1 Week Later
Goooood Morning Metropolis!
Waking up with Channel 13 – Your Home for News for the City of Tomorrow! This is Heather Shaw, reporting!
[Footage of auto traffic with Metropolis skyline in background]
Life in Metropolis is returning to normal as scientists are explaining last week's mysterious phenomenon, now known as "Black Star Day," as an extremely rare but harmless atmospheric event. Also, the reappearance of the Justice League, particularly Metropolis' very own Superman, after an absence of several months contributed to the enormous feeling of relief by many people all over the world.
[Footage of fires, rioting and panicked crowds, army vehicles and flashing police lights]
The Justice League, assisting law enforcement, National Guard and other international agencies, contributed to the remarkably low casualty rates during the anomaly, which lasted for almost 24 hours. Approximately 200 people are believed to have lost their lives during this event due to accidents or because of terrorist and criminal elements taking advantage of the chaotic conditions.
[Footage of the Justice League aiding in rescue and relief efforts. Closeup of Hawkman taking down a gang armed with handguns, AK-47s, Superman lifting a dangling 18-wheeler from an overpass]
Cut to an unidentified African-American male: "Man, I thought it was the end times coming or something like that. My whole family and I were like, 'Where's Supes?' Then we saw him fly by, and just seeing that 'S'…well, that saved my life right there, y'know? We needed to see that. [to the camera] Hey, Supes! Don't be a stranger, know what I mean? We need you!"
[Stock footage of the White House]
Despite many questions that remain about the Black Star Day, the government denies that there was any involvement by hostile extraterrestrials or metahumans. The President so far has not commented on the involvement of the Justice League in this and prior incidents.
And now to other news: Wall Street took a nosedive and is only sluggishly rebounding…
Clark shut off his laptop. He'd already heard the news enough times since his return. At the same time the portal (or door, whatever it was) to Carcosa had closed, the skies over Earth had returned to normal, the darkness and the mysterious black stars vanishing. Communications were restored as if nothing had happened.
Batman had wasted no time, of course, despite what he'd been through. He'd immediately gone into action, instructing all available League members to do what they could to restore order. The only League member who had been negatively affected during the event was J'onn J'onzz, but he'd recovered fully from the equally mysterious paralysis that had rendered him unconscious.
Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Huntress, and the others had gathered in the Hall of Justice for debriefing.
"It was a powerful psychic field, perhaps," the Martian Manhunter had explained of what had happened to him, although he was still a little dizzy. "My neural systems were impacted – fortunately, only temporarily."
"You're not permanently injured by the attack?"
"No, and that's one thing: I do not think it was an attack, as such," J'onn replied thoughtfully. "It was just…an affect. A by-product of whatever was happening on Themyscira."
"What can we do if it comes back, um this…Hastur?" Oliver asked. "What if the same thing happens again?"
Zatanna shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Bruce saw her through the corner of his eye. She had been quiet ever since their return, although he sensed she wanted to talk to him, alone. For some reason he'd avoided that.
"I don't think it will," Bruce replied. "At least not through that gateway. My cousin saw to that...I think. But we should stay vigilant anyway."
"For what?" Dinah asked. "I thought you said this was over."
"Someone used Steve Trevor to open the gateway," Batman looked at everyone closely, letting his words sink in. "He – or they – is still unknown to us. That's a present and unknown danger."
"But what happened to him? I don't understand."
"Neither do I, not totally, but it seems clear he was possessed for a while…"
Wonder Woman barely heard what Batman said next. Like Zatanna, she'd said little. She sat by Clark's side at the table, thinking of the time when she had first met Steve, when his plane crashed on the shores of Themyscira.
She had raced to the scene, ignoring the calls to wait by her mother and the Bodyguard. It was something new, unusual, she was too excited to wait, to see something new. Then she saw the flaming wreckage, and then, him, the first male she ever saw, dangling from a palm tree by some sort of contraption, later she learned it was called a 'parachute.' Her heart pounding, she ran up to the man. Then he cut himself free, and lay stunned on the sand. He'd looked so young then, although he was in his thirties. When he saw her he had smiled, no fear whatsoever.
"An angel!" he'd said happily. "To my rescue! Hi, gorgeous!"
She was seventeen years old, then. She still remembered that smile. Then, the years had passed, so fast it'd seemed. She defied her mother and sisters to go to Man's World with him, risking everything. They'd been close, very close, then somehow drifted apart. Steve grew prickly, sour, then distant; she'd realized only too late how much she'd hurt him with her rejection, her request to be only 'friends.' Then he'd disappeared altogether. While Batman was impassive about happened to him, Diana knew that he didn't deserve it, his fate.
Wordlessly, she got up and left. The other members watched her in silence.
Batman looked at Clark, who got up quickly.
"Diana will be ok. I'll be in touch," was all he said. Then he'd followed after her.
Clark hadn't known what else Bruce had debriefed the rest of the League on. He and Diana returned to the Fortress; they still needed to mend, both physically and mentally. They needed to take care of their son.
Jon was fine, to their great relief. As Clark expected, Earth's sun healed his son just as it did him. He wanted nothing more than to lock himself (and them) in the Fortress for a few months, but to his surprise, it was Diana who objected.
