Written by shadar :: [Saturday, 23 November 2019 18:25] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 23 November 2019 20:46]
After the contest ended, I walked out onto the glass balcony, trying not to look down as I crawled out on hands and knees to carefully retrieve my bag, very aware that the glass had grown slippery with mist. I made the mistake of looking past the beads of water on the glass to focus on the ground so fantastically far beneath me, and that unleashed a flock of butterflies. The glass looked so insubstantial. Focusing only on my bag now, I managed to drag it inside and closed the door securely behind me.
Pulling things from my bag, I headed for Alura’s shower. To no great surprise, it was as big as some apartments, with dozens of jets blasting from all directions, even up from the floor. It even had a waterfall I could stand under. I had to turn the heat and intensity way down, but I was soon luxuriating in a warm, tropical cloudburst, with torrents of water striking me deliciously from all directions, my head buried under the waterfall. Lost in the moment, I was startled when blue-clad arms wrapped silently around me from the back.
Alura’s soft lips brushed my ear to whisper: “Hey, you wanna make it with the officially strongest girl in the whole fucking galaxy?”
I turned around just in time to watch her peel her blue top up and off, her heavy breasts sitting widely-spaced on her chest with only a hint of teardrop shape. Dressed only in that red skirt and those famous boots, along with her shiny new medal buried deeply in her deep cleavage, she was mindbogglingly sexy.
She lifted both feet from the floor, and I stuck my face in an uprushing deluge by bending down to pull her boots off, tossing the toward the shower entrance. Dressed now in her mother’s old skirt from the 80’s and nothing else, she was incredibly sexy, especially floating this way with with legs gripping my hips. I worked my way further up between them, her body completely weightless, finally grabbing her rounded hips to pull her forcefully toward me as I walked forward, her body weightless until I slammed her back into the wall of the huge show to give me something to work against. My X-ring was sparkling as it channeled power my way, but she was still impossibly tight.
“Ok… you’re definitely the Girl of Steel now,” I lamented.
She leaned backward as she closed her eyes and slowly exhaled, her eyelids fluttering as she exhaled a long breath, seemingly exhaling her strength. I felt her muscles softening as her eyes opened wide as she smiled, those amazing dimples looking so cute that it almost hurt to look at her.
“Now take me you big stud or lose me forever.”
Alura always liked her sex as hard and rough as I could deliver it, so I did my very best.
It was no surprise given my shower heroics that we were very late for dinner. But I remembered her mother’s advice from earlier, and eventually slowed and stopped even as she urged me on. I had to remind her twice that we were late for dinner. She eventually gave up on me with a big sigh, and we washed off to exit her shower suite, with me hopping and her floating upside down as we quickly pulled our swimsuits on. She wore a competition-style one-piece, but I ditched my racing Speedo for a pair of board shorts that I'd barely tugged up when she wrapped her arm around me to fly off with me to dive headfirst down a brightly-lit vertical shaft.
I was staring wide-eyed when she burst out of the shaft into into a very large, round room, easily thirty meters in diameter, with the floor an amazing ten stories below us. She dropped us slowly toward the floor as I marveled at the little workstations that were placed up and down the walls in random places, each one with a large window. They were perfect places for someone to study, write, read, listen to music, watch a Holo, or just look out the window and think. Except that there was no way to reach any of those seats except by flying.
She was headed toward a very large, round table sitting in the middle of the floor which looked like a tropical jungle, with small trees and walkways winding through brightly flowering bushes. There was a large table with one chair inside a clearing. I gulped as I saw that the rest of the El family were already seated around the table in their swimsuits, hovering so steadily they might as well have been sitting on invisible chairs. All but the littlest girl, who looked barely two years old, who floated up from the table to land on her mother’s head. Beautiful Kara and her lovely blonde daughters and the mighty Kal with his black-haired sons, each of whom looked like younger versions of him. They all were looking up at me, more than a dozen curious pairs of Cerulean-blue eyes, everyone smiling. Well, except for a girl of four or five who rose to start doing endless somersaults in mid-air to amuse herself.
“We’ve already passed the dishes around once,” Kara called up as we approached, “but we can circulate them again. I’m sure Alec has to rebuild his strength after his athletics.”
I blushed, remembering that they could all see through walls. Everyone knew why we were so late, yet somehow that didn’t seem to be a problem. Privacy meant something completely different to Kryptonians.
Alura dropped me off next to the single chair, which was obviously intended for me. A chair that sat between Kal El and his oldest son, Dar. Both men were enormously muscular and taller than Alura, yet unlike a bodybuilder’s physique, there was no sign of vascularity or striation on either of them, just tendons that looked like steel cables. They were huge, but their muscles had a smoothness that came from a Kryptonian’s thicker skin. As intimidating as their extreme physiques were, I took what pride I could in being a couple of inches taller than either of them.
Kal held out a huge hand that might as well have been carved from a single block of steel. I took it, my hand feeling small and weak, but he quickly calibrated his grip to match mine. Seconds later, I felt my X-ring channeling his power into my own grip as I held him back as tightly as I could.
“Alec, so glad to finally meet you,” he grinned. “Alura has been talking about you for months. Nice grip, by the way.”
“It’s a huge honor to meet you, Sir. I mean, Superman. I’ve wanted to meet you since I was a little kid — back before you hung up the tights.”
"It's just Kal now," he grinned, turning toward his oldest son, who looked like his clone except for a younger face. “Alec, this is my oldest son, Dar. He’s off to college this Fall. Given that Colorado has gotten used to Alura, we figured it would be easier for him to fit in there as well. And the UC Engineering school is pretty good.”
I reached out to shake Dar’s hand, only to gasp in pain as he held me a crushing grip that challenged my enhanced strength. Alura had told me he was very interested in her X-ring and had been asking her about its power. “Ah… engineering, huh? Congrats, Dar. Never had the… head for math myself. I’m in the History… program. That and some coaching.”
My X-ring was glowing now as it channeled a small portion of his power into me, but he adjusted his grip to keep challenging me for a long moment. It was all I could do to talk.
“I really wish I could have played,” Dar started to say as he thankfully released my not quite broken hand. “Sports, I mean. But you know how it goes, Alec. It’s kind of hard to be a competitor when there isn’t any competition. When you won your Olympic golds, Alec, you had to be perfect to do it, and you still on won by hundredths of a second. Such intense competition is something I’ll never know.”
