When I was a child, my world ended, but I was saved. I was sent to Earth from Krypton to continue and protect a legacy. The destruction of my planet was foretold and expected by the King of the Gods, the mighty Zeus, who defeated my people, the Titans. With the help of his evil brother, Hades, the gods defeated Rao and exiled us to our planet Krypton long before I was ever created. Only it wasn’t meant to be forever. The gods knew our planet would be destroyed and that we would face certain death, but they did not know any of us would be saved. On Earth, I’ve been forced to hide who I really am, an immortal amongst men, to avoid Zeus and keep the Earth safe from his wrath. I’ve found refuge with mortals who have become my adoptive family, the Danvers, and I spend my days working for CatCo Worldwide Media as a journalist. I have friends and I have a family. I have a home. Now, I am on a journey to fulfill my true destiny.
There’s a warmth to National City that seems to come from within. A vibrant spirit, one poised for greatness.
Deep in the confines of the city there’s a pulse that beats loud and strong, sustained by the traffic flowing through the freshly paved arteries, delivering people to destinations and bringing them back from daily accomplishments. The atmosphere seems to hold a collective breath before exhaling with airy purpose, synchronized in a calculated rhythm. Skyscrapers reach their arms to the heavens in an eternal stretch, calling to the gods in thankful hymns. Even the sun itself shines brighter here, winking and dancing off joyful window panes, glimmering through tree leaves and nestling behind corners where it is least expected. There’s an ethereal light that shrouds the city and somehow makes it feel safe. Protected. Full of promise.
Where residential Midvale has the calm quiet of a tucked away secret that only the true locals understand, and where sprawling Metropolis has marvels of architecture and technological innovation upon which to gloat, National City shines with a soft yet immortal reminder of hope.
It’s a modern day replica of Mount Olympus, if Earth could ever house something so sacred. Kara Danvers shakes her head at the thought. It’s a fleeting one, really. Silly to even imagine. The real Mount Olympus is home to the most powerful and mighty gods, and they certainly wouldn’t be stalking the mortals of the Earth, getting caught up in trivial human affairs, no matter how gorgeous National City is.
Or would they?
It’s the immortal question plaguing her existence. Do the gods walk among them? There are days she is sure she isn’t the only one, but then there are others where she doubts their presence at all. Has it always been a myth? Do they even really exist? Is everything she has ever known a lie?
Kara eases her steps and comes to a standstill on the sidewalk. She slides her glasses off her face, the ones that make her a little more mortal and a little less divine, and she places them on top of her head. She tilts her head and stares up at the sky, searching for something she can’t quite explain. There’s always something there, a feeling she can’t quite shake. It isn’t like she’s being watched, necessarily, but there’s a presence around her that reminds her of who she is. It assures her that she’s not alone.
Without the glasses to blunt her senses, she feels the rays of the sun warm her face, charging every cell in her unbreakable body. She feels the electricity of power flow through her veins. She breathes in slowly, closing her eyes, allowing every single sound to completely envelop her. She hears the obvious ones, first: sirens in the distance, the hum and whirr of distant traffic, the clunking of footsteps along the sidewalk. Running water. High pitched laughter. Loud yelling. Precious life.
She squeezes her eyes closed tighter, straining to listen harder. There’s a hidden layer of sound that moves beneath the surface, one that keeps a tempo all it’s own, and this is the sound she craves: the sun crackling along the pavement, the cacophony of individual heartbeats that collect into one thunderous vibration, the subtle shift of the earth as it bends and stretches to accommodate all the demands placed on it. There’s the roar of the distant ocean as the tides ebb and flow, and there’s the repeated scratching of pen against paper in a tall corner office high above the street noise.
The city sighs and yawns, stretches and moves, a beautiful live combination of all of its parts.
It’s the place Kara has come to learn to love. It’s a place she can call her home.
She knows what National City is feeling, the same way she knows her own heart. She knows when it is restless. She knows when there is heartache. Pain. Fear. Happiness. Joy. She knows when there is trouble.
Today, there’s quiet. Too much quiet. The kind of quiet that almost always fades away, only to be replaced with something much more sinister.
“Kara?” Her sister walks up next to her with confident steps. Kara knows her presence beyond a shadow of a doubt. She could pick Alex’s soul out of millions, even without looking. It runs hot, with stubborn intensity and quiet, unwavering strength. Kara thinks it’s all the things a mortal soul should strive to be. It’s one she’s proud to know. Alex impatiently waves a hand in front of Kara’s face. She furrows her eyebrows. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Kara says wistfully. She keeps her eyes closed, squinting through hooded lids to listen intently.
“You’ve got that look on your face.”
“I do not--” Kara begins, opening her eyes and glancing at her sister before Alex pokes her in the forehead.
“Crinkle,” she deadpans, casting a warning stare in Kara’s direction.
That damn crinkle.
For how attuned Kara is to the city, Alex is that perceptive when it comes to Kara. She always knows when Kara’s in one of her moods, even before Kara does. It’s infuriating, if not a little impressive. Her face doesn’t help to conceal her emotions, Kara laments, as she tries to smooth out the lines in her forehead. Kara isn’t even sure she’s in one of those moods, per se, but sometimes when the sun shines bright, when she feels her most fulfilled, and things are calm, she’s inevitably weighed down by an explainable guilt. A guilt she carries with her every single day of her life.
“I’m just appreciating a moment,” Kara replies, reaching up to replace her glasses. She pauses, before dropping her hand.
Somewhere in the distance, she hears it.
It’s faint, like a low vibrating rumble, barely audible to the human ear. There’s a shift, and with it comes a desperate uneasiness. Something is happening, or about to happen, and she feels the familiar adrenaline spike deep in her core. Kara’s eyes flash open and she takes off down the street, letting her senses guide her, ignoring her sister’s deliberate calls to slow down. She ducks sharply around corners and speeds through alleyways, racing up side streets and around buildings, the final destination calling to her faintly. The city’s coordinates are memorized in her mind’s eye as she practically glides forward, propelled by a force she can’t put into words. She stops at the intersection.
There’s nothing there. Nothing out of the ordinary, at least. There’s lazy pedestrians, wandering through the crosswalk, staring into cell phones. There’s a streetcar vendor laughing loudly and handing a pretzel to a customer. There’s a small child giggling and pointing happily at a yellow balloon.
“Kara!” Alex calls out, her voice still trailing behind. “Kara, wait!”
She feels it before she sees it. There’s a gust of air leaving the lungs, and the forceful pound of the panicking heart. There’s a sickening crunch of glass and steel. Kara feels the white hot flames licking along the smashed metal hood of the totaled vehicle.
The cars collide with precise intensity, as one goes careening through the streets and rolling to the side, the other staying steadfast in the lane, broken but not defeated.
Kara instantly runs to the scene, ignoring the screams and frantic cries of the crowd around her.
“Someone call 9-1-1!”
“Everyone get back!”
“Miss don’t go near it - it’s going to blow!”
Kara rushes to the vehicle, pausing momentarily to assess the damage. She’s deterred from entering it forcefully as she sees the driver’s side door completely caved in. It’s dented and smashed beyond recognition and she can’t pry it open without risking the victim’s already compromised safety in the process. She quickly moves to the other side, thanking the gods when she realizes that the passenger side door is in better shape. She feels the shaky turbulence of unsettled air, and it makes the hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention. She knows she doesn’t have much time -- less than a minute, tops -- to pry the woman free of her restraints and get her away from the car before the gas tank explodes. Kara pulls the door with excessive force, and it easily flies off the hinges, but not before she can place it down gingerly behind her. She hopes it looks semi-natural, but there’s no time to worry about perception. Not now. She reaches in and sees the woman lying against the window in shock, her eyes fluttering, while blood pours from the top of her head. Her jaw is scraped and already starting to bruise.
