Cassie: “Ahem. Now. Where were we…?”
Spoken like I’m not perfectly aware of what was supposed to be going on, or at least in possession of a reasonable guess as to the motivations that had brought us here. Here being pulled off the highway to one of the scenic parks that line the distance between Gotham and Metropolis. Like little buffers of nature, to form a lovely moat of trees against the dark and corruption and to keep it from reaching the bright, clean, energy efficient structures of the place I call home now. It’s so quiet here, barely even the sounds of the cars zipping back and forth on that highway reaching into the trees, and that is definitely strange. Maybe less so than it would be if the sun were up. There’d probably be people then, but for now it’s just Conner, me and the red sports car that had whisked us at what I assume was approximately one hundred and forty miles per hour from the outskirts of Gotham. A place I’ve been more times in the last three days than I had in my entire lifetime before then. A place I wasn’t supposed to have come even once, to be fair, so I don’t have much in the way of hurt feelings over Tim’s brother less than politely kicking us out. All of us. Even my Mom.
I’d been left with a lot to process, and I haven’t really been doing any of it. In the whole thirty minutes it’s been at least. Hm. Maybe more like an hour. It’s hard to judge. Leaning over the passenger door, I’m using the visor to fiddle with the golden adornment on my head that I’d been given by my Mother before we’d all be ‘excused.’ I’m not entirely sure how I’m meant to wear the thing, because it doesn’t seem to fit properly on top of my hair. Nor does it really seem constructed to be worn like a headband. Eventually I settle for nestling it across my forehead which.. seems to work. Mostly I’m trying to focus on the fact that it actually looks like maybe it was meant to go with my suit, and not the remaining bright pink color in my cheeks.
We’d stopped here, ostensibly, so that I could change into my Wonder Woman attire and out of the St. Mary’s uniform that I’d been wearing for the last two days straight while unconscious and being monitored by Tim and his family. Our detour had just gotten slightly … detoured. Because. Superman and Wonder Woman? Are more like Superboy and Wonder Girl underneath the holographs that protect our identities and. Well. Teenagers. But there had been a purpose in coming here before we’d been distracted. Conner’d dropped hints, but he hadn’t really needed to. He’d packed the Wonder suit for a reason, stopped here for a reason. At this point, I know when he’s angling towards something. Just in this case, he’d hinted that it could wait while we. Ahem.
“So. What are you scheming, Luthor?”
Giving the upper edge of my red attire a tug, that it doesn’t really need despite the shift in my physiology in the last few days, I turn to face him as I try to master the blush on my face. I’m teasing him though. There’s a big difference between a Luthor Scheme, and Conner trying to make a point. Even if you need a practiced eye sometimes to pick out the subtle cues. This, despite the willingness to delay, I think might be important. Most especially because of how the last couple days have actually gone.
Conner: There had been a point to the detour and for once in my life I’m not the one who called us in for a pit stop. That had been all about the blushing blonde and the fact that she’d been out of commission for almost an entire weekend while dealing with the strange malady that had been afflicting her. No one has really, reasonably, explained what was going on to me. They really hadn’t needed too. It was sufficient to know that Cassie was in peril and that the help was at hand. I was good knowing just that, even if I was less good knowing that for all my power? This was something that was beyond the scope of my abilities to assist with.
Knowing that and accepting it are two different things, by the way. Knowing, goes a long way to understanding. It does. The problem is mystical. I get it. Accepting that I can’t, ultimately, incinerate whatever or whoever is at the root of the problem? I’ve got a long way to go in to accepting that. I’m starting to think a lot of Cassie’s problems resolve down to no one ever trying to just obliterate the root of it. ‘Ancient, Unholy Power of the Gods blah blah.’ Fwooosh. Problem solved. Instead of turning it in to some Mysterious Quest of the Ages that all these magic types do… yuck.
Cassie suiting up? Pretty much the opposite of everything I’ve ever wanted when we’re alone. Ever. I’m more of a peel her out of that costume, guy. Maybe that’s why she let me at her, before getting in to it in the first place? Hah. Would not be the first time she’s gamed me, would it? All I’m really waiting for right now, is that moment when she raises up and identifies herself visually as ‘put together.’ That’s all the clue I really need that touching her isn’t going to devolve us back in to testing the durability of special reinforced shock system in the Ferrari my Father gave me for my ‘Sixteenth Birthday.’
“Less scheming, more of an ‘Up, up and Away,’ sort of thing,” the good nature of that comment makes it all the way to my eyes that are truly vibrant now and not even because of my looking through that costume as I might normally. “Can’t risk being followed or monitored though. So… it’s a very Up, Up, before Away, kind of moment really.”
Stepping in to Cassie is never a problem, but this is actually something a little different. She likes flying so much I normally never invade that space, but the mumbled words ‘Hold Tight,’ are the only real warning Cassie gets. All it really takes is for me to be in contact with her and she’s not going anywhere. Except where I go. Which is straight up. Higher and Faster than she could ever hope to achieve on her own. Beyond the skies, in to that sweet little spot where you can actually begin to see the curve of the world. To the point where it’s easy to tell that the only air to breathe? Is what remains in the little bubble of red telekinetic energy that surrounds us.
