Sorry for the delay, this chapter has been ready for almost a week but the holidays left me with next to zero time to post it so again my apologies. Before we begin I'd like to thank: ben10987654321, C.A.M.S 22, Helacre13, shugokage, chronos the cookie thief, Spoons There Are, rebfan90 andpauldleast for taking the time to leave me a review. You guys all kick ass and your thoughts and critiques are all appreciated. Note for the Chapter: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a very real, very nasty disease that a dear friend of mine had. You can read about it online if you're curious but a basic rundown is the disease messes with the electrical signals in the heart and causes a thickening of the heart muscles, so the heart doesn't work properly.
Clark was on his way out the door, having stopped by the farm to pick up his uniform on the way to Watchtower when he phone vibrated, he looked down and saw that he had received a text message from Cat.
He tapped his screen a few times and brought up the message: Clark we need to talk. Can you swing by my apartment?
Immediately he was put on guard, Cat's texts were always liberally punctuated with emoticons and she almost always ended her messages with three hearts. This message lacked any of those familiar hallmarks, it was brief (almost curt for her), she wanted to meet at her apartment, not a restaurant or theater or any location the normally gregarious woman favored and last but perhaps most telling of all she said they needed to talk. Add all that to the current strained state of their relationship and it didn't take a genius to figure out what Cat likely wanted to talk about.
His stomach felt heavy as he composed a reply: Okay, but I'm sort of busy at the moment, is later tonight okay?
Her response was quick and to the point: Alright.
None of her usual nicknames or terms of endearment just the one word. While he would've liked to pretend otherwise the truth of the matter was his relationship with Cat would more than likely end in a matter of hours.
He held back a sigh, changed into his uniform and flew off to Watchtower.
Diana was close to losing her patience; sitting in the study of the recently opened Themysciraian embassy she was (almost literally) buried under a mountain of paperwork. She had known that the ambassadorial position would require her to meet with diplomats and heads of state, negotiate deals and trade with other nations; she'd been prepared to deal with all of that.
What she hadn't quite been ready for however were the trappings of modern society…specifically all the red tape of the patriarchs world, it all seemed so inefficient to her; sign this, initial that, date here, notarize there. If she had been dictating the terms of establishing these relationships Diana held no doubt she could have expedited the process greatly…unfortunately to play the game she had to follow the rules.
She'd lost all track of time cramped inside this room, she knew it had been Thursday evening when she'd entered and she was pretty certain it was Saturday or Sunday afternoon now.
To her credit she had an excellent staff headed up by Etta helping her everywhere they could but much of the heavy lifting (such as it were) required Diana's direct attention. Artemis as usual was her greatest ally; she was currently out of the country acting as Diana's proxy meeting with various diplomats.
A knock on the door cut into the sound of her pen scratching on paper. She paused and looked up at the closed portal warily; every time there'd been a knock it had been Etta with more paperwork to sign. "Enter."
Diana looked up to see Etta walk in with what looked like twice the amount of papers as her last visit.
That was the last straw.
Dian held up her hands and dropped her pen on the desk. "No more, I am taking the rest of the day off. If I didn't know better I'd say this paperwork has an enchantment on it; I could swear I have signed the same form a dozen times."
Etta blinked. "But the Premier of-
"Whatever nation they are the Premier of they can wait until tomorrow," Diana said firmly. "It has been to long since I have seen the sky or taken a walk around the garden. I'm inclined to believe everyone else is feeling overworked as well so tell the staff they have the rest of the day off."
She thought she saw a flash of respect in Etta's eyes before she stepped out of the room (but not before depositing her burden on the desk).
Diana stood, stretched for a moment and then headed up to her personal quarters. When she arrived she shut the door, striped down, proceeded to her washroom and drew a hot bath. The scented water was paradise and Diana felt the tension of the past few days leak away as she languished, after nearly an hour (and a light nap) she extracted herself from the tepid water, dried and changed into a light tunic and sandals; she was on her way out the room when she heard a faint buzzing noise coming from her nightstand.
Upon further investigation the culprit was revealed to be her Justice League communicator.
So much for a trip to the garden. She thought ruefully as she picked up the device. Five minutes later Wonder Woman was flying away from the embassy and headed south east.
Diana entered the situation room of Watchtower and took her seat on the right side of the table. Not counting herself seven other members of the league were present; Zatanna was next to her, across from the young magician was Impulse, sitting next to him was the Martian Manhunter. Aquaman was standing in the far corner of the room with his arms across his chest and his head down, directly across from him Cyborg and Chloe were conversing in hushed tones. Superman was seated at the head of the table and judging by his lack of reaction to everything going on around him he was in deep introspection.
Shortly after Diana had taken her seat J'onn cleared his throat. "Superman, I believe this is everyone."
The Man of Steel blinked and looked around for a moment; Diana caught the quickest look of surprise cross his features before it settled into a mask of impassiveness. "If everyone could have a seat we can begin."
Everyone settled in their appropriate places but Diana kept an eye on Superman; something was off in him, she didn't know what but judging from his bearing it was something troubling.
"Okay, to start of I have good news; Oliver's come out of his coma."
There were various sounds of relief and excitement from around the table, Diana didn't join in having never having met Oliver although she was happy that a fellow comrade had recovered from his injuries.
Superman continued explaining Oliver's Intel from Lionel Luthor and what Lex's hand in attempting to create a metahuman army, that news quieted any of the earlier jubilation.
"As far as the law is concerned we don't have enough evidence to move against Lex and our latest Intel is about eight months out of date, so how do we play this?"
Impulse spoke up. "I say we handle this like we did back when we were hitting Lex's 33.1 facilities; we get in hit hard and fast then get out before anyone knows we were there."
Zatanna nodded. "We did manage to stay ahead of Lex for nearly a year; I don't see why that wouldn't work this time."
"You're getting ahead of yourselves." Chloe interjected. "We don't even know were Project Conduit is being held or what's changed since Ollie got his information."
"Chloe is right, as much as I would like to move against this Lex Luthor it would be prudent to obtain more information before we determine a course of action. Acting rashly would compromise our chances of success. " Diana added.
"Okay, so we just have Chloe and Vic hack a few Luthorcorp computers, we update our Intel and then we make our move." Impulse replied easily.
"Hacking into Luthorcorp will probably be a bit more involved than that Bart," Clark said dryly "But that's probably our best place to start. We'll reassess our next step afterwards; we're only going to have one shot at this, so let's make it count. Are we agreed?"
There were nods and murmurs of assent from around the table and shortly afterward Chloe and Victor broke off and got to work.
