Little Krypton — Episode One
Written by shadar :: [Saturday, 09 November 2019 19:46] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 09 November 2019 23:01]
I curled up next to Alura’s warmth in my parents’ mountain cabin, the two of us buried under a pile of down blankets. The fire in the wood stove had burned out and the snow had ended as the night sky cleared to allow the temperature to plunge far, far below zero. A beam of silver moonlight magically refracted from the ice crystals that now covered the inside of the windows to cast intricate patterns over our bed.
As usual, I couldn’t detect Alura’s shallow breathing as she lay face down in her pillow, her blonde hair spread wide, but the slow drumbeat of her heart was very pronounced. She’d fallen asleep the moment she hit the bed, which was shortly after we’d had this stupid argument that neither of us would back down on. She was embarrassed that she’d lost her temper and tossed my dad’s antique Kubota tractor a half mile up the side of the mountain — and then had to go and retrieve it before some hiker complained about machinery strewn about in a wilderness preserve.
As I saw it, it could have been worse. After all, she’d tossed it like an NFL quarterback throws a football — a quick one-handed toss while standing still. If she’d really put her back into it, Dad’s Kubota might be in orbit now. Which might have been better for me. The flattened remains of his ancient tractor were sitting outside in the cold, leaking oil and diesel fuel.
That was going to be the first thing Dad saw when he drove up the driveway, and he was already intimidated by Alura. The two of them had once had a polite argument about how tornadoes form, so in typical Alura style, she’d wrapped her arm around him and flown off into a thunderstorm so he could watch a tornado form with his own eyes. Problem is, Dad’s more of a Google kind of guy than an action guy. And between the cold rain and hail inside that storm, he’d gotten pretty beat up.
But she’d made her point and proven she was right, which was all-important to Alura.
She and I are living proof that opposites attract. I’m a regular guy who was fortunate to have been born with high athletic potential and a strong work ethic. I also understand emotions and can usually read people, thanks to having a high EQ.
In contrast, Alura has a very high IQ, but she’s also reactive. She gets tangled up in emotions and has trouble processing her feelings and she’s infamous for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. She pretends that this doesn’t bother her, but it does. She’s also naturally innovative and extremely outgoing and has complete trust in her instincts and abilities — very much like her father. Like him, integrity trumps sophistication and politics is always a bad word. She never pretends to be anything other than what she is — a straight-talking young woman whose father just happens to be Superman.
Which is incredibly amazing all on its own.
My challenges are more down-to-Earth than hers. I’ve spent my entire life as a competitive swimmer, and I need long practice and extreme concentration to perform my best. Steady and stable is what most sportswriters say about me. I don’t make mistakes. Others might have greater raw talent, but my four Olympic Golds and two Silvers spoke to my preparation and determination and focus.
We make a very odd couple in most people’s eyes, what with Alura’s fantastic abilities and her dynamic nature contrasting with my reserved focus and stable temperament and my ordinary humanness. But people will never understand the way we fit together like pieces of a puzzle, our strengths complementing each other’s weaknesses, but never directly competing. We are always better together than apart.
Two people so different, but in love and holding hands, ready to bravely enter the 22nd century. As I see it, between our combined talents, we’ve got both the past and the future covered.
And now she wants me to come home with her and meet her parents, who live on a huge ranch in northwestern Montana. She has often intrigued me with stories about the way their neighbors still live mid-20th century lifestyles — by choice. They’re ranchers like their parents and grandparents and greatgrandparents and more, all of them raising cattle for the ever increasing minority of North Americans who still ate meat. Reading about the 20th century and watching grainy old 2D videos from a hundred plus years ago wasn’t the same as talking face to face with someone who still lived there. There were some good stories out there waiting to be told, and I was looking forward to telling them.
Assuming I survived my first meeting with her parents, both of whom intimidated the hell out of me.
Snuggling even closer beneath the warm down, I ran my hand lightly down the flawless skin of her back, fingertips tracing the deep curves and clefts. Her warm skin was stretched tightly over dense muscles that were impenetrable, even now when she was sound asleep, all of which said she was still tense from our earlier argument.
