I do not own Superman, or any other D.C. character mentioned. The rest, I made up for my own story. This is a fanfic, and not for profit, so just enjoy.
"Tango Leader, this is Tango Five," the radio crackled as the men in the ops center stared intently at the radar screen, trying to understand what they were facing. "I am approaching target area. Have a strong lock."
"Tango Five, do you see the bogey," Colonel Anderson demanded as his bald head gleamed brightly in the well lit room, the sweat covering his entire head plainly visible as he focused only on the screen with the others. "What is it?"
"I'm climbing over the clouds now, Tango Leader. Give me a sec," the pilot radioed back.
"Tango Five, Tango Four, I see it. I see it. I just…..Jesus, what the hell is that?" "Tango Flight, cut the chatter, and form up. I'm coming up under you, Tango Three.
"Tango Leader, I see it. I see…..
"Sonuva……I don't believe it," the pilot rasped as the men in the ops room on the new carrier frowned at the shock in their men's voices.
"Tango Five, report," the colonel ordered.
"Tango Five, this is Captain Saunders. Report, man. What's up there?" "A…..A man, sir," the pilot sputtered. "I swear to God, there's a man up here who is flying like….like some kind of damn comic book hero."
"Describe him, Flex," Colonel Anderson barked at the pilot. "Tell me exactly what you see?"
"I can't make out his features, sir, but he's…..white. Maybe Caucasian. Dark hair, not quite shoulder length. He's wearing…..Sir, he's wearing nothing but a tee shirt and jeans. He's not even wearing shoes. And he's starting to pull away from us like we're setting still."
"Tango Five, are you telling me that that there is a man up there flying around our airspace?"
"I know how it sounds, colonel," the pilot answered, still sounding stunned. "But if we're not all seeing things, that is exactly what is up here.
"And he's pulling away at more than mach 3," the pilot exclaimed. "These old birds just can't match him."
"Target the bogey, and bring him down," the captain shouted over the mike. "Now. Shoot him down."
"Roger, Tango Leader. Locked on, firing two.
"Two away," the man reported as the men tracked the flight, and its target.
"Direct hit," the pilot shouted.
"I've still got the bogey on radar," another pilot shouted.
"Jesus H……He's stopped. He's just…..hanging in the air," another exclaimed over the tinny speaker. "And there's not a scratch on him."
"Blew by him," Tango Five reported. "Where is he? Where is…..?"
"Tango Five. Flex, he's on your ship. He's on your ship. Roll, man. Roll," another of the two wingman shouted.
"Holy Mother of God," Five's voice screeched. "He's ripping into my fuselage. I'm losing hydraulics and power. I'm going down. I'm going down."
"Bail out, bail out," Three shouted.
"I can't punch out," Flex shouted as the sound of twisting metal, and screaming air filled the speakers. "Systems are out. I'm going down. I'm going……"
The speaker squealed shrilly, then the pilot's voice was gone even as a dull boom that was audible even in the ops room sounded from high over their heads.
"Tango Five is clear," Four shouted. "He got out. He got out. Scramble rescue. I'm switching to cannons. Engaging the bogy now," he reported.
"Tango Three, firing two," the other wingman called out.
"Another hit. The bastard is still coming," the pilot screamed over the hammering of machine gun fire over the open mike. "He can't be human. He can't be….."
"Tango Three punched out, but the target just shredded his bird like it was made of confetti," Tango Four reported.
"Tango Four, abort. Repeat, abort," the captain shouted now. "Get out of there."
"I'm bugging out," the pilot reported even as he banked away from the impossible creature just turning away from Tango Three's falling bird to look his way. Even as he did, he felt his ship shudder, and he shouted in alarm.
"I'm punching out. Power's gone. This bird is on fire. I'm on fire," he screamed, and then was lost.
"Scramble rescue, and get the ship on full alert.
"Have the escort go to battle stations, now," Colonel Anderson ordered the men around him in the ops center.
"Bogey is headed northwest, accelerating again," the radar man reported. "He's not staying after all."
"Track him. Track him," the captain shouted. "I want to know……"
"He's gone, sir. Completely off the scopes."
"Impossible," Colonel Anderson swore as he returned to look over the man's shoulder. "We're tied in with satellite surveillance for this entire hemisphere. He couldn't have disappeared like that unless…."
"Yes, sir," the radar man nodded. "He went vertical, and accelerated so fast it was like he just….vanished."
The captain frowned as he stood behind his men, wiping a damp handkerchief over his sweating head. "Are you telling me a flying man just downed three of our best, and went into orbit in less than a minute?"
"Captain, that….man was so fast he not only went through the sound barrier, he was damn near close to reaching escape velocity judging by what we saw here," the colonel told him grimly. "We'd better notify the brass. This one is way over our heads in more ways than one."
"Granted," the officer nodded grimly.
"Clinton, we have the men in sight. Looks like they all survived," a rescue chopper reported just then. "We're moving to extract them now."
"Roger, rescue," the captain replied, then tuned to the ops commander. "I'm headed to the bridge.
"I want a complete radio transcript, and incident report ready within the hour," he told Anderson. "If I'm going to give this to the brass, I don't want to look as bad as I'm likely to sound.
"Flying men," he grimaced as he walked out of the room.
He looked down on the curved horizon of the planet below, lost in a high cloud bank that reflected the setting sun that spread a golden glow across the sky around him. He ran a hand through his dark hair, wearing nothing more than a pair of denim jeans now badly shredded by the high caliber rounds that had been fired at him earlier.
His ocular abilities easily penetrated the cloud cover, focusing on part of the northern continent in the western hemisphere he would have called home anytime, and anyplace else. Only it was rapidly becoming obvious that he was not on his world. It might look like it. Feel like it. But this was as alien a planet as he was alien to the world he called home.
