STEEL SUNRISE by BillA1
Copyright March 2005
Disclaimer: The characters Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Superman & Flash their respective secret identities are all owned by DC Comics. This story is intended for my own pleasure and is not for profit. It has been posted to this site for others to read. Places and characters not own by DC Comics are my own creation. This story is based on characters from The Justice League story: "A Better World" written by Stan Berkowitz. Thanks to Merlin Missy for her beta on this story.
Synopsis: The Justice Lord Diana suffers a crisis of faith. A sequel to Hearts of Steel.
(Three months after the death of the Flash (seven months after the death of President Luthor))
(Fortress of Solitude – four hours ago)
It wasn't the first time for either one of them but it was their first time together. The irony of the moment wasn't lost on him. He was perhaps the most powerful man on the planet and yet earlier he had been afraid. It was not a fear of her but a fear of showing her his body this first time. Do human men also have this fear? Not that my costume hides much but taking your clothes off in front of someone for the first time is…unnerving. At least she didn't laugh…out loud.
Now, afterwards, as she lay nestled in his arms he suddenly thought of all the things he probably shouldn't say to her at this moment. Things like why? And why me? And why now? I don't know what happened to her. But in the last three days she just wants to be near me…suddenly telling me I'm important to her. I don't understand - but I don't want to lose this either.
He smiled to himself and then kissed the top of her head. He was surprised when, without looking up, she put her hand on his face and traced his cheek line with her fingers. He tenderly grabbed her hand, kissed it and then let it go. He lifted her head with his fingertips and looked into her eyes. Oh to be able to read her mind like J'onn.
"Are you okay?" Clark asked. Oh, that's real smart, man. What a dumb question! Do you think at this moment she's going to tell you if you darn near killed her? What were you thinking? Next you'll be asking if you were better than…
She smiled back at him. "I'm fine." She paused and looked away for a moment and then asked, "Was it… okay for you?"
He lowered his head and kissed her gently on the lips. "Diana, it was wonderful." He smiled at her, "You are wonderful."
She didn't say anything but instead snuggled a little closer to him. "You know," she offered, "we still have a few more hours before we have to go to Keystone City."
Clark grinned. Maybe he didn't need J'onn's powers to read her mind after all. "I wonder what we should do to fill the time," he said as he started to run his fingers down her neck toward her navel taking a long circuitous route.
As she tickled his inner thigh with her nails she whispered, "Oh, I'm sure you'll think of something to fill the void."
He smirked, "I already have."
(Three days earlier - just outside Central City)
"Hey! You piece of crap." Stupid mini-van. Cutting me off like that. You trying to get us both killed? Jerk!
He tried to keep his own speed down because he knew sudden stops and twenty-five thousand pounds of concord grapes wouldn't mix well. The sky was bright and cloudless. The Dixie Chicks were singing on the radio and his fingers tapped on the steering wheel in time to the music.
Gordon Barrett had been an independent truck driver for ten years. He was a good driver who could handle double rigs easily and now was starting to get more steady work. This was his first run to Central City. Times had been a little tough after the Justice Lords killed President Luthor. Not as tough as it was right after the bird-people invaded but it was still hard. The economy was slowly coming back. After all, the only things about Presidents that matter are the number of dead ones in your wallet.
He was anxious to get home and after he dropped this load of produce at the Hanow Jelly Company in Central City, he was going to head home…home to his wife and two dogs.
He checked his side mirror and saw a small sports car pulling up along side of him being chased by a highway patrol car – lights flashing. Jerk. Stupid cops. I might have helped you by pulling out in front of that car but after that ticket you wrote me two hours ago, you guys can kiss off.
Pot roast.He suddenly thought about pot roast and dinner. Yeah, after a long trip his wife always greeted him with roast beef…chewy, stringy, juicy pot roast…with pearl onions. Good stuff. That woman's a good cook.
He could see her face in his mind without closing his eyes. Wonder what she'll be wearing when I get in. Hope it's the frilly one with all the cut-out holes in the right places and the bow in the center. Well, it don't matter 'cause she ain't gonna be wearing it long no way. He could hear her voice…smell her scent. Soon, very soon, he wouldn't have to imagine anymore. It would all be real. She would be real.
