Supergirl touched down outside the dimly lit building. It was a two-story restaurant-cum-bar. She could hear the muffled sound of jolly drunk men inside. It was the right place alright. There wasn’t anyone else about. No one on the streets.
She looked to the left of the building as instructed and saw the steel door as described to her. The Maid of Might walked over, looking around her as her heels crunched over broken bottles and garbage strewn across the floor.
Emily knocked on the thick door. Nothing. She knocked again, a little louder this time and she heard some footsteps before the man behind pulled across a slider at eye-height.
“Yeah?” he said abruptly
“I’m here to see the Kingpin” she said confidently, but still conscious of how stupid that someone calls themselves “Kingpin”.
Emily was slightly aggrieved he didn’t recognise her. “Supergirl”
There was a pause.
“Fuck off” And the slider closed.
Emily looked behind. Was this some sort of joke to make fun of her? To humiliate her. Was she being recorded?
She knocked on the door. The slider opened once again, but before the man behind had a chance to say anything Emily put her hand inside the slit and pulled the door towards her. The reinforced steel door was no match for her super strength, and the man inside watched as the teenager peeled the top left corner of the door away from the frame before the lock mechanism shattered and the door swung open.
Emily tilted her head and raised an eyebrow.
The guard looked at her, then the mangled door, and then back at her before slowly gesturing for her to come inside.
She stepped into the dimly lit metallic corridor and as she went to pass the lone guard she grabbed the underside of his chin and gripped hard enough so that his cheeks and lips puckered up. Without even looking at him, and without even betraying a hint of effort, Emily lifted him up high into the air.
“Where is the Kingpin” she asked, still not even dignifying him with a look
She made out the simple directions from his muffled instructions and she let him fall out of her hand before walking on down the metal-floored tunnel.
About 20 meters along the corridor five burly men stood around smoking and talking in a mess area. It too was metallic and from this clearing, three other corridors led off like bicycle spokes. If the men had heard Supergirl rip the steel door from its frame, they did a good job pretending they hadn’t. All five turned around as the click of her boot heels grew louder. She stopped at the entrance to the hub and placed her hands on hips.
“Holy shit, what have we here?” one of the men whistled.
“I’m looking for the Kingpin” she said quietly looking at each of the men ogling her.
A couple of the men started laughing.
“The Kingpin?” laughed the one with the red t-shirt, “We ain’t heard of no Kingpin lady”.
Emily rolled her eyes.
A white guy in a hoodie leaning against a wall took a step towards her.
“He’s right,” he said exhaling cigarette smoke as he talked. “We ain’t heard of no King Pin”.
He stopped a couple feet away, hands in his pockets, head slightly cocked with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Supergirl took her hands off her hips and walked over to him. Without saying a word she took the burning cigarette out of his mouth and placed it between her fingers and brought it towards her lips. The howling and laughter stopped as the men watched the achingly beautiful girl take a sensual drag from Spider’s cigarette.
Emily took a couple of steps back as she enjoyed the disgusting but familiar taste as she sucked the tobacco into her lungs. She pulled it lightly out of her mouth and exhaled gently, enjoying the sensation of her first cigarette for a long time. She flirtatiously blew the smoke gently in Spider’s direction before taking a second, sultry drag. She exhaled again, but this time she used her super breath. To the men watching her, it was as if she were simply blowing out a birthday candle. But for Spider the sharp force of air that left her beautiful lips was as strong as a laser-focused hurricane. Spider was blown up into the air and thrown back at least 40 feet into the corridor behind him.
The four remaining men instantly readied their weapons, switching nervously between Spider who was lying motionless down the corridor and Supergirl who, with her eyes closed, took a third, seductive drag on his cigarette before blowing the smoke harmlessly, anti-climatically, up into the ceiling.
Emily opened her eyes and looked at the men with their weapons trained on her. She looked down at the cigarette and smiled.
“Disgusting habit,” she said flicking it in Spider’s direction with contempt. “Now,” she said looking back at them, “What are you planning on doing with them?”
“Hah… hah… hah”
Everyone in the room including Emily turned towards the booming theatrical laugh and watched as a tall pointy man in a post-war style suit and hat rounded the corner of the south-west corridor.
“Well look who it is!” he exclaimed with delight.
