Dark Matters

Chapter 9

Kal left the Bureau not long after Lana and Phillip went out into the field. He raced to Professor Peterson's lab and streaked down residential and side streets in a blur, leaving passersby to believe that that a storm of gusty winds blew up. He did not want anyone to see him flying and believe Superboy returned. When he entered the lab, he wore the red and blue outfit and stopped the scientist dead in his tracks.

"Superboy! You're back from the North! What happened out there? Where did you go exactly? What did you see?" Peterson demanded.

Kal shook his head and came closer for inspection. "No, Professor, I'm not Superboy, I'm Superman, it's me, Kal-El. I'm kind of filling in for the boy scout, but nobody knows I'm here yet, so…"

Peterson smiled. "So keep it secret, I understand. Superman, huh? It's logical you'd progress to that name. A perfect fit."

Dr. Winger entered in the lab, his nose buried in his charts. He looked up in shock.

"Superboy! Welcome back!"

"This is Superman, Winger. His real name is Kal-El, and he has come through the portal from the Andromeda galaxy dimension."

"Actually, doctors, I'm from the Pinwheel galaxy. But just so we don't all get confused, you can still call me Kal."

Dr. Winger walked slowly around him, poking and prodding him amazed.

"Pinwheel, Andromeda, Milky Way…I know my portal works, but it's awesome to see another version of him in the flesh!" He looked closely at his face. "The resemblance is remarkable, a few years added, but not much difference at all."

Kal crossed his arms and sighed. "I suppose it would be. We are the same person. Hey, Winger, please, I'm not a store mannequin…though I did pose for some big name retail ones in my dimension. That was cool. Anyway…" He gazed at the darkened portal. "You have to turn that on immediately. I need to see the Bright Matter. You know, the flying candy."

"Right away. This situation is huge, Kal! Huge!"

Although Peterson was ready to oblige, Winger adamantly ran to the steps and blocked it. "No. We can't do that. Not even for you, Kal. It's too powerful; we don't know anything about this energy force yet. It could be deadly."

Kal narrowed his eyes and pointed accusingly. "Winger, I think you do know something. You, Peterson, and Doug at the Bureau all had your little Astronomy geek squad in college and you stumbled upon the Dark Matter back in late sixties. I assume you figured out some things. These events are reoccurring now. It's a matter of life or death. I can't sit around while innocent people get their bones sucked dry!"

Peterson and Winger looked at each other nervously. "You heard about that?"

Kal shrugged. "I keep my ears open. But, it's all over the news. Look, I'm a busy superhero, fellas. Not only is this cannibal Dark cloud roaming around, but now Lex Luthor and John Corben have escaped the State Prison. With any luck, the cloud will eat them before they start their nonsense."

Peterson and Winger stared open mouthed at this version of the man of steel. He certainly didn't share the same attitude as the Superboy they had come to know and respect. Kal sensed their confusion and took a deep breath.

"Look, I've said it before, but I'm not exactly as goody-goody as my dear little twin Superboy. I care about the people, and you can trust me to do everything in my power to keep this planet safe. But I don't mess around or play diplomacy too well. I know what we're up against. I can sense it. From my simplest understanding, Dark Matter is bad, Bright Matter is good." Kal stepped closer to the portal. "I have a feeling the BM wants to communicate. What better way to communicate than with someone from another planet. It's worth a shot."

Professor Peterson was unconvinced. "But Kal, suppose it wants to escape, what if its intentions are not benign? We already have a bad situation brewing with the Dark Matter. Pardon the pun, but it's only a matter of time before it really strikes earth. It seems to me like it's just feeding inconspicuously now. But once it gets a real taste, it will crave more of what it's after."

"No, no, Peterson, he's right. We can't sit on this. Otherwise the blood of more people will be on our heads. I can't live with that, can you?"

Peterson glumly shook his head. "Not at all, and considering I have a family out there…Superman, do whatever it takes."

Kal paced around while Dr. Winger grudgingly revved up the portal. "So, what do you think it craves, Professor?"

The portal cast a near blinding light and Winger tumbled down the steps.

"Cover your eyes!" Kal shouted. He caught Winger and held his cape wide open in front of both scientists. The blue swirls made way for a fusion of colorful molecules. Kal looked at the scientists as they lowered their hands from their faces. The molecules did not assail them, and remained at the very edge of the portal entrance.

"I think it's safe now, but just keep your distance. Hold your thoughts on that question, Professor. I have to make contact."

Kal ascended the steps and stood before the portal. He put out his arm in a gesture of peace. "My name is Kal-El. I am from the extinct planet Krypton and was raised on planet earth since infancy. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

The colors brightened at the mention of Krypton and the beads swirled out of the portal opening. They circled around Kal, as if to confirm that he spoke the truth. The colors flashed on and off like the bulb lights on amusement park rides. Kal looked at the scientists, who had smartly taken cover behind a giant lab table.

