million ways."
"The damn thing could blow up in your face," said Bar, dryly, turning the pages of his Zora Vs. Wonder Woman book. The dialogue and sound effects from the story came to him through an earplug. Wonder Woman was losing.
Hal looked at Bar, seriously. "I don't think so. Lately, I've been doing a lot of thinking about it. I get, kind of, insights. I think I know how to figure it out."
Bar, about three inches shorter and twenty pounds heavier than his friend, swung his legs off the bed.
"You think you know how to do this."
"Yeah," said Hal, quietly. "Yeah, I think I can do it."
Bar pulled something from his pants pocket. It was a credit wafer, with his father's name and ID number and all, but Bar's picture and eye-vein patterns in the appropriate places.
"Let's go shopping," he said.
Kara stayed up late that night, talking with Dad, and later that night, talking with Mom.
Zor-El was showing his 50-plus years. His hair was shot through with grey, he sported a mustache, and his paunch had heralded his middle age. His eyes were kind, and yet Kara always saw the haunted look in them...sometimes in Allura's, too.
They had seen Krypton die. They had seen Argo City blown into space by a freak accident, surviving the homeworld by almost twenty years. Like castaways on an island, they were forced to make do with only the land underneath the great plastic bubble, and its resources. Kara was born there, and, for 15 years, knew no other life than looking out and seeing black space and stars. When she had come to Earth, she liked nighttime the best.
But Argo City's people died, all of the Kryptonians they knew, perishing from Kryptonite poisoning. Kara had been rocketed to Earth, entrusted to her cousin Kal-El, now Superman. She had thought for years that her parents were dead, too, but Zor-El had projected himself and his wife into the Survival Zone, a dimension akin to the Phantom Zone. There they had lived for several years, until they contrived to release themselves from that place, with the help of Supergirl and her foster father, Fred Danvers.
Then Zor-El had gone with his wife to Kandor, the tiny bottle-city of Kryptonians, the last in existence. As mites, they lived there for more than a decade. Kara and Kal-El visited them there frequently. They were finally among their own again. Kara always hated to leave.
At the end of that, Kandor
had been enlarged once again on the Krypton-like world of Rokyn.
Zor-El had done his best to help establish Kryptonian civilization on that
frontier world, and was pleased with what he saw. It was not Krypton.
But it was a new beginning. Already, the border towns were like something
from a Wild West movie, with some others implanted
precariously in jungle lands, and other Rokynians taking to the sea in ships.
But none, as yet, wanted to travel to the stars. They loved Rokyn too much for that.
Whenever Superman and Supergirl went to Israel on diplomatic trips, they told the story of Rokyn to their listeners, and all of their audience understood.
"I never knew it'd happen again," said Zor-El, shaking his head. "I never knew we'd get another Krypton. And I pray to Rao we don't lose this one."
"We won't, Dad," confirmed Kara, taking his hand. "Not as long as we hold it strongly enough. This world is the one we'll keep."
Zor looked more than his sixty years of age. "Kara, Kara. If only. I saw a whole world die, and billions upon billions of people with it. Then I saw Argo City die. Then I spent those years in that phantom dimension. Then it was Earth, and then Kandor, and now here. How transitory! The only thing constant has been my life, and yours, and your mother's. Sometimes I wonder why Rao has kept me alive so long. Then I look out my window and see this world, and I know the reason why."
He thumbed the curtain control. Both of them looked at the countryside surrounding the house. Zor-El spoke again.
"It's another frontier planet,"
he said. "Try as we might, we never totally populated Krypton.
As many of us as there were, there was more of it. And there are
so few of us today. The government's giving cash bonuses to women
who bear three or more children. Are there other people out there,
somewhere? We don't know. Is there something waiting out there
world, just waiting to wipe us out? We don't know. At least, I don't know."
Kara waited for what she knew he was going to say next. Unseen by both of them, Allura leaned against the open doorway to the room, and waited as well.
"But I do know this. I'm glad I've lived to see this world, and I'm glad I have the best wife and daughter in all creation here to see me through it all. I've got twenty to forty years of life left, Kara. You'll have twenty to forty years beyond that. You're making them count. Rao, Kara, keep making them count. But don't wait forever before you fall in love. Will you promise me that?"
Kara put her arm around his shoulder. "No promises, Dad. But I'll try to find somebody. And you've got a lot of life ahead of you, too, and so does Mom. I'm so damn glad I'm here on this world to share it with you."
Allura's eyes were shining. Still unseen, she turned and went back to her office room.
Bar and Hal waited in the electronics store while the clerk gave them the eye. They suspected that the identity card had been scanned long ago, and passed, but he still looked at them like they were trying to buy liquor.
"Son, I sure hope your daddy has credits to cover all of this, and knows what you're doing," he said at last. "I sure as Sheol would hate to see both of you up on charges. Tell me one more time: is this your money?"
