Superman of 2499:
The Great Confrontation
By DarkMark and Dannell Lites
Batman stared at the Wonder Woman who stood before him in the Bat-Belfry. Except for a few details, such as hairstyling and boots, she was the image of the Amazon Princess who had fought beside Superman I (and, possibly, done more with him than that after Lois Lane’s death) 500 years ago. She wore the eagle insignia on her chest, though, rather than the double-W Diana Prince had favored in her later years. And clasped at her hip was the glowing magic lasso of her line, possibly the very one Diana Prince had worn, centuries before.
He had studied the heroes of past ages, some quite closely, before beginning his own career.
“Well,” he said, after a long moment, “you said you wanted to speak to me.”
She smiled, slightly. “Only giving you a chance to acclimate before I spoke.”
“To me,” she said. “I am the first Wonder Woman your world has seen in two centuries. We haven’t been present year after year, like your line and Superman’s. Or even shown up once in awhile, like the Green Lanterns.”
“Why are you here?”
“May I sit, first?”
He waved towards a chair facing him, and she sat down, demurely. “The explanation is fairly simple. After our meeting, I convinced our Queen that Man’s World had become so endangered that it needed Amazon aid once again. She agreed, and I persuaded her to anoint me as a Wonder Woman.”
“Anoint you?” said Bron. “Don’t you have to go through some sort of competition, like the first Princess Diana did? To prove yourself?”
“Oh, that.” Wonder Woman smiled and spread her hands. “We agreed to the three tests, for formality’s sake. But we all knew it would be me.”
Batman shook his head. “What’s the real reason you’re here? And by the way, what’s your given name, so that I don’t have to call you ‘Wonder Woman’ all the time?”
“I am Megeira, the clone-daughter of Queen Danae,” said the Amazon. “Our cloning is a bit different from yours, mind you. Gene splicing is done to introduce traits from other lines, so as to avoid inbreeding traits.”
“Not much of an improvement over the old-fashioned way,” said Batman.
“Your viewpoint,” said Megeira. “I am the fifth in line from Princess Diana. It is true that we gave up on our original mission to end war in Man’s World 200 years past. True, there has been no world war since then in your realm. But the smaller conflicts, the brushfire wars, they have endured more or less till the present.”
“And probably always will,” said Batman. “Get to the point, Meg.”
Her eyes flashed anger for an instant, and Batman well knew that she had the power to rend him like soggy paper. But he also reckoned on the heroism and good will of a born Amazon, and his line’s relationship with the past Wonder Women, to protect him. She said, “I persuaded Queen Danae that our mission should be modified. That Man’s World would, indeed, always be a realm of conflict. But that, as the world from which we sprang and to which, in a certain way, we will always be anchored, it deserved the protection of an Amazon, to help ensure its survival.”
“Meaning you,” he said.
“Mind if I put in a few observations?”
She shrugged. “It is your house.”
“First off, I’m willing to bet your clone-mother is with child.”
Wonder Woman stiffened a bit, but kept her poise. “You are a detective. But that wouldn’t take much deduction.”
“I have a feeling tasting that forbidden fruit, as it were, and getting pregnant changed things a bit within your society,” he said. “It couldn’t help but get around that your queen had been impregnated by a man.”
She said nothing.
“Probably other Amazons wanted to come see for themselves what it was like. Was that the case, Meg?”
“You may call me ‘Meg’ if you wish, Batman, but remember, I am as much a Princess as was Diana.”
“Your answer? Please?”
She exhaled. “Your hypotheses are not without merit.”
“So, as one of the reps of the honored line of Queen Hippolyte, you’d be a prime candidate to check out Man’s World and see if it was acceptable…if some of the men in it were…for Amazon mating.”
Wonder Woman fixed him with a hard gaze.
“But you probably also guessed that the new team we’ve formed, Superman, Green Lantern, and I, means we’re facing new threats. Perhaps a big one.”
“The memory of the Great Crisis is still fresh in Amazon minds,” she said. “Even after all these centuries.”