And although they were both extremely skilled in the use and manipulation of computers it still took them a few hours to get through Luthorcorp's firewalls, the type of attack they used had only temporarily disabled the security so they didn't have time to search around the mainframe and instead dumped the entire contents of Luthorcorp's servers onto their own. Chloe explained the benefits and drawbacks of such a method. "Well, the good thing is if there was any indication of what Lex was up too on any computer in Luthorcorp we have it. The bad news is its raw data, and a lot of it, even with me and Victor working on this it's going to take a while to filter all of this down and extrapolate any useful information."
"Thanks guys I appreciate what you've done, but I'll take it from here."
Chloe raised in eyebrow. "Where are you going, the Fortress?"
"No. Somewhere a bit closer to home, it shouldn't take me more than a few hours." With that statement he copied the information onto a large solid state drive and headed over to S.T.A.R Labs.
Fortune was with him, for just as he was passing over the building he saw who he was looking for; Dr. Karen Faulkner was leaving the facility and by the looks of it headed for home. He landed in front of her and she jumped back in surprise nearly upsetting her briefcase. "Superman! What are you doing here?"
"I'm sorry to come calling so unexpectedly Kitty but I need a favor."
She adjusted her glasses and stood straighter. "Anything."
He opened his palm and handed her the solid state drive. "I need you to look this over as soon as possible, lives are at stake."
She took the device curiously. "What's on it?"
"I'm hoping you can tell me that."
She chewed her lip for a moment and nodded. "Come with me."
He fell in step behind her as they returned back to the building; she swiped her I.D badge and entered the main reception area. Clark noted the impressive size and the huge gleaming S.T.A.R Labs symbol set in the marble floor.
The security guard; a portly middle aged man posted at the front desk glanced up and did a double take. "Holey molely you're Superman!"
Faulkner coughed into her hand and the security guard reluctantly tore his gaze away from the Man of Steel. "Uh Ernie, as you can see I have a guest. I'll be up in my lab for a while… if anyone asks I'd appreciate your discretion about the uh…identity of my guest."
Ernie looked at Superman again. "Is Doc Faulkner helping you with a mission Superman?"
"Something like that." Superman replied solemnly.
Ernie nodded eagerly his eyes bulging. "You can count on me, my lips are sealed!"
Superman smiled at him. "Thank you sir, I appreciate it."
Ernie buzzed them in and Superman followed after Kitty. She opened the door to the lab and Clark saw a small mountain of take-out containers and empty soda bottles littering the counter and small well-worn couch in the corner.
"Sorry about the mess," she said with a flush. "I spend a lot of time up here and I wasn't expecting guests…"
He raised a hand. "It's fine Kitty."
She booted up her computer and he noted a picture from the web edition of the daily planet featuring Cyborg was prominently placed as the wallpaper on her desktop, she tried to casually scoot in front of the screen and obscure his view and despite his mood he had to bite back a small smile.
"So are you going to tell me where you got this from?"
"Green Arrow obtained information from a credible source that Lex Luthor is trying to create an army of metahumans. Unfortunately when the rest of the league received the Intel it was out of date, so we had to update it. "
Kitty caught the slight stress on the word 'update' and nodded getting Superman's meaning. "I see."
After about an hour or so she turned away from the computer console, removed her glasses and rubbed her nose. "This isn't good."
Superman lifted his head at her voice and stepped closer to her console. "What did you find?"
"A lot, Green Arrow's Intel is correct insofar that Luthor is trying to create a metahuman army. What he is incorrect about is the scope of this operation; Project Conduit is frankly humongous, four facilities on three continents, no one facility seems to be the head one; all four facilities have multiple redundancies, if one facility goes down the others can pick up their slack but that's not all."
"It gets worse?"
"All of this is buried under so many shell companies and third party holdings that it'd be next to impossible to trace any of it back to Lex."
Clark's mind flashed back to the various illegal experimentations Lex had conducted back in Smallville. "Lex is excellent at covering his tracks. He's almost made it into an art." He replied dryly.
"Evidentially, I don't see one thing that points back to Lex directly, and I know what I'm looking for." she replied while absently tapping a pen against the screen. "Anyway Project Conduit is being headed up by Dr. Sydney Harper."
"That name sounds familiar."
Faulkner nodded eagerly. "It should, he made headlines a few years ago for allegedly breaking the international ban on human cloning. He was acquitted because some of the evidence had been improperly gathered but his name and credibility were shot to hell in the science community, excuse my language. He kind of dropped off the radar after that, I guess we know where he's been."
Clark scanned the screen and pointed to the largest conglomerate. "This holding is in Harper's name, the way it's all laid out makes it look like-
"Harper is the one pulling the strings." Faulkner finished. "If I didn't know what I do know about Lex I'd be inclined to believe this is all legit," She looked thoughtful for a moment, "What I'm curious about is why Lex would want Harper in the first place, he was…is brilliant, but I can think of three other scientists in genetics that are at least as smart as Harper but without the baggage." Faulkner said thoughtfully as she scrolled through pages.
Clark didn't answer but he knew the answer, Lex would want to work with someone he had leverage over, someone who would acquiesce to him because Lex held an axe (so to speak) over their head and who better than a disgraced world class geneticist? "Hold on a second, go back."
Faulkner scrolled back a few pages.
"Stop right there." He got a closer look at screen. "Those are research notes about Conduit."
Faulkner looked them over. "You're right although these aren't very thorough, think of this as the cliff notes version of Harpers research notes; no doubt he has more extensive notes on a computer somewhere."
Clark leaned in and read the screen:
Subject Number: 0102304
Name: Kenneth Braverman
Pretreatment notes: Shows stage one metagene, subject is diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and is in poor health.
Post treatment notes: Subject was treated with purified meteor extract, metagene responded to treatment and now shows massive increases in strength, speed, durability and the ability to generate bio energy in a similar wavelength to meteor radiation. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy seems to be in remission, further test are necessary to see if any damage to heart is still present. Secondary mutation was growth and production of organic cables of an unknown substance over approximately seventy percent of subject's body. Subject is able to control cables through psionic means and is able to amplify abilities through energy absorption.
It continued in that vein for a while but Clark was lost in his own thoughts. Kenny Braverman was a name he hadn't heard in years. Kenny and his family had arrived in Smallville when Clark had been in the fourth grade and he and Clark had become fast friends after discovering a mutual interest in baseball. Unfortunately the friendship wouldn't stand the test of time; by the time they had arrived at Smallville high for their freshmen year Clark and Kenny weren't on speaking terms anymore. The schism in their friendship had occurred mainly because Kenny had been ridiculously competitive with Clark and had grown increasingly jealous when he couldn't seem to outperform Clark at anything: from little league to the science fair to the spelling bee. Part of that had no doubt been nurtured by Kenny's father who was of belief that anything short of perfection was completely unacceptable, withholding any affection for his son unless he was the top performer at school.
