Superman of 2499:

    The Great Confrontation:

    part 29

    by DarkMark and Dannell Lites

Adam Kent was about to turn in when he sensed another presence in his house.  Whether it was by hearing the disturbed molecules of air, or subtly seeing a few rug hairs awry, or by smell, or by something beyond normal sense at all, Adam couldn’t have told you.  But he knew someone was there.  In another second, he analyzed who it was.

“Hello, Dad,” he said.  

Klar Kent reduced his vibratory speed to normal.  He was wearing a regular suit and looked as grim as if he’d been called on to fight Muto.  “Son,” he said, his arms folded.

Adam ran his tongue along the inside of his mouth.  “So.  Why are you here?”

“I’m here,” said Klar, “because of a conversation I had down at the cop shop with one of my reporters.  Terry Carlos.  Ever hear of him?”

“Can’t say that I have,” said Adam, striving to keep his pulse and heartbeat steady.  “Why?  Does this have something to do with my labor problems?”

The older man moved in closer to his son.  “He said Chang Yinsen, one of the top crime bosses in this city, had been done in by a man with super-powers.”

“Oh,” said Adam.  “Any clues?”

“Terry was rescued by a man with super-powers.  Evidently the same man who did in Chang Yinsen.  I want to know if it was you, Adam.”

“What?”  The word exploded from Adam Kent’s lips.  He was proud of his acting ability.  His heartbeat had to be artificially stimulated to fool his father’s super-hearing, if it could be fooled.  He had to put on an air of surprise and indignance.  “Dad, that’s...how could you...”

“There are dirty things going on in this city, more than usual,” said Klar.  “I know it isn’t Alan.  I checked to see if any Zoners have escaped.  They haven’t.  I have to check the Family.  If it isn’t one of us...we need to know.  I need to know.”

“And you think it’s me?”  Adam looked incredulous, and hoped he was doing a great job of it.  “Father, I am hurt.”

“You should be.”  Klar Kent paused a long moment before his next statement.  “Son, above all things, I don’t want to believe it’s you.  But there is...a manipulative strain in your makeup.  Don’t deny it.”

Adam leaned against his paneled wall and folded his arms.  “Why not?  To make it in the power business, Dad, you have to know something about making people do what you want.  Otherwise, you end up on welfare credits.”

“I hate to say it, son, but perhaps it might have been better that way.”

“You think...you actually think...that I would kill a man?  That I would murder an Earther?  Father, I was going to be the Superman.  Do you think that I would be capable of that, if I had prepared myself to take the cape?”

Klar Kent didn’t say anything.  He didn’t trust himself to.

Adam waited on his father.  He could give back a glare with the best of them when he had to.

“You’re leaving your business behind,” said Klar.  “What do you intend to do?”

“Travel a bit,” he said.  “Take Sy with me, with her mother’s permission.”

“I’m not sure that’s such a great idea, son.”

“The Family entrusted me with her supervision, Dad.  Where I go, she goes.”

“Are you sleeping with her?”

“Yes.”  Adam hesitated just long enough to indicate that it was hard for him to say.  But if you told one hard truth, it might help to put a hard lie in the shadow.

“That’s disgusting.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” said Adam.

“I don’t think you give a damn for the way I feel,” said Klar, almost in a shout.  He got in his son’s face.  “I’m not sure anymore, Adam, if you give a damn about anything except yourself.  And power.”

Adam sighed, sincerely.  “The Family’s always been about power, Dad.  You know that.”

“Used in the right ways.  Kal-El showed us that, five hundred years ago.  I will not have that legacy tarnished.  But there’s more to our legacy than that, son.  Kal’s father, Jor-El, discovered the Phantom Zone.  We can still use it.”

Klar’s eyes did their best to bore into Adam’s soul.  Adam wondered what they’d find there.

“I’ll remember that, Dad,” he said.

“See that you do.  And when you leave, Adam, I want to know where you’re at.”

