Superman saw the huge blade coming and he braced himself for the attack. There was no evading it. He had to recall his training with Diana and hope his alien abilities could help him to move, counter and to try to keep this new savage King of Olympus at bay while he tried to get past his defense.
The sword crossed so close over him he could feel the blades whisper over his hair. He ducked, pivoted and used the shield to cover his head and pushed back. The blade thundered upon the Aegis. Superman pushed hard and then used his power of flight to somersaulted over the Giant so he was behind him. He unfurled the Morning Star and whipped it at him. First Born moved quickly, parried with his sword, and then lunged. The Aegis took more hits. The flail then got snagged by the serrated edge and was dragged painfully out the Kryptonian's grasp as he tried to keep hold of the weapon. Superman felt his palm sting as it left an angry welt. Left open for a brief second, he was punched so hard he went tumbling, landing on the Embankment with a sickening thud, cracking the road and damaging cars abandoned on it. He could see the flesh riddled Olympus looming in his peripheral vision; he touched his stinging lip and felt blood. His head seem to swim. As King of Olympus, the First Born's magic lay heavy in the air like a thickening fog, and combined with such unrestrained Godly might, he unsettled even Superman's sharp senses.
He barely had a second to recover when he felt the First Born landing over him and with both hands bringing down his sword. Superman held up the Aegis over his head and pushed against the weapon, as it grated the shield's veneer. Sparks flew and the shield wailed. He felt himself pushed down, down, down by slow, agonizing degrees until he was almost down on one knee. Sweat began to bead his brow with effort. The strength of this giant was was as if mountains were piling on him. He'd tested his limits on occasion at the Fortress with Steel's help and he could bench press the earth if he had to so he dug his feet in deep and pushed back. The ground beneath began to crack and the earth shake.
Diana's words came back to him.
"Choose your next move carefully and try not to die..."
Just an opening.
That was all he needed.
With a huge bellow, every muscle in his being flexed and he pushed upwards, his knees rising and pushing the Giant off him.
The shield slammed hard into First Born's face and he staggered backwards.
When the Giant straightened up, he put a hand to his mouth and spat a tooth.
His face creased with fury but before he could recover his fighting stance, a blurring, blue fist hit him hard. He flew down a street and smashed into the convenience store in a petrol station.
Superman flew after him and scanned the area. He could see no signs of life, the area having long been evacuated. A gas tanker had been abandoned mid filling the fuel tanks underground. The First Born rose, manifested a second sword and he was about to leap at the Man of Steel. Superman made his decision swiftly and hot beams of heat vision flared from his eyes and hit the large cylindrical truck, the underground tank and the pumps. The fiery explosion rocked the entire area, shattered windows and twisted metal while flames engulfed the giant. He screamed. Superman focused and intensified his heat vision to feed the heart of the fire. The conflagration yawned and exploded even more, lighting up the sky. The roaring Giant leaped out of the explosion, his body flaming, as he dove into the red currents of the Thames.
Superman flew backwards away from the flames, billowing, black smoke and searing heat and landed on the bridge. He took in a deep breath and looked at his knuckles, it was split and had began to bleed.
He muttered, as he shook it to regain some feeling, "Damn. That hurt."
Batman's concerned voice came over his comlink, "Are you okay, Clark?"
"Yeah, yeah, Bruce, just a bit winded. I need a minute to catch my breath. I'm sure that will only delay him. Any chance of back-up?"
"I'm afraid I can't get to you yet. I'm trying to help Zee pick up civilians. The others seem locked in battle. Steel is closest. Irons?"
"I hear you. I'm on my way, Superman," Steel's voice replied.
Superman had only to wait half a minute for his friend to fly in. As he did, he tried to use his super vision on the Thames to try to see the First Born. Unfortunately the waters were tainted with magic and he could not see beyond the foaming, red depths.
Steel landed next to him. He looked at the smoke and flames. The smell of burning fuel filled the air. "You okay? Damn, that's a mess, Clark."
"I had no choice. We have to be very careful. You can't face him for too long he... I...oh shoot...that was fast."
Sure enough the waters nearby parted with a roar as a flesh and bone riddled mound seemed to rise from the depths. The First Born towered above them on an oozing, bloody platform that was an extension of Olympus as it stood in the Thames. They stared at him, taken aback, at the sight. He looked as if he had been roasted over a a spit. His skin blacked and broken, the red flesh erupting beneath like angry fissures. Superman's eyes seemed to flicker with regret but it was for only a second because no cry of pain came out of First Born's lips.
The giant's skin began to peel off him, and the vein-like roots running along the ground began to crawl towards him. They began to penetrate his flesh and it looked as if he was being nourished by them by sucking in blood and gore from the ground and mountain itself. Antlers pushed out of his head and encircled it like a crown. The veins then seemed to settle themselves around him like a cloak.
Steel uttered, "Damn, what is that?"
Superman murmured, "I have no idea if he's been weakened or upgraded. He looks like a skinned corpse."
"Well, we'll soon find out! Here he comes!"
The First Born leaped and landed before them. The cloak of veins rose up like serpents and attacked. But it did not try to engage Superman. Instead it seemed to entangle him and push him backwards. The First Born's eyes were on Steel who was trying to fight his way towards him.
"Steel, he's trying to separate us!"
The First Born grinned and lifted Superman and flung him away with the tendrils. He ended up landing heavily on the other side of the Embankment. He got up quickly and looked for them. Steel was trying his best to counter the First Born but the Giant was toying with him. Superman could see his friend was being overwhelmed. They were moving across what was left of the Embankment and Steel was smashed into the bridge above. The tendrils picked up the mace and placed them into First Born's hand.
