Disclaimer: I do not own either Young Justice or its related characters. Such are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Cartoon Network. I'm just borrowing them for some non-profit entertainment.
Chapter One: Legacy
Like weary boxers who have gone the distance, the combatants collided in one last explosive effort.
In the years to come, a few witnesses would tell of the power of those final punches… that they could literally feel the shockwaves. Others will remember the enormous crater that resulted from the sheer force of the blows. But most will remember that sad day—
-As the day the proudest, most noble man they ever knew—
For those who loved him – One who would call him 'husband', one who would be his pal – Or those who would call him 'son' – This is the darkest day they could ever imagine. They raised him to be a hero… to know the value of sacrifice. To know the value of life.
And for those who served with the Superman – comes the shock of failure. The weight of being to late to help.
For a city to live, a man had given his all, and more.
On that day, a Superman fell.
16 Weeks Later…
The media swarmed on either side of the main entrance to the Hall of Justice. The only thing keeping the surging tides of people from rushing the heroes and their protégés were two velvet ropes that lined the walkway up to the door.
Most of the news anchors and other members of the press were content to simply watch and report. The procession of Batman with Robin, Aquaman with Aqualad, the Flash with Kid Flash and Green Arrow with Speedy, passing in the background of their cameras while they commentated into the lends. But there was also always that one that just had to out due the others. Usually, that one was named Lois Lane of the Daily Planet. Today, however, it was Vicki Vale from the day-time talk show 'The Scene'.
She marched right up to the velvet rope and stuck her microphone right out in front of the Dark Knight to ask, "Batman, any comment on the speculation that this admittance of sidekicks into the Justice League is an attempt to fill the hole left by Superman?"
The heroes both young an old froze at her question, looking between Ms. Vale and the Caped Crusader.
The Batman gave Vicki a long hard stare through the whited-out eye sockets of his cowl. Bruce Wayne had a dinner date with her later in the week, but he was suddenly considering a mysterious cancellation.
A movement in the crowd behind her drew his attention, however. Lois Lane, pen and pad in hand, was slowly shimmying her way to them. It had been only three months since Clark's death. It was cruel of Perry to send her on this assignment. Or, perhaps she had asked for it. That did seem to be a Lois-thing to do. Either way, this must be hard for her. There was no doubt in the Batman's mind that the very same question Vicki asked was also plaguing her mind. Were Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Speedy her fiancé's replacements?
The Dark Knight returned his attention to Ms. Vale and growled into the mic, his voice full of quiet passion and distant thunder, "Nothing can replace Superman."
The procession continued on. Into the Hall.
Speedy's tantrum and subsequent storming out left an awkward silence in the room. Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad all exchanged similar looks of hesitation. None of them knew what to do or say to get this 'induction' back on track.
Luckily, the life of a superhero is often interrupted.
The consol behind Batman sprang to life with a call from Watchtower and the image of Wonder Woman filled the screen. "Cadmus Labs has reported a fire."
The Caped Crusader drifted closer to the consol to address the amizon directly. "Mm, I had my suspicions about Cadmus-"
But he was cut off mid-sentence by Zatara appearing in a second, smaller, window on the main consol screen. "Attention all Leaguer! Wotan is trying to use the Amulet of Atem to block out the sun!"
Well, that certainly look precedence over a simple fire. (Or an un-simple fire.)
"It's a small fire." Wonder Woman was quick to assure everyone.
Then their mentors plus the Martian Manhunter and Red Tornado were all zettaing to rendezvous with the rest of the League, leaving their three remaining sidekicks totally alone and unsupervised.
Robin waited until the count of ten before he dashed over to the main consol and began typing madly away at the keys. He pulled up all the information the League had on Cadmus. A genetics lab, based here in DC. Independently owned. Funded by several anonymous donations. Very few publications of results, yet no decline in funding. No wonder Batman was suspicious!
"Dude! Did you just hack the Hall's computer?" KF appeared beside him –and somehow had a carrot in his hand, though the canteen was on the opposite side of the building.
"It's the same system as the Batcave." Shrugged the Boy Wonder, as if that alone should explain everything and Batman's computer software wasn't all that tough. He pulled up a recording the police dispatch for the fire.
"You are looking into Cadmus." Aqualad commented, coming up to stand at the Robin's other side.
"Yeah." He nodded. "If Batman's suspicious, we should investigate."
The atlantian gave a small smirk of understanding. He hadn't worked with the Boy Wonder as often as Kid Flash had, but he knew him well enough to know what he was thinking in this moment. "Solve their case before they do."
