By Paul-Gabriel Wiener (firstname.lastname@example.org )
Summary: Clark is called into the future to mediate a super-squabble among his feuding descendants.
email@example.com: Some characters in this story are Copyrighted by D.C. Comics, Inc. You know which ones I'm talking about. Well, it seems that the U.S. Government thinks that just because these characters are Copyrighted, we're not supposed to use them in stories without permission. They obviously don't realize that this kind of thing only makes the characters more enjoyable and keeps impatient fans from becoming raving lunatics while waiting for the next story. Keeping these laws in mind, this story cannot be legally written, and therefore cannot be legally reproduced even with permission from the author. Also remember that it is technically illegal to drive at 60 MPH in a 55 zone or to bring your pet lion inside a theater in Maryland. For more information on these kind of things, there are libraries made just for that very purpose. Take a look at "Crazy Laws" by Dick Hyman (No, I'm not making this up...). Oh, and in Seattle, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon that is over 6 feet in length.
Dedication: This one's for all the "editors" who helped me write it. Ranging from a chance acquaintance at a cyber- conference to my own, dear sisters, I couldn't have finished this without them. Their help gave me a shot at my fanfic dream- a story that takes more than one message to distribute. Thanks to all of you...you know who you are!
***IMPORTANT PRE-STORY PARAGRAPH...IF YOU SKIP THE REST OF THE NOTES, AT LEAST READ THIS NEXT ONE***
This story was started before the word "clone" represented anything more than an interesting concept to the beleaguered couple. I've been writing it on and off for the past several months. Since a sizable chunk was written before the season premier, I'm simply writing this as if my version of events (Truth, Justice, and the Kryptonian Way) was the "actual" way things went.
***IMPORTANT PARAGRAPH OVER...YOU MAY SKIP ON AHEAD AT WILL***
Any comments (I'll skip the lecture on the responsibility of the reader to help the author write to suit his/her audience. I'll also skip the new author's begging for feedback.) should be sent to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
By the way, thanks to Gallagher for inspiring the first bit...Oh, and I wouldn't be surprised if Sledge-o-matic is copyrighted or something (even though he does let his brother "Gallagher II: The Living Sequel" use it). If you aren't familiar with Gallagher's work, I've seen tapes of his in Blockbuster under "Stand Up Comedians."
Lois was sitting on the living room couch when Clark entered. He was dressed in the suit he had worn to work that morning, but this time he had an addition...a top hat on a stick. Lois looked at him strangely. Clark began twirling the hat around. He began talking faster than a speeding auctioneer. "Ladies and Gentlemen! Super-duper and company (a subsidiary of fly-by-night enterprises) has entrusted who? me! to tell you about the handiest and the dandiest new tool and don't-you-want-to-know-how-it-works?" Before Lois could even think of saying anything, he continued. "It's very simple. You take an ordinary apple and place it between the patented pans." Here, he zipped to the kitchen and brought back an apple and two ordinary aluminum pie pans. "Then, you call for the tool that is not a slicer, not a dicer, not a chopper and a hopper...what in the heck could it possibly be? Well, it's NOT a sledge-o-matic! NO! With this new product, you can get rid of your sledge-o-matic! You can throw out your refrigerator, freezer, oven, microwave, and just about everything else but the kitchen sink! This amazing product not only cooks your food, but it prepares it for you! It can even freeze the leftovers! Not only that, but it does everything that old sledge-o-matic did for you. And you don't even have to lift a heavy wooden hammer! Now, you're still wondering what this amazing new product is...well, let me tell you! It's the totally amazing-super- duper-new-and-improved Superhusband!! Yes, Superhusband!! It cooks, it cleans, it washes the dishes, and all before you can say Supercalafragalisticexbealadocious! You're probably thinking you should order now...after all, supplies ARE extremely limited. But don't worry. You already have one!!!" Lois was laughing so hard that Clark had to stop flexing, cooking, zipping around, and generally demonstrating his abilities to help her up.
"But honey, if we threw out all our appliances, people would think it was strange..."
"Oh well...it was a good idea while it lasted...." Clark was just pretending to leave when there was a blinding flash of light. By the time Lois' eyes recovered, Clark was gone. Looking at the blackened, smoking floor, Lois realized he hadn't left by choice.