“You’re going to be okay. Let me help you!” Kara says, trying to keep her voice steady, conveying as much confidence as she can to this terrified soul. The woman’s eyes widen at the sound of her voice, but she makes no move to push Kara away. She simply looks around and waits.
Even in the moment, Kara’s heart aches for her. It feels like the woman’s pain is wrapping around her chest, squeezing the air out of her lungs. She feels a crushing weight pressing down on her as she takes on the burden. Kara can’t explain it, but it’s like her own immortal body is on fire.
She catches herself wondering about the woman, about her family, about her life. Kara inhales and reaches her fingers out, touching the woman’s forearm. She closes her eyes briefly.
The woman’s life flashes in bits and pieces.
Rachel Morris. Single mom. Two children, five and seven. Rushing home to make dinner for her kids. Recently took up a second job in order to afford Christmas presents later this year for her family.
The thought of not saving her is too much to bear.
Kara blinks rapidly and forces herself to focus. She eases her hand around the seatbelt and tears it like tissue paper, discarding it quickly, before looping her hands under the woman’s arms. She pulls carefully, freeing the woman from the seat and dragging her out of the collapsed steel frame. The woman hangs limply as Kara takes great care to distance them both from the accident.
Several feet away, she stops and crouches down, taking Rachel in her arms. She doesn’t hear the whispers, or see the crowd pointing. She doesn’t realize the way it looks to an outsider: A woman running to the scene of a fiery accident, coming out completely unscathed, without so much as a hint of sweat on her brow.
“You’re safe -- stay with me!” Kara implores, as she sees Rachel fading in and out of consciousness. “You’re going to be okay. I promise. I promise. I’m here.”
Kara feels the wild energy build around them before the explosion detonates. The car goes up in a cloud of violent flames, and the blast lifts it several feet in the air before slamming it down with authority. Glass shards and bits of metal fly into the air like shrapnel, and Kara shields Rachel from further impact. Rachel’s head lolls to the side as Kara tries desperately to comfort, to provide healing, to provide anything . She feels the tug of something beyond this realm, but she fights it with all her might.
“Stay with me!” Kara cries, cradling the woman’s head in her arms and searching frantically across the street for any sign of assistance. Her mind is too busy whirring with what-if’s and what-next scenarios, that she doesn’t even hear the paramedics right away. A young man taps her shoulder gently, flanking her side, as he crouches down low to assist.
“Ma’am, we need you to step back now,” he says calmly, as he reaches his other hand out to place it on top of Kara’s. It’s warm, and steady. Kara exhales. “We’ll take it from here.”
It sounds like a promise, but Kara can’t find the strength to get to her feet. She nods dumbly, shifting back on her heels, as she allows the paramedic to sidle up and take over. Her mouth is dry, and she continues to stare, unblinking and unseeing, at the wreckage in front of her.
Please don’t die. Please don’t die. It isn’t fair. Your children need you! It isn’t your time.
“Kara, please, get up,” Alex’s voice is muffled in her ear. “Kara, now. Please.”
Kara feels the tugging on her jacket, and she looks up at her sister’s face, squinting until it comes into focus.
“Alex,” Kara mumbles weakly. Everything feels so unimaginably hopeless.
“I know, Kara. I know. Let’s get you out of here, okay?” Alex coaxes, as she helps Kara to her feet.
Kara blankly puts one foot in front of the other, as she turns to take one more look at the scene. Rachel is being loaded on a stretcher, just out of her view. Kara feels that familiar cold feeling brush against her, causing her to shiver involuntarily. It’s that unmistakable sense of dread. The voices around them begin to register, as people glance in her direction with curious faces. Her heart sinks, and she turns around to follow her sister. She doesn’t look back.
They walk in numb silence. Kara isn’t even paying attention to where they’re going, really. She doesn’t care. All she can see is Rachel’s battered face, and her own shortcomings. This isn’t the first time she’s been too late. It also won’t be the last. The same situations keep happening, over and over, like a nightmare on a repetitive loop.
Only this time, people noticed.
“She might make it, you know,” Alex begins, turning to face Kara. They’re standing alone in front of a diner - one of Kara’s favorites, with the extra thick milkshakes - but that doesn’t make her feel any better. “You did everything you could for her.”
“No, I didn’t. I--” Kara begins, wringing her hands and looking off into the distance. She shakes her head. “It’s not fair!”
“Kara…” Alex warns, placing her hands on Kara’s shoulders in an attempt to steady her. It only makes her feel worse. Kara shrugs out of her grip and turns away.
“No! You don’t get it Alex. I can always sense when these things are going to happen. I can’t explain it but I feel it...” Kara trails off, desperate to find the words to explain how frustrating this is, time and time again, to have powers that she cannot use, or powers that aren’t the right ones. “Everything is always jumbled up just enough that I can’t see clearly. Whenever I try to help I’m never there in time!” Kara throws her head back in exasperation as her arms fall defeatedly to her side. “Why am I never there in time?”
“Because it’s not your job!” Alex says, her voice full of conviction. “I get it, Kara. I do. I might not know what it feels like but I promise I know what you’re saying. But you have to listen to me. It isn’t your job. You aren’t here to save people...”
“I can move mountains!” Kara interrupts. She’s realizes she’s shouting as she looks around. No one seems to be paying attention to them, but she winces and lowers her voice to a searing whisper anyway. “I have more power than even the gods. I should be able to use it for good! I should be the one helping them. Instead I am forced to watch them suffer, time after time. What am I doing here? What’s the point, if I have to watch them all die?”
Alex sighs. She pinches the bridge of her nose and pauses, and Kara stares at her with intensity.
“I don’t know what the point is, Kara. I don’t, okay? But I do know this: you can’t call attention to yourself. You know that. Even if you save ten people - hell, hundreds - it would all be for nothing in the end if Zeus finds you. If he knows you’re here, and what you are, then everything you would have done means nothing. It’ll only makes things worse.”
Kara’s shoulders slump in defeat. Everything feels heavy around her. Alex’s words sting, but only because she speaks the truth. She’s the only person Kara trusts implicitly, and she knows Alex is right, even if she hates this situation that she’s in. The situation she’s put everyone in.
“Did everyone see?” Kara asks softly. She knows the answer, even if she doesn’t want to hear it.
“They did.” Alex nods slowly, her lips pursed in thought. “But there was a lot going on, and no one could really tell for sure what happened. It was a close call, but you’re okay. We’re fine.”
We’re not fine, Kara wants to say. It’s not okay at all. More so because the outcome for the victim is so uncertain, and less so because she may have been exposed, but that certainly doesn’t help.
“I’m sorry,” Kara settles with, looking at her sister and choking back the lump forming in her throat. Truthfully, she feels sorry for so much more than just today.
“I am too,” Alex says, with a soft, sympathetic smile, and Kara knows she isn’t just talking about today either. Everything has always been so complicated since she came to Earth. There are so many questions, and never any answers.
Alex opens her arms and Kara falls into the familiar comfort of her sister’s embrace.
