AN: No, the world is not coming to an end. What can I say beside a million apologies for not updating in so long. A lot of things have happened and at the end of the day, when the real world gets in your away, you have to go along with the ride.

The Bounty Hunter

Part Twenty-Four

J'onn was in China when he received Bruce's message for all Justice League members to return to the Watchtower. Billy Batson was getting ready for bed when he received the call. Hal was spending his evening with Big Barda and Scott Free at their home in Connecticut. Though retired, Barda and Scott didn't hesitate to go with Hal when they heard Bruce's distress call.

The famous Watchtower, home of the Justice League was in ruins; the tall thought to be indestructible tower was nothing but rubbles of iron, stone, glass and marble of Earth, Martian and Themysciran technology. The heavy smoke billowing from the ruins blocked the full moon and the intense heat of the fire left few Justice League members to get close to it.

J'onn, Scott, and Barda, having learned what happened from Bruce, went to the makeshift camp of the wounded, checking in on what allies they had left and piece together what caused this disaster. Kyle Raynor used his Green Lantern ring to carry the dead and severely injured away from the building to the appropriate camps while Dinah was on the ground directing the traffic of the fire trucks and ambulances. News crews were setting up their cameras, the police were putting up barricades and bystanders were taking pictures on their phones.

Bruce was as close to the burning Watchtower he could be barking orders to John Stewart, Firestorm and Captain Marvel who were assisting the fire fighters.

Wally and Donna arrived to see Hal and Bruce speaking to each other before Hal hastily flew in the flaming building.

Wally and Donna went to Bruce. He would have the answers for what's going on. What a weekend for her sister to leave the planet, Donna thought. "What happened here?"

"Why did Hal go in the building?" Wally got in Bruce's face. "Is someone still in there?"

After the Watchtower's explosion, Bruce went into rescue and recovery mode. He led the charge in getting the camps of the wounded and dead set up; he coordinated who should go back into the Watchtower to find any survivors and retrieve the dead; he didn't have time to give into his anger. Until now.

"You!" Bruce shook with rage. "You fool!" He swung his fist at the speedster.

The punch came as such a shock Wally didn't move to avoid it. Angry, Donna fired back. "You better have a good reason for doing that!"

Bruce snarled, "Wally gave Plastic Man and Booster Gold access to secure rooms in the Watchtower!"

Wally rubbed his sore cheek. Bruce punched him because of that? "Yeah? So?"

Bruce pointed to the fallen Watchtower. "That is what happened!"

Donna and Wally looked at the destroyed Watchtower confused. Wally shrugged while Donna said, "Bruce, you're not making sense. Explain."

Bruce gave them a quick rundown of what happened. When Bruce finished, Wally dropped to his knees and buried his head in his hands, "No! Not again! I didn't know! This isn't my fault!"

Bruce didn't accept Wally's apology. "Tell that to the dead and injured!" He yanked Wally to his feet, forcing him to look at the camps of the injured and dead. "You're not gonna close your eyes to your mistake!"

Paramedics were loading the injured into the ambulances; others sealed up the dead. Fire cried holding a lifeless Ice. She refused to turn her over. J'onn knelt to Fire and whispered in her ear. Reluctantly, Fire released Ice to the waiting paramedic and cried in J'onn's arms. Ice wasn't alone in the dead. Dr. Midnight, Red Arrow, and Samurai were being zipped up in body bags.

Not all died. Metamorpho's body was still intact except for his legs that were blown apart in the explosion. Red Tornado's body was scattered in several parts, but being a robot, he could be fixed.

Green Arrow sat on a cot getting treated for burns on his left bicep and hamstring. Vixen sat nearby breathing from an oxygen tank. She was in the Watchtower during the explosion and inhaled a lot of smoke as she helped her allies escape. She was able to save some when she manifested into an elephant but there were others like Hawk, Question and Ice who didn't make it. When Vixen collapsed from too much smoke inhalation, Captain Atom brought her to safety. Captain Atom was one of the few who stayed back to absorb the blast and radiation as his body could take it.

Hearing Bruce tell of Captain Atom's rescue of Vixen, Donna thought of Hal going in the destroyed Watchtower. "You never answered Wally's question, Bruce. Who did Hal go in the Watchtower after?"

"Zatanna," Bruce turned back to the Watchtower remains. "When we realized one of the bombs were in the power generator room, Zatanna went to contain it. She knew, like I did, if the generator exploded, it would spread radiation for miles. Everyone would be infected. It wouldn't have been as bad as Chernobyl but….." Bruce paused, unable to finish.

Zatanna was a very powerful sorceress. She could contain the radiation with her magic but doing that in an exploding building? Donna wasn't sure of Zatanna's chances of survival.

A triumph yell was heard from the fire fighters when the last fire was put out. Without John Stewart, Firestorm and Captain Marvel's assistant, the fire would've lasted for hours. This minor victory didn't take away from the grim reminder they lost allies and many were injured.

One of whom still remained in the tower; her fate unknown.


"Bruce!" Hal flew out of the rubble. He carried Zatanna's body in his arms.

Bruce held his spot as Hal landed before him. Zatanna's body was covered in black smears, tattered clothes, burnt skin and blood. Zatanna was so still in Hal's arms. Bruce couldn't tell If Zatanna was alive or dead. "She's barely alive, Bruce, and she's been affected by radiation. Don't worry," he quickly added. "My ring is concealing the radiation."

Bruce didn't care about being exposed to the radiation. His thoughts were only for Zatanna. "Metropolis Hospital has a special wing dealing with metahumans. It's her best chance."

Hal immediately left with Bruce looking on. His mask hid the emotions on his face but it couldn't hide the emotions in his voice. Wally and Donna suspected Bruce cared for Zatanna. They never knew how deep it went.

Wally was too overwhelmed with guilt to speak. It was up to Donna to ask questions. "Bruce, where are Booster Gold and Plastic Man? We need to find them."

"Captain Atom found Plastic Man when he went back in the Watchtower to search for survivors. Booster Gold's probably still in there. If so, good."

Donna was appalled at Bruce's coldness. "Bruce, you can't believe this was intentional on Michael and Patrick's part. They were probably captured and brainwashed and died without the will to get out."

"If you think I care about that now, you're a fool. Our Watchtower is gone! Thirteen members of the Justice League are dead! Several more are wounded! Some may even die from their injuries! I have more important things to do than worry about Booster and Plastic Man's final moments!"

Bruce stormed off and with him, walked Krypto. That puzzled Donna for numerous reasons. She saw the dog with Bruce when she arrived but the Watchtower's destruction had her undivided attention. Until now. "In light of all that has been happening, I've been meaning to ask. What's Krypto doing here, Bruce?"

"I don't know. He came before the Watchtower exploded. If it wasn't for him, we all would be dead." And yet that made it suspicious. Bruce looked down at the dog finally wondering why he was here. "It's too much of a coincidence Krypto came when he did."

Donna agreed with that. "As far as I know, Krypto's staying at Kal's home until Kal and Diana return. Krypto wouldn't come here unless he needed…" Donna and Bruce's eyes met. It hit them at the same time. "Oh, no. Could something have happened to Kal and Diana? That's impossible, right? There were only a handful of us who knew where they were going."

The Watchtower attacked; Diana and Kal possibly in trouble. Bruce had a horrible feeling overcome him. "Someone betrayed them. Krypto came to let us know and then this happened. It's not a coincidence. This has Darkseid written all over it. He's the only one who could pull off something like this."

"We need to get to Kal's home," Donna decided. "It's the best place to start looking for Diana and Kal."

Bruce agreed. "I'll go with you. J'onn and Dinah can take care of things here."

J'onn heard Batman call him mentally; he round up Dinah and brought her to where Bruce and Donna were waiting for them.

Dinah assumed Bruce wanted an update and told him, "The ambulances are leaving with the injured and…." Dinah paused. It was hard for her to say, "the dead in. I can't believe our friends are gone. They were just here. I had lunch with Dr. Midnight. I talked to Ice ten minutes before all hell broke loose! What the hell happened?!" Dinah lashed out. "Who is responsible for this?!"

Wally remained quiet. So did Donna. She expected Bruce to blame Wally as he did earlier but he didn't.

"Darkseid." Though angry with Wally, he knew the Lord of the Apokolips was the true cause of this. Also, if everyone knew what Wally did, it would cause friction among the Justice League and they needed to be a united front now. "This was his plan. It was also his plan to capture Diana and Kal-El."

The heavy news floored Dinah. Tonight, they lost the Watchtower, their friends and now this. "When did this happen? Diana and Kal are so powerful and resourceful. They're off world. They're….

The skies above them rumbled loudly. Dinah, like everyone else, looked upward. "Figures it would rain when the fire is out."

Krypto growled. He knew it wasn't rain coming.

J'onn's superior Martian vision and ears knew the truth, too. "It's not a thunderstorm." The rumble in the skies grew louder. "Those are boom tubes."

Bruce looked around. The ambulances, the firemen, policemen, news crews and bystanders would be caught in the crossfire of Darkseid's forces. "We have to protect them." Bruce touched his ear. "Nightwing, I need you to make a stop before coming here."

"Wait," Dinah interrupted. "How can your earpiece work? All lines are dead."

"The Justice League network is down but the Batcave is online and I've been in contact with my team."

Dinah snorted. "Figures."

While Bruce gave orders to Nightwing, boom tubes opened from the world of Apokolips. Lashina, Mad Harriett, Knockout and Bernadeth emerged followed by an army of parademons.

With the imminent threat hovering in the skies, firemen ran in panic to their fire trucks. Ambulances hit the gas, driving as fast as they could away from the Justice League's last stand. Police tried to calm the bystanders who ran while the news crews stayed to send the live images to the homes of everyone watching.

J'onn immediately sent a telepathic signal to Kyle Rayner. Hearing the orders, Kyle flew off after the ambulances confusing Bruce because they needed all their manpower to deal with the threat in the sky.

J'onn, Bruce mentally called out to the Martian. Kyle flew off. Get him back here.

I told him to leave.


I'll explain later. Trust me.

J'onn was one of the few people Bruce did trust. If J'onn sent Kyle away, it had to be for a good reason.

Being outnumbered was nothing new to the Justice League but this was different. With the recent loss of comrades, the Justice League was fractured, members were emotionally spent and now they had this threat hovering over them. Also, they didn't have Diana. Her presence always turned the tide in battle. Now they had to fight without her.

"Can we….." Dinah began doubtfully, "can we truly take them?"

"We have to," Donna didn't show fear. "It's what Diana would want."

"Diana wouldn't want us in a suicide mission," Dinah argued. "She'd want us to regroup and coordinate an attack."

Donna understood Dinah's reluctance but her sister was captured. If the Furies knew of Diana's whereabouts, she wasn't going to run. She was going to get answers. "There isn't time for that."

Still, Dinah wasn't confident about this fight. "We can't win like this."

"Are you suggesting we retreat?" Bruce wouldn't hear of it. "The fight hasn't started."

"There are too many civilians in the crossfire. They'll run when the fighting begins and once they do, we must make a hasty retreat as well. Running is the last thing anyone wants to do but we must." Emotions were high now and though it was affecting her, too, Dinah thought rationally. "We lost part of team to death and injury. Half of us aren't emotionally fit to fight now."

Bruce narrowed his eyes at her. "Are you talking about everyone or just yourself?"

"I'm not speaking for myself." Dinah pointed to a grief stricken Wally. "Look at Wally. He hasn't said anything. He's in shock!"

All eyes turned to Wally who snapped out of his reverie. He'll let himself be consumed with guilt on his actions later. Not now. "I'm not running! Our friends need to be avenged!" He had to fight now. Once everyone learned his part in this, they would want nothing to do with them. He had to amend his mistake by giving the best fight he had in him.

"You're angry for the wrong reasons!" Dinah stood her ground. "Our forces are weakened! It would be best if we make a strategic retreat, regroup and then counterattack before we lose anyone else."

"What about the people that will die if we retreat?" Wally quarreled. "Washington, D.C. is in the direct line of fire if we run!"

"STOP!" J'onn silenced Dinah and Wally. This fighting was ridiculous. What made it worse, the Furies were witnessing it and even though the news crews couldn't hear the argument, their hostile body language could easily be read. "We've no choice but to fight. We won't be able to subdue all the parademons but our strongest fighters will fight the Furies. Their defeat will force a retreat."

The Furies hovered on Aero-disks with the parademons waiting for the command to attack. The Furies witnessed the heated exchange between the members of the Justice League. It amused them.

"Infighting without their leader Wonder Woman," Lashina chuckled. "Pathetic." Lashina turned her head slightly in the direction of the retreating ambulances and fire trucks. "Insects."

"Yes," Knockout agreed. She wouldn't have cared about the ambulances and fire trucks leaving if Kyle didn't leave with them. "We should've stopped that Green Lantern from leaving. Darkseid doesn't want any survivors."

"He's only one. Our first priority is destroying what's left of the Justice League. Once we kill them, the rest of Earth will fall at our feet. Darkseid won't even have to unleash his second wave." Lashina unfurled her whip. It crackled with electrical energy. "Attack! Kill the Justice League!"

Though not the leader, J'onn was considered the most powerful member of the Justice League. Not only did he have superior strength, speed and skills as a fighter but his telepathy, Martian vision, and shape shifting abilities were always valuable to the team whenever he used them.

Which he did now. He read Lashina's mind and knew the Furies were only targeting the Justice League. This helped J'onn in his coordination of the battle. However, there was a problem. Policemen were directing civilians and the news crew to leave. Most citizens took the cue to run but reporters were adamant on staying, exercising their right to report the news. J'onn knew there would be causalities and no matter what happened the Justice League would be blamed for it.

Captain Marvel, Donna, John, everyone who can fly, let's keep the fight above the ground for as long as we can. It'll be to our advantage to keep the Furies in the sky while the ground team battle parademons coming their way. Barda and Scott….Never mind.

Barda was already engaged in a fight with Knockout. She knocked the Fury off her Aero-disks and battled her on the ground while Scott Free fought Lashina on the Aero-disks left vacant by Knockout.

Captain Marvel, John Stewart and Firestorm, joined in the air fight. Captain Marvel's strength alone knocked several parademons to the ground dead or mutilated with broken wings and limbs. John Stewart used his ring to construct weapons of cannon guns, spiked maces, battle axes and power saws to cut through the parademons. This was a fight to the death and no one was holding back.

Donna's target was Bernadeth. With Bernadeth relation to Desaad, Donna thought only of finding information of Diana. Using her lasso, Donna wrapped it around Bernadeth and yanked the Fury off her Aero-disk. Bernadeth didn't hit the ground as Donna expected. She landed on her feet and yanked Donna's lasso pulling the Amazon to her. Bernadeth whipped out her Fahren-knife, ready to slice the Amazon. Donna evaded the knife only losing a few strands of her hair.

Retrieving her lasso from Bernadeth and avoiding another swing of Bernadeth's knife, Donna landed a kick to the back of Bernadeth's head. "If my sister is harmed in anyway, I swear to make you pay for it!"

Bernadeth stumbled but did not drop her knife. "What my Lord Darkseid is doing to Wonder Woman will be nothing compared to what I will do to you." Donna's disgust moved Bernadeth. "Yes, I will mar that pretty face of yours; mar that beautiful body of yours. I'll have you as a pet before I pass you over to Kalibak." She chuckled wickedly. "Why should Great Darkseid have all the fun of an Amazon when his son can as well?"

"Shut up!" Donna knew what Bernadeth was trying to do and Donna refused to lose the mental game. Diana depended on her. "I will not lose to you!" Donna's fist missed the Fury but Bernadeth wasn't so unfortunate. She didn't stab Donna like she wanted but her Fahren Knife sliced across Donna's left arm.

Donna stumbled and grabbed her arm, wincing in the burning pain seething up and down her arm. Bernadeth advanced towards Donna, ready to strike again. Donna feigned even more pain by stumbling to the ground and when Bernadeth was close enough, uppercut with her good arm so hard, teeth flew out of the Fury's mouth.

"I will not be your or anyone's concubine!"

Another fist crossed Bernadeth's other cheek. The Fahren-knife flew out of Bernadeth's hand as she hit the ground. Bernadeth turned her head, frantically looking for her knife. Once she saw it, she went for it and so did Donna. Just as Bernadeth grabbed her knife, Donna stomp her foot on the Furies' wrist and retrieved the knife for herself. "Darkseid will not lay a hand on my sister! Diana will not allow it! Kal will not allow it!"

