#3 – Learning Curve

Linda stood in the middle of an open field, in the middle of nowhere, Kansas – or to those who lived nearby, Smallville. The Kents had always been nice enough to lend their somewhat large farm to Clark, no questions asked. They just…understood that from time to time, he would bring strange guests for strange reasons.

But the Kents didn’t exactly ‘let things be’. They welcomed every one of Clark’s visitors with open arms, made each person feel like they’ve come home again, to a family they’ve never had.

Linda looked over at the blonde teenager Power Girl had found – the one they now called ‘Kara’ – as she sat cross-legged in the middle of the tall grass of the field, a book in her hands. Since she left the hospital, she hadn’t spoken a word – but she seemed very interested in Pa Kent’s book collection. She had done nothing but read since they arrived.

Ma Kent had given each of them a hug as soon as they arrived, starting with Clark, then Linda, and even Kara. Kara seemed to be happy for the attention, even though she had been rather withdrawn since. Linda guessed that it was because of her lack of memory of her past – that would be enough to depress anyone.

“What?” Linda looked down at herself as Superman stared at her with a raised eyebrow. She was dressed in her new costume – a white cut-off tee shirt with the S-logo, a blue skirt, red laced boots and white gloves. She no longer wore a blonde wig – she elected at one point to dye her hair blonde and grow it a little longer. It saved time when changing into the costume – and so far, no one seemed to notice. When not in her Supergirl persona, she just hid in plain sight – one of millions of blonde women wandering the streets of Metropolis.

“You know, I could ask Ma to sew you some–”

“No, absolutely not.” Linda shook her head. “If I replace this costume one day, I want to do it myself. For now, it’ll do just fine.”

Superman nodded. “Suit yourself. Are you ready?”

“To crash-land?” Linda laughed nervously. “What makes you think you can train me to fly?”

“Linda–” Superman sighed and folded his arms. “I didn’t know how to fly from birth. I had to learn. I crash-landed a few times, but I learned.”

“But I used to–”

Superman held out his hand to interrupt Linda, and shook his head. “You inherited that. It was artificial. The power you have now is different…and better. Once you learn how to use it, your power will seem even more natural then ever before.”

“Just remember to concentrate, Linda. I’ll be flying alongside you.”

Linda nodded and leapt skyward, launching herself high above the farmhouse and barn of the Kent’s farm. She began worrying that she might be hurt falling from so high up.

“You used too much power to leap.” Superman drifted up beside her gently. “But don’t worry, you can recover.”

“Recover? I’m going to fall as soon as I stop climbing!”

“No.” Superman looked into Linda’s eyes with a steadying, steely gaze. “You will not fall. You’ll feel the wind against your skin, and it will make you feel lighter. You’ll visualize a point ahead of you in the sky, and move toward it.”

“I can’t–”

“You can, and you will. You must concentrate.”

Linda took a deep breath and spread her arms out to her sides as she closed her eyes to visualize a point just ahead of her. She felt herself slowing to a stop – but she also felt the wind blowing through her hair. The freedom of flight…feelings of the sheer joy of it began flooding back to her. By the time she opened her eyes, she was breathing the cool misty air high above the Kents’ farm – and she wasn’t falling. “Oh my God…Clark–”

Superman nodded. “I told you, didn’t I? It’s like learning to swim. You have to learn to tread water first.”

“It…feels different then it used to. It feels like some kind of outside force is holding me here.” Linda smiled and started spinning slowly in the air. “Wow…this is so cool.”

“It will feel different, until you get used to it.”

Linda glanced over at Superman, a smile still on her face, as she watched him suddenly turn pale. But he wasn’t looking at Linda – he was looking past her. Linda turned her head to see what he was looking at. It was Kara, floating toward them, a mile above the Kents’ farm.

“Oh, my God.” Linda suddenly lost her concentration, and found herself falling quickly. Before Superman had a chance to yell clear instructions to her, she crashed through the roof of the barn, sending various farm animals running outside.

“Ma says dinner’s ready.” Those were the first words spoken by Kara. She spoke purposefully, slowly, as if she had to concentrate to form sentences in English – it must not have been her first language.

Superman was still floating, frozen, as he stared at Kara floating directly ahead of him. He then realized that he almost forgot about Linda – and raced down to the barn to make sure she wasn’t hurt.

“Linda? Are you all right? Are you hurt?”

“No…I’m fine.” Linda sat up, brushing brand-new hay from bales she landed on out of her hair. “Just let me die quietly of embarrassment, please.”

“Not just yet, Linda.” Superman offered her a hand, pulling her back to her feet. “We have to clean up and change. Dinner’s ready.”

“But what about–”

“Let it go for now. We’ll ask her about it when it’s appropriate.” Superman turned and left the barn, with Linda close behind. Before she had a chance to say another word, he interrupted her again. “And don’t worry about the barn, I’ll fix it.”
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“Doesn’t the fact that we snuck in here invalidate any evidence we find?”

Lois Lane smiled and looked at Charlie as she stood in a darkened office at LexCorp. “That’s only for cops, Charlie. Reporters get information any way they can.”

“So…What am I doing here?”

“Because you know your way around here.” Lois snatched a file from an open file cabinet, and then pinched Charlie’s cheek. “And because I need a big strong man to back me up.”

Charlie frowned. He could tell that Lois was being sarcastic. “Very funny, Lois. Where did Linda and Clark go this morning? They seemed a little secretive.”

Lois turned and smiled at Charlie, seemingly amused that he would refer to Clark, a man with two identities, as ‘secretive’. “He took Linda to his parents’ farm, to teach her to fly.”

“To…what?” Charlie’s question was just slightly too loud, enough so to prompt Lois to quickly press her hand against his mouth.

“Keep it down, Charlie! You should know better.”

“Sorry.” Charlie paced around the room a little bit as confusion over what Lois meant started his mind going. “I thought Linda already could fly.”

“Clark says that she still can.” Lois finished taking files out of the file cabinet and closed it quickly. She then paused to tap the side of her head. “She just has a mental block or something, he says.”

Charlie followed Lois out into the hallway, toward the elevator. He was a little surprised that they had gone in and out of that office without encountering any security guards. “What do you think?”

“I think–” Lois paused in thought for a second, tapping her chin with a folder as they waited for the elevator. “Linda’s been through a lot lately. She needs her friends to help her through it all.”

Charlie and Lois both turned as the elevator doors opened. Their jaws dropped as they saw the two people they didn’t want to see in the building – Lex Luthor and Mercy Graves.

“Lois Lane and Charlie Lewis.” Luthor stepped out of the elevator and stood in front of the two of them. Mercy stayed close behind. “And stealing my files, no doubt. What will I do with the two of you?”

“You could let us go.” Lois smiled and nudged Charlie, who began snickering.

Luthor didn’t even crack a smile as he motioned for Mercy to move closer. “Escort these…people out of my building. And destroy that file.”

Mercy nodded and gently nudged Charlie and Lois into the elevator, snatching the folder from Lois as the elevator started it’s descent toward the lobby.

“Hey, I thought you liked me.” Charlie turned around and looked up at Mercy as she simply smiled and placed her finger in front of her mouth, indicating that Charlie should be quiet.

Lois laughed and folded her arms. “That’s what you get for trusting one of Luthor’s apes, Charlie.”

As soon as the elevator doors opened, Mercy put one hand on each of their shoulders and gently escorted them to the door – but it seemed a little unusual when she also walked them across the street, to Lois’ car. She continued to stand next to the car as Lois unlocked the door, and Charlie climbed into the passenger side.

“One more thing.” Mercy leaned into the window of the passenger side of the car.

“Let me guess.” Lois started up the car as she frowned at Mercy. “Don’t come back, right?”

Mercy ignored Lois’ comment as she dropped the yellow folder from Lex Luthor’s office in Charlie’s lap. She smiled at Charlie as he stared at her, a little confused.

“Why, Mercy?”

“Let’s just say that I’ve seen what Lex is capable of. I need a little insurance. I trust you, Charlie.” Mercy placed a hand on Charlie’s shoulder gently as her smile began to weaken. She then glanced over at Lois, noting the look of shock on her face. “Oh, and Lois…Apology accepted.”

Lois looked at the yellow folder in Charlie’s lap at least twice as she began driving toward the Daily Planet building. “What do you suppose this means, Charlie?”

Charlie shook his head a little. “I truly don’t know. I’m a little worried for Mercy. I hope she’ll be okay.”
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“Clark, telephone!”

Clark slid his chair back slowly, as a smile creeped onto his face. He knew that the only person who would call him there would be Lois. “Um…Excuse me, please.”

As Clark walked into the next room, and Martha returned to the dining room, Linda couldn’t help but smile. Clark was still the polite farm boy, no matter how long he lived in the big city.

“Are you enjoying the potatoes, Kara dear?” Martha Kent smiled as she watched Kara wolfing down what Martha called ‘tomato potatoes’, a home-grown mixture of softened potatoes swimming in a thick tomato paste. They ended up having the appearance of rich red colored potatoes, but they tasted great.

Kara nodded as she paused to swallow. “Yes. They are good.”

Linda smiled a little as she watched Kara resume eating. She made a mental note to herself to teach Kara a little slang, so she didn’t seem so stiff.

“I…do not have these at home.”

Linda, Martha, and Jonathan all paused and stared at Kara at the same time. They all wondered if part of her memory was starting to return. And where exactly was ‘home’ for her?

“That was John Henry. He needed to talk with me urgently.” Clark announced his return to the dining room with that one phrase. He seemed a little pale as he spoke – he looked directly at Linda, as if it had something to do with her. “He asked me to speak with you as well, Linda.”

“Me?” Linda looked around the table to see everyone staring at her. “Why me?”

Clark leaned closer to Linda and whispered into her ear. “It involves a gateway opening from another plane. Someplace called…Otherverse Earth.”
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“And that was my first clue that something was terribly wrong. After he told me that, we went back to Metropolis quickly, and I went to my hotel and changed into my costume. That’s when I noticed the billboard.”

Linda leaned forward on a rather uncomfortable couch, located in a living room hidden away deep inside the Colorado mountains. She was on an Earth which was nothing like her own – it was one were heroes like herself were safest hidden away from the world. It was a dangerous place known as Otherverse Earth. A place which made her very nervous.

As she wrapped her fingers tightly around a comforting warm mug of hot chocolate and took a sip, she looked around the room at people who had, until recently, been total strangers to her. A Kara Zor-El, who had somehow on this Earth survived what Superman often described as ‘The Crisis’. Another woman named Rogue who had somehow ended up with all of her DNA replaced with Kryptonian DNA. Teen-age twin daughters of Kara’s, named Carrie and Karen. And Lara Night, a young woman powerful enough to destroy planets, but secretive enough to make Batman jealous.

“My second clue that something was wrong–” Linda smiled and put her mug back on the table in front of the uncomfortable couch. “–was provided by an adventurer named Sharon Holmes who was waiting for me in the lobby of the hotel. She found a Lex Luthor – one not from my Earth – stealing something called the Ancient Book of Rai from a hidden underground bunker in Germany.”

“Ancient Book of Rai?” Lara raised an eyebrow and turned away from one of the tall, narrow glass windows she stared out of. “Are you sure?”

Linda nodded. “I remember that part very clearly.”

“That’s bad. Very bad.” Lara paced around the room a little, arms folded tightly. “The Ancient Book of Rai is used to bridge the worlds of the living and the dead. To raise the dead, make the living immortal…or cause the living to die with just words and a few drops of blood.”

Kara and the twins looked at each other upon hearing the last part of Lara’s words. Words and a few drops of blood. That meant Luthor was close to being able to eliminate them. Too close.

“Oh, don’t worry. He would need blood from a living Kryptonian.” Lara seemed to anticipate the question on Kara’s mind as she continued. “That’s very unlikely to happen. But he is using the book to raise dead metahumans, and possibly to make himself immortal.”

“Sharon said something about…genocide?” Linda stared sympathetically at Lara as she spoke. “Luthor mentioned something to her about eliminating enemies back home.”

“Genocide?” Lara sat down on the arm of the couch. Her eyes told everyone present that she didn’t know as much about the Ancient Book of Rai as she would have liked to. “I…I’m not sure I understand. Who would Luthor want to–”

“I think that means the rebels, and metas.” Kara spoke unsteadily. She seemed calm, but she still didn’t have total control of her emotions. “He probably plans to eliminate anyone who opposes him.”

“Metas?” Linda looked confused as she stared at Kara.

“Metahumans, Linda.” Kara smiled a little, remembering back to a time when she had to be taught the same. “People with abilities beyond those of ordinary humans. Luthor sees them as his biggest threat, because he can’t control them easily.”

Linda laughed a little. “He’s not all that different from Lex Luthor on my world.”

Kara stood up from her seat in a slightly more comfortable looking spot on the love seat next to Rogue. “But this time, rather then weapons or chemicals…Luthor plans on using meta zombies against us. The ultimate power, under his control.”

“Kal-El and Diana Prince are already under his control.” Lara looked around the room quickly, noting the looks of shock and fear on their faces. All of them except Linda, who looked confused again.

“Wonder Woman is dead?” Linda looked at Rogue – she didn’t seem to understand what she was asking. Kara seemed more occupied by what was going on outside. Linda shrugged it off, guessing that Diana hadn’t taken the name ‘Wonder Woman’ on Otherverse Earth.

“Now she’s un-dead.” Lara smiled at her own little joke, even though no one else seemed to. “Lex Luthor is the biggest problem, however. He will become immortal, join the order of the Underworld. He will basically become a demon.”

“Ugh.” Linda put her face in her hands and shook her head. “More demons. That’s all I need.”

“I think we’ll have to give priority to stopping the walking dead metas.” Kara was staring out the window as she spoke, two fingers of her left hand pressed against the glass.

“Why?” Linda stood up to head toward the window. She wanted to see what Kara was looking at.

“Because they’re coming this way.”

“Oh, hell.” Linda stood next to Kara, looking out through the tall glass windows. She began to worry – coming toward her quickly were the two most powerful superheroes she had ever known – and a quick inventory of everyone in in the room with her confirmed that she was by far the most vulnerable person present. She began to wonder why she was even there in the first place. She then realized that for the first time as Supergirl…she would have to depend on others to protect her.
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“Another Lex Luthor, you say?” Lex Luthor leaned back in his chair, his elbows leaned on the chair’s arms, and his hands clasped together. He stared unwaveringly at a young British woman named Sharon Holmes sitting in front of his desk, in spite of the fact that she carried two pistols on a belt around her waist – he didn’t see her as a threat. She was bringing news which chilled him to his very core…yet he still remained perfectly calm.

Sharon nodded. “He’s from another…dimension or something–”

“Reality.” Luthor smiled a little, pleased with himself for correcting Sharon.

“Yes.” Sharon shifted in her seat a little, feeling uncomfortable as she noticed Mercy Graves towering over her from behind. “He stole a book called the Ancient Book of Rai.”

“I know all of this already.” Luthor leaned forward and placed his palms on his desk. “What I want to know is what this…other Lex Luthor can do with this book.”

Sharon took a deep breath as she looked behind her at Mercy – who stood perfectly still, except for her eyes. “It deals with the dead, Mr. Luthor. He can make himself immortal, and raise the dead under his command.”

“Sounds…interesting.”

“But there’s a terrible price to it, Mr. Luthor.” Sharon stood up suddenly and leaned over the desk, her raised voice indicating the urgency of her warning. “He’ll become a demon, his intentions will turn completely evil. Any good left in him will vanish…and he will have lost his free will to the whims of evil.”

“Rest assured, Miss Holmes. The last thing I would give up is control.” Luthor stood up and walked over to his office window, rubbing his chin as he pondered his next action. “But this…other Lex Luthor must not be permitted to freely roam any Earth he wants to. Mercy?”

“Yes, Lex?” The sound of Mercy’s voice made Sharon jump a little. It was soft enough, but it was also the first sound she made since Sharon arrived.

“Prepare the gateway. I have a mission for Miss Holmes.”

“A…Mission?” Sharon looked at Mercy, and then back at Luthor. They both seemed serious.

“You are an adventurer, are you not?” Luthor took a few steps toward Sharon, and leaned over her as she sat back down in the chair next to her.

“Yes.” Sharon nodded slowly, and stood up. “Yes, I am. What have you got in mind?”

“I’m going to send you to this…Otherverse. You will retrieve the Ancient Book of Rai, and bring it to me.”

“Bring it to you?” Sharon began to worry a little bit – this Lex Luthor could be corrupted just as easily as the other one. “But you just said–”

“Not that it should be any of your concern–” Luthor folded his arms and leaned closer to Sharon. “–I plan to destroy it. That kind of power should not be allowed to exist.”

“Because it can’t be totally under your control?”

Luthor frowned. “Feel free to jump to your own conclusions, Sharon. As long as you retrieve that book. And don’t even think about destroying the book before you return. My gateway is your only ride home.”

Sharon sighed as she watched Luthor and Mercy leave the room quickly, closing and locking the door behind them. She collapsed quietly into the chair again, as thoughts went swimming through her head. Thoughts of fear…that she would be stopping one Lex Luthor only to have a worse one on her hands.

“Oh, Sharon…What have you got yourself into this time?”
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“Clark, what have we gotten ourselves into?”

Clark Kent bowed his head a little, as his eyes looked through the wall into the kitchen, where a teenager named Kara sat, eating a slice of lemon merengue pie. He deliberately avoided looking directly at his mom, as the guilt over what had happen began to set in. “I…honestly didn’t know, Ma. If I did, I never would have brought her here–”

“Nonsense.” Martha Kent put a hand on his shoulder, causing him to raise his head and finally look at her. “Any friend of yours, Clark…you know the rest.”

Clark sighed and gave Martha a worried look. “But she’s…you know…like me. You and Pa won’t be able to keep up with her now that you’re–”

“Old? You’re calling me old?” Martha smiled slowly as she watched Clark turn a little red from embarrassment.

“I just–”

“Clark, your Pa and I raised you. We raised Mae. One more isn’t going to kill us.” Martha placed a hand on her heart and smiled. “Raising kids comes from here, Clark. From the heart. You don’t have to be smart, or quick, or even young. Love is all you need.”

“You’re quoting the Beatles?” Clark raised an eyebrow and smiled.

Martha shrugged as she led Clark back toward the kitchen. “John Lennon had it right. Why tamper with something that works?”
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“Stonehenge. How did I ever guess?”

Sharon Holmes stood, hands on her hips, as she kept her gaze fixed on a cloaked figure. He sat in the center of the circle of stones, a book on the ground in front of him. He didn’t even acknowledge her presence as he slowly whispered the words he saw on the pages before him. His lack of reaction made Sharon very nervous as she approached. She drew both of her pistols, careful to keep them aimed at the man’s back as she tiptoed toward him.

As soon as she was almost within his reach, he suddenly stopped whispering, prompting her to freeze. She stood, pistols steadily aimed as the man turned around so she could see his partially-cloaked face. It was Lex Luthor – but his face was pale, his eyes carrying a reddish orange glow, like they had fires burning behind them.

“My God…What have you done?” Her hands began shaking a little, she struggled to keep her guns trained on him as he lowered the hood of his cloak. His gaze felt heavy, like it was adding weight to the guns at the end of her arms.

She began backing away from him slowly as he approached, the Ancient Book of Rai in his hands. She could feel something from him, an energy – one of pure evil, and death. The scent of it filled the area. In a moment of panic as Luthor came closer, Sharon began firing both pistols at him.

It felt like only seconds before the clips in both of her weapons were empty. But Luthor still stood. As he stepped in front of her, she could feel darkness descending over her, suffocating her quickly. Her eyesight began to dim as she felt her legs buckle from beneath her. The last thing she would remember was Luthor lifting her off of the ground and carrying her away, before she lost consciousness.
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Sharon awoke with a start lying on a cold stone floor inside a stone-walled cell. Her heart was beating quickly, and her clothing and the floor were both soaked. Though she was still groggy, she realized that someone had just thrown ice cold water on her.

“Wake up!”

She turned around slowly to see a tall dark-haired woman approach her slowly. The woman was dressed in some sort of military uniform, armed with a pistol, a long knife, and…a bucket. Her instinct told her that the tall woman was not someone friendly.

“I said–”

As she approached, the woman suddenly found herself cut off as Sharon’s boot tangled with one of her legs, causing her head to crash to the floor quickly. Sharon stood, and without hesitation snatched the woman’s gun and knife, pointing the barrel at her almost immediately. The woman tried to sit up in spite.

“No, no. Please don’t get up on my account.” Sharon circled around the woman for a second, checking briefly to make sure the door was still open – it was. “Where am I?”

“You’re in a Lexcorp owned facility hidden off the coast of Northern California. It’s called Pelican Island.” The woman sat up slowly and rubbed her head, noting that Sharon leveled the pistol toward her as she moved. “There’s no escape. No one has ever escaped from here. And even if you do, you won’t survive the radiation.”

“I don’t plan on escaping to the outside.” Sharon smiled as she heard the last word of the woman’s sentence – ‘radiation’. It meant that she and Lex Luthor must have been transported to the place rather then just walking or flying in. “Lex Luthor has a Gateway here. Where is it?”

The woman simply frowned, but didn’t answer. She didn’t need to – her change of expression answered for her – there was a Gateway. Only Sharon would have to search for it.

“Thanks for the update. Good night.” Sharon kicked the woman in the chin, hard, knocking her out cold, and raced out of the cell. She punched the button to close the cell door on her way out – no sense in having the woman go after her again when she woke up.

As Sharon headed out of the cell area and up a stairway, she saw just what she expected – Lex Luthor, blocking her access to the floor above. She drew the pistol from her belt, but then decided to toss it aside – it didn’t work so well for her the last time.

“Hand over the book, Luthor…and then get out of my way!” Sharon drew the knife from behind her belt, gripping it tightly as she slowly stepped toward Luthor. “I’m taking it home, and not even you can stop me!”

“Such arrogance.” Luthor gripped the book tightly and stepped toward Sharon, a threatening red glow forming in his hollow eyes. “Arrogance never succeeds, Sharon. It will only earn you your own demise.”

She gritted her teeth as she watched his dead, cold, hollow eyes light up like they were some sort of gate to hell. She then knew that had to take that book, for the safety of the universe – or die trying. “We’ll see who meets their demise.”

