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the cosmos' backdoor

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She wakes up to the sound of a ticking clock. 

 

Her limbs feel heavy, the pain is numbing and yet strong, it makes her wince when she tries and fails to move. She vaguely hears the buzzing and whirring of machines around her but they sound different to the ones at a hospital, there’s no beeping from her heartbeat or even the horns and ticks of an MRI machine at work. 

 

The comfortable chair under her almost lulls her back to sleep before she hears the sound of three heavy pairs of steps and then. A voice. She knows that voice and yet it feels too far away for her to pinpoint who it belongs to. 

 

Fluorescent lights blind her momentarily before her eyes adjust to the room around her. It’s in that moment she notices that the lead she feels on her arms isn’t just the tiredness and the pain but two heavy and thick shackles around her wrists, shackles that don’t bulge no matter how much she pulls at them.

 

“You will hurt yourself,” the voice says behind her before appearing to Lena’s right. She recognises the voice now.

 

“Kara?”

 

The blonde is wearing a long sleeved plain grey linen shirt. The house of El emblem stitched on the fabric above her heart in golden over the pocket, matching in color with a belt that separates the shirt from fitted black pants. It’s an odd sight. She doesn’t think she’s ever seen Kara in kryptonian clothes beside her suit. And yet. She’s so glad to be seeing the woman face to face to even care about the unusualness of it all.

 

“Kara! Oh my God, thank God you’re alright!” 

 

But Kara doesn’t reach closer to her when Lena tries to sit up, she doesn’t wrap her arms around her like Lena had expected her to when they finally rescued Kara. If anything, the woman looks alarmed at her reaction, eye’s going slightly round before she steps away from her. 

 

“How do you know my name?” she asks. But surprised, bordering on scared, tablet pressed against her chest, covering herself from any danger, Kara isn’t the most surprising thing out of the whole situation. It’s the articulate and harsh words leaving her mouth, it takes her a minute to realize what Kara had just asked, for her brain to understand that Kara is speaking in kryptonese and translate it in her mind. 

 

But why would Kara ask that? Why wouldn’t she know her name?

 

“Can you understand me?” Someone else asks. She tears her worried eyes away from Kara and finds two men and a woman in front of her. 

 

They’re all wearing clothes similar to what she remembers Alura, Kara’s mother, had worn when she was giving her the Harun-El. The woman in the middle with shades of light blue and dark green, the man on the right with green and the man on the left with orange. All carrying symbols she doesn’t recognize nor understand. She nods her head anyway, suddenly thankful a manic brother and a big crush on a pretty alien had led her to learn kryptonese. 

 

“I am Councillor Mayra,” she begins, then points to her right, “these are General Lek-Var and Dax-Ur, head of the interplanetary division of the science guild. Can you tell us how you got here?”

The woman’s voice is calm and her posture is relaxed- had Lena haven’t gone through the ordeal of being questioned by authorities a million times thanks to her brother, she would have relaxed too. But she can see how Dax-Ur is casually examining the screens above her, probably with her entire medical record, instead of listening to her words. She can see how Lek-Var’s hand is placed subtly above the gun on his side pocket. 

 

“Where-” the foreign language curls uncomfortably around her tongue and it leaves with uncertainty instead of the confidence Lena would have loved for the words to have, “Where am I?”

 

“You are on Krypton in the southern constellation Corvus.”

 

“Krypton? But Krypton-” she shakes her head. 

 

This doesn’t make any sense. Krypton is gone. Had been long for a long time. She has the memory of a man in red and blue flying around her city. The memory of a best friend she’s in love with. The face that’s standing to her right with an unreadable look in her eyes as she checks something on a tablet with Dax-Ur. 

 

“You fell out of the sky,” Kara says, kind as ever, sensing her distress. “Do you know why?”

 

Her mind feels fuzzy, every recent memory blurry around its corners. Until she remembers Lex again, Phantom Zone projector in his hands and a look of triumph as he walked around the fortress, and the fear shines a light on everything else, clearing her mind with adrenaline and desperation once again. The memories only become brighter in color the longer she looks at Kara and her so similar yet so different than usual clothes.

 

“I was- I was trying to find my friend. She was stuck in the Phantom Zone.”

 

All four kryptonians around her raise her eyebrows in surprise. A tense silence fills the room before the general scoofs, “You must be crazy then. Whoever is sent to the Phantom Zone is lost forever.”

 

Councillor Mayra raises her hand, stopping him from whatever he was going to say next. Lena watches from the corner of her eyes how Kara and the scientist quickly start to check the screens again, the blonde even disappearing behind her. 

 

“And did you?” the woman asks, “find your friend."

 

Lena frowns. “I’m not sure.”

 

Had they found Kara? Or had one of their plans gone terribly wrong again? It certainly wouldn’t have been the first. Finding Kara had turned out to be a much more difficult task than they had thought, but Alex’s and Lena’s inability to give up on it had made sure the ship had always stayed on course. 

 

But Lena cannot tell if their last attempt had worked. Or even what was the last attempt. She knows, more than anything right now, that she needs to go back to her friends. Find Kara. 

 

“You’re a long way from home,” Dax-Ur says, sliding his fingers along the tablet he’s holding until the images show up on a bigger screen on Lena’s left. The other people in the room look automatically, she has to maneuver with her restraints to turn to the side. She recognizes the planet instantly, “You’re from Earth. Located in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way, about a third of the way out from the center of the Galaxy.”

 

“I’ve also found Phantom Zone energy on her,” Kara chirps in, “her story appears to be partially honest.”

 

Lena wishes she could see her face right now, so she could understand why Kara doesn’t seem to recognize her. And then. “Hold on,” she frowns, “Earth is two-thirds from the center of the Galaxy. I’d know, one of my astrophysics projects was about it.”

 

She explains further when the people in the room look at her with uncertainty and a low chuckle leaves the general once again. But Lena starts to understand why the councillor is the one in charge, she remains calm and collected, her brown eyes give out nothing but patience as she talks to Kara and Dax-Ur. “Had there been any planetary movements or explosions that could have caused this?”

