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Marcus Rowland
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The Return - 14/15
Mar 15th, 2010 at 8:23pm
 
Multiple crossover; DC Movieverse / NCIS / West Wing / Bones. See the first chapter for disclaimers etc.

The Return

by Marcus L. Rowland

XIV


Press Briefing Room, The White House, Washington, Tuesday 4.30 PM EST

“…and there’s a change in tomorrow’s appointments for the First Lady,” said Annabeth Schott, “the main speaker for her lunch for the American Literature Association has been changed; due to illness Jessica Fletcher can’t make it, but fortunately Supergirl was able to step in at short notice, and will be discussing a Kryptonian perspective on the American novel.”

Several hands rose. “Kevin first, then Janice.”

The Washington Post reporter asked “Is this the first time Supergirl has visited the White House?”

“Yes, it is. She’s previously had to cancel twice due to emergencies, we’re all hoping she’ll be able to make it tomorrow. Janice next, then David.”

The Daily Planet Washington correspondent asked “Will Supergirl be seeing the President tomorrow?”

“It’s unlikely; the President is preparing for next week’s summit. It’s possible he might be able to squeeze in a few minutes between appointments, he’s a big fan, but it isn’t scheduled. David, then Irene.”

“Has Supergirl indicated what costume she’ll be wearing tomorrow?” There was a ripple of laughter as the Vogue reporter finished his question.

“No, but emergencies permitting there should be a photo op afterwards. Irene, then Clive…”

The East Room, The White House, Wednesday 2.30 PM EST

“…One of the more unfortunate side effects of the cultural unification of Krypton was the gradual loss of many literary forms,” said Kara. “While fiction existed, and some of it was extremely good, the styles were as formulaic as… let’s say a Japanese Noh play. We had our great novelists, but the experimental forms you take for granted were virtually unknown; there was nothing equivalent to the work of Joyce, for example, and very little fantasy or science fiction, crime writing, and so forth. My home, Argo City, was famous as a centre of the arts, but even our best writers lacked many of the tools available to your authors. It’s one of the reasons why our scholars were fascinated by the television and radio dramas transmitted from Earth when the opening to our dimension was in range, and it’s fair to say that our arts benefited immensely from them.”

“I think we have time for one more question,” said Helen Santos. “Doctor Brennan?”

“Supergirl,” said Temperance Brennan, “you’re currently involved in the investigation of a real-life mystery, the death of Lex Luthor. I think that most of the crime writers here would love to know; are you planning to write about the case? And is any resolution in sight?”

“I think that I’m too close to it,” said Kara, “and there are still too many unanswered questions. I know that at least one of the detectives involved has written crime fiction and I’d imagine that eventually he’ll be doing something with the story once we solve the case, but I can’t really envisage writing anything myself. As I said, I was raised in a very different literary tradition, and I really doubt that I could do the story justice. Although having said that, it might be interesting to try writing it in one of the classic Kryptonian literary forms then translating it to English.”

As the lunch ended Helen Santos stood with Kara for the benefit of the photographers, and said “I think you’ve made the fashion magazines very happy today.”

Kara was wearing another Kryptonian costume, this time a long red open-fronted kaftan with voluminous sleeves, made of a woven material resembling linen, over a silky blue dress with a long skirt and red boots. Small replicas of the usual ‘S’ logo were embroidered in gold along the edge of the kaftan. “It’s the formal wear for a student of the House of El. It seemed appropriate.”

“You really ought to get that cousin of yours into a different outfit.”

“I’m working on it.”

“If you’d like to come this way,” said Donna Lyman, as the photo op ended, “I’ll show you to the roof exit Superman usually uses.”

Kara didn’t glance back as she left. Ten minutes later one of the cleaners servicing the room found her cell-phone on the floor and handed it in to the lost property office. She returned to collect it twenty minutes later.

The Royal Diner, Washington DC, Friday 6.30 PM

“Do you think Kara will find this place?” asked Abby.

