TAC Table of Contents
A/N: Please note that this story is a continuation of ‘Short on Time’ and ‘Last Ounce of Strength.’ This is important because events that occurred in those two stories are referenced or have an impact on plot points/characters here. It’s not required to read the previous two, but it helps.
Special thanks to Mary, who helped a great deal in motivating my muse to see this through.
Summary: The world is experiencing meteor showers and Superman is hearing things. What is going on?
“It’s going to light up the night sky!” the scientist said, ecstatic. “The observatory is in the perfect location for it, and we are expecting to get once in a lifetime photographs.”
Clark and Lois, among other journalists, jotted down notes about the upcoming meteor shower.
“The shower will occur throughout the next few nights and we can expect to see a minimum of ten an hour and upwards of ninety to a hundred at peaks,” the scientist explained, sparking a lot of intrigued chatter. “Tonight and the night after next will contain the peaks, which should occur between the hours of ten and eleven-o’clock for the first night and eleven and twelve-o’clock for the third.”
“I can’t wait for tonight,” Lois muttered to Clark.
“Yes, tonight should be spectacular,” he agreed as the scientist finished his announcement and stepped away from the podium with Professor Roberts—the same professor who had provided Superman with the explosive that destroyed the asteroid that had once endangered Earth.
After leaving the observatory and writing up the article that would no doubt encourage families across the nation to stay up a little later, night approached quickly. Correctly assuming Mr. White would appreciate a fluff piece, Clark, Jimmy, and Lois went to the outskirts of town where other city residents had gathered to better view the meteor shower.
“Wow! Look at that!” Jimmy said, pointing before snapping some pictures.
“The view of the night sky away from the city lights is always amazing, but this is beyond words,” Lois said, staring as streaks of light shot across the twinkling black drape of space.
“Yes, it is quite a sight,” Clark said, privately using his special vision to enjoy even more.
The universe was truly a marvel.
“I do wonder…” Lois said, although it wasn’t clear if she was actually talking to anyone.
“Wonder?” Clark asked as Jimmy left them to take pictures of the crowd.
“Superman came from out there. I wonder if he thinks about that much. I wonder if it’s hard to live knowing, even among people that look like you, that there isn’t anyone who is really like you. I wonder if he ever gets lonely,” Lois said, her eyes still watching the meteors slice through the night.
Clark blinked, taken aback. He frowned, not sure how to respond but not liking the growing silence.
“I’m sure he thinks about it sometimes, but… I’d like to believe we are more like him than we feel, and I’m sure that’s enough,” he managed softly.
“That’s a nice thought, Clark, and I hope you’re right,” she said, still looking at the sky. “There’s just so much we don’t know… about him and out there. We know he’s a Kryptonian, he has told us that much, as well as his powers and even his limits but… what does it really mean to be Kryptonian? I imagine he’s been here for so long that I can’t help but question, does he even know? Is it even important now? He told me once he considers Earth to be his home. When did he decide that, and why?” Lois paused and glanced at him, embarrassed. “I don’t know why I’m thinking about these things now. You probably think I’m silly for it, since you know him better than anybody, but I guess it’s from seeing this and remembering that we’re not as big as we would like to believe. Earth isn’t big either when you bring the universe into account.”
Clark stared back at her, his eyes unrelenting. “Yes, but sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. Maybe that’s why Superman calls Earth his home.”
Lois smiled. “How is it you always know what to say?”
Clark shrugged lightly. “Just comes to me.”
Lois shook her head before looking back up. “Well, it looks like the meteor shower has slowed. We might have time to write the article before calling it a night… or morning.”
“That sounds like a plan. Let’s go get Jimmy,” he said, quickly spotting him near the edge of the gathered onlookers.
“Jimmy!” Lois called as Clark took a moment to look back at the stray meteors shooting across the night sky, sparse as they now were.
He was looking forward to the third night, when the shower’s density would thicken again. As Lois had said, the sight was beyond words.
With his anticipation up, he began to turn…
He gave a sharp jolt on the spot as the high pitched ring resounded in his ears. It was stronger than any dog whistle he had ever heard and was so sharp that it was almost painful.
“Oh! Sorry, Mr. Kent! Did I startle you?” Jimmy asked, coming up beside him.
The sound trailed off, but a trace of it seemed to linger in his mind.
“Nothing to apologize for, Jimmy. My mind had wandered,” he said, skating on a fib.
“Oh, I’m not surprised, Mr. Kent. Seeing this certainly makes you think, huh?” Jimmy said, indicating the vast heavens above.
Clark nodded, trying to shake the remnants of whatever he had heard. “It certainly does.”
O o O o O
Despite being Superman, Clark was relieved when he got into bed. They had finished the article, included several of Jimmy’s photographs, and planned on following up the article with public reactions and the like over the next few days. Mr. White wouldn’t be screaming for stories as much until the subsequent week.
With that final thought, he fell asleep mere moments after relaxing onto the mattress…
Fear, thick and choking, surged forward as the sensation of falling rushed over him.
Surrounded by walls, there was no escape—no safeguard, no rescue.
No way to move or stop. He held on and tensed as the inevitable came, fearing the end.
Clark shot up in bed, breathing heavily. He closed his eyes, trying to remember what exactly had awakened him. Unfortunately, all he could remember was feeling as if something horrible was about to happen to him—that, and hearing the awful noise he had heard earlier… only this time it was even louder.
Clark rubbed his ears, wincing. His ears didn’t hurt exactly, but his head did.
What on earth was causing this?
He got out of bed and went to his bedroom window.
The sun was just beginning to rise. Taking a few breaths, the discomfort in his head bled away.
He rubbed his temples, knowing his recent conversation with Lois had likely drudged up long unanswered questions concerning his origins and how watching the meteor shower may have reminded his subconscious about his run-in with the asteroid that had threatened Earth. He wasn’t entirely convinced, but having a nightmare from that made a bit of sense.
What didn’t make sense was the noise he heard—though, maybe he had heard a dog whistle before and it had just trickled into his nightmare?
He turned away from the window, knowing there was no point going back to bed. Instead, he decided to fly a bit. There was plenty of time to get ready for work afterward.