That’s the up, up… but the ‘away’ is almost as fast. Science says that the straightest line between two points is the fastest. Aerodynamics redefined that and Cassie gets to experience it first hand with the sight of the heavens that she’s never seen. Along with the actual speed with which the world beneath us passes. Green forests become blue ocean, which in turn transitions in to white ice… and before she’s really had time to ponder the sight of the universe to be beheld beyond Earth’s Atmosphere? We’re descending as quickly as we got there. To what makes for the strangest date I’ve ever taken Cassie on. Which is saying something all on it’s own. Because the only thing to see? For miles. Is the largest key she’s ever seen. Settled right in the middle of a whole lot of glacial ice. Though from the ground there’s a certain latticework to the ice. Making it take a sort of crystalline appearance.
Cassie: I know he doesn’t like it. Any of it. That’s not really even some sort of deep insight on my part, he’d more or less said as much a year ago when I’d been having issues with my half-brother invading my dreams. Conner’s got a lot of tools in his ‘kit,’ so to speak and it’s pretty rare that one or all of them can’t resolve a situation to his satisfaction. Note. Hissatisfaction, not necessarily mine or anyone else’s. In that instance, when he couldn’t fix it for me, he’d found someone that could. Which had been my official introduction to the rest of his team. Now? It’s easy to imagine that it may actually be worse, and that is partially my doing. Because I’ve been leaving him out of so much of what’s been going on. Which we’ve argued about, and discussed and… we’re working on. Figuring out who you are? Is hard. Figuring out who you are, with someone else, with superpowers and the fate of the ‘world’ on the line? Yeesh.
“Oooh, my favorite. Well. Almost favorite.”
I love flying. It’s my worst kept secret, and not exactly kept at all from him. It was the power that I got to use least up until recently, too. These suits? They’re like a green flag waving to say that suddenly it’s okay to be seen doing this sort of thing. Cassie Sandsmark can’t fly, but Wonder Woman? She’s supposed to. Blue eyes round just a little at the conditions he lays out there, though. I don’t need to ask what that means. It means going even faster than I can manage on my own, and that means it won’t be me doing the flying. Maybe a little disappointing normally, but I’m curious and never really mind being close to him. And holding tight? That I can do. Literally. Without any worry of crushing anything important like a rib. Or spine. So when Conner steps in, I wrap my arms around him, looking upwards towards the stars in preparation for the takeoff.
Not that there’s really any time for that. It’s more of a one moment you’re there, and the next instant you’re not. Were it not for the field he’s projecting, I’d be feeling it. I do when I take off on my own. Higher, faster than I’ve ever taken myself and everything changes. I tip my head back even further still, exhaling loudly at the view, for the moment it’s there at least. We’re moving much too quickly for any real sightseeing. I’d ask on the return trip for him to take it slower, but I’d have to assume the not wanting to be tracked will go both ways. Wherever we’re going? Is a real secret. Not just from any ordinary folks that might be watching us. He doesn’t really need to lay out the ‘who’ for me.
I’m exhaling again once we’ve slowed, in surprise, amazement. Whatever. What on Earth… or… maybe not Earth actually..
“…what is that?”
Conner: The trip isn’t for sight seeing. Otherwise I’d be more than happy to let her take it all in. We’ve flown together more times than I can count. I’ve encouraged her to explore this aspect of her powers as much as I’ve encouraged everything else, maybe even more so. I like to see Cassie happy. She is, by any reckoning, the only thing in my life that I’ve got at least one unselfish feeling for. I genuinely want her to be happy, for the sake of nothing more than seeing her that way. Taking her flying lessons was one of the first things we did as a ‘Couple.’ I mean, outside of those tutoring sessions, that she still denies as being our first dates.
“That? Is a key,” oh yeah I’m maybe milking this, but really. She got Olympus, right? I’m entitled to a little moment or three or indulging. “But, it didn’t take me to tell you that. That’s the key to what we’re here to see.”
That look on my face? Cassie has seen it before. I like things. Mostly I like things of value, truth be told. Material Wealth suits me well, because I’m an indulgent personality. What she’s looking at though just doesn’t fit in this place. It’s gaudy, gold and out of sorts with the tapestry of the Arctic Iceland around us. That is all part of the allure though, because it’s distinctly out of place and massive. Easily as large as a 747 jet, which we both know she can lift with ease. Yet that key isn’t going to move much even under her enhanced strength. There’s no trick, no test of worthiness. It’s simply too heavy.
“You’re a history buff right? Isn’t there a story about a God’s weapons that were forged in the heart of a dying star?” Making a little gesture to encompass the key. “This is made from the substance found in the heart of a dying star. Krypton’s Star to be exact. The original Superman made this. Because he believed that only another Kryptonian could lift it.”
“The problem is. He was wrong. So he did what most Americans have done since the 1960s. He bought an alarm system to go with his fancy Key. You gotta be able to pick up the key, to unlock the door… but you also need to know the code to get turn off the alarm system. It’s a whole thing.” Gently tapping a fingertip upon the big S at the middle of my suit. “The battle-suit I’m wearing? Came from in there. I think, if we can get Nowhere out of this suit. I can get in there.”