 

They both check as soon as the words are out of her mouth and as they type away Lena almost wishes something had happened. But Kara’s sure no, ma’am and Dax-Ur’s shake of his head have Lena’s heart beat in fear and Mayra’s eyes fill with curiosity.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Lena Luthor,” she answers, confused.

 

“General,” the woman turns to him, nodding her head at Lena and moving her hand from behind her back only to lace them together in front of her, “please open Miss Luthor’s handcuffs. It looks like we have a visitor from another universe.”

 

The man doesn’t move, he only looks at the woman as if she’d gone mad. “You got all that from an astronomy fact? For all you know she might have been a terrible student.” 

 

The Councillor’s face hardens, Lena sees the way her jaw clenches but she quickly relaxes it. Lena’s impressed, she knows the feeling of a man below her questioning her decisions but she always lets them see her anger, see what they had done wrong. Mayra only stares him down. “That was an order, general. Open her handcuffs and bring her into the tower. Kara Zor-El, with me.”

Kara exits the room just as the sliding doors are about to close. She doesn’t look back to Lena.

 


 

General Lek-Var holds her arm tightly as he roughly leads her down hallways and turns corners and corners of the building. All white walls with immaculately clean white floors in which she can see her own reflection, all illuminated by small thin windows on the highest part of the wall, showing just the tiniest bit of a reddish sky. The lack of big windows surprised Lena until she saw a big one, just from the corner of her eye, before Lek-Var carelessly pulled her arm until they’re turning another corner- no sights of Krypton for her it is. 

 

They walk until Lena’s feet are aching, she’d woken up without shoes and they hadn’t bothered to give them back to her as they walked on the cold floors. She never once complains, she knows that any words leaving her will be carefully taken into account, any complaints kept in the back of people’s minds. But still, once two, engraved with a symbol she doesn’t know, silver doors open, she sighs subtly. 

 

She walks into “The Tower” as Mayra had called it. It’s basically like any observatory she has been to on earth, she knows. And yet the technology seems, and probably is, a million years more advanced. The telescope is the biggest she’d ever seen, leaving the newest models of NASA to shame and her fingers itching to try it on. 

 

“Miss Luthor,” Mayra catches her attention, a little mirt in her eyes as Lena quickly lowers her head, finally taking her eyes away from the marvels around her. She points to the two men beside her, “These are the El brothers. Zor-El and Jor-El. They’re both part of the leading team of the science guild.”

 

Her heart beats faster at the names. She’s quick enough to connect the dots for herself. Zor-El. El. This used to be Kara’s family. This is Kara’s family, given by the blonde that’s still watching her curiously as she stands straight a couple of feet beside them. 

 

Lena can see the similarities between the brothers. Broad shoulders. Cuadrangular chin. Baby blue eyes. But while Zor-El’s hair was black, Jor-El’s was a light brown. While the first brother watched her curiously, look so similar to the one on his daughter's face, Jor-El was watching her with childlike excitement, a small yet impossible to wipe away smile on his face. 

 

And Lena knows, she should probably be excited to be with the brightest minds she’ll ever be in a room with. Two adult kryptonians, heads of the science guild and with the knowledge of an advanced planet. And yet. All she can focus on is how much of Kara she can see in them. 

 

She sees Kara in the glimmer of Jor-El’s eyes. Finds Kara in the angle of Zor-El’s jaw. Sees the perfect eyebrows in them both. It only makes her miss the woman more.

 

“I am terribly excited to meet someone from another universe,” Jor-El says, walking closer to her and quickly extending his hand, as if he’s been holding himself back from doing so since she walked in.

 

She smiles back shily. His grip is strong and his eagerness reminds her of Jack, brings her back to a moment in which the man had introduced himself to her as he praised her latest invention. 

 

Jor-El quickly fires question after question about how did she get here, what was she working on when it happened, if she had been studying the Phantom Zone for long. 

 

“Not really,” she’s only able to answer the last one, “My friend got sent there a couple of months ago.”

 

“How did they get sent there?” Zor-El asks, coming closer to Lena but keeping his hands behind his back, letting the S proudly stand out. 

 

“A Phantom Zone projector,” she explains, wondering if her vague answers will be enough to calm curious kryptonians, she doesn’t think your planet is dead in my universe will get her many good points, “She’s got… enemies and one of them sent her there. Me and some friends were trying to find her, when....”

 

“When you ended up here,” Zor-El concludes. “Do you have any idea how?”

 

“I truly don’t,” she says, cursing her own memory. She tries to sound hopeful and confident when she says, “But it’s likely that I was in the Phantom Zone when it happened. There should be some soft of distortion or trail left behind.”

 

“We’re afraid that’s not true.” Jor-El supports his words by projecting a live feed of the Phantom Zone on one of the big screens. She sees, clear as day, the emptiness, the nothingness of it all, just Fort Rozz floating in the middle, everyone in the room watches it silently, all of them aware of what, who, is in there. “There had been no anomalies or disruptions in the Phantom Zone, ever. Everything is normal.”

“This means, unfortunately,” Zor-El adds, “that whatever brought you here, might have done so permanently.”

 

Permanently. Permanently. Permanently.

 

It’s such a decisive word. She wishes this could be a weird dream. Maybe her suit broke while she was in space and the lack of oxygen is making her hallucinate. Yes, it must be that. 

 

She can’t stay here. Surrounded by people she doesn’t know, no matter how amazing their technology seems to be. She has to go back. She needs to find Kara. She can’t leave Kara there , all alone. Especially when it was her fault. It was all her fault. Lex was her fault. She has to bring Kara back. 

 

But the kryptonians seem to have a different idea. Councillor Mayra walks closer to her when Lena says nothing and her face gets paler and paler. Lena doesn’t want to cry. She won’t cry. But her heart breaks a little at the thought she might never see her friends again. Never see Kara again. 