O o O o O
Perry didn’t see the car as he entered the intersection, but he did feel it a second later. The crunch of the metal at the back corner of the car was more startling than the jolt of the hit. Numbly, he wondered why the other car had struck him. The driver had a solid red light; the fool should have stopped!
His anger was suddenly pushed aside as he became aware of smoke. It was pouring out from under his hood, but instantly the hood of his car was lifted up and a strong breeze blew the smoke away.
“Mr. White? Mr. White, I’m going to get you out,” a voice said.
He turned toward the voice and found Superman right on the other side of the car door, looking at him, concerned.
“Superman,” he said, quickly trying to open the door so he could get out but instantly finding the door was jammed.
“Don’t worry, Mr. White, I have it,” Superman said, pulling the door free with a mighty jerk. “Are you all right?”
Perry nodded as he stepped out, grabbing Superman’s forearm for a moment as he took a quick self-evaluation, for the moment ignoring the other driver who was looking at him remorsefully but was too intimidated by Superman to approach just yet.
“I don’t see any broken bones, but you might want to go to the hospital to be sure you’re all right. You might have whiplash and will likely be sore tomorrow,” Superman advised after giving him a quick once over.
“Thank you, Superman,” Perry said. “I don’t think I’ve been hurt, just stunned.”
“I’m glad to hear that, Mr. White,” Superman said, placing a supportive hand on Perry’s shoulder.
Perry was always amazed by how gentle Superman could be. He could bash through a brick wall one second before holding something as fragile as a kitten the next.
“Now, the police have been called and should be here shortly to write the accident report,” Superman went on, lightly guiding him to the sidewalk where a bench resided.
Perry didn’t resist, but instantly froze as Superman suddenly removed his hand from his shoulder and gasped as if in pain.
“Superman?” Perry asked, turning back to face him.
His fingers were pressed over his ears and a tight grimace notched his face.
“Superman, what’s wrong?” Perry asked again, alarmed.
“It’s so loud,” he grit through his teeth, squinting in pain.
“What? I don’t hear anything, Superman,” Perry said, taking his elbow in effort to help.
Perry turned, relieved to find the voice belonged to Inspector Henderson.
“I don’t know,” Perry answered as Superman shook his head, trying in vain to shake whatever he was hearing. “He’s hearing something.”
“Superman?” Henderson asked, coming to his other side while ignoring the crowd that was beginning to gather along the sidewalks. “What are you hearing?”
“A loud whistle… very loud,” Superman said, looking at him while rubbing his ears, still trying to block the sound. “Worse than nails on a chalkboard. Much worse.”
“Is this the first time you’ve heard it?” Perry asked.
“No, I heard it last night… and then again early this morning, but it…” Superman winced, the noise apparently spiking. “It wasn’t this bad and it definitely didn’t last this long.”
“Come on, maybe if we take you someplace else it will help,” Henderson suggested, noting the growing crowd.
“Wait,” Superman said, slowly lowering his hands in relief. “It’s gone now.”
“Just the same, I think you should go see a doctor, preferably Professor Lucerne,” Henderson advised.
Superman nodded after a moment, the crow’s feet by his eyes fading as the discomfort from the mysterious noise faded.
“Thank you, I will,” Superman said, before stepping back. A moment later, he leapt up and shot away from them.
O o O o O
Perry made it to the Daily Planet offices about an hour later. After answering questions for the police report and being looked at by an ambulance attendant that came to the scene, he called the Planet and got Jimmy to pick him up.
“What do you mean Kent won’t be coming in?!” Perry shouted.
“He called in sick, Chief,” Lois said, not surprised by the reaction.
“Sick? Sick!? A fine time to be sick!” he hissed.
“I don’t think anyone can control when they get sick, Chief,” Jimmy put in.
Perry huffed before focusing back on Lois. “As you know, I was in a minor accident this morning and Superman helped me out of my damaged car, but that’s not important. Superman heard a noise that seemed to cause him pain,” he said.
“What?” Jimmy gasped.
“What on earth was it?” Lois asked.
“He didn’t know, but he admitted to hearing it two other times since last night, but they weren’t as severe,” Perry explained. “Superman said it was much worse than nails on a chalkboard.”
“We need to help him,” Lois stated, concerned.
Perry nodded. “Yes, which is why I was hoping Kent would be here, but we’ll just have to help Superman without him.”
“What could be causing it though?” Jimmy asked. “And you didn’t hear anything?”
Perry shook his head. “Nothing, but that doesn’t mean much. Superman can hear dog whistles, after all.”
“But Superman said it was much worse,” Lois said, thinking. She frowned and idly shook her head. “The only thing I can think of is the meteor shower, considering the timing. Maybe that’s somehow causing it, but I don’t know how.”
“We could go to the observatory and maybe ask the scientists there?” Jimmy suggested.
“That’s a good idea. Go, you two, and call me as soon as you find anything. Unfortunately, as Superman had reacted to this sound literally in the middle of a street, the public will want to know what’s happening. The last time something like this had happened in public, he ended up in the hospital for a few days,” Perry said, referring to when he had been infected by the kryptonite infused pathogen. “We don’t want the public to assume it’s going to happen again, so that means getting to the bottom of it as soon as we can.”
“We will, Chief,” Lois said, already on her way out with Jimmy behind her.
“And don’t call me Chief!”
O o O o O
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re hearing, Superman,” Lucerne apologized. “From everything I’m finding, you are perfectly fine, though. Your ears are just as they’ve always been as far as I can see. No sign of swelling, redness or any irritation that should have occurred after hearing what you described.” Superman failed to hold back a sigh.
“Thank you for checking anyway. I wish I could describe it better, but it’s just extremely intense. Part of me wonders if it’s not just all in my head, but it can’t be. It’s too powerful.”
“Hmm, it may be a type of tinnitus, but I’ve never heard of a case as severe as yours before, and that’s assuming you can even develop tinnitus,” Lucerne mused. “But maybe it’s not physiological but environmental.”
“The meteor shower?” Superman asked, “But how could that be causing this?”
