In memory of Krypton
Conference Room Five, in the Jor El tower.
The El family was on Red Alert, with everyone but the very youngest kids gathering in Control to put together plans to get Dar back. I heard talk of high-speed snatch and grabs along with follow-up subdue and capture plans. No one was confident given the Almeracian could teleport. That was one power that Kryptonian genetics had no answer to.
The deeper they got into discussion, the more the talk switched from English to Kryptonian. Eventually, I couldn't follow them, so I rose to leave. To my surprise, Mia caught me at the door to whisper that Lara needed to talk to me about something very important. In a downstairs conference room. Number 5. Right now.
That summons both concerned and excited me. I never feel completely in control around Lara, and Alura had warned me about spending time alone with her. She clearly didn't trust her sister. Which, of course, pissed me off -- clearly she didn't trust me either. Alura wasn't giving me enough credit.
I pushed the anger away, telling myself that Alura had seen a lot more of Lara's seductive powers than I had. She claimed it affected all men, regardless of sexual persuasion or age, but it always pissed off women, whether straight or gay. Alura said that alone proved that whatever her power was, it worked directly on the physical differences in the brain associated with xy versus xx chromosomes. It was aimed at what a computer engineer would call the metal -- the level you couldn't change with code.
My brain's not a computer, but here I am, completely made of xy chromosomes. I told myself to disbelieve everything I felt or saw around Lara, but I was afraid that might be impossible. To disbelieve, you have to think about disbelieving, but I don't remember thinking about anything except how attractive Lara was when I got too close to her. The way she drew me in without even trying.
Strangely though, when Alura showed me an image of Lara, I didn't recognize her at first. Alura insisted it really was Lara, so I looked again, seeing a girl with a cutely familiar face but with a profoundly muscular body -- she was the female version of her twin, Dar. The image wasn't particularly sexy unless you're into muscles.
But that wasn't anything like the way she looked when I saw her in person, when she came across as slender and impossibly beautiful. How the hell do I deal with someone who's directly fucking with my brain, changing what I see and feel? Put blinders over my eyes?
Such were my thoughts when the door opened and my confusion was instantly solved as a goddess floated in. I stared in awe at Lara, marveling at the perfection of her blonde hair, her marvelously blue eyes, her incredible beauty. She was so slender and so very tall, every curve tight yet graceful and beyond perfect, sculpted by a master artist. Her gown looked as if it made of linen and white gold, her pale golden hair hanging to her waist. Her perfect breasts sat very high on her chest, her waist slender and tight. Her lovely legs were very long and bare beneath her very short hem, her skin a flawless shade of golden tan. I devoured her with my eyes, my hunger growing despite myself. I struggled to focus my consciousness on that corner of my mind that only moments before had seen her as she really was.
She laughed as she saw the strange look on my face. "Slack-jawed, drooling with a worried, wrinkled brow isn't your best look, Alec. Relax. You are completely and totally safe with me. I don't suppose Alura will never forgive me for what I did with her earlier boyfriends, but you are absolutely off-limits." She tilted her head. "Although with that X-ring, I'm betting the sex would be legendary."
Her last comment struck like a blow. I boldly shifted my gaze to her eyes, and my ring started to grow warm and my heart pounded wildly as I felt my body drawing on her powers -- and then responding as it always did around Alura, growing stronger, more vital, more alive. More aroused.
"Wow! You can draw power even at this distance?" she gasped softly, her eyes piercing me to understand everything. "You are getting very good with that ring."
I quickly forced my eyes away, both embarrassed and angry at myself for looking at her that way. "Normally I can't. It requires touching. But everything is different around you, Lara. Like you're broadcasting a lot more wattage."
She laughed. "I've heard it said different ways, but that's a good one. I can actually feel myself streaming power toward the ring, like it opens a channel or something. I think I better stay on this side of the table."
Talking about her power made it easier to keep the rational side of my mind alive. She still looked like a goddess, and moved like one, but my thoughts were mostly my own. Enough even to find some humor in the situation. "You? Being conservative?!" I said in mock horror. "I thought you were the original provocateur."
"Sometimes. Ok, usually," she said. "But we have my brother to save right now. Dar's not going anywhere with that Almeracian bitch."
