Reality TV

a Supergirl fan fiction by

Douglas Neman

Cat strode into her office, an entourage of department heads in her wake. "An enormous alien ship lands on the edge of this city and we can't get any TV vans over there!" she barked. "Why can't we get the choppers in close? I'm surrounded by incompetents! And where is Kira?"

One of her lackeys nervously spoke up. "We can't send the choppers in because the military has established a no-fly zone within one kilometer of the alien craft."

"I won't be beaten!" Cat snapped. "Arrange Van 1 to meet with the chopper and hand over their long-range cameras. I spent a fortune on them, so let's use them! Send one of the ground crew in the chopper if the cameras need a specialist to operate them."

The lackey nodded and ran to make the arrangements. On his way out, he almost ran over another man coming in.

"I hope you remember me, Miss Grant," the new arrival said. "Agent Munro, FBI."

"I'm busy," Cat said.

"You're about to get busier," Hank said. "There's only one alien aboard that ship, but he's hostile, and his defenses are very advanced. He's threatening to attack unless we supply him with a satellite video link. He wants to broadcast his demands to the world."

"And you're going to let him?" Cat asked.

"We desperately need to buy time, and this particular demand doesn't cost us anything. You're the nearest major television studio, so we came to you. The alien gave us the information we need to link his camera signal with Earth's technology. We need your technicians to set this up right away."

"Get Wit in here!" Cat snapped to her underlings.

"We don't know where Winn is," another lackey said.

"Mr. Schott is currently doing some specialist work for us," Hank said.

Cat raised an eyebrow. Hank's face was impassive.

"Fine," Cat said. "You." She pointed to someone at random. "Take Agent Munro to the television studio. Give him whatever he needs."

 

Forty-five minutes later, Zagrat walked into the hold of his spaceship, activated the camera mounted on the wall, and spoke into it.

"People of Earth, I am Zagrat," he said. "The object behind me is a nuclear bomb, roughly equivalent to what you call 120 megatons." In the center of the hold, past his shoulder, was a large object which might or might not have been a bomb. "It is primed for detonation! I have hundreds of these bombs. The leaders of your world have one hour to surrender control of the Earth to me. If not, I will detonate this bomb here in National City, and then I will move on to another major metropolitan area and make the same demand. I will continue destroying cities one at a time until my demand is met. My defenses are beyond your pathetic technology, so any attack on me will be futile! Your hour starts now!"

Supergirl burst into the hold, punching her way through a bulkhead.

Zagrat whirled, drew a laser pistol, and fired. Supergirl shrugged off the blast and fired back with her heat vision. She hit Zagrat in the hand, forcing him to drop his pistol.

Zagrat snarled and hit a button on the control panel next to the camera. "Mother ship, immediate evacuation!" he growled. A glow of sparkling energy surrounded him, and he was gone.

Winn scrambled into the hold, crawling through the hole Supergirl had made. "We could only jam the force field for a few seconds!" he said. "We're the only two who got in!"

"Then we need to turn off the force field," Supergirl said, and ran to the control unit beside the camera. "Can you figure out these controls?"

"Deciphering alien computer systems in just a few minutes," Winn said with a shrug, joining her. "Sure. I do that all the time."

"Winn, you do this kind of thing in your video games."

Winn looked at her with a face full of shame. "I use cheat codes," he whispered.

"You?" Supergirl asked incredulously.

Winn shrugged.

"Well, we don't have cheat codes, and I need you now!"

Winn looked at the dials and switches, all marked in an alien language. "Don't blame me if this kills us," he muttered, and reached for the controls. As soon as he touched them, a small, loud explosion of energy sent Winn flying backwards.

"Winn!" Supergirl shouted, rushing to his side.

She helped Winn sit up. He was rubbing his head.

"What happened?" she asked.

"I think the controls are isomorphic."

"Isowhatic?"

"If anyone but Zagrat touches them, they get zapped."

"So how are we going to turn off the force field?"

"You could rip this ship apart, but since it's a highly advanced alien craft with who-knows-what as its power source, you might cause it to blow up, taking half the Earth with it."

"But we've got to get the others in here!"

Winn shook his head. "I don't think we can."

Supergirl sighed, and helped him to his feet. "Well, that's just great." She touched a button on the phone attached to her ear and stood still for several seconds. "I'm not getting a signal. I can't even talk to the others."

"The force field is probably blocking all signals." He looked at her sadly. "I think whatever we're going to do, it's up to the two of us."

