AN: This story is based off the suggestion from Ben10987654321. What if Kal never landed on Earth? What if he was raised by space bounty hunters? How would he meet the JL, particularly Diana? I also had thoughts of an idea involving Darkseid, Kal and Diana and with Ben's idea, I was able to create a story using both. It's labeled as humor/romance and it is but we have to get through the dark stuff in the first chapter.

The Bounty Hunter

Part One

No! These were not the results he wanted. He thought he had more time. He thought he could save himself, his wife and their young child but his latest findings said otherwise. He knew he couldn't save his planet. He gave that desire up when the Krypton Council rejected his findings for the last time. But these latest results…. Now his worst nightmare was coming true. He couldn't save the people he cared for most.

One of those precious people made his presence known with a soft gurgle.

Jor-El turned away from the damning findings on his computer to the arrival of his son in the arms of his wife, Lara.

Following close behind his wife was Kal-El's pet dog, Krypto. Krypto was a six month old pup and companion to Kal-El. He was never far from Kal-El and was quite protective of him.

His son, Kal-El, was a nine month old babe with glossy black hair with a unique curl that always found its way to the middle of his forehead no matter how many times Lara or Jor-El brushed it back. Jor-El smiled. That was his son. Though most of his hair was salt and pepper and not the jet black of his youth, he still had that irresistible black curl falling across his forehead. His father had it and so did his father. Jor-El surmised it was most definitely a male trait. However, Kal-El's unique cerulean colored eyes made it obvious Lara was his mother. Her eyes had an irresistible effect on men. Jor-El could remember being a stumbling, stuttering young scientist asking Lara for a date. If Lara's eyes were capable of reducing him, one of Krypton's brilliant scientists, into a clumsy, stuttering fool, he wondered what effects on women Kal-El's eyes would have.

He would never know. He would be dead as would his family.

Lara stopped only two strides from Jor-El as she caught sight of his face. It was bad news. She knew the planet was dying. She had known for months when she aided Jor-El in his research. She was with him when Jor-El went before the Krypton Council to tell them that Krypton's core was increasingly becoming unstable. The tremors they were experiencing were a side effect of the erratic core that will grow worse until the planet shook itself apart.

Hearing the rejection of the Krypton Council, Jor-El and Lara took it upon themselves to build a ship to escape their dying world. Time was limited but Lara thought they had time to escape. Reading the grim expression on Jor-El's eyes, Lara knew that wasn't the case.

"It's too late?"

Jor-El turned away from his family to the grim readings on his computer. "It's happening faster than I predicted. There is no way our ship will be finished in time."

Lara swallowed the lump in her throat. "How much time do we have?"

"Forty-eight hours."

If her child was not in her arms, Lara would've fallen to her knees. "I thought we had a week at the most."

"I thought so as well, but the tremors are occurring more rapidly, each stronger than the last, which is expeditiously putting more pressure on Krypton's core."

"And hurrying our deaths."

Kal-El gurgled again, moving his sturdy hands out of his blanket as he tried to wiggle from his mother's arms. Lara only tightened the hold on her child and kissed his temple. Her eyes glistened with tears. Her baby boy was going to die. He was only nine months old. He wasn't going to have a chance to live. He wasn't going to have a chance to study in Krypton's finest schools; become a scientist who would change the world like his father and father before him. He would not have a chance to find love as she with Jor-El.

Jor-El stared at his heartbroken wife and child innocent of the doom that was to fall upon them. As great a scientist he was, he felt he was a failure as a husband and father. What kind of man was he that he couldn't save the people he cared for most?

All my mental brilliance and I can't save them. Or can I?

It was a last resort; a last ditch effort that he and Lara hoped it wouldn't come to. "There is a chance."

Lara's eyes went to her husband's; sadness mixed with hope. "We can still make it off this planet? How? The ship isn't complete."

"It is." He deliberately paused knowing the reaction of his wife on his next words. "The emergency vessel."

Lara clutched Kal-El tighter. So much so, the baby started to squirm. "Jor-El, only Kal-El can fit in that vessel."

"I know, but we both agreed to place Kal-El in the vessel if situations became dire and…it's worse than that. It's too late to save ourselves but we have a chance to save Kal-El." His eyes fell to the young pup. "And Krypto."

Lara didn't care about the dog; only her son. "He's only a baby. To send him into space alone…."

"What would you rather have, Lara?" Jor-El spoke calmly to his wife. "Our son to die on this planet or to send him into space where he can live?"

The choice was an easy one. It was a hard one to accept but given the situation, there was no other way. "How can we be sure he won't die in space?"

"I will program the ship to send Kal-El to Earth."

"Earth?" That wasn't the planet she and Jor-El were3 going to take Kal-El. "Jor-El, we weren't going to Earth but to the Quasemi Galaxy to the planet Caesim."

"That's when we thought we would be raising, Kal-El, Lara. Caesim is too populated and too advanced to send a child alone. Not all of the populace looks like us. The Tarvans avoid humanoids like us. What if Kal-El's ship lands in their country? Who knows what could happen to him. Earth is farther away but the populace there is what Kal-El needs to blend in with the people unnoticed. He will be safe there."

"The people are so far behind our society," Lara argued. "There is only one planet in that system that contains life. Because of that, the people foolishly think they are alone, and even alone, they cannot get along. Always, somewhere on that planet, there is war. Do you want to expose Kal-El to that? Mentally, it could set Kal-El back."

"Were there not wars on Krypton before peace claimed our planet?" Jor-El wisely noted. "Kal-El can use Earth's solitary arrogance to survive. His Kryptonian mind and the knowledge we will provide him will aid in his survival. Earth has it faults, Lara, but they are a society that embrace and aide each other in times of need, especially in matters of children. They are a world with a big heart that often loses its way due to their own vices. Despite that, an innocent child would be more welcomed than two adults."

"You failed to mention the effects of the yellow sun on Kal-El. At least on Caesim, Kal-El would grow to be a normal adult. On Earth, Kal-El will never be normal."

"We have no other choice. I can't save myself. I can't save you but I can save our son. There is nothing more I can do."

Lara found it pointless to argue anymore. Kal-El would live. That was all that mattered.

Jor-El and Lara worked quickly and diligently the next forty-eight hours, preparing Kal-El's ship, storing files of Krypton's history, it's science, the culture, his family and personal journals of Jor-El in memory banks that can only be accessed by Kal-El's DNA in a multi-colored, cube-shaped device called the Rubix with the El family crest on all sides.

Neither slept as they used the last of their hours preparing for their son's fateful journey.

As Krypton's life drew to a close, the quakes grew dangerous with each passing hour. Parts of the planet were already breaking away; people were already dying with their homes crashing on them, the streets opening and swallowing victims, rockslides crushing people and tsunamis pulling people away into the oceans.

Soon death will claim Jor-EL and Lara.

But not their son.

Through the shaking walls of their home, Lara placed her child in his small vessel. Moments before, Lara put the child to sleep with a Kryptonian sleep inducing generator. She used the same for Krypto who slept soundly in his compartment next to Kal-El.

