Behind Clark, the Sword of Rao members are fighting Jax-Ur and his remaining underling. Fighter jets circle the area, keeping their distance and letting the Kryptonians on Earth's side do their thing.
Below him, Faora sets down the extinguished C-17 and prepares to join the fight.
In front of him, his vision of using Earth to rebuild Krypton shattered, his hope of purifying the bloodlines and getting rid of the defunct Houses ruined, and the reminder of his betrayal to his oldest friend staring him in the face, Zod snaps and rushes at him.
It all happens in a fraction of a second, but he leaps and Clark uncrosses his arms, raises them, and then brings his double-fist down on to the back of Zod's head. Zod falls to the ground, tumbling over, and Faora leaps up into the air. He catches sight of her as he falls head over heels, and he smiles. There's a 'boom' when she punches him and, as he spins crazily from the attack, as he falls the rest of the way to the ground, there is a sadness in his eyes.
The impact of his landing creates a deep crater within a larger one, and the debris falls onto him and covers him. Thick beams of heat hit him and the metal and other materials melt around him, sealing him in place.
Faora flies up to Kal as he hovers there, pain in his eyes as he looks out over the destruction. He looks down as the members of the Sword of Rao seal their former leader. 'It's time, Kal,' she says. 'We'll prepare the engine.' He nods and says that he'll bring the rocket.
At the edge of the destruction site, a small crowd is gathering – among them are Jimmy, Perry, and Lois. Lois tries to get his attention: 'Superman! Is it over?' He shakes his head and says that it will be soon. Helicopters begin to venture in overhead, the calm calling to them.
'Maybe you don't have to send them back. You've stopped Zod, they helped us, so maybe..?'
'Maybe.' He holds out a hand as Lois tries to come forward. 'It's best to stay back for now, Ms Lane.' He smiles, 'let's get this wrapped up and then maybe we can talk.'
He smiles and walks to the C-17.
Clark comes out of the C-17 holding his rocket aloft and Dev-Em floats down from the Black Zero and smiles, dusting his hands. 'We got your delivery.'
'Sorry about the 'packaging'.'
'Don't be. It makes them easier to handle. Do you need a hand?'
'No, I've got this.'
'Okay, I'll go get the other 'package'.'
Clark flies up to the Black Zero where some of the others are waiting for him and Jimmy shows Perry the shot of Clark holding up the rocket
'The Phantom Drive is online, so now it's your turn,' says Faora. A hum fills the air as energies from the two drives seem to call to each other. Clark steps forward and the humming increases. The head of the rocket turns and blue-white energy ripples over it. Just beyond the engine's shielding a small portal opens. The rocket rises out of Clark's hands and begins to move back, and the portal follows, getting bigger and bigger.
There is an explosion as Dev-Em crashes through the hull of the Black Zero and into the engine. The portal sparks and shrinks and then expands violently, creating a vortex that starts to pull the ship inside out.
The large mound of earth containing Nam-Ek and two other Kryptonians gets pulled into the vortex and Clark and Faora find themselves getting drawn in, too. They grab onto the floor of the room and dig their fingers in. Faora's don't give her the same purchase as Clark's and she slides along the floor, scratching into it. She pulls out her blade and stabs it into the floor. Blue-white energy ripples over the Kryptonians and their faces and bodies seem to bleed, like some kind of flesh-based chromatography, and they all, including Clark, writhe and squirm in pain. The metals of the ship 'protest' against what is happening but above the deafening sound of tearing metal and screaming winds, the enhanced hearing of the Kryptonians picks up the screams from the ground below.
Zod pulls at the restricting metal containing him and glares at the people around him. 'Insects! Nothing but insects!' He has one hand free and he turns his restrained shoulder and the ground heaves. The humans scream and shout and scramble for safety. 'I will make you all suffer!' He tugs and grunts, 'One,' and again, 'by', and finally, 'one!' The ground heaves again and then the tonnes of metal he had been bound in shatters, with shrapnel and large chunks being flung all over the place. There is a blur as something rushes in and shields the people from the shrapnel.
'He's removing his armour!' shouts Nadira, coming to a stop.
Clark pushes himself up and slams his foot into the floor, embedding it for a moment. One of Jax-Ur's former technicians pulls himself over to a console and presses something and the effects of the portal relax a little.
