Trouble in Metropolis, and Kal-El was on the scene as usual. This time it was a high-tech gang of terrorists. Bad enough at any time, but these guys were all wearing high-powered flight suits with integrated weapons systems. Someone funded them very well, Kal-El thought, flying at several times the speed of sound to intercept fire from a plasma gun. It tickled as the superheated ions bounced off his skin.
The problem here wasn’t the terrorists themselves. He could account for them easily. The problem was the amount of collateral damage they were causing. Kal-El was behind the game, reacting instead of acting, saving the innocent victims and trying to prevent more destruction instead of swatting the perpetrators out of the air. Sometimes he just needed to be in two places at once, and not even with super-speed could he manage….
A despairing cry behind him, and Kal-El looked around to see one of the terrorists dropping out of the sky, accompanied by a red and blue blur. “I’ve got your six, Blue,” a cheerful voice rang out.
Jason. Excellent timing. I just hope you’re not missing class. “Thanks, SB,” he called back. Reliable backup turned the odds in their favor. Supersonic flight suits and plasma guns weren’t too effective against a pair of Kryptonians—and if one of those Kryptonians didn’t fly, that just meant he was springing up, seemingly out of nowhere, to snatch his next target.
They worked in seamless tandem that didn’t need the comm. Kal-El knew where his son would be at any given second, knew what his next priority was, and knew he could trust Jason to watch his back. That gave him time to put out a smoldering fire with a blast of super-breath as Jason caught a massive billboard that was falling toward a busy street.
Kal-El drew their fire next, as Jason picked them off one by one, overwhelming them by sheer strength. The armor they wore was strong, but it tore like paper when a determined Kryptonian decided to peel it off. From there it was an easy matter of leaving each one concussed and trussed for the police—Jason’s personal version of Batclan’s ‘bagged and tagged’. He had grown adept at applying just enough force with a flick of his fingers to render a man unconscious without causing permanent damage.
It didn’t get difficult until the last man. He tried taking hostages, landing amidst a swanky party on an office building’s rooftop terrace and pointing his weapon indiscriminately at the crowd of guests. “No closer, Superman, or I’ll—” the man shouted, but it was already too late.
Jason jumped to the rooftop. Eighty stories, straight up, landing lightly on his feet. “Didn’t you read the Metropolis guidebook? Taking hostages is never a good idea,” he quipped.
The man swung his weapon toward Jason, away from the crowd. It was integrated into his suit, so it wasn’t possible to simply take it away from him. But without it aimed at innocent civilians…
…the next thing the terrorist knew, he was two miles above Metropolis, with Superman holding his plasma gun aimed upward. “This is the part where you surrender,” he said.
Of course the man struggled. Kal-El dealt with him; he rendered the weapon nonfunctional and locked the man’s wrists together, crimping the titanium alloy armor together with careful pressure. Then he could drop this one off to the police.
Meanwhile Jason needed a little rescue of his own. Kal-El chuckled to himself as he flew back to his son. A starry-eyed young woman, one of the partygoers they’d just rescued, was beaming at Jason and saying, “That was amazing, Superboy! We’re so lucky you were here.”
“I learned from the best,” he told her with a grin.
“Stick around for the party!” someone called, holding aloft a glass of champagne.
“Thanks, but no thanks. I’m still on call,” Jason replied, and with a final wave he bounded off toward his father.
They ended up atop the Daily Planet globe. “Do you have the time to talk, son?” Kal-El asked. He could call Jason that, even in uniform. He had carefully established that he called several of the younger male heroes ‘son’, though with the girls it was always a respectful ‘miss’.
“My afternoon class got cancelled—the professor has the flu. So I came looking for some trouble.” Jason grinned. “Looks like I found it. Do you hear her?” He couldn’t say Mom, but they both knew exactly who he meant by the muttered profanity several floors below them.
Kal-El smiled. “Those guys were international. She’ll end up having to share the byline across two departments. And I think Ms. Khan actually got the lead first.”
“That always irritates her,” Jason said fondly. His parents’ newsroom rivalry never failed to amuse him these days. It was even funnier considering that their two protégés considered themselves a team, and were perfectly willing to share or even hand over credit when needed.
“Well, if you’re so complacent, you can do the interview,” Kal-El teased.
Jason looked at his boots intently. “Actually, um, I can’t get hog-tied by a pair of reporters trying to appease their boss. I’ve got a date I need to get to.”
“A date, huh?” Kal-El smiled, and Jason blushed. He’d been quite surprised the other day to find Cassie Sandsmark at his dinner table, but once the circumstances were explained, Kal-El was happy to have her there. Although it had taken a few minutes to put her at her ease; many of the younger heroes were still somewhat shy of the original League members, especially the founding Trinity. Usually that didn’t apply to Cassie, who was Diana’s protégé and a demigoddess besides, but hanging out with Superman was different when she was dating his son. All it had taken was one classically Clark Kent cheesy joke to get Cassie laughing, and then she was herself again, at the price of a groan and eye-roll from Lois.