"Clark?? CLARK??? SSSSSSUUUUUUPPPPPPEEEEERRRRRRMMMAAAAAA ANNNNNN!!!! WHERE ARE YOU???" The only response was a distant echo.
Clark was confused. One minute he had been joking around with his wife, and the next...well, he wasn't sure what he was doing. "Where am I?"
"You're in Metropolis City, Mr. Kent." Clark hadn't realized that there was another person in the room until he spoke. "A better question, however, would be 'when am I?' As for that, you're in the year 2093." As Clark tried to comprehend this, he realized that his glasses were off. He started to reach for them. "You don't have to worry about that, Superman. Here, we all know who you are. The world has known for over 75 years."
By now, Clark's head was really spinning. The other man waited while he tried to mentally sort things out. Thinking on that, Clark realized he didn't know anything about this man. "If I may ask, who are you and what am I doing here?"
"My name is Charles Lane-Kent. I am your great grandson. As for what you are doing here, I brought you here to save the world from my cousins. I'm sorry to say that your descendants are on the brink of something comparable to the War of the Roses." This sent Clark's newly recovered mind reeling again.
"I...uh...see...." Charles smiled.
"This will take some getting used to, I know. Unfortunately, we don't have much time. I'll let you think things over for a while. I'll be back soon. In the meantime, can I get you anything?"
When Charlie returned, Clark had recomposed himself. The two spent some time going over the current situation. Charlie brought Clark up to speed on the last century. It seems that he and Lois had had a son (Charlie chose not to tell Clark his name...just to "preserve the mystery."). He was born on mother's day, 1998. Unlike Clark, the child began developing his powers very early. The boy began showing off before his parents could convince him that he should not. When it became clear that the boy had super powers, it didn't take much for people to connect his father with Superman. It seemed the whole "glasses" thing had just barely been working before. With this added clue, it was too much to hide. Once the world knew the truth, things went a lot differently. Protecting Lois became a lot more difficult. The phone didn't stop ringing for almost a year. After a month or so, Clark took pity on the poor mailman and started picking it up at the Post Office himself. The main thing was that Clark's son's childhood was much different than Clark's had been. The preferential treatment he received made him into something of a spoiled, egotistical brat. The situation got worse with the next generation. The discovery that Lois and Clark's grandchildren, being only 1/4 Kryptonian, only had 1/4 of Superman's powers only slowed this moral degradation a little. Now, their great- grandchildren were on the scene.
There were 7 of them, counting Charlie. Some, like Charlie himself, were responsible and thoughtful. Others were selfish. At this point, the seven each had 1/8 of Superman's power. Things had gotten to the point where each had only one power. Charlie had Clark's mind. He could think at super- speed. Charlie told Clark about the others.
Sarah could fly. She was one of the selfish ones. She was jealous of the others and their powers. She was also cold and calculating. Charlie mentioned that Sarah had been named for Clark's first "wife."
Jake, Sarah's brother, was invulnerable. His power had made him aloof. While not as calculating as his sister, Jake was condescending towards everyone else.
Lois had super-strength. Despite her physical strength, Lois was a softie. It seemed that she had inherited Clark's gentleness as well.
Mike, Lois' brother, had Clark's eyes. Unlike his sister, Mike was NOT kind to others. He thought that all descendants of Superman were above ordinary humans. He abused his power. He used his heat vision to intimidate people, and was not ashamed to use his X-ray vision whenever he felt like it. The police had a hard time proving it, though. Mike thought it was funny, and played around with any cops he came across. He didn't mind the hate he earned doing it.
Julie had the freeze breath. Her heart seemed to be as cold as her breath. She didn't care about anyone but herself.
Jesse, Julie's brother, had the speed. He had been nicknamed "flash." He was relatively young, innocent, and playful. He had designed a costume for himself. He was proud of the little pinwheels on his head and shoulders. Despite his playful attitude, however, Jesse was responsible. He used his power to help people whenever he could.
