Chapter 1: Hello?
Heavy boots stomped against cold concrete, about six pairs by the sound of it. The jingling sound of keys was drowned by shouts and bangs behind distant doors, all noise were given sharp angles as they bounced off the hard walls and ceiling. A lock was undone and clacked aside, opening the larger world up to a smaller cell. Inside stood a woman, tall with shoulder long blond hair and vibrant blue eyes. She was a titan, or at the least she carried herself as such. An aura of confidence and inner strength seeped from her, much like a majestic predator. She offered her wrists to the prison guard, a short and stout Mexican woman.
“Señorita...” the guard said, a pained expression on her face.
“Its procedure,” the woman smile softly and nudged her hands again, “go on.”
The guard sighed and put handcuffs on her wrists and ankles, wrapped a thick leather belt around her stomach and connected ankle and wrist cuffs to the belt. As the prisoner walked down the hallway, cellmates of her wing banged their doors and shouted muffled words at her. With six guards around her, three on either side, she got buzzed in to the administration building. The warden came in to see her off, he waved away the guards and looked up at the soon to be free prisoner. She stood a good foot taller than him, yet despite looking down on him, her expression showed respect. A pair of partially dissolved sugar cubes scraped against the paper cup, which the warden held at the top with just his thumb and index finger. He sniffed, tapped his plastic spoon carefully a few times before discarding it.
“Its hell out there,” he said, his large moustache shifted while he blew on his coffee.
She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, “I'll be good, warden.”
“Yeah, well,” he took a deep slurp, “your behaviour have been spotless for the past six years so I'm happy to take your word for it,” the words rolled out with a generous Mexican accent.
“Thank you warden, that's high praise coming from you.”
He scoffed lightly before he nudged his head, outside the prison main gate stood a small lake worth of media people from all over the world. It's not every day that the world's only superhero would be leaving prison after going on a rampage against Mexican drug cartels. As much as she wanted to practice honesty and transparency, today was not a good day. It was bad enough that she'd been dragged through the mud during her trial, standing in front of judge and jury in her torn suit. Speaking of torn and tattered clothing, surely they didn't expect her to go outside in her prison uniform or in the nude. As she peered around the room, a set of double doors opened and a man in a sharp looking suit came in with a suitcase in hand.
“Ready?” he said, his tone was gruff and clearly not in the mood for chit chat. Whatever business this man had, he wanted it to be done with fifteen minutes ago.
She nodded and offered her chained up wrists to a guard, “Some last bit of paperwork and a change of clothes. That's it, I take it?” she looked at the suitcase.
“Tailor made as you requested.”
With the handcuffs off, the woman took the suitcase and excused herself to the bathroom for a quick change. A guardswoman followed her and came out a few minutes later with the prison uniform bundled together in a crude ball. The woman stepped up to the reception, listened patiently to the guardsman behind the counter and signed the document as instructed. Just over the dotted line the signature read Kara Zor-L.
A lonesome autumn wind rolled over the cemetery where a handful of people were scattered about, tending to the graves of their loved ones. Laughter of a lonesome child running about rang between the tombstones. Douglas was down on one knee, his jeans soaking up water from the grass and soil while his hands worked fast to shift out withered flowers. Freezing cold drops of water stung into his hand, the usual lush and warm colour of his skin drained away to a paler shade of grey. He adjusted the fresh batch of flowers when a nostalgic sound caught his ear, the sound of thick fabric fluttering gracefully in the air. As he looked up and over his shoulder Douglas saw a familiar humanoid silhouette hanging effortlessly in mid-air.
“Well, uh… hello there,” he said, his tone hesitant, “been a while.”
Power Girl came down for a soft landing, a bouquet of flowers rested in her hands, “Douglas. You look good.”
He smiled sheepishly, “Thanks. Uh, what brings you out here?”
“Keeping up appearances,” she kneeled down and put the flowers by the tombstone. “They’re always watching.”
Douglas looked around nervously, but couldn’t see anyone. They stood for a moment in silence, looking down on the tombstone which read Karen Starr – Precious is the memory – 1987-2015. It was a simple stone, pitch black with white text with no additional flair like the many other stones around it, which sported biblical quotes, crosses or other allusions to the afterlife. The stone rested on the ground at a slight angle, rather than standing straight up like a traditional tombstone. Unless you knew where to look, it be easy to miss, just like how Karen Starr was when she was alive.
“They, uh, never found the body and she didn't really have any family so I just-” Douglas gestured at the stone, “I think she'd like it. At least I hope so.”
“It's a nice gesture,” she put a hand on Douglas’ shoulder.
Douglas looked up at the sky, a thick carpet of clouds only allowed small specs of blue sky to peek through, “Guess I should head back before it starts raining. Sonja! Come on sweetheart, we’re going home.”
Sonja came running over to him, almost tripping a few times as she did. Her shoulder long red hair fluttered and danced behind her. Rich green eyes shined with childish joy, resting over a bridge of freckles that went from cheek to cheek. By the time she arrived, Sonja was already out of breath. Fat clouds of frost smoke puffed out from behind her scarf. She clumsily adjusted her beanie with both hands as soon as she stopped in front of Douglas.
“Sonja?” Power Girl raised a curious eyebrow.
She pointed excitedly at Power Girl, “Biddie; look at the biddie daddy!”
“No, no,” Douglas laughed and picked up Sonja, “this isn’t a bird sweetie. This lady is Power Girl, daddy’s friend.”
Sonja frowned and tilted her head from side to side, “Phoul Gul?”
“Close enough, say hi Sonja.”
Sonja was still a little sceptical, but gave her an enthusiastic wave nonetheless, “Hi, daddy’s friend.”
“Why hello there,” Power Girl smiled back before she turned to Douglas, “not quite what I was expecting.”
He shrugged and started to walk towards the parking lot, “I took your advice.”
“Right,” Power Girl’s reply was short, followed by an awkward silence. “Well, you- have things on your mind, I shou- I’ve stuff to, so… yeah.”
Douglas nodded understandingly, “Of course. Nice seeing you again.”
“Yeah, you too,” she forced a smile, “bye-bye Sonja, be good okay?”
The Aquarius stood docked outside the Cayman Islands, just south-west of Cuba. Power Girl had purchased it for $8,000,000 while she was in prison. It was a 210ft yacht with timeless exterior styling that had three beautifully appointed guest rooms with en-suites, an expansive sun deck for entertaining, two helipads and of course a hot tub. She circled around it a few times, gliding effortlessly through the warm air before landing on central helipad. While she tried to get her cape to cooperate with her in the breeze, some crew members stepped up to greet her with a Japanese woman in the lead.
“Kara Zor-L I presume?” she offered her hand.
Power Girl looked less than graceful with her face clotted behind her hair as she accepted the handshake, “That be me, captain obvious.”
The woman didn’t seem to share the joke, scoffing it off rather than giving a smile. She wore a spotless white navy uniform. With the exception of her black tie and shoulder décor, she was white from head to toe. On her left chest there was a respectable collection of service ribbons, while on the right side was an aiguillette that went neatly up to her shoulder and underneath her arm. A plain black plastic badge with her name on it was also attached to her jacket on the right hand side. On her head rested a navy hat which reminded Power Girl of a short black and white bowler hat with its white dome and black rim.
“Captain Sonia Sato, a pleasure to finally meet you in person,” Power Girl relented, putting her jokes aside until she’d get a better feel of the good captain and her crew.
“Welcome on-board the Aquarius,” Captain Sato invited Power Girl to walk with her, “I trust you had a pleasant flight?”
She peered over the edge of the deck, the bright blue waters below looked both warm and inviting, “It was a little weird flying for the first time in six years, but it’s a lot like bike cycling I suppose; once you learn it you never really forget.”
Sato nodded to herself before she pulled out a security card, swiped it and entered a pin with a near flawless precision. The door to the bridge clacked open and they stepped inside as the captain said, “I wouldn’t know ma’am, so I’ll take your word for it. We’ve finished the upgrades to the yacht last month, spending most of our time verifying that all systems works as desired. The last batch of supplies will arrive around noon tomorrow. Should we set a course, ma’am?”
The bridge fell silent, all eyes turned on Power Girl. “No, that’s fine. We’ll take it easy for now and simply stay put. Give my regards to UK’s prime minister for letting me settle here, would you please?”
“Of course ma’am,” Captain Sato gestured to a crew member, “would you like a tour of the ship?”
Power Girl beamed a smile at the petite woman, “Yes please that’d be lovely.”
They went through the various features of the yacht, covering the hot tub at the rear, TV lounge on the second deck and the bar up by the bow just before the front helipad. Captain Sato somewhat regrettably informed her that the bar did not have any alcoholic brewages and would not get any even after they’re finished resupplying. Power Girl just brushed it off, assuring the captain that it wasn’t that big of a deal. They then covered the two guest rooms, which sported their own showers and toilets along with a king size bed each. When they arrived at Power Girl’s room, there was a pause for the first time.
“Double bed?” she asked the captain, there was a slight hint of trouble in her voice.
“Yes, the yacht was bought as-is and beyond replacing the engine as per your specifications, nothing else was done,” Captain Sato traced Power Girl as she walked around inside the spacious bedroom. “The master bathroom is through that door and has both a shower and a bathtub. Is there a problem ma’am?”
“No, no- it’s-” she sighed, her arms dropped to her side like a pair of loose ropes, “just a little unexpected, guess I didn’t read the contract too clearly before I signed. It’s fine though, I’ll manage.”
“Will there be anything else ma’am?”
Power Girl sat down on the bed, bouncing a little up and down before she said, “Do we have a hairdresser on-board?”
Captain Sato faltered for a brief moment before she recovered, “I believe one of the crew took hairdressing class’s ma’am.”
“Great, I’d like to do something about this hair,” she ruffled it with one hand, making a mess out of it. “It’ll have to wait until nightfall though.”
Later that night a pale full moon hung quietly on the night sky. Power Girl turned over in her new bed for the seventh time in the last half hour. Six years on a prison bed that was a couple of inches too short and a mattress that was more like a moss covered stone than anything else made the large and comfortable luxury bed oddly uncomfortable. Her hair, now significantly shorter, was still wet from the shower. A hand reached out to the dark and empty half of the bed. Whatever it was looking for, it didn’t find anything beyond the soft bedsheets. Cold moon light creeped through the cracks in the curtains, a lonesome streak cutting over the phone on the bedside table.
A heavy sigh escaped through her nose before she dragged herself across the bed. Her hand fumbled a little in the dark, plastic clattered around before the phone was safe in her hand. For a long moment she just laid there, listening to the tone of the phone. She peered over her shoulder, like a child making sure that her parents weren’t secretly watching. Another sigh, it came back like a crude and soulless boomerang through the phone. She licked her lips, her vibrant blue eyes reading the insides of her mind.
“Hello, it's me. I uh, was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet… to go over everything. They say that time's supposed to heal you, but I can’t say I’ve done much healing. Hello, can you hear me? I'm in the Caribbean thinking about what we used to have. When you were younger and things were less of a mess. I've forgotten how it felt before I ruined everything. Hello, how are you? It's so typical of me to talk about myself,” she covered her eyes with her hand, tears started to trek down her cheeks, “I'm sorry, I hope that you're doing well. Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened? Of course not, you liked it like that. And that’s what I loved about you.”
Douglas dropped Sonja off at kindergarten like he always did, the grey and wet autumn weather putting some dampers on his mood. The only good that came out of this season was the ideal stay indoors and read a good book weather. Beyond that it sucked. As he lightly jogged back to the car, his phone buzzed in his pocket. The first drops of rain dripped down on the front window while Douglas read the text he got from Eddie. Judging by the typos and random emotes it was safe to say that Eddie was excited, which usually meant one thing.
“Eddie, you rang?”
“Oh my god! Doug, I totally forgot!” Douglas pulled the phone off his ear, Eddie’s hyper voice rattled inside the car. “Power Girl dude, she got out of prison yesterday. I missed it! God fucking shitballs.”
“Right, they mentioned it on the news this morning,” he tried to put his seatbelt on, though couldn’t quite work out what went where while on the phone, so he gave up. “Apparently she dodged the press, so you didn’t miss much, right?”
“Yeah, I guess…”
“Please don’t tell me you called me just because you needed to vent about Power Girl. You have that university club for that, right?”
There was some ruffling around with papers in the background, “About that,” the good old Eddie has an idea tone came over the phone. “We’d like to get governor Forman to have a change of heart about Power Girl and was hoping you’d help us out.”
“Me? Why on- look Eddie, I don’t agree with her politics and she frankly gives me the creeps whenever she’s on TV, but I don’t quite see why you’d need my help with anything.”
“C’mon man, don’t be a stick in the mud.”
“It’s called being an adult, you should try it sometime.”
Eddie blew his nose and sniffed a few times, the sounds were enough to make Douglas’ breakfast protest in his stomach, “Look man, you were close to Karen Starr, right? The only one that Power Girl knew and really cared about. So you’re like- like the last living relative, right? You vouching for Ms. Starr and then vouching for Power Girl. It all makes sense dude.”
Outside it started to rain cats and dogs, parents running with kids in tow to get shelter inside, “I’m more or less done with that part of my life Eddie. It’s literary written in stone.”
“Yah, I hear you bro,” there was a pause, “oh shit, I’m late for class!”
A few seconds of frantic scrambling about followed before the line went dead. The day Eddie Kaplin grows up will be the day the moon drops out of the sky, or so their high school teacher always said. While Douglas had grown up thanks to the responsibilities that comes with being a parent, he had hoped college would do something similar for Eddie. By the looks of it the jury is still out on that one. At any rate, with Eddie running to class and Sonja in kindergarten, Douglas could finally get some shopping done. During the drive to the farmers market, the lead news story was Power Girl’s release from prison.
“-and I’ve said it, haven’t I said it Mr. Peake? That Power Girl is a clear and, and present danger to our country,” governor Shannon Forman apparently wasted no time, striking while the iron was hot had defined the bulk of her political career.
“Yes ma’am, though I’d remind you about Matthew 6:14-15 and I quote; for if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. These, these are the words of our Lord and, and- our fine country is based deeply on Christian values. So if-”
“Excuse me Mr. Peake, but we cannot simply turn the other cheek to this- this- abomination. Our Lord tells us we shall not kill. It is no-”
“Now hold up ma’am, just hold your horses there. If I may?” there was a short pause, “Good. The Bible made clear distinctions between the shedding of innocent blood versus killing as the due consequence of a crime, okay? A, a, a number of sins were considered to be worthy, if you will, of the death penalty. Including murder, incest, and, and bearing false witness on a capital charge, adultery, idolatry, and having sexual relations with a member of the same sex, etc. Karen Starr was kidnapped by the drug cartels and murdered. Those, those dogs murdered that poor woman so good, the FBI haven’t found her body after six years. Power Girl was responding to a crime and-”
“Mr. Peake, you do not suggest that we appoint this creature to be the judge, jury and executioner? Where’s the due process? What about accountability? How can America be saf-”
Douglas turned the radio off at that point. This was a simple rehash of the same media circus that had played out after Power Girl had turned herself in. While he navigated through the store, filling his cart with the items on his list, Douglas mind drifted back to those early days. Governor Shannon Forman had won the 2015 election with a landslide, playing on the fears of the public and promised to keep them safe. She’d lobbied hard for hitting Power Girl with the full weight of the law and then some. Since Mexico had officially abolished capital punishment in 2005 and the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico arguments to have it reinstated fell short, the best they could hope for was a long prison sentence.
With the shopping done, Douglas headed home and started doing the chores of the day. Oddly enough he liked the idea of being a stay-at-home dad. Sonja had three days in kindergarten and four days at home, which was a win-win for all parties involved. Halloween was approaching and he’d decided to be smart about it this year. Last year had ended in a small disaster thanks to poor planning and a long list of last ditch efforts. Not this year though, no sir. This time around Douglas took it in small steps, doing a little here and a little there.
While he was in the middle of vacuuming the stairway, Douglas heard the phone ringing, “Hello, is this Douglas Sutherland?” the stranger on the other end insisted.
“Yes, this is Douglas speaking. Who is this?”
“Mr. Sutherland, I’m Megan Fox and I’m calling from Fox News. We were wonde-”
A chill ran down his spine. This might be what Power Girl had meant when they met earlier, “I’m sorry but I have no comment.”
In all honesty he was a little surprised that it had taken them this long to reach out to him. Douglas sighed as the phone rang again. A different reporter from a different channel. He remained blunt, yet civil as he turned them down. Hopefully there wouldn’t be any fuss when he went to collect Sonja from kindergarten. With the phone still ringing, Douglas bent down and unplugged it, a silence smothered the living room as the last traces of the ringing raced away. He sent text to Eddie and his little sister Pamela just in case they’d track them down.
As he scrolled through his list of contacts, looking for Ophelia’s work number he paused. The name Karen Starr reflected in his glasses from the screen. He’d never reached out to her during the trial. The only thing he heard from her after she literary flew out of his life was a lawyer that came on behalf of the recently deceased Karen Starr. Financial support was arranged after a handful of signatures. Not so much that Douglas could go on a crazy sports car shopping spree three days a week, but it was sufficient to let him maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Truth be told, he wasn’t even sure if the number was still valid. He’d never bothered to confirm it one way or the other.
He shook his head and dialled Ophelia’s number, it rang for nearly a dozen times before it connected, “Yes?”
“Hey sweetheart, sorry to call you at work, but I thought I’d give you a heads up,” he walked up to the window by the kitchen counter, looking out at the garden shed. “It’s this- well, Power Girl got out of prison and- they’re at it again.”
“Oh, right,” Ophelia cleared her throat, “I don’t have much time right now, but we’ll figure something out, okay? Gotta go honey. Love you.”
Before he could say his goodbyes, the line went dead. Forty seconds, that was almost a new record. Ophelia seemed to be terrified of phones, since all her calls were always kept to a bare minimum. If Douglas didn’t know better he’d say she was chasing some obscure world record of shortest phone call. Not that it mattered, he found these little quirks rather adorable even if they were somewhat impractical.
Chapter 2: Here comes the hot stepper
Power Girl stood in front of the mirror, looking over her new suit. For the most part it was much like her original one with some subtle changes. Her white formfitting suit still sported a chest window, though now it had slim blue lines trekking along her arms and torso, making the suit appear more tangible rather than just a plain white surface. The red cape was given a golden edge and while the gold medallion still kept it tied upon her right shoulder, she'd discarded the golden rope that used to go under her arm and instead attaching two corners of her cape directly to the medallion. A metallic décor with a golden finish had replaced the traditional blue leather belt, it was a simple design that went around her waist before curving downwards on her stomach. High blue boots and solid blue gloves returned, but of a more rigid, scaled design as opposed to the old faithful leather from before.
“Smashing,” she said to her reflection, complete with a thumbs up.
They’d been dipping around in the Caribbean for a good week. Since Power Girl had insisted on getting a haircut before anything else, they’d also stay put and away from the public eye. Boats and helicopters from the world press had circled around the Aquarius practically all day, every day while Power Girl had concentrated on getting her strength back. Never quite the idle girl, she’d shifted her diet and picked up a hard training program that she did out in the searing sun. Solar energy was stored in her muscle tissue and her iconic figured had faded away since her stay in prison. The more muscle Power Girl had on her bones, the more energy she could store.
Captain Sato joined her for breakfast, which included a large serving of fruit, coffee, ham and cheese omelette and a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with strawberries and blueberries. While she munched on an apple, the news came on. The initial wave of interest in her release from prison seemed to have died down to a small simmer. Various news outlets expressed their concerns that Power Girl had made no official statement yet along with commenting on the latest stance various governments had on the subject. A minority of countries stood by her one hundred percent, the majority remained largely indifferent one way or the other and a small group condemned her at every chance they had.
“How’s the suit ma’am?”
Power Girl wiggled one elbow around, “A little on the stiff side, not sure if it’s because I’m not used to something as tight as a wetsuit or if it’s the fabric.”
Captain Sato nodded before taking a sip of her morning coffee, “Do you think we’ll need to request a new one? I mean, given your diet and training, there’s a real chance you’ll outgrow it. Especially if it’s on the tight side already.”
“You know,” her words were muffled with a piece of banana bulging in her cheek, “that is a good point. I’ll give it a try during morning exercises and get back to you.”
“Speaking of which,” she put the coffee aside and leaned in for a whisper, “you do know that we tracked your movements, right? I need to file a report explaining why you went north, deep into the United States instead of coming straight here as we’d agreed on.”
“Oh that…” Power Girl put the banana peel away and slumped back in her chair, “guess the GPS coordinates shows I went straight to West Point, Kentucky, right?”
“Ma’am, I have nothing but respect for you but thi-”
The table wear clattered as Power Girl kicked the table leg lightly, “I know, I know. Worst place I could possibly go all things considered. Look, I- Douglas was my friend. He- he lost his only living relative, okay? It was not just something I did on a- a-” she snapped her fingers in the air a few times, “whim or whatever. I still stand by that I did the right thing taking him in. Just be honest with them, okay captain? We’re sitting on needles and pins here. Not the best time to start screwing around, shooting from the hip and rewriting the book.”
A pause followed, captain Sato looked at Power Girl as if trying to read her intentions. In the distance a seagull cried, “Whatever you say ma’am.”
She gave the good captain a polite nod before helping herself with the omelette. Captain Sato excused herself to the bridge, leaving Power Girl alone with her thoughts. It’s better like this, she thought. Just a simple rush from getting out of that darn cell, a minor slipup. Nothing more, a hiccup and a small emotional glitch. By now the omelette was a soggy tasteless mass in her mouth, much like the lies she’d just told herself and Captain Sato.
Ophelia Day walked with haughty steps into the meeting room. For the special occasion she wore her finest; a purple business jacket and a short pitch black pencil skirts that complimented her legs. The simple black blouse underneath her jacket showed off a tasteful amount of cleavage. Putting her laptop on the table, she brushed back her scarlet red hair behind her ear while tapping away. High heels clacked against the floor as Ophelia circled around, looking up at the lifeless projector that hung from the ceiling. A sharp, frustrated sigh that bordered against a scowl broke the silence before she fished up her cell phone.
“Hello? Yes, the projector in meeting room E113 does not work,” she said the moment the line connected, tapping her foot impatiently. “No I- look, we’re paying you slobs a lot of money to make sure things are working, so how about you actually do your job, okay? Yes, E113. Thank you…”
The sound of the door opening made Ophelia spin on her heel, her frustrated face gone in a flash. Her façade melted into a disappointed frown when she realized that it was just the cafeteria kid that came in with refreshments instead of someone significant. Impatiently she shooed the kid outside, closing the door after him. A couple of deep breaths later and she turned her attention to her laptop again. A small minute ticked by and Ophelia grabbed her phone again.
“Where’s the IT guy? I have a meeting in E113 and nothing, nothing works,” she drummed at the table, biting down on her lower lip, “I don’t- hang on, here he is. About time, fix it.” Ophelia pointed at the projector.
While the tech support worked diligently with the projector, the other attendees to the meeting started filling in. Military brass from the army, navy and air force mingled and exchanged pleasantries among themselves. Some light jokes were even thrown around which got a good chuckle out some while others were content with shaking their heads, smiling. Ophelia shined like the summer sun, smiling and shaking hands to every general and admiral she could reach. Every now and then she threw daggers at the tech support who so far had not produced any results. As the brass settled down in their seats, the chit chatting died out and they all turned their attention to Ophelia.
“Gentlemen,” she gave them a stiff, uncomfortable smile, “it seems th- some minor tech issues, so just bear with me a minute.”
She took sharp strides over to the tech guy and yanked at his arm, “What the hell is going on?” her words could barely make it past her clenched teeth.
“I’m not sure ma’am, looks like the lamp is bro-”
“I don’t care, fix it.”
He blinked at her with a sheepish smile of disbelief, “I can’t; we don’t have them in stock. I’m sorry but-”
“No, no you’re not sorry,” she pointed at him with a trembling finger, “you will be though, mark my words.”
“Well, if you’d let us know about the meeting in advance instead of calling us three seconds before show time, we could have worked something out. Moved to a different room or somet-”
“Don’t talk back to me, just- just get out. I’ll talk to your manager afterwards.”
“Is there a problem Ms. Day?” general Carl Robson asked, his ice blue eyes peeking over his glasses.
Ophelia did her best to regain her composure, turned to the general and said, “Tech support has screwed up I’m afraid. I asked them to check that everything was in order beforehand, but…”
General Robson held up a file that everyone had resting in front of them, “This doesn’t suffice? We’ll manage without a slideshow.”
“Of course general,” Ophelia walked to the end of the table and swallowed. “Ladies and gentlemen, for decades we’ve tried to acquire Kryptonians for military purposes. Ever since she made her debut on March 1980, responding to the Alexander L. Kielland oilrig capsizing in the North Sea, the Kryptonian Kara Zor-L has demonstrated powers and abilities above and beyond that of human potential. To this day her powers still baffle our best scientists. For years she managed to elude the best of us, until the joint efforts of NATO revealed her identity. The US air force made the first attempt with their project Casanova. I won’t embarrass you with the details, I’m sure you’ve read the reports. The only success this project had was that you learned that humans and Kryptonians are biological incompatible, as repeated efforts in impregnating Kara Zor-L failed. Certainly not from a lack of trying…
“The navy, along with the army passed on the torch to the FBI, who in turn simply ran her door and offered an olive branch. This was one of the first major things the Clinton administration did and it was a resounding success. The government and,” Ophelia paused to clear her throat as if the next few words were repulsive, “Power Girl as she was known to the public, had a productive partnership that lasted nearly twenty five years. She assisted with numerous natural disasters in every country that welcomed her, she’s saved countless lives by being first respondent to many accident sites and she’s become an inspiring figure of pop culture around the world. Not bad for a bimbo.
“All this is good and dandy, but ever since Kara Zor-L recklessly dived into the Falklands War, she has flatly refused to participate in any war or combat operation. While this is somewhat reassuring as she simply will not sign up for the Chinese or God forbid North Korea armed forces, the appeal of having an army of Kryptonians cannot be denied. We, the United States of America have it, so it stands to reason that our enemies have it. Nuclear weapons technology spread throughout the world, but those were bombs gentlemen. Missiles with no will or agency of their own. Unless someone pressed a button somewhere, they’d stay in their silos.
“When, and I must stress this word, when technology allows us to create more Kryptonians, we must get it first and we cannot allow it to fall into the hands of our enemies. Even before the Mexico incident six years ago, Kara Zor-L went on a similar rampage during the heydays of the Miami Drug Wars during the 1980’s. The FBI investigation concluded that her boyfriend at the time overdosed, making her lash out in rage against those that had, mmm, wronged them. While not as severe as in Mexico, the Miami incident showed the world for the first time what happens if a Kryptonian, for whatever reason, decides not to hold back.
“So far we’ve relied on Kara Zor-L’s ability to control herself, though in light of recent events its clear that we’ll need someone that can stand up to her in order to serve and protect the public. I’m proud to announce that we are in the final stages of project Cadmus. Cloning and genetics technology has advanced enough to allow us to create successful human-kryptonian hybrids. Our first subject, codenamed Divine, exceeds all of our expectations even if it is only twenty five percent kryptonian. And that is before we’ve even entered stage daylight. With further testing, I am supremely confident that I and my team will give you ladies and gentlemen the super soldiers America deserves. God bless.”
The generals and admirals applauded Ophelia, grinning from ear to ear. Setbacks be damned, nothing quite beat the feeling of having some of the most powerful men and women in the world eating right out of your hand. All that remained was to appease the crowd’s questions and Ophelia would have all the funding in the world. By the looks of it, it should be like stealing candy from a child.