"Who strangely seems to be your sister."
"Half sister -- who has been corrupted by her mother, a slave-owning tyrant. That makes her an enemy of this family, shared blood or not."
"You really gave your dad some shit back there."
"He deserved it for not telling us. But I didn't come down here to talk about that. I need your help to prepare a doomsday weapon."
"Have you heard of someone we call Dumb Bunny?"
"Ah, yeah. Alura said something about her. That she was some kind of problem for your dad. Also that she's Dar's fuck-buddy now. Who is she?"
Lara's left eyebrow rose. "My, my, you are learning our deepest secrets, Alec. That thing with Dad is really sensitive."
"I'm not trying to pry, Lara. But Alura and I don't have secrets."
"Obviously. Well, given you need to know, her name is Athena. She an ET who has some powers."
"ET? Every ET I've heard about other than you guys has been dangerous beyond imagination. They cared nothing for humans."
Lara shook her head, blonde hair flying. "Athena had been around a long time and she's not normally dangerous to humans. At least not like Faora or her ilk. Quite the contrary. Dad tried to get Athena to promise to never kill, way back in the day."
"1960's. People called her Dumb Bunny back then, which is why she dropped out of history. Her real name is Athena Tremor and her mother was a very powerful Amazon, but not from Themiscyra. Her father... well, there are rumors, but nobody really knows for sure who or what he was. Maybe just a test tube. Mom thinks Athena was an early attempt by Darkseid to create his Furies."
"Jesus...!" I gasped. "Furies! They're all homicidal maniacs. Literally, and I mean literally, all they do is kill. And they can hold their own even with you guys."
"Yeah, but it took Darkseid a lot of tries to perfect them. Mom believes Darkseid had this frozen Kryptonian sperm line and his scientists experimented by artificially inseminating renegade Amazons to make his Furies. Athena was the first born of that line, but she didn't work out the way Darkseid wanted. Mainly due to her lack of intelligence. She's essentially a dim but overstuffed blonde centerfold-type with half Amazonian and half Kryptonian powers."
"Sounds like a bombshell."
"Back in the 1960's, it was snarkily said that Athena was
'Strong as an ox and almost as smart'.
Which is why they called her Dumb Bunny. Kind of cruel, but also kind of true."
"People said all kinds of cruel, judgmental and racist things back then."
"I suppose. But her real issue was that the vacant look in her face came from naivety and ignorance. She'd never seen the inside of a school, or had any parenting at all. Darkseid grew her to adulthood in this tank before deciding she was a failure, so he didn't bother training her to be a Fury. He probably thought it was funny, dumping a useless servant on Earth and aiming her at Dad, hoping she'd corrupt or at least embarrass him. She was supposed to become his super-girlfriend."
"Wow. No one has ever written about this."
"And they never will, Alec."
"Understand. So what happened to the girlfriend thing?"
"Only Dad knows, and he won't talk about it. Which says something happened. You have to understand that Dad has never been a very sexual person. Growing up the way he did, hiding his powers while having to be so very careful around people, he viewed having sex with humans as dangerous and extremely risky and mostly unnecessary. But for all of that, he has always loved women, most of all Lois Lane. So he learned how to bring her pleasure, which given he's the Man of Steel, wasn't exactly a challenge."
"Ah, OK..." I said slowly, "but this is a really strange discussion about your dad, especially coming from you. Also a sad one. Always holding back. Pretending pleasure to please others. Never for himself."
"It wasn't so much pretend, but rather as Superman, he learned to see himself through the eyes of others. When he brings a woman great pleasure, then he feels that pleasure, even if he can't truly let himself go. He's very empathic. Mom tells me that he could live comfortably inside Lois' passion without ever giving in to his own. And Lois was head-over-heels in love with him, and very passionate and very physical."
"So he never... you know, just let go. Before hooking up with your mom, I mean?"
"Sure he had. Mom says he had a fling with Wonder Woman, but we don't talk about that. He does admit to having a fairly serious affair with Maxima right after Lois died, which obviously is the source of all our problems now. Mom never worried about Diana, knowing that her fascination with Dad was purely physical, but she does worry about Maxima. She thinks Kal really fell for her back in the day. But even Mom gets weird when the story works its way around to Athena."
