The Meadowview Convention Center in Washington, D.C., attracted thousands of visitors each year. It was a highly successful business enterprise due to both the luxurious and modern conference facilities it offered, as well as the location in the heart of the nation’s capital. The staffers were trained to make certain that all those who attended the various conventions held within their spacious confines received every comfort.
However, in spite of their best efforts, two young women were decidedly uncomfortable for different reasons. The striking blonde in the bright red miniskirt, heels, and blazer fumed in irritation as she watched the crowds around her. The pretty brunette in the short brown dress and heels merely adjusted her glasses and nervously played with one lock of her hair.
“Karen, shouldn’t we take our seats or something? I’m afraid we’ll be late!” asked the timid Tracy Owens.
Karen Starr smiled understandingly at her meek assistant and said, “Trust me, Trace, these clowns are so busy partying that they wouldn’t notice us if we strolled in there in our birthday suits!”
Tracy blushed, and Karen raised her hands in a placating gesture.
“Well, OK, maybe then we’d stand out,” she said. “I’m really disappointed in the quality of the convention. It’s nice to interact with others in our profession for business reasons, et cetera, but after seeing the mass hysteria of this crowd of drunken oafs, I think we’d have been better off staying at home in Gotham City!”
A heavy man wearing a crooked tie staggered up to her and said, “Hiya, honey! I’m Mike Davis! Want to interface?” he said with a drunken laugh.
Karen rolled her eyes and grabbed him by the tie. “Sorry, Mike, but even if you were sober and of my species, I’d tell you not to byte off more than you can chew! Go play with the other kids!” She shoved him back toward the crowd and shook her head in disgust.
“Tracy, I’m going to make an executive decision. Let’s go sightseeing,” she said firmly.
Tracy glanced around nervously, and then a shy smile crossed her delicate features. “Karen, do you really think we should?” she asked.
Karen smiled and said, “Sure. What could go wrong?”
She would learn the answer to that question all too soon.
Where do you run to when there’s nowhere to run? How do you trust someone when you can’t trust yourself? Those questions didn’t run through her mind as she raced through the complex. She didn’t stop to engage in a deep analytical mental monologue. She just ran. She ran and glanced at the world around her. It was new to her, and yet the smell was familiar. It was the same antiseptic odor she recalled so well from… somewhere.
Hospitals? Clinics? Labs? She knew the odor, and she recognized the florescent lights, and she ran. She had no time to fight the old battle again. She would either remember her name, or she would remain in the dark. Still, memory meant nothing to her when compared with instinct. She knew her survival, or at least her freedom, depended upon escaping from the complex.
She could not find her way out. She hurried around corners and shoved open doors in search of freedom. She knew that getting away from this place was vital. She jumped down a flight of stairs and never stopped to realize how agile, swift, and strong she was. She merely did what she had to do in order to finally reach a window.
Hearing sirens, she knew that they spelled trouble for her. She saw the guards that rushed into view as nothing more than living obstacles to her precious goal of freedom. She spun around abruptly and kicked one of them in the head. He grunted in pain and fell backward. Before he could hit the floor, she had punched a second guard with stunning force. She flipped forward and bounded acrobatically over the heads of the remaining guards with ease. She kicked off of the bent back of a final guard and caught the windowsill.
Hands clawed at her, but her momentum was strong, and she arched upside down and smashed through the window to roll to safety outside. She landed hard and felt a sharp pain in her foot, but she inhaled fresh air, and she saw grass. She felt freedom once more, and she vowed to never surrender it again. She would not lose it to the Axis or anyone who tried to imprison her.
She ran into the street and dived across the hood of a speeding car to reach open road and a chance to get away from the complex. She did not look back. She just ran.
“Axis? Why did I think of the Axis?” she whispered.
She disappeared into the municipal park and wrestled with the walls that seemed to lock away her sense of self. Freedom would at last allow her time to think.
Karen Starr didn’t feel as if she needed time to think. She merely wanted a bit of a break from Tracy’s surprisingly animated discourse on Washington, D.C., history. The normally demure and painfully bashful girl was delighted with the monuments and history of the city, and she almost gushed with enthusiasm. Karen smiled as she thought, Boy! Give Tracy a topic she cares about, and she won’t shut up! It’s really nice to see this side of her, but I’m getting more than a bit bored. I hope I can gently get her to move along, so we can do something else.
Tracy Owens slipped her wireframe glasses higher on her nose and pointed to the Washington Monument. “The building of the monument was actually temporarily stopped in 1854 due to funding concerns, the political situation, and an embarrassing theft of a gift of African marble from a Roman temple that was donated by Pope Pious IX to be used in the construction!” continued Tracy.