Over the many years were I trained for and competed in the Olympics, I’d spent uncounted hours on a table being worked on by sports masseuses, so I know a fair bit about how work tight muscles to get them to relax. But none of that had prepared me for Alura. She always had to go through an extensive stretching program after exerting herself, otherwise she’d stiffen up to the point where her body felt like warm steel. A cramp in a Kryptonian-strong muscle is a very big deal.
I often try to work on her, starting with long, relaxing strokes, working from head to toe, but when she’s tight like this its useless. Only after she finishes her stretching does she soften enough to allow me to begin a deeper massage. Of course, that always takes us to places where my strength is put to better use. We’d happily discovered that sex was the absolute best way for a Kryptonian to loosen up and relax.
Laying spooned up to her now in the moonlight, I shifted some warm strands of silky hair to the side so I could trace my fingers lightly around the rim of her ear, hoping to wake her. Make-up sex was always great with Alura. But she wasn’t responding. Thanks to her invulnerability, which she has enjoyed from birth, she lacks all the instinctual fears that we humans learn to keep us safe. When she slept, few things could waken her.
As an experiment, I’d once borrowed the combat laser that my father had smuggled back from the Tuscan War, and shot it at her bared back while she was sleeping. Dad had claimed this tactical laser would shoot neat holes through several layers of light armor, yet firing it at Alura did little more than create a tiny glowing spot on her skin. It certainly didn't wake her. Given that nothing seemed to be happening, I kept firing, forgetting that the energy I was pouring into her body had to go somewhere. I was rudely reminded of that when whispers of smoke began rising from beneath her, and seconds later the bed sheets burst into flames.
Yet even then, engulfed in flames, her steady breathing remained unchanged. She’d just smiled softy to curl up tighter, snug and warm inside the dancing flames, her long hair spiraling upward toward the ceiling.
I’d raced around the cabin in a panic looking for the fire extinguishers. Burning down our beloved old family cabin would be a real tragedy. I found three of them and blasted the bed with them. I managed to knock the flames down enough to grab her foot and pull her off the now burning mattress, shouting into her ear as she hit the floor. Her eyes finally snapped open as she grabbed the laser from my hand to crush it into an unidentifiable blob before tossing it through the shattering glass of a window. Then she wrapped me in a huge bath towel and dove through that same window with me, drawing most of the choking smoke out behind us. Once safely outside, she dropped me on the snow-covered bench-swing in the back yard before flying naked back through the broken window to toss the burning mattress and bed linen out the front door before anything else caught fire.
Swinging back and forth in the sub-zero darkness, holding my bare feet above the freshly fallen snow while wearing only that towel, I was shivering violently as I watched Alura down by the road, telling a driver who’d stopped that everything was under control. She was a vision, standing knee-deep in the snow, her hand on the roof the car as she leaned down to talk to the driver, her hair mostly covering her in Lady Godiva fashion, her body outlined by the burning mattress. Standing 6’2, with long blonde hair that tapered to a point below her waist, her body was lithe and supple with musculature that was closer to her father than her mother. Her broad face had deeply dimpled cheeks and a generous mouth, not to mention large, sky-blue eyes and perfect teeth. She was a study in superhuman perfection, with firm, widely-space breasts sitting unusually high on her strong chest, and a sculpted waist that flowed into athletically-rounded hips and a very pert backside. Below that, her seemingly endless bare legs descended into snow that came up to her knees.
Talk about firing up the neighborhood gossip mill.
Everyone knew about the El family of course, but meeting a naked Kryptonian girl in the middle of the night, standing in deep snow and outlined by flames, that was definitely something special. And given all the cameras and sensors on auto-drive cars these days, her image had been captured a dozen ways in multiple spectrums. You didn’t have to look very far even now to find picts of that night floating around the Holonet.
That was the first time I’d gotten into trouble trying to find her limits, but not the last. Her insensitivity while sleeping was all the more puzzling given she’s normally more sensitive to my touch than a normal woman, and she enjoys making-out more than most women enjoy full-on sex. Which at the beginning was all we could do given she was so dangerously strong. People forget that the vagina is a very flexible yet muscular organ, and all of her muscles are Kryptonian strong.
