First class seats rule, Bette thinks, as she leans back in the comfortable plane seat. Then Matt walks over to her from his conversation with Hannah Laszlo and Bette remembers exactly how the UCLA Women's Tennis team ended up with the first class seats (through Hannah's agents) for their flight to their tennis match with the team from Metropolis University and her good mood fades a little.
"Done sucking up yet?" She asks Matt as he sits down.
"Done being bitter and jealous yet?" He replies, but smiles to soften the shot. "I told you, the only way I could get to fly to Metropolis with you was to do an interview with Hannah for the Bruin*."
* The Daily Bruin is the UCLA school newspaper - DT
"Hannah? You guys pals now?" Bette retorts.
"Whatever. If it makes you feel any better, she's bummed that some reporter from Metropolis, she didn't say who, wanted to interview you and not her."
"Yeah, some guy named Kent, I think."
"Some guy named Kent? As in Clark Kent? As in married to the world's hottest newspaper reporter Lois Lane, Clark Kent.?"
"I guess. I'm a west coast girl, I don't know about Metropolis reporters." Bette tells him.
"Bette, those two are famous. They're the ones who get all of the Superman exclusives. Not to mention that they are the world's only D.P.i.N.K.'s"
"What the hell is a D-pink?"
"Dueling Pulitizers, no kids. Clark Kent is a major reporter, Bette." Matt tells her.
"Cool. So what do you and Gar have planned?" After the tennis match, Matt planned to spend a few days in New York with his cousin Gar Logan, who was a friend of Bette's from her Titan days.
"Sightseeing. Clubbing, you know the deal." He seems to debate making a comment for a second, but smiling, he finally does."I'm just hoping I get to see some of the real sights of New York. Troia, Starfire..."
She glares at him, but he keeps his face as innocent as possible. "What?"
He's so transparent that she has to laugh.
"Bite me, Logan."
"Are you sure this is just not some attempt to get to spent time with some nubile young thing and get out of the Mayor's dinner party?" Lois Lane Kent asks her husband.
"No, it isn't Lois. I heard from the Titans that Flamebird had gotten back into the game and I wanted to talk to her. That's all."
"You gave her that name right?" Lois asks him.
"So how are you going to broach the subject? I don't think you want to let her in on your secret?"
"I'll tell her that Superman had asked about her. He and I are close friends, after all." Clark says with a smile.
"And Superman told you her secret?" Lois replies.
"You know, I hadn't thought of that. Good thinking, I'll have to rethink that ." Clark responds. He actually had, but occassionally, he liked to let Lois catch him on things, because she enjoyed doing it so.
"You do that." She tells him, smiling.
"Is the tube prepared?" A voice booms out.
"It will be soon enough. We have tracked the Kryptonian and will be preparing the tube and the capture team soon enough."
"Good. Very soon, Kryptonian, very soon."
The match had gone well for Bette and the UCLA team as they beat Metropolis handily. Bette had won her match in straight sets, so all things considered, she was pretty happy. Especially since her exclusive interview with this Clark Kent seemed to really irritate Hannah. She had dropped Matt's D.P.i.NK's line on Hannah, acting as is she had known that Kent was a big deal all along.
She walked out of the locker room. Hannah had already exited and was surrounded by several reporters. Bette looks around for a second.
Bette turns to the speaker. "I'm Clark Kent." He tells her.
Bette is a little surprised by his appearance. Tall and fairly handsome in a small town, boy next door kind of way. Maybe he'd be cuter with the glasses off, she thinks.
"Hi. Bette Kane." Bette replies extending her hand which he shakes.
"Yes, I know. I've followed your career. I saw you win the World Tennis Championships down at Madison Square Garden a few years back."
"That is a few years."
Seeing Bette with Kent, Hannah Laszlo leaves her flock of reporters and starts towards them. She reaches them just as Clark is about to ask another question.
At this point, several things happen in rapid succession. First, Hannah reaches Bette and Clark. Then Hannah, in her haste to get Clark's attention, steps forward into them, forcing Clark to take a step back from the location he had been standing in, at the same time bumping Bette so she is standing in the position Clark was in, with Hannah between them. Then at that moment, a boom tube opens right in front of Bette and several green clad hands grab Bette, pulling her in. Then the tube closes.
"What the hell?"
Bette is pulled through the tube and finds herself in a dark and foreboding chamber. She's dropped by the hands and the tube itself disappears.
"Welcome once again to Apokolips, Kryptonian."
The speaker walks into view and even Bette knows who it is, from stories the other Titans had told her. The speaker, of course, is the Lord of Apokolips, Darkseid.
"You are not the Kryptonian."
"Superman? Nope, definitely not." Bette considers her situation. She could pretend to be an innocent victim and maybe Darkseid would just send her back. But she can't do that, she decides. If Darkseid has plans for the Man of Steel, she has to try to find out what they are and that means acting like a hero like Superman.
"Then who are you?" Darkseid asks.
"So you are a Kryptonian?"
"I just said I wasn't..."
"No, child. I was referring to the name. Flamebird is a name from Kryptonian folklore."
"Oh. Yeah, it is. " She had forgotten that Superman had told her of the name's Kryptonian origin when he suggested it. But then, she remembered the whole conversation...
She had finally decided to do it. She had gotten bored with tennis and had developed a new consuming passion, getting the attention of Robin, the Boy Wonder. He was in Gotham, of course and she was in LA, but she figured that if she was good enough at being a super hero, she'd get the press and he'd hear about it. Then she'd make a triumphant debut in Gotham and the rest would be romantic history.
