By Dandello <email@example.com>
Submitted: February 2007
Summary: A sequel to the author's "Time Doesn't Heal." Time does heal, when given enough help from those left behind.
Copyright Jan 1, 2007
Country of first publication, United States of America.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
James Bartholomew Olsen looked out of the door to his office, overseeing his domain, the newsroom of the Daily Planet. Newsroom was, he freely admitted, an old-fashioned term for the nest of activity before him. It was the hub of a news network. Paper publishing had gone the way of the dodo ten years before, but the news was still reported, corrupt politicians investigated, crimes covered.
Olsen had begun his journalism career at the Daily Planet thirty years before, when Perry White was editor, then publisher/editor. Olsen started as a copyboy, then researcher, finally becoming a photojournalist, moving on to join Time magazine, winning several Pulitzers before returning to the Daily Planet as an assistant editor and finally, now, Managing Editor of one of the largest regional news organizations on the East Coast.
He checked his watch. His daughter and her partner — almost fiancÚ — would be showing their faces shortly. She'd called him that morning to let him know they were very close to breaking open the story on the corruption of the last mayoral election.
Olsen smiled to himself. Perry White, rest his soul, would be proud of him, of them. Olsen had a crack investigative reporting team, almost as good as Lane and Kent had been at their height, twenty-seven years ago, before Lois Lane was accidentally killed by Superman. Of course, the current version of the hottest team on the Planet had also won a number of awards so far in their short careers, with promises of winning many more. They were shaping up nicely.
Olsen's expression turned pensive as he thought back to Lois and Clark, his friends. Clark Kent had died exactly one year after Lois Lane, by his own hand, a combination of drugs and kryptonite. Jimmy Olsen was one of five people at the time who had known that when Kent had breathed his last, so had Superman, Metropolis's favorite son.
And Olsen was the only one now alive who knew what had really happened in the days after Clark Jerome Kent was buried in his hometown of Smallville, Kansas. And even he didn't have the complete story. No one did, no one would. They were all dead. Buried. Dust.
"Olsen, in my office!" Perry White yelled. Jimmy jumped to comply, happy to be busy, happy to be distracted. The newsroom was still unnaturally quiet after the events of last Monday, when Perry and Jimmy had found Clark Kent's dead body in his apartment. Clark had left a video recording explaining his reasons for committing suicide. He had caused Lois's death and could no longer live with the grief, the guilt.
Superman was missing. The first two days of no Superman sightings had brought few comments from various news organizations, including the Planet. After a week, people had started to notice his absence. Disasters were occurring without Superman coming to the rescue.
Jimmy nearly ran into Perry's office. There were two strangers with Perry, a man and a woman, both dressed in form-fitting black. The woman wore a blue and black capelet. The pair did not look happy.
"Jimmy, this is Lady Zara and Lieutenant Ching. They're from New Krypton," Perry said. "They've come looking for Superman. They've come to take him home."
"I know, son," Perry said. "That's what I've been trying to tell them."
Zara looked from one man to the other, confusion evident in her expression. Ching stood, impassively watching.
"It is not logical for Kal-El to be dead, for us to have arrived to find this, for him to have taken his own life," Zara protested.
"My lady, if what they say is the truth, then Kal-El was not the leader we were seeking. No true Kryptonian would be so selfish as to end his own existence over mere grief," Ching stated.
"Mere grief?" Perry asked. "You weren't here when his partner died. You weren't here watching him come in to work day in and day out with his soul ripped out of him. Hating himself for what he'd done, even accidentally."
"A true Kryptonian lord would have accepted his responsibilities and obligations without regret or remorse," Ching argued.
Zara interrupted before Perry could respond. "Ching, berating the dead does not solve our problem."
"And what problem is that, darlin'?" Perry asked.
"New Krypton is governed by an alliance of the most powerful Houses. Lord Kal-El and Lady Zara were birth mates, a contract marriage that was to be consummated when Lord Kal-El reached his majority and proved himself to be a worthy successor of his father," Ching explained for her. It was obvious to Jimmy that it was a subject Ching didn't especially like. "The joining of Kal-El and Zara would reinforce the alliance between the House of El and the House of Ra, the two most powerful houses on New Krypton, thus creating a ruling alliance."
