Infinite Crisis Aftermath:
Disclaimer: DC Comics owns all related comics characters.
Note: I started this, but my friend, thanks to my attention span, finished it, so kodos to him for the job well done.
Karen Starr never had been here. On Oa. It had taken a lot of convincing The Guardians to let her do this on Hal and Kyle's part, but she'd gotten what she wanted.
As Power Girl, she's been to a lot of places, lived in a lot of places. Since rediscovering her true past, Karen's been conflicted. She knew she shouldn't have existed. She should have died along with the Robin and Huntress of her Earth, but she didn't.
When Psycho-Pirate told her about her true past, she wasn't sure if he was to be believed, but after… she regained her memories of Earth-2, she knew he was telling the truth.
And she had rediscovered her family, and not just in the Justice Society, which she felt was her only family.
She had met a Superman. Her cousin. Kal-L. she was confused, to say the least.
Here was someone she had never met. Someone who said that he was Superman. When she said that he wasn't the Superman she knew, he turned to look at her, and with a smile that reminded her so much of Clark, he said, "Not yet."
When Kal told her of their plans to wipe Earth-One from the equation and replace it with the Earth they came from: Earth Two, she wasn't sure she could have agreed to it.
When she found out what she did, now she was. She remembered Alex Luthor's part in the Crisis that had destroyed the Multiverse. As she remembered it, he had helped saved all that was left of life from the Anti-Monitor. She didn't understand what could have changed him.
She didn't understand about a lot of things, really. Which was why she was here.
She saw Guy Gardner waiting for her. Karen could tell that he wasn't too happy about letting her in.
Guy stood erect from the corner he'd been leaning again, his arms crossed, "You sure you want to do this, darlin'?"
Karen nodded, "I'm sure, Guy. Thanks for your concerns, but if I want to understand, and move on, I have to do this."
Guy nodded, still looking unhappy, "All right, Karen. But there's a coupla things you should know about. First day, a Lantern tried to deliver his meat, but the bastard got the drop on him. Tried to bite the poor SOB's ring finger off. Took all the fifty Lanterns watching him to pull him off. He's in a straitjacket, chained up to all the walls of his cell. I know you could handle yourself, but this ain't your typical psycho."
Karen closed her eyes and shook her head, remembering what he had done to Kal. She had been so horrified to look at the state he was in.
Guy continued, "You'll be surrounded in a proximity aura. He so much sends a leer your way, it'll set it off, and help'll be there in ten seconds flat."
Karen nodded, "I got it. Thanks, Guy. Let's go into there."
Guy nodded, and raised his ring hand, and they were instantly encased in an energy bubble taking off for the red sun eater.
Karen could see the cell as they approached it. At first glance, it'd look like all this security, a ring constructed square prison cell inside the core of a red sun eater, with fifty Green Lanterns watching him 24/7 Earth time…all this to hold a teenager gone psychotic. But Karen had seen firsthand what he was truly capable of. And she knew exactly what it would take for him to break free.
As they entered the core, she could feel her powers fading, leaving her no stronger than an ordinary woman her size. She grimaced. She hated feeling this powerless. She didn't even know until she regained her Earth-Two memories that a red sun would affect her this way.
They arrived no more than mere inches of the cell walls, and Guy was already covering her with the aura he told her about.
"The aura ain't just for proximity, Starr, it's for communications. You're done, just think that you want out, and the ring'll tell me."
Karen nodded and turned to the cell wall, "There's no door."
"'Course not." Guy replied, "It's designed to keep him IN, not OUT. It'll let anyone else in or out. Just not him. Just walk through the wall."
Karen arched an eyebrow, "Just like that?"
Guy rolled his eyes, "Yes, just like that, Starr. Get in there and hurry it up. I don't like you alone in there with that mother, even for a second."
"I'll be all right, Guy. Don't worry. Just go back to reading your Playboys." She smirked at him.
Guy growled under his breath, "Bitch. Hate it when she uses her damn x-ray vision on me." Karen's superhearing picked that up, but she ignored it. she wasn't in the mood for a comeback right now.
She turned and stared at the wall for a few seconds, then took a deep breath, and walked through it.
She looked around. From outside, it looked bright, but inside, it was…dark. And strained red. Suddenly she was glad that she'd lost her powers. She didn't want to know what these red strains were. Then she turned and focused on the prisoner, who was in a straitjacket, his neck, waist, and legs all chained to the corners and walls of the room.
His head was dirty and mussed up. He was also growing it long. His head bowed hanged. And she had to fight with all her might the urge to vomit when the stench coming from him hit her. He hadn't bathed in maybe months, and she could see strains in his tights. She didn't want to know what these strains were.
She looked around at his cell. No bed. Nothing to sleep on. The Guardians probably thought it was cruel and unusual punishment, but seeing him like this, Karen could tell that they weren't taking any chances with him.
He lifted his head, and locked eyes with Karen, and she felt a chill like she's never felt before going up her spine.
All Karen heard about the Joker and the psychosis he's reputed to have only pales in comparison to the madness and death in the prisoner's eyes.
