Chapter Four: The Never Ending Battle

 

            Heroism . . . is endurance for one moment more.

 - George Kennan

 

 

            Jane sat on the edge of her bed and stared pensively at an old shoebox. She took the lid off and set it aside, and then reached into the box and pulled out a long, thin piece of crystal. She frowned at the crystal and turned it over in her hands, examining it closely. The facets of the shard glimmered and shined, but revealed no deep secrets to her scrutiny. Sighing to herself, she sat the crystal aside and reached into the box for the other object it contained: a large swatch of blue cloth.

            She unfolded the cloth and gasped in shock when she saw the design that was centered just a few inches below the top edge. It was the same red and yellow shield and lightning bolt design that she’d painted just a few weeks ago. The design she’d seen in a dream right after Trent had told her the nearly unbelievable story of her arrival on earth as a toddler.

            “I can’t tell if this supposed to be the letter ‘S’ or just some curvy swoopy mark,” she sighed to herself, pulling the cloth up in her lap so she could examine the design. “It’s not really jagged enough to be a lightning bolt, though.”

            She refolded the cloth and put it back in the box, then picked up the crystal again. “You must be the ignition key,” she mused. “Although if that ship landed as hard as Trent said it did it probably won’t be going anywhere.”

            She dropped the crystal into her pocket and walked downstairs to find her brother. She eventually found him in the basement, moving around stacks of boxes.

            “Are you about done down here?” she asked.

            “Yeah,” Trent answered, pausing to wipe the sweat off his face. “Mom’s gonna flip if she finds out we got into the bomb shelter. We’re not even supposed to know it’s here.”

            “Well, she’d have to come home for that to be a problem,” Jane said, and walked over to the large trap door that was set in the basement floor. She paced around it, and decided it was just big enough for the ship to fit through.

            “I still haven’t found the key,” Trent said, nodding at the padlock securing the door. Jane grabbed the lock in both hands and twisted, snapping the shackle loose from the rest of the lock. “I guess I can stop looking for it, though.”

            “I guess so,” Jane answered, tossing the broken lock into a trashcan. She lifted the heavy door carefully, wincing slightly at the screeching hinges. A series of rungs were bolted to one wall, leading to the floor of the shelter fifteen feet below.

            Trent climbed down the ladder, while Jane simply stepped off the edge and dropped to the ground below. The siblings pulled out flashlights and examined the subterranean room. It was fairly large, with three of the walls being dominated by heavy metal shelving. Aside from the shelves the room contained only a thick covering of dust.

            “Wow,” Jane said quietly.

            “Yeah,” Trent said with a shrug, “I guess they cleaned out all the food and supplies and stuff a while ago.”

            “Good.” Jane said with a nod. “We can hide the ship down here, and nobody will stumble on it. Heck, I might even use this as a private place to experiment with my powers.”

            “Like a fortified secret hide-out,” Trent grinned, “you can keep souvenirs from all your crime-fighting adventures down here.”

            “Yeah,” Jane smirked, “I could call it my Fortress of Solitude.”

            “Good one, Janey.”

            “Thanks.” Jane turned her flashlight off and walked back to the ladder. “You can forget that corny crime-fighting crap though, I am not a comic book character. I don’t know what’s going on with me, but I’m not going to run around in a black and yellow jumpsuit and let people shoot at me.”

            Trent shrugged and followed his little sister up the ladder and into the basement. Jane pushed open the basement door leading to the backyard and walked up the short steps into the cool night air.

            “You want me to stay here and hold the door open?” Trent asked.

            “Yeah,” Jane answered, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness. After a few seconds she could see everything as clearly as if the sun was shining, except for colors. Everything was the same dull shade of bluish-grey, and there weren’t any shadows. She walked around to the front yard and examined the bizarre metal sculpture that she’d looked past everyday of her life.

            “Hard to believe there’s a spaceship at the center of this mess,” she muttered to herself. Glancing around to make sure she wasn’t being watched, she began to yank the pieces of metal clear. She carefully made a pile of metal chunks nearby, trying not to bang the pieces together too loudly. After a few minutes, she’d disassembled the sculpture and was looking at the teardrop shaped craft that had been hidden for so long.

            It was still partially buried, the nose jammed into the ground by the force of the impact. Jane walked around to the back of the craft, grabbed something that looked like it might be part of the engine, and pulled downwards. The nose of the ship was forced up out of the ground and the whole thing settled with a muted crunching noise.

            “So far, so good,” Jane murmured, and walked around to the front of the ship. She braced her feet and rubbed her hands together briskly. “Super strength, don’t fail me now,” she said with a grin. She grabbed the nose of the ship and lifted, putting her back into it. The ship came cleanly away from the ground, causing her to stumble backwards a couple of steps.

            “I guess I don’t know my own strength,” she said to herself as she carried the ship around to the backyard. She moved it around in her grip so she was holding on to it more near the middle, and started down the basement steps.

            “I think you’re going to have to turn it,” Trent said.

            “Like this?” Jane asked, rotating the ship one direction.

            “Be careful!” Trent said, “There’s a thing sticking out of it.”

            “Sorry.” Jane rotated the ship the other way. “Like this?”

            “Yeah, that’ll work. Just angle it up a little.”

            With Trent guiding the back of the ship, Jane was able to maneuver it into the basement with a minimum of damage to the door frame. She walked over to the trapdoor and dropped into the bomb shelter, swung the ship around, and carefully placed it on the floor.

            “Now what?” Trent asked.

            “Now,” Jane said, pulling the crystal out of her pocket, “I get some answers.”

            “Whoa,” Trent said, his eyebrows going up. “You sure that’s a good idea, Janey?”

            “No, not really,” Jane said, poking around the front of the ship to find the slot the crystal came from, “but I don’t have any better ones.”

            “You want me to let you do this in private?”

            “No, you’ve been part of this from the start,” Jane answered, and then grinned widely. “Here it is . . . show time!”

            She pushed the crystal into the notch set in front of the ship’s cockpit. For a few seconds nothing happened, and then the ship started making a quiet thrumming noise. Suddenly, a bright white light shined out of the tip of the crystal and resolved itself into the image of a tall man with long white hair and blue robes.

            Jane looked over the semi-translucent figure and decided that she was right when she’d said he was probably a hologram. The man returned her gaze gravely.

            “Jan-El,” he said, “you are beautiful. You look so much like your mother.”

            “M-mother?” Jane stammered. The man nodded, and the crystal emitted a second beam of white light, which solidified into the form of a middle aged woman. She was tall and thin, with Jane’s heart shaped face. Her black hair was worn longer and shot through with grey, but her eyes were the same vivid shade of blue.

            “We are so proud of you, daughter.” the woman said.

            “You’re my parents?” Jane asked.

            “Yes and no,” the man said, “we are complete and perfect copies of them as they were on the day they launched you to Earth. We exist within the crystal computer that controlled the ship.”

