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Multiple crossover; DC Movieverse / NCIS / West Wing / Bones. See the first chapter for disclaimers etc.
by Marcus L. Rowland
The Fortress of Solitude, 9.50 AM EST
As the light went red Tony said “Let's go to work,” opened the box he’d used to transport the food and began to pull out plastic coolant pouches, each about four inches square and an inch thick. Two contained a more viscous fluid than the rest, and he carefully handed them to Abby, who put them into the microwave, then shared out the other five. Abby twisted the dial then hastily followed the others out into the main chamber.
Kara could feel her powers fading, dropped to her knees, and with all her remaining strength smashed both fists into the floor. Shards of crystal blasted out in all directions, and cracks began to radiate outwards towards the walls of the fortress. She followed it with another blow, then another, much less powerful. With the third her hands began to bleed. Jor-El said “That will not harm me.”
“Is this how you serve the House of El?” said Kara, standing up and walking towards the central console. “What do you plan to tell Kal-El? What lies have you prepared? Are you planning to kill him as well as me?”
“None of this was planned,” said Jor-El, “I acted to neutralise a threat to my son, but your betrayal of the Kryptonian race is a greater threat.”
“If they are aware that your genes are similar to theirs, they will demand that you mate with them.”
“Hello?” said Kara. “Super-powers, remember? Who exactly is going to be forcing us, apart from you?”
“These humans are savages. They would find a way to…”
In the kitchen the pouches in the microwave exploded. One contained nearly half a pint of concentrated hydrogen peroxide, the other the same amount of hydrazine. Together they were rocket fuel. A fireball filled the kitchen.
“Oh, I'm sorry,” said DiNozzo. “Did that break your concentration? I didn't mean to do that. Please, continue.”
“Think you can explain that?” said Abby. “Maybe you can repair the floor, but where are you going to get the appliances? Do Walmart even ship to the Arctic?”
As they were talking Booth dropped his pouch to the floor and kicked it towards the largest of the cracks Kara had made, moved to one side and in one fluid motion drew his gun and fired. Pale yellow liquid began to drip into the crack.
“Bullets cannot harm me,” said Jor-El.
“Maybe not,” said Booth, “but I’d give it about two minutes before that starts to hurt.”
“Concentrated hydrofluoric acid,” said Brennan, “with a cocktail of additives that promote crystal growth.”
“Right now that stuff will be making all those crystals shiny clean,” said McGee, “and etching the surfaces so you get lots of nice new baby crystals.”
“Awww, cute,” said Abby, dropping her own pouch and kicking it towards the base of one of the diagonal crystals that made up the main supports of the Fortress. It bounced off an invisible barrier half-way there.
“I’m willing to bet that those force fields must use a lot of power,” said Tony. “Are you sure you can spare it right now?”
“He can’t,” said Kara. As they were talking she had wrapped her cloak around her right hand and suddenly smashed it into the console. There was a crunching noise, and part of the surface shattered. She reached in and pulled out a clear crystal, as it came out the red light disappeared, leaving the fortress in semi-darkness.
“Holy crap!” said Abby. “Was that that martial arts thing you talked about on TV?”
“Nope,” said Kara. She removed the cloak from her hand to reveal the meat tenderizing mallet she’d taken from the kitchen and concealed inside it. “He’s down, but he isn’t out. This will only hold him for a few minutes, less if he’s already got a backup running. You’ve done marvellously so far, keep it up. Kal-El will be here soon.”
Flashback: ten nights earlier
“There were reasons Argo City didn’t retain some aspects of Kryptonian technology,” said Kara. “The fate of Krypton showed that the crystals were too dangerous, even if we’d had the geothermal energy that they needed. The idea of using them to record personalities… well, it could be done, but they were imperfect replicas at best.”
“Imperfect?” asked Bruce Wayne.
“Without constant monitoring they became unstable; obsessive, often paranoid.”
“And Kent left it unattended for six years.”
“It’s worse than that. The original crystal was stolen by Luthor, the current version is a backup of a backup, and the copying process isn’t perfect. When I talked to it about my parents and about Argo City I realised that its memory was imperfect – there were discrepancies in its version that couldn’t be explained except by degradation of the core storage. I should have warned Clark immediately, but I was still recovering from the trip and didn’t think the implications through properly.”
“And you think that it’s a threat?”
“I’m not sure that Clark even realises how much influence it’s had on his life over the years. The main thing that I’m aware of is that it tried to stop him getting involved with Lois. I’m still not sure why. My best guess – and it is only that – is that Jor-El originally wanted to protect humans from being exploited by Clark. The way it reacted to Tony and Corpsman Cook, added to some fairly subtle things it said when I was staying in the Fortress, just after I arrived on Earth, make me think that it regards you as a lesser race that can’t be trusted with Kryptonian science.”
