Something one would not normally deem extraordinary, the act of running. Something done the world over by countless individuals since mankind had first hobbled onto two feet. When Barry ran, however, extraordinary didn’t quite cover it.
He felt the cold whip at him, seeping through even the protective layers of his armour. It would be enough to kill a normal human given enough time, but Barry had left normal behind long ago. While the supernatural force that surged through him protected him from forces such as the wind and air resistance, forces that would pull him apart at this speed without it, the chill still made itself known. Good, it was nice to feel his limitations.
Snow, rock and ice impacted beneath his feet as he powered on, the great variety of the Artic circle spreading out before him, from the frozen forests of North Canada, the Tundral peaks of Scandinavia and the ice sheets of the pole itself, all opened up before him. No matter how fast he ran, he could always see, what should of been a blur of emotion remained clear to him, the rest of the world moving as if he viewed it through tar or treacle.
Eventually he passed beyond the limitations of habitation, to the frozen roof of the world where life could not claim. Barry had not come here before, in his search for the ideal location to test his powers he had previously roamed south to the deserts of the US, but he had recently discovered the effects the cold had on his powers. It drained him faster, limited him gradually, forced him to expand more energy to achieve the same results. To him, this was a positive, here the natural elements, he felt, might limit his capacity for destruction. The far end of his powers were unknown, if indeed, they had any. As thrilling as it was to run, to escape anything that might hold him down, it was also terrifying. What could he ‘not’ do.
With a thought, he unleashed a surge of built up heat, the consequence of friction and static playing across his form. The protective energy of what he had named ‘The Speed Force’ nulified this destructive energy, but if he so chose, he could unleash it around him. A series of detonations followed his path as he ran, the speed at which he was running preventing him from being caught in the fireballs caused by him releasing the force.
A mountain of ice reared before him, jutting from the shelf into the sky. Beneath the red helmet of his armoured suit, his eyes narrowed. Time for another test. He maintained his speed as he approached it, refusing to allow himself the extra time to prepare. As he ran, he began to harness another aspect of his power. Arcs of lightning began to gather around him, sparking from the dashing figure like the peak of a tesla coil. To the human eye, a ball of lightning would have been seen streaking across the flat ice, just another impossibility born from the realm of the unknown.
Pushing himself to new heights in both aspects of the power he tested, Barry lunged into the air, several miles from his new, adopted target. Narrowing his body into a straight lance, he exploded from the ground in a crescendo of noise and energy, unable to ground, the lightning built around him, sparking brighter and more intense with everything passing moment. In less than a blink of an eye, he passed the distance through the air.
Thunder roared across the polar landscape, before an ancient mountain of ice detonated with electrical fury. For meters around his impact point, the ice burned straight to water vapour, a vast nascent cloud forming before ascending into the polar air, shortly to fall back to Earth. Much of the rest of the structure melted, but several large chunks of ice, at the extremities, were simply blown into the air.
Pausing in the remains of his act, Barry watched as the great chunks began to fall from the sky, appearing to drift almost as if made of feathers to his modified senses. While there was nothing for him to disturb for a great distance around him, it would prove another interesting challenge. A slight smirk spread across his features as he set himself the goal. Then he was off once more.
He intercepted the first block of ice hundreds of meters before it hit the ground, once again taking to the air. The process to whittle it down was simple, his feet clinging to its icy surface as he ran across it, the ice melting away beneath the force as speed of his running, until it crashed down to the ice sheet as little more than a large puddle. The second ice block was met with a series of dashes, launching from the ground to air and back again, dividing the ice enough times that it crashed down in sections smaller than Barry. The third and final, he allowed to crash down, simply standing in its path.
Once again his form sparked lightning, and the red of his suit began to shimmer. Remaining still, but moving even faster than before, focusing the force within himself, until even to his own eyes he blurred in static motion. When the ice struck him, rather than flaten his form beneath multiple tons of ice, instead it simply sizzled into vapour, the vast heat and energy of his form casting it aside, focused upwards, rather than down, to prevent him melting into the sheet.
Finally he exhaled, the chain of events taking place within the space of time it took him to breathe. His heat pounded in his chest, the strain of his actions catching up with him faster due to the cold, but it was good to unleash something of his power. Eventually he could not help but release the laugh building within him, the sound of his amusement tumbling over the frozen landscape.
“Alright. That was pretty cool.” He spoke aloud, forcing it through his panting breaths.
“You do have neighbors up here, you know.”
She had watched with interest. He was human, Sanctuary confirmed it, but the A.I. didn’t have to. With Kara’s superpowered abilities of observation it wasn’t impossible to tell Kryptonian from human. Given everything she knew about physiology all she had to do was look and listen. Helpful that he was standing still now, of course. He hadn’t noticed her match his speed in the air, high above him, but that was the point. But now he was getting dangerously close to the Fortress of Solitude, and there was no giant key pointing the way to alert someone like this super-powered hew-man about just what they neared, and why it was dangerous on so many, many levels.
She wore it only for recognition. If Kara had been dressed in the jeans and tank top and denim jacket she wore just minutes before, it wouldn’t have been the same. There wouldn’t have been the same instant recognition she saw in his eyes now, when he looked up to the floating young woman that had spoken to him, and seen that suit with that red cape and that red and yellow shield on her chest. House of El
, it said to her. Superman
, it no doubt said to him.
Barry’s eyes settled on her for several moments before he spoke, simply allowing the rise and fall of his breathing to fill the time before he reacted any further. It wasn’t that her arrival didn’t come as a surprise, indeed it almost defeated the very point of him deciding upon the Artic, but he had a suspicion she’d hardly been in much danger from his collateral.
