Lois and Diana stared at the female Superman as she floated into the living room of Diana's penthouse.
"Alternate universe?" Diana guessed.
Lois shook her head. "Her costume doesn't fit right. If she was an alternate of our Superman, her costume would fit, unless she borrowed one of his spares, but she doesn't have any injuries from going through a battle severe enough to damage her costume and Kal would have introduced us. No, best guess is she is Kal, and since she isn't looking upset this is a short-term problem."
Kal smiled widely. "Your best feature is still your mind," she said in a smooth baritone.
"One of them anyway," Diana teased with a smile. "So, what exactly happened?"
"And why are you hovering?" Lois asked.
Kal blushed. "Well, the reason I'm hovering is because I just did my bikini line a little while ago and it's still tender, plus… I'm not used to the jiggling."
Her girlfriends burst out laughing.
"I know it's funny," Kal admitted, "but it's rather disconcerting."
Diana nodded. "I know exactly what you mean," she assured him. "The gods once turned me into a man for a day to teach me humility. Everything felt off, especially when I was walking, and I quickly learned to be very careful when sitting."
"Why?" Lois asked curiously while Kal winced.
"Because it is far too easy to end up sitting on parts of the male anatomy that do not enjoy being compressed," Diana said, shaking her head.
"Ouch," Lois agreed.
"I'm glad you understand," Kal said. "Now, what happened is that a gang of thieves robbed a STAR Labs shipment which had a piece of pink kryptonite. Believing it would work like green kryptonite, they tried to rob a bank."
"And you were exposed while taking them out," Lois said with a nod.
"Actually, no," she replied. "Lex Luthor had talked them into turning themselves in to the police and had requested a lead lined box to prevent accidental exposure… when I swooped in to offer my assistance."
"Lex Luthor stopped a bank robbery?" Lois asked in disbelief. "Sounds like another one of his schemes to me."
"I already have Batman looking into it, but from everything I've been able to find out he was being honest as it all seemed to annoy him. This is also the second bank robbery he's stopped in a week," Kal pointed out.
"I saw the security footage of the last one," Diana said with a shake of her head. "Silver tongued doesn't begin to describe him."
"How did he stop it?" Lois asked, as the event hadn't made the news and this was the first she'd heard of it.
"He convinced the robbers that the reason Flash's rogue's gallery doesn't harm civilians is because when they do Flash goes back in time and prevents their birth," Kal explained. "Once the bank robbers had thrown down their weapons and surrendered to the police, he assured everyone he was lying, but he was convincing enough that the Flash was horrified."
"I want to see a copy of that," Lois said. "Now, how did he break up this one?"
Kal looked a bit embarrassed as she explained. "He told them it was my date night and asked how they would respond if they were me and I'd cockblocked them." She waited for the laughter to die down before adding, "And then he pointed out what pink kryptonite would do and how a woman responded to the same situation."
Lois and Diana exchanged matching smiles.
"They immediately surrendered and thanked him for looking out for them," Kal finished up.
This time the laughter took a lot longer to die down.
"Date night," Diana said thoughtfully. "It's not a bad idea."
"How long are you going to be female?" Lois asked.
"A total of forty-eight hours," Kal replied. "So, about forty-two more hours."
"We should give him a makeover," Lois said with a grin.
"To let him know how the other half lives?" Diana asked, amusement dancing in her eyes.
Kal chuckled. "Why is it everyone responds that way? Do you really think I've never worn a dress or put on makeup?"
"You have?" Diana asked.
Lois snapped her fingers. "When you investigated that series of hate crimes committed at the drag festival?" she guessed. "I never did find out how you scooped me on that."
"Among other times," Kal agreed with a smile. "Really, do I look like someone who is insecure about their masculinity?"
The two women turned and looked her up and down.
"Point taken," Kal agreed with a shrug before frowning as her chest jiggled. "I'm never going to get used to the way they move," she complained.
"Oh, I think we can help you there," Lois assured her. "Let's get some high heels in your size and a bra and we'll see how well you can strut."
