Disclaimer: Siegal, Shuster, Donner, Reeve, Kitter, Singer, Routh, Welling, Mack, Brando, Marz and Johns provided inspiration. DC Comics, Warner Bros., and Bad Hat Harry Productions own the characters. Some of the ideas are my own. Some of the action is borrowed.
A Hero Again, Part II
As Clark rode across the Atlantic in Bruce's jet, his blistered back ached. He wondered again why Bruce had used the kryptonite napalm. Probably because it would have distracted one of those Bizarre Imposter Clones long enough for Bruce to back off and re-engage, even if it wasn't harmed by the kryptonite. And of course it did in fact blister Clark's back: third degree burns which wouldn't heal until he got some sunlight. If this slow jet, that could only do mach four, would ever fly through the sunrise into daylight. He slept fitfully, but over Spain he crossed into daylight. Within ten minutes, his injuries healed and he instructed the jet to slow down and let him exit, then fly back to base.
Clark finished up the rest of the trip back to Tel Aviv under his own power, wearing the replacement black trench coat Bruce had left in the seat of the jet. Back in Tel Aviv, Clark returned to his hotel room, showered and changed back into street clothes. A phone call to the front desk of his hotel to ask about room service revealed that there was none. Each suite came equipped with a kitchen. Flipping through the hotel's guide notebook, the reporter found and restaurant that would deliver some Mediterranean food and called in an order.
Then he sat down at his laptop, got into the internet and searched for additional information to complete the articles Richard had assigned to him. He poured over the local media looking for quotes from the Israeli and British Parliaments and the Iranian Council of Mullahs and Ayatollahs about the kidnapped British Sailors. He searched for quotes from the Amazons regarding Princess Diana's mediation efforts. Then he wrote up the article on the kidnapped British sailors and saved it in his machine. He would email it in to Richard and Perry later after he finished the piece on the nuclear melt down in Iran.
Clark decided to leave Superman's role in the rescue operation out of it and concentrate instead on the efforts of Green Lantern and Impulse. He also sought out quotes from the Iranian government, the Israeli government and the UN. Iran was condemning the actions of rogue American based superhumans as violations of the Freedom of Power Treaty. The Israelis were publicly denying that the Mossad had any involvement, saying that a covert team had been conducting joint operations with Turkish special operations forces near the border. The UN spokesman said sanctions against the USA and the US based heroes Green Lantern and Impulse would be introduced in the Security Council on Monday, notwithstanding all the Iranian and Russian nuclear scientists who would otherwise have died. Or worse. These scientists very loudly praised the super-humans. These same scientists also spoke equally loudly in their denials of any nuclear weapons programs. According to the scientists, it was all nuclear power facility construction and none of them would say for sure what happened but they all pointed fingers at Israel.
With the articles finished, Clark decided to call Lois, Chloe and his mother to let them know that he would be off world for a few hours. Lois didn't answer. Chloe listened supportively and bravely asked what she could do help. Clark told her to focus on Brainiac. His mother asked why he had to go away again, so soon. The Midwest farm-boy turned big city reporter reminded her of what the last asteroid had done to the dinosaurs. Finally, as Superman, he contacted Green Lantern and asked him to coordinate with Batman and defend Metropolis against any more of these Bizarre Imposter Clones.
Kyle Rayner said no problem; even from the West Coast, he could have his ring keep tabs on Metropolis and let him know if anything happened. The rookie hero went on to explain that with his Air Force training exercise completed, he had switched over to one of his other careers: art. Several of his paintings and sculptures were being shown at a Gallery in San Diego.
With that, the two heroes rang off their phone call. The Last Son of Krypton synched his news groups up from his Daily Planet PDA to his Superman PDA. Finally, he zipped up to the Fortress to change into his black space suit.
As Kal-El soared off into space starting his 10 hour round trip to slow down the asteroid, Batman woke from a few hours fitful rest and began an exhaustive analysis of the recovered corpse of the last Bizarre Imposter Clone. At the same time, the next of the Bizarre Imposter Clones were released from Lex Luthor's genetic engineering lab.
Me no am Sooperman. Me am Dark Knight. Me am free from small tube in white room. Me no am World's Worst Detective. Me no am lose boy. Me am look in Kansas. With those thoughts in mind the clone sought out a costume shop and traded his red Superman cape for a copy of Batman's cape and cowl.
