Author's Note: I'll restate the important parts for those of you that missed the very first paragraph of the story. This story is set in DC's New 52 universe. This universe differs greatly from the one you are used to seeing while growing up. These aren't the characters you know everything about anymore. It's not the Justice League cartoon, nor is it DC video game, nor is it the DC online game. It's not even the Mainstream DC Comics that you may have read a little more than a year ago. Things have changed in the new mainstream comics.
Thank you very much for your continue support, comments, and reviews. They are always welcome.
We met on neutral ground, Starr Industries.
I spent some time scanning the entire area for any other League members, and Karen was true to her word, keeping it just between me and Kal-El with her as mediator. When I saw them both arrive in the morning, I went into the Deli across the street and purchased three cups of coffee, insuring one was decaffeinated for Kal. Granted, his Kryptonian physiology wouldn't be affected by any minor stimulant. That wasn't the point I was trying to make. Decaf tastes like crap.
This way, I look magnanimous by providing something to drink and still get to stick it to him in the end. It's petty, but after receiving the short end of the stick for the last couple of days, I was in a petty mood.
With the Death Cloak on and my hood up I rose ten stories in the air and tapped on Karen's window. It looked like she was expecting me. Kal flinched at the small conference table he was sitting at. It was obvious he didn't want to be there facing the guy that had publically embarrassed him a number of times already. There was no telling what I might do this time.
Try not to misunderstand how I think of him and his super buddies. They do a lot of good for the world. Having put their lives on the line for the people of Earth pretty much every day, they are certainly heroes in my book. It's just their treatment of me personally that I have a problem with. For the most part, Kal is a standup guy. His heart is firmly planted in the right place. It's his ego that needs to be taken down a couple of notches.
When Karen waved me inside, I phased though the window and handed her a cup of coffee.
"Two sugars and a dollop of cream," I said.
A little wandless levitation sent Kal's to him. "I don't know how you like yours, so you get black no sugar. It's fresh though. Brittany just made it. And for future reference for whoever is buying next time, I like my tea with a dollop of honey."
After taking a sip of hers, Karen nodded at me. "Thanks, Harry."
I didn't get a thanks from Kal as he set his cup to the side.
"It's not poisoned," I said. "Though you could probably drink straight bleach and only get a mild heartburn."
Karen waved me to the chair opposite Kal and took the one between us for herself. She was dressed in a simple but flattering suit skirt minus the accompanying jacket and Kal was in his super-duper blue armor and flowing red cape which wasn't doing much but dragging the floor.
She acknowledged my new silver ankh symbol with a raised brow and then a roll of her eyes when she understood the significance.
"Oh, yeah," I said somewhat dejectedly. "Since I'm done cleaning up the Black Lanterns, Death wants me to turn pro. So, I'm in the market for a sidekick. All the cool heroes have one."
"They don't let murderers become heroes," Kal said through clenched teeth.
Karen warned him away. "Kal."
"No, he's right. No murderers. But they do let attempted murderers and people who torture their victims wear that cape and patrol the US."
"Pardon?" said Karen.
I centered my ring on the middle of the table and started up the holo-display of Galaxy Inc. that I fished out of their CCTV archives.
"Let's call this defense exhibit A."
The scene was frozen in place. Police had flooded the CEO's office with weapons drawn and all pointed toward the Man of Steel who was balancing on the safety guardrail between the balcony and the outside world about seventy stories up. Above him, held in his hands was Glen Glenmorgan, the CEO of Galaxy Inc.
"This was, uh, about five years ago near the beginning of young Kal's pubic career as a vigilante. Back when he was causing destruction of several pieces of Metropolis real estate on a daily basis. My figures run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, but I could be wrong."
I watched Kal across the table rub at his forehead with closed eyes. Then I let the video proceed. The man of Steel tossed Glenmorgan off the side of the building and then followed, eventually catching him before he splattered against the pavement.