"It is, sir," said Bar.
After all, it was his money. He'd just had it transferred from his
account this morning.
"All right, then." The clerk handed the packages to them. He swept his white hair away from his headband, which was pinching like the devil this morning. It always did when he felt trouble coming on, or storms. "And sonny?"
Both boys looked back at him, almost at the door.
"Next time you buy stuff like this...do it someplace else."
Bar and Hal stepped like soldiers on parade out the door and onto the walkway.
A hundred yards down the street, Hal said, "Look back of us. Is he looking at us?"
"No," said Bar.
"Good. Then I wanna run!"
"You're not running," said Bar, grabbing Hal's upper arm. "You're gonna play cool, and not act like some babootch in the jungle. Show some bandwidth, will ya? You never know who's watching."
"Yeah. All right. Let's take it to my house, all right? I've got stuff there in my lab. We take it to your place, your dad will start wondering about your great new aptitude for electronics."
"Up yours, thought-beast. You oughtta have one of those thought-screens up over your head like those animals do. As if anybody didn't know what you were thinking all the time, anyway."
"Yeah," said Hal. "And if you had one, all it'd show is girls."
"Getting any more insights, thought-beast?"
"More and more all the time," said Hal. "Let's get this set up."
Alarm viber. A hum filled Kara's head, emanating from the little adhesive chip she had placed near her ear. "All right, all right," she snapped, peeling the viber off. You only used the thing when you really needed to get up in time for an appointment.
She hauled herself out of the four-poster bed, a replica of the one she'd had on Earth, and smoothed out the sheets before slipping into robe and slippers. Kara was pleasant to be around, except for the first few minutes of the morning. She went to the john, then turned her face to the mirror and let the cleansing low-level particle-blast do a number on her teeth.
"Nar, I 'ant t' kih you," she muttered as best she could with open mouth while the 30-second burst was in operation. Then the face washing, the hair-combing, the life-mask held against her face to apply the makeup, eye-shadow, and lipstick just so, and Kara Zor-El was ready to face the world.
A corner of the mirror blinked a readout telling her she had a message from Nar-Es. She touched a section for "audio only". "Nar, I still want to kill you," she said.
"That's my girl," he replied. "Before you do, don't forget your appointment at the studios today. Bye!"
"Au revoir, Nar," she said, and hoped he thought it was a cuss phrase.
Kara threw on a yellow and brown jumpsuit and brown boots and got ready to face the world.
An hour's drive later, she was at Ar-Rom Studios, getting ten minutes' time from To-Bin, the chief flunky of the Man himself. She liked the tall, skinny, balding guy with the cultured voice and put-upon manner. He reminded her of Mel Cooley from the old DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.
"High points, Kara," he said, prodding a hand-held compscreen. "The test audience: impressed. 21st Century on Earth wants it. They still hold option on whether it gets theatrical or direct to vid, but we'll get money either way. Quote: 'Not a Spielberg, but a lot of fun.' Who's Spielberg? Never mind. Right after this, go to Lot 29 for stills. Regular dress and bikini. After that, you've got looping to do. A Helen Slater movie. Got it?"
"It's all yours if you'll get me a flamebird on a croissant with mayo for lunch," smiled Kara, doggedly.
"Got it," replied To-Bin, punching it on his screen. "By the way, Rol-Lor says thank you again for that autographed pic for his kid. You know, the tech guy that worked on the mechanical drang."
Kara remembered. "Oh, yeah, him. Nice guy. He was at the preview, right?"
"Yeah. Him and his kid, and his neighbor's kid. Hal's a nerd like his dad. Bar, the other kid, is gonna grow up to be a money-pusher. Or worse, a director. Go give the happysnappers a thrill, Kara."
She struck a beleaguered-artist's pose in jest. "Ah, what we great artists won't lower ourselves to when we go commercial. I was better off beating up thugs on little old Earth."
Shortly after that, Kara was posing for a still photographer, eating up all the attention she was getting. Rokynian photography was the 3-D version, accomplished with lasers at low intensity. A bikini-clad Kara went through a number of glamour shots for Hi-Lor, the boy-wonder photographer.
"Got it, Karaish," he said, in a tone that was too familiar for her liking. But she thought he was okay, for an 18-year-old brat. "I'm finished. But I've gotta ask you something."
She folded her arms and waited.
"Do you ever miss the old
days on Earth? You know, zipping around in those red hotpants, moving
mountains and punching it up with bad guys?" He waited expectantly
for the answer.
Kara smiled. He was a fan, after all.
"Well, Hi, that's not an easy one to answer," she said, putting on her dressing gown. "Put it this way: I've gone through a lot of phases and stages in my life, a lot more than most people, and I've learned when to let one go and jump onto the next. I spent my first fifteen years in a city among the stars. Then I lost them, thought I'd lost my parents, and had to learn to live two new lives on Earth. I had to pass as an Earthgirl, and I had to be a super-heroine. Neither of which, by the way, was the real me.
