TITLE: Causality 1
AUTHOR: Whiteroses77 (Whiterose)
WORD COUNT: 2,826
DISCLAIMER: I only own the story.
SUMMARY: A tragedy befalls the Earth, and Superman decides he needs to do something about it, but he needs Batman to fulfil that wish. But how will their efforts affect Clark and Bruce’s lives?
It had been an ordinary day, well ordinary for his life anyway. He’d had a miniscule disagreement with Batman. It wasn’t unusual since they had begun working together in the Justice League; almost every interaction had some sort of a tension to it. It wasn’t hatred or even dislike, really, it was just that there was something about each other that rubbed the other the wrong way. Sometimes he thought maybe it was because of his powers, or that he wasn’t human but he’d never sensed any fear from the man. Actually, it wasn’t unusual during a mission for Batman to come up with an over the top plan and then ask Superman if he could do it. He’d considered that he might be testing his powers, but when Superman managed to pull off one of his plans, Batman seemed happy that it had worked, well as happy as Clark had ever seen him.
So he had gone to bed, and had a dream that he couldn’t remember the details of. Then he had been awoken by the explosions.
It was almost dawn, when the stomach churning sounds had reached his hearing almost all at once, though some came from thousands of miles, some hundreds, and others much nearer. The one that rocked Metropolis, he felt as well as heard. He saw the distinctive twin flashes light up his bedroom wall. His apartment building shook. He was up and looking out the window in nanoseconds. In slow motion, he saw the sky as it was blocked out by plumes of smoke, dust, and debris of the mushroom cloud and the terrible disruptive energy of the shockwave.
The nuclear shockwave swept towards midtown, destroying everything in its path. The only thing left in his body was instinct. Instinct clothed him in red and blue, and he flew straight up, crashing through his ceiling and out into the burning sky. He tried to get the lay of things. He’d survived nuclear fusion before, but not to this extent, one bomb, or one reactor, but this was something else. Metropolis crumbled before him in the nuclear wind, too many people, too many screams, too many dying people to save, though he knew in those first few seconds at the hypocentre those people’s pain was gone turned to charcoal. There was nothing he could do; he knew by trying to force the fallout away that he would accelerate the radioactive effects.
He knew the terrible onslaught of his own dead planet’s radiation poison, but he’d survived the pain and death sentence again and again with the help of the yellow sun of this world. There wasn’t any reprieve for the people down there, even those that had managed to survive the blast, sickness lay ahead for them.
There were too many to evacuate, automatically, his gaze turned to the direction of Lois’ apartment building, but that part of town was already gone, horror gripped his throat tightly, he fought it, and looked in the other direction, the Daily Planet building was gone too, its shadowy neighbour was too, Lexcorp tower had fallen. He knew the owner hadn’t been inside.
With the debris blocking out the sun, he felt his skin slacken on his bones, as the radiation took its toll on even him. He rushed up, like a shipwreck survivor desperately trying to get to the surface. Through the fire and the wind, he flew until he reached the surface of the atmosphere. He hovered there and let the sun’s nourishing light heal him. Then he swooped down and went under again.
He stretched his vision, and saw Gotham aflame too. He remembered the tragic sounds of the explosion in multiple and he knew it wasn’t just Metropolis and Gotham; and it wasn’t just the US, it was all the major cities of the world.
He shook his head in disbelief. He wondered how far the radiation would spread, who was safe. He had to find out. He only had one destination. He found the farm undamaged. A smile touched his lips, and then faded as he remembered his Mom had been in Washington this week. His hands clenched, shit, she couldn’t be… Maybe she didn’t go, he tried to delude himself, but he couldn’t go down there and search an empty house… he used his hearing instead, and listened for a heartbeat.
There was nothing, no life.
He thought of Conner, there was a chance he might be alive. He felt himself losing his life force again; he knew how badly it was taking its toll on him, Conner’s powers were still growing, he might not have been strong enough to withstand ground zero at point blank range, whether he’d been in Washington with Mom or New York with the Titans.
The anguish teared at him and for a desperate sickening second he considered letting himself succumb and see if fate would allow him to follow his loved ones, but he couldn’t do that while there might be something he could do. Like a diver, he made for the surface again. While the sun restored him, his eyes found the Watchtower orbiting there out of harms way. He wondered if any of his teammates were up there safe from the fate of the Earth. It was a long shot, after the mission yesterday everyone had gone home, the satellite had been left on automation. He thought of Diana and wondered if she was safe on Themyscira.
