EPILOGUE: PUBLIC RELATIONS
North Pole, July 12, 2008
As a soft, whirring alarm echoed through the Fortress of Solitude, Alison lightly stirred, still trapped in that blissful oblivion between sleep and the waking world. The alarm echoed again, and then once more, before going silent, but not before it had fully woken her.
"Morning, beautiful." Clark said, smiling.
Alison smiled sleepily, her eyes still closed, as she nuzzled into her lover's bare chest, savoring the feel of his strong arms, oh-so-perfect for cuddling, as they encircled her. As she stirred, she started to recall the night before...and her smile only grew, her memory bolstered by her light dizziness, and the tingling of her skin. "Morning." Alison sleepily cooed. She groaned to herself. "What was that?"
Clark lightly chuckled. "That was the Fortress' morning-alert; when I was living here, I'd programmed it to go off at sunrise. Now that we're all here, it's reactivated." he confessed. "Sorry."
Alison giggled. "Don't worry." she assured him. Then, she frowned, as she imagined what she must look like. "Oh, God, Clark," she groaned, "I must look like a total wreck..."
Clark blinked in confused incredulity at her statement, before he smiled lovingly, as he moved her to his side, moving atop her, as he gazed upon her; her hair was prettily mussed, with a few strawberry-blonde tendrils flowing down in front of her face, partially hiding her crystal eyes, as well as curling around her shoulders, her skin coated in a light sheen, giving her a lovely glow. "Alia," he whispered, "you're absolutely stunning..."
The sweetness of her tausha's declaration, and the way he was holding her now completely banished any insecurity from her mind, instead flooding her thoughts with memories of their time together; their first time made sweet by innocence, and searing by pure passion and love. They had gone so wonderfully slow, their first time, learning to please each other, only setting an utterly perfect tone for their next tryst, after which Alison had been wonderfully drained, and fallen asleep right on her Clarkie's chest. Alison smiled. "Were you watching me?" she cooed.
Clark smiled sheepishly. "A little." he confessed. "You looked so peaceful; I couldn't help it." His expression became a bit worried. "Ali...are...are you okay?" he asked. "With everything?"
Now it was Alison's turn to smile, as she gave her beloved a passionate kiss. "Yes, Clark." she declared, as the kiss ended. "I am very okay with everything."
Clark smiled, his expression still tinged with loving concern. "I'm glad," he replied, "because...that first time...I...I was worried that..."
Alison's smile became a bit guilty, as she recalled how very vocal she had been, their first time...and the second time, she amended. "Well, for women, the first time does hurt a bit." she admitted. Then, before her tausha's expression grew more concerned, she sweetly kissed him, adding, "But it wasn't as painful as I had thought it would be, Clark; it was just a bit of a shock, at first, that's all." She smiled sweetly. "I will never regret what we shared, Clark."
Clark smiled back. "Neither will I." he promised. With that, he gave her a soft, loving kiss, before moving to get up.
Alison was confused. "Clark..?"
Clark smiled boyishly. "As mind-blowing an experience as being with you is, Ali, I promised the rest of the League that I'd meet them, this morning, and if I stay much longer, I don't think I'll be able to leave." he said. Alison smiled at that, her smile only growing as she took in her lover as he stood up. "Fortress," Clark instructed, as he picked up his uniform, "activate electron-shower chamber."
Instantly, a door slid open in the wall of Clark's room, revealing a shower-like chamber beyond. Clark smiled at Alison. "I'll only be a few minutes, Ali, okay?"
Alison smiled back. "Okay." she cooed. With that, Clark headed inside the chamber, the door closing behind him, as Alison laid back down on the bed, the silvery sheets tangling more around her body, as she closed her eyes, to claim a few more minutes of precious sleep...and to let the thoughts of her and Clark's wonderful first time together turn to dreams...
Clark felt like he was in a perpetual daydream as he stepped into the electron-shower, letting the ionized waters wash him clean. 'Did last night really happen?' he thought, not even bothering to try and keep the goofy smile off of his face.
Being with Alison had surpassed any fantasy that he had dared to have...
And all through the night, he hadn't heard so much as a peep.
Clark's smile only grew, as he promptly lowered the temperature of the shower-water. He'd been right; if he'd remained with Alison for much longer, he wouldn't have had the willpower to leave her side.
Still, he'd probably need to have his head examined for leaving his beautiful taushi's side.
After his shower had ended, Clark quickly donned his uniform, and stepped out of the shower-chamber, smiling as he saw that Alison had gone back to sleep, the sheets tangled around her. Quietly, Superman walked to the edge of the bed, gazing upon her for but a moment, and then heading for the teleporter, 'porting to the Main Hall.
As Superman emerged into the Main Hall, he saw that J'onn was already there, waiting for him. "Good morning." the Martian Manhunter greeted pleasantly.
"Good morning." Superman replied...still trying very hard not to grin like an utter goof.
J'onn lightly smiled. "I trust everything is well?" he asked. "I sense joy..."
Superman froze. "What?" he asked. "I...I thought..."
"Martian telepaths have a slightly wider telepathic 'range' than human telepaths." J'onn explained, lightly smiling. "I have previously spoken with the Professor, and he has explained your immunity to X-Gene-based powers."
Superman slowly nodded. "I...see..." he said softly.
J'onn looked mildly apologetic. "I hope I did not alarm you." he said. "I will respect your privacy...but I simply could not help but sense your joy." He chuckled. "It was the same kind of overwhelming joy that I felt every time I was with my wife, Xi'aa."
Superman smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, that sounds about right." he said. His tone turned more serious. "Well, we'd best get going; the rest of the League are likely waiting for..." and then he paused.
J'onn blinked. "What is wrong?"
Superman frowned, and sent his thoughts to J'onn, explaining the situation. "Tell the others I'll be a little late, J'onn. There's something I need to look after, first..."
Helicarrier, S.H.I.E.L.D. Mobile Supreme Headquarters
Over the Atlantic Ocean, the massive Helicarrier hovered, surveying the previous path of the bogey that had been heading towards the States...and had actually reached New York...before it had been stopped.
On the bridge of the Helicarrier, Nick Fury frowned. "Have we found any trace of that thing?" he asked. They had to know what they were dealing with, in case this ever happened again.
"Negative, sir." one lieutenant reported. "No trace whatsoever."
'Damn.' Fury thought. "And what about Xavier's students?" With the destruction of the Institute, satellites had tracked the Blackbird heading out to sea...being chased by F.O.H. fighters, and then, the fighters had just been shot down – by the kid's space-ship, no doubt – and then, the Blackbird had just vanished, and Fury knew it didn't have stealth capabilities that sophisticated...
"No sign of the Blackbird's exhaust-trail, General." an aide reported. Fury scowled; he needed to locate Xavier. He knew for sure that Xavier's students had rescued Xavier, by now. After this recent attack, and mutants being exposed, they needed to get control of the situation, fast...
"General, sir!" the lieutenant cried. "Look!" Stirred out of his thoughts, Fury walked to the main view-screen...
There, hovering in front of the Helicarrier, was Superman, arms folded.
'Well, that saves me the trouble.' Fury thought. "Switch on the external speakers." he ordered. In seconds, the speakers were on. "Kid, I thought I asked you to keep your head low." Fury said, smiling wryly.
Superman frowned. "Under the circumstances, General, I didn't have much choice." he replied, over the speakers.
"I know." Fury said. "Right now, we have a lot to talk about."
"Yes, we do."
"Good. Then we're on the same page." Fury said. "Why don't you come aboard, and tell us where Xavier is? There are a few things I need to discuss with him, as well."
"I have a counter-proposal for you, General." Superman said. "Why don't you come with me, and we can all discuss things?"
Fury frowned. "You're talking about that little hideaway of yours." he said. "Sorry, kid, but I'm going to have to insist."
"So am I."
Fury thought about it for a moment. "I'm going to have to bring a bodyguard."
Superman arched an eyebrow. "You don't trust us?"
"I don't trust anyone completely, kid. You know that."
Superman chuckled wryly. "I suppose so." he agreed. "Okay, General; who did you have in mind?"
"Captain America." Fury replied. To the bridge-crew, he added, "Is Rogers back from pacifying the latest riot?"
"Then get him up here." Fury ordered. To Superman, he asked, "That fine with you, kid?"
Superman nodded. "It's okay with me, General."
After a few minutes, Captain America walked onto the bridge. "General." Cap greeted, saluting. "What's the situation?" Fury simply gestured to the screen. "Oh."
Superman lightly smiled. "Hey, Cap." he greeted.
Cap nodded. "Superman." he said. To Fury, he added, "General? What's going on?"
"The two of us are going to have a little talk with Xavier and his students." Fury answered. To the crew, he added, "As soon as we leave, I want you to follow our path via satellite..."
"General Fury, sir, we have another radar-contact!"
Turning, Fury saw the kid's space-ship suddenly appear out of thin air next to Superman. Fury sighed. "Belay that order." he amended. So that was how the Blackbird had disappeared; the kid's ship had hidden its path. "Okay, then, Superman," Fury relented, "you seem to be holding all the cards, right now. We're good to go." At that, Superman nodded, before a beam of blue light shone from the ship, taking him inside it. The beam then shone into the Helicarrier's bridge, engulfing Fury and Cap.
