My Brother, My Sister, My Teammate

Characters: Kara Zor-El, Steve Rogers
Rated: PG
Summary: Kara reaches out to her teammate and uncle's dear friend, Steve, about Cadmus, her clone-sister, and more.
OOC Date: 2018-01-13
IC Date: 2018-01-13
Where: Queens, NYC near the Peripshere

The note from Superwoman in Steve's hands was a little cryptic. Kara's penmanship is beautifully fluid, almost print-like in its precision. It's hard not to identify her distinctive script, even without a name attached. Also it's on League-issued memo paper, and there's a whiff of the shampoo she uses while in uniform.

The note was left not just in his locker, but tucked into Steve's bomber jacket. A place, off the grounds of the Justice Defenders building, and a time. And a suggestion to avoid being tracked.

For most people, that would be problematic. Steve digs into his pocket for his cell phone to turn it off, realzies it's still turned off from earlier when he tried to text someone, and tosses it into the locker.

He doesn't take any great pains not to be seen but he leaves through a side door, takes two un-necessary exits, and walks out through a gap in the external cameras. Between two points he shrugs into the grey hoodie they'd given him, just to confuse the cameras a little more.

Not long before the appointed meeting, Steve's about a hundred yards from where Linda instructed him to be. Wearing ratty gym clothes and with a baseball cap tugged low, he leans against a tree with casual nonchalance and scouts the location. He's got minutes to spare in any case, and it never hurts to be sure that there isn't a surprise around the corner.

Five minutes before the deadline, another figure in a grey hoodie and navy blue snap-front vest over jeans and work boots comes trotting around the corner and then opens the door to the old and abandoned newspaper office, slipping inside.

There wasn't a lot of a chance to get a visual, but the height and broad shoulders would be about right for Kara, dressed in a manner unlike anything Steve has ever seen her before. The timing was perfect - like, X-Ray vision perfect - to assure that no one on the street or in any of the adjacent buildings would see that person disappearing into that door. Except Steve.

Inside the office, the window coverings ruffle and shift, as Kara quickly gathers up cardboard and old newspapers, packing them against the windows to baffle both vision and attempts at vibration-monitoring eavesdropping tech. Through the side door, down a short hallway, and into an interior office, Kara is leaning against the wall, watching and listening as she waits for Steve to appear.

It takes him a few minutes. Kara's got super-speed, super-hearing, and super-everything. Steve just knows his city, even if Queens is a distant extension of his home turf.

There's a clattering from the fire escape outside. Steve does a little hopping that would be called 'freeclimbing' or 'parkour' in modern parlance, words he doesn't have much use for. It gets him twenty feet off the ground and to an otherwise inaccessible fire ladder.

A window slides open dusty rails and Steve climbs into the upper level, looking for Lindfa. He finds her quickly enough, walking towards her with a half-smile that's tempered with an inquisitive lift of his eyebrow. "Are we scouting some real estate?" he inquires, choosing for a bit of friendly banter. "I hear that some of these places still have rent control that was in place when I was a kid."

Thankfully able to follow Steve through most of the building, Kara isn't impatient, and does offer a little bit of a smile when he finally comes through the door. "Hi." she intones, smiling a bit warily. "Thanks for coming. And … no. No real estate."

She knows she owes Steve an explanation, and that's why they're getting together like this. But it's hard to break free of that urge to keep it all balled up and secret. This won't be easy, and Kara knows it.

"Sorry for the cloak and dagger, Steve. But we have a problem. And I am reasonably sure that our facility, at least some of our staff, and all of our computer and communications systems are being monitored … what did they call it? Seven ways to Sunday?" Kara begins.

Steve shakes his head, dismissing Kara's apology. He moves so they can face each other— and so she can watch his back, and he can watch hers, with eyes on all the entrances into the room at once. It's small change compared to her superhuman senses, but still, it's old habits.

"I'm pretty used to this drill, believe me," he assures Kara. "Even when we had the Krauts on the ropes, we stuck to our protocols. I've even torched a field office or two."

He drops the bag at his feet. Clothes, towels, and his slab-sided 1911 *clunk* against the dusty hardwood underfoot. He looks around the wall, then reaches to the radiator and twists two valves. The ancient, creaking radiator hisses and burbles with an inconsistent, reedy whistle, and the vibrations beat the walls like a minor timpani.

"I'm curious who'd want to spy on us," he remarks, without missing a beat. "Or what they're hoping to learn. Any thoughts?"

"Thoughts, yes. Proof, not yet." Kara answers, honestly. "A few things I can tell you, though, and things I want you to know." This is why she arranged this meeting, after all. Someone more than just she herself needs to know these things.

"I have been working a strange series of cases for months now. I started having odd dreams." Kara holds up her hands. "Just hear me out. In the dreams, I saw things, heard things I'd never seen or heard before, places I had never been. And I thought and felt things that were just wrong for me."

