Disclaimer: The recognizable characters and settings in this story are the property of D.C. Comics, Warner Bros., December 3rd Productions, et cetera, and no copyright infringement is intended. Any original characters, scenes, dialogue and the story itself belong to me.
Before the Beginning
by Nan Smith
"It's over," Martha Kent said.
"What's over?" Jonathan, her husband of ten years glanced up from the Farmer's Almanac, obviously not sensing her mood. "According to this thing," he added, "we're supposed to be in the middle of a pouring rainstorm most of the month. Look at it out there. Not a cloud in sight."
"Everything," Martha said. "I'm never going to be able to give you children, the agencies turned us down -- that was our last hope. Why do you even want to stay married to me?"
Jonathan abruptly laid the Almanac down on the couch and got to his feet. In two steps he had closed the distance between them and put his hands on her shoulders. "I thought we'd hashed all that out when Doc Burton gave us the test results. Martha, whether or not we can have children, I still have you. If I didn't, all the children in the world wouldn't make up for it."
She blinked back tears. "You wanted a son so much. I'm so sorry I let you down."
"You didn't let me down. It wasn't your fault that you have that -- whatever Doc said it was. Endometri-- something."
"But if we'd only gone to him sooner, he might have been able to do something. Now it's too late." Martha felt the tears, which had never been far away since she had learned the truth, break through and begin to flood down her cheeks. "And those people today -- the ones who asked about finding a baby --"
"They didn't know," Jonathan said. "Sweetheart, if there were anything I could do to change things, I'd move heaven and Earth to do it; you know I would. But the one thing I wouldn't change is being married to you. I knew the first time I saw you that you were the one for me. Even knowing then what I know now, I'd still have courted you and married you just the same."
Somehow that knowledge eased the grief in her heart a little, at least back to tolerable levels. She might never hold their baby in her arms, but she still had him and Jonathan was a better man than any two other men she could name. Her solid, down-to-earth husband, the man that her mother had said would never be worth anything; nothing but a farmer who would never go anywhere or make more of himself. Her mother had never understood why she hadn't taken to Jacob Underwood, the son of the richest man in town, and instead had married dull, stolid Jonathan Kent. But Martha knew why, and so had her father. He had stood up for her against her mother's criticism, and told Martha privately that he thought she had made a very good choice. "Jonathan is a fine man -- a man you can count on," he'd said. "Don't let your mother change your mind, Martha. Trust yourself."
She had, and now she could see once more how good her father's advice had been. Standing in the circle of his strong, solid arms, she thanked whoever or whatever it had been that had made Jonathan love her as he did.
He smoothed her hair gently. "Come on, Martha, let's go for a drive."
"A drive?" she asked. "Why? It's nearly time for me to start dinner."
"Forget dinner. We can pick up a sandwich at Maisie's Diner," he said. "And on the way back we can drive out to Lovers' Lane. It's been a long time since I've taken my best girl out for a drive in the moonlight."
It was the middle of May, and the sounds and scents of an early spring evening filled the air as the old pickup truck rolled along the gravel road on the way to town. The sun was hanging low in the sky and just above the horizon a layer of dark clouds was visible. Maybe the Almanac hadn't been wrong, Jonathan thought hopefully. Maybe its prediction was just a little early.
He glanced sideways at Martha, sitting quietly beside him. He had never seen anyone so crushed the day that Doc Burton had given them the news that she could never bear children. He'd thought she'd come to accept the verdict, but it was apparent to him now that the pain, although hidden, was as sharp as ever.
It was true that he had wanted children. He was one of five: three boys and two girls. Maybe five would have been too many for him, although he suspected that Martha would have been in her element, but it had never occurred to him that he would never have any children at all -- a son to follow in his footsteps, and perhaps a daughter, as pretty as Martha, that he could spoil and protect as his father had his two sisters. Martha was an only child, and he knew that she had desperately wanted children. After Doc Burton had given them the bad news, they had talked about adoption and applied to the agencies in the area. The costs were high, however, and after the first two agencies had turned them down, it became obvious that they couldn't continue their quest for a child and still keep the farm that had been in his family for three generations. He would have continued, regardless of the consequences, if Martha hadn't drawn the line and chosen to stop. She would not cost him his livelihood or the home he loved so much. And it had seemed that she had accepted the situation and made peace with it -- until today.
