THE LEGACY OF A HERO
By C. W. Blaine (email@example.com)
All characters contained herein are trademarked by DC Comics Inc. This original piece of fiction is copyright 2000 by C.W. Blaine. DC Comics Inc. neither endorsed or authorized this work of fiction.
"Bruce, good to see you," Hal Jordan said, standing up from the table he had at the exclusive French restaurant. He struck and impressive figure in a suit and tie, so different from the Green Lantern uniform he normally wore.
Bruce Wayne took the hand and acknowledged him. "Your message indicated this was important," he said sitting down. "Why didn't you just come to the Cave?"
Hal sat down as a waiter came over and asked if they wanted anything to drink. Hal ordered a diet soft drink; Bruce ordered a glass of their finest white wine. When the waiter had departed, Hal continued in a low tone. "Well, I've invited some of the others and I wasn't sure if you would appreciate them invading your 'territory'."
Bruce nodded again. "How's the arm?"
Hal held up his left arm and shook it. "Better than ever. How's the back?"
Bruce smiled. "Better than ever."
Hal looked behind Bruce and stood up. Bruce did the same and turned to see a pair walking in, hand in hand. The man was tall, muscular even under the expensive suit, with a clean-shaven face and brown hair. The deep blue eyes gave away the man's identity instantly to Bruce. "Arthur, it's been awhile. You shaved."
The woman, stunning in both figure and presence, wearing a blonde wig, gave Arthur a hug. "Wouldn't do very much for your image to be seen with two known super-heroes," Princess Diana said.
The four sat down and made small talk until they had all been served with drinks and had ordered their meals. They sat in silence for a moment until Diana spoke up. "This is the first time we have all been together since the Coast City Memorial service."
Hal's face went ashen. "I still sometimes wonder if I had been here…."
Bruce looked at him. "Don't punish yourself with wondering what you could have done…be happy that you are able to do something to prevent it from happening again."
"I couldn't believe it when I got back to Earth…I should have known better, I should have been here. There should have been a Corps presence in this sector. My God, do you realize that there were two active and one inactive Green Lantern on Earth that day?"
Arthur spoke. "I understand you've initiated some changes in the Corps."
Bruce broke in. "I thought I saw Guy back in uniform on CNN."
Hal nodded. "I tried to recreate Coast City using my ring and the Guardians interrupted me. They called me back to Oa to receive disciplinary action for using my ring for personal gain. There was an instant I thought about going there and killing them."
The table was quiet. All of them had faced that situation before. For Arthur, he remembered the murder of his infant son by Black Manta. For Bruce, it was a never-ending list. For Diana, as an Amazon warrior, she was no stranger to killing. "In that brief second, though, I remembered Clark and how he had died. I remember thinking that maybe if he had come back, then maybe I could bring Coast City back. I couldn't though, but maybe, if the Guardians had been doing their job, a Green Lantern would have been here, so I went to Oa and challenged their ability to lead. I won."
"So you run the Corps now?" Bruce asked.
"Not by myself. You may have noticed some of our fellow heroes have disappeared in recent months. After Mongul and the Cyborg-Superman destroyed Coast City, the anti-alien sentiment on Earth has been growing. Ollie and Diana are on Oa right now, working with John Stewart on setting up the admin section."
"Becoming a politician?" Arthur asked as he sipped his mineral water.
"No, that's Ollie's department, I'm in charge of recruitment. Alan Scott is there, too."
"I wondered where he went? I was hoping to get to work with him since he became young again," Bruce said.
"I thought you had retired," Diana said. Bruce noticed an engagement ring on her finger.
"I though Amazons were celibate."
She blushed slightly and Bruce noticed a small grin on Arthur's face. "I am retired. With the drop in super-heroes, I've found that I'm more useful coordinating. Richard is currently filling the cowl."
"Good choice," Hal said, accepting the food the waiter brought him. When they were alone again, he spoke. "I was thinking of recruiting him for the Corps."
The reply was blunt. "Don't."
Hal understood and moved to a different subject. "The reason I asked you here was to ask you to reform the League."
Eating stopped immediately as the weight of the statement sunk in. Two years before, an alien killing machine called Doomsday had nearly destroyed Metropolis. It had devastated the Justice League of America and was only stopped when Superman had killed it. The price had been Superman's life.
In the ensuing months, four individuals had appeared, all claiming to be the resurrected Superman. None were. One, a cyborg, had allied with the alien conqueror Mongul, and had destroyed Coast City. Only the efforts of Hal Jordan, the hero Steel, Superboy, and Guy Gardner, specifically recruited by Jordan, were capable of apprehending the criminals.
