Jesus, this was more delayed than an issue of ASBAR...I hope you guys think this is better than ASBAR though. Because if not I should probably be shot...

So...yeah, here's the finale. Let me know if this chapter sucks.

Like I'm not going to re-write it or anything, I just want to be able to flog myself appropriately.


Part 4:

Biayla:

"…and there's not a single meta-human in sight," Wonder Woman said, her eyes scanning the area below her. Hidden in shadows, she could see the entire concourse area under the inactive cooling tower—scores of armoured and armed soldiers paced back and forth, attending to artillery placements and several of the large vehicles that weren't covered by tarps. Computer monitors blinked blue in the corners of the large atrium, and with her enhanced vision she could clearly make out the detailed cutaways of Quarcian border fortifications and airspace vulnerabilities highlighted on each screen.

It didn't take her long to find Tuzik either—still covered in copious military medals that he had never earned, wearing the same fringed cape in an effort to stand even further out from the rest of the rabble and cannon fodder he surrounded himself with. A conscious effort, she knew—Tuzik may have looked the part of the arm-chair general, but she had encountered few others atop the vast armies of Man's World with the same desire to get their own hands dirty.

No, Tuzik never shied away from ripping out the throat of someone personally.

The opposite end of her communicator remained quiet. Deep down, both she and Batman weren't in the least bit surprised by this development. Unlike Diana however, Bruce would no doubt be devoting half of his brainpower to analyzing how and when and why President Horne or Sarge Steel, or maybe even the entire US Defense complex itself, decided to betray them.

That kind of thinking would do them no good now. Pressing her finger to her ear, she intended to put a stop to it as best as she could.

"Do Steel's schematics say anything about the exit points in this building?"

"Not happening. I'm pulling you out Diana," Batman said, "I can have a second EMP drone down there in 10 minutes to cover your escape, but you're not..."

Diana moved herself closer to the centre of the room, shuffling quietly over the cold metal of the rafters. As she did, he kept her finger on her communicator in her ear, and tried to keep as reserved a tone as possible.

"I'm here and I have eyes on Tuzik," she said. "Whatever he's doing with these weapons and these soldiers is too important to wait for a second team. Especially with the number of civilians just outside the facility."

"Every scarp of information the DoD and the DMA gave me is now suspect," Batman said, his voice growing on urgent. "You're completely blind and isolated down there—use your head Diana, we need to regroup."

She knew he was trying to bludgeon his way to victory—trying to get a rise out of her so that he could fall back on the cold logic of his words. But Wonder Woman had learned first hand that his demeanor was far from emotionally sterile in these circumstances. Bruce was afraid—afraid of the unknowns and the questions and all the wild cards that were no doubt hidden from them at this very moment, but most of all, he was afraid for her and her safety. He trusted her, but he also cared deeply for her. His belligerence was little more than pure emotion wrapped in a veil of detached logic.

Having learned this long ago meant that Diana, more than anyone else in the League, was exceptionally suitable for dealing with these moods. Herself caring deeply for Bruce as well, she could appeal to the hidden worries and buried love that drove his actions and words, just like he'd be able to turn her thoughts inwards towards the calculus that drove her own thoughts. More often than not, they could reach common ground.

But Diana was many things, one of which was being open about her opinions, beliefs, and emotions. Right now, she was prepared to stop Tuzik before he could darken the world of whatever his target might be. Right now, she refused to back down.

"None of that matters," she said, a bit of ice working its way into her words. "I'm not going to leave this country until I'm sure that Tuzik posses no threat to anyone."

She heard a sharp growl on the other end of her line, just as she repositioned herself within striking distance of the General. "For all we know, you're just doing what two squads of DEVGRU commandoes couldn't pull off. Tuzik might not even be the threat this time Diana."

Diana uncoiled her limbs, and eased herself back into the shadows. "Do you truly distrust Steel that much?"

"Show me the 'meta-human threat' and I'll change my stance."

"They made a mistake Bruce. You and I both know..."

"You and I both know that a mistake in politics is just a criminal getting caught."

Diana and Bruce both sighed in unison, their argument having already drained their continually decreasing reserve to fight with one another. Diana's mind flashed back to their conversation on the Watchtower, where Bruce had pointed to the Earth and declared that thousands of Tuzik's scurried over its surface—some of them, he alluded, wore the American flag on their uniforms.