Sharon lunged forward, slicing Luthor’s throat open with her first swipe of the knife, and plunging it into his chest with the second pass. Just as she was about to make a third pass, she saw Luthor raise his hands – and she felt herself being thrown against the stone wall behind her, hard.

Even though she had the wind knocked out of her, she quickly shook off the dizziness and charged Luthor again, tackling him and slamming him against the opposite wall. Finally, he dropped the book.

She snatched the book quickly, and began running just as Luthor began producing bladed weapons out of nowhere, pelting her with them from time to time as she raced down the halls of the complex. Once in a while he would get ahead of her, and slam her against a wall – but she kept her death grip on the book, refusing to give it up to him no matter the odds against her.

Out of pure luck, she happened to find the room containing the Gateway. As soon as she did, she slammed the door behind her, quickly using what little she had left of her waning strength to push a large bookshelf in front of it. She knew that would only hold Luthor for a short time – so she worked quickly from memory to activate the Gateway. She paid close attention to the one the Lex Luthor on her Earth used, assuming that the Lex Luthor on this Earth would have one very similar – an assumption that paid off.

As a last step, before she jumped onto the Gateway’s platform, she tore a small box off of the side of the Gateway device – she remembered it to be a self-destruct device – and removed the plastic explosive material from it, squashing it into a bowl shape and placing it on the ground. She removed a small pack of matches from her belt, and lit one quickly. She then stepped on the Gateway platform, and tossed the match at the bowl with one hand, as she hit the red flashing activation button quickly with the book in her other hand.

Then she prayed. She didn’t even see the room fade from view – her eyes were closed as she felt fire licking at her exposed flesh. She suddenly felt chilled, and opened her eyes. She was back at Lexcorp, on her own Earth. In front of her was Lex Luthor’s bodyguard, Mercy Graves.

“Welcome back.” Mercy smiled as she held out her hand. “I’ll take that book.”

“Like hell you will.” Sharon charged Mercy, knocking her to the ground quickly. She didn’t stop running until she made it through the lobby of Lexcorp – and she continued running all the way down the street to the Daily Planet building. She knew she would be safe there…and she hoped she could find the man she met on the plane to England – Charlie Lewis.
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Charlie nearly fell out of his chair when he turned around to see who tapped him on the shoulder as he sat next to Lois Lane’s desk at the Daily Planet – he recognized her immediately as Sharon Holmes.

Sharon’s hair was a tangled mess, her usual long ponytail undone, leaving her hair across her shoulders. Both of her pistols were missing, and on her belt she wore a bowie knife covered in dried blood. Various cuts, bruises, and burns covered nearly all of her exposed skin. And in her hands…some kind of an ancient book, partially burned.

“You’re hard enough to find, Charlie.” Sharon stood over him, holding the book out toward him. She was inviting him to take it.

“What’s this?” Charlie took it from her gently, trying to read the inscription on the cover.

“The Ancient Book of Rai.” Sharon leaned on one hand, place on the edge of Lois’ desk. “I ask you to do two things for me. Keep that book in a safe place, and find me someplace to stay for a while that’s rather…discreet.”

“Discreet?” Charlie stood up, noticing that Sharon seemed more injured then she let on. “Is someone after you?”

“Everyone is after me, Charlie.” Sharon smiled weakly. “Including two different Lex Luthors. One of them almost killed me.”

Charlie glanced at Lois, who waved both of her hands in front of herself and mouthed ‘Don’t ask’. He couldn’t help but smile at the fact that Lois and Linda were a lot alike in that behavior. “Are you trying to tell me you killed one of these Lex Luthors?”

Sharon shook her head. “No, he can’t be killed, he’s immortal now. I did do him quite a bit of damage. But that’s all a story for another time, Charlie. Right now I really could use a shower and a few hours’ sleep.”

“I understand.” Charlie nodded and picked up Lois’ telephone and began dialing. “I’ll get you a place at the hotel where Linda and I have rooms.”

Lois paused her work for a moment, and began staring at Sharon. “What happened to you, anyway? Did you cross a battlefield to get that book?”

“Practically, yes.” Sharon smiled and sat down in one of the chairs next to Lois’ desk. “I visited another Earth, a scary place. I was injured escaping from some kind of a Lexcorp prison there…I lost my pistols. There was a gateway to get me home in the same building, but I had to fight my way to it.”

Charlie gently took Sharon’s arm as he watched her stumble a little bit while she rose to her feet. “Come on, Sharon. That’s enough fighting for one day…Let’s get you some rest.”

“You’re just a saint, aren’t you?” Sharon smiled as she followed Charlie down to the street, where he quickly hailed a cab for her. “No wonder Linda likes you.”

Charlie didn’t answer as he helped Sharon into the cab, and told the driver where to take her. But his mind was busy in thought – did Sharon see something he didn’t? As the cab drove away, he quickly dismissed any passing thoughts he had about what Sharon said. After all, she had lost some blood, and was very tired. “I’m no saint…just someone who cares.”
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A stiff, icy wind blew through the mountains outside the Fortress, tossing Linda’s hair and cape mercilessly, and causing her to squint to keep her eyeballs from freezing. She stood atop the mountain shivering – Lara, Kara, and Rogue stood in front of her, doing little to slow down the wind. The twins stood behind Linda – they were asked to stay there by Kara, just in case.

They were prepared for a battle as they all stood, watching, while a living-dead Kal-El and Diana Prince approached quickly. Kara insisted on standing ahead of everyone else, with Rogue beside her, at the ‘battlefront’. Lara stood directly behind them, intent on protecting Linda and the twins.

The dead Kal-El seemed to slow as he approached, eventually landing a good distance away, with Diana close behind him. He was walking toward Kara slowly, seemingly not in any hurry. Unlike the Kal-El Linda knew, this one’s eyes were dark, cold…they had no soul behind them.

“Leave this place…and do no harm!” Kara held a single palm in front of her, pointing in the two zombies’ direction, as if she were a crossing guard ordering pedestrians to stop trying to cross a busy street. Naturally, the two zombies paid her no mind as they approached.

As she watched the zombies walk toward her, she cringed a little bit, expecting to see an epic battle before her, one of flying fists, searing heat vision, blood, and broken bones. What she saw instead was purely surreal, even by her own standards.

Linda watched, stunned, as Lara stepped forward silently toward the zombies. They made no move to attack her, even as she gently placed one hand on each of their shoulders. The two zombies collapsed to the ground without a fight, all signs of life within them extinguished.

“What did you do?” After several minutes of silence, the first words were from Kara. After speaking, she turned abruptly to face Lara, standing only inches away from her.

“I sent them away.” Lara blinked, cancelling the slight glow her irises carried since she touched the two zombies. “They will rest now…but we must destroy their bodies to prevent Lex Luthor from raising them again. I can destroy Diana’s body, but you and Rogue must destroy Kal-El’s.”

Kara’s eyes suddenly filled with sadness, and then tears, as she looked at Rogue for a moment. She looked to Lara again, her head shaking slowly. “No, I…I can’t.”

“You must, for the safety of this world, Kara–” Lara suddenly paused when she noticed everyone staring at her, wide-eyed. She looked at her own hands – she was surrounded by some kind of an energy halo, and she guessed that her irises were glowing once again. Only this time, it was not under her control – some kind of force from another plane was causing it…a deity, perhaps?

“Oh, my Rao.” Kara turned to Rogue and Linda, standing behind her. They were hypnotized by the power, the beauty of the halo around Lara – it was beyond the bounds of imagination. “Do you see if too?”

Linda nodded and stepped forward toward the glow, which was now completely surrounding Lara. It grew larger until it finally separated from her form, moving in front of her. Linda’s hand reached out slowly to touch it. It felt warm, comforting…like a mother’s arms wrapped around a small child. She watched as the mist surrounded the stilled bodies of Kal-El and Diana Prince, enveloping them until they could no longer be seen.

“You’re right, Kara.” Lara stood perfectly still, speaking in a soft voice just above a whisper as the energy enveloping her spread to Kara, gently wrapping a few of it’s tentacles around her. Kara closed her eyes, letting the energy comfort her – relaxing her enough so she dropped to her knees slowly. “It is Rao…And Kal-El.”

Just as those words left Lara’s mouth, Kara could see a form taking shape in front of her. It was a man…it was Kal-El. She bowed her head a little, as tears began forming in her eyes.

“You display shame at my presence, Kara?” The ghostly form of Kal-El reached his hand under her chin, propping it up so he could see her eyes. “Always keep your head high. You are worthy, Kara. You were born to a proud heritage. You were once Supergirl.”

Kara nodded slowly and rose to her feet, looking down to notice that she was now wearing a costume she remembered well – the red skirt, blue top, and giant S-logo of Supergirl. She said nothing, but a single sniff from her indicated her desire to maintain control of her feelings, even as her eyes betrayed her by continuing to send tears.

“I wish I could have known you better, Kara. I wish I had more time…But now I must return home to Rao, to be with the others of Krypton.”

“No–” Kara shook her head as tears began streaming down her face quickly. “Don’t go, please. You’ve guided me for so long…I could feel that you were there.”

The ghostly Kal seemed to smile for a moment, as he gently place a misty hand on Kara’s shoulder. “I must go, Kara. My time in this realm has come to an end. My work is done. You and your daughters have carried on my legacy well. Now you have a new legacy…and in the end…your daughters will be the salvation of this Earth.”

“Kal–” Kara reached out for him as he began drifting away from her slowly. “I…I want to go with you.”

“No. You still have much to do here. I will always be with you, Kara, in your heart. I will always be there.”

The mist suddenly dissipated with a gust of icy wind, leaving Kara feeling chilled, and alone. Without a word, Rogue quickly held her tightly as she collapsed, sobbing uncontrollably. It was as if Kara were living through Kal’s death. In a way…she was.

“Leave us, please.” Rogue whispered those three words, prompting Lara to quickly lead Linda and the twins back inside the Fortress.

As darkness began to fall that night, Linda left for her home, even though she hadn’t seen Rogue or Kara since that moment. Lara left shortly afterward, once the twins convinced her that they would be perfectly safe by themselves.

Linda would learn later from the twins that Kara and Rogue didn’t come back for several hours – and once they did, they retired for the night without a word. No one knew what happened during those hours – it was something that would forever be a secret shared by Kara and Rogue. Karen insisted that they most likely spent the hours just talking, sharing – a few hours to strengthen the bond they had with each other. But somehow, Linda believed it was much more then that.

Once Linda arrived at her hotel room, she was tired from the whole experience she had – and yet she lay awake for hours, as her mind spun out of control. Everything she’d seen, everything she heard…she couldn’t help but believe that the universe would never be the same again.

coollogo-small

Over The Edge, Part 5

“What happened here?”
Lara walked along the darkened Ezzard Charles Drive slowly, with Jason close behind. Glass covered the sidewalks along the downtown Cincinnati street, and the streets themselves were littered with broken bottles, garbage cans, rocks and bricks. Smashed and burned-out storefronts and cars lined the four-lane road, and even the glass doors to police headquarters were boarded up. The street was even darker than usual, most of the overhead lights having been shot out by gunfire. The only light came from the headlights of Jason’s red Plymouth Neon, parked a short distance away.
She looked behind her at a large Art Deco-style building at the other end of the street. Darkened, and with an empty parking lot, the Union Terminal building housed a couple of museums – but due to the nearby destruction, the normally busy building was closed.
“Riots, a couple of days ago. But things have been quiet since the curfew took effect.” Jason sighed as he surveyed the damage. His voice was a mixture of anger and sadness at what he saw. “I’ve driven down this street so many times, and I’ve been to Union Terminal at night before. It’s all so…surreal.”
Lara nodded as she turned around to return to the car. She moved slowly, as if she were in a little shock at what she saw. “Speaking of curfew, we’d better go. I don’t want you having to explain me to the police.”
“Right.” Jason climbed into the driver’s seat almost at the same time Lara entered the car. He started up the engine and turned the car around slowly, heading back toward the highway entrance only a block away. Stunned silence prevailed in the car until it had entered the highway and reached cruising speed. By then, Lara had reached over to turn on the radio.
“Strange town, huh?” Jason gave Lara a half-hearted smile, which Lara returned immediately. She knew that it saddened him to see such destruction. But it was something that had to be seen – something that, when shown on television, simply did not have the same impact it had in person.
“You think everything will be okay here?”
Jason turned to look at Lara for a moment. “What do you mean?”
“Well…when the riots hit Los Angeles a few years ago, most people didn’t even see it. L.A. is such a big city…but this city’s kind of small. This kind of thing affects everyone.”
“You’re right, it does.” Jason nodded. “At first, the riots were just downtown…easy enough for most people just to ignore it. But the night before the curfew took effect, the riots spread – storefront windows in Madisonville were smashed, and a small take-out store had been burned down only five miles from my home. I’ve never been in the place, but I’ve driven past it dozens of times.”
“Wow.” Lara leaned back and sighed. She had been in many dangerous situations before – but for the most part, her own home had always been relatively safe, kind of a haven away from the rest of the world. “Were you scared?”
Jason nodded again. “A little, at first. When I initially heard the report…one night, the eleven o’clock news announced a riot in progress in Kennedy Heights. I remember actually loading a shotgun from the basement and sticking it in an easy-to-reach closet.”
“Yeah, but…what good would that do against a riot?”
“I dunno.” Jason shrugged as he turned off the Ronald Reagan Highway exit. “I just hoped that if I had to use it, I could just scare people with it. I don’t really want to see anyone hurt.”
Lara smiled. “That’s kind of what I thought. I know you as well as you do.”
“Yeah, I know…the whole figment of my imagination thing.” Jason paused as he checked an intersection near a stop sign at the end of an exit ramp. “After we get the car home, how about if we go and visit some people? Touring riot damage is so depressing. I’m supposed to be entertaining you.”
“No, it was…eye-opening. I’m glad you took me to see it. You’ve given me something to think about…that’s better than any kind of cheesy entertainment.”
“So…” Jason said as the car pulled up the driveway and into the garage. “Do you want to visit some of my relatives in town?”
“No thanks; I’ve met them already.”
Jason laughed and turned the car off. “Okay…we’ll surprise some people out of town instead.”
“Like who?”
“You’ll see.”


Lara turned up the thermostat a couple more degrees as she looked across a somewhat fancy three-room hotel suite in Romulus, Michigan. Sitting in a deep chair at the other end of the room was Jason, wrapped in two blankets and wearing a bright yellow zipped-up jacket.
She sighed to herself and shook her head as she sat down in the small desk chair across from him. “I told you to bring a warmer coat. It’s really cold flying that high up.”
“I guess I should…have listened,” Jason said between his chattering teeth. “Don’t worry…I’ll warm up sooner or later.”
“I hope so.” Lara reached for an apple sitting in the fruit basket on the table. “I already have the thermostat turned up to eighty. If I turn it up again, the sprinklers may go off.”
“Funny.” Jason took a deep breath as the shivering finally slowed down. “I’m just glad I know the manager of this place from work, or this room would cost a fortune.”
“Either that, or he saw me,” Lara said as she waved a corner of her cape at Jason, “and decided to keep any questions to himself.”
Jason smiled and shook his head. “This practical joke had better be worth it. Do you still have the map?”
Lara nodded. “I still don’t know how to follow it, though.”
“That’s what taxicabs are for.”
Lara raised an eyebrow. “You’re certain there’s no train?” she joked.
“Funny girl.” Jason stood and tossed aside the two blankets. “I’m much better now. Let’s go.”
“Okay.” Lara headed toward the window quickly, lifting Jason by the back of his belt as she ran straight out onto the balcony. She heard Jason gasp as she leapt over the fourth-floor balcony railing and landed on the sidewalk below softly, dropping him to his feet next to her.
“Do you have something against elevators, Lara?”
She shook her head, laughing at the sarcasm in Jason’s voice as she stepped over to the curb to hail a taxi. “Come on, admit it…that was much more fun then an elevator, wasn’t it?”
“Uh-huh.” Jason dismissed Lara’s question as he climbed into the back seat of the cab. As she climbed in next to him, she handed the map to the driver. They had an hour-long ride ahead of them.


“Holy cow!” A man of medium build stood in the doorway of his home, a worried look on his face as a woman with clear eyes and wild blonde hair, slightly taller then himself, stood in front of him in a black costume with white stripes and a cape. The evening sun glared from behind her, giving her an unearthly halo as she greeted him with a soft smile.
Having seen a mixture of similarly dressed heroines in fantasy – comic books – he wasn’t sure if he was hallucinating, dreaming, or only seconds away from a painful death. He stood with one hand on the door, half-considering slamming it shut in case of trouble. “Um…Birdy?”
“No…I’m Lara Night. You’ve probably heard of me. Kevin, right?”
“Yeah, but…well…I didn’t think you were-”
“Real?” Lara laughed as she turned and pointed toward Jason, standing at the end of the sidewalk. “You’d be surprised at who’s real. I suppose you know Jason.”
“Yes.” Kevin stepped through the doorway to look past Lara as Jason headed up the sidewalk toward him. “But I thought he’d be taller.”
“Everyone says that,” Jason interrupted as he walked up to the porch.
“Aren’t you going to invite us in?” Lara looked at Jason, and back at Kevin, giving him a sly grin. “I promise I’ll try not to break anything.”
“Sure.” Kevin nodded and stepped aside, ushering Lara and Jason into his house. He followed quickly, holding Lara’s cape to keep it out of the door as he closed it behind him.
“Easy on the cape, Kevin.”
“Sorry.” Kevin looked almost frightened as he suddenly let go of the cape. “I…I didn’t mean to-”
“Don’t worry about it.” Lara shook her cape vigorously. “I just wanted to make sure it doesn’t wrinkle. Dry cleaning this thing is a pain.”
Kevin breathed a sigh of relief and turned to face Lara, measuring her height with his eyes. “You two are both shorter then I imagined. Aren’t you supposed to be at least as tall as Supergirl?”
“No, she’s a liar,” Jason told him. “She’s only five-foot-seven.”
“Shut up!” Lara shoved Jason gently before laughing a little. “Don’t listen to him. He actually adjusted all of his websites when he found out I wasn’t five-foot-eight.”
“This just seems too strange…you, a fictional character, standing in my living room.” Kevin shook his head and blinked twice as the two followed him into the living room. “I’m sorry, that was rude…do you two want anything to eat or drink?”
“I’ll have a Coke.” Lara ignored Kevin’s lapse in politeness as she sat down at the end of the living room couch, glancing over at Jason as he sat next to her. “He’ll have one too.”
Jason looked at Lara and gave her a mock frown as Kevin headed toward the kitchen. “You know, this ‘figment of my imagination’ thing is really starting to get on my nerves.”
Lara shrugged. “Imagine how I feel.”
“So tell me, Lara,” Kevin said as he returned to the living room and handed her a can of Coke. “Has Jason been drooling over you too much?”
“No, he’s very polite.” Lara looked over at Jason and smiled. “Besides, his type is more down-to-earth then us superheroines. And he has this rule about not getting involved with his ‘actors.'”
Kevin laughed as he handed Jason his drink. “What kind of rule is that?”
“It’s because part of my job is to protect my actors.” Jason took a sip of Coke. “To keep them safe from places like the Aurora Universe. Who knows what that writer does with the characters-”
“Oh, I think you know exactly what happens at the Aurora Universe,” Lara interrupted. “You read some of those stories.”
“Only the less…um…explicit ones. And so do you!”
“Hmm.” Lara took a sip of Coke and put the can down on the coffee table. “I just wish Sharon Best would quit sending me e-mail proposals.”
Kevin squinted and shook his head. “Marriage, or business proposals?”
“Neither.” Lara picked up the can again and took another sip as Jason and Kevin stared at her in stunned silence. “What?”
Jason rolled his eyes quickly before rising to his feet. “Lara, we’d better get going. I’ve got to send you home.”
“Send her home?” Kevin looked at Jason, then at Lara as the two stood before him.
“Yes, I’m kind of stuck here. Jason has to write me back home.” Lara reached her hand out to shake Kevin’s. “It was nice meeting you.”
“I’m not going to even pretend to understand that.” Kevin shook her hand quickly. “But thanks for visiting. And Lara…feel free to visit me any time.”
“Sure, why not?” Lara nodded and smiled at Kevin as she grabbed Jason’s arm tightly. In a bright flash of light which suddenly filled the room…they were gone.

 

Over The Edge, Part 4

“What happened here?”
Lara walked along the darkened Ezzard Charles Drive slowly, with Jason close behind. Glass covered the sidewalks along the downtown Cincinnati street, and the streets themselves were littered with broken bottles, garbage cans, rocks and bricks. Smashed and burned-out storefronts and cars lined the four-lane road, and even the glass doors to police headquarters were boarded up. The street was even darker than usual, most of the overhead lights having been shot out by gunfire. The only light came from the headlights of Jason’s red Plymouth Neon, parked a short distance away.
She looked behind her at a large Art Deco-style building at the other end of the street. Darkened, and with an empty parking lot, the Union Terminal building housed a couple of museums – but due to the nearby destruction, the normally busy building was closed.
“Riots, a couple of days ago. But things have been quiet since the curfew took effect.” Jason sighed as he surveyed the damage. His voice was a mixture of anger and sadness at what he saw. “I’ve driven down this street so many times, and I’ve been to Union Terminal at night before. It’s all so…surreal.”
Lara nodded as she turned around to return to the car. She moved slowly, as if she were in a little shock at what she saw. “Speaking of curfew, we’d better go. I don’t want you having to explain me to the police.”
“Right.” Jason climbed into the driver’s seat almost at the same time Lara entered the car. He started up the engine and turned the car around slowly, heading back toward the highway entrance only a block away. Stunned silence prevailed in the car until it had entered the highway and reached cruising speed. By then, Lara had reached over to turn on the radio.
“Strange town, huh?” Jason gave Lara a half-hearted smile, which Lara returned immediately. She knew that it saddened him to see such destruction. But it was something that had to be seen – something that, when shown on television, simply did not have the same impact it had in person.
“You think everything will be okay here?”
Jason turned to look at Lara for a moment. “What do you mean?”
“Well…when the riots hit Los Angeles a few years ago, most people didn’t even see it. L.A. is such a big city…but this city’s kind of small. This kind of thing affects everyone.”
“You’re right, it does.” Jason nodded. “At first, the riots were just downtown…easy enough for most people just to ignore it. But the night before the curfew took effect, the riots spread – storefront windows in Madisonville were smashed, and a small take-out store had been burned down only five miles from my home. I’ve never been in the place, but I’ve driven past it dozens of times.”
“Wow.” Lara leaned back and sighed. She had been in many dangerous situations before – but for the most part, her own home had always been relatively safe, kind of a haven away from the rest of the world. “Were you scared?”
Jason nodded again. “A little, at first. When I initially heard the report…one night, the eleven o’clock news announced a riot in progress in Kennedy Heights. I remember actually loading a shotgun from the basement and sticking it in an easy-to-reach closet.”
“Yeah, but…what good would that do against a riot?”
“I dunno.” Jason shrugged as he turned off the Ronald Reagan Highway exit. “I just hoped that if I had to use it, I could just scare people with it. I don’t really want to see anyone hurt.”
Lara smiled. “That’s kind of what I thought. I know you as well as you do.”
“Yeah, I know…the whole figment of my imagination thing.” Jason paused as he checked an intersection near a stop sign at the end of an exit ramp. “After we get the car home, how about if we go and visit some people? Touring riot damage is so depressing. I’m supposed to be entertaining you.”
“No, it was…eye-opening. I’m glad you took me to see it. You’ve given me something to think about…that’s better than any kind of cheesy entertainment.”
“So…” Jason said as the car pulled up the driveway and into the garage. “Do you want to visit some of my relatives in town?”
“No thanks; I’ve met them already.”
Jason laughed and turned the car off. “Okay…we’ll surprise some people out of town instead.”
“Like who?”
“You’ll see.”


