TAC Table of Contents
"Kent, get in here right away!" came the urgent voice over Clark Kent's desk intercom.
"Right away, Chief!" Kent replied. When Daily Planet editor Perry White sounded like that, Kent knew that he had better jump. He got up from his desk and headed out his office door. He strode down the hallway to White's office, where Miss Bachrach, White's secretary, waved him by.
"Come in, Kent!" White said, as Kent opened the door to the editor's office. "Close the door behind you!"
Kent did as he was told. He came over to White's desk.
"What's going on, Chief?" the Planet's star reporter asked.
"Kent, I don't know how you do it, but in the past you've managed to get ahold of Superman more than once!" White began.
Kent touched his glasses. "Uh, yes," he replied. "Sometimes I've been lucky enough to be able to reach him."
"Well, it's urgent that you try to get ahold of him now!"
Kent looked puzzled. "What's up, Chief?"
"I just got a call from the Pentagon. Top level. So top level I can't even tell you who I was talking to. The air force has reported a strange anomaly in the sky about 20 miles south southwest of Metropolis. It's about 45 miles above the ground, in the upper atmosphere. It's big, about a quarter-mile across, and roughly circular in shape."
"What is it, Chief? Do they know?"
"No. They've never seen anything like it before. No military aircraft can go high enough to properly study it, but it's causing havoc with radio waves and other communication bands in the area. There could be some kind of dangerous radiation emanating from it. They're asking if we can contact Superman in order to ask him if he would investigate this phenomenon from closer range -- to find out if it's something natural, or if it might have been caused by some foreign weapon we know nothing about."
"I'll do everything I can to get this message to Superman, Chief!" Kent replied.
Kent turned and exited White's office. He strode down the length of the hallway, turned a corner, turned another corner, then ducked into an empty office that was there.
Moments later Superman leaped out of the outer window of that same office, and rocketed across the sky.
The Man of Steel headed in a southwesterly direction, slowly increasing his altitude as he did so. Soon he was 10 miles above the ground. Then 20. Then 30. As he approached 40 he could see the rim of outer space, and the temperature started to drop.
Good thing my wings don't ice up! he thought to himself.
Then he saw it. A huge, roiling ball of luminescence. He had never seen anything like it before. Whatever it was, it didn't appear to be completely solid, and yet he couldn't see anything through it either. It looked like a huge ball of swirling, crackling energy. He headed toward it.
Then, suddenly, before he knew it, he was abruptly sucked inside it!
He started to tumble out of control. Direction suddenly lost all meaning for him; now there was no up, down, or sideways. He felt like he was in the grip of some hugely powerful force that was more powerful than even he was -- and he could no longer control himself.
# # #
Stardate 5945.8 -- the "day" shift aboard the Constitution Class Starship U.S.S. Enterprise was just about over. Captain James T. Kirk was about to end his shift in the captain's chair on the ship's bridge and turn the con over to Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott when the Energy Indicator on the Navigation Console in front of him began to flash and beep.
"Mr. Sulu?" Kirk queried, directing his question toward the Enterprise's helmsman.
Sulu looked down at his board. As he did so the Energy Indicator went out.
"Not sure what it was, Captain," Sulu replied. "Something just off our starboard side. It only registered for a moment -- then it disappeared."
"Captain," broke in Mr. Scott, who was at his Engineering Station. "We just got a report that something just impacted on the starboard side of the secondary hull amidships, at deck 18."
"Any hull damage?"
Scotty looked back again at his readout panel. "Minimal," he said. "The object that hit us is still free-floating outside the ship. Sensors indicate it's about 6 feet in length."
"A meteor?" Kirk asked.
Scotty slowly turned back toward the captain, a look of surprise on his face. "Captain, sensors read it to be -- a man!" he said.
Kirk returned the look of surprise. "Can you get a fix on it with the transporter?" he asked.
Kirk jumped out of his command chair and headed toward the turbo lift.
"Scotty -- come with me. Lt. Uhura -- notify Dr. McCoy and a security detail to report immediately to Transporter Room #2. Mr. Spock -- you have the con!" he said as he went.
# # #
Kirk and Mr. Scott headed directly for Transporter Room 2. Once there Mr. Scott took over the console from Mr. Kyle, who was the Transporter Chief on duty. As Scott worked for a moment to adjust the controls Dr. McCoy and two security guards walked in.
