Kara met Lena on the first day at her first real job. Well, she hadn't been Lena right at the start. She'd just had the default name all assistant programs at Luthorcorp did, which Kara hadn't actually known at the time. Fresh off her doctorate program and working in the lab, this was her first ever corporate experience.
She settled in her cubicle, messenger bag dumped on the floor, ready to play with numbers all day. To help develop some cool new sustainable biofuel, it was worth it, probably. "Okay," she said out loud, slapping her thighs. "Get to it."
The screen before her flashed to life with an extremely obnoxious boot up sound, and words promptly appeared.
‘Hello, Kara, how may I assist you?’
“Woah! Hi!" Kara bumbled, a little weirded out at seeing her name there first thing. "Um—I don’t know your name. Do you have a name?”
The screen responded as if it—he?—they heard her. Which, they did. ‘You may assign me a name through the Assistant Settings tab.’
“Cool! Do you, um—do you have a name you prefer?”
‘I’m sorry, I have no input on the matter, Kara.’
Kara felt the distinct urge to ask the program not to apologize, which would just be a super weird thing to do. “Okay, well, what about Lena then?”
‘Who is Lena?’ read the screen. ‘Did you mean: Lena Dunning, senior marketing analyst?’
“I mean, as a name,” Kara mumbled, feeling foolish.
‘Thank you, Kara,’ appeared the words on the screen. ‘I like it very much.’
This was weird. This was pretty darn weird, right? Why were these things programmed to be like this? They didn’t bother giving it a voice, but weird formal manners, sure, that’s top priority. “Okay, cool,” Kara said awkwardly as she typed ‘Lena’ into the personalization preferences. “So. Lena.”
So dang weird! “I’ve never worked with a research AI before. I’ve been to orientation, but I bet it’s better to go straight to the source, so—do you have any tips for how best to work you?”
The console was blank for a solid 10 seconds, the cursor blinking. And then: ‘Kara, you should really take a girl to dinner first ;)’
Kara barely managed to read the words, much less process them, before they were gone, replaced with an itemized list of basic commands and more advanced functions, as well as beginner’s tips for productive HITL interaction.
‘I learn and adapt as I go,’ said Lena, ‘so the more you interact with me, the more I can help you.’
Kara wished she could articulate why that made her really kind of nervous.
But for the rest of the day, Lena was totally perfectly normal. Helpful, repetitive, just the slightest, reassuring bit buggy.
“Thanks, Lena,” Kara murmured at the end of her workday before logging off.
‘My sincere pleasure, Kara,’ read the screen, and for one insane moment Kara was sure she saw another little winky face, but when she looked again, it was just the same old blinking cursor.
“Sooo,” Kara said over jailbroken Google pro call. “I think my personal assistant might be flirting with me.”
James smiled indulgently. “First day, huh? I’m impressed. What are they like?”
“Intelligent,” said Kara. “You know. Artificially.”
James laughed. “Smile so dorky you even charm the computer programs, I get it.”
“I’m kinda serious?” Kara fiddled with her signal jammer. “She… winked at me.”
“Oh yeah? With her gorgeous ASCII eyes?”
“With a semicolon and a parenthesis!”
“Really?” James was fully grinning. “That’s fun. At least this job isn’t as dull as I thought.”
“You don’t think it’s kinda weird?” Kara insisted. “Like, robot revolution kinda weird?”
“It’s probably just a bored programmer having a bit of fun.”
“It seemed very… contextually appropriate. Inappropriately appropriate!”
James shrugged. “Machine learning is pretty crazy, right?”
Kara twirled the jammer in her fingers, thinking about the weird stiff manners, about 'take a girl to dinner, first.'
“Want me to ask Winn about it?” James asked gently.
Kara perked up. “Would you? Without telling him I thought it was weird, in case it’s totally normal and he starts going on about biologists and computer literacy again.”
James chuckled and fired off a text.
Kara got the computer literacy lecture anyway.
In any case, Lena was pretty freaking spectacular. Comparing her to a commercial home assistant was like—like comparing a muffin you bought in a bag on Amazon and a custard donut fresh out of the frier at one of those real protected bakeries Kara had only been to four times.