 

“We can help you get to Earth,” Mayra speaks, voice soft and kind, as if she knows it’s what Lena needs right now. “You’ll live in your original habitat with your people.” 

 

“But it is not my people,” she breathes out, “I am in a different universe. Could I stay-” 

 

“Krypton is a civilization in which everyone must serve a purpose and must do their part,” General Lek-Var spits out, as if the idea of Lena saying here disgusts him.

 

“I can do that,” she challenges, “I’m a scientist.”

 

“We cannot allow a mere foreign to enter a guild simply because they feel like it,” Jor-El says, although Lena can hear some disappointment in his words. She understands, the thirst of knowledge about planets far away and how they could help hers had been the main incentive on why Lena had allowed more and more aliens to be employed by L-corp every year, “it’d be unfair to everyone else.”

 

“I need an assistant in my research” Kara interrupts, stepping away from the far away table and getting closer to everyone else. She directs herself to the Councillor next, “I can school her, teach her our ways.”

 

The woman carefully observes Kara before her eyes move to the scientists, she says nothing but both of them seem to understand her question and nod their heads- Zor-El slower than his brother, as if he’s still not sure of his answer. Their actions are enough confirmation for the general, who scoffs and storms out of the room, letting the heavy doors close loudly against each other. 

 

“Very well. If you’re useful enough to miss Zor-El, we will let you stay here, maybe even let you enter a guild one day,” Lena smiles, relief in her heart, which makes the woman add, “But remember, any misconduct and we can quickly send you back to Earth, or worse.”

 

Her eyes trail the prison still being projected on the screen. Lena understands the message. She nods, whispers a thank you as she and the brothers leave the same way the general did.

Kara stays behind, she turns off the projector, the image of the Phantom Zone disappearing like dust in the wind. Lena uses the moment to watch her. The woman looks the same way her Kara does, except… she doesn’t. 

 

Her hair is shorter, straighter and a darker shade of blonde, too. There’s no glasses sitting in the ridge of her nose or red and blues covering her body. Her posture is straighter too, her hands resting behind her back as she walks around, so similar to Zor-El, and the bright smile that was always covering her Kara’s face is now more of a curious raise of eyebrows and observant eyes. 

 

“Thank you so, so much,” she says, when the woman stops in front of her.

 

“Don’t thank me just yet,” and Lena curses that her voice sounds the same and yet the string and combinations of words seem so far away from what her Kara would say. “I have only done that because you knew my name. If you did then we must know each other, in your universe.”

 

“We did.”

 

“We were… friends then?”

She’s not sure how to explain a story of friends to best friends to betrayal to another betrayal to enemies to acquaintances to forgiving each other and becoming somewhat friends to being lost in space. She’s not sure this Kara would even believe her or want to hear it. 

 

But there’s always one word when she thinks of Kara, when she’s not thinking along the lines of ‘love of her life’ and ‘soulmates’. 

 

“Best friends,” she says, only getting a small smile out of Kara.

 

Her feet still ache as Kara leads her out of the building, but at least now they’re covered in shoes that feel like she’s walking on clouds, after Kara apologized for Lek-Var’s insensitivity and brought them to her.

 

Kara leads her out of the building, guards stopping them on every entrance to question them but whose worries were all easily dismissed by Kara’s short but clever words. By the time they reach the street and walk into the kryptonian version of a high speed train, Lena is studying the council's brand new gift for her- a strong and heavy wristband. 

 

“It’s a monitor,” Kara says, sitting on the seat beside her. The train is filled with windows on every side and the roof, giving the perfect way to let Lena take into the beauty of Argo City in full movement, at the perfect time of the day. If she weren’t so preoccupied with the bracelet they have locked into her wrist. “They use it for the military guild soldiers sometimes. It both tracks you as well as checks your heart rate, blood pressure, things like that.”

 

“I think the council mostly did it for that first part and not my well being.”

 

Unlike the Kara she knows, this one doesn’t go into a speech about the goodness in their hearts or the duties they might uphold to defend them. Kara chuckles. “Perhaps.”

 

The red sun makes the city look like it’s in a constant sundown, the tall marvelous buildings made mostly of what looks like glass and white metal reflect the train as they pass beside, below and above them- all to reach a destination Lena knows nothing of. She wants to ask about it all, why there’s a garden on top of every building, why there’s a square every three blocks, why some buildings seem to have no entrance doors, why there’s no cars nor something that can tell one building apart from the other except one big number on their front doors. 

 

But Kara’s done enough for her today. And this version of her doesn’t look like one to answer the very and many questions of a new foreigner, not when those questions are probably simple and well known things. 

 

They continue on the rest of the trip in silence. In fact, most people seem to travel in silence, only sharing one word or another when they recognize someone and sometimes loudly questioning who Lena is, with her odd clothes that do not belong to Krypton. Kara always calmly explains she’s a new consultant and they all seem to calm down at it.

 

When they step out of the train, Lena thinks it’s actually starting to be sundown now. They walk into a building that looks just like any other building but the number 10 on its front door. Once inside, up and up and left and right down many corridors, they walk past a door with the house of El emblem engraved on it.

 

The apartment is so awfully not-Kara that it makes her want to cry. Every piece of furniture is either white or gray with small details in gold and every other artifact in the room only seems to be there out of complete necessity. 

 

There’s no coziness to this. No crooked table or mismatching chairs, or fluffy couch pillows, only an armchair that looks more decorative than comfortable. There’s no art hanging from the walls, only a screen with news on it but no one speaking on them, just a list one can expand on if they want. Latest robes. H'Raka’s disease. Second eclipse of the year is coming soon. 

 

There’s no pictures hanging anywhere and Lena can only describe it with one word: lonely.

 

It reminds her more of her own apartment on Earth than Kara’s. 

