'We're supposed to be a team, Clark.'
'I know, and we are. But you and I both know that there are times when we have to act without waiting for…verification. We use the information we have and act accordingly.'
'You could have shared what you uncovered…'
'But then what? It would have taken days, at least, for even the equipment in the Watchtower to verify what I knew. I knew you and the others could handle things on the 'ground level'. I can't be everywhere…'
'You're not meant to be. Clark, I know you had things in hand. I knew that as soon as I saw your initial notes on the Metropolis site, but you should have read us in at least.'
'And said what? That there's a worldwide weapons programme of creating enhanced humans using vaccines? That almost every government knew about it and allowed it? That there was a veritable army of Government-sanctioned enhanced assassins in the Deep South?'
'It's not as far-fetched as it would have been a few years ago.'
'The world's changing…'
'…but is it better?'
They sat in silence for a few seconds.
'Taking them all on at once was risky, though, wasn't it? How could you be sure they didn't have anyone of a comparable power level, or Kryptonite or some other way of neutralising you?'
'I wasn't going in blind, Bruce. I scanned every single one of them, as well as each site. It's how I knew I could draw them all to one site, how they would be able to get there, and made sure everyone turned up.'
'But, there were so many of them. According to that cyborg's files, at least 4 of them could generate low level red sun radiation.'
'Emphasis on 'low level'. Come on, you know it takes more than a red light bulb to affect me.'
'But still, if they're able to do something like that…'
'Their bodies couldn't handle the strain. They're in comas at the moment; I made sure I took them out before they killed themselves trying to get me.'
'We could have helped.'
'You and the others needed to deal with the various assassins and save the kids. I saw the data stream Vic and the others were working on and figured we could tackle this on multiple fronts.'
'Without giving us a heads-up.'
They were silent again.
'I knew you'd figure out the 'bullet fingers'. It's just…seeing those kids…each of them had left their homes with the hope of finding something better. Each of them had gone through a nightmare to get to that something better, and each of them was terrified in their final moments. None of them even knew they were 'different', their abilities were barely manifesting.'
'Would it have made a difference if they did know? Sorry, silly question. How did you figure out the 'bullet fingers'? I didn't even spot the scuffs on the floor initially.'
'Trace flecks of skin in the injuries.'
'I hate you sometimes.'
Batman leaned forward a little. 'What do you propose going forward?'
'Clark Kent will be doing a series of exposes on a number of camps where it is safe to do so; ones where the effects of the programmes are visible and undeniable. We, collectively, need to keep an eye on things, but it's not just those camps. This is worldwide, and far beyond what Max had tried to do with his OMAC project.'
'Is there a way to counter what they've done?'
'I have a few ideas. I'll be discussing them with Magnus and the others, and the fact that this goes down to a genetic level rather than the removal of nanotech does pose a number of problems. But we need to consider if…'
'…if we have a right to interfere and neutralise these aspects of the vaccines?'
'If this had been the result of something Starro or Brainiac or any of the others had done…'
'But it's not. It's…human sanctioned…'
The room has never been occupied and was never intended to be. Its location is unknown to anyone living, and is forever intended to be. The array of projectors displayed figures and busts in silhouette but it was quite clear than none of those who were being projected could be considered 'happy'.
'Who made the call?' asked one, its voice distorted by layers of digital manipulation.
'Directors Travis and Walton,' said another, similarly distorted voice.
'Confirmed?' asked a third.
'Why?' asked the first voice.
'We're still trying to locate them. They went off the grid…'
'No, why did they do it?'
'…and going forward?'
'Contingencies are active and the projects are proceeding.'
'And the vaccine programmes?'
'Non-enhancement versions will now be used. A series of reversal proposals have been put forward – I suggest we review the position in three months.'
'What about those in whom the grafting has been successful?'
'Those in the camps, for the most part, will burn themselves out soon. The limits in their dietary intake have shown that, eventually, their bodies end up consuming themselves in order to provide the energy for the genetic uplifts.'
'Those in more developed areas are being kept an eye on and are being recruited when it's deemed suitable.'
'What of those that Superman…liberated?'
'Esperanza is back in Caracas. Our observers report that she is stronger than she was and can now leap an eighth of a mile, too. Unfortunately, her return has hardened Stephanie considerably, as well as the locals. Ahmed asked Superman to return him to the negotiations and he has now been deemed an untouchable – it seems the various factions would rather avoid Superman's more direct involvement.
'The Eritrean boy is onboard?'
'Confirmed. He's very willing to learn and develop.'
'The data cells Travis and Walton ordered retrieved, resulting in the victims of the non-sanctioned operation, may provide useful information going forward.'
'Distribute the data and let's see what developments can be made.'
The room was silent, and still, and dark.