Dinah: There’d been an important question asked up there on the roof, and while I’m sure the kid thought it was going to be a thought provoking, soul inspiring, motivational line? Maybe to someone else it would have been, and having it come from him with what I know of him had been far more startling than the words themselves. Why am I not ruling the world with some multi-million dollar recording contract, and sold out stadium shows? I’m all for tooting my own horn, I do it frequently and I don’t even have to exaggerate much when I do. Legs for days, blonde, great body, pretty face is actually enough to get a starlet up there. Synth work can do the rest. I actually have incredible vocal control to go along with it.
So why don’t we go any further? Well. I can tell you for a fact that at least half the band wishes we would. Wishes bad enough that they got their asses over here from Star City on incredibly short notice. We’ve got enough of a following, little as we are, that Kicking and Screaming was fit into a gig slot when I’d called and said I was going to be in town and willing to get up on the stage. I guess we can call it a one night reunion tour, because all the singing I’ve done lately has been much more random Coyote Ugly at my own bar than anything formal. This? Is practice for me. The vocal equivalent of an athlete running wind sprints, or fitting in just one more punishing set of dead lifts. I have absolutely zero desire to pursue music as a career. Even less than I now have for legit law enforcement. It’s something I can do, and do very well, but not what I want to be.
They’d started me on harmonica, actually. Breath control that didn’t actually involve me accidentally destroying something. The jump to singing was my call, and it’d evolved from simple melodies and harmonics, to a garage band that I think both my parents despaired of in middle school. One more extracurricular that was preparing me for something I didn’t know at the time was coming. The death of one parent and grandparent, the murder of another, and the need for vengeance that came out of that. Traditional melodies gave way to rock, which is my personal preference anyway, where I could really push the line between screaming, and screaming. But. It’d be a lie to say I don’t enjoy the attention every once in a while. The dark and the neon and the smoke, and all eyes on me while I strut and perform.
Kicking and Screaming does have some original stuff. Not a lot of it, but it gets woven in between the covers that primarily dominate the set. There’s not even necessarily a real rhyme or reason or order to the choices other than I have a tendency to pick numbers with grueling vocals, or ones that fluctuate from extreme highs to lows. Blondie tracks like One Way or Another, to Hallowed Be They Name by Iron Maiden. But I always. Always finish with the best. All Hail Queen Freddy. Because if you don’t love Bohemian Rhapsody? There’s something wrong with you.
Conner: Well there’s one sure fired way for a band in Metropolis to make it big. One word: Luthor. Whether they own you or people just think they might want to own you? There’s always a certain amount of vibe when you get noticed by them. To have a Luthor Corp rep come in to talk to you? Just that step alone will make other companies look at you too. Even if Luthor Corp wants you for a dime, you’ll make a quarter off someone else trying to out bid. If Luthor Corp wants you enough to actually bid? You’re set for life.
That’s just a rep. Last year Cassie and I actually caused a bit of a scene when we tried to go to a relatively low-key concert. There’s a lot of work that goes in to the President’s Family going to public functions. Secret Service being a key factor. The truth is, I don’t need them but it’s part of the routine. The facade that is a ‘secret identity.’ However part of my image, part of what truly makes people never take a second look at me as even a consideration for being a Super Hero? Is all about the attitude, the reputation. How many tabloids tell the tale of my ‘Once again slipping my security detail for a night on the town?’ A lot less of them now than there used to be. Cassie and I do it to keep up appearances, mostly. Another part of it happens to now be my enjoyment of her embarrassment when we do it.
Tonight’s appearance therefor comes with a double helping of trouble. Is that Conner Luthor? Oh. My God. It’s Conner Luthor!! Why is he hear? Isn’t he Dreamy? To the less pleasant side of the fellas, who aren’t too happy with the attention I’ve taken away from them once I’m in through the V.I.P. door. There’s really no ‘Low-Key’ entry here. Not for me. Superman had his Clark Kent, hey-shucks persona. I’ve cultivated the polar opposite. Embracing so many of the aspects of life that Dinah only just moments before suggested that Superman should. Fame. Adoration. Wealth. Power. But there’s a flippant attitude about it lately. Because I’ve been discovering that part of it, isn’t nearly as fulfilling as some of the things I get by not being a Luthor.
Sooner or later the Secret Service will catch up. They’ll hear reports of where I’m at. They’ll show up. N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is going to be furious with me, once more, for doing things off of their schedule. Both of them can kiss my ass. I’m Conner Luthor, the Superman. In the end, what can they do about it? Other than try to lecture me, as I’m taking advantage of the hospitality of Dinah’s fans by ingratiating myself to one of the boothes. Buying drinks, that I’m not even legal to buy and otherwise insuring myself of being noticed by the Band.
The good news? She doesn’t suck. I knew that before getting changed. In fact, I wouldn’t be here if she didn’t have the pipes she does. Part of me has to admit, I wouldn’t be here anyway but there’s something about the woman herself. Her story struck a chord with me. How did she escape the List? Curious. Why isn’t she on M:TV (other than the fact that they no longer play any music)? And why is she so accepting of mediocrity? The latter two questions seem, on the surface, to be easier to guess at an answer than they should be. If she had avoided the list intentionally, she’d want to stay beneath the Radar of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. to keep herself off of it. Except that she seemed not to know about the list. I didn’t hear a lie in that sentiment, so I’ve got accept that too is the truth.
The trouble with all of that? Is that this woman is accepting mediocrity in life, but puts for the effort to keep herself looking like that. In my world those two things do not add up to one and the same. There’s more to Dinah Lance than she’s letting on. I’m all too happy to take a front row seat for looking in to it. At least, that’s what I’ll tell Dr. Fairchild. I’m still working on what I’ll tell Cassie, but it’s probably going to involve Alien Invasion.
Dinah: There’s the general mayhem of any club that you can expect on any given night. Then there’s an added layer of buzz that a band can bring, especially if it’s one that got asses in the seats to any degree. People that came to have a good time, and then the ones who came to have a very specific good time. The third kind is what gets my attention now, the one that’s generated by someone coming in that means something. A recognizable face. The anxious pitch of a group of individuals all wondering the very same thing. Can I talk to them? Would they even talk to me? Are they going to notice me and what happens if they do? Some of these ‘butts’ might indeed be here to see me. A lot of them even, but I’m not famous. Not like Conner Luthor is.
Sure, it could have been someone else who’s Somebody in Metropolis, but a belief in coincidence will only take you so far. You rely on it past that? You’re going to miss an important details and the details can get you killed. Or in slightly lesser trouble than dead. I’m not able to resist smirking into my mic when he settles in. I’d had an even money bet going in my own head over whether he was just going to hang around in the sky, or if I’d get the alter ego. I suppose you could argue which side of this kid is the real one, and from my run in with ‘Superman’ and what Tim had prepped me with? I’d say this is the real one.
Fortunately? I’m pretty cocky when I perform. Or when I breathe. So smug facial expressions and the smirking, even a little heavy winking aren’t all that far out of my lane. Not that he’d know that. Until ten minutes ago this guy had no idea I existed, and I think that’s a big part of what brought him down here. Or at least that Big Brother didn’t know. That’s where the whole thing gets iffy, honestly. How curious that makes him, even for a supposedly minor and unimportant meta-human power. Now. What to do with him?