With Coast City gone and Metropolis in shambles, non-human super-heroes were looked upon with distrust. Over the past few months, several of them had disappeared, while other super-heroes simply retired.
"I'm not interested," Bruce said, taking a bite of chicken.
"Get interested, Bruce; I can't do this without you."
"Why us, Hal?" Diana asked, picking at her salad.
"Let's face it people, with Clark gone, we're it, we're the ones that the people associate with the term super-hero. All of us have been members of the League at one time or another. We each tried our own way to run it, without the other's input. It was that arrogance that allowed Doomsday to kill Clark."
For once, Bruce Wayne was silent as he ate. The other three knew that Superman and Bruce, as Batman, had a very unique relationship. Bruce respected few people and Superman had been respected the most. Bruce had also been trusted like no other by him.
"I need to know that Guy has back-up here if something bad happens. Earth appears to be a magnet for intergalactic terrorists and I don't want him operating on his own. The League is needed not only for that, we need to convince the people that everything is going to be all right. Clark's death has affected the populace even more than we thought."
"I don't know," Arthur said. "I'm happy doing what I'm doing now, working on improving relations between the surface world and my kingdom. I have an obligation to my people and to my family." He squeezed Diana's hand.
"And I don't play Wonder Woman anymore, Hal. When I accepted Arthur's proposal, I had to resign my position as ambassador for my people. I can't be an Amazon Princess and an Atlatean Queen."
"Yes, I know, you've all retired, but you have the experience needed to set up a good, well-organized League."
"Not interested," Bruce Wayne said again, not looking up from his plate.
Bruce put down the fork and stood up. "I'm sorry, Hal. You have good motives, but I don't think that a new League is what is necessary. The simple truth is that we, the people of Earth, should be able to rely on ourselves, not supermen. It was that trust in the League that allowed Doomsday to walk through the police and the army. I'm sorry that Clark is dead, but I will not let that affect my decision."
Hal felt himself getting angry. "No, death never affects your decisions does it, Bruce."
Bruce gave him a hard stare, the reference to his parent's death stabbing into his heart. Hal realized that he had just crossed a line and that there was no turning back. "Dinner is on me," Bruce said as he walked out of the restaurant.
Lois Lane sat looking at the envelope, as she had for every night for two years since her husband had been killed. She had been married to Clark Kent, famous in his own right, but not nearly as well known as his secret identity of Superman. The letter was addressed to her in handwriting she did not recognize.
She had found it in the apartment she had shared with her husband, sitting on the table where it was right now, despite the elaborate security system her husband had installed. Someone had broke into the apartment, gotten past the best in Kryptonian security technology, and left it while she had lie in tortured slumber only days after the public funeral for Superman.
Clark Kent had been listed as missing, along with hundreds of others, in the aftermath of Doomsday's assault on Metropolis. He would not be listed as officially deceased for another five years since no body was ever found.
With Clark out of the picture, several eligible men had hoped to get to know her better, but she had shut them all out. She worked out of her apartment, only venturing out on occasion, and always at night. The former girlfriend of Superman made for great tabloid headlines no matter where she went.
The envelope was a mystery. She thought, at first, that it would contain information about Clark. Then she considered the possibility that one of Clark's enemies was trying to blackmail her. She didn't know, but she did know she was afraid to open it.
Two years is a long time, and finally she had decided to open it. With trembling hands she picked it up. She brushed a lock of auburn hair away as she tore the top away. It turned out to be a check for several million dollars. There was a sticky note attached to it that simply read "in respect for him".
It was a cashier's check, drawn on a bank in Switzerland. She recognized the bank as being one that several known billionaires used to hold funds, including Lex Luthor Jr. She considered it. Luthor, the reported son of the original billionaire that had once vied for Lois's affections, was presently married to the super-hero know as Supergirl. Supergirl, though no relation to Clark, had worked with him several times. Had she revealed Superman's identity to Luthor? Was he trying to make up for the feud that had occurred between his father and Superman?
She pulled out a cell phone and dialed a number. "Jimmy? Lois. Get over here right now and bring that hacker friend of yours. I need to break into a bank."
"You're too short to be Batman," Wally West said as he flipped over the pancakes. He stood, in his Flash costume, in the kitchen of the Garrick residence in Keystone City. Richard Grayson, in casual clothes, sat at the kitchen table sipping a cup of tea.
"You're too stupid to be cooking," Richard shot back, a smile on his face.
Before Wally could verbally retaliate, a young, dark haired woman came in wearing only a T-Shirt and panties. She was beautiful, with smooth Asian features and a sleepy look in her eyes. "Wally, who are you talking to?" she asked right before noticing Richard. She screamed and ran back out of the room, only to emerge thirty seconds later with a pair of shorts on. "Why didn't you tell me Richard was coming by for breakfast, dear?" she stated coldly.
