World of the Lost #1: Brave New World 1/20

by Philip S.

Disclaimer: Supergirl and other DC characters are copyright DC Comics. Other characters appearing in this story are copyright Wildstorm Productions. No infringement is intended.

Summary: A world that has never known about the existence of super beings becomes a new home to some forgotten heroes. Only some people are not happy about these newcomers and plan to do something about it.

Rating: R

Author's Notes: As I am using characters from the DC Silver Age's Earths 1 and 2 I tried to put together a sort-of chronology for the events on those two Earths. While this was not that difficult for Earth-2, which followed a rather straight-forward timeline starting with Superman's original debut in 1938, it was extremely hard for Earth-1. Supergirl's arrival on Earth, for example, took place in 1959 (at least that was when the comic came out) and she was 15 at that time (at least according to Supes' comment in Crisis #7). Which would have made her 41 at the time of the Crisis (1985), which seems way too old to me. Clearly the history of Earth-1 was fluent (though probably not as much as that of the current DC universe) and events moved forward in time as the years progressed. The history I am using was created from bits and pieces gathered from various comics and the internet and I tried to stay true to the order, if not the exact dates, of the various events. If you spot any glaring continuity errors or such please let me know.

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Part 1: Arrivals

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The year 2003:

It started with what was later called an 'inexplicable atmospheric phenomenon'. For several hours large parts of the world were overcast by crimson storm clouds, the skies taking on the colour of blood. Lightning that was black as ink thundered down and caused quite a bit of property damage and some loss of life. Doomsayers on every street corner screamed that the end of the world was finally here and that everyone should repent, lest they be cast into hell.

The crimson clouds vanished without a trace, though, and the world continued to exist with no perceptible change. Records actually showed that this was not the first time this strange phenomenon had appeared. For several days back in July of 1985 similar clouds had appeared over wide areas of the world, causing quite a bit of panic and professional interest. These clouds, too, had eventually disappeared without a trace.

Many people would speculate that these two events might be connected, maybe part of some kind of cyclic astronomical occurrence they had yet to figure out. Theories would abound, numerous investigations would be launched, but today's scientists would have no more luck figuring out why the skies turned crimson than those back in 1985. Eventually the phenomenon would be forgotten, filed away as a mere curiosity.

Only a handful of people would ever find out what these two events meant and what they would unleash upon this unsuspecting world.

#

Sarah Mason had worked in the Metropolis Public Library for nearly ten years now and was quite familiar with all possible types of library visitors, or so she had always thought. There were those who hurried through the stacks, searching for a single book, and then left. Others spent hours browsing through several books concerning a single topic, taking their time and reading the day away. Still others seemed to visit for the sole purpose of breaking the age-old rule that it had to be quiet inside a library.

Sarah was uncertain, though, where to put the young woman who had arrived early in the morning and been here ever since. At first she had pecked her for a student, though an older one (late twenties maybe?), doing research for a paper or something. After nearly eight hours, though, in which she had seen the woman browsing through books of such various topics as history, technology, social development, quantum theory, and about a dozen others, as well as making extensive use of the newspaper archives, Sara was rather certain that this was a type of visitor she had never seen before.

It was almost as if this young woman was trying to assimilate the sum total of the world's knowledge in the span of a day. That was nonsense, of course. Sara had seen how this woman read, if one could even call it that. Either she had developed an extremely fast form of speed reading or, more likely, she was simply leafing through the books in search of pictures. No one could read that fast, after all.

Maybe she was doing this because of a bet? Spend an entire day in the library looking busy or you have to do ... well, something really icky.

Interestingly the woman had seemed genuinely clueless when Sarah had asked her if she wanted to use one of the library's internet terminals. It was as if she had never before heard of the internet. Maybe she was from some sort of Amish village? Out of touch with all technology beyond the horse cart? Possibly. Sarah explained to her how to use the terminal and within a few minutes she was surfing like an old hand. Smart, Sarah judged, just uneducated.