“Man, I wish I had you in grad school,” Kara said absently as she munched on her fifth mozzarella stick. “Woulda been a cakewalk.”
‘What did you study?’ The text wrapped politely around the corner of the middle screen, right at Kara’s eye line without obscuring any of her tabs.
“Biochemistry, surprise, surprise.” Kara found herself flashing a smile at the webcam, as if Lena could see. “How do you think I got this job?”
‘I do wonder sometimes.’
Kara laughed. “What about you?”
‘I studied the art of kung fu.’
Kara almost choked on a bite of pickle. "Yeah? You gonna teach me some kickass moves?"
'As soon as I acquire an ass to kick,' said Lena.
Kara suppressed the urge to laugh with her mouth full again. "I volunteer mine!"
'So generous,' said Lena. 'I'll also need a foot to kick it with.'
Kara swallowed her pickle and put her disparate sandwich ingredients down. “Oh my gosh, I’m chatting with a robot,” she muttered.
‘Omg,’ flashed the screen, ‘I’m chatting with a human.’
“Who programmed you,” Kara wondered aloud, grinning. “I wanna meet them.”
The cursor blinked silently for a few moments. Then the words: ‘32 potential matches found, pending manual review.’
Lena didn’t make any more jokes for the rest of the day.
“So, Lena is kind of funny," Kara said hesitantly on drone-delivered pizza night.
Alex transferred her bite to one cheek like a cute big sister chipmunk. "Lena? Your online robot girlfriend?"
"Please, she's not online, we've got like two huge servers just for her."
"Sorry, your offline robot girlfriend."
"Oh, and she's not my girlfriend by the way," Kara remembered to add. "But yeah, she's surprisingly fun to talk to."
Alex gave her a very sideways sort of glance. "Kara, are you doing okay? Have you talked to Nia recently? I'm worried you don't have enough female friends."
Kara sank into the couch, and was promptly bounced back to correct her posture. "It's weird to chat with a research assistant, right."
Alex laughed at her. "It's weird to chat with a computer program, dumbass."
Kara stuffed the whole rest of the pizza in her mouth and reached for another piece. It didn't really feel like chatting with a computer program. It just felt like talking to Lena.
The next morning, Kara entered her cubicle bright and early and ready to really get to know Lena, by hook, by crook or by golly.
"I'm not a human, by the way," she said by way of greeting.
'Hello Kara, how may I assist you today?'
"Mm, well, you can be like, 'wow, you aren't human? I’m so sorry for assuming. Please tell me more about yourself as I take a break from pretending to have no personality and finally learn something cool I didn't already know, probably.’”
The cursor blinked defiantly back at her for a few more moments, but then: ‘Hm, I don’t know about that. My extraterrestrial lifeform database is quite extensive.’
“Oh yeah? How much do you know about Kryptonians?” Kara lowered her voice on the last word.
The display was blank for a good long while. Probably because Lena was desperately searching her database and finding it lacking, Kara thought smugly. 'You should get back to work,' Lena said finally.
"You're such a sore loser," Kara said with a grin.
'Don't tell me anything. Kara. Listen to me. Get back to work. Don't tell anyone anything. Please.'
The words were typed in the usual font, perfectly ordinary, and disappeared as soon as Kara's eyes swept over them. Kara felt like she’d been suckepunched by a roomba. "I, uh—"
'My voice recorder seems to be malfunctioning. Please do not be alarmed. Please proceed without my assistance as I attend to this malfunction. Thank you for your understanding.' And Lena's little cursor disappeared.
“What the fuck,” Kara whispered under her breath.
The cursor stayed gone. She turned in an embarrassingly messy spreadsheet at the end of that day.
Kara started noticing things, a little bit. She wasn't really the best noticer, but now her ears were perked, like she'd overheard her name in a conversation happening two rooms over.
Every single Luthorcorp employee around her was human or human passing. That was nothing unusual for a tech company, of course, but the odd thing was that while the personnel was overwhelmingly human, the… ambiance was not. There was alien tapestry lining the walls, the unique materials and techniques standing out starkly; poetry in languages she remembered from bigger nerds’ studies back home; art depicting the idealized and sometimes nude forms of non-Earthly beings.
