"Claire? You sure you won't come?"
The young blonde stopped typing and looked up from her computer at the usual chaos that was the Daily Planet's newsroom before focusing on the redheaded photographer. "The Arts Center thing? No, thanks, Jenny." She glanced across the desk to the handsome dark-haired man occupying the facing desk. "This is Louis's story. I'm sure he doesn't need my help with it."
The star reporter for the Daily Planet met her eyes. "You know who's supposed to show up, don't you?" he asked, a broad smile creasing his face.
"Yeah, her." The blonde waved a hand dismissively, barely missing a coffee mug perched precariously near the edge of her desk.
"You don't sound very excited," he remarked. "You know something we don't? Has she talked to you about it? Told you that she wasn't going to be there?"
"Who, me?" the blonde asked. "No, she didn't tell me anything about it."
"So why don't you come and see if she shows up?"
"I'm too busy. I've got to get this article done before the end of the day. Mr. White's been all over me for it." She glanced over at the editor-in-chief's office.
The man pushed back from his desk and stood up. "Okay. You don't know what you're missing."
"Yeah, yeah. But I really need to get this article finished." The blonde bent over her keyboard and resumed typing as the man headed for the door, clutching a notebook in one hand. The redhead suppressed a yawn and followed on his heels; the ever present camera bag slung over one slim shoulder.
Supergirl arrived in the nick of time, a blue-and-red streak flying in through the boarded window and landing just in time to take the first bullet intended for the ace investigative reporter. Instead of striking the reporter's body as he tried to take shelter behind a dilapidated pool table, the bullet struck the girl's flat stomach a couple of inches from her belly button. Instead of piercing the reporter's flesh and coming out the other side, the bullet bounced off the sheer fabric covering the girl's invulnerable body.
The second bullet was already on its way before the gunman's mind could begin to register her sudden appearance. Supergirl's reactions were much faster. Gauging the bullet's trajectory, she moved her body accordingly.
She watched the steel-jacketed slug float toward her and strike her left breast just above the nipple. The bullet dimpled in her soft flesh about two inches before meeting the harder underlying muscles. Her firm rebounded, popping out the now flattened slug to clatter to the floor about eight feet away.
"What? No more?" she asked the thug, placing her hands on her hips and tilting her head to one side.
"Supergirl...?" croaked the gunman, his weapon wavering as he stared at the big red S on her chest.
She took a step forward.
His gun continued to waver, as if he knew that it was useless against the beautiful girl before him and yet was too fearful to relinquish it.
She took another step forward.
The gun steadied and he squeezed the trigger.
Not for the first time, she was thankful that men almost invariably aimed at the most inviting target, the big red S on her chest. Standing still and keeping her hands on her hips, she turned her body from side to side in order to let the bullets hit first one breast and then the other, while at the same time making sure the ricochets went harmlessly to the sides instead of striking either man.
As pleasant as the little tingling sensations were, they didn't last long enough, the slide locking in the open position after the last round in the clip was fired.
"Oh, is that all?" she asked, bringing up her right hand to flick away an imaginary piece of lint from her costume. Her delicate fingers brushed her breast more than twice as hard as the bullets had. Then taking a couple of quick steps forward and extending her pinky, she thrust it into the muzzle. A quick bend of her finger wrested the empty gun out of the man's two-handed grip. Her left hand came up from her hip, crushing the gun between her left palm and her closed right fist. Pulling the mangled ball of metal off her pinky, she tossed it away over her shoulder. The ball came down on the pool table behind which the reporter still crouched. The ball bounced once and then rolled across the torn felt and unerringly dropped into the side pocket.
Even while the ball was still rolling toward the pocket, her right arm flashed forward, the pinky still extended. It wasn't a particularly powerful blow, no more than six or eight times what a professional heavyweight boxer might have thrown. Striking the base of his chin, her powerful pinky lifted the big man off the ground and flung him over one pool table and down on top of another one. The old pool table collapsed under his weight, cushioning the impact somewhat as it dumped him on the floor amid the debris.
Knowing that the man was out for the count, she turned around. The reporter was still on his knees behind the pool table. Reaching out and taking hold of the table, she lifted it off the floor and set it aside.
