Superman of 2499:

    The Great Confrontation

    Part 21

    by DarkMark and Dannell Lites

“Strike through the plane, Kath.  Not at it, but through it.”

Katherine de Ka’an gritted her teeth and gave it another try.  Her bare foot lashed out at a target plane, an energy construct that hung in the air of the gymnasium.  It hit, as hard as she could manage.  The construct indicated a crack—approximating what the impact would be to a sheet of wood less than an inch thick—but did no more, nor did it hurt her foot.  Kath, in halter and shorts with her hair tied back, ended up on the mat from the recoil.  She rolled and bounced to an upright position, as her instructor had told her.

“Again,” said Dan-Le.

Once more the focusing of inner power.  Once more the cry of release, the rush, the kick.  Once more, the crack...but no more than that.

“Again,” said Dan-Le.

A full five times more Kath practiced her kick.  The blood rushed through her head, her breath came in pants of exertion, and the sweat stained her scant clothing.  She did not give up.  But she did go to her hands and knees in exhaustion.  The practice had begun at sunup, and it was six hours past that.

“Again,” said Dan-Le.

“In a moment,” she said.  “Just give me a moment.”

Dan-Le walked onto the practice mat, stepped over her half-prone body, and placed his thumbs at two points on her neck.  “Here, I could render you unconscious.  Here...”  He moved his hands to other points.  “...I could cause you terrible pain.  Elsewhere, I could paralyze you.”

With a shout, Kath swung her arms upward and back like twin swords, her hands knife-palmed and directed towards where she expected his face would be.  They almost made it there.

The klurkor master snagged her wrists inches from his face.  “Better,” he said.  “Good reaction time.”

“You are praising me?”  Kath couldn’t believe her ears.

“This is far from praise,” said Dan-Le.  “I only note that you are not quite as bad as when you started.”

Nonetheless, Kath smiled.  “Thank you, Danior.  Thank you very much.”

Dan pulled her up to her full height and, covertly as possible, admired her.  The woman had a face and body that would have made her a model, had she chosen that path.  But he did not romance his students.  And she was, after all, of the El line.

“Time for lunch,” he said.  “Then an hour’s study of technique, both from holos and from two of my students, who will demonstrate.  After that...”  He let the sentence linger.

“More training?”

“You were the one who wished it, Tynth de Ka’an.”

She set her face in a neutral expression.  “More than anything in the cosmos, teacher.”

“More than anything?”

Kath thought, for a moment, of Alan Kent.

“More than anything,” she lied.

    -S-

Sy Kent woke up in the middle of the night and saw Adam, without clothes, facing away from her.  He was looking out the open window.

“Aaadam?” she said.  “Adam?”

“I’m here, Sy,” he said, without turning.

“Adam, why are you...”

He showed her half of his profile.  “The Bible says that the first Adam was naked, Sy.  I’m just following in his footsteps.”

“I meant, why are you here?”

“Probably to talk, Sy.  Well, and to have sex.  But I want to talk first.”

“Oh, Rao.”  Sy rolled over in bed and put the pillow over the back of her head.  

“Take the pillow off or I’ll do it for you.”

She lay face down in the bed.

A second later, she felt the pillow being pulled off of her head and a hand on her shoulder, turning her over.  Adam’s face in the darkness was inscrutable.

“You can defy some, Sy, but not me.  Never me.”

“Don’t hurt me.”

“Wouldn’t think of it.  I want to talk.  Get up and come to the window with me.”

“Why?”

“Because.”

She was wearing a brown slipover and panties.  Somehow, she feared to do any less than what he said.  Without a word, Sy got out of bed and followed him to the window.  The night was semi-cloudy but the moon and stars were quite visible.  Even without super-vision.

“We can fly, Sy.”

“I know that.”  She wanted to say it petulantly, but she didn’t dare.

“Have you ever flown?”

“Not on Earth.  Not when anybody was looking, I mean.”

“So you know what it’s like.”

“Of course I do.  I’m a Krypt.”

“There are lots of Krypts on Rokyn, Sy.  They don’t know what they’re missing.”

“Suppose they don’t.”  Her eyes wandered down to his manhood.  He didn’t seem to care.

“We know what we’re missing, Sy.  We can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in our bare hands, fly into the reaches of utmost space without clothes on, and dive into Earth’s sun without harm.  But we’re not allowed to show it.”

“That’s Family Law.”

“The Law is made by the Family.  The Family can unmake it.”

She shrank back from him.  Adam grasped her arm, firmly.  “You don’t need to be afraid, girl.  You never need to be afraid.  You’re an El.”

