Ultimate Crisis Prelude, Part 2: Rage
Written by geekseven
[Saturday, 03 December 2011 02:54]
Last updated by
[Monday, 06 August 2012 10:21]
Ultimate Crisis Prelude
Part Two: Rage
As he strode through the offices of the Daily Planet, Clark Kent felt like he was on top of the world. He looked over at Lois Lane’s desk and sighed. Their wedding was less than a month away and he could not wait to make an honest woman of her. She was out chasing a story, of course.“Kent!” shouted Perry White, the editor-in-chief, from across the room. “Have you got photographs for me?”“Yes, sir!” said Clark. He walked over to Perry and handed him a memory card. “Pictures of Supergirl fighting a giant robot in the financial district.”“Good work, Kent. Linda just filed her copy on the fight. Dynamite stuff. I’m thinking front page if you’ve got the right picture.”Clark suppressed a smile. What he knew and Perry did not was that, in addition to being the second-best reporter at the Daily Planet (after Lois, of course), Linda Lang led a secret life as Supergirl, the maid of might and protector of Metropolis. Her Supergirl stories were always great, because she lived them.“I got some nice stuff, Chief,” said Clark. “Including a shot of Supergirl shielding a toddler from a giant robot fist.”“Nice work, Kent. Everybody loves a kiddie save! Reminds us of how lucky we are to have Supergirl looking out for us.”There had been a time, not so long ago, when Perry’s comment would have caused resentment in Clark, but now he felt nothing but pride for his cousin. Life on Earth had not always been easy for him, either as Clark Kent or as Superman, but he had turned things around in the last two years. He accepted that he would never be as loved as Supergirl, but he had found his own place in the world.He thought about what he had once been like. He had been a temperamental and tempestuous brat, resentful of his cousin and other heroes, always complaining that the world was not fair. It was no surprise that nobody had liked him.Clark had grown up on the planet Krypton, his birth name was Kal-El. He had been on the threshold of adulthood when his father and uncle had realized that their planet was doomed. Their warnings were ignored and they only had time to create two escape vehicles, one for Kal and another for his baby cousin, Kara Zor-El. The two cousins had been sent to Earth, where Kal was supposed to have acted as a big brother to Kara, protecting her on their new home and keeping her in touch with their vanished culture. Kara’s ship had arrived on Earth without incident, but Kal’s capsule had become ensnared in a field of radioactive debris from Krypton’s destruction, which had slowed his journey such that he had arrived on Earth more than twenty years after Kara. The suspended animation technology of his capsule had kept him from aging, but his baby cousin had grown into a confident young woman who needed nothing from him. Even worse, the time he had spent surrounded by radioactive debris had permanently damaged his cellular structure. Earth’s yellow sun granted him incredible powers, but he would never be as powerful as Supergirl.Kara preferred to call herself Linda, having been raised in Kansas by the Lang family who had adopted her. She had been excited to meet another survivor of her home world, and she had not understood why he had been resentful of her. Linda’s friend, Batwoman, although suspicious of the new arrival from Krypton, had set him up with the Clark Kent identity, using the birth certificate of an infant who had died twenty years before.The first few years had been difficult. He had hated living on Earth and playing second fiddle to Supergirl. He had made poor choices and enemies of people who should have been friends. The Daily Planet had published a scathing editorial entitled ‘You’re no Supergirl’, which listed his many failures and argued that he should give up trying to be a superhero.Then he had almost died saving the world. He remembered destroying the machine that Alexis Luthor and Supergirl-Prime had built, remembered the energies of the shattered device pouring into him, leaving him clinging to life by a slender thread. He remembered Supergirl-Prime standing over him, eager to cut that thread. He remembered her being stopped short by Supergirl. Then he had blacked out.When he had woken, two weeks later, it was as a changed man. He embraced life on Earth in a way that he never had before. The gratitude of the planet he had saved gave him new confidence and vigor. He proved himself as Superman, forged a career as a photographer for the Daily Planet, and won the heart of Lois Lane.