Lara turned up the thermostat a couple more degrees as she looked across a somewhat fancy three-room hotel suite in Romulus, Michigan. Sitting in a deep chair at the other end of the room was Jason, wrapped in two blankets and wearing a bright yellow zipped-up jacket.
She sighed to herself and shook her head as she sat down in the small desk chair across from him. “I told you to bring a warmer coat. It’s really cold flying that high up.”
“I guess I should…have listened,” Jason said between his chattering teeth. “Don’t worry…I’ll warm up sooner or later.”
“I hope so.” Lara reached for an apple sitting in the fruit basket on the table. “I already have the thermostat turned up to eighty. If I turn it up again, the sprinklers may go off.”
“Funny.” Jason took a deep breath as the shivering finally slowed down. “I’m just glad I know the manager of this place from work, or this room would cost a fortune.”
“Either that, or he saw me,” Lara said as she waved a corner of her cape at Jason, “and decided to keep any questions to himself.”
Jason smiled and shook his head. “This practical joke had better be worth it. Do you still have the map?”
Lara nodded. “I still don’t know how to follow it, though.”
“That’s what taxicabs are for.”
Lara raised an eyebrow. “You’re certain there’s no train?” she joked.
“Funny girl.” Jason stood and tossed aside the two blankets. “I’m much better now. Let’s go.”
“Okay.” Lara headed toward the window quickly, lifting Jason by the back of his belt as she ran straight out onto the balcony. She heard Jason gasp as she leapt over the fourth-floor balcony railing and landed on the sidewalk below softly, dropping him to his feet next to her.
“Do you have something against elevators, Lara?”
She shook her head, laughing at the sarcasm in Jason’s voice as she stepped over to the curb to hail a taxi. “Come on, admit it…that was much more fun then an elevator, wasn’t it?”
“Uh-huh.” Jason dismissed Lara’s question as he climbed into the back seat of the cab. As she climbed in next to him, she handed the map to the driver. They had an hour-long ride ahead of them.


“Holy cow!” A man of medium build stood in the doorway of his home, a worried look on his face as a woman with clear eyes and wild blonde hair, slightly taller then himself, stood in front of him in a black costume with white stripes and a cape. The evening sun glared from behind her, giving her an unearthly halo as she greeted him with a soft smile.
Having seen a mixture of similarly dressed heroines in fantasy – comic books – he wasn’t sure if he was hallucinating, dreaming, or only seconds away from a painful death. He stood with one hand on the door, half-considering slamming it shut in case of trouble. “Um…Birdy?”
“No…I’m Lara Night. You’ve probably heard of me. Kevin, right?”
“Yeah, but…well…I didn’t think you were-”
“Real?” Lara laughed as she turned and pointed toward Jason, standing at the end of the sidewalk. “You’d be surprised at who’s real. I suppose you know Jason.”
“Yes.” Kevin stepped through the doorway to look past Lara as Jason headed up the sidewalk toward him. “But I thought he’d be taller.”
“Everyone says that,” Jason interrupted as he walked up to the porch.
“Aren’t you going to invite us in?” Lara looked at Jason, and back at Kevin, giving him a sly grin. “I promise I’ll try not to break anything.”
“Sure.” Kevin nodded and stepped aside, ushering Lara and Jason into his house. He followed quickly, holding Lara’s cape to keep it out of the door as he closed it behind him.
“Easy on the cape, Kevin.”
“Sorry.” Kevin looked almost frightened as he suddenly let go of the cape. “I…I didn’t mean to-”
“Don’t worry about it.” Lara shook her cape vigorously. “I just wanted to make sure it doesn’t wrinkle. Dry cleaning this thing is a pain.”
Kevin breathed a sigh of relief and turned to face Lara, measuring her height with his eyes. “You two are both shorter then I imagined. Aren’t you supposed to be at least as tall as Supergirl?”
“No, she’s a liar,” Jason told him. “She’s only five-foot-seven.”
“Shut up!” Lara shoved Jason gently before laughing a little. “Don’t listen to him. He actually adjusted all of his websites when he found out I wasn’t five-foot-eight.”
“This just seems too strange…you, a fictional character, standing in my living room.” Kevin shook his head and blinked twice as the two followed him into the living room. “I’m sorry, that was rude…do you two want anything to eat or drink?”
“I’ll have a Coke.” Lara ignored Kevin’s lapse in politeness as she sat down at the end of the living room couch, glancing over at Jason as he sat next to her. “He’ll have one too.”
Jason looked at Lara and gave her a mock frown as Kevin headed toward the kitchen. “You know, this ‘figment of my imagination’ thing is really starting to get on my nerves.”
Lara shrugged. “Imagine how I feel.”
“So tell me, Lara,” Kevin said as he returned to the living room and handed her a can of Coke. “Has Jason been drooling over you too much?”
“No, he’s very polite.” Lara looked over at Jason and smiled. “Besides, his type is more down-to-earth then us superheroines. And he has this rule about not getting involved with his ‘actors.'”
Kevin laughed as he handed Jason his drink. “What kind of rule is that?”
“It’s because part of my job is to protect my actors.” Jason took a sip of Coke. “To keep them safe from places like the Aurora Universe. Who knows what that writer does with the characters-”
“Oh, I think you know exactly what happens at the Aurora Universe,” Lara interrupted. “You read some of those stories.”
“Only the less…um…explicit ones. And so do you!”
“Hmm.” Lara took a sip of Coke and put the can down on the coffee table. “I just wish Sharon Best would quit sending me e-mail proposals.”
Kevin squinted and shook his head. “Marriage, or business proposals?”
“Neither.” Lara picked up the can again and took another sip as Jason and Kevin stared at her in stunned silence. “What?”
Jason rolled his eyes quickly before rising to his feet. “Lara, we’d better get going. I’ve got to send you home.”
“Send her home?” Kevin looked at Jason, then at Lara as the two stood before him.
“Yes, I’m kind of stuck here. Jason has to write me back home.” Lara reached her hand out to shake Kevin’s. “It was nice meeting you.”
“I’m not going to even pretend to understand that.” Kevin shook her hand quickly. “But thanks for visiting. And Lara…feel free to visit me any time.”
“Sure, why not?” Lara nodded and smiled at Kevin as she grabbed Jason’s arm tightly. In a bright flash of light which suddenly filled the room…they were gone.

 

Over The Edge, Part 3

Dayna blinked at the short guy and the tall blonde in the superhero outfit who sat calmly on the porch outside her house. The story they’d just told her was like nothing she ever thought she could have believed. The presence of Kian and Lara were the only things keeping her from questioning her sanity. She idly wondered if she was dreaming, then decided against it. Not even her dreams were this weird.
“So basically,” she addressed her online friend Jason, the short guy. “You’re telling me that everything we thought we created is real.”
Jason nodded. “Provided we actually write it, then yes.”
“And that Kian and Lara were kind of…free-floating spirits before we ‘discovered’ them.” Again, Jason nodded. Dayna sighed. “I think I need to stop going on those caffeine binges.”
Kian had been staring at Lara, the blonde, with something approaching awe. “What?” Lara asked finally.
“Nothing,” Kian said quickly. “I, um…that’s a very interesting outfit.”
“You only like it ’cause it’s Spandex,” Dayna teased.
Kian blinked. “Pardon?”
“Never mind.” Dayna turned to Lara. “And you’re the one who figured this all out?”
Lara shrugged. “Not exactly. It’s part of the knowledge that was given to me by the One.”
“Keanu Reeves?” Dayna supplied.
Jason groaned. “You need new jokes,” he said, rolling his eyes.
Lara glared at Dayna and leaned back in her seat. “The One,” she began, “is the creator of every universe. The Ultimate God, if you will. There are people in every dimension who can ‘tune in’ to the other universes, and by writing about them, give them form and structure. In that way, they are servants of the One. You and Jason are two of those servants, giving life – so to speak – to each of your respective realms.”
“What happens if a writer doesn’t write their story?” Dayna asked.
Lara grimaced. “It’s horrible – chaos,” she said with a shudder. “Entire universes are totally negated. Please don’t ask me what that feels like.”
“That’s probably why so many writers feel compelled to write,” Jason said. “That extra sense of responsibility.”
“Does it matter if the story gets published or not?” Dayna asked curiously.
“No,” Lara replied. “It’s the word that’s important. The word gives form to the event.”
“So what are you?” Kian asked abruptly. “If these two are the caretakers of dimensions, then what are you?”
“For the most part, I’m just a character,” Lara replied simply. “But I’m also what’s called a Guardian. I travel through several different dimensions, making sure everything is as it should be, averting minor crises. I can see what ordinary mortals cannot.”
Kian was impressed. “You’re like a Goddess,” he said almost reverently.
Lara gave Jason a long-suffering look.
“Just let it go,” he suggested.
“No,” Lara sighed. “I’m not a Goddess. What you call your Gods are also caretakers of your world – but what they do is control the natural laws of their universe after it has been given form. They deal with the day-to-day things once the writer is finished with the story.”
“It goes kind of like this, as I understand it,” Jason explained. “The One comes up with the ideas, the writers make them coherent, the Guardians proofread them, and the Gods take care of everything else.”
“That’s what I just said.”
“I like the way I put it better.”
Kian was struggling with a thought. “So what you’re saying is that I’m not real?” he demanded incredulously.
Lara laid her hand on his. “None of us are real, Kian,” she said gently. “And at the same time, we’re as real as anything. We are all children of the One, existing in our own worlds, unaware of all others.” She made a face at Kian. “Until you went and knocked us off-course,” she said pointedly.
“It wasn’t my fault!” he protested.
“Was it ours?” Dayna asked Jason.
He shrugged helplessly. “No clue,” he said. “Possibly. We might have been writing those scenes at the exact same moment, and…well…” He gestured, indicating Lara and Kian.
“Boom?” Dayna suggested.
“To put it succinctly.”
Dayna shook her head. “The mother of all brain leaks,” she sighed dramatically. “We really need to stop doing that.”
Jason smiled knowingly.
“So…” Kian began. “How do we get back to our own dimensions? Not that your world isn’t nice or anything,” he added quickly. “But I’ve got this pressing engagement back home.”
“Nothing simpler,” Lara assured him. “Jason will write a story that will put me back in my home dimension.”
“Just like that?” Kian asked dubiously.
“Just like that.”
“Easy for you to say,” Jason told his creation. “You’re not the one who has to come up with it.”
“Don’t be such a baby,” Lara shot back. “You get tons of ideas a week. You’re in charge of fully three dimensions. Besides, you don’t even have to strain your creativity. Just write down how the day’s gone.”
“Will that work for Kian too?”
“No. Dayna is in charge of Kian’s universe.” She pursed her lips. “I suppose you’ll have to co-write it with her. Call it a crossover or something.”
“We’ve been wanting to do that for a while anyway,” he agreed. “Well, I suppose you ought to fly me home so I can get on the computer…”
“What’s the hurry?” Dayna asked. “I mean, we don’t have to write it right this second, do we? Couldn’t we…?”
Jason raised an eyebrow. “You’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking, are you?”
Dayna grinned wickedly. “It is a Friday,” she pointed out. “And as long as we have visitors, we might as well show them around, right?”
Jason gave her a mildly disapproving look. “Show a blue elf around town? Yeah, that’ll go over well.”
“I’m not an elf!” Kian protested, but the writers barely heard him.
“How often do we get to hang out with our own characters?” Dayna pressed. “Besides, if what Lara says is true, we can write this so that only you and I will remember any of it.”
Jason’s mind was working very quickly now. He looked speculatively at Lara, her silky hair glistening like spun gold in the sunlight. “It’s got possibilities…” he admitted.
“Come on,” Dayna insisted with an impish grin. “It’ll be fun.”
Lara buried her face in her hands. “Why do I have a feeling I’m going to regret this?”
Kian patted her shoulder. “Be brave.”
“Well,” Jason said. “I suppose I could take Lara out on the town for a while without attracting too much attention. She’s at least been to an Earth before. But what are you going to do about Kian?”
Dayna considered it, looking over Kian’s alien features. There weren’t too many places you could take a guy with blue skin and pointy ears that weren’t Star Trek conventions. Except maybe…her face lit up. She knew just the place. “Tell me, Kian,” she asked coquettishly, taking the magus’ hand. “Do you dance?”


Kian stared at himself in the mirror with horror. “No,” he said emphatically. “Absolutely not!”
“Oh, come on, you look great,” Dayna said. “Don’t you guys think so?”
Dayna’s friends Ben and Mary sat side-by-side on the edge of Ben’s bed, staring hard at the water magus. “He’s…blue,” Mary said after a short, awkward silence. She’d said the same thing at least five times already since she and Ben and picked Kian and Dayna up from Dayna’s house, despite the somewhat evasive explanations the writer had given them. The foursome were currently involved in dressing Kian up as your typical adolescent suburban goth-rocker. Cajoling Kian into forgoing his own clothes for the night had been tedious, but Dayna was an expert cajoler, and Kian had finally surrendered. They’d gone through five different outfits already, Kian’s expression growing progressively more pained with each one. Currently the elder Roh was outfitted in a semi-conservative black t-shirt with the logo from “A Clockwork Orange” on it, a pair of blue jeans and sneakers. Dayna thought he looked kind of cute, actually. “Really blue,” Mary reiterated.
“You’ve mentioned that before,” Kian grumbled.
“Don’t be snippy,” Dayna admonished. “And Mary…remind me to write you a little less monotonously.”
“What?”
“Inside joke.” She looked over at Ben, who was idly fingering Kian’s tunic. “You seem to be taking this in stride,” she noted.
Ben shrugged. “I’m a gamer. I’m used to weird-looking guys hanging around. Hey, can I borrow this tunic for the Renaissance Fair?”
“No,” the other three replied in unison.
Ben sulked.
“I look ridiculous,” Kian complained, pulling at the collar of the shirt.
“You look fine. Really,” Dayna said again. “Black suits you.”
“He’s not bad-looking,” Mary acknowledged. Ben raised an eyebrow at his girlfriend. “You know,” she amended lamely. “For a blue guy.”
Ben kissed her hand. “Nice backpedal, dear.”
“You promise I won’t look out of place?” Kian asked plaintively.
“Actually, compared to most of the guys at Chasers, you’ll look relatively normal,” his creator said.
“Ain’t that some shit?” Ben observed sagely.
Kian sighed. “Suddenly, I’m getting nostalgic for a good old-fashioned fight to the death.”
Dayna laughed. “If that’s how you feel, then there’s a guy I really want to introduce you to.”


The room was cold, dark and high-ceilinged. Multicolored lights flashed from every corner, bathing the patrons in an array of horribly clashing hues. Black lights on the ceiling made any hints of white and certain colors fluoresce, and Kian’s eyes glowed ultraviolet as he surveyed the dance club. His first thought was that they were all insane. Dozens of people about his own age whirled and gyrated on the dance floor, horribly out of time with the music – which, apart from beingalmost painfully loud, wasn’t all that bad. He looked around for the source of the sound, found none, and decided to chalk it up as one of those Earth things. He listened again, more closely. The beat was steady, not overly fast, and the instruments…they were like nothing he’d ever heard, lush and layered and unreal. “What is this?” he asked Dayna, shouting to be heard above the din.
“Chasers,” she shouted back. “Your basic refuge for the underaged, disillusioned, overly pretentious suburbanite.”
“No, I meant the music,” Kian said. “What’s the song called?”
“‘Enjoy the Silence,'” Mary supplied.
“We’re into irony,” Ben added.
Kian was enraptured by the sound. He’d spent time in royal courts, listening to the most gifted musicians in Andanon, but this…although he really wished it wasn’t quite so loud, he found the song strangely compelling. Otherworldly. Which, come to think about it, was fairly accurate. “I like it,” he decided.
“Good for you,” Dayna congratulated him. “Want to dance?”
Kian flushed. “Oh no, I…I couldn’t,” he stammered. “There’s…people and I don’t really know-”
“Kian,” she said in a level tone. “Look around. None of these people can actually dance. I can’t dance. The whole point here is to make an ass of yourself while having a lot of fun doing it. Besides,” she said flippantly. “I kind of made you. Believe me when I say that you can not-dance with the best of them.”
Kian looked at Ben and Mary. “Is she always like this?”
“You have no idea,” Ben sighed wearily.
“Don’t tell stories,” Dayna admonished her friend. She grabbed Kian’s hand and pulled him onto the dance floor. “Come on. Let’s go conform to non-conformity.”
“I wish I was dead,” he moaned, fixing an imploring gaze on Ben and Mary, who simply smiled and waved.
At first, Kian simply stood uncomfortably as Dayna danced to the music. She wasn’t graceful by any means, but she wasn’t as bad as she’d suggested, either. She grabbed his hands and smiled, trying to get him moving. He began to dance, halfheartedly at first, but then with greater abandon when he realized nobody was really watching him anyway. He tried imitating what the other kids were doing, feeling very self-conscious, but figuring he wouldn’t remember any of it once he got back home.
“Pretty slick,” his creator complimented him. He stuck his tongue out at her, and she laughed. “I’ll let you off the hook,” she said as the song changed. “Let’s go sit down.”
She dragged him over to an apparently vacated table to sit back and catch their breath. “What did you think?”
Kian thought about it for a moment. “It was different.”
“That’s a tactful way of putting it.”
“You didn’t actually want the truth, did you?” he asked knowingly, and they both busted up laughing. They spent the next half-hour watching the dancers, joking and telling each other stories of life on Earth and Andanon.
“You’re in my seat,” an all-too-familiar voice said suddenly, freezing Dayna’s blood. She turned around.
Kian saw a tall, lanky guy with short, shaggy brown hair. He was almost as pale as Kian’s friend Aron, but his face didn’t have the same open friendliness as Aron’s. He was dressed in all black, the same as everyone else in this place, but he stood out to Kian – mainly because the guy was staring at Dayna with totally undisguised contempt.
Dayna looked very uncomfortable. Kian noticed her hands clenching almost involuntarily. “I don’t see your name on it,” she replied coldly.
“I see my coat hanging on the back of your chair,” he pointed out.
Dayna looked behind her. “Huh. So it is.” Then, very deliberately, she knocked the guy’s coat to the floor. She smiled viciously. “Guess now it’s not your seat anymore.”
The guy glared at her, then bent to retrieve his coat. “Bitch,” he snarled as he went out onto the floor. Dayna closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Don’t hit him,” she murmured. “Don’t hit him…”
“I get the distinct impression that I’m missing something here,” Kian said lightly.
“Long story,” Dayna replied wearily.
“Old boyfriend?” Kian surmised.
“Maybe not so long.”
He patted her hand reassuringly. “Ignore him. He’s not really bothering you. You’re not hurting each other.”
She laughed at that. “Boy, you should have been here last time.”
“Short story?”
“He broke my heart, so I bruised his jaw.” Off Kian’s look, she said, “I don’t want to hear it. I’ve already heard every possible reaction to that revelation.”
“I could do better than hitting,” he offered.
Dayna blinked. “Except that one,” she said, surprised. Then she sighed. “Forget about it. I already had my revenge, and besides, I’m in enough trouble with my friends for that sucker punch as it is.”
“This is your story,” he reminded her. “They won’t even remember it.”
She paused. “That’s true, isn’t it?” She thought for a moment, and then an evil grin spread across her face. She leaned over and whispered into Kian’s ear.
“Dayna!” he gasped, shocked to the core. “That’s a horrible thing to do to a man!”
“But you will do it, won’t you, Kian?” she pleaded in a little-girl voice. “For me?” She fluttered her eyelashes at him.
Kian stalked off to the men’s room to lie in wait for his prey, muttering to himself and gesticulating wildly.
Ten minutes later, he came back out, almost bursting at the seams with suppressed mirth. “Let’s get out of here,” he said quickly, grabbing Dayna’s arm. She snatched up her coat, and the pair made a mad dash for the door. Outside in the parking lot, Kian finally gave in, howling with laughter.
“What did you do?” Dayna demanded.
Kian gave another chuckle, wiping a tear from his eye. “I couldn’t do what you asked me to,” he apologized. “That’s just too painful.”
“What did you do?” she asked again impatiently.
“I froze him,” Kian admitted.
Dayna stared at him. “You froze him?” she repeated incredulously.
“Well…not all of him,” he replied evasively.
“Kian, what-”
Just then Ben and Mary stepped out of the building. Ben was shaking his head in disbelief, and Mary was cackling. “Why, whatever is the matter?” Kian asked innocently.
“You’re not going to believe what just happened to Howie!” Mary laughed.
“Try me,” Dayna said, folding her hands across her chest. She deliberately avoided looking at Kian.
“You better tell her,” Mary said to her boyfriend. “I’m having trouble breathing.” She burst into another fit of giggling.
“Don’t ask me how it possibly could’ve happened,” Ben said, totally at a loss. “I went into the bathroom, and there he was, just…” He paused. “Well, he was…” He stopped again, groping for the words. “Let me put it this way. You ever hear the joke about the weather being so cold, the dogs are sticking to the fire hydrants?”
Realization dawned on Dayna. She gaped at Kian, who simply gave her a little smirk.
Then she doubled over in helpless laugher.
“You’re cold,” Ben accused.
“I bet he’s colder,” Dayna gasped. “Ohhh God…”
Ben and Kian shared a look. “Is it really that bad?” Kian asked mildly.
“They’ll probably have to chip him loose.” Ben sighed. “Let’s just go home.”
“Don’t you want to stop at Denny’s first?” Dayna asked, still chuckling.
Ben shook his head. “Believe me when I tell you that I really don’t feel like eating.”

