by Starsky Hutch 76
“How could he treat his Granny so?” Granny Goodness moaned. “After all I have done for him over oh so many years?”
“I know,” DeSaad said in a soothing voice. Since his back was facing her, she couldn’t see that he was also rolling his eyes. Her prattling drove him insane, but he knew the value in allowing her to think of him as a confidant.
“Is it right to deprive the child of Granny’s guidance?” she continued. “Who better to help the boy rid himself of his soft tendencies? Surely you’ve seen them?”
“Indeed I have,” DeSaad said, turning to face her.
The look in his eyes and the tone of his voice encouraged her to continue. “If Darkseid continues to make allowances for the boy, who knows what will happen?”
“It’s Suli all over again,” DeSaad said under his breath.
“The next thing you know, there will be gardens growing where the fire pits used to be,” Granny wailed.
“That can never be allowed to happen,” DeSaad said as he started to rummage through the drawers of his lab. “Where did I put that?” he grumbled. At last his hands ran across a corked vial, which he brought out into the light.
“Is that…?” Granny Goodness said nervously. DeSaad’s culpability in Suli’s death had been rumored for years, but no one had ever dared voice their suspicions. Even now, the official story was that she died of natural causes. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Darkseid and Sons,” The New Gods #11 (October-November, 1972).]
“Yes, it is,” DeSaad answered, drawing a gasp from her.
He turned the greenish fluid back and forth in the vial, inspecting its consistency. Even after all these years, it appeared just as potent — completely deadly and completely undetectable.
Assassinating Suli had destroyed his friendship with Darkseid. After that, he had been but another pawn, the same as everyone else, to be manipulated in the great game of chess Darkseid was playing with the universe as the prize. But even without Queen Heggra’s orders, he would have done it. Such an act of apparent betrayal had been necessary to keep Darkseid on track to assume his destiny. At least her command had allowed him to barter for his life once he was discovered.
This, too, would hurt Darkseid and possibly cost DeSaad his life, but it was equally necessary. Serving a higher purpose was never easy. But would the poison even work on the boy? “Perhaps a nice strain of kryptonite would do the trick,” he mused to himself.
Darkseid walked toward the quarters of Prometheus with his jaw set grimly. Pandora’s words ate at him. So the entire court thought he was too soft on the boy, did they? Who were they to judge Darkseid? They wanted to see him be harder? So be it! Then, perhaps, they would learn to mind their own business.
He let out a sigh. The trouble was they had been minding their own business. They had not dared voice their concerns with him lest they face his wrath.
One of the benefits of having such a succubus for a daughter was that she could manipulate others into confiding in her. It allowed him to be privy to information where hidden cameras and listening devices simply could not reach.
Darkseid entered the doorway and grimaced as he found himself surrounded by Christmas décor. Suli had always loved this time of year. That was probably why he now despised it. Overwhelmed, he sank heavily into a nearby chair. His eyes scanned over the colorful decorations, inspiring a feeling of unease.
“Daddy!” Prometheus exclaimed, seeing his father sitting in the chair. The boy ran across the room and flipped into his lap.
A thin smile crossed Darkseid’s face. Considering the terror his name inspired across the galaxy, what would his countless enemies think of what the boy just did? In some ways, the child’s innocence protected him.
“What have you done here?” Darkseid asked, gesturing to the decorations with a nod.
“I decorated for Christmas,” Prometheus said, “so Santa will come.”
“How did you find out about Santa Claus?” Darkseid asked.
“From the books,” Prometheus said, pointing to his activity table.
“Ah, the books,” Darkseid said. He had ordered children’s books to be brought in from Earth, since Apokolips was bereft of any forms of children’s entertainment. He hadn’t considered the fact that they might expose him to earthly ideas — and earthly values. He put an arm around the boy and pulled him to him.
“I hope I get lots of presents,” the boy said. “I’ve been extra-good.”
“I know you have,” Darkseid said grimly.
“I hope he can get in,” Prometheus said. “We don’t have any chimneys on Apokolips. We’ve got lots of smokestacks, though.”
