The Great Confrontation
and Dannell Lites
Katherine de Ka’an awoke, feeling less pain than she had in hours, in a
hospital bed in Rokyn.
The term “hospital bed” might be misleading to an Earthman, or one of
Superman I’s era. Her bed was supported by a magnetic lattice
that held it above the floor, perfectly still, until such time as it
needed to be moved. There was no contact with the walls or
floor. A machine in the ceiling scanned her every vital sign over
and over again, instant by instant.
If her pain rose, a spray attachment would emerge from the wall behind
her head and infuse a spray into her bloodstream through her skin
without piercing it at all. If she needed medicine to sleep, she
pressed a button on a handset or called for it, and the sleep aid came
through the same mechanism. If she got hungry, or wanted to talk
to a nurse or doctor, she verbally requested it. A sensor picked
up on it and transmitted it directly to the nurses’ station. If
she needed attention, and needed it fast, the sensor sent warning
immediately to the doctors on duty and treated her as appropriately as
She looked to her left. Alan Kent was sitting beside her bed,
dressed in Kryptonian wear.
“Hello,” she said, softly.
“Hi, Kath,” said Alan. “How do you feel?”
She sighed. “Better. Physically, at least. I’m no
“No. Not yet. But...Sy will never be, either.”
“Sy.” Katherine drew back into herself for a moment. Adam
went to her, reached over, took her hand.
“She won’t hurt you again, Kath. I’ll see to that.”
She looked up at him. “Can you guarantee that?”
Alan rubbed her fingers. “As much as I can guarantee
anything. Sy is going to face penalties for this, and so will her
“What kind of penalties?”
He sighed. “I don’t know. I haven’t been back to Earth
since I brought you here. Adam told me he’d see to it.”
“Adam.” She shook her head. “You know what he’s doing to
this family, don’t you?”
“No,” he said. “He’s my brother, Kath. What is he doing?”
“He wants to be head of it,” she said, and her grip was strong on his
hand. “He’s going to tear it apart doing so, if he has to.
He’s playing all the angles, Alan. I’ve seen enough to know.”
“What have you seen, Kath?”
“I see with my eyes and my heart, Alan. What I saw with my eyes
was Adam coming for me a week ago and trying to bed me.” She
paused. “I threw him out. But I’m pretty sure he knows you
Alan’s face was stony.
“He said he’d just about kiss off the cape and suit to have me,” she
continued. “Now, he knows he can’t have either. What I saw
with my heart was more important, Alan. My heart saw that Adam
doesn’t like to lose. He’ll really do anything he can to keep
from it, which is why it hurts him so much when he still does.
He’s like an expert gambler, Alan. He never shows what he’s
feeling inside, when he doesn’t want you to.”
“Tell me out straight,” said Alan.
“He’s bedding Sy,” said Katherine. “She told me so herself.
I think he’s in bed, figuratively, with Irinia. They’re allying
themselves against you and your side of the Family, Alan. He
wants the cape. I think he’ll deal with the devil to get it.”
After a pause, Alan said, “You’re speaking of my brother.”
Kath raised herself on the bed and gripped his arm. “Alan, Alan,
don’t you see? It doesn’t matter that he was your brother.
Jax-Ur was somebody’s brother. Lex Luthor was somebody’s
brother. The Chronal Emperor was somebody’s brother. It
doesn’t mean they were good. And, Alan...I’m afraid Adam isn’t
Alan-El looked down, then straight into Kath’s eyes, sadly. “How
bad do you think he is?”
“What am I supposed to do?” asked Alan.
“You’re supposed to be Superman,” said Kath, as gently as she could.
“Great Rao,” said Alan. He let go of her hand.
“Wait. Where are you going?” Kath almost got out of bed.
At the door, Alan turned. “To do what you told me to, Kath.
Remember the phrase of our ancestors? ‘This is a job—for
He left. She thought about following, but knew she wasn’t up to
All she could do was offer a few more prayers, and hope they took.
The call had come into Klar Ken’s office and he didn’t like it a single
“There’s going to be a family meeting, Klar,” said Theor, one of the
Elders. “You’ll be presiding.”
“I don’t have time for this now,” Klar snapped. “I’ve got
newscasts to put together, idiots to talk to, two to hire, one to
fire. We’ll have to postpone.”
“We don’t have time to postpone, Klar. This line is secured,
“Secured double,” said Klar. There was nothing on Earth except
Kryptonian super-hearing that could tap into their conversation.
“Here’s the bit, Klar,” said Theo, tersely. “You know about the
assault on Katherine.”
“I do,” Klar said. He’d heard about it from Adam a few hours
before, and almost yelled his son’s head off. Then he’d put a
call through to Rokyn, to learn that the woman was sleeping, but
recuperating, with Alan on board. Alan had filled in a few
details, then broke contact before Kath awoke. It had taken all
his self-control to keep from going to George’s place and having it out
with anyone there. Only Adam’s assurance that he’d take care of
things had mollified him, partly.
