Superman of 2499:

    The Great Confrontation
    Part 23

    by DarkMark and Dannell Lites

“Well, George.  This isn’t the best time to talk to me, you know.”

George Kent sighed.  “Klar, I’m afraid it’s the only blasted time I’ve got.”

Klar Ken was in his office at GBS with the sonic and visual shields up.  Even so, neither he nor his brother could be sure somebody somewhere wasn’t listening or watching.  Probably, if they were, they were Krypts as well.  But Klar had been expecting his brother to come calling, sometime like this.  So he waved his hand, inviting George to speak further.

“This isn’t easy for me to talk about,” said George, sitting in the hoverchair before Klar’s desk.  “I suppose you can understand why.”  He was cracking his knuckles semi-rhythmically.  Both of them knew it was a tell, but neither one cared.

“George, tell me about it,” urged Klar.  Maybe, today, some more of the mystery between the two families would be cleared up.  But that, Klar thought, might be too much to hope for.

“Well, to begin with,” said George.  “To begin with...”

“Yes?”

“My daughter.  Your son.  I’m afraid they might be...interfacing.”

Klar took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.  “You’re sure of this?”

“No, Klar, I’m not.  I haven’t...I don’t spy on them.”  George, who was a year younger than Klar, had sprouted white hair about his temples two years before Klar had.  He had a feeling he was working on more white follicles every minute.  “But I have senses about such things.  I know my daughter.”

“Have you seen her recently?”

“Not in the flesh.  She gives us a message every day, on the holo.  Klar, I can tell.  Something has gone on between them.”


“And you want me to talk to Adam about it.”

“Of course I do.  But that’s not all.”

Klar waited.

“My wife.  My wife, Irinia.”

“I know her name, George.”

“All right, damn it!  I don’t know what’s come between us.”

“Tell me, George.”

Klar’s brother got up, paced the floor, not looking at Klar’s eyes.  “I don’t know how to handle her anymore, Klar.  Rao knows, it’s been tough before.  You know that.”

“I know.”  Kryptonian law forbade divorce, but didn’t forbid separation, and some Krypts had taken advantage of Earth law to end their marriages anyway.  Klar let George keep talking.

“Irinia, Sy, your son...it seems as though they’ve split from my family, from us.  I don’t mean to imply that Adam was part of my family, but...”

“What is Adam doing?”  Klar tried to keep a poker face, but wasn’t sure how well he managed.

“I don’t know,” said George. “Outside of having sex with my daughter, I don’t know.  But I suspect things.”

“What sort of things, George?”

“I have no idea.  But Irinia’s attitude...she’s even less responsive to me now than before.”

As if that could be possible, thought Klar.  “Do you think we have enough evidence to call a council, George?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think so.”

“We could just call them for an accounting,” said Klar.  “Just have them answer a few questions.”

“We could,” George allowed.  “Maybe that’d be enough.”

Klar smoothed his hair back at the temples to give himself something to do.  “George, I have something to ask, and I’d prefer you be sitting down when I do.”

“What is it?”

“Sit down, George.  I also want you to know that I’m not trying to be offensive when I say it.”

George Kent reseated himself before Klar’s desk.  “Tell me what it is.”

“George.  You think Adam is having a relationship with your daughter.  This next is really going to hurt.”  He paused.  “What about Irinia?”

“No!”  George leaped up from the chair, upsetting it.  He didn’t make a move on Klar, but his hands were trembling.  “Never!”

“All right, George.”  Klar held up a placating hand.  “I’m sorry.  I had to bring it up.  If they’re in an alliance, I just wanted to know what kind of alliance.”

“He’s your son!”

“That he is.”  Klar sighed.  “He’s also his own man.  More even than Alan.  I don’t want to have to send him to Rokyn, George.”

George leaned on the desk.  “What about my daughter?  I won’t see Sy sent to Rokyn.”

Klar stood and faced his brother.  “Your daughter is guilty of assault.  You saw what she did to Katherine.  You’re lucky she isn’t there right now.”

There was nothing to be heard for a few seconds except the heavy breaths of George.  For a long moment, Klar wondered if his brother would actually try and hit him.  But it passed.  Klar felt an impulse, and acted on it.

He stepped out from behind his desk and hugged his brother.  George hugged back, more weakly, but definitely.

“It’s all right, George, it’s all right,” said Klar.  “You’re still my brother.”

George was trying to keep control of his voice.  “Thank Rao for that,” he said.  “You, I can still trust.”

“You always can,” said Klar.  “Can I trust you?”

Hesitation.

“Yes,” said George, at last.

“I’ll speak with Adam,” said Klar.  “You need to speak with Irinia and your daughter.  If we can keep the Council out of this, we may be able to make it work.”

“Do you really think so, Klar?”

Klar sighed.  “I don’t know what I think, George.  I see my son and two others bringing down Heaven’s Seven.  I see the old Joker dead at last.  I’m proud of my son Alan.  I want to be proud of Adam.  But I don’t know what to think, anymore.”