He joined the Dixie Chicks in singing, "Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I built my life around you. But time makes you bolder..."
Yeah, I love this song.
Yes, Central City and home were just on the other side of the hills. The end of a sixteen-hour run was in sight. Listening to his radio station, singing the tunes he loved, concentrating on the road ahead, Barrett missed the sign that said "Steep Grade Ahead – Trucks Use Low Gear."
The bright sky and sunshine seemed to suit the occasion, Diana thought as she flew beside Superman on their way back from Central City. The mayor of the city had invited them to ask if it was okay to hold a Founder's Day parade and would Superman and Wonder Woman mind being the parade's grand marshals. Diana was disappointed when Superman said 'no' to both of the mayor's questions.
"Why can't they have a parade? What harm could it do?" she asked as they left the mayor's office. He didn't answer her immediately. Instead he jumped into the air and waited for her to follow. She joined him and they both hovered in the air as he spoke.
"Diana, a large gathering could create chaos. We don't want people to know when or where we might show up. Someone might attack us and other people would get hurt in a gathering that large when we fight back. They're just not ready yet."
"Don't you mean it's you who's not ready?"
"Me? I'm all for…" He stopped and looked at her hard for a moment. He sighed. "Okay. I hear what you're saying. Let's go." He turned and flew off.
Clark had been silent since they left the mayor's office. Now he's pouting. He tells me to always tell him the truth no matter how painful and when I do he's upset because it wasn't what he wanted to hear. What is it with male egos? Hera, I really miss my sisters.
She liked Clark a lot. But she still loved Bruce even as she knew that the man who lived in the cave of bats couldn't return her love the way she wanted it – the way she needed it. She'd left Bruce to find comfort, not love. And Clark was…comfortable.
"Do you have any plans for tonight?" she asked. Enough! Stop with the silent treatment. Talk to me!
He looked at her and answered sullenly, "No. Why?"
"No real reason," she answered. "I just wondered if you were going to spend time with Lois tonight."
"Sorry, Princess. Didn't plan to."
She glared at him. "Clark," she snapped. "Don't call me princess. Call me Diana. But not princess."
"You're still a princess to me," he said somewhat defensively. He then added, "But I'm now sorry I said it."
She didn't say anything. Hera, don't let him start pouting again.
She stopped and hovered. It was the second time in the last ten minutes she had asked Hera for an intervention and Hera's answer had been the same as it had been for the last month – silence. And she didn't know why.
(A Month Ago – Gotham City)
The Riddler and his gang had just robbed the Gotham National Bank. She and Bruce had gotten to the bank just as the robbers were escaping. The Riddler took off on foot. His gang drove away in a van.
"You stop the van. I'll get him," Bruce called out as he fired his grappling hook across the street and swung away after the Riddler.
She leaped off the roof and unfurled her lasso. "Artemis, guide my throw," she prayed silently as she flew after the speeding van. She tossed her lasso.
"Nooooo!" she exclaimed. She clipped her lasso to her side and sped after the van. One of the robbers leaned out the van window and fired back at her. As she deflected the bullets with her bracelets, she thought she heard someone behind her cry out.
Passing the speeding van on the driver's side, she got in front of the vehicle and started pushing against it, trying to stop it.
"Hera, give me strength."
She pushed but the speeding van didn't seem to be slowing down. She was fully extended, stretched out at an almost forty-five degree angle. She could feel the heat rising in her boots but friction didn't seem to be working in slowing down the van.
"Hera, please, please help me."
She no longer tried to stop the van but instead now concentrated on pushing against the van at an angle, trying to turn it. The driver tried to correct but instead overcorrected and the van tipped over, rolled and skidded on its side.
"Great Hera! No!" she screamed as she watched in horror as the van she'd tipped over slammed into a handful of pedestrians on the sidewalk.
As she raced to help move the van, she wondered why her gods hadn't answered her plea.
To her horror, all five pedestrians were dead, including two children. Bruce told her later that a bullet she'd deflected struck and badly injured a young pregnant woman. At the time, he didn't know if she was going to make it.