In his junior year he remembered hearing through the grapevine that Kenny had been diagnosed with a rare genetic heart condition and forced to withdraw from school. Clark had tried to visit his former friend and clear the air between them but Kenny had refused to see him and he and his parents had left Smallville soon after to seek treatment, he hadn't heard of him since.
Now he had resurfaced as Lex's toy soldier; the hope of Doctor Harper's machinations and the man who had put Ollie on the shelf for the better part of a year. "What happened to you Kenny?" Clark muttered.
"What was that Superman?"
"Nothing," He said refocusing on the matter at hand. "Kitty, How long would it take Lex to produce…let's say one hundred Conduits?"
Faulkner bit her lip for a moment. "Well there a couple of things working against Lex'; one there is the fact that only a small percent of the total population possess the metagene. Two even given the level of talent Harper has cultivating metahumans would take time…conservatively … I'd estimate maybe eighteen months."
"Remember I'm being conservative Superman, as I said earlier the scope of this is mindboggling; four different facilities across the planet all staffed with the latest equipment and elite teams of scientists."
Clark took a step back and thought for a moment. One phrase in the research notes in particular had stuck out to him, Conduit was able to generate energy attacks that simulated the wavelength of Kryptonite or meteor rock as the report referred to it. Clark had no intention of potentially walking into a conflict with an enemy who could control a substance that could kill him and he had an idea on how to level the playing field.
"Thanks Kitty, you've been a great help and I'm sorry to ask but I need another favor."
She looked curiously at him for a moment but that look quickly changed to one of intrigue when he explained what he was thinking. "Yeah that could work, I have some connection at Metro General Hospital, I'm sure I can get what you need. I'll tell them to expect you in what a few minutes?"
"Better make it an hour, thanks again."
"Anytime Superman…uh could you tell Cyborg I said hi?" Clark saw the tiniest of flushes creep across her features.
"Sure Kitty no problem."
After arriving back at the Watchtower (and passing on Kitty's message to Victor) Clark gave a rundown about what he'd learned at S.T.A.R Labs. Impulse was particularly impressed.
"Great job Big Blue! So now that we know where we have to be, we have Zee teleport us all in and we can take these sites off one at a-
"That's not going to happen." Zatanna said firmly.
"Because teleporting is one of the most technical magical arts to master and mass teleportation is even harder, I don't just snap my fingers and 'poof', there's a very delicate balance when you use magic and to teleport I have to open a hole into the astral-
"Okay Zee, could you sum this up, because you're putting me to sleep." Bart said leaning back in his chair.
Zatanna glowered at him. "If I don't do everything exactly right I could easily strand us in another dimension or on another planet, that simple enough for you?"
Bart guffawed seemingly unimpressed. "That wouldn't be so bad; I'd love to visit another planet… green babes to conquer and all that."
"Green babes?" J'onn asked raising an eyebrow at the young speedster.
Bart held up his hands. "No offense intended big guy. All I'm thinking is that it'd be like in all those classic Sci-Fi movies. Before the assault on the bad guy's stronghold or whatever the swashbuckling hero always lands a green alien babe, it's an unwritten rule."
Zatanna drummed her fingers on the table impatiently. "Okay, totally ignoring that you fancy yourself 'swashbuckling' and the next to zero chance that green alien women would want anything to do with you… what if we ended up on a planet that didn't have an atmosphere?"
He blinked as if he hadn't even considered that possibility. "That'd suck."
Zatanna held her fingers about an inch apart. "Just a little bit," she replied sardonically. "Another person isn't a problem, but five more?" She shook her head. "Not unless it's an emergency."
Diana couldn't help noticing that what was interesting about that whole exchange wasn't so much Zatanna and Bart sniping at each other (that was par for the course as far as they were concerned) but rather the lack of Superman saying anything. He usually kept them on track whenever they got off on a tangent, but at the moment he had that same faraway look on his face as earlier and if Diana had to guess she'd say he hadn't paid attention to a single word they'd uttered.
Looking across the table she saw she wasn't the only one who was aware of Superman's lapse in concentration; Chloe was observing Kal with an odd expression on her face.
Chloe's eyes darted from Superman to Diana and back again she inclined her head slightly. Catching on Diana cleared her throat. "Superman?"
At the mention of his name he blinked at looked over at her. "Yes?"
"How do you suggest we proceed?"
He didn't answer immediately and Diana saw his eyes unfocused and she had sneaking suspicion that he was replaying the recent conversation in his eidetic memory.
After a moment he answered the query. "Zatanna's right teleporting us in is too dangerous and besides this operation is on a global scale, we should break into teams and hit all the facilities at the same time. We also need to bring in Dr. Harper; he's the only person who can tie this all back to Lex."
"That would be tactically sound; we don't want to give Luthor a chance to regroup, once we take these facilities offline we need to ensure they remain that way." Aquaman said.
There were nods around the table. "Since Dinah's not present we'll need someone to coordinate our movements on the field, Victor I think your best for that. J'onn I need you to break us into two man teams; you've been doing this longer than any of us, I'd appreciate your insight." He looked at each leaguer in the eyes and nodded. "Let's get to work."
J'onn had brought up the holographic map and marked off each of the targets. Empath and Zatanna will attack facility one. Impulse and Cyborg are in charge of facility two. Wonder Woman and Superman will handle facility three and lastly Aquaman and I will be responsible for facility four, are there any objections?" He waited for a moment and with none forthcoming he continued. "Before we adjourn there is one point I wish to bring up; there may only be a one in four chance but I am concerned about the possibility that Superman may encounter Conduit and given our newest information regarding his abilities…"
Clark nodded his head having anticipated this being brought up sooner or later. "Don't worry J'onn I've seen what I could be up against and I'm working on something. I'll be good for tomorrow." There were curious looks thrown his way but he didn't elaborate. Catching sight of the clock he wrapped up the meeting and slipped away; managing to make it to the roof of Metro General just in time to see Kitty's contact hefting a large cardboard box.
"Ah Superman, kinda thought Kitty was pulling my leg when she said you'd show up. Anyway considering what it took for me to get these tell her that we're even." He left without a backwards glance.
