Author's Note: I don't know where this came from. The ever-churning stew of my imagination must have burped this up from somewhere while watching the show and I had to do something with it in order to get it to let go. But as it continued to build up in my mind, I started seeing it as something more than some fanboy fantasy, especially if it took time away from my Gargoyles fanfiction, in which I've dwelled for the last five years. Think of this as an AU, or in DC terminology, an Elseworlds, with its roots firmly planted in the DC animated universe (obviously ignoring most of what will become Batman Beyond) and considering up here in Canada, we haven't yet got past "Wake The Dead", I may not be completely up to date with the newest continuity. Whether or not this will be continued will depend on how much free time I have...
Justice League: Generations #01 - "Fast Forward"
"Dreams save us. Dreams life us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear...until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share, I'll never stop fighting. Ever."
Superman, Action Comics #775
Twenty years was a lot of time for the world to change.
Countries expanded and broke, several more invasions were repelled, and the sovereign nations of Atlantis and Themyscira were formerly introduced to the populace under their respective king and queen.
The heroes evolved, lived and died. The banners and colors made famous were passed to the younger generation, and even some their powers, and a rare few their names. There were a hundred supermen to every continent, inspired to take up the fight with whatever powers or skills they had.
And it wasn't an uncommon sight to see one darting between the clouds from the window of an airplane or catching fire to keep warm on a winter's day. The novelty had basically worn off.
And thus, seeing someone run so fast they became a blur wasn't as big a deal as it was before the Fourth Generation had come.
The shortest length between her destination and the best Indian take-out restaurant she knew was about four thousand miles across the North Atlantic. But she tore across the water's surface as easily as she did the plains of Africa and the sands of Egypt, making sure to dodge the ships and tankers of some of the most heavily trafficked seaways in the world with a rooster tail shooting up behind her almost fifty feet.
She was a streak of color that vanished from every sailor's view before they even turned around. All they caught was the wake she left behind.
Before the young woman knew it, the east coast emerged from over the horizon and the prominent, cloud-licked towers of Metropolis.
The old wooden pier rattled and shook as she reached solid ground and continued on through the city and into the countryside towards a very exclusive school.
She hit the campus grounds, cut and ducked through the student body that, except for those with the proper meta-gene, probably felt a wind and that same streak of color registering in their vision for less than a second, and aimed for a cement picnic table set apart from the rest. Shaded by an elm, she found three already there and one that didn't seem overly patient.
Skidding to a stop, Iris West was only now aware of the debris she'd raked up in the vortex formed behind until it finally caught up with her, blew past and across the table. A few leaves, someone's homework and even a bit of sand she must've dragged all the way from Alexandria.
"What took you so long?" he asked, taking the box from her hands.
"There was a small storm off the Persian Gulf."
The boy with the shock of blond opened the lid and started rooting through the slightly greasy paper bags. "You did get the bhel puri, right?"
"I got whatever was on the list." she answered, checking the time it'd taken to run between continents on her watch and making sure her wildly-dyed hair hadn't loosened from their buns. "If it's not there, Lara forgot it."
Lara Kent looked up from the small mountain laid out in front of her; she'd taken up almost half the polished cement slab with textbooks, binders and her laptop. "My memory, not to mention my grasp of the Indian language is near perfect."
The blond narrowed his features, one hand in the bag and feeling through the various textures. "Except the time your mistranslation got me some of the hottest shit I'd ever tasted."
"Uh, yeah," her eyes flitted nervously behind the thin-rimmed frames, "but that was only once."
"It nearly ignited my hair-gel."
"You could always learn the language yourself, Connor." the introverted brunette broke in. As was her custom, she'd stayed silent across from him until having something relevant to say. "Or would that get in the way of your video games, tuning up your father's old relic and generally slacking off?"
Connor Queen shrugged, apparently unfazed with one insult of many over the years he'd known her. "What's the use of me learning Hindi when I'm not able to run to Bombay in less than twenty minutes?"
"Nineteen minutes, fifty-three seconds, including the time it took me to stand in line at the restaurant." Iris bragged and took her place beside him. "But is that the only reason we're dating? Express delivery?"
"No," he showed his teeth, "there're...other perks too."
Her lips at his cheek, she whispered, "Uh huh," and extended a hand in front of him. "Gimme my curry chicken."
Helena Wayne, the aforementioned brunette, outstretched her arm from across the table. "And my Pulao, considering I did pay for the meal."