Bernadeth pulled her wrist from under Donna's foot. Did the Amazon's sibling not know? "The bounty hunter has been captured as well. Rumor has it, he and the Amazon was caught in a very compromising position." She laughed as she stood. "I'm sure Darkseid is enjoying the pleasures of the Amazon now."

"Shut up!" Donna waved the Fahren-knife slashing Bernadeth across her face. "If Kal is with my sister, there is no way Darkseid could do anything to her. Kal will protect her!"

The Fahren-knife burned Bernadeth's face. She could feel her skin merging to a deformed, mutated manner. Skin hung from her left cheek. Her right eye drooped and despite the pain, Bernadeth laughed, flashing her missing teeth. "Kalibak brought down that arrogant bounty hunter. That worthless bounty hunter cannot do anything but serve Darkseid and watch as our Lord take Wonder Woman as his bride and force many heirs out her. She will be as broken as this planet."

Bernadeth saw the rage building in the Amazon and when Donna struck at her again, Bernadeth attempted to retrieve her Fahren-knife in the Amazon's anger. The Fury grabbed hold of Donna's hands trying to get the knife or at best, shove it into Donna's chest. Unfortunately for Bernadeth, Donna thought the same and had no qualms when during their struggle shove the knife into Bernadeth's stomach.

Donna's final words to the Fury, "Diana will never break and neither will Earth."

Bernadeth collapsed. She could feel the burning in her body; the searing heat spreading from her stomach to her ribcage, to her heart, burning through her organs. "Sentimental fool," Bernadeth smiled cryptically as life faded from her. "Now you'll never know."

At Bernadeth's death, parademons bombarded Donna. Donna pulled out the Fahren-knife and used it against the parademons. She had the energy to continue battle but she wasn't confident about her comrades. An Amazon always stayed on the battlefield. Amazons never retreated but she was the lone Amazon here and being outnumbered, and fearing for her comrades, Donna worried Dinah might be right.

Mad Harriet jumped from her Aero-disk. Her target—Justice League ground team. With them gathered together, it made them easy pickings for her. Her maniacal laugh echoed in the sky as she jumped from one parademon to the next using them as steps. Coming down, she saw Firestorm surrounded by parademons. He was putting up a good fight against them but he didn't see her spying him.

Perfect target!

Mad Harriet pounced off the back of a parademon and sliced her power spikes down Firestorm's back. She easily cut through the flesh in his back. His screams were pure delight to her ears. Firestorm spiraled toward the ground fast. Mad Harriet looked around searching for her next target.

Batman. He threw a slew of batarangs at parademons targeting him. Some hit directly with the batarangs exploding on impact while others missed a parademon directly, but being in the vicinity when the batarang's timer went off created explosions strong enough to temporarily take them out of the fight.

As with all the ground fighters, they were focused on the parademons. One missed step and they would fall. It was easy to not be aware of others going down in battle with parademon screeches filling their ears and their focus of the battle. It was easy for Batman to not notice Mad Harriet targeting him.

Mad Harriet stepped off Firestorm. Extracting her claws, she zigzagged across the grass. Mad Harriett was so close. One more step and she'll slice up the back of the Dark Knight.

"Di-arck!" A white beast sank his teeth in her wrist. Mad Harriet felt her body being jerked back and spinning for several moments as if she was in a tornado. Mad Harriet laughed through the dizziness before abruptly being released from the beast. Mad Harriet felt sharp, excruciating pain where the beast sank his sharp and dangerous teeth in before she pummeled to the ground.

Mad Harriet opened her eyes. The dog was away from her but the pain in her arm persisted. She pulled her hand to her face to examine what the beast did only to find her hand was gone. It lied on the ground inches from where she landed. Her hand was gone. A normal person would be horrified but Mad Harriet was anything but normal. She laughed as deranged as a female Joker.

For Batman, everything happened so fast. With so many parademons surrounding him he didn't hear Mad Harriet coming until Krypto attacked her. Krypto, the dog of the man who Bruce once hated, saved his life, three times tonight.

I don't want to admit it but I'm starting to like this dog.

Krypto dropped in front of Batman. A parademon swooped in and Krypto fired his heat vision on the parademons eyes blinding him.

I'm really starting to like this dog.

Despite the profuse bleeding from her severed hand, Mad Harriet jumped to her feet. She had one good hand. That was all she needed to deal with the dog and Batman. "Stupid animal. Protecting him makes me want him even more!"

Mad Harriet launched herself towards Batman and Krypto. She'll take them both out. She crisscrossed across the ground trying to confuse them. While her speed was too fast for Batman's eyes, it wasn't for Krypto. Krypto slammed his head in Mad Harriet's chest, knocking the wind out of her. There was a silver lining to her lying under Krypto. Her good hand was left free and Krypto was in prime vicinity for her to slash his jugular.

Batman didn't think. He only acted. He cranked up the power on his batarang its limit and tossed it. Out of instinct Mad Harriet caught the batarang. The batarang exploded. Krypto was caught in the blast but as expected he was unharmed. Mad Harriet's hand was still attached but her extendable claws were damaged.

Krypto stepped off Mad Harriet, thinking she would smartly stay down. She didn't. "Forget you, Batman," Mad Harriet slurred. "That dog's a bigger threat than you."

Wearily from the explosion and loss of blood, she stood, still laughing as she limped to Krypto. Krypto wasn't scared but Batman had enough of her. He got in front of Krypto. "You won't touch this dog!" Being a human fighting metahumans, all of Batman's uniforms were built to magnify his strength twenty times but even the punches he landed on Mad Harriet left his hands stinging and she still coming for him.

"She won't stay down!"

Krypto made sure she did. Krypto landed a massive kick to Mad Harriet's chest with his hind legs. Mad Harriet fell to the ground unmoving with her ribs crushed. She wasn't dead yet but she was out of the fight.

As they did with Donna, parademons surrounded them. Using his heat vision, his vicious teeth and tough legs Krypto was able to knock them away from Batman.

"I'm low on weapons," Batman confessed to Krypto. He surveyed the battles around him. Bernadeth was dead, Donna was fighting off parademons, Barda was overpowering Knockout, Mister Miracle and Lashina were in a draw, J'onn had a handle of the parademons in the sky, and Firestorm was seriously injured with Dinah and Huntress fighting around him.

The civilians-the ones who didn't heed the warning to run—laid dead and mutilated along with the police who stayed to fight and protect them. Batman wasn't surprised reporters and their cameramen were spared. The Furies wanted the world to see this violence. They wanted their fear but most of all, they wanted the world to see the fall of the Justice League. Dinah was right. They were outnumbered and they were not going to win.

"We have to fall back." Batman touched his ear. "What's your E.T.A.?"

"Two minutes."

"This is going to be the longest two minutes ever."

Though Dinah didn't agree with the choice to fight, she stood her own, fighting with her own hand to hand combat skills and her voice. Huntress had her back to Dinah fighting alongside with her.

A bevy of arrows flew in the women's vicinity piercing the eyes and vital areas of parademons. Many fell around them. Dinah turned stunned Oliver Queen was on the battlefield. "Ollie! You're supposed to be in the ambulances that got away from here!"

"Do you really think I wouldn't be fighting with you?" He had a slight limp in his walk; a sign he was still in pain.

Dinah turned away from him as another swarm of parademons approached. "We'll discuss this later if we survive this!"

Batman and Krypto joined to fight with them. "Better to fall together than apart, right Batman?" Oliver mused.

"What are the casualties, Batman?" Huntress asked. "The policemen? The gawkers?"


"I know you don't want to hear this, Batman, but we must retreat!" Dinah released her sonic cry knocking several parademons back while Oliver finished them with his arrows. "If we die here, we lose this planet! At least by leaving, Earth stands a chance!"

"My team is thirty seconds away!"

Finally, Batman was listening to reasoning. And yet, "We all can't fit in the batjet!"

"Batgirl and Red Robin are in jets but Nightwing's coming in the spare Javelin at my cave. A few modifications have been added to it."

Oliver struck down a parademon. "Always thinking ahead, right, Bruce?"

"It wasn't my idea to have a Javelin at my cave. It was Kal-El's."

"Kal's?" Distracted by that revelation Dinah's head was nearly swiped by a parademon. Krypto tackled the parademon. Recovering from her folly, Dinah asked. "Did he know this will happen?"

"Probably." That alien was two, three steps ahead of even him. "I think he was preparing us."

A rain of lasers and bullets fell around them, hitting the parademons and sparing the Justice League.

Batman looked up seeing Nightwing flying in on the Javelin, Batgirl and Red Robin in their own modified batjets. They weren't alone. Hal Jordan was with them.

J'onn caught sight of the flying ships. This was their chance. He mentally sent an order to Dick open the Javelin's back ramp. Next, J'onn sent a mental message for the air crew to provide cover for the land crew escaping in the Javelin.

Lashina saw the Justice League retreating. Before Mister Miracle cracked her jaw, she got out the order, "Don't let them escape!"

The remaining parademons swarmed to the ship. Huntress and Dinah carried an injured Firestorm with John Stewart providing cover. Flash zipped in and out of the ship helping other Justice League fighters quickly load into the ship. Batman and Krypto stood on the ramp waiting for everyone to get in. Donna flew in last.

"Barda and Scott will meet up with us later. Let's go!"

Nightwing closed up the ramp and raised the ship in the sky. He activated the ship's stealth mode and flew off. Batgirl and Red Robin followed suit. J'onn, Hal and John split in three different directions confusing the parademons on where the invisible Javelin and batjets went.

"Whereto?" Dick asked.

"Kal's Fortress," Donna slipped in the co-pilot's seat. J'onn and the others will meet us there. Donna gazed out the window, regretting leaving the city. "I hope the city doesn't pay for this."

Even though they sent the Justice League running, Lashina viewed this fight as embarrassing and unbefitting to the Furies. They shouldn't have escaped with their lives! "Damn them. Even without Wonder Woman, the Justice League managed to hand our ass to us. Two of the Furies are out of commission and countless parademons are dead."

Wearing the wounds given to her by Big Barda, Knockout saw the battle differently. "Mad Harriet and Bernadeth were always dead weight. Victory is still ours. We sent the Justice League running," Knockout gestured to the dead humans and the cameras recording them. "And in front of their primitive viewing devices." Her laugh was victorious. "The world saw the Justice League as we always knew them to be. Weak and helpless against the forces of Darkseid."

"We embarrassed the Justice League," Lashina agreed with that, "But we can't return to Apokolips like this. I will not have Darkseid's second wave start before we make our mark here."

"What's the plan?" Knockout asked.

"This is this country's capital city. We take it and this country will fall. Scared, the people of this planet will force the Justice League to come out of hiding."

Darkseid witnessed the battle from its positive beginnings to its bittersweet end. Enraged with his Furies defeat particularly Bernadeth and Mad Harriett's death, he saw a silver lining in this battle unlike his previous ones. This was the first battle the Justice League fled, like the sanctimonious cowards he always knew they were.

"Look at them, my Lord!" Desaad clapped gleefully. "Look at how quickly they run without Wonder Woman. Look at how easily they fall."

"Yes. They run and hide in view of the people who put them on pedestals only given to Gods such as myself. Earth is under siege and her people will pay for their misplaced loyalty. With me, they will at last have freedom."

Desaad smirked. "As if you will give them that."

"Their freedom is to serve me and follow my will." Darkseid turned away from his viewing screen. "They will foolishly resist but once I return to Earth with Wonder Woman as my bride any hope they have will be squashed."

On their way to meet with Darkseid and Desaad, were Steppenwolf and Kalibak. Steppenwolf looked the worst for wear. He was dressed in a fresh uniform. Any visible scars he received had healed but he couldn't hide the patch over his right eye. Going through the ringer with Kal, Kalibak waited until his wounds healed for he refused to see Darkseid with a marred face and body. He would not let Darkseid know the difficulties he suffered subduing the bounty hunter.

"You'll keep your word?" Steppenwolf wanted assurance.

"That I won't tell Father you hurt Wonder Woman in order to subdue her?" Kalibak laughed. He knew of his father's silly decree. "I've no reason to. You best hope Wonder Woman heals before Father sees her."

"She's covered and her wounds were healing when I last checked on her. Perhaps in another hour or so she'll be completely healed."

"So we stall Father from seeing Wonder Woman for another hour?" the chances of doing that were slim. "It's not likely we can do that but having Wonder Woman's lasso would've been a good bargaining tool from Father's wrath." Kalibak paused to scrutinize Steppenwolf. "You didn't find it at all in that cottage?"

Oh, he did but he wasn't going to tell Kalibak that. Steppenwolf was no fool. If Kalibak knew he had Diana's lasso he would steal it from him and present it to Darkseid himself. Steppenwolf had Diana's lasso and it was safely tucked away. It was his bargaining tool.

"No," Steppenwolf lied. "It is lost and we don't need it. We have what Darkseid wants." Reaching the doors of Darkseid's throne room, Steppenwolf asked again. "I have your word?"

Kalibak only smiled. "You have my word."

Steppenwolf didn't believe him but he didn't have a choice.

Desaad turned at the opening doors. He frowned displeased at Steppenwolf's appearance. "Your eye, Steppenwolf? What happened to it?"

Darkseid turned as well. Curious. He was only told Steppenwolf and Kalibak returned with Diana and Kal. He wasn't told of any injuries. It wasn't a surprise given Diana and Kal would fight back but it was disturbing he was not told.

"That damn bounty hunter took my eye!" Steppenwolf cursed. "None of the medics could save it."

"And what did you take from him in return?" Darkseid calmly asked. Steppenwolf's perplexing at the question only angered him. "If that bounty hunter took your eye, you best have taken something from him in return. Now what was it?"

Steppenwolf swallowed. Nothing but he couldn't tell Darkseid that.

Kalibak stepped in if only to humiliate Steppenwolf even more. "He only wailed in pain like a child. I subdued the bounty hunter with my Beta Club, Father. He was hardly a challenge."

Steppenwolf narrowed his eye at him. Hardly a challenge, my ass! That bounty had you on the ropes. You didn't want to face Darkseid until your wounds healed.

Darkseid smiled with pride at his son and disdain for his General. "Kalibak rose where you failed again, Steppenwolf."

Steppenwolf flinched. Multiple failures weren't allowed on Apokolips. For each failure a severe punishment was delivered. Steppenwolf was fortunate so far to dodge Darkseid's wrath but he could sense the time was soon approaching to pay for his failures. His bargaining tool, Diana's lasso, could buy him more time.

"I have failed you, Sire. I admit that but I have made up for it."

Darkseid dismissed Steppenwolf, "I have no patience for your excuses, Steppenwolf. You are no longer head of my forces. That privilege shall be given to Kalibak. He has proven himself worthy control of my armies while you have proven yourself as a constant failure."

All his year of loyalty and servitude taken like this and given to that arrogant beast Kalibak? "My Lord," Steppenwolf fell to one knee. "I beg you to reconsider. I have served your faithfully for years. I have always completed my missions with success. This bounty hunter is the only mark on a once perfect record. You cannot think Kalibak will do better on account of getting lucky with the bounty hunter."

Darkseid's eyes lit with fire. "You question my decision, Steppenwolf?"

Steppenwolf's face perspired under the growing heat of Darkseid's eyes. He would burn to a cinder if he was not careful. "I only meant Kalibak needs more than one victory to prove himself."

"I have countless victories across the galaxies," Kalibak boasted. "I would've conquered Almerac had I not been ordered to fall back and aid you in defeating the bounty hunter."

Darkseid agreed with Kalibak. "What have you to say to defend yourself, Steppenwolf?"

I have Wonder Woman's lasso. But Steppenwolf held his tongue. He wasn't sure now if that would be enough. "My record as your General should be enough."

"It is not. In crossing paths with the bounty hunter, killing his adoptive parents was your only success." The flames faded from his eyes. What a waste it would be to kill Steppenwolf now without him suffering torture first. "Be grateful you were only removed from your position and you've not suffer a more fitting punishment for your failures."

How humiliating! All his years of servitude gone in a blink of an eye. His pride was hurt in more ways than one. It was bad enough he, the Uncle of Darkseid, had to serve and do the bidding of his nephew. He never voiced it in fear of his life but he hated it. Now he was tossed from his position for someone who is not even of Darkseid's blood! It was more than Steppenwolf could accept.

