Based On Characters Appearing In DC Comics And Magazines.
Superman Created By Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster.
ARGO CITY - Twenty Nine Years Ago
He gripped her hand tightly, perhaps too tightly as he led her down the narrow corridor. A sharp pain caused her to grimace but she didn't complain and she didn't stop. They passed a window. Her eyes drifted to the left to look outside. He pulled her hard so she couldn't get a good look. At the end of the corridor, a door led outside to a large courtyard. There was no way to avoid seeing it now. Argo City was falling apart. Lava flows creeped along the main freeway and spread into every side street. Around every building. She ran to the edge of the courtyard and looked over the waist-high wall. They were two hundred floors up, the highest point in the city. She could see crowds of people on the rooftops of adjacent buildings, waiting for someone to save them.
"Kara, don't look." Her father's voice did little to distract her as she watched a nearby building crumble and descend into the lava, taking the hundred people on the roof and the two thousand inside with it. She heard the screams. She tried to look away but she couldn't. She was frozen in place. From her vantage point she could see the whole city. The temple of Rao, once a place where people went to find solace, became a tomb for people trapped inside. The skies had turned black with smoke. Ash descended upon the panicked masses, entering their lungs and suffocating them. Those who weren't crushed under falling debris as the sky-reaching buildings toppled, were disintegrated in the intense heat of the unstoppable lava.
Kara looked to the horizon. She searched for some semblance of hope, some sign of rescue. What she saw came close to blinding her as a sudden flash of light lit up the whole city for a brief moment. The crackling of thunder in the ash cloud quickly followed and the force of a hundred volcanic explosions happening all at once blocked out the last embers of the red sun that had managed to get through. She couldn't see anymore. The only light left came from the courtyard high above the city where her feet were planted. But she could still hear the crying, the last agonized screams of a million people. Tears descended down her own cheeks but she didn't notice.
When a hand gripped her arm to prompt her to turn away, it barely registered. Her father turned her head towards him. His eyes met hers. His intense gaze showed the determination and fear he felt. "Come, it's time." His soothing voice didn't seem to match his face. He brought her back to the centre of the courtyard. To the only lifeboat left on a sinking ship. It was a small space craft, capable of holding just one person. A prototype. Zor-El's brother had sent him the plans weeks earlier. By the time the ruling Science Council accepted the truth of the doom his brother had predicted, it was too late for most. Perhaps a few enterprising individuals would escape. Maybe the Council would evacuate people the Phantom Zone. It didn't happen. None of it happened.
In his last transmission, Jor-El had told Zor-El that he was sending his son to a recently discovered world on the other side of the galaxy. An impossible world with sentient beings that looked very much like the people who were now dying all across the planet Krypton. The discovery had been kept secret to all but a few. The cover up had led to a civil war with a loyal General leading an insurrection. In the end, peace won out. Rebuilding after the war had only been going on for a few months when Jor-El appeared before the Council for a second time making prophecies about the end of everything. He had been laughed at and placed under house arrest. Nobody would know. Nobody would care. It was all a hoax. Or perhaps the ramblings of a man driven mad by war. But today, the fourth day of the Festival Of Rao, those rambling were proven true.
Kara looked at the ship as she tried to drown out the city-wide screams with her own thoughts. Her thoughts were just as dark as the reality of the world disintegrating around her. The hatch on the small space craft opened and folded outwards, touching down on the cobbled floor of the courtyard. Part of the craft then began to slide upwards, revealing the inside of the craft with a single seat bolted to the floor.
"Father? What...what's going on? We can't fit in there."
"No, we can't." Zor-El answered solemnly, "but you can." His statement took a second to register on his daughter's face. "There's no time. You must get inside."
"No, no I won't. I won't leave you. What about Mother? Where is she? I can't leave without her or without you." Her tears continued to fall, unnoticed by her but not by her father.
"Kara, it's the only way," he said as he raised his finger to her cheek to wipe away her tears, "This is the only chance you have."
"But where am I supposed to go? I don't want to be alone."
"You'll go to Earth. Jor-El's boy is headed there." Zor-El wasn't sure that was true even as he said it. He knew of Jor-El's plan. As the planet fell apart, he didn't know if his brother had succeeded.
"Little Kal-El? He's just a baby."
"Find him. Protect him. You'll be all that's left of Krypton."
"You must. I love you Kara. Your mother too. We want...we need you to live on."
Kara looked at the ship. She studied the sterile chair, the narrow interior. It looked like a coffin to her. Suddenly she was afraid. The destruction of her home seemed like it was light years away, not at her doorstep. Death didn't scare her. It was the thought of being alone, of being without her family. Even if she survived the cold emptiness of space, even if she made it to Earth and found her infant cousin, she would be in a place that was completely alien to her. Her hand reached out to touch the cool surface of the craft. She recoiled almost immediately and turned back to her father. Her arms were around him as she hugged him close.
"I can't do it. I won't. I won't leave you." Her words were strong and clear. She would stay, whatever the cost. Her father hugged her back, afraid for his child.
"I want you to live Kara. Please."
"No. If you die here, I'll die with you. We'll find mother and be a family, even if it's just for a moment. I'm not running away, I'm not leaving!" She cried as she spoke but there was determination in her voice.
"Alright, Kara, it's alright," his voice was soft as he held her head against his chest, "We'll stay together until the end." He hugged her tighter. She closed her eyes, ignoring everything around her. She didn't feel the floor shaking beneath her feet. She didn't hear the low rumbling that became louder with each passing second. She didn't see her father reach into his pocket and pull out a small syringe. The sharp pinch on her neck was quickly dulled as she faded into unconsciousness.
When Kara awoke minutes later, everything was shaking. It took her a moment to get her bearings. She was sitting, looking down at her father who was frantically entering a command into his datapad. Her eyes widened in horror as she realised she was sitting in the small craft. She tried to get out of the chair but there was no room to move. She began to bang on the window, crying out for her father. "Father, let me out. Please no, I don't want to go. Please."
He tried to ignore her. He tried to finish the mission. He couldn't. He looked up at his daughter. There was fear in her eyes. And anger. "I'm sorry Kara. I have to."
"Don't make me go. Father!" She was half blind from the salty tears pouring from her eyes. It took her a moment to notice the projected image appearing on the window in front of her. "Mother?"
The woman in the image forced a smile, ignoring the calls for help in the background. "My little Star. Don't cry, it's going to be alright."
"Father won't let me out of this ship. He's trying to make me leave."
"I know Kara, I know. It will be OK." Alura spoke gently, trying to calm her daughter.
"Where are you? You need to stop father."
"I'm at the university. There's no safe way out."
"But you'll be alright. Someone will come and get you...won't they?"
"I...no. It's too late for me and your father and everyone else. That's why we need you to survive. Carry us in your heart."
"Mother, no! Not you too. Why are you making me do this."
"Because we love you. I want you to promise me something Kara."
"Listen to me. Promise me that you won't forget us, that you won't forget your home. Do that and we'll always be with you."
"I promise...I won't ever forget." There was no attempt to hold back tears from either mother or daughter.
"Then everything will be alright." Alura gave her daughter a soothing smile as the ceiling began to collapse in on top of her. Kara watched in horror as her mother disappeared in a plume of dust.
"Mother? Mother where are you?" The transmission cut out. Kara could only see her father now, looking up at her, holding back his own tears. "This is all your fault!" she screamed as the engines of the ship began to warm up.
"I'm sorry..." Zor-El entered the final command and began to step back from the ship. The entire building had begun to shake. It would only be a matter of moments before it all collapsed. Lighting flashed across the black sky as ash continued to rain down.