“I just feel so lost,” Kara confesses softly, allowing a rare moment of weakness to pass her lips. She mumbles into Alex’s shoulder before pulling herself back to standing. She’s desperately trying to calm the raging storm in her own heart. “I love this planet. I love this city. I love the people in it, even if I’m not one of them. But I have this pull - this weird force that I can’t explain, pushing me to find my real purpose and I just --” she looks up at the sky and sighs. “I just don’t know what it is. I don’t know if I’ll ever find it here.”
Alex studies her carefully, brushing the hair out of her face thoughtfully as she does.
“You’re doing the best you can, Kara, and it’s all any of us can do--”
“But I’m not like you!”
“Exactly! You’re not. You’re better, in every way. You’re incredible, Kara. You’re a force of nature, and everything you do impacts more things than any mortal could ever hope to influence. Which is why it takes time ,” Alex emphasizes, looking at her sternly. “There are so many consequences for the choices you make, because you have so much power that you have to deal with. And you’ve already come so far. Do you remember when you first got here?”
How could she ever forget? The way everything felt so terrifyingly overwhelming. The way the lights were too bright for her eyes, causing her to squint in absolute anguish. The way the sounds overwhelmed and tortured her into screaming submission. She spent so many nights curled up under a blanket, wrapping her arms around herself, trying to curl up as tight as she could. She used to pray for Zeus to end her existence, because surely it would be better than this.
“Everything was so much ,” she whispers, looking at Alex who nods in agreement. She knows, because she witnessed it all. “I caused everyone so much pain.”
“And now, look at you - you’re making a difference, even if you don’t think you are. You’re finding your way. There are so many things you’re going to accomplish. You’re forming an identity here,” Alex says. “I’m already so proud of you, Kara.”
Kara doesn’t feel worthy of the praise, not when she spends her days hiding just about everything about herself, including her real name, but she knows Alex would never say it unless she truly meant it. It’s enough to help her swallow her emotions for the time being and try to regain her composure.
“I don’t mean to always drag you into this,” Kara sighs, chewing on her lip nervously. She hates that Alex always has to be the one to handle things, when it should be the other way around.
Maybe one day, it will be.
Alex stands firm and powerful, and Kara thinks she’s the strongest mortal she’s ever seen. There’s a pride swelling in her chest just to be associated with her, and it takes away some of the sadness.
“It’s what families do, Kara.” Alex nods firmly, gesturing to the diner door. “They also comfort each other with milkshakes. My treat?”
Kara scrunches her nose and smiles. She follows Alex inside. It won’t solve everything, but for the moment, it’s enough. Being here with her sister and an extra thick chocolate milkshake somehow always makes things feel a little less impossible than they once were.
Later that evening, Kara finds herself standing alone. She is still feeling restless and burdened from her perceived failures, and with her milkshake long forgotten, she goes to the one place she can find a little peace. She wanders outside on her balcony and gazes up at the stars.
It’s a habit she’s had since she first arrived on Earth, and it’s one she can’t seem to shake, no matter how long she’s been here. While she relishes the power she gains from the sun, National City’s night sky offers a dark comfort in a nostalgic way. Somehow, it always brings her closer to Krypton. It’s the only time she feels connected to a world beyond this one -- a world she lost and never fully got to know. Even if she’s technically been on Earth longer than she was ever on Krypton, there is still a strong force connecting her to her family, to her home. She’s haunted by a legacy that she still can’t quite grasp the magnitude of yet.
“Tell me what to do,” Kara whispers, begging to the stars, the spirits of the Titans, the galaxy. Anyone that will listen, really. “Who am I supposed to be?”
The wind whips around her, and she closes her eyes, listening for the whispers of the stars.
They’re always painfully silent.
Kara still doesn’t know as much about Earth as she wishes she did. She doesn’t know the legend behind the planet’s creation, or what’s in store for their future. She doesn’t trust that it’s stable, after seeing what happened to her old home at the hands of Zeus. There is evidence of the gods everywhere here, and she knows mortals on this planet believe in them, too. Zeus’ influence comes in many forms, and this planet does not seem to be free of it.
“The king of the gods,” she scoffs, afraid to speak the words too loud for fear of -- what? stirring him from an eternal slumber? -- she shakes her head disgustedly at her own timid thoughts.
She closes her eyes and after a few beats of silence, she hears the voices of her past as clear as if they were still speaking to her.
“Aunt Astra! Did you meet with him? What did he say? What can we do?” Kara glides across the room to the brightly clad figure standing at the entrance. Her aunt is the titaness of law and order, the voice of reason meant to keep clarity and peace among the immortals. Kara trusts her the most out of any of the others, even her own parents. She knows Astra is trying her best to compromise with Zeus, to find a common middle ground. It is their only hope if they are to survive their fate.
Krypton is dying, and the Titans remain banished, trapped and forgotten, on a planet that cannot sustain them. It seems this is all part of Zeus and Hades’ plan, and Kara is not encouraged by Astra’s tone.
“Zeus shows mercy when it benefits him to do so,” Astra’s voice goes cold when she speaks of the King of the gods, and there is disdain lacing her words. “In this case, he has decided it does not.”
“But how -- how can he do this? We didn’t do anything wrong!” Kara exclaims, overwhelmed with the feeling of complete powerlessness. It isn’t often a Titan is brought to her knees, but she feels handcuffed by Zeus and his manipulative ways.
“We didn’t, little one, but this goes beyond us, I’m afraid. The war with Rao has permanently severed our connection with the gods. Zeus will always consider the Titans his enemies. He fears us above all others, because he knows we are the only thing that can beat him. He won’t take a chance ever again.” Astra shakes her head and narrows her eyes. “And Zeus always gets what he wants.”
“Why? Why do we let him?” Kara shouts. “If we can beat him, why don’t we?”
Astra takes a deep breath and looks out across the room, through the endless expanse of floor to ceiling windows, over the immense skyline in front of them. She pauses to consider.
“All in due time, little one. These things cannot be rushed, and I think there is more to this story than we know. I’m going to do everything in my power to make it right, but you have to promise me you’ll be patient. Can you do that?”
Kara nods slowly. She doesn’t understand, not fully, but the look in Astra’s eyes forces her to obey.
“It’s one thing to outsmart Zeus. It’s another thing entirely to cheat death,” Astra says slowly.
“Death?” Kara’s lips form around the word and she gets a cold, clammy feeling that sends chills down her spine. She doesn’t understand death, or the soul’s journey after it leaves the body. Only one understands. Only one is powerful enough to rule it all.
Hades, Lord of the Underworld.
The immortals don’t have to fear death in the same way the mortals do, Kara is sure of that. But there is still a feeling of general uneasiness whenever death is mentioned. It brings with it a reminder of Hades and the darkest, most terrifying place in the universe. Even the most powerful gods won’t venture to Hades’ realm, because there is only one thing for certain: no one ever returns from the depths.
“Hades has his sights on ruling his kingdom, and he will stop at nothing if he has been promised our souls. He gets his pleasure from the suffering of others,” Astra snaps, her lips twisting in obvious hatred.
“Hades wants us dead?” Kara asks quietly. She swallows the lump in her throat. How? Why? He already has everything he wants in his kingdom, what would more souls do for him? “He’s the reason we’re here in the first place!”