Kentucky State University was quite the impressive site, even if Douglas had been here a couple of times before. Against his better judgement, he come to visit Eddie and his oddball gang of Power Girl fans. If Power Girl was the goddess these guys worshipped, Douglas was somewhat of a demigod. It would probably be another dull night with hyper active fans, cold pizza and lukewarm soda while he recounted the same few stories over again. Thankfully it was quite the drive from Muldraugh to the university, so it was a handy not to mention valid excuse from him not to drink. Heaven knew what he’d start spitting out after a few beers. For all the secrets he carried, Douglas never really picked up drinking. At best he’d humour Ophelia by sharing a bottle of wine over dinner, but drinking just to well, drink? Not his scene.
“Hey guys, what’s-”
The whole gang shushed at him the moment he entered their dorm, they all sat glued to the TV. Douglas stood on his toes and peered over their shoulders. Looks like Power Girl was finally giving a statement. Well, that should take some of the heat off his shoulders at the very least. If Douglas luck held up, he could sink back into a quiet corner and munch on free pizza until it was time to call it quits. With Sonja sleeping over at Pam’s place, he could be here until the crack of dawn. Ophelia would be working late, again and as much as he liked a good book, it was nice to get a change of scenery every now and then.
A reporter stood up, “Power Girl, do you feel any obligation towards Douglas Sutherland?”
Everyone in the room drew a sharp breath and held it in anticipation of her answer, Douglas included.
“I’m sorry, who?”
“Douglas Sutherland ma’am, Karen Starr was his legal guardian and he lived with her at Starr manor when the attack hit. Considering you and Ms. Starr was so close, perhaps-”
“No, I do not. I’m sure this Sutherland fellow is a good kid,” she frowned, “or rather a young man by now. At any rate, I’m pretty confident that Karen wouldn’t leave him by the wayside. She took very good care of her own, be it staff, family or friends. I can’t imagine that she’d treat him any differently.”
The small group of reporters sprung to life again, each raising their hand speaking over one another in an attempt to catch Power Girl’s attention. She pointed at a man from French TV and the group simmered down.
“There’s been critique coming your way about the money that Ms. Starr left you,” his accent was thick yet understandable, “the first thing you bought was a luxury yacht whereas Ms. Starr spent millions on charity. Shouldn’t you follow her example?”
“Even Karen indulged herself a little, Mr. Gwenaël. Starr manor wasn’t exactly a simple house. Though yes, I can see where you’re coming from and I can assure you this will be the one and only indulgent I’ll allow myself. That is all, good day.”
As the news turned back to the studio, the gang turned down the volume and looked over at Douglas. “What?” he said, still frozen in the middle of undressing his jacket.
“Holy tits, she remembered you Doug! That’s fucking awesome!” Eddie ran up to his friend and gave him a big bear hug, even going as far as lifting him off the floor.
“Alright, alright, she remembered my name, it’s no big deal.”
Bruce stepped up, excitedly patting Eddie on the shoulder, “Guys, guys did you see the new suit? Like goddamn that was nice. Just hugging those curves like a freakin’ coat of paint. Can’t believe that I’m jealous of a piece of clothing. Again.”
“I better text my girlfriend,” Lawrence studied his phone carefully, “she’ll need to update her cosplay outfit.”
“What’s with the lack of bulk though?” Adam helped himself with some chips. “Like, do you even lift?”
James popped up a beer, the foam ran freely down the side of the can, “I guess all she needs is to step into the sun and get those sweet, sweet D vitamins.”
“She can get some of my D if that helps.”
Douglas groaned, this wasn’t quite what he had in mind but in for a penny, in for a pound. With the initial excitement out of the system, Douglas was positively surprised what plans they actually had for the evening. Turns out that they’d been working hard to organise protests against governor Forman’s policy that efficiently banned Power Girl from operating in Kentucky. They were terrified that it could spread to other states or worse yet to a federal level. Jokes were passed around that if that ever happened, they’d just pack up and move to Canada. They were hoping that Douglas would participate, since he was close to Karen Starr, whose death triggered the whole debacle in the first place.
“Guys, I’m not that kind of guy. I just want this to be over with. Yes it’s an important issue, but… I’m not you. I’ve got a family.”
“Okay, that’s cool,” Eddie paused to get all the cheese threads from his pizza slice to cooperate, “though it’d mean the world to us if you just participated. If you won’t want to be in the front seat, we won’t put you there. But this is Karen Starr’s best friend man. Your step-moms friend is in a pinch and you won’t even step up? Plus she wants to meet you, for old time’s sake. Memory lane with Power Girl, what’s there not to like?”
“I- Eddie- what about Sonja?”
Eddie shrugged, “Sleepover at my sis and parents place, what’s the big deal? They’ve got enough Firefighter Sam cartoons for years.”
“I’d rather not have my daughter stare at a TV for twelve hours a day.”
“Chill dude, point is, we’ll work something out,” he nudged Douglas’ shoulder, “something comes up, we’ll let you off the hook and no hard feelings. Right boys?”
The gang nodded and murmured their agreement. It was simple enough, they’d just gather a bunch of teachers and students from the university, walk over to the Supreme Court, stand around while someone, probably Eddie, lay out their arguments against governor Forman and be on their merry way. Chances are the cops won’t even give them no shit, since they’re totally on the Power Girl team. Heck even the fire department might join their little rally. Every pair of boots counts, that was Eddie’s main point. And who knew, Power Girl herself might show up and chat with Douglas.
“Alright I guess, I might have to bail earlier though since I have a long drive back home to my little girl.”
Douglas stifled a yawn in the early morning as he walked along hundreds of students in protest against governor Forman. It had been a late night rallying support for the protest and they started at the crack of dawn. Well, not literary but it sure felt like it. Despite that things were a little rushed all things considered, Douglas was nevertheless impressed about the turnout. Power Girl had a lot of support, especially among the younger population. He had insisted to remain anonymous, if Eddie wanted to up front and centre, fine by him. Douglas refused to be a central figure for them to rally behind.
After a small hour of walking, they ended up at the Kentucky State Capitol Building. People pooled together and listened to Eddie as he preached through a megaphone. Douglas was so far back that it was difficult to catch all the words. Every now and then the crowd exploded into cheers and applause, Douglas half-heartedly joined them more out of good manners than anything else. TV stations, both local and national were at the scene, the tops of their vans could be seen over the lake of people.
While he checked the time on his phone, the crowd suddenly got excited, exchanging ‘ooh’s’ and pointed up at the sky. Squinting in the sunlight, Douglas could barely make out a humanoid silhouette against the light grey clouds. Well at least that was nice for Eddie, assuming he didn’t lose control over his bowls in excitement. A little intrigued, Douglas stood on his toes for a better view, though all he could see was a couple of figures about three inches tall in the distance. Power Girl was easy enough to spot with her red cape fluttering in the cold wind, but other than that it wasn’t much to write home about.
He was about to take his leave when his phone rang, “Yes, hello?”
“Dude, cops are here,” Eddie hissed into the phone, “might wanna run for the hills.”
“What? For real?”
“The fuck do you take me for? I’m not screwing around, PG’s not happy about it either.”
Douglas sighed, looked around at the immediate crowd, “Alright, I’ll backtrack back to the university and head back home.”
He’d barely made it to the roundabout in front of the capitol building when the unrest of the crowd caught his ears. Looking back he saw it part away like water giving way for debris. Power Girl got escorted away through the crowd, one police officer holding either of her arm. No handcuffs as far as Douglas could tell, though perhaps they figured they’d be pointless. He stood there so dumbstruck like a deer staring into the headlights that he didn’t notice the police car that parked next to him.
“Step aside sir,” an officer said, gently pushing him back a few steps.
One of the officers that had interlocked his arm with Power Girl’s had a pained expression on his chubby face, “I’m sorry about this ma’am, but-”
“It’s alright, I’m not above the law,” Power Girl seemed to take this with all the grace of royalty, though there was a disappointed mist clouding her eyes. “You’re just doing your job. Can’t resent you for that.”
“Karen-” the name plopped out of Douglas, followed by his own hand clasping over his mouth.
Power Girl paused and looked at him for a brief moment. They say that a picture can say more than a thousand words and that the eyes are windows into the soul. Douglas had never given either saying much thought until this moment. Something was exchanged between the two of them, something beyond words. Then she bowed her head and got into the back seat of the police car, the moment was lost. As the police officers got in, Power Girl sat perfectly still and didn’t look at Douglas even though he was less than five feet away.
“Judge Conway has given you the O.R.,” an officer grumbled, “you’re free to go.”
Power Girl looked around in her shared holding cell, everyone looked at her in return. She just blinked and pointed at her own face in disbelief. The officer wheezed out a sigh and nodded, clearly he was too tired for this shit. Well the file did say that Captain Sato worked fast, hence why she was hired in the first place, but this was some superhuman speed. After signing some papers with the holding officer, Power Girl met up with Douglas out in the hallway.
“That was you?”
He looked at her with a puzzled expression, shrugged a little and walked by her side like a faithful dog, “Nope, just figured I’d check in on you on my way back home. Guess you still have some friends in town, huh?”
“Yeah… Huh, judge Brenda Conway. Can’t place the name, but I suppose I’ll meet her soon enough. Still have to show up in court.”
The two of them navigated through the justice cabinet building until they approached the front door. Outside a small sea of reporters were waiting. Power Girl sighed, pressing a few fingers against the bridge of her nose while squinting her eyes. Part of her wanted to just fly away, while another more mature notion suggested that it’d be better to tackle the issue head on. Running or even flying away would only make matters worse. An alternative would be to stall until Captain Sato mobilized, made some phone calls and pulled some strings. However, stalling also gave whomever issued the arrest time to make their moves. Power Girl already suspected the good governor of Kentucky, though had little to go on beyond a simple hunch.
“Right, this is where we part ways I suppose,” she said, the air deflating from her frame.
Douglas nodded, “Getting to my car is going to be a pain. Especially when they’ve seen me with you.”
“Nah, don’t be. I came here on my own choice, so my fault, right?” he checked the time on his phone, “yup, I’m an idiot. Ophelia is going to have my hides.”
That caught Power Girl’s attention, “Ophelia? Your… wife I assume?”
Douglas turned and started walking away, looking for a side exit, “Not quite, we’re cohabitants. She works and I’m a stay-at-home-dad. The money yo- Karen left me helped out a lot, along with what I made when I sold my mom’s house.”
“Wow, you’ve been busy.”
“You could say that. I’d like to stay and catch up, but…”
She smiled and gently shooed him away, “I get it. You’re running late as it is. Another time maybe.”
“Sounds good to me,” he gave her an improvised salute, “okay, bye.”
Power Girl looked after his back as it disappeared into the crowd. With renewed vigour, she drew a few sharp breaths and cracked her knuckles. Time to give Douglas a clean escape and pose for the press, “Look out boys, here comes the hot stepper.”
Chapter 3: Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)
Ophelia rocked back and forth in her office chair, the joint squeaking a little every time she pushed backwards. On the monitor a video played again and again and again. It was a short little clip; barely fifteen seconds long. The video showed a woman and a man sparring in hand to hand combat. Dressed in a black sports bra and black sweat pants, the woman’s clothes stood in stark contrast to the man’s more traditional karate uniform. While the man approached her with a dummy pistol in hand, the woman stood ready with her arms raised and legs wide apart. In a blur of swift hand movements, the gun had changed owner and the man collapsed to the floor. His hand dangled loosely from his arm in an unnatural position.
“So the problem is not the subject’s reaction time or her mastery of this krav maga, but her lack of control?” Ophelia finally paused the video and clicked her pen, jotting down some notes.
“That’s correct ma’am,” her assistant looked up from his coffee cup, “they won’t let her spar anymore since she keeps snapping people’s bones like twigs.”
She looked at the whiteboard by the wall, a wide selection of notes regarding biology and chemistry was scribbled across it in a handful of different colours. A sigh, loaded with frustration, puffed through her nose. This was a serious problem, the brass was already keeping their ears close to the rumour mill and they’d been very clear. They want a scalpel that they can command and control, not a goddamn chainsaw that goes off the rails for no apparent reason. Their words, not hers. Initial brainstorming had suggested some sort of hormonal treatment, a cocktail of sorts that would lull the subject’s strength, though it was as unfeasible as it was counter-intuitive to what they were trying to create in the first place.
“The self-defence system itself consists of a wide combination of techniques sourced from aikido, judo, boxing and wrestling, along with realistic fight training. Since it is focused on real-world situations, its counter-attacks are as brutal as they are efficient. Normally a winning combination for police officers and soldiers around the world, but-”
Ophelia got out of her chair, “Our subject shows no restrain, especially since it’s been encouraged to go all in from day one. Accelerated growth has left us with a five year old in the body of a twenty year old. A child. A child soldier. Doubt the brass will win any Nobel Peace Prizes, though those slimy snakes aren’t aiming for it anyways.”
Her assistant tapped his tablet and swiped some data aside, “Until the subject arrives on site there isn’t much we can do I’m afraid.”
“I mean,” he shrunk back in his seat a little, hiding behind his tablet, “we simply do not have enough data. Educated guesses are the best we can do at this time.”
The chair clattered as Ophelia got out of it. She circled her desk, disapproval leaking from her glaring eyes. Like an impatient metronome, the high heels of her shoes tic-tacked against the pale grey floor. Slim fingers dragged themselves lazily from one shoulder of her assistant to the other while Ophelia walked over to the window. A thin metallic clatter stabbed at the silence as she pried the blinders open, peering outside.
“Let me remind you that ‘educated guesses’ is not good enough for me. Is that clear?” there was a pause and she glanced over her shoulder, a sneer on her face. “Is that clear?!”
He jolted in his seat, nearly dropping his tablet, “Y-yes ma’am.”
“Good, now get out of here and don’t you dare come back here unless you have something useful to put on my desk.”
Simply Fit was a gym that was open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It had all the bells and whistles one could ask for as far as equipment went. Décor consisted of a grey and green theme, with most of the walls coated with mirrors from floor to ceiling. Captain Sato stamped herself in with her card, the lock gave a thin bleep and the shutter gate clacked open. The gym was deserted at this late, or early depending on how you’d look at it. In a faraway corner was a squat rack that was currently in use by the only patron; Power Girl.
“Two thousand, two hundred and fifty-eight. Two thousand, two hundred and fifty-nine. Two thousand, two hundred and fifty-eight,” the weight bar rested heavily on her shoulders, a drop of sweat fell off the tip of her nose as she nodded a quick greeting to captain Sato.
“Ma’am,” captain Sato put her hat underneath her arm, “I’d prefer if you cleared with me before bringing guests on-board the Aquarius.”
“Two thousand- ah crap,” Power Girl grunted and put the weight bar back on the rack, “you made me loose count. What’s the big deal? It’s my boat, right?”
“Security is still a concern and we’d like to avoid… tarnishing your reputation further.”
Power Girl laughed, rich and contagious as it rolled between the walls. “You know,” her words got muffled into her towel as she wiped off her sweat, “I seriously doubt my reputation would be further damaged if the world got confirmation that I actually have a sex life. All things considered, it’s rather tame compared to torturing Mexican drug lords.”
Captain Sato half rolled with her eyes, “Well, next time I’d appreciate it if you’d let me make the necessary… arrangements.”
“That’d be the day, you calling for a male escort.”
She walked over to the mirrored wall and struck a few poses, flexing various muscles. In a remarkable short period of time, Power Girl had regained a lot of her old bulk. Perks of being an alien, though just as she’d suspected she would need a new suit. Lifting up her t-shirt, she twisted from side to side on the spot, running a hand over her abs while she nodded approvingly to her reflection.
“Your lawyers came back to you regarding your query,” Captain Sato fished out a piece of folded paper from her pocket, “seems like you’re allowed to enter and leave US airspace, but not operate in certain areas.”
Power Girl skimmed through the paper, “Well hula hoop, so if I stumble over a car crash I can’t do anything about it? Thanks governor Forman. Or wait, is this just in Kentucky? Oh for- stupid Bible belt. We’re in 2021 people, get on with the program. What are those old farts in D.C. doing about this?”
“Stalling by the looks of it, there is a real risk that this will spread to a federal level. If America decides to block you out, it’s likely that other countries will follow suit. Either on their own violation or they get strong-armed into it through political, economic or military pressure from the US.”
“This is some bull-”Power Girl let out an exaggerated groan before she collected her belongings and stomped off to the showers. “Stars and stone, I just want to yank the moon out of orbit and roll it over the damn Bible belt a few times. Squeeze some good old common sense into those folks, you know?”
Captain Sato waited just outside the shower stalls, close enough to participate in a conversation while giving Power Girl her privacy. As the shower came on, she said, “I don’t think that’d be such a good idea ma’am, the moon being quite important and all. Might I suggest a different approach?”
“Well tickle my tits, you actually cracked a joke. Good on you cap’n, we might just make a lass out of you yet. But yes, I’m open for suggestions. Please continue.”
“The United States of America is a republic, so the ultimate power lies with the people, not the government. I suggest that you do a hearts and minds campaign, ma’am. You seem to have loyal supporters both high and low among the general public after all. Judge Brenda Conway and that crowd of students from Kentucky State University respectively.”
“Rally the troops, eh? Worth a shot. Thanks for the tip Captain.”
Sonja’s breathing was soft and steady as Douglas looked over her one last time before closing her bedroom door. On quiet feet he walked down the stairs and joined Ophelia in the living room. She’d put a bottle of wine and some snacks on the table, the lights were low with lit candles scattered around for decoration. The leather sofa creaked a little as Douglas sunk into it, helping himself with the bottle and the opener.
“She’s a sleep?” Ophelia sat down next to him, a couple of wine glasses in her hand.
She scoffed lightly, a faint smile on her lips, “One of those days?”
“Mm-hmm, the bogeyman strikes again.”
They shared a small toast between them and silence sank down over the house. These peaceful moments seemed so rare these days. There was always something that came up; Ophelia’s work, kindergarten with Sonja or just random external things like when the car battery decided to move on to the afterlife. For all its ups and downs, Douglas was content with the life he’d build. A small life, with its fair share of troubles for sure, but not more than most people faced.
“So, how did you chase away the bogeyman this time?”
Douglas took a sip from his glass, “Looked underneath the bed, in the closet and behind the door. We might have to go easy on the Halloween décor this year.”
“Oh right, Halloween,” Ophelia stretched and groaned a little in her seat, “I’ve totally forgotten about that.”
“How’s work? Anyone giving you a hard time?”
She smiled at him and tapped his nose with her finger, “No silly, none gives me a hard time because I’m very, very good at my job.”
“Well, no objection on that,” he glanced at his watch, “oh, the news is on. Where’s the remote?”
Ophelia gave him a puzzled look as he looked over the coffee table and underneath magazines for the remote, “Well this is new. You haven’t watched the news since… we started dating?”
“Yeah, well there’s this story I’m kinda curi- here it is.”
The TV came on and Douglas was quick to tune down the volume, shooting an anxious glance at the ceiling. Putting the wine glass away, he zapped through the channels until he landed on the local news. The current story was rounding up about the Chinese stock market before it shifted to the local headline.
“Back here in the states, a tweet from student at Kentucky State University to judge Brenda Conway has gone viral. The student expressed a heartfelt thank you to the judge for letting Power Girl off so easily. She was arrested today when she showed up unannounced at a demonstration outside Kentucky state capitol building. Approximately five hundred students protested against governor Forman’s policy which bans Power Girl from operating in the state of Kentucky. Neighbouring states have adopted a similar stance.
“The mistress of might was escorted off site by police officers, officials said they were concerned that the protestors could get violent if she was present. Judge Brenda Conway issued an 'Own Recognizance' release for the former superheroine, allowing her to leave jail almost as soon as she got in. Governor Forman was quick to critique the move, citing that it reduced proper punishment to a mere slap on the wrist. Judge Conway has so far declined to comment. Following her release, Power Girl made the following stateme-”
At that point Ophelia snatched the remote and turned off the TV, “God I hate when they give out special treatment like that.”
“Honey, even if you don’t agree with it I’d still like to watch the news,” he said before he leaned over to try to take the remote.
Ophelia stretched in her seat to keep the remote out of Douglas’ reach, “No, the world is done with that, that- thing and we’re too.”
“Now that’s not fair, Power Girl has done-”
“What exactly? Why is it kept on some damn… pedestal and treated as a super special snowflake?”
Douglas sighed, pulled off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. It was late, he was tired and they’d gone over this discussion many times in the past. Previously he’d more or less caved in, dropped the subject by playing the “agree to disagree” card and moved on. For whatever reason Power Girl was a subject that really ruffled Ophelia’s feathers. In that sense he was glad that Eddie had left town for college. It was doubtful that the two of them would ever get along.
“Well for starters she’s done hundreds of good deeds over the decades, many agree that she’s the embodiment of altruism. In return she’s earned a lot of respect from both common folk,” he gestured at the TV, “and apparently judges and law enforcement agencies alike. Plus she is an alien, last of her kind. If that doesn’t make you a snowflake, I don’t know what does.”
She looked at him with mouth agape before shaking her head, “Are- are you seriously on its side? Get the blood from you dick up to your brain, see past those bloated tits of that thing and look at what it really is.”
He doubted that they’d be covering any new grounds, but asked regardless. “Which is?”
“Oh for God’s sake Douglas, do I have to spell it out for you? It’s hiding something. It has to. Look, the idea that to treat others as more important than oneself is degrading and demeaning to the self. There is no way it’d do that, unless it playing some sort of long con. You just can’t see it, because it’s subtle. It’s an exhibitionists from head to toe, playing the patriarchy like strings on a violin.”
Douglas shrugged in response, “I don’t agree with your opinion, but of course you’re entitled to one nonetheless.”
She pouted and turned to her glass, “Bet she was the one that killed Karen Starr.”
“Ophelia!” he looked at her with a shocked almost angry expression, “what on Earth makes you say something like that? They were friends. Close ones at that.”
“It stinks of a cover-up. Maybe that dumb bimbo was jealous of its friend and strangled her before throwing the body into the sun.”
A sigh heavy enough to blow out one of the candles escaped Douglas before he got up from the sofa and left. “Where are you going?” Ophelia called after him.
“Out for a walk,” his words came out with a snap harsher than he intended, “don’t stay up.”
Douglas’ walk had taken him past the small convenience store and after lulling around in a trailer park, he settled down in a picnic area. The wooden bench was hard and cold to sit on, a frost covered barbeque abandoned by its owner stood lifeless by his side. Among the surrounding trees he could hear rustling, probably critters looking for an easy snack among the trashcans. A habit they’d picked up from the spring and summer months. He rubbed his bare hands together for warmth, the cold night air was starting to sink in through his clothes and poke at his skin. Too bad the car keys were in the other jacket back home.
“Hey there, is this a place to be so late?” Power Girl came down for a soft landing.
“No, not really,” Douglas practically pouted, “I could say the same for you. People don’t like you around these parts, so should you really be here?”
She walked up and took a seat on the table, resting her foot on the bench to adjust her bootstrap, “No, I’m on my way south, back home. Been talking to the Canadian foreign minister all day. They’ve agreed to let me do my thing. Yay, go me.”
“Huh, good on you I suppose.”
“Douglas? What’s wrong? You’re awfully pouty tonight.”
He puffed out some air, fogging up his glasses, “Why? Does it show when you look through my skull with your x-ray vision?”
“Well excuse me, didn’t know someone had taken a piss on your cereal. Jeez, I’ll be on my merry way then.”
A hand reached out and held back on her cape. There was a light tug and a pause. “I’m sorry, I- didn’t mean to…”
She covered his hand with hers before taking a seat next to him, a patient smile on her lips. “Wanna talk about it?”
Douglas made a gesture with his hand and a face, it was as good a suggestion as any. “Ophelia, my significant other, doesn’t care much for you and we had a little disagreement because of it.”
“No, a disagreement,” he stressed, “it’s never escalated to a fight, I stop pressing the issue before we get that far. Or as in this case, I walked. A first I might add.”
Power Girl nodded, then tilted her head in a frown, “What is it about me that she doesn’t like?”
“In a word? Bimbo.”
“Aw, c’mon Doug…” she actually did the whole face-palm thing. “Well, taste and preferences I suppose, but stars above… you’ve stuck with her for years, so she can’t be all bad right? I mean, we’re all perfectly flawed in one way or another, so it’s doable perhaps? I recon this isn’t a subject that comes up very often, all things considered.”
“Yeah, it was a little sore subject when we first met since your trial was still ongoing, but we had a great connection pretty much right out the gate. Started dating, she was starting to look for a job as soon as she graduated while I’d ponder what to do with my life after… well, you,” he ran his hand through his thick brown hair, scratching just behind the ear. “I figured I’d chase that old dream of mine; be a librarian. Maybe things would work out for me if I just kept on walking, even if I had to walk mostly on my own. Kris left town with her band to see the world. Eddie somehow got his act together as far as school went and got into KSU. Then… Sonja happened.”
A soft flutter of fabric dancing on the still winter air teased his ears. Power Girl folded her cape around his shoulders, wrapping it neatly underneath his chin. He tugged it closer, the warmth of the cape brushed softly against the back of his hands. She gave him a wink and with a silent finger asked him to be quiet and wait for just a moment. With a sharp gust of air she was gone, leaving Douglas alone on the dark picnic area. As he peered upwards at the dark blue sky, distant stars started to blink in like tiny grains of glass on a dark carpet.
Power Girl returned with a couple of cups in her hands, offering one to him as soon as her feet touched the ground. It was lukewarm to the touch, though fading quickly. She popped a plastic spoon into his cup and widened her eyes a little, gazing into the cup while stirring it lightly. The irises in her eyes faded from their usual vibrant blue hue to a bright orange. A similar orange colour could be seen in her eye sockets, engulfing the eyeballs and making tiny veins stand out as dark brown shadows. Once the content of the cup, a soup of sorts, was steaming hot, Power Girl squinted a few times before her eyes returned to normal.
She hugged her own cup close, giving it a similar treatment as she said, “Sonja huh? Was it all planned or?”
“Huh? Oh, no. Not really,” he admitted before taking a sip, only to burn his tongue, “Ow. Uh, I suppose you could say I wasn’t all that experienced with safe sex and kinda screwed up.”
“Doug…” there was a disappointed tone to her voice.
“I don’t know. You and me never got around to that, remember?” he paused, behind his glasses his eyes shifted to regret, “Sorry, I didn’t-”
“It’s okay Doug,” she patted his knee, “we’ve moved on, right?”
He nodded, “So I sold the house, which would have been too small for the three of us, bought one together with Ophelia and put my stuff on hold to be with Sonja. We were incredibly lucky that Ophelia got headhunted right out the gate. They were so keen on having her, they didn’t mind waiting the extra two months because of the pregnancy.”
“Wow, good on you guys. What does she do? For work I mean.” Power Girl blew a little on her soup before taking a sip.
“Yeah, tell me about it,” he shook his head lightly as if he still couldn’t quite believe their luck. “Truth be told, I’m not quite sure. First off its way over my head, but it’s related to hormones and biochemistry. Secondly it’s classified as she works under a military contract. So even if I did understand it, she couldn’t tell me about it. Insufficient security clearance and all that. What about you?”
“Yeah, we’re catching up aren’t we?” he looked at her with steam clotted glasses. “I’ve told you mine, you tell me yours.”
Power Girl giggled and shook her head, “I guess we are. Alright. Uhm… trial went pretty much as you saw it on TV. Managed to pull some strings to make sure you wouldn’t have to go all the way to Mexico to testify, even if it ended up hurting my case. Got eighteen years, slammed up and off I went. I didn’t really mind, I had a lot of thinking to do so some peace and quiet was just what the doctor ordered. Of course, peace and quiet is what you get in the library, not in prison apparently.”
