We're All Powerless

a Supergirl fan fiction by

Douglas Neman

"One mystery which remains from the earthquake is why did it take Supergirl so long to respond? Sloan Smith has more."

The image on the screen cut to a man standing on a sidewalk at night holding a microphone. The byline read, "Sloane Smith."

"Thanks, Alan. As National City rebuilds after the earthquake three days ago, many residents are wondering, 'Where was Supergirl?'" The screen showed burning buildings and collapsed bridges while Sloane continued in a voiceover. "She appeared shortly after the second major quake at 2:14, and many witnesses claim they saw her save lives and property, including a school bus full of young children. But where was she after the first quake hit at 8:54?"

The image cut back to Sloane. A woman in her mid-twenties now stood by his side. Her arms were folded and she looked tense.

"I'm joined by Yolanda Vargas, who sadly lost her father, Eduardo Vargas, after the first quake struck. Ms. Vargas, tell us what happened to you."

"My...my father and I were in the car. He was driving. Then everything just started shaking, and the road felt like it actually kicked the car up in the air, and we went sideways, then we spun around and crashed. My dad hit the steering wheel. At first, he said he was just shaken up, you know. He seemed all right. We couldn't go anywhere, and the roads were closed, so we just sat with the car. And then after a while he started looking woozy. Then he had to lie down, and that's when I knew something was wrong. I ran to get help, and I found Maxwell Lord, who tried to save my dad, but he couldn't. Emergency services couldn't get to us in time. So...my dad passed away before we could get him some help."

"And what's the number one question on your mind?"

Yolanda gave a tiny shrug. "Um...just...where was Supergirl? You know? Could she have saved my dad?"

"Are you angry at all?"

Yolanda seemed to think about this for a second, before suddenly saying decisively, "Yeah. Yeah, I'm angry. I don't want to make assumptions about anything or anyone, but I...I just want to know. What stopped Supergirl from saving my dad's life? Would he be with me today if she had been there? You know, I...I just wish I could somehow meet her face to face and ask her that one question."

"It's a question many are asking, and we are so very sorry for your loss, Ms. Vargas."

Yolanda nodded her thanks.

Sloan turned back to the camera. "Another person asking that question is the man who tried to save Mr. Vargas, Maxwell Lord, who has never been shy in his criticism of Supergirl. He had some choice words for the Girl of Steel during an impromptu press conference this afternoon."

The screen showed Maxwell Lord talking to a ring of reporters. "As I have demonstrated, and as the brave first responders of this city have demonstrated, when you have the power to help your fellow man, you do it! You go out into the streets and help whomever you can. You don't sit around on the couch waiting to make a dramatic entrance, trying to make the whole disaster all about you."

One of the reporters said, "One popular theory is that Supergirl temporarily lost her powers."

"I can't speak to that theory one way or the other," Lord said. "And in the end, it doesn't really matter, does it?"

The screen cut back to Sloan, once more standing alone. "Several notable people, including Mayor Larson and CatCo CEO Cat Grant, have vigorously defended Supergirl during the last several days, reminding us of the many lives she has saved this summer. Craig Abramson, the captain of flight 237, which Supergirl saved from crashing two months ago, has also strongly defended Supergirl, saying, 'We shouldn't make assumptions.'

"In addition to all of this, the hashtag BelieveInSupergirl has been trending heavily on Twitter.

"The one person we can't ask about this is Supergirl herself. At least for now, the Maiden of Might is mute on the topic.

"Sloane Smith, Channel 3 News."

Kara clicked off the television and sighed. As she lay slumped on her couch, staring at the empty screen, she thought, It's times like these I just want to crawl inside a carton of ice cream.


Supergirl used her X-ray vision just long enough to determine that the woman was alone and awake. She waited until the street was clear of cars and pedestrians, then descended quickly out of the night to land on the woman's front porch. She knocked.

The porch light came on. A hand moved a curtain to one side. An eyeball stared for several moments. The door tentatively swung open.

"Hello, Ms. Vargas. I'm Supergirl. May I please come in?"

