Previous parts are archived here
Apologies for the unavoidable info-dump in this chapter.
by Marcus L. Rowland
The Fortress of Solitude
“You know,” said Tony DiNozzo, “the usual things you say when a relative comes into town are ‘hello’ or ‘welcome,’ not ‘why are you here?’ That tends to give the impression that you’re not entirely pleased to see them.”
Clark frowned then said “You’re right, of course. Kara, I’m sorry if that seemed less than welcoming. The last three Kryptonians I met tried to kill me, and I never expected to see another. Please forgive me.”
Corpsman Cook patted Kara’s back and glared at them, and said “Give the poor girl a minute or two. Are you okay, honey? Any nausea, weakness?”
Eventually Kara managed to say “I… I think I’m all right, but I could really use some water and a shower.” Clark blurred into motion, reappearing a second later with a jug of water and a glass, and said “there’s a bathroom through the arch over there. Do you need a hand?”
“I’ll help her,” said Cook. “You guys go talk football or monster trucks or something.” She helped Kara out of the remains of the capsule and towards the archway. Clark heard her mutter “Men!” and suspected that her opinion of him had nosedived.
“Monster trucks?” said Clark.
“I prefer sports cars,” said DiNozzo. “Got any coffee?”
“There’s a kitchen on the lower level. Jor El, please guide Agent DiNozzo.” A line of glowing dots appeared on the floor, leading to the new stairway.
“You look like you could use some yourself,” said DiNozzo, “and maybe we should give her a little privacy, and find something for her to eat.”
“You’re right,” said Clark. “I’m sorry; I’m not very good at this. Three hours ago I didn’t even know I had a cousin.” He started down towards the kitchen at human speed.
“You didn’t know?”
“I was en route to Krypton when she was here. When I got back I think everyone had either forgotten her or assumed that someone else had told me. The first I knew was when the President told me tonight.”
The kitchen was large and well-equipped, with appliances and utensils that could have come out of any hardware store in America. Clark opened the refrigerator and found a half-used carton of milk, obviously unfit to drink, three eggs, and a packet of bacon well past its sell-by date. “I don’t eat here very often,” he said apologetically. “The coffee’s in the cupboard over there, if you’d like to start the percolator I’ll be back in a few minutes. There’s a 7-11 in Anchorage that should still be open.” He blurred into motion.
Tony thought about exploring, then realised that the computer was probably still watching him, and decided to concentrate on coffee and some sort of meal.
It wasn’t the first time Clark had visited the 7-11 as Superman, and the sleepy clerk barely raised an eyebrow as he paid for his groceries. “If you could look after them for a moment,” said Clark, “I need to make a call.” He dialled his home, waited for Lois to answer, then in his Superman voice said “Miss Lane… oh, my apologies, Mrs. Kent… I’ve called to confirm that the information I gave you earlier is correct. I’ll be back in Metropolis in a few hours and will give you the rest of the story then.”
“Thank you, Superman,” said Lois. “I’ll look forward to seeing you.”
Clark hung up, thanked the clerk, and flew off towards the Fortress. In Metropolis Lois punched the air, said “YES!” and started to make calls.
The Fortress of Solitude
Kara and Corpsman Cook came downstairs to the smell of coffee and bacon. Kara was wearing a bathrobe and slippers, manufactured by the Fortress, and walking without help, but still looked pale. Both men stood up as they came into the kitchen.
“How are you feeling?” asked Clark.
“She’s been in that capsule for nearly two years,” said Cook, “how do you think she feels?”
“I’ll be all right,” said Kara. “I just need to get some food and some real sleep, and a few hours in the sun.”
“What can I get you, Kara?” asked Clark. “Tea? Coffee? Orange juice? Bacon and eggs, or some soup? Some fruit? What about you, Corpsman Cook?”
“Tea if you’ve got it,” said Kara, “but anything will be fine.”
“I’ll have coffee, bacon, eggs, and toast,” said Cook. “And you should watch what you eat for a while, young lady.”
“Don’t worry,” said Kara, “I’m really okay. I can eat pretty much anything without it harming me.”