Over The Edge, Part 2

“Darn…he’s not home.”
Lara looked through the glass rear patio door of her friend Jason’s small home, staring at the small black dog barking at her. She smiled as the dog’s name came to her – “Behr.” Behr was the loud one…the other small black dog, Ernie, was the quiet one.
Her mind flashed back to the first of many visits to the home – the time when she stopped by to convince Jason that she was real. She wasn’t sure whether he would panic, go into denial, or accept it. But to Lara’s relief, he not only accepted it, he took it in stride as if he actually expected it somehow. At the time, she was glad he was so open-minded – but now, she hoped he was even more so.
She sat down on the small wooden bench on the deck behind the home, momentarily making faces at the barking Behr before pausing to formulate a plan. She knew she couldn’t just sit outside on the deck and wait – even though it was comfortable, and surrounded by an eight-foot fence, sooner or later someone would notice a costumed superhero sitting outside by herself.
As Lara sat quietly for a few minutes, she began to worry a little bit. What if she could never return home? What if her friends from Third Realm – Kara, Jillian, Kusanagi, and Michael – never saw her again? Would they assume she was dead, or would they be searching for her?
Lara sighed quietly and looked skyward for a moment, in the general direction of a universe which was, until a short time ago, her playground. But in truth, as some sort of mysterious human-alien hybrid, she was never really at home anywhere. It was her power to harness energy, her status as a Guardian which allowed her to travel from place to place – yet no place was truly a permanent home. Being immortal, it was her fate to be some sort of galactic nomad, or risk raising the suspicions of humans she lived among.
She shook off those depressing thoughts for a moment as she wondered if Jason was still at work. Lara stood and looked through the glass again in search of a clock. There was one – on a microwave oven – which indicated four-thirty. Lara paced around the deck twice, searching her memory. She remembered he showed her where he worked once…
“The red glass building!” Lara stood suddenly as she remembered where he worked. She had visited him there once, in civilian clothing – an incident which ended embarrassingly for both.
She looked skyward, intent on flying to Jason’s workplace. Only she remembered that she had no idea how to get there. The last time Lara visited what Jason called “the evil red building,” she had simply appeared outside it from her home Earth.
That’s when she decided to give her teleport power one more chance. While she knew she couldn’t teleport off of the planet, or to other realities, perhaps she would be able to transport from one place to another on a single planet.
She held her hands in front of her face, watching them turn translucent slowly – yet she felt no pain. It was working!


Jason Froikin cursed to himself and kicked an old computer as yet another one of those annoying blue error screens suddenly took possession of the machine. He was upset – after spending hours troubleshooting the machine, he had been able to fix it no more than the psychic in the movie “Poltergeist” was able to rid that house of its evil spirit. Luckily, no one could hear his curses through the closed door of the computer room.
Unfortunately, he forgot to lock that door.
“Jason, someone is at your desk looking for you.”
He looked up from his work for a moment to see a woman who worked in Accounts Payable standing in the doorway, the door partially open. “What else is new?”
The woman laughed. “She said it’s urgent. And she’s wearing…uh…a cape.”
“Huh?” Jason suddenly sat up and looked at the woman sideways. “A cape? Is she wearing red and blue?”
“No.” The woman shook her head. “Black.”
“Black?” He stood and walked past the woman standing in the doorway, as she stepped aside. “What the heck is she doing here?”
Jason took the long way around the fourth floor of the building to get to his desk. He wanted to see who was waiting for him at his desk before she spotted him. As he approached, he could see two black boots with white stripes resting on his desk. “Hi, Lara. What’s up?”
He frowned as he watched the guy in the cubicle next to his peek around the corner, confused. He just knew the guy was going to ask some stupid question.
“Who’re you supposed to be?” he asked Lara.
“I’m a figment of his imagination.” Lara indicated Jason with a tilt of her head. The guy shook his head and retreated to his desk, unable to come up with a response.
“Nice laptop.” Lara poked the trackpad on Jason’s PowerBook once, and pointed at the screen. “Is that Sharon Holmes on the desktop picture?”
Jason nodded. “ZiO drew that one. I colored it.”
“Nice. Is that ZiO on ICQ? Can I talk to him?”
He nodded again. “That’s him. He’s set to ‘busy’ right now, so he probably won’t answer. So what brings you here, anyway?”
Lara smiled and thought of a funny answer to that question…but shook her head instead. “Nah, too easy. I’m here because…I’m stuck here.”
“Stuck here? Did you get a flat tire? Should I call triple-A?”
“Triple-A?” Lara raised an eyebrow.
Jason shook his head. “Never mind, stupid joke. So why are you stuck here?”
“Well…” Lara leaned back in the chair and sighed. What had happened wouldn’t be easy to explain – hopefully, Jason would understand it anyway. “I was heading to Otherverse, and I…collided with someone. Some guy with blue skin.”
“Blue skin?” Jason tried his best to contain a smile as he motioned for Lara to continue.
“Yes,” she continued, after giving Jason a short glare. “I came crashing down in Whitewater Forest. I tried to leave again, but…it really hurt. I can no longer teleport myself off of this Earth. I’m stuck here.”
“Could be worse.” Jason frowned at the guy in the next cubicle again as his head poked around the corner. “You could have been in pajamas at the time.”
“The way people have stared at me since I got here, I feel like I am.” Lara laughed and pointed at the guy peeking around the corner. He immediately retreated again. “See?”
“Well…” Jason looked at his watch briefly before closing the laptop computer on his desk, stuffing it into a black computer bag on his desk. The bag looked rather heavy as he lifted it over his shoulder. “Time for me to go home anyway. I’ll meet you there, and we can talk more.”
“No way…I’m coming with you!” Lara stood quickly, shoving the rolling chair under the desk. “I am not getting lost again.”


“Californians drive a lot faster then people do here.” Lara glanced over at the speedometer in the center of the red Plymouth Neon’s dashboard. It read sixty-five miles per hour as they cruised along a boring stretch of concrete freeway. “You’d be left in the dust.”
“Yeah, but they don’t have those in California.” Jason pointed at a police car parked on the side of the road, the officer pointing a Lidar gun several cars back. “This city is speed trap central.”
“Chicken.”
Jason laughed and shook his head.
It took a half-hour for them to arrive at Jason’s home, after stopping along the way for Italian take-out food – cheese-covered breadsticks and veggie Calzones. As soon as Jason unlocked and opened the door, Lara had to laugh as the two dogs became torn between barking at her and smelling the bag holding the food. In the end, Ernie did most of the smelling, and Behr did most of the barking.
“Just pat her head,” Jason said as he began unpacking the food, “She’ll calm down.”
Lara watched with amusement as the twenty-pound black Schipperke seemed to make friends with her after a few scratches behind the ear. She had visited before, but not often enough to be familiar to the two dogs – and, she guessed, the costume probably made her harder for them to recognize.
As soon as the two dogs were fed and sent outside to the fenced-in yard for a short time, Jason finally moved the food to the dining room table to eat. The dogs sat patiently under the table, two small symbols of hope springing eternal, as they waited for someone to drop them a few scraps.
“Don’t feed them,” Jason admonished as he watched Lara hold a chunk of breadstick above Behr. “It encourages them to beg at the table. Besides, they’ll end up fighting over it.”
“Fine.” Lara placed the piece of bread back on her plate, only to sneak it across to the other side of her chair seconds later. Behr was grateful for it. Lara didn’t feel too guilty – she had caught Jason doing the same on an earlier visit. “So…what do we do about my being stuck here?”
Jason paused between bites to stare out the dining room window. “To tell you the truth…I still don’t understand why you’re stuck here.”
Lara smiled knowingly. “That’s the easy part. You see, traveling between dimensions is like driving one of those motorized jet skis-”
“More California references?”
“Why not?” Lara shrugged. “I’m from there. As I was saying…when you’re cruising along on a jet ski, you generate a wake. If another jet ski rider crosses that wake-”
“He’d fall off…right?”
Lara nodded. “Right. And if two jet skis collide…both riders fall off, and can be seriously hurt.
“But here’s the tricky part,” Lara continued as she leaned forward to use two fingers as a visual aid on the table. “Once the jet skis collide, the plastic shells crack…they take on water. They have to be repaired before they can run properly again.”
“So basically…you need to have your jet ski repaired.”
“Exactly.” Lara leaned back and folded her arms, as her smile slowly disappeared. “Only beyond the metaphor I just made up…I have no idea how to fix my problem. Unless-”
“Unless what?”
Lara stood and began pacing the room slowly. “What I’m about to tell you is going to sound like kind of a shock. Are you sure you’re ready?”
Jason leaned back and nodded.
“Before you started writing me as a fictional character, I existed as a spirit somewhere. We sort of…found each other. The same is true of most relationships between writers and complex characters of theirs. It’s like finding a kindred soul out in the void and adopting it.
“What that means,” Lara continued as she leaned against the table, “is that when you write about me, either you write what you sense is happening to me…or it happens to me as you write it.”
“But what if I sense it, and it doesn’t happen until I write it?” Jason smiled and leaned forward, as he began to get into the spirit of the dizzying conversation. “That makes more sense, the way the ideas come to me. I see it happen first, then I write it.”
Lara nodded. “That would mean that to characters like me, writers are virtually prophets…and your visions are directly from a God.”
“So all I have to do is write you a path back home.” Jason smiled as he stood to clean up the plates left on the table. “That sounds easy enough.”
“Almost easy enough.” Lara tapped a finger against her nose as she stared out the window, lost in thought. “But…remember the colliding jet skis? Someone else is stranded, too – the blue-skinned guy. I can’t go home until he’s saved as well. We have to find his writer too…a nearly impossible task.”
Jason smiled knowingly at the mention of the “blue-skinned guy” again. “Oh…I don’t think it’s so impossible.”


“Kian…that name sounds so familiar.”
Lara sat on the couch in Jason’s living room, leaned back to get a better view of the screen on his laptop computer, which was on the coffee table. “How do you know his name?”
Jason smiled. “After what you said about writers and fictional characters, it makes sense. Kian Roh is the only blue-skinned fictional character I can think of. My friend Dayna Abel is the one who writes his stories.”
“Oh, yeah…7 Stars, I remember that. It’s good.”
“Yeah, it is. But the new book is called Immortal.” Jason turned his attention back to the computer as the MSN Messenger software, slow as ever, came to life. “Bill Gates had better not mess with me today, or-”
“Or what?”
Jason shrugged. “I’m glad you asked. Maybe, while you’re stuck here, you can visit his home and fry all of his electronics.”
“Nah, it’s not worth it…he’d just take it out on the public. It’s a vicious cycle.”
“I never thought of it that way.” Jason nearly jumped out of his seat when the telltale chat window chirp echoed loudly from the laptop speakers. His hunch paid off – Dayna was not only online, she had been waiting impatiently for him to show up. ‘Where have you been?’ the first line read. ‘I REALLY need to talk to you about something.’
‘Let me guess,’ Jason typed quickly, ‘Kian is over there?’
There was a short pause. ‘Okay, what have I told you about these brain leaks?’ was the reply.
Jason leaned back a little from the shock, his eyes widening noticeably as he paused to stare at that last line. Kian Roh…was real? He glanced over at Lara for a moment, remembering who he was just about to ask. Then again, Lara looked almost like a normal human – a blue-skinned young man, undeniably from another planet, was another matter.
Jason responded to Dayna’s last message quickly. ‘Guess who is visiting me?’
‘Are you and Kevin hosting a Supergirl convention at your house?’
‘Funny…but no,’ Jason responded, ‘Lara is visiting. And apparently, she ran into Kian on the way here.’
‘Oh, God,’ Dayna answered, ‘They’re going to lock us both up, aren’t they?’
‘Maybe…but wouldn’t they have to lock up Lara and Kian first?’ Jason smiled as he typed in that last line, and turned to look at Lara – but she just glared at him.
“I’d like to get home before you two are hauled away to the loony bin, if you don’t mind.” An amused smile from Lara made it clear that she was just joking.
‘Then she must have been the white light Kian said he ran into,’ Dayna typed. ‘I think the four of us need to get together here. Think you can handle a face-to-face meeting?’
Jason smiled. Another opportunity to abuse a movie quote from “Ghostbusters” made itself apparent. Lara, seeing the next phrase coming, rolled her eyes before he even finished typing it. ‘I think that would be extraordinarily dangerous.’


“Oh, that’s just great.” Lara sighed loudly and sat down on the bench behind Jason’s house. “You know Dayna’s address…but you have no idea where that is?”
Jason shrugged. “I’ve never been there. And the one time I went anywhere in Illinois, I spent the entire time completely lost. I do have an idea, however – I’ll think of someplace I do know, and you could teleport us there. Then we could get a cab to go the rest of the way.”
“I can do that?” Lara looked a little confused.
“Sure.” Jason smiled. “I thought of it in a dream. And since I first discovered you in a dream…”
“…you figured this would work too.” Lara stood quickly and held her left hand out to Jason. “All right, it’s worth a try. Worst that can happen is you’ll be burned to a crisp.”
“That’s not funny,” Jason said as the two suddenly disappeared from his backyard. He felt a heat run through his body…and in just a split second, his backyard had been replaced by manicured greenery in some kind of public park. And a thirty-foot arch made of marble.
“This isn’t Illinois, Jason. We’re in London!” Lara frowned as she pointed at traffic sailing down the left side of the road nearby. “How the heck did that happen?”
Jason shrugged. “Sorry, my mind was wandering. Let’s try it again.”
Lara nodded as she took Jason’s hand again. This time, they appeared in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn somewhere outside Chicago. Lara frowned as she stared at the tall glass building. “Why here?”
“I know someone who works here,” Jason answered, “He should be able to get us a cab.”
“Okay. And just so you know…”
“Know what?” Jason turned around quickly, worried that Lara was about to give him more bad news.
Lara motioned for Jason to keep walking. “This is the last time I ask you for help with navigation. You have less sense of direction then I do.”


Jason limped out of the taxicab as soon as it came to a stop outside a small yellow one-story house. He and Lara had just finished a long – and expensive – ride from the Holiday Inn. He pulled a small, crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket to check it again. “I hope this is the right house.”
“Yeah, well…” Lara said as she turned to watch the cab drive away quickly, “It better be. We just lost our ride.”
“I hope this isn’t a dangerous neighborhood.” Jason looked up and down the street quickly. “That cab left kind of quickly.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that.” Lara stiffened to stand taller, holding her arms out at her sides, taking a deep breath to give her next words more depth. “Ah pity the fool who messes with the ‘L’!”
Jason laughed out loud at Lara’s impression of Mr. T. “Sorry, Lara. It just doesn’t work for you.”
Both Jason and Lara jumped back as the front door of the house suddenly opened. A brunette of average height stood in the doorway as she looked at Lara’s costume carefully, then at Jason.
“What took you two so long?” She walked outside, followed by a blue-skinned young man several inches taller than her, with blonde hair and violet eyes.
Jason and Lara looked at each other, silently sharing a thought – they knew the guy with the blue skin had to be Kian, and the brunette must be Dayna. “Sorry, Dayna,” Jason apologized. “The cab ride took longer than we thought.”
“You took a cab? From Chicago?” she asked incredulously. “Why didn’t you just take the train to Geneva? The station’s only about ten minutes from here.”
Lara and Jason looked at each other. “I didn’t know there was a train,” Jason admitted, embarrassed.
“Obviously,” Lara said deprecatingly.
Dayna tried without much success to stifle a chuckle. “Well, it’s nice to see you in person, finally,” she said. “And you must be Lara Night.”
Lara shook Dayna’s hand. “It’s a pleasure,” she said. She noticed Kian standing off to the side uncomfortably. “And you must be the guy I ran into earlier.”
“Sorry about that,” Kian mumbled.
“Don’t worry about it,” Lara forgave him. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”
“Why don’t we all have a seat out here?” Dayna suggested, indicating the wicker chairs on the porch. “I think we need to have a talk.”

Over The Edge, Part 1

Kian Roh stood in the ancient Temple of Anthai, watching intently as his younger sister Maia silently prepared to open the gateway to the Land of the Gods. Kian, for his part, was apprehensive about the whole thing. Although he had somewhat come to terms with the fact that Maia could take care of herself, he was still almost always apprehensive where his sister was concerned. They’d faced mortal danger together before, along with their friends Aron and Risa – who, at this moment, stood beside Kian before the dais – and prevailed. Kian commanded water magic, and Maia was a fire magus, and between the two of them, there was very little that stood a chance against the siblings.
But this was different. Maia was the focus of an ancient prophecy that demanded she go to Alderia, Land of the Gods, to face and destroy the insane God Ral Gant. That was the part that worried him. His green-skinned, silver-haired sister was an extremely capable young lady, but what mortal could hope to stand against a God? And how could Maia have been in a prophecy that was a thousand years old? Ten’maa’s blood, she was only eighteen!
Kian shook his head. Worrying wouldn’t do any good. All he could do was pray to the Gods – excepting one, of course – that Maia would prove equal to her task. He grinned suddenly. Of course, with him at her side, how could she not?
Kian fixed his violet eyes on his sister. She stood with her arms raised in supplication, her face tilted towards the sky. Her fire magic began to build at her hands, the shimmering red spilling out of her palms and over her fingers.
Without warning, Maia’s slender body jerked forward, and the magic burst from her outthrust hands and struck the empty air, spattering against it like raindrops on a window. The magic began to swirl, whirling faster and faster in a circle, its crimson hue gradually fading to warm gold. Kian shielded his eyes as his sister was absorbed into the portal. Suddenly, the golden vortex shot forward, enveloping Aron and Risa in its auric arms of flame, and finally Kian himself was sucked into its depths, being drawn toward Alderia.
As he passed between the dimensions, pulled along the fiery tunnel almost against his will, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye – a white light hurtling towards him at lightning speed! Kian tried to duck out of its way, but he was immobilized by the gold fire. He shut his eyes tightly and braced for impact.
The shock was incredible when the white light passed over Kian’s body. He howled in pain as his muscles were ratcheted by a powerful electrical jolt. His blue skin actually began to steam from the heat of it. Mercifully, Kian blacked out from the pain. His last conscious thought was the sensation of falling.


Lara Night found herself plummeting through soft white clouds, the cool mist saturating her skin and hair as she passed through them. She was spinning out of control, feeling her stomach churn as glimpses of the horizon passed before her eyes, never in the same place as before. Thoughts were racing through her mind – that it was all an illusion somehow, that it was a dream. It couldn’t be real.
Before long, she felt branches and leaves tearing at her skin and clothing as the sound of cracking wood filled her ears. Closing her eyes, she began to silently pray that none of the cracking sounds were her own limbs…she begged for the falling to stop.
And it did.
The breath in her lungs rushed out of her violently as the merciless ground slammed into her back. She felt her head bounce once slightly after it hit, and a wave of dizziness followed almost immediately. As she opened her eyes slowly, she realized the falling was over – but she had no idea where she had come to a stop.
“Ohhh…that hurt.” Lara sat up slowly, leaning her head against her left palm to try and stop her head from throbbing painfully. A quick survey of her arms, hands, legs and head told her that she was uninjured – yet every muscle and joint in her body cried out to her. Resistance to damage didn’t always guarantee absence of pain.
She stood slowly, and paused to pick out the many leaves and branches which had wedged themselves in her hair, as well as inside her costume. She decided not to ask herself how the foliage ended up in there – some things were better off not discovering.
As soon as she’d had a few moments to calm herself, Lara tried to remember the events which had preceded her fall and violent crash to the ground. She had traveled across the universe, even between realities, dozens of times without incident. What had been different this time?
Lara remembered leaving her home in Los Angeles in her black and white costume, locking her door before she leapt toward the skies. She wanted to begin her cross-reality journey to Otherverse in the air, so she would end up in the air once she re-materialized on Otherverse Earth. It gave her an advantage over anything which might be on the ground at the time.
That was the last thing she remembered clearly. Then, a vision – a blue-skinned young man, flying toward her at high velocity. She felt him pass through her intangible energy form as she instinctively cringed and closed her eyes in anticipation of an impact which never occurred. Next thing she remembered-
Lara looked up at the trees painfully and sighed. It was time to forget the past and begin exploring to figure out exactly where she was. She began walking through the forest she had apparently landed in the middle of. It was a short walk – by the time she took a few steps, she saw a single-lane paved road winding through the woods…as well as a wooden sign.
“Whitewater Forest?” She smiled as the words she spoke out loud reached her own ears. She knew where she was – on the home Earth of someone she hadn’t visited in a while. He was a good listener, someone who was nice to her…someone she was happy to call a friend.
But just as she considered visiting him, her thoughts turned again to the blue-skinned young man. An ordinary human falling from the sky would have been killed – had the “blue guy” met the same fate? Was he seriously injured, in need of help? Lara knew that as long as she had a chance of saving someone who could possibly be dying…she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t.
She leapt into the sky, quickly shifting into intangibility, intent on sending herself to wherever the “blue guy” went. Only as soon as she began to change to energy, she felt pain like never before. Her skin felt as if it was on fire, like someone had just tossed her into a blast furnace. The shock was enough to break her concentration, causing her to fall to the ground once more, not even feeling it this time when she crash-landed.
As the pain subsided, she rose slowly to her feet. She looked at her hands, expecting to see burns, even blood – but they were uninjured.
“What is going on here?” Lara looked up at the sky again as she stepped over to the edge of the road on shaky legs. She thought about flying somewhere…anywhere that could help her find out what was happening. But after her last attempt, she had to build her courage first.
Lara floated off the ground gently, higher and higher – testing herself, to be prepared for any pain her flight might cause. But even as she rose above the treetops, she felt nothing. She looked at her hands again, realizing in a flash what had caused the sudden, painful heat – she had been trying to teleport herself somewhere!
“That’s it! I can’t travel-” Lara’s voice began in triumphant discovery, but trailed off in sadness. She began to realize that she was trapped on this Earth, and didn’t understand why. Her mind imagined the blue-skinned young man somewhere, bleeding to death…and she was helpless to stop it.
A deep sigh cleared her mind. She couldn’t harbor any fear, any worries – the problem at hand, her inability to leave this universe, would have to be addressed first. Lara knew she would have to visit the one person with enough imagination – and possibly power – to send her home. “Well…I’m off to see the wizard.”


