Who am I?
That's what I first woke up to. My thoughts were a haze of half-ideas and ill fitting memories that made less sense the more I tried to focus on them. Flashes of fire, of cities attacked, gunfire, all blurred together. All they served to do was confuse me more; I tried to shove them aside and focus on one. Who was I? And why I was I waking up in a dumpster in the back alley of a Mickey D's?
Despite how blurred my mind was, the pungent smell of cheap burgers and not-quite-real fries was all too familiar and was the first memory connection I was able to decipher. Fast food was familiar; and I decided, very gross. I started pulling myself out of the trash, and felt old ketchup packets explode under my shifting weight, accompanied by a lovely squelching I had pulled myself mostly free, I was able to see what I was wearing.
First, I was wearing a blue long-sleeved shirt covered in grease and soda stains that came up to my neck. There was a red skirt that came down to me knees, similarly stained and held in place by a gold belt, the only part of my outfit untouched. On my feet I wore a pair of red boots with thick soles.
Most importantly though, was the symbol on my chest. A crest in the shape of a diamond, with a stylized S resting in the center of it. Wait, no, that wasn't quite right. It looked like an S, but I knew better. Yes, more memories were returning to me now: I proudly wore the Crest of El, a symbol of hope on my homeworld Krypton.
I was a Kryptonian, Kara Zor-El! And I was… I was…
Memories of helplessness returned. Trapped in a rocket, sent away from the only home I knew, watching as it fell apart before my very eyes. I had been sent to a new home, Earth, to protect my cousin Kal-El, who was only a baby at the time. We were the only known Kryptonians left in the galaxy, the only survivors of a planet wide apocalypse.
To make matters worse, I hadn't even arrived on Earth in time. My ship had been lost in a rift, trapped for nearly thirty years. By the time I had actually made it to the little blue planet, my cousin had grown from a tiny baby into the champion of Earth: Superman. Defender of Truth, Justice, and Liberty, at least that's what the people of Earth liked to say. He had a lot of nicknames. I had one too, the most obvious one floating to the surface in an instant. Supergirl.
"Okay, good." I said to myself. "You know who you are. You know where you are… kind of. Now the question is, why?"
Obviously I wouldn't find any answers in this dumpster, so I started pulling myself out, only for my arm to buckle. I fell head over heels and landed face first on the asphalt, and didn't move, marinating in the humiliating pain. That was when I realized something was wrong.
My species, when exposed to Earth's environment, developed extraordinary powers and abilities, given time and exposure. Strength to shatter walls, speed to outrun planes, and iron skin to protect us from any threat. And while I wasn't bleeding, that I felt anything besides a minor ache, told me that my powers were completely unbalanced. I reached for the nearby dumpster, and slowly pulled myself up and held firm until my feet were under me and I felt certain I wasn't going to collapse again. Okay, first things first, I had to get a sense of where I was. An alley behind a fast food restaurant, probably in one of Earth's cities, if the constant sound was any indication. The sheer volume and breadth of it confirmed that my senses, though limited from their usual power, were still sufficiently 'super'. Yet, all of this told me about nothing about where I was. There were dozens cities in the US alone that could match this description.
If I was to figure out what happened, I'd need to contact the Justice League of America, or JLA, and get a briefing from whoever was in charge. I reached for my right ear, and found that the small bud shaped communicator was gone. Great, more questions with no answers to them. Thankfully, I wasn't without a spare. Past experience had told me to always prepare redundancies. In my line of work, you never knew what might go wrong.
The belt I wore wasn't just a fashion accessory; inside the belt buckle, was a small palm sized phone, based on the smart phones citizens used, but with far better hardware. I reached for it now, and was relieved to find it was still locked securely in place. I pressed the hidden latches on other side of the buckle, and the phone released into my hand.
I flicked it on. The screen lit up and I pressed the emergency call button. 'WATCHTOWER SIGNAL LOST' it immediately reported in response. It took an effort not to crush the phone in frustration; this wasn't the first time I had lost signal with the Watchtower, I just needed a boost. I set the phone to scan for wifi, and once it had connected, a new warning flashed on screen.
