When danger finally finds Lena, she’s on the third hour of the quarterly board meeting. For once everyone is physically present, but the lack of web conferencing hasn’t shortened the meeting in the slightest. Lena feels the tension in her neck and spine, and contemplates calling another break when movement beyond the glass walls of the conference room catches her eye. At first glance the bodies dressed in the standard blue canvas janitorial coveralls are innocuous-- her gaze nearly slides right over them. Except that janitorial works five to a floor, not six, and never during business hours. Alarm sirens in her brain even before she even registers the weapons they’re pulling out of their cleaning carts.
The doors on the far side of the conference room burst open. Two men storm in, voices and pistols raised. Lena fingers the panic button under the edge of the table even as her mind catalogues facts. Eight men-- caucasian-- armed--unmasked. Lena registers the shock and outrage of the rest of her board, but before she can move to help the barrel of an automatic rifle is jammed in her face.
“Sit the fuck down.”
Lena freezes, and hands grab her shoulders from behind to shove her back in her seat. Out of the corner of her eye she can see her people being bound with household zipties-- their aggressors are rough, but as soon as one is finished they move on, without causing further injury. They are quick, and efficient. Lena doesn’t resist when the hands move from her shoulders to her wrists, pinning them in place while another threads the plastic tie around the arms of her chair. As the first tie cinches against her skin, the rifle in her face lifts. The man holding it turns to address the room.
“Take it easy, folks!” he warns pleasantly. “This can all go very smoothly without anyone getting hurt. Just do what we say and you’ll all get to go home to your families.” He casts a sidelong glance at Lena. “Those of you who still have family, that is.”
“Did my brother send you?” Lena demands. She doesn’t expect anything other than a yes, another taunt, but the man only smirks.
“Not at all. We’re from janitorial. Looking for a raise.”
At that, Lena’s shoulders tighten. “I know the faces of everyone who works in this building. I’ve never seen you before. What do you want?”
Another ziptie binds her ankles together and a fourth loops them to the base of her chair; she can barely twist, let alone find any traction to shove herself away. She’s also the only one to be bound to a chair. The others are all bound and arranged to sit across both doorways before their ankles are secured. She doubts these people would be above using hostage lives as incentive to capitulate, but it’s clear that their focus here is her.
“I’m glad you asked, Miss Luthor.” The man signals, and one of the thugs sets a laptop down in front of her. “It’s really very simple--”
“Boss!” the man still kneeling by her feet calls out sharply. He rises to his feet with a stormy expression. “There’s a panic button down here. It’s already activated!”
The boss sighed, and slings his rifle over his shoulder. “Plan B!” he announces, pulling two small canisters out of his pocket. He breaks the seal and tosses them both onto the carpet, the others following suit before resuming their watch of the hostages. Lena coughs as smoke quickly fills the room, but it doesn’t sting or burn-- the only thing distinctive is the new taste at the back of her throat, one that Lena knows in an instant.
“Kryptonite.” There’s no question or uncertainty. She knows it from the summers she spent in Lex’s lab, helping him run tests on the mineral. There is nothing like it on Earth, and the leader confirms it with a nod.
“Enough to coat every surface in this room, including me, including you. Supergirl is the only one who could interrupt us before we’ll be all finished here-- you didn’t think we’d come unprepared. Did you?”
A hazy mist hangs in the air, but Lena can see his face and window beyond. She scans the sky but sees no hint of an incoming superhero. Someone kicks her chair from behind, rolling her closer to the conference table and the laptop sitting open for her.
“You’re going to tell us your account numbers, and you’re going to wire $50 million to the account already marked.” He leans down to speak low in her ear, one hand drawing a handgun from the small of his back. “We’re going to release one wrist… any tricks, and I’ll kill one of your friends here. Understand?”
Lena nods, and the tie around her right wrist is snipped. She reaches for the keyboard.
“You can’t possibly be thinking about capitulating to these monsters!” Mark Bainbridge, her VP of sales calls out.
“It’s only money, Mark.” And already she thinks how she can initiate a worm to follow the transfer of funds.
“Smart woman,” the boss says. “But don’t worry folks, now we’ll know who to shoot first, if she changes her mind.”