Lovely blonde hair, too. Not fake, either.

#

The blonde woman's name was Kara Zor-El. Truth to tell she had long considered shortening that name to just Kara-El. Zor-El was her father's name and it had been tradition on Krypton, her home world, for females to carry the full name of their father as last name. Krypton, a world that had developed far more rapidly in the technological than the social areas, had not survived long enough for this rather patriarchal system to die out.

She had two other names, actually. One was the name she had adopted on the planet Earth, a secret identity that would allow her to move freely among the people of her adopted world without drawing too much attention. That name was Linda Lee Danvers. As of late, though, Kara had come to regard the identity of Linda as more of a burden than an advantage, had even considered dispensing with it entirely.

Her third and final name had been given to her by Earth's media during her first public appearance. It was a name she still carried, even though she was no longer a girl but a fully grown woman. Still, she had to admit that Superwoman sounded rather cumbersome and she did not really have a problem with most people still addressing her by the name she had become famous under: Supergirl.

Right now, though, she was feeling anything but super. Come to think of it she did not remember another time in her life when she had felt this lost. The many books on the table in front of her seemed to mock her, spelling out the history of a world that was clearly not her own. This was Earth, yes, but not the Earth she came from.

Kara had long known about the existence of the multiverse, of course. Parallel worlds, separated by a difference in quantum vibration, each looking a lot like the other, yet quite different in the details. Unlike her cousin Kal she had not travelled much between these alternate Earths, but she did know her way around.

She also knew that this planet, this particular version of Earth, should not exist.

The events were still etched into her mind with perfect crystal clarity. The Anti-Monitor. The worst threat that she or any other superhero on any Earth had ever faced. A nearly omnipotent cosmic despot, absolute ruler of the anti-matter universe of Qward, he had sought to eliminate all the positive-matter universes in order to expand his own supremacy. With every universe that died in his anti-matter storms his power grew until he seemed all but unstoppable.

Kara still shuddered when thinking about the billions upon billions of lives this insane madman had destroyed. Thousands of universes had been annihilated before a force strong enough to oppose him had arisen. A veritable army of superheroes from all surviving worlds, gathered from different eras of time, had invaded the anti-matter universe and attacked the Anti-Monitor's fortress, looking to put an end to his tyranny once and for all.

The attack had nearly ended in disaster. Honesty compelled Kara to admit that, even now, she did not know whether or not it had been a success. Most of the heroes had been kept busy by the Anti-Monitor's defences and it been Kal, her cousin, who had faced the madman alone. Yes, he was Superman, one of the most powerful beings in any world, but it had not been enough. The Anti-Monitor had beaten him to a pulp and raised his fist for the killing blow. At that moment something had snapped inside Kara.

Kal was family, one of but very few surviving Kryptonians, and the man who had been both mentor, surrogate-father, and best friend to her for most of her life. To defend him she had disregarded every principle he had ever taught her. She wanted to kill this creature that threatened her cousin, wanted to rip him into pieces and scatter them into the void with every bit of superhuman strength she possessed. It did not matter that he was a living being. The blood of billions was on his hands and the only way to save the worlds that were left was to kill him every bit as ruthlessly as he had killed so many others.

She might even have succeeded. Never before had she unleashed her full powers on any single being. The Anti-Monitor, winded by his battle against Superman, had been taken by surprise. She had cracked open his protective armour, had pounded him into the floor. She would never know for sure, of course, but she was convinced that she could have finished him off.

Her compassion had been her undoing. Not for the Anti-Monitor, no, but for her cousin. She had instructed Doctor Light, the only other hero in reach of the battle, to get Kal to safety. In a moment of carelessness she had turned around to see whether Light had done as she told her. That moment had been all the Anti-Monitor needed.

Kara still remembered the pain, a pain so intense she wanted to die on the spot if only it would put an end to it. The Anti-Monitor had torn into her with a strength that had already crushed universes and she was helpless before it. Her vaunted invulnerability failed, skin that could not be harmed by the fury of a star cracked open, bones that could have supported the weight of a world broke. She fell to the ground, bleeding and torn up inside, certain that this was the end.