'UNKNOWN SOFTWARE DETECTED: INITIATE COMPATIBILITY MODE? YES/NO?'
Not good. Really not good. The implications of unfamiliar software in a location that seemed very familiar to me was unsettling and put me on edge. I clicked yes, and waited. After a minute, the phone chirped, and I was able to connect to the internet. First things first, I singled out my location. According to the responses I got, I was somewhere in the north eastern United States, in a small city called Brockton Bay. Good so far. But that nagging suspicion was still at the back of my head.
Instead of trying to call anyone, I started searching for any information I could on the Justice League instead. What I found was a handful of very sparse wiki pages covering Justice League from a now defunct company called DC. I closed my eyes and crushed the edge of the dumpster with ease. Oh good, my strength wasn't completely gone.
But, this wasn't good. I kept flipping through the internet, and my suspicions were confirmed. I was in the United States, but I wasn't on Earth. Specifically, I wasn't on my Earth. I was no stranger to the multiverse, and it looked like someone or something had dragged me into another alternate Earth. One where the all the people I knew and cared about were just fictional characters. Those universes were always so much fun.
Surprisingly though, even if the heroes of my Earth didn't exist, this was not a 'normal' Earth. It too had its own many heroes, had had many since the 1980's in fact. Their numbers grew every year, but as I read, I saw that this was hardly a good thing. Villains were multiplying far faster than heroes, as a result of something called a Trigger Event. People put through traumatic events would develop superpowers, essentially. Meaning that anyone with powers typically wasn't the most stable individual.
I thought to some of the more colorful members of the Justice League, and even my own past. Perhaps there was more in common with this universe than I first thought.
Regardless, what I read did not paint a positive picture for the people of Alt. Earth. Monster attacks were yearly, and so far none of these 'Endbringers' had been taken down. At best, they could be repelled, which still left huge devastation in their wake. The result was a world that many believed was teetering on the edge of destruction. I didn't blame them.
My first impulse, the very first thought to pop into my head when I read all this, was that I could fix this. I, Supergirl, would swoop in and save the day like I always did back on my Earth. But thankfully, rationality and past experience won out. Even at my strongest, with the backing of the JLA and a dozen other superhero teams, I couldn't solve all the problems there. It was going to take a lot to even make a dent on this Earth.
I smiled at that thought. In spite of my amnesia, my weakened powers, and my recent arrival, my mind was made up. I would do all that I could to help this Alternate Earth; if I simply sat on my laurels and waited for Kal and his team to find me, I would never live with myself if I had done so.
That said, I would need to take this slow. It would take a few days at least for my powers to start filling in again. Before I had arrived on Earth, I'd been blasted with the equivalent of thirty years of sunlight exposure when I landed. Thus, my power had been near equal to Kal's when I arrived, even though physically I hadn't aged. Now, with my powers seemingly on full reset, it would take some time before I could really push myself.
In order to help these people as soon as possible, I would need to wait for a few days before trying to take to the streets. I frowned at that, but knew there wasn't a lot else I could do except lay down and soak in the rays. A glance down at myself again made me rethink that. I'd have to find a way to clean myself first, then I could start biding my time.
I'd like to say that I did exactly that. That I found a nice lake or stream to clean myself in and then was able to sit around soaking up rays for days until I could get to work. It would be very nice to have kept my impulses under control, but alas, reality is often disappointing.
No sooner had I started out of the alley, did I hear a distinct bang. Let me clarify, I heard many noises with my super-hearing. At its peak, it was possible for me to hear and process every sound on the planet, with time to concentrate of course. I had a very limited version of that at the moment, maybe a few blocks or miles at most, I wasn't sure. Even my ability to process information, I could tell was far slower than what I was used to.
