Superman: Birth of a Hero

Ch. 3 Astra

I do now own The Avengers and or Supergirl

Marvel and DC Comics do

Positive reviews are welcome

spiderman1fan: Thank you for the review, it's much appreciated. I will try to do so. One episode from Smallville comes to mind in which will be replicated here.

Zeroinstinct117: Thanks, and will do.

Guest: Yes, yes she does.

shugokage: Thanks. Superman Returns and Man of Steel inspired that chapter, and a bit of Smallville homage will be used in this.

chase manaena: I will try.

edboy4926: Thank you.

Authors note: I have recently come into the knowledge that both Zor-El and Alura had survived Kryptons destruction, while still allowing the idea that both Jor-El and Lara remain dead. I don't like that idea, and have taken liberty to think that if Zor-El was coward enough to save just himself and his wife instead of also saving his brother and sister in-law, then I think that Zor-El and Alura should remain dead, while somehow leaving a clone of Alura and Zor-El to take their names and identities on the last bit of Krypton that now floats in space, Argos. I don't think that Alura is truly alive, as the woman who portrayed her, Erica Durance, looks much younger, despite really being a year older than the original actress in real life, Laura Benanti.

There is also the fact that Laura appears much older than Erica, so why does Kara recognize her mothers much more youthful appearance instead of how she remembered her? Food for thought.

Ch. 3 Astra

Nov. 11th, 2008

Hutchinson, Kansas

Kleyton Farm

A tall, two story house stood before her. It was a simple home, warm and inviting. The entirety of the place was brown, with gray shingles. There were two windows upstairs for the second floor. The first floor porch looked like something someone would have for spending short periods of time, just sitting outside, sipping cool drinks as the outside roofing was held up vie six wood based support beams to protect those whom would sit underneath, protected from the harmful effects of the suns UV Rays, making that day much more enjoyable. The top of said beams had side extensions to aid in keeping the outside patio roof in place.

The grass surrounding the farm was brown. As seasons changed, like all plant life, the cycle of nature changed with it. Already it seemed, that the crops of the land had been gathered and harvested for the year. Her black heeled boots walked over the flattened field as she stood before the house. It was surrounded by a white picket fence. A latch behind the swing-in door of the fence was all that separated her from the house.

Not bothering with simply hovering over the fence, she undid the latch and walked through the now opened fence door. Re-latching it, she stepped onto the porch and walked to the door. Pressing her right thumb against the key slot within the door nob, she was easily able to gain access to the entrance of the house.

Walking in and closing the door behind her, she took her time to gather in and familiarize herself with the inner workings of the farming couples home. There were many a picture inside the house, most of which decorated a good portion of the higher areas of the walls. Even the walls that connected to the second floor stairway were covered in photos with a doorway table that had a single drawer leaning against it. A small blue ceramic bowl on the table had several nick knacks and whatnot inside of it. Beside the table was a white cupboard door. Using her X-Ray vision enabled to see that it contained only boxes inside and a few cleaning items such as a broom, dustpan, mop, and various cleaning chemicals.

Her right hand then gently grasped the polished wood of the stairway, the texture of the wood smooth to the touch, leading to the second floor as she looked up. She didn't need to use her X-Ray Vision to know that somewhere on the second floor, in one of the rooms, was where her nephew had stayed when he had became a member of this particular family.

Returning her attention to the photos on the wall, she smiled contentedly as the photos contained a happy family of a boy with a darker tone of blond hair and hazel eyes, sitting for a photo shoot with the couple he had come to call family. Her eyes watered as her emotions came to the forefront. Taking one of the framed photos hanging from the wall, a photo showing the family in celebration with the same boy, with a cake in front of him as he sat and tried to blow out the candles that were within the top layer of frosted icing of the cake, his adoptive mother and father urging him on, she 'gasped' in heartache at the fact that she had missed out on not one, but two of her beloved twins lives. This truth drove home the knowledge that she had no one to blame but herself, yet it did nothing to lessen the pain in her heart.

She replaced the photo on the wall and turned her attention to the living room of the house. More photos littered the living room walls, as well as glass door cabinets. Some plates with words and phrases were placed in specific areas of the living room in which Astra In-Ze thought was...exceptional.

Her eyes landed on a small rows of books leaning on their fronts while being stacked so close together with a wooden cabinet, held in such a way by a set of metal sculptures of what she recognized as Kryptonian figurines. One resembled her sister, Alura, the other, Zor-El. Both figurines appeared to be made of what she figured was aluminum. Picking it up and feeling the weight in her hands, she assumed correctly that the metal figures were in fact made from the earth metal, 'aluminum'. The one she held was the one created in her sisters image.

Placing it back where she found it, she then noticed that one of the books was a bit different from the rest and was a bit bigger as it from where it resided, she turned it over and noticed the front of the cover saying, 'Kleyton Family Album'.

