Superman of 2499:

    The Great Confrontation

    by DarkMark and Dannell Lites

    Chapter 26

Irinia Kent was on so many social committees even she couldn’t count them all.  She had others who were paid to do that for her.  One of the committees saw to beautification of the city through flora, and the Flora Festival was annually held by said committee.  The point of the whole thing was to show off your wealth and one-up your rivals by putting together (or having someone put together for you, which was usually the case) the most ostentatious display of exotic Terran and alien plant life possible.  

Of course, Irinia managed that, gathering together a collection of plants that couldn’t even survive on Earth and putting them in domed environiments that simulated those of their homeworlds.  If you had money, little you wanted was impossible.

So Irinia smiled for the cameras and stood beside the most expensive of the plants, a Braalian metalbloom, and was glad George was at work so she wouldn’t have to share the spotlight with him.  Let others be social butterflies.  Irinia would be the flame to which they were drawn.

At which point, of course, she heard one word called to her: “Mother.”

Reality snapped back into place.  She only acknowledged it for a second, and hoped her expression wouldn’t be too obvious to the newsers.  Said expression was replaced by a smile.  Irinia looked into the crowd, in the direction the call had come from.  “Sybilla!” she said, with pasted-over glee.  “Where are you, darling?”

“Over here, Mom,” said Sy, raising her hand over the head of a Metro matron seated before her.

“Come down here, quickly, Sybilla,” directed Irinia.  To the crowd, she said, “I’m so pleased my daughter Sybilla has come to the show.  I’ll be even more pleased if you get her good side when she comes up here, which is any side she shows you.”

A woman reporter raised a forefinger.  “Karla I 5567, Timespace.  Mrs. Kent, is it true your daughter hasn’t been at home these days?”

Sy, making her way down to the exhibit proper, knew enough to let Mom field that one.  “Sybilla is my only daugher and, as such, only has one home.  Next question?”

“What’s the rumor that she’s been spending time with Adam Kent?”

Irinia wrinkled her nose.  “Adam is her cousin.  He is, of course, a dear family friend.  Who gave you that question, the Energy Workers’ Union?”  Some laughter.  Sy had finally arrived at the platform, on which the dome of the Braalian plant rested.  Irinia wrapped an arm about her shoulders.  

“Well, I’m sure that Sy will be her own woman, just like her mother,” said Irinia.  “Now, as to your questions about the metalbloom?”

“Just one more, for Miss Kent,” said another reporter.  “Can you tell us why you’re spending time with Adam Kent?”

“We felt that—“ Irinia started.

“Pardon, Mrs. Kent, but that one was addressed to Miss Kent,” said the reporter.  Irinia silenced herself, and took note of the reporter’s face and press tag.

Tentatively, Sy answered, “He’s a friend.  I’m staying with him.”

“What about the—“

“Sy wanted to spend a little time away from the family,” Irinia interrupted.  “We agreed that a little time with Adam would be helpful.  Now, if you please, ladies and gentlemen, remember...this is a plant show!”

They remembered, asked a few regulatory questions about the metalbloom, and then wandered off.  Irinia whispered in Sy’s ear, “What’s the matter?”

“No matter.  I just wanted to see you,” said Sy.

Irinia whispered an oath into her daughter’s ear.  “I was seeing through cons thicker than that when I was your age, and making ones twice as thick.  Come with me to the office.”

A few moments later, Irinia shut the door behind them both, scanned the room with a spy-ray in her badge, ascertained that no bugs in the room would penetrate the static screen she set up, and motioned Sy into a chair.  The girl sat.  

Arms crossed, standing against the door, Irinia said, “Why did you come here?”

“Because I’m afraid,” said Sy.

“Why?  Has Adam been doing something to you?”

Sy looked at her hands.

“What has he been doing to you, Sybilla?”

Looking up, Sy said, “You know.”

Irinia’s face was snowy.  She nodded.  “Against your will?”

Sy shook her head.

“Then what?  If you think I’m about to be surprised by you having an affair, Sy...”

“Mother!”

“How do you think I got your father to marry me, Sy?  Your generation didn’t invent it, you know.”

“Oh, Mom, I’m sorry.”

“What’s to be sorry about?  Aren’t you getting what you want from him?”

“Yes, but...”

“And aren’t you tying our houses closer together?”

“I...I suppose so.”

“Are you afraid of Adam?”

“Oh, a little.  But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.”

“Then, what?”  

“I’m afraid of what might be coming.”

Irinia sat down in a chair across from her daughter and waited.

Sy said, “I’m not sure what all that scene was when the Batman came in and...and made those accusations.”