It had been Hades and the power of darkness that distracted Rao, fooling him and trapping his powers enough for Zeus to land the final, thunderous blow of victory. Without Hades and his treacherous deceit, the Titans may have prevailed.
Zeus’ name is revered, but Kara believes Hades is truly the most fearsome god in the universe.
“You speak wisely, Kara, but it does not mean their actions will be fair going forward. Zeus and Hades will always value power over justice, that much I am sure.”
“What do we do?” Kara asks. She’s desperate for answers, desperate for a plan.
“For now, we wait. There is great unrest on our planet, and I fear that to push Zeus further will only hasten our demise. I need to think,” Astra says, her brow crinkling with the burdens of an entire people.
There are several grumbling voices in the distance that begin to get louder and louder, the sounds erupting in Kara’s ears. Suddenly, several of the elder Titans storm the room, flanked on either side by her parents, and Kara watches as they overtake Astra. Astra’s eyes widen slightly, before her jaw clenches in quiet acceptance. Kara can feel tension, hatred, animosity, all swirling together in profound heaviness. Underneath it all, she feels a twinge of sadness.
Her mother grabs Astra’s wrists, and pulls them forcibly behind her.
“You are under arrest,” Alura calmly explains, “You will be banished to the Underworld for your continued slander against the gods. You are not one of us!”
“Mother, what has she done?” Kara yells, running toward them. She is cut off by two powerful forces, Hyperion and Thea, blocking access to Astra. “Tell me!”
“She has puts us all in grave danger,” Alura replies, her voice monotone and even. Kara peers at her, confused. She sounds faraway, almost haunted. Kara can see the dull look in her eyes -- in all their eyes -- the way their minds seem possessed. She knows instantly they have been corrupted by Zeus.
“If you send me down there, make no mistake, I will not be the only one,” Astra warns, keeping her eyes focused on the ground. Kara notes how she doesn’t cry, or make to run away. She doesn’t try to overpower. She knows it would be a losing battle.
The entire room is suddenly clouded by an eerie rolling fog, twisting and twirling, settling around them in a dark heaviness. Kara feels instantly chilled to the bone, and the tears fall automatically, without any further provocation. She can hardly see in front of her, as the darkness chokes the light, pulling them further into black despair.
“Astra!” Kara calls frantically reaching out, trying desperately to find her.
She can’t see anyone anymore, but she hears Astra’s unmistakable voice.
“You must always take care, little one. Zeus is known for brute strength, yes, but tricks of the mind are where he thrives. When he appears, the truth flees. It hides, cowardly, behind a veil. Beware of the things you cannot see. And should you ever come in contact with the King of darkness himself, Hades, know this: there’s a reason he’s the one the immortals fear above all.”
Kara gulps. The chilling warning wraps around her heart and causes her to shiver.
It’s the last words Astra ever speaks to her, before leaving forever, trapped for all eternity in the depths of Hades’ lair.
“Hey,” a soft, quiet voice speaks behind her, gentle enough not to startle. “I thought I might find you out here.”
Alex saunters out slowly, her hands tucked in her jacket pockets as she approaches. She offers a soft, patient smile before staring up at the sky next to Kara. They stand like that for a moment, or maybe longer, Kara isn’t sure. She brings herself back to the moment gradually, her mind returning to Earth from a land far away. There’s nothing but quiet comfort between them, and it feels good. Kara likes the way Alex knows when she just needs to be . The words might come, and if they do, Alex will listen. Alex always listens.
It’s a cool summer night, one that will always remind her of her first weeks on Earth. She arrived in June, and Kara will never forget the way the wind smelled faintly of sea salt and thick cut grass, things unheard of on Krypton. She inhales deeply, and her senses take in everything in the moment.
“Did I ever tell you about my Aunt?” Kara asks softly, feeling the brush of the wind across her skin. She focuses on listening to Alex’s calm, soothing heartbeat. She knows she’s talked about her family with Alex a lot -- in an attempt to remember, to understand, to heal. The memories are fragmented now, in broken, jagged pieces that don’t quite fit together the way they used to. But on cool, clear nights she can still see Astra’s face, and hear her warning pleas.
“A little bit,” Alex nods thoughtfully as she thinks. “I know she loved you the most.”
Kara smiles sadly at the memory. The words sting, because they are the truth. Astra always did love her the most.
“She was my favorite,” Kara admits. “She was everything a Titan should be. Strong. Powerful. Wise. But she was also fair, and diplomatic,” Kara explains.
Alex simply listens. She reserves judgement, which Kara knows is no easy feat. The stories of the Titans have been grossly exaggerated and confused over the decades, so much so that none of it even resembles the truth anymore. The mortals on Earth fear them, and praise Zeus for delivering them all from certain peril. The myths portray Astra as a monster, a criminal, and there is no one around to show them any different. No one but Kara, who is kept hidden, the truth locked away with her in the dark. Kara bites her tongue at the thought.
“I still believe that she tried to save us,” Kara says after a pause. There’s a darkness that comes over her as she speaks. She feels it crawl along her spine and wrap itself around her throat. She knows it shows all over her face, like a shadow. “Zeus wouldn’t let her.”
Kara tells Alex about the last time she saw Astra, and the way her aunt tried to reason with Zeus and Hades. She holds back the tears as she talks about the way the Titans turned on her, betrayed her, and cast her away into the shadowy depths.
“They took everything from me,” Kara says, her voice shaking with pent up rage. “They didn’t only take it, they twisted it to be something I couldn’t even recognize. My home, my family. Everything. It’s all gone.”
“Oh, Kara...” Alex whispers, her hand tentatively rubbing Kara’s back.
“Everyone pays homage to the gods, holds them up on a pedestal, and they have no idea!” Kara slams her hands on the railing in anger, holding back just enough so as not to break it entirely. The balcony quivers. “They have no idea how selfish and greedy they are -- how awful they can be. They control us all and there’s nothing any of us can do! Even me...”
Her words tumble out carelessly, and she doesn’t try to gather them up. For the most part, she has been made to feel powerless for her entire life, watching as the gods weave webs of deceit and easily manipulate the masses. Her voice feels strangled, like she can’t use it to tell the truth, no matter how loud she yells.
“Have you met Zeus before?” Alex asks tentatively. Kara’s heart skips an involuntary beat.
“He was always everywhere, his presence could be felt no matter where I went,” Kara muses, thinking back to her days on Krypton, the way she always felt on edge. It was like someone was always watching, calculating, scheming behind the scenes. There was never a moment of rest. Kara always felt like she was careening through life toward an unknown destination with no brakes. “I think I’ve been near Hades, though.”
Alex shivers at the name, and her ears prick up at Kara’s words.
“When Astra was taken from me, there was a cold, damp darkness that fell over us. Everything went from light to dark almost in an instant, as the creepiest fog rolled in from out of nowhere. I remember feeling the most scared and hopeless I’ve ever felt in my life. It was like being dead myself, and for a few minutes, I really thought I was. When it finally lifted, Astra was gone.” Kara swallows harshly. “I never saw her again.”
“I always found it fascinating that people praise Zeus and almost take comfort in his strength--” Kara scoffs, and Alex grins knowingly. She holds up her hands to assure Kara as she continues, “Whether warranted or not, they do. But Hades -- he has always been viewed as the monster that he truly is. There’s never been redemption for him.”
Kara ponders the words. It’s true, after all. For all the ways the stories have twisted Zeus’ legacy, they seem to stay firm on the perception of Hades. At least there’s some strange justice in that, Kara thinks.