"Hello, Kara," he hissed, the glint in his eyes becoming even madder, if it was at all possible.
Karen shivered. In comparison, the Anti-Monitor was the Riddler or Captain Boomerang.
Because standing right there was Kal-El.
The greatest threat to all that was.
He grinned, drool emerging from his lips, "It's good to see you."
Karen shivered. She could feel the evil radiating from that smile.
"Hello Superboy Prime," Karen replied with hesitance layering her voice.
"Kara it's been too long."
Power Girl lowered her gaze and said, "Karen."
"What?" An eyebrow arched from his young yet mad face.
"I go by Karen Starr here."
"Ashamed of your heritage, I see. There's times I'd like to forget I come from an Earth that was wiped out in favor of another, lesser universe, too."
"How dare you, I loved my cousin!"
"Before your memory was restored you had no idea who he was! How could you possibly love someone you didn't even know existed?" Prime spat with fury.
Karen went to retort but sighed and said, "I didn't come here to argue this with you."
"Then what are you here for? I was busy planning my inevitable escape."
"You're under the rays of a red dwarf star, emitting solar radiation that drains your power. You're chained up, wearing a straightjacket, and have fifty Green Lanterns monitoring every slight shift in your body ready to cut you down if you so much as sneeze on me and since your last name isn't Free, Batman, or Houdini. Only place you're going is more insane than you already are, Superboy Prime."
Superboy Prime's real name on Earth Prime was, ironically, Clark Kent. He had made a point to be called Superboy, since his world was destroyed, he would eventually become Superman. Despite the horrible things Alex and him had done in the past year, he never lost sight of one day becoming Superman. He threw his chest out, displaying to Karen the scarred "S" symbol he carved into himself. She recoiled in disgust.
"Call me Clark," he said in a monotone voice, looking to the floor.
"You bastard. Clark Kent was my cousin's Earth name. You have no right using that name!"
"I was a baby; I didn't exactly have a vote," Prime said, shifting his body to prevent discomfort, as much as possible, anyway, "My parents named me as a sop to a character in a comic book. You see, to my people, to my Earth…you were all nothing but pictures printed onto shavings of processed wood. Superman, Batman, you, that arrogant Ringo Starr look-alike you called "Guy", the people you protect, the food you eat, the bed you sleep in, the men or women that you have sex with, every single one of you were fiction to us. Imaginary beings made up in the mind of a poor, pathetic bastard with too much time on his hands and not enough guts to get a real job, like a doctor or a lawyer or run for president."
"Even cooped up in those chains you have a Mogo-sized sense of self."
"Just telling you how life was like on my Earth, the one, True Earth."
"Look around you, you little punk," Karen said through her gritted teeth, extending her arms like Vanna White, displaying the surroundings, "In case you haven't received your reality check, allow me to enlighten you. Your Earth is gone…You are without a world, a family, no one to talk to about what it was like on your world, You're stuck in a universe that doesn't know what to do with you."
Prime smiled, baring young, strong teeth and an eye showcasing his madness. "That makes two of us, Kara," he said.
"You disgust me," Karen said, turning her back.
"I disgust you because you see we're cut from the same cloth. Both of us should never have existed. Somehow, we escaped God's universal Control-alt-delete. Alex never did find out how you were exempt, yet others like Robin and Huntress were forgotten like Paris Hilton in twenty years."
"I never figured that out, either," Power Girl said, hanging her head.
Superboy Prime's tone became warmer as he said, "I'll bet you also wish you hadn't. It would've spared you so much heartache. The pain, frustration of not knowing your past, or where you come from must be unbearable. I can't imagine what that's like."
"No," Karen said, fighting back tears, "You can't."
Turning toward the insane young man, she said, "You can't understand anything except your own anger, rage and self-righteousness. You can't understand that being a hero is more than just the power you have. You can't understand that there are things you cannot do, not because it's wrong but because it is impossible."
"I punched my way from a dimensional nexus that sent ripples through space-time. I fought my way out of the Phantom Zone without the help of technology. At my peak, I could go bowling with an entire solar system. I escaped the Speed Force, the Valhalla for anyone who can go above the speed of light. FYI, they had me under red sunlight, too. But I got out. I always get out."
"Too bad you can't get out of those shitty tights." Karen said under a laugh.
Prime took a shackled step toward Kara, the stench causing her to back away as he spoke. "They are afraid that I'll escape if they give me the slightest courtesy. And they have reason to be afraid. You see, my escape is inevitable because none of you have the courage to do what's necessary to stop me."
"And what's that?"
"You're a stupid as you are buxom, Kara. If I were you, I'd have killed me. I'd have taken the first chance I received and put a bullet or a fist straight through my heart. If ANY of you were heroes worth your salt, you'd see that killing gets the job done. It makes sure evils like the Joker or Lex Luthor can never hurt people again."
"We're protectors, not executioners, Prime. We don't kill."
"Tell that to Max Lord."
Max Lord was a villainous mastermind who brainwashed Superman into nearly killing Batman and Wonder Woman. She muttered, "Bastard."
"Don't judge him too harshly; he was trying to cause a metahuman holocaust. He nearly succeeded, too. Lord got what he had coming, plain and simple."