The other was filled with rage. Men am use sticks and flying machines am shot at us, am blow us up. Puny men. Me am crush and burn them. Flying man who look like bat am burn us. Flying man who look like bat am burn us with flaming green stuff. Me am make him pay. Me am make all men pay. Maybe am make women pay, too.
It was Sunday night on the Eastern Seaboard. The Presidential motorcade had gone back to DC already and the press corps had followed, but the President of the United States and the First Lady had snuck out of their limousine and back into the Presidential Bungalow of Camp David. With a jovial goodnight to the Secret Service agent, the President of the President strode toward the Executive Bedroom. Through the open bedroom door, he heard the First Lady washing up. He thought he might do the same, maybe enjoy extracurricular activities with the love of his life.
As he entered the bedroom, the President noticed the windows were open and the shadows near the curtains were unusually deep. On his way to investigate, he leaned forward on the balls of his feet and tightened the muscles in his arms. One word from him would bring the Secret Service Agent along with his squad and the dogs and the guards with the shotguns, but his gut told the President that none of this was needed yet.
One of the shadows grew solid and pointy eared. The President started.
"Everything okay in there Mr. President?" called the Agent at the door.
"Sure, Ving. No problems here," the President responded. "I was just surprised the First Lady opened the windows and the air's a bit nippy in here."
A low voice growled, "I'll be quick, Mr. President. I know we don't have much time and I hope you and the First Lady will enjoy yourselves this evening."
"How are things in Metropolis, Mr. Bat?"
"The police officers will recover, and it wasn't exactly Kal-El who hurt them."
"Then who exactly was it? That Martian who operates in South America and the Pacific Rim?"
"No, Mr. President. It was some kind of clone of Kal-El."
"How do you know?"
"The corpse didn't respond to Green or Red Kryptonite samples I brought with me. Kal-El did. My team is still reviewing the corpse of the clone, but evidence of soil and particulates in the wrinkles of the uniform and the treads of the boots points to the southern suburbs of Metropolis, in the hills."
The water stopped in the bathroom and the President looked over at the door for a moment. He heard the First Lady's hand on the doorknob. It wouldn't quite do to have her come out here and see him talking with the Bat like this. Hmmm what to do? "Honey? Wait a moment before you come out. Let me close up these windows out here; it's kinda drafty in here."
"So, how will you handle it if more than one of them shows up at a time?" The President asked. He wondered if kryptonite nuclear weapons, like the ones in the designs spirited out of the Iranian nuclear facility faster than a speeding laser before its meltdown, would have an effect on these Bizarro clones. But when he looked back at the pool of darkness where the Bat's voice had come from, the President saw only shadows.
When the Man of Steel returned from slowing the asteroid, he stopped at his listening post high in the stratosphere up over the center of North America. He heard Lois's heartbeat in Metropolis. He heard Jason's and Ma's heartbeats up north. In the Fortress. The Last Son of Krypton heard the Tone of the House of El from the Fortress and wondered if that meant his father Jor-El was somehow back. Jor-El in the Fortress, with Jason and Ma!?!? Turning north the Man of Tomorrow started toward the Fortress, but he heard other sounds coming from upstate New York: Another of the Bizarre Super Clones was lose and fighting with the US Army's 10th Division as well as Bruce and the rookie. Jason was safe. Whatever was happening in the Fortress, it could wait at least until the more immediate threat was resolved. Superman made a seven second detour by his apartment in Metropolis to grab the trench coat and sunglasses.
As the true Kryptonian flew out of Metropolis his black trench coat fluttered behind him and the wind pressed his black Wayfarers up onto his face. He circled out over the Atlantic, up around Maine, over New Brunswick and Ontario and crossed the St. Lawrence River and approached the 10th Division's training area from the West. The Man of Steel saw pieces of wheeled infantry fighting vehicles that looked much like the Marines' LAVs. Some of vehicles were ripped apart and others appeared to have been dissected by lasers. It appeared the battle had moved from south to north.
The Kryptonian finally sighted the Bizarre Imposter beating on a green shimmering force field with his bare hands. Armored soldiers fired through the shield at the clone. Telescopic vision confirmed that the soldiers had taken up a defensive perimeter around a bruised and battered Batman. The Man of Steel flew up and decked the Imposter, "Why not pick on someone your own size?" The Man of Steel kicked the Imposter into a mountain side. The Imposter flew back at the Last Son of Krypton who floated out of the way at the last second. The Imposter tripped and fell and recovered himself in Montpelier, VT. The Last Son grabbed the Bizarre Imposter by the foot and threw him out of Vermont over Connecticut and into the outskirts of Metropolis.