“Maybe we should write an article about that problem together,” I suggested while massaging my hand. “You know, how you miss having never experienced the joys and agonies of athletic competition. Most people would never think that bothered a Kryptonian. I think many would find it interesting to…”
Kara interrupted my pitch as she floated higher to get everyone’s attention, her red one-piece stretched over tight curves — like Alura, she was still a hardbody from the contest.
“Welcome to our crazy family, Alec. While we already know a lot about you, thanks to both the family grapevine and some impolite staring through walls,” she glared at several of her younger kids, “we look forward to getting to know the man inside. But first, let me introduce our not so little clan. Alura, of course, is our eldest at 20 years, and Dar, to your left with the punishing handshake, is 18. Everyone else raise your hand when I say your name. Lara, sitting next to Dar, is also 18, they’re twins, and Nancy next to me is 16. She began pointing now: “Mia is 14, Gaia is 13, Kann is 12. I gather you’ve already met Freya, who is 10. Jana is 8, Tor is 7, Syl is 4 and little Anna here is only 2.”
Anna happily waved both her arms when she heard her name, bouncing around in mid-air.
My eyes kept returning to Lara. While the entire family was wildly attractive, Lara was absolutely stunning in a way I’d never seen before. Even more, she didn’t seem to be wearing a swimsuit. Her thick, wavy blonde hair covered her in Lady Godiva style. I found it almost impossible to tear my eyes from her. She was so beautiful that she didn’t seem real.
“Mother wants to have twenty kids,” Lara said as she leaned closer to me, her long hair parting to reveal one pert breast. While far less endowed than Alura, she was just so perfectly beautiful that my jaw fell. “We all help with the littler ones,” Lara finished as she saw the look in my eyes.
My head was spinning as I forced my eyes closed so I could turn away from her. Opening them, I looked around at the most amazing collection of kids ever. “This… this is so amazing,” I blurted out. “Such a large family. You know, back in Boulder, where I’ve lived my whole life, two kids is considered a big family. Hell, most couples don’t even have kids.”
“Alec dear,” Kara said softly, “the people in Boulder aren’t the last of their species. Kal and I have an obligation to our forefathers to keep Kryptonian blood from disappearing forever.”
“And to always keep Earth safe from dangerous ET’s,” Dar added as he glanced pointedly at his mother. “Only we can do that.”
“And why again do we have to be Earth’s protectors?” Lara sighed. “I mean, other than being compassionate and good and all?”
“It’s our sworn duty,” Nancy replied.
“I’m proud to do it,” Dar said. “Even if it’s going to make school kind of hard. Flying off at odd times and all.”
“Nothing new about that,” Mia said. “You’re always playing hooky and calling it a ‘mission’.”
“Hey, we’re not all geniuses like you, Mia dear,” Dar tossed back.
The tension drained out of me as the talk quickly became more the usual family banter. But twelve kids, all of them Kryptonians, was just overwhelming. Not to mention sitting next to freaking Superman himself. I had my surfer's board shorts, but he and Dar were both wearing Speedo racing briefs. So much for Superman’s famously oversized red shorts.
Looking across the table, I saw Alura happily joking around and laughing with her younger siblings. I tried to listen to what was being said, but it was quickly apparent that they were talking in Kryptonian with a few English words here and there. To say that I was out-of-my-league was a profound understatement. I was the only human in the room.
“Everyone, quiet, listen up,” Mia called. “Time for the talk. Dad’s presenting tonight.” She turned to bow slightly toward her father.
Kal floated up to hover over the middle of the table, slowly turning to smile at everyone as he started talking in his Kansas farmboy English. As familiar as I was to hanging out with other swimmers in their Speedos, Kal looked uncomfortably naked in one. I'd always seen him in his tights.
“I think you all know that dangerous ET’s were never an issue here on Earth before I grew up. That was because only on Krypton did anyone have knowledge that Earth even existed, way out here in the middle of absolute nowhere. Earth was one of Krypton’s great secrets, although I didn’t know that at first. When she arrived, Kara told me how there were no other civilizations or even outposts or even records of exploration in Earth’s small spiral of the galaxy. That there was only a single small wormhole anywhere near Earth. All stuff she learned in school on Argo City.”
“So where was everyone else?” Kann asked.
“On the opposite side of the galaxy. That's where intelligence developed, with various species rubbing shoulders with each other as they developed ways of traveling between stars, trading and learning from each other. There was no reason for anyone to look over here in the wilderness, especially given the scarcity of wormholes in this part of the galaxy. Only the Kryptonians knew about that one uncharted, insignificant and nearly invisible wormhole that would take them to Earth. It was that isolation that kept Earth safe in a mostly unsafe universe. At least until I screwed it up.”
Nobody said anything for a long moment, and then Mia broke the silence.
“So your tiny pod left a trail from Krypton into that hidden wormhole that other’s could follow? Mom’s too?”
“Nothing as simple as that,” Kal said. “It was what I did many years later that caused trouble. Some of you have heard this before, but I’ll repeat the story for Alec’s benefit.”
He paused to clear his throat. Clearly this was an important lesson.
“After I fully understood my abilities, and when I was just a few years older than Alura is now, I left Earth to connect with the civilizations that Jor El’s crystal had taught me about. I dove through our hidden wormhole and then dozens of charted ones to cross the galaxy. At first I found wonderful cultures and interesting creatures of all kinds. I proudly told them all about the wonders of Earth, my new home. I even showed them where it was on the star map, all of us marveling that Earth was so alone in that unpopulated, unreachable arm of the galaxy.”
“Why are we so alone?” I asked.
Kal shrugged. “Kara, you want to answer that? From a Kryptonian perspective.”
She rose to float next to Kal. “I don’t know how Kryptonian scientists discovered the wormhole to Earth. All I know is that it was rumored on Krypton that humans were distantly related to us. More so than any other species in all the galaxy. They assumed that Earth had been settled by people from Krypton’s side of the galaxy, but from a time before we were fully-developed. Which means no powers.”
