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Just a Little Genetic Mutation

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Kara flew above National City. It had been quiet since they’d taken down Myriad. Well, quiet in terms of near death experiences for the whole world anyway. Being a superhero was still busy without the world almost ending experiences. She had fires to put out and crashes to pick apart for survivors and a million other things to do. So not fighting against an entire army of aliens who had a thing for mind control, well that counted as quiet.

She was thankful, really, because between her mother being in the pod that had crash landed right after Alex had brought her back from space and discovering that Astra was actually alive, she needed quiet. Her mother needed to adjust to being super powered and Kara was the best one to teach her. And then there was Astra whose near death experience had caused a pretty extensive case of amnesia that was starting to heal, but Kara sat with her as much as she could trying to spark her memory by telling her stories from back on Krypton.

Sometimes between all that, honestly, rescuing kittens from trees seemed like a break. She wouldn’t give up her mom or aunt for the world, but she was being pulled in fifteen different directions instead of the usual five or so. So yeah, no imminent world dangers was great, she didn’t need to be pulled in a sixteenth direction.

“Hey Kar,” Alex said, crackling in on Kara’s earpiece.

“Yeah, Alex?”

“We’re going on a raid, there should only be a few gamma level threats so we should be fine, but keep an ear open would you?”

“Of course.” Gamma level aliens, hostile but only could be diffused easily enough. The highest Kara had heard in the month since Myriad was a beta level and really that had been more of a misunderstanding than anything. Kara figured any alien that wanted to cause real problems was laying low since the DEO was still on high alert after everything.

Kara tilted her head towards some police sirens. They were chasing a guy who’d blown through a red light and then run when the police had tried to pull him over. Well, that she could get behind. She shot off towards the chase and within ten minutes the man was in the back of a squad car and no one was hurt.

She was about to leap back into the air when she heard Alex call out. “Kara!”

Well. Seemed like the gamma level had turned into something more immediate. She took off and directed herself towards Alex’s voice. She flew fast enough to break the sound barrier and then some. Alex could take care of herself, sure, but she still wanted to protect her sister.

Kara found Alex and the rest of the DEO team in a warehouse on the outskirts of town. There was no one struggling. There weren’t even aliens to be seen, really. But there was one large computer interface that looked like Myriad, flashing with foreign script across the screens. Kara didn’t recognize it, but she was definitely wary as she took a step forward.

“You know what this is?” Alex asked from beside her. “We’ve been over every inch but we have no idea.”

“No, no idea. I don’t know this language.” She looked it over again and her eyes stopped on the standard galactic notation for time. And it was counting down. That couldn’t be good. “It’s counting down to something. We’ve got two hours to disable it.”

Alex’s eyes widened. “I’ll send the chopper for Winn.”

“Get Aunt Astra and J’onn too. Just because I haven’t seen this before doesn’t mean one of them hasn’t.”

J’onn touched down beside Kara in all his Martian glory. “She called me right after she called for you.” He looked over the computer and shook his head. “I’ve seen it before, but it’s not a language I know. You are right about the countdown, however. We need a containment team in case we can’t figure out how disarm it.”

“Do you think it’s a bomb?” Kara asked. If it was she could just fly it into space again, not that Alex would like that idea at all.

“I don’t see anything that registers as an ordinance, but better safe than sorry.” He turned and started barking out orders to the agents around them.

Kara walked forward some more and felt for weaknesses in the structure of the machine. If she could pry the thing open she could fry the wiring with her heat vision. It would be a last ditch effort because honestly frying the wiring might make everything worse, but it might work. She’d taken down bombs by just ripping out the wiring, though Alex had screamed during training drills that that wasn’t the way to do it, it had worked when at the last second.

Alex stepped beside Kara again, frowning at her. “What are you doing?”

“Seeing if there’s a panel I can remove for a last ditch ripping of wires.” Kara smiled but she knew it wasn’t exactly as bright or convincing as normal. She had just wanted it to stay quiet for a little longer. But she was Supergirl, quiet didn’t happen for long it seemed and here was a computer that could end the world for all they knew.

“How many times do I have to tell you--”

“That that isn’t the way to do it, I know,” Kara interrupted. “But last ditch effort? It’s worked before and you know it.”

