Supergirl and Valor: Homecoming, Chapter 4: No Substitute

by Starsky Hutch 76 and Libbylawrence

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Lesla Nim-El stood in front of a full-length mirror admiring herself in the purple suit Zor-El had made for her. Much had happened to her since she had come to Rokyn. She had gained a father and a brother, and had lost a mother. It had all happened very fast — very, very fast — and she was still reeling in shock at her good fortune.

Lydia-7 stepped up behind her and said, “It looks good on you.”

“Thanks,” Lesla said. “Zor-El made three suits for me. Of the three, I think this one may be my favorite.”

“I see,” Lydia said, looking at the other two that lay on the bed.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Lesla said, looking at the red and blue suit. “Don’t worry. I don’t think I’ll ever wear that one. My days of dressing up as Supergirl are over.”

“It’s not you I’m worried about,” Lydia said. “Well, I am, but not for the reasons you think.”

“What do you mean?” Lesla said.

“Zor-El and Alura have gone through the greatest pain a parent can go through. They’ve lost a child. And now you’re here — the lost child of Nim-El who looks identical to the daughter they’ve lost. The fact that he’d make a suit that looks similar to Kara’s — it makes me think they might be trying to turn you into a replacement for her.”

“They’d never do anything to hurt me,” Lesla said.

“Of course not,” Lydia said. “But they might not be doing it consciously. And if it helps them with their grief, normally I’d say it’s a good thing. But you’re still struggling to find your own identity. And considering your particular affliction, the last thing you need is someone trying to turn you into a substitute for Kara.”

***

General Dru-Zod looked at his watch as he waited patiently at his table at the outdoor patio of a cafe in one of the ritzier sections of Kandor, the capitol of the former bottled city’s new home of Rokyn. His face and scalp itched slightly beneath the fake goatee and high-peaked, swooped-back, black wig he wore. He felt equally uncomfortable in the stylishly cut, V-necked, avant garde, black jumpsuit he wore with black leather boots. It was so far from his normal look that he knew no one would recognize him as the rogue general from news holos of a generation before. A waiter walked up to him, and he affected an aristocratic High Kryptonian accent to order another glass of wine.

As he waited on his dinner guest, he looked at an article on many of the developments of the new world. The council had undertaken plans to recreate many of Krypton’s old treasures, such as the Jewel Mountains, the Firefalls, and the Crystal Forest. When such things as these were finished, Rokyn would no doubt draw tourists from all over the galaxy to get a look at the wonders of the world that produced the legendary Superman.

He looked up and saw that his dinner guest, Faora Hu-Ul, was joining him. Her brown locks were hidden beneath a short, black-haired wig, and her make-up gave her normally healthy skin a pale look. Her lips and eyes were accented with make-up to compliment her dark wig. Like him, she was dressed in a black, avant-garde fashion. The chest of her jumpsuit was decorated with several pins. The two of them looked like a couple of Bohemians enjoying a night on the town rather than two of the most dangerous criminals Krypton had ever known.

Darling,” Faora said, embracing him as the waiter showed her to the table. Zod made an attempt not to flinch. The last twenty-five men she had been so close to had died in her murder camps.

“I’ll have what he’s having,” she said to the waiter pointing to his glass of wine. Turning back to Zod, she said, “You look as if you’re not wasting any time.” Faora pointed to the many articles and books he had sitting in front of him.

“No, I’m not,” he said. “But I’m not going to jump in hastily, either. The incident with the imp was humbling, to say the least. I don’t think I shall concern myself with the son of Jor-El again.”

“What?!” Faora Hu-Ul exclaimed in shock. “What do you mean you won’t concern yourself with the son of Jor-El again?” Her expression was one of bewilderment and dismay.

“Look around you,” Zod said, gesturing to the bustling beyond the cafe’s outdoor patio. “There is so much more we can accomplish here on Rokyn. We’ve let ourselves get sidetracked with thoughts of revenge. And for what? Kal-El may look like Jor-El, but he’s not Jor-El. It was a fruitless endeavor.” He gazed out at the people walking by and looked down. “My thoughts used to be only of conquest.”

“Right,” Faora said. “We could have ruled the whole bottle.”

Zod looked thoughtfully down at his glass of wine and gave a sardonic laugh. “There were thousands upon thousands of populated worlds out there we could have ruled without any interference from Superman, and with our powers under a yellow sun, they would have fallen effortlessly. But what did we do every time we were released? Try to take our revenge on Kal-El under the pretense of wanting to rule his world.”

“Then what do you suggest we do with our newfound freedom?” Faora said.

“Stay here on Rokyn,” he said, sipping his wine.

“Here? Where we have no powers?”

“It certainly presents a bigger challenge,” he said. “One I relish, though. The only world I ever truly wanted to rule was my own. My attempt at taking it over was very nearly a success — a nearly limitless army of inorganisms and my genius to guide them. Perhaps it was too bold, too immediate. Given another chance, I might very well have succeeded. I had thought that opportunity taken away from me forever with Krypton’s destruction. I must have screamed in impotent rage for what seemed like years, watching helplessly from the phantom zone.”