After a pause, George said, “This world, Klar.  It really was never built to hold that many Supermen.”

Klar kept hugging his brother, but had nothing to say.

    -S-

Katherine de Ka’an would not sit down to wait for Dan-Le.  She stood, barefoot, in her sleeved halter and shorts, the latter with a yellow stripe that signified she was better than a novice.  As before, she stood in the middle of a mat in the exercise room.  There were no others present.  At least, none that she saw.

The short hairs at the back of her neck prickled.  Kath immediately turned, ducking low, her fist outstretched for a counter-blow.  She kept turning until she faced the direction she had faced before.  This time, Dan-Le was there, and he was aiming a hand-blow at her.

She caught his wrist between her two crossed arms and kicked out, hard.  He took the blow on his hip.  Kath grabbed his wrist hard, fell back, threw him.  By the time he had finished his first roll, she had sprung to her feet.  An instant later, so had he.

The next few minutes were a blur of parrying, thrusting, kicking, chopping, and hitting.  Dan-Le pulled his punches more than Kath did.  No words were exchanged.  None were necessary.

Then Dan backed away with a leap and struck the mat a hard blow with his right fist.  That signaled the end of the sparring session.  Kath assumed a defensive stance.

“Do I have to hit this mat again, Tynth de Ka’an?”

Kath went to an at-ease position, but still looked wary.  She waited.

“I see improvement,” said Dan.  “Considering your training time, I would be disappointed if I didn’t.  Are you willing to continue on your path?”

“I am, Tanth Danior,” she said.  “Show me the way.”

“First, I’ll show you the way to the commissary,” he said.  “Then, we’ll get back to work.”

Kath allowed herself a smile.

    -S-

The Six, the gang chiefs of Metropolis, were in session.  Wally Curso, Chang Yinsen, M’Nath, Abb 2706 Quam, Albert Tothman, and Vincent Delta sat in their lowdown establishment, protected by gunsels and security devices from the outside world.  The customary dinner had been served, by M’Nath this time, who had mixed in enough Earth cuisine with the Coluan offerings.  While they ate, Curso had put the question to Yinsen.  “Did you get ahold of him?”

“Well, Wally, you know the arrangement,” said Yinsen, nibbling gingerly on a meaty leg from some species he’d rather not know the name of.  “I don’t get hold of him.  He gets hold of me.”

Delta put his arms down on the table.  “He might not be the only one to get hold of you.  You know that, Eastie?”

Hands got very near weapons before Tothman leaped up and stepped between them, hands separating them.  “Vinnie, shut it.  You are two parsecs outta line, fratello.  Make with the apology.”

“Apology?”  Vincent Delta bristled with the hubris common to too many young mobsters who rarely become old ones.  “To him?”

The weapons of five divisions of mobsters were trained on Delta and his coterie.  “To us,” said Curso, quietly.

Delta took a look around, gauged the odds, breathed in heavily, and said, “Okay.  I’m sorry.  I was outta line.  Shouldn’t have called him a...what I called him.  I’m sorry, Yinsen.”

“Mister Yinsen,” said the Asian, with deadly softness.

“Awright, Mr. Yinsen,” said Delta.  “I’m, like, trusting the difficulties are done between us.”

“Let your mouth not speak again till your brain has aged enough to direct it properly,” Yinsen said.  He nodded to his boys.  They lowered their weapons, and so did the rest.

To himself, Curso wondered how long they’d have to put up with Delta before having him scrubbed.  Out loud he said, “We’ve got the proof, boys.  Mister Mask asks us about Heaven’s Seven, and last week you saw what happened.  On top of that, the Joker’s out of the competition.  Anything else you need to fall on your heads?”

“Wally, no offense, but I wish you’d use different words when you’re speakin’ of Mr. Mask,” said Abb Quam.  “He just might.”

“We’re working on that.”  M’Nath looked at them with the sly sinisterness all of them admired in him.  His computer crimes had put almost as much revenue in the combine’s coffers as any three of the others combined.  “Have faith, we are working on that.”

“How fast?” said Tothman.

“We’ve learned from the Seven,” M’Nath said, standing to lecture.  A hologram of a newsfeed appeared in the air before them.  Heaven’s Seven were being rounded up by the Metropolis cops, with Superman and Green Lantern visible.  “They had traps for the Big S.  Seawater all over the place, enough to rust the pipes.  Didn’t work.  He scoped out the place beforehand with his X-Rays.  Plus the Lantern, they didn’t know about him.  We got the advantage. We know.”

“What about the Batman?” asked Abb.

“He’s in the plan, too,” said M’Nath.  “The main one we want is Mr. Mask.  I’ve studied the Lantern from the archives.  Yellow is his problem.”

“He’s a doublechicken?”  It was the first sentence Vincent Delta had spoken since tangling with Yinsen.