In it, were more heart wrenching scenes of her nephews life and the life he lived with the humans. An unknown amount of time had passed when she picked up the sound of a motor vehicle approaching. Because her eyes were stained with tears now flowing down her cheeks, she closed the album and placed it back upon the table before her as she had collapsed upon a sofa when she began leafing through the Family Photo Album. She was glad that the small table was where it was as she fought to get her emotions in order when the family entered.

She heard their heartbeats and the silence that followed when they entered their home. Using her ability to see through walls, she observed as the Kleytons were now slowly walking towards the living room.

Astra kicked herself for not only forgetting to re-lock the door, but for also missing the pump action shot gun hidden behind the table within the hallway entrance of the home. As she stood and made an attempt to gather herself and clear her eyes, there was the familiar sound of a round being chambered within the weapon as she observed the man removing the gun from its safety. Bringing it to bare as he stepped around the corner of the hall. The man, Mr. Allen Kleyton froze as his eyes widened in shock.

"That's impossible. You're dead." he had said.

"Allen, who is it?" his wife asked as she stepped around her husband. Her eyes too widened in shock, her hands flying to her mouth. "It can't be."

"Please, I'm not who you think I am." Astra pleaded. "Just hear me out."

"You got five seconds to start talking." Allen demanded in a warning tone of voice.

"Alura is...was my sister. My twin sister. My name is Astra."

"Bu-But how is this possible? I-We thought Chris was the only one to cross into our dimension."

"It's...a bit difficult to explain. Please, I mean no harm."

Laying a hand on her husbands arm, Charlotte looked to her husbands left arm while he still held the weapon at the Kryptonian woman. Her expression was silently asking her husband to please lower the gun. He looked into her eyes and ever so slowly, lowered it.

Allen breathed an easy breath, relieving the tension he took at the thought of someone breaking into their home, and that maybe, just maybe, that someone being a Government Agent looking into their sons life.

Astra too let out the air she held when Allen then said, "I'm Allen. This is my wife, Charlotte." he pointed at his now smiling wife who waved somewhat nervously.

"Astra No-, no Astra In-Ze. Because of my husband being dead, and myself returning from the dead due to extenuating circumstances, I no longer have to carry my late husbands name." she explained a bit oddly.

"You came back from the dead?" Charlotte asked a bit skeptically, with a raised eye.

"I can explain."

"I think we're going to need some coffee and some strong whiskey to go with this conversation." Allen said as he left the room a moment to replace the gun back in its hiding spot.

"Would you like some coffee?" Charlotte asked. "Or do you not drink coffee?"

"Believe it or not," Astra replied sheepishly with a nervous chuckle, "Coffee really does sound good right now. I find that I've grown rather fond of coffee back on Kara's Earth."

"She's alive?" Allen asked as he walked back into the living room.

She nodded in affirmative, "Kal-El as well. Only, he's not so little any more. The entire time Kara was in the Phantom Zone, Kal had grown up into a fine Kryptonian with good human parents with strong morals that enabled him to become one of Earths greatest heroes. It was his human mate that gave him the name, 'Superman'."

A 'snort' from Allen caught her attention, only for his wife to lightly slap his chest.

"Did I miss something?"

Quickly walking into the kitchen, Charlotte returned a moment later with a full newspaper with Val's image in the same, if not similar Kryptonian suit as Kal-El's. The paper was from a newspaper calling itself 'The Daily Bugle'. The Headline read as 'Superman: Hero or Con Artist?!' The papers top story from the day after her nephews coming out was written and published by the same man who called himself 'J. Jonah Jameson' who was apparently the publisher of the entire damn News Company.

She quickly read through the entire story and was disgusted by how vile the Publisher spoke of her nephew and promised retribution. Her eyes burned with righteous anger as her fingers crumpled the paper in her hands.

Astra had not read one positive thing in the paper to paint her nephew in the light. She was so angered at the audacity that the human had to speak ill of her nephew, that she didn't notice until the smell reached her nose that she had in fact, incinerated the paper in her hands.

Her breathing was coming out in great 'huffs' as she fought to reign in her anger. She turned and was startled to find that Val's adoptive parents did not seem surprised at the heated destruction and anger towards the Editor In-Chiefs words towards their boy, nor were they surprised to see her reaction. With her breathing finally under control and her eyes no longer burning, Astra spoke, "I-I apologize. I lo-lost control."

"That's alright dear." Charlotte replied as she patted the Kryptonian General on the arm, "I nearly did the same. Thankfully, we thought to get two copies of the same paper when that story came out. Fortunately, the paper from the day after helped to ease the peoples fears and Chris's transitioning as this one," here he handed another paper to Astra who took it slowly so as to try and hope that it did not have the same effect on her as the last one, "Was written by a woman whom Chris was not only smitten with, but is now working with."

With a raised eye, wondering at the meaning of the last phrase, Astra read as the headline of the paper from the day after, a mere two days before her arrival on this world. "Superman: The Last Son of Krypton!" it said as she read and approved of the writers work. It spoke of things only Val and Kara wold know, from their point of view. It even gave his Kryptonian name and the name of the House in which he belonged to back on Krypton.

