The Great Confrontation

    Part 17

    by DarkMark and Dannell Lites

“You want to explain yourself?  Son?”

Adam shrugged.  “What is there to explain, Dad?”

Klar removed his glasses.  It was a dangerous sign, Adam knew, but he didn’t have time to dodge before his father pinned him against the wall with one hand on his chest, lifting his feet several inches off the floor.

“You do not take that tone with me, son.  Ever.  No matter what your age, no matter what your wealth, no matter where you are in society.  You will answer my questions throroughly, factually, and not with another question.  Do you understand?”
Adam swallowed pride, fear, and bile.  “Yes, sir.”

“You chose to defend Sy Kent in a family hearing.  Why?”

“Could you let me down first, Dad?”

“Answer me now.”

“Because this way I can keep the girl under wraps.  She will not, ah, go flying off the handle if I’m there to watch her.  Also, I can learn more of George’s agenda.”

“Thought that’s why I had you there,” said Klar.  “If you haven’t turned to his side, that is.”

“Dad, if you believe that...”

“Give me a reason not to believe it, son.  Give me a reason.”

Adam exhaled.  “Dad, let me down from here.  Now.”

After a pause, Klar did just that.  With his feet on the ground, Adam Kent straightened the front of his shirt.  “Thanks,” he said, hoping his eyes were anger-suppressed enough.

The elder Superman stood looking at his son.  Then he said, “She’s your mistress, isn’t she?”

“Who?”

“Sy.”

“What if she is?”

“Damn it!  Do we have to go through this again?”

Adam stepped a bit closer to his father.  “Dad.  We’re not going through this again.  Period.”

After a second, Klar Kent shook his head in sadness.  “What have you learned?”

“Not a lot that you don’t know,” admitted Adam.  “Yet.  Sy said that her mother might be mixed in something heavy, but won’t tell me what.  Not at this point.”

“What’s the nature of the mix?”

“Something past legal, probably.”

“Rao,” said Klar, bringing a chair close to him with suction breath and sitting down in it.  “Irinia.  I told George not to get married to her.  Told him she was a cobra in silks.  But he wanted wealth, he wanted respectability.  Now he’s just an Earther’s puppet.”

Adam didn’t say anything.

“You’re playing a damned dangerous game, boy,” said Klar.  “I’m not sure who’s side you’re really on.  And you’re my own son.”

“That I am, Dad,” said Adam.  “That I am.  If you want to let me off the hook on this one...”

“No.  But—“ Klar looked about the room and then settled his gaze on his son.  “Haven’t we raised you better than that, son?  How did you get to be so duplicitous?”

The younger man turned away.

“Don’t,” said Klar.  “Don’t, son.  Please, face me.  At least you owe me that.”

When he did, Adam’s face bore a look of sadness.  It was genuine.  “Because I found out there were some things you couldn’t fix with strength.  Because there were a lot of things that required more than the ability to bend steel with your bare hands, or leap tall buildings at a single bound.  You can overpower a man if you have greater strength.  But how do you change his heart?  How do you change his mind?”

Klar had nothing to say.

“That’s the question I face every day as a businessman,” said Adam.  “I have to use powers that aren’t just reserved to Kryptonians.”

“And you think you’re the man who can change hearts and minds.”

“I have to be.  It’s what I do.  It’s what I am.”

After a pause, Klar said, “I don’t want that little bitch near Kath.”

“I don’t, either,” said Adam.

“And I want you to keep reporting to me.”

“Will do.”

“All right, then,” said Klar.  “Be seeing you.”

Adam hesitated.  For the first time in recent memory, he was having trouble forming words.  Finally, he said, “Is it like this with Alan?”

“You said it yourself once, son.  He’s a different kind of man.”

And for a moment, Klar Kent thought he saw something spark beyond the poker face that Adam put on for business dealings.  Then it was gone.  But Klar did not forget it.

“Yes, he is,” said Adam, smiling.  “Goodbye, Dad.”

He left.

    -S-

The only good thing out of this whole mess, Katherine de Ka’an decided, was the fact that she got to spend some time on Rokyn.  The problem was, it was in a hospital.