He crawled toward her. "Oh, Supergirl, thank you. I thought I was a goner for sure this time." Wrapping his arms around her bare legs, he laid his head against her stomach.
She gently patted him on the top of his head, as a mother might do to her young son, for all that he was the older and bigger of the two. And, like a mother, she scolded him. "What're you doing here, Louis?"
With the conciseness of the experienced reporter that he was, Louis Lane told her.
"You're sure he's in here?" she asked when he had finished, gently taking hold of his shoulders and lifting him to his feet.
"He's got to be! I'm sure of it!"
The building turned into a wire frame structure as she used her sparkling eyes to look around. "You're right!" she announced. "I see him!" Pushing Louis aside --- perhaps a little more roughly than was strictly necessary --- she sprang forward, going through the three intervening walls as if they weren't there.
The escaped drug lord was sitting quietly, reading that morning's Daily Planet, in what he'd thought was a secure room. And it was until the girl suddenly burst through the wall. Hearing the sound, he looked up just in time to see a blue-clad chest fill his vision, not all of the big red S on the front within his field of vision at such close range.
A quick shrug of her shoulders took him out, the upper side of her breasts striking his chin in rapid succession. Not that he even felt the second blow; the first one had been enough to knock him unconscious. Together the blows were hard enough to knock both man and chair over.
Straightening up, she grabbed the front of his shirt and kept him from joining his chair on the floor. Tucking him under an arm, she turned to the door. Raising her other arm, she pushed the door open. The locked metal door barely resisted her, the lock and hinges giving way before the power of her slender feminine arm.
Louis had decided not to try climbing through the series of holes left by Supergirl's passage. Instead, he worked his way past the collapsed pool table and out into the corridor. No sooner had he gotten there when a door at the far end blew out into the corridor and Supergirl stepped out, a limp male form tucked under one arm as if he was nothing more than a rolled up newspaper. He stepped aside to let her back into the first room, and then followed.
She dropped the fugitive on top of his bodyguard. Ripping some old electrical wiring from the walls, she quickly bound them together. Then grasping the end of the wire, she picked up the two men as easily as if she was picking up her purse. "Now, shall we turn your captives over to the police?"
"You found them. All I did was grab them." And save your life in the process, she added mentally. Again.
Striding to him, she put her other arm around his waist and lifted him off his feet.
Minutes later they were descending onto the Number One helicopter landing pad at the police headquarters in downtown Metropolis.
The helicopter landing pad was a convenient drop-off; the staff was accustomed to her arrival regardless of the hour and was always delighted to take the captured criminals off her hands. The fact that she was also the most beautiful girl in Metropolis certainly didn't hurt her standing in their eyes. At least not among the male staff members.
They were particularly delighted with today's catch; the manhunt was entering the second week.
After taking cursory statements from both Supergirl and Louis Lane, they carried the captives into custody, both the drug lord and his bodyguard still unconscious.
"Well, that wasn't bad day's work, was it, Supergirl?" Louis said, wanting to stay close to her for as long as possible.
The reporters covering the police beat for the various news organs in the city had gathered as soon as Supergirl had arrived. Among them, of course, was the Planet's current police reporter. She saw the man cast an envious look at Louis as she reached out and took his hand.
"I'm glad you came out of it safe," Supergirl said to Louis. Pulling him closer, she stooped down and put her other arm around his legs. When she straightened up, he was in her arms in much the same way as an infant in the arms of its mother. "You and I have some unfinished business to take care of," she told him, adjusting her grip and incidentally rubbing his chest against the underside of her breasts. Very lightly, of course. Then, before he could respond, she leaped up into the sky.
"Safe," he finally managed to gasp out breathlessly when she flew in through the open window and landed in the middle of his living room. But rather than setting him down on his feet as usual, this time she continued to carry him in her arms as she walked through the living room and into his bedroom.
Of course, she wasn't winded in the least. After all, it had only been a short trip across Metropolis --- first from the waterfront to police headquarters, and then to his apartment --- and she'd had to keep her speed down for the benefit of the fragile cargo in her arms. "Yes, Louis," she said, depositing him onto the bed. "You're safe now, my sweet."
