Trolling The Galaxy, Part 3

Never before had sailing her small boat on the Pacific ocean made Reya feel so tense. She simply sat at the bow and stared sadly at the stern, where Natalie stood, watching the wind toss the waves below. The mood between them was far from happy. They were both terrified.

This time, their trip out onto the ocean wasn’t for pleasure. The two were hiding – and at Sharon’s urgent suggestion, they left land quickly for their own safety…for Natalie’s safety…while their friend did some reconnaissance.

Between the two of them, Sharon was the weaker – which worried Reya – but she also knew that Sharon was very adept at gathering information while keeping a low profile…or in short, spying. It was how she safely kept tabs on nearly every being living on Earth who wasn’t native to the planet, and chronicled each.

“I feel like we’ve been out here forever,” Natalie said, almost in a humorous manner. Reya had to smile in spite of her own mood. Natalie was like that – always the one to use humor to break a melancholy mood. It was one of her Terran-like traits.

“It’s only for a couple of hours. Sharon will call when she thinks it’s safe–”

As if to punctuate Reya’s words, the phone rang, causing her to jump suddenly. She almost dropped her cell phone into the water as she answered it. “Yes?”

Natalie watched her mom’s face change quickly from hopeful to sadness. She nodded slowly as she talked on the phone, each time bowing her head further so her long hair would hide her reaction from Natalie.

“What?” Natalie asked, as soon as her mom put the phone down.

Reya sighed. “Sharon found a Messenger. It turns out that the Arions do know about you, and they want to–”

“They want to capture me, right? Or kill me?” Natalie stood up and walked across the length of the boat, kneeling beside her mom. Reya was shaking with fear…terrified that she would lose Natalie. “Mom, I won’t let that happen. I promise.”

“How?” Reya placed her face in her hands and rubbed her eyes slowly. “How will you stop them? Natalie, you’re only barely stronger than a Terran, and just as Earth-bound–”

“Not anymore.”

Reya watched in amazement as Natalie slowly rose from the deck of the boat, until her feet were a yard above the deck. She even did a quick mid-air somersault, and laughed about it as well. “How…when…?”

“I don’t know. It happened after I left school.” Natalie dropped back to the deck gently, trying her best not to jar the boat too much. “I was running…faster than cars on the street. I leapt to avoid something and…”

“…And you went airborne.” Reya nodded. “It was the stress. It forced you to use abilities you’ve never had to before.”

“That’s nothing, mom. Watch this!”

Natalie rose from the deck of the small boat once again, this time more slowly, and to a much higher level. The wind whipped through her dark hair as she twisted around and headed out over the waves of the ocean. The wind seemed to follow her as she went, tossing her hair and clothing as she passed a few yards above the water.

Reya gasped as she watched Natalie’s flight go from simple beauty to utter amazement. A wake formed in the water below her, as if she was dragging an invisible boat along the water with her. Reya could feel a breeze moving away from Natalie as she made a small circle, the wake below her tossing the boat mercilessly atop waves generated by forces usually only available in nature.

That’s when it occurred to her – her daughter was able to project energy outward much more efficiently now. Natalie not only could will herself fly…but she herself could become a force of nature if she so desired. All of a sudden, Natalie’s limited power reserve seemed like a trivial effect of nature.

Once Natalie returned gently to the boat, she smiled as she watched her mom breathing quickly, looking up at her daughter with surprise. “I know, I know. It’s a little weird, isn’t it?”

“No, absolutely not.” Reya shook her head as she stood quickly to hug her daughter. “It’s wonderful. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

Natalie smiled. “I learned something cool. I can control all of it with my mind. The size of the wake, the air around me…”

“Oh my God.” Reya sat down again quickly and ran her hands through her hair. “That’s what they meant.”

“That’s what who meant?” Natalie sat down next to Reya, looking a little worried.

“The creators of the Velorian race. Our bodies were given to us as gifts…but our minds are ours to develop. But all through school, we’re taught that there is a tradeoff. I never understood what that meant…until now.”

“So…What I’m missing physically is more than made up for?”

Reya nodded. “You’re the next step, Natalie. You use the energy you tap much more efficiently than I can, which is why you don’t need as much.”

“So…” Natalie sat down on a bench along the port side of the boat. “…Maybe I could visit where you grew up one day? Meet my grandpa for the first time, ever?”

“I really don’t know, now.” Reya sighed and looked behind her at the setting sun. She glanced at her cell phone again, wishing Sharon would call already. “Anything’s possible, I guess. I just woudn’t want to risk it until we’re sure.”

“Mom, I’m just a teenager.” Natalie smiled and leaned back against the edge of the boat. “I have plenty of time.”

Reya smiled. “I sure hope so, Natalie.”

Natalie’s smile disappeared as she saw fear cross her mom’s eyes. She slid over next to Reya, and hugged her as best as she could. “Everything will be okay, mom. I promise.”

“I can’t promise anything, Reya.” Sharon’s voice sounded a little panicked as she spoke to her friend over the phone.

She had just given Reya some very bad news – that the Arion she was shadowing had managed to attract the attention of the Los Angeles Police and FBI, and were currently holding an evacuated hotel downtown hostage.

But that’s not what frightened Sharon. Normally, an Arion would simply plow its way through the police barricade and continue on its way. This one was cunning, and very methodical. She had a plan – she wasn’t killing just for sport.

“Reya, if the cops go in, they’ll be killed. You have to help.”

At the other end of the phone line, Reya held her cell phone with two shaking hands, looking up at Natalie. She spoke half into the phone, and half to Natalie. “But…what about Natalie? What if I don’t make it through this alive? You know I’m out of practice.”

Natalie frowned and walked away from Reya, toward the other end of the boat. She sat down and folded her arms, staring across at her mother, making no secret of the anger she was trying to express.

Reya eyed her daughter feeling worried as she clung to the small cell phone with both hands, only half-listening to Sharon. The last words she remembered Sharon say were, ‘You wanted your daughter to grow up in a place like this…now you have to fight for it.’


“Mom–” Natalie’s first word sounded like an accusation as she stood and gave Reya a frustrated sigh. “Sharon’s right. You have to protect Earth before you protect me. It’s your destiny.”

“No.” Reya shook her head. “You mean everything to me, Natalie. If you were hurt–”

“Then why am I here?” Natalie picked up a soft drink can she had left nearby, hurtling it out over the ocean, watching it sail through the air until it disappeared from view. “Why did you bring me into this world, only to watch everything you’ve ever wanted be destroyed?”

“If I’m the cause of this world’s destruction–” Natalie sat back down, curling into a ball as she turned away from her mom to do her best to hide the tears she was trying hard to hold back. “–I don’t want to live anymore.”

Reya stood, her mouth hanging open, as she watched her daughter rocking gently at the opposite end of the boat. As Natalie’s words echoed in her mind, she began to feel numb all over. Where could she have gone wrong? But then it was clear to her…she hadn’t gone wrong. She taught Natalie to stand up for herself and fight for her beliefs. The thought of her mom violating those beliefs, considering running and hiding, seemed wrong to Natalie.

And she was right.

Reya hovered high above the Five Star Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, as of yet unnoticed by the police and SWAT team surrounding the building on the streets below. She took a deep breath – and immediately felt a little constricted.

For the first time in years, she wore a form-fitting silvery outfit made of metallic fabric – it was the same one she had arrived on Earth wearing over sixteen years ago…and she was surprised that it still fit. Having lived a mostly civilian life on Earth, it never occurred to her to wear the outfit…until now.

She watched the hotel from above as the wind blew through her hair. It seemed so…normal. From the outside, it was hard to tell that a creature capable of reducing the building to rubble in mere seconds was within. For all it seemed, it could have simply been a single human being with a gun keeping police at bay.

But when she spotted Sharon standing on the curb across the street, she realized that it was no false alarm. Inside that hotel was destruction incarnate…and Reya was the only one who could stop her.

She descended to the roof slowly, trying as best as she could to land without a sound, racing to the stairway door quickly as she heard a police helicopter approach. It was best, at this point, to remain undetected to prevent the officers from deciding unwisely to race into the building to rescue her.

It was a stroke of luck, however, that the helicopter happened to fly overhead. It appeared to be circling a suite at one corner of the hotel – which saved Reya the trouble of having to search for the room where the Arion hid.

Her hands began shaking now as she tiptoed down the carpeted hallway, trying her best not to alert the woman she was stalking of her presence. She had to move silently, her soulless silvery boots making soft impressions in the plush red carpet with each step. She considered flying, but she realized that it would cause wind to rush down the narrow hall, alerting the Arion for sure.

She stopped suddenly and stared at a blue painted door, noting light oozing from beneath it, shivering from head to toe as she reached back her fist to punch through the gold chrome door lock. She stared at the white wall next to the door for a moment, noting the small torch lamp hanging alongside the door. Reya’s memory rushed back to her police training – never, ever rush through a door. A perpetrator would always be expecting that.

Reya smiled as she pondered that thought, and stared at the wall. Luckily, she had one trick up her sleeve that wasn’t in any police handbook.

A quick leap sent her to the room next door, a slight bit of pressure against its door admitting her to the room with little more than a muffled ‘crunch’. She raced in, and looked around – empty, lucky for her. She walked backwards between the twin beds, aiming herself directly at the television set on the opposite wall.

Confidence finally began to dominate her thoughts, and adrenaline gave her the strength she needed, emotionally, and physically, to break through her fears and do what needed to be done. She raised her arms in front of her, and launched herself at the television…and in an instant, she crashed through into the next room.

Reya only caught a glimpse of a dark-haired blue-eyed woman in blue jeans and a white sweater before the room became entirely filled with a cloud of plaster dust. She tried to reach for the last place she saw the woman…but no one was there any longer.

It didn’t take Reya long to find her, though…in a manner of seconds, she found herself in a headlock, her face forced down to the surface of the bed. She heard a female voice speak a language she didn’t understand, and felt paralyzed…it was some kind of immobilizing hold used by a seasoned warrior. At that moment, Reya knew she was in serious trouble.

“Where is she? Where’s mom?”

Sharon didn’t even bother to turn around as she heard Natalie behind her. She simply pointed up at the top floor of the hotel, toward a room on one corner…and almost on cue, glass from one of the windows rained down to the street below, causing police to run for cover.

But that was when Sharon realized something was amiss. “Natalie, what are you doing here? You’re supposed to stay out of sight!”

Natalie scoffed. “I’m supposed to stay home while mom’s being killed by some alien? I don’t think so.”

“I don’t think it’s that bad. Maybe Reya’s winning.” Sharon frowned and looked up at the hotel room, and shivered at the sudden silence. A real fight should be doing a lot more damage. She looked at Natalie, unwittingly revealing the fear she felt in her eyes. “Or…maybe not.”

“I’m going up there.” Natalie stepped toward the street, but found herself stopped quickly by Sharon. “I have to help her, Sharon.”

Sharon shook her head slowly. “You have no idea what you’re up against, Natalie. Your mom is a lot stronger than you are…a LOT. If she’s losing to this alien, you don’t have a chance.”

“But maybe the two of us together–”

“No!” Sharon gripped Natalie’s shoulder even tighter. Her eyes seemed desperate to try and convince Natalie. “You’ll die…she’ll kill you almost instantly, Natalie. I promised Reya I’d look after you…I can’t let you go into certain death.”

Natalie took a deep breath, her eyes never wavering as she stared at Sharon. She grabbed Sharon’s hand, seeming almost like she was going to peel it off of her shoulder…but instead, she held it in her own smaller hands tightly. “Sharon…we both know what we have to do.”

Sharon closed her eyes and turned away. Natalie was right…and she knew it. She was simply trying to deny what seemed to be destiny. When her eyes reopened, Natalie was still staring at her, waiting…demanding an answer as if she already knew what it would be. Sharon sighed…she knew as well. Her hand tightened around Natalie’s as she looked up at the hotel room above.

“Let’s go.”

“Are you sure this is the place?”

A blonde woman dressed in head to toe in a silvery form-fitting costume, complete with a cape and boots, turned to face a man who was suspended from one of her arms, as she held him airborne by his belt. They hovered in the clouds several hundred stories above the Five Star Hotel…but the blonde woman was unaware of the reason why there were so many police around the building – it was merely convenient that she could snatch one of the officers and raise him high above.

He nodded quickly…and that was all she needed to drop quickly – faster than the fastest elevator on Earth – and deposit him on the roof of the hotel, before rebounding quickly back to the clouds.

She had only arrived on Earth a few minutes ago, her mission simple. She had been pulled from duty as Protector of a quiet nearby planet, sent by the Velorian Council to retrieve the Protector assigned to Earth, Reya’ann, and her rumored daughter.

The only information she had was that Reya’ann lived in Los Angeles, and she was a police officer. It was simply luck that police officers happened to gather at the one place where she had managed to track an Arion using local news reports as a guide. It was simple enough to guess, given the level of destruction and death noted by the reports.

And her luck didn’t run out there. She watched from above as a tall blonde woman and a dark haired teen entered through the front door of the hotel. A minute or two later, chunks of the hotel flew from the upper corner room – a battle was in progress, most likely between the planet’s protector and the Arion.

She turned upside down quickly, and aimed herself at the roof above the corner room like a missile, accelerating purposely to try and enter and hit the Arion before she had a chance to even make a move to protect herself.

As plaster, concrete and steel rained down around the seasoned Protector, she inverted her flight quickly and aimed herself directly at a pair of blue eyes shining at her from behind black hair and clouds of dust. She slammed into the Arion, embedding her into a concrete dividing wall.

She turned her attention to a blonde woman in the room, who was lying motionless on the floor, surrounded by shattered glass and wood. The woman was unconscious – and the Protector had arrived just in time to prevent her death.

But then came her first unlucky moment. Just as the Arion freed herself, the blonde and the teen from downstairs entered the room. She recognized the blonde as Shara’lynn, a Scribe – no match for an Arion warrior. Reya’ann was still unconscious – which meant that the Scribe and the teen were extremely vulnerable. There was only one Protector now between them and death.

And almost as if she were able to sense the Protector’s thoughts, the Arion immediately homed in on the weakest of the four people in the room – the dark haired teen. The Protector moved quickly to try and intercept…but not quick enough.

Then came a surprise. She watched as the Arion charged the teen…but seemed to freeze in mid-stride before she managed to reach her. The teen stared at her intently, one hand in front of her as if she were conducting some kind of force. The Arion seemed angry as she tried to fight something, and cursed in her native language…yet she couldn’t budge.

That’s when the Protector realized…the teen was Reya’ann’s daughter. And just as the Velorian Council’s genetic computers predicted, her power was indeed focused by her mind more than her body. She was very efficient in focusing energy from across the Rift.

“Scribe Shara’lynn, I am Protector Kara’shar, sent by Council. I demand to know what is going on.”

Sharon shook her head as she circled around Natalie and the Arion, still trapped in suspended animation. Natalie didn’t acknowledge either Sharon or Kara’shar, she seemed to be in deep concentration. “I’m as confused as you are.”

The Protector stared for a few seconds, watching the Arion struggle. She did her best not to laugh – she most likely never had to deal with anything like this during Arion warrior training. “Who is she?”

“Her name is Natalie. And I’m sorry, but I won’t tell you anything else about her. I’m bound by a promise.”

Kara’shar stared at Natalie for a few seconds before finally barking an order. “Release the Arion, Natalie.”

“No.” Natalie barely acknowledged the Protector as she remained completely motionless, her eyes remaining fixed on the Arion she held in mid-air a few feet in front of her.

“She can’t,” Sharon volunteered, “If she releases the Arion she’ll die…unless someone’s holding the Arion back.”

“No–” Natalie tried to shake her head slowly without breaking her concentration. “Mom…Get mom out of here.”

Without another word, Sharon nodded and raced over to where Reya was still lying on the floor, unconscious. She had very little energy stored within her – she felt heavy as Sharon lifted her and carried her into the hallway, over her shoulder like a firefighter.

She ran straight down the hall, and kicked in the door of a room as far from ground zero as possible, almost throwing Reya onto the bed. There wasn’t time to be gentle – she had to return to the Arion’s room quickly, and snatch Natalie out of there before whatever power she was using to hold the Arion gave out.

But when Sharon returned, she found something else instead – the Arion had already been released…but she wasn’t attacking Natalie or the Kara’shar. She was calmly sitting on the floor, looking from the Protector to Natalie, and then to Sharon.

The Arion seemed rather childlike and lost sitting there. It was as if she were a runaway just trying to find her way home, rather than one of the most violent and destructive killing machines in the universe.

“Natalie, what’s going on…?” Sharon looked at Kara’shar, hoping for an explanation.

“The power of irony,” Natalie replied, as she turned to face Sharon. “She’s my age. And get this…her name is Terra.”

Sharon looked down at the Arion, who stared back up with determined eyes. “Why did you release her?”

“Because she asked nicely.” Natalie smiled, and almost laughed, as she grabbed Sharon’s arm and pulled her closer. “Come here…Don’t worry, she promised to stop fighting.”

“And you trust her…?” Sharon’s voice trailed off as she leaned closer to the Arion, looking up at Sharon with a hint of fear and contempt in her eyes. “Terra…why are you here?”

“I was…sent to…” The young Arion stopped in mid-sentence, finally giving up trying to make her point in broken English. Instead, she pointed at Natalie. “Her. My people want–”

“–To kill her?” Sharon attempted to finish the sentence for Terra, noting that the Arion seemed to bow her head as she nodded. She looked at the rather fancy, yet torn suit that Terra wore. It was most likely stolen from the first store which the Arion encountered immediately after arriving on Earth.

Natalie smiled and folded her arms. “Fat chance of that happening. She’s one of their elite warriors, and even she couldn’t come near me.”

“I failed.” Terra kept her head bowed as she spoke softly and stared at the floor. “My people will…kill–”

Sharon and Natalie looked at each other almost simultaneously. It would be just like the Arions to kill one of their best-bred warriors because she failed to complete one objective. Sharon watched as Natalie stepped closer to the Arion, and sat on the floor in front of her. She tried to stop Natalie – but was immediately waved away by the teen.

“You didn’t fail.” Natalie spoke softly as she sat only a foot from Terra. “You learned. And you don’t have to die, Terra. You can stay here.”

“Natalie!” Sharon shared a frightened look with Kara’shar. The idea of an Arion warrior living on Earth was terrifying. Natalie obviously had no idea what she was getting into. “We can’t, Natalie. We simply can’t–”

“Yes, we can!” Natalie’s voice was forceful, angry, as she turned her head to look at Sharon with her determined blue eyes. “She has as much right to be here as you do, Sharon. We don’t belong here, either. If there’s one thing mom has always taught me about this place…it’s a haven.”

“This, Sharon–” Natalie pointed at Terra and rose to her feet quickly, facing Sharon. “–Is your huddled mass yearning to be free. What’s she going to do…go home and face death? Or maybe you’re prepared to go against everything you believe in and kill her?”

With those last two words, Natalie briefly cast a threatening glance in Kara’shar’s direction, almost daring her to move a muscle and take that challenge. But not even the seasoned Protector could break her conditioning to do just what her title implied – protect, not murder.

“So–” Sharon looked at Kara’shar, and then at the Arion and Natalie. “What do we do?”

Reya awoke with a blinding headache, opening her eyes to a room spinning out of control. She sat up quickly, blinking a few times to try and stabilize herself before slowly rising and balancing herself on her feet. Once she began moving, slowly, she began to feel a little bit better – except for the pounding headache. Having such quick healing ability was a big bonus to being born Velorian.

She stepped out into the hallway, and began to home in on distant voices she heard echoing down the hallway. She recognized two of them – Sharon, and her own daughter Natalie. But there was another female voice, and another speaking in broken English. Either one of the other two could be the Arion.

A twinge of fear burned down her spine as that last thought crossed her mind. An Arion, in the same room with Natalie. That couldn’t be a good thing. Natalie could be–

She shook her head to dismiss that thought, and mustered all of her strength to race down the hallway toward the voices. She couldn’t move at her top speed yet – her muscles and bones were much too sore, and she felt her energy level waning quickly.

But as she rounded one last corner and headed into the corner hotel room blindly, she found exactly the opposite of what she expected.

A teen with black hair and blue eyes, wearing a torn, expensive dark blue suit, sat cross-legged on the floor in the center of the room – Reya recognized her as the Arion who had attacked her earlier. Natalie stood above her, looking angry…but not at the Arion. Sharon stood in front of Natalie, looking at Reya as she entered. And there was another tall, well-tanned blonde with blue eyes in the room – a Protector sent by Velor, no doubt.

Reya took a step back toward the hallway as the Protector moved toward her. She instinctively knew that the Velorian had been sent by Council to retrieve her and Natalie. It was something she knew would happen for a while…it was only a matter of time.

“Hold it right there, Kara’shar,” Natalie threatened the Protector. This time, however, Natalie wasn’t fast enough to stop her before she snatched Reya by the throat, lifting her several inches off of the ground.

Natalie wrapped her arm around the Protector’s neck from behind, and tried, in vain, to force her to release her mom. She tried biting into Kara’shar’s shoulder…but the Velorian’s skin was too tough even for her teeth. “Let her go, or I’ll kill you!”

Sharon almost laughed at Natalie’s threat as she tried to intervene – but the seasoned Protector was stronger than both Reya and Sharon put together. Sharon found herself easily shoved across the room into an opposite wall. Natalie was then tossed across the room like a stuffed toy, bouncing off of the far edge of the bed and knocking over the nightstand.

“You hurt my friend.”

Sharon froze as she watched Terra slowly rise to her feet and approach Kara’shar. The Arion gripped the Protector’s left arm and began twisting. Sharon could hear tendons and muscles stretching to their limit, some tearing…and then the Arion drew back a fist, aimed directly at Kara’shar’s face.

“No! Stop!”

Terra froze and turned to look at Natalie, who had just risen from the corner she had collapsed into seconds earlier. She was still unharmed.

“Enough. No more killing.”

“You must be reasonable. It is my job to bring Reya and Natalie back with me.” Kara’shar winced as Terra responded to her by twisting her arm even further.

“Look who’s talking about reasonable?” Natalie vaulted over the bed and stood in front of Kara’shar, who showed pain on her face. Her eyes met Terra’s, and she nodded, signalling Terra to loosen her grip on the Protector. “Did you think about how you’d get me to Velor? Fact is, I’d never survive the trip.”

Kara’shar looked lost for a moment as her eyes tried to verify the truth of Natalie’s words with Sharon, who responded by nodding slowly. Her confidence suddenly seemed lost as she sighed deeply frowned at Reya, who stood at the opposite end of the room. “What am I to do? I…I can’t just ignore–”

“Yes, you can,” Sharon volunteered. “I’m a Scribe, a first-hand witness to everything that goes on around me. Let me tell you…Velor’s information about Reya and Natalie is seriously outdated.”

For the first time since she arrived, Kara’shar laughed. Natalie smiled, too – she seemed amused that a seasoned protector, someone who she pictured as a walking destructive force, would even have a sense of humor. She looked at Terra, who still appeared sad as she still held onto the Protector’s arm, yet only barely. She seemed to be losing concentration, as if her mind was elsewhere.

“Sharon, do you think we can set Terra up someplace so she can get used to living here?”

Both Sharon and Kara’shar seemed upset by Natalie’s suggestion. They both simply froze for a moment before turning to look at each other. The mere thought of an Arion living on such a fragile planet went against everything they had ever been taught. Reya, on the other hand, simple smiled in a self-satisfied way. Her daughter had indeed learned from this planet’s peaceful nature.

Perhaps Natalie was right, Sharon thought. Unfortunately, in the Arion quest for better breeding of warriors, they let some intelligence slip through – enough so their young missionary, sent to destroy and maim, seemed more like a homesick and lonely kid than an angry and destructive cyborg.

And Sharon, for one, wondered just what Natalie did to cause the Arion to stop fighting. “Natalie, what did you say to Terra to get her to stop?”

Natalie smiled as she gently took Terra’s arm in her hand, and led her out toward the hallway. She shrugged as Sharon followed. “I just asked her if she wanted to go home.”

Getting an Arion warrior past a police line was never easier. Since none of the cops had gotten close enough to her to identify her, their description came out of legend more than reality. They were seeking a six-foot, 150-pound dark haired thirty-something woman in a blue suit.

So, of course, they did nothing when a police officer they all knew, Reya Prince, walked right through the police line in civilian clothing – supplied by Sharon – with her daughter, and a fairly small dark-haired teenager, now wearing blue jeans and a tee-shirt ‘borrowed’ from the hotel’s first-floor gift shop. Following them was a woman the officers also knew well enough as Reya’s best friend Sharon.

For effect, Reya grabbed a blanket from a nearby rescue unit and tossed it over Terra’s shoulders. To anyone watching, Reya seemed like a hero, as she emerged from a building under siege by some virtually unknown person, with a rescued teenager under her wing. It worked all too well – as she headed through the crowd of police officers, some began cheering, and offering her handshakes.

Natalie kept one hand tightly on Terra’s left arm. She was becoming a little concerned, as the Arion teen seemed frightened by all of the attention. Natalie’s tight grip would give the Arion both a little warning, and a little reassurance.

Once they cleared the crowd and disappeared around a corner, the four formed a chain and headed for the skies. And just as she promised, they spotted Kara’shar bolting from the roof of the hotel, providing a much needed distraction. The cops would be watching that for a while.

By the time they reached Reya’s home, it was almost midnight. The streets were completely silent, enough so the sounds of their various types of sneakers contacting the sidewalk upon their landing echoed off of the neighboring houses and cars parked on the street.

Reya headed inside first, and for some unknown reason, Terra followed quickly. Sharon started to wonder if she had a fear of open space – it was possible, since Arions often raised the level of paranoia of their warriors to make them more dangerous.

“Natalie–” Sharon grabbed her shoulder to stop her before she entered the house. Natalie turned around, her smile disappearing when she realized that Sharon was about to ask her a very serious question. “You do know that she killed Allen, don’t you?”

“I know.” Natalie sighed deeply, looking down for a moment as she paused in thought. “But…revenge has to stop somewhere, you know? Or pretty soon…everyone ends up dead.”

Sharon stood on the front lawn of Reya’s home, dazed, as she watched Natalie head inside and turn on a lamp next to the door. ‘Revenge has to stop somewhere’. She bit her lip as memory of all of the journal entries she sent back to Velor flooded back to her. Death, destruction, hate, dominated most of them.

She remembered lovers, friends, people she cared deeply about dying – and then her tears, which soaked the paper she wrote on as she struggled to clear her thoughts enough to make a record of what had happened. It was only then that she fully appreciated the true role of a Velorian Scribe – to immortalize those who had died before their prime, those who had fought for a greater cause…and lost.

After all she had lost, it seemed ironic that Natalie, a teen who lived her life on such a peaceful planet, knew so much truth. Revenge was indeed an endless, violent cycle, a constant of the universe which would never stop…until everyone ended up dead.

In a moment of inspiration stronger than any she had in a long time, she slipped a small paper pad and a pen out of her pocket, tapping the end of the pen against her chin as she decided what to write. She had so much swimming through her mind…but after some thought, it seemed to boil down to only a few words:

‘There is hope after all.’

Trolling The Galaxy, Part 2

He felt so lost, so small. His destiny was unknown, and all he knew was about to be left him behind forever. As he stared up at the setting twin suns of his desert wasteland home, he instinctively knew he would never return.

For some reason, that image of Luke Skywalker in ‘Star Wars’ haunted Renee since she saw the movie during her first week on Earth. She could relate to it so well, having left her beautiful home and all she cared about to take up residence on some strange planet where she too felt lost, and small. She remembered crying the first time she saw that one scene. It felt so real to her.

But as Renee slept, her eyes and mind closed to the world around her, she found one clear difference between herself and Luke…in the end, he proved himself to be strong, someone who was in control of his destiny. Renee, on the other hand…proved herself only to be a victim, someone who found herself hopelessly tossed by the currents of fate.

“Reya?” She heard a soft voice calling her name, from far, far away. She closed her eyes tighter and turned away from it. She didn’t want to see the world again. As far as she was concerned, it was gone…and she was happy to see it go.

She felt a soft touch on one arm, instantly bringing her senses to life. She silently cursed the one who brought her back. Renee wanted to drift away, to keep herself in a place where she wouldn’t have to relive her humiliation again…


Her eyes slowly opened, giving her a blurry view of someone very familiar to her, a pair of blue eyes and strands of blonde hair hovering over her. She unconsciously smiled – her only true friend had found her. Renee turned her head away as tears began to flow from her eyes…and she began sobbing as memory of her harsh reality flooded her senses again. “No…I don’t want to…”

“Reya, it’s me.” Sharon leaned closer, gripping Renee’s hand tightly. “I’m here for you. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“Not…fine.” Renee kept her eyes away from Sharon. But her hands could feel a warmth, a power…almost as if she were touching pure energy. It filled her with feelings of euphoria, like a drug…but she still resisted.

“I have to restore you, or you’ll die,” Sharon whispered softly as she held Renee’s hands tighter within her own. “Your energy is low–”

“No…I…I want to die–”

Sharon suddenly let go of Renee’s hands and took a step back, leaving Renee suddenly feeling cold and drained. Renee’s words echoed in her mind as she watched a pair of blue eyes turn to her from the hospital bed. Those eyes…the looked empty, cold…they were missing the energy which was usually behind them.

“My God, Reya…You’re…you’re willing yourself to death? What happened to you? Please, talk to me.”

Renee frowned and slowly began propping herself up in the bed. She could feel every muscle cry out to her with pain…not from injury, but rather from…disuse? She felt something burn in her arm…it was an needle inserted by the hospital, to feed her nutrients – and it was pierced through her skin. That man…he must have known what she was…and he stole her energy as well as her dignity.

“I–” Renee took a deep breath, trying to slow the dizziness she found herself which was her reward for speaking too quickly. “I was attacked. I…I–”

“The police told me about that. But…God, Reya–” Sharon walked over to the bed slowly and held Renee’s hand, careful not to try and flood her with energy this time. “You’ve been out for almost two weeks.”

“Huh? Two–” Renee nearly sat upright, but more dizziness prevented it. She began feeling…terrified. Two weeks? She began to understand why she felt so confused and weak – a Velorian could not survive on the simple sustenance provided by the needle in her arm for any length of time. Velorians needed pure energy as well. But she still didn’t understand how she could have used all of her remaining energy while dormant. “What happened to me?”

Sharon continued to hold Renee’s hand gently and sat down on the edge of the bed. She seemed a little concerned as she took a deep breath and began to explain. “You were attacked by an Arion, Reya. He was on a rampage and you…well, you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“An…Arion?” Renee suddenly gasped and sat upright, her breathing speeding up suddenly to compensate for the sudden dizziness. “He raped me! Am I…?”

A few seconds of silence prevailed before Sharon closed her eyes and nodded slowly. “Yes, you’re pregnant. That’s why all of your energy has been drained. But you don’t have to suffer through this…I can take you back to Velor, and–”

“No…I want this to happen.” Renee suddenly tore the needle from her arm and slid out of bed, stumbling into Sharon’s arms as she struggled to steady herself. “I will not be a victim any longer.”

Sharon laughed as she caught Renee, her amazing strength propping her friend to her feet quickly. She felt better as she noticed Renee trying to stand under her own power. It was a sign…a good sign, that her friend Reya had not given up yet.

“Are you sure about this, Reya?”

The smile which formed on Renee’s face gave Sharon inner warmth. It felt like she had given life to the lifeless…or given her friend a second chance at life. “I’ve never been more sure of anything, Sharon. What happened to me is in the past…”

Renee placed both of her hands on her stomach, her eyes reflecting a little contentment…and a little hope…as she looked at Sharon. “This is the future. I want it to be a future where no one ever has to fear as I did.”

Sharon nodded and let go of Renee slowly, smiling as she noticed that her friend was now retaining her own energy, standing steadily on her own two feet. “That’s the Reya I know.”

‘That’s the Reya I know.’ Reya smiled at the words floating in her mind. For some reason, they stuck with her since that day in the hospital…that day when Renee permanently changed her name to the one she had been born with, and decided to embrace her lost heritage.

Humans were a fragile species. Yet they walk the Earth, totally oblivious to the fact that they had such sort life spans, and a frailty that most conquering species in the galaxy would love to prey upon if given the chance. They were fairly fragile beings, both physically, and in their tendencies to become so dependent on one another.

But it was those same traits which made them stronger, more powerful, and much more resilient than any other species. They tended to bond together, to find comfort in numbers…and then they would defend their numbers with a vengeance.

Earth…a backwards, primitive place torn by war, hunger, and battles between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. Or so it would seem to an outside force. But a closer look reveals a hidden power, potential beyond imagination. And admittedly…the all-powerful Velorian race was one always flirting with extinction, the Ancient Ones were gone forever…and even the Arions wouldn’t survive long with their tendencies toward self-destruction.

In the end, it would be the backwards species…like humans…which would ultimately inherit the universe. And with them, they would bring peace. It was almost humorous to consider – but when looked at closely…it made perfect sense.

As Reya lay back on her small sailboat off the coast of southern California, watching the sunset, her mind filled with philosophical thoughts. Earth was a majestic place, a world hidden away from the unthinkable terror and chaos which filled most of the universe. It was almost as if…some God intended it that way. Almost like some higher intelligence meant Earth for greater things.

She could tell those greater things were far off into the future…but not too far. The months she spent with a child growing inside her were evidence of that. Reya knew she would raise her daughter to be not a protector of Earth…but its guardian. Someone who would look after the sweet backwards little planet.

Since Reya was a child, she remembered reading about Earth, how its technology was feeble compared to that of the simplest Arion weapons. And how the Velorians must prevent Arions from destroying the place at all costs. She always wondered…if the Arions were so capable, so bent on destroying Earth…why didn’t they?

As she grew up, she learned that no one else knew that answer, either. Sure, the Arions have tried…but some little glitch always managed to cause them to fail. There was always something – as if an invisible, higher power were making it impossible for them to do so. Or perhaps it was simply…fate?

Reya laughed at her own thoughts as she stood and unfurled the small sail on her boat, preparing to head back to shore. Fate. That was such a human concept…and yet, the proof was there. In a matter of weeks, fate would become reality – a child would be born…and Earth would never be the same.

“Relax, mom, I know what I’m doing.”

Reya sighed as she watched the brunette, blue eyed teen tug at the rope which pulled a giant sail up along its mast, to unfurl it to its full potential…as both a large decorative symbol and the sole method of propulsion for the small boat as it bobbed along the waves of the Pacific Ocean, dyed orange by the setting sun over the horizon. The symbol on the sail meant nothing…but to Reya it meant everything.

She couldn’t believe it was sixteen years ago when she used to go out in a smaller boat for solitude, and to commune with natural forces which dwarf the power of even the heartiest of Velorian protectors – none would be a match for the relentlessness of the oceans.

“I know, Natalie,” Reya said as she watched her daughter quickly reel in the rope, hand over hand as she’d been taught, with the skill of a career fisherman, even though she had only been shown how to do it once. “Frankly, I’m more worried about the boat, and the sail.”

A splash of water hit Reya, just as she began laughing. The two discovered, something interesting during the last few years, something which Reya feared telling anyone, especially other Velorians, including Sharon.

Natalie had the ability to project small amounts of energy outside of her body. She had yet to master the ability, and could do little more than throw small objects or splash water without any physical contact. It was something which made Reya feel very proud – though Velor didn’t know, Natalie was the next evolution of Velorian.

But Natalie’s ‘advancement’ left her at a disadvantage. She was shorter than most of her kind, almost fully grown at only five foot six. Her own mother looked like an amazon next to her. Her reduced size meant she had a lower threshold for energy storage, meaning two things – she needed to eat more often, almost as often as humans, and she could never store enough power to visit Velor on her own. She may be the next stage of Velorian…but one who is doomed to exile from Velor.

