A World Without Heroes
In a world without heroes
There's nothing to be
It's no place for me
-Music From the Elder
As the emerald energy poured into the shard, it began to glow brighter and brighter.
"Close your eyes!" Kara called out, following her own advice. Already the glare had grown bright enough to bother even a Kryptonian's retinas. Now standing behind the girls, Rogue put a hand over their eyes and then closed her own. Johnny Storm and Ben Grim both averted their eyes, though they were determined to keep a watch on the perimeter.
For her part, Linda did not even bother looking away. She stared, fascinated, as the Shard, blazing a bright, brilliant green, began to melt.
As the power levels rose, she was mildly surprised to find her wings spreading of their own accord. Her eyes widened as, deep within the hellish energy, a face materialized. She smiled slightly as Wally looked out and…winked at her.
As abruptly as the glare had flare, it subsided. Kara, able to see the brightness fading through her eyelids, was the first to open her eyes. At first mere slits, then fully open.
"Rao!" She breathed.
There, standing before them, many times larger than the original Shard stood a new, Great Battery.
Even as she marveled, Kara could not help but think, as she had many times in the past, why a device created by super science on another world would resemble an old fashioned Earth Lantern, nor why the organization would take it's name from that same Lantern.
Her gaze drawn to the massive battery, it took a few moments for her to register the figure sprawled behind it.
"Jenny!" instantly she was at Jenny's side, feeling her neck for a pulse.
"I'm still alive." Jenny opened one eye. "But damn I'm tired." She whispered. "Just let me sleep for a couple of months straight and I'll be fine."
Despite her claim and expressed desire, Jenny levered herself up, turning onto her side and propping her head up on her hand.
"Ugly looking thing, isn't it?" She drawled.
"I think it's beautiful." Kara hugged her friend, tears streaming down her smiling face. "Just beautiful."
"Kara? We've got company!" Rogue called from the other side of the Battery.
Kara helped Jenny to her feet and, taking most of her weight on herself, moved quickly to the other side.
"OH!" Both Kara and Jenny stood, mouths hanging open. There, standing by the Battery, looking it over as if inspecting it for some type of flaw, stood a short blue man in floor length robes.
"A Guardian!" Kara breathed. "A Guardian of Oa!"
Turning his attention to Kara and Jenny, the little man allowed one eyebrow to ride up Spock fashion.
"It is true I am of Oa." He stated in perfect English. "I am, however, not a Guardian, whatever that is."
He waved a hand at the Battery.
"We felt this come into being." He explained. "I was sent to examine it and to discover it's nature and why it seems to be calling to us. Its energy source is similar to our own, I must admit."
Smiling, Kara stepped away from Jenny.
"She's the one you need to speak to." She told the man, pointing to Jenny.
"Kara?" Jenny looked from the man to her friend, to the man, and back again.
"Don't worry." Kara smiled. "Just remember, unlike The Green Lanterns of my reality, the Guardians of Oa are not your bosses. But I think a new Green Lantern Corps would do this Probability some good. And I can't think of a better place to put a Great Battery than on Oa!"
"Well, I guess it's time I got back." Linda said. "I imagine Charlie is worried sick." Like the others, she had stood for a moment, staring with a mixture of amusement and awe as Jenny spoke with the Oan. She had then approached Kara.
"Before you go, answer something for me. Kara responded. "What are you doing here anyway? Not that I'm not glad to see you!"
"I asked for her assistance." Dr. Strange broke in, walking up to the two women. "I was under the mistaken impression that your clone would have taken an identity similar to Linda Danvers. It never occurred to me that she would simply have been herself."
"Last time I saw her, she had dyed her hair brown." Kara stated, startling them both. "She felt it would be better if she hid her resemblance to me."
Both Strange and Linda looked at her then turned to look at the girls.
"Uh-oh." Linda breathed.
"What?" Kara demanded. "What do you mean uh-oh? I don't like uh-oh."
"It seems that each of these girls remember their mother as being blonde. They remember that she kept a low profile, knowing full well that your enemies might try to use her to get at you. But she never hid from the girls who or what she was."
"So it's possible that neither of them are the daughter this body recalls having?" Kara asked. Then she held up a hand. "Don't answer that. It doesn't matter." She looked over to where the girls stood beside Rogue, their eyes wide as they took in everything around them. Though they tried to hide it, their glances kept coming back towards her. Shy, almost fearful.
"It doesn't matter." She stated again.
"There is one other thing, Kara." Linda told her. She was extremely uncomfortable. This was the part she had dreaded. "It's about Querl Dox."
"Querl?" Kara's eyes narrowed slightly. She watched as Linda unbuckled a yellow belt from around her waist and handed it to her. "This is Querl's utility belt!" She exclaimed.