The First Born pummeled his friend with the magical mace and his tentacled cloak reached in, and like clamps, kept him pinned to the floor by his limbs and neck. Steel lay struggling and choking.
"I have killed Gods. What can a mere man coated in base metal do to me?"
Superman flew towards them only to have some of the tendrils arc at him and ensnare him like a fly in a spider's web.
Batman could see the signatures of Steel and Superman on his radar and he was getting satellite images that showed him their predicament. He shouted at the others on the open channel, "Superman and Steel are in trouble!"
Superman struggled and fought against the tentacles that tried to impregnate his armor. He could see the First Born pinning Steel to the ground and the tendrils going into Steel's metallic veneer.
Steel screamed in agony.
The Man of Steel shouted, "NO!"
First Born's eyes met Superman's and a cruel sneer curled his gruesome mouth.
Superman's heart dropped as he heard the low groan and the sound of the tendrils boring into his friend's armor. Steel's nano-mechanical armor contracted and John's face was revealed. His life's essence was being drained and it could be seen as his face and body began to shrivel.
"Damn you!" Agonized rage filled the Man of Steel and the Aegis on his arm howled mournfully.
The First Born growled and turned to face him with a ghastly smile. " He tasted like every human I ever ate. Banal and unremarkable. Worse than watered down piss and stale bread. But you, Alien, I am curious about how you would taste."
Wonder Woman and Green Lantern were taking on the brunt of Ares' fire blasts by ducking and weaving among buildings while Cyborg and Batman tried to herd, coral and render the Bestiamorphs unconscious. Flash and Hermes went after Eris.
Hal grunted, "Is it me but is Ares actually growing?!"
Diana gritted, "Yes. He's fueled by rage and war. He raised First Born for that very reason."
"So fighting him is making him stronger?!"
"You could say that."
"Then how the hell are we supposed to "neutralize" him?!"
Her ears heard a whistling sound on the wind, and she suddenly looked up and shouted, "Arrows!"
Hal raised his head. "Damn!"
The sky darkened with arrows and they rained down upon them. He created a shield with his ring to cover them.
Ares' eyes glowed. He raised his hand and large, granite columns along the road began to shake and uproot out of their foundation and they attacked Lantern's shield like battering rams.
"Shit!" he mouthed, feeling himself pushed backwards. The magical force behind them seeming to create cracks in the shield. "Diana, take evasive action!"
Hal was sent plummeting into the mid floor of a high, glass building; only his power ring had saved him from being smashed and sliced as he laid groaning amid office desks.
Diana shot up into the air to avoid being hit but Ares had already manifested a large, double axe and spiked mace on a chain. He stomped at her as she hovered mid air. She looked at the innocuous looking God Killer and she closed her eyes for a second. The sword grew into a large, golden Khopesh. The axe swiped at her head and she ducked and pivoted around him; and as the mace swung at her, the curve of her sword caught the chain. God Killer was not only able to adapt to its handler's feelings and thoughts but able to absorb the energy of its opponent and repel with the same force. Diana pulled hard and the chain snapped. The mace slithered off her sword and fell to the ground with a crash.
The God of War tilted his head suspiciously. "Where did you get that weapon?"
"Wouldn't you like to know."
He scowled, manifested and hurled spears at her. She agilely ducked, leaped, and somersaulted while cleaving them in half.
"Hephaestus, no doubt, but I can keep this up all day, Little Sister."
Swords came at her next. God Killer morphed into a bow staff and spun like a blur, scattering the swords one by one.
"You would have been such an asset to our efforts. We could have conquered the world together."
"I don't make it a habit joining genocidal maniacs," she panted.
Ares took off his helm and the wind ruffled his blond locks. He smiled. "As God of War I must admit, the Amazons trained you well. But War has changed as the world has changed. You're protecting maniacs too, my naive, dear Sister. Humans are the only reason I thrive. Let us see what that thing can do against civilized weapons."
He raised up the assault rifles lying on the road where dead soldiers laid and Diana saw a hail of bullets coming at her. She gasped. There was no way she could outrun them nor her bracers deflect them all.
She tightened her hold on God Killer and closed her eyes.
God Killer suddenly turned back into a falchion but this time it was crackling with a kind of static energy. As she pointed it at the bullets, they were repelled and went hurtling back at Ares.
He had to drop his helm and raise both his arms in defense. They hit his armor with a ferocity, that sent red and gold sparks bouncing off him. Diana took the opportunity to try to send the lasso at him to bind him but Ares anticipated her and grabbed an end and yanked her hard to him. God Killer went spinning away to the ground on impact. He cupped her by the neck.
"You're still a foolish child. You do not understand nor appreciate what you are. You would rather fight your own blood for these insects and commingle our divine blood with that alien creature you call lover."
"Yet you killed your father," she gritted, trying to prize his hand off her neck.
"Zeus was a failure, a traitor; a wasted, tired tyrant who took his reign for granted. He was going to let Olympus decay."
"Olympus is already decaying. Look around you, Ares, First Born has infected Olympus and he's infecting the Earth. There will be nothing for you to rule by the time he's done."
"By the time he is done, I will be stronger than he is. He is a powerful brute but has blinders on. I will take what was always meant to be mine and be rid of all who are a threat to me. No one will be able to rise and mutiny against me."