She didn't doubt that, having experienced more than her fair share of corrupt politicians and soldiers. She did her best to take everyone at their word, but a bit of skepticism, she had come to appreciate, was healthy for one's continued life in the political arena. For her though, she never let it border on paranoia, nor did she let it consume her.

She was sure of one thing in this situation, and that one thing was that Batman was wrong.

"Bruce," she said, her voice much softer now. "When I said you were blind, what do you think I meant?"

There was a pause as Batman contemplated the question, and her eyes scanned over the bustling below her—her limbs prepared to pounce in the event that Tuzik made a move for what looked like an exit. A second more passed before Batman's voice, now softer in it's own right, appeared back on the comm-link.

"You were telling me that there are more people like you out in the world than I give them credit for," he said. "The room you're in right now should...should show you why I think you're wrong."

That last comment lacked the venom that Batman's words could sometimes carry, and as such, Diana remained calm and collected. "No Bruce," she said. "You don't know me as well as you think." She paused and stood on the rafters—Tuzik hadn't moved yet, he was still deeply engrossed in what she could barely make out as an intelligence briefing siphoned from a defunct East German Intelligence Network. "Your Commissioner Gordon and I aren't exceptional Bruce, we're just people who try to do good in the world. And sometimes we fail." She paused again, noticing that Batman didn't interrupt—a good sign that he was listening respectfully.

"What I was trying to tell you was that most of humanity is the same—they try to do good, and sometimes they fail. But where as you see my failures as simply a momentary slip, you've grown so jaded and cynical that you see other's mishaps as being malicious and malevolent. I was trying to tell you that you were wrong."

"Diana—" Bruce's voice was lower, calmer. "—Steel and Horne aren't just "others", they're..."

"They are Bruce, they're just people in extraordinary circumstances. I don't always agree with them, and they may be more prone to slip-ups than is ideal, but I meant it when I said they're just like me—they're idealists, trying to make a difference. Steel was right to say that the world makes the President's legacy, but Horne is trying. And Steel said that he wouldn't ask for my help if he didn't think I needed it. I trust him..." she paused. "So do you trust me?"

A silence hung over her, one which told Diana that she had managed to work her way to Batman's inner struggle. A soft sign followed, and Batman lightly said into her ear piece, "I trust you."

"Then please Bruce," she said. "Find out what you can about this room while I try and talk Tuzik down."

"Alright...I'm on it now."

The line went dead, leaving Wonder Woman alone with Tuzik and his hidden army. Batman would still be listening, as he always was, but he was officially handing off control to her—fully and completely. As ready as she felt she confidently could be, Diana stepped off from the metal rafters, and started to fall towards the ground, her arms spread and her legs ready to meet the floor. Halfway down, her voice booming with authority, she called out to the General.

"TUZIK!"

The massed troops turned suddenly to face her as her bare feet impacted with the ground. She ignored them, staring straight towards the figure of General Tuzik, his face lit with a shock that—the longer Diana stared him down—began to slowly shift into a noticeable smirk.

Diana knew Tuzik well, perhaps better than any other member of the Justice League. She knew that the only thought in his mind at that moment was the came of chess he was about to play with one of the world's most powerful heroes—and how he would revel in it for as long as he willed.

"I want to ask how you managed to sneak in, Wonder Woman," he said, handing off the touch-pad he was pouring over to the nearest technician. The lanky scientist nearly toppled over the exaggerated force of Tuzik's shove—a pre-emptive show of power before his game fully began. "But I'm sure it will ultimately have been simple to the point of banality."

Tuzik's soldiers, having finally recovered from their initial shock, began to surround Wonder Woman, their weapons drawn out in front of them. Behind her, Diana could hear the groan of tanks roughly forced to life, their heavy main canon's no doubt aimed right at her back, despite the collateral mayhem a smoothbore round would do in such a confined space. Again, she ignored the soldiers. As did Tuzik, it appeared, as he separated the honor-guard that had formed in front of him in order to move closer to Diana.

"I'm going to ask you to evacuate the work camps around the facility," Diana said. "I see no reason why you should endanger their lives."