A careful inspection of the planet, and the orbital debris told him there was no Justice League here. No watchtower, at any rate. He had yet to find any evidence of any metas at all on this planet. He frowned as he hovered in the air thousands of miles above the earth, and tried to figure out where he was, and how he had gotten here.
His last conscious memory was of visiting his mother in Smallville. He had heard something peculiar coming from the old barn just before daybreak, and had gone out to investigate. He saw nothing obvious, but the strange sound that had drew his attention. He stepped into the barn, and then….nothing.
He woke up laying in a field somewhere near the southern edge of the continent, completely naked, too, but it soon became apparent he was not on his world. He took a super speed jaunt back to Smallville after borrowing some clothes from a line outside a rural home only to discover it didn't exist here. There was no Kent farm. No Kents at all in the area he remembered as home. He decided to fly over the planet, to get an idea of what had happened to him, only he had barely gotten halfway over the Atlantic when the jets attacked him.
He tried to outrun them when they fired on him.
Deciding to neutralize them, he found they were far more fragile than he remembered on his home world. A light touch tore through the steel alloy hull like another man might rip through tissue paper. Before he could try controlling himself, he was almost rammed by a second jet after he managed to pulled the pilot out of the first jet before it exploded from catastrophic systems failures. Necessity had him disabling the last jet, and ensuring the other pilots were able to get clear of the debris before their damaged ships fell into the sea below.
Still, even he was astonished at how easily he handled the high velocity rounds, and the rockets that caught him point blank before he could elude them. He had no choice but to go sub-orbital to escape the authorities before someone got seriously hurt. He needed time to think. To plan. One thing was certain, he was not going to be able to walk around other people until he got some clothes.
His costume was still back in Smallville. His Smallville, so he couldn't change. Not that it was likely to be recognized in this world. He sighed, enjoying the warmth, and invigoration that came from the sun's rays. At least that had not changed. Still, he was going to have to be extra careful here. It seemed he was even more powerful than ever on this world. At least, it seemed that way.
He decided to wait for nightfall, find an isolated place, and arrange for clothing.
No identification, or money was going to make things tricky for a while, but he was going to have to do a little careful shoplifting for the time being if he was going to get through this without causing more trouble. It rankled, but he figured he could repay whoever he had to 'borrow' from later, depending on how things turned out. For now, as his companion who was better versed in these matters would say, survival was the first concern.
That meant he had to blend in.
He continued to wait out the sunset. He could still see the shock on those men's faces as he pulled them out of the cockpits. He saw the stark terror in their eyes, and knew well enough from some men's reactions on his own world that he wasn't always seen as a hero. To the men on this world, they wouldn't even consider him anything but a menace after that encounter.
He had no choice but to lay low for now.
At least until he could figure out what happened, and maybe get back where he belonged.
"Can you believe the nonsense that they call news these days," the man at the bar snorted as the television reported droned on about the mysterious encounter that had downed three navy jets.
"Ah, if you believe aliens did it, I've got a bridge in the desert I'd like to sell you," a half drunken man chortled.
"Clark," the bartender shouted. "Get out here, and clean up the corner booth. I got people waiting, you moron."
The young man sighed as he came out of the back, dragging a mop and bucket.
"What," the bartender demanded of the guy at the end of the bar sipping black coffee.
"Sorry. It's just….My name is Clark, too," he smiled faintly. "I guess I just sort of….reacted…."
"Whatever," the balding man who ran the place grumbled as he switched off the news, and brought cheers from several men as a ballgame was turned on.
The coffee-drinking Clark focused back on his coffee, using his heat vision to warm the cold coffee the guy had served him. Apparently, the Navy was claiming a series of malfunctions had brought the planes down. This world had its own conspiracy theorists here, though. There were those that claimed aliens had been testing their own secret weapons. Aliens were apparently unknown here, and while there were theories and claims abounding, there were yet to be any concrete evidence of visitations on this Earth.
"You gonna order anything else," the man behind the bar growled again as he studied his cup after draining it for the second time. "Or you planning on drinking all my coffee?"
"I think I've had enough," Clark smiled thinly as he rose from the bar stool, and headed for the door. He had been investigating this world through the usual resources, and having found its history fairly close to mirroring his own had made things easier.
The major difference was the lack of any metas, and the absence of a certain bald megalomaniac in the White House. Otherwise, the planet could have easily been his own world. He had yet to find any reason, or explanation for his presence here, though. He investigated the site where he had woke up, but it was just a field. An empty, rural lot.
He dropped a dollar on the bar he had earned panhandling of all things. Still, snatching some old clothes from a charity drop had been demeaning enough. He was not yet ready to steal money when he didn't necessarily have to eat, and that would have been the only thing he really needed to buy just now.
He was almost to the door when it suddenly burst open, and three young men in ski masks stormed the bar with shotguns. "Everyone freeze," one of them shouted as the second one jabbed his gun into his chest.
"Back up, ass-wipe, or you'll be road kill."
He saw everyone looking at the first thug, so felt safe as his right hand flashed, and on the way up, squeezed both barrels closed. He smiled wryly as he looked right into the kid's eyes who couldn't be eighteen, and asked, "You always hold people up with a broken gun?" "Broken gun? What the devil are you….? What the hell," the thug gasped, his eyes wide as he stared at him in genuine horror.
Well, darn, he must have seen him 'fix' the barrel.
"Give me the cash, you old fart. The cash, or I'll fucking kill you," the thug behind him shouted at the bartender.
Clark sighed, and decided to act before someone got hurt.
"Time for you to go to sleep," he told him, and tapped the kid on the head with a forefinger so fast he was out cold before Clark turned to the second gunman who was forcing patrons to the back of the room so he could hold them, and rob them.