“I’ll need to use two accounts,” Lena warns him. The slush fund has a built in program to trace unauthorized outgoing wires, but doesn’t hold enough to fulfill the $50m. The man nods.
“So long as you do it quickly.”
It would have been faster if she’d been allowed both hands, but working through meals has given her practice typing with one hand. 180 seconds later, it’s done. A man is waiting with a ziptie, and soon she’s bound again.
“Well done, Miss Luthor--”
A gunshot trips on his words. It’s a long moment before Lena realizes she’s the one who’s hit. Her ears ring, but she hears the muffled sounds of the board members shouting and whimpering. Then she remembers how to breathe, and her right shoulder erupts in flames of agony. A hand turns her chin up, and Lena struggles to open her eyes against the pain. She does, and catches sight of a blue and red blur zooming towards them. No.
“Kryptonite!” she cries out, struggling to find the words. The blur stops abruptly. “How did you aerosolize it?” she covers at the last moment, trying to keep their attention away from the windows. If Supergirl was on the scene, then the DEO would only be a short ways behind.
“The how isn’t important, really. There’s plenty of people who would love to see the Supers fail, or worse. Personally, we don’t care about them so long as they don’t interfere. You’re the star of this little show. Now,” he changes tactic, placing a video recorder on a short tripod in the center of the table, pointed at her, “let’s wrap this up so we can go home.”
He props up a notepad, and Lena scans the words printed in bold black marker. It’s anti-alien vitriol, and it reminds her so sharply of Lex that she presses her eyes shut. Her pulse pounds in her ears, and her shoulder feels like her arm had been severed. Lena’s brain rushes with medical probabilities of a ruptured blood vessel, of the bullet bouncing off bone to shred an organ deeper in her chest. A gun taps her chin.
“You’re live, sweetheart,” he says.
Her head feels heavy but she lifts it and reads the swimming letters again. “I’m not reading that.”
Even if the police confirmed it had been read under coercion, the press will play and replay this broadcast ceaselessly-- all her hard work since coming to National City, turning L-Corp away from the negative press of her family, will all be washed away in favor of whatever she says on camera right here, right now.
“You will,” he counters, “if you want to ensure all these folks get home tonight.”
“That power lies with you and only you. If I say this you’ll kill us anyway.”
The leader sighs, and shifts away from the table. “If that’s the way you want it. A public execution works just as well.” He stands with his back to the camera, but Lena glares at him. Supergirl is out there, right there…. So close and yet-- if she enters this room, she’ll die. Without her powers she couldn’t disable them all before they shot her. Lena sucks in one breath, then another. Kara. Kara is going to be so angry with her. She’ll forgive Lena eventually, though. When the question is Supergirl’s life or Lena’s… Kara will understand. Lena watches the man’s finger pull the hammer back, and--
Glass explodes in a blur of red and blue, and suddenly the man is thrown against the far wall, sending spider cracks throughout the entire pane. “No,” Lena cries. “NO!”
Already, Supergirl is too slow. Lena can hear her harsh breaths against the poisoned air-- or is that her own breathing? There’s the sound of more glass shattering-- black clad bodies bearing NCPD in bold letters stream through the freshly broken pane of the conference room wall. Someone bumps Lena’s chair, and the wheels catch on someone’s legs. She tips, slamming into the floor and jarring her shoulder. The impact explodes stars behind her eyes.
She hears voices now, swimming closer through the fog curling at the edges of her mind. Shock? Fingers press against her neck, and the voice attached to them feels familiar. “NCPD… Det-- Sawyer…”
“Kry--kryptonite,” Lena warns, stuttering as her lips lost feeling. “Need to get--” Her ears roar. Her heart races in her chest, but her breaths feel long and slow. Too slow. Is this what dying feels like?
“We know,” Sawyer tells her, her hand flattening to cup Lena’s cheek. “It’s okay, Lena. You did good.” Maggie Sawyer never calls her Lena. She is the one person in National City who doesn’t spit her last name like a slur, instead somehow making it sound like a badge of honor. Lena sounds long on the detective’s lips, like the too-calm doctor comforting a hemorrhaging patient. “Just stay with us, okay? Can you look at me?”
