(Kara of Rokyn):
Kal and Lyla
“Lyla Lerrol? Sure, I knew her. I guess as much as most
people could know her. What do you want to know?”
“Everything,” said Kara.
She was talking to Jar-On, a character actor who had appeared in Fire
Falls, one of Lyla’s last movies. It had been a romance, and Ms.
Lerrol had briefly appeared nude in it, from the back. For Old
Krypton cinema, that was the equivalent of a Roger Vadim movie.
Kara knew that if she had to reprise that role, she’d get a computer
sim to do that scene. She snapped her mind back to the present.
Jar-On was grinning. “Quite a body. But you already know
that, if you’re researching.”
“Oh, yes,” Kara affirmed. “But what about her mind, her
The old man, lying in a hovering bed, said, “Well, she was a bright
girl. Not a Science Council type, but she could think.
However, despite that, I tried graciously to pick her up, and she
Kara smiled. Jar went on.
“I think she was lonely. Always looking for the right someone,
because she’d found the wrong someone early on. Or such were the
“Oh...” Jar put both hands behind his head and leaned back.
“The usual movie-star tragedy tale, Tynth Zor-El. Everybody in
show biz is supposed to have a painful past. I think...you know
she was a low-grade teacher once, correct?”
“Correct,” said Kara. “In a small town west of Fort Rozz.
She left after a year and got her first role not long after that.”
“Yes,” said Jar. “The word I got was that her superior was her
Kara leaned forward. “How accurate is that?”
“How accurate is anything? I don’t know. Could be gossip,
could be Truthspeak. But I’ll tell you the story. If you
want me to, that is.”
“That’s what I’m here for, Jar,” said Kara. “Please continue.”
The old man closed his eyes briefly. “Word of Rao, that face,
those breasts, those legs. Even today, I remember her. Even
“Yes, yes, of course. Well. The story was that Tynth Lerrol
was a halfway-decent language coach, especially among the
speech-impaired. But she was also a beauty, and her supervisor
knew it. He was appreciative of her, and she, soon, of him.”
“Ah.” Kara considered it. Lyla Lerrol had been twenty years
of age when she got her teaching job. She had never been to the
Matricomp, that robotic system which matched up single Kryptonian men
and women for marriage potential like a computer dating service on
Earth. She’d seen a holopic of Lyla, posed with the faculty of
that school. Pretty, but nowhere near the glamor object she’d
become in the studios’ hands.
Jar looked at her. “He was also married.”
“That was the story,” he said. “No issue, of course. Lyla,
or he, or the both of them, used protection. But he would not
leave his wife, and Lyla finally had to make the decision
herself. She left. Perhaps that was why she never became a
If that was true, it might explain a few things. Kara didn’t know
if she could put it in the movie, but she could use it as mental
background for her characterization of Lyla. It was an
all-too-familiar tale, for a young woman on Krypton as well as Earth.
Still, she should have had more sense than that, thought Kara.
Kryptonian law forbids divorce, and, though the superior could have
left his wife, he and Lyla could never marry, and his position would
have suffered. Not that any of that was likely to overrule the
heart or body, though.
Kara asked, “Where did you hear the story?”
“A producer told me, at one of his parties,” said Jar. “Don’t ask
me who, I officially wouldn’t remember. As for Tynth Lerrol, she
was sweet, she was professional, she was nice even to the character
actors. That is, as long as you didn’t get in the way of her
light.” He grinned.
“She had an actress’s ego, I take it?”
“What actress doesn’t? You have to believe in yourself in order
to get anywhere in the first place, Tynth Zor-El. I’m sure you
“I do,” she confirmed. “But she wasn’t too bitchy about it?”
“Not as much as most of the women I worked with, a little more than a
few. You put up with what you have to, and she didn’t give us
anything that would have held us up. Now, her lead on the pic,
“Um, unless it’s directly related to her, I’ll skip that gossip,” said
Kara. “What about Fire Falls? Did she have any suitors
while she was doing that?”
“She dated. I think I saw three men in as many weeks take her out
to dinner, which is not surprising. What she did with them
remains her business.”
“I see. Any sign that she loved any of them?”
“No sign that she didn’t. But there were three, one, two, three,
and they were all gone before we wrapped the picture.”
“Always,” said Jar. “Or so it seemed to me.”