'Damn it...' Fury thought as the light engulfed him, '...I'm too old for this...'
Shortly after Clark had left, Alison, unable to get back to sleep, had gotten up, and headed into the electron-shower chamber. Inside the shower-chamber, Alison smiled contentedly, her eyes closed, enjoying the tingling sensation of the ionized water as it glided over her skin, cleansing her completely.
She still couldn't stop thinking about the night before. She had occasionally fantasized about her and Clark's first time together...only to discover that the reality was so much better...
''Man of Steel' is right...' Alison thought, blushing as she smiled to herself, hugging her arms around herself...as she imagined Clark's strong, loving arms around her, holding her close in their most intimate embrace...
Alison quickly shook herself out of her little daydream, lowering the temperature of the water. She sighed, as the coldness of reality banished her happy thoughts. Mutants were exposed. People were rioting...
Her singing career being over was the least of her problems.
But then Clark's earlier words came back to her. 'Give people a chance, Ali...'
Her shower finished, Alison switched off the shower...and gasped in surprise as gusts of warm air filled the chamber, drying her off in seconds. Alison smiled. 'The wonders of Kryptonian ingenuity...'
Once she had dried off, Alison walked out of the chamber, and quickly donned her uniform. She was about to leave the room, when her earlier worries came back. Her concert...it was supposed to be tonight...but there was no way she could go on stage...
Spying the comms terminal in the wall, Alison walked over to it, and activated it, dialing Aunt Bridget's number. The dial tone rang for a few seconds, and Alison hoped that her Auntie was available...
Alison paused. "Daddy??"
"Alison?!" Carter Blaire cried on the other end. "Oh my God, sweetheart, are you okay?!"
"I'm okay, Daddy." Alison replied. "But...I thought I had called Auntie Bridget's number..."
"You did, honey. As soon as I saw you – all of you – on the news, I dropped everything and came straight to Bridget and Mike's home, hoping that they knew more. We've been trying to contact you ever since...but something must have happened to your phone..."
Alison smiled weakly. "Yeah...it was in the Institute when it blew up." she said, absently touching her pendant, still around her throat.
"Well, honey, the important thing is that you're okay." her father answered. "All of us have been worried sick after what happened."
"I know, Daddy. I'm sorry I worried you all." Alison said. "It's...kind of a long story..."
"I'm sure it is, sweetie; you and Clark will have to tell us about it when this all dies down."
Alison blinked. "W-What..??"
Carter lightly chuckled. "It's okay, honey; Bridget filled me in on just what a 'super' young man Clark is." he said. "Sweetheart, why didn't you tell me about what Clark was doing with his abilities?"
Alison chuckled. "Well, after what had happened at our dinner with Aunt Embeth, and telling you about Krypton, we didn't want to shock you too much."
Carter chuckled. "I suppose I can understand." he said. "And from what we all saw yesterday, Clark shouldn't let anything stop him from doing what he's doing. His father would be proud."
Alison's smile grew. "Yes, he would." she agreed. Her smile became a bit embarrassed. "Dad, I was...also hoping to talk to Aunt Bridget..."
"Of course, Alison. I'll go get her."
"Okay." Alison said. "I love you, Daddy."
She could hear the smile in her father's voice. "I love you, too, sweetheart. I'm so proud of you." he replied. "Don't ever forget that."
"Okay." Alison answered. "I'll talk to you soon."
After a few seconds, her Auntie's British lilt replaced her father's voice. "Hello, honey." Bridget said. "Well, you've had quite the day, yesterday."
Alison chuckled. "Tell me about it!"
Her Auntie's tone became sad. "Alison...I know you probably don't need any more bad news...but, after yesterday...Tom tore up your contract." Bridget sighed. "I felt like kicking that wanker right between the legs!"
Alison chuckled sadly. "I kinda figured that he might do that." she admitted. "I guess my concert tonight is a wash, anyway..."
"Well...not really." Bridget said, a sly smile in her voice. "The bookings and rentals for the concert were done, weeks ago; that concert is a done deal – Tom couldn't cancel it if he wanted to."
Alison sighed. "Well, he might as well have." she said. "It's not like I can go."
"Aunt Bridget, are you serious?" Alison cried. "After yesterday?! I'll get booed right off the stage!!"
"That doesn't sound like the fearless little spitfire who stood up to that helmet-clad brute, yesterday." Bridget lightly scolded.
Alison blinked. "You...you saw that?"
"Of course!" Bridget replied. "Sweetheart, after facing off with someone like him, as well as Lord-knows-what-else yesterday, what could your fans possibly do to scare you away from what you love doing?"
Alison hesitated. "I...I don't know..."
Bridget sighed. "Well, Alison, I can't decide for you." she said. Her tone turned a bit sly. "But there is someone else who wants to talk to you." With that, Bridget left the phone, and Alison paused, confused...
The sound of her younger cousin's voice brought an automatic smile to Alison's face. "Hi, Jenny." she replied. "How are you?"
"I'm fine." Jenny said...before she went into overdrive. "Did you really fight a giant robot? And what about that big mean guy on that dam? Where did you go? Why did those mean people blow up your school..?"
"Jenny, slow down!" Alison laughed. "Yes, we did fight a big robot and that big guy. We had to hide at Clark's old hangout, because our school was gone." She sighed. "And I can't really say why they blew up our school, Jenny; some people just...hate other people, for no reason at all."
Jenny was quiet for a moment. "Mommy says that...that people are saying that you guys are bad." she whispered. "But...but they're wrong, okay, Ali? Don't believe them, okay?"
Alison smiled. "I won't, Jenny."
"Okay." Jenny said. "Are you ready for your concert?"
Alison smiled. "Actually, Jenny...I'm not sure I'm going to go."
Jenny paused. "But...but why not?" she cried. She started to sniffle. "I...I thought you were going to! Mommy even said I could stay up late to watch you!"
Alison looked stricken. "Part of me wants to, Jenny," she said, trying to console her cousin, "but...I don't think anyone wants to hear me sing, anymore..."
"I do!!" Jenny cried, her sniffling growing. "I wanna hear you sing, Ali! You're my favoritest cousin in the world, and I don't care what anybody says about you! And you shouldn't either, okay?"
Alison smiled weakly. "I'll think about it, Jenny."
"Okay." Jenny said, her sniffling calming. "I'll let you go, now, Ali. I love you, and Mommy says she does, too!"
Alison smiled. "I love you, too, Jenny. I hope to talk to you all, soon. 'Bye!"
"'Bye!" With that, the phone call ended.
Alison smiled to herself; Auntie Bridget really knew how to pile on the guilt when she had to. And part of Alison did want to continue her career in music...
Sighing to herself, Alison activated another part of the comms terminal, linking to the Internet, and logging into her MSN account. She had no new e-mails – surprise, surprise. Sighing again, Alison went to sign out.
Lila-Singer has signed in.
Alison froze. She didn't dare sign out or try to talk to Lila; she couldn't bear to have her friend wig out at her for being a mutant...but she was also afraid that Lila would just leave...
Lila-Singer says: Hi.
Alison took a deep breath...and started typing.
Care-Blaire says: Hi.
Lila-Singer says: I...kinda saw yu on TV...
Care-Blaire says: Yeah.
Lila-Singer says: Are yu...a mutant?
Care-Blaire says: Yes.
Lila-Singer says: Really?
Alison suppressed a sob. This was it; her friend was about to ditch her...
Care-Blaire says: Yes.
Lila-Singer says: That's so COOL!
Care-Blaire says: What?
Lila-Singer says: Well...you see...I'm one, too.
Care-Blaire says: OMG are you SERIOUS?
Lila-Singer says: Yeah.
Lila-Singer says: I'm sorry I didn't say anything; I was so scared...
Care-Blaire says: Don't worry. I was scared a bit at first, too.
Care-Blaire says: When did yu find out?
Lila-Singer says: A few months ago. I had this big headache in my bedroom, and then I was suddenly in the bathroom.
Care-Blaire says: Yu can teleport?
Lila-Singer says: Yep.
Care-Blaire says: Cool!
Lila-Singer says: But not as cool as yu, Ali! You're an actual SUPERHERO! Yu GO, girl!
Care-Blaire says: Thanks!
Lila-Singer says: But what about those other guys?
Care-Blaire says: They're the X-Men, the other students that go to the Institute.
Lila-Singer says: Cool!
Lila-Singer says: But did I actually see SUPERMAN with yu guys?
Care-Blaire says: Yeah.
Lila-Singer says: He's REAL??
Care-Blaire says: Yep.
Lila-Singer says: lol What does your boyfriend think about yu being on the same team as Super-Hottie?
Alison fought to keep the smile off her face; as much as she wanted to, she didn't want to risk it. Not yet, at least.
Care-Blaire says: He doesn't mind. He knows I love him.
Lila-Singer says: Wow, he must trust yu. I'd sure be tempted. lol
Alison suppressed a chuckle.
Lila-Singer says: Hey...is that Institute a kind of...school for mutants?
Care-Blaire says: Yeah.
Lila-Singer says: Do yu think...I could join up?
Care-Blaire says: Sure! We'd love to have yu! I KNOW the Professor would agree!
Lila-Singer says: Thanks!
Lila-Singer says: What about your concert?
Care-Blaire says: I don't know...
Lila-Singer says: Yu SHOULD go! Don't let those jerks make yu give up your career!
Care-Blaire says: I'll think about it.
Care-Blaire says: I gotta go. We'll talk later.
Lila-Singer says: Okay.
Lila-Singer says: Bye!
Care-Blaire says: Bye!
Lila-Singer has signed out.
After signing out from MSN, Alison couldn't help but smile; it was a considerable relief to find out that her friend Lila was okay with her being a mutant, as well as being one herself...though she felt a bit guilty about not telling her the whole truth about her relationship with Clark.
Still, it wasn't as if Lila would have believed her if she'd told her friend her boyfriend was Superman...
Alison smiled to herself, as she headed to the teleporter.
Since yesterday, life had certainly gotten more interesting.
After taking the teleporter to the Main Hall, Scott and Jean, in uniform, shared a brief, sweet kiss as they stepped off the teleporter pad.
Scott's mind was still trapped in a wonderful fog after last night. Waking up next to Jean was the best way to wake up, as far as he was concerned. The night before had just been perfect...
'My sentiments exactly, lover.' Jean mentally cooed, smiling sweetly. 'And being reminded we needed a shower was kinda funny.'
Scott chuckled. After they had woken up – with Scott's visor safely on – the Fortress' computer had, politely but emotionlessly, informed them that hygiene was important, and opened some kind of high-tech shower chamber in their room. 'Yeah, that was...interesting.' he agreed. 'But if we keep smiling like idiots, someone – like Logan – is going to catch on.'
'Well, I'm sorry!' Jean mentally laughed. 'Is it my fault that somebody made me so happy, last night, that I can't stop smiling?'
'I guess not.' Scott admitted. 'I'm just saying that we should be careful; do you really want to get 'The Talk' from Logan?'
Just then, the teleporter activated, depositing Alison, in uniform, on the teleporter pad. "Hey, guys." she greeted, smiling...and then paused. "What's going on?"
Scott blinked. "What do you mean?"
Alison's smile grew. "Why are you both smiling?"
'Told you.' Scott mentally chided.
But Jean arched an eyebrow. "Why are you smiling, Alison?"
Alison's face flushed. "Um...well..." she stammered. "D-Don't change the subject!"
Jean smiled. "I think each of us know why the other is smiling."
Alison's eyes widened. "You and Scott..?"
"Yes." Jean said, smiling happily as her and Scott's hands laced together. "And you and Clark..?"
Alison's smile mirrored Jean's expression. "Tausha was wonderful..." she murmured...and then blushed fiercely. "You're not going to blab, are you?"
Scott smiled. "I won't."
"Neither will I." Jean promised.
"I won't tell on you guys, either." Alison promised. "I'm really happy for you guys."
"Thanks." Scott said.
"We're happy for you and Clark, too." Jean added. Her expression turned concerned. "So...what about your concert, tonight?"
Alison sighed. "I still don't know..."
"Ali, you shouldn't let a bunch of small-minded bigots keep you from a career you love." Jean said.
"I know," Alison said, "but what if it's more than just a bunch of them..?"
'Students, please report to the Meeting Chamber.' came the Professor's powerful mental voice. 'Clark has just informed us that we have a guest.'
Scott sighed. "Why do I get the feeling that something's up?" he asked aloud.
"Because something's always up." Jean said, shaking her head.
"At least, with us it always is." Alison agreed. With that, they stepped back onto the teleporter, instructing it to take them to the Meeting Chamber, before it 'ported them away.
The teleporter deposited them within the comfortably large Meeting Chamber, where the rest of the X-Men, the New Mutants, Wanda, Todd, Fred, Mystique, Logan, Ororo, and the Professor were waiting. After the three of them each sat upon a crystalline chair, as the others were doing, Superman 'ported in on the teleporter pad...followed by Captain America and General Fury.
Fury looked around. "So this is why you kept that little space-buggy of yours blinded." he said, frowning as Krypto started to growl at him.
"Considering S.H.I.E.L.D.'s previous status, General, I felt it was best for everyone if the Fortress' location remained secret." Superman said, as he gently shushed his pet.
"We'll see." Fury said. Looking to the Professor, he added, "It's good to see you, Xavier."
"General." the Professor replied politely.
"I can see that we have a lot to discuss." Fury said.
"We certainly do, General." Superman said firmly. He frowned. "I think we should start with the Sentinel Project...including the fact that it was initially a S.H.I.E.L.D.-sanctioned project."
Logan frowned. "You were always a mistrustful S.O.B., Fury, but those things are a new level of paranoia, even for you."
"General...how could you?" Kitty said. "How could you build those things?"
Fury shook his head. "We only designed the Sentinels; the Project was never allowed into the production phase." he replied. His expression hardened. "At the time, the rationale was that, sooner or later, mutants were going to go public. And when that happens, some mutants – like Magneto – are going to realize that conventional law enforcement won't stop them."
"So you develop mutant-killing robots." Mystique spat. "You son of a bitch..."
"Watch it, Darkholme." Fury replied. "The Sentinels were intended to be a deterrent, and – in the worst-case scenario – a method of law enforcement. They're deadly, yes, but so are police-issue firearms; they were to be used as a last resort."
"Perhaps, on some level, I can understand your reasoning, General," the Professor said, "but developing such weapons, to be used against a single group of people..."
"...which was why the Project was scrapped, Xavier." Fury said. "The only way to make the Sentinels effective as a countermeasure was to equip them with deadly weapons...which, in the hands of those who wanted the Project developed, could have turned them into engines of genocide." His eyes narrowed. "I wasn't about to let that happen, so I ordered the Project killed...but some of our people assigned to it disagreed."
"Your mole." the Professor said.
Fury glared at the Professor...and nodded. "Bolivar Trask, Ph.D. in genetics and cybernetics. He was on the Project from the start; he believed that, within a few generations, mutants could replace humans as the dominant species on the planet, and that the Sentinels could counter mutants..."
"...so when you killed the Project, Trask hooked up with the Friends of Humanity." Scott said. "Thanks."
Fury frowned at Scott, before he continued. "The point is that, though we've collared Trask and put Marko back into deep storage, the damage is done. What we have to do now, Xavier, is get control of the situation."
The Professor nodded. "And I presume you had a plan in mind?"
"Correct." Fury said. "Now that we have Trask in custody, and that the F.O.H.'s funding is practically gone, we should be able to handle things from a public perspective. We just have to issue a public announcement that the New York attack was the work of a new terrorist faction, and that it, as well as the attack on the dam, was repelled by a new government task force, which should take care of any rumors of people being born with special abilities."
Fury then frowned at Superman. "But keeping the Senate quiet...that's going to be a little harder. That prick Kelly's foaming at the mouth to try and push his agenda through; he's not going to shut up so easy." he continued. "I've been content to let you act as an independent in the past, son, but from now on, if you want to keep doing what you're doing, you're going to have to join the Avengers. Your abilities could prove very useful to S.H.I.E.L.D., and Kelly will have a tough time complaining, once you're government-sanctioned." He looked around the Fortress. "And as for this place...well, I'm sure we can find some way to make use of it..."
"I'm sorry, General Fury," Superman said firmly, his eyes narrowed, "but the answer is no. The Avengers do good work, I admit, but if I had to wait every time for the green light, I wouldn't even be able to help half the people I can help, now." He crossed his arms. "And, perhaps more importantly, the Fortress' technology is off-limits, to any Earth organization. If you'd read the Avengers' report closely, you'd know that I made it clear that introducing any Kryptonian technology would, ultimately, do a lot more harm than good."
Cap lightly chuckled. "What did I tell you, General?" he said. "I told you he wouldn't go for it."
Fury frowned. "Son, this isn't up for debate. If you want this plan to happen, you're going to have to..."
"General, that's part of why I won't do this." Superman said. "I couldn't disagree with your plan more completely."
Fury's eyes narrowed. "Come again?"
"Telling people that everything that's happened was the work of terrorists or government agents isn't going to help." Superman continued. "People need to be reassured, not lied to."
"Son, I think we know a bit more about this than you do." Fury said.
Superman arched an eyebrow. "Really?" he asked. "What about Area 51?"
Todd laughed. "Good one, Supes!"
"Denying what happened will only increase people's distrust, both of mutants and the people who lied to them." Superman continued.
Fury groaned. "Xavier, for God's sake, talk some sense into him!"
"Superman is right, General." the Professor said. "We may not like it, but the world knows of us, now. There is no going back; we must face the world, now."
Fury put his hand to his forehead. "And you expect S.H.I.E.L.D. to just go along with this?" he asked flatly. "You expect us to walk right into chaos, and to walk away from the greatest technological treasure-trove this planet has ever seen?"
"Yes, General." Superman replied. "Because there is no other choice." He smiled back at the X-Men. "I'm already on a couple of winning teams."
Fury frowned. "Son, this is the biggest mistake of your life..."
"Maybe." Superman said. He smiled. "Maybe not."
Logan chuckled. "Well, what are ya gonna do, Fury? Make him join up?" he laughed. "You just tell me when and where; I'll pay good money to see that fight!"
Fury scowled...and then half-smiled wryly, shaking his head. "Well, kid, I'll say this for you: you've got balls." he said. "Okay, then; we'll try it your way...for now." His frown returned. "But like I said, kid, the thought of what you can do is a damn spooky one, especially now that you've formed that...'Justice League,' of yours; seven Alpha-Class super-powered beings, and one Omega-Class, under unified command, with no guiding authority..."
"We are guided, General." Superman replied. "By our consciences. I know you don't trust us...but give us a chance."
Fury sighed. "Dammit, I'm too old for this..." he muttered. "I just know I'm going to regret this...but okay, I'll agree to it...for now."
Superman smiled. "That's all we ask, General."
Fury nodded, and turned to Mystique. "And you, Darkholme? You ready to resume your mission?"
Mystique was about to reply, but the Professor spoke up. "With respect, General, I was hoping to offer Raven a position as an instructor with the Institute, once we have rebuilt it."
If Superman's plan had startled Fury, that statement utterly flabbergasted him. "You're kidding."
"I assure you, I am not." the Professor said pleasantly. "I believe that our students could benefit from her training and expertise...provided she agrees, of course."
Fury frowned. "As long as she does a few odd-jobs for S.H.I.E.L.D., every so often, I'm fine with it." he said. "Well, Darkholme? That okay with you?"
Mystique had been too surprised to say anything until then. "I...I will consider it."
"Fine, then." Fury said. "I think we're done here."
Superman nodded. "I've programmed the Argo to take you back to the Helicarrier...without revealing the Fortress' location."
"Of course." Fury muttered, as he stepped onto the teleporter, 'porting back to the vehicle bay.
As he turned to follow his commander, Cap turned back. "Superman!" he called, smiling. "I'll see you out there!" With that, he snapped up a salute.
Superman smiled back. "See you out there, Cap." he replied, returning the salute. With that, Cap stepped onto the teleporter, and was gone.
Mystique turned to the Professor. "Charles?" she asked. "Were you serious about offering me a position as an instructor?"
Professor Xavier smiled. "Of course, Raven." he answered. "After you helped us, it is the very least we could do." His smile grew. "Besides...I think that, now more than ever, your children need their mother."
Mystique's expression turned sad. "I...will consider it."
The Professor nodded. "Right now, I think we had best head back to the Institute...or rather, what remains of it. There should be some emergency rooms on the Danger Room levels that we can use, and we have the hard task of rebuilding ahead of us."
Ororo nodded, before she lightly smiled. "And we don't want to overstay our welcome."
Superman chuckled. "Hey, I don't mind having guests!"
Todd chuckled. "Oh, yeah? Just wait until Freddy here eats ya out of house and home!" he quipped.
"Hey!" Fred protested. "I'm a growing boy!"
Wanda chuckled, before her expression became worried. "Professor?" she asked. "I...I was just wondering...is it too late for me to...join the Institute?"
The Professor smiled. "It's never too late, Wanda." he said. "We'd love to have you."
Kurt chuckled. "Ve just vish zat zhere vas an Institute to join!" he joked.
Superman smiled. "Like I said, you can all stay as long as you need to." he said. "Right now, I have to go meet up with the rest of the League; I'm running late as is!"
Scott smiled. "It's okay with us."
"Give them our best!" Jean added. With that, Superman headed to the teleporter, 'porting out, to meet up with the rest of the League, while the others started to make preparations to leave.
Xavier Institute ruins
It only took Superman a few minutes to reach the ruins of the Institute; by then, the rest of the League had assembled there. "Sorry I'm late." Superman said, as he touched down. "Something came up."
"No problem." Flash replied.
Superman smiled at his new teammates. "Thank you all for coming." he said. "I trust that everything went well?"
"Guardian Krallen agreed to letting Earth be my permanent assignment." Green Lantern said.
Aquaman chuckled. "Cousin Namor wasn't too thrilled to hear that I was joining up." he said. "But 'Nita and I managed to convince him that having a representative of Atlantis topside could be a good idea...for now, at least."
"My mother was similarly apprehensive." Wonder Woman admitted. "But I was able to persuade her that it was time for Themyscira's isolation to end, and that we could perhaps become part of the global community. She agreed to letting me join you all, as our first step towards rejoining Man's World."
"We're all glad to hear it." Superman said. He looked to his teammates. "We have a lot to talk about...but perhaps we should start with trust." His tone became serious. "With what we hope to achieve, we need to be able to trust each other, to watch each other's backs. We choose to conceal our true identities from the public...but each of us should be able to trust the others with our secrets." He took a deep breath. "I'll start." he added. "My birth name is Kal-El...but my friends and family call me Clark Kent."
After a few seconds, Flash followed his lead, and pulled back his cowl. "Wally West."
Green Lantern nodded. "John Stewart."
"Shayera Hol." Hawkgirl said.
"Arthur Curry." Aquaman added.
Wonder Woman lightly smiled. "Truthfully, I do not really have an 'alternate identity.' I am simply Diana, Princess of Themyscira."
"The same could be said for me." J'onn agreed. "I am J'onn J'onzz, survivor of Mars."
Batman frowned...and then pulled back his cowl. "Bruce Wayne."
Wally blinked. "Huh...who'd've thought..."
"Okay." Superman said. "The next issue should be establishing a headquarters."
"It can't be the Institute." Batman said, sliding back his cowl.
"I agree." Wonder Woman said. "It would be unfair of us to further endanger the good Professor."
Superman nodded in agreement. "We should establish our HQ somewhere neutral; we plan to help the entire world. Our HQ should reflect that."
"Well, then we can't use your Fortress." Aquaman said. "It's on the North Pole, which is part of Atlantis' turf."
Superman nodded, before glancing upwards into the morning sky...and smiled.
The others followed his gaze.
"Oh, duh!" Flash said, putting his cowl back on. "What better place to watch over the world from than there?"
Green Lantern arched an eyebrow. "But how exactly do you plan to do it?"
Batman half-smiled. "I think Wayne Enterprises will be feeling fairly charitable towards such a worthy cause."
Wonder Woman blinked. "But will people not be curious as to why your company would fund such an endeavor?"
"I'm also a businessman, Princess; moving large amounts of money around without anyone noticing is essential for me, especially in my line of work."
Superman nodded, and then his expression turned grave. "We'll also need to work out patrols...but, right now, there is a more pressing issue." he said. "Ever since mutants were exposed worldwide, riots have been growing. We have to do something about it."
"I agree." Wonder Woman said, frowning. "It makes me sick at heart, to see such discrimination and hatred..."
"People's hatred is born of fear." J'onn said. "They fear what they do not understand."
"Exactly." Superman said. "We need to alleviate their fear."
"Well, what can we do?" Flash asked. "We can't just go on TV and say, 'Hey, don't be afraid!'"
Superman just smiled. "Actually, that's not a bad idea." he replied. "One of us should make a public announcement, and reassure people; tell them that there's nothing to fear."
"While the rest of us remain on stand-by, in case it fails." Batman said.
"Okay." Flash said. "So, who's gonna do it?"
"I would not be the best candidate." Wonder Woman admitted. "I do not know enough of this world to convince people."
"Nor do I." J'onn said.
Batman arched an eyebrow. "Does anything about me seem reassuring?"
Hawkgirl smiled knowingly. "I think I know who should go."
One-by-one, the rest of the League looked to Superman. "Please tell me you're joking." Superman said.
"Hey, you started this little band, Clark!" Flash said.
"Plus, you've been saving people's lives for the better part of the past two years!" Aquaman agreed.
Wonder Woman nodded, smiling. "You're the best choice."
Superman sighed, smiling to himself. "I guess I don't have much choice, do I?" he chuckled.
"So, how are we gonna set this up?" Flash asked. "We can't just walk into a studio and ask."
Superman thought for a moment...and then smiled. "Maybe we don't have to..."
Daily Bugle, New York City
In the main office of the Daily Bugle, the entire newspaper was abuzz with activity. After the events of yesterday – the earth-shattering double-revelations of the existence of both mutants and Superman – the paper was trying to catch up.
"I want all our photographers out there, now!!" J. Jonah Jameson thundered. "Someone get downtown and cover the riot that's starting there! And where are those photos of Superman I asked for?!"
Robbie Robertson frowned. "JJ, the guy moves at speeds faster than Mach 5; nobody's been able to get shots of him."
"Dammit, Robertson, Channel Six already got the drop on us, yesterday, with that attack!" JJ bellowed. "And where the hell is Parker?!"
"You called, Mr. Jameson?" Peter said, as he walked into the office.
JJ's frown grew. "Dammit, Parker, where the hell have you been?!" he exploded. "We need every photographer we have on the streets in case Superman makes a fly-by!! I ought to fire you right now..!!"
"Before you do, Mr. Jameson," Peter said, smiling, "I have something for you." At that, he took out a cell-phone...just before it started to ring. Peter handed the phone to him, smiling. "Trust me, sir; it's for you."
Frowning, Jonah took the phone and answered it. "Hello?"
"You're a good man, J. Jonah Jameson."
Jonah scowled. "Dammit, who is this?!"
"Would you mind stepping into your office? We have a few things that should be discussed in private."
His teeth clenching, Jonah stormed into his office, closing the door behind him, with the back-window blinders closed. "Okay, buster, this better be good..!!"
The voice on the other end chuckled pleasantly. "I think so, sir." he replied.
"Who IS this?!" Jonah roared.
"Oh, I'm sorry about that, sir; I'd be happy to introduce myself. If you'd be so kind as to open your window blinders..?"
Scowling, Jonah obliged the stranger. "Okay, pal, I've had enough of this! Either you tell me who this is right now, or I'll..!"
With that, he pulled back the blinders...and froze.
There, hovering right outside his office window, holding a high-tech communicator to his ear, was none other than Superman.
Jonah didn't dare move.
Superman smiled pleasantly, and switched off his communicator, the dial tone sounding from Jonah's phone as he did. Superman then folded the communicator up and clipped it to his belt, before simply sliding open the window pane. "I hope I didn't alarm you, Mr. Jameson, but I wanted to speak with you without drawing too much attention."
Jonah managed to blink several times. "Think...think nothing of it." he half-stammered. "But...why..?"
Superman's expression turned serious. "Because you are a good man, J. Jonah Jameson; despite the issues you have with Spider-Man, you care about the truth." he answered. "I'm not exactly fussy about your paper's portrayal of Spider-Man in the past, but lately, you seem to have learned from your mistakes."
Jonah gulped. "I...I'm not following you..."
"I hear that you're looking for photos of me, Jameson." Superman replied. "Well, I'm about to give your paper something better: an exclusive interview with me, today, at the 1:00 news...on one condition."
Jonah nodded slowly. "And that would be..?"
"...that the interview is live." Superman said. "No taping. No editing. No mis-quotes. Just the truth."
Slowly, Jonah smiled. "That's fine with me."
"1:00, this afternoon. On the dot." Superman repeated. "Be ready." With that, he flew off, heading right into the sky.
Just then, Robbie and Peter opened the door, and walked in. "Jonah?" Robbie asked. "What's going on..." but his voice trailed off as he saw Superman flying off.
Jonah half-glared at Peter. "Parker, why didn't you tell me that phone came from Superman?!"
Peter grinned. "I didn't think you'd believe me, sir."
Robbie blinked. "Jonah...you talked to him?"
"Damn straight! Managed to get a live interview out of him!" Jonah laughed. "My God, that's what a hero is supposed to look like! Red-and-blue, the colors of a real hero! And talk about stature: why, one glare from him would make the Kingpin wet himself! And no mask! Takes a real man to show his face, and not hide behind some glorified ski-mask!"
Peter frowned. "Mr. Jameson...I thought you said you were through trashing Spider-Man..."
"One step at a time, Parker. One step at a time." Jonah replied. He frowned. "Now, if someone had gotten photos of him..!"
"I figured you'd say that, sir," Peter said, grinning and holding up his camera, "so I managed to snap a few photos after Superman gave me the phone, as he was flying off."
Jonah laughed. "That's more like it!" he declared. "Now we've got a real attention-grabber! Exclusive photos and an exclusive interview with Superman...the Man of Tomorrow!"
Robbie blinked. "'The Man of Tomorrow'??"
Jonah grinned. "Catchy, isn't it?" he said. With that, he strode out of his office, shouting, "Stop the presses!! We've got a new head-liner, people! A Daily Bugle exclusive: Superman Speaks!" He glared at the Bugle staff. "Well? What are you waiting for?!" With that, the Bugle staff got to work.
It was early afternoon when Alison had gotten the call from Clark, telling her and all the others to watch the 1:00 news. Alison had promptly told the others, and they had all gathered in the Meeting Chamber, sitting in front of the holographic TV-screen that had extended out from the wall. It was only about five minutes before the news started, and everyone was curious.
"Wonder what the big guy wanted us to see?" Todd wondered aloud.
"Beats me." Fred agreed.
Wanda chuckled. "Well, if you two goofs don't keep it down, we'll never find out!"
As she watched the screen, waiting for the news to start, Alison sighed to herself, still unsure what to do as far as her concert was concerned. Singing was part of her; it had always been her dream...but now..?
"Sshh!!" Jamie exclaimed. "It's starting!"
Looking to the screen, Alison saw a smartly-dressed news anchorwoman sitting at a news-desk, smiling at the camera. "Good afternoon!" she greeted. "This is Elizabeth Brant with the Daily Bugle afternoon news! Well, viewers, today we have an exclusive that you won't believe...in fact, I don't believe it, myself!"
Remy arched an eyebrow. "Well, 'dis gon' be int'restin'."
Rogue lightly elbowed him. "Hush up, Cajun; Ah'm tryin ta listen." she teased.
"For the past two years, we've heard about him," Elizabeth continued, "but we still know next to nothing about this mysterious individual. Well, viewers, today, that changes! Today, we get the news straight from the hero's mouth, as we finally answer the question that's on our minds: 'Who is Superman'?"
"Holy..." Logan muttered. "Flyboy, what have you gotten yourself into, this time?"
Just then, a sonic boom echoed in the TV's background. "Oh my gosh, viewers, I think he's here!" Elizabeth exclaimed. At that, the camera turned to the left...in time to see Superman calmly walk in through the open window.
Superman smiled pleasantly. "I'm awfully sorry if I'm late." he said. "There was a cat stuck in a tree, and her owner was pretty upset."
Shadowcat giggled. "That's our Kal!"
Elizabeth smiled back, clearly a bit flustered. "N-No problem at all, Superman! It's an honor to have you here! P-Please, have a seat!"
"Thank you, Miss Brant. It's a pleasure to be here." Superman replied, taking a seat.
Elizabeth managed to calm herself. "Well, we're all certainly curious about you, Superman..." she began, and then she stopped. "Oh, I-I'm so sorry...can we call you 'Superman'?"
Superman chuckled. "Well, it's better than anything I've been able to come up with on my own. 'Superman' it is."
"Okay, then!" Elizabeth said. "Well, Superman, after the events of yesterday, as I said, we're all very curious about you! We think it's amazing that a mutant of your level of power is using his abilities to help..."
Superman calmly raised his hand. "With all respect due, Miss Brant, I would like to correct you on that point. I'm not a mutant." he said. "I'm something else."
"Oh." Elizabeth said. "Well...if you're not a mutant, then...what are you, if you don't mind?"
"Not at all." Superman said. "That has to do with where I'm from. You see, Miss Brant...I'm not from around here."
Elizabeth blinked. "I...I'm not sure I understand..."
Superman sighed. "Well, I guess there's no other way to say this than to come straight out and say it. Miss Brant, I'm from Krypton."
Elizabeth looked very confused. "I...I've never heard of it..."
"You wouldn't have been expected to, ma'am. Krypton was the third planet of the Xerius Galaxy, located over two billion light years from this system."
Elizabeth was shocked silent.
Lance chuckled. "Yeah, I think we've all had a little 'Holy-crap-is-he-serious?' moment like that."
Elizabeth managed to recover her voice. "You're...an alien?"
"Oh my God." Elizabeth said. "Oh my GOD! This is...this is AMAZING!! You've changed Earth history just by BEING here!! Are there more like you? Are they coming here?"
Evan frowned. "She had to ask that, didn't she?"
Superman frowned. "No, Miss Brant." he said softly. "Thirty years ago, the planet Krypton underwent a catastrophic reaction in its planetary core, destroying it...along with every other member of the Kryptonian race. The only reason I survived was because my parents sent me here, in an experimental Trans-Warp spacecraft, to escape Krypton's destruction."
Elizabeth looked stricken. "I...I'm so sorry...I had no idea..."
"It's alright, Miss Brant." Superman said. "I've had a few years to come to terms with that loss."
Elizabeth nodded. "So...we're still a bit curious about your abilities, Superman. What exactly can you do?"
Superman smiled. "Well, you probably know about my strength and my speed, as well as my ability to fly." he began. "I'm also capable of generating high-powered thermal-energy beams from my eyes, as well as exhaling with the force of a hurricane, or unleashing gusts close to absolute zero – zero degrees Kelvin. My body is, for the most part, invulnerable to pretty much anything, and my hearing and vision are considerably more acute than a normal human's; I can pick up sounds extending into Ultra-High and Ultra-Low Frequency, and my eyes can see more than just the middle part of the spectrum – what humans see: I can see parts of the infra-red and ultra-violet spectrum – you could say I have 'thermal vision' and 'X-Ray vision',"
"Wow." Elizabeth said. "You sound practically invincible..."
"I don't want to say that, ma'am." Superman said. "True, I haven't reached my limits, but I don't want to get complacent."
"Okay, then." Elizabeth said. "What is your opinion on the 'mutant issue'?"
"Well, I think that mutants have the same choice as any regular human – or any person, for that matter – has to deal with." Superman answered. "They have the choice between using their talents for good – for the benefit of all – or for evil, just like everyone else does."
Elizabeth looked thoughtful. "So, they're like everyone else, just with powers?"
Elizabeth smiled. "Well, that's certainly an interesting point, Superman." she said. "What about the Xavier Institute, the school where numerous mutant students in the town of Bayville were said to have attended?"
Superman smiled. "I'm quite familiar with the Institute, ma'am. In fact, I'm proud to say that its students are my closest friends."
Elizabeth smiled back. "Our sources tell us that they were fighting that huge robot with you, yesterday. Do they always assist you?"
"It would be more accurate to say that we're a team." Superman answered. "On important missions, the X-Men – my friends – and I handle them together, such as if a mutant is in danger, or is endangering others. But, in the past, as far as generally helping people go, I've acted alone."
"And now?" Elizabeth asked.
Superman smiled. "Now I'm part of a second team." he answered. "The Justice League. Our goal is to help make the world a better place for everyone, mutants and humans alike. I'm proud to stand with them to achieve that goal, and since our goals are complementary to the Institute's goal of peaceful coexistence, I wouldn't be surprised if the League and the X-Men wound up on the same side, every so often!"
"Amazing!" Elizabeth exclaimed. "Well, after hearing that, I'm sure that every bad guy on the planet will be shaking in his boots!"
"You can say zat again!" Kurt laughed.
"You tell it, Big Blue!" Bobby exclaimed.
"Earlier, you said that you came here in a spaceship." Elizabeth continued. "What was it? 'Tran...Trans...'"
"Trans-Warp." Superman answered. "Essentially, it involves traveling faster than light without the temporal consequences of traveling faster than light."
"Wow." Elizabeth said. "Your people must have been incredibly advanced..."
"One of the most advanced races in the universe." Superman said. "But, to be fair, they were one of the first races in the universe; the Xerius Galaxy – where Krypton was – was one of the first galaxies ever formed. Life began on Krypton millions of years before Earth's system was even formed."
"Well, I guess that makes sense." Elizabeth said. "You guys have just had more time to develop!"
"Exactly!" Superman agreed. "That was part of why my father sent me here: Krypton's people were once as humanity is now. My father recognized that your people have a lot of potential."
"Wow! Thank you!" Elizabeth laughed. "That's quite a compliment, coming from a member of such an advanced civilization!" Then, her expression turned a bit embarrassed. "Well, Superman...you mentioned your parents...so...I'm assuming your people reproduced..."
Superman blinked. "Well...yes, of course..."
"Well...I was wondering..." Elizabeth began, but stopped. "I'm...I'm so sorry, Superman, I shouldn't ask..."
"I think I know what you were going to ask, Miss Brant." Superman said, gently smiling. "And it's okay; I can understand why people are curious about me. I will say that, as far as physiology goes, the Kryptonian people are mostly identical to humans. Does that answer your question?"
"Yes, it certainly does." Elizabeth answered, her smile a bit shy. "And I think I can safely say that the female population of Earth is glad to hear it."
Alison smiled. "Amen to that." she said softly.
"So, Superman," Elizabeth continued, "since we're on the topic...is there anyone special..?"
Superman quickly held up his hand, his smile a bit wry. "I'm afraid I'll have to stop you there, Miss Brant. I can understand people being curious, but I'd prefer to keep my personal life exactly that: personal."
"I'm sorry." Elizabeth said quickly. "I had to try." Gathering herself, she continued, "Is there anything else you'd like to say? Any message for the people of Earth?"
"Now that you mention it, yes." Superman said. He looked right at the camera. "I know that many of you are afraid; afraid of mutants, of me, and of everything that's happened. I came here to tell you all that you don't have to be afraid. The only crime that mutants are guilty of is being born with one extra gene. Mutants are still part of the human race – they're your brothers and sisters, your sons and daughters, your friends and family; don't turn away from them. And as for myself and the Justice League...no-one has to be afraid of us. We're not here to force anyone to do anything, or to impose our wills upon others; we're here to show you all a better way, but it's up to each and every one of you to follow it."
Scott smiled. "Way to go, Kal..." he said softly.
Todd lightly sniffed. "Boy...that kinda gets ya, right there..."
Tabitha chuckled. "Yeah. He kinda has that effect on people."
"Powerful words." Elizabeth said. "Well, Superman, as I said, it has certainly been an honor speaking with you."
"Thank you, Miss Brant." Superman replied, standing up to shake her hand. "I hope I've answered a few of humanity's questions about..." He suddenly paused. "Uh-oh."
The X-Men and New Mutants all knew that phrase. "Uh-oh."
"'Uh-oh'??" Elizabeth repeated.
Superman's expression became determined. "I'm sorry, Miss Brant, but I have to go; there's an oil tanker in distress off the coast of Europe. It's taking on water."
"Oh! Well, by all means, get going!" Elizabeth exclaimed. Instantly, Superman darted towards the window, and leapt out into open air, flying towards the open ocean, a sonic boom echoing behind him.
Rogue chuckled. "And some things neva change!"
With Superman gone, Elizabeth turned to the camera. "Well, viewers, there you have it! A stranger to our planet, come to us from far across the ocean of space, not to conquer us with his great power, but to help us, to save us from ourselves; a true Man of Tomorrow!" she said. "After what has happened, Superman and his fellow heroes – the Justice League – are likely exactly what this world needs: a beacon of hope, pointing towards a better way. All that this reporter – and the rest of the world – can hope for, is that Superman's words of reassurance did not fall on deaf ears...but that is something that, as Superman said, only all of you can decide. This is Betty Brant, for Daily Bugle News, signing off!"
The Professor smiled. "Kal...thank you..." he whispered.
"You go, Big Blue." Evan said softly.
Alison just watched the screen, smiling proudly at what her tausha had been willing to do for them – for all mutants.
"Okay, okay, party's over." Logan said. "So, Chuck, we all gonna clear out of Flyboy's place, or what?"
The Professor chuckled. "I suppose we should." he agreed. "Everyone, let's get going." With that, everyone headed out of the Meeting Chamber, to finish getting ready to leave.
It had only taken them a few minutes to pile into the Blackbird, and fly out of the Fortress, the crystalline stronghold's computer automatically guiding them out. Within a half-hour, the Blackbird had touched down at the ruined Institute, and the entire group emerged, the X-Men and New Mutants looking sadly upon their former home, as Krypto softly whined.
"It's only brick and mortar." Ororo said, smiling. "It can be rebuilt."
Wanda lightly smiled at Todd and Fred. "You know, you guys could stay, too."
Scott nodded. "We'd be happy to have you."
Todd smiled, and shook his head. "Thanks, anyway, but no thanks." he said. "Don't get us wrong, you guys are pretty cool, and joining up does seem like a pretty sweet deal...but, for now, we kinda just need to do our own thing."
"Yeah. Sorry." Fred added. "But you don't gotta worry about the two of us buggin' you guys, anymore."
"That's perfectly fine." the Professor said. "Our door's always open."
Todd shrugged. "Maybe later, then." he said. He turned to Wanda, and smiled. "See you later, Cuddlebumps."
Wanda smiled. "See you later, you goofy wart." she teased back. With that, Todd and Fred turned, and started to walk away.
The Professor turned to Mystique. "Have you given my suggestion any thought, Raven?"
Mystique was silent for a moment...before she lightly smiled. "I...I think I would like to teach here."
Kurt smiled. "Zat's great!"
Rogue smiled, as well. "We're glad to hear it...Mama." she said, which brought a larger smile to Mystique's face.
Remy sighed. "Parfait." he lamented. "Remy's new teacher be de mere o' de fille dat Remy be datin', who also app'ns t' be a shape-shift'r. Remy ain' gon' last de week."
Rogue chuckled. "Don't worry, Swamp-Rat. Ah'll come to yer funeral."
Jean turned to Alison. "So, Ali, what have you decided?"
Alison was about to answer...when her tausha's words filled her mind. You don't have to be afraid...
Alison smiled. "I think I know what to do."
"Good to hear." Scott said. With that, the entire ragtag band headed for the underground entrance to the Danger Room levels, to settle in.
Brotherhood of Bayville Boarding House
By the time Todd and Fred had returned to the boarding house, the sun was starting to set. Since it was such a nice evening, the two pals had simply opted to sit on the rooftop, and watch the setting sun.
"Nice evening." Todd commented.
"Yep." Fred agreed.
"Ya know, after all the crap that's happened, this oughtta be the time when somebody says something profound." Todd observed.
"Yeah, sounds right."
Todd shrugged. "Eh. That never was our style."
Fred chuckled. "Gotta admit, little pal, that was a classy move you did with Wanda, back there."
Todd smiled goofily at the thought of her. "Hey, you love something, set it free, right?"
"Thought we didn't do profound."
"Chicks are the only exception."
"Oh. Right." Fred agreed. He looked down. "You know, I kinda thought we might be facing a mob, after coming back here."
"Guess Supes' speech worked."
"Guess so." Fred said. "So, you think Supes and the League can do it?"
Todd chuckled. "Hey, they've sure got their work cut out for 'em, yo." he replied. "I admit, after all this, ya gotta respect 'em, but...changin' the whole world? That's crazy!" Then, he grinned. "But the thing is, it's just crazy enough to work!"
Fred smiled. "True enough!" he said. Then, he frowned. "I'm thirsty."
"Hang on...I think I stashed a bunch of colas in the back of the freezer, a few months ago." Todd said. "You know, so Pietro wouldn't get 'em?"
"Oh, yeah." Fred agreed; Pietro and caffeine did not mix.
Within a few minutes, Todd had hopped into the boarding house window, fished out the sodas, and brought back two. Sitting down, he handed one to Fred, before popping open his own, with Fred doing the same. Todd was about to take a sip, before he stopped, and held the cola up in a toast. "To the League!"
Fred grinned, and did the same. "To the League!" he agreed. With that, the two pals took a sip from their colas, and continued to watch the sunrise...two underdogs rooting for the new guys, the entire world against them, but still with a fighting chance.
New York City
In his office in New York, Wilson Fisk frowned as he watched the news report.
'A "Justice League," is it?' he thought grimly. This did not bode well.
His operations in Gotham had been ruined by two 'heroes,' Superman and Batman.
Now there was an entire team of them, with no government to keep them from coming after people like him, and every reason to do so.
'Precautions must be taken.' Wilson thought to himself. He would have to step up his recruiting of super-powered individuals. He might have to establish alliances with some of his business rivals...including that insufferable Silvermane.
And he would surely have to make getting rid of Superman and the rest of the foolish 'Justice League' a top priority.
With these grim thoughts, Wilson returned to his paperwork.
Castle Doom, Doomstadt, Latveria
Standing in her father's throne room, next to her father upon his throne, Siryn couldn't help but feel a twinge of worry as she saw the news report that had gone out.
So, her future hubby was forming a new team: a 'Justice League.' She had to admit, Kal-El was quite the speaker...
Siryn shook her head, clearing her thoughts. "Father?" she asked. "What shall we do?"
Doom was silent, lost in thought, as Irene Adler's prophecy came back to haunt him, his previous chill reclaiming its grasp on his spine...
"All I can see are seven figures joining forces with the Child...they will help the Child bring back something lost to this world..."
"Father?" Siryn asked again.
Doom shook himself out of his thoughts. "Yes, my child. I heard you." he said quickly. "This changes nothing."
Siryn lightly smiled. "What is our plan, Father?"
"Patience, my child." Doom answered, rising from his throne. "I must ponder this turn of events. I will return shortly, my dear. Excuse me." With that, Doom left the room.
Siryn's eyes were wide as she watched her Papa leave. This development...this 'Justice League'...
...it had shaken her Papa. Quite badly.
Siryn's eyes narrowed in determination. Her Papa was right. This new turn of events...it changed nothing. Their plans remained the same. Kal-El would lead the mutant race, with her at his side, and with her wise Papa guiding them...and nothing would change that.
Academy of Tomorrow, Boston Massachusetts
'Well,' Sebastian Shaw thought to himself, 'this is certainly an interesting turn of events.'
Sebastian had decided to visit Emma's Academy, to oversee her instruction of the Hellions; with the new developments – the Sentinels and mutants being public knowledge – the new team would be critical to the Circle's affairs.
But nothing could have prepared him for Superman's little speech on the news.
Sebastian was currently standing in the briefing room, along with Emma, the Hellions...and his son.
Sebastian allowed himself a cold smile at Shinobi's hateful scowl as Superman announced the formation of the 'Justice League.' His son's jealousy of the powerful alien still lingered.
Looking about the team, Sebastian saw several expressions similar to Shinobi's...most notably that of Julian. The young telekinetic undoubtedly envied Superman for his power, and surely viewed him as a threat to usurp his position as leader of the team, given Victor's plans for the alien youth.
Glancing to Emma, Sebastian saw the same mildly intrigued, sly smile on her patrician face that covered his own. 'The "Justice League"...how quaint.' she sent to him.
Sebastian smiled, and nodded. 'Indeed, Emma, dear,' he agreed, 'this coming year will certainly be interesting...'
With a roar of pure rage, Graydon Creed fired a full clip into the television, enraged beyond belief at what he'd just heard.
"...I'm from Krypton...the third planet of the Xerius Galaxy..."
'An alien...' Graydon mentally seethed. 'All along...MOCKING me!!!'
He should have seen it. The muties having access to such advanced technology...the flying freaks' inhuman power...even his vulnerability to the extraterrestrial meteor-element...
Muties were bad enough. Muties were a threat...but a home-grown threat.
But an alien...a creature from another galaxy...an unwelcome stranger to their solar system..!!
'How dare it come here...how DARE it!!!' Graydon mentally roared.
Humanity was the greatest species in the cosmos. Couldn't the people of Earth see? Its kind had been eradicated! It had admitted so! Wasn't that proof enough? Wasn't that proof that its kind had no place here?!
Graydon started to slow his breath. The Friends of Humanity were needed more than ever, if that alien was serious about what its 'Justice League' planned to do.
'Justice.' Graydon laughed at the thought. As if that alien could ever understand human justice.
As he stepped out of his private chamber, a lieutenant strode up to him. "Mr. Creed, sir! Did...did you see..?"
"I saw." Graydon replied. "I want this order issued." He smiled to himself, as the plan came to him so easily. "I want the alien, and any member of its 'League' shot on sight. Do whatever it takes, but I want the alien and its team brought down...no matter the cost." That would send a message to all the muties and freaks on Earth; the Friends of Humanity would make it clear that they had nothing to brag about.
As the lieutenant headed off to issue the order, Graydon was left with another problem. Trask's capture had practically bankrupted their organization. Proceeding with their plans to eradicate mutants – to say nothing of gathering whatever firepower they needed to take out the 'Justice League' – would be difficult...
Just then, the phone rang, and Graydon picked it up. "Hello?"
Graydon's eyes narrowed at the almost serpent-like, hissing voice. "Who is this?" he demanded.
"Someone like you." the female voice hissed slyly. "Someone who sees this 'Justice League' as a threat that should be squashed before it grows."
Graydon scowled. "Who are you?"
The voice cackled. "My name, Creed, is Madame Hydra," she said, "and we have much to discuss..."
New York Concert Hall, New York
As the setting sun colored the sky, the huge crowd gathered at the Concert Hall murmured amongst itself. Tonight was supposed to be Alison Blaire's concert.
But Alison was said to have been seen with the mutants that had fought the massive robot. Alison's fans were confused. Was she a mutant?
As the concert's start-time approached, the crowd started to get antsy. Where was Alison..?
Suddenly, a small, person-sized silver shape appeared in the sky above the Hall...as Alison, in her uniform, descended from the sky, touching down on the stage, a mini-microphone clipped to her ear, her entrance casting a silence over the crowd.
Alison took a deep breath; no turning back, now. "Good evening, everyone." she greeted, her voice amplified by the microphone. "Before I begin, as I'm sure you were wondering – not that you need to wonder any more – yes, I am a mutant."
She smiled to the crowd. "And you know what else?" she asked. "I'm okay with that. I just wanted to tell you all that. This is me. This is who I am. I'm here, before all of you, and I'm telling you the truth."
Alison took a deep breath. She was about to continue, to say that, if they honestly didn't want to hear her sing...she would understand.
But she needn't have bothered.
"ROCK ON, MEGA-GIRL!!!"
"WE LOVE YOU, ALI!!!"
"YOU GO, GIRL!!!"
Alison didn't dare speak, as the crowd – no her fans – erupted in cheers, louder than any cheering she'd received at any concert she'd performed at before. Then, Alison smiled radiantly, her powers activating, bathing her in a radiant glow, which only encouraged her fans to cheer louder.
Magneto had preached that humanity would never accept mutants...but Clark had said that humanity could be a great people. Jor-El had believed the same thing.
And they were right.
This reaction – her fans' cheering – was bald-faced proof that Magneto was dead wrong...and that her tausha was right on the money.
Alison felt tears of happiness flow from her eyes. "Thank you..." she whispered. "Oh my God, thank you so much." Her fans only cheered louder. Alison smiled, and raised her hand in a pop-diva pose, her confidence returning to her easily. "Let's get this party started!!!" she declared, causing her fans to erupt in a fresh wave of cheers. With that, the concert began.
It was the best performance of Alison's life. Alison sang as if she had never sang before, singing with all that she was, belting out each of her hits, one right after the other, her sweet voice completely capturing her fans' hearts, her powers giving her a personal light-aura, making any special effects utterly unnecessary.
The time seemed to just fly by, and before long, Alison had reached the end, with her fans cheering for more. Alison was about to thank them and bid them good-night...but then she recalled the song she had been working on, remembering the lyrics easily. Smiling, she called, "How about one more for the road?"
Her fans cheered.
Alison's smile grew. "This is a completely new song," she said, "and it goes out to a very special guy. I might be Number One on the charts...but he's Number One in my heart." She looked up towards the sky. "You know who you are, baby; this one is for you!" With that, she launched into her new song, which she had titled, "True Blue."
Alison's fans swayed silently as Alison sang, her song telling a tale of two childhood sweethearts, separated by a tragedy, who reunited years later. Her song told of their relationship, slowly growing from innocent affection, to deep friendship, and finally to love. And through it all, the boy was always there when the girl needed him, never faltering, despite the burdens he carried; he was true blue.
It was her and Clark's story.
As the song ended, and Alison's haunting voice carried the last few lyrics into the breeze, the audience was silent...and then erupted into cheers. Alison smiled. "Thank you all for coming!" she called. "I love you all!"
As Alison turned to head backstage, she happened to glance upwards...and spotted a shape in the sky.
There, hovering silently over the stage, the blue of his uniform camouflage against the night sky, was Superman – her Clarkie – smiling down at her.
Alison smiled back, silently mouthing, 'I love you.' to him.
Superman smiled back, and mouthed 'I love you.' back to her, before silently flying off, to save the day again, with his new team. Smiling after her tausha, Alison turned, and headed backstage, waving to her fans – who loved her for all that she was – as she left the stage.
