Clark heard Jane’s goodbye like a whisper in his ear and held still for a moment. She sounded as if she were leaving him. She wouldn’t do that, would she? Sighing to himself, he closed the doors to the Hall of Justice ready to get back to work. “Sorry about the interruption, let’s continue.”
Hal just could not let it drop. “Tell me Clark where did you find that lovely creature?” he asked, clearly aching to push Clark’s buttons.
Clark was obviously not expecting that question. “What?” He turned to Hal, thought about his question and frowned. “Look, we are not going to discuss Jane and how lovely she is, I mean, let’s not get distracted.” He shook his head clearly distracted. “I mean, look we are not discussing her, not here and certainly not now.”
Hal chuckled at his friend’s reaction then shrugged his shoulders. “Well, after what Diana told me about her, I was thinking that maybe she should be here at the table with us.”
Clark glanced at Diana and then back at Hal, as the idea burrowed inside his mind intriguing him, he had to admit, and he also realized that Hal was not going to let it go. “This meeting is adjourned. You all have your assignments. I’ll see you all in a few hours.”
After everyone had left the Hall, Hal dived right in. “Well, have you asked her to join us?”
Instead of answering him, Clark went over to the window and looked up at the moon and the stars. “I hear what you’re asking Hal, but we’ve never had any ‘civilians’ among us; it just wouldn’t work.”
Hal understood Clark’s reasoning but he could tell there was more to it. He followed him over to the window. “Is that the real reason, or is it because ... you’re in love with her and you know what that entails?”
Clark refused to answer that question directly. “No, that’s not the reason; she can take care of herself.”
“Then, why not? She would be an incredible asset to us.”
“I realize that, but it would be up to her, I would have no say in it,” he replied and sighed. “Look, it’s getting late. I promise I’ll speak to her about it.”
“Alright, I’ll look forward to hearing what she has to say,” Hal added then turned to watch the stars. His mind then wandered to the way he had left things between Carol and himself. He and Carol Ferris, his childhood sweetheart and sometimes lover had a complicated relationship. He shook his head at his musings about the past. He had been thinking about her a lot lately, not only because he missed her, but there had been rumors about her recent disappearances and what type of things she had been getting into, but that ship had sailed or had it?
Clark watched his friend for a moment and he knew what he was thinking. “How is Carol, by the way? You haven’t mentioned her in a while, well, since you vanquished that world threat all by yourself, I might add.” He paused. “Well, how is she?”
Hal sighed. “I haven’t talked to her in a few months,” he admitted and winced at how that must sound.
Clark could see he was hurting, so he said what he thought Hal needed to hear. “I know you’re worried about her. You should call her. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind a call just to catch up, just to see if she’s alright?” He smiled at Hal and watched his eyes light up at that question.
“Alright, alright, I’ll call her if will shut you up,” he replied and smiled.
Hal then went to his private quarters, recharged his energy ring for the coming battle, changed into his street clothes and tried to relax then pulled up Carol’s personal homepage. She had been updating it pretty regularly since she had returned to her father’s company, but then they had stopped a few weeks ago for some reason. He had missed her terribly since he had been reassigned in outer space training rookie Green Lanterns, which seemed to take up huge chunks of his time. He sighed remembering the last time they had seen each other. It had been a bittersweet moment between them.
Carol’s apartment in Coast City, three months earlier after he had saved her life:
“You can take off your mask now …” She frowned at him. “What is your new superhero name by the way?”
“Just … Hal,” he replied.
“Just Hal?” she replied chuckling. “Surely, you can come up something better than that? I mean, look at you,” she pointed to his outfit which was shining back at her.
He decided to remove it if it was making her uncomfortable. He touched the ring and he was standing there in his jeans and shirt like everything was fine between them but it wasn’t. He came closer. “Carol I know I should have told you about all of this before, but the past few days have been like a whirlwind.”
She couldn’t imagine what had happened to him. An alien had given him the ring and a new destiny that she could see, but where did that leave her and their on and off again relationship? She didn’t know what to think or what to say to him now. “Would you like some coffee?” She looked down at herself. “I should probably change; I’ll be right back,” she rambled then went to her bedroom to change without looking back.
He wasn’t sure what to do, so he went to make the coffee. “Need any help?” He called teasing her a little.
“I’m fine, Hal,” she replied but the zipper was not cooperating. “Stupid zipper,” she mumbled.
Her back was to him as he approached her. “Here, let me help you,” he said startling her.
“Hal, what are you doing?” Carol asked but held very still as he unzipped her dress.
He couldn’t resist her. Her skin was flawless and it called out for him to touch her and so he did. He lightly ran his fingers down her back like a whisper. “Carol, I don’t know what will happen but just know … you won’t be left behind. I’ll always be here for you. I’ll always care about you.”