Reya was not saddened by that fact, however. In fact, she was relieved – upon finding out about her pregnancy, the Velorian council had ordered her home several times. She refused, knowing full well that it meant she could never return home without facing a harsh judgement from the Velorian council.

But that was a moot point now. Earth was her home, because it was her daughter’s home. If before by choice, now it was from necessity…and no one could take her or her daughter away.

“Mom, why are you always so lonely?”

Thinking that Natalie was kidding, Reya looked up smiling – only to notice that Natalie wasn’t. She sighed deeply – she had pretty much dedicated the last sixteen years to raising and protecting Natalie…but hadn’t really thought much about herself. “I…I don’t know, Natalie. I guess I never really made the time for anything besides work and us.”

“You know, I can help you–” Natalie smiled and walked across the small sailboat, sitting down next to her mom. She knew that her mom saw her as a success – she was thoroughly entrenched in the ways of Earth. She went to school just as a normal teen did, had a boyfriend at one point…her blood was not of Earth, but her mind sure was. “I know, it sounds stupid…”

“No, no. It’s not stupid at all.” Reya smiled at her daughter, hugging her gently with one arm. “I’ve always tried to make you a better person than I was. I want you to experience everything I’ve missed, and never feel the pain I had to feel.”

“I remember. It’s so sad, your having to leave everyone behind to come here alone.” Natalie smiled again, her bright eyes easily giving away a sudden thought which burned behind them. “Hey…maybe you should write a book about it.”

Reya laughed…only there was a little seriousness in that laugh, as if she too wished she could. “It’s not something that’s safe to write about, Natalie. Velor has scribes like Sharon for that purpose…they are trained to know what they can safely write without arousing suspicion.”

“So? Maybe Sharon can help you.” Natalie turned around to look behind her, noticing that the shore was approaching slowly. They were almost home. “Your story is too good not to tell! You can’t just let it fade away into nothingness.”

“Natalie–” Reya paused and smiled in spite of herself. She knew that Natalie was pushing her relentlessly, but with good reason. Her daughter was a creative type, she hated watching good material go to waste – whether it be physical material, ideas, or history. “I’ll think about it…all right? In the mean time, give it a rest.”

Natalie laughed. “Okay, mom.”

Not another word was spoken between the two until the boat finally struck land. They didn’t need words at that point – both simply enjoyed the cool Pacific air, and the glow of the vanishing sun from the horizon. It was a rare moment, meant to be shared in silence.

“I saw, it.”

Reya swallowed hard as she looked across the living room at her friend, Sharon. Or so she thought, for the past eighteen years. Now Sharon stood before her, accusing Reya of hiding something from her. The worst part was that she was right. “I’m so sorry, Sharon. I couldn’t tell you–”

“Why? Why couldn’t you tell me?” Sharon folded her arms, her eyes firey with anger.

“Because–” Reya leaned forward and dropped her face into her hands, allowing her hair to hang down dangerously close to the floor. She wished she could hide herself between her own hair strands, slide down, and gradually vanish into the floorboards. “It’s your job to report everything you see and hear back to the Velorian council. I couldn’t ask you to keep this from them.”

“Don’t you think they deserve to know?” Sharon sighed, her anger dissolving as she watched her friend Reya hiding her eyes, most likely close to tears. She had such a difficult life, and most of the time she made the best of it. Yet she still remained as sensitive as the day she arrived from Velor.

Sharon glanced toward the kitchen as she sat down next to her friend, rubbing her back reassuringly. Natalie was in the kitchen, attempting to make chocolate chip cookies after briefly mentioning that she needed sugar. “Natalie is very special, Reya. She shouldn’t have to be hidden away, she may be the next evolution of us. She may be the future.”

Reya nodded slowly. “I thought about that. Maybe she is what the Ancient Ones had in mind. Maybe the reason they vanished was because the constant war between Velor and Aria meant their failure–”

“Maybe you should have become a philosopher instead of a protector.” Sharon smiled at Reya for a few seconds before Reya finally burst out laughing. “Don’t worry, Reya. If Velor is to find out about Natalie, it will be in an appropriate way.”

“It’s not that I don’t trust you, Sharon. I do.” Reya stood and swept her hair back nervously, looking at the floor rather than at Sharon. “I’m…just afraid you’ll underestimate them. You might think everything will be fine, when it’s–”

She paused and smiled as she watched Natalie enter the living room from the kitchen, carrying a plate full of hot chocolate chip cookies, straight from the oven. Natalie walked around the couch carefully, placing the plate onto the coffee table before sitting down.

“You guys are talking about me, aren’t you? Don’t forget, I can hear every word.” Natalie sat down, grabbing a cookie and taking a bite out of it as she smiled at Sharon and Reya. Both noticed that the cookies were fresh out of the oven, far from being cool enough for normal humans to eat without being scalded.

“Nothing you need to worry about, Natalie.” Reya glanced over at Sharon for a moment, giving her a half-smile, half warning.

“I think you should tell them about me.” Natalie shrugged, ignoring Reya’s horrified expression. “I don’t care. There’s not a lot they can do about it.”

Sharon laughed out loud as she reached forward to grab a cookie. Reya seemed less than amused. “She has a point, Reya. They can’t take her back to Velor, after all.”

Natalie nodded. “Besides, I can defend myself. I took Karate last year in high school.”

“What?” The question came in unison from both Sharon and Reya. The two looked at each other, before realizing that Natalie had neglected to tell either one.

“How did you get a signature for that, young lady?” Reya folded her arms, giving an almost mock gaze of anger to Natalie.

Natalie bit her lip, trying not to laugh as she answered. “I forged it. Same as when I took archery two years ago.”

Sharon began laughing out loud again as Reya covered her face and shook her head slowly. “I love this kid, Reya. I really do.”

Natalie cursed to herself as she parked her small electric motor scooter in front of her high school. She could hear the warning bell ringing as she entered the parking lot – meaning she had about five minutes to grab her books and get to class.

As soon as she removed the key, the wheels locked and raised off the ground, activating its built-in security system. Earth technology may not even be close to what her mom described on her home planet, but it was pretty impressive.

She pulled her backpack free from the cargo net, and raced for the front doors of the school. Most of the people who were loitering outside as she drove up had already gone inside to head to class, with the exception of a few who had no plans to do so.

“Runnin’ late again, Nat?”

Natalie smiled as she heard a familiar voice, pausing to turn and greet the source of it – her boyfriend. Actually, they were more like best friends – they spent most of their time together just hanging around each other and talking. “Hey, Allen. What’s new?”

“Nothing much.”

She gave him a quick hug, ignoring the sound of the second bell as it echoed through the halls, officially marking both her and Allen late – that meant they would be unable to go to class without a pink slip, which wasted further time. “Looks like I have to go to the office again. Want to come along?”

Allen smiled and held up his hands in an exaggerated shrug, his backpack nearly sliding off of his shoulder to add to the drama. “Do I have a choice? You made me late.”

Natalie laughed and shoved him gently before grabbing his forearm and leading him down the hall. She walked backwards as she talked loudly in a dramatic voice. “It’s off to the principal’s office for you, Allen! Let’s go!”

The two were laughing by the time they both entered the school administration office, earning them both a stern look from the older woman sitting behind a tall desk. “Shouldn’t you two be in class?”

“We were late.” Natalie leaned her elbows on the counter, smiling across the linoleum border at the woman, trying her best to raise her to the same mood she felt. “We need pink slips.”

The woman frowned further, resisting Natalie’s attempts to cheer her up, even adding a shake of the head. “Natalie, that’s six times this quarter alone. I can’t possibly excuse this absence.”

“So…make it unexcused?” Natalie shrugged. “I don’t care, I just need to get to class.”

“And you, young man,” The woman continued, “Have four unexcused absences of your own.”

Allen shrugged as well, but decided against commenting. The woman rewarded him by handing him a signed pink slip. He took it and patted Natalie’s shoulder as he left the office. “See you in class.”

Natalie sighed, her smile disappearing as she watched the woman behind the desk – quickly becoming her nemesis – motion for the vice principal to come over. The two began discussing something behind the desk – and Natalie started to concentrate, trying to tune her hearing into what they were saying. They spoke of giving her detention, or even suspending her–

“What? That’s not fair!”

She didn’t realize that she had been eavesdropping beyond the capability of humans until both the nemesis behind the desk and the vice principal looked at her in shock.

“Young lady,” The vice principal quickly admonished, “It’s extremely rude to eavesdrop. For your effort, you’ve earned yourself a three day suspension, effective immediately.”

Natalie restrained her enthusiasm as she left the office, purposely shuffling her feet as she headed out into the hallway. As soon as she was clear of the door, she raced for a classroom at the end of the hall, her feet barely touching the floor.

“Nat, wait up!”

She stopped quickly, her shows squealing against the polished floor as she realized that Allen had been waiting outside the office on a bench the entire time. She turned around and headed back, slowly.

“Geez, you can run fast!” Allen laughed as he spoke, seeming a little surprised that Natalie didn’t seem the least bit tired or winded. “You should try out for the olympics or something. Did you get a pink slip?”

“No.” Natalie shook her head quickly, the smile never leaving her face. “They gave me three days off.”

“They suspended you?” Allen shook his head slowly. “But you’re already so far behind…how are you supposed to catch up now?”

“I can always join the olympics.” Natalie bit her lip as she started laughing.

Allen joined in as he gave her a quick good bye hug. “I’ll see you later, Nat. Good luck…uh…lounging around at home. Don’t fall off the couch or anything.”

“See you when you get home from school…sucker.” Natalie shoved him a little and laughed again as she turned to head out of the exit doors at the end of the hall. Allen didn’t even realize that it was a fire exit, and would set off an alarm – but Natalie did. It was to be a last bit of revenge before she went home for her mini-vacation.

But as she headed for that door, something stood in her way. A tall woman with jet black hair and blue eyes stepped out of a doorway to stop her by grabbing her shoulder. She wore an expensive dark blue jacket and matching slacks, which sort offset between her eye and hair color. She looked too young to be a teacher…but why else would she even be wearing such an outfit?

“I’m not wandering the halls, I’ve been suspended,” Natalie said, a little contempt in her voice. “Ask the vice principal.”

The well-dressed tall woman said nothing – she simply grabbed Natalie by her throat and threw her, sending her sliding quickly down the polished hallway floor until she crashed into a set of lockers nestled in a corner of an intersection.

“Hey!” Natalie stood quickly, not even noticing that the lockers behind her looked like a small truck had plowed into them. The doors were bent in, and its frame was severely twisted. “You’re gonna pay for that!”

Before Natalie had time to react, she watched the woman in the blue suit approach Allen quickly. She stood in front of him for what seemed like an eternity, staring at him with interest. Allen froze, either paralyzed by fear or from assuming that the woman had to be on the school’s staff. Or maybe both.

But it was that pause which cost him dearly. The woman placed one hand on his chin, and one on his shoulder. He simply looked up at her, confused by what she was doing…and then, in the blink of an eye, she violently pushed down on his shoulder and up on his chin…

…and Natalie screamed as she watched Allen’s head detach from his body, and fall to the floor. A fountain of blood shot up from what was left of his neck, drenching the woman’s clothing and covering her face with a thick layer of red. She began shaking her head as the woman’s attention turned to her…it had to be a dream. It couldn’t be real.

Natalie screamed again as she turned and burst through the doors at the end of the hall, ignoring the sirens which went off inside the building as the bar marked ‘Emergency Exit Only’ went flying into the schoolyard. Her screams turned into sobs as she cleared the stairway with a single leap, not even pausing as her feet finally touched the sidewalk.

She kept running until she reached her small electric scooter, parked at the edge of the lot – she knew the woman was still chasing her, even though she couldn’t see it.

Natalie was crying hysterically by the time she stepped onto her scooter and raced its small motor beyond its tolerances – it screamed as she tore through the center lane of heavy traffic at nearly fifty miles per hour. A traffic light changed to red, but she wasn’t stopping. She spotted a truck, too late…

As her eyes closed, and she screamed once again, the small scooter slammed into the side of the truck hard enough to cause it to shake. The truck stopped almost immediately – the driver realized something was wrong.

She stood up and looked at what was left of her destroyed scooter, now trapped under the truck’s tires. The side of the truck’s fuel tank was crushed, and fuel spilled onto the pavement. The driver was outside, yelling something…but she didn’t pay attention. She had to get somewhere safe.

Now lacking her electric scooter, she began running alongside the street. At first, it seemed difficult, her lungs burned and her muscles protested…but after a while, she felt herself settling into a sort of rhythm. Her breathing began to slow, and she actually picked up speed as her muscles began to relax. She smiled as she watched the other pedestrians jump out of her way as she easily breezed past them, dodging a few who couldn’t move fast enough, even leaping over a baby in a stroller.

Natalie just happened to glance to her left as she ran, noticing that she was moving much faster than the surrounding car traffic. At first, she figured that maybe there was a traffic jam, and the old joke about walking to get there faster rang true once again…but after a quick comparison, she realized that the cars were moving along just fine – but she was moving faster!

Exhilarated, she purposely started taking longer strides, trying to push her legs and lungs past some imaginary limit which she had obviously shattered a while ago. She didn’t even blink as she approached an intersection where cars had begun driving over the crosswalk – she simply paused her running long enough to drive both of her feet against the sidewalk, launching her into the air, and hopefully across to the other side of the crossing.

She miscalculated her leap – only instead of crashing to the ground and causing a multi-car pileup, she launched herself with blinding speed high above the familiar sidewalk, into what was, to her, another world. Suddenly, she found herself looking down at rooftops – the ground below, the people walking, and the cars on the street all became smaller and smaller as she kept ascending.

Then she suddenly felt terrified – still ascending? Just when she wondered how she could stop, she held her arms out to her sides, and simply willed herself not to climb any higher. She could feel the air in her lungs shift rapidly as she came to a sudden stop, hovering high in the air.

Once she regained her senses, her memory reminded her with horrific graphic reality that she had to go home. Her new discovery would have to wait until another time…until she was safe.

But she wasn’t ready to return to the ground just yet. It only took her a little more effort to learn that she could control her travel – just as she willed herself to stop climbing, she found that she could will herself to travel forward or turn as well. It was like swimming, only without having to tread water.

By air, she made it home in mere minutes. Not having mastered landings yet, her feet slammed into the concrete sidewalk outside her house, causing it to spilt and part of it to sink – but she had more important worries at the moment. Natalie burst into the living room, slamming the door behind her as she headed into the study.

“Mom–” Before Natalie even got the rest of the sentence out, she was already sobbing. She ran over to the overstuffed chair where Reya sat and buried her head in her mother’s lap. “Mom…it was horrible. A strange woman showed up and killed Allen…she tried to kill me too–”

Reya wasn’t sure at first if Natalie was making up some creative excuse for why she returned from school so early…but the fact that her daughter couldn’t stop crying, and she was in shock – pale and shaking – quickly changed her mind. A wave of panic rushed through Reya as she grabbed the television remote and turned on the local news.

“No…Oh my God, no.”

Reya and Natalie sat silent as they watched the high school which Natalie had left less than an hour ago. Police, fire engines, and ambulances surrounded the building, and dozens of bodies were lying on the lawn, covered completely by dark sheets. Blood covered rescue workers as they struggled to save those that they could.

According to the latest report, scrolling across the bottom of the screen, there were forty five reported dead. No explosion was detected, no weapons were reported. Each of the teachers and students killed were simply butchered by what looked like extraordinarily strong human hands.

After an evacuation, A police search of the entire building turned up no one…whoever had committed these atrocities was long gone.

“If it weren’t for the quick thinking of someone who managed to set off the fire alarm,” The school principal was quoted as saying, “The other students may not have had a chance to escape.”

Reya and Natalie shared a look for a moment, one which required no words. Reya just knew it was her daughter who had set off the alarm during her escape – while she was raised as any other child on Earth, she was still a Protector at heart. She hugged her daughter tightly, as she began to shed tears of her own – tears of thankfulness that, above all, her daughter found the power to save herself.

“I love you so much, Natalie…”

After watching an hour of local news footage, it was Natalie’s turn to hold a sobbing Reya instead. She didn’t understand why her mom was crying – she knew very little of the history behind it. Her mom did tell her about a violent, conquering race of enormous power called the Arions, and that one had attacked and beaten her viciously. But Natalie always thought of these Arions as something distant, or rare. She never thought she would see one.

Reya wasn’t sure, either – and once she got over her moment of terror, she called Sharon. As soon as she told Sharon that Natalie had seen one close up, Sharon cut the conversation short.

“I’ll be right over”, she said. It wasn’t so much the words which scared Reya…it was the slight quiver in Sharon’s voice, as if every nightmare she had ever dreamed or written was coming true at that moment. Sharon wasn’t nearly as upset when she heard about the male Arion who attacked Reya – but the woman Natalie described seem to terrify her.

“Natalie, this is very important,” Sharon slowly spoke, her voice a little condescending. “What did she look like? What did she say?”

Natalie shrugged. “She was tall, jet black hair, blue eyes. And she didn’t say anything, she just threw me into some lockers and then attacked Allen.”

“I don’t get it.” Reya shook her head slowly and sat up slowly in her chair, trying to dry her tears. She was far from completely calm, but she didn’t want to be left out of the conversation. “Sharon, you told me that Arion scouts visit here all the time. Why is this one so much more destructive?”

Sharon frowned, her eyes telling the story before she even spoke a word. “Because she’s not a scout. She’s a warrior. They don’t bother to try to keep a low profile.”

“But–” Natalie sat up suddenly, looking between Sharon and the television. She already knew the answer to her next question…but she couldn’t believe it until she heard it from someone else. “Why here? Why my school?”

Reya looked at Sharon with fearful eyes, as she began to put together the mystery as well.

“I fear,” Sharon said, “That she’s come here for you.”

Trolling The Galaxy, Part 1

The late evening sun glinted off of the soft waves of the Pacific Ocean. Far off the coast of southern California, a small painted wooded fishing boat named Alexa bobbed back and forth gently, a stiff, cool wind blowing across its deck. It didn’t come any better, or more beautiful.

For most people, it simply wouldn’t be safe at that time of the evening to travel so far off the coast in such a small fishing boat. But Renee Prince was no ordinary person. In fact, the six foot tall tanned blonde hated resented having chosen that name for herself each time she heard it. The name itself, and the method she used to choose it, were a reminder of traditions of her birth place which she wanted to leave behind forever. She always liked the name Reya much better.

Unspoiled. Yes, that was the word to describe what she watched around her. She could be the master of all she surveyed if she chose – yet she found it so much more satisfying and intriguing simply to take part in it, to accept her small share of this place and enjoy it as much as she could.

And enjoy it she did. In fact, Alexa didn’t even have any kind of engine on board. It was strictly a sailing boat…and Renee planned to use the stiff winds which blew into the beaches of Los Angeles every evening with the tide to navigate back home.

It was time.

Renee stood quickly and gripped a three inch thick hemp rope with both hands. She pulled it quickly, effortlessly, hand over hand. A twenty foot high heavy canvas sail unfurled quickly, expanding to its full width as it touched the wind. Renee took a step backward as the small boat began to suddenly accelerate, picking up speed very quickly to match the velocity of the breeze itself.

The cool wind rushed through her hair, warm salt water splashed her skin as the small wooden boat crashed through the waves of the Pacific. She watched a few seagulls flying just above her, a smile creeping onto her face as she considered joining them for just a moment – but this trip on the boat, at least at the moment, was much more thrilling.

Her muscles ached a little as she held the rope tighter in her fingers. Rather then tie off the end of the rope, she held it in her hands…if only to feel the awesome power of the wind which pulled her small boat along the surface of the water. It was a struggle even for her, as powerful as she was, to hold back one of the planet’s most daunting and relentless forces with just the power of her own muscles.

Darkness began to descend over Renee as the sun finally sunk below the horizon – yet in her eyes, it was only a minor inconvenience. She could still clearly see the ocean, the coast, and all of the crisp colors around her. And the scents surrounding her…the tide was coming in, she was sure. The smell of the ocean was different during high tide. It smelled clearer, somehow more refreshing.

She could feel her senses enhancing in the encroaching darkness. The scent of sand reached her nose, along with a mixture of smells from the beach – various kinds of food and drink sold along the shore, suntan lotion, and…people?

Renee squinted toward the shore, wondering silently who would be out there after the private beach had been closed for at least an hour or two. Normally people on the beach wouldn’t affect her – but in this case, it hampered her carefully laid-out plans. She hadn’t bothered to park her car and boat trailer on the sand of the beach before she started her little cruise, planning to simply fold down the sail and drag her boat up to the parking lot above once the beach closed. But if people were there…she would have to either convince them to leave, or come up with a new plan.

She wrinkled her nose and frowned as a new smell flooded her senses – alcohol. These were kids on the beach, hoping to drink beer undetected in the darkness. Renee sighed deeply as she snatched her official-looking dark blue and yellow jacket, dark blue baseball cap emblazoned with the letters ‘MPD’. and . Sometimes she regretted taking a job with the Malibu Police Department. Even on her days off, she could never have a real vacation.

“I need a vacation, Sharon.”

Even as Renee Prince spoke to her best friend, Sharon, she leaned back in one of Sharon’s porch chairs, her ‘MPD’ baseball cap over her eyes. She was still wearing her dark blue uniform jacket – and the dark blue and yellow painted Mitsubishi Eclipse Limited issued to her by the Malibu police department was parked in front of Sharon’s home, it’s predominantly dark color hiding it in the darkness.

“A vacation?” Sharon smiled. “What would you do on a vacation?”

Renee, or Reya as Sharon was more fond of calling her, had just arrived in Los Angeles a few months ago from someplace distant, a place Sharon was all too familiar with.

The two women had one thing in common – though they both appeared human, they were much more then that. They were from a distant planet called Velor, bred as an advanced form of human for a single purpose…to protect the universe.

Starting at an early age, every young girl on Velor was trained in the art of war. They were trained how to use every part of their bodies as dangerous weapons – and a popular demonstration was when a long-haired instructor would carefully form her hair into a single braid, and literally use her own hair to shred solid metal, simply by whipping it around faster then the eye could see.

It was fun at the time, for young girls to learn how to destroy targets with their hair, or with beams of heat with their eyes. Little did they realize they were being trained for a war – a danger that was hard to imagine for a child growing up on Velor.

Little did they realize at such a young age…that years later, the war around their calm little planet would take the lives of many of their classmates. The population of Velor was dwindling, slowly dying out. Everyone knew it, yet the Velorian leadership would not sway in it’s mission to protect the universe from threats.

The biggest threat of all was from the people of Aria. While the Velorian people have always trained for war, they still had a culture of their own. Aria’s culture itself was war. Their planet was simply a factory, producing weapons, troops, and one generation after another of genetically altered warriors. While they didn’t necessarily see Velor as their only threat, they did recognize it as their greatest.

And so as another proud father watched his daughter of Velor, smartly clad in a form-fitting silvery metallic uniform, prepare for her first launch into cold, dark space, he felt the requisite pride…along with a healthy dose of fear. He had already lost his lifelong mate to the same fate. She left one cool morning, promising to return before her daughter’s birthday. He was notified of her death the next morning.

But his daughter made no such promise. She knew better…while her mom had vanished before she was even old enough to enter her training, she remembered. She gave her father a weak smile, knowing that a part of her would be with him always. As a heavy glass tube began to close around her, preparing for her first launch into space, her brave smile quickly crumbled as her feelings betrayed her. She watched her father crying, through the glass. He would be all alone.

Her hands clasped together tightly, her eyes closed as she could feel the tethers of gravity release her limbs. She began to cry silently, inwardly, praying…even begging to be sent back home. Suddenly, she couldn’t bear to leave her father by himself.

But as she opened her eyes again, a sudden calm washed over her. She was coasting through space, her metallic suit reflecting the orange-red glow of the Velorian Star. Her long blonde hair seemed glued to her skin as moisture permeated it, collected from the atmosphere of the planet, beads of water running all along her body as she travelled at unthinkable speeds through toward some unknown destination – some backwards, innocent planet known as Earth.

The stars seemed a blur around her as she stared straight ahead. The sadness at leaving her father, her home, behind tore at her heart as she blasted toward something bright in the distance – a star. A yellow star. It was only seconds before she could feel its power flowing through her veins, as if her own blood were lit aflame. It was exhilarating, even a little painful as wavelengths of pure energy not available from the Velorian Star began to penetrate her skin, and run through her body.

She looked down at her hands – they were glowing slightly from the sudden infusion of energy. The surplus simply leaked out through her skin, tracing an orange-red line through space behind her as she passed by the star. She remembered from her lessons – this star was known as Sol.

Seconds later – just as in the simulations – she flipped onto her back, and dove through the atmosphere of the third planet. On her back, she wore what appeared to be a metallic cape – it was a heat shield, designed to protect her clothing upon descent through a planetary atmosphere. It was designed to tolerate much more heat then her clothing, as well as provide resistance braking to slow her against the atmosphere itself.

She cringed as she felt a jolt, and the sudden shock of cold water touching her skin. Her descent hadn’t slowed as fast as she had hoped, and she had to aim toward a large body of water called the Pacific Ocean to break her fall. At the speed at which she was travelling, she would simply cause too much damage falling on land. The salt water quickly soothed her slightly burned skin as bubbles of steam surrounded her. She quickly regained her equilibrium and swam toward a bright light just above her.

“…And I saw the most beautiful thing in my life, Sharon. Lightning…I’d never seen it that close up before. I was so sure I was dead.”

Sharon laughed out loud. “You told me that whole story already, Reya. Just tell me what you’d do on a vacation.”

Renee gave Sharon a sly smile. Sharon was always the most impatient Velorian she had known. She guessed it was an Earth influence that she herself would learn in time. “Storm chasing, Sharon. Doesn’t that sound thrilling?”

“Eh.” Sharon waved one hand from side to side, silently offering Renee more tea. Renee declined. “I’ve had much more exciting things happen to me already. You just got here, Reya! Give it time, something scary will happen to you too.”

“Scary?” Renee shook her head. “The scariest thing that’s happened to me so far are those kids I kicked off the beach. They were drinking stuff I wouldn’t even touch. It’s practically jet fuel!”

Sharon choked on her tea at the mental image – kids sitting around a fuel truck from the airport, sipping the contents through a hose. “I’m sorry. It’s just funny, a mighty Protector fighting the dangers of alcohol abuse.”

“Hm.” Renee gave Sharon a mock frown. “I never liked that title. Not since I arrived here. I envy your job…at least you can legally go home once in a while. As far as Velor is concerned, this is my home until…until I’m reassigned.”

Sharon looked at Renee and froze as she took a sip of her homemade herbal tea. “You do know, Reya, one day you will be reassigned. Everyone is.”

“Hell, no!” Renee stood up and paced across Sharon’s covered porch, stopping to lean against one of it’s wooden support posts. “I love this place, Sharon. No…I’m in love with it. I don’t want to be sent to some war-torn cesspool just because this place is a little boring by Velorian standards.”

Sharon watched in silence as Renee retreated back to her chair and sat down quietly. She seemed to be saddened by discussion of the prospect of leaving Earth.

“I know that’s treason or something…but I can’t go. I’ve lost everything that was good in my life, Sharon. If I lose this place…I swear, I’ll go insane.”

Renee’s saddened eyes affected Sharon deeply. She remembered when she went through the same thing once…only she was weaker. She followed her duties and obligations – and regretted it ever since.

Sharon sighed deeply and slowly rose to her feet. Renee still sat in the chair, her eyes carried the fear and sadness that Sharon imagined she shared with her father on the day of her assignment. “Look, Reya…this is your destiny. You were brought up for this life–”

“Well…maybe I wasn’t ready”, Renee interrupted in a soft voice.

“You completed the rites, Reya. It’s a contract…you’ve accepted the task of serving Velor.” Sharon kneeled next to the chair Renee sat in and gently hugged her across the shoulders. She began to worry that maybe, just once, a Protector was released before she was ready. It was already unusual that she had been released from Velor at the age of 20 instead of 18, as was custom. “I understand how you feel. Do you know how many times I had to leave everything behind?”

Renee nodded softly as Sharon urged her to rise to her feet. “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have you to help me.”

Sharon smiled. “Then you’d learn just as I did…the hard way. Now go home and get some sleep, Reya. You had a long day.”

The highly tuned four-cylinder engine of Renee’s police car roared a metallic growl as she took a hard corner to the right. The tires protested noisily, the scent of overheated rubber reaching her nostrils through the cooled air blowing in through the vents in the dashboard. A hard turn to the left corrected a slight drift of the car’s rear as she rounded the corner. Luckily, the car was built for speed and handling, or she may have eaten the concrete wall next to the freeway entrance for lunch.

She had turned off the audible sirens several minutes ago, as the high-pitched sound they made ate away at her nerves. She figured that in the sparse traffic around her, people would just notice the red, yellow, and blue flashing lights on the roof of her car, as well as the strobes hidden within all of the car’s lights.

It made her nervous to chase the red Dodge onto the freeway. The car was stolen, and had run from her when she attempted to stop it for simply driving through a stop sign. Bringing a high speed chase onto the freeway raised the stakes – speeds would be higher, and more lives would be in danger.

Renee breathed a sigh of relief as the Dodge zipped off of the next exit. It meant that he was hoping to lose her in the maze of streets in Los Angeles. But she knew that he would probably end up getting lost himself, first. A quick glance at the small flat-paneled terminal suspended from the dashboard between the driver and passenger seats told her that backup was still a couple of minutes away.

Another hard right turn, this one much too close. Renee worked hard to prevent her police car from skidding into a truck waiting to turn left onto the street she just exited. The Dodge had no such concerns – it left a red streak along the side of the truck’s trailer. Renee shook her head and tapped a couple of buttons on the small terminal, alerting the dispatcher of the crash.

Just as quickly as the chase started, it came to an abrupt end. Renee locked the brakes of her car as she watched the Dodge enter a narrow street too quickly. The driver of the Dodge didn’t realize that he was going too fast to drive between the cars parked on both sides safely – and promptly wedged his car painfully between two parked cars with a loud crash.

As soon as Renee stopped her car, the driver of the Dodge, a tall, skinny man with dark hair and light complexion, was off and running.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Renee jumped out of her car and took off after the man. She hardly ever had to run in the course of her patrols. In fact, this was the first time in months – most of her duties consisted of writing traffic tickets, and making the occasional domestic violence or passing bad checks arrest.

The man turned around suddenly and reached for something behind his belt. Renee ducked briefly as she heard several loud ‘snap’ sounds, and felt something hot tear through the air close to her face. He turned to run again, the weapon still in his hand. She felt a sense of urgency as she looked ahead of him – he was headed into a crowded restaurant district. She had to catch him, before someone got hurt.

Renee froze suddenly, drawing her police-issue nine millimeter automatic from her belt holster, aiming it steadily at the man. As she looked at the back of his head over the end of the gun, she paused just before squeezing the trigger. It felt wrong to gun him down as he ran away…as if there was no challenge in it. Shooting a man from behind, never giving him the chance to see his assailant, just seemed an uncivilized way to stop him…something worthy of the Arions she remembered from Sharon’s tales.

“Aww, dammit!” Renee holstered her gun quickly and took off again. She had to make up some ground, the man had put quite a bit of distance between himself and her when she paused to aim at him. But unlike him, Renee was not the least bit tired or winded…and she had plenty more where that came from.

She didn’t even realize, as she raced down the street, her toes barely touching the sidewalk as she ran, that she was passing cars moving down the street at nearly fourty miles per hour. The wind rushing through her hair, Renee was focused on the man she was trying to stop before he reached the restaurants at the end of the street. She was gaining on him very quickly.

The man turned suddenly as she stiffened both of her knees, using the friction from her rubber-soled boots to slow her quickly. He raised the gun, firing off two more shots in her direction as she slammed into him at over thirty miles an hour, knocking him off his feet to tumble into the street, the gun sliding clear across the concrete to the other side of the street.

Renee grabbed the man’s arm and flipped him over in an instant, snapping her handcuffs over one of his arms, and then the other. She didn’t even realize that he was unconcious until she tried to lift him to his feet.

As the sound of sirens filled the air, everything around Renee seemed to go silent. People on foot and in cars stopped to stare…at her. She glanced around slowly to see what the attraction was. That’s when she realized that her boots seemed to be smoldering, thin grey smoke trickling from the soles – and there were two twenty-foot black streaks on the sidewalk, leading up to the point where she collided with the man.

But it was one more measurement Renee took with her eyes which shocked her, and no doubt anyone else who had witnessed it. She herself, a seemingly normal blonde woman wearing a police uniform, would weigh a lot less then the tall, skinny man even in her most ideal condition – yet when she collided with him, he was thrown by the impact, the air driven from his lungs, and sent tumbling into the street as if it was a subcompact car he encountered rather then a blonde female police officer. He probably didn’t even bother to get out of the way, guessing that she would take more damage then he would.

Renee’s mouth dropped open in surprise once again as she hovered over the man, looking down at his unconcious form. Something didn’t look right. She kneeled next to him, and began examining him – his vital signs seemed fine, though his blood pressure was a little bit low. But what scared her was the fact that his limbs wouldn’t react naturally to touch. It was as if he was…

“Oh my God. Oh, no–” Renee fumbled with the radio on her belt and began to turn pale as she realized what had happened. Her collision with the man had much more in common with a car-human collision then she had anticipated. His spine had either been damaged or broken from the impact. Her hands began shaking as she found the call button on her radio. “Five Mary Seventeen to dispatch. I need a medic, code three.”

“Seventeen, is an officer down?”

“Negative, a suspect with possible life-threatening internal injuries.” Renee swallowed hard, her voice wavering a little as she completed the radio call. “I repeat, code three.”

Her facade of calm finally shattered as other officers began to arrive on the scene. She fell to her knees and began crying quietly, shaking violently as the other officers told her in vain that she did a great job, about all of the lives she had saved by keeping this criminal out of the restaurant district. But all she saw was a man’s broken body lying in the street. She had never killed before…and she promised herself she never would.

There would be no paperwork, no reports. Nor would there be an investigation against Renee Prince. At the end of the day, she simply walked into her supervisor’s office and place her badge and gun on the desk.

“You’re quitting?” Renee’s supervisor’s question sounded more like an accusation then a query. But Captain Lindsey Corren’s eyes told Renee that she was sorry to see a fellow female police officer give up so easily.

“I’ll be back”, Renee reassured, with a halfhearted smile. “I just need some time to get away from all of this for a while.”

“I understand.” Lindsey smiled. “I did the same thing when I shot my first suspect. Take all the time you need, Renee. But don’t forget that we need you.”


A quick handshake between the two officers made for a dignified farewell for Renee Prince, as she turned and walked out of the door. Her peers watched her in silence as she left – most of them had been in the same situation, and had taken the same walk out that door, unsure of when or if they would be strong enough to return.

Unlike them, Renee already knew she would be back. For even as she rejected her Velorian heritage to live on Earth in peace, justice was in her blood. She could feel it.

Most people who believed themselves to be logical didn’t see a human-sized object fall through the atmosphere of Earth, and crash-land just outside Los Angeles. Or maybe those who did see made themselves believe that they hadn’t. After all, objects falling from the sky always had a logical explanation behind them – a human being falling from the sky simply wasn’t possible.

It wasn’t the falling man which suddenly brought a flood of calls to the Los Angeles Police Department. It was the fact that the object that had fallen was indeed a man – a naked one – who then proceeded to walk through the backyards of several suburban homes.

The impact he made with the ground had already destroyed one home, bringing an immediate flood of calls to the Los Angeles County 911 dispatcher. Fire engines were rolling immediately from the closest fire station. It was several minutes later when frightened residents again flooded 911, reporting a naked man running from the vicinity of the explosion. Police were dispatched in a leisurely manner – a naked man was no danger to the public.