Clark couldn't help but notice that Charlie seemed detached from all his cousins. He talked about them as if reading off a file. Clark wondered how Charlie's cousins would describe him. He kept this in mind as Charlie continued.
Charlie and his siblings had been getting together regularly for a long time. They felt a sort of attachment to each other. No matter how each individual regarded the rest of humanity, they each had to face the fact that there was a fundamental difference between them and other humans. At one of the more recent meetings, someone had suggested that they combine their powers. The discussion that this idea set off was so heated that Charlie couldn't remember who had made the suggestion in the first place.
Each of the "Super-cousins" (as the media called them) knew that the power wouldn't last through much more diluting. The problem was that if they combined their power, only one of them would have superpowers. Obviously, each one wanted the power for his or her own self. While their reasons for wanting the power differed, the important thing was the desire for that power. The argument escalated until the group broke into factions. Jesse and Lois formed one faction. Sarah and Jake were another. Julie and Mike made up a third faction. Charlie sympathized with Jesse and Lois, but ultimately remained impartial. From that point, things escalated even more. The people of Metropolis began joining up with the various factions. The city was about to be ripped into three parts. Charlie had realized that he could not handle the situation by himself. So, after thinking for a while, he settled upon a course of action. He had called for reinforcements. Charlie knew that only the original Superman could save the city from his great-grandchildren. That was the way things stood at that moment.
"Whoa!" That was all Clark could say. This was the worst situation he had ever been faced with. As he tried to figure out what to do, Clark's head began to spin again.
Lois didn't know what to do. She couldn't call the police...what would she tell them? Thinking further down this line, she realized the same applied to anyone who didn't know who her husband was. That ruled out everyone but two people. Then she wondered if she should worry the Kents. That didn't last long. She knew that they deserved to know. Also (though she hated to admit it), she needed them. She needed to tell someone. She needed someone to comfort her. Lois picked up the phone and dialed. "Hello, Mom. We need to talk. Something has happened." She tried to say that Clark was missing, but she couldn't bring herself to say the words. Somehow, she knew that if she said it, that would make it real. "Wait a minute," she thought, "since when do I back down from reality?" The answer came quickly. "Since Clark disappeared...."
"Lois? Are you there? What's wrong?" Martha's worried words brought her back to reality. "It's Clark...he's gone...he just disappeared..."
"We'll be right over, and then you can tell me all about it." It sounded like Martha thought she was just around the block. Still, it was a relief. The cavalry was coming.
Clark had decided to visit each of his descendants in turn to see if he could make peace. If not, he would at least have a better idea of what he was dealing with. First, he went to see Sarah and Jake. On his way to their home, Clark passed a building with the sign "New Krypton Embassy" on it. He'd have to remember to ask Charlie about that one...
Soon afterwards, he arrived at Sarah and Jake's headquarters. It was a large structure that gave a vague impression of a "cooperate monolith." To Clark, it looked ultra-ultra modern, but after comparing it to the other buildings he had seen, he realized that this was just the style of this particular century. It bewildered Clark to think in these terms, but he had always been good at adapting to strange situations. Besides, this was a lot more normal-looking than most of the stuff on New Krypton. At least these buildings were designed by human beings.
He went up to the door, and was scanned by some sensor device in the approximate area where an electronic keypad might have been on a 20th century building. Letters suddenly started scrolling across the door. He now realized that the door's glass had some sort of liquid crystal display built into it. The letters said, "Please stand by...Please stand by..." Clark smiled. It seemed that some things never changed, no matter how far technology advanced.
After a few minutes, the words on the door changed. The door now said, "Welcome, Clark Kent. Please follow the red line..." After a brief pause, the doors opened. Clark noticed different color lights on the floor. As he watched, a red dot appeared at his feet. It then zoomed out, leaving a red trail behind it. Obediently, Clark followed it. It led him to something akin to an elevator. On second thought, it was more like "Wonka-vator: the next generation." Absently, he wondered if there was a big button somewhere that would make it burst out of the roof. A short ride brought him to a new floor, where the red line continued. He followed it to large polished wooden doors with shining golden handles. As he approached, the doors opened. It seemed the doorknobs were just decoration.
