"We're not teleporting in?" Kara asked, using her X-Ray vision to sweep through the interior of the ship to see that it was well put together, if very different from the ships she knew on Krypton. Like all members of the house of El, she was raised to be a Scientist, though she had a special fondness for engineering. A fondness and upbringing that didn't see much use. She was sent to Earth to be Kal-El's protector, only to wake up and discover that her newborn cousin was a grown man.
"No," Tarble answered, striding forward with a sense of purpose through the ship's halls. "Hal would take great care to keep a close eye on my preferred methods of faster than light travel. Using the Wink drive, or slipstream would be an announcement that we are coming."
"And… that is… bad, yes?" Kori questioned, floating down the halls with Raven and Robin trailing behind the three of them.
"Very," Tarble answered, his tone curt. "We'll use another more common method of extreme speed. It will take us some time to arrive at the center of the galaxy, but as we near, we will engage stealth tech. We should arrive completely unnoticed." Kara hadn't really thought that Tarble had it in him to do a stealth mission. He struck her as far too direct. She supposed that's why Robin was here. If the bat family was good for one thing, then it was finding their way into places that they shouldn't be.
Kara deactivated her X-Ray vision and looked to Tarble as he led them into a living quarters. "How long should the trip take?" She asked, curious. Spaceflight was something that Krypton had discovered more than a thousand years ago, but it was a technology that was expunged from records. Their ships could work within Krypton's heavy gravity, but they couldn't make it to space.
In her time on Earth, Kara realized how isolationist her people had been. Once, there had been a Kryptonian empire that stretched across the stars, and for some reason, her people chose to give up that empire and retreat to their home planet, recalling every Kryptonian to live there. It was something that Kara had grown up with accepting, but in her years away from her culture, she could see how odd the decision was.
"A day there, a day back. Theoretically," Tarble answered. That answer didn't inspire a lot of confidence.
"Theoretically?" Raven echoed while Kori threw herself into a couch and sighed in contentment. Kara was tempted to do the same. The living quarters were clearly designed with earthlings in mind, but it was a poor imitation. Uncanny, really. The furniture was clearly made by alien hands that seemed to take a look at a human living room, and tried to copy it while also stuffing in traditional amenities such as hologram projections.
Tarble came to a stop, glancing back at Raven and seemed pensive. "Hal Jordan doesn't like me very much."
"I gathered," Kara remarked, cocking an eyebrow. The TV shows and movies and dramatizations had made the rivalry between Hal and Tarble extremely clear. She was glad to see that it hadn't been fabricated for the sake of views, but it did mean that Tarble was confronting someone whose friends he had killed a number of. Kara herself didn't know Hal Jordan - she only arrived on Earth a handful of years ago, and by that time, Hal hadn't been earthside in years.
Kal-El only had good things to say about him and, as a Green Lantern, she knew he had to be a stubborn but good man. But, if the shows could be believed, then Earth's first official Green Lantern had fallen on hard times and he had had a harder fall from grace. He led a rebellion against the Guardians, imprisoning them for their many misdeeds over billions of years, and now led the New Lanterns. Which seemed to just be the Green Lanterns, but way more colorful.
"Things are going to get complicated. They always are when the Guardians are involved. Depending on the information I receive, the trip could be extended. If you wish to return, then you may at any time," Tarble offered, but Kara shook her head. Tarble's gaze slid to Raven, who nodded knowingly.
"Then we should go," Robin voiced, and Tarble offered a nod. Kara could hear the hum of the ship's engines as it left idle. Her gaze went to the window at the living room to see the stars of space begin to shift as the ship left its place at the tip of the space elevator. She floated over while Tarble and Raven spoke quietly to one another and Kara did her best to ignore the conversation.
One would think after spending two decades in space that she'd hate it, but Kara had been asleep during that time. In stasis. As far as she remembered, one moment she was entering the pod after saying goodbye to her family for the last time, and the next she was waking up to see a fully grown man with the emblem of house El on his chest. Before that, though, space had fascinated Kara. It was a forbidden realm to the Kryptonians, a place that they could never go by order of the government. The Phantom Zone was the punishment awaiting those that tried anyway.
The most recent example Kara remembered was General Zod and his people.
The ship hovered in zero gravity and after a brief pause the stars became lines of burning illumination, as the ship lurched into motion faster than the light given off by the flames that made them up, whisking them away on a journey to the center of the galaxy.
"Oh, my!" Kara heard Kori exclaim, sounding delighted. Kara turned around to see that she was fiddling with the hologram projector. Another thing she had missed - technology. Earth was so incredibly primitive in comparison. It wasn't their fault, not really. Krypton had gone through a similar history of rapidly advancing technology but not quite being able to use it to its full potential. However, Kara hadn't grown up in that age. She grew up in a time of modern miracles being mundane by Earth standards.
Joining Tarble's Empire - and Kara still couldn't believe it was just called 'Tarble's Empire - helped some, but transition was far too recent for the effects to have set in yet. Cleaning the oceans of microscopic plastic and trash was good, but most people didn't feel the change of having a cleaner ocean. The novelty of more advanced technology hadn't worn off for most. Though, there were many humans that were hesitant on what the technology would mean for their way of life.