The Bizarre Imposter landed on target in the center of a complex of old brownstones scheduled for demolition. The two flew up into the air trading blows on the way. They crashed into the abandoned buildings shattering an entire side of one. The Bizarre Imposter's blue tunic began to tear.
The Kryptonian looked down at his trench coat and turtle neck over his black Kryptonian space suit. They seemed to be holding up well at least for the moment. He heard some news and police helicopters gathering.
Storm clouds broke and rained as the two "Supermen" sprinted through a strangely disserted street and landed titanic punches on each other. The Kryptonian flew back a few dozen yards and righted himself. The Imposter soared out over the bay and splashed into the water.
The Imposter was running out of energy. Me no am need darkness. Too tired to fly. Me no am stand still. Me run like Flash. He tore off to the west at a run breaking the sound barrier in the foothills and took a flying leap off the Appalachian Mountains, soared over the Midwest and landed in the Sonora Desert, east of LA, where the sun was still shining. The sunlight flooded his cells and he grew stronger.
Kal-El leapt back into the sky and darted west. He could hear one of the news analysts in the helicopter talking to his anchor back in New York, "Yes, Neil, if I were watching this on video screens like the folks at home, I might think it was all some strange promotional trailer for a new film from the Wachowski Brothers. The flying man in the black trench coat and sunglasses bears a striking resemblance to the hero of their 1999 hit movie and its two sequels." He paused for a moment. Kal didn't waste concentration finding the anchor's comment in the torrent of sound filling his ears. The reporter continued, "Absolutely, witnessing it firsthand in person is … devastating. Yes, they just took off to the west. We can't follow them, no. Superman is probably going to find sunlight to recharge his powers. The trench-coated hero is flying after him. Right. Cut to commercial."
The Last Son of Krypton had an idea. It would cost him a few minutes and let the imposter charge up in the sunlight, but it just might work. Darting west over the desert, he sighted the imposter lying on the floor of the Sonora Desert basking in the sunset. It wouldn't charge his powers up as much as full sun, but the Bizarre Imposter probably didn't realize that. With his black trench coat fluttering behind him, the Man of Steel circled Los Angeles and San Diego a couple of times. Soon he had a flock of news copters following him. The Man of Steel accelerated southeast into the desert.
Kal cruised east into the desert and found the Imposter. They traded some blows. The Man of Tomorrow employed some Kryptonian Ju-Jitsu and Deja Fu to drain the Imposter's powers. When the news choppers had closed in and formed a circular perimeter, he closed in on the Bizarre Imposter and then burned off his cape and tunic with heat vision.
The reporters began to chatter about Superman's uniform being burned off. No one had ever seen that before. Many had seen Superman lose a cape from time to time, but none had ever seen damage to the presumably alien fibers of his uniform. Grabbing the Bizarre Imposter Clone by the throat, Kal-El looked into his eyes. He saw confusion in those eyes and pain, not physical pain but deep emotional pain.
Kal cocked his head to the side and thought he heard the unique of hum of Green Lantern's power ring closing in from the east. He knew he had only moments to pull this off. He held the Imposter at bay and flew in a circle past each of the helicopter reporters in succession. They all began to chatter about the appearance of Superman. His skin looked waxy, pale and weathered. He is chest and ribs were lean like a starving man. You should smell this guy's breath, the real Kryptonian thought.
When he was certain he had all of their attention, The Man of Steel shrugged out of his trench coat. The Imposter obliged him by scorching off part of the black turtleneck and exposing the uniquely textured Kryptionan fabric of the true Superman uniform. The Man of Tomorrow licked a finger and pulled down his spit curl, then pocketed his sunglasses.
The reporters had begun talking about the Superman before them as not truly Superman, but rather a strange Bizarro Imposter. Another burst of heat vision from the Bizarro shredded the remainder of Kal-El's turtle neck, exposing his Kryptonian family crest. The plain crimson of the true Superman's cape fluttered in the winds. A final burst Bizarro's head vision had no effect on Superman's tunic. The clone knew its time was running out. "Me no am true Sooperman. You am Superman."