"No. We should be out there helping, reassuring people that we didn't abandon them. We've been gone for too long."
"You ought to rest," Clark had said in concern. "You haven't had any since you gave birth."
Diana had only fixed him with her unmovable look. "I'm fine, Clark. I can…rest when we're finished."
Clark saw that it would be useless to argue with her. It was evident she didn't want to talk about it, not then. Perhaps it was her way of coping with her loss. They alternated shifts so that one of them would assist the Justice League, and the other stay with Jon. Diana was right, it seemed to work – everywhere people were happy and relieved to see them back. Magazines and talk shows speculated on their absence, everything from a breakup to a top-secret mission, but surprisingly, no one even came close to guessing the truth. Which was a relief to Clark.
Diana threw herself into her work, and was all business; even the other League members knew not to ask prying questions, other than to ask how the baby was. When she was at the Fortress, she tended to the baby devotedly, not leaving him alone for a moment. From Kelex, Clark knew that when he was gone, Diana would sit alone with Jon and not speak for hours, just stare absently at the wall while she nursed or rocked the chid.
Finally, after four or five days of this, he knew he had to broach the subject. He caught her as she was dressing herself.
"Yes, Clark?" She was putting on her tiara.
"I…think we should have a talk. Don't worry about your shift, Hawkgirl agreed to cover."
Clark sat down next to his wife in their bedroom in the Fortress, as she slowly put the tiara aside. Jon lay snugly in a specially designed cradle that hovered over the floor. For a moment, Diana's face seemed to cloud in disagreement, but it passed.
"Yes…perhaps we should," Diana looked at her husband. "Do you think I should be grieving?"
"You haven't said anything since we've come home," Clark said, worried. "About…Themyscira."
"This is my home, isn't it," Diana looked down at the thick carpet beneath her bare feet. "What is there to say? Themyscira is gone, just like Krypton is for you. I-I'm an orphan like you too. I don't think I've really understood that before."
"What about…the Amazons?"
For a long moment Diana said nothing. Jon stirred in his cradle, began to fuss. She picked him up, bounced him on her knee and he gurgled happily.
"You are my life now, you and Jon. I have to think that," Diana looked at him sharply. "The Amazons…I thought after what you endured at their hands, you wouldn't want to think of them ever again."
"It wasn't all bad," Clark said. "I mean, I liked meeting some of them, Dierdre, her kids, Selene…and those Getai! Those were some crazy people…"
Clark almost laughed at his memories, then he noticed the tears finally coursing down Diana's cheeks. Clark put his arms around her, and she leaned into him; he felt her shoulders shake in his arms as she finally gave way to her emotions. Weeping was not easy for her. He could count the times he saw Diana weep on one hand. For a moment, they sat like that together, the three of them.
"We always said," Diana whispered. "Of the Amazons who didn't go with us to with Themyscira, who stayed in Man's World…they assimilated with other tribes, became weak and submissive, they lost their identity as Amazons, even the memory of what they once were. Will that happen to me…?"
"You are still an Amazon, Diana," Clark said firmly. "Listen to yourself: would you ever forget who you are? You are the strongest and bravest woman I know!"
Diana looked up at him through her tears, tried to smile. "Only the strongest and bravest woman?"
"Well…we have to leave something for Batman, don't we?"
Diana couldn't help but laugh. Seeing her smile sent relief through him, but then her face crumpled again.
"When I left Paradise Island, I was so happy to get away from my mother, I always tried to make some space from her, and now that she's gone…" her voice trembled. "I think of her all the time."
Clark nodded. "I think of my mom all the time. The pain never goes away, you just manage to live with it, day by day. But you do live," he said. "Hippolyta wanted you to live. That much I know."
Diana leaned against Clark's chest for awhile, the tears trickling down her cheeks. He let her, knowing that she would not allow herself to show such emotion like that again. It felt good to be strong for her, since usually it was she who was his rock.
"What shall I do now? I'm no longer an Amazon Princess."
"You're still a Princess. To me. To millions around the world," Clark squeezed Jon's foot. "To Jon."
"Jon," Diana murmured. "Did you name him after your father?"
Clark grinned. "Jon-El was the founder of the House of El. The first one who called our house the house of Hope. He left a great legacy," he tickled the baby, and he gurgled louder. "He'll be a new part of it, he can create his own legacy."
"Create a legacy," Diana repeated. She wiped her eyes and sat up, silent.
"What are you thinking?" Clark asked curiously.
Diana looked at him. "When are you going back to work?"
Three Weeks Later
I heard that you're settled down
That you found a girl and you're married now
I heard that your dreams came true
Guess she gave you things I didn't give to you
Old friend, why are you so shy?
Ain't like you to hold back or hide from the light
I hate to turn up out of the blue, uninvited
But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it
I had hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded
That for me, it isn't over
Never mind, I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you, too
Don't forget me, I beg, I remember you said,
Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead
Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead
"Lois! Someone's at the door!"
"I got it, Mom!"
Perfect timing, Lois thought as she turned down the radio, and leapt up from her desk. She hurried to the front door. She opened it, a smile already on her face.
"Clark! Hi! It's been too long!"