"So you think she and your Dad had a thing?"
She nodded. "More than think. Dar says he can prove it. You see, S.T.A.R researchers discovered that Athena's body incorporates any Kryptonian DNA that she ... you know, captures. So to speak. It makes her stronger."
"That's... interesting. But what does that prove?"
"I found the original testing records for her at S.T.A.R Labs. At the very beginning, Athena could barely bench 10 tons. Which is decent for your average Amazon, but hardly at Kryptonian levels. But a year after her first test, they invited her back, and this time she could easily bench 100 tons. Like it was no sweat. That got everyone excited, asking her questions, but Athena acted dumb, something she's a natural at, and just claimed she'd been working out. But other than Diana, who has a bunch of Zeus' godlike DNA, no Amazon could be that strong. So they tested her DNA again, which was pretty crude back in those days, and this time they found some Kryptonian genes."
"So... you think your dad made a little contribution. DNA wise?"
"Well, some Kryptonian male did, and there weren't any others around back then. Zod and his followers were in the PZ. Mom doesn't know of any other Kryptonian males walking around at that time, because if they had been, they'd have found her. All I know is that Athena and Dad must have had something pretty hot going on, because Dar says she gets only slightly stronger each time she's been with him. That initial 10x improvement in her strength back in the 60's would not have come quickly. Dar and she have been together a lot during the last year, and she's maybe increased her her strength 50% during that time. Not 1000% like back in Dad's time."
I shrugged. "Maybe it's an age thing -- faster when she's younger. No surprise there. Or maybe that was what Darkseid designed her for? To draw power from your Dad. Once she was powerful enough, maybe he could trigger her to attack him. Maybe she's a weapon."
The thought of a Kryptonian weapon sent chills down my spine.
Lara shook her head, long hair flowing silkily. "No. Mom feels certain that Darkseid tossed her away on a useless mission to confuse Dad before he understood what her potential was. He hates stupidity even more than weakness. But he can make mistakes too."
"So what's the problem now, Lara?"
"The problem is that Dad's not being forthcoming. From everything he's said, and everything mom knows, a lot of it first hand, he was very happily married to Lois at that time, and he's always been the most proper of men. He wasn't the type to go outside the marriage, at least not without Lois' permission, which Mom thinks Lois only gave him when it came to Wonder Woman. After all, Lois knew that no Amazon would bind herself to a man, especially not the mighty Superman. They value their independence from men far too much."
"Does your Dad know about Athena's empowerment? Back then compared to now with Dar?"
"When I tried to explain what Dar thought was happening -- the way she incorporated his Kryptonian DNA, bit by bit -- he got truly angry and stalked away, claiming he was not going to speculate on nonsense. I'd never had him shut me down like that before."
"Yeah. Mom thinks that Dad's frustration back when he was young, combined with Athena's ever eager and innocent opportunity and obvious charms got to him. But the only thing clear is that he won't talk about it, and he doesn't want Athena to ever enter Little Krypton. He's always been an open book to all of us in every other way, so Mom says we need to respect his feelings. And also protect Dar's privacy to do what he wishes with Athena now."
"You're mom's always very practical, so I got it. But what does she have to do with Alexana or whatever her name is?"
"Athena has a lot of our physical strength, and essentially all of our invulnerability, but she's not sickened by Green-K."
"I thought Green-K was deadly to anyone with Kryptonian DNA?"
"Not the Furies. Somehow Darkseid exploited the power of our DNA without the limitations, probably by using some of his own DNA. Because of that, I think with the right handling Athena could be our secret weapon to get Dar back, and I want you to be her handler. She intensely distrusts all of us, well, except Dar. She reserves her strongest dislike for Alura, who early on tried to protect Dar from her. There's some bad blood there. But Athena will be very motivated to keep Dar alive."
"She won't hold Alura against me, being her boyfriend and all?"
"To the contrary. She will do everything she can to seduce you just to get back at Alura."
I just stared at Lara. "Ah, Ok. Not sure I want to be in middle of that fight. But trust me, Athena's charms won't work on me. Hell, I'm starting to get a handle on ignoring yours."
