Superboy groaned and tried to get to his feet, but he felt his strength evaporating. He heard Robin cry out. He thought about what these guys had done to him, to his friends, to Kalder and M'gann. It made him angry.
Several goons had appeared out of the shadows, all either holding conventional assault rifles or bulky red Apokoliptan weapons.
The area was lit with flickering orange light from some burning trees in the distance. The goons formed a small semicircle around Superboy, cutting off his escape.
Robin and Kid Flash were on the ground some feet away. Neither of them were moving.
Forty feet below, the ocean crashed onto one of the seaside cliffs.
Superboy got to his feet, anger coming off him in waves. But it wasn't blind fury, like he was used to. It was cold, calculating, mixed with determination.
He was going to survive.
And they were going to pay.
No matter what.
Sportsmaster approached. The mercenary seemed almost bored beneath his hockey mask.
"So this is the infamous Superboy" he said, unspooling his flail, a heavy metal ball on a long chain.
"They want you alive, you know. Lucky you." Sportsmaster whirled the flair above his head. "But you're pretty much unkillable. Lucky me."
Superboy took a step back, adopting a defensive judo stance, like what Black Canary had taught him.
Control, focus, discipline.
Sportsmaster lashed out with his flail, smashing that all to pieces with a blow to the side of Superboy's head. The clone stumbled as the flail struck him again in the chest. Floating red disks shot forth from one of the Apokoliptan weapons, sending electricity surging through the Kryptonian's body.
Superboy stumbled backwards, closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. Another of the goons slammed his gloved hand into the ground, turning it to tar at Conner's feet.
The floating disks retreated as Superboy sank up to his waist. Sportsmaster approached him, whirling the flail above his head, preparing for a knockout blow.
Superboy couldn't move his legs, and even if he could, there was nowhere for him to run. His strength was failing him.
Sportmaster got closer.
Conner thought over the situation. If he was captured, he would probably live.
They would take him to the old Cadmus base to the north. They would try to turn him into a mindless weapon again. That was what Luthor had wanted. The sole reason he even existed. He would have purpose again.
Superboy shook his head, throwing that idea out of his mind. He did have a purpose now. There was helping people, that school bus on the bridge, those kids when the dimensions split. His friends: Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Artemis, Red Arrow, Zatanna, even Rocket, who he'd only known for a few days. Black Canary, Red Tornado, Captain Marvel, even Batman.
And M'gann. M'gann most of all.
He was not going to lose all that, not to become a mindless thing like they wanted.
Sportsmaster raised the flail high above his head.
He was Conner Kent.
He was Superboy.
And he was not going back to Cadmus.
Superboy smashed both his fists into the ground. Even weakened by kryptonite exposure, his strength was still enough to crack the weathered stone that made up the cliff.
Sportsmaster jumped back as the ground rumbled. Already damaged by the nearby airstrikes and further weakened by the Apokoliptan tar weapon, part of the cliff fell away, taking the Boy of Steel with it.
He struck a rock, and then another, and another, each hurting more than the last. He hit the ocean, which was freezing but surprisingly calm. He could feel the tar slipping away from his legs, unable to stick together when submerged.
And then he got the sudden urge to breathe.
Sportsmaster looked over the edge of the cliff. There was no sign of the Superboy, but he wasn't stupid enough to think that that meant he was dead.
"Contact Black Manta" he said to one of his men. "Have him search the water for any trace of him. See if you can get the drones to do another flyby with thermals." The other man nodded and opened up a radio channel.
A helicopter touched down nearby, and several of the men began loading the unconscious and restrained Robin and Kid Flash.
Sportsmaster looked the situation over before transferring command of the area over to another and boarding the chopper himself.
It was time to have a little chat with this "team" ...and his daughter, of course.
Superboy emerged near the beach where Kaldur had gone missing. Remembering the land mines he'd detected earlier, he carefully skirted the edge of the sand, staying on the rocks as much as possible.
There where lights off in the distance, no doubt searching for him.
Superboy put hand to the wound in his shoulder, which was still splattered in blood. No doubt the kryptonite in the blade had interfered with the healing. Or maybe Kryptonians just didn't have good blood clotting. He didn't really know.
He stumbled again. The tip of the arrow had broken off when he ripped it out: Some of it was still inside of him, sapping his strength. It was only his human DNA, his Luthor DNA that was keeping him going at all.
The team was gone and he was outnumbered and powerless. Superboy had never really used profanity (it wasn't part of his Cadmus training) but he was pretty sure that this was the time for it.
He stumbled again, tripping and rolling down a small hill.
He tried to get up, but only found the strength to get to his knees. Crawling blindly forward, he managed to reach the cover of a bush. That was a start. He'd find them. He'd save them...
The weakness he felt spreading through his veins overpowered him, and the darkness closed in.