A/N: Last chapter of 'Redemption's Coda.' Next, Look for upgrades to 'Darkseid Cometh.'
"I don't get it," remarked Kal-El, subvocalizing into his throat-mic. "The Consulate let you have the plane for the afternoon, but no fuel?" Kal hoped that the throat-mic would do what Bruce had said it would. The mic should send his voice by wireless link so that Chloe could hear him over the flapping sound of his long black trench coat. He planned to switch back to his usual crimson cape and blue uniform tomorrow or the next day. Kal would appear again as Superman after the Daily Planet published Ron Thorpe and Jimmy Olson's story about the Bizarros and the Metropolis District Attorney dropped the related charges pending against Superman.
"Oh, the tanks are full of fuel," Chloe replied as she adjusted the flaps "It's just that the Consul has only authorized me to use about fifteen to twenty minutes' worth of it. This configurable, aircraft is a fine example of Themyscarian engineering, cloaking device and all. But it still burns jet fuel. The Amazons are actually trimming their government spending during the on-going Western economic crisis and our Foreign Minister has cut back on all consulates' fuel allocations."
"I still don't understand why I'm carrying you in an aircraft." Kal smiled. Flying under the aircraft, he supported it on his back, balancing it as best he could with his arms and legs. Fortunately Chloe was a good pilot and assisted by keeping the plane's flaps, ailerons and other control surfaces trimmed correctly.
"Would you believe all the cars were taken?" She asked.
"If you say so." Kal mused. "I guess office politics is different for Amazons than for the rest of us."
"You can say that again." Chloe groaned.
Kal carried the Amazon aircraft, and Trinity with it, west from Metropolis toward Smallville. At the moment, it was configured as a small executive jet. It could easily reconfigure into a cargo plane, a fighter jet, or utility helicopter. "Hold on for a moment. I need to check in with Steel and the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit. I'm supposed to see Jason this evening, and I've got to make sure that they're still able to cover for me the whole time."
As Kal sped Trinity and the Amazon jet west across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, crossing farmland, cities and forests, clear skies began to give way to clouds. On the aircraft's small flight deck, Chloe pulled back on the control yoke and the plane began to climb. Feeling the airframe begin to rise from his back, Kal increased his altitude.
He and Chloe skillfully maneuvered to fly over a series of storm clouds.
CRACK! A bolt of lightning reached up and struck the jet. The combination of heat, charge and raw force made the plane wobble in Kal's control. For a moment, he and Trinity were in free fall. Trinity! He switched his throat-mic back to Chloe's channel, "Are you okay?" Man sometimes I wish I had Jonn's mental powers or that I could just phase thru solid objects like he and Wally can. Then I could check Chloe's vitals. Calm down Clark. Think.
Two heartbeats caught his ear. One normal, but slow and very close by. The other panicked and falling fast. "Trinity, wake up!" Kal smacked the side of the aircraft and it rang like a gong.
"Hey! What's going on out there?" Trinity called over their wireless link while righting the aircraft.
"Lightning struck us; you lost consciousness for a bit. And someone is falling. I need you to fire up the jet and hover for a few moments, so I can go save who ever that was..." Kal tossed the aircraft gently, like a giant model and darted down toward the falling heartbeat.
"Kal, if you don't have time to talk with me just say so. I don't like feeling wedged into your afternoon." Chloe called.
"You don't want me to let that other person die of fright while falling 15,000 feet to the ground, do you?
"No. Make your save. But, you'll have to find me at flight level thirty or thirty-five because I'm going to get well above these clouds."
Kal made his save quickly. The person was in a car. Falling from altitude. Strange. He flew underneath it and steadied it, guiding it to the ground. He listened to the heart rate and breathing of the person inside to determine that she was okay. Then he immediately soared skyward to find Chloe. It was the kind of anonymous save he would have made in his high school and college days as the Kansas Blur.
Inside the car that Kal had just set down on the ground in Pennsylvania, a young Amazon with strawberry blond-hair stewed silently. Darnit, Clark! Why did you have to go rushing off without even a good bye? If you don't care enough to talk this out with me, then... Who am I kidding? Did he even say goodbye to his beloved Lois when he took off to Krypton for five years? No. Then why would say goodbye to me before flying off on whatever mission.