"I've got a fix on it," Mr. Scott announced.
"Got a fix on what?" McCoy asked. "What's going on here?"
Kirk waved him silent. He motioned for the two security guards to deploy their phaser pistols. “Phasers on heavy stun,” he said.
McCoy looked at him.
Kirk smiled. “Just in case,” he smirked. He turned to Scott. "Bring it in," he said.
Mr. Scott and Mr. Kyle punched the proper buttons, and then Scott pulled back the materialization levers. As they all watched, a prone form slowly materialized on the Transporter pads.
It was a man!
Before Kirk could stop him, McCoy bounded up onto the Transporter platform, his portable medical sensor out.
The two security guards approached the platform too, their phasers at the ready. Kirk was right behind them.
McCoy waved his medical sensor above the still form.
"He's alive. He's just unconscious," McCoy reported.
"Alive?" Kirk repeated. "But Bones, that's impossible! This man was just free-floating outside the ship in space, and he's not wearing an environmental suit or anything. How could he be alive? If nothing else, he should be frozen stiff!"
"I don't know why, but he's basically all right," McCoy replied.
Momentarily the prone man's eyelids fluttered, and he opened his eyes. He shook his head as if to clear it, then slowly raised himself up to a sitting position.
He looked around at his surroundings, a puzzled look on his face.
"Where am I?" he managed to say.
"You're aboard the Earth Starship U.S.S. Enterprise," Kirk responded.
Kirk and the man stared at one another for a moment.
"Who are you?" Kirk finally asked. "Where are you from?"
The man slowly stood up to his full height, his long red cape hanging down to his ankles.
"Why, I'm from Earth also," he said. "I'm -- Superman."
# # #
A short while later Kirk, Scotty, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy sat across the table from their strangely-clothed visitor in Briefing Room #3 of the Enterprise. They all had cups of coffee sitting in front of them.
"But if you lived on Earth in the 20th century," Kirk was saying, "then why do we have no record of you in our historical data banks?"
Superman shrugged his broad shoulders.
"Apparently," Spock spoke up, "that anomaly he passed through not only brought him forward in time, and to another location in space -- but it also brought him into another universe entirely. Ours."
"You mean he's from an alternate Earth, in another dimension?" Kirk replied.
"Precisely. What he passed through must have been some sort of space/time/dimensional warp."
"Is such a thing possible?"
"Theoretically, yes. But this is the first real evidence I've ever seen of one."
"Yet now a sensor sweep shows no such anomaly in our area."
"No, Captain," Scott answered. " We haven't been able to find any trace of the phenomenon that brought this man here. It's either moved to some other location, or collapsed in on itself and closed up."
"Then I have no way of getting back to where I came from," Superman said.
"This planet Krypton you say you originally came from," Kirk asked, "you say it blew up from an internal explosion many years ago?"
"Yes," Superman replied.
"Fascinating," Spock said. "It would be extremely enlightening scientifically to be able to observe such a planetary event."
"Don't mind him," McCoy said, looking at Superman while nodding toward Spock. "He sees everything from a completely analytical point of view. The emotional impact of such an event -- the millions of people killed violently in such a catastrophe -- probably wouldn't even occur to him."
"That is not what I meant, Doctor," Spock replied coldly.
"But that happened in his universe," Kirk interjected. "Is it possible that this Krypton still exists in our universe, and didn't blow up here?"
"It's a distinct possibility," Spock replied. "If only we knew where it is located."
"Of course, Earth still exists," Kirk said. "We could return him there."
"But to a completely different Earth from the one I knew," Superman replied. "And if they ever existed at all in your universe, all my friends would be long dead by now."
"Unfortunately, that is true," Spock said.
"I sure would like to thoroughly examine you, though," McCoy said, trying to change the subject. "Despite the fact that you were able to survive in open space without any protection, I still find it hard to believe that you have all the superhuman abilities you say you have."
Suddenly the ship lurched violently, almost throwing everyone out of their seats. Their coffee cups flew across the room. The next moment the Red Alert claxon went off.
Kirk immediately reached toward the closest viewer on the briefing table and clicked on the intercom to the bridge.
"Kirk here. What was that?"
"Klingon D7 class battle cruiser," came the reply from Sulu. "It appears to be the Klothos. She snuck up on us using their cloaking device, and fired a shot at us. Minor damage to the Engineering Section on Deck 7."