Diana choked. "You will be rid of even Eris?"
Flash ran swiftly around Eris, hitting her in the ankles and legs and causing her to lash out at him like someone trying to beat at mosquitoes.
"Why you little, red gnat! Come here!"
Her energy blasts failed to hit him and eventually Flash managed to get her to tangle over her own legs and topple on her back. She glared at him as she found she could not get up when she tried. Some force was keeping her down. She turned to see it was Hermes using the power of his caduceus to force her to stay within a mystical force-field.
"So you're siding with these worms now, Brother?" she asked sarcastically. "That is a new low. Even for you."
"Not as low as what you are doing. What in Olympus possessed you to join with Ares to raise the First Born?"
"I am his counterpart. Strife is part of War."
"Death is part of War too."
"He needs me to rule." She tried to rise but in vain.
"You both were not here when First Born ruled this world. You do not know his destructiveness and Ares is insane to think he can fight him. Look at the place around us, Eris. Is this how you want the Earth to look and be? Overrun by him and His Hyena Men and these monster-like creatures?"
Hermes knew that Ares and Strife often slummed it among the mortals. They took human guises and liked to lived in luxury. They were Gods after all and liked the good things in life. Eris, like any privileged creature, was used to a certain way of existing. She liked parties, good wine and Olympus bored her because there were no pets to play with the way the earth had humans to manipulate. She liked her chaos but she liked a sort of order and fun to her chaos. And that could only happen in a surviving, civilized earth, an earth with humans and one that could keep evolving.
She paused a moment and stared at the crimson, fleshy, vein riddled city that was stinking of rotting flesh. The thought of it all over the earth repelled her refined senses.
"And you cannot even say you will go back home. Olympus has literally fallen." Hermes pointed to the mount in the horizon.
"The world survived him...," she replied like a petulant child.
"Only because of Zeus and he is gone. Hera is powerless."
She pushed hard and reached past the field for his staff. "Ares will defeat him and we will..."
Hermes allowed her to grab his staff and, in the blink of an eye, they both vanished.
Constantine and Circe remained locked in battle.
She hurled incantations at him but he was able to deflect them with counter spells.
Circe growled at him as he teleported behind her.
"How is it a mere mortal man like you can even thwart spells that have been created since three thousand years?!"
He lit up a cigarette. "I sold my soul to the two Lords of Hell. I know the paths through the afterlife and believe you me, it ain't pretty. You're wasting your time if you think you can kill me or I'm worried you can kill me. I've been dying and dead before. I know all the routes through heaven, hell and the afterlife."
She paused. Intrigued. "You know The First of the Fallen and The Presence?"
"Yeah. I have knowledge of magic from the beginning of time on earth. Before these Olympian brats you're wasting your time fighting for. The only reason I can't get down in the mud and play dirty with them is because there is a prophesy that needs to be fulfilled. One that the Olympians and the Amazon Princess got to figure out themselves. There are rules among the many Pantheons and the true Source of the Universe. Without those boundaries there would be chaos. What do you think you gonna get from Ares and First Born anyway?"
"They promised me my revenge and power. I was locked in endless limbo because of the Amazons."
Constantine shrugged. "Well, Hippolyta might as well be dead. Her daughter is probably going to die too if the giant gets his way. That make you feel better?"
She scowled. "I will get power. I helped get rid of Zeus. They are beholden to me. Ares promised..."
He threw his head back and laughed. "Ares? Ares betrayed his own mother and father. You think he cares about allegiances? Ares cheats, contrives and deceives so he can get what he wants. You're just a cog in the wheel."
Circe's eyes grew clouded and she hurled an energy ball at him.
Constantine teleported again. This time he split into scores of himself and surrounded her. She spun around.
"A cog that can be replaced when he has no use for you."
She sent out fire balls at him. The balls hit each illusion of him, exploding into the air. She mouthed an incantation with his name and one fireball homed in on him like a heat seeking missile amid the other fake ones.
It hit him in the gut and he grunted in pain as it knocked the wind out of him and he began to fall. Before he could hit the ground he felt something catch him. He could see a dark haired man smiling broadly at him.
"Where the bleedin hell did you come from?"
"Name's Shazam. I got my powers from the Wizard. You ever heard about the Wizard? He's dead now but he granted me the powers of Hercules, Solomon, Atlas, and..."
"I know who you are. Put me down, kid. No time for chitter-chatter. There's a bloody witch about to strike us both down."
Shazam put him down and looked up in time to see Circe above them. Fire balls were coming at them and Shazam hurled lightning bolts in quick succession. The bolts exploded the balls of light, much to her annoyance.
She glared at them. "I do not know who you are but I am getting tired of this now! It is time to end this! You will join my Bestimorphs! No man can resist this spell. Not even you, Necromancer! "
She began to sing. Her song crawled sinuously towards them.
Constantine shoved Shazam in front of him.
Shazam uttered in surprise, "Hey!"
The spell hit him but instead of him turning into an animal, it simply clouded around them and then dissipated like mist.
Shazam spun around and cried, "Dude, you pushed me in line of the spell! I could have been turned into a pig or some crap like that."
Constantine blew smoke into the air calmly. "Nah. You're not technically a man but a boy blessed with magic so I assumed that her Bestiamorph spell wouldn't work on you."
"That's cold blooded. Suppose it did?"
"Well, it didn't. Heads up! Here she comes! We can tag team her now! Use your speed and get behind her and do what you do best!"
Shazam nodded and he moved in a blur.