"And there's no one else in the House of El who could take Kal-El's place?" Perry asked.
"No one of marriageable age," Zara said. "The next most powerful house with a male of proper age and rank is ruled by a would-be tyrant named Nor. He has already announced his plans to force a ruling alliance by forcibly taking me to his bed, even if it means dividing the houses and causing a civil war. We had hoped that by locating Kal-El and putting him in his rightful place as Lord of El and my husband, we could keep Nor out of power and avoid bloodshed."
"But that can't happen now," Jimmy completed for himself.
"No, that can't happen now," Ching agreed. He placed a hand on Zara's shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze.
Jimmy thought about their problem, finding more questions than answers in what they'd said.
"What if you'd found him alive and married him, and then he died before going back to New Krypton? What would have happened then?" Jimmy asked.
"We would have to have proof of consummation, preferably a pregnancy," Zara said. "But in that event, I would be allowed to govern the House of El as his widow until the child came to majority."
A gleam came into Perry's eyes, a gleam that hadn't been there for over a year. "Jimmy, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Larry?… Barry?… Barry Barstow, Sammy's Look-alike Agency. I'm on it, Chief," Jimmy announced heading for the nearest phone.
Ching gave Perry a curious look. "What have you got in mind?"
"Let me get this straight," Barry Barstow said, standing in Perry's office an hour later. "You need to video Superman getting married to… his wife?"
"That's right," Perry told him. Even close up the man looked like Superman, or more to the point, he looked a lot like Clark Kent without the glasses. Jimmy just hoped the man was a good enough actor to pull off this 'little job'.
"And why isn't the real Superman taking care of his little lady here?"
"No one's seen him in over a week," Perry explained. "Not since his sentence ran out."
"Oh." The actor gave Zara an appraising look. "You won't need me for anything else, will you?" He gave her an ingratiating grin. Ching glared at him and he wiped the grin off his face.
"Just joking," Barry said with a shrug. "So, let's get started."
Perry nodded. "Get into the costume they brought for you, and meet Zara and Ching on the roof. Make sure nobody sees you. Jimmy and I will meet you at the Lexor Hotel in half an hour. They're expecting us."
"I will brief you on your part in the ceremony," Ching added. "It isn't complex."
"But, whatever you do, do not lose composure," Zara warned. "Do not 'go out of character'. You are Lord Kal-El of Krypton, a leader of a great and noble House."
"I understand, milady," Barry told her. Ching handed him the costume he was to wear, a black bodysuit of some unknown fabric, black leather boots with blue trim, and an ornate brocade coat that had an oddly oriental look to it. Barry wrapped the costume in the coat, making sure the lining was facing out. "I'll meet you on the roof."
The lobby of the Lexor was a media circus. The major networks were present with cameras. The mayor was there. It was amazing what could be pulled off in only an hour's time, Jimmy mused.
Zara and Ching floated down to earth with 'Kal-El' between them, his arm around Zara's waist and her arm around his. It really did look like he was flying with them.
Ching stepped away from them as Barry and Zara stepped up to the makeshift podium. Barry pulled out his notes then set them aside. "I had a speech prepared," he said with a small smile which turned solemn. "As I'm sure Mister White has told all of you, my betrothed, Lady Zara of New Krypton and her chief of staff, Ching, have come to Earth to take me home to my people. And as much as I love this world and its people, as much as I find my gifts useful here, I have duties and obligations elsewhere, to my own people. It is a responsibility I cannot turn my back on. Shortly, I will be leaving, but I leave this world in the hands of its own heroes, each one of you. For you are all heroes, all capable of making this world a better place together. And I have faith that together, you will all prove to be the heroes I know you are. Thank you."
Barry and Zara stepped off the podium to a torrent of shouted questions that they both ignored. They walked over to Perry and Jimmy, who led the way to the elevators.
Once inside, Barry leaned back against the elevator wall and sighed. "My best performance and nobody knows it." He looked over at Perry. "You know something about all this you haven't told me."