But then the call escalated as one small child called 911. “He’s in my house”, the little girl said in a whisper.

The dispatcher, Kelly, began trembling slightly with fear, her heart beating quickly as she wished she could leap through the phone and help the little girl. “Who’s in your house?”

“A naked man. He’s digging in daddy’s old clothes.”

Kelly flushed suddenly as she waved for her supervisor and placed a clammy hand over the microphone on her headset. The supervisor nodded and signaled the police dispatcher. The call had just been escalated to a Code Three emergency, lights and sirens.

“Unit Seventeen, on scene. ETA on backup?” Officer Tom Parker was no rookie. He knew it was dangerous to enter a residence alone during a robbery in progress. He sat in the dark in his car, no lights, waiting for at least one more officer to arrive.

“Two minutes”, another officer replied.

Tom heard a high-pitched scream from inside the house. He jumped out of the car and drew his gun quickly, racing up to the door and flattening himself against the outside wall. His heart was beating quickly, reverting to his police training was the only thing keeping him from becoming a trembling mess.

“Police! I’m coming in!” Immediately after his warning, Tom clicked on his flashlight and aimed it alongside his gun, kicking the old wooden entrance door, hard. The doorway shattered, giving way for the door to swing open violently.

“Police! Come on out!” His voice trembled this time as he began shining his flashlight through the entrance room of the home, hoping that whoever was in the house wasn’t armed.

He walked around the corner into the hallway…and immediately felt nauseous. The telephone handset was lying on the floor, soaked in a pool of blood – and the little girl who had called 911 was face-first on the floor next to the phone. “Oh my God…Oh my God, no–”

Tom suddenly heard a noice next to him. He pointed the gun in its direction. “Police! Come on out, now! Put your hands behind–”

Someone rushed past him, quickly, nearly knocking him off his feet. His flashlight slipped from his hand and bounced off of the floor. Just as backup arrived, he caught the siloutette of a man racing toward the front door in the glare from the headlights outside. Purely on instict, he fired five shots at the man, the sound of each loud snap from his gun causing him to cringe. He figured that he missed – the man headed straight out of the door.

As Tom Raced after him, he heard two more officers outside ordering the man to lie down on the ground. Looking outside, Tom felt a little relieved. Three officers in two cars were on-scene, pointing flashlights and guns at the suspect, as he stood on the stairs, seemingly bewildered by all of the attention.

“I am Sey-len”, the tall, imposing man said slowly. He was wearing clothing, only it didn’t fit him well. It was obvious he had stolen it from inside the house. “You will stand aside, or I will destroy you all.”

In the bright lights, Tom could now see that each of his five shots did indeed hit the man who called himself ‘Sey-len’. There were five holes in the side and back of his shirt – yet he still stood. “Oh, great. He’s on PCP.”

Tom picked up his radio, intent on informing the other officers that the man was on some sort of drugs. But he had no idea he would be changing the call he was attempting to make on a moment’s notice.

He watched Sey-len walk straight over to the police car, smiling at the two closest officers. The two mistakenly relaxed for a moment, thinking he would surrender peacefully. They were surprised for only a moment before their gruesome deaths, as the tall Sey-len simply gripped the front of their car and flipped it over on top of them as if it were a hamburger on a grill. The third officer outside simply caught fire and melted somehow, as if someone had turned a powerful heat source on him. He screamed in terror for several minutes before finally losing conciousness.

Hands now shaking, Tom clicked the ‘talk’ button on his radio, and struggled to find his voice through the paralyzing fear he felt coursing through him. “Officers need assistance. All my backup is…dead! They’re all–”

He paused as Sey-len turned to face him. As Sey-len approached him, he fell to his knees, his thumb still pressing the button on his radio as if it would somehow save his life.

“As I walk through the valley of death…I shall not fear.” The 911 dispatcher, Kelly, began crying softly as she heard Tom’s wavering voice uttering his last prayers. She could do nothing to help him. “I shall not fear…I shall not fear. Please God, no—”

The 911 dispatch center suddenly grew silent. Kelly looked at her supervisor, her eyes red with tears. He said nothing as he silently signalled the police dispatcher again.

He paused for a moment as he looked at the 911 dispatchers in the center. They all knew Tom. He was a gentle soul, someone they all loved. They never expected to listen to him die over the air. He swallowed hard. “All available units…Code 99. Officers down. Approach with extreme caution.”

“Can I help you?”

A clerk in a small clothing store in Malibu Square watched a large man enter and pause, looking around slowly as if he were taking in the atmosphere. He wore older clothing which fit him badly. The clerk became suspicious as the man began pulling clothing off of the racks without even answering.

“Excuse me, sir–”

He retreated back behind the counter as the behemoth of a man gave him a terrifyingly chilling stare. As he frantically tapped the panic alarm below the desk, he turned pale, hoping the large, silent man would simply take what he needs and leave quietly.

But such would not be his fate. He began to back away slowly as the monster approached the desk, slowly. With shaking hands, he tapped the release button on the cash register, and opened the drawer, quickly, throwing the cash at the approaching behemoth in the hopes of getting him to take the money and leave.

“I am Sey-len. You fear me…that is good.”

The clerk smiled weakly, as he watched Sey-len extend a hand in what seemed like a courteous greeting. He reached out to meet the man’s huge hand, in the hopes of preventing his own injury or death.

Once again, the clerk would not be so lucky. As soon as his hand reached Sey-len’s palm, he felt what seemed like a sudden tug against his shoulder…only as he watched, Sey-len stood in front of the clerk, waving his own detached arm in front of him. He wanted to cry out for help, but he suddenly felt both weak from blood loss, and frozen from panic and shock.

The last thing he remembered as being clubbed by his own elbow…and then, nothing.

Renee sighed to herself as she watched four Malibu police cars race down the street shortly after she parked her car in Malibu Square, the same retail area where she remembered knocking down that suspect. She even remembered the exact spot that the man lay unconcious, even though cars were driving over it at the moment.

She wanted so badly to know where the police cars were headed in such a hurry – deep down, she was still a cop. She had to take a deep breath and calm herself, tell herself that she was on vacation, and that the other officers were more then capable of handling the situation on their own.

Sliding on a pair of sunglasses, Renee focused on a small coffee shop fairly close to where she had parked. Sharon had asked to meet her there to talk over lunch.

As soon as she stepped through the doors of the coffee shop, she spotted Sharon sitting next to the window. Sharon still had a little bit of warrior in her – she always sat, stood, or hung around where she could see everything and everybody who came her way. She was never content just to hide in the back corner in peace and quiet.

“Enjoying your vacation?”

Renee smiled at Sharon and sat down at the table, tossing her sunglasses in front of her. She looked at the various pastries and extra cup of coffee that Sharon ordered in anticipation of her arrival. “It’s very relaxing. But I’m also getting a little bored. How can you stand to do this every day?”

“I’m a writer, Reya.” Sharon smiled as she shoved her cup of coffee around in a circle. “Writers find entertainment within their own minds. And if that fails, we just watch TV or go out for a while.”

“I have to tell you the truth, Sharon. Those stories of yours scare me a little. You must have destroyed San Francisco a half dozen times already.”

Sharon laughed quietly, trying not to attract too much attention from other customers in the coffee shop. “They’re just stories. The Arions have no idea this place even exists yet. We just got here first.”

Renee sighed and leaned back in her chair. She suddenly seemed a little upset by Sharon’s implication – that eventually, the Arions would come to Earth…and destroy it. “I love Earth. It’s such a peaceful place, Sharon. Even as I grew up…as we grew up…back home, there was always an undercurrent of fear, and hatred. I want my children to grow up in a place like this…knowing what peace and tranquility truly are.”

“Children?” Sharon smiled and took a sip of her coffee. “You’re thinking about children? Do you have any idea how much trouble you’d get into if you tried to raise a family here?”

Another sigh from Renee as she produced a small steel scroll from her purse and slid it toward Sharon. “I’ve been called elsewhere, Sharon. But I’m not going. I want to stay here.”

Sharon slid her chair back suddenly, turning a little pale as she used an amazing amount of strength to uncurl the small scroll. It was almost as if she had to confirm that what Renee told her wasn’t a prank. “But you can’t…I mean…it’s a death sentence if you–”

“The messenger would have to find me first.” Renee sounded confident as she took the scroll back and stuffed it into her purse. “And even if he does, I’ll just turn him away. It’s funny, really…messengers are supposed to enforce these things, but they’re forbidden to fight a Protector.”

“No, no–” Sharon leaned closer to Renee. The deep serious look in her eyes caused Renee’s smile to vanish, and a chill to run down her spine. “They won’t send a messenger. They’ll send a recovery team…of experienced protectors.”

“But–” Renee bowed her head and paused, trying to curb the feelings of frustration and sadness she felt. She felt like crying. She didn’t want to be forced to leave this place. “Can’t I…appeal this or something?”

Renee bowed her head further as Sharon shook her head sadly. She could tell that Sharon was becoming involved, emotionally. To her, that was a bad sign – between the two friends, Sharon was always the strong one, telling Renee not to let things eat away at her.

After she left the Malibu police station the night before, she went directly to Sharon’s house. Sharon accepted her warmly, even though she already had company of her own. She listened quietly as Renee poured out her heart in her kitchen, handing her a box of tissues as she began to cry. To Renee, Sharon was a rock, someone stable and caring enough to trust with anything.

“You really can’t handle this, can you?” Sharon smiled softly and held Renee’s hands between her own as Renee responded by shaking her head slowly. “I’ll tell you what, Reya. I’ll do what I can for you. I can’t promise anything, but–”

“Thank you”, Renee whispered softly as she reached across the table to hug Sharon tightly. She knew that the odds were stacked decidedly against her – but just the thought that Sharon was on her side was enough to give her the courage to do what she had to.

Renee wiped away a few remaining tears as she waved at Sharon and headed back to her car. It was impractical for them to walk to their cars together, given that they had parked at opposite ends of the block. Even so, Renee made sure to wait until Sharon reached her car, waving at her as she climbed in and drove away slowly. Sharon waved back as she passed by.

She guessed it was part of her cop instinct that always caused her to make sure everyone else was safe before leaving herself. Maybe, as a trained police officer, she felt she could handle anything which may befall anyone she watched over. Or perhaps it was something genetic, from her breeding as a protector back on Velor. Whichever the case, she realized at that moment that she had been absolutely, positively wrong.

As soon as she turned and headed toward her car, she felt a strong hand grip her arm. She was literally lifted off of her feet and slammed into a brick wall in an alley hard enough to send a crack down the center of the building. Her head spinning, she looked up at a very large man…and immediately felt terror surge through her body. It was as if some nightmare of hers had suddenly come to life before her eyes. But somehow, she realized that the nightmare had just begun.

She turned and tried to run away – but his steel-like grip on her arm stopped her in her tracks. He grabbed her hair with his other hand, and pulled it, hard, sending a searing pain through her scalp. He then used his body to pin her flat against the wall. Once she realized that she had been immobilized, she began screaming as loud as her lungs would allow.

Renee felt a blow to her head. It felt like a large truck had slammed right into her. Another blow, and another pull of the hair. She tried to push him away, to kick and claw at him, hopefully causing him enough suffering that he would choose to leave and pick on someone else. Yet he still held her against the wall, his foul breath entering her lungs as he laughed at her attempts to fight him off.

She screamed louder as she felt her clothing being torn, like tissue paper. She used all of her strength to try and push him away desperately, as she turned her head away to avoid that foul breath. He seemed amused by her struggles. That scared her more then anything else.

Her eyes widened with terror as something changed – he gripped her neck tightly, and suddenly shifted position to pin only her torso to the brick wall. She tried to cry out – but with her air diminishing, she couldn’t make a sound.

Every muscle in her body burned, and cried out to her as the man suddenly overcame all of her possible defenses, and invaded her in a most personal way. She closed her eyes and began to cry quietly, imagining to herself that this was all a horrible dream, a nightmare from which she would wake at any second. Or possibly that this was the first level of hell.

If it was hell, it lasted beyond an eternity…she hoped, and prayed that sweet death would take her. And as she collapsed to the ground, she closed her eyes and curled into a ball. There would be no more fighting. There would be no more warmth. Only cold darkness. So it will be written…the end.

#9 – On Wings Of Eagles

Kara walked slowly through a thick mist. She placed one foot in front of the other, as if she were walking a tightrope, afraid of falling if she deviated an inch from her course. She felt chilled as the mist touched her face and hands. Not a sound was around her, except for the faint noise generated by her own clothing and shoes.


The sound of her voice, nearly a whisper, echoed as if it was projected through a mountainous valley. She turned completely around, trying to get her bearings…but all that she could see was that mist.


She nearly leapt out of her skin as she watched a tall, dark figure approaching her through the mist, without making a sound. She backed away a little as the figure loomed larger…as well as another…and another…all approaching her slowly.

As she spun around quickly, she realized that she was surrounded by people…and they looked like her. The terror began to seep out of her as she took a look around. They seemed…sad? Why?

“What’s the matter?”

“You,” One old woman piped up. She stepped forward, and gripped Kara’s chin tightly – Kara struggled, but couldn’t get away. “You let us die….We needed you!”

“No…I don’t understand–” Kara tried to back away again, but the old woman held her still. “What did I do?”

“You’re a coward,” A man in the crowd piped up. “You ran away when we needed you most!”

“No…I didn’t, I swear!” Kara shook her head, trying to back away from the old woman as tears began to stream from her eyes. “I just woke up, and–”

Kara froze as another man appeared from the crowd, one which she recognized immediately – it was her father? “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry…”

He shook his head slowly, taking Kara from the old woman’s grip, and holding her gently. “I didn’t want you to leave…but it’s too late now. What’s done is done. Take care, my daughter. I will live on…in you.”

“No…” Kara’s eyes widened as he let go of her, and began backing away. She turned around quickly to see the other figures backing away as well. “No…please don’t leave me–”


Kara awoke to darkness, soaked in sweat, as she cast aside the covers of her bed. The glow of the television lit the room only slightly, but made it feel familiar as she tried her best to calm herself. She reached behind her and turned on a lamp.

As soon as the room was bathed in light, she remembered where she was. The previous day, Linda had decided that Kara was capable of a remarkable amount of independence. Being held like a prisoner in the Kents’ home, forcing them to look after her, was fair neither to the Kents nor to Kara. So she had been given a hotel room a short distance from Linda’s and Charlie’s rooms…and a large measure of independence.

She stood up and walked outside onto the balcony, letting the cool wind high above Metropolis whip through her hair. She thought about how wonderful it would be to fly around the city…but alas, a flying blonde teenager zipping past windows in such a place would become front-page news in a matter of hours – especially if she were still wearing a borrowed night gown.

The biggest rule of packing – always make sure you bring pajamas – had been violated…which brought Kara the embarrassing fate of having to borrow someone else’s. She was rather disappointed that Linda had developed such fancy tastes in clothing, causing Kara to end up with a rather breezy night gown made of a light fabric.

Kara tore herself from her thoughts as she noticed movement in her darkened room. That alone didn’t alarm her – because it was possible that Charlie’s dog Rupert had been left there by Linda. She took a deep, slow breath, and started to listen carefully. It was a human being…she could hear someone else breathing in the room, too slowly to be a dog.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” A soft British voice whispered from the darkness, as the movement came closer. Kara tensed a little bit, but relaxed as she realized that the voice’s sound was more curious than ominous. “You’re the reason we found the gateway.”

Kara took a step forward, closer so she could clearly see a dark-haired young woman, not much taller or older than herself, dressed in jeans and a black shirt, as well as soft leather hat – and carrying only a light beige backpack. “Who the hell are you?”

“Such language,” The woman scolded, “My mum would have washed your mouth out with soap. The name’s Sharon Holmes.”

“And should that alone impress me?” Kara gave Sharon an amused frown and folded her arms stubbornly.

Sharon shook her head in frustration as she tossed her backpack on a table in the center of the room and sat in a chair next to it. “Don’t Linda and Charlie tell you anything at all?”

“No.” Kara shook her head and paused for a moment. “I never know what’s going on. What’s this ‘gateway’?”

Sharon nodded knowingly, and placed one hand atop her backpack as it sat in the center of the table. “Get dressed, Kara. We’re taking a little midnight stroll.”
Linda awoke to the sound of a motorcycle’s engine starting up outside the hotel. It wasn’t at all unusual to hear one once in a while…but for some reason, at that late hour, the sound grated on her nerves.

She slid out of bed carefully and walked over to the window, gently shoving the heavy curtains out of the way. As she slid the glass door open and stepped onto the balcony, she could see the motorcycle below – two people riding one of those Japanese racing bikes – tearing down the street quickly.

Just as Linda was about to dismiss the bike completely, she recognized the young passenger – it was Kara! She raced back out onto the balcony, her heart beating quickly as she began to fear that the teen was being kidnapped…but another quick look confirmed that the driver of the motorcycle was Sharon Holmes.

She sighed with relief, knowing that Kara was in no danger…but she also felt anger. Why would Sharon take Kara somewhere in the middle of the night without saying anything, or even leaving a note?

“Calm down, Linda,” She told herself quietly as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Kara’s practically an adult. It’s none of your business.”

But it was! Linda promised Clark that she’d look after Kara…and practically right on the heels of that promise, Kara managed to sneak away. Linda frowned as she sighed again. She’d never be able to get to sleep anyway with so much worry on her mind…

In a blur, she raced across the room to her backpack, stored in a corner next to a desk…and changed into her costume in an instant. Without even thinking, she raced out onto the balcony, and launched herself into the air in two steps.

Just as she’d done a few nights before.

And just as before, she found herself careening through the air, feeling almost out of control until she steadied herself. She still hadn’t yet mastered takeoffs…but at least she knew she wouldn’t be plummeting back to Earth, as long as she concentrated on staying aloft.

Her heart was beating quickly, betraying the fact that she was once again an amateur in the skies. It took concentration. If she ever had to battle anything in the air…she shook her head, trying her best to discard such thoughts. Instead, she watched the motorcycle speeding along below – it seemed to be headed to…the airport?

The motorcycle finally stopped next to a small fixed-wing dual turboprop plane, parked on the edge of the airport’s lot. Linda watched as Sharon jumped off of the bike, with Kara following, and opened the left side door of the plane.

“Oh, no you don’t.” Linda descended quickly…but then realized that she did so much too quickly. She was paying too much attention to the plane, and too little to her landing. “Nuts…oh, nuts!”

Her feet slammed into a concrete taxiway, and collapsed under her, sending her tumbling a few times before she finally stopped. Linda stood quickly and tried to dust herself off…but it didn’t do much good. She now looked like she had been doing road construction all evening.

She stood quickly and raced toward the airplane, just as it began slowly moving toward the runway. If she attempted to stop the plane now, she would most likely destroy it – so she decided instead to tag along for the ride. Linda grabbed the tail of the plane as it sped down the runway, clinging to its moist, slick surface as best as she could. She’d find out where it was headed…one way or the other.
Sharon spun around in the pilot’s seat, after setting the airplane’s autopilot, turning to face Kara who sat directly behind her. She smiled, noting how amused Kara seemed, watching the clouds breeze past her window. “First time in a plane?”

Kara nodded. She was hypnotized by what was outside the window. “It’s loud in here…but it’s so warm and comfortable. No clammy air, no drops of water crawling on my skin–”

“All right, all right.” Sharon laughed as she stood and headed toward the small galley behind the cockpit. “Like a glass of water?”

“No…no thanks…I just want to watch.” Kara leaned her forehead against the inner plastic layer of the window, staring outside at the clouds whisking by.

“Suit yourself.”

Sharon had only left the cockpit for a few seconds before an alarm started beeping, accompanied by several flashing lights. She raced back to the pilot’s seat, and seemed panicked as she started making adjustments to the controls.

“Bloody hell!” She finally slammed her fist against the panel in front of her before leaping to her feet and racing to the back of the cockpit – where she tore open a small panel and removed a backpack, pausing before she could remove a second one. “I trust you can fly on your own.”

Kara nodded. “I can. Why…are we crashing?”

“Yes, Kara, we are.” Sharon nodded as she slipped the backpack on quickly. “Something’s gone wrong with the elevator control. We’re losing altitude.”

“Wait–” Kara stood up and blocked Sharon’s way. “Maybe I can just go out there and fix it?”

Sharon nearly laughed, but suppressed the chuckle to only an amused smile. “Really? How much do you know about airplane mechanics?”

“Well…we can’t do much worse. We’re already crashing.”

It only took a moment of thought to convince Sharon that Kara was right. The worst she could do would be a failure to repair the tail control…and there would still be time to bail out.

Without another word, Sharon pulled a lever on the airplane’s exit door and pushed outward, forcing it open against the outside air pressure. She stepped back quickly, trying to balance herself against the sudden rush of wind, as she watched Kara slowly approach the opening.

“Good luck, Kara,” Sharon shouted over the sound of the engines and buffeting wind noise.

Before Kara stepped through the opening, she turned around and smiled, giving Sharon a silent ‘thumbs-up’ gesture. In another instant, she leapt into the wind…and vanished into the clouds.
Linda was so shocked to see what looked like a human being whisk by above her, she nearly lost her grip on the left tail wing. She looked up quickly to see a small hand gripping the upper tail section, and two legs wearing jeans extending from behind the steel structure. She felt confused for a moment…it would be impossible for an ordinary human to survive such an encounter with an airplane, let alone be able to grab the tail.

She watched as another small hand gripped the edge of the tail as well…and then the owner’s head popped out from the other side. A teenager with blonde hair and bright blue eyes was staring back at her…a teen she recognized. “Kara! What are you doing out here?”

“I could ask you the same question.” Kara looked down at the tail wing Linda held onto tightly, noting that the corner of it – where the fixed part of the small wing met the mechanical part – was bent, jamming the mechanism. “You broke the plane, didn’t you?”

“No, I didn’t break–” Linda moved the edge of the mechanical part of the wing, shaking it up and down a bit to see if it still was working. She cringed when she heard metal squeaking against metal. She did indeed break it by accident. “Okay, maybe I did. I’ll fix it, if you tell me where we’re going.”

“Kansas, of course. Sharon wants me to see some gateway she found with you.”

There was a short lull in the conversation as Kara waited for Linda to bend the wing section enough to free it, so it could operate as it was supposed to. She launched herself toward the still open door, waving for Linda to follow.

As soon as Linda was inside, Kara planted her feet firmly inside the airplane and grabbed the door’s handle, pulling against the resistance of air moving past at two hundred and fifty miles per hour…and slammed it shut as if it were no more difficult than closing the barn door back on the Kents’ farm.

She latched the door and turned to face Linda. “Now tell me why you followed me.”

Linda smiled weakly, trying to dismiss her question with a light chuckle…but Kara stared at her with an almost threatening seriousness. “I was worried. I didn’t want Sharon to take you somewhere unfamiliar, or–”

A short silence filled the space between them as Linda’s smile turned to a frown, and she bit her lip. “Wait a minute. The gateway? Now I’m glad I followed you, Kara! You could have ended up stranded on some strange planet light years from here!”

Kara folded her arms and smiled, seemingly amused at the anger Linda displayed. “Yeah, right. I’m not completely brain-dead you know. I can think for myself.”

“Are you amused by this?” Linda glanced at Sharon, who stood leaning against the doorway to the cockpit, a big smile on her face.

“As her about the dreams, Linda.”

Linda’s eyes switched back to Kara again, waiting for the teen to fill in the blanks of what Sharon had just started.

“Something’s calling me, Linda,” Kara said as she walked past her and sat down in one of the rear seats of the cockpit. “It’s like this…mystery that’s tearing at my heart. These dreams were depressing me, and I didn’t know why…until Sharon mentioned the gateway.”

“She told me that she had a dream of being thrown from a platform, and falling into the middle of a city.”

Linda looked at Sharon again, and then back to Kara. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

“Because…you were kind of a mess, too.” Kara looked down and began fidgeting with her watch, an obvious attempt to avoid eye contact with Linda. “And…I’ve already been enough trouble to you and Clark.”

“No, no no.” Linda sat down in the seat across from Kara, ignoring Sharon as she walked past to sit in the pilot’s seat. “Kara, you’re like the sister I never had.”

“Then why did you leave me with the Kents, and then with Clark and Lois…when you knew they couldn’t deal with me? Do you have any idea what if feels like to be unwanted?”

Linda’s mouth hung open as she watched Kara look down, eyes closed tightly as if her own honest words stung her. She began to understand why the teen had always been so silent, so introverted – because she was afraid of hurting and shaming those who had taken care of her.

“I had no idea you felt that way, Kara,” Linda whispered, “I’m so sorry.”

“Sorry is for losers, Linda.”

Kara sat, arms folded, without speaking a word as Linda tried her best to respond – but Linda was coming up empty. Luckily, she found a small interruption which would ultimately end the conversation.

“We’re here,” Sharon announced, before putting on a headset meant to contact the nearest tower and make sure she could land in a nearby field safely without hitting any other planes.

A think, depressing silence filled the cabin of the airplane as it slowly headed back to Earth. Linda kept giving Kara sad looks, wishing she could say something to brighten her word. But Kara didn’t see any of them – she stared out the window, once again lost in her own world.
“Excuse me…Have you seen Kara?”

Charlie looked up from his newspaper slowly to see Clark Kent standing in front of his desk in his office. He laughed as Clark pushed his glasses up from the end of his nose, amused at how the man could become so deeply immersed in his civilian persona when the world knew his alter ego as Superman.

“I haven’t seen her, but I know where she is.” Charlie dug in the pocket of his jacket, hanging on the back of his chair, pulling out a crumpled piece of paper. “Sharon’s taken her to Kansas to see the Gateway. I assume Linda’s gone, too.”

Clark frowned. “She just up and left in the middle of the night?”

“I guess she’s a night owl.” Charlie shrugged. “And Sharon…well, I have no idea what kind of hours she keeps–”

They both turned abruptly as a soft tap at the window sounded through the nearly silent office. Charlie frowned as he noticed who it was – Power Girl.

“Oh, bloody hell.” Charlie pulled the window open abruptly, allowing Power Girl to enter the room before closing it. “You know, if you super hero types keep dropping by, my rent will go up.”

Power Girl smiled and gave Charlie a quick laugh before approaching Clark – who had a confused look on his face. He’d never seen her laugh so easily before. “I just talked to Kyle this morning, Clark. He says the Guardians know about the Gateway, and–”

“Wait, wait–” Charlie suddenly stepped between Power Girl and Clark, raising both of his hands. “This isn’t the JLA headquarters, you two. Must you hold these kinds of meetings here?”

“As I was saying–” Power Girl frowned at Charlie and stepped around him, ignoring him as she continued. “They want it destroyed, and Kyle is on his way to do their dirty work. I figured since Kara and Linda are on her way there–”

She turned and looked directly at Charlie, giving him and ‘I told you so’ look, raising her voice a little. “–At least one of you might be interested in knowing.”

“Um–” Charlie smiled weakly. “And you’re planning to fly over there?”

“What do you think?” In a blinding blur, Power Girl grabbed Charlie’s left upper arm quickly, pulling him quickly enough to the window that both of his feet left the carpeted floor. Before he could even open his mouth to object, he was airborne alongside her, being held only by one arm…yet he didn’t feel like he was being pulled.

“Wait a minute. Linda has always had to hold me aloft by–”

“I’m not Linda. My flight power’s a mystery.” She gripped Charlie’s arm tighter and made a gut-wrenching turn, heading toward the west. “Now shut up, or I might lose my concentration and drop you.”

Charlie swallowed hard, obeying her request. He hoped it wouldn’t be long before they landed.
Once the plane had stopped completely, Sharon opened the exit door and extended the small stairway to allow everyone to exit. She stood in the doorway like a flight attendant, waiting for Linda and Kara to leave first. As soon as they did, she returned to the inside to get some equipment.

“Linda, I’m sorry.” Kara turned around to face Linda, but then looked down at the ground. “You’ve been nothing but notice to me…I shouldn’t have lashed out and insulted you.”

“You call that lashing out?” Linda smiled. “Kara, when I was your age…God, that makes me sound old…your ‘lashing out’ would have been what I did on a good day.”

Kara smiled mischievously, walking backwards for a few steps before turning and walking, ahead of Sharon, toward the entrance of an underground cavern only partially hidden in the a field about a quarter mile away. Linda shook her head and followed.

For Linda, the walk through the field in Kansas was nothing new – she had gone through the same journey with Sharon and Charlie once before. But she was amazed at how Kara had spotted the entrance and headed straight for it. It was almost as if she too somehow remembered where it was located.

Linda suddenly found herself bathed in green light. She froze, the hair on the back of her neck standing on end, for a moment unsure of what it was. But then, her mind finally connected the color with her memory…Green Lantern?

She looked straight up, nearly giving herself a neck cramp as she searched the skies for the familiar green and black costume of Kyle Rayner. It didn’t take her long to find him – he was descending quickly from just below the clouds, surrounded by a green halo.

“I should have known you’d be here,” Kyle joked as he slowly settled to his feet, “Every time there’s trouble, you’re nearby.”

“Chaos, actually,” Linda pointed out as she smiled. “Every time there’s chaos, I’m nearby.”

Linda suddenly ducked as she noticed something flying toward her. It was a loose rock made of sand – it pelted Kyle, breaking into dozens of small pieces. She turned quickly – Kara stood a short distance away, dusting off her hands and smiling.

“If you two are done with the so-called witty conversation, can we follow Sharon inside?”

Kyle looked at Linda and rolled his eyes. She laughed and followed Kara down the slight hill toward the hidden entrance to the Gateway. “Is this the place I’m supposed to destroy?”

Sharon and Kara wheeled around at the same time. Neither seemed happy as they gave Kyle a threatening stare. Sharon decided to speak first. “You’re planning to do what?”

“Didn’t you know?” Kyle looked at Sharon, and then at Linda. “Nuts…I thought Power Girl would have told one of you by now. I met with the Guardians, they think this…Gateway…is dangerous.”

“Dangerous? Of course it’s dangerous!” Sharon laughed as she removed a crystal from her backpack, waving it in front of a hidden door. It slid open silently, as if by remote control. “So are nuclear weapons. Why don’t the Guardians destroy those?”

“You don’t understand.” Kyle shook his head slowly as he attempted to block Sharon from entering the underground cavern. “This Gateway doesn’t only work one direction, Sharon. If we can open it, so can beings on the other side. Earth isn’t ready for that.”

Sharon frowned, glancing into the cavern around Kyle. “Then find a way to secure it. What bloody use are you super-types if you can’t even do that?”

“I can.”

Kyle and Sharon both gave Kara a look which told her they either thought she was lying or crazy. Kara responded by smiling.

“Really, I can,” Kara continued as she walked between Sharon and Kyle into the cavern. “I…remember this. It’s so clear to me now. I know how to use it, and…”

She wheeled around quickly to face Kyle, deliberately looking at him. “…and how to disable it. It has two keys…one opens the gateway, the other locks it.”

Sharon held the crystal in her hand at her own eye level. “This is obviously the key to open it.”

Kara nodded as she walked toward the wall of solid crystal in the back of the room. She paused for a moment, looking over the surface of it. It seemed to be giving off a light of its own. “See that light? That means it’s activated. There is another crystal inside here somewhere.”

Linda and Sharon looked at each other as Linda passed through the doorway. Neither had any idea what Kara was doing – but Linda watched without speaking a word. She somehow knew that this place was helping Kara recover some of her lost memory.

Kara walked slowly around the perimeter of the room, looking from floor to ceiling – as if she knew something was there. Yet she had no idea what she was searching for. She knew only that she would know when she found it. And just as she had hoped…

“There it is!” Kara pointed high above the glowing crystal wall, where a small, faintly glowing crystal was embedded in a slot near the ceiling of the cavern. Sharon shook her head, wondering how she could have missed it the last time she visited.

But just when she prepared herself to perform a quick leap and snatch that crystal, Kara turned suddenly at the sound of a muffled groan, and a struggle just outside the doorway. Linda turned too, heading immediately outside – but Kara wasn’t far behind.

Power Girl stood outside on the tall grass, one hand over Kyle’s mouth, and her other arm gripping him in an inescapable headlock. Charlie stood a few feet behind her, trying his best not to be injured by accident as Kyle swung his arms wildly, trying to free himself from his captor.

“Let him go!” Kara ordered, trying her best to sound as impressive as possible. She was surprised when Power Girl actually did so, allowing Kyle to collapse to the ground.

Kyle stood quickly, and frowned at Power Girl as he dusted himself off. “What did you do that for?”

“I came here to stop you from destroying this place…with Kara in it.”

“Do I look that stupid?” Kyle immediately realized that his response practically demanded an insult from Power Girl – he waved her off before she had a chance to respond. “Look, Peegee, we had this whole thing worked out before you even showed up.”

Power Girl pointed a finger at Kyle angrily, and frowned. “First of all, don’t call me that, you Nightwing wannabe. Second…how in hell was I supposed to know that?”

“Nightwing wannabe?” Linda whispered to Charlie, trying her best not to laugh. Charlie shrugged, and then pointed to Sharon – she had the second crystal in her hand, tossing it up in the air slightly to emphasize the fact that she spent her time much more wisely than anyone else.

“It no longer matters,” Sharon interrupted as she walked past Linda and Charlie, waving the crystal at Kyle and Power Girl. “The gateway is disabled now.”

“Good. Then maybe certain destructive people can go home…” Power Girl purposely looked at Kyle again, ignoring his frown. “…And tell their puppet masters to mind their own business.”

“Hey! The Guardians don’t control me, Peegee! I’m my own man!”

Power Girl rolled her eyes. “A one hundred percent fictional sentence if I ever heard one.”

Before Kyle had a chance to respond, Power Girl launched herself skyward in a blur. He was still fuming over her attitude…but it would be worthless to follow her and argue with her further.

Instead, he was surprised to see that Kara raced skyward behind Power Girl…and she was fast! Kara caught up with her in only a matter of seconds.

“Words hurt, you know.”

Power Girl suddenly stopped, seeming surprised to hear a voice so close to her. She hovered, looking at Kara for a moment before speaking. “Do they now?”

Kara nodded. “What if after right now, you never saw Kyle again? The last thing he’d remember was you treating him like garbage.”

By the time Power Girl had taken a deep breath and thought of a harsh response, the picture Kara had drawn in her mind had already taken form. She sighed, her eyes turning sad. As super heroes, there was always a possibility that one may never see another again. It was a very risky job.

“You’re right, Kara. Tell him I meant well…okay?”

“Why can’t you tell him?”

Power Girl sighed again. “Because, Kara…when you know Kyle as long as I have, you’ll learn that he can be as grating as myself sometimes. I don’t want that to be the last thing I remember, either.”

Kara frowned as she watched Power Girl fly away quickly. She had initially been used to seeing simple, cooperative relationships. Clark and Lois, a typical married couple…and Linda and Charlie, two friends who regularly behaved as if they could be a couple as well.

The relationship between Clark and Lois, however, deepened in complexity the longer she knew them. Kara even understood things that even they themselves didn’t, or refused to admit. She knew the hurt Clark felt every time Lois went on an ambitious assignment, leaving him alone…and the deep fear that Lois felt every time she watched Clark put on that costume, knowing that this time he might not come home.

She knew that the distance Linda and Charlie kept from each other was for that very reason – but neither one would admit to it. They each feared investing too much in each other…because they feared losing each other. The friendship they had was more comfortable than any other kind of relationship…because it was safe.

Kara wondered still how two heroes like Power Girl and Kyle can work together in spite of their bickering. She guessed that it meant some sort of level of comfort was between them, one where they each knew they weren’t hurting the other that deeply. Kind of a warped type of reassurance.

She shook off her thoughts as she returned to the ground and headed back to the underground cavern, smiling to herself as she noticed Kyle, back to his cheerful self. Maybe that guess wasn’t far off after all.
“I guess we should get everyone home, then.” Linda took a quick count of everyone present at the entrance to the underground Gateway cavern. “I don’t think I can carry all of you, and Kara’s not strong enough. So it’s up to you, Kyle.”