Tears streamed down Lara's face as she gazed at her son in the final minutes of her life. Jor-El remained strong as he took one last look at his son as well.

Be brave, Kal-El.

"It's time, Lara."

"I know."

Jor-El and Lara stepped away from the ship to the controls on a platform where Jor-El would guide Kal-El's ship from Krypton to space where it will make a safe trip to Earth. A sharp tremor passed over the home, killing the lights. The backup generators bought light to a dim room. If the quakes destroy the generators, all power would be gone and so would Kal-El's chances of leaving Krypton alive. No more time could be wasted. Kal-El had to leave now!

One button on the platform opened the window. Another second elevated the rocket, the third started up the engines.

Suddenly, a wilder tremor shook the room. Lara clutched onto Jor-El, using him to keep her balance while Jor-El gripped the platform. Pieces of the ceiling fell in, some around Kal-El's ship. The generators lost their own power and whatever reserves of energy left in the home, were dwindling rapidly. They only had seconds before the room caved in and crush them all. Jor-El pressed the final button, prematurely firing off the rocket and praying to Rao the trajectory wasn't miscalculated and Kal-El will safely be on his way to Earth.

Jor-El and Lara's last vision before their home collapsed on them was Kal-El's ship flying away.

While Krypto and baby Kal-El slept in the ship, death surrounded them. The screams of their people were silenced by deadly quakes and the natural disasters it created: tornadoes, hurricanes, mudslides, tsunamis and hot lava from Krypton's core that consumed Kryptonians on its path to global destruction.

Kal-El's ship was only fifty million miles out of the dying planet before it exploded. The terrifying explosion created shockwaves that traveled across the galaxy for miles. It even consumed the two moons of Krypton which folded under the pressure of the exploding planet.

Kal-El's ship was caught in the outer ring of the shockwaves. Jor-El intensified the ship's shields so that it held under the force of the shockwaves. The computer in Kal-El's ship programmed the portal to open to take Kal-El to Earth. Debris from Krypton's destruction hit the tail of Kal-El's ship, pushing it further to the right.

Kal-El's ship veered off course, avoiding the portal by inches. The ship rocked slightly but Kal-El and Krypto never stirred. Further and further, Kal-El is taken away from the portal, rocking under his dead planet convulsions. His future uncertain.

Miles away, Dirk Batisch had his spaceship on autopilot as he caught a few winks on his journey home. He received payment for hunting and capturing a prisoner from Cznaria who global hopped on several planets in the galaxy. It cost him all the weapons in his armor, a few bruised ribs and his favorite air bike but the pay was worth all his trouble.

Ripples of Krypton's destruction caught up with his ship, swallowing it whole and creating turbulence for its pilot. The ship shook so badly, Dirk fell out of his chair.

"What the fruck?"

Dirk climbed back into his seat and grabbed the controls to take it off autopilot. Through the large window, hordes of meteors were flying towards him. His ship could take some hits but too much would damage it and kill him. Dirk fired up his arsenal and shot apart several meteors as he navigated through the meteor storm.

"This is unusual. What the hell is going on? I've never seen so many meteors in one place."

Dirk couldn't relax until twenty minutes later when he passed through the heart of the storm. Smaller meteors flew passed him but not enough to hit and do much damage to his cruiser. He put the ship back on auto pilot, ready to resume his nap the rest of the way when something caught his eye.

A spaceship.

A small, sleek, badly damaged spaceship that flew erratically. A ship that small was probably caught in the meteor storm he went through and took a harder beating than he. Dirk wondered what could be inside. It was too small to carry a living being.

He activated the tractor beam on his ship. Slowly, yet carefully, he pulled the mysterious ship to him. He pushed a button on his panel opening the landing deck. Dirk crawled down to the lower level of his ship, wondering what he captured. Treasure perhaps? Weapons? Something he could sell for a lot of credits?

The engines of the tiny vessel hummed as Dirk arrived in the landing deck. Because of the tractor beams, the ship couldn't move. Dirk decided to dismantle the engines before he got home. But first…

Dirk grabbed an electrical mace off the wall and approached the ship. The mace buzzed with sparks of electricity illuminating the weapon. He raised the mace over his head, ready to bring it down hard on the thick shield. What he saw inside made him stop.


"When you returned from your latest job, I expected you to bring back a large sum of credits, not a child and his dog."

Dirk's wife, Saki, stared down at the infant in his ship in the hangar of their home. He was still sleep, unaware of the two adults staring down at him. The dog slept soundly, too.

"I got that, too," Dirk patted the large sum of credits from his right pocket. "But I found this ship when I passed through the meteor storm. I don't know how he survived. I had to manually fly it and shoot down so many frucking meteors. I thought this ship had some value. Guess I was wrong." Dirk wanted to kick the ship in frustration but with the child inside, he bit his tongue. "This isn't even worth half the trouble I went through for it." Dirk crouch to run a hand over the sleek ship. "I could strip the ship and sell the parts. I'm sure it can get me over five thousand credits."

"What about the child and dog?" Saki asked.

Dirk shrugged. "I don't know. Sell them? They could probably give us 10,000 credits." He chuckled, "Someone will want them. Well, at least the child. I got Letroi looking in on a missing kid and dog. Maybe we can reunite the kid to his parents before sending him to some space orphanage."

"Letroi," Saki sneered the name. "Why did you have to involve him?" Even though he was Dirk's best friend, she didn't trust the scaly Faleen. He was a bounty hunter like her and her husband but Letroi was sneaky, a mercenary with no limits. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for money. He worked both sides and that gave cause for Saki to not trust him. Dirk did however as they were best friends since they were kids. Letroi never betrayed him.

"Letroi knows everything that is going on in the galaxy. If someone is missing, if there is a reward for an escape criminal… if there is money involved, Letroi knows and I'm sure there's a reward for a kid."

"And you're sure Letroi won't cut us out of the deal? You know how he is with money."

"Yeah, but I'm his best friend. Letroi would never betray me."

"Glad someone remembers that."

Saki felt her skin crawl at the arrival of Letroi. He slithered in the hangar like a snake in the grass. Black, poisonous barbs protrude from the head to the legs of his green leathery skin. It was deliberate Saki knew. Letroi could take out those barbs whenever he wanted. He often did it to spite her. What was he up to? Even though Saki didn't have a maternal fiber in her body, she couldn't help but step closer to Kal-El's ship.

Letroi noticed it and smiled, "After all this time, Saki, you still don't trust me?"

"Let's just say I have my reasons."

A rich mirth passed through his lips. "I'll make my stay brief. There's no bounty on the kid and dog, Dirk. I got my feelers out but a week from now, if they don't find anything, then there's nothing." He eyed the ship with predatory gleam. "However, there's nothing to say that we can't sell them for a price."

"To an orphanage?" Dirk guessed. "An orphanage will take the kid, but the dog?" he shrugged. "Not so sure about that."

"I know some people. There's a woman called Granny who takes in many wayward girls and grooms them in her special orphanage. She has a place for boys, too."