Yolanda stood blinking in amazement. After a few moments, she nodded and stepped back, allowing the strange woman dressed in a cape to enter.

The house was small, but warm, inviting and cozy. Family photos dotted the walls and the bookshelves, and a framed cross stitch of the Serenity Prayer hung by the door. A shawl draped over an easy chair marked where Yolanda had been sitting. Yolanda turned off the television, then stood and stared, obviously at a loss.

Supergirl indicated the sofa. "May I?"

Yolanda quickly nodded. The two women sat down next to each other.

"I heard what happened to your father," Supergirl said. "I wanted to give you my condolences for your loss."

"Thank you," Yolanda said quietly.

"I understand you're wondering why I took so long to respond to the earthquake."

Yolanda gave a tiny shrug. "A lot of people are."

"Understandable. Ms. Vargas, I-"

"Call me Yolanda."

Supergirl nodded. "Yolanda, I try to save as many people as I can. I wasn't just sitting around, twiddling my thumbs."

"Then where were you?"

"You saw the android on the news last week, right?"

Yolanda nodded.

"A few days before the earthquake, I had to protect the city from that android. It was a battle robot which the army lost control of and went rogue. It took everything I had to defeat it. It sapped all my power. Until my superpowers returned, I was as mortal as you. And unfortunately, my powers didn't come back until the afternoon, after the second quake hit."

"The news says that you went into that convenience store to stop a gunman before the second quake."

"Yes, but I did that without any superpowers. If that man had pulled the trigger, I would have died. I was counting on him thinking I was bulletproof."

Yolanda was silent as she took this in.

Supergirl said, "And I would appreciate it if you wouldn't tell anyone that, because I might need to pull that trick again some day. The fact that people don't know about that bluff could very well be the difference between whether I, or someone else, lives or dies. So think about that; you now potentially have someone else's life in your hands."

"So what killed my dad? An army android or an earthquake?"

"I think you know the answer to that."

"But if the army hadn't lost their android-"

"I don't know what would have happened. Maybe I would have been so busy rescuing people on the other side of the city that I still wouldn't have known to come rescue your father. There is absolutely no way to tell. We'll never know.

"But I feel your frustration, and I share it. I've thought about it. I've asked myself, why couldn't that stupid android have gone rogue just 24 hours earlier? Why did it have to be then? Why did it have to deplete my powers just before I needed them most? What are the odds of that happening?" Supergirl shook her head. "I don't have any answers. It's like the people who died on the Anderson Overpass; cars go over that bridge at 70 miles per hour, so no one is on it for more than a few seconds. But there were seven people on that bridge when the quake struck, and they died. If the quake strikes five seconds later, those seven people live and another seven take their place. As far as I know, there's no rhyme, reason, or meaning to any of it. It's just random, and it's ugly, and we're all powerless against it. Including me.

"Another way to look at it is that we're lucky the android didn't go rogue 24 hours later than it did, or I wouldn't have had my powers back until the day after the quake, and even more people would have died. Or we can ask what would have happened if the army hadn't been so stupid. Or we can ask what would have happened if my home planet had never been destroyed and I had never come to Earth in the first place.

"So if you want to blame the army, or if you want to blame an earthquake, or if you want to blame fate, or if you want to blame the universe, or if you want to blame me for not being strong enough, it doesn't matter. Choose the target of your anger. I'll support you no matter what. I'll understand."

Supergirl took Yolanda's hand. "Just know that I'm sorry your father died. I'd give my life in exchange for his. I wish I could have saved him."

Yolanda's lower lip trembled. "I haven't cried about him, yet," she said. "I'm afraid that if I do, he'll really be gone."

Supergirl squeezed her hand. "Sometimes I relax by cruising on my back at 10,000 feet and look up at the stars. I lie there, in the sky, where I'm all alone, and I look at Krypton's star, and I cry. I always cry. That hurt will never leave."

"Why don't you tell all of this to the media? I'm not the only one who wonders where you were."