Lara laughed. "You haven't met her yet. Or touched me. But I hope you're right for your sake. Athena bends men's minds."
"Spoken by one who should know."
"She's different. You'll see."
I swallowed hard. Of all the things that I'd worried about before coming to Little Krypton, being seduced wasn't one of them. First Alice, then Lara, who now claimed I was safe from her, and now Athena? "So, what's she like?"
Lara smiled. "I'm not going to spoil that. Unlike me, you get what you see with Athena. And you get a lot. I'll drop you off where she's waiting for Dar."
"She doesn't know? About him?"
Lara shook her golden head. "Nope. She always meets Dar at this stone outbuilding at the edge of the property, up against Glacier Park. It looks like the Great Wall of China. No Comms there, no power. No anything. It's just a playhouse that Alura built when she was ten. I was her little hideaway for playing games with her friends. Kind of like Dungeons and Dragons, but in real life. She dug tunnels in the hard rock underground and everything."
"Cool... just the kind of thing I'd imagined Alura would have done as a kid. But as far as stopping Alexana, what's the thinking here?"
Lara hesitated, and then took a deep breath. "Ok, you know about HAIF, the Hostile Alien Interdiction Force. Right?"
"Well, I've got a connection through a friend on the force who told me they have a device that fissions an artificial Green-K isotope. It supposedly gives off a burst of radiation that they believe will instantly stop our hearts."
I stared at her. "A Kryptonian killer?"
"Not necessarily. Resuscitation would likely to be successful if done in the first few hours, but that takes special equipment. I gave this new info to S.T.A.R and they're frantically working on a resuscitation protocol. But it's all theoretical, on both sides. Nobody had detonated one of those things."
"But if it's a fission weapon, that means big badda boom."
She shrugged. "Depends on your definition. S.T.A.R already had some intel on the device, and they think we're talking very low yield, maybe just a few tons of TNT equivalent. No more than a very large conventional bomb."
"That's still enough to flatten a city block, collapsing every building, Lara."
"Yeah, and we can't get anywhere near the thing even before detonation given the stray radiation from the unstable isotope."
Now it made sense. "But that radiation won't hurt me... or Athena. So she gets it close to Alexana and detonates it. But won't that take Dar out too?"
Lara looked worried. "Yeah, that's the scary part. But we should be able to resuscitate him, and later Alexana, once you and Athena have her in a low-level Green-K cage."
I whistled. "That's pretty hard core."
"It's our backup if all else fails. But I need you and Athena to be ready. I'll bring in the HAIF folks with their weapon if and when we need it."
"And given my partner is Athena, I'm going to have to be the one with the brains. Except I don't know anything about doing things like this."
She smiled as she slowly walked around the table, moving so smoothly, so elegantly, every strand of her golden hair radiating this glow that wasn't merely made of light. "You are resourceful and smart and can do anything you want. Alura has been shaping you well, bit by bit."
I wasn't sure I liked the sound of that, but I quickly forgot my worry as Lara slowly circled me, almost touching, her eyes looking deeply into mine. Like all Kryptonians, her eyes were incredibly clear, her pupils wide, which made her eyes look bottomless. I clenched my fists and concentrated on resisting the way my body was being drawn to her, invisibly but powerfully, like steel to a magnet. She paused in front of me, and her hand reached out to find mine. A shocking explosion of light flared around my hand when my ring touched her skin, and a soft blow pushed me away from her, nearly knocking me off my feet.
When I regained my balance, I saw that she was smiling. "Oh, that was amazing. Imagine how hot we would be together, sharing all that power between us. Pity."
I just stared at her, resisting every strand in my body urging me toward her.
"You pass the test, Alec. You will also endure Athena."
My head was spinning and I was still off-balance when Lara walked behind to hug me tightly, the hard points of her nipples centered in the soft spread of her breasts against my back. And then we were flying, across the room and up one of those lighted tunnels and out into the cool air. Lara flew differently than Alura, staying fast and low, barely skimming the ground, climbing over trees and out-buildings and rocks. Given I was unable to bury my face beneath her hair, I had a hard time breathing in the powerful slipstream. Fortunately, only minutes passed before I saw something I'd only seen before in China -- a great stone wall rising over the horizon, stretching off in both directions, miles long. In the middle was a castle that looked like it truly belonged on a medieval European movie set. It was huge, with towers rising hundreds of feet into the air.