"This woman you speak of, Sally Floyd? You say that they are working together."

By this time, Astra was lead into the kitchen where she was offered a chair by the man of the House while Charlotte had given her a cup and poured the precious brew into the cup. Allen held up a small tin and shook it, "Whiskey?"

"Yes, please." Astra said as she held out her cup with both hands. She made sure to control her strength as she held the cup, so when Allen finished pouring a generous amount of the alcoholic brew into the cup, Astra brought it to her lips and moaned in pleasure. "I thank you. Even though we Kryptonians can't get drunk due to how our cells burn off the effects thanks to the said cells being bombarded by solar rays from the sun, that's not to say that we don't enjoy the finer things in life."

"I'm jealous." Allen stated, only to receive another playful swat from his wife. Astra actually gave a hearty laugh at the joke and the humor behind it as she lowered the cup on the kitchen table in order to not spill a drop.

"To answer your question," Charlotte began, "Chris, or Val-El has taken up journalism and now works as a reporter at the Daily Bugle in New York."

The Kryptonian General started to laugh again as she held her arms to her chest.

"What?" Allen queried with a slight laugh.

"Nothing, nothing." Astra answered as she fought to get control of herself, "It's-It's just that, Kal-El is a reporter for a Newspaper called the Daily Planet, whereas Kara works with another company called CatCo Media."

Both Kleytons then began laughing themselves, with another bout hitting Astra less than a second later. It was during this laughter when a voice called out, "Mom, Dad. I'm home."

"In here, son." Allen called out. "We have a surprise for you."

Having turned at the voice of the new arrival, however different he sounded, Astra knew to whom it belonged the moment he called out to the ones he called 'Mom and Dad'. She rose as she turned, with the Kleytons also rising.

The door separating the kitchen from the Living Room opened as Christopher Kleyton, alias Val-El of Krypton, stopped before the couple and their guest, the door being held open by his open hand holding it in place. He was wearing his Kryptonian uniform when he walked in.

Chris stopped breathing, if only for a moment as he recognized the woman before him. She was as he remembered, his mind flashing back to the moment he and Kara last saw her before their mother ushered them from the living quarters, to their rooms, back on Krypton. The only difference was the black outfit with her husbands shield over her left breast.

"Hello Val."

"Au-Aunt Astra? But...But you died. How...?"

"As I told your parents, I can explain. But before I do, do you have a hug for your Aunt?"

He wasted no time as he threw himself at her, embracing her, the sniffles coming out as he trembled in her arms. "I thought...I thought I was the last one." he cried.

"It's ok," she said in his ear as she pulled away and grabbed both sides of his head and looked him in the eyes, "You are no longer alone. I'm here now, now and forever, always."

He nodded as a fresh batch of tears flowed down his face. Once more, he was holding her, not afraid to use his full strength as she was just as strong as him and could take it. She ran a hand through his dirty blond hair while quieting the sound of his cry and the trembling of his body.

The day dragged on in a more somber tone as Astra held nothing back when she began her tale, but nonetheless, had spoke only the truth of what she had done. The revelation about not just her crimes and actions, but the survival of both Kara and Kal-El. Chris, or Val as she saw him, took it rather well after she asked him to give her a chance to explain everything before judging her.

"So, Kara is alive?" he asked with hope.

"Yes. And on that Earth, Kal-El is called Superman." her nephew 'snorted' at the mere coincidence of the idea that both he and Kal would share the same title given to them by the humans.

"Why did you do it? Why didn't you try another way?" he asked as he then turned serious. "I'm sure that with my mothers help, another way in saving Krypton could have been implemented."

"There was no other way. Or at the time at least, I thought. And dying by your sisters adopted siblings hand had given me much time to think on such things. Entering the afterlife upon my death, I was met with by your mother, Alura. It was she who helped me see that I had been going about things all wrong, and that by imprisoning me within the Phantom Zone when she did, I would have a chance to live, and hopefully think on what I had done and what I had become while imprisoned. She knew neither she, nor the others would survive Kryptons destruction, and so, had implemented contingencies that not even I was ever aware of. Before my death, not a day went by when I didn't think of my sister. We were twins, two sides of the same coin, but both with differing ideas on how to save the legacy of our people. Whereas I stood by and allowed my husband and Zods forces to go about their actions and not stopping them, giving my support to them, I did feel remorse in the lives lost by their hands. Zod, Non, Jax-Ur, Faora, all of them and more, had taken the sword against our people. Because of my support, I might as well have stained my hands in the blood of the innocent as well."

"Do you truly regret what you did and what you tried to do?" Charlotte asked as she placed a comforting hand over Astras.

"Yes." the former Kryptonian General answered without hesitation. The small family could see that she was sincere in her words. But as for her nephew, he wore a somewhat troubled expression. His arms were crossed, his eyes twitching and moving from side to side, as if he was thinking at a thousand miles a minute.

