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On The Double

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Chapter 1

 

With bated breath, Lena Luthor trained her gun on the small blue-grey disturbance in the air in the entrance hallway of her apartment. It resolved into a human sized opening.

Out of it stepped a middle aged man with a dignified bearing and distinguished looks. The portal closed behind him. His first action was to straighten his clothes. Then he saw Lena and his eyes widened. He clicked his heels together and bowed.

Oh.

Well.

Either he was a very polite assassin, or he wasn’t an assassin at all. Lena lowered the gun a little.

“I greet you,” her visitor said mellifluously, paying no attention to her weapon.  “I am Zor El. I seek Lena Luthor.”

“You’ve found her,” Lena said warily.

He bowed again. “I am from Krypton.”

Lena blinked. “What?!”

He held up a cellphone sized device and a hologram of the universe appeared between them. He walked through it.  “We are here.” He pointed at where Lena could just about distinguish Earth’s solar system on a tiny scale. “Krypton is here.” He pointed a considerable distance away.

“But why are you here?”

“Your name was mentioned on Krypton by ... an intelligence resource,” Zor El said. “Others are investigating how this could have happened. I, on the other hand, was curious about you. So I decided to come.” He made the hologram disappear and put his device away.

Lena frowned. “I don’t understand. How and why should my name possibly be of any interest to anyone on Krypton?”

Zor El began to look self conscious. “Well, you see,” he said, “on Krypton we have something called a Matrix ...”

 

///

 

Lena stared at the man she had now acknowledged, at least for now, as her guest. “So Krypton’s Matrix has named me, a non-Kryptonian whose information should not be available to it, as a match for your daughter? How can that even be possible?”

“That is what we do not know,” Zor El acknowledged. He was now seated on the couch with a glass of apple tea, which he sipped decorously but with every evidence of enjoyment. “As I said, others are investigating that. It has not occurred before, even with non-Kryptonians with whom we have diplomatic relations.”

Lena had the ghost of a theory. “How often does the Matrix produce these ... lists for people?”

“Once a solar revolution,” Zor replied.

“So the last time before this one was a year ago?”

Zor clasped his hands together as he did the math. “For you, that would be almost one and half of your Earth years.”

“I see.” The theory was less ghostlike though many details still escaped her. 

Zor gave her an apologetic look. “This is not my first visit to Earth, of course. I had to be able to communicate with you. So I made a first, very brief visit here to a rural place. From there I was able to observe from afar how humans generally dressed while remaining unseen myself. On my second visit, also brief, I was able to dress somewhat similarly and move among them in an urban place. I thereby obtained a trove of information resources that included this language. After that I spent time at home digesting the information while learning the language. Only after that did I plan this visit.”

He paused. “My daughter is fascinated by the idea of you, an alien, being picked for her.  Obviously, coming here without introduction or warning was a risk so I decided that I would forestall her taking it by coming myself instead.” He gave her a mischievous look that did more than anything to put Lena at ease. “She was not best pleased but she is currently involved in an urgent project at work to which she is indispensable. Naturally I took advantage of that to exercise my paternal prerogative and take the risk of first contact myself.”

“Naturally,” Lena agreed faintly, still gobsmacked.

Zor cleared his throat. “You are, of course, not bound by Krypton’s laws and customs. It is the socially accepted norm for Kryptonians to choose someone named by the Matrix to be matched with, but no one thinks you should feel in any way obliged to even consider my daughter.  In fact, most people on Krypton expect that you will not participate despite being named and that my daughter will choose someone else from those who were named for her.”

“I’m open to discussing it,” Lena said. There was plenty of weird going round at the moment but she did not feel threatened and she was, among other things, fatally inquisitive. At least that was how Lillian had once ominously described her adoptive daughter’s predilection for seeking knowledge wherever and whenever she could. Lena preferred to think of it as a natural impetus towards to learning. And she very much wanted to know more right now. “At the moment, I neither like nor dislike the idea. I don’t know enough to form even a provisional opinion.”

“Indeed,” Zor said. “I thought we could begin by learning more about each other. Would that be agreeable?”

“It would indeed,” Lena murmured.

///

They became more comfortable with each other and established an informal understanding that neither would ask for or provide information they considered relevant to the security of their respective planets.

Lena was a little worried though she hid that from Zor. If Kryptonians had the ability to portal here in an instant, what was to stop them from coming over in force? Invading Earth? Shouldn’t she tell someone? Take precautions?

