Beuys – Felt Suit
Diana returned to the station from Vegas. While she kept a tight control over her facial expressions, basically offering a calm and neutral countenance, her body language was sending a different message. She was pissed. While Diana could accept that the mission hadn't gone the way she hoped, it was the way it had gone that pissed her off. The fact that he'd stopped and smiled before disappearing only made it worse.
The more mature members of the League saw this and wisely gave Diana her space. Unfortunately not all the members were quite so mature.
"Hey, so what happened, Diana?" Billy said as he stepped in front of her. "I thought you had him this time."
"He got away." Her voice was calm, but there was a rigid undertone to it.
"Victor was monitoring it from up here and we all saw the casino camera feeds. It looked like you were close but then you stopped to talk to that security guard,' Billy continued. "I got to say when he walked you out of the casino that was a surprise."
Hal and Barry had been sitting close by and listening. They couldn't help quietly chuckling. Diana turned and looked hard at them.
"It was a misunderstanding, Billy, let's leave it at that."
"A misunderstanding? Like what? Did the security guard card you or something?"
Diana clinched and unclenched her hands, remembering how embarrassing it had been.
"What? No way!" Billy said with a laugh. "Wow that had to be humiliating!"
Barry and Hal were doing their best not to laugh out loud, but tears were pouring down their faces. Diana felt her temper rising again as she looked at them and then turned to face Billy.
"Thank you for reminding me, Billy."
The hard, barely controlled way she said it stopped Billy short.
"Um, ah, well, yeah, bummer."
Diana didn't reply, just walked past him and towards where Victor was monitoring the net. Billy didn't always know when to let something go.
"Hey, Diana, I know a dude that can get you a fake I.D. if you want one,' he called after her. "Of course, since you're Wonder Woman it probably wouldn't work that well."
Mera stepped over next to Billy.
"You should stop talking now, Billy." She said to him.
Diana hadn't stopped and exited the room. Once she was out, Barry and Hal couldn't hold back any longer. Diana heard their laughter echoing in through the hallway and it didn't help her mood.
The Low River Country – 2 weeks later
"Just sign on the dotted line Mr. Siegel and the land's all yours." The friendly real estate agent. Harlin Moss said with a big smile as he held out his pen.
"Please, just call me Jerry,' Clark replied as he took the pen and signed the assumed name he was using to buy almost five hundred acres of what most would consider inhospitable land in one of the most isolated areas of the country. It was exactly what he was looking for. With a flourish, he finished the signature and handed the pen back to the man. The real estate agent's smile got even bigger as he looked at the check drawn on a Delaware bank. He'd been trying to unload land in these parts for almost ten years and had almost given up hope when the young man walked into his office.
"So can I ask you, Jerry, what are you planning on doing with that land?" Harlin said.
Now that the sale was complete, he felt his curiousity get the best of him.
"You're not looking to farm it, aren't you? I got to tell you, son, that land ain't really prime for that sort of thing."
"No,' Clark replied, as he folded the deed and put it in his pocket. "Maybe a garden, but nothing bigger."
"Don't get me wrong, it's pretty country, no doubt about it,' Harlin said. "It's just the soil up that way isn't condusive for that sort of thing. Maybe some livestock, but it's not really grazing land either."
"Mr. Moss, I know all about the land,' Clark assured him. "It's got a cabin right by the stream which is surrounded by rough hills. Don't worry, I'm not going to change my mind, it's exactly what I've been looking for."
"That's good to hear,' Harlin replied. "Still, it's kind of remote. What are you going to do out there?
"Just live." Clark said with a smile as he headed towards the door. "A quiet, peaceful, free life, Mr. Moss, The American Dream."
"Well, good luck to you, son!" Harlin Moss called after him. As soon as the door to his office closed, Harlin's attention turned back to the check in his hands and his commission in the sale.
Kori had heard enough from Dick to know that her meeting with Batman wasn't the end of it. He was a detective and he was on a case. Dick had once said Batman might be the greatest detective. Kori didn't undestimate his abilities, but she certainly thought Dick might be a little biased on the subject. She was sure Batman wouldn't just give up. He would most likely use every tool, toy and advantage at his disposal, which apparently was considerable.
It was just that Kori had toys of her own.