Connor started emptying the box and bags, foil and Styrofoam containers and, deciphering the contents by visual inspection rather than trying to read the foreign language scrawled across in felt pen, started handing them out. This wasn't the first time he and his friends had gotten Indian take-out straight from the actual country. "I'd bother learning the language if only I could use the Watchtower's teleporter for something more than getting us from school to home or to wherever the latest bad guy is tearing apart a city, but you know how J'onn is with," he used his right hand to pull his brow down and the other to do the same to his mouth, mimicking the Martian Manhunter's aquiline face, "'frivolous personal use'."
Trying to ignore Arsenal, Helena took Lara's order and placed it in front of her. "Your food."
But she didn't notice; she had her nose buried in another thick volume. The spine read chemistry in gold-flaked print.
Her head shot up, one world falling away to the other. "Huh? Oh, yeah, thanks."
"Uh oh," Connor needled, "she's stuck in the books again."
Lara closed the textbook and gently moved it aside. "I've got the entrance exam tomorrow." she explained. "We've all got the entrance exam tomorrow."
"Since when do superheroes go to university?"
"When they want to make something of themselves, and when they don't want to be labeled and trapped within the role expected of them. But I'm sure both you and Helena don't have to worry about your future prospects, considering your parents' respective wealth, and I'm sure Iris will fit an entire semester's worth of information into a single hour of 'speed-studying'."
"She's got a point." Iris added.
"And with your father's Kryptonian genes," Helena interjected, "I'm sure you'll retain the knowledge you need for the rest of your natural life."
But Lara was quick to dispute that fact, "I'm only half Kryptonian, remember? Sometimes, my good old human side can't keep up."
"Hey, Lara," Connor called from across the table, "how languages can you speak?"
Sheepishly, Lara slowly put the book down and started on her meal. "I just...want to be prepared."
"If you live your life trying to meet such lofty expectations only because you have this compulsive need to please your father in everything you do, you might just fail." The words of wisdom had come from Helena, always the most levelheaded one in the group. "I don't think even Supergirl can fly that high."
Lara stared down the daughter of the Batman. For a moment, one would think her eyeglass frames would melt under an unintended flash of heat vision, but Lara had great control and didn't need her powers to retort. "You should talk." she said, and turned to Conner. "And what exactly do you want to do after high school?"
He didn't even think on it. "Go to prom, spend the summer at the beach and then continue fighting the bad guys."
Iris made a fist. "With your trusty boxing glove arrow."
"That arrow's a classic!" he argued.
"Do you really want to fight crime day in, day out for your entire life?" Lara asked.
But Conner had rapidly refocused his attention somewhere else; more specifically, the amount of food his girlfriend had on her plate. "Jeez, woman, how much did you get for yourself?"
"Hey," Iris swallowed, "you don't have my metabolism!"
Lara shook her head, the black strands of a shoulder-length cut moving back and forth. "Guess that answers my question..."
"Don't mind him, Lara." said Helena. "Do what you feel you must, but we both know your father loves you and only expects you to do as much as you can."
She broodingly stirred the contents of her foil dish. "Your father isn't Superman."
"And is living up to his legend worth it?"
"He's the greatest hero alive." she answered.
To which, Connor took offense and his interest in the conversation was rekindled. "Uhm, excuse me?"
Lara bit back the grin, knowing how the comparison of Superman to Connor's parents (and basically every other superhero from the fifties into the twenty-first century) bugged the hell out of the junior archer. If there was anything that could get a rise out of him... "He was voted the twentieth century's most influential superhero in People magazine."
"I like to remind you that Green Arrow and Black Canary were pretty damned high on that list too."
"Hello?" Iris defended her father with a mouthful of rice. "So was The Flash."
"And the Batman." Helena added.
"Yeah," he gulped down a chunk of chicken, "so don't get all high and mighty with us, Supergirl."
She thinned those ice-blue eyes, and smiled.
Connor didn't like it. The usually good-natured, innocuous and sometimes naive Lara Kent only smiled like that when under the gun or the foot of some quasi-powerful super-villain, or doing something weird and similarly destructive with a full range of inherited abilities. "Hey, what are you doing?" He covered his head and face with his arms. "You're not giving me a heat vision lobotomy are you!"
Iris suddenly pointed to the sky, inadvertently saving her boyfriend's life or, the very least, his frontal lobe. "Hey, look!" she smirked. "Hottie at four o'clock."
Everyone at the table raised their eyes to the sky, and all it was at first was a silhouette without any discernible shape or form against the midday sun. But from the lazy smile on Lara's face and the fact she was using her telescopic vision to zoom in on who or whatever was descending into the campus, they gathered it was the object of her longtime crush.