"It's my fault, Linda, I came by to talk to dummy and he convinced me to stay to eat."
She walked over to the table and gave Richard a quick kiss on the cheek. "If he'd put that much effort into getting our house built…."
"Oh, but if he builds a house at super-speed, he thinks every super-hero in the world is going to be calling him. I think he's full of it."
"Only been married a week and already she nags me about the job," Wally muttered.
"I heard that Mr. West!"
In the blink of an eye, the table was full of food and beverages and Wally had taken a seat. "You guy's gonna eat or what?" he grinned.
"So," Linda said, pouring some syrup, "did Jay said when they'll be back?"
Wally stuffed a pancake in his mouth. "It'll be a couple of weeks. They said that setting up the Justice Society Museum is too much fun and they want to see it through past opening day."
"Hal Jordan called me last night," Richard said, grabbing an apple.
"Really?" That had perked Wally's interest. He and Hal Jordan went way back. Jordan had been Wally's uncle's, Barry Allen, best friend. "I didn't know he was back on Earth. Last I heard, he had recruited J'onn J'onzz and Hawkman to join him on Oa."
"What about Hawkgirl?" Linda asked.
"It's Hawkwoman and she and Hawkman have had some marital problems in recent years," Richard answered.
"Ooohhhh, super-hero gossip!" Linda exclaimed between bites.
Richard shrugged. "None of my business, but I hear she's seeing Ray Palmer, one of Hawkman's old buddies."
Wally whistled. "That's bad."
Richard dismissed it. "He asked me to help form a new Justice League."
A hurt look came over Wally's face. "He didn't ask me."
"No, he asked me to tell you he wants you to consider reforming the Titans."
Wally shook his head. "I understand Roy Harper has that department covered."
"I read in the paper that the Titans disbanded," Linda added.
Wally ran the idea in his head. "I'll call Roy and we'll see. I'd rather be in the League if it's reforming, though."
"I told him you would say that and he said the Titans are needed to train younger heroes. He said you would be needed there more."
"What did you say?" Wally asked.
"I said I would have to talk to Bruce about it. He keeps me pretty busy in Gotham and we're a little short-handed since the Joker killed Huntress."
"I don't understand why you don't drop that bastard off of a roof," Wally said. "I mean, look at everything he's done."
"We don't kill."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Still, after everything, I can't say I would handle things the way you guys have. If anything were to happen to Linda…"
She reached over and kissed him. "You're so sweet, you know that?"
Richard got up and went to the refrigerator. "He said Bruce was against the idea of a new League."
"Figures. You know your 'dad' has a problem with teams in general. He didn't join the League for years, even though they practically begged him to join. He didn't want you on the Teen Titans. He's too much of a loner."
"Losing your parents can do that to you."
Wally was quiet for a second and Linda excused herself to get dressed. "So, what are you going to do?"
"I don't know. I think it's a good idea, but I don't want to get into another disagreement with Bruce. We've been getting along really well lately, it's like old times."
"What does Barbara think?" Wally asked, wondering what Richard's girlfriend thought of the idea.
"That's what's funny, she wants me to quit being Batman so we can raise a family."
"Uh," Wally began, not sure what to say. The Joker paralyzed Barbara Gordon, Richard's girlfriend, from the waist down, the result of an attack. Parenting was impossible.
"I know, but something changed last night. Hal offered her a power ring. With it, she can walk again. She tried it out last night. We made love for the first time."
"So, the problem is…."
"So, we both want to have children, but there's no way we can raise them if both of us are super-heroes. The only way she can keep the ring is if she becomes a Green Lantern."
"Kind of cruel, not like Hal at all."
Richard sighed and pulled out a pitcher of orange juice. "No, he said I was his first choice and he had been told to stay away from me. His ring indicated that Babs was a prime candidate as well."
There was silence as Richard poured a glass of juice. "I don't know what to do, Wally. I can't do this to her, but I can't let Bruce down either."
"What can I do?" Wally asked his friend.
"Just be there for me."
"It's just funny seeing you in here every day, Bruce," Lucious Fox said. He sat in a comfortable leather chair in front of Bruce Wayne's desk at WayneTech. "Don't get me wrong, it's your company and your change in attitude has been refreshing."
Smiling, Bruce Wayne set down the report he had been reading. "Let's just say that I think it's important that I at least have some input on how my money is spent. You're still CEO and I'm not here to tell you what to do."
Lucious was about to answer when the door to the office burst open. Bruce's secretary could be heard protesting as a woman entered. She was attractive, extremely attractive, clad in a business out fit that was cut short to reveal long legs. Her fiery brown eyes highlighted her auburn hair. "I'm sorry, Mr. Wayne, she just broke in, ranting about wanting to see you."
"Damn right," Lois Lane said. "You and I need to talk, Mr. Wayne, right now and in private."
Bruce didn't lose his smile. "Welcome to WayneTech, Ms. Lane."
"Tell them to leave, Mr. Wayne," she said from behind her sunglasses. She lowered them down her nose and eyed him. "It's about your child support."
Eyes went wide, but Bruce continued to smile. "Lucious, please see to it we're not disturbed as I handle this matter."
When they were alone, Bruce offered Lois a seat, but she chose to stand. That suited him just fine. He could keep a better eye on her. "What exactly is this about, Ms. Lane? I am quite sure you and I don't have a child together."
She stomped over to the desk and threw down the cashier's check. "Care to explain this?"
Bruce picked up the check and looked at it. "You want to invest in my company?"
She placed her palms on the desk and leaned down at him. He was taken aback momentarily by her beauty. "I know you sent that check to me two years ago. I want to know your connection to my husband."
She didn't know. "I had some business dealings with your husband, mostly concerning his books."
"Believe what you want, Ms. Lane."
"That still doesn't explain why you wrote this check out to me or how it got into my apartment."
Bruce put the check down on the desk. "If you don't want the money, Ms. Lane, I'll be more than happy to take it back. The fact if the matter is that I knew your husband very well and I felt obligated to ensure that you were taken care of in the wake of his death."
She shot straight up. "How do you know whether or not Clark is dead? He's listed as missing! And another thing, why is it the entire time I knew Clark he never mentioned your name? How is it that my award winning husband was friends with a globe trotting playboy and I never knew a thing?"
Bruce was about to give her his standard cover answer when she took off her glasses. "My God, you're one of them, aren't you?"
"One of those what, Ms. Lane?" Bruce asked, an eyebrow raised.
"Never mind," she said quickly. "I'm sorry, Mr. Wayne. I appreciate the gesture, but I assure you that I am quite secure financially."
She turned to leave and Bruce hopped up. He was speaking before he was thinking. "Ms. Lane, wait, please."
He came around the desk as she stopped. When he reached her, he saw that tears were in her eyes. He spoke to her in a soft voice. "I was his friend. I wasn't his best friend, I wasn't his closest friend, but I was his friend."
"I miss him so much," she said, burying her head into his shoulder.
"I do to," he replied.
"Without Bruce, we won't have a Batman. That means we don't have an experienced leader to run this new League," Arthur said.
He, clad in his Aquaman costume, and Hal Jordan, in his Green Lantern uniform, sat at the table in the cave headquarters of the original Justice league of America. The base had been abandoned years before, but with the disbandment of the latest version of the team, it was the only headquarters still legally owned by the group. Both Aquaman and Green Lantern were charter members of the group.
"I'm working on getting our Batman," Hal said without elaborating.
Authur nodded and made no more mention of it. "Diana is talking with Artemis, the current Wonder Woman about joining, but she's doubtful about it. Artemis disagreed with Diana being a part of the group. She said she would talk to Donna Troy after that to see of she would like to take up the Wonder Girl mantle again."
"Troy is a good candidate for the Corps, too, being a former Darkstar." The Darkstars had been an organization much like the Green Lantern Corps. "What else do we have?"
Arthur punched some keys on his laptop computer. "I spoke with Ray Palmer. He said he's out of the hero business, permanently, but that Sheira is interested. Only problem is that Hawkwoman is on the list of heroes not too well-loved by the public, given that she's an alien."
Hal sighed. "I know. That's a bad situation. Katar is going nuts without her and I don't think she wants to reconcile their marriage."
"Of the former members that are still active, only Guy and Firestorm expressed any desire to join up."
"Guy is a definite. We need a Green Lantern on the team, and he's the only one in this sector. I plan on doubling up the GL's in each sector, but I'm having a hard time finding his partner."
"Ralph Dinby wants on."
Hal shook his head. "Ralph's an idiot. Always has been. I tolerated him because he was a friend with Barry. I don't have to do that anymore."
Arthur looked up from his laptop and eyed Hal. "I'm getting a little concerned about your attitude towards this. The League is not going to be an arm of the Corps."
"I know that! I want to make sure that Coast City never happens again. I will do everything in my power to ensure that, Arthur! So put your worries aside and get back to work."
The King of Atlantis considered tossing Hal through the nearest wall, but held back his temper. "Aye, Aye, Commandant."
They sat alone, at a small dining table on one of the many balconies of Wayne Manor, eating quietly. They had spent the afternoon together and Bruce discovered many of the reasons that had attracted Superman to this woman. She was strong, confident, yet not willing to give up any of her feminine qualities.