She stood. “Tanth On, you’ve been a great help to me.” She
extended her hand and he shook it. “It won’t be forgotten.”
“Thank you, Tynth,” replied Jar-On. He looked her up and
down. “I must admit, you aren’t quite the same...but there are
worse people who could play Lyla.”
She smiled. “Thank you again. May I show myself out?”
“You’ll have to,” he said.
Kara went out the door. It was raining outside, gentle but
steady, over the New Kandor streets. She could have activated a
force field in her belt to keep the rain away, but she felt like
walking in it today. A veiled hat kept it off her hair. A
hovercab pulled up beside her, tried to get her business, but she waved
it away. The walking and the rain helped her think.
So, Lyla Lerrol. Formed, perhaps, by an unhappy love affair in
her youth. Then finding a place for herself, as the lover of
anybody who came to see her in the pictures. Moving from man to
man, never marrying, never having a child. Perhaps, at some
point, deciding that the only love she would get would be from an
audience, and settling for sex in her personal life instead.
Then along came Kal, and...she found a man she could love. And
that love would have cost the universe a Superman, but he would have
traded that for a few years with her, knowing the both of them were
And even that had been denied them. Even that had been cut short.
Kara looked down at the pavement as she walked.
There was a small chime from her earring. She fished in the
purse-pouch at the side of her belt and pulled a communicator out of
it. “Kara,” she said.
“Kara, it’s me,” said Van. “Got another one for you. A
woman who worked as her choreographer on Brand of Bokos, the pirate
“I’m on it, Van,” said Kara. “Give me her address.”
By the end of the week, Kara had interviewed five people who actually
worked with Lyla Lerrol, and eight others who had late family members
who had done so. In addition, she’d corresponded with several
others whom she couldn’t contact personally. A couple had
repeated the rumor about her alleged love affair with the
schoolmaster. So, although she wouldn’t confirm it, she’d
probably have Van allude to it in his script. Something like, “My
first love...it didn’t work out.” And leave it at that.
She sighed. What the heck was she to do? Kara, sitting in
her study, dangled a bare foot over a pile of books, holos, printouts,
and comp wafers on her floor. She still had to find a male lead,
if Van-Zee wouldn’t do it. She had to get a presentation
together, and Van-Ol had to turn in a script. The thing was so
But then again, every effort was. Especially an artistic
one. Making a bad movie sometimes took every bit as much effort
as making a good one, physically and emotionally. The difference
was vision, passion, purpose. Give the people something to
inspire them as well as entertain them, and you’d have a great
movie. Take either of those two ingredients out, and at best
you’d only have a qualified success.
The woman had made so much money. The woman had gained so much
fame. The woman had made so many women want to look like
her. The woman had so many lovers. And yet, until she met
Kal-El, she had never found the love she was looking for. She
found love on the brink of the Destruction.
How could Rao have been so cruel?
But that was not fair. Balanced against the greater things that
the god of Krypton had allowed them, and against the much greater
tragedies some had suffered, plus her own image of Rao’s beneficence,
Kara was reluctant to blame her god...or God...for anything bad.
Naive, perhaps, but naivete and idealism can help a person sustain
their faith, and their faith could help sustain themselves.
Her mind still wanted to work, but her body was shutting down.
Nonetheless, she wanted to lay some groundwork. Kara got up, shut
off the light with a command, and went to her bedroom, pulling off her
top and pants. When she was down to her underwear, she paused in
front of her mirror, did an all-around turn, and looked at herself
critically. Not bad. The butt could use a little
work, but she wasn’t a case for a crash diet-and-exercise program yet,
either. She maintained herself well.
Kara took herself and her hand communicator to bed and dimmed the
lights. Once in, she input Van-Ol’s code. “Van? Kara
here. Listen, hon. I need you...ohhhh-hum, sorry....I need
you to see if you can knock me out a presentation piece. A
sequence, you know? Lyla and Kal talking, then a...get something
from The Space Explorers, make it funny, have Kal step on a line or
something, and...oh, you have? Vanian, you’re reading my
mind. See you in the morning. G’nite.”
She turned the talker off, settled back, and slept.
“Sounds like you might have something there,” said To-Bin.
All three of them were at Van-Ol’s, just after lunch. The writer
had turned out a few pages of dialogue between Kal-El and Lyla Lerrol
and summoned To-Bin, the major domo for studio head Ar-Rom, to hear
it. Van played the part of Kal and Kara did Lyla.