"You just don't get it, do you?" Karen shook her head, anger swelling in her beautiful face, "It's never plain and simple! There are consequences, variables, things you don't know until after it's too late."
"Kill or be killed. What could be simpler?"
"I can't believe you once helped save the universe!" Karen screamed.
"That makes two of us, again! Alex should've just let the Anti-monitor win! That way I wouldn't wasted my life watched a third rate science experiment live the life that was meant for ME! He had friends, he had a life, a girlfriend…someone who loved him…What did I have? I had an asexual red haired Luthor and two crusty old geezers who couldn't keep their hands off each other! I GAVE MY LIFE FOR THIS UNIVERSE AND THAT WAS MY REWARD! Conner Kent stole my life and when I get out of here I will find his grave, oh yes I will. Then I'll take these shit-stained clothes and burn them on his grave, and then I'll take a nice long piss on the ashes and smother it in the ground!"
"Being a hero is all about sacrifice. You made a choice. You chose to stay and fight the Anti-monitor. You chose to go with Alex into that paradise dimension. You chose to break out of it and then you chose to kill billions of people, including real heroes like my cousin, Kal."
With a wink and a smile, Prime replied, "Kal was a real hero. Now he's a real corpse. No thanks are necessary."
"You SON OF A BITCH!" Karen charged at Prime, enraged. Her hands grabbed the back of his head and pulled it toward her, causing the neck collar to choke him. "You don't get to say his name, you bastard! NEVER SAY HIS NAME AGAIN!"
Weakly, he stared into her eyes as he said, "Kal….L…"
With a primal scream, she pulled harder on the back of his head, cutting off his air completely. She hadn't cared to notice no one was stepping in to stop her. Suddenly, she remembered his words, "I disgust you because you see we're cut from the same cloth," "none of you have the courage to do what's necessary to stop me" Her reply echoed in her mind, "We're protectors, not executioners, Prime. We don't kill."
She slammed his head back against the wall and released him. Superboy Prime coughed and tried to slump but his neck collar prevented it. "You sick son of a bitch. You wanted me to kill you, didn't you?"
Prime laughed through hacking and gasping for breath. His bloodshot eyes let loose tears from the throat trauma. "What are you waiting for? Kill me! Kal-L! KAL-L!"
"You can't escape here, so you want me to kill you so you can be free."
Prime shook his head, "No, I can escape and I WILL ESCAPE! Just please, please kill me…"
Karen "Power Girl" Starr walked up to the young man who tried to destroy the universe out of loneliness. She saw his eyes filled with mad sadness. The stench of him was ripe that she could almost vomit but she looked him squarely in the eye.
Two seconds before she spat in it. Prime flinched at the loogie in his left eye as she said, "No." She turned around and walked toward the green wall where Guy was waiting for her.
Superboy Prime's eyes lit up and he slung himself against his restraints, screaming, "You bitch…you BITCH! COME BACK HERE AND KILL ME, YOU GODDAMNED BITCH! I WILL GET OUT OF HERE AND WHEN I DO, I'LL MAKE YOU BEG FOR ME TO SEND YOU SCREAMING TO HELL!"
As Guy sealed the wall allowing Karen to leave the cell, she said, "I just spent the last fifteen minutes in Hell, punk. A little fire and brimstone won't impress me."
"I'll slowly fry you from head to toe! I'll crush every single bone in your body! I'll freeze you entirely and chip you down for ice to cool my soda! I'll..."
The sound of the rants faded as Power Girl walked away with Guy down the hallway. The silence was palpable.
"I was afraid you wouldn't stop," Guy said, breaking the quiet.
Power Girl replied quickly, "I almost wish I didn't. But death's too good for him, if I had my way, I'd make him immortal so he'd experience what he's going through now every day until eternity."
Guy nodded, "Problem with that plan is sometimes life gets in the way. Life or a giant, massive Crisis-inducing villain."
Kara and Guy make their way to a teleportation chamber. As Kara steps on a circular pad while Guy holds his ring out ready to activate the machinery. She could already feel her powers returning. "Take care, Guy. And for the love of God someone get him some new clothes, he smells like…"
"We know. We're waiting on purpose to punish him just a little bit more. Plus he takes every chance he can get to escape. Now, go back to Earth and turn heads with those things," Guy said staring at her breasts.
As Guy used his ring to activate the teleporter mechanism, Karen smiled seductively and said, "What…These?" The exact same second she pulled up her top, she vanished before Guy could see anything.
He stomped and threw his fists around as he screamed. She was gone and she got him again.
He'd screamed his voice away, shouting for Kara to come back and kill him. She was weak, pathetic like the rest of them. They didn't have what it took to be a hero. Only he did.
He kept his head down and his lips curled in a smile. Superboy Prime knew they would come in sooner or later and change him. They figure death is too good for him, so they'll settle for indefinite imprisonment. Fools; They'd rather him be kept alive than him to die from captivity or dysentery. Their penchant for mercy, even toward those who don't deserve it will be his key to escaping.
"I will find a way." He croaked to himself, "I always find a way."