Alex ran a hand down her face. “Fine. Astra’s on her way, so is Alura. They said they both knew languages the other didn’t. Let’s hope that this is one of the days where Astra’s memory is behaving.”

Kara nodded, hoping the same thing. She felt the edge of a panel, just a micron separation in the metal panels.She thanked Rao for super senses and then pried her fingernails into the opening. A second later it was clanging to the floor and wiring so advanced she hadn’t seen anything like it since leaving Krypton. She swallowed. So ripping probably wasn’t going to work. There could be a hundred built in redundancies and a learning AI connected to all this. Ripping wouldn’t do anything like it would in regular human wiring. She could probably still do enough damage to kill the machine, but it would take more time and if the operating system was as advanced as the wiring, she might not be fast enough before it sent off the command to do whatever it was that this thing was supposed to do.

Kara looked up at the ground shaking to see her mother in a crater and Astra standing beside her on flat ground. They needed to work on her landings more it seemed. They had only started working on flying last week though, so the fact that she had gotten her quickly enough was a good thing. Kara glanced at the machine and shook herself. There would be time for those considerations later though.

“Do you know the language?” Kara asked Astra who was already staring at the screen with a crease between her eyebrows.

Astra whipped around to J’onn. “Scan the system for a ship. It will be hiding somewhere cloaked but there will be some heat signature somewhere. I wouldn’t put them any closer than the gas giants. But they’ll be out there.” Her face was serious and stance stiff like Kara imagined she had stood when commanding Krypton’s army.

“Who are we looking for?” J’onn ask, motioning a cadet over.

“The Ixenia.” Astra turned back to the computer. “Krypton never had dealings with them, they tended to stick to societies less advanced than ours. We still studied their tactics in training, however. They try to paint themselves as the saviors when really they are the ones who cause the problem to begin with.”

“So it is a bomb,” J’onn said.

Astra shook her head. “No, it’s...something else.”

Alura stepped beside her sister. “There’s something that roughly translates to DNA on this screen. I would say they’ve rigged up some sort of program to alter DNA of something, crops, animals, bacteria, people, anything really.”

“Nothing quickly lethal, though. They’ll show up like heroes and use that foothold to take over the planet slowly and without conflict. Then they’ll have another world to mine for resources while keeping their own pristine. By intergalactic standards we couldn’t ever declare war on them because outwardly no one could prove that they were behind whatever disasters and panic they caused, but everyone knew they were anyway.” Astra touched the screen, flashing though some options faster than Kara could register the characters.

Alura stepped beside her sister again, resting her hand on Astra’s shoulder. Without most of the memories Astra had accepted her sister with open arms once she remembered just who she was, which hadn’t taken long. Kara wondered if it would all fall apart when Astra remembered. Or maybe she already had and just hadn’t said it. As much as Alura had damned Astra, she had also saved her in a twisted way. She was still alive while her planet had died. Kara knew that was a curse and a blessing, but being alive...well. She didn’t want to change that. Mostly. She figured her aunt might be of the same mind. Maybe.

Alura conversed with Astra in rapid Kryptonian, pressing some options on the screen on her own. Kara listened in and caught a few words, but even years after growing up sometimes her mother and aunt shortened their thoughts in a way that only a twin would understand. She didn’t know what sex and gender had to do with all of this, but that did not sound good. What if they rendered humans completely sterile? She couldn’t imagine the chaos. Or maybe she could. Visions of fire and Krypton in its last few hours popped up behind her eyelids. A species fighting for would be catastrophic. People would die.

Astra cursed loudly as the screen flashed red. She pounded on the screen again, but nothing showed up. She turned to J’onn. “We can’t disable it from here. The main controls have to be on their ship and this is just an auxiliary control for setup and maintenance and the like.” She winced and held her head, squinting one eye, but remained standing tall. She had to be getting another memory, Kara recognized the behavior. In this situation, that memory couldn't have been a good one.

“Winn is two minutes out in the chopper. He might be able to help out.” J’onn crossed his arms and looked at the screens with a scowl. “For now I’ll look for that ship. Any tips on how to throw them out of our galaxy in a hurry.”

