The Great Confrontation
and Dannell Lites
“Alan, I swear to you–-“
“Did you do it, Adam? DID YOU DO IT?”
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.”
“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
“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
“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—“
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?”
“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
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.”
“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
“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
“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
“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
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?”
“Tell me, now. Tell me.”
For awhile, all that was heard was the soft whimpering of Katherine de
“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.
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,
“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.
“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—“
“—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
“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.”
“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
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
“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
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
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.”
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
“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.