Kian regained consciousness just in time to see that he was falling head-first towards a small body of water. With a startled cry, he extended his arms and summoned his magic. A silvery shimmer shot downwards, enveloped the rapidly approaching ground, and brought up the water into a cushioning fountain.
Kian splashed hard into the waterspout, but it worked – slowly, he lowered himself until he could let himself fall without breaking any bones.
“Gods, what a headache,” he groaned. His skull was pounding, and every muscle in his body twitched spasmodically as a result of the shock he’d gotten from going through the portal to Alderia…he stopped himself in mid-thought. The shock hadn’t been from the portal, he realized abruptly. It was that white blur he saw.
Puzzled, he looked around for Maia, but didn’t see her – or Aron or Risa, for that matter. A horrible realization began to ice up in his stomach. This was not Alderia. He knew it instinctively. For one thing, it looked like he was in somebody’s backyard. It was fenced in, and had a large willow tree off in one corner. The other side was landscaped with odd-looking plants, although they had yet to bloom. In the middle of everything (where, though?) was what looked like a pond set in stone. Kian turned around, and sure enough, a yellow one-story house was staring back at him.
“This day can’t get any worse,” Kian lamented. Right on cue, as if to disprove his words, a pair of large, barking dogs came barreling towards him. Kian, it must be said, shrieked and ran like a woman – only there was nowhere to run. The larger, honey-colored dog leapt up and put his front paws on Kian’s chest, knocking him over. The smaller, black dog took the sleeve of Kian’s tunic and pulled, growling menacingly.
“Opie! Floyd! Knock it off!” a woman’s voice called out sharply from the house. The dogs abandoned Kian and ran to the back door. Kian sat up, shaking his head to clear the mental cobwebs, and looked up to see who had called the dogs off.
She was a young woman, barely out of her teens, with thick, rich auburn hair and pale skin. She was of average height and was dressed in the strangest clothing Kian had ever seen – blue pants of an odd fabric and a sleeveless black shirt of an unfamiliar cut. She wasn’t wearing any shoes, and Kian noticed that she had pretty feet.
“What are you getting into now, huh?” she asked the dogs, scratching their ears while their tails wagged enthusiastically. She looked up at Kian, and her blue eyes widened in sudden shock.
Kian caught her gaze and managed a guilty wave. “Hello,” he said lamely.
The girl continued staring. Kian indicated his wet, muddy clothes. “Could you give me a towel or something?”
“A towel. Sure,” the girl repeated dumbly. “Ah…can you come over here for a second?”
Kian acquiesced, looking apprehensively at the growling dogs, but the girl had them firmly by their collars. She stared at him for a long time, taking in his blonde hair, violet eyes, pointed ears and undeniably blue skin. She also noticed his dripping clothes – a yellow tunic, tan leather pants, soft leather half-boots and a dark blue traveling cloak. After a very long scrutiny, she sighed.
“Well, that’s it,” she said glumly. “I’ve finally snapped. I suppose I can go bomb my old high school or something now.”
Kian squinted at her. “Are you…quite all right?”
“Oh, sure. I’m fine. I’m seeing fictional characters walking around in my backyard, so yeah, I’m just perfect.” Her words were heavily laced with sarcasm.
Kian frowned. “Fictional?”
“Well, yeah. There’s this whole thing where you don’t exist and I’m insane.”
“I’m…” Kian began, then thought better of it. “Well, mostly I’m wet, but I’m also very lost, so could you please tell me where I am?”
The girl shooed the dogs into the house, shut the door and faced Kian. “Not until you tell me what happened to you.”
Kian sighed. It was going to be one of those days. “I was with my sister and friends at the Temple of Anthai. We were going to Alderia, and as I was traveling through the portal, I-”
“So you are him,” the girl said in amazement.
“Pardon?”
“Kian. You’re Kian Roh.” The girl stared at him, bewildered. “And I’m…talking to you.”
Kian decided that maybe the girl was a little crazy. “It seems you have the advantage over me.”
The girl smiled despite herself. Well, I’m nuts, not rude, she thought. “Dayna,” she introduced herself. “Dayna Abel.”
Kian shook her hand politely. “I’m quite sure we haven’t met before,” he pointed out.
Dayna frowned. “Let’s assume for a minute that I haven’t lost my mind. How did you end up here?”
“I don’t know!” Kian said in frustration. “I was going to Alderia and this white light hit me. I blacked out, and the next thing I know-”
“-you’re making a nosedive into my pool,” she finished for him.
“And for that matter, where is here?”
“Earth,” Dayna said with a shrug. “You won’t have heard of it. I hate to tell you, Kian, but you’re on another world.”
Kian absorbed that. “Okay. So how did I get here, and what was that white light?”
“I don’t know,” Dayna admitted. “I didn’t put that in the book.”
Kian blinked. “What?”
“Never mind. Why don’t you come inside and dry off? You and I need to have a very long talk.” She grinned suddenly. “You’re lucky I’ve got the house to myself this weekend. My dad thinks my friend Jay looks like a freak. He’d have apoplexy if he saw you.”
Kian followed Dayna into the house. Strange girl, he thought to himself.

City On The Edge

“I hate working in cities, man.” A man dressed in military battle fatigues leaned his rifle against a brick wall and sat down, leaning his back against the wall. “Especially Metropolis. It just creeps me out.”

Another similarly dressed man stood above him, laughing and shaking his head slowly. “Hey, don’t fall asleep Hicks, or the Raptors will get you.”

“Shut up, Hudson.”

Hudson paced around a bit more as Hicks began opening their rations for their ‘dinner on the run’. They had both been working without food or sleep for almost a full day now, as they kept moving to avoid what Hicks referred to as the ‘Raptors’. Small, carnivorous dinosaur-like creatures, who hunted in the shadows, preying on those who were not quick enough to get away.

A loud beep interrupted Hicks, causing him to drop the rations and nervously juggle his radio before dropping it as well. “Hicks here.”

“Geez, you’re as nervous as a cat on a dog’s back.”

“Funny, Hudson.” Hicks held the radio closer to his ear, covering his other ear to keep out any extra background noise. The message over the radio was fuzzy, and he was trying his best to listen in.

Hudson’s smile began changing to a frown as he watched Hicks turn pale suddenly. Something in Hicks’ eyes prompted him to go ‘on alert’, as he gripped his assault rifle tightly in his hands. “What is it Hicks? What’s up?”

Hicks leapt to his feet, his weapon now firmly in his hands. “Raptors are coming toward us. They just wiped out the fourth group.”

“Damn.” Hudson looked down at the ground, to the wrappers from the rations that Hicks hurriedly crammed back into his backpack before he stood up. “It’s the food, Hicks. They can smell the damned food!”

“Oh, hell.” Hicks tore the backpack from his shoulders quickly, tossing it into a nearby alley. As soon as the backpack hit the ground, something – some creature, as tall as a human being – snatched the pack in it’s jaws and vanished. “What the hell was that, Hudson?”

“Oh, man.” Hudson began backing away from the scene slowly. “We never signed up for this, Hicks. This is–”

Hicks didn’t even bother waiting for Hudson to finish. He snatched Hudson’s shoulder quickly and shoved him, hard. “Shut up and run!”

Sharon Holmes hated having to return to that bunker in Europe again after nearly being caught in its explosion and collapse. But she was on a search for evidence. Something deep down told her that the Ancient Book of Rai wasn’t the only thing Lex Luthor was looking for – when she confronted him, he behaved almost as if he had found the book by accident. No, he was definitely there for something else.

She quickly pulled a small shovel out of her backpack, tossed the pack aside, and started using the shovel to move debris from the explosion. She was working without a permit again, so she occasionally checked around to make sure no one was watching. Technically anything used by the Third Reich would be property of the German government – but Sharon knew that anything found in that bunker would be too dangerous in their hands.

Almost as soon as she began digging, Sharon found a small container, a small box which resembled a music box. It was made of pure gold. She thought it was odd that Luthor would steal a book and discard the box – unless the box contained something much more valuable. She opened the box slowly – and inside, noticed a symbol of some sort carved into the bottom half of the box. It seemed like it used to hold something…but what?

“It’s a soul catcher.”

Sharon dropped the box and turned abruptly, with both pistols drawn, but began to relax as she saw a young woman about her height in a black and white costume smiling at her. Sharon shook her head. “Can’t walk ten feet these days without running into one of you super-types. Which one are you? Mystic Girl?”

The woman laughed. “No, I’m just Lara Night. I made up a few nicknames, but no one wants to use them anyway. So I’m just Lara.”

“Lara?” Sharon smiled and folded her arms. “For some reason, that name is very familiar to me.”

“Probably because you heard Kara or Linda talking about me.”

Sharon nodded. “Yes, that must be it. What did you mean by ‘soul catcher’?”

“It works with the Ancient Book of Rai.” Lara reached down to pick up the golden box. “You wear it around your neck, it prevents your soul from being taken when you use the spells in the book.”

“How do you know all of this?” Sharon folded her arms and gave Lara a disbelieving look.

“I’m from another Earth. Much like this one, but with no known living super-heroes.” Lara handed Sharon the golden box and smiled. “All of these items are part of legend on my Earth.”

Sharon shrugged. “Can’t be any worse then the alternate Earth I’ve been to. You’ve been there too, haven’t you?”

“Very perceptive.” Lara nodded. “Aren’t you going to ask me why I’m here?”

“To be honest, if you’re not here to help I don’t really care.” Sharon smiled a little, to take the edge off of her brutally honest answer. “But I’ll humor you. Tell me.”

“As a matter of fact, I am here to help.” Lara folded her arms and began walking a circle around Sharon, slowly. “I need to know if Lex Luthor made any copies of the Ancient Book of Rai.”

“Copies?” Sharon laughed and shook her head. “I don’t know. I guess I forgot to check for a copy machine while running for my life.”

“This isn’t funny, Sharon. I feel that he has at least one copy.”

“You…feel that he does?” Sharon laughed again. “What are you, some kind of telepath?”

Lara smiled and nodded. “Something like that.”

“We’ll just have to fetch it then, won’t we?” Sharon shrugged and picked up her backpack, cramming the small shovel into it quickly. “Can you get us there?”

Lara smiled. “In a flash.”

“Great.” Sharon rolled her eyes and stood next to Lara. “One more thing. As long as we’re working together, you follow me. Understand? I won’t be killed over super-heroics. So get rid of the costume.”

“No problem.” Lara nodded, and in a flash of light, she and Sharon were gone – on their way to Otherverse.

“…a bright flash of light from the next block, Colonel. It has to be Meta activity. Over.” A long pause of silence from his radio made Hicks a little more nervous then he already was. It meant that his supervisor had no idea what to do, and had to ask someone above him.

“Find a haven and seal yourselves off, Hicks. Reinforcements from group four are en route. Over.”

“Group four?” Hicks let go of the talk button and sighed loudly. “Group four’s gone, sir. The Raptors got to them during dinner. Over.”

“Affirmative. Group six is being dispatched. E.T.A. one hour. Over.”

“An hour?” Hicks groaned. “Affirmative, Colonel. Over and out.”

“We’re dead, aren’t we?”

Hicks nodded slowly and turned to face Hudson. “Maybe. But I’m not goin’ down easy. I’ll give the damned Raptors heartburn, if I have to.”

Hudson nudged Hicks. “Get some sleep, Hicks. I’ll take first watch.”

“Affirmative, boss.” Hicks slumped down against a wall, tilting his helmet forward to cover his eyes.

Down the street, two figures watched. Two women, one with two pistols drawn, another walking behind her slowly, heading toward the two soldiers. Having little exposure to any kind of military operations on Otherverse Earth, they didn’t know whether to identify the soldiers as friend or foe. All they knew was that they saw a lot of dead bodies as they walked along the streets. They had to assume that the soldiers were hostile for now.

“I can knock them out cold from here.”

“Absolutely not!” Sharon spoke to Lara just above a whisper. “If you zap anything here, you’ll be identified as a Meta. They’ll all be looking for you.”

“How would they know?”

Sharon silently pointed to a camera sitting atop a nearby building. She did enough research to know that Lex Luthor had the whole city under surveillance. Though why he did nothing about the troops destroying the city was a mystery.

“Oh. Sorry.”

“Don’t you ever have to use your mind, Lara?” Sharon turned around to face Lara for a moment as she spoke. “To plan, rather then just zap your way through everything?”

Lara shrugged. “I could, I guess. I just haven’t had the opportunity.”

“There’s no time like the present.”

“What do you make of it, Commander Gorman?”

An older man in a high-ranked military uniform, sitting in a darkened cafe, leaned forward toward a small monitor on a wooden table in front of him at the request of his female assistant. After the invasion of Metropolis, the cafe had been taken over and converted to a headquarters of sorts. Electronics filled the place, wires running everywhere. It had been chosen because it was easy to protect and it was one of the few remaining places with electrical power after city had been secured.

“Hmm.” He rubbed his chin for a few seconds as he stared at the screen. The assistant was playing a tape for him, one of two young women slinking through the dark streets of Metropolis. One of the women was fairly typical for the city’s current condition – she carried two pistols and a knife. But the other…she was completely unarmed. “Survey information, Lisa?”

His assistant punched up a small laptop computer next to the screen. Lex Luthor’s old cameras were also equipped with sensors – and every digital video broadcast they intercepted was laced with extra digital information. Biological sensors, heat sensors, and the like. She shook her head as she read the information. “According to the sensors, they’re both just human. Neither are Metas.”

“But those eyes–” Gorman tapped the screen, moving the zoom control with his other hand to get a closer look. He leaned forward to look at one woman’s eyes – her irises seemed glass-like, almost transparent. “–They seem so…alien. There has to be something more to her. Something…special.”

Lisa stood up. “Should I have someone pick her up?”

Gorman picked up a book of printed sheets from the table, leafing through it quickly. He then tossed aside the sheets angrily. “Oh, hell. Hicks and Hudson are closest.”

“So?”

“So–” He stood up and sighed. “Those two are a little green for a job like this. I don’t know if they can handle bringing the strange woman in, especially since the one with the guns seems to be with her.”

“If they’re in Metropolis…in the middle of a war zone…there’s a reason.” Gorman paced around in a circle, rubbing his chin, and then leaned over the screen again. “They’re either very smart, or very dumb. Only time will tell which.”

“Should I dispatch a team?”

He nodded. “But tell them to hold back. Keep the two under surveillance, and wait for further orders. If both of those women behave themselves, they won’t be a threat.”

“Yes, sir.” Lisa paused as she snatched the radio’s microphone. “What if the one with the strange eyes…is a Meta?”

“I don’t think she is.” He shook his head slowly as he spoke. “I think she’s something much more dangerous. I think as long as we leave her alone, she won’t be destructive.”

“More dangerous? What makes you say that?”

“The most deadly of enemies are those who are most silent…until you give them reason to strike.” Gorman took a few steps toward the door to the back room, intent on getting a few hours rest for the first time in over twenty hours. Before he left, he turned to face his assistant again. “Then they leave you no question of their power.”

“Time to wake up.”

Hudson instinctively reached for his rifle before even opening his eyes, as he heard a soft female voice with a British accent – only to find his rifle missing. He looked up at the source of the voice to see a woman with brown hair standing over him, holding one pistol to his head.

“The name’s Sharon. Wake up your friend, too. This is important.” The woman removed another pistol from her belt and pointed it toward Hicks with her other hand.

“Hicks! Hicks, we have a little…problem.” Hudson gently nudged Hicks with one hand. Hicks opened his eyes slowly, reaching quickly for his rifle just as Hudson did. But his was missing as well – and so was his radio.

“What do you want from us, lady?” Hudson stared steadily at her in spite of the pistol trained on his temple. “And I hope you know that I can disarm you in an instant.”

“I wouldn’t bet on that.” Sharon smiled and put both pistols back on her belt as she read the name tags on the two soldiers’ uniforms. “You two are severely undertrained.”

“And you’re treading on thin ice, lady.” Hudson stood up slowly, directly in front of Sharon. She folded her arms in response, but didn’t budge. “You’re lucky we don’t chain you up and drag you to HQ. You can join the rest of the POW’s.”

“Feel free to try.” Sharon tapped one of her pistols with a single finger. “You’ll likely end up dead. I’d much rather you cooperated – all I want is information.”

“What kind of information?” Hicks shrugged – Hudson stared at him as if he’s spoken out of turn.

“I need to find Lex Luthor’s office. He has something I need to recover.”

“Yeah, well good luck.” Hicks laughed. “LexCorp is nothing but a ghost town now. I was there myself. Whole place is cleaned out…except for the troops.”

“To a moron, perhaps, it would seem that way.” Sharon looked directly at Hudson as she spoke. “I’d like to check myself, if you don’t mind.”

“Who’re you calling a…?”

Hicks watched as Sharon quickly removed one pistol from her belt, hitting Hudson on the side of the head. Hudson was out cold. She turned to Hicks, and smiled. “Would you like to be more cooperative?”

Hicks nodded slowly. “Uh…Two streets down to the left. It’s the tallest building in town, you can’t miss it.”

“Thank you.” Sharon began walking away slowly. As she did, Hicks rose to his feet quickly.

“Wait!” Hicks ran after Sharon, noticing that she placed her hand on her pistol again just as he approached. “Where is my rifle? My radio–”

Hicks froze as he watched a blonde woman a little taller then Sharon step out of a nearby dark alley, wearing both Hicks’ and Hudson’s rifles, and holding the radio. She handed all three of them to Hicks, as he stared at her strangely.

“What’s with your eyes?” He turned to Sharon as he kept pointing at the other woman. “Is she blind or something?”

“No.” The blonde woman smiled as she spoke. Her voice was calm and patient. “I’m not deaf, either.”

Sharon laughed as she walked away with the blonde woman following her. They disappeared down the dark streets, as Hicks stared. He wasn’t sure whether to be angry or frightened by the experience. Either way, he had a story to tell.

“Mom, can we talk for a moment?”

Kara turned quickly to see her daughter Karen standing alone in the doorway of the master bedroom as Kara was hanging up some of her clothing. Karen and Carrie lived in the Fortress now, as suggested by both Professor Xavier and Reed Richards, to help improve their level of maturity as well as their social skills. She just hoped that it wouldn’t do more harm then good, given that her home was on an Earth which closely resembled hell.

“Sure, Karen.” Kara sat down on one of the lounge chairs in the room, while Karen sat on the arm of the chair directly across from her. Kara thought it was a little strange that Karen approached her alone, without Carrie. Most of the time the twins were together.

“I didn’t want to involve Carrie in this. I’m a little afraid you might feel insulted–”

Kara smiled softly. “Nothing you say can change my opinion of either of you. You can tell me anything, Karen. Anything at all.”

Karen closed her eyes and sighed, trying to gather her courage before she spoke. “You don’t…like Lara much, do you?”

“Like her?” Kara laughed. “She hasn’t shown me anything to like, Karen.”

“I was just a little worried that you might be jealous of her.” Karen took another deep breath as she watched Kara’s smile disappear. “I just want you to know…Carrie and I don’t like her better then you. She’s just cool to hang around with. She’s like…a friend, you know? But you’re our mom. There’s no replacement for you.”

“Oh, Karen.” Kara laughed a little. “I didn’t think any such thing. I just worry about what kind of influence she has on you two. She keeps too many secrets.”

“Everyone has secrets, mom. Why should she be any different?”

“Because I fear that–” Kara sighed and looked at the opposite wall for a second, purposely avoiding Karen’s gaze. “She seems to know things, Karen. I worry that she keeps silent because she knows things…about us. Things she’s afraid to tell us.”

“How about asking her, mom?” Karen smiled as she spoke, taking the edge off of her slight rude question. “Maybe she’s just shy. I’ll bet she’s more nervous about talking to you then you are about her.”

“Nervous? What reason would she have to be nervous?”

“Oh, I dunno.” Karen laughed. “Maybe it’s because you’re like…a popular super-hero, and she’s really insecure.”

Kara blinked hard as memories began rushing back to her of Kal-El. All of the times she fought to try and live up to his reputation, to be more like him. And yet, she never seemed to feel like she was even close. Her sharp memory rushed back to the last time she saw Lara – how Lara avoided her gaze, spoke unsteadily to her, and most of the time obeyed her without question. Lara had even killed to protect Kara’s children, just because she feared disappointing her. She remembered hitting Lara once to calm her down…and how Lara, rather then fight back, simply collapsed to the floor and sobbed, as if her whole world had been shattered.

Karen stared at Kara as their eyes met again, noticing the sorrow in Kara’s eyes. It was a look of realization, as if Kara began to feel regret now that she had assembled the pieces of a puzzle who’s solution was right in front of her all along. “Mom?”

“Oh, Rao…I’ve been so unfair to her.” Kara looked away from Karen’s gaze all of a sudden. “You’re right, Karen. I didn’t give her a chance. I was trying to protect you and Carrie from her…and I hurt someone who didn’t deserve–”

“Mom, stop!” Karen stood up and walked over to Kara, hugging her from one side quickly. “You were just behaving like our mom, that’s all – protecting us from a stranger. You did nothing wrong. You just need to give her another chance.”

“I’ll do that, for you and Carrie.” Kara nodded slowly. “If you can trust her, I guess I can too. But she has to promise not to keep so many secrets.”

Karen laughed a little as she stood up to leave the room. “If it means so much to you, mom, I’ll talk to her.”

Kara couldn’t help but smile as she watched Karen leave the room. Her daughter, the peacemaker.

“LaForge to base.”

“Go ahead, LaForge.”

Sharon and Lara were completely oblivious to a radio conversation going on inside LexCorp tower as the walked through the front doors quietly. Lara glanced around the room, feeling a little nervous. She knew they were being watched.

“The two suspects are entering LexCorp now. Please Advise. Over.”

As Lara began to turn toward the stairs, Sharon heard a faint sound emanating through the stairway’s steel door. Unlike Lara, she had been trained to react to any sound, no matter how benign, by taking an alternate route. Sharon turned to Lara and waved her toward the elevators.