Tuzik didn't move. The ring of computers and monitors that spread out around him created the illusion of a podium, and the General, decked out in his medals and his uniform, was treating it as such. His arms crossed, and his smirk on the verge of becoming a sneer, Tuzik scoffed and scratched at his black goatee.

"Sure you can," he said. "You are, after all, a warrior. You know the value of a town held hostage."

He moved from behind his make-shift podium, and Wonder Woman's eyes followed. "A warrior, a true warrior, understands the value of sparing lives as well. And they'd never put innocents in danger—that's the realm of cowards." She turned to address the mass of soldiers around her. "Are you an army of cowards? Or have you prevented Tuzik from robbing you of your dignity?"

Another scoff from Tuzik, though Diana was more focused on the murmurs and shifting eyes of the crowd, now far less committed than they had been when they surrounded her. The General remained unimpressed however, as he and his honor guard closed in on Wonder Woman. "You can save your speeches Amazon, they will only get you so far. Ignorance may be bliss, but it will do you no favours here." He motioned to the dagger sheathed on her thigh. "Otherwise you wouldn't have packed so light."

"I came here with non-violent intentions," Wonder Woman said, moving closer herself and, noticeably, without much resistance from Tuzik's soldiers. "If you cooperate, then I will not deviate from them."

Tuzik chuckled, now standing right in front of her. "But no reprieve from the harsh tribunals for me."

"You already know my answer."

"As you know mine," he said. With his cloak swirling behind him, he turned his back on Diana, and his place in front of her was replaced by the scowling faces of a very loyal, and exceptionally armed honor guard, who Diana was only now getting a clear view of their heavy rifles and equipment. As she stared, a slight burst of static in her ear signaled to her that Batman was back on the line. Silently, she listened.

"There are only two exits, both of which are just next to the super-structure of the cooling tower," Batman said. "The big one's probably for vehiclesthe smaller one leads directly to the helipad on the roof."

"Besides—" Tuzik had moved beside the technician, his eyes still focused solely on Diana, "—international law is hardly on your side here, no matter what Pentagon PR tells you."

In her ear, Batman remained silent, though Diana thought she detected a barely restrained grunt through the oscillating static. Knowing Bruce, she'd hardly be surprised.

She too remained silent, and instead met Tuzik's blatant challenge with a stare of her own. Unfazed, Tuzik pointed to the technician. "Tell her, good sir. Tell her who you are and what you do."

The man swallowed hard, but managed to pull from within himself enough courage to step forward and address Diana as powerfully as he could. She wasn't sure how much strength that act required, but it surely was not insignificant. He seemed to Diana to be principled if not fully convicted—something she could potentially use to her advantage, if she needed.

Clearing his throat, the technician spoke in heavily accented English. "I am from Biaylan Department of Public Works, Wonder Woman. I am not warrior, but civil contractor, here to ensure promised upgrades for nuclear generator are installed." He pointed behind him, towards a series of enclosed containers baring the markings of both General Electric and—to her dismay—LexCorp. The technician continued. "Sir Dvory Tuzik is benefactor for us."

"I provided the technology and funds to finally bring the Biaylian power grid into the 21st century—" Tuzik was now almost leering over his make-shift podium, "—and all I asked in return was for a portion to go to their aging military, and all the diplomatic immunity that comes with holding an office of the state." He pointed to a golden symbol on his uniform. "I am Bialya's most senior defense advisor—not quite the Minister of Defense just yet, but most divisions report to me with gusto."

Wonder Woman could barely contain her snarl as she put the pieces together verbally.

"And now you have an army with which you can strike at anyone, correct?"

Tuzik chuckled. "Hardly. I serve at the pleasure of the President, after all."

Ignoring him, Diana looked at the technician, her eyes as soft as she could make them. "But you don't, not in this capacity." She gestured around her. "I know you can see where all of this is leading. I believe you joined this government to do good, to serve and help people." She offered out her hand, but her eyes passed over the entire floor, expressing that this gesture applied to anyone in the room willing to receive it. "Please, don't abandon that. If you step away from this Siren-in-uniform, if you cast him out of your country, if you heed any of the words I say, then you're just as much a hero as I am. More so perhaps."

Despite the speech, Tuzik's expression remained predatory. "Follow her," he said, "and you'll only live long enough to see your families gutted."