"It would be poetic justice." Robin nodded.
"Hey, those guys are all about justice." Kid Flash agreed.
And, just like that, the three of them were a Team on a mission.
"Uh, guys… You might wanna look at this."
KF pressed a button on the consol in front of him and lights flared to life over a single geno-pod. The pod was crowned by three creatures similar to the ones they had just escaped, but smaller. Each sealed within its own egg-shaped chamber. Below them, inside the actual pod – was a person.
Tall. Robin would guess him to be about six feet, maybe more. Muscular, everything was ripped and toned under the skin-so-tight-it-might-as-well-have-been-painted-on suit he was wearing. But he was young. Mid-teens. Younger than Speedy, but older than Kid Flash. Sixteen or seventeen, maybe. But the most striking feature… the thing that made all three boys stop and stare, mouth agape… was his face.
It was Superman's face.
Well, what they imagine Superman would have looked like as a teenager.
Robin recognized him instantly. He was the spitting image to Clark's high school yearbook photo. Cadmus had made themselves a new Superman. The man had been dead barely over three months and they were already crafting themselves a new one. Robin liked Superman too. He still had that bit of scrap-metal Clark had given him when he asked for his autograph. Clark was a good man. He deserved better than this.
Aqualad was the first to recover. "Robin, hack!"
The Boy Wonder blinked behind the whited-out eye sockets of his mask. "Huh? Oh, right."
He jacked into the console in front of them and began sifting through files and files. A clone of Superman. Made from DNA acquired from the scene of his final demise at the hands of the Doomsday monster. Force-grown to this stage of development in a period of sixteen weeks… All this he relayed to the other two, before compressing the files and saving the information to his glove. Bruce would want to go through it later when he was back at the Batcave. (After he finished his bro-rage temper tantrum, that is.)
Then Wally had to go and say, "They're making a slave out of Superman's… well, son!"
Forget the temper tantrum Bruce was going to throw at finding out his best friend had been cloned. What kind of fit would Lois pitch!? She was Clark's fiancée (his widow as far as the League was concerned) how would she react to learning that her fiancé had a pseudo-son?
And then, said pseudo-son opened his eyes.
When the trio came-to, they were shackled up inside pods of their own, the super-clone starring up at them.
Robin looked down at that crystal-blue stare and –oh, god! those were Clark's eyes! Well, of course they were Clark's eyes, idiot. He's Clark's clone. Come on, keep it together and stay whelmed. Free yourself first. Then you can have a little freak-out from the safety of the Batcave (while Bruce throws furniture around). And, oh god, my ribs!
The Boy Wonder wiggled and wriggled his wrist to work the pick he kept in his glove for this very purpose up to a position where he could manipulate it with his fingers.
"Stop starring!" Kid shouted. "Its freakin' me out!"
Robin just rolled his eyes. Great, KF. How about you not ticking-off the guy who can fry us with a look? Would that work for you? Or is that two hard? When we get out of this… no cookies for you!
"Kid, please." Aqualad attempted to pacify the anxious speedster. "I do not believe he is in complete control of his own actions."
At those words the kryptonian clone gave a slight groan. His hands balling into fists at his sides and, oh crap, here it comes! They were all gonna be burnt to a crisp courtesy of super-hot lazer eye-beams. Damn it, Kaldur! No cookies for you either!
And then… the clone spoke. "What if… what if I wasn't?"
That voice… Robin's hand almost paused in his task of picking the locks of his cuffs. That was Clark's voice. Younger, yeah. But that was still the same voice that had said to him, 'An autograph? Well, I better make it official.' He had only been nine years old at the time, but it was the first time he'd ever seen Superman up close, ever actually met the Superman! And Clark had smiled at him. Shook his hand. Humored his request for an autograph. Not just humored him, but gone above and beyond just a simple signature on paper and welded his name out on metal with his heat-vision.
"Holy George Taylor, Batman!" Exclaimed the Kid Flash. "He can talk!"
The clone's eyes narrowed at him. "Yes. He can."
Holy blabbering-blaberskite, Kid Flash, shut-up!
The clone then launched into a short monologue. Robin only paid half-attention. He almost had the first cuff open. The G-gnomes taught the clone telepathically. He could read and write. Spoke multiple languages. Knew the names of things… That was an interesting phrasing. 'The names of things'. Not, 'I know what things are called'. No, it was 'I now the names of things'. Sure, it was just semantics, but Robin loved semantics! It really illustrated just how new to the world the clone really was. And that caused something else to occur to the Boy Wonder.