Thankfully, both of them had carried it off fairly well, though Van
wasn’t ready for any major roles yet.
“Translate for me, To,” she said, crossing her legs with the script on
her lap. “Please.”
The bald, bespectacled man in the purple suit ran a hand over his pate,
thoughtfully. “So far, I like the script. It’s not like
there haven’t been Kal movies here...frab, we almost supported the
industry on them, when he got the Bottle. But a love story with
him in the lead, that’s something that hasn’t been done that much.”
“Yeah, except for Terra Moves,” put in Van. “Which wasn’t too
bad, you know, when you consider...”
“Oh, holy sun and mother moon!” To-Bin groaned. “That moronic
horseface Gi-Ram? With the accent out of West Urrika? Spare
me! He was Kal-El like I am Judge Dug-Les!”
“Hey, now, you’ve got to admit that Rana Vi-Xar was great!”
“I admit she had boobs, legs, and a face that was the best the studio
could buy her, and that is all I will allow. Pardon my language,
“Oh, it’s okay, To,” she said. “But before you guys get all
geekish over old movies, I need to know if you’ll take our side when I
pitch this to the boss.”
To stamped his foot lightly. Kara knew it for a nervous habit of
his. “The boss is going to want something to look at. Not
just a read-through of lines. Can you get an actor to play Kal
for a presentation, by next week?”
“Holy Rao,” breathed Van. “To, that’s asking a load.”
Kara thought. “Can we use a digital mask over the actor, if we
can’t get somebody who looks enough like Kal?”
“Sure,” said To-Bin. “But I gotta admit, Van-Zee would be a big
“Toian, get me some time blocked out for a take,” Kara said, getting to
her feet. “Also, have the studio get me a guy who can play Kal,
even if we mask him. I’m gonna give Ar-Rom something that’ll keep
him awake for a whole night when he sees it.”
The exec looked at her curiously. “What’ve you got in mind?”
She grinned. “It’ll keep you awake two nights, when you see it.”
And so it was that a holofilm crew in a closed set of Ar-Rom Studios
did their first very secret shooting on a proposed film project called
Kal & Lyla. The setting was a dinner party at the home of a
producer who was doing The Space Explorers. He had been friend to
Jor-El, which made him a friend to Jor’s new assistant, the
black-haired young guy who insisted on wearing a funny
blue-red-and-yellow suit with a cape. Jor, Lara, and Kal were
there when the producer invited them to use the anti-grav pool.
That was a misnomer; the thing was a half-globe of water, suspended
several feet above the producer’s patio by a force-field. It
allowed the gawkers to get a full and unimpeded view of the bathers.
One of the bathers they got a great view of was Lyla Lerrol, in a green
Kara, doing her water ballet for the cameras, was an expert
tease. She knew just how to move her body in the globe-pool so as
to give the crew the best view of her exposed body, displaying her
skimpily-covered chest, her slim waist, her backside, her long, perfect
legs and feet, and, not the least, her lovely face and blonde hair,
made up and styled in the manner that Lyla herself had, 38 years ago.
She was giving the camera a display of beauty and sex appeal that she
hoped would rival anything the real Lyla had offered. Otherwise,
it wouldn’t work.
At the same time, she gave the actor playing Kal-El a look of notice,
considering him with interest, the way a woman would size up a man she
might be moderately considering. The guy playing Kal acted with
his face, a look of longing upon it. It bespoke more than sexual
desire. She had told him that she wanted it to be the look of a
supremely lonely man who may have found his soul mate, and, within his
abilities, that was what he was displaying.
The cameras caught both expressions.
She waved, lightly, underwater. Watching from outside, Kal, in
his Superman outfit, waved back, tentatively. The extra dressed
in Jor-El’s outfit gave Kal a look of silent curiosity. That was
the end of the scene.
Kara stroked upward to the surface and hung her bare arms over the side
of the shaped field, gasping for breath. “Well?” she said.
The director, impassively, said, “Think we’ve got it. Everybody
“Yeah,” said Dru-Har, who was the substitute Kal. “Oh, yeah.”
“Okay,” said the director. “Kal and Lyla, get ready for the next
scene. Fifteen minutes. The rest of you, sign out, and
thanks very much.”