“What about Sharon’s airplane?” Kara’s interruption drew stares from Charlie and Linda. They two of them looked a little sad – it was easy to tell that Sharon wasn’t planning on coming back with them.

Sharon smiled weakly, dangling the crystal in front of Kara. “It’s quite simple, really. As long as I hold this crystal, it’s my responsibility to send it to a place where it’s difficult to recover…for the safety of humanity.”

“I understand.” Kara nodded and smiled half-heartedly.

“Unless–” Sharon walked closer to Kara. She kneeled down to look up into Kara’s eyes, and lowered her voice to a whisper. “You know you’ve come through that gateway, don’t you? Wouldn’t you like to discover your origins?”

Kara smiled, looking at the crystal in Sharon’s hand. “I will…one day. But for now, I’m satisfied.”

“Are you now?” Sharon asked.

“Yes.” Kara nodded. “I now know my place in the world. I know what I’m supposed to do here.”

Linda and Charlie looked at each other, to confirm silently that they were both confused by what Kara was saying. It gave Kara a warm feeling to see that – whenever Charlie and Linda began communicating non-verbally, it meant that everything was right with the world.

And Sharon…Kara wondered if she had some sort of latent psychic ability…or maybe she was just extremely perceptive. Sharon managed to follow Kara’s eyes…and then her laugh told Kara that she knew. She saw the same thing Kara did.

But what Kara remembered about that empty, lonely field somewhere in nowhere, Kansas was one thing – for the second time since her arrival on Earth, among confusion, she had managed to cause every hero in Metropolis to gather, and work together. Not because of danger…but because they all cared about her safety. She had managed once again to do what she believed she was intended to…

…Bring people together.


#8 – Crystal Clear, Part 2

“I can’t believe I’ve been called to this meeting.” Kyle Rayner, known to most of the people of Earth as Green Lantern, shook his head slowly as he stared up at a panel of alien-looking shadows immersed in darkness. “She’s no danger to any of us. In fact, she’s a hero…just like me.”

“That does not concern us,” one of the shadows droned. “Our one concern is balance. What she saw was not meant for her eyes. And there is one new resident of your realm…a young female…who does not belong–”

“Yes, yes…you mentioned that.” Kyle folded his arms and looked defiantly at the panel seated above him. “What do you want me to do about it? Ask every one of billions of people if they belong on Earth?”

“This female is closer then you know, Kyle Rayner. She has abilities beyond that of the average creatures of your planet–”

“Oh, that really narrows it down–”

“–And she is close to the one who has seen what she should not.” The shadow’s voice sounded impatient with that last sentence. “The two are a source of Chaos in your realm, Kyle Rayner. The situation must be monitored closely.”

Kyle smiled mischievously, and nearly laughed. “Hmm…Watch Supergirl closely. Now that’s an assignment I can live with.”

If the shadows frowned at all behind the shroud of darkness, they did so at that moment. They were less then amused with Kyle’s comment. “Kyle Rayner, if Green Lanterns were not in such demand, we would strip you of your ring at this moment! You are the most disrespectful member we have seen in our eons of existence–”

“Yeah, yeah. Send me a memo, would you? I have to get home.” With those words, Kyle vanished in a blaze of green light, leaving the Guardians of Oa behind to fume quietly in the darkness.


Linda knew she was dreaming. After all, orbiting high above the reddish planet she remembered seeing below her the day before would be impossible. Even she couldn’t breathe in space, and she would most likely freeze to death before suffocating anyhow.

But she let herself enjoy the dream, as she coasted through the red planet’s thin atmosphere, feeling the cool moisture from the tops of pink clouds condense on her skin and slide along her arms and legs. It had been so long since she flew at such altitudes in real life…it seemed like an eternity.

Just when she was beginning to enjoy herself, her dream began to slip away. She felt a mixture of anger and frustration as she felt her mind waking from her deep sleep. She wanted to stay longer…

Her hearing began to tune into the sounds of her hotel room, and the faint sounds of Metropolis traffic outside as she felt a chill of cool air on her skin. She sighed to herself as she kept her eyes closed. The air conditioner probably went crazy in the room again – she knew that she would have to open her eyes now, and get out of bed for a moment to find the spare blanket in the closet.

Linda extended one leg to try and reach the edge of the bed as she started opening her eyes slowly. She frowned as she realized that she couldn’t seem to find the edge of the bed…or even the covers. Her eyes snapped open as she began to suspect something was wrong. She sat up quickly…and hit her head on something hard.

“Ow!” She twisted around quickly, getting a momentary glance of the bed below her, stripped of it’s covers, before crashing down to it head first, bouncing off of the mattress once and landing hard on the floor.

Her hands shaking, Linda reached for the lamp beside the bed and turned it on quickly. She sat up and began looking around the room. The bed was still next to her, its covers strewn on the floor around her. She looked up at the ceiling – there was a small dent where…she hit her head?

“What the…?” She slowly rose to her feet and looked up at the ceiling, staring, even dreaming a little at what caused the dent. She remembered hitting her head, and falling from…a smile creeped onto her face. “Could it be?”

Without another thought, Linda raced over to the backpack she left next to the closet and removed the white gloves, the tee-shirt, red boots, and blue skirt quickly. It didn’t take her long to put her costume on…and before she knew it, she was standing on the balcony outside her room, breathing the cool night air.

She glanced back into the room again, looking at the small dent in the ceiling, and took a deep breath. She could do it…she could fly. A quick look down to the hotel’s entrance ten floors below made her feel a little wary…but that dent in the ceiling gave her overwhelming confidence. There was only one way it could be there.

“Well…here goes.” Linda leapt off of the balcony, heading skyward, her right arm extended out ahead of her, fist leading the way. It felt wonderful, the cool air whipping through her hair again, to be free of the bounds of gravity. The joy of flying began to rush back to her…a feeling which had been too far out of reach for too long.

But then something changed. She was slowing down. The tethers of gravity once again took ahold of her…and she began falling. “Oh…no…no…”

Linda tumbled through the air, out of control, as she let the despair of the moment take control of her emotions. Her dream, the one thing she wanted most…torn away from her again. She began crying silently as she plummeted faster and faster toward the Earth…hoping for a moment that maybe this time, the fall might actually kill her. No…she had to dismiss such thoughts. She had to…

…Fly. She knew she must. Every fiber of her being began to fight the gravity pulling violently against her, trying to bring her crashing back to Earth. She remembered something Charlie told her once…’Don’t think, just do.’ And just as that thought crossed her mind…

…She realized that the Earth was moving away from her. Linda still felt herself falling…but she was falling away from the ground. She felt forces which would tear ordinary humans apart tugging at all of her limbs as the hotel became smaller and smaller. She gasped in wonder as she lights below her suddenly became a complete blur. And suddenly, she felt…nauseous.

Somehow, she instinctively found the balcony outside her hotel room in her rush to get safely to the bathroom. She made it just in time, lifting the seat of the toilet just as the remaining contents of her near-empty stomach emptied in an instant into the water. She flushed it down quickly, without even looking or taking a breath. Everything felt like such a rush.

Linda stumbled out of the bathroom and leaned her back against the wall around the corner, sliding down to the floor slowly. Suddenly everything seemed so foreign to her. She was just outside, flying…yet she found quickly that she was way out of practice. Her heart was still racing from excitement…she wanted to go back out and fly some more. But she was so tired. She crawled into bed slowly. It was time to sleep.
“Linda? Linda, wake up! It’s almost one o’clock!”

“Huh?” Linda opened her eyes quickly and looked up at Charlie. She was lying in bed, the covers pulled up to her chin. She had been sleeping so long, her entire body felt almost completely numb. She pulled her hands out from under the heavy blanket slowly, and rubbed her eyes. “Charlie…what are you doing in here?”

“I came to get you because you didn’t call…oh, excuse me.”

Linda watched Charlie retreat around the corner quickly as she sat up in bed. He seemed to be spooked by something…that’s when she spotted the white tee-shirt she was wearing last night carelessly tossed onto a chair at the foot of the bed. She was wearing only her undergarments under the covers. “Oh…I’m sorry. I was so tired last night after…Oh my God!”

Linda suddenly leapt out of bed, catching the robe which Charlie retrieved from behind the bathroom door and tossed to her. She paused to tie the robe’s belt around her waist, and quickly ran around the corner. “Charlie, I was flying last night!”

“In your underwear?”

“No, not in my underwear, Charlie. Come on!” She shoved Charlie lightly, trying not to laugh at the image his suggestion placed in her mind. “I was in my costume. It was wonderful, Charlie…I almost had forgotten what it’s like.”

“Linda…not to be rude but…could you…brush your teeth?” Charlie wrinkled his nose as Linda stood closer to him.

“I’m so sorry…I forgot that…oh, never mind.” Linda raced into the bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush.

“First you forget you’re in your underwear, then you forget to brush your teeth?” Charlie chuckled as he watched Linda hurriedly brush her teeth over the sink. “What’s going on?”

“I had an experience.” Linda spit out a mouthful of water and turned off the sink, wiping her face off on a towel as she headed out of the bathroom. “I dreamt that I could fly last night…and then I went outside and actually did it.”

Linda noticed Charlie looking away again before she looked down and then wrapped the robe around her more tightly. She frowned at him as she walked through the room to look for some clothing. “Could you um…wait in the kitchenette? I’d like to take a shower.”

“Sure, Linda. I’ll just raid the refrigerator while I’m waiting.”

She rolled her eyes and sighed as she watched Charlie head into the kitchenette and open the refrigerator. As she picked up an armful of clothing and headed toward the bathroom, she smiled to herself as she closed the door behind her. She knew that she flew last night…and she would prove it by doing so again.
“…right behind this door.” Lex Luthor unlocked a large steel door by placing his palm on a glass pad and typing in a code with his other hand. In the center of the door was a LexCorp logo. He didn’t seem the list bit afraid even as Vlad held a gun to his head.

“And you’re sure this weapon will kill Supergirl?”

“I call it Stardust. It’s a mold spore which grows inside the lungs…easily defeated, but deadly if not treated.” As the steel door slid open, Luthor stood aside and urged Vlad to go ahead.

Vlad slapped Luthor hard on the side of the side of his head, growling at him in a thick Russian accent. “Do I look stupid? You go first, it could be trap.”

Luthor sighed and walked through the doorway ahead of Vlad, walking quickly to stay a few paces ahead of him. Vlad discovered why an instant later – he ran right into some kind of invisible field which was now separating himself and Luthor. He immediately turned around, and ran into another invisible field – he was trapped.

“You’ll pay for this, you snake!” Vlad aimed the gun at Luthor, and fired two rounds. The bullets simply bounced off of the invisible field, landing on the floor at his feet.

“It’s a dampening force field,” Luthor explained. “It not only acts as a wall of energy, it cushions blows to it as well. When it’s completed, it’ll be extremely valuable in the mental health field.”

“You see, while the field prevents what’s inside from escaping–” Luthor picked up some sort of small device the size of a pager from a nearby steel countertop. He pointed it at Vlad, and pressed the button. A bolt of white energy immediately connected to Vlad, appearing and disappearing with the speed of lightning. “–It allows me to easily stun you from out here.”

“Is everything okay, Lex?” Mercy Graves entered the room quickly, carrying a heavy military style rifle and a knife on her belt. Two security men followed her into the room quickly, similarly armed. “We saw you taken into the building as a hostage, and–”

“Mercy, if there is one thing you can always be sure of, it’s that I’m never a hostage in my own building.”

She smiled and nodded, waving at the two guards to remove Vlad’s unconscious body. The two lifted Vlad off of the floor and left quickly. As soon as Mercy was sure the two had left, and the door slid shut, she removed her weapons and placed them on one of the steel counters next to her. “We were all worried about you, Lex. I was afraid that Superman had hauled you off to his fortress or something.”

Luthor smiled, walking closer to Mercy to shake her hand. It caught her a little off-guard, a man who was usually so bitter and stoic displaying friendship openly. “It’s good to be back, Mercy. Of all of the people here, I missed you most.”

Mercy stood frozen, her mouth hanging open from surprise, as Lex Luthor quietly left the room. As the door slid shut behind Luthor, she still found herself lacking words…and her head was swimming. If she didn’t believe it before, now she did…Luthor had changed.
“Can I go for a walk? I’m bored.”

Clark looked up from his desk slowly, a slight smile forming as he noticed that Kara still wore the jacket she left home with, in spite of the fact that it was much warmer since early morning. Much like himself, she was extremely tolerant of temperature changes. “This is a big building, Kara. Why don’t you explore it a little. And take the jacket off, it looks like you just got here.”

Kara smiled glancing over at Lois’ desk. She was out on assignment, having vanished the instant that a rumor began circulating that Lex Luthor had managed to escape from and detain one of his captors. Lois had been on her way to buy breakfast for herself and Kara when she got the call on her cell phone…and immediately detoured to drop Kara off at Clark’s desk. “I know how to get to Linda’s office. Can I go there?”

A deep sigh from Clark answered her question before he even said a word. She knew he wasn’t enthusiastic about her wandering around the city, given the potential for her to attract unwanted attention accidentally.

“I won’t do anything weird, I promise. I’ll just walk over there.”

Clark tapped on his desk twice, lost in thought for a moment, before reaching for his phone. “All right, Kara. But I’m going to call ahead first to make sure they know you’re coming.”

Kara rolled her eyes and slid into a chair at the other end of Clark’s desk, making sure he heard her sigh. As he began dialing his phone, she quickly picked up his steel letter opener, and began weaving it between her fingers as if it were nothing more then a plastic straw. She slid it off of the end of her fingers and smiled as she held it up to show Clark.

“Kara–” Clark sighed and snatched the letter opener from her, quickly stuffing it into his desk drawer as he placed his phone handset on the desk. He took a quick look around the room, leaning closer to Kara as he realized no one had seen what happened. “Don’t do that. Do you have any idea how dangerous it could be for someone to figure out–”

“I know, I know.” Kara dismissed Clark’s scolding with a wave of her hand and rose to her feet. “So…can I go?”

He nodded. “Yes, Charlie says you’re welcome to visit. Please try not to give him too much trouble.”

Clark watched as Kara gave him a quick smile and headed to the elevators quickly. He had a bad feeling about letting her walk around Metropolis alone, even if she was only walking a block. As soon as she was safely in the elevator, he lifted the handset again and took a deep breath as he looked at the letter opener in his open desk drawer. “Keep an eye on her, Charlie. I fear she may be looking for trouble…and I pray she never finds it.”
“I’m sorry, we have no leads yet.” Charlie sighed and leaned back in his new office chair as he looked across his desk at Emil Hamilton and the ‘essence’ who calls herself Sam. She looked and acted so closely to his former partner at LexCorp…he still couldn’t believe that she was almost entirely artificial. She was a testament to the work of the man Dr. Hamilton searched for – Tatsuo Takamura, inventor of the Pocket Protectors.

It worried Charlie a little bit that the Pocket Protectors – small personal security devices designed to increase safety – had to be taken off the market after a child watched his mother killed by one in a mall. If the same man designed Sam, did that mean the same fate awaited her? Or was it simply a manufacturing problem which caused a sound design to become dangerous?

Dr. Hamilton sighed. “I’m so sorry to hear that. If we don’t find him, Sam may be the last of her kind…and any research generated by the process of designing her will be forever lost.”

“Yes, well…” Charlie smiled and sat up, clasping his hands together in the center of the desk. “…I haven’t given up yet. In fact, Linda is out right now–”

As Charlie leaned back slightly in his chair, he couldn’t help but notice an orange glow coming from outside the window of his office. He turned slightly to fulfill his curiosity and look outside – and immediately noticed flames burning through the open fourth floor windows of a small six-story building across the street.

“Oh my God.” Charlie quickly reached for his telephone, dialing 911 as soon as he picked up the handset. But it was no use – the dispatch center had a recording indicating that all lines were busy. Luckily, it didn’t matter too much…the sound of sirens began to fill the streets quickly.

He looked outside again, noticing a teenager with blonde hair who stood on the sidewalk, staring straight up at the burning building, not moving or even coughing as thick clouds of smoke moved past her. It seemed like she was watching, or listening to something. He felt a moment of panic as he watched her remove her jacket and confidently stroll right into the building…but then he breathed a sigh of relief as he recognized Kara.

“Excuse me for a moment.” Charlie quickly raced around his desk and out of his office, heading straight for the stairway. He had no idea how quickly he managed to reach the first floor and run across the street, but it couldn’t have been long.

Unfortunately, as he attempted to cross the street toward the burning building, the heat and smoke drove him away. As he began coughing from breathing some of the smoke, he decided to retreat back to his office’s side of the street, and watch.

“Nobody’s in the building.”

Charlie’s heart began racing before he realized it was Kara’s voice who spoke to him from nearby. She was sitting on the trunk of a parked car only a few feet away. “How did you…I know I saw you go in there!”

Kara shrugged and bowed her head, avoiding Charlie’s gaze as if she were ashamed of something. “Takes some people longer to check then others. But I had to check…I couldn’t not know. I hope you’re not upset–”

“Upset?” Charlie hugged Kara across her shoulders quickly. “You’ve done a wonderful thing.”

“But…aren’t you worried about people finding out about me?”

“Seems to me,” Charlie said as he smiled at Kara, “I’m the only one who knows. But what’s important, Kara…is that you know what you did was right.”

“Right.” Kara laughed and slid off of the car trunk. “Try explaining that to Clark. He wants to keep me prisoner–”

“Clark is worried about you, Kara. If you walk around telling people who you are, you’ll gain enemies. Just look at Batman…he has more enemies then anyone.”

Kara folded her arms and frowned, looking up at Charlie with only her eyes. “That’s defective logic.”

The frown Charlie tried to give Kara dissolved quickly, giving way to a smile, and then a laugh. “You’re one smart teenager, aren’t you?”

He watched Kara return the smile as he pointed to his office building. Kara walked past him, and he followed her to the elevator. A minute later, the two entered the office suite Charlie had left only minutes earlier. He headed straight into his own office…but Kara froze as she stepped into the doorway, looking with fear at Sam, and then at Dr. Hamilton.

“What’s wrong?”

Kara looked at Charlie for a moment as if his question made no sense to her, before approaching Sam slowly. She reached out and poked Sam’s shoulder at arm’s length. “Are you…alive?”

Sam and Charlie both smiled at Kara’s question…but Dr. Hamilton looked perplexed. “She’s an ‘essence’, young lady. A living brain surrounded by an artificial body. But the question is…how did you know?”

“She–” Kara looked at Charlie again. She was almost afraid to explain, until he gave her an encouraging smile. “She…sounds different.”

“Sounds…?” Dr. Hamilton frowned and looked at Charlie. “Did she say that Sam sounds different?”

“She has excellent hearing.” Charlie smiled and nodded at Kara. She smiled in return.

“Very strange. I’ve taken audio readings on Sam.” Dr. Hamilton took a couple of steps toward Kara. “The only one who should be able to hear her is…”


Before Dr. Hamilton finished his sentence, Kara vanished from the room in a blur, leaving a wake of turbulence in the room, strong enough to toss most of the papers from Charlie’s desk into the air. Charlie laughed…but Dr. Hamilton was less then amused. He leaned over Charlie’s desk, and stared him straight in the eye.

“What’s going on here?” Dr. Hamilton’s voice was more serious then Charlie had ever heard before.

Charlie realized at that moment that as a scientist, someone with an innate need to explain what happens around him, it would be impossible to try and fool him. He took a deep breath, figuring that if Superman could trust his secrets with this man…

“Dr. Hamilton…can you keep a secret?”

Linda nearly dropped her backpack as she raced around the corner, heading toward her office. She had been occupied with thoughts of getting there before Dr. Hamilton left…until she noticed that the building across the street had two engines from the Metropolis Fire Department parked in front of it. She felt even more confused as she noticed Kara sitting on a the roof of a parked car, watching the firefighters work.

Kara didn’t even look as Linda approached her…but the movement of her eyes indicated that she knew Linda was there. Linda noticed that she looked a little depressed as she stared up at the top of the tall ladder the firefighters were using to fight the fire from above.

A light spray constantly rained down on the street as the wind blew back water sprayed from the fire hoses. It left small beads of water on the cars, and on Kara’s jacket. It felt refreshing to Linda, who had been walking around Metropolis all day attempting to gather information on Tatsuo Takamura…and coming up with nothing.

Linda easily hopped up on top of the roof of the car and sat next to Kara, watching the teen bow her head sadly. “What’s the matter?”

“Charlie is selling me out. Clark won’t let me leave his sight–” Kara sighed and looked up at Linda slowly. “Nobody likes me. I’m just…excess baggage. It’s like I don’t belong here, and everyone knows it.”

“I like you.” Linda gently put her arm across Kara’s shoulders, almost as if she were trying to shield the teen from an imaginary harsh wind. “I just can’t look after you because–”

“I don’t need looking after, Linda. I may be new to this city…to this planet…but I’m not stupid.”

“Hmm.” Linda looked down the street, toward the hotel where she and Charlie each had rooms until they found more permanent residence in Metropolis. They both learned within days that affordable housing was scarce inside the city…and it made Linda wonder just how much money Clark and Lois had to make to live there. “I may just have an idea…”

She interrupted herself as she suddenly noticed something out of the corner of her eye. A man she vaguely recognized was just standing behind the parked car, arms folded, as if he were listening to every word she and Kara were saying.

“Do you mind?” Linda turned around quickly, aiming an angry glance at the man standing behind the car. She almost followed her question with a couple of insults, before she recognized him. “Kyle Rayner? What are you doing here?”

He shrugged and held his arms out at his sides on dramatic fashion. “Can’t a man walk around on a public sidewalk without–”


He laughed as he leaned against the car, momentarily smiling as Kara turned around to give him a suspicious look. “Some very powerful associates of mine have taken an interest in you…and your little friend here. I’m supposed to keep an eye on you both.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Linda shook her head and slid off of the car, realizing suddenly that she had to look up at Kyle now. “Is this one of your sick pranks? I’ve heard about the ones you pull at JLA meetings. Diana still hasn’t forgiven you for the last one.”

“That was a one-time prank. And I had no idea that material would stick to skin when frozen, I swear.”

“What material?” Kara slid off of the car, looking at Linda, and then at Kyle.

“Nothing,” Linda said quickly. “Never mind. I’d rather not relive the moment, if it’s all the same.”

Kara looked at Kyle, who shrugged, but gave her no other response. She rolled her eyes and sat down on the hood of the car, her expression telling both Kyle and Linda that she didn’t appreciate being left out of the conversation. “Fine. Whatever.”

Linda stared at Kyle, an obvious question hanging between them – obvious enough that he knew what it was, even if she didn’t speak it. Why were these ‘powerful associates’ interested in her? She watched him turn serious, and a little confused before he answered, as if he himself didn’t understand the answer.

“The Guardians…they said you’ve seen something not meant for your eyes. And that you and the kid are sources of Chaos.”

“You mean–” Linda glanced at Kara for a moment before lowering her voice to a near whisper. “That reddish orange planet?”

Kyle turned pale at Linda’s question…at which point she realized that he didn’t know! The Guardians must not have given him such detailed information. “What…reddish orange planet?”

Linda sighed and sat back down on the hood of the car next to Kara. She gave Kyle a half-hearted smile. “I supposed it’s too late to say ‘never mind’.”

“Oh, I’d say it’s much too late.” Kyle leaned against the car’s windshield, waiting impatiently for Linda to tell him more.

Closing her eyes for a moment, Linda’s memory rushed back to the vivid image of that planet. She was floating above it…and it didn’t seem real. It couldn’t have been real…but it felt like she was there. The cold of space intruding on the vehicle which held her aloft, the warmth of the planet’s star glaring against the side of her face. And the planet…it seemed so…alive.

“Sharon, Charlie, and I found this…cave hidden in Kansas somewhere. Inside it was this crystal wall, and some sort of control center. I touched the crystal, and it became a gateway–”

“A…gateway?” Kyle frowned as he kept his gaze fixed on Linda.

Linda laughed and shook her head. “I know. I wouldn’t believe it either if I hadn’t seen it myself.”

“No, that’s not it.” He shook his head slowly. “I believe it. In fact, it’s all too real.”
Jimmy Olsen stared, his tongue nearly hanging out of his mouth, as a tall blonde he had never seen before confidently strolled through the Daily Planet press room. She was dressed just as most other blondes walking along the streets of Metropolis below, in black jeans, a white shirt, and blue jacket – but there was something so familiar about her hair texture, her eyes…maybe even her face.

As she passed him, she rolled her eyes and sighed. Even that seemed so familiar to Jimmy – something about the way she presented herself, in how she seemed so strange and yet so normal.

The woman paused and glanced around the large room quickly, seeming to be perplexed by the sheer volume of activity, desks, and number of people walking back and forth. Yet she didn’t give up right away. Even her self-sufficiency felt familiar to Jimmy somehow.

“Excuse me.” She spoke in a steady, confident voice, as if she were some sort of royalty, confident that she commanded everything and everyone in her presence. “Could you inform Clark Kent that Karen would like to have a word with him?”

Jimmy nodded, but still found himself at a loss for words. He almost tripped over his own feet as he turned and headed into the newsroom, pointing himself directly at Clark’s desk. It was empty. “Nuts.”

He turned around and walked back slowly to face the blonde, Karen, preparing himself to disappoint her no matter how much he hated to. “Miss…he’s not at his desk. Would you like to leave a message, or wait?”

Karen lifted her hand, tapping her chin gently with her index finger as she pondered a question which, to her, was more complex then it appeared. She obviously went to a lot of trouble to come to the Daily Planet offices. “I’ll wait. I’d rather not travel all the way back here.”

“Drove up from Gotham City, did you?” Jimmy smiled as he tried to punctuate his comment with a dose of humor. But as soon as it left his mouth, his smile turned into one of desperation as he realized how stupid it sounded.

Surprisingly, Karen returned his look with a warm smile as she sat down in one of the chairs next to the newsroom entrance. “Something like that. Listen, uh–”

“Jimmy.” He held his hand out to shake hers, only to find his arm dangling between them awkwardly. He withdrew his handshake attempt quickly.

“Jimmy…could I please have a cup of water?”

“Sure.” He took a deep breath as he headed around the corner toward the water cooler, snatching a cup from the dispenser quickly. He felt confident now…the blonde knew his name, and maybe he could strike up a conversation as she waited for Clark. Maybe she might even get to know him…or even like him.

“Olsen! That water is meant for drinking, not irrigating crops!”

Jimmy instinctively cringed at the sound of Perry White’s voice, causing him to spill more water then had already overflowed from the cup he held as his mind wandered. “Oh…uh…sorry, chief.”

“Don’t call me chief!”

As usual, Jimmy didn’t hear Perry’s last phrase as he rushed back to the waiting room, full cup of water in hand. He paused for a moment as he passed Clark’s desk – he was back. A glance across the room to the entrance, and he realized that Karen was standing again – it was only a matter of moments before she spotted Clark as well. He sighed to himself – might as well face the inevitable, and just tell Clark he has a guest.

“Clark…someone named Karen is here to see you.”

“Uh-huh.” Clark looked up for a moment from his computer, quickly glancing at the waiting room. “Tell her I’ll be with her in a moment.”

Jimmy smiled to himself as he headed to the waiting room. If Clark was busy, it meant that he did indeed have some time to talk to Karen first. He was positively beaming as he entered the waiting room and handed Karen the cup of water. “Here you go. And I found Clark, he says he’ll be with you in a moment.”

“Thank you.” Karen stood quickly and took the cup of water, swallowing it’s contents in one gulp. She gripped Jimmy’s hand tightly, almost too tightly, and smiled at him. “Pleased to meet you, Jimmy.”

With those words, she simply walked into the stairway…and vanished. Jimmy turned pale as he walked back toward Clark’s desk – how would he explain to Clark that his guest had just disappeared?

But as he approached the desk of Clark Kent, he realized that explaining wouldn’t be a problem – Clark Kent was gone as well. “What is going on around here?”
“That’s a good question.” Superman stood on the roof of the Daily Planet building, staring past the large ball at Power Girl. She stood leaning against the large ball with her arms folded. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Kal, I found out where that kid came from. She’s not from this planet.”

He shrugged. “Neither am I.”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.” Power Girl unfolded her arms and walked closer to Kal, leaning against an antenna as she moved close to him. “You were bought up here from a young age, with Earth customs and traditions. These things are alien to her. How does she feel about killing, for instance?”

“Karen, we can’t just think the worst of every stranger who appears on our planet.” Superman sighed and looked over the edge of the roof to the street far below. “If there is one thing I’ve learned about people…of any planet…is that they want to be loved, and cared for. As long as we take care of Kara, she’ll fit in just fine.”

Power Girl frowned, a flash of anger appearing across her eyes momentarily before she rose to her full height in front of Superman, in an almost threatening manner. “That, Kal-El, is why this planet is doomed to be a victim of every disaster which comes along. Some ‘people’ out there don’t want caring. Some of them want us dead.”


“Look, Kal…I’m not saying it’s right, and we should train people to hate. But–” Power Girl sighed loudly and sat down on the edge of the roof, looking down at the street as if it were a pond, reflecting her image skyward. “–I dunno. I guess the idea of trying to look after a kid who can destroy the planet is rather…frightening to me.”

“If there is one thing ma and pa taught me–”

“Oh, no. Not that farm boy stuff again.” Power Girl lowered her face into her hands, shaking her head slowly.

Superman sighed and sat down next to Power Girl. “I may be a farm boy…but if not for that, I probably would not be the man I am today. Can you imagine me, or Kara being raised by someone like Lex Luthor?”

She rose her head slowly, looking across town at the LexCorp tower, which loomed over the city ominously. It was a constant reminder of who was ‘in charge’. While Gotham City was well-known for its useless government and law enforcement, few realized that Metropolis was much the same – only cleaner.

“I see your point.” Power Girl rose to her feet slowly, dusted herself off and turned to face Superman with a mischievous grin. “Oh…and by the way, I’ve learned something else interesting.”

Superman gave her a questioning, yet vaguely fearful look.

“Linda and Charlie have put Kara in a room in that hotel where they are staying.” Power Girl almost laughed as she noticed the look of shock on his face. She floated off of the roof of the Daily Planet, the wind tossing around her hair as she ascended toward the skies. “Good luck.”

Superman felt anger…followed quickly by a sense of regret. He remembered Kara’s reaction when he attempted to keep track of her at all times while he worked. He treated her more like a small child then a young woman with a mind of her own – he was much too protective.

And yet she remained so patient, as if she understood why she was treated that way. Still, it was clear that she wasn’t happy living with Lois and himself – because they were too busy to give her the attention she needed.

“I sure hope Linda knows what she’s getting into.”


The Miracle Of Being

Sharon Holmes dusted herself off after falling through the rotten wooden boards of the floor above. Totally by accident, she found herself in a darkened concrete bunker which she had been searching the world for months to find.

It was a relic of World War II, a place rumored to have been a hiding place of none other then Adolph Hitler during the allied bombings of Germany. It was the hiding place of a man who refused to face those he terrorized, those he ordered the murder of. A place where he could hide from his own mortality, to prevent death from collecting it’s much owed dues.

“A coward’s bunker.”

“I’ll have to disagree with you there.”

The sound of the unknown deep voice set her heart racing. She ducked into a corner, pulling her two pistols out in the blink of an eye, aiming them at the source of the sound. “Who’s there?”

“I could ask you the same.” A tall, bald man wearing an expensive suit stepped out of a dark corner, as he lit a cigar and held it up in front of his face.

“Sharon. Sharon Holmes.” She stood up and started to approach the man slowly, pistols still drawn. “And I got here first.”

“You obviously have no idea who I am.”

Sharon nodded. “You’re Lex Luthor. But…you’re different somehow. And that amazon woman isn’t guarding you.”

Luthor laughed. “I’m from another Earth, Ms. Holmes. One where, I presume, you don’t exist.”

“And what, may I ask, are you doing here?”

“I’m here to…collect a few things.” Luthor tossed his cigar on the floor, causing it to roll toward Sharon. “A few designs of what you call the Third Reich. It will allow me to eliminate a few enemies back home.”

Sharon gasped a little as her eyes began to fix on Luthor. “You…You’re talking about…genocide!”

“Very perceptive.” Luthor nodded and turned to leave, just as Sharon looked down at the still-glowing cigar. Strangely, it was glowing brighter since it had been tossed to the ground. She suddenly realized why – it was an explosive!

Sharon looked around the room quickly, to see if the book she was looking for was there. It wasn’t – Luthor must have taken it before she arrived. She raced out of the room quickly, headed the same direction Luthor went – but she was forced to dive to the ground as she heard the explosive go off behind her.

Once the dust from the explosion settled, Sharon looked around quickly. Lex Luthor was nowhere to be found. But she knew, somehow, that he would present a big problem. She knew that she would have to find him. And she would have to find Linda Danvers.

Words were spoken, ancient words. They were spoken in a powerful, but soft voice by none other the Lex Luthor, as he explored the depths of knowledge in his newly acquired book. He sat in the center of one of the great mysteries of nearly every Earth across every probability – Stonehenge. It’s great suspended stones gave the place an aura of power. It was a place Lex Luthor felt at home. They were only words, but they carried so much upon them. The words carried over distances ordinary humans and metahumans alike would consider great – yet for a power so ancient…meant nothing.

Somewhere deep within the Colorado mountains of Otherverse Earth, in a newly constructed Fortress, a sobbing Kara Zor-El was being held tightly in Rogue’s arms as Rogue tried in futility to calm her. Kara had woken up suddenly during the night, shaking and uttering the name ‘Kal’ repeatedly. She then progressed to crying. Rogue tried her best to comfort her…but she seemed inconsolable, like she had just lost a part of herself. Even Kara didn’t knew what triggered her feelings. But she couldn’t shake them either. All she seemed to know was that she felt Kal…and he was in terrible danger.

Another Earth, at the Fantastic Four headquarters, in New York City. Dr. Strange had simply been talking to Reed Richards in his lab about a strange feeling he had when he was stricken. The look of fright and shock on Reed’s face echoed the one on Dr. Strange’s, as pain radiated through his chest. He gripped his shirt tightly and simply collapsed on the floor. His reactions faster then his thoughts, Reed simply took Dr. Strange to the infirmary and hooked him up to monitors. Reed hadn’t slept, or even given himself a break since that moment, as he stayed by the side of his longtime friend – yet Dr. Strange still hadn’t awakened. Sue Richards worried about her husband, as she watched him deteriorate alongside his friend…but she understood.

Late one night in a large hotel room in Metropolis, Linda Danvers felt a dark cloud hang over her, one that she could not explain or understand. She turned to sculpting to try and figure out what was plaguing her subconscious. The resulting form created by her hands both haunted and intrigued her. It was Superman, but his face looked different somehow – it looked twisted, angry…filled with hatred. She had to toss a sheet over it soon after she created it. Seeing it prevented her from sleeping.

Lara Night was about as far from the disturbance as one could get, living in northern Los Angeles – but she could feel it as if it were taking place inside in her own mind. She could feel something tearing through the cosmos like a tidal wave – it something ancient, powerful…something evil. It was a disturbance that brought such sadness to the universe, that even Gods would shed tears over it. She immediately sensed it’s source, which chilled her more then anything else. It came from Otherverse Earth. But then she felt something else. A distant voice crying out, a profound sadness. It wasn’t part of any of the other feelings Lara detected – it felt closer to her. It was Reed Richards.

“What’s the matter, Reed?”

Reed turned around in his chair at the sound of a soft, friendly voice he recognized – Lara’s. His hair was a mess, his eyesight fuzzy from lack of food, water, and sleep. He didn’t speak to answer Lara’s question – the tears forming in his eyes, and Dr. Strange’s unconscious form on an exam table answered the question for him.