"Glen Glenmorgan was sixty-seven years old. He had a history of irritable bowel syndrome, several ulcers, and one recently diagnosed aneurysm in a vein above his stomach that was scheduled to be repaired later that week. Our so-called Superman here threatened to bounce him up and down from his office to the pavement until he confessed to bribing certain public officials, and using illegal cheap labor, I'm guessing sweatshops."
Karen's mouth dropped open as she looked back and forth between the holo-recording and her pseudo-cousin.
"Is this true?"
From the look on his face, she didn't even have to ask.
"Glenmorgan confessed," I said. "However, it never made it to court because of duress, and if I'm not mistaken there's still a warrant for aggravated assault and a pending lawsuit, but Supes here never shows up for court and they can't exactly extract money or a punishment out of an alien that doesn't even have a mailing address or a known bank account."
After the holo Man of Steel blurred away from the scene I stopped the playback.
"I've got a dozen of these cued up if you want to play who's a bigger lawbreaker."
"I'm not a murderer!" he almost yelled in frustration.
I tilted my head to the side and lifted my tea. "Not for lack of trying. I'm just lucky I had my shield up quick enough the other day."
"Kal," Karen said as she lifted her hand toward me. "I've talked to Harry, and I know why he did these things, which I've already told you about. At least he has a valid excuse."
"An excuse for murder?"
Another holo popped up with the vital statistics of the two Black Lanterns I killed.
"What you don't know about me, Kal-El of Krypton, is that I have inside information that you don't have access to."
He scanned the stats. "What's that? Expiration date? They're not jugs of milk that eventually goes bad. They're human beings."
I shrugged. "Pretty much the same thing, really. Everyone dies. I just happen to know when."
"Harry," Karen said. "Please don't make yourself sound any more unfeeling than you already are."
That took me by surprise. "You're misunderstanding me. I'm the avatar of Death – big D. Look," I said as I billowed my cloak dramatically. "Death Cloak, Death Stick, Death Ring. This is the business I deal in every day."
"You're being serious?" Kal said with a moderate amount of skepticism.
Figuring he's got some super way to tell if I'm lying or not, like Karen did, I gave him a quick nod. "About five years ago, she approached me and asked me to rid this universe of the Black Lantern because she and her family aren't allowed to interact with mortals except under the strictest of circumstances."
"Death's a woman?"
Karen shot a look at her pseudo-cousin. "You think a woman can't do the job?"
"Uh…." Kal was screwed. There was no correct answer to that question without getting pounded.
Since I was already winning this argument, I felt a tad generous.
"Yes, she's a woman. Destiny, Dream, and Destruction are men. Delirium, Despair, and Death are women. Desire is somewhere in-between. Those are all of the Endless. If you ever see one of them, it's best to just turn and run away. They can screw your day up for weeks no matter how powerful you are; just look at me."
"This is ridiculous," said Kal. "Beings like this don't interfere in the daily life of mortals."
I lifted my hand up to make a point. "Very true, except like I said before, in extreme circumstances. Case in point: Despair is the one that's to blame for the destruction of Krypton."
There was a snap of wood directly underneath Kal's hand, like extreme pressure had just come to bear on the table.
His voice dropped to a serious threatening level. "What do you mean?"
I glanced at Karen and she seemed to have an equal amount of interest in hearing the story.
"Despair lives for anguish and hopelessness; that's her whole purpose in being. She had a chat with Rao and convinced him how beautiful it would be for such life and technology to rise in such an extreme environment as Krypton, only to have it die out with only a single child left to mourn it. I suppose Rao wanted to see what it was like, so he exploded your red sun."
Pausing for dramatic effect, I leaned into the table and eyed them both.
"The Endless aren't like anything you could ever conceive of. Don't think that you can pigeonhole them into simple definitions or molds of higher powers that you've encountered or believe in. You'd be wrong every time."
It was easy to see he was angry at hearing what really happened to his home planet. Who wouldn't be? What was interesting was to see him reel it back in and look at me with something akin to wariness.
