LinkExchange FORWARD

The Reclamation Project

TITLE: Power of the Press
AUTHOR: Carol A. Strickland

An awed law clerk opened the double doors to the company library for the two women and then scrambled to get out of their way. The tall, buxom blonde in a blue dress led the two, striding right past the clerk without a glance. She carried three rolls of newspapers tucked tightly under her left arm. Right behind her, muttering, "Easy, easy," as if she were handling a wild animal, came the shorter, slim brunette in the dark, tailored suit, a briefcase in hand.

"Gentlemen," the brunette said in acknowledgement of their presence as the blonde glowered at the six suited men seated at the round mahogany table. "I'm Jean Loring and this, as you know, is my client, Power Girl." She settled the briefcase on the table, opening it to reveal a stack of newspapers and legal papers.

The men stood up, extending their hands, but Power Girl instead slammed her papers onto the table in front of them: blam, blam, blam! "Lies!" Kara announced.

"Now, Power Girl," Jean purred soothingly. "Why don't we all take our seats and we'll discuss this?" She nodded at the oldest of the men as Kara slid into a chair. "Mr. Jaune, you're the publisher of The Celebrity Monitor…"

"Thirty million dollars seems rather out of line," he began in his upper-crust British accent, so out of setting here in Atlanta, but Power Girl slapped her hand against the table so it echoed through the room.

"Thirty million dollars versus my reputation!" she cried. "How would you like your own lives lied about, dragged through the mud, stories blatantly made up about you just so you could be made a laughingstock! Just to sell your miserable papers! I have a reputation to preserve! I go up against criminals every day -- and it makes my job a helluva lot easier if they aren't laughing at me!"

"If they've even heard of you," one of the men whispered to another and then looked guilty when he knew he'd been overheard.

"You know the dates of these stories," Jean said in that crisp, authoritative manner she had. These lawyers all knew she'd taken many a tabloid to court -- and she'd won every case she'd represented. "For the past five years and more, The Celebrity Monitor has been slandering my client. Making the public believe that she was somehow related to Superman --"

"As if he doesn't have enough of a coterie hanging on to his cape." Kara pushed herself far back into her leather chair so she could watch these squinty-eyed men. She didn't like lawyers that weren't her own. "I barely know the man. He's got, what -- Superboy, Supergirl, Steel… I'm surprised he hasn't come out with a Superdog and a Superwife. What ever possessed you to say such a thing?" Kara opened the issue and waved it in front of Jaune's face. "Here you've even got me growing up with memories of Krypton. Krypton! Do you think I need to be related to Superman to be considered a legitimate superhero?"

"I'm surprised Superman's lawyers haven't sued over that," Loring clucked. "I believe when Power Girl took your paper to court the first time you did this story, you claimed it was due to the mental confusion produced in most of the population during the Crisis so many years ago. I don't see you getting away with using that excuse a second time." She shook her head sadly. "Calling on the sacred memory of Krypton to promote a false story."

"Shame on you," Kara said, and sat back again, folding her arms in front of her.

One of the younger lawyers said, "B-but… You have the same powers…"

Kara sighed at his naivete. "LOTS of people have similar powers. Are you going to tell me next that the Martian Manhunter is actually from Krypton? Or Wonder Woman? I know how and where I grew up, just as you people have your own memories of home. What I remember is mine. Mine! Not Superman's!" Her face reddened, but she kept her place.

Loring picked up another issue. "And here we have a Public Service Ad that my client made, twisted into some kind of defamatory medical attack against her!" She poked her finger on the lurid picture of Power Girl scowling under camera flashes on the cover of The Celebrity Monitor. "Power Girl was in a series of PSAs warning about the possible dangers of aspartame, and here you twist it so she herself is a victim of phenylketonurics, or PKU! What does it say?" Loring scanned the paper quickly. "Ah. 'Drinking diet colas sends PKU Power Girl into uncontrollable rages.' And then you report several unsubstantiated stories of how she had to be physically restrained by members of the JLI to control her emotional outbursts."

"This is such a load of crap," Power Girl sneered. "Women have to take this kind of thing all the time. 'It's hormones. It's diet Cokes. It's their mothers coming through.' I'm tired of it! If I were a man, you wouldn't dare say these kinds of things about me! Men are terrified of women who aren't afraid to speak their minds!"

Surely two of these men were terrified, cowering from the super-powerful heroine and trying to look small.

Mr. Jaune, however, lifted his chin. "We have witnesses."

"To what?" Loring snapped.

"People who said they've seen her… hitting people."

Kara leaned forward over the table. "That's what I do for a living. I hit people and I save the planet. The people I go up against usually aren't the kind to turn themselves in quietly."

Loring asked Jaune, "Do you have any reports of her injuring innocents? Of her busting up restaurants as you report in your article of August 10 of last year?"

"Why, yes," Jaune said. He sifted through a stack of typed reports in front of him. "Here. She destroyed the Scarabus Restaurant."

Loring turned to Power Girl. "Is that true?"