On the other hand, the reason Zor had provided for coming to her was so outlandish that Lena couldn’t help feeling an invasion was unlikely. If he were paving the way for one, there were many better approaches to many other people in many other places than coming to Lena Luthor's apartment with a proposal of marriage on behalf of his daughter.  She also quite liked him. Besides it was all so weird and intriguing that the urge to find out more was irresistible.

But precautions never hurt, she decided. So after Zor left with the promise to return the next evening, she took them. She didn’t tell anyone about them or about Zor but by the time he arrived for his second visit, she had a small panic button in the pocket of her tailored trousers. If she pressed it, a number of protocols would be enacted that would, among other things, alert the right people with a succinct video and audio message from her and instructions as to how to access the countermeasures she had put in place. Those countermeasures included supersonic wave emitters that would incapacitate and cause pain but not kill – one was in the apartment behind a potted plant.  Satisfied with that and a small number of handheld weapons in concealment around the apartment, she took up position in her living room at the appointed time in the evening.

The portal appeared and Lena held her breath.

Zor stepped through and paused.

“I greet you, Lena. As discussed, I have brought my daughter, Kara.” He turned back to the portal as another individual emerged, a fair-haired young woman. “Kara, this is Lena, who was so hospitable to me before.”

The portal disappeared, Zor took a step to the side and Lena got a good look at her new guest.

She inhaled and stared.  On his last visit, Zor had not mentioned his daughter’s name.

Kara did not just stare. She also gasped and embarked on what appeared to be a full body blush if the colour creeping up her neck was anything to go by. “Oh Rao!” she breathed. Then she seemed to remember her manners and hastily sketched a little bow similar to her father’s.

Feeling a bit more confident, and her sense of piquancy aroused, Lena inclined her head and said, “Hello.”

Kara beamed at her. “I have practiced English with my father.”

Lena smiled back. “You sound very fluent so far.”

Kara beamed harder.

Lena told herself it was stupid to be charmed but it was impossible to deny the energetic goodwill directed at her.

Zor stood to the side, looking pleased in such a paternal way that Lena also found it impossible to deny that so far, his story was checking out.

She cleared her throat. “I thought that on this occasion it would be fitting for us to dine together. Do you care to join me? Would you like your wife to be here as well?”

“Alura has been most interested to meet you,” Zor informed her. “However her duties are presently onerous.  If they were not, she would have accompanied us.  She is regretful that she has not yet met you.”

Kara shot him a quick amused glance. “Tell Lena the full truth, Papa: she is envious of us!” She looked back at Lena eagerly and beamed again.  “I think we should eat with Lena. It is only courteous since she has gone to all the effort.”

Lena chuckled.  “This way, please. I didn’t know Kryptonians called their fathers ‘papa’.”

“We do not,” Kara said. “We use a formal word. But when I was learning English, I learned that there are affectionate informal words to call one’s family members. I liked this one very much.”

“Indeed,” Zor looked affectionately at his daughter. “She has been calling me that ever since. I have grown fond of it.”

At the table, Lena explained. “This food originates from a region almost diametrically opposite our location on this planet. We call it China.  This is a leafy plant we call spinach, cooked with a fragrant bulb called garlic.  These are pieces of meat from a domesticated fowl ...”

She went on to explain the dining utensils. To her delight, Zor and Kara ate without inhibition, pausing only to observe and imitate her table manners.  They reminded her so much more of enthusiastic tourists than diplomats, spies or soldiers.  They did not even check the food for toxicity, which would have been acceptable and even expected of extra-terrestrial visitors.

“I’m surprised,” she said, “that you seem unconcerned that human food might disagree with you.”

“We studied human biology after learning your language,” Kara explained. “Nothing you can eat would be toxic to us. I for one am very glad of that because everything here is delicious.” She helped herself unabashedly to more lemon chicken.

“We have also been learning about humans through a most helpful resource,” Zor smirked.

“Youtube,” Kara supplied with a huge grin before lifting another forkful of chicken to her mouth.

Lena choked back her laughter, completely disarmed. “Really?”

Kara nodded while chewing. She swallowed and jiggled happily in her seat. “Yes! Even when we deemed the content unimportant to us, it showed us how humans conduct themselves in formal and informal settings. Sometimes the content was interesting. We obtained some understanding of human science and the state of knowledge of those who work in it and those who do not. It gave us an idea of what historical events humans today consider relevant. Also we were exposed to the common vernacular English speakers use. We usually find it comprehensible although we ourselves do not feel able to use it much.”

“Your people are certainly varied and full of energy,” Zor observed. “In comparison Kryptonians will seem to you homogenous. For you it would be as if they represented but a single subset of a single race of Earth’s humans, yet our entire civilization, all told, numbers twice as many as the population on Earth.”