She saw several kids nodding. “However, my parents believed the exact opposite — they claimed the immigration went the other way. They believed that humans evolved naturally here on Earth, and that some were carried away by non-human aliens and seeded on Krypton. That they left a star-chart that led Kryptonians back to Earth eons later.”
Kal continued. “From a purely genetic standpoint, S.T.A.R Labs has been working on that question since I posed it to them back in the 20th century. They’ve been struggling to decode our invulnerable DNA for nearly a hundred years now, with some recent success, and their data tends to agree with Kara’s family. They now think that Kryptonians were scientifically-developed from Homo Sapiens DNA. Unfortunately, Jor El’s crystals didn’t include any information related to that, and S.T.A.R’s work is not conclusive. The only thing that we can say with confidence at this point is that we at the very least share an ancestor.”
“Fascinating…” I breathed. I’d never heard any of this.
“And unfortunately, your Mom’s curriculum at her age back on Argo City didn’t cover what was known then about our earliest origins,” Kal added. “So whatever the Science Council and the Zor Els knew was lost forever.”
Kara looked a bit sad as she dropped back down to hug her middle-teen daughter, Nancy. Alura had told me when we first met that Krypton and its destruction were still part of her mother’s daily thoughts. Losing one’s entire planet and everyone on it, everyone you loved, is the ultimate trauma. The kind you never get over. Even if you are Supergirl.
Kal continued after a moment. “As you and Alura have obviously discovered, Alec, all the bits and pieces of our bodies, even the most minor bits, are absolutely identical, other than being stronger. One can argue from that alone that we and humans are sub-species. In fact, if not for our natural invulnerability, S.T.A.R thinks that humans and Kryptonians could still reproduce. Our foundational DNA is the same.”
I stared wide-eyed at him. I’d never considered that being even remotely possible.
“Anyway, to continue my story, traveling from world to world, I eventually found suffering worlds, many of them short on food or safety. Then I found war on an interplanetary scale. So I stayed a while to help them, and eventually came across the dangerous, predatory species responsible for much of their suffering, who called themselves New Gods. A violent leader among them was named Darkseid, and he was the one waging war across the worlds. I was about to put an end to his threat when Darkseid came to me with an offer I couldn’t refuse. He said that if I agreed to leave and return to Earth immediately, he’d turn around the heavy battle fleet that he’d dispatched to utterly destroy Earth.”
“Oh shit,” I gasped. “The bad guys found out where we are! How to get here?”
Kal nodded. “I thought my story of Earth and the wormholes I used to get to those civilizations would stay with the peaceful species I’d shared it with, but I was too naive at that age to realize that anything of value ultimately gets sold. I’d put a bullseye on Earth, and the enemy was going to use it against me.”
“But, obviously, their fleet didn’t get here.”
“True. But given I had no idea how to defeat or even find such a battle fleet in the vastness of space, I immediately left to head back to Earth, flying through all those wormholes as fast as I could. I never saw their fleet, and to this day I’m not even sure it existed, and I’ve always regretted that I left those beleaguered worlds to their fate. But I don’t regret choosing Earth over all others. My earliest memories begin here.”
“And we’ve had plenty of encounters with Darkseid since then,” Dar added. “Which is why someone from our family must always be here to protect Earth. Several of us, in fact. Not even Mom and Dad can take him on, one-on-one.”
“The more important take-away, Dar,” Kara said patiently, “is that our enemies will try to control us by threatening those we care for. Rao knows the Luthors have done that to us enough times.”
I cautiously raised my hand.
“Yes, Alec?” Kara said.
“Ah, just a quick question. Is this what you guys talk about at dinner every night? None of the ‘how was school today, honey’ or ‘do you need any help with your homework’. Instead, it’s how you brought an infinite doom of death to Earth.”
Everyone laughed, which seemed to please Alura greatly. She’d clearly had some worries about this first meeting.
“No,” Nancy replied happily. “Some nights we talk world politics. And sometimes military weapon issues — we sometimes have to face those and we have to know how to prevent injury to others. Other nights we talk about our enemies and how to fight them, especially the supervillains.” She turned to look briefly at her mother, and then back at me. “And once a month, Alec, we just do cool math puzzles at dinner, which Mia usually figures out first.”
“Not usually — always,” Mia injected.
Nancy continued. “And some nights we just talk about Holo shows or movies and stuff going on in social media. And sometimes we talk about the ET’s out there, which we’ve learned can be very dangerous, even to us. Monsters like Darkseid and his minions. But there is always a dinner topic. This hour is sacred family time.”
“I thought we’d focus on family politics and history while you’re here, Alec,” Kara added. “After all, you and Alura have strong feelings for each other, and we’re not exactly a typical family.”
I looked around the room at its floating occupants, what with Jana now floating upside down. “Yeah, I definitely get that. And in a wildly wonderful way. But tell me, why the swimsuits?”
“Because we’re going swimming, of course,” Kal said. “Alura tells us you know how.”
I grinned. “Yeah. I’ve paddled around a little.”
“Don’t let him bullshit you,” Alura said laughing. “They enjoyed the Olympics as much as anyone else.”
Kal shrugged. “Hey, given we can never play organized sports, the Olympics are a great opportunity to celebrate the joys of winning and to suffer the agony of coming up just a little short. It’s a great teacher given our kids will never personally compete, other than with each other.”
“And you were the star of the last Olympics,” Lara said, looking boldly into my eyes, hers so impossibly blue. “Not to mention the hottest guy there.”
I felt myself melting again. There was something completely irresistible about her.
Alura nudged Lara. “Hey, don’t hit on my guy, sister dear.”
“I’m just stating facts. Alura. You disagree?”
Alura shrugged. “Well, maybe kinda. There was this German diver. Couldn’t take my eyes off him.”
A chunk of tomato flew across the room to splatter against her head.
“Hey,” she explained. “I’ve always liked elite divers. I like their sleek physique. Flexible, like a dancer, but with lots more muscle, plus the way they seem so graceful in the air. They look very… Kryptonian.”
That earned her a piece of expertly thrown fruit, which bounced off her blonde head.
She turned to wink at me. “But swimmers are kind of adequate in that area too.”
That earned her yet another piece of thrown fruit.