As the ship began to take off, Kara continued to bang on the window. "Father I'm sorry. I didn't mean it, please don't make me go. I don't want to go." He couldn't hear her over the roar of the engines, or the booming thunder or the rumbling of the ground giving way beneath his feet. But he could see her. His only daughter. She would live.
The small space ship rose over Argo City and Kara could see the full extent of the horror down below. Massive chasms had begun opening up, pulling everything beneath the planet's crust. Buildings. Cars. People. Everything that was Argo City was disappearing. She looked back down at the Administrator's residence. Her home for many years. Her father was barely a speck of dust through the window. She watched helplessly as the unstoppable lava ate through the supports and pulled the entire building down. It was soon engulfed in flame as it melted away and disappeared. As the ship continued to ascend, Kara could see out towards Kryptonopolis and the Gold Volcano. Only Kryptonopolis wasn't there. The Gold Volcano had completely exploded. She wondered for a moment if her cousin had escaped. Would she see him on Earth? He was the only family she had left. Her mother and father were gone. The House of El...every House, was dying or dead.
She mourned as the ship entered the black ash cloud. She couldn't see anything anymore. She didn't want to. She was sitting in a prototype. Only two of its kind in existence. One presumably carried little Kal-El and the other was carrying her. It would take her through the Phantom Zone to the other side of the galaxy, to a world she didn't know existed until a few hours ago.
As the ship blasted through the cloud, a bolt of lightning struck the hull, rattling the ship and sending the electronics into overdrive. "Warning! Warning! Phantom Zone Generator Malfunction!" The onboard computer told Kara of the problem, one she didn't know how to fix.
"What do I do?" She looked around, desperately searching for the right button to push. But the ship had failsafes for every occasion.
"Phantom Zone Generator Offline! Activating Emergency Stasis!"
The ship continued to rise as systems began to shut down. It had cleared the ash cloud and was quickly ascending through the upper atmosphere. Kara felt a chill run through her body as she began to grow colder. Gas filled the chamber and Kara began to panic.
"What's happening...let me out...let me out...let me..." She tried to fight the urge to sleep but it overwhelmed her quickly. Her body temperature dropped as she lapsed into sleep. Her entire body seemed to shut down while the ship broke through Krypton's gravitational pull and flew out into space, heading for Earth. With no Phantom Zone Generator, it was a journey that would take an eternity. Kara would sleep through it all. Her body in stasis, never to age. Never to wake. It had become what she had feared. A coffin. When Krypton finally exploded into extinction, there were no witnesses. Most worlds that even knew of the existence of the solar system wouldn't even register what had happened for centuries. Indeed, on most worlds, beings would look up into the sky and see the star Rao as it was before the tragic end. For the rest of the universe, time would pass slowly. For Kara, when she woke up...if she woke up...it would be but an instant.
METROPOLIS - Yesterday
Jimmy Olsen sat outside a cafe. There were drinks on the table. One was his. A black coffee, stronger than pure kryptonite. He needed it after being dragged around the city by Lois Lane, chasing a serial killer that apparently she was the only one equipped to catch. Well they'd caught the guy alright and almost been cut to pieces. They would have been too if the city's greatest protector hadn't shown up to save the day. Jimmy had gotten hooked on coffee ever since Lois decided he was the best photographer at the Daily Planet and refused to work with anyone else. It was a proud moment for Jimmy, but his caffeine intake had been on the rise ever since.
The other drink belonged to his date. She called it a Chocolate Death. Hot chocolate with chocolate ice cream floating on top with chocolate flavoured whipped cream, a chocolate flake going through the centre and of course, chocolate sprinkles on top. She loved chocolate. When she explained that to Jimmy, he had commented that it made sense given how sweet she was. A cheesy line. He'd have hung himself in shame if she hadn't smiled and asked him out. That was three months ago. She'd started at the Daily Planet as an intern, thanks to her cousin Clark. Jimmy never really knew what she saw in him. But here he was, alone. She had gone to freshen up. That was five minutes ago. How long could it possibly take? He didn't really want to know. Jimmy was just relieved that she didn't take an hour to get dressed. In fact she seemed to get ready even faster then he did. He sipped his coffee as he waited for her to return, amazed at how karma seemed to be smiling on him.
Across town, two masked men emerged from a jewelers, bag in one hand, glock in the other.
"Chuck, come on we gotta go." They raced towards the car parked on the corner. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew both of them back on to the concrete.
"What the hell just happened?" Chuck asked as he gingerly got to his feet. "Joe, did you see that?"
"It's gotta be a Cape." Joe responded as he searched the skies.
"Damn! Who is it? Tell me it's not the boy scout," Chuck responded with a slight quiver in his voice.
Joe continued to look around. And then he saw her. Hovering above their getaway car. She had long blonde hair, dropping down over a red cape that matched the red skirt and knee-high boots. The gold belt, blue top and familiar red S completed the look. She definitely was a "Cape" but more than that, she was a "Super." Supergirl to be precise. "It's the chick," Joe stated as he aimed his gun, "Shoot her out of the sky!"
Joe and Chuck began to fire. Bullets flew through the air, moving faster than the time it takes to blink. Supergirl kept her arms crossed as the bullets impacted against her and fell harmlessly to the ground.
"Chick? Do you talk to all women like that?" She asked with a smirk as she waited for the guns to be empty. A couple of clicks confirmed it and she descended to the street. "Or maybe you have wives at home and that's why you robbed this store. I hope you got them something nice." She glanced down at the bag, using her X-Ray Vision to look through the material at the stolen items. "Hmm...a couple of diamond necklaces, some nice rings, a little bit of cash...not a bad haul guys."
Joe threw his gun. Supergirl's black pupils began to glow as she unleashed a focus blast of heat vision to melt the glock into an indistinguishable mush of metal and plastic. "How did you..." Joe began to ask, his courage beginning to fail him.
"What...know you were here? Silent alarm, duh! Don't you read blogs? Everyone knows I have the same powers as big blue. Including..." She stopped, waiting for him to put it together.
"Super hearing. Dammit." Joe replied, cursing his luck.
"There you go," Supergirl replied in a mockingly reassuring tone, "But seriously, come on. What possessed you guys to rob a jewelry store in Metropolis of all places? We've had aliens and metal men and a whole manner of bad guys a heck of a lot more powerful than you two try to take this city down. Did you really think you stood a chance?"
"Everybody knows the Justice League is on protection duty at President Luthor's inauguration," Chuck responded defiantly.
"And you thought they'd leave Metropolis unprotected? Seriously, the criminal class is getting dumber by the day. But you know, everybody loves a trier and I'm in a good mood today. So I'm going to give you guys a break."
"Wait...you...you're letting us go?" Joe asked, unable to hide the bemusement in his voice.
"Oh no...no I can't do that. But I can give you a head start." Supergirl replied with a smile as she opened the car door and motioned for the criminals to get in. Chuck and Joe glanced at each other. Then at the bags of stolen goods. Then at Supergirl. She shook her head, indicating that they should leave the bags behind. They moved slowly towards the car. Joe went around to the passenger side and climbed in as Chuck walked past Supergirl, still unsure of her intentions. He climbed into the drivers seat. Supergirl shut the door for him. "Off you go now." With that, Supergirl rose up into the air, out of sight. Joe and Chuck glanced at each other.
"What are you doing man, start the damn car." Joe demanded. Chuck turned the ignition and the car came to life. "Floor it," Joe commanded and Chuck's foot hit the accelerator hard as he shifted out of neutral. The car began to move forward a few feet and then it began to ascend. As it rose higher, Chuck let go of the wheel, realising it was pointless and opened the window. He peered out and looked down to find Supergirl carrying the car.