The little town of Smallville was noisy and bustling as evening approached. Adults hurried along the sidewalks and crowds of teenagers swarmed in front of Todd's Drugstore and around the town's single movie theater, next door. The marquee was still advertising that science fiction movie, Fantastic Voyage, starring Raquel Welch, about the submarine full of people that was shrunken down and injected into a scientist's bloodstream on a mission to save his life. Martha had dragged him to see it last week, and he had gone, in part because of the presence of the actress but mostly because Martha had wanted him to go with her. Science fiction wasn't really something that interested him. After the movie was over, he had pointed out that the mission must have failed, even though the medical team escaped alive, because the submarine had not been recovered and once it returned to normal size inside the scientist's brain it would have killed him. Martha had told him that she'd read the book and the man survived, but Jonathan couldn't see it. It didn't matter whether the thing had been destroyed by a white blood cell, did it? The sheer size of the crushed metal of the sub would still have killed the scientist. He and his wife had argued happily about the outcome all the way home. Martha had tried to induce him to read the book, but he'd had more important things on his mind, such as the overpopulation of the grasshoppers that were damaging his crops. Martha was certainly the love of his life, but sometimes he didn't understand her fascination with subjects like science fiction. Things like that just didn't happen, so what was the point of reading about them?
Maisie's was doing a good business tonight, he saw as he pulled the old pickup into a parking space. Still, that wasn't so bad. The presence of many of Martha's friends might help distract her and make her feel better. He took her hand as she joined him on the sidewalk and led her into the little café.
The sandwich at Maisie's had turned into a full dinner. Martha looked affectionately at her husband as he climbed behind the wheel of the pickup. She knew why he'd taken her out tonight when he'd been ready to put his feet up and read the evening paper while she made dinner. Her Jonathan was a man in a million, and she once again thanked her lucky stars that she hadn't listened to her mother's advice. Jacob Underwood was on his third wife in seven years, and spent most of his evenings at Roscoe's Bar. Jonathan was at home every night, and there was no doubt in her mind that they would be together to the end, children or no children. The longing for a baby was a dull ache in her chest that would be with her for a long time, but because of Jonathan, she could live with it. Things could have been far worse.
The clouds that had been threatening in the west now covered most of the sky, and it was dark enough that her husband had to turn on the headlights. As they drove slowly home, Martha could see the occasional flicker of lightning and hear the rumble of distant thunder. The sun had almost set and its light turned the bunches of storm clouds on the horizon into a layered mass of ruddy gold, pink and deep red.
Jonathan looked at her in the shadows of the pickup's cab and she could see his teeth flash in a smile. "I guess that moonlight drive is out."
"I guess so," she said. She reached out to lay a hand on his arm. "Thank you, Jonathan. I don't know how I was so lucky as to find you, but I'm glad I did."
Even in the dimness she knew she had embarrassed him slightly, for he ducked his head a little, but he was also smiling.
It was at that instant that a flash of light in the sky made her look up.
They were just passing Shuster's Field, moving slowly on the rutted, uneven surface of the dirt road as something traced a fiery trail through the clouds overhead, hot and bright against the stormy background, and vanished amid the trees a quarter of a mile away. Jonathan's foot came down hard on the brake and the pickup jolted to a stop.
"What was that?" he asked, peering out the windshield at the place where the object had vanished.
"Looked like a meteor!" Martha said. "Over in Shuster's Field!" She shoved open the door as she spoke and slid out of the truck. Together, they pulled open the white, wooden gate and hurried across the grass toward the trees.
The place where the object had struck was obvious once they got closer. A smoking trench in the ground marked where the thing had come in, apparently skidding forward and plowing a path for itself through the dirt and vegetation. The trench ended near the base of one of the big cottonwood trees, Martha saw, and the object lying there was certainly not a piece of rock from outer space.
Jonathan caught her arm. "What is it? That's not a meteor!"
It was smooth and silver, all symmetrical lines and graceful curves. It had a rounded nose and what looked like a hatch on the top, but it was much too small to be a rocket from Kennedy Space Center, Martha thought. Besides, it didn't look anything like the great boosters that lifted the space capsules bearing the astronauts into orbit. In fact, it didn't look like any craft that she had ever seen except perhaps on the cover of a science fiction magazine or a comic book. Slowly, she approached the tiny vessel, if that was what it was, and touched it cautiously with one finger.
The skin of the little ship was cool, in spite of the speed of its entry. She slid her fingers under a tiny ridge near the front of the craft. With surprising ease, an entire section lifted upward and beneath it, wrapped in a dark blue blanket ...
A baby. A baby with dark, waving hair and huge, almond-shaped brown eyes. Almost unaware of what she did, she reached down to lift the child in her arms. She looked once at the ship and then back at the baby.
"My Lord," Jonathan said.
"Oh, Jonathan!" she breathed.
They stood looking at the tiny ship and the baby, and Martha knew in that instant that they would not report this incredible event. If someone, somewhere, would coldly shoot a baby into space in this strange ship, what else might they do once they got the child back?
No, they would figure something else out. For ten years she and her husband had dreamed of a baby. Their dreams had finally come true.