TROUBLED • TACITURN • ERSTWHILE

Though there had been pressing concern about a million different things - not only the regular and routine of work and all the international affairs, manufacturing deadlines, and bits and bobbles that came with it; and family which, thanks to the weekend’s Rosh Hashanah celebration found two more individuals in the know of his less-than-human status; but Louis in the hospital and the well-being of his sister, and a series of disappearances to what he could only speculate the reasons for despite knowing well enough it all had to do with the shifts - he found his mind rolling back to one of the utmost importance for not only him, but the other mutants that had called it home: Krakoa.

The living island-turned-sovereign mutant nation was under fire and though there were plenty of aspects of such an embitterment that Joe understood, could agree with though he agreed not on the actions that may have very well been in the works, he felt the same affront deep in his chest that he suspects all mutants who had found peaceful life on Krakoa felt; and if their home was to be attacked, it only stood to reason they would defend it.

Even the distraction of Mission Chinese, a daresay staple at the Saylor-Warren household if only for the Sichuan Carbonara which, as many other dishes had, now found itself at Titans Tower, didn’t seem to pull his mind from it; and speculative investigation of the whereabouts of others who had disappeared, some eventually found through one means or another, felt like background noise he should have been focusing on, but everything lied with home even if in Warren’s own place among the multiverse, it hadn’t yet been his.

Still, the course of his life would have taken him there.

He would have graduated from Xavier’s as a full-fledged X-Men, one of the first who had stood for peace and unity when the rest of the world was busy hating them for the destruction that came of the worst and the powers they exhibited, for at times misguided notions that all homo superior had found themselves that and war was the only thing that humankind would respond to. He would have maintained that dream however possible, through whatever means possible, funding teams to come even when it had meant losing everything; and from those ashes, he would rise anew, not in a form known for good and one that would constantly plague allies to come, a roller coast of one form to another, of peace trying to grapple with the very death and destruction that had been augmented into his bloodstream, until the end.

Not that it had been the end either, and the Hatchery of Krakoa would not be the first time Warren Worthington the Third would have been resurrected following his death. Devoured by the Life Seed, he would still see himself born again, able to live life without the knowledge of what had happened in the past, a student once more of an institute which valued mutant lives and aided with the struggles that came with it until they had found reason to dismiss him - an early graduate who knew all they could teach; and when the time came, he had found himself whole again with that entity of mass destruction, Archangel his cross to bear, through the good and the bad, and well into the founding and sovereignty of Krakoa - a home that had never turned him away, one form or the other.

And now he knew not what would become of it against a woman scorned through such personal selfishness as exhibited by her ex-husband; against a woman born of nothing who, thanks to the puppeteer behind the scenes, could have nothing - not even a child born of her own flesh and blood despite being the living spark of another; and against perhaps the depths of Hell itself.

It seemed, however, even wishful thinking found in the last moments of consciousness before sleep hadn’t been enough to see him among the mutants of that island nation, ready to batten down the hatches in anticipation of something gone awry even if it meant working with their worst enemies, mutants who throughout the years had toyed with them and changed them, mutated them further as part of their own twisted experiments and wars against each other. Wanting to be in Krakoa to help his own through whatever means he could didn’t mean he awoke in whatever futuristic accommodations the island had built for them to live when the morning came around again, Joseph opening his eyes to entirely new surroundings; surroundings that, despite the foreign - almost alien - nature of it all decidedly weren’t Krakoan as he stared down the business end of a rifle, held by a man wearing an all-too-familiar ensign.

“Oh man…”
Joseph couldn’t say that this was how he expected his week to go, shuttled off to parts unknown by means unknown and leaving his fiance behind with not only a worrisome dog, stressed out by Sunday’s events, but a series of disappearances that only ever spoke of terrible things while his would-be home was potentially under siege, perhaps to be found in ruins by the time the Goblin Queen was done tearing it apart. He hadn’t intended on trying to convince the more militaristic leadership of Kandor that he wasn’t some intruder who had come to the city from Earth out of malevolent intention or purpose, sure his uncertainty on the matter wasn’t helping his case; but where knowledge of what had happened failed him, the signal watch on his wrist hadn’t, providing at least some credence of his claims through the seal that still remained in the watch face despite the technical modifications Joseph had made to it in an attempt to blend the holographic and sound technologies into a Rolex frame.