“Oh–” Lara suddenly felt herself without words as she stood next to the exam table, and placed her hands gently on Dr. Strange’s chest. She closed her eyes, and remained motionless for several minutes before finally reopening them and turning to look at Reed.

“Is he…gone?” There was a sadness in Reed’s voice that struck Lara like an arrow through her heart.

“He’s–” Lara sighed and looked down at Dr. Strange’s body again. She had to phrase her answer carefully to give Reed hope. “His body is in perfect condition. But his metaphysical self–”

“Can’t find it’s way back?” Reed seemed to brighten up all of a sudden, as if all he needed was to have an active part in his friend’s recovery. “What can we do?”

“No, no–” Lara shook her head and looked at Reed sadly. “He doesn’t want to come back. He’s…searching for something.”

“Can…can he hear us?”

“I don’t know.” Lara shrugged. “If he could, he would know that I’m here…and that I have some of the answers he’s searching for.”

“I know you are here, Lara.” Dr. Strange suddenly opened his eyes and sat up straight. “As for the answers you have–”

“Stephen!” Reed raced over to the side of the exam table. “What happened to you? I was worried–”

Dr. Strange nodded and sat up on the edge of the exam table. “I had become separated from my physical self by a force not under my control.”

“How did you know I was here?” Lara held out a hand to help Dr. Strange to his feet, and then into a chair. He was still a little weak from being immobile for so long.

“I…felt you searching for me.” Dr. Strange took a deep breath as he sat down in the chair and blinked twice. He was a little dizzy, even after such light exertion. “I felt your presence, reaching out for my soul…to pull it back. I knew what you were doing, but I wasn’t ready to come back just yet.”

“You were on the brink of finding answers.” Lara shook her head. “But you were losing your will to live, Stephen.”

The look of shock on Reed’s face caused Dr. Strange to hang his head a little and nod. “It’s so easy to become lost in a quest. Sometimes I just…forget.”

Dr. Strange glanced back at Reed for a moment. Reed was once again fighting tears in his eyes, his hands shaking a little bit from the realization of how close he was to losing his friend…forever. “I’m sorry, Reed. Had I realized–”

“No matter, everything turned out well.” Lara stood up and looked at Reed. “Get some sleep, Reed. You need it. Stephen and I have some work to do.”

Reed nodded and slowly headed toward his quarters. As soon as he entered the hallway, he could see Sue standing in the doorway down the hall. “Reed? Is he okay?”

Reed only nodded silently as he approached Sue, who immediately hugged him tightly. “She heard you, didn’t she?”

He nodded again. “She did. How did you know?”

Sue smiled a little. “There are some things we’ll never completely understand, Reed. Lara is one of them.”

“Thank you, Sue.” Reed smiled and gave Sue a small peck on the cheek as the entered their quarters, holding hands. “Thank you for saving Stephen.”

“Mr. Danvers! Mr. Danvers!”

Sharon was out of breath when she reached Fred Danvers’ office at the Leesburg Police Department. Her hair was disheveled, and she looked like she had just returned from a war. In a way, she did – after her encounter in Germany, she headed straight for the last known location of Linda Danvers. Something strange had happened, and she knew Linda would be interested – only she discovered that she had no idea where Linda was.

“What’s the matter, Sharon?” Fred approached her from behind as she stopped to talk to Shauna. He had just gone for a cup of coffee, and recognized her distinctively British voice calling out his name.

“Something terrible has happened, Mr. Danvers! Lex Luthor has the the Ancient Book of Rai, and he’s planning to use it for genocide. I watched him take it while I was in Germany.”

“Germany? Are you nuts?” Shauna stood up to face Sharon. “He’s in Metropolis, he’s been on television three times today.”

“No, you don’t understand.” Sharon shook her head and sighed. “It’s not this Lex Luthor, it’s one from another Earth. He told me so.”

“Another Earth, huh?” Fred rubbed his chin and looked at Shauna. “Sounds like something my daughter might be interested in.”

Sharon nodded. “That’s why I came here. I need to find Charlie and Linda. But I don’t know where to look.”

“Have a seat, Sharon.” Fred picked up his telephone and began dialing. “Your prayers will be answered soon.”

“I do not believe in prayer.”

Lara laughed. “No, Dr. Strange, the other kind of ‘prey’. The kind that means death if we’re not careful. You’re still distracted aren’t you? You aren’t really paying attention.”

“I’m sorry, Lara.” Dr. Strange finally stood up on his own – the dizziness had finally subsided. “Something is haunting me.”

“What’s the matter?” Lara stepped closer to him. “This has to do with Rao, doesn’t it?”

Dr. Strange turned a little pale as he stared at Lara. “How–”

“I sensed something wrong with Kal-El. His soul is being corrupted by an ancient force.” Lara sat down on the edge of the exam table where Dr. Strange was lying earlier. “But souls are interlinked with their creator. So–”

“So Rao is being corrupted as well.” Dr. Strange nodded. “That explains what I sensed as well. What kind of force could corrupt a deity?”

“Trust me, Dr. Strange…you don’t want to know. I think it’s more important that we find out who’s responsible.”

Dr. Strange walked over to a window to look outside. “Corrupt Gods destroy things, Lara. It’s obvious someone wants something destroyed.”

“Otherverse Earth?”

He shook his head. “No…whoever is doing this is located on Otherverse Earth. Whoever it is wants control, not destruction. Order, rather then chaos.”

Lara gasped momentarily as a thought popped into her mind. “Lex Luthor. It has to be Lex Luthor.”

Dr. Strange nodded slowly. “Yes. Yes, that would make perfect sense. And if that’s true, we will have to stop him.”

“I’ll just have to kill him again, I guess.” Lara sighed and turned toward the door.

“Do not.” Dr. Strange grabbed Lara’s shoulder tightly and turned her around. “It’s very likely that the last brush with death you gave him is what clued him into this power, Lara. What you did exposed him to things no mortal man should know.”

“Are you suggesting he’s now immortal because of what I did?”

“Not at all.” Dr. Strange walked out of Reed’s lab, motioning Lara to follow. “But you’ve given him the tools to make himself immortal. You’ve taken away his fear of death.”

Karen and Carrie, known to most people as ‘The Twins’, sat across from each other in the living room of the large Fortress, hidden away in the Colorado mountains. They both sat with their arms folded tightly, chilled from the fear and worry they felt. Kara was crying again – she had been off and on for almost the entire day. They thought about calling Reed, but he had his hands full with Dr. Strange’s sudden health problems.

“Carrie…What if she’s dying? What if Dr. Strange is dying too?” Karen bit her lip and stood up to pace a little bit. “What if we’re all dying, because of this…place?”

“No…I refuse to believe that.” Carrie shook her head quickly. “There has to be someone who can help. Someone who knows about these things.”

Karen’s eyes suddenly brightened as a realization passed through her mind. “This has something to do with spiritual stuff, Carrie. Think about it! Kara can feel her cousin…Dr. Strange has fallen ill–”

“Spiritual.” Carrie leapt to her feet and snatched Karen’s arm to pull her along. They were both headed toward a room that both Kara and Rogue had asked them to stay out of – it contained a Projector like the one in Reed’s lab. It was installed in the Fortress in case the place had to be evacuated in an emergency – a big emergency, such as if the planet was on the verge of destruction. Carrie had her own interpretation of an emergency.

“Where are we going? Are we visiting Reed?”

“No.” Carrie raced around the room quickly, setting the controls for the machine as she had watched Reed do several times before. “Spiritual is the key, Karen. We have to find someone with a spiritual link.”

“Who?” Karen stared at Carrie, demanding an answer even as Carrie pulled her onto the machine’s platform alongside herself.

“Linda Danvers.”

“Can you work with him?”

Reed was still examining the body of Kal-El, lying on a purple metallic table in the center of a very alien-looking lab. The room was filled with such tables, a few containing other dead bodies covered by white sheets. Lara had transported Reed, Dr. Strange, and herself to the center of the lab, with a certain project in mind.

“No decomposition. Rigor mortis has barely set in.” Reed turned off the scope he had around his head and removed it quickly. “With a little time, we can probably restore his spirit as well.”

“I don’t like this.” Dr. Strange shook his head and looked around the room. “Where is this place?”

“Project Cadmus. It was rebuilt by Lex Luthor.”

Reed and Dr. Strange both turned to stare at Lara. Reed decided to speak first. “Did you say…Cadmus?”

Lara nodded. “Lex Luthor plans on resurrecting dead heroes of the past and future. He wants to use them to destroy his enemies. Starting with Kal-El and Diana Prince.”

“How do you know this?” Dr. Strange folded his arms and stared steadily at Lara, waiting for an answer.

“Look around you, Stephen.” Lara walked around the room slowly, pulling back a few of the white sheets. Kal-El, Diana Prince, Jean Grey, Reed Ri–”

Lara pushed the last white sheet back to it’s original location as she ignored the look of shock on Reed’s face. “Remember what I told you about Kal-El and Rao?”

Dr. Strange nodded, and grabbed Reed’s arm as he reached for that last white sheet. “No, Reed. It is better if you don’t–”

Reed shoved Dr. Strange’s arm aside, and pulled back the sheet. Lying on the steel table were his own frozen eyes, looking back at him. His hands shaking, he reached for yet another white sheet. As he pulled it back slowly, his worst fear met reality. “God, no–”

“Sue Storm.” Lara held Reed’s hand tightly to calm him. “You and Sue were never lovers in this reality. She didn’t live long enough.”

Lara suddenly pulled Reed behind her as she watched the arm of Kal-El’s body move, rising slowly. She knew that Reed might object to her acting as his protector – but Reed was far from a match for Kryptonian strength. Lara hoped she at least stood a chance against it. “We’re too late, Stephen.”

Dr. Strange nodded, uttering a single word under his breath which rendered him intangible – just before Kal-El’s body rose to it’s feet, and reached for him. Both Lara and Dr. Strange could tell that the body didn’t contain Kal-El’s soul – it was empty, being powered by a force which could only be referred to as life in the loosest of terms.

“It’s starting.” Lara took a couple of steps back, still holding Reed behind her, as the body of Diana Prince began to move as well. “Reed, Stephen…I think it’s time we left this place–”

She suddenly felt lucky that she had been alert, keeping her telekinetic shield strong – she felt a had blow from Kal-El to the side of her head. He was far from full strength, as his body had not fully recovered from reanimation – but it was strong enough, and he still had the ability to move across the room in the blink of an eye.

“Lara, look out!”

She ducked quickly at the sound of Reed’s voice, just barely getting her head out of the way of another fist – this one owned by Diana Prince.

“Hold onto my waist, Reed.” As Lara’s fingers began crackling with energy, Reed obeyed quickly – he knew enough about the laws of electricity and grounding to know that he was safer touching her then standing even a few inches away.

Lara felt Dr. Strange’s hand on her shoulder just as her fingers filled the room with high-voltage bolts of electricity, tearing holes through the stainless steel walls as they went. The bolts of electricity which connected with Kal and Diana caused their muscles to seize, collapsing them to the ground. The remaining bodies in the room were reduced to charcoal in seconds. Lara intended to make sure the rest of them were useless as zombies. She hoped she had succeeded.

“Time to go!”

Lara, Reed, and Dr. Strange vanished from Otherverse Earth in a flash of light just as Kal and Diana began returning to their feet. Lara had instantly transported them back to Reed’s lab back at Fantastic Four headquarters.

“This is a most serious situation.” Dr. Strange rubbed his chin and looked out the window. “Once Luthor is done conquering his own world…what’s to stop him from conquering ours? Or yours?”

“I had a dream a short time ago, Stephen.” Lara sighed and stood next to Dr. Strange at the window. “I dreamt that I had to destroy Otherverse Earth, that I was given no choice. It was…infected, and I had to prevent spread of the infection. Now I fear that may be closer to reality then I imagined.”

“Lara, destruction of life only…appears necessary sometimes.” Dr. Strange turned to stare at Lara, the look in his eyes an intense mixture of emotions. “But life is more precious then anything. Anything, Lara. First, do no harm. Once you learn that, you can understand the universe.”

Lara nodded silently as she stood next to Dr. Strange, staring out over the nearby city. It was full of life. And no doubt, there were hundreds of cities like it on Otherverse Earth, with millions of people. People who just wanted to live their lives in peace. It made Lara feel angry, to think that Lex Luthor wanted nothing more then to destroy that peace.

“That aught to get Superman’s attention.”

Carrie had just turned a large billboard atop a building in Metropolis upside down, as Karen sat on the small steel maintenance walkway below it. They were in the right city, but they had no idea where to find Linda Danvers. They knew who would – but they had to get his attention first.

Luckily, victory came easier then they thought. Carrie turned abruptly as an unfamiliar blonde woman in a white cut-off tee-shirt, white gloves, a blue skirt, and red laced boots tapped her on the shoulder. Yet her face was so familiar. “Linda? Is that you?”

Linda nodded quietly, though she was a little surprised that the two knew who she was. Then again, since they were wearing costumes and they managed to flip over a billboard, it wasn’t all that surprising. “Who are you two?”

“We’re Kara’s daughters, remember? I’m Carrie, this is Karen. Cool costume, by the way.”

“Thank you.” Linda paced around Carrie and Karen, noting their new costumes. “So, what brings you here from Otherverse?”

“Not a car, I can tell you that.” Carrie smiled mischievously as she spoke – she had been waiting a long time to tell that joke. Karen just rolled her eyes. “We need your help. Something’s wrong with Kara…and it has something to do with Kal-El.”

“I’m not sure I understand. Is she sick?”

Carrie looked at Karen for an answer – but Karen just shrugged. “We’re not sure. She’s just been…crying a lot.”

“Crying?” Linda bit her lip. She didn’t know Kara well, but by reputation she knew Kara to be fairly level-headed, strong. Kara was the last person she would expect to curl up and sob over something. “I’ll do my best to help.”

“Cool!” Carrie nudged Karen, and pulled her to her feet. “Let’s go!”

Linda and the twins stared at each other for several minutes as they each expected the other to make the next move. It was several seconds before Linda realized that something was wrong. “You do have a way to get us there, right?”

Carrie looked at Karen, who shrugged again. “I guess we figured…you would be able to solve that problem.”

“Oh, God.” Linda pinched her nose with a gloved hand and shook her head. “I’m sorry to break this to you two…I can’t do that anymore. You’re stuck here.”

“What are we supposed to do now?” Karen spoke up first this time, her eyes on Carrie. Carrie just stood still, hanging her head, blaming herself for what had happened. She knew that she was the one who had caused them to be stranded.

Linda sighed. “Let’s get you two indoors. I have a nice hotel room across the street, we can wait there until we figure out what to do.”

“Across the street?” Carrie looked at Karen. They both suddenly understood how Linda found them so quickly after they had turned the billboard upside down.

Carrie and Karen followed quickly as Linda jumped across to the rooftop of the building directly across the street and headed into the stairway. They walked two floors down, before Linda checked the hallway to make sure no one was there, motioning the twins to follow her to her room once the coast was clear.

“Here we are.” Linda closed the door behind her, tossing her gloves on a table next to the door as she entered the living room area of the three room suite. As she reached for a lamp next to the couch, a bright flash of light filled the room, causing her to jump. “What the–”

“Lara!” Carrie and Karen nearly mowed down Linda as they raced across the room to hug Lara Night, who had appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Linda had to laugh when she watched the twins hanging from Lara’s arms, hugging her tightly from both sides.

“Boy, are we glad to see you!” Carrie started first, talking quickly as Lara smiled at the energy the twins displayed at meeting her. “We came here to get Linda to help us, and–”

“And you can’t get back home.” Lara laughed a little. “That’s why I’m here. I know all about it.”

“We still need to bring Linda with us to help Kara.” Carrie looked over at Linda, who was putting her white gloves back on. She anticipated that she would be going, too. “See, Karen? We were never in danger…Lara looks after us.”

“Yeah, that’s me. Your personal bodyguard.” Lara smiled and offered one hand each to Carrie and Karen. As Linda held Carrie’s hand, she noticed a slight electrical charge fill the air in the room. It was only a second before she could see the room fading out of view.

“Hmm. Very interesting.” Lex Luthor sat in his office high atop LexCorp Towers, with only a desk lamp illuminating his office. In front of him was a single page news report about him being spotted in Germany, taking some kind of ancient book. Next to that, another report from LexCorp research, indicating elevated levels of certain kinds of particles which indicated that a gateway had been opened…either to or from someplace. And it happened twice. To Luthor that confirmed something he suspected for a long time – that there was a whole other Earth out there somewhere.

Luthor was patiently awaiting another report from his research department. Namely a report detailing the timeframe necessary for LexCorp to build a gateway of it’s own. He suspected that in any case with multiple realities, at least one of them would be a terrible war zone – and as a weapons dealer, potential for profit beyond his wildest dreams.

And then there was the issue of someone else using the name Lex Luthor. Someone who looked like him, by all accounts and descriptions. Luthor was a little intrigued by the idea – but instinctively, he knew that the other so-called Lex Luthor would have to go, if for no other reason then his intrusion on the Earth this Luthor called his own.

Luthor leaned back in his chair, tapping a couple of buttons on his phone. He knew that when he met this other Lex Luthor, he would no doubt be as intelligent – so Luthor decided to be prepared.


“I’m sending Mercy down in five minutes. I want you to introduce her to the most deadly weapons we currently have in prototype. And once you do, I will require five of each. How is that gateway coming along?”

“It’s coming along well, Mr. Luthor. It should be finished in a matter of hours.”

Luthor frowned and leaned forward. “That is unacceptable. What is taking you people so long?”

“I’m sorry, sir. We had a little snag with some government paperwork for the plutonium we need to use. The Nuclear Regulatory–”

“Forget about the paperwork.” Luthor stood up and leaned over his speakerphone. “If we wait for the government to approve this, we’ll all die of old age. Just finish it.”

“Yes, sir–”

Luthor cut off the man in mid-sentence and waved Mercy into the room as he spotted her standing in the doorway. “Mercy, I need you to go to research and make sure things are working. Feel free to use as much…incentive as you see fit.”

Mercy nodded quietly and turned to leave the room.

“Oh, and Mercy?”

“Yes, Lex?” Mercy turned around to face Luthor as she stood in a stream of light coming in through the partially opened door.

“Accept no substitutes.”

“Wow…What is this place?” Linda spun around a little bit as she glanced around at a compact living room area, complete with a large screen satellite television system. She spotted a few tall tinted windows, and headed toward them slowly.

“This is the Fortress.” Carrie grabbed Linda’s arm and pulled her toward one of the windows. She pointed down the steep mountainside below. “We’re in the Colorado mountains.”

Linda tapped one of the windows carefully. It felt like glass. “Can’t this shatter? Or be spotted from outside?”

“It’s camouflaged by a hologram outside.” Karen stepped between them and tapped on the glass. The mirrored outer layer of the window allows the image projection, and it’s protected against shattering by an electromagnetic field.”

Carrie rolled her eyes and nudged Linda. “She thinks she’s channeling Reed Richards sometimes.”

“Reed is the one who sent Lara to install them.” Rogue entered the room, followed by a Kara – who looked like she hadn’t slept or eaten much in days. “He did it for the twins. I guess he doesn’t care if Kara and I sit in a dark cave.”

“Mom, this is Lara.” Carrie squeezed in between Kara and Rogue, placing one hand on Kara’s shoulder. “She…helped us get back here.”

“Hello.” Kara only looked at Lara for a second before glancing at the floor. She seemed to be purposely avoiding Linda’s eyes as she crossed the room and sat down in one of the soft chairs.

“Could you guys…go to another room for a little while?” Linda looked around at everyone as she pulled another chair closer to Kara. “Kara and I need to talk.”

Rogue nodded as she herded the twins and Lara out of the living room quickly. As soon as they had left, Linda could tell that Kara had been holding back because of her daughters. But now that they were out of the room, tears began streaming down Kara’s face. She looked like she was mourning someone’s death.

“Kara…What’s wrong? Tell me.”

“I…felt Kal again last night. He was crying.” Kara paused for a second to wipe some tears from her face and take a deep breath to calm herself. “But not for himself. He was crying for me…for Carrie and Karen…for the entire planet. He was afraid, Linda. Afraid of what would happen to us.”

“Oh my God–” Linda stood up and began pacing a little bit. “My dad called me a short time ago. He said that a Lex Luthor impostor was spotted taking some kind of ancient book from Germany. The Ancient Book of Rai, it was called. It’s a book of the Ancient Arts, and has power over the dead.”

Linda’s last few words got Kara’s attention. She stood up now, too. “Lex Luthor is trying to bring Kal back to life for his own purposes, isn’t he? No wonder Kal was afraid. His worst fear is having to kill…Especially those he loves. We have to free him, Linda. We must.”

“I’m pretty much restricted to the physical world now, Kara–” Linda paused just long enough to watch sadness return to Kara’s eyes. It was almost as if her words, to Kara, sealed Kal’s doom. “–But I won’t let that stop me. I never do. I never will.”

“Thank you, Linda.” Kara turned around and hugged Linda tightly. “Just when things seem hopeless…You’ve given me hope.”

Redemption, Part 3

It was an awesome sight.

Sure, it was unusual for a starship Captain to stand on the promenade deck of a ship to watch it dock at a space station – but this was a space station like no other. Deep Space Nine was of Cardassian design, which was more like old Earth stations – ships docked in space rather then in a protected space dock, attached to the station only by a relatively small metal tube.

Samantha Ross watched through several feet of layered transparent aluminum and glass as her ship, Galaxis, slowly approached the hulking, intimidating form of Deep Space Nine. It chilled her as she watched the approach – the station resembled a giant saucer with spikes protecting its top and bottom. The spikes were docking tubes, but they seemed a little terrifying nonetheless. Knowing Cardassians, it was designed that way on purpose.

“Captain, we’ll be docking in a minute or so.”

She smiled through the window and tapped her communicator to reply to her navigational officer’s message. She knew that Susan envied her a little, yet she couldn’t leave her post. Susan was stuck watching the docking on the artificial projection of the viewscreen. “Thank you, Susan. I’ll be on the bridge shortly.”

Time seemed to pass quickly as the ship drifted toward one of the spikes. It was strictly on thrusters now, moving at speeds which old Earth used to measure slow-moving land based vehicles, in kilometers per hour.

She began to look down as the top portion of the ship passed above the docking tube, and the ship slowed abruptly as Susan, on the bridge, made an attempt at her first live docking maneuver, something she never had to do before at the usual Starfleet starbases. Sam guessed that it made Susan a little nervous – but Susan was an excellent pilot of starships, even one as small as Galaxis. She would handle it well.

As if to counter Sam’s confident thoughts about Susan, the ship jarred suddenly, causing her to lose her footing for a moment. She leaned her hands against the inner glass layer of the window to regain her balance. Sam then returned to her own feet and straightened out her uniform, tapping her communicator again – it was time to join the crew in the docking area and enter Deep Space Nine.

“Susan, Terel…I’ll meet you below in one minute.”

Sam headed toward the turbolift, taking one last glance behind her at the towering docking tube, and the darkness of space. She was far from home, about to enter a station at the true frontier of space. Things were done differently here…and she could only hope it would be for the better.

Sam, Susan, and Terel stepped off of a rather primitive cable-drawn elevator which brought them from Galaxis to a small airlock on Deep Space nine. Rather then the sliding doors they were accustomed to from Starfleet technology, the airlock door resembled a giant cog with small strands of arc-shaped thick glass embedded between its spokes. It was secure all right, but had little aesthetic value.

The door ‘rolled’ open to reveal a strange looking man with a security team following him closely. Sam guessed that he was the security chief. She felt a lump form in her throat – if security was meeting them, it most likely meant that the Captain of Deep Space nine had already talked to Starfleet, and she was under arrest.

But that feeling changed quickly. She watched as a tall dark-skinned man with a clean-shaven head and a goatee stepped between the security personnel, a warm smile on his face.

“Captain Samantha Ross?”

His voice was deep, but soft, almost sounding as if he were about to read her a novel. Unable to come up with any words, she nodded in response.

“I’m Captain Benjamin Sisko, Deep Space Nine. Welcome…I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

Sam finally smiled as Captain Sisko shook her hand warmly, vigorously, as if he knew her well somehow. “Am I a legend around these parts?”

Captain Sisko’s boisterous laugh filled the small airlock. “Of sorts, yes. There are many people interested in you. Starfleet, Captain Picard, myself…and a Romulan assassin.”

“Starfleet?” Sam looked around at the security people surrounding herself and her crew, making the airlock seem more crowded then it already is. They didn’t seem the least bit nervous – yet their presence made her nervous. “Am I…under arrest?”

“No, no.” Captain Sisko continued smiling as he glanced at his security chief. “This is Odo, chief of security. They are here for your protection.”

Sam leaned close to Captain Sisko as the security team turned and headed to the outside of the airlock. “What’s wrong with Odo? He looks a little…strange.”

“He’s a shape shifter.” After reaching around Sam to shake Susan and then Terel’s hand, Sisko quickly led the three down a long corridor. “I’m going to place you in quarters away from the airlocks. No sense in giving your enemies easy access to–”

“Wait, wait.” Samantha suddenly stopped, prompting Captain Sisko to turn around and give her a concerned look. “How did I get all of these enemies all of a sudden?”

A big smile formed on Captain Sisko’s face as he indicated for Sam and her crew to enter yet another ancient elevator on Deep Space Nine. It had been updated, but was still driven by a cable rather then compressed air or magnetic propulsion as most Federation turbolifts were.

“We’ll just have to solve that mystery together.”

Samantha stood at the window of her quarters, a small bag with her belongings lying on a table behind her. She was looking outside at the stars, and the near constant traffic of trade and supply ships travelling back and forth to Deep Space Nine. It was a big station – and knowing that not all of the station’s quarters were on exterior walls, it made her feel a little special to be able to take in such a view.

Deep Space Nine was a station like no other in the Federation. It was a crossroads, much like Dodge City in old western movies. Dozens of races, beings with different philosophies, from different corners of the galaxy – they all came here, to this station. They didn’t always get along – but the fact remained that the station was a beacon of hope, a refuge for peace. A place where, with so many conflicting customs, fairness had to preside over law.

It was that ‘fairness’ which Samantha depended on. She was on trial once again – the Captain and crew of Deep Space Nine would decide her fate, whether she would be turned over to the Federation. And this time–

She cringed silently and closed her eyes as all that she had done since she turned herself in at the Starbase flooded back to her. She escaped custody, attacked an officer, stole Federation property, and destroyed another Federation ship. By this time, the charges against her had surely been elevated to treason – probably the only offense left in the Federation with a penalty of death.

The sound of the door chime suddenly snapped Samantha back to reality. She headed to the door quickly, guessing that it was one of her crew members – but then froze when she realized it could also easily be someone planning to kidnap, assault, or even assassinate her. Anything was possible on such a large station. “Who is it?”

“Captain Ross, I’m Security Chief Odo.”

Samantha exhaled deeply, feeling a little more relieved. He wasn’t one of her crew, but at least he answered to Captain Sisko – and he seemed like a very reasonable man. “Come on in.”

The door to her quarters slid open, revealing the security chief. She could see his reflection in the window she faced, as he stood perfectly straight, looking directly at Samantha as he took exactly two steps into the room and allowed the door to close before speaking. He seemed too official to Sam…which made her worry.

“Someone wishes to see you, Captain Ross.” Odo bowed his head slightly as he spoke to her, his body language telling her that it was more of a request then an order. She wondered no more why he was appointed Security Chief – his demeanor and polite phrasing were calming in spite of his gruff-sounding voice and strange appearance.

Sam finally turned around to face Odo, crossing the room to stand in front of the Security Chief bravely. “Who wishes to see me, Odo?”

Odo smiled slightly, seemingly amused by Sam’s question, letting out a slight chuckle as he prepared himself to surprise her. “Your father.”

Samantha carefully kept her enthusiasm in check as she walked into what Odo called the ‘V.I.P.’ section of Deep Space Nine. It looked a lot like an elaborate 20th century hotel lobby, a large round room with a high ceiling and skylights which contained comfortable couches and tables. Along the wall were a few doors painted in eye-pleasing designs. By the spacing of the doors, Samantha could tell that whatever rooms were behind them were huge, for a space station.

“This used to be the Gul’s living quarters”, Odo explained. “It was not well known until we took over this station that Gul’s often lived in such lavish surroundings.”

“What are they used for now?”

Odo smiled again. “Visiting dignitaries, diplomats. And Admirals who are important to honored guests.”

Sam smiled as Odo escorted her to one of the entrances off of the room, and tapped the call button on the wall next to the door. “I’m uh…honored.”


“It’s security chief Odo. Your daughter is here, Admiral.”

It took a almost a minute for Admiral Ross to reach his door – Samantha spent the time rocking on her heels nervously, her arms folded tightly as the door slid open. The last meeting she remembered having with him wasn’t on good terms. She had just turned herself in at Starbase One. Her dad met her at the door, upset because he didn’t get the chance to protect her.

It was the second time she stood up to him, after being upset about having to live in his shadow. The first time was just after she graduated the Academy. She asked for some independence…and he gave her command of a starship.

But now, she was returning to him as a failure. She had lost the greatest gift he had ever given her, and embarrassed him in front of his peers. His daughter, who he touted as a greater success then himself, had become a wanted criminal.

As Admiral Ross stepped through the doorway, she was prepared to have to argue with him, or at least explain herself. But she saw nothing except unconditional love in his eyes. The love a father has for his daughter. At that moment, she knew…no matter what happened, he would always stand behind her.



Samantha smiled a little as they stared at each other for a few more seconds. A realization was sinking in – that they understood each other so well, neither one had to explain what had happened to the other. They just…knew. Samantha stepped forward and hugged him tightly, the only kind of communication needed between them.

“You’re so much like your mother, Sam. I just can’t get over it.”

Sam laughed. “Dad, you say that every time we meet.”

“No, just every other time.” Admiral Ross glanced at Odo, to urge him to wait outside – but Odo, who studied human interaction for decades, had already anticipated it and turned to leave.

Samantha stared into her father’s eyes for a few seconds as she gathered her confidence. She had never asked him for anything since she joined the academy. She was determined to make it on her own. But now…she desperately needed his help. As she began to speak, injured pride tainted her voice with a little sadness. “What’s going to happen to me now, dad?”

Admiral Ross frowned and sat down on a plush chair next to the door of his quarters. “Samantha…I think you need to know something first. You need to know who your enemy is.”

“Yes?” Samantha grabbed another nearby chair, sitting across from her father. She sensed a seriousness in her voice which made her fear – but she knew she had to clear her mind and listen calmly.

“Samuel Cassius used to be my first officer. He was also my best friend. In fact, once you were born, I decided to name you after him, and appoint him as your godfather. He had a son, Christopher. You remember Chris, right?”

A smile formed on Samantha’s face as a name she hadn’t heard in years reached her ears. Since high school, she and Chris were thick as thieves – the right word too, considering how much trouble they both caused. They were soul mates, two people carved from the same mold.

The two even shared thoughts sometimes – which proved to be a problem when they considered dating for a time. They quickly clashed in a relationship, as they were suddenly unable to trust one another. That idea was quickly abandoned so they would remain friends.

But then, in their senior year in high school, tragety struck. Chris had always dreamed of joining Starfleet, of cruising among the stars in a ship, only returning home for special occasions. He was always an adventurer – and it was that nature which left him without the use of his legs. He tried surfing the rapids of Niagra Falls, as many his age did. Unfortunately, he was caught off-guard by a sudden surge in the water flow. He fell…and he was rescued. But by then, both of his legs had been shattered.

Samantha remembered crying when she found out. She tried to share Chris’ pain, to try and help soothe him. She tried talking to him about it. But his response was to push her away. He pushed nearly everyone away – and as he did, his father began to blame the world for what had happened. The Cassius family began to isolate itself.

That’s when Samantha decided to take Chris’ place. She walked into Starfleet headquarters one day, and used her blood relation to her father, a newly promoted Admiral, to sign up for the Academy. She would live Chris’ adventures, and allow him to live vicariously through her.

She thought that’s what he wanted…but he didn’t. When Chris heard of what Sam had done, he cursed at her, ordered her out of his house. She left crying…and since that day, the two never faced each other again.

“Yes, I remember Chris. But I don’t remember his dad.”

“That”, Sam’s father continued, “Is because you only met him briefly a couple of times. He was away from home as often as I was…but he didn’t retire until years after I did.”

“Wait a minute–” Samantha slid her chair closer to her dad’s, and leaned toward him. “You said that Admiral Cassius…had a son. Past tense. He died, didn’t he?”

A sad sigh and slow nod from her father told Samantha that she was correct. “After Chris died, his father became obsessed. He decided that you had something to do with Chris’ debilitating injury. He suggested that perhaps you egged Chris on in an effort to get into Starfleet Academy instead of him–”

“That’s crazy!” Sam stood and walked over to the large picture window at the other end of her father’s quarters. As she brushed her hair back out of nervous habit, she could see the reflection of her father approaching her in the window. “I would have loved to have Chris in the academy with me. We could have worked together–”

“–And possibly fallen in love, and decided to return home. That’s what Chris’ father feared most – that his son’s friendship with you would turn serious…and the career he dreamed about for his son would be ruined. So you see…Admiral Cassius has been fearing you for longer then you can imagine.”

“I never though that–” Samantha sighed and leaned her forehead against the inner glass surface of the window. Her eyes stared out into the darkness of space…yet she saw within herself rather then what was around her. She searched herself deeply, looking to see if maybe Admiral Cassius was right – but all she could see was Chris telling her of his dream to cruise the stars, and search for the unknown. Sam knew that she would be sad to see him go…but she always just knew that it was meant to be.

“What’ll happen to me know, dad?”

He took a deep breath and leaned against the edge of a heavy wooden table in the center of the room. “We’ll hold a trial here on the station in the morning, with Captain Sisko presiding over it. He’ll probably appoint me to the panel. Admiral Cassius will probably present evidence of what you’ve done in the past few days and ask for a summary judgement of law. And then–”

“I’m going to have to pay some penalty, aren’t I? I mean…I destroyed Federation property, stole a Starship and attacked another. And I did it all to save myself. I wasn’t even rescuing anyone, or saving the universe–”

Her father laughed, smiling as he placed a hand on her shoulder. “You really are new to this Captain thing, Samantha. A Captain’s first loyalty is to the ship, and it’s crew. Galaxis is safe, unharmed, and your crew is intact. Ben Sisko is a Captain at heart. If anyone understands why you did what you did, it’s him.”

“You always were an optimist, dad.” Samantha smiled and turned around, hugging him once again with one arm. “Come on, let’s go for a walk. It may be the last time we’ll be able to for a while.”

“What about the Romulan assassin rumored to be on the station?”

“Oh, that’s no rumor.” Sam laughed as she spoke. It brought a smile to her dad’s face. “I think he’s in Odo’s jail.”

“‘She’, Samantha.” Her dad opened the door for her, and followed her into the hallway. Odo still stood there, determined to follow the two and keep them safe. “The best Romulan assassins are women. They usually work to bond with their targets before they kill.”

“Wouldn’t it be funny if–” Sam suddenly turned pale and froze mid-sentence as she pictured her new First Officer, Susan Troy. She was friendly, fairly new…and she was Romulan. “Oh my God.”

Samantha was more nervous then she could ever remember as she tapped the ‘call’ button next to a friend’s quarters. She glanced behind her – Odo stood a few steps behind her, his hands clasped calmly behind his back. How he could remain so calm was beyond Sam’s comprehension…she was about to accuse her only close friend in Starfleet of being an assassin.

The door opened suddenly, and Susan Troy gave Sam a smile. Susan looked at Odo, for a moment, then back to Sam. Her smile vanished when she noticed the sad look in Sam’s eyes. “What’s wrong?”