            “They’re dead?”

            “Yes,” the woman said sadly, “you are the last of our people, Jan-El. You are the last daughter of Krypton.”

            “Krypton?”

            “Our home,” the man said, and held out one hand. A rotating globe formed over his palm, and Jane stared at it with fascination. It was clearly a planet like Earth, but the seas and continents were nothing like the ones she was used to.

            “You are the only survivor of the planet Krypton,” he continued, “Even though you have been raised as a human being you are not one of them. You have great powers, only some of which you have as yet discovered.”

            “There was a terrible tragedy, and the planet’s core became unstable,” the woman said, “Your father took the information to the Science Council, but they did not believe him. We built a life raft for you, in secret, and launched it hours before the quakes were to begin.”

            “Quakes aren’t too bad,” Jane said quietly, “maybe some people survived.”

            “The ship’s sensors detected the planet’s detonation seconds before we went into hyper-space,” the man said in a flat voice. “Unfortunately, several pieces of the planet were drawn along in our wake, in the form of a meteor swarm. You should avoid them, as they may be dangerously radioactive.”

            “They are,” Jane said numbly. She dropped to the ground and pulled her knees up under her chin. “The planet . . . exploded?”

            “Yes.”

            “Then, I’m all alone,” Jane said, shedding silent tears. Trent walked over quietly and put his hands on her shoulders.

            “Greetings, Trent Lane.” the man said. “You have carried the burden I asked of you. Have you found it as rewarding as I promised?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Then weep no more, daughter,” he said gently, “for you are not alone. You are of the people of Earth now, and they will have need of your greatness.”

            “Greatness?” Jane asked, looking up and wiping her eyes.

            “Yes,” the man said, nodding, “The humans can be a great people, Jan-El. They wish to be, and only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you . . . my daughter.”

            “What should I do?”

            “There is a large crystal computer in the cargo canister attached to the top of the ship, and a reader for it. The crystal contains all the culture, art, and history of your people. The custodial AI will help direct your studies. Learn of the greatness from which you come, daughter.”

            The two people flickered brightly for a moment and then faded, the beams of light extinguished. With an audible pop, the crystal ejected from the slot in the front of the ship. Jane stood and examined the top of the ship, still sniffling occasionally.

            “Do you see a cargo canister?” she asked.

            “No,” Trent answered, “but check this out.” He was pointing at a long, ugly black mark across the length of the ship. “I think you hit something on the way here.”

            “That might explain why the ship crashed instead of landing.”

            “You want to push that crystal back in and find out?”

            “No,” Jane said, pulling the crystal free and pocketing it. “I think I’ve had enough shocking news for one night. I need to do some painting.”

 

            “I wish Jane could be here for this,” Jodie said. “She pushed me to publish your story a lot harder than you did.”

            “Yeah,” Quinn said, pausing to take a bite of her pizza, “she said she’d be here as soon as she could, but she had to help her brother clean the basement first.”

            “More pizza for us, then.” Mack said with a grin.

            “True,” Quinn said, “anyway, thanks Jodie. I finally feel like I’m making a difference in the world. Helping expose corruption and put away criminals.”

            “It does feel good,” Jodie answered with a smile. “It felt especially good when I got a call from the Sun-Herald asking me to fax them your research. I don’t think they liked getting scooped by a bunch of high school kids.”

            The trio shared a laugh, not noticing Sandi Griffin entering the Pizza King. Sandi stood near the door and looked around the restaurant as if she were lost. Spotting her friends, she walked over to their booth and dropped into the seat next to Quinn.

            “Hey, Sandi.” Quinn said. “We can flag down the waiter if you want cheeseless, or you can just dig in to what we have here.”

            Without answering, Sandi unrolled the newspaper she’d been carrying and flattened it out on the table. It was the evening edition of the Sun-Herald, and the headline screamed ‘Loeb Found Dead’ and beneath that, in smaller letters, ‘Police Suspect Mob Hit.’ A reprint of Quinn’s story was on the bottom half of the front page, headlined ‘Local Teen Follows Money Trail.’

            “They killed him,” Quinn said, her voice filled with shock.

            “No,” Sandi said, “we killed him.”

            “I have to go,” Quinn said. Sandi stood and allowed the redhead to slide out of the booth. She watched impassively while Quinn quickly walked to the door and vanished outside.

            “Was that comment really necessary?” Jodie asked, glaring at Sandi. Without answering, Sandi retrieved her paper and left the restaurant.

            Mack and Jodie sat in silence for a moment, and then Mack caught the attention of a waiter and asked for a box.

            “I’m not hungry anymore, are you?” he said to Jodie’s questioning look.

            “Not really.”

            “I’ll take it home to Dad. He loves this stuff, as long as Mom doesn’t catch him eating it.”

 

            Sandi knocked on the door to her father’s study. When he called out for her to come in, she pushed open the heavy oak door and walked across the plush carpet to his desk. She glanced around at the dark, mahogany furnishings and the expensive oil paintings hanging on the walls.

            “Boasting is a frailty, and vanity a weakness,” she whispered to herself.

            “What’s that, sweetheart?” her father asked, looking up from a ledger book he was working on. He frowned slightly at the pale, serious expression on his daughter’s face.

            Instead of answering, she handed him the rolled up paper. She watched as he unrolled it and read the headlines with a shocked expression. She stood silently while he skimmed the stories. Finally, he set the newspaper aside and looked up at his daughter.

            “You told me that you were going to handle the Loeb problem.”

            Sandi nodded.

            “You killed him?”

            “No, I delegated that,” Sandi said, rigidly maintaining her calm exterior, “You always told me to never get my own hands dirty. I guess you were talking about more than grade-school social warfare.”

            “If you were going to kill someone, why him and not the girl?”

            “Punish failure, not success,” Sandi said in a cold voice. She carefully kept her face neutral, not wanting her father to discern her friendship with Quinn.

            “Elaborate.”

            “He let a hospitalized schoolgirl expose his corruption and he didn’t even know he’d been compromised. She, on the other hand, warned us of a dangerous weak link in our organization.”

            Her father nodded slowly.

            “I have dinner plans,” Sandi said, “I wanted to bring you up to speed on this before I went out.” She had no such plans, but the strain of maintaining the nonchalant façade was beginning to mount.

            “Ok, good night Alexandra.”

            Sandi turned on her heel and left the study. Her father watched her go, and then picked up his phone to make a call.

 

            Quinn walked home, her heart heavy with guilt. She had considered that the commissioner would certainly deny her allegations, and had feared harassment from the police. In the dark corners of her mind, she’d even dwelt on the idea that he might try to have her killed. It had never once occurred to her that his criminal associates would just kill him and move on.

            She was now certain that her snooping on the public information database had been noticed by somebody. If the police commissioner was on the take, then goodness only knew how many drones were as well.