"Hey! What gives? You promised us a head start."
"Yeah...I just wanted to get you into the car. Otherwise I'd have to carry both of you and I really don't want your greasy hands all over me. So sit back, fasten your seatbelt, make sure your trays are in the upright position and if you look to your right you'll see Stryker's Island Penitentiary."
"You know the Boy Scout isn't as chatty." Joe commented under his breath, forgetting about Supergirl's super ears.
"He also can't pull off a skirt as well as I do." She replied with a smirk as she began to descend towards the prison, holding the car and its two occupants over her head.
Jimmy's coffee was almost gone when his date returned. He looked up to find a brunette with nerdier glasses than her cousin's, taking her specially made "Chocolate Death" in her hands. He watched as she brought the glass to her lips and his eyes widened in amazement as she downed the whole thing in one go.
"Jeez Kara do you know how much sugar is in that?"
She glanced up at him as she dabbed around her mouth with a tissue. "What can I say? I love chocolate."
"Well you still have a little bit on you," he replied, indicating towards her lips.
"Where? Here?" she asked as she moved the tissue over her lips. Jimmy shook his head and moved closer, taking the tissue from her hand and gently wiped away some of the chocolate milk just above her chin. "Is it gone?"
"No there's just a little bit..." he moved even closer, pulling the tissue away, "...here." He pressed his lips to hers, ignoring the awkwardness of her glasses against his face. When he pulled back from her lips, he remained close.
"Did you get it all?" Kara asked with a whisper.
"Not quite." Jimmy responded before moving in to kiss her again. It seemed to last an eternity, neither of them wanting to pull apart, and when they did, they couldn't prevent the smiles creeping across their faces.
"So Mr. Olsen, I hope you have something romantic planned for our date," Kara said with a grin.
"Oh you know me," he replied.
"Yeah I do. Another boys night activity, right?"
"Hey, that's only happened once."
"Oh come on, how often do you get to see robots fighting each other?"
"In this town? Every second Tuesday and we don't have to wait in line and pay fifty bucks either." Kara couldn't hide the smile as she teased her boyfriend. He stood up, pretending to be offended.
"Well then Ms. Kent, I guess I'll go watch Alien Cyber Mutants 3 by myself then." He began to walk away, biting his cheek to keep from laughing. He'd only taken a few steps when Kara's hand reached out to his, stopping him.
"OK, OK, so where are we going then?"
Jimmy turned back to her and guided her to her feet. "You'll see."
A door opened. Kara Kent stepped through, her eyes covered by her boyfriend's hands as he walked behind her. She could have peeked. She could have seen right though his palms but she chose not to. She wanted to be surprised.
"OK we're here," Jimmy said as he removed his hands. "You can open your eyes."
Kara did so and looked around. The first thing she saw was a giant spinning globe. "The Daily Planet? Jimmy, we work here. I've been up here before you know."
"Probably not like this." Jimmy took her hand in his and led her towards the edge. The sun was setting over the city.
"The sunset?" Kara asked.
"Not exactly," he replied as he pointed out over the city. "Just keep watching." Kara followed his finger and looked where he was indicating. Jimmy glanced down at his watch. Unless he had screwed up big time, he'd timed this perfectly. "There's something that happens here just before the sun dips below the horizon. For a few minutes, it lines up all the way down Fourth Street, from here to the docks."
As he spoke, the sun reached the magic spot. The light cascaded down over Fourth Street. Buildings on either side shimmered like gold and between them, a path made of light stretched out to the horizon. Kara was mesmerised by the sight in front of her eyes.
"Jimmy, it's beautiful."
"You can only see it from here. I used to come up here all the time to take pictures and I discovered this. Somehow, the pictures never did it justice. You have to see it for yourself and I wanted you to see. A path made of light. Sometimes I wish I could step off the edge and walk it to the horizon."
Kara turned to look at Jimmy. She had wondering for a long time if she should tell him. She wasn't sure what would happen, how it would affect their relationship. Would he look at her differently? Would he reject her? After what she had just shown her, she decided that it was now or never.
"Jimmy, there's something I want to tell you but I'm not sure how to get the words out. You see I...I uh..."
"I love you too." Jimmy said, cutting her off. There was a moment of silence as Kara's eyes registered the shock of what he'd just said. In turn, it began to dawn on Jimmy what he had just said and that Kara hadn't been about to tell him the same thing. "Oh God...Oh God, Oh God, you weren't going to...oh sh...Jimmy Olsen you idiot, I shouldn't have said that, I don't know what I was thinking..."
The panic on his face was obvious. Kara didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "Jimmy it's alright, really it's OK, just listen to me."
"God I'm so sorry, forget I said anything I didn't mean to..."
Kara put her hand to the back of his head. She drew him close and kissed him. When the kiss broke, Jimmy's panic had turned to stunned silence as Kara smiled at him. "Jimmy, really it's OK. That wasn't what I was going to say, but I couldn't say what I was going to say without being completely in love with you."
"I love you James Olsen." The relief on Jimmy's face could probably be seen from one of the many satellites orbiting the planet. "That's why I feel like I can tell you what I haven't told anyone."
"Wait...you weren't born a man were you?"
"Sorry, bad joke. I make bad jokes when I'm nervous..."
"And every other time of the day..."
"Hey, my jokes aren't that bad."
"Well...I suppose they're better than Clark's."
The tension had disappeared. Jimmy held Kara close and kissed her softly. "So what did you want to tell me?"
Kara hesitated and pulled away from Jimmy. She hadn't rehearsed it. Well, she had but it never sounded right. She had decided to just say what felt right in the moment but nothing came to mind. "It's hard for me to say...I uh...I'm not from around here...I mean I come from far away."
"Yeah, Toronto, right?"
"Not exactly. You have to go uh...up...a lot more."
"No...I'm from...I mean I'm really...dammit, I'll just show you." And with that she jumped over the wall, over the edge of the Daily Planet.
She didn't fall. She seemed to stand on the path of light that was beginning to slowly fade. She pulled her glasses from her face and let her hair down. As it fell down over her shoulders, it began to change. Kara went from blonde to brunette before his eyes. "Kara, your hair." Kara could only smile as Jimmy almost appeared to be more surprised by her hair changing than the fact she was hovering high above the ground. She flew back in over the edge and her clothes began to fall away, revealing her Supergirl outfit underneath. She landed in front of Jimmy and took his hand.
"You know how they say that blondes have more fun? In my case it's kinda true."
Jimmy looked her up and down. Then he looked back out over the city, trying to gather his thoughts. "You're Supergirl..."
"My...my girlfriend is..." His breathing was getting heavier, his mouth felt as dry as a desert. "My girlfriend is Supergirl...wow OK...OK...that's...that's uh...wow."
"Jimmy you're panicking. Calm down."
"Calm down? My girlfriend is...supe...an alien, wait, you're from Krypton."
"That's...wait no...you're Clark's cousin...you lived on a farm...wait does he know?"
Kara's thoughts suddenly began running a mile a minute. She'd been so caught up in telling Jimmy the truth about her, she didn't stop to think how it would affect Clark. Luckily, Jimmy was too bemused to put two and two together and even managed to unwittingly come up with a cover story.
"Well, I guess Clark knows Superman so..."
"Yes, yes that's right...when I came here Superman asked Clark to look out for me."
"That makes sense, Clark is a really nice guy..."
"Yeah he is and it does make sense, it makes perfect sense...anyway back to me being Supergirl."
"What? That, yeah. I'm going to geek out here for a second...this is really freaking cool!"