Glasses of sunstone hadn’t hurt either, a precautionary measure over powers he hadn’t quite gotten the hang of enough to stop seeing the underlying essence of the people around him - be they good or bad in nature - which now provided one more connection to the Kryptonian people though he was sure even that didn’t shirk the speculation found in a stranger showing up in the bottled city; but at least there had been some more of a peaceful reception after such lengthy attempts to solidify that, no, he wasn’t there as a threat and that, yes, he knew Kara Zor-El though, decidedly, Joseph had left out some of the more personal details if only out of uncertainty of reaction, and, yes, Supergirl had been the one to give him the watch in the first place, putting him in good standing with at least one Kryptonian, never mind someone from the House of El who, spoken with such reverence, had been something Joseph didn’t quite expect; but then again, there was a lot he didn’t know about his better half’s other half, and there was no time like the present to learn.

After all, who knew how long he was going to be here, far too early in the week to pick up any pattern from other disappearances. Max had been in New York City, but that was all he knew. Barbara was in Gotham City, but that was all he had gathered. There might have been mutants in Krakoa, but that wasn’t something he had seen with his own two eyes; and now there was the notion that not everyone had gone to such familiar territory, as was Joseph’s own case. He didn’t even know if Nora would have heard the signal watch from as far away as she was from the Fortress or with as many walls and layers of crystal and glass panes stood in between the high-pitched frequency, and there was no telling whether or not he would be able to get out of Kandor even if she had heard it; but at the very least it would be an assurance - that he was somewhere safe and sound, and not stuck on another planet, fighting for his life.

No, this was much better than Battleworld even if there had been some concern about everything from blending in to how the general populous might have taken to a stranger within their walls that wasn’t of Kandorian origin. Diverse as they were, something he could easily tell simply by observing the people as he was guided through the districts with explanations given as to one guild or another, the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land wasn’t an easy one to shake off; and he could only imagine just how hard it had been for Kara on Earth.

All-power, sitting in the shadow of someone else’s cape, or a lesser, someone believed by many to be inferior to another species - it doesn’t matter. It’s still new and frightening, and one is still alone even when surrounded by thousands of people, caught up in their own lives. He can feel a similar uncertainty in Warren, something that ticks at his brain as if to bring up just how difficult it was for a teenager, and not someone who, like Joseph, had no ill-experience in foreign affairs or negotiations, sure on his shoulders even if there had been a part of it attributed to bravado.

“Excuse me, Mr. Warren,” the page guiding him through the city had said, intruding on his thoughts while they were miles away. His attention snapped away from the fantastical display presented by the performers surrounding the Cal-La Opera House, a solely visual distraction while his consciousness rested in his own mind, all but staring down the strangely timid individual, subservient in a way that Joseph wasn’t exactly accustom to no matter what his childhood might have been like.

“This way,” he motioned, their direction turning to what Joseph had oriented as a centerpoint to the city of Kandor as his guide continued to speak, this time with a bit more interest from Joseph who made note to pay attention. Every part was important, after all, each a little piece of something to learn about Kryptonian government and culture, of its people as they survived now, and just what it might have meant for his future with their very own Supergirl.

“Here, you will find the Central Tower, responsible for the day-to-day operations of Kandor…”

“And here, the Labor Guild…”

“This is the Cathedral, home to the Religious Guild…”

“That sprawling compound is headquarters of the Military Guild…”

It wasn’t incomparable nor incomprehensible by the time the page had stopped lining up information for him to wrap his head around. It was just compact - at least given the outside perspective that Joseph had, the Kandorians living in their own little world that existed in the scope of a much larger one: Earth. He chewed on the social structure, mulled over the points of considerable importance, even considered his own exploratory ventures of those parts of Kandor that hadn’t been so readily presented, spied from afar, but there was one thing that broke through what silence he had otherwise exhibited.

“Tell me,” Joseph said. “Where is the library?”
No resident of Kandor and still of suspect origins, it seemed of no surprise that there was some sort of rigmarole to getting into The Central Tower - namely the Sunstone Library that his guide had been so kind enough to point out despite his pursuant questioning of what Joseph might have wanted there; but with security at his back and a bevy of Sunstones to his front, he supposed the powers that be found little harm in education of another to their own culture and history as it had been recorded.

Now if he could only figure out how to use the Sunstones, his experience thus far reliant on Sanctuary and the disembodied voice that had resided within and the glasses that he still - someone and without losing them - kept stuck to his face, but as with many things, activating them seemed to come naturally, innately, without any real rhyme or reason to the internal mechanisms that made it so. It seemed to be the ways and means of a lot of things lately, powers showing up that he had no experience with and Warren could only fathom finding in other mutants, if not others in the multiverse entirely; and if all else failed, at least there had been the ring.