"I think I'm getting somewhere with it. It senses my powers and I believe it understands us. If only it can verbally communicate."

The molecules bundled and penetrated Kal's skin. Peterson was aghast.

"No! What is it trying to do?" He shouted. "Leave him alone!"

Kal stared quizzically at his hand; he felt no pain, just a queer tingling sensation spreading through his form. He faced the scientists.

"Don't worry! It wants to talk but it needs a suitable host with a voice box. I have to do this. I'm the only one powerful enough to contain it. I think that's what it tried to do to Lana earlier. The force of it would have killed her if I didn't pull her away."

Kal fell abruptly silent. His whole body went rigid and he flailed his arms out at his sides. The Bright Matter had taken over. His face and skin paled and his eyes lit up whitish yellow, resembling two beams of energy. He opened his mouth and began to speak in a remote voice that drifted on an echo. The Superman suit pulsated brighter with each word and inflection.

"The Kryptonian is right. No human form can sustain my energy force and live. I am not a threat to your world or human society. You call me Bright Matter, and I accept that name. I am a mass of molecular spores that has existed since the beginning of time. I was created to help keep order and balance in the universe, to protect it from natural cosmic disasters and invaders. I have the ability to multiply. Parts of me exist in every dimension and they too can expand and multiply as needed."

The Bright Matter was in full control of Kal and floated his body down the steps closer to Winger and Peterson. The scientists got over their initial fears. Winger grabbed a Polaroid and rapidly snapped photos.

"We must have evidence of this!" He exclaimed as the images scattered and developed onto the floor. "Doug is gonna flip when he sees these!"

The Bright Matter continued to use Kal like a puppet, moving his head side to side, and his arms up and down in showy gestures.

"I have defended planets throughout the solar system from this Dark Matter for eons. It once served side by side with me and its original undertaking was to eat up the dead Matter in space. However, its craving overpwered it and it fled. The Dark Matter sustains itself mostly on calcium and iron."

Peterson held his mouth in shock. "That's it! That explains why the victims were only left with their skin; it fed off the bones–calcium and iron! And it ate parts of the vehicles. That thing is a monster!"

"You're not kidding. And now it's back for more sustenance." Winger said grimly.

"Its only thoughts now are to feed and destroy. The only planet of any dimension it has been unable to conquer is that of Krypton. The Dark Matter greatly feared Krypton and its inhabitants. But now that Krypton no longer exists, the Dark Matter has grown bolder in its attack. It reached a crucial stage of development and can no longer be permitted to survive. As a singular entity I am very powerful, but in order to successfully defeat this Dark Matter I need the aid of a true Kryptonian."

"In each dimension I found the same one to help me with varying degrees of success –The last surviving son, Kal-El. My actions made the Dark Matter furious. The Kryptonian defender, Kal-El, whom you call Superman or Superboy, continues to thwart it. The Superman I inhabit now is powerful. But I know he is not your rightful Kryptonian defender. I sense this one's hesitation. He battles with conspicuously depressed human emotions due to his rearing on this weak planet, but his resolve is stronger than I've ever seen. He will allow me to use his body as a defense."

"But wait, why are you in my portal? Why aren't you out there in the atmosphere, searching for the Dark Matter?" Winger asked.

"I have no need to search. The Dark Matter has arrived. It currently bides time in your atmosphere and started its feeding process. I gather strength through the force field this portal device provides. I have been regrouping my molecular structure back into one whole entity. Your portal is my gateway. The process is nearly finished and then I will retreat. You must leave the portal in constant operation for me to do this. If not, you are hindering my powers and wasting precious time for your planet. Now that you know of my mission, you must let me carry it out to the full."

"I will not make contact with humans again."

Kal's eyes blinked and then his head drooped and his shoulders went slack.

Peterson ran up to Kal and clutched his arms. "Wait! How do we beat the Dark Matter? What can get rid of it completely?"

The spores flew up from Kal's body and the brightness faded. Kal blinked rapidly and held his head. His knees wobbled and he staggered. Winger rushed to his side to help Peterson keep him steady before he fell to the floor. They led him to a rolling chair and sat him down. Peterson handed him a cup of water.

"Kal, are you okay? How do you feel?"

Rainbows danced before his eyes. "It's weird. I feel wasted, drained, but…it's a good tired I guess." He gulped the water. "I'll have my full strength back in a few minutes."

Professor Peterson nervously paced. "I'm worried. The Bright Matter may not be a threat, but it is extremely powerful, Kal. Just now you were only talking to us. What is going to happen when you have to physically exert yourself and fight the Dark Matter? The strain of being a host could kill you!"

"I agree, Kal. This spore is going to have to just work on its own. We can't afford to lose you, and your dimension certainly can't."

Kal felt revived and stronger than ever. He rose up and hurried to the exit. He was worried for Lana.

"Professor…Doctor, That is a chance I must take. I'm the only one who can. Your earth needs my protection. There's no one else."