It wasn't until she gave me this old ring her mother had made more than a century ago that my relative weakness was made more tolerable. The ring contained a tiny crystal of X-Kryptonite, which might as well be Unobtainium given it’s rarity — only a few grams have ever been created in a lab environment and trapped in this silver alloy — but this tiny crystal was enough to channel a portion of a her native power into me whenever we were together. That opened the door to what can only be called supersex. The kind that breaks beds and shakes buildings like an earthquake.
As with most wonderful things involving Kryptonians, there was always a downside, and that downside ruined my swimming career. A side-effect of the ring is that the more its used, the more a portion of her Kryptonian power would remain in me after our intimacy concluded. Not a bad thing in most regards — pretty amazing actually — but definitely an illegal performance enhancement when it came to competition. I could now bench many times my bodyweight, even when I’m far away from Alura. So to keep things fair, I resigned from the Olympic Team and from competitive swimming in general, supposedly to focus on my studies.
Which set me adrift. Swimming had been my core and my anchor before meeting Alura. Now she was the center of my world — that and my studies.
Now I was going to go home with her and meet her parents. To say that I was intimidated was putting it mildly. I’d grown up watching the two Kryptonians on News broadcasts nearly every day, dressed in their iconic red and blue outfits with capes and boots and all that jazz as they fought crime and saved the planet.
The media had called them Superman and Supergirl, and they surely were.
But not everyone put them on a pedestal.
Patrolman Arid Gungstrom had drawn the short straw tonight and was condemned to stand duty at the Berserker Club. He didn’t remember the actual name of the unmarked club. Everyone in Metropolis PD just called it the Berserker because of its clientele, all of whom were Super Soldiers who’d either been mustered out or who’d gotten addicted to Tri-S on the black market.
Tri-S massively increased testosterone at the same time as it tweaked the user’s DNA, creating men who were phenomenally muscular and superhumanly strong. When they shot up with Tri-S, they became lethally aggressive, inhumanly violent and mostly immune to the usual policing techniques. And if it came to it, they were very hard to kill, something a few cops had discovered after emptying their handguns into them without seeming effect. All of which, of course, had been the original goal when Tri-S was developed for the military.
To protect public safety, clubs like this one had been created in major cities to provide a safe place for addicts to inject Tri-S. Thick reinforced concrete walls and prison style entrance and exit systems with steel bars three times as thick as any jail cell and an automatic locking system that didn’t let anyone out who still had Tri-S in their bloodstream.
Inside this fortress, the SS could go as berserk as they wished, fighting each other or having sex (which Tri-S greatly enhanced), or often both at the same time. And because Tri-S only worked on men, no females were EVER allowed inside. No woman could survive the violently toxic testosterone rage of a Tri-S addict who was shooting up.
Well, almost none.
Patrolman Gungstrom’s job wasn’t to keep the berserkers in, but rather to keep everyone else out. Which normally wasn’t a problem given you’d have to be completely bat-shit crazy to want to go in there.
Which is why he stepped out of his armored patrol car when he saw the two girls approaching the building. They were young, very cute and dressed to party, with their blonde hair tied off into crude pigtails, one spray-painted red, the other blue. Their makeup was bright and exaggerated and messy.
The slightly older of the two girls was wearing a pair of hot pants that revealed most of her ass, fishnet stockings and a tie-dyed top that fit her like a second skin. Also what looked like combat boots. And strangest of all, she was chewing gum and blowing bubbles while carrying a large baseball bat.
The younger girl who walked arm in arm with her was something else. Ridiculously fit with blue eyes that sparkled even in the dim city light of midnight, she wore a very short red skirt that revealed the cutest legs he’d ever seen. She was barefoot despite the filthy pavement, and wore a very fashionable and expensive leather jacket that ended just as it flared up over her hips. Her blonde hair was almost white and much longer than the other girl, her red and blue pigtails hanging nearly to her slender waist. Between her tanned skin and high cheekbones and generous mouth, not to mention the dimples in her cheeks, she had the most beautiful face he’d ever seen.
Oddly though, her smile looked frozen as she clung to the older girl like they were lovers. Gungstrom shook his head. Why were the truly stunning girls all gay these days? It just wasn’t fair for young men like himself. He often wished he’d been born a century or two earlier, when a man and a woman fit together like two pieces of a puzzle, just as God had intended. And as Preacher Thomas often thundered from his pulpit on Sundays, it was all the fault of the Kryptonians and their alien god, Rao. They had ruined humanity, even as they claimed to be saving it.