And that was sensitive information right there, imparted to her seemingly without a care. Lena decided that though she could not responsibly put her worries away entirely, she could relegate them to the backburner.

“I imagine that must be true for most peoples who have achieved regular interstellar space travel,” she suggested. “The resources necessary for that would require a united population so that they could be effectively and efficiently allocated. Not to mention that it would do a species no good to be encountering new and possibly hostile species of a similar level of advancement if it were not itself able to present a uniform front.”

There was a pause, during which Kara tried a potsticker. Her eyes grew round and big as she cast Lena an awed look. “These are wonderful!”

“No dumplings on Krypton?” Lena twinkled at her.

“No. Our food is good too but it is not like this! And this is just one meal from one culture on Earth.” Kara sounded very impressed. Actually she sounded like she was eager to sample the cuisine of all Earth’s cultures one by one.

They all relaxed and enjoyed themselves as a feeling of wellbeing pervaded the room.

Towards the end of dinner, Lena decided it was time to talk about delicate matters. “I have a theory,” she began, “about why all this has happened.”

“You do?” Zor was suddenly alert.

“Just over a year ago,” Lena told them, “something very unusual and terrible happened. Are you familiar with what we on Earth call multiverse theory?”

“Oh yes,” Kara had just swallowed yet another potsticker with an expression of bliss. “Only for us it is not a theory but fact. However no one on Krypton has actively pursued this field of study for some time. We have proved that other universes exist but we cannot observe them or travel to them. Well, not yet at least.”

“Well,” Lena continued, “a little over one Earth year ago, there was a ... tremendous ruction. That is to say, parallel universes were destroyed. However enough was saved for a single universe - this one. I am not certain whether it is a whole new universe or one that already existed and became ... modified. In any case, this universe seems to be comprised of … pieces, I suppose … of different universes that merged into a composite whole with a new but consistent single history so far as most people on Earth remember it. If you are unaware of this, then I must suppose that other sentients off Earth are mostly also unaware.  The reason I am aware of it is that a few individuals, of which I am one, had their memories preserved.” She took a slow breath. “I was from a universe in which Krypton was destroyed perhaps fifty Earth years ago.”

Kara and her father sat up straighter and stared at her.

At last Zor said carefully, “You had heard of Krypton even before my first visit to you?”

“Yes,” Lena said, noting tension beginning to emerge in her guests. “In my original universe, when Krypton was destroyed, a baby was sent from there to Earth. His name was Kal El.”

“My cousin!” Kara exclaimed at the same time as Zor El murmured, “Jor’s son.”

“He grew up on Earth. I suppose he must have been adopted and looked after by a human family. As I understand it, a second person was also sent from Krypton at what must have been about the same time. She ...” she eyed her guests hesitantly, “... was his cousin.”

Kara gasped. Zor was silent but he looked at Lena keenly as she went on. “She was adopted by a different human family and appears to have grown up greatly cherished.”

Her two guests looked marginally relieved.

“Zor, we have talked about how studies on Krypton informed you that Earth’s yellow sun would imbue Kryptonians with special powers here that you would not have at home. You must have experienced a little of those yourself on your first two visits here during the daytime. But those visits were brief and our first meeting was last night so you have not yet experienced those powers at their fullest. Living on Earth, Kal El grew used to them. In adulthood, he used them to do as much good as he could. He became known all over the world because he could fly, rescued people from accidents or natural disasters and publicly fought many foes who intended harm to him and to the rest of the Earth. The public called him Superman. His cousin began to do the same, only much later. Years later.”

Thinking about it, Lena frowned. “It confuses me. This sequence implies that she is quite a bit younger than he, but that cannot be. If he was sent away from Krypton as a baby and she is much younger, she could not have been born yet. But no one would send a baby like Kal El away alone unless disaster was imminent. So she must have sent away from Krypton at about the same time, very shortly before Krypton was destroyed - when she couldn’t have existed yet.”

She shook her head. “Never mind that for now.  At any rate, here on Earth the public calls her Supergirl. She lives here in National City. When she is not presenting as Supergirl, she presents as human.  I moved to this city myself five years ago and met her shortly afterwards. We have known each other ever since.”

“Why have you not mentioned this before?” Zor wanted to know. Kara appeared to still be processing, a troubled furrow on her brow.

