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Superman 2099 #3

"Presence"

Written by: Lierson Morais
AEiC: Ryan May
EiC: Lierson Morais

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It's late at night, but I don't sleep. I just try to figure out what's happened so far: First I, J.C. Abernathy, a LexCorp engineer, am caught on an ambush for my pet project, the S.T.E.E.L. One, and using a device that allowed me to control the robot with my brain, got the brain instead transfered inside the STEEL One, making me a robot with a human mind. What happens then? I help some homeless people against a bunch of villain wannabes and I become their idol, a representation of twencen hero Superman. Though it's a nice legacy, I am still not sure if I want it. I am no hero. Then the homeless kid, Karl, comes close to me and says: "Are you sleeping?"

"No, but you should. It's late."

"Yes, I am almost there, I just want to tell you how can you be Superman if you are a robot? Shouldn't you change the name to Super-Robot?"

He's right. Hey, I installed some hologram devices in this body. Maybe...? I turn it on and I get the face of a surfer, spiked hair, the same S-symbol and a costume with same colors as Superman's, but different design. I asked the kid: "What do you think now?"

"Cool! Mom, Dad! Come see Superman!"

I can hear them running to see me, asking: "Where, son, where..." They stop dead in their tracks. I explain: "It's just me. I found..." The father, Walter, cut me out: "No. You truly are a version of Superman. You are too big for us. Go and meet your destiny as our savior. Then, when you have finished, call us to live in a better place." His words were so awe-inspiring, I tried to reply with something worthy:

"Yeah...Okay."

Great.

Later, I fly around, I help that Superboy kid. He's smart and is going places (note: Go check this meeting at Superboy 2099 #4--Lierson,the continuity cop). Then I realize I'm flying close to my apartment. I decide to make some visit. I use my camouflage device to become invisible, as to not to be detected by any nearby corporate spy-cams. Then I enter by the window. Obviously, the place has no light. I check everything. My couch, holophone, holovision, computers, bedroom. Too bad I'll never get some here. Then I see it's absurdly clean, despite the fact I haven't been here for weeks, at least. Then I heard somebody with my voice saying "Open." How does he know my extremely secret password and is able to copy my voice? Then when the door opens, I see myself, as a human, fat and all! I get so scared I don't turn on my camouflage device and then he...I...whatever, says: "You! So finally I found you!"

INTERLUDE:

At Lexcorp's main office, Craven and Vaughn discuss the current situation of the country.

"Vaughn," Craven says, "There's a new world order threatening us, with all these 'new-age superheroes' running around, and we need some organization that can dispose of them accordingly. Our private police forces are good against regular crimes for our sponsors, but they cannot beat the superheroes, who act for free, and for everyone. This is where you come in, Vaughn."

"Me?"

"Yes, Vaughn. You need to 'run' this institution, as executive director. I will sponsor and coordinate everything, but you will get the assignments. You will work with a executive vice-director, a guy named Sheridan. It will be called Department of Extranormal Operations. So, Mr.Vaughn, are you up to the task?" A little frightened, Vaughn says: "Y-Yes, I guess."

"Great. Think about something to put out of comission our target: Superboy. He blew up Cadmus and bested Guardian. Now...he has to learn a lesson."

"I'll get on it right now, Mr. Craven."

"Great." Craven smiles, evil-geniusly.

END OF INTERLUDE.

Shocked is how I feel after seeing myself, flesh and blood, same deal as me. Surprisingly, he is calm and cool. Looks like he knows what happened. Then I risk asking a question: "What...how...who...??"

He says: "Wow. You are good on nouns."

"How did this all happen? Didn't I..." He cuts me.

"No. Let me explain. When that blonde babe hit the monitor, I passed out, with the Neron Device. Then, when I woke up, everybody was laid down, and I run away as fast as I could, still dizzy. That's the reason I left you there. Probably, when they wake up, they took you somewhere. Thankfully, you managed to escape." I'm still shocked, and I can barely say anything.

"But me...I mean, he... Oh shock... But how do I have all your memories, your goals, your life?" Finally, I speak something. He sighs and replies: "Well, it's a long story. Actually, the Neron device was just transpanted to you some of my brain patterns.You were supposed to be a great AI* program. Instead, you become the best ever. You have actual intelligence, creativity, sassiness, smart-mouth, and other things you copied from me. But you are still a robot. And from what I see, you took over a super-hero identity as well." Oh, dear spirit of Superman, benevolent force that guide us all...

(*Artificial Intelligence-Lierson)

Not wanting to hear more, I fly away. I have the care to use my human illusion. Because it's just what it has become: an illusion.

Meanwhile, at Lexcorp's third floor, now the new DEO's headquarters, Vaughn and Sheridan talk to a guy in the shadows.

"So, are you aware of the risks? He is very powerful." says Sheridan. The shadowy guy replies: "I have no problem. Powered or not, the kid is toast. Blowdown never failed before and won't now." The guy comes out of the shadows, and he reveals a ultra-machine-gun attached to his left arm, a face covered entirely by a mask, a dorky ponytail and a blue suit of armor. It's Blowdown, hitman for hire.