In a blur of speed, he put himself between the thug and the patrons in case he had an itchy trigger finger. He crushed the barrel of his weapon, and tapped him, too, sending him into unconsciousness even as he turned to the first gunman who was only then realizing something was going on behind his back.
"All right, hero," he swore, pulling both triggers before even he could reach him.
The pellets struck him full in the chest, shredding his sweatshirt, and leaving him once more in need of another shirt. He sighed even as he glanced around, using his heat vision to ensure the ricochets didn't hurt anyone. Then he grabbed the trigger-happy gunman's shotgun, squeezing its barrel flat before he grabbed the last thug, shaking his head as he tapped him with a forefinger, leaving him out cold with his friends.
"Someone call the police," he suggested as everyone stood gaping at him.
"You're…..not human," the bartender gasped as he stared at the hole in Clark's sweatshirt, and the untouched flesh beneath.
"You're half right," he said, and was out the door, and in the sky, flying as fast as he could before anyone could think of tracking him. He wasn't doing any good in that city anyway.
"It's the same…man," Flex, AKA Captain James Oliver told Captain Saunders as he looked at the stills taken from the bar's surveillance camera, and forwarded through Homeland Security.
"So," the dark-suited agent who closed the folder of pictures he had brought into the room where he and the pilot's superior officer had been brought after the carrier had docked at Norfolk. "This is the 'guy' that downed three jets, and apparently flew off into space.
"Now he's in a coastal city, and saving locals from a bunch of bangers? Something doesn't add up here."
"How can we be sure it is the same, ah, person," James asked. "I mean, what if it's a robot, or something? Couldn't there be more than one of them?"
"Listen, captain," the agent smiled sardonically. "Whatever the UFO nuts, and other sci-fi types claim, we are light years from creating the kind of technology that would let anyone build something like that. And I'm speaking for any other government on the planet as well."
"Then how do you explain this….being," Ian Saunders asked him bluntly.
"Frankly, sir, we're still at a loss here. If it hadn't been for the bar full of witnesses that all saw this guy disappear by flying off into the night sky, we wouldn't even have realized the connection."
"A bar full of drunks," Captain Saunders asked dryly. "They're your witnesses?"
"Touché, captain. However, I doubt your people were drunk when you say you encountered him."
"Yeah," the bald officer nodded wearily. "Still, there has to be a logical explanation….."
"I don't suppose you're going to let this report go public either?"
"We're suppressing all news of this being for the time being. We don't want to cause hysteria, or panic when we're supposed to be controlling those very things in the first place," the agent told him. "We appreciate your cooperation, Captain Oliver, and thank you for your time."
"That's it? Look at a picture, and go home?"
"What did you expect, captain," the man asked.
"How about what you intend to do about this? People need to know to look out for him?"
"And do what," the man in the dark suit asked. "He ripped your jets apart, survived multiple rocket attacks, and shrugged off shotgun blasts as easily as he did your cannon fire.
"Tell me what I should tell the average citizen to do if they see someone like that, sir," the man demanded of him.
"Tell them to run," Ian Saunders told him grimly.
"So far, it seems this guy is trying to stay low, and off our radar. That gives us hope he's not an overt threat o the nation.
"Of course, he could be hiding his real intentions by purposely staying low. We don't know. The truth is, gentleman, you know as much as we do. We haven't even seen him yet.
"But I can assure you, we're handling this as carefully as we can. And that means we keep it low-key, and out of the press. The last thing we need is public hysteria, or worse, a bunch of conspiracy nuts, or bounty hunters all trying to track him down before we can find him."
"I understand," the pilot sighed. "It's just….I don't know. I was scared as hell up there when he tore into my jet.
"But in the end, he did save me. He pulled me out of that bird before it blew, and he could have just left me."
"So," the agent asked as he turned for the door.
"So, I started thinking. What if this guy is really trying to help people?"
"People that want to help come to us. They fill out applications. They don't drop out of the sky, or whatever," the man said in disdain as he left the room.
Flex glanced at his captain, and shook his head. "Nice guy."
"He's got a point."
"Yeah, I suppose," James nodded as he climbed to his feet. "Let's get out of here."
"What's the rush?"
"I still have that psych review before the docs clear me to fly again," he grimaced. "I'd just as soon not look too reluctant by being late for the appointment."
"Right," Ian nodded. "Let's go. I don't care for these meetings either," the captain admitted to his pilot.
"I'm telling you the truth," the young boy told his parents. "I saw a flying man come out of the sky and steal dad's shirt."
"When did you start getting such an god-awful imagination," his father demanded as he stood over the seven year old who was covered in mud from his playing outside.
"Did you ruin your father's shirt playing in the mud, and get scared," his mother asked with a more understanding smile.
"Honest, mom," he whined. "He was taller than dad, and came out of the sky, and then flew back up again after he grabbed dad's shirt.
"I only got muddy trying to follow him when I fell into the creek."
"Boy, if you don't stop such obvious….."
The threat was interrupted by a knocking at the front door. "I'll get it," Sara Connors told her husband. "You peel the rest of his clothes off, and get him in the tub."
"Maybe you should……?" David was too late. Sara had left him with the task of getting their son moderately presentable before carrying him through the house to the waiting bath. He sighed, and knelt down to start tugging at the wet, muddy shirt that stuck to him like glue.
He was about ready to give up and cut the muddy tee shirt from his son's body when Sara came up behind him. "H-Honey," she spoke a bit anxiously. "Roger wants to talk to you."
"What's he want now," he sighed, knowing the old man next door tended to have more complaints than anyone he had ever known. Especially considering they lived five miles apart here in the corner of the state most people avoided if they could help it.
"Honey, you should….listen to him."
