Power Girl: The Private Life of Karen Starr
My Dinner with Tracy
Karen Starr, alias Power Girl, finds more surprises than she expected when she takes a friend out for a birthday meal. Meet Tracy Owens, Karen’s personal assistant!
Karen Starr looked up from her desk at the STAR Labs facility in Gotham City as an attractive brunette woman waited hesitantly at her open office door. The other woman was around Karen’s age, and although she was dressed in an appealing and professional manner, she was markedly different from her boss in demeanor.
Wearing a light blue pleated skirt, heels, and a white blouse, Karen smiled encouragingly at her personal assistant and said, “Oh, Tracy, come on in. What can I do for you?”
Tracy Owens smiled slightly and casually pushed an errant lock of hair away from her clear framed glasses. She wore a brown dress and heels, both of which matched her hair perfectly. “Ms. Starr, I hate to bother you, but… I know you’re busy and all…” she stammered. “It’s just that I wondered if I might possibly take a day off on Friday, if that’s OK?”
Karen stood up and said, “Tracy, of course you can take off. You’ve not taken a personal day in months! Oh, and I’ve told you to call me Karen. I’m not into all that ‘Ms.’ business. I refuse to let other people define me, whether they are feminists or male chauvinists. Just call me Karen.”
Tracy nodded eagerly and inched backward toward the door as she said, “Thank you, Ms… I mean, Karen! I appreciate that. Sorry for bothering you!” She backed into a chair and murmured her apologies as she departed quickly from the office.
Karen smiled and shook her head as she leaned back in her chair. Tracy is the best assistant I’ve ever had, she thought. She seems to anticipate my needs before I realize what they are. It’s a shame she is such a mouse. She started to return to her work when she heard two other office assistants talking nearby.
“So, got a hot date planned for Friday, Trace?” asked a blonde named Sarah.
“What?” replied Tracy. “No, I… uh, have a family dinner. It’s my birthday.”
As Tracy continued down the hallway at a brisk pace with her eyes cast down, Karen heard Sarah’s friend Beth whisper to the blonde. “Hot date! That’s rich,” she said. “Imagine Tracy with a guy. She’d faint before the first minute!”
Sarah laughed a harsh laugh and said, “Yeah, I doubt she ever goes out.”
Karen frowned and slammed her door. Don’t those harpies have any work to do? she thought. Still, their chatter did some good by alerting me to the fact that Tracy has a birthday coming up. I’ve hardly been able to pry anything about her personal life out of her. I think she deserves a night on the town, and I’m just the woman to give it to her!
Later that day, Karen Starr made a point of stopping by Tracy’s desk, where the quiet young woman was still busy at work although the clock was nearing quitting time. “Tracy, I’ll have to charge you rent if you stay at that desk any longer. Let’s call it a day,” she announced. “And, speaking of days, I hear you have a birthday Friday. We can’t let that pass without a little fun. If you’re free that night, I’m taking you out to eat.”
Tracy stood halfway up and bumped her chair aside as she replied, “Karen, that’s so nice! You really don’t have to do that. I mean, it is sweet of you, but…!”
“No buts,” said Karen. “When you get done at your family party, we’ll have a good meal and some laughs, I promise.”
Tracy agreed with no visible sign of pleasure beyond a slightly embarrassed look in her pretty but spectacle-covered eyes.
That Friday found Karen slipping into a peach dress and heels at super-speed after stopping a drunk driver in her costumed identity of Power Girl. Glad I was able to get that creep off the road before he hurt someone, she thought. I can still see the look on his face when I carried his car into the air! That sudden aerial tour of Gotham City may just turn him into a non-drinker!
She hurried out to meet Tracy Owens as they had agreed before. She saw Tracy standing to the side of the entrance to The Screening Room, one of Gotham’s newest eateries. Tracy kept glancing down to where she had accidentally got a run in her hosiery. It was not that visible, but she was clearly concerned and kept looking around in her normal hesitant manner.
“Tracy, you look great,” said Karen as she approached the shy woman. “Now let’s go inside. This place has good food. I rather like the way they constantly project different images on the walls as well. It’s almost like eating in a planetarium! It’s really packed tonight, too!” Tracy habitually deferred to others, and thus she stepped to one side in order to allow Karen to lead the way inside.