            She reached her driveway and stopped, frowning at the unfamiliar car parked next to her aunt’s rental. It was a fairly dull sedan, exactly the sort of thing that mafia hit men might drive.

            Quinn shook her head and allowed herself a small, wry smile. The car probably belonged to one of Amy’s friends from work. Even if there was some organized crime lord behind the bribery and the killing, chances were slim that he’d bother with her.

            She pushed open the front door and walked into the living room. Her aunt was sitting on the couch across from a middle aged man in a wrinkled suit. The man stood when Quinn entered and held out his hand.

            “Miss Morgendorffer,” he said as Quinn shook his hand.

            “Hello, Officer Gordon. I’d like to say it’s nice to see you again, but I’m afraid I can’t.”

            “Lieutenant Gordon,” he said, frowning. “I’m not sure if I . . . wait . . . you’re that girl’s younger sister, aren’t you?”

            “Yes, sir.” Quinn said, sitting on the couch next to her aunt. “You brought Daria home from the hospital. I guess you’re here to ask me about Commissioner Loeb?”

 

            Sandi walked past the security desk in the lobby without pausing. The guard glanced up briefly before returning to his book of crossword puzzles. He didn’t know why Tom Griffin’s ice queen daughter spent so much time with the lawyers on the top floor of the building, and figured it was more than his paycheck was worth to snoop into it.

            Sandi took the elevator up, and stepped out into the quiet foyer. Marianne’s desk had been abandoned for the evening, and the floor was dimly lit. She quietly walked down the hall and lightly knocked on one of the office doors.

            “Enter,” a man called from within. Sandi pushed the door open and stepped into the office. She saw that Jim Vitale was talking on the telephone, and that he had the surveillance blocking device turned on.

            “Thank you, Marianne.” Jim said. “It’s late, you go on home.”

            Sandi frowned when she recognized her father’s voice, saying something over the phone. She couldn’t tell what he was saying, but he sounded angry.

            “I understand completely, Tom.” Jim said, “I’ll see to it that this will no longer be a concern for you, you have my word. Yes, good night.”

            Jim hung up the phone and looked up at Sandi with a slight grin. “Your father is quite upset with me. He seems to have gotten the idea that I’ve turned you into a heartless killer.”

            Sandi walked over to the desk and dropped into her favorite chair. “Haven’t you?” she asked dully.

            “Not in the least. You are responsible for a man’s death, and you’re miserable about it.” Jim leaned back in his chair and lit a cigar. “I’d hardly call you a heartless killer.”

            “Quinn and I killed him,” Sandi said sadly. “I kept pretending I didn’t know what you were going to do, but I can’t tell myself that anymore.”

            “Self-honesty is an excellent virtue to cultivate. My question to you, however, is what do you plan to do now?”

            “Go to school,” Sandi answered with a shrug, “see my friends, follow Dad to meetings, and get on with my life. I feel sick, but it’s not like I can do anything about it.”

            “May I presume that you count me as one of the friends you intend to continue seeing?”

            “Well, yeah.”

            “Ah,” Jim said, gesturing with his cigar, “then you may find yourself wanting to exercise a bit more discretion in your visits to me in the future. As I said, your father is currently quite upset with me, and is under the impression that I’ve been a bad influence on you.”

            “He doesn’t want me to visit you anymore?”

            “He doesn’t.”

            “He introduced me to organized crime,” Sandi said with a frown. “Isn’t that sort of a bad influence right there?”

            “While true, he wasn’t terribly amused when I pointed that out to him.” Jim grinned wolfishly. “His little girl is growing up and while he says that he has accepted it, no father really does.”

            “You have kids?”

            “Oh indeed, I’ll have to show you pictures someday. I have a daughter I’m particularly proud of, she’s a lot like you.”

            “I’d like that. Maybe I can meet her someday.”

            “I’m sure you will.” Jim took one last puff on his cigar and carefully ground it out in an ashtray. “Have you eaten?”

            “No, I haven’t really had an appetite.”

            “I need to make another phone call, something confidential. If you’ll wait for me at Marianne’s desk, we can pick up something light before you go home. Appetite or not, a growing girl needs to eat.”

            “Sure.” Sandi stood and left the office. Jim stared at the door for a moment, then picked up the phone and dialed.

            “This is Jim Vitale,” he said into the phone, “put Mr. Falcone on the line, please.”

 

***

 

            Trent woke up to the sound of the sewing machine running in his sister Penny’s bedroom. Curious, he tossed on some clothes and walked down the hall.

            “Penny?” he asked, pushing the door open. “ I thought you were in Metropolis.”

            “She probably is,” Jane answered, leaning back from the sewing machine. “You know, I’m pretty surprised I still know how to run this thing. I guess it’s like riding a bike.”

            “You never learned how to ride a bike.”

            “No, but maybe someday I’ll have a chance to ride a biker,” Jane said with a smirk. “So, what do you think?” Jane turned in her chair and held up a short, long-sleeved blue dress. Just underneath the scooping neckline was the shield crest that Jane had painted a couple of months before.

            “That’s pretty cool,” Trent said, then scratched the back of his head. “What’s it for?”

            “For wearing, silly.” Jane said, rolling her eyes. “I made it out of that cloth I was wrapped in as a baby. I figure I can wear it when I want to look fancy and mysterious.” Jane looked down at the dress sadly. “My parents wrapped me in this cloth, it’s the only thing I have from them.”

            Trent tried to think of something comforting to say, but his train of thought was derailed by someone knocking on the front door.

            “Crap!” Jane said, jumping up and running for the door, “I bet that’s Quinn, I forgot all about her celebration last night.”

            Jane opened the front door and smiled at her best friend. Quinn looked downright miserable, to the point where she wasn’t even wearing the minimal make-up she usually put on in the mornings.

            “I’m really, really sorry,” Jane said, “but it took us a lot longer to get stuff boxed up than I thought it would.”

            “Commissioner Loeb is dead,” Quinn said, “he was murdered yesterday, right after my story was published.”

            “It’s not your fault.”

            “Isn’t it? I exposed him, and the people that were paying him off killed him.”

            “Amiga,” Jane said gently, taking Quinn’s arm and pulling her into the house, “he did wrong, and the people that killed him did wrong. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

            “You think so?”

            “Yeah, I think so. You didn’t kill him, you didn’t even want him dead. This is not your fault.”

            Quinn sniffled and nodded. “Sometimes I think the kids back in Highland were right. They used to call me a misery chick.”

            “You are not a misery chick,” Jane said, looking annoyed.

            “I’ve been called worse,” Quinn said with a slight smile, “there were these two idiots I used hang out with . . . oh, the stories I could tell.”

            “I’m not sure I want to know,” Jane said with a smirk.

            “Heh,” Quinn shook her head, “Hey, what happened to the metal sculpture in your front yard?”

            “Fell over,” Jane answered with a shrug. “We’re gonna take what’s left to the scrap yard later.”