 

Kara comes back from the room she had disappeared into, holding a stack of clothes on her arms, she guides Lena into a door, two down from the one she’d walked into before. She lets her know the middle door is the bathroom and she can grab any food from the kitchen. 

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow, bright and early, lab partner.”

 


 

“Good day, Miss Luthor. Breakfast has been served. Report for duty.”

 

The robotic voice wakes her up with a start, her hands reaching out for something to defend herself with but only finding the empty bedside table. She wonders if Kara’s is empty, too, or if her room holds all her personal objects. 

 

The robot, lanky golden limbs and faceless face, house of El sigil shining on its chest, floats a couple of meters away from her, repeating its message until Lena lets out an exasperated okay . Its light twinkles momentarily, giving Lena the impression that its blinking, making her feel seen and uncomfortable under its gaze. She looks away. 

 

The clothes Kara had given to her are extended on the feet of the bed, black pants and white shirt, similar to what the blonde had been using yesterday, only with the lack of house emblem on her pocket. 

 

“Do you mind?” She looks back at the robot, feeling its light twinkle as she starts to get undressed. It's quick to turn around and leave the room, a whoosh filling the room as the door closes. 

 

None of her possessions are with her. The boots she was using that night. The green and white striped t-shirt she was wearing. Her jeans. She sighs, clicks the kryptonian belt into place. 

 

“Hello.” Kara doesn’t look up from her tablet, she hums it back distractedly as Lena sits down in front of her. It’s midday already, the kryptonian let her sleep longer than Lena ever remembers sleeping, all the way through the morning and well into lunch time. She was more tired than she thought, to not have woken up at all.

 

The robot quickly sets a plate in front of her, filled with cubes of different shapes and colors on the right and one slice of a sticky white rectangle on the left. 

 

“The red ones are twellian, a fruit native to Krypton,” Kara explains when she sees her moving her food around with her fork. “The yellow ones are imported from Daxam, the purple ones from Thoron and the green ones are artificially created on a branch of the science guild.”

 

“And the sticky brick?”

 

Kara chuckles, “Artificial as well, it possesses all proteins and nutrients to fill your morning quota. It tastes better than it looks.”

 

It does. It tastes like the soup Kelly had once brought her when she had come down with the flu and its contexture feels like ice cream once it's in her mouth. Before she knows it, her plate is empty and the robot is taking it away. She watches it curiously.

 

“That’s Kelex,” Kara explains, “a robot caretaker. It's here to help in every way it can. Food, clothes, information."

 

She nods. It’s weird to think about. Her Kara with a servant, basically. Kara, who always refuses for her friends to help her clean up after game night and stacks the plates together for the barista when they’re out having dinner and helps the delivery guy when her own orders are too big. But this Kara is completely comfortable as Kelex cleans the kitchen. 

 

“What do we have to do today?” 

 

Kara finally looks away from her tablet, sets it face down on the table and joins her hands. She’s wearing a black t-shirt today, perfectly fitted for her body and ending on her neck by a small round line of silver. Lena feels like she’s in a boardroom. With Kara. It’s unsettling. 

 

“Ten years ago Van-Zee created a material called Grahu, made out of oil and materials that were found by scientists miming the planet’s core.”

 

“So, plastic,” Lena says, versed on it.

 

“What?” Kara frowns.

 

“Nevermind, continue.”

 

“The material was easy to make and easy to mold so we started to use it on many things. But its longevity was less than we thought and waste started to accumulate. We’re not a… wasteful society,” Kara’s jaw clenches a little, “so, I was tasked in finding a way to recycle this.”

Kara turns her table back up, projects graphics and statistics in the air to show to Lena. She spends hours explaining the process of creation to Lena, how they’ve used some of the waste. Kara lets her know she’s got an audience with the council and the leaders of the science guild in a week, putting them in a slight deadline- one which Kara doesn’t feel too hopeful about given this is her fifth month on the project and she still hasn’t made any progress. 

 

It’s all fairly similar to earth’s plastic, with a few differences in the process here and the chemical structure there. And if humans had seen all its waste as the risk it was decades before an island of waste was created on the ocean. 

 

Before she knows it, Kelex is placing plates, a jar and glasses in front of them. Lena hadn’t even noticed him turning on the lights when it turned dark. But sure enough, the sky is painted by Krypton’s many moons, Agoron, Wegthor and Koron- Their dispositions vaguely reminds Lena of Orion’s belt, just bigger, more up close. Longing for home fills her heart. 

 

“We used to have another moon, too,” Kara speaks, breaking the silence. “It spun out of orbit a couple of years ago, almost eight now. It was weird at first, seeing the sky so different.”

 

She thinks about the little girl who had to change her entire landscape without a say, without an explanation. She wonders if that girl missed the big moons and red sky and the infinity of stars. She wonders if she misses Earth’s lonely moon now, trapped in the Phantom Zone. 

 

“Can you see any of these from the Phantom Zone?” Lena asks, “The moons, I mean.”

 

Kara eyes her carefully, curiously, “No. You shouldn’t be able to see anything there, maybe a really bright sun, with a lot of luck.”

 

She nods, having known the answer but still holding a little hope for her Kara to have something to make her company. But she’s all alone. 

 

The next day they’re on the train again, Kelex wakes her up earlier than the day before and points to her clothes before leaving. The outfit looks fairly the same as the day before, empty white shirt, gray pants and, to Lena’s surprise, big combat boots that are comfortable yet heavy once she puts them on. She struggles with them at first, but Kara walks around as if her own weight nothing. 

 

She understands the need of the heavy, combat-like boots once the Science Guild elevator opens into sublevel 12 and mountains, and she means mountains , of garbage fill the room. The room is nothing more than a dumpster but it’s chaos. Scraps of machines and pieces of furniture and containers for things Lena doesn’t know of. The only organized part of it is the circular structure in the middle of it all, holding consoles and keyboards- Lena follows Kara through a ramp, one in which is half covered by the waste and puts the need of her boots to good use, until they get to it. 