She was gratified that the bruises were healing, especially the ones treated with a face-shaping process.  Nonetheless, she still hurt.  There was little that could be done about that, except treatments to abate the pain and time to let the body heal itself.  It had, after all, been less than a week since she got put through the jetstream by the uberbitch, Sy Kent.

Lying in the gravbed, Katherine stretched herself and reviewed things.  The Family had gotten in contact with her thru holotransmission and had her give them a statement about the fight.  She hoped, at the least, Sy would be punished for it, ending up in exile on this planet for awhile, or maybe even Gold K’ed.  That was one brand of Kryptonite that still worked on them.

Still...

How could she feel great about the way she had handled herself?  Katherine de Ka’an, latest in the line from Kara Zor-El, the first Supergirl.  Her ancestress had faced Luthor, Darkseid, Mongul, and all the rest.  Other Supergirls had battled great menaces of their age, among them the Dark Emperor, the Union of Injustice, Lady Chaos, and a host of others, either singly or with a Superman.  There had been fewer Supergirls than there had been Supermen, but they served proudly.

Except, perhaps, for her.  Kath had never gone in for Klurkor or self-defense training; she just wasn’t that kind of a woman.  Anyway, Kryptonians had little to fear on Earth, save for seawater.  True enough, once in awhile a Family member got peeved enough to take a poke at another.  And, true enough, Sy had poked her quite nastily at the reunion.  But she never expected to take a beating like she did at Irinia’s house.

Which, of course, ended up with her shaking like a leaf in a hurricane and having to be brought here by Alan.  Rao bless his soul and his big strong arms.  

Damn it.  Why couldn’t she be the strong one?

Kath closed her eyes.  From what she’d read of Kara Zor-El’s journal and learned from her researches, her forebear had taken her share of beatings as well.  Once, so legend had it, she journeyed into the realm of Death all unknowing, and was brought back unconscious to the hands of Superman I.  That had been during an early battle with Mongul.  Also, Kara had confessed to being near death more than a few times, sometimes from Kryptonite exposure, other times in combat, against the Anti-Monitor, or Darkseid, or menaces with the Legion which she didn’t commit to writing.  

The thing was, Kath doubted that Kara was left as badly shaken as she was whenever she got a pounding.

Once, she had harbored a hope that she might become a Supergirl.  It wasn’t, after all, as complex and fraught with ceremony as becoming a Superman.  Usually, if there was a female descendant of Kara Zor-El who wanted to put on the cape, and she was the first in her generation to do so, she got the job.  It’s true, there was a catty feud between two cousins a couple of centuries back, but nothing that bad.  The Family would step in to discipline a Supergirl if she did something really out of line, but for the most part, the girls in the blue, red, and yellow suit were left to themselves.

She had money, had an inheritance, had various things which she gave her time to.  Would she have time for a double life, even if she wanted one?

Could she be a different kind of Supergirl?  One who didn’t go out slugging bad guys, but devoted her power to helping mankind in other ways?  For ages, the Family had devoted itself to fighting evil.  What if it was time for a different approach?

But...as long as Sy Kent was around, Kath wasn’t certain she even wanted to try to be a Supergirl.

A chime sounded just before a holoscreen opened up in the airspace before her bed.  “Tynth De Ka’an,” said a nurse’s voice.  “Visitors to see you.  From Earth.  A Tanth Fin-El and a Tynth LoriLe Klar-El.”

“I’ll accept them,” said Kath, wondering why her cousins had come all the way to Rokyn to see her, but glad they made the effort.  Even Alan hadn’t been by, since he’d left.

The door schussed open and Lori and Fin entered, walking side by side.  The girl’s Slug makeup always made Kath want to laugh, but she suppressed it.  And Fin was a fine figure of a man, but not as good, she thought, as Alan.  “Well, hi,” she said.

Fin looked chagrined before he caught himself and smiled.  “Kath,” he said.  “Doublegreat to see you.  Feeling all right?”

Lori looked at him.  “Does she look all right, Fin?”

“Uh—“

“I’m getting better,” said Kath, saving him.  “Just don’t expect me to race a comet anytime soon.  Thanks uberplus much for coming to see me.”

Letting her mask drop a bit, Lori went to Kath’s bedside and took the blonde’s right hand in both of hers.  “I cannot imagine what she did to you, Katherine,” she said.  “What was it like before treatments?”