"Hello, great-grandfather. I must admit that I'm surprised to see you. What are you doing here?" The voice was soft and beautiful. Looking at Sarah, Clark felt mixed emotions. She was young and pretty, and he would have been proud to have her as his descendant. The knowledge of what she, her brother, and her cousins were doing with their lives made him feel sad.
"Well, Sarah, I'm here to talk to you and your brother." Clark decided that if she was going to be direct, so would he. "I've heard about the troubles between you and your cousins, and I want to try to help you resolve things." It was strange the way this was coming out. Clark could feel himself talking to her as if he was her father. He was even using some of the same expressions his father had used on him. He hated phrases like "help resolve things." Pushing these thoughts aside for the moment, he continued. "Where is Jake, anyway?"
"I'm right here, great-grandfather." Jake stepped out from behind a door that Clark hadn't even noticed before. Clark hadn't thought to check the room for his great- grandson's presence. As he watched Jake walk in, Clark couldn't help but notice the swagger. Everything about Jake's manner dripped pompousness and arrogance. More than anything he'd seen so far, the sight of his great-grandson saddened Clark.
"Hello, Jake. I'm glad to meet you, and your sister, too." Clark tried to counterbalance Jake's attitude with an overly pleasant one of his own. "Like I said before, I'm here to try to make peace between you and your cousins. Are you willing to have a meeting with them, to see if you can come to terms?" It was the best solution he and Charlie had been able to come up with. It probably wouldn't do very much, but a meeting would at least be a step in the right direction.
"A summit, great-grandfather? With my cousins?" Jake's tone made it clear he thought the idea to be ridiculous. The way he said "great-grandfather" made the appellation sound like a curse. It looked like any possible link Jake might have felt because of their shared power was shattered by Clark's softhearted personality.
"Sarah, what do you think of the idea?" If he couldn't talk sense to Jake, Clark figured, maybe Sarah would at least listen...
"I'll consider the possibility, great-grandfather, but will my cousins?"
"You're the first I've asked, Sarah, but I'm hoping that they will. If you decide to come, meet me at the old Daily Planet building next Saturday at 1:00." He and Charlie had agreed that the best place for the meeting would be on neutral territory. After much discussion, they had settled upon Clark's workplace. With all the information-gathering technology developed in the past century, the Planet building was occupied mostly by computers. The reporters didn't even bother to come in anymore. They got their assignments, sent in their stories, and received their pay electronically. Also, the building's central location made it convenient to all the factions, but outside their territory.
"Very well, then great-grandfather. We'll think about it."
"Good. I hope to see you there. One more thing, though. Don't call me great-grandfather. My name is Clark, and even though I was born about one hundred and fifty years ago, I'm too young to be a great-grandfather."
"Alright, then, Clark. It was a pleasure to meet you."
"You, too. Hope to see you on Saturday." It was a somewhat awkward ending of the conversation, but then the whole situation was a little more than "somewhat" awkward. Clark left the same way he had come in, and then returned to Charlie's place.
"The New Krypton Embassy? Oh yeah, I forgot about that place. Hasn't been used in decades." After Clark had filled Charlie in on his talk with Sarah and Jake, he had remembered to ask about the Embassy that he had seen on his way over. "It was set up a few years after your return. It took them a while to settle down into their new democratic life, but after that they were quick to establish diplomatic relations. Unfortunately, things didn't work out. Things were a little rocky because of the Kryptonian's powers. Even though they developed slowly, people resented them. Some of the Kryptonian vacationers abused their power, too. It was OK for a while, because of you, but once Superman died, everything fell apart. Fortunately, it didn't come to war. The Kryptonians had had enough of conflict before you changed their government, and the debates over what to do were threatening to escalate. So, they decided to just leave instead. A few wanted to stay, but the Kryptonian government decreed that Earth was off limits. It seems that their emotionless loyalty to the government wasn't totally out of the Kryptonian's systems yet, because pretty quickly, everybody left. The Embassy wasn't knocked down because it just didn't seem right. The land wasn't needed, and no foreign embassy had ever been knocked down before. So, it just stands there, waiting for the Kryptonians to come back. The city's sanitation robots take good care of the outside, and nobody goes inside. Anyway, what do you want to do now? Are you going to visit Julie and Mike, or would you rather rest here a while...maybe plan a little more?"