"You ever defuse a nuclear bomb?"

"Nope."

"Now's your chance."

Supergirl and Winn walked over to the alien object.

"I can see inside it," Supergirl said. "It looks like a bomb to me."

"Is that a countdown?" Winn asked, pointing to a digital readout which showed a set of alien characters which were constantly changing.

"Yep. I can read the language, a little bit. It's one of the seven galactic standards we were taught in school on Krypton. And those are numbers counting down."

"How long do we have?"

"Just before I punched through the wall, I think I heard Zagrat say one hour."

"The controls on this bomb might be isomorphic, too."

Supergirl gingerly touched the controls. Nothing happened. Encouraged, Winn did the same. Again, nothing happened.

"Well, that's something," Supergirl said. "Winn, I have no idea what to do."

"Okay," Winn said, his face grim. "First of all, are you sure it's a nuclear bomb?"

"That's what Zagrat said. One hundred twenty megatons."

Winn boggled. "The largest nuclear bomb the human race ever detonated was a 57-megaton test in 1961 by the Soviet Union. The seismic shock wave went around the Earth three times! This is more than twice as powerful!"

"So don't sneeze."

Winn glowered at her for a moment. Then he said, "The basic design of a nuclear bomb should be the same for aliens and for humans. Can you see two small lumps of uranium, situated at either end of a tube, ready to be pushed together?"

"Any bomb this powerful would be a hydrogen bomb, not uranium."

"But it takes an atomic bomb, using uranium, to create enough energy and pressure to start the hydrogen fusing. Inside every hydrogen bomb is a smaller atomic bomb to kick-start it."

"Sounds messy."

"Be grateful. That simple fact saves the human race from self-destruction. The fact that a hydrogen bomb needs uranium to detonate is the one thing which prevents any Joe Blow from building his own hydrogen bomb in his garage."

Supergirl stared at him for a moment, then swallowed hard. "Oh."

"Yeah. So, can you see the two lumps of uranium? They'll probably be in the shape of half-spheres, with their flat sides facing each other."

She peered at the bomb. "I think I see them."

"Each of those pieces of uranium, by itself, does not have enough critical mass to detonate. That's what keeps the bomb safe until the timer reaches zero. When the two uranium halves are shoved together, they'll achieve critical mass, detonate, kick-start the hydrogen bomb, and boom."

"So if we prevent the two uranium pieces from joining, we disarm the bomb?"

"That should be the case. And I do not want to press any of these switches just to find out what they do! In order to disarm this bomb, you'll have to take it apart."

"You'll have to guide me."

"I'll do my best."

Supergirl gingerly ripped open the outer casing. Winn stepped back a few paces as she peeled the casing away, revealing the machinery inside.

"There's the tube, with the two halves of uranium at opposite ends," she said. "But what if I try to rip it out and it triggers something?"

"Yeah, I've got that fear, also," Winn said, peering at the tube. "I'm thinking that if you just bend the tube, or put a kink in it, that will stop the uranium halves from joining."

"Unless the mechanism which shoves them together is strong enough to overcome that."

"One thing at a time. I think damaging the tube is our best chance, so let's do that much, at least. Then we'll see what else we can do."

Supergirl reached for the tube, but pulled her hand back as a shock of energy zapped her. Winn yelled and jumped back, startled.

Supergirl looked at Winn. "That wasn't the bomb," she said. "If that had been the bomb, we wouldn't be standing here."

"Yeah, I know. I just...wasn't expecting that."

"Neither was I."

They looked inside the bomb again carefully. "There's a small force field around the tube!" Supergirl said.

"I can't see anything."

"I can barely see it with my X-ray vision. It's just like the force field around the ship, which means I'm not strong enough to push through it."

"Can you see where it originates?"

Supergirl looked carefully, then said, "Yes! It's coming from that little gray box right there!"

"Does the force field surround the little gray box, too?"

"All but the base of it."

"Then you need to get inside that little gray box by breaking into its base. Try to break it without dislodging it; it might be booby-trapped."

Supergirl awkwardly stretched her right arm far into the bomb, angling herself so that she could reach down and then back up. She delicately broke through the base of the little gray box and pinched the machinery inside. The force field died.

"Did it!" she said, and immediately crushed the center of the tube.

"Awesome!" Winn said.

"And just for good measure..." she said, and ripped out one of the two uranium halves. She held it up triumphantly. "How about we just neuter this thing completely!"

