The nuclear explosion lit up the heavens like the grand finale of the 4th of July. John Connor squinted his eyes and saw the fireball expanding, the shockwave bursting all the surrounding clouds. Nobody spoke as they waited for the heat to reach them. Waited for the blast wave to reduce them to ashes. But other than a gust of hot, dry air that caused the various soldiers and heroes to cover their eyes, nothing happened.
Superman had saved them all. Connor fought back tears and shock as he rasped “We’ll... we’ll have to move quickly if we want to avoid the fallout. Wayne, Diana. Let’s keep moving.” As they filed away, still at a loss for words, Bruce kept looking up at the fading aftermath of Superman’s sacrifice. Clark... there had to be another way. It didn’t have to end like this.
But almost as if answering him, a small dark shape caught his attention. Peering at it through his binoculars, he saw the shape soaring towards the east.
Clark, did you see the recent nuclear test by Pokolistan?
Yeah, Lois? What about it?
I don’t know. If it weren’t for what those things do, all the destruction they cause... I’d think they were beautiful. Just the sight of something so powerful, so awe-inspiring. Reminds me of a certain someone.
Clark opened his eyes. Where... The bomb. Joker! Sitting up, he found himself on a riverbank. His suit was in tatters, the circuitry fried and his cape nearly gone. Looking around him Clark stood up shakily, trying to find his bearings. Before he had blacked out the last thing Clark remembered was fighting Joker with a kryptonite dagger lodged in his hand. The Joker had lost all of his composure, and the explosion had elicited nothing but laughter from him. It seemed fitting that in the face of death Joker just found it amusing.
Clark turned to his hand, and saw the wound just finishing the healing process. But after closing, it left behind a scar. Of course this is the second or third nuclear explosion I’ve lived through. Between that and the kryptonite, I may never have my full power ever again. Closing his fist and looking down. Maybe it was for the best. With all the death and destruction he had seen, maybe it was time for...
“Clark!” Turning around sharply he saw Bruce. Walking over to him it slowly dawned on Clark that he might have succeeded. “Bruce, is everyone all ri-” KRAK. His head turned sharply as Bruce punched him in the face, but it was clear that it hurt his old friend more than it hurt him. Bruce swore under his breath and clutched his hand in pain. “You idiot. You had us all scared... Everybody thinks your dead.”
Clark chuckled awkwardly. “You? Scared?” But his smile faded as he saw Bruce with a look of pain on his face, and not just from his hand. “Do you have any idea what your survival meant to all of us? I don’t know about you, but none of us are ready for another funeral Clark.”
For a moment they were both silent, Clark shocked at Bruce Wayne of all people nearly breaking down. Suddenly, for the first time in a long time Clark saw just how tired Bruce looked. And in turn how exhausted he felt. “Maybe... you were right the first time. Maybe Superman did die up there.” The look of frustration disappeared from Bruce’s face completely. “What?” Clark gestured at everything around them. “Look around us, Bruce. Sure, I saved the day. I stopped Joker from killing you and the rest, but I can’t solve all of this. Not as Superman.
I’ll do what I can to help Connor rebuild what we’ve lost... but as Clark Kent. I’m tired of fighting, Bruce...”
Bruce stared at him. But after a moment he sat down, Clark joining him. “I don't blame you, Clark. I doubt you’re alone in feeling that way. But before we get to sentimental, didn’t you stop to think about who dropped you here?” Clark frowned. “I don’t quite follow.” Bruce pointed west, “Some sort of plane carried you from the battle to here. I don’t have clue who was flying it, but look nearby and I think you might see something familiar.” Clark peered around and sure enough he saw a collapsed metal sign. A sign he passed every day of his childhood.
WELCOME TO SMALLVILLE!
“This is John Connor. We’ve been fighting a long time, but it gives me pride to say this to all of you; the war is over. In spite of everything Skynet threw at us, all the horrors we’ve faced, and all of the losses we’ve suffered, we won. And now that humanity is saved, we can finally start again.”
Dick Grayson and Kori’andr stood together on the edge of a balcony, holding each other as they watched the sunrise.
“This world is broken. But in time, we will fix it together.”
Victor Stone proceeded to work with the other engineers on blueprints for a contained garden. The first of it’s kind in years, with many others to follow. Nearby, a newly forged plaque read IN MEMORY OF THE TITANS
“For the sake of all of those who sacrificed themselves, we must carry on what they fought and died for; creating a better world for ourselves and those who follow.”
Damian and Barbara smiled at the people returning to settle down in New Gotham. A Gotham that would be at peace. A block away, Bruce Wayne set down a flower at the ground in a lonely alleyway. “I love you Mom. I love you Dad.” And with tears rolling down his face, he smiled.
“This wasn’t achieved by one soldier, one hero, but by all of us. We are all heroes, having stood together and saved the world yet again.”
Oliver Queen, Dinah Lance, and Mari McCabe pulled up the hologram of the crashed Watchtower. It wasn’t in the best shape, but it was better than nothing. The world still needed heroes to help it along, and they would be there. Always.
“Know that as you move forward into this new day, you are never alone.”
Diana set her armor and weapons down at the temple of Athena, finally having achieved her mission of bringing peace to man’s world. Standing up and looking around at the ruins of Themyscira one last time, Diana then flew back to the former Resistance headquarters. Mankind’s work was only beginning, and she would always be there to help them.
“We have all been given a second chance to correct the mistakes of the past and provide a better future.”
Lex Luthor beamed as the rebuilt Fortress of Solitude reflected the Northern Lights above them. Having mastered the technology inside, he would share it with the rest of the world, as he should have done years before. Luthor had finally become the hero he had always aspired to be. And as he stood there he realized the truth: This is how Superman felt every single day. It was time to live up to his example.
“There will always be hope for humanity. Past, present, or future we will find a way. We always have, and we always will.”
Clark Kent wandered around the ramshackle farm buildings where the Kent farm used to be. This hadn’t been here when he had last visited. Wondering who had found the time to build them, he opened the door to behold a small group of men, women, and children sitting down for breakfast together. But he only had eyes for the one woman sitting at the other end of the table, smiling as if she had been waiting for him.
“This is John Connor. There is no fate but what we make.”