Title: The End
Author: DC Luder
Summary: Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder
Author's Note: Closer look into the final events and what was missing in Kingdom Come's fourth volume, all direct dialogue quotes are in italics. References made to the Kingdom Come and Obsidian Age storylines.
Without hesitation, I had questioned her excessive force after killing one the meta-humans that had escaped from Clark's mid-western penitentiary.
With about as much apprehension, she had swung a sword sharp enough to split molecules at me.
There had been a reason I been hiding in my Cave for so many damn years…
Since Clark's visit to what had once been Wayne Manor, I had been working with my Outsiders, collecting information and developing a plan that would hopefully prevent too much bloodshed. Alfred would have mused that it was like the old days, playing it cool while waiting for the opportune moment to save the day. The key piece had been siding with Luthor and his legion in order to get closer to the brainwashed Captain Marvel. He was a powerful being that had no place on the side of evil.
Even though my faux alliance had come to fruition, it had left a foul taste in my mouth.
In the end, as expected, all hell had broken loose at Superman's meta-human Gulag in the former state of Kansas. When the riot had turned to mass escape, I had to choose between staying and doing what I could to help my former allies from afar or suiting up one last time to fight alongside them.
It had been suicide for young, metahumans let alone for an old, crippled man.
A lifetime ago, I would have looked to Alfred for advice or even the oil portrait of my parents. Although I still had allies of my own, they looked up to me and asking them for advice would have shown a crack in my armor.
I doubted anything could have cracked her armor…
Arriving at the Gulag, her metallic armored wings, chest piece and matching helmet had transformed her silhouette into that of a golden eagle.
Princess Diana, the peacekeeping diplomat turned vengeful warrior…
The Outsiders and myself troops had landed amidst the very definition of chaos. Those that had been imprisoned by Superman and his league of heroes had been seeking the ultimate revenge on their captors. Everywhere I had looked there seemed to be titans clashing with terrors, lives hanging in the balance and defeats outnumbering victories.
Sporting the most advanced and reinforced bat-suit I had ever developed, I had landed as carefully as possible. Falling to the ground would have made it difficult to get back to my feet in the two-hundred pound, hydraulic powered suit of armor. Given how many still forms were lying about, it had appeared that a second chance was not an option.
I had spotted a black cowled and caped figure laying on the ground, nearly his height and size…
A swift attack by a heavily muscled man with flesh the color of tomato juice had distracted me for a moment. As I had spun around to take out his midsection, I noticed a black and red garbed figure about twenty yards ahead. Despite the fact that he old enough to have a daughter in her twenties, the man still fought as he had when he was a child, using acrobatic flips, twists and turns immersed in aggressive, fast-paced martial arts.
Incidentally, while targeting key threats and eliminating them via a number of non-lethal weapons, I had found the glinting of golden wings growing closer. It had been difficult to tell whether she was approaching me or if I was being pulled to her. Before I could recover from being engulfed in flames, I had heard her victorious cry, loud and long over the cacophony of the battle.
Disarming my flame-throwing metahuman opponent with a fast acting poxy that enveloped his hands, I had looked up to see a massive inmate, covered in black tattoos. He had been speaking in German while preparing to impale his unnamed victim with a massive sword. Before I had been able to take action, Diana had stepped in, slicing her sword through the massive man's torso.
He had been dead before he hit the ground.
"Diana?" I had asked. The pressures of upholding the world's safety had been something we all had endured for years and from the look of how one of its finest heroes had been fighting, it had finally taken its toll.
With the inmates enraged over the murder of their fallen friend, they had begun a relentless attack on the both of us. In order to defend ourselves and one another, we had taken to fighting back to back. Bullets whizzed off my armor nearly as loudly as her sword struck down opponents.
Her reply came in a loud cry of anger, "He left me no choice, they began this, I will finish it." Diana hesitated while lassoing an inmate that had tried to take flight, "And we will finish it without you, Bruce! Your people are out of their league!"