"I'll be right there!" Kirk said. He remembered that the Klothos was commanded by Commander Kor, a particularly fierce, deadly Klingon that he had dealt with before.
Everyone jumped up and headed out of the briefing room to assume their proper battle stations. Superman jumped up too, and followed Kirk and Spock.
A minute later the three of them exited the turbo lift on the ship’s bridge. Kirk assumed his command chair as Spock went over to his science station.
"Shields at maximum," Kirk barked. "Mr. Sulu, evasive action!"
Another disruptor beam emanated from the Klingon ship. It struck the Enterprise again, causing the ship to lurch once more.
“Shields holding,” Sulu announced.
"Lock in all phaser banks! Prepare to return fire!" Kirk ordered.
Superman quickly assessed the situation.
"Captain, can you transport me over to that ship?" he said.
Kirk swiveled around in his command chair to face the costumed Earthman.
"Can you transport me over to that ship?" Superman repeated. "I can stop the attack with no bloodshed. Just tell me where the weapon control systems are located!"
Kirk stared at him for a moment. Was this man crazy, or could he really disable the Klingon ship without hurting anyone, including himself?
He remembered the superhuman powers the man was supposed to possess, and how he had survived the cold of space without any ill effects whatsoever.
Trusting his instincts, Kirk nodded to Mr. Spock. Superman went over to Spock, who showed him on the monitor screen above his station a schematic of the Klingon ship's interior.
“Got it!” Superman said. He turned and disappeared into the turbo lift.
Kirk swung his chair back toward the main viewscreen and thumped the intercom button on his command chair. "Mr. Kyle!" he shouted into it. "When our space visitor gets there, beam him over to the Klingon ship!"
Kirk hoped he was doing the right thing.
# # #
Superman materialized right in the middle of an interior corridor of the Klingon ship. As soon as he did he was immediately attacked by half a dozen Klingons, who sought to physically overpower him.
Despite the fact that Klingons are far stronger than human beings, they were no match for the man from Krypton. Superman easily shoved the Klingons aside, tossing them about like rag dolls, as he steadily made his way down the corridor to the area where, according to his photographic memory, the controls for the ship’s weapons were located. When they realized that they could not physically overpower the costumed intruder, the Klingons started firing their hand weapons at him. These had no effect either -- except to damage the walls of the ship's corridors after the beams bounced off their intended target.
Finally Superman reached the compartment he sought. He rammed the heavily armored door that sealed it with his open palms, causing it to fly inward off its supports. He entered the room and was immediately attacked by the various Klingons manning the panels there -- but again to no avail. Briefly studying the control panels located against one wall, he smashed the panels into useless junk with his bare fists.
When this was done he unclipped the Starfleet communicator that he was wearing on his belt and flipped it open.
"Superman to Enterprise," he said into it. "Mission complete. Get me back there!"
As the still half-conscious Klingons scattered about the floor watched helplessly, Superman dematerialized.
# # #
"I don't believe it," Dr. McCoy keep muttering under his breath. "I just don't believe it."
Superman was now lying prone on one of the beds in McCoy's sick bay. McCoy kept staring at the monitor above the bed and shaking his head.
"And I thought Vulcans had unusual readings," he said, half to himself. Nurse Chapel stood next to him. She was as baffled by the monitor readings as McCoy was.
“Your metabolism is off the scale,” McCoy said. “And the cells of your body are packed together so tightly I can barely read your internal functions. Your muscle tissue reads like bands of ... ”
“They used to call me the Man of Steel.”
“I can see why.”
Just then Captain Kirk came into the room.
“Well, Bones?” he asked. “How’s our guest doing?”
"Well, he just came back from a trip inside a fully-armed Klingon battle cruiser without a scratch. Does that answer your question?"
Superman hopped off the medical table.
“Thanks for your help,” Kirk said, coming forward and shaking Superman's hand. “That was a neat trick, disabling the Klingons' weapons systems so that they could no longer fire on us. And you did it without seriously injuring anyone, including yourself. How did you manage it?”
“For now, let’s just say -- I was lucky,” Superman replied, smiling.
Kirk accepted that somewhat ambiguous answer for the time being. He wanted to find out more about this strange visitor from another universe, when the opportunity presented itself. But his most immediate concern now was how he was going to report this entire incident to Starfleet Command.