Supergirl looked at him. She didn’t recognise him, but she did recognise this British accent. He looked British. Like some old rogue master criminal.
Surely this couldn’t be him?
“I remember seeing your debut on TV,” he said walking slowly towards her. “What I saw then was an intoxicating mix of youth, innocence, beauty, and strength”.
The old man raised his arms theatrically.
“Now look at you,” he said with a whisper, looking over at the Spider down the adjacent corridor. "Youth, beauty and incredible strength”, he paused for effect, “But innocence?”, the old man stood his head. "I think not”.
Emily rolled her eyes and shook her head. She was fed up of being lectured by old men. Men that thought they knew better than her. Men that deemed it necessary to peddle old, cryptic riddles on her. She surmised it was their only way of exerting power over her. She was stronger than any man in the world, and so it was only logical they should try and talk down at her with old fuddy-duddy baffling language.
“I see that arrogance” he whispered pointing at her with one eye slightly closed.
Emily smiled sarcastically at the tall man, shaking her head lightly.
“You’re a Goddess,” he laughed, “You could kill us all with your bare hands if you wanted to” he shouted with a theatrical shrill, “Or you could fuck us all. That’s the power you have isn’t it?” The Kingpin walked unthreateningly around her. “I mean, LOOK AT YOU. You could fuck any man or woman on command, couldn’t you, darling? Like I say, you’re a Goddess, and just like any woman (or man) given your abilities, it’d be hard to shake off the insidious arrogance.”
Supergirl shook her head.
“It must eat away at you” the Kingpin continued. “People constantly fawning over you, telling you how amazing you are, how beautiful you are, surprised at how young you are. Endlessly saving them from themselves or their fellow man.”
Kingpin took an assault rifle from one of the men and inspected it. “And what must you think of men?” he said dramatically. “Men! The men that commit the majority of the crimes you encounter. The men you see hurting their wives, their children, other women. The men that arrogantly shoot at you, try to fight you. And if they’re not fighting you my darling, they’re endlessly trying to fuck you, am I right?”
Supergirl smiled at the old man but resisted a nod.
“You see my girl, arrogance is like rot. It must be resisted at all times.”
“Sure, I’ll put it on my things to remember” Emily said sharply, happy with her witty retort.
“Your predecessor was the same you know” Kingpin said, his eyebrow raised mischievously.
“Your predecessor, the old Supergirl, I knew her very well.”
Emily didn’t know what to say
“She could be cruel.” he said reloading the assault rifle.
“You knew her? How?”
The Kingpin aimed the assault rifle at her chest and looked over the crosshair. “You don’t mind do you, I need to be sure you are who you say you are.”
Supergirl shrugged her shoulders, “Sure”.
The old Brit released four bursts of fire, all of which predictably hit her chest and bounced harmlessly to the floor.
Emily carried on as if nothing had happened. “How did you know her?”
Kingpin handed the rifle back to his man and beckoned the girl over. “Come dear girl, let’s take a walk”.
Reginald S. Clark, was his real name, and as they both walked through the maze of metallic corridors he and the old Supergirl were not so much enemies, but adversaries.
“We balanced each other out,” he said with a chuckle. “I feared for the worst,” he said lowering his voice. “It wasn’t like her to be absent for so long, and I felt something in the pit of my stomach” he whispered dramatically.
“What was she like?”
“Oh, she was as beautiful as everyone said. I had the great fortune of meeting her face-to-face at close quarters many many times. Oh, she was stunning. Well, I mean, women aren’t my thing of course, but her beauty wasn’t lost on me, just like yours isn’t my dear.”
Emily felt herself blush.
“But by golly, she could be cruel.”
The two continued to walk through the corridors, passing the four men a few times as they spoke.
“You couldn’t blame her in many ways. She fought crime every day, and not just petty crime or bank robberies. She dealt with the fringes of our society, just like I’m sure you do too, and I can remember many occasions when the responsibility overwhelmed her and she cracked.”
“She had genuine contempt for men. In the end, all men. Sometimes, she had no compassion, not for the circumstances that made men do the things they did, nor for the fragility of their bodies. I saw her break bones, rip limbs from their bodies, and even kill. Even when they didn’t deserve it.
Emily was silent.