“Jana and Kann, thanks to your fruit bombs, you get to clean the dining room before your pool time,” Kara announced. ”And this time by picking everything up and putting it in the trash and not just stinking up the place by torching it with your heat vision.”
I laughed out loud as I realized there was no other house on the planet where I’d hear a mom telling her kids that.
I was really enjoying eating and talking and mostly listening to Alura’s family, finding they were everything I’d imagined and more. It was one thing to see Alura floating around weightless all the time, but to share a room with more than a dozen flying people was surreal. I wondered if little Anna, barely more than a toddler, could even walk.
Alura was smiling angelically when we finished and she came over to wrap her arm around me to lift me out of my chair. Being away at school, she clearly missed this evening meal with her family. She hugged me close as she flew us across the room to dive head-first down yet another vertical lighted tube near the far wall, which almost brought my dinner back up. That short tunnel exited high above a gigantic swimming pool that stretched from wall to wall inside the bulbous tower — easily a hundred meters in diameter. A variety of chairs and loungers were stationed around the steel-framed periphery of the pool.
“Water’s warm but sorta deep, Alec my love. 2500 meters to be exact.”
“Huh?” I gasped, eyes wide. “Two and a half kilometers?”
“Indeed,” Kal said as he floated next to us. “The tower’s foundations go well under ground, and the column is filled with water from the basement up to here at the 750th floor. It’s a good training tool for the little ones. Learning to dive deep. To not need air.”
I watched as little Anna dove into the pool to disappear into the depths. Gaia, more experienced at age 13, dove after her.
“Jesus!” I gasped as I followed them down until they disappeared. Anna was so little but she was really moving. Below them, an intensely blue light radiated upward from the depths. “How do you get that light down there?”
“Kryptonian secret,” Kal shrugged. “It’s nothing that can hurt you unless you get near the bottom. Which I’m guessing you won’t.”
“Hey,” I quipped, “I’ve scuba’d to 30 meters. So what’s another 2470 or so.”
“OK, here’s tonight’s contest,” Nancy announced. “Guys first. You have to touch the bottom with both hands and feet before swimming back up and out of the water to ring the overhead bell. Absolutely no flight power is allowed at any time. And don’t wipe out Anna and Gaia on your way. Anna is slow. Get ready.”
I stared in astonishment at the water, and then up at the bell that hung ten stories over my head. “Anna is going to the bottom?”
Kal shook his head. “She hasn’t made it yet, but she keeps trying. The first right of passage in this family is finding the bottom of the pool. Most of the kids manage it by age three.”
I stared down at the water, trying to imagine swimming two and half kilometers down a pipe toward that distant light. And they all did it by age three?
Dar, Kann and Tor stood at the far edge of the pool. “Hey, you too, Dad,” Dar challenged, jerking my thoughts back from the deep. “Bet I can beat you today.”
“Never happen, son,” the Man of Steel grinned as he dropped down to hang his toes over the edge of the pool next to me.
“OK,” Nancy said. “Counting down from 3,2,1, GO!”
The four Kryptonian males dove to slice through the water with the precision of Olympic divers, arms and legs driving at superspeed as they descended in a streak of bubbles and were gone.
“What are the rules?” I asked Alura.
“There are none except for using muscle power only when in the water. But our endurance has limits in the deep. Plus we have to swim back up fast enough to break the surface with enough momentum to continue ten stories up to hit the bell — that’s really hard even for us.”
Lara floated upward ten stories to hover beside the bell, blonde hair floating around her as I discovered she wore at least a tiny silver thong. I once again found it hard to tear my eyes from her.
“She’s the judge,” Alura said as she saw where I was staring. “Her word rules on all contests. And yes, she is ridiculously cute.”
I jerked my eyes back to Alura’s. “Sorry. There is something about her that makes it hard to turn away.”
Alura pushed her hip against mine. “Besides being incredibly gorgeous? From the time she was a baby, Lara had this aura of perfection about her, almost a power of its own.”
“It’s… I don’t know, it’s more than just sexy. More like magnetic or something.”
“Whatever it is, Alec, it’s far more of a curse than a power. Try to talk to her for ten minutes alone and see what I mean. Even if she’s just sitting there doing nothing, most men forget what they're trying to say and wind up just staring into her eyes. A few men go the other way and start to get inappropriate, which is pretty dumb with a Kryptonian.”
“She's just mesmerizing…” I said softly as I looked back up at Lara.
She laughed as covered my eyes with her hand while turning me around. “As you can see, it works well enough that Mom has started sending Kara in to handle hostage situations.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. Your mother always seemed very practical.”
“Dad doesn’t approve. But given all the adrenaline and fear and desperation and fanaticism surging through the men when she arrives on the scene, she somehow wins them over. None of us understand how she’s doing it.”
“So… her greatest power is her attractiveness?”
“Greatest? Hardly. She’s as strong as the rest of us. But while her looks are useful at times, they mostly get in her way, especially around men. Mom knew another girl back on Krypton who had the same power. Whatever the effect is, it gets stronger the closer you are to her, but it doesn’t require air to propagate. Looking at her is all it takes.”
I struggled not to do that, staring instead down into the water at that distant blue glow.
Minutes passed, and then the surface of the pool began rising, higher and higher until it was washing over my feet. I saw a disturbance down deep, and then the surface of the pool exploded. Dar and Kal blasted out of the water side by side with the younger boys riding their wake. Their speed carried a huge column of water upward with little Anna and Gaia tumbling wildly inside as it stopped rising and then collapsed backward. Anna was laughing as only babies can when she crashed down to bounce several times on the steel patio around the pool, completely unharmed.
I hung on to Alura for dear life as a Niagara of water crashed over us, washing Anna and several of the other laughing kids into the pool along with most of the lounge chairs.
“Beat’cha this time!” Dar announced loudly as he descended.
“Not so fast, son. By my eye, we hit it together.”
“Lara, you’re the judge,” Nancy said.
“Looked like a tie to me as well,” Lara said, descending lightly to land on the soaking pool deck. Anna jumped happily up into her arms.
Dar pouted as Kal put his arm around his son’s powerful shoulders. “Your day will come, my son, and then you’ll become Superman. But not today. Alura just proved to the world that she’s stronger than mom, and she’s two years older than you. You’ve got some time.”