As the final number’s music eases back down from the swell and tempo that it built to in the middle, I’m scanning the crowd. Trying to pick out the obvious suits, if they’re even here at all, to see who’s watching him. Well. Mostly everyone, but that’s a different kind of situation altogether. I could take this away from prying eyes, and the detail would try and follow. The safe play for the moment? I decide is going to be sticking with the crowd. We finish the number. The band gets their bows, I get mine, and I ignore the hopeful way they watch me like they’re thinking that just maybe this means I want to take the whole gig a step further. The club’s promoter and event coordinator is waiting to talk to me, but not only in the hopes of another night. There’s a VIP, of course.
I get to pretend to be surprised and pleased, and then I get to weave and curve my way through the tide of bodies, to where I would have gone regardless. Up to the kid that could level the block and/or put a laser beam through my skull if he so chose. I’m a bit more tousseled than the last time, but otherwise the attire is basically the same, outside of the leather jacket I ditched mid set.
“Well hey there. We’re all jazzed you came down to join us. Enjoy the show?”
We meaning the band, the crowd, hell I’m pretty sure the girls feel luckier that the turned up than I did. As for down, well. Down out of the sky, or could it just be innocently down to this part of town?
Conner: The truth is? She isn’t bad. The bad isn’t bad. These guys could actually be something. Which is another step in to the direction of questions. Why aren’t they doing something with this talent? It doesn’t make a lot of sense, to tell you the truth. Now that I’ve seen the rest of her band, I’ve got the added luxury of having scanned through all of them. Not one of them more remarkable than the last. Only one of them having any true merit in the department of super-human advancement. All of them, to a person, clearly dependent upon their lead as to how far they’ll go with all of this. Could I buy it that one of them was willing to scrape by in life? Sure, there are ambition-less people in the world. I tend to pick them as friends, because they adore me and rarely cause me any trouble. For her to be in the field of performance and somehow to have found a whole band full of ambition lacking artists, who are good enough to go somewhere, but simply not want too?
None of that fits in to the world that I’m aware of. Admittedly though, on it’s own, I can’t really fight the notion that Dinah might simply be smart enough not to want to take her act to a level that would merit attention. But that only works if she was aware of needing to stay low-key, which doesn’t play with how completely unaware she was. The combination is what brought me here. I could have watched from the Sky, just as I said. But there comes a time when you need to get boots on the ground, my Dad always said. You’ve got to investigate, question everything, trust nothing and no one unless they have the name Luthor….
“Oh, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” there’s manners and then there’s forward behavior that takes form in having your hand taken, kissed and then lifted in indication that you’re expected to spin around so more of you can be seen. “Sometimes, I’ve got to come down out of that Ivory tower that they try to keep me locked up in.”
There are so many ways to play this. Lie and say that I own her album. I’m not overly keen on saying that, though. Flattery only works if you can back it up. Right now? I can’t. Didn’t take the time to do much research, because -this- is the research phase. So I’ve got to go with the truth. “Truth is, I didn’t know you were playing tonight until I got here. I’d love to tell you how good your music was, but I barely heard half of it. Between being stunned at how good you look and then getting my new friends here drinks.”
“It’s been a busy night. People keep asking me for autographs and then leaving the paper behind?” Said as I wad up a handful of phone numbers, names, all printed hastily on napkins or cards. “You must get this all the time, right?”
Dinah: He’s smooth, confident and clearly very aware of his place in the world. I’ve known enough people with similar traits to also know that a lot of them his age can’t entirely back it up. There’s grown-ass men that will go part of the way into the flirtation and not have the ability to back up the rest of it. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me as much as it does, because I’m starting to think it’s really just a billionaire superhero thing. Or those with training or a power or both. Depending on your outlook, you glide through life knowing it’s not what’s important so who cares what anyone else thinks of you or what you’re doing?
Do I spin? You bet your ass I do, because that brings my ass around, before I finish the move and sweep it out into an overly theatrical curtsy. Not that I can do it properly in a skirt this tight, but that’s what a healthy imagination is for.
“Something tells me they don’t succeed all that often.”
Like the fact that the direct approach by myself, and a multitude of others hasn’t been moved to somewhere more easily controlled. That means either they’re not here, the entire club is security or highly vetted, or … well there’s really no other ‘or’ to that situation except the possibility that they only bother for public appearances. I don’t think that who this kid is, who he really is, is that much of an open secret that such lax coverage would fly however.
“Well, aren’t you just lucky then? Since we’re being so terribly honest with each other, I didn’t know I was going to be until two days ago, either. Spur of the moment kind of thing.”
I take my time regaining my hand back, only after his flattery gets a playful bat at his chest with my free hand, and a rather wink. Sure he didn’t hear it, sure they’re his friends. Sure the bar is letting him buy drinks when he’s not nearly old enough. Well. That last one is true. They’re surely all too happy to take his Black card and let him buy whatever the hell he wants. That’s what fame and privilege gets for you. Or being ridiculously good looking. Really. Another superhero thing, I’m starting to think.
“The aw shucks isn’t going to work on me, honey. But I won’t tattle and break their poor hearts. They should know better. But I know you’ve got a Wonder of a girlfriend. I mean. She’d have to be to put up with all the attention without getting worried about it.”
My expression has taken a commiserating turn though, as I shake my blonde head and blow out my lips for a moment. Shifting from understanding, to maybe frustrated, to a little coy and then clear round again to something a little more wolfish and predatory.
“Not as much as you’d think. I’d have to do more shows for that. More requests for the hot blonde’s number than the band’s singer, but I’ve heard I’m a little… intimidating. So a lot don’t bother.”
Conner: “Would it surprise you to know they tried really hard for a really long time, but I think they’ve somewhat come to the understanding that I don’t do well under lock and key.”
The irony of this is that we’re not really talking about an Ivory tower here. The first couple years of my life were spent locked in a laboratory. Most people aren’t conscious from the moment they take their first breathe, but I don’t have the luxury of a mother. I awoke in to a vat of nucleotide fluid. With my brain hard wired in to a virtual reality simulator, that simulated fifteen years of life in just a handful of years in the real world. It was roughly two years in to that ‘captivity’ before I realized that I was in the Matrix. Another year after that before I understood what was happening. That last year was spent testing the boundaries, testing the trainers, the doctors and the teachers. There wasn’t an escape. That’s understating what happened. The news called it a freak earth quake, but I called it retribution.
As this plays through my thoughts, I’m reminded of just why I never turned Cassie in. We were too alike. Too close to the same thing. Except for where I’d been living my whole life in the confines of a lab, she’d seen the world. She was everything I’d wished to be, before I became what I am now. When I still thought the Matrix was real and that life had consequences for people like me. Now, I understand that there are consequences. It just so happens, that I’m the consequence and the woman before me is very much up for discussion of whether or not she deserves some of them.
“Honesty. A trait not entirely common in my family. You’ll have to help me, maybe hum a few bars so that I can fake my way through it?”
It occurs to me, that I should introduce her to the people I joined to watch the show. It also occurs to me, that I should have learned their names in the first place. Those things would have been the proper way to handle yourself. Even my Father liked to impress the masses by remembering their names after he shook their hands. Me? I don’t know, it just feels dishonest. Strange how I’d be worried about the dishonesty of learning the names of people I couldn’t care less about, but it doesn’t bother me at all that I don’t care about them in the first place. In any case, I take just enough time to at least let them fawn over her for a second while I let my held hand, transition in to an arm around Dinah’s waist.
“Oh. Now that’s a change of pace,” here’s some real honesty about things for Dinah. “Most people who approach me either don’t bother looking in to whether I’m single or not. Or. They don’t care.”