"Really?" Dirk was interested. "Maybe this is the place for the baby."

Saki wasn't so keen to trust Letroi. Even if Letroi didn't suggest it, Saki wasn't keen on selling a baby and his dog. "What if we keep them?"

Dirk looked at Saki as if she grew a third eye. "What the fruck, Saki? Maybe we can keep the dog for hunting down our bounty but we can't take care of a kid! We're bounty hunters and you're the last person I'd consider having maternal instincts."

Letroi laughed uncontrollably. "You'd be too wrapped up in your latest invention to remember to feed the kid."

Saki wasn't listening as her attention went from Kal-El to the ship he was in. she examined the ship with her fingers. Saki was very technologically savvy. Her people, the Salkins, were very bright citizens while her husband, Dirk, a Tolvan, was more brute but brave and passionate being. Along with her intelligence and technological expertise, Saki was very mischievous, cunning and quite beautiful. She had a petite, lithe body of olive green skin, and long, silky pink hair she always wore up in a stretchy band. The price of her merits was Saki's lacked emotion. It was a trait of her kind. Their intelligence outweighed their emotions. They were practical creatures when choosing mates. Dirk wasn't sure if his wife loved him but only married him out of practicality.

Dirk, tall, well-muscled strong body, was quite formidable and Saki sought physical security and adventure more than anything else in a mate. Dirk's job as a bounty hunter fit those qualities. His pale blue skin and long white hair appealed to her, too.

Forgetting about the child inside, Saki took a marvel interest in the ship. There wasn't a lock she couldn't pick, a ship she could break into. However, this ship appeared advanced even for her sharp mind. Instead of annoyed, Saki was pleased. It was a challenge. She would have fun studying this ship. She grabbed her tackle box of tricks off the table and pulled out an oval controller no bigger than the size of her hand. Blue light emitted from the device, scanning the ship for a weak spot. With the hits the ship took during the meteor shower, finding a weak spot wasn't hard.

Letroi shook his head, amused he was correct. "I rest my case."

While Saki searched for a weak spot, Dirk argued his case to Saki. "You're a bounty hunter like me. If you weren't recovering from twisting your ankle on our last job, you'd be out with me. We work all the time, sometimes leaving for a job at a moment's notice. Where will we find the time to raise a kid and a dog?

"We can find it," Saki pulled a long tool from her box of tricks. It was shaped like a crowbar with tiny buttons on the curvy top of the sleek metal which elevated its power. She placed the tool at the crevice of the weak spot on the protective shield and pulled. "It'll be like a pet. I like pets."

"She'll treat the child like a pet." Letroi tried to reason with Dirk. "Granny's orphanage will be a better place for the child."

Dirk paid no attention to his friend as it was on his wife. "A pet, Saki? I don't know anything about babies but I know babies ain't pets. If you want a child so bad, we can have one."

Saki scoffed at the suggestion, "Twisting my ankle, took me out of work for three weeks. No way am I going through gestation for months." The shield plopped open. Saki dropped the crowbar. The metal clattered on the floor, startling the sleeping child and dog. Krypto became more aware of his surroundings than Kal-El. Krypto rose on his legs and growled at the three strangers.

Dirk ran a hand down his face. "I think you need to be a little quieter around babies."

Saki stared at the child. The child itself looked around in wonder before focusing his eyes on Saki. Saki never saw a prettier pair of eyes on a baby. Saki smiled down at the child, but the smile only caused the child to wail.

"Oh, Zhuut!" Hastily, Saki picked up the child. His growling dog jumped to attack but Saki flicked the dog away with the back of her hand. Krypto snarl and attempted to attack again but Dirk grabbed Krypto by his collar. He attached the dog's collar to a chain from his belt and attached the other end to the wall.

"Cursing in front of a child," Letroi mused. "Yes, that's good parenting."

Saki paid no attention to her critic as she focused on a crying Kal-El. "Wonder why it's crying." Saki turned to Dirk. "Do I have an ugly face?"

"I think he's scared 'cause he doesn't know where the hell he is." Dirk bent down to get a closer inspection of the ship. "Where the fruck are the parents? What kind of parents put a baby in a ship?"

Saki rocked Kal-El, trying to settle the child cries. It wasn't working. "Weren't you flying in the Argosian Galaxy? That's where Krypton is."

His wife's innocent response solved the puzzle. It all made sense now. "Those science freaks? Too scared to leave their planet but they send out a kid?" He sifted through the red, blue and yellow blankets, for something to tell him more.

"Maybe the child is part of a science experiment," Saki guessed. "And you questioned my maternal instincts?" she laughed. "At least I wouldn't send a child into space alone." She frowned at Kal-El as he kept wailing. "At least not a quiet child."

"I think I found something." Dirk stood with the Rubix in his hand. He looked for a crack in the cube to pry it open but found none. He tried twisting it but it didn't budge. "You're the tech expert." He held the cube in her face. "You try to open this."

"Fine, but you take the kid." Saki all but shoved the child in Dirk's arms and took the box.

Saki looked at the cube from all sides. "If this is Kryptonian, it may take time for me to understand it. I never studied a Kryptonian device before. This is exciting!"

Dirk saw his wife walking out of the room. He couldn't believe it. She was leaving him with a crying baby? "Wait. Where are you going?"

"I can't concentrate with all that wailing. You watch it while I study this."

"He!" Letroi elaborated. "The child is a he! Not it." He was almost laughing.

She was leaving Dirk with the kid and dog?

"But…but…." Dirk sputtered. "I don't know how to take care of a kid."

"It's like taking care of Lodi. Feed it, clean up its zhuut, and put it to bed. Only you won't have to walk that kid liked you walked Lodi."

Dirk sputtered again, "Lodi was your pet pachyderm and you let it die! A pachyderm, Saki!" But Saki wasn't listening. She was already gone.

Resigned to his fate, Dirk attended to the child in his arms. Tears rolled down the baby's cheeks and his face was turning pink with all the crying he was doing.

"Fruck! Don't you ever stop crying?"

Letroi slithered to his friend. "You really think Saki is mother material?"

Dirk sighed. "Not right now she isn't." He tried bouncing Kal-El on his lap to get the baby to settle.

"Kryptonians don't leave their planet," Letroi said. "This is a gold mine opportunity, Dirk. Kryptonians are a reclusive, yet intelligent race. Granny would love to care for a Kryptonian and pay more credits than you can dream of."

"Money is tempting and I know I said it to Saki earlier, but I can't sell a kid."

"You're not selling a kid. You're giving him a better place. Granny's orphanage will be the perfect place." Letroi pluck Kal-El from Dirk's hands. He stuck his thin tongue at Kal-El to entertain the gold mine.

In response, Kal-El spat up on him.

Dirk grinned. Seems Saki isn't the only person to not like Letroi.

Half an hour later, Saki ran into the hangar ecstatic. "Dirk! I figured it out. I finally got this frucking thing to open!"