Before Wonder Woman could react, a burst of static hissed in her ear. "He's trying to rile you up Diana," Batman said. "We have to scrap thisyou're in a no win situation..."

"I'd listen to the Bat, if that is in fact who you're talking to," Tuzik said. Diana couldn't help but be surprised—neither could Batman, for that matter. Of the two though, Diana's was the most restrained, what with it having to war with an increasing sense of fatigue and, to her dismay, anger, at Tuzik's antics. The General continued unaware of this, and slowly worked his way back through the crowd to Diana, leaving the podium empty. "I can't lie to you Wonder Woman, my mind is rarely at peace unless I'm in the midst of a power grab. Bialya's army is crude, but it's population is numerous enough that the rest of the region would crumble at the treads of it's tanks, provided I modernize them first." Reaching Diana, his face twisted into a grotesque impression of a smile. "But I don't have a single plan for that in my mind at the moment, Miss Diana. I truly am concerned only with getting this plant up and running, if for no other reason than to acquire favour from the President and the populous. But you know what is truly spectacular about all of this? Why I simply joined the cabinet of a country, as opposed to conquering it for my own?"

He leaned in close. "I don't even need to come up with a plan. My government will do it for me. And I'll execute it with the diligence of a Lance Corporal. Anytime, any place, anyone, Wonder Woman. I just have to wait for the order." Rearing back to his full height, he crossed his arms and smirked in silent victory. "After all, war...is God."

It was then that she heard it—just as Tuzik's face stretched back into a grin. A ticking noise—faint, concealed behind layers of wood and metal. One of the LexCorp containers was ticking, and in her experience, whenever something ticked...

The explosion ripped apart the cooling tower's walls, collapsing concrete, rebar, and sparking wires onto the atrium floor. A cloud of smoke rushed forward just ahead of the fire and the noise. The technician was shrouded in confusion and dust just before his body was torn apart by pressure and flame.

Tuzik and Diana ducked as the wave of destruction swept overhead, sending smoldering soldiers and chunks of the building flying past them. Diana noticed the pieces of the building first, and panic settled in her gut like a thrashing animal. A shrill siren confirmed all her fears—the core had been destabilized, and the entire facility was in the process of catastrophic meltdown.

Getting her bearings, Diana looked around her at the chaos. Bodies were strewn everywhere, but Tuzik's wasn't among them. Through the screaming and the wail of the siren, Diana heard Bruce's frantic voice in her ear.

"happened Diana? What the hell just happened?"

"One of the LexCorp crates just exploded! The entire facility's about to—"

"Jesus Christ," Batman swore, "How many people are still in the atrium?"

Diana quickly looked around. "Almost a dozen!"

"Get them out and then YOU get the hell out!"

"I need a drone or something to track Tuzik!" Wonder Woman said, picking up fallen and dazed soldiers "If we let him escape there's no telling what he'll do!"

"It'll take a minute, unless I just use thermal to track fleeing heat signatures, but Jesus Diana, you need to hurry!"

"Hera Bruce, I know!" They were both panicked, the sounds of chaos threatening to drown out their voices. Having helped two more soldiers to their feet, she noticed the rumbling emanating from deep within the Earth started to grow, as the superstructure around her groaned like a wounded warrior. "{Quickly everyone!}" she screamed over the sound. "{Follow me! I'll make an exit!}"

Surging ahead, and with a platoon's worth of surviving soldiers and civilian contractors following her, Diana plowed head first through solid wall and rock, until she had smashed away the bedrock of the hill where the facility stood. Daylight poured through the opening as bodies streamed through.

"{I don't know how much time you have!}" she said. "{Run as fast as you can as far as you can—we'll have decontamination units find you once the fallout has cleared!}"

A contractor roughly grabbed at her arm. "{But what of our families? They are still in the camp!}"

Shock hit Wonder Woman like an errant punch. "Hera," she said, her finger pressing on her ear. "Bruce, the camps—"

"Evacuating as fast as they can manage," he said, his voice still hurried. "I think Tuzik's there too."

"Then that's where I'm going."

"Diana—"

"I'm either going to find Tuzik, or help evacuate. That's non-negotiable Bruce.

"We don't—"

"BRUCE!"

The pause at the other end lasted less than a second. "Alright. Drone's on it's way, I'll keep trying to get someone to answer their coms."