 

“Is there any way to organize this?”

 

“What do you mean?” Kara asks, fingers instantly opening the data on how much is here, how much is expected after this week.

 

“You know, arrange them into types of plast- Grahu,” She says, eyes observing the trash and wondering why she doesn’t smell anything, only Kara’s strong fragrance. “Could be easier to check which ones are recyclable and which ones aren’t.”

“It’s possible some aren’t?” Kara’s eyebrows turn down into a frown. The crinkle almost, almost, makes her think it’s her Kara.

 

“If this is anything like on Earth.”

 

It takes hours for the “people above”, as Kara called the higher levels of the Science Guild that monitor the projects and their needs, to approve the use of five Kelex units. It takes them even longer to program them into recognizing the different molecules inside each Grahu to separate them but, by the end of the day, when her feet are starting to ache and Kara’s perfect posture is starting to falter, they’ve separated the chaos into nine big piles. Organized chaos.

 

The weight of her impending briefing starts to weigh heavy on Kara two days before the date. They spend morning, day and sometimes night in the dumpster- Lena is suddenly grateful for the invisible barrier she’d found out about on her second day, containing the Grahu, and its smell, behind it. And in moments they weren’t at the dumpster, they were talking about it. Their conversations were continuous and wide but never moving past it.

 

Kara hadn’t mentioned anything personal, no name of friends, no hobbies or sports she takes part in or even a mere interest beside science. Lena doesn’t ask either, this Kara isn’t anywhere as open as her Kara. The closest she sees Kara break out of science is when, from time to time, she leaves in the middle of the day to return hours later with no explanation. Lena doesn’t know if she should be glad that Kara trusts her enough to leave the project in her hands or annoyed that she leaves her alone, with only the Kelexs as company. 

 

Her knowledge on Grahu- which is basically plastic, no matter how much Kara likes to fight her on it- impresses the blonde more than once. More than once Lena finds blue eyes poised on her face, eyes that don’t look away when caught. If only, being caught, makes Kara watch her more. Smile in return. Laugh with her. Joke back. 

 

She has to keep reminding herself this is not her Kara.

 

By the day of the meeting, they were able to classify the nine piles into three; recyclable with no pollution or other waste, recyclable with pollution and non-recyclable. Kara knew all the pros and cons of each type of Grahu, she knew them down by molecular structure and by possible future use. It did not stop her from walking up and down the hallway as she waited to be called. 

 

“You’ll do fine,” Lena repeats, sitting on the floor. She wasn’t allowed to come into the meeting but she had still insisted on accompanying Kara. She’d have hated to be stuck inside that apartment all day, with nothing to do. And she didn’t know if Kara would have gone straight to her, as she’d told her, once she knew the council's decision. 

 

The blonde is in full kryptonian regalia today, no more comfortable pants and nice shirts. Her clothes are painfully similar to Supergirl’s suit and Lena hates to look at it. It’s the same shade of blue on its torso, golden S resting proud on top of it. The belt is exactly the same, down to the small details Lena had noticed on her Kara once. The only difference was that under the red boots, the pants were black, not blue. And Lena focused on that, to remind herself it’s not Kara. Not Supergirl. 

 

She learns the hallway has two hundred tiles, all beige in color. She learns the walls are not actually white, but a soft cream and the window that took up all of the roof had a glass that was slightly blue. She saw the guards on the corners of the hallway change five times, she guesses it happens at least every hour, because they never move to go to a bathroom- but the guards ignore her, even when she tries to make conversation once.

 

She’s about to start counting the tiles again when the doors open, she stands quickly, not wanting to look worse than she probably already does in her everyday clothes surrounded by people in formal robes. People she doesn’t recognize pass her by and don’t spare her a glance, at the end of the line are Jor-El and Zor-El, the only ones that offer recognition, receiving a smile and a thumbs up from the first and a nod from the second one. 

 

Behind them is Kara, who smiles at her as she gets closer and does the one thing Lena wasn’t expecting this Kara to do. 

 

She hugs her. 

 

Lena’s confused at first, it’s been so long since she’s been so close to someone, especially to a someone whose hands double tap the same her Kara’s did and whose strong body collides against her the same way. 

 

It’s over before Lena realizes it.

 

“Fabrication wasn’t stopped altogether,” Kara says, “but they agreed to cease the production of those that cannot be recycled. It’s much better than I was expecting.”

 

“That’s amazing!” They’d expected a decrease in production at best, deafening ignorance at worst. But they had gotten even more than their best option. No wonder Kara had been happy enough to hug her. 

 


 

Kara takes her to a restaurant to celebrate. 

 

It looks like an Earth restaurant, if only every plate that was served looked weirder and weirder in Lena’s eyes. Kara tried her best to explain what they were to her but with an interplanetary difference and Lena having not tried anything from Krypton before, it was hard. She ends up ordering something that looked similar enough to pasta when given to the couple beside them, while Kara ordered a plate that has squid (or a kryptonian animal close enough to it).

 

“Don’t they have somewhere else to go?” Lena asks, pointing to the people outside the restaurant, waiting to be placed at a table. 

 

Kara looks confused for a second, “No, this is the only restaurant on Argo. There’s only one in each city, foods are generally eaten at home. Places like this are only used for celebrations.”

 

“Are we celebrating then?” Lena raises an eyebrow and Kara smiles, cheekly.

 

“You help me do in one week what I couldn’t in five months,” she says, raising her cup to clink it against Lena’s. “I think, Lena Luthor, you’re worth being celebrated.”

 

“I guess this means I won’t be kicked out of Krypton just yet,” she jokes, although part of her is relieved. The anxiety of having to travel light years to get to earth, one that wasn’t even her own, terrified her.

 

“Not while I have a say about it,” Kara says. “Which reminds me, I have something for you.”

 

She doesn’t recognize it at first. Brown leather straps, sturdy silver bezel and silver thick hands over a black background. Lena can see the lid open before Kara does it for her, revealing the house of El symbol under it. 

