Writer's Opening Note: Only read this story if you can dedicate some time and thinking energy to it.
You see, in this story, I am combining the DC worlds of television and comics to tell a modified version of a tale DC is, as of this writing, telling in its comics universe. The explanation for this tale is long and immensely complicated, and if you do not read comics, or if you only read them occasionally, then chances are you will be confused, more likely a lot then a little.
So I have provided an explanation. It is in the chapter beyond this one. If you are a comic non-reader or rookie and wish to understand this story, read it. But as I said, have some free time and mental energy to devote. The world of comic books is an immensely complex one, often needlessly so, but them's the breaks. Besides, you might learn something.
I must point out I'll be inserting my own storylines, which are based on a comic/cartoon/original content fusion, in with the story, so you'll see some people being left out or changed a bit, and several Original Characters including a few playing major roles, so if anyone who DOES know comics comes in and goes "Hey, that's wrong!", it's because I changed it some. Hence, this story will go into a little more detail and go a little longer then the actual comic it is based on. Hey, it makes it different! I would also like to note to any of my fans who read this: this is out of MY canon. In essence, it's a What-If: anything that happens here will not be reflected in my other work.
My thanks to the writer Geoff Johns, for without him, there would be no story. For what he did, I hope I will not screw up or Stu around his world, too much anyway.
So, if you're back here after having read the explanation, or if you already know the score, or if you've decided to take the risk and dive in headfirst, hold onto your butts.
Some will live. Some will die. And the world will never be the same.
The small town.
Considering what field of fiction you read, either nothing ever happens here or it holds secrets so cursed and damning it would drain the color from any city-dweller's face.
But in this case, the former was in effect.
Which some may say was a miracle in and of itself.
It called itself Smallville, a small town in the state of Kansas. And one day, many years ago, a rocket had crash-landed in one of its fields. A couple found the rocket, and what it contained.
It was a baby, who would become the mightiest, greatest hero in all of history. For that 'sin' alone, you would think a reactionary curse would be brought against the small town.
But no. For the most part, the town remained as peaceful as it had been forty years ago. No great chaos came to destroy it. No wrath wiped it from the face of the Earth. No revenge scoured it from the globe. It was, then and now, safe.
Until two minutes ago, when the last thing anyone, especially a young teenage boy plagued with doubts and fears, could have ever expected, even in the state the world was at the moment, happened.
He moved so fast the human eye could barely follow, if any human eyes dared to try when they should have been fleeing for their lives. And it was not a voluntary movement. It was the reaction to a violent one inflicted on his person.
As Conner Kent, known to the world as Superboy, crashed through the apparatus of a car-carrying 18-wheeler, shattering the metal skeleton and sending cars tumbling to the pavement as he himself flew on.
As a figure, so fast, so powerful, was there to snatch up the falling cars before they hit the pavement and hoist them into the air like they weighed nothing.
"I don't know how you ever got away with it." The figure said. His voice was not quite a snarl, but there was rage in there, rage…and underneath, the undertone of righteousness. But not the righteousness of the just, though he certainly thought it was. Rather, it was the kind of righteousness that inspired men to put nations to the sword, to torture and murder those who they saw as sinful, to inflict pain and suffering in the name of the supposed greater good, when the only good it did was to enforce the doer's warped values. History had seen many of these men.
But never one quite like this, for he wore the visage and attire of what many would see as the greatest qualities of the human race. The skintight blue outfit with the red shorts, boots, and flowing cape, with a large yellow S emblazoned across his chest. It was Superman…except this man, this child, couldn't be any older then 15 or 16. He was Superboy…except the teenager he had just sent crashing through the trailer truck was also Superboy, and had laid claim to that name for a number of years.
Therein lay the heart of the issue of the dark righteousness in the caped Superboy's words. For now, we shall call him Superboy-Prime: the reason will be revealed later.
As Superboy-Prime was hurling one of the cars at Superboy like a bullet, the vehicle striking him like a meteor, and even as it did Superboy-Prime continued his seemingly damning indictment.
"You fooled everyone into thinking you were actually Superboy!" Superboy-Prime accused, even as he hoisted the second car, the first car not even done fully crashing into Superboy.
"You don't even have a CAPE!"
And he hurled the second car, sending it crashing into the first and sending the whole mess careening down to the ground, engulfing Superboy in an explosion of twisted steel and raging flame.
But he was Superboy, after all. How could such a thing hurt him?
Because the one throwing the cars had preceded that blow with many others…utterly devastating, unbelievably powerful blows.
Superboy had faced strong threats before. He had gone toe to toe with superpowered androids and the rogue offspring of dark gods and human beings, with supernaturally empowered psychopaths and men armed with weapons that could seemingly rend countries in half. He had been hurt. He had been knocked down.
But he had never been so thoroughly and utterly dominated in his life. And even as he tried to struggle through the wreckage of the cars, he found it wasn't over.
As the fist came down, slamming into his face, a face that could in theory be struck with a bullet train and cause the train to give instead of his head. Instead, it caused blood to explode from his now shattered nose.
His name was Conner Kent, and he wondered not only what had happened, but how it had gone so wrong, so quickly.
Maybe it was his punishment, for Conner was far from normal. Years ago, when Superman had been thought dead, Conner had been cloned from his cells to try and replace him. But not just Superman's cells. Another's as well. A man who not only would be willing to exploit it but knew the best ways to do so.
And even thought he'd fought back from the control, the horror and shame at what he had done, so easily, so brutally, without a second thought or a shred of regret, had sent him fleeing from his friends and back to the farm, where once a couple named Jonathon and Martha Kent had raised a baby found in a rocket to be the mightiest hero ever and a paragon for truth and justice across the entire universe: Superman. And now, with Superman's help, they were trying to give Conner a spectre of a normal childhood by raising him supposedly as Clark Kent's cousin. Now the farm acted as his penance, or rather, where he sat and let his overwhelming guilt and doubt control him, wondering how he could be a hero again, how he ever could have thought he was a hero, how he could ever help people once more. Even after his friends had tried to help him, with images and words and promises, and a gift, he could not shake the remorse.
And there he had stayed, even as the world seemed to fall apart around him. He stayed, and he sat, and he did nothing.
Until he had finally stepped outside scant minutes before, planning to do some yard work…and found another Superboy waiting for him.
This Superboy did indeed wear a cape: he looked more like a younger clone of Superman then Conner ever did. And he claimed that he was Conner's replacement.
And as Conner had stood in disbelief, that Superboy had, after a moment of hesitation, laid into Conner, telling him to admit that he had given up. Telling him that he, who Conner had never seen before in his life, was the Superboy that the world needed.
And though Conner would not admit it, part of what that Superboy had said had rang true. Conner had given up. He had let his lesser emotions control him.
But even as he heard this Superboy speak, he knew that even if it that was true, everything else he said rang false. He claimed that he was what the world needed…but Conner had spent enough time around heroes, including his older clone, to know the difference when they spoke between when someone claimed they would do something for the world and when they claimed they would do something for themselves. And with Conner, the latter came through in the caped Superboy's words loud and clear.
Maybe he wasn't a hero…but the Superboy standing before him was no shining beacon of light either. And he looked ludicrous, and Conner made sure, in equivalent words, to tell him that, and then to back off.
And it all went downhill from there, as with a scream of "YOU'RE NOT SUPERBOY!", the caped Superboy had hit him, sending him flying away from the Kent farm.
And it had hurt. It had hurt like hell. And Superboy was immensely hard to hurt. He may not have worn a cape, but he still possessed strength and invulnerability on the higher scale of such things. It took a lot of power for a blow to hurt.
But this Superboy had a lot of power. Indeed, he had more power then Conner could believe, as he tore through Smallville, turning it into his personal war ground as he ranted that he was the real Superboy. Even when Conner had snapped and fought back with everything he had, Superboy, or Superboy-Prime, had laid waste to him, as easily as Superboy could have laid waste to a normal human if he'd been inclined to pick a fight with one.
And Superboy-Prime wasn't done yet, and Superboy knew he was finished. He'd know it for a bit.
But he had access to tricks up his sleeve that he wagered that the so-called real Superboy didn't…
As Superboy-Prime rained down fists on Superboy, splitting his lip and blackening his eye. Conner coughed.
Seizing him by his shredded black shirt, Superboy-Prime lifted Conner overhead, perhaps to inflict more punishment or perhaps to scream once more that he was what the world needed, the real Superboy. He never did, as Conner's cough turned into a low, brief chuckle.
"…What?" Superboy-Prime said, as he lowered Conner a bit, his fist still cocked back…as Conner smiled, a smile that was more like a wince actually, but clear enough.
