Karen Starr stifled a yawn when the phone in her office at STAR Labs rang. She reached down and slipped her black high-heeled shoes back on as she answered the phone and said, “This is Karen. How may I help you?” She smiled as she heard the warm tones of her cousin-in-law Lois Lane Kent on the other end of the phone.
“Karen, I hate to bother you at work, but I wondered if you would be willing to drop by after you get done,” she said. “There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
“Sure,” said Karen. “No problem. Is Mary OK?”
Lois replied with the pride of a parent and said, “She is fine! She’s a real wonder! I have some new photos you just have to see.”
Saying their goodbyes, Karen hung up and frowned. She knew Lois was by no means an alarmist. She was as fiercely independent and capable as she had been nearly fifty years ago when, as a girl reporter for the Daily Star, she had first met Clark Kent in Metropolis. Now, as his wife and a small-town reporter in his old hometown of Smallville, she handled the demands of all of her roles with a real energy and talent. If something was bothering her enough for her to ask her blonde cousin to stop by, then it had to be serious.
Karen glanced up from her work and made a rapid decision. “Family comes first,” she said, flipping the lock on her office door with a gust of super-breath and quickly changing from one set of work clothes to another. In the now-famous white costume of Power Girl, the maid of steel swooped out of the building’s window at super-speed.
She crossed the distance from Gotham City to Smallville in seconds and landed outside the farmhouse in which her cousin Clark and his wife Lois lived with their children. She listened and heard a playful gurgle from within the house. She smiled and slipped inside unseen by any possible observer.
“There’s my big girl! How’s my Mary?” she asked as she gently picked up a small baby.
Lois Kent entered and smiled in approval. “Kara, I heard you arrive,” she said. “Thanks so much for coming.”
Power Girl nodded and said, “Don’t tell me you’ve got super-hearing now, too?”
Lois laughed and gestured to a small device on the table. “Just the super-mom’s closest facsimile, the baby monitor.”
Kara Zor-L sat down and bounced the baby while she listened to Lois. “Is something wrong with Clark?” she asked.
“He has been a source of concern to me of late,” said Lois. “You know, ever since Kil-Lor’s death, Clark has been on a leave from the JSA and has been using every extra moment to try to hunt down his killer, Colonel Future. (*) This has become a veritable personal crusade for him.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman: Heritage of Hatred.]
“I know,” said Kara. “He refused my offer of help. I can’t butt in without breaking my promise to him.”
“No, and I don’t want you to do so,” said Lois. “I just wanted to explain why I can’t bother him with the reason I called you. He has more on his plate than right now than even a Superman can handle!”
Kara leaned closer. “So, what’s wrong? Tough time getting the farm report out of the locals?” she joked.
Lois shook her head. “I wish. You have never met my niece Susie before. Her mother was my sister, Lucille Thompkins. Lucille died a few years before you arrived on Earth. Her only child Susie was a favorite of mine when she was a kid. She’s in her fifties now. She is divorced, and her only daughter Lucy is giving her fits. I thought maybe you could help.”
Kara crossed her legs and returned Mary to her bed. “Whoa!” she said. “I may be closer to her age due to my weird travel time from Krypton, but I’m not exactly good with kids. Fact is, except for Mary, here, I don’t even enjoy them!”
Lois smiled knowingly. “Lucy has been a terrific kid and a real scholar, at least until recently. Not long ago she was picked up for trying to rob a five and dime. Her pals distracted the clerk, and Lucy made a grab for the open cash register. She has fallen in with a bad crowd at her exclusive prep school, and she is not the only one of these kids to end up on the wrong side of the law. I did some digging, and none of them ever did anything against the law before they enrolled at the Fairhaven Academy. Lucy told her mother that she and the other kids did it almost on a whim! She can’t explain why or what came over her. The others all say the same thing.”
“I see,” said Kara. “Could it just be peer pressure? Wanting to be accepted leads people to act out of character at times.”
“Call it either my journalistic instinct or a crazy hunch,” said Lois, “but I feel that Fairhaven Academy is hiding some sinister secret. Something forced those otherwise good kids to go bad.”
“You suspect it is being used by some preppy Fagin type to recruit teen crooks?” said Kara. “Well, that does sound more like my kind of thing. I’ll do some snooping around and get back to you.”
Lois nodded. “Thanks a lot! I owe you. I’ll even overlook that ‘farm report’ crack!”