“You want me down at City Hall to cover the protests, Chief?”Perry shook his head. “No, I’ve got Lois and Jimmy down there. Take the rest of the day off. I know Lois must be running you ragged with wedding preparations.”Clark rode the elevator to the lobby of the Daily Planet building, and sauntered into the street. It was another sweltering day in Metropolis; this summer had broken several records for high temperatures.It was for the best that Perry had given him the day off. Supergirl and the rest of the Justice League were off-planet, so Superman would have plenty to do. Linda had been uncharacteristically cagey about why so many heavy hitters were needed in deep space, but Clark was sure she had good reasons for that.Before he could follow that train of thought, he heard squealing tires in the distance. It was time for Superman to spring into action. He ducked into a side alley and took off his civilian clothes, revealing the red and blue costume beneath. He was not as fast as Supergirl, but he could make the change in under three seconds.He leaped into the air, one arm pointing out in front, and the other pointing back, laid flat against the side of his body. Supergirl preferred to fly with both arms out in front, but Clark thought that his way was cooler.From high above the city, he saw the problem. The driver of a gasoline tanker had lost control on an elevated stretch of highway and was about to jackknife. If it hit the barrier hard enough, it would fall to the street below. The tanker was skidding around as if the road was covered in ice.Clark flew down and grabbed the back of the tanker. He began to pull it in the way that Supergirl had taught him, which would reduce the velocity of the tanker without snapping it in half. Something went wrong. As he pulled the tanker back, the front of the vehicle jerked off to one side. He tried to adjust his grip on the rear of the tanker, but the metal snapped off in his hands. He watched in horror as the tanker smashed through the barrier.He moved as fast as he could to catch the tanker before it hit the ground. He positioned himself beneath the falling vehicle, but it moved to the left moments before he would have caught it. The tanker crashed just outside the entrance to a daycare center; gasoline began to spurt into the street. If there were no sparks or open flames, there was no reason for the gasoline to explode, it would just stink the area up for a while.The giant fireball took him by surprise and sent him tumbling through the air and into a streetlamp. He slid to the ground with a thump. The tanker had exploded. The front of the daycare center was wrecked, and the rest of the building was on fire. An apartment building in the same block was also on fire.Clark got to his feet and flew over to the daycare center, hovering in the air a few feet from the inferno. Burning gasoline covered the street, sending black smoke billowing into the sky. He used his X-Ray vision to examine the interior of the building. The staff were evacuating the children through a rear entrance. All he had to do was stop the fire from spreading, and the situation would be under control.There were two ways to put out fires using super-breath. One was to blow freezing air into the area, which lowered the temperature below the ignition point of the burning material, extinguishing the flame. The other was to inhale a large volume of air, creating a temporary vacuum; without oxygen, the fire would go out.He decided to try freezing breath. He flew over the center of the fire and blew straight down. Three things happened, none of which he had expected: what was left of the daycare center blew apart; the fire in the apartment building intensified into a major inferno; and the burning gasoline on the street flew in all directions, spreading the fire to an even greater area.Clark was stunned. Nothing like this had ever happened to him. In a panic, he tried to find the staff and children from the daycare center. They were scattered across an area of devastation. Some were buried in debris, some of them were on fire, all of them were dead.The fire in the apartment building was burning out of control. He could hear the sound of approaching fire engines, but he could also hear screams coming from inside the building. The fire department would not be able to put the fire out in time without his help.After what had happened to the daycare center, he did not want to risk using his freezing breath, and his lung capacity was not large enough to create a vacuum across a volume the size of the apartment building.There was a small park with a lake nearby. He flew above the lake and, after checking that nobody was swimming or boating, he blew freezing air over the water until it was frozen to a depth of several feet. He landed at the edge of the frozen lake and carefully lifted the ice block.Taking care that he had a good grip, he carried the ice above the burning building. The rising heat began to melt the ice, and he fired a broad beam of heat vision to hasten the process. Water streamed down from the chunk of frozen lake water. Just as it was beginning to have an effect on the fire, Clark lost his grip and the giant block of ice fell, destroying the top two floors of the building. Debris and chunks of ice rained down onto the street, destroying one of the fire trucks gathered around the burning building, and crushing several firemen.He flew down to the remaining fire trucks to see if he could help. A furious fireman confronted him, his eyes ablaze with anger.“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he asked.“I’m trying to help,” said Clark. “What do you need me to do?”The fireman shook his head. “I need you to get the hell out of here before you make things worse!” The fireman gestured at the devastation. “I’d say you’ve helped us about as much as we can take.”Clark did not want to argue with the man, but he could not just leave. He rescued as many people as he could from the burning building, but he kept having terrible luck, and dozens more died.