“I thought you must already have known of at least one of them through your research on Earth. In this universe, Superman is ... well, I don’t actually know if he’s around on this Earth. But Supergirl is and she is known to be Kryptonian. There have been pictures in the media of her, some with me in the same picture.”  She wanted to shudder at the memory of the cringeworthy advertisement featuring Lex, Supergirl and herself. “I was surprised last night when you did not refer to her at all but then I realized that your business with me did not involve her.  I assumed then that you would have contacted her privately if you had business with her, just as you contacted me privately, and that it would be presumptuous to think that I was entitled to ask about it,” Lena explained. “For the same reason, I have not mentioned you to her yet. I thought that if you had been in contact with her about Kryptonian matters, for example, it was not for me to pry.”

There was also the fact that Lena had never been told what name Kara Danvers had been born with, not her first name or her family name. Until this Kara had stepped through the portal, Lena had had no idea that she would be meeting a doppelganger.

“I was issued my Matrix list a little over one Earth month ago. Then Papa obtained information resources from here and we spent most of our spare time after work learning English,” Kara said. “Only when we had an adequate grasp of it could we progress to learning about human biology, polite social behaviour in your culture and about you specifically. After we had read what we thought was an informative summary of your life and gained from it an impression that aliens were not a foreign or evil concept to you, Papa paid you his first visit last night. In retrospect, perhaps we should have conducted more in-depth research before approaching you, but ...” she gave her father an apologetic and slightly embarrassed look, “I was impatient. So when he came yesterday, it was perhaps earlier than he would have liked.”

 “No harm done,” Lena said, wanting to smooth the moment over so the conversation wouldn’t get stuck. “You have time now.”

She inhaled slowly and steeled herself. “I don’t know what that summary you came across told you, but you should know that, notwithstanding the impression he gave the public in this universe, my brother was a xenophobe for most of his adult life. More importantly, he was a megalomaniac. The Kryptonians, with their powers on Earth, had the capacity to stop him in his quest for supreme power. Anticipating that one or both of them would try, he was willing and prepared to take extreme measures against them. On my original Earth, he tried to kill Superman and to destroy Supergirl’s reputation and credibility. In this universe, he also tried to ensure that she could not stop him and was prepared to defeat, even kill, her, if she tried. My mother is not very different.”

 Zor looked down. “I gather your brother is now dead. We offer our condolences.”

“Thank you, but the good brother from my childhood was gone long ago,” Lena said hollowly. “And now my mother is securely incarcerated as well, so at least the dangers they posed are gone.”

Lillian had been convicted as a proven accomplice of Lex’s. Her prison outside Central City had been specially secured by S.T.A.R labs and her sentence had included psychological testing on a regular basis, which meant that J’onn made a trip out there once a month to check that Lillian wasn’t up to anything ingeniously nefarious.

There was a little pause while Lena gathered herself. “Anyway, I told you all that because my brother’s long history of warring against Superman and then Supergirl does not exist here. There will be no mention of it in the information you retrieved, Zor. There would be no way for you to know this history if one of the few of us who remember it did not tell you.”

Zor hesitated. “Then clearly, you believe it is significant enough for us to know. Why?”

Lena tightened her lips. “Full and frank disclosure, I suppose. It was important to everyone else before. After my mother died when I was four, the Luthors took me in. I spent my formative years in that environment. I am not my brother but the fact that he was the man he was is integral to the person I am today. Opinions may differ as to how it is integral, however.”

“You do not display any signs of either xenophobia or megalomania,” Kara observed, her head tilted inquisitively.

“Neither did my brother, to most people,” Lena said darkly. “And I have power. Any summary of me would have revealed that.”

“I believe my daughter is correct,” Zor nodded approvingly at said daughter. “We have conversed for several hours in total. In all that time, you have not attempted to impress us with your power.  You seem relaxed with us.”

“Well, thank you,” Lena muttered.

Zor and Kara smiled aggressively at her.  Under the combined weight of that, Lena gave way and smiled wryly herself. “Anyway ... now that I know you were not aware there were Kryptonians on Earth until now, I venture to suggest that Supergirl would be gratified if you made yourselves known to her, and to Superman if he still exists - she will know. Even if you and Krypton are not the actual family and planet connected to them, in their place I would want very much to know you and to visit your Krypton.”

Zor and Kara looked at each other. Kara murmured, “If our Krypton were to have been destroyed, we would have utilized our portals, like the one we used to come here. Many more would have been saved.  So even in that event, my history and Kal’s would have been different from that of the Kara and Kal that live here now. We are different individuals.”

Yes,” Lena agreed. “It was impossible at first not to compare you with the Kara I know. But the set of your faces, your carriage and the way you speak are all so different that within a very few minutes I stopped making that comparison. It’s like meeting the twin of a friend who grew up separated from her sibling. You may look alike but there is no mistaking you.”

There was a short reflective pause.

