Disclaimer: The rights of Superman belong to DC comics and Warner Bros. I am making no financial gain from this story whatsoever.
Why Do You Serve Them, Kal-El?
The television switched on.
"So your opinion is ," said the host. "Is that Superman isn't doing enough?"
"No, no," said a man, raising his hand. "I'm asking, should he be doing anything at all?"
"What do you mean?" asked the host.
"Think about it," said the man. "Superman is not one of us. He's not from this planet. Why should he interfere with what fate has prescribed? And if so, is it not tragic that it's a lottery for us? Nobody is assured of his assistance if something goes wrong. He may or may not come."
"I'm sorry, I must interrupt," said a woman, seated opposite to the man. "The premise is utterly asinine. Because one can't help each and every one, none should receive it? What nonsense are you talking about? Were it not for this person, there are hundreds, hundreds, of individuals who would not be alive this very moment."
"I don't follow," said the host, to the man. "A policeman sometimes solves a crime, and sometimes it remains unsolved. Should we close all police stations?"
"This 'person', referred to by my colleague, is an alien," said the man. "He's not one of us. A policeman makes mistakes because he is human. This alien is beyond out comprehension. Life is not meant to be like this."
"With your nonsensical logic, when penicillin was first discovered, you would've been advocating we needed to continue dying from infections because that was how it always was," said the woman.
"Medicine didn't fall from another planet," said the man, trying to dismiss the idea. "Shouldn't we, humans, be stepping up to help one another? Is it not an indictment on humanity that we applaud a person not from our planet stepping in to save lives?"
"When you find a human who can fly and move ships," said the woman, "then call..."
The television was switched off. Clark sighed to himself, and opened a book to read. Twenty minutes into reading, he heard a buzz from his door.
"Chloe!" he said, warmly, leaning forward to envelope her in a hug. "I didn't know you were coming so soon."
"Neither did I," said Chloe. "Seems like this Superman fellow is generating enough interest that I was practically thrown out."
"Come on in," said Clark.
After a few minutes of her settling in, they sat on the couch.
"It's been awhile," he said, grinning.
"It has, because of you," she said. "Flying about."
"I've been looking good, haven't I?" he said, mischievously.
"Never knew you'd look so good in tights," she said, in jest. "The ladies in the city must be propositioning you in the thousands."
"Very funny," he said. "How long are you gonna be here?"
"Not sure," she said. "I might stay awhile. My paper will decide when I get yanked out."
"It's great seeing you," he said. "Things have been a little rough."
"Well, you didn't really think they'd just fall in love with you immediately?" asked Chloe. "That would've been weird."
"Still, you'd think I'd be getting more appreciation," he said.
"You have," she said.
"I have?" he said, unsure.
"Look around, people are pleased when you're rescuing others," she said. "Some are suspicious, but that's natural we'd hear them. When was the last time media reported only on rosy things? C'mon, Clark, you're in the business. You know how it goes."
"I know, Chloe," he said. "It's just..."
"I dunno," he said. "Things seem oddly tense suddenly. Rather than inspire, the city seems a bit more suspicious."
"You haven't been here long enough," said Chloe. "If it was easy, someone would've done it ages ago."
"There's another problem," he said, softly.
"What is it?" she asked, her attention fully towards him.
"I don't think I'm alone," he said.
"You're not, Clark," she said, brushing his shoulder with her hand. "You're never alone."
"No, not Clark," he said. "Kal-El"
"What the hell?" said Chloe.
Superman hovered over the city looking around to see where he was needed. It was one of those days where he wasn't able to find anything. That certainly did not mean nothing was happening, but Superman had to be there when something was happening and psychic abilities were not one of his powers.
As he flew, he suddenly had the feeling that someone was watching him. Normally he'd dismiss such a feeling and he did no different this time. As he continued to fly, he saw smoke coming out of a building, and without hesitating flew quickly there.
He landed in front of a building on fire. Another fire? he thought to himself as he shook his head at the problems this city seemed to get far, far too often. He entered the building, removing from the property who he bumped into as he tried to put away the fires.
He made his way, working as fast as he could, but as always making sure not to rush and miss any person. He heard a sickening scream as he dropped one person on the sidewalk and look upwards. He flew up and looked into a room. Inside was a person on fire. Just as he was about to fly towards him, another person fell or jumped out of a window higher above. He momentarily hesitated in indecision, but then flew into the room. He didn't pay attention to the uproar that occurred in the street. He blew his cool breath over the person, diminishing the fires until it went out, and then flew out of the window to attempt to reach the falling individual before he or she had reached the ground. He looked out and the sight made him stop in mid-air.
Holding the person was someone. Perhaps this needs to be phrased properly. Holding a person, levitating off the air, was a man. The man was dressed in regular clothing, no tights or whatsoever. A man with a handsome face, jet black hair and beard stubble, lowered down with the person down to the ground. The few number of onlookers stared open-mouthed at the man, who remained silent as he helped the person to his feet.
After the matter with the building was settled, the man waited for Superman high in the air. Superman rose up to meet him.
"If you would give me some of your time, son of El," he said. "I would most appreciate it."
"Let's go," said Superman.
They flew off, far out of the city. They levitated over an ocean, and Superman spoke first.
"Who are you?" he said.
"I am Dru-Zod," said the man.
"Where are you from?" said Superman.
"From Krypton, like you, son of El," said Zod.
"I did not know there were any others here from that planet," said Superman.
"Nor did I," said Zod. "Imagine my surprise after being her for two years, I see the emblem of the House of El."
"You have been here for two years?" said Superman.
"I have," said Zod.
"How come you have not revealed yourself?" asked Superman.