“I watched you rip out my door, and I watched you blow poor Spider into that other corridor. I like that confidence. That juvenile arrogance. It makes for good theatre. But I beg you to think carefully before you plunge into the darkness that plagued the old Supergirl.”
Emily nodded thoughtfully. She thought about the contempt she already had for men, even just a year into her new job.
“Now, tell me about your house. Is it satisfactory?”
Emily stopped. “My house?”
“Yes, your house, apartment, villa, whatever it is. You do live in Supergirl’s old home?”
Emily screwed her eyes up confused. “How do you…”
“Who do you think paid for it?” he chuckled. “You don’t think Supergirl would be able to afford a place like that do you?”
Emily’s heart sank. He knew who she was. He knew about James, her secret identity.
“Don’t worry,” Reginald said almost reading her mind, “I don’t know where you live. Just that I paid for it.”
“I don’t understand”
“Well, I don’t know what she did when she wasn’t out fighting crime. Trying to lead a normal life I suspect. And she needed the money to buy a place, and by golly she wasn’t going to steal it. Even though she - and now you - could rip the door off a Swiss bank vault, it was against her ‘code’.”
“And you lent her the money”
“Well, more like gave her Bitcoin on a USB stick”
“In exchange for what?”
The Kingpin roared with laughter and slapped his thigh. “Well, that’s a good question and one that you might not like the answer to.”
Supergirl motioned for him to continue.
“Put it this way” Reginald smiled, “We had an agreement for her to ‘look the other way’ at times”
“Look the other way? From what?”
“Well, my business of course”
“Supergirl took a bribe?”
The Kingpin laughed theatrically, “Well, I wouldn’t call it a bribe. It was a favour for a favour!”
“A bribe” the teenager retorted.
There was a couple of seconds of silence.
“Come now my dear, sometimes life isn’t as clear cut as we expect it to be”
“You’re a crook. And that’s why you asked me here. To get me to ‘look the other way’ just like the other Supergirl did?”
“Well, that’s not exactly the main reason, but now we’re on the subject, why yes.”
Emily exhaled hard. She was fed up. “I can’t believe Supergirl would do that for money” she whispered almost to herself.
The Kingpin smiled. “Well there was the small matter of the kryptonite” he giggled.
Reginald S. Clark stared at her intensely. She had no idea what kryptonite was. “Tell me,” he said trying to act calm, “You come from the same planet as the old Supergirl?”
This wasn’t a question that Emily was prepared for and she answered unconvincingly. “Of course”
“So you were sent here after the old Supergirl had gone missing?”
“Yes,” Emily lied. “But, I want to know the kind of…”
“And you’ve never heard of kryptonite?” he interrupted.
Emily knew that he knew she didn’t. What was it? A weapon, a password, what?
The Kingpin didn’t even wait for her to answer. He knew her secret. She was human. Born on this planet as a normal girl. Yet somehow, she had the same powers that Supergirl has. Or had. Had this girl taken Supergirl’s powers? Or been given them? Was she as strong as the other Supergirl?
The Kingpin sneered, thinking through the unanswered questions. The key question was: would kryptonite have the same effect on the new Supergirl as the old Supergirl?
“Trade from China,” the Kingpin said changing the subject. “I paid Supergirl to ‘look the other way’ when our cargo ships entered our docks. No one was getting hurt, and all I did was make money from unpaid tariffs.”
“What is in the containers?”
Reginald squealed with laughter again, “Not humans my dear, if that’s what you’re thinking. Electronics, sugar beet, limestone, steel, precious metals, you name it. If its in demand, I’ll ship it.”
Supergirl saw one of the four men walking up the corridor with a phone and baseball bat in his hand. Reginald signalled for him to approach them.
“Would you mind terribly if I take this call?”
Supergirl shook her head. The young Maid of Might turned and took a couple of steps away. She thought of the old Supergirl’s deal. It wasn’t ethical, was it? Of course not. But shouldn’t Supergirl, the most powerful person on the planet get to live in a decent place?
Reginald finished up on the phone. “So we’re confident are we?” He nodded to the man that’d brought him his phone. “Very well. I’ll call you in 10 minutes”.
Supergirl turned back and saw the messenger gawping at her. She decided to ignore him in order to keep things cordial.
“You know,” the Kingpin said, “The reason I invited you here today, well, I have to confess, they weren’t honourable.”
