The Watchtower, 2038
"Do we have the necessary Hawkmen patrols stationed for the parade?" Superman asked the rest of his fellow Justice Leaguers while floating above the planet he practically controlled half of. North America, Europe, Australia, and various parts of Africa, Asia, and South America had all joined the United States under President Superman. Little did they know how their rights and liberties would be stripped away after the Metropolis Massacre and the administration's rollback on constitutional rights once they designated stopping terrorism at any cost. That last bastion of hope for the world may have died in the rubble of buildings among dead friends but it was birthed 25 years ago in nuclear flame thanks to Brainiac, Queen Bee, and Despero.
"Yes Mr. President, SHADE has pushed out any possible protestors from the capitol with Hawkmen lining the streets and sky to keep the workers safe while they prepare the area for the event." One of the many bureaucratic lackeys said with a slight stutter from just being in Superman's presence. Superman may have been hands-on leader conciliating both Judicial and Legislative power into the Executive branch but even for the man of steel running an entire planet required regional governors and bureaucrats with some even getting the esteemed privilege of watchtower security clearance. Not only were the bean counters there but so was the rest of the league including Superman himself, his wife Wonder Woman, Batman, Martian Manhunter, Hal Jordan, Firestorm, and the newly added Starfire.
"What were the total arrests conducted J'onn?" Superman asked turning his head towards the Martian.
"27, not a high number considering the escalation of protesting in the region, but they were key leaders in the movement their loss will fracture any organizational effort." Martian Manhunter said.
"Still it is better to get their comrades in prison as well to make sure nothing happens, see to it," Superman said with patience in his voice, something he was losing by the day.
"Yes, Mr. President." Martian Manhunter replied as Superman picked up the Helm of Nabu that he had sitting in front of him on the table amongst all the documents he had to look over and sign. Putting on he let out a chant in a language lost to time summoning his mystical confidants who patrolled the magical world making sure it fell in line with his reign, the coven of three. Black Alice, Traci 13, and Zachary Zatara appeared in a flash and bent down on one knee before Superman raised his hand signaling them to rise.
"What do you have for me?" Superman asked them with Zatara immediately responding.
"Destruction of the Endless was spotted in Tibet however they are still under China's dwindling sphere of influence so bar invasion there is nothing we can do there, Vandal Savage has still evaded capture but we were able to interrogate Blue Devil enough to find and destroy one of his secret bunkers, and Zatana is still believing she is Dorothy looking for Toto and Arkham with us unable to undo the spell that made her like that but it would be a simple task for someone with the Helm of Nabu…"
"I'll be sure to have a look at her," Superman interrupted to Zatara's chagrin. "Any change in status on Swamp Thing?" Superman asked
"Ah don't be like that!" A voice said from the doorway leading into the conference room of the Justice League. Leaguers and bureaucrats alike looked over to see to their shock the Hellblazer John Constantine there smoking a cigarette. "His name was Alec loves before he was lobotomized with white kryptonite."
"How did you…" Zatara began to say before Constantine raised his lighter into the air and struck it.
"Cover your tracks better next time you bloody wankers!" Constantine screamed as light as bright as the Sun emerged out of it with screams from the non-powered individuals going blind instantly the only one able to get through it being Batman whose cowl transformed into a face cover blocking out the light. Immediately after Constantine reached into his pocket and flicked a silver coin onto the wall of the Watchtower causing a portal to rip the metal off of it sending all of the bean counters flying into the vacuum of space. Wonder Woman was able to grab Batman and Black Alice mimicking her powers grabbed Zatara but Traci 13 was not as lucky being flung out into space her brain boiling before she could cast a spell to take her to Chicago or any other urban city. Even those who were able to stay in and overcome the light barrage Constantine put upon them were still shaky by the time Hal Jordan willed a wall on the outside of the Watchtower forcing him to stay outside and pour his will into it so his construct wouldn't break from the force of the portal.
"Congratulations, you saved us the trouble of finding you," Batman said standing up as the League along with Black Alice and Zatara stood him down but this was not enough to break the laughing magicians smile.
"You insult me, Bruce, just because we both turned 65 this year doesn't mean I've lost my touch," Constantine said as the room became engulfed in flames as it began pouring in from the portal. Before anyone could even react to the flames seven bodies flashed through the portal and began to engage with the different person present. "Give 'em hell!" John screamed as Batman suddenly tackled John into the wall. Batman may have been 65 but he still had the physical prowess to take out most people.