With a plume of wind from the downdraft, Rex Stewart touched down, brushed the hair from his face and shook out his wings. Most who saw the Thanagarian land simply turned back to their own circle of friends and a half-finished meal, except for a few girls who couldn't help but giggle, re-huddle and trade compliments amongst each other.
Because, here, this wasn't the first time a winged half-human came back from lunch by falling from the sky.
The Avalon Institute was a facility that catered to the meta-gene positive and anyone else, human or not, who wanted a little more out of their education from high school through to the university level.
Rex Stewart, emerald-eyed firstborn of John and Shayera, was a year ahead in age and a first year student majoring in anthropology and several other subjects most would never dream of (more than a few would consider them financial suicide). And standing nearly six and a half feet tall, oozing a cool charm that bordered on a purposed disinterest in almost everything around him and possessing the fighting skills of his mother and a former Green Lantern corpsman, it was obvious his popularity among the student body, especially the females, was at an all time high.
And Lara, as usual, was a little dazed, watching Rex walk into the building and continuing the half-lidded stare some time afterwards, until someone broke her from the stupor.
Iris snapped her fingers at high speed, which came off like a string of Chinese firecrackers. "Yo, Lara."
The trance was quickly broken. "What!" Lara darted her eyes around, and pinked at collective gaze. "Oh, sorry."
"Don't apologize to me. That man is sex on gorgeously feathered wings."
"I could've had wings if I wanted..." Connor huffed.
"You've got your mother's hypersonic cry, or, at least, a version of." Helena pointed out, wishing the amalgams (a societal term, not hers) wouldn't complain about an obvious edge she could use. "That's nothing to look down on."
"Yeah, but having the ability to vibrate objects at a high rate of speed or irritate dogs won't get you the chicks–urrhkk..."
Iris had him by the collar, instantly. "And why would you want to get any other 'chick'?"
"I don't know, someone less...violent?"
She let Connor snap back. "Anyways, why the meltdown whenever you see him? You've known each other your entire lives."
"Puberty." Lara rued the word. "It changed everything. Suddenly, we weren't just two kids playing tag at an altitude of a hundred feet. He had facial hair, rippling pectorals, a voice like honey and I got a weird tingle whenever I was near him."
Connor winced. "Is this going to be a girl thing? Because I can leave the table..."
"I can always get Lara to throw you outside the campus grounds." Iris offered, scraping up the remnants of her meal with a thick piece of bread.
They resumed their mock argument, Helena returned to her meal and Lara, she took another look at the door Rex had used, sighed and started eating before the much hour was up.
Her 'grandpa' had once said he wasn't too fond of Metropolis; you couldn't see the horizon, too many buildings in the way.
But Jonathan Kent had also once leaned in to a young, blue- and wide-eyed girl on the porch of his Kansas farmhouse and whispered his envy of her father's abilities. How he could soar above the tallest skyscraper and see for miles beyond.
At that age, with only periodical bouts of superhuman powers beginning to surface, Lara never dreamed she'd soon do the same.
And flying home, making sure to clip the Luthor building and snap off an antenna or two for good measure (her guilty and secret pleasure), it'd become almost routine. The powers, the crimefighting (despite her parents' initial reluctance), they were nothing to the amount of angst a teenager could rack up.
Lara was so enthusiastic to join the fight alongside her friends, her heroes, the men and women and the stories she'd grown up on. But it wasn't so much the near-death experiences every so often, it was the expectation of her role, especially considering her lineage. It was beginning to feel as though no one could or would see her as anything else but Superman's daughter and the weight of her choice was getting a little heavy.
Her small circle of friends and heroes in their own right ("Don't ever call us the Teen Titans!") all knew exactly why she was trying so damned hard to ace Avalon's entrance exam. A chance to prove she could be more than that giant red, stylized S.
And then there was Rex.
She'd known him all her life, and now getting within a hundred feet of each other was the most awkward experience; stuttered bouts of small talk with long pauses in between and Lara ending up looking at the ground while the freshman ruffled his wings in either boredom or nervousness (she hadn't yet figured out which).
It was her own little bit of hell, and she wondered when it became so difficult to even speak to him.
Being so immersed in her own thoughts, even her enhanced hearing didn't pick up on the low whistle zeroing in from underneath.
She only noticed the car hurtling towards her when the steel body caught a glint of sun.