“The Family is all Els.  Even...you-know-who.”

“Katherine?  Yes, she is.  Most definitely, she is.”

“What do you want to do, Adam?”

“I already told you.  But first I want to talk.”

“That’s...that’s all right.  We’ll talk.”

“We’ll do more than talk, Sy.  We’ll fly.”

With that, he dragged her forth into the night sky.  

“We’ll be detected!” she shouted.

“Tell me someone here who gives a damn.”

“I do!”

“You only think you do, Sybilla.  You only think you do.”  He loosened his grasp.  She fell.

She shouted and dropped about forty feet before righting herself and hanging there above the lights of Metropolis.  She shivered and hugged herself, but not from external cold.

“Well, Sy?  Are you still afraid?”

She was silent.

“Are you afraid, damn it?  Are you?”

“Yes!  I mean...no.  I mean...what do you want me to say?”

“I want you to say that you aren’t afraid, Sy.  I want you to be the mate of the Superman.”

“What?”

“Say it!”

“I’m not afraid?”

“Not as a question.”

“I’m...I’m not afraid.”

“Then show me, Sy.  Show me you’re not afraid.”  He tore the gown from her shoulders.  Half-exposed, Sy gasped.  The slipover glided towards the streets, or the building tops, whichever would catch it first.

Adam Kent hovered apart from her in the sky, watching her.  Hesitantly, then firmly, she put her hands to the sides of her panties.

Then she showed him she was not afraid.

Afterward, she clung to him there in the sky.  They had ascended to heights that made talking difficult and distorted their voices.  Nonetheless, they talked.

“What do you feel, Sy?”

“Like I’ve just came my brains out.”

“Thanks.  Besides that.”

“I feel...”  She paused.  “Like a woman.”

“Is that all?  Here we are, thousands of feet over the Earth, and you only feel like a woman?”

“I feel...like a superwoman.  Like a Krypt.”

“That’s more like it, Sy.  That is extremely more like it.”

“Holy Rao.”  Sy held onto him with her arms and legs.  “We’ve made love.  We’ve really...I really did it.”

“That you did.  Enjoyed it, myself.”

“My parents will know, Adam.”

“I imagine they will.  I imagine they suspect we did it long before this.”

“We could be in big, big trouble.”

“Do you really give a damn, Sy?”

She thought about it a moment.  Then she said, defiantly, “No.  No, I don’t.”

“Then I must have done some good.  Look down there, Sy.”

“At Metropolis?”

“At the world.”

“Oh.”  She gazed past him, down at the lighted buildings and streets of Metropolis, at the hovercars and the few pedestrians walking about unguarded, at the sub-surface craft that plumbed the tunnels once reserved for subways, and even through the walls of the buildings, watching people sleeping, making love, staying up for whatever reason, working the night shift, arguing, pleading, gambling, intoxicating, frustrating, calming, listening, not listening, and, in one case, killing oneself.  She looked upon this one man’s corpse, lying askew on the floor of his room, and thought it was odd.  Not frightful, just...odd.

“This is the world we live in, Sy.  This is the world we’re supposed to protect.  But it’s also a world of people made of paper.  They’re very fragile, Sy.  We’re supposed to fight crime, or at least do good. We’re supposed to stay hidden.  But do you remember your children’s classes of Raoism?  About the bucket?”

“You cannot hide the sun under a bucket,” recited Sy.

“We have many suns, Sy.  Many suns on this world.  We’re descended from Kal-El.  His last name meant ‘star’, Sy.  A sun.  How many buckets do you think we’d need to hide them?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Too many.  And yet, that’s what we’re supposed to do, Sy.  We’re supposed to hide in the shadows and let one of our kind be Superman and play pantomime with the world.  We have the power to change this imperfect Terran society, Sy.  We can change it morally, intellectually, even physically, if need be.  What holds us back?”

“Family Law.”

“Made by the Family, not too many generations after Kal-El.  Are we perfect?”

“Not entirely.  More perfect than humans.”

“Exactly.  Family Law was made by Krypts, Sy.  Not handed down from Rao.  We can modify it, just as we can modify the Earth.  That is our duty.  Not to let one man play super-hero, but to change this world.”

“To make it better?”

“To make it ours.”

Sy was very silent.

“Are you afraid, Sy?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you afraid?”

“No.  No, I’m not.”

“Then you are a superwoman, Sy.  That is what you are.”  He paused.  “Do you know I was once a Superboy?”

“That’s what they’ve told me.”

