of 2499: The Great Confrontation:
by Dannell Lites and DarkMark
Even Lyra Kent shuddered when Klar gave forth to the fury that was
within him. With a Kryptonian, nothing was ever totally safe.
The BAM-BAM-BAM sound of the blows rang through their apartment,
despite the soundproofing, despite the dampeners he himself had
installed, and despite anything that could be done about it. She
just prayed that none of the other tenants in the milespire would
complain enough to get them ejected.
Klar was in his gym room, a private one visitors outside the Family
never saw. He was pounding away at the Rokynian equivalent of a
punching bag, a plasma construct anchored at top and bottom by
force-lines to magnetic plates. He could pound it all day and all
night and it wouldn’t fly off its tethers, wouldn’t smash into and
through the walls. But it would spring outward and snap back, and
he could pound it again and again and again.
And he did.
She knew what he would look like, but she ventured into the room anyway.
There, among exotic equipment designed to test even his mighty body,
stood Klar. He was in his undershirt and sweatpants, barefoot,
still wearing his glasses, sweaty and redfaced, like a prizefighter
training for a match. Klar’s lips were bared back from his teeth,
and he snarled sometimes as he punched the bag. He attacked it
from different angles, as if it were a foe he could crush to powder.
Unfortunately, she knew the foe he was trying to crush lay inside him,
and was impossible to touch.
With a great cry of anger, Klar leaped up and kicked the bag, sending
it as near to the walls of the gym as it would go. He held up
both hands to catch it on the rebound and was knocked flat on his
ass. He wiped his brow with one forearm and picked up his fallen
glasses with the other. These, he actually needed: they were of
Rokynian manufacture and his eyesight had dimmed a little with age.
His wife was sitting against the gym wall.
“Lyra,” said Klar.
“Nice of you to notice,” she said. “Guess your super-hearing is
“Wasn’t concentrating,” he grunted. “Bad habit.”
She wanted to go to him, but in his condition, even she didn’t
dare. “Tell me about it.”
Klar lay on his back, the punching bag near his splayed feet, finally
at rest. “The Family, Lyra. The whole damn Family is going
insane. It’s breaking up.”
“It may be time...” Lyra began, and then stopped.
“What?” Klar sat up and looked at her.
“It may be time,” she said, “for the Family to leave Earth.”
“We can’t do that.”
“You can,” said Lyra. “The world can hold one Superman. It
can’t hold a whole secret race of them.”
“Lyra. We’ve been doing this for five hundred years.”
“What have you been doing for five hundred years?” The poetess
spread her hands apart. “One of you has been saving the
world. The rest of you have been hiding, skulking, afraid to show
your fellow men that you’re something they aren’t.”
“Fear doesn’t have anything to do with it,” said Klar. “Not our
“Yes, it does,” she said. “The fear of rejection. The fear
that us Earthers would consider you freaks. Or worse, monsters.”
With speed that surprised even her, Klar scooped her up in his
arms. She could smell his sweat, feel his dampness, see his
flushed face, and look into eyes that she knew held no hate for
her. Of that, Lyra was grateful.
“You think you know, Lyra,” he said. “You think because we have
the same kind of brain, because we look like you, because we have all
the same parts, that we are like you. We’re not. You could
“Try me,” she said, keeping her voice steady.
“Do you know how easy it would be for me to squeeze a little too hard,
“But you wouldn’t. I know you wouldn’t.”
“No. I wouldn’t. But do you know how much control we have
to put into even that action? Try to imagine holding a
human-sized mass of spun sugar candy, and not to change its shape while
you did. That’s kind of what it’s like.”
“None of us can ever forget ourselves, Lyra. Not one of us can
ever forget, around the Earthers. When we were drafted in ancient
wars, we had to either fake disabilities to get an exemption or somehow
manage to stand it while men were dying around us, getting shot to
pieces, made into meat, and we weren’t.”
“I don’t like to hear about that.”
“Well, we didn’t like to live it! Do you know what it was like to
have to keep these secrets from your best friends, Lyra? To keep
them from knowing you can fly, or run faster than the speed of light,
or plow through a mountain, or...or...”
“Or have to hide among a bunch of men made of marshmallows?”
“You don’t know what it’s like!”
“Maybe because you never let anyone else know what it was like!
What if the whole Family decided to reveal themselves, Klar? What
then? How long do you think they’re going to bow to the authority
of King Superman?”
Klar Ken’s jaw hung open.
“You say the Family’s breaking apart, Klar. All right, then you’d
better start making some plans for what happens when it does. If
you all have to go back to Rokyn, fine, then. If you want to
exile yourselves individually to other worlds, and God knows we’ve
found a lot of them, you can do it. Be local Supermen. If
you want to tell the world what they probably already suspect, that
there are a lot more Supermen living here than just the one in the
costume, do it. Because you know something, Klar? They’re
about to find out themselves.”