Circe spun around in time to see him put his fingers out and pull electrical changes from the atmosphere and discharge an electrical blast at her. She created a shield to absorb the energy and dispelled it back at him with a scream. Shazam felt it hit him in the chest and he went flying backwards and slammed into a crane. The whole thing creaked and toppled with him.
She panted. That winded her. She spun around to see the blond man smoking behind her. He flicked his fingers and every digit seemed to be lit with flames. He hurled them at her.
She vanished and appeared behind him. She sneered, "You are as basic a sorcerer as they come, Man."
She transmogrified his flames into a huge chimera .
"Ah bollocks!" he uttered.
It spat fire at Constantine. His whole body burst into flame.
Shazam was pulling himself out of the wreck when he saw the chimera and then the flames.
"No!" He tried to reach Constantine but only reached in time to see the burning body break down into ashes. The chimera dissipated with him.
Circe appeared behind him and her hands cupped the sides of his head. "So you are only a little boy. I did not see it at first. Show yourself to me, child."
Shazam stiffed at the power of her voice and helplessly uttered, "Shazam." He began to fall but she caught him up with her magic and brought him to float before her.
Billy Batson looked up at Circe with wide eyes. He swallowed hard. When he was Shazam was one thing, but being just Billy miles up in the air with a witch was another.
"You wouldn't kill a kid, would you, lady?" he gulped.
Circe flicked his cheek a finger. "I do not murder children...unless they deserve it. How and where did you gain those powers?"
One of Circe's powers was her ability to manipulate and control minds and although she could not transform him into an animal, she could take control of the will of humans.
"A Wizard called Marmagan. He's dead now. He said I was to be a Champion so he gave me his powers that came from the likes of Zeus, Hercules, Solomon, Atlas, Achilles and Mercury. The Rock of Eternity was his lair. It can be found in Fawcett City."
"Fawcett City? Hmm, you will take me there. How odd to give a mere boy such power. And that word you said, it is the way you transform?"
"What is your name?"
Circe tilted his chin up. "Well, Billy, I think you will be of service to me. I could do with a new cup bearer. The one I have now is far too old and slow. What say you?"
Billy hesitated. "I..."
She squeezed his chin harder as if to impose her will. " Answer me, Boy."
"I say...not bleeding likely." To Circe's shock, the boy transformed into Constantine.
He smiled at her and on his right fist appeared enchanted, golden knuckles. Her eyes widened and delivered a powerful punch before she could utter a word.
Circe went tumbling and crashed to the ground. She groaned and laid on the ground looking dazed.
Constantine shouted to Shazam who appeared as if on cue from behind a magical shield. He caught him and they landed before Circe.
Shazam uttered, " That was dope! I wish I could Illusion Cast!"
Constantine knelt before Circe and swiftly pulled out an amulet. "We have to bind her before she gains her senses!"
He muttered an incantation and lines of energy were projected from the face of the amulet and they wrapped themselves around her. She laid on her side and tried to hurl a curse at them but found herself unable to even open her lips or move her hands and feet.
Shazam clapped his hands. "Ha! You did it!"
Constantine stood up. "We need to help Zee and the League. Bestiamorphs are still running rampant and we need to contain them."
"What about her?"
"Oh she'll be going nowhere until I come back." He put the amulet around his neck. "Come on!"
Eris struggled for a moment. She gasped as she realized she was being dragged into a wormhole of some kind and travelling at a rapid speed where light, sound, and smells assailed her. She saw moving images of the earth, and its peoples go past. Hermes was taking her back in time when the First Born seized power on Earth. Hermes had the power to travel different planes and break time barriers. He could go to the past and see the future if he chose to.
"You tricked me!"
"You need to see what will happen if you left Ares get his way."
She found herself surrounded by the First Born and his army, as they moved across two continents, invading, murdering and pillaging, leaving only desolation and fear in their wake.
"Is this what you want?" asked Hermes. "Without the humans, Gods like you and Ares cannot survive. You need them as much as they need you. First Born does not need mankind to have purpose. His purpose is destruction and darkness. Our Father knew this and this is why he imprisoned him."
Eris looked in some bemusement as she saw Zeus battle the First Born.
"Ares will not let him destroy us."
"You think Ares cares what happens to you?"
"Without Strife there is no War, "she maintained stubbornly.
Hermes suddenly pulled her out of the past and she was suspended in the veil of the present and she could see Ares choking Diana.
"By the time he is done, I will be stronger than he is. He is a powerful brute but a dumb one. I will take what was always meant to be mine and be rid of all who are a threat to me. No one will be able to rise and mutiny against me."
Diana choked. "You will be rid of even Eris?"
Eris' normally nonchalant eyes clouded.
Ares stated, "War just needs Greed and Hate to exist. You, my dear baby sister, and your Justice League are all that stands in my way..."
Diana's eyes suddenly could see Hermes and Eris behind Ares. Both looked diaphanous, as if behind a barrier. She did her best to not give them away by maintaining a defiant look in her eyes.
Ares continued, "I will give you another chance, Princess, join me. We could kill the First Born together and rule the heavens. The Amazons believed in peace through strength, fighting to enforce peace. You need War for that. War brings order. The nature of man is to destroy. Two hundred thousand years has not changed what they inherently are. Oppression, famine, slavery, poverty, murder and death only come about due to them and their greed and need to dominate each other. How long must we give them to understand? They could erase life and themselves one day because of ego and their growing technology. One little deploy button could destroy all this. You know that. They need a firm hand. We can rule together!"