'Sir! We can hold the portal open for a while and give you the time you need, but-'
'Go, Kal! Go!' urges Faora, and he's gone.
Clark dashes at Zod as he tries to peel his armour off. He grabs him and soars up into the air. Zod thrashes and pounds on his back, each punch eliciting a boom, but Clark grits his teeth and keeps flying. They arc in sky and Zod twists and kicks, and then punches Clark in the face with his armoured fists, and Clark ignores the scratches and welts. He looks away for a moment back down at the Earth – his head snapping back a couple of times from Zod's repeated punches – and then pulls to the side and streaks down. Zod's armour lights up and his visor fritzs and warns him that it is no longer stable. His shouts going unheard, Zod then grabs at Clarks face and tries to claw at his eyes.
There is a massive explosion and the sky fills with rock and dust and minerals.
Clark, painfully, pulls himself out of the huge hole in the ground. He's covered in a reddish-orange dust. He looks up at the sky and frowns a little at the sun sitting low in the sky. There's the sound of large rocks being tossed aside and Clark turns to face Zod.
'Your mother believed you were beyond my reach. I swore to her that I would find you. I told her that believing you to be safe from me was foolish.' Zod rises from his knees, glaring at Clark, and he, too, is covered in a reddish-orange dust.
We see Zod through Clark's eyes as he scans the electromagnetic spectrum and stops at a particular frequency. Zod looks like he is made of liquid gold. His vision adjusts again as he filters things around him back to 'normal' but maintains the frequency he searched out on Zod.
Pieces of Zod's armour fall off but he flexes his covered fingers and grips at his gauntlets. He peels off the sparking visor and then his chest plate and tosses them to the ground.
'You are an abomination,' he says, stalking forward. 'You should not even exist. I will do what should have been done decades ago.'
Zod barrels into Clark, his onboard systems warning him of the effects of the impact, and the armour on his back falls off. His tackle sends them both tumbling over and over like bouncing wrecking balls unleashed, and the canyon shudders and rocks fall and the air begins to fill with dust.
They wrestle, hand in hand, their feet digging into the rocky ground and creating grooves and cracks. 'You took away my people!' Zod headbutts him and then drives his knee into Clark's chest, the shockwave pushing the dust around them away. 'You stole my soldiers.' He punches Clark's thigh and Clark falls to his other knee. 'You destroyed any hope of Krypton being reborn!' Zod twists and throws Clark into the ground and then kicks him. Clark skips across the ground like stone skipping the surface of a lake and then flips himself upright. He dashes towards Zod, stopping just short of the General's reach.
He circles the General, wary and looking for an opening. 'Not only did you want to commit genocide, you wanted to kill and 'cleanse' your own people! You're not a god.'
'No, but I am what I was made to be. This is the sole purpose for which I was born. I warned you before, I will do anything for the greater good - for the purity of my people!' He lunges at him with his gauntlet blade and Clark sidesteps him. Zod twists and shifts into a crouch and swings the blade at Clark's legs, smiling as Clark jumps back and punches the blade, shattering it. Zod closes the distance between them, head-butting Clark again, and letting go of the remains of his gauntlets.
'Who do you think trained Faora?' He ducks under Kal's right cross and drives his fist into his ribs, and then grabs him by the leg and pulls him back into the ground. 'You think,' he stomps on Kal's chest, 'momentarily,' his fist pounds into Kal's face, 'besting her,' he strikes a point on Kal's shoulder and Kal cries out with pain, 'means you can beat me?!' He kicks him in the face and steps along the crater that has been made as a result of him pounding on Kal, and watches as Kal's body creates a tunnel, smiling to himself as it collapses. His smile grows wider as he watches Kal pull himself out of the rocks. 'You think corrupting her mind against me gives you some kind of edge? You are nothing! Your very existence is a heresy!'
He leaps into the air and drives his feet into Clark's back. He grabs him by the cape and begins spinning him around and the tosses him up into a towering rock formation. Clark crashes into it and the rock shifts and cracks and the topmost part falls forward, driving Clark into the ground and smashing into rubble around him. Zod leaps in and pulls Clark out, grabbing his face by the jaw and turning his head to look at him. 'I can see the fear in your eyes, El, just as I saw it in your father's eyes when I stabbed him through his weak little heart.'
'I'm not afraid of you, Zod,' Clark coughs. 'I'm afraid for you. Of how you lost your way.'
