The Apokolips Agenda
Part 2: The Gathering Storm
On a plane of existence different from any Earth, five youth from New Genesis strove to fit into the primitive society of Adon. Or perhaps they strove to make that society fit in with them. It mattered little, in the end. They'd been outcasts on three worlds. They were used to it.
Their individual names were Mark Moonrider, Serifan, Vykin the Black, Big Bear, and Beautiful Dreamer. They didn't call themselves "Celestials" anymore, and they would never have considered the name of "New Gods". Once, when Orion had asked them how long they expected to stay outside of things the way they did, Serifan had piped up and said, "Forever." So that was how they got their nickname.
The Forever People.
They were reluctant warriors, but they fought well when they had to. Years ago, a cadre of Apokolips soldiers had tried to make a surprise strike at New Genesis. Big Bear and Serifan had thwarted them. In revenge, and because he thought her mind contained the Anti-Life Equation, the ruler of Apokolips had kidnapped Beautiful Dreamer and taken her in a Boom Tube to Earth. At that time, they weren't sure what an Anti-Life Equation really was. All they knew was that Dreamer had been taken, and they were darned well going to get her back.
So the four of them had boarded Big Bear's Super-Cycle and rode it through a Boom Tube of their own making, that energy passageway which acted as a gateway across space or dimensions. They came to Earth, encountered a being of great power named Superman, and teamed up with him to rescue Beautiful Dreamer. Even Superman was daunted by the Gravi-Guards, those Apokolips soldiers who could increase gravity at will and thus negate his great strength.
At that point, all four of them had laid hands on Vykin's Mother Box, called upon the Infinity Man, and disappeared, leaving their powerful friend to repel the Gravi-Guards and help Superman. In turn, Superman released Beautiful Dreamer from her captivity. Their enemy found that she didn't have the Anti-Life Equation at all. That was a good thing, because he would have used it to control every mind in the universe.
The Infinity Man had phased out and left them in his place. They wanted Superman to help in their crusade. Apokolips was trying to use Earth as a base against New Genesis now, and they needed every hand they could get. But Superman wanted to go to New Genesis, which they called Supertown, because he felt that was a society he might finally fit into. They opened a Boom Tube for him and left.
Superman almost made it through, but his conscience wouldn't let him leave Earth undefended. So he returned to his adopted world, gaining but a tantalizing glimpse of New Genesis. He had already been fighting Apokoliptics with the help of Jimmy Olsen, the Newsboy Legion, and the Guardian. He continued to do so. Later on, he did make it to Supertown, more than once. But he decided not to stay there.
As for the Forever People, they found a place to stay on Earth, and found themselves the targets of more enemies of the New Gods. Glorious Godfrey and his Justifiers, Desaad, Mantis, and all the rest, plus their great commander. For pacifists, they ended up in a lot of battles.
Then there was one last battle, against an Apokolips hunter named Devilance. His power was so great that they had to ring in the Infinity Man to battle him. In the end, Devilance was destroyed, the Infinity Man was lost to them, and they were teleported to this world of Adon. Here, Boom Tubes did not appear to work.
So the five of them decided to settle down. There were no more battles. For that, they were grateful.
Adon was like the concept some Earthians had of Eden, at least on the surface. The people in the land where the five of them had come to were fairly primitive. But they lived close to the land, and that was all right by Mark Moonrider and company. They were regarded as outsiders at first, and were feared and shunned. But when Big Bear showed his strength, and put it to use damming a river, the worldspeople began to change their minds. Mark's "megaton touch", Vykin's use of the Mother Box to heal, and Serifan's cosmic cartridges were found to have their use in the village, as well. They even found a way to enjoy Beautiful Dreamer's illusions.
So they were still outsiders, but were not shunned. At times, they all wanted to go home to New Genesis. But not even the Mother Box could achieve that. Vykin opined that, if they had to be stuck there the rest of their lives, there were certainly worse places to be than Adon.
"Like Earth," he added. The others nodded in agreement.