If it was up to him, he’d let both these godless girls go inside and be raped to death. Or worse. It was rumored that berserkers ate their victims. But that wasn’t his choice to make. He had a duty and there were laws to uphold.
“Stop right there, young ladies. This area is off-limits, especially to females. Don’t you know a berserker club when you see it?”
“Oh, honey,” the older girl cooed, “we just wanna have fun. Can’t we go inside and play?”
“Are you fucking crazy?” Gungstrom growled back. “You know what an SS is? A berserker. That place is full of them.”
“But they’d be so much fun to play with,” the girl teased. “Just like you.”
She reached out to touch Gungstrom’s face. He slapped her hand away, but not before his breath caught in his throat and an icy numbness began expanding from where she’d touched him. It spread down his body and into his brain. He tried to reach for his Stunner, but he was no longer in control of his arms.
“A cute guy like you would surely want to give us today’s code,” she wispered sexily as she leaned closer. “Make it worth while for you. We could have some fun with you first.” She blew a huge bubble that popped in his face.
Gungstrom inhaled the fragrant breath that escaped the bubble, and suddenly smiled, his pupils dilating. “Of course. It’s 76842.”
The girl in the fishnet stockings smiled even brighter as she stepped back to push her younger friend closer to Gungstrom. “Nancy, why don’t you reward the nice policeman for being so kind.”
The long-haired blonde magically floated off the ground as she wrapped her arms and legs around Gungstrom to kiss him deeply, her tongue duelling with his as she held him tightly. Gungstrom’s eyes opened wide as the last functioning part of his brain registered that this girl REALLY knew how to kiss, only to have her embrace tighten until he could no longer breath. He struggled helplessly until spots filled his eyes and he passed out. The blonde in the red miniskirt lowered him to the ground, and then almost as if by reflex, puffed some air into his lungs and gave his chest a thump as she released him, getting him breathing again. She then turned around to embrace her older friend as the two of them continued the kiss.
They were seriously making out as they half walked and half floated toward the massive bars of the outer door cage. Once there, the older girl punched in the code, and the door buzzed and swung open to let them enter the first cage. Once the barred door had closed and locked behind them, she punched the code in again, and the second door opened. And finally, a third, which buzzed even louder as a massive section of concrete began to swing to the side. The pounding beat of deafening Decot music washed over them as they stepped through the inner doorway to find themselves in a huge room lit by flashing lights and filled with huge, hairy, massively muscular men who were gyrating around a dance floor, moving with a grace and power that would have impressed a ballerina.
They stepped around two men who were engaged in some enthusiastic fellatio on the floor, and the younger girl’s eyes narrowed, her smile fading for the first time. “Are you sure about this, Harley?”
“Oh, I’ve never been so sure of anything,” the girl named Harley chortled. “Come one, we’re bad guys, remember. Time to party.”
She unlimbered the big bat from her shoulder and swung it hard enough to have instantly killed a normal man, her swing connecting solidly with the head of the nearest man. That man shrugged it off to turn and grin fiercely at her. “Well, well, if it isn’t the Queen of the Berserkers, Harley Quinn herself. And who is this delicious creature you’ve brought for us today?”
Harley shrugged as she turned to deliver another massive blow with her bat, and then another, forcing two huge men to back off. “Her name is Nancy. You know, as in Nancy El.”
The man’s eyes opened wide. “You didn’t?!” he gasped. “You brought us an El? For real?”
Harley reached out to grab the collar of Nancy’s leather jacket, and tore it off with surprising strength to reveal a skintight blue tunic with a yellow “S” between her breasts. She tossed the shredded remains of her jacket into the crowd where the scent of a female drove the men wild. She then laughed as she danced to the side to head for the bar, swatting anyone in her path away with more mighty swings of her bat. Behind her, a wave of berserkers rushed at Nancy like a human tidal wave.
“Figured there was enough of you to have some fun with her,” she shouted over her shoulder. “But ya better hurry hurry before my potion wears off and she figures out where the fuck she is.”