"What are you smiling about?" Superboy-Prime growled.
And Conner showed him, as he opened up his hand.
To reveal a large, circular yellow communicator, a large T on it…and a red pattern of lights flashing on it. How Conner had kept it from being smashed in the battle, nobody knew. But it had clearly been on for some time.
A fact that became abundantly clear as a golden lasso dropped down from the sky and yanked Superboy from Superboy-Prime's grip.
There are many Titans throughout the world, some official, some honorary, some offshoots, some acquaintances and some who just got ahold of a communicator and liked the idea of being part of something. And despite any question of legitimacy, they were all connected via their communicators.
When the red alert emergency signal begins flashing on all communicators, and does not turn off within ten to fifteen seconds to indicate error, one takes notice.
When said signal is traced and found to belong to Superboy's communicator, a metahuman with the power to destroy mountains and smash cities to ruin with his bare hands, signaling that it's a threat so grave that even he had to activate the highest distress signal, one takes it very seriously.
And when this is happening during a time when Armageddon seems at hand, when the world was racked by crisis after crisis, a seemingly infinite number of them…you don't just bring the cavalry.
You bring the whole damn battalion.
As Superboy-Prime turned to find himself face to face with not one, not two, but THREE separate superhero teams.
(Warning: Repetition ahead.)
The Doom Patrol: The superpowered misfits! They were led by Robotman, the mighty android, and included Elastigirl, the size changing giantess, Negative Man, commander of a powerful energy self, and its two just joined members: Grunt, a powerful ape creature with four arms, and Nudge, a young girl with undefined psychic powers.
The Justice Society: The best of the best! In the dawning era of World War II, they were the first superhero team and now, even many years later, still one of the greatest. Led by Mr. Terrific, the technological wizard, they were Wildcat, grizzled but expert hand to hand fighter, Hourman, commander of enhanced strength and speed from the Miraclo formula, Dr. Mid-Nite, brilliant physician who could see in pitch black and almost command it, The Flash I, Jay Garrick, the very first Scarlet Speedster, Sand, possessing a body composed of silicon and absolute control over it, Stargirl, heir apparent of the Starman legacy and wielder of the mighty Cosmic Rod, and STRIPE, aka mechanic Pat Dugan, who had fought crime for decades and continued to do so in a mighty mechanical suit.
But in a way, they had only been brought as backup. This battlefield truly belonged to the young.
For before Superboy was seemingly every Titan ever assembled, including short-lived Titans, unofficial offshoots, and acquaintances of the Titans who were only too happy to come along for the ride. Hell, even Duella Dent, the dangerously bipolar sometimes hero who called herself the Joker's Daughter (was she? Who knew) was there, and she'd been a Titan back in the dark ages for about two minutes.
The Teen Titans: Adolescent Avengers! And their friends…
The Elementals: Once heroes, turned villains, and in crisis, once again heroes! Scorcher, master pryokinetic! Floral, commander of mother nature! Zippy, electrically charged speedster! Rocko, with a form and mastery of stone! And Platinum Blonde, with a body of superstrong organic metal!
The Superhero Club: From the city of Ubertron, a place overflowing with metahumans, comes a cadre of their best and brightest…or well technically they're the Titan Gauntlet's friends. Paragon, the leader, the superstrong flying golden girl! Legend, the alien cloned from an immensely powerful otherdimensional warrior and growing into her own great powers! Evil John, who as you may have guessed wasn't really a hero, but he went where his friends did, commander of immensely powerful energy blasts! Crazed-Buzz, commanding a bee-themed mechanized assault outfit! And Bio-Weapon, master of explosives!
And the Titans themselves…
Honorary Titans: Wildebeest, mighty manimal! Hotspot, walking flamethrower! Red Star, living solar power and might! Pantha, strong and ferocious warrior! Bushido, noble samurai! Killowat, human dynamo! And while some had been unable to come, their numbers had been shorn up by older honorary Titans: Flamebird, would be vigilante warrior! Mirage, master of disguise and trickery! And down in Australia, Argent, commander of silver plasma energy, had recently assembled her own team of would be Titans, who were low in experience but high in courage: Risk, mutant with great strength, speed, and stamina! Prysm, a shining girl with vast light controlling powers! And Fringe, a brutish monster with great strength and a psychic shield protecting him from harm! And finally, Wonder Girl, wielder of powers from the gods themselves and a lasso from the War God Ares, who had just rescued Superboy, another honorary Titan. Not to mention Kid Flash, whose command of the Speed Force had allowed the massive group to assemble so swiftly.
Titans East: Mas Y Menos, the superfast twins! Aqualad, commander of the ocean and all in it! Speedy, master with a bow and armed with a million arrows! And Bumblebee, the shrinking, stinging leader who had the bee-themed costume before others started ripping her off!
And the actual Teen Titans. While some had been called away, taken on an urgent mission for reasons unknown, the rest had come, and they had come prepared. Even Sophie Matthews had come, though she was little more then a live-in to the Titans and had only come to assist her boyfriend with the wounded.
Robin, the Teen Wonder!
Beast Boy, master of the animal kingdom!
Raven, the dark master sorceress and commander of mystical energies!
Terra, supreme geokinetic!
Viridian, ultra-advanced android and walking tank!
Gauntlet, wielder of an ancient and superpowered artifact!
Scalpel, superstrong alien Blacktrinian armed with alien bladed instruments of destruction!
And…(couldn't resist) Savior, commander of the Shimmer power, a nervous system based energy that granted him strength, agility, reflexes, and ever shifting weapons and tactics, a jack of all trades and a master of quite a few!
They were all there, assembled in response to the emergency call. Indeed, so many Titans had come they looked more like their far future counterparts from the 31st century, the Legion of Super Heroes.
A group that, in another world, another timeline, another existence altogether, Superboy had once belonged to. And Superboy-Prime probably wished he WAS facing the Legion. Their membership tended to top off at 20, 30 max.
Superboy-Prime was face to face with over fifty superheroes.
And every single one of them, battered by endless battles, torn and ransacked by seemingly never-ending disasters, tired of watching people die because they were doing everything they could and it still wasn't enough, was in a foul mood.
Superboy-Prime stared, just for another second.
And then Beast Boy landed before him, transforming into the nastiest Utahraptor he could muster.
1. The crime of forcing another person to submit
to sex acts, especially sexual intercourse.
2. The act of seizing and carrying off by force; abduction.
3. To plunder or pillage.
4. What proceeded to happen to Superboy-Prime.
As roughly forty heroes proceeded to jump Superboy-Prime all at once, barraging him with their weapons, powers and fists, burying him under a tidal wave of wrath. How the heroes managed to avoid tripping over themselves, or shooting or striking each other, was a miracle in and of itself.
"…cassie…?" Superboy whispered through his swollen lips, looking up the golden haired beauty who had pulled him free, who he had such strong feelings for, feelings that had not protected her from harm when he had been controlled, the shame of which had caused him to flee…and in the end, perhaps it hadn't mattered. He had called, and she had come. With lots of friends.
"I brought the Titans Conner. Beast Boy brought the Doom Patrol. Kid Flash brought the Justice Society and the Titan offshoots. Who is he?" Wonder Girl asked, looking at Superboy-Prime, or what could be seen of him under the mass of heroes trying to pound him into mush.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING!" Superboy-Prime screamed, even as Beast Boy got in for his attack and tried to snack on the teen kryptonian's chest. "I'm not a bad guy!"
Some feet away, a group of heroes that had held themselves back swiftly gathered, assessing the scene.
"All right Holt. We're here. Superboy's clear. Now what do we do?" Robin asked, addressing Mr. Terrific, who was not only the chairman of the JSA but a bonifide genius. Robotman was there too, and suddenly so was Kid Flash.
"…Bart, wasn't it?" Mr. Terrific asked. Kid Flash nodded. "Gather the other speed…"
Before Mr. Terrific could even finish his word they were there, the young twins Mas Y Menos and the superfast Elemental Zippy (though her power was natural and hence much slower, but fast enough), as well as Holt's own teammate Jay Garrick, the very first Flash. Mr. Terrific, for his part, took it in remarkable stride.
"Get everyone in the town clear. This could…"
"More then clear."
Savior dropped down to the group, having held back as well. Raven was with him, her large ornate cloak swirling in the wind.
"Pardon my temerity sir, but I think they should get the people in this town not just out of it, but as far away as possible. I have a feeling this is going to get REALLY ugly…" Savior said, glancing to the side where the mass of heroes continued their assault.
"…Good point kid. Jay, Bart, you guys, get everyone to safety. We'll handle this." Mr. Terrific said.
Famous last words.
"Get…get off me…" Superboy-Prime said from beneath his attackers.