"I did not wish to alarm the inhabitants of this planet," said Zod. "I feared that had they known of my existence, they would not accept it and would join together to harm me. I know of my strengths such a planet provides me, but I do not know if I can be defeated by them. I confess I did not wish to take a risk."
"And now...?" said Superman.
"Now, I see a fellow Kryptonian flying about, proudly showing his House's emblem," said Zod. "I realised my cowardice and decided to find you. You are a braver man than I. But come, I have answered enough questions from you. Will you not tell me of your name? I have met a few from the House of El, but I confess I do not recall you."
"My name is Kal-El," said Superman. "I am the son of Jor-El."
"Why did you leave our planet, Kal-El?" asked Zod.
"Why?" said Superman. "Have you no idea what happened to Krypton?"
"No, I must say I do not," said Zod, who grew quickly concerned at Superman's tone. "Pray tell, what has happened to it?"
"Krypton no longer exists," said Superman. "It has been destroyed."
"How?" asked Zod.
"How, I don't know," said Superman. "I was sent out an infant before the destruction. I have no memory of the planet."
"How unfortunate!" exclaimed Zod, his face wild with despair at what he was told. "That our home is no more. All of my people... gone? How are you alive but no others are?"
"My father, Jor-El, warned the people of Krypton of the upcoming event," said Superman. "But they refused to listen. He had no time to save himself or my mother, but they managed to get me out in time. That is all I know."
"The fools!" spat Zod, in disgust. "I am not surprised by this revelation. The ones who held power were not ones to be reasoned with. To be warned of imminent destruction and to ignore sage warning? How terrifying."
"How come you do not know of this?" asked Superman.
Zod paused a bit, looking hard at Superman. The air was cold, but neither of them felt it. The wind blew hard, but they withstood it. The roar of the waves were loud and clear, but both ignored it.
"I must be forthright with you, Kal-El, as you have been with me," said Zod, finally. "I was imprisoned in Krypton and exiled."
"Exiled?" asked Superman, stiffening. "For what?"
"There were disagreements going on, and these issues were more often decided through battles," said Zod. "I took a position that was contrary to the ones who had power. A position that was not favourable to my chances when I lost the war and was brought to those in power."
"And they imprisoned you and then exiled?" asked Superman.
"Imprisoned and exiled, Kal-El," said Zod. "I must confess that my actions were not always honourable and were at times, severe. I was a general, and my actions were accepted when targeted towards others. But when I disagreed with them, then suddenly I was no longer... acceptable."
"I do not understand," said Superman.
"Krypton, despite believing themselves as moral and kind, have a contrary method of punishing those they feel are beyond hope," said Zod. "A... Phantom Zone would be the closest translation to the Kryptonian term. A sort of object that prisoners can be sent into, where they find themselves inside a hellish environment of vicious reality, surrounded by fierce elements and ruthless fellow criminals. It is a wonder some of us survive in such a location, but survive we did."
"And what happened?" asked Superman.
"I do not know," said Zod. "A couple of years ago, in Earth-time, I was violently shaken out of the Phantom Zone, and found myself flying in the air in a blaze of fire. I fell onto the earth. No living object could survive such a fall. Not only did I survive it, but the initial flash of pain I felt quickly dissipated and I felt alive for the first time in many, many years."
"So you came to this planet for the first time in your life?" asked Superman.
"Yes, by simple coincidence," said Zod.
"This is odd," said Superman. "How did you manage to blend in? And learn the languages?"
"It wasn't easy, but I kept to their literature, and after a period of time, I picked up a few of their languages," said Zod.
"How impressive," said Superman.
"You have no recollection of our planet," said Zod. "One thing Krypton excelled at was linguistics. We have had interactions with different beings from other planets. I assure you, that isn't really as impressive as you may think."
"I guess you saw me on the news then?" said Superman.
"Yes," said Zod. "I confess I was very surprised. But I do not understand your actions. I have watched you for a number of days, and all you seem to do is save humans in difficult situations."
"And what more should I do?" asked Superman.
"What more?" said Zod, confused. "Why not guide them? They are a misguided species, not too dissimilar to the inhabitants of Krypton. But Krypton did not have the likes of us to move them away to the right direction."
"I do not want to tell them what to do," said Superman. "I wish to inspire, to show them there is more."
"As we should, brother," said Kal-El. "They are a stubborn species, again no different from Kryptonians. You presume they will improve themselves because you save their lives? They have heroes throughout their history, and look at them! They are a suspicious people, quick to turn against others, slow to believe good on the other hand."
"What are you suggesting?" said Superman, who was not liking what he was hearing so far.
"It's obvious what I'm suggesting, Kal-El," said Zod. "They will never improve if we are seen to be at their level. Look at Krypton when your father warned them. They ignored truth, truth about their own decimation. Why do you serve them, Kal-El, when the only way for you to succeed is for them to look up to you? I was merely a Kryptonian back home, with the same flaws as any of them. But now... now we can be something they listen to, someone who will guide them by pushing them in the direction needed to go."
"Pushing?" said Superman. "That sounds like forcing. How can we inspire a people to change if there is no free will involved?"
"You think them reasonable," said Zod. "They are a petty people, and when difficulty strikes them all, rather than band together so they all succeed, they each go their own ways, trying to greedily protect what little every individual has. Their free will only point them to selfishness and self-interest. Kal-El, when the moment arrives, humanity is always capable of letting itself down. They will let you down."
"Zod, you don't know them like I do," said Superman. "I will give them a light so they follow. It won't be easy, but nothing of value is."
"I see you disagree with me strongly," said Zod, shaking his head. "But I am not worried. I am sure they will prove my point. Brother Kal-El, there is only you and I left. I will wait and these humans will prove me correct."
He raised his hand, flew higher into the sky and then away. Superman watched the small speck continue to move further and further in the air until it was no longer seen.