“Standby, LaForge. Keep the stairs locked down. Close in when they use the elevators. Over.”

“Affirmative. Over and out. Group six, be alert.”

Sharon placed her left hand on her pistol as the doors to the elevator slid closed almost silently. Lara punched the button which would send them directly to the top floor of the building, to the deserted office of Lex Luthor. Sharon began tapping her pistol nervously as the elevator began to approach it’s stop. Instinct told her that something was wrong. Very wrong.

She nudged Lara lightly, with one hand as she used her other hand to grab the small camera in the elevator, tearing it out of the ceiling quickly. She knew it wouldn’t disable the camera or it’s audio capabilities – but tearing it off of the ceiling would at least make it less useful. Sharon then pointed at the ceiling, indicating to Lara that she meant for them to climb on the roof of the elevator car.

“Surveillance has been taken out, group six.”

Lara climbed through the ceiling grating first, and then helped pull Sharon up quickly. Sharon closed the grating behind her to make sure no one knew they had climbed out, and then began climbing up a ladder at the rear of the elevator shaft quickly. Lara followed as Sharon continued climbing until the elevator car finally stopped.

As soon as the elevator car’s doors opened, they could hear a radio, and heavy boots walking through the elevator car. They could hear the distinctive clicking of powerful rifles tapping against the walls as the soldiers inside the elevator walked around, followed by a distinctive plastic creaking noise which meant the elevator car’s ceiling grating was being removed.

Lara quickly followed as Sharon slid several feet down the ladder suddenly, to remain out of visual range as one of the soldiers popped his head up to the roof of the elevator car. Sharon smiled as she watched the man in the reflection of a knife blade she held up carefully with one hand. He saw nothing in the near pitch-dark elevator shaft.

As soon as the sound of heavy boots moved back out of the elevator, Sharon headed back to the elevator car slowly, noiselessly. Lara followed silently as Sharon approached the car and used her knife again to check the inside. Just as she guessed, the soldiers had propped open the doors of the elevator, and one of them was inside…waiting.

Sharon silently mouthed ‘wait here’ to Lara, and dropped down into the elevator car quickly. All Lara heard was a soft grunt from the man, and then the sound of his body collapsing to to the floor. She then dropped down into the elevator car directly behind Sharon.

They both raced across the hall quickly, just barely above the perceptions of a few soldiers in the hallway, who dismissed their sudden appearance and disappearance as a hallucination. Sharon rushed into Luthor’s office ahead of Lara, to see four soldiers reading a map on Lex Luthor’s desk.

Sharon drew her pistols quickly, aiming them at the man who stood leaning over the map. She subtly signaled Lara to close the door – Lara did, locking it quickly.

“Excuse me for a moment.” Sharon walked toward the four slowly, keeping her pistols trained on them as they watched her crossing the room with their eyes only. As she passed them, she could see that they were reading a map of the building. They must have been trying to track her…but they failed.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” One of the soldiers finally moved, training his rifle on Sharon. She responded in kind, aiming her second pistol on him. She also noticed that through the space the soldier had just vacated, she could see a stack of books. They looked like several copies of the Ancient Book of Rai, sitting among packaging for shipping. They planned on sending the books to someone.

“Ah, just what I was looking for.” Sharon turned to Lara, who understood her though not one word was exchanged. Lara picked up the books and headed toward the hallway. “That’s all I wanted. You can all go back to your work now.”

Sharon left the room running, with Lara close behind. She knew very well what would happen, and the shouts of soldiers from down the hall as she headed back toward the elevators confirmed that. They both dove into the still-open elevator and slipped through the open ceiling grating just as a massive amount of bullets began flying through the hallway toward them.

“We’ll slide down a bit.” Sharon pointed at the elevator cable from a neighboring elevator car. “Then we vanish. You understand, right?”

Lara nodded as she leapt for the elevator cable, sliding down quickly with Sharon just above her. They could hear the shouts of the soldiers above as they took a thirty-second trip to the ground floor. Lara immediately pried the elevator doors open.

Sharon started heading into the lobby first – but then suddenly froze in the doorway. “Oh…hell.”

Lara looked past Sharon to discover why she seemed so surprised – in the lobby of the LexCorp building stood four small dinosaur-like creatures, which were tearing apart the desks next to the entrance. The glass front door was smashed open.

“Velociraptors.” Sharon turned to Lara, a mixture of fear and anticipation in her eyes. “The deadliest carnivores in existence.”

“It’s either bullets or teeth…and there’s only one way out of here.” Lara smiled. Sharon nodded and smiled in return. They both knew they would have to make a run for the doors, and hope for the best.

Everything seemed to move in slow motion as Lara and Sharon raced across the lobby as quickly as they could. The glass doors seemed miles away as the Raptors noticed the two of them running, and gave chase. It was only seconds before the first soldiers arrived in the lobby, adding yet another threat – another hail of bullets, shredding two of the Raptors as they tore through the lobby. It was just blind luck that the bullets seemed to miss Sharon and Lara. Or was it?

As soon as the two of them ran one more block and hid around a corner, Sharon turned to face Lara. “Those bullets should have hit us, shouldn’t they?”

Lara shook her head slowly as she reached under her shirt with two fingers, pushing them through a small hole in the fabric. “I did nothing to stop the bullets, but I am naturally bullet-proof. You’re just luckier then I am.”

Sharon laughed and shook her head. “When will you learn, Lara? I make my own luck.”

“I’d like to take you to visit someone, Sharon.” Lara smiled as she led Sharon into an abandoned building, to hide from the prying eyes on the street. “I think Kara will like you.”

“Dammit!” Commander Gorman kicked a garbage can angrily as soon as he got the news – that the two women had the drop on Hudson and Hicks, and now the entire sixth group. “Who the heck are these two, anyway?”

Lisa shook her head. “I have no idea, sir.”

“Don’t tell me that!” Gorman snatched two camera monitors from one of the tables and threw them on the floor. “All of this technology. All of our high-tech intelligence. Useless! We don’t even know if they’re still in the city!”

“They haven’t gone past any checkpoints, sir.”

Gorman laughed out loud and shook his head. “They didn’t when they came in, either, Lisa. That means one of two things – either these two are smarter then any of us, or we’re dumber then we think! Which is it, Lisa? Are they smart, or are we dumb?”

“I…I don’t know, sir.”

“Damn.” Gorman threw up his hands and sighed. “Buddy’s gonna bust me for this. I just know it.”

“All he has to know, sir, is that we’ve placed those two on the ‘wanted’ list.”

“What if he finds out what happened, Lisa?” Gorman kicked the garbage can again out of frustration. “He will find out. He always does.”

Lisa folded her arms and sighed as Gorman waited for her answer. “Well, sir…Then we’re busted.”

“You’re honest, I’ll give you that.” Gorman shook his head. “But that’s not what I wanted to hear.”

“Karen! She’s here!”

Carrie’s words were Lara’s only warning before she found two blonde teen-age twins ambushing her with hugs, an instant after she appeared in the entranceway to the Fortress. Sharon stood close behind Lara, smiling with amusement at what was happening in front of her.

Lara returned the hugs and glanced into the living room toward Kara, who stood silently in the doorway. “How did you know I was coming?”

Carrie shrugged. “I don’t know, I just did. Who’s this?”

“Sharon Holmes.” Sharon reached out a hand to give Carrie a handshake. She felt her hand nearly being crushed by the blonde teen until Carrie quickly adjusted her grip when she realized that Sharon was just an ordinary human. Sharon didn’t seem intimidated, however – she just smiled in response.

Karen didn’t seem at all interested in meeting Sharon. The look in her eyes told Lara that she had something on her mind, something that she thought was very important. Lara’s suspicions were confirmed when Karen pulled her aside suddenly.

“Something wrong, Karen?”

Karen nodded. “Mom doesn’t…trust you, Lara. She thinks you keep too many secrets. She thinks you keep secrets about us, and it scares her a little.”

“I see.” Lara sighed and looked away from Karen for a moment. “I keep secrets to protect those I care about–”

“Don’t you see–” Karen shook her head slowly. “–We don’t need your protection. It’s doing more harm then good, Lara. Mom values honesty, and integrity. She thinks you’re being a selfish, that you’re hiding something.”

Lara nodded. “I understand. I just did what I did because–”

“Because you thought the truth would hurt too much?” Karen smiled. “I’ve been there too, Lara. The truth always hurts…but deception hurts more.”

“Does your mom know you’re so philosophical?” Lara laughed and looked into the other room to see that Kara hadn’t moved. “All right, I’ll talk to Kara. But if she tries to kill me, it’ll be up to you to save my life.”

Karen laughed as she led Lara into the living room. “Don’t worry. She’s more reasonable then you think…for a mom.”

“Um…hi, Kara.”

Kara walked up to Sharon, shaking her hand lightly and momentarily ignoring Lara’s greeting. She sat down on the couch, indicating for Lara to sit on the chair across from her. Lara complied, sitting down quickly. Karen sat down at the other end of the couch.

“So–” Lara looked at Kara, who was staring at her with an emotionless gaze. She looked at Karen, who was giving her a hopeful look, and then at Sharon and Carrie, who were still talking in the entryway. “–What would you like to know about me?”

“How about what you are?” Kara leaned back and folded her arms as Karen gave her an angry gaze in response to her rather cold sounding question. “I’ve never really trusted mysterious types.”

Lara sighed deeply, clearly pausing for several seconds before opening her mouth to speak. “It’s not really clear to me, Kara. I feel that I had died once, much like you. Only I was restored by the power of a God rather then a practitioner of the Ancient Arts as you were. That’s why I have these…abilities. That’s why I’m…’in touch’ with the universe.”

Kara didn’t seem the least bit shocked at what Lara had said so far – but Lara’s story was compelling enough that nearly everyone who was in the Fortress had gathered in the living room to listen – Carrie and Sharon had walked in, as well as Rogue, and even Krypto.

“My memories of the event are still fuzzy, skewed.” Lara looked around the room as everyone stared at her, waiting for her to continue. “I have other’s memories intermingled with my own. Memories of someone named Lois Lane. A boy named Kon El…people who died in the attack at Cadmus. Thousands of people, Kara. Their blood is on Lex Luthor’s hands. I only wish I could remember more.”

Lara looked down as she held her hands in front of her. They were shaking a little. She closed her eyes and clenched her fists tightly to try and control her physical reaction to such stressful memories. Tears started forming in her closed eyes as she continued. “I tried to keep my memories to myself, Kara, because I see things…painful things…here in Otherverse. I suffer these visions, thoughts and feelings that no one should have to see. Things that will happen, or that have happened. Death, pain…everywhere. I feel them all. It’s…overwhelming.”

Lara opened her eyes again as she felt Kara grip her left hand tightly. She smiled politely at Kara’s encouragement. “I see someone close to you dying, Kara. I don’t know who, or when. I see this place…your home…being destroyed. I see the twins being split up, against their will. I see a man, a military man, having to change everything he believes in to fight a vicious and bloody war…one he’s losing. But he refuses to give up. I see a lone man in a place filled with life, and magic…he feels tortured, persecuted–”

“Wait, wait…stop.” Kara leaned forward toward Lara, looking deep into her tear-filled eyes. “What you’re telling me now makes little sense. Can’t you be more specific? At least about how this effects us?”

Lara shook her head sadly. “I wish I could. These…feelings are all things I know are close to you and the twins somehow. I see a lot of danger ahead for the twins. And for you, if you choose to help in this war–”

“War?” Kara looked at Karen, who seemed to be upset a little bit by everything Lara said. “You mentioned a war twice.”

“Yes.” Lara nodded. “It’s a war that’s already underway. Lex Luthor is working to escalate it.”

“So…why don’t you just like…put a stop to it?” Carrie’s sudden question prompted stares toward her – she just folded her arms, waiting for an answer.

“I can’t.” Lara shook her head quickly. “I’m no Goddess. I don’t have the right to interfere.”

“As far as they’re concerned…you are a Goddess.” Sharon leaned back against the doorway to the kitchen as she spoke. “The trick is to keep them from becoming dependent on you. If you behave like Moses leading them from bondage, they will become attached to you. You can intervene, but you have to be inconspicuous. You have to make it seem like an accident.”

Karen laughed out loud. “Then you truly would be a Goddess, Lara. A real Goddess uses nature and chance to do her bidding.”

“Aren’t I teased enough about that?” Lara laughed a little too, before realizing that Kara had a horrified look on her face. “What’s wrong, Kara?”

“Kal always taught me that it’s wrong to interfere too much. That people have to learn to be self-sufficient.” Kara stood up and paced around the room a little bit. “But I don’t like to stand by and watch people die, either. I was always more sensitive to that then Kal. It was your suggestion, Sharon…what would you do?”

“If I were a Goddess–” Sharon looked around the room to see all eyes on here, including Kara’s – but a little attention never bothered her. “–I would render the Metas, and all weapons of mass destruction powerless. I would level the playing ground, so mere humans…like me…have a fighting chance here.”

The room suddenly fell silent as each person began to silently consider what Sharon had suggested. It would surely change Otherverse Earth from a barely livable hell to something a little more civilized. Something that had hope for a future. No one’s thoughts were more on the future then Kara’s – she wanted…needed…her daughters to live in a world better then the one she discovered. She hoped that one day they would be peacemakers, and protectors here…not part of a war machine.

For Kara, Sharon’s suggestion to Lara seemed more like a salvation then simply idle talk. It sounded so appealing, in fact, that she found herself staring at Lara, fighting her own urge to encourage the idea. But something deep down caused her to hold her tongue. Lara was correct…it wouldn’t be right for her to interfere.

Everyone in the room heard Kara audibly sigh as she sat back down on the couch. She looked at Carrie and Karen sadly, as she realized that she almost sold out the integrity of an entire universe to protect the two things she cared about most – her daughters.

“Lara…Do what you feel is right…for the future.” Kara smiled at her weakly as she spoke. “Don’t let anyone else tell you what you should do.”

“I’ll do that, Kara–” Lara knew what Kara meant by ‘the future’. She looked right at the twins, who were now standing together at one end of the living room, and smiled. Kara knew that Otherverse Earth was a dangerous place for her daughters…and while she wouldn’t admit it plainly, she would do just about anything to keep them safe – even subtly asking someone like Lara for help. “–For the future.”

Kara smiled and nodded at Lara as she and Sharon headed toward the entryway. Kara knew that the two of them would unceremoniously disappear in a flash of light, headed toward their respective homes. She still wasn’t completely sure she could trust her own life to Lara…but it made her feel a little more secure to know that she could trust Lara with her daughters.

The Water’s Edge

“Aren’t there like…drug dealers here?”, Supergirl asked as she glided through the high thin clouds above Venezuela. Charlie was on her back, his arms wrapped around her waist tightly. She didn’t understand why, but he insisted that he felt more comfortable that way. Maybe it had something to do with watching the ground rush by below that frightened him a little bit.

“That’s Colombia”, Charlie lectured, “It’s thousands of miles from here.”

“Oh”, Supergirl whispered. She regretted all of those times she used her high-school geography class to catch up on sleep.

“Are we there yet?”, Charlie asked.

Supergirl turned her head to look toward Charlie. “How should I know? You’re the one with the map, Charlie.”

“Uh, well…”, Charlie mumbled.

“You do have the map, don’t you?”

“I…think I dropped it somewhere over Panama.”

“Oh, nuts.” Supergirl started flying lower, trying to find some sign of civilization. It was her only chance to figure out where she was. Luckily, she noticed a small prop plane flying just below her – and at the altitude it was flying, it was most likely about to land.

“Why don’t you follow that plane?”, Charlie asked.

“Thanks, Charlie”, Supergirl said in a tone dripping with sarcasm, “Maybe I’ll just do that.”

“I’m sorry I dropped the map, Linda. I’ll make it up to you.”

Supergirl smiled. Just when Charlie would begin to get on her nerves, he would always say something sweet. “No need, Charlie. I can deal with it.”

Supergirl landed gently on the top parking deck of the airport to avoid attracting too much attention. At least no more then she already attracted from the few people who saw her land with Charlie hanging on to her.

“Well, at least I know we’re in Caracas”, Supergirl said as she glanced at the large sign above the parking garage that read ‘Bienvenidos al Aerupuerto Internacional Simon Bolivar de Caracas’.

“You understand Spanish?”, Charlie asked.

“No, but I understand the words ‘Aeropuerto’ and ‘Caracas'”

Charlie shook his head and laughed.

Supergirl ignored him and removed a slip of paper from her belt. “Now how do we get to this address?”

“Take a cab, of course”, Charlie said as he walked toward the parking garage elevator.

“But Charlie”, Supergirl said, “We don’t have any local currency.”

“We can get that inside the airport”, Charlie pointed out.

“Normally, yeah”, Supergirl said, looking down at herself, “But dressed like this?”

“Don’t worry, they’ve all seen you before”, Charlie said, “There won’t be any problem.”


“∞Madre de Dios!”, the clerk behind the currency exchange counter yelled before babbling incoherently and spilling an entire container of coins all over the floor. “∞No puede ser!…∞Es ella!…∞Mira, mira!”

“Sure, Charlie”, Supergirl said, “No problem at all.”

“She gave us our money, didn’t she?”, Charlie said.

Supergirl rolled her eyes and headed toward the restroom. “I’m going to go change.”

By the time she changed to Linda and walked out the door, Charlie was already sitting in the back of a cab trying to speak broken Spanish to the driver – who didn’t understand a word he was saying.

Linda slipped into the cab next to Charlie and closed the door behind her. Without a word, she handed the piece of paper with the address to the cab driver and leaned back against the seat.

“Hey, no problem!”, the cab driver said in a New York accent as he drove away from the curb quickly, nearly sideswiping an airport shuttle.

Linda couldn’t help but look at the advertisement on the side of the shuttle, encouraging people to take the bus to work instead of their cars. As usual in that kind of situation, Charlie clung to Linda, hoping she would offer him some protection when they finally crashed.

“You’re from New York?”, Linda asked.

“Yup. The Big Apple”, the cab driver said.

“So how come you’re not driving a cab in New York?”, Linda asked.

The cab driver laughed. “Lady, now ya know why none o’ th’ cab drivers in New York speak English!”

About an hour later, the cab drove up in front of a small, unassuming brick building. A rather ugly, broken down brick building. Although Linda couldn’t help but notice a small intercom next to the entrance.

“Here ya are”, the cab driver said as he pulled the car over and stopped, “That’ll be twenty bucks.”

“Dollars?”, Charlie asked.

“Yup”, the cab driver said, “Y’see, I’d rather take dollars. That way, I don’t have to do currency conversions to send money home to family.”

“Oookay”, Charlie said as he dug into his pockets and pulled out a twenty dollar bill.

Linda got out of the cab first and started staring at the building. As soon as Charlie got out, she turned and looked at him. “How do we get in? It looks pretty secure.”

Charlie shrugged. “We could try knocking.”

Linda sighed and knocked on the door. She stood there for several seconds before realizing that no one was going to answer her knock.

“How about using the intercom?”

Charlie and Linda turned around to look at the woman who said that. “And you are?”, Linda asked.

“Mara”, she said, “I work here. And, I’m the person who called Charlie and asked for you.”

Linda looked at Charlie. “She did?”

Charlie shook his head ‘yes’.

Mara pushed the button on the intercom.

“Yes?”, an impatient voice yelled, emanating from the intercom.

“M-32 reporting in”, Mara spoke into the intercom.

Linda laughed as she asked herself if someone had given Mara a number and taken away her name.

“Enter your I.D.”, the impatient voice yelled from the intercom.

The intercom flipped up like a door to reveal a keypad below. Mara quickly typed in a code, and the door opened.

Linda and Charlie followed Mara into a small entrance area, facing yet another door. A security guard sat in a booth to the left – and he was staring at Linda and Charlie.

“They’re with me”, Mara said.

The security guard nodded, and buzzed open the second door. As soon as Mara, Linda, and Charlie were past the second door, Mara stopped and turned to Charlie.

“Sorry, Charlie, you’ll have to wait here in reception. Past those doors is a secured area, and my boss hasn’t cleared you to enter”.

“And Linda has been cleared?”, Charlie asked.

“Yes”, Mara said, “Actually I’m a little embarrassed, we were expecting Linda to come alone–”

Charlie smiled. “No problem, that happens a lot.” He walked into the reception area and sat down, as he glanced at the vending machines, phone, and television.

Linda peeked around the corner of the reception room. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

“I’ll be fine”, Charlie said.

As Linda followed Mara through yet another door into a long hallway, she couldn’t help but feel a little bad for Charlie. She knew he hated being left out of her adventures, but he was too polite to say so. “Wow, this place sure is big considering how small it looks outside.”

Mara laughed. “As I tell everyone who comes in here, appearances can be deceiving.”

They walked into a large room that could best be described as a control center. It was staffed by a large number of people, at various computer workstations or watching one of several television screens. There were people milling around carrying small computer cartridges or paperwork. It looked very busy. So busy, in fact, that no one seemed to noticed Linda walk into the room.

That’s also when Linda noticed the way everyone was dressed. “My God…And people think Supergirl’s skirt is too short!”

Mara laughed again. “You’ll get used to seeing–”

“But I can see their…underpants!”, Linda said, just a little too loud. Too loud because all activity suddenly stopped, and everyone stared at her.

“You can also see London and France from here too”, another woman said as she pointed at the computer monitors above her.

Mara seemed a little embarrassed now as she quickly herded Linda toward one of the offices. “Come on, the boss wants to meet you.”

As soon as Linda walked into the office, Mara closed the door. “This is Seish, the director of Girls In White.”

“Girls In White?”, Linda laughed, “You can’t be serious.”

Mara and Seish just stared at her silently for a minute. Seish raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say a word.

“You are serious”, Linda said quietly.

“Please, have a seat. We’ll begin this meeting as soon as our third person joins us.”, Seish said as he leaned back in his chair and stared at Linda.”

“But you’re already talking in third person”, Linda pointed out.

Seish scowled and looked at Mara, who shrugged.

Just then, they heard a knock on the door.

“Come”, Seish announced.

A brown-haired woman with blue eyes walked in. “Sorry I’m late.”

“Glad you could make it, Mate”, Seish said, “Please have a seat. We’re just about to get started.”

“Where’s Charlie Lewis?”, Mate asked, “And who’s this?”

“I’m Linda Danvers”, Linda said, “I work with Charlie. Mara here asked him to wait in the reception area.”