"Let's go son." Flash I said to Kid Flash, who nodded.
"Onit!" Zippy said in her sped-up record way.
"Mas Y Menos! Si Podemos!" The speed demon twins declared, and with that all the speedsters were gone.
"Ok Robin, now what do we do…" Savior began.
And then it all went to hell.
And a gigantic eruption of power and heat exploded from within the mass attack, as Superboy-Prime snapped and cut loose with a wide range blast of his heat vision, blowing away every single hero that was attacking him like they were ragdolls. Their bodies came crashing down all around, some landing well, some helping to catch others, and some, pardon the pun, crashing and burning. Some got up despite their injuries, others, agonizing from their burns, stayed down. But despite this great attack, the heroes were regrouped within seconds and attacking Superboy-Prime once again.
But this time was different. No longer confused and off-guard, Superboy-Prime was now fully ready to defend himself.
And he could do it very very well.
With little more then the tiniest shove, he hurled Hourman into Dr. Mid-Nite and Wildcat, knocking them down like bowling pins. The equivalent of a slap sent Robotman flying across the street and crashing into a car. A slight breath from between his lips blew half a dozen flying and swinging Titans and Stargirl from the sky, some of them crashing back to earth while others smashed through buildings. Gauntlet and Scalpel, backed up by Fringe, Aqualad, and Platinum Blonde, attacked on mass…and the only thing they managed to do was break one of Scalpel's blades on Superboy-Prime's shoulder before Superboy-Prime smacked them all away again, the sound of bones cracking lost under the racket of the battle. Mr. Terrific tried next, with Viridian, Mirage, Killowat, and Scorcher supporting him. Superboy-Prime fended then off within seconds, and it was clear even his lightest blows as he tried to defend himself were filled with unbelievable strength.
The streets shattered and buildings crumbled as the chaos of battle enveloped them.
And still the heroes came, as Negative Man and Grunt teamed up with STRIPE to try next, Negative Man wrapping his burning black energy form around him as Grunt and STRIPE attacked with their powerful fists.
"STOP HITTING ME!" Superboy-Prime yelled, backhanding Grunt and snapping most of the creature's ribs in the process as it flew off, even as Superboy-Prime tried to get STRIPE off him.
"You're the one breakin' bones in a mindless rage." STRIPE retorted, as he tried to retreat…too late, as Superboy-Prime got a grip on him.
"I just wanted to talk to Superboy." Superboy-Prime protested as he hurled the ten-ton robot through the air like he was a piece of cotton, as STRIPE crashed into Elastigirl's giant form and sent them both tumbling to the ground, even as Superboy tried to rip Negative Man's energy form from him, the burning touch of the black being doing absolutely nothing, finally tearing it free as the creature retreated to rejoin with its host.
"YOU started this!" Superboy-Prime yelled, even as Pantha landed nearby and charged.
" 'You started this'?" Pantha quoted back as she leapt. "He's just a stupid KID."
"I'M NOT STUPID!" Superboy-Prime yelled, as he began to turn.
With great power comes great responsibility, as another hero immortally said. And with great power must also come great control, in any task.
A teenage boy with great power and a sense of righteousness has little control.
A deluded teenage boy, even less so.
And a deluded teenage boy overflowing with rage at being attacked, like he was a villain, by a legion of C-listers at that…has no control at all.
As he turned and struck out at Pantha.
He didn't knock her down, or out.
He knocked her head clean off her shoulders.
Blood sprayed, as the body collapsed by Superboy, the head bouncing off across the ground.
"I…" Was all Superboy had gotten out before the terrible deed, as he looked in shock at his hands, now covered in blood.
"…Oh no." He whispered, as what he had done fully struck him, agony etching across his face. "…I didn't mean to do that."
The head of Pantha, killed so suddenly and viciously, bounced across the ground, landing near Wildebeest and Red Star. They too, stared in horror for a second.
And then they turned their eyes to the still shocked Superboy-Prime, and whatever he had meant to do no longer matter. In one moment, he had taken things to the next level.
As all the standing heroes saw the body, saw the head, saw the death. They saw.
Raven, who had held back still, felt a chain reaction of outrage and fury sweep through all the heroes. It was too late to turn back now.
Now the heroes wanted blood.
"You will BURN for that." Red Star snarled, as his whole body ignited in radiant solar flame, even as Wildebeest bellowed in fury.
"No…wait…I…didn't want…to…" Superboy-Prime protested,
"GET 'EM!" Terra screamed as her eyes glowed bright gold.
"I'm with you Terra!" Sand declared.
"As am I!" Rocko added, as the three heroes reached out and pooled their abilities, their differences swept away in their combined wrath.
And their power erupted beneath Superboy-Prime, a gigantic explosion of power from the earth that surpassed the energy released in any volcanic eruption in history, as the surge hurled Superboy-Prime into the air, battering his body with inconceivable force.
"Please!" He pleaded, more in his torment over what he had done then any pain the immense blast of geokinetic force had caused him, as tears leaked from his eyes, mixing with blood that wasn't his. "I said I didn't mean to!"
It didn't matter, as the massive earth attack was just the warm up.
As Superboy-Prime was immediately assaulted by the full force of every single energy and power blast and offensive weapon the gathered heroes could throw at him, a cataclysmic storm of holy fire that drove the teenager back into the ground and consumed him. Such an assault would have crippled if not outright annihilated any foe the heroes could have faced. It would have driven Darkseid himself, the dread lord of Apokolips and a legitimate god, to his knees.
It barely seemed to phase Superboy-Prime. Hell, the best it seemed to do was rip up his outfit a bit.
That factor didn't even register as the heroes charged in once more.
Even as Superboy-Prime's eyes, still leaking tears, flashed in a vast rage of his own."STOP!"
And Superboy-Prime slammed his forearms together, the power within both limbs combining and then erupting in a massive ultrasonic force wave that exploded around from around him. The ground beneath Superboy literally LIQUIFIED, while any normal hero standing next to the teen would have been reduced to a fine mist.
No one was standing directly next to him, but that barely helped.
Buildings around the battleground collapsed, while windows for miles around shattered, as virtually every hero was thrown away by the gigantic eruption of power, the vibrations actually causing bones to fracture and veins to burst in noses and eyes. Many went crashing back to the ground, some with added injuries and some with newly deliberating ones. Eardrums rang, while a few ruptured outright
But some were not taken down, through luck or skill, or both, and they did not hesitate in the slightest to resume the attack. One of their own had just died.
And most tragically, she was just the first.
"AIYEEEEEEE!" Mas Y Menos yelped as they went flying briefly: this might not be a concern except for the fact they were five miles from the battlefield and the shockwave from Superboy-Prime STILL knocked them over. It was a good thing they weren't carrying anyone.
"Offf!" Zippy grunted: she had more weight on her and hence didn't lose her feet, though she stumbled violently before she came to a stop. A moment later, Kid Flash was next to her.
"WhattheheckwasthatitsoundedlikeanH-bombgoingoff…" Zippy said. Kid Flash glanced worriedly at the battlefield.
"We can't do this for much longer! We have to help!"
"Why…" Superboy-Prime lamented in the midst of all his destruction.
And then, bellowing in rage, Wildebeest was on him, trying to drive him to the ground and rip Superboy-Prime's head off in turn for what he had done to Pantha.
"Why are you making me?" Superboy-Prime bewailed, even as Wildebeest clawed for his eyes.
The rage returned, as Superboy-Prime fought back, slamming his hand into Wildebeest's chest with a loud crack of bone.
And his heat vision ignited, and in full view of several still standing and shocked superheroes, he blew a hole straight through the man-creature, as Wildebeest collapsed, dead.
"NO!" Red Star bellowed. "YOU…!"
Superboy-Prime's eyes turned, and with a brief exhale he blew off a gust of wind so cold it was frightening, engulfing Red Star, dousing his flame, and freezing him solid within a second, turning him into an ice statue.
And in the distance, Raven watched in horror. It was going from bad to worse. It was turning into a massacre. It was…
"Raven." Savior said, and Raven glanced at her love.
His expression was pure ice itself. Raven didn't need to be an empath to know what that meant. Savior was an aspiring tactician, and he'd been holding back, not getting involved, for his own reasons, and they weren't cowardice. And he'd arrived at another decision, and his expression of artic ire said it all.
"Get me in close. Around his guard." Savior said.
But even as Savior spoke, brave heroes closer to Superboy made their own moves, as Risk leapt in with a punch.
Superboy-Prime grabbed it, and for a moment Risk could only look at his face, a study in contradictions, incredible sorrow mixed with an anger so immense it threatened to consume them all.
