It was dusk and the battle was over.
There was a moment when it felt like everyone should celebrate, they'd won. Then the reminders of the dead and injured pushed that moment away. So as the military moved in to take control of the situation and the media inevitably followed, Clark's attention turned to finding survivors and helping with the clean up. His enhanced hearing meant he heard all the soft cries and whimpers of those struggling to hang on.
He wasn't alone by any means, all the heroes and military pitched in. He would occasionally fly off to help in other parts of the world, but always returned to what was ground zero of the carnage. He spoke very little other than pointing out where survivors could be found. A few rare smiles were given mostly to Krypto as his dog stayed at his side and dug through the debris. The immediacy of the moment was foremost in his mind. The rest of the world and possible problems would wait until everyone that could be saved, was.
As far as the rest of the world, it was struggling to regain control and deal with what happened. From governments to the common people, they were all wondering what this invasion meant for the future. The idea of aliens had been around for a long time, but the reality of them was truly hitting home of the first time. Hostile, far more advanced species were out there and now they'd come to Earth.
The constant struggle between the past and the future was playing out all over the world. Nostalgia for how things used to be has a powerful hold on all of us. We see it play out all around us everyday. The constant rush towards change makes many pull back and dig in their heels. We embrace parts of it willingly, marveling at the latest app or device yet in so many other areas we resist, whether it's music or politics or social norms.
Imagine for a moment a politician saying he's from one of the state's richest families, went to the best schools in the country and through his families connections landed a plush, high paying job and then parleyed it all into running for office with the help of wealthy friends. He wouldn't win. They'd say he's out of touch with the common man. He has to tell a tale of his simple upbringing and how he struggled to get where he is just like all the rest of us. He pulled himself up by his own bootstraps and made it all on his own. Realty would tell you there is more millionaires and multi-millionaires in government then any other sector of society, yet this narrative has continued. Abe Lincoln grew up in a log cabin and it seems every politician since had taken their cue from him.
The point is this nostalgia for the past is with us everyday. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were plucky individuals that against all odds made it. Gates worked on mainframe computers in high school in the 1960s, while most Americans never even saw a computer until the 1980s. He went to Harvard. Jobs grow up in Silicon Valley during the start of the computer revolution. He attended Reed College, where tuition is in the neighborhood of 56 thousand dollars a year. It's regularly ranks in the top colleges in the country. Both men had huge advantages over 99% of the population, yet the narrative is already set.
So as Clark continued with the rescue and the clean up, the fact of him and the Lanterns as well as the Cathar and Legionnaires posed a conflict between that dynamic of accepting the new and a nostalgia for the past. Governments and the general population informed by the media were used to dealing with aliens one-way. People, especially those in power, but to a larger extent all of us, don't like change. The fact of Clark or Superman as the media had started calling him, made the struggle a reality. His very being meant decisions had to be made.
Arresting him seemed like the fall back position, a return to how things were always done. Clark sensed the military moving in and surrounding him, but he didn't stop what he was doing. He wasn't going to allow them to arrest him, but there were still people trapped in the debris. General Eiling was point man for the military. Communications between Washington and Disneyworld hadn't been restored as both had been attacked during the invasion. The media from around the world had descended on Florida and they were all set up to capture the confrontation. As Clark lifted a massive slab of concrete off a trapped family, he heard the soldiers surrounding him take aim and release their safeties. Eiling raised a megaphone to his lips.
"By the authority of the United States government this area is no under martial law,' He began. "Mr. Kent, you are hereby placed under arrested as an undocumented alien illegally on our soil. Come along peacefully or we will be forced to restrain you by force!"
As he helped the family out of the rubble, Clark turned and looked at the soldiers and Eiling.
"I don't think I'm going to let you arrest me today, General."
"This is your last warning!"
Krypto had moved up to Clark's side and bared his teeth at Eiling. Kori floated over and landed next to him. Next Jonn, Shayera and Zealot moved over to stand at his side.
"Take aim!" Eiling shouted.
Diana stepped in front of Clark and the others.
"Stand down, General,' she said.
"This doesn't concern you, Wonder Woman, stand aside,' Eiling responded.
The stand off seemed like it was going to continue to escalate, as Batman and then the other Justice League members joined Diana to stand in front of Clark.
"This man is under our protection, General," Bruce said. "He was an ally in the battle we just had."
"He's an illegal alien, Batman!" Eiling shouted. "He's not a citizen of any country, including our own! He's not one of us!"
