Chapter 9

The Future. Earth. Italy. Kal-El and Trinity

"My son..." Kal-El, the Son of Krypton, whispered in a mournful tone from a rooftop not far from Aeropuerto da Vinci near Rome. He looked out across the Mediterranean Sea into a moonless night.

"My Queen!" Chloe Cassiopeia Sullivan, the youngest Amazon, stood a few feet away from Kal and shrieked at the heavens. Hardly any stars appeared to shine. The night was as dark as the night of the shipwreck, when Chloe had washed ashore on the Island of the Amazons. While Clark had been off-world on his five-year trip to Krypton and back, Chloe had become Cassiopeia of the Amazons. After Clark had returned to earth and she had rejoined the outside world, a reporter tagged her with callsign Trinity.

Kal sat on the ledge of the roof and hunched in on himself as though he felt cold. Perhaps he did, but it was a more a coldness of spirit than a physical feeling, since his capeless, black, space-travel uniform still functioned, maintaining a constant internal temperature. The space travel uniform resembled his usual uniform, but without the cape and the bright colors. In fact, it looked as dark as the sea, as dark his mood.

The sun had set while he and Chloe had looked for Jason. Finding him, Kal and Jason had argued in twilight. Now, Kal mulled it all over in the full darkness. A chilling breeze blew off the sea with a foul sent of chemicals mixed with natural salt spray. "What happened to my son...?"

The golden wings and bird-like helmet of Cassiopeia's armor bore battle scars of projectiles and energy weapons. Trinity's armor had been scarred in the battle that she, Superman and Green Lantern had fought against Darkseid's armada in the Epsilon Eridani system 10.7 light-years across space and fifteen years in the past. No one had figured out quite how they'd skipped over the fifteen years or why they had seemed to jump forward and back in time. They just felt relieved that they weren't dead after they'd been ejected from Darkseid's Command Cruiser while it was transiting the Epsilon Jump Gate. They felt relief to be back in the normal flow of time.

"What has become of my Queen? Of my Sisters?" Frustrated, Trinity jammed the butt of her javelin into a gargoyle on the edge of the roof and chipped a wing. "...of everyone?"

Kal sat on the roof's edge and gazed out over dark waters. "My son grew up without me." Kal thought aloud. "He was raised by a world conquering tyrant with god-like powers, raised by one who ground this whole planet and every civilization upon it under his bootheel..." raised by someone who is in many ways my exact opposite, someone who possesses great powers but employs those powers to conquer and destroy and crush spirits, rather than to liberate, create and inspire.

Cassiopeia leaned against her javelin and sobbed. "Hippolyta! Ariadne! Diana!" She took a breath. "You were the best, the bravest, the kindest, the most regal women I have ever known..." The wing of the gargoyle cracked and a piece of it fell and disappeared silently into the waters below.

Kal stood. How can I make this better? He asked himself. My son may be lost to me in this time, in this place – and I will have to grieve his loss – but; there are people here, now, who only lack the light to show the way, He turned toward his friend, "We must make this right, we must set this world, in this time to rights."

Cassiopeia gazed into Kal's eyes as well, "We have to stop Darkseid and save the whole world." Kal and Cassiopeia clasped hands. She continued, "Can't you fly us back in time, like you did yourselve, once before? Can't you do what you did when you saved Lois from that earthquake and stopped Luthor form using two nuclear missiles to knock everything west of the San Andreas Fault into the Pacific Ocean?"

Kal considered for a moment, for several moments, "...If I had my full powers, perhaps, but with the weak sunlight in this time... I'm still not fully recharged from the space battles with Darkseid and captivity aboard his starship. And truthfully, I'm not sure the sunlight that reaches the surface of this earth is even capable of restoring me back to full power."

A huge bolt of lightning struck the face of the building atop which Kal and Cassiopeia stood. They both looked up and saw a young man with ragged black hair hovering in the air before them. A tattered white half-cape with frayed golden fringes fluttered in the breeze behind him. A huge stylized golden lightening bolt adorned his red jacket and a white sash tied about his waist. "Am I interrupting something?" asked the Captain of the Lightening.