"You're ruining everything!" Superboy-Prime wailed.
And then he tore Risk's right arm off at the shoulder, Risk screaming in agony as blood gouted from the stump, even as Superboy-Prime tossed him away.
"Everything…" Superboy-Prime cried, tears leaking down his cheeks, even as Platinum Blonde charged.
Superboy-Prime punched her, caving in the whole side of her face and sending her flying as well in a great gout of blood.
"You're ruining ME!" He lamented.
As Bushido, no fear in his heart even in the face of such a threat, leapt up in the air behind Superboy-Prime, bring his sword to bear.
And died a warrior, as Superboy-Prime turned and blasted the samurai in half with a blast of heat vision.
"You're making me LIKE YOU!" Superboy-Prime accused, as the sorrow finally started to fade completely, replaced only by the rage, the terrible unstoppable rage…as dark shadows swirled into existence behind him.
"Like us?" Savior spoke.
Savior's talent derived from an energy that had come from his nervous system after a combination of a supposedly deadly neurotoxin mixed with chemicals in paint and doused Savior, granting him a beneficial mutation. Its origin in his nervous system allowed the power, called the Shimmer, to act like a hookup to the nerve systems of other living beings. If Savior could connect his power to someone's brain, he could, so to speak, cross their wires. Or re-wire them. Or fix them. Or…if necessary…seize them and completely rip them all out.
As Savior slammed his hands onto Superboy-Prime's ears and sent the Shimmer shooting through his ear canals and into his skull.
"We're heroes. You're a murderer. The rest is semantics." Savior hissed, and proceeded to try and turn Superboy-Prime's brain into soup.
Superboy-Prime howled, thrashing around, everything confused in the sudden violation, Savior trying to hold on, but it wasn't a human brain, it was a Kryptonian brain, a similar base but also quite different, and Savior didn't have a blueprint, he had to try and poke around, and he didn't have the time…
"ARRRGGHHHHHHH!" Superboy-Prime bellowed, as he fought back, as Savior tried to rush, but he couldn't find the right commands…
Instead he found something else, something he didn't mean to.
As his brain was utterly flooded with information, as he accidentally 'downloaded' Superboy-Prime's life, memories, experiences, and beliefs…data that completely overwhelmed him and froze him in shock
Superboy-Prime seized his wrists.
The bones snapped, as Savior yelled in agony, his body instinctively pulling away, the Shimmer turning its task from destroying Superboy-Prime's brain to protecting its host, as it managed to get Savior's hands free from Superboy-Prime's wrists via leverage and sweat, as Savior staggered back, Superboy-Prime turning to him, murder in his eyes, as he swung…
Shadows consumed the two, and when they faded Superboy-Prime was alone.
"You call yourself…" Superboy-Prime snapped.
Just in time for Gauntlet to slam him into the ground with an energy-hammer.
"Ughhhh…" Robin groaned, as he limped over to where Wonder Girl and Superboy where, Wonder Girl staying out of the fight to try and help Conner. "Conner…Cass…we're getting our asses handed to us…he's killing us…"
Superboy, the original, and battered as bad as any of the heroes, could only, for the moment, stare.
As nearby, Raven and Savior tumbled from Raven's teleport, Savior falling to his knees, his eyes as wide as saucers.
"Noel…here…" Raven said, taking Savior's wrists, gritting her teeth as his pain flowed into her body, even as the bones knitted together and Raven realized, in a way, the true pain wasn't in Noel's body. He'd seen something, and it had utterly floored him.
"My…god…" Savior whispered. "…He was right…"
"Who was right?"
"…Rob…he said that there was a multiverse…a crisis that united many worlds…didn't believe him…but…he was right…oh god…we're in the middle of something so big I don't know if all the heroes in the world can handle it…"
"Savior, snap out of it! We have to go back and fight!"
"Fight…how? Not like…Conner…older…stronger…oh god so much stronger, no limits…Raven, he pushed planets around…PLANETS…how can we possibly…fight something like that…"
"Having a crisis of faith, are we?"
The new voice snapped Savior out of his horror…because he recognized it. And it was one of the last voices he expected to hear, then of all times, as he turned to look.
Two new people stood nearby. One was in a simple red and purple costume with a full-face mask, a lean muscled figure with several jagged bolts coming from each side of his head. The other was a tall, statuesque blonde, dressed in a red shoulderless bodysuit with gold gauntlets, boots, and a long gauzy gold cape. She also looked quite nervous, as if she'd rather be somewhere else. The figure's mask hid his expression, but Noel had no need to know that. He knew who stood before him.
"Elijah." Savior growled.
"Well met, Titan." Said Elijah Versaw, teenaged Speed Force user and mass murderer (though he would argue they had all been bad and he'd had no choice), as he reached down and pulled back his mask to reveal it was indeed him, looking little different from when Savior had confronted him, an eternity ago. "Though I go by Scarz now. The Cauterize name…tends to tip people off."
"So you did escape back from the Speed Force." Savior said.
"My mom needed me. I could hardly stay away." Elijah said. "Looks like things are hardly going well for you."
Gauntlet would disagree from Elijah's statement, as he was leaping back, Scalpel with him and his friends from Ubertron behind him, as he formed a mock bugle and tooted it, irreverent as always, perhaps because he'd missed most of the carnage.
"CHARGE!" He trumpeted.
Too bad for him, as Superboy-Prime's distress had completely vanished. It was if he now understood what he had to do.
"Heroes?" He snapped.
And then he slammed both hands down on the ground. The earth shook beneath him, as several of the Ubertron members lost their footing and stumbled, even as Bio-Weapon fell down completely and violently banged her head. She wasn't use to getting in brawls.
That probably saved her.
"You DARE call yourself HEROES?" Superboy-Prime yelled, as Gauntlet and Scalpel attacked him. He didn't even seem to feel their blows. "This world HAS NO HEROES! It's poisoned, corrupt! You call THESE heroes?"
Evil John blasted Superboy-Prime from afar. He completely no-sold it.
"These are what you call heroes?" Superboy-Prime continued to accuse, as he swatted an attacking Gauntlet away, his shield only barely protecting him as he crashed into Paragon, even as Superboy-Prime dodged an attacking Legend. "Backstabbers! Assassins! Violent thugs!"
With a roar, Scalpel leapt in, swinging his glaive…and breaking it on Superboy-Prime's chest. Nigel Hastings rolled with it, as he landed and spun, kicking Superboy-Prime in the chest again. It was like kicking a battleship. And Scalpel could kick through a battleship, as Superboy-Prime looked at him with utter disgust.
Superboy-Prime's fist went straight through Nigel, and he bellowed in pain, as his vitriolic blood splashed all over Superboy-Prime and hissed. It only seemed to make Superboy-Prime madder, as if it was affirming his claim.
"You're no HERO." Superboy-Prime said, looking into Scalpel's agonized eyes.
And found nothing there but burning defiance.
"And you would know…what a monster…TRULY IS." He hissed back as blood leaked from his mouth.
"ARRRRGGGHHHHHH!" Superboy-Prime screamed, as he whirled and hurled Scalpel off into the distance, the alien bellowing all the way.
"NIGEL!" Sophie shrieked, distracted from her duties of tending the wounded as her boyfriend was tossed up in the air and away like he was garbage, even as Superboy-Prime looked in disgust at the blood hissing on his arm, and then looked at Gauntlet. All the good humour was gone.
"You've crossed the line." Gauntlet snapped, as yellow energy flowed out from his namesake and formed into several cruel blades.
"Line? Line? What would YOU know of lines?" Superboy-Prime accused. "You and all your breed!"
The gauntlet-weapons slashed at Superboy-Prime: the teen once again swatted Gauntlet away like he was an insect…and then turned his attention to Crazed-Buzz as she zapped him with several charged power shots. His eyes burned red.
"I've had enough." He said.
"Ekkkkkkkkkkkk!" Crazed-Buzz shrieked, before Evil John landed in front of her.
"Get behind me Wendy! As for you…!" Evil John snapped.
Superboy's eyes fired blistering lines of power.
As Evil John retaliated with his own massive blasts from his hands.
Which the heat vision cut right through, a proverbial hot knife through butter.
The blast drilled straight through Evil John, who gave a surprised gurgle and collapsed.
Leaving Crazed-Buzz standing there…looking down in shock at the hole that was also in her chest. It had gone all the way through.
She died without a sound, falling next to Evil John.
"…NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Paragon howled, as she charged.
"IT'S NOT MY FAULT!" Superboy-Prime yelled.
His uppercut shook the earth, as he blasted Paragon off into the sky like she was a rocket, sending her flying off into the horizon.