“No, don’t look at me that way. You know me. I’d never
tell. But there’s only so long the rest of them can keep the
secret. Klar, you know how many of the Family are here on
Earth. They can’t hide their light under the bushel forever.”
“They can. They’ve been doing it.”
“For how much longer?”
Klar slammed his fists down on his thighs, and the thump of it filled
the room. “Back in the 20th, there were whole colonies of
heroes. Almost all of them kept their identities a secret.
Most of them did it for their entire lives. They were our
forebears, our examples, our ancestors, Lyra. Our heroes.”
“Yes. But only a few of them were Family.”
“The Family inspired them.”
“Like Wonder Woman? Or the Green Lanterns?”
Klar sighed. “What in the name of the Happy Lands do you want me
to do, woman? I can’t tell everyone of our line to move.
“Yes, Klar. But you’re a clan. Like the ancient Scots or
something. Like it or not, they’ll take your advice.”
“Not a lot, anymore,” he said. “George’s family is chuffing
us. The bit with Sy and Kath, and my sons, Rao, even my sons...”
Lyra moved to him and rubbed his shoulders. Despite the fact that
he could use those muscles to tunnel to the center of the Earth, it
relaxed him. He leaned against her.
“...Even my sons, Lyra. Alan is still too green. I
don’t...well, I don’t know that he’s strong enough. Adam is
strong but he’s not moral enough. How did I go wrong with them,
“You didn’t go wrong, I don’t think, Klar,” she said. “But...they
have their own nature. We can’t turn out perfect people, not even
perfect Supermen. We did the best we could.”
“They made their own choices. They had to. Just like you
“Did I? I wonder.”
“You’ll have to talk with the Family soon, dearest. You’ll have
to tell them all we’ve been thinking about.”
“I know, Lyra.”
“But not yet, Lyra. Not just yet.”
Superman knew what kind of speed the human body could take, even when
wrapped in a Kryptonian cape. He didn’t exceed it, even given the
toughness of the Batman’s body. Regardless, the trip to the
Bat-Belfry was made so quickly that only the finest government
spy-scanners could register his passage. A device in Alan’s belt
identified him as friendly to those who observed. There were few
The lenses in Batman’s mask revealed an aura the Bat-Belfry broadcast
to alert him that his sanctuary had not been breached. He nodded
to Alan. The Man of Steel flew him towards the top entry port and
within it, as the portal opened in reaction to Batman’s signal device
in his utility belt.
The Belfry itself was a fairly large blue-black sphere hovering over
Gotham City, totally cloaked by devices even the government couldn’t
detect. It moved, in response to sensors which could detect an
oncoming unfriendly object for hundreds of miles. Yet it was
always accessible to Bron Wayn, whose MagPak could lift him up to it
within minutes. That was how Superman was able to enter with
him. The Man of Steel had to marvel at the Batman’s technology;
even with his super-vision, the Belfry was barely visible to him.
The circular hole in the flying orb irised shut after them.
Superman unwrapped his cape from the Batman’s form as they touched the
tiled floor and gazed about him at the functional design of the
interior. Not a thing out of place, no wasted space
anywhere. Sensors, monitors, stored equipment. No trophies
or holos or flat pictures. Not even any labels.
“Bron,” said Alan, “how do you know what thing does what?”
Batman looked at him. “I know.”
The Man of Steel nodded. “What about Aelfric?”
“He can’t get up here. Not without my access. I changed it
since learning about him.”
“But what about...”
That was all Alan could say before the mass of whiteness started
surging from the walls towards them. Luckily, that wasn’t all he
The white stuff, whatever it was, seemed to erupt from specific points
in the room walls, ones which Alan would have sworn a few seconds
before were solid and undisturbed. It filled the room faster than
an erupting spray can, and the stuff was quick-hardening, smothering,
stronger than UniConcrete. He could easily survive it.
His hands and feet flailed at the white mass, shattering it, paring it
away, rendering it into dust at super-speed, even as his eyes flashed
bolts of heat at the stuff and turned it into running goo. The
problem was, the molten result was as hot as lava. Bron had to be
protected. So far, he’d managed to keep the Gotham Guardian
behind him. But the white filler was expanding too fast for him
to guarantee that.
With a super-speed motion, Superman grasped Batman firmly, spun around
behind him, and smashed backwards out of the Bat-Belfry. Metal
wreckage exploded from his wake. He tried to vaporize as much as
he could with his heat-vision. He didn’t get it all. He
It was the work of a nanosecond to wrap Batman in his protective red
cape again. Holding his ally with one hand in the cape’s
wrappings, he dug the fingers of his other hand into the hull of the
Bat-Belfry. The white plasmic mass was bulging out of the hole he
had made. Had this been a century or two ago, there might have
been enough vacant land for him to throw the Belfry onto safely.
Regrettably, in these tightly-packed times, such was not the case.
There was only one thing he could do.
Accelerating to a speed only slightly less than he knew Bron’s body
could endure, Superman towed the Bat-Belfry out over Gotham Harbor,
X-raying the seas below him, finding a spot free of surface- and
sub-ships, and released it. The multi-ton hovercraft plummeted
towards the waters below.