Something occurred to me as I was watching them try to make sense of something that was beyond their understanding. Then it clicked. I finally got why they were originally looking at me like I was some sort of killer for hire. Everyone always assumes that when they die everything is all over with. They couldn't be more wrong. Sure, a lot of people hope that there's something going on in the afterlife, but very few people actually know for certain.
"You do know that death isn't the end, right?"
He looked up at me and I caught Karen's full attention as well.
"The gods out there are all very real. What my boss does is escort the newly dead to their respective afterlife. If a certain god has a claim on a mortal – like when they're worshipped by them – then they get first dibs. It goes on from there. Hindu's get resurrected, Christians go to their corresponding Heaven or Hell, Greeks… well you get the idea. Even Rao is still out there. Think of it as moving from one adventure to another – kind of like what you've done."
The last part was directed at Karen as she gave the table more of her attention.
I whipped out the Elder Wand and reversed the Obliviation. "There; you can fly now. Can I assume that you won't try to kill me the next time we cross paths?"
Watching him think about making sure he knew how to fly was kind of humorous. "If I see you trying to kill someone, I'll intervene."
With a shrug I leaned back in my chair. "I don't have a problem with that. Except, try talking to me first instead of going for the kill yourself. That goes for your League buddies too, Clark."
His eyes flashed, literally a red color, and I grinned.
"Yeah, I know who you are and I can give that outstanding lawsuit some new teeth, along with Bruce and Diana and the rest of your bunch. Stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours."
Karen was behind her desk shifting papers here and there. "Was it necessary to threaten him at the end?"
I finished off the last of my tea and tossed the cup in the basket beside her desk. "Probably. I know his type, Karen. He's got real power, and the public, for the most part, loves him. That's not a real good combination. Every once in a while someone needs to keep him humble or else he'll start to get delusions of grandeur."
She looked up at me expectantly, so I explained.
"The headmaster of my magic school? Everyone thought that he was the most knowledgeable and powerful wizard in the world. Truth was they were right. The magic I've seen him do with a wand would amaze you. The thing is he was the leader of the legislative and judicial branches of our government, the leader of the organized world community, and also headmaster of our school. Nobody should have that much power."
She smiled knowingly. "I sense some history there."
With a nod I continued. "Everyone looked to him to solve all their problems, large and small. Close to the end of his life he made some seriously bad decisions that involved me. People paid the price with their lives. He admitted to his faults, but really didn't make up for them in any appreciable way. Now he's a Star Sapphire. Gag."
Karen was taken aback at that point. "I thought you said he was dead. Isn't that what end of his life means?"
I winced at my faux pas. "Uh…"
Her eyes narrowed in thought. "You've done this a few times, inadvertently saying things have changed like I should understand what you're talking about. What aren't you telling me?"
With a sigh I metaphorically kicked myself for not paying attention to what I was saying.
"You won't like it, Karen, and it won't do any good to know. You can't change it; nobody can."
"And now you've just teased me into wanting to know even more. You can't just say something like that and not tell me."
Looking around, trying to stall as much as possible so I could think of a way not to tell her, I gave up.
"Change into your super-suit and I'll show you. But remember, you're the one that wanted to be told. Don't go punishing me for your curiosity after you find out."
She gave me a minor glare for that. "It's a uniform, not a super-suit."
With a grin I shook my head. "Nope, that suit is quite super; ask any guy."
With a blur of motion from the desk where she stood to the adjoining room, Karen was back and looking remarkably – super.
Creating a bubble of protoplasmic energy, I encircled both of us and rose through the ceiling until we were clear of the office building and soring high in the sky.
"When I was seventeen and fighting for my life against the terrorist that killed my parents, I came across three ancient relics. One was my father's invisibility cloak that was passed down from father to son throughout the generations. Another was a stone that was fashioned into the setting of a ring. That ring was in the possession of the terrorist's degenerate family. The last was held by my headmaster."
Karen had her arms crossed underneath her breasts paying attention to what I was saying, word for word.