"AMY! YOU BAST-!" Was all Gauntlet could yell before Superboy-Prime was on him.
"You made me do it! You and all your kind! You're not heroes!" Superboy-Prime snapped, and punched.
Gauntlet's shield energy could theoretically only be pierced if Gauntlet believed it could. And since Gauntlet had just seen two of his friends die and another, a particular dear one, get punched into the stratosphere, the last thing he believed was that he was going to fail.
But in aspects of sheer power…belief only went so far.
As the sheer feedback from the blow coursed back into the gauntlet as the artifact exploded, the outer skin blasted off as Gauntlet screamed and flew back, tumbling violently across the ground, leaving pieces of his weapon behind.
"You brought this on yourself! I'm tired of watching you, and I won't suffer your presence any…" Superboy-Prime said.
He should have been paying attention, for he'd neglected perhaps the mightiest member of the team.
As Legend crashed down on Superboy-Prime, driving him to the ground and pounding on him with berserk fury. And much like Superboy-Prime, her genetics held incredible power.
But as incredible as it was…it was leagues away from what was needed.
"My god…" Savior said, as he watched the carnage, unable to do anything: it all happened so fast. "I can't…make it stop…"
"Oh come now hero, surely you don't think you've lost. Aren't you all never say die, and all that jazz?" Elijah asked. Savior turned furious eyes on him.
"Why the HELL are you here Elijah? We thought you were dead and gone. Why now?"
"If you haven't noticed hero, which would really be a feat of stupidity, the world's going to hell in a handbasket, and I'd let it…except I woke up this morning and found a bunch of blue robots on my island trying to kill me. After THAT, I decided that if the damn world wants to pick a fight with me, it won't be where I live. So here I am hero! What do you want ME to do, before I get bored and decide to leave?"
Savior grit his teeth.
"The alien. He looked kinda dead."
"You ran things through him yourself, killer. He made it through that, he can make it through this if we…"
"Done." Elijah said. Savior narrowed his eyes: he hadn't seen Elijah move, though that hardly counted for anything, even as Legend and Superboy-Prime continued to exchange thundering blows.
"Go take Raven the-"
"Done." Elijah said, and indeed Raven was gone.
"All right then smartass, you're the Speed Force master, the supposed best in the world before Kid Flash handed you your ass…"
"I can go? Sure thing."
"WAIT DAMMIT! All right, if you're so strong, why don't you just yank some Deus Ex Machina out of your butt and stop him?"
"Right, I'll go hit the invincible Superkid…"
"SuperBOY a few million times. And while I'm at it, I think I will try and pound a mountain to dust with my bare hands! Just because I can hit something a whole bunch really quickly doesn't mean it will work. My hands will give long before his face does."
"Then vibrate your molecules and phase through him!"
"Why do you think I'm here Savior? I sensed other Speed Force users congregating here. Don't you think that since they came here before me, they'd have thought of the same thing? 'Hmmmmmm, ok, I'll phase through the body of the being whose cells are bursting with solar power, to the point where each cell is like a mini sun!'. That's not the same as the cold, dead molecules of a wall hero. Why don't you go stroll through a nuclear reactor and tell me how well you do?"
"THEN…DO SOMETHING!" Savior roared. "And…who the hell is she?" Savior said, pointing to the blonde female, who hadn't said a word the whole time.
"Oh…" She said in a small voice. "I'm…I'm…"
And then it happened, as Superboy-Prime cut loose with another blast of heat vision, and while Legend was worn down she could still dodge it, as it flew on and right towards the trio.
"ACK!" Savior said, dodging. "Watch…!"
"Charlotte." Elijah said calmly, as the blast flew at the blonde teen.
"AIIYYEEAAHH!" 'Charlotte' screamed as she stumbled back…
The blast hit her right below her shoulder.
And stopped completely, as did Charlotte. Her costume was barely scorched.
"Did you feel that?" Elijah asked, as Charlotte stared at her injury, or rather the lack thereof.
"…No…I barely did." She said, amazed.
"I keep telling you to not doubt yourself Charlotte. You're very strong. Remember that." Elijah said, and turned back to Savior. "Long story short, this is my new 'friend', Charlotte Caileigh. She's a bit repressed due to upbringing…but she also happens to have a very powerful alien gemstone she found one day. I'll spare you just how it works, let's just say she's strong, and she's TOUGH. It's why her name is Empyrean."
"'The highest reaches of heaven, believed by the ancients to be a realm of pure fire and light…'"
"I know what it means! It doesn't matter! She's strong and tough? So's Legend, and she's losing too."
"Plus she looks like she's about to wet her pants." Raven said as she returned. "Your blonde friend, that is. I staunched Nigel's wound as best I could, despite his damn protests. He gets a hole punched through him and he's telling me to go help others…"
"Not like they don't need it." Elijah commented: indeed, the battlefield was littered with fallen heroes, only a few left standing.
"Savior, your Shimmer tactic seemed to work. Maybe…" Raven said.
"No. I won't be able to get close again, even if you warp me. He'll rip me to pieces before I can finish." Savior said.
"Hey guys what's…" Kid Flash said, and then he stared at Elijah. "You."
"Hello child. Miss me?" Elijah said.
"What is he…?"
And then, with a yell, Superboy-Prime utterly leveled Legend with a punch, as the alien clone went flying through a wall of rock and then through a partially collapsed building on the other side, exploding through that and landing beyond, not moving.
"Oh crap. Whatever we're going to do, we have to do it fast!" Savior said.
"I'll go see if anyone else has a plan!" Kid Flash said, and then was gone.
"Quick, Empyrean, go fight him before he does…something bad!" Savior yelled. Empyrean looked horrified at the concept.
"Well isn't this great. The person who can do something's too fragile, and the one who can is too scared." Raven said. "If only…"
And then she arched an eyebrow.
And then she turned to Savior, who had gotten a similar look of epiphany.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Raven asked.
"I think I must just be." Savior replied.
"Is that it?" Superboy-Prime said, glancing around. He wasn't even breathing hard. "Are you fraudulent heroes done forcing my hand? Do you realize what…"
Sometimes it takes a while to fully ignite, especially when it's already burned out once, but nothing picked up a so-called fallen hero like rage, as Superboy made his grand return by smashing both his fists into Superboy-Prime's face and sending him flying across the street.
Kid Flash watched, glad he was able to (well he supposed it would have happened anyway) to get Superboy back in the game. Because otherwise, he had nothing. Virtually every other hero was either injured, unconscious, or in some cases, retreated for their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. True, his fellow runners were still healthy, but he was the fastest one there and he knew he'd break against the rocks of the killer Superboy like he was a cheap wood boat. So he hoped, and prayed, that either Conner have a miracle turnaround…or they had a miracle period.
And wonder of wonder, Kid Flash got it.
Though not in the way he expected, as Superboy-Prime stopped swiftly, only to run into Superboy's fists once more. And once again, that fact didn't seem to be bothering him much.
"STOP CALLING ME THAT!" Superboy-Prime yelled, as he shrugged off Superboy's punch and returned the blow tenfold, sending Superboy flying backwards himself. "It's not my fault! You made me do it! You tainted me! You…!"
And the golden lasso dropped down over Superboy-Prime.
"Just SHUT. UP." Wonder Girl said, and activated the power of her lasso.
Wonder Woman's, made by the peaceful Amazons, made people tell the truth.
Wonder GIRL'S was made by Ares, and it had another factor: the lightning of Zeus himself. The more angry Wonder Girl felt, the more power it commanded.
And she was PISSED, as golden power erupted down the lasso and surged through Superboy-Prime.
And did…virtually nothing.
"I WILL NOT BE SILENCED!" Superboy-Prime said, as he grabbed the lasso and yanked Wonder Girl back into the ground with a powerful crash. "It's time to accept the truth! I am Superboy! I'm going to grow up to be Superman! I will save the world! You will just lead it…"
"SHE SAID SHUT UP!" Superboy yelled as he slammed down on Superboy-Prime, pounding him with fists so hard he literally began beating a crater into the ground. "You're not Superboy! Maybe I'm not either, but I know one thing! In all my life, when in control of MY facilities, I never took a life unless it was a last resort, and I never, NEVER, popped a hero's head off like a destructive two year old with a pez dispenser! Superboy? YOU'RE A KILLER!"
Superboy-Prime's fist shot up like a jackhammer, sending Conner shooting into the air, as Superboy-Prime followed him up, grabbed him, and hurled him back down into the ground before he violently stomped on Conner's chest. Blood flew from Superboy's mouth.
"No. You be silent." Superboy-Prime said, as he seized Conner and lifted him up. "I will tolerate it no longer. You usurped my name, dragged me down to your level, and I will not stand for it!"
The punch was so strong, Conner felt it through his whole body, as more blood flew from his mouth.
"Now, you failed experiment, GO TO HELL!"
And with a scream, Wonder Girl leapt to attack once more.
As Superboy-Prime blasted through her right shoulder with his heat vision, nearly severing her arm as well. She shrieked in pain
"AND TAKE YOUR TROLLOP WITH YOU!" Superboy-Prime screamed, and hurled Superboy into Wonder Girl, sending them both crashing through a upturned rock wall, as Superboy-Prime began to fly up…
And a hand seized his ankle.
As Superboy-Prime found himself being yanked back down, to look into the face of a woman he hadn't seen before, a rather lovely blonde, who wore a red and gold outfit that had once had a cape, a cape that had been removed…except it wasn't a female voice coming from the woman's lips. Rather, it was a male's.
"Those who live in glass houses are always the one who want to enact The Lottery."
Savior's punch sounded like a thunderclap.
And some distance away, Raven knelt next to a body, the body of a red-haired young man who looked to be asleep…until you looked into his eyes. And then you saw he wasn't asleep…he just wasn't there, period. He wasn't dead…he had just 'gone away'.
And she watched the fight, amazed that it had worked. The quandary before them was how they could get close to such a physical powerhouse as this Superboy has proven to be without dying. Empyrean, Elijah's new lady friend, had proven to have the endurance for it, but she lacked the courage and the experience. And Savior, while a high level tactician, as well as having a power that had actually seemed capable of doing some damage, was far too breakable in this situation.
The idea, which both Raven and Savior had arrived on, was what if they could be combined.
And while Savior and Empyrean couldn't do a goofy little dance or put on some earrings to create such a fusion, there was an option open to them.
For years, Raven had studied sorcery, light and dark, and there was a curse to take one's 'quintessence' (in essence his mind) and seal it in an object: a painting, a sword, a cup, anything.
And while the Shimmer called Savior's body its host, it could also live in other bodies.
And so Raven had, from memory (and that had been a big sticking point), taken Noel's mind and sealed it in the Shimmer, which had then left Noel's body (hence leaving him in his redheaded normal form) and entered Empyrean's…where Noel had 'set up shop' and taken over. It was tricky, it was dangerous, Raven had no idea how long it would work, and it could potentially cause the girl brain damage…but they'd done it anyway. They had no choice.
It had worked.
"Good luck Noel." Raven said, as she watched. He'd need it.
Superboy-Prime was confused. Here was the one who'd tried to destroy his brain, or his voice, but it was coming from this girl. What? Could the white-haired one switch bodies? Could he…?
Any questions Superboy-Prime had was quickly obliterated as Savior/Empyrean punched him again, another thunderclap of sound echoing from the sheer impact of the blow. They were still attacking him, and he'd had it, he'd kill ALL of them if he had do, as he surged back and punched…
And the final weapon came into play, as Superboy-Prime's punch missed by about two feet, as Savior/Empyrean was suddenly two feet to the left.
Maybe Superboy-Prime could move fast, terribly fast. But Elijah Versaw was a master of the Speed Force. And Superman had, for all his efforts, never beaten the Flash in a race.
As Savior/Empyrean took advantage of Superboy-Prime's surprise and punched him again, as hard as Empyrean could muster. Just how strong the girl was, even she didn't know, but with access to her memories, Savior had learned she could lift 200 tons without overly straining herself. With that kind of power, she could put a lot behind a blow.
And with Savior's mind behind her, she wasn't holding back in the slightest. That was, in some ways, the problem with Superman. He had trained to hold back, to be careful, to not cause unnecessary harm. Indeed, one of the reasons he had 'died' at Doomsday's hands (an event, Savior now knew, that may have been one of the reasons this whole crisis was set in motion) was that he had held back on utterly cutting loose until the bitter end, when it was too late. If he'd gone maximum full throttle from the very beginning, the Man of Steel may have never died in the first place.
And Savior didn't just learn from his mistakes. He learned from others as well.
Because he was hitting Superboy-Prime with absolutely everything Empyrean's amazing talent could muster, and he was doing it with calmness and precision, unlike the wild rages that Superboy and Legend had used: those had their uses, but they'd clearly proven ineffective and demanded a change of course. And as well, he had Elijah as his second man, using his intense speed not to attack Superboy-Prime but to ensure Superboy-Prime couldn't attack Savior/Empyrean. There was just one more aspect in the plan, which would bear fruit if Savior/Empyrean could just knock Superboy-Prime down.
The psychological aspect.
"I know who you are, 'Superboy'." Savior said, for he was the one speaking, and while with Empyrean's vocal cords he couldn't quite get his voice that didn't matter, it was close enough that Superboy-Prime recognized it. "Or perhaps I should call you Prime? After all, you come from Earth-Prime, a dimension that no longer exists. I know, because I saw your life. I see why you're doing this. And I know it's as empty as the void that claimed your piece of existence."
"GRAHHHHHHH!" Superboy-Prime yelled, as he swung at Savior/Empyrean again, but once again the punch hit air, while Savior/Empyrean's twin punches hit face.
"And you know, I understand it too. Watch your whole universe cease to exist, indeed, watch nearly everything you know get claimed by oblivion, surrender yourself to the same, and then be promised a second chance, a paradise. Except in the end, it's not as much as a heaven as it is a hell, as you have to watch our world, and see all it endured since then. And we've been through a lot. But the difference between your vision and the truth, Superboy-Prime, is that our world did not change until it was beyond acceptable. It changed until it was beyond acceptable TO YOU. This world, our problems…we have them, but in your mind, we changed until the problems were omnipresent. To you, we were little more then an abyss. And you know what Nietzsche said about gazing into an abyss."
"SHUT UP!" Superboy-Prime yelled, as he blasted heat vision at Savior/Empyrean…only to find the fusion behind him, as Savior/Empyrean rammed a cracking axe-handle down on his back, causing him to stumble.
"Why? Because I speak the truth? Jack Nicholson had no idea how right he was." Savior said. "What the hell did you think would happen Prime? That after doing all that crap with Alex Luthor you'd just fly off here to confront The Other Superboy, and when you arrived the Kents would say "Oh hello there, Real Superboy, you're our son now." and that Conner would rip off his face and reveal himself to be Brainiac or something? Pantha wasn't just stabbing you in the ego, she was right. You ARE a stupid kid."
"I AM NOT STUPID! I'M SUPER-!"
Superboy-Prime's latest punch and the subsequent aided dodge allowed Savior/Empyrean to punch Superboy-Prime in the throat…a blow that allowed Savior to note how much his hands were hurting. Damn, he may have been winning on points, but Superboy-Prime, despite everything he had endured, wasn't showing a single bruise, while Savior could already feel Empyrean start to tire: she hadn't trained for years in regards to cardiovascular conditioning after all. He had to find an opening fast…on the plus side, his throat punch shut Superboy-Prime up.
"Let me tell you what a hero is kid. A hero is someone who doesn't always get up with a smile on his face in the morning, who looks at people and feels negative feelings at least some times before them, who tries and fails and agonizes over it, who grows angry and makes mistakes, something terrible ones, who feels fear and doesn't want to die and sometimes wishes he could just use his power to tell the world where they could get off…and yet keeps getting up in the morning and going on and doing the right thing. We're awful people? This is a place of darkness? Of course it is! THAT'S REALITY!"
Elijah hadn't lost a step, as Savior/Empyrean floored Superboy-Prime with several more punches and a kick. Well, he might not be doing any damage, but at least Superboy-Prime was selling the punches.
"You know who we have to fear? Not heroes beset by doubt or paranoia or mistrust, or heroes who have to make grave decisions to protect themselves from the animals and predators who would burn down the world to sate their own desires. No. What we have to fear is people like you. The men on white horses, the 'paragons of virtue' who think that the only way to do things right is their way or the highway. I may be awful, but I'm emotionally and intellectually honest! I have darkness within me, but I also have light! We all do! It may not always balance, but it's always there! Harmony and entropy, side by side! I am who I am! While YOU, Prime, ARE ANYTHING BUT!"
And Savior/Empyrean finally saw his opening, as Elijah moved him away from another punch, as Superboy-Prime punched at him again, a very sloppy punch. It was working, he'd gotten inside the kid's head, a tactic that worked on even the mightiest of beings, especially if they were fueled by self-righteousness and fight or flight instincts.
And he acted, as a Shimmer strand shot from Empyrean's leg (and left a tiny hole, it not being his body), and looped around Superboy-Prime's ankle, as Savior/Empyrean shoved with all his/her power, causing Superboy-Prime to trip and fall…as Savior/Empyrean pounced, dropping a knee down and trying to pin the teenager, if only for a second…
As the Shimmer shot out and went up Superboy-Prime's nose.