Later, when Clark had retrieved his civilian clothes, he checked his iPhone and found a voice mail from Perry White, summoning him back to the Daily Planet offices.“Looks like he has some work for me after all.”Most of the staff at the Daily Planet were crowded around a big screen TV in the news room, showing proceedings of the Metropolis City Council.“Is this the budget debate?” asked Clark.The gossip columnist, Cat Grant, shook her head. “No, this is an emergency debate about the Superman situation.”“The what?”“Where have you been? Superman went psycho and killed a bunch of kids.”“That’s not what happened!” said Clark.“There’s video footage and it looks pretty bad,” replied Cat. “They’re going to issue an arrest warrant.”Clark closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. Could things get any worse? He trudged over to Perry White’s office.“Get in here, Kent!” shouted White.Clark opened the door and stepped inside. Perry White looked furious.“What’s up, chief?” asked Clark. “You got another job for me?”Perry laughed. “You’re fired, Kent.”Clark could not believe what he was hearing. “What do you mean?”Perry tossed a memory card at Clark. Clark caught it and recognized it as the same card he had given to Perry with pictures of Supergirl fighting a giant robot.“I don’t know if this is your idea of a joke, but it’s sick. I’ve told Lois and she doesn’t want to ever see you again.”“What are you talking about?”“I also checked your last few expense reports, Kent. You’re damn lucky I’m only firing you and not calling the police.”
Clark was slumped at the bar of Corky’s Pub. It was a dive, but it was far from the Crescent Moon, where the Daily Planet staff liked to drink.After being thrown out of the Daily Planet, he had tried to call Lois, but she was not answering her phone. He had checked the pictures on the memory card. They were not pictures of Supergirl fighting a giant robot, they were pictures of Clark Kent having sex with an intern in the copy room at the Daily Planet; which had never happened.He didn’t understand what was going on..He was on his third shot of bourbon when a woman sat on the stool next to him.“I thought alcohol didn’t affect Kryptonians,” she said.Too drunk to play it cool, Clark snapped his head around to look at her. The woman was young, blond-haired, and a few inches shorter than him. She was very beautiful, and looked a little like his cousin. She wore black sneakers, a pair of tight black jeans, and a black tank top. Her eyes were hidden behind a pair of reflective sunglasses that he could not penetrate with his x-ray vision.“But then,” continued the woman, “you’re not a true Kryptonian, are you? All those years exposed to green Kryptonite left you... damaged.”“I don’t know who you think I am, but I’m just...”“A mild-mannered photographer?” she interrupted.“Who are you?”The woman took her sunglasses off. It had been two years, but he would never forget the look of utter hatred in those pale blue eyes. The last time he had seen that look was when the woman next to him had been standing over him, about to end his life.“Supergirl-Prime,” he said.He finished his drink and started to get up. She grabbed his wrist.“You’re not going anywhere.”He tried to pull his arm free, but her grip was too strong. She closed her hand a little and pain shot through his arm.“Let me go.”“No. You will stay right there, or I will kill everyone in this bar.”Clark looked at her cold, lovely face. He believed that she would carry out her threat, and he had no idea if he could stop her. Supergirl-Prime was stronger than Supergirl, and Supergirl was stronger than him.The bartender had stayed away when the woman had first arrived, but he came over when Clark settled back onto his stool. “Can I help you, Miss?” he asked.“I’ll have a Budweiser, and my friend will have another bourbon,” said Supergirl-Prime.The bartender shook his head. “I’m going to have to see some ID, Miss.”Clark couldn’t help but laugh. Supergirl-Prime had the power to level whole cities, but she couldn’t order a beer, because she looked eighteen.Supergirl-Prime looked into the bartender‘s eyes and held his gaze for a few moments. “You don’t need to see my ID,” she said.The bartender shook his head as if he had just woken from a dream. “One Budweiser and a bourbon coming up!”“What was that?” asked Clark.Supergirl-Prime shrugged. “Super-hypnotism,” she said, “one of my minor powers. It doesn’t work on everyone, but our friend behind the bar is not very strong-willed.”The bartender returned with their drinks.Clark pointed to the beer. “I thought you said that alcohol didn’t affect Kryptonians?” he asked.Supergirl-Prime gave a tiny snort of laughter, the first time Clark had seen her express anything other than hate or anger. “I like the taste.”