The Great Confrontation

    Part 14

    by DarkMark and Dannell Lites

“Alan, I swear to you–-“

“Did you do it, Adam?  DID YOU DO IT?”

“No!”

Adam Kent looked at his brother and knew just how far away they were from punching each other through the building material.  Time to use some of that business skill that Daddy claimed he didn’t have.  Work, mouth, before you get punched.

“Alan, let me through.  I want to see Kath.”

The 21st Superman looked as though, for two credits, he’d try to burn a hole through his brother with his heat vision.  “You can stay right where you are, Adam.”

“Didn’t I tell you I didn’t do it?  What do you want me to do?  I swear it, Alan, I didn’t do it!”

“Then who the hell did?  Only someone in the Family could have done it.  I want to know and I want to know now.”

“Why?”  Adam stepped into his brother’s personal space.  “So you can go beat them up, too?”

“The idea had crossed my mind.”  Alan’s tone was low and deadly.

“That’s not the way we do things in the Family.  You know that, Alan.”  Adam kept his own voice calm, reasonable.  “We don’t fight among ourselves.”

“Like Sheol.  Somebody beat the hell out of Kath and I want to know who.  I want to look into their eyes.”  Alan’s eyes narrowed.  “Hold on.  I know.”

“Alan.”

“I know.”  Superman XXI whirled and went to the couch where Katherine de Ka’an was lying.  “Kath,” he said, softly.

The blonde woman tensed, but said nothing.

“Your hand, Kath.  Give me your hand.”

She wouldn’t.  Gently, Alan took it.  He turned her fingers to a point where he could easily scrutinize them with a vision power that could make atomic nucleai look like boulders.  Then, involuntarily, he squeezed her hand so tightly she whimpered.

“I’m sorry, Kath,” he said, and put her hand against her chest again.

Adam came up behind Alan, but didn’t touch him.  “Tell me,” he said.  “Tell me what you saw.”

“Hair follicles, under her nails,” said Alan.  “You know what color.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Black, dammit!  Female!  Just like our dear cousin’s color!”

Alan paused.  “Sy?”

“I’m not talking about our sister, Adam.”

The businessman settled into a chair.  “Oh, Rao,” he said, rubbing his eyes.  “Great holy Rao, mother moon, all creation too.”

“It has to be her,” said Alan.  “After they had that fight at the reunion, it shouldn’t have taken me this long to figure it.  I’m going, Adam.”

“No, you’re not.”  Adam Kent stood and placed a hand on his brother’s chest.  “Let me tell you why, Alan.”

With a quick motion, Alan knocked his brother’s hand away.  “Get out of my path, brother.”

“Alan, SIT.  DOWN.”

The Superman blinked.  “What in Sheol are you—“

“Now.”

As if zombified, Alan Kent went to a chair beside Kath’s sofa and sat.  “All right,” Adam continued, standing.  “The time of greatest passion should be the time for greatest rational thought.  Agreed on that?”

“Spit it out, Adam.”

“What I mean, brother, is that you are not in any condition to talk with Sy or her family about this.”

“I had something more in mind than talking.”

“Oh?”  Adam stopped in front of his brother.  “What would you do?  Beat her up?”

“I—“

“How well do you think that would go down with the Family, Alan?  How much do you think that beating a woman would add to the image of the Superman?”

Alan Kent sat there, his mouth open.

Gently, Adam went to one knee near his brother, putting a hand on his shoulder.  “The fact of your rage, Alan, is the very reason why you shouldn’t be the one to handle this.  You won’t be able to handle yourself, in Sy’s presence.  Not now.”

“I want her to pay!”

“And she will, Alan.  But let me point something out.  If you seek revenge on Sy, if you physically assault her, what do you think will be uppermost in the Family’s mind?  Sy beating Katherine, or you beating Sy?  Who has the most prominence in the Family?  The Superman, or her?”

“I don’t care.”

“Well, you’d better care.”

“What if I don’t?”

“Then, brother, may I remind you of something?  What our father said when he gave you the suit? ‘Wear it proudly, or another will wear it in your stead.’”

Alan Kent stared at his brother.  Adam let him do so, for a long moment.  Then he went on.

“Human nature, Alan.  It doesn’t often see the greatest sin.  It usually sees the last.  If you hurt Sy, Rao forbid, the Family will see that first.  What she is, what she did, that’ll be secondary, even given Kath’s hurt...and Rao knows, I...Alan, I can barely stand to look at her, myself.”

Alan let out a long breath.  “Don’t play with words, Adam.”

“Alan.  I’m only playing with words to keep you from playing with fists.”  He stood before his brother, his hands open at his sides.  “If you have to hit somebody, hit me.  Go on.  If it’ll help you let it out, go ahead.”

“I.  Can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because you didn’t do this to her.”

 “And you can’t punish me because of that?  You know what, Alan?  I think that’s the wisest thing you’ve said since I’ve come here.”

“I want her to pay,” grated Alan.

“She will,” said Adam, putting a hand on his brother’s shoulder.  “The Family will see to that.  But it will be done in the proper way.  And you, Alan...you have to keep your hands out of this.”