“I’m not sure. Perhaps meteors are skating on the edge of the atmosphere and causing a noise only you can hear? The timing of this is a bit too coincidental to ignore.”
Superman nodded slowly, thinking. “That could be. I…”
He flinched and pressed his palm against his temple as he stumbled forward and gripped the corner of Lucerne’s desk to keep himself upright.
“Superman!” Lucerne shouted, hurrying around, but Superman didn’t respond.
“Is it the same?” Lucerne asked, coming up beside him and placing his hand on Superman’s back.
Superman shook his head. “It’s pulsing,” he stated, his voice louder than what it really should be. Lucerne correctly assumed it was because Superman was unconsciously attempting to talk over what he was hearing. “It’s almost like a form of Morse Code.” He rubbed both of his temples in frustration. “It doesn’t make any sense!”
“Stop!” Superman suddenly shouted; the noise unbearable. “Stop! Stop!”
It cut off and he slumped in relief, but a sudden, foreign feeling washed over him.
But it was not his emotion.
He opened his eyes, finding himself seated in a chair Lucerne must have retrieved for him, but the unfamiliar, no, alien sensation he had felt had his attention.
“Superman?” Lucerne asked softly. “Are you all right?”
Still breathing a little heavily, he looked up. “Professor, I don’t think I’m hearing some-thing. I’m hearing some-one.”
Lucerne frowned. “Someone? You mean, someone is doing this on purpose?”
“I’m not sure, but… I have a feeling they’re calling for help.”
“Why do you think that?”
“The second time I heard it, it woke me from a dream. Unfortunately, I don’t really remember the dream, but I felt as if I was in danger and needed help.”
“All right, assuming this is from someone who is calling for help, are you saying they’re communicating with you telepathically?” Lucerne asked.
“They must be; it would explain why it’s so intense.”
“Perhaps you can attempt to communicate back, as it seems they heard you say stop,” Lucerne proposed, and Superman nodded thoughtfully. “But before you do, I would hazard a guess that they don’t speak our language. Try sending emotion and images to them instead of speech.”
“So I should just… mentally push?” Superman asked, uncertain but willing.
“I don’t believe it would hurt to try,” Lucerne encouraged him.
“All right,” Superman said, easing fully into the chair and closing his eyes.
Focusing back to the desperate moment where he had successfully sent them the word ‘stop’ and all the emotion that came with it, he gathered as much mental energy as he could and pushed feelings of question, inquiry, and curiosity out. After a moment of concentrating on that, he shifted on to sending out what he hoped would be interpreted as ‘Do you need help?’ and ‘How can I help?’
He continued for a little while longer, wondering if it was working at all, but he was suddenly mentally bashed with surprise, affirmation, and flashes of too many images to make out.
Superman gasped and pressed his hand against his forehead as he immediately replied by sending out a resounding plea of ‘slow down.’ Lucerne remained quiet, watching and noting every reaction.
Instantly, the onslaught screeched to a near halt and was joined with feelings of confusion and apology.
Superman relaxed and sent a brief pulse of gratitude before following it with a desire to understand.
In his mind’s eye, he could suddenly see snippets of images. Each was accompanied with emotions.
A broken control panel with unintelligible markings across knobs and buttons. Fear, frustration, desperation… A dense forest just beyond a broken window. Loneliness, worry, dread. A wavering flash of an alien landscape. Longing, homesickness…
Superman responded with feelings of reassurance and a mental motion he hoped would be interpreted as ‘wait.’
Knowing there was nothing more he could do mentally, he pulled back and opened his eyes.
“Are you all right?” Lucerne asked, “I could tell something was happening.”
“I think they’ve crashed somewhere. Their ship is damaged,” Superman explained.
“Ship? As in spaceship?” Lucerne asked.
“I saw the control panel. It was the most complicated and intricate piece of technology I’ve ever seen.”
Lucerne took a moment to take that in before nodding thoughtfully. “I wonder if the meteor shower was the cause of their crash.” Thinking further, his eyes went wide. “Perhaps the Observatory saw something. They might have seen the ship and not even have realized. They could have assumed it was just some meteorite crashing.”
“Let’s go to the Observatory,” Superman stated.
O o O o O
Lois and Jimmy entered the Observatory, following Professor Roberts in hope of getting answers that might help Superman.
“I’m not sure what I can do for you, but I’ll do my best to answer any questions you may have,” Professor Roberts said, turning toward them.
“Well, as we told you, Superman has been hearing loud, intense noises, and we were wondering, could the meteor shower perhaps be the cause of what he’s hearing?” Lois asked.
“It’s possible, but considering the shower is going on non-stop, it doesn’t make sense that it would be so spontaneous and brief,” the professor said as they stepped onto the second floor near the open balcony. He turned to lead them further, but stopped as they heard a gentle thump.
“Professor Roberts?” Superman’s voice called.
They all hurried to his voice, surprised and curious.
“Superman, what are you doing here?” Lois asked, also spotting Lucerne.
“For the same reason that you are here, Miss Lane. To get to the bottom of what I’m hearing,” Superman said, amused.
“How can we help you, Superman?” Professor Roberts asked as a few other professors came in, hearing Superman’s arrival.
“This is going to sound pretty extraordinary, but I believe I’ve been communicating with a being that has recently crash landed,” Superman explained. “I’m hoping you all may have spotted something that may help me find where they crashed.”
“A being? You mean an alien?” one of the scientists asked, excited. “How are you communicating?”
“Telepathically,” Superman said matter-of-factly.
“Do you know when they might have crashed?” Roberts asked, moving over to some charts they had used to mark areas of the sky they had spotted notable meteorites.
“I’m fairly certain they had crashed less than an hour after the peak of the meteor shower last night,” Superman explained.
“We’ll help the best we can, but the sky is a big place. We observed several sectors last night and recorded a number of meteorites entering the atmosphere, although only a fraction made it to the ground,” another scientist said.
“Could you ask which direction they came from? That would help narrow things down,” Roberts suggested.
Lois and Jimmy watched as Professor Lucerne glanced uncertainly at Superman.