The symbol across her chest was something recognisable to all but the most isolated of humanity, especially in recent times. America, even the human race as a whole, were still trying to work out how they moved on without it, without what it had come to mean. Yet here it was hovering before him, in the Arctic Circle. She was quite pretty too.
All this and Barry barely blinked, his mind working through it at far beyond a human capacity. It was simply that the Fastest Man Alive rarely panicked when confronted with new situations anymore, nothing he was too slow to respond it. In the next moment, he smiled at her, genuinely, before he finally spoke.
“Don’t suppose I could talk you out of the noise complaint? Can’t really afford to have that added to my record.”
"Superman's secret home is nearby. It's built with Kryptonian technology. I'm his cousin, when I arrived a Bat-human pointed me in the direction of this secret home. Needless to say because of the Kryptonian technology you would be wise to go ten miles east or ten miles west before continuing. Kryptonian A.I. and I aren't entirely sure what would happen, especially with everything that Superman collected over time. It was decided I should come warn you." After a long beat, as if something or someone had reminded her of Earth customs, she simply added: "Please."
“Get off my lawn, basically.” Barry’s eyes momentarily left the young woman to watch the sky, already the dispersed water vapour had formed more tightly, preparing to snow, likely the first time it had actually done so above this frozen patch of ice-desert in some time. “It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, from Kansas to Krypton, that’s what they mean.” Mused aloud, to both himself and her, the two choices of location were obvious. He considered, in that moment, whether something in whatever alien craft the original had landed in could have picked it for that reason. Name alone.
The golden haired girl’s head tilted to the side...just so. “What is a lawn?”
That made him pause, truly pause, if just for a moment, before he responded, racing through all the potential things to say before landing on one. Less than a true moment, but for Barry Allen that was almost meditation.
“You might need a new AI if it couldn’t tell you that. Think of it like...a little piece of nature, each of us likes to claim and make our own.” He mused over the response, attempting to place it in terms that were both poetic, and not reliant on other Earth terms. “Some people take a great deal of time over them, or, just like their privacy, hence ‘Get off my lawn.” He added a helpful smile to the end, all the way from a corny stock photo.
“I asked you, not the A.I.”
Her feet hit the ice gently; first her toes, then the balls of her feet, then her heels. The long red cape whipped a little as a gust of artic wind came up, but like him, she didn't seem all that bothered it. The cold didn't bother her. She barely felt it, truth be told. A truth she thought dangerous to tell this strange superhuman. Her eyes were the color of deep ice, a fact that was only highlighted in the arctic of white on white. Eyes that drifted to the sky for a moment as the A.I. filled in the gaps.
"Oh! A section of land, typically grass and typically proportional to the size of the home, that sits between a street, or side walk, and a home.....so many variations..." Her eyes danced, micro-movements at incredible speeds, as pictures flooded in her mind. A sudden blink, and her blue eyes opened once more--focused on him again. Except now she smiled, broadly, like a scientist alive with the rush of new understanding. "Yes, exactly: get off my lawn because I can't promise it won't hurt you."
His smile eased as he watched her, exaggerated cookie-cutter expression replaced with a softer, more real, emotion as discovery alighted her senses, but it was buried behind a grin by the time she had finished speaking.
“I’m out here because I don’t know the limits of what I can do. It’s exciting but it terrifies me, and it should. I watch videos of your cousin and I don’t marvel at him, I think of all the ways I could have done everything I’ve seen him do, sometimes they’re better, sometimes they’re worse, but they’re never impossible. As Barry spoke, his tone gradually became more severe, never quite leaving behind the joviality of his nature, but growing, in the moment, a certain maturity.
“I’m sure that sounds arrogant, maybe it is, but I was never inclined to that until I ran so fast I could feel the Earth turning back on me, so if you’re telling me there’s something out here that could test me, really test me, it might take more than please to get me to forget that, because I’m not a fan of being terrified.” His voice trailed off as he finished speaking, breaking the hold on her eyes he had maintained until the point, almost reluctantly, watching the horizon trail away to white canvas.
The light left her face, and her tone. Blue eyes narrowed. “My dead cousin’s secret home is not here simply to test your super…hew-man
And then she snorted, anger getting the better of her. Kal was something of a sore subject for her, she knew, and she resented the idea that the Fortress was there as some great ‘ring of fire’ for this being. “We’re not sure what the Kryptonian technology would do. It’s...reactive,” she said, as if she were already afraid of having said too much. “Nevermind the Sun-Eater.”
She added that last bit after a small pause, and a smaller smirk. Her eyes went to the northern horizon, to the sky. To Crystal Mountain. To anyone else it looked like a lonely, misty, mountain covered in ice atop the world in the northern arctic; it was a ruse. Get close enough, or have the Kryptonian computers authenticate your access, and all a person would see would be a mountain of crystal alive with a slow burning energy that was blue, white, purple, even streaked and dotted red from time to time--every color shifting and moving within the crystal like blood through a body.
“Would you like to see my...lawn?”
Barry maintained his cool through her anger, although the suit hid a slight relaxation of his muscles, a suggestion her reaction was not something he misunderstood. His own exhilaration and fear over the limit, or lack of one, of his own powers, could make him single minded. Understanding was not, however, the same as surrender.
Even still, it seemed that was unnecessary, as her invitation came, as if plucked from air, doing more to put him off guard than any hostility or show of power from the alien being.
“Something tells me it’s not going to be like any lawn I know.” Barry chuckled slightly, before nodding; “Thank you, lead the way.” His smile turning from humour to a genuine one.