“He’s a savage. There’s a reason they simply call the underworld by his name. Hades is synonymous with hell itself,” Kara spits, the anger churning in her gut.
Alex’s brow furrows as she stares at Kara in thought. Kara knows what she’s thinking, because it’s the same thought that has plagued them since she got to Earth.
“I hate to think what would happen if he ever got his hands on you,” Alex whispers, her voice lowering out of habit. They both know you can never be too careful when speaking about the gods. “If he feels you are what’s owed to him...” Alex trails off, shaking her head.
Kara stares up at the sky. She isn’t sure who she fears the most, anymore. Zeus and his infinite power and equally infinite grudge, or Hades, and the terrible unknown.
“You have too much light. His darkness could overpower you, no matter how strong you are,” Alex speaks almost like she’s begging Kara to tread lightly. “We can’t let that happen. I won’t let it happen.”
Kara can feel the way Alex’s heart dips and the way her breath shallows. She hears the slight inflections in her tone that would ordinarily go unnoticed. She feels the prickle of fear form in her own throat.
Alex is trying to be brave for her.
“I just wish I knew what to do. I wish I knew what they were planning,” Kara says. “My family, for all their shortcomings, still managed to save me. They wanted me to come here for reasons beyond myself. There’s more to it than just staying safe. I need to do something! I hate feeling like I’m hiding!”
“I know you do--” Alex starts, before Kara eagerly cuts her off.
“I’m not a coward!”
“I know you’re not! But it’s the only thing you can do to keep the world safe. If Zeus finds you, there’s no telling what he would do, to you, or the Earth.”
“You don’t think he already knows?” Kara exclaims, her innermost thoughts tumbling out before she can really register what she’s saying.
“What do you--” Alex pauses, her eyes narrowing at Kara. “What do you mean? Do you?”
Kara sighs deeply. She does. As much as she wants to deny his existence, she knows there is only a matter of time before she meets Zeus himself. She feels it every day, the pressure building more and more as the clock keeps ticking.
“I do. I think he already knows. I think he’s always known.” Kara shrugs stiffly, trying to remain calm as she says the words out loud for the first time. “I think he’s coming for me soon.”
“It will start a war, Kara.” Alex clenches her jaw defiantly. “The destruction could be catastrophic.”
“I know. But don’t you see? These things that keep happening...people in trouble, being dangled in front of me and pulled away at the last minute. These are tests. He’s testing me. He wants me to be afraid. If I’m afraid, he has all the power.”
“What are you going to do?” Alex asks, placing a warning hand on Kara’s forearm.
“Whatever I have to.” Kara places her hand on top of Alex’s and offers a small brave smile.
They both settle into a heavy silence at that, neither one knowing what could possibly be said to counter the bleakness of this truth. Kara knows that Zeus thrives on fear. It charges him, gives him the edge. She hates that even with the best intentions, she’s falling right into his trap.
The stars seem to sparkle knowingly, but the answers continue to remain just out of reach.
“Ponytail!” Snapper’s gravely voice grates against Kara’s ears as soon as she walks into work the following morning. It could be worse, she shrugs. He could ignore her existence the way he usually does, which makes getting information out of him an even more exhausting task. Her boss is known to be extremely irritated at all times, and it either comes out in unimpressed frowny silences or blunt critiques against her entire state of being. Today seems to be more of a vocal day. Kara braces herself, then plasters on a smile.
“Yes! I’m here!” Kara chirps, bouncing into Snapper’s office and looking at him warily. “You wanted to see me?”
“What I want is my cheese danish and my coffee in peace,” Snapper replies, peering up at her over his glasses, the permanent frown etched sharply on his face. “Instead, I’m here, forced to make small talk with you.”
“I--er--I’m sorry?” Kara replies and Snapper rolls his eyes.
“I need you to take on the Luthor Corp assignment. Apparently your colleagues think the news stops when they catch a cold,” Snapper growls. “Lex Luthor will be expecting you for an interview this afternoon.”
“Lex Luthor? As in, the Lex Luthor? The CEO of Luthor Corp?” Kara’s eyes widen. The Luthors are an untouchable family, as far as Kara is concerned, and interviewing the CEO of the most powerful company in the nation - possibly the world - is suddenly making her head spin.
“Do you know of any others?” Snapper asks sharply.
“No--No, I was just...checking...” Kara waves her hand as she adjusts her glasses nervously. She stands and waits for further instructions, but after several beats of awkward silence, she begins to realize this is all the information she is going to receive.
Snapper glares up at her from the paper he is reading.
“Right! So if that’s all...” Kara begins, clearing her throat. She turns to leave, before she hears Snapper’s voice.
“Don’t mess it up,” he grumbles, frowning even harder than before as he stares at her with his beady eyes. She swallows hard.
“I won’t,” she promises. As she backs out of the room, she can only hope it’s enough.
Kara returns to her desk, a jumbled mess of frantic thoughts and panicked limbs. She quickly gathers her things into her bag and clambers out of the office without much thought. She doesn’t want to sit back and contemplate this meeting, because the more she does, the more nervous she’ll be. It’s silly, really. He’s just a businessman, going about his normal everyday life, she tells herself. So what if he’s rich and powerful? So what if he owns most of this city? Kara exhales a shaky breath. She stares up at the sky and tries to calm her breathing. I’m a Titan, for Rao’s sake. I can do this.
Even as Kara gathers her confidence and heads downtown, there’s still something about Lex Luthor that makes her heart quiver nervously.
Luthor Corp is a huge tech conglomerate, with locations sprawled across the nation. They are responsible for some of the most advanced projects on Earth, some known to the public, and some decidedly hidden for good reason. It reminds Kara of Krypton in a way, as it’s the closest thing on this planet to the science and engineering prowess that the Titans were capable of. The Luthor footprint is everywhere -- Luthor Family this, Luthor Corp that -- and Kara can’t believe she’s actually going to speak with the man in charge of it all in a few minutes. For a mortal, this would be a huge honor. For a titan masquerading as a mortal, it is the closest thing to confronting a god that Kara has ever had to do.
The Luthor Corp headquarters is located in Metropolis, which is exactly where Kara feels it belongs: the jewel of the imposing city. But ever since Kara could remember, there has been a smaller, cozier satellite office in the heart of downtown National City, the imposing Luthor Corp lettering plastered on the side of a tall skyscraper overlooking the square. It’s a staunch reminder of who is in charge, as if anyone could really forget. She isn’t sure exactly when this particular location came to be, or how often Lex himself makes visits here, but she files it away as a potential ice-breaker question in an attempt to welcome him to National City.
As soon as she walks into the polished lobby of the building, she is greeted by endless glass walls and bright sunlight. As she adjusts to her surroundings, she notices the wall to wall high tech metal detectors and uniformed officers scanning badges and patrolling the entrance. While the decor is welcoming, the vibe is decidedly less so. Kara takes a shaky breath as she smiles at the guard.
“Hi, I’m Kara Danvers, I’m--”
“Coat, bag, take off any jewelry, place your cell phone in the bucket,” the guard interrupts sternly, having no interest in who she is, or what exactly she is doing there. He points gruffly at the conveyor belt. Kara purses her lips and does as she’s told.
“This way.” The guard gestures as he points through the detection device. Kara holds her breath, for no real reason, and walks through. Nothing.