Dripping wet, Kara got out of the globe-pool, along with the extras who
had been swimming with her, and got into a robe. She found Nar-Es
and Hira, her old managers and current trainers, in the small audience
and padded over to them on bare feet. “Well?”
Nar smiled. “Not like I haven’t seen that sight before. But
somehow, it still looks pretty good.”
Kara smirked and tweaked his nose. “If it didn’t, I’d have both
of you up on charges. How’s the cargo, Hira?”
“Oh, doing great, Kara,” said Hira, whose belly was bulging with their
first child. “If everything goes right, six weeks and he’s
out. And that’s all!”
A normal woman of Hira’s age wouldn’t have been fertile, but Rokynian
medical science had enabled her to conceive and strengthened her body
for the task. Kara hugged her, as damp as she was. “And you
make sure and let me know every step of the way, hear? Right now,
I’ve gotta run.”
“Can we watch?”
She shook her head. “No. For this one, I’ve gotta be
focused. Blessings on your houses.”
“Come on, Kara,” said the director. “Or I’ll have to get
them to wet you down again.”
The scene was set in the equivalent of a cabana. Kara, as Lyla,
was sitting on a bench, still in her bikini and a short robe, open at
the front to show off her body. She was looking in a hovering
mirror and doing her hair with a brush.
Dru-Har cleared his throat. She looked up. He stood there,
in his Superman outfit, in the doorway. “You, ah...Jor-El said
you wanted to see me.”
“I do,” she said, smiling. The sequence continued.
LYLA: Sit down. Please. (TOUCHES SPOT BESIDE HER ON
BENCH. KAL COMES IN, HESITANTLY, AND SITS DOWN, BUT JUST TO THE
LEFT OF THE SPOT SHE INDICATES.)
KAL: It is...very much a privelage to meet you, Tynth.
LYLA: Lyla. My name is Lyla, Kal-El.
KAL: (PAUSES) Lyla.
LYLA (ARRANGES ROBE AS SHE FACES HIM): Tell me about yourself, Kal-El.
KAL: There’s...not that much to tell, really.
LYLA: Are you an outlander?
KAL (AWKWARDLY): Well, yes.
LYLA: They say that’s not a space costume you’re wearing. Even
though you wore it for the rocket scene.
KAL: Not really.
LYLA (LEANING FORWARD A BIT): Then...what is it?
KAL (SIGHS): It’s a uniform. My uniform.
LYLA (PUZZLED): You’re a soldier?
LYLA: A policeman.
KAL: No. No, I...no.
LYLA: Then why are you dressed that way?
KAL: You might say I wear it at work.
(PAUSE FOR LAUGHTER)
LYLA: All right. I’ll accept that. What do you do, Kal?
KAL (RESTS ARMS ON KNEES): I’m the assistant to Jor-El. I thought
you knew that.
LYLA (IRRITATED): Yes, yes, of course, Kal. I know that.
But you only got that job recently, they tell me.
LYLA: What is it you did before?
KAL (PAUSES, CONSIDERING): I wrote.
LYLA (BRIGHTENS): Oh. You’re a writer.
KAL: Yes. Yes, I am. Or I was.
LYLA: Well, what did you write, Kal? I might have read something
KAL (SMILES WRYLY): Oh, I doubt that very much.
LYLA (STRETCHES SLIGHTLY TO SHOW OFF HER LEGS; NOT GIVING UP): Kal,
listen. I wasn’t always an actress. I used to, well, teach
school. Language classes.
KAL (CONSIDERING HER): You did?
LYLA: Uh huh. I taught Vathlite to those in middle grades and did
therapy for children who had speech impediments. I read a
lot. I’m not, you know... (SHRUGS)
KAL (SITTING A LITTLE CLOSER, NOT REALIZING IT): I never thought you
were, Lyla. You seem like an intelligent woman.
LYLA (SMILES): Well. Is that actually a compliment?
KAL (SLIGHT SMILE): More of a description.
LYLA (HESITATES, THEN LAUGHS): Oh, Kal. You don’t watch yourself,
you may actually end up talking to me.
KAL: I’ll have to watch that. (SMILES) Your teaching. Um,
did you...quit when they gave you an offer to be an actress?
LYLA (CONSIDERING): No. No, I quit and then I came out here to be
an actress. I suppose, really, I would have been a teacher again
if I couldn’t have made it. But...(SHRUGS)...I’ve been
lucky. (PAUSES; MORE THOUGHTFUL) Sometimes.