Clark checked the box and saw the contents were all present; half a dozen lead lined aprons and a pair of lead lined gloves before heading off to the farm. Not wasting any time when he arrived he retrieved his spare costume, a handful of matching blue patches of cotton and a sewing needle before getting to work.
It hadn't been hard with his heat vision and strength to re work the lead blocks into the size and shapes he needed, from there he'd just sewn them into the inside of the suit. He held up the finished product lead insets now covered most of his vital organs and the vast majority of the suit, by necessity the joints had remained lead free. There were a couple of problems with the lead suit, it was fragile (relatively speaking), due to its bulkiness it wasn't protected by the bio electric 'invulnerability aura' his body generated, the fact that it was hastily built it didn't offer complete protection and finally the fact that it was lead prevented solar radiation from penetrating it so he couldn't recharge his abilities; what he went in with was all he had. If there was an encounter with Conduit it would do for him to end the fight as quickly as possible.
All those negatives were outweighed by the fact that the Kryptonite energy of Conduit had been largely negated…in theory, all that was left was the field test. He headed out to the barn, retrieving the lead box and the piece of Kryptonite t housed along the way. Once inside he stripped down and slipped into the lead suit, the gloves went on and after taking a deep breath he opened the box. Immediately he noticed that the usual burning and nausea were both still present but the effects had been drastically been reduced, enough so that he could function at close to a normal level, after about ten minutes his vision began to darken and he felt his limbs starting to get weak so he shut the box. So he had roughly ten minutes before the Kryptonite overwhelmed his lead suit.
After the Kryptonite exposure he wanted to take a rest and recharge, unfortunately he had one last errand to run and it had been the one he'd been putting off. With an air of resign he texted Cat that he was on his way and would arrive in a few minutes before his form blurred and he headed off to Metropolis. He came to a stop outside Cat's apartment a few minutes later. His stomach wouldn't settle which might have been the aftereffects of the Kryptonite exposure or nerves on what he was about to face.
Either way he raised his hand and knocked on the door.
Walking away from Cat's apartment Clark felt…hollow. His instincts had proved correct, Cat was ending it with him and what had followed had been the longest hour of his life; Cat had really let him have it, the worst part was never once had she raised her voice, her tone had been dejected and sorrowful but never angry. He could still here echoes of her words:
Clark we need to talk...I've tried to be patient but we've been doing this dance for months…Been down this road enough times to know how it ends...Must have just been kidding myself to think we could work out, we're just too different…We gave it a good try…I'll see you around Clark.
Talking to her it was clear as day that Cat had fallen for him. He'd wanted to return her feelings but he couldn't. He'd experienced love, deep all-encompassing love but when he was with Cat… it just wasn't there, it hadn't been and while in the back of his mind he'd known that he hadn't wanted to acknowledge it. That wasn't to say he didn't care about her, he did but those feelings of love weren't present and if after six months he didn't feel that level of emotion, well there was nothing to indicate that he ever would. Part of the problem was that he wasn't convinced she could handle the type of life he lead; the sacrifices it would require from her, that'd there would be times he'd have to place his calling (and that's how he truly felt about being Superman) above everything else. He could have tried to stick it out with her and see if things changed but that wouldn't be fair to either of them; they both deserved happiness even if it wasn't with each other.
As they often did where matters of the heart were concerned Clark's thoughts turned to Lana. The breakup with Cat was a sharp contrast to the sharp agonizing pain he'd felt when he and Lana had called it quits that last time. Was it true that you only got a love like he and Lana shared once in a lifetime and he had blown his opportunity, was he now destined to be alone?
He didn't have any answers and he wasn't in the frame of mind to contemplate them either, he had to get up in a few hours and lead an attack against Lex. Weary and emotionally drained Clark disappeared in a blur of speed and headed home.
The next day fifteen hundred miles away from Metropolis and two miles above an off the books Luthorcorp factory Wonder Woman and Superman hovered. Diana looked at her friend in concern he'd been acting odd, since the League had split up for their respective assignments met up. In contrast to the dejected vibe he'd put out yesterday, he was now abrupt, almost curt. It felt like a bad omen; something in Diana's gut told her this mission wasn't going to end well and Diana trusted her gut, so she was on high alert.
"Any sign of Conduit?"
"No. I can't see through the buildings; lead mesh. I do see about eighteen defensive encampments, concealing A.A. guns and launchers, so watch out for those on your approach." Superman raised a hand to his ear for a moment. "All the other teams report that they're in position, are you ready?"
She hesitated for a moment. She wanted to voice her concerns but she knew that this was not the time to do so, anything that threw them off their game could prove fatal, especially considering who they could find inside this facility they needed to be operating at maximum efficiency. That didn't mean she was going to let this go; when this mission was over she would be having words with Kal. "Yes."
"Alright, I'll take that one," He pointed to the eastern building, "You take the other."
She blinked in surprise. "That wasn't part of the plan, it'd be best if we stuck-
"We need to shut this thing down as quickly as possible, we can't do that if your babysitting me because Conduit might be down there, If I encounter him my suit will protect me."
Without waiting for a response he dove downward, Diana took a breath prayed for patience and followed. As they approached their targets the air came alive with thousands of rounds of ammunition tried to shoot them down. Diana easily deflected all the projectiles that came their way off of her gauntlets and Clark's heat vision handled the launchers and gun encampments.
Hardly slowing they split paths and each headed for their targets. Clark's x-ray vision may not have been working but his hearing didn't pick up any heartbeats in the section of the bunker he was aimed at so he poured on the speed and crashed through the outside wall in a spectacular show of debris. He had hardly landed when a klaxon began wailing and the heavy footsteps of guards began closing on his position.
Two dozen heavily armed men rounded the corner aiming automatic at him, with hardly a thought he inhaled through his nose and exhaled through his mouth; the guards scattered like tenpins. Now that he was inside he tried his x-ray vision again, but most of the rooms were lined with lead as well. But where his x-ray vision had failed again his hearing picked up the slack. He sorted through all the noise until; he was focused on a heartbeat that roughly matched a man of Harper's age, height, weight and build. With his target set Superman turned and headed off in that direction.
Inside lab zero Doctor Harper watched on a closed circuit camera as Superman easily dispatched the guards, he saw the Man of Steel turn his head and pause for a moment before walking into the main corridor and head in the direction of the lab. Harper was in his heart he knew Superman was here for him, how the Man of Steel hadn't caught wind of this projects existence baffled Harper as only he Lex and a handful of others even knew the projects true goals, but now wasn't the time to wonder how it had happened the fact was it had. However If Superman thought he was just going to walk in here and bring him in well, he had another thing coming. As Superman continued down the main corridor, Harper engaged the lockdown protocol. Let's see him get through that. All around Superman solid Promethium barriers slid into place, Harper saw the look of surprise on the Man of Steel's face and had to resist the urge to giggle. He'd trapped Superman in a 20' x 20' cage of unbreakable metal. His celebration was cut short as a breach alarm went off, punching a few commands on the computer he saw a figure he immediately recognized as Wonder Woman breaking into the cold storage room.