"Thank you," she said. Turning to the contractor still standing next to her, and lifting off from the ground at the same time, she said, "{I'll find them, and I'll help them.}" In a burst of air that kicked up the dust around her, she took off for the camp...

...

...

...

JLA Watchtower:

Simultaneous with the meltdown in Bialya

Batman ran through his list of priority calls with startling speed, having received no answers from the most capable League members save for Captain Adam, who—like Superman—was off planet. All the big guns, for one reason or another, were either dark or unavailable. He thought about calling D.C, about contacting the White House and demanding both an explanation and support. Instead, he bludgeoned his way into the Pentagon's communications network in the fleeting hope that he'd corner the Joint Chiefs and Steel and Horne before they could weasel their way out of their responsibility.

Unsurprisingly, he thought, there were no communications—the Pentagon was on lockdown.

He launched the probe by pounding his fist into the control panel, rattling the machinery and causing the images to sputter on the monitors. Standing over the still shaking computer, Batman noticed that his breath was heavy and ragged. A small, nearly non-existent part of him was thankful that no one could see how vulnerable he looked at the moment—an overwhelming portion of himself however wished, more than ever, that he had some form of help.

Dammit Clark, I could really use you right now.

His eyes drifted from the general direction of Mars back to the monitors, where the highlighted heat signature that was Diana bounded over the rocky terrain and into the camp. Other heat signatures scattered in every direction—some of them, though, stayed statue-esq amid the chaos. Diana stopped and hoisted some to their feet, bellowing out orders to anyone near by with frantic, panicked gestures. Batman's heart sank—Diana wouldn't be able to save all of them, there were just too many civilians still in the compound.

And it increasingly looked like Diana knew that too.

An alarm sounded on one of the monitors focused on the rapidly decaying core. Temperatures were reaching critical faster than anticipated, but the computer couldn't get an accurate reading on the stability of the core itself. Too many isotopes were scattering in the old and rusted bowels of the facility, and any readings taken from the Watchtower were scrambled far past the point of accuracy. He glanced nervously at the ETA for the drone: 7 minutes...7 minutes too many.

He should tell her to abandon the plant, he though. Tell her to take whoever she could carry and make for the safety of the bay. But he knew that would only lead to another argument—she was well aware that many lives were about to be lost. Right now, Diana was fighting to make sure this could never happen again.

Then she's going after the wrong person, a voice in his head growled.

A second, quieter alarm pulled his attention to a different monitor. His sensors finally had a positive ID on Tuzik—pushing through the swirling crowds, it seemed like he was making a break for the nearest car-depot. Not surprising—any escape helicopter he had likely been destroyed when the cooling tower went up in flames.

"I've got him," he said. "Half a mile up from your position. No guards. He's heading for the vehicle depot."

"Got it. Thank you Bruce."

"Diana you have to—"

"I am Bruce," she said, and he could tell that she had just lifted off into the air. "I am hurzztzz"

"Diana? DIANA!"

The monitors wavered again as the feed struggled to maintain coherency. He had no idea what just happened, but all his equipment—the read-outs, the JLA communicator, every monitor save for thermal—it all died on him. Lit by only the dull grey and shifting orange of his sole remaining window to the situation in Bialya, Batman was cast into a haunting, suffocating silence.

3 minutes...the drone would enter Bialya in 3 minutes...until then, all he had was two vague shapes representing the still beating hearts of Tuzik and Diana. It was like having an out of body experience halfway through a nightmare...

Diana landed just behind Tuzik, near the edge of the forest region she had used to sneak in. He had stopped running, likely having heard her approach despite the cacophony around him. Diana too stopped advancing just as Tuzik...god, there was a second heat signature ghosting in and out of Tuzik's main mass. He had a hostage...

Slowly, Diana moved forward. The mass that represented Tuzik ebbed and flowed as the hostage wriggled in his grasp. Batman watched on as the silence thudded in his ears, morphing into a shrill ringing the longer he stared. The drone drew closer, but it was unarmed—the best he could do with it was fly low enough to distract Tuzik, enabling Diana to strike...

The drone faded away in Batman's thoughts though, as Tuzik detached himself from the smaller heat signature. The third ball of orange wavered in between Diana and Tuzik for only a second...