Cassie: “Well. Yeah. Okay. Sure. I can see that. Maybe you should consider putting up some kind of giant, Magritte-esque sign in front if that’s meant to be a secret, though.”
It looks like a key, after all, but maybe the massive size of it had made my brain just assume it wasn’t literally that in function as well as form. Keys, generally, are of a certain size in relation to the locks that they open. Mechanically speaking that’s just sort of how it has to be. So in order for this to the the ‘key’ to what he actually wants to show me? Means that it has to be massive. But. Why not, right? What else is there out here other than space, and ice. And us. He looks very pleased. Maybe even more pleased than when I was given my car, which I still have never driven because I’ve also never bothered to get my license. It’s probably a good thing he didn’t make the Olympus comparison out loud, though. It’s not exactly fair. I had to sneak in, and promptly got told to leave. They let me stay in Gotham longer, with more welcome.
But. Back to the key. How no one has noticed it by now… well, I guess that’s a testament to exactly where we are right now.
“There’s more than I know I’m sure. People like that kind of symbolism, and the power that comes from it.”
Pushing my hair back from my face is more an absent gesture than necessary, and my fingers settle into drumming almost restlessly against my circlet as I study the thing. Taking in what he’s telling me, as the thoughts and what those things could mean spin through my head. Had the original Superman, then, meant for only himself to be able to enter? Had he held out some sort of hope that there were other survivors? Does that mean that he knew of the female Kryptonian that’s here even now, or did she come after he’d left?
“…do you know what happens if you can’t turn off the alarm system? I assume something…huge and dramatic and messy, given what our friendly household guard-dog is capable of by himself.”
Turning away from the key finally, to face Conner once more I purse my lips. It’s only a precursor to the resolute expression that sets my jawline, though.
“So what do we need to do to do that?”
Conner: “Honestly, I’m not actually sure this was meant to be a secret, so much as secluded. I mean, I’m pretty sure he never meant for it to be a tourist site, but I think he actually went this route because he hoped that there were more of his people.” My people. Our people. Those like the girl on the News that I’ve yet to manage to track down, because my girlfriend was sick and the Alien Princess needed to watch Gilmore Girls to know how the world works. “Which kind of plays with the idea, that I think he wanted someone else to be able to get inside. Just the right people. People who were meant to have access.”
“While keeping out the people who probably don’t belong,” another long look at something, other than Cassie, as I take in the sight of the key and lattice of Crystalline structure in the distance. “From everything I’ve been taught -and- researched on my own? I actually doubt the big and messy bit. Honestly, old-Supes seemed like a little bit of a pussy when it came to big and/or messy. I’m thinking something a little more like ‘Eternal Damnation in a completely harmless stasis field of Doom’ sort of punitive measure. He didn’t really do Lethal.”
“More importantly though, every fiber of my being says he wouldn’t make this something dangerous. So much as make it something that put you in time out until he came to deal with you. In any case, the only reason I know about the alarm system? Is because when I tried to use the key? It stared sending out this ultra-high frequency signal… and the next thing I knew… Krypto wouldn’t stop growling at me until I put the key back and played fetch.”
“… what?” Opening my hands plaintiffly. “You never asked where he came from. I’m not the origin story kind of guy. I’m more of a ‘My Story’ type, y’know?”
What do we need to do? That I’m not entirely sure. Which is about as honest as I’ve been about anything. I really don’t know. So I start with what I do know and maybe we’ll go from there. “My new friend Kyle, from a couple weeks ago when you sent me to France so you could sneak off and go fight bad guys? He’s a Green Lantern and I think he can help me, get this suit ‘unlocked.'”
“Cass, this place isn’t exactly secret from Nowhere. They know about it already. My Dad knew about it a long time ago. I think one of the myriad of reasons I’m alive? Is because he wants in there. Coming here the way we did wasn’t about hiding it from Nowhere, it was about hiding the fact I’m showing it to -you-. I thought, with everything you’ve got going on, that we should start putting all of our cards on the table. I thought, with everything y’know, that I should go first…”
Cassie: “He definitely picked somewhere not easily accessible.”
Unless you can fly, of course. It’d be a serious expedition to even get equipment of any sort out here, let alone attempts at erecting any sort of amenities. Which explains why it isn’t also swarming with NOWHERE and their ilk right…well. Other than Conner. But he does have a point about the original Superman and the levels of permanent harm which he was willing to inflict, or not inflict. So his assumptions make sense to me. Something to delay, or hold an intruder.
“And since he’s not around anymore to un-spring whatever the trap might be… it’s a very bad idea to spring it in the first place.”
Waving a dismissive hand at Conner, for once this time I’m not actually even grouchy at him over the belated revelation of something I should probably have heard before now, especially since Krypto has been watching over my Mom since he joined the ‘family,’ too. Maybe a little unnecessarily but still.
“Given the eye-lasers and the fact that his name is Krypto I actually didn’t think I needed to ask. Believe it or not, that actually makes me feel better about him or would if he hadn’t already proved himself as A-Ok.”
