Hockney – A Big Splash

(It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. – Theodore Roosevelt)

Cathar

"You are dead."

The statue had come alive and issued these words to the Kroloteans. They found themselves surrounded. They reacted like most of us would, poorly. The leader of their party had already had his wrist snapped by the female statue from the altar that had seemingly come alive, so he was already in full panic mood.

"Fire!" He shouted to his crew. "Kill them and head back to the ship!"

Like most plans conceived in a panic its chances of success weren't very good. The Cathar, you see, weren't in a panic. They had been watching the Kroloteans since they landed. They weren't the first aliens to come snooping around the ruins, but unfortunately they were the first to find the passage to the sanctum sanctorum of the Cathar.

Since Zod had destroyed their world, the few remaining Cathar had been struggling to survive. Like many that had suffered an unimaginable tragedy, they sought solace in the past and religion. They looked to the glory day of their civilization and the Gods that had protected them. It became the belief among the survivors that this was the Gods retribution for them straying. Belief became the pillar around which the survivors wrapped themselves.

The temple they all stood in was the holiest of holies to the Cathar. It was dedicated to the Goddess Tanit, their protector and the destroyer of worlds. When the Kroloteans violated its walls, the Cathars course was already set, death to the infidels. So as the Kroloteans pulled their guns, the Cathar attacked. With swords and knives they butchered all the Kroloteans until only one was left.

"Hold!" One of the Cathar shouted. "Don't kill him!"

The others were ready to strike, but stopped and turned to look at the man that was their leader.

"You would let one of these bugs live, Hannibal, after they have violated the sanctuary?"

He pulled away the scarf covering his face to reveal a predatory smile.

"For now,' Hannibal replied. "We need one of these bugs to teach us how to run their ship."

The meaning of his words sunk in and the others began to laugh with joy. The Cathar were about to make their reemergence into the galaxy.


Low River Country

Clark had done his best to keep busy. He had an active mind so he was always coming up with new projections and ideas. An old pickup truck sat in front of the cabin. He had picked it up from a small town 100 miles away and rebuilt the engine so he could haul supplies back and forth to the property. The cabin had been completely refurbished on the inside, while he left the rustic, worn outside as it was. If anyone happened to stop, which was unlikely, they wouldn't realize how much he'd done to the place.

The deck that wrapped around the back and overlooked the river wasn't as easily to disguise, but he'd planted some shrubs and bushes to obscure the view from the front of the place. At night he liked to sit out on the deck and listen to the water and some music, while gazing up at the stars. He could tune out the voices and the quiet seemed almost hypnotic.

He ventured into one of the nearest towns at least once a week. He picked a different one each time as not to draw too much attention or get too familiar with the locals. He just needed some human contact, as the hardest part of going into hiding this time was that he was alone. When he was young and on the run with the Kents they had stayed closer to large populations to blend in. The Kents liked people and were naturally outgoing. Some of that rubbed off on Clark over the years. He couldn't just cut himself off completely from the world.

When he did go to town, he picked up supplies, ate at the local diners and had a drink or two at the local bars. He also visited the local libraries. Everything is pretty much on line nowadays, but there was still something about holding an actual book in your hands. An I-Pad or a Kindle may be wonderful for reading Fifty Shades of Grey on the train without anyone knowing it, but an actual book is better. Most of the ideas Clark had for improving the property came from books. He was able to look at a book from several angles, shifting it to see a diagram in a new way without worrying the screen would dim from inactivity.

He had installed a system of relays over his property so he was able to get the Internet and keep track of the outside world. He also set up a security perimeter, just in case someone figured out where he was. Many of the things he built also included tweaks of his own design, that either increased their capacity or speed. In some ways the things he built were cutting edge, not just for this part of the world, but any part of the world.

It still felt like he was in a holding pattern though. The near miss in Vegas had shown him what drawing too much attention could mean, but as the weeks passed out here in the middle of nowhere the risks seemed less and less and the desire to get back into the world increased.


South Pacific

Kori was in a strange mood. She hadn't joined Jason and Roy on their latest ill conceived adventure. She knew if they got into trouble they would call her. She expected that call any time, but so far it hadn't come. She checked the satellites monitoring her from orbit everyday and they were still up there. She had set her ship's defenses on autopilot, so any hostile move towards her, the ship or the island would be neutralized. Kori was quite confident she was safe, but that wasn't what was bothering her.

Dick had shown up on the island the previous week. Normally she would have been happy to see him, but the timing of his visit seemed odd to her. He confirmed her suspicions when he said Batman had asked him to come. Apparently Batman had decided to reverse the usual order, he was the stick that came first and Dick was the carrot that came second. The object of both visits was the same, information about Mr. Kent.

She told Dick the same thing she told Batman, nothing. She did apologize for leaving Dick in New Gammora and when they parted it was on better terms than before. For the last couple of days though her thoughts had been on Clark. She had heard about his escape in Vegas. It seemed the video of Wonder Woman being carded had gone viral and Kori had been able to make out just the fleeting image of Clark in the background. It seemed the Justice League was looking for him along with Lynch and everyone else.

That Batman was looking for him worried Kori. While she didn't know the man very well, she had heard from Dick just how great a detective he was. He wasn't the type to stop and would use every means available to him in his search to find Clark. Kori felt like she should warn him. While they had gotten off to a rocky start, the last time they saw each other had been much better. As much as she loved living on Earth, she was still an outsider. Clark was too.

Wherever he was she imagined he was in hiding, perhaps alone like she was on her island. Maybe he got lonely like she did, Kori thought. A familiar face would probably be welcome wherever he was. It would give her a chance to tell him about Batman. It would be nice; she had to admit, to spend some time with someone more like her than anyone else she knew on the planet.