“All right, I can try,” Superman said, shifting his feet slightly as he closed his eyes. Clenching and unclenching his hands, he took a few deep breaths before stilling.
O o O o O
Ignoring the curious looks from Lois, Jimmy and the professors with them, he focused inward before mentally pushing out a feeling of question with an imagined image of a vessel entering the atmosphere from different directions. After a moment, he stopped, hoping the alien would understand what he was asking and send a comprehensible reply.
He didn’t need to wait long, but the images and sensations coming at him were all consuming. In an instant it didn’t even feel as if he was standing. In fact, it didn’t even feel as if he was himself anymore….
His ship rocked back and forth as space rocks pelted the shields. Fear sat heavily in his gut and suddenly leapt as the alarms began blaring.
He tried to steer clear of the debris stream but he had no control. Suddenly, a blue orb came into view on the screen. A planet. A water planet.
Uncertainty joined his fear, but neither compared to his panic as he breached the planet’s skies.
The ship twisted, spinning with no hope of regaining altitude.
He never should have left home. He hadn’t been ready, and now he had proof.
He was going to die.
He saw the ground, unfamiliar and unending, dotted with brown and green pillars of life, and yet it all gave way in what he could only perceive as a plume of death as he crashed.
Blackness surged and overtook all. Death is quick, he decided.
O o O o O
They all stared and waited in silence, afraid to distract the Man of Steel from whatever he was doing. It was clear this was taking a great deal of effort. His eyes were tightly closed and his brow was scrunched in mental effort.
After a moment, he relaxed, as if waiting.
Lois glanced over at Jimmy, looking just as bewildered as she felt before they all jumped.
With a loud gasp, Superman flinched and staggered to his left, bumping into Professor Lucerne. His right hand shot to his temple in pain as he then stumbled backward. His eyes opened for a brief moment, but they were unseeing.
“Superman!” Lois cried, stepping forward in effort to help, but Jimmy and Professor Roberts beat her to his side.
“Superman, what’s wrong?” Lucerne asked, coming up behind Roberts after regaining his footing.
Superman didn’t appear to hear them as he suddenly flailed, as if expecting something to hit him before his legs just gave out. No one had a chance to even try to break his fall and he landed roughly onto his side.
Lucerne immediately knelt beside him and turned him onto his back before checking the pulse at his neck.
“What’s happening?!” Jimmy asked, alarmed.
“I’m not sure, but his pulse is a little faster than his normal,” Lucerne said as Roberts whispered something to the scientist beside him.
The man nodded and hurried from the room, only to return a moment later with a blanket. “Here,” he said.
“Thank you,” Lucerne said, taking it and placing it under Superman’s head.
“What should we do?” Lois asked.
Lucerne didn’t answer right away; instead, he leaned over Superman and stared at his face. “I think the being is still communicating with him,” he said softly, a note of concern in his voice.
“Why is it doing this to him?” Jimmy asked.
“Perhaps Superman is close enough to the being physiologically that telepathy is possible, but still too different for it to be efficient,” one of the other scientists suggested.
“That would be my guess as well,” Lucerne agreed.
“Should we move him?” Roberts asked.
“Where cou—” Lucerne started, only to cut himself off as Superman mumbled something in his unconscious state.
He turned his head and frowned, as if not understanding something before relaxing again. A moment later he gave a slight nod and stilled once more.
“Superman?” Lucerne asked after a moment.
Slowly, Superman stirred and, blinkingly, opened his eyes.
“Are you all right?” Roberts asked.
Squinting, Superman sat up. “I think so,” he said as he rubbed his temple. “He showed me what had happened, and I am fairly certain I know where he is.”
“Where is he, Superman? And are you sure you’re all right?” Lois asked.
“He’s about fifty miles north of town, near the edge of the park reserve,” Superman said, rubbing his temple for a few more seconds before lowering his hand. “I’ll admit I’m a little dizzy, but it’s not too bad.”
“Should you lie back down?” Jimmy asked.
“No, I need to go and get to the ship. I assured him I would come and help,” he said, getting to his knees so he could stand.
“I think it would be best if we drove you there,” Lucerne advised. “I don’t think you should try to fly any time soon.”
“Very well, doctor, I might need some assistance in helping him anyway,” he said, before accepting Roberts’ hand and standing up. “You all will need to be a bit prepared though. It will likely be a hike. I don’t know how far he is from the road.”
“We have some canteens we can take, as well as some other supplies,” a scientist said, who received a nod from Roberts to begin gathering what they may need.
As that man did that, Superman took a slow deep breath and closed his eyes, not seeing the concerned looks those around him cast to one another. After a moment he opened his eyes again. “I let him know I’m bringing people to better help him.”
“How do you communicate? I mean, I imagine you both don’t think in English?” one of the other professors asked as Roberts left the room for a moment.
“It’s a little hard to explain, but we communicate through emotions and images. At first, he was communicating in his language, but at the time I didn’t perceive it as a language… just painful noises. I don’t think he was expecting someone from outside his race to reply, and when I did…” He shrugged. “He is relieved though.”
“I’m sure he is. So where is he from? Did you get any other information from him?” Lois asked
“Not a whole lot. I know he’s young, as I got the impression that he might not be an adult, and he’s from a system with a white dwarf star,” Superman said as Roberts told some of the observatory scientists to remain behind as he headed out of the room.
“That’s extraordinary,” Lucerne said as Roberts returned with a box and the other scientist who had left before for the hiking supplies.
“I’m not sure if this will help, but I figure it can’t hurt,” Roberts said, briefly showing the contents of his box, which included a collection of wires, tools, and hardware.
Superman nodded his thanks as they all headed out of the observatory and to the parking lot.
“We’ll need to take two cars,” Lois said before motioning to her car and looking at Roberts’ assistants. “We can take ours and give you two a lift.”
“Thank you, Miss Lane,” Roberts said.
Getting into two cars after loading up the supplies into the trunk, Superman, Lucerne, Roberts, Lois, Jimmy, and two other professors headed off to the park reserve Superman had identified.
Roughly an hour later, they pulled up along the edge of the national forest.
“All right, he should be that way,” Superman directed after they had all gotten out of the cars.