Her former partner at the Daily Planet stood on the front step, looking just as he had last time she'd seen him, with his slightly tousled black hair and casual dress: only this time he was wearing a Baby Bjorn carrier on his chest, with a sleeping dark-haired child snugly tucked into it.
"It's good to see you too, Lois. Welcome back." Clark said, adjusting his glasses as Lois enveloped him in a hug.
"Oh my God, is this your baby? Hi there, baby!" Lois gasped in wonder at the little boy. "He's too gorgeous! What's his name? How old is he?"
"Jon Kent. He'll be a month old in a few days," Clark stepped into Lois's apartment, looking around at the boxes. "Looks like you're almost done moving."
"I'll be out of here soon. California, here I come! I'm so glad you came by today, my mom's here to help and she's driving me nuts..."
Just then Ellen Lane stepped out into the hallway, a tall, slender woman who closely resembled her daughter (except for her shorter, graying hair) and her eyes widened.
"Oh my! Clark Kent! I haven't seen you in ages!"
"Hi, Mrs. Lane. Um, is Mr. Lane around?" There was a hint of trepidation in Clark's voice.
"Oh, goodness, just call me Ellen! I thought I told you that the first time we met! No, Sam's at work, something very top-secret, I'm sure as always. Oh…what a lovely baby…is he…yours?"
"Mom!" Lois said. "Of course it is! Whose else would it be?"
"Well, I just asked. Of course he looks so much like you Clark. That's such a…nice thing for you."
"This is Jon Kent, he's my firstborn," Clark said proudly.
Ellen Lane took in the sight of her daughter standing close to Clark, with the adorable baby on his chest, and the what-might/could/should-have-been was just too much for her.
"Why, that's so nice for you. I'm so happy…oh, Lois!" She rushed from the room.
"Is your Mom ok?" Clark said concernedly.
"She's fine!" Lois snapped. "She's just having one of her 'moods.' Nothing a good shot of reality wouldn't cure! Let's go into my office, we'll have more privacy."
Lois escorted Clark to an almost cleaned-out office, where a desk and two chairs were the only pieces of furniture. She sat on the other side of the desk, driving home to Clark that he wasn't just here on a casual call. He unhooked Jon from the carrier and handed him to Lois, to her delight. Jon sleepily opened his eyes and stared wide-eyed as Lois began to rock him gently.
"So….how is Diana? When are am I going to meet her?"
"Oh, well, she's…busy. She has her own job."
"Really? What does she do?"
"Oh...that's cool. California should be just the place for her then!" Lois looked closely at Clark. "You are planning to relocate too?"
"You do want the job, don't you, Clark? I heard from Jimmy that you turned down a job with Wayne Enterprises. You could have made some serious bank there, working in their corporate office. Why didn't you take it?"
Clark stifled a grimace. Why had he ever mentioned that to Jimmy? Trust him to blab to Lois as usual. It was true Bruce had offered him something 'just to tide him over,' but he'd made the offer so offhandedly (like he was giving away a bag of chips) that it rubbed him the wrong way and he'd turned him down flat. When Diana found out about it she took the opportunity to remind him that they had no place to live (the Fortress didn't exactly count, and she'd sold her London flat) and a new baby to feed. As if he didn't know! In fact, it was was amazing Jon was even sleeping through this, since usually…
"You know I'm just not the corporate type, Lois. Anyway, about the job…I'd love to be your Public Affairs person, you know I've got a lot of new ideas…"
"Yeah, I'm sure you do, but it's actually not PAO, it's PA - as in personal assistant."
Clark blinked. "Your…personal assistant?" He said slowly.
Baby Jon, perhaps sensing something of his father's consternation, began whimpering. Lois rocked him harder, still talking.
"I mean, just temporarily, for my book tour."
"Yes, didn't you guess? My new book about my time on Themyscira! It's not due to be published until next month and it's already been projected to reach #1 on the bestseller lists! My publisher is scheduling fifteen major cities, plus some speaking engagements at universities. It's going to be a whirlwind tour and advance word is really positive! Tyresa offered to lend me her assistant but she's so busy herself I didn't want to impose (besides her assistant's kind of a bitch) and you know, it's just until my - I mean, our - company gets going. I know you need some work, with the new kid and all. I mean, it's nothing you can't handle, you'd just be doing some housekeeping stuff and helping me out with the travel and hotel arrangements…"
Jon began crying softly: "Waaawahhhwahhhh….."
"Hey, what's wrong little guy?" Lois began cooing at him, in-between describing how he would drive her around and make sure they were on schedule, and a dozen other miscellaneous tasks.
Clark barely heard her, or the baby. He suddenly had an extremely vivid image in his head of Lois, in full Amazon armor, holding a Starbucks cup in one hand and a whip in the other, shouting down at him:
"Damn it, Smallville! I asked for a venti mocha java latte vanilla swirled cinnamon machiatto caramel dark roasted espresso with whip cream on ice with almond milk and this is a venti mocha java latte vanilla swirled cinnamon machiatto caramel dark roasted free espresso with whip cream on ice with SOY milk!! Weren't you LISTENING?"
"What?…yes…I'd love the job. It'll be fun," he forced a smile on his face. "It'll be just like old times!"
Jon was now in full force, as Clark and Diana knew very familiarly by now.
"Sounds like somebody needs to go down for a nap," Lois observed.