The younger blonde, dazed and confused by the potion, disappeared under a wave of sweaty berserkers who weren’t sure if they wanted to tear her to shreds or fuck her to death or eat her from the inside out, and tried to do all at the same time.
There were at least thirty huge men fighting over her, trying to claim their prize, when the massive concrete doorway exploded inward. The flying bits of rock and twisted steel and dust covered the crazed men to reveal a girl who looked like an older version of Nancy. She was floating in mid-air, wearing an oversized red cape that billowed around her. Beneath that she wore a barely visible silver thong and a tiny silver sports bra. A red “S” adorned her left breast.
She plowed into the huge men, and with each sweep of her slender arm she tossed a half dozen men across the room. She continued to sweep them away by the half dozen until she found her sister, huddled in a ball on the floor, her skirt lifted, panties missing, her top pulled up to bare her breasts and covered in a slime she didn’t even want to think about. Scooping her up in her arms, the caped girl flew out the mangled front entrance with the younger girl hanging over her shoulder. On her way out, she twisted the massive steel bars like they were strands of licorice, bending them into an unpentrable maze of steel bars that would take workmen with diamond saws and torches hours to cut through. Behind her, the insane cackle of Harley’s laughter rose over the music.
She flew toward Patrolman Gungstrom, who was leaning heavily against his car, hugging his bruised ribs. “You Ok?” she asked him, her bare feet floating a meter off the ground.
“I’ll live. Which one… I mean, who are you, anyway?”
“Lara El. If my sister has caused you any permanent harm or if you require medical treatment, tell your superiors to contact Little Krypton. You will be cared for.”
And with that, Lara carried her sister Nancy up to disappear into the night sky.
University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
Two weeks passed after that night in my parent’s cabin. Weeks during which Alura somehow convinced a local tractor dealer to replace dad’s Kubota with a new one. Most men have a hard time saying no to Alura when she shows up in their office wearing her tiny white and blue flight uniform. Between all that flawlessly tanned skin and her lovely face, accented by those cute dimples and bright eyes, not to mention her long blonde hair, she melted hearts whenever she floated around in mid-air. Whenever she asked for a favor, expensive things were suddenly written off as “charitable donations”.
And true to form, it took less than an hour before the tractor dealer had a new Holo ad streaming which showed Alura El holding their recently donated Kubota tractor over her head while floating in front of the Fort Collins Tractor Company.
All of which pissed off my sister and a lot of other women, who felt Alura wasn’t playing fair. I’ve often ragged Alura about it, but she just shrugged. She said she simply gave people the opportunity for a little publicity. And if they didn’t want it, then their competitor down the street probably did.
I found myself wondering what Lois Lane would have done if Superman had done things that way. Would she have exposed it with an article in the Daily Planet, or would she put her personal relationship above her professional one and say nothing? So far I’d done nothing except tease her about it.
I shook those thoughts away as I lugged my huge bag down the stairs to Tesla MagLev and stuffed it into the trunk. I wasn’t happy about having to drive from eastern Colorado over the Rockies to western Montana and her parents’ ranch. Alura and I had originally planned to travel our usual way — using a shuttlecraft that SpaceX had built for the Els. Equipped with a TeslaSuperBattery and a life support system, but no propulsion, Alura sat in the exact center of gravity of the massively-strong saucer-shaped shuttle with a dozen G-seats arranged in a wide circle around her. The 10cm thick stainless steel outer hull covered a 30cm thick lead inner hull that would stop most forms of radiation. Inside the lead, and completely covering the walls, was an ARC-LED display coating that used dozens of sensors to display a view of the outside that made the thick hull seem clear as glass. A massively strong clamp locked her hips to the ship’s structure, and similarly strong steel bars surrounded her so that she could lift, push and pull the ship to provide three-directional control. She flew the forty-ton shuttle as gracefully and weightlessly as a paper airplane.
While I was her most frequent passenger, she’d recently completed a Science Foundation trip to the rings of Saturn with a dozen scientists and science journalists. That week spent in space with a daughter of El, not to mention the incredible view from inside Saturn’s rings, was currently being dissected and discussed in numerous articles published in scientific journals.