"Yes. Yes it is." Linda nodded. "He would have wanted you to have it." And she proceeded to tell Kara the story. Leaving nothing out.
"In the end, he thought I was you." Linda said, nearing the end of her narrative. "The last thing he said was that he loved you and always had. And the last thing her heard was your voice telling him that you loved him." Tears were streaming down her eyes as she grew silent. Yet they were nothing compared to the streams that poured from Kara's eyes.
Heaving sobs escaped as Kara fought to deal with the raw emotions that Linda had just laid bare. Moving closer, Linda let Kara lean on her shoulder for support while she tried to regain control.
Linda looked up to see the concern in Rogue's face. She shook her head slightly and motioned towards the girls with her eyes. Rogue nodded sharply and, with a last concerned glance towards Kara, turned to make sure that the girls were paying attention to her, not Kara.
"He…"Kara gulped air. "He said these were the daughters we could have had? What did he mean by that?"
"Most probably that, in other realities, realities that ceased to exist long ago, analogs of himself joined with your clones to have those children." Strange explained softly.
"I don't understand. Why would Querl and the clone…" She trailed off, unable to finish. She knew the answer to that. She herself had always been too busy to take a permanent lover. The clone, with her memories and her personality, had no such restrictions. Querl might have seen in the clone a possibility to obtain that which she could not have given him.
"Kara, it hurts, I know….", Linda started, hoping that she could help by trying to get Kara to focus on the girls. Kara did not give her the chance.
"You know?" Kara's face twisted with undisguised anger. "What do you know? Do you know what is' like be dead? Do you know what it's like to be forgotten? To be replaced by a mere slip of a girl? Damnit Linda, you're barely older than those girls. What can you possibly Know?"
Linda's first inclination was to get angry. Then, for an instant, her features softened. Kara was not, she realized, really angry with her. She was just the focus. Yet…. perhaps it was time to play Kara's own game.
"I know that you have two girls over there that are frightened." Linda snapped. Stepping up so that her face was mere inches from Kara's. "I know that they have lost everything they ever had. Now all they have is you." She took a breathed and plunged on, not giving Kara a chance to respond. "I know that it's time you stopped with the self pity and moved on. I had nothing to do with what happened to you. I did not ask to replace you. My reality did not ask to replace yours. Those decisions were made God, Rao, or what ever you want to call it or them. But you're here now and you have a whole new world that needs you and the others. And you have two girls that need a mother!"
She stepped back and, hands on her hips in a classic Kara stance, looked Kara over.
"Those girls and the people of this world need to see you in control, Kara. Not wallowing in self –pity." She Looked over at Dr. Strange. "Doctor, if you would be so kind as to conjure up the costume you had Rogue wearing." She held out a hand, not allowing him to refuse. And instant later, She was shoving the bundle into Kara's hands. "Now be what you were meant to be. A hero. Those girls need to see you as they remember you and this world needs to see the leader of the team that just saved them from destruction. Go change!"
For a long moment Kara merely stood there, staring at Linda as if seeing her for the first time. Then, without a word, she disappeared, moving as speeds too fast for normal eyes to follow.
"Do you think that was wise, Linda?" Strange asked.
"Maybe not." Linda admitted. "But she still holds a lot of anger about what happened to her and her reality. She needs to deal with it, not simply curse it." She sighed, looking over to the girls. "Ever since I learned about Kara, I've admired her. I still do. The fact that I know she's as human as the rest of us hasn't changed that." She shrugged and, turning, touched Strange's shoulder. "I really have to go now." Strange merely nodded.
"It's time for me to go home now." She said as she approached Rogue and the girls. She knew that, unless they had been purposely listening, they would not have heard the exchange between her and Kara. The tight look Rogue gave her told her that at least she had been listening.
"Linda?" It was Karen that spoke hesitantly "I don't think she likes us."
"Nonsense!" Linda forced a smile. "We just came at a busy time and I just told her about her friend."
"The green guy?" Carrie asked.
"Yes," Linda nodded, feeling as if a fist were constricting around her heart. She looked up at Rogue.
"I'll help anyway I can." Rogue said without waiting for Linda to speak. "You know that." She put a hand on each of the girls' shoulders. Linda nodded.
"I'll be back to visit and, who knows, maybe you can come visit me, some day."
Both girls nodded and then rushed to her, hugging her tight.
"Thank you, Linda." Carrie said in a rush, tears sparkling in her eyes.
Linda smiled as she backed away and let her wings unfurl.
"Now I'm off, I got a lot of paperwork to get done!" And, in a flash of fire, she was gone.
"Heads up, we have company coming!"
Rogue turned to where Superboy still stood with Lois. He was looking up in the sky, his eye's squinted slightly indicating that he was most probably using his telescopic vision.
