Kal-El’s head was groggy. He was barely aware of his surroundings, and he felt that familiar pain that sent terror shocking through his body, jolting him awake. Kryptonite.
In the dark cave, with a subtle green glow stinging his eyes, Kal-El felt further from himself than ever. He had none of his strengths. Now, he was only Clark Kent.
He could feel it was close. Too close. The smell of it, whether real or imagined, began as a dull headache at the base of his neck, coiling like tentacles through his head and pulsating on his right temple with such ferocity that he lost his breath with each throb.
This wasn’t the plan.
Clark Kent grew sicker every day of reading about the butchers in the Middle East who would make a spectacle out of murder. He was used to otherworldly invaders coming to ruin his small ball of peace in this corner of the universe. He was ready to defend against them. But these men and women were different. They killed knowing full well how precious human life was. And Clark Kent wasn’t going to sit by a let that happen, not while Superman, his truer self, was able to do something.
His plan was simple. With a billionaire friend, he was able to pull the strings to get Clark Kent credentials into an ISIS-haunted region. Bruce fought him as much as he could, but Clark’s will was far stronger. It had been steeled too much to resolve this crisis.
Clark Kent, driving alone to minimize casualties, was captured less than a day after his arrival in Iraq. He waited patiently to spring his plan and bring the marauders to justice. He fed off the sunlight they marched him through, only to lose all of his reserves in seconds when exposed to that green pain that weakened a man strong enough to change the rotation of the Earth. He was helpless.
As the pain ebbed enough for his thoughts to return, he knew something didn’t fit. The outfit was in a cave with more sophisticated technology than Clark had seen in Wayne’s secret Batcave. Somehow, a group of people using improvised weapons and explosives, had secure Internet and an alien substance that affected only one person on Earth: Superman. He heard talking in the distance and strained to listen. Three soldiers walked up to him and held him off the ground. He hadn’t realized he was slumped on the floor until they heaved him into a chair.
Soft footsteps walked towards the chair. He looked in the darkness as a figure came towards the light surrounding him.
“Hello, Mr. Kent.” Clark’s jaw dropped.” Or Mr. Superman? I am poor with formalities in situations like this.” The man’s bare forehead creased as he smiled.
“How?” Clark asked Lex Luthor with a labored breath.
“I took my enterprise International. Would you like to do an interview?” He smirked and the third guard who wasn’t supporting Clark brought a chair. “My name is Lex Luthor, and I am the face of terror, Mr. Kent.” He nodded, and the glowing green of the Kryptonite grew in intensity. Clark lost consciousness as fear overwhelmed him.
Bruce Wayne’s hair was tussled in a frenzy as he pulled at his scalp. Alfred Pennyworth and Dick Grayson knew this to be his frustrated mannerism. Alfred met Dick’s eyes, and an unspoken battle began over who to pacify him. Bruce’s eyes were mad with rage.
“This isn’t like him.” Bruce broke the tension in the dank Batcave.
“You have to relax, Bruce. He’s more than capable of handling himself.” Dick smirked. “He’s even capable of handling you.”
“It’s not funny.” Bruce cut him off. His dark eyes studied the digitized map where the transponder had stopped. He typed a few commands into the computer, and all the recorded patrol routes were transposed on the map. “See, he was right in their paths. He should have found where they were and reported back by now. This isn’t like him.”
“Master Wayne, you are worrying yourself into a frenzy.” Alfred chimed in, barely looking up from dossiers on his computer that Bruce and Clark had created before launching their attack. “These men are amateurs, and Master Kent is a super being. He can improvise.”
“Maybe, but I can’t know for sure.” Bruce unclenched his jaw. His back and legs were aching from sitting in the chair for so long. He was used to being out in the battlefield and moving. This may have been the longest period he had sat in years. He stood up.
“How long would it take us to get to him?”
“About 22 hours using commercial airlines.”
“When have we ever used commercial?” Dick butted in. Bruce nodded towards him in agreement.
“You could get there by dusk.” Alfred shook his head. “You know, most people in your position try to avoid going to Iraq.””
“I’m doing my civic duty, Alfred.” He turned to Dick who was slouched in a chair with his legs up. He had a book draped across his stomach. He hated what he was about to say. He paused not relishing in the impact of his words.
“You cannot be serious.” Dick responded without him saying a word. “You’re going to get caught like Clark.”
“Then, I’ll need someone to get us both out of there.” Bruce said with finality, but he knew Dick wasn’t going to let him slide.
“This is the same argument you had with Clark, and now, where is he? I’m going with you.”
“You will.” Bruce agreed. “But, you will be at a remote location. We minimize risk that way.”
As Dick began to rear back with a retort, static exploded from the speaker system in the Batcave. Both men turned to Alfred who couldn’t hide his pride. They heard voices speaking Arabic with poor English peppered in.
“Caves are notoriously bad at being sound proof.” Alfred adjusted the levels, and the audio became clear enough to make out a voice in unaccented English.
“Keep the hostage close to the mineral. Do you understand me?” Lex Luthor spoke with authority.
“Yes. We will.” The tri-syllabic retort was thick with the Middle Eastern accent.
“He will have back up. Be ready for anything. If you any near us, shoot to kill. We need just a bit more time.”
“Luthor?” Bruce’s voice echoed inside the Batcave. “This is making me queasy.”
“The aircraft will be departing in 30 minutes, Master Wayne. ETA is five hours.”
“Five hours?” Dick burst. “How is that possible?”
“The trajectory will take you a bit higher than usual.” Alfred met Dick’s eyes. “Surely, you’ve always wanted to go into orbit, Master Grayson.”
“I hope Clark can survive.” Bruce wasn’t paying much attention to anyone. “Come on, Dick. Get your suit. You may not get the rest after all.” Bruce grabbed a heavy bag holding the Bat-suit.
“I wasn’t going to sit it out anyway.” Dick added joining Bruce’s trot out of the Batcave with his own bag. Alfred sighed as a sense of unease seized him about the situation.