Unfortunately, Alura wasn’t here today to fly the shuttle. Instead, she was flying a container of emergency equipment to a Martian settlement that had been critically damaged in a dust storm. While it would take SpaceX weeks to prepare a ship for Mars, not to mention waiting months for a proper launch window, and then more months of travel to get there, Alura could leave on a moment’s notice with no equipment or ship other than the cargo container, and she could get there in two to three days, depending on the relative orbital positions of Earth and Mars. She could then make it back without cargo in less than a quarter of that. Her speed in the vacuum of space was limited only by the G-tolerance of her cargo and relativistic effects.
The El family had adopted the Moon and then Mars more than five decades ago, and now Earth had a small city on the Moon and nearly ten-thousand people living and working in a dozen widely-dispersed Martian settlements. Not to mention the experimental habitats on Europa and this year’s manned expedition to the moons of Uranus. The El's did all the heavy lifting to get the huge ships into orbit and headed outward on their interplanetary routes. Once up to speed and headed the right way, the interplanetary ships had sufficient propulsion and life-support to fine-tune their courses and handle the terminal deceleration and orbital arrival, not to mention aerobraking and landing.
Kal and Kara had started the Martian Settlement program along with SpaceX, but Alura and her younger siblings have been handling the Earth orbital escape segments these last few years. The kids would start about age 8 by launching small, unmanned payloads. But within a year, they’d graduate to helping lift manned ships to orbit. Eventually they’d be experienced enough to push ships from orbit to escape velocity and on toward Mars, which was very challenging given the very precise vectors that were required to send a ship to where Mars was going to be in six months. If necessary, they’d ride along for a few days, tweaking the course until it was perfect.
Given Alura’s frequent and often unplanned space missions, my mother had quipped that if we did decide to get married someday, there was a 50:50 chance she wouldn’t be on time for the ceremony — if she got there at all. Mom was very fond of Alura, but she complained that she didn’t know how to plan that flexible of a wedding.
I’d really wanted to wait for Alura’s return so I could fly with her to her parents’ ranch, but nobody seemed to know when she’d be back. And as I saw it, driving would offer me a chance to get some focused work done on my thesis, which I was way behind on.
Soon my Tesla was floating silently along on a cushion of magnetic flux with AutoPilot handling everything as we hummed through the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming and the high plains of Montana. Sitting in the back seat with my work spread out around me, I managed to get in fourteen gloriously uninterrupted hours of work. I was just coming up for air when the Tesla turned onto the long access road to Little Kryptonand the AI announced that the road ahead was only certified for manual drive. I crawled forward to slip into the driver’s seat, surprised to find that even out here in the middle of nowhere, the magway was paved with solar tiles. Those tiles wirelessly charged cars as they levitated along the roadway, never needing to stop to recharge except during the worst weather.
I gripped the button-studded control stick with my left hand to announce: “I have control.”
“Manual control activated,” the AI replied.
The car wobbled around a bit as I got used to driving again, but it felt good. Staring out the transparent front of the vehicle, I watched the tops of glass and steel spires rising over the horizon. They looked completely alien out here in this sprawling ranch country, most of which hadn’t changed in the last two hundred years.
Those towers grew impossibly tall by the time I pulled into the Visitor Center’s parking lot. There I drove past several obsolete Metropolis subway cars that looked wildly out-of-place. But not as much as the hardware parked beyond them — replicas of shuttlecraft from the ancient Star Trek movie franchise along with a full-sized Millennium Falcon replica from the Star Wars movies and a sleek StarDrive UTV from the more recent XenoMorph holos. And of course, there was Serenity, a full-sized replica of a Firefly-class transport. My personal favorite.
Alura had told me how she’d flown these engineless subway cars and spaceship replicas on Open House days, carrying visitors around the ranch. That job had since passed down to her younger siblings. A family member always had the job of flying one of these transports in and out of the ranch, carrying staff members along with service and repair technicians and their equipment to and from various assignments. No roads entered Little Krypton, so flying was the only way in or out. Alura said she’d started flying the subway cars when she was still in in first grade, which was amazing given those antique subway cars had to weigh 20 tonnes each — empty. But she'd always been unusually strong, even by El family standards.
