The Great Confrontation
Nobody in the hierarchy of Heaven’s Seven knew how the Joker had
managed to find their sanctuary. That was something to be
considered later, when they had time. If they had a later, of
Right now, the problem at hand was the fact that the Joker was there,
in their secret council room, having thrown the grinning corpse of
their chief lieutenant, Cyril Smit H124C41, onto the meeting
table. It was lying there, inappropriately, under the floating
hologram of the Earth that always oversaw the seven councilmen.
The Revelator, fully masked and cloaked, was able to conceal any
alarm. That put him miles ahead of some of his associates.
To the Joker, who was standing at the end of the table and smiling
malevolently, the masked man said, “State your business. Or get
Two of the Seven thought their master had gone piffly in the
head. A couple more silently praised the Revelator for his
panache. The other three didn’t know quite what to think, and
sensed that their thoughts probably didn’t matter at the moment.
The meeting was in the hands of the Revelator, the Joker, and the Most
High. They fervently hoped the latter was really watching hard.
“My business is your business,” rasped the Joker. “You wish to
bring the Earth to an end, to see if the last book of the Bible will
come true in dazzling Holovision. Should have called it the Book
of Premoniions.” He chuckled, alone, at his own wit.
“Chaos. Beautiful, shimmering, chaos. That’s what you want,
The Revelator shook his masked head. “Not really. We wish
destruction, to pave the way of the Lord. He will come with His
Host and usher in an era of perfect order...”
“What a killjoy,” said the Joker.
“...and righteous judgment,” the Revelator went on. “This will
end the corrupt reign of Man, and usher in the perfect rule of God.”
“With you providing the timetable,” the Joker said.
“Of course,” answered one of the Seven. “After all, somebody has
to do it.”
The Revelator looked at his aide piercingly. The latter knew he
was in the running for the Lamest Summary Ever of the Cause
category. To the Joker, he said, “What are you here for?”
Casually, the Joker walked up the table towards his unwilling host,
brushing the backs of a few acolytes on the way. Each of them
shrank back and wondered if they’d been branded by Joker-venom.
One of them felt gingerly of his mouth, willing himself not to
grin. The green-haired man finally stood before the Revelator,
hands in the pockets of his purple suit. “I am here, your
destructiveness, to offer you a bargain. We work together...on a
The master of the Seven sat a bit more contemplatively. A deal,
he could understand. “Tell me more.”
“You have a problem with a big red cape,” the Joker said. “Mine
wears a blue one. The red one isn’t expecting any problem from my
corner. The blue one isn’t expecting one from yours. My
genius with your resources. We collaborate, we bring them both
down. The Big S and the Big Bat. Singly, or together.
What do you say? Oh, and by the way, I know you have a zapper
under your cloak. Don’t go for it. All right?”
“There are enough weapons concealed in this room to turn you into slash
hash in a millisecond,” said the Revelator.
“Which wouldn’t do much for our collaboration,” said the Joker.
The master of the Seven considered the deal for the longest three
seconds his acolytes had ever known. Then he said one word:
Katherine de Ka’an was learning the hard way that she should have taken
more lessons in self-defense. More klurkor, surely. Because
this brunette bitch was beating the Sheol out of her.
Despite the pain of getting struck in the face and body, Kath’s impulse
was to worry about the two of them being seen. Luckily, that
didn’t seem to be the case, but you couldn’t tell what a government spy
device was going to find. That’d be just great, to be the member
of the Family that exposed the rest to the public.
Fist in the mouth. Time to quit woolgathering, girl.
Kath wasn’t an accomplished brawler, but everyone knows something about
fighting, even if it’s just doubling up a fist or aiming a kick.
She drew back a fist, telegraphing her punch, and rammed it home into
Sy’s gut. The brunette, surprised by Kath’s stroke, oofed out a
large bit of air and paused long enough for the blonde to hit her with
an uppercut. The blow put Sy on her ass, right there on the lawn
of George’s house. In the distance, floating homebots came over
to scope out the situation and do what they could for the people and
For her part, Katherine de Ka’an leaped upward and soared into the sky.