"He's just tired," Clark said quietly. "Look, Lois…thanks for the job. I mean it. It'll be good to be back at work…at-at anything."
Lois beamed. "Thanks, Clark! I knew you would agree! The prep starts next Saturday. I'll email you the full itinerary so you can study it."
Clark swallowed. "So…what will my first job be?"
Just then, Jon made a very loud BRRAAPP sound and then gurgled contentedly.
"Well," Lois said mildly. "Your kid just puked all over my Alexander McQueen jacket so you can start by taking it to the cleaners."
My boy! thought Clark.
A few minutes later, Lois watched Clark leave from her office window, the baby back in his carrier, and her soiled jacket in his hand. She thought he was walking slightly hunched over, in that typical way of his, so that he didn't look so big…now why would he do that when no one was watching? Lois couldn't help a smirk cross her face at that moment.
Fool me for years, will you Smallville? Thought you could pull the wool of the eyes of a Pulitzer Prize-winner, did you? Hah! 'Smallville' my ass!
Well, he had pulled the wool over her eyes, thought Lois ruefully. For years. It was mortifying, embarrassing. Why hadn't she picked up on the clues earlier? She hadn't realized until that moment in the cave, when she'd stabbed him. Even then, she was probably still in denial. What gave it away was just…the way he looked, that stunned helpless look, only this time he wasn't faking it. Only the excitement and fear kept her from realizing it then. It only really hit her when she was coming home. She thought of all the things she'd said about Superman in Clark's presence, both sober and not (including what she'd like to do to the Man of Steel, when she got him alone to herself) and blood rushed to her face. Of course he'd never said anything. Even as she, deep down, understood why he'd deceived her, it was still galling.
Now, though, she would consider creative and fun ways to make him pay for his deception. Starting with her book tour! It would be immensely enjoyable!
First though, she had some things to do.
"Mom, are you ready?" Lois called out, putting on a clean jacket.
"Yes, Lois, I'm just getting my purse."
The older woman joined her at the door, looking like she was on one of her shopping trips.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Lois asked.
Lois knew that her mother had recently resigned her post as President of the American Christian Officers Wives Association. Ellen had only said she decided to cut back on her volunteer work to "spend more time on family." But Lois had gotten good scoop that, at the last convention, the Vice President had approached Ellen at the lunch buffet, and announced that it was a surprise Ellen would show her face there, considering her "sodomite daughter was consorting with a godless demon-possessed pagan" (presumably she was referring to Wonder Woman). Ellen had responded by calling the VP an "old whore" and shoved her down a flight of stairs. Ellen Lane had a very short temper when it came to her family.
"Of course I do, darling, it sounds really interesting! But are you sure there won't be anything…painful involved?" Ellen asked as they walked to Lois' Prius.
"No, Mom. It's totally safe!"
"Not that I couldn't take it though," Ellen added somewhat haughtily. "I've been attending my pilates class twice a week now, and I started this new diet…"
As Ellen rambled on about her gym class and paleo diet, Lois suddenly thought of mothers, daughters, and what was lost on Themyscira. Abruptly, she hugged her mother, surprising the older woman. Lois was not a touchy-feely type, something she made clear very early in life.
"Thank you for doing this, Mom."
"Oh, well...yes, yes, I'm sure," Ellen said uneasily. She wasn't the touchy-feely type either. "Well…let's get going, Lois. You know we have to get back in time for dinner with your cousin Lucy later."
"Of course." Lois couldn't stand her cousin, who could easily pass for a Kardashian.
They drove away from Metropolis, past the outlying suburbs, taking the exit towards a small lakeside community about 50 miles beyond the city. They turned off the major roads and onto a small yet well-maintained dirt road, heading to the lakeshore.
"Where are we going?" Ellen asked curiously.
"You'll see." Lois said.
Eventually they pulled up to a large house, tucked away along a bend of the shore; it was rustic-looking and looked to have some history behind it. A number of other vehicles were already parked there.
"It seems there are a lot of people already here," Ellen remarked as they got out. "I hope we aren't late."
"We're not, we're just in time."
For the first time, Ellen looked a little apprehensive. "Will there be anyone we…know there?"
Lois stifled an urge to roll her eyes. Her mother and her worries about appearances! "No, I don't think so! But I hope you will make some new friends."
Not looking entirely convinced, Ellen followed Lois up a gravel path and into the house; the door was open. It seemed Lois already was very familiar with the place, Ellen thought. They entered a high ceiling room, comfortably and tastefully furnished with antiques and statuettes, a warm fire burning in the central, circular fireplace. Lois could tell even her mother was impressed with the interior decorating. There were 10 or 12 people standing around talking casually, all women. Ellen hardly had time to take everything in when someone excitedly called her daughter's name.
"Shaniqua! Alicia!" Lois rushed forward and embraced her friends. "I'm so glad see you again! Mom, these are the ladies who were on Themyscira with me."
"Hello," Ellen said, staring at the tall black woman and the shorter Chinese woman. They looked like an odd couple. "I'm pleased to meet both of you. I'm sorry to have heard of what happened to the…the other person who was with you."
"Lois is helping us with the scholarship fund in Maggie's honor," Alicia Yu explained. "She's donating her book proceeds to it. It'll help provide scholarships for so many kids."