“Of Budweiser? You really are evil.”She took a swig of beer and shook her head. “You don’t understand anything. I wouldn’t expect you to. Your mind is as weak as your body.”Clark took a sip of bourbon, relishing the slight burn at the back of his throat. “What do you want? No scratch that, I have had one heck of a day, and I don’t care what you want.”“You have had a rough day, haven’t you? You’ve lost your job, your fiancee, and the trust of the entire city.”“How do you know about all that?”“Haven’t you figured it out, yet? It was me.”“What do you mean?”“I was the one who made the tanker lose control, and I was the one who ruined all of your attempts to fix the situation. It was so funny watching you flail around, trying to make things better, and all it took was a puff of super-breath here, or a burst of heat-vision there, to turn you from a hero to a zero.”Clark was horrified. The images of the people who had died at the daycare center and the apartment building were burned into his mind. He had felt guilty because he couldn’t save them, but now he felt worse knowing they had died because of some sick game Supergirl-Prime was playing with him.“Why?” asked Clark. “Why did you do all that?”Supergirl-Prime shrugged. “To make others hate you as much as I do, so they wouldn’t care when you disappeared. That’s why I got you fired.”“Disappeared? What do you mean? Wait, how did you get me fired?”“Did you know that a very clever Kryptonian can reprogram a memory card using x-ray vision? You couldn’t understand how complicated it was to change the images on the memory card, one bit at a time. Took me all of two seconds. I also hacked the financial records at the Daily Planet to make it look like you’ve been a very bad boy.”Clark looked at her with his jaw hanging down. He couldn’t believe what she was saying. “Why would you do that?”“Like I said, I don’t want anybody looking for you. If people think you ran away because you screwed up, they won’t care about finding you.”A sudden realization came to Clark. “Supergirl and the rest of the Justice League, they’re looking for you. That’s why they left.”“That’s me! It’s such a shame that they’re looking in the wrong sector of space. By the time they figure it out, there’s no telling what kind of mischief I’ll have gotten up to.”“So, you’re going to fight me? Is that what this is about?”Supergirl-Prime laughed so hard that beer sprayed out of her mouth. “We’re not going to fight!”“Then what are you doing here?”She turned to him and put one hand on his shoulder. She spoke to him in a slow, even tone, as if he were a child. “When you swat a fly with a rolled-up newspaper, would you say that you ‘fought’ a fly? No, you would say that you crushed a bug. A fight is something that happens between equals. I am as far beyond you as you are beyond a fly. I’m going to crush you and leave no evidence that you ever existed.”“Why?”“Because you don’t deserve to live. You’re an embarrassment to your name.”“Superman?”“Kent,” she said. “We almost have the same name. I’m Claire Kent, and you’re Clark Kent.”“So you’re an alternate universe version of me?”Supergirl-Prime grabbed Clark’s left wrist again, and twisted until it snapped with a loud crunch that the other bar patrons took pains to ignore. He bit down on the pain, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of hearing him scream.“Don’t you ever say that again,” she snarled. “I am nothing like you. I am not an alternate version of anybody. I am unique and I am special. You are the false shadow of a greater man and I will honor his memory by destroying you and ensuring that nothing like you ever exists again.”She released her grip on his broken wrist. Clark gently prodded at the bones with his good hand. The radius and the ulna each had a nice clean break; his bones were stronger than steel, but Supergirl-Prime had snapped them with ease.“I’ll admit that I haven’t always lived up to my potential, but I’ve changed.”“I don’t believe it. You’ll always be a failure.”“If you hate me so much, why waste time talking? Why not just kill me?”Supergirl-Prime ran the tip of her tongue over her lower lip. “All in good time. First, I want you to be afraid for your life, and then I want you to experience pain like you could not imagine.”Clark thought back to the last time he had met Supergirl-Prime. He could imagine a lot of pain.“Finally,” she continued, “I want you to beg me to put you out of your misery, because you cannot take the torment any more. Only then, when you lay broken at my feet, pleading with me to end your miserable life, only then will I kill you.”Clark looked into her eyes and saw no hope of mercy. He did not understand the hate that drove her, but he did understand that there was nothing he could do to lessen it. In spite of his powers, he was afraid.