Supergirl:

 The Apokolips Agenda

 by DarkMark

 Part 3: Sign From the Source

The day after her encounter with Kal, Linda had gone to work in a much lousier mood.  Joan Raymond noticed it and cornered her by the water cooler.

"What's wrong?" she asked, in a low tone.  "He dumped you, right?"

Linda snapped, "No. We're still together.  It's just...my parents."

"Oh.  Okay," said Joan, nodding in comprehension.  "They don't approve of you two being an item."

"Not really," said Linda, and she knocked back a paper cup of water and crumpled the cup.  "They don't out-and-out condemn us.  But they don't...don't like the idea that we're involved."

Joan spread her hands.  "Hey, Linda. They're an older generation.  Even if you're almost 30, they still see you as their little girl.  Folks didn't live together like that as often in their day."

"Oh, I know that, Joan," said Linda, aggravatedly.  "I'm not stupid.  But still...when it happens to you..."

"It takes time for parents to get used to these kind of things, honey," Joan said, touching Linda's shoulder.  "But they do, if they think they have to.  And let's face it.  Most people that live together, end up getting married.  That's something your parents can really look forward to."

"That'd be the only thing that'd pull us out of this, in their eyes," Linda admitted.  "But we just don't want to.  It's a...bicoastal relationship."

Joan shrugged.  "Then it's up to you.  It may run its course, like any other affair.  I mean, if one of you has to hop a plane every time you want to get involved, that can take its toll."

"We're going to see each other on the weekends," said Linda.  "But...you may have a point."  She looked at her friend.  "Thanks, Joan.  I'm glad you understand, at least."

"Hey, I'll bet I don't," said Joan.  "But when you need somebody to listen, feel free."

"I'll keep it in mind," said Linda.  "Thanks."

But, she told herself as she made her way back to her desk, there's no way I can tell you that my lover just had a big fight last night with Superman.

 -S-

Later that morning, Linda got a call from her mother, inviting her and Dev back to their house for dinner and a meeting, as she put it.  She said they'd try to make it, and left a message for Dev at his hotel.  He had already said they wouldn't be doing lunch together.

But at ten minutes till noon, she noticed a stir in the outer office and looked up to see what was going on.

A face familiar to all the others from many WGBS news broadcasts had descended to their office, and it seemed as though all of them had found a piece of paper for him to sign.

"Hi, Linda," said Clark Kent, entering the room.

"Hi, Clark," she said, evenly.

Joan looked at both of them.  "You really know each other?"

"He's my cousin," said Linda.   "What can I do for you, Mr. Kent?"

"I was thinking we could do lunch," said Clark.  "I've got some things I'd like to talk to you about."

"I'm sure you do," said Linda.  "I am very sure that you do."

 -S-

Both of them found Dev in Red Square at Moscow, getting stared at by KGB guys while he let out breaths of smoky vapor and looked at the Kremlin towers.  Superman and Supergirl were in uniform, and they landed near him.  Dev looked at them, unperturbed and neutral.

"Bojemoi!" offered one Moscow cop.

"<It's all right, he's with us,>" said Superman, in perfect Russian.  In Kryptonese, he said, "<Ready to talk, Dev?>"

"<Haven't got much time left, El,>" said Dev, in the same language.  "<Kara and I are going to her parents' house pretty soon.  You want one last chance, too?>"

"<I do,>" Superman confirmed.

"<He came to me, Dev.  I didn't go to him,>" Kara added.

Inspector Rostinkov had been called in to check out the stranger who had appeared with little notice and, probably, without papers, near the Kremlin.  Now, his eyes wide, he gathered his courage and stepped towards the threesome, hand outstretched for a shake.  "<Welcome, Comrade Superman!>", he began.  "<Let me greet you on behalf of the Moscow police department, and in absentia on behalf of Comrade Gorbachev, and may I request an autograph for myself, and one for my wife and son--one will do for them both-->"

Superman smiled at him and stopped him with a hand to his shoulder.  "<Some other time, friend,>" he said.  Then he and Kara took Dev with a hand under each arm and soared with him into the sky.

"Why are you doing it this way?" asked Dev, looking at Kara on his right.