She hadn’t flown all that much in her life. The security demands
of the Family discouraged it. But she was exhilarated every time
she did, and usually did it without fear of detection, moving at
super-speed to avoid visual detection and vibrating at a rate which
avoided sonic booms and confused scanning devices.
Unfortunately, they did leave heat trails when they flew. But
some things couldn’t be covered up.
Whether that was the way Sy found her or not, Katherine never knew.
The girl in the white sticktite halter and blue abbreviated shorts
grabbed her from below by the ankle. Kath’s other foot stabbed
down desperately, catching Sy in the face. She thought she heard
a yelp of pain from the other girl, which was encouraging.
Quickly, Kath kicked at Sy again and again. Some of the kicks
landed on the brunette’s face, some on her shoulder. If it just
kept the bitch away from her, that would be enough.
She flashed on her ancestor Kara, the first Supergirl. Really,
she couldn’t see her forebear acting this desperately, this (say it)
fearfully. Then again, she’d never really put much thought into
training to be a Supergirl herself.
As Sy Kent upended her and propelled her towards the ground, she hoped
Kara Zor-El would understand and forgive.
Kath hit the Earth just outside George Kent’s estate with a terrific
WHAM. The impact didn’t hurt her, but that was cold
comfort. She had to get up, had to counterattack, had to defend
herself...had to do all these things...
...but she could barely raise herself from the ground that she’d been
embedded in, on her back, her face barely sticking out of the
dirt. Face facts, Kath, an inner priestess-voice told her, you’ve
come out secondish in this fight. What fight there was of it.
Thanks a lot, she replied, internally, even as two feet hit the ground
on either side of her half-buried body.
Sy Kent sported a bruise on her cheek, but she didn’t much look like it
bothered her. Her hand flashed out, penetrated the dirt, grabbed
Kath by the shirtfront. With little seeming effort, she hauled
Katherine de Ka’an’s soil-stained form from the dirt. Clods of
earth and blades of grass tumbled from her, and she fixed her eyes on
Sy, feeling that if the girl wasn’t holding her up, she might lie down
again in the dirt. That would be a very pleasant thing to do,
But Sy’s look was all business.
“Listen carefully,” the brunette said. “When you wake up, you’ll
be back in your own home. Keep your mouth shut about all this,
and nobody will have to get hurt any worse. You don’t have any
part in this anymore. Stay out of my way, and I’ll stay out of
yours. Otherwise...you’re going to get a lot worse than this.”
Really, Katherine thought it was remarkable that she heard the whole
speech. The fist that filled her vision-space an instant later
was impressive enough to make her forget what had come before it.
Blackness, shot with white stars and pain.
Was this what it felt like when Krypton exploded?
If she dreamed after that, she didn’t remember it.
Even a power macher like Adam Kent had to answer a summons to a meeting
when it came from his dad. So he got in his hovercraft, knowing
all the while he could fly a thousand times faster, set it down on the
parking area of Klar Ken’s apartment building, and caught the grav-lift
tube down to his father’s level.
Adam was dressed in a black suit. That was, if anything, his
power color. More than that, it was his security color.
When facing his dad, security was something to be prized. His
hair was cut conservatively and, by will, Adam forced his heartbeat to
a calm level. Amazing how the powers you picked up in Earth’s
environment could work to your advantage in business.
His face was almost as neutral as when he was gambling.
The lift-tube schussed open and Adam stepped into his father’s
domain. The living quarters weren’t as opulent as his own, but
Dad lived well. The apartment covered an entire floor of the
building. Klar could have had better if he’d wanted it, but he
believed in living within his means. A door from the inner
quarters slid back into its recess and Lyra Kent stepped into the
reception room. “Adam,” she said. “Come here.”
This time, Adam’s smile was unfeigned. He extended his arms,
walked to his mother, and embraced her. No matter what, he would
always love his mother. “Mom, it’d be better if you were a
Krypt,” he murmured, his head on her shoulder. “That way, I could
hug you as hard as you want.”