"Well, that's wonderful," Ellen said, turning to her daughter. "I never knew you were so charitable, Lois!"
Shaniqua and Alicia barely concealed their grins as Lois glowered. "Mom, I've always donated to charity, all the time."
"Well you've never told me…"
"Oh, you have to meet our hostess," Lois pulled her mother over to a sofa, where three women were seated, with the one in the middle having bright shock of ginger hair. "Hey, Vanessa!"
"Lois!" The ginger girl jumped up and hugged her. "You have to meet my parents!"
Vanessa turned as the women on the couch stood up. The one on the right was a head taller and a bit more glamorous in dress than her companion, a short gray-haired professorial-looking woman. Lois noticed than her mom looked puzzled.
"Lois, Mrs. Lane, this is my mom, Vanessa Kapatelis."
"The Dr. Kapatelis?" Ellen's eyes widened. "I so enjoy your history shows on TV!"
As they exchanged greetings, Lois pursued her lips. She knew for a fact her mom often fell asleep on the sofa halfway through them. Vanessa then said without hesitation.
"And this is my father, Davina."
Lois held her breath, as Davina Kapatelis held out her hand to Ellen. She must be post-op, she guessed, only her height and perhaps some something in her shoulders and facial features hinted at her past life. She wasn't quite certain if her long blonde hair wasn't a wig either.
"Mrs. Lane, Lois, a pleasure to meet both of you," Davina said in a husky voice. "Vanessa's told me so much about you two!"
Out of the corner of her eye, Ellen sensed Lois' trepidation. What on earth was her daughter worried about now? Did she think she never got out? Well, thirty years of being a military spouse had made her virtually shockproof.
"Very pleased to meet you too, Davina," Ellen said and took the tall trans-woman's hand, and repressed an urge to grin when Lois exhaled in relief.
"I've heard so much about the both of you," the elderly professor nodded. "I'm so glad both of you are here today! This will be an important historical event itself!"
"It will?" Ellen asked wonderingly.
Dr. Kapatelis chuckled. "Usually historians and archaeologists only study history, they don't get to make it! I spent the best years of my career studying the ancient cultures of Europe and Russia. When I first saw the graves of the ancient warrior women in Ukraine, I knew the Amazons were real not myth. But I never assumed I would ever learn much more, until Wonder Woman appeared!"
At the sound of that name, a tall, young woman approached them, clad in an elegant white gown that wouldn't look out of place in a movie; for a moment, Ellen stood nonplussed.
"Mom, this is Diana - Wonder Woman." Lois introduced.
"I'm happy to meet you," Diana smiled. "Thank you for coming today."
"Oh my," Ellen said, a bit flustered. "You're so much more pretty in person! I thought you would look like one of those bodybuilders..."
"Mother!" Lois winced.
But Diana only laughed. "I didn't fit Julia's image either, when I met her! Not big enough!"
The archaeologist nodded. "Most ancient women were, our modern image of femininity is totally at odds with how beauty was historically defined..."
"Mom," Vanessa interjected. "Are you going to lecture us again?"
"Why not, dear?" Julia winked. "You know how much I love my soapbox!"
"I'd love to hear a lecture!" Ellen piped up hopefully. "I love history!"
Acquiescing to Ellen's request, Julia began discussing the ancient standards of beauty. Diana and Lois exchanged looks.
"Your mother's a lot like you, isn't she?" Diana said. "Same inquiring mind."
"Well...maybe so. I never thought of that before. I didn't think she would agree to come, but she did. I think she just needs a change."
Diana nodded. "Maybe we all do." Before Lois could say anything else, she leaned in closer to the reporter, and said in a low voice.
"You did give Clark the job today, didn't you?"
"Don't worry, he's on the clock as of today," Lois tried unsuccessfully to not sound smug. "I'm sure he'll be a great assistant."
Diana took a step closer to Lois and stared directly into her face.
"I know how Clark got his chest wound, Lois. He didn't tell me, but I could figure it out."
"Oh, really?" Lois tried to look as innocent as possible. "That was a 100% accident, I assure you!"
"Really," Diana scowled. "Listen, if Clark gets so much as a-a paper cut on this book tour of yours, Lois, you'll answer to me!"
"Not to worry, Diana, I'll take very good care of him!"
Diana seemed to scowl harder and a little thrill ran through Lois. Could Wonder Woman be jealous? This would be a really enjoyable book tour!
Dr. Kapatelis finished her lecture and called over to Diana. "Should we begin now?"
Diana nodded. "Yes, I think so. Everyone, please gather around."
The ten or so women gathered in a semicircle, facing Diana who stood before the central fire. Ellen saw Lois, those two women who'd been with her to Themyscira, and a couple others stand next to her.
"I thank all of you for coming here today," Diana began. "Some of you have known me for a long time," she nodded to the Kapatelis family, and another woman, whom Lois recognized as the dark-haired woman 'Donna' from before she'd left for Themyscira. "But we all share a common wish: to better the state of women and humankind. I came here as an emissary of the Amazon tribe, as an ambassador of peace, but my people..." Diana took a deep breath. "My own people failed that test."