“Worse,” Kath admitted.

Fin crowded next to his lover.  “I don’t know that what we’re going to tell you is gonna make you feel much better.  But if I didn’t, Lori here probably would.”

“Something about Alan?”

“No, he’s still fine,” said Lori.  “This has to do with Adam.”

Kath tried to say something and failed.

“Before we go any further,” said Fin, “can you tell us what happened to you?  We know the reports, but we’d like to hear it from you.”

She shook her head.  “There isn’t that much to tell.  I went to Sy, tried to warn her about Adam.”

“Warn her why?”  Lori looked like she knew the answer, but wanted confirmation.

“Because...”  Kath paused.  “Adam’s dangerous.  Not in something I can point to specifically, but in what I know.  What I feel.”  She paused again.  “You’re his sister, Lori.  I shared his bed, but you’d know him better than me.”

“I might,” said Lori.  “Please, go on.”

“You know why I was attracted to him.  His power, his looks...but after awhile, that wasn’t enough to keep me there.  He’s kind of...soul-challenged.  I mean...”

“I know what you mean,” said Lori.

“You do?”

“He is my brother.”

“Alan isn’t like that,” she said.  “But he isn’t as aggressive and, well, vicious as Adam.  More of an artist’s soul.  That’s why I l...”  She stopped herself.

Fin smiled, briefly.  “Go ahead and say it, Kath.”

“That’s why I love him,” said Katherine de Ka’an.  It was the first time she’d said it out loud.  

“Go on, dear,” Lori prompted, stroking her hand.

“Adam tried to...reconnect with me, not long ago.  I put him off, made him leave.  But he had to know I was keeping company with Alan.  I’m afraid he won’t take that well.  That was the main reason I went to Sy, to try and warn her about him.  But she didn’t want to be warned.  And...the way she acted, the way she talked...”

“Pushed you into a fight,” said Fin, not smiling at all.  

Kath looked into space, silently.

Lori broke the silence.  “Kath, I’ll share our news.  Adam defended Sy at her hearing.”

“No!”

“We only wish the answer was no, Lori,” said Fin.  “She’s been released into his custody, pending further judgment.”  He paused.  “They’re lovers.”

“Oh, Sheol, I knew that,” she said, impatiently.  “But I didn’t know he’d...”  She fumbled for words.

“Be so blatant about it?” offered Lori.

“Yes,” she said, finally.

“My brother was never one to be crossed,” said Lori.  “He was never one to take failure easily.  And he is known for his paybacks.”

“Here’s the score, as we see it, Kath,” said Fin.  “It’s pretty obvious he’s thrown in with Irinia and her clan.  She wants power, of course, and she’s damned good at getting it.  George has always wanted the Superman line to come from his family, but with Klar in command, there’s no chance of that.”

“The next best thing is to have a Superman who would be like one of his clan,” said Lori.  “Adam would do that.  But if Irinia thinks that she controls things, she’s misperceiving, for once.”

“Who does?” said Kath.  “Adam?”

“Right now, everyone involved thinks he or she is in control,” Lori said.  “In such a situation, the most likely result is that...nobody is.”

“We think there’s a breakup coming in the Family,” said Fin.  “Klar on one side, George, Irinia, Sy, and, yes, Adam on the other.  I don’t know when it’s coming, but I’m afraid we’re headed for a confrontation.  A very, very great confrontation.”

“Oh, Rao,” breathed Kath.  “That cannot happen, Fin.  That goes against everything the Family believes.”

“It goes against everything the Family is supposed to believe, Kath,” said Lori.  “As for what individuals believe, it may not be so opposed.”

“They could destroy the world,” Kath said.  “They could destroy each other.”

“We don’t think it’ll come to that,” said Fin.  “But we want to make sure Adam and Klar know the score.  We want the whole Family to know it, too.”

“I have to go,” Kath said, sitting up in bed and throwing her covers off.  “I have to get back to Earth.”

“You have to stay right here,” said Lori, placing a hand on her shoulder and easing her back down.  “You have to mend.  When the time comes, you’ll be sent for.  But coming back to Earth in your condition would be worse than useless.”