Then he realized who stood before him. "You! Both of you! Where have you been!?" He glared at each of them in turn. Numerous emotions played out across his features: suprize, anger, adoration, relief, joy. Relief finally won out. "I'm called Captain Marvel and I'm so glad to see you again, Superman. And you as well, Trinity. We all saw you both fly off into space with Green Lantern years ago, when I was just a boy. Trinity, you were wearing the same uniform you have on now, but I can see that your armor has been scarred in battle since then. Superman you've changed your uniform though...No more cape. No more red, blue and yellow..." The man in red looked thoughtful for a moment. Maybe he got that one from Nightwing's tailor. "Say, Superman, if you managed to return yourself and Trinity to Earth, did you bring Green Lantern back with you, too?"

"Actually, it was Trinity here who brought me back to consciousness..." Kal's thoughts drifted back to that moment. It was a pretty good moment, and not just because he'd waked up, also because of the way Chloe had wakened him, with a kiss. It was kind of a reverse Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty scenario.

"Yes, I did have the insight on what to do to bring Kal out of his catatonic state." Trinity squeezed Superman's hand gently. "And it was Green Lantern, with his power ring, who brought the three of us back to Earth across a vast distance of interstellar space."

The future. Earth. Jerusalem Crater. Green Lantern 2814

So that's it then. Green Lantern Kyle Rayner thought solemnly. He looked down at his uniform and noted that it no longer resembled the pressure suit he wore in the cockpit of his US Air Force Reserve F-15E. It now looked more like his formal dress uniform rendered in light and dark greens with black trim, rather than Air Force Blue. His Ring manifested the uniform to match his mood and thoughts. Fifteen years ago, in this spot, three Wizards combined their power into a spell that forced open a crack in the fabric of the universe. But... they didn't have sufficient power make the crack wide enough for whoever they were fighting – I'll assume it was Darkseid – to pass through it. And they lacked sufficient power to force the the dark godling through it. For that extra boost, they needed the power of the nuclear weapons. And retired Green Lantern Alan Scott wasn't able to employ the Ring energy construct I showed him to successfully shunt all the power of the nukes into the spell. Hence this distruction. I wonder if the crack is still there...

The Space Cop floated into the air and flew west over the crater of rock and fused glass that had once been Israel. Over the Mediterranean Sea, he accelerated past the sound barrier and the vast waters absorbed the energy of the sonic boom, leaving barely a peep to any surveillance satellites that might be watching for the likes of him. I wonder if it could have worked, if they could actually have forced Darkseid outside of reality? Apparently, Wizard Dresden thought it might work. Why else would he have tried it?

The Future. Earth. Italy. Kal-El

A glowing green spec appeared in the sky over spine of the Apennines Mountain range in central Italy. Kal immediately identified it as Green Lantern approaching by the hum of his forcefield. Trinity and Captain Marvel appeared not to notice.

"I have to get to my Fortress." Kal spoke with quite confidence. "Something there, in my mother Lara's archives or in my father Jor-El's researches of science and studies of the forty-eight known Galactic Civilizations may tell us how to defeat the conquerors..." Kal's face looked hopeful and resolute. Cassiopeia's tears began to dry on her cheeks.

The green spec grew larger as it moved closer. Still, the other heroes were too absorbed in their own thoughts to notice.

Captain Marvel's face turned downcast at the mention of Superman's Fortress of Solitude. "We had the same idea a few years back, Nightwing, Raven and I. The Bat had showed Nightwing how to find your Fortress before he disappeared. When we got there it was ... melted, fused, charred; crystal shafts that should have been spires... They just sagged in the middle. It looked like a nuclear weapon went off inside it. Nightwing said the radiation around the area confirmed it. We didn't go closer because we had no radiation suits."

Kal's face took on the thousand yard stare of those who feel overwrought by events. My father's Fortress of Knowledge, that became my Fortress of Solitude, is certainly lost to me and I will grieve that loss as well.

Rayner's voice buzzed in the Lantern Corps Reserve Charges over Trinity and Kal's collarbones, "This is Green Lantern. I'm on approach to your position from your southwest. Is the new guy friend or foe?"

Kal turned toward the southwest and indicated to Green Lantern that he could join them. "He's a friend."

"What's up?" asked Captain Marvel.