“Right now we’re on our way to a planet called Tantalus V, to deliver some much-needed medical supplies there,” Kirk continued. “I assume you won’t mind going along with us.”
“Not at all, Captain,” Superman replied. “I have, uh, nothing else on my agenda right now.”
“Good. I’ll assign you to a guest cabin then. Wait here, and I'll send someone up to escort you to your quarters.”
Superman nodded. "Thank you," he said. Kirk turned and left the room.
A few minutes later an attractive young woman with medium-length brown hair and wearing a red uniform came into the room.
She stopped, staring at the costumed man from Krypton.
"Can I ... help you?" Superman asked her.
"Uh, yes," she replied, regaining her composure. "I'm Yeoman Carol Mears. I've been assigned to show you to your cabin on Deck 6."
Superman nodded to her. He thanked Dr. McCoy, then left the room with Yeoman Mears.
McCoy turned to Nurse Chapel. "You know," he said, "though that man is completely human in body structure and appearance, he's the most perfect physical specimen I've ever seen. I wouldn't be surprised if he could lift a shuttlecraft with one hand without even breaking a sweat. And his skin is virtually impenetrable. I'll bet a phaser on full stun wouldn't even tickle him."
Chapel nodded her agreement.
# # #
Superman and Yeoman Mears walked side by side down the long corridor of the medical section of the Enterprise, headed toward the nearest turbo lift. As they did Superman studied the various ship personnel passing by them.
"It's good to know that people haven't changed much in the last 300 years," he commented. "I certainly can't say that for the rest of things."
The pair reached the turbo lift and entered it.
Yeoman Mears showed Superman how to grip the lift handle. When he did so she said "Deck 6" aloud. The lift immediately responded.
"Are you really from mid-20th century Earth?" she asked.
"Yes, I am," Superman replied. "I know that's hard to believe."
"Oh, no, I believe you," Mears said. "Furthermore, I also believe that you're from an alternate universe from ours."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because I know exactly who you are."
At that moment the lift reached its destination, and the doors hissed open. Superman followed Mears out into the corridor in silence, wondering what she had meant by that last statement.
When they had reached a particular stateroom Mears escorted Superman inside. The cabin was simple, functional, and comfortable.
"Very nice," Superman said, looking around.
For a moment the two stared at each other.
"Uh, I've been assigned to assist you for the duration of this trip," Mears finally told him. "Whatever you need, please don't hesitate to call on me. You can use that computer/intercom terminal on the table there to reach me." She indicated the device. "I'll be somewhere nearby."
She turned and made as if to leave.
"Wait!" Superman suddenly said.
Mears stopped. She turned back around and looked at Superman.
"What did you mean when you said in the lift you knew exactly who I was?" he asked her.
She indicated a nearby chair.
Superman nodded. "Please."
Mears sat down. "I'm a historian by trade," she began to explain. "One of my pet hobbies since I was a teenager has been studying 20th-century Earth popular culture."
Superman crossed his arms. "Go on."
"You never existed in our universe as a real person," she continued. "but you were a fictional character that was very popular during the 20th and 21st centuries."
Mears got up and walked over to the computer terminal on the nearby table and clicked it on. After inputting some data into it, she turned the terminal screen around to face Superman.
"They even made a weekly filmed television series about you back in the 1950s," she explained. "You were portrayed by an actor named George Reeves."
On the computer screen appeared a black-and-white film clip of Superman flying through the air.
"Very interesting," Superman commented. "It looks just like me."
"Yes. The resemblance is amazing. I can't tell you what a thrill it is for me to actually meet you as a real live person."
Superman smiled. "Well, thank you," he said. "I hope I live up to all your expectations."
Mears smiled back.
"Oh, I'm sure you will," she replied.
# # #
After Mears had gone, Superman sat down on the edge of his bed, pondering all that had happened to him since Perry had called him into his office at the Daily Planet. Was that yesterday? The day before? Or an eternity ago? He was no longer sure. Would he ever see Perry again? Or Jimmy? Or Lois? Would he never again see the world he had grown up in and become familiar with? Or was this the world that he would know from now on?
Suddenly the computer terminal on the table in his room came to life -- a number of frantic, overlapping audio messages began to emanate from it.