I tossed my bag over my shoulder to walk toward the Visitor Center entrance. The tall glass door swish-squeaked open as I approached, and then made the same sound closing behind me — exactly like the doors in the earliest Star Trek shows. I wondered how many visitors knew their mid-20th Century SciFi history well enough to appreciate that little detail.
With my first step inside, I was overwhelmed by wall-sized Holo displays that showed various aspects of Little Krypton. The displays ran from ground level to ten stories overhead as they tilted and curved over me, providing holographic views that looked completely realistic.
I tore my eyes from that amazing sight to check out a very large plaque set into the marble floor. It claimed that this ranch was a gift from theEarth-Krypton Foundation, a Bruce Wayne Corporation. The immense ranch occupied a contiguous 580,000 acres of range land and mountains that was bordered by Canada on the north and Glacier National Park on the east and Indian reservations on the other sides. And while it was truly beautiful country, the winters here were infamously bitter, even for a Colorado boy like me. Thankfully it was early May now, and the promise of summer was in the air.
The first display inside the door was a holographic tour of the ranch. The simulation started at the boarding school with its dormitories, cafeterias and many classrooms. Then it moved on to a modern medical clinic with an AutoDoc, then through a large zoo where they bred endangered species, including some alien ones that scared the crap out of me. Various maintenance and administrative buildings were clustered in a central valley along with housing for the thousand plus people who lived and worked on the ranch. Further out, there was a foreman with his cowboys who managed a large Bison herd, and farmers who grew vegetables in huge domed solar greenhouses all year round. There were Llama and Alpaca herds whose wool was locally spun and made into winter clothing for the ranch hands and a leather-works that produced more clothing. There was even a hotel for visitors, which was often occupied by parents visiting their kids at the boarding school.
The school selected high-potential children from all around the world to live and study on the ranch at no cost. Here they were exposed to the finest teachers as they studied shoulder-to-shoulder with the many El children, starting from Kindergarten. Kara and Kal insisted their children were citizens of Earth, and not bound to any single country or creed.
That didn’t sit well with their rural neighbors, who were long on patriotism and short on tolerance for foreigners and over-educated city types they called “elites”. A tradition that went back two centuries.
Much of the rest of the ranch consisted of low stone buildings which were used to house heavy ranch equipment and animals. But the really interesting buildings were the soaring towers that were architected in the style of Old Krypton. Holographic lighting was used to decorate the towers and the grounds surrounding them, often changing daily. Which is to say, the place looked a lot like Kara’s memories of Argo City, a drifting remnant of the destroyed planet Krypton. A place she’d escaped at age 15 to follow her cousin to Earth.
Alura told me that her mom remembered everything about growing up in the ultra-advanced civilization of Krypton as if it was yesterday, a world that had shaped her personality and outlook on life. Those memories had created her thirst to recreate as much of Krypton as she could for her children.
As amazing as the working ranch was, I was even more interested in three more distant towers, located many miles to the east of the other buildings and up high in the Rocky Mountains. Each of those towers was narrow at the bottom and bulbous at top, standing an astounding 800 stories tall. Which, combined with the tall mountains they stood on, usually put their tops above the clouds.
The only way up to the towers was by air, yet given the curving style of the upper towers and the many spires and soaring antennas that stuck out in all directions, no aircraft could approach or land, not even helicopters. These towers had been designed exclusively for the El family, all of whom could fly under their own power.
Pundit’s had quickly named Kara’s controversial towers New Olympus.
Appropriately, the second exhibit I came to inside the Welcome Center was labeled Whither Olympus?, and it attempted to explain how Kara had built full-scale replicas of the kind of buildings she remembered growing up in. What she hadn’t considered was that most of the mythologies of Earth had placed their gods in the sky, and by constructing these massively tall towers on top of mountains, she’d affirmed her divinity in the eyes of people who believed the Els were living gods. And in so doing, she’d also alienated the members of every mainstream religion on Earth.
It had not been Kara’s goal to do either.
The exhibit went on to examine the impact of Kryptonians living on Earth. It showed the ways they’d tirelessly used their abilities to save lives and defeat tyranny and criminality across the planet, something they’d been doing now for more than a century and a half. No one alive in the year 2096 had experienced life before Superman came, what with the horrific wars, the massive deaths from natural disasters and gang-type criminality that had preceded him. The incredibly bloody 20th century had largely been forgotten now in the peaceful glory of the second half of the 21st. A peacefulness that Kara Zor El and Kal El were largely responsible for.
