An alternative take on the Justice League series focusing on Superman and Wonder Woman, from their first meeting. Using some plots from Superman Returns, as well as comics in the mix.
Superman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League belong to DC comics.
THE RETURN OF A HERO
The plane nosedived and screams reverberated in Lois Lane's ear. She bent into a brace position and began to pray. This was it. She was going to die. After all the close shaves she had in her life, it seemed her luck had finally run out. There was going to be no saving now. She had denounced the need for miracles two years ago with a Pulitzer Prize winning article that refuted the idea that humans needed alien heroes. But no human could save this plane from plummeting to certain destruction. Only an alien hero could do that and he was long gone.
The irony of the situation was not lost on her either. For once she had not come here looking for trouble nor poking her nose where it was not wanted. It was a simple assignment. Statistically speaking she had more of a chance dying by slipping down a flight of stairs than on this plane. She closed her eyes and thought of her mother, father, sister and Richard. She really did not want to die and cursed her fate and her insistence in muscling on a story that should have gone to Steve Lombard.
She suddenly heard a shout as someone pointed out to a blur of motion outside the window.
"Look! Out in the sky!"
Lois did not have time to even look as the plane seemed to spin out of control and the crescendo of screams roared in her ear. Wind rushed and howled; paper and air masks seemed to flutter and whip savagely before her eyes. The plane seemed to be plummeting and her stomach seemed to turn in on itself and her screams died in her throat.
The feeling of falling had stopped and the entire craft suddenly seemed to steady itself. Passengers could see the sky, which had been spinning at crazy angles, appear all blue and sedate. The plane was being gently eased downwards. The screams had stopped and she could see and hear shouts and clapping. Many around her were praying and giving thanks. Others were too immobile and stunned to understand what had happened.
Lois looked out the window and saw people cheering. They were in a stadium. She suddenly saw a tall figure appear in the doorway. He had to even bend his head slightly.
It was him. The alien hero that she had said the world did not need. Superman.
He was as she remembered. In blue and red. Yet something was different. The red S insignia was no longer set in gold but in a sea of black .He smiled reassuringly at the passengers who were still gaping.
"It's all right, folks. You're safe. I urge you to settle down and wait whilst the emergency services come to you. There may be others who will need my help. So excuse me."
He stepped out the door and she could hear the thunderous applause.
Lois tried to push her way forward but by the time she had gotten past the many irritated passengers who also wanted to catch a view of the man who use to be known as the Man of Steel, he was gone.
Superman could see Lois Lane as she rifled through her bag for a cigarette. She had no idea he was approaching. This was their first face to face meeting since he had left five years ago on his journey to the stars to seek out his lost Planet. He had seen her on the plane the day before but that had not been the time to even greet her or explain why he had to leave. He had traveled long and far and he had found nothing where Krypton would be. There had been a finality and sense of sadness. He was indeed the last of his kind.
The burden on his shoulders seemed heavier now. Not only was he protector of his adopted home but he was carrying the weight of a lost race and would have to thread carefully so he did not repeat the mistake of his ancestors. He studied Lois for a moment. The star reporter. Clever, sharp, tough if somewhat acid tongued. Intrepid to the point of foolishness. In the short time he knew her and wooed her as Superman she had shown a penchant for getting into trouble and needing saving.
He wondered if she was still like that or if being in a stable relationship had steadied her. As Superman he could not offer that to her. She was not interested in Clark Kent and that in itself set up a situation that he realized now had been unhealthy for both of them.
She had loved one aspect of him. But he was not just Superman nor was he just Clark Kent. He inhabited both worlds and this made things both easy and hard. He understood humans having grown up with and among them and appreciated the many things that made living on his adopted world a joy. Yet he was different and no one could understand that. Not even his parents who loved him so much. And having traveled in the deep reaches of space he had found that although there had been no Krypton, there had been more. He had encountered other races, other civilizations and seen a lot of life and a lot of death in so short a space of time. Was it possible to just pick up back the threads of an old life when one had experienced so much? He was due to restart back at the Planet next week as Clark Kent and he had heard from Jimmy that she was engaged to Perry White's nephew.
She was trying to light up when she heard the sound of the flapping of his cape and knew it was him. She spun around as he landed on the roof.
"Smoking kills, you know."
She looked at him and said dryly, "Yeah, well so does smog. But we have been over that." She took a deep pull and sighed. "That's good. Now, Superman, care to tell me why are hovering over my workplace?"