What had Diana done so wrong that her gods no longer answered her prayers?
Why wouldn't they protect those she sought to protect?
Why had they forsaken her?
She noticed that Clark had stopped as well and was hovering next to her.
"Clark, please don't say you're sorry again."
He tapped her on the shoulder. "I'm not. Turn around and look at that," he said pointing back toward Central City. "What do you call that?"
She turned back to see the skyline of Central City. Above the city, a large dark cloud hung overhead. From one half of the cloud there was a blizzard of blinding snow; rain fell from the other half. Clark shook his head, not waiting for her to venture a guess at what she was looking at. "This is August," he said. "Snow in August here isn't natural. I can only think of one person who could do something like this."
"Weather Wizard?" she asked.
He nodded his head in reply then asked, "Why won't they ever learn?"
"Because they're a superstitious and cowardly lot?" she volunteered smiling.
He grinned back. "You've been hanging around Bruce way too long. Let's see if we can find the Weather Wizard and bring a little rain to his parade."
They sped off back toward the city. As they entered the blizzard, Diana looked down and saw a tractor-trailer truck weaving in and out of traffic. "Clark, you find Weather Wizard. I'm going to stop that truck." She barely heard Clark acknowledge her as she turned and headed for the truck as fast as she could.
I can do this without Hera's help.
I'm going to have to do this without her help.
Barrett knew he was going too fast and only because of luck was able to make the last turn. It had suddenly started snowing – hard. It was so hard that Barrett couldn't see much of anything in front of him.
He desperately tried to slow the truck down but the road was suddenly like glass. No. It was like ice. Ice in August? Then it registered in his mind what he was seeing. The snow-covered trees lining the roadway and the slick road were all wrong. It was snowing – in August. This isn't right.
He frantically pumped his brakes trying to slow the truck down but his rig wasn't responding. The brakes have locked up, too?
He downshifted the transmission into a lower gear and winced when he heard the grinding of gears as the engine started over-revving. "You're gonna blow this engine, you idiot," he said out loud "A blown engine is better than you dead, fool,"he answered himself
He could feel the rear trailer starting to fishtail, pulling the front trailer with it. He downshifted further, ignoring the sound of the transmission gear teeth breaking. He sounded his horn hoping to at least warn any drivers in front of him – those he couldn't see - that he was in trouble.
Then the front of the truck started sliding. This is it. I'm not gonna walk away from this. He gripped the steering wheel hard, fighting for control even as both trailers fishtailed. Barrett wanted to scream but nothing came out of his mouth.
God, please have mercy on my soul.
Diana took her lasso off her hip as she raced toward the truck. The rear of the truck had started swinging wildly across the roadway. She guessed the truck was moments away from flipping over.
She flew low beside the truck, looping one end of her lasso around the passenger side front wheel of the truck cab, and tightly gripped the other end. She then rose in the air, lifting the truck just as it started to tip over. She continued to rise skyward until only the rear wheels of the last trailer touched the road. She strained against the weight of the loaded big rig.
Hera, if you won't help me then please help me help this man. As she finished that thought she realized that the truck grew lighter for her. She sighed as a wave of relief and strength washed over her. She eased the truck back onto the edge of the road and gathered her lasso.
She floated next to the driver's door and tapped on the window. The man inside the truck had his eyes closed and opened them when she tapped again. She motioned with her hand for him to roll down the window. The man, wide-eyed, did so. "Are you okay?" she asked.
He nodded his head, his mouth open but not saying anything. She smiled briefly at him and turned and flew off. From behind her she heard the man shout, "Thank you. Bless you. You're good people."
She didn't turn around but instead acknowledged that she heard him by waving back at the man as she continued to fly toward Central City to find Clark.
She pressed her commlink, "Superman, where are you?"
Clark answered, "At city hall. I found the Weather Wizard."
"Be there in a minute," she replied.
Yes, in a minute. Thank you Hera for answering my prayer.
Diana felt a chill as she heard a voice in her head say, "Not Hera. Persephone."