"Let's talk for a while. I've been meaning to ask you about something, anyway. You said this was all set off by a suggestion that all the power be transferred to one person. How were you planning to accomplish the transfer?"
"You already know that a massive electric shock can temporarily transfer your powers to someone else. Well, a lot of research has been done since, with a large number of theories proposed and tested. Technology has also progressed very far. Recently, it all came together. There's a theoretical device that uses the same principal as the lightning, but is much more controlled. The effects could be permanent."
"You mean it hasn't even been built, and it nearly set off a war?"
"It was the proverbial match that set off the keg. The problems were there before. This just brought them to the surface."
"Alright, then. I'll accept that. The next question is this: you said that the affects COULD be permanent. Does that mean you're not sure if it will be permanent or that since it's a controlled transfer, you can choose how permanent they are?"
"Both, really. Since it's only a theory, it might not work as well as we expect. If it does, however, the effects could be preset so that it would be permanent or timed."
"Charlie, I think I've just come up with a back-up plan. It's a last resort, but I think it could work...."
Back in the Metropolis of the present, Lois didn't have as much to occupy her as did her timely husband. She was currently in her apartment with Martha. "I just don't know what to do, Martha. He's gone again! Disappeared into thin air. For all I know, he's dead. And Martha...I just realized...I have to go to work tomorrow! What will I tell everyone?"
"Now, Lois, dear. We got through this before, and we'll do it again. He'll come back. He always does. You know that nothing will keep him from you. As for the folks at work, we'll just tell everyone that Clark has the flu. You just settle down, and we'll get through this."
"Oh, Martha. I don't know what I'd do without you. You're so good to me. Here you are, your son's gone missing to who knows where, and you're helping me keep it together." It was hard for Lois to admit that she needed support like this, but it was good to have it. Over the years that Lois had known this incredible woman, Martha had become the loving mother that Lois had never had. She knew that she could depend upon Martha as much as she did Clark. Now, she just had to keep it together well enough to convince the world that everything was OK. She owed it to Clark (wherever he was) to make the effort.
(Back in the future...)
After some more discussion with Charlie, a small lunch (old habits die hard...), and a quick trip that was similar to the last one, Clark stood in front of Julie and Mike. Greetings (not really nice enough to have earned the title "pleasantries") had been exchanged, and Clark's already troubled heart sank a little lower. It seemed that Charlie's estimation of Julie was on the mark. Mike, while easygoing in his attitude, was clearly taken with himself. Clark was busy trying to persuade him that a meeting was in his best interests.
"Look, even if you don't care about the others, a meeting could only serve to help. The worst that could happen is nothing. If you don't make peace, you won't lose anything by trying. What harm is there in talking?"
"It's not the talking that would be harmful, Clark." Julie hadn't even bothered calling him "great-grandfather."
"If you're worried about an ambush, don't worry. I'll be there to arbitrate," Clark reassured them.
"Alright," Mike said cautiously, "we'll be there. Just see that you keep your promise."
"I will. See you Saturday, then."
Clark decided to go straight from Mike and Julie's place to Jesse and Lois. His reception there was a little different, though. Seconds after the door said, "One moment, please." Clark heard a familiar-sounding "whoosh." The door promptly opened to reveal an adolescent boy in a superheroish costume. Clark smiled when he recognized the particular shade of red that was the costume's primary color. "Jesse?"
"Superman? Is that really you?" At Clark's nod, Jesse broke into a dazzling grin. Lois would have recognized it as one of Clark's expressions, but of course Clark himself didn't know that. "Wow! This is SO cool!!!" Clark's grin broadened. It looked like this meeting would be much more pleasant than the other two. "Hey Superman, I'll race you to Lois' office!"
"Alright, but call me Clark, OK Jesse?"
"Really? COOL! OK, Clark! On your mark, get set, GO!" Jesse dashed off at super-speed. Quickly, Clark followed. Jesse, of course, made it there first.
