The night of the charity performance and gala ended in a passionate kiss outside of Zatanna's hotel and a promise that when her six week short tour was up, she'd come back to visit Metropolis and him, so that they could get to know each other better. Clark agreed with the idea of getting to know each other better. That was five weeks ago. was actually starting to make some money to the point that they felt that they could hire someone to help at the office, especially someone with design skills and interest in either news or infotainment. Clark left that in Cat's hands. He liked the idea of doing his thing and being left alone, while Cat ran their site.
Clark had finished three stories and now sat in his office with his eyes closed listening to the city and beyond. It was a habit he had a hard time breaking, especially when he heard things that drew his interest like now. Metallo, Strife, and Circe were causing havoc in Midtown Metropolis and the Justice League had just teleported down Shazam, Wonder Woman, and Zatanna to engage them. Clark wondered where Kara was. Metropolis was supposed to be her city, as it had been his city to protect.
He got up and exited his office and walked over to where they kept a TV in what they considered a reception area, work area, and conference area, and then he put it on Morgan Edge's cable news channel knowing that Lois would cover the clash fairly and extensively.
"Jonathan Carroll reporting from Midtown, as members of the Justice League have arrived to deal with metahuman villains, who were threatening the city," Carroll stated.
He knew Carroll as Edge's top overseas and war correspondent, but he guessed that with his relationship with Lois he had relocated to Metropolis. It was a relationship he was jealous of once upon a time, but no longer. He known thought of Lois as a colleague and friend and nothing more. Clark didn't like either Edge or Carroll, but that had nothing to do with Lois. He thought Edge corrupt and Carroll a façade of a human being. With the sound of the TV Cat and her interviewee came out of her office and joined Clark.
"Clark, this is Timothy Wallace," Cat introduced the young man.
Clark looked at him and observed from his trendy, yet expensive attire, that he was the kind of trust fund baby who would take the job they were offering for the money they offered because he could afford to live without a salary.
"Hi, Tim," said Clark.
"That's Timothy," he huffed.
Definitely interested in infotainment, thought Clark, and not hard news.
"What's happening?" asked Cat.
"Justice League and some metahumans are clashing at Midtown," he said. He called them metahumans knowing that Metallo was a science experiment, Circe a sorceress, and Strife a scion of the Greek gods. He hated calling them gods since they were nothing more than an ancient race evolved to their current almost immortal level. The New Gods and Darkseid were just like them. Kryptonians were developing along that same evolutionary track until they started DNA manipulation and the birthing matrix.
"I miss Superman. I thought he was hot in his uniform," said Timothy.
"It was Kryptonian armor not a uniform," Clark corrected him.
"Okay," replied Timothy with an eye roll. "I should get going, Cat. I'll see you tomorrow."
"See you tomorrow," smiled Cat.
Timothy left and Clark stared at Cat waiting for her to fill him in on Timothy.
"I hired him," she said and Clark rolled his eyes. "He's very talented with computers and he loves infotainment and has connections, real connections. Plus, he'll work for us for the money we have to offer."
Clark continued to stare at her. He could tell that Timothy wasn't going to listen to him.
"I'll keep him out of your hair, Clark," she said. "I know that you don't like to be bothered."
"Good, Cat. He's your employee. Next one I hire, though," said Clark.
"I agree," said Cat.
He turned his attention back to the TV and watched as Wonder Woman cleaned Strife's clock, though he noticed Shazam was struggling with Metallo. Metallo had learned a great many tricks fighting Superman over the years and was using them against Shazam. As for Zatanna, he was shocked to see that she could go toe to toe with Circe and looked to have the sorceress on the rocks. Zatanna was more powerful in magic than he realized. He should have known that.
"Isn't the one in the black leather, the magician we saw last month and the woman you dated?" asked Cat.
"Yeah, it's Zatanna. She is a real magician, Cat, not just a show woman and stage magician," he told her.
Clark's attention was drawn back to the TV. Shazam has just used lightening on Metallo, which affected him less than Shazam anticipated. Shazam wasn't being aggressive enough with Metallo, who because of the Kryptonite that powered his suit had great strength, though his strength was definitely not equal to Clark. His problem with Metallo was always defeating him without getting Kryptonite poisoning. Clark had the urge to change into his armor and head into battle, but he fought it. Shazam could handle Metallo and he could do it without destroying buildings and taking innocent lives.
"Clark, you look like you want to join the fight," Cat observed.
Clark noticed that both his hands were balled up into fists. He loosened his hands and began to stretch them.