It all sounds insane, and Kara knows it. But she keeps going. "I saw reflections that seemed to be me, but not. Wrong outfits. Different hairstyles than I've ever warn. And doing things I would never do. Including killing people." Steve would know, of course, that the Kryptonian heroine would never do that of her own volition. She cleaves far too strongly to Jor-El's ideals for that.

"Then I managed to ID a couple of the incidents and locations to things in the real world. So I investigated, and found evidence of someone with my powers and abilities." Clearly a terrible threat, and rather disturbing for Kara, who could not prove it had not been her actions, given she had been asleep at the time.

"Another…" Steve almost says 'alien', catches himself before the word can form. "Another Kryptonian? I thought— well, I thought that you and Jor-El were… y'know. It," he says, with a certain finality to his tone.

He rubs the point of his chin, processing Linda's words carefully. Steve's quiet for a long count, working through what Linda just relayed to him.

"I'd say dreams are just dreams and not to read anything into them, but… is this some… thing that your people do? Maybe it's another Kryptonian, someone from your homeworld," he suggests.

"But that doesn't explain why you think we're being spied on."

Kara watches Steve start to work through it, questioning, wondering, and she nods approvingly. Good, he's thinking. That's important. "I thought we were 'it', too." she admits. "Which is why I was concerned and needed to rule this out as quickly as possible. I cannot imagine why a Kryptonian would run around pretending to be me. But as a race, we were not saints. Anything was possible." Kara offers.

The woman waits a few moments, and then continues. "I hooked myself up to my symbioship for monitoring, to make sure that I could not leave, go anywhere else without having a record of it. That proved that the incidents I was dreaming of were happening while I was dreaming and while I was still hooked up to the symbioship. So it wasn't me. But somehow, I was dreaming this other Kryptonian's thoughts and feelings." Scary, right?

Kara continues. "I used lucid dreaming, tried to take control, reach out and make contact. I was able to throw her off, a bit. She wasn't prepared for that. And I was able to track down the sites of these incidents and investigate. And she became curious, started investigating me in return."

Kara sighs. "What I've found so far makes it pretty clear she is a clone of me. And, I believe, made by a faction within the US government, intent on discrediting heroes and taking over. She has been specifically trained and groomed with the intention of becoming the new me, after I am neutralized."

But that's not all. "I found leads that pointed to a possible connection to Cadmus, a joint private-public science think-tank. When I investigated the site I'd found for 'Project Kr', I didn't find her. But I found something else. A boy." Kara shakes her head. "I barely got him out of there, before they blew the entire facility to hide their actions. He's safe, for now, with my human family. He's … not fully Kryptonian. He's half-human. But he was grown in a tank, taught telepathically by these imp-like G-gnome creatures."

Then Kara sighs. "Then she showed up. Tried to take me down, tried to take him back, to steal the evidence. All according to her masters' desires. And they were tracking my communications with the team. Every bit of my investigation in the Defenders' computers was scrubbed clean and disappeared. Only the things I hadn't put in there weren't touched."

Steve's frown deepens. This conversation just went from 'possible intelligence leak' to 'subversive activities'. The possibility of cloning Kara…

He doesn't think as fast as Superwoman does— close, granted— so he flexes his fingers, indicating that he's absorbing her information and analyzing it as best he can. He's silent for about five seconds, almost a lifetime for Cap's mental tactical machine.

"Let's break this into more manageable chunks," he says. "Compartmentalize and solve for each one. First— someone helped your… evil… twin," he says, struggling for the word. "Into our files. It's not that it's impossible to pick all those door locks, but my gut says there's an inside man. People will flip for money or for patriotism. The best way is both. I'd look for someone with access to our storage systems, who is maybe struggling financially or has some ideology that would be sympathetic."

He upticks a second finger. "They already had this… other-you," he says. "So why would they create a half-human version? We're not all that remarkable compared to Kryptonians. That suggests there is some goal they had for her that she's not able to fill. I can't begin to guess what that is," he admits. "but it's as good a place to start as any."

"Third. You say you've been seeing her dreams, and you've even been able to influence her actions. Is it possible she's watching you in her dreams?" he suggests. "And if she is, can you find a way to communicate with her directly?"

"I haven't tried, yet, to find the leak or leaks inside Defenders HQ. I didn't want to blow anything until I was sure. I'm not a top-flight investigator, and I can't lie worth much of anything at all." Kara admits. Which is why she's reaching out, now, involving teammates. Offline. Outside the base. In secret. All to setup the support she needs to go through this effort without tipping their hand until they've found the compromised bits.