"Oh, you beat me! Well, guess what, Jesse? You wouldn't have won if I'd known where the office was!" The comment would have bothered Jesse if Clark had said it seriously. As it was, the sheer pleasure of chasing his great- grandson down the halls of an office building (as opposed to the confrontations he'd had so far) had Clark laughing before he could even finish the sentence. Jesse recognized the teasing, and threw it right back at him.
"No way! An old guy like you could never beat me! I'm the Flash!" Jesse, too, was laughing by this time. "I'll prove it, too! Next race, I'll beat you again!"
"Will I know where we're going then?"
"Aw, where's the fun in that?"
"The fun is in playing fair, you little rascal!" It seemed that their playful jibes and laughter had alerted Lois to their presence. It also seemed that she enjoyed teasing as much as her cousin. "Hello, there. So, what should I call you? great- grandfather? Superman?"
"Clark will do just fine, Lois." Saying the name brought his Lois back into the foreground of Clark's thoughts. The grin faded.
"Clark? Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I was just thinking of your namesake. I miss her, and I hate to think of what my absence is doing to her. I promised I'd never leave again after that whole New Krypton thing, and now I'm gone again. Anyway, that's not why I'm here. I came to talk to you."
"Well, then come on in," said Lois switching over to "business" mode. Clark followed her into the office, with Jesse right behind him. "So, what did you want to talk about? I'm assuming it has to do with the present 'situation' with my cousins and sibling."
"Yes. I'm setting up a meeting with everyone. I'm here to invite you to join in. So far, Mike and Julie have agreed to come, and Sarah and Jake said 'maybe.' I think they'll be there. I saved the best for last." Lois smiled.
"I'll be there. You too, Jesse?"
"Sure!" It wasn't every time that Jesse was allowed to join in. He was glad to be included in what was obviously an important matter.
"Great! The meeting will be at the Daily Planet building at 1:00 on Saturday. So, now that we've got that settled, what would YOU like to talk about?" Clark's famous smile came back as he finally got into a good conversation with at least some of his descendants. After a couple of hours making small talk, horsing around, and generally getting to know each other, Clark regretfully peeled himself away from his great-grandchildren and flew back to Charlie's place.
The meeting had been going on for almost an hour now. Clark had arranged for a conference room at the Planet. Charlie and Clark had come early. The other "Super-cousins" had arrived on time, cautiously. Things had not gone well from there. After a very awkward start, Clark had gotten his progeny to open up. Now, he almost wished he hadn't. The meeting had turned into a war zone, with accusations flying back and forth across the table. Clark's attempts at mediation were ignored. Unable to take it any longer, he roared out at super-volume "STOP THIS NOW!" His shout echoed off the walls. Fortunately, soundproofing technology had been greatly advanced, so any people who might have been in the area could not hear. The reaction of those assembled at the conference table was immediate and uniform. All heads turned on Clark, and all voices stopped, some mid-word. "Much better," he continued, "now then, can we continue this like civilized adults?"
It wasn't enough. The conversation picked up again, and the shouting began again. Sadly, Clark realized it was time for the last resort. He signaled Charlie. In response, Charlie took out a large ray gun. It looked like something out of a sci-fi prop man's low-budget dream, a metallic THING about the size of a bazooka, with tubes and wires everywhere. The others were too busy arguing to notice Charlie's silent movements. He pressed the trigger-pad, and a beam lanced out. It hit Sarah, then arced to Jake. From Jake, it leapt over to Jesse, then Lois. It moved over to Mike, and from him to Julie. Finally, the beam completed the circle by hitting Charlie. Clark had moved out of the way, but he was surprised to see it hit Charlie. He watched everyone gasp, then sag back. Charlie recovered first, but he seemed different. Clark had seen looks like that on the faces of actors playing villains driven mad with power. He hadn't thought a person could actually look like that in real life. Charlie laughed, a drunken sound. "You FOOL!! Did you really think that I would pass up an opportunity to have all this POWER?? HAHAHAHAHA! You thought I would just take their powers from them, without taking them for myself??" Clark stood stunned. It seemed that he had been betrayed by his own descendant!