 

“You had this on you when they found you,” Kara explains, “The military guild spent days trying to figure out if it was dangerous and if it should be given back to you.”

 

“I didn’t even remember I had it on me,” she whispers. 

 

“Lena… can you tell me why it has my family’s sigil on it?”

 

Kara’s voice has no anger on it, only a tad a curiosity and skepticism. She doesn’t lie. Of course she doesn’t. Because not only is Kara her greatest possible ally on this new planet, she also doesn’t think it’d be fair to start another relationship with another Kara based on lies. 

 

“It was yours and you gave it to me,” she says. And then, “It was you that we were trying to rescue from the Phantom Zone.”

 

Kara gulps, her face turning more serious. “Why was I there?” 

 

“You’re a hero, on my earth,” Lena sighs, “and like every hero, you have enemies and one of them sent you there.” 

 

“I see.” That’s all the blonde offers but Lena can still see the questions burning behind her eyes. 

 

“I don't remember all of it honestly. I was in a suit, floating through space and I was about to reach you and then…” 

 

She recalls bits and pieces. Brought to her by horrid nightmares and sudden memories. Cold empty space. Her own breath fogging up her suit. Seeing golden hair. Screaming at the top of her lungs for Kara to turn around. Seeing the recognition in blue eyes. Then fear.

 

“And then?” 

 

Darkness . “I don’t remember.”

 

The remembrance of what little she can tell leaves her with a constant pang in her heart, one that subsides lightly when she and Kara are eating something akin to ice-cream and the blonde spoon ends up right in her nose when she’s distracted by something Lena says. But the blonde seems to understand because she lets her rejoice in the silence and calmness of the streets as they walk back to Kara’s apartment. 

 

Kara perks up when, on the brick steps of building number 10, a tiny feathered creature is found there. 

 

“A baby H'Raka! I haven’t seen one in so long!” she exclaims, slowly kneeling closer to it and letting the animal approach her. It’s got four legs and two wings, it couldn’t be bigger than the size of a fat cat but Kara tells her they’re around two meters tall in adulthood and two more wings will grow out of it. She won’t lie, it’s fairly… adorable, with its big eyes and pointy little ears. “Sometimes wild ones get lost and make their way into the city. They’re supposed to mean good luck. See, Lena?” She smiles up at her as she pets the creature and Lena is unable to do anything but smile back. “Maybe there’s hope yet.”

 

Kelex wakes her up in the next morning, voice robotic and annoying as ever. Serves her the same breakfast he does every morning. Lena sighs when no one comes out of Kara’s room. But it’s not unusual. The blonde had, more than once, taken breakfast earlier, from the information she had gotten out of Kelex, left and came back to pick up Lena. 

 

But today, when someone is at the door, it’s not Kara. Kelex’s “visitor for Miss Luthor” pulls her away from the landscape of the city, out of nothing better to do, before she carefully walks towards the door. 

 

“Councillor Mayra,” she greets, surprised and wishing she had combed her hair better that morning. 

 

“Miss Luthor,” she nods, walking into the apartment and setting on the table four books and one laptop. “Presents,” she explains, “for being a good assistant to Miss Zor-El. She was quite impressed by your performance.”

 

Lena blushes. “Thank you.”

 

All four books look both heavy and old, they remind Lena of the ones her father used to have at his studio back when she was little. Krypton, its history: tomes I and II. Fauna and Flora, an introduction. Dictionary. 

 

“We all know you were a big part of why Kara was able to discover so much so fast,” she says, voice giving nothing away, only facts. “She’s a bright woman, which is why we gave her the hardest task, and you made it easy. This is our thanks.”

 

She doesn’t say anything more, barely lets Lena crock out her own thanks before she’s walking out of the door. Leaving the books and the smell of an expensive perfume to prove that she was here at all. 

 

Still, Lena smiles. She’s made an ally. And when she finds a note between the first few pages of the dictionary, detailing the times of unuse of The Tower, signed with an elegant J , she smiles brighter. She’s made two. 

 


 

She realizes, halfway through the first tome of Krypton, its history, that even if she knows when the tower will be empty, the wristband would give away her location instantly. Every time she had gone out of the apartment, it had been with Kara, in strict work-only outings and dinner- which Kara probably had to clear up beforehand. 

 

Trying to take it off by force would activate it and looking up a way to disable it on the tablet- in which Mayra, or perhaps someone that worked for her, had uploaded a list of kryptonian inventions and designs for Lena to study- would give her away instantly. 

 

She’s surprised, honestly,  that there are no guards nor checks up on her throughout the day. Kara leaves for hours and blindly trusts that Lena is not doing anything to cause her harm. But then.

 

“Kelex,” she calls out and the robot comes to life from its corner of the room and hovers all the way to Lena, who’s sitting on the armchair, “Do you have any cameras on you?” 

 

“No, miss Luthor.” 

 

“Does Kara ask you to check on what I do while she’s away?”

 

“No. Master Kara Zor-El has not given me orders of the such.”

 

Intriguing. Does this Kara trust her that much? Or does she know there’s nothing she can do to either leave or cause her harm? 

 

“Are the questions that I ask you sent to anyone else?”

 

“All questions asked to a Kelex unit are saved on its personal hard drive.”

 

“Can it be accessed?” 

 

“Only by taking the unit apart.”

 

And just like that, Kelex becomes her third ally. 

 

She asks him everything she needs to know about the wristband. How it works. What powers it. The robot even projects all its pieces on a hologram, one that moves and interacts with her as her fingers press into it. 

 

She hears the door open when she’s going through all the wristabnd’s parts for the third time. She quickly shuts off the hologram, sits further down the couch, opens a book on her lap, pretending to be comfortable on its firm pillows. 

 

“So, a dendaro is a minute,” she fake asks Kelex, “which has a 100 thribo, which is a second on earth?”