"Yes," Perry admitted.
"Superman's already gone, isn't he? That's why you can't get in touch with him."
The elevator doors opened into the penthouse lobby. Here, only a few camera teams had been allowed in to record the union ceremony. Ching looked despondent, but Jimmy noted that he carefully schooled his expression into neutrality when he saw Jimmy watching him.
"You love her, don't you?" Jimmy commented quietly.
"It is not my place," Ching stated. "*He* was her birth mate. A lord of a great house. I am merely a soldier."
Perry opened the doors to the penthouse suite and stepped inside, followed by Barry and Zara, then Ching and Jimmy. The camera crews followed at a discrete distance.
Perry took his place in front of the wide windows and unrolled the scroll Ching had given him, placing the heavy gold cord that had bound it over his arm. "Kal-El and Zara, married since birth… In accordance with the laws of your forefathers… Having come into your majority under the laws of your people… It is now time for you to accept the responsibilities of your positions and the obligations of adulthood."
Perry took the cord and bound Barry and Zara's right hands together as Ching had shown him earlier. "Kal-El and Zara, as this cord binds your hands, may this joining bind your hearts as your souls have been bound from birth."
Ching had an ornate ceremonial cup in his hands and offered it to the couple. They each took a drink.
"By the power vested in me under the laws of the state of New Troy, I declare this union complete, its consummation sanctioned by the laws of New Krypton and New Troy!" Perry announced. He stepped over to the double doors that led to the bedroom beyond. "The bridal chamber."
Barry put his free arm around Zara's waist and led her into the next room. Perry closed the doors behind them.
"That's it?" one of the cameramen asked.
"We are a very pragmatic people," Ching explained simply.
"Jimmy, I know you and the lieutenant here have other duties to perform," Perry reminded them both. Ching nodded and went to the balcony doors, opening them. He took Jimmy by the waist and launched into the air, heading west, to Smallville.
Martha and Jonathan Kent were waiting for them beside the grave of their adopted son. They'd buried him in the family plot, a short distance from Jonathan's parents. A grave marker had already been erected. Three names were already engraved in the polished granite under the name 'Kent.' Jonathan Joseph, Clark Jerome, and Martha Mary Clark. Beneath Clark's name was also engraved 'beloved son,' his birth date and death date.
At the Planet, there had been times Jimmy had though he'd felt Clark's presence, had thought he could just look up and see the reporter walk out of the elevator to come to work. There had been times the past week felt like a bad dream he could just wake up from and find his friend alive. The grave marker felt so final.
"Perry told us you need to exhume Clark's body," Jonathan began. He and Martha looked like they'd aged ten years in the past week. They'd walked into Clark's apartment last Monday to talk to him, find out what was wrong, only to find his body being wheeled out in a body bag by the medical examiner's office. Their baby was dead.
Jimmy couldn't even begin to imagine how that felt.
"Mister and Missus Kent, this is Lieutenant Ching from New Krypton. He needs cell samples from Clark's body," Jimmy explained.
"Does he know how Clark died?" Martha asked.
"I was told he found a poison that was effective against Kryptonians," Ching told them. "Hopefully, I will still find viable cells for our purpose." He turned to Jimmy. "We need to hurry."
Jimmy nodded and Ching uncovered the coffin in seconds. He undid the lid to reveal the body inside. Jimmy wasn't sure what to expect. After a week, even with modern preservation, there would be smells and decay. He heard Martha gasp and looked to see Clark's body untouched, undamaged, glasses still in place, looking as though he could sit up and climb out. Then Jimmy noticed the makeup that had been used to cover the marks that had been on his face, coloring on his lips to make him look lifelike.
"You probably don't want to watch this," Ching warned. Jimmy took Martha and Jonathan aside, away from the open grave while Ching worked. After a few moments, Ching floated out of the grave. "It's done."
"Did you get what you need?" Jonathan asked.
"I hope so," Ching said. "For the sake of my people, I hope so."
Ching flew Jimmy back to Metropolis, back to the suite at the Lexor.