This was Alura's idea of a play house?
Lara slowed to drop me in front of a huge doorway, the forty-foot tall doors made of massive rough-hewn timbers. It was opened just enough to squeeze through.
"Say Hi to Fyre for me. He'll huff and puff but he rarely eats anyone these days."
She leaped back into the air without answering and was gone in a second, her departing sonic boom unfortunately announcing my arrival to whomever was inside the castle. Huffing and puffing and eating people didn't sound good. What kind of animal did all that?
My feet wisely wanted to go the other way, but I forced myself to walk toward the huge door, convinced that Lara wouldn't send me in here just to get killed. Still, my senses were very much on edge as I slipped through the open doors into a courtyard the size of a soccer field -- which thankfully was empty. The castle towers rose all around, with balconies and narrow walkways clinging to the outside of the towers as they wound their way to the tops in medieval fashion. A half dozen curved entrances surrounded the large courtyard, which was crudely paved with hewn stone.
Despite its huge size, the castle was very rustic looking, even ragged, as if the stones had been chopped up and mortared in place in a big hurry -- and obviously by a ten-year-old kid.
As used as I am to living with her, sometimes Alura blows me away. This was definitely one of those times.
Walking further into the courtyard, I found that all the doorways were dark except the one on the far end, which revealed the light of a fire deep inside. I headed that way, only to be shocked when a huge ball of orange flame billowed out that doorway and halfway across the courtyard. The blast of heat nearly singed me before I dove into the safety of the closest doorway. Looking back, I was astonished to see a huge scaly creature crawling out that doorway to stand twenty feet tall. My hair was standing on end with eyes wide as saucers as my heart tried to leap out of my chest -- there was a fucking dragon out there!
I was completely blown away by the size and malevolent beauty of the creature. From head to tail, it was easily 20 yards long and covered in glistening scales of many colors with huge horns on its head. The creature bent slowly down to look into my doorway, its eyeball as large as my head. It began sniffing loudly, its mouth opening to revealing multiple rows of sharp teeth that were each a foot long. Whenever it exhaled, I was surrounded by the stench of sulfur.
"You are not Dar," it said in a rumbly voice, its breath smelling of burnt meat. Not just a dragon, but one that spoke decent English? Impossible times impossible.
"I was just about to flame you, thinking you were him. Dar enjoys my stone-melting flames. I was definitely not expecting humans today."
I remember seeing an ancient movie about a dragon that could talk, along with some Scottish actor, but I couldn't remember the name.
"What... who are you?" I asked, my knees knocking together, the primal horror of being eaten alive filling me with terror. If not for Lara obliquely mentioning this creature, and knowing she needed me alive and well, I would have run screaming down the tunnel. This had to be some kind of advanced hologram, with smelly capability. That thought gave the courage to walk a couple of steps closer. "You're... you're supposed to be a dragon."
"Yes and no," it rumbled. "My people are the origin of your myths about such creatures, but what I actually am is a Zentorph. You know, from planet Zenta?" It's voice was so low and strong that it made the stone walls vibrate, and its hot breath enveloped me in further stench.
My fears grew strong as I quickly stepped backward. "So... you're... you're real?" I asked in a voice that suddenly sounded weak and tinny. "A real, talking dragon?"
"I just said I'm a Zentorph. Kal El brought me to Earth as a pet, a long time ago. He thought I would grow the size of my fellow Zentorphs, which is like a big dog. But there are many sheep in this valley, and I have a great fondness for sheep. And they were fun to catch at night."
I tried to imagine a dragon flying around snatching up sheep. Good thing Little Krypton was big enough to keep that story from the nearby locals.
"Anyway, when I got too big for the zoo, Alura made this home for me, and all I had to do to was play Dungeons and Dragons with her friends."
"She and her friends played D&D here?" I gasped, trying to imagine it. "With a real dragon?!"
"Yes! I so miss those days. It was such great fun and I never flamed or ate a single one of them. Alura was most insistent about that. Thankfully, Freya and Kann still come by sometimes with their friends to play, but children are more fearful these days."