"Because it's not such a good thing for people to know you can fly," said Supergirl.  When they were out of sight of the civilians, they did release Dev and let him fly between them.

On the ground, Rostinkov addressed his men.  "<Who was responsible for not nabbing a man who was so obviously a dangerous criminal?  Who?  Or should I reccomend the whole lot of you for duty in Siberia?>"

The KGB guys weren't worried, since he had no authority over them.  But one of the cops on the scene protested, "<Inspector, how were we to know he was a criminal?>"

Patiently, yet angrily, Rostinkov grabbed his underling by the collar.  "<What else could cause Comrades Superman and Supergirl to come to Moscow?  A dangerous criminal!  Nothing less, nothing more!  You want to keep your job, Pyotr?>"

"<Oh, yes, Comrade Inspector!  Oh, yes!>"

"<Then next time, learn how to recognize a dangerous criminal before Superman and Supergirl get here!>"

 -S-

That evening, the Danverses had three guests for dinner.  If secrecy hadn't been so important, Clark would have treated them all to a meal in town.  But he didn't mind Edna Danvers's chicken teriyaki a bit.  Fred and Edna peppered him with questions about his marriage and he said, "So far there's one thing we can both agree on.  That's when Lois tells me what a dunderhead I've been for making us wait this long.  Now I know why the older Clark, the one from Earth-Two, told me to go ahead and do it.  I didn't have the guts to, then.  Wish I had."

Linda smiled.  She didn't want to stay mad at him, even though she still felt the hurt of the past day's events.

Dev waited, then said, "Well. Since I'm obviously what you Earthers refer to as a ‘bone of contention', I suppose I ought to let you have your say about me.  I warn you, though, Fred, if you hit like Kal here, I'm out the front door before you throw it."

Fred Danvers laughed.  "No, Dev.  I won't say that I like the situation you and Linda are in.  But--" He looked at Linda as she said it, and noted her hand on top of Dev's.  "--I will accept it.  For now.  She is of age, she does have her own life to lead, and she does seem to--enjoy being with you.  I have to admit, you're not exactly my kind of guy.  But maybe I can learn to live with it."

Dev smiled, a bit.  Linda's smile was much more generous.

Edna said, "I can't say I totally accept it.  But you do seem to be good for each other.  And Lord knows, a woman can't stay out of love forever.  All I ask is, no children until you're married.  And, Linda, don't have--"

"I wouldn't think of it, Mom," she said. "I'm not going to get pregnant. But if I do...I'll have the baby."

Clark looked pained.  Dev seemed at ease.

"Dev, I'd like to apologize for my reaction yesterday," he said.  "My loss of control was unforgiveable."

"Oh, El, don't be stupid," said Dev.  "I came down in the middle of your honeymoon, tell you I'm involved with your cousin, and you don't think I know you're going to get mad?  Sure, you were."  Clark started to say something, but Dev linked his fingers, Krypton-style.  It meant, roughly: Shut up.

"But I knew you from back when you were, well, a toddler, then Superboy.  I knew you wouldn't be fighting to kill, not even in your state.  After that session with Fred and Edna here, I wanted to get things over with, see where the pieces fell.  If I had to take a few lumps to do so...that's in the game."

"It shouldn't have been," said Linda.  "But maybe you're right, Dev."

Clark said, "Before this last week, I might not have understood your behavior, Kara.  But now that I've found what marital love is really like, with Lois...well...I guess I can understand, a little.  So if you're feeling something with him akin to what I feel with her, I can't stand in your way."

"Thank you, Kal," she said, sincerely.  Not that I would have let you, anyway, she added mentally.

"As for you, Dev," said Clark, "I plead guilty to not remembering enough how you were with the Legion, and to remembering too much the way you were back on Krypton.  I'm not ashamed of feeling protective towards Kara.  I always will. But I am ashamed of suspending my better judgment.  Especially after learning something of the case you two worked on."

Linda nodded.  They couldn't tell Kal everything about the Mordru affair, particularly not the five future Supermen.  But they did tell him that Dev had helped save Rokyn, and that he had helped save her life afterwards.

"So," said Clark.  "Friends again?"  He held out his hand.

"Friends," agreed Dev, and shook it.  He had to admit, he still wasn't as comfortable with Kal as he was with Kara.  But, at the moment, it didn't seem to matter.

