Superman of 2499:
and Dannell Lites
Terry Carlos knew he’d never get used to looking at the faces of the
six ganglords of Metropolis. Only thing was, this time it was
“I, um, seem to think there was...you know...” he started, knowing
there was a man behind him with a blaster to his head.
Wally Curso spoke. “Yinsen is dead.”
“Dead?” Carlos felt it was the stupidest thing he could
say. But he couldn’t help himself.
“Universalized,” said M’Nath, the Coluan. “His men found him in
his bedroom. Things had been done to his body. Very strong
The reporter’s mind, like it or not, was following the lead he’d been
given. “Tell me what you want. Tell me what you need.”
Abb Quam said, “We know it’s Superman. Can’t be any doubt of
it. Why haven’t you posted any reports on him?”
“It’s,” said Carlos, trying to find moisture for words in his mouth,
“not my fault. My editor won’t, won’t let me...”
“Won’t WHAT?” Albert Tothman leaned over the table. Carlos
could almost feel the goon behind him squeezing the trigger.
“Won’t let you WHAT?”
“More evidence,” said Tothman. He turned to the others.
“More evidence. You think a district attorney would want more
evidence than we got, brothers?”
“I think it’d be enough to put a guy in jail,” said Quam,
jovially. “Even if they had to hose him down with seawater every
“Y’know,” Wally Curso put in, “I wonder if it’s his editor that’s the
real problem here. I wonder if this guy ain’t really in deep with
Superman. You know, like a friend?” He was smiling when he
said it. The other ganglords knew it was a joke. But Carlos
was about to lose control of his sphincter.
“Not out of imagining, Wally,” said M’Nath. “If we broke this
“No,” said Terry, involuntarily.
“...or maybe even shot him in a place that wouldn’t kill him...”
“Or did something to one of his family, do you think he’d be a little
more persuasive with his editor?”
Terry tried to speak. Not surprisingly, he found it harder even
than trying to clean and jerk a 200-pound grav weight at the health
club. He wasn’t sure if heart failure or a blast through his
brain would get him first, but he prayed it was the former.
“No,” said another voice.
A presence. One that had not been there an instant before.
Terry Carlos felt the pressure of the gun barrel withdrawn from his
head. Indeed, the man behind him wasn’t there anymore, and he
fell backwards, landing on his ass. There was a crunching sound
and a scream of pain. No, not just one scream, a series of them.
“Shut up,” said the voice, and there was a loud crack. A body
slumped to the floor. Instinctively, Carlos closed his eyes.
“Freeze,” yelled Curso. Terry heard a blaster’s discharge
followed by the sound, and smell, of something horrible burning.
There was a new scream of pain, but it didn’t last long. There
was silence, and the nauseating smell.
“Anyone else want to interrupt?” said the voice.
“You,” Abb Quam finally said, his voice betraying his years.
“What do you want?”
“I want to take this gentleman back to where he belongs,” said the
voice. “I also don’t want any comedy out of the rest of you, from
here on. What happened to Yinsen can happen again. Are we
agreed on that? Good. Don’t deceive yourself that you’re on
my level, friends. No one is on my level.”
Terry felt himself being lifted, but something was being put over his
eyes. “Don’t talk,” advised the man holding him. “It’ll
make it that much easier.”
One of the gangsters, probably Delta, said, “You’re Superman.
The man paused, and said, “I’m not Superman. And I’m not
bent. I’ve always been this way. Goodbye, gentlemen.
Let us have no more speculation.”
The strong arms lifted and carried Carlos. That was fine by
him. Somewhere in there, he found presence of mind to faint.
Klar Ken was used to being awakened in the middle of the night.
That was why he had the vibro-alarm stuck to the side of his ear, so it
wouldn’t wake Lyra. But only a few knew the activation code for
it, and they knew not to use it heedlessly. This time, when
Klar’s eyes opened, he knew from the vibe sequence that it was from the
newsroom, not from the Family.
Lyra was still asleep across the bed from him. He intended to
keep her that way if he could. In his shorts and undershirt, Klar
slipped from beneath the covers, flew gently into the next room without
making a sound, and shut an iris-door between himself and the bedroom
before touching the voicebox on the desk before him. “Kent,” he
“Sir, we have a situation, needs your presence here,” said the voice of
Henry Byrne SK7892, one of his factotums. “Terry Carlos.”