He replied calmly, "I assume you want to see me. Isn't that why you are here?"
That was always the case in the past. She would wait for him on the roof and he would seek her out. He knew they needed to speak. To clear the air. He had left Earth abruptly. Looking at her face he could see she had not forgiven him for it.
She shrugged. "It was Perry's idea. You're back and people want to know what happened." She took out her recorder.
He shook his head. "No Lois. Off record."
She frowned and he looked at her gravely. Something was different about him. It wasn't just that he had changed a color on his uniform. There wasn't the boyish twinkle she was accustomed seeing. They always had a flirtatious relationship but clearly he was not about to indulge her like he use to. That annoyed her for some reason but she couldn't very well record him secretly. This was one of those times she thought super vision a royal pain.
She eyed him, slightly peeved but she stubbed out the cigarette and snapped the recorder off. "So, where did you go?"
"To search for Krypton."
"I thought Krypton was gone?"
"So did I but scientists had received images from the Voyager probe of a red sun just outside the Adromeda galaxy….. I needed to go."
"It wasn't there. Everything had been destroyed."
"I see. And this change to your tailoring?"
"A mark of respect and mourning."
"So you found out it was gone. Did it take five years to do that?"
He replied simply, "No. There was more to see."
"So we are not alone in the universe, is that what you are saying?" Somehow she did not know why the revelation did not interest her as it should.
"Yes. There are other civilizations. Intelligent life is not bound within the confines of twenty three pairs of chromosomes."
"I see. So you found other aliens like yourself. I'm surprised you came back."
"This is my home. No matter how far I travel and what I may see, those that I love are here."
"Oh yeah? But you were sure quick to leave it...to leave me!" she snapped, unable to keep the hurt out of her voice.
He sighed and turned to stare out at the darkness. "Lois, I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I needed to go and see if anything was left. See where I came from. Look for survivors."
"If they were would you have come back?"
"I don't know," he replied truthfully
She said tensely, "Knowing that, you never had the decency to tell me, to explain. You know, I thought you were different from all those other lousy men I had dated in the past. I thought you had a heart. I thought you cared for me."
"I did...I do."
"You did? You do? Which is it, Superman?" she asked dryly.
Superman looked down and he could see Richard White sitting with Jimmy Olsen eating take-out. "Lois, you are engaged and, from what I gather, he's a good man."
She stiffened and had the grace to flush. She had forgotten about Richard. He was downstairs. He had brought dinner for her as she worked late. He always did that for her. She admitted, with a twinge of guilt, "He is a good man. He helped me a lot. It was because of him I won my Pulitzer."
"Yes, I heard about that. "Why The World Does Not Need A Superman". It must have been good."
"It was excellent. Richard most likely will be the next Editor-in-Chief when Perry retires. He used to work for the Herald and brought that paper back from the dead. He's very supportive and he flies did you know that?" It sounded childish but she didn't care. Let him see that Richard was no mere newshound. But to her chagrin, he did not look hurt or jealous.
He touched her shoulder. "Lois, you and I…"
She looked up at him. He was still as charismatic as she remembered, more so even. She raised her lips to his, willing him to kiss her and for a moment he seemed to consider it.
She whispered, "What?
He drew away from her and said quietly," He can offer you stability, happiness, safety...a normal life."
She gritted, "What if that isn't what I want?"
"Then you shouldn't be with someone that you can't be honest with. Lois, you don't even know me. You just know a facade. I can't offer you anything stable. Don't throw away something real for a fantasy."
"You lost the right to lecture me, Superman!" she replied stiffly. "You never even said goodbye…"
"Saying good-bye to you would have given you a hope that I could not promise," he said heavily, and that made her stare at him in dismay.
"Your uniform isn't the only thing to have changed," she observed bitterly.
"We have both changed." He gave her a somber look. "I have a lot of catching up to do. I need to go. I'm sorry for everything I put you through. I hope you can forgive me."
He lifted off and flew up into the night sky. She looked at the recorder in her hand and flung it over the roof top in annoyance.
Superman flew into Gotham City. He did a sweep from high above the clouds and spied what he came to find. He floated down onto the roof of one of the banks behind a figure in black.
The silhouette in the darkness did not move but a voice said, "Welcome back, Kent."
"Thank you, Bruce."
"I didn't expect to see you back."
"There was nothing to stay out there for. My planet is gone."
"You took a while coming back."
"I was delayed…" He thought of Almerac, of Warworld, of Daxam and the many other worlds he had seen. "How have you been?"