"Whoa!" she screamed, barreling to a stop in mid-air; Lara could've sworn the tips of her hair had stroked the vehicle's undercarriage as it tore past her, got as much altitude as it could and eventually completed the arc by falling back down to earth.
A park; it was going to hit a park.
She dropped, burned wind and, with her homework in one hand, caught the car with the other before it had the chance to wipe out what could've been an entire group of children that often occupied the park. But trying to balance something weighing over two thousand pounds and darting through what Metropolis was famous for made the flight a little problematic, and Lara was forced to abandon her books and computer on the ledge of the national bank to get some extra leverage.
She slowed a few stories from the ground, hefted the vehicle over her head and swung into an alley before someone saw the only child of the Daily Planet's managing editors somehow defy gravity and lift twenty times her own bodyweight.
All four tires hit the ground and Lara took a breath. "Damnit, whoever threw this thing has the worst timing."
A whirlwind later, her uniform had replaced the civilian clothes and Lara lifted off between the two buildings.
A blue and red bolt of light shot into the sky and towards where she'd guessed the vehicle had first come from, but upon getting closer, it wasn't hard to tell the culprit from the ruckus he was causing. The entire park and the surrounding streets had cleared and something big was stomping through the lawns and decorative benches.
"This had better not take long," Lara said under her breath, "I have to study."
She settled behind the creature that was otherwise occupied crushing a small metal sculpture with his bare hands, studied him for a moment and tried to figure out why this thing seemed so familiar. "Excuse me," she said in the sweetest tone she could muster, "but I need you to stop."
Built like the product of a mutated linebacker and a silverback gorilla, the pale-skinned, red-eyed creature whirled on her, got one look at the young girl barely coming up to his chest and dropped his stubbled jaw. If it wasn't for the familiar symbol adorned across what he thought was a very perky set of B-cups, he might've thought her some lost schoolgirl. "What," he snarled, "are you?"
"Oh." He smiled, bowed and introduced himself. "Lobo Jr."
"Crap." was the first and only thing out of Lara's mouth before a fist nearly knocked out a few teeth.
Despite her strength Lara was, after all, only about a hundred and ten pounds and still susceptible to at least a few laws of physics. The blow had knocked her back through several street signs, a delivery van and a brick wall before she finally came to a stop.
"I thought Supergirl was a blond." Lobo mused, and shrugged his shoulders. "Oh well."
He sneered and turned at the voice. The street had cleared except for one; curves, tight-fitting costume, emerald eyes that were presently burning a hole right through him, a young woman in purple and black was standing on one of the upended vehicles with a hipshot stance.
The Huntress had come out to play.
"Girls!" L.J. growled. "Where's Big Blue? You know, the one my dad nearly handed his ass to several hundred times."
"Retired." Helena answered. "All you get are the replacements."
It was like he took a bullet in the chest. All this way for nothing. "You've got to be fucking kidding me! You an' the little bitch!"
"Who're you calling a bitch!"
Lobo felt the wind at his back and through the matted, burgundy hair from the incoming fist before he even heard the voice, but even his synapses couldn't fire that fast to block.
Helena sidestepped the airborne monstrosity, flying off the end of Supergirl's steel-belted hand and rolling into a boneless heap at the end of the street. Looking over her shoulder, she found Lara trying to shrug off Lobo's cheap shot. "I was flying overhead, saw you getting into trouble."
"Thanks." Lara sighed, checking to make sure all her teeth were still there. "Is this guy really...?"
"Lobo's son? It sure looks like it, but I can't think of anyone who would ever spawn a child with the 'Main Man'."
Supergirl shivered. The very thought had creeped her out.
"But it's ironic that Lobo would even want a son considering he killed off his entire race because he wanted to be unique."
"Let's just end this before he does any more...damage...INCOMING!"
All Helena knew before he world turned on its side was a red cape smothered around her face. She'd honed her reflexes since she could walk, she'd gone to bed bruised and nursing sore ribs after sparring with both her mother and father, she'd faced death on a nightly basis in Gotham as the second incarnation of the Huntress and even now she was surprised at her best friend's reflexes and how quick Lara was to react.
The statue shattered on impact, cracking the pavement and sinking a crater two feet down.
Lobo Jr. had ripped up the park's grand centerpiece and tried to flatten the mini-heroes, and inspecting the pile of rubble from a monument that once stood over twenty feet tall, he hoped he'd at least crushed the normal. She must have been related to the Bat; part of the symbol on her chest (bigger rack than the other one) was a dead ringer for the caped twit his father had warned him about. He kicked a chunk of sculpted stone. "Hey, you bitches dead?"