Klar set his jaw. “What about him?”
“He’s scared as doublehell. Apparently something he’s seen.
Won’t talk to anyone but you, he says.”
“Okay,” Klar said. “Be down there in a couple. Tell him I’m
on my way.”
“Will comp. Anything else?”
“Nothing right now. Break.”
He dressed, recorded a message for Lyra, and headed for the Lift to the
hovercabs on the roof. Not long after, Klar bundled himself
through the door of his office. There were several people within,
including a police lieutenant, Henry, a couple of editors, and Terry
Carlos. Terry was sitting in a gravchair. It hovered above the
floor. For his part, Terry was sitting crosslegged and clutching
himself tightly, his eyes closed, humming to himself, his face screwed
up as tightly as he could manage.
“Boss,” said Henry. “We found him in his apartment. He
didn’t call in.”
“We triggered the visual feed,” put in Reykins, the assistant Metro
editor. “He was pretty much like this, except he was crying.”
“Well, that’s progress,” said Klar. He turned to the
cop. “Anything you could tell?”
The cop shrugged. “If you mean evidence, sir, not a spat of a lot
so far. Analyzed fibers from his shoes and clothing.
Standard rug and clothes traces. Maybe we can find a match.
No physical damage, just major emotional trauma.”
“Kind of evident.” Klar went to Terry’s side and looked at his
reporter closely. With X-ray vision and super-hearing he checked
the man’s heartrate, pulse, respiration. They were within
acceptible limits, especially with the drugs the emergency boys had
administered. Carlos had handled the crime beat before, but
he’d been pushed outside of his envelope.
“Terry,” he said. “It’s Klar. Can you hear me?”
Terry Carlos moaned, rocked back and forth, and didn’t open his eyes.
“Terry, you’re safe now,” said Klar. “Whatever, whatever was done
to you, it’s past, now. This is Klar. Your editor.
Your...friend. I want you to talk to me, Terry. I want you
to say something. Anything.”
A low moan again.
Mentally swearing, Klar thanked Rao for his Kryptonian-lensed glasses
and sent a bolt of low heat at the back of Terry’s hand. The
reporter yelped, swung his arms wide, fell out of the chair on his
back, and looked up.
“Klar,” he said. “Mr. Kent.”
“Right the first time,” said Klar, leaning over him. “Here, let
me give you a hand.” He extended his hand.
It took five seconds for Terry to take it.
Mac McCullough was used to being called to meetings at odd hours of the
evening or night. As a union head, he’d had to spend all-nighters
jawboning with management to try and get his troops a few more
percentage points. The thing is, he’d already won. To keep
things going at ContraMat Power, Adam Kent had to negotiate and
deal. So why was the Big Man asking him to come at this hour of
the night? Mac took along Lenny and K’tel, two of his bodyguards,
along with him for the ride.
Adam received them in his robe and slippers. He looked a bit
tired. Not physically, Mac thought, but...emotionally. Good
to keep in mind. “Mr. Kent,” he said, smiling his best false
smile, extending a hand. Kent shook the hand and gestured him and
his boys to the couch.
“To begin, it’s been interesting dealing with you,” said Adam.
“Thanks,” said Mac. “But it’s kind of late for a thank-you
“It’s more than that,” said Adam. “I want you to be the first to
Mac tried to keep his expression neutral. “Div,” he said.
Short for divulge.
For once, Adam smiled. “I may be getting out of the power
With displeasure, Mac noted his boys’ jaws dropping. He thought
he’d trained them better than that. After a second, he said, “Our
demands weren’t big enough for that, Adam, I didn’t think.”
“Not per se, doubledamn straight. But I’ve been having such a
herd keeping it on these past few months that the downs are downing the
ups. It’s complicated, Mac. You ought to know.”
The union stew didn’t say a thing.
“I want to sell, Mac. I’m offering it to the union.”
“To us?” Mac contradicted his usual poker-face rule, but didn’t
know it and wouldn’t have given a damn. “You want the United
Power Workers to...buy you?”
For his part, Mac recovered, sat back on the couch, and massaged his
brow to give himself time to think. “What makes you want to do
“I’ve told you. My pile is made. I want some time to enjoy
life, maybe. The company’s built. Maybe it’s time to prove
it doesn’t need me.” He fixed Mac with a calculating gaze.