...then a pure burst of heat emanating from Tuzik sliced through the hostage, and struck Diana dead centre in the chest. Both Diana's and the hostage's core temperature plummeted...

...and Batman screamed.

...

...

...

Bialya:

Diana hadn't reacted quickly enough. There was a flash of steel just under Tuzik's coat, and the brief image of LexCorp's insidious logo, but her attention had been solely focused on the small girl held captive in the General's arms. Trying to reassure the child, and trying to draw Tuzik out and away from the innocent life he held in his grasp, she hadn't noticed him level the gun at her. Not until he pushed the child out in front of him, and fired through her abdomen.

The beam passed through the child and, with lightning fast reflexes, impacted Diana's bracelets. Except...the beam wasn't deflected—the mystical metal shattered into a thousand pieces, and scorching heat ate away at the skin, muscle bone in her wrist. She had barely enough time to scream in pain before the beam ripped apart her right lung.

The child dropped with her, spitting out the blood that filled her airways. Tuzik stared on—perhaps shocked at his own senseless brutality. Diana wasn't sure. All she was focusing on was working through the pain and unfastening the poisoned dagger attached to her thigh. Her eyes stayed on the child as she fumbled with the strap, praying that she would return her stare so that Diana could offer her as much comfort as she could give.

Her fingers closed around the handle just as Tuzik snapped into awareness again. Throwing the gun to the ground, he started towards the trees...

...but the spring loaded blade found his leg before he could break into a sprint. With a garbled cry of shock, he collapsed into the foliage, leaving Diana and dying child alone amidst the apocalypse.

She let out a cough that rattled her ribcage, and saw the streaks of blood that spread out in front of her. She was dying too, she realized.

Drawing on all her strength, she pushed herself off the ground to her knees, and began to crawl towards the child, who she could hear was beginning to sob in retching, wet shudders. She pressed her fingers to her ear. "Bruce..." she said. "B-Bruce...c-can you..." All she heard was static, and with a sigh she released her communicator.

Reaching the girl, she gently lifted her off the ground and cradled her like a newborn child. Despite the heat-based weapon, the body was cold, though she was sure her body was no warmer.

"I w-will be here for you, c-child," she said softly, as the shuddering grew weak. She parted a red-strained strand of hair out of the girl's face, and looked into her eyes. Weakly, she smiled. "You a-and I w-will go together—" she intertwined her fingers with the girls, "—as s-sisters..."

The child's crying grew quiet, and Diana held the tiny body tighter, pressing her hand against her heart. Her thoughts drifted to Bruce, and immediately she was bombarded with memories equally beautiful and heart-wrenching. There was much to be said that would be left un-said, just as many of the things she had wished to do with Bruce would be forced to fall away. She almost laughed—it had taken all of her willpower to convince Bruce to finally go on vacation, and like a cliché, they were only two weeks away from leaving the worries of their lives behind, for at least a little while. She said a prayer to Kal that he would have the strength to look after Bruce, and again she felt heart ache at having never been able to say goodbye to her first and dearest friend in Man's-World. Most of all though, her heart ached at what she surely knew this would do Bruce's already tortured soul.

Her limbs began to tingle, and it was growing harder to keep her eyes open. The boots of Tuzik hadn't moved from the spot where he collapsed, and though she regretted it ending this way, she at least felt at peace knowing that the General wouldn't survive what was going to happen.

Just as she was about to close her eyes, she felt a warm hand on her shoulder. Looking through blurred vision, she saw the face of the woman who had given her veil to Diana in nearly this very same spot, wearing a warm and welcoming smile. Diana nearly choked as she attempted to speak.

"{Y-you have to l-leave}," she said, motioning towards the smoking ruins of the plant. "{Th-there might s-still be...}"

"{No,}" said the woman. "{There isn't. And besides, I won't let you die alone.}" She enveloped Diana in a hug, and nestled her face into Wonder Woman's now ice-cold neck. "{Because you cared.}"

Diana welcomed the embrace, squeezing the woman's hand and the child's body as hard as she could still manage. I wish Bruce could see this, she said to herself.

Then, looking up at the sky, she saw the shimmering reflection of a drone approach her like a bat out of hell. Maybe he can, then...she thought, as she soent the last remaining energy she had on one large, content smile.