For the past two years, Bruce had kept tabs on her, even paying for private security to watch her 24 hours a day in the event one of her husband's former enemies made a play against her. He had paid her no mind as far as a woman, though he was aware she was attractive. It was only in her anger and frustration that Bruce had seen her true inner beauty. He understood anger and frustration; they brought out the true inner self.
"I'm Batman." He said it so plainly that it was as if he was talking about the weather.
"I figured that. When I started putting things together, I realized you had to be. It made sense. Very few people could afford to be Batman. I've done pieces on him, you, and the amount of money you've spent is incredible."
"I'm in semi-retirement right now. I gave it up after an accident."
"Yes. I broke my back. Or had it broken for me, however you want to look at it."
They were silent and continued eating. It was that way for five minutes until she spoke again. "He trusted you more than anyone. He talked about you so many times, how he wished you two could have been better friends."
"In another time and place, perhaps," Bruce replied. "But not here and now. We had the same mission, just different ways of doing it. I think my problem with him was that he was a decent man who fought for justice because it was right. If my parents had not been killed, I probably would have been a decent man who would not have fought for justice for any reason. I was jealous of his morality."
He stood up and walked over to the railing, she joined him and they stood, looking out at the lights of the distant Gotham City. "He loved you very much."
"Yes he did."
"Would you consider having dinner with me again?" Bruce asked, still looking out at the lights.
"Yes I would. Call me."
"We've got five definites: Guy Gardner, Firestorm, Power Girl, Black Lightning, and Atom-Smasher. None of them possess any worthwhile leadership ability, " Diana said.
Arthur looked at her, lying nude on their wedding bed. "Can we talk about something else? It is our wedding night, you know. Aren't we supposed to be making the heir to the throne or something?"
She sat up, her form perfect. "Well, that's really hard to do with you standing way over there."
He turned and joined her on the bed. "I'm sorry, my dear, it's just that I'm starting to wonder if Bruce wasn't right when we first brought this up all those months ago. Do you remember the sense of mourning throughout the world when Clark died? They acted like a god had died."
"I've had experience with gods and Clark was better than any of them that I've met," she said, running a finger down his bare back. She noticed that there were places where the skin was being replaced by scales, a sign of his ancestry. "He was an incredible man, but I don't know if we were dependent upon him."
"Weren't we? I remember when we first joined the Justice League and how much we wanted his acceptance, his approval. He was larger than life. Hell, even I admired him. We all tried to be just like him."
"That's why Hal feels the Batman is so important. He was the only one that didn't see him as a walking miracle; he's the only one that can lead a new League. We can't and we know it. Most people think I'm a joke, only good for undersea missions and you've lost a lot of status since you and I got together. Hal's intent on creating a new Corps. That leaves Bruce."
Diana reclined back. "Bruce isn't Batman anymore. Dick Grayson idolized Clark, much to Bruce's chagrin, so that means that he would be no more effective in creating a leaner, meaner League than either one of us."
"I don't think Hal intends Dick to be Batman for much longer."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
Arthur turned around and faced his new bride. "Hal is doing some manipulating behind the scenes. I don't know what, I can't get the information I need. I tried to talk to Wally, but he and I don't get along very well anymore. Hal's changed. I can't put my finger on it, but he has. He's not the same and it isn't just Coast City. I think…."
Diana sat up and put her arms around her husband and kissed him lightly on the lips. "You were right. No more shop talk. I was a virgin for thousands of years and I'm very anxious to make up for lost time, my darling."
Arthur embraced his wife passionately and they fell back onto the bed. The thoughts he had of Hal Jordan disappeared in the wake of her kisses.
Bruce got up from his bed, checking to ensure that he had not woken Lois, and made his way down to the Batcave. He found Richard there, clad in the Batman uniform, working at the computer. He quietly approached. "I can hear you. You're losing your touch. Or maybe you're just really tired."
"Do you have a problem with Lois?" Bruce asked, looking at the computer screen. Richard was looking at old Justice League files. The search pattern was keyed for the word 'power ring'.
"No, I think it's great you two hooked up."
"You're being condescending, Dick. What are you looking for?"
"Barbara was given a power ring by Hal Jordan a couple of months ago and she has accepted the position as Guy Gardner's partner. I'm reviewing the abilities of the power ring."
"You checking on my hunch?"
"Yeah, and you were right. Power rings cannot heal injuries. Qwardian power rings can, though. Barbara has a Qwardian power ring that uses the green portion of the spectrum. Sinestro, one of Hal's old enemies, used a yellow power ring, but Guy Gardner was the last person to use it. According to these files that Guy entered, the Qwardian rings are similar, but they do have some different abilities. I tried to contact Guy about it and ask him what happened to his yellow ring, but he wouldn't reply."