“As it is in just about everybody’s,” said Batman. “But you are right about one thing, Princess. At this time, I think we could use a hand.”
She relaxed a bit, and gave him a slight smile. “Shall I show you what I can do?”
“If you mean power-wise, I’d consent to an exhibition later on.”
“Why wait? Open your outside door and let me show you now.” She stood and took the lasso from the clasp at her belt, running its glowing links through her hands.
He looked at it. “Don’t try roping me and making me do something,” he said. “I wouldn’t appreciate that.”
“Oh,” she smirked, “I wouldn’t think of it.”
Wordlessly, he gestured for the inner airlock door to open. They went to it, stood side-by-side, him eyeing her suspiciously. Batman said, “What sort of vehicle do you use to fly?”
“Oh, you think of Diana’s Robot Plane,” she said. “I have a flight device in my belt. It responds to my mental direction, even providing a force field. I will show you.”
The exterior door opened and, as he touched the anti-grav control on his belt, she grasped him by the side, set her feet on the edge of the door, and pushed off.
The two of them rocketed through suborbital space at a speed just under Superman’s, by his estimation. Batman felt the power in her arm, chanced a look at her face.
She was smiling, and not at him. The joy of flight was in her eyes. As was affection for the great blue world which rolled below them.
Letting her into the team might not be such a bad choice.
George Kent tapped at the door to his wife’s study. “It’s open,” she said from within. She didn’t sound welcoming, but he would have been surprised if she did.
Gently, George pushed open the door. The room itself was darkened, lit just enough to let him see his wife without aided vision. She sat at a clear plastic desk, leaning one elbow on it, a small cup of espresso-plus before her; from his guesstimation, she’d been nursing it for over an hour. Irinia Kent was just sitting there, not looking at him or anything in particular.
Unless it was the photos of Sybilla that were lined up on the edge of her desk.
She only sighed as a response.
“You’ve been in here a hell of a long time. Not good for you. I want you to go out with me, to get some dinner.”
“Don’t patronize me, George.” She still didn’t look at him.
“Who in doubleplus Hades is talking patronization? Can’t you say anything to me without hostility, Irinia?”
“Nobody on this end of the room is hostile, George. Not hostile.”
Faster than he should have, George stood before his wife. “It’s Sy, isn’t it?”
“Who else would it be?”
Tentatively, he stroked her hair. She didn’t acknowledge his touch, but didn’t shrink away, either. “She’s my daughter, too. I feel the same way.”
“I doubt you could.”
“Don’t test me, Irinia. Not that way.” New steel had come into his voice and she could hear it.
She shook her head. “I only meant, George, that a mother feels things differently than a father does when it pertains to a daughter.”
“Which doesn’t invalidate a father’s feelings.”
“Of course it doesn’t. But our daughter is off in another, on another plane of, for heaven’s sake, existence with a…with her cousin. And she’s…and he’s…”
“And they’re making love.”
She deflated a bit. “And that, yes.”
He went to the other side of the room, got a chair, pulled it up, and sat facing her all in less than half a second. “Irinia. It’s time for you to let me help.”
“Help with what, George?” She looked at him. “If it wasn’t for me you’d still be schlepping along in your brother’s shadow. If you could get that far, that is.”
“Oh, thank you, Irinia. That is certainly going to help with Sy, isn’t it?”
“What do you want from me?” She looked like a cobra in pre-strike mode. “Do you think I needed anything from you, George? Do you think you could…”
Her mouth went so wide he thought he could have stuffed a moon of old Krypton in it.
“I know exactly what you needed from me, woman. You needed entry into the El Family. You were one of the few who learned the Secret, and instead of us brainwashing the knowledge out of your head, you said, ‘No, let me help you. I can help.’ And what did you do?”
“I helped you, didn’t I?”
“Oh, yes. You helped me make the business work, helped me with all the social contacts, helped me with all the savvy you had, that your father taught you. But you took your price, Irinia. You never let me forget how much you were behind everything. Maybe more than I ever knew.”
“It would have had to be.”