Dar grabbed his dad’s hand while spinning around to slam his other palm against the Man of Steel’s powerful chest, starting a contest of raw strength. The two supermen exploded with muscle as they put everything they had into pulling the other’s hand toward themselves. I gawked wide-eyed at muscular definition that no bodybuilder could dream of matching, the two of them grimacing as unimaginable power flowed between them as minutes passed. It soon became clear that this was going to be a tie as well.
They finally agreed to end the contest, and both men let go so they could began stretching to relieve the strain. Alura had taught me that Kryptonian muscle is very flexible, but only if it’s extensively stretched after every serious exertion.
“I certainly didn’t have your strength at eighteen,” Kal told Dar, “and you have growing still to do. But your time is coming very soon, my son. Then you’ll be the man.”
“I’m already a man, Dad.”
“I meant Superman. We Kryptonians don’t completely mature until our mid-twenties, Earth time. You know this.”
Dar floated off as the larger group of girls prepared to go next. Kara and eight of her daughters, ranging from Syl at age 4 to Alura. Little Anna floated over to land on my shoulders.
Dar was the judge this time, floating high up by the bell. On Kann’s 3,2,1,GO the girls dove as one, slicing through the water even more cleanly than the boys had.
Many minutes passed as before, but eventually the water began rising again, boiling even more so than before. Seconds later, the leading girls burst upward, Alura and Nancy racing side by side, with Kara and then Lara a few meters behind them, the others strung out behind with the littlest ones at the very back. Once again, the room was blasted with falling water that turned into a flood, which this time managed to wash me into the pool with Anna still on my shoulders.
Dar quickly declared Alura the winner. There was no argument this time.
Given I was already in the water, I begin swimming some long laps. The water was warmer than I’m used to in pools, but I still swam hard, working the distance, which was nearly three times the length of an Olympic pool. The others frolicked like sleek dolphins beneath me, playing Kryptonian games. At one point three of the youngest linked their arms to spin around like a rotor about twenty meters below me, and the resulting vortex sucked me down. I was still on my way down and getting seriously low on air when Lara came up under me like a missile, her bow wave blasting me to the surface. She gave me a sexy smile before swimming away, leaving my skin tingling where she'd touched me, which ensured I was standing at attention in a very wrong way. I quickly swam over to hang on the side of the pool to preserve my modesty.
Everyone joined in a series of games that I didn’t know how to play, and couldn’t survive if I did. Instead, Anna and I resumed paddled along the far side of the pool, where she challenged me to a race. She was only two, but she quickly proved she could already out-swim my augmented best. But then, maybe she was flying a little too.
That’s when Kal rose high over the pool to challenge everyone to an endurance contest at the bottom. Alura flew over to hug me, whispering that this was really a part of dad’s training program. And then they all dove into the pool to disappear, leaving Anna and I alone.
We swam around for a very long hour before the youngest ones started surfacing. Then Lara came up, her eyes locking on mine as she rose slowly out of the water, her long hair clinging to her curves. I found that the more her body was exposed, the greater the magnetism. I was starting to get really uncomfortable again when other heads began popping up, a couple more every few minutes, all gasping for air. Kara and then Kal came up. I counted heads. One head missing. Nearly five more minutes passed before Dar came gasping to the surface, looking very proud.
“Ta da. I win!”
Alura saw Lara looking at me as I tried not to look back, so she grabbed me to steal me away. We snuggled up under a huge towel on a lounger that was mostly out-of-sight behind some gear. The towel was obviously only a conceptual screen in a room full of people with x-ray vision, but as usual, Alura was turned on after exerting herself, and I was definitely affected by Lara as she started to kiss me. I tried not to kiss her back, knowing where this would quickly go. I felt like we were on display, but Alura just shrugged as she reminded me of the family rules about violating people’s privacy.
That would have been reassuring if not for the hilarious stories she’d told me back in Boulder about the times she’d gotten naughty with her x-ray vision. Or the comment at dinner about some inappropriate staring by the little ones.
“I thought you guys could go nearly forever without air?” I asked her, trying to divert her enthusiasm. “I mean, your dad has flown in space for months at a time. Right?”
Alura sighed as she realized I wasn’t going to make out with her now. “Yes, we can last a very long time in vacuum, carrying a small canister of oxygen for long trips, but at this depth gases work differently. There is no way to supplement the air at that pressure, and what’s in our bloodstream gets compressed so much our bodies can’t recycle it as usual. So we pretty quickly run out of air down there. An hour on the bottom is about it.”
“Cool. This is the first real vulnerability I’ve heard about for you guys. Other than Kryptonite.”
“Family secret. Right up there with your ring. But it’s why we have this pool. To work at it in private. To improve. Always testing ourselves against other family members. To know where our limits are and how to push them.”
“Dar sure looks happy now. He finally beat his dad at something.”
“He’s at that age — all testosterone and raw, urgent, pointy desire. He wants to beat Dad at everything. I’m just glad he’s got his bunny now.”
“Bunny? Who or what is that?” I asked.
Alura leaned closer to whisper very softly in my ear. “Her name is actually Athena, but we call her Dumb Bunny because she’s dim and she has the sex drive of a rabbit. She’s part Krypt and part Amazon along with a bunch of other weird stuff. But that’s a story for some time when Dad isn’t around. The two of them have some history.”
I grinned at her. “History? How fun.” A scandalous family secret. Best of all, a secret involving the mighty Superman himself.
I barely had time to savor that knowledge when a loud chime began sounding. Kara and Kal raced upward to disappear in seconds, along with the older kids who flew after them in trail, leaving me with Freya and the younger ones.
“Red Alert,” Freya said as she rose to float in the middle of the huge room, her fists clenched as she slowly turned round and round, her eyes sparkling as she looked through the walls.
Freya confidently took charge as she directed the little ones to link their arms together to surround me. She then floating higher, listening on her EarCom for a long minute before relaxing.
“Ok, there’s no threat to the ranch. Still, everyone put on your EarComs and meet on top of El tower in two minutes. Except for you Anna. You stay here with Alec.”
“What did that chime mean?” I asked.
“Red Alert, in this case, a major disaster. Central Control monitors all the threats and keeps us updated.”
“What and where is this Central thing?”