“So what now?” he asked.Supergirl-Prime smiled. “You finish your drink and go about the rest of your day. At some point before the sun goes down, I will come for you, and the games will begin. Don’t try to run.”She swivelled off the bar stool and walked out of the pub. Every set of eyes in the establishment, including Clark’s, watched her go. It had probably been a long time since somebody even half as attractive had been inside Corky’s.“Close out my tab,” Clark told the barman.The barman ran Clark’s credit card and frowned. He handed it back to Clark with a shake of his head.“Card’s no good,” he said.That was impossible; the card was backed by one of Batwoman’s multi-billion dollar accounts. Clark realized that Supergirl-Prime had played another humiliating trick on him. He checked his wallet for the cash that had been there in the morning, and was not surprised to see that it was gone.The barman looked at Clark and raised his eyebrows. “Are we going to have a problem here, sonny?” He reached under the bar and pulled out a baseball bat.
Clark walked to his apartment, taking care to stick to less well-lit streets. He had been forced to run out on his tab, and he had heard the barman calling the police. He dared not fly home in case he was spotted and he had no money for a cab.Several times during the walk he thought he saw a blur of black and silver out of the corner of his eye. His heart raced at the thought that Supergirl-Prime was about to deliver on her threats.When he arrived at his apartment, Clark took stock of his assets. Supergirl-Prime outgunned him; she had proved that when she had broken his wrist. However, she was working alone. Clark could call in reinforcements. Supergirl and the Justice League were not available, but he had plenty of other contacts in the superhero community.He opened the desk drawer where he kept his Justice League communicator; his shoulders slumped when he saw that it was smashed to pieces. Supergirl-Prime had been in his apartment. No problem, he thought, I still have an iPhone. The iPhone turned out to have no service; Clark realized that it would have taken Supergirl-Prime only seconds to disable every cell tower in the area. He checked his computer, but the connection to the Internet was dead.If he was going to get help, he was going to have to do it in person. The Teen Titans were on the other side of the country in San Francisco and he was loath to ask them for help. They had suffered terrible losses at the hands of Supergirl-Prime two years ago and he did not want to bring her to their doorstep. Without a link to the Justice League watchtower, he had no way of locating anybody else.Clark had a sudden realization: Supergirl could still help him, even though she was light years away. Her Fortress of Solitude, located in Antarctica, contained hundreds of weapons and alien devices, one of which might be effective against Supergirl-Prime.Having decided on a course of action, Clark saw no reason to delay. He changed into his Superman costume, opened a window, and flew into the sky. He flew south as fast as he could.Supergirl-Prime caught up with him somewhere over South America, although she could have been following him the entire time. She hung in the air ahead of him with her arms crossed. She moved backwards at the same rate he moved forwards, so their relative positions remained the same. She had changed into her costume: black boots, a short black skirt with silver trim, a silver belt around her waist, a long-sleeved top that covered her chest, but left her stomach bare, and a black and silver cape. A stylized silver ‘S’, similar, but not identical, to the one one his costume, was emblazoned in the center of her chest.“Going somewhere?” asked Supergirl-Prime.Clark changed course, but she stayed with him, standing on thin air in the same position relative to him. No matter what he tried, she was always there in front of him. When he was upside down, she was upside down. When he corkscrewed through the air in a crazy spiral, she matched his path. There was no way to shake her.Clark came to a sudden halt and Supergirl-Prime stopped with him. They floated in the air, less than two feet from each other. She smiled.“So what’s the plan?” asked Clark. “Are you going to annoy me to death?”