“What do you mean?” she said confused.
“You and I, well, we don’t have to be enemies. We can be adversaries. Like a gentleman and lady adhering to gentlemanly conduct. You, the pure epitome of good, helping your fellow man, and me, well, me a trader with loose morals, but perhaps with an ear to the ground to help you catch some real bad guys?"
Supergirl nodded. Perhaps the old Supergirl had it right.
“But unfortunately like any arrangement, it is necessary for both parties to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the other party. To bring about equilibrium, no?”
Emily looked confused again.
“I and the rest of the world are aware of your strengths. Your physical strength, invulnerability, heat vision, you can fly, blah-dy blah. But I need you to know my strengths to that you may respect me as an equal partner in our agreement.”
“Okaaayyy” Emily smiled, inwardly not giving a damn.
“May I allow Gus to show you?”
Supergirl watched Gus as he took a couple of steps towards her with his baseball bat in hand.
“Tell me you’re not going to…” she said giggling
Before Supergirl could finish her sentence, Gus brought his shoulder across his broad chest and swung the metal bat into her stomach.
Instead of the satisfying feeling of seeing her assailant’s weapon bounce off her, Emily screamed a blood-curdling scream as she experienced the most intense white pain as the bat smashed into her rib cage.
Gus smiled broadly as the mighty Supergirl bent over sharply and crumbled to the floor. He looked up at the Kingpin who couldn’t hide his thin smile. Reginald signalled to Gus who raised the bat over his head and unleashed a vertical swing on across Supergirl upper back and shoulders. The teenager screamed again before slumping semi-consciously on the floor.
The Kingpin held up his hand. She’d had enough.
“Arrogance,” the Kingpin sneered as he knelt next to her on the floor “Is your overwhelming weakness. You think with your powers that you are invincible. You think with your beauty you have unlimited power over men. I am here to remind you my dear of your infallibility. To let you know that you are not invincible as you once thought you were.
Emily struggled to remain conscious through the pain. She sobbed uncontrollably which worsened the pain.
“I could kill you now you know,” Reginald said standing back up dusting down his knees. “Your skin is no longer impregnable” he laughed sardonically. “I could simply inject you with a kryptonite plasma,” he said gesturing to the small metal briefcase. “Or I could ask Gus here to force himself upon you, inserting a Kryptonite gel inside directly you.”
“Oh come now Supergirl,” he said sympathetically, “What sort of man would I be to allow that? Besides, you’re more valuable to me alive, as long as you respect our arrangement”.
Emily made out three men walking towards her. Spider wasn’t one of them.
“My men here will take you to a private apartment downtown. It sits on the eastern side and has floor to ceiling windows, so with sunrise at approximately 7am, you should be back up and running by midday.”
Emily didn’t respond. She had no idea what he was talking about. Her mind was clouded with the loss of her powers. All she could think of was how glorious the last twelve months had been, and whether she now shared the same fate as the old Supergirl. Had she lost her powers, her strength, her beauty?
The Kingpin watched Hank pick up the fallen Maid of Might and throw her over his enormous shoulders.
“No funny business,” the thin Briton said with a steely voice to his henchmen. “I can’t afford any retributions. And neither can you.”
Gus led the way with Hank and the others following him. The Kingpin smiled. The sadist in him appreciated the fact that for the next 10 hours or so Supergirl would be laid in bed in excruciating pain, apparently left there to die completely unaware that as soon as she was bathed in sunlight her power restored and her body healed. He wanted to be there with her in dark to hear her whimpers of pain. Her laboured breathing. Her mind and body broke.
It was clear that she had no idea why his men were placing her in the first direct sunlight of the new day. She had no idea what kryptonite was or where it came from. She was human. She must’ve been born on this planet. But how had she come into possession of Supergirl’s power?
He looked up at the ceiling. The continuous line of what looked like fluorescent tubes glowed. Not green, but clear light. They still worked incredibly well, depleting Supergirl’s powers without her even suspecting a thing. It was perhaps his greatest invention along with the arsenal of weapons he had created to defeat her.
The old gentleman took out a handkerchief and wiped his mouth. Lots of questions that would be answered soon. But for now, he had a missing shipment of Vietnamese girls that were due to arrive into Lagos an hour ago. He picked up the metal briefcase and set off down the corridor.