Superman of 2499:
The Great Confrontation
By DarkMark and Dannell Lites
A year had passed since Adam Kent and Sybilla had taken their leave of Earth. On the top of the highest building in Metropolis, two blue-and-red-clad figures looked up at the approximate place in the night sky where Rokyn would be.
Supergirl, kneeling there in her costume, said, “It’s out of phase by now, Alan.” She said it in Kryptonian, which was still a secret language to most of Earth.
“Doubleyep,” said Superman, in English. “Nothing we can do about that right now.” He paused. “I’d like to think, you know…”
“That we won’t have to worry when it’s in phase again?” said Katherine de Ka’an. Rokyn, a phaseworld, would be out of their dimension for months to come. “Too late for that, Alan. I’m already worried.”
He shook his head. “We have enough things on Earth to worry about. So far, we’ve done pretty well with them.”
She smiled, gently. Her hand went to his and covered it. During the past year, they had become not only lovers but true partners as Superman and Supergirl, in a way few of their forebears had managed. “We have, haven’t we? Even if we have to fake the seawater thing every now and then.”
“Wouldn’t do to let the bad guys know we can take baths in it.” Superman XXI smiled back at her. “Or that, sometimes, we shower in it.”
Kath giggled. “Wouldn’t the peejays have a field day with that! Maybe we could convince them that seawater showers are kinky.”
“The Atlanteans have known that for centuries.”
She went over and snuggled against his chest. “If the newsers are watching, we may as well give them a show of affection.”
“They’ve got enough of that already, but a little more won’t hurt.” Alan Kent stroked her hair, gently. “Mother Moon, Kath, if I’d known this was a fringe benefit of being Superman, I’d never have even let Adam be in the running.”
“Yeah, well, for awhile, for him, it was of the fringes.” She shifted her legs. “But that’s over now.”
“Hope he realizes that.”
“I don’t know what he realizes. Sometimes I even wonder if Rao knows what Adam Kent is thinking.” She paused and draped her arm over his leg. “Did you ever know, Alan?”
“Sometimes,” he said. “Other times…it wasn’t so easy. When we were both playing Superboy, he was a lot easier to read. But after Dad started disciplining him for being too rough in his duties, he kind of began to close up. I noticed it, called him on it one time.”
“And he said what?”
“He said he had a right to keep some things private, even from me and Dad. Which I guess he did. But he seemed to keep more and more things private, every year I knew him.”
“Did he ever lie?”
“Nothing that he ever got caught about.”
“That,” she said, “would make all the difference.”
For a few long moments, they didn’t speak. Then, with either their great vision or hearing, they became aware of another presence. It wasn’t human. But, actually, it didn’t disturb them too much.
A paparazzi-bot, floating on its magnetic propulsion field, came up to hover near them and pointed its camera fiber straight at them. Kath and Alan laughed. She got up and struck an exaggerated model’s pose, grinning at it. Alan just sat there with his arms folded, and waved it away. The bot took the hint and zipped away.
“Well, another couple of holos for MetroTab,” said Kath, resignedly.
“Sometimes it’s the best publicity you can have,” said Alan. “The more they see us doing common things like schmoozing, the more they can relate to us. And the less fear they have of us.”
“How profoundly psychological,” said Kath. “Are all actors like that?”
“The good ones are. Shall we patrol?”
The two of them often made a competition of which could be the first into the air. Neither could measurably claim the victory, but that never stopped them from arguing. Kath squatted and then straightened her lovely legs, launching herself into the sky. But she could tell from the whoosh of air beside her that Alan was in flight, too.
“Me first this time!”, she proclaimed. “Me, me, me!”
“You? I went under the bay and down to Florida by the time you were out of your crouch!”
“Dangerous ground, Supes!”
“You know what first call gets.” He smirked at her. “First call” was the first one to catch a situation, whether disastrous or criminal, that they had to deal with.
