(Author's Note: This story takes place several months after the events in "To Discover A World" and just prior to "A World Without Heroes".)Dec. 3, 1999 The Fortress of Solitude
Jenny touched down lightly before the hidden entrance and allowed the built in scanners to identify her. It was an elaborate set up. Jenny imagined that Kara had learned the lessons of her cousin's experience at constructing his own fortress. This fortress was cleaner, more easily defended, and much more aesthetically pleasing than the fortress Kara had described. It did not require a gigantic key that had to be lifted and then flown to a keyhole, inserted, and then turned, as Kara had described. All it required was a complete DNA signature, a retinal scan, and a manually entered combination. In case of extreme emergencies, the combination could be overridden to allow entrance, but only to the med section of the Fortress. All other sections would be sealed off until the combination could be entered.
Entering the combination, Jenny sighed as the huge doors slid open, revealing a darkened cavern. Kara had taken advantage nearby underground hot springs to mask the fortress' existence from thermal scans. A pleasant 75 degrees truly a marvel.
Once inside, the outer doors would shut and a second set of doors, set at the far end of the cavern, and angled so as not to be visible from the outer doors, slid open. These doors opened into the main entrance of the Fortress; and it was here that Jenny hesitated.
The Fortress had undergone a lot of changes over the past year and half. It was no longer the rough-hewn cavern of rock and ice that Kara and Rogue had carved out of the Arctic mountainside.
It had been enlarged considerably to accommodate the addition of the shrunken city of Kandor, more equipment, and, of course, herself! Transformed into a Green Lantern by Parallax, Jenny had opted to join with Kara and Rogue to form one of this world's most powerful super teams: Triad!
Of course, she still maintained an apartment in New York, but had long since withdrawn from practicing law.
It had taken her time to adapt as Jenny learned to use her new powers in conjunction with her original gamma radiation induced powers as She-Hulk. And so, working with Kara and Rogue, they had carved further into the mountain. Using a mixture of Kryptonian heat vision, Kryptonian strength and speed, together with Jenny's own strength and Lantern Energy to put in finishing touches, they lined the ice walls with thick, insulated steel and concrete panels, creating living spaces, developing a method of extracting and purifying water from the mile thick ice above the fortress without creating a hot spot (figuratively speaking) that could be spotted by individuals hell bent on discovering the home of the worlds newest hero team and the worst nightmare a criminal mind could conceive.
In the end, it truly was a Fortress. Complete with defenses that would stop all but the most powerful of entities and yet maintain all the comforts of home.
A quick query at the computer station by the door told Jenny that she was alone in the fortress, Both Rogue and Kara were absent. Not that she was surprised. With a heavy sigh, she moved down the long hallway to the front, heading directly for the control center. Sliding into a chair behind an enormous console, she tapped in a few commands and leaned back to observe the results. Rogue, it seemed, was off in the Orient, quelling a tidal wave, while Kara was at the Fantastic Four headquarters getting her bi-monthly check up by Reed Richards, Dr. Strange, and Prof. Xavier.
The checkup was an established routine that the three had insisted on. They had pulled no punches. They were still worried, even after all this time, that the clone body Kara now wore would go into rejection. Despite the fact that there had been no indication that her body might reject the spirit that now inhabited it, the three wanted to make sure and, to be honest, Jenny could not blame them. If the body and spirit did start to go through rejection, one result would be, Reed had theorized, total insanity. The last thing this world needed would be a fully-powered insane Kryptonian running around.
There had been no sign of such a rejection, but nonetheless, Jenny was worried. That there was something wrong was obvious, to her if not to anyone else. She had felt the tension for some time now and still could not put her finger on the problem. Whatever it was, it was between Kara and Rogue and it would soon, Jenny feared, start to affect they way they worked together as a team.
"Well, hell!" Jenny stood, scowling. Not at the information scrolling across the computer screen, but at her own denseness. She was a member of this team and thus had every right to do what had to be done to preserve it.
In moments, The Fortress was once again empty and a green streak flashed through the sky, heading towards the eastern seaboard of the United States of America.Kandor
More than a mile below the surface, beneath the main portions of the Fortress of solitude, in a hollowed out cavern, sprawled the shrunken city of Kandor!