"When brought together they were eventually transformed by Death into something entirely different. That's one of the things I encountered before all of this happened."
"You're talking about those things you showed Kal, your Death Cloak…," she concluded.
"Right. The end of Voldemort was the triggering event that alerted Death of the Endless."
A few seconds later we'd reached the outer atmosphere of Earth. I stopped us and showed her the blackness of space, pointing in a certain direction.
"Sector 666 was where it started and where it had to change. Nobody except the Endless will remember what actually happened since they're the ones that changed everything."
"What do you mean by everything?" she asked.
"The universe, mine, yours, this one, all of them; they're not the same ones as they were five years ago. Destiny altered everything."
Karen leveled her stare at me. "You're saying that he changed the timeline?"
I chuckled. "No. Destiny has a book. It's really big and its contents are everything in creation. Every word we say, every life that is lived is contained in that book. He rewrote it with his power."
She blinked at me. It's a difficult thing to imagine. I get that. It wasn't like he took quill to parchment one day and started scribbling away. His magic made it all happen at once.
"Since I was the first person to find those three artifacts, it was my universe that was merged into this one, to give me incentive to accept the job. People that I once knew were changed. Some of the dead were brought back to real life and others never existed at all."
"What happened here?" she asked.
Turning us around, I pointed to Earth. "The worst of the Black Lantern's damage was overturned until it was simply a minor war instead of a universe altering machine that it once was. The heroes still remember battling them and winning, but a lot of lives were returned that shouldn't have been taken in the first place. That's why I was brought here and was allowed to retain my memories along with the knowledge of what was here as well."
"What do you mean?"
Using my ring, I flashed up another holo-recording. It was a Lex-Tube posting of Karen and her sidekick fighting some villain in New York. All of this was from the world before the change happened.
"I did my research last night to be ready for a number of questions that might be brought up. Before the change, you had a life here much like the one you have now. See, you have a partner in crime fighting and everything. Though why you're fighting a gorilla is anyone's guess."
We watched as it played out and the holo ended, bringing forth more questions than it answered.
"Are you saying that's why I'm here now?"
I nodded. "Yeah, I suppose. The details were changed though. In the last reality, your entire home universe was destroyed in some multi-reality crisis or something. You were the sole survivor."
Karen's face went ashen at hearing her world's fate. "But you made a… a portal…"
"Destiny set everything to rights, Karen, including your world and thousands of others. Everything should be as you left it, barring any normal changes that have happened since."
She looked back toward Earth, contemplating something.
"I spoke with Helena last night."
My brows lifted in curiosity. "And?"
Karen sighed and looked back at me. "When we left, her father, Kal, and Wonder Woman were killed in battle. She has no desire to return to that." Another thought raced over her face and she looked to me, hopefully. "You can't… I mean… can you bring them back?"
I blinked and realized what she was talking about before shaking my head. "That's beyond even Death. She can restore the recently deceased if there's a good enough reason, but… no. I'm sorry."
"What about the guy that did all of this?"
"Destiny? No, it would take something universe altering to get him to even consider it much less act. I've seen people punished for even asking him things like this and wasting his time. Think about Krypton and what happened there. You don't want their attention brought to something that you care about. There's no telling what might happen. Like I said before, it's best to leave the Endless to themselves."
"Well, I don't have much choice in the matter."
Her face soured, but I think she understood. "Take me back to the office, Harry."
I spent the rest of the afternoon in the deli keeping an eye on Karen. It wasn't the stalker side of me. I just felt that I heaped a whole lot of crap on the plate that was her life and I wanted to make sure she didn't do something stupid.
Two times she left dressed in her uniform to avert some minor disaster while I stayed firmly hidden, wrapped in the Death Cloak, and made invisible by the Power Ring. Afterward she'd return to resume her daily business.
It was quitting time when I saw her again, exiting the building and flying off. When I stepped out to see which way she went, someone tapped me on the shoulder. Kryptonians are simply too damn fast. They needed speed limits or something.