"Val?" Astra called softly in a worried tone. She was afraid of this, him not knowing how to feel. It was the same for Kara in the beginning. And it took time for her to forgive her, at least until she went ahead with her plans anyway, forcing both sisters to fight one another, an action that did not help in the least in the end.

But even at the end, she hoped Kara had understood, she was only trying to save Earth. Trying to prevent it from undergoing the same fate as Krypton. It seemed that Fate had other plans as she then found herself facing her sister in what humans would call 'Purgatory', but from a Kryptonian standpoint.

Her sister, even dead, had words to say to her, none of them positive. Rebuking, hurtful, but necessary words nonetheless. In Death, Astra In-Ze knew, Alura was right. Before judgment could be passed, her sister had given her a final chance to do it right, but in another universe. A universe in which Val-El had called home since Kryptons destruction.

And now, seeing him here, not knowing his thoughts on the matter. She was worried, and yet hoped that he would give her a chance.

Sensing he was being observed, Val closed his eyes, took a breath, and exhaled. Opening them, he spoke, "I need some time alone."

Placing his hands on the kitchen table, he made to rise to his feet.

"Val?" Astra tried as she too rose.

She made to reach out to him, but he jerked back a bit, "I said I need time." he said as he looked at her with a cold stare.

"Chris?" his mother called out in shock at the demeanor of how he spoke to Astra.

"Forgive me mom." he responded, looking at her when she rose, "But I need to figure things out for myself. And the only way to do that, is by going to the source. Excuse me." Without another word, he turned and left the dining room.

"Christopher Johnathan Kleyton, you get right back here, this instant." his father hollered.

The male Kryptonian paused for a moment, and yet, without turning around, he spoke, "I'm sorry, Dad. I just need to...find a way to get my head around all of this." he used his hands to demonstrate his meaning as he waved them around his head.

Astra, standing next to the Kleyton patriarch, said, "I know what I did on Krypton was wrong. And I am not asking for you to forgive me. All I want is a chance to get to know, you, my nephew. To be given a chance, only a chance."

"A chance? Just like how you gave Kara a chance?" he snidely replied, as he turned fully to glare at her.

She flinched and looked down, "I deserve that." Raising her head, she continued, "I will always remember what I did to your sister and think of how I could have handled the situation better. Without the need for hurting both her and her sister Alex." by now, tears were already flowing down her cheek, sniffles followed by a sob, "I'll never forgive myself for what I have done on Krypton, to Kara and the people of the other Earth. I have to live with that. But your mother, my sister Alura said that this is my last chance to do it right. For me, and hopefully, for us."

Chris turned his head forward and lowered it. He wanted to believe her, he really did. But she had already betrayed him twice when she hurt Kara, his twin. And he couldn't forget how she also admitted to attacking Kal-El along with the people of Kara's adopted home town, apparently called National City, with the Kryptonian project program called 'Myriad', a mind control program used to bend the minds and will to the one in control of the program.

Even after her Death, led by none other than Non, Astra's lackeys tried and apparently failed, but not without casualties on both sides. The thought that his original mission, charged him by his parents, his uncle, and aunt, though no longer necessary, was nearly corrupted by the actions that Astra had undertaken in a perverted attempt at saving Earth from sharing the same fate as Krypton. No, he needed to distance himself from Astra for a moment.

His parents, both in this world and the world beyond may have decided she was worthy of another chance, but he wasn't so sure.

Turning his head slightly, he said, "I-I'm not sure if I can give you that chance. I want to. Rao, do I want to. But you hurt a lot of people, Kara and Kal included. I need to figure out how to handle this situation in a more positive light."

"I understand Val. I'm not wanting you to forgive me right away, just give a chance to prove that I've changed. That I'm not the same person."

Her nephew stood before them, and for a moment, kept in place of where he stood, his head still tilted to the side when he nodded. Turning back around and walking forward, he disappeared around the corner, the sound of the house door opening and closing, followed by the sound of small breaking of the sound barrier as he launched into the sky.

The Arctic

Fortress of Solitude

He was angry. Boy, was Chris angry. In his emotionally charged state, Chris had forgone discretion and quickly flew to his home away from home. It was a huge crystal structure in the middle of a frozen landscape. Many a long and huge crystal columns intersected diagonally with one another creating a more majestic look than that of an actual fortress. The Fortress in of itself, was massive. It was almost the same length as a football field, the high rising crystal columns having risen to just over six stories high in length.

An opening appeared upon his approach as a portal took shape within a solidified crystal barrier that acted as a doorway. Flying through, the portal resumed its solid form. Chris righted himself as he lightly flew towards an area that served as a control platform that enabled him to access the fortress's main systems and also served to allow him to communicate with the AI's of his biological parents personality matrix. He would come here at times to commune with them and update them on his progress throughout the time since the fortress was first erected.