"This was a mistake, John, we both know you are on the wrong side of history," Batman said as he punched Constantine in the gut causing him to slightly double over. Despite this blow, all Constantine did was laugh as his cigarette fell out of his mouth.
"Of all the people on the League I have to admit you were the one I didn't expect to be cartoonish evil," Constantine said as he blew smoke out of his mouth that he had gained from the puff right before Batman tackled him. Instead of it being a small puff cloud it quickly expanded past what it should be possible to achieve as it enveloped around Batman not only restraining his body in an impossibly solid-gas but suffocating him as well. Amidst the chaos around him, Constantine found the time to spit down upon Batman as the caped crusader collapsed onto the ground. "Batman is a stupid name anyway."
Hal Jordan kept the barrier up outside not able to see what was going on inside the watchtower he was protecting. He knew that whatever Constantine was going to do the League would stop him before he did too much substantial damage. Whatever powers Constantine might have had it paled in comparison to the power the League had. Hal knew this and because of this, he felt no need to move inside and assist them.
This thought and thoughts like it were continually being projected into the Green Lantern's head by a woman who stood behind him in the vacuum of space. While the willpower was a prerequisite to being able to handle the ring he was wearing it didn't mean his brain was immune to any kind of tampering with. A simple and very exploitable weakness that the Enchantress took advantage of as she drained the man's body of the nutrients and vitamins he had taken in so when he eventually did free himself from her mind snare he would be physically equal to a malnourished child. Crooked and broken emotions were the only thing her face was showing as she continued to drain the pray that was in front of her.
The fire around him was weakening Martian Manhunter on their own but the fact that they were enhanced in their vitriolic pain from their origin. It was no simple flame sparked by combustion but instead fueled by the anger and hatred of sinful souls empowering the hellfire spewing out from the demon Etrigan's mouth. As he was attempting to keep his composure in combat, Etrigan continued to slam his meaty fists into the green man's chest sending him backward and backward. Every attempt made to phase through these attacks or burry the demon's mind and bring out Jason Blood to be tortured but all of the flames impaired his abilities overall.
"Your kind is gone burned to a crisp, yet you and your agents continue oppression with your stop and frisk. Time and again the leaders of this world ignore loud cries, all of your deaths will be a true blessing in disguise!" The demon roared as Martian Manhunter grabbed him by the throat and flew outside of the watchtower towards the moon being clawed at the whole way. Once they both crashed down Martian Manhunter had another blow in his back before more flame was sprayed at him with only a miraculous phase letting him go down into the moon avoiding the heat above. Etrigan looked around primed to rip his opponent limb from limb only to have the Martian reappear behind Etrigan placing his hand on the back of his head causing the demon to whisper under his breath transforming back into Jason Blood. That moment Jason's body, even as enhanced as it had become from magic, his body began to expand as his lungs exploded and body drifted off into the distance as the Martian reduced his physical form to that of a goo pile to heal from the damage he took.
Zatara was a coward, this is known amongst anyone who has ever truly met him, but he also had a high survival instinct at all times. Nothing was sacred to him if it would give him a better chance at achieving power, status, or keeping his bodily fluids inside himself he'd take that opportunity in a heartbeat. As his shadows began to fight him, his emotions inside were being twisted to feel a bizarre duel combination of fear that browns pants and mania of an insane asylum patient. His former teammate Raven stood above him as he began to revert into a fetal position in which all of his emotions were pouring out of his ears in a rainbow-colored liquid causing him to enter a seizure like state.
"How did you ever become a Titan?" Raven asked herself as Zatara whispered to himself Ssap tuo causing not Raven but himself to go unconscious as Raven rolled her eyes before cocooning him in cloth like shadows. Raven turned her head seeing the other young magician Black Alice sat down in a catatonic state as the Nightmare Nurse was "healing" her brain from the impure thoughts in Alice's head. Needle and thread went in and out of white and grey matter in essence reprograming Alice to be more obedient towards Constantine for the present and future. The average bystander would consider this to be gross misconduct of magic even against fascist but Raven was in no position to complain, after all, it was Nightmare Nurse's healing that brought Raven into their fold in the first place.