“Yep, and you know how I like it!”
“The question is, do you know how I like it?”
“Irrelevant. I’ll win. Let’s go!”
The two of them rocketed over the Metropolis rooftops. And, as a few trained eyes below caught them in flight, inevitably someone pointed and chanted the mantra that had been around for 500 years.
“Look…up in the sky…”
Adam Kent looked up at the sky of Rokyn, at about the place Earth would be if they were in its dimensional plane. It would be another few months before his world slipped back into Terra’s realm, and that was just fine by him.
He was dressed in a robe and shorts, standing on the balcony of his apartment. Thankfully, Rokyn had a thriving stock market and there were families who were only too happy to give investment guidance to one of the famed El clan. Without the ability to go into the future for a few days or a few months’ time, he had no way of certainly judging what the market was going to bear, or not. But with their help, he’d managed to parlay the credits he’d brought with him into even bigger conformations. Certainly enough for Sy and himself to live on without touching his capital.
They lived in style, too.
Below him, New Kandor spread out in all its glory. The city was one of only two to survive the Destruction, the only one to retain its inhabitants alive. From the Kandorians had come the population of Rokyn, the new Kryptonians. They had kept the tradition of Raotianism alive, even under another sun. Some priests argued that Rao’s spirit now infused that of their new star. Others said that Rao was present within all stars. Still others said that Rao was the Creator of the universe, and as such didn’t need to worry with star homes.
To Adam, it was all the same.
Rao had allowed the Kent / El line to survive and flourish. Its first scion on Earth had been the famed Superman, founder of a dynasty. Kal-El and his cousin Kara had saved the universe a number of times, for which Rao was undoubtedly grateful, saved the tiny bottle city of Kandor from Brainiac, and enlarged it on the world where he now stood. That was 500 years ago.
Sybilla Kent came up behind him, quietly. “Klor-On’s here to see you, Adam.”
“Thanks and house-blessings, Sy,” said Adam. “Show him in.”
Sy’s feisty spirit had been so overshadowed by Adam’s power that the girl’s personality was only at a decimal point of what it had been before. He didn’t know whether to applaud that or not, but decided it didn’t matter much. Like a servant, she brought Klor-On into the room and retired. She might be eavesdropping, but he didn’t care.
“Tanth On,” said Adam, with a slight bow.
“Tanth El,” said Klor-On. He was older than Adam, even a bit older than Klar Ken himself, but an ex-politician with a grip of diamond hardness. “What’s to talk about?”
“Considerable,” said Adam. “As long as we’re not heard.” He stepped away from the balcony, motioned Klor into his study.
“It’s a privilege, I must say, to deal with one of the famed El family,” said Klor, taking a seat. “Glad to be in your presence.”
Adam smiled faintly as Sy closed the door behind them. “Blessings on your house as well, Onior. But let’s dispense with the formalities for now. You are, of course, adept at keeping secrets.”
“When called for,” said Klor.
Adam paused, gathering his thoughts. “It’s not a secret that I’ve been displeased with the Family’s traditional way of doing things on Earth. For one thing, it’s never worked. 20 generations of fighting abstract Evil, as we define it, with our magnificent powers on that world, and we’re still no closer to that goal.”
“That, Tanth Ol, is closely related to the first. Instead of fighting what we define as Evil, I believe we might be more well-deployed in opposing Chaos. Random destructiveness in Life and Society. Do you follow me?”
“I’m not entirely sure,” said Ol. “Too much control, well, we know the effects of that. It shades into tyranny.”
“Some say it does,” said Adam. “But greater control, leading to the improvement of the lives of our…shall we say, dependents?...could only be viewed as a boon.”
“I’m not sure where you’re going with this.”
Adam sat opposite Klor. “The Family has defined its role for 500 Terran years as that of a Kryptonian Messiah…that would be the Savior, in their terms. One who only interferes when other agencies prove unable to deal with, ah, Evil, or disaster. And only one, out of the many who live there and possess such powers.”