Karen saw the packed eatery and noticed that most of the patrons were slightly rowdy men with their dates or sitting in small groups like a pack of hungry wolves. “Hmmph,” she said. “Looks like we picked a bad night. This group has the word ‘losers’ written on them in neon! Still, we can enjoy our meal and a little girl talk without being bothered by the stiffs!”
Tracy looked around and stumbled slightly as she followed Karen’s more confident stride. She looked up uneasily as the projectionist sent one colorful picture after another swirling around the large screens hanging on all of the walls. “All those changing images on the walls make me a bit dizzy!” she said. “Karen, could we get a table in the back? I feel kind of self-conscious so near the middle!” she said timidly.
“Nope. This table seems to be the best one open. Don’t worry, this crowd just hasn’t seen two babes like us before!” Karen glanced around the room, and her keen eyes took in the crowd with discernment and accuracy. I didn’t expect this place to be so full of the sports bar type, she thought. Tracy’s so jumpy to begin with. Well, I guess I can get her to relax. After all, how hard can it be to coax one mild-mannered girl out of her shell for someone who has battled jerks like Brain Wave and Nike?
Karen really did have empathy for Tracy, since she, too, had known what it was like to feel like an outsider. She had arrived on Earth after her rocket had carried her from doomed Krypton, and those years of travel had been filled through a type of virtual reality in which she believed herself to be experiencing a normal life. Thus, the young girl had found Earth to be very different from the pseudo-Kryptonian life she had been experiencing during the trip. Her protective cousin Superman, alias Clark Kent, had been there for her along with his loyal spouse Lois. However, it had taken her a long time to come to grips with exactly what role she should play on her new home.
She had felt alone and had experienced uncertainty and self-doubt, too. She had managed to conceal all of these feelings behind a display of brashness and assertiveness that had only succeeded in repelling many of those with whom she had come in contact. Now she felt as if she truly belonged. She had forged an identity and successful career for herself as Karen Starr. She had proven herself to both her cousin and his JSA peers. She even found a loving relationship with Dick Grayson after having known him for almost a decade. Things were going well for the fiery Kryptonian, and she could reach out to the demure and timid Tracy with assurance and concern.
Now, as she sipped her iced tea and struggled to find some topic with which to entertain her companion, she spotted a group of young men at a table in the back. They looked like typical urban professionals, and their leering remarks as the waitress passed by branded them as obnoxious jerks in Karen’s opinion.
She saw one reach out for their young waitress from behind, and she used a quick spot of heat-vision to prevent him from groping the woman. He yelped as he shook his hand in the air.
“Something stung me!” he said. “Must have been a bug or something.”
His buddies laughed boorishly, and Karen started to turn away when her super-hearing picked up their continuing conversation.
“To the Friday Night Bachelors Club!” said one drunken man. “While our adoring spouses sit home worrying about our late board meetings, we score!”
Karen snorted in disgust. Pigs! she thought as she turned back to Tracy. She had barely touched her meal and seemed so desperately uncomfortable in any social situation. “Don’t you like the food? I can send it back, if the chef ruined it,” offered Karen.
Tracy shook her head and adjusted her glasses as they slipped forward slightly. “No, no! It’s fine,” she said. “I appreciate your doing this! I don’t really go out much!”
Karen leaned forward. “Tracy, may I offer you some advice? You need to be more assertive. You have to act like you believe in yourself. I’ve noticed you constantly put yourself down or defer to others, no matter what the situation. You are smart, pretty, and capable. You deserve respect. Now, why don’t you sit up straight and give the impression that you know your own worth? I’d suggest you even take the initiative and go right up to some man you like and see if maybe you could hit it off. Of course, not with jerks like the ones in here tonight!”
Tracy listened intently, and a slightly hurt look crossed her expressive face. “Karen, I never have really dated anyone regularly,” she said. “I guess it’s because I always get so nervous in social situations. The truth is, I dread them terribly. I always feel like people are watching me and passing unfavorable judgments on how I dress, talk, look… I wish I could be as self-confident and capable a woman as you are, but I’m just too scared!”
