Staring at Alex’s careful script, Astra read the card in her hand. “I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.” Why had Alex sent her on this preposterous drang hunt? She’d been driving (Not flying. Alex had made her vow to travel as a human.) around National City since early that morning.
She’d collected a dozen similar cards, each bearing a quote from one of Alex’s favorite Earth poets or authors. Clues, Alex had called them. Clues that sent Astra to abandoned parks, restaurants they’d dined in, and now Kara’s empty apartment. Along with the cards, Astra had collected items.
Treasure. Thus, the name of this human game: treasure hunt. As if the eclectic pile of things in the saddlebags were worth the effort. A drawing Kara had done of Argo City. A checkered blanket. A plastic ring with a large, candy “gem”. Astra had recognized the meaning of the treasure immediately. They were reminders of things she and Alex had done or talked about in the early days of their relationship.
Now the clue mentioned flowers. Alex had somehow ferreted out Astra’s love for flowers many months ago. There could be only one place she wanted Astra to go. Thankfully, it was nearby. Astra swung her leg over the bike and fired the engine. While she missed the sky, the bike was far better than an Earth car. Death traps, all of them, driven by humans who thought nothing of communicating with others while on the roads.
She took several side streets and alleys to an open-air market beneath an overpass deep in the city’s less desirable neighborhoods. Parking the bike, Astra stowed the helmet Alex insisted she wear and strode through the stalls. Despite wanting to end her hunt, she found herself slowing. Enjoying the bite of Haron spices scenting the air, and the rapid cadence of the Korvian language as two vendors enticed shoppers to buy their wares.
Alex had introduced Astra to this place on the advice of another human. One with firm ties to the community of alien refugees in both National City and Gotham. Astra located her destination ahead. A flower stall, with blooms from all over the galaxy.
“Good morning!” The vendor was humanoid, like Astra. She had never inquired as to his planet of origin. “I thought you’d be by today. Your lovely friend asked me to deliver a package if I saw you.”
He pulled a cloth bag from beneath the display counter and carefully handed it to Astra. “It is quite delicate, General. And quite rare. Your human must think you are special to have found this gift.”
With his warning ringing in her ears, Astra returned to the bike before carefully opening the bag. Her breath caught when she peered inside. Dar-Essa blossoms! How had Alex found them? They had surely been destroyed when Krypton exploded.
She pulled the flower from the bag and realized Alex hadn’t bought one blossom. There was a half-dozen of the large flowers braided into a circlet. Nestled amid the petals was another card.
“In many ways my life has been rather like a record of the lost and found. Perhaps all lives are like that.”
I know it’s been a long day. Just one more treasure, I promise.
Yours – Alex
Alex knew her so well. Astra gently placed the Dar-Essa blossoms back into the bag and stowed it in the underseat compartment of her bike. One more treasure, Alex had written. And a quote about being lost and found.
She gunned the engine, ready for the hunt to end. Ready to hopefully find that Alex was the last item to collect. Unlike the outdoor market, the next location was much less welcoming. Astra fought a shiver as she parked on the top level of a downtown parking garage.
Over a year had passed since Astra had been here. She scanned the space, now dotted with cars from the adjacent office building. Cars. Trash. Nothing else. Had she guessed wrong? Surely this was the place Alex had meant. The place Alex had first confessed her love – and the place Alex had nearly lost Astra on the same day when she’d stabbed Astra with a Kryptonite sword.
Super hearing picked up a heartbeat. Astra spun – and froze.
“Hello, sister.” A voice from the past. A near-perfect image of the face Astra saw in the mirror every day. An impossible, terrible dream somehow standing only a few feet away. “It’s really me.”
The sunny day fractured into crystalline shards. “How?” How was this possible? Astra was afraid to believe.
Alura moved closer. Held out a hand. Her smile was warm and welcoming. Devoid of the cold, cutting contempt Astra had seen when Alura sentenced her to a life on Fort Rozz. “Argo City survived the destruction of Krypton. We, those of us safe within the dome, have been living on an asteroid.”
This wasn’t real. Astra was not on some distant asteroid. She was on Earth. No matter how much Astra tried to walk away, though, her body refused to move.