Harper muttered a curse under his breath, as if Superman hadn't been enough to deal with… moving quickly he walked over to a table, upon which a figure was lying on, he picked up a hypodermic needle and injected it into the figure's neck. This was patient 0102307, code name Anguish, real name…he couldn't remember, it started with an 'L' Laura or Leslie or something…whatever it was it didn't matter at the moment.
She opened her eyes and looked at Harper. "What's wrong Doc?"
"Were under attack is what's the matter!" He snapped.
Anguish sighed and sat up and followed Harper over to the console with the closed circuit cameras. "You see this? I need you to go take care of her, if she contaminates any of those experiments we'll lose months or years of research!" He pointed at Wonder Woman in the cold storage room. Anguish's face which had held a bored expression through Harpers speech abruptly shifted into something resembling interest. "Oh, is that Wonder Woman?"
"Hell yeah I'll fight her, She turned eagerly to Harper. "Can I kill her?"
"Do whatever you have to, just stop her!"
Anguish grinned evilly. "You got it Doc." She turned to leave but caught sight of Superman. "What about him, need me to take care of him too?"
"No, I have the situation under control."
Anguish's voice assumed an oily tone "Oh really, you might wanna take another gander at the monitor doc."
Harper turned to see Superman run his fingers along the front barrier stop, draw back and punch. To Harper's horror a fist sized indent appeared on the door…the supposedly indestructible door. "That's impossible, Promethium can stand up to a two megaton nuclear explosion unscathed. There is no way he should be able to generate enough force to do that." He breathed.
"Well whether he should be able to or not, as you can he is.Anguish smirked. "He's Superman doc, impossible is kinda his thing, now about my offer-"
"Just take care of Wonder Woman!" Harper practically screamed.
"Fine, whatever you say doc." She said with another smirk this time tinged with a hint of laughter before she turned and walked out the room through the nearest wall as if it hadn't been there.
"Insufferable witch." But the anger in his voice shifted as he saw Superman hit the exact same spot as before, this time increasing the size of the dent by what looked like a factor of three. He knew he didn't have long until Superman broke through that barrier and while his mind was still reeling from that revelation that Superman could do that he still didn't intend to make the Man of Steel's job any easier. Moving back over to the table that had been occupied only minutes earlier by Anguish, Harper retrieved another needle and moved down to the table at the foot of this one. On the table in an anesthetic induced slumber was Conduit.
Without wasting a beat he emptied the contents of the syringe in Conduit's neck. The meta-soldier woke with a groan. "Dad?"
Harper snorted in disgust. "Hardly, now get up, you're needed."
Even from inside the lab Harper heard the tortured groan as the Promethium door gave way under Superman's assault. Swallowing thickly Harper began to bring Conduit up to speed. "Superman's on his way here to capture me and shut down this operation, you are to stop him at all costs."
"Why would I want to do that after all the lies and mind games you've played with me? Give me one reason why I shouldn't let him take you."
"They were hardly lies Kenneth, consider it an incentive for you not to betray me and go rogue, because as we both know without me you'll never get a cure for your…condition and if Superman captures me what do you think he'll do to you, you'll likely be handed over to an off the books government facility where vivisection is a distinct possibility… As they say, the devil you know…"
"I swear I'll kill you one day old man."
Harper patted the air impatiently. "Yes, yes I've heard it all before Kenneth, now get into position. Consider this a unique opportunity to test the limits of your abilities."
Conduit moved just in time because the door to the lab was ripped off of its hinges and stepping into the room in a bulky variant of his costume was Superman.
He looked from Conduit to Harper. "Dr. Harper have Conduit ,stand down and we can avoid a-
"Spare me your rhetoric Superman, I know why you're here and it'd be in your best interest to turn around and walk away."
"I can't do that."
"Then you leave me no choice. Mr. Braverman, please handle this situation." Despite what he'd said earlier Conduit was itching for this opportunity, it seemed as if his whole life had led to this one moment. This was Superman, the biggest dog in the yard . If he took him down, instant respect, he'd be worshipped as a god…or at least that was his thought process. He'd finally prove he was worth something and all his life that's all he'd ever wanted.
So without a single word spoken Conduit rushed forward and attacked.
Diana had elected for a stealthier approach than Superman; she'd used a side access door and had neutralized the guards quickly before they'd known she was upon them, the two dozen unconscious bodies and broken pile of weapons were testament to that.
With that taken care of she had begun a thorough room by room search, the scientists reactions surprised her the most; those she came upon only examined her briefly before returning to their experiments and simulations. As if the appearance of a six-foot Amazon princess in a colorful costume with a glowing rope on her hip was an everyday occurrence...the capacity for the Patriarch's world to surprise her never ceased to amaze Diana.
After nearly fifteen minutes she came upon a large metal door that stretched from floor to ceiling, having a feeling that this was what she had been searching for she examined it for a moment before sinking her fingers in the metal and prying the door open, what was behind it took her breath away.
It was a storage facility, easily a hundred yards long and half as wide, but the space wasn't empty. Row upon row of bodies floated in tanks filled with pale luminescent green liquid. Cautiously she approached a tank, and rapped lightly on the Plexiglas, the tube's occupant didn't respond to the noise and continued to float there as if nothing had happened.
"Hera, what is this?" Diana whispered half mesmerized half horrified. Did one of these tanks contain Conduit, what sort of person could do something so ghoulish to their fellow man? Those questions and others danced around her mind.
Just then she heard a tremendous boom that actually shook the floor beneath her, before she could do little more than process the noise she caught sight of a figure in the reflection of the tube before her. Reacting quickly Diana dropped to her knees, rolled and came up facing in the direction of her would be attacker, raising her guard as she did so.
Her assailant was a tall woman, she was powerfully built and had she was clad in in a skintight black one piece bodysuit. From an appearance standpoint she was unremarkable (if a bit tall) save for her eyes; her eyes were white glowing masses with no visible pupil, how she saw Diana didn't have the faintest idea. "Who are you?"
"Hey that was pretty good, most people don't see me coming until it's too late. Won't do you any good though, to answer your earlier question my name's Anguish; Dr. Harper sent me to kill you."