She looked out through rain and saw that she was in a parking area. She saw signs for Roy Rodgers fried chicken and Exxon gas. A toll road plaza! The nerve of that man! He couldn't even have the common decency to set me down on normal highway! That's it; last straw; I'm done with him. I'll drive back to the Consulate in the city and do some more testing on that scarred, ancient coin.
Kal-El soared upward, through pouring rain, gusting winds, slashing lightening and booming thunder. As he topped out over the clouds, the Son of Krypton looked around with telescopic vision and listened intently, searching for the visual cross section of Trinity's Amazon jet and it's unique sound. In about half a minute he located it and then darted across the sky. As he closed into wireless range, he called to her, "Trinity, this is Neo, approaching from south-southeast and below." She confirmed and soon he supported the aircraft. Together they guided it west toward Kansas.
"Okay, let's talk about the white elephant in the room." Kal called.
"What's that? Everything's fine." Trinity responded.
Kal felt sure that Trinity was up set about something, considering what she'd done with the coffee and the things she'd said at dawn this morning. "I'm not talking about the aircraft, or your piloting skills – which, by the way, impress me."
"Don't butter me up, Clark. Flattery will get you nowhere."
"I'm serious, Chloe. Credit where credit is due."
Silence. Kal tried again. "Let's talk about that fight in Lowell County, Kansas, outside the Smallville city limits, where you held off a Bizarro for long enough that Jor-El could possess and empower Lionel Luthor to carry my mother and my son to safety in the old Kowachee Indian caves."
"It was nothing." Chloe said flatly. "Just doing my job as an Amazon Warrior and friend of Martha's." It didn't take Kryptonian senses to hear the tightness in her voice.
"It was not nothing." Kal said with empathy and admiration in his tone. "I saw the road sign sticking up out of the ground like a hatchet and I found you remember."
"How could I forget," Trinity sounded distant as images from that fight flashed through her mind. Moments later she continued "Why was it you who found me, and not anyone else?"
"I was the first one on the scene."
"WHY weren't you there with me when I was fighting that thing? It had your strength and your speed!"
"Chloe," Kal tried to just state the facts without sounding patronizing. , "I was off world slowing down an asteroid that could hit the earth." He wasn't sure he pulled it off
"Clark. Joseph. Kent." Chloe sounded hurt and Kal noticed that she wasn't controlling the flaps and ailerons of the jet as skillfully as she had earlier in the flight. "Don't you dare justify yourself."
"I was answering your question." Kal spoke softly.
"You're dodging the point!" Trinity paused and steeled herself holding back tears. "I could have died! I was scared out off my mind! You were off saving the world and left me alone to fend off something with your strength and speed and powers."
"That's right, Chloe." Kal agreed. He continued attempting to validate her feelings, "You were so strong, and so brave. You did great! You let my mother, her neighbor and my son get to safety."
"I could have died! Amazons aren't exactly immortal, you know? We're just unaging and very sturdy."
"Don't tell me you know!" The newest Amazon wracked the control yoke of her craft hard left, attempting to force the airframe into a descending counter clockwise roll. Instead the plane shuddered as Kal struggled to retain control of it. "How could you know what it feels like to be a woman facing something that big and that strong? Are you trivializing my feelings?"
Kal thought back to Jonathan and Martha. He recalled how his dad had helped his mom process her feelings. Validating the feeling without acting threatened or defending himself. Martha felt what she felt. Her feelings were neither an accusation, nor an indictment against Jonathan "You felt fear."
Trinity brought the control yoke back to level flight. "Bloody right I did."
Kal breathed a sigh of relief as the aircraft stopped fighting him and leveled out, "You felt Death touch you again."
"I'll be with you next time. Partner. If at all possible, I will be with you."
Chloe muted her end of the conversation.
Kal chose not to listen with super hearing but he could feel the vibrations in the airframe as she breathed and sniffled and silently sobbed. Clearly she was gathering herself.
"Do you love me, Clark?"
Silence. Great Scott! The only question worse than does this make me look fat...
"I'm not asking if you're in love with me or if you're attracted to me. I'm asking, do you love me?"
Okay that clears it up. And if the truth isn't good enough..."Chloe, you're more important to me than either of us knows. Yes, Chloe Cassiopeia Sullivan, I love you. I-"
"Ssshhh, Clark. Stop there. I need you. I can't do this superhero thing alone."
"I could, but I don't want to. Let's go fix that window at your mom's house."
After Clark applied some heat vision and superstrength to reshape a standard window to fit the broken one in the upstairs hall, Ben Hubbard came back over and helped install it.