Alura and Astra looked at each other for a second before nodding. “You have Kara’s old pod, yes?” Alura asked.

J’onn nodded. “Yes, Agent Danvers restored it. Before her rather ill thought out plan to rescue Kara anyway.”

“But the communicator still works?” Alura asked.

Kara nodded. “It does. Just about everything else needs some minor repairs, but the communicator was saved from damage.” Which Alex had been relieved about since there were components in that communicator that Earth had no way or replicating just yet. For the rest she looked at Kara with puppy dog eyes and Kara had promised a weekend to help bend out the dents and structural damage that Alex had caused crashing to Earth yet again.

Alura hopped up into the air gently, wobbling just a bit in the air, but she held. “I’m going to call the Intergalactic Union. Hopefully my old contacts there are still in office after all these years. This machine is proof that the Ixenia are behind whatever is about to happen. Paired with the fact that they are sitting waiting in our system, it should be enough for the Union to at least impose some sanctions on them, if not more. It won’t scare them off their tactics for long, but it should be enough to at least end whatever they’re planning here.”

“Trade sanctions would hit them where it would hurt the most,” Astra added. “It’s not ideal, but it's’ what we have at present.”

Kara felt like flying out to space again and giving the Ixenia a piece of her mind about literally attacking planets like this, but Alex would probably kill her if she tried something like that again.

“Go,” J’onn waved her off. “Let me know the results.”

Alura nodded and was off in a flash.

Kara perked up at the sound of a helicopter’s blades changing their rhythm. The helicopter with Winn in it was landing now. A minute later her friend complete with two guys with cases full of the highest tech hacking equipment the government had came walking in. He went right to Kara’s side, already looking at the computer and the panel that Kara had ripped off. He swallowed hard looking at all of it.

“You know at least with Myriad I knew some of the Kryptonese that you had taught me. I don’t even have that here and I have to do it in less than two hours You know how insane that is right?”

Kara smiled at her friend, patting him gently on the shoulder. She wasn’t about to tell him that it was closer to an hour and a half now. That was definitely not what he needed right now. “I know you can do it, Winn.”

He swallowed but nodded. “Right, right, sure, just learn a new language and stop this thing from altering the DNA of god knows what. Sure. Can do.” He awkwardly finger-gunned at her. Kara decided that she’d let that unironic use of finger guns go. This was a time of stress after all and everyone had different ways to cope.

Winn knelt down by the panel and the men that had come in with him sat the containers they were holding all around him. Kara watched him for a few seconds, but there was really nothing she could do but watch and listen to him mumble under his breath. So she stepped away to give him some room to work and hoped and hoped that this wasn’t the beginning of the end of yet another world that she called home. Her stomach roiled and clenched and her heart was beating a million miles an hour, but she walked away from the one hope they had right now, as calm as she could manage.

She went and stood beside her aunt. “Any chance you could help him with the coding language?”

Astra shook her head. “Programming never was my strong suit. Even if I do know Ixenaian, coding is always completely different from the spoken language. Rao knows the humans have so many different coding languages it’s a miracle that they can keep track of them all. Why does Java do one set of tasks yet you need Javascript for another?”

Kara cocked an eyebrow at her aunt. “I didn’t even know you knew that much about human technology.”

Astra shrugged it off, looking at Winn and frowning hard. “Nights are very long when you sleep and are plagued by memories coming back to you.” Her hand found Kara’s. “I don’t regret remembering you again, but there are some things that I wish would have stayed forgotten.”

Kara squeezed Astra’s hand hard. She knew that feeling. For a few weeks after landing on Earth she had known that Krypton had exploded, but she hadn’t remembered it. She’d blocked everything out. Her subconscious, though, it remembered and it had showed her every night in her dreams, at first just bits and terrifying pieces until it worked up to showing her everything and then twisted it into even more of a nightmare.

“And the memory you just had.”

Astra’s eyes met Kara’s and they were haunted. She’d seen her aunt look like this only in glimpses that Astra never thought Kara saw back on Krypton. When they had met again on Earth all of that had been hardened over with determination. Now she had to learn how to cope all over again.

