The time: twenty fours after the battle scarred Lex Luthor of the future unleashed the Exobytes upon the Earth.

The place: the Justice League Satellite called the Watchtower.

The people: Bruce Wayne of Gotham, Kal-El of Krypton (though he seldom thought of himself as such) and Princess Diana of Themyscira. As Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman they had been the world's greatest heroes for years. They were the ones that all others looked to for guidance in the darkest of times. With the world forever changed, they were the ones who were expected to lead the way into the future.

"This is an unmitigated disaster," Bruce growled, slamming his fist onto the table. "As if we didn't have enough problems, Luthor has unleashed a metahuman plague on the Earth. We could be facing dozens of Killer Frosts, hundreds of Killer Crocs, thousands of Parasites …"

"Or we could find ourselves blessed with thousands of new allies," Diana objected. "New brave men and women who will help us protect the Earth from the myriad threats that threaten it. Must you see everything new as a threat, Bruce?"

"That's because it usually is," Bruce said grimly.

Kal-El said nothing. He had said little since Lex had brought his message of doom and his "gift" of power. Typical Lex. When all else fails, upset the apple cart.

"They could be a mighty army of good!" Diana looked at her companions. Bruce seldom let any emotion show on his face, but normally she could read Kal-El like an open book. Tonight … tonight Kal was as much a sphinx as Bruce.

"An army," Bruce's voice was soft, dangerous, "is exactly what Lex wants. With these new metas to watch out for, we'll have less time to keep an eye on his schemes."

"You don't think he was telling the truth?"

"About the invasion? About killing you?" Diana was surprised to detect something like … feeling in Bruce's words. In circumstances less dire, she would have smiled: try as he might to deny it, there was a place in Bruce's heart for Kal-El. "No. There was a method to this madness, but it was madness. Future Lex did this because he saw no other choice. The thing he was lying about is that he was doing this to save the Earth. Lex Luthor does nothing that doesn't benefit Lex Luthor."

"What do you propose we do these with these new metas, Bruce? Lock them up for the simple crime of being unfortunate enough to be fall victim to Brainiac's exobytes? To Luthor's schemes? Destroy them for the sin of being a possible threat in the eyes of the Great Batman?" Diana knew there was anger in her voice, but she couldn't help it.

No one in Heaven or Hell or all the worlds in between could get under her skin like Bruce Wayne.

(Something she was careful not to think about too much.)

"Don't be ridiculous," Batman snapped at her. "That's not what we do. That's not what I do." His lips tightened. "That's more along your line, Princess…"

Max Lord again. Would she never be free of that accusation? To have her dearest friends—the ones she had executed Lord in the first place to save—constantly berate her was almost more than she could bear …


Kal-El rose from his char and looked at both of them. "Batman is right about one thing. There will be men and women among the new metas who abuse their gifts, who use them to satisfy their desire for revenge, for money, for power … ones who will stop at nothing to get what they want. We have to be ready for them.

"But there will also be heroes."

It was moments like these that made Diana wondered if divine blood coursed through Kal-El's veins. Most of the time, he seemed content to be thought of as a simple man, a reporter, a farmer's son. She most often spoke for the League in public just as Bruce was the one that most often directed the League's battle plans. Kal-El would stand in the background and do what he was asked to do, saying little or nothing about the situation they faced. Sometimes she could almost believe him when Kal said that he was an ordinary man with extraordinary powers …

But in moments like these… moments when their path seemed unclear, when Bruce's nature and hers threatened to render the League helpless in the face of a new threat …

In moments like these she remembered why the League—why the world—looked to Superman over all other heroes.

"There will be heroes. There will be men and women who rise above their worst impulses to help others. People who will want to do the right thing. The League will help them find their way. We will help them get on their feet. We will give them the support they need to reach their fullest potential. The League will help them—and we will help them."

"'We'? As in us three? You remember that I don't play well with others, right, Clark?" There was a smile on Bruce's face—a slight smile, but it was there. If there was one person alive (other than Alfred) who could make Bruce smile, it was Kal-El.

"Of course I remember, Bruce." Kal-El smiled in return—it was the bright, optimistic smile that made you think all things were possible. That nothing was hopeless as it seemed. "I also know you've never shied away from doing what was necessary."

Bruce said nothing for a moment. "All right. I'll have something worked out by tomorrow morning. You two had better get some sleep. Class starts early tomorrow, and we're all going to have a lot of students to look after."

Bruce—now purely the Batman once more—turned and left them.

Kal-El walked over to the observation deck and stared at the fragile blue world beneath them.

Diana walked over to him and took his hand and gave it a comforting squeeze. "Kal, we will stop Brainiac. We will stop Luthor." I can't lose you again. I can't. "We will defend the Earth."

"Yes we will, Diana." Kal didn't look at her. He looked at the world beneath them. "And so will the new heroes.

"I hope."

And beneath them, a troubled world awaited the dawn of a new age of heroes and villains.