“You have a smart mouth,” said Supergirl-Prime, “Do you think that’s why you don’t have any friends?”Clark snorted. “That’s rich. The most feared woman in the universe is giving advice on how to make friends.”Her response was to fire two beams of heat vision from her eyes; they struck his left shoulder and drilled two holes through his costume, skin, muscles, and bones. He gritted his teeth at the pain, but did not make a sound.She smiled her infuriating smile. “So, you fear me? That’s good to know. I was beginning to think I’d lost my touch.”Clark returned Supergirl-Prime’s fire. He aimed his heat vision so that the beams met at a single point on her left shoulder, and he poured everything he could into it. The beams burned a hole in her costume, and left a red mark, but they could not penetrate her skin. He kept going, pouring enough energy into her shoulder to melt a battle tank into molten slag, but Supergirl-Prime shrugged off his assault. Clark realized that she could have moved out of the way; she was making a point that she was invulnerable to anything he could throw at her.Supergirl-Prime glanced at the hole in her costume. “Do you have any idea how much this is worth?” she asked. “I didn’t pay for it, but I had to threaten a lot of people to get it made. You are in so much trouble.”She pulled her right arm back and formed her hand into a fist. Clark noticed for the fist time that she had four green lantern rings on her right hand, one on each finger.“Where did...” he started to say, but she punched him in the stomach before he could finish the question.He flew backwards at incredible speed and smashed into the side of a mountain before he could slow down. He felt like he had been gouged by a Kryptonian rhino. Two of his ribs were broken.Before he could move, Supergirl-Prime was floating in front of him again. “You had a question?”Clark tried to ignore the pain from his broken ribs. “Where did you get four green lantern rings?”“Where do you think? From the corpses of four green lanterns.”Clark felt sick. He had fought alongside members of the Green Lantern Corps, and he had great respect for them. “You killed four green lanterns?”Supergirl-Prime rolled her eyes. “No, I killed fifty green lanterns. It would have been fifty-one, but I had to leave one alive to warn everyone that I was coming to destroy Oa.”“Why did you do that?”
“Because I was planning to come here! Everybody rushed off to protect Oa, leaving you undefended.”“Why do you even need the rings?”“I like to have options.”One of her rings came alive. A set of thick chains, made of glowing green energy materialized around Clark. They pinned his arms to his sides and his legs together. He struggled and felt the chains give a little, but before he could break free, a second ring came to life, adding its energy to the first; he was unable to move even a fraction of an inch. Supergirl-Prime licked her lips and smiled at Clark. The chains began to tighten around him, contracting until they cut into his flesh.“What do you think, shall I tighten them another inch?”The chains tightened another inch. They dug even further into his flesh. His arms throbbed in agony.Supergirl-Prime noticed his discomfort. “Let’s work the arms a little more, shall we?”The chains around his arms and torso kept tightening, until Clark heard and felt the crunch of the bones in his left arm, already weakened when Supergirl-Prime had broken his wrist earlier in the day, shattering. Then the chain cut into his muscles. Clark could not hold back, and he screamed as the green energy sliced his left arm into half a dozen pieces, which rained down onto the mountainside below.The chains vanished. Clark looked at his left arm, which was now little more than a few inches of stump below the shoulder. Blood gushed from the wound.“We can’t have you bleeding to death on me,” said Supergirl-Prime.She grabbed him by the stump and fired her heat vision at the ragged wound. Clark screamed again; the pain was intolerable. When she was finished, the stump was an inch shorter and burned black, but the wound was cauterised and the bleeding had stopped. He could feel pain from the stump and the parts of the arm that were no longer there; his brain was reliving the moment when the green chains had torn his arm apart.“No!” screamed Clark. He punched Supergirl-Prime in the nose with his remaining hand, putting everything he had into the blow. A sickening crunch and a bolt of pain through his hand told him that in the battle between his knuckles and her nose, it was his knuckles that had been found wanting. He pulled his hand away and examined it; three of his fingers and his thumb were broken in several places. He looked at her face: his punch had barely left a mark.“You might want to take better care of that hand,” she said. “It’s the only one you’ve got.”She punched him in the face, her hand moving so fast that Clark had trouble following it. He felt his nose crunch flat under her diamond-hard fist.