"Jus' wondering did you see something," the old man asked when David went to the door, glad to leave the muddy boy behind.
The old man didn't seem angry, or upset as usual. This time he didn't even mention his son in four letter terminology. He was scratching his head, and looking bemused. "See what," he asked.
"I was telling' your wife, Connors. I was out plowing up the backside of m'place, when I heard your kid shout. First off, I figured he was up to some mischief. So I went to see what he was doing."
"Look, Mr. Elliot….." "That's when I found your boy face down in the creek, and trying to climb out. Only he wasn't looking at me, or the ground. He was starin' up. So's I looked up, too, and…..
"You'll think I been drinking, Connors, but damned if I didn't see a half naked man flying off with one your old shirts.
"I swear," he added, nodding his head. "Thought I was goin' nuts. Till your boy jumps up muddier any sow I ever seen, and yells; "He stole my dad's shirt," 'bout as loud as he can."
"My….shirt," David swallowed hard.
"Yep. That dreadful blue flannel your so partial to of late.
"He had it in one hand, and was flying right off like a bird."
David shook his head. "That's…..That's impossible. Men can't….fly," he rasped, thinking of his son's tearful claims.
"And don't I know it. Only that one didn't seem to know. He took off like he was born with wings."
The two men stared at one another, then Roger Elliot shook his head. "So, you didn't see nothing?" "No, but….Sam has been trying to convince us he did. I thought he was spinning stories again until you…..
"So, ah, Roger. What now?"
"Well, I'm wishin' you'd seen him, too. I don't care to lower my reputation around here any more than it already is," he grimaced. "And if I go tell Bob what I seen," he shook his head as he named the country sheriff. "I'm liable to spend a night in jail for drunkenness."
"Well, I didn't see anything. But…..Sam obviously did. He's been going on about that flying man until we thought he was going to…..
"Never mind. Maybe…..We should just forget this. He's obviously not sticking around."
"I don't know. I figured we ought'a warn folks, at the least. What if he comes back?" David frowned. "You think he might?" "Who can say," Roger shrugged. "He might just be testing the….air, so to speak 'round here. If he thinks he can get away with a shirt? What might be next on his list?" "I'll call Bob," David said, thinking of his son, and how easily he could have been taken, or hurt, had this man wanted to try something else. Roger was right, they had better call the sheriff, just to be safe.
"Come on in," he said as an afterthought as Sara carried their naked, muddy son through the house at just that moment.
"Mom," the seven year old groaned with all his boy's pride at being held naked before a stranger.
"You hush, young man. You're in enough trouble," Sara told him, lapsing into the security of a mother's role rather than face what was being unveiled around them.
"Hello," the strange voice spoke from behind her.
"Oh," Laura gasped, almost dropping her ax on her foot as she spun around from the wood pile to gape at the tall, muscular man in a faded, blue flannel shirt, and equally worn jeans. "I….I didn't hear you. Where did you come from," she asked a bit anxiously as she looked around the yard that surrounded her isolated home.
"I didn't mean to scare you," he told her. "I was just passing through, and well…..You can probably tell my luck hasn't been all that good of late," he said, looking down at his worn clothing. "I was wondering if I might be able to…….well, do some chores for you in return for…..?" "You're hungry," she asked, running a trembling hand through her graying, brown hair. "I….I can offer you a meal, I guess. For…..For….."
"I can cut your wood for you," the big man told her with a smile as he followed her glance around the ramshackle old place she had obviously had trouble keeping up of late.
"Do you….know how to cut wood," she asked, eyeing the ax still in her other hand.
"I grew up on a farm in Kansas," he told her with a smile. "I did my share of chores before I left."
She handed him the ax, and stepped back. "I'll….I'll get you something to eat while you're working then," she said quietly, and headed for the back door left open against the afternoon heat.
He felt her watching as he took the ax, and turned to the carelessly stacked half logs meant to be cut into wood. The fact there were only a few rows of wood left told him she had either been gone for a long time, or she had been struggling alone. He hefted the ax carefully, mindful of his solar-fueled strength, and began to chop at the log before him she had barely managed to nick.
He heard her turn away, and kept working, discretely using his heat vision at low strength to aid him since the ax was so obviously dull. He heard the woman in the kitchen, murmuring to herself, though to his ears, her voice was as clear as crystal.
She was lamenting the fact her phone had been cut off last week, and she couldn't contact the sheriff. She was also telling herself she was being silly, and that the drifter outside was likely some harmless vagabond, not an escaped serial killer.
He smiled wryly at that, and kept working. He didn't measure time. He didn't need to when it came to that. At his current peak, he could work literally nonstop, and still hardly notice any depreciable loss in his reserves. What he needed was time, and a place to think without drawing unwanted attention. He had been careless earlier that day when he spotted a shirt that might fit him. It did, but the boy had spotted him, and his shouts had drawn a man that had gotten a very good look at him.
He flew off at subsonic speed, not wanting to cause any sonic booms, or draw any more attention from the powers-that-be, but now he was still left with unanswered questions, and no place to find answers. He needed to stop, and just think. He could use Bruce's mind at a time like this, but he was no mental slouch himself when he focused his mind on a task despite is reputation for being all brawn, and no brain. He just needed a little time.
"I have sandwiches and tea just now," the woman told him as she came out, then froze, and stared at him in shock.
He stopped, looking back at her, and tried to smile reassuringly, but then he took in her astonishment. "How….? How did you cut so much wood," she gasped, staring at the pile of firewood that had grown up before him in just under a few hours.
"Guess cutting wood is like a bicycle, ma'am," he told her in what he hoped sounded like a comforting tone. "Once I got to going, it just got easy."
"My…..My husband couldn't have cut that much on his best day," Laura exclaimed, staring at the pile that now filled her shed, and was almost waist high, every log but one having been cut up.