At its end, the exhibit asked the viewer a single question: Did all this make the Kryptonians gods?
I was deeply affected by that question as I found myself staring at a Holo of the distant mountains and those alien towers, rising even now into the clouds. Was I going to a place of gods?
I walked slowly through the rest of the Visitor Center as I pondered my answer to that question. I found many artifacts from the days when Kal and Kara were known as Superman and Supergirl, and also as Clark Kent and Linda Danvers. They’d long ago revealed their alter egos to the world, which had promptly made them the subject of countless graduate thesis in xeno-psychology and sociology. The exhibits were filled with pictures and stories about Clark and Linda, including many lifelike Holo images. You could interact with Clark as a boy on his Kansas farm and talk to a completely realistic Holo-AI version of a teenaged Linda as she struggled to find a place for herself on this new world. Unlike Kal, who at his core was a farm boy from Kansas, Kara was not, and never would be, an Earthling.
A smaller exhibit caught my eye. This one wasn’t a Holo field, but instead just a huge ball of lead with 20T stamped on the side. The lead ball seemed to be hovering in thin air until you pushed a button to shine a light on the single strand of Kara’s blonde hair that supported it. I smiled as I thought of all the times I'd run my fingers through Alura's blonde hair, which never seemed to tangle, always floating free. Her hair felt like strands of silk, but silk that could hold this ball of lead just as easily as her mother’s. It was just one of many things about Kryptonians that seemed just a little better than human at first, but were actually radically different.
The other exhibits showed more amazing feats of strength and invulnerability, including a slow-motion reenactment of a nuclear detonation in the former state of North Korea where Kal and Kara had wrapped themselves around a small warhead as they successfully directed much of the blast down into the Earth. Now, thanks to their tireless work, every nuclear weapon on Earth was safely stored in a deep cavern on the far side of the Moon that was guarded by Kryptonian bots.
The final display showed Kal and Kara working together to smash the huge asteroid that had been slung at Earth by Brainiac back in 2053. They’d saved billions of lives that day alone, an act that had cemented their role as deities in the eyes of billions who’d prayed for their deliverance. As I saw it, that alone had earned them the right to live above the clouds if that’s what they wanted.
Needless to say, the Holo displays and their messages intimidated the hell out of me. It seemed incredible that Alura had grown up in this place, up in those sky towers, the first-born daughter of the two mightiest superheroes of all. While off at school, she was genuine and honest, selfless and giving and endlessly energetic, never showing a hint of the arrogance or privilege one might expect given her lofty birthright. We all knew she was super, but she never flaunted it.
The result was that I’d never harbored any illusions about Alura being a goddess. But many others did. Like her parents, she didn’t require faith in the unseen. She was right here, tangible, reachable, touchable. She could catch a school bus that was careening off a bridge and then hug the children to reassure them. She could stop a war, whether waged between humans or extra-terrestrials, and then sit down to help negotiate terms. A person might even get to shake her hand someday. And you could come here to her family’s slice of heaven —Little Krypton— and enjoy a visit.
I chuckled at all of that, wondering what the Kryptonian Theists would think if they ever bothered to take Alura off her pedestal and examine her closely. She wasn’t infallible — far from it. While she was smart and focused, she also had a habit of becoming single-minded to a fault. She made mistakes like everyone else, except hers were often whoppers, and her mood could be mercurial at times. But given she’d been born with the ability to fly, and was bulletproof and could bend steel in her bare hands — a dream for so many, even a fetish for some — that legitimately made her the living embodiment of a goddess in many eyes.
Yet to me, she was just a very special girl. My girl. Alura and I and our fellow classmates lived away at college, enjoying that magical world which exists between the end of childhood and the demands of career and family. The University of Colorado campus in Boulder was an environment where Alura was accepted and could simply be herself.
We'd often visited my parents’ home in Fort Collins, and we’d often stayed in that mountain cabin in the high country, but this was the first time I’d come to her home. To look her father in the eye, the almighty Superman himself, and shake his hand. To get to know her mother, the beautiful and powerful former Supergirl.
And then ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage.