Ut Is Res Plurimus… (When It Matters Most...)
Written by: djb21212
Disclaimer: DC Comics owns their characters. I just own this story.
"I'm only trying to help!" Diana called to the angry mob of rioters and onlookers as they ran away from her, more frightened of the one-time heroine than each other's weapons. She had returned to Boston, a city she had allowed herself to consider a second home, to deal with the mass of riots and disasters sweeping the former 'city of Independence' lately. It was like this in every city on Earth, humanity stricken with confusion and anger interlaced with fear. Some of it, she had come to admit lately, was her own doing.
There was blood on her hands now, hands that once could gently caress but still fight. It was the criminal blood of Maxwell Lord but still blood, a crimson stain that marked her like an invisible scarlet letter. Most of her peers avoided her at best, yet none condemned her more than the one-time friend she saved. It was his look of shock and judgment that shook her being, something that seemed to mar her flawless form more than any weapon could. She had done it to save him, to avenge the murder of a fallen comrade. Yet none of it mattered.
Nothing seemed to matter anymore.
Diana's reverie was broken by the sound of an aircraft, the wind blowing her long ebony hair around her face. She moved it out of her eyes and gasped at what she saw. It was an invisible plane, somewhat similar to the jet she once used. The design seemed to invoke something else as its cockpit opened, a sense of both nostalgia and fear sweeping through her Amazon blood.
"…Mother?" Diana managed to say as she gazed upon the seemingly-familiar passenger, at first thinking that she was her long-dead mother and former Amazon queen, Hyppolyta. The woman stood there as she shook her head, her hands placed on her hips as blue eyes met blue eyes.
"I'm afraid not." The woman answered, seeing the confusion written on Diana's face. "My name is Diana Prince, and the fate of the universe is at hand." She extended a hand to her, realization crossing the mind of her namesake as they grasped hands to board the craft. She bore a striking resemblance to Hyppolyta as well as Diana but there was no mistake. This was her Earth-2 counterpart, possibly here to replace her the same way Superman was to do with his doppelganger.
"You're… you're me?" Diana asked as the invisible plane went airborne once again. "You're the Wonder Woman of Earth-2?"
The older Diana nodded as she piloted the craft upward into the skies of Boston. "I left the island in the same way as you, seeking adventure and fascinated by Man's World… and trying to win the heart of a boy." She smiled at the pleasant memory of her Steve Trevor, remembering the life they shared before her universe was erased. "When the multiverse collapsed, I was granted entry into Mount Olympus with my husband. We were spared, the same way Superman and Lois Lane were. Spared for this very moment."
She turned to her counterpart as she continued, the craft ascending higher and higher. "When my Earth returned, my husband used the last of his strength to bring me here to you. But since I left Mount Olympus, the gods' blessings are fading and soon I'll no longer exist. There isn't much time for me or you. Superman needs your help."
Diana glanced out of the invisible plane, seeing that they had now exited into space. She remembered how Kal, Bruce, and the others had turned away from her after murdering Max Lord. She had done the only thing she could do to save her friend from his own inner demons, to save him from a waking nightmare of his wife's death. Instead, he now looked at her with condemnation and shame.
"Superman doesn't want any help from me." She admitted to the Earth-2 Wonder Woman. "In his eyes, and the eyes of the world, I'm nothing short of a killer."
"I didn't SAY want, I said NEED."
"I already know why you're here. You're here to replace me now that I failed my mission."
"Your mission is OVER, Diana." The Earth-2 Diana stressed to her counterpart. "The gods are gone, the Amazons are gone, and your mother is gone. Instead of dwelling on it, accept it and move on."
"…What do I do?"
"You can start by trying NOT to be so perfect. You have been a princess, a goddess, an ambassador, and a warrior. The one thing you HAVEN'T been for a very long time… is human. Despite all of the flaws within humanity, there is just as much strength. Remind them of that… and remind HIM of that."
Diana Prince paused as she looked at her younger counterpart from Earth-1, seeing that the former Amazon was beginning to finally understand. In many ways, they weren't so different from one another. Both of them had come to a crossroads in their lives as Wonder Woman, making difficult choices. Her choice led to her marriage to Steven Trevor and a daughter now lost to the vestiges of time. This Diana had, instead, chosen to measure against now-impossible standards defined by others. It was those same standards that almost crippled her as a heroine.
She had seen the growth of her younger namesake over the years, knowing just how important her self-definition was to her. She had also seen the threads of friendship weave tightly between her and the Superman of Earth-1, before now seeming to be unbreakable. For a time, the two heroes came to depend on one another, forging a bond going beyond the boundaries of friendship and even beyond romance. It was a bond that the Man of Steel needed to remember if any of them were going to survive this madness.
"He STILL needs your friendship, Diana, especially now." The older Wonder Woman told her counterpart, seeing the light of recognition coming across her face. "Just remember that everyone makes mistakes... even Superman."
The Earth-1 Diana suddenly found herself outside of the invisible plane, watching as it vanished with the Earth-2 Wonder Woman. She allowed herself a small smile as she muttered a silent word of thanks, even if her older doppelganger wouldn't hear it. She then turned to the sound of crashing and pounding below, seeing that many of the buildings were crumbling. Her resolve refreshed, Wonder Woman flew downward to the chaos below, hoping that she was in time to help a friend.
"I won't let you hurt anyone else!" Kal-L, the Superman of Earth-2, shouted at his younger namesake as his fists collided over and over. His grief overwhelmed his senses, his rage at failing the woman he loved consuming him. Gone in an instant, because of the other Superman and his peers.
Clark could only block the hammering blows when he could as he countered with a few of his own, hoping that somehow his Earth-2 namesake would listen to reason. Still, a small part of him couldn't blame the older Man of Steel. If his own Lois died after so much effort to save her life, he would probably act in the same manner. Nevertheless, she was back on his Earth with everyone else waiting for him. He couldn't waste any more time fighting like this.
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Clark said, knocking his older counterpart back into some buildings. "The city is empty! We're the only ones here!" He the found himself thrown down, tackled by the Earth-2 Superman. This debate was getting nowhere and he was running out of time.
"Because of you!" Kal-L retorted, his voice carrying the tone of rage and bitterness as he continued to throw punch after punch on the younger Superman. "This is all your fault!" He suddenly found himself in the familiar golden grip of a magic lasso, it's bonds unbreakable even to him. It was Wonder Woman's weapon of choice.
"Stop!" Clark heard Diana say as he began to stand. What was she, of all people, doing here?
"Get this off me." Kal-L told her, a dangerous tone in his authoritative voice. Another one came, bring the same disease that the other Superman brought. The same corruption. When will it end?
"I want us to talk... and I want the truth." Diana explained as she continued to grip her lasso. "Why are you fighting Superman like this?"
"I don't need your magic lasso to tell the TRUTH, Wonder Woman. It's what people from MY Earth do." He forced the lasso off, having been immune to it's magic for years, and glared at his younger counterpart. "The truth is that YOUR Justice League lobotomizes it's enemies. YOUR Batman built a satellite spawning an army of killing machines. YOUR Wonder Woman MURDERED Maxwell Lord. And YOU, Superman, could've stopped this before it even started. You SHOULD have!"
"You keep mentioning that all of this is my fault." Clark told his older counterpart. "How? What have I done?"
"You should have led your peers to a better tomorrow. Instead when the universe needed it's finest heroes, they REFUSED to stand together. Your world could've been a perfect world and you wasted it! All of it, the darkness and insanity, started the day you DIED at the hands of Doomsday! That's the reason I had to come here, why MY Lois died!"
"You're saying that all of this was to bring back YOUR so-called perfect Earth?" Diana said incredulously.
"If you're right, then this Earth isn't perfect either." Clark added. "A perfect Earth doesn't need a Superman, or anyone else like him."
Kal-L stopped as he reflected on the younger Superman's words, sounding like a promise he made many years ago. He wanted once to make his Earth into one where he wouldn't be needed anymore, where he and Lois could retire in peace. Everything fell apart when his Earth was wiped out years earlier in a wave of antimatter. It was beginning to make sense. This wasn't his Earth... because he was still needed.
Clark and Diana followed the older Superman as he leaped forward, landing to where the body of his Lois Lane was still laying. He had lost so much, only to be the survivor of yet another dead world again. She was his only reason to keep going, his only reason to live... and now she was gone.
"A perfect world doesn't need a Superman..." he muttered as he held her still form close, ignoring his younger mirror-image and Diana behind him. Clark could only stand silently as he thought about his Lois, waiting for him back on his Earth. Everything they had shared until now was summarized with this scene, a reflection of their feelings for each other over the years. Yet as he silently watched his counterpart, something told him to truly think about... why.
"He's right, you know." Clark found himself admitting as a steady realization came over him, Diana turning to her friend and one-time ally. "Somehow, this... insanity is my fault. If I'd been a better leader, I... I wouldn't have to question every single decision I make. I wouldn't have to hold back so much when it counts." He turned to Diana, seeing a questioning look in her eyes. "I wouldn't have turned my back on the people I call my friends."
Diana was silent as she listened to her former friend admit his failing. Why was he saying this now? Was he actually believing his counterpart's scathing words?
"When you killed Max Lord, it was like I was looking at someone I barely even knew. I... tried to come to terms with what's happened, with what all of us became since then and it's the same conclusion. You killed to save me, Diana, and... and I condemned you instead of helping you through this." His powerful blue eyes looked helpless now, as if regret had dwelled there instead of disappointment. "I'm sorry, Diana. I'm sorry for all of this."
"Kal, I'm... I'm also sorry." Diana finally replied, finding her voice now a familiar gentleness rather than the cold Amazon tone she harbored for several days. "I guess we all turned our back on each other lately. I only did what I could to save you and stop Lord, that's all." She was interrupted as they heard the agonizing yell of the Superman of Earth-2, seeing him surrounded by a beam of light. He was being split into other Supermen before their eyes, each of them familiar yet foreign as they faded like ghosts.
Clark flew over to catch his counterpart as he fell to his knees, the unknown light having drained him of his energy as it vanished. The older Superman looked at both of them, understanding in his eyes now instead of the insanity of grief.
"I've... I've made a mistake in judging you." Kal-L told his younger namesake as he began to stand. "I accused you of starting this, of creating the anarchy that was on your world. I was wrong."
"All of us have made mistakes before." Diana explained to him. "What we do is learn from them and grow, become better people for them." She then glanced upward to the sky, now seeing it filled with alternate Earths. "What do we do now?"
"We have to get to your Earth fast." Earth-2 Superman said. "The multiple Earths are being brought back but they're unstable. If they collide, they'll destroy each other."
"Let's go, then." Clark said. As the three superheros started to leave the ruins of the Metropolis of a bygone era, Diana looked to her left to see a young man standing next to her. He was faint, almost like a ghost, but very familiar. He wore a uniform that invoked some of Clark's as well as her own, his blue eyes pleading... something to her. He mouthed something as he vanished, his words inaudible.
"Something wrong, Diana?" she heard Clark ask her, his hand extended to her to join him and the Superman of Earth-1. She shook her head, smiling for the first time in many months as she took her friend's hand.
"No, Kal." Wonder Woman replied as she floated upward to meet them. "Everything fine." They flew onward, their destinies tied to a single Earth's survival. The future was not written in stone or blood, but it would be a better tomorrow. Somehow.
Not The End...