“It’s a monitoring group made up of ex-NSA, DIA, CIA, FBI… alphabet soup. They keep us plugged into everything about what’s happening on Earth and near Earth space along with the Lunar, Mars and Europa colonies.”
I was impressed by Freya’s pose and knowledge, but then, it’d been a long time since I'd hung around a 10 year old. “Ahh, now I understand all the antennas and dishes on the towers.”
She nodded. “You want to go over to Central and watch? The rest of us are going on ranch patrol. If someone like Darkseid wanted to hit us, he’d do it when most of the family is off saving lives. ”
“Absolutely. And is that a real possibility?”
“Very unlikely. But it’s good practice for the little ones to go on patrol.” She turned to wave at Anna. “Anna, come here. I’m taking you and Alec to Central.”
Freya floated around behind me to wrap herself securely around me, her arms and legs trapping mine. That startled me. I'm used to Alura’s loose one-armed side-by-side hug. But it suddenly made sense when she started flying like a Hummingbird, darting around quickly before diving into a different lighted tunnel, flying past a half dozen junctions, and then straight out a hatch into the open air. There she came to a stop hanging in open space as she slowly rotated to look around.
My butterflies promptly returned as I was very aware of the two and a half klicks of air below her bare feet. Thankfully she only paused there for a few seconds before darting into a tunnel in the other tower that was barely wider than I was. Now I understood why she’d wrapped my arms and legs up. Anything sticking out would have been whacked off at the narrower tunnel entrance.
We twisted and turned through several tunnel intersections before popping out near the ceiling of a huge command post. I rubbernecked the place while Freya floated slowly down toward the floor, her hold on me gradually loosening. There were holo projections circling the room at two levels, providing 3D views of dozens of different places. A half dozen people sat at HoloStations that were located in space at multiple levels.
Several of the biggest projections showed views of a huge concrete dam from different angles. A dam that was cracked and leaking. Even as I watched, one of the leaks got much bigger, gushing a huge stream of water toward me that made me duck. The Holos were very good.
Freya studied the scenes for a long moment, and then dropped me softly to the floor. Spinning around, she rose back up to immerse herself in one projection and then another while talking softly with the controllers. Once again, she was acting older than her age. Almost like she was in charge of the place. It was becoming very clear that she was the techie of the family.
She flew back to my side. “Here’s the story. That dam is in Peru, and a big earthquake just damaged it. It’s starting to fail and if it goes, it’ll endanger thousands of people living downstream. But we’re not going to let that happen.”
“How in the hell do you get these kind of views, Freya? Those cameras are obviously airborne and the visual quality is right out of a HoloSynth studio.
“Scanbots. We stash them all over the world for fast response. The tech came out of S.T.A.R’s study of Kryptonian science, and was funded by Wayne Enterprises. Basically, they use Kryptonian anti-grav combined with surveillance satellite imagining tech, some of which is better than anything the military has.”
I couldn’t help but shake my head, impressed by both her speech and her knowledge. She had the voice of 10 year old, but her words and mannerisms seemed far older. “Is there anything you don’t know, Freya? I mean, you’re like an expert in all kinds of things.”
She shrugged. “I can read really fast and I don’t forget things. Ever. Even details. It adds up after a while.”
I was opening my mouth to ask more when one of the controllers stood up to shout loudly. “Ok, people. They’re on-scene.”
The wide-angle Holo view of the leaking dam now showed two railroad flatbed cars loaded high with thick steel plates descending from the sky. It was a distant image, but I could see stick figures that I knew were Freya’s siblings supporting the train cars. The view downward from the top of the dam showed Kara and Kal systematically examining the cracked area.
Another Holo zoomed in on the railroad cars as the younger kids dropped away, leaving Alura and Dar looking tiny beneath their respective railroad cars. Lara and Nancy began rapidly pulling steel sheets off the cars and flying them over to the face of the dam. These were the kind of massively heavy steel plates used to cover holes in a roadway during construction. Plates that the biggest trucks could drive over without bending them.
But could they hold up a dam?
The girls went to work slapping a plate over a crack and then holding it tightly against the concrete while Mia, Gaia and Kann went to work smashing their small fists around the edges of the plate, hitting so hard that they punched a hole into the concrete — right through the inch-thick plate. Twisting and turning their fists in the hole, they expanded the steel tightly enough to permanently secure the plate to the dam.
The operation went on at fantastic speed, with Lara and Nancy little more than a blur as they flew back and forth to get more plates. The little ones flitted all over, hammering the plates like jackhammers: ratta, ratta, ratta. Kara and Kal supervised, marking the spots to put the next plate.
I stared in awe at the complex aerial dance, everyone moving so gracefully and so fast and with such confidence. They quickly covered the damaged sections of the dam with plates, and then Kara and Kal worked together to eye-weld the plates together while their kids pounding more plates in a connected line that eventually reached around each end of the dam. With the flatcars emptied, everyone went to work welding them into a single structure, the blinding glare of a dozen eyes making my own water. Hundreds and hundreds of welded plates soon wrapped around the dam like an oversized Bandaid. Water still ran down the face from beneath the plates, but it was but a trickle now compared to only minutes ago.
Freya was gone by the time I pulled my head out of the holo projections. I assumed she’d gone patrolling with the little ones, and everyone else in Control was busy either monitoring other potential problems or helping coordinate an evacuation of the valley below the dam. The Bandaid on the dam would give them time, but it wasn’t a permanent fix.
Feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed again, I found my way to an elevator to explore the other levels of the tower. There were only a ten buttons on the elevator panel, starting at Central which was 780 down to 770. I went from floor to floor, finding that some of them consisted of offices and conference rooms. Other floors had what looked like living quarters. All the floors had equipment rooms, each filled with expensive tech gear, humming away, lights blinking. The doors were all unlocked, even the server rooms, so they obviously didn’t worry about people walking around who weren’t supposed to be here.
But there wasn’t a soul to be seen on the four floors I visited. I finally said to hell with it and rode the elevator back up to Central. The rescue team was gathered there now, all of them wearing torn, rust-stained swimsuits that looked frayed from their rapid flight. Except Lara, of course, who was still doing her Lady Godiva thing. Anna was sitting on her dad’s head now.