Well, that’s a good sign, she thinks.
She gathers her belongings and walks across the shining marble floor to a desk with more uniformed officers.
“Hi, I’m Kara Danvers, I’m with CatCo Magazine,” she begins, searching their impassive faces for any sign of life. “I’m--here for a meeting with...Mr. Luthor?”
The officers look at each other briefly, clearly amused, before the one in front of Kara speaks.
“Is he expecting you?” he asks, his tone rigid. Kara can feel the judgement and utter resentment coming off of him, as if she doesn’t belong in the same vicinity as him. Kara thinks he’s trying to be intimidating, and she finds it slightly comical. She only wishes he had any idea who she really is. She wishes even harder that she could show him.
“He should be,” Kara nods confidently, catching the incredulous look on his face. “But you should probably call him to confirm.”
Her willingness to have Lex called makes the guard eye her up and down briefly before shrugging. He pushes a button and dials.
“Mr. Luthor, we have a...” the guard doesn’t finish speaking before the voice on the other end cuts him off. “Right away, sir. Yes sir.”
Kara watches intently as the guard hangs up the phone, a sheepish look on his face.
“So sorry, Ms. Danvers. He’s ready for you. Please go to the 12th floor, first door on the right. Have a wonderful day.”
Kara smiles, satisfied at the way the officer’s smugness was ruined by her surprising credentials. She turns to head for the elevators. She retrieves her notebook from her bag as she waits for the elevator to arrive, reviewing her questions over and over again. She wants to seem well rehearsed and smooth, despite having just received notice of this interview less than hour ago.
As she steps off the elevator, she proceeds through two glass doors. She already knows exactly where she needs to go, as she senses the unmistakably powerful presence on the other side of the hallway. She inhales sharply as she approaches what she assumes is Lex’s assistant’s desk. Before she can introduce herself to the woman sitting there, a figure emerges from behind a heavy closed door.
He strides confidently over to her, his hand outstretched and chest puffed out as he offers a blinding white smile. Kara is instantly reminded of lightning, the way his teeth flash like a particularly strong strike against the night sky. He looks polished and unabashedly expensive. His suit is tailored perfectly, the crisp lines pressed ever so meticulously. There isn’t a crease out of place, nor a wrinkle anywhere to be seen. His head is completely bald, which somehow completes the look of sharpness. His gold cufflinks have a curious symbol engraved on them that Kara can’t quite make out, though it looks like it might be a cursive letter L.
Kara takes his hand in hers and feels unmistakable power in his grip.
“Lex Luthor,” he introduces, his voice booming and loud. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Kara Danvers,” Kara responds with less gusto, trying to steady her nerves. He has a commanding presence that is fitting for someone in his position, and she squares her shoulders in order to attempt to meet him halfway.
He gestures quickly to his office and Kara follows, tucking her notebook away and taking smooth controlled steps. As she walks deeper into the room, a dark uneasiness begins to settle into her chest. Something about this just doesn’t add up. Everything here is too clean, too polished, too ideal. The books on the shelf are arranged just so. There isn’t a speck of dust anywhere to be found, which Kara finds fascinating considering her in-depth vision. Even the most particular mortal would have something out of line -- a stray piece of a paper, an unused pen -- but even the writing utensils on Lex’s desk are void of fingerprints.
He could be an extreme germaphobe, Kara reasons. The thought makes her smirk, considering that would be a particularly interesting weakness to exploit. Deep down, though, Kara feels like there is more to Lex Luthor than meets the eye, and her guard remains promptly on red alert.
Lex points to a tall chair in front of his desk as he rounds the corner and takes his own. Kara smiles gratefully and places her bag down before sitting.
“I’m sure you were probably expecting Mr. Olsen, but he had a last minute...situation,” Kara fumbles, trying to cover up for her own presence. “I appreciate you making the time to see me instead.”
“I think it all worked out the way it was supposed to, don’t you?” Lex raises an eyebrow at her, as if they’re both included in a particular inside joke. Kara swallows, unsure what to say to that.
She takes a deep breath and tries to focus on her senses, and all the things she can gather from this man in front of her without using words. She doesn’t like what she’s feeling. Greed. Arrogance. Resentment. Jealousy.
Underneath it all, Kara smells the unmistakable stench of fear.
“Sure,” Kara agrees, coming back to the present moment. She has already decided she is not a fan of Lex Luthor, so remaining unbiased is going to be her challenge going forward. “So I’d like to start by asking you a few questions about Luthor Corp, just to give our readers a sense of the company’s direction from your perspective, if that’s alright.”
Lex regards her as if he’s reading something particularly difficult, his eyebrows furrowing slightly. He smirks, and Kara decides she hates the way it always seems like he’s snarling.
“I think we’ll have plenty of time for all that. Forgive me, but, I’m really more intrigued to find out about you, Ms...Danvers, is it?” Lex grins widely as his eyes glide over her face. Kara shifts uncomfortably under his gaze. “I just sense so much... potential in you. I have a particular knack for that sort of thing, you know.”
“A knack for identifying targets?” Kara retorts, her mind whirling over the way Lex chose to enunciate the word potential. Kara can’t grasp exactly why she feels so on edge, but it just feels like every word Lex speaks means something completely different.
Lex scoffs at her remark, shaking his head.
“Bold and strong. I respect that,” Lex admits. “You are destined for great things, I can already tell.”
“Well, I’m flattered, but we really aren’t here to discuss me,” Kara deflects, adjusting her glasses and angling to get back to the interview. The more Lex speaks, the more uncomfortable Kara feels. Nothing makes sense, and he seems far too slippery to be genuine. Kara gets the unmistakable urge to run across the room and leave as soon as possible. Instead, she bites her tongue and crosses her legs, forcing herself to stay.
Lex leans back in his chair.
“Aren’t we?” he challenges, and Kara’s eyes shoot up to meet his. “Where are you from, Ms. Danvers?”
“Kara,” she corrects, not in an overly friendly tone.
“Kara, then,” Lex smirks. “I didn’t realize Eliza and Jeremiah had another daughter. I know Alex, of course.”
Alex had never mentioned Lex Luthor in her life, and Kara is sure that sort of thing would have been discussed. She couldn’t wait to get home and grill her about it later.
“Your sister thinks the world of you. She cares about you immensely,” he muses, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “You care about her, too.”
He’s practically giddy with control and the way he’s dominating the conversation, and Kara flinches at the way his lips curl over his teeth.
“I...” Kara pauses. Her heart drops. “Hang on. How do you know my sister?”
“I know a lot of things,” Lex says matter of factly. He waves it off. “Why do you think it was the Danvers family that took you in, Kara? These things are hardly left up to chance, surely you realize that by now.”
Lex stands from his chair and begins walking toward her, circling her with predatory steps. His dark eyes bore into hers. She wants to look away, but she feels a power beyond her own compelling her to stay put. Suddenly, Kara feels a strong, violent gust of wind, as she continues to stare at his eyes. Everything crashes down around her as she studies the way they expand into a reddish swirl of violent light. She sees Krypton exploding. She hears Astra screaming. She hears the loud, angry rumble of the Titans as they launch themselves, one by one, into oblivion.
Zeus has been here, all this time.
Kara’s stomach caves in on itself as she realizes the exact amount of danger she is in. Lex’s eyes go back to normal -- as normal as dark, soulless mortal eyes can get -- and he stands perfectly composed, as if nothing has happened. Kara feels the warmth drain from her body.