But he still had an evening newscast to put together. And lots of
updates beyond that.
Klar sighed, took his glasses off, wiped his eyes. Like it or
not, he wasn’t Superman anymore. He was just the editor-in-chief
of the Daily Planet News Service, which provided journalistic fare of
all sorts to a large part of Earth and many of its planetary
outposts. That was his job.
After work, he’d have to do a job he liked much less. He wondered
if some exterior force, one of his old foes, was working a mischief
upon the Family. Could it be that simple? Just a matter of
finding out who was responsible, what he was doing, and stopping it?
Klar had a feeling it wouldn’t be like that.
He bent to the task of editing.
Bron Wayn wished he had the setup that the first Batman had. A
young assistant to work with, a loyal butler, a police commissioner who
collaborated with him, all of that. It made being the Batman a
lot less lonely.
Of course, there was his son Al, and Al’s wife Delva. But both of
them were off-planet now, and he wanted them to stay that way. And
The voice of the Gotham police detective broke his reverie. “And
that was the last time you saw your butler, Aelfric Hoff R3756?”
“Correct,” said Bron.
“Any clue as to why he left?”
“None whatsoever,” Bron said, hoping the apparatus he had under his
suit would mask his reactions from the cops sensor devices. He
was a good liar when he had to be, but not to a machine.
“Gambling debts? Lovers quarrels? Questionable activities?”
“No, no, and no, sameish,” said Bron. “He never gambled, he never
fell in love, and I don’t think he would have had time to do the last.”
The shamus gave Bron an eyeing. “Lots of servants manage to keep
things hidden from their employers, Mr. Wayn.”
“I’m sure they do. Apparently Aelfric did.”
“All right,” said Regman Tel L5746, the detective. “We’ll put him
on the Lookout Lists. I’m sure you’re aware that, given your
stature in the community, Mr. Wayn, the newsers are going to be on top
of this in a short time.”
“I’m aware of that,” said Bron. It would make things difficult.
But even more difficult would be breaking the law by not reporting
Aelfric’s absence. The Batman would have to take care of things,
but not without that.
“That’s all I can do, Mr. Wayn.” Regman allowed him to stand up
and shake hands, after which Bron left. Reg stared
after him for awhile, with his partner Ken on hand. After a few
seconds, Ken said, “More than meets the sensors to that guy.”
“Readings were too perfect. We couldn’t strip him, though, to
check for cloakers. No evidence.”
“Think he killed him?”
“I don’t know, Ken. Right now, we’re looking for the Joker.
His first thing was to kill a descendant of a friend of the first
“So you think...”
“The Waynes were supposed to be friends of the Batmen,” said Reg.
“If the Joker’s involved, it could be part of the pattern. He
hits somebody close to Wayne.”
“We don’t have evidence that Aelfric Hoff is dead.”
“No. We don’t,” said Reg. “Just speculation. I hate
“Keep an eye on Wayn?”
“Yeah,” said Reg, finally. “To the nthest.”
M’Nath, Curso, and Yinsen were having dinner together. The dinner
consisted of a seven-course meal in one of Metropolis’s lowest-level
dining establishments. Since the Mob controlled it, nobody much
objected. Besides, the three crime bosses were big tippers.
After the Coluan, M’Nath, bit into some otherworld delicacy, he
remarked, “So far as I know, we haven’t heard a thing.”
“Yeah,” admitted Curso. “That’s the reason I brought you here.”
“Has Chang?” said Yinsen. “He was supposed to be the contact for
Mr. Mask. The guy said he’d handle things through Chang.”
“No word from Chang,” said Curso. “He’d tell us. Or he’d
“And they’d tell us,” said M’Nath. Anybody who withheld
information from the Combine did it at the risk of their body. Or
The Metro crime chief pulled a wad of flesh from the meat on his plate
with his hands and ate it. “Boys,” he said, “I’ve been doin’ a
bit of thinking. Care to hear?”
“Thinking is dangerous stuff,” M’Nath said. “Coluans know.”
“Load us, Curso,” said Yinsen. “What’s your call?”
“The call is this,” said Curso, still chewing. “We ain’t got
proof. I admit that. But suppose this guy in the mask
really is the Boy in Blue?”
Yinsen nodded. “The thought had crossed my mind.”
“If it is, one of two things is possible, at least. One: he’s
setting us up for something, giving us bait and seeing if we take
it. Two: he’s the new kid, and he’s turning bent himself.
Either one’s possible. But let’s think about number two.”
M’Nath, intrigued, settled his black-suited body. “Give, my
“If Mr. Mask is the new Superman, he may think he’s got us by the
curlies. But just think about it. By gettin’ involved with
us, what does that make him?”
“Bent,” said Yinsen. “If it’s on the straight, and he isn’t
playing the other end of the street.”
“Which we have no assurances he isn’t,” murmured M’Nath.
“We’ve taken risks before,” Curso said. “We take ‘em every
day. Suppose that Big Blue is bent. His joints with us
makes him just as dirty. Ergo...”