Neel'ex, the Fortress's only occupant for the many years since the Fortress was created, hovered from wherever it was that the Kryptonian droid usually stationed itself when its Kryptonian companion was elsewhere.

"Val-El, you have returned!?"

"Yes, my old friend." Chris replied as he stepped up to the main crystal console and began rotating the crystals in order to speak to the digital ghosts of Zor-El and Alura.

"Your bio-signs appear to be irregular. Your heart beat and blood pressure are accelerated. This suggests that you are distressed. May I ask, what is it that troubles you?"

With a sigh, Chris answered, "My Aunt, Astra is here, on this Earth. She has revealed things to me that I am...finding hard to accept. I am..confused and unsure of what I must do."

"Oh, what kinds of things?"

"Well, for one thing, Kara and Kal-El are alive. And second, and this is the most interesting part, my parents used Kara and I to lure Astra home where my mother then had Kryptonian Defense Force Soldiers arrest her for acts of terrorism and an accessory to the fact." Then after a moment to let himself pause and think, Chris turned slowly to look at his droid friend, "Did you know of this?"

Lowering its shining dome head, the droid replied honestly with a shameful tone, "I did." Neel'ex admitted. "Astra had noble intentions, but her actions resulted in the loss of innocent lives, lives that could have been spared had she acted in a more professional manner befitting one of her station at the time the crimes were committed. Though she had not taken any lives, she did not prevent their loss at the same time. Because of this, Astra was given a chance by Alura to turn away from her destructive path by your mother, but refused."

"And your reason for not telling me of this?"

"I was given a direct order by Alura to not speak of this until such a time was necessary."

Chris's eyes lowered as he looked at his companion droid who in turn, raised its optic viewport to look at him. He could tell that Neel'ex meant well, but it still hurt to learn that everything Astra had spoke of, was actually true, as the hovering droid was able to confirm just a few seconds ago.

"Well, that time is now." The very angry Kryptonian said as he turned and ran his hands over the control console, activating the AI's of Alura and Zor-El. Their holographic images shimmered into existence before the console, where Chris stood tall and menacing as he looked at them both.

"Val-El, my son. It is good to see you." said the image of Alura.

"Save it. The both of you." he commanded with a growl. "You both have some explaining to do."

"Val?" Zor-El gasped in shock. "What has come over you, son?"

"You used me. The both of you." their son answered. "You used Kara. Why did you make us think that in summoning Astra with our Spy Beacons, that it would be so that you could get in contact with her, when in reality, you used us both to further your needs to punish her for trying to save us? Even if her actions were wrong, that gave you no right to do that to us?"

"Val," Alura tried, "Where is this coming from?"

Turning away with a scowl, he replied, "Astra is here. On this Earth."

"How is that possible?" Zor-El demanded, despite his already pale complexion, slightly getting lighter, his eyes widened in surprise.

"Sh-She died. On Kara's Earth. Somehow, Braniac's female counterpart Indigo, high-jacked Fort Rozz. She used Kara's pod to plot a course for Earth, managing an successful escape from the Phantom Zone. Fort Rozz crashed somewhere in the Nevada wilderness. For years, the Fort Roz inmates managed to integrate themselves into Earth's Terran society. Even Astra and Non, and their fellow insurgents. They ran into Kara on several incursions, and like Kal-El, Kara had become a champion of Earth, taking the name, 'Supergirl'."

"She lives?" Alura gasped in relief and joy.

"Kara!?" Zor-El said with a similar reaction as the holographic image that was Alura.

"She does."

"And Kal-El?" Alura asked.

"The Kents found him, as Uncle Jor-El had intended in the worst case scenario. He grew up alone, but eventually became the Superman of that Earth while Kara remained in the Phantom Zone for twenty-four Earth years. And while I was here, where time is somewhat different than there, Kara grew up with a loving human family when Kal-El found her and placed her where she would be safe from his enemies." he added. "Now, getting back to my earlier questions, why did you use us to aid in betraying and capturing Aunt Astra? We could have convinced her to come home and persuaded her to turn back from her dark path. To turn away from Non. To end her crusade and find a better way to save our people?"

"I am sorry Val-El." Alura said. "Because of her inability to do the right thing, Astra had to be stopped. I admit, I was responsible for deceiving you and Kara? I convinced Zor-El that it was the only way to stop Astra, Non, and Zod, before any further loss of life was lost. I never meant to betray you or your sister. Astra was my sister, my responsibility."

"It still doesn't make it right."

"No, it doesn't."

"Son," Zor-El spoke up, "Regardless of what happened, you Aunt committed to a cause that would enable her to force her will on others, even possibly your mother and I, as we, like Jor-El, had voices within the council itself."

"You speak of 'Myriad'?"

Alura gasped, "She told you!?" It wasn't a question, merely a statement as the shock came to the AI's yet again.