Yet this little bang, for whatever reason, snapped me straight to attention. My head swiveled in its direction, and I waited for a follow up. There was always a chance that it had someone had just backed their car into a mailbox or something- I heard it again, louder, repetitive, and panicked; and I could hear someone screaming.
"Hello!? Anyone!? For the love of god, please let me out of here! This isn't funny! Help me! Please!? Help!"
So much for patience.
The pedestrians parted before me as I sprinted down the sidewalk, far faster than any human could. My speed had dropped significantly, but that still put me nearly as fast as a speeding bullet. I didn't bother waiting at crosswalks, I simply leaped over them in a single bound, and at at my pace, it took only a minute or two to reach my destination.
To my surprise and sullen disappointment, I found myself at a high school. Winslow High, and it wasn't in great shape. It was a squat square three story building, with an open field behind it where kids could be seen streaming out for their physical education. The walls and windows were dirty, and the streets around it were ill repaired. The screaming was coming from in there, and it was only getting worse.
I burst through the front doors, drawing the attention of several hundred sets of eyes. I didn't exactly look the most impressive, and very few if any of these kids would know anything about me or my cousin. I probably looked like a half crazed cape that had wandered in off the street, which… wasn't far off the mark, admittedly.
There wasn't any time to waste, I could hear that girl breaking into tears, screaming so hard her vocal chords sounded about ready to burst. I rushed forward, the students parting as the pedestrians on the sidewalk had. I'm fairly sure both cases were as a result of the lingering smell that I was only now starting to notice. I put it behind me and came skidding down a hall and found a cluster of students gathered around a locker that was shaking violently.
That was the source.
I won't lie, my blood boiled at the sight. They could obviously hear her begging for someone, anyone to help, and all they did was either watch or ignore her. Several had already broken off with bored looks on their faces. I shoved through a trio of girls a little harder than necessary, and ran up to the locker.
"Miss? Can you hear me?" I called. The students behind me began murmuring, most of what they said was less than polite.
The screaming stopped and a raw voice said, "P-please, get me out of here!"
I ran a finger along the lockers edge, debating if I should rip it off its hinges and fling it at the kids behind me to give them a taste of helplessness. I shoved the nasty thought aside and instead said, "It's okay. Everything is going to be okay."
My fingers wrapped around the padlock, and I pulled it off as easily as clay. The locker burst open, and the girl collapsed into my arms, violently shaking. She was covered in used tampons and pads and other disgusting items I couldn't identify. So this wasn't spur of the moment, it was planned.
I buried my anger, and turned to the assembled students, keeping one protective arm around the girl, "Where's the nurse's office?" I demanded.
The response I got, was, "Who the fuck are you?"
This came from one of the trio, a short slender girl with dark skin and brown eyes. She wore a track and field uniform, and her look told me all I needed to know. I was in no mood to play nice.
I grabbed the girl by the shirt and lifted her into the air with one hand. There were a few shouts of surprise, and the other two girls hastily backed away, wide eyed. It was weak, but I felt that familiar heat building at the base of my eyes, and I had a good idea of what this girl was seeing.
"Nurse's office. Where is it?"
According to the school nurse, a kindly older woman in her mid-50's, Taylor (that was the girl's name), was physically fine. As the minutes ticked by, she seemed to slowly come back to life, though there was a distant expression in her eyes. Whenever she thought I wasn't looking, she'd steal a glance at me then look away when I turned my attention to her. While the nurse had checked up on her, I'd used some of the clean wipes to get the worst of the stains out of my costume, but it didn't do much for the stench.
At the tail end of her examination, a narrow woman dressed in very dark business attire and with a severe blonde bowl haircut, came in with a few staff tailing her, and starting basically interrogating her. Taylor responded with quiet 'no', 'I don't know', and 'it wouldn't matter' to each question until the woman, revealed to be the Principal of this highschool, grew visibly annoyed.
"Miss Hebert, if we are to punish those responsible for such an act, we require your active assistance to bring the persecutors to justice."
"It doesn't matter. You haven't done anything about them yet." Taylor said mumbling that last bit under her breath.