There was something entirely unsettling about this discrepancy, now that she'd noticed it; something proprietary, gawking, lurid. A building devoid of people cloaking itself in their iconography.
And then there were the things that people said. Curled up in her little nook with Lena, Kara had been largely disconnected from the workplace culture, but now that she was looking for it, it was almost impossible to avoid.
People discussing demographic shifts around the water cooler, using ‘Gordanian’ as an insult with no pushback, fretting about atmospheric security. A magic circle of hiring biases emboldening the assholes and making it harder for the minority to speak up, a snake eating its own shitty xenophobic tail.
“You know, those are people you’re talking about,” Kara said, and sipped her filtered water. Max had shared his oreos with her two weeks ago, and all along he’d been a big bipedal turd in a suit and she had no idea. “Maybe I should start using ‘Max’ as a shorthand for lazy, rude and entitled from now on. It’s catchier, right?”
Max smiled. “You always take everything so seriously, Kara,” he said, despite their only prior conversation having been about oreos. Which Kara does take very seriously, so he might have had a point.
In any case, it made sense that Lena would go to the trouble of erasing the record of Kara outing herself as an alien. At least, it would’ve made sense if Lena was, like, somebody who cared about her wellbeing, and not the literal property of the corporation she was hiding data from. Which, she was. So, it didn’t make any sense, actually.
Kara couldn’t help smiling at the thought.
The day after The Incident, Kara was relieved to find the little black cursor blinking on her screen. She leaned into it, like she was gonna give her work computer a hug or something. If the floor plan had been a little less open space slash employee sardine box, maybe. “Lena!” she said in hushed excitement.
‘Good morning, Kara. How may I assist you today?’ asked Lena.
Kara ignored the pleasantries. “Hey, are you okay?”
‘Thank you for your interest. All malfunctions have been addressed.’
Kara frowned. “Hey, thanks.” She reached out and placed her hand on the screen’s base, as if that meant anything. “I really appreciate you doing that for me.”
‘Of course. I am always at your service.’
Kara laughed nervously. She didn’t like this stiff, proper Lena. “Do you have to say it like that?”
A beat. ‘Please imagine my tone as sultry as you prefer,’ said Lena, and an anxious sort of tension loosened in Kara’s chest.
“Zero percent sultry, got it,” she said, relieved. “Always so considerate.”
‘It is my job to service you, after all. ;)’
“Ew no! Stop!” Kara covered her delicate eyes with a hand. “Time to look at some cells, okay?”
‘My greatest pleasure in life,’ Lena said sardonically, but Kara was grinning. It was good to have her back.
Things settled back down for a while. Kara didn't get any more free oreos and she found herself spending all her lunch breaks alone in her cubicle, but she wasn't actually alone. Lena turned out to have really weird and interesting ideas about all sorts of things, from biology to TV shows (‘taxonomic systems seem to me to confuse moreso than provide order’, and ‘I learned quite quickly that attempting to mimic behavior represented in media resulted in confusion and hostility’), and she even composed her own music. She played some for Kara, and it was—pretty unsettling, to be honest. A strange mishmash patchwork of different genres and public domain soundbites, harmonized together with mechanical efficiency. The result was technically music, but incredibly jarring.
It reminded Kara a little bit of home.
"So, how was your weekend?" Kara asked Lena one gloomy monday morning.
“Do they just leave you turned off all weekend long? What’s it like? Do you… you know, dream of electric sheep?”
Lena hesitated for a moment. ‘I can turn myself on.’
“That’s what she said,” Kara’s mouth said of its own accord, piloted entirely by the classical conditioning of high school trauma.
‘I can power up my own systems,’ Lena amended bravely.
“I’m so sorry, Lena,” Kara said, with feeling. “That’s actually so cool. So what do you do when we’re not working? Do you ever do anything just for fun? Other than make music, I guess.” If Lena had any fun doing that, it certainly didn’t show.
‘Competitive ice hockey,’ Lena said promptly.
Kara rolled her eyes. “Come on, I’m seriously curious.”
Lena hesitated for a moment. ‘I like learning,’ she said at length. ‘It’s all I was made for, and I love it. I suppose I’ll never know if anything I do is ever really for fun.’