"You know that indicates that something has happened to the main power battery on Oa. If the battery has been destroyed, there may not be a power source for new rings. Maybe he started using Qwardian rings."
"I don't know exactly what it means, Bruce," Dick said, getting up. He replaced the cowl on his face and his entire demeanor changed. "I do intend to find out why Hal is being so secretive about everything he does. Barbara is away at Oa getting training in the use of her ring, but we can use her when she gets back." He started walking towards the parked Batmobile. "I'll keep you posted on what I find."
Bruce watched him climb into the vehicle and roar out. He was proud of the young man, how well he had taken to cape and cowl, allowing Bruce to concentrate on other matters. After he had his back broken by Bane, he had wrongly entrusted the Bat-mantle to a veritable stranger, Jean Paul Valley. Valley had been trained since birth to be the ultimate warrior, but that had also made him mentally unstable. It had taken the efforts of a newly recovered Bruce and his extended "family" to take Valley down.
Now, he was the retired super-hero, having passed on his responsibilities to the young man he called son in private conversations. He was developing a serious relationship with the former wife of Superman and his finances, since he took a stronger hand in them, were better than ever. Still, something was nagging him; something was speaking to him in the back of his mind.
He looked about the Batcave and, searching the collection of trophies and gadgetry for a clue, for some insight into the enigma swirling in his head. He walked over to the glass cases that held the costumes that had been retired or belonged to fallen heroes. There was a case that held his original Batman outfit, with the solid black bat on the chest, and then there was the torn and bloodied costume of Jason Todd, the second Robin. The next over displayed the black and purple fighting gear of the Huntress, recently killed by the Joker. He viewed the three costumes and then proceeded through the others. He heard the soft footsteps as Lois approached from behind. "You know, I would be sooooo famous if you would let me write about this."
Bruce smiled and stopped before the next set of cases. There was a case holding the Bat-Armour that Jean Paul Valley had worn during his brief stint as Batman. Next to it was Barbara Gordon's old Batgirl costume. He stopped before the last one.
"I had no idea you had one. I destroyed all of his others afterwards," Lois said silently, putting her arms around his waist.
Before them was an intact costume of blue and red, with the telltale "S" on the chest. On a podium inside the case before the costume was a lead box. "He gave it to me to hold here in case he needed it. I never quite understood it, but I think he was always worried about appearing in public with a torn costume. The box holds the kryptonite bullet he gave me."
She stepped out from behind him and walked up to the case. Placing her hand on the case, she peered in closer. A tear rolled down her face and he put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "What do you think he's doing now?"
"I don't know; I never quite understood the particulars of Kryptonian religion, but I assume that's he's happy," Bruce answered quietly.
She turned to him. "No, I think he's probably disappointed. He never intended to be a symbol, but he accepted it. I shudder when I think how upset he would be with you. He gave you that bullet for a reason, because he not only trusted you, but he also knew you were the one person who would carry on no matter what."
"I'm needed elsewhere, Lois, I have other things to do."
"Bull. You're scared aren't you?" she asked.
Bruce's eyes narrowed. "No."
She brushed past him and walked back into the main chamber and plopped down into the chair. She put her bare legs up on the console. "I don't believe you, you know that? "
Bruce made his way over to her and sat down next to her feet. "It's not fear, it's regret. I've lost so many friends and loved ones, but I always believed that because I was fighting the good fight, because I never wavered no matter what, that I was protected. When Clark died, it hit me that I never really got to know him as well as maybe I wanted to. I didn't agree with everything he did or how he did it, but I respected the hell out of him. Then Bane broke my back and I just realized that I had neglected a whole portion of my life. "
He shifted his weight and put a hand on her foot, caressing it. "I was so far from Dick that I couldn't even ask him to help me and I ended up going to a kid who wasn't ready. Both Superman and Clark were sorely missed, but would Bruce Wayne? Who would cry if I died? Did I really want to continue this one man war, and if I did, why?"
"I'd miss you," Lois said.
He smiled, genuinely, and moved over to her. He kissed her lightly. "It's time for a change, but I don't want to do it alone."
She kissed him back. "If I can manage to tolerate a Superman, I'm sure I can deal with a Batman."
"This is Billy Batson, on special assignment for WGBS, here at Metropolis Towers, awaiting billionaire industrialist Lex Luthor to begin the press conference he has called. No details are available yet as to why the conference has been called, but it is being speculated that Luthor is going to announce plans for Lexcorp to finance and maintain a new Justice League of America!"
Behind Billy, a crowd of reporters waited anxiously for Luthor to appear. It was not long before a team of armored LexCorp security guards marched into the room, followed by the red-haired owner of the multi-national corporation. Behind Luthor, his young bride, the heroine Supergirl kept pace with her husband, eyeing the crowd.