The principals face turned a unique shade of red, and that's when I put myself in between them, "Ma'am, clearly Miss Hebert needs time to gather her thoughts. What she went through would have been very traumatic, and interrogating her certainly won't help with that."
The woman looked me up and down and I again cursed my appearance. "What would bring a cape here in the first place? While what happened was certainly unacceptable, it wouldn't require the assistance of a powered individual."
"Firstly," I started, "I have enhanced senses. I could hear her screaming for help three blocks away. And secondly, ma'am, it appears I was needed, because no one was bothering to help her, even the staff."
That definitely struck a nerve. The woman bristled and loomed, which would've been a little more intimidating if she didn't have to look up at me. I'd grown several inches since I'd arrived on Earth, I had to be pushing six feet by that time.
The principal seemed to reign in her emotions, and turned to the nurse, "How is she?"
"Physically fine, as far as I can tell, Principal Blackwell" the nurse replied, "But I recommend the rest of the day off, to give her time to collect herself."
Blackwell seemed to mull that over for a moment and then nodded, "Very well. I want you in my office before first period on tomorrow morning, Miss Hebert."
With that, she left. The moment the nurse was sure she was gone, she said, "I can't stand that prissy bitch."
I snorted and covered my mouth. Taylor's lips twitched, but that was it. The nurse started packing her medical equipment away, "Now, we already called your father Taylor, he'll be here to pick you up in half an hour or so."
"I can walk." Taylor replied.
The nurse frowned, but I interjected, "Good idea. Get some nice fresh air, out from the indoors. That'll be great for settling your nerves."
An idea sprang into my head and I added, "Tell you what, I'll tag along with you, just to be safe."
"I can walk fine by myself." Taylor said, not meeting my eyes.
"Taylor has a point. Your help was appreciated, but I doubt a full cape escort is necessary, um…" the nurse paused and looked at me, drawing her lips together. "Actually, pardon me, but have I seen you somewhere before? What's your name?"
I put my hands on my hips, and tried not to smile too broadly, "Just call me Supergirl ma'am."
That actually made the nurse laugh, "Hah! I thought I recognized the costume. My, I am really feeling my age, if the kids these days are taking inspiration from old comic books."
I made an effort not to let my eye twitch with irritation and said through clenched teeth, "Well, what can I say? I have an appreciation for the classics."
Arms falling to my side, I sighed and said, "Look, something like that isn't a spur of the moment thing. Someone put a lot of time and effort into that 'prank'. They aren't going to be happy I interrupted it, and someone that determined won't just let their target get away unmarked. I can give you a safe escort home, and then you don't have to worry about ever seeing me again if you don't want to."
Some might say I had made a few leaps in logic there, but honestly, unless the perpetrators had gone to every girl in the school and asked for their used maxi-pads and tampons, odds were good they had personally saved most of them for this prank. I was no Batman, but basic skills of deduction weren't beyond me.
The nurse seemed unsure of this, and turned to Taylor, "The decision is ultimately up to you-"
"Yes. Fine. Lets just go please." Taylor said, suddenly standing.
After picking up her school supplies, I followed Taylor out the school to the nearest bus stop. No one tailed us the whole time, but I didn't entirely trust my senses yet. Noises were still flooding in at uneven intervals, and it was only my experience with them that kept my sense of self in check. So I kept an eye open for anyone exceptionally petty while we waited at the bus stop.
The early morning was starting to finally fade, and fresh sunlight poured over the both of us. I couldn't help but tip my head up to it and soak in the rays, feeling my strength slowly, ever so slowly, pooling within me. I could have stood there all day like that, until Taylor coughed into her hand.
I turned to her, brow raised. She looked down at her feet. "Why'd you help me? Aside from the whole 'capes have to help everyone' shtick."
Ah, I was wondering when that question would pop up. I'd heard it before, though for different reasons back home. My family's reputation painted us as larger than life to many of the humans of Earth, some had a hard time understanding why we'd even bother trying to help them.