Kal-El had watched the two teenagers together before letting himself form an opinion. Normally he was ambivalent about dating within the team; he’d seen a few nasty breakups that had challenged cohesion among JLA members. Add teenage volatility to the mix, and things could get even more complicated. Cassie was smart, sensible, and steady, a lot like Jason himself, and they had a great working relationship already. The romance looked promising, and Kal-El congratulated his son as soon as Cassie was out of earshot.
Later, he and Lois had talked about it. Lois had been a little worried that Jason was too attached to Elise, and seeing him dating another girl assuaged that fear. Oh, he still loved Elise and probably always would, but he wasn’t obsessed or anything. And Cassie was clearly good for him. She brought out his playful, geeky side, whereas running with the Titans had made him more serious and deliberate.
“So I take it you and Wonder Girl have plans,” Kal-El said. “When are you meeting her?”
“She’s going to call when she gets back in. She’s busy at the moment, but since we both have a free day….” Jason shrugged, looking sheepish. Both teens had incredibly busy lives, and it was no wonder they jumped at a chance for time together.
“Might as well make the best of it. I’m sure she’ll find a reason to head back soon. In that case, son, I’ll deal with the reporters—including the one in the corner office.” With that he clapped Jason on the shoulder and stood up. “Good work.”
“Thanks,” Jason said. In uniform, they shook hands instead of hugging, but the smiles on both of their faces tended to add support to the cover story about Jason being a clone of Kal-El.
Kal-El watched his son bound away, hearing a clamor in the office building below him. Lois didn’t sound pleased; something about a reporter being too smart for her own good. He didn’t get the chance to think deeper on it, because the roof door opened and Phillip Murray stuck his head out. “Superman?” he called, uncertainly.
“Hello, Mr. Murray,” he replied, stepping off the globe and floating down to conversational distance. The actual interview was brief, just a quick reporting of the facts, and ended as always with Kal-El saying, “Please give Mrs. Lane-Kent my regards.”
“I will. Thank you, Superman,” the young reporter said, and ran back inside. Lois did keep the poor boy on his toes.
He arrived back at his desk only to find two emails waiting for him.
Had to leave suddenly. Not feeling well. Will try to do some research from home to make up for the absence.
It was from his own rising star, Krista Khan. Kal-El frowned slightly. She’d seemed fine earlier. Krista was normally very reliable, and he couldn’t remember her ever leaving in the middle of the day. He clicked the next message in his inbox, which was from Lois.
If your pet reporter LIED to me to go scoop mine, you’ll sleep on the couch for a week and she and I are going to have a TALK.
Kal-El sighed heavily. He could see where this was going, and quickly replied to Krista’s email with a reminder that unplanned absences generally required a doctor’s note, and a hint as to where she should direct that research. Then he replied to Lois, telling her that Phillip got the Superman interview so he should have the byline on the front page, but he’d put one of his own people on researching the international angle for a companion piece.
Why had he ever agreed to take a management position?
Corrin took her to a funky little pizza parlor for lunch. The food was really good; Elise had white pizza with feta cheese and olive oil and shredded fresh basil atop it. Fresh, delicious, and best of all, within a college student’s budget. Corrin was working on a calzone with mushrooms and sliced meatballs, taking bites between telling her how his courses were going.
Elise let him talk. Corrin was normal, something she’d almost lost touch with. At some point in her teens, talking about her boyfriend’s alien heritage and speculating on the motives of supervillains had become commonplace. Sometimes it was nice to be ordinary again. Well, as ordinary as anybody going to Berkeley and majoring in chemistry could be.
The televisions set up around the room were tuned to the news, which Elise largely ignored. She didn’t like to watch the news while she was eating, in case something spoiled her appetite. So much of what the media reported was basically crap, no matter which side of the political spectrum it came from. Having spent so much time at the Lane-Kents, Elise now had a tendency to throw things at the screen and shout things like, ‘Where’s the facts?’ or ‘Yellow journalism!’
At least, she tried to ignore the news, but then a story came up that caught her eye from across the room. A flash of red and blue crossed the screen in pursuit of something metallic. “Hey, Corrin, you seeing this?” she said, sitting up and focusing on the nearest screen.
He turned to look. A female reporter was describing the day’s events in Metropolis; an attack by terrorists, foiled by the combination of Superman and Superboy. Elise’s chest went tight at seeing Jason knocking bad guys out of the sky with his trademark grin. It didn’t change what she’d thought earlier about wishing for a slice of normalcy. Sometimes she missed having a little piece of stardust in her life. It was just all the larger-than-life drama that came with it that bothered her.
“Oh, yeah. You’re from Metropolis after all. Ever get to meet ‘em?” Corrin asked with a little smile.
If only she could answer. Well, kinda. You see, Superboy there is my ex-boyfriend, and I spent most of my weekends chilling at the apartment Superman shares with Lois Lane and their kids. Oh yeah, that wouldn’t send him screaming for the hills. “Not really,” she laughed, sounding hollow to her own ears.
It apparently convinced Corrin, though. He changed the topic, and Elise went along with it. Corrin was blessedly drama-free.