I'll keep the secret of Wonder Woman's lasso to myself and somehow get revenge for this degradation.

Kalibak watched Steppenwolf rise to his feet. He knew the former General was furious but held his tongue. Kalibak could let the former General walk away in defeat without facing Darkseid's Omega Beams but where's the fun in that? "Steppenwolf has one other success, Father. He did bring Wonder Woman here. In fact, he personally captured her himself." Steppenwolf snapped his head at Kalibak. The backstabber! He couldn't even keep his word. "I think you have kept your bride waiting long enough, Father. You should see her."

"That is true." The thought of Wonder Woman brought a smile to Darkseid's stone face. "I've not seen her since her arrival. The fall of the Justice League kept me away but no more."

Darkseid, Desaad and Kalibak headed out the throne room. Kalibak turned back to Steppenwolf who stayed behind. "Come with us, Steppenwolf. Surely, you want to see the Amazon you have broken."

"Bastard," Steppenwolf muttered as he hesitantly followed. Darkseid decreed Diana to not be harmed. He had no choice but to hit her. She couldn't have been subdued otherwise. Darkseid would understand. Besides, Darkseid got what he wanted: Diana. He should be pleased he has her injured or not.

Kalibak, I swear to make you pay for this!

When Steppenwolf brought Diana to the mind controlled servants working in the Tower of Rage, he ordered they burn Diana's clothes. It was drenched in too much blood to be kept. He also ordered them to cover Diana's wounds before Darkseid saw Diana. If he knew how injured Diana was…..

Two levels and a long hallway later, they were inching closer to Diana's chambers. Steppenwolf thought of one futile attempt to delay Darkseid's meeting with the Amazon. "Perhaps we should look in on Kal-El first," Steppenwolf suggested. "Rub our victory in his face?"

Tempting, but no. Darkseid wanted to see Diana. "I'll see the traitorous bounty hunter after I see my Queen."

Two parademons stood in front of Diana's room. They stepped aside allowing Darkseid's entrance. The Lord of Apokolips paused mid-step when his eyes fell on Diana. Oh, she was a beautiful creature even more so in Apokoliptan attire.

"You will fit well on Apokolips as my Queen."

Diana's wrists and ankles were chained. Tied down she couldn't cross her arms across her chest or move far. Even if she wasn't weakened by the attack earlier, the manacles were still hard to break free from. Seeing Darkseid, Diana only had one question for him.

"Where …is…. Kal?"

Darkseid snarled. She dared speak concern of that traitor in front of her betrothed? "You disappoint me, Wonder Woman. You are my betrothed and yet you betray yourself to the one who defied me, the one who take what is mine!"

"I do not belong to you and I am not your betrothed!" Diana stood before Darkseid defiantly. "You will tell me what you have done with Kal!"

Unbelievable! As his prisoner, he expected Diana to show humility to him. He only received the full fledge anger of the Amazon. "No one gives me orders."

Diana wasn't intimidated by fire in Darkseid's eyes. If he were to shoot his Omega Beams on her, so be it. "I just did."

Attacking Diana with his Omega Beams would bring more harm to Diana than he wanted but he couldn't abide by Diana's sharp tongue. She had to pay for it. She will show subservience to her Lord. He raised a hand, attempting to strike Diana across her face. Diana raised her good arm, blocking Darkseid's hand but her wounded shoulder couldn't block the next hit. Diana's face stung as she dropped to the floor. She grimaced as she landed on her injured shoulder.

The pain on Diana's face caused Darkseid to falter kicking her. He didn't strike Diana that hard. Diana struggling to touch her wounded shoulder told Darkseid all he needed to know. "You're injured."

Glowering at him, she barked back. "As if you didn't know."

He didn't. Darkseid yanked Diana to her feet by her manacles and ripped open her gown. A fitted bodice saved her body from exposure but there was no hiding the bandages over her shoulder. "What is this? I specifically ordered Wonder Woman to be captured with no harm to her!"

"Steppenwolf," Kalibak feigned surprise, "how could you betray Father's orders?"

The snake Kalibak. "You-"

"It is I you answer to, Steppenwolf." Darkseid's eyes were burning again. Not good. Not good at all. "Not Kalibak."

He'll deal with Kalibak later. If he survive Darkseid's wrath. "I would never disobey your orders, my Lord," Steppenwolf managed not to stumble over his words. "But you know Wonder Woman would be defiant and not come willingly."

Darkseid grabbed Steppenwolf's neck and squeezed. Losing all feeling in his legs, Steppenwolf crumbled so Darkseid held him up. "It was your job to subdue her without harming her!"

"I….I….." he struggled to breathe, "I tried."

"Try isn't good enough!"

"Steppenwolf is right," Diana had no intention of sparing Steppenwolf from Darkseid's wrath but Darkseid would understand taking her against her will was Steppenwolf's only chance. "He had no choice but to strike me. I would have never come willingly as I will never willingly be your bride. You can beat me to my dying breath and I will never submit to you."

Darkseid released Steppenwolf. He collapsed on the floor coughing; his hand tenderly rubbed his nearly broken throat.

Darkseid vowed to give Steppenwolf a more severe punishment later. For now, he needed to put his queen in her place. "Your place is beneath me. You'll soon understand that."

"My place is above you with my foot against your throat."

Angry he was at her defiance, he admitted being turned on as well. He will enjoy breaking her spirit. "You will learn subservience! You will kneel before me!"

Diana saw the perverted pleasure in his eyes. It disgusted her. "You will have to use your Omega Beams to accomplish that."

Such fire in her eyes. He grabbed Diana's chains and yanked him to her; her face mere inches from his. His stone face consorted into a wicked smile. "The more you fight, the more pleasure I will derive from breaking you. I will make you say many things and it will not be by the force of my Omega Beams. I have many forms of power. Some of which is what drew you to the bounty hunter. Perhaps a taste of my own power is needed here." Not looking back, Darkseid said, "Leave us."

Desaad and Kalibak didn't hesitate to leave. Steppenwolf still weak could only crawl out of the room.

Alone with Darkseid drawing her closer, Diana knew what Darkseid planned. Diana's gaze softened and her body relaxed under Darkseid's intense gaze, under his indomitable body. "Oh, Darkseid," her voice softened like a submissive woman. Yes. She saw the surprise in his eyes but also felt a slight drop in his guard. Moving with the gifted speed of Hermes, Diana used her good arm and wrapped her chains around Darkseid's neck. She jumped on him, squeezing Darkseid's neck with the strength she had, "I'll kill you first!"

Darkseid moved about trying to shake Diana off him. Instead, he found himself further wrapped in Diana's chains. This was not how he expected to have Wonder Woman wrapped around him. Growling, he broke through the chains freeing Wonder Woman which was what she wanted.

"Insolent W-" Diana's good hand locked with Darkseid's face. Her body followed up ramming Darkseid through the wall. Knowing at her weakened strength, she could only daze him and not defeat him, Diana sprinted, leaving Darkseid buried under the rubble of the wall. She had to hide, conceal herself and find Kal.

Footsteps were ahead of her. Kalibak and Steppenwolf. They heard the noise and stood ready to take her down. She only had one good arm and the other at half strength but she was going to give it her all.

Two beams of fire struck the center of Diana's back. It was Darkseid attacking. Diana didn't stop running so Darkseid put more power into his beams and Diana couldn't withhold it. Her legs buckled under her and her body laid immobilized on the cold floor with Darkseid heavy footsteps approaching.

Defiant as he approached her, Diana said, "You may break my body but never my will. I will escape you."

"All in due time, Amazon."

Dirk paced around nine year old Kal. He looked over his son chained by his ankles, wrists and neck. Kal pulled at the chains, something he had been doing since Dirk locked him in them. When Dirk brought Kal in the training room, Kal expected another training session. He was following in his Pop's footsteps in being a bounty hunter and going into that profession meant serious training.

The more Kal pulled at the chains the more frustrated he became. These weren't ordinary bonds. "What the fruck is this, Pop?" the nine year old spat angrily.

"The only thing that can hold you…. so far." Dirk understood why Kal was pissed but this had to be done. "You are not an ordinary child, Kal. Each year you grow stronger. Each year you develop a new power. Those chains on you are the strongest metal I can find and I think a year from now it won't hold you."

"Let me out of this!" Kal's eyes flashed red. The heat vision was the newest power Kal developed just three months ago and when he became angry, Kal was unstable with this latest power. Several times his eyes shot off heat without warning. Dirk, in his fire proof suit was prepared if it happened again.

"No! You want to be in the bounty hunter business. This is part of it—getting captured and escaping. I know how powerful you are getting. Ten years from now, you'll probably be twice as strong and with that power, you're gonna get arrogant and not think anyone can take you down."

"No one can!" Kal stated. As far as Kal knew, he was the strongest person ever. Except for the bonds holding him not even Dirk could outmatch him in strength.

Dirk grimaced. It was already starting. He raised his eyes to Saki. Saki looked on through a two way glass. She sat at a panel flickering with buttons and switches. One such knob had power on the chains that held Kal. At Dirk's nod, Saki turned the knob. Kal was bombarded with electricity surging through his bonds. The high voltage could power a small country had Kal cursing every expletive and his eyes bouncing heat around the room. Dirk signaled to Saki and she turned the knob again, shutting off the electricity.

"Do you feel strong now?" Dirk asked. "One of these days, you're gonna get captured. Your opponent will have you in a situation where you think you can't escape. Whatever situation you are in, you can get out of and I'm going to teach you how to do that."

This must be what Pops meant, Kal mused as he looked around the dank room he was in. Time to put my training to use.

Lesson one: Assess the situation.

This was a waiting room for the tortured. The walls were stained with blood and floor was littered with bones. Kal could use the bones as a weapon but he knew that was expected of him. After all he was being watched. He didn't have to look for it. He could hear the movements of a camera. Oh, it was high quality and the camera's movements, subtle they were, couldn't be detected by anyone with normal hearing but his ears were far from normal.

There was one directly above him that was no doubt keeping an eye on his hands, making sure he wasn't breaking the manacles. There were two other cameras, moving clockwise around the room. Kal studied the movements of the cameras with his ears, listening to the movements of the camera. He judged he only had a second when the cameras weren't on him. He might need more than that to get free.

Lesson two: Assess your strengths and weaknesses.

Like his training, he had shackles on his ankles, wrists and neck. Ever since discovering the pieces of green rock on the Kent Farm, Kal studied the effects of the rocks on him. He knew the shackles that bound him were made of kryptonite mixed with the red sun in order to drain him quicker.

Humph. Darkseid's studied me on Earth. Not surprising. He could get free but he needed more than a second. Any odd movements, the cameras would catch him. He'd have to be patient.

Lesson three: Plan your escape.

This would be difficult. He was only in this place twice and it was a maze both times. Still, Kal knew he could find a way out of the Tower of Rage but he wasn't the only one who needed to escape. He had to find Diana.

Closing his eyes, Kal concentrated and listened to the heartbeats of the parademons outside. Ten. He could take out all of them without causing attention but in his weakened state there was a chance one or two could escape and alert others which would put Darkseid on his radar.

Kal wouldn't have it any other way but his concerns were for Diana. He couldn't get to her but for the moment, he would find her. Kal concentrated, resuming his search. With his hearing, he could hear hundreds of sounds at once. Concentrating, he listened for Diana's heartbeat. So many sounds Kal thought. He could hear parademons and demon dogs eating an Apokoliptan slave, Kalibak taunting a furious Steppenwolf, a-

There! He heard it.

Diana was four levels up. It was faint to his weakened ears but Diana's heartbeat was slightly erratic. He could hear chains. What happened? Kal looked in the direction of Diana's heartbeat. Parademons had their hands on Diana. She was being chained. Her clothes were torn and her shoulder bandaged. With her physical makeup, it should heal in an hour or so. Studying her room, Kal saw it was in disarray. Perhaps Diana tried to escape and fail. No doubt she was fighting-


His sharp ears picked up on the pounding footsteps of Darkseid approaching. He was on his way to him. Darkseid wanted him as a solider. He may still be one with some added torture thrown in for his betrayal.

The door opened and Darkseid stepped inside. Oh, he looked smug; so confident he had the upper hand at last. Behind him, stood his creepy advisor Desaad.

Lesson four: Let your enemies think they have won.

Darkseid stood superiorly over Kal. "The bounty hunter who could not be caught, could not be stopped is captured at last."

Kal quipped, "No one can have a perfect record forever."

His spirit was not broken…yet. "You shall feel the full power of my wrath, Bounty Hunter. No one betrays Darkseid."

"You mean no one had the balls or skills to do it." Kal grinned. "Like me."

"Even captured, you still maintain your arrogance."

"What else do I have left?"

There was something or rather someone. "Nothing. Because you have lost. You will learn the price of betraying me. You will learn what happens to those who take what is mine."

So he finally decided to acknowledge it. "What you think is yours isn't." Kal returned the haughty behavior. "I bet it eats you alive Diana wanted me and not you. It pisses you off I got her first. I was the first to taste your bride." Darkseid's eyes burned. He was getting angry. Good. This motivated Kal. "I have been all over of what you wanted first. I was everywhere and everything on Diana was felt me, was marked by me. The sounds she made. The things she did. You'll never have that privilege to feel genuine pleasure by her."

"Sounds of pleasure or torture do not matter to be, Bounty Hunter. Either way I'll get what I want." Darkseid leaned forward. "But it shall matter to you because you care for her. Even now I bet it sickens you envisioning me with her."

So, he was trying to throw it back on him. He can play mind games better.

"Diana's nothing but a piece of tail to me. A challenging tail but a tail nonetheless. I worked hard for that and it was worth it just to see the look on your face." Darkseid glowered and his eyes flickered with fire. "Yes. That look. I know you are responsible for Dirk and Saki's death. I know how much you wanted Diana. What better way to get back at you for murdering my parents all in sick attempt to make me your next soldier by going after and bedding the woman you want as your bride; by making the woman you want fall in love with me and making her carry my heir instead of yours?"

There it was. There was the reaction Kal wanted. Oh and that sound. The low growl of rage building. That's exactly what Kal wanted. "You spawn a child with my queen? MY QUEEN?!" Darkseid roared and didn't hold back the power of his Omega beams.

"FRUCK!" Darkseid's ominous power slammed Kal against the stone prisoned wall. Kal wanted this but oh did it hurt him! Dressed in only his black boxers, the heat was nearly unbearable. He had no clothing to protect his skin. There was no time to change before Kalibak and Steppenwolf attacked him and Diana.

"Sire! Sire!" Desaad stood as far as he could from Darkseid. He did not want to get caught in the crossfires. The fire from Darkseid's Omega Beams brought forth intense heat in the room. The recorders in the room melted; the ceiling and walls softened. In the enclosed room, Desaad's body perspired with and robes grew heavier. He would surely pass out if Darkseid kept this up. "Remember your plan!" Desaad fell back against the wall coughing, eyes blurring. "The plan!"

Whatever the plan was, it was enough to stop Darkseid.

Kal's smoking body stuck against the wall which burned like a hot star. The skin on his burnt chest was marred with Darkseid's Beams. "What's your plan?" Kal coughed and smoke expelled from his mouth. "To torture me? To make me your soldier still?"

Darkseid turned and walked out of the room, his mind clouded with visions of Kal and Diana. He knew the bounty hunter bedded the Amazon. The bounty hunter couldn't have been telling the truth of impregnating her.

Outside the room, Darkseid told Desaad, "Have a physical scan done on Wonder Woman. I want to know if she is carrying the bounty hunter's child."

"And if she is?"

"It is best she is not."

Struggling, Kal pried his burnt skin from the blistering stone. Those Omega Beams fried my ass. He collapsed on his knees, shuddering at the feel of the skin on his back sticking on the wall. Minutes passed before his back healed. Zhuut, that hurt. Kal looked at his melted shackles and up at the destroyed recorders. But I got what I needed done.

Kal winced removing the shackles from his wrists, neck and ankles. He pushed the shackles to the farthest corner of the room. While he recovered his strength, he had a plan to form.

J'onn and Hal caught up with the Javelin as it neared the Fortress of Solitude. John Stewart, Kyle Raynor, Scott and Big Barda had yet to contact them. While Hal got an update from Donna, J'onn assisted Dinah with Firestorm wounds. Mad Harriet's claws cut deep into Firestorm's skin. The young fighter was going in and out of consciousness.