And Savior learned enough from the first trip to cross enough wires so that Superboy-Prime couldn't bring his astounding strength to bear fully…and by then it would be over.
"We're not heroes? Well, you're a killer and a stupid kid on top of that. I'll take that as a compliment." Savior/Empyrean growled. "Because you're not going to be Superman. YOU'RE GOING TO HELL!"
"ARRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Superboy-Prime screamed, as the Shimmer again went to work, still needing to plot a course, but Savior was in Empyrean's body, he was much stronger, he would succeed this time…
As Superboy-Prime opened his eyes and twin suns glowed within, as his heat vision shot out and impacted on Empyrean's chest.
And Savior realized the hole in his game plan: Empyrean had taken a blast of heat vision before without harm, but that was a missed shot aimed at someone else. This was a concentrated, point blank stream, fired by perhaps the mightiest creature on the face of the planet.
And as the outfit Empyrean wore burned away, and the skin began to blister, Savior realized that in this case, quantity definitely mattered over quality. But he could take it, he could take pain…
But Empyrean couldn't, as the primal instincts of her body disrupted the delicate system that Savior had, Empyrean's willing submerged personality starting to remerge.Owowowowowowowoow…!
Hang on girl! Just a bit more! Savior 'answered', as he furiously tried to find the 'magic number' that would reduce Superboy-Prime's brain to the thinking ability of compost, but the pain and Empyrean's reaction to it was screwing up his concentration, and how the hell was he able to keep a constant stream of heat vision Savior was TRYING TO RIP HIS BRAIN APART…
It hurts it hurts it hurrrrrrrtttttttssssssss…
Be strong girl!
I can't it hurtssssssssss…
Life is pain! Take it! Pain is weakness leaving the body!
I can't take it…!
No girl I have him I can't be undone now…!
But in the end, it was Empyrean's body. Savior was just visiting. And his hours had expired, as Empyrean briefly took back control enough to rear back, the Shimmer latched to her nervous system and instinctively following the command to retreat…
The Shimmer popped out.
And Superboy-Prime hit Empyrean so hard he knocked the supertough girl cold in one blow, as she flew backwards like she'd been given a blast of Speed Force energy, crashing through several rock walls before she stopped against one, the Shimmer flying out of her from the impact as she hit the ground, the writhing mass of white lines landing near her.
And it couldn't hang around. The totality of Noel Collins' consciousness was sealed in it, and it wasn't meant to hold such a thing. Hooked up to a human brain, it could, but by itself it would rapidly begin to lose the information unless it found a new host…or returned to the original.
And its own thought processes were very basic, as the mass of energy lines immediately headed back for Raven, who had watched with horror as defeat had been snatched from the jaws of victory.
And Superboy-Prime, after being beaten on and psychologically dissected, was not in the most forgiving mood, as he flew after his target, Empyrean…
Only to find her disappearing when he drew close, as if she'd vanished into thin air. Superboy-Prime blinked, and then briefly looked around with telescopic vision, but he couldn't find the girl anywhere in ten miles.
His anger surged, furious that it didn't have a target…
And then he spied the fleeing lines of energy.
Roughly 20 miles away, Elijah stopped, letting Charlotte down on the ground as he swiftly checked for fatal injuries. He found none, and he planned to keep in that way, for both Charlotte and him.
"Dumb hero." Elijah said, having already grown tired of being selfless. "How the hell could they beat that? Let Superman handle it, handle everything. I'm out of here…"
An arm fell on his shoulder.
Elijah looked up to the worn but still strong face of Jay Garrick.
"You're not going anywhere."
Elijah stared for a moment, and then he snorted.
"Get OFF me, old man!" Elijah said as he slapped the arm away, standing up. "You might be the original, but I'm the superior product, and even I can't do a damn thing. None of you can. Even if you could beat him, there's not a thing in this universe that could hold him. This is over."
"It's never over." Said a new voice behind Elijah, and Elijah turned to address whoever that was.
And was struck dumb.
"And there is a place that can hold him." Garrick said, even as Kid Flash appeared nearby… as Elijah stared at the red-garbed visage of Wally West, THE Flash, the fastest man alive.
"And for once, you punk." The Flash said. "You're going to do something for someone besides yourself."
Savior sat up, back in his body, the form newly 'whitened' as Raven looked at him, and he stared at nothing for a moment, thinking of how he'd had it and then lost it…and right after that, how easy it would be to blame Empyrean. After all, she'd screwed it up. She and her inexperience and her fear. All her fault.
Much like all the death Superboy-Prime had dealt was all THEIR fault, his hands blameless.
It was so easy to blame others for failing. Savior knew that, and even he did it. It was an insidious process that could come to dominate even the most refined minds. Alex Luthor Jr was shining proof of that.
No…in the end Savior had done everything he could. He'd tried. So had Empyrean. He would not blame her.
And that wouldn't save him, as he looked over and saw Superboy-Prime even as the teen saw him.
"No children. This isn't your run."
"No Zippy. You go to your family. We'll take it from here."
"…Pozo del funcionamieto."
"Then let's go. All of us."
"Relax. I won't screw you over."
"I know you won't."
"No Bart. No more talking. Time to run."
And like that, they were gone.
"…Buena suerte." Said Mas Y Menos.
And in the end, Savior knew he was dead. He'd ticked off Superboy-Prime and now he'd pay the price for it. Maybe he could run, but he doubted it, and he knew he couldn't fight.
So he stood, and he stepped in front of Raven, to take the wrath, to let her escape. He would not tell her to run: she would know to, and decide if she wanted to. That was her choice. He hoped she made the right one.
As Superboy-Prime took to the air, lancing towards Savior.
He met the teen's eye as he came, without flinching.
"Shoot straight you bastard."
Superboy-Prime cocked back his fist…
And then, abruptly, in a blast of wind, Superboy-Prime was gone.
Savior stared for a second, unable to believe it.
And then a cracking sonic boom rang through the air. And Savior knew.
He'd been dead, and now he…wasn't. It was as if God himself had reached down and plucked Superboy-Prime from existence to personally punish him for his sins.
And the reality that for some reason he had been granted such mercy, when so many of his teammates had not, suddenly caused the strength to go out of his legs, as he collapsed, retching a few times as the sheer magnitude of it washed over him.
"…It's hard to face martyrdom when you realize just what it entailed." Raven said, as she put a comforting hand on Savior's shoulder. Savior coughed.
"…Go help the wounded."
"I'm fine. Go help them!"
"Of course." Raven said, and vanished in shadow.
Savior remained there…and though the exact reason was fleeting, he knew why he'd not died when others had.
For a moment, he almost resented it.
It had not been God who had taken Superboy-Prime moments before Savior had been set to see his end.
It had been the Flash legacy, as well as the outsider, as the four greatest speedsters in the world had run in, all of them seizing Superboy-Prime and carrying him off, accelerating beyond any rate of measurement that could keep up. By the time the sonic boom sounded, they had long flown past Mach 1 and were already cracking light speed despite only traveling a very short distance.
And they were only going faster, as Jay Garrick, Wally West, and Bart Allen, helped along somewhat resentfully by Elijah Versaw, ran, carrying Superboy-Prime along.
And he wasn't happy about the fact.
"STOP IT!" He yelled, but the Flashes (and Elijah) just ran faster, even as the rage returned and Superboy-Prime's eyes glowed crimson.
And the terrible beam of deadly heat flew from his eyes.
And was blocked by Jay Garrick's metal hat, as he grabbed it off his head and used it as a makeshift shield, the helmet somehow holding the beam's blast and preventing it from disintegrating Wally West's head.
It would be the last thing Garrick did, as he looked at Wally with mournful desperation.
"Wally, I…my tendons are tearing..." Garrick said. Elijah had called him an old man, and while he was spry for his age, he was indeed old, and that was catching up to him.
"…I'm not going to be fast enough for this." Garrick said, his noble instincts clashing with the dread reality that he just couldn't keep up.
If Elijah had been in charge of this tactic, he probably would have berated Garrick. But Wally West was in the lead, and he was far more compassionate then Elijah was. He understood.
"We just needed help with the running start, Jay…" Wally said. In other words: Go.
"…I'm sorry son."
And Garrick fell, bouncing a few times in a controlled fashion as he dropped out of the race, his hat clattering nearby.
"You did great." Wally said, as the three ran on.
"Good luck." Jay said after the speedsters.
They had traveled less then half a mile from where they had plucked Superboy-Prime, but already they had accelerated to the point where they had cracked light speed…and beyond.