A muted explosion erupted behind her, and just as the wave of heat reached her, the child, and the praying woman, Wonder Woman felt herself slip into peacefulness.

...

...

...

Washington D.C:

One Day Later:

Clark would realize eventually that Bruce hadn't gone to Themyscira. After that, he could probably guess where Bruce had actually headed. They had known each other long enough—if anything he was surprised that Clark didn't stop him from leaving period.

It didn't matter now though—Bruce would be finished in the capital soon enough. Standing in the thick of a tree just outside the White House compound, with rain and wind battering his face, Batman was only a stone's throw away from the people who killed Diana. The people who would go unpunished for their crimes if he stood aside and did nothing.

The drone he had sent captured only enough footage to assure Bruce that the last time he'd see Diana alive was through a murky computer screen some two hundred thousand miles away from her. A very select few of the most powerful members of the Justice League arrived on scene—too little too late—just before Bruce, with nuclear fallout and fire still billowing upwards. Encased in as strong a hazmat suit as he could find, Bruce plowed through the crowd, out into the crater that less than an hour ago had been a nuclear power plant—now forever the putrid resting place of the only person to ever break through the black abyss that was Batman. Kyle had tried to stop him from going out, saying that the suit might not be able to stand up to the radiation.

He shouldn't have broken Kyle's nose, but at this point, Batman no longer cared.

The magical clay that was Diana had afforded her body enough durability that she sat alone as a blackened monument, while all around her—including Tuzik—were atomized. He could barely make out any features after the shockwave and the heat took it's toll on her, but all the same, he knelt in front of her and hung his head just as he would at the foot of his parents graves. He would have stayed like that for days if Superman hadn't quietly landed at his side, and placed his hand on Batman's shoulder. They stayed there for a few more moments, two grieving friends, before Clark carried Bruce to his plane, and up they went into the Watchtower.

Now he was here—just outside of the White House, with the raging storm barely drowning out the intense furnace of anger that burned in Batman's soul, that left the foul taste of betrayal lingering on Batman's tongue. Gritting his teeth, he reached into his utility belt, pulled out a long-range dart launcher, and placed a listening device into the appropriate slot. Aiming it at the window that afforded the President his startling view of the capital, Batman fired, and waited, and listened.

When the voices started, he pushed record—ready to collect evidence in the event that there was anything intelligible left of Steel or Horne after he was done with them.

"It...it was our bomb, wasn't it?" Horne said.

"Yeah," said Steel. His voice sounded weak.

"Jesus. What the hell happened?"

"We...I don't know, sir. I really don't."

"That's not good enough soldier..."

"Mr. President, you don't have to tell me twice. It was a rookie agent, he made a mistake somewhere along the line. I don't know. It doesn't matter thoughall that matters is she's dead."

"Jesus," The President repeated.

Batman continued to listen. He didn't expect a congratulatory party—at least not within view of the public. But the conversation wasn't going how he had imagined. They almost sounded...sad.

"Has the League said anything yet?" Horne asked.

"No, not yet. At least not to the public."

"Alright...then we'll hold our tongue too. We need to say something eventually, but...let them be the ones to break the news."

"You sure that's a good idea?"

"Respect, Steel. We have to show it to them."

"Respect was the reason we blacked out the Pentagon, and..."

Batman heard the President sigh. "I know, Steel. I know. Mistakes were made...let's not make another one."

Batman found that his fists had unclenched, and that his teeth no longer ground together. The wind and the rain picked up their intensity, as did the lightning and the thunder, but all Batman was concentrating on was the conversation taking place less than a football field away. The thunder faded away as Diana's words repeated in his mind, over and over again, almost glowing from the warmth and humanity she granted them. He felt cold and, increasingly, guilty, weighed down by an apology he new he could never deliver, and one that so much of his darkness refused to recognize.

"We shouldn't have sent a bomb anyways," Steel said. "If Diana came back with bad news, we should have just let her deal with it. Sneaking in a remote detonator with the cargo..."

"Steel, I don't need to be reminded about how we fucked up. And we did, we fucked up badly. It's cost us immeasurably and I have to deal with that, but reliving everything piece by piece..."