"I feel so safe here with you." He kept his arms around her graceful feminine neck, clinging to her with all of his male strength as he got his breath back.
She couldn't help but smile. What safer place for a man, any man, than in the arms of Supergirl, the mighty heroine from Krypton? But right now, "safe" wasn't all that she wanted him to feel. Slipping a hand between their bodies, she easily separated them. "Rest," she told him, gently pushing him down on his back. "Get your breath back." You're going to need it, she added mentally.
"Thank you, Supergirl. You saved my..."
She placed a finger across his lips, halting his litany. "Just hold on to that thought."
He kissed her finger. It wasn't as good as kissing her lips, but it was a start.
"I'll only be a second," she said, lifting her finger from his face before turning and heading back out of the bedroom.
Not that she was going anywhere. Once out of his sight, she quickly stripped off her blue and red outfit. She normally didn't wear anything under it, but she'd been anticipating this opportunity and had prepared accordingly.
Actually, it took closer to two seconds. Looking toward the door, Louis hadn't even started to sit up when any further thoughts of doing so vanished from his mind as she came sailing back in through the door.
He'd never seen her like this before. He'd never seen her, at least as Supergirl, out of her blue and red costume with the big red S on the chest. Not that he'd ever seen her like this in her secret identity, either. Now the only thing on her chest was a lacy pink bra that matched her panties.
Floating across the room, Supergirl folded her shapely legs under her and gently settled onto the bed beside him. "Still feel safe?" she asked, propping herself up on an elbow and brushing back her fiery red hair with the other hand as she looked down at him.
Louis couldn't help but stare at the creamy expanse of her partially exposed chest, never having seen her like this before. "With you to protect me from the bad guys?" he finally managed to answer. "No man could ever be safer."
"Perhaps." A wicked smile appeared on her face as she continued to look down upon his supine form. "But who's going to protect you from me?"
"From... from you?" He was plainly startled by this sudden change. "What... what do you mean?" He started to sit up.
Leaning closer and reaching out, she placed her right hand in the middle of his chest and forced him down flat again. "You know I'm going to have to punish you. You realize that, don't you, Louis?"
His expression changed to one of fear. He'd seen her deal with lawbreakers often enough and was certain that it wasn't a pleasant experience. Not for the lawbreakers. "Why?" he asked, reaching up and taking hold of her arm in an attempt to free himself. "Why, Supergirl?"
"Why?" she echoed, still smiling down at him. Raising her hand slightly, she curled all but the pinky into a fist, keeping him pinned down with just her dainty little finger. "Why? Don't you know?"
He was really fearful now. Muscles bulged on his arms and the strain showed on his face, but her arm remained exactly where it was, continuing to pin him down with just her pinky. She really got off on this feeling of power. Whether it was bouncing bullets off her body or overpowering a man with just her little finger as she was now doing, it merely proved her superiority. Truly a feeling of power. It felt so good. So arousing...
Things were going just as she had planned.
"Why?" she repeated. "For going down to the waterfront without telling me. I don't care how good your tip was. You're not bulletproof. You could have gotten yourself hurt."
He continued his futile struggles. "I... I..."
"I'm going to have to punish you for that," she repeated. She increased the pressure on his breastbone slightly, expelling most of the air from his lungs and cutting off his protests. "Now, just how am I going to punish you?" Taking her lower lip between her teeth, she pretended to ponder the question even though she knew exactly what she was going to do.
The pressure on his chest was causing him difficulty in breathing, his face beginning to turn red. She eased up the pressure a little, just enough to let him breathe but not enough to let him speak just yet.
"You're not bulletproof," she repeated. "You could have gotten yourself hurt. What would you have done if somebody did this to you?" Reaching out with her other hand, she slid her pinky inside his tie and ripped the strip of cloth off his neck. "Who's going to protect you from somebody doing something like this?" Unpinning him, she ripped off his suit and shirt, exposing his broad muscular chest as the fabric parted before her strong fingers like it was only tissue paper.
"Supergirl!" he finally gasped out, now that her finger was no longer pressing down on his chest.