"Now, I've got a wife waiting for me in Tahiti," said Clark, standing up.  "And Kara, you're still invited to Bruce's wedding. I could maybe wangle an invitation for Dev, too, if he wanted to come."

Linda shook her head.  "Sorry, Kal.   Make my apologies to Bruce and Selina, but what I said before goes.  I'm spending the rest of the week with Dev."

"All right," said Clark, a bit disappointedly.  "Anyway, I'll see you around.  Soon, I hope."

They said their goodnights to him, and he left.  He was halfway to Tahiti by the time his image faded from their sight.

Dev turned to the Danverses.  "I think we need to be shoving off, too."

Fred and Edna were glad, as they still weren't hot on the idea of Kara and Dev sharing a bed in their house.  "Best of luck, both of you," said Fred.  "And, Linda, don't stay away too long.  You either, Dev."

The two Kryptonians left and soared into the night sky at hyperspeed.

"Your Fortress or mine?" asked Dev.

"I'd rather try a place that's sunnier and warm right now," Kara answered, already peeled down to her Supergirl suit.  "How's about the Australian outback?  I can find us a private place."

"At least my accent won't be so out of place there."

 -S-

At the end of that week, Kara and Dev parted, but saw each other on three more weekends, through the benefit of time-travel.

Bruce Wayne had married Selina Kyle, then had to team with his Outsiders to battle Kobra with his wife's life at stake.  Power Girl had aided the Justice Society and Infinity, Inc. against Mars, Badra, and three villains from Krypton.  Other heroes on other Earths had done other things.

The villains weren't idle, either.

The rest of the month passed.

 -S-

Three persons, all from Earths other than the one in which they now lived, were staying temporarily in the Justice League Satellite.  The orbiting headquarters had been rebuilt and strengthened after being torn asunder in the Crisis.  Its four new guests needed a place to stay, so the League obliged them, provided they helped with monitor duty.

Two of their number were female, two were male, and all had been intimately involved with the Crisis.

The first of their number was a young blonde woman who was dressed in a long-hemmed violet dress.  There were two computers before her.  The one she was staring at held gigabytes of data on the Justice League members and their cases, both as a team and as individuals.  She was running through it with almost inhuman speed.  Attached to her forehead was a flat metal lead connected by a wire of metal alloy never created on any Earth, terminating in a pouch at the side of her belt.  Her computer was no larger than an Oreo cookie, but it held many times the capacity of the JLA's machine.

Lyla was feeding information into her computer directly from her mind.

There was no telling how old Lyla really was, in terms of Terran years.  She had been rescued from a shipwreck long ago, in an era in which ships were still powered by coal.  Her rescuer was a large, powerful, but fatherly being.  When she was deposited, safe but cold and dripping, in the confines of a satellite, she gathered courage to ask his name.

"Call me the Monitor," he had said.

That was relieving.  She was glad to know he wasn't God.

When the Monitor explained that they were in a satellite far out in space, between the Earth and Moon, she thought certainly she must be unconscious and dreaming of a Jules Verne fantasy.  But no, the dream lasted too long to be a dream.  Also, every sense she possessed was reacting to this environment.  She could taste the hot liquid he gave her to cure her chills, feel the strange metal and leather-like substances that composed the surfaces of his odd furniture, smell the alien scents in the Monitor's home, hear his voice and the many strange mechanical sounds (and some that, she knew, were not mechanical at all) within it, and what she saw...

Well, she knew she had never seen something quite so grand or quite so uncanny.  If this was only a dream, she was going to have to give her imagination double credit.

The Monitor had told her he had need of her.  This was flattering, because she never knew anyone needed her at all, except maybe her mother, and her mother was now dead with the rest of the people on board.  That thought made her very sad, and she cried.  As best he could, the Monitor comforted the little girl.  Then he tried to explain to her who he was and what he had been doing.

He had been alive for so long he couldn't number the years, even calculating them in terms of how long it took her planet Earth to circle the sun.  He was, he said, locked in battle with a being who was his evil self--a dark Doppleganger whom he had been fighting for ages.  Now he found himself in need of allies.

"Well, whatever for do you need me, sir?" she had asked, rather timorously.