Kara, Rogue, and Jenny, with a little help from the Silver Surfer and Parallax, had saved a good portion of the inhabitants of Rokyn, the planet on which Kara and her cousin, Kal El had enlarged the Kryptonian city stolen from the surface of Krypton mere months before its destruction by the evil android Brainiac. Brainiac had shrunk the city and transported it from the surface to a small containment 'bottle' aboard his Space vessel, storing it with specimens kidnapped from worlds throughout the known and unknown universe.
At the time, neither Kal nor Kara had known that the people of Kandor had chosen a planet that phased in and out of existence. Moving from one universe to an alternate.
What they had not counted on, however, were the diverse effects this would have on their metabolisms. Never again would they be able to leave the planet. So, when the world of Rokyn was in danger of obliteration, they had little hope for survival. Until, that is, the arrival of Kara and company.
Working together and with the help of Kara's father, Zor El, they developed a way to re-shrink the population for transportation off the planet. Unfortunately, it was known, at the time, that such an action would be irreversible, and many were the people that chose to meet oblivion with the planet rather than be returned to such a shrunken state.
Whether fortunate or unfortunate, they had not been able to reproduce the energies that the evil android Brainiac had used to originally shrink the Kryptonian city of Kandor. Then they had been shrunk to microscopic size, their entire city placed in a container no larger than a ten-gallon jug. What Zor El and Kara had developed was nowhere near as efficient. The shrinking process they had developed would only shrink the people to an inch in height and the buildings and animals to appropriate equivalents.
Thus, the city of Kandor now sprawled through a cavern, lit by an artificial Red sun. An earthling entering the cavern would feel much lighter due to the gravity generators Zor had developed. At their size, even a full Earth gravity would have squashed the inch tall inhabitants and caused the tiny buildings to crumble. Thus the generators decreased the gravity in the cavern; just enough to make the inhabitants feel as if they were still under full Kryptonian gravity.
"Zor, I think you should see this!"
Zor El saved his work and spun around in his seat to face his colleague. Dram Ze was standing back from a holo unit, studying the display with what could only be described as a worried frown.
That in itself was enough to alert Zor that whatever Dram had discovered was, indeed, serious. Dram was never one to let his feelings show except in dire situations.
"What have you got?" He asked, standing and walking over beside the astrophysicist.
"I'm not sure." Dram muttered. He reached out and adjusted a control and the image displayed in the holo tank zoomed in. Zor recognized instantly that he was looking at a holographic representation of a section of Sol System. A quick study allowed him to determine that it was, to be precise, the orbit of Pluto…but there was something not quite right.
"What's this smudge?" He asked, pointing out a hazy dark spot that seemed to blanket the area.
"I don't know. And that is what bothers me." Dram admitted. "I noticed it about an hour ago." He reached out and touched another control. The holographic display changed, this time showing virtually the same scene except…
"The smudge is smaller." Zor commented, peering closely.
"Actually, its not." Dram corrected. "It's just further away."
"What?" Zor jerked up right, the tone in Dram's voice alarming him. "That…that blur is moving?"
"As far as I can see." Dram nodded. "I've tried looking at it from all angles. That is not just a small blur." He paused. "Everything I can discover about it suggests that it is an object. A tremendously large object that it is moving at an extraordinarily fast pace… directly for us." Dram turned away from the image to look up at Zor.
Zor took a deep breath and motioned for Dram to restore the original holographic representation.
"Okay." He murmured. "Could this object have something to do with the irregular weather and geological turmoil we've been noticing?"
"Possibly." Dram shrugged. "None of our instruments can penetrate it. But we can tell that it is exerting a noticeable gravitational influence…even at this distance. And here is something even more disturbing. It does not bounce back our signals. Our signals go in, as if they were penetrating and then…nothing."
"A mobile black hole?" Zor snorted, showing his unwillingness to believe something so ludicrous. He then stood silent for a few moments. As the Chief Scientist of New Argo, it was now his duty to decide a course of action.
"Should we warn Kara?" Dram asked. "She could check it out for us."