They had introduced the tribe into more modern building methods and helped them construct houses of wood planks and stone. Indoor plumbing was a concept that the natives were having a bit more problem with, but Mark was certain they'd come around in a couple of generations. While they did not adopt the Adonians' spirit-religion, they did not interfere with it, either. Thus, the local shaman did not see a point in calling down the wrath of the gods on them. The kids were useful, anyway.
Now, Moonrider walked in through the open door of Big Bear's pad and wondered where his large buddy had betaken himself. He heard a low "ommm"ing sound from the room beyond, and hustled within.
In the parlor, he found them.
Big Bear, Vykin, and Dreamer were sitting on the floor, lotus-fashion, their eyes closed and their hands placed upon the Mother Box.
The Box was about the size of a small TV set and was, in shape, just a box. But within it reposed the fruits of New Genesite computer technology, and the devices, with their incredible AI, seemed so much alive that their bearers thought of them as animate beings. Which, as far as thought went, they pretty well were.
After a few seconds, Mark said, "What's going on?"
Big Bear opened his eyes. "Chill, brother. You're breaking the gestalt."
Moonrider folded his arms across his chest and decided to wait it out. After a few more seconds, the others opened their eyes as well and set the Box on the wooden floor again.
"You knew it wouldn't work," Mark said, tiredly. "We can't get Infinity Man back. We can't make a Boom Tube. What else is there?"
Big Bear raised himself up on his huge arms. "If it hadn't been for you and your conflicting vibes, Mark, we might have made it. I could feel it, brother. We'd gone deeper than we ever have before, in this session. I could feel more of the universe, man."
Dreamer, the beautiful brunette, pulled her legs out of the lotus position and hugged them to her chest. "I...I'm not sure, Bear. I'm not sure that's what I felt."
"Like, what did you feel?" queried Moonrider, stepping closer to her. He was curious. Anything that could bring them closer to home, as skeptical as he was, wasn't to be scoffed at.
She ran a hand through her hair. "It was...something cold. Eerie. But very hard, like a basalt slab. Something I haven't felt since we started seancing. Kind of the brim of a bummer."
Mark and Big Bear considered her words. But Vykin was the next to speak.
"The seance may have been a mistake," he said. "We have been trying to contact the outside. But we never considered what might be outside, trying to contact us."
"You mean--him?" asked Dreamer, quietly.
Vykin did not respond. He didn't have to.
"I'd better get Serifan," said Moonrider. "By the Source, I hope you're wrong."
"All those battles we used to have to fight," rumbled Big Bear. "All those dangers. Do we have to go back to that, again? Can't we keep this place out of his grasp?"
Nobody seemed to have an answer for that. Moonrider went to find Serifan.
Kara and Dev had spent a night of rapture in her private quarters at the Fortress of Solitude. He awoke first and, taking care not to rouse Kara, had dressed in a robe and gone through the passageway to view Superman's home away from home in detail. She had shown him around beforehand, but he was fascinated by the place.
The first level, off of which Kara's apartment lay, contained two large rooms of communications stuff. Here, he supposed one could reach everyone from a delicatessen in the Bronx up to the Guardians of the Universe. He wondered, idly, how Supes managed to keep transmissions from being traced up here. But these rooms weren't of primary interest to him.
Dev stepped out of one of the comm rooms and onto the main floor. Now, this was a bit of fascination, he decided. Superman's trophy room.
The place was big, and as well-organized as the Hadjat Museum in his time. A damaged ship hung in great chains from the ceiling. A robot Tyrannosaurus Rex loomed not far from the entranceway. There was a twisted girder set in a concrete base, an "ant farm" in which something appropriately alien apparently dwelt, deactivated weaponry within cases, uniforms partial or whole, taken from old enemies, a videoscreen that replayed various news segments or recreations of events in Superman's life, and so much, much more. All of it labelled carefully, as in a museum. Some of the labels were only in Kryptonese.
He turned his head and saw two great figures holding a globe between them, in one hand apiece. His mouth needed moistening. He had known both of those people.
Jor-El and Lara. And the world they held, above another doorway, was a globe of Krypton.