"Sister, you may be a prisoner of this barbaric facility but you still have free will, you don't have to heed Harper's commands. We don't have to fight."
If anything Anguish's eyes seemed to glow brighter. "Oh yes we do, Doc says you could jeopardize this whole operation and blah- blah-blah. To tell you the truth I kind of tuned him out. The important thing is you will fight me, if you don't I'll start killing the chumps in these tanks one by one until you do."
They both knew Diana wouldn't let that happen so when she raised her guard Anguish smiled widely.
Good, good but I can tell your heart's still not in it, so I'll make you a deal. I'll give you the first punch, if you can hit me I'll surrender."
She bent down and presented her chin out and clasped her hands behind her back. Diana was skeptical but if her foe was going to offer her a free target she'd be foolish not to take it. Stepping forward Diana threw a left, her aim was true but the punch went through her opponent as easily as if she'd been punching empty air and connected with the wall behind her, Diana's eyes widened in disbelief.
Anguish smiled like a shark."Close but no cigar." She retaliated with a punch of her own. Diana stumbled back having felt the attack solidly, Anguish pushed forward snapping off another punch and connected again.
Diana tried to counterattack but that attack had as much success as the first one.
"Hey princess, I've got a question how can you beat what you can't hit, answer, you can't!" Anguish cackled as she continued to pour on the punishment to Diana.
Clark couldn't help but notice how slow and sloppy Conduit's attacks seemed, a quick burst of super speed had him slipping punch after punch and upon seeing an opening he threw a counterstrike in less than the blink of an eye.
Not sure how durable Conduit was he'd held back in the strike, nonetheless Conduit fell back several feet and landed hard.
He rose without any apparent harm and charged again, throwing a combination of punches that Clark slapped away; left, right, right again and then a left. Seeing an opening Clark brought his knee up into Conduit's mid-section hard enough to leave an imprint in the armor the other man wore. His opponent groaned and feel to his knees, very conscious of the danger Conduit represented Clark moved forward to continue his assault, but in a desperate attack Conduit fired a blast of green energy at Superman.
The Man of Steel fell back dizzy, his lead armor had blocked the majority of the blast but the sensation was stronger than what he'd felt with the piece of Kryptonite he had back in the barn. It hadn't been a debilitating attack but it had given Conduit enough time to regain his footing. He raised his arms and twin cables lanced out from the gauntlets on his armor whipping Superman to and fro.
Clark felt a cut on his face open as the cable struck him, and he landed heavily into a computer console, crushing it beneath him.
Conduit moved closer to his downed opponent all the while Harper was cackling in the background and directing Conduit to finish Superman off, the tone, the language all of it was so familiar and in that moment Kenny flashed back and all of a sudden Harper was his father, always yelling, abusing demeaning him except now he had the power to do something about it. The power to…
In less than the blink of an eye Conduit turned and fired a full power blast at Dr. Harper incinerating him where he stood.
Superman was horrified by what he witnessed and felt his stomach churn in a manner completely unrelated to the Kryptonite exposure.
"God that felt good, you have no idea how long I've wanted to do that? Now where were we?" He asked turning the full power of his gauntlets on Superman. The lead suit fought back with all it had but Conduit's energy overwhelmed it and tore a hole in the center of the suit, the feeling of Kryptonite suddenly magnified and Superman stumbled back Conduit seeing an opening hit the Man of Steel as hard as he could again and again even seemingly weakened Superman wouldn't go down.
He heard his father's voice echoing in his head. Always number two Kenny…Never quite good enough…Such a disappointment
Growling in frustration he kicked on his Rocket boots and charged at Superman, wrapping his arms around the groggy hero he drove him up and out of the Facility and into the air. Just you watch old man, I'll show you. When I beat Superman, they'll be no doubt that I'm number one.
Diana hadn't been able to land a single hit on Anguish, every attack she had tried had gone through the woman and if it weren't for the heavy blows she'd been receiving in return she'd have thought she was fighting a specter. Diana's experience with super powered opponents was fairly limited, excluding Cheetah, Giganta and Mercy she'd faced only a handful of them, but she'd never faced an opponent she couldn't hit and Anguish's earlier taunt rang in her head, how did you beat something you couldn't hit?
Blocking a kick from Anguish Diana's thoughts raced; what would Philippus or Artemis do if they were in her situation?
Philippus brilliant tactical mind would have almost certainly analyzed Anguish and found half a dozen ways to take her down. Diana was certainly no slouch in strategy or tactics (as anyone who'd ever done battle with her could attest to firsthand) but she didn't share Philippus's innate genius in either department. Artemis on the other hand… well if Artemis was present she could almost hear her sister reply in that dry and flat tone tinged with a hint of sarcasm that had become her signature. "If hitting your opponent one way isn't working then find a different way to hit her."
That she could work with, a plan begin to form in her head
Judging from the blows she'd received from Anguish could interact with solid objects if she desired, that told Diana her power wasn't reflexive in nature but was mentally controlled. So as long as she saw an attack coming her way she'd be able to phase through it now problem, but could the woman protect herself from a blow she couldn't see?
That was the question.
Diana shifted her position so she was standing directly in front of Anguish, reached up removed her tiara and snapped the enchanted projectile at her opponent, just as she had hoped it passed harmlessly through the cackling woman, it ricocheted off a wall, a pipe and impacted the woman solidly from behind. Anguish stumbled forward caught off guard by the attack and that was the opening Diana needed, she stepped forward and hit her opponent with a hard punch to the jaw. She dropped and didn't move.
Diana was a bit disappointed; for all the effort it had taken, for her opponent to be dropped by a single punch was more than anticlimactic… it was a downright disappointment. Shaking away that thought of she reaching to her hip she removed the lasso and used it to bind Anguish, powers or not she wouldn't be able to escape the ropes enchanted coils.
She'd barely stood before the ceiling caved inward a magnificent shower of debris and Superman's body crashed into the cement floor forming a crater.
Diana's breath seized and she rushed over to him, there were small lacerations and bruises on his face, his modified costume had a large hole where his familial crest was exposing his chest and a pair of angry burns.
He groaned. "Di- Diana, look out."
She turned in time to see Conduit, land heavily, raise his arms and fire a blast of green energy at her, acting with the speed of Mercury she raised her left arm and deflected the blast off of her left gauntlet. It hit the wall leaving a basketball sized imprint in the concrete.
She saw a look of shock cross Conduit's marred features but perhaps weary of her gauntlets he didn't make a move.