Douglas shifted in his seat, his face lit up with interest, “Eddie mentioned once that there were rumoured attempts on your life?”
“Ah, never underestimate hard-core fans. Yeah, the warden tried to shush it down. They went the classic route first, stab attack in the showers. Gotta say I was impressed with what they managed to do with a basic toothbrush, a lighter and a lot of time. It didn’t work of course, though it did tickle. That just pissed those ladies off even more, me giggling and squirming around while they tried their earnest to stab me to death. Second one actually scared me. I was in the cafeteria, eating my dinner all by myself when someone pulled a plastic bag over my head.”
“Wait, something like that could actually work?” he said, an unconvinced frown on his face.
She just nodded, a shudder ran through her. Whether it was from the cold or the memory was hard to tell, “Uh-huh. I still need food, drink and air. Caught me by surprise, I was too lost in my own thoughts to pick up anything. It’d worked too had I’ve been… normal. Five others jumped me and pinned me down before I could make heads or tails of it. Blasted through the bag with my heat vision, made some nasty scorch marks in the ceiling after puncturing through one inmate’s arm. Blocked out vision, sudden loss of air and getting very claustrophobic with five angry ass bitches crawling all over me… yeah, they still put me in isolation. Zero tolerance policy and what not.”
“Did- did you ever fight back? I mean- you- you have quite the temper.”
Power Girl’s face faded to a sad look, her eyes glancing back at past mistakes, “No. No excessive force. Just enough to make them stop without hurting them. It’s easy enough to overpower a human. Sometimes a firm grip or just a push is all I need. The heat vision thing was unintended, a fear reflex.”
Douglas nodded, his mind lost in thought for a long moment before he looked at his watch, “I better get going, the motel will close soon and I need to book a room.”
“You’re not going back home?” she rose to her feet, her face had a worried look.
“I don’t know…” he sighed, “it just- she thinks you killed Karen, that you’re playing some sort of long con and the world is too stupid to see it because tits.”
“Well shit, my masterplan for overthrowing the patriarchy has been exposed. Guess this means I’ll have to kill you.”
“Death by snu-snu?”
“Huh, not a bad way to go,” he offered her cape back.
She threw it around her shoulders, tying it neatly in place with the golden medallion, “Jokes aside, go home Douglas. You said yourself it wasn’t a fight and you haven’t let it escalated to that point yet. Don’t let this be your first fight. Not over something as stupid as my tits. Promise me Douglas, kiss and make up. Then motorboat the shit out of her.”
Douglas chuckled as he wiped his running nose. Looking up he followed Power Girl as she gently floated upwards. She kept looking at him with this fond, almost proud smile on her face. Then she gave him a wink and like a speeding bullet, she was gone.
Chapter 4: Violence Fetish
Shannon Forman, governor of Kentucky was not pleased. She rarely was, but today it was extra bad. Rumour had it that Power Girl was out and about, kick-starting some sort of hearts and minds campaign right in Shannon’s own backyard. An official statement from Canada just before lunch made the meal lose all its taste and appeal. They’d agreed to resume their working relationship with Power Girl. She was granted all the legal immunities that emergency responders had as well as the legal obligations that came with them. In short, Canada didn’t give two shits about what happened six years ago.
“Can we spin something against the foreign minister?” Shannon asked out to her staff, all who sat scattered about in her office.
“We can try, though I doubt we have anything that will stick long or hard enough to make any difference.”
Right. She’d spend so many years of her career focusing on the US system that she’d more or less ignored the neighbours. Her failure to get Mexico to sentence Power Girl to death was a testament to that. Hindsight is twenty-twenty and now that she’d fortified her position in the US, Shannon would simply have to make do with the cards she had. As she walked up to her bookshelf she picked out her worn copy of The Art of War. Absentmindedly Shannon flipped through the pages from back to front, occasionally licking her fingers to better turn the page.
“All warfare is based on deception,” the words came out as a hushed sigh, more to herself than to her staff. “If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him.”
The book slammed shut, a sharp pang sent a surprised jolt in a few of the staff members. She squinted at them, measuring and evaluating them in turn. When she sank down in her chair again, the dark brown leather crackled and groaned, scraping against the suffocating silence like claws on a blackboard. With some quick and silent gestures Shannon pointed out some staffers and had them leave, only a few remained behind as the door closed.
“Get people involved, nothing can be traced back to us,” as she started laying out instructions, her staff started taking notes without batting an eye, “wind them up real good. Put the fear of God in them, drive home the point that they will never be safe as long as that thing is allowed inside the state. Don’t worry about civil unrest, riots or even collateral damage. Encourage it, we’ll pin it all on that abomination from space. Find that thing’s friends, allies and supporters. Lynch them.”
Ophelia looked straight at Divine’s sweat soaked face, “What time is it?”
“This is wartime, this is our time,” she snorted, running the full length of her forearm underneath her nose. “We won't be denied so we’ll feed the fire that is raging inside.”
A fountain pen scratched against the paper, Ophelia nodded approvingly as she circled around the bench press. The numbers on her notepad suggested that things were moving along nicely, though they were basically running neck on neck with the predictions. Her team had suggested that pep-talk might give Divine the little boost that was needed to surpass these predictions. To that end Ophelia had turned to the bombastic and the pompous to really get in under her skin. They’d even gotten a TV evangelist in to give them a three day crash course in how to weave verbal images. So far she’d responded favourably to it, kindling the hope that she could be controlled through the same means.
As Divine started another set, Ophelia drew in a breath and carried on, “Show them a strength that just can’t be defied. Find the power to devour and let the beast inside be awake.”
There was no mistaking it, while she was blindly fixated on the barbell, even a blind fool would feel Divine’s infernal determination and dedication. Every push, every grunt and every clenched tooth screamed with a hunger to push harder against a stubborn, yet fully breakable glass ceiling. This raw, primal drive appeared to have an effect on the guards overseeing their training session. Perhaps it was just a trick to the eye, it was hard to tell in the dimly lit gym and with all that uniform and weapons wrapped around them, but the guards seemed to shrink away from Divine like prey from a predator.
“In this world only the strong will survive, hear the roar and you will know you’re alive,” Divine struggled with the last lift, her feet pressed against the floor as her arms trembled, “Feel the energy build in your soul because it’s time-”
A loud metallic clang rang through the gym, Divine roared with a blunt satisfaction rumbling at the back of her throat. Ophelia smiled, things were going smoothly. Heavy panting and hollow gulps of water scratched against the silence as Divine paced back and forth, a restless animal looking for blood. With a simple, barely visible hand gesture Ophelia motioned Divine to follow her. They left the gym, winding down a long and narrow corridor with twisting pipes along one wall, efficiently making it a one way corridor. Divine hung on to the heels of Ophelia’s high heeled shoes like a faithful guard dog, just waiting for an excuse to cut loose. They opened the metal door at the end and they came into a small cafeteria of sorts where about a dozen men waited. All of the stools and tables were bolted down and the men were all of questionable type. Their rugged appearance, many tattoos and orange jump suits screamed prison.
“Gentlemen, your pardon is through her,” Ophelia said, nodding at Divine before she whispered in her ear, “Today we feed on domination. Secure a legacy that will never die; be immortalized.”
Divine stepped into the room, approaching the men who got up and started circling around her, raising their fists and cracking their necks. Ophelia retreated behind the safety of the metal door and observed through the small window. Not the best spot, despite its front row location, but she would review the security tape later at her leisure. Divine exchanged some blows. Feeling her opponents, testing their fangs. Nothing serious, just light and fast jabs. The prisoners, all experienced criminals, fighters and instigators of prison riots were equally cautious. There was no mistaking that the room was a bomb just waiting to go off, the drop of a coin would probably set them off.
“Show no mercy, let the world see you're invincible,” Ophelia’s voice was distorted and stabbed into their ears as the speakers came to life, “Show them nothing is beyond your control. Take it higher, your desire will determine what you’ll become.”
That made something click in Divine’s mind. She spurred into action with ruthless efficiency. Despite her fatigue from being pushed close to the limits, Divine was both brutal and precise in her attacks. Nothing was sacred in the name of victory. Her fingers found eyes and gorged them out. Steel toed boots hit groins as if fired from a shotgun. Bones shattered with disturbingly high frequency. While Ophelia flinched more than once, her eyes remained on target with a morbid fascination. Seventy-eight seconds later and all men were incapacitated, reduced to piles of blood, broken bones and whimpering sacks that leaked out a steady stream of snot and tears.
“Are you ready for the test of your life?” Ophelia said over the speakers, “See the fear bleeding right through their eyes. Feel it, take no prisoners now.”
Divine looked over her shoulder at the door, a frustrated frown on her face. She didn’t understand what Ophelia wanted her to do. Or perhaps she did understand and that was precisely why she hesitated. Either way this was a setback, one that Ophelia noted down. Her disappointed sigh echoed over the speakers. As Divine circled around the room, the men tried to get out of her reach as best they could, yielding utterly to her presence. In the end she stood over a man, big biker type with more tattoos than naked skin. One more push and she should do it, Ophelia pressed down the speaker button and liked her lips.
“Take it, there it is standing in front of you,” Divine bent down, out of sight from Ophelia and what followed were whimpering pleas for mercy that spiralled into a gut-wrenching scream which finally drowned in a gurgle. “Hear it, your deliverance. Own it, give them all an image of you that will last for all time.”
High up in the sky, among the lazy clouds Power Girl floated around, random gusts of wind pushed and pulled at her ever so slightly. A crack appeared in the clouds and she caught glimpse of an airplane as it trekked across the blue sky. She let the focus of her superhearing shift around to the ground below. Nothing of interest, just traffic and everyday background noise. A Black-legged Kittiwake landed on her ankle and looked at her curiously. Power Girl gave it a quick nod before shaking the bird off. Getting bird droppings on her boot was not a priority right now.
“-o we don’t want to be friends with you,” Power Girl’s hearing picked up some kids talking.
“We just hang out with you ‘cause Mrs. Sharpe told us to.”
“Yeah, we don’t like you.”
Power Girl rolled over a little and looked over her shoulder. Zooming in with her telescopic vision, she spotted the kids. Some boys and girls leaving another kid behind. She looked past the soccer field that the kids ran across and spotted the Sun Star hotel just up the street. With a roll, Power Girl dived down and levelled out before landing by the hotel.
“Hello, do you have a newspaper I could have? It doesn’t have to be the current one,” she said to the receptionist.
The young man was taken aback by her sudden appearance, fumbling with his words as he spoke, “Uh- yeh, I- let- let me check. We ha- have this one.”
She flipped through the pages, looking for something specific, “Thanks, this will do just great. Oh, and do you have a pen by any chance?”
She smiled at the receptionist, “Thanks, have a good day.”
“Yes?” she paused halfway through the door.
“Ju- just wanted to thank you for your efforts. Good to have you back.”
Power Girl nodded and gave him a wink before leaving. A long leap later and she landed softly next to the kid. She was very neatly dressed, great attention was given to her raven black hair and her electric wheelchair had these cute stickers of rainbows and unicorns that sparkled when the sun hit them. The kid was brave, biting back her tears while her small hands held on to the armrests with trembling tension. Power Girl circled around and squatted down in front of her.
“Hello there, what’s wrong?” she asked, her tone tender and soft.
The kid sniffed, “Nuthin’”
“Okay,” Power Girl nodded, “you can tell me though. I’m very good at keeping secrets.”
There was a pause, the kid pondered over her options while eyeing Power Girl before she said, “No one wants to play with me.”
“I’ll play with you if you’d like.”
Power Girl shrugged and gave sheepish smile, “No one wants to play with me either, so I’m on my own too. But if we stick together, neither one of us needs to be alone. We can make our own fun, right?”
The kid pulled on the joystick of her wheelchair, it hummed to life and drove past Power Girl, “I can’t play like the other kids.”
As her eyes traced after the kid, Power Girl saw the soccer field with some boys chasing a ball around. Not one to give up so easily, Power Girl got up and walked by the kids’ side. “Do you know a four letter word for pain?”
“Okay, that could work,” she wrote down the word in the newspaper crossword, “thanks.”
“Why are you dressed so weird?”
“Because I come from another planet,” she said, there was something in her voice that suggested it was their little secret.
The kid frowned at her, “Mommy says it’s bad to tell lies.”
“I agree, telling lies is bad. Very bad.”
She looked up at Power Girl, eyeing her from head to toe and thinking. If humans actually had gears inside their heads, Power Girl was certain that half the state would hear this kid’s thinking. It took a few minutes, but it looked like the kid was warming up to the idea that having a friend from another planet was kinda cool. Lonesome kids often did latch on to whomever gave them the light of day. Power Girl knew because she’d been there herself many years ago.
“I have to go to class,” the kid didn’t sound too enthusiastic about it.
“That’s okay, I can wait for you over there,” Power Girl pointed over at some tables and benches at the far end of the soccer field, “and we can play some more if you’d like.”
Power Girl nodded, the kid’s face finally lid up to something that can only be described as a hopeful smile. When the school bell rang the kid drove off as other kids also mingled towards the school. Taking a seat by one of the tables, Power Girl started reading the newspaper with a satisfied smile on her face.
Sorting out the laundry wasn’t really the highlight of the day, but it was something that needed to be done. Sonja kept herself entertained with a Fireman Sam picture book, allowing Douglas a small window of opportunity to get some chores done. The soothing instrumental tunes that came from the radio faded and after a quick commercial break, the daily news came on. Douglas half listened while he double-checked the labels before starting the next batch. Ophelia was in a bad enough mood already, not really engaging in any form of conversation beyond basic yes and no replies. It was doubtful that another shrunken jeans episode would do anything to lighten the mood.
“-as police put three students from KSU under arrest due to a fight on campus. According to witnesses, the fight started after a heated debate regarding Power Girl’s ban boiled over.”
Douglas peeked his head out from the laundry room in an effort to catch the full report. It was unlikely he’d gotten himself arrested, but Douglas fished out his phone and sent Eddie a quick text asking if he was okay. As the minutes ticked by and no reply from Eddie, Douglas grew restless with a growing ball of worry in his gut. He distracted himself by reading stories with Sonja, today they covered Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. It was about a spunky French girl navigating boarding school and the removal of her appendix with confidence and poise.
When the phone finally rang, Douglas didn’t recognise the number, “Hello, Douglas Sutherland speaking.”
“Doug, bro, you’ve gotta help me out.”
“Please don’t tell me you got arrested…”
“Arru-stahd? Arru-astahd,” Sonja said, curious about this new word.
“They started it,” Eddie said defensively.
Douglas sighed and lifted Sonja off his lap, “That’s not the point, you- can’t Pam get you out of this mess?”
“No, she and my folks hitched over to Ohio for Halloween. Wanted to meet the extended family of her boyfriend or somethin’.”
“Your buddies then?”
“We’re all here…”
He let out a long drawn sigh, warm with frustration. Classic Eddie. When they were kids Douglas had sort of acted like the breaks, a voice of reason and make Eddie do a double take before rushing head first into whatever crazy idea that currently held his attention. With Eddie on his own and more or less surrounded by guys of the same age and same mind set, it was probably only a matter of time before something like this happened. Douglas sincerely hoped it would be a one-time thing.
“I’m not bailing out your buddies Eddie,” he held the phone between his shoulder and cheek as he lifted up Sonja, “and you owe me bigtime. Come on sweetheart, we’re going to give uncle Eddie a visit.”
“Uncle Eddie!” Sonja giggled.
“So then, in all that fire and smoke what do you think the duchess did next?” Power Girl sat next to Mandy in her wheelchair telling her a made up story.
“Uh…” Mandy chewed on the end of her pen.
“Remember that dagger that the knight-” she paused when a lady walked up to them. “Hello, may I help you?”
The lady looked at the somewhat odd duo. At the table in front of them newspaper pages where scattered about, colourful drawings covered over dull adult stuff like tax policies. The French president was given a top hat and a cigar, while a car ad had been transformed into a map over a magical kingdom. Crude rocks were used to keep the pages in place. As entertaining as it was watching Power Girl fly after the pages as the wind stole them, it put some serious breaks on their ever growing narrative.
“What are you doing?” the lady demanded.
“Playing,” Power Girl said as if it was the most obvious and normal thing in the world, “Mandy have a wonderful imagination, we’re building a whole world together. Would you like to join us Ms…?”
“No,” it hit the ground like a wet brick. “A word?”
Power Girl nodded and passed one of the crayons to Mandy. She and the lady walked for a short while before she turned and faced Power Girl. Her face was vivid and furious at the same time, “Just what on God’s green earth are you doing?”
“Investing in the future.”
“I beg your pardon?”
She turned and nodded towards Mandy sitting by the table, engrossed with her newspaper, “The kids, at some point they’ll grow up. Who knows, little Mandy there just might become chief of staff one day with enough encouragement.”
“I want you to leave, immediately,” the lady said, there was a sharp, frustrated tone to her voice.
“On whose authority?”
“Mine, I’m the principal, Amanda Sharpe if you must know.”
Power Girl scoffed, “Ma’am, this is a public space. You can’t just throw me away. Mandy doesn’t have any friends, we’re just- playing. Nearly all the other kids are into sports, can’t blame them when there’s a soccer field and two baseball courts right next to their school. She can’t participate because of her condition. The other kids thought it was cool that she’d made a friend from another planet. You can’t force kids to get along or make friends. They’ll grow into it naturally.”
“Now ma’am, listen to me very carefully. If you chase me off you’ll undo ever-”
“Leave. Now or I’ll call the police.”
Power Girl sighed while her shoulders slumped down, “Alright, I’ll just tell her goodb-”
Principal Sharpe grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back, “Leave. We don’t want you here, you freak.”
They locked eyes, glaring at one another for a moment before Power Girl pulled her arm free and soared into the air without a word. Up and up she climbed until the Ohio River looked like a discarded blue string on a green carpet. Then she screamed and shouted profanities in Kryptonian until her voice got soar and her breathing started to tremble with sobs. Tears froze to flakes of ice that broke off her cheeks whenever she squinted in the sunlight.
Drawing a deep breath Power Girl managed to calm herself. Blinking tears away from her eyes, she triggered her telescopic vision and caught Douglas by a police station way out by Frankfort. Curious she shifted focus with her superhearing in hopes of learning more. She wasn’t one to normally spy on people, it was just that Douglas was special to her.
“I’m gonna pay you back bro, just don’t worry about it alright?” Eddie Kaplin, one of Douglas’ friends seemed to be awfully apologetic.
“It’s no rush Eddie, really. Just- don’t let me pick you up here again, deal?”
“Sure bro, sure. Thanks again though.”
Eddie went back inside the police station while Douglas along with little Sonja headed for the parking lot. Seeing her chance, Power Girl swooped down head first. Just a quick stop before heading back home, couple of minutes tops she told herself. The air tugged and pulled at her cape as she let herself fall faster and faster towards the ground. Nearing fatal velocity, Power Girl closed her eyes and gradually began resisting the pull of gravity while turning around so that her feet came down first.
“Poh-u girl? Daddy lookie at the flying lady,” Sonja tugged at her father’s sleeve, pointing up at the sky.
“Ka- Power Girl, good day I suppose.”
She landed gently, smiling and waving politely at a passing police cruiser, “Is it a good day? Unusual to see you in these parts.”
Douglas rubbed his face, “Ugh, tensions seem to be rising between those that support you and those that are against you. Eddie got caught in the mix, had to bail him out.”
“Kris couldn’t pinch in?”
“No, last I heard Kris was in Denmark attending some rock festival. We’ve more or less lost touch after she left the states.”
Power Girl ended walking by Douglas side to the car, patting Sonja on the head a few times while smiling at her, “You been good Sonja?”
“Mmm! Daddy’s gonna buy candy on the way hone,” she said with a wide smile.
“Look, I’m not one to ask for favours, but-” Douglas started.
“Shoot, it’s what friends are for. Right Sonja?” she nodded seriously back at Power Girl.
“Can you talk to them? Eddie and his gang at the university,” he unlocked the car door and helped Sonja inside, “I’m worried that this might not be the last time he ends up here or worse.”
She ruffled her fingers through his hair, “Of course I can. You better introduce me though, if I show up alone I might end up fanning the flames more than anything. With both of us expressing our concerns, we might get through Eddie’s skull and he’ll keep the rest of the gang in check.”
“Thanks, that means a lot. If you don’t have plans for Halloween, maybe we can do it then?”
“Uh, yeah sure,” Power Girl sniffed a little and scratched her cheek, “you okay with me borrowing daddy on Halloween Sonja?”
“Uh-huh, me and mommey gonna have fun.”
After dinner that evening Douglas, Ophelia and Sonja had some quiet family time together carving out pumpkins. Lightly humming to herself and occasionally making funny faces with Sonja, Douglas figured that Ophelia’s mood had lightened. Whether it was because she was no longer angry with him or because work was going well was hard to tell. She was the type of person that didn’t have a fixed border between her personal and professional life. Problems at home, grumpy at work and vice versa.
“Did you do anything exciting today, Sonja?” Ophelia said while she helped her with digging out the seeds.
Sonja was very focused on not spilling any seeds, “Uh-huh, we, we met wit uncle Eddie. He was in arru-staht.”
“Really?” Ophelia glanced over at Douglas who just shrugged. “Why was uncle Eddie arrested honey?”
“He got in a fight at the university, with his folks out of town I had to bail him out.”
“I see,” she circled around to the other side of the table, wiping her hands, “and… what was the fight about?”
Putting the marker pen and design clip out, “A heated discussion got a little out of hand, that’s all.”
“A little out of- Douglas, we- people don’t end in jail because things-”
“And then, and then we and daddy met Poh-u girl at the, the station. She agieed to help daddy. They gonna meet on Halloween mommey.”
There was a shift in Ophelia demeanour, very faint but it was there. The room fell silent, save Sonja’s mutterings to herself as she landed another scoop of seeds. Ophelia’s fingers curled together into talons, digging into and tearing the newspaper on the table. Her eyes simmered with an angry glare. Douglas pleaded silently with his own eyes, last thing he wanted was to start a shouting match between the two of them in front of Sonja. Somehow the silence between them was worse than any amount of screaming. Following her every movement and every gesture, the hairs at the back of Douglas’ neck stood up. Then the thunder came.
“What the hell Douglas?!” Sonja jolted in her seat, her eyes wide with surprise before quickly shifting over to fearful tears.
“Don’t you honey me!” Ophelia raised a threatening finger at his nose, pulling the newspaper, bowl, spoon and everything else with her, “Why do- do you keep seeing that- that thing?!”
Sonja shrunk down in her seat, covering her ears and crying openly, loudly. Not missing a beat, he took firm strides over to her and hugged her close, comforting her as best he could, “Sshh, it’s okay sweetheart, it’s okay. Why- why don’t you go up to you room, okay? Close the door honey.”
Taking her father’s advice, Sonja pitter-pattered out of the living room as fast as her little feet would carry her, face beet red and twisted into open wailing. As the sound of her quick feet traveling up the stairs grew distant, Douglas turned his full attention to Ophelia. He removed his glasses and calmly brushed them clean with the edge of his sweater. Then, with glasses still in hand he looked straight at her.
“Listen-” he started soft, though she cut him off.
“No! Why don’t you listen to me for a change? Huh? But no. Not you, oh no that’s not how it wor-”
“Will you shut the hell up for one goddamn second and listen?!” he cut her off like only a meat cleaver could. “You. Have. Nothing. To. Be. Worried. About. Okay? Eddie is my friend. A dumb, rash friend with an attention span of a goldfish. He is head over heels for Power Girl, been like that since the third grade. I don’t want to lose him, but I can’t be sitting on his shoulder every day like I used to. I’ve got you and Sonja, you come first ever since the day you came into my life. I’ll talk to Eddie and his friends together with Power Girl, hopefully they’ll stay low or at least not get all triggered whenever someone talks bad about her.”
There was a long pause, Ophelia just stood there with her arms crossed over her chest, “You through?”
“Good, for so am I,” she said, barely holding back her own tears as she walked past him and out the front door.
Chapter 5: Send My Love (To Your New Lover)
Halloween, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead. Douglas sure felt like one, the dead that is. After his fight with Ophelia, Sonja had been beyond simple comfort. She insisted to sleep with him rather than in her own bed every night. This year’s Halloween turned out to be far too scary for her comfort. On the third day, Douglas called her workplace number and asked if she’d showed up. The receptionist confirmed that Ophelia Day had checked in and out at regular hours, though she would not be taking any calls unless it was work related. At least he didn’t have to file a missing person report, so that was something.
“Daddy?” Sonja said, bringing him out of his thoughts and back to the breakfast table where he belonged.
“Is mommey come home soon?”
He stroked her cheek affectionately and smiled, “Mommy’s just busy with work honey. She’ll be back as soon as she’s free, okay? Now, eat your breakfast.”
Checking his phone for the twelfth time this morning, there was still no messages or missed calls. He’d been unable to get a babysitter for Sonja, though even if he did get one she’d probably throw a tantrum like no other if he tried to sneak out the door. Karen Starr came up on his contact list again and he figured he’d give her a call. The phone rang a few times before Douglas was greeted by the ever generic this number is not in service message. Figures that the dead would lose their number after spending six years in the ground.
“Hey, Eddie,” Douglas said after the call connected him to his old friend, “look I can’t make it tonight. We couldn’t find a babysitter for Sonja.”
“Huh? I thought that uh- Ophelia was gonna have a ladies night with your little marshmallow,” Eddie sounded both confused and tired at the other end of the line.
He wiped Sonja’s mouth with a napkin, “Uh, some work stuff came up so she had to leave in a hurry. Pulling all-nighters a couple of times in a row. Looks like you and your boys are on your own.”
“Ah, that sucks man. We’ll be sure to drink your share though, can’t let that beer go to waste. Heh, heh, heh.”
“Okay, yeah. You have fun tonight. Just take it easy alright?”
“Sure thing, ain’t gonna leave the fraternity tonight.”
Power Girl stood behind the bar counter on-board the Aquarius, music in her ears and dancing on the spot. She smiled to herself, swaying from side to side, shaking her hips and snapped her fingers to the rhythm while she waited for her smoothie to finish. Fresh from the shower, the only things she wore was pink panties with a strawberry pattern and a single Hello Kitty sock which was about two sizes too small. While Karen Starr was alive, she’d build up a reputation of being a recluse and a bit of an eccentric. Power Girl seemed to be set on keeping the tradition alive and well.
Captain Sato walked in, some wired equipment in her hand that she put on the bar as she said, “You seem to be in a good mood this evening.”
A moment ticked by and no response, Power Girl was apparently lost in her own merry little world. Captain Sato snapped her fingers in front of her face a couple of times, which caught her attention. “Glad you decided to join me ma’am,” she said.
“Going out tonight cap’n, just a quick spin.”
“I see. In that case this didn’t arrive a moment too late,” Captain Sato showed her the equipment.
“Ah yes, the now mandatory laryngophone,” Power Girl said before taking a drink from her smoothie. “France still isn’t quite on-board yet I take it?”
“Your… frequent sightings in America have made them rather… insisting, ma’am.”
The empty smoothie cup clacked against the bar counter, Power Girl closed her eyes and took a few deep, slow breaths. She bit down on her lip, an ironic smile crossed her face. Examining the laryngophone closer, Power Girl tried it on adjusting it a few times until it fit snugly. Coiling the ear piece wire over the back of her ear, she nudged it inside and twisted her head around, testing if the wire was long enough.
“Thanks to the Kryptonian tech you’ve so generously donated to Japan, we’ve managed to condense the radio so it fits on the backside of the medallion on your cape,” Captain Sato said as she took a seat by the bar, leaning forward. “It also comes with a multisensor tracker witch will give us your position in three dimensions, heading, speed and broadcasts your unique tracking number.”