How many years had it been since the Phantom Stranger had determined action was so vital he would dare defy his role as a stranger amongst humanity? Multiple times in the past he would sit idly by as injustice went on whether it was the Presence handing over Raven to her father Trigon or his pure observations of the dark bird released by the Bruneria people with plenty of time to stop the bird and thus prevent the Great Evil Beast from being freed. Why had he chosen this particular moment to break away from his preordained destiny? If you ever are walking amongst the people and spot him and his blue trench coat his answer would simply be, "Because Superman hurt my friends."
Firestorm was not one of the Phantom Strangers friends, he was simply another obstacle in the way of rebuilding peace amongst the world. Despite his nuclear flame blasting the Stranger's chest while Firestorm's other hand was busy attempting to alter the Phantom Stranger on the subatomic level it was unable to work at all in deterring him. The Stranger simply kept moving forward before grasping Firestorm's hands and whispered a universal truth into his ear that bore not only into Jason's mind but into whoever else was inside the collective matrix. A quick thump was all that was left as both personalities were spiraling down into the collective unconscious of humanity at large.
Wonder Woman and Starfire had never actually had any interaction with one another aside from the occasional charity events that were hosted between the Titans and the Justice League. Once Superman became President Starfire was one of his most adamant supporters leaving the team and becoming a part of the super-powered secret service that lasted for a time until the Metropolis Massacre where they were deemed unnecessary with Superman acquiring Nabu's helm and the star heart. Once she joined the League the two of them would train together fiercely perfectly matching their combat styles to sync with one another which come in handy when the two of them find themselves pitted against skilled sorcerers while in a flaming room in space. Wonder Woman was using her indestructible bracelets to redirect lightning coming out of Doctor Occult's fingers while Starfire kept moving backward attempting to evade a deranged Mr. E who was chasing her down with his mouth gaping open.
"I can see the evil inside you Koriand'r I wonder what your parents would think," Mr. E said as he grasped her arms pinning them with unorthodox strength. His mouth was only gapping open larger and larger threatening to swallow her whole. "Don't you want to see what lies down the rollercoaster that is the future? The ride never ends!" Mr. E proclaimed as Starfire used her optical blasts into Mr. E's mouth but they only disappeared into the large black hole. In one quick moment, it all ended as Mr. E's body split in two from Wonder Woman's sword causing his head to break apart vertically as both sides of him were burned down from the red lantern breath being spewed at him. With Mr. E dead and Doctor Occult's head bashed into the floor of the watchtower, the two former heroines rushed into the meeting room only to find it empty yet still on fire.
"Got a light? I dropped my lighter back when you tried teleporting us to the core of the Sun." Constantine asked as Superman stared him down. Heat vision quickly rained down upon Constantine but it was to no avail as multiple wards were protecting him from forces stronger and hotter than Superman's heat vision could reach. Suddenly the cigarette in John's mouth lit up as he let just a minuscule amount of the heat past the wards. "Cheers mate," Constantine said as he took a puff from his cigarette as Superman raised his hand out forming a green and yellow orb which shot at Constantine faster than even his heat vision was able to travel.
"Pathetic wizard," Superman said as Constantine instinctively grabbed it with both of his hands. Even though Superman was by no means trained in the art of sorcery having two of the most powerful mystical objects made any attack from him deadly and complex. The laughing magician couldn't simply just send it away or turn it into butterflies he had to alter it on every level imaginable. Change its color, its sound, its smell, its concept, anything one could think of he had to in an instant just to transform an energy ball that would have turned Constantine inside out into that of a simple matchbox.
"Not too bad boy scout," Constantine said as he wiped the sweat off of his brow. "Not bad at all." He continued as he took a match out of one of the many pockets his trench coat had and lit it.
"What are you playing at?" Superman asked as he almost instantly appeared in front of Constantine and jabbed him in the gut sending him flying back. This didn't knock him off his feet, however, as Constantine simply coughed up some blood while smiling.
"Magic eh?" Constantine responded only for dozens of Vanguards to appear around them hardly making a sound. Despite being hardened brutes who don't biologically understand the concept of retreating they were still able to be stealthy when need be.
"There is nowhere left to hide, your reign of terror ends today." Superman proclaimed as the Vanguards were eagerly holding their maces in hand. One wrong move and the entire lot of them would come down and end him.
"Doubt it Luv, see I've made deals with the devil and all kinds of demons…" Constantine started.
"And you thought you would make a deal with me?" Superman asked as some of the Vanguard chuckled.
