Clark's heart dropped into his stomach as he stared at Lois. She hugged herself, jaw stiff, eyes glistening. My God, this was going to be hard.
Part of your penance. Though Lois didn't seem to fully accept it. Then again, neither did his mother when he flew out to Kansas to tell her about his decision.
"How can you trust him?" asked Lois. "That maniac tried to kill you."
"But he didn't. He could have, easily, but he didn't go through with it. Yes, he has crossed some lines, but there is still something . . . redeemable in him. I think, in the end, he does want to do the right thing."
"I just don't . . ." Lois dropped her chin, shaking her head. "A year? Do you really think this is necessary?"
"But all the good you've done. How can you . . . exile yourself because of what people say on the news and on Twitter?"
"It's not just about them. It's about me. As powerful as I am, I have to take responsibility for my actions. The world has to know I can be held accountable when I do something wrong."
"But you've done nothing wrong." Lois threw out her arms.
Clark crossed the carpet of their apartment and gently held her shoulders. "I wish I could convince myself of that." He forced a smile. "It'll be . . . all right. I can reflect, think. When I come back, I'll be a better Superman . . . a better man."
Lois looked up into his eyes. "You're already a good man. I don't care what anyone says."
A lump grew in Clark's throat. Tears stung the edges of his eyes. "I love you, Lois."
"I love you too, Clark."
They shared a long kiss. Clark backed up a step, holding her hand. Lois choked back a sob. His chest tightened as he held her face in his gaze. He did not want to leave her.
But he had no choice.
Ever so slowly, he let go of Lois's hand, turned away, and left their apartment.
The black shape of the batwing stood out among the gleaming white of the Arctic. Just beyond it lay the crystal-like formation of the Fortress of Solitude.
His prison for the next year.
Superman pulled up and landed in front of Batman, who wore a jet black parka over his costume.
Does this guy have any clothes that aren't black?
"You have everything ready?" he asked the Dark Knight.
"I have drones set up throughout the area, and sensors all along your fortress. If you try to break out, they'll activate and shoot you with a Kryptonite dart. I've also hacked into several military satellites to keep an extra eye on you."
Superman nodded. "You're pretty thorough."
"I need to be to make sure someone like you doesn't break out."
"You think I'll break my word?"
"I've known too many people who have, including some good people."
A half-smile crossed Superman's face. "You do have trust issues, don't you?"
"Stay in that crystal palace of yours for a year without trying to breakout, and maybe I'll start trusting you."
Superman grunted out a short laugh. That might be the closest to a compliment he'd ever get from The Bat.
He stared at the Fortress, lips pressed together. This was it. Alone for a year. No Lois. No Mom. No Daily Planet, though his resignation probably made Perry happy.
And no helping people.
And no unintentionally hurting them.
Drawing in a long breath of cold air, he stepped toward his prison.
"Wait." Batman held out a hand. He walked back to the batwing, snow crunching under his boots. He grabbed something from the cockpit and headed back to him.
"Take these. They're from my library. It might help pass the time."
Superman stared down the books in his hands, cranking an eyebrow. Quite an eclectic mix. Biographies and teachings of Plato, George Washington, Winston Churchill, and John Locke. There was definitely more to the Batman's make-up than he imagined.
"Locke is good for exploring the self, equality, and obtaining knowledge through experience," Batman told him. "Plato is good for embracing wisdom and spirit. Churchill had an unbreakable will even in the darkest of times, and Washington knew the importance of not embracing absolute power, no matter how tempting."
"Thank you." He stared at the books again, anxious to see how these great men might help him.
"This may also help, too." Batman handed him a folder.
"What's this?" he asked as he took it.
"After action reports and psychological profiles of other costumed heroes, ones who have been around longer than you. Green Arrow, the Atom, Nightwing, Gangbuster, Mister Terrific, the Question."
"Seriously? The Question?" Superman gave the Dark Knight a dubious look.
"He has done good things . . . when he's not going on about shadow governments and chemtrails. I thought those reports might help you become a better hero, when you get out."
Superman couldn't help but smile. Just a few days ago, this man was ready to plunge a Kryptonite spear into his chest. Now . . . he thought of him as a hero?
Batman nodded, staring down at the snow for several seconds. "And thank you."
"For what?" Superman's forehead wrinkled.
"For reminding me of who I am, and what I don't want to become."
The breath stuck in Superman's chest, amazed at the other man's admission. He had taken a leap of faith trusting Batman to keep him contained within the Fortress of Solitude. But after the fight in the warehouse, and after that statement, he knew that no matter how close Batman got to that line, he could never cross it. For whatever reason, not killing was ingrained in him.