Batman's gadgets and toys were amazing and state of the art. For Earth. Kori's gadgets and toys weren't from Earth. She lived on an interstellar space ship designed and built by a highly advanced race, hers. Since her run in with Lynch, Kori had her ship monitoring all activity that was directed at her or her ship. Satellites had moved and taken up orbit above her location. She doubted that was a coincidence. Kori had done nothing to let whoever was watching know she knew they were watching.
As she wandered back into her ship, Kori checked her messages. Jason and Roy were up to something but at the moment she wasn't really interested. There was always lots of shooting and fighting with those two and while it was fun once and awhile, it wasn't something she wanted to do all the time. She checked on the satellites monitoring her and they were still there. This got Kori thinking about the reason they were monitoring her, one Clark Kent.
She had said her peace and apologized to him so that should have been the end of it. It just sort of didn't feel like the end of it. Given her own past, she still felt a bit guilty over how she had reacted to him. She found herself sitting down and bringing up all the information the ship had on Kryptonians. There was the usual information about how the Kryptonians were a much older, xenophobic and arrogant race that she'd heard all her life. As she scanned through the rest of the information she stopped on a small bit of data she hadn't read before. According to the ship's records, the Kryptonians were an extinct race. Their planet exploding had killed them all. That didn't sound right, so Kori had the ship check again. The results came back the same, extinct race.
Then it hit her; Clark was the last of his kind. He was the last Kryptonian. While she was an exile from her people, there were still billions of them out there. There was no more Kryptonians anywhere. He was alone in the universe. This both shocked and saddened her. No wonder he was so interested in meeting someone like her, an alien from another world, she thought. She was probably the closest thing he'd ever had to meeting someone like him. Everything she thought about him seemed to slip away as the monumental reality of his situation hit her. He never considered leaving Earth because there was no place for him to go. Krypton and everyone on it was gone.
The Watchtower – one week later
Everyone was in attendance for the monthly meeting. The discussion ranged from their battles to their rescue missions. Some of their side projects came up and eventually the discussion turned to Mr. Kent and the ongoing search for him.
"I've heard nothing from him, no incidents, no reports, nothing,' Victor informed the others. "It's as if he dropped off the map."
"Or left the planet,' Hal added. "You know, like I can."
"Yes, your ring is amazing, Hal,' Arthur said. "You take every opportunity to point it out to all of us. We get it."
"Someone's a little jealous,' Hal whispered to Barry.
Barry just shook his head and didn't reply.
"Just how amazing is your ring, Hal?" Bruce suddenly asked.
"It can do anything,' Hal triumphantly said. "It's the most powerful weapon in the universe!"
Several members rolled their eyes at this, but Bruce continued.
"Interesting. I was told it could identify any alien on Earth, even the aforementioned Mr. Kent. Is that true?"
Hal was caught off guard by the question and had to think about it for a moment.
"I supposed it could,' he admitted. "I'd have to scan the entire planet, though. That would take a while."
"Have you done it before?" Bruce asked.
"No, but I could." Hal said brightening to the idea of showing off a bit. "I could probably find the guy in a few days, tops. The ring is the most powerful weapon in the universe after all. Are you actually asking for my help, Batman?"
There was a smug look on Hal's face, as he knew Bruce hated asking anyone for anything. That he would ask Hal must have been especially galling to him.
"No." Bruce replied. "It is good to know, though."
"Huh?" Billy said, not following this at all. "Why not? If Hal could find this guy, problem solved. Sounds like a win-win to me."
"I've been going back and forth with this," Bruce admitted. "But as tempting as it is, I'm reluctant to have Hal do it."
"Why?" Diana asked, very much wanting to find Mr. Kent. "Victor is already monitoring communications for him, how is this different?"
"He's committed no crime, Diana." It was Barry speaking up for the first time. "I work for the police and there are rules about this sort of thing. You need a warrant or probably cause to invade someone's privacy like that."
"Oh, come on, Barry,' Hal complained. "You're talking about regular people in Central City. This is different. Governments do it all the time, why not us?"
"I don't think it is different,' Barry replied. "The rules and laws are for everybody, not just some. Otherwise they're meaningless. You wouldn't just be spying on this one guy; you'd be spying on everyone to find him. I'm sorry, Victor, but I've been a bit uncomfortable with what you're doing too, but this takes it to a whole new level. I'm not okay with this."