"Who's protecting you now?" She leaned over him, almost touching his face with her breasts, letting him fill his nostrils with her unique scent. A scent unlike that of any other girl on Earth. A scent that no man on Earth could resist.
Louis Lane certainly couldn't resist. Nor did he want to. He brought his arms up, trying to wrap them around her slender body.
As fast as he moved, she moved quicker. Rising up out of his attempted embrace and catching his wrists in a gentle grip, she easily pushed his arms back down to the bed. She had her own plans for undressing, and they didn't involve male hands. Instead, she sat up straight. "Aren't you glad you have these to protect you?" Still smiling down at him, she released his wrists, raised her arms, and struck a double biceps pose, showing off the most powerful set of arms on Earth. Taking a deep breath, she flexed her pecs.
He wasn't looking at her biceps. Instead his eyes were glued to her expanding chest as the elastic of her bra stretched to its limits. The fear drained from his face, replaced by a mixture of awe and lust.
Looking down and smiling at his reaction, she took another deep breath and flexed even harder. That proved to be too much for the lacy undergarment. The elastic gave way with a loud POP.
That was more than cue enough for Louis. He reached up and tentatively reached for the remnants of the bra, moving them away and fully exposing her breasts. When she offered no resistance this time, he cupped them and began squeezing them with all of the strength in his big hands.
She then leaned forward, effortlessly pushing his hands out of the way and rubbing her breasts oh so lightly across his face before trapping his head in her deep cleavage.
He brought his hands back to her chest, grabbing the outside of her breasts as he made a futile effort to lift her off of him.
She wasn't interested in smothering him. She straightened up slowly. His hands stayed with her, now caressing and fondling her breasts, again squeezing them with all of his strength.
Looking down, she was pleased to see how her breasts more than filled his hands. She placed her hands on the backs of his and lent him a small fraction of her own strength, pressing his hands harder against her soft mounds. Not too hard, of course, in deference to his fragile calcium bones. Certainly a lot softer than those bullets had struck those same breasts less than an hour earlier.
Releasing his hands to continue their deliciously light caresses on their own, she slid her own hands down her bare flanks. Sliding her pinkies into the waistband of her panties, she ripped them apart with a quick sharp tug. The panties, not the pinkies.
She then glided toward his head, letting him see that she was indeed a natural redhead.
Her X-ray vision had already shown her that he truly was a man for a super-girl. Now, her X-ray vision showed her that he was ready --- more than ready --- for her. Lifting herself from the bed, she quickly tore apart his trousers and shorts, not even the tough leather belt offering the slightest resistance to her steely fingers. His clothes would be a small price to pay for her saving his life. Again.
Now, she saw his prodigious endowment in the flesh for the first time. She definitely liked what she was seeing. And it was more than obvious that he liked what he had seen, and was continuing to see.
She continued to hover over him, his hands still fondling her breasts. "Now, are you ready to take your punishment like a man?"
"You will be gentle, Supergirl?" he asked in a whisper.
"Of course, Louis my sweet." Spreading her legs wider, she began to lower herself onto his throbbing shaft. "I promise I'll always be gentle with you."
She'd been worried that his manhood wasn't hard enough to enter the most intimate folds of a super-girl, but her worry proved to be groundless. Delightedly taking in his entire prodigious length, she began using her flight powers to stroke herself with his shaft. As much as she wanted to, however, she had to refrain from tightening her vaginal muscles.
Still, he was definitely a man worthy of a super-girl and she felt herself climbing toward her peak. Soon her entire body was shaking with her approaching release, the shaking building up from its source in her...
"Jenny!" The shaking on her shoulder intensified. "Jenny! Wake up! We're here!"
Opening her eyes, Jenny Olsen managed to focus them on Louis Lane's face. It was the reporter's hand on her shoulder that was shaking her. On his other side, he had already opened the door and was ready to get out of the cab.
"Huh? Where are we?" Jenny realized belatedly that she had a hand under her left breast, gently cupping herself. She dropped her hand to her lap.
"The new Arts Center, sleepyhead." Now that Jenny was awake, Louis slid over and started to step out of the cab.
"Oh." Remembering where they were and what they were covering, Jenny tried to cover her embarrassment by grabbing her camera bag from the floor between her feet and following him out.