Zod punches him with an uppercut, sending him soaring into the air and scraping along a rockwall. Boulders tumble and Zod flies up and punches him across the length of the canyon and crashing into and through a series of rock formations. Clark pushes himself out of the hole he has made and slumps on to the ledge before him. Zod's fingers flex and he dashes in and begins pummelling Clark at superspeed, driving him back into the hole. The wall cracks and rocks fall on them both and Zod keeps punching.
Clark kicks him and sends him back and crashing into the other side of the rock formations around them. He staggers out of the hole, clutching his chest, and falls to his knees. He looks at Zod and sees he's now a faded gold with streaks of different kinds of bright reds. Zod pulls himself out of the rock face, grabs a boulder, and throws it at him. He laughs at Clark's inability to move out of the way.
''Twice the man', he said. Ha!' He looks up at the sky and taunts. 'Are you seeing this, Jor-El? Are you seeing me end your House?' Clark begins to rise and Zod hops forward, his eyes closed and his head shaking a little, and then -
'Burn!' heat vision bursts from Zod's eyes, engulfing Kal in flames - who covers his face with his arms – and pushing him back into wall. Rock dust ignites and the blues and greys of the canyon darken and mix with the reds and oranges. The wall cracks and melts and liquid rock begins to pour down and into the hole, covering Clark.
Through grit teeth, Clark steps forward. Molten rock drips from him as thick, glowing globules. He takes another step and another. His hands move to the side and he is no longer shielding his face. Zod growls and leans forward a little, and with each step Clark takes Zod's growl gets louder.
Smoke rises from the ground, and the rocks bubble and burst, and then there is a 'spurt' in Zod's attack – a flicker of less than a second. Then another, slightly longer – and a third, longer still.
Then it's gone, and heat radiates from Clark, the shield on his chest glows, his face is pink and red, and his hair is mussed. Zod crouches and glares at him, and only small flickers and sparks tease from his eyes. Clark staggers towards him, fighting against the exhaustion from the battle and everything else he has had to go through. Zod shakes his head, clearing his gummy eyes, and stumbles and then drives himself upwards, sending Clark into the air again with another uppercut. He then leaps into the air and flies away from him.
Reeling from the punch, exhaustion slowing him down, Clark hangs in the air for a moment after slowing his involuntary flight. He sees Zod's energy trail and breathes, 'No!' He follows the trail and catches up to him, coming in from underneath and taking him up into orbit. Zod twists and pulls free, kicking Clark away and then dives towards Metropolis.
Clark intercepts him again, slamming into his back and driving him back to the canyon. Their impact changes the landscape even more than it had done, and the only sound that can be heard is of the rocks tumbling back to the ground and coming to rest.
Clark coughs and pushes himself up to a seated position. He looks at Zod and the colours are now much darker than before – the gold is gone. Zod rolls on the ground and forces himself up, clawing and brushing away the dust on him.
'Your skills gave you a massive edge, General,' says Clark, his face swollen, cut, and burnt, 'but you threatened the wrong planet and the wrong people.'
Zod lunges and throws a right cross at Clark's face and there is a sickening crunch when his fist connects. He slumps to the floor, his mouth wide and his eyes showing pain but no sounds come from his mouth. He's not just a Kryptonian soldier, he's a Kryptonian general and crying out because of physical pain is rare for a Kryptonian general.
'Our powers...Jax-Ur said we would have hours.'
Clark smiles and shakes his head. 'Rope a dope. Your hand is broken.' He holds out his hand in order to help Zod up.
'You think this is over?' he snarls at him, clutching his twisted hand to his chest.
'Your powers are exhausted, Zod. There's nothing more you can do.'
'You think you can contain me?'
'I know I can,' and he grabs him by the scruff of his neck and takes off into the sky.
Above Metropolis the gravity anomalies caused by the meeting of the two Phantom Drives continues to rage. Helicopters circle it and the scout ship hovers just at the edge of the event horizon. Clark flies in, Zod in hand, and stops alongside the scout ship.
'Three minutes until integrity collapse.'
Clark holds up Zod by the front of his bodysuit. 'You had choices, Zod, and you repeatedly made the wrong ones. As the last son of Krypton, I sentence you to-'
'You are no Kryptonian,' Zod spits.
Clark looks at him sadly. 'I sentence you to the Phantom Zone.'