 

“Correct.” It answers, and if she wasn’t completely aware this was an AI, programmed to answer every question thrown at it, Lena would think it was a great liar.

 

Kara walks in with two boxes, one under each arm- arms which Lena tries to ignore as they flex when she sets the boxes on the kitchen island, arms which are exposed thanks to the sleeveless white t-shirt Kara is wearing. 

 

“I see you’re familiarizing yourself with our history,” Kara says in greeting, “How are you liking it?” 

 

“The Vrangs conquering the continent of Lurvan and enslaving hundreds of Kryptonians is oddly similar to things that have happened on Earth,” she answers, walking towards the kitchen, crossing her arms as she watches Kara put canned foods and little boxes with names she doesn’t recognize on the cupboards. “Of course, this was humans against humans and they weren’t able to fight back and free themselves.”

 

Kara eyes her curiously, like every time Lena says something she finds odd or about Earth in general. She does it on purpose sometimes, to get Kara to share. A fact for a fact, if she will. 

 

“I thought the food was delivered,” she notes, thinking back to what Kara had told her weeks ago. 

 

“Essentials are,” she explains, “portions measured by height, weight and daily activities are delivered weekly on the entrance floor. Any extras are brought on the market. I brought the daxamite fruits in there too,” she adds, almost distracted as she washes her hands on the sink, “I noticed you liked them."

 

“I-” she does, they taste close enough to pears. “Thank you.”

 

“Of course,” Kara says offhandedly, turning around and resting against the counter, hands on each side of her body, letting the silver sewing of her family’s crest exposed. She looks hot. Lena looks away. “It is the least I can do, considering we’re going to be roommates for a while longer.”

 

“We are?”

 

Kara hums. “We were given another assignment together, given we worked so well on the first one. We’re supposed to find a non-polluting way to reuse the unrecyclable Grahu.”

 

She’s surprised they’ve given them another project so soon, not a full day after Kara’s meeting with the council. But, given by what Mayra said, if they do deem Kara as one of their brightest minds, they wouldn’t want her around doing nothing- Lena understands the sentiment. And if Kara is called, it seems that now, by association, so is Lena.

 

Kara exits the apartment again with a simple “we start next week”, leaving Lena with the company of the books, her tablet and questions on how to temporarily disable her wristband. Which is so much time and so much loneliness- except on those fleeting moments Kara decides to stick around the apartment to chat with her, or the afternoon she took Lena to the closest square- that by the time they’re going down the elevator to sublevel 9 Lena knows she’ll only need a screwdriver size 1.5 and a pair of tweezers.

 

The room is different from the dumpster. It’s smaller at first sight, opening from the elevator into a balcony filled with tables packed with all types of equipment. Below the balcony, there’s the piles of non-recyclable Grahu, being organized into even stacks by a hoard of Kelexs. Lena chuckles, thinking they move similar to Wall-E.

 

And no matter where Lena looks, there’s no tools that would be helpful to her to open the bracelet on her wrist. They use everything, everything, from acid to pressure to heat, to try and change the structure of the Grahu but the furthest they get, three weeks later, once they put it through extreme heat, is forming a gooey substance that quickly dries up and remains hard as stone after. 

 

The substance, luckily and out of sheer desperation, is Lena’s solution. Finding herself making the tools she needs with it in the many hours Kara leaves her alone. And finally- after twenty-four tedious days of wondering if the schedule of the tower had been changed, and four endless hours of hacking the wristband so that it’d repeat its the last five minutes until Lena put it back on, lightless, in the middle of the night- she opens the doors she saw all those months ago and walks in. 

 

She spends all night subtly checking the door but no one ever comes. No one comes the night after nor the night after. The closest she was to being caught was when she accidentally passed by two girls making out on the street of Kara’s apartment but they were too busy with each other to notice her at all. 

 

Kelex takes twice as much time to wake her up now, thanks to the one or two hours of sleep she gets the nights she ventures to the tower and, on the nights she cannot go, thanks to her brain’s need to catch up on sleep. Kara watches her, worried, when she keeps almost falling asleep during breakfast or work. She goes as far as to urging Lena to be checked up by a medic, in case the red sun is having bad side effects on her human body. Lena doesn’t have the heart to tell her she’s just tired. 

 

Tiredness and heartbreak. Because as much as she looks and looks and looks into the Phantom Zone, she finds nothing to explain her presence on Krypton nor to support her major theory nor to give her a clue on how to get back home. The universe is… empty. And all it does is make her think of her Kara, all alone, surrounded by nothing except nothing itself.

 

Exhaustion catching up to her and attention wearing thin by the days, she should be more surprised when Kara walks into the tower, half an hour after she does. But she’s got her arms forming a pillow for her head over the desk and it’s somewhat comfortable so she doesn’t move. 

 

“It’s okay,” she mumbles, “you can take me away.”

 

“What?” Kara walks closer to her, cotton blue pajamas on her. 

 

“You can send me away to Earth,” she says, “I’ll find as much information there as I will here. I’m stuck , Kara. I’ll never get out of here.”

 

“Hey,” Kara kneels in front of her, carefully rests her hand on Lena’s knee and breathes out when the woman doesn’t flinch back then squeezes. “You will. I’ll help you find a way to come back home.”

 

“You will?” Her voice sounds small, quiet, like when she had asked the policeman when her mommy was coming back and Lex to read her a bedtime story for the first time and her Kara if she’d really always be there for her. 

 

“I promise,” she vows. 

 

And Kara does. First, she makes sure Lena gets back to a schedule in which her sleep is not as compromised, letting her sleep for longer in the mornings and sometimes cutting their days short. Then, together and thanks for scrap pieces of old personal projects of Kara- pieces, Lena notices, she gets from her room, the one place in the house Lena hasn’t been in- they add a button on it, erasing the tedious hours Lena spent every night taking apart and putting the wristband back together. And finally, she follows Lena to the tower every night it's available and helps her find a way back home. 

 

Which, as the nights pass, seems more and more unlikely. 