Carol’s eyes filled with tears at those statements. She felt the same way about him. He had almost died the other day. He was reckless, cocky, a playboy, far too handsome for his own good, but she did care, maybe more than she should. She closed her eyes and when she opened them, he was standing directly in front of her. He wiped her tear away.
She leaned into his hand but then sanity returned. “Oh, Hal, what am I going to do about you?”
He smiled. “Let’s just take it one day at a time?”
Carol wasn’t sure if she could live her life that way, but it was a start. She didn’t know the future and neither did Hal, but if she continued living in the future and what could happen, she realized she would be missing out on what was standing right in front of her. She reached up and touched his cheek then her hand moved to the back of his neck and pulled him in for a kiss.
Hal came back to the present, shook his head as if to dislodge those images from his mind, but they would not go away. They had renewed their friendship and their love affair that night. It had been wonderful for both of them, but he hadn’t seen her since that night. She had told him that she understood, but he had to see her again to break it off because he had no control over the ring and its influence over his life now, and with him being constantly on alert for emergencies and any evil that may happen throughout the galaxy, he couldn’t ask her to wait anymore. His heart totally rejected the idea but it had to be done.
Meanwhile, in Jane’s apartment in Metropolis:
Jane was escorted back to her apartment by Irma. It was a good thing she hadn’t read her mind, because Clark would have been furious if he knew what she was planning.
It was almost dawn and resting was not on her mind at the moment. Instead of staying at her apartment, she went to her office and contacted her informants on the possible locations of the villains in Metropolis. Several areas were found on the outskirts of town. She then jumped in a cab and went to those locations but had no luck. She then decided to watch the sky and after an hour, she spotted the superheroes. They were headed in her direction and the cabbie took her there and she assured him that she was meeting someone.
Near an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Metropolis:
After checking their wireless communicators, Superman and Wonder Woman were hovering in the sky checking out the entire area surrounding the warehouse. Superman and Kara were wearing protective suits that were not only designed to protect them against the negative energy, but also, against blue and green kryptonite radiation.
Green Lantern, Irma, Garth and Rokk were on the ground watching the warehouse and waiting for their friends to appear in the sky. Clark could not see inside the warehouse, but J’onn and Irma had assured them that both Neutron and Power Boy were inside waiting for them.
Jane watched the superheroes and followed them as best as she could and waited behind some large metal trash cans. It was her dream come to life and she prayed that everything would turn out differently.
All the superheroes were in place. Clark then spoke to his team through their wireless communications. “Be ready everyone!” He then called to the villains.
“Nathaniel, Jed, we’re here. It’s time to end this ... NOW!” Clark’s voice boomed inside the warehouse and across the entire area.
They only had a few moments to turn Jed against Neutron and Kara was getting inpatient. In order for their plan to work, she would have to speak with Power Boy first to lure him away from Neutron. “Jed, it’s Kara, we need to talk. Please, Jed, no one needs to get hurt!”
“Kara, don’t go any closer,” J’onn demanded of his friend.
“He won’t hurt me,” Kara declared even though doubts swirled inside her mind. He’s probably not the boy I remember, or is he?
“You don’t know that,” Hal stated also on alert for anything that may happen.
Suddenly, one of the doors slowly opened and Jed exited the building seemingly in a non-threatening manner. “Kara?” He whispered knowing she would come but it still shocked him to see her again after such a long time. Just as beautiful as ever, he realized.
“Jed, please you have to come with us. We can stop this,” she pleaded and then she held out her hand surprising him.
“Kara, no!” It was J’onn coming forward.
“I see you’ve brought back-up, Kara, very smart,” Jed replied as he tried to block the positive vibes coming from her team, but it was hard to block them because they were very powerful. He watched her closely as if he wanted to trust her.
“Leave them out of this, Jed. This is between you and me. We can end this now, please Jed,” she pleaded and held out her hand again coming closer.
Jed’s right hand moved forward, but before he could take her hand, a fireball from inside the warehouse exploded, obliterating the entire building and numerous other buildings for several blocks, sending all manner of radioactive debris, metal and wood shooting outward and high into the sky.
Martian Manhunter instantly realized what was happening as he rushed to grab Kara and Power Boy out of the way, and even though he was in league with Neutron, they had all sensed that Kara had gotten through to him.
The huge fireball receded after a few minutes and then Neutron appeared before them floating high above the fire and smoke, like some kind of god with dominion over all of them, sparks of energy and radiation flowed from his body as the containment suit was no longer needed.
Green Lantern then shot up into the sky and with his energy ring tried to enclose Neutron, but it didn’t work because he was enveloped by some kind of force field and nothing could penetrate it. The only answer would be to encourage Neutron to use up all of his power then they could defeat him. Green Lantern then told the team what they had to do. “Get him to use up all his energy. It’s the only way; his power can’t last forever.”
Wonder Woman and Superman watched and wondered what he would do next. Clark surveyed the surrounding area and gasped to himself when he spotted Jane but at least she had been protected from the fiery debris. He hoped she wouldn’t come any closer.