Dinah worried for her friend. They lost so many already. They couldn't lose anymore. "Will he be all right, J'onn? Will he make it?"

"He's weak but if we can get him to Kal's Fortress, he should live."

Wally sat in a corner looking on quietly, blaming himself for Firestorm's injury. In fact he blamed himself for everything that happened tonight. If anyone finds out, they'll kick me out for sure.

A long pair of legs stopped in front of Wally. Looking up, he saw a furious Fire looking down on him. Huntress stood beside her. They both knew.

"Is it true?" Fire asked. "Is this your fault?"

Wally struggled to speak. "I….I didn't know."

"Ice is dead because of you!"

Huntress held Fire. The last thing they need was Fire unleashing her powers on the Javelin. "Not now!"

"No! He….!" Fire struggled through her tears. "Ice is dead because of him! We should've left him with the Furies and parademons! He doesn't deserve to be with us!"

"I lost someone close to me, too," Huntress reminded Fire. "I lost Question. We all lost someone we care about."

"He hasn't lost anyone!" Fire spat back. "He has Donna! He can't lose her!" Hearing the yelling, Donna left her seat hoping to defuse the fighting. Fire yelled at her. "How can you still be with Wally after what he has done? He's probably responsible for Diana going missing!"

That last remark stung but Donna knew the truth. "Fire, I understand your anger but this isn't Wally's fault. He didn't know about Booster Gold or Plastic Man. No one did."

"Don't defend me to her, Donna." Wally stepped up. He felt he deserved every verbal lashing. "It is my fault. All of this is."


"Fire's right, Donna. I made a mistake. I've been making mistakes for a long time now. First with Lois Lane and now this. It seems my makes gets bigger and bigger."

"But, Wally…."

"Don't defend me anymore, Donna! I don't deserve it!" Wally stepped away, disappearing to the back of the ship.

There weren't any more outbursts the rest of the way to Kal's Fortress. Waiting for the Justice League's arrival were Jonathan and Martha Kent. They saw the chaos in Washington, D.C. and knew the Justice League would come here to regroup.

J'onn stepped out of the Javelin holding Firestorm in his arms. Martha hurried to them. "Is he alive?"

"Just barely," J'onn said. "We need to get Kal's medical room."

Martha led J'onn away. "I'll help you."

Jonathan was solemn as he spoke with the battle weary Justice League members. "Martha and I have been watching the news. D.C. is a war zone. The fighting is still going on."

"I know." Bruce watched the fall of Washington, D.C. in the Javelin, angry they didn't stay, angry they didn't do more but he knew if they didn't leave, they all would be dead. The military could only hold on for so long against the remaining Furies and parademons. "And our allies that were hurt when the Watchtower were destroyed are stuck in D.C."

"No, they're not," Hal spoke up.

"What do you mean? The ambulances….."

"Kyle brought them to Metropolis. I was on my way back to D.C. when I saw Kyle arriving flying the ambulances in with his ring."

"J'onn," Bruce recalled his conversation with the Martian after Kyle suddenly left.

"Yeah. He thought it would be safer for them in Metropolis than in D.C. He's on guard at the hospital now."

"That leaves Scott, Big Barda and John Stewart unaccounted for." Bruce didn't like this.

"Is there any way to take contact Kal?" Jonathan asked. "I know he and Diana left together…." The grim expressions on Donna's face gave Jonathan pause. "What is it? What's wrong?"

"Darkseid has them."

"What?" the color drained from Jonathan's face. His eyes fell to Krypto who sat on the floor whimpering. It explained why he left so suddenly. "There has to be a way to help them and Earth."

Krypto tugged on Bruce's cape, capturing Bruce's attention. "What is it?"

Krypto walked ahead and turned his head to Bruce suggesting he follow. He did and so did the others. Bruce was only here once before but even his mind couldn't make out the maze that was Kal's Fortress. The design and outlook was definite of alien origin and it was something his human mind would need to study to understand.

Little did he know, Krypto was leading them to Kal's War Room. Suffice to say he was stunned at the array of exo-suits, air and land vehicles and weapons lined up for each member of the Justice League. It made his batcave look like a child's playroom.

"What the…" Dick's mouth dropped. "When did Kal do all this?" Dick saw an exo-suit with his Nightwing symbol on the chest. "Is that for me?" Dick looked like a kid on Christmas morning as he ran to it. "Batman, there's a suit for you! Batgirl, Red Robin, check out these jets and cycles for us!"

Jonathan whistled, "I knew Kal was spending a lot of time in this part of the Fortress but I never expected he was working on this."

As everyone examined the suits, jets, motorcycles and weapons around the room with glee, Bruce pondered how Kal got such intimate knowledge to make this arsenal. Krypto tug his cape again. He followed Krypto to the large console in the room. Krypto touched a button on the console with his nose and a life size hologram of Kal appeared in the room.

Kal's image projected in the room. "Hello, friends."

"Did he address us as friends?" Dick questioned.

The hologram continued. "If you are seeing me, it means Darkseid has unleashed terror on Earth beyond the Justice League's control. Worst of all, Diana and I are incapacitated."

"He knew this would happen." Bruce didn't know if he should be angry Kal kept this from him or grateful for thinking ahead and planning all this.

"I have known since our escape on Apokolips, Darkseid will exact revenge on Diana and I. Since then, I have been preparing. I give you a good job in holding Darkseid back in the past and if he's going to attack Earth as I think he will, you don't stand a chance with the weapons you have."

Dick snorted. "We have before. Are you saying our skills and weapons won't stop Darkseid?"

The hologram addressed Dick. "Yes, I am. Darkseid has never launch a full scale attack on Earth before. I've seen the results of Darkseid's attack on planets he conquered and looking at the footage of Darkseid's previous attacks on Earth, he was only teasing you like a Targarian soldier teases paying a hooker."

Oliver Queen grimaced. "I get what he's saying but did he have to say it like that?"

"You need to understand you're not a threat to Darkseid the way you are."

"Move on," Bruce ordered the hologram. "You've made your point."

Kal grinned. "Even impatient to holograms, Batman? Fine. I have built each vehicle and weapons to your skills. Krypto." Krypto pressed another button on the console. Multiple holograms of Kal appeared around each Justice League member. "Each hologram will give you a crash course on your new weapons, vehicles and exo-suits. I suggest you pay attention and learn fast. Earth doesn't have a lot of time."

Diana's shoulder felt a lot better. Whatever was used on her healed her wounds. Since Darkseid controlled medical agents treated her, Diana worried poison entered her system but realized she wasn't drugged. Darkseid would've told her she was instead of demanding Diana to swear obedience to him. No, he wanted Diana's free will of that. Diana pulled at her chains. Whatever metal that held her wrists and ankles together was enough to hold her. That was troubling.

I have to find Kal and escape this place.

Kal. Diana wondered where he was. She lost track of him at the cottage. There were fire, parademons, Steppenwolf and Kalibak. She'd no clue what became of Kal but knew he was captured and on Apokolips. Kal wouldn't have let Steppenwolf willingly take her. He would've fought to his last breath to rescue her.

Diana touched her chest. Could Kal have been….? No. He couldn't have died. He wasn't dead. He was a man who frustrated and challenged her, and even when she hated him he still found a way to warm her heart. A man with such power, arrogance and wits couldn't have died.

If he was trapped, she would find him. If he was brainwashed, she would free him. She wasn't leaving this place without him.

Kal wasn't Diana's only concern. Something troubling was happening on Earth. During her fight with Steppenwolf she knew Julia was under the control of Darkseid and it was possible someone in the Justice League was, too. Was it her sister? Was it Bruce? No, Darkseid wouldn't go for someone so obvious. It had to be someone who would not bring attention to themselves.

A click and opening of the door put Diana on her guard. Two parademons entered. Even chained, Diana knew she could kill the parademons but Diana voluntary went in hopes of finding Kal's whereabouts.

Diana took care to remember the number of parademons, the number of halls and rooms she passed on the way to Darkseid's throne room. Kal was somewhere and she would find him.

Darkseid stood in front of his throne. His infamous pose of his puffed out chest with his hands behind him intimidated many but never Diana. "You had time to consider my proposal. You still refuse to be my bride?"

How insane he was to think she would consider it! "Yes. I will escape Apokolips and so will Kal. If not together, then with the Justice League. They should know of my and Kal's predicament now."

Silly woman. She did not know but she will. "They do but they cannot do anything. See what has become of Earth since you've been here."

Desaad turned on the viewing screen, horrifying Diana to the drama on Earth: the Watchtower's destruction, the dead bodies of Ice, Dr. Midnight and Red Arrow, the fight between the Justice League, Furies and parademons and civilians caught in the crossfire, and the Justice League's unexpected retreat.

"Without you, the Justice League revealed what cowards they are to run and leave the capital city of the United States—home to many members of the Justice League—in the hands of my Furies and parademons. See what their retreat has done to Washington, D.C."

While many parademons were killed by the United States Army and Marine, Lashina, Knockout and the parademons still overwhelmed them with their speed, strength and power. The United States military wasn't a match for them as the tide quickly turned in Darkseid's favor. Parademons crowded fighter jets forcing pilots to eject or crash. The ones who ejected weren't spared as they were meals to the parademons. Diana refused to shut her eyes at an ejecting pilot be eaten alive. Lashina's bands and the ferocity of Knockout deactivated exo-suits of many Marines, leaving them prey to the parademons. Lashina and Knockout progressed further into Washington, D.C. until they attacked the White House and captured the President of the United States and his family. Only then did the fighting stop as the Furies had the United States on their knees.

Diana understood the Justice League was overwhelmed but to flee and let Washington, D.C. fall? How could J'onn and Bruce allow that to happen? Where were they?

The Fortress. They have to be at the Fortress. Kal's arsenal will help them.

Oh, Hera, Diana realized. This was why Kal worried about leaving. He knew if we left Darkseid would strike and I didn't listen. I wanted to leave with Kal. I wanted to be selfish and this is the price being paid for that.

This is my fault. Everyone's death is on my hands.

"What's this?" Darkseid questioned the emotion on Diana's face. "Do you now feel guilt? Do you now see what giving into the lust of the bounty hunter instead of me has caused your planet?" He maintained a smart distance instead of approaching Diana. He remembered what happened the last time he was close to Diana in chains. "There is a way to rectify this."

Oh, Diana knew what he wanted and she refused. "I will not be your bride."

"Not even to save the Earth?" Darkseid turned away and signaled to Desaad.

Desaad changed the viewing screen to a live feed of Washington, D.C. Flames lit up the night sky. Half of the Pentagon was destroyed; a crashed fighter jet created a gaping hole in Capitol Hill, dead civilians, soldiers, empty cars, tanks and debris of fighter jets littered the streets. Anyone alive was hiding in their homes and buildings praying not to be found.

"Desaad?" Darkseid addressed his advisor. It was time to move onto the next stage of his plan.

"It is ready, my Lord."

On Earth, Darkseid's image projected on every television, cell phone and computer on the planet. Even in Kal's Fortress, the Justice League picked up Darkseid's signal from Apokolips. "People of Earth, I am Darkseid. As you have witnessed, the Justice League let Washington, D.C. fall to the hands of my Furies and parademons. I will remove my army from Earth if Wonder Woman agrees to be my bride. Only then will my forces flee."

With the live feed transmitting from Earth to Apokolips, Diana felt the entire world's eyes on her. How dare he? Pressure her to submit to him with the false pretense he will leave Earth. "Liar. You want to conquer Earth and enslave her people. You're using my capture to play on the fears on the people of Earth. No matter what happens you will not leave Earth unless forced to."

"You think that but can the people of Earth take that chance? Can President Brady take that chance?"

Everyone on Earth witness their screens split, projecting two live feeds. Darkseid and Wonder Woman were on the top screen while the bottom half revealed the Rose Garden of the White House. President Brady was on his knees with his arms bound. Knockout and Lashina stood beside him. President Brady's wife and their twin son and daughter hovered together nearby frightened of the parademons around them.

Diana maintained her defiance. "The Justice League will stop you."

"Why should Earthlings have faith in the Justice League when they let the United States fall?" Darkseid grabbed Diana's chains and yanked her to him. "Now tell me what I want to hear!"

Diana hissed. "Never."

A smile curved Darkseid's face. He knew she would say that. "Lashina."

Lashina unfurled one of her bands. She wrapped the crackling band around President Brady's neck and pulled.

The First Lady screamed. The lifeless body of President Brady fell forward and Lashina stepped away. Crying, the First Lady gathered her husband in her arms. Their children held each other, frightened. Their father was murdered before them. Were they next?

Diana's outrage warmed Darkseid's evil heart. "Now, Wonder Woman, the world has lost faith in you." Releasing Diana, Darkseid addressed the world again, "In one hour, Wonder Woman will decide if she will be my bride. If she says yes, my forces will leave Earth. If she says no, the First Family, your leaders you call Congressmen and Senators will die and Earth will face my second wave."

Desaad cut the signal to Earth. Diana was beyond furious. This monster of Apokolips ordered a cold blooded killing because she refused him and threatened the innocent lives of billions if she continued to do so. "You monster! You know no matter my answer, you will not leave Earth!"

"The people you swore to protect don't think that. They know the Justice League has failed them when they were needed most." He signaled the parademons to take Diana to her chambers. "When you refuse again, I'll kill them and unleash my second wave. Everyone's death will be on your head."

Alone with Darkseid, Desaad spoke, "She won't say yes in an hour."

Darkseid's silence didn't tell Desaad if the Lord of Apokolips knew that or not. He continued, "When the medics treated Wonder Woman's wounded shoulder, they did a bio scan as you requested."

Darkseid's fists tightened. "Desaad, what are the results? Is Wonder Woman carrying the bounty hunter's child?"

"My Lord, she is not." Desaad expected relief from Darkseid but he didn't react happily at all. He was angry. "My Lord, this is good news. This means the bounty hunter lied."

"I know and he lied with purpose. That….." Darkseid stormed out of the room. With each pounding of his footsteps the halls of the Tower of Rage rumbled. Desaad followed after Darkseid as fast as his wiry and weak body could take him.

Darkseid was pissed. The parademons that were outside Kal's prison were dead. How did that bounty hunter escape without him knowing? Looking around, Darkseid got his answer. The cameras and nearly the room itself were destroyed by him when he attacked Kal. That manipulative Bounty Hunter. He plotted this and he duped the Lord of Apokolips twice.

Desaad, out of breath, finally reached Darkseid. Stupidly, he said the obvious. "The bounty hunter is gone."

Darkseid's eyes burned. "Increase security around Wonder Woman's prison. Extract a full search of the tower. The bounty hunter will not get to her and he will not leave Apokolips alive! "

Desaad swallowed, "Sire?"

"I see now it's too dangerous to keep the bounty hunter alive even to control him. He's better off dead."

Between the narrow space of the tenth and eleventh level of the Tower of Rage, Kal took a moment to rest. His body was covered in the blood of the parademons. That fight took more out of him than he liked. Even away from the kryptonite and red solar manacles, he wasn't fully recovered. He needed the yellow sun's power to fully regenerate him. His only hope was resting and allow his body to slowly heal.

In doing so, Kal heard Diana being summoned to Darkseid and became aware of the calamity on Earth. Krypto was taking care of that situation. Unfortunately, that meant he and Diana were on their own and Darkseid, aware Kal was on the loose, ordered extra security around her.

Darkseid, you dumb frucker. Going after Diana now would be the worst move to make right now. I'll get her though and deal with your ass for good.

In Kal's Fortress, the Justice League, having witnessed the assassination of the President of the United States, had enough sitting on the sidelines. Bruce knew there was a price to pay leaving Washington, D.C. but not this.

"Enough hiding!" Bruce was ready to fight. "We can't let Darkseid assassinate anymore people."

Donna agreed. The Justice League had to act within the hour even if they were shorthanded. "I'll take the portal from here to Themyscira's Embassy. I'll go home. It'll take more than an hour to get the Amazons assembled but if you can hold the battle until I return….."

"Join as soon as you can," J'onn advised. "We will need all allies to stop this force."

Donna called to Kal's faithful dog. "Krypto, help me out of this maze." Donna looked for Wally as Krypto went to her. They wouldn't see each other until after this battle. She expected him to see her off but he didn't. He pretended to be interested in Oliver's new arrows. Annoyed, she left with Krypto. She didn't have time for this. The world was at stake.