“Another time, another place, another war.”

Kara just nodded and didn’t push any further.

They watched the seconds tick by into minutes as Winn worked. J’onn and Alex were barking orders at those back at command. Susan was scanning the skies for signs of the Ixenian ship but had yet to find anything. Kara hoped that her mother had gotten in contact with someone. Earth’s technologies were slow. The Union’s technology would be light years ahead and would find them in a few seconds no matter where they were. She wasn’t sure what the knowledge of knowing exactly where the Ixenians were would do. Earth had no army of spaceships to go out and drive them off, but it still felt like crucial knowledge. She just held onto Astra’s hand and let the knowledge wash over her that even with all her superpowers, there wasn’t much she could do here. Acknowledging that...well she was a superhero. It didn’t come easy. It might never come easy.

Her mother flew back, landing in the same crater, but she only made it a little deeper this time. She was learning quickly at least. Kara had taken forever to learn, but then again she had had to teach herself from scratch. She looked up at Kara and Astra and smiled.

“So it seems that not only is Rasha still alive, but she's done well for herself. She's vice chancellor of the Union now. And as such she was very eager to hear tell of actual evidence of the Ixenians’ transgressions. They're sending out a fleet to escort them out of the system and take the computer back for evidence. They'll be here within the hour.”

Winn slumped back. “Oh thank god because I was making exactly zero progress.” He looked back at them. “That does mean I can stop right?”

Alura nodded. “They will have the means to shut the machine off. A hacker of their owner perhaps. Then you can learn a few tips for foreign coding languages.”

Winn lit up at that. “That would be so awesome.”

Kara smiled at her friend and shook her head, an irrepressible nerd even now.

“Apparently their ship is anchored in the core of the gas giant you call Jupiter,” Alura continued.

J’onn hummed. “Explains why we haven't been able to find them.”

Alex stopped. “Wait, how are they just hovering in the middle of a gas giant that's literally one giant storm? How are they not being ripped to pieces.”

“The forces that are exerted on a ship while in warp drive are much more than that than any planet could hope to create,” Astra replied.

Alex mulled that over for a few seconds before nodding. “Makes sense I suppose.” She turned to J’onn. “What are the orders now?”

“Have everyone stay in standby. I won't trust this until they're clear of our system.”

“Roger that.”

Kara relaxed just the tiniest bit. Here on Earth things like the European Union didn't have a great amount of power, but the Intergalactic Union did. On joining each member had to agree that the Union was sovereign in all things galactic. Planets could govern how they wanted on their own planets, but outside of their own atmosphere they played by Union rules. The Union had the forces to back those rules up, too. She remembered Astra being approached when Kara was younger to serve as a general in their army, shortly before Astra's promotion to General in the Kryptonian army. Astra had considered it. To serve for them was an honor, but the terms of her service wouldn’t have kept her away from hike even more than she already was, so she had respectfully declined. A million other beings were waiting to take her place though and so the Union had accepted without question and moved on.

The computer buzzed to life behind them. Kara whipped her head around to look at it. What in the world was going on?

“Uh, guys,” Winn said, staring at his computer screen. “Whatever it's doing it's running a program, a big one.” he started to type frantically on his computer. “No way I can stop it, I'm not far enough in for that.”

There was still at least twenty minutes until the Union arrived. Kara looked at all the exposed wires and took a step closer. Rao knew what was going to happen but if it was powering up, countdown be damned, then it was time to try and stop it by force.

“I think this command means override. And then what follows are numbers that look like the ones on the screen. Was that the countdown?” Winn kept typing, fingers flying almost at super speed.

“Someone got impatient,” Astra deadpanned.

“Do you think they got wind about the Union coming?” Alura asked.

“I would think that would be the only reason to change their plans.”

The screens lit up bright green and a pulse of energy shot up towards the roof. Oh no, Kara definitely should have been quicker on grabbing the wires. Who knew what that pulse had been.

“Uh guys, there's a new program running.”

Astra walked behind Winn and took a look at the screen. Her eyes scanned the lines of code for a few seconds before she lost all color. She turned to J'onn.

“Get all of your agents out of here. There was a self-destruct built in and they've activated it. You have less than a minute to get clear.”