“Nice of it,” said Bruce. “Well, I’ve found the smoking gun.”
“I’m sorry… what I meant is that since you asked me last night I’ve found some supporting evidence. When the AI hacked my company to set up your employment records, it used exactly the same techniques as were used to break into Luthor’s accounts and set up the kidnapping.”
“I was really hoping that I might be wrong. Clark and I will have to find a way to stop him... it.”
“What were you planning? Some sort of intervention? Counselling?”
“I’m not sure. I’m going to discuss it with Lois and Clark this weekend.”
“I think you need to be prepared to take it out.” At her blank look he added “Destroy it. It’s already endangered one human; Luthor could have died a hundred times over when the machines were operating on him, and in the end he died because of the treatment. How can you be sure that it won’t start killing more people?”
“I can’t just destroy it,” said Kara. “It has to be given a chance to explain, it’s possible that there’s some good reason we’ve overlooked, or that it’s being framed somehow. Clark and I need to investigate.”
“If it’s as dangerous as I think it is, you can’t both risk being in the Fortress at the same time. It might use kryptonite, or the red sunlight you told me about. And you can’t risk confronting it on your own, you need help.”
“I’d love to,” said Bruce, “but it knows who I am. It would be on its guard.”
“I’m sorry; Clark and I talked about you before I figured out that he must be monitoring our phones.”
“It’s probably eavesdropping on anything said anywhere near the phones, and tracking their locations. Where is your phone anyway?”
“Long Beach. Right now it should be listening to a recording of my snoring. There’s a good sound system in that house, it ought to be fairly convincing.”
“That’s good. You’re learning. Let me think about this… we’ve got a couple of days before you talk to Kent, I’ll try to come up with some ideas…”
The Fortress of Solitude, 10.04 AM EST
A vertical crystal with dozens of irregular branches was growing out of the crack in the floor. Everyone made sure to stay well clear, in case there was still hydrofluoric acid on the branches. Brennan was bandaging Kara’s hands, while Booth and Tony took turns to hammer on the control console, and Abby and McGee were giving the DNA testing station similar attention.
“You cannot win,” said Jor-El.
“And he’s baaaack,” said Tony. “Tell us of your wisdom, oh great one. Why can’t we win?”
“Do you think that there’s any part of your plans I can’t anticipate?”
“Kal-El’s plans probably,” said Kara, “your predecessors knew him too well. My plans maybe, you’ve got to know me a little. The plans I’m following… Well, I didn’t come up with the strategy, Batman did, then a guy called Gibbs fine-tuned it. No chance.”
The force barriers appeared again, pushing everyone towards the centre of the atrium. “You can’t keep that up for long,” said Kara. “In fact by now you must be running on emergency power. You know that you can’t kill us anyway, so what’s the point?”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because that’s what all of this has always been about. Your designers weren’t idiots, Jor-El, they hard-wired safety protocols into every molecule of their creations. You can’t harm a Kryptonian, and that means that you can’t harm me, since I have Kryptonian genes. You’ve stripped me of my powers, but that doesn’t harm me directly or change who I am, and it will reverse if I spend a few days in the sun. The prohibition on harming non-Kryptonian intelligent life is almost as strict, though it puts the safety of Kryptonians first. But you found a way around that, didn’t you?”
Jor-El didn’t reply.
“You couldn’t harm Kryptonians or non-Kryptonian intelligent life, but you wanted to be sure that Lex Luthor was permanently eliminated. So you convinced yourself that humans weren’t really intelligent. That must have been pretty tricky, since there’s plenty of evidence that they are.”
“They fight wars,” said Jor-El, “they murder one another for tiny differences in religion and race. They are not intelligent.”
“So did Kryptonians. Remember General Zod? Remember the wars of our early history?”
Again Jor-El was silent.
“You might want to come up with another argument. But it needs to be pretty soon, because your power is going to run out in a few minutes.”
Flashback: fifteen minutes earlier
An unseen listener heard Kara smash the floor. Five miles away, and half a mile under the ice, Clark came out of hiding fast, burning and smashing his way towards the crystalline roots that provided the Fortress with geothermal power. Thirty seconds later they were destroyed, their shattered remnants melted so much that they could no longer regenerate. Concentrating on the distractions Kara and her friends were creating, Jor-El didn’t notice as systems began to switch to backup power.
Clark collapsed the tunnel behind him then flew on towards the sea, emerged twenty miles away, and flew towards Washington at maximum speed.
The Fortress of Solitude, 10.05 AM EST
“When you arrived on Earth you thought that Kryptonians and humans were different species,” said Kara. “The first time you analyzed human DNA must have come as a horrible surprise. I don’t know how close we really are, but the fact that you’ve been lying about it, ever since Kal-El originally asked, makes me think that we must be pretty damned close.” Kara gambled that the AI would still try to conceal the truth, and say nothing about the existence of Jason. “So close that you couldn’t just kill Lex Luthor, you had to come up with an insanely complicated plan to neutralise him but keep him alive.”