“Very well, Superman,” Lucerne said, helping Roberts place the canteens in a backpack with everything else.
Jimmy and Lois stepped beside Superman.
“How far is he, Superman?” Lois asked.
“I’m not entirely sure, but I know he can’t see or hear the road from where he is. He could be within a mile from here or we might be in for a hike.”
“We’re here till we find and help him,” Lois promised.
“All right, let’s go,” Roberts said as Superman relieved him of the backpack.
They entered the forest and cut down a path nearly a mile later that branched into a makeshift trail worn by animals.
“Wait a moment,” Superman said, removing the backpack and placing a hand on a nearby tree before closing his eyes.
They all immediately stopped, wondering if Superman was being contacted by the entity or if he was going to send out a message of his own.
Shaking his head as if not quite understanding what he had received, Superman opened his eyes.
“He’s in this direction, but I think he’s afraid of who we are. He wants to trust me, believe that he’s about to receive help, but he’s been warned by his people that there are dangerous worlds,” Superman explained as they all took a moment to quench their thirst.
“Well, we’ll just have to show him that we’re a good world,” Jimmy said as he returned his canteen to the pack.
They continued for another half a mile until Superman, who was leading them, slowed and motioned for them to come to a stop and to be quiet. They followed his instructions and came to a stop beside him, turning to where he was looking. There were several broken and damaged trees before them, a path of destruction that had clearly come from above.
“So he’s over there?” one of the professors asked softly.
Superman nodded. “Let me go on ahead of you all. I don’t want to scare him.”
“Good idea, Superman,” Lucerne said. “But we won’t be far behind you.”
Superman nodded his understanding before going down the gash through the trees.
“Hello?” he called, while mentally pushing out feelings of calmness and greeting.
He stepped around the fallen and cracked trees, coming to a stop a few paces from a metal vehicle that could only be the spaceship.
Suddenly, part of it shifted and what could only be identified as a door opened up to reveal a figure.
The form definitely wasn’t a human, but it had a head, two legs, two arms, and two hands… although they had three digits instead of five. It was tall and slender with purplish skin, and for some reason its appearance made Superman feel as if it was male. The being had scales on top of his head that was similar to hair and a shallow, oval nose. His eyes were diamond shaped and had a second set of eyelids beneath the primary. He was clothed in sleek strips of a material he didn’t recognize, but a band of golden wire wrapped around his biceps.
“Hello?” Superman asked again as it turned toward him.
Superman couldn’t help but wince at the intensity of feeling and thought that surged into his mind. The stunned surprise mixed with gratitude, fear and awe left Superman baffled.
“It’s all right, I’m here to help,” Superman said, doing his best to send out feelings of reassurance, although he was unable to stop the confusion he felt from sensing the alien’s previous emotions toward him.
Suddenly, his emblem flashed in his mind’s eye, and with it came a sense of deep respect and… reverence?
“You recognize this crest?” Superman asked, touching his S-shield. “How?” he asked, projecting both curiosity and question.
A pulse of hesitant offering reached him as the alien stepped toward him, as if asking permission to do something. Intrigued, Superman sent his consent and went forward before coming to a stop just an arm’s reach away and at eye level with him.
Slowly, the alien reached out with his purple hand and placed his thumb at the center of Superman’s forehead while positioning his two fingers on the side of Superman’s face and against his cheekbone.
The only warning Superman had was a soft buzzing in his ears and a brief beat of what he could only interpret as a message saying ‘hold on’ before the buzz spiked into a crack of thunder that seemed to stall within his mind. His eyes widened in alarm but he was too stunned to do anything else as what he could only describe as pressure closed in around him.
Hundreds of images bombarded him, each accompanied with emotion and meaning. Words and understanding soon followed as the pressure continued to build. It was suffocating, but Superman suddenly didn’t want it to end as an image of a man refined in his mind.
A man who bore the same crest on his own chest.
He had dark hair and a cleft chin identical to his own, and his eyes were strikingly familiar… because they were so like the ones he saw in the mirror every day.
The man began to speak, and at first the words were foreign, but the knowledge Superman had just gained clicked into gear and he could comprehend the dire message of warning pouring from the man’s lips.
“Krypton’s end is near. There is nothing that can stop it. Your people must go beyond the Rao System. When Krypton’s core fails, it is going to contaminate this entire sector. Please, do what my people are not. Do what I cannot. Leave, ensure your survival. There is not much time.”
The scene shifted, revealing a distant view of planets encircling a red star before one of them burst into a spectacular blast of light and shards of rock.
The sensation of loss was overwhelming. Never had Superman been so aware of loneliness.
His people were gone.
He felt the alien’s presence wrap around his painful revelation, the agonizing truth of the fate of his people, as the view panned out to reveal hundreds upon hundreds of ships in formation leaving the broken system in time.
Because of the man with the S-shield.
Gratitude ebbed from the alien, and apology.
Superman’s eyes re-focused, the pressure in his mind easing.
“Who—who was he? Do you know his name?” Superman asked in Kryptonian, idly aware of the tears in his eyes and the lump in his throat as he heard Lois and the others enter the edge of the crash site.
The alien quickly pulled his hand away, glancing at those gathered several paces behind Superman.
“They’re with me,” Superman explained, motioning them to stay back before holding out his hand to the alien. “Please answer me. Who was he?” Superman asked earnestly.
A name came to his mind.
Superman brought his other hand up to his temple as Jor-El surfaced in his mind’s eye again.
“My son will be spared from my people’s fate—from my fate. I am building a spacecraft and have found a place I pray will be safe for him. I ask you, if your people ever find him or his descendants, please tell him of his heritage. He is Kal-El, son of Jor-El and Lara of Lor-Van. He is my heir, descended from inventors and scientists, of peacemakers and peacekeepers, of leaders and guardians. May he live and know that his destiny is now his own. It is all Lara and I can give.”
Superman moved his hand over his face, brushing his thumb and forefinger over his closed eyes.
“Superman? Superman, what’s wrong?” Lois asked, catching a glimpse of what she could scarcely believe as he turned his face away from them. Tears.