The Themyscira Embassy was silent; more than likely abandoned in the wake of the attack on Washington, D.C. Noises outside drew Donna to a window. Pulling back a curtain, Donna saw the streets lined with cars going back for as far as she could see. The people were in a panic and trying to get out of the city. Donna couldn't blame them. New York City could be next.


Donna turned. "Julia." The elder woman stood in the doorway. Donna wasn't expecting her to be here but she was happy to see a friendly face. The women met halfway and embraced. "Thank the Gods you are safe, Julia."

Donna was unaware of the Furies control over Julia or that Julia informed the Furies where Diana and Kal whereabouts. Julia didn't expect Donna to come here but this was good. If she could learn the location of the Justice League… "I knew this was the place to be after what happened in Washington, D.C. It's so horrible. What happened to the Justice League, Donna? Where did they go? Why aren't they helping us?"

"In a safe place." The less Julia knew the better. "And the Justice League will retaliate."

"But where are they?" Julia asked again. She needed to get this information to the Furies. "Why aren't they stopping the Furies? The President of the United States is dead!"

"I know you're scared, Julia, but trust in the Justice League." Donna pulled back from Julia. She didn't have time to comfort Julia. She had to get home and line up an offense for Earth. "I'm sorry, Julia, but I must go."

"Are you going to reunite with the Justice League? Will you take me to them?"

Donna had every intention of leaving but suddenly stopped at the doorway. Something wasn't right. Her Amazon instincts told her so. Julia. It was strange she kept asking about the Justice League but not Diana. Everyone on Earth knew Diana was imprisoned on Apokolips due to Darkseid's broadcast. Why hasn't Julia spoke of Diana? Or Kal for that matter. Julia knew how deeply Diana cared for Kal and she was a supporter of him.

"Julia," Donna turned to the elder woman. "Why haven't you spoken of Diana? Haven't you been watching the television?"

Julia hesitated, unsure of what to say until, "It's unbearable to speak of Diana now. How horrible she is on that awful planet with Darkseid."

The hesitance in her voice; the weak cover. Something…something was wrong.

"Are you all right, dear?"

Donna didn't believe the sincerity in Julia's voice. Shaking her head, she tried to rationalize. This was Julia, Diana's longest and oldest friend from this world. Julia couldn't…. "I'm not thinking straight. So many things do not make any sense; the Watchtower's destruction; Diana's capture."

The last one was the hardest to figure out.

"It is a mystery."

"How did Darkseid know where to find Diana?" Donna wondered out loud. "Diana and Kal could've been anywhere in the universe. How did Darkseid know they were on Gallinore? The only ones to know of Diana and Kal's exact location were me, Martha and Jonathan Kent and…..

Donna's heart dropped. Bruce mentioned Kal and Diana were betrayed. Could it really be…? "Julia."

Julia smiled warmly at Donna. "Yes, Donna?"

She knew. Somehow Donna knew. Darkseid's forces got to Plastic Man and Booster Gold. They got to Julia, too.

"How did you get here, Julia?"

Julia was bemused. "What?"

Donna stepped to Julia suspicious. "How did you get here?"

"I've been here all day. I was on my way home when the news broke in D.C."

There was no doubt now. Darkseid did get to Julia. "You said 'I knew this was the place to be after what happened in Washington, D.C.' Why would you say that if you were here all day?"

"You misheard me, Donna."

"No, I didn't." Donna unhooked her lasso from her hip. "How did they get to you? Are you brainwashed like Plastic Man and Booster Gold were?"

The soft demeanor on Julia's face fell away. When captured and mind controlled to submit to Darkseid, Julia was programmed to kill herself to save from giving any information to Darkseid's enemies. Julia ran to the windows.

Donna looped her lasso over Julia and pulled the struggling old woman to her.

"You will not defeat Darkseid!" Julia tried to wiggle out of Donna's lasso. "He is our Lord. He is our Master. Submit to—" A light tap on the back of her neck knocked out Julia.

After tying and locking Julia in Diana's office, Donna crossed over to Themyscria. She'll help Julia later. An answer from Phillipus sent Donna to her mother's office. Because of the emergency on Earth, Donna didn't dispense with a greeting. "Mother, I need to speak with you. It's very important."

Hippolyta didn't look up from her paperwork. "You've come to apologize for your behavior towards me. I had hoped Diana would apologize first."

Hippolyta and Donna had not spoken since the disaster dinner with Diana, Kal, and Wally where Diana stormed out and left with Kal to Gallinore. "No. There are more pressing matters we have to deal with. Diana and Kal left Earth on a trip and they were ambushed by Darkseid's people. Earth has been-"

"Darkseid?" Hippolyta looked up, her papers forgotten, her concern evident. "Darkseid has my daughter?"


"I knew it!" Hippolyta rose from her seat. "I knew Diana's involvement with Kal-El would endanger her but she wouldn't listen!"

Donna wasn't surprised her mother pinned this on Kal. "Diana was already in danger. Darkseid wanted her before Kal entered the picture."

"His involvement with my daughter only exacerbated the situation."

Donna was fed up with her mother's one track mind. "Mother, if it weren't for you, Diana wouldn't have left in the first place! If you want to place blame, look in the mirror!"

The remark stung her as if Donna slapped her. "How can you place this on me?"

"I understood your hatred of Kal initially but you refused to see Kal had changed. Diana couldn't take it anymore and left to get away from you!"

Hippolyta shook her head. The blame would not be put on her. "The world is big enough for both of us, Donna. Diana didn't have to leave Earth to be alone with that man! It was her selfishness that caused this!"

Maybe, but there were outside forces involved, too. "Arguing over who is to blame isn't doing any good. Darkseid has unleashed an attack on Earth like never before. The Justice League's base has been destroyed, Washington, D.C. has fallen, the United States President is dead, his family and rest of world will be dead unless we help the Justice League with a counterattack."

Hippolyta wasn't listening. Her focus was on Diana and her capture on Apokolips. "This is Diana's fault. If she hadn't been so selfish-"

Enraged, Donna screamed, "Mother, will you stop! I've come to you seeking help and all you want to do is curse Diana!"

"I'm not cursing Diana! I'm angry! I'm angry at Diana for letting her emotions cloud her judgment! I'm angry at myself for being right! My daughter has been taken by Darkseid and her poor choice of a lover couldn't stop it! I know of Darkseid's obsession with my daughter! I know what he wants of her and right now that monster is probably doing what I prayed would never happen to my daughters! If only she had listened to me!" Hippolyta fell back on the edge of her desk. The strong-willed queen of Themyscira broke down in tears. "History is repeating itself with my daughter. I tried to stop it but I couldn't. Is it the curse of being an Amazon? Must all Amazons suffer at the barbaric hands of man? Why couldn't the Gods spare my daughter this pain?"

Her own anger evaporating, Donna sat beside her mother and did her best to comfort her. "It's too early to give up on Diana and Kal. They will return and if there's any trauma or emotional wounds we'll be there for Diana but I'm sure there won't be. Not with Kal with her."

"You have that much faith in Kal-El?" Hippolyta only wished she could be so hopeful.

"I do and you should as well. Diana and Kal can take care of themselves. Earth needs our help and Diana would want us to unite to save this planet."

Diana and Donna were different in many ways but when it counted, Diana and Donna were true Amazons. "Diana would be proud of you right now." Hippolyta wiped her tears away. Enough crying; Hippolyta admonished herself for displaying such weakness. "Let's round up our forces. We'll show Darkseid once and for all, Earth will never be his to take."

In the safety of an abandoned news van, John Stewart, Scott Free and Big Barda dressed as civilians were hidden from Lashina, Knockout and the parademons. The three reunited and planned to joined the Justice League at Kal's Fortress but the recent events in Washington, D.C. held them back.

Parademons were centering over two areas: the White House and Capitol Hill. John could only watch but not act as he witnessed the assassination of the President. Barda and Scott had to restrain John from flying out of the van on a suicide mission. When he cooled, he said, "We lost the President. The least we can do is save his family."

"Easier said than done," Barda commented. "With their limited forces, the Americans can't storm the White House. The First Family will be dead before they strike a single parademon. The Furies hold all the cards. They've easily killed the President and can easily kill his family but they're not."

John knew why they haven't. "They're waiting on Diana's decision."

Scott wasn't foolish to believe they were. "It doesn't matter what Diana decides to do, John. The First Family is as good as dead. Darkseid won't spare anyone. We should use this hour to go to Kal's Fortress. It's best we all fight together."

John refused to go. "We can't leave D.C. like this."

Barda witnessed this scenario before. "Leaders can and do fall. They are sacrifices in war. Our best bet is regrouping with the Justice League and planning a counterattack."

"We'll wait for their return and join them then," John decided. "In the meantime, we'll keep an eye on things here. We know what the Furies plans are for the White House. We need to know what their plans are for the U.S. Capitol. Most of the United States Senate and Congress are in there and the parademons have that area heavily guarded."

"I thought the building was empty at night," Barda, like Scott didn't understand U.S. politics. It was a foreign concept to her and watching the news programs on how they behave often gave her a headache.

"They've been working late all week trying to pass a law both sides have been fighting on," John explained. "If the Furies can easily kill the President, it's only a matter of time before they start killing off the Senators and Congressmen."

Scott and Barda shared a look. It was strange they killed the country's leader first. Unless Darkseid was sending a message on how powerful he is, something else was brewing.

Reading Scott's mind, Barda decided, "We need to sneak into the U.S. Capitol."

"We'll go now." John decided.

"Hold on," Scott interrupted. "If we tip our hand before the Justice League return—and I believe they will before the hour is up-we risk harming the lives of over five hundred important people to your country."

"We're not staying here," John argued. "I'll lead the charge into the Capitol." Barda was put off by that as she was used to leading but John explained, "I know an alternate way of getting in. There will be a battle in an hour over the White House and the U.S. Capitol. When that happens, we'll slip in undetected and find out what's going on."

The bounty hunter was loose in the Tower of Rage. With his skills, he could be anywhere. Darkseid was on the warpath, determined to find the lowlife bounty hunter. He was so close to having it all and the bounty hunter was the only one who could stop him. Darkseid knew it and he knew the bounty hunter knew it as well.

Kalibak was in charge to find Kal. He, a group parademons and the Dog Calvary were searching every floor for the bounty hunter. So far, they turned up nothing and as Earth's last hour drew to a close the more impatient Darkseid became.

And Steppenwolf?

He was having a drink in his quarters. His feet were propped on his desk as he filled another glass. He wasn't asked to help and he wasn't going to.

"All my years of loyalty to Darkseid, my title and army have been taken from me because of that damned bounty hunter. Damn you, Kal-El." He finished his drink in one gulp. "Damn you, Darkseid."

He filled his glass again. "Let Kalibak chase after the bounty hunter. Then he and Darkseid will see the trouble I had with him. I hope they never catch him. It would serve them right!"

"Do you really mean that?"

Steppenwolf heard the voice coming from above. Kal was making it difficult to be found. He was traveling between the levels of the tower which is a maze in itself. To be over his room this quickly since word of Kal's escape meant Kal had better knowledge of the Tower of Rage than what he and Darkseid expected.

Steppenwolf lowered his glass and placed his feet on the floor. "I can let Darkseid and Kalibak know you're here."

"I'll be gone before anyone gets here and on top of that, I'd take your other eye out. This place is a maze which is an advantage for someone with my skills. I'll keep eluding you."

"A maze it is but you don't know this place like I do." What was this bounty hunter up to? He could've passed over his room and Steppenwolf wouldn't have known. He deliberately stopped. "You want something of me."

Kal wasn't sure if this was a smart decision but he was always one to take risks. Plus, he didn't have many options. "I know you have Diana's lasso."

"Is that why you stopped over my room? To get it back?"


Steppenwolf frowned. What was Kal's purpose then?

"You obviously have your motives for holding Diana's lasso or you would've turned it over to Darkseid."

True but he wasn't going to tell Kal that. Let him guess. "What motives would that be?"

"If you were still loyal to Darkseid you could've used Diana's lasso as a means to hold on to your title as General but you knew it wouldn't have been enough for Darkseid."

Steppenwolf sputtered, "How did you know I lost my title?"

"Ears like mine don't miss much."

"Apparently." Steppenwolf stood with his arms crossed over his chest. "What do you want, Bounty Hunter?"

Steppenwolf appeared interested. Perhaps he could take a chance on him. Kal cut a square hole into the ceiling and jumped down. Steppenwolf held his ground. "What's more important to you, Steppenwolf? Getting back at Darkseid or getting back at me?"

He was offering a proposition. Switch sides from Darkseid to the bounty hunter's? "I'm listening."

Trust your gut, Kal. It's all you have now. "I only want to get Diana and deal with Darkseid for good. If you help me, Apokolips is yours and we'll never cross paths again."

"What makes you think I want Apokolips?"

"I know you don't want Kalibak to have it and I know you are done taking orders from Darkseid. With them out of the way, you can rule Apokolips the way you want. You won't have a better chance than now to do it." Play it cool, Kal. Show him both sides of the coin. "You can tell the others how I'm traveling through this Tower of Rage but will that give you what you want? Will you be General again? Will you have your dignity back after Darkseid took it from you?"

All answers were no but Steppenwolf couldn't join with Kal or could he? "Why should I join forces with you? You're the reason my position was taken. You humiliated me."

He's considering it. Don't blow it, Kal. "If it wasn't for Darkseid, we would have never crossed paths. My adoptive parents were killed because of him on some twisted idea it would lead me down a path to be his perfect soldier. Let's face it. With me under Darkseid's power how much longer would you be General anyway? He wanted you out the moment he learned of me. For thirty years he's been waiting to replace you."

He was right. Steppenwolf suspected this over the past year but still held out hope he was wrong. If this recent insult with Kalibak wasn't enough, Darkseid did see Kal as the perfect soldier, gloated over what he could do using a man of Kal's gifts. How much longer would he have lasted if Darkseid got what he wanted with Kal?

Kal's voice brought Steppenwolf back to the present. "Everything that has happened between us happened because of Darkseid. Help me and I'll help you."

As much as Steppenwolf despised Darkseid, he couldn't believe he was considering this alliance with Kal. "You would trust me?"

"You're a frucker but you're not Darkseid. I have no doubt if you rule Apokolips you'll keep to your dimension and I'll have no reason to venture here because I'm the last person you'd want to see again."

That was true. Steppenwolf couldn't stand the sight of Kal and could not win against him in battle. He lost so much because of Kal and his nephew. Still, to be ruler of Apokolips, to be considered a God…could he let this opportunity slip through his fingers?

You only live once.

Steppenwolf stepped away from Kal to his closet. After a few moments of searching, he tossed clothes at Kal's feet. "If you're going to take down Darkseid, you should at least dress decently. Soldier clothes are universal on Apokolips so this can't be traced back to me."

Kal looked down at himself. He would look ridiculous fighting Darkseid in boxers. Kal picked up a red and blue battle coat and blue pants. These wouldn't fit him. "I'm twice your size!"

Steppenwolf gritted his teeth as he tossed red boots at Kal's head. He agreed to aide him and the bounty hunter still talked like a smartass. "The clothes adjust to your size."

Kal slipped on the clothes and boots. The clothes weren't to his liking but it was better than stalking the Tower of Rage in his boxers. Kal stripped off the sleeves of his coat. He preferred fighting sleeveless. "Now, about Diana's lasso…"

If he handed that over, he would have no assurance of Kal keeping his word. "To ensure no backstabbing from you, I'll turn it over to the Amazon. If I should trust you, you should trust me. Darkseid is your target. Not me."

It was a huge risk but at this point, Kal didn't have a choice. He needed Steppenwolf on his side.

In the Tower of Rage, all the guards, scientists, and technicians were brainwashed through torture and Darkseid propaganda. People taken from the most enlightened planets succumbed to Darkseid's will. This was no different for one of Earth's brilliant minds, Lex Luthor.

After the chopping of his hands, Lex Luthor was given new attachments. During his operation and for several days and nights Lex Luthor was mentally and physically tortured. Even someone as brilliant as he fell under Darkseid's influence. With a tortured body and mind broken he resumed the brainwashed duties of a scientist for Darkseid. He ate when told, showered when told, slept when told. In his nightly solitude, glimpses of his life on Earth came to Lex's mind but no one knew he was here and there wasn't a way he could escape alone. With that defeatist attitude, the memories of Earth were slowly fading away.