Kal-El's mood seemed further grieved by Captain Marvel's report on the Fortress. This loss added to his feelings of grief over his son and his powers. So Trinity answered, "You asked about Green Lantern, earlier. He's flying back to join us and report on what he found."

Kal steeled himself in the presence of GL, as the newer hero floated down to join them on the roof, and made introductions. They all brought each other up to date on Jason, the Amazons and the Wizards' last stand against the Darkseid and his hoards. The Lantern turned to Captain Marvel, "We need to know our enemy in order to devise a way to defeat him. What can you tell us about this Darkseid, about the source of his power?"

"First, we don't say his name." Cap turned toward Rayner. "He is supernatural. Saying his name could summon him or at least his awareness. He seems to feed on the despair, hopelessness, and crushed spirits of the survivors here on Earth. He's got some kind of techno-shamanistic link to everyone in the cities and towns. There are a few resistance groups, but mostly they just try to live by themselves, carve out a life hidden in the jungels of India, Africa, and South America. Freddy and I swap out visiting them all, carrying messages among them. One of us always guards the Rock of Eternity and on it the Spear of Destiny. The other is down here helping as he can. The resistance just scavenges a meager existance out of the jungles and abandoned military camps. It was easier before my sister joined the conquerors."

"So we weaken the Conqueror, disrupting his nourishment supply by inspiring hope among the people of earth" said Kal. "That I can do. Even without my full range of powers."

"What?" Green Lantern and Captain Marvel asked in stereo.

Trinity replied, "Kal hasn't always been costumed adventurer. He's been a writer and farmer as well, a man of the soil and a man of the pen."

"That's interesting but not compelling." Replied the fighter pilot.

"Yeah, this is the compelling question: if Superman has lost his powers what chance do have against these conquerors?" Captain Marvel asserted. "Maybe you haven't seen the state of the world. I have flown to every corner of the globe. The Conqueror with his Swarm Troopers and Parademons turned northern Europe into a giant firepit. They wiped out our militaries: all six Chinese aircraft carriers lie on the bottom of the Pacific, thousands of blasted-apart Russian tanks litter the roads into south and central Asia as well as the passes of the Ural Mountains and they even turned the American satellite system against us. Millions died of malnutrition and exposure in the months after they Conquered us. The minds of most survivors are enthralled to the Conqueror, except for a handful in the resistance. We needed you Superman. We needed your powers."

Trinity hefted her spear. "We fight with the forces we have; not those we wish we had. Did we learn nothing from the Bat in Gotham? His greatest power was as a symbol that anyone can stand up to injustice and everyone should."

Many emotions played out in Kal's eyes as his face betrayed little. He thought back to what his dad, Jonathon Kent, had told him about his powers, "You were sent here for a reason son, and it wasn't just about dusting crops or scoring touchdowns." He thought about what his father Jor-El had said in the recordings in the Fortress, "They can be a great people, Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. In time, they will race behind you. In time, they will join you in the sun."

GL turned to Captain Marvel, "What else do we know about the Conqueror and his forces? Have they, in fact, been to earth before?"

Captain Marvel seemed to be organizing his thoughts. Even though his face had the weathered appearance of a man in his late thirties or early forties, his expression more resembled a college freshman being asked to recall something from the prior semester. "The tribal peoples from sub-Saharan Africa and the mountains and rainforests of South American say they have legends. The Wizard Shazam who gave me and Mary and Freddy our powers says he remembers it from the dawn of human history. It matches up with some of the Hebrew and Catholic mysticism regarding that early period. Kalduram, Aquaman now, said the early history of Atlantis indicates that it sank around that time..."

"And..?" The Air Force officer in Green Lantern was getting the better of his patience.

"Well, piecing it all togther, which I haven't actually sat down and done before..." Marvel thought for another moment, "Here are some common elements of these early legends: after the War in the Heavens where Lucifer was cast down, there was a War in Earth where a dark god was driven off the earth. Atlantis was sunk durning that war. The Amazons' Island was cast adrift in time. It took the mightiest civilizations of the day...the Sumerians, the Phonecians, the Egyptians, the Amazons, the Atlantians, working together with the Old Gods and the Arc Angels to force this dark godling from the realm of earth. The Angels didn't have the stomach to finish the job after having just fought a war of their own..." He trailed off in thought.