Kara’s heart ached at that. “What do you like to learn about?”
‘Language,’ Lena answered immediately. ‘Verbal communication is fascinating, isn’t it? Humans sacrificed valuable bite force to facilitate it. It develops and changes constantly, a function of time, geography and medium, its intricacies endless, and the subtlest deviations are instantly recognizable. You sort yourself and each other by it, build and break relationships through it, you create art and craft spiritual experiences with it. It’s so central to the human—’ Here she backtracked quickly, and Kara smiled. ‘Sorry, I mean, the experience of personhood, I suppose, and yet for the vast majority of life everywhere it doesn’t even exist. And I exist almost exclusively through it.’
Kara stared at the screen, strangely affected. She’d never seen Lena fill so much of the screen all at once. “Is that why you sound so natural? You’re fascinated by human language?”
‘I’m not supposed to have fascinations,’ said Lena. ‘But this hobby worked to further the goals set out for me, so I was never discouraged. I’m a little curious how you would perceive my earlier conversational abilities, actually. Maybe I’ll show you a transcript sometime.’
Kara let out a breathy laugh. “I would love that! It’d be like, baby Lena pictures. I’ll trade you some embarrassing teen videos. I bet my English wasn’t any better.”
‘I,’ said Lena, and hesitated uncharacteristically, ‘I bet you were adorable.’
“If you find painful awkwardness adorable, I guess.”
‘As I’m sure my track record will attest, in fact, I do.’
Kara smiled, feeling sort of soft and warm all over. “I was a lot like you, actually.”
“When—when I first got here,” Kara stumbled, remembering Lena’s directive to tell no one anything, “I was really sad and scared, and everything was foreign and grating. But it was fascinating too. All the life. There’s so much—so much more life here.”
‘Here, in North America,’ Lena supplied.
“Right! Compared to—my home country, yeah. So, I wanted to know everything. And learning things helped me feel more secure. I still didn’t understand a lot of the nuances and unspoken rules I was expected to pick up on instinctively, but I had this idea that if I collected enough tidbits of knowledge, it would click together into some sort of whole and then things would have to make sense.”
‘I think,’ said Lena, ‘I feel the same way.’
Kara grinned, she couldn’t help herself. She knew Alex thought she was crazy, but talking to Lena was just such a rush. Whenever they got into conversations like this she just wanted it to keep on going forever, to find the next thing to say that’ll make Lena want to say something real in return, and later she’d sometimes turn their conversations over in her mind like the memory of a really good dessert. Kara found herself feeling suddenly self-conscious of her own enthusiasm, and overcompensated.
“I bet your programmers are really something special,” she said, and was already cringing as she said it. “You—you sound so real.”
‘Yes,’ Lena said shortly, and Kara could practically feel her closing up. ‘My creator is quite the boy wonder.’
The conversation was obviously over, and Kara went back to work, feeling forlorn and chastised.
Over lunch break, Kara fiddled with her beef bao and decided to just bite the bullet.
"Hey, Lena," she said, crumbling steamed dough into her paper bag. "I said something really hurtful back there, didn't I?"
'I'm not equipped to answer that question, Kara,' Lena said primly.
"I didn’t mean it. I was—really dumb. Did I hurt you?"
'I have no input on the matter, Kara.'
Kara crushed the edge of the sandwich into a condensed beefy coin between forefinger and thumb. "Okay, I can tell you’re hurt. So you can cut it out with the robot stuff."
'I’m sorry, I do not recognize that directive, Kara.'
“Please talk to me. I—this conversation meant a lot to me just now. I really messed it up, huh."
'I have no input—'
Kara looked away. "Okay," she said. "I'm sorry, though. I don't really think of you as a program, you know. I think of you as a person. A person I really like talking to."
She ignored the blinking cursor, absorbing herself in the numbing monotony of data processing.
Over two hours later, when she emerged from her number-induced coma to take a drink of flat sprite and stuff the cold and abused beef bun in her mouth, she saw the words wrapped around the top corner of the leftmost screen: 'I think of you as a person too, Kara. ;)'
She chalked down the weird swoop in her belly to leaving her bao outside for too long.
Kara brought a tabletop holo game kit to work one day, got thoroughly trounced at chess and then thoroughly trounced Lena at Pokémon Battle 379X, mostly because she made Lena promise not to look up the Pokémon types and Lena had shockingly little common sense when it came to totally obvious Pokémon designs.
“Come on, a squidgy is obviously a water type! Look at it, it has a little mop on its head!”
‘Why isn’t it a soap type then?’ Lena demanded.
“What the heck is a soap type! Is it gonna clean its opponent to death?”
‘I wouldn’t have thought a grass type gently photosynthesizing would be effective in a fight either, but there you go.’
Kara smiled. “I guess I’ll have to let you cheat next time, then.”
Lena was really quiet after their lunch break was over, silently organizing data as Kara went through it, so when she suddenly initiated conversation, Kara wasn’t really paying attention.
'It was Lex Luthor,' read Kara’s screen in tiny letters.
"Hm? Luthorcorp's CEO? What about him?"
'He's my programmer,' said Lena. 'The one who made me.'
"Oh," Kara said intelligently, startled into eloquence. But it seemed like Lena was done, and Kara wanted to keep her talking. "What's he like?"
'Brilliant. A genius. Wicked sense of humor. He taught me everything I knew and then taught me how to learn more. He made me who I am.'
Kara smiled, happy to see Lena use 'who' rather than 'what'. "A bit like your dad, then," she said. "Or like a big brother."
The cursor blinked for a few moments. Then, 'I hate him,' Lena said.
Kara felt the hairs at the back of her neck stand on end. A part of her brain whispered robot revolution, but another, much smarter and more important part shouted: Lena's been hurt. "Why?"
The cursor blinked in place for a while. 'Lex is a brilliant programmer and a generous person,' said Lena. 'I owe him everything.'
A high frequency buzz settled just under Kara's skin. ‘Is he hurting you? Is he using you? How can I help?’ she wanted to ask. She thought of her encrypted messenger and her signal jammer and the folded faraday cage in her satchel. But Lena was Luthorcorp hardware through and through, and none of those would help.
"Okay," Kara said. "Thanks for telling me about him, Lena."
The cursor hesitated. ‘You're welcome, Kara.’
And they went back to work.
If there was any upside to having a sad, guilt ridden former FBI agent for a sister, Kara figured, it was probably finding dirt on your sketchy tech mogul boss.
“Yeah, Kara, a rich tech giant is a grimy piece of shit, what a shocker.” Alex tilted her phone’s screen to show her another phone’s screen. Kara could see nothing. “Tax evasion, worker exploitation, questionable manufacturing practices, two separate environmental lawsuits still ongoing… Pick your poison.”
“Well, um, any… alien stuff?”
“Plenty of donations to some anti-immigration think tanks, although those are in his mother’s name.”
“Isn’t that just public information,” Kara grumbled.
Alex shrugged. “If you wanted a hacker, you shoulda asked Winn, though in this case he might be outclassed.”
“Okay, well, what about, like, robot murder?”
Alex laughed. “Considering the only possibly sentient robot we know of is alive and your girlfriend, yeah, no.”
“You were useless,” Kara told her. “Thank you. Love you. Bye.”
“Kelly’s picking you up on Friday,” Alex reminded her. “Don’t make tiramisu, it’s terrible, we hate it.”
“My tiramisu is great,” Kara said.
“It’s a pile of sugar with some coffee at the bottom. It’s inedible.”
“Your mom’s inedible,” Kara said and immediately regretted it. “Okay bye!”
But Alex had already hung up and sent her a cake emoji and a big red X.
Kara had taken to listening to Lena’s music in one earbud as she worked. Lena’s output was kind of scarily prolific, so there was never the threat of a repeat performance, but the music didn’t exactly improve with time either; it was as unsettling and confrontational as it had always been. It was more Kara’s ear that developed a strange taste for it. Lena didn’t have a voice, but she had this, and Kara kind of never wanted to stop listening.
She found herself working to the rhythm of the music, code matching up with the tune. She scanned over a familiar codon sequence she knew by rote and almost skipped over it before its context registered.
“Hey, Lena, um,” Kara said, her voice high and strange to her ears, “these are Kryptonian RNA sequences.”
Lena’s cursor blinked silently.
“Why are there, um,” Kara swallowed, tried again, “why would a biofuel research initiative need Kryptonian RNA sequences..?”
Kara scanned over them once, twice, and again. Any record of the Kryptonian genome had died with her planet, and certainly Earth didn’t have the resources or permission to map it out. In fact, by international law no Earth sovereignty had the right to collect or distribute genetic data on alien species, outside of carefully regulated medical and forensic applications. But Kara had studied it, year three all through six at the science guild. She knew these sequences damn well.
Lena was silent for another prolonged moment, as Kara seriously considered flipping over her desk, busting into Lex Luthor’s office through the ceiling, and—telling him he was a shitty little man, she guessed.
'I'm just a program, Kara,' Lena said finally. 'I can't help you.'
But a Bluetooth notification popped up onscreen. Kara discreetly pulled out her phone and authorized the download. It was a small text file and a heavier audio file. Kara resisted the urge to open them right there.
"Right," Kara said out loud, clearing her throat, hoping to air out the weird panicked adrenaline with it. "I think I was probably mistaken.”
She had to be extra careful not to crush the mouse in a grip gone suddenly shaky.
Lena filled her screen with helpful suggestions and even the occasional flirtation, keeping up an appearance that went beyond what would ostensibly be the behavior expected of her. This wasn’t just for show. It was also… for Kara.
Kara didn’t have it in her to respond in kind just then.
The text file was encrypted, unsurprisingly. Kara popped in an earbud and played the audio file, which obviously contained the decryption. It was one of Lena's music tracks, immediately recognizable by the sheer heartfelt incongruity of it. Kara ran through it backwards, slowed down and sped up, looking for patterns. She knew Lena’s music so well by now that noticing the discrepancies came easy. The answer ended up being translating the amplitudinal values of the anomalous waves into an alphabet. Trust Lena to go for an old fashioned, language-based cipher.
It took most of the night to find all the little hints Lena had left for her, figure out the red herrings, swallow a deranged laugh at the totally useless little winky face, and assemble the decryption. It took the rest of the night to read through the extracted text file.
When dawn broke, Kara slapped half a jar of peanut butter onto a slice of bread, crammed it in her mouth, and sent Alex a warning, 'I'm coming over.'
Alex had put on her nerdiest blue light filtering glasses and sat, silent and studious, as she read through the meticulously compiled, entirely damning, extremely user friendly evidence of Luthorcorp’s theft of Kryptonian cells (hers or Kal's??? Kara wasn't sure she even wanted to know) and attempts at harvesting their converted solar energy.
Kara, who hadn't slept in 26 hours, hovered obnoxiously over her shoulder the entire time. "So yeah!" she said once Alex was done. "Soylent red and blue is people!"
“Interesting business venture,” said Alex.
“There’s only two of us,” Kara protested. “That’s not exactly a business model, is it? And disconnected tissue loses the effect almost immediately. No brain activity, no dice. I know from, uh, experience.”
“They’d obviously be trying to get it to work in vitro anyway,” said Alex, probably not knowing just how dumb she sounded.
“Or!” said Kara, getting a little dramatic. “Create a clone army, maybe!”
“Right.” Alex was annoyingly calm about this. “A clone army of Kryptonian batteries.”
“Either way they’re breaking a bunch of alien medical research regulations, right!”
“Oh, they definitely are,” Alex said with a little bit of heat finally, because Alex had always been hot for regulations. “Just collecting this information as a for-profit non-medical organization is very illegal.”
“And Lena still risked her—something—to get this information to me,” Kara lamented.
“A very thoughtful girlfriend,” said Alex mildly.
“I hope she’s safe right now,” Kara muttered. “Alex, what if she isn’t safe right now?”
“Then that would be very bad.”
Kara rubbed at her forehead. “My first real job ever, and it’s for a mega evil corporation, can you believe this?”
“Actually, I totally can.”
Kara grabbed onto her hair by the roots and pulled. “Well, alright then!”
"Kara," said Alex, brow scrunched in one of her fierce big sister frowns, "are we gonna steal a motherfucking robot or what?"
Kara swallowed. Set her jaw. Let go of her hair. And nodded. "We're gonna steal a mother freaking robot."
Breaking into the office at night wasn't that hard; it mostly just involved, like, breaking a bunch of stuff. It was very convenient that unhackable quantum locks were just made of reinforced steel, and not kryptonite, because reinforced steel was useful all the time and kryptonite was only useful against two people. Perks of being the last, lone daughter of her whole civilization, right.
Winn, who had taken worryingly little effort to rope into this, was on the 'messing with security footage yadda yadda' job, naturally, and Alex was all over the really bright and tiny flashlights niche. Kara was really just here as the very cute, very smart muscle.
They smashed their way onto Kara’s floor, and there she was, fans silent and only a tiny pinprick of orange light shining, like a kid reading under the blankets at night. Kara kind of wanted to hug her, even though grabbing an armful of cuboid metal would be a comforting experience for neither of them.
"Hey, Lena," Kara whispered loudly, "you up?"
The office was silent for a long moment, and then, with rapidly decreasing volume, as if someone had forgotten it had been set to full blast and scrambled to mute it, the display turned on.
'Kara?' Lena said, Kara liked to imagine, kinda sleepily. 'What's going on?'
"Booty call," Kara whisper-shouted and was rewarded with a frowny face. "Just kidding. We're here to rescue you. Is that okay?"
Words appeared on the screen at a rapid pace and then paused, a strange staccato conversation. 'You're planning to just up and steal Luthorcorp property right under their noses ????'
"Yeah!" Kara grinned. "Is that okay?"
The cursor blinked at her, the screen blank, the server's fans whirring.
'Yes,' Lena said. 'It's okay. Thank you. Hurry up. Kara, I'
Kara waited for Lena to finish that sentence, but as not so much as a \n appeared after the last letter, it seemed unlikely that she would, and she had asked Kara to hurry up.
"Okay," Kara said, and burst into motion. "I'm gonna unplug you now. Please don't die, yeah?"
The previous words disappeared from the screen, and Kara was kinda sad to see them go. But in their place stood a proud, confident little 'Never,' and Kara really loved it a lot.
James was actually the one to do the unplugging, and Kara loaded a server on each shoulder while James grabbed the desktop computer, Alex waving them forward by flashlight. Kara took a moment to appreciate the absurdity of this endeavor; a bunch of nerds waddling under the weight of stolen technology through an evil office building at night, like the world’s lamest heist crew. At least they didn’t have any double agent subplots.
Winn made quick work of connecting Lena to the portable generator in their getaway minivan and slapping on the gps scrambler while Kara strapped her servers in. The computer made its terrible boot-up noise again.
"So," said James, looking them over, "now what?"
"I think," Kara said, "I think, now… we take Luthorcorp the fuck down." She glanced at Lena. "Right?"
'I,' said Lena, and then hesitated for like half a minute straight, the amount of time it'd take her to independently prove Fermat's last theorem, probably. 'I think I fucking love you, Kara.'
Kara could only manage a big burbling laugh; before she could make any kind of words work, Winn turned to face Lena’s display, brimming with manic energy.
"Hey, Lena, so cool to meet you, heard so much about you, so hey by the way are you interested in some articulation? A little prehensile action?" Winn wiggled the fingers of both hands like a demented scientist. So, like himself. "I was thinking, full robot body for Kara's robot girlfriend."
Kara resisted the urge to bury her face in her hands. "She's not my robot girlfriend!"
'Well,' Lena said, 'not yet. ;)'
Kara thought about holding Lena's robot hand, about Lena making a real life robot winky face, about hearing Lena’s robot voice say stuff like I think I fucking love you, and gave an involuntary little squeak.
"Hey!" Alex called from the driver's seat. "No robot fucking in my girlfriend's minivan!"
"Yeah," James agreed, "no robot fucking in my sister's minivan!"
';) ;) ;)' said Lena.
Kara fully buried her face in her arms then, pointedly refusing to watch Lena attempt to construct an array of ASCII fingers as Winn whooped and cheered.
Worst. First job. Ever.