Dave and Judy Riley had been watching all of this unfold along with all the other civilians still in the area. They had watched Clark arrive and pitch in during the battle and then continue to help after it was over. They weren't political or social activists by any stretch of the imagination. Mostly they were like a majority of people, they read a few articles on the Internet about social movements or flashpoint stories from around the country and world but they were just topics for them to discuss with their friends and colleagues to show they kept up with current events. They didn't join marches on the right or the left to try and effect change; they were too busy in their own lives. This felt different, they were actually on the front lines of this and watched it all unfold in front of their eyes. They couldn't just turn the channel or click on a different link.
They looked at each other. Their personal problems seemed less important in the moment. They felt part of this. Looking at each other, they silently nodded to each other and then stepped forward. They took their place in front of Clark and the others. One by one more civilians stepped forward and joined the crowd surrounding Clark. Eiling watched this in disbelief, as did his soldiers. This wasn't the narrative they were used to. Aquaman stepped forward.
"General, as sovereign of Atlantis I extend citizenship to Superman as well as his allies,' Arthur pronounced. "They are now under my protection."
Other messages were coming in from all around the world. Countries, both big and small, where Clark had assisted against the invaders were extending him citizenship. Media reports came in that the United Nations had voted on a proclamation that Superman was a citizen of the world. The United States hadn't vetoed this measure as a permanent member. The tide had turned. While many clung to how things used to be, enough had embraced change and the new. Superman was one of them, those that usually didn't have a voice in the grand scale of history raised their voices.
Communications were finally restored with Washington and The President ordered General Eiling to stand down. Superman would not be arrested. An army chopper appeared over the scene and landed. General Lane stepped out and moved over to General Eiling.
"I'm here to assume command from you, General Eiling."
"I have this situation under control, Lane!" Eiling grumbled.
"Be that as it may, the President put me in charge,' Lane said. "We're not arresting anyone today. Recovery and clean up are the order of the day. We can use all the help we can get, no matter where it comes from."
Lane turned to the soldiers waiting for orders.
"Put your weapons away, soldiers,' Lane ordered. "We have people that need our assistance. That's our priority. Get moving, soldiers!"
Holstering their weapons, the soldiers moved towards the rubble to pitch in.
The sun was coming up and the clean up and recovery were continuing. The last survivors had been rescued, but the dead were still being recovered. Kori had left to check on her friends, but promised she'd see Clark later. As he lifted more rubble out of the way, Clark stopped and looked around. Ordinary people had been coming up to him all through the night, thanking him and welcoming him. After a life in the shadows, it was such a strange experience to be accepted. He wasn't quite sure about the name the public were all calling him, Superman, but as far as names go it wasn't bad.
Batman had come up to him earlier to extend an invitation to join the Justice League. Clark thanked him, but didn't commit to anything. There was a lot he still had to work out if he was going to stay. Batman said the invitation was an open one, so when he decided he should let them know. Clark shook his hand and said thank you.
He was still considering it as Diana walked up to him.
"Mr. Kent,' she said, stopping in front of him.
"Wonder Woman,' he replied.
"My name is Diana."
"Mine's Clark,' he replied.
"Yes, I know, I don't like it Mr. Kent,' she stated.
"Well, my birth parents named me Kal-El,' he offered.
"Kal,' Diana repeated. "Yes, I like that much better."
"So are you staying or leaving again?' She asked.
"I haven't decided yet, but I'm leaning towards staying."
"Good,' Diana replied. "So does that mean you'll want your hat back?"
Clark stopped and looked at her.
"I hadn't really thought about it, but it was my dad's hat,' he admitted. "It did help me hide from you and others, so if you would, yes I'd like it back."
"Just so you know, I'm done chasing after you,' Diana stated.
"Good to know."
"As for the hat, I'll think about it,' Diana said with a small smile.
"So what? Now I'm going to have to chase after you to get it back?"
Diana thought about this for a moment.
"It does have some symmetry to it,' she said, then added with a smirk. "That's if you could actually catch me, which I seriously doubt you could."
"You'd be surprised what I can do,' Clark stated, stepping up to the challenge in her voice.
"That goes both ways, Mr. Kent,' Diana replied with a smile and then turned and took off. "Until next time, Kal."
Clark watched her go and then looked down at Krypto, who barked at him.
"Yeah, she's going to be trouble,' Clark said in agreement. "I guess we have a lot of things to sort out, boy, but let's finish this up before we get started."
(That's where this one ends. I want to thank everyone that read it and a special thanks to everyone that read and reviewed it. I did read and appreciate all of them. Until next time.)