An agonizing pain suddenly shot up his spine and train-wrecked at the back of his skull, and the stench of burning flesh confirmed the attack from behind. Heat vision, burning through the sleeveless leather coat his father had made famous and he swore it was gutting him all the way through. "Graauugghhh!"
"Bitch huh?" Lara taunted, pouring it on until she'd seared through several layers of clothing and skin with two wide beams of concentrated fire from her eyes.
Lobo turned, sacrificing more of his skin to get in a shot. Lara dodged the haymaker and made an opportunity for Helena to pull her staff from the satchel on her back and rap it off the side of his head. Wayne Industries had the patent on a new alloy far more impervious than titanium and even with the shock absorbers built in, she still felt it through her hands.
Junior reeled, Supergirl swooped in and poured it on, lefts and rights until she'd drawn blood.
He backhanded her, and Huntress jumped back in to fill the hole. The leather-clad alien would've torn her head off in his rage if it weren't for the fact he could barely lay a hand on her. She'd landed as many blows as her partner just without the same effect, evaded every punch and felt the wind off his poorly aimed fists.
A few backflips got her out of the reach of his arms until he ripped up a section of street like pulling a rug from underneath her. She went down and Lobo held the chunk over his head, hoping to mash the girl into a gooey paste.
"Ungh!" Helena had only managed to get her feet up and hold the slab from crushing her, but the strain was starting the tear every tendon and ligament from ankle to hip as Lobo pushed down.
"Strong legs, hot stuff!" Lobo taunted. "Maybe I have found someone here worth the gas money."
She grit her teeth, and reached into her belt.
"You know, I can think of a hundred different ways to put those legs to better use."
Just when the strain was becoming unbearable, she dislodged a small compartment, snapped the top, started a chemical reaction and threw it towards the only part of Lobo Jr. she could see, his legs. "So...can I..."
The incendiary grenade went off at shin level and nearly separated him from his feet. He staggered back screaming every obscenity in the known worlds and Helena was able to let the slab drop to her side and roll away.
Junior's boots were blown open, and blood was pouring from what were probably superficial wounds at best. "Ouch!" he howled, and every muscle underneath his skin knotted and overlapped. "That fucking hurt!"
Huntress coughed out a response, trying to get up on two legs that'd nearly gone completely numb, "...good..."
Seeing the human staggering away, Lobo followed with red in his eyes and went to tear her spine out until a hand grabbed his wrist and squeezed. Bones cracked; he grimaced.
Lara was back up and on her feet (actually, she was floating a few inches from the ground) and aimed for his head. She felt the bristle of a couple days' growth with every punch she landed, and with every punch Lobo skidded a foot against the concrete.
"You could've ended this earlier!" she screamed at him over the sound of bone against bone. "But no, you had to be difficult!"
"If I don't get Supes, I'll take you two instead!"
"Is all this just a macho thing? Trying to impress daddy by beating the one guy he never could?"
He suddenly caught her by the wrists and wrenched her close. "Is that the same reason you put on the outfit?"
"I do it, because I can."
"Well, I'm going to kill you both because I want to."
Lara would've replied with something a little more colorful if it weren't for what she'd noticed out of her peripheral vision. "You'll try."
A batarang shot between them and sunk deep into Junior's cheek.
With the distraction, Lara continued pummeling and her punching bag started showing a bit of wear.
His head cracked to the side. "...you...tryin' to make this quick...?" he slurred.
Wham! Another one. "Yeah, I've got commitments."
"Whut...?" he leered. "...on y'r back fer a fifty?"
"I have to study!" Lara roared, and her tiny hands hit with the equivalent of several tons of TNT to various parts of his body.
"I!" Skull. "HAVE!" Ribs. "TO!" Stomach. "STUDY!" And the skull again, but this time, it was the one that stuck.
Lobo Jr. had ended up a hundred feet away, comatose at the end of a trench his body had plowed into the asphalt.
And Lara started suckling her knuckles, throbbing with pain. "Oh man, does that freak have a hard skull!"
Huntress rested on her staff; she'd have to hit the painkillers later. "Like father, like son. I'll call the Watchtower, and get a team down here to pick this asshole up."
"Maybe you should get a check-up too."
"I'm fine." she barked, ever her father's daughter.
Lara shook her head. "All right." she ceded, knowing better not to force something Helena would never submit to.
"Speaking of which, are you all right?"