“Of course.  Anything else?”

“If you father a child by Sy...”  He left the rest of the sentence unfinished.

“We’ve been careful about that, Dad.”

“So careful you make me sick.”  Klar Kent let himself out the normal way, through the door.  “Remember what I told you.  Remember Kru-El.”

The door schussed closed behind him.  Adam Kent pushed away from the wall and headed towards a chair.  He remembered Kru-El, all right.  The black sheep of the El family, the one Jor-El himself had sentenced to the Zone.  

He was stupid enough to get found out.

Adam Kent took off his shirt and got ready for bed.

    -S-

A green nimbus formed within the confines of a cloaked satellite.  From it stepped three figures.  The Green Lantern closed the verdant door behind them.

Superman noted that Batman smiled, and decided he’d fix it in memory just to be sure he could recall what it looked like.  “Home,” said the Batman, and went to his control chair to lean on it.

“For one of us, perhaps,” said the Lantern.  “Not quite what I expected of our first mission as the League of Justice.”

“I’ll bet,” said Superman, with no small irony.

“We’re not the Justice League,” said Batman.  “We just got together for a mission.  That’s all.”

“That’s all the old League did, friend,” Superman said.  “They got together when the world needed them.”

“The world doesn’t need a damned old man in a bat suit,” Bron answered, looking into the next room.  “Count me out, Superman.  The line ends here.”

The Lantern felt he should say something.  From behind, he came up and lay a hand on Batman’s shoulder.  “Your city needs you, friend Batman.  Your great brain, your deductive skills, you have demonstrated them quite----“

“To hell with that!”  Batman turned so quickly the Lantern’s gloved hand was flung off his shoulder.  “You’re not from this world, Lantern.  You don’t know.  The Batman line is based on vengeance.  They make another—Superman—when the one doing the job decides to pass on the franchise.  They make another Batman, all too many times, when—somebody dies.”

Superman came up and stood behind the Lantern, who could say nothing.  The Batman went on.  “I don’t want that choice for my son, or his son, or any that come after.  This is it.  Our debt to Gotham, our debt to Thomas and Martha Wayne, our debt to my family...they’re all...they’re all paid.”  He turned away from them.  “The Batman is just blood and death and pain.  We don’t fly among the eagles, soaring to the sun.  We’re down in the gutters, picking  through the corpses for clues.  We can’t bounce blasters off our chests.  All we’ve got is two fists and fear on our side.  It’s not a legacy, boys.  It’s a curse.  The curse ends with me.”

“You can’t stop being what you are,” said Superman, gently.  “But you can stop being the Batman.  If that’s your decision...”

“It is.”

“...then I’ll respect it.  I’m only glad I had the chance to work with you.”  He stuck out his hand.  Batman took it.  Surprisingly, he didn’t let it go.

“You still have the chance to work with me.”

“Try to tack on an explain to that?”

“With what’s going on in Metro these days, you’ll need help.  Maybe not from a man in a cowl, but from a man with a brain.  I have one.”

Superman and Green Lantern grinned.  “What were you saying about there not being a Justice League?” said the Lantern.

“There isn’t,” said Batman.  “The League had a high profile.  They looked for trouble.  It found them.  If I’m to be of help, I’ll be where I’ve always worked best.  In the shadows.”

“I suppose, then, that I’ll handle the light,” said Alan.

“The Supermen always have,” said Batman.

    -S-

In the shadows, Katherine de Ka’an waited.

Spying on someone, especially someone with super-senses, wasn’t that easy a thing to manage.  The trick was not to arouse your mark’s suspicions, so that they wouldn’t bring their super-vision and super-hearing to bear.  She didn’t know if her foes could tell her by her heartbeat, but she wasn’t about to take any chances.

Of course, with her own vision and hearing powers, she didn’t have to be that close.  Kath hovered in a cloud bank, cloaked by a null-garment from Rokyn that reflected practically no light and no spy signals at all.  The government was supposed to be the only users of it.  But she had an interest in the company that made it, so...