Alan clenched his hands so hard that Adam expected to see white heat rising from them.  “What am I supposed to do?”

“You know where the Fortress is,” said Adam.  “You know how to use the WarPort.”

“You want me to take her to Rokyn?”

“I want you both to go to Rokyn.  Kath should stay there as long as she has to for healing and medical attention.  Psych, too.  You should stay there for at least 24 hours.  Make it 48, if you can.”

“I’ve got a job.  They need me on the show.”

“Make excuses.  You’re the star.  You really think they’re going to do anything without you?”

Alan glared at Adam.  “You’ve really got this figured out, don’t you, brother?  You really think you know what to do about everything.”

“Well, somebody has to, Alan.  Your brain was bound by fury.  In another half-hour, you’d have been well on the way to passing on the Superman title.”  He paused.  “Do you think I want it?”

Alan said nothing.

“I’m so busy it makes your acting schedule look like a part-time,” said Adam.  “Personally, I’m glad you’ve got it.  Tell me something, brother.”

“What?”

Adam nodded towards Katherine.  “Do you love her?”

“What do you think?”

“What I think isn’t what I know,” said Adam.  “Tell me.”

“Yes, dammit!  I do love her.  Don’t you?”

“Alan, I...”

“Tell me, now.  Tell me.”

“I...did.”

For awhile, all that was heard was the soft whimpering of Katherine de Ka’an.

“Yes, she warmed my bed, Alan,” said Adam, almost sadly.  “I’ll never forget those days, or what she was to me.  But...people change, Alan.  All three of us, Rao knows, have changed.  Go.  If you love her, and if you love me, take her to Rokyn.  I’ll attend to Sy.”

“Swear,” said Alan.

“I swear.”

The man in the blue uniform turned and, removing his cape, wrapped it gently around Katherine’s body.  “Kath.  We’re going to the Fortress, and then to Rokyn.  I’m going to take you to healers there.  They’ll make you well again.  Do you understand me, Kath?  Do you understand?”

It seemed to take five minutes for Katherine to give a slight nod.

Still holding her, Alan turned towards his brother.  “When I return, if nothing has been done about Sy, I’ll hold you responsible, brother.  Personally.”

“Agreed, Alan.  Agreed.  Now, please, go.  Rao’s light shine on you.”

The young Man of Steel said nothing.  He took Katherine and himself to the lift tube and activated it.  The cylinder closed around him and the two of them schussed to the roof.  By the time he lost sight of them, Adam knew his brother would be vibrating both of them at super-speed to make them invisible to human eyes.  

He prepared to do much the same thing himself.  There were so many things to do, so many gambits to improvise.  But that, after all, was what he was best at.

Soon enough, the Family would find he was best at everything.

    -S-

“What have you done, young lady?”

Sy Kent looked up at her mother, sullenly.  “Nothing, Mom.”

The matriarch stepped towards her, and for all her power, Sy stepped back.  “I repeat: what have you done?  I know some of it from the homebots’ playback.  I want to hear it from you.”

Her arms folded, looking at the floor, Sy said, “Kath came over.  We had a fight.”

“Oh.”  Irinia Kent nodded.  “That’s all.  Your cousin came over and you got into a fight with her.”

“Well, she started it!”

“Well, I don’t care!”  Irinia grabbed both of Sy’s shoulders, tightly.  “What do you think that’s going to make us look like, Sy?  That one of the Family got into a, a catfight with the other?  And from the looks of things, you were the one that came out on top.”

“Would you rather I lost?”

“Actually, it might have been better if you had.”

Sy managed to push her mother back.  “I cannot believe what I am hearing, Mom.  I doubleplus don’t believe you are saying that you wanted me to lose a fight!”

“You stupid child, don’t you see?  It’s not whether you won or lost, it’s our image!  Because Katherine de Ka’an is the darling of the family, because you, for whatever reason, got into a fight with her and, I assume, beat her to a pulp—“

“I did.”

“—the sympathy’s all going to be with their side now.  As if we didn’t have a hard enough time here, Sy.  Do you think what I do is easy?  Do you think that maintaining the status of our clan in the Family is easy?”

“You’re an Earther, Mom.”

“Maybe that’s why I’ve got the brains that I do,” snapped Irinia.  “We don’t have the muscles you Krypts did, so we had to develop our other traits.  Sy.  You gave our enemies political timber.  You made us look like the enemy, to the rest of the clans.”

“You think they don’t already think we are?”

Irinia Kent drew her hand back for a slap, reconsidered it, and glared at her daughter.  “I think you know nothing,” she said.  “You have power enough to move a mountain, but you’re dumber than a post.”

“Mom.”

“Don’t ‘mom’ me, young lady!  If it wasn’t for your dear mother here, George Kent wouldn’t be half the man he is today.  There are clans in the Family that are just scraping by.  We’re near the top.  Do you know why?”

“Because of you,” said Sy, in a by-rote tone.