Her gaze started where Lobo first hit the street and followed the steadily widening chasm until reaching the prone form of the alien, unconscious, covered in debris and drooling from the side of his mouth. Maybe Supergirl had gone a little overboard.
For the first time since nearly having her head caved in, Lara's thoughts drifted back to where she'd left her books and more importantly, her study notes. Hopefully they were still there. "I'm just...stressed."
"You'll pass the exam." Helena assured her. "And even if by some incredible twist of fate you don't, your father won't think less of you. He'll never think less of you."
"Yeah." she answered absently, her attention drawn to where a small part of the street was growing warmer. "Someone's incoming..."
Helena could feel the electricity in the air and crawling along the minute amounts of her exposed skin, concentrated a few meters away from them. "Watchtower teleportation beam."
Leaves were stirred and suddenly spiraled upwards where a shaft of light appeared.
A wall of seagreen flesh materialized, with two figures on either side and the Martian Manhunter's distinct peregrine visage was the first familiar shape to emerge when the light died off. Flanked by Superwoman and Green Lantern, he surveyed the damage and ended up centering on the human-shaped mound far beyond.
"That was quick." Helena observed.
"We monitored the disturbance." J'onn answered in the habitual monotone. "I apologize for not arriving sooner but it seems you both acquitted yourself well."
Basking in the praise, Lara noticed her cousin's smile over J'onn's shoulder.
She couldn't but feel a little bit of resentment towards the taller woman; she made this look so easy at times. The shadow Kara cast wasn't as long or as consuming as her father's but it did have the tendency to push her into the background, despite the fact they wore the same shield. "Hi, Kara."
Superwoman strolled forwards, wearing her colors and a uniform with as much liberty taken to the design of her father's old tights as her own.
Ever since Clark had retired Kara had taken up the mantle, chucked the mid-riff, mini-skirt and the gloves and switched to something a little more elegant and better complementing her age. The Argosian surveyed the damage, an impressive amount for the normally unassuming student. "Nice work, cuz," she winked, "but I usually leave things a little neater when I'm done."
"I'll help clean it up."
"No need, we've got a cleaner team on the way." Kara declined her offer. "Besides, don't you have the entrance exam tomorrow? You have to study."
Lara ignored the flippant look, "Don't remind me," and watched as Green Lantern encased Junior into an energy sphere for transport and lifted him from the ground. "What's going to happen to him?"
J'onn's scowl deepened. "Unfortunately, he will be...released, soon after he receives medical attention." He paused, before continuing. "He has diplomatic immunity."
Huntress hobbled closer, using her staff as a makeshift crutch. "That lecherous, destructive creep? Why?"
He'd seen that mistrustful glare before, through the eyeholes of a League alumni's bat-eared mask. He could only guess at Helena's response (not to mention Lara's) to what he was about to reveal. "He is the prince of Almerac."
"Almerac?" Lara echoed. "That's...Maxima's planet..." And then, like someone had dropped a nuke into the neighborhood, it dawned on them both. "Oh...my god..."
Helena thought she'd heard wrong. "Maxima married Lobo?"
The Manhunter nodded soberly. "Yes, Lobo Sr. is apparently the crown king of Almerac, and his son the crown prince."
"I don't believe this...and we're just supposed to let him go?"
"Earth will file an official complaint, but it will most likely be–"
"Swept under the rug." Helena guessed, her tone dripping with cynicism.
"In order to keep Almerac content with our treaty, yes." J'onn played the intermediary. "But after this particular incident, I believe Lobo Jr. will be, at the very least, temporarily barred from the entire Terran solar system."
"And if the League has anything to say about it," Superwoman added for good measure, "it'll be permanent."
"So what should we do with him now?" Green Lantern asked, holding Junior by his ring.
"Put him in containment for the time being."
Superwoman took to the air. "Come on, Kyle, I'll escort you back to the Watchtower just in case he wakes up."
He gestured with his finger, pointing towards where the Watchtower hung in geo-synchronous orbit. "Shouldn't we...you know, zzzap?"
"We'll fly. If he tries anything, he can float in the vacuum of space until his loyal subjects come to fetch him."
The two young girls watched as the first line of the Justice League ranks vanished from sight. At least, normal sight; Lara's vision followed them up through the layers of atmosphere until all the oxygen had bled away.
J'onn though, had his attention on something else entirely. "Helena. Do you require...?"
Medical attention, she thought. He was going to say medical attention. "No." she straightened, to better look the part of healthy even if her legs were screaming. "I'm fine."