It would likely be decades before Earth embraced the technology at all levels. Like they had on Krypton. It wasn't a happy thought - she liked Earth for the most part, mostly because of the people, but there were planets she came across during her exploration of the empire with the rest of the Titans that made her feel like she was standing on her own home planet once again.
"Oh, wow," Robin remarked, sounding amused as the three of them looked at the hologram. A broadcast from the Trade Organization.
"I did wonder if they would keep making shows," Kara added, watching the teaser for a new show about King Tarble: The Traitor. The teaser was short but it sent a very clear message that Tarble was the bad guy of the show and he was going to be defeated by a squad called the Ginyu Force. The show actually looked pretty good, all things considered. High production value.
"Can't be a surprise that they'd be less than happy with him after he stole a huge chunk of their territory," Robin continued. Kara agreed with that.
"Let's hope that bad-mouthing him is all they'll do," Kara voiced. She still remembered the broadcast that declared Tarble's Empire as its own independent force - the vow that Tarble broadcasted across the galaxy. That if they provoked him that he would come for them and he would wipe them out of existence. That had been a few months ago. Kara highly doubted that he experienced such a radical change in nature that he would break that promise if it came down to it. "And speaking of bad-mouthing… what happened on Themyscira?"
Robin caught her look while Kori seemed interested. He crossed his arms, "Why would you think something bad happened?" He asked, his tone guarded, more or less confirming something bad did happen.
"Because Elery wouldn't tell me what happened," Kara admitted. She was fond of the younger Saiyan. She was just so… direct. Straight forward. She knew exactly what she wanted and wasn't afraid to pursue it - no matter how dangerous or how it might inconvenience other people. That desire in question was to grow stronger and fight greater fights.
Kara could admit that if she were a less durable species, that attitude wouldn't exactly inspire the fond amusement that she felt for Elery, but she was a Kryptonian under a yellow sun. She wasn't a member of a less durable species. Because of that, she and Elery stayed in touch after they spent a month exploring the Empire and Elery, Kara learned, couldn't keep a secret unless directly told to by her older brother.
"What makes you think I know anything about what happened?" Robin questioned, crossing his arms over his chest, getting defensive.
"Because your curiosity always gets the better of your caution and you would want to know what happened as much as me," Kara responded sweetly, a smile tugging at her lips when Robin scowled. He might disagree, but she imagined it was difficult when he did know what happened when he wasn't supposed to.
A sigh escaped him, "I don't know all the details…" He started, spilling the beans in a low whisper, "but according to Wonder Woman, Ares showed up to pick a fight with Tarble. They did fight and Ares lost. But the Queen of the Amazons saw that the island got wrecked the one time she invited outsiders and gave Superman and Tarble the boot." Robin informed them both, and she and Kori had very different reactions.
Tarble was getting stronger and he was getting stronger fast. He was fighting gods now? And winning?
"I'm overjoyed that King Tarble was able to fight off the accursed Ares! Wonder Girl has no kind words to say about him," Kori declared. Robin offered a shrug at them both, pinning them with a sharp look.
"Don't jump to conclusions about this, okay? We've been burned because of it before," he pointed out, but the words mostly seemed directed at himself. He still felt guilty for how Tarble was received. Kara thought he was being a bit ridiculous about it - it wasn't like Batman didn't expect his Robins to hack into the Batcomputer - so blaming himself for acting on the information that he had felt a bit much. "If you're that curious, then ask him."
"Though," Robin quickly shifted courses, looking to Kara. "I'm surprised you decided to come with. Miss space that badly?"
It was Kara's turn to cross her arms over her chest, blocking the shielded S from view. It wasn't exactly a secret, per se. She had her own reasons for coming on this trip to confront the Guardians. "Elery told me that the Guardians of the Universe meddled with the Saiyan race according to her brother," she started, catching both Kori and Robin's attention. "Basically, every time their race wipes themselves out, the Guardians bring them back. They're the ones that made stuff like the Super Saiyan or Oozaru transformations."
How? Kara wasn't really sure. She didn't specialize in genetics. However, it if was possible to do whatever was done to the Saiyan race, then it would be the Guardians that could do it.
"The Saiyans weren't the only ones they meddled with. The Martians were too," Kara began, a frown finding its way onto her face. "My people once had an empire, Robin. We had colonies in other galaxies. Then, one day, we decided to abandon them. My ancestors decided to retreat back to our home planet underneath the one sun that wouldn't affect us."
Kara had started experimenting with what other wavelengths of sunlight would do to a Kryptonian. Some were dangerous while some would radically improve her already incredible abilities. She knew because that information had been there in the Fortress of Solitude.
"My people knew about it. They studied the effects other suns would have on our bodies, but a rapidly expanding empire just up and decided to return to our home planet under a sun that depowered us," Kara spoke and she could see the expressions on Kori and Robin's faces, telling her that she wasn't the only one he saw how senseless that was. "We scrapped any vehicle capable of spaceflight and refused to leave Krypton, choosing to mine our planet's core for energy because we expended every other resource on the surface."