“Oh, I see”, Mate said, “But you work with him?”

“Yup.”

“I guess that’s close enough”, Mate said.

Seish leaned forward in his chair toward Linda. “Do you know why we asked you here?”

“No, not really.”

Seish looked at Mara, prompting her to stand up, lean against the desk, and begin explaining what’s going on. “You and Charlie will be looking for mutated aliens why prey on young women. Mate will work with you to help lure, track, and perhaps capture some of them.”

“How is she going to do that?”, Linda asked.

Mara looked at Seish, and back at Linda. “That’s…uh…top secret.”

Seish held his hand up to stop Mara from talking for a minute, and turned to Linda. “Could you stand up for a minute?”

Linda was confused as to why, but she stood up anyway.

“Fan of blue jeans, huh?”, Seish asked as he looked closely at Linda.

“No, but I am a fan of Metallica”, Linda said, “Aren’t you Lars whathisname…no wait, that’s the drummer.”

This time Mate started snickering. She didn’t stop, even when Seish made a face at her.

“While you’re working with Mate, you’re going to need to wear a skirt”, Seish said as he pointed at Mate, “Kind of like that one.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

Seish, Mara, and Mate stared at Linda again.

“You’re not kidding?”, Linda said, “Oh my God, I can’t wear something like that!”

“Why not?”, Mate said frankly, “You wear a skirt as Supergirl.”

Linda stumbled a little when she heard that.

Without a word from Linda, Seish explained, “Remember those monitors you saw on the way in? We watch everything. Everything, Linda.”

“My apartment?”

“Everything.”

“Well”, Linda said as she turned toward the door, “In that case, please excuse me. I need the backpack I gave to Charlie, and then I need to use the restroom.”

“Mate”, Seish said, “Since you will be working with her, you might as well show her where she needs to go.”

Mate nodded and motioned for Linda to follow her. “You have a lot of enthusiasm, Linda. Just make sure it doesn’t get you into trouble.”

“Trouble?”, Linda joked, “Trouble’s my middle name. Linda T. Danvers, private investigator!”

“Oookay”, Mate said as she opened the door to the reception area, where Charlie sat watching television.

“Looks like you made it out of there alive”, Charlie joked when he saw Linda walking toward him.

“Not yet”, Linda said, “I need my backpack.”

Charlie looked at Mate and back at Linda. “You can’t use that here, can you?”

“Relax, Charlie, they know everything here. They see everything that goes on outside these walls.”, Linda said.

“My apartment?”

“Everything.”


Supergirl returned from the restroom next to the reception area in just under a minute. Of course, since she already guessed she was being watched the entire time she was in the place, she disabled all three cameras in the restroom. That meant, of course, that Seish and Mara met her in the reception area as well as Mate.

“What?”

Seish didn’t look happy, and Mara looked positively furious. “Do you know how much those three cameras cost?”, Mara yelled impatiently.

“I dunno. Look, I’m sorry. I’ll pay for–”

“Three million dollars!”, Mara yelled, “They’re a million each! And I’m responsible for them!”

Mate grabbed Supergirl’s wrist with one hand, and Charlie’s wrist with the other. “Come on, let’s get out of here while you still can.”

Supergirl followed Mate outside, back to the front of the ugly brick building that served as a facade for Girls In White. After being inside that super-high-tech complex, she felt strangely out of place standing outside a building which could easily be hundreds of years old.

“Congratulations, Linda, you caused more damage to GiW in one hour then anyone has done in their entire career”, Mate joked.

“Call me Supergirl in public”, Supergirl said, “No one’s supposed to know who I am.”

“How about Mae?”

“No, only a few very close friends call me Mae”, Supergirl said, “It’ll feel weird if I have too many people calling me that, you know?”.

Mate walked over to a black Ferarri parked in front of the building and grabbed Charlie’s hand just before he touched the mirror-like finish.

“Careful, you might not survive the electric shock”, Mate said as she clicked a button on her keychain to deactivate the alarm system with a satisfying ‘chirp’.

“You can call her Mae if you let me drive”, Charlie said.

Mate laughed. “If you drive, we’ll all be killed. This car’s been specially modified.”

“Maybe you two would be killed”, Supergirl said as they all crammed into the car, “But I wouldn’t.”

Mate started the car, and tore away from the curb. The first thing Supergirl noticed was that the car sounded funny – kind of like a jet engine. Mate must not have exaggerated when she said the car was specially modified. The second thing she noticed was that Mate was driving about eighty miles per hour along a winding coastal road.

“Aren’t there speed limits in Caracas?”

“Yeah, for most people”, Mate said as she smiled and drove faster.

A few minutes later, they arrived at a fairly small, unassuming apartment building – a concrete structure with six floors. Supergirl looked up at the building from the car – it was one of those ultra-modern buildings, heavy on design but light on character. Sure some new buildings were beautiful, but they just didn’t have the same richness to them as a lot of older ones did.

Supergirl’s mind wandered for a minute, as her imagination started to appreciate the buildings she’d seen in Gotham City. Sure they were all dark and gothic in style, but they were exquisitely detailed. It’s like someone genuinely cared about the look of the buildings. No matter what anyone said about Gotham – descriptions ranging from ‘scary’ to ‘demonic’ – she’d always think of it as beautiful.

“Uh, Supergirl”, Charlie said as he leaned into the front seat, “Can you get out of the car so I won’t be trapped in the back seat?”

“Oh, sorry”, Supergirl said as she jumped out of the car, “My mind was somewhere else.”

Mate led Charlie and Linda up to her apartment and turned on a light – not fast enough, though, because Charlie tripped over an unopened box on the floor.

“Sorry”, Mate said, “I’m just moving in.”

“What’s your real name, Mate?”, Supergirl said, “I feel like I’m in Australia when I keep calling you that.”

“Maria Teresa Gonzalez.”

“Maria?”, Supergirl asked, “I like the name Maria. Can’t I call you that?”

Mate shrugged. “I prefer Mate, but you can call me anything you like–”

“Just don’t call you late for dinner?”, Charlie interrupted.

Mate made a face.

“Sorry, old joke”, Charlie said as he sat down on the couch, “So why exactly were we called?”

“Actually, I called you”, Mate said, “And GiW called Linda.”

Supergirl laughed. “It sounds like a typical bureaucratic nightmare.”

“It is”, Mate said as she tried to stifle her own giggling.

“But why are we here?”, Charlie asked more insistently.

“To track brain-damaged, mutated aliens”, Mate said.

“Aren’t the Men In Black supposed to do that?”, Supergirl asked.

Mate gave Supergirl an angry look. “No, they’re more like the immigration service. We’re more like the police – only with much cooler cars and weapons.”

“Uh…weapons?”, Supergirl said disapprovingly.

“She’s not a fan of weapons”, Charlie said, just as he caught an angry look from Supergirl, “And…uh…neither am I.”

“Who are these aliens?”, Supergirl asked, “They sound like my territory.”

“I’ll give you the short version so I won’t bore you. They came to Earth about twenty years ago”, Mate explained, “They changed form to imitate humans. Exposure to human behavior caused them brain damage, and now they prey on young women with white underpants.”

“Did you say white underpants?”, Supergirl asked.

Mate shook her head ‘yes’.

“So that’s why…back at the…Oh God, I’m so embarrassed”, Supergirl said, “They must all think I’m an idiot.”

Mate laughed. “It actually happens a lot. Every time we bring in someone new, in fact. Now I have an important question for you – what color are your underpants?”

Supergirl just stared at Mate in surprise for a minute. “That’s none of your–”

“It’s important”, Mate said, “If they’re not white, the aliens will not reveal themselves to you.”

Supergirl was angry now. “I don’t want anyone revealing themselves to me!”

Charlie was doubled over with laughter by now, nearly falling off of the couch onto the floor.

Mate was trying hard not to laugh. “No, that’s not what I meant. I meant the aliens will not change to their natural form.”

“Oh”, Supergirl said quietly, “Never mind, then.” With Charlie laughing and Mate probably summing her up as a dumb blonde by now, Supergirl wanted badly to just slip out the door and leave – but she couldn’t, she had a job to do.

“Look”, Mate said a little impatiently, “You two just follow my lead. I’ll show you how to find one of the aliens, and you guys can help after that.” With that, Mate walked out of her apartment, and down toward her car.

“I think we upset her”, Supergirl said.

Charlie shrugged. “It was bound to happen, with the language barrier and all.”

Supergirl giggled at Charlie’s joke, and gave a little shove on the way out of the apartment.

“Mate, why exactly are we sitting on a park bench?”, Supergirl asked, “And why does Charlie have to sit over by the fountain?”

“We’re bait.”

“Bait?”, Supergirl asked, “What exactly do you mean by that?”

“We’re luring one of the aliens over here–”

“Yeah, as well as every guy in a two-mile radius”, Supergirl mumbled as she noticed Mate’s much-too-short skirt.

“Which is why”, Mate continued, “Charlie has to stay over there. He’d chase away the aliens.”

Supergirl thought it was a little strange that such dangerous aliens would be afraid of Charlie. “But if the aliens are so dangerous–”

“Shh!”, Mate said, “Here comes someone.”

“With my luck”, Supergirl whispered, “He’s more likely to be a demon then an alien.”

“Hello, ladies”, a man said as he walked up next to the bench they were sitting on. “Mind if I sit down?”

Supergirl felt something strange about this guy – she could tell he was completely fake. Not phony like a politician, but actually fake. She noticed that he didn’t…move like a normal human being. Then, as if to confirm her suspicions, she caught the man looking down at Mate’s lap, and then her own. She felt lucky that she had her legs crossed at the moment.

The man looked at Mate. “Would you like to go for a little walk with me and talk?”

As Mate stood up, alarm bells and sirens went off in Supergirl’s mind. She knew that something was wrong. She was being driven to do something about it. That’s when she noticed something else suspicious – they were in Caracas, and this man was speaking English!

While Mate walked away, she turned and gave a thumbs-up to Supergirl, as if to tell her everything is under control. Supergirl didn’t believe it though – as soon as Mate and the man were out of sight, Supergirl took off for the skies to keep an eye on Mate and her new companion from the air.

By the time Supergirl spotted Mate, she was already in trouble. The man had just thrown her to the ground in the woods, and was waving a finger at her. Supergirl began to descend quickly from the air, like a hawk taking aim at it’s prey. That’s when she realized it wasn’t a finger, it was some kind of strange, alien tentacle!

“Hey!”, Supergirl yelled as she flew toward the ground. Mate looked up, but the guy refused to acknowledge Supergirl. He apparently thought he had other business to attend to. Supergirl landed quickly, grabbed the guy from behind and wheeled him around quickly. As soon as she did, he transformed into a hideous alien monster!

“That…just…figures!”, Supergirl commented as she started fighting all of the alien’s tentacles, which were wrapping around her arms and legs to try and disable her. Luckily, she didn’t need arms or legs to fight this creature. Supergirl’s eyes lit with fire, and in an instant the alien was baking alive in fiery columns from Supergirl’s eyes.

A horrible screech came from the creature as the fire began to burn it’s skin and tentacles, while Supergirl’s cape suddenly set itself ablaze and molded into the shape of wings. A few seconds later, the wings absorbed the flames, leaving the alien unconscious, badly burned, and charred – but still alive.

“Holy–“, Mate started saying.

“That’s about right”, Charlie said, as he tried to catch his breath after running to catch up, “She’s an Earth-born angel.”

“Riiight”, Mate said as she put her hands on her hips, “And what makes you so sure this isn’t magic?”

“I’m pretty sure”, Supergirl said as she turned to the side a little bit, “See? Wings.”

Mate looked around to make sure there was nobody within view, and then held her hands out in front of her. A second later, a huge spout of water came out of her hands and created a small lake in a dip in the ground. “See? Water. That was magic.”

“Wow”, Supergirl whispered, “That’s amazing! I’ve never seen a trick like that.”

“You mean you’re wings aren’t–”

“No, they’re not magic”, Supergirl said, “I’m not really sure I got them, aside from what Wally told me about them.”

“Wally?”, Mate asked skeptically.

“Yeah”, Supergirl said, “He’s a nine-year-old kid with a baseball bat. Says he’s God.”

Mate collapsed to the ground in a fit of laughter. “You expect me to believe that?” While Mate was on the ground, a baseball rolled up to her and bumped into her arm.

“A little help?”, a little boy a few yards away asked.

Mate stopped laughing, picked up the baseball, and walked over to the boy.

“Hi, I’m God”, the boy said as he tipped his bowler hat.

Supergirl walked over to Mate. “I see you’ve met Wally.”

“Excuse me, you two”, Wally said as he walked over to the burned, unconscious alien on the ground, “This one doesn’t belong here.”

“Doesn’t belong here?”, Mate asked.

“Yes, I didn’t place him on Earth.”

“You didn’t–”

“You really should use your water-spouting talent more often. Water’s beautiful. Well, gotta go.” Wally quickly started walking into the trees.

“Wait!” Mate tried to follow him, but quickly lost him – he just seemed to vanish. She quietly walked back to Supergirl and Charlie in a daze, wondering what to make of all of that.

Supergirl smiled at her when she came back. “Welcome to the club.”

Mate shook her head sadly. “And I thought things were strange when I joined GiW.”

“Yeah?”, Charlie said, “Try living in Leesburg for a while.”

Supergirl looked down at the unconscious alien. “So what do we do with him?”

“Bring him back to GiW headquarters, I guess”, Mate said, “This has never happened before, so there really aren’t any guidelines–”

“Say no more”, Supergirl said, “It’s time to show you another one of my angelic gifts.” Supergirl’s wings suddenly flared out and formed a small tunnel ahead of her.

Charlie looked at Mate. “After you.”

Mate looked at Charlie like he was insane.

“It’s safe”, Charlie said, “I’ve gone through it before.”

“Well…Okay”, Mate said. She closed her eyes and raced through it quickly. When she opened her eyes, she was standing in the middle of GiW headquarters, with everyone staring at her. Charlie came through next, and then Supergirl, carrying the unconscious alien with one hand.

Seish came out of his office with a big frown, and looked down at the burned alien on the floor. “What in hell is going on in here?”

“Not hell”, Supergirl said as she stood with her wings still lit, “Heaven.”

Mara suddenly came rushing out of the office. “Oh my God! What’s this doing here? Did you put her up to this, Mate?”

“No, it was my idea”, Supergirl said as her wings flickered out and became a cape once more, “I can transport anywhere I’ve seen firsthand.”

“Even my apartment?”, Mate asked.

“Anywhere.”


Mate poured herself a cup of coffee as Charlie and Supergirl sat down in the reception area. She watched as Supergirl wrinkled her nose at the smell of the coffee – apparently she was not much of a coffee drinker.

“So where are you two off to?”, Mara said as she walked into the reception area.

“Home”, Supergirl said, “Leesburg.”

“Next time you’re in town”, Mate said, “Feel free to drop in on me. I’ll be glad to give you guys a tour.”

Charlie stood up, preparing to leave, and looked at Mara. “Aren’t you supposed to make Supergirl an honorary GiW agent?”

Mara laughed. “This isn’t some cheesy television show, Charlie. Besides, Supergirl wouldn’t fit in here.”

“Why not?”, Supergirl asked. She felt a little hurt.

“Because we have rules here”, Mara said, “And so far, in less then twenty-four hours you’ve broken most of them.”

Charlie started laughing again, and this time Mate joined in.

“Let me finish”, Mara said, “You might make a great GiW agent, if you can only find the discipline to follow rules. You’re too much of a free spirit. You would endanger us all.”

Supergirl walked outside with Charlie and Mate close behind. She was feeling a little rejected – even though she wouldn’t join GiW anyway, it would have been nice to be invited. But they didn’t want her.

“Don’t let them get to you”, Charlie said, “You always were a loner, and frankly, you work better that way. They say they don’t want you now, but one day they’ll be begging for your help.”

“Thanks for trying to cheer me up, Charlie”, Supergirl said, “I’m okay with it.”

“If it makes you feel any better”, Mate added, “I’ve been rejected countless times. But I still found my dream.”

“Maybe we’ll visit you again one day, Mate”, Supergirl said, “See you later.”

“Wait!”, Mate yelled as Supergirl grabbed Charlie around the waist and started flying upward, “How will I get home? We left my car–”

“Oops”, Supergirl said as she dropped back down to the ground quickly, “Sorry, I forgot about that. Let’s get you home.” She held out her hand to Mate, as her cape turned into wings of flame with a flash of light, and a tunnel of flame appeared behind her.

Mate smiled. This time she felt no fear as she stepped through the tunnel.

“Nice poster”, Charlie said as soon as he stepped into Mate’s apartment and out of the flaming tunnel.

Supergirl looked to seen what he was talking about – it was a drawn poster of herself, created for fans. She couldn’t help but laugh a little bit when she saw it. There was something else that caught her attention, too.

“A bean bag chair!”, Supergirl yelled as she jumped onto the bag, making a loud ‘crunch!’. “I used to have one of these. How come I didn’t notice it when I was here earlier?”

“Probably because you were too busy talking about underwear”, Charlie said.

Supergirl frowned at Charlie and picked up a book off of the floor – it was titled, ‘Girls In White Quick Reference Guide’. She started leafing through it slowly. “What’s this, Hustler magazine?”

Mate laughed. “That’s the guide book for Girls In White.”

Charlie laughed as he read the book over Supergirl’s shoulder. “I wonder if GiW knows they could make a lot of money selling their little guide?”

Mate tried to snatch the book away from Supergirl, but found she couldn’t remove the book from Supergirl’s grasp.

Supergirl looked up at Mate and smiled. “Want it back?” She closed the book and held it out to Mate.

Mate took the guide book and looked at Supergirl as she stood up. “Do you mind if I test something?”

“Sure”, Supergirl said, “Go ahead.”

Mate picked up two phone books with both hands and gave them to Supergirl. “Tear these two book in half.”

“No, I don’t want to do that”, Supergirl said as she shook her head, “How will you look up telephone numbers without them?”

“These are old ones. Don’t worry about it.”

Supergirl sighed and took the phone books. She stood over the trash can and started quickly tearing both phone books at once into small shreds of paper.

“Wow!”, Mate said, “I had no idea you were so strong! I heard about it, but I never believed it.”

“That’s nothing”, Charlie interrupted, “She could probably shred your apartment building as easily as that phone book.”

Mate looked at Supergirl. “Is that true?”

“I guess so”, Supergirl said as she shrugged, “I’d rather not test that theory, if it’s all the same to you.” Supergirl glanced over at the clock, and then at Charlie. “It’s getting late, Charlie and I should be heading home.”

“You’re right”, Charlie said, “I nearly forgot about the time difference.”

“So Charlie – do you want to take the long way, or the short way?”, Supergirl asked as she stepped over to the window.

“Let’s take the long way”, Charlie said, “Teleporting may be quicker, but it’s boring.”

Supergirl laughed as she opened up the window. “Thanks for inviting us to Caracas, Mate.”

Mate smiled. “Thank you for coming to visit. Feel free to come back whenever you want.”

Supergirl grabbed Charlie around the waist, and floated out the window slowly. Mate waved until Supergirl disappeared from sight. She’d never forget the day Supergirl visited Caracas, and did the impossible.

#2 – Raiders Of The Lost

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.
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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.
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“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.”
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“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.”
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“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.”
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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.”
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“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.
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“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.
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“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.

“Research.”

“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.”
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“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.”
TO BE CONTINUED IN SGPI #3!

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Always Greener

Jennifer Walters entered her dark home with a smile on her face. She was still walking on air as she turned on the lights and absent-mindedly tossed her keys onto the end table next to her couch. Eddie was a nice guy, considering that she wasn’t expecting much from him. She never expected much on a blind date set up by one of her friends – but Eddie was a perfect gentleman, and he tried not to stare at her green skin or her tall frame too much.

Her euphoria continued as she remembered watching the ‘X-Men’ movie with him and eating enough snacks for three ‘normal’ people. She remembered the nice walk in the park at night. The whole time, Eddie talked to her about his own life, rather then ask her what it was like to be She-Hulk. She appreciated that. She also appreciated the fact that he kept the whole date rather informal, meaning that she could wear comfortable shorts and a cool cotton tee-shirt. She had to dress up to work, she much preferred spending her leisure time in leisure clothing.

She looked at her dark television screen briefly before heading to the kitchen for a drink of water. She opened the refrigerator and removed a bottle of water, and stared at the label – it was bottled at a spring somewhere in Canada. “Only the best for you, Jen.”

As she headed toward the kitchen table, she could hear the sound of her last phrase echoing off the walls of her empty home. The smile disappeared from her face as she sat down. Reality had set in, chasing away all sense of optimism – just like every other guy she tried to date, Eddie was intimidated by her. He was just too polite to say so. Jen longed for someone who was her equal, someone who could dish out as easily as he could take. At the very least, she wanted someone she could talk to honestly – someone she could just hang around with and be herself.

Jen sighed deeply. Kermit the Frog was right all along, it’s not easy being green. While she wouldn’t trade her role in life for anything, she sometimes wondered why someone so popular – a hero, for God’s sake – was relegated to spending every evening talking to herself in her kitchen. She wanted nothing more then someone to talk to in person, at least a close friend. Someone she could trust. Someone who trusted her.

Her smile was becoming a frown now, as she gripped the water bottle tightly enough to cause the plastic to start to discolor. Being She-Hulk was both the worst, and best, thing to ever happen to her. She now had the respect she always knew she deserved. But at what price? Spending her life with everyone frightened of her presence? To spend the rest of her life essentially…alone?

Jen didn’t even remember hurling the water bottle across the room until her kitchen became covered in Canadian water and shards of plastic. She clenched her fists as she watched the water dripping down the cabinets. Clenched her fists out of…anger? It wasn’t anger that drove her now, it was her need for self control. She began to let go, slowly, to let her emotions take a little of her time.

She closed her eyes quickly as tears began to flow. Slowly, at first, but before she knew it they were flowing freely as she settled her forehead on the table on top of her hand. Being She-Hulk was the best thing to ever happen to her. And the worst.

Jen awoke abruptly to the sound of her telephone ringing. She long ago gave up using alarm clocks to wake her – the involuntary anger response at being so rudely awoken by an incessant beeping or disgusting morning radio shows caused her to smash too many then she cared to count. She now relied on her own internal clock – or failing that, her law firm partner to call her and threaten her. This time was one for the latter.