Dev couldn't stop himself from entering that room if he'd wanted to.
Within, there was so much of the world he had grown up in. The great, multi-colored flag of Krypton covered an entire upper wall. There was a recreation in miniature of Kryptonopolis, Superman's and Dev's home town. There was one of Argo City, the domed town that Kara had been born in. There were other statues there of Jor-El, Lara, and even young Kal-El and his dog, Krypto. There was a mockup of Jor-El's lab and Kal-El's room, a diorama of the great Krypton Science Council, written works and holos duplicated from Kandor on Kryptonian history...
...And, yes, a display of Krypton exploding, and the various crafts and vehicles and even one city which had escaped its destruction, hung around it.
He heard the light footfalls behind him and turned. Dev was used to watching his back.
There was Kara, beautiful and barefoot in nothing but a white robe. She smiled.
"Finding anything interesting?" she asked.
Dev shook his head in wonder. "I could spend all day in this one room," he said. "I've seen Old Krypton museums on Rokyn, but this is so fresh. So close to the, well, to the Destruction."
"I understand," she said, stepping closer and stroking his upper arm. "Maybe not as much as you. You were born there. I was born in Argo, after it went into space. But I've heard so many stories about it from my folks, and from Kal and the Kandorites. It'll never really die."
"Certainly hope not," he said, seriously. Then he chuckled.
She asked, "What's funny about this?"
"What's funny? He didn't put in a model of the alien shelter my parents and I escaped in."
"Oh," she said. "Well, maybe if I point it out to him..."
"No, don't bother." Dev surveyed the room with his eyes. "To think, Kara. All this was created by a kid I used to get in trouble, when I was a teenaged delinquent."
She was behind him, with both hands and her head on his shoulders. "I've got to go back, Dev. It'll be work time within the hour."
He leaned back against her. "Secretary and graduate student. Some job. Why don't you try for something real?"
"I have," she said. "I worked for a TV news crew in Frisco. I was a counsellor in another college. Then I was a TV actress. I'll try something else, but for now, this is what I do." She stepped in front of him. "Tonight, after work, I want to take you to meet the folks."
"Your Earth parents?"
She nodded. "Fred and Edna. You'll love them, especially her cooking. And I want them to love you."
"I'll settle for them just not throwing me out of their house."
"If they do, I'll throw myself out, too."
And so it was that, after a call to Midvale and a day of work, Kara (as Linda Danvers) and Dev flew in at a speed that rendered them invisible and went to call upon her adoptive parents. As they walked up the porch steps, Linda noticed something. "You're nervous," she said.
"Oh, yes," muttered Dev, both hands in his pockets.
"Let me introduce you," she said, knocking on the door. "I'll do the talking at first."
Fred Danvers opened the door. He was balding, fiftyish, in a blue shirt, dark blue pants, and slippers, and carried a pipe which alluded to a habit neither his wife or daughter had been able to break him of. He looked at both of them with curiosity.
"Daddy!" Linda threw herself into his arms and hugged him. Dev had to smile.
"It's Linda and her boyfriend, dear," called Fred. "Come on outta the kitchen." He freed up a hand and extended it towards Dev. "And your name was--"
"Dev," said Dev, and shook Fred's hand firmly. To his credit, Fred's smile at him looked unforced.
"C'mon inside," he said. "There's a lot to talk about."
"I'm sure there is," Dev said, evenly.
Edna had appraised Dev in much the same manner as Fred, accepting but cautious. They both noted that Linda was a lot happier than when they had last seen her, and were grateful for such. The dinner, roast beef, potatoes, and the usual suspects, was creditable.
Dev was also glad that, around them, he didn't have to pretend to be an Earthman. They knew who Kara was, and who he was. Sheol, they even knew who Clark Kent was.
"We'd met before, of course," Dev told them at the dinner table. "But we'd never really worked together that closely. I knew she was, well, a Lorra--"
"Oh, stop it!" She slapped him on the thigh. "Lorra was an old Kryptonian love-goddess. Kind of like Venus here. Go on, Dev, but please."
He laughed. "Hey, if she's offended by being compared to a beauty goddess, what can I say?"