Kara couldn't prevent the soft giggle from escaping her lips, nor did she want to. She pulled Jimmy close, kissed him and then looked into his eyes. "Come on, let's go walk that path of light before it fades."
She held him close as the Earth began to fall away beneath their feet. They only had eyes for each other as they crossed over the edge and floated along the fading sunbeam.
ELLESMERE ISLAND, CANADA - Two Years Ago
"Beginning Thermal Configuration. Activating Electrical Impulses." The onboard computer stirred itself into life as it carried out the function it had been designed for. Kara Zor-El had slept. Now it was time for her to wake up. Her body hadn't aged a day and to her, it would be like she'd just gone to sleep. As her body recovered from stasis, her heart began to beat, her lungs began to fill with air and the synapses in her brain began firing. Her eyes opened. Her body felt stiff but there was no room in the chamber to stretch out. The window was fogged over and she couldn't see outside. She tried to speak but for a moment she'd forgotten how.
"Oh...Ohpm dh hakt...Ohpm...Open...the...the hatch, open the hatch."
The computer responded, "Opening Outer Hatch, Unsealing Inner Door." As the hatch opened, a cold wind filled the tiny chamber. Kara looked out. Mountains and snow. Where was she? Her muscles struggled to respond as she lifted herself out of the chair and stumbled down the ramp. Her first step into the snow caused her to fall. She should have been freezing but she felt quite warm. She turned back to the ship. It didn't look like it had made a smooth landing. It was only then that she realised that she probably shouldn't have opened the hatch until she knew what kind of atmosphere she was dealing with. Planetary Ecology had never been her strongest subject. "Well I'm not dead. The air seems breathable..." A loud rumbling sound caused her to wince and cover her ears. It seemed to be coming from all around her. No...three directions...or one. She followed the sound. Turning and looking to pinpoint its origin. It was there, miles away. A vehicle of some kind, hard to make out.
Suddenly the vehicle was so close she could reach out and touch it. It was strange...almost primitive. She blinked. The vehicle was miles away again. What had just happened? Had her eyes focused in on it like a lens? Come to think of it, how was she even able to hear it. Kara suddenly felt nervous. Something strange was happening to her. She also wasn't sure she wanted to stick around and meet whoever was coming towards her. She remembered talking to her uncle about life on other planets. Jor-El had told her that they knew there was life out there. They had received signals from all over the galaxy. But there had never been any contact. They simply didn't have the technology yet. That changed with the Phantom Zone. The discovery of Earth would have changed everything if the Science Council hadn't covered it up.
She waited, unsure of what to do. Should she hide? She couldn't hide forever. The vehicle got closer and she could see the person at the controls. Apart from the strange fashion sense he looked Kryptonian. Were there survivors? No, the vehicle didn't look like anything from Krypton, certainly not from Argo City.
Eventually the vehicle pulled up alongside Kara and occupant emerged. He was certainly dressed for winter weather. Why didn't she feel cold? His eyes seemed to glaze over as he looked up at the space ship. The technology appeared completely alien to him. It took him a moment to notice the girl in the alien clothes. He spoke. Kara didn't understand. She had to find a way to communicate.
"Can you help me? Is...is this Earth?" There was a touch of fear in her voice and unmistakeable sadness. The man's face showed his bewilderment. He didn't understand her. "Please, I don't know where I am."
He responded with strange words. This was going nowhere. She glanced at the vehicle. Maybe if he took her to a city or a settlement.
"Can...you...bring...me...in...your...vehicle?" She attempted to mime the words as she spoke them. The man looked just as confused as she was. She nodded towards the vehicle, the man seemed to understand and turned around to look. Kara found herself staring. Her gaze seemed to penetrate the outer shell of the vehicle. Suddenly she was seeing through the vehicle to...what was that...a combustion engine? She hadn't seen one of those since she was a child in history class. It felt like there was a fire burning behind here eyes as she stared. Suddenly, the fuel in the vehicle ignited and the whole thing was engulfed in flames. Kara jumped back in fright. She didn't notice the strange man pulling something from his hip. By the time she glanced over, he was pointing something at her. A weapon of some kind.
"I'm sorry...that wasn't me, I mean I don't know...I don't know what happened. I didn't do that...did I? Rao help me." She was on the verge of a breakdown as she recoiled in fear. Then, a loud bang. She felt something strike against her skin. It was soft. Like a feather. The man staggered backwards. There was fear in his eyes. He was saying something. Rambling just as much as she was. They couldn't communicate but they could understand the each others fear. The man pointed the weapon at her. She put her hands up to her face. Then there was another voice. It was strong. Male. Reassuring. She covered her eyes, afraid to look. But she could hear both men speaking. Then silence.
It was almost a minute later when Kara dared to look again. She pulled her hands away from her eyes. Nobody there. She hesitated to stand. Pulling her feet out of the snow, she was able to hold herself up right on the surface. Strange. She should have sunk, even a little bit. It was clearly deep. A shadow fell over her. She looked towards the bright yellow sun. It was the first time she'd noticed that the sun was different. Of course it was. This was a new world. A silhouette in front of the sun caught her attention. It seemed to be getting larger. No, it was coming closer. What now? A shape began to make itself apparent. A figure. A person. Descending from the heavens. Had Rao himself come to save her? No. It was clearly a man. His face was strong, yet kind. He kind of reminded her of her father. He touched down in front of her and looked her over.
He said something. She shook her head. "I don't understand you."
He looked at her, slightly puzzled. "You speak Kryptonese?" he asked.
Kara had understood that. He'd said something in her language, not the strange tongue of the other man. "Yes! Yes I speak Kryptonese. Can you help me? Please?"
"You're from Krypton?" His voice was calm, soothing almost.
"Yes!" Kara answered, tears forming in her eyes. She looked at the stranger, noticing his features, his clothing. The symbol on his chest. It looked almost like the symbol for hope. Was this a Kryptonian? It couldn't be. There was only one other than she knew of and he was just an infant. Unless... "K-Kal-El?"
The stranger took a step back, clearly surprised. "You know me?"
Kara didn't think about her actions. She was looking at another Kryptonian. Her family. Her blood. She rushed to him and hugged him. Her tears flowed from her eyes and were absorbed into the fabric of his clothing. "It's you. I can't believe it's you."
"Easy, it's alright," Kal-El answered as he let her hug him. She pulled away after a moment. As she dried her eyes she noticed the continued confusion in his face.
"You don't know who I am. "
"I'm afraid not."
"Kara. Kara Zor-El."
"My father. Your uncle. I came here to watch over you but you were barely a year old. How can this be? I left Krypton barely an hour ago."
Kal-El realised she didn't know how much time had passed. "Kara, Krypton was destroyed twenty seven years ago."
"No! It can't be. It was today. I watched it burn. I can't have been in stasis all that time."
"No, you're lying!" She stepped back as anger appeared on her face. "Why would you say that? You're not Kal-El!" He reached out to her. "Stay away!" Then she was gone, blasting across the sky. She was moving for just a few seconds but she'd traveled farther and faster than any vehicle on Earth or Krypton. When she stopped, she found herself hovering in mid air. Her shivered in fear as Kal-El approached. "What's...what's happening to me?"
"It's the sun," her cousin responded, "it makes people like us stronger. It gives us abilities."
"People like us?"
"I don't know what to do. I can't...I..."
"It's going to be OK. We'll figure it out together." He took her hand and led her back towards the ground.
"You really are Kal-El. I was supposed to take care of you, but..."
"But now it's my job to take care of you. Come on. We should probably get your ship and bring it to my fortress."
"It's where I keep mine and anything else from Krypton or anywhere that I find."
"Is it far?" Kara asked as her cousin brought her into the air again.
"A couple of miles from where you crashed. Under the mountain."
