It was when he flew that he felt most like he was Kal-El and not Clark Kent. Clark Kent was grounded, the son of farmers who made his living trying to expose injustice and unfairness through his reporting. Clark was honorable, hardworking, and able to blend into the crowd. Kal-El was his opposite. He was the last son of a dead planet. Kal-El was the son of a world so advanced that they stood on the precipice of godhood. He came from a people who were aloof, cold, isolationist, scientific, and had nearly perfected their DNA. On Earth under a yellow sun the son of Krypton possessed Olympian strength, speed, flight, and other powers that would lead a lesser man to become a planet's tyrant, but Kal-El was in essence still Clark Kent and he wasn't raised to be a tyrant.
Reaching the boundary between the mesosphere and the thermosphere, he stopped his flight and floated in a cross-like pose, his God pose as Bruce had sarcastically remarked. He closed his eyes and soaked in the solar radiation and rested. It was quiet here for him. On Earth, he heard everything. Jonathan Kent used to joke to Martha that he could hear butterflies humping two counties over. Having a respite from his senses was always a blessing.
Floating free without interference or obligations, he could let his mind wonder. At twenty-eight years old, Kal-El's powers still hadn't hit their peak, though he was definitely stronger today then he was even three years ago. He estimated that another twenty-five years to thirty years under the Earth's sun and he should be at his strongest. Sometime in the future his weakness to Kryptonite would no longer be a problem, as his system would be strong enough to deal with its deleterious effects on him. There were those on earth who feared him now because of his strength, he wondered what they would think of him as he grew stronger.
Superman's internal clock kept time. When ten minutes passed, he opened his eyes and headed for the Watchtower, the headquarters of the Justice League. He was running late for a meeting.
Ceremony of Innocence
As the newly elected chairperson of the Justice League, Dinah Lance was nervous. Today was her first official meeting since she was elected to her current position. She had been the founding member and leader of Birds of Prey along with Starling, Katana, and Batgirl. Entering the conference room she saw that the Flash, John Stewart Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, J'onn J'onzz, Nightwing, Batman, Zatanna, and Vixen. The only one missing was Superman, which wasn't too much of a surprise. Lately, he had been distant from the League. The rumor that his breakup was the cause of his attitude.
Two years ago Wonder Woman was able finally to come to terms with Zeus being her father and resolved the trouble with Hera. This led to Themyscira being restored to its former glory. Her mother was transformed from stone back to flesh and blood and her sisters from snakes back to their former forms. This came at the price of her relationship with Superman, though. Hera demanded a painful sacrifice as punishment for Hippolyta's and Zeus dalliance and that was for Diana to turn her back on true love: Superman.
Dinah sat down and called the meeting to order.
"I propose we start the meeting even though one short on the board members," she said.
The doors to the main conference room opened and Superman walked into room. He smiled at Dinah and mouthed the words I'm sorry then proceeded to sit down beside Batman.
"Let me guess, Kent, you were soaking up solar radiation," Batman greeted him.
"You are the world's greatest detective, Bruce," said Clark.
He then looked across the round table and saw Diana staring at him. His stomach knotted. Just looking at her beautiful face could cause him pain. After taking a furtive glance at her, he turned his eyes away from her and stared at Dinah.
"We have a request from the UN to send an observation team to the Watchtower for a period of two days. They said it would help in voting NGO status to the League. Opinions," she said.
"On the Watchtower League members are free with letting down their guard and exposing their true identities. I don't want them here," said Nightwing.
"I agree," Barry Allen spoke up. "We need our privacy."
"NGO status, though, would help us in our fight for acceptance," added Green Arrow.
"Offer an alternative. Two observers for one day with limited access due to members wish for privacy," Batman suggested.
"Can their observers be trusted?" asked Aquaman.
"J'onn can assure us that they can. He can chaperone them and read their intentions," added Batman.
"I'll make the suggestion," said Dinah. "Next on the agenda, we have an off world mission."
Superman stared politely at Dinah and zoned out. From a young age when his super hearing kicked in, he had learned to focus in on the most trivial sound and block everything else out. In this case, he zeroed in on Diana's heartbeat. There was a time that listening to her heartbeat brought him calm and strength, but now it brought merely distraction for him.
For thirty minutes he lost himself in her heartbeat. Suddenly, an alarm went off and Hawkgirl's voice came over the speaker.
"We have an emergency in Metropolis. The City is under attack. Supergirl needs help," she announced.
"We should get to shuttles and the transporter and get down there now," Dinah stated.
Superman stood up and looked at Dinah.
"No need. I'll head down and help her," said Superman then he turned and looked at the attractive magician. "Zatanna, can you use magic to transport me to outside of the satellite. I can get to Metropolis quicker on my own."
"Sure, Clark," she replied.
"Good luck, Kent," said Batman as he stood to go to the monitoring room to check on the threat. There was no way he was going to just sit by and watch.
Ceremony of Innocence
Superman pushed the outer limits of his speed to get to Metropolis in order to assist Kara. He scanned the street. Cars were turned over, buildings damaged, and part of the street turned to rubble. There was his cousin Kara in the hands of a eight men in mech suits, eight soldiers. He didn't need to get any closer to know that the suits were powered by Kryptonite.
"Drop her," demanded Superman.
"Sure," said one of the men in the mech suits.
The one holding her dropped Kara on the ground. She was suffering from Kryptonite radiation poisoning. With the help of the league, especially who used his detective skills and money to collect the meteor rock, Kryptonite was a rare item to find on earth now. Here were six mech suits powered by Kryptonite. Besides the trouble in finding the Kryptonite, it would have cost millions to obtain the deadly pieces of his destroyed home world. He could hear Kara's breathing. It was ragged and her heartbeat was growing weaker.