As a golden energy sprang up around them.
And Superboy-Prime yelled his defiance.
"What are you doing?" He shouted.
"The Speed Force?" Bart asked, looking at what the three speedsters had entered.
"We gotta keep moving, Bart!" Wally replied. "We gotta get this psycho away from everyone!"
"But why did he do it? Who is he?" Bart replied.
"Who cares?" Elijah snapped.
"Don't stop running Bart!" Wally said.
The way he said the words should have been an indication that it was going to hit the fan for the last time, but it wasn't.
"Don't STTTTTTTTTOOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP…!" Wally West yelled.
And then suddenly he was gone. He didn't fall like Jay. He didn't run ahead. Superboy-Prime hadn't struck or blasted him. He just vanished, like he'd been pulled away.
And unfortunately, this had another grave side effect. While Elijah Versaw claimed he was a Speed Force master, and he was, the Flash linage had the advantage that they could do things at the highest speed with a minimum of effort. For Elijah, when you got up to this level of velocity, a murderous level of concentration was required.
And Wally's abrupt disappearance interrupted it, and Elijah lost his footing, vanishing back into the golden ether behind the group, which was now down to one, Kid Flash, the heir apparent.
"Flash? Cauterize?" Bart said, in shock.
A feeling that kept him from noticing that his speed seemed to increase even more, almost instantaneously. He would not understand what had happened, just where Wally had gone, until later…but for now, he did not know, and it terrified him. He'd even have preferred to stay running with Elijah, who'd tried to kill him, than go it all by himself.
Superboy-Prime screamed, though Bart barely noticed.
"Wally? Elijah? Wally, where are you doing?" Kid Flash said, as despair suddenly seized him. "I can't do this! I can't do this alone!"
Kid Flash wished it had been Elijah speaking, but he was still lost. The speaker had been Superboy-Prime.
"You're nothing." The kryptonian said, having taken the plunge from rage to cruelty. "You're even weaker then the rest. You've always been stupid. I watched you."
Bart's eyes widened.
"Stupid little kid. Left all alone."
In reality, Superboy-Prime was the stupid one, for despair was a far better thing to stir in your foes then anger.
And in his words, Superboy had not desponded Bart Allen. He'd enraged him.
Kid Flash's fist slammed against Superboy's face, his innate mass greatly increased by the sheer speed he was going at, even though he broke most of his fingers. He didn't notice.
And even as Kid Flash, his eyes narrowed in fury, his fists slamming against Superboy-Prime's face, lashed out…even he couldn't ignore what happened next.
As a hand emerged from the golden energy behind Superboy-Prime, a hand that stayed in place despite the fact Bart was still running…a hand that was part of a red costumed arm.
As Barry Allen, The Flash, emerged from the Speed Force behind Superboy and clamped an arm around his neck.
"You're not alone either." Barry said, as Superboy-Prime looked in astonishment at this man who had literally come from nowhere.
"Grandpa?" Kid Flash said, unable to believe it himself.
As another hand came from the power, seizing Superboy-Prime's right wrist.
"Come on Johnny…"
As Max Mercury, zen master of speed and Bart's former mentor, long gone into the Speed Force, emerged by Barry's side, and even as he spoke, another hand came from the power as well, seizing Superboy-Prime's left wrist, as Johnny Quick, speedster of World War II, also emerged from the energy, the greatest runners ever reunited in the power that had blessed them. Even Wally, in his own way, was there.
"Max!" Kid Flash said, amazed.
"Let's help the kid out." Max Mercury said.
"You got it." Johnny Quick replied.
"Don't forget me."
And Elijah Versaw, finally caught back up, ran back up next to Bart, grabbing Superboy-Prime once more.
"…This is not your time and place." Barry said.
"I know. But I hate leaving things I start unfinished." Elijah said. "Let's blitz."
"…Let's." Barry replied.
"NO." Superboy-Prime said, as he finally realized the sheer enormity of the situation. "NO! Don't do this to me!"
"Wally's waiting for you Bart." Barry said.
"Don't be afraid." Max added.
"I'm not Max." Kid Flash replied, and he wasn't. "Let's go."
And with Elijah, Kid Flash performed the final burst, even as the legendary speedsters pulled back.
"NO! They made me do it!" Superboy-Prime wailed, as he was pulled in.
As Kid Flash pushed on away from Elijah, shoving Superboy-Prime on.
"You can't get rid of me! I'm going to be Superman!" Superboy-Prime shrieked. "Don't any of you understand? I'M GOING TO BE SUPERM…"
And the golden energy exploded in a final, brilliant radiance.
And in but a moment, faded away completely, leaving Jay Garrick standing mere feet from the carnage wrecked by the battle…and Elijah Versaw coming to a stop on a street several blocks distant.
And they both instantly knew what had happened.
Jay Garrick turned, looking at his friend Ted Kord, aka Wildcat, who immediately saw the look of great sorrow on Jay's face.
As elsewhere, Elijah stared at his hands, a look of disbelief on his features…and grief as well.
"Jay, you ok?" Wildcat asked.
Jay had gotten his hat back somehow, and he lifted it, looking down on it, still smoking from Superboy-Prime's blast of heat vision.
"…The Speed Force, Ted…" Jay said.
"…it's gone." Elijah finished, speaking only to himself and what he, and all speedsters, had just lost.
You would think, with all the havoc caused, that the battle that had consumed Smallville would be where it all mattered.
In reality, the battle had meant very little in the grand scheme of things, as elsewhere, the true effect of all that happened was about to be unleashed. And unlike in Smallville, there was absolutely nothing or anyone to oppose it.
Not that the assembled superheroes cared. Shell-shocked and exhausted, they picked their way over the destruction, counting their dead and tending to their wounded.
"Sophie…go help someone else." Scalpel hissed.
"No one else is someone I love with a big hole in them, you big stupid hero." Sophie said, trying to keep her sobs back as she treated Nigel's injury. For a human it would have been invariably fatal, but for Nigel, he had a chance of recovering…a chance.
The Elementals kept to themselves, trying to help Platinum Blonde, while Gauntlet frantically searched for Paragon and the other Titans tried to find their own friends and loved ones.
"You ok Terra?" Beast Boy asked where his girlfriend was sitting on the ground.
"Just a few…scratches…" Terra replied. The bloody gash on her arm she was holding tore her lie apart, but she was fine compared to some, as Beast Boy immediately to go check on an old friend from California: Bette Kane, aka Flamebird, who was lying on the ground clutching her head.
"Bette?" He asked.
"He hurt them…killed them…" Flamebird said, her voice filled with shock.
"Stay with us Bette. It's ok. It's over…"
"What happened?" Robotman asked, one arm a tangled wreck.
"We lost at least five members in that attack. Number could go up." Mr. Terrific said, as he both tried to help his team and their allies and check the battle data on his T-Spheres.
"It was bad…overall." Robin said, as he and Wonder Girl supported an injured Superboy on each arm. "But Conner…what happened? Who was that?"
"…I…I don't know…" Conner whispered.
The assembled heroes turned to Savior, who had gotten over his survivor's guilt. It was time for action.
"And it's even worse then any of you could begin to believe." Savior said.
"I don't see how…wait. Do you see that? Up in the sky?" Mr. Terrific said.
Words of a prophet, as across the universe, everything as the world knew it came to an end.
There was no rain of fire or horsemen riding the streets to signal it. No.
A section of the group that had stood against Superboy-Prime just disappeared.
As did what remained of Smallville.
Into thin air.
"I see it. What in the world…?" Jay Garrick was saying as he himself vanished.
"Jay?" Stargirl said in shock as it happened.
"Flamebird?" Beast Boy said, looking at where his old acquaintance had been.
"…Sophie?" Scalpel whispered, as he looked at where his girlfriend had been. Now she was gone.
A quick head count clarified it. Jay Garrick, Wildcat, Hourman, Sand, STRIPE, Flamebird, Sophie Mathews, and all the Elementals had completely, utterly vanished.
It was if they'd never existed.
Or rather…if their reason for existing had completely changed.
Once, there was one Earth. A great crisis had made it that way.
Now, another great crisis had undone it.
Two Earths now existed, floating side by side. Earth-1 and Earth-2 once again existed. What was past was present.
As an old man, who still wore the visage of the world's greatest hero, and his elderly sick wife, found themselves in front of a giant building, which was proudly named The Daily Star.
"…We're here, Lois." Kal-L said. "We're home."
"Savior, remember when you said it was worse then we could ever believe?" Robin said to his fellow Titan.
"All too well." Savior replied.
"I have a feeling that the bad stuff is only just beginning."To be continued…?
We shall see.
In Infinite Crisis #5!