"Then I came here, and I found a place where I could be Kara. Not Supergirl, or Linda Danvers, but Kara. I had to give up a lot, sure, and I had to learn a new career, a new life. I'm learning a new one right now. But I know how to do it. You know, maturity isn't something that ends at 21. You're always doing it, kid. It never stops." She went over and bussed him on the cheek. Hi-Lor was in heaven.
"I hope that knowledge doesn't scare you, Hi. It's just stages, that's all. Phases and stages." She turned and went to her dressing room, got her eyes laser-scanned for admittance, and went in to dress.
Hi had to ask one more question.
"What if something happens here, like it does on Earth?
Something really big, Superman-size?"
"Then we'll call the armada, Nightwing and Flamebird, and maybe a Green Lantern if we can find one," responded Kara, inside the room. "From here on in, I'm just a heroine in the movies."
Hi considered it. "Hope you're right, Karaish," he said.
Bar watched, with the awe of a nontechnophile, as Hal soldered in the last connection to the power source. It was done.
It sure didn't look as pretty as the model the authorities used. But even so, to Bar it looked scary as Sheol. This was the Kryptonian equivalent of an electric chair or gas chamber. It didn't kill. But it did remove a victim from the known universe.
Once inside, all you had for neighbors were Jax-Ur, El Gar Kur, the Great Gazor, General Dru-Zod, Kull-Ex, and all the others that got sent up for everything from plotting planetary conquest to mass murder. The only good guy there was Mon-El, and, let out into the real world, he would die of lead poisoning within minutes.
There was also Faora Hu-Ul. Bar had been fascinated by her, but frightened as well. She was a hot babe, all right, with the looks of a Rokyn movie queen--Supergirl's opposite number. She was also a mass murderess, and one of the deadliest mistresses of Klurkor, Krypton's martial art. If she had not been hurt by Az-Rel's flames beforehand, in her one encounter with Supergirl, Kara probably wouldn't have been able to beat her...at least, not with one punch.
All they wanted was to look at the bad guys. A prison tour, to see their Dillingers and Pretty Boy Floyds. But you couldn't make the viewer work without the power element that made the projector work, as well. And Bar wondered, all of a sudden, why Hal had created working controls for the projector as well.
Hal was shaking his head, then holding it between his hands. "Whoo! Feels like I got a hundred bees in my brain. Uh..."
"You want some water or a Reg-En ray, Hal?" said Bar, moving closer.
"Nah, nah, I'm okay." He looked up. He didn't look okay.
"Hal, maybe this is, like, not such a great idea. We could turn this over to the cops. They'd probably let us off with a warning and bust this thing up."
Hal looked at his friend as if he were a urine specimen. "Bust it up? I built it! We're not gonna bust anything up!"
Hal stepped up, standing between Bar and the projector. Bar looked at him. Hal didn't look like he was in any mood for small talk. And despite his slight build, Bar sensed, somehow, that taking anything away from him right now would be a hard task indeed.
There were two buttons on the projector, and two on the viewer on top of it, plus an activator switch. Hal turned and flipped on the activator. There was a slight whirring noise as the Phantom Zone projector powered up.
"Hal, are you okay? I really don't like this," said Bar.
"I'm okay...I'm okay..."
said Hal, a little laboredly. He rubbed his temples. "Wanna
"Hal, I'm not so sure I wanna see the Zoners now."
"I built this thing and I wanna see the R**damn Zoners!" shrieked Hal.
Bar leaped for the projector.
Hal swung his arm in a perfect Klurkor strike. Not enough to kill, but enough to hurt. Bar took it on the side of the head and flopped down. He had never been so hurt by a blow from another human being. But he was still awake.
Hal looked like a zombie.
"Wanna see the Zoners," Hal said, and reached his hand out to the projector.
"Hal, don't!" screamed Bar, trying to get up.
Hal's finger stabbed out.
It hovered over the viewer activation button. But it veered off after a second, and went to one of the other buttons.
Bar pulled himself up, staggered over, and tackled his friend. Both went over in a heap, and the projector, knocked off, went flying, hit the wall, and conked out.
But an instant before that, a burst of white light had come from its lamp.
Bar was on top of Hal, holding him down. Hal looked a lot less zombie-like now. "What's happening?" asked Hal. "What are you doing? What'd I do?"
Five female fingers closed firmly but gently on Bar's shoulder. He was pulled up. He didn't want to look at who those fingers belonged to, but he did, and his knees turned into chewing gum.
Three other people stood in the room.
"Exactly what we told you to, boy," said Faora Hu-Ul very softly, with a smile.