"Emergency Alert -- battle damage in Engineering Section. Mains off line." "Warp Drive inoperative." "All Damage Control units, report to Engineering Section immediately. Malfunction in Reactor Room." "Danger -- Reactor Room radiation leak." "All unessential personnel in Engineering Section, evacuate."
Superman fumbled with the computer's controls until he was able to get Yeoman Mears on line.
"Miss Mears -- I need you right now! Come to my cabin immediately!" he said.
Superman jumped up and headed out the door of his cabin. He waited in the corridor less than a minute before Mears came running.
it?" she asked him.
"But that's off limits to all but authorized personnel!"
"Never mind! Just show me where it is!"
"It's on the deck below this one!" she told him. "This way!"
She began running down the corridor. Superman followed her. There were many other crew members who were also moving quickly through the corridor toward their emergency duty stations. Knowing that because of the emergency they wouldn't be allowed to use the turbo lift to the Engineering area of the ship, Mears led Superman down a little-used side corridor, where they came upon a narrow tube in the wall with a ladder in it.
"This is the emergency gangway to the deck below," she explained. "It goes directly down to the Engineering Section."
"Good," he said. "You stay here; I don't want you getting into trouble."
Superman stepped onto the ladder and started down it. Mears watched him go. When he had been out of sight for a few seconds she jumped onto the ladder too, and began to follow him down.
On the lower deck Superman jumped out of the gangway tube and found himself just across the corridor from the Engineering Room. There were two armed security guards standing in front of the entrance door, dressed in anti-radiation suits. At sight of Superman they both put their hands up.
"Stop! This is an emergency restricted area!" one guard announced.
Superman grabbed the guard and threw him aside; he quickly did the same to the other, making sure in the process not to hurt either of them. They both slid harmlessly down the corridor floor in either direction, their hand phasers flying.
"Sorry fellas," Superman said. "I don't think I have the time to argue with you."
When the hatchway didn't open on its own as they usually did (probably, Superman thought, because it was secured somehow), Superman worked his fingers into the crack between the door and the bulkhead and yanked it open.
Now inside the Engineering Section, he rapidly assessed the area. Except for all the various crew members inside being dressed in emergency radiation suits, everything in the large room seemed relatively normal. He looked around and noticed another doorway off to one side. Heading over to this he peered through it with his X-Ray Vision.
This was the room he was looking for.
Again he manually pulled the hatch door open. Inside was a smaller auxiliary control room. The only man in this room was Chief Engineer Scott, who was also wearing an anti-radiation suit. He was frantically doing something at a control unit located on one side of the room. Directly against the opposite bulkhead was a hexagonal-shaped chamber that had transparent floor-to-ceiling walls. It was flooded with a strange blue light -- apparently leaking radiation -- and there were bands of pulsating energy arcing about inside it. Everything seemed to be emanating from a large circular pedestal located in the chamber's center.
Superman approached the chamber. There was a circular revolving hatchway in it, also transparent, that provided ingress and egress from it, and a small red button on the wall next to it. Superman pushed the button, and the hatchway revolved to allow him to enter the chamber, without any radiation leaking into the outer room.
Scott turned from his control panel just in time to see Superman entering the radiation-filled reactor chamber. He jumped forward to stop him, but he was too late. He banged against the now-closed entrance hatchway.
"No! Come out of there!" he yelled. "That radiation's fatal!"
Superman casually waved at him through the transparent wall. Though it was of a very futuristic design, Superman recognized the circular pedestal as some kind of compact reactor unit. There was a large dome-shaped lid sitting on top of it, which was tilted at an odd angle. It had a large crack in it. The radiation was leaking from here. There was also something that resembled a futuristic damping rod of some kind sticking out of the displaced cover.
Just then another figure, also dressed in an anti-radiation suit, stepped into the control room. It was Yeoman Mears.
Mears and Scott both watched in horror as Superman lifted the dome-shaped cover completely off the circular pedestal and set it down on the floor. A veritable fountain of radiation gushed out of the pedestal, bathing Superman in its pulsating luminescence. The man from Krypton reached down into the pedestal and grabbed the displaced dampening rod, pushing it back into its proper position. Then he replaced the dome back on top of the reactor. As Mears and Scott continued to watch in utter amazement, Superman used his Heat Vision to weld shut the crack in the dome. Once he had done this the radiation in the chamber disappeared.
Scott looked back at his control panel. "The mains are back on line!" he shouted. "And radiation levels are back to normal!"