"I wouldn't be," sniffed Edna. "It's just that Fred doesn't do it very often."
"You're a Lorra, dear," Fred said. "That make you feel better, now?"
"Well, anyway, we'd never really shared an assignment," said Dev. "I'd even been going with somebody else. But they wanted three Krypts for the assignment, and one of the available ones was me, and another one was Kara, here. And what can I say? We got to know each other, she slapped me in the face--"
"What over?" asked Edna.
"An argument, Mom," said Linda. "He didn't slap me back, don't worry."
"Then, by about midway through the thing, I realized that she was somebody I really..." Dev hesitated. "I mean, really. It wasn't just that she was one of my kind, you know, a Krypt...she was...just somebody I could really care about. I don't know any other way to put it."
Linda said, "It was kind of the way I felt, too. If you'd told me a year ago I was going to end up with Dev, I would've laughed in your face. But there he was, a guy who, like he pointed out, was one of my kind. Somebody I don't have to keep out of one side or the other of my life. Somebody who was as powerful as I am, who's leading an interesting life, and who's..."
She caught herself. She was about to say, "really good in bed," and, from the looks her parents were giving her, she knew that they knew, too.
"...who's really someone I could share my life with," she said. "I think."
"Well, that's hopeful," said Dev, with a bit of sarcasm.
"That's good," allowed Fred. "So soon after I'd warned Linda about not being serious with anyone. I guess this was her revenge."
"Maybe, Daddy," said Linda. "But it doesn't feel like revenge to me." She lay a hand on Dev's shoulder, and he snuck his fingers through her hair.
"So," said Fred. "When are you planning on getting married?"
Linda dropped her fork.
Fred and Edna watched for their reactions. Dev kept himself contained, but Linda was openly disturbed. She felt she shouldn't have been, what with Mrs. Berkowitz having warned her. But she was, nonetheless.
"Actually, we haven't, yet," admitted Dev. His hand was on Linda's shoulder, near her neck. "Neither of us has. Not yet."
"Oh," said Edna.
"It's pretty early for us to start talking marriage," said Linda. "We haven't been in love that long."
"Yes," said Fred. "It is pretty early, isn't it?"
Dev stood up. "Think I'd better go. Kara has a hard day of work ahead, and I wouldn't want to keep you all up. Thanks very much for the dinner, Mrs. Danvers. I enjoyed it, really."
"Dev," said Kara. "Sit down."
Quietly, he said, "I don't think they want me to."
"Dev, please sit down," said Fred, placatingly. "I didn't mean to...well...I'm sorry."
Linda gave him an angry look. Edna said nothing.
Dev was still standing.
"If you're worried about something, let me spell it out for you," said Dev. "Yes. Kara and I are having a relationship. We are sleeping together."
"Oh, my," said Edna, involuntarily. Linda sat, paralyzed.
"She isn't pregnant, and I don't intend to get her that way," continued Dev. "I helped save her life. She helped save all of ours. After that, we made love. And I don't see there was anything wrong with it."
"I realize that maybe I'm not the kind of guy you'd prefer she went with," Dev said. "But I guess love doesn't always perform the way we'd like it to. Maybe we'll get married, somewhere down the line. Maybe we won't. I'm going to live in my century, and, until and unless I persuade Kara to, she's going to live in hers. We'll see each other when we can. That is, if she still wants to."
Linda was silent, but gave him a meaningful look.
Fred was kneading his brow with one hand. "Look. Dev. It's never easy for a parent to hear these things."
"Daddy, I'm 29 years old," said Linda. "I'm a fully adult human being. In all respects. I need love, just like any other woman needs love. Like you needed it, Mom. It just so happens that I found it."
"Of course you did, Linda," said Edna, rising from her seat and coming to stand by her foster daughter. "But if you have, what have you got against marriage? Isn't that what people do, when they're in love?"
"A lot of them," replied Linda. "But a lot don't."
Fred had to say it. "Sometimes," he said, "when they don't, they regret it."
Dev turned. He walked out of the dining room, towards the front door. Linda called his name.