“Exactly.  We stand only second to Klar Ken’s clan in prestige.  With a little luck and a lot of work, we might even change that.  But not with something such as this, daughter.  The Family will not stand for such a thing.  And because they won’t, neither will I.”

“What do you want me to do?  Go apologize to her?”

“I want you to shut up and let me do the directing for awhile,” said Irinia.  “Apologizing, of course, will be part of it.  But only part, and only where and when I say.  Your father will be home later.  We have a lot of damage control to accomplish.  An unheavenly lot.”

“Yes, Mrs. Kent, I’m sure you do.”

The voice caused both women to look up.  Sy Kent was as stunned as her mother.  Perhaps more so, because she cursed herself for not detecting the presence of another.  

Then again, when said presence sidled into view, she knew why she hadn’t.  The man before them, she had heard, was good at things such as that.

“I’m looking for someone,” said the Batman.  “Perhaps you can help me find him.”

Despite herself, Irinia Kent shrank back.  “I, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Who are you?  How did you get here?”

Sy stepped in front of her mother.  “You have ten seconds to get the Sheol out.”

In response, Batman raised his right hand, formerly concealed by his cloak.  In it was a gun of some sort.  It was pointed at Sy.  “Use your X-ray vision,” said Batman.  “What’s the gun composed of?”

Sy obeyed.  “I can’t see through it.  Lead.”

“This is a kind of water pistol, Miss Kent,” he said.  “Would you care to guess what kind of water it contains?”

This time, Irinia got between him and her daughter.  Her nostrils flared, but her eyes showed fear.  “You have no business invading my home. Get out.”

“You have no business dealing with the Joker,” said Batman, softly.  “Care to give me some details?”

Sy looked at her mother, wild-eyed.  “The Joker?  Mom?  The Joker?  What’s he talking about?”

“Sy, shut up,” said Irinia.

“Your position in your Family could slip much further if it were known you were consorting with criminals,” said Batman.  “Especially homicidal maniacs.  Speak, Mrs. Kent.  I have a lot of questions.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Irinia Kent.

“I don’t know if you’re aware of it, Mrs. Kent, but my utility belt contains a voice stress analyzer.  They’ve been extant for centuries.  I’ve checked it, Mrs. Kent, but I didn’t really have to.  I knew already you were lying.”

Irinia said nothing.  Sy waited for her mother’s action.

“This isn’t a game we’re playing, Mrs. Kent.  I have a family, too.  One of my forebears was murdered by this man you’re doing business with.  Talk to me.”

“Mom,” said Sy.  Despite her power, she seemed fearful of the man in blue, black, and grey.

“I want the Joker, Mrs. Kent.  Next to him, you mean nothing.  Deal with me, and I’ll leave you out of the loop.  Refuse, and I’ll have your name dragged through every holocast on this planet.  Do not doubt me, Mrs. Kent.  Do not ever dare to doubt.”

Irinia drew herself up to her full height with some effort.  “You make charges without basis, accusations without evidence.  You violate the law.  You break into my own home, without invitation.  I could have you bound over for trial.  Unless you leave my house within two minutes, I shall.”

“Don’t play games with me, Mrs. Kent!”

“Games?”  Irinia Kent got as close to the Batman as she dared.  “I’ll show you games, you fool.  Stay here, and you’ll either be a fugitive or a captive.  They’ll unmask you and put you in a holding cell.  And if you really are the Batman...just what do you think the Joker will be doing if you’re in jail?”

There was a long silence.  None of the three in the room seemed to move, save for their lungs.  Then a soft tone was heard, at the same time that a monitor light on the wall lit up.

“That is my husband, George,” said Irinia.  “You might tag either him or my daughter with your little squirt gun.  But I don’t think even you can get them both.”

The Batman melted back into the darkness.  Sy Kent tried to track him with her super-vision.  She couldn’t.

Within a few seconds, George Kent walked into the room.  “Irinia.  Sy.  The deal’s done.  We’re prepared to clear a hundred thousand credits an hour on this distribution.”

“That’s nice, dear,” said Irinia, wrapping her arms about herself.

George scrutinized her.  “Something’s in the wind?”

“I’ll get the homebots to prepare dinner, George.  I have a feeling we’re going to need every credit you can get.”

    -S-

After the discussion, Sy Kent went to her room, combolocked the door, and plastered herself face-first on the hover bed.  Frab it all, it wasn’t fair.  It just wasn’t fair.  That bitch de Ka’an came over and picked a fight.  She lost.  And who got blamed for it?  Just because Mom didn’t want to look bad?

Sy fidgeted, but not so much she didn’t hear the window opening.  Not too many had the power to accomplish that.  She turned over on her bed.

“Adam,” she said, looking at the man crouching on her windowsill.

“May I come in?”

She shrugged.  Adam Kent entered, taking care to make as little noise as possible, and replaced the window.  “I’ve heard you had a little set-to with Katherine,” he said.

Carefully, Sy nodded. “Yeah.”

“I saw what you did to her,” he said.

Sy stared at him, waiting for his next words.

“Well done,” said Adam Kent.

  (next chapter)

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