“Not all of the line on Earth do possess those powers,” said Ol.
“Precisely. Precisely. But you who live on this world, on Rokyn, have them all.”
“We would gain them on Earth, yes,” said Ol. ‘But you know how limited travel is to a yellow-sun world.”
“They fear abuse of power,” said Adam. “But power put to a constructive use is not abusive.”
“What are you trying to do, Adam? What are you trying to tell me?”
Adam smiled again. “I’m not dealing with a stupid person here, Tanth Ol. I know how Power has been the polestar of your political career. Up until, well, the incident we won’t speak of here.”
Ol made a slightly rueful expression. He’d been kicked out of office following a financial scandal involving huge construction paybacks and some benefits which weren’t monetary. Good lawyers had kept him out of prison or the Zone. But his political career had been ended.
“But what was taken away here can be reoffered on Earth,” said Adam. “I trust I haven’t stepped out on too frail a limb.”
Ol looked at him steadily. “These are the gravest sort of statements you make.”
“True,” Adam said.
“Why make them to me?”
“Because, Tanth Ol. I feel you can be trusted. You understand, I share a certain affinity for power myself.”
Ol said nothing. He looked past Adam’s shoulder at Sybilla, standing quietly against the wall. She gave back his gaze without emotion. For a moment, he felt pity for her. To Adam, he said, “What would you have of me?”
“Only secrecy. And consideration. And the pledge that we will speak further soon.”
Ol said, “Secrecy works both ways. If I consent, the chain that binds us can bring both of us down in a heartbeat.”
Adam nodded. “You could betray me. Or I you, if you consent. In this, I bare my vitals to you.”
“Does your father know of this?”
“My father knows nothing,” said Adam. “I wish to keep it that way.”
A long silence followed. Then Ol spoke again.
“I will grant you, tentatively, all three conditions. But this is only for a time.”
Adam breathed out in relief. “Thank you, Klorior. A man of your intelligence and farsightedness…I knew I chose well.”
Ol stood up. “Never assume such a thing, Adam. It may be we have both chained ourselves hand-to-hand, to jump into the maw of Sheol.”
“Just so,” said Adam. “If that be the case, Sheol may be ours to rule.” He stuck out his hand.
After a moment, Ol grasped it. “I pledge my silence,” he said. “For the moment.”
“I pledge as well,” said Adam.
Ol nodded towards Sy. “What of her?”
“I pledge on her behalf as well.”
They released their grip. “This is only until I know more of the plan,” said Ol. “It had better be a good one.”
“Only the best, Klorior,” said Adam. “Only the best from me.”
In his apartment, Tal Thorn stood facing the Power Battery given to him by the Guardians so many years ago. He reflected on the legend, that the blue men had fashioned it to symbolize bringing light to the Universe, light against the great darkness. So far, he hoped he’d served the Light well.
But on the planet Oa, before the great curved dais of the Guardians, his image stood clad in the uniform of a Green Lantern.
“Green Lantern of Rann,” said the prime speaker, “your report, please.”
“By your leave, Guardians,” said Tal. “The situation on Terra is unsettled, for now. I serve as an independent Lantern and as an ally of Superman and the Batman. So far, we have worked together well.”
“What of the break within the ranks of the Els?” said another Guardian.
“There is some evidence of dissent,” admitted Tal. “At present, though, Adam Kent is on Rokyn, which is out of phase with our universe for the next few months. Until it returns to our plane, I cannot vouch for his activities.”
“We could send Lantern Thorn to Rokyn, as a hidden agent,” offered another Guardian. “It would be difficult in such an environment, under conditions of such great gravity and another sun. But not impossible.”
“Noted,” said Prime Speaker. “However, Lantern Thorn has established himself well on Earth. Rokyn will not remain out of phase much longer. The alliance between himself and the Superman could prove of great value in this potential conflict. Therefore, I ask the Lantern for his input. Would you, Lantern Thorn, prefer to remain on Earth for the time of one more of its years?”