“Are you a Romulan assassin?” Samantha cringed at her own question. She had an uncanny talent for saying tactless things on impulse. While that kind of honesty is valued among friends, Sam knew she would never make a suitable diplomat. Her question prompted a lot of nervousness from Susan – which bothered her a lot. But what bothered her more was the answer Susan gave her.

“I…I used to be.” Susan eyed Odo suspiciously. “Why? I mean…I’ve been in my quarters since we arrived at the station–”

“I know you have”, Odo interrupted in his calm, but gruff voice. “We have an unknown Romulan assassin aboard hired to kill both your Captain and her father. Unfortunately…you fit the profile. I’d like to come in and ask you a few questions.”

Susan looked terrified as Odo placed his imposing form in the doorway. She looked to Samantha for help. Sam took her hand gently and walked through the doorway ahead of her.

“I’ll be right here, Susan. Just tell Odo everything you know, and it’ll all be fine.”

“But…I didn’t do anything! Yes, I was approached for a ‘job’ on Starbase One. But I turned it down.”

Sam and Odo looked at each other. They were both shocked. “Go on”, Sam urged.

“But then”, Susan continued. She began to fidget nervously. “They told me they would get someone else if I didn’t cooperate. I asked who the target was. It was…you, Sam.”

Odo chuckled, almost laughed as he began to understand what had happened. “So you let them think you would assassinate Captain Ross to protect her from a real assassin.”

Susan nodded, and smiled at Samantha. “Clever, huh?”

“I don’t buy it.” Odo frowned and folded his arms. “It’s too easy an explanation…just the kind a real Romulan assassin would use to cover her tracks.”

“Odo!” Sam gave him a quick glare before turning her attention back to Susan. “I trust you, Susan. I did choose you as my First Officer…and I’ll stand by anything you tell me as true.”

Susan smiled at Sam…but quickly switched to a frown as she noticed that Odo still eyed her suspiciously. Odo stood quickly and left the room as Sam gave him a disapproving look. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t honest with you. I should never have–”

“And how would I have reacted to the news?” Samantha sat down in a chair across from Susan. “I think everything worked out for the best.”

“I…I guess you’re right.” Susan swept back some of her hair and looked at the floor momentarily. “I feel terrible about this. You had a hundred percent faith in me, yet I kept secrets from you.”

“It could have been worse.” Sam smiled and rose to head to the door, turning to give Susan an amused smile. “You could have been trying to kill me. Come on, let’s get something to eat.”

The two laughed at Samantha’s dark joke, as they headed toward the door. As inappropriate as it would have sounded to a stranger, between friends it was an excellent tension breaker – as well as reassurance to Susan that they were still friends.

But the laughter came to an end as the two stepped out into the hallway. Waiting outside were Odo, and a security team of five very large men. Sam turned pale as she glanced at Susan, who has suddenly grown fearful.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Samantha’s voice was angry, and hurt as she confronted Odo with her question. It bordered on a demand. Odo, however, didn’t seem the least bit afraid, or even at all affected by Sam’s tone of voice.

“I’m sorry, Captain,” Odo answered in his best sympathetic, yet still gravelly voice. “I must take Susan Troy into custody. It’s my duty as–”

“Hell, no!” Samantha took a sudden step toward Odo, a little surprised that his security team flinched as she did. She couldn’t picture herself as a threat to them. “Who authorized this? Captain Sisko?”

Odo shook his head slowly. “Aboard this station, I have full authority to detain any person I deem necessary for the safety of–”

Sam stepped in front of Odo, her hands on her hips as she leaned toward him. “Denied. As a Starfleet Captain, I have that authority. Go pick on someone else.”

“Enough of this.” Odo took in a deep breath, and just with a simple nod, urged his five security men forward.

Sam angrily shoved the first of the five men who approached her. She was trembling a little bit, part from anger, and part from worrying that the large man would simply break her in half – but she knew she had to appear brave if they were to take her seriously as a Captain. “I want to talk to Captain Sisko, now!”

As the security man closest to her reached for Susan and missed, Sam quickly slipped his phaser out of his belt. She stepped back, keeping Susan behind her, and aimed the phaser at Odo. He didn’t seem the least bit affected by it.

“This won’t help your trial, Captain,” Odo droned in his best monotone. “Give me the phaser, and we’ll discuss this.”

“No more discussion! I’m taking my crew, and my dad, and leaving this place.” Samantha breathed quickly between sentences. Her eyes were tearing from the frustration she felt, as she began to fear that there was no escape from Admiral Cassius and his kangaroo court. No matter what she did, he would find and prosecute her…unless she managed to run away. She silently wondered for a moment if the Vulcans would grant her asylum – while they were Federation members, they also valued neutrality.

Odo raised his chin momentarily to point toward Samantha. “Turn around.”

“What?” Samantha squinted at Odo, giving him a look which questioned his sanity. “Do you take me for an idiot? I’m not falling for–”

Sam wheeled around quickly as she felt something poke her in the back. She gasped audibly at what she saw.

Susan held a phaser in her hand, pointed at the back of Samantha’s head. She was trembling, and tears were streaming from her eyes. Her face was twisted with a mixture of sadness and anger…but she didn’t fire. It was as if she were fighting some sort of inner battle.

“Susan–” Sam took a step back, freezing when Susan moved suddenly. “Give me the phaser, Susan…please.”

Samantha was surprised when Susan simply turned the phaser around and began holding it out toward Sam. Susan’s hands were shaking…she was still fighting something. She was using every ounce of her willpower to force herself to hand the phaser to Samantha…but Sam was cautious, reaching for it slowly.

“Take it…please–,” Susan whispered in a barely audible, wavering voice.

Sensing the urgency in Susan’s voice, Sam suddenly rushed forward, snatching the phaser from her fingers. She could swear that Susan had pointed the weapon at herself before giving it up to Sam’s grasp. Samantha quickly reached around Susan to support her just before she lost her footing…and began crying.

With Odo and his security force following Sam walked Susan back to her quarters, gently lying Susan on her bed. She paused to see Susan curl into a ball, sobbing, as she stepped outside into the hallway.

Odo seemed to anticipate Samantha’s next request as soon as the door slid shut as he quickly barked an order at two of his security people. “No one enters or leaves this room except myself and Captain Ross. Is that clear?”

As the two guards nodded, Samantha followed Odo down the hall slowly. “Shouldn’t we call sickbay?”

“No.” Odo shook his head. “Unless you want Starfleet asking questions. If you care about Susan, we’ll have to do this silently.”

Sam stepped in front of Odo and turned around, forcing him to stop walking. “What happened?”

He looked both ways along the hallway before opening his office door and inviting Sam in. He closed the door behind them. “She was a subconsciously programmed assassin, and even she didn’t know it. I was going to put her into a cell until the trigger time passed, to keep both you and her safe–”

“Wait…in a cell?” Sam folded her arms and frowned.

Odo nodded. “It’s like a drug. The assassin needs time for the effect to wear off, where she can’t hurt anyone. She’ll be fine once she gets some sleep. And Captain–”


Giving her one of his strange, half smiles, Odo walked around to the other side of his desk and sat down, tapping his index fingers together. “You did an excellent job. You’re one of a rare breed…a Captain who genuinely cares for her crew.”

“Thank you.” Sam smiled at Odo and reached across the desk to shake his hand. “And Odo…I’m sorry I underestimated you.”

Odo chuckled. “If I were in your position, Captain, I probably would have done the same. Good luck at your hearing tomorrow. I look forward to seeing you there.”

Samantha laughed to herself as she left Odo’s office. As usual, it was difficult to tell if Odo’s last sentence was a friendly gesture, or a threat. Odds are…it was both.

Samantha dreaded seeing Admirals in full dress. The image itself didn’t upset her – rather it was what she associated it with that instilled fear in her. Since the time she was a small child, she dreaded seeing those uniforms. Whenever an Admiral came to the door of her childhood home, it meant her father was about to leave on an extended trip. The smell of starched fabric, the perfection of the seams, and the steel-like stiffness of the uniform – it all left a bad taste in her mouth.

Even during her time at the Academy, the only time she would see Admirals in full dress were during disciplinary hearings. Luckily, she was only directly involved in one…but she had been called to several to testify either on behalf or, or against, various members of her class.

It was always painful for her – while her own hearing resulted only in a reprimand on her record, she had watched others immediately discharged. She watched one young man walk down the halls of the Academy, his head bowed in shame and his eyes filled with unshed tears as two large security men escorted him to his quarters to gather his things.

He had stolen equipment from a lab to pursue his own hobbies in his quarters. After Samantha testified that she did see the equipment in his room, the Admirals unanimously agreed to order him dishonorably discharged, and that he was to be ejected from the Academy immediately and sent home.

Paul, his name was. Sam remembered him well. She was often assigned to work with him during classes and training. At one time, she almost dated him…but their personalities clashed almost immediately. They decided instead to remain simply friends for the good of their relationship and their training squad.

She didn’t want to testify against him – but the Admirals told her that she would have to, or the entire training squad would face disciplinary action. They all would have been expelled for the actions of the one. Sam suddenly felt the burden of all of her friends upon her…and broke down, telling the Admirals what they wanted to know. She still regretted doing so, as the image of Paul’s face, his shattered pride became forever etched in her memory.

As she sat in a large, impersonal conference room on Deep Space Nine that image haunted her. She sat in the open, in front of her a large steel table which those who would judge her would sit behind once they arrived. The rest of the room was empty – spectators and guests weren’t permitted for a hearing of this sort.

A shiver went through her as one other person finally entered the room – Captain Sisko. He entered the room and sat down in the center chair across the steel table from Samantha, leaning back as he clasped his hands together at the edge of the table. He looked so serious…but then, he gave her a warm, disarming smile.


Samantha nodded without making a sound, as if any noise she might make could count against her in the hearing. She was a stark contrast to the relaxed-looking Captain Sisko. She sat with her back perfectly straight, her hands in her lap, and her legs crossed below her knees. It was almost as if she were trying to melt into the background, refusing to even allow a wrinkle in her uniform give her away.

“Relax. This is not an inquisition. It’s just a hearing.”

Her only response to Sisko’s continued attempts to calm her was simply to smile nervously at him. She knew she wanted to say something, to ask for his help…or better still, to ask him to miraculously solve her problem. But she knew even that was beyond his ability. She figured would have to go through this essentially alone.

But as she watched Captain Sisko stare at her from across the table with his warm, friendly smile, she began searched deep within her and realized that of all of the people she could talk to, he probably would be the only one who would treat her with respect and caring. His smile, his relaxed pose and mannerisms were reassuring…which finally gave Sam the courage to speak. “Have you been through this too?”

“Samatha–” Captain Sisko tried to appear as informal as possible as he dropped his hands in his lap. “If I had returned to Earth for any extended period of time, I probably would have been tried for a list of infractions which would fill this station from wall to wall–”

“But…you didn’t face them,” Sam interrupted. “You’re still here.”

“Yes, I am, aren’t I?” Sisko gave her another warm, disarming smile, glancing through the glass of the rear door to the room momentarily as he saw someone approach. “It appears that you have more courage then I.”

Sam laughed a little, her nervous smile becoming a little more genuine. She knew it was just an attempt of his to calm her, to make her feel more comfortable. It worked, and she was grateful for that. Samantha even leaned back a little bit in her chair. “You have something planned, don’t you?”

Watching Captain Sisko suddenly lose his smile and lean forward, placing his hands back on the table, cued Samantha to the fact that the others were about to enter the room. She stiffened, sitting up straight again – but after her conversation with Sisko, she just couldn’t bring herself to feel as nervous as she did before…because now, she knew she had a friend in the room. She had someone to look out for her interests.

“Captain Ross…You know Captain Picard–” Captain Sisko indicated toward Picard as he entered the room confidently, sitting to Sisko’s left confidently, with a smile on his face. Sam started to feel a little better – the two seemed to be in such a good mood, it could only mean good things for her. Her confidence went even higher as she watched the next person enter the room – her father. “–And I assume you know Admiral Ross.”

Samantha was clearly smiling now as she leaned back a little in her chair once again. Three of the people in the room were on her side. When the next two entered the room, Admiral Cassius and Colonel Reece, she no longer feared them at all.

“We had a meeting with Starfleet.” Captain Picard began speaking immediately, his accented voice serious, yet his expression conveying that he brought good news. In her two meetings with him, Sam learned that was part of his mannerism. “They have agreed to drop all criminal charges against you.”

“What’s the catch?” Sam felt confident as she asked her question, believing that Picard would give her an honest and fair answer. She felt she had nothing to fear from him.

Picard smiled at Samantha’s question. He stood and straightened his uniform, preparing himself to speak as the senior officer presiding over the hearing. Normally, the highest-ranking officer would take that job, or failing that, the commanding officer. But being her father, Admiral Ross was disqualified – and she guessed that Captain Sisko had disqualified himself for some unknown reason. She made a note to to herself to ask about it later.

“Your incidents of insubordination will still be recorded on your record.” Picard walked around to the other side of the table slowly, leaning against it as he stood in front of Sam. “And you will cooperate with Captain Sisko in a continuing investigation you will be made aware of shortly.”

“And my ship?” Samantha’s smile disappeared at the sound of her own question. She looked at Picard, and then across the table at Captain Sisko. The question, in her mind, sounded more like she was begging – but it came out more like a demand.

Luckily, it seemed to amuse Captain Picard. He let out a chuckle. “It’s still your ship, Samantha. Try to keep it in one piece. Now if there are no more questions, I’d like to adjourn this hearing.”

Sam glanced around the room quickly. No one budged, or made a sound – but she did notice Admiral Cassius swallow hard once before Picard finally motioned toward Captain Sisko.

“Very well,” Picard said as he returned to the other side of the table, “Then this hearing is adjourned.”

As she watched Admiral Cassius stand and leave the room quickly, Samantha remained in her chair. Her heart was beating quickly – she couldn’t believe it was all over with. She was free. Her father smiled at her across the table, but he neither he nor Captain Sisko stood. As the door close again, and Picard returned to the table, Sam knew something else was going on – and that Colonel Reece was still in the room.

“Samantha…Colonel Reece is part of an internal investigations into Admiral Cassius’ activities.” Picard sat back down in his chair and slid it forward, leaning across the table toward Sam. “At this moment, Captain Sisko’s security officer, Odo, is taking Admiral Cassius into custody.”

“But we need to ask one favor of you, Samantha.” The sound of Captain Sisko’s deep voice filled the room, soothing Sam despite the edge of urgency it carried. “Admiral Cassius has assassins on this station. You, your father, and Susan are all targets. We will round them up in time, but we need the three of you off the station immediately…for your own safety.”

“We will inform you once the threat has been neutralized,” Captain Picard added. “Then, you will always be welcome as a guest on Deep Space Nine.”

“Thank you so much. All of you.” Samantha stood quickly and shook Colonel Reece’s hand first. “Thank you for stepping forward. I’ll always remember you.”

She leaned one arm across Admiral Ross’ shoulders, and gave him a light hug, ignoring the amused smiles from Picard and Sisko.

Her father smiled. “I know this has all been tough on you, Sam. But look at all of the people you’ve met…and all the places you’ve seen…all on your own. I’m very proud of you.”

“I know, dad. I know.”

Samantha felt a little sad as Galaxis slowly pulled away from Deep Space Nine. She felt like she was leaving nearly everyone she knew behind. Funny, since before she arrived, she barely knew them at all – and in fact, the idea of meeting them frightened her. It’s strange how heroes can seem so intimidating until you meet them in person.

But at least she knew that Susan, Terel, and her father were safe. The advantage to having a Starship of your own to command was control – as long as everyone she cared deeply about was aboard her ship, they were safe. Of course, it wouldn’t last, since Galaxis’ first stop was to drop off her father at home on Earth…as well as one other ‘guest’.

As it turned out, Susan Troy made an announcement shortly after boarding Galaxis – she told Samantha and Terel that she planned on returning to Earth and retiring from Starfleet. While she was rather young to be retiring, the emotional roller-coaster she went through trying to fight off the subconscious assassination instructions planted in her mind was enough to force her to take a look at her life.

“You’ll always be my closest friend,” Susan said, with tears in her eyes, “And I’ll miss you. I just think I need to take a job where I’m can’t possibly be dangerous to anyone.”

Sam laughed sadly at Susan’s little joke. She would be losing a friend and dedicated crew member as soon as they arrived at Earth. It was something she didn’t look forward to…but it was also something Sam anticipated. After all, at one point she herself contemplated giving up as well.

She sighed as she stood on the Promenade deck of Galaxis once again, watching Deep Space Nine grow smaller and farther away. It was in the past now, as Susan soon would be as well. The next time Galaxis left Earth, it would most likely have yet another brand-new crew. But Sam felt confident – she now knew, without a doubt, that she had what it would take to gain the respect of her new crew.

As Samantha watched Galaxis cruise into the cold, darkness of space, it reminded her of her future – dark, cold, unknown, confusing…but exciting to explore. From now on, with every journey she would begin anew, and enjoy what the Federation had given her along with her ship – independence.

Redemption, Part 2

A simple picture sitting on Samantha’s nightstand, brought her a sense of comfort, as well as a feeling of shame. It was a photo of her dad, in his Starfleet Admiral’s uniform. She loved him, but sometimes it seemed like he tried too hard to protect her.

She was on a large space station in orbit around Earth, sitting on her bed in full dress uniform, her hair tied up in a ponytail – not quite regulation, but close enough. She was waiting for ‘the call’ – any minute now, a board of Starfleet Admirals would finish discussing the preliminaries of her general court martial. They had already interviewed all witnesses the day before.

Samantha remembered the moment she stepped through the airlock on Starbase Six, her ship safely docked in it’s port. Her dad was there waiting for her, wearing a frown on his face. Sadness filled his eyes.

“You shouldn’t have come home. You should have waited”, he said, “Until I had things straightened out back home.”

“No.” Samantha shook her head slowly, defying her father’s wishes. She knew he was trying to protect her – but she was through being protected. She was a Captain now, a title which carried the responsibility of every one of her decisions. She would stand by them, and defend them herself. “I have to handle this myself, dad.”

He almost hugged her at that moment, before realizing that it was just the kind of thing that would upset her more. His daughter had grown up, and was fighting for her own independence. It was his responsibility as a father to let her fight for herself, no matter how afraid he was of her being hurt. Instead, he straightened his uniform, and extended a hand with a quick smile. “Good luck, Captain.”

Samantha remembered shaking her father’s hand and smiling in return, just as two Starfleet Security officers showed up to escort her, along with a single suitcase, to the quarters where she had spent the last two days sitting quietly and thinking. She had plenty of time to think, since she had been confined to those quarters since the moment she had arrived.

“Captain Ross?”

She sighed before walking over to the comm station on the wall next to the door. Samantha knew she could leave the comm station on auto-answer to avoid having to walk over to the panel, but she always thought of that as kind of a violation of her privacy. “Yes?”

“I’m Colonel Reece. I’ve been assigned to escort you to your hearing.”

“Yes…uh…sure.” Sam straightened out her uniform and tapped the door open button. The door slid open – for the first time in a full day, it wasn’t locked.

“Follow me, Captain Ross.”

Samantha followed Colonel Reece quickly as he led her toward the center of the station – that’s where the larger, more decorative conference rooms were, and where the hearings were being held. As she walked, she could feel eyes on her – the legend of what she had done spread through Starfleet like wildfire. They all knew her, some casting glances of contempt upon her as she passed. But she was focused on the task at hand – she couldn’t allow other people’s feelings to affect her performance during the hearing.

“This way, Captain Ross.” Colonel Reece opened the door to the conference room quickly, exposing Samantha to the harsh, bright fluorescent lighting of the room’s Titanium-steel decor. She cringed as she entered the room as the glare of it’s polished walls and table blinded her momentarily. Colonel Reece pulled out a painful-looking steel chair from under one side of the table, inviting Samantha to sit down. On the opposite side of the table were five serious-looking Admirals.

“Captain Ross, please sit.” The centermost grey-haired Admiral indicated toward the chair as he shuffled papers on the table in front of him. The tag on his uniform read ‘Adm S. Cassius’. “You are here today to face charges of…unauthorized use of classified Starfleet property, and replacing your crew with non-Starfleet personnel without authorization.”

“I…I believe I was justified–”

“Captain, we have regulations for a reason. We want our crews to be well-trained, prepared for any disaster.” Admiral Cassius leaned forward, as if to provide confidentiality, though it was plainly obvious that everyone in the room would hear him. “But more important is that we must maintain a Starfleet trained crew. One made up of people like us. Do you understand?”

“I’m not certain I do.” Samantha folded her arms and frowned. “You’re implying that Starfleet crews have to be human, aren’t you? Are you aware of how racist that sounds?”

“Watch your tongue, Captain!” Admiral Cassius stood suddenly, anger twisting his face. “This is a court martial, and I am your superior officer. You will address me with respect, obey me, and keep your petty opinions to yourself. Otherwise, you will rot in a Starfleet mining colony several light years from your home for the rest of your life.”

“I’m sorry, Admiral.” Samantha flashed a disarming smile and leaned forward a little. “Tell me…what are my chances here? Am I in serious trouble?”

Admiral Cassius sighed. “I’m afraid the law is clear here, Captain Ross. Like it or not, the law’s the law, and I’m sworn to uphold it. You’re looking at two to seven, unless you give up your position and face a dishonorable discharge. That is, if you can’t come up with some kind of extenuating circumstances.”

“I understand…I guess.” Sam bowed her head and sighed deeply, pausing for several seconds to think. She realized that she was trapped in a kangaroo court, and she had to escape. “Excuse me…do you mind if I use the restroom before we start?”

“I suppose so.” Admiral Cassius leaned back and tossed a folder full of papers aside. “Just make it quick. Colonel Reece, please keep an eye on her.”

“Yes, sir.”

Samantha walked out into the hallway quickly with Colonel Reece close behind. She headed straight for the women’s restroom, anticipating that Reece would wait outside – he did. Only as soon as she entered the restroom, she realized that the ventilation shaft was way too small for her to squeeze through, and the ceiling was solid rather then suspended.

She paced the room for a minute or so, trying to think of what she could do to slip past Colonel Reece. Then it came to her – she had the element of surprise! All she had to do was lure him into the restroom somehow.

It only took her a second to complete that idea – she took a deep breath, and screamed as loud as her lungs and voice would allow. Just as she predicted, Colonel Reece came running in, looking confused as he found her standing right in front of him with a smile on her face.

“What’s the meaning of–”

Colonel Reece didn’t even finish his sentence before Samantha slammed his head against a mirror above the sink, shattering it, and then shoved him head first into one of the restroom’s cubicles. She grabbed his phaser and slammed the door behind him to slow him down before quickly placing the phaser on her belt and racing out of the restroom. She kept running until she was somewhere on the station where there were no people whatsoever – the only problem was, she had no idea where that was.

“Reece? Where are you?” Admiral Cassius paced around the hallway outside the restrooms for several minutes before Colonel Reece managed to shake off his dizziness and confusion, and head out of the women’s restroom.

“Uh…right here sir. But Captain Ross has–”

“Escaped. You don’t have to tell me that, she’s been sighted all over the station.” Admiral Cassius rubbed his chin gently and squinted a moment, lost in thought, before turning to his security chief, who had just arrived. “I want security combing this station from end to end. Colonel, come with me, I have something important to tell you.”

“Yes, sir.” Colonel Reece nodded and followed Admiral Cassius back into the conference room – they were the only two people in the room, everyone else had left. As soon as he entered the room, the Admiral motioned for him to close the door. He complied quickly. “Combing the station, sir? I assume you mean to tell me why we’re treating Captain Ross like some kind of threat.”

Admiral Cassius frowned. “She is a threat, Colonel Reece. She appointed a Cardassian Gul as her security officer. Cardassian, for God’s sake! Imagine the kind of information she has access to…and yet she hasn’t shared any of it.”

“What if she doesn’t have any information?”

“She has information, all right.” Admiral Cassius let out a sigh as he sat down in one of the plush leather chairs in the conference room. “I’d be willing to bet on it. For some reason, she won’t tell us.”

Colonel Reece folded his arms and frowned. “Unfortunately, we just gave her good reason to fear telling us.”

“Wrong.” Admiral Cassius leaned forward. “Her next mission plan included a visit to Deep Space Nine, to deliver the C-711. I think she was also planning to…meet someone there. She’s deliberately keeping secrets.”

“Oh?” Colonel Reece raised an eyebrow. “You think she’s some kind of a traitor?”

“I’m sure of it.” Admiral Cassius removed a datapad from his pocket and slid it across the table. “So much so, that I am ordering you to locate her and keep a close eye on her. You will contact only me, giving me updates once every twelve hours.”

“Yes, sir.” Colonel Reece took the datapad and saluted quickly before leaving the conference room. As soon as he left and closed the door, Admiral Cassius leaned back and pressed an small button in the center of the table.

“It won’t be long now. We’ll find her…and when we do, Admiral Ross will be finished.”

“Who’s there?”

Samantha instinctively ducked behind a shipping container in what she thought was an empty cargo bay. Her hand was tightly wrapped around her phaser, as her heart sped up to the point where she could hear her heartbeat in her ears. As her mind began to slip slowly out of panic mode, she realized that she recognized the voice.

“Susan?” Sam poked her head over the top of the shipping container she hid behind – it was Susan Troy, all right. She recognized those pale green Romulan eyes anywhere. Only Sam was a little shocked that she had dyed her hair. “Blonde, Susan?”

Susan smiled and nodded. “I decided to experiment a little. I saw you run by the Watering Hole, so I followed you in here. What’s going on? Weren’t you on trial?”

“I’m so glad you’re here, Susan. Thinks have gone horribly wrong.” Sam stood up straight, and approached Susan carefully, eyeing the door the whole way. She lowered her voice, worried that someone outside might hear and come in. “It was more of a crucifixion then a trial. Someone has it in for me.”

“That sounds so…paranoid–” Susan laughed nervously, but suddenly turned serious as she noticed the fear in Samantha’s eyes. She lowered her voice as well, as she began to fear for her friend. “Sam…What’s going on?”

“I…I don’t really know.” Sam sighed loudly, her still lingering sense of panic causing her breath to waver. “I have to get off this station.”

“You know–” Susan smiled mischievously as a memory came back to her – on the way to the Watering Hole, she passed the dock. “–Galaxis is still here. And it’s not well guarded at the moment.”

Samantha shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. My picture’s all over the station, and the dock’s the most crowded area. Even the transporters are there. I can’t get near the ship without being caught.”

“Oh, I think you can.” Susan grabbed Sam’s wrist and suddenly pulled her toward the door. “It’s time for a real artist to go to work.”

“Turn this room upside down. I want anything we can use as evidence.”

Admiral Cassius clasped his hands behind his back and began pacing around the quarters Samantha Ross occupied only hours earlier as Security officers began tearing the entire place apart, even looking under the couch cushions and mattress.

She had left behind all of her luggage, clothing, and belongings, literally fleeing with just the clothing on her back. But the Admiral knew that would not be enough to cause her hardship. She had friends who would help her. That was the primary point of the detailed search of the station he had ordered – to find those friends and keep her away from them. The search of her quarters was to determine where she might head, or who she might contact.

He happened to walk past her nightstand in mid-thought, and found a picture in a frame, lying face down. Personal photos in quarters were against regulation, so it caught his attention immediately. He picked up the photo and looked at it quickly.

“How is Captain Ross related to Admiral Ross?”

“He’s her father, sir.” One of the Security officers spoke up immediately. “He sponsored her entry into the academy.”

“Hmm.” Admiral Cassius stared at the picture for a moment, rubbing his chin, before dropping it back on the table. “Send a security team to guard Admiral Ross, wherever he is. Let’s make sure his daughter can’t contact him.”

“Yes, sir.”

Admiral Cassius stood in Samantha’s former quarters for a few minutes, alone, as the room emptied of security personnel. He shook his head, wondering how a such a sweet young woman could become mixed up in something like this.

“Damned shame.” He shook his head slowly as he turned off the lights and closed the door behind him. “Truly, a damned shame.”

“Purple?” Samantha leaned forward to examine her hair more closely in Susan’s bathroom mirror. Susan stood behind her, smiling.

“I know. Isn’t it cool?” Susan brushed some of Samantha’s hair aside with her hand. “I’ve always wanted to dye my hair with funky colors.”


Susan nodded. “It’s one of a few colors that are against Starfleet regs. No one will recognize you, or even suspect.”

“Really?” Samantha smiled and turned to face Susan, following her as she headed out of the bathroom and into her quarters. “Then I should have no problem sneaking off of the station.”

Sam paused as she spotted Terel sitting in a deep chair in Susan’s quarters. He was smoking a cigar, something which was strictly forbidden aboard Starfleet vessels. “Terel…what are you doing?”

“If we’re going to break a few rules, Captain Ross…why not break a few more?” Terel sat up and turned to face Sam, his eyes widening as he got a good view of her. “Nice hair, Captain. I never thought you had it in you.”

Sam shook her head. “I’m in trouble now, Susan. Terel likes it.”

“May I suggest, Captain–”

“Don’t call me that, Terel”, Samantha interrupted, “Call me Samantha. If you walk around calling me ‘Captain’, it defeats the whole purpose of sneaking.”

“Point taken, Samantha.” Terel sat up, placing his cigar on the edge of a nearby glass table. “But I was going to suggest we formulate a plan. Purple hair or not, if we simply walk up to the dock as a group they’re bound to recognize us.”

Susan took advantage of Terel’s distraction, quickly throwing his cigar in the bathroom sink as he spoke. She ignored his exaggerated gasp. “Samantha’s the only one who has to sneak aboard, Terel. We aren’t restricted…yet.”

“Exactly.” Terel paused to point at Samantha. “Yet. Which is why we have to act quickly.”

Samantha sighed and sat down on the edge of the glass table. She didn’t like the idea of following Terel’s plan, especially because she outsmarted him so easily the last time he had one. “Okay…what do you suggest?”

“So why am I wearing this stupid baseball cap again?”

“Because it makes it harder to see your eyes”, Terel answered quickly, “And it makes you look–”

“Don’t say it!” Susan waved a finger at Terel, in mock anger, glaring at him as she spoke to Samantha. “He’s right, it does make your eyes harder to see.”

Samantha nodded silently, as if to dismiss the bickering between the two. She was nervous enough already – they were planning to sneak past armed Starfleet security officers. Samantha wasn’t defenseless, though the small phaser she carried on her belt beneath her untucked shirt would make things that much worse if she were caught.

The three shuffled along the deck above the docking station, looking down periodically to see a dozen security personnel just hanging around the gate. They knew she would be heading toward there.

Samantha turned to look at Terel and Susan, worry apparent in her eyes. “How are we going to get past them?”

“A distraction.” Susan pointed through the large reinforced glass window in front of them, toward a large passenger transport pulling up to the docking station slowly. “And here comes one now. There’ll be two or three dozen people crowding the docking station in a few minutes…and they all have to be scanned.”

The steel deck Samantha stood on jarred slightly as the massive transport ship gently bumped into its magnetic docking clamps, assuring an airtight connection. The ring of light around one airlock changed from red to green, seconds before the door slid open.

Just as Susan predicted, dozens of people began to stream into the docking area, packed in like sardines as they slowly began to line up at the narrow scanning checkpoints. It would take several minutes for the crowd to subside.

“Let’s go, quickly.” Susan tugged on Samantha’s shirt, and headed quickly down the stairway toward the docking station. She looked around as she went, noticing that Terel was missing.

Samantha was only seconds from the transport pad which would send her to Galaxis when all hell broke loose. She happened to glance at one of the Starfleet security officers for just a second – and just as she did, he somehow just knew she was looking at him. Their eyes met for only an instant, and the officer’s eyes widened with recognition.

“You! Stop!” The officer drew his phaser quickly and started shoving his way through the crowd, toward Samantha.

“Oh, nuts.” Susan hit a few buttons on the transporter system quickly, and practically dragged Samantha toward the transport pads. “Five second delay, we transport…the system locks. Go!”

“Five seconds?” Samantha’s eyes widened as the security officer stood in the doorway of the transport area, pointing a phaser at her. Samantha drew her phaser, taking advantage of the fact that the officer didn’t yet have a clear shot yet. “Too long–”

Phaser blasts and sparks began to fly across the transporter pad just as it began it’s telltale whine, charging to transport Samantha and Susan to Galaxis. Samantha fired toward the doorway in rapid succession, with the intention of preventing any of the security officers from accurately aiming at her.

It worked.

An instant later, Samantha and Susan appeared in the transporter room aboard Galaxis. Sam immediately raced over to the control panel and typed in her unlock command quickly. “Computer…raise shields.”

“In space dock?” Susan looked a little confused.

Sam nodded. “Otherwise, they’ll be able to transport aboard and take back the ship.”

“We can’t sir. She’s raised the shields.”

Admiral Cassius slammed his hand down on a console in the station’s command center. He had been called there as soon as a security alert was declared – and even before he had arrived, he knew why. “Keep the bay doors shut. Let’s get a few fighters scrambled, at least three–”

Colonel Reece cleared his throat loudly to interrupt. “We only have two available.”

“Fine, both of them.” Admiral Cassius stood next to the glass outside wall of the command center, looking down at the eerie glow coming from Galaxis in the dock below. She had her shields up, all right. “Launch the Excalibur with a full crew. She’s faster then Galaxis, Captain Ross won’t be able to outrun her…and since Captain Ross lacks a crew, she won’t be able to react as fast.”

With a quick salute, Colonel Reece raced down to the barracks to round up the crew of Excalibur.

Admiral Cassius tapped the glass inches from his face and smiled. “You’re just like your father, Captain Ross…He never made it, and neither will you.”

“It’s about time you two arrived.”

Samantha glared at Terel momentarily even as her fingers frantically typed commands at the engineering panel on the bridge of Galaxis. She tore the baseball cap from her head, throwing it to the floor in frustration – it was getting in the way. She glanced over at Susan, working quickly at several stations. “Terel, how about if you help instead of amusing yourself?”

“Everything’s online.” Susan turned to face Samantha as she headed over to her station at helm. She froze for a second as she looked at the viewscreen, turning her look of horror toward Samantha. “But the doors are still closed.”

“Just ram the doors.” Terel paused to look at Susan and Samantha as they both gave him angry looks. “You did say you wanted me to help…didn’t you? If you try to ram the doors, they’ll open them. They don’t want an explosion in space dock.”

Susan and Samantha looked at each other for a few seconds, before Samantha finally commented. “You know…that actually makes sense, Terel.”

Terel nodded and smiled. “I’m Cardassian. We’re known for devious tactics.”

Without a sound, Galaxis’ impulse engines slowly began to supply mobility. Thanks to Susan’s trained hand at the controls, the ship accelerated slowly, smoothly…rather then violently lurching into action. Samantha happened to look through the thick transparent aluminum skylight on the bridge – its inner liquid crystal layer charged to allow total translucency – to see the Excalibur nearby. It’s external lights were turning on in groups.

“We have company, guys.” Samantha looked at Susan just as she turned around and nodded. Terel headed straight for the weapons systems console.

The ship surged forward, toward the still-closed spacedock doors. Samantha started to feel a little nervous, they were dangerously close. She paced across the bridge twice before sitting down in the Captain’s chair, holding on tight to the armrests. She knew that they would either hit the doors…or be forced to take them out.


“Yes, Captain?” Terel turned to face Samantha from his weapons console.

Samantha let out a deep sigh to try and calm herself. In her Starfleet career so far, she had only broken small rules. Little things, like her hair length, or insubordinate behavior. But now…she had stolen a ship, and was about to attack a Federation spacedock.

She closed her eyes before executing her next order. “Fire.”