They were all in the midst of a debrief with the controllers, with Kal and Kara providing constructive feedback to their kids. The contollers finished by briefing everyone on the Peruvian government’s response now that they’d bought some time. Overall, Kal gave the effort a B grade. Not bad, he said, but they could always do it better and faster.
“So, this is how things work, huh?” I asked Alura as she floated over to land next to me, her torn swimsuit barely clinging to her dramatic curves. “Pretty amazing for the little ones to be so involved. Not to mention the very youngest ones out on ranch partrol looking for intruders.”
“Everyone has a job except Anna, and that will change next year for her. It’s not like anything on Earth can easily hurt them.”
“But then there are those ET’s.”
“Which aren’t a threat right now. You wanna go star gazing? It’s a clear night.”
“Sure… although I don’t think I’ve got enough oomph left in me for anything else. It was weird today, what with my X-ring drawing power from other family members. Especially your Dad and Dar, which was a real rush. That and Lara hauling me out of the pool that one time. It felt like I was giving back more than I took in. I’m exhausted.”
“That’s Lara. She doesn’t give off power. She drinks it in. More of her weirdness.”
“So she not only mesermizes men, but she drains them?”
“Not ordinary men. Only other supers, which might include you given your X-ring. If you had sex with her, it would likely screw you up pretty bad.”
I looked at Alura, eyes narrowing. “That’s obviously not going to happen, Alura. Christ! Why would you even think it?”
“I know my sister. And yes, I know you don’t plan to, or want to, but Lara has a way of getting men to do whatever she wants. She’s far more dangerous than she appears.”
“But she’s your sister.”
“And I love her. But sometimes she can be a real bitch. Taking things that aren’t hers.”
I heard the anger in her voice as Alura hugged me gently to her side, rising weightlessly into the air. Spinning around, she flew us into one of the larger, lighted tunnels. We exited under an alcove near the top of the tower to land in a grassy garden that grew on the exact top of the tower. Flowers of many kinds were planted all around, and there were comfortable loungers and even a small bar drinks and snack food. We were high above a silver cloud deck that glimmered in the moonlight and it was cold. Some distant peaks were the only thing sticking out of the clouds other than these towers.
“Wow. Nice view.”
She casually tore off the remains of her ruined swimsuit to toss it in a trash can, and then wrapped a huge, heavy blanket around the two of us. We curled up on a lounger big enough for two and snuggled to stay warm, our heads touching as we stared up at the stars. The reddish glow of Mars was visible tonight, and Alura was staring at it.
It wouldn’t surprise me if she was checking out the settlements on the red planet.
Given the weather was fine except for being very cold, we slept all night up in the garden, both of us buried beneath that huge blanket. I awoke at the first hint of dawn, thankful that hugging Alura all night had kept her grounded. Otherwise, she would have floated off in her sleep with all the blankets and I would have frozen. There was no way I was getting down from up here on my own.
The air was phenomenally clean and clear as the sun decorated the eastern horizon with beautiful shades of red and orange. Butu then Alura’s blue eyes opened slowly as she smiled at me, giving me something even more beautiful to look at. My heart still aches sometimes when she looks this cute. Something I hope I never get used to.
She lifted one arm into the air and snapped her fingers to get the attention of the house computer, and then ordered breakfast. “Two extra-large lattes, quad strength, and fresh fruit and warm cinammon buns. Four of them. No, make it six.”
I raised the back of the lounger so we could sit, and then arranged the warm blanket into a tent over us to stay warm, our arms and legs still entertwined. “You know, eating breakfast with a girl with your appetite who can’t ever get fat is dangerous.”
“Oh,” she winked, “did you want something for breakfast too?”
I began to play with her right nipple, which immediately stiffened. “How about we play first and eat after?”
She placed her hand over mine to stop my fingers. “Work starts early on the ranch. I thought we’d get a quick bite and then I’d take you for a tour. And if we start messing around this early, it’ll be noon before we come up for air.”
I contented myself with hugging her, only to have breakfast arrive minuteds later. A gleaming, stainless steel food bot floated up the same tunnel we’d risen through, carrying a covered tray. The bot set up a small table next to the lounger and arranged breakfast along with a large bouquet of flowers. Then it dove over the side of the tower to fly off and serve up someone else’s breakfast.
“You know, I could really get used to this.”
“I hope you do,” Alura smiled as she stuffed most of a large cinnamon bun in her mouth in a single bite. “Gonna be yur home too,” she said in a muffled voice, her mouth full.
Which reminded me that I hadn’t found an opportunity yet to sit down and talk with her parents and do the traditional “I want to marry your daughter” pitch. One drawback of being a historian is that I love many of the old ways of doing things.
I ate some fruit and drank my latte while Alura downed the half-dozen cinnamon buns. Her fingers were still sticky as hugged me to her side to take me on the tour, dropping down low to fly slowly around the ranch, hovering over places of interest, the two of us still wrapped in that big blanket and nothing else. The workmen all smiled and waved as they greeted Alura, but I got some envious glares from some of the younger men. Which made me wonder how well they knew Alura.
She flew us over to a creek bed where her younger siblings were helping some workmen. Heavy machinery was banned from the ranch, which meant there was always interesting work for the kids. Freya and Jana were working together to dig a house-sized boulder out of a creek bed. At ages 10 and 8, they were still developing their strength, and the boulder had to weigh a thousand tons. They were rocking it back and forth, but they couldn’t lift it until Gaia showed up to add her greater strength. The three of them flew the boulder safely away from the workmen, at which point Gaia let go to allow her younger sisters struggle together. Training, she said.
The girls soon started to spin around as they lost control of the huge rock. They got so screwed up that Jana lost her grip completely, and the boulder crashed down to land in a huge puff of dust — directly on top of Freya. Alura just laughed as Jana tried to dig her sister out, with Gaia returning to help. Given Alura said they were supposed to carry it miles from here, over to a portion of the Zoo to feed an alien rock-eating species, it was obvious they were going to be at this for some time.
“So that’s how you guys learn? By just doing stuff?”
“Figuring it out by doing is the best way,” she nodded. “They can’t get hurt, just frustrated. But if anyone asks for advice, they’ll get it. But usually not help. My parents are big believers that we can learn to do just about anything if we use both our brains and our powers. No limits other than self-imposed ones.”