The Monitor had placed his great hands, larger than any man's she had ever seen and stronger than a dozen blacksmiths', on both her shoulders, gently.  Then he locked eyes with her and said, "To be my messenger.  To be my Harbinger."

She wasn't sure quite what that was.  But she was without a mother now, and he told her she could not go back to her father, who had been waiting to meet them in New York, because by the time they went there he would be dead and gone.  The Monitor called it a "time differential."  Lyla didn't understand what that was, but she cried even more when she thought of not seeing him again, either.

The Monitor took her in his two great hands and held her to him, letting her cry.  She thought that was very nice of him.

Then he took her over to a machine, put a metal bowl-thing over her head, and said, "Think about your parents."  She thought about them as hard as she could.  The machine didn't seem to make any sound.  But he pointed to a glass screen on the machine's surface, and said, "Does that look enough like them?"

And it was, indeed, a picture of her mother and father, taken from her mind.  She looked at it, then at the Monitor.  "How did you do that?  Is this a photographing machine?"

"In a way," he said, and gestured towards part of the device.  A slot in the front of it spit out a piece of paper.  On its surface was the images of her parents.  She took it, wonderingly.  Then she looked at him again.

Because she was a polite girl, she said, "Thank you."  Then, because she is hungry, she said, "What time do we eat?"

The Monitor took her to a part of his ship which served as a larder, sat her at a black table, left the room for a moment, and came back with some stuff that didn't look much like food she was used to.  But Lyla ate it, and enjoyed it.  She thanked him for dinner, and asked how long she would stay with him.

"A long, long time," said the Monitor.

He spoke truly.

The years passed, and Lyla grew into a beautiful young woman.  She travelled in the Monitor's satellite ship with him to many dimensions and many worlds, and was astonished to learn that not only was there more than one Earth, but a seemingly infinite number of Earths.  Sometimes he transported her, by a means she didn't quite understand then, to the surface of a planet (ofttimes an Earth, but many worlds she knew as alien), disguising her in appropriate garb.  He accompanied her, in disguise himself, many times in the early years.  The Monitor was her guide on these trips, until he was assured that she could handle herself in a new environiment.  These journeys allowed her to be free of the satellite's confines, to gain the human or almost-human contact she needed (her host was nice, but she still longed for the company of other people), to expand her mental horizon and experience, and to educate her first-hand in many wonders of the universe.

Other education was given to her by means of teaching devices, or by the Monitor himself.  Lyla was astonished at what she could comprehend when he imparted it to her by such means.  Her grade school career had been interrupted, but she didn't miss it a bit.

Sometimes he left the satellite, without her.  The first time he returned, he told her he had had an altercation with his enemy.  She pressed the Monitor for details.  He only said, "Another one gone."  She could not get him to explain more fully.  Each time when he came back from future battles, he would only say, "Another one gone," or "Another one saved," as if he was contending for souls.

But she did not think he did that.

Then, one day, when she was at the age of sixteen, physically, though time was hard to measure in their home, the Monitor summoned Lyla to his throne.  He called it a "control chair", but she could think of it as nothing less than his king's seat.

"Remember, long ago, when I told you you would become my Harbinger?", he asked.

Lyla, in her long purple dress, nodded.  "I remember it quite distinctly, sir."  She drew in a deep breath, and waited.

"The Enemy presses me hard," he continued.  Even though he had lived for countless eons, Lyla felt that, somehow, he looked older than when she had met him.  "I will require assistance to salvage what I can.  To you, Lyla, I can give powers unlike any woman in history, even those special beings we have been studying of late."  (By this, she felt he meant the strange mystery men of one Earth or another, the ones called the Justice Society, or the All-Star Squadron, or the Freedom Fighters, or some such.)  "From you, I will require obedience.  You shall be my good right hand, my messenger to those who will fight for me.  The gatherer and harvester of the soldiers who must wage our last battle.  This is, perhaps, the greatest of responsibilities.  For it is not meet that I gather them, myself...they will more likely trust one of their own kind.  Lyla, once more: will you be my Harbinger?"

She had no more idea what it meant to be his harbinger than when he had first spoke to her eight physical years ago.  But she knew that she loved him, and she trusted him.  So she gave the only answer she could.