"Gotham is a cesspool."
"Ah. That bad, huh?"
"Gangs, drugs, money laundering, gun-running, human trafficking… You name it. Metropolis is fairyland compared to this."
"Oh, it has its moments. Money, is after all, the root of all evil…"
"Talking of money. You know Luthor is out of jail?"
"Yes, I know. I heard how he got his fortune as well. It seems his love knows no bounds in terms of age," said Superman somewhat distastefully.
Batman gave a snort but said, "I need to tell you something …A few days before you came back there was a robbery in the Metropolis Natural History Museum. They went to the geological exhibit and took a chuck of meteor rock."
Superman frowned, his mind working quickly. "A meteor rock? You're not suggesting that it was…?"
"Kryptonite? It's a possibility. Why would any one go to such an elaborate scheme to steal a chunk of rock? I think you need to be careful. The power outage that was responsible for several of the accidents the day you came back to earth, that was not normal. Losing electricity does not cause planes to arbitrarily fall out the sky neither. Only something like an electro magnetic pulse can cause that."
He digested this piece of information. "Well, it seems someone breached the Fortress and stole some crystals as well."
Batman narrowed. "You seem mighty causal about it. Taken as a whole, you definitely need to be careful."
"It would seem so. Luthor being the obvious candidate behind both incidents. I'll go do some digging and see what I can find. I'm starting back at the Planet tomorrow, I'm sure I can get some leads there. Well, it's good to see you, Bruce. Take care."
"What is it?"
Superman's brows rose as he saw a silver metallic band. From a quick scan he could see it was a communication device of some sort. His lips twitched and a flash of the old sense of humor returned. He took it. "Did you make this friendship bracelet all by yourself, Bruce? "
" It's a comlink," he corrected grumpily, " Will allow you to keep in touch. I can also pin point your exact location. Someone, maybe Luthor, has kryptonite out there, Clark, and it's the only substance known that can weaken and kill you. You must stop taking things for granted. You can't always just go flying in without thought or questions. It may be brave and noble but it is also predictable and foolish. This will at least allow you to have some sort of back up if things do go very wrong."
Superman slipped the device on his wrist under his sleeve, not in the least bit offended by his opinion of him. "The Batman always has a plan."
Batman turned his head back to his surveillance. "Well, I don't have the ability to shoot fire from my eyes. One must always have a contingency plan."
"Well, thank you, Bruce. You know, I was hoping one day we would discuss this idea of a League."
"Hnnnnnn, "was the Dark Knight's eloquent reply.
He smiled. "I'll take that as you're thinking about it. Good night."
Superman flew upwards into the clouds and Batman returned to his surveillance of his city.
Clark sat with his mother at the kitchen table. Martha Kent was sixty years old now. She was a widow of some ten years and most people would have thought that losing Jonathan Kent, the love of her life, would have depleted her somehow. But Martha Kent was a strong woman, proving to the world and her son that she could be independent and run the farm just as efficiently as her husband had. She had missed her son when he left for the stars but she knew why he had to go and was saddened he did not find what he was looking for. He had only been back a week now and she could see that he looked content, but yet not happy. He was playing with his food more than eating.
She asked gently, "Care to talk about it?"
"I saw Lois earlier..."
"Lois. I see. How did that go?"
"She's very hurt and angry at me. I can't say that I blame her. She's with someone right now and he's a good man."
"How do you feel about that?"
"That she moved on? I don't know. I didn't expect she would sit and wait for me. Lois is too vibrant a woman to do that. Five years is a long time to be apart and expect things to go back to the way it was. I'm not the same person I was."
She reached out and touched his arm. "I would be surprised if you were. That's not necessarily a bad thing either. You have seen and experienced things I could never even get my head around. I still can't believe you almost got married to some Queen up there."
He dropped his fork and said wryly," Yeah, it's unbelievable alright"
"What was it like?"
"I felt some sense of connection with the people who seemed similar to me in appearance and strength at first. They are very powerful and selectively bred. They are also very proud and somewhat of an elitist society. The Queen Maxima said she saw potential in me and my heritage it seemed to stand me in some stead. It appears the House of El was a respected name. She had ideas of making me her consort. She said I was strong and our combined genes would create superior offspring that could rule the galaxy. I couldn't stay. I couldn't be father to would-be despots. I didn't care for her in the way she wanted me to."
"How did she take it?"