"Don't follow me," he said.
She looked at her parents in dismay and exasperation.
"Follow him, dear," said Edna. "But wait a few minutes."
Clark Kent and Lois Lane were officially honeymooning in Tahiti. His salary as a network news anchorman more than covered the expense. But they often took side-trips, courtesy of his super-speed and flight power, and did a lot of sightseeing, often in disguise. They did other things without any disguises at all, and wondered why they had taken so long to do them.
Right now, they were the only two inhabitants of an isle that Gilligan would have killed to be stranded on. The moon was out, putting his and Lois's half-clad bodies in silver relief as they lay upon the beach. He was contemplating super-feats that had nothing to do with jumping buildings in a single bound.
Then he straightened up, a look of concern on his face. Lois looked at him. "What's up, honey?"
He pointed. "Look. Up in the sky."
Two silhouettes, barely the size of peas, were visible against the moon. But they were getting bigger every second. Lois grabbed the beach towel and wrapped it around herself. If Lex Luthor was crashing their honeymoon, she'd kill him herself. Bare-handed.
Clark had already used his telescopic vision to discern who the approaching parties were. In an instant, he opened the belt buckle of his swimming trunks, decompressed his costume, and put it on.
Superman stood waiting to greet Supergirl and Dev-Em.
"Oh, it's Supergirl," said Lois, after the newcomers landed. "Hi. Who's this guy?"
"Kara, Dev, hello," said Superman. "Since he's here, I assume this has something to do with the Legion."
"Dev, let me explain," said Kara, trying to place herself between her cousin and Dev.
"Explain?" queried Lois, stepping closer on bare feet. "Explain what?"
The Man of Steel looked curiously at the other two Kryptonians. "I'll have to echo Lois, there. We are on our honeymoon. Nobody's supposed to be in contact with us, here."
"It took a lot of looking and listening," admitted Dev. "But we've been putting this off too long. We need to tell you."
Supergirl put her hand over Dev's mouth. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand away. "Dev, please," she pleaded. "It'll be easier if he hears it from me."
"Hears what?" asked Superman.
Lois, a tad nervously, said, "I think I know what, dear."
In the space of three breaths, Kal-El processed the information, without being told. "You," he said to Dev, striding up to him.
"Kal, please," Kara said, trying to hold him back. He shoved her aside.
"Take it easy, El," said Dev, holding out a hand. "We're in love. Ask her."
"You," he repeated, heading forward. Dev wasn't retreating.
Super-memory can be a curse, sometimes. Right now, it replayed all the various criminal things Dev had done on Krypton that Kal knew of, some from personal experience. It called up the times when he'd tried to pin the blame on a two- or three-year-old Kal-El. It rehashed the episode in which Dev had masqueraded as Superboy, blackened the young hero's reputation, and sped off to the future, sure that the Boy of Steel would no longer be able to operate. Only a hoax cooked up by Chief Parker had put Superboy back in Smallville's good graces.
Of course, there were the times that Superboy had worked with a reformed Dev-Em in the Legion. But somehow, they were shunted to the background, now. All he saw was the boy with the cruel sneer. The boy who had taken the one living woman of his kind whom he loved more than any other, and violated her. The boy who would mix his blood with that of the El line...
One part of his mind was trying to override the rest, to exercise the great super-control over his body that was always necessary.
He didn't listen to it.
Superman surged forward and smashed into Dev's middle, headfirst, in a tackle. The two of them didn't hit the water until they were half a mile from shore.
Lois yelled, "Stop them!" to Kara's back. The Girl of Steel was already in flight.
She plunged below the water's surface, using her infra-vision and hearing powers to find the two of them. There they were, near the ocean floor, scaring off the fish life for a five-mile radius.
Kal was landing a few punches, and Dev really felt them; Superman was no lightweight. But mostly Dev fought defensively, finally grabbing both of Kal's wrists and striving to hold his arms back. Superman's eyes heated, ready to blast him with heat-vision.
Through the distortion of the water, Kara hollered, "STOP!"