“Alex Danvers truly is a delight,” Lex continues, his tone anything but truly authentic. “It’s a pity she’s so... normal, don’t you think? She’d be so useful otherwise.”
“What do you want?” Kara spits, the rage building behind her eyes. She feels the electric charge behind her pupils, dilating and illuminating her eyes to an eerie reddish glow. The display of power does nothing to curb Lex’s enthusiasm.
“Truthfully? I just want you,” Lex explains, unaffected by her hostility. “I think you are powerful, and strong, but untested. I think you’d make a key addition to my staff, and as such, you’d have my eternal protection. I don’t go out on a limb for just anyone, Kara, but I can see promise in you.” He reaches out and strokes her cheek with the backs of his fingers. She flinches as his touch burns deeply into her skin.
Kara feels trapped in his clutches. The power that normally courses through her veins significantly diminishes with his touch.
“You want me to work for you?” she asks, her breaths coming in shallow gasps as she tries to angle herself away from him.
“In a matter of speaking, yes,” Lex draws his hand back and crosses his arms, staring down at Kara with intensity. “You have a place here at Luthor Corp, but I’m talking more in the grand scheme of things. I know what you are, Kara. I’ve been watching you. Join me on Olympus, and together we’ll fulfill the legacy you’ve always dreamed of.”
Kara can’t understand why Zeus would accept her and offer the promise of a collaborative future without taking something else from her. It seems too good to be true, to live on Olympus in peace, because why would he ever trust a Titan?
“And if I decline?” Kara asks, looking at his retreating form above her glasses. She clenches her jaw as she waits for his answer. He resumes his place behind his desk, sitting stoically as he regards her.
“I don’t believe we’ve entered a negotiation, Kara,” Lex raises a pointed eyebrow in her direction as he grills her. “This isn’t an offer.”
“Modern day slavery, then?” Kara pushes, knowing she’s playing with immortal fire, but unable to keep her rage in check.
Lex sits back in his chair and chuckles heartily, his voice booming and strong. It makes Kara feel nauseous.
“You can call it whatever you’d like, though I’d rather consider it a truce. I’m not trying to deceive you. I think it’s time to let the past go. The Titans, the Olympians, it’s all gone on for far too long. Now, the two of us can turn the page and usher in a new age of cooperation and community.”
“Can I think about it?” Kara asks, desperate to buy herself more time.
“Tell you what. I’m a respectable business man. I’ll give you three days,” Lex agrees, his lips pursed in disappointment. “That will give you enough time to get your affairs in order, I suspect.”
“Thank you,” Kara says, standing from her seat, the interview long forgotten. Her legs wobble beneath her as she tries to regain her balance. She feels like she’s been completely drained of her powers, when in reality, she is simply terrified of what this all means.
Lex guides her to the door, his hand at the small of her back, causing Kara’s entire body to ignite with uncomfortable fire once again.
“Tell me, do you ever go by your real name?” Lex asks, his breath warm in her ear as he speaks dangerously close to her. Her senses are invaded with the strong smell of vanilla pipe tobacco and the stench of old whiskey. “I suppose you don’t on Earth, hmm? Probably smart.”
“Good day, Mr. Luthor,” Kara responds, shivering out of his grip, ignoring the question and all the implications. Her eyes catch on his cuff links again, where she realizes it isn't a cursive L at all, but a menacing lightning bolt.
“Three days, Persephone,” he reminds her. The name sends shocking chills all down her body.
As she descends back to the lobby, she can still hear the screaming voices of the Titans echoing desperate warnings in her ears.
Three days until she meets her fate.
Cold, dark, wet, miserable rain.
Kara hates the rain. She hates the dreary, damp darkness and the shadows that lurk around corners. She hates the way it drags and drenches all her surroundings, and makes everything foggy and hidden. It distorts her already misty vision and makes everything blend together in chaos. She hates the wet, heavy Earthy smell and the way it gnashes its teeth and chases away the warmth. It makes her entire body feel uneasy and so... human . There’s a tired ache that seems to creep into her bones and nestle deep in her soul, one that only comes on when the clouds burst open.
“Perfect,” Kara grumbles under her breath, her mood souring by the second. Naturally, after confronting her sworn enemy, the only fitting result would be a torrential downpour.
None of this is a coincidence. Kara is beginning to realize this more and more.
She sighs, staring at the rain from the Luthor Corp lobby as it comes teaming down, pelting the sidewalk aggressively. The sound causes a deep thunderous roar in Kara’s ears, enough to drown out everything else in her mind, which might not be the worst thing, if she’s honest. An ominous flash of lightning sparks in the distance, and Kara feels the heat prickle across her face for a brief second.
“So dramatic,” Kara mumbles angrily, staring out over the horizon. Her fear from the earlier confrontation subsides as she takes in her annoying surroundings. She can feel the dread give way to simmering anger as it coils in her stomach.
She really hates Zeus.
With a groan, she steps outside and allows the water to cascade around her, the drops bouncing off her head and running down her impenetrable skin. It doesn’t feel like much - her body isn’t affected the way a mortal’s would be - but she senses the dark hopeless mood of the city and it brings her down in such a dramatic way that it causes her to shiver.
There’s a spooky chill in the air, and it makes Kara pick up the pace as she walks downtown toward her apartment. She contemplates using her powers - shape shifting, turning herself into the electric current that buzzes through the veins of the city, or simply jumping into the air and flying, because what would it matter now? Zeus is here, always watching, and he knows. There isn’t much else she can do to avoid the inevitable. She toys with the temptation, but decides against it for the time being, just out of principle. She has been so conditioned to hide, she isn’t even sure she can call upon her stronger powers as reliably anymore, anyway.
The thought makes her heart drop.
As she dodges puddles and angles herself away from the wind, she notices the bright lights of the hospital up around the corner. Instantly, her mind goes back to the accident, and she wonders about the woman she pulled from the wreckage. Rachel.
She feels a tug deep in her chest pulling her in the direction of the entrance, and before she can really gather her thoughts, she finds herself standing in the brightly lit fluorescent lobby of the Luthor Family Hospital.
Luthor. Of course. How had she never put it all together before?
The almighty family that owns the city, their mark on every building, every corner. There is nothing in this city left untouched by a Luthor’s hand. Hiding in plain sight, this entire time. Just like her.
Kara rolls her eyes as she reads the name on the entrance, before edging her way down an empty hallway. Where flying may have drawn excessive attention, her other gifts are more subtle, and even if she wanted to control herself, the driving force to find this woman is far too great.
With that, Kara easily slips around the corner undetected, shifting her form enough to blend in with the other nurses, scrubs and all. It’s a quick and easy trick that Kara has found to come in handy on several occasions. It’s easier still to place distracting thoughts into the minds of the staff in charge of manning the front desk, so they are perfectly occupied as she wanders free. No one pays her any attention, and she turns another corner to find the corridor completely empty. She heads for the elevators, suddenly completely confident of her destination.
Floor 7. The ICU. It calls to her.
The elevator doors open and she’s instantly overwhelmed by an eerie sense of dread. There’s a familiar coldness that overtakes her, a haunting presence that is only vaguely comforting because of the fact that Kara’s felt it before. Many times. It’s the strange sense of death, and it’s nearby. Kara knows this feeling more than she really wants to, and ordinarily its presence would warn her away, pushing her in the other direction. But tonight the feeling is so strong, it’s like it’s practically there for her. She swallows harshly. No. That’s not it. It’s not about her. But then why...?