My head felt like it was going to explode. I was chatting with a Smaug-sized dragon named Fyre who played D&D with kids.
"So, you came for my friend?" Fyre asked in his rumbling voice.
"I thought she was very dangerous when she first came, years ago. I felt the Darkseid in her. So I flamed her. Many times. And then I ate her. She was very chewy. She then rudely kept me awake for days, what with squirming around and tickling me from inside. She was not happy being shit out in a pile of dragon poop, which smells worse than anything on Earth."
I just stared at Fyre, jaw dropping, trying to imagine spending days going through a dragon's gut before being shit out. And then I caught myself -- the dragon was just fucking with me. Trying to see how gullible I was. I mean, how do you read a dragon's expression? He always looked like he was considering chomping on me to find out how chewy I was.
The dragon finally gave off a resigned HHMMMFF as it waved a scaly arm toward the next doorway, each of its claws the length of my forearm. "The woman you seek is in there. But she is very dangerous."
"And you... are not?" I asked in astonishment.
The beast shook its head. "I just take care of the castle. Chasing off the local boys who try to sneak in here."
So, some locals knew we had a dragon. I felt my courage returning, and forced myself to duck under the dragon to exit the tunnel. From there I sprinted across to the entrance he'd pointed to. Behind me, the dragon's huge snuffling head followed, those massive fangs only inches from my back. No going back now.
I was breathing hard by the time the blue sky was blotted out by the second tunnel. I walked rapidly inside, finding that a single blue door was visible at the end of the tunnel, half opened as it let a warm light out. I had no choice but walk that way as the dragon now blocked my retreat with his horned and scaly head. I was almost to the door when something ran out the opening to knock me to the side, my head bouncing painfully off the wall of the tunnel. I thought I saw blonde hair trailing behind, but it was otherwise a blur.
Peaking around the door, I found the room was now empty. I was trying to decide what to do next when I horrible roar rumbled down the tunnel from the courtyard, so loud that it made the stone walls tremble. Then a flash of orange flame lit the tunnel entrance, followed by the beat of massive wings. They became a deafening roar, with each stroke a hurricane. I ducked low as I worked my way along the walls to get reach the entrance, and then peeked out. My eyes nearly fell out of my head as I saw a nearly naked blonde swinging the dragon around by its tail like a stuffed animal. The dragon was twisting itself around as it tried to bite her, its massive jaws with all those huge teeth snapping together. The woman finally tossed the dragon high into the sky.
Given its size, that dragon had to weigh three times that of an elephant. Which said everything I needed to know about the woman who was dressed in a tiny black G-string with a wide leather belt buckled around her chest. That and a gold choker and lacy gloves that rose to her upper arms. Her hair was a sexy mess which completed the exotic come-hither look of a high-end Vegas stripper.
A stripper who could beat up dragons with her bare hands?
Obviously, I'd just found Athena.
** Images For Use By Upgraded+ Only **
My first thought was that she was a hell of a lot of woman for a young man like Dar to be messing around with. Way too hot, way, way too experienced. Way too much of everything. She looked mid-twenties, but if this was Athena, then she was actually a century and a half old. She lacked the El family's tight muscularity, looking softer and rounder, but with a chest even larger than Alura's. Her face was attractive, but also a bit vacant looking. Lara's words ran through my head as I saw the way she was staring back at me:
almost as smart as an ox?
She casually bent down to pick up a chunk of broken stone that had to weigh at least 200 pounds. It looked weightless as flipped it in her hand. "Who in the hell are you? And where is Dar?"
I nodded toward the stone. "Are you going to hit me with that?"
"Maybe. Depends on why you're here."
"I'm Alec. Alura's fianc Lara thinks she might need us to save Dar. You are Athena, right?"
She looked puzzled as she tried to parse and process all that, and then she extended her arm to drop her stone. The ground shook when it hit. "So what's wrong with Dar?
"He was taken by an Almeracian princess named Alexana, and judging by the seismic reports, they're getting it on famously in some Utah canyon."
"Shit!" she exclaimed, her eyes flashing.
"Yeah. That was my first thought too. The Family is trying to extract him, but Alexana has this teleport ability. They need a backup if they can't get him back with brute force."