            “Do you mind if I hang out over here for a while today?” Quinn asked. “Amy is at work, and I don’t want to be alone.”

            “Sure, come on up. I was about to start working on a painting for the art show.” Jane walked up the steps to her room, Quinn following along behind.

            “Art show?”

            “Yeah, it’s an all-county competition. Each artist is allowed to submit three canvases, to be judged by a panel of curators from the Gotham Museum of Modern Art.” Jane paused and did a little pirouette. “The top ten canvases will be displayed in the museum for six months.”

            “Wow.”

            “My canvases in MoMA.” Jane grinned. “I’m giddy.”

            “You have to win first,” Quinn said, sitting on Jane’s bed and pulling out a notebook.

            “Tosh,” Jane answered, putting a blank canvas on her easel. “With three chances, there’s no way I won’t get at least one in the top ten. I’m going to enter the one I painted after the wreck, if it’s ok with you.”

            “Sure,” Quinn said, opening her notebook to work on a short story, “what else are you entering?”

            “Dunno, a couple of Jane Lane originals.” Jane began sorting through brushes and paint jars. “It’ll come to me as I work, I’m sure.”

            “When is the competition?”

            “Next week.”

            Quinn lowered her notebook and stared at her friend in disbelief. “You’re just now starting on your entries?”

            “I’ve been busy.”

            Quinn shook her head and went back to writing.

 

            “I didn’t know you could paint,” Stacy said from the floor. She stretched her legs out in a split and then started working on loosening the muscles, first slowly leaning one way and then the other.

            “I used to draw when I was little,” Tiffany replied in her usual drawl, “using paint is new.”

            “It’s cool. I wish I could draw or paint or something.”

            “You dance,” Tiffany said absently. “I’m not good at that, so we’re even.”

            “Dancing goes along with gymnastics and cheerleading, I don’t think it counts.” Stacy did a short roll on the carpet and popped up on her feet briefly, before settling on the edge of Tiffany’s bed.

            “It counts,” Tiffany said, watching her friend. “Sometimes I’m so jealous of you guys.” Tiffany sighed sadly, and returned to her painting. “I feel like the whole world moves twice as fast as I do.”

            “You’re one of the most popular girls in school,” Stacy said, “Nobody can even tell that you’re . . . uh . . .”

            “Handicapped?” Tiffany finished, “Brain damaged? Supportive? Purple?”

            “Sorry,” Stacy said in a small voice. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

            “I know.” Tiffany shrugged and continued painting. “You’ve been my best friend since we were in middle school, you wouldn’t hurt me.”

            “What are you painting?”

            Tiffany stepped back so Stacy could see the canvas. The painting was a partially finished cityscape, the tall, needle thin buildings reaching high into the sky. The buildings were different colors and looked as if they were made of faceted crystal. Here and there little flying vehicles could be seen, weaving their way through the city.

            “That’s beautiful,” Stacy said in hushed tones, “the city of tomorrow.”

            “I dream about it sometimes.” Tiffany said sadly. “I dream that I’m a little girl in this beautiful city, and I live in a giant library full of books and music and art. No meteors hit my house when I was a baby, and my real parents aren’t dead.”

            Stacy impulsively hugged her friend and started crying. “But then you wouldn’t be Tiffany.”

            “I guess not,” Tiffany said, and slowly returned Stacy’s hug.

 

***

 

            Trent’s blue sedan pulled up to the Lawndale Museum of Art and parked near the front of the building. He and Quinn got out of the car and started digging around in the back seat. After a moment, Trent pulled two cloth-wrapped canvases out of the back and Quinn removed a third.

            “I still don’t see why she couldn’t help us,” Quinn said, lugging the large canvas up the steps.

            “She was up all night finishing the painting,” Trent said placidly, “She needed a nap so she could be here this afternoon when they announce the winners.”

            “What’d she paint?” Quinn asked, “She spent the last week dodging my questions about it.”

            “Dunno,” Trent said, “she didn’t let me see it, either.”

            “Wait,” Quinn said, lowering the painting and turning to look at Trent. “It? As in, only one painting?”

            “Yeah, she just made one new one. That’s all she had time for, since the contest is today. She’s entering the painting of the car wreck and some other one. I think she grabbed it at random, she was pretty loopy this morning.”

            “Lanes have trouble with deadlines, don’t they?”

            “They stifle the creative spirit,” Trent said with a shrug, “it’s like a window with bars on it . . . you can see outside, but there are bars.”

            “Uh-huh,” Quinn said, quirking an eyebrow. She hefted the painting and started walking towards the door.

            As the pair reached the front of the museum the doors were pulled open from inside by a dark haired girl about Quinn’s age. She wore a matching skirt and cardigan outfit and a bored expression.

            “Anguished artist and Lolita companion?” she asked, rolling her eyes. “That’s original.”

            “Uh, her name is Quinn,” Trent said, “and I don’t play goth music, it’s too depressing.”

            “He’s the artist’s older brother,” Quinn said in a cold voice. “I’m the artist’s best friend. That makes you who, exactly?”

            “My mom is on the board here, this whole little exercise was her idea,” the girl shrugged. “Door duty makes me bitchy. Sorry, I guess.”

            “It’s cool,” Trent said, walking past the girl into the building. Quinn followed him, and the girl led them to a row of tables stacked with paintings.

            “Hang on,” she said, scribbling in a notebook. “Let me tag them, and then you guys need to sign here and give the artist’s name. That way after the judges do their thing we can look up who to congratulate.”

            “Ok,” Trent said. He took the girl’s notebook and finished filling in the information while she unwrapped the paintings and put numbered stickers on the back. After that, he and Quinn turned to go.

            “Hey,” the girl said, “you said her name was Quinn?”

            “Yeah,” Quinn said, turning back to the girl.

            “Quinn Morgendorffer?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Cool.” The girl stepped forward and held out her hand. “I’m Elsie Sloane, I read your story in the paper. Too bad the bastard didn’t stand trial, I bet he could have named a lot of names.”

            “Thanks,” Quinn said, shaking the girl’s hand. “I was pretty shocked, actually. I didn’t think he’d get killed.”

            “You guys want some coffee?” Elsie offered. “I’ve got some of the good stuff in the back.”

            “I gotta get going,” Trent said, “I’m late for practice.”

            “Go ahead,” Quinn said, “I’ll catch a ride later.”

            “Cool, later.” Trent nodded and headed for the door.

            “So,” Elsie said, speculatively watching Trent leave, “the Lolita position is open, huh?”

            Quinn snickered.

            A short while later, the two girls were chatting over coffee while workmen took the paintings from the tables to the room where the competition would be held. They glanced up when the door opened and Stacy entered, followed by Tiffany. Tiffany was carrying a painting of a futuristic looking city skyline.

            “That’s really pretty, Tiffany!” Quinn said.