Cassie was in deep trouble and knew it. Superpowers were pretty awesome and all, until you faced off against someone with the same skill set. She’d put aside her lasso for this one, choosing to fight with a staff like Tim’s. Versatility and all that, plus her lasso wouldn’t do much good in this fight. So far though, it wasn’t going well.
She blocked and tried to parry, only succeeding in getting the staff struck out of her hands by a blow that left her palms stinging. “Crap,” she muttered, relying on flight to get her out of range of her opponent’s staff. It only worked for a moment, as the other woman chased her into the sky.
A moment was all she needed, though. Her opponent had neglected to secure Cassie’s fallen staff, and she dove down to snatch it. Now they were fighting in midair, and with an extra dimension to work with, Cassie was a little more comfortable. She even pulled an excellent fake-out that left her opponent’s guard low when it should’ve been high. With a triumphant cry, Cassie struck at full strength.
The other woman couldn’t get her staff up in time, but caught the blow on her arm instead of her head as Cassie had intended. Then Cassie realized she’d left an opening … right before her opponent’s staff came up and whacked her in the chin hard enough that stars burst in Cassie’s vision.
She lost her equilibrium and spun over backwards with the force of the blow, landing hard on the packed sand below. “Ow,” she muttered thickly, blinking to clear her sight.
The first thing she saw was her opponent offering her a hand up. “Nice feint. You’ve been sparring with Donna, I see.” Diana smiled at her warmly.
Cassie took her hand and let the Princess of Themyscira help her up. “Yeah, she pulled that one on me last time. Now I just have to fix the hole in my guard.” Donna had plenty to deal with right now, but sparring with Cassie helped keep her mind off it.
“She’s pulled it on me often enough when we practiced. I can help you with your guard, but would you like to rest a moment first?” Diana was nothing if not gracious, especially here. Sometimes people forgot she was quite literally royalty, with everything that implied.
“Sure,” Cassie said, relieved at the chance of a break. Amazons trained hard, and Diana was one of the most intense. But they also took their relaxing very seriously. The two women strolled away from the practice arena, heading toward the cliffs that overlooked the sea. Paradise Island lived up to its name; the wooded path they took was carpeted in wild thyme, and shaded by fruit trees. Cassie snagged an apple and bit into it, savoring the crisp, tart juice. Perfect post-workout snack, in her opinion.
Moments later they came out to a perfect overlook, with marble benches and a view of waves that seemed to go on forever. Diana sat down, and Cassie dropped easily onto sun-warmed marble opposite her. “So,” Diana said, “anything new and interesting in your life?”
Cassie swallowed. She hadn’t yet had a chance to tell her mentor what was up, but by the glint in Diana’s blue eyes, she already knew. “I’m seeing somebody, actually,” she said.
“Mm-hmm.” Wonder Woman had one of those great contagious smiles—come to think of it, Superman did too. Maybe it was a shared Trinity trait, and no one knew that Batman had it too because he never smiled.
Grinning back, Cassie said, “So yeah. Jason finally noticed that I am, actually, a girl. And that I’m interested.”
Diana laughed. “I honestly thought you were going to have to hire one of those planes that tow the banners you can see for five miles. I even thought about volunteering my jet.”
Chuckling, Cassie replied, “I might’ve taken you up on it. Honestly, this girl he’s so hung up on sounds awesome, but she’s made it clear she moved on, so no harm, no foul. Still, I thought I was gonna have to drop a really big hint to get his attention.”
“Apparently Kryptonians are pretty strictly monogamous,” Diana mused. “The men, at least, fall in love a lot like a meteor falling out of the sky.”
“Tell me about it. I went to dinner at his parents’ place, which was awkward since he neglected to mention to them that we were dating,” Cassie rolled her eyes at that, “but anyway, just about any time Superman and Lois lock eyes, you can almost hear the rest of the world fading into the background.”
“They are an inspiration,” Diana said quietly.
“They’re a Hallmark card. In a good way,” Cassie remarked.
That got her a smile. “So it’s working out with Jason?”
“Yeah. I mean, we always got along as friends and partners. This … this is even better. He’s so … Jason’s a sweetheart, you know, a little too nice sometimes. But he can be pretty intense. Like, when he listens, he’s not one of those guys who’s just planning what he’s going to say next. Or how to get in your pants, for that matter.” Cassie scowled, and Diana echoed the expression, which got them both chuckling again. “Jason listens like everything I say is important.”
Diana nodded, and Cassie thought that might have been a little too serious. It was a mind trip to be having a casual girlfriends-type discussion about guys with Wonder Woman, but she was used to such things by now. Diana was never standoffish, and always encouraged people to talk to her. Still, Cassie didn’t want to make this sound like the Love Affair of the Century, when she and Jason weren’t quite sure if that was what it was yet. So she grinned and added, “Plus, Super-hugs are the best.”
Diana tipped her head back and laughed. “That they are. Cassie, I’m glad to see you happy with him.”
“I’m glad to be happy. And to be with him.” She blushed a little at that, tossing her apple core among the trees where the seeds might someday take root.
“Good. And now, shall we work on blocking the return for that parry?”
Time to get her butt kicked again. “Sure,” Cassie said.