"Not much for small talk, are you?" she asked. "But at least you didn't call me DB like the rest of the family."
I shrugged. "I hear there is some unpleasant history with Kal El. And your current friendship with Dar."
"Friendship? No way they used that word. More like fuck-buddy. The Family hates me. Why do you think I hide out here with a stinky dragon."
"I'm not Family. AI'm just an ordinary guy who's in way over his head."
"And that's supposed to make me feel confident about working with you?"
"Lara trusts us to figure a way to some kind of Green-K fission device close to Alexana. She says Kryptonite doesn't hurt you, and it won't hurt me. The rest of them can't even get near the device."
"Fission device? As in a nuke?"
I shrugged. "She said just a few tons of TNT yield."
"Oh, gee, a tiny firecracker?" she laughed. "So tiny it would, you know, flatten this entire castle."
I didn't laugh. Green-K might not hurt me, but an explosion surely would. Especially nuke-grade. "Our job is to get it as close as possible to the Almeracian girl," I repeated.
"Alexana is no girl. She's nearly as old as I am."
"You know her?"
"I've run into her. Too often. She's got way too much of her father in her."
"Kal El? I thought you liked him?"
"I love him. I don't know who told you he was her father? Zod is."
I swallowed hard. "You mean... as in, General Zod?"
"Yeah. He and Maxima rule the worlds of Almerac these days. It's not a healthy place. Don't you know anything?"
For someone supposedly with a low intellect, Athena wasn't living down to her reputation. But then, 150 years of hard living had to be worth something.
"Kal thinks she's his daughter. That's what he told everyone."
"No doubt," she said with a sad shake of her head. "That's undoubtably what Maxima wants him to think. She still wants a child by him and the way I see it, Maxima figures that Kal will rationalize, saying if one, then why not two. Kal is big into rationalizing."
"So Dar and her being together isn't as icky as we first thought."
"It will be when she kills him. And she will."
"Not if we prevent it."
"With your Kryptonite nuke?"
"It's not mine. I'm just supposed to work with you to figure out how to deliver it to Alexana."
"What's your job? I'm the invulnerable one. I can fly."
"I'm supposed to be the brains."
She laughed. "A man who knows nothing of combat. Or Almeracians. Or seemingly anything else. And they say I'm stupid. So, what's your great plan here?"
"At the moment, talking you into helping save Dar."
"Well, then you're done. You had me at Dar. So when do we see this nuke thing? How big is it?"
"Lara's working on that."
She reached into her bag and pulled out a MacBook. She walked closer to me as she balance it on her hand while firing up Google Maps. "So, show me where Dar is now. And you said we're the backup. I assume those idiots are going to piss Alexana off first by trying to grab him."
"I presume," I said. Standing next to Athena was intimidating -- she was taller than me, not to mention ridiculously sexy given she had too much of everything. My ring suddenly began to burn. She looked away from her Mac to reach down and grab my ring hand, quickly lifting it. Her arm feeling incredibly strong.
"What the fuck is this?" she asked, staring at the glowing ring. She clasped my hand to her breast, and a sudden wild rush of power flowed up my arm. Gasping, she dropped her computer while falling to her knees, and then leaned forward to bury her face in my groin. Before I knew what was happening, she'd torn my belt open and pulled my pants down to wrap her mouth around me. I freaked out, not least in the way I suddenly grew hard. I tangled my fingers in her hair as I tried to push her away, but she felt as solid and immovable as Alura.
I also realized moments later that she was very, very good this, which ensured my body was going all in. In seconds, she had me at the edge, at which point she stood up to punch her open palm into my chest hard enough to send me flying across the courtyard. I should have been killed when I hit the far wall, broken in a dozen places at least, but when I struggled to get back to my feet, dazed and confused, I found that nothing was broken.
Athena was laughing. "So that's what that ring does! Makes you briefly into a man-of-steel. I see Alura is still into tweaking people to serve her own fucking needs."
"It's... it's not like that," I gurgled as the blow wore off. "It's a... a compatibility thing."
"Like I said."
I glared at her. "You know, when I agree to do this, I was expecting you to be this sweet, innocent but very strong Dumb Bunny that I heard about."
