Kal & Lyla
Characters in this story are copyright DC Comics. No profit is being made from this story, no infringement is intended.
“I want to make a movie about Lyla Lerrol and Kal,” said Kara. “I want you to try out for it.”
“You’re nuts,” said Van-Zee.
She smiled. “To do this, I’d have to be. But I still want you to try out for the show, Van. Please? For me?”
“No. Absolutely not. I have a job, Kara. I’m a scientist. I am not an actor. The matter is finished.” The man who looked absolutely like Superman began to place his hands so that his index fingers would be crossed. That, in Kryptonian, meant the end of the argument.
Kara pushed his hands gently apart. “Van, I know what you are. Absolutely. But I also know how much you loved acting, in school. Isn’t that so?”
Van-Zee, related to both Kal and Kara as a cousin (his mother, Kalya, was their great-aunt), looked at her with impatience. “Yes, it’s true, I did act in some plays at school. And?”
“And didn’t your main director think you had so much talent that she brought a studio man in to watch your rehearsal, one time?” She kept smiling. He had to say something.
Van, sitting with her in the kitchen outside his lab and workshop, sighed. “So you’ve heard that story, too. Who from?”
“Remind me to tell Zor to be more selective about what stories he tells you,” said Van. “It’s true. One time, we were doing something from the Kryptoniad. My busybody teacher decided to bring in someone she knew from the holo studios. Gin, his name was. And I did my scene and he talked to me.”
“As I’ve heard, he tried to get you to consider a career in acting.”
Van smiled, faintly. “That he did.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“That’s not much of an answer, Van.”
Van-Zee looked at the green-suited woman sitting across from him and wondered why in Sheol he’d accepted this visit from her in the first place. Even if she was blood kin. “Because my father would never have let me do it,” he said.
Kara nodded. “Kind of what I thought. He wanted you to be a scientist like the rest of the guys in the family?”
“Oh, yes. With him being a member of the Science Council, and Jor, Nim, and your father over there on the El side, practically rewriting the books on everything, every week, there wasn’t much of a choice about it.”
She crossed her legs and chuckled. “Sounds like what my dad told me, once. He and Jor got a couple pair of fighter gloves, once, and tried ‘em out on each other in the back yard. Granddaddy Jor caught ‘em and took the gloves away. Said he didn’t want any stupid glove-fighters in the family. That was that.”
“Yes. And look where you ended up, for awhile.”
“Oh, yeah.” Van was alluding to her former career as a wrestler, which she’d given up to become an actress in action movies. “But it was fun, for awhile. Doing something I wanted to do, not what my parents or Kal wanted me to do. I broke away.”
“That you did,” agreed Van. “Kara. I need to get back to my work. Can we talk about this later?”
“Well, I’d like to finish my pitch, if I could.”
He crossed his arms on the table before him. “As long as you know the answer is still no.”
“Fair enough,” she said. “You know that I got the idea to do this movie after that dinner conversation we had over here, right?”
“Right. I still remember you describing how Kal was...distraught...after falling for Lyla Lerrol.”
“True. It occurred to me, then, that it’d be the project of a lifetime, in two specific ways. First off, and I won’t lie about this, it’d be a great ticket to get me out of the all-action-holo arena. I want to show how good an actress I can be, period. Getting to play one of Krypton’s queen actresses of the past, and play her well...that’d be something. If I could pull it off, my dreams would be made.
“But there’s more to it than that. It’s about Kal. How much he loved her, and how much he was hurt. It’d be a gift to Kal. Something very nice, something very good I could give him. Something I want to give him. But I’d need help to give it to him.”
“But there have to be others who can play the part,” said Van. “Professional actors can surely do a better job than I could, Kara. All I’ve got in my favor is that I look like Kal.”
She nodded. “You look like him. You’re related to him. And to me. You’re part of the family, Van. You understand. Don’t you see? You understand what it is to be an El. It may not be your last name, but it’s in your blood.”
Van didn’t say anything.
“Also, when you went to Earth and played Superman to meet Sylvia, she told me how well you played the part,” Kara went on. “She couldn’t tell the difference between you and Kal. Well, I know she’d only seen him on television, but still. You had enough talent to fool her, until you told her. You also fooled Lana Lang, as I recall.”
“Oh, yes,” said Van, ruefully. Lana had taken him for Superman, had kissed him, and had caused him a lot of trouble when he got home to Sylvia, who was now his wife.