The options were pretty slim really. Either NOWHERE had made the dog, like they had made Conner, or he had come from somewhere else. Not that hard to guess which option I liked better. I can’t help smirking a little about ‘his new friend Kyle.’ The designation is a little humorous anyway, more so coming from my boyfriend. Folding my arms across my chest, I should be doing it to ward off the cold but I’m simply not. Cold that is. It’s a pose that is a heartbeat away from a full on ‘thinker,’ with a fist nestled under my chin.
“So we have to make sure that they either don’t know you unlocked it, or that they can’t get into it once you have. I mean. I assume it’s not a one time, disposable lock so… maybe that last part isn’t a problem…”
So much as making sure they don’t do anything to Conner because he got into it and didn’t promptly hand over whatever tech and goodies may be hidden inside. If there even is anything. But. One would assume. You don’t lock up a place like that if there’s nothing of any perceived value, even if it’s just to you. When my eyebrow hitches upwards this time at his phrasing, it’s because my brain even now is starting to try to read ‘bait’ into that, that I don’t actually think was there. So I make my face a little pouty and apologetic for a moment.
“If you’re wanting me to take you to Olympus, no can do I’m afraid. The only door I knew of got obliterated when I came out. They’re actually even less inviting than Oh-Gee-Supes was. Very join the team, or get off of my cloud. I’m kidding.”
Which. Boy. I hope he knows. Not that everything I just said wasn’t truthful, but more that I didn’t really think this was what he was angling for. I get it. Or at least, I think I do. Because anytime he’s worried? It puts Conner Luthor into a little bit different gear than his normal, and our status quo which had been working so well for us for the last year has definitely been upset lately. Revealing that I couldn’t trust him, even if only in a very specific situation, maybe had hurt him a lot more than I’d intended it to. I don’t know. He wants to help me with my problems, so he’s showing me ‘his.’
“We kind of… touched on this back in Gotham but. The hamburglar problem.” My mouth curves a little at that private joke, but only a little because the entire situation makes me uneasy. And unsure. “If what I was told can be completely believed. We’re… connected somehow. Because of what Ares did. Tied together somehow, and that means that as he’s going around stealing power for himself it’s bleeding over to me. I. Don’t know if he knows that, but if he succeeds in going all Highlander on the Gods? That isn’t going to mean anything good for anyone on Earth.”
Conner: Telling her of my first meeting with Krypto had never really been the plan anyway, but having her actually be comforted by the knowledge of his origin? I don’t know, it sort of makes me a little more pleased that I’ve taken this step with her. She and I never did secrets before. Not the sort of secrets that were harmful to one another. In fact the only secrets I’ve ever managed to keep were the sort that kept her safe, the opposite of harmful. My problem has been, and probably will always be, that I share a bit too much if anything.
Her thoughts are running in tune with mine on all of this. Keeping it a secret isn’t an option at all. So we have to focus on the things we can control. Namely the Battle-Suit. My being outside of their control when we do get inside? That’s paramount to me. It has been for a long time. Where Cassie and I differ? Is that I’m still not convinced that Nowhere is the problem. People like that Terrorist Kid in Gotham? They’re why the world of normal people need a group like Nowhere to exist to keep them safe. Is that necessarily a good thing? Hell no. But this brings us back to why the Oh-Gee-Supes left, isn’t it? What do you do, really, when you’ve because the root-cause of the very evil you want to put a stop to?
“Heh. I’m still not convinced you didn’t dream your trip to Olympus, I mean that’s how you visited Hell too isn’t it? I’d need to sleep to visit and I’m all about maximizing my time…”
Right away I can tell that something has changed here. Between the two of us. It was barely a week ago that I was enraged by someone hugging her while she wore her cheerleading uniform. Today I’m actually listening to her to talk about being connected, bound even, to someone else. Maybe it’s different because the person we’re talking about is a murderer and therefor I’m reasonable sure she won’t spare a second look at him. But aren’t I a murderer in some sense too? No, I think it’s different because Cass went out of her way to convince me that jealousy isn’t my biggest fear with her.
“So. If this person is out there. Connected to you. Killing other Gods. Which is causing this bleed over. Then why don’t you trace the link? That’s what Raven did to help us find you in the first place. When your powers first started to manifest. She traced your very first outburst, right back to you.”
Cassie: “The ridiculously large amount of jewelry piled in my bedroom right now begs to differ. Unless I’ve got a new round of powers that involve manifesting my unconscious thoughts…in which case we have an even bigger problem. But. No. I was there. I went to the place that Raven stopped Black Adam and just sort of… followed my proverbial nose from there. I could feel it. But it was gone again when I came back out, and while I’m sure there’s other doors I’m not supposed to find them.”
I wasn’t supposed to find that one either, or go there, and each time I get more answers I’m not really sure I wasn’t better off before I had them. It’s hard to continue to go with ‘just doing what feels right’ when there’s so much at stake. I guess I don’t fully trust myself either, which is going to be an issue. If I can’t, why would anyone else?