However, there was a glimmer of hope. Half an hour ago, news spread of a manhunt for an escapee in the Tower of Rage. A photo of the man was plastered on every screen in the tower. The escapee was considered to be dangerous and to be killed on site. The escapee was called The Bounty Hunter but Lex knew him as Superman.

How or why Superman got here Lex didn't know and didn't care. If there was a chance to escape, it would be through Superman. There were two problems to Lex's situation. Superman didn't know Lex was here and if he did the brainwashing programed into Lex will kick in and he will try to kill Superman.

Even now while part of Lex wanted to alert Superman to him, the rest of his mind and body worked with the other three brainwashed scientists in their field of specialty, designing and building weapons for Darkseid's army.

Above Lex, something popped. A piece of the ceiling opened and Kal jumped down in front of Lex.

"You're the last person I expected to be here."

Kal his image was plastered everywhere and heard the propaganda he was an enemy to Darkseid and to be killed on site. He moved throughout the room easily knocking out all the scientists except Lex Luthor. He knew all were brainwashed and all would attack upon his arrival.

Fight over, Kal turned to Lex, "How did you—" a blast from a gun hit Kal's mouth. The clay substance quickly spread moving up his nose and over his eyes covering his face until the fire from Kal's eyes burned through the substance. Kal ripped putty off his face. "What the fruck?! I thought you at least would fight off the brainwashing!"

Kal snatched the gun out of Lex's hand. He flicked Lex's forehead, jarring him. "Ow! My head!"

"That's for shooting me." Kal noticed the metal hands on Lex. "Darkseid's handiwork."

Lex blinked several times as he stared at Kal. Darkseid's propaganda played in his mind but it was being drowned by the pain Kal inflicted on him. "S-superman?" Lex spoke in disbelief. "You've come to rescue me?"

"It wasn't the plan but if you can get out of here with me and Diana….."

"Wonder Woman is here?"

"I didn't come here to talk. I only stopped because of the weapons here. It won't be long before Darkseid's troops find us gone. Is there anything I can use here?"

It was almost time; nearly an hour since Darkseid's last message to Earth. Diana would accept Darkseid's offer of marriage or refuse. If sacrificing herself saved Earth, saved Kal, Diana would do it but she knew Darkseid wouldn't hold his end of the bargain.

Her prison opened. Diana expected parademons to take her back to throne room but grimaced seeing Steppenwolf as her escort. Steppenwolf stared at Diana for several moments puzzling the Amazon.

Returning the stare, Diana noticed Steppenwolf's face. When they last encountered each other, he had two eyes. Now he had one. She couldn't help but ask, "The eye patch. A souvenir from Kal?" When Steppenwolf didn't respond, she asked, "Where is Kal?"

If I didn't make that bargain with the bounty hunter…."You have caused so much trouble. Your beauty and strength has done the unthinkable. It has brought the once Great Darkseid to his knees."

"Once Great Darkseid?"

"He was great before his obsession with you. People trembled in fear at a whisper of his name. Darkseid could've spent this past year expanding his empire, but he spent it obsessing over you. You are the weakness that will be his undoing."

Why was Steppenwolf speaking this way about Darkseid? Diana wondered.

"With you chained like this, I could see if you're worth the trouble you are causing." As expected, Diana didn't react. Strong woman. There was a rise in him to break Diana into submission but Steppenwolf remembered his word to Kal. "But I won't." He opened his battle coat, unzipped the inner pocket and pulled out Diana's lasso. "I made a deal with your lover." Not surprising, Diana's eyes reacted. Steppenwolf wasn't sure if it was to her lasso, the knowledge he spoke with Kal or both.

Steppenwolf walked around Diana until he was facing her back. He touched the back of her bodice. Diana brushed his hand away. "I have to get this lasso on you without detection from Darkseid. Don't fight me if you wish to be free." Diana didn't resist as Steppenwolf pulled her bodice down.

Diana remained calm as Steppenwolf wrapped the lasso around her waist. She was surprised being topless like this he didn't look at her breasts or grope her. He only concentrated on wrapping the lasso around her.

"You spoke with Kal?" If so, that meant he wasn't imprisoned like her. "What deal did you make?"

Lasso secured on Diana, Steppenwolf pulled up Diana's bodice. "When your lover strikes, I look the other way."

Steppenwolf examined the chains on Diana's ankles and reprogrammed them. He rose and altered the ones on her wrists. "I've lowered the power on your chains. You shouldn't have any problem breaking out of them when you're ready."

Steppenwolf turned to leave but Diana couldn't let him leave without knowing why. "What do you get out of this, Steppenwolf? You served Darkseid for years. Why are you helping us?"

Stopping at the door, Steppenwolf turned back to Diana; quiet for a long moment before saying, "Freedom."

In the elevator, Steppenwolf's heart pounded. What had he done? If anyone knew of his betrayal, he would be executed. No one betrayed Darkseid and lived but now that he crossed that line, he hoped for Kal's success. With Darkseid dead, he would have no trouble ruling Apokolips. Kalibak would revolt but Steppenwolf had more power than him. He could lure the Furies on his side and as sick as she is, Granny Goodness tolerated Steppenwolf more than Kalibak. He would get his army back. They only served Kalibak because of Darkseid's decree.

The elevator opened. Kalibak appeared on the other side. Steppenwolf grimaced. This wasn't his floor but he was getting off here.

Kalibak grabbed Steppenwolf's arm and pulled him back in the elevator. "You're the person I've been looking for."

Steppenwolf sneered at Kalibak as he yanked his arm away. "Come to mock me, Kalibak? I've had enough of that from you."

Kalibak grinned. "I wouldn't mock someone I need."

That smile. Steppenwolf was right to be suspicious. "Why would you need me? I've been downgraded because of you."

The elevator continued down. "The bounty hunter is loose and that human from Earth is missing."

Kal freed Lex Luthor. The bounty hunter was moving fast through the Tower. "The human? Lex Luthor."

"Yes. Kal-El must've gotten him and that has infuriated Father. I don't understand how he's moving so fast without our detection. The Dog Cavalries are the best trackers in the universe. How is that cocky hunter keeping ahead of them?"

Steppenwolf played the role of the fool. "So what if the bounty hunter has him? Luthor is human and will no doubt slow the bounty hunter down. He's making it easy for you to find him."

"Luthor worked with scientists specializing in building weapons."

Steppenwolf understood the implication. "Ah, so that's why you've come looking for me."

"I shouldn't have to," Kalibak argued. "When Darkseid ordered everyone to look for the bounty hunter, he meant you as well. Losing your title as General, doesn't mean you quit working for Father. I could tell Father you are helping the bounty hunter."

Steppenwolf scoffed, "And what proof do you have of that?"

"Your lack of assistance. It's not exact proof but it's enough to raise suspicions against you given what has happened to you as of late."

So, it would. He would have to throw Kalibak off. "Did you check what weapons were taken?"

Kalibak was pleased Steppenwolf was cooperating. "A paralyzer, the face sucker and a few explosives."

"I cannot believe you went with the 'face sucker' name."

"That's what it does!"

Steppenwolf rolled his eyes. "Okay. What about these explosives? We have a variety of them. Some are child's play and others are quite dangerous."

"There are mild explosions Kal-El took but that doesn't concern me. It's the dangerous ones that are missing that's troubling." Kalibak explained. "Twenty explosives with the power of a kiloton are missing."

"Twenty kilotons?" That was troubling. "Half of that can destroy this Tower."

"I know. Father wants me to get that bounty hunter and prepare to invade Earth with the Second Wave. I can't do both."

"You wanted to be General of Darkseid's army. You have it. So take it with all the responsibilities that comes with it." Kalibak's anger spurred Steppenwolf, "Or is it you can't handle it after all?"

Kalibak growled. "I am General now! That means you do what I want or you'll face Father and he's ready to burn everyone, including me to a cinder because of that Bounty Hunter!"

He'll follow Kalibak's orders….as long as Darkseid's alive. "What do you want me to do?"

"You will lead the Second Wave on Earth."

"Me?" This would put a wrinkle into his alliance with Kal. "Don't you want that glory?"

"I'll do what I like and I order you to lead the Second Wave." Kalibak tried to play to Steppenwolf's wounded ego. "I'll put in a good word to Father. I'll tell him you wanted this. That should put you in his good graces again."

Steppenwolf wasn't stupid to fall for that lie. "You're sending me to Earth to lead Darkseid's Second Wave when I only have one good eye?"

"That would make your victory even better, wouldn't it?"

"I get the feeling you are sending me to my death. With me out of the way, I can't reclaim my title from you."

"The Justice League has been dismantled." Kalibak didn't understand Steppenwolf's reluctance. It was an easy victory. "You're not confident in our impending victory over Earth?"

"I've battled the Justice League more times than you and one thing I've learned is to never underestimate them even when it seems victory is in hand. Something always tip their way."

The elevator reached Kalibak's floor. "Not this time." Kalibak stepped off the elevator. "Follow me."

They were on the lower levels of the Tower of Rage. This was the area where Darkseid's army waited for transport when invading planets. Surveying from the control center of the launch room, Steppenwolf saw the massive army of parademons, Justifiers and the Dog Calvary ready to go to Earth.

"As soon as Father gives the word, the invasion will begin."

Steppenwolf knew it didn't matter either way. "Why wait? We both know Darkseid's attacking Earth no matter what Wonder Woman says. He might as well attack Earth now."

Kalibak agreed. "It's Father's plan. Not mine. I wouldn't give Earth an hour. That could give them enough time to come back against us."

"Now who's the one that lack faith?"

"I'm a realist. As you've said, the Justice League has come back from too many victories against us by sheer luck."

"Today will be no different."

Steppenwolf and Kalibak turned at Kal's arrival. Where did he come from? How did he move so quietly without detection? It even unnerve Steppenwolf Kal moved with such stealth.

Steppenwolf kept his good eye on Kalibak, wondering what he would do. Have the army waiting below attack Kal or would he fight his own battle?

Kalibak gave a side eyed glance to Steppenwolf. The former General was looking at him, expecting him to take the lead in dealing with Kal. Coward. "You brought the battle to me instead of me hunting you down. You are anxious to die."

"I don't have time for a lengthy battle." Strong as he was, Kal's full strength had not returned and he knew Kalibak had the strength to beat him. To win, he would have to outwit Kalibak. "So I'll make your death quick and painful."

Even after the battle on Gallinore, Kal looked formidable, confident and fully restored. Even with his Beta Club, Kalibak didn't like his chances. That's why he wasn't going to fight. "Of course. Steppenwolf, deal with the bounty hunter."

Steppenwolf balked at the idea. "I thought you wanted me to lead the Second Wave on Earth. Now you want me to fight the bounty hunter. Your cowardice is showing, Kalibak."

"You insult your General."

"I don't care who fights me first," Kal said cockily. "Both you motherfrucking sodholes are going down."

Steppenwolf knew it couldn't be him. The bounty hunter was putting on a show for Kalibak. At least that's what Steppenwolf presumed but the way Kal looked, Steppenwolf thought Kal would pummel him and Kalibak. "You insult me wanting me to do your work, Kalibak. I've dealt with the bounty hunter and lost in battle but also my eye. You've battled him and won. Are you afraid to fight Kal again in fear to prove your victory was a fluke?" He sneered. "Know I will have no problem going to Darkseid about this and using it to reclaim my title."

Kalibak knew Steppenwolf would, too. He'd do anything to get back in Darkseid's good graces. If he defeated Kal once, he could do it again with a bit of luck. "It is best a superior fighter defeats this bounty hunter and we know that's not you."

Steppenwolf snatched Kalibak's portable boom tube from his belt. "Since I'm such an inferior, allow me to provide a neutral ground."

Behind Kalibak, a boom tube portal opened, pulling Kalibak in. Kalibak, not ready, tried to grab onto anything within his reach. With futility, his fingers dug into the steel floor. "Wait, you fool! I'm not…." His voice silenced as he was sucked in the portal.

Kal barely stood his ground as he felt the boom tube pulling him. Losing his footing, Kal grabbed onto a steel railing as his last hope. His legs were flailing in the strong wind. "Turn it off!" Kal ordered Steppenwolf. His grip was slipping. "Turn it off now!"

Steppenwolf, with a steadier grip, maneuvered himself towards Kal. Grinning he only said, "Fruck off!" He punched Kal's face with all his strength, forcing Kal to lose his grip on the railing.

Kal cursed before he was pulled in the boom tube. "You motherfruck…"

Kalibak looked around unfamiliar with the new terrain. It was dry and hot with the surface covered in sand for miles. Why did Steppenwolf choose this place? It wasn't a place of stealth. He couldn't hide in the sand. Without his boom tube, he couldn't transport himself back to Apokolips. He cursed. "I'll get Steppenwolf for this."

"Frucker!" Kal's yell echoed as he was flung from the boom tube. He soared over Kalibak and crashed head first into a hill of sand. It was comical as the bounty hunter's head was stuck in the ground like an ostrich and his arms flail incessantly.

The bounty hunter didn't look like a threat now. Kalibak unhooked his Beta Club. He only needed one good hit and he'll have the bounty hunter subdued again. He quickened his pace up the sandy hill. Yes, he wasn't far from Kal now. Three more steps. Two more…

Kal yanked his head from the sand and turned. Kalibak knew he was too slow to act but he swung his Beta Club toward Kal anyway. Kal caught Kalibak's wrist. He squeezed hard, trying to dislodge the Beta Club. Kalibak swung his free arm hoping to connect with Kal's face. Kal grabbed the other wrist. It was a battle of strengths as Kalibak was slowly overcoming Kal. His bulbous arms edge closer to Kal's face. Overwhelmed, Kal's left knee buckled on the sand. Kalibak grinned, feeling he was getting the upper hand on Kal.

His foul breath fanned against Kal's face. "Do you want a short death or a long one?"

Kal's other leg gave away. "Fruck you!"

"A long death it is."

Suddenly, it happened. Kal pushed his left knee back up, followed by his right. His grip on Kalibak's wrists grew stronger. As Kal rose, Kalibak's knees buckled and in one quick motion, Kal yanked the Beta Club from Kalibak's hand and smack the weapon across his face.

Just as it did with Kal, all of the nerves in Kalibak's body burned. He tumbled down the sandy hill with his body convulsing in agonizing, throbbing pain.

Standing at the top of the hill, Kal looked at his hands. Kalibak had the upper hand. Where did that surge of strength come from? His wounds were closing and his strength was returning at a rapid pace. Looking around, his breath caught as he realized what Steppenwolf had done. He flew in the sky to be sure. The village twenty miles away confirmed his thoughts but it was the two suns in the sky that cinched it for him.

"I'm home."

He left this planet thirteen years ago but it was the same as if he left yesterday. Kal flew higher in the sky, stretching out his arms as he absorbed the powers of the twin suns. This was more than what he expected of Steppenwolf . He would not let this good deed go unrewarded. Today, Darkseid saw his last sunrise.

The effects of the Beta Club continue to ripple through Kalibak. With Kal free and fighting strong, Kalibak struggled to fight through it. He rolled himself into a fetal position. Convulsing still, his eyes found Kal high in the sky.

"Twwwoooo…suuuunnnnss?" Kalibak croaked. He roared with pain again. Kalibak was a brute but he wasn't stupid. He knew enough about Kal to know what a yellow sun does to him and there were two in the sky.

What was Steppenwolf thinking sending us here? Didn't he know…. His words broke off as his brain figured it out. Or at least he thought he figured it out. Doesn't think I'm worthy of being General. To his relief, the pain of the Beta Club subsided. I'll fight a full powered bounty hunter and still beat him. I'll crack both their skulls open.

Kal, as if hearing Kalibak turned in his direction and smiled. Time was of the essence and with his strength renewed he'll make quick use of Kalibak. Breaking the speed of sound, Kal flew like a missile towards Kalibak. Just as Kalibak got on his feet, Kal knock Kalibak off it. Kalibak's screams was subdued with Kal locking a hand on Kalibak's neck. Sound barriers broke as Kal flew them from the desert to mountainous terrain. Kalibak hit Kal's arms with his elbows but Kal's grip was too tight and powerful to break. Approaching the highest mountain in the area, Kal slammed Kalibak in it head first.

The blow leveled the mountain by several thousand feet.