“Perhaps you should discuss this further before you do anything,” Lena proposed. “And I should be grateful if you would inform me beforehand whatever you do. It’s just so that I shall be prepared. I imagine that if you do meet them you will have to explain why you came here in the first place. You can hardly avoid mentioning me. And I should also point out that I do not feel it is right for me to continue concealing your existence from Supergirl. If you intend to introduce yourselves soon as ... as some form of blood family, then I will hold off so as not to spoil what I hope will be a pleasing surprise, but it doesn’t feel right to keep this from her for long.”

“We will tell her. For now, we shall discuss how best to do so and you will know our decision before we act,” Zor nodded firmly. “You make fair points. You have also given me much to think about. I suppose that if our memories have been rewritten, some of our original population, maybe even whole colonies off world, could be missing but we would not know that.” He gave a quick smirk. “And now I have a possible answer to how your name came to be known to the Matrix on Krypton, which is more than those investigating the phenomenon have despite all their efforts.”

“Actually, I don’t know about that.” Lena steepled her hands and tapped her fingertips together as she thought. “The melding of many universes into one explains why there are two Karas and possibly two Kals. It does not explain how information about me is known to the Kryptonian Matrix.”

“It is a good start,” Zor said, “which is better than we had before. Now investigations may be more directed and productive. Maybe information was mixed up somehow in the melding. Given the complexity of even a single universe, it would be marvelous if such anomalies did not occur. If we investigated in greater detail we might find more such anomalies. Some may never be found because they have occurred in the vast reaches of the universe which contain no sentient life.”

Kara was staring at Lena. “So you and the Kara living here are friends? Are you already a pairing?” If her tone was a little defensive and accusing, Lena could understand why.

“No, we are not. If we were, I would already have told your father.” When Kara relaxed minutely, Lena went on, “We were friends. However shortly before the destruction and melding of universes, we had a serious quarrel. For almost a year we barely interacted in any way that was friendly. More recently we have ... reconciled enough to work together when necessary. But we are not by any means what we once were. I am greatly relieved that we are able to work together again but ... there has not been much occasion for socializing.”

She turned to face Kara more fully. “I am in no way confused between you. I do not regard you as a substitute for her. I do not believe that getting to know you better will illuminate something about her to me. I would not use you in such a way.”

Kara exhaled, her relief evident. “I apologise for suggesting that you would.”

“It was a natural reaction in the circumstances.” Lena waved it off.

“She understood your concerns without having to be explicitly told and she addressed them directly,” Zor told his daughter. “Did I not say she was most acute?” He looked smug.

Kara sighed at Lena. “You see how it is for me?”

Lena found herself able to chuckle now. It seemed be a truth universally (literally) acknowledged that being subjected to ‘I told you so’s by family members was extremely trying everywhere.

Zor stood. “I wish to discuss these matters with Alura. Kara, your contribution will be valued and necessary. However it need not be rendered immediately. If you and Lena wish to converse further, I shall take my leave first.”

Kara looked at Lena hopefully.

“Certainly I would be happy to talk more with Kara,” Lena said. “But wait a second, please, Zor. I bought a cake for you to bring home. Seeing as Alura was unable to come tonight, perhaps she would like a taste of Earth.”

“That is very kind,” Zor smiled.

 

///

 

Once her father had departed, Kara asked straight out. “What was your disagreement with my counterpart about?”

Lena looked down. The thought of having her past sins revealed was unpleasant. But Krypton had science and tech that could be of immense benefit to Earth. The responsible thing to do was to foster this connection with the Els and see if any of those benefits could be had. Even if nothing resulted between her and this Kara, there was no downside to them eventually parting as friends.  And hey, the way her life was going, having friendly relations with aliens who had a portal to a planet far, far away might be just what she needed at some point!  (The destruction of the DEO by Rama Khan included the destruction of the transmat portal there. In theory Lena could build another. In fact she still had Lex’s portal watch.  But Earth didn’t have some of the materials needed to build a whole new portal, and without safe coordinates, she couldn’t use the watch to portal all the way to Krypton.) 

In order to foster the connection, Lena couldn’t be shifty. The best way to convince the Els that she was on the up and up was to actually be on the up and up. They might despise her after hearing the story, but maybe they would give her a chance to prove she was now safely on the path of good again. Whereas if she now insisted on keeping the details of the rift between her and Kara Danvers/Supergirl hidden from the Els, it would be inconsistent with the behaviour of someone acceding to this Kara getting to know her better. It would definitely be suspicious. Besides, the Els were going to meet Supergirl. And Supergirl showed every disposition to confide in everyone other than Lena. These people were her family from another universe. What was the bet that at some point she would tell them anyway?

