The Great Confrontation
and Dannell Lites
“You wanted to see me, Aunt Irinia?”, said Adam Kent.
“I did, Adam. Please sit down.” Irinia Kent indicated a
floating sofa in the meeting room before him. Obligingly, Adam
sat. He had a busy schedule, but even he knew better than to keep
the wife of George Kent waiting.
Both were in George’s home. The titular master of the house was
out, as Irinia had planned it. Adam didn’t know how many of her
schemes George had knowledge of, but the chances were that he didn’t
want to know too many of them. In George’s shoes, Adam wouldn’t
have wanted to.
He had a feeling he was going to learn of one.
Irinia was looking out the window. “To begin, Adam, I know how
you made your fortune.”
Adam grinned. “Hard work, a scootch of brains, and
connections. That’s all it takes, Auntie.”
She sighed. “Adam. Do not take me for an idiot.
Please. I know of your...little trips.”
Behind her, the would-be Man of Steel stiffened. He hoped she
hadn’t seen it, in his reflection in the glass. “I make many
trips, all over the world. What’s unusual about that?”
The matriarch whirled, and her face was not soothing. “You have
been using your powers to make short time-travel hops into the future,
to get information you can use against your business rivals.
Adam, do not bother denying it. We are both more intelligent than
He had, by now, some time to compose himself after the blow.
“Pretty serious accusation there, Auntie. What’s your evidence?”
“Sheer observation,” Irinia said. “Too many times you acted on
things that even insiders wouldn’t have dared give you. I know,
because I know the insiders. Given the fact that your side of the
family hasn’t had that great a head for business, it seemed too great
“Keep those kind of remarks to yourself.”
“Oh, Adam.” Irinia’s face softened. “I’m not here to indict
you. I’m here to enlist you. Surely you’re smart enough to
He brushed a stray curl of hair from his forehead. “Auntie, if I
had been making trips through time, outside of taking a picture of me
when I was where I couldn’t have been otherwise, you’d have no evidence
to speak of.”
“Would I need it? All I would have to do is go to your father, or
to someone on your side of the family, with an assertion. True, I
have no powers with which to track you. But they do.”
Adam exhaled, looking steadily at her. The Family couldn’t
prove, really, that he’d been taking time-hops up to now. He’d
been careful to keep himself just out of phase with the future
timestream to be able to observe, but not to be detected. An old
Family trick. But they could put him under observation, and that
would keep him from making any more of them. However, he
reflected, there was only one person in this room with super-powers,
and it wasn’t Irinia.
“What do you want?” He judged it was the best thing to say, under
She eased herself into a chair, which conformed to the shape of her
body. “I want your alliance,” she said. “Klar Ken has held
power in the Family for too long. As long as the clan holds to
that rule whereby Kal-El’s direct descendant gets first option at being
Superman, our line will be kept in the shadows. But if we had an
ally in his camp, that would be a change for the better.”
Adam Kent stretched, easily, letting off the tension. “You know
I’m a businessman, Auntie. What do you bring to the table?”
“Besides my silence, of course?”
“I need something a bit more tangible than that.”
“Why don’t you find out yourself, Adam? If you’re smart enough to
be my ally, you’re smart enough to do that.”
He looked in just the right direction. Over one part of the room,
Irinia had hung a curtain backed with lead, which required some
null-gravs in the floor to keep it from breaking the support
rings. Adam walked to it and tore it in two.
Sy Kent was there. Her hair was nutmeg-brown, her face and body
were tanned and appealing in a low-cut white gown that was also split
up to her lower ribs on the sides, and what she was offering was never
She smiled at him.
“I knew you were there,” he said. “Even when you tried not to
breathe, I could hear you.”
“There’s no fooling you,” said Sy. “Is there?”
He stroked her chin with his left hand. “Well, there is one way
to find out.” Sy took his hand and caressed it, calculatingly but
effectively. He turned to Irinia. “What did you have in
mind for a collab?”
“Only information, at first,” said Irinia. “Insider trading of
another sort. We are alike in one way, Adam. You seek
control, rather than justice. Your goal is achievable. The
other, the one the Family has always pursued, is not. I trust we
understand each other?”
Adam nodded briefly, though he knew none would ever really understand
Irinia Kent other than herself. And perhaps not even herself.
“I have business of my own,” she said, turning away and heading to a
tubelift. “Enjoy yourselves.”
After the woman shot up in the tube to an unspecified level, Sy wrapped
her arms tightly about Adam’s chest. “As if she had to say that,”
“As if,” agreed Adam.
“And for the last time you have to remain visible while you’re taking
“But, sir, I’m shy.”
“You’re also employed. [Pause for laugh track.] Which of those two do
you want to change?” [Another pause for laugh track.]
“The first one, sir. Most definitely, the first one. Oh,
In the ear mites, the director said, “Cut. That’s a wrap.