"But, have you seen them?" He asked. "They sky or… the sun?"
Clark's power came from the sun. True, according to the files, the clone was still able to absorb sunlight even this deep under the Earth thanks to the solar-suit he wore. But… but it was dark down here, and Clark had always been about light and life. It was a cruelty to never let a copy of him –his 'son' as Wally called him- to never let him see the sun.
"Images are implanted in my mind." The clone repeated. "But… no. I haven't seen them."
And something inside the Robin broke just a little bit at hearing that. He imagined Clark never seeing the sun. "We can show you the sun."
"Uh… I'm pretty sure its after dark now, Rob." Kid Flash reminded him. "But we can show you the moon!"
Kr held the rubble up so as not to crush his liberators into mushy goo. The trio huddled around his feet, trying to take up as little space as possible. Knees bents, muscles straining under the weight of a building collapsing under him, he waited until he felt mo more movement.
It was all so new. The action. The battles. The excitement. Was this what it was like to be him?
When all was still above them, Kr straitened. Lifting with his legs, he propelled the debris off them and for the first time in his short life was exposed to the outside.
Warm summer air wafted around him. Though it was early July, the air was still cooler than the caverns of Cadmus had been. And there was a breeze! Airflow! Real airflow. Not created by automated fans and oxygen recyclers. This was the air of the world. Nitrogen, oxygen and argon –air. Also, nitric oxide and dioxide, and sulphur dioxide –smog. Kr sniffed, wanting to preserve this moment in his memory for years to come.
Then, the Kid Flash said, "See? The moon."
And he pointed to a large globe glowing silver-white in the sky. It hung low over the cityscape, and very, very big. Shades of white and gray playing over its surface. Craters pot-marked its face. The Sea of Tranquility stared down at him, just as he was staring up at it. The moon. Terra luna. Earth's only natural satellite and the closest celestial neighbor. Kr felt almost like he could reach up and grab it if he tried. Had he been to the moon? Had he stood on its surface?
But then his vision of it was partially blocked, his attention captured instead by a series of silhouettes drifting down from the sky around them. As they drew closer Kr began to recognize them from the images the G-gnomes implanted in him. Captain Atom. Hawkman. Wonder Woman. Hawkwoman. Green Lantern (the first one). Black Canary. Aquaman. Green Lantern (the second one, public identity: John Stewart).
The Caped Crusader was silent a long time. They all were. But it was the Batman that Kr's attention fixed on. He felt like the man wasn't just looking at him, but studying him. Dissecting him with his eyes behind that cowl. Taking in his ebony hair, the luminous crystal-eyes of a shade of blue not found on Earth, the high cheek bones, the square jaw, and, of course, the S-shield on his chest. Bold in red over its background of white.
Would the Dark Knight invite him to join the League? After all, now that Superman was dead, that meant that Kr was the Superman now. It was only natural that he join the Justice League.
Then those whited-out eyes flashed for a moment as the Batman shifted his attention from the clone to the Robin standing behind him. "Start talking."
He did not even acknowledge Kr!
And so, the Boy Wonder explained with occasional help from Kid Flash and Aqualad. Through out all of it, the Caped Crusader did not pay him a second glance, not even for a moment. Kr listened as well, with growing irritation. He learned about the fire Dubbilex set to draw them there, how he was made from DNA collected from the sight of Superman's death, grown in three months, Superman's replacement… All the while, Robin kept calling him 'Superman's clone' or just 'the clone'.
Finally, Kr heard enough and was sick of being ignored.
"That's it!" He shouted suddenly. "Stop calling me that! If Superman's dead, then I'm Superman now!"
It was then that the Batman turned his attention back to Kr. He crossed the distance between them and stared down at the self-proclaimed 'Superman'. Kr had never imagined such a frightening glare before, let alone ever seen one. Half of the man's face was obscured by the cowl, all he could really see was that lower half of face, the mouth set in a grim line. But those blank white eyes seemed so much more intimidating than they had a moment ago. Kr knew the name of this feeling –fear. The G-gnomes taught it to him. But he never thought he would be one to ever feel it. But, even with all his kryptonian abilities, the Batman scared him.
And then, the Dark Knight spoke. Just one sentence. Voice low and gravely. Hinting at deep emotions suppressed and silent rage just barely held by a frail leash of discipline.
"You are not Superman."
(A/N: The monologue at the beginning was taken directly from the "Death of Superman". I thought it would make a better opening than a long battle or overly simple "One day, Superman died." Plus, I'm lazy and it was easy.)