"Who are you?" Superman demanded.
"Just call us a hit squad," said the lead mech soldier.
Superman blurred through them grabbing Kara. He came to a stumbling stop a good thirty yards away from them with Kara in his arms. The Kryptonite radiation from the suits had hit him with a wave of nausea. He had to get Kara away from the men. Taking a deep breath, he took off on foot, as flying seemed too much of a task at the moment. He didn't stop until he reached the Kent Farm in Smallvile. Placing her down on the porch, he used his League communicator to contact the Watchtower.
"Superman to Watchtower," he said.
"Sitrep, Clark," said Bruce's calm, gruff voice.
"I've taken Kara to the Kent Farm. She has Kryptonite poisoning and needs attention," he said.
"I'll have someone transport down and bring her up to the infirmary," said Bruce.
"There are six men wear mech suits powered by Kryptonite in Metropolis," he said. "I'm headed back there, but I could use some help."
"I'll send a team," stated Bruce. "Be careful, Clark."
Superman took a moment to look around the farm. The workers were gone for the day. It had been six months since he last visited here. He had received many offers for the farm since his adoptive parents died in a car accident, yet he managed to hang on to the place by hiring men to work the farm, grow corn, and rent the house out. It had been eight months since the last family who rented the house had moved out.
He looked at his cousin in her Kryptonian armor with the seal from the House of El on her chest.
"Take care, cousin," he said softly then he took off into the air.
The effects of what little Kryptonite radiation poisoning he had received were gone. He was ready to fly and find out who these men were and who hired them.
Ceremony of Innocence
Superman lay under the solar lamp in the infirmary. A team of Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow arrived on the scene in time to help Superman, but not before he suffered a dose of Kryptonite radiation poisoning himself. Kara lay under her own solar lamp soaking in the healing rays. She had not regained consciousness yet, but according to Mr. Terrific and Dr. Midnite she was going to be fine.
With his armor retracted back into his House of El shield and wearing only a sheet, Clark felt less than comfortable with visitors, yet visitors came.
"How are you feeling, Clark?" asked Bruce.
Bruce was still wearing his Batman armor, but his cowl was down exposing his face. With him was Nightwing and Wonder Wonder, who stood behind them and appeared pensive.
"I'm fine," he answered in a hoarse, dry voice.
Batman walked over to the table near his bed, poured him a glass of water, and handed it to him. Clark drank it down in one long gulp. His throat was felt better. He placed the glass on the table.
"I collected all the Kryptonite personally from their mech suits and weapons and gave them to J'onn to dispose of," said Bruce.
"Thanks, Bruce," he said with his voice sounding clearer.
"You should have let the League handle them and stayed out of it, Clark. There suits were leaking Kryptonite radiation," said Nightwing.
Clark smiled at Nightwing then he looked at Bruce.
"I remember when he was sixteen and afraid to speak to me," he said.
"It appears that turning twenty means you're free to say anything you want to whoever you want," growled Bruce.
Dick Grayson ignored Bruce Wayne's dig towards him. They weren't on the best speaking terms lately. According to Alfred they fought so much because they were too much alike. Dick didn't like that description.
"I'm concerned about you Clark," said Dick Grayson.
"I know," Clark smiled softly.
He then reached up and touched the shield laying against his chest and through Kryptonian nano-technology his armor started to spread out forming over his body. Once he was fully armored, he stood up and looked at his visitors.
"Who were they?" asked Clark.
"I'm looking into, Clark," said Bruce. "The armor and tech is similar to armor and tech used by Cadmus."
Clark's eyes glowed red in anger. When he first started playing hero, a government agency called Cadmus decided he was a threat. They even captured him to experiment on him, but had underestimated his powers.
"Clark, calm down. Let me get evidence against them first," Bruce said.
"Listen to Bruce, Kal," Wonder Woman spoke up.
Clark's eyes returned to their normal cerulean hue. He stared at Diana. Diana was unmistakenly an Amazon in body and spirit. At six foot tall, she was imposing, yet there was nothing masculine about her. She was the epitome of female grace and beauty with powers that rivaled even a Superman. There was a time Clark thought she was his soulmate, but that time was gone. He held his still for several beats beyond comfortable. She now seemed uncomfortable to speak.
"You're right, Princess," he said then he looked at Bruce.
"I'll stay here and wait for Kara to wake up then I'm taking her to the Fortress. I can care for her better there," Clark said to Bruce.
Bruce knew Clark all too well and he knew that his friend was in pain. For too long he had bottled up emotions that needed to be purged. He was skating along an emotional edge, which was dangerous for everyone, considering this was Superman. With his powers, Clark needed control. Subconsciously, Bruce touched the lead lined container on his utility belt which kept his own personal stash of Kryptonite. This was his insurance that Clark would never completely lose control.
"I need to get back to Gotham," said Bruce then he looked over at Kara. "If you need anything, Clark, let me know."
"Thanks, Bruce," said Clark.
"I should be going, too," added Nightwing.
"Dick," smiled Clark.
"I'm due back on Themyscria. My mother is expecting me," said Diana.
Clark nodded then he watched as his friends left him alone with Kara. He took a deep breath and released it slowly allowing a Kryptonian calm to envelope him. Jonathan and Martha Kent had taught him to be open with his emotions, to care about people and worry about them, which was in many ways the opposite of his aloof Kryptonian blood. Lately, he felt it easier to be Kryptonian than human.