Everybody go home, grab meals, spouses, and sleep time. Back here
tomorrow doubleprompt. Good job, nashes.”
Alan Kent grinned and gave the pinky-up sign to Eh’d, the actor who’d
done the scene with him. We’re All Martians was still safely in
the Top 25, his Recog Rating was higher than it’d ever been, and, for
once, he didn’t have to brace somebody else for lunch credits. Of
course, it could go to Sheol in a month’s time, and someday it
would. But Alan himself would have a lot more cred with the
industry, and already they were talking feature vids for the off
season. That would be nice.
Altogether, success was pretty blazing good.
“I’m zanked,” said Eh’d. “Care to hit the noshery, Alan?”
“Why not?” Alan grabbed a towel somebody’d slung over his chair
and attacked the makeup on his face.
“Don’t DO that!” shrieked Val, the makeup lady. “Union
rules!” She snatched the towel away from him and, spritzing him
with mist from her hand-held device, melted the makeup and wiped it
away expertly. The man who was among the most powerful beings on
the planet stood there patiently and allowed it. Val did much the
same thing to Eh’d once she was done with Alan.
“Now, the noshery?”
“I can handle it,” grumped Alan. “Provided we don’t have to have
somebody feed us, too.”
Val put the cylinder of spritz back in her belt. “Considering the
way both of you act, maybe they should. Get out of here, fastish.”
“It’s like this,” said Eh’d, letting everything he was supposed to eat
get cold. “I’m barely making enough to cover myself, my wife, my
other girl, and my markers. Now my kid is getting ready to get
out of fireproofs. What am I supposed to do?”
“Drop the other girl,” said Alan, reasonably, between bites of a French
“No way. M’rilla would be insulted if I did that.”
Eh’d “Mookie” B’urnzz looked at Alan as if he was a Second Level kid
student. “My wife is proud of the fact that she’s enough to keep
me married even though I have the one on the side. Though that’s
usually not where I have her. If I gave her up, M’rilla would
feel she’d lost her competitive edge.”
“And if you gave up M’rilla, what would happen to you?”
“Does the mental image of a woman in an asbestos suit, carrying a
flamethrower, bring anything to you?”
“But I’ve got to cut expenses somewhere. Maybe there’s another
“There is,” said Alan. “What if you introduced the other woman to
Eh’d’s eyes lit up. “You know, that has possibilities.”
“Sure does. What about K’on? I don’t think he’s seeing
anybody permanent. He’s pretty easy on the eyes. Martian
eyes, that is.”
The green man smiled. “Thanks, Alan. You know it’s hard to
find jobs for Martian actors, even depowered ones like us.”
“Yeah.” There wasn’t as much prejudice as there used to be, but
both of them knew that the few Martian immigrants were having a tough
time finding acceptance. An ethnic comedy like We’re All Martians
was helping things out.
“That’s why I’m glad you’re helping put this thing over,” said
Eh’d. “If it wasn’t for you, I don’t think we’d have a
ten-share. Some of us in the cast might tell ourselves they’re
watching it for us, but you’re the bridge. You’re the star.”
“Eh’d.” Alan reached over and touched his arm. “I wouldn’t
be a damn thing without the lot of you. Before this, I was
struggling to make ends meet just doing standup theater. Nobody
knew me from Tab Hunter, Time Master. I may be the head of the
spear, but without the shaft and the guys to drive it home, I’m
nowhere. Lousy analogy?”
“Good so far,” said Eh’d. “Glad to be in the shaft. Rather
be behind the point than in front of it.”
“I’d say I get the point, but I’m not going to take it that far.”
Eh’d finally started eating. In the midst of it, he looked up at
Alan. “Got something you might not have figured, Earthboy.”
“How long do you figure the show’s good for? At most?”
“At most? Five years, tops.”
The Martian nodded, slowly. “But that’s only over here,
Alan. Only over here.”
“What do you mean, over here?”
“Think about it. Where’s our biggest export audience?”
Alan didn’t need a super-brain to figure where the Martian was driving
the conversation. “Mars II. I know you guys are going to
pack in a big appearance tour there after the season wraps. You
“I mean, not only is this going to run and run and run over there,
Adam, but it’s likely that after the series wraps here, they’ll pick up
“Now, wait a minute. I don’t want to live on Mars II. It’s
a nice planet, but still.”
It was strange to hear a Martian laugh, but Alan had gotten used to
it. “Doesn’t matter. Martian crew shoots your scenes over
here with some of us, we do the big part of the job back there.
Put it together. Different budget, different on-location, but
still...money. Residuals from the old stuff, creds from the
new. You track?”
“I most definitely track,” said Alan. His brain was
working. The Martians, of course, would be the lead characters in
the Mars II version. With less scenes to play, and probably all
in one lump session, he’d be freed up the rest of the season to work on
other projects. He leaned both elbows on the table and massaged
his temples with his hands. Money. Security. Fame, of
Not to mention, a good deal of freedom.