Without hesitation, Diana told those assembled the history of Themyscira, leaving nothing out, not even the raids on ships. Lois knew the story, but felt mesmerized by Diana's gift of storytelling. She did not leave out even the events on Paradise Island, up to her final departure. There was not a sound in the room during Diana's speech.
Julia Kapatelis nodded gravely as Diana finally finished. "The Amazons were born of blood. I knew that, from my own researches. But what now, Wonder Woman? What does the future hold for you?"
"I hope the future will include us...all of us, " Diana looked at the women assembled. "Although my homeland is forever lost to me, I will not let the Amazon ideals die. There was a dream that was Amazonia...the free women. I have chosen you - to ask you - if you will be part of the rebirth of the Amazons, with me."
Ellen Lane's mind was in a tizz at what she'd heard. But she was even more surprised when her daughter stepped forward.
"A new society of Amazons will be born here, and I will be part of it," Lois spoke up in her familiar, determined voice. "Women working for empowerment, of women and men, and human rights all over the world. Women need strong models, and we can help!" She looked at Ellen. "I learned early to be strong, from my mother."
Diana smiled, as the women gathered voiced their support. She felt both exhilarated, relieved, and a little - to her surprise - nervous. Such a momentous undertaking...could it possibly work?
As if reading her mind, she felt a squeeze on her hand. She looked up and it was Lois, smiling reassuringly. She ought to have known that absolutely nothing fazed Clark's friend.
"Um, I have a question?" Ellen piped up nervously.
"How do we start? I mean, I've been doing volunteer work almost all my life, but this is something...different."
Lois grinned; that look on her daughter's face made Ellen feel this might be payback for all the times she'd tried to insist Lois 'act like a girl' in her tomboy phase.
"For a start, Mom, we have to turn you into an Amazon."
Dr. Kapatelis walked to a large chest to the side of the fire pit, and opened it. She took out something that made the whole assembly gasp, Diana included.
It was a pelekus, sharp and gleaming. It looked like something straight from the Sacred Armory, Diana thought.
"The traditional weapon of the Amazons," Julia said. "I found this in an archaeological dig in southern Russia, buried with its owner, a 45-year-old woman. Only the metal remained. I had this reforged and reset. So it's not 100% a relic, but I think it will do."
She handed it ceremoniously to Diana, who accepted it, her eyes glistening.
"Thank you, Julia."
The older woman gently touched Diana's face. "You have been my student, Diana, now be our mentor. Teach us the ways of the Amazons."
Diana turned and instinctively the women gathered around her. After only a second's hesitation, Ellen Lane joined them. She held out the pelekus, holding it high in one hand.
"Attend me now, so that the nation of Amazonia not perish but endure, for all time. The blood of champions courses in my blood, and will course in yours! Drawn strength from me, and for our daughters to come. Become sisters, here, today."
Diana slowly, gently touched the tip of her tongue to the blade, and a single drop of blood coursed down its side. Lois was next to grasp the axe, and bent her head to its edge. After, she held it up and cried, before handing to to Vanessa:
"Long live the Amazons!"
It was a pity she couldn't record this moment, it was really too bad. But Lois Lane had no doubt of her purpose now.
Bruce Wayne sat before before the bank of screens in his Batcave, which flooded his dark cavern with artificial light. He had been watching the news intently, not only the local Gotham news, looking out for anything, national or international, having to do with the event of the black stars. Other than the usual talking heads spouting essentially a lot of nothing, there was nothing of particular interest to him. The so-called 'anomaly' was already old news, and there was already some other political or celebrity drama taking its place. It was mostly forgotten by the press, but he knew damn well it would not be forgotten in high places.
Or by him.
After his return, he'd given himself a complete physical and mental examination, to determine if there were any lasting effects from his exposure in the alien city of Carcosa. Alfred had monitored the exam, and when he gave his results they were not what he expected.
"Absolutely nothing abnormal, Master Bruce," he announced. "In fact, unless my data deceives me, you are at the peak of health."
"You don't sound exactly overjoyed, Alfred," Bruce noted.
"It's not that, Sir, of course I am glad that you returned unhurt...but these X-rays (you can see them for yourself) show absolutely no damage, although you said you sustained severe injuries upon your entrance to this Alar. No signs of broken bones. In fact, if you remember, when you fractured your arm during that one dustup two years ago with Killer Croc..."
"Yes, I do remember that."
"As I recall you had to have a titanium pin implanted. But, it's not here. In fact, there is no evidence you ever fractured any bones at all. Whatever was there healed you completely."
Bruce had carefully gone over the medical results, then again, for good measure. Alfred was right. He was in the best physical shape he'd ever been in. Perhaps it was his cousin's doing, perhaps not. He didn't quite care for the feeling of being indebted. He had wanted to know if Superman was affected also, but all Clark would say was that nothing was wrong. As for Wonder Woman...she had hardly spoken to him, and when she did it was purely League-related. He didn't blame her.
"Give her time," Clark had said, half-apologetically. "She knows what you did, it's just...she said she can't help but see Ilek-Vad in your face."
"I can give her time, but what have you two decided about the baby?"
Clark stared at him. "What do you mean?"
Bruce had only looked at him, and Clark lowered his eyes.
"Diana wants to keep the child a secret, as long as we can."