“But. I did. Which means they can, too. I don’t know how many potential targets they have here, but once those are exhausted… I’m not sure how my ‘teacher’ knew the plan, but I don’t know the benefit in lying to me about it. Or telling me if it’s really him and…augh…”
Throwing my hands up in the arctic air, I pace in a little circle, the crunch of my footsteps sounding so very loud in the otherwise quiet solitude of the area around us.
“My kingdom for the days when the most complicated part of my day was avoiding Kelsey’s baleful glare.”
Though, honestly, that’s really not a trade I would make at this point. For all the frustration and doubt, I’ve gotten a lot of good things out of it, too. Knowledge. Love. Purpose. And those are, I have to keep reminding myself, are what’s important. Finishing my little bit of pacing, I round back to face him again.
“…two good ideas in one day? Who are you, and what happened to my boyfriend? Maybe that would work. We know he was in Fawcett. Or. I think that was him. So there’s a chance that…”
Wait. How long was it between Fawcett, and the surge in my powers? It was hard for me to pinpoint, really because at first… the changes had been gradual. It was only the other day when the surge had been so strong.
Conner: “Hey, I’m full of good ideas,” comes the response of one very uppity looking Superman, who’s put his hands upon his hips in awkward judgement of her statement. “They’re just very obscured by ideas of assorted eye-lasering and sex. And for the record, you tend to like the latter of those too.”
I’m going to kindly avoid any discussion of her problems with Kelsey, because I’ve never really been sure if those problems existed in reality. Or part of the role that was being played. Or even if they manifested out of my ex, disliking my current. I’ve never really felt that I needed to look in to such things any deeper than the surface issues. Kelsey was there to test Cassie. It was the Job that Megan was tasked with by our handlers and she did it, just as she did everything, to the very best she could. Whether or not it actually came with a sense of gratification in the end was happenstance in this situation.
Though with M’Gann, there’s very likely a lot more gratification than most people are aware of. “Look, this magic stuff is not my wheelhouse, but if I’m understanding things? Then you found this road home through some sort of connection to it. That more or less confirms the theory right there. Whatever connects you to this Killer, should be traceable too. Maybe it’s a matter of proximity?”
“Also. Speaking as a Luthor, have you considered that while there’s no benefit to lying to you, there may be a benefit to saving you? How does this teacher benefit from playing the role he’s cast himself in? I mean. This whole idea of being Superman, you came up with it because you wanted the world to accept me. So even if this teacher of your’s is doing it for good reason, you’ve shown that there is always a motivating factor. What’s his Game?”
Cassie: I shouldn’t laugh at him, but I can’t help it. He looks so affronted, and to have it followed up with honesty about why it might seem like he’s not as smart as I actually know he is at times, only makes for a second snort on the heels of the first. Which turns into another before I’m almost helplessly laughing, hands braced against my knees as I try to work my words out around the giggles. God, it feels really good to laugh, even if it feels a touch on the hysterical side right now.
“I do… I do… sorry. Sorry, Con…ahem.”
It’s not the only thing that feels good, though. Laughing. But letting go in general. I’ve been letting myself get so wound up and pent up, and no. Not in the way that he would surely seize on with eyebrows waggling suggestion if I was saying this part out loud. Words. Feelings. Not anything else. What I thought I had to keep to myself, or even keep from him, for whatever the reason might have been. Like all the rest of our … arguments… lately, though this hadn’t been one of them, once I let it go and started talking despite the misgivings and reasons? I’d felt better. Secrets had just never been a thing for me before the powers and the strangeness entered my life. I don’t like them. I’d liked them even less when I’d started having to keep new ones from the one person I hadn’t had to before. So whether or not this is his wheelhouse (and I don’t think it’s mine either, but it needs to start to be), the sounding board is wonderful.
“Maybe. Because unless he’s only just started his Godly Serial Killer thing, I would thing I’d have been getting… extra in noticeable amounts before now.”
And I don’t think it’s new, because otherwise why would my teacher be braced to warn me, or help me. That’s a whole different hitch in my ability to just take what I’d been told at face value though. A question of motivation, and timing, and knowledge. Suspicion that it’s just all some twisted game, while wanting to believe that it really isn’t. Finally straightening fully, and a little sobered again from my laughing, my hands take up place on my hips. A little less judgy looking than his own had been, though.
“Outside of hoping I’m going to keep him from being on the chopping block? I imagine Olympus is a pretty limited dating pool, without a lot of fresh meat. Maybe he’s trying to make a good first impression on a very long, long game.”
Conner: “Now you’re laughing at me? Who laughs at Superman when he’s having a good idea? This is highly undignified, I’ll say.”
That’s about where I leave the act of teasing her over the wording she’s chosen. I know I’m not the planner of this particular little circle of trust. More of a doer. If anything, I’m the eye-laser first and come up with a plan after sort of guy. In our little group of friends, I’m what you might call a tank. Jump in to the fray, get it’s attention. Take the lumps. So that someone else can figure things out. I do a good job at the role I’ve been cast in to.
Which happens not to be ‘Come up with a Plan,’ or ‘Work out the Mystery’ guy. I punch things, while leaving the detective work to the Detectives. But that has never meant I’m less intelligent than a man born of the genes of Kryptonian and Luthor DNA. “Hold on. You’re right. It’s possible he only just started, but it seems unlikely. Wouldn’t it be more likely that he’s done this before… and what is new… is the connection to you?”