Then comes a smile that is genetically perfect in how wolfish, yet somehow entirely innocent all at once. “Truth be told? Cassie is Wonderful, but not because she’s immune to jealousy. You see, she doesn’t really have to worry about all that. She’s the only girl I’ve ever met that can keep up with me. No offense, Dinah, but as hot as you are? I don’t think you’ve got it in you, kid.”
“Honest. I don’t mean any offense. I can totally see why people would be intimidated by you. I mean. Have you looked in a mirror? Golly, where do those legs actually stop… and that ass? If my Dad were here, he’d be drafting a bill to pardon you. Because your ass is illegal in all forty eight continental states. I’d talk about the rest of you, but I’m trying not to drool. It’s very unsophisticated, I’m told. Hell, Miss Lance, your voice is the least intimating thing about you and it’s pretty much super.”
Leaning in close, most might think I was about to make a move, but all I’m looking for is her ear to whisper in to. “I’m winning, by the way. I assume we’re trying to see who can lay it on thicker, before we find somewhere a little more private.”
Dinah: “Nope. Not at all. Probably made them try even harder. Hell. They’re probably still trying.”
It’s human nature to try and control what you don’t understand, so that you can learn from it. Use it. Harness it and point it in the direction you think is right. In this kid’s case? Not only is keeping him under thumb an impossible prospect, but it represents losing control of a huge monetary investment. And power. Necessity is the mother of invention. They’ve just had to come up with new, and less obvious ways to trying to keep hold of what they think that they’ve got. And while I’ve never actually liked people like Conner Luthor? I also don’t think what I got up on the rooftop was entirely an act. There was no reason for it. I was giving every cue to go ahead and indulge his predilection towards being…well. This. Fluffing the ego. Giving all the go aheads and he didn’t. Even though there wasn’t another soul up there to see, or hear. And that means that if N.O.W.H.E.R.E. hadn’t tried to control him the way that they did? He might just be a lot more Super and a lot less Luthor.
There’s a scoff of laughter, before I begin to literally oblige him. Spinning up out of my extensive mental music library the chorus of Billy Joel’s ‘Honesty,’ though man. Chances are he doesn’t know it. I wasn’t born when that song came out either, though. As for his hanger’s on? I’m not overly worried about them either. Mostly because there’s only a 2% potential for one of them to manage to cause me physical harm, and they’re not important to the mission right now. Besides, I can be excused for ignoring them in order to fawn over Conner Luthor.
“I’d be hurt. Really. But the two of you are clearly not a common breed. Not looking to be a homewrecker though. And I don’t need to keep up with you. Overall seems like a much too public and dramatic affair.”
If I were looking for a booty call I could find any number to oblige me. Hell, he already essentially offered. I’m just not going back up on that roof with him. Because I’m not actually out to get it on with him, and not just because of the tabloid rage that would go on over a grown ass woman doing a very famous teenager in public. Someone would see. They always see. That’s why there’s tabloids. I’m not going back up on the roof because he can fly and it puts me that much further away from my exits. He continues laying it on thick just the same though, and I can enjoy and laugh at the commentary. I do, too. Laugh. Easy and merrily like I’m not in the middle of calculating odds and angles. I don’t even pause after I’ve cocked my head in to hear his whisper over the crowd. I just don’t lean back in to return the gesture. I know he can hear me.
“Really? You sure it’s you that’s winning? Do you even know the game we’re playing, honey?”
I know just the place, after all. Crooking my finger to get us moving again, towards the door next to the stage and the hallway beyond that. It’s quieter for sure, especially since the musical acts aren’t transitioning or really even packing up anymore at this point. Most of what we’d used belonged to the club itself, and my group’s pretty good at a quick tear down/set up on the worst of days.
Conner: “You’ve got no idea. There’s a Time magazine article about my escape from the Secret Service. Most of my best escapes are classified, for national security.”
Were she anyone other than who she is? Nothing I’ve just said would be peculiar. I’ve managed to create a legendary Rock-Star status with my exploits. Multiple parties in the same night. Always one step ahead of Secret Service. Never getting caught. Winding up in the papers, the tabloids, all across the internet. Meanwhile my own detail wouldn’t know I was out of the Pent House, if they weren’t told by people spotting me where I shouldn’t be.
Between our initial meeting on the roof and this one, I’m a little more confused than I was when I walked in. She was all too clearly down with whatever was needed to see the sights with a Super, but I’m getting the vague sense of being shot down now. Though, clearly, she knows her stuff. Cassie and I are a different breed. Our recent College Road Trip is one of those things that actually did make the papers. Not exactly to Cassie’s pleasure in some instances. I can’t fault Dinah Lance there, knowing your limits is a good quality in a person. She’s got every right to be intimidated by me. I just like the fact that she’s also a little impressed by Cassie too.
Am I sure that I’m winning? To be honest, Yeah. I am pretty sure. Hell, it’s not even a measure of my cockiness. When it comes to laying it on thick? I’m a class all to my own. I’m pretty sure Cassie’s dad would give me a seat at the Pantheon. God of Ego. Not only do I have one, but I certainly know how to massage someone else’s. Though, in this instance, I’m a little taken aback by the question. Because I’m not sure Dinah knows what game we’re really playing. But, she’s asking me the same question.
For the people I’d flopped with? There’s the show of my shrugging helplessly. After all, who am I to turn down the invitation backstage of the lead singer of the band? Much less an older woman that looks like this one does. Who would blame me? Other than the ones who were wanting to bask in my presence, as much or more than they wanted Dinah Lance’s. That’s a show for the people. I tell Cassie all the time, how having a secret identity is about putting on a show. Give people something to see, to look at. The more shallow you seem, the less reason they have to look deeper.
We’re barely a few paces back stage, before I’m scanning the area. Really scanning the area. Insuring that no one is near, no one is approaching. Sight, Scent, Sound. All bases covered before, I say a word. Once I say something, I have a feeling things are going to change quickly. “Look. Before this goes any further, I want you to know you’re a nice girl and all. I mean. Really nice. Great Caesar’s ghost, you might actually have a nicer body than Cassie and she’s a Goddess. But. As much as I would love to do that. You. Specifically, I mean. I want to sponsor you.”
“Your band, I mean. Get you on a label. Something attached to Luthor Corp. Very public. Maybe you could sing for Cassie’s graduation. I’m putting on a little concert for it. But, it’s all got to be very. Very. Public. I can’t take no for an answer, Miss Lance.”
Dinah: “Right, of course they are. Wouldn’t want people knowing your methods. Maybe they’ll make a highly suspect, loosely based movie around your life twenty years down the road. Except you’ll probably still be the First Son then…”
President for Life. What a thing. I sure didn’t vote for him, and knowing what I do now thanks to TIm Drake kind of confirms all the reasons I might ever have had for picking someone else. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, I’ve got too many things keeping me in the United States to want to pack up and move to …well. Anywhere else. I wonder what the world would think if they knew what his son really was? Not even factoring in where he came from, just the aspect of Conner being a meta of any sort. Then add in the alien portion. Or the cloning… mostly it boils down to a whole lot of reasons why it’s not in my personal interest for anyone else to know that I know. I’m good, but there’s only so much one person can do.