            “Thanks,” Tiffany drawled, leaning her painting against the table. She glanced down at the nearest stack of paintings and froze, her eyes widening.

            Elsie grabbed her notebook and held it out to Tiffany. “Here, I need you to sign in while I tag your painting.” When Tiffany didn’t respond, Stacy quickly took the notebook.

            “I can do it,” Stacy said. Elsie shrugged and knelt down to press a numbered sticker against the back of Tiffany’s canvas.

            “Um, Tiffany?” Quinn asked.

            “I have to go,” Tiffany said, and for once her voice was clear and crisp. She turned abruptly and walked out of the building.

            “What’s her damage?” Elsie asked. Stacy shot her an ugly glare and hurried off after her friend. Elsie blinked and looked over at Quinn. “You know them?”

            “Yeah, we go to school together.”

            “Are they . . . you know?” Elsie asked, holding up one hand with her fingers crossed. Quinn stared at her a moment and then, eyes widening with understanding, blushed brightly.

            “I . . . uh . . .” Quinn stammered, “not that I’m aware of, no.”

            “What?” Elsie smirked, “I can ask if your friend’s brother is into little girls and that’s funny, but when I ask if those two are eating at the ‘Y’ it’s all embarrassing?”

            “You asked both questions in the same tone of voice,” Quinn muttered. Then it was Elsie’s turn to snicker.

 

            Tiffany walked down the sidewalk, her long strides having left Stacy behind blocks ago. Her mind whirled with confusion as conflicting thoughts and memories fought for dominance. Abruptly, she turned and entered a nearby shop.

            “Ello luv,” the proprietor called out from behind the counter. The man was shaggy and unkempt, covered in tattoos and piercings, and had a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth. “You ‘ere for the special?”

            “Silence, monkey.” Tiffany snarled at the man, giving him a hateful glare.

            “Whoa now luv,” he said, holding his hands up, “no need to be all like that, now. You be a good bird and come with Axl, I’ll give you a place to nod off it, yeah?”

            The man led Tiffany into one of the side rooms and pointed at chair that probably started its life in a dentist’s office. “You just have a little sit down, yeah?” he said, and pulled the door closed as he left.

            Tiffany walked over to the chair, looked at it disdainfully, and then walked to the mirror hanging on the wall. She studied her appearance carefully, taking a moment to smooth down her hair. She sighed and looked down at her hands.

            “This vessel is weak,” she muttered. She closed her eyes and concentrated for a moment, and her body flickered with a dim blue aura. The aura faded and she looked at herself in the mirror again.

            “Better,” she said, smiling at her reflection. “I must disguise this vessel,” she mused. Turning slightly to admire her profile in the mirror, she said, “A pity.”

            Flexing her hands, Tiffany caused the aura to briefly return. Her fashionable dress and trendy shoes stretched and darkened, joining to become a black body stocking. The black fabric stretched up her neck and over her head, concealing her face and covering even her eyes. She stepped back from the mirror and a short red robe formed from thin air, draping itself across her shoulders and around her torso.

            “This will do nicely,” she said, before rising from the floor and floating out a convenient window.

 

            “I don’t believe you couldn’t catch her,” Quinn said.

            “I know,” Stacy answered, slumped over in a chair. “I run like three miles a day and she hardly leaves the house. I guess something must have made her really angry.” Stacy tossed a meaningful glance in Elsie’s direction.

            “Look, I’m sorry I pissed off your girlfriend or whatever,” Elsie said, looking irritable. “I had no idea she was one of those extra-sensitive artist types.”

            “Now listen here,” Stacy said, jumping to her feet. Before she could continue, the argument was cut short by the sound of the museum doors being knocked off their hinges. The three girls turned to look at what caused the racket and were shocked by what they saw. A woman in a black body suit and a short red robe was floating down the hallway towards them.

            “Uh,” Elsie said. The woman drifted up to them and stopped, hanging in midair just a few feet from where they sat. When she spoke it was with a cold, crisp tone that seemed to assume obedience.

            “Bring me the last daughter of the House of El,” she demanded.

 

            Trent walked into his living room and put his guitar down on the couch. Band practice hadn’t gone well, and he was starting to get that nervous feeling he had every time the band almost broke up. With a sigh, he sat next to his guitar and turned on the television.

            “The hostage crisis at the Lawndale Museum of Art continues,” a news anchor was saying. “Most of the people working today to prepare for an art competition sponsored by the Gotham Museum of Modern Art were able to escape through emergency doors, and they have identified one of the hostages as Elsie Sloane, the teenaged daughter of Kay Sloane, the chairwoman of the museum’s board of directors.”

            “Whoa,” Trent said.

            “The other two hostages, also teenaged girls, remain unidentified at this time,” the anchor continued. The television cut from a view of the anchor at his desk to a view of the museum’s lobby. “We have this live feed of the hostage taker and her victims, taken from the museum’s security cameras.”

            “Oh, God.” Trent said, his face going pale. The freaky woman in the spandex  outfit was bad enough. The fact that she currently had Quinn by the throat made it whole new worlds of bad.

            Shakily rising to his feet, Trent headed for the stairs to wake up his little sister.

 

            “You about ready to knock off for lunch?” Tom called across the office.

            “Just about,” Cindy replied, “I still don’t know how you talked me into coming in on a Saturday.”

            “My winning personality?” he asked with a chuckle. Before Cindy could phrase a tart reply her phone rang.

            “Cindy Rowe, may I help you?” she asked, answering the phone. Her face paled slightly when she heard the answer. “Of course,” she said, “thank you for the call.”

            “What’s wrong?” Tom asked as Cindy stood and began to quickly pack her briefcase.

            “It’s Stacy,” she answered, “I’m sorry, Tom. I have to go.”

            Tom Griffin nodded, a frown etched across his face. “Anything I can help with?”

            “No, I just have to go.” Cindy started towards the door, and then stopped and looked back for a moment. “Good bye, Tom.” she said quietly, and then slipped through the door.

            “Weird,” Tom said to himself, and then returned to his paperwork.

            Cindy walked quickly to the elevator at the end of the hall and pressed the down button. A few seconds later the elevator door opened with a ping, and a man stepped out into the hallway. The man was huge, easily six and a half feet tall and built like a linebacker. He wore an expensive looking, hand tailored suit and he had his hat in his hand.

            The man paused and nodded to Cindy. She nodded back and stepped around him to enter the elevator.

            “You have a good day, Missus Rowe,” the man rumbled as the elevator door closed between them. “Nice lady,” he said to himself as he began walking down the hallway, “civilized, polite. Need more like her.”

 

            Jane sat on the couch and watched the television in mute horror. Quinn sat next to the sign-in table rubbing her throat, and a brunette that Jane didn’t recognize sat next to Quinn nervously sipping coffee. The woman in black and red grabbed Stacy by the pigtails and began floating towards the door.