"Like I said, I heard you from several blocks away. You sounded scared, terrified even. How could I not?"
Taylor frowned, "Pity then?"
I shook my head, "No, not pity. I just… wanted to. With or without powers, I would have done everything I could to help you. It's a small world we live in, there isn't room in it for hatred and suffering. "
That earned me a stare from, probably the first time she really looked at me. From the expression on her face, she seemed to be trying to figure out what my angle was, which wasn't surprising. Thankfully, for both our sakes, the bus arrived at that moment.
I didn't just keep a spare communicator in my utility belt. It was divided into compartments, each holding something I might need in case of emergency. So while it wasn't exactly the same as the alternate earth currency, the emergency cash I had on me was close enough that the bus driver wasn't able to tell the difference, though he did grumble about having to accept paper currency. Apparently coinage had become more popular with the rise of parahumans. I made a mental note to memorize the man's face and name tag so I could properly pay him back when I was able.
We sat near the back of the bus and the ride began in silence. I could tell that Taylor wasn't thrilled to have me along, I knew how she felt. My first year on Earth had left me feeling alone and unwanted; human high schools hadn't helped. All I had wanted for the longest time was to be left alone. If Taylor felt the same, then I would keep to myself and wouldn't bother her. If she wanted to talk, I'd be all ears.
It was about three or four minutes into the route, Taylor spoke up. "I… thank you, Supergirl. I didn't say that and I should've. Thank you, for saving me."
I tried not to smile. "You're welcome, Taylor. I'm glad I could help."
There were questions I had of course. Who was behind the prank, why were they after Taylor specifically, and how long? But again, I wouldn't pry.
Taylor fidgeted with her backpack, and looked away from me again, half muttering something. I turned to her with a half-smile, "What was that?"
"I said… what're your classifications?"
It took a moment for me to understand what she meant. Metahumans in Alt. Earth were classified by twelve different categories to try and get a handle on all the powers people were developing. In turn, an individual's level of skill and versatility with said power was rated on a scale of 1-10 to best put together an appropriate response should they ever go villain. It would seem, that Taylor had let down a wall and her curiosity was showing. I could see a gleam in her eye, a bit of actual emotion, buried under that mountain of despair and loneliness.
I leaned back in my seat, "That's a hard one. I haven't thought much about it, but… well, its an extensive list."
That got her attention, "How extensive?"
"Hmm," I said, and started counting on my fingers, "Well, lets see: Super-strength, super-speed, enhanced senses including microscoping, telescopic, electromagnetic, x-ray, infrared, and heat vision. I can fly, am invulnerable to most forms of damage, can process things far faster than any human thanks to my super-speed, can regulate my internal body temperature and raise it in excess of 2700 degrees fahrenheit, use super breath to create hurricane force winds or ice, and these all grow stronger the longer I am in sunlight. I draw my strength from the sun you see. Oh, and I can modulate the pitch and frequency of my voice to sound like anyone or speak at frequencies the human ear can't hear."
Taylor was gawking now. Her mouth was hanging open and her eyes were wide. I didn't even try to hide my smile. I had her full attention, and her mind, for the moment, was off of the incident.
"You're making some of those up." she accused after she came back to her senses.
"Am I?" I asked, in a perfect imitation of her voice.
Taylor visibly cringed, "Please don't do that again."
I leaned back in my seat while Taylor processed all this, questions forming in her mind. "If you have all these powers… why aren't you out running around with the Protectorate or something?"
That was the last question I wanted to answer honestly. I don't think Taylor would have been able to accept it if I admitted I was from another universe. Odds were good she'd think I was insane, which wouldn't be an unreasonable assumption to make. I'd need a cover story to tell people instead, which meant I'd have to lie. I could handle that, a little white lie. How hard could that be?
"My um… abilities are kinda new. It took me a… while to learn them and I think I… exhausted, yeah, exhausted myself in the process. Everything has been… reset. I'm down to the basics, and it could take weeks or longer before I'm at full power."