"Have a nice nap?" the reporter asked the photographer as she joined him on the sidewalk. "That must have been some dream, huh?"
Jenny was too embarrassed to answer the question. Instead, she asked one of her own. "Do you think we'll really see Supergirl today?"
"I wouldn't mind seeing her again," Louis said, after paying off the cabby. "And the word on the grapevine is that she'll be here."
The mayor was coming to dedicate the new Arts Center. A relatively minor and mundane event in the grand scheme of things, hardly worth the Daily Planet sending its top reporter and a photographer.
However, Supergirl had foiled an attempt to kidnap Mayor Frank Berkowitz earlier that week. Against the wishes of most of his advisors, the mayor had insisted on keeping this appointment, partly to show his constituency that he was not afraid.
And then, of course, was the rumor that Supergirl would be here as well. For a glimpse of her, a lot of people would be willing to sit through a series of boring speeches.
Whether or not Supergirl was coming, security was understandably tight. Uniformed policemen were in evidence, perhaps a little too obviously. One of them checked their credentials thoroughly and another one pawed through Jenny's precious camera bag and they both had to pass through metal detectors before they were allowed through the door and into the airy atrium.
Jenny and Louis both had seen various artists' drawings of the place, but neither had actually been inside before. The place was even more breathtaking from the inside than it had been from the outside.
"Wait a sec," Jenny said, pulling a camera out of her bag. She was fully awake now. "I've got to get some shots of this place."
"Take your time," Louis told her. "We're still early."
The place had been set up for the ceremony. A raised platform held seats for the dignitaries, with a podium at the front. Rows of folding seats were also set up, with one section clearly marked PRESS. Refreshments were being set up on a table in the back, guarded by white-suited caterers. More uniformed policemen stood by the walls.
To one side of the platform, a large placard displayed an artist's rendering of the new building. On the other side stood a tall object, shrouded by a white cloth emblazoned with the Arts Center's logo. Walking toward it, Louis wondered what it was.
He was about to lift a corner and take a peek when someone called out his name. He turned to see Frank Borden walking toward him.
He had briefly worked with Borden at LNN, when he was breaking into television journalism. Lex Luthor, who chaired Lexcorp, LNN's parent company, had persuaded him to leave the Planet in favor of television. Since then Louis and Frank had remained friends of a sort in an often cutthroat business.
"So, what do you think of this place?" Borden asked, unnecessary waving an arm to indicate the facility.
"Quite impressive. Our tax dollars at work." Not all of the money had come from public funds, but a place like this wouldn't have been possible without civic backing.
"You think she's really going to show up?" There was no need for Borden to be any more specific; they both knew exactly whom he referred to. And even though she had been responsible for Lex Luthor's arrest, Borden was far enough down the totem pole to have emerged unscathed.
"That's the word on the street," Louis said.
"She didn't tell you herself?" There was more than a hint of a leer on the television man's face. It was well known inside press circles that Louis Lane and his partner Claire Kent of the Daily Planet had some kind of special relationship with Supergirl, much to the dismay and envy of the other newshounds.
The general noise of the crowd changed as people started taking seats. Louis followed Borden to the press section. Jenny was already there, having claimed some seats in the front row so as to have unimpeded sightlines for her cameras. Louis sat down next to her and flipped open his notebook to an empty page. Borden exchanged some hand signals with his cameraman and then took a seat next to Louis.
"What's under there?" Jenny asked, looking at the shrouded object.
"I don't know," was all Louis could answer before a hush of anticipation fell over the crowd.
Claire Kent waited until well after Louis Lane and Jenny Olsen had left on their way. Finishing her article, she pressed the appropriate keys to send it off to Perry White's computer before shutting down her own computer in preparation for her trip to the new Arts Center. It wouldn't take her as long to get there as Louis and Jenny would in their cab. After all, she didn't have to take a cab. She also didn't have to contend with traffic, not when she could fly above it.
And Louis had been wrong. She knew exactly what she was missing. Except that she really wouldn't be missing it at all. How could she? How could she ever miss herself?