I don’t see, or hear anyone. Not close enough to matter anyway. It’s not likely anyone was going to follow us backstage because.. well. Things go on in these kind of areas when you have a band. It’s even been me doing those things a few times, and I extend the courtesy to the other members if they have a new special friend, too. Less likely now that a couple of them are more settled than we used to be, with full knowledge that I can, and will, rat them out to the appropriate parties. Now. I’d asked the kid if he knew what we were playing and for a moment I’m not sure we’re playing the same one. Which is okay, because I’m still doing what I came here for. The subtext just shifts.
It’s a brief answer, but mostly kept that way because I’m snorting on my own laughter like he’s just said something absolutely, tremendously funny. I’m fairly sure no one ever. And I mean ever has called me a nice girl. Let alone really nice. Because I’m a lot of things and that isn’t usually one of them. Driven, aggressive, sharp, flirty and a tease? All more likely. I struggle to smooth my features because I am listening, and not really laughing at him and….okay maybe a little.
“Wow, well. That’s incredibly generous of you.”
And something I didn’t actually see coming. Whether he’s playing at being the good guy, or it’s an emerging streak, or maybe he’s just trying to throw me, I wasn’t expecting nor planning on what amounts to a job offer. Not that kind of job at least. Even if it is some kind of ruse, it’s still a great offer and if my bandmates were back here? They might take it whether I wanted them to or not. There’s trying to pursue some sort of record deal, and then having Luthor money dropped in your lap.
“I’m a helluva lot more likely to thumbs up the doing me part than the rest, though kid. So you’re just going to have to take no. A party? Sure. We can talk about that, but a contract I’m just gonna have to pass on.”
Which is unheard of for pretty much any singer or performer out there, I know. But I don’t do this for the money and never have, and the rise and fall of a single shrugging shoulder demonstrates how passe I am about the entire notion as concerns myself.
“I can get you the number of a few others if you’re really wanting to get into the band repping gig.”
Conner: Part of me can’t believe all that I got was a thanks to that sort of praise. Only seconds ago, Dinah was lavishing praise on me. Then again on me upstairs. Now though, all I get is a thank you and a laugh? Hrmph. Some women just don’t follow the same rules. If I’d actually come back stage for the purpose of putting her against the wall? I’d be skeptical for a whole different reason. This smells like a trap. Not even my first one. Trying to get me to do something, without my sort of witnesses, to extort money.
Except. I just offered to throw money at her. Only to be turned down. So. What the actual hell? No hiding that sort of confusion, even I’m not that talented a liar. Be that as it may, I’m more than a little sure that I’m pursuing the right course here. She left me a bone too, so I latch on to it. “Oh, I didn’t say anything about a contract, Miss. In fact, I’m more than happy to give you a contract stating you’re under no contract.”
“It’s not important to have you wrapped up. I get it, you’re not really in all this to make it big. You’re an artiste, right? I mean, seriously. I get it. Big company like Luthor Corp. They gobble you up. Spit you out as some Britney Spears knock off with a better set of tits. The kids eat you, but you start down the road to drug abuse born out of selling your soul, in the form of your craft, to the devil. Spend the next ten years in a drugged out stuppor. Who wants that, from a girl with the ass like your’s?”
“Yeah, yeah, I know I was supposed to say Assets, but let’s just be real candid here. I’m not what the papers say I am. This isn’t about me flipping a few million at you and each one of your band mates, for no other reason than having you on the hook. So that I can grow old with Cassie, while I work your ass until it’s sagging worse than your record sales.” Until this point, I’ve been happy to let Dinah just play the games with words and body language, but now? Now I step in front of her. How? I’m faster than anything she read about me. “Look. All I need you to do is pull the gig for Cassie’s party. Hell. Ink the deal. Take the money and some pictures for the papers.”
“Cassie gets a great band. You get to put your name in the paper with the Luthor family. We both walk away clean. They never approach you after that.”
DInah: When you follow the same rules, it makes you one thing: predictable. And when you’re predictable, the other side knows how to counter you. They’re prepared for your move before you make it. That’s not the side I want any opponent of mine to be on, that’s where I want to be. Verbal fight, physical fight, doesn’t matter. We’re both back here expecting some sort of trap, only I’m braced for it with a lot more knowledge of what I’m actually up against than he is. He’s expecting an untrained, extremely lowgrade powered meta that can whistle kind of loud. I have to assume that he thought I was underselling myself, and that I’m probably capable of more than that. That’s kind of like comparing the water escaping a punctured garden hose to what comes out the end of a fully cranked fireman’s version, however.
While I expect he’s perfectly capable, and maybe even willing, to crush my skull or just eye laser me. Expect the worst, always be prepared and never be disappointed…
“Which. Is still a contract. Look, you’re a fan and you’re Conner Luthor and you don’t need yet another lady to tell you that you’re a smokin’ teenage fantasy, but…”
I’m just not a teenager. I leave that part out. Throwing myself at ‘superman’ was one thing, if I want to pretend like I think they’re separate…which I don’t… this is just a convenient angle to back and forth like I don’t really know what he’s actually saying to me. He gets a whole lot closer to actually outright saying it this time, though. Our whole conversation of hints that are more than hints with the context behind it coming close and closer to the overt.
Then he moves. There’s knowing someone has super speed, seeing it, and then experiencing it that close up. His arrival on the roof had been fast, but it hadn’t been in my face when I’m already primed to fight, worked up with adrenaline and skirting around the edge of a conversation where I’m getting exactly what he’s spelling out and what he thinks he’s going to help me to avoid. Out of all of this, I actually don’t understand what’s in it for him. I make a great first impression, but that doesn’t quite justify what he’s putting out here. Any of it. It takes an awful lot of control to not just rear back and defend myself from the attack he hasn’t actually made yet, but blue eyes do widen in surprise.
“I’d be totally happy to do your Goddess’ party. I’ll take pictures even. But I’m not signing anything. They have never approached me in the first place. Sweetie, this is just a side hobby for me. I’m just not interested. So again. No thanks, I’m good. Nothing that really even needs cleaned I don’t think, do you?”
Not a record label. Not NOWHERE. I’d say I could thank Tim, or even Bruce before him for that, but I’d been walking about with meta powers for more than ten years before I ever met Batman. I have a feeling it has a lot more to do with my grandmother and my adopted, unofficial relatives that she’d fostered in with the family than any of my ‘work’ friends.
Conner: “Ugh. Listen. You’re not really this dumb.”
Okay. That’s not how I wanted this discussion to go. Nor is it how I was trying to angle it. It just isn’t. But, I can’t believe what my super-ears are hearing from this woman. I’m offering her, literally, the moon and stars. Only to have her turn it down. Why? I can’t actually even fathom why, because she’s all but accepting of nearly everything else. One and one aren’t adding up to two, they’re like four and three quarters with this girl. How can she be so good, so trained, but so lacking in ambition? How does one get that good, to stay below the radar in any way shape or form, without some level of ambition? Ugh. It’s like… she went to school with Cassie’s friend Kelsey.
By this point, I’m pinching the bridge of my nose. Because I’m getting a headache. No. Really. I am. All of these damnable lectures from Cassie. Now here I am, doing my level best. Not once, but twice. The result? The result is that I’m having to try so, so much harder to help, than I would have had to try to get her bent over that fire-escape, whistling dick-see for hours. I’m really not getting nearly enough payoff from Cassie to go through this on a regular basis, I’ll tell you (and her) that right now.