"Is the only way I'll be able to go up to the League and tell them how fucking sorry I am without shooting myself in the goddamn head. Diana trusted me, and I let her down." There was a pause, and through Batman's enhanced visors, he saw the shaded form of Steel appear at the window. "I make one mistake and I end up killing a friend. So don't tell me about how you feel shitty, Mr. President."

Batman heard the sound of a chair rolling away, and soon Steel was joined at the window by the President. He felt like he was in the room now, felt like it was his own thoughts and beliefs being torn apart by guilt. "I'm sorry son, I am. I just...didn't need to feel worse about my own mistake."

Bruce listened on, but by this point he had shrunk away inside his cloak.

"There's only one thing we can do then, Mr. President," Steel said. "And that's live up to what she thought of us."

"I know. I know dammit. And we should start in Bialya too, since it's obvious that something's going down there. But..." he paused. "How the hell are we ever going to look the JLA in the eyes again? How the hell are they going to let us look them in the eyes?"

They carried their conversation on, unaware that Batman had since abandoned his position on the tree, grappled over the roof of the White House, and landed just at the edge of the compound. He walked through the rain and the wind as Secret Service Agents swarmed around him, unsure of whether to draw their weapons or radio in for extra assistance. Batman stopped just in front of the main entrance, and turned to the nearest guard. "I need to speak to the President," he said, his voice neutral. Taken aback, the Agent stuttered before radioing into the compound. After a brief second of silence, he motioned Batman trough the doors, all the while darting his vision back and forth to make sure he wasn't in some way dreaming.

Crowds gathered in the halls as a soaking wet Batman silently walked ahead, his white eyes seemingly never straying from the path straight ahead of him. He soon reached the doors to the Oval Office, and four heavily armoured Agents, with looks of apprehension visible under their visors, opened the locked doors and granted him his audience with the President.

Bruce entered the room slowly. Horne was standing behind his desk, with Steel just over his left shoulder. Clearing his throat, and glancing nervously at Steel, he addressed his visitor. "What...what can I do for you, son?"

Batman said nothing, though Steel and Horne could tell he was trying. The white slits of his eyes dropped to the ground, and is posture slouched. With a voice raspy with weariness, Batman finally raised his head, and spoke.

"Before Diana...died, I...recorded her conversation with Tuzik. It...might not be enough for legal action, but it should give your intelligence operatives a clear enough picture of Bialya's internal affairs to plan accordingly."

The President slowly sank into his chair, while Steel felt himself leaning against the window, unsure if he was going into shock or experiencing the long eluded sensation of relief. Batman continued.

"Everyone in this room made a lot of mistakes the other day, and...and we're going to have trouble coming to grips with that. But...but we can't let that stop us from trusting one another, not when we're all just...just human." Reaching into his cloak, he pulled put a small data drive and, walking forward—and hearing the rustle of armour move into position behind him—he placed it on the President's desk. Horne waved off his guards, and he and Steel stared into the face of Batman. A face that seemed almost...remorseful.

"I'll help you," Batman said. "I'll help you as much as I can." He paused, and again his head began to fall to the floor. "For Diana."

Slowly the President rose from his seat. He and Steel walked around the desk to Batman's side.

Without uttering a word, the President placed his hand gently on Batman's shoulder, and both his head and Steel's joined Batman's as they closed their eyes, and remembered Diana.

The End


Was that cheesy? That felt cheesy to me. Damn emotionsI should just stick to the funnies.

ALSO, please, by all means, call me out if you think I stuffed Wonder Woman in the fridge. Like I don't think I did because, unlike say Kyle Rayner's girlfriend, I didn't kill Wonder Woman to motivate Batman. Actually the reason I did that was, after watching the aforementioned episode of The Sandbaggers, I noticed some similarities between two characters and came up with the nugget of an idea that wasn't actually going to go into detail about what happened to Wonder Woman, but after I started writing it I realized I could do a hell of a lot better than just a pure fluff story, and actually get into a talk about idealism and stuff like that. Which is partially why Part One got cut off where it did, because I took the plot in a completely different direction than I intended (by actually including a plot) If...that makes sense.

So yeah, don't think I did, but I'd be an awfully bad feminist if I complained about stuff like that and then did the dirty deed myself without at least trying to make sure I, well, didn't...

Check my stupidity, that's what the children call it.