"Badly at first…She wanted to put me in manacles but in the end it was her Commander who reminded her that Queens don't beg and that she would appear foolish before the council since I never made her any promises. They threw me off the planet." He chuckled at the thought.
His mother said wryly, "She sounds a brat."
"I guess she is. But she had no compassion. She had no desire to see anything worthy or good in any other race. I couldn't care for someone like that. I may share strength and power with her but that doesn't make me one of them. What I believe in is much of what I learned here from you and Pa. I may have the powers of a demi-god but I don't belong in palaces, courting royalty."
Martha touched his hand. "I'm sorry, sweetheart." He moved to get up with his plate but she said, "No, let me do that. It's been too long since I fed you and washed up after you."
He smiled at that and patted the hand on his. "Don't worry, Ma. I've gotten use to it. Romance isn't possible in Superman's life. Not even Clark's life. We are one and the same, apart from the clothes and the glasses and there is no one out there that understands both the lives I lead."
Martha said hopefully, "You must never give up, Clark. Maybe one day you will meet someone...There are meta-humans and vigilantes cropping up in various cities once you left."
" I've come to terms with it. Lana and Lori loved Clark and that never worked out. Lois wanted Superman and never gave Clark the time of day even though he…I went out of my way to show her how much I cared. Maxima wanted me for my genes. As for the vigilantes and meta-humans, I have an interest in them. But not why you would think."
"What do you mean?"
"I would like to meet these people, who clearly seem to have the same vision I have for the world. To do something more than save and retreat into Clark Kent. The world can be made a better one.
"I see. Well, many of them are very twitchy with the media. Like that one in Gotham. No one really gets to see or interview him."
"Yes, Jimmy mentioned he works in the shadows. I would like to meet him one day. Dressing like an overgrown bat and striking the fear of god in mobsters would make you wonder at his psychology but it seems to be working," he remarked with a twinkle in the eyes knowing that Bruce would probably not be amused at the manner he was talking even if it was to protect his identity.
"And there is that one in Keystone. The Flash I think he calls himself."
"Yes. The fastest man alive." Superman had met him once and the speedster had insisted they raced each other.
"Faster than you?"
"Remains to be seen. There is also a former marine wielding a power ring and an alien from Mars that have some ties with the federal government. I'll try to meet with them when I can. I'm due to re-start at the Daily Planet and I found a top-floor, two-bedroom apartment in Metropolis. It's in a very quiet residential block. I have a lot of elderly neighbors, and it's facing Centennial Park. Very convenient for Superman."
"I'm glad. See, I told you it would be better if you had your own place. I'm not out to pasture yet that I can't look after myself."
He replied, "I know and is this where a certain Ben Hubbard comes in?"
Martha looked at him uneasily. "Do you mind, Clark? I know how you felt when your father died. But with you gone, it got so lonely and Ben has been good to me and..."
Clark took her hand in his. "This isn't about me. It's what you need and want."
"Thank you. I never imagined I could care for anyone except your father and for a while I kept pushing Ben away. But he was here when times were tough and I realized that caring for him was in no way a betrayal of your father. I'll always love Jonathan but Ben is part of my life now and I'm grateful for his love and companionship."
"Are you two going to get hitched?"
"What? At my age? Don't be silly. But we don't need a piece of paper to validate what we have."
He leaned over to kiss her brow. "Well, any guy who can make my mother happy is okay in my books. I need to get moving. I must see what I need to take back to the apartment tonight. I got work tomorrow."
Martha smiled. "Okay. It was wonderful having you home, son. Drop by anytime."
After he left the room, she picked up the half eaten plate of food and emptied it in the compost bin. She opened the tap and let the water run over the dishes. As happy as she was to have her son back her thoughts were troubled.
Clark had never been a needy man. He always understood his limitations and kept himself disciplined even when he was wooing Lois as Superman. He understood too well the dangers and sacrifices any woman who cared for Superman would have to endure. He had never wanted to hurt any of his past loves but it always ended up that way. She understood his thinking and even agreed with him but it still pained her as a mother to see that her son would be destined to always be lonely. Perhaps now whilst he still had her and his work and friends, it would be okay but what would happen when they all died? Clark's Kryptonian genes made him long lived. He could live for centuries according to Jor-el. When he lost his human touch stones would the cold, logical alien take over?
She looked out the window and stared at the stars in sky. The universe was a vast one. Surely, somewhere out there, there must be someone. Martha Kent said a silent prayer and when she turned away from the window a star fell.