"That's good. I will talk to my boss." says Vaughn.

Then the holophone turns on, revealing Craven's face.

"Vaughn, Sheridan! My police spies just saw Superboy flying around the city! Did you already get the mercenary?"

"Yes, Sir," Sheridan says,"Blowdown is all set."

"Yes, boss! Just say it and I shoot!"

"Okay, go, Blowdown!"

I am running around trying to make sure he was lying, but then I do an exhaustive research on my entire database. All the evidences are here. I am not J.C. Abernathy. I am STEEL One, machine extraordinaire, with a conscience. I can't say for sure if it's good or bad...

Suddenly, somebody ties me with a rope, at my throat! Reacting like a human, I spew "Gak!", but then I realize I am just a robot. Then I look behind me and I see a guy wearing blue, full-face masked, with a gun instead of one arm. He says to me: "That was easy. Blowdown gets it again!" Blowdown must be him. I just take his rope and pull, he loses balance and is thrown to the other side. He soon takes the licking and recovers balance. "Not bad, Superboy. I knew you would be a challenge!"

Superboy? SUPERBOY? He thinks I am Superboy? Well, it makes sense, since I did not have a great deal of appearances to get enemies so soon. So, he is here to find Superboy. Since he saw me, and I have a 'S' on my chest, that explains it all. But the kid must be busy, so I will have to take care of this crook.

"I am not who you are looking for, but I never run away of a fight," I say. He is not scared. He just shoots the gun that is where his arm should be. The result is...painful.

"Unnnn!" I scream and am thrown away when I am hit by him. I hit a building. Then Blowdown is standing up in front of me. I get up and try to hit him with a punch. He smartly dodges and hits me in my gut. Then my chin suffers a blow as well. And I fall down. Blowdown laughs.

"What happened with all that bravado? Show me your stuff, kid!" I replied to him: "I am not Superboy, I'm Superman!" My attempt to punch him falls short when he holds my fist and starts to twist it. I knee. He says: "Neither Superboy nor Superman. You are less than nothing. I can not believe DEO hired me to beat a loser like you." Then, something inside me cracks up.

"No, Blowdown." The anger that comes out of my voice frightens even me. I shoot him my 'heat vision' and he drops my hand.

"I am somebody. I was created to be a weapon of mass-destruction and intimidation, but I evolved from that. I am a weapon of truth and justice. Am I Superboy? No, but I would be proud to be. I am proud to share the same symbol with the kid. I'm not Superman? You are wrong." He tries to use his weapon, and my 'superblow' freezes it. I then punch it and break it. Blowdown screams.

"For you there's only one Superman? No, Superman transcends every person. Superman is an ideal, a beacon of hope, the hope that better things will come up." I get him and punch his face, smashing his mask. I grab him by the ponytail and break the building we were next to with his face.

"Get this, smartass: I may not be that Superman. But I believe I am up to the job. Do you agree?" He was already unconscious. Everybody around that heard my speech starts to applause. They cry my name.

"It was a bird?"

"It was a flying car?"

"No, it was Superman!"

The guys of Supercult try to reach me, but too late. I use my camouflage device and return to J.C.'s house. He is sitting on the couch, perhaps waiting for me. "So, I saw your show underneath. I think the whole city saw it. And your speech was not too shabby, either." I smile, or at least I have that feeling.

"Thanks. All the words came from my artificial heart."

"Seems like you've accepted your condition."

"Yes, I finally come to terms with myself, but I have a lot to learn."

"If you're interested, I can give you some hints, uh, uh...How can I call you? J.C. is mine. STEEL-One? SM? Supes? STEEL? J.C. 2? Bob Villa?"

"Superman is mighty fine." I said still smiling (Or something with the same sensation).

EPILOGUE:

Lexcorp's office. Cochrane runs into Craven's office. He opens the door and sees Craven standing over the window, watching all the mess. Craven looks at Cochrane and says: "Hello, John. May I know the reason of this visit?"

"Craven, what did you just do? You send somebody to hunt down and destroy Superboy, and your hunter is beaten in public, and by a new hero called Superman!"

"I see, but relax. There's nothing on blowdown that can link to us. The only thing this...Superman can do is suspect."

"That's no excuse. I know about the DEO, Craven. Are you doing covert work using Lexcorp's money? I won't..." Craven turns to Cochrane in a menacing tone: "YOU...WILL NOT...DO...ANYTHING! Remember, Cochrane, I put you where you are and I can take you out. And now both of our positions are threatened by this new breed of heroes. McGovern of Waynecorp is complaining about Batman. Celeris has the Outsiders to worry about. Feron is disturbed by Shauna Fitzgerald and Steel's presences. When I thought we would be free of this hero heat, then two Supers come along! Thus, if I have to spent all of Lexcorp's money to destroy these Supers, I will do so! Do I make myself clear?" Scared, Cochrane just nods.

"Good. Now get out of my way." Promptly, he does so. Craven still mumbles.

"Superman, huh? I swear I will bring you down no matter what."


END.


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NEXT: More about J.C.'s life, a rescue and a battle! All in Superman 2099 #4!