"Yes." Chris said. "But she never saw it come to be on Earth, because Kara's adopted sibling, a human of a secret American Government Agency stopped her. Killing her with a blade, forged from radioactive pieces of Krypton called 'Kryptonite'. Apparently, with Kryptons destruction, an unknown quantity of debris from our world, made it to Earth. Kryptonite emits a radiation deadly to anyone from Krypton. Astra used a miniature mind control device on Kara's human sister, forcing them to fight one another, but Kara was able to free her. She then initiated an attempt on activating Myriad when the head of the Agency, a martian disguised as a human, fought her, nearly killing him, when his second in command, Kara's 'sister', thrust a Kryptonite blade right through her back, and out her front." he stopped as it was becoming emotional to speak on what happened to his beloved Aunt and maternal secondary mother figure. With a sniffle and clearing his eyes, he took a moment to calm himself.

"She died?!" Alura gasped in despair as she placed both hands over her heart.

"If Astra died, then how is she here on this Earth, alive?" Zor-El asked.

Alura turned from him back to her son as she awaited his answer. He had taken a moment to clear his eyes as he was still in shock at how much he had missed out due to being on an alternate world for all intents and purposes, he was, and yet, was not meant to be on.

"Rao." was his answer. "However it happened, she found herself in the Otherworld, what humans term as 'Purgatory'. There, she met up with you, mother."

"Me?" she queried.

"Yeah. I guess she needed a wake-up call or something. Look the matter of the fact is, that she's alive. Alive and on this Earth, and she told me everything from her point of view, that you two and Neel'ex were able to confirm." Lowering his head once more, he leaned over while grasping the edges of the crystal control console. Taking a few breaths, he then said, "I don't know what convinced you that it was alright for you to use Kara and I like you did, and I don't appreciate it, at all. And what's even worse, is you even used Neel'ex. My companion and my friend. I now have to bare the idea that I in some way am partially to blame for Astra's incarceration."

"Val..." Alura tried.

"Don't!" he said sternly. "You hurt me, and you also hurt Kara. I cannot let that pass, nor can I condone it. I'm leaving now, and I don't know how long it will be before I can face you and or speak to the both of you without wanting to delete the both of you from the crystals, what with the mistakes the both of you have made regarding not just Astra, but Kara and I as well."

Zor-El quickly spoke up before his son deactivated their AI's programs, "I understand son. And I'm sorry. You are right. What we did was wrong. There is no denying that."

"But...?"

"But at least let us make it right."

"Val," Alura said with remorse in her voice, "I am sorry, for betraying you and Kara. For using you to bring in my sister. I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. I now see, that I was wrong."

"When you are ready, we will be here for you, son."

"Please Val, tell Astra, I am sorry. I want to speak to my sister again, even if she is still angry with me. I will at least know that she is alive and well." By now, Alura looked close to tears, despite the fact that she was a holographic AI based off of the brainwave patterns and personality of the true Alura Zor-El nee In-Ze. "Please, I am begging you, Val."

With a grunt, the costumed Kryptonian nodded. His hand hovered over the control crystals when he took one last look at the images of his parents, Alura said her final words before he deactivated the Holograms, "Thank you, Val-El. I hope you can forgive your father and I, in time." she said with a small, yet saddened smile.

"We'll see. He said in return when he then ran his fingers over the command console, deactivating the holograms. They disappeared in shimmering particulates of digital pixels made of hard light. With that done, he stood up completely and with his arms at his side, raised his head and closed his eyes.

"Sigh, now what do I do?" he asked himself.

"Val-El?" the hovering droid queried as it hovered nearby.

"Don't worry, old friend. I'm not mad at you. You were following your base program. What I need is some air, and maybe some words of wisdom from an unbiased source. But who?" And then he remembered, having been in New York for the last several days, he had enjoyed listening from a distance, to a man who had experience with the mentoring of todays youth. "That's it." he said, snapping his fingers.

"Val-El?!"

"I'll see you soon, Neel'ex. There's someone I need to see." With that said, the new hero disappeared in a blur, the air rippling behind him with a 'whoosh'.

Harlem, New York

Pop's Barber Shop

179 Malcolm X Blvd.

For many years, his enhanced hearing had heard many things. His parents were the best source of necessary aid when he needed the help and aid in order to talk his problems out as they listened. But now, since he felt that they were too close to the situation to give a fair assessment of how he should act, he felt he needed a different ear to hear his problems. Since his arrival in New York almost a week ago, he learned from some and from his own ears, the wise words of wisdom that an old man had given back to the community of todays youth.

He of course didn't know the old mans true name, just the name that everybody called him, 'Pop'! Hovering over the streets directly above the shop, Val-El, also known as Chris Kleyton, but to the world at large, the Superman, slowly lowered directly behind the clear glass window panel until he touched down on the smooth concrete pavement. The words of Pops day to day lessons of todays young minds was one that instilled him with a sense of respect for the old man, reminding him of his own human father. Hearing Pops words was like a breath of fresh air to his ears. The man had experience, living in the streets for as long as he had.