Luthor stepped up to the podium and held a hand up for silence. When he began he spoke slowly, as if trying to minimize his Australian accent. "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming on such short notice. I intend to be brief and to the point. Rumors of late, both in the media and on the Internet, have indicated that I am interested in reforming and financing a new Justice League. Since the death of our city's most beloved hero, Superman, who was also a major force in the League, there has been no attempt to bring this much needed organization back to the front lines in the war against crime."
He allowed the words to sink in for effect and then began again. "Unfortunately, this will not become a reality. Other parties have trademarked the name of the organization, much as the young hero Superboy trademarked the name Superman after the Doomsday debacle. I have been unable to determine who the owner of the name is. To prevent a long and lengthy court battle, which would do nothing to further this cause I believe in, I have decided to form my own team in place of a Justice League."
Luthor stepped back and a curtain behind him began to open amid camera flashbulbs and hurried commentary into video cameras. Behind the curtain stood a collection of outlandishly dressed individuals. "Allow me to present to the public, Team Luthor!"
There was applause and Luthor smiled brightly for the cameras. After a few seconds, Supergirl approached the microphone. "If I may introduce the members to the public; I will serve as team leader for the time being, with …."
Aquaman turned off the television. He had seen enough, and he was sure that his guest had as well. They were seated in his private office in the Atlantean Embassy in New York. "He knows I own the rights to the name; he just didn't want to admit he couldn't buy me."
Bruce, dressed in his Batman costume, nodded. "I appreciate the effort, Arthur. Luthor is one of the few people in the world that can out bid me, but I was pretty sure he couldn't beat you."
"So, you want to do this? Are you sure about your findings?"
The Batman said nothing and Arthur smiled despite himself. It was good to have the old Batman back. "Barbara," Batman began, "just finished her Lantern training and has been assigned as Guy's partner. Her ring is definitely a copy of Sinestro's; it isn't a real Green Lantern power ring. That makes me wonder if we have been dealing with the real Hal Jordan all of this time. Why was he so insistent that we reform the Justice League? Why haven't we seen him for months? Barbara has agreed to take us to Oa, where Hal is supposedly holed up. I want some answers before I commit to the League."
"I thought you were against the idea," Arthur said.
"I still am. However, with
Team Luthor out there, pretending to work for justice, a League is going to be
required to keep him in line. If we don't take a stand, then he'll do
everything in his power to rule the world."
The trip to Oa was uneventful. Batman occupied himself with trying to guess exactly what Jordan was up to. Barbara Gordon was silent as she carried him, Aquaman, and Nightwing towards the planet located in the center of the universe.
It made no sense, none of it. Jordan had been a stalwart hero, an example that many other heroes had attempted to emulate. He was the common man's Superman, idealistic and fearless, with a big heart. The destruction of Coast City had obviously done something to him. Batman understood what tragedy could do to someone, but Hal had not gone off the deep end, had he?
Could it be possible? Had Hal Jordan, perhaps one of the most stable men he had ever known, gone insane? Was the past year nothing but careful manipulation by a deranged mind? A mind that held the most powerful will in the universe?
Why was reforming the League so important that it had to be done so quickly? Why was he using psuedo power rings instead of real ones? Why was it so necessary that he lead the League? Was Jordan trying to get him out of the way? What would cause someone to do so many radical things in so short of time.
Then the answer hit him like a truck.
Hal Jordan was not insane. His mental state was perfect.
He was dying. His body was giving out.
Batman shouted to Barbara to hurry.
Batman recognized the two green lanterns standing outside the door to Hal Jordan's private room. One was an alien named Kilowogg, who was also the lead instructor for the academy. The other was Guy Gardner, who had disappeared from the public view only two weeks before. There was history between Batman and Gardner, and most of it was not good. Gardner had let his hair grow out and he wore it in a ponytail as opposed to the bowl-style haircut he normally sported. Batman made no attempt at conversation, but instead walked past them and entered through the automatic doors.
The room smelled of death, but also of cleanser at the same time. Batman did not know what they were using to clean the walls of the room, but it was very strong in odor, whatever it was. There were several banks of computers and diagnostic equipment, all attacked to leads that were hooked all over the frail body lying in the single bed that served as the only piece of furniture in the room.
He had lost at least 100 pounds, Batman thought as he slowly approached. He pushed back his cowl and stopped at the foot of the bed. Hal Jordan looked at him from behind tired eyes, a small smile on his face. "How's the back?" he asked.
"Better. How's the arm?"
Hal coughed. "If I could lift it…I would say it was okay." There was a pause. "Cancer."