He was soon jolted from his thoughts as he realized that Charlie was pointing the gun at him, and was about to fire. He moved at super-speed, but Charlie moved out of the way at the same speed. They both stopped, facing each other across the room. Charlie fired, but Clark dodged, countering with heat vision. Charlie, unable to move out of the way in time, blocked the twin rays coming at him with his hand. An ordinary human would have gotten serious burns, but Charlie was invulnerable now. His hand glowed for a few seconds, but Charlie was undamaged. Realizing that he couldn't hit Clark and that the gun would only get in his way, Charlie destroyed it. He then came at Clark at super-speed. Clark simply dodged out of the way. He wasn't sure if he could attack his own great-grandson. The realization that the fate of the world might well depend on this battle, however, made Clark reconsider his options. Perhaps he could subdue Charlie without permanent harm. He tried the freeze breath. Charlie zipped out of the way, icicles hanging off his clothes. Clark had to think fast. Maybe he could make Charlie think things over. "Charlie, I don't want to hurt you, but you can't beat me."
"Why not? I have all the same powers."
"You don't, Charlie. Think about it. Each of my great-grandchildren has 1/8 of my power. There are 7 of you. Even with all your power combined, that only adds up to 7/8."
"So? That 1/8 isn't important. I have all your major powers. So I don't have your super-senses. That's not enough of an edge for you to win." By now, the cousins had recovered and figured out what had happened. Now, they were stuck without their powers, watching a duel between two supermen. In the meantime, Clark was continuing his conversation with Charlie. "What about me, Charlie? Have you realized that if I don't return home you'll never exist? Even if you find a way to return me against my will, that won't make me have children. This battle is threatening your very existence!" Charlie's cousins realized that that statement applied to them, as well. Powerless, with their lives at stake, they had no options but to band together for their own survival. The thought hit them all at the same time. They huddled together, discussing strategies.
Charlie was too distracted to notice, even if he had had super-hearing. All of his cousins jumped on him at the same time. Without their powers, they were no match for Charlie, but they provided enough of a distraction for Clark to zip in and get a good hold on Charlie.
"All right, Superman!" Jesse was ecstatic. The others breathed a sigh of relief. Then, Clark began to smile.
"You did it! You all worked together! You put aside your differences and worked together!" All six looked at each other. They realized that Clark was right. They also had the knowledge of how it feels to have your life threatened, how it feels to be powerless while faced with someone abusing his or her power. The past few minutes had effected them all. They had all learned not to take their powers for granted.
Jake, Sarah, Julie, and Mike had learned to care. Mostly, they had matured. Life as a politically significant spoiled brat would never be quite the same for them, if they went back to it. Lois, who had learned caring and maturity years ago, was not as affected. She learned that there was good in the others of her generation. She learned hope for those who had before seemed too evil to merit it. Jesse, who in his own way had been far more mature and responsible than the others, grew up a little more. It would be a long time before he "squandered" his power in races. In time, he would realize that such frivolous use of his power was not a bad thing. He would understand that while it was important to use your power to help people, using it for play was not an abuse of that power. For now, though, his childlike innocence was pushed to the side. The effect on Charlie was much different. With power that SHOWED, power beyond a superior mind, he found that he could understand his cousins better. He lost that extra bit of maturity that kept him from having fun. Charlie would be the one who would help Jesse regain his "inner child." Together, they would play childish games for years to come.
After a pause, to let these changes settle in, Clark spoke up. "Your powers will return slowly. The gun wasn't set to take them away permanently. It will take a few days for the sun to recharge you, but you'll be good as new. In the meantime, don't you think you should start talking peace?" Cowed, they returned to the conference table, and began some serious peace talks. Smiling, Clark flew Charlie out of the Planet building. "We did it! It's not a total solution, but it's a start! So, do you think they'll figure it out?"
Charlie smiled in turn. "If they do, it will be a while. By then, they should have come to terms with each other, and settled down. Then, if they get angry, it will be at you and me, not at each other!" Clark laughed. It was a good thing soundproofing worked both ways, because they weren't too far outside the building.
"So, do they still give out Oscars in the future?" At Charlie's somewhat confused nod, Clark continued. "Well then, I'd say you definitely deserve one! You play a very convincing madman!" They both laughed.