"There's an old saying: 'Never explain.' That can be a hard concept to grasp, but there's a lot of wisdom in it. All the people who don't like me are going to say bad things about me no matter what I do. All the people who believe in me don't need to know the details. If I go on TV and try to explain all this, I don't know how many people's minds I would actually change, and the interviewer would twist my words all around, and try to create controversy in order to generate ratings. It would just create more noise and distraction instead of accomplishing anything. I just find it so much easier to keep my mouth shut and let my actions speak for me. And if saving a busload of kids doesn't gain someone's trust, words never will."

"Then why did you come here tonight?"

"Because explaining something to a million people is different from explaining it to one person. And because it just felt like the right thing to do."

"I wish you could have been there, with my dad."

I was there.

"So do I."

Supergirl was silent for a moment, then said, "There's one thing I wish everyone would understand. One thing I wish I could burn into people's brains. And that is, I'm not all-powerful. I can't save everyone, even when I'm at full power. Whatever help I offer is a bonus, beyond what would normally be available. I sleep eight hours a night, and I have a life, I have friends and family that I spend time with. I'm not a robot, hovering in the sky 24/7. I'm just a person with superpowers trying to give a little extra help, whenever I am able. Nothing from me is automatic, or guaranteed." Supergirl shrugged. "It would be so wonderful if everyone got that. But I understand human nature. I understand that some people will feel entitled to Supergirl all the time, and resent me, or even blame me, whenever I don't prevent something bad from happening to them." Supergirl squeezed Yolanda's hand and looked at her. "And maybe that's why I came here tonight. I don't want you to be one of those people."

"I don't blame you, Supergirl. I understand."

"I know you do. Thank you."

"Would you like a cup of tea?"

Supergirl smiled. "I would love a cup of tea. Unfortunately, I have to get going."

"You have a schedule?"

"You know those carjackings which have plagued Chanley Heights recently?"

"Yeah. The carjackers have put, what, three people in the hospital?"

"They have. They're extremely violent. All the carjackings have taken place between eight and ten PM, so I've committed myself to patrolling Chanley Heights during those hours. I'm trying to catch those guys. And it's almost eight."

They stood up.

"Thank you for coming by, Supergirl. It means a lot to me."

"It was my pleasure. Stay strong."

They hugged.

"Take care," Yolanda said, as she walked Supergirl to the front door.

"You too," Supergirl said with a smile. Then she stepped onto the porch and rocketed into the night.

Yolanda stood watching her fly away, until she couldn't see her any more.

She shut and locked the door, then made herself a cup of tea, even though she knew she wouldn't drink it. She turned on the television, set the tea on the coffee table, and lay on the couch, curled up, her head resting on one of the small pillows. She pulled an afghan over her to keep warm.

Television programs flew past her. She watched two sitcoms and a medical drama without registering a single moment of any of them. Her mind was blank.

The late night local news came on, and a male anchor and a female anchor told National City what was going on in their world. The top story, of course, was rebuilding from the earthquake. Yolanda didn't hear it, either.

Then her brain suddenly registered that the news was showing a photo of Supergirl. Her DVR could rewind live TV, so she backed it up to the beginning of the news story.

The male anchor said, "The carjackers who struck the Chanley Heights area three times in the past few weeks are behind bars tonight, thanks to Supergirl. She apprehended them about 9:30 this evening at the corner of Sarasota and 14th when a gang of three men in their early twenties, wielding pistols, tried to carjack an elderly couple. Paul and Andrea will have details on the morning show."

"Well, the people of National City can breathe a little more easily tonight, thanks to Supergirl," the female anchor said.

"They sure can!" her co-anchor said.

Yolanda rewound the video again so that Supergirl's face was once more on the screen, and paused it. She looked at the face of the superhero who had been in her living room just a few hours earlier. In that moment, Yolanda knew she could never tell anyone about Supergirl's visit. No one would ever believe her, anyway.

Well, the people of National City can breathe a little more easily tonight, thanks to Supergirl.

"You go get 'em, Supergirl," Yolanda whispered.

Then a wail came up from deep inside her, and she buried her face in the pillow and sobbed for her father.

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