"I asked Victor to do what he's doing,' Diana said in his defense. "If there is blame to be had, it should be mine, not his."
"No, I agreed to do it,' Victor offered. "I understand what you're worried about, Barry. I'm worried about it too. I can hear everything, but I've been doing my best to limit it to just the public part. Even the incident in Vegas I only monitored public bandwidth and casino cameras. I wouldn't want someone investigating or listening in on my private life, so I'm not doing it to anyone else."
"And yet it might be a way to find this young man,' Arthur said. "Governments are doing the same thing and not just this one."
"That doesn't make it right,' Dinah spoke up. "They can justify a lot of things as national security, trust me, I know, but that doesn't mean it's right."
"Would any of us want someone doing that to us?" Barry asked. "How would you feel if someone monitored every private conversation in Gotham to find out who the Batman is, Bruce? Or you, Diana, how would you feel if Hal's search showed exactly where Themyscira is? Or Atlantis, Arthur? I certainly wouldn't want someone monitoring everything I say or do in private to find out who I am. There has to be a line we don't cross between what's private and what's public. Everyone deserves that or the rules become meaningless."
"It is a difficult choice,' Arthur said in agreement.
"That's why I've been going back and forth with it,' Bruce admitted. "Knowing where exactly the line is can be difficult."
"You have one of your satellites watching Princess Koriand'r.' Victor stated and then asked. "Isn't that crossing the line?"
"No, I don't believe it is,' Bruce replied. "She has knowledge of this young man and has been seen in his company more than once. In public I might add, which makes her a viable lead. There's also the fact that my satellite isn't the only one monitoring her and her activities. She's withholding information that might be vital to understand who he is and if he poses a threat. Any policeman would tell you that is legitimate cause to monitor her."
"Yet spying on someone from space has an uncomfortable feel about it,' Mera offered.
There was a pause as they all considered the issue at hand.
"So yeah or nay on me using the ring to find this guy?" Hal finally asked.
They were each thinking about all of it and weren't sure they had the right answers. It was Diana that spoke up first.
"Nay, Hal,' she said. "I want to find Mr. Kent as much as anyone, perhaps more given the recent circumstances, but…"
Billy leaned over to Victor with a smile.
"He got her carded. You got to give the guy credit for thinking of that, am I right, dude?"
Billy held up his hand for Victor to high five him.
"Um, leave me out of this one, Billy,' Victor replied as he saw the look on Diana's face.
"As I was saying,' Diana continued, her voice a bit more brittle than before. "Nay, Hal, on you using your ring. I don't believe any of us would want someone to do that to us so it only seems right we don't do it to him."
"We're the Justice League,' Barry added. "It shouldn't just be a name we should actually stand for justice. We should be better than those governments or agencies that do those sorts of things and hold ourselves to a higher standard. When we stop following the rules and laws, then we have to ask what are we fighting for?"
The room was quiet, yet several members nodded in agreement.
"There's also something else to consider,' Mera said. "When you start talking about scanning everyone for aliens that includes me. I'm an alien. Who knows how many others are out there living as peaceful, quiet, law abiding citizens? Once you identify them, what do we do with that knowledge? We have agreements with the United Nations and specific nations; do we turn the information over to them? Do we really want to start outing them? What happens to them once we do? Is that something we want to be a part of? I don't think so."
"If my experience in some of the covert agencies tells me anything, those aliens would be rounded up and jailed,' Dinah added. "I don't want to be a part of that and I think Mera's right, we don't want the League to be a part of that."
The meeting continued a little while longer, but it seemed it was already decided.
They wouldn't use Hal's ring to search for Mr. Kent.
Modern domestic dogs on Earth are descended from gray wolves, fierce creatures that hunt some of the biggest animals on the planet. On Krypton what would pass as a domesticated dog was descended from something similar to a wolf, but larger, deadly and far scarier. They also hadn't evolved too far from those original beasts; they were just friendlier, to Kryptonians. Krypto headed higher and higher into the mountains surrounding the huge cage he's just escaped from. He was up above the tree line and standing in the snow watching. The high ground only help his improved senses. Outside in the sunlight, Krypto felt even stronger than he did inside the cage. It was an unfamiliar landscape and world all around him. The boy had to be out there. Behind Krypto he could hear shouting and movement from the cage in the distance. A large door opened and Krypto could smell them. It was familiar about them, yet there was something strange too.