“I know,” Faora said. “I was there.”

“But now,” he said, looking up at her with determination. “Krypton has returned, and I feel alive again.”

***

Lesla Nim-El sat quietly as Alura Zor-El swept her niece’s golden locks up and back in the latest Kandorian hairdo. “You look divine, Lesla! This will make an elegant impression on your father.”

“Thanks to you,” said Lesla, smiling. “I must admit I have nervous jitters about meeting him. I know Kara never met him, either.”

Alura combed the girl’s hair and said, “He is a good man and very bright, but he lacks the scholarly bent of his siblings. He has avoided Zor for years, except for the briefest of visits.”

Lesla, looking more lovely than ever, appreciated the affection this newfound aunt had showered on her.

“Kara looked just like you with her own hair like that,” mused Alura. “I do miss her so.”

“She had a very loving heart, as you do,” added Lesla. “In fact, I can tell you of one of her adventures in which she triumphed, not through her power, but through her heart! I recall it as if if happened to me. In some ways, as you know, it did.”

Then Lesla told Alura of the time that Supergirl faced the super-villain known as Brain Storm, who had been manipulating the emotion-projecting powers of a very special alien. It was a tale in which Supergirl’s love truly won the day. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Supergirl: Times Past, 1983: Emotional Rescue.]

After Lesla finished her tale, she turned to Alura and said, “You see, it was the love you and her adoptive parents gave her that allowed Kara to have the stability to beat Brain Storm at his own game. Her love won the battle.”

Alura kissed Lesla. “Thank you for sharing that story. I do feel closer to Kara through you. I’m sure she would feel that you had become a wonderful person in your own right without having to become a second Kara.”

Lesla hugged her aunt. “I could not ask for better praise.”

***

Nam-Ek sat cross-legged at the mouth of a cave in the mountains, looking down on the city of Kandor. The rain pouring down was a reflection of his own mood. Its wetness made the stink that rose off of him even worse. He felt alone and lonely. But what else was new?

His fellow prisoners of the phantom zone had been elated to be released from that dismal, non-corporeal prison. Personally, he felt it made no difference. He was still an outcast. If he were to walk down to the city and try to mingle with his fellow Kryptonians, there was no question it would cause a panic. His horrible, horned visage never failed in that respect.

He was tired of being considered a monster. All he wanted was acceptance. It was something he knew he would never have, though, because of his original sin of slaying a rondor and injecting himself with the powder of its horn. He had sought eternal life. Instead, it brought him eternal unhappiness.

A wounded bird landed in the mouth of the cave before him, screeching pitifully, its wings broken. He picked it up, cradling it in his hands and gently caressed it. When he sat it down, it walked a few paces and then flew off undamaged.

***

Lesla Nim-El was feeling happy and secure in having a family name and a history of her own. She had spent a satisfying hour with her father Nim-El, the weapons-maker, at the home of her Uncle Zor-El.

Breaking the news of an unknown daughter to Nim-El had been difficult, yet he had accepted his brother’s word as a bond. Nim, the twin of the late Jor-El, was oddly deferential to his younger sibling. Zor had the El family qualities of responsible dedication to science, while Nim admitted to Lesla that he had always been wilder and had, in fact, adopted abuses and vices after the explosion of Krypton.

“I had survivor’s guilt,” he explained. “I assumed the two good brothers, Jor and Zor, had died while I, the black sheep, had survived. It seemed unfair. I was only alive because Brainiac took Kandor away before the doom of our world. And I was only in Kandor because Jor had sent me there on an errand. So until I learned that Argo City’s survival zone had enabled young Zor to live as well, I felt guilt and doubt, and drank to forget. I drove my wife away during that time, too, whom I had met in Kandor after the city was taken away. She was largely responsible for making Don-El the man he is today. Thankfully, I’ve managed to make amends to her, and she’s stood by me ever since.” He looked at a picture on the wall of himself and his wife, Dondra Klu-Ta.

“I also understand the need to make up for guilt due to past actions,” said a smiling Lesla as she and the balding but handsome Nim-El walked through Zor’s garden.

He turned to her suddenly and gazed at her in wonder. “My daughter! Rao, you have the look of the Els! You are Kara’s twin, according to the holovids I’ve seen. I never met her or Kal — always made an excuse. It is only due to my bad conduct that the Lars could conceive a scheme of revenge such as they used upon us. No vice would have trapped Zor-El as did mine. I can only ask you to forgive me. I never knew of your birth. If you and Zor will give me a chance, I hope we can restore our family ties. For years I distanced myself from him. Couldn’t look him in the eyes.”

Lesla hugged him tentatively and offered him her own forgiveness and acceptance.

***

In the madness during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman had been occupied with action, grief, and strife. Thus, he had not missed one robotic duplicate of his friend Lana Lang, one of a few such duplicates in his Fortress of Solitude.

In early August, while Superman and the Justice League of America were battling an army of super-villains in the parallel universe of Earth-S, the Lana Lang android flickered on and obeyed a mental command that reached through the realm of phantoms to touch her all-too-humanlike mind. She picked up a small square from the trophy room and had carried it to the zone projector.