"My ship must have been programmed to home in on Kryptonian technology. It's like it knew where to find you."
"I'm glad it did," Kal-El replied with a soft smile.
"So am I Kal-El."
"You can call me Clark. It's the name I was raised with. Kal-El is a little strange to me."
"Right, you grew up here. How was it?"
"It's all I really know."
"That man, the one who found me out here. Is he...?"
"He's alright. I took him home."
"Good...uh...Kal...Clark...can I ask you something?"
"What's with the outfit?"
Clark allowed himself to smile. "That's a long story."
"Tell it to me?"
They flew together over ice and mountains, under cold waters to the Fortress of Solitude, a place unlike any other on Earth. It was here that Kara would learn of Earth and of her own emerging powers. Every night she had dreams of the last horrible moments of her life on Krypton. She didn't tell her cousin about them. He couldn't understand. He was practically human. She envied him for that, for not knowing what it felt like to lose everything, to watch it all fall apart. But she had to move on. She had to find a way to call Earth home and start a new life. Kara spent a lot of time on the Kent Farm, much like her cousin had. The Kents were nice people. It was easy to see why Kal-El turned out so well. When Martha first introduced Kara to chocolate, the primitive Earth suddenly didn't seem so bad.
METROPOLIS - Last Night
It was a cloudless night in the city of Metropolis. Jimmy Olsen and Kara Kent, known to the world as Supergirl, touched down gently on the roof of the Daily Planet.
"Wow," Jimmy said as he caught his reflection in Kara's eyes, "That was...I mean I've flown with Superman before but he's not as...uh...comfortable...as you."
"Wait, are you saying I'm fat?"
"What? No, no...god no...please don't freeze me."
Kara laughed. He always knew how to make her laugh. "Thank you Jimmy."
"For you. You make me happy. Happier than I've been in a long time."
"What are you talking about? You're Supergirl. You can do pretty much anything you want. You don't need a poorly paid photographer to make you smile."
"I do. I'm not...I'm not like you Jimmy. I had a whole life on Krypton before..."
"What was it like?" Jimmy asked as he put his arm around Kara and held her close.
"It was...home. Argo City where I grew up was so beautiful. It's hard to describe."
"Well if it was anything like you then it must have been wonderful."
"Oh it was...but only because it was home. Everyone thinks that Krypton was a paradise. Superman's home world had to be perfect. Right? The truth is, it wasn't so different from Earth. The people weren't so different. We had just as much hatred and bigotry, just as many wars but we were always reaching for the heavens, always trying to be better. Since I've been here, the people of this world have taken me in, treated me like one of you, but Earth never really felt like it could be home, not until I met you."
Kara turned to Jimmy. He was looking up at the night sky, searching the stars. "Do you know which star it is?"
"I don't look at the stars. I'd be seeing a world as it used to be. It takes so long for the light from our sun to get here that it will be a long time before the light disappears. I can't..."
Jimmy saw she was on the verge of tears. It was obvious that she had kept a lot bottled up inside. "I'll never be able to understand what you must have gone through. I probably won't know the right thing to say. But I can listen...if you want me to."
Her eyes were red as she tried to pull herself together. "Thank you Jimmy. It's starting to get a little chilly up here. Maybe you should head inside."
"Sure, are you coming?"
"No, I uh, I'd better patrol the city for a while. We can't have Superman getting all the headlines, right?" she joked with a smile before kissing Jimmy gently.
"Are you alright?"
"I'll be fine. Stopping bad guys is great therapy. Now go on inside." Kara began to take off, heading towards the sky. Jimmy walked to the door and watched as she disappeared behind the Daily Planet globe. As he stepped through and began to descend the steps, he had no idea how he had gotten so lucky.
Kara, as it turns out, hadn't gone very far. She went behind the massive globe spinning on the roof and stayed there, hovering. She cried softly to herself as she looked up at the night sky. She knew exactly where Krypton was. She hadn't wanted to look before but now...she needed to give herself some closure. For Clark. For Jimmy. For her. She gazed at the stars and quickly found the one she was looking for. It was so far away. As tears streamed down her face, she stared at the star. It seemed to flash on and off like a light switch. It was almost rhythmic, like a steady pulse. She stared at it, unable to take her eyes off it.
WASHINGTON D.C. - Last Night
Lex Luthor took his seat behind the desk in the Oval Office. He allowed himself a moment to bask in his new role. President Luthor. It felt right. The inauguration had gone off without a hitch, thanks to the man standing on the other side of the desk. He opened his eyes and looked at the man who he could now call the other most powerful man in the world.
"I want to thank you Superman. The Justice League performed admirably today. I know you don't trust me..."
"I think that's an understatement Lex," Superman replied, arms folded, eyes firmly fixed on Luthor.
"I believe the proper way to address me is Mr. President." Lex responded with a grin. It had been such a well formed plan. The power of being President wasn't what interested him. It was the prestige that went with the title. In truth, he probably had more power while running LexCorp than he did sitting in the Oval Office. It wasn't a matter of policy for Lex. It was a matter of pride. He wanted to be the leader of the free world for no other reason than to show that he could reach that goal. Of course the public would never vote for Lex Luthor. His history with Superman saw to that. But Vice President...that was a path worth exploring. With his money and the right candidate, Lex could go all the way to the White House. He just needed the right front man. Someone who connected with the people. Someone old, who could suffer a heart attack and nobody would question it. Then it was a simple matter of succession. He waited a year to make his move. Three years as President was more than enough time to make his mark and by the time the next election came around, his success would see him elected in a landslide, all past transgressions forgiven. It would help that he had dirt on almost every Senator and Congressman on Capitol Hill. It would allow him to push through his agenda without much political opposition. He would unite the country and even Superman would have to acknowledge his greatness. "We've had our differences Superman, but I hope we can put all that aside and work together to make this country, to make the whole world a better place."
Superman wasn't interested in hearing it. He turned to leave, walking towards the door. "I'll be watching you...Mr. President."
Lex sat back in his chair and smirked as Superman disappeared through the door. It was just a few moments later when his assistant put a call through from Mercy Graves, the woman who now ran LexCorp.
"Mercy, I was wondering if you'd call."
"Lex," her voice sounded as cold as ever through the phone. "There's a problem at LexCorp. We've had a break in."
"Then call the police. I put you in charge because I thought you could do the job. You make the decisions."
"I know Lex, but whoever it was broke into the R&D department."
"Someone trying to steal the cure to cancer?" Lex asked jokingly.
"No," Mercy answered, "the other R&D department. The one nobody is supposed to know about."
Lex sat forward in his chair, fully focused now. "What did they steal?"
"We don't know yet."
"Well find out!" Lex ordered before slamming the phone down. There were things at LexCorp, experiments that only a few people knew about. Some were weapons designed to kill his greatest enemies, others involved full-body cloning and physical augmentation. Whatever had been taken could be used for catastrophic purposes. He considered calling his advisors but if word got out about his secret facility deep under LexCorp, he'd be impeached, or worse. Mercy would have to handle it. If things escalated, then the heroes he had spent so much time trying to undermine would become his greatest weapon.
METROPOLIS - Last Night
Superman flew high over the city, high enough to remain unseen, eventually stopping directly over an apartment building. He descended rapidly. If anyone had seen, it would have looked like nothing more than a blur that disappeared in the blink of an eye. He landed on the rooftop and found his clothes hidden behind a loose brick in the ledge wall.
When Clark Kent entered his apartment, it was late. He half expected Lois to be in bed but as always she was at her computer, always working. He walked past her, kissing the top of her head before moving to the kitchen for a glass of water.