Karen’s super-hearing picked up sudden cries of distress or surprise from a crowd across the plaza, and she scanned the area with her super-vision in order to determine the cause of the noise. She saw a young woman with long dark, auburn hair fighting with a group of policemen. Those cops are acting pretty rough, since the woman has no weapon! she thought. In fact, those uniforms don’t look quite accurate to a gal who can examine them with my eye for detail!
Inhaling sharply, she created a vacuum that pulled water from a nearby fountain to splash over Tracy.
“Tracy, that fountain’s spray is set a bit too high,” said Karen. “You’d better dry off in one of the rest areas while I talk to one of the National Memorial staffers! We can’t have tourists getting soaked!”
Rubbing a hand across her wet hair, Tracy said, “Good idea, Karen! I’m so clumsy!”
As Tracy hurried away, Karen changed into her heroic identity of Power Girl at super-speed and flew to the scene where cops surrounded a frightened young woman.
Giving Tracy that slight shower won’t exactly help me sleep soundly tonight! she thought with a grin. Still, it did give me an excuse to change. I’m beginning to gain a real appreciation for Cousin Clark’s tired old routines!
Power Girl watched as the young woman deliver a spinning kick that knocked one cop flat.
“Sedate her!” yelled another cop as they closed in on the struggling woman.
“Leave me alone!” she cried. “You won’t take me back!”
Power Girl melted their guns to scrap and jumped between the uniformed cops and the woman. “Hold it! Since when do police carry hypodermic needles?” she said in a commanding tone. “This little charade is over! I think I’ll take all of you into custody and clear this up!”
“Power Girl! They’re on to us already!” hissed one cop.
“Shut up! She’s bluffing!” said another.
Power Girl tapped each one at super-speed, knocking them out, and used her cape to carry them all over one shoulder. Turning to the woman, she said, “Don’t be afraid. I’ll help you. Something very fishy about these cops makes me trust you. Who are you?”
The woman stared at Power Girl and said, “I don’t know why you’ve turned on them, but that costume means you’re one of them! Leave me alone!”
She backed away from Power Girl, who sighed and said, “Look, sister, I want to help. Who are you?”
Before she could continue, the woman waved her arm protectively, and Power Girl found herself entombed in a solid metal cage. Lead! I can’t see through it, but I can sure break out of it! she thought.
Power Girl kicked through the lead cage and glanced around, but there was no sign of the woman. “Weird! She has super-powers. She turned the air around me into lead. She also managed a disappearing act that would make Red Robin proud!”
The woman was as surprised by her display of power as Power Girl had been. Still, everything about her world was new and frightening in one way or another. She was no coward, but merely trying to come to terms with life when you had no idea who you were was difficult enough without being hunted like an animal.
She had reacted with instinct, and her first use of her power was followed rapidly by an inventive second act. She had changed the pavement to air, dropped down below the street, and then returned it to normal. She had hidden in the sewer below and waited until Power Girl had flown away. She had huddled in the water below and wrapped her arms around her knees, which in turn were pressed up to her chest as she rested in a near fetal position.
Costumes mean something to me, she thought. I have a feeling or some vague memory of bad people in costumes. The ones who imprisoned me worked with costumed people or had pictures of them. It’s all clouded! How did I change matter as I did? It felt so natural. Am I not even human? Is that why the police hunted me? Is that why they locked me up? Why can’t I remember? Why?
She wept, but there was no shame in her tears. They were a necessary release, and as she rested in the darkness, she saw a face. Jeff? Tim? A name and a feeling of comfort came to her as she fought to remember who the man was. She started to breathe in shallow gasps, and finally, as if exhausted by her efforts, she whispered the names again and again before dozing off.
Back within the complex in which she had been held captive, a stern old man received word of her escape and of the capture of his agents. He shook his head as a group of men stood before his oak desk.
“You sent them out after her dressed like cops? That was risky. Perhaps we would have been better off just losing her. She has no memory. The tests show that our experiments have left her mentally unbalanced. She could not lead people back to us. She’ll forget about us soon enough. She can’t even recall her own name!
“She was our first try. She was a failure. Had she been a man, I would have ended her life. Some old-fashioned chivalry from my boyhood prevented me from doing so. I accept the blame for her escape. Thank goodness our other agents were complete successes. Garrick has me worried. Perhaps her escape is merely a signal that it is time to act! After over forty years, it is time to employ my creations in order to save this nation!” And as he spoke, everything he said was spoken in a tone of determination, if not obsession.