“I can’t bring myself forth without the alarm going off,” mouthed the Lana Lang robot as it echoed one of the voices from the zone. “Young Kal is prepared, after his many duel with the other phantom zone villains and has rigged the projector so that any release sets off hypersensitive alarms. But I can bring my card containing the glyph within to join me, although as a phantom I won’t be able to touch it. But if I place it within the bot and bring her inside, then I shall not set off an alarm or lose my precious creation.”

The Lana Lang android tucked the card within her chest plate and pressed a timer to put her robotic form into the phantom zone.

In October, only two months later, the fifth-dimensional imp called Mr. Mxyzptlk — then combined in a jeweled form of a heart with the being known only as Aethyr — destroyed the phantom zone, releasing all of its prisoners upon Earth. After the villains were briefly able to wreak havoc, he then absorbed all of them within his jeweled form. Then, just days ago, the former phantom zone prisoners were freed on the world of Zrfff and finally sent to join other Kryptonians on the world known as New Krypton.

Just after the phantom zoners arrived on Rokyn and dispersed into the population, the Lana Lang android stood posed with her master. The bowl-cut hairdo and purple uniform of Zo-Mar marked him as separate from the other zoners. (*) He had never worked with them before, nor did he have any intention to do so now, not after he had been ostracized by the others after Zo-Mar had tried to take command of the zoners, only to be thwarted by his old enemy, General Zod. It was Dru-Zod who had been responsible for capturing him in the first place, and he would never forget that.

[(*) Editor’s note: Zo-Mar appeared in “Give Me Power, Give Me Your World,” DC Comics Presents #84 (August, 1985) and was only placed in the phantom zone by Superman immediately before the Crisis.]

He reached inside the android’s chest and removed the card with the glyph. “I have it!” he laughed. “Now to conquer this world.”

A petite black-haired woman passed by and stared at his odd outburst. “Go throw yourself in the Gold Volcano created anew on this world!” he ordered while holding the square card with the encrypted symbol on it.

She nodded and raced to obey his command. She knew it was wrong, but even while knowing this, she was helpless to resist.

Zo-Mar led the Lana Lang robot off to a secluded spot. “You were merely the means by which I could bring my card within the zone. I not could touch it or you, but if it was within you when you came, then I knew I could get to it eventually. But I believe I shall make you my plaything.” He smiled and led her inside a small shed.

But Zo-Mar was not done that day, for he also encountered a zealous young inventor who actually recognized him. “You are Zo-Mar!” sputtered the scholarly Ar-Vor. “I studied about you and even tried to recreate your fabled glyph card. But how can you be here? You were sent into orbit long before Krypton exploded!”

Zo-Mar frowned and pulled forth the card. “Go to the top of the Jeweled Mountain monument and throw yourself to your death!” he ordered.

The brilliant science expert did so, dying in pain soon afterward. “It was Zo-Mar,” he gasped to his lovely blonde wife Yllura as she cradled his broken form.

Her tearstained face was detemined as she watched him die. “I will bring Zo-Mar to justice and avenge your death, my love. By Rao, I promise it!”

***

Lydia-7 walked up the driveway to Van-Zee’s home. She pressed the button on his call box, letting the security system know who she was, and then unseen devices scanned her as she stepped inside. As usual, the security for members of the Science Council was very strict, especially for one such as Van-Zee, who had once led a double life as Nightwing.

“You wanted to see me?” she said, stepping into his laboratory.

“I have the results of your tests,” he said, sounding serious.

“Really?” she said, trying to hide her eagerness.

“Yes. They were inconclusive, to say the least,” Van-Zee said.

“What do you mean?!” Lydia exclaimed.

“I mean your generation — five-hundred-thousand years in our future — is too far removed for us to determine who your real direct ancestor is. Going by your genetics alone, it could have been Kara. But it could also have been Lydia, Nim-El, Kal-El, or even Kru-El! All we can say is that it was an El. Then again, it could be a Zee. We’re closely related.”

Lydia let out a sigh. “Is there no way to narrow it down?”

“Not with the information you gave me. You said your last name, 7, is actually short for a longer computer code. Would it have any information?”

Lydia explained, “7 is the shortened spoken version. The actual designation is about a paragraph in length. It relates to the cities to which we’re assigned. It contains some family information, but it only dates back to the last disaster that wiped out our records.”

“That brings us back to where we started, then,” Van-Zee said. “I’m sorry. If it means anything, you’ll always have family here on Rokyn.”

“I thank you for that,” Lydia-7 said sadly. “But it still would have been good to know who my ancestor really was.”

***

Light-years away, on the planet Makkor, the planetary champion Salkor looked down at the little girl who lay sleeping in her bed. She was approximately three years of age in Earth years.

“Perhaps I should have told the one called Superman of your existence,” he said sadly. (*) “I miss your mother so. She was his cousin, so I know he grieves. But I couldn’t bear to share the one thing I have left that is truly a part of her. You look so much like her. You even have her golden locks, which no one else on Makkor has. If only she could have looked on you as you left the birthing matrix. My treasure, my little Jasma.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Supergirl: Bride of X?” Superman #415 (January, 1986).]

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