"Well, ma'am, if you would prefer I left," he suggested, not liking the way she was looking at him.
"No. No, of course not," Laura shook her head, trying to tell herself she was being silly. After all, her husband had not been a farmer from birth. He had been an aging accountant trying to get away from the stress of city life. Only the stress of making a go out here had finally finished him off, leaving her with a piece of land she couldn't sell, and little else.
"So, you mentioned food," he asked her when she stood there staring at him, and the wood.
"Oh. Oh, of course. I…I guess you must have really worked up an appetite," she said, and gestured toward the open kitchen door. "I'm a little short this month, so I made up some sandwiches, and a pitcher of tea.
"It's nice and cold. The tea, I mean."
"That's fine, ma'am."
"Oh, I'm…..Laura. Laura Hastings," she told him.
"Clark," he told her automatically. "Clark……Wayne," he amended a bit clumsily, not wanting to give his real name.
Bizarrely enough, he had finally found mention of himself, and his friends and family. In comic books, of all things. On this world, he was a fictional character in a child's funny book. Somehow, he didn't think calling himself Kent would go over too well with this woman that would be likely to know the character judging from the children's pictures he spotted around the walls of the homey kitchen and dining combination room he entered behind her.
"Nice looking children, Mrs. Hastings," he told her as he waited until she sat down at the table before he took a seat.
From the look of surprise on her face, she wasn't expecting manners out of him.
"Thank you. They're…grandchildren, actually. Nolan is the oldest now. Six years old."
"I take it they don't visit," he asked as he poured tea from a stoneware pitcher into her glass before pouring his own. The table was small enough that he could easily reach across it with little effort.
"How do you know….?" "That wistful sound in your voice. It sounds like my mother's when she tries not to lecture me about staying away for too long."
"I guess mothers, or grandmothers, do miss their children."
"Yes, I suppose so," he nodded.
"Are you married, Clark," she asked him artlessly.
"Yet you're out here….?"
"Wandering around? Well, it's complicated, Mrs. Hastings. The fact is…..I'm a long way from home, and I'm not sure when I'll be getting back."
"Were you…..in prison," she asked a little anxiously.
"No," he smiled, shaking his head as he bit into the first of the thick ham sandwiches she had made for them. She had put three on his plate, leaving only one for herself. A discreet glance around the kitchen with his x-ray vision told him she didn't have much to spare at all. "I was….I've been away," he told her.
"Oh, you were in the war," she nodded.
"The war. Yes, I guess you could say so," he murmured.
"You don't have to feel bad about it. My oldest son was in it, too. He came back a little…..well, off. It took years for him to settle down, and rebuild his life. I'm sure if you remember what is really important, you'll be fine, too.
"You're certainly not afraid of hard work," she smiled suddenly as she glanced out the open door. "That's a good sign."
"My father always told me that work was a good cure for worry. By the time you finished it, you likely would forget all about what was worrying you.
"Of course, he neglected to mention that on a farm the work never stopped, so you had lots of time to forget things."
She smiled at his wry humor, nodding, "My husband found out about that. Only he never could turn loose of his worrying. It killed him in the end."
"I'm sorry," Clark frowned. "I didn't realize….."
"It's all right. You could hardly be expected to know I'm the local widow."
"Well, I'd be more than glad to stay a little while and do some work for you," he told her.
"To be honest, Clark," she told him. "I'm living off charity myself. I don't have much left to give you even if I wanted to take you up on your offer."
He sat back, finishing his second sandwich, and then pushed the plate with the third away. He felt a little guilty about taking the last of her food when he didn't really need it. "Mrs. Hastings….." "Laura, please," she told him with a faint smile. "I feel like…..
"You know, it's strange, but you look oddly familiar."
"Well, I can't say how," he told her, shaking his head again. "I've never been around here before."
"I'm certain of that," she smiled faintly again. "Still…..
"Well, it hardly matters. You can sleep in the barn, if you want. But….I can't offer you more than that just now," she told him. "I almost wish I could, but….."
She shrugged, and looked at the last sandwich before him. "I'm full," he told her, catching her glance. "You make a good sandwich, though. Very filling."
"I'll….just wrap it up for you for breakfast," she suggested.
"Well, I'll go finish the woodpile," he told her. "It's only fair."
"That's all right," she cut him off. "You have already done a lot more than I expected….."
"It's fine, Mrs. Hastings," he told her. "I don't mind work, as you noted, and to be frank, you could use some help."
The older woman sighed, then nodded. "I would appreciate it. Mr. Peabody dragged the logs up here last week, but…..well, charity only goes so far even in this part of the country."
"Maybe….I might just be able to help you out before I have to go," he said as he rose, draining the tea before he turned toward the door.
"The wood is more than enough," she told him again as he merely stepped outside, and glanced back to wave at her.
"What a strange man," she murmured, and rose to clean up the kitchen after their meager meal.
Clark sat in the loft of the barn, pondering things late into the night.
The place was as bad as the house, and the rest of the small farm that had obviously been neglected for some time now. Laura Hastings was obviously in trouble, and wasn't going to make it much longer the way she was going here. Not alone. He came looking for a temporary sanctuary in this world, and ended up finding someone in need of help.
Maybe it was karma. His destiny, as a few of his more mystic-minded companions on his world would say.
He stood up, already aware of the pile of neglected building supplies in the back of the barn that had never been used. Her husband must have had grand plans. He lifted his hands, flexing them briefly, and decided he had been reacting long enough since waking in this world. It was time to act.
After all, it didn't matter what dimension he had been dropped into, or how, or why. He was still the same man. He was still a hero.
And heroes didn't turn their back on those in need.