Power Girl nodded approvingly, “And this is public I suppose? Any fool with a radar can track me with this?”
“All the monkey’s ma’am, though I suppose if you went fast enough and timed it right, you might be able to slip past. What is your top speed, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Mach 25, though it’s hard to see past my burning knuckles so I don’t go to those speeds unless I really have to,” Power Girl removed the laryngophone and looked into Captain Sato’s confused eyes. “The air friction? It gets so intense on my knuckles that it ignites.”
Captain Sato licked her lips, “I see. Should we do a test run ma’am?”
“Yes my good captain, we should. In Kentucky I might add. We’ll test our new toy as soon as I get changed.”
Power Girl took the lead with the laryngophone in hand and walked back to her room with Captain Sato in tow. Just as they started to climb down the stairs to the second deck, Captain Sato grabbed Power Girl by the arm and held her back. Her heavy sounding steps stopped and a moment of silence slithered by as they let another crew member pass.
“Ma’am, I strongly advice that we preform the test here, locally.”
She looked down at Captain Sato’s hand then back at her face, “Scared Captain?”
“More worried and concerned. What is it in Kentucky? What is it that you’re trying to prove? With all due respect ma’am… Just what is wrong with you?”
Power Girl looked like she had a quick, snappy reply ready to go, but paused for a moment before she said, “Can we go over the things that’s not wrong with me? I feel that is a much shorter list.”
“Ma’am…” Captain Sato sighed, “can you just for once be honest? Don’t play me for a fool.”
“Tried that and I ended up in prison for it,” Power Girl pulled her arm free, “you’re needed at the bridge captain.”
General Carl Robson stood all tall and stern in the middle of Ophelia’s office, impatiently waiting for her staff to excuse themselves. When the final staff member had just crossed the doorstep he slammed the door shut, the metal blinds rattled coldly before they lulled into a swaying dance. He took a moment to calm himself, but he had only mixed success. The screen saver on Ophelia’s computer kicked in while she waited for the general to speak.
“Just what the hell is going on here?” he said as if the question explained everything.
“Why don’t you take a seat general and I’m su-” Ophelia offered, gesturing gently at the available chair.
“Answer the goddamn question!”
She jerked in her seat at the sudden outburst. Nervous fingers rolled a fountain pen back and forth like a cigarette for a while before Ophelia sheepishly shrugged and said, “I’m sorry general, but you’ll have to be a bit more specific.”
“Specific? You’re turning our $65 million asset into a fanatic!”
“Divine responds positively to the treatment an-”
“It is a loose cannon that for whatever reason seems to cling to your words rather than anything else,” general Robson grabbed the back of the chair and leaned menacingly forward, “care to explain that little detail Ms. Day?”
“I- I’ve worked with it very closely for some time and- and I never ever be-”
He clapped his hands together, the sudden slap rang through the walls like an angry bark, “You’re not taking this one away from me, understood? Fix it. Make sure that it accepts the commands from others or I’ll shut you down.”
The general collected his hat and left the office in a huff. Ophelia sat quietly in her chair, rocking back and forth ever so slightly while biting down on her lip. Shaking her head and scoffing, she tossed her pen aside and buried her face in her hands, groaning. It was possible that Ophelia allowed herself some foul words, though they could not be heard over the crashing sounds of her sweeping her cluttered desk clean in frustration.
A long moment drag on with only the hushed background noise of general office work scraping at the silence. Sighing in defeat, Ophelia got up and started cleaning up her own mess. Collecting her keyboard, she spotted a photo of Douglas. Picking it up, she shook the frame a few times over her trashcan to get rid of the broken glass when her eyes suddenly shifted. An idea started to shape itself in her mind. It was a long shot, but it was worth a try. She wrestled the picture free from the frame and half ran to Divine’s holding cell.
“What’s this?” Divine said, looking at the slightly crumbled photo.
“Doug, his name is Doug,” Ophelia said as she took a seat next to Divine on her crude bed. “What do you think about him?”
“I don’t know… he looks fragile. Scrawny with a silly nose.”
“Tell you what,” Ophelia inched closer, “he likes you. It’s true. You can go ahead and keep that. I’ll make sure the guards don’t take it away from you.”
Divine looked Ophelia straight in the eye, “What does that mean? Why does he like me?”
“You’re strong,” she shrugged before getting up and knocked on the door, “the world is a cruel place and he’s certain you’d protect him from harm.”
“Huh,” Divine looked at the photo again, “he likes me because I’m strong.”
Out in the hallway Ophelia walked up to a phone hanging on the concrete wall and dialled one of her staff members. “We’re changing things up, start administer luteinising hormone to Divine. No, we’ll just have to jump into the deep end and double back if we get negative response. I don’t care- no I don’t, we don’t have the time to start slow and work ourselves up. Hey, no- you’ll do it or I’ll find someone who will, okay?”
The Power Girl fraternity house at KSU looked as exciting as an old milk carton when viewed from the outside. It was one of many across the country and while she’d occasionally done speeches at universities, Power Girl couldn’t quite place this one on that list. Lights were on, some humble and simplistic Halloween decorations were scattered about the front door while the faint thumping sound of a bass barely pushed through the windows.
“Ma’am, do you read?” Captain Sato’s voice crackled in her ear piece.
Power Girl slipped her thumb behind her medallion and gave the large button on the back side a solid squeeze, “Loud and clear, how do you read me?”
“Fair, though there’s plenty of room for improvements. We might have to make some adjustments on the mics. It’s not like they were made for Kryptonians. Come on back home and we’ll have the technicians look at it.”
“Just a moment,” Power Girl climbed the stairs, a closed fist hesitated to knock on the door, “I’ve got a small stop to make.”
“Sorry, say agai-”
Her knuckles hammered against the wooden door, sharp rattling sounds skittered into the night. A moment went by and then another, no response. She gave it another knock, a little louder this time and again no response. With a clenched fist raised over her head, Power Girl was about to pummel at the door loud enough to wake up half the state when the door swung open. An undergraduate student with questionable fashion sense and beer in hand squinted his eyes at her.
“Wha u whan-t?” he said before staggering half a step backwards to secure his balance.
“I’m looking for Eddie Kaplin,” she waved a hand in front of her nose, the beer breath was strong in this one, “Douglas Sutherland invited me.”
“Eddie!” the student leaned backwards while hanging on to the door handle, “Dud uh- did you order cosplay or pizza?! Ther- there’s a chicksh here. I dunno man.”
Captain Sato’s stern tone came through the ear piece, “Ma’am, what in the world are you doing?”
Eddie came over, clearly a little buzzed yet still had his head on straight. He sized up Power Girl and rubbed his eyes a little before he said, “That’s some damn good cosplay, uh… what’s your name?”
Power Girl rolled with her eyes and shook her head lightly before she lifted one leg, then the other until she sat cross legged in mid-air. A second past and Eddie’s friend choked on his beer so hard part of it came out his nose. Beer still firmly in hand, he pointed at her with a trembling finger and stuttered out something incomprehensible gibberish. Eddie on the other hand dropped his jaw to the centre of the earth and held on to the door frame for support.
“Is Douglas here yet?” she said, still floating gently in the air.
“Uh,” Eddie’s brain did apparently a much needed reboot, “no, no. He- he couldn’t make it. Hell he never mentioned you’d come over. I mean- if we’d known we’d be a little- uh, more presentable.”
She raised a curious eyebrow, “Oh? Something came up?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I-uh… oh jeeze, come in at least,” he stepped aside and invited her in.
Power Girl nodded her thanks and walked in with Eddie to the main living room, “Nothing serious I hope?”
“Hmm? Oh no, god no. Just couldn’t get a babysitter, that’s all. Normally my little sister steps in, but she and my folks are out of town for Halloween this year and Ophelia, you know Ophelia right?” Power Girl shrugged and gestured for him to continue. “Well, she was working overtime or something like that, so yeah… just the logistics of having a family.”
The Halloween party was in full swing. Food, drinks and snacks were plentiful while the music was booming constantly in the background. Some turned around as Power Girl and Eddie navigated the crowd, complimenting her on her Halloween costume. Others thought she was with the university staff, like a dressed up bouncer or security guard due to her ear piece. Regardless she didn’t really stay to chat and rather hung close to Eddie.
Finally they arrived at the stereo and karaoke machine, which Eddie turned it down. If anything it was a great way to get everyone’s attention, well except the couple by the lamp that were making out. “Excuse me folks, I’d like to make an announcement. We- uh, we have apparently a very special guest with us tonight. So, ah- well, uh… turns out that Power Girl decided to swing by. How cool’s that?”
“Yeah, right! You’re full of shit Eddie!” someone from the crowd said.
Power Girl picked up the microphone from the karaoke machine and levitated while turning upside down until the soles of her boots were resting firmly against the ceiling, “I get it, seeing is believing, right?” she said into the microphone.
The room exploded into cheers and applause. Phones popped out of pockets and shamelessly started filming and snapping photos. She shook hands, took upside-down selfies and even signed a couple of caps before taking to the microphone again, calming the crowd down. “Alright, alright, alright… simmer down folks, simmer down. We’re now going to get a public service announcement from me.”
She landed on the floor and puffed some hair out of her face before continuing, “Gentlemen, I appreciate your support. I really do. I know you want to make a difference, and you can. However. However, you should proceed with the rhythm of wisdom, okay? The opposition… it’s okay to disagree, though they turn to bullying or even straight out violence rather than making their point in a more civil manner. Don’t. Don’t do that. You’re better than that. That’s beneath you. If they manage to drag you down to that level, they’ll just beat the ever living shit – pardon my French – out of you with experience. You want to protest? Fine. Heck, it’s your constitutional right to do so. Peacefully. Alright? Got that? Good, now let’s crack up some music.”
The crowd applauded and cheered as the music came back on and faded upwards in volume. Eddie leaned in and half shouted into her ear, “Can I get you anything? Beer, wine?”
“Oh no, I’m flying tonight,” she winked him a smile and patted on his shoulder. “That message Eddie, it goes double for you. Douglas is worried about you, okay? That’s why I’m here.”
“Wow, you’d do that for him? You and Doug were that close?”
She shook her head, “Not really, he’s more like a friend of a friend, you know? Anyway, I better get going. Enjoy your evening and remember what I said, okay? Oh and say hi to Douglas when you see him.”
Being the guest of honour, surprise guest of honour at that, made it impossible to simply sneak out the apparently non existing back door. Eddie mumbled some half-hearted excuses on behalf of a certain Chad regarding the backdoor and the whole fraternity house mingled outside to see Power Girl off. They waved, cheered and wished her best of luck while others screamed out drunken declarations of love at the top of their lunges. She gave them a little of a show, breaking the sound barrier a little lower than usual. Even inside the clouds Power Girl could hear their wow’s of awe.
“PG-01 respond!” Captain Sato’s voice finally caught her attention.
“I’m here captain, no need to get all bent out of shape.”
“The hell do you think you’re doing?” Captain Sato was so upset that her English was breaking up and hints of her Japanese affected her voice.
“Just giving some good kids a public service announcement,” Power Girl smiled while trying to catch handfuls of cloud, a futile yet fun little game, “and now that I’m done, I’m coming back home. You can scold me to your hearts content then.”
“-At this Hansel and Grethel were so frightened, that they let fall what they had in their hands. But the old lady nodded to them, and said,” Douglas looked up from the fairy-tale book and over at Sonja. She was fast asleep, holding on to her stuffed Firefighter Sam toy.
Turning off the light, he leaned in and kissed her softly on the forehead before leaving on quiet feet. In his pocket his cell phone was wreaking havoc and rather unsurprisingly it was Eddie that was calling. “Hey Eddie, how’s it going?”
“OH MY GOD DUDE!” Douglas pulled the phone away from his ear and actually cast a glance at Sonja’s bedroom door, worried that she’d wake up. “PG! She came and- you didn’t tell me, but HOLY shit. I talked to her. I almost pissed my pants but I talked to her. I totally would have if it wasn’t for that instant boner! An actual conversation. I’m not drinking any more tonight. I gotta- I gotta remember this one. Tell my grandkids.”
Douglas smiled as he walked down the stairs, “Eddie, you don’t even have a girlfriend…”
“Shut up man, you’re pissing on my moment here.”
“Alright, alright. Enjoy it and you’re welcome by the way,” he helped himself with some candy from a big bowl on the kitchen table. “What did you guys talk about by the way?”
“Oh, oh… she- get off my back Frank, just- sorry. Uh, she asked us to be chill about protesting and, and that she only came ‘cause you told her… that you were worried about me. I think.”
Douglas sat down in the sofa, shaking his head with a smile on his face, “You think?”
“Dude, she smelled so nice and…! OMIGAWD! She leaned in close to talk into my ear ‘cause the music and shit. Holy fuck, I might just have to jerk my nuts off tonight. Like, no regrets if it actually happened.”
He looked around in the living room, shaking his head. What was it with Eddie and the constant too much information snippets he constantly let slip whenever he was even remotely excited? Douglas figured that it was one of the many traits that made Eddie such a loveable fool. It was hard to tell if he’d succeeded with his original intent, but at least Power Girl had kept her part of the deal. For now though, Douglas would simply have to wait and see.
“Okay, sleep tight buddy. Make Power Girl proud, okay?”
“Pfft, you don’t have to tell me. Cheers du- oh! Oh! Oh! I almost forgot, she said to tell you hi from her.”
“Huh, well that’s nic-”
“Damn it Frank, the hell is wro- put it away- No! Not in the fish tank! You-” the line broke, though Douglas just shook it off as random college shenanigans.
In the early hours the following morning Power Girl’s little pit stop at the fraternity house had exploded across social media. A shaky phone video from her little speech got eight million views in a couple of hours with armchair experts, fans and critics crawling out from their hiding places on the web. They were all too eager to voice their thoughts on the subject and as a result hundreds of comment sections became digital battlefields. The smart stayed on the side-line, preferring to watch and observer than to participate. The brave dived in with their rational arguments for their views. And the foolish overstayed their welcome to ensure that each and every discussion turned toxic.
Governor Forman observed calmly from a safe distance with her tablet. Scrolling and swiping, she navigated from one subject to another, comment after comment. The average person on the street to high government officials. This was simply too big to ignore. An opportunity, if nothing else. The trick was to find the sweet spot, the crack in the armour that would let her do as much damage as possible with as little force as possible. Thankfully, the good governor was an excellent judge of character.
Finally the phone call connected and on the other end a woman said, “This is Captain Sato speaking.”
“Captain, it’s a pleasure,” Governor Forman put her tablet aside and leaned forward on her cluttered desk towards the phone, “this is Governor Shannon Forman speaking. I was hoping you’d lend me your ears for a moment.”
A pause followed, “Ma’am, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Oh it’s this Power Girl business you see,” Shannon’s tone was honey sweet, much like a doting grandmother, “things have- well, I have a proposal I’d like to run by you. If you’d be so kind to hear me out, perhaps we can come to an agreement in the end. It’d be very nice if we could simply settle our differences in a more civil manner and go our separate ways. Rather than dancing around at opposite ends of the dance hall if you will, I suggest we meet up and talk our differences out.”
Captain Sato looked around on the bridge, the other crew members shrugged and silently referred to her own judgment. Licking her lips, she said, “Well, that’s- that’s very kind of you ma’am. I’ll happily pass on the message to Power Girl once she returns.”
“Appreciate it captain and- before we part, humour my curiosity.”
She tilted her head as she frowned before picking up the phone handle, “Alright, what do you want to know?”
“Just how do you know Power Girl? You two must be close since- well, you’re half the world away from your home my dear.”
“Power Girl has that effect on people ma’am, but if you must know I suppose there’s no harm in it. The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku, that’s where we met. She saved me and my grandfather. We were stranded on top of aunt Tanaka’s car, surrounded by debris filled water. Does that answer your question?”
Governor Forman smiled, “Yes, yes it does. Thank you for your time captain.”
Chapter 6: Human Nature
The laminator worked with a steady rhythm while Divine stood over it, carefully watching it. She’d worked hard for this little reward. Been a good girl and done what she’d been told, even if Ms. Day was not present. Tenderly she formed a bowl with her hands and caught the photograph as it dropped from the laminator. The protective casing shined underneath the ceiling lights and Divine smiled while her fingers gently traced the lines on the photograph.
“Dear Doug, you know I am a righteous woman,” she whispered into the photo while the guards walked her back to her cell, “of my virtue I am justly proud. You know I'm so much purer than the common, vulgar, weak and licentious crowd.”
Her steps stood out from the six guards that flanked her sides; theirs stomped with a unified rhythm while Divine’s was soft and out of sync. The heavy metal door to her cell slid aside, stopping with a hollow and heavy metallic clang. A guard nudged her head, silently urging Divine to get inside. She squinted at the guard with a faint snarl curving on her lips while holding the photo close. As soon as her feet crossed the doorstep a cold buzz rang and the door started closing. A moment later and it thudded dully against the wall before the heavy locks clanked into place.
In her solitude Divine put the photo on the metallic sink and sat down on a small stool. Both her chin and one arm rested on the sink while her fingers teasingly reached out for the photo without actually touching it. “I know I can't hold the love inside my heart because what consumes your thoughts controls your life. So I'll just ask a question, a lonely simple question. I'll just ask one question. What if we met?” Divine scoffed, the breath brushed against the photo making it shift in its place.
Absentmindedly Divine took off one of her sneakers and removed her sock. Stuffing the sock into the sink, she turned on the water and watched as the sink started to fill. The faucet was without handles, so to get the water running she had to sweep her hand in front of a small photo cell underneath it. Water would only run for so long until it stopped. She did this a couple of times until the sink was nearly full, one hand swiped slowly over the water. A heavy sigh sent ripples and small waves running across the small body of water.
“Now Doug, I see a face on the water. It looks humble but willing to fight. I see the will of a warrior, her yoke is heavy and her burden is great. She looks me right in the eyes, direct and concise to remind me to always do what's right. Next time I see your face I'll say I choose to live for always. So won't you come inside and never go away? Well I don't know if I'm ready to be the woman I have to be. Guess I'll take a breath, I'll take you by my side and we’ll stand in awe, for we'll create life.”
She took the photo in both hands and lifted up against the ceiling, arching backwards on her stool, “If I had just one wish, only one demand I hope he's just like me. I hope he understands that he can take this life and hold it by the hand, and he can greet me with arms wide open... Under the sunlight I'll show you everything. I'll show you love. I'll show you everything.”
In the upper corner of the cell a small surveillance camera watched silently. At the other end of the facility Ophelia Day and her staff looked on along with general Robson. His eyes glanced from the monitor to the latest report, flipping through the pages every now and then. Tension was high and silent in the room, staffers were almost afraid to breathe. Eventually he signed some documentation, gave Ophelia a quiet nod of approval and took his leave. They’d start the first steps on stage daylight.
Power Girl leaned forward, the tip of her nose almost touched the bathroom mirror while her hands held on to the counter. She squinted at her reflection, turning her head from side to side and looked rather sceptical. It’s been years since she’d donned a red hairstyle and it looked, well different. Granted it was a wig that she’d tucked on, green contact lenses and some freckles over the bridge of her nose for good measure. Creating a civilian persona from scratch was no easy feat. Her overall game plan was to take the same approach as with Karen Starr; live a reclusive lifestyle.
It was a practical thing more than anything else. Power Girl or Kara Zor-L didn’t quite look right on driver’s licence or tax report. She’d only use it for public appearances, that was assuming she’d go for the billionaire life style of Karen Starr once more or just be a rather anonymous millionaire instead. It was refreshing to actually walk down a street without a care in the world, even if her superhearing would pick up a police siren wailing on and off several hundreds of miles in… that direction.
“Have you made your choice yet, ma’am?” Captain Sato said, knocking politely at the bathroom door.
Power Girl grumbled at her reflection, “I don’t know… I mean, it’s very kind that Japan has offered the new civilian me citizenship and all that, but…”
“If you wish to decline, you’re free to do so,” Captain Sato pointed out, folding her hands behind her back while she rolled lightly on the back of her heels, “I doubt anyone would be forced to commit suicide.”
The bathroom door opened and Power Girl removed her wig, “I’m glad you’re making jokes cap’n, but you’re not stand-up material just yet. Japan though… it’s so- different. And far away.”
“Says the alien that crosses the Pacific Ocean in twenty to thirty minutes, without the aid of machinery.”
“I’ll drop you off at the top of Mount Everest.”
Captain Sato smiled, “A vacation? You’re too kind ma’am.”
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Power Girl flumped down on her bed, arms spread out to either side as she looked up at the ceiling. “Who came up with the name Jane Shepard anyways? Ugh, never mind. I don’t want to know. Maybe I should just be Power Girl full time. Heck, I might even consider quitting all together. It’s not like I’m getting paid for what I do.”
She peeked up from over her chest at Captain Sato, “Pardon?”
“It is a French phrase literally meaning "nobility obligates". It denotes the concept that nobility extends beyond mere entitlements and requires the person who holds such status to fulfil social responsibilities, particularly in leadership roles.”
Power Girl scoffed, “Thank you captain wiki. Nobility is a thing of the past. Save scattered bits and pieces over at Europe. Besides… Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
“No, Albert Camus,” she got up and sat at the edge of the bed. “Look down at me and you see a bimbo. Look up at me and you see a goddess. Look straight at me and you see yourself. It’s a slight variation of Charles Manson’s quote, to better suit me.”
“I see,” Captain Sato said, taking her seat next to Power Girl, “so you wish to be… neither superior nor inferior to us. Rather, you wish to be our equal?”
She patted the captain on her shoulder, “More than you can ever imagine cap’n, more than you can imagine. Take my word for it, the only thing worse than being alone is being alone in a crowd.”
Douglas was up on the second floor vacuuming the bedroom when he thought he heard something. Turning off the vacuum cleaner, he paused and listened. True enough he heard keys clattering against the tray downstairs. Considering that the cat was already out of the bag with him stopping to vacuum, he bit down on his lower lip before heading downstairs. He was just a few steps down when he and Ophelia spotted one another.
“So…” he said, shrugging with his shoulders and leaning against the wall, “welcome home.”
“I… uh, just needed some- some older files that I had on disc,” Ophelia avoided his eyes as she spoke.
She climbed the stairs, a light spring in her feet. Douglas just stood there, relaxed against the white and blue striped wallpaper. His hands slipped softly into the pockets of his jeans before a long breath tickled out of his nose. In the distance he could hear Ophelia rattle around in the closet and drawers of their bedroom. Plastic clattered, wood banged against wood and she muttered underneath her breath. A moment later she came back down with some discs in her hand. Again she avoided Douglas. He didn’t speak up until she was at the bottom of the stairs.
“Sonja misses you, you know.”
“Douglas… this is on you, not me.”
He rubbed his eye underneath his glasses, “Okay, fine. Uhm… how- how do I make up for that?”
“I’m- I’m not sure,” Ophelia’s voice seemed to tremble with emotion, “may- maybe you could just… oh I don’t know. Forget about Power Girl? Is that too much to ask for?”
“Haven’t seen or heard from her since Eddie’s arrest,” he took a few steps down the stairs, “half a month isn’t good enough for you? Scared that I’ll- relapse? That she’ll- I don’t know, fly in and literary sweep me off my feet?”
“Now’s not a good-”
Douglas’ phone gave a quiet buzz in his pocket. He fished it out from his pocket and swiped away the reminder, “Time to go get Sonja from kindergarten. Should I go or do you want to? Car’s been acting up lately, so be careful.”
A weak fist thudded against the handrail, Ophelia bit down on her lip and blinked out a tear. “I want this-” her voice quivered, “to work as much as you do, Douglas. I really do.”
“Okay,” he stomped down the stairs and headed straight towards the kitchen, “we’ll just have pizza for dinner. Sonja would defiantly want to celebrate that mom is back from work.”
Left alone in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs, Ophelia covered her mouth to muffle her own cries. Quiet sniffs tenderly brushed against the quiet while she packed her discs in her shoulder bag and fished out some paper towels. From the kitchen soothing instrumental music started flowing from the radio, Douglas adjusting the volume until it overplayed Ophelia’s muffled sobbing.
The governor's office was spotless and had all the looks and feel from a TV political drama; big windows, large bookshelf loaded with thick intellectual books, a massive desk that looked busy, yet tidy at the same time and everything was wrapped in dark brown wood. Power Girl sat in a thick leather chair by the desk, the type that creaked and groaned every time you took a breath. On the other side of the desk governor sat Shannon Forman.
“Well then, thank you for coming on such short notice,” governor Shannon said while she leaned in on her desk, her hands folded in front of her.
Power Girl glanced over at her sideways, yet said nothing. She sat there as if carved out of stone, shoulders back, chest out and back straight as a razor's blade. Shannon had her sign a few documents, legal formalities, before they could get started. She skimmed through the documents and while she was no lawyer, Power Girl understood the highbrow lawyer speak of the documents enough to know she wouldn't get into trouble.
“The purpose of this interview is to help get a better picture of,” Shannon paused as if something foul tasting just touched her tongue, “-Power Girl's character. It's my understanding that you and Karen Starr were close, yes?”
“We were friends, yes,” Power Girl said, her tone clear and transparent.
“And Ms. Starr was also the legal guardian of a certain Douglas Sutherland, correct?” Shannon glanced over at Power Girl, her dark brown eyes squinted slightly.
“Uh, yes that's correct ma'am.”
Shannon scribbled down some notes, her pen scratched uncomfortably against the paper, “Do you know why Ms. Starr suddenly decided to adopt?”
One leg folded over the other and her hands curled together like worried puppies in her lap. Power Girl regained some of her composure after swallowing deeply. With a stiff little smile she said, “We never got around to that, but if I were to guess she felt lonely. I wasn’t always around and billionaire status can close more doors than it opens. Or perhaps the tic-toc of her biological clock finally caught her ear.”
Shannon's face lit up with a smile stuck in the uncanny valley of falsehood and sincerity. For a seventy-five year old, Shannon certainly didn't give off any friendly grandmother vibes, more on the contrary. “Elaborate, if you please.”
Power Girl drew in a deep breath before she spoke up, “Ma'am, if I may I’d rather not discuss private details of dead friends.”
“No, you may not,” Shannon's glare challenged the Power Girls calm composure before she turned her attention back to her paper. “You never talked about family, either of you? Really, just what kind of woman, for the lack of a better phrase, are you?”
Her eyebrows ticked upwards until they could go no further, “What's that got to do wit-”
“Just. Answer the question, if you please.”
“Well ma’am, both of us felt that women can contribute more to society than simply spread our legs and squeeze out babies once every nine months. Though obviously, Karen had a change of heart.”
Shannon closed her eyes and shook her head lightly, like parents often do when they're disappointed with a child, “I’m not surprised. I mean, with only a passing glance anyone can tell that both you and the late Ms. Starr are-”
“Governor,” the word came out with a stern edge from behind Power Girl's clenched teeth, “need I remind you that shit is meant to come out of your ass, not your mouth?”
A pause. Save the slow, slithering movement of Shannon’s fingers the room looked like an elaborate still life painting. Shannon’s thin lips betrayed a sly smile when she handed Power Girl a piece of paper. On it was a printed out twitter feed, at the top a picture of Eddie and her talking at the fraternity house. Judging by the looks of the responding tweets, everyone and their kitten thought that they shared an intimate moment. In true social media fashion though, haters had come crawling out from underneath their rocks, only to vomit up toxic waste.
“Monkey see, monkey do,” Shannon said, there was a smug veil over her words, “though I suppose you’re a little bit better than Ms. Starr. At least this one is legal. Must be nice, having a traditional loyal ‘wife’ waiting for you at home while your boy-toy here keeps things… spicy.”