Neutron noticed the protective suits on the Kryptonians and was furious and decided to kill them all, then he raised his hands and shot energy beams toward Wonder Woman and Superman immediately flew over to her to protect her. Wonder Woman hoped they could take him on together, but he was too powerful. Superman then raised the shield from his protective helmet and shot fiery blasts from his eyes but they bounced off of Neutron as the force field continued to protect him.
“Nathaniel, this is pointless. We won’t let you do any more damage; you should give yourself up now. We can help you Nathaniel. It doesn’t have to be this way!” Superman demanded but his words fell on deaf ears.
Nathaniel threw back his head and laughed manically, not in the least bit interested in anything Superman had to say and then he sent more bursts of energy and radiation toward Superman and Wonder Woman and they bounced off his chest doing no harm. The continued radiation bursts however were damaging the suit and Clark could feel the effects, minor at the moment, but there was no telling how many more blasts the protective suit would be able to protect him.
Power Boy watched the scene before him and wanted to help the superheroes, that long dead part of him coming to life again, the feeling he could do some good for once in his miserable life. He turned to Kara then and held out his hand to her. Kara took it and then they both leaped into the sky.
Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter were right behind them as they both hovered just beyond Neutron’s eyesight, but Neutron heard them, turned and blasted all of them from the sky, including Power Boy and Supergirl leaving them incapacitated for a few minutes. Neutron was even more furious as he felt his power lessening with each blast. He was losing the battle and now Power Boy had turned against him.
This one blast would have to do, Neutron thought, then he gathered all of his energy and blasted Superman with all of his power. With Power Boy, Wonder Woman, and Kara’s stamina reduced by the earlier explosion and Neutron’s blast and with Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter out of the way, none of them were fast enough to protect Superman and he was not expecting this one blast to be this powerful. The combined effect of blue and green kryptonite radiation were too much for him, as the powerful blast penetrated his protective suit, and knocked him out the sky.
“Nooooo, Jonnnyyyyyy!” Jane screamed as all she could do was watch as Superman fell from the sky, and Kara and Wonder Woman were not fast enough to catch him. He hit the ground hard, rolled several yards and came to an awkward stop, but just before he lost consciousness, he heard Jane screaming his name.
Neutron looked very pleased with himself then tried to also blast Power Boy and Kara from the sky but they were able to sidestep his actions. They could also see he was definitely getting weaker. Then Power Boy, Lightning Lad, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Kara all gathered together and finally blasted Neutron from the sky. Once Neutron was found and restrained, Rokk collected the containment suit and placed him inside thereby rendering him powerless.
Superman was unconscious and barely breathing. Jane arrived at his side, and managed to roll him over to see his face which was barely visible through the protective suit. After a few moments, she whispered “Jonny, Jonny, can you hear me?”
Kara and Diana appeared beside her. “Is he … alive?” Kara asked and held her breath for her answer.
“I do feel a pulse, but it’s very weak,” Jane whimpered, tears falling from her eyes as she removed his protective helmet and stroked his cheek.
“We have to get him to STAR Labs right away, under an artificial sun. He’ll be alright in a few hours,” Kara told her and prayed that it wasn’t too late.
Jane’s heart lifted as she looked up at Kara. “Are you sure?” She wanted to believe that was true, but suddenly Jonny’s spirit slowly rose from his body, stood before her solemnly and watched the scene before him.
Jane gasped unbelieving and whispered, “Jonny?”
J’onn quickly arrived at the scene of Clark’s fall to Earth, took in the situation and knew immediately what had to be done. Then realized he had only seconds to save Clark, as he picked him up and took him to the sun, but in those few minutes, everything would change. It was a risk for him but J’onn had no choice and he knew Clark would do the same for him.
Jane watched as Jonny stood silently beside his body then he watched as J’onn took his body to the sun and Clark knew what would happen. He turned back to Jane and realized she could see him but then he heard her voice.
Jane closed her eyes and bowed her head, tears streaming down her face, wanting to watch their reunion, but she couldn’t do it because her heart was breaking. Jonny was gone, gone forever. She covered her face with her hands and sobbed her heart breaking.
Kara went to her, helped her to stand, and tried to reassure her. “Jane, everything’s going to be alright. Once J’onn takes him to the sun and returns him to Earth, we’ll meet them at STAR Labs and he’ll be fine in a few days. Please don’t lose hope.”
Jane knew that wasn’t true, so she tried to stand, and leaned on Kara for support. After that, she couldn’t help looking back at Jonny and Lois. Then another miracle happened … Lois and Jane made eye contact. Jane gasped but she couldn’t look away. She felt Kara’s arm around her shoulder pulling her away from the scene, then she finally looked away unable to look at Lois any longer.
Deep in Jane’s heart, she knew things were as they should be and a part of her was very happy for them, but the larger part of her heart screamed her denial to the heavens. Please send him back to me, please God, just for a little while longer.