Kara soared over the city, her penetrating gaze piercing wood, metal, and stone the way an ordinary person looks through water. She was somewhat depressed. Flying usually raised her spirits, but not tonight. Too much had gone wrong in the last few months. She had thought being a superheroine would be an uplifting and empowering experience, but it had turned out to have more than its share of problems.
First and foremost there was her completely humiliating experience at the hands of Kink Kennedy. She had been drugged, kidnapped, and then raped and tortured by the brutal crime boss. Such things were not supposed to happen to a superheroine. She had barely managed to escape. Even worse, her human companion, Sylvie Levesque had suffered the same fate. Instead of protecting the weak and helpless she had been instrumental in involving her friend in a brutal ordeal. She would never forgive herself, even if Sylvie’s involvement had been entirely accidental. She was a superheroine and she should have taken proper precautions to make sure that such things did not happen.
Second there was the attitude of the New Gotham police. She had thought they would be grateful for her help. Instead they treated her as an interfering, glory-hunting vigilante who got in the way of legitimate police work. She had been involved in several run-ins with the local authorities and told in no uncertain terms that her presence was not wanted.
Third there was the problem of the criminal element. It seemed that the deadly substance kryptonite was becoming ever more common. It had allowed Kink Kennedy to capture and humiliate her, and recently she had even encountered it in the hands of petty thugs. It made her wonder where it was all coming from. Somewhere she was sure there must be a kryptonite mine where industrious criminals mined the glowing element around the clock.
Fourth there was the problem of the general public and the media. When she had first arrived in New Gotham a few months ago she had been greeted with wild adulation. Finally there was someone doing something about the runaway crime rate in the city. But then the positive attitudes had slowly changed. First of all a host of civil rights lawyers had placed obstacle after obstacle in her way. “Illegal surveillance,” claimed the defence lawyers of the thugs she had arrested. She had lost more than a dozen cases in the last few months when evidence she had obtained using her X-ray vision had been ruled inadmissible. Apparently she now had to apply for a warrant in order to spy on the drug dealers and other scum that plagued the city. She used her powers anyway. There was no use trying to go through legal channels. It took far too long and the courts were unlikely to give a civilian, even a civilian superheroine, the right to stake out any suspected criminals. But she now had to find other ways of placing them under arrest. Of late she had resorted to simply phoning the police when she came across some illicit activity and let them handle it. They got the credit, of course, but that didn’t bother her. Eliminating the criminals was much more important than any personal glory. Still, it rankled that her efforts were so little appreciated.
And then there were the nut cases that lodged complaints against her, such as the woman who had complained to the police about the film in her camera being exposed when Kara had not even been there. The story had made the six o’clock news and that brought in a bunch more copycat complaints. She had been blamed for everything from giving people painful cases of sunburn to causing cakes to fall. It was all quite ridiculous and she had refused to pay any attention to any of it, even ignoring a number of lawsuits directed at her by more vindictive if equally clueless members of the public. It was damned difficult to serve a superheroine with a subpoena, especially if she chose to stay away from everyone.
She grinned ruefully, remembering the ludicrous situation when a process server had come rushing at her across a roof top where she was giving a TV interview. He’d looked damned silly when she simply rose ten feet into the air while he waved a piece of paper at her. She had to admit she was sorely tempted to use her vision to burn up the document, but that would have just gotten her into more trouble. So she had simply flown away, mindful of the stares directed at her curvaceous backside.
That was another thing. Every time she flew over a crowd there was some pervert ogling her derriere. The tabloids vied with one another to get photographs of her from directly below. A number of times they had managed to snap a photograph of her revealing a little too much buttock. Perhaps it was time to change her outfit. She had been so proud of the job she had done on her form-fitting costume. It had taken her months to design and put together, but perhaps it was in need of revision.
She swept up to the gleaming stainless steel siding of one of Metropolis’s tallest buildings and hovered beside it. The polished metal made a perfect mirror. She wore a form-fitting long-sleeved blue top. Perhaps a little too form-fitting. Her breasts had gotten quite a bit larger as she matured and the outline of her taut nipples could clearly be seen beneath the sheer fabric. Perhaps it was time to start wearing a bra, just for the sake of modesty. She certainly didn’t need one for support.