“Jen, wake up! You have to be in court in two hours! And buy an alarm clock, for God’s sake!”

“Unnnhhh–” Jen tried to respond to her partner, but she found herself…less then articulate. Her mind still was asleep – and by then, she realized that her partner didn’t even wait for an answer before hanging up.

Jen picked her watch up off of the night table and glanced at it quickly. It was nine o’clock. Peter was right, she was running late. As the reality of time running out began to rudely awaken her mind, she leapt out of bed, completely unaware that her body had not fully awakened yet.

She found herself tripping over a simple high-heeled shoe sitting in the middle of the floor, falling head-first into a small bookshelf she had sitting next to the opposite wall. The bookshelf was no match for the Jen’s invulnerable body – in seconds, it had become a simple pile of splinters surrounded by torn books scattered all over the floor.

“Damn it! Damn it, damn it, damn it!” Now, Jen was fully awake – but it was too late to save her bookshelf or books. Sometimes being so resistant to damage was not a good thing. She stared at the mess of broken paper and wood for a second before heading to the bathroom – no time to clean it up now.

Several minutes later, she stared at her own reflection in the mirror as she finished dressing in one of her nicest formal suits. The deep blue color of the suit and blouse complemented her skin and eyes, while remaining formal enough so people would take her seriously as an attorney.

She wanted to be taken seriously today. This was the trial of her career, the biggest test of inner strength and patience she ever had to endure. Today, she decided, the High Court would grant a temporary suspension of enforcement of the Mutant Registration Act until the Supreme Court could hear the case and determine if it was constitutional.

Jen knew it wasn’t. The law itself was racist, forcing mutants to register with the Federal government as a danger to society – whether they had special powers or not. She knew that if it was upheld, it wouldn’t be long before people with genetic defects or handicaps would be forced to register – and soon after that…the Fourth Reich.

She shook her head to dismiss that thought. Maybe it was a slight exaggeration, but the comparison was still there. The MRA has proven that anyone can get a law passed, no matter how stupid, simply by causing paranoia to support it.

Jen took a deep breath and stared deeply into her own eyes for several minutes. As she did, she started to see a glimmer of doubt somewhere deep in her soul. Behind that doubt was fear – for herself as much as for other mutants forced to register under the Mutant Registration Act. The doubt was cast by her fear of failure. She knew, deep down, that if she were to fail…she herself would be doomed to the same fate as those victims she defended. This was her last stand.

“Here goes nothing.” Her own words echoed in her mind as she grabbed her briefcase and headed out the door. Nothing. She hoped that somehow, it would be more then that.

“Nice of you to decide to make it.”

“Oh, shut up, Phil.” Jen hoped her cold response, along with the fact that she didn’t even turn to look at him as she spoke, would tell her partner that she was not having a good day so far. Phil responded by not saying a word as he followed Jen into the courthouse.

As Jen entered the courtroom, she could plainly see two distinct groups in the courtroom. One side of the room was filled with people who had confident looks, and seemed fairly calm. On the other side of the room were the mutants and those who loved them – they all wore sad, frightened expressions.

‘Give me your tired, your poor…your huddled masses yearning to be free’. For some reason, Jen remembered that old saying from the Statue of Liberty. The mutants in the gallery were perfectly described that way…huddled masses, yearning to be free. Frightened men and women, clinging to their last hopes for freedom.

“All rise, please.”

From those words on, Jen felt like little more then a spectator as the case progressed around her, without even her slightest input being allowed. The opposing council called one expert witness after the other, and neither Jen nor Phil ever got a chance to speak up. ‘You’ll get a chance later’, the judge said. Jen wisely spent her idle time in that court jotting down notes which she would use later – if the case turned out unfavorably, they would become useful during the appeal.

Then the judge stood up, announcing that he was going to go to his chambers to decide the case. Phil was livid as he stood up, and began yelling until his face turned red.

“Objection! I object, your honor! We haven’t had any chance to present our testimony, or redirect with the opposing council’s witnesses!”

The judge pointed his gavel at Phil, just above the sign that read ‘Hon. Joseph Reed’. “One more outburst out of you, Mr. Simmons, and I’ll hold you in contempt! I received your affidavit, that’s all you need for now.”

“But your honor–”

“May I remind you, Mr. Simmons, that this is an injunction hearing, not a murder trial. I will not allow it to drag on for days at your whim!”

“Damn it!” As Judge Reed left the room to retire to his chambers, Phil slammed his left palm down on the table.

Jen smiled. “Calm down, Phil. We can always appeal. Or we can take this to the Supreme Court.”

“No, we can’t.” Phil leaned close to Jen, the anger still apparent on his face. “Because if we fail now…the Supreme Court will refuse to hear this case…at least until someone dies because of that law!”

Jen folded her arms and slumped down in her chair as her heart began to sink. She had dedicated a good chunk of her career to defeating the MRA. And now, because of one stubborn judge…she was going to lose her life’s quest?

She was fuming already as the judge re-entered the courtroom, her look of contempt for Judge Reed piercing him as she stood and watched him return to his soft leather chair behind the bench.

“Please be seated. I have reviewed all of the evidence in this case, and determined to deny the injunction against the Mutant Registration Act.”

“Let me finish.” Judge Reed looked over at Phil, who began to stand. “The act itself only requires registration of mutant abilities once they are discovered. It does not advocate violence, nor does it advocate imprisonment. Only registration. The reality is that some mutants out there are dangerous. If we have to register our guns and cars, mutants should be registered as well.”

Jen stood up angrily, heading toward the bench quickly. “They don’t deserve to be treated this way! Mutants are people too!”

“And kids are people too…and dogs.” Judge Reed leaned closer to Jen and smiled. “Where do we draw the line, Miss Walters? Will you appear before this court to fight for the rights of cockroaches as well?”

“You, Judge Reed–” Jen was pointing a large finger directly across the front of the bench, casing Judge Reed to lean back. “–are a bigot! You have no business running a courtroom!”

“You are out of order, Miss Walters! One more word out of you, and I’ll find you in contempt! You’ll find yourself in a jail cell so quickly, that green head of yours will be left spinning!”

Jen’s fists were clenched tightly now, her teeth grinding. She wanted nothing more then to smash the bench to splinters and rip that bigoted judge in half. All sense of calm gone, she now began screaming at the judge. “No, you are out of order! This whole case is out of order! People like you are the reason why society is falling apart – people who are unhappy unless they can beat down someone else!”

“That’s it!” Judge Reed slammed the gavel down on the bench, causing the small wooden plaque it rested on to fall to the floor. “You, Miss Walters, are in contempt! You will accompany my bailiff to the holding cells, where you will remain until you apologize to this court!”

“Jen–” She turned to see Phil, her partner, standing behind the defense table, looking at her sadly. She didn’t need to hear his words to know what he was going to say. He wanted her to apologize, to swallow her pride and save them both a lot of trouble later on.

“Your honor.” Jen turned back to the judge, a calmer expression on her face this time. “I’m sorry. I…I just let my temper get the best of me.”

“Very well.” Judge Reed stood up and put the gavel down on the bench. “Apology noted, you’re free to go. Maybe next time, Miss Walters, you’ll keep your anger in check.”

“Yes, your honor.”

As soon as the judge left the bench, Jen raced past Phil at the defense table, pausing only to grab her suit jacket and briefcase before she headed toward the exit.

Before she even made it through the door…she was crying.

Phil found Jen sitting on a bench outside the courthouse, her suit jacket draped across her lap and her briefcase at her feet. She sat, staring at traffic as it passed by, as if lost in thought.

“Are you okay, Jen? You almost lost it back there.”

Jen turned to face him and smiled weakly as he sat down next to her. “I’m sorry Phil. I guess this case is affecting me more deeply then I’m willing to admit.”

Phil nodded silently, and placed a hand on Jen’s shoulder. “We’ll get through this, Jen.”

“The Nazis in Germany passed a law just like the MRA before World War II, Phil. It wasn’t long before six million people were executed as a result.” Jen had pain and fear in her eyes as she spoke. She kept staring at Phil, expecting him to tell her that she was exaggerating, that her fears were unwarranted. But he just gave her a sympathetic look.

“I know, Jen.” Phil sighed. “People never see these things coming until it’s too late.”

“Exactly. People, Phil. Not institutions.” Jen sighed and pointed at the courthouse again. “Institutions make these laws, not people. It’s fear, Phil. Fear of the unknown…That’s what gives government too much power over these things.”

“What are you really afraid of, Jen?” Phil gripped Jen’s shoulder tighter, noticing that his fingers didn’t even seem to make an impression. But now he could feel the movement her powerful muscles as she shifted in her seat. “I saw you crying as you left the courtroom. What’s wrong?”

Jen smiled weakly again. Phil always knew when she was hiding something from him. “The world is so fragile to me, Phil. I try as hard as I can to be a perfect citizen…but in my heart, I’m only human. I screw up sometimes, just like you do. I get angry–”

Phil sat up suddenly. “You’re afraid you’re turning into your cousin Bruce?”

“No.” Jen shook her head and leaned forward, looking down at a group of ants walking along the pavement. “People like me, Phil…it’s so easy for me to end up on the wrong side of the law. Just one slip, that’s all it takes…and I end up like my cousin Bruce. To become a savage. That’s what they would call me, a savage She-Hulk.”

Phil shook his head slowly. He couldn’t believe that Jen was anything like Hulk, in any way.

“It’s true, Phil.” Jen looked at him sadly. “I almost lost control in that courtroom.”

“But you didn’t.” Phil stood up and offered his hand to Jen – a hand that dwarfed in comparison to hers as she took it. “You’re here. And you’re still a model citizen.”

Jen laughed a little and stood up. “Let’s get some lunch, Phil. I’m starved.”

“Great idea.” Phil followed Jen quickly, trying to keep pace with her large strides as she walked down the street. “But you’re buying. I don’t make enough to feed you.”

She smiled as she turned around to look at Phil for a moment. He always did know how to cheer her up.

Jen awoke in her dark bedroom to red and blue flashing lights dancing on the ceiling. At first, her mind didn’t comprehend why – but as the sleepy mist began to clear in her head, she understood. It meant there were police cars outside…lots of them.

She checked the clock – it displayed three a.m. – and grabbed a robe to hide her pajamas and some old sneakers, and headed outside. She didn’t like the stereotype of lawyers being characterized as ‘ambulance chasers’, but sometimes, in an emergency, there might someone who needed the help of an attorney.

She was shocked at the scene as soon as she stepped outside. There were nearly a dozen police cars and vans parked on the street, and all of her neighbors were outside, watching – save one. The police were entering and leaving the house right next door, which was surrounded with crime scene tape.

“Excuse me…what’s going on?” Jen tapped the shoulder of an officer who was guarding the crime scene.

“Oh, some mutant didn’t register–” The officer suddenly froze as he turned to face Jen. “Uh…no offense, Miss.”

“None taken.” Jen glared at the officer and turned her attention to a small group of people exiting the house next door.

There were four police officers carrying a young girl, about fifteen, out of the house with her feet and arms bound with heavy rope and handcuffs. She had duct tape over her mouth. The parents stood in the doorway, sobbing – but could do nothing to help, since they were being held back by two more officers. The mother screamed the daughter’s name repeatedly – ‘Rebecca’. Jen knew the sound of the screams would be etched into her memory, forever.

Jen began heading toward the house, her nearly invulnerable body tearing through the crime scene tape and shoving the officers in her way. It only took her seconds to reach Rebecca, and lift her away from the officers trying to bring her to one of the police van.

“This is no way to treat a human being!” Jen began frantically removing the bounds, snapping rope and steel alike until Rebecca was free. The girl raced back into her parents arms, clinging to them as if they were her lifeline.

Jen then turned her attention on the officers, who approached her to try and retrieve Rebecca once again – but they were casually tossed aside by just one of Jen’s arms.

“You should all be ashamed of yourselves! How are you each going to explain this to your children…your grandchildren? That you came here to beat down and tie up a little girl?”

Suddenly, the street was filled with nothing more then the sound of occasional police radio chatter as everyone just froze, staring at Jen as tears began forming in her eyes.

“Go home…all of you. Go home to your families.”

Nothing. The officers remained frozen, just staring. Jen took a few steps forward and grabbed one of the police cars, lifting it over her head. “Go home, or I swear to God, you’ll have nothing left but a pile of twisted steel!”

As the police officers began racing back to their cars, including the one she just put back down, she began to feel regret over what she had done. It only took a few minutes for the street to clear, for everyone to go back to their homes.

But somehow, she knew it wasn’t over. As Jen retreated back to her home, and went back to bed, she made a mental note to call Phil in the morning. She would need him…she knew she crossed the line, and she would soon pay for it. She was now a savage.

As sleep overtook her, she wanted deep down to cry. But after her day…she had no tears left.

Cold concrete was what Jen felt on the side of her face as she woke up in the morning. The sun streamed in through a tiny window she could see from her spot lying on the icy floor. She had no idea where she was, or what time it was – only that she was no longer in her own home.

She tried to sit up, but quickly found that she was too dizzy. It had to be the after effect of some kind of tranquilizer that she was feeling. As her mind began to awaken, it started flooding with questions. Where was she? Was she kidnapped?

The grogginess and the uncomfortable room told her that whoever brought her was unfriendly. The whole place was unfriendly. Jen sat up slowly, and began to look around at what appeared to be a room in some sort of barracks. The room contained a small private shower and toilet, and a basic cot. She was close enough to the cot to realize that she must have fallen out of it, since it was too small for her.

But the windows were small, too – as if to prevent escape. And the door to the room was locked from the outside. It was a cell. She was in some kind of prison. She needed Phil’s help.

“Hey! Let me outta here! I’m a lawyer!” As soon as Jen pounded on the door once, she felt a little stupid – the door swung right open. It wasn’t even locked. As soon as she got over her feeling of embarrassment she began to wonder…what kind of place was this? Like a prison…and yet not?

She started to slowly walk down a nearly-dark hallway, toward what she could see was an exit at the other end. She began running toward it, hoping that it too was unlocked. Once she reached the door, she burst right through it – it wasn’t locked either.

As soon as she stepped outside, she realized why.

The building she just left behind was inside a compound surrounded by three twenty-five foot tall steel fences, in sequence. Each one of them was labeled ‘High Voltage’. It was a prison, of sorts – just more in the community fashion.

Jen began walking around slowly. At that hour of the morning, not many people were outside – but there was activity. She could see her neighbor’s child being carried, kicking and screaming, into a small building in a corner of the complex near the entrance.

“Hey!” Jen raced toward the child and the four guards carrying her. As soon as she got close, she suddenly halted. Two other guards had some kind of weapon aimed at her. One she didn’t recognize. “I’m a lawyer, dammit! You can’t treat me this way! You can’t treat this little girl this way either!”

“You’re both mutants.” One of the guards, an older man who was obviously in charge of the whole operation, decided to pipe up and speak to Jen. “We’re acting within the law.”

“Oh yeah?” Jen stepped closer to the man, until she towered over him. “And what exactly did I do to end up in here?”

The older man motioned to the guard next to him, who handed him some kind of electronic file retrieval device. “Assault on police officers, inducing panic. You have to understand, Ms. Walters, we can’t keep you in a standard prison. And given your gamma-irradiated cousin’s record–”

“What?” Jen yelled her question loud enough to cause the older man to flinch in fear for a second. “My cousin? I’m nothing like my cousin! Why would you even think–”

“Do not interfere with our business, Ms. Walters.” The older man frowned as he spoke slowly, with a deliberate tone. “You are allowed to walk the grounds only on my say-so – because of your reputation as a lawyer. That can be revoked.”

Jen stood, fuming, as the older guard walked away from her behind the four who were ‘escorting’ the young girl into the small building labeled ‘Examination’. She began to worry about the girl. She began to worry about herself.

“I demand to know where she is!”

Phil Simmons slammed his briefcase on the Police Captain’s desk at the West Chester County police headquarters, knocking over all of his family pictures and his desk lamp. He noted the name plate which was now on the floor – ‘Captain Milton Tyler’. “She’s my partner, dammit! If you don’t tell me where she is, I’ll be back here with warrants!”

“Yeah? Go ahead.” Captain Tyler stood up, leaning forward toward Phil. “In the mean time, get the hell outta here before you find yourself behind bars!”

“I dare you.”

“Don’t push me, Simmons! You come in here, raising hell, every time one of your mutant clients gets arrested! This time, I’m not biting!”

Phil leaned farther over the desk. “Then you might just find your name on a warrant, Captain Tyler.”

“Get out!”

“You can’t throw me out.” Phil folded his arms and smiled. “This is a public building.”

“Fine.” Captain Tyler stood up suddenly, leaning forward toward Phil. “She was taken to a government MRA holding facility. I don’t know any more then that. I don’t even know where it is.”

“A what?”

Captain Tyler shook his head, indicating that he thought little of Phil’s intelligence. “They can’t put mutants like her in a regular jail.”

As Phil frowned and headed toward the door, he thought it would be better to remain silent. But after hearing Captain Tyler talk about Jen that way…anger just got the better of him.

“People like you make me sick. Jennifer Walters is more human then you’ll ever be.”

Alarms blared as Jen effortlessly plowed through the reinforced steel doors of the ‘Examination’ building. She paused for a second as she looked quickly around the room. Several different people, including the young girl who was just brought it, were restrained on medical examination tables. They each had several tubes, wires, and monitors hooked up to them.

Her heart sank as she watched a woman lying on one of the tables, crying and struggling against her restraints. She could tell by the sound of the cries that the woman was being intravenously fed some kind of chemical that was causing her a lot of pain. Monitors were recording her reaction to the chemical. She was being tested somehow.

Jen spotted the young girl she watched the staff bring in earlier – she was strapped to a table, and was asleep. By the rhythm of the girl’s breathing, Jen could tell she had been sedated.

“No…No more.”

Jen turned toward the door at the sound of several loud footsteps. She found herself facing four armed officers in riot gear and the same older officer she met earlier. This time she paid attention to the name on his uniform – ‘Hall’.

“Ms. Walters.” Hall stepped in front of the armed officers, admiring the destroyed steel doors as he entered. “Living up to your cousin’s reputation already, are we?”

“No more of this. I demand you release these people immediately.”

“You demand?” Hall laughed out loud. “This is a prison, Ms. Walters. Everyone here has broken the law. You’ll get no sympathy from me. Now back to your cell…now!”

“No. No more.” Jen walked over to the woman who was writhing in pain, tearing the nylon straps which held her to the table quickly, and then pulling all of the wires and tubes away from her. Jen turned her attention to the young girl next. As she did, she could hear Hall barking orders at her, getting more and more upset – but Jen didn’t care. She wanted only to free everyone…or at least as many as she could.

Hall didn’t seem like much of a threat to Jen, until he walked up right behind her and jabbed her in the ribs with some kind of steel pole, which then sent a high-voltage charge through her body. He was zapping her with a cattle prod. That’s all Jen or anyone else in that camp meant to these people. They were cattle, to be herded, tortured, and experimented with.

Hey eyes blazing with anger, Jen turned suddenly and grabbed the fabric of Hall’s uniform, lifting him up in the air quickly.

“I said…No more!”

Hall quickly found himself airborne, his body flung across the room carelessly as a doll thrown by an angry child. His body was still travelling at high speed when he collided with the other four officers – he and the four were immediately knocked unconscious as they all slammed into the wall behind them hard enough to cause the wall’s partial collapse.

Once Jen had freed the young girl, she lifted the girl’s sleeping form in her arms and began carrying her slowly toward the main gate of the complex. As soon as she began walking, a large group of frightened and bewildered people who had been imprisoned in the camp began following her cautiously.

They watched her defeat Hall and his officers. They followed her, hoping she would make it out – but they also kept their distance out of fear that she would not, that she would end up dead like so many who had attempted escape before.

“Open the gate.” Jen knew she had a lot of nerve giving orders to the young police officer standing guard in a booth next to the gate. But by this time, she was more concerned about the health of the girl she was holding then of her own freedom or safety. She bit her lip as she glanced back at the small group of injured and weak behind her. People who came from the so-called ‘Examination’ building. “Open the gate…please.”

“Sorry, I have my orders.” Jen looked at his badge as he spoke. The name on it read ‘Michaels’. “I have to keep this gate locked unless Hall asks me to open it.”

“How many have to die because of ‘orders’, Michaels?” Jen bit her lip harder to keep her feelings in check as tears began forming in her eyes. “What if it was your family in here?”

Officer Michaels looked a little hurt for a second, but remained stubborn. “I’m sorry. I–”

“Tell me–” Jen’s tear-filled emerald green eyes pierced directly into Officer Michaels’ fearful brown eyes. “How long is it until your son or daughter is taken away in the middle of the night…taken away from you, and locked away into a place like this…where you will never see them again.”

Michaels glanced at the child in Jen’s arms, and then turned away from Jen quickly. She could see that he was looking at two photos on a small shelf in his booth.

“Tell me.”

“Damn it.” Michaels tore a set of keys off a ring inside his booth and stepped outside quickly. He inserted one of the keys in a small slot next to the gate and turned it quickly. Sirens began to blare once again, and bright strobe lights started to flash as the gate began opening slowly.

“Thank you, Officer Michaels.” Jen bowed her head to him lightly. “It warms my heart to see that someone cares.”

As Jen walked out of the gate with a small crowd of people referred to as mutants, Michaels did nothing but stare. The gates of the complex were wide open. There would be no more lies, no more hiding…no more injustice done in this place.

“What the hell are you doing, Michaels?” Hall was more angry then Michaels had ever seen him when he walked up and saw the gate open, and the crowd of people walking away.

“Something I should have done a long time ago.” Michaels turned to Hall, an angry, determined look on his face. He reached into his guard booth and grabbed only the photos from his shelf, holding on to them tightly. He was tired of having nightmares, of being unable to sleep every night. He was tired of being afraid to tell his wife and son what he did for a living…tired of having to be ashamed. “I quit! And anyone here who has any conscience left should too!”

As Michael silently walked through the gates, Hall stood frozen. One by one, the officers working in the camp began throwing their weapons and helmets to the ground, and walking out of the gates. It was only a matter of minutes before Hall stood alone, in the entrance to a prison camp rendered obsolete…by humanity.

It would be days later before the incident leaked to the local newspapers. By the time the media processed the information, the story became back page news. It would only be a footnote in history – but to everyone who was there…it meant so much more.