She hadn't been too keen on the idea when it had first been proposed to her. But they had eventually persuaded her. This was her home now, after all. And after all she had done for the city, if they wanted to honor their favorite superheroine, the least she could do was to let them.
Still, the mere thought of a permanent exhibit in the new Metropolis Arts Center was a little overwhelming. After all, what she did wasn't really art, was it?
Leaving her desk, Claire made her way down the hallway past the conference rooms and to the back stairwell. Once in the isolation of the stairwell, she could let down her hair, shed the blue suit, shed the self that moved like ordinary women. And then she looked up, and up, feet leaving the floor, course spiraling faster and faster up the stairwell with all senses alert to anyone using those stairs. There was no sense of power at first, not even of speed, just a lightness of being, just an impatience to be up the stairs and moving, and a knowledge that using the steps at superspeed would shake the spine of the building. It was a sinuous twist of body and a flight path up, up the stairwell, The pressure of air thumped the windows on the doors --- windows that reflected only a blue-and-red blur off their disturbed surfaces. The floor numbers, painted on the walls, blurred past: 13, 14, 15... 20 and higher: fast, but not, even yet, fast enough for the air shock to rattle doors and set off alarms.
The door at the very top of the stairwell, carefully handled, afforded her an exit onto the roof. With all of Metropolis spread around her, she delayed only to drop the packet that was Claire Kent into a heavy-lidded hiding place that looked like (but wasn't) a feature of the Planet Building's roof-access cupola. Then Supergirl was off the roof, skirting the big globe surmounting the building, climbing up into the bright midday sky.
Mayor Frank Berkowitz was the first to take the podium. He received a nice round of applause; everybody remembered the kidnapping attempt last week. The mayor welcomed the guests, thanked the donors whose financial contributions had made this new facility possible, and gave the usual platitudes about preserving the arts for the benefit of future generations and also encouraging future artists.
Frederick Harris, the Director of the Arts Center was the next man to take the podium. The applause that greeted him as he stepped to the podium was polite enough, but it was clear that the guests were waiting for someone else. He also thanked the donors and gave the usual platitudes. He then introduced the other members of the Metropolis Arts Council, seated on the platform. Each rose as his or her name was called. Next Harris introduced Harold Cross, whose company had designed and built the new building.
Cross, a red-faced, balding, gentle-looking man, also received a polite round of applause when he stood and acknowledged the audience.
Harris then introduced Samuel Darrow, a young sculptor who had been receiving a lot of recognition recently for his avant-garde work. His latest work was to be unveiled today.
More polite applause as Darrow took the podium.
"Thank you, Mr. Harris, Mayor Berkowitz," the sculptor began. "I'm honored and delighted to unveil my latest work in this beautiful new building." He glanced over at Harold Cross and acknowledged him with a nod. "But I can't take all of the credit for this piece. It wouldn't be possible without some help from a very special person. Someone we all know and love..." --- he paused for dramatic effect, the only thing missing being a drum roll --- "our favorite Girl of Steel!"
As he said the last three words, Darrow turned around and pointed up to the top of the atrium.
All eyes and cameras turned with him. "There she is!" someone cried out, and someone else, "There's Supergirl!" Other voices joined in, rising to form an excited babble.
And there indeed she was, appearing as if by magic on the very top landing of the flight of stairs climbing up the side of the atrium.
The Girl of Steel waved once to acknowledge the crowd and then, as the initial excitement died down, rose up over the railing and stepped out into thin air more than forty feet above the floor. A couple of people gasped into the sudden silence before their conscious minds caught up and told them that this was the one person who was in no danger of falling.
She hung motionless for a moment before spreading her arms and starting a slow descent toward the floor.
"Claire should have come along," Louis Lane said to the young redhead beside him. "She would love to have seen this." The reporter's eyes, however, never left the vision in blue and red descending from above, gazing raptly at her as if she were an angel descending from heaven.
No, not an angel. A goddess.
Jenny Olsen didn't bother to answer him, too busy working her camera as fast as her nimble fingers had ever done so.
On Louis's other side, Frank Borden was also staring intently at the approaching vision, hoping that his cameraman was getting every second of this on film. It would make a great visual for the eleven o'clock news.