KAL (SITTING CLOSER): Sometimes not?
LYLA (LOOKING STRAIGHT AHEAD OF HER, SADLY): Sometimes not.
KAL: I would think that a woman like you, Lyla, would have no problem
with men, strictly speaking.
LYLA (LOOKING DOWNWARD): The problem isn’t with men, Kal. The
problem is with love.
LYLA (WISTFULLY): Sometimes you can have all the men you’d want, all
the men you’d think anyone could want. But...
KAL: So...you’ve had a lot of men?
LYLA: (LOOKS AT HIM)
KAL: I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have spoken that way.
LYLA (RESTS HER HAND ON HIS): No, don’t be. It’s no...no big
secret, you know.
KAL: It is to me. And if you don’t want to tell me, I don’t want
LYLA (SMILES SADLY): Thank you, Kal. Thank you very much.
KAL (NOTICES HAND, WITHDRAWS IT, TO HER SLIGHT DISMAY): So. Um,
the picture? Is it coming along well?
LYLA: Oh. Oh, yes. You know, the director was really
impressed when you saved the men in your stunt ship.
KAL (SHEEPISH, A BIT): Oh, forget it. I just cut on the emergency
rockets when the pilot passed out. I mean...
LYLA: Yes, and you saved your life and the lives of two other men.
KAL: I know, but it’s nothing I haven’t... (CATCHES HIMSELF)
KAL: It’s nothing anyone else wouldn’t have done. After all
(LAUGHS), I had a vested interest in the matter.
LYLA (GIGGLES. THEN): Do you have anyone else, Kal?
KAL (PAUSE): I did. Where I came from.
LYLA: Is that why you’re here? Because you used to...
KAL: No. No, I’m here...I...(SHAKES HEAD) I can’t say.
LYLA: I understand, Kal.
KAL: No, you don’t. Believe me, Lyla. You really, honestly,
LYLA (PLACES HANDS ON KAL’S CHEST): Kal, listen. I’m not just
(KAL TAKES HER HANDS FIRMLY BY THE WRISTS, MOVES THEM AWAY A BIT, THEN
STOPS. BOTH LOOK INTO EACH OTHER’S EYES, BREATHING. AFTER A
MOMENT, HIS LIPS BEGIN TO MOVE TOWARDS HERS. HER MOUTH OPENS
WIDER. HIS GOES TO COVER HERS. THEN, JUST BEFORE THEY MAKE
CONTACT, WE SEE A VIEW OF HIS EYES. HE REALIZES WHAT HE IS ABOUT
TO DO, AND WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR KRYPTON, IN A VERY SHORT TIME.)
KAL (GETS UP): I have to go, Lyla.
LYLA: Kal, what’s...
KAL: I have to go!
(KAL RETREATS QUICKLY, LEAVING THE ROOM. LYLA STARES AFTER HIM,
OPEN-MOUTHED, HER EYES SHOWING LONELINESS AND PAIN. THEN SHE
PLACES HER HEAD IN HER HANDS, HER ELBOWS ON HER KNEES, AND WONDERS WHAT
SHE HAS DONE WRONG, AND IF SHE SHOULD HAVE REVEALED AS MUCH OF HER
INNER SELF TO HIM AS SHE HAS DONE. LONG PAUSE BEFORE SCENE
Kara took a deep breath before raising her face to the crew and
director. “Well? How did we do?”
The director, the cast, Nar, Hira, and even Val-Ol were silent for a
long moment. Everyone was waiting on the master’s decision.
He wasn’t saying anything yet. After a long moment, Van opened
his mouth. He didn’t get any further than that before the
director crossed his fingers. Then the man spoke.
“Speaking unofficially,” he said, “if this picture doesn’t get made...I
am personally going to insert a tap in the head of whoever refuses it,
and drain out the vacuum in there. That, ladies and gentlemen, is
Kara squealed in delight, despite herself. Dru-Har grinned, and
the two of them lightly knocked knuckles, as Rokyn actors did in
triumph. Van-Ol stepped up and tried to say something, which she
interrupted by laying a big kiss on him. The crew hooted at the
After she broke the kiss, she said, “Well? You didn’t think I was
going to end the scene without kissing somebody, did you?”
Van shook his head. “We’ve got a lotta work to do, Karaish.
I think we’ve got a picture to make.”