“Okay. I legitimately did not mean that. It’s been a very long last two hours. I’m trying to do this thing, that I’m not used to doing. This is a little more her thing than mine. So let me level with you here. Let me just try to put this to you in the most basic terms, I can possibly do.” The hand from my nose, very gently, very slowly, very methodically, moves from it’s place on my face to her’s, in an effort to cup her cheek. “You met a friend of mine earlier. On the roof. He was wearing a very fancy suit. It catalogs people like him, for people like my Father. He doesn’t have a choice to not report you. Not after he hid one from them before. They don’t trust him now.”
“The way I figure this. You’ve got about as long as they think it’s going to take me to fuck you in to a stupor, before the ‘Secret Service,’ takes you. Everyone member of your band. Every member of your family. Their family. Anyone who knows you. Knew you. In to custody and you all cease to exist. Poof. Like mother fucking magic. ”
“Two days from now there’s going to be a tragic accident. The Daily Planet is going to talk about what might have been for the starlett and her band, if only they hadn’t made their goodbye performance in Metropolis. Because they coulda been something, if it wasn’t for that pesky airplane engine. You’re no Patsy Cline, despite that ass on you. So no one is going question. No one is going to look in to you. You. Your band. Your family. Their family. Anyone who knew you, might know you, could even possibly have a clue how you kept off the List? Is going to disappear.”
All of this is meant to make an impression. To put this woman who I’m actually making an effort with, in to the proper frame of mind to understand what’s about to happen. “The only way I can think of, in the time we’ve got, is that you walk out there and marry your Band to my Family.”
Dinah: I don’t need to cock my head and waggle my finger back and forth at him with an ‘oh, no you didn’t.’ The way one eyebrow goes up and the twist of my mouth makes that sentiment incredibly clear, though other people could tell him if he knew how to ask that he’s getting treated to the more amused version right now. Not the one that comes right before the pain and me physically demonstrating my displeasure. Usually that’s saved for colossal missteps in the training room, though. Clearly the kid’s frustrated, and I may even feel a smidgen bad over that fact. But the longer he’s standing here trying to talk me into going along with his plan, to letting him rescue the damsel in distress that I’d joked about being earlier in the evening, the longer I’m doing what I actually came here for.
I’d question whether or not this was worth it, but I know I wouldn’t have been asked if it wasn’t.
He’s trying. He’s really trying. I’m not even pretending to look as sympathetic as I am, because there was a point in my life when I was probably about the same age as him, maybe a little bit younger, where doing the right thing was incredibly hard for me. That’s why I don’t balk at the approaching hand, or yank my head away from his touch. I go far enough to lean my cheek into that contact, and find it’s much hotter than you’d expect skin to be. And I mean temperature wise, not anything untoward. It means he’s in that much closer to me. Fancy suit. Check. Automatic metagene databasing. Check. If Tim didn’t already know about those things, he’s going to in very short order.
“No. I’m really not that dumb. And I legitimately want you to know that I do appreciate the sentiment going on here. What you’re trying to do for me. Right shtick. Wrong dame. And since I appreciate it, I’m going to point out one very important facet of all of that hypothetical but probably likely scenario. I actually do have people, with their own kind of magic, that would look. ”
And know where to look. I mean, don’t get me wrong here. He’s threatening me. It’s wrapped up in telling the story of what someone else is going to do, and yes it’s very true that all those things are probably completely outside of his realm of control just now. Anyone else, delivered in any different way, and I would probably have already reacted in a very different manner than I already have. I don’t doubt his timeline, though, and that means it’s time to go.
“I’m sorry. I really. Really am…”
Because I’m not taking his offer, though that’s not actually what I’m apologizing for. The reason I’m apologizing is that instead of the ‘am’ what comes out isn’t the slightly chagrined, conversational tone I’ve been utilizing. The whistle had made his ears ring. Here comes the full force fire hose. SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. I actually really, truly do feel bad, too. Not something I can say I’ve often felt when it comes to using my powers, but with his hearing from this close up? And I’m not stopping until he’s down. Or at the very least dazed enough that I can bolt. I already sized up the hall when I got here. Did it again after I came down from the roof. I could make the ten yard sprint to the fire exit in heels, I do it just that smidge faster in boots. The sewer grate is already tugged off kilter enough to make it easier to slip through and down to the closest bet I’ve got for ‘momentarily safe.’
I mean. It’s a sewer. But it’s a Metropolis sewer. I’ve stayed in worse hotels than this in Gotham. Guess this means I’m not invited to the graduation party anymore.
Conner: She’s got people. I like it. Ballsy, but I respect Dinah’s machismo. It’s something that most people in this position don’t do. I mean, there’s been the occasional outburst of ‘Do you know who I am?’ Or ‘Do you know who my family is?’ Threats like sending the Mafia after us or being some Senator’s golf-buddy. Those type of threats normally come from a different sort of people. Not the kind of folks who have a Dive Band, that picks up little shows here and there for penny money. Definitely not the sort without a record deal. Most assuredly not from the type who were all but throwing themselves at my dick upstairs.
You know, I really do respect that though. Because it tells me something I didn’t know. Something, I am not sure she meant to give away. It explains to me exactly how she managed not to be on the list. Someone protected her. That’s the only viable explanation, in the face of the simple fact that this girl is showing not one ounce of fear over what the son of the President just said. Matter-o-factly, too. I’d love to say, later when I explain this to Cassie, that it’s because I was recognizing all of this that Dinah catches me off guard. Unfortunately that would be a lie. I’m caught with my proverbial pants down because I’m stroking Dinah’s cheek with my thumb. Trying to offer her some form of comfort.
That’s what hurts the most, I think. Two years. I’ve had two years of Cassie telling me time and time again about what it means to be a Hero. How it means something more than you get from instant gratification. It’s about being a bigger, better, person. People idolized the original Superman as a God because of his virtues and valors. Yet, here I am doing my version of the very best I can do at trying to do the right thing? When suddenly the world around me is spinning.
“…what are you…?”
To my credit? There’s no scream. I’m no new comer to pain. People think that being Superman means that I’m invulnerable. Honestly, they’re right. I am. To most things. To most standard things. Bullets? Knives? To a super-sonic punch from a guy calling himself a Flash? To a full on power punch from some lightning themed dork? Yeah, I shrug those off pretty well. Part of that is knowing I’m about to take a hit. Being ready for it. Significant force can still hurt me, I just get better. Fast. The trouble with this isn’t that I’m flat-footed. It’s that I’ve left myself open. My ears are ripe for the picking and she goes all in. Even when ear-drums rupture, I don’t scream in pain. I should also probably get some credit for not reflexively crushing her face with my hand.
It would seem that even Supermen need their balance though. Mine is fucked. I mean fucked like I was offering her. Bent over the fire escape and taken like thousand dollar hooker. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my own blood. You know what? I don’t like it. Not one bit. It’s a really, really good thing that Dinah makes a bolt for it. My first thought at seeing, recognizing my blood is to kill her. Not beat her, not take her to ‘meta-jail’. My first thought is to see her turned to ashes, just like the facility that brought me in to this world. One of these days, Dinah might just want to thank Cassie for the fact I don’t act on that. Because without a shred of balance, I’d likely incinerate the whole building. Everyone in it, included.
Instead. Since I’m already on the ground. Since I don’t really have any way to physically go after her, yet. I do the one thing I’ve got available to me. The ground. Given that it’s about the only thing I’m able to look at without throwing up for the moment. I punch it. Then I punch it again. And again. And again. And again. I don’t know where she’s running, but it’ll be clear to anyone that the whole ‘House’. Maybe the city block. Will come down around us if she keeps running away. That is actually supposing she can even move when the actual -world- around her tremors like an Earthquake is rolling through.