"This bomb is disarmed!" Winn said with a grin.

Supergirl's smile suddenly disappeared. "Wait. Is this uranium hurting us?"

"We're getting a small dose of radiation, but if it's only for a short period, a lump that small isn't going to harm us too much. But I'd still feel better if it were some place else."

Supergirl ran to the hole in the wall she'd made earlier and tossed the uranium through it.

Winn said, "Now we need to figure out how to turn off the force field around the ship, or we'll be trapped in here for the rest of our lives. Which won't be very long if we can't eat alien food."

"What if I just use my heat vision to blast the control panel?"

"I don't know. I'm afraid to try anything like that." Winn looked around the hold, then saw something which grabbed his attention. He walked over to Zagrat's pistol and bent down to examine it without touching it.

"What is it?" Supergirl asked.

"I figure an alien zap gun would be a simple thing. Power source, trigger, barrel. But this thing has fancy controls along its side."

Supergirl shrugged. "Maybe it has different strength settings. Does it matter?"

"It might." Winn peered at the gun, then at the control panel in the wall, then back at the gun. "Something about the way the controls are grouped together tells me that this gun is isomorphic, too."

"Well, don't try it. It's not worth it."

"If it is isomorphic, and if it's set to Zagrat's touch, then maybe we can somehow use the gun to work the controls without getting zapped."

Supergirl made an I'm-impressed face. "Sounds great in theory, but how would that actually work?"

Winn studied the gun and the control panel carefully, then said, "I think the gun is supposed to fit into this slot. There's a jack on the base of the gun, and it fits this shape. It's probably a charger."

"Other than recharging the gun, that won't accomplish anything."

"Even on Earth, charging systems are sometimes smart," Winn said. "In fact, they have to be in order to be efficient. If the gun's in the slot, its own isomorphic setting might trick the computer into thinking that we're Zagrat."

"Winn, that's a real stretch."

"I know. But when you work with Microsoft Windows for years, you learn to develop a feel for quirky things like this."

"Winn, Microsoft Windows isn't an alien operating system."

"No, it's worse! So in a way, this should be a breeze."

She scowled at him.

"Look, let's try it," he said. "The worst that can happen is that it doesn't work, in which case we haven't lost anything."

Supergirl wrapped her hands in her cape and tried to pick up the gun. It zapped her even through the cloth.

"Argh!" she yelled, pulling back.

"Are you hurt?"

"Not too much. I think I can take it if I'm fast." She braced herself for the pain. Using her cape, she picked up the gun and shoved it into the slot as quickly as she could, and backed away. The gun fit perfectly. A string of lights on the console turned on.

"Here goes nothing," Supergirl said, and touched the controls. She grinned when nothing happened.

"Winn, you're a genius!"

Winn smiled. "Yeah...I know."

"Okay, now to figure out how to turn off the force field," she said. They studied the controls. "I wasn't on Krypton long enough to learn the seven galactic standards very well, so I'm not sure I'm reading this right. I think this lever operates the force field."

"You think?"

"Either that, or it operates the garbage disposal."

Winn gave her a funny look. "Are you joking?"

She gave him a helpless shrug. "I'm doing the best I can."

"Try it."

The lever was about two-thirds along the slot. She moved it to the far right. A digital readout came to life and alien characters flashed across it.

"Oh," Supergirl said. "Well, good news and bad news. The good news is, this is the force field control. The bad news is, I just turned it all the way up."

She pushed the lever all the way to the left. More alien characters flashed across the screen. Supergirl studied them intently.

"As best as I can tell, I've turned the force field off, but it's going to take a little while to power down," she said. "I think it's some kind of safety feature, that something bad would happen if it powered up or down too quickly."

"How long is a little while?" Winn asked nervously.

"It should be just a few minutes."

Winn breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly with nothing to do, he strolled to the center of the room and gazed at the bomb, lost in his thoughts.

Supergirl put her hands on her hips and took a deep breath. She looked at nothing in particular for a moment, as if summoning her courage, then looked at Winn. After a few seconds, she slowly approached him, swinging her arms casually.

"So," Supergirl said awkwardly. "Since we have a few minutes alone before the others join us...do you want to talk about it?"

"Talk about what?"

She sighed. "Winn, you always do that!"

"Do what?"

"You pretend you don't know what I'm talking about!"

"I don't know what you're talk-"

He stopped, realizing the irony of what he'd been about to say.