Zor considered this and nodded his head..
"We'll have to, but let's make sure we know what we are talking about before we bring it to her attention." He decided. He walked over to a comm. unit, "I am going to pull in others on this. As of right now, this is your top priority. I'm placing you in charge. Find out what that thing is and find some way to penetrate it we can see what effect it is having as it passes." He started to turn and paused. "Do you have any indication if or when that object will reach us?"
"I do." Dram nodded. "I've been taking constant readings since I first noticed it. I think I've been able to calculate its velocity. As it stands now, it will reach Earth in three days! Give or take a day. That assumes its velocity does not change."
"Three days." Zor turned and began placing calls. "Rao help us, haven't we been through enough?"
"Obviously not." Dram observed bitterly.
"Dram Ze, you are full of good news today." Zor sighed.New York
Twenty minutes after leaving the Fortress, Jenny sat in the living room of her cousin, Bruce Banner, otherwise known as the Incredible Hulk, letting all her fears spill out.
Bruce had surprised her by not even offering a single shred of advice. Instead, he had walked to a phone, dialed a number, spoke for a few moments, and then returned to sit beside her on the couch in his living room. No word of explanation. Instead, he had chatted, redirecting the conversation onto other topics until the doorbell rang.
Whatever Jenny had been expecting, it was not Jean Grey. The X-man smiled at Bruce as he showed her in; taking the jacket she had worn to cut down the cold breeze that new blew through the city.
"Jenny, it's good to see you again." Jean had smiled, walking over to take the She-Hulk's giant hands in her own, seemingly petite ones. It was an illusion, of course. While Jean was nicely figured, she could not by any stretch of the imagination be considered petite. But then, normal women were dwarfed by the She-Hulk.
"Uh, nice to see you too." Jenny responded hesitantly, looking over at Bruce.
"Sorry Jenny." Bruce smiled sheepishly, spreading his hands. "I felt Jean would be the best person to help you with this. She's known Rogue longest and has had several occasions to link with Kara while working with Charles Xavier."
"This is true." Jean nodded and motioned for Jenny to retake her seat. "Though I have to admit it is not a surprising development." She took a seat in a nearby chair, allowing Bruce to sit beside Jenny once again.
"What do you mean?" Jenny demanded, somewhat suspiciously.
"Nothing bad." Jean smiled to reinforce her words. "Just something that the Professor and I have seen over the past year." She paused as if deciding on how to continue. Finally she sighed and shrugged her shoulders. "I am not sure how much to say, Jenny. It is rather private."
"Look, whatever it is, it is starting to get out of hand." Jenny broke in. "We all have private issues, I understand that. But I have got to find a way for these two to work it out or we're going to break up!"
"It's gotten that bad?" Jean frowned and then she sat up straighter, as if resolved to a course of action. "The professor will probably not like this; he would think it is something the two of them have to work out on their own. But perhaps a little outside influence can help." She thought again for a moment and then stood. "Jenny, I would like you to take me to that Fortress of yours. I think it might be a good idea if we confronted Kara and Rogue with this and got everything all straightened out."
"Wooof. You don't pull punches, do you?" Jenny sat back. "You are talking about bringing it all to a head and getting it out of the way or breaking us up."
"That is exactly what I am suggesting." Jean nodded. She said nothing else, waiting for Jenny to make up her mind. Finally, the emerald giantess nodded.
"First I want to know exactly what is going on." She stated, leaning back on the couch. Jean thought for a moment longer and then looked towards Bruce, saying nothing. It took a few moments for the silent hint to sink in before Bruce jumped to his feet.
"Uh, why don't I just go make us some tea?" He stammered, heading for the kitchen.
"I'd love some." Jean smiled. "Take your time." With Bruce gone, Jean turned back to Jenny. "This problem is not something new. In fact, it seems to stretch back to shortly after Rogue absorbed Kara's power and was transformed into a Kryptonian."
"Something went wrong?" Jenny sat forward, her concern evident on her face.
"Not exactly." Jean hesitated. "When Rogue absorbed, she not only absorbed Kara's Kryptonian abilities, but her memories as well."