Dev had time to say, "Good advice, mate," before the blonde girl barged between them and shoved them apart. She floated there, and gave them both a no-nonsense look. "If you want to fight each other again, you're going to have to fight me, too," she said. "Both of you."
Superman swam closer to her, closing the distance with a single stroke. "What have you got to say for yourself?" he asked.
"We're in love," she said. "That's all I have to say for myself, Kal."
Dev was beside Kara now, his hand protectively about her. "We didn't plan on this happening, El," he said. "It just did. Yes, we are in love. Now are you going to act like a man about it, or are you going to start brawling like some teenaged kid again?"
"I remember when you were a teenager," snapped Superman. "Oh, I remember that very well."
"I'm sure you do," said Dev, just as intensely. "The difference between us is, I learned something since then."
"Both of you, shut up!" screamed Kara. "Kal, listen. We planned to tell you later in the week. But Dev just, well..."
"When were you going to tell me?" asked Superman. "At Bruce Wayne's wedding? That's this weekend, you know?"
"Well," said Kara, "I hoped it'd be before then..."
"I figured you might act this way, El," said Dev. "That's why I wanted to get it over with. I had a bad session tonight with her parents, so I figured I'd give you a crack at me, and we could finish things up. Have we?"
"I don't know," said Superman. "Kara, are you aware of what this man has done, in the past? Not what he is, but what he's done?"
"I am," she said. "And it doesn't matter a bit to me. I'd just hoped for a little more understanding from you, Kal, is all. I'm sorry that I didn't get it. But I'm even sorrier for you."
Superman was silent. Then he said, "Is this on the level? Are you both really in love? Tell me."
"I'd say so, yes," said Dev.
"Yes, we are, Kal," said Kara.
He was listening to their heartbeats. No signs of lying, even though Dev, like all Krypts under a yellow sun, could control his pulse rate if he wanted. Perhaps they were in love.
But even so...to think of Kara Zor-El becoming Kara Dev-Em...of her bearing that name.
"This will take some getting used to," he admitted. "You'd better really, really be in love."
Kara sighed out bubbles. "What do you want me to tell you, Kal? Yes, we've made love. No, and this is about the third time we've had to confirm this, there isn't a baby on the way."
"You're not married," said Superman. "If this gets out..."
"We're not exactly posting public holo-notices," said Dev. "I live in the 30th, she lives in the 20th, we're going to see each other when we can. I was going to spend the week with her. I think I may have overstayed my welcome."
"No," said Kara. "But I may have overstayed mine. Goodbye, Kal." She turned and headed for the surface.
Superman's head broke water behind her. "Kara! We can discuss this!"
"Give Bruce and Selina my best regards," yelled Supergirl, as she sped into the sky. "Because I won't be there!"
Dev looked at her, and then back at Superman. His face bore a slight bruise where Kal had bashed him on the cheek. "So long, El. Sorry it had to be this way." Then he, too, leaped from the water and sped after her.
Shortly after, Lois Lane Kent saw her husband wade ashore, costume dripping brine. Luckily, he didn't look hurt. "What happened? What's going on?" she asked, wading into the surf to meet him.
"I wish I knew, Lois," said Superman. "I honestly before Rao wish I knew."
Outside a cabin in a Louisiana swamp, a white-haired woman in T-shirt and cutoffs waited for her husband's nightly manifestation.
On schedule, a mass of Spanish moss reshaped itself into something not unlike a man, though not enough like one to pass without considerable disguising. Abby Cable smiled. "Hi," she said. "Learn anything?"
The Swamp Thing regarded her. "Jason Woodrue...the Floronic Man...is gone...from Arkham," he said. "The Green...does not know...where he is."
She shivered. When they had first met, Woodrue had tried to use a chainsaw on her. Only the being standing before her had averted that. "Just as long as he isn't here," she said.
"There is more," the Swamp Thing confirmed, in his laborious words.
"The Dark...has abated," he said. "But...a smaller darkness...is manifesting. Not from here...but from outside."
Hesitantly, she said, "So...what do we do?"
"We wait," he replied. "We wait."