Eris snorted, "Rid of me? Rule together?! So what am I?!"
Hermes allowed the barrier holding Eris to dissipate and she floated down behind them in her gigantic form.
Ares saw the rage in her eyes and warned, "Don't you dare..."
She back slapped him and he dropped Diana and crashed into a wall. He flew to his feet and his eyes glowed. "That is a mistake you will pay for, Sister."
Eris was about to stomp on him when he began to move metal, and crumble the concrete around him and sent them flying at her. They transformed into spears, swords, and arrows.
"You fool, you would listen to Hermes? He would faster hand you over to Zeus if he gets the chance!"
"The First Born will destroy the earth! Look at it already! He nearly did it before but for our father!" Eris winced in pain as she was hit by some of the projectile weapons. She swat at them and tried breaking them off. He then used his ability to manipulate energy and projected shock wave upon shock wave that slammed her to the ground. "You cannot beat First Born!"
"He's not going to live to do it this time! Fighting me is only going to make me more powerful! You know that! Why would you do something this stupid?"
Eris reached for God Killer. "Your arrogance will be your doom, Brother."
She raised it high and tried to strike at him.
Ares put his hand out. He send out a powerful force of energy pushing at God Killer.
Eris shrieked as she tried to push and push. Physical fighting was not something she stooped to do. She liked watching other people fight. This was too tasking for her. Ares was a master solider and tactician after all.
Ares said coldly, "No weapon forged can overcome my mastery of every weapon."
To everyone's shock, God Killer's blade broke into two and she was sent flying backward. She smashed into a line of cars and shrunk down to her normal size as she lay groaning in pain amid the wreckage. Her eyes widened as she saw Ares hover over her. He had doubled in size.
"It pains me to do this, Eris. But you betrayed me." He manifested a double sided battle axe.
Hermes tried to help her but Ares shook his head. "Oh no, you don't get to help this time." A circle of fire formed around Hermes and kept him at bay.
Diana, meanwhile, had risen to her feet. She was too far away. Ares would kill Eris before she could reach him. And even then he would use his pyrokenesis. She looked at God Killer now split into two on the ground.
She closed her eyes and gritted, "No. This cannot happen. I will not let him kill her! Help me!"
Her eyes widened as God Killer's two broken parts moved towards each other and the blade mended itself.
Diana's hand reached and it flew to her.
Ares raised the axe over Eris. "We were a good team but I do not need you. War can survive without Discord."
Diana hurled God Killer at him. The blade impaled him from behind. Eldritch energy coursed through him and his armor. His axe shattered and the armor began to crack. He gasped and stared at God Killer's pointed blade protruding from his chest.
He staggered and went down to his knees. He tried to break the blade, pull at the back but it would not budge. "How? A mere sword?"
The flames around Hermes vanished.
Diana landed before him. "Not a mere sword. A God's Killer. Commanded by the King of the Gods himself. Your father."
Ares rasped, "You cannot kill War. To do that you have to kill every human. They will resurrect me. Their greed guarantees it!"
"Maybe but for now Tartarus awaits."
Ares felt his body and consciousness begin to disintegrate. His bellow was deafening and the ground yawned open and wraith like and skeletal hands reached out to his ankles. He struggled but his body was shattering. Flesh, turned to bone, to a ghostly form and he was dragged down into the abyss where the dead waited. The sword vanished with him as well.
Diana gave a shuddering sigh and rubbed her throat. She reached down and helped the stunned Eris to her feet.
Eris stared at her and then to her surprise, she flung her arms around her. "You saved me! My sweet, baby sister! I knew it! I always liked you! I never trusted him. He was..."
Hermes stepped forward and pull Eris away from the bemused Diana. "Yes, yes. That's enough now. Are you alright, Diana? That was fast thinking. With good fortune, Ares will not be seen for a long time."
Diana nodded. "Yes, I'm okay. We have to thank Zeus and Hephaestus for God Killer but we lost the sword. How will we even begin to deal with First Born now?"
Suddenly Diana heard a buzzing in her ear. She could hear Batman's voice.
"Superman and Steel are in trouble!"
Diana's heart fell. "Clark..."
Superman watched the tendrils move like angry snakes towards him. He used the Aegis to deflect them and slice at them but the more he sliced, more sprung out of the First Born's body. His Kryptonian armor and indestructible cape was the only reason his own life force had not been sucked out of him.
Superman suddenly felt something come up from the fleshy ground and pulled him down. He was laid out on his back, fleshy tentacles keeping him immobile, even as he writhed and pulled on them.
The First Born came over him. A tendril yanked the Aegis off his arm.
"It will be interesting to absorb your life force but first we need to break that covering that protects you."
He raised the Aegis. His intention was to use the shield's edge to breach Superman's armor. The Godly metal would surely do the trick.
The Man of Steel tried using his heat vision and freeze breath but the tendrils curled over his eyes and mouth. His acute hearing could hear the sheering sound of the shield on the air as it came down at him. He waited for the hit.
It never came. Instead he heard something knifing through the wind currents, a whistling of the wind on water, the roar of an engine and the sound of thunder.
The First Born spun to see a figure coming down from the sky and a glowing rope curled around the Aegis. It yanked hard and the Aegis went flying back to a hand with vambraces.
"You!" he uttered as he saw Wonder Woman hovering in the air.
At the same time a red blur was coming towards them from the other side of the bridge, speeding across water and coming up from the east.