“What changed? What’s new? What did you do that could have opened such a connection?” My eyes go to that little lightening bracelet for a second, before darting back to her eyes. “Was it when you came out of the proverbial closet as Wonder Woman? After that? Fawcett City? Before or after your trip to Olympus?”
“…nice. You just totally took me from trying to be helpful to back to ‘Eye-Laser’, Grunt and Scratch my balls.” Scowling at her. “Long-game. Ugh. Now I have to beat your teacher up. I’m sorry. It’s in the manly handbook.”
Cassie: “Wonder Woman does. Apparently.”
Wiping at the corner of my eye with a fingertip, the sigh I let out is mostly just a remnant of my giggles, and me trying to keep control of myself and my mood. I don’t remember that being such a difficult thing to do before, nor was I really prone to such swings and while these have all been shifts in emotions on the positive end, they’re still shifts. The power, and what it’s doing to me? Maybe linked to those as Conner had suggested to me before now, or maybe I’m just getting to that point of my godly-terrible twos. Ugh. I better not have to do puberty again because I’m still not entirely over feeling coltish and awkward.
“That seems a lot more likely. Because killing someone once, awful as it sounds, is something you maybe get away with. Especially when that person … God… is separated from the rest of them, and laying low or outright hiding on Earth. Or. Wherever. So if it’s started to get noticed, it’s probably not the first. Maybe not even the second. I didn’t notice it until … after all those things, actually.”
Absently rubbing the bracelet, and the power that is mine for safe-keeping and, hopefully, ultimately bestowing, when Conner’s look draws my attention to it. The timeline something I’d thought of in regards to what I was feeling, and how I was behaving but not necessarily in these terms. Of a connection formed somehow. If it was really because of Ares’ meddling in my head shoudln’t I have felt it sooner? So maybe it was proximity then. And maybe the proximity came because of the temptation of the power I’m carting around.
“The dreams started before Fawcett. We know, or assume anyway, that our Godkiller was in Fawcett before that from the camera footage. I didn’t know something was wrong until a few days ago but… I mean. Looking back I can see a lot of not normal me behavior cropping up in between those two points.”
Blue eyes roll slightly like I don’t have the time, or patience, for the ego right now but my tone’s light. At least, light as it can be with the things I’m ruminating over at the moment and the seriousness of them. Teasing.
“Or you just have to live forever. Possibly get yourself ascended on up to Godhood along with me. I’d think you’d probably enjoy that…”
Conner: “Living for ever starts with getting this suit fixed,” comes the all too honest reply, because she’s hit upon part of why we’re here at this location in the first place. “Or at least, living in to your mid-life crisis years.”
The way she’s rubbing at the bracelet now tells me something even more. I’m not a detective, sure, but I know my girlfriend. She’s nervous that she’s overlooked something. Now she’s starting to question things that she hadn’t questioned before too. That’s good. Questioning everything is something that I learned while trapped in that Virtual Reality training simulator. Only by questioning everything about that World did I ever find my way out of it and in to this one. Even now I question almost everything and everyone. People mark that up to my being a Luthor, but it isn’t genetic, that’s a learned behavior. I actually quite like the fact that normally Cassie doesn’t.
Which is why I’m also quick to intercede there too; “Start with the things we know. We know that the Dreams began before Fawcett City. We also know that the Amulet from Raven would have stopped such an intrusion, if the intent behind it was dangerous. We were also told that Magic isn’t as precise as Science, so there is a much broader sense to how spells work. Because the Amulet would innately work based upon what -you- considered Harmful. Tying those things together, we know that your teacher’s intentions are not something you’d think of as harmful.”
“So I think that eliminates him as a suspect, in the mystery of the Godkiller. Even if it doesn’t eliminate my new found desire to break him in half.” I’m counting these things off on my hand, as I walk nearer to the giant Key. “We also know that someone was manipulating Freddy’s Trials. We know that before you got the Amulet from Raven, someone came to you in a Dream in the visage of Black Adam. Who you now believe wasn’t the actual person. So someone wanted you to be oppose Adam. All of those things complicated the situation with the Witch, the Trials and would resulted in you taking part in the killing of a God. If not for interceding factors. I’m not Batman, but I think someone wanted you to have blood on your hands, God-Blood to be precise.”
“Getting your hands dirty could serve a lot of purposes, but what if it’s meant to make you Unworthy?” The hand I’ve been counting on is gently laid upon the Key, which I’d just spoken about Superman wanting someone Worthy to be able to open the door with. “When you came back from Olympus, you said your Dad had said something about leaving you the tools to overcome anything. These Gods of your’s, they’re big about stuff like Trials, Quests, and crap like that. What if the killer is part of one of them. What if this is some game you’re playing, without knowing it and the edge you have is because you’re ‘More Worthy’ to win than he or she is?”
“That’s what I’d do, Cassie. If I couldn’t beat someone fair and square? I’d either cheat or level the playing field.”