Taylor's face was surprisingly blank as she processed this. She leaned back in her seat and processed it. I inwardly winced, and looked out the window. I didn't know what else to say, I felt anything I might say could just make things worse.
"Are you in Brockton Bay by choice?" she suddenly asked.
That actually caught me off guard. "I...um, no. I just kind of… drifted into town. Crashed into a dumpster along the way, to add insult to injury."
That seemed to settle something for Taylor, and the rest of the route was driven in silence. We finally reached her stop a few minutes later, in a suburb that wasn't in the greatest or worst of conditions. Probably the lower end of middle class if I had to guess. I followed Taylor to what I assumed was her house. With each step, she seemed to shrink back in on herself, returning to that quiet withdrawn personality she had hidden inside of in the nurse's office.
I saw why when we reached her home. A car was pulled into the driveway, and a man was just stepping out of it. He was a tall, thin man, with large green eyes hidden behind a set of glasses. His dark hair was starting to thin and he had a weak chin. When he saw us approaching, his eyes practically ignited with concern.
I don't think I expected to see a man that lanky move so quickly around his car. I had practically blinked and he was embracing Taylor. I couldn't get a read on her face, it was a mixture of relief and anxiety, if I had to guess.
"Oh my god, Taylor. As soon as I got the call I… Are you okay?"
"I-I'm okay dad, really… Shaken, but okay."
Her father ended the embrace but didn't let go of her, his face taking on a very serious expression, "Do you know who did it? Who went after you?"
"Dad… please, it's not important?"
"Not important?" The man started, his voice rising. At that moment he seemed to finally notice me and paused.
"Um, sorry, I didn't see you there."
I shrugged, "Its okay, I didn't want to interrupt."
Taylor extricated herself from her father's gift and gestured at me, "Dad, this is the cape that saved me. Supergirl, this is my dad, Daniel Hebert."
He offered me his hand, "Danny, please."
I shook his hand, careful not to squeeze to hard. "Ah, quite the grip there, Supergirl…"
His eyes glazed with thought for a moment, as he thought on the name, "Isn't that the name of a character from an old comic book?"
I suppressed my urge to twitch again and smiled, "So I've been told. It's a pleasure to meet you, Danny."
"The pleasure is all mine, really. You saved my daughter, I can't put into words how much that means to me. I'm in your debt ma'am."
"It was nothing." I told him, honestly. Even if Taylor wasn't in danger of death, she had certainly been in a situation that could have left her psychologically damaged, or worse. I had told Taylor the truth earlier, saving people came naturally to me. If someone was in danger, I would be there to help them, reward or no.
He clasped my hand tightly with both of his, "It's not, really. If you ever need anything, anything at all, just say the word."
I opened my mouth to protest, when Taylor spoke up, "Actually dad, there is one thing she needs. Besides a shower."
Danny looked at his daughter with a quizzical expression, and so did I. What was she getting at?
"She's new in town. She's not with the Protectorate, and she needs a place to stay."
Her father looked back to me, understanding and sympathy on his face. I made sure not to wince, I really didn't want to impose myself on anyone. Truthfully, I was surprised that Taylor wanted me to stick around, but then again… maybe she liked the idea of having a cape living under her roof. A personal bodyguard of sort. I wasn't sure how I felt about that.
"Is this true?" Danny asked.
I opened my mouth and the lie I was working on died. I closed it and looked aside, feeling a faint blush, "Yes."
Danny ushered me forward, "Then I insist that you come inside. It's not much, but we have room for one more. You're welcome here until you're back on your feet. If you're interested, I might even have some work that could help you get started."
I let him usher me forward, and I had an odd feeling as he did. One way or another, I knew then and there that I was going to be seeing a lot more of the Heberts, and that my next few weeks on Alt Earth were going to be very interesting.
A/N: Expect a new chapter every Friday before Midnight Pacific Standard time. Hope y'all enjoyed, review and let me know what you thought, until next Friday, ciao!