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.