“Is that what you were trying to do?” she asked. She examined his face with pretend concern for his well-being. “I think I did a slightly better job than you: your nose is messed up.”Clark had never felt so helpless. Supergirl-Prime was not a woman, she was a vengeful force of nature. He could not hurt her, he could not defend himself against her attacks, and he could not escape. He was a piece of sacrificial meat for a dark, enraged goddess.On some level, Clark had known he was going to die as soon as Supergirl-Prime had sat down next to him in the bar, but the emotional truth was hitting now. He was going to suffer, and then he was going to die. He looked at Supergirl-Prime and saw happiness; she was ecstatic to be causing such pain to someone she hated. Hate was her driving characteristic, Clark realized, and it was expressed as anger when she did not get what she wanted, but as joy when she did. As long as she was happy, she would keep torturing him for as long as his body could take it.She grabbed him by his midriff, one hand grasped firmly around each side, digging into his flesh with her sharp fingers. She flew up and away, pushing him in front of her. Moving backwards, he could see the Earth over her shoulder, shrinking as they flew into space. Clark could survive in hard vacuum for an hour, after that he would lapse into unconsciousness and die soon after. He did not know how long Supergirl-Prime could survive in space, but he imagined it was a lot longer than that. Soon, Earth was no larger than a nickel held at arm’s length. Clark wondered what she was planning; slow asphyxiation in space would not be a pleasant way to die, but he could imagine worse things.They hit something hard. Clark gasped as his back took the brunt of the impact and several of his vertebrae shattered. Supergirl-Prime kept pushing and they tunneled through solid rock. His mouth and eyes filled with dust. He felt the back of his costume tear away, leaving his skin exposed.Whatever the object was that Supergirl-Prime was pushing him through, it was enormous; the pressure on his back was unrelenting. Sometimes they would hit veins of metal-rich ore which gouged at Clark’s skin, peeling it away from his back, along with strips of his flesh. Pulverised rock worked into his wounds, intensifying the pain. More bones snapped under the pressure.As suddenly as it had started, his ordeal stopped as they burst through the surface of the object and back into space. Clark looked past Supergirl-Prime and was shocked to see the dark side of the moon. She had pushed him through the moon!Supergirl-Prime winked at him, then spun him around. She renewed her grip on his midriff, digging her fingers into raw flesh that had been exposed by the rough passage through the moon. She flew back the way they had come, and Clark saw the dark side of the moon rushing towards him.The impact felt worse this time around, because he was leading with his face. Supergirl-Prime pushed him through the moon for a second time, carving a new tunnel through the lunar rock with his face and chest. The front of his costume tore away, leaving his torso bare. He tried to close his eyes, but the constant grinding of the rock face forced his eyelids open and gouged at his eyeballs. The skin on his face and chest was scoured away, exposing more raw flesh. He felt more of his bones break and began to wonder if he had any that were still intact.When they exited the other side of the moon, Supergirl-Prime kept flying towards the Earth. They hit the atmosphere travelling at thousands of miles an hour. The heat of re-entry cooked Clark’s exposed flesh and he screamed in agony.They hit the top of a mountain, sending a huge plume of dust and gravel flying into the air. Clark lay at the bottom of the crater where the mountain peak had been. He could only see through one eye. He reached up with his remaining hand and felt his face; there was a scorched hole where his other eye had been. He looked up at Supergirl-Prime, standing over him with her hands on her hips, not a scratch on her.“Is... that... the... worst... you... can... do?” he asked, forcing the words out through his swollen, lacerated lips.Supergirl-Prime wagged a finger at him like he was a bad dog. “Don’t try to make me angry, it’s not going to work. You aren’t going to trick me into killing you quickly.” She paused for a moment and tilted her head as if in thought. “What’s next on the menu of pain? Oh yes: innocent victims. I know how much heroes love stupid, fragile humanity.”Supergirl-Prime used two of her power rings to project a green lasso around his left ankle. She flew up and away from the mountain, dragging him at the end of the energy rope like a flopping fish. She dove down into a valley where train had just emerged from a tunnel onto a viaduct. Supergirl-Prime flew towards the train and spun Clark around on the end of the rope.When they reached the train, Clark was being spun around so fast that the scene flew past his eyes in a confusing blur. Supergirl-Prime span him into the path of the train and he hit the engine car, which shattered into shards of flying metal; the rest of the train plunged from the viaduct to the rocky ground, hundreds of feet below.