Disclaimer: I own nothing. I make no money yet.
Author's Note: This story is essentially a direct sequel to Confessions. It draws inspiration from S1, S2, SR and other DC Comics. I'm borrowing some characters from Smallville and attempting to reconcile some continuity between the TV show and the films, in order to do that I have had to make some adjustments to the timelines. For the sake of my story, Superman Returns happened as it did in the film: late summer of 2006, therefore Superman II took place 5 to 6 years earlier in 2000 or 2001, and Superman "1" a few years before that with Clark Kent and Lois Lane's heyday as reporters coming in between. Therefore, Smallville is pushed back into the late 1980s/ early 1990s.
Setting the Stage and Getting Characters to "First Positions"
"Do the words 'unexplained phenomenon' mean anything to you, Chief?" A slightly frustrated Major Kyle Rayner, Air Force Reserves, yelled over the sounds of whirling rotor blades as a bright orange Coast Guard helicopter lifted off behind him. He set his ruck sack and Kevlar helmet on the concrete tarmac at his feet. The sun had set and stars were coming out in a cloudless desert sky, but his day was far from over. He had a grieving woman and Superman to see before the day was out. He wasn't looking forward to either.
"There's no place on the paper work for 'unexplained phenomenon,' sir" a tired Chief Master Sergeant yelled back, tapping his clipboard. "The rest of your squadron signed their fighter jets back in hours ago, a little bit late. Now we can overlook that in light of everything that went down today. But yours has been waiting here on the flight line the whole time. I'm going to have to turn it over to the night shift for maintenance. And I have to have an explanation for that to Base HQ. Not to mention that we've been keeping the news hounds at bay all afternoon: Sean Hannity, Anderson Cooper, Richard White."
"Is there a place on the paperwork for unscheduled joint operations? How about that?" Damn bureaucratic paperwork, Rayner thought, reminds me of why I left active duty in the first place. That and some very unsettling experiences during a lost patrol in the first Iraq War. Destroying the enemy from thousands of feet up in air to air combat was what he had signed up for; not close quarters combat on the deck with 7.62 mm ammo and bayonets. His wingman's uncle offered both of them jobs at the Daily Planet and Rayner jumped for it. Working for the Planet would pay the bills while he poured his feelings out through paint and canvas.
"'Joint Operations,' that will work," replied the Chief Master Sergeant, relieved to have it settled. "General Sellars reads these personally. He'll like the sound of that."
"Two Star General Shane Sellars?"
"Yes, sir, Major." The Chief Master Sergeant replied with pride.
"Who do you think okayed my trip out there in the first place?" The sound of the helicopter had dissipated but Rayner yelled anyway. As he gestured with both hands, the ring on his left hand glowed like a smoldering green ember. The Chief of Maintenance could go home to his wife and kids after these forms were completed and the fighter jet was towed off the flight line into the maintenance bays. But Rayner had new responsibilities and no time for this. He hefted his ruck sack nervously, with a combat boot.
"A little testy after a hard day, are we, Major? Is that lovely brunette waiting for you at the Officers' Club? The one from Ferris Aircraft?" Crusty old Sergeants always like to hear stories about girls.
"No, it's her mother and I have got to give the lady some bad news about her former fiancé and one of my personal heroes," the Major sounded almost disgusted
"Who's that if you don't mind me asking?" queried the Chief, with less enthusiasm now that story no longer involved an attractive young woman.
"Air Force Colonel Hal Jordan." Rayner replied flatly.
The Chief of Maintenance looked up and away for a moment. "Isn't he the astronaut who disappeared up on the space mission that put the Skylab in orbit back in the Seventies?"
"Yes. Apollo 19: The Mission that No One Talks About. So, I hope you'll understand that I can't say any more about it either. Can I sign that yet? Are we done here?"
"You don't seem too excited about delivering that news to Mrs. Ferris" observed the Sergeant. "So why not let the paperwork fill some more time?"
"I have a meeting with Superman, so I have to hurry."
"The Big Blue Boy Scout, huh?" The Chief sounded like he didn't quite believe the Major. "You know MSNBC was promoting some kind of expose about The Man of Steel while you were out on your 'unscheduled joint operations.'"
"Chief, Major, if you two could just finish with the aircraft." Superman floated up out of the shadows behind the only fighter jet facing into the maintenance bays. "I'm on a tight schedule this evening as well."
"Wow, sir, you weren't kidding." The Chief looked slightly chastened.
"It's a great honor, Superman." The Major extended his hand to shake with Superman. The Man of Steel landed next to the two uniformed Air Force men, extended a fist to bump and smiled to himself. Rayner wondered at the smile, but chose not to ask. He was an artist and a fighter pilot not an intel analyst, "Thank you for taking time to meet with me."
"Major, if you would just sign here." The Chief passed the clipboard and turned back to Superman. "It makes all of us in the Military sleep just little easier at night knowing you're up in the skies again to back us up if we need you."
"Thank you, Chief. You're a credit to the Air Force." Superman responded to the Chief while Rayner signed and returned the clipboard.