I can’t hear her. I can’t hear anything. But I’m betting she can hear me. Hell, I can’t hear my own voice so there’s a good chance a lot of people can hear me. “You can’t outrun this…! Not them. Not me.”
“…but… I can. Let me save you. Or let them die. All of them. Your choice.”
Dinah: Well, this went sideways in an awful big hurry didn’t it? It’s threatening to go even more in that direction, too, and I’m not just talking my personal situation. I mean everything. I hadn’t exactly stuck around to double check whether or not he was down, and that means that I’m also not handy to answer the question of what I am. Not that he would be able to hear me anyway. You know how people wearing headphones talk much too loud because they have no concept of the volume of their own voice to those around them? Yeah, that’s what’s going on just now. Only it’s not the only thing.
My hearing’s just fine, for whatever reason I’m immune to the force of my own powers even if they do managed to get bounced back at me, so I hear right before I start to feelwhat he’s doing. Stumbling through the door frame, as the world threatens to heave out from underneath my boots and it’s only my agility that keeps me on them in the first place. My turn to be caught off guard. And then the shockwaves just keep coming, right along with the beat of his fist meeting the floor and reverberating through the ground. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t make it all the way down to the sewers before this began. I would probably have been a dead woman. Or at least more than a little crushed.
At first? It’s easy to believe this is a temper tantrum and that’s what keeps me going forwards. And to a degree it is that. But it’s also not one that’s going to stop, apparently. Because it’s not just a tantrum, it’s the only effective action currently available to him, in order to get what he wants. And really, I won’t even pretend it’s not my fault, I just sucker punched the kid while he was trying to do the right thing in his mind. And that means an immediate and necessary reroute of not only my escape plan, but the follow up moves that would have come after that. Signaling for some cover, or some world class RobinHacking. I catch the door frame, hanging from its support. If he doens’t stop this building’s coming down. I’ve been around enough Earthquakes to know that much. Possibly more.
He also probably can’t hear that I’m not running anymore. Which means he has no reason to stop. I know that changing course? Means I’m fucked. Oh, he might say he’s going to save me but I don’t actually believe him now, there’s no real reason to. And there’s a very real difference in why people do the things they do, their reasons, I put on the fishnets for revenge and to right a personal wrong. I keep them on for something bigger than that. It’s the struggle I’m currently having with Damien. Tempering your actions no matter how badly you’re hurt. Acting for the greater good. I might be choosing to let the people he talked about before die or not. Or all of them could mean everyone in this quake’s radius. He hadn’t specified this time. And that’s a risk I can’t take.
Which leaves me throwing my weight the opposite direction. Stumbling only as close as I think I have to be for him to pick up in his peripheral vision that I’m there. My ready posture is only partially to brace for the continuing tremors he’s unleashing. It’s also because I am ready. Even if that means having to be ready to provoke him into fighting me, so that it ends with me. And no. I’m not stupid. From this range? I know exactly how that fight ends. What am I?
“I’m the Black damn Canary.”
And he’s probably still too deaf to hear it.
Conner: It does continue too. Time and time again. Shaking the building to it’s foundations. Stressing the integrity of the super-structure of the buildings next to it. Each time my fist lands, it’s a lot like the beating of a drum. One that pulses with energy enough to level far more than this building. Am I a cocky little twat? I know that, I get the reference. Just don’t accuse me of exaggerating. Because I’ve got every ounce the strength of the first Superman and by every account of the Project, there’s a strong potential that I’m a little stronger still.
Don’t mistake me for a simpleton though. I was born not just with the DNA of a Kryptonian superman but the other donation of the most intelligent man in this world. Not one ounce of that genetic material is wasted. I’ve got one recourse, that can stop her and I put it to use. Why? What has this person shown me that makes her important enough to cause this much destruction? Honestly, if I was her I’d think it was my own damned ego. That I couldn’t stand to be taken down by some whistle-lipped rock star. The problem here is that Dinah seems to have been missing one small iota of information. She can blame Tim for that later.
Right now she’s face to face… well face to back of the head .. with a very angry ‘Superboy.’ Who only stops endangering the rest of this club, her band, the people for potentially hundreds of yards in every direction? Once I’m able to see Dinah step back in to ‘range.’ I’m panting, I can’t hear it myself but I can feel my lungs cleaving for air. Not from exertion. Pain. I’m not truly Kryptonian. At least, not entirely. Those beads of sweat aren’t because I’m taxed or tired. It’s born from the expenditure of a good deal of heat. Energy I’ve collected, stored and now put to use repairing my god damned eardrums. At least the blood isn’t dripping from them anymore.
“…dumb. So damned dumb.” Even my muttering is loud, but I can’t help it yet. “… did you even think this through? Jesus Christ. My fucking ears. Are you fucking insane? What do you think happens next after you get away? Huh? Are you kidding me right now? You just fucking attacked the President’s son.”
“Let’s pretend for a moment, that the Project doesn’t consider me a useless effort for letting someone like you beat me. Let’s just fucking pretend, like we’re kids and this fucking candyland, that the Project only holds me accountable. Then either I failed and you beat me. In which case they build a better me. They hunt you down. Or someone with your abilities. To make damn sure that doesn’t work on the next one. Let’s say, in this fantasy world, that they don’t make a better me. That I’m valuable enough to good ol’ Dad, that he keeps me around. Well, now he’s fucking tired of my bullshit. She. I mean Her, in case you’re wondering. Is the reason I’m doing this. All of this. Trying to save … someone like you… so what’s Daddy do next? He can’t control me, so he has to control her. So how he’s do that? Think it through. THINK IT THROUGH!”
“Her Mom. It’s her only weakness. The only thing she’d compromise her morals for.” Talking. Constant talking. But at least the floor isn’t shaking. The building isn’t toppling. There’s even a good chance the commotion outside will keep people from hearing most of this. “She. Who is the only reason I’m doing this. Compromised. The only person who makes me care about anything else. Destroyed.”
“How many of you die then? How many people die because the light goes out in a Goddess? All because, for no other damned reason, than because I try. For one fucking time. To do the right thing. Jesus. I was trying. Y’know? I wanted to believe her. I did. That there was more to all of this than…”
At least with all this bitching I’ve managed to make the world stop spinning. My equilibrium is coming back and with it, I start to pick my broken ass up off the floor. “…[pant]… oh get the fuck out of here with that kung fu shit. I could break every bone in your body with a sneeze. [pant] I was testing you. No. Don’t give me that fucking look either. [pant] I was testing you. First rule of engagement the project taught me. If you ran. You weren’t worth saving.”
“You came back. So I was right. Up there on the roof. You are special and… you deserve another chance to not let Her down. Give me your hand, point me the direction I need to take you. And don’t make me fucking say it a second time.”
Dinah: There’s this tiny shred of that sense of self-preservation that’s making me not want to get even a tiny little bit closer to the guy. Don’t get me wrong, usually that sense is pretty huge, it has to be if you’re going to go toe to toe with the sort of folks I do on a regular basis, it’s what keeps you alive. But there’s a moment I think for a lot of heroes where smart has to go out the window if you’re acting to save someone else’s life. Or a lot of someone else’s. This? Kind of on me, and so by proxy no matter how much my brain’s screaming runrunrun? I’m not anymore. Did he make the choice to endanger people? Sure did. But I provoked him. So this is kind of on both of us. It’s just in my court to stop it.