“Wait for it, wait for it...” said Supergirl-Prime.The train carriages landed with a series of thumps and screeching sounds. The remains of the engine car, and the fuel it had been carrying, landed on top of the train wreckage. Clark waited for an explosion, but nothing happened.“I swear, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” said Supergirl-Prime.A brief flash of heat-vision shot from her eyes towards the pile of fuel-soaked train wreckage, which burst into flame. She smiled.“You know, I think I hear an airplane,” she said.Supergirl-Prime manipulated the green energy from her other two rings to construct a complicated contraption around Clark. Two thick bands formed around his chest and thighs; attached to the bands were giant fireworks. The fireworks ignited and Clark flew into the sky, helpless to do anything but go where the rockets were taking him. The rope attached to his left ankle trailed behind him, keeping him connected to Supergirl-Prime. He saw that he was on a collision course with a passenger jet. He struggled, but he was too weak and his restraints were too strong. He tried to change course but he could not overcome the thrust of the rockets. He ploughed through the fuselage of the jet, splitting the aircraft into two halves, which plunged to the ground. Clark looked back and watch them fall; he was horrified to see many of the passengers still alive, screaming as they tumbled through the air. The rope on his ankle snapped taut and he tumbled back towards the ground. He passed Supergirl-Prime on the way down and smashed into a river bed. A few miles away, he saw the two halves of the passenger jet hit the ground.The green rope around his ankle vanished, but Supergirl-Prime was on him before he had time to move. She landed in the river, reached down and grabbed him by the throat; she lifted him out of the water and held him up at arm’s length, his feet dangling an inch above the water. She squeezed her hand and Clark began to choke as it closed around his throat. He felt the bones in his neck buckle and break. He kicked hard with his left foot, striking her stomach; the bones in his foot shattered against her diamond-hard skin.Supergirl-Prime looked him up and down, examining his ravaged body. “You know,” she said, “there are 206 bones in the Kryptonian body, and all but twelve of yours are broken, or missing. Six of those are the little ones in your ears, which I will leave. I wouldn’t want you to miss a moment of my sparkling wit. But I think it’s time to deal with the rest.”Keeping her choke hold on his throat with one hand, she formed a fist with the other. “Left femur,” she said, and punched him hard in the left thigh, shattering the femur with such force that the leg nearly came away. “Left tibia, patella, and fibula,” she said, and punched him twice in quick succession, one punch shattered his left knee cap and the other snapped the bones in his lower left leg.“Did you know that I wanted to be a doctor?” she asked. “Back on Earth-Prime, before all of this started. She looked up and away for a moment, as if lost in thought about a life she had never had the chance to live.“Mandible,” she said, and punched him firmly in the jaw. His jaw crunched into powder and his remaining teeth flew in all directions. He tried to say something defiant, but all he could could manage was a gurgling sound.“The rest of the bones in your head are already fractured in several places, which just leaves... your left hip bone!” She slapped the left side of his pelvis with the flat of her hand and his left hip snapped into three pieces.Supergirl-Prime examined him again. “Sad,” she said.She flicked the hand that she had wrapped around his throat to one side, sending him tumbling through the air. He was already in so much pain that he barely felt the impact as he landed atop a large, flat rock on the river bank. He lay face down on the rock and did not even try to move.“You know,” said Supergirl-Prime, her voice coming from behind and above him, “I think a small part of you believed that your cousin was going to swoop out of the sky and rescue you.”She used one of her power rings to flip him onto his back. Clark’s body was a symphony of pain, and he had trouble focusing his remaining eye on her. She was an indistinct black and pink blur, floating in the air above him.“She almost made it,” she said. “Supergirl and Power Girl just crossed the orbit of Neptune, heading back to Earth. The rest of their super friends are close behind them. I’m impressed; I thought the trail I had left for them would keep them occupied for days, but it appears they saw through my ruse.”She sighed. “I had so much more planned for you, Clark. It would have been incredible, but instead I have to bring things to a close.”The last thing that Clark Kent ever saw was the sole of Supergirl-Prime’s boot, hurtling towards his face.