"It's been almost two weeks since this guy appeared, and there hasn't been a single sighting since the bar," the lead agent spat as he entered his superior's office.
"So, you're telling me a man with the power to rip our fastest jets apart with his bare hands has just…..vanished?" "Maybe he went back to where he came from," another of the four agents present in the briefing suggested.
"That doesn't negate our need for answers," the first agent shot back as the man behind the desk sat absently drumming his fingers as he listened to the petty bickering.
"Gentlemen," the man behind the desk spoke quietly, yet caught everyone's attention. Beyond his size, the burly agent's reputation had made him a virtual legend in the office. "The fact is, whoever, or whatever this man is, he is powerful.
"And if there is anything we have learned in our experience, it is that power…any power, does not exist in a vacuum. It demands to be used.
"So, if he is still out there, we will be hearing from him. Until then, we need to keep our minds, and our eyes open, so we will continue to monitor all sources that indicate there might be something odd happening……"
"We might have a lead," a young brunette told him as she burst into the room just then.
"What is it," the lead agent snapped.
She ignored him, and put the report on the desk in front of the director. "Nine days ago, a little boy spotted a flying man who swooped down and stole his father's shirt off the line due east of his last sighting. The only reason the report was logged was because a neighbor saw the same man when he went to investigate the kid's shouts."
"Nine days ago," the director murmured. "The day after the bar."
"Any indication of what direction he headed," the agent asked.
"None," the woman told him. "The report stated simply that he flew up into the sky."
"After stealing a shirt. This guy is unbelievably powerful, and all he did was steal a shirt?"
"The punk at the bar blew a hole in the one he had on the night before this report," another of the men realized. "It'd be hard to pass yourself off in a crowd with a shotgun blast in your shirt."
"All right. Someone get out there and interview the kid, and the other witness. Find out anything the local boys didn't bother learning. Maybe you can pick up something they missed.
"In the meantime, I want everyone scouring the news, and AP listings. I don't care how it sounds, if it's the slightest bit hinky, I want to know about it," the director told them.
"You really think this is more than just a hoax," the woman asked the director after the other agents left.
"You don't rip three navy jets apart in front of a battle group without being seen, Ms. Graves," the director told her. "And while it's brief, and fragmented at best, our satellites are definitely picking something up that is moving around the globe at fantastic speeds.
"Whatever it is, we have to assume it's real, and a potential threat."
The prim agent nodded. "I'll keep reviewing the newscasts," she assured him. "If what you said about power is right, he's sure to slip up again before too long."
"I have a confession to make," Clark told Laura who was gaping at her completely rebuilt barn. A barn that was now not only refurbished, but cleaned, and freshly painted.
What made it so unbelievable was because it had apparently been done in one night. Every bit of it. Because she knew it had been the same rundown, near-ruin just the night before when she went to check on her few chickens. Suddenly, the odd noises last night made sense.
"Who….? What are you?" "Well, obviously, I'm not from around here," Clark told her as he sat on a pile of debris from his work project so as not to alarm her by appearing too threatening. "And I thought if I helped you out a bit, maybe you would hear me out, and not go running off to the authorities."
Laura swallowed hard. "You….can't be human," she realized, looking at the barn, and at him again.
"Honestly," he said with a wry smile. "I'm not.
"But I was raised by humans, as a man."
"In….Kansas," she rasped.
"Yes," he nodded.
"You know," Laura eyed him suspiciously. "You're starting to sound like you're right out of a…..a…..
"Ohmigod. It can't be," she gasped, staring at where he sat.
"Mrs. Hastings," he asked with a frown.
"My…..My son used to read comic books. His favorite….."
"You look just like….."
"Clark Kent," he asked with a smile.
Laura nodded mechanically, unable to tear her eyes from him.
"You…..don't have a cape under that shirt," she asked a little uneasily.
"No," he told her.
She relaxed slightly.
"I left it back home."
Laura's mouth dropped open, and he stood slowly as he smiled at her. "Could we finish that talk now," he asked.
She managed to close her mouth, and stared up at him. "Are you trying to tell me that you're really…..? I mean that you are….him?"
Clark rose five feet off the ground, his feet standing on empty air.
Laura almost hit the ground, out cold. He caught her just before she would have hit the ground.
Clark sighed as he berated himself for showing off, and returned to the ground to carry the woman back inside the house. This, he decided, was going to be a long day. A very long day. Still, he reasoned that he was going to need an ally to get around this strange world, and she was the best prospect he had encountered to date.
"Feeling better," he asked just ten minutes after he lay her on the couch, and found a damp cloth to cool her flushed cheeks.
"How can you….?
"I mean…..this is the real world. You can't be….."
"I'm not from your world, ma'am. Something brought me here. I've been trying to figure out what, and how to get home, ever since.
"In the meantime, I'm trying to keep out of sight so I don't alarm the authorities on your world."
"If it helps, I'm from another dimension. A friend of mine has a theory that we sometimes share our existence with closer dimensions through dreams, and other mystic, or ethereal contacts. I've not sure myself, but it could account for your world's knowledge of my existence in my dimension."
"Wow," Laura rasped as she sat up stiffly. "So, you really can fly? Faster than a speeding bullet? All of that stuff?"
He smiled as he moved back to let her sit up. "I do have some abilities few others do, even in my dimension," he told her. "But I still often just think of myself as a farm boy from Kansas."
"There's no such place here, you know," she told him.
"I know. That was how I figured out I wasn't on my world any longer."
"So…..How did you end up here," she asked as she looked up at as he stood a few feet away from her, trying not to alarm her again.
"I'm not sure. I was visiting my mother's place, and went out to the barn when I heard some odd sound out there. The next thing I know I'm waking up in your world, and trying to figure out where I was, and how I got here."