"One no, two can these bird brains act any more stereotypically Stormtrooper like, three what I'm referring to is simply the fact that I love working with people who hate people I hate," Constantine said before whistling to a tune taught only to a handful of people who have traveled throughout the God Sphere. At first, nothing happened but a low rumble was quickly followed by multiple booms as parademons poured out from the sky in the hundreds rushing down towards the Vanguards and Superman. While the soldiers were being overwhelmed Superman simply willed the parademons that touched him to burn as he refocused on Constantine. "You ever made a deal with the man the devil prays to?" Constantine asked as Superman grabbed him by the throat and flew him into the sky.
"I don't care if you have Darkseid on your side, I'm going to end your pathetic little comebacks now," Superman said as Constantine simply smirked.
"An interesting plan, unfortunately for you it's not going to work," Constantine said as Superman tightened his grip around his neck which had a mystical shield struggling to keep his head from popping like a balloon. "You ever hear of the old magicians trick, misdirection?" Constantine asked as Superman looked around frantically using Nabu's helm and his super senses to detect if anything was coming towards him.
"How did you…" Superman slowly said as he realized what was happening and let go of Constantine's neck who simply uttered Ylf and was floating in mid-air.
"That matchbox you helped me create? Nothing special about it aside from the fact its strip was slightly imbued with mystical particles which helped me light that bloody match I've been keeping on hand since the mid-'90s. See you're not the first person to go crazy and try to play god that I've known, hell my career is essentially stopping people like that but this particular time was against my now lobotomized friend Alec Holand. So I thought to myself, what should I do with my last wish-granting match from the parliament of flames? It was simple to answer make you feel the wrath of judgment for all the crimes you did." Constantine said as the figure Superman had hoped to never encounter finally appeared before him. Pale as a ghost and sporting his iconic green cloak the Spectre floated down to meet Superman towering in size over both him and Constantine.
"Kal-El of Krypton, you're actions have led to an imbalance in the natural order and the avoidable death and suffering of people you claim to protect. For this, you must pay a price worse than death." The Spectre bellowed as he shrunk down to human size and grabbed Superman by the throat and with that one movement what was once the most powerful man on Earth went unconscious and fell back down to the slaughter that was parademons killing Vanguards. Constantine quickly cast a spell to not kill the tyrant outright and just allow him to peacefully land where he was regaining consciousness as soon as he landed. Leaning up Clark Kent suddenly found himself in a world of black unable to see, hear, smell, taste, or feel anything screaming into an abyss that was not looking back. With that, the world had been liberated without anyone even knowing it.
"Jesus Christ…" Javier said standing up from his chair and looking at the moon above him before returning his attention to the Hellblazer. "If you did all that how did we end up with the world we have today?" Javier asked. John simply looked down at his hands before looking back up to his nephew.
"I'm bound from using my magic but a mystical oath still compels me to keep it a secret, I'm sorry but I can't tell you that today," Constantine said as Javier sat back down in his seat.
"I understand, I guess, but I won't accept that excuse next leap year," Javier joked as he pulled out a matchbox and put it in front of Constantine. "If I knew a magic matchbox would have saved the world I'd start selling them to the rebels by know and be a billionaire." Javier chuckled as John picked up the matchbox and dug into his pant pocket pulling out a little stump that was mostly ash. At first, Javier didn't understand until it clicked for him.
"Never thought I'd be able to do it this soon, honestly I assumed it would have to wait until I could find a way to tell you how Superman came back but saving the world won't have time to wait," John said as he somehow lit the burnt remains of the match stick on the box.
"What are you…" Javier started before John's expression turned from one of relief to one of frustration.
"Oh bollocks if that's what it takes…" John said as the flame from the match engulfed him and sent Javier flying back into the wall. Even as quickly as he got up he was unable to get back to Constantine in time to aid him. Javier looked at his uncle who looked back at his nephew and started laughing before the flames burned everything that was John Constantine away. Walking up to the pile of ash Javier simply wondered what wish his uncle made that required using him as fuel for the fire. Changing his appearance to that of a Hawkman with his meta-vest, Javier rushed out of there not wanting to be seen by anyone who caught glimpse of the mystical flame that was just lit there. Only a privileged few would ever discover what John wished for, Javier not being one of them, but those that did understood how the simple act of weakening the barrier between the God Sphere and Earth would lead to hope to return to the planet that John Constantine had fought for more times than he could count.