“Oh, rash,” scoffed Lyla. “If Krypts couldn’t control themselves,
I’d have never had you, Alan, and Lori. How have you been?”
“The usual,” he said. “Business, meetings, you know the
“I hope that’s true,” said Lyla. “Heaven help me, I hope that’s
He looked her in the eye. “Why? Is there something I don’t
Lyla shook her head. “I don’t know why your father wants to talk
to you. He’ll be here in a moment, though, and he wants a private
“I know,” said Adam. His heartbeat began to quicken. He
forced it down like a twitching limb. “Well, at least it won’t be
about my grades.”
She ventured a smile. “That’s long past. But tell me,
Adam...is everything really all right? Everything you know?”
In his eyes, Lyla thought she caught a bit of uncertainty. “Well,
Mom, nothing’s ever 100 percent all right. I mean, isn’t that one
of the lessons you taught us three? That you never quite get to
write your own life the way you’d want it?”
“That’s true,” she said. “But at least we can choose as much of the
meter as we can.” He had to admit he didn’t like the way she was
looking at him when she said it. But, Sheol, this wasn’t a
meeting with her, it was a meeting with Dad. Still...
“Adam. If there is anything bad going on, between you and Alan—“
“—or between you and anyone else in the Family, I want you to tell me.”
“I’ll be sure to, Mom.”
“Please, Adam, don’t interrupt me. I can keep a secret, even from
Klar if I want to. You are my son, and you can confide in
me. Will you do that, son? Will you promise me?”
Adam smiled and exhaled. “I promise, Mom. I promise.”
Even he couldn’t stop his heart from tripping, for a second. At
least she couldn’t hear it.
Lori was silent for a moment. Then she said, “All right.
Wait here, I’ll get your father.”
Adam waited and, indeed, she got his father. Klar Ken stood in
the opening of the doorway, wearing his spectacles, his dark blue robe
hanging to his knees, his feet clad in sandals. He didn’t favor
Adam with a smile.
“Hello, son,” he said. “We need to talk.”
Adam, lounging on the couch, gestured with his hand. “I’m always
available for a comm with you, Dad. What’s on your mind?”
“How have you gotten rich, son?”
The phrase was said gently, but Klar Ken’s face was stone.
Adam Kent shrugged. “The way most people do, I guess, Dad.
Master of Megabusiness Degree, apprenticeship, association with
higher-ups, ideas, all that...”
“I know that,” said Klar. “How have you gotten rich?”
“What’s this all about, Dad?” Adam was monitoring his heartbeat
as if he were a doctor in a cardiac ward. “Why did you call me
“I called you here because I’ve heard that you’re associating with
George and Irinia,” said Klar. “Are you?”
“Even if I had, what’s wrong with that? They’re Family, too.”
“That’s true,” Klar said. “But I’m not certain the rest of the
Family is safe from them, sometimes.”
“I thought you liked Uncle George.”
“I do. That doesn’t stop me from worrying about his side of the
Family. He was the one who almost tore down the meeting room on
“I know that,” said Alan, impatiently.
“But he’s not the one that worries me,” Klar continued. “His
wife, Irinia. She’s the power behind his particular throne,
and...make no mistake, son...she’s a snake. That daughter of hers
is no better, if a trifle dumber.”
“It’s not like we haven’t heard these rumors before,” said Adam.
“But, Dad, what’s on your mind? Go ahead and spit it out,
“I will. Have you been doing illegal business with George and
Adam laughed. “No! Holy sun of Krypton, Dad, is that what
this is all about? I never did business with George in my life,
outside of selling him power.”
“All right,” said Klar. “Because, son, sometimes I’ve wondered
how you make the decisions you’ve made. Your instincts for
timing, and places to strike, are uncanny. I never possessed any
“Well, I’m not a seven-star journalist, Dad. Neither is
Alan. Our talents are different.”