The red gloves were a nice touch. They came halfway up her forearms and complemented the red S on her chest. And the gold belt went well with the costume too, adding a dash of complimentary colour to the dominantly red and blue outfit. But the tiny red skirt seemed a little out of place. “Makes me look like a cheerleader,” she thought. And it did nothing to cover the skimpy blue panties that covered her nether region. “No wonder my backside attracts so much attention. You can count almost every hair on my…” She sighed. She had thought the costume so sophisticated and sensual, but now it seemed to attract the wrong sort of attention. It was really annoying. She had never heard of anyone objecting to the costume worn by her friend Barbara Gordon and it was just as revealing. Perhaps it was time for a makeover. She would think about it, but in the meanwhile she had a city to patrol.
She had taken to patrolling at night. She got fewer complaints about her X-ray vision if the citizens she was protecting couldn’t see her. Many citizens regarded her as little more than a super-powered voyeur and numerous complaints had been made about her, mostly by those seeking their fifteen minutes of fame. Nevertheless, she didn’t want to give them any excuse and she was careful to avoid peering into bedrooms or bathrooms. She had had enough of citizens signing petitions to make it illegal for her to fly over the city.
Her super sight wasn’t always that much help anyway. It was a useful power, but it was far from foolproof. New Gotham was huge, covering an area of hundreds of square miles and even her eyes couldn’t take it all in. It was also littered with thousands of objects that defied her sight, especially in the older sections of the city. Lead was everywhere, in old pipes, plumbing fittings, paint, and even roofing. St. Arnold’s church with its lead roof defied her every attempt to see inside. The city also had numerous layers. There were the giant skyscrapers soaring as high as a hundred stories or more. Then there were the thousands of street level buildings, stretching for hundreds of blocks in all directions. And finally there was the underground, consisting of service corridors; subway tunnels; storm sewers; power, water, and gas lines; and basements and underground vaults of every description. It was simply too much to take in. Even if she spent every waking minute doing nothing but scanning the city she could not have come close to checking on more than a fraction of it.
She sighed. Was it really worth all the hassle? She wasn’t in the crime-fighting game for money or publicity. Far from it. She avoided the limelight whenever possible, only attending the occasional news conference. She really didn’t have much of a life. She was almost nineteen and had never even had a boyfriend. Nor was she likely to get one. Technically she was still a virgin despite what Kink Kennedy and his henchmen had done to her. One of the characteristics of her superpowers was the ability to heal, and in spite of the fact that she had been thoroughly ravished, once free of the influence of kryptonite everything had returned to the way it was. It was a bit of a disturbing thought. If she was a perpetual virgin how could she ever have children? One day she might want to find a nice boy and settle down, but it would be very difficult if the only way she could have intercourse was to be weakened by kryptonite. She could imagine what would happen if she ever made love to a man. If she had an orgasm her vaginal contractions would squeeze the male organ to jelly. It was not a scenario that appealed very much to her and she could imagine most men wouldn’t find it particularly attractive either.
She did have a few close friends. She had gotten a letter from her friend Barbara just the other day. She and Diana were coming for a visit tomorrow. It was something to really look forward to. With Barbara and Diana all pretenses and phony identities could be laid aside and they could have a good girl-to-girl chat. She suspected that both her friends found their get-togethers equally therapeutic. It was not often that a superheroine could simply be herself and discuss matters she never would have dared mention to anyone else.
She was still friendly with Sylvie, of course. The French-Canadian girl knew nothing about her super powers. But Sylvie had been badly traumatized by what Kink Kennedy and his men had done to her and had become somewhat depressed. Every time Kara saw her she was reminded of how badly she had failed. It was not a pleasant experience. Some day she hoped that she might be able to find a way of erasing the horrible experience from Sylvie’s memory.