She frowned. "Sound? High-pitched frequencies?" "You're a scientist," he asked in surprise.
"No, but I remembered that I saw a special on television last month before I….lost my cable….. Ah, anyway, a Chinese scientist was speculating that certain frequencies might let people travel through time, or even pierce space/time barriers that would make traveling past light speed possible."
"Faster than light drives aren't viable here," he frowned. "Wait, that's right. You haven't yet learned…..
"Never mind," he stopped himself as she looked up at him with evident interest.
"Then it is possible?
"I'm a Discovery Channel junkie," she smiled. "When I can afford the cable. I used to think about going into astronomy, but I got pregnant, and married, instead. Ah, in that order."
Clark nodded. "Do you remember that scientist's name," he asked.
"I couldn't tell you. I only remember he was Chinese," she told him. "Still, we could look on the net. Of course, we'd have to go into town, and hope the library wasn't crowded. I don't have….."
His gaze was locked on a wall, and she noticed his frown as he studied a patch on her peeling wallpaper.
"Uhm….Clark? Or do I call you Su…."
"Just Clark, please. You're about to have company. I'd prefer if we kept who I am a secret for now."
"That's going to be difficult when I have a new barn out there for all to see."
"How long since anyone has been here," he asked quickly as the blue sedan pulled up in the yard outside the house.
"Almost four months," she admitted before she could think of anything else but the truth. "I don't visit much, and no one comes to see me since my kids moved out."
"So four months ago I showed up asking for work, and I've been working on the barn since. That should about cover the timeline.
"Tell them I just wanted a place to stay."
"They'll think you're a fugitive," she grimaced as she jerked her head toward the door.
"Tell them I'm just hiking across the world, finding myself, as I've heard some people say."
She nodded as she headed toward the door where someone knocked hard now.
"So, who is it," she asked.
"Blue sedan. A heavyset man with thin brown hair."
"Oh, no," she groaned.
"Trouble," he frowned.
"My banker. He's been trying to get me to sell for pennies for years. I missed the last payment, and I can guess what he's thinking."
He nodded. "Stall him. I'm sure we can work something out to help you get through this, too."
She looked at him, and felt an unusual surge of confidence that came from his presence beside her as she went to the door. "Mr. Saxon," she smiled coolly. "What a surprise," she said as she opened the door to find the man standing there already sweating despite the early morning hour. "What can I do for you?" "Mrs. Hastings, you know what I want. I'm giving you a courtesy call, but in five days, you're going to be evicted if you don't have the money for your mortgage. I'll have no choice but to foreclose, and…..
"Who is this," he frowned as he saw the tall man with bright blue eyes step up behind her.
"Mr. Saxon," the stranger nodded at him.
"This is Clark," Laura smiled. "He's helping me fix up the place.
"You should see what a fine job he's already done on the barn."
"I…..didn't notice," he drawled. "All the same, five days, Mrs. Hastings. It would be best if you just took my offer, and….."
"No," she cut him off. "This was my husband's legacy, Bart, and I'm not going to give it up without a fight."
"Laura," he switched to an informal approach. "Be reasonable. The bank needs its money, and five days is not much time to get that much capital. Now, I can get you out of this dump, and pay you enough to get a reasonable apartment in town….."
"I'm not giving up my home, Bart," she told him, and slammed the door in his face.
Then she sagged against the door. She looked up at Clark with a sad smile. "I don't know what good bravado will do," she admitted. "I don't have a chance of getting that much money by the end of the week."
"Maybe I can help," he told her. "First of all, you have to wonder why he's so interested in your place when you're rather isolated, have no apparent resources. Also, there is no direct income from the land, or obvious mineral deposits.
"Or do you know if there is something like that?"
"I couldn't tell you," she sighed. "My husband took care of all of that, and he's long gone," she sighed.
"Let me look around. Then we'll figure something out to help you. Trust me, I won't let you lose your home."
"But….why should you care? I would think you'd be more interested in….."
"Getting back home? I am, Mrs. Hastings," he told her. "But this is what I do. Wherever I am, I help those in need.
"Just now, that means you.
"Now, do you have a map of your place? I'd like to check it out before I do anything else."
"Well, yeah. Henry had a survey map made of the place. I think it's in the kitchen," she paused to consider as she led the way through the house.
"You know, I really can't believe….."
She looked back at him, seeing him through new eyes, and noted the broad stretch of his shoulders beneath the taut flannel. "Then again," she grinned. "You don't look like any vagrant I've ever seen before," she chuckled softly as she went to a drawer, and sifted through some papers.
"Here it is," she said at last. "The deed, and a surveyor's map."
Clark spread both out on the table, and eyed the documents. "You do have full mineral rights to all resources on, or below the land," he told her as he studied the deed before he began checking the map. "And it looks like your husband was looking for something judging by these marks," he told her, tapping a few penciled in notes obviously added after the surveyor had drawn up the document.
"Henry was always out looking for the best way to do things. He might have been looking for a new water source. Our last well didn't do too well. And he worked so hard on it, too."
"I'd hold on to these if I were you," Clark told her. "I'll go inspect the place myself, and see if I can't find out what your husband, and perhaps your banker, are looking for out here."
"Maybe you could find some buried treasure," she grinned. "I heard once that some Civil War gold was supposed to be buried in this county somewhere."
"Really," he asked, one brow rising as he smiled at her as she took the deed and map and tucked it into her sundress' pocket.
"I doubt it's real. You hear all kinds of stories like that around these parts. General Lee was supposed to have been running from Sheridan through this area right before the end of the war, and was supposed to have buried all kinds of things.
"If you think about it, it's a wonder he ever got away, since he was supposed to have been burying treasure, arms, or whatever all over the place."
"I've learned men can be very ingenious when they wish to be," Clark told her. "I'll check out the place, and then we can decide what to do."