"Cadmus is government, and tied in heavily with the DEO. I suspect that they made the boy as a stop-gap backup. A way to assure a lower level of power, more containable, and male. Different enough from me that he would be less likely to think like me, act like me." Follow Kara's ideals. That's her current working theory, at least.

"I know she has visited my dreams. I've been using that to work with her, influence her, show her the things about love, about people, they've been hiding from her. Showing her the things that will teach her right from wrong, instead of following orders. Able to make her own calls." Kara explains.

"Thanks to another asset, I've been able to make contact. We're texting. Burner phones, rapid turnover. I send her a new burner number as the last text of any conversation, encoded. We roll over, neither of us using the same phone more than once, and we destroy them when we're done." Kara explains. "Without a pattern, there's nothing to attract her handlers' attentions, nothing to show up in deep data dives. She's starting to question things. But I am concerned. The closer she gets to me, the more I'm afraid they'll notice, and decide to take her out, or worse. I need new leads. I need help. But we have to keep this completely compartmentalized, for her safety, and everyone else's."

Steve grimaces, sympathy on his features for Superwoman's plight. The real concern here is that what little contact she's made will evaporate if they push too hard, and will fade if they go too slow. It's a nervewracking balance to walk, one Steve knows all too well.

He refrains from voicing his suspicion that this other Kryptonian might be just shining Kara on. Paranoia is a trait not best if shared.

"I trust your gut," he tells her, and he does mean that sincerely. "Play it carefully with her. Don't meet her anywhere without without backup within striking distance," he says. "I know, I know— you're tough. So was Jor-El. I still know that Kryptonians can bleed," he says, concern in his voice. "If they've got a tiger by the tail, it stands to reckon they wouldn't put her in play without figuring out a way to control her or subdue her. Whatever they've got in their back pockets might work on you, too."

"Kryptonite, I'm guessing." Kara offers, honestly and boldly. It's not something discussed often, but Kara trusts Steve with her life. "I needed someone I trust absolutely to know what is going on." Which is why she is telling Steve everything.

"I've put together a notebook with everything I've found so far. It's underneath the public mailbox in front of the building where you and I first met. If anything should happen, I need to know you will follow up. If you can save her, do it. She's my sister. But even more importantly, protect the boy. His name is Kon-El. You know him the moment you see him." He looks the spitting image of a teen Jor-El. "Everything you need to know to reach him is in there." Including the secret of Superwoman's civilian identity.

"I know it's a lot to ask. But there's no one I trust more, Steve."

Steve starts to ask more questions, but he reads the message implicit in Kara's features. It's all written down, somewhere, and time is of the essence.

It also strongly suggests she's about to do something perilously heroic and alone, despite his admonishments. His stern features relax, and give way to a curt nod. "All right," he relents. "I'm on it. I'll make sure that they're protect, to the best of my ability."

How a ninety year old man is going to protect an alien godling is anyone's guess, but… well, that's a problem for Future Steve. "I don't know what you're about to do, but I have a feeling it's going to be reckless and I'd disapprove of it," he tells Kara, before she can fly off. "So if you're going to be reckless anyway, be prudent when you can be," he tells her. Despite their relative and effective ages, he's still talking to the neice of one of his oldest friends. "Only go all-in on the big gambles. If you take a lot of little risks, your luck will run out when you really need the cards to come up in your favor."

He shoulders his duffel. "If you need to get a message to me, send a letter or leave a callback at VFW Post 63. I trust the men there to get it to me discreetly."

"I'm afraid that her time is running out. And if they make a move on her, I have to believe they won't hesitate. That they'll make a move on me at the same time." Kara offers, honestly, to Steve. "I don't know if I can save her, Steve, but I want to try. Most importantly … there's no one else. I haven't trusted anyone else but my human family with Kon-El. And until we can unmask them and stop them, I cannot make sure I'm around to help Kon-El. You … you're my best backup."

Kara doesn't want to make stupidly risky moves. She may not have a choice, but it isn't what she wants. "I'm not going to make a big move until I have no choices left. You know where to find everything I have. If something goes wrong, if I don't manage it right, you and the others can follow up. And you can help my parents keep Kon-El safe."

Kara steps forward, extending her hand to Steve. "Thank you. For coming, without question. For your advice. And your promise. It is an honor to serve with you, Captain Rogers."

Steve gives Kara's hand a resigned look. He's heard this speech before. He also knows there's no force on Earth that can deter Kara from the course of action she's laying out ahead of her.

His hand closes firmly around hers, and he squeezes her hand. "Likewise, Superwoman," he tells her. "I'm not one to make a big deal about goodbyes. So… I'll see you later," he says. And despite her resignation to her potential fate, Steve says it in such a way that turns the words from mere pleasantry to a statement of absolute Truth.

His hand stays in Kara's grip, for a long moment, and he searches her eyes. He nods once more, squeezes, then turns and moves towards the window he'd entered through.

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