Clark busied himself with bacon and eggs, tomatoes and hash browns, while Tony made tea and coffee and did his best to avoid wondering if Kara was wearing anything under the bathrobe.
Kara ate silently for a few minutes, demolishing a large plate of food then said “I’m sorry for all the trouble I’m causing, Kal-El. I never realised that you didn’t know about me.”
“It’s not trouble,” said Clark. “It’s just surprise more than anything else. You’ve been travelling for two years?”
“It’s a little complicated,” said Kara. “As you know, I come from Argo City. My father, your uncle, was one of the few Kryptonians to believe Jor-El when he predicted the end of the world. When the quakes began he activated a device that moved the entire city into another dimension, which we call the Survival Zone. It’s a little like the Phantom Zone that used to be used as a prison.”
“Yes,” said Clark, “I’ve had to deal with some escapees.”
“Seven years ago the portal between dimensions was fairly close to this planet; my father had used the power of a device called the Omegahedron to move it there it so that we could watch this world and observe Kal-El. There was an accident, partly my fault, and the Omegahedron fell to Earth. I followed it in an experimental ship, but when I arrived I learned that you had left for the stars.”
“I’m so sorry,” said Clark, “if I’d only known that you were there…”
“It wasn’t your fault,” said Kara, “the Elders didn’t want to interfere with Earth’s development, so there was a policy of silence. We watched your world, and your television and radio, but gave you nothing in return”
“Like the Prime Directive in Star Trek,” said Tony.
“Exactly,” said Kara. “When I returned the Omegahedron things seemed to be back to normal, but the anchors holding the portal near to Earth had been severed by its loss. The portal accelerated away, slowly at first then with increasing speed. And as it did so we realised that you were gone, Kal-El, and that the Earth was suffering. We saw disasters, terrorism, crime and destruction. And within another year or two we would have been beyond any hope of returning to this world. Someone had to do something and I’d been restless since my visit; Argo is beautiful, but it’s an artificial world, I missed the wildness of Earth, and the diversity of your people. So I petitioned the Elders to be allowed to return here and continue Kal-El's work. My parents tried to change my mind, but I’m stubborn, and eventually it was agreed.”
“And the journey took two years?” asked Clark
“By Earth reckoning. If I were to try to return today it would be much longer. If I wait six months the journey will be impossible.”
“My guess,” said Cook, “my best medical opinion… if you were to try to return today, or any time soon, you’ll be dead by the time you get there. You’re still pretty shaky.”
“Why return?” asked Clark.
“I’m not needed,” Kara said sadly, “you’re here.”
“I’m pretty sure that Earth can use more help. I’ve been back for more than a year now and we don’t exactly have a utopia. Together we may be able to make more of a difference.”
“It’s kind of you to say that, but it feels like I’m intruding on your… your territory. And I damaged your poor ship, Agent DiNozzo.”
“Don’t worry,” said Tony, “it’ll be fixed in a few days, and nobody on board is ever going to have to pay for drinks again. It’s the ultimate sea story.”
“Didn’t you want to ask some questions about that?” asked Clark.
“Just a couple,” said Tony, getting out a notebook. “Were you aiming for the ship?”
“Of course not,” said Kara. “It was supposed to land in Antarctica, something must have gone wrong.”
“Okay… were you transmitting any sort of identification signal?”
“No… I’m afraid we didn’t think of it.”
“End of questions. Not your fault for hitting the ship, not our fault for shooting you down, just an accident. No fault, no foul. If you could sign a statement to that effect it’s the end of the enquiry. No rush, a verbal statement will be fine for now, we can do the paperwork the next time you’re in Washington.”
“If there’s really nothing else,” said Clark, “I’d better fly you both back to the Seahawk.”
“Could you make that NCIS headquarters in Washington?” asked Tony, “I need to report in, and we should be able to score a few days’ leave if we’re there.”
“Kara, will you be all right here if I leave for a couple of hours?”
“I’ll be fine. Now that I’m full I think I need sleep more than anything else.” She indicated her empty plate.