"I saw you on TV today." Lois commented, "Cozying up with our new president."
"I'm surprised Perry didn't ask you to cover it."
"Oh he did, but I have no interest in making Lex Luthor look good."
"I didn't like it either Lois, but I have a responsibility."
"I know. It just sucks."
"Can I quote you on that?" Clark asked, smirking behind his glasses.
"Only if you share the byline."
Clark moved back into the living room to sit down next to Lois. She was typing furiously, rushing to finish a story. "Anything interesting?" Clark asked as he peered over her shoulder.
"Your cousin stopped a jewel heist today...I say a heist... two idiots with handguns. She's really come into her own the last few months."
"She has and I couldn't be more proud."
"You should tell her that."
"I will...where is she anyway?" Clark asked as he scanned the apartment.
"I think she had a date with Jimmy."
"Maybe she stopped on her way home to save a cat," Lois replied, glancing up from the computer screen to see her husband's reaction.
"Oh come on, this again? I told you it was stuck."
"It's a cat, Clark. It knows how to get down from trees. I know what you're going to say. No job too big or too small for Superman."
"That's right Ms. Lane," Clark responded with a grin.
"That's Mrs. Kent to you, mister."
"Yes Ma'am." Clark reached down to kiss Lois' cheek as she typed the last words of her article. He glanced up at the screen. "You've spell checked that, right?"
Lois responded by playfully pushing Clark away, back onto the couch.
METROPOLIS - Today
Sunrise. As the city of Metropolis awoke to a new day, one person was already up. She hadn't gone to sleep. She stood on top of the Daily Planet, looking at the spinning globe. She seemed to hesitate for a moment but whatever was holding her back wasn't strong enough to stop her. She took off, hovering under the globe. Her hand gripped the giant sphere and pulled it clean off the roof. Then she threw it out across the city, not caring where it landed or who it hurt.
Across the city, Clark Kent walked down the steps of his apartment building. It was a beautiful morning. He stopped to take in the warm sun. His ears picked up the faint sound of something cutting through the air. He followed the sound and spotted the giant glass globe flying across the city. In an instant he was back inside the apartment building. A moment later he was on the roof, glasses off, shirt open. He leaped out of his clothes, taking off after the globe. His cape moved as he moved, high over the city, ignoring the onlookers on the street below. They had seen it all before but it was still a thrill to see Superman fly overhead.
The globe had begun to descend by the time he intercepted it. Moving quickly, he flew underneath, matching the speed the globe was falling at. His hands were out, catching the globe. He began to slow down, making sure that the glass ball didn't shatter as he set it down in the freshly mowed grass in Centennial Park.
Kara Zor-El stood on top of the Daily Planet. She placed a large, alien-looking device where the globe used to sit. Once again, she hesitated for a moment, unsure of whether to turn the device on. The doubt quickly went out of her head and she flicked the switch. The device began to vibrate and come to life, lighting up as the top half began to open outwards, revealing what looked like a cannon. She stood back and watched as device reached maximum power and fired a beam of energy into the air.
As Superman made sure that the globe was safe, he looked towards the sky. The morning blue was becoming orange and then red. He glanced back at the globe and knew the source of the event in an instant. Turning towards the Daily Planet, he saw the beam of energy coming from the roof. Backing away from the globe, he willed his body into the air. He seemed to take off slower than normal and found himself fighting gravity as he struggled to rise. Soon he was falling back to Earth, landing with a thud. His whole body ached. He tasted his own blood from a cut on his lip. He stood and tried again. This time he got a couple of feet off the ground before falling. If he couldn't fly, he'd have to jump. He made a running start and leaped into the air...and got about four feet, landing face first in the dirt.
Gingerly getting to his feet, it dawned on him that his powers were gone. It had to be the red sky. He had to get to the Daily Planet and he'd walk if he had to. The citizens of Metropolis had never seen anything like it. Everybody knew that Superman flew. It was kind of his thing. But here he was, running through the park, no faster than the average jogger. When he reached the exit, he fell back as he jumped to avoid an oncoming car. The car stopped just beside him. Superman looked inside to find Lois at the wheel.
"What's happening?" She asked as she saw the bruises on his face.
"I can't fly."
Lois looked at her husband, then at the beam of energy coming from the Daily Planet. "Get in!"
WASHINGTON D.C. - Today
Lex Luthor watched the news broadcasts coming from Metropolis. He saw the red sky and he knew. Whoever had broken into LexCorp was after Project Red Sun. It was a device meant to render Superman powerless but it had been abandoned when nobody, not even Luthor himself, could figure out how to make it work. It was alien technology, stolen by Luthor. But the being he'd stolen it from was dead.
"Sir, we should call the governor and mobilize the National Guard," his advisor suggested.
"Whatever's happening, it isn't meant for us," Luthor commented. Somebody wanted Superman powerless and Lex wanted to know who. The image on the screen began to flicker and jump around. Within seconds it was gone. The advisor picked up the remote and switched to another channel. Dead. They were all dead.
Another advisor rushed into the room. "Mr. President, all the lines are down. We've no contact with the Joint Chiefs or..."
"Or anyone else." Luthor replied, finishing the sentence. "It's a communications blackout. Land lines, cable, satellite. You'll find that nothing is working." Luthor was piecing things together in his head. It had happened before. He knew of only two things capable of causing such an event. The first was an electromagnetic pulse, which would fry all electronics in the blast radius. He ruled it out immediately. The TV was still working. The phones were still working. There just wasn't any signal. The other thing was impossible. "It can't be..." he said to himself as he stared at the blank screen.
METROPOLIS - Today
Superman had gotten some strange looks as he rushed towards the elevator in the Daily Planet building. He'd gone straight for the roof. Despite her protests, he managed to convince Lois to stay behind and let him deal with whatever was happening. Lois wasn't content to just sit back and wait of course and she made straight for the bullpen where she hoped to find Jimmy, or at least his camera.
Superman opened the door to the roof and stepped out. Supergirl was already there, looking at the device. She turned to greet him. "You made it. Good. I wasn't sure you would."
"Hurry Kara, we have to destroy that thing."
Kara smiled and then looked back at the device. Her gaze followed the beam up to the blood red sky. "Isn't it beautiful? It's just like home."
"That's a lie of course. You know a sky under a red sun doesn't look all that different from one under a yellow one. The red is just a side effect of the filtering agent being put out by the device."
"We need to shut it down."
"Why? So you can go back to being a god? You were raised as a human and now you can bleed like a human and live like a human and die...like a human, like a Kryptonian. Like we should have died."
Superman knew then that his cousin had turned the device on. He didn't want to believe it. "Kara this isn't you."
"You don't know me!" she shouted back in anger, "how could you? You got to grow up here, on a farm with a dog and then you grew up to be adored by billions. I was told to protect you. To look after you. But I get here and you've lived the perfect life. Do you know how that makes me feel? I could have stayed, I should have stayed. I should have died with them. But no. I got to come here and see you as a...as a what...a human? You got the best of everything, didn't you Clark! You don't even remember Krypton. You don't remember all those people..."
She was consumed with rage. He could see that. He needed to calm her. To explain, to do something. "I was a baby Kara. Earth is the only world I've ever known. I wish I could understand..."
"No you don't!" she screamed, cutting across him. "Believe me, because I wish I didn't. You don't want to hear the screams. You don't want to see the panicked masses being consumed by fire, the smell of their burning flesh invading your senses. You got this great life. Do you want to know what I got? I got to watch my parents die. I got to watch my home crumble. I got to see billions of people, everyone and every thing I'd ever known, descend into hell. And then I got to survive and come here because of you. I got to live when I should have died. And for what? To see the son of Jor-El become this damn planet's hero? You're almost as bad as your father."