Kara grasped Van’s hands in her own. “That should tell you that you have some talent as an actor. Especially at playing Kal’s part. Think of it, Van. If you try out for it, if you get it, and I’m not saying you will, but if you do, you’ll be a part of the gift, too. The gift we can give to Kal. You won’t need a holo-remake on your face, like another actor would. It’ll be like seeing Kal play the part, himself.”
“I’m not a celebrity double for Superman.”
“I’m not asking you to be, Van. I’m just asking you to play him. For me, and for Kal himself.”
Van said nothing.
She said, “I don’t want you to tell me yes or no, right now. All I want you to do is think about it. When you’re ready to make a decision—not now, Van, you haven’t thought about it long enough—you know how to reach me. Now.” She stood up, impulsively running her hands through her blonde hair. “I really have to go. There’s a googolplex of things to do.”
“The movie will get made with me or without me,” said Van, questioningly.
“Yes,” said Kara. “But maybe not as well, without you. Just think about it. That’s all.”
“You’re just asking me to do a screen test,” Van said.
“That’s all. But don’t make a decision right now. So long, Van.” She bussed him on the forehead and turned to go.
“Kara, wait,” he said to her back. She stopped and turned around.
Van took off his headband and massaged his temples. “Holy sun and Mother Moon,” he said, his eyes closed. “Do you know what you’re asking me to do?”
She crossed her arms and waited.
Van said, “I’m insane.”
“No, you aren’t.”
“Tell me who I have to contact.”
She beamed and extended her hand for a shake.
The love story of Superman and Lyla Lerrol was one of legend among Rokyn’s holo buffs. Even though they only learned of it in recent times, it was a story to conjure with.
Superman had been thrown back in time and space to old Krypton, some years before the Destruction. There, he had met up with his father and mother, Jor-El and Lara, and kept his secret from both of them. He even attended their wedding. Through them, Kal met with Lyla Lerrol, Krypton’s most celebrated actress and one of its most beautiful women. They had fallen in love with each other and Kal had determined that, if he had to stay on Krypton until it exploded, he would face it as the husband of Lyla.
But Fate didn’t allow that. By accident, Kal had been sent into space in one of Jor-El’s experimental rockets. Taken beyond the range of its red sun, he regained his Superman powers and was forced to make a decision: return to his own time and resume his career, or return to Krypton and die with Lyla.
It was argued by many of his supporters that Kal-El did what he had to do. Nobody knew the answer to that but Kal himself.
Regardless, Kara was there when he finally told her what had happened. After that, she could sense a change in him, even though he covered it well in the future. He’d left a large part of his heart back on Krypton.
Now, Kal was married to Lois Lane of Earth. He loved her dearly. Kara knew that. But did he love her as well as he had Lyla?
Perhaps even Kal couldn’t say. But there was a story that remained to be explored.
And, on the night she and her father had told it to Van-Zee and Sylvia, she knew who the explorer would be.
Van-Ol was working three-handed. There was a band connected to his head, a mini-mike floating in front of his face, and both his hands were pounding a keyboard. All three inputs went into his CompUnit, and he was struggling to get the latest draft of the script into shape.
He wore only an undershirt, pants, and houseshoes. There was a mug of hot Kono juice by his elbow, kept at the correct temperature by circuits within the mug. He’d take a sip, and servos within the kitchen wall would sense it. A drink-drone flew from a slot to replenish the juice. That was S.O.P. when he was working on a script. He needed a haircut, he needed a bath, and, most of all, he needed...
Door chimes rang.
A hologram of the woman waiting on his doorstep sprang into view. “Let her in,” he grunted. The door schussed open.
Kara Zor-El came in, as beautiful and put-together-looking as Van wasn’t. “Well?”, he said, still working.
“Well, I’d hoped you’d have a better greeting for me than that, Van,” she said. “I mean, something like, ‘Hello, angel,’ or ‘Has Lorra the love-goddess come through my front door?’, or even, ‘What’d you buy me?’”
“Pause,” Van said to the CompUnit. It stopped inputting. He took the input lead off his headband, took his eyeglasses off, and looked at her. “You bought me something?” He half-smiled.
“I wouldn’t buy you anything. You owe me lunch, remember?” She sauntered in and flopped down on an inflated chair that hovered a few inches off the floor.
“Lunch? What’s that? If it has to do with food, let me know in about six hours.”
“You’ll be hungry by then?”