Lena’s eyelids don’t open, and she struggles to inhale. “Super…”
“We need some help over here!”
Lena’s awareness fades before she can hear any kind of response.
When the text alert comes in, the normalcy of the morning doesn’t shatter until Kara realizes that the message has Maggie’s name on it, not Alex’s. And that the ASAP address is one she knows intimately. L-Corp.
The sound of the staff meeting around her mutes to a indecipherable hum, as her senses snap outwards, through sounds of traffic and construction and food trucks to the one thing that’s out of place-- panicked voices muddled together, behind one crystalline voice.
“I know the faces of everyone who works in this building. I don’t know you.”
Lena’s tone is calm, but now Kara can hear the rapid staccato of her heartbeat, racing as she reacted to the emergency unfolding around her. She doesn’t remember what excuse she gives Snapper, if she gave any at all, but in moments she’s out the door and in her suit and in the air. Her focus narrows to the looming spire of L-Corp tower, broken only by Alex’s voice through her earpiece.
“Supergirl, NCPD and the DEO both have teams en route to the building. Do not engage until they arrive.”
“That’s an order, Supergirl.” J’onn’s gravelly voice joined in. “Anyone attacking L-Corp or Miss Luthor has the potential to be a significant threat.”
Kara hears them, and registers the orders… but then L-Corp’s silhouette stands sharply in her vision, and she hears the sharp retort of a gunshot. All reason evaporates at the sound of Lena’s cry of pain. Kara pushes harder, barely a heartbeat from crashing through the window when Lena’s voice sounds sharply in her ears.
Kara stops short, reeling back at the word. She scans the conference room, counting bodies and weapons but finding no lumps of green rock. She feels it, though, clear as day. It crawls over her skin… any closer, and she’d lose altitude and feel nauseous. But how--
“How did you aerosolize it?” Lena presses, her voice cracking with gasps of pain. The man pointing the weapon at her doesn’t answer. Kara zooms back out of sight, and presses a finger to her ear.
“They have kryptonite,” she reports back.
“Have you identified the source?” J’onn asks.
“No. But I have reason to believe it’s aerosolized.” An ominous silence follows. She keeps one eye on Lena and the man shoving a gun in her face. “Guys?”
“Supergirl, maintain your distance.”
“J’onn, they’ve already shot her! What’s your ETA?”
Alex is the one to respond. “We’re five minutes out. NCPD is less than three.”
“Guys, guys!” Winn interrupts. “We’re picking up a-- a live broadcast has just taken over every major news feed in National City-- and Metropolis. It’s coming from inside L-Corp, and… oh man…”
“I’m not reading that.”
Kara freezes, and peers closer to find Lena’s expression icy once more. No, no, no… please, Lena, just play along… but Kara knows that Lena wouldn’t dig in her heels unless it was for a good reason.
“I have to move now, Alex.”
“Supergirl, do not engage! If the kryptonite is aerosolized, it could kill you in minutes. Maggie is on site, just wait--”
“They have a gun to her head--”
“Kara, do not--”
Alex’s voice is lost when Kara hears the man speak again. “A public execution works just as well…”
Kara surges towards the tower at top speed, warnings and orders falling away as only one thought fills her mind-- Save Lena . Time seems to slow as the man’s thumb reaches for the hammer, and the prickling sensation of kryptonite presses harder, from needles to knives to shards of glass as she slams through the window pane and the glass wall of the conference room. The bullet fired towards Lena’s head burns hot against Kara’s fingers. Her bulletproof skin lasts just long enough for her to drop it from her palm. She slides to a stop against the far wall, her dwindling powers losing control of her landing. She takes out three before her knees give out.
Before she loses consciousness, she sees Lena. Her chair is tipped over, but it’s the blood that chills Kara’s veins. It’s not like the movies, no tidy circle of blood blossoming around an inconspicuous wound. It cascades down her front, slick and glutinous and pooling onto the carpet under her. Their eyes meet, Lena’s glassy with shock or blood loss or both. Her skin looks blue, her lips colorless. Kara’s last sight is of Lena’s eyes rolling before a boot connects with Kara’s skull, and everything goes dark.