Saki stopped in her jubilation when she saw Dirk on the floor with Kal-El in his lap, giggling. Krypto was unchained and on the floor, keeping a protective eye on Kal-El. "Well, I see you finally got him to quiet down." She noticed Letroi leaning against a wall. She frowned. "And you're still here."

Letroi ignored her.

"I found some rations in his ship. Once I gave him some it, he shut up. He's not a bad kid when he's not wailing." Dirk took his attention off Kal-El and put it on his wife. "You said you found something?"

"Yeah. This is linked to the baby's DNA. Only he can activate this. It's very ingenious. I've come across devices similar to this but this is the first time, I've come across one I couldn't crack without using someone's DNA. Those Kryptonians are geniuses!" Saki approached Kal-El. She took his right hand and placed it on the center of the cube.

Letroi gleamed at Kal-El. "And we have our very own right here."

The EL crests on the cube glowed. Dirk and Saki looked around in amazement to see their hangar changing shape to another room. One with a large window with a view of a world Dirk, Saki and Letroi never saw before. Saki easily deduced it was a home, a living room to be exact with the sitting furniture in the background. Two people stood in the room. A man and woman. The man was tall and well-built with black hair and a curl over his forehead over his face. The woman was quite beautiful with her long black hair, elegant face and eyes were similar to the baby on Dirk's lap.

Kal-El smiled at the images. "Mama. Daddy."

Krypto whined. The poor dog knew the images weren't real. He collapsed on the floor, still whining, knowing something bad happened to his masters. They were gone and he and Kal-El were alone. He looked at the three adults staring at Jor-El and Lara's hologram. The dog figured they will be taken care of by them. He looked at the scaly creature and growled. There was something about him he didn't like. The pink haired woman wasn't nice like his masters mother but she would have to do. The blue skinned, white haired man seemed kind and more caring of all the three.

Krypto didn't want to live with either of them but would rather stay with the white haired man and the pink haired lady than the scaly creep. Whimpering, he looked up at the vision of his former masters, hoping to get comfort from their voices.

Lara spoke, "Our dearest, Kal-El. We hope your journey to Earth was a safe one. You left us too young to remember us, Kal-El, but I am your mother, Lara."

"And I am your father, Jor-El. By the time you see this, you will be on Earth in the care of Earthlings who I hope are taking good care of you. I wish we could see you grow up, Kal-El, but Rao didn't see it that way. Krypton, our home world, was dying. Our planet's core became unstable, causing quakes that lead to our inevitable destruction."

As if on cue, the hologram shook. Jor-El and Lara balanced themselves against a wall. When the quakes passed, Jor-El continued, "I went to the Krypton Council with my findings of Krypton's doom but they didn't listen. Your mother and I began building a ship so we could escape Krypton's destruction. Only….only there was only time to build a ship to save you and your pet Krypto who will protect you in your new life."

"Enclosed in your ship are files of our home world stored in the Rubix. It's a puzzle only you will be able to figure out and only you will have access to. Learn and study our culture, Kal-El. Be proud of where you come from but don't share the vanity of our people that have caused our deaths." Tears began to flow from Lara's eyes. "My sweet, Kal-El. I'll always love you."

Jor-El resumed as Lara gave in to her emotions. "As you grow on Earth, you will discover you look like Earthlings but know you are not like them. Under the Earth's yellow sun, you will develop several powers that will separate you from Earthlings. Your strength will grow exponentially, your speed will increase. You'll be invulnerable." Jor-El warned his son, "It is a gift. No matter how isolated you may feel, don't think of these powers as a curse but a gift. Do not abuse these powers, Kal-El. You can do so many great things with them. Why, if I had the powers you possessed, I would've saved our world, raise you….I could hold you in my arms right now." A tear rolled down Jor-El's cheek, his voice overwhelmed with grief, "My Little Kal-El."

The hologram of Krypton fade around them as the hangar returned. Saki and Dirk looked at each other and then at Kal-El, both saddened and shocked on how the baby came to them. Letroi leered at Kal-El. He couldn't wait to share this with Granny. He had to sell the child to her!

"What the fruck have we gotten ourselves into?" Dirk and Saki said together.

"Earth? This kid was supposed to go to Earth?" Dirk was baffled. "Where the fruck is that?"

"Fruck that!" Saki snapped. "His parents said he is going to have powers. He's going to get strong and fast and fruck knows what else! What if he becomes too powerful for us?"

"That's right," Letroi jumped in. "The child is too powerful for you to raise. This world has two yellow suns. He'll be twice as powerful. Let me take him to Granny. She has the resources to take care of Kal-El."

Dirk stared at the child in his lap. Kal-El was smiling, waving and saying, "bye bye" to his parents fading image. He was happy he saw his parents, unaware his parents were dead; unaware his parent sacrificed their lives to save him and his dog from the destruction of their world. Dirk felt sorry for the baby. He lost everything that was dear to him. His parents put him in space on a journey to a planet that would be suitable for him but by some cruel twist of fate, he didn't reach Earth but was found by him.

A bounty hunter.

Why was fate so cruel to a baby?

This baby will grow with phenomenal powers. Dirk wondered what would've happened if he didn't find him? What if someone with malevolent purposes captured Kal-El and raised him? Dirk wasn't part of the law and order forces. He worked with them to capture criminals but he was a little shady, too. He could do things the law couldn't in order to capture to bad guy. Maybe that was why he was given this child. So he wouldn't fall into the wrong hands.

"Saki, we have to raise this child."

Saki balked at the suggestion. "We what?"

Letroi kept his cool but he couldn't let Dirk keep the baby. "Are you sure?"

Dirk couldn't be more certain. "We're bounty hunters. We hunt criminals when the galactic police can't find them. We rescue kidnapped people. What if Kal-El was raised by a bad guy? Can you imagine the power he could unleash? He'll be unstoppable! But if we have him on our side…."

"I see what you mean and his parents did want him to not abuse his powers." Saki sighed. "But us, Dirk? I know I considered raising the child but he won't be an ordinary kid. Do you understand the task we will be getting ourselves into?"

Dirk grinned as he raised Kal-El above his head. Kal-El giggled at the action. He waved his arms and legs happily. "We're gonna raise the best motherfrucking bounty hunter there is. That's what we've gotten ourselves into!"

"But Dirk," Letroi tried to reason with his friend, "Granny can…."

Dirk settled Kal-El against him. "Listen, Letroi, I know you mean well but Saki and I are gonna raise him. If Granny can run an orphanage with plenty of kids, I'm sure Saki and I can raise one child."

"That's right." Saki gently took Kal-El from Dirk and stepped back, distancing the baby from Letroi. Once again, an unknown feeling to protect this child from Letroi rose in her. "We're going to raise the baby. We don't need you or your friends."

Letroi feigned a smile while hiding his anger. He couldn't believe Dirk was throwing away a wonderful opportunity. A Kryptonian. The last of his kind. To sell the child to Granny…. He couldn't believe Dirk would be so thoughtless and selfish. How could he not think of the credits they would get for him? "If that is what you want, I can't argue with it."

"That's right. You…..Oh, look, Dirk!" Saki almost squealed. "Kal-El smiled at me!"