Supergirl pointed a finger at him. "See?"

He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked away. "There's nothing really to talk about."

"There's lots to talk about."

He looked at her. "Are you in love with me?"

She swallowed hard. "No."

"See? We're finished talking. That was easy."

"Winn, I swear I'm going to knock you into next week!"

"Hey, I can't help how I feel."

"No, but you can dial back the attitude a bit. I'm trying to apologize!"

"You have nothing to apologize for."

"If that were true, my stomach wouldn't feel like there's a black hole inside it." She stood in front of him and held his hands. "Winn. I know it hurts. I know what unrequited love feels like, and it's brutal. It's nasty. It's one of the most awful feelings in the whole universe. You're my best friend, and I care about you, and I'd go to the ends of the Earth for you. The last thing in the world I want to do is hurt you."

Winn gave a little shrug, his face working with emotion. "I know," he whispered.

"And the crappy thing is, everything I want to tell you sounds like a line, and I hate that! I want to tell you that you're a wonderful guy, that you'll find someone better than me, that you'll always be my friend and I'll always care about you." Two tears ran down her face. "But I know you, Winn. I know how you see yourself, and I know you're going to take my rejection personally. You're just going to see it as validation that you're some kind of dweeb who'll never be as good as other men and never be loved the way you deserve to be. And that makes it so much worse! Which is why I won't put up with it. I can't spare you the broken heart, because that's beyond my control. I wish I felt for you the same thing you feel for me, but I don't, and neither of us can stop the pain you're about to go through. But I swear, you will not use this to put yourself down, you wonderful, beautiful, amazing man."

They stared at each other for a long moment. Despite himself, a tear escaped Winn's eye, also.

Supergirl whispered, "Winn...if I could give you the stars in the sky...I would."

Winn wept openly, but managed a smile. "I...I don't know what I would do with all the stars in the sky."

Supergirl gave a little laugh. "You really are amazing. You just saved tens of millions of people."

"We saved tens of millions of people."

"Okay, fine. We did. But I have superpowers that were just given to me on a silver platter by circumstance. You...you are amazing! If you hadn't made it into this spaceship with me, I would never have known what to do. I need you. And not just to figure out the things I'm too stupid to. I need you, and all my friends and all my family, to love me and support me. It sounds trite, but it's true: I would be lost, alone, and nothing without all of you around me. Especially you." She let go of one hand and reached up to stroke the side of his head. "You're my hero, Winn," she whispered. "And you will always be my hero. And there is love and happiness in your future. You are going to have women falling for you left and right."

"Oh, stop it-"

"I'm serious." She held both of his hands again. "I'm not just saying this to be kind. I mean it. And you'd better believe it, or I swear I'll knock your noggin until it penetrates that thick skull of yours. If you walk away from this conversation still thinking you are less than other men, then I have failed you as a friend."

"You have never failed me as a friend," Winn said softly.

"And I'm not going to start now."

Winn gave her a soft, tired smile. "Thank you," he whispered.

She wrapped him in her arms. "I love you Winn," she whispered. "I want nothing but the best for you. Always."

They held each other for many moments. Time stopped for both of them.

"Ahem," Alex said.

They slowly pulled apart and looked around. Hank and Alex stood next to them. DEO agents were swarming across the ship.

"That was good work, you two," Hank said.

They both nodded. "Thank you, sir," Supergirl said.

"But I'm afraid we have some bad news for you," Hank said.

Winn and Supergirl glanced at each other, suddenly tense again.

"You see that black hemisphere over there on the wall?" Alex asked, pointing to a spot next to the control panel.

"What about it?" Winn asked.

"That's the camera Zagrat was speaking into when you arrived. And...it's still on."

Supergirl scrunched her face up, thinking about this, but the implications hit Winn immediately.

"No," he said, shaking his head. "No...no...please tell me-"

"Sorry," Alex said with a shrug and a smile. "Roughly four billion people around the world just watched and heard every single thing the two of you said and did since entering this room."

Supergirl's face paled. Winn looked like he wanted to crawl behind the nearest atom and die. Hank and Alex just grinned at them.

"Cheer up," Hank said. "You're our newest reality TV stars! And Winn, we'll need to provide you round-the-clock protection for the next year or so. After seeing you in action today, you are going to be mobbed by women everywhere you go!"

Supergirl grinned at him. Winn just put his face in his hands and groaned.

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