Summary: What if Jonathan and Martha Kent were not the ones to find the infant Kal-El? Just how much of life is chance? And how much is fate?
Disclaimer: I neither own nor make anything. All recognizable Lois and Clark characters, lines of dialogue, and plot points belong to DC comics, Warner Brothers, December 3rd productions, and anyone else with a stake in the Superman franchise. I'm just playing with my toys again. I promise to put them all back in the box when I am done.
Special Thanks: Go out to my awesome beta-reader, AntiKryptonite. As always, you were patient with my writing and provided great insight with your comments. Your sharp eye really helped to clean this story up. My heartfelt thanks to you. It has been my pleasure to work with you again.
Author's Note: Just a couple of mild swear words. Nothing too horrible though.
May 17, 1966
"Is this the place?"
"Are you certain?"
"Of course I'm certain. How dare you question me? Have you learned nothing during our time together?"
"It's just that...this place doesn't look any different from the rest of this backwoods country, that's all."
"Believe me, I know exactly where we need to be."
"And you are certain that the event is to be tonight?"
"Positive. You know, Cameron, I wouldn't have come to you if I'd known how galactically stupid you are. Now, shut up would you?"
"Good. Stop here."
"Yes. Now, watch and wait."
The battered old military-style jeep came to a grinding halt as the driver pulled it to the side of the road and threw the vehicle into park. He unrolled his window and poked his head out into the cooling air of the darkening night. It was the perfect mid-May evening. And, if the odd stranger sitting in the passenger seat was right, it was about to get even better. Cameron shot a discreet glance at the man from the corner of his eye. He still wasn't completely sure what to make of him.
All he knew was that the man had first come to him several months ago, claiming to know about the future. Cameron hadn't trusted the man at first, but, over the months, the stranger had accurately predicted everything, from the winners of the 1966 Super Bowl to what the newspaper headlines would be each day. So he'd been forced to believe in what the man had told him. Perhaps he really was from the future. And if he was...oh the possibilities.
If anything, Cameron hoped to God that Tempus wasn't lying to him now.
He didn't want to be taken for a fool. And he wanted the promised event to actually come to pass. He'd been waiting his whole life for a moment like this. He'd dedicated his life to proving the existence of alien life-forms. Now Tempus had promised him that one would be falling right into his very lap, if only he trusted the self-proclaimed time traveler. A hopeful flutter rose in Cameron's heart.
His entire life, he'd endured the scoffing, the jeering coming from his peers. Cracked, they had called him, in their very kindest moments. Delusional. Insane. Certifiable. Mentally unstable. Unhinged. Cameron had heard it all, mostly behind his back, when the others thought him unable to hear their biting remarks, the laughter in their voices. Some had actually had the nerve to blatantly say these things to his face. He hadn't known which was worse - the mocking voices no one thought he heard, or the vicious remarks made to his face.
But now...if Tempus was telling the truth...he would prove them all wrong. He would prove his theories right. Earth was not the only planet with life - intelligent, humanoid life. And that was enough to trust that the man sitting beside him was telling him the truth. It was enough to trust that Tempus didn't plan on dragging him out into the middle of nowhere to kill him. Still, as the minutes ticked by, Cameron found himself growing ever more anxious.
"So...how much longer?" he finally asked, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel.
"Soon," was all Tempus would say.
Despite himself, Cameron started to have his doubts. Perhaps Tempus wasn't who he said he was. Perhaps he was just some guy, hired by his peers, sent to poke fun at Cameron's beliefs. An extremely lucky man, who'd been somehow accurately able to foretell future events. Not only foretell them, but with one hundred percent, down to the minutest detail correctness.
Cameron frowned. No, he was fairly certain that Tempus was indeed the real deal. He had to be. Nothing else made any sense.
He had to wonder why Tempus had entrusted this information to him. He'd pressed the man for details, but the man from the future wouldn't say much. Sketchy details were all that he had been willing to give up. And yet, it had somehow been enough for Cameron. Enough to make him practically salivate with the prospect of what was to come. Enough to make him crack his knuckles in eager anticipation.