Dirk laughed, almost surprised at the emotion on his wife's face, "Maybe you do have that maternal instinct after all."

Letroi took one last look at the baby before leaving unnoticed. So much money….he was not going to let this opportunity slip through his fingers.

"Try it again, Kal!"

"Why the fruck do I have to?"

An irate seventeen-year-old Kal-El stood defiant in front of Dirk. Dirk raised Kal since he found him. He was proud of the boy. He was stronger than any boy his age and was getting stronger. He was stronger than Dirk and all of his bounty hunter friends. Not only was his strength an advantage but so was his speed; the powers in his eyes; the power to control heat and cold with his eyes and mouth and his intelligence. Of all his physical gifts, Kal's intelligence was the most threatening. When he used it that is. Dirk couldn't love the boy any more than his own son. However, there were times Kal would drive him up the wall. Kal could be arrogant and challenging, not wanting to do what he was told. Sometimes when Kal became thickheaded, Dirk tried brute force.

Like now.

Dirk responded to the challenging teen by firing his canon gun on Kal. Kal stood fearlessly as the sonic energy from the cannon hit Kal directly in his chest. Kal stumbled back a few steps but he never fell on his knees.

"Ha! See? Told you I can take it!"

Pissed, Dirk tossed his cannon gun on the ground. He marched to Kal. Smacking him won't do any good. Kal wouldn't feel it and Dirk would break his hand. Instead, he used the greatest strength against Kal. His voice.

"Dammit, Kal! I know you are strong but you have to show you are more than muscles! You need to show you have brains!"

"I got perfect scores on all my homework and tests. I graduated two years early. Zhuut, I'm smarter than the teachers."

"I'm talking more than just book smarts. I mean street smarts, too. Taking shots with no harm to you is just being a show off!"

So? Kal didn't care. "As long as I get the guy, what's the frucking harm if I show off?"

"You can't go on thinking you're the strongest guy ever and just throw your muscles around without any fighting skills!"

"But I am the strongest." Kal looked down his faithful dog, Krypto. "Isn't that right, boy?"

Krypto grew up to be a beautiful canine with a white coat. As always, he was by Kal's side and always agreed with him. He barked enthusiastically.

"Oh, really? That bastich Lobo at Big Al's space diner feels differently. He whooped your ass!"

Memories of that fight flashed in Kal's mind. Just thinking about it, caused his eyes to turn red. "That Zhuuthole cheated! I would've kicked his ass but you stopped me!"

"I stopped because you were getting your ass kicked!" Dirk yelled back. "Serves you right. No fourteen-year-old should go to a space diner alone and getting your ass kicked was the punishment you deserved. You deliberately disobeyed me, stole my air cruiser and broke curfew just to have fun at a space diner where you take on an eighteen year old Czarnian who just killed off everyone on his planet."

"Well, it's your own fault for teaching me how to fly a space cruiser at ten when the legal age is fifteen!" Kal railed back. "I've been helping you and Ma getting bounties for years. You started me off as the getaway flyer before you had me physically help you catch your bounty. I've seen and done a lot more than kids my age so my curfew shouldn't be ten. I don't need one at all. I don't need a lot of sleep and so what if I went to the space diner? I've been there before with you. There are a lot of strong guys there and I figure if there is anyone to test my strength it was that piece of zhuut, Lobo."

Dirk hated when Kal had a point. He did teach Kal how to fly a cruiser when he was ten. Kal was a bright child, eager to learn, eager to help out. What's the harm in teaching a child how to fly a space cruiser when they were as smart and strong as Kal? He did bring Kal into the Bounty Hunting business with him and Saki. Kal also saw a lot of things a child shouldn't but it matured Kal and it taught him the facts of life without sugarcoating. Now looking back on it, Dirk wondered if he did the right thing. Kal was mature but he was also arrogant due to his abilities and his skill to take out anyone without breaking a sweat. Kal got his powers because of a yellow sun but their planet had two. Dirk couldn't help but wonder if Kal was much stronger under two suns than one. He never told Kal about his Kryptonian heritage. Only that he was found in a spaceship. He didn't think Kal should know but with his growing arrogance, Dirk considered telling if only to humble Kal. Discussing it with Saki, she wanted to wait until Kal was seventeen.

Which was today.

Today was Kal's birthday. Dirk wanted to claim the day they found him as Kal's birthday but Saki wanted to be accurate. Saki used the cell reader to study the cells on Kal's body to determine his age which was nine months and twelve days when they discovered him. With that information, they picked a date on their world calendar to give Kal when he turned one.

Now sixteen years passed since that day and the baby they raised was officially an adult on their world. Dirk couldn't imagine life without Kal.

"Got no words to challenge me, Pops?"

On most days he couldn't.

"You're lucky Lobo didn't kill you. Your ass was pretty busted up."

Kal couldn't deny that. He was a wreck after his fight with Lobo. His left arm was broken, both his eyes were wedged shut, and six of his ribs were broken.

But he put a lot of hurting on Lobo, too. Lobo had a broken right ankle, broken right arm, three broken ribs, and a black eye.

Kal never got a beaten like he did with Lobo. His strength, speed, his sharp hearing, superior eyes were helpful to taking down criminals but not Lobo. "All right. I admit I was too young to take him on but I'm much stronger now, Pops! If I meet Lobo again, I can beat him."

"It's only been three years, Kal, and even if you have the strength, you don't have the skills yet. It takes more than muscle to win a fight. You need fighting skills, ingenuity."

Kal sulked. "I know. I know." He heard it a thousand times. "I've been taught it. Just don't feel like doing that kind of fighting."

Dirk grasped Kal by his shoulder, making his son look at him. "You're on the cusp of greatness, Kal. These powers you have… it's only going to get stronger and you're going to face stronger opponents; smarter opponents so you just can't punch your way through a fight. You have to think, you have to outwit, and you have to use your other abilities besides your strength. Remember your battle with Lobo. You're not invulnerable."

Kal nodded. He was right. Lobo proved that. "Okay, Pops. You're right. I'll fight more like you want me to."

"Good. Your Ma and I won't be doing this forever. We're hoping you will take over."

Kal nearly rolled his eyes. For as long as he could remember, his Pops told him he was taking over the family business. "You know I will, Pops, but that won't be for a while."

"Let's hope so." Dirk slapped a hand on Kal's back and the two began walking back to the house. "Your Ma and I made a lot of enemies in our line of work. We're hoping to give it up in a few years and retire to one of those island planets in the Lauderdale territory."

Kal scoffed. "You and Ma will be bored in a week."

"Maybe your Ma will. She loves her gadgets and she loves making stuff. As long as she has her toys, she'll be okay. As for me, I will have no problem sleeping on a sunny beach."

"And checking out the island girls," Kal teased. He knew his parents were happy together but that didn't mean they didn't look once in a while.

Luckily for both of them, Saki stepped out of the house putting an end to the talk. "Kal."

"Yo, Ma!"