“I’m ready to move on, Mac.”
About the only thing McCullough could manage was, “Okay.”
“It’s up to you to see whether you want to keep the outfit running as
usual, or if you boys want to work for other management entirely,” said
Adam. “But I’ll give you two weeks before I make the offer
public. If anybody leaks it, the value goes down. You
understand that, right?”
“Doubledef,” said Mac. “This is like having a brass-balls talk
interrupted by the Second Coming, Adam.”
Kent smiled. “I like that comparison, Mac. More than you’ll
ever know. If you don’t have anything for me right now, why don’t
we both let each other get back to bed?”
Mac and his boys got up and headed for the door. As for bed, Mac
felt that it’d be a lot of hours before he saw one, for sure.
In the chamber of the Magic Sphere, Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern
watched Queen Danae attempt to contact a god.
The Sphere itself had been built centuries ago. It was set into
the great marble wall before them and ringed with a golden border that
had years and other symbols set within it as indicators. Alan
Kent didn’t know if even the original Superman had seen the first
Wonder Woman’s Magic Sphere, but it wasn’t unlikely, the way things
ended up. Batman and Green Lantern remained silent beside him,
both of them hovering off the floor in a green sofa the Lantern had
created. For his part, Superman was careful to remain in
Queen Danae stood before the Sphere as an Amazon operated the
controls. It seemed odd, Adam thought, that a magic-based device
should have such a high-tech looking control device. Then again,
the Els had little truck with magic, so they wouldn’t be expected to
The surface of the Sphere, which appeared to be a pristine crystal when
they entered, was now apparently filled with a grayish mist.
Danae had warned them to let her speak first. How long would it
take? How long before the men from three different worlds would
meet a being who purported to be the god of the sea?
Then it happened.
The Sphere was only the center of the image that resulted. What
they saw seemed to erupt from it and fill the room, enveloping the lot
of them: the three heroes, Danae, the operator, and the three Amazon
guards. The lot of them appeared to be beneath the sea, or
beneath a sea, at any rate, with intangible water seeming to surround
them. A double row of soldiers, green-skinned and loin-clothed,
bearing spears held slantwise before them, stretched from behind their
party towards a point not far away from them.
That point was a throne, made of a substance Alan had never seen
before, with the back appearing to be a huge, mussel-like shell.
Upon it sat another green-hued figure, a trident grasped in his right
hand, mustached and bearded and crowned in a golden headgear that
seemed to be shaped from coral. He looked upon the Amazons and
the three men as if he was not surprised by their presence at all.
Alan struggled to maintain silence. Green Lantern was similarly
impressed. Even Batman’s jaws were clamped tight. True,
Superman I had met gods in his time. But knowing of their
existence and being in a god’s presence were two separate things.
This was, this had to be, Poseidon.
Queen Danae got to her knees before him, appearing to position herself
between the two lines of sentries. “Great Poseidon, lord of the
sea, we do you obeisance,” she said. “It is Danae of the Amazons
who approaches you, on another’s behalf.”
The god spoke.
“We know you, Amazon.”
Poseidon’s lips moved and the voice appeared to come from them.
It was a normal voice, deep, with an accent Adam couldn’t
trace. At least gods used their voices to
communicate. That, somehow, was reassuring.
Queen Danae drew a breath, which proved that the watery environment was
a projection of sorts. She gestured towards Alan. “I bring
with me one who has done service to your people of late. He is
called Superman, and he would bring petition to you. I speak in
“No one speaks for another in my court,” pronounced Poseidon.
“Let this man speak for himself.”
Oh, boy, thought Alan. The two other males looked at him.
He drew himself up, flew forward a bit, stopped beside and above the
queen, and made a bow. “Great Poseidon, I am Superman of
Earth. My people and I...well...we labor under a curse. A
curse of the sea.”
“This is known to me,” said Poseidon, almost off-handedly.
Not the response I was hoping for, thought Alan. “Indeed, great
Poseidon. But recently I gave aid to the people of
Atlantis. Their king, Armadon, reigns from your throne.”
“I reign from my throne!” boomed Poseidon, brandishing his
trident. “The line of Atlantis merely occupies a seat I long
since abandoned. Choose your words accurately, man of the air.”