Then Clark, Chloe, and Martha took Jason to see Jonathan's grave. Each paid their respects in their own way. When it was his turn, Clark said, "Hi, Dad. I've been gone for a while. Things changed while I was gone. Even things that I thought couldn't change, changed.
"You have a grandson, Jason. He's right here next to me. We showed the photo albums at the house. The way he'll really get to know you is by hearing us tell your stories, and tell him about how you shaped our lives. My father, Jor-El, may have taught me Kryptonian science and advanced theories of virtue and ethics, but everything I know about being a man, everything I know about being a hero, I learned from you, Dad." He squeezed his mom's shoulder gently. "And from you, too, Mom."
At last it was time to pile into sea planes and Amazon jets for the trip back to Metropolis. Some people couldn't file stories from their lap tops or run the Editorial Desk off their smart phones and actually had to attend school in person. Jason would have preferred to ride in his father's arms, or holding onto his shoulders. But Kal still had to hold Trinity's jet and push it back east. Richard's plane would take a lot longer to get to Metropolis than it would take Kal to fly the Amazon jet back there. So, Jason took the co-pilot's seat on the flight deck with his mother's cousin Chloe. All of this meant Jason would get to spend the night with his father. Then Clark would take him to school in the morning. Metropolis, the US and the world made do without Superman for years. They could do without him for a couple of hours in the morning while he got his son off to school.
The following morning, Clark woke Jason up a bit earlier than he was used to. "Why so early, Father?"
"I've got to give a press conference." Clark knelt down at the edge of his son's bed
Jason's eyes brightened, "You mean you're gonna ask someone questions, like Mommie?"
"No." Clark looked up toward the windows. "You remember the creature that tore up Grandma Kent's farm?"
"Yeah." Jason bolted up straight. "How could I forget? Aunt Chloe came in her Amazon armor and Grandfather Jor-El came too. They saved us!"
"Exactly. Well there were others like it wearing my uniform in Metropolis and other places hurting people. That's why I've been dressing like Neo from the Matrix movies, like I did as the Kansas Blur before I became Superman. People were scared of the creatures and they thought I was one of them when I dressed in the Superman uniform you're used to, so I went back to the old look that no one was afraid of and kept saving people."
The lad sank like a rag doll. "What's that got to do with getting me up early?"
"The authorities proved it wasn't me hurting people and the District Attorney is dropping all the charges against me, because I'm innocent. He wants Superman to appear with him in the red cape and blue uniform on the steps of the court house fifteen minutes before your school starts when he announces all charges dropped."
"Oh. Cool." Jason rolled over and closed his eyes again. But he was smiling. "Can I go back to sleep now?"
"No silly!" Clark tossed a pillow at his son. "You can get up and get ready for school."
The Metropolis District Attorney stood at a podium festooned with microphones. Behind him stood the Mayor, the Chief of Police, the Director of the City Crime Lab, Ron Thorpe and Jimmy Olsen. Before him stood a crowd of reporters and photographers. The DA wrapped up his statement, "The Crime Lab found definitively that it was not Superman who burned two of Metropolis' Finest, nor was it Superman who killed the young mother. The Daily Planet further proved conclusively that that Superman was in fact out of the city at the exact moment these two crimes were committed. It is, therefore my duty to drop the charges against the Son of Krypton. Normally, the first question goes to the Daily Planet, but they're up on the platform with me today. So, I give the first question to the Star."
The camera woman with the Star reporter elbowed him and pointed skyward. The reporter's eyes followed her hand, "Look, up in the Sky!"
Others did what he said and looked. Cat Grant from News 9 Metropolis declared, "It's a bird!"
Anderson Cooper from CNN squinted, "No...it's a plane!"
The Mayor stepped up to the podium and proclaimed, "No. It's Superman!"
Superman descended from the sky with his crimson cape fluttering in the morning breeze. His cerulean blue uniform shown in the sunlight streaming over the spires of the skyscrapers. Even his spit curl looked freshly quaffed. The Man of Tomorrow touched down gently next to the podium and waited for the Mayor to defer to him. Smiling broadly he stepped up to the mic, "I'd like to thank the Special Crimes Unit and hero called Steel who filled my boots while I was gone. I'd like to thank the Daily Planet for never losing faith in me. I'd like to thank my friends and family for standing by me. And I'd like to say what I should have said weeks ago: It's good to be back!"