Saki frowned. "Don't say 'Yo' when addressing me." She handed Kal an electronic pad. "Here's the list. Get everything on it." She dropped the credits in Kal's free hand. "And bring all my credits back."

"Is this some lame way to get me out of here so you and Pops can decorate for my birthday party?"

"You're seventeen. You're too old for birthday parties. You're an adult now, Kal."

Kal grinned, "Ma, I can tell when you're lying. I'll stay away an extra hour. Make my party look good." He gave Saki a kiss on the cheek. "Let's go, Krypto."

Dirk and Saki watched Kal and Krypto enter his space cruiser and fly off the planet. Saki waited until Kal was gone from her vision before speaking. "He's growing up so fast."

"He's Kryptonian. I'm sure that was natural among his people." Dirk sighed. He should be happy for Kal this day but he was actually sad this day was here. "He's seventeen. An adult. This day has come sooner than I thought it would."

"Yeah," Saki turned away as she started back towards the house. "It's time we tell him the truth like we promised all those years ago."

Dirk picked up on Saki's tone. "You don't think we should?"

"No. Yes." Saki threw her hands up in frustration. "I don't know."

Dirk touched Saki's arm. "Kal is seventeen. It's the age of adulthood. He's more than ready to know. If anything, telling him the truth about his parents may humble the boy. He's become very arrogant. If he knew his parents sacrificed themselves to save him, he will look at life differently."

"True but how would he feel about us?" Saki wondered. "Would he hate us for keeping this secret from him? All this time we let him thinks his parents abandoned him. I know we tried to do right by him but I don't think we did. He's loud, brash, has a pouty mouth."

"So, he's no boy scout. Big deal. He's arrogant but he does help people. When he destroyed that home on Tasnia when fighting that murderer Nitze, Kal rebuilt that home. He could've let that family rebuild alone but he didn't. We didn't raise Kal exactly how his parents would've but we did all right for two people who ain't the parenting type."

When Dirk put it that way, how could Saki deny it? "You're right. I wonder if he will leave us and look for Earth; learn what kind of life he could had if he didn't meet us." Saki sniffed. "I will miss him if he does. He's had a strange affect on me."

"What's this?" Dirk wiped a tear from Saki's eyes. "You're showing emotion?"

Saki brushed his fingers away. "Don't be ridiculous. It's just something in my eyes."

Dirk hugged his wife, his heart warmed at Saki putting her arms around him. "It's all right. I'll miss him, too."

The sounds of a ship descending from the sky ended the moment between Dirk and Saki. Both looked up at their unexpected guest.

Dirk smiled knowing who it was, "That's Letroi's ship. Must got another job for us or maybe he came to wish Kal a good birthday."

Saki wasn't pleased with Letroi's arrival. "I don't want that snake anywhere near Kal, especially today."

"Ah, come on, Saki. Letroi is my friend. He was around when we found Kal. Letroi should be here when Kal learns the truth."

"He's too snaky, greedy and shady. I don't trust him. He's too interested in Kal. I don't like it when he asks about his abilities. It's…." Saki shrugged, "like he's snooping."

"Letroi ain't snooping. Kal is like a nephew to him. He's known Kal since he was a baby. Of course he would be interested in him. He's greedy but who doesn't like money? He's shady, yeah, but we're all in way. We're bounty hunters."

"Not like him. We draw the line at what we hunt. He has no limit if the pay is high enough."

That was true but Dirk knew he could trust Letroi.

Saki wanted to disappear into her home. She didn't want to have a conversation with him but she stayed by Dirk's side. Maybe Letroi would drop something off and leave. He never stayed long when he came to see Kal on his birthdays anyway.

When the ship's side door opened, they only expected Letroi to come out but there was someone with him.

Saki gripped her fingers into Dirk's arm. Her heart fell into her stomach. She knew that man. Just mentioning his name, provoked fear in the galaxy, even among the bounty hunters. Dirk and Saki only heard of this frightening individual, grateful they never had to cross paths with him. Until now.


Even uttering his name caused Dirk to tremble in fear.

Steppenwolf acknowledged Dirk and Saki by producing his electro-axe and cable snare. "My reputation precedes me. I never saw anyone turn white so fast."

Saki stepped back in fear. She knew who he worked for. Darkseid. He lived in his own dimension but Darkseid's evil, the things he's responsible for was known in every corner of the galaxy.

Dirk clenched his fists. He was seething at the betrayal of his friend, his best friend. He knew Letroi was involved with shady individuals but nothing like this. "Letroi, what's going on? Why is he here?"

"It would've been easier if Kal was given to me but you wouldn't listen."

Steppenwolf explained his purpose. "When Letroi told Granny Goodness of the Kryptonian, she told my Lord, Darkseid, who decided to wait and see if the Kryptonian will be of use to his organization. He sees potential in Kal-El but he needs you away from him to see how powerful he really can be."

Granny? The Granny Letroi talked about was the Granny Goodness. Dirk cursed himself for not figuring it out but then again, he never expected Letroi to be in with that kind of company.

"Darkseid has given you seventeen years with Kal," Letroi said. "Be grateful for that. It could've been less."

The gravity of Letroi's words fell on Dirk and Saki. "Letroi, we've been friends since we were kids."

Letroi was dismissive of that fact. "You killed it when you killed a gold mine in selling Kal to Granny."

"All this time you were telling them about Kal and the abilities he has. You were waiting for the right time to knock us off and collect your money! Didn't our friendship mean anything to you?"

"I told you, Dirk. Money is my true love. Your friendship was only a necessity."

"You motherfrucker!" Dirk lunged after Letroi. If he was going to die, he was going to take Letroi with him.

Steppenwolf intervene, striking hard and fast. He swung his axe down Dirk's face to his stomach. Dirk didn't have the speed or strength of Steppenwolf to defend himself.

"Dirk!" Saki screamed watching her husband fall to the ground. Blood spilled like a river from his head, down his chest where a lung was exposed and through his stomach where that and the contents of his last meal oozed from his body. Saki went to his side, clutching him, sobbing and covering herself in his blood.

"A Salkin showing emotion? Never thought I'd see the day," Letroi coolly said. "Dirk's death is unfortunate. I was hoping he would see you die."

Saki wished she had the strength to kill him. She could only snarl. "I know I'm as good as dead but Kal won't be what Darkseid wants him to be. Even if Darkseid lures Kal into his web, Kal won't do the evil things Darkseid's monsters does for him."

Steppenwolf released his cable snare and wrapped it around Saki's neck. Saki convulsed and shrieked at the energy beams coursing through her. "You don't know the allure of Darkseid." He pulled the cable, snapping Saki's neck. He released the cable, disregarding the sound of Saki's lifeless body falling along Dirk's. He grinned. This was his easiest kill.

Pressing a button on the cuff of his uniform opened a portal to Apokolips. A score of parademons stepped out of the portal.

Steppenwolf turned to Letroi and dropped a gold credit in Letroi's scaly hand. "Your payment."

Letroi flashed his forty pearly whites at Steppenwolf. "Much appreciated."