“<Access records of the planet Krypton…>”

It was back to the start, the one conceivable place that Joseph had thought to start short if he was going to understand the deeper aspects of Krypton and their people no matter which continent they might have come from on the now-decimated planet. Like many nations of Earth, it spoke of conquest and war, of technological advancement that was far beyond that of what had been found on Earth, and through such, one might have argued such superiority had become their very downfall as they found ways to fight off the conquering Vrangs that had enslaved them in crystal mines and stem civil war that had risen between its people. They had blocked out the sun, pacified a people in a chemical cloud, closing the book on such conflict with strengthened federations and reworked constitutions -

- but when did that ever keep the peace when there was always some turmoil found in politics, individuals and their hubris so often to blame for everything from isolation of people to natural disasters found in industry? They were pressures many nations felt, constantly trying to find a balance between science and religion that, as far as Joseph was concerned in what was a very basic observation of the surface workings of Kandor, they found success at; but there was always something underlying, one party trying to undermine another just as he suspected one guild took importance over the rest; but fuel for speculation was hardly his intention in researching further, shifting Sunstones as he did with little mind paid to those in the room nor the surprise found when Kryptonese had come out of the stranger’s mouth.

It was of no surprise to Joseph as the records continued into the cataclysm that had brought the end of not only a planet, but nearly all of a people save for those who had been hidden away, stolen, by Brainiac in the shrunken city of Kandor, but two sole survivors who were shot off into the galaxy only to land on Earth…

That much he had known from familiarity alone and that much he could ask of Kara for a more personal account than what could be provided in alien stone, another exchange bringing about another series of records that made for more of a deep dive into Krypton.

“<Access records of Rao…>”

Though a sun by all shape and form, even the manufactured one that he could see from the floor level of Kandor, there had been more found in the records that provided a vast detour from planetary bodies existing somewhere in the universe - Sector 2813 as far as the Blue Lantern Ring decided to interject. Rao wasn’t just a sun or expression of surprise, Joseph nearly leaning into the near-holographic information presented to him. A prime deity - the prime deity if there were to be only one - with churches risen in his name, Rao had been divine thanks to long-standing family dynasties, the very same that made his eyes open wider and the reverence of the House of El clearer and their position among the Kryptonian people more readily understood.

Still, it didn’t stop him from dropping a few select words in English: “Oh shit…” When it seemed to carry an echo, Joseph glanced around to the others occupying space in the library as if looking for someone to share in his surprise or perhaps admonish even a menial curse from his mouth, turning back to the records as he shifted through further - through the deities that had once been to the sciences that had been born of such technical and scientific pursuits to bring Krypton closer to them, curious as to what might have been before such a monotheistic believe in the supreme that burned above them.

It seemed to take up an equally healthy portion of his time, pouring over the Goddess of Ice and Mother of Monsters, Cythonna, who knew not of love despite her pursuit of Rao to spawn malevolent creatures in the world; the God Mordo, a statue seen in the streets as a symbol of Kryptonian strength; the ancient deity of air, Troilus, that seemed to survive more in the memory of deathly contrails forged of Icarian dreams on fake wings than anything holy; and, perhaps the one more prevalent in the coming months and an extension of what he had been learning of the Jewish faith, Yuda, and an exchange of the moons of her patronage, aligning with Krypton in such an iconic event.

It had been hours and could have been days had it not been for the strain in his back or the rumble in his stomach, eyes flicking down to his watch so he could take note of the time - at least the presumed time, sure it was all relative when one was in a bottled city. He was up on his feet in a matter of minutes, stretching in full - wings and all - before turning to depart, shutting down any records he had been trying to digest in whatever time he had left on Kandor or, as it were, in Kandor - about the guilds in further respects, about the House of El and those who hadn't such a normal place in his life as Kara Zor-El did, and whatever else he could think to attend a self-imposed crash cource on provided his continued welcome - not that he had given them any reason to believe he meant them harm.

"By Rao…"

It gave him pause, Joe glancing over to the Kandorian who had uttered it upon sight of something he had been sure he kept hidden but, apparently, had switched off in the stretch.

“Oh!” He exclaimed, turning his head to look at the wings protruding from his back. “About that…”