The paper crumbled in Power Girl’s hand, her fingers slow and deliberate. Chin raised and jaw clenched she held her breath so her rage wouldn’t simply explode. She scoffed, smiled and allowed herself a chuckle. It rolled back and forth between the windows and bookshelf, spiralling gradually upwards into a rich and merry laughter. A hand slapped against the arm rest hard as she tried to calm herself down. Her face was flushed and open when she wiped the last tear from her cheek, the occasional chuckle bubbling out of her.
“Oh, it’s funny. I can take a tank shell to the face and hardly blink. Toss cars around as if they’re made out of copper wire and styrofoam. And, and I could- could go all out on you. It’d be like getting pounded by a hundred ton gorilla and I’d hardly break a sweat,” Power Girl got up from her chair, her tall frame loomed over Shannon’s, “But you know what? You’re not worth it. You’re not worth the miniscule effort it would take me to break every bone in your body.”
“I will have you banned from my state.”
Power Girl nodded sarcastically, “You don’t have to really. I’m a big girl. I can leave on my own.”
Ophelia sat on the edge of Sonja’s bed reading her a good-night story when Douglas checked in on them. He just sneaked a peek through the door crack and quietly headed downstairs. She’d been ecstatic to see mom back, pizza was just the icing on the cake really. While he worked on the dishes, Douglas noticed that the water wasn’t really sinking. Well, it was but it sure was in no hurry. He made a face of light frustration.
Going outside, he loosely rapped a jacket over his shoulders as he lightly jogged across the garden to the small shed. He’d never been much of a handy man, but over the years he’d collected some basic tools. As he was heading back to the house he saw a shadowy figure run along the road in the corner of his eye. Tracking it, Douglas saw the person turn sharply and head straight for his house. The young woman rang the doorbell and knocked on the door as if the devil was on her heels.
“Excuse me, can I-”
Pam spun on her heel, her face open and wide with fear, “Douglas? Oh thank god, I need to borrow your car.”
“Wow, wow, Pam. Slow down, okay? Breathe,” he put the tools down and held her shoulders, “what’s wrong?”
She squealed out a thin whimper, “Eddie. They got to Eddie. Something- I don’t know. He- he’s in the hospital. M-mom and- and dad are already there, but-”
“Okay, okay. Ssshh,” Douglas hugged her close, stroking the back of her head, “it’s going to be okay. Don’t you worry, okay? Let me get the keys.”
He grabbed his car keys and headed straight upstairs, taking two steps in a row. A few deep breaths later to calm himself, Douglas popped his head inside Sonja’s room and called Ophelia over. “Something’s happened to Eddie. Accident, assault, I don’t know. I’ll give Pam a lift, okay? Just- stay with Sonja. Call me if there’s anything.”
Ophelia’s eyes shifted back and forth for a moment before she connected the dots. Nodding, she kissed his cheek and he raced downstairs again. He and Pam got in the car and drove off into the night. For a long while they drove in silence, Pam frequently checking her phone, text messages popping in at irregular intervals. Douglas took out his frustration on the steering wheel, his hands white as bone and trembling with tension. Every sign they passed he hoped would give them the thumbs up for going faster despite having gone down this road many times before.
They arrived at the hospital and after a quick query at the reception, darted up and to Eddie’s parents. Eddie was still in surgery, his mom was a mess of tears and smeared make-up while his father was silently coping. Poor man was a volcano just waiting to pop, but it looked almost as if over the years he’d forgotten how. Hugs were exchanged and Douglas was brought up to speed.
“Eddie and the boys- they- damn fools, they were out passing flyers downtown. Some of ‘em folks didn’t take to kindly to that- yellin’ and cussin’ like babies with wet diapers.” Eddie’s dad adjusted his cap and sniffed, eyes moist with tears. “Now my boy, he- he kept his cool. It was ‘em other folks that- they hit my boy Doug. Kicked him while he was down like some- some sick dog. Kinda man does that?”
“No man does that Mr. Kaplin,” Power Girl stepped up with cups of coffee in either hand, “cowards do. Sorry excuses for cowards.”
Douglas looked at her with a flabbergasted face, “You- uh, you’re here?”
She frowned at him for a moment as if she’d trouble placing his face, “Mm? You’re- are you Karen’s boy by any chance?”
“Uh… oh yes, I- yeah, Karen Starr. I’m- I’m also a friend of Eddie’s,” his words stumbled over his tongue as Power Girl offered the coffee to Mr. and Mrs. Kaplin.
The door from the surgery room opened and Eddie was rolled out. Thin towers of medical equipment flanked his bed, tubes and wires were curled over and under him in a grotesque spaghetti pattern without rhyme or reason to it. Aside from the bruised eye, he looked like he was sleeping with one of those dorky looking hospital caps on his head. Pam and her mother followed after Eddie along with the nurses while Mr. Kaplin stayed behind with the doctor.
“He’s going to be fine,” the doctor said with an assuring and honest smile, “we stopped the internal bleeding before it got worse. Good thing he got help as fast as he did. Ten, twenty minutes later and I doubt he would have made it through the ambulance ride. Ma’am.”
The doctor nodded to Power Girl like only old time co-workers do before taking his leave. Mr. Kaplin was still at a loss for what to do. He looked after the back of the doctor and down the opposite hallway where they’d taken his son. Douglas patted him on the shoulder and nudged towards where Eddie was. His face was hard and beet red with emotion, but Mr. Kaplin forced a smile and took Douglas’ silent advice. As the sound of his footsteps grew distant and the regular background noise of the hospital started to settle in, Douglas glanced over at Power Girl.
She stood by the window, looking out at the pitch black night and the city skyline. Or perhaps she was looking at her own mirage like reflection, it was honestly hard to tell. He joined her by her side, just standing there quietly, patiently. It’d been so long and so much had happened in his own life since then that Douglas had forgotten what it was like, being so up close and personal with a superhero. He looked at his reflection, pale and transparent it stood by her side.
“Thought you weren’t supposed to do heroics,” he said after a long pause.
Power Girl scoffed, a smile creeped up in the corner of her mouth, “If stopping for a toilet break and calling the cops on a street fight is your definition heroics, you need to get out more.”
“Toilet break? Seriously?”
“Hey believe it or not, girls poop too.”
A quiet moment followed. It’d probably have dragged on much longer, though it got interrupted by an ambulance leaving the hospital, sirens wailing and flashing lights. Smell that hinted of blood tickled through the many chemical and medical smells that lingered in the air. The window felt cold and distant, even if it was right there in front of him and arguably keeping the cold out.
“Made up with your girlfriend yet?”
“Kinda,” he put his hands in the pockets of his jacket, “at least now she’s back from work. Was hoping that we’d get a chance to patch things up, but-”
“Wait, hold up,” Power Girl raised a finger, “she left you and Sonja for work?”
Douglas snuggled down into his jacket, only the tip of his nose peeking over the zipper, “We had a fight. She left. Now’s she’s back.”
“Alright, well that’s something I guess. But yes, it does sound like the two of you need someone on one time together.”
“Yeah,” Douglas tapped the wall with the tip of his boot, “doubt Pam is willing to be babysitting Sonja anytime soon. Could put out an ad I suppose.”
“I’ll do it.”
Douglas blinked at her, “Do what?”
“Babysit Sonja. It’d only be for a few hours, right?”
“Oh… no. No, no, no. I don’t- that’s not a good idea,” Douglas started, though shifted gear as he noticed Power Girl’s disapproving frown, “I mean I appreciate the offer but… Christ on a bike, you’ll throw napalm on the fire if you show up on the doorstep. I’ll never see Ophelia again.”
She flicked a finger at his forehead, “You dork. For someone that reads so many books, you sure have your dense moments. I’m not going to be me… me. It’ll be a different me. Kinda like Karen 2.0.”
“Huh, you’re working on a new identity? Well that’s nice.”
“So you up for it? Take your lady out, light some candles, good food, a bottle of wine and you come home at the crack of dawn the following day.”
“Doubt it’ll be that late, but yeah… sounds tempting.”
“Great, you still have the same cell number?” Douglas nodded. “Okay- uh… I don’t remember my new one, but- I’ll head back home and send you a text. So… give me a heads up when you’ve made your reservation and stuff. Good? Good.”
Chapter 7: Baby Sittin' Boogie
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re proud to present the first report on Project Cadmus’ Daylight stage. Our subject easily exceed peak human condition even without access to direct sunlight, much thanks to a strict diet, rigorous training and cutting edge hormonal treatment. It’s been trained primarily in hand to hand combat as its expected combat performance will, pardon the expression, go off the charts by the end of stage Daylight.”
Ophelia stood by the doorway to the meeting room, a subtle restlessness rippled over her occasionally. The room was filled to the brim, all seats taken and people were lining up along the walls. All eyes were on Ophelia’s assistant rather than her. He was the one that did the presentation, not her. It was an outrage, but it was also a last minute decision. All he had to do was read up from the script and change the slides at the right time. Monkey’s work really, but that was not the goddamn point. These were the fruits of her labours. Her ideas. It was her moment and she was not allowed to shine like the supernova she knew she was.
“So far we’ve seen similar recharge and discharge rate when compared to the original, though mind you for security reasons we only allow the subject a ten minute exposure to sunlight. Also we run the so-called paper-cut test to verify that the subject has indeed depleted its energy reserves. We certainly do not want this to turn into another Mexico incident.”
The slide changed and diagrams along with a body map showed up on the main screen, “Now in terms of strength, durability and capabilities all data suggests that we have a one to one ratio compared to the original. We know this from cross referencing evidence from the original’s previous exploits, facts it has willingly given us as a sign of trust and cooperation as well as fundamental physics. So far we cannot see any loss in performance despite the accelerated growth. There is however, speculation, very early speculation mind you. But, yeah. Speculation that our subject might not have the same capacity when compared to the original.”
One of the uniformed men, a high ranking officer of the air force by the looks of it said, “Just what does that mean?”
“Uh, well… heh, I’m- I’m glad you asked. Sir. Basically since we’ve made a hybrid and not a perfect clone, you have to swap out some kryptonian DNA in favour of human. Pure kryptonian was, as I’m sure you all know by now, rejected by the surrogate mothers with… uh- some rather… unfortunate side effects. Our subject today has the highest kryptonian to human ratio. Might also add that the kryptonian part helped with the accelerated growth, much thanks to the organ growth tech that Starr Enterprise pioneered back in the early 2000’s. We just- uh, took that tech and modi- modified it. Now, your question sir, basically- if, if the original is twelve car batteries, our subject is seven, maybe eight.”
“So the subject packs the same punch, but can’t go on as long as the original? Where’s the point in that?”
“Mass production,” the words plopped out of Ophelia’s mouth. Everyone in the room turned and looked at her. “Build a squad, a platoon, a whole battalion. Hell, replace the whole damn armed forces if you have to.”
The officer leaned over in his chair, “An army? Of these things? Small black-ops teams maybe, but anything beyond that… not on my watch. At least not until we know for certain where their loyalty lies.”
“Colonel, with all due respect I think you’ll change your mind on this matter once you see how it performs in the field,” Ophelia said, tossing her hair back with a confident flick of her hand, “and as for the loyalty. They’re basically children in adult bodies. We’ve had our issues controlling the subject, yes, but we’re learning. Writing the book as we go, refining my methods and approaches. I could do variations to the genome, make them tall, short, fast, slow, funny or gloomy. My subject is a prototype and as such it is very, very close to the original. This has made it a bit unruly to begin with, but now colonel…? It’s loyal like a dog.”
Sonja was helping her dad change the bedsheets upstairs when Douglas excused himself to the bathroom. The house had an odd design that the only toilet and shower was on the second floor and you had to go through the master bedroom to get to it. Douglas had consider getting a second toilet installed downstairs with the washing machine. Not exactly ideal, but it was better than shopping around for a new house. For now though Sonja didn’t protest much, but there was no doubt in his mind that it would get really weird ten years down the line.
While he sat down and took care of business, he could hear his little daughter sing some obscure tune to herself as she battled the massive and obviously evil bedsheets. The text he’d gotten from Power Girl the day before looked harmless enough. She was considerate enough to just send him a generic message, probably in fear that anything else might get Ophelia all bent out of shape. Not that she snooped around on his phone. At least not that Douglas was aware of.
He called back the number and waited for the call to connect. It seemed to ring forever and he was about to give up when it finally came through. “Yeah, hello?”
“Karen? Is that you? This is Douglas calling, you sound so weird I-”
“Kinda busy right now Doug,” Power Girl grunted at the other end, it sounded like she was in a cramped space and the connection was fading in and out.
“Busy? With what? This is a horrible connection. Where are you anyway?”
“Mudslide, butt end of China,” she groaned as if under great stress. “Stupid donkey, don’t bite me!”
“Okay, okay. I get it, uh- call you back later,” Douglas said and hung up in a hurry.
Washing his hands, Douglas looked at himself in the mirror for a moment and then chuckled softly to himself. Mudslide, in China. Of course. What was he thinking? He joined Sonja and they headed downstairs to get the laundry out of the way. Futile as it might be, Douglas tried to ease basic housekeeping skills into Sonja at every chance he got. It was better to keep her engaged so she’d learn how things worked rather than just let things magically resolve themselves. Or at least that was how he approached the whole parenting issue.
Sometime after lunch, when the table was cleared and Sonja watched a rerun of Fireman Sam, Douglas’ phone rang. “Yes, this is Douglas speaking?”
“Hi Doug, it’s me,” Power Girl said, her voice sounded so different over the phone.
“Oh, hi. Hope I didn’t ruin anything by calling you earlier.”
“A mild distraction, but nothing major,” he could practically hear her smile through the phone. “So what’s up? I take it that you’ve made plans or are you just lonely?”
He leaned against the kitchen counter, watching Sonja paying very close attention to the TV show, “Yeah, I’ve made some plans; catch a movie, have some dinner and maybe do some star gazing. The movie starts tonight at seven, so it’d be great if you come like… ten-fifteen minutes beforehand?”
There was a pause, “Oooh-kay, let’s see… I’m- where am I? Oh, there’s the Great Barrier Reef so- uh? Yeah, I’ll be there Doug.”
“You know where I live, right?”
“Uh… not really, no. Well aside from somewhere in Muldraugh.”
He chuckled lightly, remembering how Karen Starr used to be terrible with directions. The conversation they were having made him wonder just how much of it was acting, “Okay, well there’s this gated community alright? Opposite of the main road from McCoy logging Corp. and the lumber mill. We have this white house with a white fence around it, just north- uh, north-east of that community. You know what? Just call if you need directions.”
“Will do. Bye.”
“Okay, bye now.”
Divine sat in the cafeteria together with Ophelia eating a late lunch. While guards were still present, they’d removed the handcuffs around Divine’s wrists as a reward for good behaviour. The two of them just sat there in silence, their spoons clacking against their deep soup plates every now and then. Aside from a couple of guards at the door and the two of them, the large cafeteria was deserted. Even the kitchen staff had left, all that remained was a taped up note of where to leave the dishes.
“Ms. Day… can I ask you something?”
Ophelia paused, a spoonful of soup halted between her plate and her open mouth, “Sure sweetheart, what do you want to know?”
“Why- why can’t I see Doug?” Divine pushed the plate aside and leaned forward over the table. “I mean- he likes me, I like him and- and I want to see him. Really badly.”
A napkin patted her lips lightly, careful not to mess up her lipstick before Ophelia said, “Oh sweetie, if it was up to me you’d be together right after the training and tests. You know, all those long hours you spend all alone in that cell? Doug would be there with you.”
“Swear to God.”
Divine frowned, “Who’s that?”
“Nevermind that,” Ophelia dismissed the question with a wave, “point is that I can’t do that. I would if I could sweetie, but I just can’t.”
“Because I’m not in charge. Even I have to follow orders. You do know what happens to those that don’t follow orders, don’t you dear?”
Divine shrunk back in her seat, hugging herself as if something repulsive was slithering around her, “Yes…”
“Can you tell me dear, why do you want to see Doug?”
“I- uh… well,” she fidgeted in her seat as her cheeks started gently to blush into a tender pink, “some- sometimes, like late at night I- especially after I’ve taken your medicine, I- uh… I think of Doug and I feel… warm? And when I see his face I- my hands they, like almost on their own… I touch myself. It tingles, but in a good way. It smells weird and I stop when it gets moist uh- down… ‘there’. I don’t want the others to find out. Please Ms. Day, don’t tell the others.”
Ophelia got up and took a seat next to Divine, placing a comforting hand on top of hers, “Relax. I’m not going to tell a soul. If the others found out, you’d have your Doug taken away from you.”
She shrugged, “They don’t like that kind of behaviour, touching that is. So to keep you from doing it, they’d take Doug away. No Doug, no touching.”
“But, but- that’s horrible. I don’t want to lose him. What should I do Ms. Day?”
Ophelia pulled her into a hug, comforting her with soft shushes as they gently rocked back and forth, “Just stick to your training and take your medicine like a good girl. They won’t notice and between you and me, Doug kinda likes girls that touches themselves. Boys do it too you know?”
A polite knock was heard on Sonja’s door. She skipped over to it on light, happy feet and looked up at her father. For once he was in a suit and shirt, something she found funny and giggles rolled out of her. He frowned at her and held up one tie in either hand, asking her for her opinion. The choice stood between scarlet red with a white stripe and a dark green one with tiny golden crowns for a pattern. Sonja put on her thinking face, alternating between a few exaggerated thinking poses while pondering her decision.
“Bat one!” she pointed at the green tie.
“That one, but yes thank you for your input Sonja,” he said with a polite little bow before he put on his tie.
She giggled and smiled, “Daddy, you gonna kiss mommey on ‘he lipst?”
“Maybe…” Douglas gave her a wry smile, “that means that I got to practice on you, doesn’t it? C’mere!”
Sonja squealed and laughed as her father chased her into her room, snatching her up and showering her with snuggles and kisses. “You be a good girl tonight, alright?”
“Mmm! Pam is fun,” Sonja beamed him a smile.
Holding Sonja on his arm, he gave her a pained smile, “Pam isn’t coming tonight, remember? There’s a new babysitter. A really, really nice lady.”
“Uuuh… where’s Pam?”
Douglas sighed, taking a moment to organise his thoughts, “Well, uncle Eddie got hurt and she’s with him. Family’s got to stick together when they get hurt like that. It’s so that they can get better faster.”
“You’ll be alright though, right Sonja?” Ophelia walked in, fiddling with one earring. “Since you’re such a big girl.”
He glanced over at her, Ophelia looked stunning in her black China dress. High collar, short arms and a high leg split on one side. The dress was raven black with golden flowers for patter, large and rich with detail. It might be a bit on the cold side for late November, but they weren’t going to spend much time outdoors since Ophelia had declined on the star gazing part of their date.
“Mommey, you look phetti,” Sonja said with a smile that could probably go two times around her face.
“Thanks sweetie,” Ophelia leaned in and gave her daughter a peek on the cheek. “So who is this babysitter anyways? Friend of yours?”
“Not really, more of a friend of a friend.”
“And you trust her?”
“With my life,” Douglas said without batting an eye. Downstairs, the doorbell rang, “Ah, there she is. Probably.”
Ophelia followed him through the hallway, though turned in to their bedroom rather than following him downstairs, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Her sense of direction leaves something to be desired, or so I’ve heard.”
He opened the front door and saw a woman waiting outside. It was hard to spot in the out light alone, but it kinda looked like Power Girl. An old baseball cap rested on top of her shoulder long dark red hair, a washout brown hoodie with the hood up partially covered the tattered Metallica tour t-shirt underneath. Her jeans had seen better days, though she got points for having brand new sneakers. They say you only have one chance at making a first impression and all that Douglas could think of was mediocre.
“Hiya there,” she said looking up from underneath her cap with her green eyes, flashing him a toothy grin that spread the freckles a mile wide. “Sutherland right? Pleased to meet ya.”
Dubiously he took her hand and she locked on like a steel vice before shaking it with enough enthusiasm to light up a small town. She laughed loudly at Douglas for flinching at the handshake before turning around and waving the taxi away. Guess she really went all out tonight Douglas thought. He invited her in and Sonja came down to see what all the fuzz was about. For a moment she just stood at the bottom of the stairway, peeking around the corner very sceptically.
“Come on Sonja, say hello,” Douglas waved her over.
“Bird lady!” Sonja said, pitter-pattering over on small feet while she pointed at Power Girl.
Hearing Ophelia’s stiletto heels click-clacking down the stairway, Douglas heart started to race. He’d never even considered the chance that Sonja might be able to see through just about any disguise that Power Girl could whip up. There was no time to explain it either as just then Ophelia glanced around the corner before joining them.
“Bird lady…?” she asked, a flawless eyebrow raised.
“Prob’ just the buckle y’see?” Power Girl said with a deep Texan accent. She shifted her belt around with both hands. Calling it a belt buckle was an understatement. It looked more like a bronze serving plate which was grotesquely patriotic, complete with a large bald eagle as the centre motif.
“Look at the bird, mommey, lookie. I got one ‘o tus’ in my book.”
Power Girl adjusted her cap a little and whistled at Ophelia, “Mmm, mm, mmm. You lookin’ mighty fine this evenin’ ma’am.”
“…thank you… Ms.?”
“Shepard, Jane Shepard at your service,” Jane gave a theatrical bow, complete with a twirl of her cap. “Man, you folks really saved me tonight, let me tell ya. Been flippin’ burgers at minimum wage all month long between classes and, well bills are paid and all but ah… a girl’s gotta have some pocket change, amaright?”
Ophelia pulled Douglas by the arm and retreated a little into the living room, “Are you sure about this? I don’t-”
“Ophelia,” Douglas returned her hushed voice, “it’s going to be fine. Trust me. Yes, she’s a bit… eccentric, but she has a heart of gold and would never hurt a fly.”
“A bit?” she squeezed the words out behind clenched teeth, “honey, she’s a mess. Wouldn’t surprise me if she sleeps in a dumpster.”
“Stop that,” he nudged her shoulder, “don’t judge books by their covers. Jane is studying to be software engineer.”
Ophelia scoffed, “Jane dear?” she called over Douglas’ shoulder.
“Douglas says you’re studying computers, is that true?”
Jane blinked for a moment, licking underneath her upper lip as if trying to get something unstuck between her teeth. Then she said, “Y’all don’t think so? That I just say that? Think I’m some dumb ranch girl from Dallas? Well lemme tell ya something. I worked my butt off crunchin’ code like nobody’s business. Nobody. That computer lady, blonde, big tits, high heels and terrible smell… uh, Star, Steele something or another. Anyways, she came to my school once and told us that we could be anything. Anything we wanted. Just we work hard enough. That’s when I said to myself, I’m gonna be just like her. Minus the tits.”
Ophelia didn’t look too impressed by that little speech, instead she just crossed her arms and said, “I see…”
“Look lady, I dunno what’s eating your grill, but c’mon girl. My momma and papa took off too every now and then. As sweet as we kids were, me and my five brothers, ma and pa needed some time on their own. Get their luvin’ goin’ or whatever. I’ll hold the fort here, you folks go out and have some jolly good time y’hear? Just don’t let the sheriff get ya, cuz that su- that’s bad. Yup.”
“Well then,” Douglas inched between Jane and Ophelia and got his coat, “there’s some lasagne in the fridge along with the salad. Ms. Shepard, you have my number should there be anything. Sonja, be a good girl and listen to what Ms. Shepard tells you, alright? Mommy and daddy will be back by midnight.”
“Okey daddy,” Sonja said, giving her father a goodbye hug.
Jane stood in the doorway with Sonja on her arm, waving good bye to the car as it drove off, “Have a good one you two!”
Whatever worries Ophelia might have had regarding Jane, Sonja did not share them. A little weary at first, she soon warmed up to her thanks to her funny dialect and carefree attitude. They played games of tag, tickle death, filled out a colouring book while reheating the lasagne and most fun of all Jane let Sonja fly. Not really fly, but Jane was as far as Sonja was concerned the strongest woman in the whole wide world. She lifted Sonja up so effortlessly and even if the spun around and around, faster and faster, Sonja always felt safe. As tall and big as Jane was, on the inside she was just a little kid, very much like Sonja.
Winding down the night with an episode of Fireman Sam, the two officially best friends for life, snuggled underneath a blanket together in front of the TV. Hot chocolate in the cup, their little secret, along with a generous slump of cream. Whatever worries they might have had, they were miles and miles away in that one, tranquil moment.
“Why you like firemen so much?” Jane said, resting her chin on her hand. “Your whole room upstairs is filled with it. Posters, cars, dolls… you’ve got so much this house will never burn down.”
“Mmm…” Sonja cupped her chocolate closer, hesitating.
Jane drew a silent, yet sharp breath, “Nah, if you don’t wanna tell me, that’s okay. Don’t worry, alright?”
“Daddy…” she poked the cream in her cup with her straw, “daddy told me a story once. I had a bad dream and- uuuh… wet the bed. He told me that- once, once he got scared too. So scared that he wet himself. But, but in the kitchen, not in bed. I was scared of the boogieman. Daddy said he was scared of fire when he was little. But the funny- this lady, she, she came in and BAM! Saved daddy from the bad fire. He said she was so strong. Strongest ever! So brave, even- even if she was scared she- she just ran in.”
“Well I’ll be… daddy told you this?”
Sonja nodded her head, “So… since daddy reads me fairy tales and makes sure that- that uhm… there’s no boogieman in my room, I’ve gotta keep the- the scary fire away from daddy. I’m not as strong as daddy’s lady friend. I cry easy too, especially when the boys say mean stuff. But fireman Sam, he’s the best, bravest and strongest fireman in the whole world. So, so I keep him in my room so that daddy and mommey can sleep safe. Jane…? Why are you crying?”
She wiped away a tear and smiled, “Because I’m so, so happy for your daddy sweetheart. And so very, very proud of you. You’re a real treasure and don’t let anyone tell you different. Ever.”
The adventures of Fireman Sam & Co came to an end and Sonja along with Jane retreated upstairs for brushing of teeth and changing into pyjamas. Well tucked in under her blanket, Sonja giggled and snuggled into place. Jane took a seat on the edge of the bed and stroked her hair affectionately. Tradition true, or rather unwilling to lose to daddy, Jane looked high and low for the boogieman, threatening him with a serious beating if he’d even think about showing up tonight.
“Sleep tight, I’ll be downstairs waiting for mom and dad to come home, okay?”
“Okay! Goodnight Jane.”
With the door finally closed, Jane let out a sigh of relief. Sure she’d visited children hospitals in the past as Power Girl, but this was a whole different ballgame. All in all, especially considering her utter lack of experience with babysitting, she’d give herself a solid seven out of ten. Of course there was no way she’d admit to Douglas that she was just winging it, though she suspected that at any point now he’d realize that that’s how most adults navigate through life. Either way, time to head downstairs and chill.
Considering Sonja was fast asleep or tripping down the merry road to dreamland, Jane opted to leave the TV off and instead helped herself with a good book instead. Thankfully Douglas had quite the collection, though it looked like he only kept the best of the best in the house as she was unable to find the bulk of his library. Browsing through the bookshelves on the first floor hallway, Jane tapped one book spine after the other.
“Moby Dick… Call me Ishmael. Nah, too tired for that. Dune… I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Yeah right. Seriously? Paradise Lost? Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven. Dunno about that… A Tale of Two Cities. BLOOD. The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there. Might as well watch paint dry. Oh? What do we have here? Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. I beheld the wretch – the miserable monster whom I had created. Oooooh yeah, some good ol’ gothic horror.”