He flies to the hole in the Black Zero where Faora, Dev-Em, and the others are waiting. Behind them, deep within the engine room is a portal. Jax-Ur and the other two Kryptonians who had fought against Clark and the Sword of Rao have already been taken through it. The Black Zero begins to groan as the energies start to expand out of the portal.
'You can stay, you know?' says Clark to Faora as Dev-Em takes Zod from him.
'No, Kal, we can't.' She nods at the Jor-conscience who is overseeing the portal. 'Your father is right, the way we are is too engrained in us.'
'But you changed. You all changed.'
'Not all, and who knows how we would handle being here long term? Who knows how we would adjust to all the new things we can see and do? It's best we leave as our powers leave us.'
The portal widens and blue and white energy sparks over Kal and Faora.
'Look after Argo for us.'
She smiles. 'It's the ship's name.' She steps back. 'Go, Little El. Bring us back when this world is ready. Oh, and your father said to tell you that he's going to play a quick game of catch with you.' Clark looks at her quizzically. 'You'll see.'
Clark nods and floats backwards. The blue and white energies expand and ripple over the Black Zero. The energies start to shimmer around Clark and he pulls back further to where the scout ship is still hovering. The air fills with the sounds of wind and strained metal and, within seconds, the Black Zero is sucked in and all is quiet.
Clark floats down to the now larger crowd gathered below.
'You did it,' says Jenny. 'You saved us.'
Clark smiles at her, sadly, and then looks out over the ruin of the city. 'Ship?' he asks, 'How much time?'
'Four hours before first impact.'
'Thank you.' He tilts his head a little and then nods. 'Excuse me,' he says, 'I've still got work to do,' and he dashes into the ruins and begins to move rubble around. Overhead, rescue copters begin to arrive.
The scout ship moves into the area above ground zero and begins shining lights and providing readings to the rescue workers scrambling through the debris. Sparks of lightning flash and everyone looks up, worried, as a small portal opens. Clark rushes up and out pops the rocket, and the portal immediately closes behind it.
'Catch, hmm?' he says as he catches it. He smiles and takes it on to the scout ship.
Out in the Indian Ocean the tentacles wrapped around the various ships and the submarines let them go and disappear into the depths. Sharks and other larger marine life that had been nudging the humans who had fallen overboard back to the surface begin to move away.
In the Atlantic, the big man with the dolphins lies back in the water and laughs. 'Saved them. Ha!' The dolphins laugh with him.
'SU-PER-MAN! SU-PER-MAN!' the crowd in Indonesia chants and cheers, over and over. They watch as he flies towards a dock, pulling along a number of fishing boats.
On one of the warships, he smiles as he listens to sailors and pilots tell of their strange rescues by sharks, dolphins and other large sea-life.
'I'll do what I can to help find your colleagues. I'm glad you're all well,' he says, as he floats up in the air. He flies away and says to himself, smiling, 'Good to know you're around, Arthur.'
Drones of various sizes fly over the destruction site of the world engine and the now changed landscape of the Grand Canyon.
Clark and Martha are working through the wreckage of the Kent farmhouse; clearing up bits of debris and moving salvaged items.
'It's not going to be the same here, Ma,' says Clark, sadly.
'It was never meant to be. Things always change, you know that.'
'Still...' he pauses, frowns, and looks up.
'We may have guests.'
'In about five minutes.'
'I'll put some drinks together, then,' says Martha, smiling.
A few minutes later there is a knock at the open door and Pete Ross looks in, smiling.
'We figured you'd be here.' He steps in and looks around the wreck and his smile disappears. 'It's worse in here than we thought.'
'It's not so bad, Pete,' says Martha as she steps in with a tray of drinks. She pauses, frowns, and says, 'there are more of you here than I thought there would be.'
Pete smiles again and says, 'You should go, Clark. There are other places you need to be. We'll look after things here.'
Whitney and a number of others are outside the Kent farmhouse. In the drive are several trucks loaded with equipment and materials.
'Smallville looks after her own, remember?'
Newspaper headlines announce various stories:
'Memorial Held', says The Daily Planet.
'Doesn't He Rest?' wonders the Metropolis Mail.
'A Hero Amongst Us' declares the Gotham Post.
'World's End Missing Pilot Returns', announces the Gateway City Herald.
'I was taken to an island of women and no one believed me' laments The National Whisper.