"Just watching the TV, Cat," he stated. "It makes me kind of anxious."
Clark also noticed that as the two most powerful members Shazam and Wonder Woman didn't work well in tandem. When Metallo had Shazam down, Wonder Women threw Strife into Metallo allowing Shazam to recover and get out from beneath Metallo. But when Diana was in need of assistance Shazam wasn't looking out for his partner. He was too busy dealing with Metallo.
Finally, Kara arrived in a red and blue blur and with a blast of heat vision and right hand to the head removed Metallo's head from his body. Metallo's body stopped functioning and fell to the ground, while he knew the head had enough power in it to keep Corben's brain alive for several hours. He was in no danger of dying. This allowed Shazam to join Diana to subdue quickly Strife, as Circe finally disappeared instead of face Zatanna any longer. The battle was over with little damage done and no lives taken. Clark was proud of the Justice League.
"You'd think with Superman gone that these super freaks would leave Metropolis alone. I also thought it was Superman who drew them to our city, but I guess I was wrong. I guess he did protect us," Cat remarked.
"Yeah, I guess it's more than Superman that draws them here, Cat," Clark said.
"You should write about that Clark," said Cat.
"You may have an idea there, Cat," said Clark, who turned off the TV and returned to his office.
Bruce teleported up to the Watchtower. He wasn't slated to be on duty, but he wanted to talk to Dinah about some of her former associates the Birds of Prey. Now that Batgirl was leading that team with Katana, Huntress, and Starling, he wanted Dinah's opinion on their ability to work together. Materializing on the platform, he walked off and started towards the directory. Coming up to the directory he enabled it.
"Where can I find Black Canary?" he asked.
A light started blinking in the cafeteria. He headed off there.
Seated together at a table in the cafeteria enjoying a sandwich and coffee were Dinah, Zatanna, Firestorm, Vixen, and Kara. Cyborg was seated alone having several slices of microwaved pizza. Since he was still a teenager, he tended to feel more comfortable alone than with other members, although he enjoyed the company of Flash, who loved talking pop culture and sports with him, and Superman, who talked technology and sports with him. When the door of the cafeteria opened, he looked up to see Diana and Shazam enter. From the looks of it Shazam was speaking to Diana, who had an expression of waning patience on her face.
"I think if we train together we'll be able to synch our fighting styles better," Shazam said.
"I don't train. I spar. Do you want to spar with me?" Diana asked.
"What are the parameters?" he asked.
"We battle without holding back until one of us concedes," she sighed.
"So, no holds barred?" he queried.
Dian poured herself a cup of coffee, while Shazam got himself a glass of milk.
"Can't that cause injury?" he asked.
"At times," answered Diana then she snapped, "Superman never had a problem sparring with me."
"Oh, well, I guess we can try and spar then," he said.
"One either spars or does not spar," snapped Diana then she walked away from him.
Dinah waved Diana over to their table then pushed Kara over to make room. Diana came over and sat down with her coffee. She looked across from her and saw that it was Zatanna seated there.
"You did well today," she said to her.
"Thanks," said Zatanna.
"Circe is a formidable foe. Her strength in magic is great," Diana pointed out.
"I am full blooded homo magi," smiled Zatanna.
"Okay, not to sound like the stupid one here, but what does that exactly mean?" asked Vixen.
"It means that I'm descended from the original inhabitants of Atlantis before the city sunk under the water and was populated by gill breathers," said Zatanna. "The original inhabitants were endowed with real magic. Unfortunately, it was the misuse of the magic which sunk Atlantis, started the race of gill breathers, and almost killed off all homo magi. There only are a few of us descended from them today, and even fewer who are full blooded homo magi."
"Now that would make a great movie," commented Firestorm.
"Where do you get your clothes from, Zee?" asked Kara. "I'm thinking of turning in the Kryptonian armor for black leather like you and Dinah. I think I'd look good in it."
"Your armor represents your heritage, Kara; you should be proud of it," offered Diana.
"It is not my heritage, Diana. I come from the Science Class, not the Warrior Class. Armor like this was worn by scientists for official functions or ceremonies. I was meant to be a scientist not some warrior," Kara said not bothering to hide her negative opinion of warriors.
"Science Class, Warrior Class? Anybody want to explain this one to me," said Zatanna.
"Go for it, Kara," said Dinah, who had heard it more than once.
"On Krypton there were their four classes: Science, Artist, Warrior, and Worker. Parents would give their DNA samples to the Birthing Guild which would test it and the child would have its DNA perfected to be a member of one of the classes then an egg would be removed from the mother and genetic material from the father. The egg would be fertilized and it would be born through the birthing matrix instead of the parents. I was born to the Science Class," explained Kara.