It’s hard to tell if he’s meaning to talk out loud or not. Or that loud. And it’s so garbled that it reminds me of listening to someone who’s deaf talking along with their sign language. In any other situation it might be kind of hard not to giggle at least a little bit, but there’s a willingness to tease and provoke and then there’s being a goddamn idiot. I’m actually not the latter.
“Technically I just attacked Superman. Potato. Potahtoh. Neither one’s a great life choice though, you’re right.”
He can’t hear himself and I’m mostly talking to myself, because I’m fairly sure he’s not going to hear me for a while. Nor is he looking at me to see the little shrug, so between that and his carrying on? I think he doesn’t really know I”m standing there yet. Lecturing maybe in case I haven’t quit running… even though he’s clearly recovering fairly quickly, much as I suspected he would, and I’m still seeing my life flashing before my eyes I’m listening. Hard not to from here. And the longer he goes on? The more I’m convinced it isn’t just because his girlfriend’s got him by the balls. He’s actually inspired by her. At some point? I’m going to have to meet this Goddess of theirs. Not because I want to worship or grovel, but because she’s clearly got a pretty good following. Exhibit A in front of me here.
Then there’s Exhibit B, back in Gotham probably sitting in his little RobinRecRoom. Who sent my ass out here to cause a distraction, so that this girl could get something done. There’s a level of hearing about a person where you just kind of need to see for yourself. And while he starts to struggle his way up again, I wish I could help him. I don’t dare get that close, and I”m pretty sure he’s not going to want my help anyway. The urge is still there though. And yes. He is in fact getting a dubious, mouth twisted look because that was a pretty lousy test. There’s any number of other ways, I’d have to imagine, to test someone’s intentions but then.. I had been being not entirely honest with him.
For me? This is being relatively quiet. But it’s not like I need to banter to myself to make me feel better. And I don’t make him ask again, reaching down to take his hand, and pointing West with the other one. Though even I’m not entirely sure where to have him take me. Where’s home? Where’s not just going to lead him to where I don’t want him to be? Just west is a safe enough bet though. West is out of Metropolis. West could be the airport. Hell. It could be Star City, for that matter.
Conner: The moment she takes my hand she’ll actually know she’s safe. Mostly. Because that’s the moment she could die the easiest, since there’s no need for my ears involved with crushing the life out of her right here and now. She should know, because the only moment of suspense comes when I find myself a little unsteady once I’ve straightened up. The time between her hand touching mine and that whoosh of air that bristles through her hair is far shorter than the time it took me to stop bleedingfrom both ears. Dinah felt the heat of my touch before, it’s feverish now. Even with the air flow.
What’s more is that she also gets a glimmer at something else about me. We shoot directly upwards. There’s no need for balance in that. Straight up. Through ceiling, then roof, up, up and away. But not so much as a stray wood nail harms her. Nor does her arm tear out of socket, much less from her body, in the motion before I pull her up in to my arms. It’s as if she were surrounded by some sort of shielding that kept her from her harm just by being in contact with me. The same thing keeps the wind shear from sandblasting the flesh from her bones. Yet, the air still reaches her. Still rustles her hair. At least until the air is so thin, that there’s simply not enough of it to brush past us.
There at the true apex of my range, we come to a very brief pause. Silent this time, other than the steady breathing that signifies the concentration I’m putting in to pulling my ear drums back together. She has no real way of knowing that they’re fixed, but she might pick up on the wince of pain that accompanies the ringing. Yeah, I might have liked it better when I couldn’t hear anything. -This- hurts. Though there’s equally a good chance that she’s not paying attention to me right now. Maybe she’s never seen the world from the vantage point of near-space? Or, y’know, maybe she’s wondering just why she’s not being asphyxiated by the lack of oxygen at this height.
Either way once we set out ‘West,’ it’s only so long before I’ve got to ask for a little more specifics in so far as directions go. But I didn’t bring her here to just ask for directions. Instead of that, I lead off with something a little different. A fact not even Cassie knows. “This. Is the only place I can go where they can’t hear me.”
“You made things… really.. complicated down there. But. I actually get it,” she probably thinks I’m still deaf, so I don’t bother giving her an opening to talk yet. “You don’t want to spend your life in a cage. Being poked and prodded. The only other choices are stop being who you are by joining them or stop being what you are by turning it off. Never using it again.”
“They make me make the same choice, Miss Lance. Every time I’ve thought that I turned the tables, they’ve found a new way to make me make the same choice again and again. The place that made me, I burned it to the ground. Only to learn it was one of many. Not all of which are even here in the States or here on Earth. I refused to work for them. So they let me know my lifespan is measured by the amount of usefulness I have for my Father. No one would even know I was gone. A new me would just step out of one of the other facilities and take my place. So I worked for them, but I refused to kill for them. Until someone else. Someone a lot like you, Miss Lance, put me in a position where I had to choose again. Him or me.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a victim. I made my choices. They were mine. I know the other one. The first Superman. He would have made other choices, but I chose to live. I chose me and I’ve chose me every day since then. Until I met her. That was the next mistake. Because now they have the one thing they couldn’t breed in to me. Control. Everything I do now, I do because I chose her and they know it. They use it. They twist everything. I saved her, they control me. I brought her in to the Light, now my Father works his magic and tells the world -We- are the future. Because now he doesn’t just have Superman’s muscle to back him up. He knows I’ll do whatever I have to do to save her from ever having to make the choices I make. So now… he has Superman.”
“Saving you? Saving some low powered schmuck singer. They’d overlook that. It’s good press for their Superman. This? This is a whole different can of worms. They’re going to try to make me come find you. bring you back. But I won’t. Because if I did and she found out, I’d lose her. But if I don’t and they hurt her, hurt her mom, then I’ll still lose her. So, I’ve only got one question for you. I really hope you stop bullshitting me long enough to give me one honest answer tonight. Where can I take you that you’ll be safe, so that all of this doesn’t happen for nothing.”
Dinah: There’s a moment where I’m fairly certain that I’m about to get pasted on the roof as we head on through, and to a degree I kind of have that coming. But it’s to his credit that I don’t get my hand smashed. I don’t get my head crushed. Hell, I don’t even get whiplash from the sudden speed of the takeoff. You don’t have to be a genius to know that momentum and force work a certain way on the human body. You just have to have ridden a motorcycle or taken off quickly in a car. Something else is at play here, and we go up. And up. And up more and there’s about the point when the perfectly natural, and not wussy, urge to start to panic kicks in. I don’t fly. I don’t even ride in airplanes all that often. I’m pretty sure I’m not meant to get up this high but the view? Well. It’s stunning.
So while I wasn’t watching him to see that wince? My ears have been working perfectly fine and I can certainly hear when he starts talking more like a normal, fully functional person again. Of course, once he’s going he’s not stopping and I feel like I kind of owe it to him to listen. That and it’s insight. How much of it’s a bluff, and how much of it’s to try and make me empathize with him and see his side with the truth? That’s debatable and I”m not about to believe it’s one hundred percent genuine. But there’s enough of it in there. I could tell him that turning it off isn’t all that hard. That I make it through days at a time without using my powers. But mine’s ‘just’ my voice, and I”m fully capable of going about my day, even doing the job without it. Good ol’ Gotham City upbringing for you.
He’s wanting input now, so I’m giving it. And not just the question he asked. Cards are kind of out on the table now, and even though he’s had no real compelling reason to do so? Kid’s laid out a whole lot more of them than I have.