Mentally, he ran through the small pile of information Tempus had been willing to offer up. The event that was to come would be assumed to be a meteorite crashing in the field he was now sitting outside of. But in actuality, it would be the ungraceful crash landing of a space ship. Nestled within the ship would be an infant boy, a child sent to Earth to escape the explosion that had torn his home world of Krypton apart. Kal-El, Tempus had called the child. The boy would possess all the parts of a human male, would appear no different from Cameron's own son had, when he had been an infant. But the alien baby would grow to become the most powerful man on Earth, with a host of abilities at his disposal. Super strength, hearing, sight, speed. The power to defy gravity and fly. Invulnerability. Heat and x-ray vision. Super breath.
Cameron was sure he was forgetting the rest, but it didn't matter. All that mattered was that he get to the ship first, before anyone else could find the landing site. All that mattered was that he get his hands on that child, so that he could shape the boy into the image he wanted. And he had plans - big plans - for the infant alien who would be making his appearance shortly. He would mold and shape the boy until he grew into a man; a super soldier who did only Cameron's bidding.
The ex-Sergeant-Major allowed himself a tight smile as he thought of having such a powerful being under his control, and his control only. When he did, he'd make the United States military pay for what they had done to him. He'd make them wish they've never doubted him. He'd make them rue the day they'd ousted him from their prestigious ranks. And then, he'd take his revenge on the bitch who'd caused all the trouble to begin with.
Cameron had always served - faithfully, willingly, honorably. He'd always been the model soldier. He'd never questioned his orders. He had never hesitated to do what was asked of him. He'd always been the first man to step forward when volunteers had been asked for. Then, out of the blue, he'd been accused by his ex-girlfriend of rape. Though he hadn't actually committed the heinous act, the court-martial had believed the woman. He'd been dishonorably discharged from the army, losing everything in the process - his dignity, his benefits, the only job he'd ever known. Only his wife had stuck by him; his "friends" had all turned their backs on him as soon as the accusation against him had been made.
But now, he'd found a new niche for himself. The cosmos had always held a certain fascination for him, and he'd always believed that Earth was not the only planet out there with intelligent life. So, he'd secretly studied the stars each night, after his wife and son were abed. He'd waited patiently, night after night, staring up at the vast expanse of the galaxy that lay splayed out in the heavens above, looking for anything out of the ordinary, though he'd never had any luck.
Cameron's fingers still drummed aimlessly, tunelessly on the steering wheel, while his head remained tilted toward the nearly cloudless night sky. His high hopes for the evening started to sink as the minutes ticked by. He cracked his knuckles, wincing at the popping sound they made, but enjoying the actual feeling. Then he stretched and yawned, all but ready to give up this fool's errand.
A moment later, a flash of fire appeared in the endless, dark abyss of the sky, blotting out the expanse of stars in its brilliance. Cameron's mouth gaped open, though he found himself unable to vocalize a single word. As he watched, the streak of light and fire came lower and lower, angling over the road where his vehicle lay, pulled off to one side. Over the field it went, until Cameron lost sight of it.
"That," Tempus said, sitting next to him in the passenger seat, his voice rich with the sarcasm that never seemed to stray too far from his tongue, "was your pot of gold."
In the next instant, Cameron was out the door of his car. Mustering all the speed he could, he raced to the open field on his left. He'd remained in top shape, even after his discharge from the service, so it was without any difficultly that he vaulted over the wooden fence rails that ringed Shuster's Field. He hit the ground and took off at a dead run, knowing that he had to be the first one to arrive on the scene. He didn't know who else might have witnessed the event. But he wasn't willing to risk being the second one on the scene.
Behind him, he could hear Tempus struggling to keep pace. But the time traveler had warned him not to wait for him. He'd warned him to keep moving and that, if worse came to worst, they would just meet up at the crash site. Still, judging from how close Tempus' footfalls sounded, he was keeping fairly good pace. Cameron didn't care either way, so long as one of them reached that crash site first. Briefly, Cameron wondered how much farther they would have to go, and if they hadn't lost their sense of direction. If this truly was a spacecraft, perhaps it was capable to banking to one side. Or pulling out of the free-fall it had been in.