“Words without basis, dear.”

“Maybe so, Mom.  But he talked about the Joker.  And...the Joker is dead, now.  At least, that’s what the newscasts say.”

“I agree with them.  The Joker is dead.  So what do we have to fear?”

“Mom.  He knows you were dealing with the Joker!”

Irinia grabbed her daughter’s shoulder, not caring that the girl could tear her apart.  “Let him prove it.  The Joker is dead.  Do you think, even if I had dealt with him, hypothetically,  I would have kept records?”

“No, but, Mom...”

“Don’t ‘but, Mom’ me, Sybilla.  If the Joker had any records of a hypothetical meeting with me, the Batman would have come down on us like the Assyrian on the fold.  He’s that kind of man.  But he hasn’t, has he?”

“Not yet, but...”

“Yes, or no?”

“...No.”

Irinia crossed her legs.  “Therefore, as far as the Batman goes, I would assume he considers this case closed.  Reasonable assumption?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t have to.  I do the knowing in this family.  Now.  What’s really bothering you?”

“I never said there was something else.”

“You didn’t have to.  Go ahead.”

Sy didn’t look up at her mom.  “Kath de Ka’an hasn’t been back in a long time.  At least a month.”

“I’m well aware of that.  You sent her back to Rokyn with her tail between her legs.  What else?”

“I’m afraid, Mom.”

“We’ve established that.  What of?”

“...Adam.”

Irinia sat back, exhaled.  “Why?”

“I don’t know.  He wouldn’t hurt me.  He never would.  It’s just...he’s planning something big.  I don’t know what it is.  But it scares me.”

Slowly, Irinia said, “You don’t know what it is.”

“No,” said Sy, almost in a whimper.

“Anything that would hurt us?  You, me, your father?”

“No.  No, he’d never do that.  I think.”

“You think.”

“Yes, Mom.  I don’t think he would.”

Irinia covered her daughter’s hand with her own.  “Listen, darling.  At times, every woman has to be a spy.  We don’t talk a lot about it, but we all do it.  Right now, you are fulfilling your function to our family.  Already, you are being a spy.”

“I’m not a spy!”

“Of course you are, darling.  The most valuable kind.  A spy in the friendly camp.”

“But I’m in love with him!”

“So much the better, dear.  Did I say you had to hate Adam?”

“No.”

“In fact, you said you love him.  But you’ve come here to tell me something about him you don’t want him to know.  Is that correct?”

“Well, yes.  I mean, I guess so.”

The matriarch leaned forward, putting both hands on the armrests of Sy’s chair.  “Then what would be more natural than you doing just that?  All you have to do is keep loving him, and keep talking to me.”

“What do you want me to talk about?”

“I want you to tell me all about Adam.  What he does, where he goes, who he’s with.  Even if you don’t understand, especially if you don’t understand.  I also want you to keep loving him.  Is that understood, as well?”

“Not really, Mom.”

“Sybilla.  The reason you have a spy in a friendly camp is to make certain the friend stays friendly.  There is no more dangerous enemy than a friend who knows your secrets, and turns them on you.  Believe me.”

The girl said nothing.

“I’ll make arrangements for our meetings.  Not a word of this to anyone.  Not even your father, especially not to Adam.  You understand?”

“Yes, Mom.  I understand.”

Irinia stood before her daughter.  “You may be tempted, at times, to talk about this to Adam.  But you are first and foremost part of this family.  Is your first loyalty to your mother, or to your lover?”

“To you, Mom,” Sy said, promptly.  “Always to you.”

“Good.  Remember, this is friendly spying.  That way we can keep things friendly, all around.”

“Mom?”

“Yes, dear?”

“What happens if Kath de Ka’an comes back?”

“Are you afraid of her?”

“Not really.”

“Don’t provoke her into a fight,” said Irinia.  “In her case, a woman with no super-powers whatever can be deadlier to her than an ocean of seawater.  I’m working on it.  Believe me.”

    -S-

Finding the Amazons as they were today required a little research.  Specifically, on-the-scene research.  That was why Green Lantern, Batman, and Superman (a team Alan resolutely refused to call “the Justice League”) were headed back thru the timestream to an event that happened roughly 200 years ago.

All three of them were within Tal Thorn’s green energy bubble.  Alan had taken time-trips before, under the direction of his father, but he didn’t particularly like them and wanted to make sure this one was made as accurately as possible.  Adam, for some reason, had been a lot more eager chrononaut.