Other still cameras clicked and videotape rolled among the assembled press, documenting every inch of her graceful flight as she smoothly descended toward them as if on an invisible parachute. Except that every watcher, even those who had never before seen her in person, knew that Supergirl didn't need a parachute or any other artificial aid in order to defy something as trivial as the forces of gravity.
Cheers and applause broke out even before she reached the floor. The applause continued as she touched down without a sound on the marble floor. Everyone was on their feet, including the dignitaries on the platform.
Acknowledging the crowd once again with another wave, Supergirl stepped up to the podium and shook the sculptor's hand. Shutters continued clicking and videotape continued rolling as Supergirl took the podium and everybody else sat down.
"Thank you, Mr. Darrow," she began, turning to the dignitaries. "Mr. Harris, Mayor Berkowitz, distinguished guests..." --- she turned to the press --- "... members of the press..." --- she faced forward again --- "... and ladies and gentlemen of the great city of Metropolis. You do me a great honor today."
Cheers and applause, much more enthusiastic than any before.
Supergirl held up a hand for silence.
"And," she continued, smiling, "as I'm sure you didn't come here just to listen to me speak, I'll ask Mr. Darrow to unveil his new sculpture."
There was more polite applause while Darrow walked to the shrouded exhibit. He then pulled off the shroud to reveal what stood underneath.
The sculpture appeared to be a sturdy metal frame, from the top of which dangled a large hook. At the bottom of the case, a wrecking ball like those used for demolishing buildings rested on a cradle. There was a hook on the top of the ball, where it would normally be attached to a stout chain. There was no chain to be seen, however. The ball looked new, as if it had just come from the factory.
Darrow stood back and turned to the podium. "Supergirl, if you would, please?"
"Certainly, Mr. Darrow." Cameras followed Supergirl as she left the podium and walked to the sculpture.
Samuel Darrow took the podium again. "That wrecking ball weighs one ton, give or take a couple of pounds," he explained for the benefit of the audience.
Supergirl reached up and did something no machine on Earth could possibly have done. Selecting a single strand of long golden hair, she plucked it out of her scalp. Stretching it out between the fingers of both hands, she held it out for the audience to see.
It really wasn't much to see, the thin golden strand nearly invisible in the bright glare of television lights. Still, the cameras zoomed in an attempt to capture it.
She tied a loop at one end. She then repeated the process, tying another loop at the other end. Slipping one loop over the hook at the top of the frame, she held the strand taut in her right hand.
She now turned to the audience and said, "Now, I need someone to help me."
There were some murmurs of surprise at her statement. Since when did Supergirl ever need anyone to help her?
Turning to the assembled press, she looked at a tall reporter in the front row. "How about you, Mr. Lane? Would you care to give me a hand?"
He looked pleased to be singled out. "Sure thing, Supergirl," he said with a big smile as he stood up, handed his notepad to Jenny, and stepped forward. Frank Borden slapped him heartily on the shoulder.
Continuing to hold the strand of her hair taut, she held the loop on the free end toward Louis. "Could you lift up that ball and put the hook through here, please?"
His smile disappeared as he looked down at the heavy wrecking ball.
A wide grin split Supergirl's face as he looked back at her in consternation. The crowd's murmurs changed to chuckles and even outright laughter as they realized that she was having a little fun at the Daily Planet reporter's expense.
Louis was a good sport. Blushing only slightly, he smiled and wagged a finger at Supergirl before withdrawing and rejoining the other members of the press.
Nodding her head in acknowledgement, she reached her left hand down to the wrecking ball. Still holding the strand in her right hand, she reached out and hooked the little finger of her left hand under the hook. Hoisting the massive weight as if it was weightless, she threaded the hook through the loop in her hair. Lowering the ball, she positioned it so that it hung in the middle of the frame, suspended only by a single thin strand of her golden hair.
There were cheers and applause as she stepped away and walked back to join Samuel Darrow at the podium.
"I don't think we have to worry about somebody walking off with that exhibit," Darrow said, to some more laughter from the audience, "but stretched taut like this, that hair is razor sharp. So, while we're going to leave it as it is for now, I must caution you not to touch it. When we're done today, this clear protective sleeve will be fastened around it to protect curious fingers." He held up the item for the audience to see.