"Well?" Zara asked as soon as she caught sight of Ching. Barry was still dressed as Kal-El.
"We were fortunate," Ching told her. "Another ten days, perhaps less, there would have been nothing viable to retrieve. We are still taking a large risk at being found out."
"I suggest we wait until this evening before returning to the mother ship," Zara said. "It will be easier…"
"To fake Kal-El's death during one final rescue before leaving his adopted planet," Ching completed for her.
"Just out of morbid curiosity, exactly what did you retrieve?" Perry asked. Jimmy had been too embarrassed to ask the question.
Ching sighed. "His testes, and some intestinal tissue. With luck, we can stimulate creation of viable sperm to impregnate Zara. If not, we can use the other tissue to create a clone of Kal-El. Although that would be our last resort, when all else fails. We have strict laws prohibiting cloning of sentient beings for any reason. Even natural clones are suspect. But these are perilous times, and sometimes we must do things we would otherwise never conceive of."
Zara drew Ching aside. "I have had word that Tez the assassin and two of Nor's men may also be here."
"Nor thinks to kill Kal-El even after the union ceremony?" Ching asked.
"I suspect they were here before the ceremony and could not find Kal-El to kill him," Zara said. She didn't seem aware that Jimmy was close enough to overhear them.
"We need to warn the humans about Nor's men," Ching said.
"Can they defend themselves?" Zara asked. "You know we dare not be caught acting against Nor or his people, not directly."
Ching straightened and turned to Perry. "Mister White, we have reason to believe Lord Nor has sent two, possibly more, agents to Earth. These agents present a clear and overwhelming danger to your people. Do you have the capacity to defend yourselves?"
"Do you know where they landed?" Perry asked. Jimmy noted that Perry hadn't answered Ching's question.
"Most likely, somewhere in the vicinity of Smallville, Kansas. Where Kal-El first landed," Ching told him.
Perry grabbed the phone and dialed a number. "Jack? Perry White. I just got word there are probably two, maybe more, rogue Kryptonians somewhere near Smallville, Kansas."
"Tell him that Kryptonians are also telepathic with one another," Ching said.
"And I've just been told that Kryptonians are telepathic with one another," Perry relayed. "But I don't think they can read humans," he added.
Ching frowned, as though concentrating, then shook his head. "It's like hitting a wall," he said to Zara.
Perry listened to the phone. "You're kidding," he finally said. "You're sure they're dead?… I see, thanks Jack." He hung up the phone, then turned to Zara and Ching. "That was someone I know at the National Intelligence Agency." Perry gave Jimmy a meaningful look. The 'Jack' he was referring to was Jack Olsen, Jimmy's father. "Nor's men showed up in Smallville nearly two hours ago, started making trouble, killed a couple people. The military rolled in half an hour ago and took them out."
"Took them out?" Ching asked. "How?"
"Snipers, high-powered rifles, kryptonite bullets," Perry explained.
"Kryptonite?" Zara asked.
"A radioactive element that specifically affects Kryptonians. Supposedly, it's part of the remnants of Krypton, blown here when the planet was destroyed," Perry explained. "You really should let your people know we do know how to deal with unfriendly aliens. After that little incident in Smallville, I doubt your people are going to be real welcome. At least not for a long time, and definitely not without an invitation."
Ching looked very solemn. "Mister White, are we at risk?"
Perry laughed. "No, son. You and Zara here came to me looking for family, asking for help to find the gentlest, kindest man I've ever had the privilege to know. And you have no idea how sorry I am you came too late to save him from himself. But I will admit, there are going to be folks who won't be as understanding as I am."
Zara and Ching stared at one another for a long moment before Zara pulled a small device from her pocket and handed it to Perry. It looked vaguely like a snow globe. "This is a communications device. With it, Ching or I can contact you, in the event we need an 'invitation' to return. Unfortunately, it is short range only, so you will not be able to contact us on New Krypton."
"Thank you for your help, Mister White, Mister Olsen," Ching said. "I think we should leave now, before things get more complicated. I assume you can handle Kal-El's death? Perhaps Tez killed him?"