He lifted his hand in request to give him a moment, not trusting his voice. The alien looked uneasy and apologetic.
Superman cleared his throat and took a deep breath, rubbing his eyes with his hand once more before looking up to collect himself.
Exhaling, he turned back to the alien.
“Thank you,” he said.
My people are grateful for Jor-El. It is an honor to deliver this message to you, the alien thought to him.
“I’ve only suspected the fate of my people. To now know… it is…” Superman trailed off before refocusing as Lois and the others quietly approached. “Are you all right from your crash?”
Yes, I am now, but my ship isn’t. I have attempted repairs, but I’m afraid the damage is too great.
“What do you need? Some of the people with me are scientists, although from what I can see, your technology is beyond Earth’s.”
What a curious name for a world of water.
Superman chuckled. “Yes. You’ll find these people like irony.”
“Superman?” Lucerne asked.
“Oh, apologies, professor,” Superman said, looking a little sheepish.
“Quite all right, Superman; though, if I may ask, what language are you speaking? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it before.”
“Kryptonian. It’s… a language we both know,” he said, deciding to forgo the in-depth explanation.
“That’s amazing! Small universe, huh?” Jimmy said, totally missing Superman’s pained expression as he continued. “What’s his name? What are his people called?”
Superman looked back at the alien, noting his unease at how close the others now were to them.
“They will not harm you, they are just curious. What is your name?” Superman asked.
Veriashi is how it is pronounced in Kryptonian. Veriashi of Shri.
“Is Shri the name of your people?”
It is the name of the vessel that took my clan from the Rao System. My people are known as the Eerai.
“His name is Veriashi of Shri. His kind are the Eerai,” Superman said before turning back to Veriashi.
“How can we help you?”
I need to contact my people, but nothing is functioning.
“Earth has a technology called a radio. It is electromagnetic energy waves transmitted through space. Would that be used to call for your people?”
I don’t think so. Our technology doesn’t use radio waves, at least not for a very long time. They won’t even be looking for it.
“What are they looking for? Do they know you’ve crashed? Maybe we could build something that you could use?”
They should know by now that something has happened, and I am sure they are looking for me. As for building… I’m not sure how to make what I need, even assuming your people have the materials or ability to craft the parts, but… He looked thoughtful and then suddenly hopeful.
Maybe you could help. When you first answered me… I have never received a call so intense before.
“All right, but I don’t know your language.”
There’s no need. Speak Kryptonian. Even if they only hear a word, that will get my people’s attention faster than anything.
“They’ll hear me from wherever they are?” Superman asked, confused.
We would need to work together. I would direct the message while you send it. And once they hear it, they will know which direction to go.
“So you would be a sort of lightning rod for your people and I would act as the lightning?”
In essence, yes.
“All right, so what do we do? Shall we do this now?”
I would prefer not to wait.
“Very well. Let me tell my friends what is happening,” Superman said before turning to Lucerne and the others.
“Would I be correct in saying that the conversation you two just had will result in something spectacular?” Lucerne asked.
Superman smiled, amused. “I hope so. He has proposed I work with him to send out a telepathic message to his people.”
“You can do that?” Lois asked. “Is he injured? Is that why he needs your help?”
“He hasn’t been injured, but he’s not strong enough to send out a powerful enough message by himself. He has been trying since he has crashed and hasn’t reached anyone other than myself. His people are currently too far away.”
“What do you need from us?” Professor Roberts asked.
“Nothing, although… we should inform the authorities about this soon. If we are able to contact his people, they will be coming to get him. I would prefer to avoid any unnecessary confrontations or misunderstandings,” Superman said after a moment of thought.
“I have a mobile phone installed in my car. I know who to call to make sure this doesn’t cascade into something it is not,” Roberts said.
“Thank you,” Superman said.
“One of us should go with Professor Roberts, Jimmy,” Lois put in. “Mr. White wouldn’t want us to miss any aspect of this.”
“You’re right, Miss Lane. I’ll go with them,” Jimmy said, stepping toward Roberts and two of his assistants.
“Very good then,” Lucerne said, giving a nod.
Roberts, Jimmy, and the two assistants headed back the way they had come while Lois and Lucerne looked back at Superman.
“Well, no time to waste,” Superman said. “Ready, Veriashi?”
Superman looked expectantly at Veriashi, not sure of what to do next as he sat on a rock across from the ship.
Place your hand on my face here. It will be easier that way, Veriashi said, indicating his cheekbone and closing his eyes as he stepped in front of him and kneeled. Superman reached out and did as directed.
“Let us know if you need us to do anything,” Lucerne stated.
“I will, Professor. Thank you,” Superman said, before closing his own eyes.
“All right, I’ll just repeat the same message over and other, gaining in strength each time,” Superman said, still preferring to speak aloud when talking to him.
I am ready.
“Warn me if I need to stop, otherwise I will keep sending the message,” Superman said before taking a deep breath.
Veriashi sent a feeling of understanding and agreement as Superman felt something mentally shift, like a runner getting set.
~Eerai, I am Kal-El and Veriashi of Shri is with me~ Superman pushed, sensing the moment the words streamed out beyond Veriashi. It was a strange, distant feeling, but Veriashi’s swell of confidence was at the forefront.
~Eerai, I am Kal-El and Veriashi of Shri is with me~ he called again, before doing so again and again, each instance growing stronger and more potent.
But there was no reply, and with each passing message sent, it took Superman more and more time to gather himself to send another message. He could feel Veriashi’s certainty slipping, as well as his strength. He wasn’t sure how much time was passing, but he felt Veriashi’s hope shrinking into a whisper and his doubt and fear becoming a roar.
O o O o O
I will never get home. I will fail and become a figure my people will use to warn future generations to wait before going out to prove themselves of age.
I have been so foolish.
Why did I think I could do this?
My father had been older when he had gone.
Why did I disregard everything my parents told me?
Why did I think I was capable?
I should tell Kal-El to stop…
It’s no use…
O o O o O
Superman shook himself, oblivious to the concern now ebbing from Lucerne and Lois. He could not see himself, how sweat was dripping down his brow or how strained his posture had become.