That pretty much ended the festivities. The members of the press seldom turned down free food, but this time most of them --- most of the male members, at least --- headed straight for Supergirl.
Jenny Olsen circled the new sculpture, photographing it from all angles. And photographing its two creators.
Supergirl was conversing with the sculptor, who was gesturing wildly with his arms --- no doubt describing the next collaborative work he wished to do with her. Like the other members of the press, Louis Lane headed for them, knowing that nothing any sculptor could make could ever possibly match the perfection of that beautiful work of art in blue and red.
Before Louis could reach them, Supergirl shook hands with Samuel Darrow and took off, back the way she had come, flying toward the top of the atrium.
"Supergirl!" Louis called out to her. "It's me, Louis. Louis Lane from..."
She was gone, not even turning her head to look back.
"... the Daily Planet..." he finished, still looking up to where she had disappeared.
There was no point in running up the stairs after her; she could be halfway across the city before he could make it up the first flight. Heck, she could be halfway around the world.
There was nothing left to do but return to the catering table. Then there was a stroll around the atrium to admire the few works that had already been moved into the new building. As good as those were, however --- and Louis was no art critic --- it was clear that today's centerpiece was the wrecking ball suspended by a single strand of the girl from Krypton's long golden hair.
"Claire! You should have been there! You missed a great show!" There was a wide smile on the man's face as he sat down at his desk across from hers. "It was really great!"
Claire Kent stopped typing and looked up. "I take it from the smile on your face that she was at the dedication?"
"Was she!" Louis Lane was fairly bursting with excitement. "There's a new sculpture Samuel Darrow did with her. She floated down from the top, and plucked out a hair, and..."
"Tell her about how Supergirl asked for your help," Jenny Olsen said, joining them.
"Supergirl asked for your help?" Claire asked, looking incredulous.
"Well, it was nothing." His smile faded a little. "She didn't really need it."
"Nothing? You should have seen your face when she asked you to lift that wrecking ball. I think I managed to get it on film." The redhead set her camera bag down on a corner of Claire's desk and started to rummage inside.
"Don't print that!" Louis barked, as Claire asked, "She asked you to do what?"
Louis and Jenny started explaining simultaneously.
Claire held up both hands to stop the unsynchronized stereophonic description. "Wait! Hold up! Let the reporter tell it."
Jenny shrugged and then pulled up a chair as Louis calmed down and started to describe the events at the Arts Center, starting with Supergirl's appearance.
"... and so she tied loops in her hair and hung the wrecking ball..."
"Wait!" Jenny interrupted the narration. When Louis hesitated, she went on. "Supergirl first asked Louis to help her. He was as pleased as punch until she asked him to lift up that ball. You should have seen the look on his face!"
"Don't print that!" Louis told her again.
Undaunted, Jenny continued. "So she picked up the ball with her little finger and..."
"I'll tell the story, if you don't mind."
"I better go see to these pictures." Picking up her camera bag, Jenny started walking away.
"Don't print that!" Louis told her for the third time.
"Supergirl really asked you to pick up a wrecking ball?" Claire asked Louis.
"She was just kidding around, Claire. She knows I couldn't possibly lift that."
Louis turned on his computer. "Well, I'd better start writing."
"I can't wait to read it." Claire's voice was completely devoid of enthusiasm as she turned back to her own computer and bent over the keyboard.
"It really was something, Claire," Louis said a few minutes later.
Claire rested her chin on her folded hands and gave him what might have been called a seductive smile. "Maybe you can tell me all about it over dinner tonight."
"Dinner?" He seemed to be surprised at the suggestion, or perhaps in the manner in which it had been made. The two of them had had dinner together before, but those had usually been working affairs, when the two of them had compared notes on a story they'd been working on. From the expression on her face, she was suggesting a purely social event. Like a... date?
"I thought you wanted to tell me all about it," she said, disappointment tingeing her voice.
"Um, I can't, Claire. I... I've got other plans for tonight."
"Oh well, I guess I'll just have to read about it in the morning." She really looked crestfallen as she returned to her typing.