Batman gripped the railing at the foot of the bed and peered closer. Hal was wearing his power ring. "Is that a real one?"
Hal sniffed and hacked, almost going in convulsions. "Yes. I should have known you'd figure it out. I tried to bully the Batman back into the League. How stupid is that?"
"When I," he paused to catch his breath. "When I fought Mongul and the Cyborg, I flew into the fusion chamber of Engine City, the device used to destroy Coast City, and used my power ring to shut it down. The problem is that some of the energy must have been in the yellow spectrum of light and it pierced my green shield. I found out I had cancer about three months afterwards."
Batman waited for him to once again normalize his breathing. "So, with Superman gone, and the Corps a failure in your eyes, you decided to try and change things yourself. You found out that Qwardian power rings can sometimes correct physical disabilities, such as in Barbara's case, but it obviously can't cure cancer. You then decided that you would reform the League as a legacy."
"No, not a legacy, a necessity. I could not go to my death knowing I had not done something to make sure Coast City never happened again. Without Superman, we needed a leader, and that turned out to be you. You were trusted by all of us. I just never expected you to retire."
"I'm back. We are reforming the League. You were right. If we don't protect humanity, then someone will come along and try to dominate it. It's already started."
Hal laughed, and it was the most horrid sound Batman had ever heard. "Team Luthor? Give me a break! I'll bet my power ring he's financing more than just super-heroes. Watch him; he worried Clark, so he should worry you."
He then rolled over and retched into a bucket on the floor. Batman walked over and tried to help his friend. Hal wiped the vomit from his face. "I don't have much time. Alan Scott will be taking over here when I'm gone, and Guy and Barbara will be available to you and the League. Please help them."
"I will, Hal," Batman said, trying to sound calm. He knew that Jordan was close to dying.
"Tell everyone I tried, will you?" he asked, his eyes going wide. He gripped Batman's gloved hand and squeezed, but the strength was gone. He seized and turned, and then Batman noted that he seemed to suddenly relax, and then he sagged.
The monitors screamed alarms and the door burst open, but everyone stopped as soon as they saw Batman cradling the shrunken body of what was once the most fearless man alive.
Lois Lane sat in the back of the meeting room of the fully restored Justice League satellite, located 22,300 miles above the earth. She was on special assignment for Time magazine, covering the behind the scenes of the new League. It helped that she had pull with the current chairman, but nobody had to know that. To the world at large, she was considered one of the foremost reporters of metahuman activities.
Team Luthor had tried for months to get her to interview them, but she had turned them all down. When her engagement to billionaire Bruce Wayne was announced, Luthor tried a smear campaign against her, stating she was refusing to provide equal coverage because he and her fiancé were business rivals. She blew off the whole affair and Luthor had been made out to be a spiteful child in the press.
Batman stood at the head of the table. "Before we get down to business, I'd like to inform you all that Titans Tower is up and running. The Flash and Nightwing send their regards and also request that each and every one of us stops by to provide moral support. They've got quite a job, training our younger heroes, so please go by and just say hello. I insist."
There was more silence. "Let the record show that in attendance for this meeting are myself, the Batman, and Guy Gardner, Aquaman, Hawkwoman, Captain Marvel, and Steel. Absent members include Wonder Woman, on maternity leave," there were slaps on Aquaman's back at the mention of this. "Also on leave are the Red Tornado and the Atom, who are on special assignment with the Titans."
The Batman continued his speech, but managed to throw a glance towards Lois every now and then. She smiled and kept taking notes. It felt good to be back in the field.
"Lois and I are getting married tomorrow, and I thought I'd come by to talk to you," Bruce Wayne began as he stood before the bronze statue erected in Superman's honor. "I wanted to let you know that I'll take care of her. She's a wonderful woman; I see what you saw in her. To be honest, I never understood you. All of the power that you had, and all you ever wanted to do was help. I've spent my entire life acquiring power and I don't know what it is that I want sometimes. Is it justice or revenge? You never cared, all you wanted to do was make other people live a better life.
"I don't want to live by your example, but I do find motivation in your inspiration. Things will be different around here from now on. The League of the past is gone, replaced with my League. Probably not the most ideal situation in your mind, but you could do a lot worse.
"Diana and Arthur named their child Clark, after you, and Lois is already talking about children. She told me that you weren't able to have children. I never knew that. There is so much about you I never knew and it saddens me to think I'm going to get it secondhand now.
"Good-bye Superman, Clark, Kal-El. Thank you for your sacrifice. I'll make sure it wasn't in vain."
With that, Bruce Wayne turned and walked away. When he got to the park entrance, Dick and Barbara Grayson were waiting for him with Lois. Bruce joined them and they headed down the street into the setting sun.