He would reach this child’s people. He would not allow him to be doomed a fate similar to his own.
To be without his kind.
He drove past the fear swelling all around and pierced through the hopelessness.
He pulled at his will, his fortitude, his life… and sharpened it so keenly he felt something twist at his core and his awareness of his body simply… detach.
~EERAI, I AM KAL-EL AND VERIASHI OF SHRI IS WITH ME~
A rushing wind-like power surged and he felt it fill his center and expand out, his mind suddenly awash with that which he could only define as presence.
[WE ARE COMING]
O o O o O
Lois and Lucerne watched in uneasy anticipation. Superman and the alien called Veriashi had been facing each other for nearly an hour in intense silence.
“How long should we just watch?” Lois asked, glancing at Lucerne who looked just as concerned.
“I’m not sure, but I would hate to interrupt something important,” he said.
“Miss Lane, Professor Lucerne?”
They turned to find Inspector Henderson, Professor Roberts and Jimmy with a dozen other individuals who were clearly government officials.
“Inspector?” Lois asked, surprised.
“Roberts contacted me and a few others,” Henderson said. “They’re expected to send updates to their superiors soon. What’s happening?” he asked, his eyes turning to Superman and the being several yards away.
Lucerne told them what had happened so far and that nothing had changed for nearly an hour.
“So he’s communicating with this Veriashi and his people?” an official asked from behind Henderson.
“Yes, attempting to, anyw…” Lois began to answer before Veriashi suddenly startled and Superman just fell straight back from where he was seated.
Lucerne and Henderson bolted forward. As Lucerne and Henderson knelt on either side of Superman, Roberts and the others held back, mindful of the nervous alien, but concerned about what was happening to Superman.
“Inspector?” Roberts asked.
“I don’t know,” Henderson said, looking up at Lucerne questioningly.
“His breathing and pulse are extremely slow,” Lucerne admitted.
Henderson frowned before turning to the alien. “Hey, Veriashi, what’s happening to him?”
Veriashi tilted his head, clearly not understanding.
Henderson motioned to Superman. “What’s happening to him?” he repeated loudly, almost angrily.
Before Veriashi could attempt to understand what Henderson was saying, Superman shuddered and bolted upright, as if from a nightmare.
“Superman?” Lucerne asked, putting a hand on his S-shield.
Superman blinked up at him, as if for a moment not sure where he was or who was talking to him.
“Professor,” Superman said, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, just a little disoriented.”
“Are you all right?” Henderson asked.
“Yes. I think so.”
“What happened?” Lucerne asked.
“I managed to reach his people and get a response. They’re on their way here right now,” Superman said before looking at Veriashi. “Your people are coming.”
Superman turned his attention to those gathered behind Henderson. “I take it you all are here to learn what is happening?”
“Yes, Superman. Are you the only one who can communicate with this… visitor, Veriashi?” one of the other officials asked.
“Yes,” he said, getting to his feet. “Is there anything you want me to ask him?”
“I was told by the president himself that we are to do everything within our power to help him. We’ve set up a place not far from here if he wants a different place to stay until his people arrive,” one of the older ones said.
The others looked curiously at Veriashi.
“We’d also really like to learn about him and his people. He represents an opportunity we would be foolish to pass up,” another said.
Superman frowned slightly at that, knowing there would be many people who would take that mentality a bit further. However, it was clear that these individuals truly wanted to help him and seek a mutual beneficial arrangement.
After a brief moment of thought, Superman nodded. “We can go to this place you mentioned if Veriashi agrees. I’m not sure how long it will be until his people arrive, but let us show him Earth’s goodwill.”
With that, Superman turned to Veriashi and asked him if he would like to stay elsewhere. Veriashi was more than happy to leave the forest. He had not been looking forward to spending the night in a broken vessel alone again.
O o O o O
“Is he sure he doesn’t need anything?” Professor Roberts asked from the edge of the room as Veriashi looked around curiously.
“He said the supplies from his ship should be enough until his people arrive,” Superman said.
“Does he know when his people will get here?” Lucerne asked.
There were a few others in the room, but to ensure Veriashi wasn’t overwhelmed, Lucerne and the others (professors/scientists, military officers, and Lois) kept their distance, allowing Superman to act as a buffer.
“No, but he’s confident it won’t be long,” Superman answered.
“I wish his ship was in better condition, but even what we’re seeing is giving us a glimpse of what technology is capable of. It really makes me excited for the future… to know what is possible,” Roberts said, looking back in the garage just off the hall that extended from the room.
“Yes,” Superman agreed. “It is certainly something for Earth to aim for.”
“If only he could communicate in English with us,” Roberts admitted. “It’s very strange to hear you communicate with him verbally only for him to reply to you mentally.”
Superman chuckled. “Yes, I imagine it appears like a very odd one sided conversation to you all.”
“So when he speaks with you, does his words sound like a voice in your head or do you feel like you physically hear him?” Lois asked, curious.
“Well, it’s hard to say. Now that I know what’s happening, it feels like it’s in my head… but before I knew, I heard his previous attempts at contacting his people and was convinced it was something physical.”
“Do you think you could communicate telepathically to people not his species?” Roberts asked.
“You mean with humans?” Superman asked, now intrigued himself. “I don’t know, although, considering what initially happened to me with Veriashi’s unintentional mental contacts, I am not sure trying something similar with a human would be wise. Although I look human, I obviously am not.”
Roberts nodded grudgingly. “That is true. There would be a risk something unforeseen would occur. Even from what little we know, it is clear that the mind is a powerful but delicate thing.”
Superman nodded in agreement, but before he could form a reply, a thick presence suddenly fell upon his mind. Like a lead cloak, it cut him off from everything around him.
[KAL-EL, SON OF JOR-EL]
~Eerai, are you here already?~
[WE ARE, AND WE THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE FOR ONE OF OUR SONS AND FOR WHAT YOUR FATHER DID FOR US ALL]
~I’m glad I could help. Do you need me to bring Veriashi to you?~
[WE HAVE ALREADY RETRIEVED HIM AND HIS VESSEL. WE ONLY WISHED TO EXPRESS OUR GRATITUDE. PLEASE ACCEPT OUR GIFT AND KNOW YOU CAN ALWAYS REACH US IF YOU DESIRE TO BY USING IT]
The shroud fell away in an instant, revealing Roberts, Lois, and one of the officers introduced earlier kneeling over him.