Her thoughts were interrupted by something she had not previously noticed. She was conducting a deep scan, her X-ray vision penetrating some forty feet or more below street level. She had flown over this area many times before without bothering to check below the street, but now that she had, she encountered something quite unexpected. It was a very large building. Very very large. It occupied almost an entire city block. And it was heavily shielded by lead. She hovered, trying to find an opening in the shielding. Who would construct such an immense structure?
There was only one way to find out, but she would have to be careful. There was no telling what sort of safeguards and traps a building like that might have. And there was always the remote possibility that it had been constructed by some legitimate agency like the CIA or the Secret Service. She had been embarrassed on more than one occasion by blundering into an operation conducted by her own government.
She swept her gaze from one end of the building to the other, looking for some break in the lead shield, but there wasn’t one. She would have to investigate in person. This was dangerous. She would have to enter below ground and expose herself to possible attack.
Dropping to the ground, she used her vision to find a way into the underground building. Several manholes provided access to the subterranean depths. Picking one at random, she dropped into the service corridor that ran below the street. She was now in a dark tunnel but her enhanced vision had no trouble seeing where she was. Her eyes swept the areas ahead of her, looking for any traps. Kryptonite was her deadliest enemy and it would be masked by lead. If there were any kryptonite traps ahead of her she wanted to find them before they were sprung.
From a small pouch at her waist she took out a dull metallic sheet. It was her own lead shield. If she was exposed to kryptonite she could use the thin lead sheet to protect herself from its deadly affects. She was quite proud of this innovation. She had made the sheet herself by pounding lead to almost papery thinness with her own hands. It folded easily and provided basic protection against the weakening rays of the substance that was her Achilles' heel. She also kept her eyes open for any sort of detection devices. It would be best if her presence was unobserved.
She stopped for a few seconds to listen, tuning in her super hearing. Most of the time she did not bother to use this power. She had found that in the teeming city of Metropolis there was so much noise that it swamped her senses. Her ears brought in everything from the sound of jackhammers and crying babies to the roar of traffic and family arguments. It was absolutely impossible to separate the sounds of someone in real distress from all of the background noise, but in the silence of the service tunnel her super hearing might be useful.
She heard nothing. And that was strange. She should have been able to detect some sorts of sounds in the building she was next to. Unless the lead shielding was enormously thick. But that would mean the walls of the building ahead of her would be at least a foot thick. Who could afford so much lead, and what would be his motive?
By now Kara was convinced that she was on to something. The question was, what? Had she stumbled on to some secret government project, or had she found the lair of some super-villain? Running her hands through her golden blonde hair she decided to find out.
Directly ahead of her was what appeared to be a metal door. Trying it, she found that it was locked, but it offered little resistance to her strength. Bracing herself she pulled steadily on the heavy steel handle. From within there came a sharp twanging sound as metal snapped under the strain. “Well,” she thought, “that should alert someone if anything does.” She moved into the building cautiously. As she had suspected the doorway she passed through was over a foot thick. The building was massively constructed, but she was past the main part of its shielding.
She could now use her X-ray vision to scan the building. She found to her surprise that most of it was empty. There were a few key areas, however. On the same level as she was there was a power plant consisting of two huge diesel engines. On the floor above her was a well equipped laboratory containing some very modern-looking equipment. But it was a room on the top floor that interested her most. It was impervious to her gaze. Someone had taken the trouble to create a second lead-lined sanctuary within the building. She suspected that whatever secrets the building held would be revealed in that room. Taking a deep breath she headed up a narrow staircase toward her target.
As she closed in on the shielded room she had serious misgivings about what she was getting into. One fact that really bothered her was the complete absence of any personnel in the building. It seemed completely deserted. Who would build such a massive structure and then leave it complexly unattended? It made no sense whatsoever.
She stood before the shielded room. She listened intently, but could not hear a thing. Tentatively she reached out and turned the door handle. To her immense surprise it was not locked. Opening the door she found herself in a small room. Directly across from her was another door. Crossing the room she opened this door and stepped into the room beyond.
She found herself in a large well furnished suite. The room was interesting in that it was circular in shape and a large television screen dominated one wall. She was surprised to see herself in it. Seated before the screen, with his back turned to her was a bald man who was very familiar to her. “Lex Luthor!” she exclaimed without thinking.