Karen took her hand. “Look, Tracy. I can help you. It sounds like some kind of social phobia. You just need to get out more. It gets easier in time. I was as ill at ease as you are when I first started working with a… group of older colleagues. I even acted really cocky and put them down in order to make myself feel more secure. Why don’t I see if I can help you meet a nice guy? We can all go together. I can bring my own date.”
Tracy almost knocked over her own Coke as she reacted to Karen’s offer. “Karen, I don’t know! What guy would want to go out with a girl like me?” she asked.
“Plenty,” said Karen. “Trust me! I…!” She stopped suddenly when a routine scan of the area alerted her to the high-pitched whine of an ambulance stuck in traffic.
“Tracy, excuse me a moment. Just have to take the shine off my nose. I’ll be right back!” she said as she excused herself and rushed toward the restrooms. She veered off, and as Power Girl she quickly flew the emergency vehicle to a hospital.
“Thanks, Power Girl! You sure saved our patient!” said the driver as he waved to her.
She nodded and flew off in the direction of the dining establishment. I had to help out, but I hope poor Tracy is OK, she thought. She looked scared at the idea of being left alone. Still, it may just boost her confidence to feel more relaxed in public.
Slipping back into her civilian clothing, Karen frowned as she spotted Tracy in animated conversation with one of the Friday Night Bachelors from the rowdy table.
He spoke confidently and leaned closer as she crossed her legs awkwardly and gazed just past his head. “So, how about the two of us ditch this place for some quality time?” he asked.
Karen heard it all with her super-hearing as she noticed his buddies snickering at the other table. “Jeff’s going to win. Man, he’s got a real needy one this time!” said one of them.
“Yeah, Richardson always pulls in the most desperate female every time we hold a contest,” said another as he burped.
Karen fumed silently. Those jerks! Tracy is the prize in some dumb score with a loser game! I’ll have to change the rules. Can’t let her know what they are up to, though; her fragile ego would be crushed! This is all my fault for encouraging her to seek out men!
She resisted her desire to treat the whole group like she would the henchman of some colorful super-crook. Visions of spinning them like human tops danced in her imagination as she thought of what to do. A slightly wicked smile crossed her lovely features as she took super-speed action.
As Richardson smirked and bantered with a hapless Tracy, his eyes widened into a shocked stare as all of the wall screens suddenly displayed his wedding photo. He gulped and looked left and right in dismay. “Uh, sorry, kid,” he said with a gulp. “I gotta go. My buddies are in a rush. Maybe we’ll see each other again!” He almost tripped as he rushed to find some answers as to how a photo of his wedding, complete with beaming groom and blushing bride, had ended up on the screens for all to see.
Karen smiled and rubbed both palms together in satisfaction. Slipping that photo out of his wallet and making a slide of it, then slipping it into the equipment above was all too simple for a woman who can move at super-speed! she mused. That creep almost passed out when he saw it. Guess he thought his wife was on to him.
She joined Tracy and said, “So, what happened? I saw a guy talking to you. I told you that you were attractive to men!”
Tracy smiled demurely. “He was married. I think he was scared off by that joke someone played on him. That was his wedding photo on the screens!”
“I missed that!” said Karen. “What a creep. Don’t let his kind make you feel bad. There are decent guys out there, too. You just have to be careful not to let his kind fool you.”
Tracy adjusted her glasses and said, “Well… I wasn’t really fooled. He had a pale spot on his ring finger where he normally wears his wedding band. It tipped me off immediately. I was just about to send him packing!”
Karen frowned and then shook her head. Tracy was on to him all along! she realized. I knew she was smart and had an eye for detail, but I underestimated her because of her social shyness. I guess I just learned a lesson about being too smug or patronizing, even out of a good motive.
“Good for you,” she said. “Tracy, I forgot to say it earlier, but ‘happy birthday’!”
Tracy smiled and said, “Thank you, Karen! It’s been a memorable evening!”
Karen nodded in agreement. “You don’t know how right you are!”