Galaxis shook from the explosion of two photon torpedoes slamming into the reinforced titanium allow spacedock doors. They were designed to repel attacks, but not from within spacedock – or at such close range. The huge doors simply blew apart from the impact.

As Galaxis sailed through the now-open doors, Samantha could hear debris hitting the ship, every hit sounding across the metallic hull, but causing little damage. Low-power shields weren’t designed to stop such small objects, as they could cause little damage to the ship.

“Galaxis is in pursuit.” Susan spoke without looking up from her console. She suddenly took a hard right turn, barely dodging a phaser blast.

Sam gripped the armrests on her chair tighter, as she felt the sudden g-forces. “Cloak the ship. They can’t hit us if they can’t see us.”

“I’m on it.” Susan began tapping her console quickly. “It’ll only buy time, though. They’ll detect our heat signature…and when we go to warp, we’ll have to drop the cloak and they’ll follow.”

Another hard turn, this time to the left, and a curse from Susan told Samantha that it took Excalibur only seconds to track them by heat signature. This time, the turn was too late – the bridge heaved violently as a photon torpedo impacted the underside of the ship.


“Sixty percent. We only had them partially powered.” Susan began tapping her panel furiously. “Boosting now…but that’ll cut our impulse power.”

“Terel–” Samantha paused, fidgeting with one of the small buttons on the armrest of her Captain’s chair. She didn’t want to fire on Excalibur – to do so would mean hurting innocent people. Once she did that, she would be seen as a rogue officer, and would have to work hard to prove she’s not. The finger she was using to poke at the small button stopped tapping as an idea came to her. She smiled at Terel briefly as he stared at her, waiting for her command.

“Susan, prepare us for maximum warp, and keep your finger over the button. Shut down impulse drive and shields.”

“Wh…What?” Susan typed the commands quickly, looking over her shoulder as she did to see what Susan was up to.

“Terel…signal our surrender, and keep a channel open.” Susan rose to her feet and straightened out her clothing, facing the screen to prepare herself to talk to the Captain of Excalibur with confidence.

Terel tapped his console a few times, smiling at Samantha the entire time. “I understand, Samantha. It’s the old hit and run, isn’t it?”

Samantha nodded, smiling briefly at Terel before turning her attention back to the viewscreen. Her face dropped momentarily, her confidence shaken for a moment as she realized who it was – Captain Jean-Luc Picard, of Enterprise.

“Captain Ross, I hear you’ve been causing a bit of trouble in this sector.” Captain Picard spoke with a smile, a disarming softness in his voice. Samantha couldn’t tell if he was dead serious, or if he just wanted to talk, to understand what she was doing.

With a nervous laugh, Samantha returned to her chair and sat down. “Captain Picard…I always hoped we’d meet one day. Just…under better circumstances.”

“I’ve spoken to the Captain of Excalibur”, Captain Picard continued in a soft voice as he returned to his chair as well, “We’ve come to an agreement. You will surrender command to me, and Galaxis will accompany Enterprise to Deep Space Nine.”

Samantha blinked twice quickly, her mouth hanging open briefly with surprise as Captain Picard’s words settled into her brain. Picard was taking her to Deep Space Nine? Did he know what was going on? She shook her head quickly to clear her thoughts. “Uh…sure. I can agree to that.”

“Very well, then. Oh, and Captain Ross?”


“I’ll be expecting you and your crew at dinner aboard Enterprise.” Picard smiled and signaled to someone behind him with his left hand. “Picard out.”

As soon as the viewscreen switched back to a dark view of space, Samantha turned to see Terel grinning with amusement. “What?”

“You’re quite a popular dinner companion, Captain.”

The door pad outside Captain Picard’s office chirped softly as Samantha tapped the ‘page’ button. She took a deep breath and waited for him to acknowledge her verbally before entering. She was breaking custom by arriving on Enterprise nearly an hour before dinner – and even more so by meeting with it’s Captain privately, without being announced first. Samantha hoped he wouldn’t mind – and something told her that he was eager to speak to her.


Samantha entered the doorway as soon as that single word was spoken by Picard. She headed straight to his desk, where he sat pondering something on a small computer screen. “Captain Picard…I’m sorry for intruding, but–”

“Please, have a seat.” Captain Picard turned the computer screen away from him, leaning his elbow on the table to stare at Samantha as she sat down. “Interesting choice of hair color.”

“Oh, that.” Samantha laughed nervously. “It was Susan Troy’s idea. Part of our escape plan.”

Picard nodded and laughed. “I had the pleasure of talking to your father recently. Seems he’s in a bit of trouble on Deep Space Nine. He thinks someone has it in for him…and I think he’s right.”

“So…what happens next?”

Captain Picard leaned back in his chair, staring across his desk at Samantha for several seconds before finally saying something. “What do you think happens next?”

“I just want to be safe again.” Samantha sighed deeply, yet held a steady gaze across Picard’s desk. “And I want my dad to be safe.”

She leaned forward, her face becoming more determined as she stared even more intently at Picard. “I want Galaxis to be mine again.”

“A woman after my own heart.” Picard smiled and laughed, before leaning forward as well. “I will have uniforms issued for you and your crew. Once we arrive at Deep Space Nine, we’ll discuss your…situation with Captain Sisko.”

“Will he be willing to help me? And what if Starfleet already contacted him?”

Picard smiled again, seeming amused by Sam’s question. “Captain Sisko was chosen for his position because he thinks for himself…an asset on a station located so far from Earth–”

“–So he won’t believe I’m an enemy until he hears my side first…right?”

A nod from Picard prompted a smile from Samantha. He stood quickly and reached across the desk to shake her hand. “I’ll look forward to seeing you and your crew at dinner.”

“Admiral, we have Enterprise and Galaxis in range.”

Dusting himself off as he rose from the Captain’s chair aboard Excalibur, Admiral Cassius stared at the viewscreen for a few seconds. “Lock photon torpedoes on to Galaxis. We’ll disable it first–”

Colonel Reece leaned over the console behind Admiral Cassius. “What if Enterprise fights us?”

Admiral Cassius laughed. “They won’t. Picard is an expert in diplomacy…and while he’s busy negotiating, we’ll already have captured Captain Ross. The law’s on our side, Colonel.”

“Maybe so, sir…but that might not matter in a moment.”

Turning to face the screen, Admiral Cassius’ face became paralyzed by fear. Coming right toward his ship was Galaxis, being led by four photon torpedoes…and he hadn’t even raised the shields. “Oh, my God.”

The bridge of Excalibur lurched and jarred violently, fire and sparks erupting from nearly every panel as Admiral Cassius found himself thrown against the panel behind the Captain’s chair. He bellowed in pain as he heard his arm snap loudly upon impact. “Damage…report!”

Colonel Reece returned to his feet quickly, trying his best to see the engineering panel through the smoke which was quickly filling the bridge.

“Warp engines, offline. Weapons offline. Life support offline. And…oh, hell.”

“What is it, Colonel?” Admiral Cassius returned to his feet painfully, settling into his chair with a wince. “She’s sheared us nearly in half, sir. Right at the neck. The saucer half is on backup power and life support. And sir…the Enterprise is requesting our surrender.”

The Admiral narrowed his eyes and frowned. “Damn that Picard. I outrank him…I do not surrender to him. Open a frequency to–”

As the words began to leave his mouth, the bridge of Excalibur went dark. Numbing cold immediately began pooling across the floor as one by one, each of the electronic panels joined the darkness.

“Uh, sir…we just lost backup power.”

“Oh, hell.”

“They’re disabled, Captain.”

Samantha didn’t answer as she stood in front of the viewscreen in her new Captain’s uniform courtesy of Captain Picard. She watched a broken Excalibur floating along in space. It made her sad to see such a sight – she knew just how much pride a Starfleet Captain had in her ship. It was like having a helpless child in your care, dependent on you for everything. And just like a child, it responded better to soft coaxing then to tyranny.


“Oh, sorry.” Samantha put on a smile and returned to her chair. “Let’s evacuate them, we don’t want them to freeze to death.

“I’ll bring us to transporter range.” Susan nodded and adjusted a few controls, moving Galaxis closer to the broken Excalibur. As soon as they entered transporter range, however, Susan’s face dropped. “Oh, no–”

“What is it, Susan?”

Almost in answer to Samantha’s question, a orange strip lit up along the ceiling of the bridge and began flashing. A loud, brief, alarm went off, followed by the computer announcing: ‘Intruder Alert’.

“They beamed over right after we lowered our shields.” Susan stood quickly as her panel went dark, followed by panels all over the bridge. “They’re in engineering. They’re re-routing controls. We can’t even call Enterprise for help.”

“Damn.” Samantha raced over to a small closet in the corner of the bridge, typing in a code quickly. As soon as the door opened, she tossed Terel and Susan some kind of silver reflective suits. “Put these on. They’re reflective fabric, it’ll protect us from phaser fire.”

By the time Samantha removed three phaser rifles from the closet, both Terel and Susan were already wearing the reflective clothing. Sam smiled, as she tossed them each a rifle. “Get behind something, and stay down. If they want us, they’ll have to come in through the door. As long as they can’t see us, we have the advantage…they’ll all be stunned unconscious before they know what hit them.”

The wait seemed agonizing as Samantha kneeled behind her Captain’s chair, phaser rifle aimed unsteadily at the door. She had been trained well for moments like these – yet her hands still shook, and her heart still was beating loudly.

She heard a loud creak as the door opened a sliver. She steadied herself, aiming the phaser rifle more carefully at the newly opened gap between the door and frame. Another loud creak, this time as the door was forcibly opened to its full width. Samantha almost pulled the trigger…but she was glad she hadn’t.

Standing in the doorway was Commander Data, from Enterprise. He was surveying the room, as if he knew someone was there. He paused as he caught Samantha’s slight movements as she hid low behind her chair.

“Captain Ross”, he said plainly, “Your ship is now secure.”

“Thank God.” Samantha rose slowly, followed by Terel and Susan, as they both removed their protective clothing. She glanced at the door again as she watched Picard’s first officer, Will Riker, enter the bridge.

“This ship’s much smaller then Enterprise.” He smiled and gave Samantha a quick salute. “Captain…we’re here to help. Any orders?”.

Samantha smiled. She knew she was far outclassed by crew members from the legendary Enterprise…but still, it felt good to be in command of her own ship again.

“Next stop…Deep Space Nine!”

Redemption, Part 1

“What the hell happened?”

Captain Samantha Ross wasn’t someone who often had to ask that question. At twenty-eight, she was a relatively new Captain, and one of the youngest in Starfleet history – but this was the second ship under her command. The first was destroyed in a battle a year after deployment.

But that was in the past. Now the Galaxis was her baby, the most compact and powerful ship the Federation had ever built. Though it’s designers would deny it, the ship was undoubtedly designed for combat, but easily fit into scientific and exploration missions as well. Either way, it had a lot of power. Sometimes too much. This was one of those times.

She slid out of her chair and walked forward toward the viewscreen slowly. The bridge was silent, even the comm station made no sound as Captain Ross stood only a short distance from the twelve foot high screen to stare at the orange-red planet looming large in front of her – a planet they tried to save by using low-power phasers to stabilize seismic activity. Twelve billion lives had come to an end just ten seconds ago. Ten seconds that Sam would give her life to get back.

“I asked a question.” Captain Ross turned to face her crew, her voice soft and patient, as she looked around the room at every one of her bridge crew. But even they could plainly see her tensed jaw and clenched fists, giving away the anger she felt. “I’d like an answer.”

“I think…um…we miscalculated.”

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that, Commander.” Captain Ross sounded angry as she headed toward the turbolift quickly, plowing her way across the bridge as if there was nothing between her and those twin sliding doors. “I’ll be in my quarters. Page me when you have an answer.”

Captain Ross didn’t even remember the trip to her quarters, she was on personal auto-pilot until the moment the doors closed behind her. She knew what her crew thought of her, and why they refused to take her seriously in spite of her best efforts. Her career was a product of legacy rather then effort – she’d been promoted to Captain because her father was an Admiral.

But they didn’t realize that she cared about what she did – and every time one of them ignored an order of hers, or laughed behind her back…it hurt her deeply. She couldn’t tell them, however – Starfleet Captains were supposed to be practically emotionless…especially female ones.

Sam stood in front of one of the tall windows to look outside, catching a reflection of herself in the glass. She wasn’t very tall, and her soft brown colored eyes and hair were more of a liability then anything – the way she looked made her seem meek, almost timid, rather then a commanding or imposing presence. She was known to wear her hair long, below her shoulders – a blatant violation of regulations – but no one even reprimanded her for it. She was privileged, to be sure, because of her father’s position – but she took her work seriously. She enjoyed saving lives, and helping people.

She stared at her reflection, gently twisting the rank insignia attached to her collar. Sam could still remember the day she signed on to Starfleet, as a fighter pilot – her eighteenth birthday. She wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps – since day one, she wanted to have command of a starship just like he once did. But now that she had it…she never felt more lost or lonely in her entire life.

A gentle chirp from the comm system next to the door alerted Sam that someone was outside her room, paging her. She knew very well who it was, even before she opened the door – her First Officer, Nathan Phillips. She rolled her eyes as she walked over to the door to hit the open button – Nathan, like most of her nearly all-male crew, would look for any excuse to visit her quarters.

“What is it, Nathan?”

“We’ve completed our investigation.” Without even asking, Nathan entered her quarters and began pacing around the room. She could tell that he looked her over on the way in…he always did – and then, as usual, he nearly reached for her before she shrugged away from him. “You might want to come to the bridge for this one.”

“Why’s that?” Sam folded her arms, her expression telling Nathan that she wasn’t the least bit amused by his informality or his attempts at physical contact. It was a little ‘game’ they played now and then – Nathan would try, Sam would quickly reject him.

“Because we didn’t cause the deaths.” Nathan paused and turned to face Sam. His expression was now serious as well. “There’s someone else out there.”

“Sensor report?”

Captain Ross was all business as she entered the bridge once again, her First Officer following her close behind. She stood just ahead of her chair as her First Officer sat down. She enjoyed her work most during the rare times when her bridge crew worked like a well-oiled machine.

“Shadows, Captain. We’re detecting shadows.” The only other female crew member on the Galaxis answered Captain Ross – Ensign Susan Troy. It wasn’t even her real name. She was Romulan, a defector from the Empire, who voluntarily changed her name to keep them from detecting and reclaiming her. “They’re on the other side of the planet.”

“How many?” Captain Ross turned to give her tall, blond weapons and security officer, Commander Gene Kelley, a look that meant a possible threat was imminent. She remembered her first meeting with him, when she asked about his name. He never gave her an answer.

Ensign Troy turned pale as she turned around to meet Captain Ross’ gaze. “At least six.”

Captain Ross swallowed hard. That meant there were six unknown ships on the other side of the planet. Against one – the Galaxis. And the nearest backup was hours away. Not that she could call them – one subspace transmission could cause those six ships to go on the attack.

“Red alert. Raise the shields, and cloak the ship.” Captain Ross sat down in the Captain’s chair as the lights on the bridge dimmed to a level barely above darkness. A ring of red lit up around the bridge near the ceiling. The dimming of lights around the ship was necessary to provide a reliable cloak – otherwise, the enemy would detect an strong energy signature in spite of the cloak.

“I hate to remind you again, but the cloaking device you stole is illegal.”

“Shut up, Nathan. How many times are you going to tell me what I already know?”

Nathan smiled at Captain Ross’ comment as she turned to look at Ensign Troy again. The Galaxis was designed to work with a light crew – which meant each of the bridge crew took on dual duties more often then not. Ensign Troy’s duty was both Sensors and Helm.

“Take us around, Ensign. Slowly.” Captain Ross stared at the helm for a few seconds as Ensign Troy set the coordinates. Sam remembered her days at the helm of a small spacecraft all her own – a fighter. She trained for the war with the Dominion, but luckily, she never saw a single battle. The first…and last…time she’d seen a battle was when she was forced to self-destruct the Oceana, her previous command ship. “Low orbit, so they don’t see our heat signature.”

Captain Ross’ heart began beating faster as she watched the ship slowly moving over the horizon toward the other side of the planet. The ships on the other side were cloaked as well, which made her very nervous – it would simply be a matter of who detects who first. The only advantage the Galaxis had was that it could fire while cloaked – but she was unaware if the other ships had the same capability.

She looked around the bridge quickly. The other officers were combat hardened, they had each been assigned to ships that participated in the Dominion war. They had seen combat first hand. Compared to them, their Captain was an amateur – and her worst fear was that her inexperience would get them all killed.

“Captain…neutrino emissions.”

“Damn.” Captain Ross fidgeted a little bit. Neutrino emissions meant that the other ships knew something was out there. They were looking to identify shadows of their own. “Take us into the atmosphere, and dive at high speed. With any luck, they’ll think we’re an asteroid and–”

“Engineering to bridge.”

“Go head.” Captain Ross fidgeted more now. Any time Lieutenant Steve Corbin called from Engineering during a crisis, it was always something bad. He was an expert in physics, an aging University professor who decided he wanted to try his hand at real physics in space.

“The shields are drawing way too much power now that we’re inside the atmosphere. We can’t run them and the cloak at the same time.”

“Fine. Drop the shields. Without the cloak, we’re dead.” Captain Ross sighed as she leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs. It was more a sign of nervousness then relaxation. “It’ll just get a little hot in here, that’s all.”

“We have a reading, Captain.” Ensign Troy turned around quickly, a triumphant smile on her face. “Four Klingon warbirds, and two Cardassian battleships. All cloaked.”

“Let’s hover, Ensign. They’ll have difficulty scanning us through the atmosphere.” Captain Ross sighed nervously and looked at Nathan, wondering why he seemed so calm all the time. “Hail them. Ask for someone in command of their mission.”

“Here’s their answer, Captain.” Ensign Troy pointed at a bright dot on the screen, moving toward them quickly. It was a photon torpedo.

“Oh, hell. Shields, now!”

The photon torpedo collided with the ship with extreme violence, tossing every one of the bridge crew from their seats, and causing sparks to fly out of every panel on the bridge. Captain Ross checked the small panel next to her seat for an instant damage report – shields still holding, no damage other then scattered power outages…but they’d lost their cloak.

“We’re open to the world. No doubt they see us now.”

“Shut up, Nathan.” Captain Ross looked at the viewscreen – indeed, the six ships had seen them, and were moving to intercept quickly. “Bring everything we have online. Phasers, photon torpedoes…even the cannons.”

“The cannons?” Ensign Troy turned around quickly. “Those aren’t legal yet. They’re just on board for testing.”

“Neither is the C-711 in our shuttle bay, but we may use that too.” Captain Ross looked over at her First Officer to see him returning an angry look.

“You can’t use particle cannon. And the C-711 is for the eyes of the senior officers only, Sam. Are you trying to get busted?”

“No.” Captain Ross smiled. “I’m trying to be honest with my crew.”

Nathan stood up in front of Sam’s chair, and looked down at her. “Go ahead and hang yourself. I don’t want any part of it.”

Sam shrugged as she watched her First Officer storm off of the bridge toward the turbolift. She had better things to do at the moment then argue with him. “Hold your fire until they make the first move.”

“They’re hailing us, Captain.”

“On screen.” Captain Ross stood up and straightened her uniform as the image of a high-ranking Cardassian officer popped onto the screen. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Avenging the death of my son. According to the laws of Cardassia, that’s my right. If you try to interfere, you will meet their fate as well.”

Captain Ross narrowed her eyes and sat back down. “I don’t buy it. You’re up to something else. You don’t need to kill billions just to–”

“My, my. You’re a beautiful young Captain.” The Cardassian smiled as he spoke, though Captain Ross knew he meant it as a distraction tactic. “I am Gul Terel. We can discuss this further – in greater detail – if you agree to dinner aboard my destroyer. If not…I’ll simply destroy your ship without another thought. It would be a shame for beauty such as yours to come to such a violent end so quickly.”

Captain Ross looked around at her bridge crew as they stared at her. They were pleading with their eyes for her to say no, to fight. “I’ll go, on one condition–”

“Oh, don’t worry. I won’t allow anyone to destroy your precious ship as long as you’re on mine. You have my word as a Cardassian.”

“Very well. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

“…And right now she’s on a Cardassian ship. Do you think she’s a traitor?”

“Could be.” Nathan paced a little in his quarters, keeping one eye on Gene as he rubbed his chin. “She’s been acting erratically since we stepped on board. She runs to her quarters when she’s upset, tells her officers to ‘shut up’. She breaks regulations like they were mere suggestions.”

“Maybe that’s just because she’s young.”

Nathan laughed. “Even the legendary James Kirk didn’t break as many rules in his whole career as Sam did this morning. Dammit, Gene, don’t you understand? She’s either going to get us all killed or court martialed. I won’t go down with her.”

“So what are you suggesting we do, Nathan?” Gene fidgeted nervously with his hands, as he already anticipated where Nathan was headed. “She’s…the Captain. We follow her.”

“Not if we relieve her of command.” Nathan smiled. “All we have to do is ask the doctor to declare her unfit.”

“No.” Gene shook his head slowly. “Bill Chase is a friend of Sam’s. He’ll never go for it…and once we suggest it, we’ll be placing our own necks on the block.”

“We have no choice then.” Nathan opened a small closet in his quarters, pulling out two high-powered phaser rifles. “We’ll have to take the ship by force. Anyone who opposes us–”

“No killing, please.” Gene shook his head again. “Let’s just use our heads here. It shouldn’t be that hard to convince everyone that Sam is over her head.”

“You’re right, Gene. You’re right. Everyone here thinks she’s a joke. It won’t take much.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Sam squinted at the dress Gul Terel held up in front of her. She estimated that it would only cover a small portion of herself – she much preferred her uniform, even though the temperature inside the Cardassian ship felt like a hot day in August back in her home city of Phoenix, on Earth. “I’m not wearing that.”

“Suit yourself.” Gul Terel smiled, tossing aside the dress casually. “You’ll just be too hot. I like the way you look in your uniform just as well.”

“I won’t be hot. I grew up in a desert.” Sam sat down in an uncomfortable steel chair in front of a huge table in the Gul’s private entertainment room. She was a little surprised that Cardassians gave their Gul’s such lavish quarters on their ships. He had four rooms all to himself – he never had to leave if he didn’t want to. “Let’s make this short, Terel. Why did you feel the need to kill twelve billion to avenge your son?”

“Wouldn’t you rather eat first before engaging in…unpleasant conversation?” Gul Terel signaled a servant standing nearby to place a few dishes of food on the table. The woman was Bajoran – no doubt, the Cardassian Empire still bred families of Bajoran slaves back home. “Let’s spend a nice, quiet evening together, filled with intellectual conversation.”

“No!” Sam stood up and threw her plate at Gul Terel, who easily dodged it. “I’m not one of your damned conquests, nor one of your female indentured servants! You’d better come up with a good reason for what you’ve done, or I will return to my ship and make it my business to destroy yours!”

Gul Terel smiled. “Tell me, Samantha. Do you start off all of your negotiations with empty threats?”

“That’s Captain Ross to you.” Sam leaned forward across the table. “And I never…make empty threats.”

“Trying to seem more dangerous then you are.” Terel laughed out loud and stood up. “You would make an excellent Cardassian, Captain Ross. Very well…I’ll tell you what happened. I meant to wipe out only a single clan on the planet. The mistake I made was hiring Klingons to do the job. They get a little…carried away.”

“Klingons?” Sam shook her head slowly. “You’re lying, Gul Terel. You’re talking in circles to distract me.”

“I have photographic records of the whole incident, Captain Ross.” Gul Terel removed a small transparent memory crystal from his shirt pocket and tossed it on the table in front of her. “You humans are so fond of primitive civilizations that mimic Earth’s evolutionary path. But you fail to see the danger in the path you have taken.”

Sam examined the crystal carefully before placing it in her hip pocket. “Danger? What danger?”

“All it took was a couple of sloppily executed explosions on the part of the Klingons…and the two largest continents of the planet annihilated each other with a hail of hydrogen and atom bombs. It was beautiful in it’s simplicity and effectiveness.”

“Twelve billion, Gul Terel. Twelve billion.” Sam sighed and stood up straight. “This is the old Cardassian Empire all over again, isn’t it? The one that enslaved Bajor, destroyed whole planets, societies–”

“Sick societies.” Gul Terel sat down and poured himself a drink. “Face the facts, Captain Ross. Bajoran society was a backwards, superstitious, self destructive. Now they’re one of the leading societies of your precious Federation, with their own space station. Tell me…who do you credit for that?”

“Don’t you try and justify your destructiveness to me.” Sam pointed a finger inches from Gul Terel’s face. He seemed amused by it. “Don’t you dare. And I’ll tell you what will happen. You either turn over the Captain responsible for setting off your…plan of simplicity…or I will destroy all of your ships.”

Gul Terel laughed. “More empty threats from an inexperienced Captain.”

“Inexperience, maybe.” Sam removed a small hand phaser from her left hip pocket, quickly grabbing Gul Terel around the neck and dragging him out of his seat. “But not stupid. I’m hereby arresting you for war crimes against the Federation, Gul Terel. I think with you in my ship’s brig, you’ll be hoping as much as I do that my plan works.”

Sam tapped the Starfleet emblem on her shirt quickly. “Two to beam up.”

“You in here, Nathan?”

Nathan stepped out of a dark corner of Cargo Bay Two, and nodded at Gene. He tossed one of the two phaser rifles he held to Gene quickly. “She’s back on board?”

Gene nodded. “And she’s broken the law. She took Gul Terel hostage and tossed him in the brig. Now we have the grounds we need to throw Samatha in there with him.”

Nathan armed his phaser rifle and nodded at Gene. “Let’s go.”

Captain Ross stepped onto the bridge of the Galaxis to find everyone staring at her. She paid them no mind, knowing how fast rumors spread on the ship – she figured they knew about the capture and imprisonment of Gul Terel.

“Captain–” Ensign Troy spoke up first, as she indicated toward the viewscreen with her chin. “They’re demanding the immediate return of Gul Terel. They’ve given us ten minutes before they open fire.”

“They won’t.” Captain Ross sat down in her chair and crossed her legs. “Cardassian command structures are rigid. They won’t risk killing him.”

Ensign Troy shook her head. “You don’t understand, Captain. The Klingon Captain Korg is the one who made the demand.”

“Klingon?” Captain Ross bit her lip as she stared at the viewscreen for a few seconds. “Of course. They’re protecting their secrets. But that means they…plan to kill Gul Terel themselves–”

“Orders, Captain?”

Captain Ross looked around the bridge, suddenly realizing that only she and the Ensign were present. “Susan, where is the rest of the bridge crew?”

Ensign Troy shrugged. “I don’t know. They all just sort of wandered off.”

Sam sighed and stood up to head back toward the turbolift, intent on finding out where everyone went. “Oh, well that is really professional–”

As soon as Sam stood up, she saw the turbolift doors open. Nathan, Gene, and a handful of security personnel stepped out. They were all armed, and had their weapons trained on Samantha.

“Nathan? What’s the meaning of this?”

Nathan stepped forward, keeping his phaser rifle aimed at Sam. “I’m relieving you of command…Captain.”

“You’re not just doing this because I keep rejecting you…are you?”

Gene and the security personnel looked at Nathan for a second as his face began turning red. Nathan responded by jamming the phaser rifle against Sam’s ribs, hard. “Just move it, Samantha. Don’t give us any trouble.”

Samantha never forgot the training she took long ago in her early days of Starfleet. She’d taken advanced hand-to-hand combat courses, invaluable to a shorter woman like herself. Once she felt the pain of the phaser rifle against her ribs, it only took a second for her to recall her training. A flat palm to Nathan’s chin knocked him off balance, allowing her enough time to plow quickly through Gene and his security personnel. She rolled into the turbolift just before the doors closed, among scattered phaser blasts bouncing off of the walls.

“Shuttle bay, freight speed. Voice authorize.” The trip to the shuttle bay only took seconds at the much higher freight speed. Sam had to stick close to the floor to avoid being tossed around by the g-forces at that speed, but she knew she had very little time before Nathan and Gene on the bridge found out how to stop the turbolift. Luckily, they weren’t fast enough.

As Sam ran from the turbolift, she knew it was only a matter of minutes before Gene’s security personnel arrived. She headed straight for the one vehicle she had her mind on since she left the bridge, the one thing she would always be familiar with since her days at the Academy – inside the cockpit of a fighter. Or more specifically…the C-711.

It only took ten seconds for Samatha to climb into the cockpit and fire up the C-711’s engines. She was on her way out of the shuttle bay just as security personnel filled the area. By then they were too late – Samantha was on her way into space.

“She’s taken command of the shuttle bay doors, we can’t shut them down. She’s on her way out.”

“Damn it.” Nathan slammed his fist down on the console of the Captain’s chair as he sat down to watch the C-711 moving away from the Galaxis. “Tractor beam. Lock on a tractor beam.”

“Can’t lock on.” Gene turned from his station at helm to face Nathan. He took over the station after Ensign Troy refused to help, and was confined to her quarters. “She’s cloaking. And we’re receiving some kind of signal from her–”

“Signal? Oh, no–” Nathan stood up and started looking around as panels all over the bridge began going dark, followed by the overhead lights. The red alert signal light began flashing next. He raced over to the turbolift doors – they were sealed. “Contact security. Tell them to get us out of here!”

Gene tapped the Starfleet emblem on his uniform. It chirped twice, signalling that it was out of operation. “The comm system is down, Nathan. I knew we should have changed the command codes first.”

“Damn.” Nathan stood up quickly, tearing a panel off the wall, and then blasting through to a vent using his phaser rifle. “Let’s get to Engineering. And when we do, we’re blasting Samantha out of space.”

Samantha laughed to herself and leaned back as she aimed the cloaked C-711 at the Klingon ships projected on her heads-up display. The amazing new computer system in the experimental fighter automatically combined sensor data to be able to detect cloaked ships, displaying them in a two dimensional projection along the framed glass top of the cockpit. She could see them clearly – and the best part was, they didn’t know it.

As long as they were cloaked, their shields were down. They were unprotected and now visible – but they could neither see her nor fire through the C-711’s powerful shields.

She smiled to herself as she whipped past one of the Birds of Prey, very close. Thanks to the signal-suppressing circuitry of the C-711, they didn’t even notice her as she passed. She swung around again, flipping open the small plastic door which armed the phasers and particle cannons. She looked down at the three buttons next to her thumb. Blue was for automatic targeting, red for phasers, yellow for particle cannons.

Sam tapped the blue button once, targeting one of the Birds of Prey. As it began turning around abruptly, she realized that the weapons targeting system probably still used Lidar to find and range it’s target – she had now been detected.

One tap of the red button blasted the first Klingon Bird to bits, as it’s unshielded hull absorbed the full force of a close-range phaser blast. That was enough to prompt the rest of the Klingon ships to decloak and raise shields.

But they couldn’t fight what they couldn’t see – they began firing blindly to try and hit whatever attacked the first Klingon ship. Samantha had no problem steering around the badly aimed phaser blasts and seemingly slow photon torpedoes as the steering control of the C-711 responded instantly to her commands.

The second Klingon Bird blew to bits after three consecutive quick phaser blasts. The first two to weaken it’s shields, the third to penetrate it’s hull. Sam felt amazed at the power that the small fighter had – it seemed to have no problem taking on the much larger Klingon ships. She guessed that after the last two wars, the Federation wanted to create a new generation of fighters, ones that didn’t depend on antiquated Starship technology.

Her finger floated over the yellow button as she headed right at the third Bird of Prey. By then, the remaining two Klingon ships had improved their targeting – the little C-711’s shields were taking a lot of fire. But they seemed to hold, even as she moved closer. A quick tap of the yellow button jarred the entire ship as the most powerful weapon in it’s arsenal – the particle cannon – send a flickering beam of white light which immediately tore right through the center of both remaining Birds of Prey. They had stupidly chosen to line up for a directed attack.

“Oh…Wow.” Samantha looked down at the yellow button again, hovering her thumb over the red button instead for her next firing. She made a mental note to be more careful with it next time as she approached one of the two Cardassian battleships.

Unlike the Klingon ships, the Cardassians had a much more powerful armament. Sam found herself evading a sudden volley of photon torpedoes and powerful phaser bursts as she approached them quickly. Her thumb moved quickly back to the yellow button.

That’s when she discovered yet another feature of the particle beam – that holding down the yellow button and using slight movements of the steering stick had the effect of turning the particle cannons without effecting its regular steering function. She could effectively use it to cut vertically across one of the two Cardassian battleships rather then just poking holes in it.

She veered off suddenly, content that the first Cardassian ship was severely damaged, swinging in close above it and using the yellow button again to tear through the hull of the other Cardassian ship behind it.

Samantha smiled as she circled around once more, seeing fragments of four Klingon Birds of Prey and two severely damaged Cardassian battleships. She had done just as she threatened – she had done the impossible.

Now it was time to do one more impossible task…take back her ship.

The Galaxis’ shuttle bay was deserted as she took the C-711 in for a landing. All of the lights were out, just as Samantha ordered the computer to do as she left. She set the computer for a lockdown, allowing it only to be disabled by the sound of her own voice. She smiled to herself, imagining the faces of Nathan and Gene as the found themselves prisoners on the bridge.

Sam stepped out of the C-711 into the cargo bay, walking over to the control center quickly. She snatched a phaser she’d hidden from underneath the table which held the control center – just in case.

“Computer…end lockdown, except on the bridge and Engineering. Voice authorize.” The computer beeped twice before turning all of the lights and control panels in the cargo bay on. “Computer, transport me to the bridge.”

In a quick flash of light, the advanced transporters of Galaxis sent Samantha to a spot just ahead of the viewscreen on the completely darkened bridge. She held her phaser at the ready, but saw nothing unusual there except for a missing wall panel. She approached slowly, peeking into the hole – Nathan and Gene must have used the duct to escape the bridge, but they were long gone.

“Computer, enable Bridge. Voice authorize.” With those words and a couple of more beeps, the lights and panels of the bridge suddenly came to life. Feeling a little insecure with a gaping hole in the wall, Sam quickly used her phaser to weld the duct back together and secure the missing wall panel.

By process of elimination, she figured out that Nathan and Gene must be in Engineering. If they left the bridge, they did so to try to take control of the ship from engineering. She knew if they were there, they would try to interfere with everything she tried to do from the bridge – and since Gene was head of security, the personnel of the ship would no doubt follow his orders without question. Sam knew she would have to take control of the ship, and isolate herself to survive.

“Computer, lock down Engineering.”

The computer only beeped once after that command, followed by a warning. “Two crew members detected in Engineering. First Officer Phillips and Security Officer Kelley.”

“Computer, follow my last order, voice authorize. Restrict the bridge to me only, only. Notify me if the two crewmen leave Engineering.”

The computer beeped twice again, and then paused before making another sound. “First Officer Phillips and Security Officer Kelley remain in Engineering. Engineering locked down.”

Samantha sat down at the helm and smiled. She wasn’t accustomed to flying such a big ship by herself, but she knew she would have to. The only one she could depend on was herself…or so she thought.

“Would you like some help, Captain?”

Samantha turned around quickly, phaser in hand, as she found the source of the voice. It was Ensign Susan Troy, the only person who had been remotely loyal to her Captain through all of this. It was ironic that she was Romulan, a race known for it’s tendencies toward back-stabbing.

“I could use a good pilot.” Samantha smiled as she vacated the helm station for her Captain’s chair. “And a new First Officer.”

“Me?” Susan shook her head. “But…I’m just an Ensign. I’m not qualified–”

“You are now. Consider yourself promoted.” Sam stood up and shook Susan’s hand. “And as your first act as First Officer…Help me find those two mutineers and lock them up.”

Susan smiled and nodded as Samantha pulled open a weapons locker on the bridge and removed two phaser rifles. “Sam…I was in on what they were planning. They asked me to join them, but I refused. I couldn’t tell you about it. I…I was afraid. I’m sorry.”