Kalibak didn't have a moment to gather himself when he was met by one super punch after another by Kal. Nothing was spared as Kalibak's face, chest, back, stomach and legs met with a thunderous blow.

This was not going as Kalibak had planned. He took hits from Kal on Gallinore but they didn't feel like this. They were stronger. He couldn't put up an arm to defend himself when he was slapped down with another blow. Being pulled by his belt, Kalibak was spun around like a tornado and tossed for miles like a Frisbee. As Kalibak soared for miles, Kal kicked and punched him, not slowing down his toss.

Kal finally drew mercy on Kalibak as his balled fist slammed against Kalibak's neck. The move sent Kalibak spiraling to the ground and crashing into another manmade crater.

Kalibak's head rung so badly he saw Kal speaking to him but couldn't hear the words. He could barely move his left leg with its femur protruding out. Kalibak spat blood, "I'm just catching my second wind, alien."

Kal spoke again and Kalibak could not hear. Suddenly, Kal turned as if addressing someone behind him. Steppenwolf appeared beside Kal. Kal looked angry at Steppenwolf for a moment before his face soften to a smile. Steppenwolf's creepy smile worried Kalibak. If he didn't know any better, he would say the two had an alliance. After a few exchange of words, Kal flew off leaving Steppenwolf alone with Kalibak.

Steppenwolf turned his attention to Kalibak. Speaking to Kalibak, Steppenwolf held Kalibak's Beta Club in one hand and his cable snare in the other. Whatever was going to happen next, Kalibak knew it wasn't good for him.

Lashina and Knockout waited on the lawn of the Rose Garden for the signal to kill off the rest of the First Family. The First Lady and her children were on their knees, crying. Time was almost up. There was no return of the Justice League and no signal that Wonder Woman accepted Darkseid's proposal.

Lashina walked around the First Family swinging her bands. "Five more minutes."

Knockout laughed. "What's five more minutes?" She stepped in front of the First Lady. "You know what the answer will be. You will die. That is what you deserve for believing in your Justice League. Look what happens when you need them the most. They let you down."

"Please," the First Lady pleaded. "Kill me and spare my children."

Knockout shook her head. "How selfish you are. You would prefer we spare your children so they can witness the end of Earth than to kill them off?"

"She's not selfish," Lashina spoke. "She still believes the Justice League will come through."

Knockout chuckled. "Oh, she's foolish." Knockout stood before the First Lady's son. He held his head down, failing to hold back his tears. "Look at me." Scared, the boy turned his head up. "What kind of male are you to shed tears?"

"You killed my Dad!"

"And we will kill you," Knockout promised. "What a weak male you are. You wouldn't last an hour on Apokolips." She touched his face. "So young. I bet you haven't broken in your first woman."

"I'm twelve."


"Please, stop," the First Wife pleaded. "He's only a child."

Knockout pulled the boy's face close to hers. "Maybe I should make him a man before he dies."

"That's enough, Knockout," Lashina intervened, slapping Knockout's hand off the boy. "Look at him. He's too scared to even get it up for you. I'm tired of waiting. Let's kill them now."

"But," the First Lady stammered. "It hasn't been an hour yet. You should wait for Wonder Woman's answer."

Lashina laughed. "You're dead regardless of Wonder Woman's answer. I'll let you choose. Do you want to witness your children die or do you want your kids to see you die?" Lashina unrolled her bands. "Five seconds or I choose? Four…three….two…."

The sudden rumble of engines in the skies silenced Lashina. With that, there were also sounds of vehicles approaching from Pennsylvania Avenue. Wind flapped Lashina's hair as she wondered what was going on. It didn't sound like boom tubes

It was the Justice League returning on land and air in force with a new arsenal of weapons at their disposal. Lashina's gripped tightened on her bands. "Looks like the First Family gets a reprieve."

Knockout scoffed unimpressed. "Doesn't matter. We'll hold our own until the Second Wave arrives."

J'onn, Green Lantern and Batman led the air group. While J'onn and Hal flew on their own power, Batman flew in wearing his exo-suit. Batman flew towards Lashina. He raised his right arm and fired three beams. Lashina jumped out of the way assuming she was the target. She wasn't. The First Lady and her children found themselves covered in a blue shield.

Lashina cursed now realizing the target. Lashina charged her bands and slapped it over the First Lady's shield hoping to deactivate it. The electrical charges on Lashina's bands reversed back on her. With her weapon boomeranging back on her, Batman shot a line that wrapped itself around Lashina, spun and flung her from the White House.

Lashina landed in the middle of Executive Avenue, breaking the street in half. Her bell was rung but she wasn't out of the fight just yet. Pulling herself to her feet, Lashina noticed J'onn descending towards her. She didn't have her bands but she felt confident to take down the Martian.

At the White House, Knockout rose on her Aero-disks. "If it's a battle you want." Behind her an army of parademons rose with her. "It's a battle you get but this time we won't let you run away."

Green Lantern zoomed past Batman. "We're not running away." He rammed into Knockout, knocking her off her Aero-disks. His arms wrapped around Knockout, he said, "If you weren't evil, I'd date you."

"And if I didn't think you were small down under, I'll have my way with you." Knockout chided before head butting Hal.

Green Lantern fell back. He wrapped green cable snares around Knockout. "That's below the belt but this hotshot pilot will make you regret those words."

Batman and Nightwing worked together in their exo-suits fighting parademons. Like everyone else, they received a crash course in their exo-suits. Not only was it durable but it was flexible as well allowing Nightwing to show off his acrobatic and Batman's martial art skills in the sky. When attacked, the exo suits did bio scans of their opponents offering weak points for them to counterattack. Even with crowds of parademons around them, Batman and Nightwing was able to subdue them.

Black Canary and Green Arrow led the land group. Each rode their upgraded motorcycles down Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Capitol where the remaining army of parademons waited. Flash ran down the street wearing his own powered exo-suit.

Batgirl rode up beside Black Canary. "Ready to test this gear out?"

"I am!" Parademons that surrounded the U.S. Capitol noticed the Justice League and descended on them. Dinah was almost giddy at their approach. "Here it comes. Never thought I would be a real transformer."

Batgirl chided Black Canary, "That's the wrong cartoon!" As the parademons neared, Batgirl pressed a button on the motorcycle's handlebar. The motorcycle transformed around Barbara, attaching it's parts on her, building an exo-suit over her uniform. Two cannon guns attached themselves to Batgirl's arms with a jet pack on her back. She fired on the parademons, creating basketball sized holes in their chest.

Green Arrow allowed his motorcycle to take control of the driving while he shot his arrows at the parademons. Each arrow was a direct hit on the parademons, causing them to explode on impact. Black Canary wasn't left out of the fun as she fired her own guns on the demons while knocking some away with her powerful voice. One by one, parademons fell like flies as the land team edge closer to the U. S. Capitol all the while boosting the Justice League's morale.

With her battle with J'onn, Lashina found herself on the losing end. Falling back against an abandoned tank, Lashina picked it up hoping to use it against J'onn. The Martian was too fast for her and instead of throwing the tank at J'onn, it collapsed on her.

This battle was going on longer than she liked. The hour was up and Darkseid had not sent in his Second Wave. What was happening on Apokolips? If she wasn't getting help from Darkseid, she'd go in with her plan. She hoped everything was ready at the U.S. Capitol.

Lashina signaled parademons to her and J'onn. While a group a parademons surrounded J'onn, another group helped Lashina with the tank. Freed, she took her Aero-disks from a parademon and leapt on it. Pulling away from the fight, Lashina called out to Knockout who had her hands full with Green Lantern.

"Knockout! To the Capitol!"

Lashina directed the parademons to separate Knockout from Green Lantern. Successful, Knockout got on her Aero-disks and followed Lashina. "What the hell is going on, Lashina? Why hasn't the Second Wave arrived yet?"

"My guess is Wonder Woman and the Bounty Hunter are giving Darkseid trouble. I tire of losing like this."

Knockout agreed. "Good thing we have a contingency plan."

Near the White House, J'onn, Green Lantern and Batman regrouped.

"We got them on the ropes," Hal said. "We should finish them now."

Looking in the direction Lashina, Knockout and the parademons were retreating, Batman added, "They are leading us away from the White House and towards the U.S. Capitol."

"Nightwing and the others should stay behind," J'onn suggested. "In case Lashina and Knockout return."

"They're not returning." Batman's gut told him that. "They want us to follow them to the Capitol. Something is waiting for us there."

"Black Canary's group is there." That gave Hal confidence all is well. "She would've warned us by now if there's trouble."

Batman didn't think Black Canary knew of the trouble yet. "We're walking into a trap."

"It wouldn't be the first time," J'onn quipped. "Best we go all in."

"Shouldn't he stay here?" Hal remarked of Krypto. "I know he's Kal's dog and all but we can handle the Furies and parademons at the Capitol."

Batman defended his new friend. "He goes where I go."

It didn't take long for Lashina and Knockout to reach the Capitol. To their dismay, half the parademons forces were dead. "Launch the missiles!" Lashina screeched. She couldn't wait anymore. "Launch them now!"

At the bottom of the steps to the U.S. Capitol, Black Canary, Green Arrow and Batgirl were puzzled.

"Missiles?" Batgirl repeated. "We defeated half their force. Why are they now sending out missiles?"

"Who cares?" Black Canary patted her cannon gun. She was having fun with this weapon. "We'll blow them away with these babies."

Parademons blew open the front doors of the U.S. Capitol. Twenty parademons stepped out. Each had a large missile launcher on their shoulder. Behind them were twenty more parademons with the same arsenal.

Black Canary, Green Arrow and Batgirl led their group as they readied themselves.

"Bring it!" Dinah challenged them. "We're not scared!"

Lashina and Knockout shared a knowing smile. "You heard them! Fire the missiles!"

Simultaneously the parademons fired their missiles. The Justice League retaliated with their weapons. Their cannon guns were a direct hit on the parademons' missiles.

John Stewart flew out from behind the U.S. Capitol. He was horrified as he knew what the Furies planned. "Wait! Stop!" John used his ring to wrap up eight of the twenty missiles the parademons launch. He gently lowered them to the ground. The other twelve collided with the Justice League's weapons, exploding on impact .

Black Canary lowered her gun. "John? What are you doing?!"

"Don't fire anymore weapons!" He yelled at them.

"Why not?" Green Arrow asked.

Before John could answer, Lashina broke the shocking news. "Because in each of those missile is a member of your Senate and Congressmen."

Initially, Oliver, Dinah and Barbara didn't believe Lashina but when John cut open the missiles and Senators and Congressman crawled out, they had to believe the horrifying truth.

"Oh, damn," Batgirl cursed. "We just killed twelve defenseless people?"

Oliver felt sick. "Even though I hate most of Congress, they don't deserve this."

Dinah yelled at John infuriated, "All this time we've been fighting! Why the hell didn't you warn us?!"

"Because Barda, Scott and I just realized it ourselves!" John yelled back. "What do you think we were doing when you were fighting out here! Barda and Scott are in the Capitol trying to save the last of our government!"

J'onn, Batman and Hal arrived to hear the horrifying truth. To add to the dilemma, boom tube portals opened in the sky and out flew more parademons, Justifiers and the Dog Calvary.

Pleased at the new arrival, Knockout was also upset at their tardiness. "Well, it's about damn time!"

Lashina cackled as she floated on her Aero-disks with the army of the Second Wave behind her. "I applaud your efforts, Justice League, but it was for naught. You have two minutes to surrender or we attack and you all will die!"

Batman surmised the situation. Parademons on the steps of the U.S. Capitol with missile launchers carrying a member of the Senate and Congress inside. Even with Barda and Scott inside fighting, they couldn't stop them all. If the Justice League retaliated, they risk killing the rest of the leaders in the U.S. government.

"J'onn, John and I can disarm those missiles with our rings," Hal whispered. "We can save those people."

"One minute!" Lashina taunted them.

"Even with these new suits and weapons, you three are the bulk of our power and we are going to need you to deal these new arrivals." Batman knew either way there will be a huge sacrifice. The Justice League will not walk away as heroes not matter what happened after this battle.

"Time's up!" Lashina announced. "What say you Justice League?"

"The Justice League will not surrender!"

Donna swooped in from the sky dressed head to toe in Amazonian armor. Behind her, hope was lifted at the arrival of Queen Hippolyta and the Amazon nation on their winged chariots.

Batman smiled. The battlefield was even now. "We might have a chance after all."

As his mind quickly formed a plan of attack, Batman's smile fell as another boom tube portal opened.

"You spoke too soon, Bruce," Hal chided him. "Who the hell is coming out now?"

Lashina and Knockout were also puzzled. The Second Wave was here. Who else could be coming? Darkseid perhaps. They didn't have to wait long as a bright circle opened in the sky and a lone figure flew out with a vengeance. A gold lasso wrapped itself around Lashina, whipping her off the Aero disc and slamming her in the ground. When Lashina came to from the earth shattering hit, Lashina found a red boot pressed on her throat.

An angry Diana growled, "This battle is over."

The hour was up as Diana stood in the throne room once more with Darkseid. With her manacles secretly loosened and knowing Kal was somewhere in the tower, one way or another Diana was escaping with Kal.

Darkseid had his back to Diana. Washington, D.C. was on the viewing screen. It focused on the First Family awaiting their fate. "You made a decision?" Diana remained silent. "What are you expecting, Wonder Woman? To leave and return to Earth?"

"I expect you to release me, release Kal and remove your army from Earth."

Her refusal was expected. "Your answer is no." Darkseid sat on his throne. "You shall witness the end of Earth. Desaad, tell Kalibak to release the Second Wave."

"Of course, Sire." Desaad opened a channel to Kalibak in the launch room. No response. "Sire, Kalibak isn't responding."

Darkseid snarled. Kalibak was starting off as General as a huge disappointment. "Get Steppenwolf."

Desaad was ahead of Darkseid for once. "I'm trying him now but he's not responding either."

Diana held her breath. Darkseid's hands crushed the arms of his throne. "The bounty hunter."

"Not to worry, Sire," Desaad rapidly worked at the controls. "It'll take me a moment but I can work the controls from here and unleash the Second Wave."

Now was time to intervene. She couldn't let the Second Wave get to Earth. Diana broke the manacles from her wrists and ankles. "I don't think so."

Darkseid rose. What was this? Diana turned, transforming into her warrior attire. "How did you break those manacles escape?"

"It's not your concern! Prepare to die!"

Darkseid's fast eyes saw Diana moving. She was going for Desaad or so he thought. He fired his Omega Beams at her. Diana cleverly deflected the beams and with the speed of Hermes looped her lasso around Darkseid's neck in one move, kicked Desaad away from his machines in the next and circled around again to kick Darkseid's chest. The Lord of Apokolips stumbled backwards at Diana's strength. Ripping off a piece of a stone wall, Diana slammed it against Darkseid. The room rocked with tiny tremors.

Desaad shakily got on his feet and crawled to his machines. He had to release the Second Wave. He grabbed the top of his work station and slowly pulled his body up. Diana leapt and reached Desaad in two steps. Grabbing a bony hand Diana crushed it.

Desaad cry of his weak appendage filled the room. Diana reached to crush the other hand when Darkseid burst from the rubble he was under. With an angry roar, he unleashed his Omega Beams on Diana. Diana turned in time with her arms across her chest to catch the beams on her bracelets. The impact of the Omega Beams, however, pushed Diana against a wall, pinning her.

With the reprieve, Desaad used his good hand to activate the boom tube in the launch room, sending the Second Wave to Earth.

Darkseid didn't lower the intensity of his Omega Beams as he neared Diana. He didn't care how much damage the beams hurt Diana. The more pain she suffered the better. He was so close to victory. No one, not even Diana will stop him. "I've had it with you, Amazon. You refused to be my bride. You disobeyed me at every chance. You slut yourself with a lowly bounty hunter and spurn, me, the ruler of Apokolips. I will make you pay for every betrayal, for every deceit. I will abuse and beat you within an inch of your life, and when I have you begging me to kill you, I will let you live so I can torment you over and over again for eternity."

"No one calls my woman a slut!" An enraged Kal pummeled Darkseid from behind with the power of a thousand cruisers. Darkseid was sent hurtling towards Diana. With speed and grace, the Amazon Princess jumped out of the way just in time to witness Darkseid crashing through the walls of his Tower.

Diana immediately leapt into Kal's arms. "You're alive."