After staying a few days to keep an eye on the conferences, and to make sure the cousins’ powers returned, Clark was almost ready to return home. There was only one matter left to take care of. The reduced power of each generation could now be taken care of. Charlie's powers hadn't worn off yet, and Clark realized why. His Kryptonian genes supported the power like an ordinary human could not. He would have those powers permanently. Since the inherited power of each cousin returned with time, more transfers could be conducted without harm. In fact, Clark suspected that one specially set up group transfer would allow them all to share their power. The sun would then recharge them all, each with all the powers. Charlie already had nearly full power, so he wouldn't need a transfer.
They gathered in a room specially set up for the transfer. It was a show of trust that they all came, and that they allowed Charlie to conduct the transfer. Those that hadn't figured out Charlie's real purpose that day assumed that he had simply shared the power lust of which they had all been guilty. They all forgave each other that sin, including Charlie. Of course, Clark's show of faith helped things along, as well. "Are we ready to begin?" They all signaled Charlie in the affirmative. He pressed the button, and the room filled with light. Watching from behind the glass wall, Charlie saw them fall. He was worried at first, but then, slowly, they got up. Each tested his or her own powers. Although reduced, the powers were all there in each of them. It had worked! After a few minutes of "I can fly!" and other, similar exited shouts, everyone settled down enough to celebrate.
(A few days later)
The power transfer had been a significant show of trust on all parts. It had helped the cousins to bond even more. The peace talks were now complete. With everything settled, it was time for Clark to return home. They all gathered for the big send-off. Clark said good-bye to each of his heirs. Now, they were not only the heirs to his power, but to his responsibilities. They were using their powers productively now, helping people.
Now, Clark was focusing on Lois. His wife, not his great-granddaughter. He had been thinking of her during his whole stay there, but he had forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand. Now that he could afford to, Clark let himself worry about her. The emotions would have overwhelmed him, except for the knowledge that he would now be returning home. Charlie fired up the time machine, then pressed the activation button. A flash of light and a loud crackling sound later, Clark was gone.
Lois was in the apartment with Martha and Jonathan. She was worried. Perry was getting annoyed. He wouldn't give Clark many more sick days. She could still hear his gruff voice lecturing her about the responsibility of a reporter to overcome any obstacle, including sickness. The flu shouldn't keep a reporter down long, especially not this long. Then, suddenly, she heard it. It was a sound almost indescribable. (There is, however, a way to reproduce a sound very similar. Start with all the sound equipment for a rock band. Set it up, and turn it to maximum volume. Then, stand right at the speakers' focus. In the meantime, have a friend blow a bubble. When the bubble hits the microphone and pops, listen very carefully. That's almost exactly the sound Lois heard.) At the same time, there was a bright flash. When Lois' eyes recovered, Clark was standing right in front of her. He seemed a little dazed, but otherwise alright.
"Lois! I'm back! I made it!" He went over and hugged her. She hugged him back, fiercely. Then, he noticed his parents. After exchanging greetings with them, they all settled down. "Mom, Dad, Lois, we have to talk. I've been to the future, and it's not good." He quickly filled them in on what had happened. "Lois, we failed (or will fail) as parents! Everything is alright now (in the future), but three generations of misery? We have to avoid it if we can!"
"Oh, Clark. What will we do?" Lois was at a loss. Luckily, Martha, ever the voice of reason, spoke up.
"Well, you know that things will work out eventually, and you know exactly what went wrong in the first place. Now, all you have to do is focus on teaching your children to use their powers responsibly. Reinforce their sense of morals as much as possible, and make sure they teach their kids the same lessons. Tell them all what you saw, Clark, and to make sure that that future doesn't come to pass. You can do it. I'm sure of it." Martha's words reassured them a little, and helped them to think about it clearheadedly. Still, there was much to discuss before the two could truly decide what to do. For now, however, Clark was home and they had plenty of time. It was more important to celebrate his return and try to get things back to normal. After the past few harrowing weeks, they all needed a rest
Author's Question (aka, little bit at the end to raise the number of reader responses): During his stay in the future, what was Clark wearing? You'll notice that I didn't mention his clothes during the whole time he was there, except to mention that he was wearing his "civies" when he first arrived.