The Huntress knew something was tugging at Power Girl’s mind and drawing her increasingly into the false world created by the Symbioship’s virtual reality. So she kept her friend talking of her life on Earth in a desperate way to hold her firmly in reality.
“Clark must have been thrilled to have a new family member,” said Helena. “Daddy told me how he once thought the alien superman Halk Kar was his brother. (*) He never found a super-dog or other Kryptonians like his Earth-One counterpart did.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Superman’s Big Brother,” Superman #80 (January-February, 1953).]
“Well, he did meet a few other Kryptonians before, but all were rotten. Mala, U-Ban, and others like Kil-Lor, that military creep whose plans to frame Jor-L were spoiled by a time-traveling Superman,” said Kara Zor-L. “Funny, I remember when father spoke of Kil-Lor as a hero-turned-power-mad traitor. He was a legend in our compu-tapes like your Benedict Arnold. We were horrified by his crime and yet drawn to his first heroism.” She added dreamily, “My first kiss came from a boy who even wore a Kil-Lor family crest on his jacket. Mother thought it was a disgrace.”
“Kara, you were telling me about meeting Superman,” insisted the Huntress.
“I met him when the rocket opened, and he stood there tall, handsome, and squinting slightly in that way he does. The costume meant nothing to me, since I assumed it was like the clothes we wore on Krypton — skintight and colorful, with emblems and headbands. His first words to me were, ‘Great Scott! A woman from outer space in a ship of Kryptonian design!’
“I told him my name, and he had to catch me, as my first step sent me crashing to the ground at his feet. A grown woman who had to crawl like a baby. He carried me and would take no suggestions from me. He just dominated me, and I did not care for his tone at all. He was thrilled to find me, I know that now, but back then I only saw that this man thought he could tell me what to do when I was only younger than him due to a fluke in travel time. I could have been here in 1938 right beside him, or even before him. I could have co-founded the JSA! Instead, he was the only Kryptonian for years, and he never got used to sharing the world with someone so like him in terms of background and power. I mean, he felt alone for years and never knew his true origin. But when he found me and knew we were cousins, he felt protective of me. He did not see me as an equal, and to be fair, he did have to teach me everything about Earth.
“We all had leaping ability and an enhanced stamina on Krypton, but other powers developed as I spent time here. At first they did not come. Even Clark grew into his powers as a young man. So I was new here and a little scared, and even more reluctant to show any fear. I bulldozed my way forward and acted superior. He trained me in using the powers, and perhaps the hardest lesson of all was learning that all I knew never truly happened! Mother died when I was an infant. Thus she never held me when I fell in gravi-ball or dressed my hair in curls, though I recalled her doing so.
“I met Clark’s wife Lois, and she was strong, independent, and a real role model. I wonder if my scornful attitude toward Clark reminded him of how she treated him when they first met. She was a real witch to him back in the 1930s when they met. But when I arrived they had been married for about twenty years and worked like a perfect team. She taught me to dress like an Earth woman and to walk in high heels. I remembered putting a spike heel through the apartment floor once or twice.
“They considered raising me as cousin Karen, but I was an adult in my mind — literally in my mind — and I refused to pose as mild-mannered, little pigtailed Karen. Instead, I moved into the Secret Citadel and watched countless tapes of Superman and the JSA in action to learn of Earth. Imagine my frustration and desire to use these awesome powers, when all he allowed me to do was to watch others in action — and mostly him in action! I grew more and more eager to act. I had watched life in that rocket instead of truly living it, and then on Earth I found myself having to watch again, since he did not want me to reveal myself until he was satisfied none of his many foes could hurt me or use me against him.”
“So you could have been a meek girl behind glasses, like Clark posed as a meek man back when?” suggested Helena.
“Yes, but I would never play the submissive one to anyone!” said Kara. “I came to focus all my resentment for not having my own life on Clark. He kept me down, he bossed me around! The truth is I guess he was trying his best to be a parent after being childless for decades. He had mourned the fact that he had no children of his own, and I was not willing to play the part of kid cousin. I guess I hurt him.”
“That was one thing I never understood,” said the Huntress. “Why did you call yourself Power Girl and not Supergirl?”
“I did it out of spite and a desire to be separate from Clark and free of his red-caped shadow. I know that hurt him. He can be really sensitive beneath that bold bluster,” she said sadly. “Like I told you, I was a little girl emotionally and acted petty and mean and spoiled back then,” she said tossing back her blonde locks.
“You’re never like that now,” said the Huntress with a knowing smile. “Speaking of the Citadel where you grew up, I’ve never seen it. Could anything there help you track a renegade Kryptonian like Nike?”
“Of course! Let’s go,” said Kara. “There is just such a device. I used one like it when Clark was missing a short while ago to try to find him, and it led me to her.”
Meanwhile, the mountainous Secret Citadel was the site of a strange conversation, as Nike posing as Power Girl followed her cousin Superman inside the structure.
“Nice to have you to myself for a change,” said Superman, smiling. “I miss our old quality-time moments together! Of course, you argued with me during most of them.”
“Well, I was trying to prove meself,” said Nike.
“You resisted my every word of advice,” he said, shaking his head. “Why, when I read about you stopping that volcano of Brain Wave’s in China with the Flash and Wildcat, I was proud but still annoyed that you’d broken our agreement to stay here until I decided you were ready!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “All Star Super-Squad,” All-Star Comics #58 (January-February, 1976).]
She smiled. “I had to act; otherwise people would have died.”
Superman nodded and held open the huge gym set. “Want to work out?” he asked.
“Maybe later,” she said. “Now, about that surprise…”
“You know, when I brought you home to Lois, she was shocked,” said Superman. “She recalled the magic talisman Supergirl Jimmy conjured up years ago, and she was worried I’d found another super-home-wrecker! She is so happy that you and Dick are tying the knot. He’s like a son to me, and you know I love you dearly, though I seemed to always do the wrong thing when I first took you in and tried to teach you about being a super-heroine.”