"You are bound and determined to find a way to tease me, aren't you?" Kal asked, amused. As the two nodded, she chuckled. "Alright, let's get started then."
"If we expand the battery further back into the handle, we'll be able to get another five shots out of the energy blaster," Xander said with a frown, seeing several problems with the design.
"Which will weaken the frame and still leaves the linkage here prone to overload," Ben said as he tapped several spots on the screen that was displaying the heavily modified handgun they were designing.
"I have some meta materials that can strengthen the frame, but I'm not sure how to solve the problem with the links to the power supply," Xander admitted. "Personally, I'd call them a feature rather than a bug, as it prevents the power cell from overloading if the blaster is struck by an energy attack."
"I feel like we're missing something here, something obvious," Ben complained, "but any way, trying to make one weapon do too many things makes it less useful in my experience. The best tools have only a few dedicated uses."
"A jack of all trades is a master of none," Xander quoted with a nod.
"Might be better to go with two different guns," Ben decided. "Trying to fit everything into a single weapon provides too many points where it can fail."
"Matching pistols, like Ebony and Ivory," Xander said thoughtfully as he worked, splitting off a second body to work at a separate workstation.
"Never seen Reed do that," Ben said, impressed.
"Plastic Man's powers are really versatile, but don't let on that you know, it's his ace in the hole," Xander said as he worked on the design.
"Black web on the white handled pistol and white web on the black one," Ben noted. "Damn, that does look cool."
"White web supplies energy, and the black one matter," Xander replied. "Fits the theme rather well."
"It's going to feel strange to not wear my web shooters," Ben said.
"You can wear them under your coat, the sleeves will hide them, the guns are just a distraction," Xander reminded him.
Ben perked up. "I forgot about that. Any ideas about how to design my shoes? I use thin material because it allows me to cling to surfaces better."
"I've a couple of ideas for that," Xander replied, "but I'd check and see if that still applies. Powers get stronger with use and age, both of which you have over your younger self."
"Over Peter's younger self you mean," Ben said.
"No, you were made from his cells, so part of you went through all of that," Xander disagreed, "you are simply a branch off the Peter tree."
"Huh," Ben said. "I hadn't thought of it like that."
"Your memories are genetic, you wouldn't have them if they weren't," Xander said with a shrug.
"Being more than one person at a time has made us consider the matter in detail," the other Xander spoke up.
Ben smiled, feeling more secure about who he was as a person. "That nagging feeling of being out of place is gone," he noted.
"This universe isn't out to get you," Xander pointed out.
"Of course, Gotham probably will be," the other Xander added, "but that's not personal, that city is out to get everyone. Note to self: make sure Jack Hawkesmore never comes to this universe and wears Gotham like a suit, bad things would happen."
"Who's Jack Hawkesmore?" Ben asked curiously.
"A guy who was repeatedly kidnapped by aliens and experimented on to give him the ability to fuse with a city and turn it into a battle suit," Xander replied. "Thankfully he's not from this universe, though it's one of the ones between here and your home universe. It's a bizarre and dangerous world I plan on never visiting."
"It sounds like it," Ben agreed.
"Of course, it's not without its humor," Xander said with a smirk.
"The local version of Batman and Superman are a gay couple there," the other Xander said with a snicker.
"Seriously?" Ben asked.
"Seriously," the Lexs chorused.
"How would that even work?" Ben asked.
"Much like any other gay couple I imagine," Xander replied.
"Not that," Ben said waving a hand as if trying to wipe away that portion of the conversation. "I mean, how does someone wear a city?"
Xander shrugged. "Aliens with Clarktech," he offered, "it's as much magic as science at that level. Basically, the roads roll up and everything bends in ways that are insane, to replicate a giant person."
"Glad I don't have to deal with that," Ben said, still trying to imagine it.
"We've got a couple of green lanterns… or four," Xander said thoughtfully, "and their rings are Clarktech. Well… three of them are, the last one actually is magic."
"Note to self; bug the fourth green lantern so he'll use his ring more and not waste away," the other Xander said.