"We'll come up with something for tonight's news," Perry promised.
Ching took Zara's hand, and, making sure the organ case was secure, they flew off the balcony.
Jimmy Olsen never saw the two Kryptonians again. That night's news carried coverage of the Kryptonian attack on a sleepy midwest town, as well as Kal-El's union to a Kryptonian 'lady'. But the lead story was Superman's death at the hands of an assassin as he left his new wife to speed to the defense of Smallville, Kansas against the Kryptonian criminals. All that had been found was his cape and one boot, bloodied and charred. There was no word on the assassin.
Perry kept the small communications device on a shelf in his office. A year went by. Jimmy was promoted to senior researcher and was trying his hand at photography. Several of his pictures had already made it to the front page of the Planet and Perry had started actually sending him on shooting assignments.
Jimmy and Lucy Lane, Lois's younger sister, had met at Lois's funeral. They were now engaged to be married, although neither was willing to set a date. Life was looking up. He still missed Lois and Clark, but he wasn't looking up at the elevators quite so often, expecting them to walk in.
Perry had finally hired some new people to replace his two star reporters, but he had refused to assign the title 'hottest team on the Planet' to anyone. That had been reserved for them.
"Olsen, my office, now!" Perry bellowed. Jimmy grabbed his camera, expecting to be sent off to take pictures of some disaster, or be yelled at for a flaw in composition he'd missed, although those were few and far between these days. He stopped inside the door to Perry's office.
"Shut the door," Perry ordered. Jimmy closed the door behind him. A closed door meant the discussion was serious, possibly career-threatening.
"Yes, sir?" Jimmy managed to squeak out.
Perry looked over at him, surprised. "Oh, it's not you. The communications gizmo Lady Zara gave me just went off. There's a life pod coming to Earth from New Krypton. Ching sent me the coordinates and asked us to help the two survivors."
"Did he say what was going on?" Jimmy asked.
Perry shook his head. "Only that is was urgent we protect the survivors. It sounded like there were explosions and fighting in the background."
"So, where do we find this life pod?" Jimmy asked. Perry handed him a set of map coordinates. Jimmy checked the numbers against Perry's atlas, then double-checked them on Map-Search. About a hundred miles north of Metropolis, in an area of farms and second and third growth forests.
"It'll take us about two hours to get there," Perry calculated. "We should be there about the time they land."
They took Perry's car, speeding up route 87, towards the map coordinates Ching had given Perry. Perry slowed the car as night fell and they got closer. There was a streak of light overhead and, almost immediately after, a small explosion. Perry stopped the car and the two men ran across the field toward the impact crater.
They stopped at the edge of the crater, staring down at a tiny metallic craft in the bottom of the newly formed pit. The smooth metal was still glowing, but appeared to be cooling rapidly. Jimmy walked, slid, fell, into the pit.
"It's way too small to have an adult in it," Jimmy told Perry as he looked it over for some way to open it. Cautiously, he put out his hand to touch the craft. It was already cool to the touch. The hull separated, the top moving up and away from the small passenger compartment.
Jimmy was greeted by two wails. There were two dark-haired infants inside the pod, one maybe three months old, the other a newborn. Both were wrapped in blue and red blankets that no earth-bound loom had any part in making. The blankets of the older baby were emblazoned with a symbol Jimmy recognized. The 'S' shield of the house of El. The symbol on the other baby's blanket looked more like an 'L', only upside down.
He grabbed both children and clambered back to where Perry stood waiting. He handed the children to his boss and went back into the crater to retrieve the navigation module and several metallic wafer-like objects. He stuffed the small globe and the wafers into his coat pockets.
Perry handed the newborn back to Jimmy as they made their way back to the car. "I hardly thought we'd be needing car seats," Perry complained mildly. He loosened the blankets around the child in his arms. "It's a boy," Perry announced, rewrapping the child who had begun to protest the cold.
"Do you think he's Clark and Zara's son?" Jimmy asked.
Perry peered at the infant, who looked back with large brown almond-shaped eyes under a cap of soft black hair. "There is definitely a resemblance to Clark, so I'd guess yes."