The last thing she remembered was Kal, kneeling over her, telling her that she had succeeded in destroying the Anti-Monitor's doomsday machine, now she just had to hold on. She remembered telling him that she loved him, telling him not to cry. Then nothing.

She died, or so she had assumed at that moment. The pain had vanished and everything around her had slid away into darkness. She had waited for Rao, the Kryptonian deity, to take her into his arms and carry her away into the afterlife. Only it had not happened that way. The next thing she had known was the feeling of rain on her skin, the rumble of a thunderstorm overhead.

Kara had awoken in a field, lying beneath a sky filled with crimson clouds. The same crimson clouds that had heralded the Crisis and the coming of the Anti-Monitor. Fear had filled her being, even when she found herself miraculously unharmed. Had the monster returned? Had it beaten the others and come to Earth to finish the job? This was Earth, that much she recognised almost immediately. Was her adopted world still in danger?

The storm clouds had passed, though, fading away without much ado. Kara had no idea how she had made it back to Earth, how her injuries had healed so rapidly, or what had happened to her costume. The supposedly indestructible fabric had, of course, not fared any better against the Anti-Monitor's attack than her own skin and there had not been much left of it by the time he dropped her bleeding body to the ground. Whatever had remained must have been lost during the strange journey that had brought her here.

That, at least, was a problem quickly remedied. The nearest city was but a short flight away and Kara snatched a couple of clothes from a department store at super speed without anyone even seeing her. She felt guilty about stealing the clothes, but resolved to reimburse the store the moment she got home.

Only home was not where it was supposed to be. At the speeds she was travelling it did not take her long to realise this. She had planned to make a short trip to her apartment in Chicago, just long enough to snatch a spare custom, and then head towards the Monitor's satellite to find out what had happened with the battle, to check whether the others were all right.

Her apartment building was not there any longer, in its place stood a modern office tower. The Monitor's satellite was not in orbit, at least nowhere she could find it, and the greatest shock came when she flew to the arctic and found no trace of Superman's Fortress of Solitude.

For a moment she almost panicked, but quickly calmed down again when she realised what must have happened. In the course of the Crisis the five surviving universes, each with their own version of the planet Earth, had been joined together in a so-called Netherverse, a safe haven against the anti-matter constructed by the Monitor and the woman known as Harbinger. That had to be the answer. This was one of the four other Earths, a planet similar, yet not identical to her own.

Another shock had assailed right on the heels of that calming realisation, caused by her first glance at a calendar. It was the year 2003, eighteen years in the future. It took her even less time to recover from this revelation, though. As a Kryptonian she could fly faster than light and crack the time barrier under her own power. So what if someone or something had thrown her eighteen years into the future? She could still make her way home without too much trouble.

Or so she had thought.

Before diving blindly into the time stream or cracking the dimensional barriers Kara had resolved to find out exactly where she was. She did not know much about the other four Earths that had survived the Crisis, but at the very least she knew which heroes had come from which planet. So the only thing she had to do was find a record of this world's superheroes and she would know all she needed to know. Then she could travel back eighteen years and make her way back to her own Earth.

That had been almost ten hours ago. Now Kara sat at a table, filled with knowledge, and was more clueless than ever.

This world did not have any superheroes. In fact, judging by these books and what she had found in this 'internet' the librarian had shown her, the mere concept of a superhero was something that did not exist in this world, at least not outside a comic book. Which should be impossible. She knew, knew without a shadow of a doubt, that only five worlds remained in the multiverse. All five of these had superheroes, heroes the public was aware of. She should have found some records. Records of the Justice League, the Justice Society, the Freedom Fighters, the Marvel Family, or at least that strange group the hero known as Blue Beetle had belonged to.

None of them existed here. Which, impossible as it might seem, suggested that this was not one of the five Earths she knew of. Which also suggested that this world should not exist, should have been destroyed by anti-matter storms more than eighteen years ago. Yet here it was, solid and real.