At a rate that exceeded that of the falling craft, Adam deposited
Batman on a seaside street. The grounders that occupied the area
had barely enough time to gape at the masked man before the roar of
tremendous impact was heard.
The Bat-Belfry impacted with the bay’s surface, sending up a wave of
water several stories high.
Grimly, Superman faced it, flashed on an earlier teaching, drew his
fists apart, and brought them together with a deafening SLAMM.
The sonic burst smashed even reinforced windows, caused temporary
deafness in a few score of bystanders, and knocked most pedestrians in
the area to their knees. Batman remained standing, just barely.
The shock wave caught the wave of water at precisely the correct
instant, caromed off it, sent it imploding backwards. Superman
was already hurling himself backwards at ultraspeed, vaporizing water
droplets as they assailed him. The ones that got through stung
The Belfry, whiteness still pouring from the hole in its side, tilted
and sank with a gurgling noise that few were able to appreciate.
Some historically inclined observers thought of the legends of the Titanic, the Edmund Fitzgerald, or even the Challenger. Only two of them
had any clue as to what had happened and what had really sunk.
Beneath the opaque eyelets of his mask, Bron Wayn’s eyes were opened
almost to their widest. This was more than an horrific
spectacle. This was the violation of his homespace, of his most
War had been declared, by a most intimate enemy.
He loosened the wrappings of the great red cape about him. The
emotions surging within his heart were almost impossible for him to
control. Here he had been the one about to teach young Superman
some necessary lessons in survival amongst the enemy, and now?
Who was to teach whom? Upon what battlefield were they now to
A voice above and behind him said, “I’ll take that, thanks.”
The Batman looked upward. Superman was hovering about six feet
above the ground, his hand outstretched. Several places on his
face looked burned, but they appeared to be healing. Wordlessly,
Bron handed him the cape. Superman tucked it back about the
shoulders of his costume.
Words came from the crowd, usually from people who could not hear their
own voices and thus could not modulate them. Some screeched, some
whispered, some moaned, some merely mouthed the words. They
expressed terror. They expressed awe. They expressed
gratitude. But the two most common words to pass their lips, or
attempt to, were names: “Superman.” “Batman.”
The Dark Knight finally spoke. “I underestimated him.”
“This isn’t just him,” said Superman. “Heaven’s Seven gave him
the plasma trap. They had to. The tech knowledge for that
is beyond him.”
“He’ll pay for that.” Batman looked into the churning waters of
the harbor. “He will pay for that.”
“We can operate out of the Fortress,” said Superman. “But I can’t
go down there to investigate. I can use X-ray on it.”
“Not since Lady Hecate and the Curse of Poseidon,” said Batman.
The incident was over a century old, but both of them knew it as if it
had happened in their lifetimes.
“Maybe we can get the Atlanteans to help,” said Superman. “Maybe
we’d also better make sure...”
“Superman.” Batman stopped his friend, who was hovering only a
foot off the wet pavement, with a hand to his chest. He had
caught a glimpse of something in the night sky. Superman caught
it only an instant after him.
A streak that glowed green against the night and stars over Gotham.
It took less than ten seconds for the glowing green streak to reach the
bay, become stationary over it, direct an emerald beam of power below
the waves, and, with seemingly no effort at all, drag the shattered
Bat-Belfry and its whitish cargo dripping above the water, surrounded
by a gleaming, verdant aura.
Both Batman and Superman stared at the man from whose white-gloved hand
the power beam radiated.
He turned to smile at them.
“Sorry I wasn’t here faster,” said the Green Lantern. “Where
would you prefer me to take this?”
The Klurkor master, Dan-Le, had won his share of tournaments at the
Great Stadium of New Kryptonopolis, as had others of his rank.
That was a necessity, if you wanted to teach martial arts at the level
he did. He had also coached his share of competitors and
champions, and those people who simply wanted to know useful
self-defense. The last category were few indeed. Dan
directed most applicants to others who could give them what they
wanted. His time was limited and only the most wealthy could
afford his lessons.
Such a person sat across from him now. Still, he was skeptical.
“I want you to teach me martial arts,” the newcomer said. “In a
Dan-Le didn’t bother to breathe deeply. “Impossible,” he
said. “I am sorry, but the study of Klurkor requires more time
“I don’t want to learn Klurkor. I want Horu-Kanu.”
The master’s expression grew more grim. “I do not teach the
Killing Art,” he said.
“Then I’ll take Klurkor. Whatever you can give me. Within a
month. Just allow me time to eat and sleep, and the rest will be
given to you.”
“Because I must have it,” the visitor said. “Because I have to
learn how to fight. To defend myself.”
Dan-Le took note of the figure sitting across from him. “Only to
“You can meet my price?”
“You know that I can, Master Le.”
“Then come, Tynth de Ka’an,” said Dan-Le, “and let us both see what we