"It's his fault you know. He knew. He knew it would happen. He could have saved them all but he didn't. He saved you. Just you."
"He tried to warn them. They didn't listen."
"He should have tried harder. Oh he made sure my father knew so he could send me here. All for you. He could have made them listen. He could have done something and if it still wasn't enough he should have let you and me die with everyone else."
There was pain in Kara's eyes. Superman wanted to reach out to her, to make it all better. But he didn't know how. He took a step towards her. He was stopped in his tracks by a blast of heat vision at his feet. Astounded, he looked at the burn mark and then up at Kara. "Your powers. They're still..."
"I told you Clark, you don't know me at all."
"Look up and see for yourself."
Superman followed her instruction and looked skywards. What he saw shocked him to the core. A huge space ship was descending through the upper atmosphere. It was a mass of technology from a thousand different worlds and at the centre, something Superman recognised immediately - A Coluan Skull Ship. "No..."
"That's right. Earth is your home and now you'll get to watch your home burn as I watched mine. Then you'll understand."
SPACE - Three Years Ago
A small ship traveled through the void of space, destination - the other side of the galaxy. Speed - not fast enough. Passenger - a sleeping beauty. It had been in space for over two decades and it seemed the universe would come to an end before it got to where it was going. With the Phantom Zone Generator malfunctioning and no way to fix it, Kara Zor-El was destined to float inside a coffin forever, never to wake up.
Twenty six years after leaving Krypton, finally some hope as a colossal alien craft emerged from a vortex. It scanned the sector, looking for signs of life and civilisation. It had done so many times before across the galaxy, mapping every star system, chronicling every cosmic event, obtaining a permanent record of every sentient being, every page of history, every piece of technology. The ship was about to jump away to another sector when the scanners picked up the faintest hint of technology. After narrowing the field of reference, the ship came upon the small Kryptonian craft.
There was just one living being on the ship. A Coluan, the last of his kind. The Coluan studied the space ship, instantly recognising it as Kryptonian. It was a little more advanced than standard Kryptonian technology, obviously a prototype of some kind, but the markers were there.
The Kryptonian female inside the craft was obviously in stasis. The Coluan considered waking her. He removed her from the craft and brought her to a medical station.
"The female appears to be an adolescent." The Coluan commented as he scanned her body. "Acquiring blood sample." The Coluan pierced her skin with a small syringe, drawing a little blood before placing the blood in a cellular scanner. He waited for the result. He had nobody to hide his surprise from but he attempted to do so anyway. "Probable match found. Earth, designate - Superman. Original identity - Kal-El of Krypton. The female is a blood relative. Intriguing."
The Coluan left her at the medical station and returned to the Kryptonian craft to check the flight plan. It was as he suspected. The ship was headed for Earth but it had been damaged. He would repair it. No. He would do more than that. The female's mind had shut down in stasis. He would access her memories without the need to revive her.
The Coluan would spend months studying her memories. He saw the destruction of Krypton through her eyes. He could use it to heighten her emotions. Fear. Rage. Hate. They would mask the programming, keep her from fighting it. The human who had destroyed his previous vessel, Lex Luthor, had stolen something of his. He had planned to rob Superman of his powers to prevent him from interfering in the data collection process. Luthor had put an end to that plan. The Coluan knew that Luthor would not destroy the device. He would seek to exploit it and fail.
But the female would be given the knowledge to activate it. He would send her to Earth to wait, to live among the humans and interact with Superman. When the time was right, she would be activated. The Coluan would need a signal. Something simple. A signal hidden in the stars. She would look to the sky to search for home and when she did, the rhythmic pulse of light in the heavens would unlock the programming he put in her brain.
But still there was great danger. If she succeeded, if she managed to activate the device and remove his powers, the device itself would remain vulnerable. But if he altered the female's physiology slightly, just enough to prevent the red solar energy from drowning out the energy of a yellow sun, she would maintain her abilities long enough for him to arrive and carry out his mission.
The Coluan went over every detail. It wasn't enough to bring her memories to the surface. In order to prevent her from defeating her programming, there would need to be truth to her rage. It needed to be real.
METROPOLIS - Today
Superman looked up helplessly as the Skull Ship made its way down through the atmosphere. Glancing at Kara, there was little emotion on her face. She seemed to be expecting the ship but there was no sense that she was looking forward to what would happen, or that she was afraid. Her emotions seemed to be directed only at him.
"Kara, this has to end."
"It will Clark. The world will burn and you'll know what it's like to lose everything. You'll finally care."
"You think I don't care? Kara, of course I care. Do you think I never think about all the people that died? Do you think I never wish that my father had saved someone else instead of me? What made me so special?"
"Exactly! What made you so special? You were your father's son. You say you care but you can't. Not like I do. You have no connection to them, not a meaningful one. It's a half-remembered dream to you. Well now it's going to be real. That ship is coming to take everything away. You can stand here with me and we'll watch the planet burn together. Or you can go. I'm giving you the chance I never had Clark. Go to your family, be with them. Die with them. There's nothing you can do here." As she spoke, Lois and Jimmy came through the door, onto the roof. Jimmy raised his camera to his face, ready to take a shot but when he saw the person staring back through the lens, he couldn't. "Kara?"
"Jimmy, what are you doing?" Lois asked as Jimmy put the camera down and rushed towards Supergirl. It didn't even occur to him not to call her Kara. He saw the despair in her face as she spoke to Superman and that was all that mattered. She was hurting and he needed to make it better.
"Stay back Jimmy," Superman called out. Jimmy ignored him and kept moving forward. Kara sent a blast of heat vision towards him. It struck a few feet ahead of him. A warning shot.
"Stay away Jimmy, go back inside," she commanded, not realising that she had started to cry.
"Not without you." He took another few steps. Kara inhaled and then let out a strong gust, blowing Jimmy backwards towards the ledge.
"Kara, stop it!" Superman shouted, worried she might blow him off the roof.
It was only then that Lois looked up and saw the giant space ship heading towards them. "Is that...?"
"Brainiac!" Superman confirmed. Kara seemed confused by the name. Superman noticed this. "That's right. I've faced it before. Brainiac destroys civilisations. He takes anything he deems valuable and destroys the rest. He's probably disrupted global communications already. Soon he'll start collecting anything of value - technology...people. Then he'll ignite the atmosphere and watch it all burn."
"And you'll get to watch." Kara replied.
"Kara? What are you saying?" Jimmy asked as he slowly got to his feet. "Is that really what you want?"
"What I want? What I want is to go home. I want to bring tea to my father's office. I want to go to university and study with my mother. I want to go out with my friends and get into trouble for coming home late. But I can't. It's all gone. What am I without them? Without home? Superman's cousin?"
"You're alive," Superman said, his voice quiet, almost a whisper. "You're right Kara. I don't know. If you let this happen, if you let Brainiac destroy everything, then I will know. I'll feel every death. I'll hear every scream and it will be my fault because I couldn't protect you, I couldn't save you."
"Stop trying to be the hero Kal-El!" Kara demanded.
"I'm not. I'm not Kal-El. I'm not Superman. I'm just Clark." Superman spoke without even considering who was around him. Jimmy heard the words but he didn't react. He was too focused on Kara to care about anything else. "I don't remember Krypton. I don't feel the pain of losing everything the way you do. I wish I could apologise for that Kara, I do. But I can't. I'm not the son of Jor-El, I'm the son of Jonathan Kent. I'm a farmer's son. It doesn't mean I don't care what happened or that I don't try to make Jor-El or Lara proud. The last thing they did was to save me. They gave me a chance, just like your parents gave you one. They wanted us to live Kara. They wanted us to have a chance. If Jor-El could have saved Krypton, he would have. I know that. So do you. You knew him better than I ever could. Do you really think he didn't try everything?"