“I think so,” said McGee. “She seems to have memorised the map of Washington. Where did you find out about it?”

“I met an FBI contact here a couple of times,” said Tony. “Guy called Booth.”

“FBI?” said Abby, in the tone of voice someone else might have used to say “rats?”

“Some of them are okay, if they can get the sticks out of their asses. Booth is better than most.”

Kara came into the diner, wearing a typical 'Supergirl pretending to be a normal girl' costume; an unseasonably bulky coat, head scarf, and dark glasses. She spotted them and joined them in one of the booths.

“Hi, I’m sorry I’m late, there was a forest fire in California. Kal-El and I managed to get it out, but there were casualties.” She sounded tired.

“Hope this place seems okay,” said Abby, “I think a reporter spotted you at the rib house last time, I don’t want to go back there for a while.”

“I’ve said it before; provided the food is all right for you it can be laced with cyanide and it won’t bother me.”

“Actually the food’s pretty good,” said Tony, “so let’s order.”

A few minutes later Tony looked up from his meal and murmured “Oh crud, it’s Booth.”

“Booth?” said Kara.

“FBI agent. He knows me. Don’t look around, he’ll spot you.”

Abby’s eyes lit up as she noticed the woman accompanying Booth. “Hey, that’s Temperance Brennan he’s with, from the Jeffersonian; she’s awesome, totally my idol.”

“Mine too,” said McGee, “Her last advance was more than I’ve earned from my whole writing career.”

“I met her briefly on Wednesday,” said Kara. “Why not invite them over?”

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” asked Tony. “Booth’s not that bad really.” At her nod he went over to Booth’s table.

“Hey, Booth.”

“DiNozzo, right?”

“That’s it,” said Tony, nodding to Brennan, “Tony DiNozzo, NCIS.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Brennan.

“I was wondering if you’d both like to join us,” said Tony. “A couple of my friends would be very interested in meeting you.”

“Do you mind?” said Booth, “We’re really just here for a quiet meal. It’s been a long day, and I’m pretty sure that Temperance doesn’t want to have to deal with fans and… holy crap, is that who I think it is?”

Tony glanced over his shoulder and saw, as he’d expected, that Kara had taken off her sunglasses and was smiling at Booth. She nodded and put the glasses back on.

“Yes. Apparently my friend Kara met you on Wednesday, Doctor Brennan. I think she was speaking at a lunch you attended.”

“Oh?” said Brennan, then “Oh!” as the penny dropped.

“Would you like to join us?”

*


“One thing I’ve never been clear on,” Brennan said an hour or so later, “do you change shape naturally to look human, or does it require some sort of surgery?”

“I’m sorry,” said Kara. “I don’t quite understand.”

“Well, there’s no way you really look like that. The odds of an alien race evolving to look so much like us are… well, astronomical.”

“Nevertheless we do,” said Kara. “The only surgery I’ve had was to remove the organs you call appendix and adenoids and correct my sight.”

“You naturally look like that?” said Abby. “I’d kill for those cheekbones. You really didn’t change anything else? Pretty yourself up a little?”

“Well, one very small thing.” Kara whispered to Abby for a moment, and she turned bright red. “But that’s more of a health issue than anything else.”

“That makes no sense at all,” said Brennan. “Why would an alien race evolve exactly the same anatomy for completely different conditions? Why would you have pentadactyl limbs, the same structure of bones in the skull, the same eye structure, or any of a thousand other things that could have evolved in as many different ways? Why does your windpipe cross your oesophagus? Why hair rather than feathers, or something completely different?”

“Jor-El selected Earth specifically because you looked like us; there are thousands of alien species that don’t.”

“That’s part of the answer, I suppose, but there’s still no logical reason why Kryptonians, or any other alien race, should be any more like us than we’re like… oh, snails or sequoia trees.”

“Keep it down a little,” said Booth, looking around the diner. “You’re attracting attention. I suppose there’s no chance of getting you to agree that God made things that way?”

