Kent Farm, Hamilton County
The Death of the Supermen
30 Miles west of Metropolis"And you're sure everything's okay there? Nothing out of the ordinary?"
I ask into the phone, pacing back and forth in the old barn behind the house, deliberately avoiding the mass covered by a tarp laid out on an old table."You should know, you went over the house twice before even asking me to come out here,"
Conner says from the other end of the line. "Ma says you're panicking. I'm saying that too, Clark.""I'm just trying to make sure we're covering all bases,"
I say, trying to convince myself of that as much as I'm trying to convince Conner.
I was attacked by the Atomic Skull....or at least, someone wanted me to think
I was being attacked by the Atomic Skull. After putting the irradiated criminal down, I discovered it was actually a robotic duplicate. A decoy, perhaps, or a distraction. After the fight, I came home to the farmhouse and discovered a corpse on our front doorstep.My
corpse. That is, the corpse of a version of me-- my experience with alternate timelines and parallel universes isn't as vast as others', but I've run into other Supermen from time to time, so I'm not discounting anything just yet."You've told the League about this, right?"
Conner asks. "I mean, this seems like the sort of thing to bring in some detective-types to figure out.""Of course,"
He knows I'm lying-- I haven't told anyone except Ma, Kara, and Conner. He doesn't press the issue.
Whoever did this wants me panicking, wants me scared. And most of all, wants me taking this personally. Whoever it is, they're going to regret getting what they want."Okay, well, I'm gonna unpack my stuff,"
Conner says. "I'll keep an eye on Ma, like you asked. Family's family, and all that."
Conner wasn't thrilled about being asked to take time away from the Teen Titans to watch Ma back in Smallville, but he understands the severity of the situation. While I was tight-lipped about the details, I've tapped other friends to be on the lookout as well-- John Henry Irons is keeping tabs on Lana, Krypto has been quietly following Jimmy, and I'm entrusting Kara with safeguarding Metropolis in the event that I'm indisposed.
Bringing in the League might be useful, but like Conner said, family is family. And until I understand what's going on here, I can't trust anyone outside the family with this situation."You let me know at the very first sign of trouble, okay?"
I ask."Heh, you've got better senses than me; you'll probably see trouble before I do,"
he says with a nervous laugh. "I mean, ummm.....yeah. I'll make sure Ma's safe. No matter what.""Thanks; I appreciate it,"
I say. "And in case anything happens....I'm proud of you.""....yeah, but I mean, nothing's going to happen, right?""I'm going to make sure of that,"
There's a knock on the barn door."Dad?"
Jon says from outside. "Can I come in? It's important.""I have to go, Conner,"
I say as I head to the barn door. "Thanks again for doing this. Tell Ma I love her, don't eat all the snacks in the pantry, make--""--sure all my homework assignments are done, and punch the bad guys away from town if a fight breaks out. Got it. I'll talk to you later."
Hanging up the phone, I open the door and see Jon, a confused look on his face."What's wrong, son?"
I ask, kneeling to look him in the eye."You said not to tell anyone about the--....the you-know-what that appeared on the front porch, right?""Not until we know more about what's going on, that's right.""And Mom hasn't told anyone either....""I don't think she has, no....""....and you've only told Kara and Conner, right?"".....right.....""......so why is Batman here?"
I pause for a second, raising an eyebrow. Bruce is an incredible detective, maybe the best there is, but I haven't told him anything about this. Not to mention I've told him, in no uncertain terms, if he's going to come by the farm or near Lois or Jon, he needs to tell me first, especially
if it's business."Jon,"
I say, slowly and deliberately so I don't lose my temper, "Where did you see Batman?""On top of the silo,"
he answers. "I saw him for just a second, but then he disappeared. You said he's good at sneaking, right?""...right,"
I say, slowly rising to my feet, my right hand already clenched in a fist. "Go find your Mom, Jon. I'm going to go talk to Batman and see what he wants."
Stepping out of the barn, I round the corner and look out at the grain silo, standing tall on the far end of the field. Sure enough, for a fleeting moment I see the silhouette, black against the deep blue sky. Perched like a gargoyle, horn-like ears and flowing scalloped cloak creating an unmistakable profile, if only for a few fractions of a second before it vanishes.
Blinking, I take a moment to focus my senses. Lois and Jon are my anchors, the two pulses I have in my ears at all times to center me through the endless cacophony being made by the billions of people on this world, but there are a few others that I can pick up at a moment's notice. My mother, of course, my cousin and clone, a few of my more dangerous enemies....and of course, my old friend in Gotham.
Meanwhile, I begin focusing my vision through various wavelengths along the electromagnetic spectrum. Eventually, I find the silhouette again, but again it fades, like a radio station just at the edge of its range each time I get a trace of it.
It doesn't take long for me to pick up on the pulse. He's back in Gotham, no doubt working on a case of his own.That's not Bruce.
I rush towards the silo, covering the two acres of farmland in microseconds, the world blurring as I charge the ghost-like 'Batman' who's spying on my family.
In those few microseconds, however, the figure vanishes completely. As if he'd never been there to begin with.
The house has already been visited by the body of a dead Superman. Now we seem to be haunted by the ghost of a Batman."What in the hell is going on?"
ELSEWHERE"I've scouted out the premises, but I'm afraid my cover was nearly compromised. We underestimated how quickly the new Superboy's powers are manifesting.""I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing-- more hands in the fight if it comes down to it, yes?""I know you don't operate by the same rules as me, but I'm not going to condone the recruitment of children into this mission.""The boy is in danger, regardless of whether he's 'recruited.' It may come down to this entire universe getting drafted.""Still, were you able to determine anything about the target?""It's like we suspected-- a prime, like the others. Not quite as squeaky-clean as some that we've encountered, but runs a very low risk of joining the other camp. From the information I've gathered, this is an experienced prime as well, including limited encounters with parallel incarnations.""That's good-- the less we have to explain, the sooner we can get him ready for--"
BOOM"....what the--""This prime is ours, 'Mister President.' Leave now, while you still can...."