The Flash was moving so fast he was generating electrical energy from his Speed Force. Superman could hear a crackling and the hair behind his neck stood on end. Bolts of electricity hit the First Born. There was a roar of pain and anger.
The tentacles released Superman.
Cyborg's voice buzzed in his ear. "We're here, Clark!"
Victor boom-tubed in and fired his sonic canon at the Giant before he could recover from the Flash's maneuver. The First Born reeled. Wonder Woman joined in and managed to hit him as hard as she could with the back of Aegis. He went flying across a bridge and landed heavily on the pier, smashing several barges and party boats.
Before he could rise, a man on an Aero-Disc appeared above him and hurled several devices at him that exploded and made him dazed. He then unfurled something small and metallic, that morphed into a trap that encompassed the First Born and bonded him into a what looked like a smooth, metal cocoon. Before he could open his mother box to boom tube him, a fleshy arm from Olympus shot out and grabbed the Giant and absorbed him into the mountain.
Coming to land behind Superman were Green Lantern and heroes he recognized to be part of the Justice League of America, Shazam and Big Barda. The man on the Aero-Disc, Mr Miracle, flew over and joined them.
Superman moved swiftly to where Steel lay. Puncture wounds still oozed where the First Born had drained him. He could not hear a heart beat. He knelt and touched him. He was cold to the touch. There was no sign of life.
Superman's fists curled and he muttered painfully, "John Henry..."
Wonder Woman landed behind him and she saw Steel's shriveled face and she put her hands to her lips and held back her tears. "Oh Gods."
She knelt behind Clark and put a hand on his shoulder. She could feel him shudder at her touch. But he bit the inside of his cheek and kept his emotion in check.
Lantern's voice uttered in disbelief, "He's not...?"
Shazam rubbed the back of head in dismay. "Oh man. This isn't good."
Superman said in a wooden voice, "He's dead."
Flash, who had come to stop before them, held his head in shock. "He's...gone!?"
Superman lifted Steel in his arms and turned with him to face the group. Diana's hand brushed the sunken cheek briefly and swallowed the lump in her throat. She knew how much Clark cared for John Henry on a personal level and the thought of the Irons family, who had embraced her too, losing a son, brother and uncle ached her heart.
Cyborg landed and stared down at the body in Superman's arms. He looked stunned as the rest of them. Death was something they faced every mission they went on but it was the first time they actually lost someone. He scanned Steel and could only confirm the worst. "No signs of life. It's too late to do anything."
The group of the Flash, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern drew closer together around Superman and bowed their heads. This was a brother in arms, a comrade, a friend. This hurt was on a level there was no words.
Scott stepped forward, he said gently, "I am so sorry for your loss but I do not know how long my trap will contain that creature."
Batman, who had been monitoring them, said in a husky voice, "Clark. we need to get John's body out of there before First Born comes back."
Cyborg put his arms out. "Let me take him, Clark. I'll get him back to the Watchtower."
Reluctantly Superman handed Steel over and Cyborg flew him out.
Shazam clenched his fists. "Time to kick that guy's butt. By the way, it's really an honor to meet you, Superman sir."
Superman looked at him and the others as if it finally dawned on him who they were. "Sir? How did you get here? And what happened to Ares and Circe?"
Green Lantern said slowly, as if his head was still clouded with what had happened, " Er, neutralized. The others are rounding up the Bestiamorphs and dealing with the Hyena Men. We can surely deal with First A-hole when he comes out."
Superman said somberly, " He can control the environment making him highly dangerous. And that cloak of his can suck the life out of us. We've already lost one..."
Wonder Woman touched Superman's arm. "We do it together. That's when we are at our strongest."
Flash shouted, "I think that trap has expired! Here he comes!"
"Break into groups," suggested Barda. "From what I see it will be best covering both flanks and the front and rear."
Wonder Woman said, "I'll go front and first."
Barda said, "I will be right behind you."
Superman nodded, "I'll come from behind."
Scott Free, Flash and Shazam and Lantern nodded. "We'll take both flanks."
Wonder Woman flew at him. Her sword slashed at tendrils only to see them sprout back in place. She whipped her lasso around his body and Barda tried to use her boom-tube. The First Born anticipated the lasso and grabbed it with an arm. He pulled and spun her away into the air, sending her smashing into a building.
Barda had the boomtube open and it began to pull at him. The First Born laughed and his arms grabbed the boom-tube before it could yawn wider. To her shock, he slammed it shut and the reverberating force sent Barda flying backwards, like an insect caught in a gust of wind. She fell heavily miles along the road, carving out a huge crater upon impact with the ground.
Flash created vortexes with his arms and buffeted him with the high velocity winds. He tried to drive him down into the bloody waters, only to have skeletal hands reach up and drag him down. He gasped as he tried to fight them but they pulled and began to try to drown him. Wonder Woman had recovered and flew quickly to throw her lasso down at him to help from from being suffocated and going under.
Shazam came at First Born yelling, "Shazam!"
A powerful lightning bolt cracked and hit the Giant. He bellowed in pain.
Green Lantern followed up with a construct of thick, green chains nano seconds after the lightning bolt.
The First Born roared but with a flex of his shoulders, the tendrils broke the construct and sent Hal spinning into the air.
Barda swooped in again and blasted him repeatedly with her Mega Rod.
He went down on a knee.
Superman blew cold freezing winds at the tendrils that waved in the air as they multiplied to like a shield around the Giant.
Green Lantern created a sledge hammer. "Allow me!"