They were moving fast up towards him. A pack, similar to what he knew but different. There was something so similar about them, but the fur on his back rose as they got closer. They were the enemy, Krypto instinctively knew and they would try and stop him just like the people in the big cage had. The man and the woman had trusted him to protect the boy. Krypto wasn't going to let the pack stop him. He bared his fangs and a low growl came from his throat as he began to move towards them. He could see them all and they moved like a combination of the people in the big cage and he did. Krypto identified the Alpha in the pack. He would take him out first and then deal with the others. He would meet them in the trees and began to gain speed as he descended.
The Low River Country
The old cabin needed lots of work, but that wasn't something Clark was worried about. There wasn't another person for miles and this allowed him to exhale for the first time in a long while. No one would be watching him out here, so maybe he could relax and just be who he'd been hiding all his life. A smile came to face as he looked out from the deck onto the river that ran nearby.
This was a new experience for Clark in several ways. While he had always felt different then everyone else and because of it alone even in a crowd, this was the first time he was really, physically alone. All the years of running his parents and then Clark on his own, tended to stay near populated areas to blend in better. Out here it was only him for miles and miles.
The second way it was new was that while Jonathan Kent was a farmer originally, Clark hadn't grown up on a farm. He wasn't a small town farmer's son who grew up in a tiny community far from the beaten path. Part of the appeal of this plan was the stories he'd heard growing up about the Kent's farm and imagining what it might have been like to have a normal life like everyone else. Growing up Clark had often wondered what it would have been like being part of the neighborhood, going to school with the same friends each year, maybe even going to prom and all the other normal things people his age did.
The land he bought wasn't farming land though; it was much better for hiding. If he kept his head down there was a good possibility he would stay off everyone's radar. It was the advice Jonn had given him and it was good advice, but it was probably easier to follow when you're 42 rather than 22. Clark was unfortunately the later and 22 is more of an age to be out exploring the world rather than hiding away from it.
He could still hear the voices; they were just a little further away. He told himself this was the smartest thing to do, but like a sirens' call, the world was out there tempting him to come back. Taking a deep breath and turning back towards the cabin, Clark began working on it, giving himself something to do to take his mind off other things.
Washington – Three weeks later
Lynch was in a bit of a quandary. It seemed young Mr. Kent had fallen off the map, and no one could find him. The last reported sighting of him was in Vegas. He'd vanished that day from Wonder Woman's grasp and seemed to just disappear into thin air. Lynch wasn't happy with Wonder Woman and by extension the Justice League's involvement in the matter. He was going to speak to Amanda Waller again about getting her boy, Trevor to try and get the League to drop the matter. He had his doubts about the success of that plan, but it wouldn't cost him anything to try.
The more troubling thought was where Kent was? Lynch's people had figured out he'd been gambling in Vegas and winning. That meant Kent had money, a good chuck of money at his disposal now. In his long career Lynch had learned money could buy almost anything. Enough money can even buy invisibility. If Kent had gone to ground, then Lynch needed a way to flush him out. Looking over at the live feeds from the satellites, Lynch saw that the Princess was still doing nothing but what looked like enjoying a holiday on her island.
If Lynch could change that, he might be able to draw Kent out. If he put enough pressure on Princess Koriand'r he might even get her to seek Mr. Kent out again. He just needed to do it in a way that didn't trace back to him. That was Lynch's specialty and the reason he had lasted so long in his chosen field. Perhaps an errant missile from a Navy destroyer in the region could malfunction and hit the Princess's island? Computer glitches happened all the time. A smile spread across Lynch's lips as he began scanning through the logs to see what ships were close enough to be used.
General Lane and his team of Special Forces slowly made their way higher and higher into the mountains surrounding their secret base. They had reached the snow line and could feel it crunch under their boots. Weapons at the ready, they made their way forward. They'd lost contact with the pack over an hour ago.
Pushing some branches out of the way, Lane stopped and silently signaled his men to do the same. They moved into position for an attack, but the fighting was already over. Blood on the snow, lots of blood on the snow greeted their eyes. Lane's expression grew even grimmer as he saw what remained of his hybrid soldiers. They were all dead, torn apart and scattered among the trees. The beast must have sensed their attack and attacked them first. Judging by the carnage, the beast caught them off guard and decimated them. General Lane holstered his sidearm and let out a sigh.