She had designed a costume for herself, using red, yellow and green as her colors (those were Robin's colors, too). For a name she had decided on Bat Girl. Like Batman, but obviously she was not a man. Equipped with the costume and a few wooden mini boomerangs she had bought from a soldier of fortune magazine, Bat Girl was ready to make her public debut.
It was very nearly her public demise. Had Superman not chanced upon the scene as she was fighting two muggers who had gained an advantage on her, she might have died that day. After he dispensed with the muggers and left them for the police (she had hidden so the police would not see her), he flew her up to a nearby roof so they could talk.
"I think you need to rethink your career as a crimefighter, Miss..." Superman tells her.
"I think that name's taken, Miss Kane. Theres a Batgirl in Gotham." He replies.
"How did you know?" She asked him.
"X-Ray vision. But my point is that you probably need to reconsider this. You have a promising tennis career ahead of you and crimefighting is dangerous."
"But I know I can do it and help people." Bette figured it did no good to mention Robin at this point.
Superman could tell the girl was not telling him everything, but at very least her enthusiasm was genuine. "But you'll need more training. And better equipment."
"Do you need a sidekick?" Bette asks.
Even years later, Bette can still not believe that she had asked Superman if he needed a sidekick. But he had helped her choose her new name (never mentioning that Flamebird's partner on Krypton had been Nightwing, a name Superman suggested to Robin a bit later) and put her into contact with people who could help her with certain equipment and training.
A loud scream from elsewhere in the complex made Bette realize where she was at the moment and ended her reminiscing.
"So what did you want with Superman?" She asks Darkseid.
"The Kryptonian has been a thorn in my side in the past, but at the same time, I find myself intrigued by him. Why would a being of his nature, unopposed by beings of equal stature choose not to rule them? He has power, but chooses not to utilize it."
"Why would he want to do that? He's the most loved hero on Earth. Why would he want to try to rule everyone and make them hate him? Besides, it's wrong to dominate people like that." Bette replies.
"I am a god, Flamebird. Right and wrong do not apply to me. And the Kryptonian is like unto a god, so it would seem that the same concepts would not apply to him as well."
"They apply to everyone. They apply even more to people with more power. I read a cool quote somewhere once something about great power and responsibility going hand and hand or something like that. And its true."
"Power is its own reward and its own law, child." Darkseid tells her.
"Really? But what about other things? Like love and respect and stuff like that?" She asks. Had she not been completely pertified, Bette would have probably laughed at the concept of herself, Bette Kane, Flamebird, America's most famous failed heroine, arguing ethics with the most feared man in the universe.
"Lesser concepts for lesser beings. In the end, for those like myself and your Superman, only power matters. But even for you, does not the temptation exist? I'll ask you this. Do you enjoy what you do? Do you enjoy being Flamebird?"
"I like helping people." Bette replies haltingly.
"But I speak of the joys of besting an opponent. Does that not bring a joy all its own? A feeling of power?"
Suddenly, Bette feels a bit shallow for her enjoyment of getting one over on Hannah. He has a point, she admits. She does enjoy winning. She always has.
"You do not respond immediately with a denial, Flamebird."
"No, I don't. Of course, I like winning. On Earth, I play a popular game called tennis and I'm good at it. Very good. And I always play my hardest to win. But as Flamebird it's different. I'm not playing a game any more and its not about wins or losses, its about lives."
This is what they were trying to tell her all along, she thinks. From Superman that first time, to the Titans. Being Flamebird was not a game. And suddenly, she realizes exactly what is at issue here.
"I'm not perfect, but I try to do the right thing. Do I enjoy it when I take some guy down? Yeah, but not because I won in a contest, but because the guy did something wrong and hurt someone. Winning feels good because its doing the right thing."
"And you truly believe that? That doing "the right thing" is what brings the joy and not simply the exercise of power."
"With all my heart." She replies.
He considers the girl for a moment. Clearly she is out of her element. Likely, she is fairly powerless. But she still stands before him.
"I could destroy you in an instant. One glance is all it would take. Or I could choose to spare you, should you not try to interfere with my plans for the Kyrptonian. But you would oppose me, if you knew how, even if it meant your death."
"To save Superman? You bet. I may not be the best heroine, but I am one. I won't let you hurt Superman or anyone else."
Darkseid had encountered bravery before. he has had lesser beings stand against him. But this is something alien. A being without power, facing him with no regard for her death, simply prescribing to a ephemeral moral stance of right and wrong. It is.... He searches for a proper thought. It is.... Admirable.
But before Darkseid can reply, another boom tube opens and Superman accompanied by Orion and other members of the Justice League streams out.
"Let the girl go, Darkseid. Whatever you have planned stops here." Superman tells him.
Darkseid considers the gathered heroes and then looks away, looking at Bette. Considering her and the gathered heroes, he spreads his arms wide.
"Violence will not be necessary, Kryptonian. In this instance, the girl has bested me. You should be proud that she is one of you. Now you may take her and depart. Before my will in this matter changes."
"We are proud." Superman says, smiling at Bette. "Very proud."
Bette joins the heroes and Superman nods to Orion who uses his Mother Box to summon another boom tube. Just as the tube is about to blink out of sight. Bette has to smile.
"So, Superman, do you need a sidekick?"