Sy Kent hadn’t done one interesting thing since Kath started spying on her.  Of course, that was what most surveillance was: hours of boring vigilance and a few seconds of worthwhile stuff.  If you were lucky.  

There were other problems that Kath hadn’t anticipated.  A few times, she’d had to pee.  Luckily, she evaporated it with her heat-vision before it could reach the ground.  Still, that was one power-use she’d never anticipated.

Meanwhile, Sy had watched her absurd cheapo romance holos, plus one sex tape that she bet Irinia didn’t know about (then again, Kath admitted that she might have stolen it from Irinia), went out in a bikini and sunned herself (Krypts couldn’t tan normally, but Adam’s place had a red-sun filter over the hoverchair she lay on), and ate.  Continually.  As far as Kath could tell, she’d made no calls to Adam or anyone else, and done nothing nefarious, just imbecilic.

If Sy somehow detected her, Katherine didn’t have to imagine what would follow.  Catfight, round two.  Was she eager for that?  Part of her was, she had to admit.  She had new fighting skills and wanted to show what she could do.  But another part of her wasn’t so sure.  Sy was naturally stronger and she’d taken a Sheol of a beating from her last time.  Was it worth finding out how it’d go if she just got run through the mill again?

Kath decided to table those thoughts for the moment.

How much longer was she supposed to spy?  Rao knew, she wanted to go eat something.  Maybe within a few days she’d have this spying thing down.  But...there were things to be done, now that she was back on Earth.  Katherine de Ka’an had a life of her own.  People to see, investments to check on, an apartment to be kept up...and, of course, there was Alan, whenever he got back.

She shook her head.  Inevitably, the parabola of her super-hearing shifted with her.  New voices, new noises, a cacophony to be sorted out.  And...

...what?

On the very edge of her perception, what was that?

She funneled out the competing signals, focused as only a Kryptonian could on the one sound she sought.  A woman’s voice.  Sheol, no.  A woman’s scream.  Muffled by distance, by walls, by soundbaffles...but still, a scream.

(Oh God NO please DON’T DO THAT OH GOD)

There was no thought involved in what she did.  Before she could register it, Katherine de Ka’an was out of the cloudbank and into the open air, a barely-perceptible streak flying at hypersonic speed.

The wall of the sky-high apartment from which the scream came was of the toughest building material available.  Before her, it gave like paper.

The force of her entry and the shock of her impact, as well as the hurtling material and air blast, knocked both the room’s occupants off their feet.  Thankfully, the wall fragments shattered into gravel-size nodules and bounced off the two with little harm.  Kath didn’t have to do much deduction when she saw what was before her.

The woman who had screamed had most of her clothes torn off her by force.  The man was already pretty well nude, and had a device in her hand that was illegal as hell.  It was a pain-inducer, for rapists who liked a little more fun with their game than they could get naturally.

Kath slapped the thing away from his hand and broke his wrist in the process.  He yelled, in pain and surprise.  His voice was surprisingly high.

She drew back, drove a fist at him in anger, thought better of it and burned the air beside his ear with the force of the blow.  Then, holding herself back, she elbowed him under the chin.  His jaw, impacting something harder than a steel girder, broke in several places.

A slap to the side of his head put him out.  Kath stared at him in anger for a long, long moment.  Her face was partially hidden by the cowl of the null-garment.  To the woman who was to have been a victim, she was a flickering figure, almost unreal.

In a gloved hand, Kath picked up the pain-inducer.  Then she tore away a section of hanging from a wall and wrapped it about the woman in an improvised shift.

She spoke to her rescuee.

“I will take you to a place of safety, to a police station,” Kath said.  “Give them this thing he was going to use on you.  Tell them about him.  If you don’t, he’ll only do this again when he recovers.  Do you understand?”