“And if we expose him, he makes us dead,” said Yinsen.
Curso looked at the Asian. “Maybe. But remember, if this is
Superman...how many guys do you think he’s doused?”
Yinsen lifted an eyebrow. “No telling. But with the rep of
his family...I’d say next to none.”
“Let’s play this from the other end of the street,” said Curso.
“Ever hear the story of the genie in the bottle? We do this
right, we’ve got our own personal genie. In a big colored suit.”
“Don’t know if I like this,” said M’Nath. “It depends on too much
we don’t know. Suppose we find out more before we do anything
“Just my sentiments, Nath,” said Curso, a glass of wine in his
hand. “Let’s get an audience with Mr. Mask. Then let’s get
something on him. Once we’ve got that...” His voice trailed
“We’ve got a genie,” said Yinsen. “Or we’ll get dead.”
“That’s the choice we made when we got into the life,” said
Curso. “Well, gentlemen?”
M’Nath looked at Yinsen. Yinsen nodded.
“Okay, Wally,” said M’Nath. “We’re sold.”
“Where the doublehell is Alan?”
Lawrence Lazio, director of We’re
All Martians, was in a mood not even a quadruple brandy could
mollify. That was only two brandies over normal, but still a
cause for concern. The white, green, and other colored beings on
the set were doing whatever they did in such cases, sucking up to the
boss if they had to, ignoring him and hoping the thing would blow over
if they could, studying lines, eating, drinking, gambling on the Big
Pick Six thru CompLink, reading cheap novels on a BookLine feed, and
“We don’t know, chief,” said Melvin 0967 Gaines, Lazio’s assistant and
chief shock absorber. “But he’s made it in with time to spare
before. Sometimes. You know?”
“I know!” roared Lazio, so that everyone could hear it thru the EarSets
they wore pressed to their skulls to receive orders. This time,
it made them wonder if their brains would oatmeal out through their
ears. “And I’m sick and tired of it! What’s he want us to
do, a doubledamned repeat before the first quarter’s even over?
Ratings. Has anyone around here heard about ratings?”
“Day and night, chief,” said Melvin, hurriedly. “But...”
“Exactly. But when else? Am I the only one who worries
about these things? Am I the only one who’s concerned with
production around here? Am I the only one who grows a new ulcer
and needs a cloned stomach graft every month? Am I...”
“I’m here, Larry,” said Alan Kent.
En masse, the cast and crew turned to the doorway. Alan was
coming thru it, grinning, in costume and makeup. Makeup.
“How’d you get in makeup?” shrieked Lazio.
“I knew I was gonna be late, so I had it done before I came,” said
Alan. “I paid for it. You can pay Sally the union fee.”
“How’d you get in costume?”
“I dress fast.”
“Alan,” said Lazio. “I am going to kill you. I will loop a
steel cable about your neck, tie the back end of it to my Hover, drag
you through the skies of this fine city, and smash your stinking,
inconsiderate body against every building I can find until long after
the point where you have ceased to resemble anything human. I
will do that, Alan, and I will pay to have the buildings cleaned
afterward. However. Before that happens, I will see you get
you ass on that stage and give me the best performance you’ve given me
all season. Do you understand, Alan?”
“DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”
“Melvin, call up the medics,” said Lazio. “Tell them to clone me
two extra stomachs this month, just in case.”
“Right on it, Chief,” said Melvin.
Silence for a second.
“Well? What are you waiting for? We’re scanning! All
of you get in place! Do you know how many credits per minute it
costs us to scan?”
“Well, Chief, approximately...”
“Shut UP, Melvin! Action!”
Theo 3567 Siegel had served as an elected judge in his community.
That was one of the reasons he had been appointed a Family
Mediator. Usually his duties were just business disputes or
counseling. Every now and then things got out of hand, but when it came
to violence, few of the Family had done more than dust one another’s
jaw at the most. There had only been one time recorded when a
Family member had to receive the Gold K treatment, followed by exile.
He hoped it wouldn’t come to that again. But all his instincts
told him that this was going to be one of the nastiest cases he’d heard
“This is a preliminary hearing,” Theo announced, from his place in the
center of the table. The Mediation Council met in a room none but
the Family members had ever seen, and all too few of them, a good
distance below the surface of Siegel’s estate. “Case before us,
Sybilla Kent, daughter of George and Irinia Kent, charged with assault
on the person of another family member, one Katherine de Ka’an.
Is the accused present?”
“She is, Mediator,” said another El member, formally. Sy Kent,
who had been standing between George and Irinia, stepped forward, but
“Is there a Family member appointed to argue her case?”
Nobody had seen anyone standing beside George and Irinia.
Typically, the father would handle his child’s advocacy. But
George was staying where he was. Theo frowned and was about to
Then someone moved from the back of the room. He stepped to Sy
Kent’s side, quickly, and nodded to the judge.
“I am, Mediator,” said Adam Kent, quietly. “I am advocate for
For a long moment, Theo Siegel held the silence.
“We shall proceed,” he said.