“She’s right, Kath,” said Fin.  “On Rokyn, you can get the treatment you need.  Also, it’s better for you to stay away from the hot spot right now.  We’re going to do what we can.  And believe you me, you have helped.”

“But what about Alan?”

“We’ll have to talk to him doublesoon,” admitted Fin.  “If he isn’t out Supermanning it, we’ll contact him as soon as we get back.  Myself...”  He looked around the room, wistfully.  “I wish we could stay.  I don’t get to see Rokyn all that much.  Here, we don’t have to pretend to be who we aren’t.  Here, we can be, well, Kryptonian.”

Kath sighed and lay back against the warmth of the bed.  “Sometimes I wish we were all here, Fin.  Even though it gives us power, we really don’t belong on Earth.  It’s like trying to run through a room carpeted with eggs, and trying not to break anything.”

Lori nodded.  “But we have a job to do on Earth now, Kath.  I hope it isn’t our last job, but...”

“What are you going to do?”

“We’ll find out when we get there,” said Lori.

“You’re lying.”

“Stop listening to my heartbeat.”

“Lori, take me with you.”

“I can’t,” said Lori.  “Stay out of this one for now, Kath.  When it’s time, we’ll let you know.”

“I have to be there!”

“You can’t be, Kathish,” said Fin, as gently and firmly as he knew how.

“Well, what are you going to do?”

“Walk down that corridor of eggs,” said Lori.  “And see just how tough their shells are.”

    -S-

The mean streets Alan Kent walked down shouldn’t have been that way.  After all, the Lowdowns were some of the poshest places in the city.  But they were darkened by the towering structures above, illuminated day and night by artificial means.  The law enforcement was pretty good at this level.  With his power, Alan had little to fear.  But his fear was not for himself, he reflected, as he walked past some of the poshest commercial establishements in Metropolis.  No, it was for the Family.

Something dirty was going on, by a long shot, and Adam was in the big middle of it.  His own brother.  True, in earlier years he’d sometimes shown a mean streak.  But he was just as capable of kindnesses to make up for that.  Sure, he’d wanted to be the Superman.  Both of them had, even before Dad had given each of them their Superboy suits.  But losing that wouldn’t have set Adam off that badly.

Would it?

Alan cursed himself.  In many ways, he admired his brother.  Adam was successful in business, wealthy to a degree that Alan still couldn’t match, though his recent success with We’re All Martians was leaving him well-off.  Of course, there were the regular fraternal rivalries.  But, despite all that, he loved Adam...had to love him.  He was more than Family, he was family.

Did Adam love back?  

And what was Alan supposed to do?  Confront him?  Drag answers out of him, by some unknown means?  Fight him, if it came down to that?  The two hadn’t fought since they were children.  If it came down to that...

No.  It mustn’t.

So he was Superman.  Shouldn’t Superman be able to figure this thing out, somehow?  Shouldn’t Superman be able to divine the perfect solution, and use his great power to actuate it?  

It often didn’t work that way.  Sometimes, even Superman couldn’t be Superman.

Alan stopped at a street corner, used his super-vision to reach out across town, to see through buildings.  He picked out Adam’s hovercraft heading back from his father’s house; the two of them must have had a conference.  Sy Kent was in Adam’s town apartment.  George and Irinia were at home.  And Lori...

Where was Lori?  She wasn’t at her apartment, and a quick survey of the city didn’t reveal her.

Oh, well, it wasn’t as though she had a leash on her.  

But before his super-vision shut off, Alan Kent saw one last thing.  A holographic display in the sky, over South Metro, which showed and faded before normal human eyes could perceive it.

A flaming numeral 7.  The symbol of Heaven’s Seven.

This would take a bit of super-speed, reflected Alan.  Hopefully, none of the throng on the Metropolis streets had recognized him as the guy from the Martian sitcom.  He knew how to use makeup to disguise himself when he was on the streets.  But most people would notice someone who vanished.

He ducked into the doorway of a shop specializing in designer foods and was swiftly invisible by the time the door finished opening.  An instant later, he went through it again, his outer clothes phased out by a device in his belt.  Efficient and necessary.  He took to the skies, unseen by the Earthers below him.

This time, above all, he was grateful for a job for Superman.

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