“Jor-El, please prepare a bedroom.”
“It is already prepared.” Again the AI’s voice sounded reproving.
“I’ll help you up,” said Clark, lifting her gently and flying up to the bedroom.
“Now that we’re alone,” said Clark, “are you sure that you’re all right?”
“It’s… well, I think that Miss Cook was right. I’m not sure that I could survive a return journey. I love this world, but it isn’t home… and… and I'll probably never see my parents again... and I think that I would have liked to have had children one day, and there are no other Kryptonians here for me to marry.”
“Okay,” said Clark. “Then I think I’ve got some good news for you. The differences between humans and Kryptonians are a lot smaller than Jor-El thought. I have a wife, and you have a nephew.”
“When you wake ask Jor-El to show you the baby pictures. Now get some sleep.”
Washington, 6.15 AM
Clark landed the decompression chamber in the visitor’s car park outside NCIS headquarters and helped its occupants out. “What should I do with your equipment?”
“Leave it here,” said Tony, looking around. He wasn’t surprised to see Jethro Gibbs standing in the entrance to the building, a cup of coffee in his hand. “That gurney’s probably going to end up in the Smithsonian or the Superman Museum in Metropolis, same for the rest of this stuff. It might as well wait here until we’ve worked out the details.”
“Works for me,” said Clark, unloading them. “Then if you’ll excuse me, there are some Norwegian divers who would probably like this back, and I have to pick up the remains of Kara's ship from the Seahawk. Thank you both for your help, it’s appreciated.” He lifted the chamber and flew off with it, a good deal faster now that it was empty.
As soon as he was out of sight Gibbs knocked on the door, and Abby Sciuto and half a dozen technicians came out and carefully transported the trolley and the gurney to Abby’s laboratory.
“What have you got?” asked Gibbs.
Tony gave him his pen, which concealed a tiny digital camera, set to record one frame a minute over several hours, and took the heel off his left shoe to give Gibbs a tiny GPS tracker. “This ought to show where he took us. And if the camera was aimed the way it should be I think I got some good shots of his base.”
“How about you, Corpsman Cook?”
“You know that this is a violation of medical privacy.”
“I know. But if she ever does anything hinky we’ll need to know it fast.”
She sighed, and pulled a plastic envelope from her pocket, containing a Q-tip. “This should be a sample of her DNA, if that’s what Kryptonians use.”
“And with luck we’ll never need to know,” said Gibbs. “Now get to work writing up your reports.”
In the laboratory Abby removed a hastily-installed false bottom from the instrument trolley and began to unscrew the inertial tracker that was concealed underneath.
The White House, 8.30 AM
“Well,” said Josh Lyman. “The good news is that Superman’s given the Daily Planet an exclusive absolving the Navy of blame, it’s already on their web site, and he’s promising that Supergirl will be ready to help out within the next couple of weeks.”
“And the bad news?” asked President Santos.
“As instructed our people took a camera, a GPS, and an inertial tracker to Superman’s ‘Fortress,’” General Alexander gestured the quote marks, “none of them worked. Memory cards are clean, don’t even have the factory formatting any more, and the tapes from the tracker are blank. They don’t even have a DNA sample; the swab’s so clean it might as well have never come out of its wrapper.”
“Never mind, I had a feeling it wasn’t going to work, and if Superman ever complains I’ll apologise profusely.”
“Then why did you tell me to go ahead?”
“To be honest,” said the President, “I thought it might be a good idea to remind Superman that he needs to be careful of his security. It’s a year now since Luthor tried to build his continent, in all that time Superman hasn’t come close to catching him. By now he must be done licking his wounds, my guess is he’s getting ready for the next round.”
“Now there’s a cheery thought,” said Josh.
“Look at it this way,” said Alexander, “with two superheroes we’ve got a much better chance of catching him.”
To Be Continued
Note: Most of the background used in this chapter comes from the most detailed summary of the Supergirl movie I could find, at the Superman homepage:
I’ve borrowed the term “survival zone” from DC comics since it was not used in the movie, and changed a few details to make the different movies work better together.
Comments please before I post to archives