"I will," she said.
 

And with that he had filled her with power and changed her garb into something no lady of her native era would be caught dead wearing.  A blue and red suit that clung to her like skin (for a few seconds, Lyla thought it was her skin, horribly altered), but left all of her legs exposed from thigh to the top of her new boots.  She also had a crimson helmet on, like some sort of football player, she thought.

"This is your uniform," he said.  "When you are thus dressed and empowered, you will go and find the ones I require.  You will use the powers I give you in my service, and in the service of all positive universes.  This is what it means to be my Harbinger.  And this is what is required, to help me save the Multiverse."

She wasn't sure of the import of his words, but she understood enough of what he said to shiver.
The Monitor taught her the usage of her Harbinger power--how she could split into separate selves, like one of those amoebas she'd seen under a microscope in Professor Simmons's classroom, and then bring them all together again and know what each one of her had learned.  When she wished, she could raise her hand and smite an object with the terrible swift sword of some sort of fire from her fingertips.  Lyla thought that was well-nigh blasphemous, but the Monitor had told her it was science, and she decided to believe him.

It did take some getting used to.

When he thought she was ready for it, he told her she could fly.

So she did, and she was exhilirated, scraping the ceiling of the satellite home.  So many heroes and heroines had this power, but, to her, it had to be the finest power of all...to cancel gravity's hold, to speed in any direction you wanted through the air like the finest of eagles.

Now she knew why so often, when the Supermen and Supergirls of the Earths they studied flew, they smiled.

Finally, she alit before the Monitor, and with a gesture he restored her to normalcy again.  She went on several missions for him before the great Crisis, but took care not to reveal herself to more than a few beings.

Lyla learned more of their great foe, who became known later as the Anti-Monitor by those who fought him.  He was lord of anti-matter universes, and, the Monitor said, was planning to destroy all positive-matter universes, such as the one she had come from.  He had already consumed several such universes, and each time it did, it weakened the Monitor.

That was why he looked older than before.

When the Anti-Monitor made his final campaign, that signalled the Crisis on Infinite Earths, as the heroes later called it.  The Monitor had her split herself into many different Harbingers, each targeted for a different place or time-era on an Earth.  She returned with several superbeings, some heroes, some villains, but all of them soon convinced to work with the Monitor against the being who would destroy their homeworlds.

But in one plane of existence, the Anti-Monitor hijacked the mind and soul of one of her selves.  Thus corrupted, she remerged, and the Enemy could trigger her dark-self whenever he chose.

He chose to do so at one point, and made her kill the Monitor.

Then he let her go, and her grief and horror were unbounded.  It was all she could do to keep from suiciding.  But she and several key allies they had found summoned the super-powered beings of five Earths to the satellite.  There she and the others--Pariah and Alex Luthor from the perished Earth-3--convinced most of their guests of the danger their worlds faced, and gained the allegiance of most of the heroes.  The villains seemed tougher nuts to crack.

Eventually, a team of heroes went to the Anti-Monitor's palace in the anti-matter universe of Qward.  There they were almost overwhelmed, but two Supergirls, one from a universe even she had never known of, managed to destroy the Enemy with the help of some other heroes of their power level, and with the help of Wildfire, a hero from the future who destroyed the Anti-Monitor's consciousness.

Wildfire was turned into a star-sun in the anti-matter universe.  The Superman of Earth-Two, the first hero to wear that mantle, died in the battle.  The Supergirls almost followed suit, but a heroine named Raven had saved them.

Thus ended the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Except for one thing.

The villains of the five Earths had, from what she had learned, been disappearing from their homeworlds.  So far, she had no idea where they had gone.  Even the Justice League weren't able to track down their vanished enemies.

So there she was, on the Justice League satellite that was so unlike the one she had grown up in, trying to put together clues enough to indicate the whereabouts of a vast army of villains.  With her on the command deck were Pariah, also known as Kell, whose only known powers were to be drawn to greatest danger and to be apparently immune from destruction; Alexander Luthor, a redheaded son of the hero of Earth-Three, whose body combined both positive and negative matter in stasis; and Lady Quark, the last survivor of Earth-Six, who had nuclear energy powers and who had been saved by Pariah from the holocaust that destroyed her world, her husband, and her daughter; and Zatanna, the magician and member of the Justice League who was on monitor duty.