"But then, who's this?" Jimmy asked. The newborn was female. Her eyes were still the blue-gray of newborns, dark hair fine against her scalp.
Perry shrugged. "First things first. We need to get to the closest town, find a Costmart, and get ourselves some supplies. Then we can worry about the rest."
The next town was less than five miles away and the Costmart was on the outskirts of town. Perry left Jimmy with the children while he went shopping, coming back forty-five minutes later with two car seats, diaper bags, diapers, clothes, baby bottles and formula, baby blankets, and two teddy bears. The red and blue blankets were folded up and put in the trunk. Before the two men left the Costmart parking lot, both babies were dressed, fed, and safely ensconced in their seats for the trip to Metropolis.
The two children were asleep in no time, obviously exhausted from their trip and the changes around them. Jimmy found himself dozing off, as well.
He woke at Perry's shake and found himself still in the car in the Daily Planet parking garage. They grabbed the two children and all the new paraphernalia that now came with them, and made their way to Perry's office.
"Chief, how are we going to explain them? We can't tell anybody they're from New Krypton… I mean…"
"I know what you mean, son," Perry assured him. "I know some people who can help, including your dad. But first, let's see if that globe thingy can tell us anything more." He pointed to the communications device on the shelf. The normal white had turned a soft green. Perry picked it up, and Ching's voice began to speak.
"This will be the last communication to Earth from the colony of New Krypton. I send this in hopes that the last two survivors have been retrieved safely, because, by the time you hear this, there will be no sentient life left on New Krypton. There may, in fact, be no planet at all.
"As I'm sure you have surmised, the male child is the clone of Kal-El born of Zara. Our efforts to avoid that were not successful. His name is Ler-El. The female is his birth-wife, Lausa Gem-Ar, last daughter of the House of Ar, an old and noble house.
"Despite our best efforts to avoid conflict, Lord Nor and his followers attempted a coup against the Houses of El and Ra, making claims that the union of Zara and Kal-El was a subterfuge, that the child in her womb was not his. Civil war broke out. Many died. When it became apparent to Nor and his followers that they could not prevail militarily and relocating the colony to Earth was not an option, they attempted to coerce the population into accepting his rule by threatening to use weapons of mass destruction.
"I do not know how the weapons were deployed, if they were set off accidentally or deliberately, but within moments of launching the life pod to Earth, fusion devices were set off both on the surface and below ground. Zara is already dead as is most of the council of Elders, killed when the council chambers collapsed. By the time you hear this, the rest of us will have joined them.
"Please, take care of our children. They are all that are left of a once great people. They are our gift to you. Love them, as we should have done."
The globe stopped speaking, but remained green. Perry put it back on the shelf and when he turned back to Jimmy, the young man could see tears in his eyes.
Perry blinked away the moisture. "I'd like to keep this as close to the family as I can. I'll call Clark's parents, let them know their grandson is here. I've no doubt they'll take him and raise him right, just like they did his father."
"What about the girl?"
Perry gave him a appraising look. "I know you and Lucy are probably not ready for this. Hell, Alice and I weren't ready when Perry Junior was born and we'd been married five years. But I have a feeling about that little girl. And I think you and Lucy will be the perfect parents for her."
"I'm getting to be an old man," Olsen berated himself silently. Then he realized, not for the first time, he was the same age Perry White had been the night New Krypton died.
The elevator doors opened and the hottest team on the Planet stepped out, arm in arm, grinning like two cats who'd just feasted on a whole cage of canaries.
"We've got the goods on the mayor!" Olsen's dark-haired, hazel-eyed daughter yelled.
Her tall partner grinned, white teeth bright against olive skin. "And, of course, we have the exclusive on Superman and Ultrawoman handling the dam break in northern China."
"That's Ultrawoman and Superman, farmboy," the woman corrected. "The straight man always gets top billing."
"And she just has to be on top," he quipped, laughing.
"Damn straight, and don't you forget it. Now let's get moving, we have a Kerth to win."
The hottest team on the Planet: Lois Joanne Lane Olsen and Clark Joseph Kent, last survivors of Krypton.