Jane hummed a merry little tune to herself, book in hand before dropping down in the sofa. Legs on the coffee table, one tasteful toe sticking out of her sock and peace sunk down over the house. For a good hour nothing really happened, it was a quiet night and all was good as Jane turned page after page. Without warning a motorcycle rammed up its engine and roared past the house like some angry beast from ancient myth. Jane startled in her seat, being so engrossed with the book and all. She flipped her finger at the general direction of the sound and settled down again. It didn’t take long before her superhearing picked up Sonja’s muffled cries.
She put the book away and headed upstairs. Gently she creeped into Sonja’s room and sank softly down on the edge of her bed. She leaned over and stroked her hair, “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”
“…Uuuh…I wet the bed…”
“Okay, that’s okay. We’ll just change the sheets. Mom and dad will never know the difference,” she turned on the light, “c’mon honey, up ya go.”
A change of clothes and sheets later and Sonja was tucked in bed again. She had her finger on the light switch and one foot out the door when Sonja’s tiny voice made her pause, “Jane?”
Jane turned and sat down on the bed, hands resting on her lap, “What are you scared of sweetie? Want me to check for the boogieman again?”
“I heard him. That- that’s why I wet the bed… I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be honey, okay?” she stroked her cheek with her fingers, “Okay… c’mere. Come to Jane. Upsie-daisy.”
Holding Sonja closely in her arms, Jane walked softly around in the room rocking her lightly. She cuddled and kissed her while shushing and generally assuring her that everything was going to be alright. “Tell you what, I’m gonna sing you a lullaby.”
“A lullaby is a song. It’ll make you go asleep and, and it will give you sweet dreams. My mom used to sing one for me when I was scared.”
“Can I dream of fie-tucks?”
“Of course, you can dream of anything you want. That’s what’s so great about dreams…” she stroked Sonja’s forehead with her thumb, “Wanna try it?”
“Okay, now close your eyes,” Jane said before clearing her throat a little.
Hush my love now don't you cry
Everything will be all right
Close your eyes and drift in dream
Rest in peaceful sleep
If there's one thing I hope I showed you
If there's one thing I hope I showed you
Hope I showed you
Just give love to all
Just give love to all
Just give love to all
Oh my love... in my arms tight
Every day you give me life
As I drift off to your world
Rest in peaceful sleep
I know there's one thing that you showed me
I know there's one thing that you showed me
That you showed me
Just give love to all
Just give love to all
Just give love to all
Let's give love to all
Let's give love to all
Just give love to all
Let's give love to all
Just give love to all
Let's give love to all
Chapter 8: Anything 'cept the Truth
When Douglas and Ophelia came back home, Jane was sitting in the living room, book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, “Hiya folks, is Sonja gonna be a big sis or what?”
“A- a bit too early to say,” Douglas’ tiered mind tried to keep things civil and make verbal sparring with Jane at the same time with mixed results.
“Ah, ya’ll find out when she’s pukin’ in the shower just like aunt Beth used to. Lil’ Timmy boy even got born in the shower, did I tell ya that?” she put her hands on her hips, “Bless her heart.”
Ophelia groaned out a tired laugh, “She’s all yours ‘cowboy’, I’m going to bed.”
Douglas sighed and gave Jane a tired look. Yeah, it had been a long day alright. Enough eccentrics for now. Or rather for a lifetime by the looks of it. Either way he motioned her to join him outside in the driveway. As the two of them walked towards the road he said, “Busy night?”
“Not so bad. She’s a good kid Doug. Lots of laughs and plenty of smiles. Might want to play ignorant regarding the wetting of the bed though.”
He nodded smiling, “Ah… the boogieman?”
“More like a motorcycle, but yes. Clearly it was the boogieman,” she pocketed her hands in her jeans and looked up at the star lit sky, “Proud of you Doug. Really. You’ve got an adorable daughter and a lovely partner. She got a body like an hour glass. Good on- oh my…”
She turned and looked at him, an expression mixed with disappointment and confusion on her face, “My life is a lie… all these years…”
“What are you talking about? Did you put too much sugar in your coffee, again?”
“You,” Jane pointed an accusing finger at him, “You’re a butt man. All these years I’ve thought you were a boob man. My world is crumbling…”
He slapped her shoulder lightly, “No I’m not.”
“Doug, she got a booty like a Cadillac. There’s no way I can compete with that. You were just using me back then, weren’t you?” she hid her face in her hands, fake crying a few sobs.
Douglas puffed out frost smoke in a huff, “I’m neither and no, Ophelia doesn’t have a booty like a- a- Cadillac.”
“Doug… did you see her in that dress?” she leaned in and nudged him with her elbow. “Damn son, shit was on fire. Heck, I’d tap a booty that fine. Wonder if she’s into basketball boobies?” Jane said while she groped herself.
“Look would you- whatever, fine. No, it’s not fine actually. Could you just stop?” Jane stood to attention. “Thanks… Don’t remember you having this much sass.”
“That’s probably because you never got to really know the real me, Doug,” she smiled and scoffed, “Thanks for tonight though. Listen, uh… This whole governor business is going in the wrong direction so I’ll probably have to leave soon. For a very long time.”
He nodded understandingly, kicking the gravel around light as he said, “So this is it huh?”
“Yup… or- well, you might run into me if you ever decide to y’know, go out and see the world. I might have a different look though. Not too sure if this Jane Shepard chick is going to work out.”
“Please, for the love of God change it.”
“That bad huh?”
Douglas nodded. She stretched and yawned before freezing in place. Something had caught her eye that much Douglas could tell. Turning around he traced her gaze until it landed on the bathroom window at the second floor. Ophelia was watching them closely. Jane on the other hand took it all in a stride, waving her goodbye with bubbling enthusiasm.
Twiggy’s was a local place out in West Point. Outsiders would probably call it a rundown place where every flush of the toilet was a gamble. The locals however insisted that the place had a lot of soul. Power Girl had ditched the wig before catching a cab and asking for a local recommendation for a lousy beer and a game of pool. Faithfully the driver had taken her right to Twiggy’s. It was a large wooden structure, like an old barn that hadn’t seen a coat of paint since the great depression. Well the lights were still on, cab had hit the road and by the sound of it, the people inside were having a jolly good time.
“Might as well,” Power Girl shrugged before pulling her cap a little lower.
First impression wasn’t much; creaking wooden floor, beer and piss struggled for the attention of her nostrils, three-four tables scattered about, the dubious toilets in the upper right corner and a stairway up to the second floor in the upper left corner. Dead ahead was the bar, which was snuggly fit between the restrooms and stairway, spanning the bulk of the room. She smiled a polite little howdy to the clientele as she made her way up to the counter.
“What can I get ya, miss?” the bartender, a big bear of a man with enough body hair to send most grizzlies packing, said.
“Got any Schaefer? I’d take one of those,” Power Girl said, taking a seat on a bar stool.
“Coming right up.”
She peered over either shoulder while leaning in on the bar. Quiet downstairs by the looks of it, just folks wanting to have a quiet drink and maybe some small talk. The real party was apparently upstairs. Muffled music, cheers and applause intermixed with the all too familiar sound of pool balls clacking against one another. Beer bottle in hand, Power Girl climbed the stairs to the second floor and paused at the top to take in the sight. Again it was simplistic with four tables scattered about, three pool tables lined up opposite of the stairway and a couple of dartboards hung up for good measure.
Power Girl rested against the handrail for the stairs, taking a sip of her beer. For a long moment she just stood there, taking in the scene and the people that populated it. A game of pool ended and one of the players decided to call it a night, or morning depending on how you look at it. It was after all closing in on one o’clock in the morning. The man staggered a little, not really shitfaced but it was clear that he’d been drinking something stronger than soda.
The bottle felt cold and heavy in her hand, its content left a bad aftertaste in her mouth that reminded her more of old jumping ropes than anything in terms of taste. She tracked the man with her eyes as he wobbled down the stairs on uncertain feet, one arm raised and pressed against the wall for support. Solid, heavy thuds went against the wood while Power Girl listened in while in deep thought. A decision was made, she took a heavy swig of her beer and made a face before joining the man at the bottom of the stairs.
An arm reached around the man's shoulder and she hugged him close to her side, “Please wrap your drunken arms around me and I'll let you call me yours tonight 'cause I feel slightly broken,” she leaned in and whispered in his ear, “And if you give me what I want, then I'll give you what you like.”
He looked at her with a drunk haze washing across his eyes, blinking hard and long as if it would help him put words into tiny little sentences that actually made sense. Power Girl smiled a coy, yet sensual smile as her fingers softly traced along his chin. Five o'clock shade, it'd been a long time since she'd felt those short and soft hairs scratch against her skin. They walked out into the night and over to the man's truck. If nothing else she'd stopped him from driving home, which was nice.
“Whaddya want lady?” his breath was warm against her nose, smell of beer and peanuts clogged her nostrils.
Her hand coiled around him, tracing his curves and surfaces. A farmer of sorts she figured, the body of a man who used it frequently in honest labour. Power Girl slithered her way into his pocket and secured his keys. Rattling them like a bell, beckoning him to join her she helped him inside his truck. With the keys secured in the glovebox the man started to protest with drunken slurs, how he was tired and needed to go home. He fell silent as she straddled him and slammed the door shut. Against the new moon they were largely swallowed by the night and its many shadows.
“Please tell me I'm your one and only or lie, and say that at least tonight you've got a brand new cure for lonely. When you turn off the lights I get stars in my eyes,” her hand caught his, stopping it before he turned on the lights and instead planted his palm on her breast. “Is this love? Maybe someday, so don't turn on the lights. I'll give you what you like...”
There was this sense of calm early in the morning. Douglas had allowed himself a quiet drive as the first streaks of daylight started to peek over the horizon. Hardly any cars were out yet so for the most part he had the whole Dixie highway to himself. Serene instrumental tunes filled the car tenderly. Ophelia and Sonja could spend some quality time together for once, just the two of them. Heading down south, he really didn't have a particular destination in mind. For now he was simply content following the road into the ever elusive horizon.
A loud bang made him snap to attention and both his hands gripped on to the steering wheel firmly as it started to shake. Slowing down to the shoulder of the road, Douglas rolled down the window and peeked outside. True enough he had a flat tire. He groaned and hit the wheel a couple of times. So much for peace and quiet.
“Well, it's not going to change itself I suppose,” he said before turning on the emergency lights.
He stretched and groaned in the cold, sharp morning air. Rubbing his hands together for warmth Douglas hurried to the back of his trunk for the tools needed for the job. With reflector west over his jacket and tools in hand, he took a moment to look over at the quiet Godman Army Airfield. That's where Ophelia worked, though he wasn't quite sure where her office was. After all, he'd never visited her there. He shrugged and got to work as the cold morning started to creep through his jacket and jeans.
The asphalt was cold, hard and unforgiving on his knee. Thankfully the jack decided to cooperate without any fuss, though the bolts on the tire stubbornly refused to budge. These times were rare, but when they did rear their ugly heads his way, it made Douglas miss the convenience of dating a superheroine. Though knowing Power Girl, she might get so frustrated she'd just kick the car into low orbit rather than actually change the tire.
Douglas chuckled lightly to himself at the thought, though quickly swallowed his small laugh when the ground shook as if something heavy had landed a few feet behind him. Frozen like a prey getting sized up by a predator, he inched around ever so slowly. Looking up Douglas saw a woman, tall and lean. She was rather scantily dressed for the season, solid black boots, thick pants and a pitch black sports bra. It took him a moment to connect the dots with the odd clothes and raven black hair, but he'd recognise those vibrant blue eyes anywhere.
“Mornin', I uh...” he got up and gestured at her, “like your new look. Better than the last one at least, even if it doesn't quite fit the season.”
He glanced up and down the road as a siren started to vail from the airfield, “Is that somehow related to you?”
“I'm not- I don't have much time. Just-” she threw an angry glare over her shoulder, her hands curled into solid fists.
“Oh right, before I forget,” Douglas went into the backseat of his car and handed over a book to her. “Found this one in the living room, figured you'd want to finish it. Consider it a thank you gift for what you've done for me. Also, I uh... never really got a chance to tell you this, but I'd like you to know- You've been one of the most important people in my life, you know that right?”
Looking down on the plain blue book cover, the title read Frankenstein or the modern Prometheus. She traced the white letters with her fingertips tenderly as if testing that it was indeed real. Her face started to tremble with emotion, shifting between open sobbing and a cracked smile. Rather than say anything she simply hugged the book close to her chest as if it was the most precious thing in the whole wide world. One last time she looked at him with tear filled eyes, trembling lips offering him a brave smile before she spun around and leaped high into the air, landing with a solid thud deep inside the airfield base.
Captain Sato put down her binoculars before she said, “Raise the anchor and set course for Montego Bay.”
A crewmember nodded and followed her instructions without a word. It didn't take long before the engines grumbled into life and the yacht slowly but surely started to move. Their route was set, they'd make a short stop at Montego before heading to Haiti, then have a change of crew at San Juan in Puerto Rico before rounding over the British Virgin Islands and arriving at their destination; Cooper Island. From there they could hop from island to island all the way down to Venezuela and their yacht could be transported to the Pacific by a yacht carrier.
The order came in almost as soon as Power Girl had returned from the US. She'd been late, spent the night testing out her new civilian identity. Along with a blunt comment that the new ID was not working, came the order to pack up and leave. She really wanted to be on the other side of the world with all due haste. Although it was easier for her to just fly over and wait for the boat to arrive weeks later, Power Girl would rather take the long trip. Apparently she had a lot on her mind and needed time to think.
A clacking sound of a heavy, stubborn door rang through the bridge, followed by shuffling feet. Power Girl came up by Captain Sato's side, still in her pyjamas and her hair all over the place. One large coffee mug was firmly in her hand, though by the looks of it, it hadn't kicked in just quite yet. She yawned, a few crewmembers even joined her, before she took a series of short sips from her mug. It was a quiet morning, the sea fairly quiet and no trouble on the horizon.
“Anything you wish to share with me ma'am?”
Power Girl's head bobbed softly up and down while sleep still had its threads firmly inside her mind, “Nah... it's all good. Just- you know, thinking over whether I should suit up or not. Retirement has a nice appeal. I've done my part, right?”
“I believe that is your decision ma'am,” Captain Sato said as she glanced over her shoulder to the crewmembers, “though it is not one you should take lightly.”
“Of course not. Stars above, why would I?” she patted the good captain on her shoulder. “Good thing I've got time to think it over though. That whole Kentucky mess is- well, it's just a mess on a whole different level.”
Captain Sato passed her today's newspaper, “Speaking of Kentucky. Looks like your friend Forman is on a roll. The first rumours of running for president has started buzzing after she... sent you packing.”
She grabbed the newspaper, grumbling to herself as she shifted through to the relevant page, “Ah... she'll tell them anything to get ahead.”
“Except the truth I assume,” Captain Sato adjusted some instruments, “I find it hard to believe that anyone would ever be able to send you packing.”
“Well she sells feelings,” Power Girl took a healthy swig from her coffee, “not facts. Most of her bullshit won't stand up to junior high school scrutiny. But in the halls of the blind, the one eyed man is king.”
“And you'll just take the beating, let her get away with it because retirement is so appealing?”
“Why captain,” Power Girl rested one elbow on the instrument counter and stroked Captain Sato's arm with soft seduction, “are you worried or perhaps even angry on my behalf?”
She scoffed and looked away, not able or willing to face Power Girl's relaxed approach on such a serious matter, “While the choice is ultimately yours, I've always viewed you as a person that would rather regret acting than sitting on your hands. At least then you can walk with your head raised high and say with confidence that you've tried.”
“It ran away?” Ophelia walked as fast as she could without straight up running down the hallway, staffers and assistants hot on her heels.
“We were doing routine checks on her sunlight absorption rate when she suddenly jumped high in the air and landed outside the airfield. Apparently she made contact with a driver who had a flat tire at Dixie highway. While Divine cooperated with us fully afterwards and is calm now, she does not know that we've taken the driver into custody.”
“Why on Earth would it want to run away?” Ophelia rounded another corner and was ushered into an interrogation room. Her heart sank when she saw who was sitting on the other side of the two-way mirror. “Doug?”
A military officer, major or something along those lines stood to attention and eyed her with suspicion, “You know this man?”
Douglas sat still, if not a little nervous in his seat. Beside a camera in the upper corner, the two chairs and the table the room was naked. He was worried, no doubt about that, though he also looked like he'd been in a similar pinch before. There was this inherit calm or understanding that if he made a fuzz now, his situation would not improve in the slightest. More on the contrary.
“Yes, uh... major? I do,” Ophelia said, “he's my boyfriend.”
“Why is a top secret military asset interested in your boyfriend, Ms. Day?”
Ophelia shrugged and made a confused face, “Your guess is as good as mine, sir. It could be anything. Divine has the mind and emotions of a child, there's not always a sound logic or rationale behind its actions. It could be something as simple as that's a funny looking colour.”
“This Douglas Sutherland character, Karen Starr was his legal guardian before she died. She was also close to Power Girl. Think there's a connection there?”
She thought about it for a moment, but in the end she said, “No... Not really, why?”
“We're well aware of your treatment of Divine and it has raised some concerns among certain psychologists that it might have given Divine a sexual imprint,” the major said as he collected his hat. “My team will make a clean slate with Divine's possessions and we'll move it to a new cell. In the meantime, fix this. So far he's not said a word to us, maybe you'll have better luck.”
“This is ridiculous major, I can assure you-”
“Ms. Day, if this is a joke, you're the only one laughing.”
The major took his leave, Ophelia's staff stepped out of his way going so far as to hug the walls as if touching him meant certain death. Slowly she dragged her palms down her face, a frustrated groan scraped against the bottom of her throat. What where the odds? Of all the people in all the world, it had to be him. God. Fucking. Damnit. Biting down on her lip, Ophelia collected her notebook and a pen and left without a word.
When Douglas first saw her, he lit up with a relived smile but it quickly faded as it didn't take a rocket science to realize that something was horribly wrong. The notebook slammed against the table, pen clattered by its side and Ophelia slumped down in her chair with a frustrated sigh. A couple of long minutes dragged their slow feet over an uncomfortable silence.
“Hi honey...” Douglas said, his soft words smashed the silence like a sledgehammer against glass.
“Don't. Just don't, okay?” Ophelia looked away while she massaged her temple with two fingers. “What the hell is going on?”
“Not sure,” he shrugged before folding his hands in front of him on the desk, “I went out for a drive, and got a flat tire and... an alarm went off at the airfield. Next thing I knew, a bunch of soldiers asked for ID and that I'd join them.”
She slammed her flat palm against the desk, “You met someone, right? They don't haul people in here for shits and giggles Douglas. This isn't some, some damn game, alright? I'm in deep trouble because of you.”
“Yeah, about that... where's Sonja?”
“Home, can't bring her here. Had to leave in a hurry since someone screwed up.”
Douglas blinked, “Wait... she has a babysitter, right? You didn't-”
“Who did you meet? Douglas, I'm trying to salvage what I can from my career. If this doesn't get fixed right here, right now, I'm out and we're not without steady income, alright?”
“Honey,” he leaned over across the desk, half standing from his chair with a serious expression, “did you leave Sonja home alone?”
“The sooner we fix this, the sooner we can get you out of here.”
“Are you nuts?! She's three years old Ophelia! Jesus Christ, you- you just dropped our daughter like some hot potato without hesitation? What's wrong with you?”
“Who. Did. You. Meet?”
He gritted his teeth and sighed, “A woman, tall. Dressed in black. Short black hair, blue eyes. Built like a boxer. She remin- she reminded me of Power Girl. Can I go now? I'd really like to go back to our daughter now. I'd be happy to come back and answer any questions, take any test or, or whatever but please... for the love of God, I have to make sure my daughter is okay.”
Ophelia scribbled down some notes in her book, “I'll see what I can do. No promises.”
Chapter 9: The Vengeful One
When people say that it is degrading to refer to her as Power Girl, because anyone with eyes in their head can tell that she's far more woman than girl, don't know what they're talking about. In Captain Sato's experience she's neither. Truth be told, when she puts her mind to something, she's a beast. Whether it be stubborn software code that refuses to make sense, a forest fire that simply would not yield or someone talking out of their asses.
In a lot of cases Power Girl lets these things slide, it's beneath her to run around with a fire extinguisher and put out ever foul word thrown in her direction. Not to mention futile and she does have better things to do, like talking a family mother away from jumping to her death for whatever reason. However there is a tipping point and once the scale shifts over, Power Girl will stomp the ever-living shit out of whatever it may be. It was a rather humble version of her beast mode that had played out the last few days, but it was there alright. Three days straight she'd been on the phone, save toilet and eating breaks. She'd called every person she could think of and ask them if they'd support her in a public hearing in Kentucky USA. Governor Shannon Forman was going down in a big ball of fire.
Power Girl wasn't the first person that came to mind when asked to think of a woman well equipped with a silver tongue or gifted in diplomatic navigation. Most people however didn't know that Karen Starr and Power Girl were the same person, and Karen Starr... well, let's just say that she was not some meek lady asking the big business men if anyone wanted more coffee. It also helped that Power Girl wasn't one that asked for favours, so when she did actually come knocking, plenty of people jumped at the chance.
“Seventy hours straight, just what are you made of?” Captain Sato took a seat across from her desk.
Power Girl put a finger to her lips, leaning back in her chair while she waited for the call to connect. She rolled her eyes with disappointment, the sound of the busy signal could faintly be heard before she hung up. Navigating through a spreadsheet on her laptop, Power Girl found the entry she was looking for and ruled it out.
“Oh you know; nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and misc. other stuff that I honestly can't be bothered to list,” she helped herself with a half-eaten pear, slurping up the juices from her wet bite.
“Quite the alliance you've got so far. Think it will be enough?”
The smart phone clattered against the desk as it got tossed aside, “Yeah... facts should beat feelings. Or at the very least sappy emotional testimonies should turn the tide in my favour.”
“When's the hearing?”
“Monday, ten o'clock.”
A seagull cried as it flew past the window, they'd arrive in port soon. It was what Captain Sato had come down to inform her of in the first place. Now they just sat there, opposite sides of a desk, quietly enjoying each other's company. It probably went without saying, but they'd wait in port until this mess was dealt with once and for all. Christmas wasn't far off and the crew would like to get a chance to visit their families if possible. Power Girl had not been one hot for holidays, so it was very likely she'd send the whole crew packing while she entertained herself either on the yacht or elsewhere.
Captain Sato fiddled a little with her hat, “These testimonies... will they include him?”
“Doug?” Power Girl stroke her chin lost in thought. “No. I'll leave him out of this. He's- he's done enough.”
“Our friend the governor might get to him if we don't. Anything can and most likely will be used against you, public or not.”
“Stars and stones, what is this? Are they- they just pawns on some chessboard captain?”
She straightened in her seat and looked at Power Girl, “To governor Forman they most certainly are. Everything and everyone is an asset, a stepping stone for her to advance her agenda or her career.”
Power Girl put her hands on her hips, frowning with disapproval. As she crossed her arms across her chest she said, “And we should just follow suit? I'm better than that.”
“Yes ma'am, the decision is yours of course.”
Even a few floors above their destination, Ophelia could hear it. A hollow metallic bang, distant yet growing closer. As the elevator stopped and the doors slid aside, the flat and naked concrete walls of the hallway gave the banging a cold and alien distortion. Ophelia got escorted away from the sound and into a side office. On the desk was a variety of items; clothes, towels, tooth brush, tooth paste as well as a photograph and a book. Major Stern stood sharp and straight like a razor by the table. She wasn’t sure if that was his real name, it was just a mental hook she’d hung him on. Mainly because of his constant stern look, the man had not a single curve. He was all angles, straight and sharp.
“Ms. Day, care to explain this?” he held the photograph of Douglas as if it was radioactive.
“A photograph of my boyfriend,” Ophelia said, tossing a handful of hair over her shoulder, “I used it as leverage against Divine to get her to be more… cooperative. The higher ups were uncomfortable with the idea that it took commands only from me. So I figured if we used an external… ‘carrot’ if you will, it wouldn’t matter who was giving the commands as long as the threat of removing the carrot was real. I used hormonal treatment to accelerate the process of attraction. It worked.”
“It never occurred to you to use something else, like a photo of a staff member or a stock photo?”
She gave him a false, stiff smile before she said, “Call it intuition, but I somehow knew that this photo would grant us the highest success rate.”
“I see…” he tossed the photo aside with the flick of his wrist and picked up the book, “and this?”
Ophelia frowned and took the book in her hands, “Not my idea. I mean it can read, but we’ve been very strict with what materials it has access to.”
“Fingerprints found on it match Mr. Sutherland, care to explain that?”
“Well I-” she bit down on her lip, “if- I mean- it’s just a guess, speculation but-”
“Quit stalling and spill it out already!”
Ophelia flinched and smiled nervously as she put the book away, “I’d say- he, he must have given it to her. As to why… You’d have to ask him. I really have no idea.”
The major scoffed and shook his head before he left, slamming the door hard behind him. Checking with the guards, Ophelia was allowed to talk to Divine, but only through the prison cell door. If there was any sign of aggression she’d be suspended from all interaction with Divine until further notice. Even with a solid metal door, there were thin, thin cracks in the concrete that held on to the frame and the door’s surface was not smooth and flat like glass. Rather it was littered with dozens of small dents and bulges from something hitting on it from the opposite side.
Heavy panting and breathing could be heard on the other side of the door whenever the banging took a pause. Growls of frustration clashed against the walls of the tiny cell, restless feet paced around and scraped over the concrete floor. Ophelia stood as close as she dared, even if the armed guards would probably let her take a few steps closer she kept her distance. Her eyes closed and she appeared to think things over, evaluating words, weighing one phrase against the other before she raised her chin and spoke up.
A short and sharp gasp came from the cell, “Ms. Day? Ms. Day is that you?”
“It’s okay Divine, I need you to calm down, okay? Can you do that for me?”
“They took it,” her voice got closer, distorted as it washed against the cell door, “my picture, my book. They’re mine! You hear?! I. Want. Them. Back. NOW!”
“Divine, they took those things away because you did something bad,” the hairs at the back of her neck stood up, yet Ophelia did a remarkable job of keeping fear out of her voice. “You’re not allowed outside, you know that. I told you. Everyone told you. You knew that if you did something bad, we’d take away your picture. Why did you do it? Can you tell me what happened?”
“It’s not fair. They asked me to do it, to look ahead as far as I could. I saw Doug and, and I got so excited that before I knew it, I was running. Running faster than I’d ever ran and just like that I was high up in the air and, and landed next to him.”
“I see,” Ophelia swallowed and took a pause. “Divine, I’ll try to get your picture and book back, but in the meantime you’ll have to be good, okay? Behave and do what you’re told.”
A silence, almost as if death was holding its breath, followed. Ophelia looked up, her eyes traced along the upper edges of the cell door. She waited a moment, then another. As she turned and started to away, Ophelia’s steps betrayed her uneasiness. With the elevator doors closing in, becoming larger in her field of view, straight fear leaked through her movements. Well inside the elevator, she let out a sigh of relief before the shakes kicked in. The adrenaline was wearing off. Looking at her trembling hand it was clear to Ophelia that there was something about Divine’s wrath that triggered some primal caveman flight or fight response.
Back in her office, Ophelia looked over her notes and various reports in an effort to find some way to calm Divine down. If at all possible she’d like to keep Divine on her hormone treatment, so that ruled out drugs as a means to keep it calm. After hours of digging through piles of reports, obscure spreadsheets and poorly written presentation slides, Ophelia had a small breakthrough. A tiny memo mentioned that indoor tanning would give an increase in serum beta-endorphin levels by 44%. Ophelia’s mind drifted back to her school days, where it was pointed out that beta-endorphin is associated with feelings of relaxation and euphoria. While the results might not be a staggering 44% due to the hybrid nature of the subject, she figured it was worth a shot.