“Clearly I’m not a low powered shmuck singer. I undersold that one by a factor of a hundred. I happen to have made a fairly educated guess that they wouldn’t and won’t just let me…slide. My grandmother was the original Black Canary. I inherited the same power. When I was five. I trained with the Wildcat. I’m not going in. I’ve got my own fight, and my own crew to look out for.”
I’ve had as long to train my gift as these kids have had to be alive. Or have been mentally stimulated to believe they’re alive in his case. And it’s a powerful one at that, even with brute use and no control. No, I’m no flying, impenetrable Wunderkid but still. My choices have never had to be about the same thing as his, though I had to choose to leave home to protect others because of them. Or to not use them.
“You’ve got no real reason to, and I get that, but take it from me kid. There comes a tipping point. Where it goes from being a fight and having to make shitty choices that you don’t like, to not having to make them anymore because someone else has your six. Or lots of someone else’s. And bananas as this probably sounds? I think this? Is going to work out better for you than you think it will.”
Because it’s not just the two of them. And maybe it won’t just have to be him watching out for his girlfriend and her mother. Whether he’s motivated just by her, or not? You have to start them somewhere. Squinting down at the whisps of clouds below us, I manage not to sh udder at exactly how high up we are, before I give him the name of the last place on earth pretty much anyone would pick as a safe haven.
“You can drop me off at the edge of Gotham. I can take care of it from there.”
Conner: Actually, as dreary as it may truly sound, I don’t really care if she empathizes with me or not. What I’m after, what I’m going for by putting my cards on the table? Is also something I learned from my ‘Father,’ you have to spend money to make money. In my case, I’m spending good will in an effort to garner some. Partly, I gain some information. Though that too wasn’t the goal. I wanted her to trust something. Not me, I am crystal clear now that she doesn’t trust me despite Superman’s good press and Conner Luthor’s Rock Star popularity. What I want her to do is trust in the fact that my motivations are clear and that I don’t want them to have been wasted for nothing.
It works, really, because in the end she tells me where to take her. “Oh. I’m not allowed to…” Go to Gotham. Almost immediately something at the back of my head clicks. I’ve been thunderstruck before, this isn’t really it. This is something, somewhere, between wanting to smirk because my girlfriend played me and groan because my girlfriend has been playing me. Wait, she’d call it ‘managing me.’ This time though, there’s no big espousing of whatever is on my mind. Then again there’s really no need to. Nothing to be gained by explaining to her that I just realized I’ve been getting kept away from Gotham, which is apparently where a stray Meta happens to feel safest right now.
Flying air Luthor is a lot faster than most things. Dinah probably has no real placement awareness to even realize how fast we’re traveling up here. It’s mere minutes before we’re almost directly over Gotham Harbor. “Your grandmother was the first Canary? Believe it or not, I’ve read her file. It’s required reading, actually, for new recruits. She was among the first to get the ‘Choice.’
“She’s already got my .. eh.. six? More like nine, maybe nine and a half. Ten if the sun is shining really brightly.” Yeah, I’m not getting -that- reference at all. They didn’t put Top Gun in my Matrix. “I happen to be a little concerned, that all of this isn’t going to work out half as good as you’d like to hope it will either.”
“When I get back there’s going to be questions. Who are you? What happened? Where are you now? So, Miss Lance, how do you want me to answer those questions? I’ve got an idea, but you’re not going to like it.”
Descending down through the stratosphere to Gotham isn’t any more difficult then rising was. As we begin to approach for the outskirts of Gotham’s Harbor, I’ve got little reason to believe she’s not the observant type. So she’ll no doubt notice the hue all around us once we’re back inside the atmosphere. My ‘costume’ is slightly darker than the original Superman’s, which most people think is an effort to set myself apart. In reality, it mutes this effect. Siphons off the color bleed of telekinetic energy that builds up when I’ve got direct sunlight and employ the field that is protecting her.
“So. About that idea… I’m going to need to be very convincing. The project has people that can tell if you’re lying or not….”
Dinah: “Hence the outskirts.”
Though really, there’s something pretty damn funny about Superman being kept out of a city like it has an invisible dog fence around the perimeter. The phrasing, and his clear view on authority and trying to keep him anywhere tells me that it’s nothing to do with NOWHERE that has him putting the brakes on that particular destination. I’m close enough that I see the realization dawning on him, I just don’t entirely know what it is. The truth, not that I know it in this case, isn’t that it’s a stray meta that had her keeping him out of Gotham. That had a whole lot more to do with a little Robin Redbird. And for the same reason that once upon a time not all that long ago, Batman gave me the choice that sent me packing off to Star City. But he can draw what conclusions he will.
“Uh huh. In the flesh. I got a lot of tutoring growing up. Bit of a head start if you will.”
I know we’re moving, and I assume we’re moving fast I just didn’t know how fast until I recognize the familiar geography and the shape of the harbor laying out beneath us. Time flies when you’re flying above the clouds, I suppose. Still. Not something I especially want to experience again anytime real soon.
“Right. But while she’s got your back, and your ten if the sun’s shining bright, someone else has nine, and someone else has hers, and at some point? it’s not just about you reacting to help each other… anyway. You’ll see. I hope anyway. I’m all for you kids succeeding. And not just because I’m a meta and supposed to root for you.”
Though I guess technically up until now, most metas would probably have been rooting against Conner Luthor and not been terribly happy to see him turn up on their doorsteps. Not once they knew who or what he really was. Squinting down at the water below, I pull a bit of a grimace.
“All about speaking a convenient half truth. I had to learn all about that when I tried to lie to Batman. He could always tell, too. You going to dump my body in the harbor?”
Maybe they don’t need to know which one. And whether or not it was still alive. Hell, I can hold my breath so that he could even honestly say I wasn’t breathing when he did.
Conner: “You’re lucky. They simulated my training with a virtual reality combat unit.” There’s a half-pause, like a hitch in whether I was deciding on if I should continue or not. “While most people my age were learning to drive a car? I was killing your Grandmother, her friends and pretty much everyone she ever knew in fight simulators a thousand times.”
I could use my powers better than most meta-humans that I’ve ever met, better before I took my first real step than they could half way through their adult lives. Truth be told, Dinah’s only one of a handful that I’ve encountered that truly had control of their power. I mean, really fine control. Most were either just learning, were honestly out of control or didn’t quite have the sheer enormity of practical experience they pushed in to my brain. I decided to actually be honest about it, because I think it actually adds gravity to what I meant before about building a better me. What would that even entail and how bad would that be for, pretty much everyone.
Before we actually glide just above the water of the harbor, I give her a different kind of look. “The next time you call me Kid or Boy, I’m re-thinking this whole thing and we go back to my breaking every bone in your body. Seriously. Pet peeve.”
It isn’t that much later when we’re about to make it to the shoreline when I finally find a way to explain my plans. It’s not that difficult to explain. I’m not even going to say it’s the best plan in the world, but I’ve got a pretty good notion it would work. Not one part of it happens to be unbelievable. Given that it’s happened before. In parts. I’ll just leave that mostly unsaid, I think.
“Well. If I told them, I got handsy with you and you blew my ear drums out with that cute whistle of your’s? They’d probably buy it. I’ve got a certain reputation in the Tabloids. Some rather pointedly cultivated, so that people think I couldn’t possibly be Superman. If I then, spun it that I took the initiative to get you and I out of there before it became public news? They’d buy that too. There’s going to be some questions about what you know, but I think maybe they let that go if they think I’m planning to… um… keep you under my thumb. So-to-speak.”