“Ancestors forgive me,” hissed Yinsen.  “The color yellow.  His ring doesn’t work on it.”

“Hey, now that sounds interestin’,” acknowledged Delta.  “So what’s the plan?”

“Let me show you,” said M’Nath.  He waved his hand and the hologram went off.  Then he nodded towards one of his boys.  The gunman went out and came back with a guest.  Said guest was of medium height, wearing a cheap suit, blindfolded, gagged, and equipped with a plastic tie that kept his hands cuffed behind him.  He was terrified, approximately.

“Let me do the talking,” said M’Nath.  “Okay, do the mouth.”

Obediently, the hood in charge ripped the gag away from the man’s mouth.  “Ohgoodlordsavemewhat’sthisaboutdon’tkillmepleasedon’tkillmegottawifeandthreekidsandacatdon’tkillmedidn’tdonothing
pleaseLordsavemedon’t”

“Shut up,” said M’Nath.

The man obeyed.

“Tell us your name,” said the Coluan.

“My name?”

“I gotta repeat myself?”

“My name is...Terry Carlos 8907.  8907.”

“Okay.  Terry Carlos 8907.  Tell us what you do.”

“I’m a reporter.  Reporter for GBS-2.  I’m low level.  Really, you don’t want me.  You don’t need me.  I’m...”

“Terry Carlos 8907.  Shut up. We’ve got something to tell you.”

The reporter fell silent.

“You ever heard of Superman?  We’re gonna give you a scoop.  I want you to listen, Terry Carlos 8907.  I want you to listen really good.  Okay?  Here’s your scoop.

“Superman is bent.”

    -S-

Alan Kent went through the fifteenth take of a bit for We’re All Martians before the director finally called for a break.  He hadn’t been messing up that badly, but one of the new Martian girls had trouble getting her lines straight.  Even when two of the other green guys telepathed the right dialogue into her brain, her nerves got the best of her.  If she didn’t look like a whiz-bang wallop on two legs, they would have chucked her and been done with it.  This show was not going to be her claim to fame.

Akon, Alan’s Rannian friend, was getting fed up with it himself.  He’d managed to impress the Powers That Be and, more importantly, the audience, with his brief appearance a few weeks ago and had been written into the series as a regular.  That made Alan feel better even than when he’d taken down Heaven’s Seven.  A steady paycheck was the dream of every actor.

Lazio, the director, took the Martian girl aside and Alan knew it wasn’t going to be for any pleasantries.  He sagged back against a bench and closed his eyes.  Akon came up behind him.  “Alan?”

“I’m tired, Ake.”

“Know you are.  Doubleplus good, though.  I’m finally making jack enough to pay my rent on schedule.  Tremendous!”

“Tremendous it is.”  Alan slapped his hand and had his slapped in return.  “See what happens when you stick with me, kid?”

“That I do, friend.  First rule: you never forget your friends on the way up, and they don’t forget you on your...uh...”

“On your way down,” said Alan, smiling a bit.  “I’ve heard it, Ake.  Assure you, I’ll be prepared.”

“Reyna and I want to take you out tomorrow.”

“Maybe.  Got a favor to ask, Ake.”

“Name it, as long as it isn’t Reyna.”

“Just met somebody recently.  He needs a place to stay while he’s finding a flat of his own.  Can you help?”

“He’s got your guarantee?”

“He does.”

“Okay.  Why me?  Is he an actor?”

“No.  He’s from your homeworld.  His name is Tal Thorn.”

    -S-

Adam Kent ran through the hologram for the eighteenth time.  The one news feed with Heaven’s Seven taking the fall, and his brother, Batman, and the outworld Green Lantern on the sidelines.

Damn.

He shut the holo off and crushed the controls in one hand.  Why wasn’t it him?  He had braced the Six for news of the Seven’s whereabouts.  They didn’t know, but they were working on it.  Or they said they were.  Now, brother Alan had found out, somehow, where they were stationed and had brought them in.

Or Batman had found them.  That had to be it.  Alan couldn’t be trusted to wipe his own nose without help.  And then there was the Lantern.   Aside from him, Superman the Latest would probably be a corpse floating in brine water.  

So they had a modern triumvirate.  A new version of the ancient Justice League.  Pathetic.

What was to be done with the Six?  They’d have to learn that when you dealt with Adam Kent, even if he wore a mask, you’d damned well better give him what he asked for.

And if you didn’t...

Sy stepped into the room, wearing only a robe.  “Adam.  Something wrong?”

“Bad holo,” said Adam.

She came up behind him and stroked his shoulders, warming his head with heat vision.  “Let me make you feel better.”

He sighed hard and stood up.  “I’ll feel better, Sy.  I’ll feel better, in time.  Before long...”

A 3-D cube of Adam and his family rested on a transparent table.  He picked it up in his left hand, studied it.

“Before long, we’ll have to take the sun out from under the bucket.”

   (next chapter)

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