As much as he wanted, Kal couldn't return the affection. Darkseid wasn't going to stay down for long. Time was of the essence and Kal's top priority was getting Diana off Apokolips. "Let's go. Darkseid won't be down for long." Kal grabbed Diana's hand and raced with her out of the room.

Kal punched though each lower level. When they descended, Diana and Kal worked together taking care of any parademons with a paralyzer ray and mild explosives Kal acquired and Diana using her Amazon training.

"Where are we going?" Diana asked jumping down each level.

Kal broke through the final floor, reaching their destination. "The launch area. There's a boom tube here."

Diana understood. "Right. Darkseid's Second Waves is attacking Earth. We have to help the Justice League."

Kal went to the launch room controls. Reading it, the mother box had the boom tube set for Earth. "No. You need to lead the Justice League and I have to stop Darkseid. If I don't make it out-"

What was he saying? She wasn't fighting without him. "Don't talk like that, Kal. We fight together."

As much as he wanted, Kal knew that couldn't happen. Time was running out. "No, Diana. You have to go back to Earth and help your friends." Before Diana could argue, Kal added, "Darkseid has to be stopped or he'll keep coming after you. He came after us when we were both vulnerable. What if he did it again? I can't allow that, Diana." Kal's sharp hearing picked up the heavy footsteps of Darkseid several floors up. He was coming. Kal embraced Diana. It was his last chance. "You'll take care of Krypto for me, won't you?"

What was he….? No. No, Diana didn't want this. "Kal, don't do what I think you will do."

He couldn't argue with Diana about this. Darkseid was approaching fast. He pulled back to look at Diana's face. "You will take care of Krypto for me?" He needed Diana's promise.

The pleading in his voice. The desperation in his eyes. "Yes. Yes, of course, but, Kal—"

Kal pulled Diana to him once more and kissed her.

Was this goodbye? No, it couldn't be but Diana felt it was. Kal's words were so final as was the strength behind Kal's kiss. He was saying goodbye to her. As she returned the kiss with all the passion and love she had for Kal, Diana heard the faint sound of a boom tube and the strong pull of wind behind her.

A boom tube?

Kal pulled away, abruptly ending the kiss. "Goodbye, Sweetness." Kal pushed Diana into the boom tube.

Diana reached out for Kal as the boom tube's power sucked her in. "Kal!"

The boom tube closed on Diana just Darkseid arrived. Kal turned to the Lord of Apokolips. "All right, Darkseid. It's just you and me."

"You survived." Darkseid growled, "Again."

"You lost your bride. Again." Kal was smug as he and Darkseid circled each other. "That just pisses you off, doesn't it?"

"Wonder Woman escapes for now but you won't leave this planet alive."

"Funny, I was thinking the same thing about you."

"That arrogance of yours. You really think you can kill me? I am a God. I cannot die."

"There are ways a God can be killed and I will kill you before I ever let you touch Diana."

"I'll do more than touch her. Each time I have my way with her, Wonder Woman will curse you for failing to kill me. She will curse herself for resisting me."

"Shut the fruck up and let's settle this once and for all."

"Gladly. Victor's first." Darkseid started off with firing his Omega Beams.

Kal dodged and maneuvered avoiding each of the beams with precise speed and accuracy zipping around the room, ducking and blurring being hit. As he did so, he underestimated Darkseid's speed who read Kal's move, watching him avoid each beam, predicting Kal's move until the bounty hunter turn and found himself inches from Darkseid's face.

"Oh, zhuut!" Kal shouted as Darkseid wrapped his bulging arms around Kal's waist and squeezed with all his might. He was determined to break Kal in half.

"I will break your Kryptonian back!"

When Kal found Lex Luthor, he was presented with an array of weapons in Darkseid's disposal. The most dangerous he disposed of around the Tower while he kept the milder ones on him. Kal reached back into his shirt for some of his hidden weapons. It was a struggle but he grabbed two grenades with enough power to blow up an air cruiser.

Kal placed the grenades over Darkseid's fiery eyes and held them there as he said. "Like hell you will!"

The grenades exploded , rattling the room and blowing Kal and Darkseid away from each other. Kal recovered first, and as Darkseid begin rising, Kal wasted no time going after him.

As he did with Kalibak, Kal attacked Darkseid with all his strength behind each punch. He got four punches across Darkseid's face before Darkseid, slapped Kal with the back of his hand. Kal rolled twice before catching himself. Raising his fists, he slammed it against the ground creating tremors that could be felt even at the top of the Tower of Rage. Darkseid lost his balance and it was enough for Kal to thrash into Darkseid's chest head first.

For the first time in a long time, Darkseid felt the wind knock out of him while Kal experienced his first headache in years. Darkseid grabbed Kal by his waist and drove his head down into the floor. One, two, three times. Ready to bring his head down for a fourth time, Kal fired the maximum power of his heat vision at Darkseid's crotch.

Bellowing in pain, Darkseid released Kal. Kal jumped away grinning at the Lord of Apokolips on his knees. "Try mating with those roasted balls."

Darkseid leaned his body on one knee. He promised, "Wonder Woman will be the first."

"Still on that." Kal's eyes lit up a blood red. He flew again at Darkseid. One punch crossed Darkseid's face, "You will…" Punch number two. "never…." A third punch struck his chest. "….ever." an uppercut punch. "..touch Diana!"

Kal attempted to land another punch when Darkseid caught his fist. Darkseid chuckled as he brought himself back on his feet. "Strong as you are, you underestimate my power, Kryptonian." He twisted Kal's arm. "I took your hits. Now take some of mine. Feel my strength."

Kal's scream echoed over the room as Darkseid broke his arm. The screams were rejuvenating to Darkseid. He followed up a broken arm with his heavy foot stumping Kal's back. Much to his dismay, Kal's back didn't break but it soon will be once Darkseid was finished.

Releasing Kal, Darkseid relished seeing Kal fall limp to the floor. "This is only the beginning, Bounty Hunter."

An Earth shattering explosion unexpectedly shook the Tower of Rage. Darkseid looked upward puzzled. What was that? A few pieces of the ceiling fell in. It wasn't a minute later before a second explosion shook the Tower. While Darkseid wondered what was happening, Kal merely grinned as he pulled himself up to a sitting position.

"This is the end, Darkseid."

A third explosion shook the Tower. Somehow Darkseid knew Kal was behind this. "What did you do?"

The look on Darkseid's face caused Kal to erupt in laughter. He never thought he would see fear on his face. "Pops warned me I will face opponents where my strength won't win the fight but my brain will. I don't know if I can beat you in physical fight but I know I can win outsmarting you."

A fourth explosion travelled through the Tower. More pieces of the ceiling continued to fall. It was unbelievable but Darkseid's Tower of Rage was falling apart and it was because of the bounty hunter. "What did you do to my home?"

"Your mistake was capturing Lex Luthor. If he wasn't here, I wouldn't have found him while hiding from your army. I never would've stumbled on what he and your brainwashed slaves were working on." A fifth explosion occurred as Kal pulled himself to his feet. "Twenty kiloton explosives have been activated in this Tower. Ten in this room."

The sixth went off above them. It was faint but Kal could hear dying screams of parademons and Justifiers. "You blow up the Justice League's Watchtower. I returned the favor for them. The tenth explosive is in the floor above us and once it blows, there will only be twenty seconds before the remaining ten in here blow and we both are gonna see it off."

Number seven went off. It was all a trap to lure him here. The Bounty Hunter got him again. "Ten kilotons? You think you can survive that, Kryptonian?"

Number eight went off. It was almost over.

"I don't know but I'm betting you won't either."

Darkseid smiled cryptically. If he tried running, he wouldn't make it out before the remaining kilotons blew. Besides, Darkseid was confident he would survive the fatal explosion. The bounty hunter wouldn't and Darkseid was going to stay here and make sure that happened. "You will sacrifice yourself for the love of a woman. I'll let Wonder Woman know it was in vain."

The ninth bomb exploded. Kal could hear the floors above crumbling. It wouldn't be long now. Kal smiled, accepting his fate. "Like hell you will."

The tenth bomb blew. In the final twenty seconds before the remaining kiloton explosives went off, Darkseid and Kal rushed towards each other. As they collided in one final attack, one by one the remaining explosives with a power of a kiloton exploded in the Tower of Rage. The building itself collapsed under the extreme pressure. Years of technology that built this vast and deadly Tower, years of weaponry that defended it were wiped away in seconds as were the parademons, Justifiers and the Dog Cavalries that were still inside. Unfortunately, the mind controlled servants and technicians were casualties but being so brainwashed by Darkseid for many years it would be wonder if any could break free from it. Their deaths were only a blessing in disguise as they would no long suffer under Darkseid's evil will.

And Kal, his last thoughts before the kiloton explosions swept over him, were of Diana and how beautiful she look that night in Gallinore.

Hippolyta couldn't believe her eyes. Her daughter had returned. Physically, she looked well but was she? Hippolyta didn't care but she was curious as to how and why her daughter returned from Apokolips alone. Where was the bounty hunter?

Hippolyta commanded her winged horse to take her to her daughter. Seeing her daughter up close, Hippolyta was stunned to see tears in her daughter's eyes. Hippolyta could count on one hand the number of times Diana cried. This was the first time she witnessed her daughter as an adult shedding tears. "Diana, are you hurt? How did you escape?"

"Kal," Diana choked the words out. "He pushed me into a boom tube. He stayed back to fight Darkseid. He's not coming back."

Hippolyta was speechless.

Diana stood over Lashina, her boot ready to crush Lashina's neck, her fists clenched tightly as she gathered herself. Amazons did not cry. This was not the time to lose herself. "I will only say this once, Lashina. Surrender now."

Lashina smiled. "When victory is within our grasp? We shall die for Darkseid!"

"Then you shall have it your way! Diana!" Hippolyta tossed Diana a spare sword. "Amazons!" Hippolyta raised her sword in the air. "To the death!" The Queen of the Amazons let out a battle cry in the night that signal her people to attack.

While the Amazons rushed ahead to confront the Second Wave, the parademons on the steps of the U.S. Capitol resumed firing their missiles containing the U.S. Senate and Congress. J'onn, Hal and John swept into action. Hal and John shone the power of their rings over sixteen missiles, quickly disarming them. J'onn phased through four of the missiles deactivating them.

On the ground, Huntress and Flash pushed the end of the missiles open. Out crawled the government officials. With the battle above with fallen parademons, exploding guns and falling debris, Huntress worried of the government officials. "This isn't good." So many will be caught in the crossfire.

Flash grabbed two Senators, "I'll get them somewhere safe." Flash whisked them away and less than ten seconds later, he was back carrying others to safety.

With a group of heroes helping rescuing the remaining government officials, the rest of the Justice League dealt with the Second Wave. The ground team battled the Dog Calvary, Batman and the rest of the air team split with the Amazons in batting the parademons and the Justifiers.

Donna found herself battling another Fury with Knockout while Lashina and Diana faced off.

Even without her bands, Lashina was a formidable opponent. Diana swung her sword at Lashina, aiming to slice her face. The Fury ducked and leg sweep Diana. Diana tripped but jumped quickly on her feet. Raising her sword again, Lashina caught the base of it. It was a battle of strengths as both women fought for control of Diana's sword.

"Why Great Darkseid lust after you, I'll never know. With so many beauties in the universe, he could've had anyone."

"Is that jealously?" Diana swung her elbow against Lashina's face. Lashina released her grip on Diana's sword.

Grabbing a fallen gun from a Justifier, Lashina shot at Diana several times. "It's disgust Darkseid would stoop so low."

Diana deflected each shot with her bracelets. "What's low is a woman of your skills serving a monster tyrant like Darkseid. A warrior like you would've made a fine Amazon."

"A fine Amazon?" Lashina laughed. "Like you? One who cries at the death of her lover. How weak you are."

Diana knew Lashina was trying to distract her with Kal's death but it only encouraged her. His death wouldn't be in vain. It made Diana fight even harder.

"Death makes Amazons stronger!" With each shot, Diana advanced faster and closer to Lashina. "We never forget our losses!" In her anger, she sliced the gun in half and stabbed the sword in Lashina's stomach.

Lashina gagged as she felt the sharp metal pierce her skin. She dropped to her knees coughing blood. The Fury gazed at Diana in disbelief. She much blood covered her hands, spilled from her body. Even with her tough body, a blow like this was fatal. After all her planning, once again she failed against the Justice League. What fate awaited her should she return to Apokolips in defeat?

"Kill me. Kill me now."

It was tempting. Knowing what was happening to Kal, it was very tempting but killing Lashina would be the easy way out for the Fury and Diana wanted her to suffer as she was without Kal. "No. Go back to Apokolips. The fates favor the Justice League again. Have some dignity in your defeat. Leave and never return."

Knockout, the only able bodied Fury, pulled back from her battle with Donna. Seeing Lashina on the ground forced her to take stock of the situation. It was unbelievable but with all their planning, with all their forces, the First Wave was gone and half the Second Wave was lost. The Justice League even managed to free most of their government officials. Two of the Furies were dead with one barely alive. Knockout was no fool. She knew when to leave. "This battle is over." Knockout traveled on her Aero-discs and gathered Lashina in her arms. Signaling the remaining forces to fall back, Knockout activated the boom tube. Once she disappeared, others began to follow.

Boom tubes opened in the skies with the remaining Parademons, Justifiers and Dog Cavalries retreating. Earth was saved once again but at a huge price. Washington, D.C. was a warzone, many United States military men were dead, the President of the United States was dead, and the Justice League was crippled with losses and injuries.

When the last boom tube closed, Diana dropped her sword and fell to her knees. Krypto immediately left Batman's side and greeted Diana. The dog whimpered as he rubbed against her, worrying about his master and knowing Diana's thoughts were on him as well.

Diana embraced Krypto. Her voice choked with emotion as she buried her face in Krypto's fur. Kal's dog. Kal's precious dog. His best friend. "Oh, Krypto. He sacrificed himself for me. I wanted to stay with him but Kal pushed me in the boom tube. He wanted me to save Earth." Krypto licked Diana's face, wiping away her tears. Oh, how much she loved this dog. "You comfort me when I should comfort you." Diana couldn't. She just couldn't let it end like this. "Earth is safe but I won't leave Kal alone on Apokolips. If he's alive, I will help him. If he's dead, I will bring his body back. I won't leave him on Apokolips. Find me a boom tube," she said to no one in general. "I need to return to Apokolips."

Once more, there was a faint rumble. A boom tube was opening.

"Oh, crap," Hal groaned. "How many times these guys are gonna keep coming?"

A boom tube opened in front of Diana and Krypto. Diana stood. She was ready to fight. Krypto stood beside her and waited, hoping as a frail figure staggered out.

Krypto perked up barking.

Kal stumbled out of the boom tube. Most of his hair was gone and all the muscles and skin were burnt from his body, leaving a dark skeletal frame in tattered clothes walking to his beloved. Seeing Diana and Krypto, Kal collapsed. Diana leaped forward and caught him.

"Oh, Kal," Diana gently held her beloved. Krypto licked Kal's bony face trying to waken him. Diana felt for a pulse. "You're alive, but barely. Stay with us. Stay with Krypto and me. We'll take care of you."

Hippolyta slowly approach with Hephaestus bloodied sword in her hand. It was drenched with the blood of may parademons and Justifiers. She saw her daughter cradling Kal in her arms begging him to hang on. "This is what remains of the bounty hunter who defeated the Justice League, who kidnapped my daughter and almost turned her over to Darkseid. It would be so very easy to kill you now."

After all this, after all that has been done, her mother still held her grudge and wanted Kal dead. Diana couldn't take anymore. "Mother, if you kill him, you will have to kill me, too."

Hippolyta held her gaze with her daughter. Diana would stop her if Hippolyta tried. She would do anything to save this man. Even die. Diana loved Kal. She truly did. As a mother what could Hippolyta do?

She sheathed her sword. "No, Diana. There has been enough killing, enough fighting. The battle is over. Earth is safe. You are safe and it is due to Kal-El's magnanimous choice. Kal-El…" her eyes fell on the frail bounty hunter. "Even with the Earth's sun, he'll expire before his wounds heals. His only chance is to come home with us."

Diana looked up at her mother perplexed. Did she hear that correctly? "Mother?"

"You are my daughter. He is your beloved. Therefore, he is family and we always take care of our own. Let us all return home to Themyscira."

To Be Concluded