She considered the idea that maybe it actually was one of the surviving five Earths, that something had happened these last eighteen years to eradicate all knowledge of superheroes. Well, that should be easy enough to find out. A simply jaunt into the past would answer that question.

Kara headed for the bathroom and flew out the window, moving at speeds too high for anyone to spot her. Traversing the time barrier was not that difficult if one had the ability to exceed light speed. The atmosphere was left behind within seconds and Kara accelerated, expecting to see the rainbow colours of the time stream appear around her every moment now.

It did not happen. She flew many times the speed of light, saw the familiar time dilating effects around her, but that was simple physics. The jaunt into the time stream did not occur, no matter how hard she tried, and after several minutes (subjectively) she broke off the attempt.

Kara was starting to be genuinely scared. Not only had something snatched her away from certain death and deposited her on this strange world, she was also cut off from the time stream. In desperation she tried to crack the dimensional barriers. She had only done this a few times before, always with Kal there to guide her through it, but she remembered how it worked. Adjust your internal vibrations until they matched that of the other universe. Kara began to vibrate at a speed that would have made the Flash proud and tried to switch universes, not caring what world she might end up in as long as something actually happened.

Nothing did.

For a long moment Kara was almost overwhelmed by despair, but then resolved herself again. Okay, so she was stuck in this time, this dimension. She was still Supergirl, still one of the most powerful superheroes around. Someone or something had brought her here and odds were that it would also be able to take her back. The Crisis seemed to have passed this world by, otherwise it would have ceased to exist, yet it had experienced the same crimson storm clouds her own world had endured in the months preceding the Anti- Monitor's attack.

There was a connection there, she was sure of it. That connection was her ticket home. With her resolve thus renewed Kara quickly accelerated back towards Earth where, due to the time dilation, several hours had passed in the few minutes she had been away. Night had fallen over the eastern seaboard and the library had no doubt closed by now. Kara allowed herself a small smile. The librarian would probably be ticked at the thoughtless young woman who simply left all those books lying around without putting them back. If only she knew.

Zipping back into Earth's atmosphere at speeds too great for any satellite or flight control radar to pick her up, Kara decided to find a place to rest first. She was tired, extremely so. Her wounds might have been healed, but she was still worn out from the battle and ten hours of concentrating on books and computer screens had not done much to improve that situation.

Too tired to conduct a long search for accommodations, she simply dropped down in what she estimated to be Kansas (a curious choice, her inner voice mumbled) and curled up under a tree. The cold of night did not bother her, nor was she in danger from any animal that might be passing by. She just needed some rest. Maybe everything would make more sense in the morning.

Yeah, maybe.

#

The man tiredly brushed his hand through his greying hair and sighed, sitting down at the table opposite the young woman he had come here with. They were inside an internet café and it had taken neither of them long to figure out how to use this vast fountain of information. Neither of them liked what they had found there, though.

"Nothing?" the woman asked, her face a mask of bitterness and fear.

The man simply shook his head. In so many ways this situation was one big déjà vu for them. According to the calendar eighteen years had passed, but for them it had been but a few hours since they had found themselves on a world that had no place for them. Only a handful of people, their fellow superheroes with whom they had fought at the dawn of time, even remembered their existence. To everyone else they were less than a dream, a forgotten memory of something that had never taken place.

Then there had been yet another battle, yet another attack by the monster that had doomed so many people. The Anti-Monitor's shadow demons had come upon the Earth like a plague and they both remembered their burning touch, remembered being cornered in an alley, trying to protect some children. They remembered the Titan Kole, trying to shield them with a wall of crystal.

It had not been enough. The shadows had burned them, swallowed them. They had both been certain that this was it. The world had forgotten them and now they would die, probably not even leaving a corpse.

Instead they had woken up here.

"I don't know where we are," Richard Grayson told Helena Wayne, "but it's no place I recognize."

TO BE CONTINUED