“No. You can slap a NutriPatch on my neck and feed me intravenously. What’ve you got, Karavia?”
She took her shoes off using her feet and wiggled her toes. “I think I’ve got your namesake.”
Kara grinned at him. “Never underestimate the persuasive power of an El, honey. Now we just have to see if he can act.”
“Or settle for some hack with a digital mask,” suggested Van, his elbows on the desk and his chin in his hands.
Kara looked offended. “Hack? You think I’d let a hack play male lead in my picture, Van? Get aligned!”
“Just an expression,” Van shrugged. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Van-Zee’s resume. As an actor, I mean.”
Kara rolled over on the seat, tummy down. “Physically, he’s perfect for the role. I think he also could understand the emotional dynamics. It’s also a great sales angle, Van. Just think of it. Two members of the El family giving you the greatest love story of Krypton’s last days. Kal & Lyla.”
“Uh huh. A guy who’s never acted, and a girl who thinks she can act in a show where she doesn’t punch anybody. That’ll pack ‘em in for sure, nectar-gal.”
The next thing he knew, Van-Ol was on his back, his chair upset and hanging in the air, with a girl in a green jumpsuit pinning him to the floor. “What part of that do you want to take back first, Vanian?”
He tried to get up, but Kara hadn’t forgotten everything she’d learned in the ring. “Let me up!”
“What do you take back first, Van? You can’t be that far ahead you want to miss half a day’s work.” She smirked, her nose inches away from his.
“I take back...”
“...the bit about you packing ‘em in for sure!”
A few seconds later, he wished Kara had used wrestling holds on him. That would have been preferable to the triple-strength tickling job she gave him. “Ah! Ow! Holy sun, Kara...ah! Aha-ha–AGH! Don’t DO that! Don’t...all RIGHT! You can act in a show where you don’t punch somebody! How’s that?”
“Didn’t say anything about kicking! Aha...Kara, DON’T!”
She straddled his chest with her knees, claws poised. “You know, this is a quite effective way of fighting. Wonder why I never thought of it before? Or does it just work on short writer guys?”
Van looked up at her. “You want to know what works on short writer guys?”
“Better than this?” She spread her fingers menacingly.
“A lot,” he said. With that, he pushed her onto her back, wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her. A few seconds later, she had her arms wrapped about him, as well. They broke the kiss, then hugged, their heads on each other’s shoulders.
Then Kara said, “‘Nuff of that,” rolled him onto the floor, got up, and got back into her chair.
Van adjusted his glasses and sat cross-legged on the floor. “Is this ever one for the gossip vids. ‘Supergirl and top holowriter in love nest.’ How many copies you think we’d sell?”
“Don’t push the cart before you check the breaks,” answered Kara. “I like you, Van. A lot. Maybe.”
“Maybe. Good. Positive.”
“But we’ve got a movie to put together. Ar-Rom has a lot of credits pledged to this one. Plus we’re trying to keep some security on it.”
“Uh huh.” He sighed. “I know. My butt’s on the line with this one, same as yours.”
“Same as,” she agreed, twisting around saucily to give him a better view of it.
“Don’t be so literal, Karavia.” He got up, walked over, and sat on the arm of the chair. The units in the bottom of the chair worked harder to keep that side level. “But, y’know. It’s not like all my stake in this one is monetary.”
“I expect not,” Kara said, smoothing back her hair as she looked at him. “Talk to me, Van.”
He looked at his hands for a second. “D’you think he’s only a hero to you?”
“Kal, you mean?”
“No. But you haven’t told me a lot about how you feel about him.”
Van put his hands behind his head and did his best to crack his knuckles. “You don’t know what he is to those of us from the City?”
Kara shifted position in the chair. “You’re talking about Kandor.”
“Yeah. I was born in the Bottle. I was born with a monster looking at me any time he wanted. A green-skinned guy who scared the hell out of me. Mom and Dad, the city fathers, they all said that we were captives and that there was nothing we could do about it. Said we should be glad that Brainiac didn’t do much else besides look at us. Said we should be glad that we...that we were still alive.”
Kara didn’t say anything.
“Then came the time that Superman...that Kal-El...saved us. Took the Bottle, took all of us, put us in the Fortress, and told us that, somehow, someway, he’d restore us to our normal size and let us out of the Bottle. We saw a big face again, but it was somebody that looked like us. Kara, you know how hard the priests had to work on us kids to convince us Superman wasn’t Rao?”