            The camera angle cut to the front of the museum, where the woman floated out through the broken doors. Stacy stumbled along behind, trying to keep up. The woman reached back and grabbed the collar of Stacy’s coat and tossed her down the steps.

            “Bring me the last daughter of the House of El,” the woman said, looking directly into the cameras, “or the next monkey I throw at your feet will be broken in half.”

            The woman turned and floated back through the door, ignoring the couple of cops that squeezed off shots at her back. The bullets could be seen dropping to the ground behind her after failing to cause any injury at all.

            “That was the scene just a few minutes ago at the Lawndale Museum of Art,” the news anchor said as the television cut back to his desk. “Police are baffled by her strange demand, and are currently in communication with the United Nations in order to determine the identity of the person she is looking for. More as the story develops.”

            Numbly, Jane picked up the remote and turned off the television. “I don’t know what to do.”

            “She wants you, Janey.” Trent said, “She’s gonna kill Quinn or that other girl if you don’t do something.”

            “It would have been nice if my father had mentioned that I had enemies.”

            “Maybe he didn’t know.”

            “What the hell am I supposed to do about this? I’m not a damn cop, I’m a sixteen year old girl.”

            “Go talk to her, I guess.” Trent shrugged. “Possibly kick her ass.”

            “She’s bullet proof!”

            “So are you.”

            Jane stood up and turned to Trent, her fists clenched. “I didn’t want this.”

            “You know what you have to do,” Trent said gently, “how are you going to do it?”

            “Dammit,” Jane muttered and ran her fingers though her hair. “Ok, she’s got her face hidden. That’s not a bad idea, if I want any chance of all this blowing over when it’s done. I’m not wearing a spandex body suit, though.”

            “Good call.”

            “I’ve got it!” she said, snapping her fingers. “Have you still got that Evel Knievel costume you wore last Halloween?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Go get me the cape and gloves, and those glasses you were wearing with it,” Jane said, and then vanished in a blur and a sudden stiff wind.

            A few minutes later Trent came downstairs with the requested items and found Jane standing in the kitchen. She was wearing the blue dress she’d sewn the week before, and a pair of combat boots which she’d apparently spray painted red. Her hair had been slicked back from its normal look and she’d removed the silver hoops from her ears.

            “Thanks,” she said. She put on the shades, which were oversized wrap-arounds with dark red lenses, and then tossed on the red satin cape and fastened it to the dress at her shoulders. Finally, she pulled on the short red gloves and tightened down the Velcro straps across the backs of her hands. “What do you think?” she asked, standing straight and putting her fists on her hips.

            “Not bad,” Trent said, nodding.

            “I figure the glasses, no earrings, and different hair will change the shape of my head. With better posture I stand about two inches taller, and the dress is low cut enough to put all those flat-chest rumors to rest if people knew it was me wearing it around.”

            “I’d still recognize you,” Trent said, “but you look different.”

            “Wish me luck,” Jane said, and ran out of the room fast enough to pull loose papers off the kitchen counter.

            “Good luck,” Trent said quietly, and then walked back to the living room to watch the news.

 

            Tom Griffin didn’t look up when the office door opened and closed. After a second he said, “Forget something, Cindy?”

            “I don’t think she did,” a man answered in a deep, rolling voice, “or at the least, if she did I doubt she’ll be coming back for it today.”

            Tom looked up sharply at the huge man standing in his office. The man put his hat down on Cindy’s desk and then pulled a pair of leather gloves out of his jacket pocket.

            “I presume there was no problem with her daughter.”

            “Actually,” the man answered, “I believe there is, some unpleasantness at the art museum. As a gentleman it was my duty to facilitate her motherly concern.”

            Tom nodded and leaned back in his chair. “So, to what do I owe the honor of this visit, Bruno?”

            The man smiled and flipped on the surveillance suppressing system on Cindy’s desk.

 

            “We can’t storm in there, she might kill the hostages,” a police sergeant was saying to the head of a small team of SWAT policemen.

            “Well, I ain’t gonna sit out here with my thumb up my ass much longer,” the other man replied. A sudden wind blew the sergeant’s hat off his head as a teenage girl in a blue dress and, of all things, a red cape appeared next to them.

            “She’s asking for me,” the girl said. “Give me a chance to go in and see what she wants, ok?”

            “Like hell,” the SWAT cop said, glaring down at the girl. “Ain’t no point in giving her another hostage.”

            “So what are you gonna do, shoot her?” the sergeant asked. “That did so much good last time.”

            “Guys,” Jane said, reaching over and lifting the front of a cop car one-handed, “how about you sit tight and let me go hear what the bad woman has to say?”

            “You go ahead,” the sergeant said, with a wide-eyed stare.

            “Thanks.” Jane strolled past the men and up the steps into the museum. “Hello?” she called out.

            “I was becoming impatient, Jan-El.” the strange woman in black and red said. “It was about to become unfortunate for the monkeys.”

            “Monkeys?”

            “She means us,” Elsie said in an offended tone. Quinn stared at Jane for a moment and then shifted her eyes to the stack of paintings remaining on the desk.

            “I had no idea you had survived,” Tiffany continued. “But with you here I have new purpose. We will remake Krypton in all its glory, here on this planet. We will bring forth a new race of Kryptonians, and the humans will serve them in joy and gratitude.”

            “You’re Kryptonian?” Jane asked in shock.

            “I do not have that honor, I am merely one of their creations,” the woman explained. “It is my duty to preserve all that Krypton once was, and in so doing eradicate all that would stand in the way of its glorious rebirth.”

            “Like humans?”

            “If necessary.”

            “You know, I’ve now accomplished Plan A: we talked.” Jane took a few steps closer to the other woman. “I think it’s time I moved on to Plan B.”

            “Plan B?”

            “Yeah,” Jane said, and punched her in the stomach as hard as she could, “kicking your ass.”

            The woman flew backwards, crashing though several walls and disappearing from view. The muted sounds of collapsing sheetrock and falling ceiling tiles could be heard from deeper within the museum.

            “That was easy,” Jane said, “ok, you guys need to . . .”

            Before she could finish speaking, Tiffany shot back out of the hole in the wall like a black and red missile. She swung hard and it was Jane’s turn to fly through a wall, finally stopping when she hit one of the police cars outside.

            “Are you ok, Miss?” the sergeant asked.

            “I’m fine,” Jane said, pulling herself out of the wreckage of the car, “you guys might want to pull back some, though.” Jane nodded towards the front of the museum, as Tiffany floated down the steps towards them.

            “Jan-El, you are a fool,” she called out. “you have been seduced by this weak race and allowed them to pollute your greatness.”

            “I am so sick of hearing about my greatness,” Jane grumbled. She reached back and dug her fingers into the steel fender of the police car, and then twisted at the waist and threw the whole car at Tiffany.

            A pair of lasers shot out of Tiffany’s eyes, cutting the car cleanly in half. The ends of the car smashed into the steps on either side of her as she gracefully floated along.