Cameron shook his head. No, it wouldn't be able to pull out of the fall. It had been moving way too fast. It had been on fire, for crying out loud!
But his worries vanished as he looked ahead. A long, deep furrow in the ground appeared before his eyes. Bits of turf and grass were smoldering in the wake of the heat, and small flickers of dying flames lit up the darkness. A surge of adrenaline rushed through Cameron's body, propelling him even faster. He raced along the fresh scar in the soil, keeping it on his right-hand side as a guide. The earthy scent of the turned up dirt filled his nose, and the distant chirps and calls of crickets and frogs lay on the edges of his hearing.
Finally, just when Cameron thought the crevasse had no end, he skidded to a halt before a small, sleek capsule, nestled within a mound of disturbed soil. His heart hammered in his chest, not from the exertion of the run, but from sheer anticipation. For a moment, he just stood there, struck almost dumb from what he was seeing. From what he was finally seeing. All his hopes and dreams sat before him, encased in a shiny blue capsule, no bigger than the bassinet his own son had once slept in at night.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Tempus prompted him, jogging up to his side.
"It's more than I could have dreamed," Cameron breathed, awestruck.
"Yes, well, that may be so. But you need to wake up and get to work. We haven't got all night."
Cameron took in a shaky breath, then knelt before the space ship. Carefully, he reached over to it. His fingers caressed the smooth metal, oddly cool beneath his touch. It should have been scalding hot, he reasoned. The speed it had crashed at should have super-heated the metal. But the capsule was comfortable beneath his fingertips - not quite cold, but not all that warm either. It made Cameron very curious as to what kind of metal it had been shaped from, and what kind of technology it had on board to help regulate the temperature of the ship. But mostly, he was interested in the life-form held within.
Holding his breath, he slowly lifted the top of the capsule and peered inside. His breath came out in a rush as he gazed upon the infant within. Intelligent, soft, curious brown eyes looked back at him, blinking rapidly at the change in scenery. Gentle coos came from the child, and he reached toward Cameron. Mesmerized, the man reached out to the baby with one hand, and the tiny boy grabbed hold of his finger, his eyes never leaving Cameron's face.
For his part, Cameron was stunned. Tempus had warned him that the infant alien would appear no different from a human child. But still, the former Sergeant-Major had harbored some lingering expectation of some glaring difference. Purple eyes, maybe. Or the hint of antennas, perhaps. A forked, lizard-like tongue, perchance. Or maybe, a slight greenish hue to his body. But there was absolutely nothing that gave away even the barest hint of the baby's extraterrestrial origin. He looked exactly the same as Cameron's own son had, when he'd been about two months old.
"Incredible," Cameron whispered to himself. Then, to the child, he said, "Hello there, child. Welcome to Earth. Welcome to your destiny."
The baby cooed again, perhaps soothed by the contact with someone - anyone - after his lonely travel through space. He smiled at Cameron.
"My boy, you are going to make me the most powerful man on Earth," Cameron continued, in a sing-song voice.
The man gently took his finger back from the child. A grin overtook his face as he stared at the baby. Yes, things were indeed falling into place. This child was his ticket to revenge and redemption, all at the same time. He was certain that he would be able to brainwash the infant into being his perfect little soldier. After all, it couldn't possibly be that difficult to mold the child to his will during the coming, formative years.
Behind him, Tempus was staring at the boy with a satisfied grin on his face. There was perhaps, even a flicker of recognition in his face, as though he'd been there before. Cameron took it all in with one swift glance over his shoulder. Then he moved his gaze back to the alien before him.
"Are you sure he's...safe?" Cameron asked. He was a tad fearful of handling the child after Tempus had told him of the strength the baby would possess.
"Absolutely. For God's sake, Cameron, he's just a baby. He's completely and utterly helpless...for now. Besides, take a look around. Your insurance policy is all around you."