There were many a people outside of the shop, on the sidewalk, the streets, and elsewhere nearby that stopped to look in awe, and in some, a slight bit of fear as he had came down slowly, watching as he lowered to stand before the entrance to 'Pops Barber Shop'.

Inside, the normal patrons of the shop had stopped what they were doing and looked outward with shock as the newest hero to the world had come to Pop's Barber Shop, despite his alien origins since the world now knew of who he was, where he was from, and why he was here.

The old man in whom the shop was named in honor of, stood inside and observed cautiously for a moment before he then made his way to the door. Standing just before it in his standard black Barbers uniform shirt, dark pants, and a dark tan colored hat that was made of a smooth straw texture, the aged barber saw the look upon the young Kryptonians face and saw conflicting emotions raging inside the boy. The need to vent and get his frustrations out, clearly evident.

Opening the door, he asked, "Can I help you, son?"

"Only if you have time and an ear." Chris answered, nervously rubbing the back of his head, a shy smile playing on his lips.

"Why don't you come in and tell me all about your problems."

"Thank you, uh sir." Chris responded.

Stepping to the side, the old man replied, "Call me Pop, everyone else does."

"Thank you,...Pop."

Directing him to a seat that was now devoid of paying customer who willingly surrendered the seat, Chris sat down as Pop had grabbed a set of shears, looked at him and then his hair.

Chris chuckled, "You're not going to be able to cut it. Like my body, my hair is too dense. Clippers and trimmers won't work."

"That's good to know." Pop replied as he returned his work tools back to the table they had lain on, looked to a seat behind him and with a sigh, sat down, leaning to the side, "How do you keep the hair short and your face so clean?"

"Heat vision, with the aid of mirror."

There were several winces when the patrons of the shop heard that, the old man also flinching when he had to imagine how Chris was forced to use his eyes focused heat beams through a mirror in order to keep the facial hair down. "So, what's bothering you son?"

With a sigh of his own, Chris answered, "Where do I begin?"

"Take your time. No one here will say anything. I promise."

Taking a deep breath, Chris nodded as he was silent for a few moments before speaking. Those inside of the shop, listened as the Kryptonian told his story. Time passed as they and Pop listened to the boy speak of his homeworld, his family and friends. All lost, or so he thought when his Aunt suddenly came out of nowhere. Pop listened with intent as Chris spoke of how he didn't know how to feel about the actions of not just his Aunt, but his parents as well. What with Astra having admitted voluntarily to the things she and the rebel forces of Kryptons army had committed, from acts of treason, mostly in the hope of saving Krypton from not just the council, but from itself, to being an accessory to murder. He then explained his parents own actions and what they had done, their blatant acts at using he and his twin to lure their Aunt home where the Kryptonian Defense Force was waiting, unknown to the twins.

Chris explained the mechanics of how Kryptons core had become unstable because of the councils decision to tamper with it in the hopes of finding a renewable energy source in order to save them instead of reaching out to the stars as their ancestors did.

He regaled Pop and those who were listening, of which there were now many, how his newly arrived Aunt had explained the reason for not just her arrival, but her treacherous acts on their homeworld, that resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of Kryptonians, and that his parents had used both he and Kara with their personal spy beacon devices that all three had on them at the time, without he and Kara knowing they had been used.

He even explained that the theory of the multiverse and multiple Earths existing in their own universes was real as his sister and cousin were apparently alive as that Earths set of Champions, if what Astra had explained, was true.

When he was done, he realized exactly how many people were listening as they either sat or stood to listen while he told his tale. Pop on the other hand, looked hard at the young man, "How do you feel about both your Aunt and your parents?"

"I-I don't know. I know I should be...angry, at what she had done. But I also feel betrayed and disgusted by my parents actions as well."

"It's normal to feel anger, son. It's a powerful motivater. But it can also be a poison. Do you think, that the actions of both your parents and your Aunt was justified, even as they happened in the way that they did?"

"Aunt Astra may not have..killed our people, but she was still an integral part of the faction that did. And my parents, my own mother, thought it wise to use both Kara and I. I want to believe my Aunt is a changed person. I really do, but I just don't know how."

Rising from his seat, Pop came to the conflicted man and placed a hand on his right shoulder pad, "Now you listen here, son. Take my advice as many before you have, the past is the past. The only direction in life that matters, is forward. Never backwards. What your Aunt did, is done and over with. Her actions caused her to pay the price, not once, but twice, right? At the cost of her life, hmm?"

Chris nodded, looking at the old man with a new clarity.

"It's the same for your parents, despite the way they handled things in the way they did. The powers that be, whether it's God, or..or..."

"Rao?" Chris tried.

"Who's that?"

"It was our God, he was our Sun God. Rao provided warmth and comfort when we needed him."

"Right then...uh Rao, or whoever," he continued where he left off. "However your Aunt was brought back to life in this world, this Earth, for whatever reason, it's because of you that she is here now. Her penance, is to watch you be the man you are apparently destined to be."