“Superman, are you all right?” Lois asked, looking frightened.
“What happened?” he asked, realizing he was lying on his back on the floor.
“There was a bright flash of light, Veriashi and his ship disappeared, and then you collapsed,” Roberts explained.
“Disappeared?” Superman asked, sitting up, before giving a small jolt and looking down at his hand.
“What is that?” Lois asked.
Lifting his hand, he brought up a small black cube on level with his eyes. It was heavy for its size, and had a shine similar to onyx; however, he somehow knew it wasn’t any earthly material.
“I don’t know,” he answered honestly.
He rolled it around on his palm, examining all sides of it, before it shuddered. Light erupted, condensing into a broad ray that solidified into a strange, mid-air projection of words before him.
“The language you were speaking before?” Roberts asked.
“Yes. Kryptonian,” Superman answered, quickly reading the statement:
~So that you, Kal-El, may know your heritage and your father’s legacy~
Tentatively, Superman slowly raised his hand and touched the floating words, instantly causing them to fade and for a spherical shape to coalesce from the shifting light.
“Krypton,” he breathed, as the foreign world morphed into the face of his father.
Knowledge surged forward, the cube in his hand growing warm as he closed his eyes. Image upon image flashed in his mind’s eye, passing too quickly for him to dwell on, but the content was instantly assimilated and permanently seared into his mind. All the communications his father had had with the Eerai and all the knowledge the Eerai had on Krypton, including their history, achievements, and follies. And then it shifted, showing him the Eerai, the race that was alive and well beyond the Rao system, entirely thanks to his father.
It took all he had to not cave to the emotion welling up within himself. To learn so much of what had been lost due to a society’s egotistical mistake, only to fully grasp his father’s everlasting mark on an entire species.
It was a good thing he was sitting on the floor. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath.
“Superman?” Lois asked.
Reining in his emotions as best he could, he looked up at her and cleared his throat.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing, it was just a lot to take in,” he answered, looking down at the cube once more, realizing he hadn’t been as effective in collecting himself as he had hoped.
“What did it do?” Roberts asked.
“It showed me their history… and my people’s,” he answered softly.
“Things you didn’t know before?” Lois asked gently.
“Yes,” he said, slowly getting to his feet.
“And that man we saw?” Roberts asked.
“He was my father, Jor-El.” By his voice alone, they knew not to inquire further.
Lois and Roberts looked at each other before glancing at the others watching at a distance. The officer with them straightened and stepped toward Superman.
“Well, Superman, I’m not going to pretend I fully understand what’s happened in the last twelve hours, but I do know things would have ended differently if not for your efforts. Thank you,” he said, holding out his hand.
“You’re welcome. I was happy I could help, and I’m pleased with how the United States government responded to this. I know the Eerai were relieved to know Veriashi had been treated so well here,” Superman answered, shaking the officer’s hand.
“Will we ever hear from the Eerai again?” he asked.
“I’m not sure, but I believe, if we ever need them, they will come if asked,” he said.
That seemed to please the officer and the other officials nearby a great deal as Superman gave a parting nod to Lois and the others. He left without another word, clutching the black cube tightly in his hand.
O o O o O
“…And that’s what happened, Clark, and you missed it. It’s a heck of a story, and the alien is on his way home, safe with his people,” Lois explained.
Clark nodded, happily listening to Lois retelling what had happened from her perspective, although he could tell she was holding something back.
“But…?” he prompted. “You look like you’re thinking pretty hard on something. Did you expect a different ending?”
“Well I certainly didn’t expect the Eerai to suddenly transport Veriashi and his ship away, or to somehow teleport that black cube into Superman’s hands, but that’s not what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about how Superman must have felt with it all. There we are, helping an obvious alien get back home, and suddenly we all learn this space-faring race actually knew his father! I mean, it was startling for me, I can only imagine how Superman felt,” Lois explained.
Clark slowly nodded, trying his best to appear thoughtful instead of how he was really feeling.
“Have you seen him since yesterday?” she asked, glancing at him.
Clark hid a frown, but decided not to outright lie. “Briefly.”
“And how was he?” she asked.
“Quiet.” Which was the truth.
“You should have seen his face, Clark. I don’t know what that cube showed him, but it must have been monumental, life altering even,” Lois said, before looking up to stare at the stars.
“You want him to tell you what he learned, don’t you?” Clark asked after a long moment.
“I don’t think there’s a person on earth who would be able to honestly say they’re not at all curious, but…” Lois trailed off, recalling Superman’s expression in the forest—and then later, with the cube.
“But you know he isn’t ready to share, and maybe never will be?” Clark supplied softly.
Lois nodded, her eyes still peering at the black sky, waiting for the meteor shower to begin. “I just hope he has someone to share it with, even if it’s not me.”
“You never know, Lois, maybe he’ll share it with you someday. Someday, when it is not as fresh and when he understands it all better himself,” he said quietly, spotting the first streak of a shooting star.
Lois brightened. “I hope so. Something like that… I think it would be too hard to keep it bottled and to himself. It’s all just too big.”
Clark smiled, his eyes reflecting the meteor shower now at full force above them. “But remember, Miss Lane, it’s the little things…”
“Even now?” she asked, not yet convinced.
“Especially now, Miss Lane, because although it's the big things that go down in history, it's the little things that enable them to occur.”
Reassured, Lois smiled to herself and allowed herself to lean up against Clark’s side. “Yes, I suppose so.”
They watched the falling stars in silence for a bit, before Lois sighed happily.
“Do you think he's watching this right now?” she asked in a whisper.
“Oh, I am sure he is, and enjoying it just as much as I am, of that I am quite certain,” he answered with a soft smile.
O o O The End O o O
Jessica Campos is an engineer who writes in her spare time. She is currently working on several original works and has authored a short story called Abraham, available on Amazon. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and she loves hearing from readers.
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"