“But they’re just kids.”
“Kids maybe, but strong ones. Jana is only eight, but she can already lift more than a hundred tons. And Freya can lift half again that much. And Gaia can hit Mach 3 from a standing start in three seconds flat. And last week she deflected a depleted-uranium tank sabot shell from her chest — and then caught what was left of it.”
“How long does it take you, you know, to get to Mach 3?”
“Me? About a second and a half. Wanna try?”
I laughed. “Wouldn’t be much of me left if you did.”
“I gather that’s a no,” she winked.
We flew slowly onward towards a distant corral where some cowboys were trying to pen up some angry bison. Syl, who was barely four, was trying to help by sitting on a bit bull’s head as she tried to steer him into the corral. The angry animal instead butted her into a tree, using his ton of muscle mass to shatter the trunk against her back. Syl of course was unharmed. She hung on and eventually got the huge animal running toward the corral. But when it saw the gate, it skidded to a stop, nearly tossing little Syl off. To her credit, she grabbed the unwilling bull by the horns and slowly dragged him inside, all four hoofs digging into the dirt as it tried to back away with all its strength. Once she had it inside, she quickly closed the gate. There she stared proudly into the eyes of the now subdued beast while dusting off her hands.
I was astonished. She was so little and that bull was so big.
“I hate to ask, but what job does little Anna do?”
“None. Nobody gets a job until they’re ready, which is usually at age four. Up until then, it’s all play. And everyone starts by taking care of the animals.”
“Child labor,” I chuckled.
“My folks have a system now, but they had to figure it all out the first time with me. Dar and Lara had it easier and now we’ve got a really good program. Everyone has a few different jobs each year, based on age, and the jobs get more demanding with every year that passes. There are also off-ranch assignments. Gaia, now that she’s thirteen, is supposed to take a tour of all the planets this summer and bring home a distinctive rock sample from each one. Which is damn hard on Jupiter given how deep you have to dive to find the rocky core. But Mia did it last year, so she gets to be Gaia’s wingman.”
“Cool. What about Nancy. She’s sixteen, right?”
“She gets to dive her first wormhole. Dad will go with her. That’s dangerous stuff, even for us. Going through is easy, but coming back can be hard without disturbing the timeline. She also has to do an internship with the Secretary General at the UN.”
“Wormhole diving and fetching coffee for some stuffy bureaucrat? One hell of a combo.”
“Mom believes in being both powerful and humble.”
“Which is one of the reasons I love you so, my dear. Arrogance and power normally seem to go hand in hand. You guys are different.”
“Not really. All intelligent and warlike species have this problem. Corruption by privilege and power. My grandparents were awful. And then there was Zod. But thanks to Dad’s upbringing on a simple farm by truly decent people, and Mom’s experiences growing up on Krypton and seeing the abuses of power, and then coming here as an orphan and having to pretend to be a powerless human, she learned humility. Which is why Nancy gets to punch through interstellar wormholes this year while also helping an old man who is trying to keep peace on Earth. By fetching his coffee if that’s what he needs.”
“So what about Lara?”
“She’s a real problem. It’s impossible for her to work around men. Even when she minds her own business, which she usually doesn’t, men just melt around her. When she did her internship at the UN, the entire building became non-functional.”
“I thought that was the UN’s normal state?”
“Ha ha. The UN does some good work. But nothing at all was getting done as long as Lara was there. Mom had to end her internship after a week. She can’t even have a friendly conversation with a man without sending his thoughts and dreams flying to inappropriate places.”
“Not me. I have you.”
“Bullshit. I saw how you reacted when you first saw her, and that was at the dinner table. You don’t want to spend too much time alone with her. Things happen.”
“You willing to bet on that?”
“Lets see, if I win, I get to watch you getting inappropriate with my sister. Gee. That’s a great bet. Not.”
“I’d surprise you. Trust me.”
“What you don’t realize is that she’s like a dangerous drug. Men go out of their minds.”
“You’re exaggerating, Alura.”
“I wish I was. Funny thing is, whatever charm she has, it doesn’t work on women at all. In fact, she pisses most women off just being in the room. Even gay women who otherwise should be drooling over her. S.T.A.R Labs think there’s a pheromone involved that exploits some unique biological back door into male brain physiology. A door females don’t have. But if so, nobody has been able to capture or even detect what she’s giving off.”
“You said your mom had a friend back on Krypton with that power?”
“Yeah, but it was pretty rare. My grandmother Alura, who I’m named after, had a bit of it too.”
“But not you, thankfully. I enjoy thinking with something other than my dick.”
“Since when?” she laughed. “That’s what I like about you.”
“My dick? Or that I’m a dick-brain?”
“Mostly the former,” she laughed.
“Depends on the moment. You did get me through Renaissance Literature last semester.”
I grinned as she teased me. “Well, this dick-brain has noticed that there are some great clouds over there. Want to explore them? Hate to see you break your almost perfect record. You know, about morning air sex.”
She sighed. “If only. But I’ve got something I need to do for Dad this morning — a short speech at a conference in Singaore — and then I’m supposed to be joining April for lunch. How about coming along? April said you seemed to like her. Besides, I’ve never done a threesome in mid-air. It’s probably something like juggling.”
I looked at her, eyes wide. “You’ve kidding?”
She shrugged. “Maybe. But it’s almost your birthday. April is special. Might be fun.”
“Bullshit,” I laughed. “But you had me going there for a moment.”
“No, she really is. Fun.”
“Maybe we should just do lunch.”
“And waste those nice clouds?”
“I think I need to get my feet back on the ground. Soon. My thoughts are soaring way too high.”
“Coward,” she laughed as she turned to fly us toward the Welcome Center. “I’ll drop you off to hang out with her while I’m in Singapore. Then pick you both up for lunch. Give you a chance to get to know her.”
“Town? Why not eat here on the ranch? I’m told you’ve got some great restaurants.”
“We try to keep up community relations, so one of us has to eat lunch in one of the surrounding towns every few weeks. Hang out with the locals and all. Try to be entertaining and then do something useful for them. Today’s my day.”
I found I was strangely looking forward to spending time with April. She obviously had many more stories about growing up with Alura, and I wanted to hear them all.