“Forget it,” said Brennan. “I’m not buying that one at all.”

“And my religion supports the idea of evolution,” said Kara, “though of course there wasn’t much evidence of it left on Krypton.”

“Really?” said Abby, “How come?”

“The earliest Kryptonian civilisations, say a hundred thousand years ago, simply weren’t interested in preserving their past. Every new wave of technology obliterated more of the geological evidence, and the crystal age transformed pretty much everything that was left; the crystals grew down as well as up, until our world’s crust was replaced entirely. That’s what finally destroyed Krypton, of course, the reaction spun out of control and the core began to transform too. If Luthor had had his way he would have doomed Earth, probably much faster than Krypton.”

“And in all that time you never travelled in space?” asked McGee.

“We had space travel on and off over say the last fifty thousand years, and there were a few off-world colonies, but as far as I know they were all short-lived. Why?”

“Well, given that we’re so much alike, one obvious possibility is that Earth was colonised from Krypton.”

“That’s much too late,” said Brennan. “It’s well after Mitochondrial Eve.”

“So turn it the other way around,” said McGee, “maybe the evidence for human evolution on Krypton isn’t as good as Kara thinks, she said a lot of it was obliterated. If someone dumped some ancestral humans from Earth there a few hundred thousand years ago, how would you know?”

“It’d be amazing to run a full DNA sequence,” said Abby. “Just compare every molecule of the human and Kryptonian genome, see just how alike we really are.”

“That isn’t really something we can permit,” said Kara. “There have been attempts to clone Kal-El, so we try to avoid giving humans access to Kryptonian DNA samples.”

“Could you do it the other way?” asked Tony.

“How do you mean?” asked Booth.

“Well, Superman’s got that honking big computer at the North Pole; it has to be good for something besides making Kara pretty clothes and sneering at me, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t maintaining the ‘Naughty or Nice’ list for Santa. Can it analyze DNA?”

“I think so,” said Kara. “Yes, I’m sure it can.”

“Well, why don’t we go there and give it some samples and tell it to find out.”

“I’m not sure that Kal-El would be happy about that.”

“So ask him, see what he thinks.”

Kara got out her phone, talked in Kryptonese for a couple of minutes, then hung off and said “He says okay, but you can’t take any photos, or make any record of the Kryptonian DNA sequence. We’d have to go there, run the tests, and you would take away a summary of the analysis.”

“That’s not fair,” said Abby.

“His Fortress, his rules; and to be honest, I agree with the part about keeping our DNA secure.  If we’re as alike as you think some sort of hybrid clone might be possible. I’d hate to see someone build an army of super-soldiers based on our genes.”

“Okay,” said Brennan. “I guess that sounds fair. Can we at least take away some complete human DNA sequences? It would be useful to have more.”

“I guess we can agree to that,” said Kara. “When would you like to do it?”

“I’m free on Sunday,” said Tony. “So are Abby and McGeek, we’ve got to use up our leave or lose it.”

“Unless another case comes up Brennan and I are both off until Monday,” said Booth.

“Well,” said Kara. “I can do it, but you’ll need something to travel in; I can’t carry you all at once.”

“The pressure chamber we used for you?” asked Tony.

“That’s not really necessary,” said Kara, “something like a car would work reasonably well; I can carry it and use my other powers to keep you safe inside.” She seemed to listen for a moment, and said “Sorry, I really need to go. Abby, let me think about this, then I’ll call you back.”

*


“Are you sure this is wise?” asked Clark. “What about Jason?”

“I don’t see any harm in it,” said Kara, flying away from the handcuffed jewel thieves she’d just caught, “We’ll do it and show them just how different we are, then when Jason comes on the scene in ten years, or whatever, we explain it as Kryptonian genetic engineering, maybe say he was conceived in a test tube and reared in an artificial womb. Jor-El had to make you human to father him, so the incompatibility isn’t a lie. If we lay down the seeds of the idea right now it could save you a lot of problems down the line.”