"I almost hope you find something. Just so I can stick it under Bart's pudgy nose," she sniffed. "Wouldn't that show him?" "I'm sure it would," he smiled, and headed for the door.
"Oh, don't you want breakfast? I have a little oatmeal left….."
"I'm fine, Mrs. Hastings," he assured her. "You eat, though. I'll be back as soon as I can."
She started to protest as he stepped off the back porch, only he didn't walk toward the path Henry used. He began to rise into the air right off the top step, and was soon high over the trees even as she stood watching with hugely rounded eyes.
"Oh…..my," she managed to choke out as she stared at the impossible, and thought about how normal all of that must be to people in his world.
"His world," she murmured, and had a thought.
Clark stayed low, just above the trees at times, and lower still when over a meadow. He scanned the ground beneath him with varying degrees of penetration as he focused his x-ray vision to check for anything that might explain the banker's interest. Or Laura Hastings' husband's activities before his death.
He circled the back twenty acres of her place twice, but saw nothing. He was headed back toward the house when he had a thought, and focused on the house itself. He swept his sharp gaze through the old farmhouse, but saw nothing.
Until he checked the basement.
He landed just inside the tree line, not wanting to frighten the woman, and walked past the barn, and over to the house. She was pulling open the door even as he lifted his hand to knock. "Did you find….?" "There's nothing out there," he told her, sweeping his hand out toward the mostly forested land. "Just a typical plot of ground. No treasure. No oil. Nothing of intrinsic value beyond the land itself."
"Oh," the woman sagged visibly, and he felt bad at his tact for a moment.
"However," he added, giving her a smile. "If you'll let me into your basement, I think I can show you something you might like."
"We don't have a basement."
"Yes, you do," he nodded, and she stood back as she shook her head again.
"You're welcome to look, but we really don't have….."
"Do you mind," he asked. "I'm going to have to open this wall," he told her, pausing before her old china hutch, and looking back at her.
"How could you know….? Oh, right," she blushed, shaking her head at herself. "Sure, go ahead.
"Clark," she stressed.
He easily pulled the hutch out from the wall, then used a controlled fist to smash into the brick façade behind the hutch to start pulling down the wall. A short time later, she had a mound of old brick in the middle of her kitchen, and there was a hidden door exposed that was bolted, and locked with an old metal padlock.
"Oh, my," Laura murmured. "Oh, my. This is what Henry was looking for all along, wasn't it," she asked.
"I couldn't say, but I'd guess it was," he added as he easily pulled off the lock, snapping the hasp like a brittle twig.
She stared at the casual display of strength as he pulled open the warped wooden door that creaked on ancient hinges almost rusted through. A dark hole stared back at them from behind the door. A hole that obviously led down into the depths of the ground.
"A….A basement," she exclaimed. "You were right."
"Do you want to come with me," he asked. "Or should I just bring it up?"
"It," she asked.
"I thought you might like a surprise," he smiled.
"I'm not sure I could take another one just now. Clark," she stressed his name again.
"All right. Let's just say, you've got a storehouse down there full of civil war weapons, memorabilia, and about twenty million in gold bars that would make any historian, or treasure hunter, drool with envy."
"Oh, my," she gasped, sitting down on a chair near her table, almost falling over as it was one with a wobbly leg. "Twenty…..? Twenty…..million?"
"I would gauge it close to that. I'm sure such things are worth about the same here as they are in my world, since they are relatively close to the same in such matters.
"But I wouldn't dismiss the memorabilia. Some museums would pay a small fortune for the weapons, documents, and other things cached down there."
"Oh, my," she gasped again. Then laughed. "Bart is going to be spitting nails when I show up with this find," she told him.
"I'd get in touch with a museum at once," she was told. "To ensure you get the credit for the find. And the rights to the cache."
"You're right. Bart's just ornery enough to try to steal it if I wait too long."
"Do you want to call someone now?" "I would. If I had a phone," she grimaced.
"Then you should drive into town, and make your calls at once. I'll close this back up after I get you a few things to prove your claim, and then you can go."
"Oh. Oh, and I had an idea that might help you," she said.
"Well, what you told me about that scientist made sense," he reminded her. "I thought I'd look up that fellow on the internet, as you suggested."
"Well, I also thought….if you really are…..well, like the comics my son read, I thought…..
"Well, what if a current issue might have something in it that explained what you're doing here?"
He looked at her, and nodded. "That's a possibility worth checking out, Mrs. Hastings. Now, excuse me. I won't be a minute," he told her, and vanished into the darkness.
"Wait. Don't you need a…..flashlight," she asked belatedly as he reappeared, covered in dust, and cobwebs, but holding a small, black satchel, an old cap-and-ball pistol, and a bar of dull, yellow metal.
"Stamped with the seal of the Confederacy," he told her, setting the heavy bar on the wooden table that actually groaned under its weight.
"What's in the pouch," she asked, looking at the desiccated leather satchel.
"Dispatches, and orders from General Robert E. Lee to a fellow named Ames, advising him to bury everything before the Union marched into this region," he told her. "Enough to authenticate your find, and prove it's value."
She stared at the bar. "I just wish Henry could have lived to see this," she told him as he began to set the bricks back in place at dizzying speed after pulling the protesting door back into place with ease. He then pushed the hutch back against the wall, leaving only a small pile of mortar dust on the floor to betray their exploration.
She swept it up without needing to be told, and tossed it into the bin as he nodded at her as he set the old, heavy lock on the satchel. "Oh, no. We'll have to go into the city to see the people, and places we both need to contact. Our small town won't be large enough, and I don't have enough gas….."
"Why don't I give you a ride," he told her with a grin.
"Let's go," he told her.
To Be Continued………….