“Hello? I’d like to have a tanning bed,” she held the phone handle in place between her cheek and shoulder. “Yes. Yes, I know. I’m- listen, tell them it is for calming down the subject. I even have papers proving that this is not a wild goose chase.”
The lid on the tanning bed creaked up a few inches, an angry set of eyes looked through the crack and grew slightly softer at the sight of Douglas' photo and the book. Divine closed the lid for the twelfth time and tried to rest, relax and simply take in the light. It stung at her eyes and tickled her skin, the slow hum the bed gave off had increased in volume. Every sound was rattling against her brain and whenever she tried to shift the focus of her eyes away from the light, she saw things seemingly beyond the lid. The fluorescent bulbs appeared to fade away, a thin transparent veil took over for the otherwise solid lid and a web of metal bars revealed itself inside the concrete ceiling.
Even if she was isolated in her cell, tucked away inside the tanning bed, strange new sounds found their way to her ears. Heartbeats, breathing and footsteps from the guards and personnel outside her door and in the hallway above her cell banged and hammered at Divine with a relentless drive. Faint smells seemed to storm her senses with every breath, it forced her to breathe through her mouth just to give her nose some much needed rest. All of these sensory assaults had started faintly, until they slipped over some invisible hurdle and made a mad dash towards some ever elusive finish line.
Her hand pressed against the lid, pushing it aside. She sat up, knees trembled as she swallowed hard. A coat of sweat slithered down her face while Divine squinted her eyes, adjusting from the change of light. Her focus shifted from the table with the book and picture, through the concrete wall where blurry silhouettes of the guards could be seen. She shook her head, trying to turn her attention inwards and away from the outside world. It helped bringing her vision into focus, yet it brought the loud, hammering sound of her own heartbeat up front and centre. Divine hunkered down, covering her ears to no effect.
“Make it stop, make it stop…” her voice came out as a weak whimper as she curled together into a tight, vulnerable ball.
Tender fingers picked up the photo and a wave of serenity washed over her. Gone were the noises, the visions and the smells. There was only Doug. Behind her eyelids she painted a vivid image of the two of them. It was spring, bright and sunny with life bursting out of every flower and bird. Rich colours as far as the eye could see, a soothing breeze ran its transparent fingers through Divine’s raven black hair. Douglas was by her side, offering his hand with a smile. Her cheeks flushed red as she bashfully took his hand. Laughter tickled her ears, his smile grew to a wide grin as his laughter continued to roll over the grassy plains. Everything was perfect in that one, imaginary moment.
Douglas sat down, took both her hands in his and said, “I'll be here...”
“I’ll be 'waiting'... here...” he nodded out at the scenery.
She looked out at the horizon, seeing nothing but a few fleeting clouds, “For what?”
“I’ll be waiting... for you...so... if you come here... you’ll find me.”
Divine looked at him sceptically for a moment before he smiled at her and said in an assuring tone, “I promise.”
A cloud of steam bellowed out from underneath the iron, it hissed and gurgled with an angry fit. Douglas ran his hand over the jeans, it was smooth and warm to the touch. As his partially fogged up glasses cleared up, he glanced into the living room and saw Sonja mulling over with a toy fire truck. She’d been in tears when he’d arrived home after several hours being stuck in custody. Ever since Sonja had refused to let him out of her sight, even closing the bathroom door for a toilet break was out of the question. Mommy had officially been branded the bad guy and so far all efforts to convince her of otherwise had failed.
“Sonja, honey? Want to help dad fold clothes?” he said after he’d packed away the iron.
Without a word Sonja got up and walked over with short, quick steps. Diligently she worked with the t-shirts, using a quick and neat little folding trick Douglas had taught her. When they came back downstairs after putting the clothes away in various closets and drawers, Douglas took a pause from the chores with a quick TV break. While he was zapping through the channels, Sonja tugged lightly at his pants. She gestured with her arms, a silent plea to be picked up and Douglas humoured her. Safe and sound on daddy’s lap, Sonja smiled for the first time that day.
“-so what Power Girl has said is that regardless of the outcome of next week’s hearing, she will respect it,” the reported said to his co-workers in the studio.
“George, does this mean that she’ll stop acting inside the US in total or is this just Kentucky we’re talking about here?”
“Power Girl herself haven’t said so,” George shifted his footing a little, “though several sources are under the impression that this will be it. Whether other states or even D.C. decides to follow governor Forman’s example will be irrelevant. Power Girl will most likely formally withdraw her license to operate in the US.”
“Thank you George, reporting live from the Kentucky State Capitol Building. People are greatly divided over the issue; many say that we’ve managed just fine over the past six years during Power Girl’s absence, while others again point to civil unrest as proof that things will only get worse if the mistress of might decides to leave for good. Even if Power Girl withdraws from the US, there’s no shortage of countries that would like to host the alien. Japan’s foreign minister Akira Maki, mentioned at a press conference yesterday that they’ve already been in dialogue with Power Girl. Minister Maki said that Japan still haven’t forgotten Power Girl’s search and rescue efforts during the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and would be deli-”
Douglas turned off the TV before he gave Sonja a warm bear hug, “Daddy, is your friend going away?”
He smiled at her and ruffled her hair a little, “Yeah, looks like it sweetheart.”
“Because,” he lifted her off his lap, “a while ago she got very angry and did some bad things. Some people are scared she might do it again.”
Sonja pondered it a while, following her dad around like a shadow, “But is- does daddy’s friend- uhm… is she bad? Like mommey?”
That made Douglas pause. He glanced down at Sonja who fidgety waited for his answer, the coffee cup in his hand got put back in the closet. In the end he scooped her up and snuggled into her cheek. Part of him wanted to say yes, she's bad just like mommy. Both women were in a position to really hurt the people that were close to them. Another part of him rejected the idea, neither of them were inherently bad or straight up evil. They were just... humanly flawed.
It was late in the night when Ophelia came home from work. From the outside the house was just a dark silhouette that blocked out the starry sky. Inside was no different, it was silent and black like a tomb. She took a light stroll through the first floor, even in the dim street lights that creeped through the windows it was clear that everything was kept neat and clean. At the top of the staircase the one light source in the house made Ophelia pause. A thin beam of light from a crack in the master bedroom door sliced the hallway in half. For a moment Ophelia weighed her options, though in the end she steeled herself as best she could and entered the bedroom.
“Hey there,” she said with a soft voice.
Douglas looked up from his book before his eyes darted to the alarm clock, “Late again, huh?”
“Yeah, sorry. Work’s been real-” her apologetic smile faded when she realized Sonja slept soundly by Douglas side.
“Oh,” he followed her gaze, “she does this now. Terrified of being alone, it’s the only way I can get her to sleep.”
Ophelia swayed lightly in place, hesitant how to proceed. She cleared her throat while a crooked smile briefly climbed up in the corner of her mouth. After a moment of awkward inaction, Ophelia just turned and started to undress, putting her clothes away in the wardrobe just by the door. “Well, now that’s she’s asleep I’m sure we can ease her into her own bed-”
“This is the last time.”
Douglas put the book aside and eased out of bed, careful not to wake up Sonja. A gentle hand took Ophelia by the elbow and guided her softly outside into the dark hallway, “It's really the last time. I’m done faithfully hanging on to a fading dream. So why don't we just let go?”
“What? Douglas, what are you saying?”
He put a quiet and patient finger on his lips to get Ophelia to lower her voice. “It’s not working Ophelia. Even a blind man can see that.”
“No. No, no, no, you don’t-” she swallowed down and pointed an accusing finger at him. “I came back to you. What's it going to be? Tell me, what's it going to be? What's it going to be?”
“It's up to you,” Douglas shrugged, “but I’m taking Sonja first thing tomorrow.”
Ophelia’s jaw seemed to drop all the way to the South Pole. Meek and spineless Douglas Sutherland was taking a bite at her. Even if she was tired and stuck in a dark hallway in the middle of the night, she could tell that he was awfully determined to see this through. By reflex she scoffed and crossed her arms across her chest, shaking her head. He waited for a reply, minutes dragged their sorry little feet across space at a snail’s pace. In the end Douglas did that little eyebrow thing, a subtle gesture that grabbed a megaphone and screamed “well, guess that’s it then” right in her face. Just as he turned to go back to the bedroom, Ophelia’s jaw locked down hard.
“You’re going back to it, aren’t you?”
Douglas paused, a flabbergasted expression on his face as he said, “What…?”
“There's no need for you to lie, you know? Love has left your eye. Yeah, I- I can see it now. And, and, and the fire in our relationship went out. Like a fading star. Like your black-holed heart. Assuming it was lit in the first place. Rig- right from the start- you and me. We were light years apart. I know you find it, oh so relieving- that it’s out there, waiting for you.”
“Listen, I know you find it hard to believe, but I have no idea what or who you’re talking about.”
Ophelia slapped him square on the cheek, “You're going back to that thing, that, that blonde whore!”
She raised her hand for a second strike and Douglas caught her wrist just before her palm connected, “I. Have. No one. Least of all her.”
They stood facing one another for a moment before Ophelia snatched her wrist free. Without missing a beat, Douglas got dressed in a hurry and woke up Sonja. His voice was calm and patient as he helped her get dressed so she was at least somewhat sheltered from the cold winter night outside. His old school backpack got hastily stuffed with some basics before he carried a drowsy Sonja on his arm downstairs.
Chapter 10: You Are Mine
When Eddie woke up, annoyed by a buzzing sound and periodical massage of his cheek, he was grateful that his mom bought him a waterproof phone. Smashed into the pillow and surrounded by a wet drool stain, the phone threw a hissy fit worthy of a jealous girlfriend. He rubbed some sleep off his face when he mumbled into the phone, “'Sup sis? What time-”
“Eddie, you need to come back home. Right now.”
That hit him like a bucket of ice water. Pamela wasn't one that played games and cry wolf. By the sound of her voice it was bad. “Okay, I'm on my way. What's up?”
“It's Douglas. He- he showed up in the middle of the night with Sonja on the arm. It's bad Eddie, real bad. He needs some help to collect the rest of their stuff and he needs a friend. Poor guy looks like a pile of ash.”
Eddie moved straight as an arrow, got dressed, grabbed some fruit and went right for his car. The old heap protested for a couple of minutes, a lonesome night in the bitter cold had made it a little cranky to say the least. Nothing that a little cussing and some solid slaps on the steering wheel couldn't fix. At least that's what Eddie told himself when the engine finally decided to wake up.
It was just around lunch time when he rolled into his parents’ driveway. Save for a couple of pit stops for coffee, Eddie had gone as fast as the speed limit would let him. Not that his busted old ride could go any faster without turning into a ball of fire anyway. The front door flung open and he looked around his immediate area a few times before his eyes landed on Douglas sitting in the living room. He had Sonja on his lap and they were apparently reading some sort of kids’ book. The sofa had been made into a makeshift bed.
“Hey, how's it hangin'?” he said.
Douglas looked up from the book, his face tired and his eyes bloodshot red behind his glasses. “Been better.”
“Ah man, look I'm sorry alright? Shi- stuff like-”
“Uncle Eddie!” Sonja said as she wiggled herself free from her father.
“Hey there little cutie,” he patted her on the head as she hugged his legs.
Douglas forced a smile as he put the book away, “Sonja, can you check with Pam what we'll have for lunch?”
With Sonja out of earshot, Eddie sank down in the chair opposite of the sofa. He puffed his cheeks and blew out a long, silent breath. Eddie was solid, even if he had next to no idea how to handle the situation at hand, Douglas knew he was solid. It didn't matter if he didn't have all the answers or had all the right moves. Right now what mattered was the intent, and Eddie's was pure as snow.
“So, ah... we're moving your stuff?”
Douglas nodded, his fingers fidgeted with one another. Just as the shakes started to set in, he clasped his hands together tightly. “Figured we just- uhm, get a bite first. No need to run around on an empty stomach.”
“Right. Good call,” Eddie said nodding his head slowly in agreement. “Where to? Where do we move your stuff?”
“Uh... dude, you're going to live in your car?”
He shrugged, there was a helpless dangling to his shoulders as he did. “Kinda just making up things as I go here Eddie. Not like I had all of this planned out months in advanced.”
“Damn son. That's tough.”
The kitchen seemed so big and empty as Ophelia poked her cereal around in her bowl. Even the smallest sound, from spoon clattering against the bowl to putting the glass down, went off like a thunderstorm. She scrubbed her slipper clad feet across the floor in short, weak steps all the way to the kitchen counter. A jolt ran through her when the doorbell rang, the glass slipped from her hand and clashed against the sink. Ophelia looked around and over her shoulders while wiping her hands dry on her bathrobe.
Carefully she navigated the living room, which had over the previous night shifted from a neatly kept room to a bomb site. Tightening the robe around herself, Ophelia unlocked the front door and peeked through the crack. On the other side stood Power Girl, strains of her blonde hair stood up like an antenna that swayed gently in the morning breeze.
“What do you want?” Ophelia's words creaked and groaned like an old pirate ship.
A brief moment of bafflement flashed over Power Girl's eyes before she said, “This is where Douglas Sutherland lives, right? I'd like a word with him.”
“The hearing. I'm not sure how up to date you are on the news, but-”
Ophelia scoffed, “He's not here.”
“Oh. Okay, any idea where he went or when he'll be back?”
She snorted out a laugh, “You tell me. Bastard left me for you, didn't he?”
“Oh-kaaay, I'll- you know what? Nevermind,” Power Girl said before she took her leave.
Through the crack in the door, Ophelia eyed her accent with a lazy, bloodshot eye. Her glare made a poor man’s job at hiding her contempt for the mistress of might. She closed the door, turning her angry eyes at the phone that had started scraping against the kitchen counter, throwing short, hissy fits with each vibration. A pale shade of purple slipped between the phone screen and the counter before Ophelia snatched it up, bathing her skin with it.
A short, barely audible gasp came at the other end before a lab assistant presented himself, “We really need you back at the office ma’am. The subject is rather… restless.”
“Elaborate you piece of shit, don’t just spit out vague words,” Ophelia’s lips curled into a snarl as she spoke. “If I wanted a puzzle, I’d fiddle with a Rubik's Cube until my fingernails dropped off.”
“Uhm… well, the thing is the subject has slept through most of the night. A solid ten hours’ worth, but after it read through the book several times back to back, it refuses to listen to our orders. It’s also strangely resilient against sleep gas. We’re hesitant to increase the dosage without your input.”
Ophelia’s tired mind slugged along like a cold starting car before the words actually sank in. Something was off, that much was for certain. Previously they’d simply worked Divine to the bone and it would fall asleep like a rock before its head hit the pillow. However, since its confinement it had gotten loads and loads of idle time on its hands. The tanning bed had helped, though it only bought Ophelia some time so she could haggle with the brass. It wasn’t much, but at least she managed to get the book and photo back. Now though it seemed that the dog needed another bone to chew on.
“Okay, okay… I’ll- I’ll be there in a few, just don’t do anything rash or stupid.”
The stairway to the second floor seemed to tremble with each step Ophelia took, skipping one step at the time. With a hurried fluff the bathrobe got tossed aside on the bed before she stepped into the shower for a quick and cold splash. Still dripping wet, Ophelia hastily scrubbed her hair dry with a towel while she looked over her clothing options. A few quick sweeps of the towel was all she bothered with before getting dressed, shirt and underwear sucked themselves close to her skin as they drank up the remaining water. Make-up would have to wait, if she even bothered at all.
Power Girl squinted her eyes in the sun, raising a hand to block it out as she peered into the curved horizon. This high up, even she had to strain her ears to pick up the voices. She listened for a good hour before she was satisfied. Governor Forman or any of her staff hadn't set their sights on Douglas. With hearing starting the next day, it was unlikely that they'd be able to get the paperwork in place and even if they did, Power Girl felt confident that Douglas would rather not be a part of it. If nothing else he'd stall long enough to wiggle free.
“Right, so that leaves my to-do list for today complete,” she said while she nodded approvingly. Not quite the same as preventing a five thousand passenger cruise ship from sinking, but these were different days.
With the wind tugging on her cape, Power Girl relaxed and let gravity fold its embrace around her as she started to fall. Air rustled and hissed past her ears, thousands of cold drops of water poked her skin as Power Girl fell through a cloud and the world below grew closer. Still in free fall, she shifted around and spotted various landmarks from the life she once had. Roads grew thicker, the tiny ant sized cars got more details and curves. She rolled over and gently pressed onwards in her new direction, setting her sights on the old Starr manor.
Power Girl's tall frame came to an unnatural, yet smooth stop a few inches over the ground before sinking down. Underneath her feet the gravel in the driveway rustled and scraped slightly with each step. Her old lawn had seen better days, the grass was tall enough to tickle her knees with some very healthy weeds scattered about. Glancing over her shoulder, Power Girl spotted a For Sale sign that looked like it had weathered half a decade.
The steps were slow and nostalgic as she walked around the house, her palms gently brushing against the top of the grass. Despite the cold weather and dead looking grass, Power Girl had a peaceful, almost serene smile on her face. She greeted her reflection in the dirty windows with a subtle nod before turning away from the dark and empty rooms beyond. Just after she rounded the corner, Power Girl came to a soft, uneven stop when she saw the boarded up window to Douglas’ old reading room. A thin coat of paint had been hastily smeared over the yellow brick wall. Cracks had formed, freeing small flakes of paint which revealed what they tried to hide. Crude words painted with fat brushes and thick, dark paint. Their straight and fast lines reeked of fearful anger.
“Power Girl, are you there?” Captain Sato’s voice poked into her from the earpiece.
“Right here captain, what do you need?”
“Just wanted to inform you that we’ve docked and are currently restocking supplies. When can we expect you back?”
She ran her fingers across the wooden boards, tracing down a streak of rust from one of the nails before she said, “Be back in a jiffy.”
“Oh, so you’re not far out then I take it?”
“Just saying my goodbyes. I don’t think there’ll be a chance to do it after tomorrow.”
“All I’m saying is, it’s not right. You know?” Eddie picked up a box of clothes, balancing it on his leg to get a better grip.
Douglas hunched down over a cardboard box and tore out a piece of packing tape, “I appreciate the offer, but-”
The box dropped from Eddie’s hands with a thick thumb, “No buts man. You can crash at my folks place no problem. I’m not using my room. Pam’s cool with it. Mom’s cool with it. Pop’s cool with it too.”
“When will you ever give this a rest?”
“Dude, winter is coming and no, that’s not some cheap game of thrones reference. That’s like, fact. Hell, it’s already here. You and little Sonja in a car, during Christmas? Get the hell out of here man. You’ve busted your balls for me plenty of times, let me return the favour man.”
He put the tape roll away, a slight sigh escaped him with a smile. Douglas shrugged and nodded his head after giving it a small moment of thought. “Alright. Alright, you win Eddie.”
“It’ll work out bro, don’t you sweat it. Fresh start, turn over another page and all that other stuff,” Eddie said as he picked up the box again. “In fact if we’re smart about this, we get your ass a job. Starting tomorrow, we’ll shop around to see if there’s any fools out here smart enough to hire you.”
“You’re a solid guy Eddie, especially when it counts.”
Eddie scoffed and had a smart grin on the corner of his mouth, “Well look at Captain Obvious over here. Shit…”
The two of them finished loading the car with boxes, a couple of suitcases and a duffle bag. For the most part it was things for Sonja; clothes, school related things and some toys. Douglas was painfully disciplined with his own things, packing a single suitcase to the brim with clothes. His book collection was left behind, it wasn’t important right now and they were low on space. He left a note on the kitchen table for Ophelia, explaining that it was over and that the two of them would eventually have to sit down and talk about the finer details.
“We good?” Eddie asked as Douglas closed his door.
He shrugged, “As good as it gets given the circumstances.”
“Alright, off we go then.”
On the way back home to good old West Point, they stopped for gas and something that could remind of a late lunch. With Eddie operating the gas pump with all the swag and grace of a university student, Douglas tried to make the soda machine accept his money. His tongue was on fire while his flushed face pressed out both sweat beads and tears. Yet another painful reminder that when Eddie commented that the food had a little kick in it, said food was not suitable for mortals to consume. As the dollar bill finally slithered inside the machine, there was a distant yet iconic sound that seemed to rattle the clouds above.
The sonic boom made both of them pause and exchange glances at one another before looking up while slowly spinning in place. They couldn’t see anything beyond the pale grey carpet of clouds and as the disappointment sank in, Douglas’ taste buds flared up again. “You okay there buddy?” Eddie said, gas pump in hand.
“Oh- hah, I’ll- I’ll live,” Douglas coughed a few times, “just- just give me a minute or- seven.”
“Sorry about the chili ketchup, used to prank Pam with it back in the day. Guess I should have given you the heads up.”
“Yeah, but…” he swallowed down his drink, “I should know better by now. Nine out of ten times you like your food like molten rocks. That’s old news. Remember fourth grade?”
“What, Mrs. Stein? Yeah, first time we got to see an ambulance at school. Never thought a fifty year old lady would take me up on a dare.”
Douglas tossed the empty soda can away, “You never stop learning Eddie. Ready to go?”
“Yup, looks like we’re all set,” Eddie said as he put the pump away. “Think that was Power Girl right now?”
He adjusted his glasses a little while looking up at the distant horizon, “Probably, don’t know anyone else that punches through the sound barrier around here.”
“Dude, the hearing.”
Douglas circled around the car and opened the passenger door, “What about it?”
“It’s tomorrow right? You gonna attend or something?”
He made a face at Eddie before he got into the car, “What on earth for?”
“I dunno,” he got in and fumbled a little with the ignition key, “testify or something. You’d vouch for her, right?”
“Eddie, I-” a helpless hand gesture wobbled around before it landed like a dead fish in his lap, “I barely knew her. She saved my life, probably, and- well, she visited Karen a few times while I lived with her. It’s not like that makes me qualified to be a character witness. Pretty sure she has someone else that can do that for her.”
“Like who? Ms. Starr was like the only one she knew with right? They were tight together, like bros. or uh… sis’?”
“I don’t know. Police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses… she was not Atlas, holding the whole world on her shoulders all on her own.” He looked over at Eddie who had an unconvinced deadpan expression on his face. “What? You want to go to the hearing?”
“Uh-huh, you damn straight I want to.”
“Alright, I’m not your daddy,” Douglas pocketed his hands, “You a big boy now Eddie, you a man! You go and do what you wanna do, alright?”
The car started and they rolled gently out of the gas station and on to the high way, “Shit dude, don’t get all farmer talk on me. And wipe that shitty grin of your face, ‘cause you’re coming with me.”
“Me? What for?”
“Dude, your life has gone down the shitter like a fat load of diarrhea. You need to get out and get some fresh air on that pretty face of yours. Plus nothing lifts a man’s spirit up as fast and efficiently as a nice pair of titties.”
“Oh Christ, you want to gawk at Power Girl…”
“It’s not gawking if she’s into you dude. Then it’s like… totally okay or something.”
The light from the monitor stabbed at Ophelia's eyes. Her arms dragged themselves across her desk like heavy chains and her stomach gurgled a protest at irregular intervals. By her side Ophelia had a small tray of syringes for blood sampling, all of them empty with broken needles. Aside from rocking a Hawaiian tan, Divine looked very much the same when they'd met. It had taken some sweet talking, but eventually she'd calmed down enough to have a blood sample taken. Problem was that the needles wouldn't penetrate her skin and eventually snap. Divine didn't respond to any discomfort either, despite the significant pressure put on her skin.
Ophelia ran it over in her head again, cupping her forehead in her palms to keep her brain from sloshing around in her skull. Whatever the reason was, chances were good that it was standing right in front of her, giggling like a little piece of shit. As soon as Ophelia's tired mind would connect the dots, she'd strangle the hell out of it. Half a day and more or less a full night of staring at the same problem and she had nothing to show for. She scrolled up and down the inbox on her mail account, catching only a fraction of the words as they buzzed by. Still nothing would connect.
A frustrated sigh escalated to angrily shaking the mouse around before she started clicking at things on the screen without rhyme or reason. When Ophelia simmered down, her once tidy display had been twisted into an unrecognizable mess. An old email with a bloated attachment caught her eye. The attachment was titled Photonucleic Effect – An In-depth Analysis. She opened it and scrolled through the pages with a disinterested expression. Dozens of pages in she saw something that made her pause and straighten in her chair.
It was the rough outline of a hypothesis that an O-type star had the ability to supercharge a Kryptonian, potentially many times more than the G-type star such as the sun. The basis for the hypothesis was that O-type stars had the bulk of their radiation output in the ultraviolet range. Obviously it had never been properly tested, since O-type are the rarest of all main-sequence stars. About 1 in 3,000,000 of the main-sequence stars in the solar neighbourhood are O-type stars. Also Power Girl had never been to space, let alone outside the solar system. Even if it was untested, the logic was sound. This new piece of information got the gears in Ophelia's head turning. They knew that Divine could get similar power set from being exposed to sunlight and it also had the same ability to store any energy unspent in muscle tissue. More muscle equalled more storage capacity, something Power Girl found out early in her career.
“Okay... okay, okay, okay,” Ophelia got up and started to scribble notes on a whiteboard. “So ultraviolet radiation is more potent than fully fledged sunlight. We're dealing with a hybrid, so there's a mix of two DNA, thus limited- uhm, charge rate and also storage capacity. But- but if we utilize the full surface area of the subject rather than losing roughly half due to single light source and shadow- we... we can compensate and, and...”
She stepped back a few steps looking over her notes, her green eyes darting from one end of the many equations to the other. A smile cracked across her face before she started slowly applauding herself while laughing, “Holy shit. I beat her. I... beat the mistress of might. Suck it bitch!”
Ophelia smiled and hummed a little tune to herself as she headed for the cafeteria for a late breakfast. The cafeteria staff was busy preparing the hot dish for the day and instead of the usual radio tunes, they'd turned on the news. Main story of the day was the Power Girl hearing, even national news were flocking over it. They kept showing footage when the cameras panned away from the reporters on site and up in the sky as Power Girl made her entrance. Ophelia watched with half-hearted interest in the corner of her eye as she helped herself from the fruit counter. After concluding another story, they cut back to the hearing which was currently taking a small break. Power Girl sat in her chair, half turned around with her arm casually resting over the back of the chair. Ophelia took a loud, sleazy bite of an apple; fat drops of juice tickled down her chin.
“Bitch…” she said, a piece of apple slipped out from her mouth.
On the TV screen, Power Girl smiled and laughed while talking to someone off screen. The camera shifted to another feed and in the background Ophelia spotted Douglas. Her apple slipped from her hand and her red shot eyes grew wide. An outstretched hand trembled slightly at the screen and Ophelia’s jaw hung open like an unhinged door. On live television Douglas sheepishly smiled and waved at Power Girl and that fucking bitch waved back. Ophelia’s hand pulled back close to her chest where it shrunk into a pale white fist. Her stride out of the cafeteria was straight and sharp like a razor’s edge. Taking the elevator would probably be faster, but clacking down the many stairs in high heels was a nice way to vent without popping a vein or seven in her head.
She took a quick pit-stop at her office, a short internet search later and she headed straight for the printer. After Ophelia snatched her printout, her next stop was Divine’s cell. The guard let her in without a word, judging by his expression he’d probably let her in even if she didn’t have recovered her clearance. “Divine, we need to talk.”
“Okay, what is it? I’ve never seen you so… upset before.”
“Sit. Sit down. Now look at this,” she waved her printout in front of Divine’s face.
“Who’s this? What’s with the weird clothes?”