“You’re really not in business with George Kent? Tell me the
“No, Dad,” said Adam. “I am really not in business with George
“Good. Do you think you could go into business with him?”
Klar sat down facing his son. “Things are happening on that side
of the family I’m not certain of, Adam. I need somebody who could
keep me informed.”
“You want me—great Rao, Dad!—to be a spy?”
“Call it what you want. You’re the only one in the family who can
Adam closed his eyes, rubbed the side of the face. “You have a
drink? Sometimes I wish I could get drunk.”
A panel in the wall opened and a grav-disk with a glass of brandy on it
floated towards Adam. He plucked the glass from the tray and
chugged it down. If nothing else, he liked the taste. “Let
me get this straight. You want me to be partners with Uncle
George and report back to you?”
“It doesn’t have to be business partnership, if you don’t want.
Just social association. I need to know what they’re up to,
Adam. Particularly Irinia.”
“Why me? Why aren’t you asking Alan to do this? He’s the
“Alan couldn’t do this. They wouldn’t trust him.”
“And me,” said Adam, slowly. “They would trust me.”
Klar Ken said nothing.
“I don’t want to do this, Dad,” said Adam.
“All right,” Klar conceded.
“But that doesn’t mean I won’t.”
Klar’s expression softened a bit. He still didn’t smile.
“How will we meet? Where and when will we meet?”, said Adam.
“Here,” said Klar. “Not even a Krypt can see or hear through
these walls. You can call me when you want to talk. Nobody will
suspect a son who just wants to see his father.”
“I hope not,” said Adam, evenly.
“Adam.” Klar got up, went to his son, sat beside him on the
couch. “I know it was hard on you, not becoming the
Superman. I saw how hard it was on George, when I was
picked. But, believe me, the responsibilities are great.
Not everyone can handle them, and Alan is still learning.”
“I”m sure,” said Adam.
“The others of us serve as well, in other capacities. Alan isn’t
as cunning as you, I’m afraid. Your skills make it easier for you
to do what has to be done. That’s why I’m asking you.”
“What do you want me to find out?”
“I’m not sure,” admitted Klar. “But whatever Irinia Kent has in
mind can’t be beneficial to our side of the family. And, although
I hate to admit it, to the rest of the world, perhaps. Anything
you can pass on would be helpful.”
“Can’t you just talk to George?”
“About Irinia? No. No, I can’t.”
Adam looked at his father for a long moment. Then he said, “All
right. I think you’ve got a spy.”
Finally Klar smiled, and extended his hand. As Adam was on the
point of shaking it, Lyra burst into the room, a communicator in
hand. “Adam? Alan’s on the comm for you. Says it’s
“Urgent?” Adam hadn’t made any secret of the fact he was at his
father’s apartment. “What is it?”
“He wouldn’t say.”
Alan took the device, put the cubic end of it to his ear, and fastened
the speaking device to his throat. “Adam Kent.”
“Adam, this is Alan.” His brother’s voice was grim, as hard as
he’d ever heard it. “I’m over at Kath’s. You have to get
over here right now. No arguments.”
“I’m on my way.” Adam stripped off the comm setup and handed it
back to Lyra. “Something’s come up.”
“What?” Klar looked as though he was considering getting back in
the dress blues.
“It’s just for me. See you, Dad. I’ll be back later for my
hoverer.” He hurried to the lift, and by the time he emerged at
the top, he was already vibrating at super-speed to hide himself from
the human eye. From the roof, he rocketed over Metropolis towards
the apartment of Katherine de Ka’an.
He used his super-vision to scope out the scene, but he was there
almost before his brain registered it. As Adam came out of the
lift in Kath’s apartment, he saw it: his brother Alan was in his
Superman outfit, crouching near the couch-bed where Katherine was
lying. She’d been bruised pretty badly, especially around the
face. Adam could tell, from her vital signs, that she’d recently
been knocked unconscious.
Slowly, Superman XXI stood and faced his brother.
“She won’t tell me who did this,” said Alan. “But, by the light
of Rao, it better not have been you.”