Cassiopeia spoke up, "In my studies of Amazon and Mediterranean antiquities, I found some writings on clay tablets and markings on pottery that would support what you're describing." She put an hand on his shoulder.

"They certainly couldn't have put him on a space ship and launched him away into the heavens" Green Lantern looked quite serious. "What did they do to drive him out?"

"Look, I haven't exactly researched any of this for a term paper, you know? I've just heard things. I haven't heard how it happened exactly." The Captain of the Lightning and the Thunder looked off into the middle distance as he recalled, "But...I think the armies and the mages confined the dark god in a summoning circle and then reversed it to cast him beyond the Outer Gates..." He looked across at Kal, a hopeful look in his eyes "I guess that would be across space, to another planet in another star system, right?"

Trinity elbowed Kal gently. She gave him a look that said, Pull youself together; we have a world to save. Kal perked up and replied, "Could be." Then he seemed to withdraw, listening yet more intent on sorting his own thoughts, his own grief over his son. There are people here, now who can benefit from the skills and knowledge I that I have. There are people who have resisted the Conquerors; Captain Marvel says they scratch out an existence for themselves scavenging from the jungles and from lost cities, lost military camps. I can teach them to farm, to build; I can inspire them.

"Where are we going to find supernatural firepower like that today?" Trinity asked.

"Tough to say," replied Marvel. "The White Council of Wizards was all but wiped out in the Conquest. I don't know if anyone has contact with Summer or Winter Courts of the Fae anymore. The Vampire Nations all allied themselves with the Conquerors. The Church seemed to fall apart. The synagogues went underground again. And your people, Trinity, your Sisters..." He trailed off clearly saddend by what he knew had become of the once-proud warriors of virtue. "Maybe Atlantis? I still see Kaldur and Garth from time to time. We have Raven and Zatanna among the resistance, but they mostly keep their groups shielded from the Conqueror's senses. There's me and Freddy, but we've got our hands full just protecting the Spear on the Rock of Eternity. There are some adepts among the Resistance but I wouldn't ask them to step up and take on the Conqueror, without support, without a plan..." He trailed off, looking searchingly at Kal.

Rayner spoke up, "I may be the one with the least heroing experience, but I have years of experience in planning and executing operations. Now that we have some idea of the enemy we're facing, we need to see if adding ourselves into the mix of the resistance will create an advantage for us."

Trinity turned to Captain Marvel, "Can you get me to the Library of Sicily? I should be able to contact Atlantis from there. I'll work with Kalduram to see what we can come up with."

"Maybe I can contact the Green Lantern Corps and get some reinforcement from the Guardians?" Rayner offered. "Or maybe there's something from that last Working Harry Dresden put together fifteen years ago. I'll find Raven and we'll see what we can figure out. "

Kal stood up firmly and turned to Kyle, "Take me to Nightwing and the resistance." He looked like Superman again. "I can teach them to farm. I can teach them to build houses and barns. Everyone has the abilities and talents to carry out his or her purpose. It seems that mine are currently more suited to helping the resistance do more than merely scavenge and gather a life for them selves out the jungles and wrecked cities. Maybe Zatanna and I can figure out a way to hack the techno-shamanistic hold the Conqueror has over the people of the world. I will teach them to hope again. Maybe we can weaken the Conqueror." Kal concluded. "If despair is his yellow sunlight, then hope must be his green Kryptonite."

Kal and Trinity lingered holding hands and finally decided on an embrace and a kiss for their goodbyes. Captain Marvel made a kind of bowing salute with his fist in his chest. The Space Cop and the Amazon clapped each other on the shoulder and he shook hands with Superman.

As the heroes flew off, Darkseid's visage appeared in the night sky. His lips moved, but only those in his thrall could hear his words. Both Kal and Trinity could lipread in the language he spoke. "Come to me all of you workers and farmers. Come to me in my city. Come to me in Babylon which is now fully rebuilt. Come to me and receive my mark upon your foreheads. Receive my mark upon your minds and give yourselves fully to me. Without me you are nothing. You have no goals, or thoughts of your own. Recieve my mark. Receive my words. Only then will your miserable wretched lives have meaning."