Tal said, “It is a hard decision to make, Guardians. I miss the green skies of my homeworld. Each day I spend on Earth, I regret all the more that I had to leave Rann behind.”
The Guardians waited.
“But the assignment remains incomplete,” said Tal Thorn. “As you say, until Rokyn reenters our plane, we have no true inkling of developments within the El clan. Therefore, I would continue my mission on Earth. For one of their years more.”
“And this is your decision?” said the Speaker.
“It is, O Speaker.”
“Then, unless my brethren object, it is so granted. But be warned, Lantern Thorn. The power of a single Kryptonian is almost beyond belief, possibly equal to a Lantern’s. The power of more than one, of many, could stagger the imagination. Not since the Great Crisis, five centuries past, has there been a potential event of such magnitude. Should the need arise, the entire Corps can stand at your side. But they must be summoned. Do you understand?”
“I do, O Speaker.”
“The audience is ended. Go with the Great Hand, Lantern Thorn.”
The green glow from the lantern faded. Tal Thorn, in his civvies, stood there for a moment, then fell back on his bed with a sigh. These audiences took something out of him, emotionally.
Lantern against Kryptonian? Not a pleasant thought to have, really.
But with another Kryptonian by his side, the prospect seemed a little less daunting.
Only a little, though. Only by a little.
Bron Wayn was glad that he had maintained the Bat-Belfry for every day of his life. Even in his present state of semi-retirement, it was a welcome refuge from the greater world outside.
Even after a year, the pain of Aelfric’s revelation and death still wounded him. Not enough to incapacitate him, true. A Batman was built of stronger material than that. But it still hurt.
Thankfully, his children had been able to return to Earth after the death of the Joker. He prayed that this was the last of the Joker’s line, and feared that, somewhere, another might be found. But so far, none of them had.
And what of the line of the Batman?
Well, leave that up to God. He did not press his son or grandson to take up the cowl and cape. It was one hell of an undertaking, and one really had to have the fire for it. He would prefer his offspring to lead a life of their own, without thinking they had to become Gotham’s Guardian for another generation. There had been years, even decades, without a Batman. The world could endure without one again.
For the most part, he was a planner and advisor to both Alan and Tal. Bron had to admit that the two made an efficient pair, and, when Supergirl joined them on infrequent teamings, the three were equal to just about any challenge. They hadn’t quite decided on a team name yet…no Justice League, not yet. When they referred to themselves, it was just as “the team” or “the three of us.”
Maybe it was four now, if you counted Supergirl. He hadn’t quite warmed to her yet, but both he and she had accepted each other. That was enough, for the moment.
And now, he could be alone, to putter with his equipment and his files, his inquests into urban and interplanetary crime, his spider’s web that gave him a sense of fulfillment. Or at least of utility.
Those were his thoughts as he heard a rapping on the side of the Belfry.
Almost before he could lunge for the controls, the force-field was activated and a holoscreen showed the entity who had found him there.
It was a woman. But not Supergirl. No, not her.
Instead, hovering beside the great hidden skycraft was a black-haired woman whose dress was familiar from history. She wore a red halter emblazoned with a golden bird, blue shorts covered with white stars, red sandals, and a gold metal tiara with a red star over the forehead. By her waist was clasped a coiled, glowing gold lasso.
This had to be an illusion. He had to be sleeping.
The woman rapped again, sending another metallic echo through the Belfry.
There was only one thing to be done about it.
He motioned for a communicator mike to hover before him. “Who are you and what do you want?”
Her answer was transmitted through the holoscreen. “I am Wonder Woman. And if you are the Batman, I wish to speak to you.”
Bron Wayn looked at her image with not a little disgust. Finally, he gave up.
“Let her in,” he told the Belfry.