"I knew that." Jenny nodded and then stopped. "I also remember hearing something about her having problems with the memories she absorbed from Carol Danvers."
"She did have problems." Jean confirmed. "Prof. X helped her through that and has been keeping tabs on her since she absorbed Kara's. Thankfully there is no sign of those problems. In fact, she seems to have integrated the memories with her own extremely well. She can access those memories when she wants, but has to do so consciously." She sighed. "However, there is the possibility that Rogue thinks there is a problem."
"Huh? I don't follow you."
"Certain…feelings…have arisen and Prof. X believes Rogue is blaming those feelings on the absorption."
"Feelings? I don't…oh no!" Jenny leaned forward. "I think I am beginning to see where you are going with this."
"Good." Jean spread her hands. "And that is only half of it. Kara is having the same feelings and they are both denying it."
"That doesn't make sense." Jenny shook her head. "I have talked to the Kandorians and they…"
"Do not have the same hang-ups we do. True." Jean agreed. "Yet Kara is dealing with an earthling, not a Kryptonian, despite what a med scan may show."
There was a long silence and then Jenny stood.
"Okay, we'll go see if we can get this settled!"
When Bruce banner stepped out of the kitchen, holding a tray with three glasses of tea, he was only slightly surprised to find the living room empty. A brief green flash of light outside told him all he need to know. His cousin and Jean Grey were on their way to the Fortress of Solitude!
Another clean bill of health.
Kara knifed through the upper atmosphere, angling northward as she scanned the sky ahead of her. It would be bad form to collide with any planes that might be in her flight path.
Once more, she had endured the battery of test Reed Richards, Steven Strange, and Charles Xavier had concocted for her. As usual, they had found nothing. Well, Prof. X had looked at her as if she were hiding something, but there was no way he could know for sure. She would have felt his touch. The Prof was too ethical to probe without permission.
"And what would he have found if he had probed?" She asked her self, and then answered. "One mixed up blonde Kryptonian and a super team falling apart at the seams." She put on a burst of speed and after a matter of minutes, dove downward, slicing through the cloud cover and swirling wind and snow.
"Why does it always seem to be blowing a blizzard here?" She muttered. It wasn't exactly true, but in her present frame of mind, it may as well have been.
She landed at the entrance of the Fortress and waited while the scanners ran over her. She entered the combination on the keypad, hidden behind a sliding panel that appeared to be part of the snow/rock face of the mountain, and stepped through the opening doors. She zipped to the other end of the cavern, waiting for the inner doors to open.
"Welcome Home, Kara." The deep contralto of the Fortress computer greeted her as she stepped in.
"Thanks computer." She answered absently. "Anything interesting happen while I was gone?"
"A tidal wave in Japan." The Computer answered, literal as always. "Rogue diffused the situation."
Kara frowned. Tidal waves, earthquakes, and other geothermal problems had been increasing lately, as had weather-related problems.
"Computer, run a program with the following parameters." She ordered. "Search and tag all weather or geothermal related abnormalities occurring over the past eight months. From that data, extract similarities and possible similar causes."
"Acknowledged." The Computer responded. Kara nodded and started down the hallway that led into the living quarters. She entered her own rooms, sighing as the door closed behind her. She was not ready to deal with either Jenny or Rogue at the moment.
She stripped off her suit as she headed to the restroom, sighing contentedly as she stepped into the shower and felt the hot water cascading over her.
She took her time, ending with washing her hair and then, after drying, using the towel to wrap her hair. She stepped back into her main room and stopped, surprised. Rogue was there, setting at the foot of her bed.
Rogue looked up and blushed a bright red as she took in Kara's nakedness.
"I…I'm sorry", she stammered, tuning away. "I rang but there was no answer and the computer insisted you were in here so…." She trailed off and sat in silence for a moment. Then she squared her shoulders and turned back to Kara. "We need to talk!"
"Now?" Kara was blushing, herself. Nevertheless, she forced herself to move to her closet and remove a nightgown that she slipped over her body. She grimaced as she noticed which one she had chosen. It was damned near see through and actually seemed to accent her body rather than hide it.