As much as she wanted to make sure Superman was alright she needed to deal with the threat of Conduit. As she stood and stepped forward Diana noted that sunlight was streaming through the hole in the roof Superman's impromptu entry had created, she was relieved; she'd seen him for more grievously injured and with the sun shining strongly he would be back on his feet in no time.
She got a better look at Conduit, he'd been through the ringer as well, there were fist sized indents along his armor, one of his gauntlets had been crushed and his helmet had been shattered. The fact that he was still standing warned her that he was tougher than he looked.
Making the first move Diana rushed forward, throwing a punch with her left hand. Sheer dumb luck saved Conduit as he leaned to the right he was able to use her forward momentum to turn her punch into a sloppy shoulder toss. Diana corrected herself in mid flip but it had given Conduit enough time to focus everything he had in the blast that caught Diana flat footed and unprotected, so the blast sent her flying backwards. Before she could overcome the momentum she felt a hand in the small of her back gently slowing her down; that could only mean one thing.
"Thank you Kal." She said relieved that he was back on his feet.
"Are you alright Diana?" He asked as they came to a stop.
"Yes, and you?"
"Good. Kal, do you remember that move we've been practicing in training…the one you called…what was it; swing and launch?"
"Launch and swing" he corrected "Why, you want to try it?"
She nodded. "I want to try it. You swing, I'll launch."
Taking a breath Clark blurred his form and raced forward at Conduit, as he'd hoped the villain was preparing to try and strike him, at the last possible moment Clark changed direction and sped around Conduit. Distracted he didn't notice Diana moving into position and snapped of a jumping front kick. The crushing blow caught Conduit flush in the jaw and sent him flying straight up, Clark mentally calculated Conduit's trajectory and launched himself upward and into position. Just as Conduit reached his apex Clark reached out and grabbed the dazed villain and as not to cancel any of the force behind Diana's kick, he swung Conduit around like a professional hammer thrower adding quite a bit of his own momentum and launched Conduit back at the ground.
Conduit landed hard enough to crack and crater the floor several feet beneath him. Thinking they'd managed to subdue Conduit the two heroes floated together but to both Superman and Wonder Woman's amazement Conduit climbed unsteadily to his feet.
"What in Hades name does it take to keep him down? We should try attacking him together again, we could… "Her sentence faltered as she caught the odd look on Superman's face.
"Hold on a second Diana," He took a step towards Conduit. "Mr. Braverman…Kenny we need to get you medical attention, your heart is straining underneath all the exertion and energy you've used. If you keep going, your heart will give out, please surrender, it's still not too late."
An ugly twisted smile marred Kenny's features. "Are you freaking kidding me Superman, I feel fine and I still have enough in the tank to take both of you out. I'm invincible, I can take anything you throw at me and give it right back to you!"
Even as he was speaking Diana noticed his pallor was almost ghostly, his chest was heaving, he couldn't seem to catch his breath and sweat was pouring of his face. Even without Kal's x-ray vision or super hearing she knew what those symptoms were signs of…he hadn't been bluffing.
She landed besides Superman but she kept her eyes on Conduit, he was too dangerous to ignore. "Is it as bad as it looks?"
"Worse." He replied his voice grim. " I don't think he's going to come peacefully, we're going to have to subdue him and get him to a hospital."
She nodded. "Agreed, I'll go high, you go low?"
He nodded and without a further word exchanged together they rushed at Conduit; Wonder Woman went for his torso and Superman went for the legs.
The three of them fell to the floor and underneath them Conduit trashed wildly, his body tightened, a strangled noise tumbled past his lips and then he went limp.
Superman heard the moment Conduit heart stopped beating. "No!"
Clark's x-ray vision told the story; Conduit's heart was far too damaged to resuscitate. He had pushed the damaged organ too far and it had finally given out.
Diana looked over at him "Is he…"
"Dead," He spat the word like a foul curse. "Damn it!"
Diana saw the red gleam in Superman's eyes and took a step forward. There was a blur of motion and when her vision cleared Superman had vanished from sight.
Lex was in his office looking over the quarter's earnings when the window to his office exploded inward in a shower of glass. Lex schooled his initial reaction of shock and outrage once he saw who was standing in front of him. "Superman, I can assure you if you wanted to meet with me there was a much easier way to go about it."
"It stops now Lex." The Man of Steel's features were set in stone.
"I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage Superman, I don't know what you're talking about."
"I'm talking about your machinations, these quests to create and control metahumans. All of it stops today. I won't let it go on, because of you two people died today, Sydney Harper and Kenneth Braverman. But with as God as my witness they'll be the last ones. The Justice League has shutdown Project Conduit; as of now you're offline Lex."
The presumption of this alien to march into his office in his city and tell him what he could or couldn't do almost sent Lex over the edge…almost but he was Lex Luthor and he wouldn't lower himself to mindless anger.
"Dr. Harper is dead?" He shook his head gravely. "While that's a tragedy let me assure you I have no hand in whatever experiments Dr. Harper was conducting. I was only recently made aware of his transgressions myself by a concerned employee. I'll have you know that before the Justice League moved in to act as; judge, jury and executioner I was conducting an investigation into Dr. Harpers' questionable acts and …what was the name of it, Project Conduit? Anyway as far as liability goes my lawyers assure me I have none. They tell me that as far as the law is concerned Dr. Harper after receiving a sizeable sum of money from a Luthorcorp grant, sold confidential documents, violated his Hippocratic Oath, broke the international ban on human experimentation and committed high treason."
He stood and made his way over to the liquor cabinet and poured himself two fingers of brandy. "Given his…checkered past perhaps I should have expected this. But I thought Harper's brilliance warranted a second chance." He turned around with his glass a mocking smirk dancing on his features. "Rest assured Superman I will be much more discerning with the hiring of future Luthorcorp employees. Thank you for bringing this to my attention."
Clark felt his teeth clench, but before he could say anything the door to Lex's office burst open and half a dozen men poured in with automatic weapons all aimed at him.
"Was there anything else Superman?"
"I'm watching you Lex, remember that."
"I will and I'll be sure to have an invoice forwarded to the Justice League for that window you shattered."
Superman gave him one last look and he vanished just as suddenly as he had appeared.
The head of his security team, stepped forward, the nameplate on his tactical vest identified him as: R. Jennings, he holstered his weapon and moved closer to Lex. "Are you alright Mr. Luthor?"
Lex brushed him off. "I'm fine…and Jennings?"
"You're all fired."
Diana found him on a rooftop about five miles away staring at the Luthorcorp towers, it had taken a fair bit of searching but as fate would have it, she saw a blue and crimson blur fly out of hole in a window of Luthorcorp Tower's top floor.