“Forgive me, great Poseidon,” said Alan. “But perhaps my
narrative, as it is, may make up for my, ah, inaccuracy.” He
hesitated, then went ahead. “In years past, a witch from Earth
petitioned you to curse the sea against my kind. Her name was
“I granted her petition,” said Poseidon, and said no more.
“Just so,” said Superman. “Yet, she sought revenge and injustice,
and ultimately died in her conflict with my ancestor. Since then,
the waters of the sea have been our enemy, and the fragments of our
dead world Krypton, formerly deadly to us, have been harmless.
This, great Poseidon, made for great difficulty to us time and
again. When I went to aid King Armadon, I had to take great
precaution lest I be exposed to your seas, and die. The king of
Atlantis and his people had been enslaved by one of my enemies. I
am pledged to come to his aid, as I am to the men of the surface
world.” He paused. “For five centuries, the men of my line
and the kings of Atlantis have been allies. And friends.”
Poseidon said, “For your aid to my people of your world, we give
thanks. Yet, the one whose petition you seek to overturn also
served me, in her way. The price was paid in blood, mixed with my
waters. Such a thing is not easily forgotten. Or revoked.”
“Then, what...” Superman began.
But Queen Danae spoke up, overriding him. “Lord Poseidon. A
price was given to me as well.”
“Which was?” said Poseidon, almost curiously.
“The price of seed,” said Danae. “The price of life-giving.”
“And you would be willing to substitute this, for the blood that was
given me by the woman?” said Poseidon. “Speak truly, Amazon.”
Danae looked steadily at him. “I would,” she said. “The
child would be raised in your service, though her home be on the
surface as much as below the sea. She will be given to your
devotion. This I avow, by the pact with Aphrodite, who was born
from your waters.”
Batman caught his breath. Green Lantern remained as stolid as any
of the fish-men soldiers, but Alan could hear his racing
heartbeat. He wondered if Poseidon knew that the price Danae
carried was not that of the man who petitioned him. Perhaps it
didn’t matter. At any rate, they’d find out soon enough.
“Approach me,” said Poseidon. “The woman on my right, the man on my
Praying silently that Rao would forgive, Superman gently flew forward,
keeping pace with Danae’s steps. Batman and Green Lantern looked
on, as did the Amazon women. Alan wondered if all of them were
hoping just as much as he was that this would be over soon.
Poseidon looked massive from a closer view, the muscles beneath his
chest, arms, and legs seeming to ripple, wave-like. His face was
stern, but not unfriendly. Alan Kent matched Danae’s gait with
his flight and stopped when she did. Though he was sitting,
Poseidon towered over the both of them. “Bow your heads,” he
After they did, he lay hands on them.
The senses of Superman whirled as if in a typhoon. Susceptible to
magic, no Kryptonian could resist a power like this. He was
barely in control of his own consciousness. The things which
ebbed and flowed through his mind, he could not track. If there
was a sense of him being physically touched, he could not record
it. If Danae was still beside him, he could not sense her.
But he could hear the words of Poseidon.
“In my name, the curse is revoked,” said the sea regnant. “By my
power, let the seas be a womb of sanctuary to this man and his line,
nevermore to harm. By my power, let the curse of his homeworld
return, as necessary exchange. By my power, let the child in the
womb of this woman be an adopted daughter of my line. Let none
challenge my edict. What is spoken, is done. The audience
With that, normality returned to the mind of Superman.
He sagged downward, falling towards the floor before he could regain
control. The arms of Queen Danae reached out quickly, grabbing
him, hoisting him over her head. She, too, was panting from the
effort of what they had undergone. Alan shook his head and
invoked his flight power again, rising up away from the floor anew.
Batman and Green Lantern, he saw, were having a tough time coming back
to themselves. Even the Amazon guards were clenching and
unclenching their hands on their weapons, betraying their nervousness
and relief. The Amazon technician had patches of sweat on her
underarms. Superman didn’t blame her.
Finally, Danae smiled. “Bid Drusilla come in.”
A door behind them all opened. Curious, Superman looked
back. Within the chamber door, a blonde Amazon stood, holding a
pitcher of water in one hand. She hauled back and threw it with
It shattered all over Alan’s upper body, drenching him in broken glass
and water. He could easily smell its high salt content.
“How do you feel?” said Queen Danae.
Alan ran one hand over his damp chest, brushing some glass shards from
his costume. There was dampness. But there was no pain.
“Queen Danae,” he said, “mission accomplished.”