"Now!" Rogue's confirmation was soft, choked, but insistent. She pointed towards the chair at Kara's desk and waited until Kara had taken a seat.
"Okay. What's this all about?" Kara stalled. Rogue was having none of it.
"You know what this is about, Kara." Rogue snapped, almost angrily. "We can't keep this up. We can't keep working as a team if you and I are always doing our best to avoid each other. Hell, the tension is so high in the fortress you can cut it with a knife when we are both here. It must be driving Jenny crazy. I am surprised she has not already told us both to take a hike and strike out on her own."
"What are you trying to say?" Kara demanded. She felt as if someone had taken her heart in their hand and was squeezing. "You want to go back to the X-men?" She stood and headed back towards the bathroom. Rogue stood, her face clouded with a mixture of anguish and anger.
Yet, before either could say anything, an insistent bleeping sounded through the room.
"What is it?" Kara demanded, her voice harsh.
"I have finished the program, Kara, and correlated data gathered by the Kandorians." The Computer answered. "Prof. Zor El urgently requests your presence in the main control room. He has issued a code red alert." The last was spoken to an empty room. Before the computer had finished Kara had dressed and both she and Rogue were moving at super speed out of the living quarters.
"What have you got, Dad?" Kara questioned as she and Rogue sped into the control room. In a main screen, an image of Zor El, his face lined with worry, peered out at them.
"A problem." Zor answered Kara's question. His image disappeared and was replaced by the image Dram had earlier shown him.
"That is this solar system." Rogue was the one to state the obvious. "About the orbit of Pluto, isn't it?"
"Correct." Zor's voice came through.
"So what are we looking at?" Kara frowned. "All I see is a smudge."
"That smudge," Zor's image reappeared, "is roughly the size of Jupiter and is moving at a fast pace on a collision course with Earth."
"How big did you say?" Rogue requested, the first tendrils of fear touching her heart.
"Roughly the size of Jupiter. Though it is, according to our readings, not as dense. Thus it will have only a fraction of Jupiter's gravitational pull. It is enough, however, to cause the weather problems you've been dealing with." Zor nodded. He looked off screen for a second. "I have the data here that you requested from your computer and, after tying it in with our computers here, they were able to determine that the object could be the cause of the problems."
"Hello?" Jenny looked over at Jean and shrugged. "Computer, locate Kara and Rogue." She called out.
"Kara and Rogue are in the control room speaking with Zor El, Jennifer Walters."
"Computer, how many times do I have to tell you that it is okay to call me Jenny?" The green giantess shook her head and looked at Jean. "It's worse than an English butler, some times."
Jean, however, was not listening. She reached up and gripped Jenny's arm.
"Something is wrong." She stated. "I did a slight surface scan and both Kara and Rogue are tremendously upset. Something is happening!"
Jenny didn't bother to ask question. Instead, she raced down the hall towards the control room, Jean on her heels.
"I have good news and bad news." Reed Richards shook his head. "The good news is that we have been able to determine conclusively that the object is not Galactus!"
It had not taken long to fill Jenny and Jean in on the situation. It was Jean who had then suggested they approach Reed. After absorbing all that Zor had said and then hooking him up through a communications link to the FF HQ, Reed had run his own tests and made his own observations. After a quick consultation between the two, they now faced, through viewscreens, the four women.
"And now the bad news." Zor now spoke up. "When Mr. Richards had formed his conclusion, but was unable to offer an identification, we ran further tests and, by combining our resources, we were able to get a closer look. We have also been able to get energy readings and those readings have allowed us to identify the object."
Zor's image disappeared and was replaced by a close up view of a large, rocky spheroid.
"What you are seeing is not the actual object. The object itself is embedded within that rocky covering. At first, the energy readings were a complete mystery. Then Dram Ze suggested we cross-reference the readings against our computer archives. It was not long before we had a match." Zor reappeared. "That rocky covering is result of millions of years of meteor strikes. Inside is a Daxamite Hunter-Killer machine."
"That's impossible." Kara shook her head. "How could a Daxamite machine be here?"
"Most probably the same way you got here." Reed answered. "I would wager it was stranded over here during Amalgam and has been wandering around ever since."