"Like your relationship, it will be discovered, and when it does..."
"Please, Bruce. Just let us have some time. I know we don't have long," Clark sighed. "We want to protect Jon as much as we can."
Bruce hadn't voiced what he had been thinking: Perhaps it is not Jon that needs protecting. But perhaps he was being paranoid (that wouldn't be new), but Carter's words kept coming back to him.
Just before they had left in Hal's construct, Carter was the last to board his ship back to Alar. He had called to Bruce and, reluctantly, had gone to hear what he had to say.
"I just wanted to say goodbye," Carter said, his voice slightly distorted since he was holding a cloth to his bloody nose. "You haven't changed your mind?"
"No, I'm going home. To my home."
"Well...good luck to you, then," Carter had added in a low voice. "And remember what I said! There are other forces out there who would cause you trouble."
His eyes had followed Superman and Wonder Woman, as they flew away from Themyscira with their tiny bundle. It was evident what he was looking at.
"Trouble is going with you," Carter said cryptically. "If you ever need my help...you will know how to find me, I daresay. Goodbye."
He had boarded the boat, and there was nothing to do but go. But his meaning (threat?) had been clear. Bruce would need to keep a close watch on Jon Kent...just in case.
Classified Location, North America
Dr. Fenderbrake entered the office of Amanda Waller just as she was finishing her lunch, a meatball sub catered from the underground cafeteria.
"I smell something good," he said with a hint of irony. "Are you trying a new diet?"
The African-American woman waved her hand dismissively. "Don't lecture me, I'm only eating half. Sit down, I want to hear your full report about this so-called 'Black Star Day.'
The older physician did as she asked, sitting across from her desk and delivering his report; it was devoid of elaboration and speculation, factual - what facts there were.
Waller listened closely, although Fenderbrake noted she seemed a trifle distracted. "And...no more news of Steve Trevor?"
Fenderbrake clasped his hands. "I...believe it is best to accept the Justice League's assurances that Mr. Trevor is deceased. However, he cannot be formally declared so without proof, so he still remains a 'person of interest' to the FBI, but they have no intention of searching for him. So it is for all purposes a closed case."
"What of Colonel Robardin?"
Fenderbrake gave a slight lift of his shoulders. "His whereabouts are also unknown. The FBI and local law enforcement are not interested in looking for him. But I know where he is."
"You do? Good. Then you know what to do."
Waller gave the slightest nod; she was fingering a folder on her desk.
"Has...another matter arisen?"
"I am...unsatisfied with the Justice League's report," Waller muttered. "Only Batman and Superman agreed to be debriefed, but were evasive about several key questions. Ms. Zatara refused to be debriefed at all."
"You could have her subpoenaed," Fenderbrake suggested.
"I thought of it...but no, there's something else," She handed him the folder. "Tell me your thoughts on this."
Fenderbrake carefully opened the folder, which consisted of a few sheets of paper and some photographs, likely from a satellite in high orbit. His face remained impassive while Waller waited impatiently in silence.
"It seems clear enough," Fenderbrake finally said. "You yourself predicted this."
"Now it's happened, so what now?"
"You have two choices: either seize it now, or...not."
Waller rose from her chair and paced forward, thoughtfully, standing in front of the wall-TV, showing some old TMZ rerun on the Justice League.
"There is a certain probability of success if you make the attempt now," Fenderbrake added. "Its powers, whatever they may be, are unlikely to be manifested at so early an age, and the parents may be weak from their recent ordeal, however, they are also likely to be on their guard. They might even suspect we know."
"Of course they know we know!" Waller snapped. "They've closed ranks now, that's why they don't want to talk to us."
"So?" Fenderbrake said. "We do have a contingency plan for this: Operation Valiant Light. Of course, if we do go ahead...then everyone will know of how we operate. Also, we will need an Executive decision."
Waller sniffed. "That's very unlikely, our current President doesn't have the balls to make such a decision, not with the polls running so highly in support of the Justlice League, particularly Superman. For now, we'll do nothing. We will have to come up with another plan. General Lane will help us, he's going to be assigned to this office on a permanent basis."
She stared pointedly at Fenderbrake. "I think it is time we contacted your...'friends' from Vermont."
He raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure?"
"Absolutely. We have to consider the future. I trust you'll be discreet about this matter."
"Of course, Ms. Waller, as will our friends."
Waller nodded, a sign of dismissal. The ex-physician noted she had not noticed the emphasis he had put on the word 'our.' He took the folder and left her office.
He headed for the Black Room.
Only a few people in A.R.G.U.S. had the access to (or even knew about) Room 101. Dr. Fenderbrake was one of them. No guard was posted there. Once inside, he ignored the nondescript shelves, and headed to the back wall. Perhaps even fewer knew that there was a second, secret space in addition to the materials collected here, which, in his opinion, were mostly rubbish. No, it was the Back Room where he would deposit the folder with its report and images.
Even Dr. Fenderbrake, with his decades-long interested in the subject, rarely lingered here among the objects in this room. But he took the time to examine a framed painting hanging in the Back Room, one of two such objects. It was a large landscape painting, of a still lake before the towers of a dark city beneath a yellowish sky. There was a card posted beneath it, as might be found in any museum gallery. It read:
"The Lake of Hali in Permanent Twilight"
Oil on Canvas
Arist: Richard Upton Pickman (ca. 1919).