The name dawns on her again, this time with a heaviness that Kara can’t shake. She exhales the breath she had been holding and rushes down the long, dark hallway, frantically following the chill in the air. She slips past metal carts stocked with syringes and medical supplies, past dark room after dark room, the beeping of machines and shallow heartbeats of the patients clogging her senses. Kara is frantic now, picking up the pace, the sounds beating into her skull, the vibration of tools, the nervous scratching of fingernails, the tap of a pencil against a clipboard. Finally, finally, finally, she walks past a room and the image stops her dead in her tracks.
Everything falls silent.
There she is, laying peacefully in the bed. A machine hums quietly in the corner, beeping every so often with ventilated exhales. Her eyes are closed, and her face is without burden or strain. She looks calm, almost happy. She looks like a beautiful doll, her features drawn with exquisite care, unmoving, unflinching. Kara takes a deep breath and goes to enter the room, but something in the corner catches her eye. All of a sudden she’s hit with such a rush of emotion, she almost cries out in fear. The feeling is so intense that Kara can’t move, can’t act, can’t speak. She simply stands, paralyzed.
A shrouded, dark figure, one that seems to be a startling combination of human and spirit, is gliding swiftly across the room. It stops, and peers from behind a hood of flickering deep blue flames, keeping careful watch over the patient’s bed. Their full length cloak swishes silently, as wisps of charcoal gray clouds trail down the bottom, moving along the floor like currents of rolling steam. Kara squints her eyes, and sees the faint sparkle of the night sky reflecting back at her within the airy fabric of the figure’s cloak. Gold speckled star dust seems to wink and flicker as it moves gracefully along.
The figure pauses and reaches forward, extending a slender, almost translucent hand from beyond the dark seams of the garment. Their fingers graze gently over Rachel’s cheek.
“You can rest now, dear one,” the figure says softly. It’s a decidedly female voice, one that carries through the room like an enchanting melody. It has Kara absolutely transfixed by the door in wonder. “Your journey on Earth is over.”
Kara’s heart pounds in her ears. She knows exactly who this is.
The fearsome Lord of the Underworld is standing before her, but she is nothing like what Kara expects. For starters, she’s a woman, and Kara can’t wrap her mind around such shocking information. It could be a trick, she reasons. The gods transform themselves time and time again, herself included, and there would be nothing stopping Hades from pulling a stunt like this. Especially for an audience.
Kara becomes more acutely aware of her own presence and shifts awkwardly, wondering if Hades is merely biding her time before turning her attention to Kara. She suddenly feels exposed, as she realizes exactly what she’s done. She’s been lured to this spot, which she foolishly followed of her own volition. Now nothing stands between her and the fearsome King -- Queen?-- of Darkness.
Has she wandered freely into the land of the dead?
Kara tries to focus on calming her nerves. Hades, however, pays her no mind.
Kara continues to watch as a silhouette of Rachel seems to rise from the bed. Only, it isn’t Rachel as Kara knows her, but rather a younger version, a childlike innocence floating to the surface. The spirit stands by the shadowy god of death, and looks up into the darkness. Kara is struck by how the bright light of Rachel’s spirit contrasts starkly with the steely gray of everything Hades.
“Do not be afraid,” Hades says, her voice full of so much reassurance and love, that Kara’s mouth hangs open at the words. All the fear and anguish in the room seems to dissolve and fade away as Kara continues to watch. “Let go child. I’m here to take you home.”
As she speaks, Hades lowers the black hood to reveal her face, and Kara can’t help the gasp that comes as a result. She is striking, and so unexpected and otherworldly, with the most beautiful face Kara has ever seen. It looks like a combination of the brightest sun and palest moon, eclipsed with the features of all the world’s spirits swirled into one. Kara’s eyes immediately fall to the ground, as she is unable to look at her directly. Not at first. Through hooded lashes, she glances up slowly, taking in the sharp angular slope of Hades’ cheeks, and the perfectly chiseled form of her jaw. Her porcelain skin seems to glow in the darkness, illuminated from within, and the entire sight brings tears to Kara’s eyes. She gazes over every inch, every curve, every single part of her face, trying desperately to put it all together. She memorizes it without even trying.
Kara hates that she’s beautiful. It seems to be such an injustice to everything this monster truly is. She wants nothing more than to rush in and expose her, force Hades to show the truth. Bend her will. Make her suffer, the way Kara has had to suffer. Her muscles flex and strain, aching to be unchained. Kara feels the anger flowing through her veins, white hot and electric.
As much as she hates Zeus, she hates Hades with ten times the fiery, burning intensity.
The spirit of the young girl looks up at Hades’ face and then steps forward, embracing her, clutching desperately to her robes and burying her face into her waist. Hades wraps her arms around her in return, stroking her back gently and easily, taking her time and whispering words of encouragement. Kara watches as a tear falls from Hades’ eye, and slides down the angular curve of her cheek, before fading into the darkness.
The sight is hauntingly beautiful, and Kara is filled with a warm calm, one that she hasn’t felt since her days on Krypton, surrounded by her family. Her skin tingles with the radiance that seems to surround her. It does nothing to quell her anger.
It’s a trick. This is all a lie.
Kara’s mind is desperate to fight this feeling, but she’s struggling as she looks at the way Hades is gently comforting Rachel, and the way she takes her time with every movement.
Hades reaches down and interlocks her fingers with Rachel’s, as she begins to lead her to the window on the opposite side of the room. Kara holds her position, watching everything unfold in front of her, too shocked to speak, to call out, to scream. She can’t do anything but watch in terror. Just as they’re about to leave, Hades looks over her shoulder.
Her eyes lock directly on Kara’s.
All the breath rushes from Kara’s lungs, and the entire planet seems to dissolve away, leaving nothing but darkness and the ruler of death. Hades’ eyes are as deep and dark as the ocean at nightfall, but as Kara looks deeper, she can see flecks of gold swirling in their depths. Hades continues to look at her, really look at her, and as she does, her eyes seem to transform into an endless expanse of vast greenish light. Kara feels like she can see everything in them now, her past and her present, and even the hidden and forgotten parts of her soul that she would never show another. Hades knows it all, with one look, and Kara cannot stop it. Instead, she stares back intently, fueled by rage, her eyes tearing with frustration and the sheer magnitude of the moment. She is looking into the face of the most fearsome god in the universe, and she feels completely and woefully powerless.
Hades clenches her jaw slightly, like she’s daring Kara to move, daring her to come closer, but her gaze does not waver, her movements do not startle. She is calm and impassive, staring at Kara with her endless eyes. She tilts her head slightly, the faint traces of a smile appearing at the corners of her full, twisted lips. Her eyes flick upwards, breaking their contact, as if she’s contemplating something in her own mind. She nods to herself before turning away without a word.
Kara falls to her knees, crying, feeling an unimaginable loss as Hades disappears, taking Rachel with her.
“How can you take her?!” Kara screams, to no one. The empty room with Rachel’s lifeless body remains unphased, minus the now silent machine in the corner. “She shouldn’t have to die!”
Kara squeezes her eyes closed, and all she can see is her life reflected in Hades’ face, and those deep, swirling eyes. Zeus’ proposition hangs heavily over her, and she feels that no matter what she does, there is simply no way she will be able to outrun death.