"What is my destiny?" Chris asked looking into the old mans eyes, as if he knew the answers to his personal questions.

"Son, I'm an old man. Even I don't have all of the answers, but what I do know, is that you are here for a reason. Whatever that reason is, I'm just glad that you're being you. Being a hero, a true hero. You have so much potential in you to lead us to a new world. A better future. Your current actions have shown that you are on the right path. You came to me, looking for answers. Here's my answer, time heals all wounds, but never forget the damage they have caused. This is your Aunts chance, her last chance. Like your Aunt, I too was once a bad person, but due to something that opened my eyes, it changed me. Maybe she can change too. This is her first step, the next one is yours."

The shop was silent as Chris bowed his head in thought. A moment or two passed before he raised his head and smiled a small smile, "Thank you, Pop." the Kryptonian meekly replied. "You're right."

"I would hope so." the old man said as he stood straight and released Chris' shoulder. He then noticed the many people who stopped to listen and observe the one on one session between the old man and the newest hero. "What the hell is all this?"

Minutes later, as people began to finally clear out, Chris began to follow them when he stopped at the door. Turning around he asked Pop, "Would it be alright if I stopped by from time to time?"

"Son, you are welcome here, always." was Pop's reply, as he smiled at the young man, "Now, don't be a stranger, you here?"

"Yes sir." Chris said with a full blown smile as he added his reply with a single nod and exited the Barber shop a few seconds later. With a gentle lift, he had yet to look away as he began to fly off until he reached an appropriate height and then accelerated into the darkening skies. When he was nothing more than a mere speck, a very big individual with a similar physical build as Chris, stepped up beside Pop who stood, watching the sky as Chris disappeared, "That was some deep stuff, Pop. Why did he come to you?"

"Who knows." Pop shrugged, "Maybe he needed a non-judgmental person to speak to. Someone who would listen without taking sides." Closing the door, the old man turned back to the man beside him, "Maybe he reminds me of you. All of that power, but if used in a negative effect, could prove to be trouble. That's something the world doesn't need, Luke. It needs heroes, now more than ever. Maybe you can take a page from him and be your own hero as well."

"I am not being a hero, let alone dress like that." Luke Cage said as he grabbed a broom and began to clean the shop.

The chuckles that the both of them had from the non-verbal humor filled the silent shop.

Throughout the night, Chris watched over the city of Harlem, New York. Managing to stop a few muggings, several shootings between opposing gangs, and a few other petty crimes. A time or two, he swore he was being watched when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. On the second time, he had turned to search for the source of his uneasiness, but whatever it was, it would delve back into the shadows and disappear, wherein even his visual senses could not detect his watcher.

With the Kryptonian finally calling it a night with New York being all silent, Chris flew off to parts unknown. A dark figure emerging from the shadows, turned his concealed head as if to observe Chris's departure.

'That was close.' Matt Murdock thought to himself as by now the Superman was beyond his own abilities to detect. 'For a moment or two, I could have sworn he nearly saw me.'

Chris decided to head home to his recently acquired apartment and call it a night. He'd deal with making a decision regarding Astra come the afternoon of the next day, once he was free from his work that is. A few seconds later, as he slowly lowered himself towards the balcony of the apartment, his hearing picked up the familiar heartbeat of someone whom brought a smile to his face. Gently touching down, he touched a fake brick panel that was in actuality a holograhic hand scanner that was glamoured to look like a brick.

The glass doors opened, permitting him to walk in as his eyes made out the form of his Godmother, Alice. But she was wearing not just a dark outfit with a turtleneck sweater, but was wearing a serious expression as well. "Aunt Alice?"

Turning to him, Alice Schofield gave him a what he could discern to be a false, yet saddened smile. 'There's a lot of that going around today.' he thought to himself.

"Hello Chris. Sorry for barging in like this." she said.

"It's no problem. You're welcome here, anytime." he replied as she had risen from the sofa he had sitting in the living room and came to and embraced him, with him returning the hug in kind. Pulling back at arms length a few seconds later, he asked, "Not that I mind, cause I don't but what brings you here this late?"

"Perhaps,...perhaps we should sit down. This is important." He then noticed she had a thin briefcase that resided on the glass pained living room table.

"Alice, what's going on? Are you in some kind of trouble?"

"No, at least not yet anyway." she answered. With a loud intake of breath she then said, "God, this is hard. Look Chris, you know that I love you and would never intentionally hurt you, correct?"

He nodded.

"Good, and you also know that I would never hurt your parents, right?"

Again he nodded.

"Alice, what's going on? Why so nervous?"

Kneeling before him and grasping his hands, she looked into his eyes and then asked, "Have you ever heard of S.H.I.E.L.D.?"

Going to leave it here while I prepare for the next chapter. Getting ready for the movie and then fireworks after dinner tonight. It's going to be a blast to enjoy. Hope you enjoy both this story and the days entertainment. Have fun and Happy Fourth of July. Until next time.