"What do you think of what they're saying about you on MSNBC, Superman?" the Chief, still the curious one, asked.
"Don't believe anything about me unless you read it in the Daily Planet," the Man of Steel replied with an enigmatic look.
The Maintenance Chief took a radio off his belt and called the wranglers out of the maintenance office to move the fighter jet. Major Rayner hefted the ruck sack back up onto his left shoulder, hung the Kevlar helmet from a canteen on the opposite hip, and led the way back toward the flight briefing room. "I wouldn't go that way, if I were you, Major. Sean Hannity from Fox News and Anderson Cooper from CNN are waiting in the flight briefing room with news crews."
"Thanks, Chief." The pilot turned and led the way back to the locker room.
"So, Major Rayner," Superman began in the hallway, "the Daily Planet Online is reporting that the unexplained phenomenon turned out to be just an old piece of Skylab era space junk that finally fell to earth. Why would that make you call the Daily Planet's main office to get in touch with me?" Superman asked.
"That piece of space junk was an Apollo Return Module that disappeared from radar in 1973. The anomalies were Colonel Jordan, who died in front of me just hours ago, and ..." Rayner set the ruck sack down in front of his locker and started off to make sure the locker room was empty.
"It's okay, Major." Superman said in a reassuring tone. "Just keep your voice down." The Man of Steel held his right hand out flat and lowered it. "No one is close enough to hear us."
"It was this." The fighter pilot opened the ruck sack, pulled out his flight helmet and showed the Man of Steel a Lantern. A green Lantern that looked like it had been designed in a wind tunnel for trains that traveled between the stars.
"Tell me about it." The Man of Steel looked at the Lantern as though he might have recognized it.
"I will later, if that's alright." Rayner began stowing his Kevlar and other tactical gear in his locker. "Right now, I have to find the son of Jor-El, of Krypton. You're the only Kryptonian anyone knows, so will you help me?"
"Now I know how Ben Kenobi felt in the first Star Wars movie when Luke Skywalker said he was looking for Obi-wan." Superman chuckled to himself.
"You are the son of Jor-El?" Rayner said somewhat surprised. "I thought I was off on some D&D style quest. That was easy. I hope the next part is just as easy."
"What?" The Man of Steel asked
"Hal Jordan told me
to link this 'Battery,'" Rayner gestured to the Lantern,
with the back up copy of the Green Lantern Corps AI that Jor-El set up on Earth for the Guardians of the Galaxy."
"I keep discovering new things about my father," Krypton's Last Son said to himself. Then he looked over at Rayner, "Apparently my father wasn't just the contingency planner for me and Krypton, but for the whole Galaxy as well." The hero paused for a moment's thought.
"Did he say anything else about this back up AI?" Superman asked reaching for the Lantern, "Do you mind?"
"No, go ahead." Major Rayner looked up and away for a moment as though the answer he sought was written on the roof of the locker room. "He said it had been here for generations."
Superman held the Lantern up, looked at its base, traced its outline with a finger. "Did he say generations or millennia or what?"
"No he definitely said generations." Rayner looked thoughtful, carefully recalling exact words.
"Then we're probably not looking for the Easter Island Statues or the Incan Pyramids or the Sphinx in Egypt." The Man of Steel thought out loud.
"Yeah, he would have said thousands of years or millennia if he meant something like any of them." The fighter pilot agreed
Superman pointed up with a single finger, "He must mean the Koahchee Caves in Kansas. There's an outline in one of the cave drawings that resembles this Lantern and an indentation in the control table that would fit its base."
"Indian Caves in Kansas?" The Air Force Major sounded incredulous.
"Yeah, the art and carvings have been there for generations, not millennia." The Last Son of Krypton looked incredulous for a moment. "And after my ship, the caves were my only contact with my Kryptonian heritage until the Fortress."
"Then lead the way." Rayner looked urgent.
Superman started out the door of the locker room. But Rayner didn't follow. Rayner stood there for a moment. Here goes nothing he thought. He closed his eyes and extended his left hand as though reaching out to touch something unseen. "Uniform" he said simply. His ring glowed brighter for a moment and the glow enveloped him briefly. His flight suit and utility vest transformed into a black skin suit with green boots, white gloves, and a stylized lantern symbol in the center of his chest.
"It's a swell uniform, a little dark, perhaps except for the gloves. The Lantern Corps must use the same tailor as Batman."
"He's real?" The flyer showed no more surprise. Apparently he was past that. "I thought the Bat was just an East Coast urban legend."
"I know him. Strangely enough, he's one of my close friends, and most trusted allies. I just saw him a few hours ago.
Superman attempted to move things along, "So, how were you figuring on getting to Kansas? I don't think that Chief Master Sergeant is going to let you sign your jet back out."
"I wasn't figuring on you carrying me," Green Lantern chuckled. "There's no way that could be as comfortable as Warrior Angel or the Commander and Jetstream make it look in the comic books." He looked thoughtful for a moment as he began to levitate off the floor, "I believe I can use this ring to fly there."