"I...I don't...maybe." As she responded, a sharp pain shot up through her spine, into her head.
"The last thing they did, when there was nothing else left, was to save us. I've tried to take that chance and be the best person I can be as Clark Kent or as Superman or whatever you want to call me. You can do the same. I know you Kara. I know you've got so much pain that it's breaking your heart. But I also see so much life. You can do so much. That's what your parents wanted. They wanted you to live. So live."
"But what do I have to live for? You have so much in your life. What do I have?" Kara asked, her tears flowing without anything to hold them back.
"You have me." Jimmy answered as he stepped towards her.
"You're family Kara," Superman added, "you're not alone."
Her knees gave way as she broke down. Jimmy rushed to her side, resting her head on his shoulder, trying to soothe her. Superman knelt down on the other side. For a moment it was peaceful. Kara's soft sobs were the only things to be heard on the rooftop. Suddenly, Kara pulled away and pushed Jimmy and Superman back. She held her head as huge pain overwhelmed her.
"Kara what is it?" Jimmy asked, the worry in his voice plain to hear.
"My head! It's in my head!" Her pupils began to glow, signaling the onset of a heat vision blast. She managed to ignore the pain just long enough to look at Superman and Jimmy, her eyes red with energy.
"Kara! Fight it!" Superman called out as he tried to usher Lois and Jimmy off the roof. Neither of them would go.
"What's happening?" Lois asked frightfully.
"Whatever's in her head, whatever Brainiac has done to her...it's trying to push her over the edge." Superman answered. It was a subject he knew all too well. The alien god Darkseid had once done the same thing to him, elevating his emotions to an unbearable state in order to reprogram his mind. "Kara, listen to me. You have to let it go. All the fear, everything you're feeling, just let it go."
"How?" she screamed as her head throbbed in excruciating pain.
"Trust yourself. Trust in who you are. In who you want to be."
Superman's words caused Kara to look up at him, her eyes wide. Her pupils were on fire as she struggled to hold the heat vision back. She looked across at Jimmy. His hand was reaching out to her. She turned quickly, back to the device. She let go. It spread out from her pupils like a flame devouring her eyes, then outwards towards the device, incinerating it. The energy beam was cut off instantly and as Kara fell to the floor, the red sky slowly began to disappear.
Jimmy took Kara's hand in his and held her close as she cried. "It's OK, everything will be alright." She looked up at him. Those were her mother's final words. She moved close to kiss Jimmy.
As the red sky began to return to blue, the yellow energy now filling Superman's cells began to burn through the red energy that had blocked his powers. His strength slowly began to return.
"I wanted to hate you," Kara explained, turning towards Superman. "Brainiac might have hit the overload switch on my emotions but everything I said was true. For you, a life time had passed since Krypton was destroyed. For me it was minutes. I couldn't understand why you weren't as torn up inside as I was. Why you didn't feel it like I did. When you smiled at me...I know you were just being kind but for me our world had just died. It wasn't decades ago. How could you be smiling?"
"I'm sorry Kara."
"No, no, don't be sorry. I get it now. You weren't smiling in spite of everything that had been lost. You were smiling because you'd found someone from the world you never knew. And you took me in without even thinking about it. You treated me like family."
"You are family."
"I know...thank you."
Lois found herself gazing up at the sky as the front end of the Skull Ship began to split apart.
"Something's happening up there," she called to the others.
Superman looked up at the ship and he knew. "Brainiac must have realised he's failed. He's going to try to destroy the city before my powers are fully restored. I have to get up there."
"No," Kara said as she stood up and wiped away her tears. You're still too weak. I'll go. "
"It's too dangerous. If the main weapon fires while you're in its path...I'm not sure even I could survive that."
"It's OK." She smiled as she took a deep breath and unleashed a cold blast of freeze breath straight at Superman. It froze him in place. He tried to break free but he wasn't strong enough yet. She turned to Jimmy, kissed him gently then began to take off slowly. "I love you James Olsen."
"Kara wait!" Superman called after her as she rose up from the rooftop.
"You asked me to trust who I am. This is who I am. I'm Supergirl." She was gone in a flash, picking up speed as she flew straight at the Skull Ship. She could see the glow of the main energy cannon deep within the barrel as it prepared to fire. She moved faster. The cannon fired. Kara found herself at the outer edge of the barrel, her body holding back the intense energy that threatened to destroy Metropolis. The agony was immense as her skin began to heat up and blister. She wondered for a moment if this was how the people of Krypton felt in their last moments. Her old home was gone, she wouldn't let her new home die.
Soon she wasn't just blocking the beam from exiting the barrel of the cannon, she was pushing back against it, making her way through the barrel, into the firing chamber, forcing the blast to retreat with every step.
"You cannot stop it," Brainiac said, his voice everywhere, "you will watch another civilisation burn."
"Not this time," Kara replied defiantly as she punched her way through the firing chamber, destroying the cannon. The explosion started a chain reaction. Soon the entire ship was engulfed in flame. She knew it was only a matter of moments before the whole ship exploded. Even that would be enough to destroy the city. There was only one thing left to do.
Gathering her strength, Kara flew back out through the barrel and out of the ship. On the roof of the Daily Planet, Superman, Lois and Jimmy could only look on as Kara flew around the ship, building up speed before attacking it again. Her blistered hands stretched out in front of her and she pressed them against the hull, forcing the ship to move upwards, away from the city towards the upper atmosphere. She kept pushing. Her body had never been in so much pain but she refused to give up. She pushed the ship higher and higher, faster and faster, reaching escape velocity and breaking through into outer space.
As Brainiac frantically tried to think of a solution in the core of the ship, Kara just kept going, trying to get the ship as far away as possible. She looked for the largest thing in the solar system and sent the ship towards it. The ship would explode long before it ever reached the sun but she hoped any debris would continue forward. She didn't look back. She didn't need to. The Earth was safe. Her home, her family was safe.
On the roof of the Daily Planet, Superman's strength had grown enough for him to break through the ice. He took off immediately, speeding up as he went higher. It didn't take him long to smash through the sound barrier as he raced after Kara. As he flew into space, his eyes managed to focus in on the ship in the distance, silhouetted against the sun. Without the filter of the atmosphere, his powers were returning even faster and he sped up. Then an immense flash of light as the whole ship exploded. Brighter than the sun. The shockwave sent Superman tumbling back towards the Earth. He recovered and rushed forward to the source of the explosion, hoping to find some sign of life.
Nothing. No ship, no debris. It had disintegrated completely. He searched in every conceivable direction, searching for some sign that Kara had survived. When he returned to Earth alone, Jimmy knew. Lois held him close to prevent him from falling down in despair. Nothing was said. There was nothing to say.
There would never be any question of Jimmy revealing Clark's identity. It would never be sold to a tabloid. It would never come up in conversation. Jimmy would keep the secret. Clark knew he would never need to ask. Every newspaper and media outlet in the world would cover the story. Seven billon people would mourn. Metropolis would become the centre of the world's grief with five million people flocking there to pay their respects. Even Lex Luthor, ever the opportunist, would act with respect and dignity, issuing a simple statement for the American people united in grief. The front page of every newspaper would carry the story of how the world was saved by Supergirl. They would explain how she gave her life to protect us from the villain, Brainiac. They would talk of her heroics. They would tell a tale of how she was a survivor from Krypton and how she was Superman's cousin.
A simple note on the obituary page from Jimmy would read: "For Kara, you were so much more."