“I was, Sy.  I wore the suit.  I was supposed to wear it when I grew up.  You know what happened?”

“Tell me.”

“My father rejected me.  My own father, Sy, rejected me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.  It taught me a lesson.  That my father was imperfect, that Family Law is imperfect, and that things must sometimes be brought...up to date.”

“What are you going to do?”

“You haven’t been listening to me.”

“What about your brother?”

Adam Kent shrugged.  “He is my brother.  He is an El, a sun.  But sometimes, Sybilla...sometimes suns burn out.”

    -S-

“So the Guardians of the Universe sent you here?”

“Well, yes,” said Tal Thorn, the Green Lantern.  “It’s not as though Alpha Centauri is the farthest star system away, you know.”

The three of them were sitting within a newly-orbital Bat-Belfry, which had been cleared, repaired, and set aloft again by the Lantern’s ring.  Superman didn’t know how he should feel towards the newcomer.  Actually, he felt a bit of resentment, but didn’t know if he should show that.

“Why did they send you?” said the Batman.

Tal Thorn showed his white-gloved palm up.  “There are indications that your Earth is nearing a Crisis State.  I was sent here to help.”

“What kind of a Crisis State?”  Alan looked at the Lantern and didn’t conceal his hardness.  “Tell me.”

“There is the terrorist threat you’ve told me about,” Tal said.  “You could obviously use help with that.”

“We’re so grateful,” muttered Bron.

“But it’s more than that.  The existence of so many superhumans here, Class Four superhumans at that, is, well, troubling to them.”

The Man of Steel arose from his chair.  “What do they know about us?  What do you know about us?”

Batman arose, too, not knowing what else he could do if Alan lost control.  Which he doubted Alan would do.  The Lantern remained seated.

“Please,” said Tal.  “The Guardians have ways of observation that even I don’t understand.  There were two world wars on this planet, and the Crisis was centered on it and the parallel Terras.  They do not intend that another such confrontation take place.”

“So they sent you in, as a deputy sheriff, to clean up the town,” said Batman.

“Sir...ah...”

“Batman.  Call me Batman.”

“Sir Batman, thank you.  There was one of the Corps in your world’s most famous heroic team.  He interacted with your ancestor, Sir Superman.  Am I correct?”

“Correct,” said Alan.  “But I don’t feel like playing Justice League of America now.”

“Neither do I,” mused Bron.  “But, Alan, the way I understand...neither did the seven who formed the Justice League.  Both my ancestor and yours.  They just happened to be on the spot when the Martians came, and then the Appelaxians.”  He looked at Tal Thorn.  “And, as you pointed out, one of the Corps.”

“Lantern Hal Jordan,” said Tal. “The most honored Corpsman of his time.”

“Despite being busted in rank a couple of times, from what I’ve heard,” said Alan.  “That still doesn’t give you the right to interfere with my family, Thorn.”

“If that family endangers the billions on this planet, Sir Superman, it could be argued that it does.”

Superman hung his gaze on the Lantern for a long time.

“I have not come here to interfere,” said Tal Thorn.  “I have come here to help.  To be of aid.  This is my task, Sir Superman, and I will perform it with or without your acquiescence.”

“Nobody will force my family off this world.”

“Superman, stop.”  Batman pressed a hand against Alan’s chest.  “Be rational.  Your father chose you because you have compassion.  You’d better show a little brains, too.”

“I resent that,” said Alan.  

“Resent all you want to.  The Lantern here isn’t my favorite holo, either.  But we’ve come up pretty empty-handed against Heaven’s Seven and the Joker so far.  If this guy can lend a hand, can we afford to leave him out?”

“Can we afford to work with him?”

“I leave it in your hands, Superman.  Do we work with him, or without him?”

As an actor, Alan knew how to take a pause for effect.   This time, he wasn’t faking it.  Finally, he said, “You’re in, Lantern.  For now.”

Thorn offered a tiny smile and nodded his head.  “Thank you for the inclusion.  Do you know what the hardest task was, in bringing this satellite back to its proper position?”

“What?”

“Shielding it from all the spy-rays of the sat-projectors that girdle this world.  There must be thousands of them.  Well, 77,000, rounding it off.  But it was accomplished.”

“I imagine it was,” said Alan.  “I imagine...”

Then he stopped.

“Lantern, can you use your ring to probe those satellites?  Maybe in conjunction with my vision?”

Tal Thorn looked at him curiously.  “What are you looking for?”

“Something in the heavens, Lantern. Something that has no business being in that region, at all.”

    (next chapter)

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