He slammed it against the block of ice and the tendrils seemed to shatter leaving the First Born bare shouldered and unprotected.
"We have him!" cried Shazam, flying in to deliver a punch.
But the First Born vanished into the ground itself. Swallowed up by the fleshy earth.
"Oh crap!" Shazam turned around to see a shadow emerge behind him and felt a sharp pain like he never did before. It was the Crown of Antlers. It was used to cut Shazam across the abdomen. Then across the neck.
Shazam's hand went to his bleeding gut then throat and he gurgled, mute and stunned. Blood spurted and gushed to the ground. He gasped."Shazam..."
There was a flash of light and a young boy collapsed to the ground.
The First Born grinned and put back on his crown. The blood seemed to run towards his feet and be sucked up by his flesh and and tendrils sprouted again from his shoulders.
Superman's eyes widened in shock to see he was a child. Then they turned an angry red.
He slammed into First Born from the side. Taking him away from the young hero and up into the air away from the fleshy ground. They struggled. He used his laser vision to cut several of the tendrils trying to bore into his face.
Scott rushed to Billy and he pulled out his Mother Box to contain the boy's injuries. Barda rushed to them. "Oh, no! Scott, how bad is it?"
He lifted the boy and muttered, "We should have known better. I have to get him medical attention. Immediately! He'll bleed out. Mother Box will keep him alive for now. "
She nodded, looking at Billy with a guilty expression. "Steve will be furious. Go. I will stay to help."
He opened a boomtube and vanished. "I will try to get back if I can!"
Meanwhile Superman was hurtling across the London skyline with First Born at a great speed. He shouted in his comlink, "Diana, with me!"
Having rescued Flash, she replied at once, "I'm on you!"
He flung the Giant into the side of a building. The First Born went careening across an entire floor and out the other side only to meet Wonder Woman and the Aegis. She smacked him across the red sky with the shield. Superman was waiting to wind his arm around his neck and take him higher, away from his source of power. The intention was to take him to space, and the sun.
The First Born laughed and to Superman's shock he could see Olympus looming high above them, around them, below them. The sky was red and thick with dark clouds. Everywhere Superman turned he could see Olympus. The God of Olympus had a psychokinetic connection to the Throne and the Heavens. The son from the stars started to feel as if he was being closed in. No blue skies and yellow sunlight; it was an odd sensation for him. It made him feel almost nauseated and claustrophobic. .
"You seem to forget, Creature, this is my world now."
The First Born tore his fingers from his throat and body slammed Superman from the edge of the atmosphere into the upper level of Olympus itself.
Superman landed heavily face down onto what was once the Throne Room. He laid stunned.
He felt a heavy foot on his head, crushing him to the oozing ground. The First Born tore the cape from his back. "What is this made of? Where are you really from, Alien? Are there more like you?" He looked up at the heavens. "If there are more worlds to conquer, I will find them. But I shall feed on you now...slowly."
Tendrils began to spring from towards Superman to hold him in place.
The giant moved his hand towards a huge falchion that had been lying on the ground since the battle with Zeus. It flew into his grasp. He flung the cape aside and holding the hilt with both hands, raised it above Superman's spine.
"Now to gut you like a fish."
Before the Falchion could fall, a portal yawned and the lasso whipped around his neck and Wonder Woman gritted as she pulled him off Superman with all her might.
She emerged with Hermes behind her.
First Born roared, "Traitors! I am King here! My strength is at its pinnacle here!"
Diana gasped and found bony fingers and even tongues and prehensile tails curling around her ankles. She had to unfurl the lasso from his arm and throw it around a column to stop herself from being swallowed into the ground.
Hermes eyes clouded. "You've defiled this place enough!"
He flew at him, his clawed feet raking against his chest and leaving deep rivulets in his pocked marked, scarred chest. First Born fell backwards and received the end of the caduceus in the jaw, gut and back of the neck.
The tendrils from his shoulders began to wrestle the staff away from Hermes. The caduceus was flung aside as First Born rose, and slammed him to the ground, breaking his shoulder in the process. Hermes groaned in agony as the tendrils began to attach themselves to him to suck his life force out of him.
"This place is mine, Messenger. The Throne is mine! You are no match for me! No one is."
Diana grunted and pulled hard on the lasso and was up, hovering off the ground. She flung the glowing coils around the throne, that was now an oozy, mass of flesh , tendon, and bone and she whipped it at the Giant.
"You want the throne? Have it!"
It hit him from the back and sent him sprawling across the room. The tendrils slithered off Hermes.
Diana flew to where Hermes laid and tried helping him up. "We have to go! Let's take Clark and the caduceus and recoup."
Hermes' hand stayed hers. He gasped, "No! It has to end now! You cannot run anymore, Diana. Face him."
"Hermes...I don't know how to even...He's too strong...!"she began. She glanced over her shoulder to see First Born rise and looking extremely irate.
Hermes grasped her hand and whispered, "You are a daughter of Zeus, Diana. Just as his power is strongest here...so is your own. Claim it."
"Diana, it is no affront to the Amazons or your mother to accept that you are a child of two worlds. It is up to you now to know how to balance those worlds. You have a choice in how you use that power."
Diana's eyes widened as if she had an epiphany. She closed her eyes and recalled her mother and sisters. Most of her life she was loved unconditionally and she was who she was due to them. The fear of having tainted, divine blood run wildly though her veins, which had haunted her, suddenly receded. It was this blood that gave her the gifts she had and she believed in love, mercy, and compassion. She always would.