            “Dammit,” Jane muttered as she charged the black clad figure, one fist raised for a punch that would shatter granite.

 

            “I regret to inform you,” Bruno said, “that your services will no longer be required by the Organization. I have been sent to convey your termination.”

            “I am the Organization,” Tom snarled, leaning forward and pounding one fist on his desk. “How dare you walk into my office and threaten me?”

            Bruno made a tsk-tsk noise and shook his head. “Such rudeness,” he said, “such arrogance. I am no longer surprised by this turn of events.” The huge man pulled his gloves on, flexing his fingers into the tight fitting leather. “No one man is the Organization, Mr. Griffin. We are all parts of a greater whole, we all have our own parts to play.”

            “Vitale is behind this, isn’t he?”

            “Mr. Vitale, if you please,” Bruno said, “has earned the respect to not be so curtly referred to by his last name. But then,” Bruno smiled broadly, “as I recall it was your lack of respect that led to this situation, Mr. Griffin.”

            “Lack of respect?” Tom said incredulously, “The man is my advisor, and he will damn well follow my orders. I don’t appreciate him sending some thug to my office to threaten me.” Tom stood and pointed at the door. “Leave, and you’ll be blameless in this.”

            Bruno sighed and shook his head sadly.

 

            Jane caught a telephone pole to the ribs and dug her feet into the asphalt, only sliding a yard or two before stopping. She wrapped her arms around the pole and lifted, jerking her opponent into the air, and then slammed the pole into the ground. Tiffany remained in midair, floating placidly about twenty feet over Jane’s head.

            Jane glared up at the other girl, rubbing her sore jaw. She suddenly stopped mid-motion as a thought occurred to her. The punch to the jaw hurt; flying through a wall, landing in a cop car, and getting smacked with a telephone pole didn’t. If this other girl’s powers worked anything like hers, she was going to need to mix it up fist-to-nose style.

            “Why don’t you come down here and fight like a real woman?” Jane taunted.

            “Why don’t you fly up here and make me?” Tiffany replied. After a second, Jane could almost see an eyebrow lift under the mask. “Unless you haven’t figured out how, yet.”

            “Ah, crap.” Jane muttered, dodging the sudden barrage of eye lasers.

            “I will not kill you, Jan-El.” Tiffany said. “I will merely beat you into submission before beginning your new instruction.”

            “I am in serious need of a happy thought,” Jane said to herself, “and that was not it.” A second later she got tagged by one of the lasers and was knocked to the ground. She felt an angry tingling on her back, similar to the feeling of a bad sunburn.

            Jane rolled over on her back in time to see Tiffany get hosed with a stream of white foam from the SWAT truck. Two of the SWAT cops were manning the foam cannon, while Quinn and Elsie cheered them on.

            “Eradicate that, bitch!” Quinn called out, as the sudden force knocked Tiffany out of the air. Tiffany stood and shrugged off the stream of foam, sending a laser shot to disable the cannon.

            “I will kill you for this insolence!” she screamed. She took one step forward and paused when she felt someone tap her on the shoulder. She turned and saw Jane grinning at her.

            “Remember me?” Jane asked, and made a hard right hook into Tiffany’s solar plexus.

 

            Jim Vitale sat in his study reading an old copy of The Misfortunes of Virtue while an aria played on the stereo. The telephone on the table near his chair rang, and he closed the book to answer it.

            “Hello?” he said into the phone. He smiled slightly at what the other person said, and then nodded.

            “Thank you, Bruno.” he said. “You have a good day as well.”

            He placed the receiver back on the cradle, opened his book, and continued reading.

 

            Tiffany ached all over from the fight, but she could see that Jan-El had gotten as bad as she’d given. The Kryptonian had a bloody lip, and she favored her ribs when she moved. Tiffany stepped forward to finish the fight when her mind clouded momentarily.

            “You’re not done already are you?” Jane asked, seeing her opponent take a step back.

            “This is far from over, Jan-El.” Tiffany hissed, and then lifted into the air and shot away at high speed.

            “Yeah, that’s what they all say,” Jane said, watching her foe vanish into the distance.

            Tiffany shot through downtown and then floated lightly back though the window into the room she’d left a short time ago. The robe vanished back into the air from which it had come, and the black body suit shrank back into Tiffany’s fashionable blue dress and sensible flats as her feet touched the floor. She looked at herself in the mirror, and the rage in her eyes slowly faded into confusion.

            Tiffany looked around the strange room and then asked, “Um . . . where am I?”

 

***

 

            Sandi sat at the head of the table in the small conference room that took up the back half of the office of Rowe and Associates, CPA and Tax Law. She was wearing a black dress, and a small black hat and matching gloves were sitting on the table in front of her. She looked around the table at the gathered men and women that controlled the Organization, the extended crime family that she had inherited from her father.

            “Mrs. Rowe,” Sandi said in a rusty voice, “is there any old business?”

            “No,” Cindy answered, watching Sandi warily.

            “Then let’s move on to new business,” one of the men said, rapping his knuckles on the table, “who will replace Tom Griffin as director?”

            “Angier, I believe it was Tom’s intention that Alexandra replace him,” Jim Vitale said, leaning casually against the wall behind Sandi’s seat.

            “Preposterous,” the man replied, “I refuse to take orders from a sixteen year old girl.”

            “You might be surprised how capable some sixteen year old girls can be,” another of the men said, “If you recall the fracas at the art museum, those girls looked to be about that age.”

            “Thank you for that observation, Andrew.” Angier answered, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “But I think we should stick to facts and leave the special effects to Hollywood.”

            “I am going to direct the Organization,” Sandi said quietly, “I believe my father knew someone was planning to kill him, and that’s why he brought me in when he did.”

            “Go play with your dolls,” Angier said, “come back when you get out of college and I’ll find an entry level position for you.”

            “You think you’re going to take over?” Sandi asked, quirking an eyebrow. “No, no I don’t think so.” With one smooth motion she pulled a pistol from underneath the table. The silencer cut the noise down to a single, distinct bark.

            Angier Sloane slumped back in his chair, blood soaking through the formal suit he’d worn for the funeral. The door to the conference room slammed open and a dozen men with small automatics charged in, each man covering one of the individuals sitting at the table.

            Alexandra put her pistol down on the table and looked around the room. “Are there any other objections?” she asked. She allowed the silence to stretch a moment, and then nodded. “I will, however, admit that the late Mr. Sloane made one good point before his untimely demise,” she said speculatively.

            “What’s that?” Cindy asked, nervously glancing at the machine gun near her head.

            “The lower levels of the Organization will not be comfortable taking orders from a teenage girl,” Alexandra answered. “So we’ll make it easy for them by not telling them where their orders come from. When you pass on my instructions they will not come from Sandi Griffin, nor will they come from Alexandra Griffin.”

            “Who do we tell them the orders are from?” Andrew asked.