He waited for The Bat to say something else, but silence hung between them. This was probably as much as the other man was willing to share.
Superman nodded and started toward the Fortress. He stopped and looked over his shoulder. "Do me a favor."
"I know you're busy with Gotham City, but if you can look in on Metropolis from time to time, I'd appreciate it."
"But no more branding people. Understand?"
Again, Batman nodded without a word.
Superman trekked across the snow and entered the Fortress. He stood in the doorway, gazing across the white expanse of the Arctic, wanting to burn one last image of the outside world into his mind.
With a deep breath, he touched a crystal on the wall. The door slid down in front of him.
"Senator, so glad you could make it." Lex Luthor strode across the catwalk to greet Harold Barnes.
"Lex." The two shook hands. "You're sure Project Doomsday is ready?"
"I wouldn't have asked you to come to Metropolis if it wasn't." Luthor led him to a horseshoe shaped console, where two white coated technicians sat. Below, in the antechamber of the downed Kryptonian ship flanked by twisting black columns, a large glass tank stood, containing General Zod's body.
"I thought you'd want to see what your efforts have led to," Luthor added.
Barnes shifted his weight. "Um, you know, after Superman announced his self-imposed exile, there are some in the Pentagon and on The Hill who are reluctant to continue with this project. They don't see him as a potential threat any more."
"Well, then, it's up to you to convince them otherwise." Luthor's face stiffened. He held Barnes's gaze until the senator looked away.
"Yes. Of course I will. It won't be a problem."
Luthor grinned. Barnes had picked up his unspoken message. Convince them otherwise, or you can forget about money for your presidential campaign.
He turned back to the tank, chest puffed out, anxious to see his latest project become reality. The first in a line of super soldiers, obedient to their masters, either the government or him, and powerful enough to stop Superman or any other so-called superhero.
And he could always sell the technology to other countries and organizations, and claim industrial espionage to keep his hands clean.
His smile grew wider, thinking about all the money about fall into Lexcorp's coffers . . . and his own pockets.
"We're ready, Mister Luthor," one of the technicians reported.
Bolts of lighting snaked through the antechamber, connecting with the tank. A blue aura formed around the glass. Zod's body trembled.
Luthor's mouth went dry, doubt scratching the back of his mind. Stop it. It'll work. It has to.
Zod's body grew, muscles reaching a bursting point. Yet they continued to expand. The head undulated, growing wider. The skin turned gray, almost rock-like. Large, boney growths rose from Zod's back and shoulders.
They pierced the glass.
Luthor, Mercy, and Barnes jumped back as the tank shattered. The lightning enveloped Zod . . . or rather, the being he'd transformed into.
The creature's eyes snapped open. It let out an enraged bellow.
Barnes's lips trembled. "Is-Is that supposed to happen."
Finally! Diana jumped out of her car. She dashed toward an alley, looking back at the Kryptonian ship. Electric bolts flashed across its surface. Whatever big plan Luthor had, it had to be coming to fruition.
And she had to stop it.
She ducked behind a dumpster and opened her garment bag. Striping off her normal clothes, she replaced them with a red and blue chain mail dress, red boots, bracelets, and a gold tiara. She attached the sword and shield to her back and the golden lasso to her side.
Wonder Woman. She recalled the name Steve Trevor and the other soldiers from the Great War gave her.
Diana stared at the ship, the bolts still arcing across its hull. It seemed the world needed Wonder Woman again.
She leapt over her car and ran across the street. Two Lexcorp security guards stood by the entrance, gawking at the light show.
They never saw her until it was too late.
Wonder Woman kicked the nearest guard in the back, propelling him against the wall.
The second guard swung around, eyes wide. He balled a fist.
He never took a swing. Wonder Woman elbowed him in the face, knocking him cold.
She came up to the steel door. Locked. One kick caved it in. The mangled door toppled to the floor.
Heart thumping with adrenaline, Wonder Woman entered. The air tingled with static. Shouts filtered through the corridors. She picked up her pace, tearing around a corner.
Six Lexcorp guards stood before her, all their faces registering surprise. Wonder Woman smiled. It had been too long since she'd had a good melee.
"Hands up, lady!" The first guard drew his pistol.
"What if I don't comply?"
"Don't test me."
Wonder Woman took a step forward. Another.
The gun cracked.
Her right arm shot up. The bullet clanged off her bracelet and burrowed into the wall.
The guard's mouth fell open in shock.
Letting out a war cry, Wonder Woman kicked him in the gut. He flew backwards, knocking down two other men.
Another guard went for his pistol. Wonder Woman's arm lashed out. The guard spun in the air and crashed to the floor.