“All right,” said Clark, “let’s give it a try, and hope it doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass.”

*


“What was that she whispered to you?” Temperance asked when she and Abby were alone in the ladies room.

“Umm,” said Abby. “Let me put it this way, she got rid of something most women want to lose sooner or later. Only most women aren’t invulnerable, so she had to do it before she left Argo City…”

“Oh… I guess that makes sense. Let’s just pretend I never asked.”

NCIS Headquarters, Washington Navy Yard, Sunday 8.30 AM EST

“What the hell is Supergirl carrying?” asked Gibbs, looking out of the window from the MCRT offices.

“It appears to be a Star Trek shuttle craft,” said Ziva.

Kara flew down towards the car park, carrying the heavy steel and fibreglass mock-up as though it weighed nothing. She landed it, and opened the rear doors.

“That’s not real,” said McGee. “Or if it is I’m having a very weird dream.”

“It’s from an amusement park simulator ride,” said Kara, “the owners were sued by Paramount and had to dismantle it. I’ve strengthened it and made it air-tight; you ought to be fine riding inside it if you buckle up. There’s a hamper of sandwiches and some drinks, but I wasn’t able to put in plumbing. This shouldn’t take more than half an hour anyway. I hope everybody remembered to leave their phones, radios, cameras and sat-navs at home?” There were nods of agreement.

“Okay, campers,” said Tony, “let’s boldly go where no man has gone before. Except me, of course,” he added smugly.

“And Corpsman Cook, Lois Lane, and Lex Luthor and his men, and all the other people who’ve been there,” said Abby, climbing aboard.

“Don’t forget General Zod and his friends,” said McGee, following her. “Oh, and ‘Shotgun!’” He moved to one of the pilot’s seats and took it before anyone else could object. Abby scrambled to grab the other, strapped in and started playing with the dummy controls.

“I’m beginning to feel a lot less privileged,” said Booth, jumping up, and reaching out to help Brennan in. “You coming, DiNozzo?”

Tony shrugged, climbed in, and pulled the doors closed. Kara checked that they were sealed properly, and that everyone was strapped in, then picked it up and began to fly it North.

“Okay,” said Gibbs, watching them accelerate smoothly into the distance “they’re on their way.”

Within seconds they were over the Atlantic, picking up speed, and the air in front of the capsule began to glow with the energy of her heat vision, used to blast air out of the way ahead of the capsule and prevent it from taking damage from shock waves.

“How long do we have to wait now?” Ziva asked once they were out of sight.

“As long as it takes,” said Gibbs, and sipped his coffee. “I’d say at least forty-five minutes to an hour, so be ready and downstairs in thirty.”

The Fortress of Solitude, 8.55 EST

“The John’s up on the gallery to the left,” said Tony, playing tour guide, “kitchen’s down here to the right. I brought a package of steaks and some fixings, so if this takes all morning we can break for lunch.” He walked into an invisible barrier and bounced.

“Give them access, please,” said Kara. “And speak English, please.”

“All three males and one female are carrying firearms.”

“That’s okay,” said Kara, for the first time sounding annoyed. “You know that they can’t harm me. Please give them access.”

“As you wish.”

Tony reached forward, felt nothing stopping him, and went into the kitchen, left the food in the refrigerator, and started the percolator. He noticed that the milk was stale again and absently wondered if Kara ever actually ate when she wasn’t with the NCIS team. Fortunately he’d remembered to bring a carton of cream.

“What we want to do,” said Kara, “is run some comparisons between Kryptonian and Earth DNA, to establish if we could have ever had common ancestors.”

“They are very different,” said Jor-El, “I have already made such a comparison for Kal-El.”

“Humour us,” said Kara. “For all you know his DNA or the human you checked him against was abnormal in some respect.”

“You know that I have been forbidden to release samples or detailed analysis of Kryptonian DNA.”

“It’s sufficient to show us the comparison.”