That's what destroyed her home and sentenced her and Kal-El to be the last Kryptonians in existence. And it just didn't make any sense.
"What are you going to do if the Guardians tampered with your race?" Robin asked her, sympathy in his voice. He believed her. So did Kori. She had approached the topic with Kal-El, but he… he didn't know Krypton. He only knew of it through the AI modeled after his father and her stories. In his own mind, he was an earthling even if he wasn't human. The destruction of their people and planet were of a people and planet he never knew or met.
It was different for Kara. She grew up on Krypton. Even if she spent a hundred years on Earth, she would never be an earthling.
"If they did," Kara began, anger leaking into her voice. Her hands clenched into fists, her knuckles white. "Then they're the reason for the near extinction of my entire race," Kara told them both quietly. She didn't know what she would do, but Kara knew herself well enough to suspect that her response would be violent.
After that, they all settled in an uneasy silence aboard the ship. Kara went off on her own to explore it without needing to use her X-Ray vision to find that the ship itself was rather large. Large enough that it could easily house a hundred people, but it was just the five of them. It was complete with a mess hall, common rooms, and so on.
The others saw more of Tarble than she did. Raven was frequently with him and Kara was really starting to wonder about those two. A lot of private talks with Raven making sure she couldn't listen in on them. Kori treated him like he was a member of the Titans, but she was friendly to everyone. Robin was a bit more formal as they discussed plans to improve the quality of life for his empire.
An empire that looked more and more like it was expecting heroes to be a part of its future. It was an interesting clash - Kara had yet to forgive Tarble for beating her cousin, especially with using a dirty trick, but she very much liked the idea of traversing his empire and stopping crime. It wasn't what she thought her future would look like, but that just went to show you should never have expectations.
If Tarble noticed that she was avoiding him, then he didn't care to comment on it as they spent a full day upon the ship. Kara's attempts to relax or distract herself so time would speed up were fruitless because her mind was stuck on what she would do when she confronted the Guardians. Or the Green Lanterns for that matter. Krypton was in a Green Lantern sector. They should have known that Krypton was unstable. If a Green Lantern told them that the entire planet was at risk of imploding…
Maybe it would have changed nothing. Maybe it would have changed everything. Kara would never know.
The days dragged on, feeling like years before they finally reached their destination. Kara looked through a window to see that it was a drab gray rock, almost completely uniform in color. There did seem to be some mountains and valleys, and a massive crater that made it clear something had struck the planet itself. According to the computer as they punched through the atmosphere, the air was breathable to her and Kori, but Robin and Raven would need masks.
Stepping onto a new planet was a thrill that Kara didn't think would ever get old, she relished the experience as she floated out of the ship upon landing. The planet felt like it was made out of the same substance as the moon - mostly soft rock and dust. There was no sun in the sky as the celestial body was locked in position between two black holes that could be seen in the perpetual night sky. It was little wonder that the place was basically just a giant rock. It was a shock that it had an atmosphere at all.
"Here we are," Kara said, her hands on her hips. "Now what?"
Tarble frowned as he looked at something far off in the distance. According to Elery, Tarble always seemed to know where everyone was when he was planetside. And, so far, Kara had seen only evidence to support the theory. "I thought I would have to confront Hal Jordan to let me see the Guardians, but the fool led me right to them," Tarble said, striding out of the ship that went invisible the moment all of them left it. Stealth functions.
Kara's eyebrows rose at that. The Guardians were here? On this rock? "Where?" She asked, her tone harsher than she intended. Tarble spared her a glance, as if realizing that she was going to be a problem and she had her own reasons for meeting the Guardians.
"The center of the planet," Tarble informed. "Under guard, of course. It does seem like this is meant to be a prison. Just one that the Guardians could leave whenever they wanted to," Tarble said, crossing his arms. "And it would seem that we have not gone unnoticed."
Initially, Kara had no idea what he meant by that, only for a portal to open before them. It looked like a drop of blood at first that quickly spiraled and grew into a portal large enough a man could step through it. Kara expected a Red Lantern to step through the portal, but it wasn't.
Hal Jordan no longer looked like himself, Kara thought, taking the Green Lantern's appearance in. His entire body was green and faintly translucent while still retaining the shape of a human, but it was as if the details were being smoothed away. The emblem for the Green Lanterns shine in his eyes, glowing brightly while wisps of green willpower wafted off of his body that seemed to be dressed in the Green Lantern uniform, but it was hard to tell.
Tarble seemed unsurprised by Hal Jordan's appearance. "Jordan," Tarble greeted, his tone flat and unkind.
"Tarble," Hal intoned, his voice humming with power.
There was a brief moment of tension between the two as they gazed at one another. That moment of tension only did last for a moment before Hal moved, blasting past her to punch Tarble in the face and send him flying through the ship that they came on.
And, like that, the battle was on.
The next chapter is currently available on my Pat re on and Subscribe Star, so if you want to read it a week early, all it takes is a single dollar in the tip jar. Or, for five dollars, you can read the chapter after that two weeks before its public release! I hope you enjoyed!