'King of Atlantis?' queries The Star.
'Ozone partially restored?' asks The Telegraph.
And so on.
In a meeting room deep within the UN building, military and government representatives from dozens of nations are gathered together. In the centre of the massive table in the middle of the room a small spherical device hums. The people are agitated and the whispers are loud. A set of doors open and more people walk in, and the device blinks and the top half of the sphere rises an inch or so. The doors close and the top half of the device turns and a loud beep is emitted.
'Sound disrupters engaged. Electromagnetic buffers engaged. Meeting room secure.'
'The world has changed, my friends. The world has changed and it down to us to ensure that that change is for the good of mankind. Before, there were two things which…caused discomfort for people like us - the intelligent and the aware. Two things which rested on one question: are we alone in the universe.
'Before, although the hope was that the answer was 'no' we found the answer was 'yes' and it was uncomfortable because it was so isolating and depressing. Now, the answer truly is 'no' and it is uncomfortable, and even frightening, because now…now we are no longer the giants we once were.
'You know me for my philanthropy, my businesses, my stubbornness, my arrogance, and so many other things deemed to be both positive and negative. You know me as all those things but I stand before you now as a man, as one of you, and ask that you let me and people like me step up and help lift us all to levels comparable with those the world now thinks are our betters.
'The world has changed, my friends, and it's down to us to make sure that that change is for the better, for us - for mankind.
One year later.
'What are you going to do when you're not saving the world?' asks Martha. 'Have you given any thought to that?'
'I have, actually,' he says, smiling. 'I've been offered a job, one where I can keep my ear to the ground. Where people won't look twice when I want to go somewhere dangerous, or start asking questions as to why I'm there, but also where I can do good in other ways. Where I can bring attention to problems I can't tackle in the cape. The world's changing, Ma, and not all of it is good'
'And where is this job?'
'Ah, so you're moving there for the job, not for Lois...'
'Meet our new stringer. This is Clark Kent,'
Lombard turns away from Lois and Jenny and actually looks excited. 'Wait, the Clark Kent? The one who's been reporting from the 'World's End' rescue sites?'
Clark holds out his hand, smiling, and Lombard shakes it enthusiastically.
'The same,' says Perry. 'We finally convinced him to settle down,' he says, looking at Lois for a second.
'I'm way more into all things sports,' says Lombard, 'but your pieces on the refugee camps and crisis centres really got the attention of a lot of people,' he holds up the tickets he had been showing Lois, 'even these guys. And the New Nations stuff? Woof. Props to you, Clarkie.' He slaps Clark on the arm and his eyes widen a little with surprise. 'You a sports-guy?' Lombard pulls his hand back to his side and Clark sort of shrugs and says 'not really'. 'Ah, well, we probably won't get along, but good to have you aboard.' He turns to Perry and says, 'Perry? Stringer? This guy?'
'Freelance is a different world, Lombard. You want me to let you check it out?'
'No, sir. Thank you, sir.' He looks at his hand and flexes his fingers.
Lois steps forward, smiling. 'Hi. Lois Lane. Welcome to the Planet.'
Clark's smile is wide as he and Lois shake hands. He adjusts his shoulder strap, and says, 'Glad to be here, Lois.'
Firstly, apologies for the now misleading title of this fan-fic – at the length it has turned out, this is clearly not a 'slight alternative'. I had only meant to do brief scenes, but I'm afraid I got carried away.
Secondly, thank you to all who read and posted their words of encouragement – it means a lot to me to know you enjoy my work.
Thirdly, I'm certain I dropped the ball a few times in doing this, so thank you for putting up with my fumbles.
I hope the wrap up wasn't too much of a let down - it usually is the hardest bit to do, in my opinion.
Some of you may feel there were more fight scenes than there should have been – and maybe you're right – I just feel that when you have almost a dozen Kryptonians around it's a tad nonsensical to limit the action to just four of them ;) Also, that gosh-darn world engine doing its thing has repercussions (which, perhaps, we'll see in the new movie...).
Some of you may also feel that this was 'too clean' – but we'll just have to agree to disagree ;)
Also, apologies for flitting between using Clark and Kal – and for all those smiles at the end.
Finally, I hope you will all forgive me for the length of this, and for the liberties I took with it.
Thank you, again, for taking the time to read it.
I wish you all well.