Cassie: “During which I’m sure there’ll be no living with me, if the last few weeks are any way to judge what’s that far down the road, so probably a great time to bail anyway…”
Welp. If I wasn’t already generally motivated to help Conner with anything (nearly anything) that he could even potentially use my help on, that right there was a way to get me there. I hadn’t known that it was an issue to worry over for long enough to really get myself worked up and anxious. He’d only just told me, on the drive from Gotham and up the coast, and then I’d gotten distracted on top of Conner’s trying to reassure me. If he’s got any reason to believe, any at all, that a means to make sure I don’t have to worry about losing him is inside whatever this key actually opens then I’m in.
“Especially when I didn’t even think they were,” Here comes the finger quotes. “Real in the first place. I didn’t really find anything odd or out of place about them until after I came back from Olympus. So. Like you said. The intentions weren’t outward, or immediately, harmful even if they may not be harmless.”
I don’t trust him. My magnanimous, timely teacher. It’s all too convenient, honestly. A year ago I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but then a year ago I probably wasn’t ‘worth’ the attention. But I’ve been pointed towards a problem that is a problem, regardless of who has told me about it. I could make a pretty good argument that Olympus’ problems aren’t myproblems, but I’m also not some butthurt juvenile who holds the radio silence from that half of my ‘family’ over them. Because I get it, I’m even glad for the time I had to be left alone. Olympus’ problem would very likely turn into Earth’s problem whether or not I was here, but I am and… so here we are.
Nodding my head in agreement with his summary and assessment, I watch Conner approach the enormous key, once again folding my arms across my chest though I stay in my place.
“I think if Black Adam had been the one messing around in my head, he would been sneery and honest about it. Just. Kind of the vibe I got, along with believing he really didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. It hadn’t made any sense for him to plant that Amulet on the woman in Fawcett in the first place. So this Godkiller was aware of me, and starting to set me up to distrust others long before even Fawcett.”
Unworthy of what, though? Zeus not saying anything about that doesn’t really matter, because he was cryptic and why would he? There’s some things that were just… understood. Especially if you knew anything at all about mythology of any stripe. Conditions that had to be met, or could not be met for those heroes to keep what made them special. And were I to no longer be ‘worthy,’ what would that mean? That Zeus’ chosen champion was corrupted for one thing, at which point do the broken trials become downright unsalvageable? And without knowing what’s at stake, either. We already know Ares is an asshole, and not happy with the current arrangement. And now his ‘son’ is going to to be up against the daughter of the one that made those rules.
“Bottom line, really then… is figuring it out and taking care of the problem before he does much more killing. Because I couldn’t hang onto the extra power. If he can, and gets too much stronger…”
Isis basically pimp slapped me. Someone with even more powers? But then, I’m not allowed to interfere with Freddy. Who says I can’t ask for help?
Conner: “Oh, Cassie. It’s adorable really. Almost as if you never realized how hard you were to deal with when we first met, but I loved you anyway.”
That time? It’s impossible to miss the look of pure pleasure that comes with turning our entire life on it’s head to make that joke. I’ve been insufferable one since day one and I’m aware of it. Though, there is some truth to what I’ve said. She made everything as difficult as possible. If she’d have just given in from Day One just think of where we’d be? ( Probably not where we are, to be honest. Part of what makes Cassie special to me, is that she is the first person to ever be genuine with me. )
Another little pat of the Key, for sake of symbolic gestures and then I’m moving forward, putting myself right in front of her again. How many times have we stood like this? Yet this is so very different than all those times, because maybe for the first time it is not Conner Luthor and Cassie Sandsmark, but actually Superman and Wonder Woman. Even if it’s really Superboy and Wonder Girl still at heart.
“Who told you that you couldn’t hang on to the extra power?” There’s this tone to my question, that imparts a dislike for someone telling Cassie that she can’t do something. “Just because you weren’t ready for it, doesn’t equate to ‘can’t.’ A year ago you would have told me you couldn’t save the world without me. Two years ago you would have said you couldn’t throw down with a bunch of Crocodile Men. Three years ago you didn’t think you could fly. Stop thinking in terms of can or can’t. You’re Cassandra Sandsmark. Daughter of Zeus.”
“You’ve never let that define you, Cass, but now I think you need to remember that more than ever. It doesn’t define you, but if Zeus doesn’t define you then why does anyone -or- anything else? Stop telling me what you can or can’t do. Stop telling yourself what you can or can’t do. Just fuckin do it, let the Historians sort it out later.”
Cassie: “Okay, pot, I’m kettle. Nice to meet you..”
I know he’s teasing me. Partly. Doesn’t for a moment slow the tart reply, though. It wouldn’t be me and him if it did. I made things ‘difficult’ because he’d swooped into my life, literally and figuratively, and wormed his way into my life while I was trying very hard at first to not let him. The big jerk had my mother on his side from the get go, too. From having to tutor him through playing dumb at history, to ‘suffering’ through his version of the best method of revenge against my private school ‘rivals.’ I just wanted them to leave me alone, and somehow ended up the ringleader. Wallflower, to poster girl, with a side of fighting with him for months over whether or not I was his girlfriend. Were they obnoxious? At times, yeah, definitely. Would I change them? No, not really. Especially not now that I know everything I do about him. It was really where I learned how to manage Conner Luthor and his ego and his ideas. Best as I could anyawy.
