Superman of 2499:  

    The Great Confrontation

    Chapter 28

    by DarkMark 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 five.

“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 things.”

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?”

“HewantsmoreevidenceohGoddon’tkill me...”

“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 day.”

“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 guy’s fingers...”

“No,” said Terry, involuntarily.

“...or maybe even shot him in a place that wouldn’t kill him...”

“NO!”

“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  Terry Carlos felt the pressure of the gun barrel withdrawn from his head.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.  You’re bent.”

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.

    -S-

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 said.

“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.”

“Broken.”

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.

    -S-

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 session, Adam.”

“It’s more than that,” said Adam.  “I want you to be the first to know.”

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 business.”

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?”

Adam nodded.

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 that, Adam?”

“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.

    -S-

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 stationary flight.

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 know.

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 his behalf.”

“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 Lady Hecate.”

“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 left.”

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 instructed.

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 is ended.”

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 deadly accuracy.

It shattered all over Alan’s upper body, drenching him in broken glass and water.  He could easily smell its high salt content.

Seawater.

“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.”

(next chapter)

(HOME)