“Well? What do you think, Earthboy?”
“I think,” said Alan, “that I’m almost looking forward to the Earth
part of it being over.”
They both raised glasses and clinked them. Then, before he could
drink, Eh’d caught something in his friend’s mien. “Trouble,
“What do you mean?”
“Smiling. But I see a little static in your eye.”
“Oh. Didn’t know it was there.”
“It’s just...” Alan chose his words carefully. “I’ve
learned not to be too happy about anything. It’s kind of a
jinx. Something bad usually follows up if you don’t watch out.”
“So watch out,” advised Eh’d. “But enjoy it while you’re
The two finished their meal, paid the check, and went their separate
Alan did an audio check of Metropolis, found nothing the cops couldn’t
cope with, and promptly went to bed. At least as far as he could
tell, all was reasonably right with the world.
Katherine de Ka’an didn’t like going to George Kent’s estate. But
there were sometimes when you did what you had to, not what you wanted
to. She was unannounced and the only one at home, she knew from
using her super-vision, was Sy Kent. It would have been better if
George was there, but Sy was preferable to Irinia. Maybe.
She piloted her air-car onto the parking area near the house.
George had done well with his investments. Not as well, to be
sure, as Adam, but he’d made a decent pile. So had Irinia, who
was said to be the brains behind her man. Dressed in a modest
skinsuit of green and a matching vest, Kath walked to the door and
waited for the sensor to scan her.
Sy’s voice came from a speaker. “What are you here for, K?”
Despite herself, Katherine stiffened. “I’d like to see you, Sy.
To talk with you. Just for a bit.”
“Can’t it wait?”
“I’d prefer it didn’t.”
“Alllllll right,” said Sy, as insolently as possible. A few
minutes later, the door opened. Sy Kent, wearing as short an
outfit as she could get away with, beckoned her in. “So
nice of you to call ahead.”
“Didn’t want to make a big fuss of things,” said Kath, reasonably . She
stepped inside. The interior was cool, earth-toned, resplendent
with works of Terran and Rokynian art. Almost a giveaway, but
lots of people had Kryptonian artwork on their walls and in their
parlors these days. She went to a couch and sat down. Sy
remained standing, arms folded.
Kath began. “I want to talk to you. About Adam.”
Sy chuckled. It wasn’t a pleasant sound.
“I don’t know what kind of dealings you both have,” said
Katherine. “But I’d like to say that—“
“We’re doing the double,” said Sy, offhandedly. “I wouldn’t count
on getting him back.”
The blonde woman stared at her. After a long moment, Kath trusted
herself enough to say, “I see.”
“No, you don’t see,” said Sy. “You don’t see him anymore, and after
today, I doubt that you’ll see me very much.”
That’ll be a pleasure, thought Kath. Out loud she said, “Be that
as it may, I’m not worried about his love life or yours. What I
am worried about is...something different. Adam himself.”
“He’s not for you to worry about. Not anymore.”
Kath stood up. “Sy. We’re not friends, I know that.
But we’re still family. I...saw Adam recently.”
“I know. He told me.”
“There’s something wrong, Sy. Something wrong with him. I
don’t know what it is, but I’m warning you. You may be putting
your hand into something you can’t pull it out of so easily.”
“Oh, you don’t need to worry where I’m putting my hands,” said Sy, her
eyes aglint. “Or where he’s putting his.”
“Sy, for R**’s sake...”
“He’s already told me that I’m better than you. In all
“That doesn’t matter. Won’t you listen to me, listen to something
besides your damned ego and your libido and...and your stupidity, for
Sy Kent began to step closer. At that, Katherine de Ka’an went to
a defensive position. It was a little too late.
“Oh, I’m listening to you, all right,” said Sy, softly. “Really
Kath never saw the blow that hit her. She did feel the wall
behind her crumbling as she smashed through it. The rest of the
framework would support the house well, and they were far enough out of
Main Met that nobody was likely to see them. She skidded to a
halt on her back on the veranda, the Terran garment she wore starting
to smoke from friction.
Like a rocket, Sy Kent launched herself through the hole in the wall
and landed on her. The attack began.
Atop one of the highest buildings in Gotham City, concealed by a
cloaking device, the Batman wondered if all his ancestors had felt like
he did while pursuing a murderer.
Aelfric, the Joker, had gone to ground. Hard to admit it, but not
even the Batman could track him just yet. However, there was a
The butler had thought the communications he had cloaked, relayed, and
masked were absolutely secret. Their contents were, still, and
the records of transmission would be untraceable to most, even
including the spybusters in government. But not to Bron
Wayn. He knew all the tricks, and had invented a few himself.
Aelfric had made some calls to Irinia Kent, in Metropolis. He
doubted his major domo was trading recipes with the woman.
With a twist of his wrist control, the Batman summoned the floating
Batmobile towards him. It was time for a trip across the bay.
And what Alan Kent didn’t know wasn’t going to hurt him.