And here he is. Telling me off. Riot acting. Okay not really, but it’s a well meant equivalent. Despite our nearly incessant bickering and jibing and teasing? There’s a distinct difference when one of us gets to where we need the other to listen, and listen good. Like the very few times I’ve put my foot down on some scheme of his. I know he can be a SuperJerk, but honestly he’s encouraging of me. Even when I don’t want to be encouraged. Or pushed. Or to step out of my comfort zone and onto a stage in a bright red, spangly outfit and declare myself to the world.
“Okay, okay. No one told me I couldn’t. I didn’t like who I was with it though, and that’s different. I know.”
Crouching in the snow, I balance on my heels with my arms resting across my knees. Watching my breath mist the air in front of me. Just because I don’t feel the cold doesn’t mean that it isn’t. Kind of an appropriate symbolism for so much going on in my head, and around me actually. It turns into dragging my fingers through the snow which would probably be more hard packed glacier than powder but it’s not solid enough to resist my fingers. When I rise again, it’s with a resolute set to my jaw and mouth, and a snowball in hand. Which promptly gets zinged at his head with far more speed and force than I had dared use the last time we had a chance to have a snowball fight, in my front yard.
“The historians won’t get to sort out crap. I’ll be there to write it myself.”
Conner: “Oh hoo. I was easy to get along with. In the grand scheme of life, I’m pretty easy to manage. I don’t sleep. Barely eat. Give me a little sex and I’m basically a big puppy. You’re high maintenance, Kettle. All this bolstering your ego and building you up, when you tear yourself down or letting insignificant people do it. There’s dating, hand-holding, dancing and movie watching. Not to even mention this whole Superman thing. You’re a lot of work, Pal. So I hope you know you’re worth it.”
Watching Cassie is easy, I do it all the time. But there’s watching and then there’s observing. I’m better at one than the other. Because she’s way too easy to look at. Shorter than your average long-legged cheerleader type, she makes up for the lack of height, by packing the entire Amazon package in to five feet nothing. That leaves most people, including me, looking without watching what she’s doing. Ordinarily that’d be quite enough to be caught flat footed. Being splattered in the face with a snowball? Acceptable payment for the enhanced view of her breasts in that top as she kneels to scoop up the snow.
Except. That Cassie isn’t quite fast enough to have a real concept of how fast my perception of the world really is. In the time it takes her to lift the snow, cock her hand back and let it go? I’ve already looked from her hand to her breast sixteen times. I might not be as smart as Freddy or Tim, but being as fast as I am I’m able to apply my intellect to a solution faster than they can their own. She’s barely let the snow out of her hand, when I’ve taken aim for the purpose of eye-lasering.
The fact that I -don’t- hit it with Heat Vision. That the snowball isn’t turned to heated water that splashes all over and turns her already nice looking costume in to a wet swim-suit version? Is really telling of how much I’m invested in to what I was teasing about. Bolstering her. Letting the snowball crash in to my chiseled features? Is a good segue in to getting her back in to good spirits and distracting her from the problems we’ve been discussing. While I’m happy to ‘take one for the team,’ I’m pretty sure that Cassie knows where this was leading and expects me to ‘fight back.’
“Gah, cheap shot, Kettle, I was distracted by bewbs.” I’m moving now though; in to the air and over the edge of the key to use it for cover that is needed to build a supply chain of snowballs, which will be used to splaterize her with.
Cassie: “A big, aggressive, eye-lasering puppy. But you’re right.”
No, this is no trap. Those two words in conjunction aren’t things that usually come out of my mouth, in regards to Conner Luthor. Don’t get me wrong, all my feelings for him aside he just doesn’t need to be told that. He already thinks it’s true, and boy has ego for days that needs no polishing. Sometimes, I do it anyway though. Especially when he’s being sweet, or is extra deserving of a Cassie Cookie for a job well done. Positive reinforcement is basically my job. Sometimes negative ones are, too. What he’s right about though, judging by the smirk I’m not quite controlling isn’t that he’s the low maintenance one.
“I am worth it. So are you, though.”
I’d argue he’s complicated my life a lot, but he simplifies it for me in so many ways, too. Like just now. Squashing down all the many, many concerns and worries and complications in my head and bringing it to one important point. Not just that I can do this, but that he believes in me. The person that knows all my flaws, and the ins and outs of Cassie Sandsmark and still is counting on me to do all of this. Plus he gets brownie points for letting me hit him in the face with an ice ball. Which I am very aware, despite roughly doubling in speed lately, is not nearly quick enough to have gotten the drop on him. I’m not sure anyone could, except maybe Wally.
“No excuse, Pot! Eyes on the prize! No, not those…”
It’s like the laughter. It feels good. That impulsive throw, and what it leads into. Not thinking about what I should be doing instead right now, but just instigating, and throwing myself into, a fight that I know I can’t win but that’s not the point. It’s the game. And the fact that it’s just me and Conner at the literal top of the world, and how free that makes me feel.