you don't find love, it finds you. it's got a little bit to do with destiny, fate, and what's written in the stars - anais nin

Just…

Tell them you know me.

They’ll take you to my mom.

And staring at her now, Joe could see the resemblance between Alura In-Ze and Kara Zor-El: The long blond hair, kind blue eyes, similar face shape, and the ability to outright punch him into last week if there had been a good reason to do it - not that he had any intention on giving her a reason, but he couldn’t help but worry, standing almost sentry in front of her and trying not to narrow his focus on the House of El crest emblazoned on her uniform - never mind on just about everyone else in the building - even though it was far more comfortable than looking her right in the eyes.

As if he hadn’t enough parents to try and earn favor of, Alura In-Ze, in that moment, was the one of the most concern - a member of the Science Council and far more intelligent than he could have ever expected to be even with his intuitive genius apparently firing on all cylinders, and widow of a would-be hero of the Kryptonian people, something that stood leaps and bounds above his own rank and filing despite his military background, and never mind the fact she was a super being herself under the rays of the yellow sun, the same that was empowering to Supergirl and Superman, as well as all the Kryptonian people who had found themselves beneath its rays. Not Kryptonian himself, he had his own self-laid doubt that when push came to shove and question of how he knew Kara Zor-El came up, he both wasn’t sure what to say or - more pressing - how it would be taken.

Of course, that meant he had just about choked when it had been brought up, slipped right into the conversational pleasantries of how he had arrived in Kandor in the first place and just what he was doing there when he wasn’t of the city to begin with. There were any number of rambling answers seated on his tongue and ready to drop out of his mouth as soon as his brain decided which was the right one, but had there been a right one? Without Kara present, was it right to tell her mother that he was her engaged? Or was the right one to tell her, even without Kara there to corroborate such claims, that they were allies? Outright lying definitely wasn’t the right one, but of the right answers that were both solid in honesty, which wouldn’t get him a House of El inquisition?

That was anyone’s guess.

“I’m,” he started, finding pause in his words if only so he could gulp down a dry spot that had formed in his throat, holding his hand out to activate the Blue Lantern Ring on his finger - yet another piece of odd paraphernalia that had established some place in the known universe beyond everything else that had made him a curious stranger to Kandor. “I’m her fiance.”

“Activate hologram playback.”

The playback had been a number of instances swathed in blue light, hue and tone taking on shape and form, to highlight the particular string of events that had brought him not only to Nora Saylor once more, but Warren to Kara Zor-El, all effectively merged and filed among each other in chronological order. From pizza dates in Boston and burritos at La Taqueria in San Francisco to the troubles of Red Lantern Rings, an Arcade-made Halloween of horrors, and the less-than-marvelous Mister Mxyzptlx, there was no shortage of interaction to present to Alura In-Ze in the event of doubt - including the moment he had proposed.

“End hologram playback,” he said to trigger a stop to the playback, the blue aura that had been displayed between them fading out as the ring returned to its deactivated state on his finger.

“I’m not sure why I’m here, but I know it has to do with her,” he explained, still not sure how he had ended up in a pocket dimension of in the first place - he wasn’t even sure how anyone else had ended up in their respective locations - but there were only so many reasons Joe would have landed in Kandor, and he highly doubted it had anything to do with imps from the Fourth Dimension as much as it did opportunity.
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…”