When I turned around to finally ask Karen to dinner, a white gloved fist had a close encounter with my face. This time I didn't have presence of mind to call for my shield or much of anything else as I wound up on the pavement blinking the pretty sparkles out of my eyes.
By the time I'd recovered, I was already imprisoned by a green bubble similar to the one I used on Karen and myself that morning, and a grinning Guy Gardner standing close by gloating at his newest acquisition.
"I guess I'm just not seeing the problem they're having with capturing you."
When I focused my eyes a bit more I tried standing up, but the confinement of the bubble kept me on my butt.
"I'm giving you one chance to let me go," I said. "Then I'm getting nasty."
Gardner, one of several Green Lanterns assigned to Earth's sector, tapped his chin. "Come on, ya pooser, give it your best shot."
The Elder Wand slipped into my grip and I flicked my wrist. "Engorgio Prostatus!"
The trick to getting past the shield of any color Lantern is knowing exactly what kind of charm to use. Mostly, it's one that doesn't cause immediate damage to the target. That's why curses don't work and most charms do.
Gardner's face took on an odd look of discomfort.
"In case you're wondering," I said. "That peculiar feeling you have down low is your prostate gland increasing to four times its normal size. Want to go for ten?"
He grunted and started to hunch over in an effort to relieve the pressure.
"No, huh? Okay. Aguamentus!"
That one was a Healer's charm to fill up the bladder of a person with saline for a tension test or something to that effect. I really didn't care. It's just a nice charm to use for a prank. It makes concentrating very difficult when you think you're going to piss yourself. Of course his enlarged prostate would prevent that.
Before I had a chance to offer another warning, the green bubble started to close in on me, a lot faster than I was comfortable with. With my ring, I halted the progress. I couldn't do much more than that because the shields tend to cancel one another out. If I really pushed it, I could probably break free, but we hadn't quite reached the point where I was needed to get overtly violent.
Flinging another Engorgio at him was enough to bring Gardner to his knees with a gasp. Sweat started to pour down his face as he slowly lost his concentration and the eventual release of his shield bubble was assured.
With a grin, I stood and waved my wand at him, canceling the charms.
Movement behind him let me know that Karen was witness to the entire scene, as she was leaning against the building with her foot kicked up against the wall.
"Having fun?" she said.
I shrugged, but didn't get the chance to reply before Gardner slammed into my midsection, tackling me to the pavement. I knew I should have petrified him.
His fist slammed into my shield a split second before he was able to land a second shot at my jaw. He actually snarled at me. You normally don't see that kind of reaction out of a human being, but there you go.
"It's some ring-slinging you want?" he said as some spittle went flying. "Well stand up and let's get it on."
Gardner backed away and let me stand. He had his fists up like I was actually going to box with him. I admit I'm a lightweight in hand to hand combat. Actually, I was kind of surprised I was still awake considering my glass jaw was throbbing where his ring had gouged me.
"I don't need my ring to deal with you."
Lifting up the Elder Wand, I was about to see how he'd handle a pair of fifty pound testicles, but Karen had finally chosen to interfere.
Gardner spared her a look accompanied with no recognition. "Wait your turn, or can't the kid fight on his own?"
She leveled a glare at him. "You need to check in with the Justice League. He's not wanted anymore."
The mild amount of surprise on his face was vindication enough.
"Ring," he said. "Confirm that last statement."
It didn't take more than two seconds for a reply. "Confirmed."
"But he's an effing Black Lantern!"
I sighed and made a holo of myself in the traditional Black Lantern uniform and stood it beside me.
"Is it me or do we look alike?" Pointing at the inverted triangle symbol on my duplicate's chest and then at my ankh I said. "Just because my ring is black doesn't make me automatically evil. I'm really getting tired of this."
"You can always change your colors," Karen remarked. "You have to admit that your costume leaves a lot to be desired."
Gardner split two finger of his hand apart and rocked them from his eyes to the direction of mine. "I'll be watchin' you."