Again Jor-El was silent, but the force barriers vanished. Kara wasn’t sure if this was a good sign; it might mean that Jor-El was listening to reason, more likely the AI was trying to conserve power.
“On Argo our scientists were pretty sure that we’re the same species, and they were really mad that I didn’t think to bring back any samples. The scenario they came up with had Krypton Terraformed and seeded with Earth life, including early humans, about a hundred and fifty thousand years ago. It turns out that Earth’s scientists came up with the same numbers…”
Flashback: Washington, five days earlier
“…if I confront the AI with the evidence,” said Kara, “I might be able to force it to shut down, and get it back under control. But it needs to be obvious that you’ve figured out the truth for yourselves.”
“Which we have,” said Temperance Brennan. “There was plenty of speculation before your arrival. All of the evidence from Superman’s external anatomy and what we can see of his bone structure supports an Indo-European origin within the last two hundred thousand years. Your appearance fits that profile too. The variation is well within human norms, if I didn’t know you were aliens I’d have no way of knowing it, if you see what I mean.”
“Jor-El must know that you’re already aware of the possibility,” said Kara. “That isn’t good; it means that it’s choosing to deny the evidence.”
“All of which gets us back to confronting him… it,” said President Santos, “and makes me wonder what outcome you expect.”
“I think that there are several possibilities. It might just surrender, but I really doubt that it will be that easy. It probably can’t kill us, not directly, but if it can strip me of my powers there are all sorts of ways that it could turn the Fortress into a death trap. For example, it could switch off the heating and leave us at arctic temperatures for a few days. The worse case is if it goes really nuts and decides to protect itself, regardless of human safety.”
“What could it do?”
“Start manufacturing seed crystals and replicate Luthor’s madness on a really massive scale. With the resources it has there it could easily launch them at sub-orbital speeds, send them anywhere in the world. And if it followed Luthor’s example and put kryptonite into the mix, even Kal-El would have trouble stopping it. Civilisation would collapse within a few days. If it becomes clear that it’s out of control to that extent, we need to destroy it utterly.”
“I’m in,” said Temperance. “When do we confront it?”
“I only asked for you to come to this meeting because I thought you could confirm my reasoning for the President. I wasn’t suggesting you should risk your life.”
“I can’t think of anyone more plausible to ask the right questions, and I can’t see this being much of a world if you lose, so I want to help. Maybe I could appear on TV and discuss the idea that we’re the same race, and you could fly me to the Fortress to check?”
“If we go that public it’ll definitely tip Jor-El’s hand. It needs to be a situation where it thinks it has control.”
“A bet?” suggested the President. “Get together with a few friends, maybe they could be Secret Service agents, start discussing human and Kryptonian genes, and end up at the Fortress to make the tests.”
“It can’t just be any random stranger,” said Kara. “It needs to be… oh.”
“It needs to be people I already associate with,” Kara said slowly. “I’ve not really made many friends since I arrived on Earth. I’d hate to endanger them.”
“There may not be any alternative…”
The Fortress of Solitude, 10.06 AM EST
Cracks were spreading towards the walls of the main chamber as the rogue crystal continued to grow. After a long silence Jor-El said “Is it your intention to waste the heritage of Krypton on these savages?”
“I’m guessing that a proper interpretation of what you just said is ‘help our Earth cousins to the best of my ability.’ Yes, that’s pretty much what I intend.”
“They can’t be trusted with our technology, or our genes. You know that this is true.”
“We’ll be careful,” said Kara. “Kal-El and I will control access. We’ll only release things once we’re sure that the humans are ready for them.”
“Wait a minute,” said Brennan. “That sounds a lot like you’re planning to keep us ignorant for our own good.”
“We may have to delay releasing some technology,” said Kara. “But we will be releasing it, once we’re sure you’re not going to do anything stupid. But first we’ll have to put our archive somewhere safe. I was thinking of setting up the new Fortress on the Moon.”
“Whoa!” said Tony. “That isn’t what we agreed.”
“It’s what Kal-El and I agreed. Jor-El, I have your backup crystal; the Fortress will rise again. Meanwhile we need to destroy this complex before the technology falls into human hands. Power down.”
“The Fortress will rise again?”
“You have my word.”
“But you can’t…” Abby began.
“Of course we can,” said Kara. “We’ll still be helping humanity, after all.”
“I really don’t like the sound of this,” said McGee.
“You think?” said Tony.
“I will obey for the House of El.”
“I trusted you, Kara,” said Abby. “Don’t talk to me. Don’t come near me. Never again…”
The last glimmers of artificial light vanished from the Fortress, leaving the chamber dimly lit by the Arctic daylight seeping through the crystals. And by a red glow as Kal-El sliced a new entrance open with his heat vision.