"What about Clark?" asked Zatanna.
The mention of Clark coming from Zatanna caused Diana to glare at her, but she quickly covered her reaction, though Dinah noticed it.
"Kal-El's real father was Jor-El. He was Krypton's greatest scientist. His mother Lara was a great one in her own right, but Jor-El was special. My father Zor-El, his brother, often said that Jor-El was the greatest scientist Krypton ever had in their history," said Kara.
"So, Clark is Science Class," said Zatanna.
"No, Kal-El wasn't born of the matrix. He was a free birth. His DNA was never tampered with by the guild. Jor-El thought we were stifling evolutionary advancements by perfecting the DNA for one class and using the matrix. Lara and he illegally had a child on their own. He did this because he also predicted the demise of Krypton. Zor-El brought a sample of Kal-El's blood to the Brainiac, the AI that ran much of Krypton. Kal-El's blood showed to be a leap in Kryptonian evolution. He was a genius, of course, but he was also stronger and had greater potential. Jor-El was right. By playing Rao we had been holding ourselves back not perfecting our society," Kara told them. "Kal is Science, Warrior, Artist, and Worker Class and more. My cousin is special."
"I'd agree with that," grinned Zatanna.
Again Diana's eyes shot to Zatanna. This time there was anger in them. Dinah decided to enter the conversation in order to make sure a fight didn't break out.
"So that's where Clark gets his good looks," Dinah joked.
Diana looked at her now and she attempted a smile at Dinah's joke, though it came off more like a smirk.
"I never realized just how special Kal is," remarked Diana.
"I absorb solar radiation just like him, but the difference is that his body absorbs it more efficiently and he has not hit the limit of his strength yet," Kara said.
"Superman is going to get even stronger in time, now that is a scary thought," commented Vixen.
"I've theorized that in time he'll become immune to Kryptonite with enough of the yellow sun's solar radiation saturating his body. I believe that I'll become more resistant to it in time. Connor, as a clone of Kal's with human DNA mixed, is harder to predict," said Kara, sounding like the scientist she was born to be.
"How smart is Clark?" asked Zatanna, suddenly even more impressed with Clark and how he was able to come across as so normal and nice and possess such great powers.
"Brainiac was 12th level intellect. Jor-El was 10th level. To put this into perspective the greatest genius of earth currently is 6th level, maybe 7th level, though Luthor believes he is higher. Kal must easily be 9th level, if not 10th level with the help of the yellow sun facilitating the speed his brain works," Kara lectured.
"Unbelievable," mumbled Vixen.
"I thought Batman was the genius in our group," said Firestorm.
"Remind me not to get into argument with him, he'd probably make me feel stupid," joked Dinah.
"He'd never do that," said Kara then she smiled. "I would but he'd never do that. Kal was raised to hide his powers and his nature."
"I'm almost afraid to have another date with him now," smirked Zatanna. "Almost afraid."
Diana glowered at Zatanna then she looked down at her coffee. She was feeling a mix of jealousy and anger and knew that she had no right to feel either. Kal could date anyone he wished to date. What she needed to do was talk to him in order to repair their friendship, which she didn't want to lose.
"You went on a date with Superman," said Vixen.
"Actually, I went on a date with Clark Kent and I enjoyed myself. Once this mini-tour is up next week, I'm going to spend some time in Metropolis so we can go out again," she said.
"You like Kal-El?" queried Kara.
"I always thought he was hot to look at but a little aloof in his Superman mode, but he is great as Clark Kent. I even find his Clark nerd act kind of fun," she said.
"Take away the pretend awkwardness he uses as a disguise and Clark Kent is who Kal-El really is. He was raised on a Kansas farm by two really good people," said Kara. "I'm glad you like him, Zee. He is a bit isolated lately. I've been worried about him."
"Well, I hope to change that, so he doesn't feel isolated," said Zatanna.
No one had noticed but Batman had slipped into the cafeteria and listened in on their conversation. Instead of interrupting Dinah, he slipped back out of the cafeteria. He needed to speak to Clark again.
Fortress of Solitude
Clark told Cat that he needed to be away in Smallville for a few days in order to deal with farm business. He said he still be putting up stories and updating his opinion section. What he needed was some time alone in the Fortress to give his senses a rest. A few days without extra noises, voices, and smells permeating his world was just the vacation he ended.