There was just the matter of finding him and getting there without the satellites seeing her. A smile came to Kori's face as she glanced up at where she knew the satellites were. Her toys were better than theirs.


The Watchtower

The video of Diana being carded going viral had done nothing for her mood. It had gotten so much attention she was forced to call a press conference. She patiently answered all the questions. She reiterated that it was an honest misunderstanding and she didn't blame the young security guard as he was just doing his job. She even managed to say, "Rules are rules' with a smile. It went a long way towards defusing the situation and she was able to move on.

What no one had asked and she hadn't volunteered was that while she didn't blame the security guard, she did blame one Mr. Kent. If she had any doubt whether he was challenging her, that smile of his just before he slipped out the back of the casino put it to rest. Every time she thought of his smile Diana got a little angrier with him. She didn't let it affect her work but the challenge was there and she wasn't about to forget it.

Diana promised herself the next time would be different. He wouldn't get away so easily or at all for that matter. The problem was he had disappeared. Victor hadn't found any trace of him anywhere. It was as if he'd vanished off the planet. She didn't think that was possible, as the League and governments around the world monitored everything that came and went through the atmosphere. That meant he was still on Earth. As she moved over and looked out the observation window at the world spinning silently below her, Diana thought, challenge extended, challenge accepted, Mr. Kent.


The Mountains

Krypto knew this wasn't the world he knew before. All the smells were different. He was different, stronger and faster. He knew the boy's scent and now he had to find him. Krypto didn't have a plan exactly in his mind of how he was going to do that, he was a dog after all. He would just keep moving, keep searching for the scent. He would also avoid the people on this world, as his only experience taught him they were not to be trusted. They wouldn't' stop him, though, from finding the boy. That was his responsibility; the man and the woman had given it to him, Protect the boy.


Undisclosed Location

Amanda Waller and her Suicide Squad, augmented by a few of the willing subjects from her Circus, moved through the remains of General Lane's secret base. It was empty and from what they could tell it had been abandoned suddenly. Amanda holstered her revolver and looked over what was left. Captain Boomerang slowly walked towards her.

"Report?" She said to him.

"This was the place where we were attack,' Boomerang replied. "It empty. One of the freaks says something escaped and that's why they pulled out. We found the dead caresses of one of those monsters Lane set on us up in the hills."

"What killed it?" Amanda asked. "We know it wasn't you and your team, Boomerang."

"Freak says whatever escaped did it."

"So Lane's prize project got away,' Amanda said. "That's just beautiful. Get the team back on the copters, we out of here.'


Low River County

It was twilight and Clark sat on the deck having a beer as he watched the sun go down. Chet Baker played on the stereo. A book sat on the table next to him. It was the last of the batch he'd taken out on his previous visit to town. Tomorrow he would pick another, different small town and get more. Tonight though, he was content to just relax away from the world. Isolation was difficult, but occasionally it didn't seem so bad. Tonight was one of those nights. The temperature was still mild and out here he could see the stars so clearly.

He felt the vibration of his phone in his pocket and was out of his seat in the next moment. He had rigged the security system up so any breach he didn't hear or see would signal his phone. Someone had tripped the silent alarm on his security system. He was just starting to scan the perimeter when Kori stepped around the bushes and onto the deck. She was dressed casually in a pair of jeans and a sweater.

"Princess."

"Clark."

"How did you find me?" He asked.

"My ship scanned you when you entered it, remember?" She replied. "It was able to pinpoint your DNA amongst the humans. It took awhile but you are the only Kryptonian on this planet."

"So what brings you here, Koriand'r?" He asked, still not moving from his spot.

"Two reasons,' she offered. "One I wanted to let you know Batman is looking for you. You should be very careful of him."

"I'll keep that in mind,' Clark replied. 'What's the other reason?"

She took a couple of steps forward, towards him.

"I thought you might like some company,' she said. "I imagine it gets lonely out here all by yourself. It does on my island sometimes."

Clark had a thousand questions rolling around in his head. That she had the technology to find him bothered him immensely, but one other thought was foremost. A beautiful young woman was standing on his deck asking if he wanted some company.

"I'd like that,' he replied.


Krypton

The Cathar had quickly learned how to run the Krolotean ship. They were an old race and it had been awhile by technology wasn't something new to them. They disposed of the last Krolotean shortly after he wasn't of any use. Their first destination was Krypton, their ancestral enemy and the destroyer of their world. What they found shocked them all. Krypton was no more. They searched through the remains not believing it. All this time they had dreamed of vengeance and now that they had the means it was denied to them. The ship just floated in space outside the debris field, as the Cathar tried to get their minds around that Krypton was gone.

"How is this possible?" Hannibal finally asked.

"I've finally been able to access the bug's files,' one of the Cathar said. "It appears Krypton blew up over twenty years ago. No survivors."

The High Priestess spoke up.

"It is the work of the Goddess,' she said. "She has answered our prayers after all these years and taken vengeance against our enemies. Praise the Goddess Tanit!"

The others immediately gave praise.

"We have won, our enemies are no more!' One of the crew shouted in joy.

"No,' Hannibal said, stopping the revelry over Krypton's demise. "The Goddess has destroyed the Kryptonians and we praise her for that, but we have won nothing yet. They may have destroyed our world, but what of the others? Who among the many worlds came to our aid in our darkest hour?"

"Hannibal is right, the Priestess said. "The Kryptonians are no more; in her actions the Goddess has shown us the way. In her name we must make all those that stood by and did nothing pay for it."

"The Goddess is the destroyer of worlds," Hannibal said. "And we are the children of the Goddess. Let those that did nothing while our world burned remember the name Cathar and weep. Let the Guardians on Oa, the Hawks on Thanagar, the technocrats on Rann and all the other worlds remember. Cathar lives!"

A cheer went up throughout the ship.