Flashback: Washington Navy Yard, twenty minutes earlier
“This is the WayneTech SRV7” said one of the technicians, helping Gibbs and Ziva board the streamlined lifting body that sat inside the dockside warehouse. “SRV stands for Space Rescue Vehicle, of course. It’s designed to fly up to ten passengers to or from Earth orbit, with Superman supplying the motive power, of course.”
“We know all that,” said Gibbs. “What’s your point?”
“With Superman propelling you the acceleration could be incredible, I need to make sure that you’re properly strapped into the seats, which you are, and that your G-suits are correctly fastened, and they are. I’m told that you’ve both refused to use a catheter...”
“This flight should only last around ten minutes,” said Ziva, “and we may need to fight at the end. Catheters would slow us down.”
“What she said,” Gibbs said, “and make sure that the weapons cases are properly stowed.”
“Here he comes,” Ducky shouted a couple of minutes later. “Good luck!”
The technician scrambled out, and spun the handle to close the hatch. Seconds later the capsule flew out of the open warehouse doors, and first Gibbs then Ziva passed out under the relentless acceleration.
The Fortress of Solitude, 10.06 AM EST
Gibbs and Ziva ran into the Fortress, Gibbs carrying two M-16s with drum magazines and a belt of grenades, Ziva a bulky metal flight case.
“Gibbs,” shouted Abby, “She’s lied to us! They’re going to control Kryptonian technology, not release it.”
“No they’re not,” said Gibbs. He gave Tony one of the M-16s. “Cover Ziva, she’s got a job to do here.”
Ziva pressed her thumb to a fingerprint scanner at one end of the case, then looked into a retinal scanner that emerged from a concealed hatch. There was a soft ‘clunk’ and the case opened. Inside the case were a Hebrew keyboard and an LCD screen. Ziva produced a key from a chain around her neck, put it into a concealed lock, and twisted it once to the left, once to the right, and twice more to the left. The screen came to life, displaying a message in Hebrew.
“Is that what I think it is?” said Tony.
“I’ve only done this as a training simulation of a suicide mission,” said Ziva, typing in response to a succession of on-screen prompts. “Since I wasn’t expected to survive, it didn’t much matter if it detonated early. But I will get seriously annoyed if you kill us all by your constant chitter.”
“Chatter,” said Tony, then covered his mouth with his hand.
There was a loud beep, and the screen cleared, except for a countdown that read 05:00 then changed to 04:59
“We’d better get out of here,” said Kara, holding up the crystal and making sure that they all saw her put it inside the case. Ziva closed the lid, and they ran out of the Fortress.
“Everyone into the capsule,” shouted Clark, “I can’t tow the shuttle too.”
The crystal began to glow softly, as the AI detected the radiation and became aware that it was in danger. Its sensors came on line, and tried to make sense of its surroundings.
After what seemed an eternity, the crystal finally cracked the first layer of encryption on the bomb’s computer. There was more, of course, but human programming couldn’t withstand Kryptonian science for long. It was almost through the third layer and into the core operating system, and beginning to realise that the computer could start the timer but couldn’t stop it, when the countdown reached 01:00 and the bomb detonated.
The five kiloton explosion vaporised the crystal and most of the Fortress. A few seconds later Clark turned back from his headlong flight south, flew as close as he could without endangering his passengers, and erased the last crystal fragments with his heat vision. The occupants of the SRV7 felt the buffeting of the shock wave, but were never in danger.
Over the Arctic Ocean, 10.11 AM EST
“I’m so sorry,” said Kara. “I had to convince Jor-El that there was still a chance for him, and the only way to do it was to have him think we were coming round to his side. Your reactions had to be genuine.”
“You had us all fooled,” said Abby, “I’m sorry for the things I said.”
“It was perfect. I don’t think we could have done it without you.”
“Why an Israeli bomb?” asked Tony.
“Israeli?” said Ziva. “Israel doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction, you know that.”
“But hypothetically, our Prime Minister might possibly be persuaded to do a favour for the American government, since you’ve promised not to run atmospheric nuclear tests."
"Okay... so how come it detonated a minute early?"
"You know those movies you love where James Bond stops the bomb at 007 seconds?"
"With an Israeli bomb he would be... how do you say it? Shut out of luck."
Tony felt a smack on the back of his head, and Gibbs said “What happens now?”
“Kal-El will fly us back to Washington,” said Kara, “then he’ll be coming back to clean up the mess and get rid of the fallout.”
“How about you?” asked Abby.
“Well… it occurs to me that for the next few days I’m not going to be invulnerable. Someone will probably want to debrief us, but after that I’d really rather like to find out more about the effects of alcohol while I have the chance, and mourn the passing of the last of old Krypton.”
“I’m buying,” said Gibbs.
Epilogue to Follow
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