Giving a swirl of my finger – not the nice one either – back at him I said, "Well, I'll be watching you watching me watching her. Who'll you be watching, Luv?"
Karen rolled her eyes and lifted off into the sky.
"You never did give me an answer about that sidekick job I offered you earlier."
My jaw wasn't red anymore as I look at myself in my bathroom mirror, but it still ached. While mortal wounds were a thing of the past with my new and improved immortality courtesy of Death, I still had to suffer the minor ones. I found that out the hard way when I arrived for the first time in Sector 666 to survey the planet where it all started with the Black Lanterns.
Of course, there were a handful of them there trying to repair the wreckage of the Main Power Battery. From what I could tell it was a fruitless effort. They had nothing to power it with. However, they still tried. The resurrected bodies of the dead didn't have much in the way of higher brain functions, so they toiled on with repetitive actions, following their last orders until the energy in their rings died off and their bodies along with them.
That didn't stop them from recognizing me and my fully charged ring. This is how I learned that curses didn't do much of anything against the protoplasmic energy of a Power Ring. Needless to say, I had my ass handed to me on a silver platter before I got away.
It took me a week to heal up and that's with the aid of magical potions. The healer I saw said with the amount of damage I had to my body, I should have been dead. I knew better. Death wouldn't come for me – ever. Not until that proverbial chair was stacked on the last table at the end of time.
Until then I'd have the ring to keep myself together until I found medical attention. I just hoped that I wouldn't have to wind up carrying my detached head into some hospital and have them reattach it at some point in my life. I kid. The ring could do it if needs be, but it would still hurt like a bitch.
After I took my shower, I slipped on a pair of boxers and lay down in bed.
I didn't need much sleep anymore, which was all sorts of annoying. It came in handy when I was shooting through the galaxy at odd hours, but on Earth I still worked on a fifteen to eighteen hour day. My mind grew weary and I tended to become irritable if I didn't get at least a few hours' sleep. Considering what I've been doing over the last few days, I certainly needed the rest.
"Incoming call from Katherine Bell."
I groaned and checked the time. Two and a half hours had gone by since the time I had closed my eyes.
"Katie, what's up?"
Katie was one of the lucky ones that got to keep her magic. She was a library assistant to Argus Filch at Hogwarts. Yes, that old bastard was still kicking, still a squib, and still just as cantankerous as ever. He simply had a different job. How Katie could work for him was one of those great mysteries of life. If I even cleared my throat in his library I was on his shit list for the day.
"Hey Harry," she said cheerfully. "Whatcha doin'?"
I smiled. "Laying here starkers in bed thinking about you."
She giggled lightly. "You are such a bad liar."
"What can I do for you, Katie?"
After clearing her throat in an obvious stalling tactic she finally got to the point of her call.
"The Headmaster wants to talk to you."
I jerked up in bed and stared down at my ring. "Uh…"
"Were you floating around her office window last night? She came to the staff meeting with the weirdest story and when she started describing the guy, it sounded an awful lot like the person who visits the library from time to time."
In retrospect I probably should have played dumb and said I was at Chelsea's all night, but I was still groggy and not really thinking straight.
"It was you!" she almost squealed into her phone. "Why does she want to talk to you, Harry? Tell me you didn't do anything pervy."
I coughed at the thought. "No, I didn't. Thank you very much."
"Well, she's waiting. How soon can you be here?"
That was a tad bit quicker than I expected.
"If you can. You're in the neighborhood, right?"
With a sigh I ran my fingers through my hair. "Give me fifteen minutes. I'll meet her in her office."
"Cool! I'll make sure the front door is open. The password to her office is Prongs. See ya, Harry."
Squeezing my eyes shut, I sat there for at least thirty seconds before barely opening one eye.
"Ring, give me the current location of James Potter former student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
"James Potter is deceased: October 31, 1981 and currently interred at Godric's Hollow, Wales."
Author's note: the Glenmorgan indecent was from Action Comics #1 and is canon New 52-verse Superman. The thing with Despair and Rao chatting is from Sandman.