"You are limping," he pressed, "and I sense you are in pain."
"As you wish. You are as stubborn as your father, and your namesake."
Huntress closed her eyes; she sometimes hated the comparison to her parents and the original as much as Lara did with Superman.
While her mother had always insisted she just liked the name, the similarity between a former and somewhat irregular protégé of the Batman was too much to ignore. But, while Helena Wayne's stubbornness had only left her nursing injuries that would put lesser normals in the hospital, Helena Bertinelli's got her killed. The memory of seeing the first Huntress' dead and broken body at the tender age of seven was a sobering thought that'd stayed with her throughout her fledgling career. "It'll...go away, J'onn."
He placed a hand on her shoulder and surprised she didn't flinch at the contact. When in uniform, she wasn't the best with emoting. "You know, you used to call me uncle."
As always, as was in her blood, she skillfully evaded the sentiment. "I also used to have my hair in pigtails, until I grew up."
He smiled. "Of course."
The little melee in the park had deprived her of two valuable hours worth of study time.
But there was something she needed to know, and thus, didn't head for home quite yet.
Lara had changed, picked up her books (which, thankfully, were still there) and rocketed towards the Daily Planet. Using the same hidden entrance through a roof hatch her father had, she appeared in the hallway without so much as raising a single question to her arrival by those who were leaving for the day.
She walked through part of the bullpen, nearly empty this time of day with the night shift and the evening edition already on every newsstand in Metropolis, and approached the office with two sets of names in black, block writing on the door's frosted glass window.
Clark Kent and Lois Lane-Kent, Managing Editors.
Considering they were neck and neck for their entire careers as reporters, it was only fitting to give them both equal share of duties and title when promoted. Perry would have retired only if they agreed.
She'd heard their voices since entering the building and now, it sounded as if they were having another friendly argument over article position and layout of tomorrow's publication. Lara smiled, at the way they complemented each other so perfectly and her mother's tenacity, and the fact she easily stood up to a man who could crack the planet.
She didn't bother knocking, just slipped in and took a seat before her parents even knew she was there.
"You're talking like Superman." Lois thumped a finger into Clark's chest. The former reporter had weathered the last twenty years with but a silver streak in her hair and a few lines about her eyes as the only visible scars, despite the life she'd led, and hadn't yet lost any of the fire. "This isn't the League, this is the Daily Planet. We serve the people by giving them as much information as possible."
"This is much bigger than you could ever imagine," Clark was adamant, and strangely reluctant, "and we don't need to help spread fear through the city and the planet with unfounded rumors."
"No rumors, Smallville, just the facts."
"And we barely have any of those!"
"Well, get J'onn back on the line and grill him–!"
They'd stopped, pulled back and turned their gaze towards their daughter, sitting peacefully at the edge of their desks, butted together, and looking over part of the layout spread across one of the larger computer monitors.
"Lara..." Lois breathed. "When did you get here?"
"Few minutes ago." she answered. "So what's this argument about?"
Lois turned back towards her husband. "Your father wants to bury the Almerac angle."
He crossed his arms, nearly bursting from the shirt. Kryptonians apparently matured like fine wine: well. The few gray hairs were easily overlooked. "We don't know if Lobo Jr.'s attack was demonstrative of Almerac's intentions, if any, and I don't want to plant the seed of unneeded resentment if it wasn't."
"What's not news about this? Maxima, the woman who wanted you and your DNA, marries one of the galaxy's most notorious bounty hunters, sires a child that comes to Earth as a representative of their planet and tears up Weisman Park? This is like one of Britain's Royal family getting drunk and pissing in the palace fountain."
"Wait," Lara butted in, "did you two know about–?"
"Maxima and Lobo?" her father finished. "Yes, but only after J'onn informed me."
"A little before you arrived." her mother answered.
"You just heard this now? Junior looked about my age."
Clark took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. This was obviously bringing up uncomfortable memories. "After several unsuccessful attempts to persuade me to marry her, Maxima just up and vanished. I'd hoped she'd found someone else and it looks like I was right. I just never expected it to be Lobo, of all people. According to the Green Lantern corps, besides a few diplomatic communiqués, Almerac has stayed relatively quiet for years."
"Until now." Lara said.
"Right." he nodded. "But we've heard nothing further from them, and it could be as simple as Junior getting a little overexcited by stories his father told him," pausing, Clark set his jaw and concluded quietly, "probably slanted to make him believe Lobo won every encounter."