“I think,” she answered at last, “that it would come better from her. There is much to the story that is to my discredit. I don’t wish you to think of me as having a tendency to downplay my wrongs. Also there is much that she knows which I do not. You may tell her that I consent to her telling you everything and I will confirm that consent to her directly if she asks. I will be available to provide clarification from my perspective and would be glad of the opportunity to do so. If you ask and she refuses to tell you, then I will.”

“Very well,” Kara agreed and then dismissed the subject until such time as she could address it productively. “Will you tell me what you enjoy doing when you are not working?”

“Well ... how about we tell each other about our favourite festivals and celebrations and describe them?” The troubling matter put aside for the moment, Lena’s eyes began to sparkle at the prospect of new knowledge.

 

///

 

Three days later, Zor came back to confirm her that his family did wish to approach Supergirl and Superman, if he existed, and to discuss the arrangements with Lena. This time, he brought his wife, Alura, as well as Kara.

It was a little strange to have these new acquaintances appear in her hallway with no warning except pre-arrangement, but since it was unwise for them to arrive anywhere else where they might be seen by chance, there was really no safer option. Lena contented herself with setting up motion detectors that would send an alarm to her phone; so far, they hadn’t detected anyone portalling through in her absence. 

Alura held herself with greater authority than her husband and daughter, but Lena had been told she was a ‘judicator’ which she took to be something along the lines of a lawyer or a judge, so it was not especially surprising. However in private, she seemed to unbend quickly and soon they were all conversing animatedly. Apparently Alura had been much impressed by the cake despite Kara having eaten much of it the moment she got home. Lena entertained herself with the frivolous notion that perhaps the way to win Kryptonians over was through their stomachs.

There was talk of bringing Lena to Krypton for a visit. That was a bigger undertaking than the Els coming to visit Lena discreetly and informally. For Krypton, Lena’s visit would be the planet’s first contact with a native of Earth – one who might even become resident on Krypton.  Yet Earth as a whole did not know that Krypton and its civilization still existed. Given that even the preliminary question of to whom Kryptonians should introduce themselves, who could speak for Earth, already admitted of no wholly satisfactory answer, Krypton’s foreign policy did not at this time include establishing formal relations of any kind with Earth.

Revealing the existence of Krypton to Earth publicly would entail explaining the destruction and melding of universes to the public on both planets. For now, the existence of Earth was still unknown to most Kryptonians because Matrix lists were private. But in order to use the portal, the Els had had to inform the proper authorities, which meant that Lena’s existence and the existence of Earth were now known to the Kryptonian Council but no one else. If Lena and Kara did decide to be bonded, then that would obviously become public knowledge on Krypton but the public could be told the absolute truth that there was still no clear answer as to why the Matrix had information on an alien in the first place. So far the Kryptonians who had been told about the destruction of the multiverse had not displayed any adverse effects. It was a good indication that the rest of the Kryptonians wouldn’t either but the Council just saw no point in taking the risk of telling the general population about a done deal that no one could do anything about. Only if it became known that their Kara Zor-El had a doppelganger on Earth would questions arise and the Els and the Council had already decided that if the Supers went to Krypton, they would be required to do so in disguise until more was known and different policy decisions might be made.

Meanwhile, nearly everyone on Earth thought that Krypton was gone and that Supergirl was the last remnant of its civilization. If they learned about the mere fact that Krypton existed, they would either have to be told the truth about the destruction of the multiverse or a lie that the planet had been saved after Supergirl had been sent away as a child. And that was a lie that would be insupportable if the Kara who lived on Krypton was seen on Earth and connected to Supergirl or Kara Danvers by their likeness to one another. Just because a few Kryptonians so far seemed unaffected by being told the truth didn’t mean humans would be. Lena, the Els and the Kryptonian Council had no idea whether that would activate memory centres in human brains and cause mental instability and chaos or if it would result in the kind of social or political unrest the Council feared might result if the Kryptonian public were told the truth.

For her part, Lena was not only afraid that Earth’s more gung-ho elements would needlessly initiate hostility between the two planets, but still had invasion as a concern at the back of her mind.  So far the Kryptonians did not appear to have the inclination for it, but the fact they would all have immense physical powers here must surely be attractive. Earth might lack the natural resources that Kryptonians wanted, but they could portal here, do heavy physical work easily and quickly and then portal the resulting construction back to Krypton.  They could come and take over Earth and live here, using the portals to obtain from elsewhere natural resources they needed that were absent from Earth.  Feeling herself to be in a position of fearsome responsibility, she wasn’t about to dismantle her countermeasures.