Steppenwolf grinned at Letroi as he turned his back on him. "Takes a special kind of man to kill his best friend and wife."

Letroi placed the credit in his credit reader. His eyes lit up at the zeroes behind the credit amount running into his account. He was too busy reading the money being downloaded to notice Steppenwolf raising his axe to slice off his head.

Letroi's head rolled off in the opposite direction of his body. The credit reader, splattered with Letroi's blood, fell to the ground.

Steppenwolf chuckled at the foolishness of Letroi. He betrayed his best friend. Did he really think he wouldn't be betrayed by him, Steppenwolf, a servant of Darkseid? "It also takes a special kind of fool to think he wouldn't be betrayed." To the parademons he ordered, "Find the Kryptonian's ship and the Rubix that came with it. Then torch the place and Letroi's ship. Don't leave any traces we were here."

Kal knew he shouldn't spend his extra hour away from home coming here but he couldn't turn away. He sat in his cruiser in front of Big Al's rotund diner. Lobo sat on a stool eating the day's special. He could hear the Czarnian brute laughing with Al himself and flirting with his waitress, Darlene.

Three years passed since he and Lobo fought. It was time for that rematch. As Kal stepped out of his cruiser, Krypto barked. Kal patted Krypto's head. "You want to come, boy?" Krypto nodded and wagged his tail. "Okay. Let's go but I do the fighting." Krypto whined.

"Yo, Lobo!"

Lobo turned in his stool. A man stood at the door. He was tall with a huge build, almost as impressive as his own. He wore black boots, black jeans, with a belt of tools and a white tank shirt with a red serpent symbol across his wide chest. His black hair was long, neat and pulled back. His face was clean shaven. Did he shave? He looked so young but familiar. Beside him was a white canine with a spike collar. He growled at anyone who passed him.

"What the frag do you want?"

"Rematch." Kal stepped to him. Lobo turned back in his seat and resumed eating. Someone always wanted to fight him. Kal found Lobo's rejection as an insult. "Three years ago, you and I fought; turned this place into a real zhuuthole."

Lobo shrugged. "You gotta come up with something more, you pus. I've had many fights in here."

"Not as bad as the one we had. Did they all give your ass a good beating? If it wasn't for my old man, I would've beaten your frucking ass." Still nothing from Lobo. "I called you Slobo and that really set you off."

Lobo stilled. Only one person called him that. He dropped his sandwich to give the man a second look. It's been three years. He would've remembered but this man before him didn't look like the arrogant, skinny young punk who challenged him to a fight. He grew up! The only thing familiar was his eyes. He called the boy's eyes girly and the boy fired heat from his girly eyes on him in retaliation.

"I'll be a fragging batisch." He laughed as he looked Kal over again. "You may be older and bigger, kid, but I can still kick your fragging sodhole. Go home before your old man drag you out of here."

"I'm not some young punk anymore. I was young and inexperienced but I'm older now. I want my rematch! If there is going to be the baddest motherfrucker in the galaxy, I'm gonna wear that title. Not you."

This kid really wanted a beat down. "You want another spankin'? All right. I'll give it to you and if your old man shows up, I'm kicking his sodhole, too."

Lobo got off his stool. He gestured for Kal to go before him. "After you, pus."

Kal punched Lobo's face. He wasn't going to fall for that trick twice! Lobo's body rose off the ground to crash into a wall. "The name is Kal-El and you are gonna respect that name."

"Respect this!" Lobo lunged from his hole and threw a fist at Kal. Kal stumbled but caught himself from slamming through a wall. He saw Lobo coming for him again and fired his heat vision. Lobo tried deflecting it with a punch but it not only burned his fist but bounced and hit Lobo's left eye.

"Ah! Frag!"

Kal punched Lobo's stomach twice, picked him up and slammed his body on the floor tearing through it. Lobo laid on the ground unmoving. Kal smirked. "Too easy."

Kal walked to the bar counter. He saw Darlene behind the counter looking over at Lobo afraid. "Hey, cutie, can I get some Cattle Juice?"

The waitress went to the drink stand and poured Kal a glass of cold, white liquid. She steadily gave it to Kal. Kal dropped credits on the table. "Thanks, cutie." Kal quickly swallowed the refreshing drink. He followed up with a loud belch. "Cattle Juice. Does a body good." He waved his glass at her. "Let me get another."

As Kal studied Darlene or more correctly her legs as she refilled his drink, Lobo, carefully rose from the floor. Kal took the second glass from the waitress. As he drunk that down, Lobo swung his fist in an attempt to punch Kal from behind. Kal threw his fist back, smacking Lobo's face. As Lobo staggered at the pain, Kal hopped out of his seat, grabbed Lobo's head and slammed him through the bar table face first.

"Did you think I'm so stupid to believe you were taken out by that?" He slammed Lobo's head through the bar again, breaking it. "I told you. I'm not that same arrogant punk from three years ago." He tossed Lobo on the broken bar and pushed him, sliding Lobo across the bar and into another wall.

Lobo's legs dangled in the diner while his head and chest dangled outside the diner. "Okay, now you're asking for it, you fragging bastich!"

"I'm watching you, Lobo! Whatever move you got, I'll see-" Kal was knocked off his feet and pushed upward by Lobo's Space Hog, ramming into him from behind. "Ah, zhuut!" Kal cursed as he pushed through the ceiling.

Lobo, who's upper body, was still sticking out the diner, laughed at Kal's plight. He pushed himself back inside. He shook the dirt out of his wild hair and limped.

"Are you all right, Lobo?" Darlene asked him.

Lobo stretched, bones cracking, "I'm good, babe. Nothing but a few bruised ribs. The Main Man got this."

Lobo picked up the sound of his Space Hog. "Tuh. I wonder where that punk fell off out. Woulda like to get some shots on him."

"Then you'll get another chance!" Kal crashed through the roof, creating another hole. The diner began to wobble under all the holes Kal and Lobo were creating.

What shocked Lobo wasn't Kal not hurt; it was Kal riding his space motorcycle.

"Hey! Get off my hog!"

Kal lowered Lobo's Space Hog to the floor. "Sweet ride. I heard only you can ride it. I guess I proved your wrong on that." He cackled. "I kicked your ass in your favorite diner, in front of your girl and I got control of your hog. I guess you're not the baddest motherfrucker in the galaxy. You're looking at him."

"Oh, shut the frag up!"

Lobo tackled Kal, knocking him off his bike. Lobo pinned Kal's body to the floor. He grabbed a piece of metal that fell from the diner's ceiling and smack Kal over his head with it. The metal broke in half.

"Ow!" Kal griped. "Frucking cheater! Can't fight with your fists?"

Lobo elbowed his head in response. "How's that, pus?" Kal tried to push himself up but Lobo elbowed his spine and neck, pushing him back down. Kal cursed in response. Lobo grabbed a chain from his bike and tied it around Kal's neck. "I'm gonna tie you and send you back to your old man in chains with a big red bow on your head." Lobo yanked the chain tight around Kal's neck.