'Not wandering." Zor shook his head. "Hunting."
"Excuse me for being ignorant," Jenny spoke up, "but what, exactly, is a Daxamite Hunter-Killer machine? Something that hunts and kills Daxamites?" No one noticed the glances that passed between her, Rogue, and Reed.
"The Daxamites are an ancient race." Zor explained. "They could have conceivably conquered the entire galaxy long before the first true man set foot on Earth. If, that is, they could keep from trying to annihilate themselves. Our history shows that Daxam was involved in no less than three interstellar wars, each of which ended with Daxam being bombed back nearly to the Stone age. It was just prior to the end of the last war that a group of Daxamites fled Daxam and founded a colony under another red sun. That colony was nearly doomed as the war reached them. That colony was on the planet Krypton and it would be many millennia before they would climb back up from near barbarism to the advanced civilization we finally became. It was touch and go for a while…and it was all because a Hunter-Killer found the colony. One faction of the Daxamites had developed and released these robotic genocidal weapons as a last gasp of desperation. From what we can tell they developed them after the colonists left Daxam. They were determined that, even should they perish, their enemies would join them in oblivion."
He paused and took on a thoughtful look.
"Interestingly enough. We know for a fact that during that time, neither Kryptonians nor Daxamites ever exhibited any abnormal or unusual abilities when exposed to the radiation of different colored stars."
"Dad, that was millions of years ago." Kara shook her head. "Are you saying that Hunter-Killer has been wandering around all this time?"
"There had been reports that some had been sighted over the years." Zor confirmed. "There had even been reliable reports that the wreckage of a few of these damnable weapons had been located. Each time the Kryptonian Science Council and the Daxamite Government would instantly dispatch demolition crews to the site. Some, like the one we have here, had wandered for so long that they had gained a covering that masked their true identity. Not a conscious move on the part of the hunter-killer, just the result of wandering the starways for so long."
"The next question is how do we stop it?" Jenny asked before anyone could go off on another historical tangent. "If one of those things could come close to destroying such a scientifically advanced society, then Earth doesn't stand a chance."
"She's got a point." Reed conceded. "And that is not even taking into account its Daxamite origin. Could it possibly be powered in a manner similar to Kara and Rogue? If so, I can tell you right now that the only thing we have to battle it would be magic."
"It wouldn't do you any good." Zor shook his head. "True the Daxamites were a scientific people, but they knew and believed in magic. While they could not use it themselves, they could and did build defenses against it. The Hunter-Killer may not be able to use magic, but magic might just be equally as useless against it."
"And you do have something more." Jenny began, turning to face Reed's image. "You have two Kryptonians and one Green Lantern."
"Let's hope it will be enough, Jen." Reed shook his head. "I will alert the other groups, of course. Unfortunately, it seems our heavy hitters are mostly off planet, still dealing with the remnants of the Cosmic Wave that passed through."
"It better be enough." Zor's image was grim. "Because that monster is coming here. And we believe we know why." There was total silence in the control room as Zor took a deep breath. "We believe that…thing…was on its way to Rokyn when Kara rescued us. Now it is coming here to fulfill its programming. To it, we are not Kryptonians, merely members of a rival Daxamite faction that needs to be eradicated. That thing is coming here for us! And it won't hesitate to destroy this entire planet to get us!"
End of To Save A World: Chapter One
- Story written and copyrighted (C) 1999-2003 by Dylan Clearbrook
- and may not be reprinted without permission.
- The Continuum Worlds Concept is a joint creation of
- Dylan Clearbrook and Eldric. Otherverse, Dark Earth,
- and Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes, as depicted in the
- Continuum Worlds, are original creations of Dylan Clearbrook.
- Alterverse and The Inheritors, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,
- are original creations of Eldric.
- The Realm and Shadowverse, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,
- are original creations of John P. and Jason G respectively.
- Some characters in Continuum Worlds stories are original creations
- of Dylan Clearbrook, Eldric, Michael Liebhart, Jake H., Jason G.,
- Andrew Shields, Kyle M., Brian, or Jason Froikin and may not
- be used without express permission of the respective author.
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