            “You tell them that the orders come from Lex Griffin,” Alexandra said, her voice cold and distant. “Now all of you, get out.”

            The assembled leaders of the criminal community shuffled out the door under the attentive gaze of Alexandra’s hired guns. She nodded to their leader, a huge man in a well tailored suit, and he motioned for the thugs to leave as well.

            “My condolences, Miss Griffin.” he rumbled on his way out the door behind his men.

            “That was well handled, Alexandra.” Jim said quietly. “I’m very proud of you.”

            “I think I’m going to be sick,” she whispered, staring at the bloody corpse sitting a few feet away.

            “You know where to find the bathroom,” Jim answered gravely.

            Sandi stood, and with great dignity left the room.

 

            Trent unlocked the door and pushed it open, allowing Quinn and Jane to enter the house before him. The girls wore almost identical black dresses and their boots. Jane sat on the couch and absently rubbed the swollen bruise on her jaw while Trent walked upstairs to change out of his suit.

            Quinn sat on the other end of the couch and watched Jane for a moment, and then said, “Congratulations on placing in the art contest.”

            “Thanks,” Jane said.

            “I’m not sure how I feel about being on display at a nationally recognized art museum, though.”

            Jane smiled slightly. “I figured a cheerful group portrait would offset the depressing wreck painting. One thing I’ll give me, you, and the Fashion Club . . . we all look damn good.”

            “Both paintings got in, you’re the only person that got more than one in the showing,” Quinn said, “too bad the third one got lost in the destruction.”

            “Yeah,” Jane said. “Quinn, can I ask you something?”

            “Sure.”

            “It is horrible of me to not feel in the least bit bad that Sandi’s dad is dead?”

            “From what you and Sandi have told me he wasn’t a nice man,” Quinn said with a shrug. “So you’re not sad that he’s dead. That doesn’t mean you wanted him to die, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

            Jane nodded. “I never thought somebody could carry a grudge against an accountant, though. I always figured accountants were too boring.”

            “I’m not going to dig into it,” Quinn said, “I can’t, not if I want to stay friends with Sandi. I couldn’t ask her to let me print something about her dead father in the paper.”

            “I guess not.”

            “Which reminds me,” Quinn said, opening her purse and pulling out a couple of sheets of folded paper, “look this over for me and tell me what you think.”

            Jane read over the story and then looked up at her friend. “Supergirl?”

            “Sure, why not?” Quinn said with a shrug. “I thought about Wondergirl or Miss Fantastic, but Supergirl just flows a lot more smoothly. That, and it goes with the big red ‘S’ on her chest.”

            “She may not appreciate this,” Jane said hesitantly, “She wore a disguise, maybe she doesn’t want the attention.”

            “She’s going to get attention whether she likes it or not,” Quinn said, “but I can direct that attention away from ‘who is she?’ and into ‘look at what she did’ with this article. I’ve already talked to Jodie about having it printed in the Lowdown and the Sun-Herald on the same day.”

            Jane nodded.

            “This article isn’t just about the news, Jane. This article is my personal ‘thank you’ to the woman that saved my life. The Eradicator was going to kill me and Elsie, and there wasn’t a damn thing we could have done about it.”

            “Eradicator?”

            Quinn shrugged. “She kept talking about eradicating her enemies, so I went with it.” Quinn leaned forward and took Jane’s hand. “Listen to me.”

            “Uh, ok.”

            “There are obviously things going on that the human race is not ready to deal with. Until we are, we need Supergirl. I hope she’s not all we have, but I can tell you that most humans wouldn’t do what she did even if they had the same power she does.”

            Jane nodded.

            “I just hope to God she understands how much we’re going to need her, and how grateful some of us are to have her around.” Quinn plucked the papers out of Jane’s grasp and put them back in her purse. “I’m going to go home and email this to Jodie, unless you’ve got any ideas on how to improve it.”

            “No, I think it’s fine.” Jane watched Quinn stand and walk to the door, and then said, “Quinn?”

            “Jane,” Quinn said, turning briefly, “whatever it is, let it wait until tomorrow. If you still need to tell me, tell me then.”

            Jane frowned as Quinn left, pulling the door shut behind her. “She knows.”

            “Of course she knows,” Trent said from the stairway, “but you’ll notice that she’s trying to help you keep it secret.”

            “She was right about people needing me, wasn’t she?”

            “Yeah,” Trent said with a sigh, “people are pretty horrible on their own Janey, and now there’s people with comic book powers coming out of the woodwork.”

            “I’m not from Earth,” Jane said quietly, “but it’s my home now. There’s an awful lot of evil on this planet.”

            “Yeah, there is.”

            “I’m going to make my home safe,” Jane said, standing and looking up at her brother. “I swear, I’ll wage a battle against evil in all its forms no matter how long it takes.”

 

 

            Author: the NightGoblyn

 

            Disclaimers: Stereo Hifi font is ©1997 by Cathy Davies. This story based on characters and situations created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis. The Daria TV show is a trademark of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International Inc. and is referenced here without permission, and without profit.

            Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, © currently under dispute, but mostly held by DC Comics. Gotham City, Officer Montoya, James Gordan, Krypton, and other DC references also © DC Comics and are used without permission, and without profit.

            Original characters and situations created by the author are under (K) – all rights reversed. Hail Eris.

 

            Author’s Notes: Well, that was one hell of a ride and I hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

            I tried to maintain a balance between the characters we know and love and the changes that the back story of this AU would bring to their personalities. We still have the great Morgendorffer/Lane friendship, the Fashion Club, overworked Jodie, and other tropes from the show.

            I didn’t expect it to at first, but in some ways this turned into a coming of age story, told from two points of view. Obviously, and primarily, we’ve got Jane Lane. Growing up normal, learning of her fantastic inheritance, being forced into the responsibilities that come with that inheritance, and finally the acceptance of her mission. Then we have Sandi Griffin, who also has an inheritance – a dark one. Several people have played at redeeming Sandi, but not so many have shown her fall from grace. Remember, when she turned up way back in Season One she was nice.

            Some people have asked me: why Superman? Or, more to the point, why Superman first – especially since I’m a much bigger fan of the Batman. There are two answers to that, really. The simple reason is that this is the story that comes first in the narrative – I just tell the stories, I don’t try to pummel them around to the way I want them. The bigger reason is that Superman, or in this case Supergirl, is first because she was always first. That big red ‘S’ stands for everything good and noble that humanity can aspire to be . . . in the way of all great literature, the character helps us rise out of ourselves and see something greater . . . be something greater.

            I’d like to thank everyone at the PPMB for the support they’ve given me in this hobby. I’d like to thank Scissors MacGillicutty for bringing Jim Vitale to life . . . without him, things would have gone very differently. Last, but not least, I’d like to thank the Three J’s that played idea ping-pong with me while I wrote this: Jenna, Jeremiah, and Jay.

 

 

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