Diana dropped out of the sky to the ground and sank to her knees in the fresh snow. Her tears fell as she realized that only the Goddess of the Underworld had answered her prayers. But wait. Persephone isn't evil. She walks the land eight months of the year and is bound to her husband, Hades, the other four months. But while she walks the Earth, flowers bloom and life is abundant. Persephone heard my plea and answered when no other god would.
She thought back to what the trucker had just said. She was still a good person and maybe Persephone had just told her so. She stood up and wiped the tears from her face. She would go find Clark and she would pray to Persephone for guidance.
When Diana found Clark at city hall, he'd grasped the Weather Wizard by the collar. At his feet was the melted weather wand. The Wizard looked terrified; Clark just looked angry.
"Look at what you've done!" Clark yelled as he pulled the man closer. "Don't you realize people might have been killed by your actions? But you didn't care, did you?"
Clark lifted the frightened man in the air and glared at him. "Well, I don't care about you!"
Diana rushed to Clark's side and put her hand on his shoulder. She said softly, "Superman! Don't kill him." Persephone, don't let Clark kill him.
Clark turned to look at her and then scowled as he put the small struggling man back on the ground. But he didn't let him go. Instead he stared at the Weather Wizard and said, "You won't do this again."
She suddenly could smell the acrid odor of burning flesh and bone as smoke started rising from two small holes being burned into the man's forehead. The man stopped struggling and went limp.
Clark dropped the man to the ground and turned to Diana. "He won't bother anyone again." He lowered his head as he added, "We'd better go."
He didn't wait for her to respond but instead leaped up and disappeared into the clearing sky.
Diana looked at the drooling man on his knees in front of her and then back toward the sky. Suddenly, she thought she knew what she had to do – why Persephone had been the one that answered her prayers when the other gods had abandoned her.
Persephone was a good goddess but had to live with those who were evil. Perhaps Persephone was telling her that she wasn't evil but she was surrounded by evil. Maybe it was up to her to make sure the Justice Lords did the right thing from now on and, like Persephone with Hades, she could do that by ensuring Clark did the right thing…and did no harm.
And in time, perhaps, Hera herself would be pleased with her efforts, and once again answer her prayers directly as in days past.
And to Diana, there nothing was more important than that.
She bounded into the sky to follow Clark.
(Now – Keystone Memorial Cemetery)
It had rained earlier but the rain stopped when the four Justice Lords arrived at the gravesite of the Flash. Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Superman and Diana stood over the site looking at the newly installed headstone. J'onn had volunteered for duty at the Watchtower and Batman… well, no one expected Batman to attend and he didn't disappoint.
Grass had started to grow over the grave and Diana was surprised at how beautiful the wet grass looked. The headstone was plain and unassuming. Just like him. The stone had just his name, "Wallace West" - nothing more. Just the name of the man who was in his lifetime the fastest man alive.
Each of the heroes was lost in his or her own mediation. John broke the silence first. His voice cracked as he spoke.
"I miss him so much. I can't get over the fact he's gone. I still expect him to come running up to me, slap me on the back and say, 'Hey GL.'"
Shayera grabbed John's arm. A tear ran from underneath her helmet as she looked into John's face and whispered, "He was always there for me – for us."
Clark looked away for a moment and then looked down at the headstone. "He and I didn't agree on a lot of things but I miss him too. You couldn't help but smile when he smiled."
Diana placed her hand on Clark's shoulder and added, "We all miss him."
They stood at the site for a few more minutes before John said, "We have to leave now. We'll see you later at the Watchtower." Without waiting for a response, John formed a transport bubble around himself and Shayera. The bubble rose in the air and quickly sped off into the distance.
"You ready?" Clark asked as he watched the green sphere disappear.
"In just a moment," she replied. "You go ahead. I'll catch up."
As Clark lifted into the sky, Diana took her tiara out of her pocket and kneeled down over the grave. As she set the tiara on the ground she whispered, "This is for you, Wally, from your princess."
As she stood up, she noticed that she could hear the birds singing the way they often did after a summer storm. It's the gods' way of announcing to the world that the worst is over and the best is yet to come. Yes, I'm sure Persephone is listening now.
She started to pray as she soared skyward to catch up with Clark.