And so she was glad that Supergirl would now be apprised of the existence of Krypton because that meant that Alex Danvers and J’onn, at least, would share in the news. Supergirl might feel conflicted in the event of hostilities between the two civilizations, but Alex and J’onn could be counted on to be dead set against Krypton taking over Earth.

Zor assured her that the reluctance of Krypton to deal formally with Earth was nothing to do with Kryptonians being snobs about Earth’s level of advancement even though it could look that way. It was really about Krypton having enough to deal with as far as foreign relations went.

Kara filled in the blanks. “Like the Krypton in your original universe, our Krypton, too, was in grave danger. Unlike them, we diverted resources to deal with that seventy to eighty Earth years ago, and we were successful. However those resources had to be diverted from somewhere. It became noticeable to some other species and they began to wonder if it was a sign of weakness. They thought it an opportune time to put pressure on Krypton for concessions: in trade, in travel through our space, in the occupation of land and space, in inter-species relations. Usually people do not apply pressure unless they can do something about it when the pressure is resisted so the fact that they asked was an early warning to us. We re-directed the resources previously employed in saving Krypton back to defence and diplomacy so as to maintain peace. It is common knowledge; in fact I learned all this recent history as a standard part of our education syllabus.  Our diplomatic and security services give priority to the species who have the capacity to pose a real and present threat to us or to be effective allies, whereas Earth does not know of us, cannot get to us without our help and is not unified.”

But if Kryptonians had powers on Earth, Earth would be more defensible than Krypton if it became their home, Lena thought.

Kara was looking at her steadily. “You are worried,” she said softly.

“Surely it’s understandable,” Lena replied defensively. “You would all be so physically powerful here. It is a sensible concern. At the end of the day, this is my home and these are my people. I cannot but fear for them and feel responsible for them.”

Kara shook her head. “Physical powers are not everything. You have not taken account of the fact that we have much infrastructure, old and new, on Krypton. These include planetary defences and defensive facilities in space and on the ground. All of that infrastructure cannot simply be duplicated where gravitational, seismic and magnetic forces and natural resources are different. Earth does not have the internal volcanic forces that power our city domes, for example.”

Lena was still uneasy. As she understood it, the domes were used for defence and for life support and environmental control because much of Krypton in its natural state could not support Kryptonian civilization with its present population level and state of advancement. The use of seismic forces and geothermal energy for the domes stabilised the planet and enabled the civilization to survive and thrive. But they would not need city domes on most of Earth. They could eat the produce and drink the water. Taking over Earth as some sort of satrapy or worse, slave world, was feasible for them.

Alura noted that she was still troubled. “Lena, Earth cannot even be a colony for us.  A trading partner, yes, but not a colony. Rao is not here.”

“What?”

“Our sun. Our deity. Coming here distances us from him. Voluntarily moving here to live would imply we value the powers we would have here more than we value him. It would be disrespectful, no, disdainful of the gifts with which he has provided us on Krypton.  It would be sacrilegious. All our colonies are within sight of Rao. No Kryptonian would consider willingly living anywhere else unless moved involuntarily, as Supergirl was, or by absolute necessity.”

“What about Daxam?” Lena asked nervously.

Kara cocked her head. “There is a planet in our system we named Daxam. How do you know of it?”

“Daxamites tried to invade the Earth of my previous universe.”

“Our Daxam is a Kryptonian colony. It is not a separate civilization and is ruled by the Council as other colonies are.” Kara paused. “Lena, to the best of my knowledge, notwithstanding the advantages for us that you can see, Krypton does not wish to rule Earth. We are more insular than aggressive as a race. There was a short time, long before I was created, when Krypton was ruled by an aggressive leader. The result was that countless Kryptonians died. Our written history demonizes that period and a conquering mindset. At present we consider that we already have enough to deal with.

There is also the fact that Matrix named you on my list. That means that in evolutionary terms, humans are regarded by it as equal to Kryptonians, no matter the level of our respective technological advancements. Kryptonians do not revere the Matrix, of course. It is not sentient. But it was created to determined spousal matches, not slaves. It has been programmed to take account of many biological factors to advance the evolution of Kryptonians, to deal quickly and efficiently with a combination of factors more complex than a Kryptonian ever could. We know how it works, we just cannot physically duplicate its function with any speed or efficiency.  This means we give a great deal of weight to the results it provides. If it has factored even a single human’s contribution as necessary to the advancement of Kryptonian civilization, we cannot treat humans as if they were a lower order of being, even if the two of us do not end up together.”