Cameron lifted the child out of the capsule, and settled him against his chest. The baby's head rested on his shoulder, and Cameron absently patted the boy's back. It was so natural for him to have such a young one in his arms, though he was a bit rusty. His own son was much older than the little one he now held, but he still clearly remembered how the boy used to fit into his arms.
"Insurance policy?" Cameron asked. The time-traveler hadn't spoken of an insurance policy before now.
"Yes," Tempus said, nodding his head. He stooped down to gather a few glowing green rocks in his hand. He turned one over in his palm, staring into the depths of the stone intently. "You see these?"
Cameron nodded. "Yes..."
A wicked grin crossed Tempus' lips and his eyes gleamed with an almost malevolent light, Cameron thought.
"Come again?" Cameron said, blinking at the unfamiliar word.
"Radioactive pieces of the baby's home world," the man from the future explained. "Temporary exposure will cause that thing pain. It'll rob him of his powers once they manifest, at least for short periods of time. Prolonged exposure will kill him."
Cameron nodded again, relieved. He'd given quite a lot of thought to all Tempus had told him about the Kryptonian child. If the baby grew to be as powerful as Tempus led him to believe, he'd worried about finding a way to ensure that the alien stayed in line. He'd agonized over finding a way to destroy the alien life-form if the worst came and he went rogue.
"So...a bullet made from this stuff..."
"Would be lethal," Tempus confirmed.
"So, you'll be taking this order as a carryout then?" Tempus said, laughing.
He knelt on the ground, opening the small lead case he carried. Cameron watched as the man gleefully filled the case with the scattered bits of Kryptonite. He noted how Tempus hummed to himself, an odd tune Cameron had never heard, and assumed came from some time in the future. Once or twice, the man even kissed the current stone in his hand, throwing a glance at the baby. Cameron thought he saw barely concealed hatred in those glances, and he wondered silently at it. Tempus hadn't shown any emotion, positive or negative, toward the impending arrival of the baby until now. But now, it seemed that he loathed the boy.
"Tempus," Cameron said after a moment.
Tempus' head snapped up at the sound of his name, only for a second. Then he went straight back to his work. He placed in the last piece of Kryptonite, then shut the case tightly.
"What now?" he asked irritably.
"Well," Cameron said, shifting the baby's weight on his hip, slightly uncomfortable with Tempus' change in attitude. "I was wondering. Why? Why are you dropping all of this in my lap? What reason do you have for hating this child?"
Tempus grinned, looking very much like the Cheshire Cat. The smile even touched his eyes.
"Because, my dear Cameron, this child will one day grow up to destroy the world as you and I know it. He'll shape society to his own image, his own values. Trust me, I'm doing the world a favor by handing him to you. I believe that people like you and me should be shaping the future. Not some alien creature."
Cameron nodded silently as Tempus stood and dusted off the knees of his pants. Cameron was about to pick up the lead case with his free hand when a man and woman came picking their way over to them, following the same line of overturned dirt and the long, unmistakable scar in the ground. Cameron pushed the baby into Tempus' arms, then started to jog over to meet the curious couple.
"Hold it! Stop right there!" he commanded as he moved.
The two people did not slow.
"Halt!" Cameron tried again, mustering up his very best military voice. "This area is off limits!"
"Who are you?" the male newcomer asked. "What are you doing here? This is private property, belonging to a friend of mine."
"Sergeant-Major Cameron Trask of the United States Armed Forces," he said. "And this area is off limits to civilians."
"The military?" the woman asked, her voice colored with confusion. Then, to Cameron, she said, "We thought we saw a meteorite."
"Yes, ma'am. That's why we're here, to recover it. My division has an interest in the object."
He wasn't sure why he was explaining anything to these people. Perhaps it was nerves, or just plain old disuse of official protocol in the intervening years since his discharge.
"Oh?" the man asked.
Cameron could see now, thanks to the moonlight, the man's features. He was no more than a simple farmer, judging from the clothes he wore. It made him crack a tiny smile. These yokels would believe any story he could possibly dish out.
"And what division would that be?" the man pressed, his eyebrow arched.