With a last burst of strength Bizarro wrestled out of Superman's grasp and flew west out of view of the news helicopters, over the Pacific chasing the setting sun. When he caught up to it he rose about the clouds and continued west through the sunset into the full sunlight of afternoon over the Polynesian Islands. As the glare of the full sun infused his cells the Bizarro's mussels swelled again and he looked less like a starving man. But his core temperature began to rise as well. He fought to control it. He flew east back into the night over LA, into the shadow of the Earth but his temperature continued to rise. His cells had processed too much solar energy and he was burning up from the inside. Soon Bizarro had charred into ash blown away in the winds.
Back in the desert east of LA, Green Lantern had joined Superman and was filling him in on the conversation he'd had with the Israeli Commander of Air Forces.
Then Superman asked about his art opening in San Diego. Kyle explained that was joint expo of West Coast wildlife artists. The show included some of Wyland's and Pitre's marine life paintings as well some of Rayner's work from the redwood forrest and the Sonora Desert. Kyle felt thrilled to be included with Wyland and Pitre. GL turned the conversation back to the conflict with the Bizarro clones.
"Oh, I met one of your old friends there."
"I met the original intrepid girl reporter, Chloe Sullivan or Cassiopeia as the Amazons call her. She put up a hell of a fight along with Batman and myself against that clone. When my ring alerted us to a disturbance in Smallville, KS, Cassiopeia took off by herself and the Bat said to let her go. She had already shown she could hold her own. I caught up to her a few miles away and gave her something."
"Just something to complete her powers."
"You gave her a ring?"
"No, just a lapel pin."
"I don't get it."
"I'm not sure it will work, but make sure she wears it any time she goes into a fight."
"Yeah, Chloe's been with me since before the beginning. She's more important than either of us know." Smallville. That would explain why Ma and Jason were up at the Fortress. Chloe must have activated the Portal in the Koachee caves and sent them. Superman listened and didn't hear Chloe's heartbeat.
In seconds the Last Son of Krypton stood there next to the Newest Amazon at the Portal in the Koachee caves. The Man of Tomorrow looked down on the shattered corpse of his friend. She was speared into the floor of the cave: A steel pipe ran through her chest just below the solar plexus and emerged above the shoulder blades in the back. Dried blood caked around it on both sides. She laid there motionless. The Man of Steel showed that he possessed a human heart as his face twisted up into a mask of regret and anguish. Tears streaked his cheeks.
The voice of his father, Jor-El, echoed in his mind, "You are forbidden to interfere in human history. Whatever happens, must stay happened."
The voice of his dad, Jonathan Kent, followed, "Son, you were sent here by a Higher Power with a Greater Purpose, and that's not just dusting crops."
Then Chloe's voice echoed in his mind as well, from the day when he had used Kryptonian technology to turn back the clock and spare Lana's life, "What are you going to do, Clark? Spin the world backwards and turn back time?" He had done just that for Lois when he'd arrived too late to save her from the earthquakes caused by Lex Luthor's redirected nuclear missiles. He leapt up into the sky and his black trench coat fluttered in the wind. The Man of Tomorrow put his black sunglasses back on. As he hardened himself against what he had to do he heard Chloe's voice again echoing forward from his past. "Hey, Clark, are you going to get back down here and pull this pole out of me or do I have to do it myself?" Wait a minute. She never said anything like that before. Could it be? Had he misread her pulse and breathing?
The Last Son of Krypton again knelt next to the Newest Amazon and looked over her again with joy and pain fighting for control of his face. "How?" was the only word he could get through his lips.
Chloe slowly raised her left hand to the black vinyl lapel of her jacket and fingered a lapel pin that resembled Green Lantern's Ring. "Green Lantern Express." She said weekly. "Don't leave home without it."
"What?" Superman asked, confused.
"It's a Lantern Corps reserve charge," the Amazon whispered through cracked lips with a bruised face. "It protects the bearer against mortal injury while engaged in sanctioned combat." She struggled to smile and reached up tentatively to take his hand.
"Oh," the Man of Steel said as though he understood completely. He was sure it would make sense later. Right now all he knew was that his friend and confidante was alive and feelings of relief and gratitude to that Highest of Powers who worked in mysterious through alien science to save his …friend. Somehow the word friend didn't do justice for the feelings he had right then. He was sure that would sort itself out too.
"Clark, how about a hand with this pole, huh?"
"Oh, right." He blurred for an instant and handed Chloe a popsicle stick. "Here, bight down on this." Then he took the pole and yanked it out of her. She collapsed in a heap, fainted from the pain. Then Man of Tomorrow gave her a hand up.
"Fire up the portal, Son of Krypton. Let's go see your family."