I had never minded being blatantly insulted, even to my face, but insults directed to those that had worked under my watch were unacceptable. I would have turned to face her but a gun-toting android had taken to shooting me in the chest repeatedly, the bullets ricocheting off and inadvertently striking himself, "Why? Because we're here to save lives rather than take them?"
The anger had been coming off of her in waves and I felt it just as I felt her wings scrape against my reinforced cape, "We're here to force peace! We're left with no other choice! If you stand in the way-- I will remove you!"
I should have kept my mouth shut, focused on the daunting task of trying to bring order without death. Instead, I had roared back at her, " 'Force peace.' The Amazon tenet. 'Spread love and understanding… but don't be afraid to bloody your knuckles doing it'," I had paused, lowering my voice to a growl, "Don't tell me you still subscribe to that paradox."
Somewhere, a man cried out in his last breath.
Somewhere, someone was laughing.
When she had only silently responded in being more aggressive with her attackers, I had pushed further, "I've heard rumors that the Amazons relived you of your duties and heritage for not being strident enough. Face the truth, Diana… You won't win back your royal station by overcompensating."
I had crossed the line, but it kept her from slitting an inmate's throat.
Instead, Diana had turned her blade on me, slashing off the edge of my shoulder guard while screaming, "You aristocratic bastard… HOW DARE YOU CONDEMN ME?!"
Hands nearly as strong as Superman's grabbed me by the throat, lifting me into the sooty, smoky mid-day sky. Pointless, I had latched onto her hands, doing everything in my power to free myself as we skyrocketed into the clouds. Her face was red with rage as she cried out, "I will not be judged by you! Do you hear me? Do you understand?"
I wasn't sure if I was going light-headed from the exertion of the battle, the grip on my trachea or the fact that we were climbing in the atmosphere. Needless to say, when she opted to free her hands from my throat and gripped my torso with her legs, I had taken in a lungful of dirty oxygen.
As she raised her sword up, pointing it down at the middle of my chest, I realized it might have been my last breath.
Where I could barely breathe, Diana was able to do so in stride, declaring boldly, "After all these years, you have the nerve to swagger out of your cave and expect everyone to bow before your precious wisdom! Well, it's too late for that, Bruce!"
I hit her hard in the face, hoping to shut her up.
She hit me back, sending my head spinning as she returned her hands to my neck, pulling me face-to-face, "We tried to hold order--- but it's too far gone! Our only option now is war!"
We suddenly burst through the soft white clouds into clear, blue endlessness. Where she was still intent on letting loose decades of anger and frustration towards me, my eyes spotted three dark spots on the horizon.
Diana could have crushed my throat like a milk carton when she had taken hold of me a minute earlier, but I hadn't so much as flinched.
The sight of three nuclear carriers racing towards us had brought a terrorized look to my face, one Diana quickly found crossing over hers.
With aircrafts still several miles out, I took one minute to tell her that this wasn't one fight, this was our extinction. I told her that if she truly desired atonement on Amazonian terms that we should continue fighting, leaving the poor souls miles below to suffer their ill and undeserved fate.
She took a fraction of a second to look at me before taking off towards the oncoming carriers. I allowed myself a smirk before joining her, no where near as fast despite the jetpack burning on full throttle. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as she used her sword for good, taking off part of the wing as easily as she had sliced off my shoulder guard. Setting my sights on the craft to the far left, I activated the lasers on the crest of the jetpack, shooting pulses over my head and fusing the bomb to the carrier.
The third had taken advantage of our efforts and soared past, releasing his bomb prematurely before disappearing at mach five.
I had always imagined my end as the result of one wrong move or one false turn. As a much younger man, I had never expected to live to see forty, let alone sixty-five. I should have died decades earlier, before falling out with Dick, before having to bury Alfred and Jim Gordon, before losing my identity and my home to Bane and Two-Face.
Before having to make friends with my former enemies while watching my former allies fall to their knees…
"Diana---," I started, having already lost sight of the bomb.
Sheathing her sword, she turned to go after it, but I grabbed her bare forearm, forcing her to face me, "Bruce, I have to do something, I have to---."
By the time her words had failed her, she had come to the same conclusion as I had.
It was the end.