“I understand, Susan.” Samantha motioned for Susan to follow her as she headed into the turbolift. “You did what you had to do to survive. But you’re here now when I need you. I’m grateful for that.”

“Where are we headed?”

“The brig.” Sam smiled at Susan’s apparent confusion with her answer. “If the security personnel are against us, we’ll need numbers. I may have some unlikely help down there.”

“Gul Terel…I need your help.” Samantha stood in front of the jail cell which held Gul Terel. He sat on a small bench, staring at Samantha, seemingly amused by what she just said.

“And why should I help you? You destroyed my fleet, and imprisoned me. It’s not my problem that you can’t keep command of your own ship.”

Sam laughed. “So you know about that already.”

“How could I not?” Gul Terel stood up and walked over to the forcefield at the from of the cell. “I could feel the air of mutiny from the moment I set foot on board. Let me guess…you want me to help you get your ship back. Which is where I ask…what’s in it for me?”

“Freedom. Trust.” Sam removed a small phaser from her belt, tapping the control pad next to the cell to drop the forcefield. “After you help me, I’ll send you home…with a story to tell.”

Gul Terel stepped out of his cell slowly, gingerly taking the phaser from Samantha’s hands. He stood, frozen, for a second or two before deciding that she was sincere. “Why would you trust me? I could turn on you and destroy your ship.”

“I know you can be a man of honor when you wish.” Sam glanced at Susan and urged her and Gul Terel back toward the turbo lift. “And we outnumber you two to one.”

Gul Terel laughed as he followed the two women into the turbo lift. “Why Captain…I had no idea you were so clever.”

Samantha entered Engineering slowly, just ahead of Gul Terel and Susan. Her phaser rifle was armed and ready, the small light mounted on it turned on to stream light through the darkness. Though she tried not to seem nervous, she couldn’t stop her hands from shaking – she had never been in close combat before. Sure she had been trained…but it was far from the same thing.

She turned to look at Susan and Gul Terel. They were both pictures of confidence – both of them had been in face to face combat situations before. Sam couldn’t help but smile in spite of herself – she was in command, but had the least experience.

Sam kept smiling until she felt a searing heat tear across her shoulder, like someone had heated a knife blade and sliced into the upper part of her arm. She screamed out in pain, dropping her phaser rifle just before dropping to her knees. She had been hit by phaser fire, and it was set to ‘kill’. Her two companions fired twice each before a barrage of phaser blasts began flying past them.

“Computer! CO2 release!” Sam turned to her two companions quickly as she took a deep breath. They did as well, just as ice cold compressed carbon dioxide gas began spewing from nozzles all over the room. The phaser fire diminished quickly until seconds later, silence prevailed. “Computer…Raise oxygen level.”

Those few words from her were enough to make her feel a little dizzy, as her lungs took in a little carbon dioxide as well. More cool jets of gas began filling the room, this time pure oxygen to filter out the carbon dioxide. “Lights.”

As the room suddenly filled with light, Samantha leapt to her feet with renewed confidence, phaser rifle in hand. She began to feel the rush of adrenaline within her as she turned her head back and forth, just daring anyone or anything to move. Someone did – and with a blast of coherent light from the weapon in her hands, that person lay still on the ground.

Samantha turned around to look at her two companions – they didn’t seem the least bit affected by what happened. But Sam, on the other hand…she began shaking as she approached the man she shot, who now lay collapsed against a wall. As she kneeled down to examine him, she recognized him immediately. It was Nathan…and he was dead.

A wave of sadness hit Samantha – she squeezed her eyes shut quickly to fight the flood of tears in her eyes. She couldn’t believe that she…killed. One pull of the trigger, and someone she knew – someone she talked to every day – lay dead against a cold steel bulkhead.

“It couldn’t be helped, Captain.” Susan placed a hand on Samantha’s shoulder to try to comfort her.

Samantha shrugged away Susan’s hand, looking at the floor as tears finally broke free from her eyes. “I’m his Captain too, Susan. It’s my job to make sure he gets home safely. But now he’s dead. I…failed.”

“I wouldn’t say that, Captain.” Gul Terel stood behind Samantha, hands clasped behind him as he spoke. “Look at me. A few hours ago we were adversaries fighting over a planet. Now here I am, Federation technology in my hands, fighting by your side. I’d say that’s a pretty successful day.”

Samantha sighed. “At least you’ll make it home alive.”

“I can’t go home.” Gul Terel walked around to face Sam as he continued, his expression turning serious. “If I do, I’ll certainly have to answer for what has happened today. I’ll be executed by my fellow Cardassians. But right now I’m alive…and if you’ll give me a second chance–”

“Terel–” Samantha shook her head and looked down at Nathan’s still form again. She knew what Gul Terel was hinting at – to see if she can find a place for him in the Federation. As Sam watched Susan handcuff the unconscious Security Officer, Gene Kelley, an idea dawned on her – she may have taken away one life today…but she had the opportunity to give another man a new life.

Samantha looked up at Gul Terel, giving him a weak smile as she wiped away her remaining tears on her sleeve. “I could use a new Security Officer.”

Terel smiled and bowed slightly. “And I’d be honored to accept that offer.”

Sam reached out and shook Terel’s hand quickly as her smile became more natural. “Don’t even think about leading mutiny against me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Terel followed as Captain Ross headed toward the bridge, followed by her new First Officer. “You really would make an excellent Cardassian.”

“So I’ve heard.”

Captain Samantha Ross brought her baby, the Galaxis, back to spaceport without a scratch. But it’s crew would never be the same. Thanks to her dad the Admiral, her new crew was accepted – but it took more then a little arguing and wrangling to make it happen. For some reason, her Romulan First Officer and Cardassian Security Officer weren’t trusted by Starfleet…but Samantha trusted them more then anyone else.

#7 – Crystal Clear, Part 1

A five foot six young woman, her blonde hair covered by a soft black suede hat, her eyes masked by the hat’s brim, froze with her arms at her sides. As Michael Jackson song ‘Smooth Criminal’ began playing on her CD player, she was acting as if she had been asked to audition for a video. Doing her best to sing along with the garbled lyrics of the song, she stayed on beat. Right on cue, she shed her hat, quickly sending it sailing across the hotel room like a frisbee.

She missed the coat rack, but she wouldn’t let that stop her enjoyment. The fact that she had no audience was a factor – she was free to let herself spin, imitating more lyrics as she casually swept the hat off the carpeted floor to put it back on her head. Unlike a video filming, there was no one to throw the hat back to her.

As she completed her second spin, she suddenly froze, her half hidden blue eyes fixed on a man who had just entered the room. She felt her face begin to heat with embarrassment. “How…how long have you been standing there, Charlie?”

Charlie smiled, obviously masking an urge to laugh as he walked closer to Linda. “Long enough to see that you can dance if you want to. You just don’t like people watching you.”

“Yeah, well…um–” Linda eyes looked up for a moment to notice that she still wore the black hat on her head. She quickly removed it, smiling sheepishly when she realized that it was hopeless to try and play innocent. “It’s your fault, Charlie. You left this hat here…I was staring at it thinking it was like the one in this video I saw, and–”

“–And you decided to play a little”, Charlie interrupted, picking up the hat and placing it on his head leaned a little forward – the same way Linda wore it earlier. “Everyone needs a little fun in their life.”

Linda laughed as she reached over and snatched the hat off of Charlie’s head. “So what brings you here…unannounced…without bothering to knock?”

Charlie gave Linda a mock frown. “I thought you were in a good mood, Linda. Which brings up a question…why? And what did you do to Lex Luthor?”

“Oh, I just gave him a little scare. It felt so good to let go of all of that anger.” Linda headed to the kitchenette to grab a bottle of water from the small refrigerator, pausing to give Charlie a questioning look as she opened the bottle. “Why do you ask?”

“Because Lex Luthor is missing. Don’t you watch the news?”

Linda dropped the bottle of water as she raced across the room and turned on the television. Just as Charlie described, all of the local networks had gone to 24-hour coverage of the police search for Lex Luthor. She began flipping through stations with the TV remote – one local station even interviewed a witness which said that Luthor’s last known contact was Supergirl. “Oh my God. They’re trying to pin this on me, aren’t they?”

“Linda–” Charlie took the remote away from Linda gently, tossing it onto the table next to the couch. He placed his hands on her shoulders, looking into her fearful eyes. “Tell me exactly what you did to Luthor.”

“I–” She tried to look away from Charlie for a moment as she felt her conscience eating away at her. She may not be responsible for his disappearance…but she did try to hurt him, on purpose. She bullied him with her power, her raw strength. “I…kind of choked him a little.”

Charlie exhaled loudly enough for Linda to hear as he blinked once. She couldn’t tell if it was from disappointment, or from relief. “Just don’t tell anyone else that, Linda. Ever.”

Linda nodded slowly as Charlie sat down on the couch, covering his forehead with his left palm. “I suppose you’re right…Clark would kill me.”

“Clark? He’d have to fight off a lynch mob first.” Charlie leaned toward Linda as she sat down on the couch as well. “Lex Luthor, whether loved or hated by the people in this town, is a hero…because he’s rich. People love to hate him. But if he’s hurt, people will band together against his enemies.”

“Meaning me.” Linda slumped down on the couch and frowned as she stared at yet another news report about the search for Lex Luthor. “I guess Supergirl should lay low for a while, huh?”

“Not at all.” Charlie shook his head as he lifted the TV remote and turned off the news. “In fact, you need to show yourself, let everyone know that Lex Luthor will be okay. If you give the people Supergirl to stand behind…they’ll follow you anywhere.”


Lex Luthor awoke to find himself in a darkened warehouse office. Sawdust covered the floor, as well as his clothing. He quickly found that his hands were cuffed together, and a chain attached them to an anchor in one of the office’s steel walls. The office had windows all around from waist level up, though Luthor couldn’t see much in the darkness.

His head spun as he tried to rise to his feet. The last memory he had has seeing yet another costumed hero enter his office. He was lifted by his throat, and felt himself losing consciousness. He was let go, only to land on his head on the floor and pass out. The next thing he remembered was…here.

Luthor squinted as the lights in the office turned on. A tall, thin, brown haired man wearing a long overcoat entered and slammed the glass and steel door behind him, making a loud crashing noise. He circled around Luthor several times before leaning toward him to speak.

“You know why you’re here, I hope”, he said. Luthor cleared his throat to speak, but words eluded him. Everything still seemed so surreal.

The man reached up to a shelf above and removed a wooden baseball bat, smiling calmly at Luthor as he stood over him. “I always wonder why these are called bats. They don’t have wings…they’re not blind. Hell, they don’t even bite.”

“Who are you?” Luthor stared at the man as he began to stare at him defiantly. He would not be shown as the weaker man, no matter what this man thought. He may be a prisoner, but he would not be controlled.

The man laughed, seemingly amused by Luthor’s threatening posture. “Well…I’m a man…holding a bat. I suppose you could call me Batman.”

Before Luthor had a chance to protest, the man brought the bat down upon his
arm with the force of all of his strength. Luthor felt something crack in his arm, he grit his teeth to bear the pain. But he would not cry out. In fact, he would seem even more confident, until the man’s resolve would break.

“You can’t kill me”, Luthor whispered barely loud enough for the man to hear, “I’m much more valuable alive.”

“That’s where you’re wrong”, the man replied with a smile as he paced around Luthor again, “I can kill you. Your life means nothing to me. Your death, on the other hand–”

Another strike with the bat left Luthor seeing stars as it struck him with a thud on his left shoulder blade, leaving pain radiating down his left side. He raised his head once more, looking at the man with one eye, still defiant.

“Your death means everything to me. You see…I’m an old associate of someone who’s life you…you vicious, sadistic monster…snuffed out without a second thought–”

Luthor almost cringed as the man raised the bat above his head, preparing to bring it down with enough force to break more bones. Yet something stopped him. A distant voice from outside the small warehouse office. Luthor breathed in relief as he heard the door of the office slam suddenly – someone else, possibly more reasonable, had arrived.

“Christopher, what the hell are you doing?” The voice had a hint of a Russian accent. Luthor didn’t recognize who it was, but he was grateful that it distracted ‘Christopher’ if only for a moment.

“Glad to see you too, boss. I’m just…softening up our guest a little. Giving him a little taste.”

“Now he bleeds all over the floor!” The man with the accent snatched the bat from Christopher, throwing it across the office angrily. “Get out of here, you loon! Go take care of your other assignments!”

“Hello, Mr. Luthor.” The man with the accent walked around across the office, kneeling down close to Luthor just as Christopher slammed the door behind him. The accented man had black hair, a black beard, and was wearing a long, dark overcoat over an expensive suit and shoes. “You probably don’t know me…but I believe you remember an associate of mine. You remember Vinnie, don’t you?”

Luthor’s eyes widened suddenly, his breathing began to speed up as the name brought about horror in his mind. If these people were associates of Vinnie’s, then he was no hostage – they were going to kill him out of revenge.

The man chuckled as he watched Luthor pale. He calmly lighted a cigarette and stuck it in his mouth. Luthor eyed the sawdust-covered floor, wondering it the man knew just how dangerous it was to smoke in that room.

“I’m called Vlad”, the man said as he tapped his cigarette, spilling a few red-hot ashes into the sawdust at his feet. “I’m sure you don’t know me…but you will. After all…my name is the last one you will hear.”

Vlad kneeled down, leaning forward. He smiled, and blew a cloud of cigarette smoke in Luthor’s face before flicking the cigarette into a corner behind him. “You know…it’s not good to smoke, Mr. Luthor. Especially in a place like this. It could cause a fire.”

As the man stood up and began heading out of the office, Luthor eyed a plume of smoke and a slight glow coming from the corner where the cigarette landed. He knew he was right now – that Vlad was going to kill him.

“What do you want, Vlad?” Luthor asked his question confidently. Every man had his price, especially criminal types. All he had to do was find the right one, hitting the right chord which would earn his release.

“Me?” Vlad gave Luthor a mocking look as he pointed at himself with his right hand. He turned around and walked closer to Luthor. “I want nothing. I need nothing.”

“Come, now.” Luthor forced a smile, trying to appear as confident as possible. Most of controlling other people is simply displaying enough confidence to shake another’s, to make the other party doubt just a little. “Every man has a dream, something he wants more then anything. I have resources. I can bring you that dream.”

Vlad stood up in front of Luthor, rubbing his beard slowly as he thought. The flames from his discarded cigarette were now crawling up one wall of the office, filling the room with thin smoke. “There is one thing, Mr. Luthor.”

“Name it. Anything.” Luthor eyed the flames wearily as they began to consume a table against the wall. He was running out of time.

“Just a moment.” Vlad opened the door to the office suddenly, unaware that he had just helped to feed the fire expanding at the opposite corner. The fire flared brightly as he stuck his head outside the office. “Chrisopher! Come in here, now!”

“Is there some problem, boss?” Christopher stood in the doorway, glancing at the fire, then at Vlad and Luthor.

“I need you do so something for me”, Vlad said, slowly.

Luthor cringed as the glass and steel walls of small office echoed five gunshots, amplifying the sounds as they filled the small room. Christopher just seemed to stand there for a moment, his eyes rolling back in his head, before his knees buckled and he fell to the floor.

Vlad then walked toward Luthor, causing him to hold his breath. He thought he would be next – but then Vlad suddenly put the gun back behind his belt and began to rifle through Luthor’s jacket, pulling out his wallet. He threw the wallet on top of Christopher’s now lifeless body.

“Now your friends will think you are dead. No tricks, Mr. Luthor. I own you now.” Vlad quickly removed Luthor’s handcuffs and grabbed his arm tightly, nearly dragging him out of the small office to a car parked in the middle of the warehouse. “Get in.”

Luthor opened the passenger door and climbed in, watching Vlad walk around the car to get in and start the car. He kept his eyes on Vlad the entire time, in the hopes of unnerving him to eventually allow his own escape. “You never told me what you wanted.”

Vlad put the car in drive and took off out of the warehouse quickly. Luthor didn’t understand why he was suddenly in such a hurry at first…until he watched the warehouse explode in a ball of flame behind them. Vlad stared straight ahead for several minutes, still not answering Luthor’s question, before he finally turned to face Luthor.

“I want that Supergirl dead.”

“Oh, nuts. I am so dead.”

Linda stared out the window of an empty conference room on the twelfth floor of the Daily Planet building, a denim backpack slung over one shoulder. She still wore civilian clothing, not wanting to attract too much attention as Supergirl just yet.

Outside were hundreds, possibly thousands of protesters shouting and holding signs. Police stood by on the sidewalk in front of the building, in full riot gear. They were protesting the fact that the press, including the Daily Planet, mentioned that Supergirl was the last to see the now missing Lex Luthor.

Linda turned around to give Charlie a fearful look. “I can’t go out there! It’ll be a massacre!”

“Relax, Linda.” Charlie leaned back in one of the conference room’s fake leather chairs, putting his feet on the large polished wooden table. “Clark just asked us to wait here. If he wants you to meet the protesters, he’ll make sure everyone is safe.”

“Send Supergirl to the…gas chamber?” Linda turned away from the window in disgust as she decided to stop reading the signs the protesters held. She threw her backpack onto the table and collapsed with a sigh into one of the chairs. “I am not going out there. Those people will tear me apart!”

Charlie smiled. “From what I heard, Linda, you’ve already survived a riot.”

Linda shook her head slowly as she looked across the table at Charlie. She thought to herself that he was either braver then herself, or suicidal. “I was much more powerful then, Charlie.”

“You know what, Linda?” Charlie slid his feet off the table and leaned closer to Linda. His smile suddenly vanished, replaced with a look of…pity? “I wasn’t worried about you before, but now…you shoot yourself down before you even give yourself a chance.”

“You…think I should go out there? Risk my life?”

Linda watched Charlie stand up and walk around the table slowly. He stood in front of the window, placing his hands on the glass as he watched the people below. “Linda, every day people put their trust in you. They trust that you, and any other heroes, will not hurt them, that you’ll treat them well…and with respect.”

Charlie turned around and stood behind Linda, placing his hands gently on her shoulders. “I think it’s time you gave those same people a chance to do the same for you. You need to trust them a little more.”

Linda took a deep breath, and rose to her feet. She glanced behind her, giving Charlie a lost look as she slid her denim backpack over one arm and headed toward the restroom slowly. She knew that Charlie was right…no matter how nervous she felt, she couldn’t hide forever.
Clark turned pale as he watched Supergirl step through the doorway into the Daily Planet’s newsroom. He frowned even more when he saw Charlie walk in behind her. He knew why Linda was in costume – a rather attention-grabbing white shirt with an S-logo, white gloves, red boots, and a blue skirt. It had to be because of one of Charlie’s little motivational speeches.

“What are you doing?” Clark raced over to Supergirl and whispered in a barely audible voice. “This is a newsroom, you’re putting me on the spot–”

Almost as if right on cue, a flash went off, causing Clark to cringe. Just as he had guessed, Jimmy Olsen came out of the woodwork to snap a photo. He frowned as he watched Jimmy snap several pictures, finally pausing long enough to ask Supergirl for a pose. “Enough, Jimmy, please. She came here to talk to me.”

“Yeah, right. You wish.” Jimmy walked away quickly, laughing out loud as he rewound the film in his camera.

“I’m going outside.” Supergirl folded her arms and looked up at Clark, feeling a little nervous. While in costume, Linda was supposed to be more powerful then who Clark pretended to be – a meek newspaper reporter – yet she still felt dwarfed in his presence. “I need to face this. I have to restore people’s faith in me…and convince them that I’m innocent.”

Clark looked across the room at Lois, who returned his gaze and smiled. They shared something in that look, something beyond words. He nodded once as he turned to Supergirl, lowering his voice to a near whisper. “All right. I’ll be watching, just in case.”

Supergirl nodded once and gave Charlie a long, sad look – almost as if she were heading to her own execution. She turned and headed toward the elevator slowly, a little surprised when Charlie followed her. “Are you sure you want to be standing next to me when I step outside?”

Charlie smiled and nodded. “Someone has to look after you, Linda.”

A smile creeped onto Supergirl’s face as thoughts of Charlie attempting to protect her began to touch her imagination. She knew he was kidding – it was more of an attempt to build her confidence then actual bravery. It worked, too.

As the elevator slowed and approached the lobby, Supergirl felt herself becoming more nervous – in fact, she jumped a little as the elevator car came to a stop. The doors slid open quickly, revealing the lobby, empty except for a single security guard at a desk.

Through the glass doors at the other end of the lobby, she could see people leaning their faces against the glass, their eyes visored by their hands. They were trying to get a look through the mirrored glass, to see why they were being denied access to the building by a locked door.

Supergirl looked behind her once more, trying to hide her feelings of nervousness from Charlie by giving him a weak smile. “No turning back now.”

Charlie stood next to the security guard’s desk and watched Linda take a deep breath and walk slowly, purposefully, toward the glass doors. Her pose as she walked was confident, an image betrayed only by the fear deep in her eyes as they reflected in the glass ahead of her.

The front door clicked loudly as Supergirl gave the push bar the slightest touch. The sound prompted the crowd to move away from the door, they anticipated someone’s exit from the building. The door swung open slowly as Supergirl stepped out onto the concrete sidewalk outside the Daily Planet.

Total silence.

Not a sound was made beyond the traffic on the street as the crowd of citizens, protesters, and reporters gathered outside the Daily Planet stared in disbelief. They didn’t expect Supergirl herself to show herself, to answer to the protests.

All at once, everyone present suddenly began shouting, flashes began to go off, and bright lights from television crews blinded Supergirl. She held a hand in front of her eyes to shield herself from the visual assault.

“One at a time”, Supergirl shouted in futility. No one was listening. “I can’t hear you all at once!”

Charlie stepped outside behind Supergirl, doing his best to avoid the rapidly shifting crowd. He yelled something toward the reporters which wasn’t heard in the confusion. They weren’t paying attention to him anyway. A raw egg, thrown somewhere from the crowd of protesters, hit Charlie in the eye, forcing him to retreat back into the building.

“Who threw that?” Supergirl stood on her toes, trying to get a better view of the protesters. She hoped that they were still civil enough to prevent their more militant or dangerous members from causing trouble. But as she watched a hurled can of peas travel toward her quickly, she realized that she was wrong. Supergirl had enough time to raise her hand to block the canned peas from pelting her, only to find herself beaned with a small can of corn instead.

A quick glance down the sidewalk told her that more even more canned goods were about to become projectiles – the Daily Planet’s food drive for the poor, stored in four drums next to the doors, had suddenly become ammunition for an angry crowd.

“Everyone just calm down. I’m here to answer…Hey!” Supergirl ducked as a third, and forth can barely missed her. “All right. That’s it!”

Charlie watched through the glass as Supergirl forceably waded into the angry crowd, shoving people as they began shoving her, trying to reach the outer edge of the crowd. Those were the people throwing the cans – and he couldn’t help but wonder if Supergirl was angrier about the fact that they were pelting her with the cans, or if it was because they had come from a food drive.

He suddenly ducked as one of the cans impacted one of the glass doors of the Daily Planet, causing the safety glass to break into millions of tiny beads, yet remain in place. He began to worry as he heard the noise outside escalate. People were screaming in terror.

He opened the door quickly to see the crowd running away from the Daily Planet building in fear. Supergirl had opened one of the fire hydrants, and was using her gloved hands to funnel the water toward the crowd, driving them away from the building. At the same time, the shrieking sounds of sirens filled the streets – the police were on their way, in force. Charlie stared in amazement at what he saw – Linda had managed to clear the street without injuring even one person, as the police would no doubt have to when making arrests.

“How’s your eye?” Supergirl suddenly shut off the flow of water and turned her attention to Charlie.

“Huh? Oh…it’s fine, I just rinsed it out.” Charlie smiled and looked around at the soaked, now near-empty street in front of the Daily Planet. Police cars now crowded the street, the officers wandering in confusion as they realized that there was no violent crowd to break up any longer.

Supergirl opened the door to the Daily Planet building ahead of Charlie and walked inside, shaking the water off of her gloves as she went. “Do you think Clark has a towel upstairs or something? I’m soaked.”

“You’ll sure gain a few extra male fans that way, Linda.”

Supergirl looked toward the security desk as she suddenly heard a female voice with a British accent. The security guard was gone…and in his place was a shorter woman in a red shirt, black jeans, and a black baseball cap with some sort of umpire image embroidered on it. Supergirl recognized her as Sharon Holmes, even though she hadn’t seen her in quite a while.

“How did you know…?”

Sharon tossed her a white towel from behind the counter as she put her feet up on the desk. The towel had a hotel logo embroidered on it. “Well…since Charlie’s hanging around you, it doesn’t take the world’s greatest detective to venture a guess.”

Supergirl began drying off her hands and clothing as best as she could with the towel. She wasn’t going to let the fact that Sharon figured out her identity bother her. Sharon seemed harmless. “What did you mean about my attracting extra male fans?”

Sharon shrugged, purposely glancing at Charlie and giving him a sly smile. “Some men have this obsession with soaked women. I never understood it. Do you understand it, Charlie?”

“I’m from London.” Charlie shrugged, returning Sharon’s smile. “With all of the rain, women are always soaked. Maybe it started in Arizona or somewhere that water is more exotic.”

“I love his sense of humor.” Sharon laughed out loud and slid out of the chair at the security desk, reaching into one of her pockets to remove something small and hold it in her palm. It was a small crystal. “What do you two make of this?”

“Oh, no–” Supergirl took a step back, staring at the crystal with a little panic in her eyes. “The last time we found one of those, it snowed endlessly! I don’t want to go through that again.”

Sharon laughed again. “Ah, the weather crystal…what pleasant memories. No…this is just a key, Linda.”

“A key to what?”

“I’m glad you asked.” Sharon slid out of the chair and headed toward the glass doors of the lobby. “Let’s find out…shall we?”
Clark Kent furiously typed at his terminal, trying to record the events he had just witnessed through the window of the Daily Planet building. He was a little impressed, even as Superman, as he watched Supergirl clear the angry mob from the street in front of the Planet without even a single casualty.

The reporter in him just had to record it for all of history, and to make sure that everyone in Metropolis would see her positive side by the time the next morning edition hit the stands. After all, since Lex Luthor’s mysterious disappearance, most people blamed Supergirl. She deserved a break.

He happened to glance up from his terminal for a second to see a smiling Kara, in blue jeans, leather jacket, and a blue shirt with his own ‘S’ logo on its front, looking back at him. “I thought I asked you to wait at home.”

Kara shrugged and sat down in a chair in front of his terminal. “I got bored. Go ahead and finish your article, I’ll just wait here quietly.”

Clark sighed loudly and continued typing, as he wondered where Lois went. She left the newsroom earlier without even saying anything beyond ‘See ya later, Smallville.’ That was two hours ago. He finally signed off his terminal and leaned back, looking at his watch, realizing why Kara came to visit him – it was almost 7 p.m.

“Looks like Lois is working late again.” Clark stretched and rose to his feet slowly, looking down at Kara. “Want to grab some dinner?”

“Sure.” Kara stood quickly, straightening her jacket as she led Clark toward the elevators and tapped the call button. She leaned against the wall and stared at him, noting that he seemed to be a little nervous around her. It suddenly occurred to her why – it was the shirt. She sighed. “I shouldn’t have bought this shirt. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, Kara. Don’t worry about it.”

Kara followed Clark out of the elevator in the lobby of the Daily Planet building. She paused at the empty-looking security guard’s desk as Clark walked ahead of her toward the glass exit doors. The security guard was on the floor, leaned up against the back wall, unconscious. “Is he going to be okay?”

Clark stopped and looked to see what Kara was talking about. He saw Kara standing on her toes, leaning over the edge of the security desk – which appeared empty. He raced over to the desk to see the security guard slumped on the floor behind it. “Oh, my God.”

“He’s just sleeping.” Kara vaulted over the desk effortlessly, landing lightly next to the security guard. She kneeled down and poked his shoulder, then shook him gently. His breathing responded, but he didn’t wake up. “I think someone clocked him.”

As he walked around the desk, Clark made a mental note to himself to talk to Linda about her teaching Kara slang. “We really should call an ambulance. He might have a concussion.”

“Hey! That phone is for emergencies only!” Just as Clark lifted the handset of the phone, the security guard suddenly woke up. He appeared to be angry as he quickly, yet unsteadily, rose to his feet. The guard looked at Clark as if he recognized him, then turned to look at Kara. “Who are you, and why the heck are you behind my desk?”

Kara stepped closer to the man, shaking her fist at him as she began fuming over the guard’s response. “You ungrateful son of–”

“Kara!” Clark grabbed her arm quickly and pulled her around to the front of the desk, noting that her natural strength gave him much more resistance to overcome then any ordinary human. He quickly herded her toward the exit, gently shoving her outside the doors before stopping. “Who taught you to talk to people that way? Linda?”

“No…Lois.” Kara bowed her head slightly and started slowly walking ahead of Clark. “I’m sorry…I lost my temper. He just–”

“I know what he did. Some people just behave that way.” Clark stopped at his car and tapped a button on its remote control, unlocking all of the doors. “Just move past it, Kara. Pretend he said nothing at all. Let his verbal blows slip right through you, as if he shouted them into the wind.”

Kara smiled as she opened the passenger side door to climb in. “Wow…No wonder you’re a reporter.”

Clark didn’t answer as he climbed into the driver’s side. He didn’t have to – his smile answered for him. Winning an award, or a special commendation for his work was one thing. But heartfelt praise from another was a lot more personal.


“We’re out in the middle of nowhere, Sharon.”

Charlie pulled over the car quickly after Sharon leaned between the front seats and shouted in a panic for him to do so. She was searching for something specific – though he wasn’t sure what, since she just told him ‘We’ll know when we see it.’

“Some people call it Kansas.” Sharon opened the back door of the car and stepped out onto the dusty road. She looked back and forth slowly, as if searching for something again. Then she raised her arm and pointed. “See that hill?”

Linda, now in her civilian clothing, climbed out of the passenger side and stood next to Sharon to see. She shrugged. “It’s a hill. So what?”

“So…beyond man-made structures, this area is supposed to be entirely flat.” Sharon swept her arm around to indicate the rest of the area. “See for yourself.”

“Hmm.” Charlie took the initiative, beginning to walking toward the hill first. As he approached, he noticed something else strange – that on the other side of the hill, the ground appeared to be carved away, leaving a shallow pit which led into some kind of entrance.

“I knew it.” Sharon raced past Charlie and leapt straight into the pit, removing a flashlight from her backpack quickly. She could see just inside an arch which appeared to be an entrance…where it had been sealed by solid rock. She dropped her backpack to the ground, and removed a bag full of small sticks of plastic explosive.

“Um…Sharon?” Linda approached Sharon slowly and folded her arms. “Could we please try not to blow up the entire state?”

“Relax, I know what I’m–” Sharon’s expression suddenly changed as she remembered the crystal she brought with her. She removed it from the pocket and pressed it into her palm, waving it in front of the solid rock blocking the entrance. Without a sound, the rock seemed to dissolve from existence, revealing a large underground cavern…which had it’s own light source. “Wow.”

Linda and Charlie followed Sharon into the cavern slowly. It was a large room, about the size of a movie theater, with the same type of slanted floor. A dim, orange light seemed to come from all around, just enough to aid in sight, but not to be bright. Near the opposite end of the room was a large dial with four indicators, and some kind of symbols carved into it. In it’s center was a slot. On the wall above the dial was a huge chunk of perfectly carved, perfectly smooth translucent crystal…about the size of a movie screen. It was polished enough that Linda, Charlie, and Sharon could vaguely see their own reflections.

“This is–” Linda paused in mid-thought, as she suddenly found herself without words. She gazed steadily into the smooth crystal as she walked toward it, before finally reaching out and touching it. “It’s cold. It feels cold.”

Sharon nodded and walked straight toward the dial, dropping the crystal into the slot in the center. She ran her finger along the edge of the dial, attempting to read the symbols carved into it. “These words are so familiar…but they make no sense. They have no structure.”

“That’s because they’re not words.” Charlie stepped in next to Sharon and moved two of the four indicators on the dial. “It’s a combination, like a padlock. Maybe this is some kind of giant safe.”

“Maybe the crystal is upside down.” Linda reached out quickly and snatched the crystal – but before she had a chance to even remove it, it began to glow brightly. She felt her skin tingle, and her hair begin to stand on end as electricity filled the room. And as she turned around, she noticed that the formerly clear, smooth chunk of crystal had turned cloudy, and waves seemed to travel within it as if stones were being dropped into a pond.

Sharon took a step closer to the large crystal window, reaching out to touch it’s surface again. It seemed soft, like a silk sheet, giving to her touch. Her fingers sent waves through the crystal’s surface. She smiled, her eyes telegraphing only a fraction of the excitement she felt at her discovery. “Tap the small crystal again, Linda.”

Linda nodded, reaching out with one finger to tap the small crystal again. She felt both nervous and thrilled, unsure what would happen…but prepared for whatever would.

As soon as her finger touched the tip of the small crystal on the dial, the huge crystal window on the wall behind her began giving off a soft white light of it’s own, filling the room with luminance. She watched Sharon poke a few fingers into the glowing screen – they disappeared into the formerly solid chunk, creating dozens of small waves.

“It’s some kind of gateway.”, Sharon whispered excitedly. “I’ve got to go through. This is everything I’ve wanted–”

“No, I’ll go.” Linda gently moved Sharon aside as she stepped over to the large crystal gateway. She felt chilled at her own words – yet she knew that of the three, she had the best chance of surviving whatever was on the other side. “I’ll just step through, and step back. If I don’t make it…don’t go in after me.”

Charlie nodded, placing a friendly yet firm hand on Sharon’s shoulder. He knew how much Sharon wanted to go…but he also knew that Linda was right. He wanted to make sure Sharon stayed until Linda made it back safely.

Linda stood in front of the wavering sea of intangible crystal before her as she blinked once and took a deep breath. She was frightened, to be sure…but if she didn’t step through, Sharon would be sure to do so – and it might kill her. Linda, at least, had a chance of surviving the trip.

“Here. Tie this around your waist.”

Sharon tossed Linda the end of a rope. Linda caught it and tied a double knot at her waist. She looked again toward her destination, once satisfied that both Sharon and Charlie were holding the other end of the rope. At least she would be able to find her way back.

It was time to stop stalling…and just go. Linda took one large step forward, her heart racing as the cold fluid which was formerly solid crystal surrounded her. It was like walking through a swimming pool. Fighting her urge to close her eyes against the cold, she stared steadily through the pale glowing fluid until her left hand felt a lack of resistance only a few inches ahead of her.

She bravely stepped through. It was cold…very, very cold. Darkness surrounded her, but she could see a powerful light source…a sun…spreading warmth over her. The air was breathable, but thin. Everywhere she looked, there was nothing around her…yet she felt as if she wasn’t alone.

Linda looked away from the light source, and gasped when she saw what she missed on her initial encounter. It was a planet, which looked much like Earth, but had a red-orange tint to it’s atmosphere. It was a living planet…and she was in some sort of vehicle, high above it.

She almost resisted when she felt the rope tugging against her waist. She wanted to see more, to explore, or at least to find out where she was. But then reality dawned on her – she owed it to Charlie and Sharon to return safely, as she promised. This place would have to be explored later.

As she tumbled back through the gateway, she took a deep breath of Earth’s rich atmosphere. It was so difficult to breathe on the other side of that gateway. She looked up at Charlie, and tried her best to slow her breathing long enough to speak.

“What happened?” Charlie did his best to prop Linda up as he led her to a large stone to sit down.

“Did you see anything?” Sharon sounded excited as she asked her question. She was considerably less helpful then Charlie, but Linda assumed it was because she was still preoccupied with her discovery.

“I saw everything, Sharon”, Linda said between deep breaths. “And it was beautiful.”