George reached over, grasped the cup (which could have fallen twenty stories without getting a chip), and crushed it with a disdainful motion. The jagged shards didn’t so much as scratch his palm. He didn’t take his eyes off her while he did it. Irinia tried to hide her emotions, save for anger.
“You always took more than you gave,” he said.
“I gave you Sybilla.”
“Yes, you did. Or was it you gave yourself Sybilla? To make a part of the family that you created yourself? To try and make yourself over again in a half-Kryptonian body?”
“You disgust me more than usual, George.”
“And I’m not supposed to be disgusted, woman?”
“When did this become about us, George? When did it stop being about Sy?”
“It never stopped being about Sy!”
“Then why in the hell did you let her leave?”
“Me let her leave? As I recall, woman, you were the one who thought it would be a good thing! To make things tighter with Adam Kent!”
“Oh, yes, George, let’s always bring that up. Let’s always imply how much of a lizard your wife is.”
“Who needs to imply that? It’s always too obvious to miss.”
Both of them were standing now, inches away from each other. She knew he could evaporate her with a single blast of heat-vision, or crush her in one hand. But he had never done that, and she didn’t think he ever could. Nonetheless, it might be time to change tactics. She looked down, put both hands to her temples, then sighed and looked up. “Forgive me, George. I’ve been under a strain. So have you.”
“So have I. Indeed.”
“Perhaps I have been too unreasonable. I miss our daughter. And yes, I am worried that she’s grown up too fast. But.” She held up a hand to stop his words. “I know you feel the same way, George, the very same way I do. I’ll accept your offer. Let’s go to dinner.”
He half-turned away from her. “What is there, now, Irinia? What is there, now, for either of us? For both of us.”
“Why, I, I don’t understand, George.” She reached out for him. He grasped her wrists and thrust her hands away. She sat down as if she’d stood too close to a wind tunnel.
“You understand, Irinia. Or you should.” He paused. “You’ve always cast me as your castrated Superman. You always counted on me being weak. Weaker than you. But sometimes, weak isn’t enough.”
“George, start making sense!”
“All right. Here’s something that’s very sensible. I’m leaving, Irinia.”
He wasn’t there.
“George? George! Come right back here this minute, George!” She was in motion immediately, stalking across the room. “Stop pretending you’re not here, George! Stop using your damned super-speed. George? George!”
There was no answer. Even the walls gave no echoes.
And when she was sure no one
but herself was in the room, Irinia
Superman and Supergirl were winding up their usual patrol of Metropolis. As usual, they vibrated themselves into a sideral dimension at super-speed to confound anyone who might be tracking them, before changing identities and resuming the guises of Alan Kent and Kath de Ka’an.
That was the point at which their images were lost on the viewscreen where they were being watched.
“Lost ‘em,” said the technician operating the monitor system.
“What I expected,” said the man standing behind him. “Gimme the drift.”
The tech sighed and rubbed his temples. “We’ve got their basic routes down. They don’t vary them much. From that, we can extrapolate a starting point and an end, although that doesn’t narrow it down to more than a couple of tens of thousands of people. Gives us a little more, though.”
Wally Curso leaned in further. “It better give us a hell of a lot more than that,” he said. “For your sake.”
“Understood,” said the tech.
The Metropolis ganglord turned to the other man in the room. “What’s your angle on this?”
The man, who looked as though he might be more at home in a lecture hall than in the confines of this secretive room, kept his arms folded and his face placid. “Only that the superhero population of Metropolis seems to be increasing. Two years ago, we only had the one Superman to deal with. Now, he’s got a girl. Plus there are the Green Lantern and, apparently, a Batman in his camp.”
Curso swore. “That’s not what I want, dammit. Tell me what I can do with them.”
“Well, the one you were going to do the deal with apparently isn’t here.”
“That means it is up to us to find a solution to your problem.”
“So? Think you can solve it?”
Professor Pangloss smiled. “You’ll have to increase your revenues by half to pay for it. But let’s just say…yes. I think I can deliver.”
“Then get started!”
“With all due haste, Mr. Curso. With all due haste, indeed.”