Lois herself was struck by a memory that held a little more sentimentality than Clark's of dodging Maxima. Her daughter had done the same and when younger, she'd often find her largest red bath towel not only missing but also tied around Lara's neck as she ran around the apartment. "Sounds familiar." she mentioned, seeing the student turn away in embarrassment under her mother's violet scrutiny. "But this is a story and should be front page material in big, bold, black letters."
"Fine, we'll print it." Clark conceded. "But neither of us is going to return to our glory days. We'll give the story to someone else, considering we're too biased."
Lois eased off, inspecting her nails and shooting her husband a triumphant look above the manicured tips. "All right."
He rubbed the back of his head; she knew his weakness all too well and how to skillfully exploit it. The fact he loved her and didn't stand a chance when she was determined to win. "Get Troupe on it, and we'll read what he has in the morning. For now, we're going home and getting something to eat. Lara needs to study."
She took a breath that nearly blew out the windows. "Why does everyone keep reminding me?" Lara complained.
"Because you've felt the need to constantly remind us the last few weeks." Lois answered the rhetorical question, stroking her daughter's hair while grabbing her coat. "Now, let's get some takeout, I'm starving."
Whereas Lara had gently descended onto the roof of the Daily Planet, Helena nearly rammed the landing gear up through her jet's fuselage.
And the rough arrival didn't quite help the legs in their condition.
She powered down the engines, opened the hatch and it slid away into the relative if not eerie calm of the cave.
"You're late for dinner."
Helena's head fell forward; she knew that voice, and the weighty tone that hung from it.
Somewhere in the gloom, behind the cavern walls, the stalactites and the tech infused in between the Gotham bedrock, he'd watched her steer the jet onto the small landing pad and basically let it drop. If there was a reaction to another vehicle she'd almost ruined, it was as meticulously hidden as every other emotion that had threatened to bleed from his masks, human or not.
And Selina had insisted he'd lightened up over the years.
"I know." She struggled from the cockpit, and even the relatively short drop to the pad below caused her the bite down on the grunt of pain.
The figure noticed it, and his daughter hobbling towards him with a discernible limp. "And you're limping."
He emerged as shadows slid over him, and Bruce Wayne, gray and grim, started towards his daughter. "I received J'onn's report." he said, sternly. "You did well."
"Always keeping tabs..."
"Pardon me if we're not worried our only child could have been crushed beneath a large piece of dislodged pavement."
Helena peeled off the half-mask. "Then why do you let me do it?" she asked, and thought she caught a rare glimpse of something behind the stone-cut face.
"I don't know." Bruce revealed. "I shouldn't. One of these days, you'll come up against someone you can't beat."
"Lara was there."
He shook his head and maintained, "She won't always be."
"I like to think she will."
"You won't always have the luxury of Supergirl flying to your rescue."
Unlatching the weapons satchel from her back, Helena persisted, "You're still here, and so are all your former apprentices."
"Except for one." Bruce reminded, taking the pack to relieve her of the weight. He hated resorting to the memory of the first soldier down, but could only offer death as the best way to keep her alive and kicking.
She was struck for a moment, the sick scent of copper replacing the cool dampness. "It's almost been ten years since she died," she whispered, "but the smell of blood is still fresh. The sound of you screaming to get out of the cave and mom trying to turn me away from the body."
Bruce dipped his head. "I remember."
"She wasn't really one of the 'family' so to speak, but...I liked her." There was a smile, if only slight. "She was good to me. Kind. Taught me a few things no one else could, not even Batman or Catwoman, and for that, for her, for you I fight."
"I once thought that if I had allowed you to see her like that, it might have discouraged you from taking to the streets. But you were just a child, and it wasn't fair."
"It only served to drive me." Helena said, low between the strands of black hair. "Death seems to be a good catalyst in this particular family."
"Unfortunately." he breathed.
Her eyes went up to her father's, and in an instant, a wealth of understanding crossed between them and saved them both from any needless sentiment. Helena rubbed her temples, willing away the old images having surfaced and started to hobble off.
Seeing her struggle, Bruce extended his hand towards her, faint scars visible in hard-worked flesh. "Let me help."
She waved him off. "No, I can manage."
He stood in front of her, his stance casual but taught. "If I have to, I'll knock you out and carry you upstairs."
That was, in all its rough-edged severity, Bruce Wayne's attempt at kindness. And surprisingly it succeeded more often than not. Helena smiled and allowed him to lead her by the arm.
"Is there anything you need?" he asked.
"Aspirin. And lots of it."