“A member of the Science Guild intercepted a transmission from a Daxamite ship.” Alura’s smile was bright. So bright and happy that Astra staggered under its beam. “Kara was alive. Alive, Astra! I thought I’d go mad while the scientists tinkered with our one functioning portals and tried to make contact with any of the refugees on Earth.”
Astra was so caught up in the tale she didn’t realize how close Alura had gotten. A soft hand touched hers, the fingers trembling like the trees in the sacred Gardens of Rao during a spring storm. “I am here, sister. I am real.” Alura’s voice broke, her smile lost to a sob. “Oh, Astra, I am so sorry!”
It didn’t matter if Alura was real. Astra couldn’t bear her sister’s pain. “I never thought to see you again.” She wrapped her arms around Alura and breathed in the scents of family and of a planet she had mourned for over a decade. “I failed you. I failed all of you!” She’d known that Krypton was dying, and she hadn’t been able to convince the Council to act.
“No!” Alura pulled away, and for a minute, Astra feared this was all a dream. That she’d wake and realize that Alura was not alive and Argo City was not whole. “You did everything you could. I was there! No matter the evidence, the Council had already chosen its path.”
Alura took a deep breath. “I have learned many things since Krypton was lost. The mistakes we made…we can’t undo them. Our decisions cost billions their lives, and we have to live with that. All we can do is learn from those mistakes and move forward.”
Astra’s laugh was ragged. “You sound just like Kara.”
“She has grown into such a strong and beautiful woman,” Alura said. She touched Astra’s face. “I dreamed of this day. Of begging for your forgiveness.”
“You’ve always had it,” Astra said. She’d lost her way during the years on Fort Rozz, but Kara and Alex had shown her the path back to Rao’s Light. “We were faced with an impossible situation, sister. We acted as our conscience demanded. By Rao’s Grace we are together.”
Slowly, they broke apart. Astra smiled, heart lighter than it had been since she’d left home for the Military Academy. But the intensity of the reunion was fading.
“I guess the scavenger hunt wasn’t a complete bust.” Alex leaned against a parked car, face expressionless but Astra saw the tenderness in her eyes.
Astra stared at her. “You? You knew?”
The smirk grew. “Argo’s signal didn’t reach any refugee camps. It pinged Winn’s Early Warning Beacon.” Astra heard Alex’s heartbeat increase. “I didn’t want to say anything in case…” She shrugged and ducked her head in that shy tell that Astra loved. Astra’s rough, tough warrior with the large heart.
“I can never thank you enough, Brave One.” Astra already owed Alex and the Danvers family for their care of Kara.
“I don’t want your thanks, Astra,” Alex said. She shoved away from the car and moved toward Astra. “I have something else in mind.”
There was an intensity surrounding Alex. Astra tilted her head, trying to determine Alex’s purpose. She had no answers when Alex detoured to Astra’s bike and retrieved the bag of Dar-Essa blossoms. “I had this scavenger hunt planned for months. Alura’s arrival meant changing a few things, but… I think it works better.”
Taking out the flowers, Alex approached Astra. “Kara told me you used to bring Dar-Essa flowers every time you visited.” She reached up and settled the ring of blossoms on Astra’s hair. “They are as beautiful as you are.”
Astra worked to swallow around the sudden constriction in her throat and stared at Alex in shock. Her Brave One was many things, being openly emotional (unless that emotion was anger) was not one of them.
The surprises weren’t over. Alex pulled a flat box from inside her jacket and dropped to both knees in front of Astra. The box clicked open. A bracelet studded with gems native to Krypton nestled on the velvet interior. “Astra In-Ze, will you join your House with mine under the Light of Father Rao and with the blessing of our loved ones?”
Astra wanted to rush Alex. Wanted to grab her and swing her around and shout her acceptance to the skies. But Alex had followed Kryptonian tradition, and Astra would respond in kind. “You honor me with your request. As Father Rao bathes us in his light and our families stand in witness, let our Houses become one and our lives march together in harmony.”
Alex surged to her feet and threw herself at Astra. Glancing up, Astra basked in Alura’s approving smile and laughed as Kara stepped from behind a car, clapping and bouncing on her toes.