"I'd ask, but I already have enough on my plate," Ben decided. "Now, what are we looking at in terms of fabric?"
"I've got material science that'll knock your socks off," Xander said with a grin.
"Good, maybe a break from the blaster problem will- Eureka!" Ben exclaimed in excitement.
"Eureka?" Xander asked.
"I just realized how to solve the blaster problem," Ben explained with a grin.
"You know, most people at least finish the sentence saying they are taking a break to work on another problem before solving the original one," Xander said drolly while his other self snickered.
"We've been going about this all wrong," Ben said. "We've been trying to make everything self-contained when we should have been thinking cartridges like a gun uses."
"That has some possibilities," Xander said thoughtfully.
"It complicates the supply chain," the other Xander pointed out, "since you have to manufacture specialty shells, but that also allows you to further specialize loadouts, so it's well worth the trouble."
"Each shell can be used for multiple shots or one massive one," Ben said, tapping away at the screen and quickly redesigning the entire thing in seconds.
"Still sticking with the dual pistol design?" Xander asked hopefully.
"I suppose we can, but why?" Ben asked.
"Because they look really cool," Xander said as he projected a hologram of the two guns above a table in the center of the lab.
"They really do," Ben agreed.
"And since we are going to be using a cartridge system it frees up space for safety measures," Xander said.
"What kind of safety measures?" Ben asked.
"Trackers tuned to your spider-sense so you can't lose them, a bio-lock so no one else can fire them, and a magnetic retrieval system so you can call them to your hand," Xander said, already working on the design.
"Which means I'll have to have a complementary system in my gloves," Ben said. "If I'm using a magnetic system anyway… I could add one to my boots as well and make people think my wall crawling is done by magna-tech, though I'm not sure how effective it will be, considering the weight limitations inherent in such a design."
"I've got the design for an anti-grav system that I was planning on suggesting adding to your belt," Xander said, "it's low power and only reduces your weight rather than completely negates it, but with your trench coat used as an airfoil you could use it to glide through the air and it makes the magna-tech system viable without eating up a lot of power."
"People are going to think all my powers are because of technology," Ben said with a snicker.
"You are a tech genius, this way you can show it off and The Justice League will call on you for more than just punching people in the face," Xander said.
Ben grinned. "I haven't had this much fun in ages."
Xander smiled. "Just wait until you get a chance to work with the League. They have some of the finest minds in the universe and facilities Earth can't match."
"How are you going to introduce me?" Ben asked eagerly.
"I can call the League directly so they can vet you," Xander said. "While you don't have to submit to a scan by Martian Manhunter or a testing by Wonder Woman, it's the quickest way to let them know you're on the level. Which you'll probably need since you know me and I've been a tremendous dick most of my life."
"Aren't we supposed to keep where I come from a secret?" Ben asked.
"Of course," Xander agreed. "Just tell them I rescued you from an alternate reality. Since I have two Mercys they know I can jump worlds. Tell them you can't say anything about the world you're from for mystical reasons you aren't quite sure of. It's the truth and is about as much as you can safely share. No need to complicate things with convoluted backstories that'll get discovered anyway."
"And me being a clone?" Ben asked.
"That's personal and really we replace all the cells in our body every seven years, so you're as much Peter Parker as he is," Xander said. "You've decided your name is Benjamin Peter Parker so if anyone notices that you're like Spider-Man and have a spider name you can just say your father was a tremendous fanboy, which Miles was, and your tech is designed to imitate him, which it is."
"That's all true and yet tremendously misleading," Ben said, staring at Xander.
Xander shrugged. "It's a gift, I just use it for good rather than evil now."
Ben laughed. "Wish I could have convinced a few of our villains to do that. Alright, let's get a costume together and test it out."
Superman floated down through the ceiling of the Fortress of Solitude, the crystalline panels sliding back into place as she settled to the ground in what looked to be a glacial cave.
Several sensors scanned her and the fortresses A.I. triggered several more, noting residual scarring and her dimensional frequency. "Kal El, your body has undergone a major shift since your last visit."