Zatanna sauntered over with a cup of coffee for her.  "Any luck yet, Lyla?  Or should I even ask, this time?"

Lyla looked up, startled, then reintegrated herself into the "real" environiment and shook her head.  "I can't pick up enough.  I can't believe that some external agency is disintegrating super-villains.  They must have been teleported somewhere, but I can't pick them up on any Earth I've seen, or in any neighboring planets."

Lady Quark said, "I know very little about the five Earths in our purview, Lyla.  What villain--or villains--on them are capable of such a thing?"

"The Crime Syndicate might have somehow pulled it off, but they're dead," offered Alex Luthor, who was watching several satellite feeds on five monitor screens.  "Those are the only villains from my old Earth."

Pariah, pacing the carpeted floor, said, "Should our role in this universe be that of detectives?  I think we would be better employed bringing the science of our worlds to bear on this world's problems.  There are scores of ‘heroes' on this world, after all."

Lyla looked at him, sympathetically.  Pariah had been a scientist supreme on his Earth, which had been destroyed by the Anti-Monitor.  An experiment which allowed him to view part of the Multiverse's creation had awakened the unconscious Enemy, and Pariah had paid for it for ages.  Now, he was intent on using what powers he had to make up for his terrible and arrogant blunder.  He was also soul-scarred by the memories of all the universes he had seen perish.

"True, Kell, this world is overloaded with superbeings," said Lyla.  "But this is unfinished business, I feel.  Until we locate this group of abducted malefactors, the Crisis can't be said to be truly over."

Pariah opened his mouth to make a rebuttal, or at least that was what Lyla expected him to do.

But he never got that far.

Instead, he began to fade from sight.

Lyla jumped up from her chair, throwing the mental feed away.  Alex, Lady Quark, and Zatanna rushed to his side.  Pariah was already intangible.

"Hairap nruter ot su," pronounced Zatanna.  And he did, for all of one second.  Then he faded out again.

Vanished.

Grabbing Zatanna's arm at the elbow, Lyla pleaded, "Find out where he's gone.  Use a spell!"

Obligingly, the sorceress said, "Wohs su erehw Hairap sah enog."  Normally, this would have created an image of their friend's whereabouts in the air before them.

Instead, Zatanna only got a cube of blackness.

She willed it out of existence, after taking several readings.  "I'm being blocked," she said.  "I'm going to call in the League."

"Doesn't make any sense that the one who's transporting the villains would get him, too," opined Alex.  "He must have been drawn there by his own power."

"Aye," said Lady Quark.  "And it is only in times of greatest danger that he is drawn away."

Lyla had heard enough.  She stood, closed her eyes, concentrated.

In an instant, with a sharp flash of light, her normal dress was altered and her body was transformed into the shape of Harbinger.

"You summon the League," she told Zatanna.  "I'll see if I can get everyone else."

 -S-

The planet of New Genesis lay somewhere close enough to Earth to be accessible by starfaring means, far enough away that even super-heroes were unaware of its existence until the last decade.  Then again, if the people of that world (and Apokolips) didn't want to be found, they probably had means to ensure that they were not.

Most of New Genesis resembles a well-tended park.  Its inhabitants, who call themselves the Celestials, but who are referred to as the "New Gods" by those of Terra, are lovers of beauty, and like to keep the planet's surface as near a work of landscaping art as is possible.  However, the pleasure gardens have been eroded of late by the necessity of industry, and this is inevitable.

The industry is the reluctant making of defensive war against Apokolips.

There was a greater war, a very hot one, made between the two planets in the younger days of Izaya, New Genesis's ruler.  The war threatened to destroy both worlds if not stopped, and it did not appear that anything actually could stop it while it raged.

The conflict had begun when Izaya's wife was murdered by Steppenwolf, a noble of Apokolips.  Izaya killed Steppenwolf in combat many months later.  If that could have ended the war, or healed his heart, all would have been well. But such was not the case.

So, on one day, Izaya, who was called the Inheritor from his birth, stripped away his armor, donned a sackcloth robe, took up a walking staff, and journeyed over one of the battlefields of New Genesis.  The bodies of a recent combat had not yet been taken away.  Izaya judged that good, because he wanted to see them all.  He wanted to be pained by the sight.