She landed beside him, taking note of his body language. "Are you alright?"
"I don't know." He turned and looked to her and she was surprised by the look of weariness on his face.
"I let my temper get the better of me, I actually broke into Lex's office and just threatened him," He shook his head in disbelief, "I don't know what I was thinking."
Diana who had thus far had managed to hold her anger in check to make sure he was okay exploded. "What in Hades name has been going on with you Kal, for the past couple of days you've been distracted and distant and that," She jabbed a finger angrily at Luthorcorp tower. "And what happened back at that facility; you disregarding my help, abandoning our plan and confronting Condit so recklessly… that wasn't you. That wasn't the able leader of the Justice League, that wasn't my closest friend and ally; you could've gotten yourself killed! And for what, what possible answer can you have that justifies your actions?"
He didn't say anything.
"Answer me damn it!"
He looked at across the city for a moment before turning to her. "Diana, I-I've had some stuff going on in my personal life. I thought I was dealing with it but maybe…"He sighed. "Maybe its been bothering me more than I thought."
The vagueness of his statement told her more than he perhaps would have liked her to know…she would ask Chloe to confirm it later but she had a hunch, only now wasn't the time to find out if it was right or not. "That's no excuse." She said stonily.
"You're right there is no excuse for my behavior, I'm sorry Diana." She could hear the honesty behind his words and despite herself she felt her anger slip away.
She sighed. "Kal your problem is you always have to shoulder everything by yourself and I can understand that…to a point. There aren't many people who understand what we do, the sacrifices it entails. You especially, given how the public perceives you; the invincible champion of the masses…the embodiment of an ideal… believe me when I say that I understand that it's hard to live up to that kind of an image all the time. But there are those who care for you who see beyond that. People like Oliver and Chloe and Lois and your mother," She stepped closer to him. "To those close to you you're so much more than an ideal…more than just Superman. Go to them; confide in them, sharing your problems with those who care about you is not a weakness. You shouldn't let your problems build up until they consume you."
In that moment Clark felt a strange surge of emotion and he felt his stomach flip. "What about you Diana? Do you see me as more than Superman?"
Her lips drew up in a smirk. "Do you have to ask?"
Clark found he didn't want her levity in that moment. "You didn't answer me."
She saw the way he was looking and she felt the smirk slip off her face and her stomach clench. She didn't realize it but her tone had softened. "Yes Clark… of course I do…I'm always here for you."
The usage of his human name (a rare occurrence with her) made his stomach slip again and Clark found himself drawn in by Diana's dark sapphire eyes. He noticed she was matching his stare an intense look on her face, unlike anything he'd seen from her before, neither was aware of it but they had closed the distance between each other by half.
The tension in the air was thick and was steadily rising, the look in Diana's eyes had shifted and there was a…heat, a searing fire in her eyes. It was hard to describe but whatever it was it was drawing Clark in; tentatively Clark began to move his head closer to Diana, completely enthralled by her, his heart hammering in his ears.
The buzz of their Justice League communicators broke the trance and the tension that had been permeating the air dispersed instantly. The call was from Cyborg; he confirmed that the mission had been a success and all of the facilities had been shut down. He requested that one of them came to the Watchtower to file a report on what had transpired at Facility Three.
Diana took a step back. "I'll take it; you've been through a lot today and I need to retrieve my lasso and see that Anguish is handed over to the authorities."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes." She responded quickly not quite meeting his eyes.
In that moment Clark felt his emotions swirling, he was unsure of what to say, so he went with the first thing that popped into his head. "Thanks Diana… for everything, it means a lot and I'm truly sorry about what happened earlier at the facility."
She nodded her head absently and without another word and barely a wave she lifted off the roof and flew away.
He watched her go, before he floated off the roof and turned for home, his head abuzz with what had just transpired.
For a moment there before the communicators had gone off he'd…he'd wanted to kiss Diana and if the communicator hadn't gone off when it did he was pretty sure he would have.
Almost as quickly as the thought formed he stamped down on it; this was Diana after all, his friend and ally… not to mention she was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen…
Whoa! He definitely needed to stop that line of thought. His mind cast around for a moment before landing on…
The problem was he was re-bounding after Cat…yeah that was it, he was still down and vulnerable about the ending of their relationship and he was attempting to ease those feelings by transferring them onto Diana.
What about that look? A voice in his head countered snarkily. You saw that look, she's never looked at you like that before and you saw the intensity, that fire in her eyes… what if she felt something too?
Nothing, there was nothing to it; he was trying to put meaning where there was none. There was no indication that Diana viewed him as anything but a trusted ally and friend…and that's all there was to it.
Sure he could admit that she was attractive and not just physically but in temperament and personality as well; she was fearless, independent, caring and fierce, sharp but at the same time soft…
Anyway there was a leap from admitting he found Diana attractive to actually doing something with that information; a leap he knew he wasn't ready to (or even sure he should) take and now there was the question of what to do. He didn't want things to be awkward, didn't want his interaction with Diana to change, but who said it had too? After all he'd been attracted to women he had been friends with before and he'd handled it then, this shouldn't be any different.
Besides it was just a rebound crush, these feelings would pass with time and things would go back to normal.
But those other women weren't Diana we're they, and what if those feeling don't go away, what then?
He found he didn't have an answer for that.
A/N: Wow, this chapter ended up almost three times larger than when I initially plotted it, but I think it's better for it. Okay couple of things I made Conduit way stronger and more durable than he ever was in the comic's I didn't want Superman and Wonder Woman to just walk over him and with the amount of power they possess between them they would've done just that… very easily so I amped him up too make things a bit more interesting, I tried to keep all his daddy issues intact though, when Harper was first introduced awhile back he referred to Conduit as unstable and now you know why. Anguish is a villain from the new 52 reboot; she appeared in Superman issues #9-10, I needed someone for Diana to fight initially and she fit the bill, I don't feel like there's much I can do with her so we probably won't see her again. Now onto more important things: Clark and Diana; here's where things get interesting; Clark is aware of having an attraction (even if he's trying to downplay it) to Diana. Now the question is, is she aware of it and does she feel the same way? Was that almost-kiss reflective of her emotions or was she just caught up in the moment? Guess we'll have to wait and see in the next chapter (which I think you all are going to like). On a personal note if you've celebrated Christmas or Hanukah or Kwanza or the Winter Solstice or just enjoyed having a break from work, school etc., I hope you all had a safe holiday and have a happy New Year. I'll see you all in 2013 and as usual thank you for reading.