“I’ve brought some sterile swabs,” said Abby, “will cheek cell and saliva samples be sufficient?”

“Entirely,” said Jor-El. A square column of clear crystal resembling an obelisk rose from the floor; when it was about four feet high a hole appeared in one side. “Insert the samples into the hole, one sample at a time, starting with Kara Zor-El.”

Kara took one of the swabs, removed it from its wrapper and swabbed the inside of her cheek, and placed the end inside the hole. After a few seconds it vanished. “Next,” said Jor-El. He repeated the process until everyone had donated a sample.

“What happens now?” asked Booth.

“Now we wait,” said Kara. “It ought to be a lot faster than your usual methods, but even Kryptonian technology will take a few minutes.”

“So let’s go get coffee,” said Tony.

*


“I have completed my analysis,” Jor-El said about twenty minutes later. “While it is possible that human and Kryptonians share a common ancestor, it would be an extremely remote one.” A hologram of a DNA sequencing grid appeared over the kitchen table, labelled as ‘Kara Zor-El’. Another labelled ‘Booth’ appeared. “This was the best match I found. When superimposed the image will be white when the sequence is similar, dark where they are different.” The two grids were laid on top of one another. About nine tenths of the screen was white.

“That looks pretty close,” said Booth. Brennan and Abby shook their heads in disagreement.

“By comparison,” said Jor-El, “if I were to overlay human and chimpanzee DNA more than ninety-eight percent of the sequence would match.”

“Oh. That’s not good.”

“Humans and Kryptonians are less alike than humans and dogs,” said Kal-El. “I am surprised by the level of similarity. The superficial anatomical resemblance is probably a coincidence, an artefact of convergent evolution; if there was ever a remote ancestor it was many millions of years ago.”

“Interesting theory,” said Kara. “There’s only one thing wrong with it.” She moved out into the main chamber of the fortress. “Those weren’t my cheek cells; they belong to a human woman called Ziva David. Abby took the sample from her shortly before we left Washington. I switched the swabs before I put it into your sensor.”

“I have my instructions,” said Jor-El, “you know that humans cannot be trusted with Kryptonian genetic sequences.”

“I know,” said Kara, “that you just disobeyed a direct instruction. I know that you have repeatedly lied about the degree of difference between the human and Kryptonian genome, not just to me but to Kal-El.”

“And I’m reasonably sure,” she added, “that you are directly responsible for the death of Lex Luthor.”

“Let me make this clear… you are NOT Jor-El, you are a simulation. You are not the head of the House of El; that is Kal-El’s burden. Kal-El has promised me, and these humans, that he has never instructed you to go beyond the truth or break human or Kryptonian laws in defence of the House of El. It is apparent that you have done so.”

“I am the representative of the House of El in this place, in the absence of Kal-El. It is your duty to obey me. You are hereby instructed to go to standby mode and power down all systems other than life support pending his arrival.”

There was a long silence. Then the chamber was abruptly bathed in red light, and Jor-El said “No.”

To Be Concluded

Note: And now I can finally acknowledge an important source!

Given that all Superman movieverse fanfic draws on the same relatively small body of work it will be no surprise that some ideas that have previously been used in other stories have found their way into this one.

In particular the secure Kryptonian communications links mentioned at several points derive from Mr. Beeto’s (You need to Login or Register to view media files and links) one of the first really long Superman Returns stories I read. This story also gave me my villain, in a throwaway line about “HAL running things at the Fortress;” that was meant as a joke, this story takes it literally.
  

Marcus L. Rowland&&Forgotten Futures: The Scientific Romance Role Playing Game
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Marcus Rowland
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Location: London, United Kingdom
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Re: The Return - 14/15
Reply #1 - Mar 19th, 2017 at 8:26pm
 
There's a small error in this chapter - When Linda is talking to the Jor-El AI about DNA, at one point I call it Kal-El, not Jor-El. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be possible to edit it after so long.
  

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