And he was.  He roved over the pockmarked, burned landscape, viewing victim after victim after victim.  Celestials who would never come home to their families.  Celestials who had died in his service.

Izaya didn't know how long he walked, or how far.  But he knew, when he saw the great black stone wall before him, that he was in an unfamiliar part of his world.

No one knew where the wall had come from.  It had been there as long as the local inhabitants knew.  A legend kept them away from it, and in order to scare a Celestial, it must have been a fearsome legend indeed.

But Izaya knew no fear as he stood before the wall.  Only sorrow.

He did not know, as he raised his fists, cane, and face to the heavens, whether he was asking God, the wall, or anyone else his question.  He only asked it, in a scream.

"If I am Izaya, the Inheritor, what is my inheritance?"

At that, a burst of flame had leaped forth from the surface of the wall, almost scorching him.  He had a nanosecond to wonder how flame could leap from solid stone.  But, after that, he had much more to wonder about.

He saw a hand.  A hand of flame.

It was writing on the wall.

It wrote two words, and Izaya read them:

THE SOURCE.

That was his answer.

Izaya went to his knees, then, murmured, "Praise be," and did not move from his position for a very long time.

When he finally did, he returned to his headquarters and set events in motion.  The ruler of Apokolips was contacted.  A peace suit was brought.  Since Apokolips was hardly less devastated than New Genesis, negotiations were entered.

In the end, to seal the peace pact, both rulers exchanged sons.  Izaya, who now called himself Highfather, yielded up a youth who became known as Scott Free.  In return, he received a powerful, hate-filled, murderous demon of a youth, whom he convinced to lay aside his weapon and take Izaya's outstretched hand.  In this way, the boy from Apokolips learned a new path, and learned what a father really could be, if that father had compassion.

His fury was tamed, and bent in the service of New Genesis.

But it was never far from the surface.

Now Izaya sat in the chamber of the Source, the building which was erected around the black wall.  At his side was Orion, in his red warsuit and gray helmet; Metron, an icy, black-clad technologist in a levitating Moebius Chair, who not only would have sold his soul to gain new and necessary insights, but who had once done so; and Lightray, a white-costumed, speedy New God who could transform himself into light waves when necessary.

"The earlier stages of this ‘Crisis', by and large, passed us by," said Izaya, white-haired and bearded, still dressed in his familiar sackcloth robe.  "Yet, the intelligence I have indicates that we can rely no longer on remaining outside its influence."

Orion, his face a mask of flesh, said, "My father took no part in it that we could tell, Highfather.  He chose to wait and see what would occur.  Since the uncoupling of the five Earths, we have heard no more from him."

Metron, in deep, sonorous tones, said, "When our foe is silent, fear him most.  He cannot have been idle these last few months.  He will capitalize on the wreckage of the Crisis.  We can do no less, should we wish to survive."

"I have faith in the light to triumph over the dark," said Lightray.  "And for New Genesis to best Apokolips.  But--ask the question, Highfather."

Izaya stepped closer to the wall of blackness.  "Two questions," he said.  "First: is our foe active, and does his activity involve Earth?"

From nowhere, the hand of flame appeared.

Lightray and Orion drew back.  Only Metron, hovering behind them in his chair, did not move.  Izaya stood his ground.

The moving finger traced one fiery word on the wall's surface:

YES

Izaya fingered his walking staff and paused before asking his second question.

"Who should we seek for an ally on Earth?"

The word vanished from the wall's surface.  The fiery hand travelled over it again.

It drew a symbol.

Highfather nodded, in comprehension.  "Ah," he said.

The symbol was a mostly-triangular shield, with an S inside its boundaries.

The New Gods well knew who bore that shield, for they had all encountered him on several occasions.

But the hand did not stop with that.  It sketched another symbol.

The same shield, with the same S, once more, beside the first.

Two shields.

Then the hand vanished and, a second later, so did the shields.

"Two?" exclaimed Orion.  "There are two of them?  Which is the second?"

Highfather turned to him, and lay his good right hand on his adoptive son's mighty shoulder.

"You must go to Earth and find out," he said.

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