"Call me that again," she growled, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, "and I will break you into little pieces. Super ring or not."
"Look, we obviously got off on the wrong foot, Athena. Can we take a step back and start ove..."
I was cut-off in mid word when the fire-drake returned in a hurricane of flapping wings, hitting the ground between myself and Athena as it blasted her with a full-throat of flame. I dove to the side and rolled to put out any stray flames before sprinting to the closest doorway. Turning back, I saw that dragon fire had burned Athena's clothing away, what there was of it anyway. The belt buckle over her chest melted as I watched, the leather turning to ash, her gold choker running molten down her chest. She stood naked with her hands on her hips as the dragon hugged and blew again, an even bigger blast of blue-hot flame heating her skin to incandesence, the stones beneath her toes softening like candle wax. I hadn't been anywhere near the flames, but my clothing was smoking and I smelled singed hair. I ducked back out of sight into the tunnel to keep from burning.
Which was a good thing given the dragon blasted her yet again, this time filling most of the courtyard with orange flame. Crawling back toward the entrance after the flames dissipated, I was astounded to see Athena and the dragon dancing, hand in hand, spinning around with a sense of grace that made no sense for an animal that dwarfed an elephant. I swore the dragon was smiling, which ensured I could see all of its horrible teeth. Athena's skin was glowing brightly as she looked natural and comfortable in the nude.
Most astounding of all, the two of them were playing. They danced for several minutes before she hugged the dragon's head to kiss it on an eyeball. The dragon began to flap its mighty wings again, the blasts of air so strong they shoved me backward down the tunnel. The slow beat of it's wings was a deafening roar, each stroke a hurricane. And then it was gone, leaving the air filled with dust.
I couldn't help but think of what Alura had said back at that burger joint in that little town, about how the local people didn't think Little Krypton was even part of Earth anymore. They absolutely had that right!
Athena appeared in the entrance of the tunnel, her skin merely a dull red now. She was carrying the melted, smashed remains of her MacBook. I turned to walk ahead of her and into the room I'd peeked into early. It was set up like a small apartment, with a huge bed in one corner, made of massive stone, and some comfortable furniture in the middle and a small kitchen at the opposite end. This must be where Dar and Athena had their little get-togethers.
Athena stunk of sulfur and burnt meat as she came closer. "So now that we've been properly introduced, let's figure out what we've gotta do," she said, not even breathing hard despite her exertions.
"That was what you call proper?"
"I stopped before it became sex."
"Somehow I don't think Alura would agree. About it not being sex."
"No, she wouldn't. Alura hates me. Everyone in the Family but Dar does. But I honestly don't give a shit what they think. I want to save Dar. Nothing else matters."
She stepped into an open shower stall that was cut into the stone wall, and turned on the cold water. I tried not to stare as she washed herself, but clearly she didn't mind being on display. "Describe this place where Alexana and Dar are hanging out," she said as she stood in the spray.
"It's a canyon in the red rock area of southern Utah. At least that's where they were at when I left Control. I presume the rest of the Family has tried to retrieve Dar by now, so no telling where they are now."
"Good location. No collateral damage beyond the canyon itself. After all, supersex will bring down canyon walls. Plow up the Earth. Create Earth tremors. When it's done right, anyway."
I swallowed hard. That wasn't how Alura and I were together. We might break a conventional bed, but not one made out of foot-thick granite like the bed in this room.
"Given we got nothing to do until we have the device and know where Dar is," I offered, hoping she'd put some clothing on and lower the temperature in here a bit. "I would love to know what you've been doing for a century and a half. I'm a historian and a journalist, and I strongly believe that the best way to improve your stature with the Els is to get your own story out there."
She stepped out of the shower to play her heat vision softly down her long legs, across her breasts, drying everything she could reach with her eyes in seconds. I walked over to hand her a large towel, hoping she'd wrap it around herself. She instead used it to dry her hair.
"I didn't know you had heat vision, Athena."
"I didn't before I met Dar. He's been very good for me. Youth is its own strength, which I gain a little each time from him." She tilted her head to look at me. "But now I'm trying to imagine how much more intense it would be if I was wearing your ring when Dar was making it with me. Talk about nuclear."