“Mary liked it,” said Kara. “Didn’t you, kid?”
Mary stared at them with a look of interest but said nothing.
Later, Power Girl sat across from a worried but vibrant Susie Thompkins.
“I went back to my maiden name after Roger left me for another woman and we divorced,” said the mother. “It’s been tough raising Lucy alone, but she has always been a real gem — bright, curious, brave. She is a lot like I was as a girl when I used to visit Aunt Lois and Uncle Clark.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” said Power Girl. “As you know, Superman has always been a close friend to the Kent family. I’m close to them, too.”
Susie nodded. “Thanks so much! Lucy is getting family therapy, but I think your kind of help may get to the root of the problem first. That fancy academy seemed like a dream come true when Lucy was approached as a scholarship candidate! I was thrilled that she had been offered free tuition and board at such an elite school!”
“It sounds as if the offer was too good to be true,” said Power Girl. “If something crooked is going on, then the academy must not be in it purely for hefty tuition fees from wealthy families. Maybe they are recruiting smart kids for some purpose.”
“How can you find out?” asked Susie.
“By getting a little help from a friend,” said Power Girl. “Now, may I talk to Lucy?”
“Sure. Let me get her.” Susie left the living room to return with a pretty brown-haired girl.
“Hi, I’m Lucy,” said the teen. “Mom always told me she was friends with Superman and stuff, but I never believed she could actually bring you here!”
Power Girl smiled warmly. “Sure. She was telling the truth about her friendship with Superman. He and Clark Kent are tight. I understand as a girl your mom had some trouble getting folks to believe her wild tales, too!”
Susie blushed. “That’s my past. Let’s talk about Lucy!”
Lucy sat down and sighed. “Power Girl, I don’t know if you can believe this or not, but I literally don’t know what made me rob that store. It was like I was someone else, and I could not control myself. All I could do was act and then regret it!”
“Do you trust me?” asked Power Girl. “If so, let me try something. Look into my eyes, and watch this shiny light!”
She held up her own belt buckle and swung it gently back and forth in front of Lucy’s eyes. The reflective surface caught the light as her eyes followed the motion of the belt. “Try to remember the exact events that led up to the robbery attempt. What were you doing?” she asked.
Lucy opened her mouth and slowly began to speak in halting phrases. “I was leaving class with some other girls. We had been working in the monitor room. That’s where the lectures from off-campus sources are viewed. We had leave for the next few hours, so we went into town. We stopped at the store, and we all just went into action. They distracted the clerk, and I made for the register. Then we were caught.”
“Wait,” said Kara. “Didn’t you talk over this plan beforehand? You sound like you all followed orders without even talking about it first!”
“We just knew what to do!” said Lucy. “Oh, man! We did it without even thinking!”
Power Girl touched her arm and lowered the belt. “OK, my little super-hypnosis revealed no hidden memories, but it did give me evidence that you were all under some spell or hypnotic command. You could not have acted in accord without even talking over the robbery first.”
Susie said, “Power Girl, can you help us? Can you clear Lucy’s name?”
Power Girl nodded grimly. “I’m sure going to try.”
That night found the pretty blonde in the Batcave, where she watched as Alfred Beagle led her down to a row of stored chemicals and odd devices.
“Miss Kara, I am certain that the concoction you want is around this aisle,” he said. “I am rather surprised that you knew about the Marsten case.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Although a version of this story takes place on Earth-Two, the original story takes place on Earth-One, as seen in “Batman, Junior and Robin, Senior,” Detective Comics #218 (April, 1955).]
She smiled at the English gentleman and said, “Hey, you know how Dick loves to talk about Batman. I do have a super-memory, too. It all sinks in, although I tease him about his bat-tales!”
“Ah, this is it,” he said. Alfred handed her a small glass bottle with a neatly inscribed label.
Kara eyed the clear liquid and said, “OK, let’s hope the specifications I pulled from the bat-computer are right, and that the stuff will work on a Kryptonian, too!”
She took the bottle and began to work at a lab table. She moved with care but great speed and soon held up a second bottle.
“This is a fresh batch, and I’ve diluted it just enough to do what I want it to do and nothing more,” she announced.
Alfred smiled. “My, you certainly have your cousin’s skills for science!”
She smirked slightly. “Given enough time, I could even make this stuff in diet formula!”