Lena was a little comforted but not entirely convinced. The Els could not know the minds of everyone on Krypton. If the only thing holding the Kryptonians back was a religious concern ... well, there were always individual outliers, weren’t there? All it would take was one Kryptonian with a different interpretation of their religion or someone less fervent in their worship of Rao. That, and access to a portal ... and if there was one thing the past and business dealings had taught Lena, it was not to underestimate the power of individual greed and lust for dominion over others.

The feeling that she could not just keep the existence of Krypton and its portals to herself was growing. But voicing these concerns now would, she decided, be unproductive. It would create a negative atmosphere where now there was none.

Adroitly she changed the subject. They talked amicably of other things before making arrangements to meet Supergirl.

Zor and Alura left and Kara stayed again. Lena asked, “Is it offensive for me to ask how old you are?”

Kara shook her head as she did the mental conversion. ““I am the equivalent of about thirty Earth years old, just a little older than you and my Kal.”

So maybe it was time to address the elephant in the room.

“Kara, I find you very likeable and interesting. Also attractive ...” Kara blushed. “... and I am intrigued by everything about you and your culture. I would very much like to continue getting to know you and Krypton better. But I cannot guarantee the outcome, especially if being joined with you means that I would have to move to Krypton. Also, humans typically spend a lot of time with someone before we would even consider a long term commitment.  I don’t want to hold you back from choosing someone else on your list, someone who is more of a known quantity, who is from your own culture, with whom the chances of miscommunication and misunderstanding are far less.”

“You need not feel as if you are taking opportunities away from me,” Kara said calmly. “It is normal and acceptable for Kryptonians to socialize with all those named on their list before making a decision.  The others named on my list are strangers or mere acquaintances who I do not feel a great need to know better. If you had not been named, I would have tried to meet with them all as a matter of social obligation. I may still do that. But you have been named for me.  I will not hide from you that I am curious and fascinated because you are an alien and that was my chief motivation to meet you as soon as was practical. But now we have met and made a first impression on each other.  I find you appealing and interesting. It is my choice to devote the bulk of my attention to you in the first instance, knowing that we might not, in the end, decide to be bound. I intend to make an honest attempt to assess our compatibility, if that is agreeable to you.”

“By the time we definitively decide that we won’t be bound, you may have lost your chance with of the others named for you,” Lena fussed. “Aren’t you afraid of being alone in later life? Don’t you want children?”

“I will not be joined with someone I do not like enough,” Kara said mulishly. “If I remain single and wish to have a child of my get, then I may approach someone on my list. It would not matter if that person were paired with another because with our genesis chambers, intimacy is not required for reproduction. As the initiator I would be principal caregiver to the child that emerges. The other contributor of genetic material will discuss with me any involvement he or she may wish to have. I may also adopt a child whose caregivers have been lost. If I long for adult company, I may search out other adults in the same position. A permanent commitment to another person is no light thing. We are right to both be careful.”

“Be aware than I am slow to trust,” Lena warned. “It can happen that people have ulterior motives for pursuing relationships of any kind here. It can happen that they value the relationship for what it can do for them, rather than finding intrinsic value in the person concerned.”

Kara tilted her head. “Lena, it is normal for us to put a value on what a potential spouse can do for us. For some, it is exclusive of cherishing the person regardless but I believe differently. Perhaps at the end of the day what that person can do for us in material terms will be irrelevant because his or her company is all that is required to complete our happiness.”

She leaned forward. “Many, like me, regard the list the Matrix generates primarily as a list of potential donors of biological material for lawfully produced children. I see no point in establishing a family unit unless there is a bond between the founding pair that makes them happier together than apart. Such a bond must always be nurtured. It is never fully formed upon inception. But the Matrix picks out for us genetically optimal individuals with whom we can reasonably hope such a bond can be nurtured. So I believe you and I can foster such a connection. The question is whether we want to. The fact that so far we seem to like each other well enough is a good start, but it is only a start.”

Lena steepled her fingers. “So it is possible that you would want genetic material from me to make a child with you whether we end up together or not.”

“Maybe ...” Kara sounded hesitant. “It must be a viable mix or the Matrix never would have named you. But perhaps all that was relevant to its protocols was that we should meet and learn about each other’s civilizations. Maybe it is not important to Krypton’s future that we stay together for life or have children. But,” she looked more positive, “I am certainly happy that we have met!”

“So am I,” Lena assured her warmly.

They smiled at each other.

Clearly Kara had faith in the Matrix. Not having been brought up Kryptonian, Lena had no such faith. But now they had both given fair warning to each other. There could be little harm in going ahead and learning about each other’s cultures at least.

///