Dr. Fenderbrake had personally acquired this for A.R.G.U.S., and for a relatively inexpensive cost (from a German dealer who'd later been killed in a mysterious Autobahn accident) since it was the consensus of most art scholars that the piece couldn't be authenticated as a genuine Pickman since the artist was known to specialize in portraits not landscapes. From a distance, one couldn't see much, but a wealth of details could be seen upon closer examination, and under the right light. There was a lamp over it, the single light in the Back Room. Yes, a genuine Pickman, Fenderbrake knew the moment the unctuous German dealer had shown it to him. The detail proved it. He could see the details of the dark, oddly-shaped buildings, the windows, and what lay in their rooms.
He thought he saw a woman, a woman with pale hair and a yellow dress. Then another, a companion, standing beside her...standing together at the window and posed as if they could look out of the painting, at at him...
Dr. Fenderbrake quickly averted his eyes. It was never good to stare too closely at the painting, but it confirmed some of his suspicions. He left the rooms, and exited the A.R.G.U.S. facility. He drove towards home, but made a slight detour, driving further away from human habitation, past the vast industrial warehouses and poorly planned housing divisions, until he was well enough into the California desert. He drove for some miles on an abandoned road; although still asphalt, it was crumbling away due to neglect. Much like the rest of America, he thought.
At the end of the road, an old car was parked, with a man of roughly his own age half-sitting in its hood, as if taking a smoke break out in the remote desert. He parked alongside it, and got out, hearing nothing but the wind through the rocky canyons nearby.
"Colonel Robardin," Dr. Fenderbrake said.
"Doc!" The balding ex-military man turned and grinned. "Long time no see. It's good to see you. I assume you came directly from A.R.G.U.S. How goes it?"
Dr. Fenderbrake casually sat next to his old friend on the hood of his car, his hands thrust into his windbraker. "Oh, it goes. I'm sure you can guess, after what happened," He glanced at him. "It seems your plan didn't quite work out."
"Oh, it worked out enough. Trevor wasn't quite the man for the job, the same conclusion his handlers at A.R.G.U.S. no doubt thought too. But it was close this time. Did that Waller woman ever piece it together?"
"She thinks the Justice League has the real information, but Zatanna Zatara won't talk to her. That's the one we should keep an eye on. Waller actually took her into the Black Room."
Robardin sneered. "Back in our day, Waller would've been lucky to have gotten a job cleaning toilets there, not managing the agency! The Black Room," his lips curled in disgust. "They have nothing of real value. Even their Azif is only the poor Dee knockoff..."
Fenderbrake gave him a look. "Waller wants me to contact our friends in Vermont."
Robardin barked a laugh, sounding slightly crazed. "Does she? Well, then, maybe you can introduce them! Yes, that's what you wanted all along, wasn't it? Did she mention me?"
"Actually, she did."
In a smooth, single motion, the doctor withdraw a long, sharp blade from his coat and slid it almost effortless through Robardin's ribs into his heart. The colonel gave a short, sharp wheeze and turned outraged eyes upon Fenderbrake, before topping from his perch on the hood onto the rocky desert ground. He lay on his back, staring upwards.
"I'm sorry, old friend, but your actions belied your true intentions," Fenderbrake said. "This world is not for the Yellow King and the Magnum Innominandum, but for the Sleeping God. His alone. No others. He will rule here again."
Robardin's mouth worked as if he would speak, but all that came was a final gasp air and his furious eyes glazed over. Fenderbrake wiped the blade and put it back in his pocket. Yes, he thought, a pity so few of us true followers are left. Robardin had, in fact, helped him to understand better the workings of them, while they were at the same VA hospital back in the 70s, but they had ultimately taken separate paths. But, Fenderbrake thought, there could only ever be one path, one outcome. Although Robardin had failed, in his estimation, there was still a possibility for Amanda Waller. Soon, he thought, she would be ready for the ultimate revelations.
And as for the Justice League, they would be only a minor obstacle. But Robardin had done some service. That alien child...yes, there was some potential there.
Fenderbrake got back into his car, and drove off, into the growing darkness.
Song of my soul, my voice is dead...
[And that's all she wrote, the end of the story! I really hadn't expected it to go on for SO long, but it was just fun to write. Thanks everyone who hung on for the long haul! I hope you enjoyed it too. Yes, I do have a sequel in mind.
I thought the Adele song was perfect for ex-Lois and Clark, so I threw that in there! Lois will get up to more shenanigans. I don't know what happened to Lois' mother in the New 52 (don't actually read it that often) but she will be a recurring character.
I was influenced by Superman Wonder Woman comic (only one I read regularly) and of course other books! I would highly recommend anyone who likes Wonder Woman to read "Last of the Amazons" by Stephen Pressfield. He writes military fiction, and believes the Amazons actually existed in history. One of my favorite writers.
I don't know when the sequel will be up, but it will feature Lois and her dad, General Sam Lane (I know he is a senator now in the New 52 but this is an AU), and our usual cast of characters, and a new threat. Of course it will have our favorite couple, and how they struggle to be a young family. Your input is welcome! And as always, please review!]