She rose to face the giant, her hands holding the glowing coils of the lasso and she raised it over her head. It glowed around her with a burst of light and she levitated into the air, no longer wearing the tiara, breast plate, pertuges, guards, bracers and boots.
She was bare footed and her hair had fallen from its confines and waved around her.
"I am the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus. " Her eyes turned white as lightning crackled around her.
"I am Diana of Themyscira. Princess of the Amazons. Wonder Woman. I'm here to fight for those that can't fight for themselves. Brother, I am sorry you were treated the way you were but attacking the earth will not bring you absolution, nor change the past. Please, stop now."
The First Born stared at her with piercing, greedy eyes, seeing her power come to the fore, made him concede grudgingly, "Of all my pitiful kin, you Half Breed, have been the only one to show some real spirit. You could join me. I still need a Queen to bear my children. We could conquer other worlds together."
Her eyes became the regular sea blue pools shimmering with stars and she said softly, "You will have to kill me first."
"Pity. I will oblige you."
The First Born roared and attacked. She took his initial punch, then let lose with one of her own, while moving agilely and side kicking him in the gut. He was sent sprawling into the split dais. She leaped at him, and the lasso whipped around his neck. His tendrils grappled with her and they swayed, pushing and pulling, across the wide expanse, wrecking columns, smashing into flesh riddled statues, and shaking the Olympus itself. Her legs scissored around his neck and using momentum and his own strength against him, she flipped him hard onto the floor.
Diana's eyes clocked the yawning Eternal Pit that was once the scrying pool. She gritted her teeth and wrapped the rest of the lasso around his body. She spun around using all her strength and sent him flying forward from the coils of the lasso. He sensed what she was going to do and his tendrils reached and grabbed onto her feet before he could fall into the depths. Diana's hands dug into the fleshy ground and she tried to keep herself from falling over the edge. She tried to resist him pulling her but the tendrils bored into her bare calf and hands and made her scream in agony. The lasso fell from her grasp.
Her nails began to trail along the fleshy ground as she was slowly pulled down.
"If I go, so do you!" he snarled.
Diana turned her head , she could see him beneath her dangling feet and the yawning, black chasm that was pulling them down once they breached its edge. He pulled, her nails tore as she tried to hold onto the sides. His hands finally could hold her feet. He was going to use her to climb his way out. She kicked him in the face and he momentarily let go, but the tendrils was digging into her flesh.
Diana head a shout above her. "Diana!"
She raised her eyes and she saw Clark leaning over the edge. "Take my hand!"
She stretched and reached for him. He grasped her fingers in own and stared at the tendrils on her. His eyes glowed red. The heat he emitted was like microwaves. The tendrils began to sizzle and bubble from within. They instantly released her. He heaved her over and onto the ground. The tendrils arched up and curled around Superman's arm and neck and began to drag him. He looked down and could see the First Born's eyes leering at him.
"I will not go alone!" the Giant swore. "I will climb out again even of it takes me another seven thousand years. I will fulfill that prophesy!"
The last son of Krypton took one more glance to make sure the woman he loved was safely away from the the Pit and he suddenly launched himself in, grabbed the First Born around the waist and propelled him further into the darkness.
"I'll make sure that can't happen."
The First Born screamed. "No! No! Noooooooooooooooooooooo!"
Diana's eyes widened in horror. "Clark!"
She limped to the edge and saw them vanish. She stared desperately into the abyss and almost made a movement forward when a firm hand came to hold onto her shoulders. She looked up to see the Hermes looking at her with a combination of warning and sympathy. He had retrieved his staff and healed his injuries with it. Superman's cape was in his hand.
"You cannot risk going after him. I am so sorry but he helped saved the world. Look."
Diana suddenly felt Olympus rumble as he helped her up. She took his red cape with the black S shield and held it to her chest. The fleshy, oozing construct of the First Born's began to recede. The pristine marble floors, dais, columns, statues, concourse, flowing fountains, rivers and gardens returned. The opaque sky reverted to the vast heavens showing stars, moons and galaxies. The throne that she had flung at the First Born laid on the vast floor, no longer covered in blood, and flesh but it was still split into two.
Diana felt relief for the world but her heart was breaking quietly. It was a feeling she realized as a hero she was going to have to get use to. Gaining and losing. It was the same feeling when she lost her mother and sisters and her island home. She pushed back all the bleak thoughts that threatened to consume her mind and focus on the situation at hand.
Hermes sighed. "Olympus has no ruler. The person to dethrone the First Born sacrificed himself. Zeus is not here. Hera is depowered."
Diana said dully, "Hermes, you were Zeus' right hand. You will have to be the steward of Olympus until..." She left the sentence unfinished. She did not even know what she even meant.
Hermes put an arm around her shoulder as if to offer some measure of comfort. "Kal-El is not dead. "
"Not yet. Who knows what he will become in the Darkness and Desolation. He is not a God like First Born, who can exist in limbo for eternity. In the end he will die for lack of access to solar energy." Her voice quivered but she swallowed hard to push the tears back. Now was not the time to wallow in loss or self pity. Clark had made the ultimate sacrifice. It was up to her and the League do their duty. London was in a mess, Steel was dead and a teenage boy was seriously injured.
She requested softly, "Get me back to Earth, Hermes, please."
Hermes nodded but first he touched her wounds with his caduceus and the holes in her fleshed healed. He opened a portal and they both vanished, leaving the once shinning, enlivened throne room of the Gods as quiet as a tomb.