Rather than look to see what he was seeing, Rogue took a moment to study Lois. The middle-aged woman, her black hair streaked with liberal amounts of gray, was holding up admirably. Of course that was to be expected. From what she knew, Lois had always been a sturdy woman. Any woman that married a hero such as her husband had been would have to be sturdy. She would have had to live with the real fear that, one day, she would become a widow.
She looked back to the girls and saw that they were looking up as well. She glanced up and searched the sky with her telescopic vision until she found what the others were seeing. She smiled.
Streaking downward in a blur of red and blue was Mon El. Jenny, she knew, was in for a big surprise.
No longer a boy in his late teens, Mon now appeared to be in his mid to late twenties. The result, she knew, of merging the younger Mon with an older analog. He would be awhile sorting through all the memories he now possessed. He would have to deal with memories of events that, as far as he was concerned had never happened. He would have to deal with remember a thousand year stay in the Phantom Zone, when he knew full well that he had not been stuck in the zone more than twenty years. Her eyes widened as she realized that he was not alone.
"Rogue!" He called as he lighted nearby. His voice was deeper now, his face a bit lined with experience. "You're okay!" He stopped and looked at the girls, shock evident. "Two?"
"Two." Rogue smiled. "Carrie, Karen, This is Mon El."
"El?" Both girls perked up. "A relative?" They looked from Rogue to Mon and back again.
"Not really, I'm afraid." Mon replied. His eyes had landed on Superboy and he stopped.
"Kale?" He looked confused for a moment as his mind tried to sort out the memories. "I remember you." He said finally, grimacing.
"You are the other Superboy." He went on. "You were there when we fought the Anti-monitor!" Again the grimace. "When the other me fought, that is."
A squeal from the girls brought everyone's attention back to them.
Rogue had completely forgotten that Mon had not been alone. Now she was reminded as she watched the watched the white, shorthaired dog trying to like both girls at the same time.
"Krypto?" Rogue asked Mon, watching the girls and the dog.
"Yes." Mon nodded, turning away from Superboy. "The people in Kandor finally discovered a way to reverse the effects of the devolution."
Krypto was romping around the girls, who were laughing with delight, when he stopped in his tracks, his eyes riveted on the young man standing beside Mon. Moving cautiously, he approached.
"He's trying to decide if you are who he things you are." Mon said in response to a quizzical look from Superboy.
"Who does he think I am?" Superboy asked.
Krypto approached Superboy, sniffing at his hand. His tail wagged a few times and then drooped. He turned away, perking up almost instantly as he rejoined the girls.
"I guess I must smell different." Superboy remarked in an almost whimsical manner.
Mon shrugged and then turned, stiffening as he caught sight of Jenny, still locked in conversation with the Oan
"Excuse me." He told the others absently as he walked towards her.
"So what happens now?" Lois asked, strain evident in her voice.
"Now we rebuild!"
They all turned, even the girls, to see Kara standing behind them. She wore her old costume now and, judging from the looks on the girls face, Linda had been right to suggest it.
"You'll have to start with out us, I'm afraid." Jenny called out as both she and Mon approached. There was no sign of the Oan.
"A hologram." Jenny explained. She waved a hand back towards the newly fashioned Battery. "The Oans have agreed to care for the Batter and start a new Green Lantern Corps, based on the one detailed in my Ring's memory." She said. "But first Mon and I are going to have to take it to Oa."
"That shouldn't take to long." Rogue quipped, smiling.
"We don't plan on hurrying back." Mon told her, his eyes twinkling. "Jenny and I are going to take a bit of a vacation."
"We should be back in about a week." Jenny finished. After hugs all around, Jenny used her energy to lift the Battery and within moments, she and Mon were dwindling into the sky.
"Lois, Kal." Kara turned to the two. "You are both welcome to stay. Rao knows we are going to need all the help we can get to pull this world out of the Ashes. Leaving them to think it over, she finally turned to the girls.
Carrie and Karen looked at her somewhat shyly. Between them, Krypto stood, wagging his tail.
"I guess we have a lot to talk about." Kara told them. She looked up and saw hesitation in Rogue's eyes. Well, might as well get that out of the way. "All of us." She reached out and pulled Rogue close as she moved closer to the girls.
"But I can tell you this right now. You are welcome to stay with us. I can't and won't try to take the place of your mothers, but…. well…. Welcome home, girls!" She held out her arms.
There was only the briefest of hesitations before both girls rushed to her, embracing her. Over their heads, her eyes once again glittering with unshed tears, Kara met Rogue's eyes.
"I always wanted a family." Rogue whispered, tears in her own eyes.
"You've got one, love. You've got one."
Kara buried her face in the hair of the girls as she hugged them close.