The woman, a pale redhead, nodded.

“Give me your word you’ll do this.”

“I’ll, I’ll do it,” said the girl, in a tiny voice.  “Who are you?  Are you an angel?”

“No,” said Kath, taking her under one arm.

“Then who are you?”

Kath pushed off, taking them both through the hole in the wall into the air.  She made a decision.

“Supergirl,” she said.  “Call me Supergirl.”

    -S-

George Kent looked at the object in Irinia’s storage chest.  The chest was contained in her bedroom.  Irinia was out, and if she had spycams recording him, he really didn’t give a damn.  Ostensibly, it was an antique lamp from the 2300's.  The thing was, it was lined with lead.  That, of course, was good for blocking the x-ray vision of Kryptonians.

But it was also great for raising their suspicions.

With a squeeze of his hand, George broke the shell of the lamp.  Amidst the fragments, something fell out.  He picked it up.

A kid’s water pistol.  A very, very large water pistol.

Somehow, he didn’t have to guess too hard to figure out what sort of water was in it.

“Irinia,” said George, with feeling.  “Irinia.”

He emptied the pistol into the bathroom sink and then began finding a way to fit and fuse together the pieces of the lamp.

    -S-

“But he’s my son, Klar,” said Lyra.  “He is still my son.”

“He’s our son, Lyra,” Klar said.  “Is it supposed to be easier on me because I didn’t bear him?”

“How can you be so certain he was to blame?”

Klar looked at her through his glasses.  “Certain?  That implies I know for sure.  I don’t.  But when you’re dealing with a member of the Family, Lyra, you have to take every suspicion to the max.  We’re just too damn dangerous.”

“Including you, Klar?”

“Yes, Lyra.  Especially including me.”

She crossed her legs on the hovering sofa.  “You said he’s going to travel?”

“That’s what he told me.”

“To where?  With whom?”

“Don’t know the answer to either.  I intend to have him stay in touch with me.”

Lyra shook her head.  “Klar, Klar.  How did your Family get to be this way?”

Klar sighed.  “I don’t know.  Five hundred years, it’s a wonder it didn’t get this way before.”  He reflected. “Sometimes, it did, or nearly.”

“What happened then?”

“Some of them got sent to Rokyn.  There’s a lot of the El clan still living there.  Nobody’s been Zoned or...worse.  Not yet.”

“Why do you say ‘Not yet’?  Don’t you know what that does to me?”

“Don’t you know what this is doing to me?  I...we...have two sons, Lyra.  The one, Alan, he’s trying to do well, and he’s managed okay so far, but sometimes I think he’s too weak to handle it.  The other, Adam, he’s strong but...”

“But what, Klar?”

“But I don’t think he has the morality for it.  Businessmen have to be tough to make it, I know.  Maybe too tough sometimes.”

“You think he’s too ruthless.”

“I don’t know what I think.  I only think that I can’t trust him anymore.”

“That’s a deadly statement to make, Klar.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“So what are you going to do?”

He sat, massaging his temple.  “I can’t convene a Family council until and unless there’s definite proof he did something wrong.  As yet, I only have suspicions.  This is like the 20th Century.  First a Superman turns up, and then a batch of super-heroes starts popping up around him.  We’re not the only ones with powers.  All I have is Carlos’s words.”

“He said a very powerful man killed Chang Yinsen and saved him from the Metropolis mob.  Is that a bad thing?”

“The saving, no.  The killing?  Yes.  The Family doesn’t kill.”

“You told me that they killed the Anti-Monitor back in the 20th.”

“And if they hadn’t, the whole Multiverse would have died and neither of us would be talking tonight.  Extenuating circumstances.  None of the Family would have had to kill Yinsen.”

“What are we going to do, Klar?  What are we going to do with Adam?”

He stared at the floor.

“Only one thing I know how to do, Lyra.  We wait.”

(next chapter)

(HOME)