"Secret lair?" Lara cocked her head. "That sounds illegal."
"Are you a council member?"
Lara shook her head. "My father is. I am just an aspiring intellectual."
Jor-El's face lit up. "An aspiring intellectual is far better than an acclaimed one. They have all the brain power but less pride. And because pride limits the mind, I daresay, even more intelligence."
Lara smiled. "Yes. I happen to agree."
Jor-El nodded happily, and beckoned to her. "This is a secret, but I'm sure you'll appreciate it, and not tell anyone."
Lara approached and looked at the screen which displayed the wavering light of something blindingly bright and blue, channeling from three different power sources which converged around something small and roughly shaped. "Do you know what this is?" Jor-El asked.
Lara shook her head. "But I'm sure I should."
He looked at her for a long moment, and then said, "This is the core of the planet. I have been monitoring it for some years now, and tracking the readings that I receive."
"Is that legal?" Lara asked.
Jor-El chuckled. "Probably not. Those who know think I am crazy."
"You clearly are," Lara murmured, not taking her eyes from the screen. "Those who are crazy are often the more innovative even than the aspiring intellectuals, because not only do they realize the infinite power of the developed mind, but they realize that those who draw the confines of this worlds are themselves limited by their sanity."
Jor-El gave her an admiring look. "What is your name?"
"Lara Lor-Van. What is this?" Lara pointed to another one of the screens which displayed the blurry images of what looked like fruit on a budding stem, but Jor-El quickly snapped it to blackness.
"Nothing to talk of." Jor-El clasped his hands behind his back. "Tell me, Lara, when did –"
Lara interrupted, furrowing her brow, "I wanted to see that."
Jor-El shook his head. "No. It is –"
"I know. It is the genesis chamber."
Jor-El stared. "Not many Kryptonians are familiar with what it actually looks like. They only know it exists when they are designing their progeny."
"I have been doing research on it for quite some time," Lara said in a low voice. "I have my reasons. But my father doesn't approve."
"I'm sure he doesn't. Tell me – what do you wish to know about it?"
Lara shook her head. "I don't understand everything about our planet, but this seems to me to be unnecessarily –"
Lara nodded. "But then, I don't know what to think. I have to gather more information first."
"Lara, the core of our planet is nearly expended. Krypton is old – very old. You know this. Soon it will collapse. The council thinks by controlling the population, we have a better chance at an organized world that could deal with such a disaster, perhaps even avert it."
"Is that true?" Lara crossed her arms. "The council speaks the truth they want people to believe, not the truth that is to be trusted."
Jor-El took a deep breath. "It is partially true. The core is collapsing. But I believe that if a generation of Kryptonians would dare to think that they could defy the council's system, a better world would be made, one that could survive the coming calamity, that could be more adaptable, and could think for themselves. That is the race that will survive, not the over-bred clones our planet is now producing."
Silence reigned after this speech. Slowly, Lara asked, "Do you know that this is nearly impossible?"
Jor-El nodded, sadly, it seemed. "It is my dream. I read that many cycles before I was born, the green plague caused many deaths, and those that survived it sustained sterility. That is what the council tells us sparked the need for artificial procreation. But I don't think that is true. There are some, perhaps even in the capitol, that have not suffered this change. And they are the hope for our civilization."
"I know," Lara said softly. Jor-El looked up quickly. "My reason for studying this is that... I am a bleeder."
Jor-El's eyes grew wide. In popular opinion, bleeders were rare women who were cursed with a nearly obsolete disease, similar to polio or tuberculosis – something that, with proper vaccinations, should not exist any the modern era. But Lara had read enough to believe otherwise.
"You..." he breathed. Lara nodded, wondering why she told a complete stranger this when she had not told even her own mother. Something about this man knocked on the door of her heart and whispered, "You can trust me. We are as one mind on the important things of life." And so far, nothing he had said proved this tiny voice wrong.
"Have you told anyone this?" Jor-El asked gently.
Lara shook her head. "There was no reason to."
"You are right. That is the trouble – I have no idea how to find these few and see if they will ally themselves to my cause. And then, of course, we have to find men who..." he gestured. "It is very complex, and probably impossible to do what I wish. But even if one – just one natural birth were to occur, we could prove the council wrong, and there would be one free-thinking soul who could prove to be this civilizations salvation."
Lara nodded, resolve filling her heart. All of her mixed-up thoughts and suspicions and tiny glimmers of ideas were being expanded and confirmed by this scientist. Lara pointed to the sealed-off projects occupying a great deal of the space in the large room.
"What are theses?"
"I have never heard of those," Lara said, walking toward a large machine when Jor-El lifted the shield.
"That is because I made up the name," he chuckled. "Ostensibly, that is why I'm here."
"Ah." Lara nodded. "But what is it?"
"A ship. A prototype, really. The others are different models with similar functions. I can't seem to modify it to have the functions necessary but to be big enough for a passenger..."
"Preparations for the end of the world?" Lara teased, but she sobered when Jor-El's gaze caught hers.
"Yes." He lightly touched the polished surface of the armored exterior. "But if escape became necessary, the outposts on outlying stars and other systems would be our only hope."
"The council does not share your opinion," Lara said disdainfully. "They put their hope in technology and other foolishness."
Jor-El smiled. "Who is to say that this is not equal foolishness..." he murmured. Lara watched him in silence for a long moment, and then spoke.
"Thank you for your time. But I should be getting back. I have overstayed my welcome anyhow.""Not at all." Jor-El caught her eye and gave a bow. "You are welcome anytime."
"Really?" Lara smiled, and looked around her admiringly. "You certainly have interesting ideas. I don't know if – ""Then I hope you'll come back." Jor-El lifted the other shields and smoke once again filled the high chamber. "Unless I've frightened you off."
"It would take more than smoke to keep me away," Lara replied, ascending the steps, and disappearing from view.
Jor-El did not get much work done that day. In fact, he descended to the library and after a bit of quiet reading, took a walk, lost in his thoughts. He was not the only one. Across the city, Lara lay on her bed, pondering all she had seen and heard. It would seem that things were more complicated that she at first thought. But her mind was made up.
Jor-El was the push she needed to finally shun the propaganda of the council and become a radical – a rebel who spoke out against the ways of the genesis chamber. And so far in Kryptonopolis, there were only two rebels – Jor-El, and Lara Lor-Van. That is what , more properly, we would call being intended for each other.