 

But at least, either because of the slight fatigue or the feeling of being completely alone, not even Kelexs keeping them company, Kara opens up and talks more and more to her, propting Lena to share back. 

 

Kara tells her about her days in school, her friends, Thara Ak-Var- an officer of the Military Guild, who’s married to Lir-Al, an artisant, and how they’re applying for a second child down at the birthing matrix- and Seg-Gor, who’s part of the science guild and whose ancestor had invented the hourglass. 

 

She tells her about her aunt Astra and uncle Nor and Lena tries to push back the memories of a man and a woman dressed in black, terrorizing National City years ago. She tells her about her parents and Lena tries not to think about how one is dead and the other is living on a floating rock in space. 

 

She doesn’t tell Kara much about her other self, only a mention of her when one of Lena’s stories requires it. She tries to keep it minimum, even if she sees the glint of curiosity, eyes trying to solve the puzzle of her other selves’ life, in Kara’s eyes. 

 

Her Kara, whose story Lena doesn’t know how it goes. If it had ended on the Phantom Zone, lost to darkness and leaving Supergirl as only a children’s bedtime story, or if it had continued, if she had been found, brought home by her sister and friends. Without her. Without Lena. 

 

“Lena?” Kara asks, bumping her chair against hers. 

 

“Sorry,” she blinks away from the consoles she also hadn’t been paying attention to. They already knew this was going to be a short night. Their new idea had been feeble even in theory. “What’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing is wrong. I was telling you that my cousin Kal is having lunch with me tomorrow, if you’d like to join us,” Kara sounds almost… hopeful. It’s cute they way even in her kryptonian clothes, which are more formal than she’d ever seen her Kara wear, the light blush covers their faces the same. 

 

But then.

 

“Kal?” 

 

“Yes. Jor-El’s son,” she explains, a smile on her face, “I have lunch with him sometimes and he’s been bugging me to introduce you two since you showed up. He’s a pest, that one. I think he’s about to figure out parallel universes just because he’s curious.”

 

“We should invite him in, then,” Lena jokes. “I’d love to go.”

 

She has to remind herself it’s not Superman. It’s not Superman. It’s not Superman. It’s not her brother’s worst enemy. It’s not the man that was hurt by her family’s actions. It’s not even the boy sent to Earth and definitely not a caped hero flying around. 

 

It’s easier to think so once he sees Kal. Messy black hair, dimpled smile and gangly body- he’s fourteen. He’s nowhere close to the strong build both in body and morals that Lena knows. If it wasn’t for the shade of his blue eyes and the strong line of his jaw, Lena would think it was someone else. 

 

The boy is eager, he runs towards Kara as soon as he sees them, catching the equally excited woman in a hug- Lena oddly thinks of two puppies crossing each other on the street. He’s not Superman, still, Lena makes a little joke about him having superspeed, making the boy blush a little and Kara laugh. 

 

He leads them to a table he had taken over in the square- tables designated for any citizen that needed them, usually used by people that didn’t want to spend their lunch time inside or artisans, mostly in the afternoon, who Lena almost always sees wandering around, looking for inspiration. Kara told her that’s how they work, the designers are allowed to find their ideas wherever they want to as long as they abided to their timelines, while the manufacturers, or “hands” as they call them, produced them, either with machines or their literal hands. 

 

Kal’s childlike curiosity vaguely reminds Lena of the designers, with their bright eyes looking at every drawing as if it was brand new. He asks question behind question, sounding almost like his father, and making Lena chuckle. 

 

His interest is most peaked though, on the multiverse and parallel universes. Lena explains what she can as well as she can, going as far as taking two different glasses to demonstrate different vibrations. Kal follows her as if he’s in a lecture, Lena even catches the attention of a few members of the science guild, who stick around to listen to her too. And Kara’s eyes watch her as if she’s the wonder, and not the theory being explained. 

 

Kal’s questions stop coming one after another after Lena’s explanation, but, if he’s anything like Lena was when she was a child, he’ll have even more by the end of the day. She doesn’t hate to think of doing this again and answer them. 

 

But his attention is taken by Kara, who asks about school and someone named Lara. He talks with the spirited energy of someone whose biggest issue is disliking his herbology classes and, by the time Kara and her have to go back, extending their lunch more than they should have already, Lena knows more about Kal than she ever did about Clark Kent. 

 

She pays no mind to the sound at first, she doesn’t know what it is so, why would she? But Kara and Kal stop talking almost instantly, their faces turning until they both find one of the street screens, the one that are always broadcasting the lastest news for the pedestrians. 

 

TROM LAKE VANISHES

Lake Trom, found SouthEast from the Anti-Gravity Sky Palace, has dought. As you all know, Lake Trom used to be Kryptonian’s number one source of water. Rest assured, the council has got it under control and will turn our hydrogeologic efforts to Mundru Lake. Thank you.

 

The screens repeat the message in a monotonous and even voice. People pass by, listen and read it, and then continue on their way. No one sparing a second glance to the news. Neither do Kal and Kara, tuning back into their old conversation as if nothing had happened. 

 

“Are you not worried?” Lena interrupts, “A lake just disappeared.” 

 

Kal watches her puzzlingly. Kara frowns, unfairly attractive eyebrows curling, “Why would we be worried?” 

 

“It’s a source of water. And it’s gone.” How come Kara doesn't get it? And well, perhaps she doesn’t have reasons to get it. She doesn’t have thousands of studies and Ted Talks in her brain about the decrease of water and its effect on the world. “Were there at least signs this was going to happen?”

 

“No, not really,” Kara says, thoughtfully. “Don’t trouble yourself. Trom was the more used lake on Krypton, it’s not that surprising. You heard the council’s plan, it’ll be okay.”



If Kara isn’t worried, then she shouldn’t be worried. Kara had lived here all her life, knows how everything works. Lena drops the conversation. 

 

That night, she dreams of planets exploding like balloons.