The fifth guard, a mass of muscle who had to weigh at least 260 pounds, launched a large fist at her. She avoided the punch, grabbed his arm, and tossed him down the hall with ease.
Something flashed out the corner of her eye. The last guard swung a baton at her.
She didn't flinch as it struck her head, and snapped. Eyes bulging, the guard stared his severed baton.
Wonder Woman lifted him by the collar and threw him into the wall. He crumpled to the ground.
She maneuvered around the fallen guards. Not the greatest challenge she'd ever faced, but still satisfying.
Footsteps pounded around the corner. More guards? She balled her fists, ready.
Lex Luthor charged into view, followed by his assistant/bodyguard Mercy Graves. Another man appeared seconds later, wheezing and clutching his chest. Wonder Woman recognized him from the Superman hearings. Senator Harold Barnes.
Mercy whipped out a pistol and fired. Wonder Woman's hands flashed in front of her, the bracelets deflecting every shot.
Mercy tossed away the pistol and sent a chop toward her neck. She grabbed the slender woman's wrist, spun, and tossed her away. Mercy tumbled across the floor and came to a rest, half-conscious.
"What . . . Who . . . What the hell are you?" Barnes stared unblinking at her, the shock on his face evident.
"You . . . You're the Amazon." Luthor said in a breathless whispered.
Eyes narrowed, Wonder Woman stepped toward Luthor. He backed up.
A powerful, enraged roar tore through the ship.
Stunned, Wonder Woman looked up, unsuccessfully trying to determine the direction of the roar. She then refocused on Luthor. "What have you done?"
Might as well get started. Batman stared out the batwing's cockpit at Metropolis, a patchwork of lights against the night. Just a quick patrol, maybe an hour or two, then back to the mansion.
But where to begin? He had a scant idea where some of the bad neighborhoods were in Metropolis. He also wasn't familiar with the gangs or other criminal organizations that infected this city, or their established hierarchy.
I guess I'll have to do some homework. He did know Triton Avenue in the central part of the city had a fare share of places you didn't want to be at night.
Unless you knew how to take care of yourself.
He pointed the batwing north. Maybe along with taking out any scumbags he came across, he could get some information on –
Flashes of blue caught his attention. He leaned forward in his seat. What the hell?
Arcs of electricity leapt across the hull of the crashed Kryptonian ship, which Luthor had been spending quite a bit of time in over the past few weeks.
Batman thought about the files he'd stolen from the man. Could this have something to do with that Project Doomsday, the information he collected on the costumed heroes?
Part of the hull exploded. Batman's eyes widened as a human-shaped figured soared across the sky and crashed into a building across the street. A huge cloud of dust belched from the structure. Debris cascaded to the ground.
Something else smashed through the ship's exterior. Something large, very large. It landed in the street, swatting aside vehicles like they were blocks a baby would play with. The thing leaped down the street.
Batman set his aircraft to hover near the Kryptonian ship. His mind raced on how to defeat it.
First find out what the hell it is?
A hatch opened beneath the cockpit. He slipped through it and used his cape to glide to the surface. Craters from the thing's footprints pockmarked the street, lined with a dozen or so overturned vehicles. A maddened roar echoed through the night, followed by a loud crash. The ground trembled.
Batman's stomach went cold.
A grinding noise came from behind him. He swung around. Someone shoved away piles of debris. A woman, with long, curled black hair and dressed in some sort of red and blue armored dress. His head drew back when he recognized her from the photo in Luthor's file.
Diana Prince, the Amazon.
She got to her feet, groaned, and looked at him. "You're the Batman."
He nodded. "Are you okay?" He flinched a bit. Stupid question. The woman was thrown across the street, wrecked a building, fell about fifteen stories, and still lived! Hell, she didn't even have a bruise on her. Just how strong was she?
"What happened here?" He walked up to her.
"Lex Luthor. It appears he made some kind of monster, something that looks like it came from the pits of Hell. Incredibly powerful. We have to stop it."
Another roar cut through the night, followed by another crash.
Batman tensed. "I think we're going to need some help to do that."
TO BE CONTINUED IN BATMAN AND SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY
Thank you for reading my version of Batman V Superman. I hope you enjoyed it, and feel free to leave a review. I'd love to hear your feedback. Be on the look out for the second installment of this story. Also, if you enjoyed this story, you may also enjoy my novels "War of the Worlds: Retaliation" (with Mark Gardner), "Sea Raptor," "Fallen Eagle: Alaska Front," and "Dark Wings," all available on Amazon – P.S. "War of the Worlds: Retaliation" should be available May 2017.