“That we do,” Darkseid said, looking down at the boy. He was so innocent, so pure. It amazed him how much all the bitterness and rage seemed to go away just by spending time with him.
The child’s demeanor reminded him so much of Suli, despite the fact that he looked nothing like her. Her eyes were dark where his were blue, her skin was pale where his was pink, and her hair was black and straight where his was blonde and wavy, especially that blasted unruly spit curl. He reached over with his other hand and tried unsuccessfully to gently brush it back.
That spit curl. No wonder he inspired people, he thought, looking at the boy as if he were seeing him for the first time. Aside from the blond hair, Prometheus more closely resembled his mother’s cousin than her. Darkseid found himself pondering the idea of another Superman one day ruling Apokolips.
Pandora’s words came back to him, that he would have to decide which sort of ruler would be most fitting for their world — Apokolips, the world that had deprived him of Suli. If he had ever cared about this planet, that had died with her, along with his ability to care about anyone or anything. And no one could take from him, or hurt him in that way, ever again. Or so he had thought.
Now, despite all his power, it was happening again. He could not allow such a thing. He would not allow it.
“Daddy, you’re hugging me too hard. You’re crushing me…”
Darkseid looked down at his son. “I… am sorry, my child,” he said, lightening his grip. He looked around once more at the colorful decorations with which the child had decorated the room, and a plan began to form. “Tell me, my son. Have you given Santa your list yet?
“I have finished my list, Daddy,” Prometheus said, walking into Darkseid’s throne room. He was holding a piece of paper rolled into a scroll and tied with a ribbon. They were the only two people in the room.
Darkseid rose from his throne to greet the boy. “Very good, my son,” he said, smiling wistfully. “Now we simply have to deliver it to him.”
“I can’t wait to meet him!” Prometheus said excitedly.
A boom tube opened in the middle of the large room. “He’s not as fat as in the pictures,” Prometheus said, peering at the unsuspecting figure at the other end.
“Well, Earth is going through something of a fitness fad,” Darkseid said. “Now take him your list.”
The boy scampered quickly through the boom tube. In his excitement, he barely noticed as the tube closed behind him.
“How could you?” Darkseid heard a voice boom from behind him. He turned and was startled to see his firstborn, Kalibak, staring at him with accusing eyes. “How could you send him away?!”
“It is for the best,” Darkseid said. “Our love for him made us weak.”
“No, it didn’t!” Kalibak said in a choked voice.
“You overstep yourself. Do not question me. I will not warn you again.”
Kalibak let out an anguished cry. Raising his Beta-Club over his head, he charged forward, much to the shock of his father.
“You dare? You dare?!” Darkseid exclaimed in outrage. Energy crackled from his eyes, and the omega beams shot forth, intercepting Kalibak and vaporizing him mid-charge. He let out a sigh as he stared at the smoking, charred mark upon the floor. He would, of course bring him back shortly. He was, after all, the only thing he had left of Suli.
Darkseid backed up to the dais where his throne sat. Stepping back up the stairs, he slumped heavily into the large stone chair, alone once more.
Prometheus scampered quickly through the boom tube toward the white-bearded figure at the other side. “It’s him! It’s really him!”
Izaya found himself nearly stunned beyond words. Of all the things he would have expected to see coming out of a boom tube at him, a smiling child would be the last.
The boy handed him a scroll, which he unrolled and read. This boy is my son, the message read. Treat him well, and raise him as if he were your own. No trade will be necessary this time. It was signed by Darkseid.
Izaya stared down at the boy. “What is your name, lad?” he asked.
“Prometheus, sir,” the boy said, looking up at him with wide eyes that were as deep and as blue as any ocean. This was a son of Darkseid? There was no trace of anger, hate, resentment, or malice that one might have expected of a son of Apokolips. Even Orion, despite his heroic qualities, had been his father’s son. Clearly the boy favored his mother, whomever she might be.
“Are you really Santa Claus?” the boy asked.
“Santa Claus?” Izaya said, his face breaking into a friendly grin. He knelt down in front of the boy and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Tell me, Prometheus, if I were, what would it be that you want for Christmas most of all?”