Winn shut his computer and packed it away in a second, grabbing the fear he'd come in with and booking it towards the door like a jack rabbit.

“Sound the alarm,” J'onn told Alex.

“Code red we've got a bogey going off in t-minus fifty seconds.”

The call rang out from Everyone that heard it, echoing up and down the halls with the sound of pounding boots on concrete as everyone ran. Kara watched them, scanning the building for stragglers but these were none.

“How big will it be?” Kara asked.

“When they get to their trucks we all take two of them and fly at least a mile. I don't know how big their charge is or what it's made out of, so I can only guess that's a safe distance.”

Kara nodded and launched into the air with little effort. “Will you be OK with grabbing two trucks, Mom?”

“I think in this case I have no choice but to be OK. I'll manage. The trucks may not be sound afterwards, perhaps.”

Well between truck damage and death she knew the DEO agents would take the truck damage so they would do. “Sounds fine to me.”

She shot off with her aunt and mother behind her. The agents were just shutting the doors on their trucks and starting to gun it. They had maybe thirty seconds left before the bomb.went off. A thirty second mile with two cars, Kara would be fine. She picked up her two trucks and flew off. If she made it farther than a mile that definitely wouldn't hurt.

She heard the agents below her gasp then relax again once they realized what was happening. She flew and flew, counting the seconds, listening to Astra and Alura behind her. Twenty seconds. Ten. She hit the mile mark. Five.

The warehouse went up in a silent ball of flames, taking out two warehouses around it, but going no further. Kara sighed in relief and set the trucks down on the nearest back alley. They had made it out in one piece.

“Well, there went all the evidence against them.” Alura sighed, gently placing the trucks down. The suspensions groaned but held nicely. “They have to have a contact in the Union then that tipped them off to destroy what they set up here.”

Kara squinted for a second. She knocked on top of the second truck she'd carried. “Hey Winn?”

Winn opened the door and peeked up at her. He looked a bit green from the sudden flight but otherwise fine. “Did you download a copy of their software?”

He nodded. “It's always the first thing I do.” he motioned towards the case at his feet. “This baby has programs to crack coding that work best with a married copy.”

Kara looked at her mother. “Then we still have proof. And Winn can upload it everywhere. Destroying a warehouse will go under the radar, but they can't destroy a whole planet without the Union coming after them anyway.”

“It's not quite as strong for evidence of their crimes, but it will do.” Alura nodded.

Winn pulled his laptop out. “OK then, uploading it literally everywhere then. Once the Union has it I can scrub it out too to make sure no one has alien coding secrets or whatever.” He shrugged.

Kara scrubbed a hand through her hair. Yeah. Definitely not a quiet day anymore in National City.

“Did we ever figure out what they beam was before it blew up?” she asked.

Winn shook his head. “No, I think it had a specific trajectory but it was up towards space so I don't know why it would do that.”

Kara looked up at the sky and let her super senses extend out. She didn't see anything wrong with the atmosphere. Even as she looked farther up nothing seemed amiss. Why launch the beam into space if it was supposed to alter everyone's DNA? She strained herself until she was looking at outer space, seeing the satellites and then she stopped. Every single satellite was the same green that the computer had glowed. And they were getting brighter and brighter as she watched.

“The satellites!” she exclaimed.

Everyone looked towards the sky, but the humans could see nothing. Astra on the other hand cursed.

“Of course, they hover around every blasted inch of the planet. One beam could cover the whole thing if they engineered it right.”

Kara watched as it finally flashed almost white and then suddenly barreled towards them. Whatever it was and whatever it was going to do, it would happen soon. She was at a loss for what to do. She couldn’t fight a literally all encompassing beam of energy. She couldn't evacuate people. She couldn't shield them. All she could do was stand there and watch.

Thirty seconds later it hit them all in a flash of green. Kara braced herself to feel something, anything, but she felt nothing. She looked at her mother and aunt to see they were still standing as well, looking around confused. She was about to let out a sigh of relief that it hadn't done anything to them when Alex dropped to her knees and started to scream in pain. Everyone else wasn't far behind.

And from there everything devolved into chaos.