"We're fucked, gentlemen/' He said to his team. "That thing is loose and our best hope of stopping it is gone. What's left of them is what you see on the ground all around us."
"Get the techs out here to see if any of this blood is from the beast,' Lane replied. "Then shut down this base, crate everything up of value and destroy all the records we were ever here. Understood? We were never here and know nothing about the beast."
Bruce was using the computer as Hal and Victor walked in. He didn't say hello or even acknowledge them as he was deep in whatever he was working on. Victor started towards his usual station and Hal was about to follow him when something crossed his mind. He just had to needle Batman a little bit. Moving over to stand in front of Bruce, Hal crossed his arms in front of him, ring out.
"You know you surprised me, Batman.' Hal began.
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Bruce replied, not even looking up from the monitor.
Hal's smile slipped a little bit, but he pressed on.
"I'd have bet money you would have been in favor of me scanning the planet for this Kent guy,' Hal said. "That you sided with the others against it doesn't really seem like you."
"For the record, I didn't side with anyone,' Bruce stated. "The others were against it, I just didn't object. There's a difference."
"So you're for me scanning the planet?"
"Let's just say I haven't ruled it out as an option."
"The others have," Victor pointed out.
Bruce finally looked up from the monitor.
"That's why I didn't say anything."
The Krolotean ship slowly descended towards the rain swept, barren ground of the dead world. Over 40 years before Zod had unleashed the final attack and wipe this civilization and inhabitants from existence. While it could still sustain life, it was for all practical purposes a dead world. Zod's assault had not just destroyed the people it had destabilized the atmosphere. Violent storms swept across the surface constantly. The planet was avoided by just about everyone. The Kroloteans were different. The little insect looking creatures actually had a highly advance society and innovative star ships that traveled throughout the galaxy. They were always on the look out for new worlds to explore and exploit.
They had come to Cathar to after hearing the legends about its civilization. In bars and dives across this part of the quadrant there were also some old timers willing to tells tales of the lost world of Cathar just as their were those willing to talk about Krypton for a price which was usually a drink or two. Legend had it the Cathars being the pirates they were had hidden away treasure from all those ships they captured over the years. It was still on the planet somewhere if you believed the storytellers. The Kroloteans believed he storytellers and that's why they were here.
In full protective gear and weapons at the ready they began exiting their ship. All around them were the decaying remains of the former capital. Using advanced scanning equipment they had been over every inch of it from the air and found only one anomaly. They landed to investigate. As they moved slowly against the rain and storm, they narrowed their search down to one specific building. Pitted fragments with half worn of glyphs seemed to mark it as something special. They tried their weapons to blast it open, but had no luck.
It seemed by chance one of them touched the right symbol and a door slowly began to open. Excitement went through the group as they had dreams of lost treasure dancing in their heads. All of them pushed and shoved their way through the doorway inside. A long, ancient corridor stretched out in front of them. They used their weapons to light some of the ancient torches that still lined the walks. Excited chatter filled their com-links, as they pressed deeper and deeper inside.
After what seemed like an impossibly long trek they came upon a large room. There was as altar at one end of it, huge and imposing. Seated on it was a statue of a woman dressed all in gold, wrapped in luxurious blood red robes, looking out as if on the dead world. Surrounding her and filling the room were cravings, jewels, precious metals and stones, all as if in offering to her. It appeared to be some sort of royal burial chamber. The Kroloteans shouted with glee as they had found a king or queen's ransom.
Excitedly they began to scoop up the treasure as fast as they could, stuffing their pockets with it. In their excitement they failed to notice the door they'd come through close and several panels around the chamber open. They also didn't see the large figures step through those panels, each carrying long curved blades. The leader of the mission turned away from the treasure on the floor and climbed the steps towards the statue dressed in gold. As he reached to pluck the golden mask from the statue's face, a hand came up and stopped him. He gave a scream in shock and surprise, as the eyes behind he mask suddenly seemed alive and staring straight at him.
"Infidels." The statue said, snapping the Krolotean leader's arm at the wrist. He screamed again in pain as the statue came alive and stood in front of him.
"Who are you?" The leader shouted, unable to get away from the figure's grip.
"We are the last of the Cathar." The woman said. "And you are dead."