Kal wheezed and grabbed at the chains around his neck. Lobo dragged Kal over the floor before pulling the chains over his head and swinging Kal in the air. He was like a cowboy ready to lasso cattle. He slapped Kal's body from one end of the diner to the next, creating holes wherever Kal's body landed. The patrons in the diner ran for it as the diner became increasingly unsafe. The only ones left in the diner besides Lobo and Kal were Big Al, Darlene and Krypto.

Krypto saw the plight of his master. He snarled at Lobo. The dog wanted to strike but he was ordered by Kal to not interfere. Lobo noticed the mutt snarling at him. It only encouraged him. He laughed at the dog as he told Kal, "After I kick your fragging sodhole, I'm gonna take your dog! I can always use a mutt!"

Kal's eyes flashed red. He was mad now. People can fight him, take his cruiser, take his credits but no one threatened to take Krypto from him. No one! "No one takes my dog!" Kal snapped the chains off his neck. Moving faster than Lobo could see, Kal wrapped the chains around Lobo and punch him through the roof. He flew after Lobo and punched him again, sending back down to the diner again.

Unfortunately, through all the pounding Kal and Lobo were making, Al's diner finally gave way under the pressure and crumbled. Big Al made it out but Krypto had to grab Darlene by the collar of her dress and fly her out of the diner to safety.

Big Al put a hand on his hips, looking at the mess Lobo and Kal created. "Great. Another fight. Another destroyed diner."

Krypto sifted through the rubble looking for Kal. He whined, signaling to Kal he was worried about him. After a third whine from Krypto, a hand peeks from a large piece of what was once Big Al's wall. The wall was pushed aside as Kal pulled himself up to a sitting position. He was covered in diner debris from head to toe. Krypto barked happily and scampered to him.

Kal patted Krypto's head as his dog licked his face. "I'm okay, boy." He looked around for his opponent. "Now where is that Slobo."

"Ah, frag," Lobo groaned as he pushed debris off him. He shook his wild, hair and pounded the cobs out of his ears. "My ears are ringing."

Lobo pulled himself to his feet, his body staggering. He saw two Kals standing with his dog. Lobo took a weak step forward. He had an arm pulled back ready to throw a fist at Kal when he took notice of the situation. Both were covered in diner debris, bruises, tiny cuts of blood on their face and arms and they destroyed his favorite diner. Normally, Lobo can trash a diner on his own but it was fun, knowing he can do it with someone else. He started laughing.

Kal, having also taking notice of the situation, began laughing, too. Their laughter increased to where they fell back in the debris laughing even harder. No longer was there hate or a desire to prove one better than the other, but something else: a sign of deep respect building.

"Not bad. You hold yourself up pretty well unlike other batischs."

"I told you. I'm not that same punk anymore."

The last beam from Big Al's diner fell. There was a moment of silence and Kal and Lobo started laughing again.

"Big Al's diner ain't no what hit 'im."

Kal got on his feet and sauntered over to Big Al. He pulled out all the credits he had and gave it to Al. "Sorry about the damage. This is just a down payment. I'll come back with the rest to get your diner up and running again."

Lobo slapped a hand on Kal's back. "If you gonna throw credits around like that, I got another place in mind you and I can trash."

"Next time. I gotta go home. My folks want to celebrate my birthday. I'm seventeen, today. I'm officially an adult."

Lobo laughed. "You look younger than that, kid. So your old man's still alive. He was old when I saw him. I wonder how decrepit he is now."

"You can come and see for yourself," Kal offered, "But you can't trash the place."

"Oh, Zhuut," Lobo whined. "I gotta break something, man! It ain't cool unless I do."

"Picture me breaking your face if you don't listen."

Lobo laughed. The kid had spunk and a helluva right hook.

"….and I told the piece of zhuut to frag off and think about what he did. Then I pushed him into the garbage disposal. I let him roll in that zhuut for five hours. I didn't get him out when the compactor started an hour later. He was begging to be let out of it after three. He was crying like a pus when I finally dragged him out!"

Kal laughed out loud. Lobo had awesome stories of putting guys through the ringer. "I wish I could've seen that!"

"When I got paid, I realize bounty hunting could be a cool gig."

"The pay is good but there is something about making punks pay for their deeds."

Lobo laughed at Kal. Only knowing him for half an hour, Lobo noticed a moral streak with Kal even though he tries to act like a tough guy. "You should be one of those space cops like those Green Lanterns."

Kal laughed. Him a Green Lantern? He couldn't see himself doing anything so selfless. "I may help the good guys but I ain't that good."

Kal descended his ship into his planet's atmosphere. Krypto suddenly perk up. He went to the window, barking. Something was wrong. Every fiber in his instincts told him. Something happened to his new masters.

Lobo looked back at Krypto. "What, he gotta take a leak?"

"Krypto is a flying dog and well trained. He goes on his own."

"What kind of dog flies?" Lobo asked. "I never heard of that."

"He just does. Like me."

"What are you? You can fly but you ain't got wings like a Thanagarian." Lobo took notice of the serpent design on Kal's shirt. "What's with the diamond serpent thing? That your trademark?"

"My folks thought I should have a symbol when I go bounty hunting like them. They chose the serpent thing." Kal shrugged. "I didn't care so I went with it and I don't know who I am. I was found in a spaceship by my parents."

"So, your old man ain't your old man?"

Kal shook his head. "He's the only Pops I need. My real parents, whoever they are, can go fruck themselves for abandoning me."

"Oooooo," Lobo chuckled. "Parent issues much?"

"Oh, fruck off!"

Lobo only laughed. He knew Kal was bothered by his birth parents dumping him. He was going to tease him but Krypto's constant barking got to him. "Damn. Doesn't that mutt ever shut up?"

Kal suddenly became concerned. Krypto was an obedient dog. Krypto never acted this way unless there was trouble. Which meant… "Something is wrong!"

Descending the clouds, smoke filled the sky over his home. "Take over!" He told Lobo. He opened a door and flew out of his cruiser. Krypto was on his heels. "Ma! Pops!" Kal landed. He blew the fire out over his home and kept searching for his parents.

He didn't have to go far. He found their charred bodies in the foyer of his burned down home. "Ma? Pop?"

Who did this? Why did they do this? Was this an enemy of theirs exacting revenge?

Krypto's barking alerted Kal back outside. He ran to his dog and saw a torched space cruiser and a body beside it. Staring at the skeletal burnt remains, Kal knew it to be Letroi.

"Letroi? They got you, too. What happened here?"

Lobo landed Kal's cruiser and stepped out. He waved the smoke away from his face as he approached Kal. "I hate the smell of barbecued dead people." He thought it was a funny joke but Kal didn't say anything.

"Oh, you're sad, huh?" Lobo guessed as he saw the pain on Kal's face. "Tough break, kid. Guess I won't be meeting your old man." Lobo went back to Kal's cruiser and got his bike out. "No party here so I'm cuttin'. Next time we meet, drinks on me. You could use a few. See ya!"

Kal didn't acknowledge Lobo flying off. His thoughts were on the murder of his parents and how he will avenge their deaths.