The Lantern’s ring, he had to admit, was definitely equipped for accurate temporal transport.  Tal, who stood between Alan and Bron, held out his hand and kept a steady stream of energy going from his ring.  “We’ll remain out of phase with this time, of course.  Close enough to observe, but not to interfere.”

“Of course,” said Bron, tiredly.

“I’ve seen pictures of the Wonder Women,” said Alan.  “Besides the one in our family, I mean.”

Green Lantern gave him a curious look.  “There is an Amazon in your family?”

“Was, Tal.  One of my ancestors married a Wonder Woman.”

“Oh.  Did that, so to say, improve your genetic structure and power measurably?”

“Well,” said Alan, thoughtfully, “it sure didn’t hurt it.”

“How much longer, Lantern?” asked the Batman.  “In a relative sense, of course?”

“We’re coming up on it...right now,” said Tal.  He slowed the bubble, and the greyness resolved into reality.  A past reality.

Paradise Island.

The sight of it beckoned silence from all three.  Situated within what had once been called the Bermuda Triangle, the Amazons’ home had been protected from Man’s World by mystic barriers difficult to penetrate.  In the 20th Century, Captain Steve Trevor’s crashing jet had managed to do so.  From then through the next 300 years, the Amazons had sent an ambassador, one at a time, to try and bring peace to the outer world.  The first had been the famed Princess Diana I, aka Wonder Woman.  

But the Amazons faced two obstacles.  First, try as they might, they could never quite end war in Man’s World.  Second, they periodically had to remove themselves to a parallel dimension, one more accessible to the “goddess” Aphrodite, to recharge their powers.  (This had happened during the first Wonder Woman’s tenure and, rather than leave her lover, she had renounced her powers for a time.)  

Two centuries before the present, the Amazons had faced both problems and come to a decision.  They left Man’s World altogether, retreating to the dimension of Aphrodite.  

The theology was confusing to Alan.  As a believer in Rao, he had no use for other “gods” or “goddesses”.  Yet, if some being called Aphrodite did exist (and how could Wonder Woman of old have powers, unless she did?), how did that fit into a Kryptonian world-view?  Such matters were troublesome, but, he decided, academic.  He would hold to his faith even if this demigoddess existed.

But what stretched before them now...well, it was more impressive than anything he’d seen on Earth, and it might give Rokyn a run for its money, as well.

It was a city of gleaming alabaster towers, overlooking but not overwhelming the sylvan setting of the land about it.  A great temple loomed in the center of the island, and on its upper front was an image of Aphrodite on a shell, rising from the waves.  She was flanked by a dove and a myrtle branch.  

Instead of Metropolis’s look of Man conquering Nature, this place seemed to betoken Humanity coexistent with Nature.  

There were airships at rest, seacraft tied at the docks, and landcraft parked in orderly fashion on lots.  But none of the three of them saw a trace of the mighty women who were said to inhabit the isle.

Green Lantern said, “Indeed, a place unlike one I’ve ever seen.  Even on Rann, or Oa.”

“Where are the Amazons?” asked Batman, almost testily.

The bubble they stood within hovered over fifty feet above the ground.  Superman and Batman had heard of Aphrodite’s Law, which specified no man should touch the ground of Paradise Island, lest the Amazons lose their powers.  But it didn’t prevent Superman from using his vision powers.

“They’re in the temple,” he said. “Engaged in a ritual.  Whatever’s going to happen, is about to happen.”

“What might be the nature of that?” asked Tal Thorn.

In a second, he had his answer.

A coruscation of light enveloped the area, composed of more colors than even Alan’s super-senses could perceive.  Magic.  It was magic.  He felt his own powers waning in its wake.

“Steady,” warned Batman, putting a hand to his shoulder.

The brilliant prismatic display grew to and beyond a bearable intensity.  All three of them had to shut and shield their eyes, but the color seemed to penetrate even that.  There also seemed to be a sound, an indefinable humming.  Something that sounded vaguely feminine, as if a cross between women and a hive of bees.

Despite himself, Superman cried out.

Then the sensation peaked, and faded.  Not quickly, but enough to soon be bearable.  The three men felt semi-blind in its wake.  It took a few minutes for them to register images properly, even through the shield of Green Lantern’s bubble.

Eventually, though, they could see.  What they saw was the sea itself, rushing in to cover the vacant spot that had been an island, sheared off near its base.  The waves crashed upon themselves with great violence, as if wondering what had happened to the thing that formerly separated them.

Batman was silent.  That impressed Alan.

The Lantern was still looking through the bubble.

“Have you tracked them?  What dimension they went to?” asked Superman.

Tal Thorn nodded.

“Then take us back,” said Alan.  “And take us there.”

(next chapter)

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