Eighteen thousand feet in the air, my head heart pounding from the pressure and lack of oxygen and the fact that in thirty seconds, everyone below would be dust…
Keeping one hand on her arm, I moved the other gauntlet to the back of her neck drawing her to me.
My lips found hers hungrily as my mind did its best to forget all that we had fought about over the years, bring to the surface all the good memories we shared.
Those early days, after I had been coerced into the Justice League… doing my best to keep everyone distant with insults and discourtesies.
Diana gasped as she wrapped one arm around my back before letting the other press against my chest.
Calling her Princess just to get a rise out of her.
She filled her chest with the thin air before pressing it against my torso.
Discrediting her ideas and suggestions to instigate an argument.
I opened my eyes for a second to see hers were closed.
Sparring in the training room of the Watchtower until we were drenched in sweat.
I pulled back for a second, drawing in air hungrily before she lashed forward, taking hold of my lips with hers.
Traveling back in time in order to save Arthur only to end up on the brink of death myself, with Diana doing her best to care for me.
A soft moan escaped her, the complete opposite of the growls she had sent in my direction not minutes earlier.
Kissing her for the first time.
Kissing her for the last time…
Although the clouds below us were white, thunder cracked and flashes of lightning scattered and before my mind could process the anomaly, Diana had removed the hand from my chest plate and raised it straight in the air. A massive sound quaked the silence as we launched even further into the atmosphere. Securely in her hold, I used a free hand to activate the face shield that would supply me with a basic amount og oxygen as we reached higher altitudes.
I wanted to look down, to see our fate racing up to greet us, but I simply looking up the heavens, faintly chiding myself that I was going to end up there one way or another.
Thankfully, the suit was heavily insulated against the onslaught I had prepared for. As the temperature began dropping, I was able to maintain a core body temperature of ninety-nine degrees. Generally it hovered around ninety-seven but after the last thirty minutes, after the last thirty seconds, my blood was coursing my old veins.
As we neared sixty-thousand feet, I hoped that I wouldn't have a stroke.
Pausing, we both took a moment to look down, seeing the very top of the mushroom cloud making its way through the clouds, reaching nearly forty-thousand feet in the air before stagnating.
I whispered to myself, knowing Diana was more than capable of hearing me, "Something went wrong… that cloud shouldn't be that high… it was detonated way off of the ground…"
Having read my mind, she added, "We have to go down…" her crystal blue eyes found mine.
I pounded the metal plate of the chest piece, "Reinforced with lead… I'll be fine."
And at any rate, what was radiation sickness going to do to me at that point in my life?
The battlefield we had fled in unadulterated rage had been reduced to smoldering ash, barely identifiable remains and an eerie silence. Just as I had when I had first arrived, I surveyed the open area, looking for a familiar costumed hero amongst the chaos. As my hopelessness began to swell, I felt Diana's hand on my arm, looking to her as she pointed through the smoke, "Bruce… can it be?"
Everything in sight was a shade of gray but as the ashy fog began to clear, I spotted the faintest glowing of green. Rather than grab me, Diana took flight on her own, racing towards what appeared to be a green bubble hovering over the ground. I followed after her, trying not to let optimism fool me into believing…
Especially after I came across the remnants of the Blue Beetle suit, Hawkman's wings and Red Arrow's quiver.
But where others had valiantly fallen, there were those that had survived.
Three members of the Green Lantern Corps, including Kyle Rayner, had their rings shining bright, creating a protective dome over at least one hundred people. Stepping up beside Diana, I saw that Rayner was kneeling. Through the green haze, I spotted at least three arrows had pierced his metallic armor, although in significantly non-lethal locations on his arm chest and leg.
Among the survivors contained in the orb, I spotted a number of my Outsiders including the green-eyed Nightstar. She knelt in the rubble, cradling her father's bleeding head. Feeling my throat close, I breathed a sigh of relief as Red Robin lifted a hand and patted her arm gently.
"Survivors," Diana whispered, "It's a miracle."
I had thought all was lost, that it was the end.
The frightened faces of prisoners and the shocked faces of battered heroes said it was just the beginning.