"I was exposed to pink kryptonite," Superman replied. "The effects should wear off in another day."
"Noted," the A.I. said and awaited instructions.
"I need a new outfit, one that will adapt to the differences between my new form," Superman said knowing that she would probably be dealing with a crisis when she shifted back, the way her luck usually ran. "Perhaps something using nano-tech," she added, recalling what Supergirl had been working on.
The fortresses' A.I. searched through its memory banks for entries that fit Superman's request, finding multiple options among the military uniform designations and winnowing them down to ones that would resemble his current attire with a little modification.
"Manufacturing now," the A.I. announced.
Superman nodded and then considered what Lex had suggested when he'd interviewed him for the paper. "Is there a way to generate a field to block kryptonite radiation?"
"Many," the A.I. replied, "however I'm guessing you are asking about mobile devices and they have to be precisely tuned, so they may only block one form at a time. The default setting is attuned to block gold kryptonite radiation as all other forms of kryptonite only cause temporary damage or alteration."
"Which is understandable," Superman said thoughtfully, as she considered her options. "How fast can it switch settings?"
"Changing attunement takes five point six seconds to allow complete protection," the A.I. replied.
"Can I set it to automatically adjust to block whichever type I'm being exposed to?" Superman asked.
"Yes, however being exposed to gold kryptonite for even a few seconds can reduce your strength for decades," the A.I. warned, "and the shield will automatically default to gold when you are being exposed to more than one type at the same time."
"It's an acceptable risk," Superman decided as she considered the number of times he'd been exposed to green kryptonite over the years.
"Default settings changed," the A.I. announced. "Suit completion in five minutes."
"Is there some reason you don't use multiple shields to protect against radiation?" Superman asked.
"Overlapping fields interfere with one another," the A.I. replied, "the best defense the Kryptonian military could come up with was a suit that gave partial protection against radiation in general, which is what is being constructed right now."
"So the shield was designed to work with the suit to provide the best degree of protection," Superman said thoughtfully, "and since it reduces the damage a soldier would receive from green kryptonite, the shield was best used to defend against gold."
"Correct," the fortress A.I. agreed. "They'd just finished testing and were due to be distributed to the military when the factory was destroyed along with Krypton."
"I doubt it would have helped anyway," Superman said. "Do we have any treatments for gold kryptonite exposure?"
"A few, but the only one hundred percent effective one is time," the A.I. replied.
"It's something I rarely run into, thankfully," Superman said.
She waited patiently and a few minutes later a crystal table rose up from the floor holding her new suit.
"Thicker material," she said as she picked up the red and blue outfit, noting it was a lot heavier than it looked.
She switched outfits and immediately noticed a problem. "It's baggy."
The walls of the crystalline fortress began to glow, releasing enormous amounts of solar energy. Superman's new costume twitched and slowly began to shift and tighten.
As the light died away Superman twisted and bent to get a feel for it. "Not binding, easy to move in."
"Shall we begin testing?" the fortress A.I. asked.
"Yes," Superman agreed before a pair of turrets popped out of the wall and began firing a rapid stream of bullets at her.
She ignored the assault, barely feeling it, and noticing how her new suit shifted under the impact, spreading out the force of the assault.
The turrets retracted into the walls and several more replaced them, quickly unloading a series of energy blasts at various frequencies.
It took nearly a minute before this test was completed, as the fortress had a wide range of energy-based weapons in its database.
"Final test," the A.I announced, retracting the turrets and lowering a glowing green sphere from the ceiling.
Superman winced and stumbled back, looking nervous as the sphere approached, but after a handful of seconds she seemed to recover and straightened up. "I feel fine," she said with a smile.
"Testing complete," the fortress A.I. announced, "nano-suit and kryptonite shield operating exactly as predicted."
"Well, there is one final test," Superman corrected it. Closing her eyes, she extended her arms to the side and bounced on her heels a few times before smiling. "No more jiggling," she said happily.
Typing by: fyrewolf5