Xavier Institute ruins
It was late at night when Superman returned to the Institute, to check in with his friends. He had already done a thorough sweep of the rest of the planet with the League, stopping several crimes, and averting one or two disasters...as well as stopping by to see Ali's concert, and receiving a call from his Ma. Superman smiled; his Ma had initially been worried, but after seeing the news report, as well as a few more reassurances from him, she told him that 'she was so proud of him.' Having more people to assist sure made things easier, but they were going to have to develop a more effective way of patrolling; perhaps a surveillance network for their new HQ?
Still, for now, all was well. The anti-mutant riots were dying down on their own, the planet was, for now, peaceful. The Argo was safely back at the Fortress, and S.H.I.E.L.D. was still unaware of its location.
And, most importantly, his friends were safe and sound.
Quietly, Superman headed down to the Danger Room levels, where his friends were sleeping, deactivating the security system momentarily. He didn't want to wake them...
Superman turned to see Jean there, still in uniform. "Nothing major." he answered, smiling. "Sorry if I woke you."
Jean shook her head. "I just wanted to talk to you for a minute." she said. "There was something I never told you about when I joined with Phoenix." She took a deep breath...and told him.
Superman's eyes went wide. "You...you saw Pa..?"
"Annie did...and I believed her." Jean answered. She smiled. "He wanted you to know he was proud of you, Clark, especially after yesterday." Her smile grew. "We all are, after what you did for us." She gave him a quick hug. "We're lucky to have you as a friend."
Superman smiled, and returned the hug. "I'm the lucky one, Jean." he replied. "You guys – all of you – are my family. If I hadn't met you all, I would have been completely alone." His smile grew. "Thank you."
Jean smiled back, as the hug ended. "You should go see Ali." she advised. "She's a bit drained after her concert...but in a good way."
"I know." Superman replied. "'Night, Jean."
"'Night, Clark." Jean replied, before she turned, and walked away, as Superman headed to Alison's room, to check on his taushi.
It didn't take long for Superman to find Alison's room – he knew his taushi's heartbeat – and quietly slid the door open. Alison was lying on the bed, the sheets tangled around her, clad in only a pair of spare workout shorts, likely found in the room, with her pendant around her throat, resting just above her ample curves, her sapphire eyes closed in sweet sleep. Smiling, Superman started to leave, to let her sleep...
Superman stopped, lightly smiling as he saw Alison stir, sitting up, holding the blankets over her chest. "Hey..." she cooed, smiling.
"Hey." Superman replied. "Sorry if I woke you."
Alison shook her head. "I wanted to wait up for you...I guess I dozed off..."
"Sorry; I had League business." Superman said.
"I know." Alison replied, extending her arms to him. Superman accepted her sweet invitation, and sat next to her, embracing her lovingly.
"So, how did your concert go?" Superman inquired innocently.
Alison smiled. "Oh, like you don't know!" she teased. "I got a standing ovation, Clarkie! Every talent agent in the business is clamoring to sign me, now, especially after Tom ripped up my contract!"
Superman grinned. "What did I tell you?"
Alison smiled, and rested her head in the crook of his neck, nuzzling into him. "You were right, Clarkie...you and Jor-El were right..."
Superman smiled, holding his precious Alia close. "Glad that we got at least one right."
Alison giggled sleepily. "But I think I'll sign for slightly fewer CD recordings and concerts, Clarkie...I want to have some time to help you and the League..."
Superman smiled. "We'd welcome the help, taushi." he said softly. At that, Alison smiled, as her eyes closed in blissful trust, as she leaned closer to him, and Clark gladly accepted her invitation, their lips meeting in a tender kiss.
Their kiss slowly grew in passion, and Clark felt his senses start to go haywire...and then Alison pulled away. "Clark..." she cooed, smiling sleepily, "...as much as I would absolutely love to fool around, tonight...I'm just too tired..."
Clark smiled, and gave her one last tender kiss. "I understand, Alia." he whispered. He grinned. "Besides, we don't want to wake the others; we were lucky that the Fortress' walls were sound-proof."
"Oh, you!" Alison laughed, lightly swatting his shoulder, before starting to fall back onto the bed. "Clark?" Alison sleepily asked. "Please...stay with me..." With that last sleepy plea, Alison fell asleep. Smiling, Clark lay down with his beloved Alison, tenderly spooning her from behind, as he draped his cape over her, embracing her as he did, smiling as he heard her sigh peacefully, before joining her in dreamland.
Xavier Institute ruins, July 13, 2008
By the time the X-Men, the New Mutants – including Wanda, now – and the instructors – including Mystique – awoke and had breakfast in the lower Danger Room levels, it was already mid-morning. Clark had needed to leave right after breakfast, to join the rest of the League on patrol, while the rest of them drew up plans to rebuild the Institute.
After a few hours, they all ventured topside...and took in the scorched ruins of their old home. "Man..." Bobby muttered. "...talk about depressing..."
"I concur." Mark agreed, his yellow eyes drooping. "This sight is most displeasing. Repair will be a daunting feat."
"Could be worse, guys." Scott said. "We could have to do this while facing a mob."
"Yeah." Alison agreed. "After Clark's speech, anti-mutant riots started tapering down...but they didn't vanish completely."
"I guess Clark can't do everything." Jubilee said softly.
"I still can't believe that's his name." Wanda said. At the breakfast table, Clark had introduced himself. "I mean...'Clark'?? No offence to the guy, but...he does not look like a 'Clark.'"
Mystique chuckled. "I suppose we don't know him well enough to match the face to the name."
The Professor momentarily looked grim...before his face became determined. "Well, there's no sense in complaining." he said. "We'll quickly survey the Institute ground, and find out exactly how much we need in terms of supplies..."
Suddenly, the whirr of a rotor-blade cut off Professor Xavier, as a black LexCorp helicopter flew in low over the ruins, before touching down...as Lex hopped out, walking towards them.
"Hi, guys!" he called, stopping a few feet away. He briefly looked at the ruins. "Wow." he joked. "When you guys throw parties, you sure don't kid around!"
"Har har, rich boy." Rogue quipped.
"Sorry; couldn't resist!" Lex said. "I figured you guys could use a little help!"
"Mr. Luthor...Lex..." the Professor said, "...we appreciate the offer, but we simply couldn't..."
"Professor," Lex interrupted, "if there's anything I've learned from that naive, lovable Boy Scout, it's that you can't put a price on friends. Trust me, I can afford to foot the bill to repair this place."
Scott smiled. "Thanks, Lex."
"Well, dat's all well an' good," Remy said, "but we still got t' 'ire workers t' do de fixin', an' Remy don' t'ink dat dere be too many workers willin' t' 'elp us."
"Leave that to us."
Turning, everyone was surprised to see the entire Justice League touch down next to them. "I gave Lex a shout after our morning patrol was done." Superman said, smiling.
"Between all of us, we should have the place up in no time!" Flash said.
Green Lantern whistled. "We're going to need a lot of elbow-grease."
"You can say that again." Aquaman agreed.
"A challenge, for sure," Hawkgirl said, as she smiled, "but worth doing."
Wonder Woman smiled. "Our mission is to help make the world a better place for all." she said. "Where better to start than a facility dedicated to education, and peaceful coexistence?"
"And if we need someone with specialized skills, such as a plumber, or artisan," Superman added, as he glanced to Batman, "I know a guy who knows a guy."
Batman simply nodded.
J'onn smiled. "How could we refuse our friends when they needed us?"
The Professor smiled, as did all the others. "Thank you." he said. "For everything."
Scott chuckled. "Why don't we save the 'thank-you's' for after the Institute's repairs?" he joked.
Superman chuckled. "Well, then," he declared, smiling at Alison, who smiled back, "let's get started!"
With that, the Justice League, the X-Men, the New Mutants, and the instructors all got started at rebuilding the Institute.
The world had changed.
Now, it was up to all of them to make sure that the change was for the better.
It was a new day for them all.
That's all I can say right now.
That was the longest story I've ever written. There were times I wasn't sure if I could finish.
I hope you all enjoy the ending! I guess I'm just a sucker for happy endings.
There are just a few things I want to say before I go. First of all, yes, I do plan to do a sequel to this story. In the relatively near future, be on the lookout for "The Last Son, Book Three: Changes."
That said, I won't be starting on Book Three, right away. After this story, I am DRAINED. I need a few weeks to recharge my batteries. After that, I plan to start on my Ultimate Spider-Man/Transformers story, "More Than Meets the Eye."
But don't worry; I WILL write Book Three. With any luck, I can get started on it shortly after Christmas. If not, I should be able to start around New Year's…unless university gets in the way.
On a side note, I'm also planning to start a completely original (non-fan-fiction) story. I plan to submit it and maybe get it published. One of my pipe dreams is to become an author…and maybe have my "Last Son" stories made into a comic book…with Stan Lee and DC Comics' approval, of course.
Like I said, a pipe dream. Wish me luck!
And finally, I just want to give a HUGE thank-you to all of you, my readers and reviewers. You've ALL been great! You've really given me the confidence to keep going when I needed it, or when I hit a block! I'm a bit sorry to see this story end…but I'm glad I finished it!
But now that this story is finished, once I've uploaded this last chapter, I am just going to go up to my room…and become UNCONSCIOUS.
Thank you all so much!
Good luck in all of your writing endeavors.
Godspeed, my friends.
Until we meet again!