"Scarabus?" She scratched her head. "Chez Scarabus. Oh, that's that place in Sydney. You should try their roast beef sandwiches, Jean. Heaven. Yeah, about ten or twelve papparazzi were coming after me and I was trying to avoid them, and I backed into a table and broke it. I paid for the table before I left." She gave the publisher her own version of the Evil Eye. "They invited me back, said I was welcome any time. I think I'll go there this afternoon for lunch. It's still there, same location, same walls, same everything. Except it's got a new, paid-for table."

Loring cleared her throat into the silence of the opposing team. "I assume the rest of these stories of destruction can be chalked up the same way," she said. "Of course, there are more. Power Girl shacking up in love chalet with Brad Pitt…"

"I wish," Power Girl muttered.

Loring nodded and went on without pause: "Gluttonous eating binge makes Power Girl a Fatty Girl," she read. Another paper dated one month later claimed, "Power Girl fading away from uncontrolled bulemia." The list went on: "Power Girl's secret divorce from Green Lantern." "Flash is Power Girl's love slave." "Power Girl's drunken chase sends three to hospital." "Power Girl expelled from Justice League for lewd night on the town."

Now Loring pulled six issues from her briefcase, laying them out in a fan in front of the lawyers. "This final series of articles… about my client's supposed pregnancy…"

"I won't stand for it," Kara said quietly. The storm behind her voice crackled in the air. "Outright slander -- one hundred percent. I've never been so upset in my life!"

Loring tsk-tsked as she glanced over the article again. "Not only an illegitimate pregnancy, but brought on by her grandfather as well. Do you know what you're implying?"

"My grandfather! For shame," Kara whispered terribly.

"It's too bad Arion is no longer with us so that he can't join in our lawsuit," Loring said.

Kara tipped her chin at the publisher. "I've got friends who could try to bring him back. Just for the length of the trial. I don't think you'd like that, but he might get a real kick out of it. He's not bound by the present legal system, you know."

The publisher blanched. The same young lawyer who had spoken before now drew an issue out from the stack and glanced over it. "You mean it's not true?" he asked faintly.

"Just look at it!" Kara exclaimed, pointing with little jabs. "This is a kid who grows up practically overnight. Well, I suppose you had to explain why I wasn't running around with a baby carrier and a bag of Pampers all the time. And what was the kid named? Not John or Henry or even Bubba, but… Equinox? What kind of mother names their kid Equinox? Sheesh!" She sat back down with a plop, her hands to either side of her head, holding in a headache. "I know you people think your readers are the stupidest people on Earth, but puh-lease give me a little credit. Equinox! 'Eat your peas, or no dessert, Equinox.' 'Sit in the corner and take a time out, Equinox!'" Kara made a rude noise involving a lot of air and spit.

"Yes. Well." Loring shoved a small stack of papers towards the opposing lawyers. "There are other accounts. Making a deal with forces that require my client to remain with them months at a time, casting innuendo--"

Power Girl's fists clenched and unclenched. "What, do you guys get out your sicko twisted mythology books and ask yourselves, 'How can we pin this on Power Girl?' And never ask, 'Say, has there ever been a time when people haven't seen her hanging around for a few months?' I'm always here. Lord knows, you've always got some kind of story going about me!" Kara looked at her right hand, trembling slightly with the righteous rage that threatened to overwhelm her. She pushed herself up and out of the chair and paced the old, Persian-carpeted library here in the heart of Atlanta.

"Do you guys just hate me, or do you hate the idea of a woman having a little power in this world? You know, I'm just out there like any superhero. I'm trying my best to help people and not get killed in the meantime. Is it too much to ask that you people lay off me? Go pick on Clinton some more. He deserves it, not me. I'm tired of being classified as -- what was it, Jean?"

Loring held up a paper, peering at the small type. "'One of the horde of Blonde Bimbo Super-Strength Babes'," she read.

"Exactly!" Power Girl exclaimed. "That's what it all boils down to, isn't it? Just a little misogyny, just a little libel. 'She's only a woman, so it's okay'." She stopped pacing at the edge of the table and planted her fists on it, leaning into the faces of the lawyers. "I say we up the ante. Fifty million and not a penny less. A full apology on page one. Above the fold. And let's make this trial quick, Jean. I know of five more members of the JLA and JSA who are waiting in line to get their cases started against these guys."

"Fifty?" Loring looked at her client to see if she were joking or not. She wasn't. Loring nodded her head. "Fifty million, gentlemen," she said, gathering her papers, evening them up on the table with two crisp clicks. "We will see you in court."

The publisher raised his hand slightly off the table. There was a sweat mark where it had lain on the dark wood surface. "Ah, Ms. Loring," he said. "If you'd be so kind as to… stay. Perhaps we can settle things without troubling our legal system so much."

Jean Loring kicked Power Girl's shin unobtrusively, stilling the victory laugh even as it gathered in Kara's throat, and settled primly back into her chair.

All characters are ™ DC Comics
This story is © 1999 by Carol A. Strickland.