She smiled again and said, “I have a guest.”
Superman frowned. “What do you mean?”
She opened a box and held it with the open side facing away from her.
“Kryptonite!” he gasped.
“Exactly, guv’nor!” she said. “And I’m not your tomboy cousin. I’m Nike, her better ‘alf, and this is just to soften you up for my new partner!”
Superman tried to blow the box out of her hands, but the radiation weakened him rapidly.
A dignified man with a silvery white mane of hair and a beard stepped up and said, “We meet once again, son of Jor-L,” he said as he stood behind the beautiful blonde and her lethal lead box of kryptonite. “You do recall me — Kil-Lor.”
Nike snapped the box shut as her new ally strolled briskly over to kick Superman flat. “Now I pay you for old debts and allies lost,” he said in a stately manner.
Superman thought of Lois, the baby, and his missing cousin and painfully stood up. “You don’t beat me without a fight!” he vowed.
Even as the Man of Steel valiantly fought on against the Kryptonian rebel, his beautiful cousin and the Huntress found problems all their own. The Huntress gasped as Power Girl suddenly plunged out of the sky. Her super-body absorbed the brunt of the impact, but the agile Huntress had to roll frantically to a stop.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. “You just fell out of the sky like a curvy rock!”
Kara frowned. “I merely jumped as all Kryptonians do. What would you expect me to do — fly like a nightwing?”
“Kara, you can fly here on Earth!” urged the Huntress.
“Earth? That is but a backwater planet on our astronomical charts and nothing more,” she said in a firm tone. “I am a daughter of Krypton, and this is Argo City! I’m Kara Dev-W, and that is my husband and the father of our baby girl!”
The Huntress turned to see Devin from UCC standing nearby. He now wore a black and gold costume with a headband. “I am afraid my mate speaks the truth,” he said. “We are happily wed by the decree of the matrimonitron. Our bliss is increased by our beautiful child. Together we are one.”
He embraced Kara, who kissed the handsome blond man with passion and comfortable ease. She leaned against him and repeated his words almost verbatim. “Together, we are more… together we are complete.”
The Huntress realized the blond man from UCC was also the romantic figure from Kara’s false memories. “The Symbioship once kidnapped you and planted images of a married life with a blond,” she said. “You are the husband from that phony memory!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “When the Symbioship Strikes,” Showcase #98 (March, 1978).]
“True,” said Dev-W, “but since our love was so strong, the memory has become real. I shall take my bride away to the remaining Kryptonian center on this world.” He slipped an arm around her waist, and they bounded off together.
The Huntress frowned. “Somehow I’ve got to bring her to her senses and deal with Nike, too, before poor Dick comes back to find he’s lost a fiancée.”
Helena Wayne knew their destination, but she lacked any directions to where the last Kryptonian center was located. They had to be going to Superman’s lofty Secret Citadel, but unlike Dick Grayson and her late father, the Batman, she had no idea where it was located.
She tried to summon Superman via the JSA signal device, but he never showed up. Instead she reached into her belt and activated a sonic signal much like that of Jimmy Olsen’s. No one showed up. “I guess I’ve got a long walk back, unless I get Green Lantern to play taxi,” she fumed.
Kil-Lor smiled and said, “Nike, my dear, allow me to gain my long-sought retribution alone. You may continue with your own plans.”
She smiled and said, “No problem. Give the bloody Yank a sound thrashin’!” She flew off and left the two men alone.
“You know, for a man who turned against the society of his world and tried to frame an innocent man for his own actions, you’ve got a funny idea of who is owed retribution!” said Superman. “You’d still be orbiting the world in a stupor, while rehabilitative tapes played on, if Krypton’s penal satellite had not been drawn through time and space by Alexander the Great back in the 1940s. (*) In fact, a decade later when I went back in time to visit Krypton and fought you, I had no memory of your first attack. (*) Your mental games left me unsuspecting then, but I recall you well now, and I’m prepared!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice Society of America: Times Past, 1943: Acts of Vengeance; although a version of this story takes place on Earth-Two, the original story takes place on Earth-One, as seen in “The Girl of Steel,” Superman #123 (August, 1958).]
He slugged the white-maned man with a hard right, but although the Kryptonian winced, he stood firm.
“You are a shadow of your former self because of the green rock,” sneered Kil-Lor. “Now I’ll teach you about true combat!” He wrestled Superman around and began to choke him.
Superman knew that this old soldier knew more ways to kill a man than he could ever conceive, so he was doubly at a loss. He flipped around and drove elbows into his attacker’s ribs. The hold lessened but did not break.
“You framed my father,” grunted Superman. “We owe you the pain, not the other way around. You were a leader in Krypton’s society before you sold your world out in a personal power play! Don’t you have any honor?”
That was a sore spot for the distinguished old warrior, and Kil-Lor loosened his hold momentarily. “Honor is the last resource of the beaten man,” he replied.
Superman hit him hard enough to break free. “What did you do to Power Girl? That British witch is her double.”
“I have exalted plans for that little girl,” he said. “Having broken many Earthlings in my time, I still long for an heir. How shall I put it? Ah, yes, to paraphrase one of your Earth films of old: Krypton needs women! I have learned that Earthlings and Kryptonians cannot produce children, at least under normal circumstances; thus I plan to mate with your blonde cousin!” He laughed.
Superman frowned. “She’d sooner break your spine!”
“Not after Nike turns all Earth against her,” said Kil-Lor. “She’ll gladly crawl to me as her one source of affection and alliance.”
Superman charged again but received a swift left hook to his jaw.