Klara Ellis ignored the sounds around her and stepped out into the street, even as a woman cried out and a horse and carriage loomed into sight and crashed into her. She heard the noise of the driver’s cry and the neigh of the frightened animal. She smelled the sweat on the animal and the garlic of the driver’s breath. She saw and heard and experienced it all with superhuman vividness in what appeared to be slow motion. She felt the impact but felt no pain. Her dress tore as the horse struck her, but she was not moved, nor was she harmed. The astonishing thing was that the horse was knocked back as if it had hit a solid wall.
“Cor! What kinda devilment is this?” said a dazed coachman. “She stepped in front o’ me buggy, and there’s nary a scratch on her!”
Klara turned to get away from the gathering crowd of amazed onlookers and fell directly into the arms of Lord Carrington, who had been rushing forward when he saw her step into the street.
“Come with me, darling,” he said. “I’m taking you away from here. Just follow me like a good girl. That’s my Klara.”
She hesitated and said, “My name is Kara. This is wrong — all wrong.”
He led her away, and as he signalled a passing coach, he urged her inside, and they rode away. “Pall Mall, driver. Millennium Club!” he said.
“Yes, sir!” replied the driver from above.
Klara shook her head. “Did you see? I was unhurt. I saw it all in slow motion. I’m more than human!”
“Hush, my love,” he said. “You are hysterical. As for your humanity, I value it highly. You are more precious to me than you know. I’m going to help you. I’ll make everything right.”
She nodded absently as he fixed his piercing eyes upon her. She seemed to lose her resolve, and the memories she almost had touched drifted away like snow after a warming trend.
They stopped in front of the impressive brownstone façade of the Millennium Club. Carrington jumped out and helped her down. He nodded silently to the doorman and was ushered inside.
“Edward, I-I am not allowed within the club,” stammered Klara. “It is an all-male domain. Those were your words.”
He hushed her and gently led her inside and under a decorative tapestry that swung aside to reveal a strong door. “Bhatti, open at once!” he hissed.
The silent Indian swung open the hidden door and beckoned them inside with a leer on his face. “At last you come! I ask humbly what has changed your mind, sahib? I told you I sensed something unique about this one!” he said.
“I saw enough to convince me that what I foolishly dismissed as your ever-present claims of mystical intuition and nothing more had a basis in reality,” said Carrington. “She is more than a lovely girl with an influential father. I think she may serve me in ways beyond the physical and the economic!”
“What are you saying?” said Klara “‘Serve’ you? Buddy, I don’t do windows!”
“Bhatti, I need your powers,” he said. “She is resisting my own. Since I first met her, I have been using hypnosis and my own frail magics to weaken her and bind her will to my own. I saw her as one I could use for my financial gain. I could gain her family wealth and access to Ellis and his private papers for transactions with a certain interested foreign power that would pay me very well, indeed. You know all this too well. Now I see her as a source for unlimited power of a more physical kind!”
Klara shoved him aside and said, “Power? If you want power, then I’m your girl! What kind of farce is this? I’m not Helena Bonham Carter, and this is not my era!”
Bhatti chanted in an urgent tone, and she staggered as a powerful magic began to weaken her will.
“Klara, I command you to yield yourself to our wills!” said Carrington as he grabbed her arm. “Relax yourself, and allow Bhatti’s spell to copy that unearthly power that rests within your fair form for me!” He smiled his charming smile and exulted in a sense of power as he gained some duplication of her own alien power.
“I feel stronger!” he cried. “I feel like some immortal! This is superior to all I’ve ever known, be it cheating at games of chance, seducing the foolish, or spying for the Czar, I now feel a power that surpasses all of the above!”
Bhatti continued to chant with a grim resolve. Klara fell to her knees and gasped. “My super-powers are being copied,” she cried. “You dirty creep! I know myself now! In tapping into my Kryptonian heritage, you’ve awakened me from your poor man’s Doug Henning act! I’m breaking loose now!”
She slammed both fists against the floor, and the entire club shook from the impact. Bhatti fell hard, and she swept him into the far wall with a blast of super-breath. “Sorry, but I never did like that New Age garbage, even when it was new New Age!” she said with a smile.
“I know not what you are, devil or woman,” said Carrington. “Still, I want more of the power you have. I saw it when you were hit by the carriage. I felt it when Bhatti began his spell of transferral. Now give me all of your essence!”
Kara Zor-L, for so she now knew herself to be, stood up and placed both hands on her hips in cocky defiance. “I’d heard some lines before, but that one takes the cake. Give you my essence? Right. Try a cold shower!” she said with a smirk. She punched him once and knocked him backward. Stepping forward, she connected with a second blow that left him dazed on the floor.
“Guess you didn’t get enough of my powers to stand up to two super-strong blows. Now consider yourself lucky I don’t remove your oh-so-handsome head from your shoulders. You used me like a plaything. I don’t know how I got here, but I know your hypnosis and Eastern hoo-doo sapped my will, dulled my wits, and made me into a blushing Jane Austen heroine. Let’s just say I don’t appreciate it at all!” she said as she lifted him off the floor and held him aloft with one hand.