He checked the Watchtower but found no one. He left a message for anyone just in case, saying what happened, and what he was going to try to do. Then he flew back down, he flew fast towards the arctic.
He entered the Fortress of Solitude, and called out, “Jor-El.”
“Yes my Son.” The AI answered.
“I need to travel back in time…” He thought about it, he didn’t know who had set off the missiles. He didn’t know how long he would need.
Before he could decide on a timescale, Jor-El said, “You know Kal-El that time travel is not to be taken lightly.”
He stopped short and then he asked incredulously, “Do you know what’s happened out there, millions maybe billions of people are dead or dying.”
“This fortress of Solitude monitors the planet, I know what has happened.” The AI replied with detachment.
He nodded, “Right, of course, so you know what I’ve got to do.”
“I sent you to Earth to guide them my Son, they didn’t listen, just as the elders of Krypton would not listen and both planets have been doomed.”
He shook his head, “No, I need to help those people and I won’t let them die.”
“You cannot interfere in their destiny Kal-El.”
It was a stark reminder of his old struggle to let the Fortress influence his life. He headed for the interface, reaching for a crystal, “You’re just a computer Jor-El, only an echo of the real man who defied destiny and sent his son into the unknown just for the chance of surviving.”
The AI replied, “Yes my Son that is the prime objective. So it will be you who survives as civilization dies and when you are needed again you shall return.”
He was caught up in a blast of cold air and ice and crystal, he pleaded, “Don’t father, they need me.”
“When the time comes, and there are people to fight for again…”
He didn’t hear the rest as he was cocooned inside a case of ice and Kryptonian crystal.
Bruce jerked awake suddenly, and he gazed up at the cave roof, his chest heaving as he drew in breath through his sobs. He breathed, “Oh shit.”
He glanced over at the static filled screens of his computer. Damn, the communication system was still down. The explosion and the shockwaves had taken out the electrical systems all over the world. Only his backup generator kept the lights on down here. He got up off the camp bed, and went over to the store room. He got a cereal bar, opened it up, and took a bite. He knew he was going to have to ration himself. He didn’t know how long he was going to have to survive while the radiation levels top side was lethal. He looked at the store of supplies bitterly. There was more than one person’s ration down here. He’d planned ahead as he always did. He had thought of everything, food, water, clothes, the shower worked, everything was ready in case of an emergency. However, what he wasn’t ready for was it to come without warning, while he had been down here in the cave pulling an all-nighter, while Alfred was upstairs in the kitchen or maybe he’d still been in bed, Bruce didn’t know.
All he knew was when the computer had sensed and alerted him to fatal radiation levels above ground, not just up there but also everywhere, his precious computer had only told him what had happened moments before it had blinked to static. Now all it could do for the time being was play computer chess with him.
Bruce screwed his eyes up against the tears, and the pain that threatened to overcome him. He truly hoped it had been quick for his old friend. He hoped it was quick for everyone. He knew… he didn’t know who but he knew there was someone out there who had authorized the arming of those missiles. It was someone human; he knew it wouldn’t be nuclear if it were aliens. Maybe someone else had sent some back, you know just to make sure the whole world went up in smoke and not just them.
Whoever it was, it wasn’t going to be quick for them, because as soon as it was possible, he was going to hunt them down, and find them. No, it wasn’t going to be quick for those bastards.
He lost track of time, with no daylight to guide him and no computer to tell him. He spent his waking hours training. His slumber was filled with dreams that were fitful. He couldn’t remember the details. Once, he woke up with the name Clark on his lips. He wondered about his teammate’s fate. From what he knew, that amount of radiation wouldn’t kill him, but that was only a theory with no proof. In the days that followed, sometimes he imagined him like a modern day Moses leading the ragtag survivors into the wilderness as far away from the hypocentres as he could. Digging wells with his bare hands, and plucking food from the vines in jungles, because of his upbringing on a farm, having and sharing the knowledge of how to grow crops.
He smiled at his musings.
He didn’t know who else could survive, maybe some if they’d had some warning. He wondered if Superman had thought about him. With his senses did he know he was down here still alive but unreachable for the moment, until the radiation levels dropped. He started to think he was going crazy when he began fantasising about lying here in bed, and then suddenly Superman tearing his way in and saving him.