She giggled, despite herself. But she thought she could appreciate his feelings.
“Don’t laugh. Please. Even when he came down and walked among us...even when you did...there was part of us that wanted to revere you. You two were the ones on the Outside. You were the Kryptonians that...any one of us would’ve traded places with, any day of our lives. We learned that you...that you both were heroes to the Earthers. Do you know what that meant to us, Kara? You could have been selfish, could have been exploiters, could have been evil. With your powers, who could have stopped you? But you weren’t. You were what we were supposed to be. The Good Kryptonians, made flesh.”
“I was only a human girl, Van,” Kara said, quietly.
He looked at her. “You don’t appreciate it, do you? To us, you were heroes. Even more than you were to the Earthers. Kara, we loved you both. We loved you so much.”
She drew in a couple of long breaths. Then she drew him close to her and hugged him, not letting go. But she still said nothing.
“That’s why, Kara. That’s why, if I can give back...if I can give anything back to Kal, or to you...ah, Sheol. I can’t talk. I can just write. I hope.”
“No,” she said. “You can talk a lot better than you think, Van. Is it all right if I hold onto you for a little while longer?”
“It’s...well, it’s a lot more than all right. Uh. Kara?”
“About the cart? And the brakes?”
“We’ll know when to take the brakes off, Van. For now...just hold me. Please.”
Researching Lyla Lerrol sometimes wasn’t as easy as she hoped.
One of the problems was that practically all of the survivors of Krypton now were from the city of Kandor, where Lyla had never made her home. She was a native of Kryptonopolis, Kal’s hometown. Almost everyone there, except for Kal himself, a few folks visiting Kandor, and a handful of Phantom Zone prisoners, were now disconnected atoms. All the places she’d been, all the people she’d known there...gone.
Luckily, Kandor, which was now the capital city of Rokyn, still held metaphoric tons of information on her in its libraries and holovaults. The computer record storage they had far surpassed anything Earth had yet devised, though Kara had to admit that the Internet thingie they’d been monkeying about down there might prove to be a bigger thing than it looked like now. All of Lyla’s movies, from her earliest bit-player days to her last spectaculars were available. Except for one.
That one was The Space Explorers, and it had been made after Kandor had been taken into space in Brainiac’s ship. That was the one in which she had met Kal, and in which he had been tapped as her leading man. What did it look like? What did Lyla and Kal look like, together? Was there a trace in his eyes of the knowledge that both of them, and all about them, would be blown apart in a few years’ time?
Was there a trace in hers of the love she’d finally come to know, from Kal?
Kara sighed. Of course, one survivor of that affair still lived.
But she could not, would not, go to Earth and question him about it. As a gift, this had to be kept secret from him. There was no way she would allow herself to broach the topic to him. He was no fool. Even if she tried asking him about Lyla in casual conversation (provided she could cook up a good enough reason for her visit as a cover), he would suspect. Plus there was the fact that Kal had just recently gotten married to Lois. How would they react to the knowledge that she was preparing a movie about a love Kal had had before theirs?
That wasn’t the real reason, she told herself. She still remembered how Kal had been, for about six weeks after he came back. It was as if the whole universe had been converted into emotional pain, compressed like a black hole, and pushed into his heart. She wasn’t going to (Sheol, couldn’t) make him relive that if she didn’t have to.
And it struck her, hard, that she was going to do exactly that when this movie was finished.
For a long moment, Kara sat among her trove of holowafers, printouts of Lyla photos and interviews, audiodiscs, 3-D cubes, and whatever else she’d been able to dig up on Lyla Lerrol, bought, borrowed, duped, traded for, acquired in some way or another. Was it, indeed, worth it? Was it worth the pain she’d be bound to cause Superman?
Then she picked up a hologlobe containing a three-dimensional representation of Lyla Lerrol’s face. There was beauty there, true enough, and character. And ability, the talent enough to carry movies on more than just her looks. Kara had learned a lot about this woman, over the last couple of months.
She knew, then, that the movie would be a gift to more than just Kal.
Kara put the globe down. There were a few people still alive whom Lyla had worked with, living on Rokyn. Not much more than a dozen, she thought, but that was still something.
“CompUnit,” she called, softly.
“Functioning,” it answered, from a speaker in the wall.
“Make contact with the names I’ll give you,” she said. “Tell them Kara Zor-El requests an interview with each of them, at their convenience. Subject of said interview: Lyla Lerrol.”