“Klara, look into my eyes!” he pleaded. “I did try to possess you, but it was due to a need and a knowledge that we were meant for one another!”
“Nope,” said Kara. “Not going to work. Your magic won’t catch this girl again. Now just how do I find my way home?” She released him with a final shove that dropped him across the room. “Something took me out of my proper time and made me think I was a Victorian-era girl named Klara Ellis, but I refuse to be enslaved by anybody. Do you hear me? I am Power Girl, and I’ll be free! I can break the time barrier!” she shouted.
Power Girl flew into the air and gasped as Victorian London changed to modern Gotham City, and her ripped gown became her traditional costume. “I remember now!” she said. “All it took was full use of my powers to shake the delusion! I was never truly out of my proper time!”
She crashed through a window and confronted an old woman and several well-known gangsters. “Lucky Norris and his mob. Guess your luck just ran out!” she said.
“Power Girl — she’s back!” cried Lucky Norris in surprise. “Get her! The old dame’s machine failed!”
Power Girl smiled and slammed her palms together. The sheer impact created a sound wave that knocked all of the thugs to the ground. Norris groaned. “OK, OK! You got us! We’re not stupid!” pleaded Norris.
“I’m sure you all aced your S.A.T. tests,” said Power Girl. “Now, the last thing I remember was I had just tracked down your little gang, when this lady hit me with some kind of ray.”
The woman began to weep softly. “Please forgive me! I never meant to hurt you. I just needed money. I figured this way I could remove you from the city, and this gentlemen would pay me well!”
“Explain yourself,” said Power Girl.
“I am Enid Anderson,” she said. “My late father was Professor Hyram Anderson of Gotham University. He invented a ray that would bring transport people from our world into books. Batman met him long ago, rest their souls!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Book of Enchantment,” Batman #5 (Spring, 1941).]
“So from what you’ve said, I gather you needed money, so you offered to eliminate me from Gotham City via use of your father’s machine,” said Power Girl. “These jerks took you up on the offer. When I found their base, you used the ray to put me inside a novel. That’s crazy.”
“I saw father use the machine, and I knew how to do it,” said Enid. “I’ve never understood exactly how it works.”
“I’ll tell you what,” said Power Girl. “Let me turn in your pals, here, and we’ll talk this out.”
Later, the Kryptonian blonde sat across from Red Robin in the Batcave beneath stately Wayne Manor.
“So the late Professor Anderson’s machine once sent you and Batman into a book?” she asked as she leaned back and crossed her legs. “Surely you’re kidding. It had to be hypnosis.”
Red Robin sat unmasked and smiled at his fiancée. “Kara, Bruce speculated that it was what we might now call a virtual reality created purely by our own altered perceptions,” explained Dick Grayson. “It may be that the ray takes you to a dimension in which reality responds purely to the user’s desires. Ms. Anderson said she put you in a forgotten Victorian sensation novel called Carrington. The book tells the story of how a spunky girl named Clara Carlson almost becomes the bride of a hypnosis-using rogue named Carrington. Her cousin Robert saves her just as Carrington was going to force her into marriage in order to gain her wealth and opportunities to steal papers from her diplomat father George.”
Kara snapped her fingers. “Yeah! And I was turned into this Clara Carlson. I really believed myself to be this Victorian babe, but I thought my name was Klara Ellison, and my… her… father was Calvin. Her cousin was Richard. In fact, he looked like you, and her father looked like Clark. Somehow the characters in the novel turned into versions of folks I know. Various JSAers were there, too.”
“It was your strong personality,” suggested Dick. “You were fighting the effects of the ray all the time. That’s why the world of the novel began to turn more into a world full of people from our reality. Calvin Ellis — Kal-L, Clara became Klara, then Kara, et cetera. It just shows how stubborn you are! I notice that the Robert character became a Richard like me, but he didn’t save you from Carrington. You saved yourself.”
Kara laughed. “Sure. You don’t think I was going to play all damsel in distress, even in a novel, did you? Plus, didn’t the plot change greatly when Carrington learned I had super-powers? He sure didn’t try to duplicate powers from the girl in the book, right?”
“No, he didn’t,” said Dick. “He merely wanted to force her into marriage. Robert saved her. Carrington died. Happy ending.”
“I guess that weird dimension or virtual reality shaped itself according to my own perceptions,” said Kara. “As my powers and memories of the real life kept emerging, so did the reality of the novel-world change.”
“Sure,” said Dick. “I’m glad you helped smooth things over for Ms. Anderson. She was really just a victim of circumstances, and the Wayne Foundation will help her with her financial needs. That way we can buy the machine to keep it out of the wrong hands.”
Kara smiled mischievously “Too bad. I was thinking of going back to become the first Victorian mystery-woman! Kind of Helena Bonham Carter in a cape!”
Dick laughed and tossed down the faded copy of the book Carrington that Ms. Anderson had given Kara.
Oddly enough, the title flickered and vanished, to be replaced by the words The Aeronaut. If Dick or Kara had taken a look at the ending, they would have been surprised to see that, instead of death at the hands of Robert, the dangerous Lord Carrington somehow gained superhuman powers and escaped. He was never heard of again, as if he had fled to the Far East or had somehow managed to leave the world entirely… but that was a different story.