"Bureau Thirty-Nine," Cameron answered at once, wondering where that idea had come from. "Now, I'm going to have to ask you folks to vacate the premises. It isn't safe here for you." He managed to put on his best attempt at caring for their well-being.
"I don't think we should..." the man began to protest, before Cameron cut him off.
"Sir, I'm not going to give you another warning. Don't make me call for backup. I have no desire to see you both placed in handcuffs tonight."
The woman frowned and tugged on the man's arm. Her husband or boyfriend, Cameron assumed.
"Come on, Jonathan," she said, a small sliver of worry in her voice.
The man - Jonathan - said nothing. He instead held Cameron's gaze for a minute longer than was necessary. Then he nodded to the woman.
"All right, Martha," he relented.
Cameron watched silently as the two turned and began to amble back over the darkened field. He allowed himself to feel a small moment of triumph. But the couple's appearance brought to light a new concern. Who else had witnessed the supposed meteorite crash? Who else might show up, uninvited, to the crash site? He had to move, and he had to move now. He turned and headed back to where Tempus stood, lurking in the shadows, out of sight of the two farmers. The infant was asleep in his arms, tiny pink mouth slightly open.
"Took you long enough," Tempus said, pushing the child into Cameron's arms again with disgust. "I am not a baby-sitter."
Cameron took the baby almost absently. "We need to move. I'll take the case. Can you grab the ship?"
Tempus nodded. "I don't see why not. After all, you're preserving the future," he said, a gleam in his eye.
Cameron watched as Tempus grabbed the ship and easily lifted it. He wasn't a muscular looking man at all. Cameron had assumed the capsule was heavy. It certainly looked like it weighed a considerable amount. But Tempus didn't seem to be struggling with it much. In fact, he might as well have been holding an awkwardly shaped bowling ball for all the strain he appeared to be exerting.
Back across the field they went, using the moon's light to see by. At first, they were guided by the torn up soil that stretched across the otherwise grassy field. After that, they just kept moving in as straight a line as they could manage. It was slower going this time, with both men walking side by side. Tempus was quiet as he walked.
"Who were those people?" Cameron finally asked, assuming Tempus might know.
"You mean those two hicks?"
Tempus' smile went from ear to ear. "No one important," he chuckled. "You don't need to worry about them at all."
They emerged from Shuster's Field just north of where Cameron had parked, and they swiftly made their way back to the waiting vehicle. Once there, Cameron placed the still sleeping child in his son's old car seat. Then he and Tempus loaded the capsule and case filled with Kryptonite into the open cab on the back of the truck. Cameron pulled a worn, battered blue tarp over the items, hiding them from view. While Cameron was busy with that, Tempus moved around to the open door of the vehicle. He leaned on the doorframe and peered in at the sleeping infant.
"This time, I've won," he whispered. "You don't know it yet. But you're going to destroy the possibility of Utopia, not bring it about. The future belongs to people like me, like this moron Trask." He stopped and laughed a self-satisfied laugh. "Goodbye, Kal-El."
With that, Tempus pushed himself away from the vehicle. He grinned again, then reached his hand into his pocket, feeling the small square of plastic and metal hidden there.
"Get in," Cameron said, coming around and shutting the door to the backseat where the alien child slept.
"No thanks. I've already got a ride," Tempus said.
"We're in the middle of nowhere," Cameron protested, turning to face his companion.
But Tempus was nowhere to be seen. It was as if he'd simply vanished into thin air. Cameron thought it likely that he actually had. Perhaps he'd gone back to whatever time and place he'd initially come from. Cameron shrugged to himself. It didn't matter to him. He had what he needed now. The child was in his possession. And he had the means to control the super-powered adult that the baby would grow into.
Cameron climbed into the driver's seat of the truck and buckled himself in. He checked on the baby, peering into the rearview mirror to do so. The child was still asleep, his mouth moving now in a lazy sucking motion. Cameron smiled, not at the child, but at what lay ahead for the baby. He could hardly wait to start the process of making the child into his own, personal super soldier.