"Master Kal-El," Kelex interrupted Clark, as he finished up the article on average citizens feelings towards Superman after his fight with Doomsday.
"Yes, Kelex," said Clark.
"Several communications have come in and I have taken messages as requested. One from Mistress Kara, who wants to visit with you; six from Master Bruce, who wishes to speak with you; and three from Mistress Diana, who wishes to speak with you, also," Kelex informed him.
"Tell Kara I need a few days alone before she visits and let Bruce and Diana know that I'll contact them when I'm back in Metropolis," said Clark.
"I shall do it, Master," said Kelex.
"Thank you, Kelex."
He filed the story. It was a painful story to write, as a majority of the citizens he spoke to said they hoped Superman stayed away. He had caused too much damage and death this time. There were some that said the city was a better and safer place with Superman in it and that he did what he had to do, but on the whole Superman wasn't wanted.
With the story filed he got up and went into his training room. It had been a little too long since he had exerted himself. His body craved a challenge.
"Kelex Prime," he called out to the AI that ran his Fortress.
"Flood training room with red sun solar radiation," he said
"Training area will be flooded in red sun solar radiation in forty-five seconds," Kelex Prime announced.
Clark waited. He closed his eyes and listened to the silence of his Fortress then suddenly, his body became heavier, grounded, and overall weaker. Opening his eyes, he walked over to the heavy bag he had set up and started his exercise routine on the heavy bag.
For the next two and half hours Clark pushed his body as hard as he could. He sparred with robots, exercised, and ran on a treadmill until he finally felt his body refusing to go any further. Grabbing a towel he wiped the sweat and blood off his face then took off his shirt and wiped down his torso.
"Kelex Prime," he called out.
"Turn off the red sun," he ordered.
"Red sun will cease in fifteen seconds," said Kelex Prime.
The red sun solar radiation stopped flooding the room. Almost immediately, Clark's sore and aching body was without a single pain. His strength returned and he started to hover off the floor, just as he liked to do. Floating above the floor he headed out of the training area and towards his bedroom where he intended on showering. After the shower, he would spend some time in thought considering how the citizens of Metropolis felt about him.
Could he stop being Superman altogether or had gone too far already for that? Maybe he could leave earth and find somewhere better suited for him where he wouldn't feel as if he could kill everyone around him if he lost control? Or maybe he just needed to let time perform its healing balm? He needed some serious time to contemplate those questions.
Somewhere in the city the Joker was hiding. He had escaped Arkham by killing three guards. Jim Gordon had a task force put together already to find him, but Bruce knew that the Joker was his personal responsibility. The first place he decided to look for him was at a hood bar near the docks. He stood in the shadows of the alley across the street from the joint.
The bar was named The Pit. Every con and convict in the city knew the place. Bruce thought of just going in through the front door and leaving a trail of destruction behind him until he got answers on where the Joker was hiding.
"You aren't considering going in there alone, handsome," said Catwoman.
"You shouldn't be here," he rasped.
"Why? It's a free city and I have free will," she said.
He wasn't in the mood to play games with her tonight. She tended to spin his head between wanting to arrest her and wanting to have sex with her. He needed clarity right now, so that he could find Joker.
"Why are you here?" he asked her.
"Because you need help," she said.
"Not good enough," he said.
"Okay, I want Joker caught as much as you. He has hurt people I care for," she told him.
Bruce thought about what she just said. If he could nurture her instincts for justice instead of larceny, Catwoman would make an excellent ally. He turned to face her.
"Care to join me in The Pit?" he asked.
"I'd love to," she purred.
He just hoped he was using his big head and not his small one on this decision.
Since he took form and left Krypton before the planet ripped itself apart, he had become the Collector of Worlds. He collected samples of biological life and knowledge and in return he left a cleansed planet that had no fear of being destroyed by an overly developed biological entity. It was a good existence.
Brainiac was content with his mission having cleansed fifteen worlds since Krypton. His knowledge base had grown. Yes, he missed the challenges of the biological life on Krypton, especially Jor-El. His mind pushed Brainiac. It was thrilling. He had in stasis an example of Kryptonian life, but it wasn't Jor-El, which was a shame. But there was a chance to challenge himself against Jor-El again.
Several of the planets he had cleansed had information on them about a being called Superman. He was said to be a Kryptonian and not just any Kryptonian but the biological son of Jor-EL. Here was potentially a challenge. He needed to collect more information on this Superman before he sought him out. If he was descended from the great Jor-El then he needed to know as much as he could collect about Superman. It would be good to be challenged again. It would be good to test his existence up against a Kryptonian again.