“That my dear, is Power Girl,” Ophelia paced in a small, agitated circle, “and she’s going to hurt Douglas.”
“What?! Why?!” Divine shot up from her seat, the paper crumbled in her hands.
Ophelia scoffed, “She’s- well, she uses men. Seduces them, uses them, drains them dry if you will and then- when she is done, she throws them away. Sadly she’s set her eyes on Douglas.”
“So? She can just be stopped, right? Like the guards in here. Don’t you have guards outside?”
“That’s the problem,” Ophelia hugged Divine close, whispering in her ear, “Power Girl is strong, just like you. Guards won’t stop her, but you… you can. Can’t you?”
Divine looked down at her hand, closing it in a fist, “I- I can- I’m not sure, but I can try. I feel… different. Lighter or something like that.”
“They won’t let you out of here, so if you want to save Douglas and stop Power Girl once and for all, you’ll have to break free. Can you do that? For Douglas?”
“If I don’t?”
Ophelia shrugged, pulling away from the hug, “Douglas will die.”
Chapter 11: Divine Punishment
There was a shift in the mood, as if the air itself cooled off and cemented itself from informal chit-chat to the strict protocol of government. People simmered down, found their seats and put away their phones or other little trinkets. Voices sunk down to small whispers as anticipation climbed upwards at a steady pace. They were about to resume the hearing when Power Girl glanced over her shoulder, seemingly looking off into the distance with a concerned frown on her face.
Governor Forman cleared her throat and leaned into her microphone, “Something wrong?”
“Hope not,” Power Girl said, slowly turning around in her seat, reluctant to let go of her gaze, “it's just that it is unusual for the alarm over at Godman Army Airfield to go off like that.”
“Well, I'm certain they can handle it, now if we-”
Governor Forman's words were cut off with the sudden shattering of glass out in the hallway just beyond the door. Shouts of protest from the staff and guards twisted into bone-chilling shrieks of pain, intertwined with whimpering pleas of mercy. The crowd in the room grew restless, shifting their eyes from the door over to Power Girl. She looked confused and baffled as if what she was seeing and hearing somehow didn't add up.
A loud crash came against the door, the hinges creaked against the wooden frame. People shuffled away from it, slipping out of their chairs and into each other's laps. Power Girl slowly rose from her seat, like a loyal guard she pulled herself straight. Wooden splinters showered the room as the double doors bulged inwards before they came to a dangly rest on the side. Screams of panic shot through the crowd as the common man and woman shrunk away in fear.
In the doorway a woman stood, tall and strong with her stance wide. She held in her hand a limp body, her tanned skin had a generous splatter of blood over it. Cold, blue eyes searched the room from side to side with a slow doll like patience. The woman's face carried no emotion, it had a deadpan indifference to it that was uncharacteristically human. It wasn't until her eyes landed on Power Girl that her calm demeanor cracked open to a furious glare.
Power Girl blinked with confusion before she pointed a small finger at herself as if wondering why she was in the center of attention. The woman dropped the lifeless body like a sack of trash and jogged into the room like a charging bull. They collided and for a fraction of a second genuine surprise was on Power Girl's face; something was different, something was terribly wrong. Her foot shot backward, securing it against the floor. Despite her stable footing, the woman's charge did not let up. She pressed on until the floor itself cracked and caved under the forces.
Power Girl shot a quick glance over her shoulder while struggling to contain the woman, “Move! Out of the way!”
The panel of officials who sat up on the panel scattered to either side like scared kittens just before the two women shot off like a crude cannonball, punching through several walls until they were out in the open. Loud booms could be heard as the ground shook and car alarms sprung to life all over the parking lot. Then came the fire alarm, its metallic ringing, and steady rhythm overruled almost everything else. Staff managed to collect their wits enough to get people to leave the building in an as orderly fashion as circumstances allowed. Among the evacuees were Eddie and Douglas, both who were pale with fear.
“The hell is your problem, lady?” Power Girl demanded.
The woman drew a deep, long snort before she spat out in disgust, “No explanation will matter now that we've begun. I'll tear out the dark destroyer that's buried within you. And now my unfortunate friend, you will discover a war you're unable to win. That is my true vocation.”
Power Girl drew herself up to a fighting pose, “Okay... can we try again, in English this time?”
They collided again, tearing through the parking lot and sent twisted cars flying like little toys. Power Girl's heels dug into the asphalt, making large chunks break free and scatter around at random. The ground shook as if hit by heavy artillery every time the woman landed a blow on Power Girl, eventually bringing her to her knees. She grabbed a bloodied Power Girl by the hair and grinned a sadistic smile before it rot away to a face of pure hate.
“I'll have you know that I've become indestructible! I'm certain that from the other side, I must be a terror to behold. Your annihilation at my hand will be unavoidable. And just like every enemy I've broken thus far, you will know that your opponent had to be invincible. Take a last look around while you're alive; I'm an indestructible-”
Her words twisted away into a scream of pain as Power Girl blasted her with her heat vision, full throttle at point blank range, “Ah shut up, will you? Your words make my ears rot.”
While the woman covered her smoking hot face whose skin had a bubbly, melted texture to it, Power Girl grabbed her by the elbow and took to the skies above. She protested, wiggled and struggled to break free, but Power Girl's grip was cast in steel. Without warning two fat beams of orange plasma sliced through the woman's melted skin, shooting in random directions. Down below burn marks carved themselves into the ground, steam clouds of water puffed up from the river and at least six houses caught fire.
In the streets, everyone seemed to be drowning in a toxic ocean of chaos, screams, and panic. As Douglas and Eddie navigated through the terrified crowd, their ears caught wind of whimpering prayers in between the loud booms and shrieks of horror. Nowhere seemed safe; cars were sliced open by death beams from above, only to be engulfed in a scorching embrace of fire. Waves of pushing washed over the terrified crowd. It was only dumb luck that kept Douglas and Eddie somewhat together until they found a quiet side street to catch their breaths.
“The fuck is going on man?! A-are we under attack? Is- is it the Russians? Goddamn China? Or- or maybe Power Girl wasn't the only one. Was- was there another? All this time?” Eddie paced back and forth, panting like a tired dog.
Douglas looked up at the blue winter sky, a small puff of cloud vanished as the orange beams cut through it, “Eddie, Eddie, calm down. Okay? Just- just calm down. Deep breaths.”
“Oh, man, oh man, oh man...! Y'know, deep down I kinda dreamed of something like this. How it'd be like- if, if someone ever came up and could just- straight up fight Power Girl. Used to joke about it, how cool it'd be to see her duke it out, really cut loose. Now, though... I'm not laughing.”
“Phone won't connect,” Douglas sighed and pocketed his phone, “figures.”
He hunched down by Douglas and shook him by the shoulders, “A-are- are they blocking us? Is this a coordinated attack? Invasion? From Krypton or- or some space colony? FUCK! Oh, Jesus Christ. I don't wanna die like this man. I don't wanna die at all.”
Douglas slapped Eddie across the face, “Snap out of it! I'm pissing my pants too, literary. Don't panic. She'll pull through, she always does. Right?”
Eddie sniffed deeply, terrified shakes started to catch up on him as he cried openly, “Fuck man, you and your goddamn books. Is this really a time to quote Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?”
“Took your mind off this mess for a moment,” he patted his friend's shoulder, “best timing ever if you ask me. Now we-”
A window right over their heads opened with a sharp bang, sending a jolt of fear through both of them. “The hell you folks doin' out here?! Get inside, in the basement! Hurry!”
Without hesitation, Eddie took the elderly man's hand and with some assistance from Douglas managed to clumsily climb through the window. As the sound of fighter jets cut overhead, Douglas was hauled inside and the window slammed shut. Muffled police sirens wailed as they rushed down the street. The house was bright from the sunny day outside but also cast deep and sharp shadows where the sun could not reach. Worn down wooden planks groaned underneath their feet as they hurried downstairs into the basement.
Other folks were hunkering down like terrified puppies, whether they were random strangers, friends or family of the house owner they couldn't tell. Not that it mattered at this point. Douglas and Eddie found themselves a small corner by an old work bench where they settled down.
“You- you're awfully calm about this, aren't you?” Douglas avoided looking at his face. Instead, he just rubbed his nose and sniffed. “Oh... oh my God. You've- you've seen something like this before, haven't you?”
“N-no- look, just keep quiet alright? You're in shock, not thinking straight.”
“Doug, dude... you- something happened at Ms. Starr's place. Didn't it?”
Douglas turned and put a hand over Eddie's mouth, “Have I seen Power Girl go off the rails? Yes, yes I have and it put the fear of God in every bone in my body. So if that black haired lady is even a fraction of that, we're royally screwed. Even with Power Girl on the scene and the military mobilizing, we're still here – stuck in the crossfire while demigods throw a tantrum.”
“Okay, plan B!” Power Girl covered one hand over the woman's melted face, blocking out the plasma beams and pushing down.
Down and down they went. Faster and faster, until they broke the sound barrier just before smashing into the ground. A giant cloud of dust kicked up from the farming field, solid lobs of dirt and rock rained down in a short-lived hailstorm. Power Girl coughed away some dust as she collected herself. Their blunt impact had carved a neat little hole in the earth and she had to get up from her knee to peek up over the edge. Her attempt at getting her bearings was gutted short when a hand shot up, grabbed her cape and yanked her down.
“You...! I'll never let you have him. He's mine!” the woman's words came out like with an angry gurgle, as if the molten lava from hell pit suddenly could speak.
Power Girl took a solid hold of the woman's hand and squeezed until bones started to snap, “I. Have. No. Idea who or what you're talking about lady. So just. Knock. It. Off,” she landed a punch hard enough to send a buss across the state border with every word.
“He's my reason, your hideous truth another cause for me to fight! You cannot curb my dedication to all that I've sworn to protect!”
Something kicked Power Girl right in the gut, hard and fast. It made her stop her onslaught of punches and gave the woman the fractured second she needed to break free. A follow-up punch connected square in her face. The world became a slushy blur of swirling images that came to a brutal halt once Power Girl crashed through the roof of a nearby church. Her ears were still ringing when she caught a shadow in the corner of her eye. Normally she'd be fast enough to evade punches and kicks, though this was no ordinary fight.
The kick landed flat on her ribs, it felt like at least two of them decided to check out for the rest of the day. Power Girl's cry of pain was swallowed by the metallic boom that rang when she collided with the organ. With hands which trembled with adrenaline, she crawled out from underneath the many metal pipes of the now shattered organ. A shadowy silhouette hovered in mid air against the clear winter sun. In its hand it held a large wooden cross with little effort. The cross was raised up high and came down sharply over Power Girl's shoulders.
Again and again it struck her, undoing every effort she made to push herself up. Half a dozen strikes in and the cross shattered into a hundred small little twigs. “I’m one with the warrior inside. My dominance can’t be denied. Your entire world will turn into a battlefield today.”
The woman tossed the broken cross away and landed gently by Power Girl's head. Pulling her up by her hair, they came face to face with one another. Her face looked like someone had thrown melted splashed wax on a mannequin and crudely wiped it away around the eyes. A thin carpet of dust rested over the named muscle tissue while two dead orange glowing orbs stared relentlessly into the depths of Power Girl's being.
“As I look upon you through the warrior’s eyes now, I can see the fear that will ensure my victory this time...” she dropped Power Girl and as she slumped towards the ground, the woman hit her with a barrage of punches and kicks. Each one with sufficient strength and precision to keep Power Girl more or less suspended in place.
Finally she let her drop to the floor like a dead piece of meat. Power Girl groaned and coughed up a mouthful of blood. The woman carried herself with pride as her hollow gaze tracked Power Girl's weak crawl to safety. Suddenly Power Girl turned her head around, her gaze tracking off to the distance before she curled together into a tight ball, shielding her head with her arms. A fraction of a second later the wall and ceiling exploded into thousands of small splinters as the ever iconic blaring sound of an A-10 Thunderbolt firing sliced through the air.
Before the dust had even settled, Power Girl shot off like a bullet. “Stars above, she packs a punch. Ow, ow, ow... and she has technique too. Think Kara, think. There's got to be a way you can beat this thing without cracking the continent in half.”
Down below, as Shelbyville floated by Power Girl glanced over her shoulder to make sure she wasn't being ambushed. Louisville creeped up on the horizon and just as she was about to change course, she heard an angry hissing sound before she was swallowed by smoke and fire. Stunned and disoriented, Power Girl fell out of the sky like a rock until she landed with a hollow thud in a farm field. Her joints aced like never before as she tried to get back on her feet, over the ringing tinnitus she could barely hear jets soaring above her, firing their weapons.
She blinked and staggered, her vision was out of focus and shifted to random light frequencies without rhyme or reason. One moment it was all x-ray, the next a vomit inducing mix of ultraviolet and infrared. In the distance she saw people, farmers and their families most likely. The man had a shotgun in his hands, urging a pair of youngsters to get in the truck. A younger man, pale with fear ran with short steps with a toddler in his arms.
A bomb or something similar landed by Power Girl's side, the explosion sent her rolling through the air before she landed flat on her back. Up in the sky a jets engine suddenly spewed out a fat line of flame and smoke, the pilot's seat cut upwards a few seconds before the fires swallowed the jet whole. “Gotta get away... Draw her attention... c'mon you stupid legs, WALK!”
The clear sunlight licked Power Girl's injuries with a tender, loving touch. As tempting as it was to simply lie down and bask in the sun, she pressed on, limping among the farm buildings. When the ground shook from an impact and it didn't carry with it the shockwave that usually came along with an explosion, Power Girl picked up her pace without looking back. She was here.
To Divine the world had been covered in a blanket of deep shadows and the occasional bright, blurry spot. Thankfully her other senses compensated for her damaged vision. The throbbing pain that coated her face slowly subsided out in the sun. Given a fully day or two of rest and she'd be as good as new. First things first though, she'd find that filthy bitch and kill her, even if that was the last thing she'd do.
After dealing with those pesky ants in their pathetic machines, she'd been given a moment to breathe. There was no doubt that they'd be back, either in larger numbers or with bigger guns. Didn't matter though, since Divine was on the right track. Thin hints of Power Girl's sent were carried her way by a kind breeze and by now she'd recognize the sound of her ragged breathing and beating heart anywhere in the world.
She snapped her blood soaked fingers, a crude yet simple way to use echolocation to help her navigate the farm. Her badly burned face had a dead, hideous grin on it, mainly since her lips were burned away. As she walked between the farm animals, snapping her fingers at a steady rhythm, Divine couldn't help but gloat, “You can’t hide now. I am the warrior. So decide now, how they’ll remember you. Do not hide now. Act like a warrior. Show your pride now. Solidify your place in time.”
Something came smashing through a brick wall and tackled her hard. Divine twisted around, hammering a series of heavy blows into Power Girl's back. They didn't stop, tearing up dirt and breaking trees like twigs until Divine felt herself pulled down. She hit something, it was hard and cold on her skin. For a fraction of a second she almost considered laughing, the impact barely stung. Then it came, rolling in on her without the slightest hint of mercy; water.
She kicked and clawed, yet Power Girl's grip around her throat pinned her down with unyielding strength. It felt like a thousand tons kept pressing down on her. Divine felt her lungs burn and ache, water dripped between her teeth and stung at her wounded face. The urge for a breath, just the tiniest sip became unbearable and she threw it all into a blast of heat vision. Nothing.
Chapter 12: Doom
Power Girl sat straddled over the woman's body. It'd been a good minute or so since she'd gone limb, though she was still not taking any chances. Police sirens approached and officers hopped out of their cars, terrified yet determined to do their duty. They'd parked on small dirt roads on either side of the creek where the fight had ended. Power Girl was still up to her elbow in water, the bulk of the woman's torso submerged.
“Ma'am! Step away from the body! Hands where we can see 'em!” the officer in charge commanded.
Well, at least her hearing was getting back to normal. That's something. “I have no idea what we're dealing with officer, I'd like to be su-”
“Do it! Do it now!”
She was about to comply when she felt something stab at the palm of her hand. Looking down, Power Girl noticed that the woman's tanned skin had shifted to a crude, wet cement like shade of grey. Another thing she noticed was that the creek carried large chunks of raven black hair down stream. “Oh you've got to be kiddin' me...”
The woman sprung to life with the vigour of ten wild horses, trashing around like a wild bull. A kick connected and sent Power Girl soaring. She made a less than graceful landing and needed a good moment to get her bearings. When she realized she was deep inside Woodhaven Country Club, her blood ran cold. This was dangerously close to Louisville, the largest city in the state. For a brief moment people stood around her dumbstruck, jaws hanging and phones out. When Power Girl's assailant landed like a bombshell, they screamed in terror while scattering in every direction.
Power Girl looked her opponent over from head to toe. Beyond the basic humanoid shape, all traces of humanity had been washed away. The woman, if that was the proper term, now stood a good ten feet tall and was a lumbering mass of muscle. Pieces of bone had grown out and cut through its flesh, resulting in dozens of spikes surrounded by fresh wounds. “Hi... you look different. Wanna settle our differences over a cup of coffee?”
Rather than replying, the creature went of the offensive much like a great ape or gorilla would. The technique, precision and discipline from earlier was long gone. Now it was just a wild beast that was too angry to stop and still strong enough to punch through concrete one foot thick. Military seemed to be taking their sweet time too, probably out of worry from collateral damage as well as civilian casualties. Or maybe they just would let the two of them duke it out and pick up the pieces afterwards. Regardless, it looked like Power Girl was on her own from here on out.
A punch connected and sent Power Girl hurling upwards into the air. She tried to compensate with her flight, but just as she stabilized herself she saw the beast jumping at her, landing another devastating blow. The sky and ground swirled around before her eyes and by the time she crashed into some snow clad trees, Power Girl had completely lost her bearings.
When the world finally stopped spinning and a world cracking headache decided to announce its arrival, Power Girl found herself lying flat in the snow, looking up at the night sky. Trees populated the distant horizon and it looked like she wasn't all that far away from a frozen lake. Puzzled she sat up and tried to connect the dots when a car stopped a couple of feet away. A couple came out, jogging lightly over to her with worry and concern all over their faces.
“Est-ce que ça va?” the woman said.
“French? Why- oh, did that thing punch me all the way to Canada? Seriously?”
The couple helped her up back on her feet when Power Girl's super hearing picked up a growling animal sound and a loud, steady thumbing sound that grew closer. She focused her telescopic vision in the direction of the sound and true enough, the beast was chasing her. Good news was that it was too weak to use flight, alternatively it was too advanced for its animalistic brain. Power Girl hesitated for a moment before she glanced up at the night sky with its thousands of shimmering stars. She smiled to herself and got ready for round three.
“Faites monter dans la voiture,” she said to the couple, her tone left no room for debate. The two exchanged glances and hurried back to their car as instructed.
A heavy tremor tore through the ground as the beast landed in front of Power Girl. For a change she stood tall and confident, victory was assured. It was only a matter of time. Predictably the beast dished out blows and kicks with reckless abandon. Power Girl kept close enough to encourage the onslaught, yet far enough away to give her the room needed to dodge and evade the attacks. Every once in a while she landed a kick or a blow. Nothing earth shattering, only enough to keep the creatures focus locked on her and to get a general feel of how it responded.
Hours dragged on, the sun never peeked over the horizon while the Canadian military mobilized though did little beyond observing the situation. It was apparent to the officer in charge that Power Girl had the situation under control and would keep it contained. At long last came the moment Power Girl had waited for. Her punch connected, breaking one of the creature’s ribs and it howled in pain. Much more than previously. She allowed herself a clever little smirk when her x-ray vision showed her that the broken bone did not mend. The creature’s energy reserves where at an all-time low. While Power Girl wasn't doing too hot herself, she was the real deal and had decades of experience of how to best manage her energy reserves.
Finally. Power Girl cracked her knuckles and dived in, fist first for the last stretch of the fight. She knocked the beast over, straddling it and pinning it down with her flight while hitting it in the face over and over again. Each punch shot through the head and sent shockwave after shockwave through the ground. The soldiers looked around nervously as snow was rattled off the trees due to the tremors. With the beast bloodied and unconscious, Power Girl cupped its face in her hands and hit it with a full throttle heat vision blast until her energy reserves were spent.
When Douglas came out from the bathroom he saw Eddie still sitting in front of the TV, hanging on to every word the news broadcast sent out. As far as he could tell, Eddie had not moved an inch since they came home the day before. People were still picking up pieces, contrary reports came and went as they got debunked or confirmed one way or the other. Just about everything was a chaotic mess that slowly, but surely started to make sense as the flames died down and dust settled. Online the rumour mill was working overtime as a respectable sized army of armchair experts threw their two cents into the fray and at one another.
“Anything new or are they still speculating shamelessly?” Douglas said before stifling a yawn.
Eddie glanced quickly over his shoulder and greeted him with a short nod, “Canada confirmed that the beast is dead and Power Girl made it out okay. They're flying her back state side now.”
“Uh, okay. So suddenly she can't fly anymore?”
“Yeah, well apparently the fight took everything she had. The only reason she won was due to the polar night up in Canada. Not enough sunlight to recharge herself on, at least not within a reasonable timeframe.”
Douglas tucked the bathrobe around him tighter for warmth, “Bet they'll greet her with arms wide open now.”
“They should,” Eddie scoffed and shook his head. “She saved our lives man. Bet the casualties would have been higher had she not been there.”
“They'll argue that it would never have happened if she'd simply stayed away in the first place.”
Eddie turned to protest, but stopped himself before the first word could pop out of his mouth. For once he seemed to agree with an anti-Power Girl argument. Or at the very least humour the thought rather than dismissing it at face value. “Yeah, well... I still think it's worth having her around. She does more good than harm.”
“Yeah, well,” Douglas patted him on the shoulder, “I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you. She's done for, at least as far as the US is concerned.”
Douglas sighed and stretched the last piece of sleep out of his body. Breakfast and a solid cup of coffee would hit the spot about now. He was unsure if there would be any school today. All things considered, it wouldn't be surprising if they decided to cancel it for the next few days. He put on a kettle of water and as it started to boil, he squinted outside in the clear winter morning. In the distance he could spot little black dots in the cloud free sky, which he assumed would be news helicopters or something like that.
It all played out much like it did back then, six years ago. Of course now Douglas didn't have a front row seat on the inside of whatever was going on, but he could easily imagine that it wasn't all that different. They'd collected him after Power Girl turned herself in. Half way into the third round of questioning they'd just dropped everything like it never happened. One of Karen's lawyers picked up the ball after that.
Though he'd only caught a fleeting glimpse, Douglas was quite certain that the woman that attacked Power Girl was the same he met out by Godman Army Airfield. Another Kryptonian? As far as he knew Karen didn't have any siblings. The only biological relatives she ever spoke of was her uncle, aunt and their only son. While it wasn't an impossible idea that someone else also launched a space probe from Krypton to Earth, it was highly unlikely.
Digital whispers on the web kept mentioning a Project Cadmus, though beyond this common thread things spiralled off from one theory wilder than the previous. Douglas didn't really give it much thought, though he was concerned that he hadn't heard anything from Ophelia. There were reports that insisted that the whole debacle started at Godman Army Airfield or in the nearby area. If that was true, there was a remote possibility that Ophelia got caught in the incident. That would be an unpleasant conversation to have with Sonja. He shuddered at the thought.
Power Girl's battered boots made a hollow metallic clank down the flight stairs from the private jet. She was still weak, whatever sunlight her body licked up got spent accelerating her healing and as a result she'd spent the entire flight wolfing down food. Even as she walked down the stairs she was chewing on the last piece of sandwich she could get her hands on. At the bottom of the stairs governor Forman and some of her staff waited. Only the good governor seemed to have her composure in order. Her staff members seemed to quietly squirm in place, their faces stiff with an uncomfortable politeness.
She stopped a few steps short of the governor, undid the shredded remains of her cape and offered it to her as she said, “Here, you can have everything, because I don't want to be flawless. When I go I want the cuts to show. So take it, take this and all that comes with it.”
Governor Forman looked at the cape softly swaying in the breeze and at Power Girl's calm, peaceful face. A moment of silence ticked by before she nudged the cape closer to the governor. She hesitated, eyeing Power Girl closely as if trying to get a read of her true intentions. When it became apparent that there was no trick and the implications of the handover started to sink in, governor Forman took half a step back.
“Not easy, is it?” Power Girl said as the cape dropped from her hand, leaving her tattered glove and bruised fingers naked. “Congratulations governor, you got what you wanted even if it happened in a roundabout way. I wish you the best of luck, stars above know you'll need it.”
She turned and started to climb back on-board the jet when governor Forman said, “What will you do now? You think this is the end? They'll never let you operate anywhere.”
“That's okay,” Power Girl smiled over her shoulder, “I'll just collect the pieces of an old dream of mine instead. No heroics required.”
While the staff on the jet refuelled and restocked the food, Power Girl poked around on the on-board phone. She dialled a familiar number and waited for the call to connect. It rang for about half a dozen times before the call was cut short. Miffed by the response, she called up a second time. Her fingers tapped on the armrest at a marching pace until the call finally connected.
“H-hello? Who is this?”
She smiled to herself at the sound of the voice, “Hi Douglas, it's me.”
A short pause followed, apparently some dots needed extra time to connect before Douglas said, “Ka- I mean... uh, it's really you, right?”
“Uh-huh,” she bit down on one of the fingers on her glove and pulled it off, “figured this is our last chance and- well, I'd rather regret trying and failing than not trying at all.”
“Okay, that sounds very much like you,” it sounded like Douglas excused himself from one room to another, “so what do you have in mind?”
Power Girl drew a deep breath and steeled herself in her chair, “In a word? Family.”
“Thanks, but I have a daughter and a lot of luggage.”
“So? The more the merrier.”
Two tracks of foot prints trailed off in the sand. Soft waves washed over the beach while a group of seagulls cruised along the wind. Far off to the horizon the orange red disc of the sun slowly sank deeper into the ocean. A couple walked side by side, she offering her arm for him to support. She stood tall and healthy, a woman in her prime. He was wrinkled and grey, a man who was in the autumn of his life. In her hand she held a walking cane that she didn't use, her steps were short and slow. His feet seemed to scrape along, as if his joints were too stiff to properly lift them off the ground.
“Big day tomorrow,” she said, her fingers brushed her blonde hair aside.
The man's tired face cracked into a smile as he nodded. There was still some spark left in his dark brown eyes, hard as it may be to spot behind his thick glasses. “50 years, huh?”
“I prefer half a century myself, sounds even more impressive that way.”
He chuckled lightly, “What? Golden Anniversary isn't?”
“Yeah, well,” she bobbed her head from side to side, weighing one up against the other in her mind. “Nah, half a century is better. Golden sounds so... blingish or materialistic.”
“Says the one that used to wear a metallic belt with a golden finish.”
She nudged him playfully, “Be nice now. I'm supposed to be the sassy one here.”
They walked a little further in silence, content with each other’s company. Between some rocks was a small birds nest, the mother happily greeted her mate as he came in for a landing. Their song bellowed into the late evening before they settled down over the eggs. At the end of the beach the man and the woman climbed some old and cracked stairs of concrete. They dusted off the sand from their shoes before taking a seat in their car. After they plotted in the course, the driving system kicked in and quietly took them away.
“I'm curious,” the man said, looking at his walking cane, “just what will you do when I'm gone?”
The woman mused out the window, “Stay in touch with Sonja I suppose. Keep an eye out on her and the kids. As they grow up I suppose I'll fade out of their lives.”
“Any regrets? That you committed yourself to us instead of the world? To me?”
“Douglas, there's no shortage of regrets in my life,” the woman said before she gave him a warm, soothing smile, “but you're not one of them.”
He patted her knee with a weak hand, “You really are one of a kind Kara, one of a kind indeed.”