The day came finally, when the computer showed more than static. He scrambled off the camp bed, and lunged at the screen, as it was filled with the Watchtower logo. The message onscreen told him that the Watchtower had established contact. The satellite had spent all this time automatically trying to contact its Earth bases. He tapped the keys and found the data; it showed that the cave computer was the only one to come back online.
His breath shuddered from his lungs at that ominous fact. After so long of doing nothing, he felt the fear of the unknown, but he steeled himself. His choices were to stay here indefinitely, or transport up to the orbiting satellite. He knew he was more likely to find answers up there. So he suited up, and packed a bag of things from the store room, and then he transported up.
Once up on the Watchtower, he didn’t bother searching for others, he went straight to the monitor room. He used the interactive interface just to hear the sound of another’s voice. He said, “Scan the Watchtower for life signs.”
Barely a second later, the feminine voice replied, “There is one life sign on the Watchtower station.” He swallowed hard already knowing, as the voice continued, “Batman is in the monitor room.”
He wasn’t surprised but he was disappointed. He took a breath, “How long ago is it since the nuclear missiles were launched?”
“Thirteen days, five hours and eighteen minutes ago.”
“Data incomplete. Radiation levels are lowest in the continents of central Africa, south America, northern and central territories of Australia, northern Asia, and the arctic circle.”
He nodded along, “Of course the areas without major cities.” He mused, that it was too early to guess at the long term radiation sicknesses or climate effects. Now it was time to ask the pertinent question, “Where were the missiles launched from, who did it?”
“Data indicates that the source of the missiles was everywhere.”
He frowned at the unspecific answer from the computer. “What does that mean?”
“All nuclear missiles on the planet were launched all at once, there was no one source.”
Shit. Then there was no retaliation as he had thought, but who or what could set everyone single one off at the same moment? He turned to the computer again, “Was there any pattern, any one target?”
He shook his head, and then went and looked out of the window at the Earth below; from here, you could hardly tell such a calamity had befallen them. His gaze left the Earth and he looked to the starriness of space. He wondered if there were any people out there, who could help. He thought of alien warlords like Darkseid, coming and preying on the woeful planet without anyone to protect it. He thought about Superman again, and wondered how he fared.
He wondered if Superman had his commlink with him. He returned to the computer, “Is Superman’s commlink active?”
Without any hope, he asked. “Have any members of the Justice League made contact?”
Bruce’s eyes widened, and he asked, “Who was it?”
“Superman came aboard thirteen days five hours and five minutes ago.”
“Just after the missiles launched…”
“Do you wish to see the message left by Superman?”
He felt like strangling the thing. “Yes, show me the message.”
The main viewing screen lit up, and Superman was before him, he looked barely untouched by the nuclear storm. Except his hands were clenched as his sides, and his eyes were rimmed red with unshed tears. He straightened his shoulders and spoke, “Hi, um I don’t know if this message will reach anybody, I hope my friends that by some miracle it does.” He shallowed hard and continued, “There was nothing I could do, it happened too fast, and there was too many of them.” his jaw tensed and he gritted out, “There’s too many… shit.”
Batman’s eyes widened at the curse coming from his so polite teammate.
“I don’t know who did it, and as far as I know none of you… all of you are gone. I’m on my own…” he bowed his head and shook it. He glanced up and shrugged, “It’s my worst nightmare.”
Batman felt an ache in his chest at that simple fear revealed by his lofty friend… friend, were they friends. he guesses they are.
Onscreen Superman looked lost in thought for a moment, and then shook himself. “Anything I do now is only going to be like a Band-Aid on a gun shot. So I’m going to attempt to change things. I’m going to go back in time. It could make things worse, but I can’t imagine anything much worse than where we are.” He nodded to the camera resolutely, “Wish me luck.”
He automatically replied, “Good luck”
Then the message ended, and Batman walked back over to the window. He couldn’t see the change that Superman had sought. Maybe he had been right, and trying to change time had made things worse. He had to find out. He remembered the computer saying the Arctic Circle was not affected. He decided he was going to take a flyer, and see if he could find his teammate, the closest person left on this planet to him, in a place he had only been to by invitation only.
He headed for the Fortress of Solitude.
To be continued.