He turned and stared at the Man of Steel. Superman just stood there, staring back at him, looking as if he had just taken a Sunday walk in the park, instead of a bath in deadly matter/anti-matter radiation.
Scott flipped a wall switch that activated an intercom system with the chamber.
"I'm all right," he heard Superman say. "Really, I'm fine. However, I may be contaminated with some residual radiation. To be safe you'd better get me a radiation suit that I can wear to your decontamination chamber."
Mears took off the headpiece of her radiation suit and just stared in disbelief.
# # #
delivering the needed medical supplies
"Captain, I think I have an idea as to how we might get this man back to his previous life," Scott said.
"Go ahead, Scotty," Kirk replied.
"Well, you remember that planet where we encountered the Guardian of Forever?" Scott continued.
"Maybe, if he could jump through the Guardian at the right moment, he might get back to his own time that way." Scott remembered how Dr. McCoy, when he had gone back through time via the Guardian, had drastically changed history and caused the Enterprise itself to cease to exist for a while. "Since he would be going to another universe," Scott added, "there wouldn't be much chance of him affecting our history one way or the other."
"But didn't the Guardian display only the history of our universe?" Dr. McCoy asked.
"Yes," Mr. Spock said. "But it told us that it could also function as an entrance to other dimensions as well. Perhaps that includes the universe this man is from."
"I'm willing to try it," Superman said. "Even if I ended up in the 1950s of your universe, I think I might prefer that to being here. ... Of course, no offense to all of you."
Kirk smiled. "None taken."
They all pondered this for a moment.
"All right," Kirk finally said. "Mr. Spock, calculate a course back to the Guardian's planet, and pass it on to Mr. Sulu."
# # #
The Enterprise settled into orbit above the small planet where the Guardian of Forever was located. Lt. Sulu and Ensign Chekov made sure to place the ship far enough out from the planet's surface so as to avoid the potentially dangerous "ripples of time" that emanated from it. Kirk, Spock, Yeoman Mears and the Man of Steel transported down to the planet's surface. Spock and Mears both had their tricorder devices with them.
"Guardian!" Capt. Kirk said. "I have a question!"
"A QUESTION," the Guardian repeated.
"This man with us is from an alternate Earth during the 1950s. He would like to return there. Can you show us the history of his universe?"
"ADDITIONAL DATA REQUIRED TO CALCULATE CORRECT ALTERNATE UNIVERSE," the Guardian boomed.
"All the data that we have on that universe is contained in my tricorder device," Spock said. "Do you have the ability to access it?"
"YES. YOUR DEVICE IS CRUDE; NEVERTHELESS I WILL ATTEMPT TO ASSIMILATE ITS CONTENTS."
Spock held his tricorder up and played back what little information he had on Superman's universe.
"I WILL ATTEMPT TO ACCESS THE CORRECT UNIVERSE," the Guardian said. "HOWEVER, BECAUSE OF THE MINUTE AMOUNT OF DATA YOU POSSESS ON IT I CANNOT GUARANTEE THE ACCURACY OF THE RESULT."
Kirk and Spock looked at Superman. The Man of Steel shrugged his shoulders.
"I guess that will have to do," Superman said.
Images began to coalesce on the Guardian's giant viewer. Scenes from ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Medieval Europe began to pass by. Before long the images had advanced to the 1800s A.D. Then the 1900s. Mears recorded it all on her tricorder.
"Kirk!" suddenly came a hoarse cry.
Enterprise group turned.
Kor fired his weapon. The beam would have struck Mears, but Superman stepped in front of her just in time. The beam bounced harmlessly off his chest, exploding violently against the side of a nearby ruin which was part of the remnants of the ancient, long-dead inhabitants of the Guardian's planet. Quickly Kirk and Spock ducked behind another ruin, a waste-high wall. They pulled out their own phaser pistols.
Superman turned about just in time to see Mears lose her balance and fall backwards into the Guardian's viewscreen.
Without thinking Superman immediately jumped into the time portal himself.
# # #
Mears hit the ground. But when she propped herself back up on her elbows and looked around she found that she was no longer on the Guardian's planet.
Now she was lying in the middle of a dirt street. Suddenly a horse came trotting directly at her. She rolled aside just in time, narrowly permitting the horse to pass by.
She stared. The horse was pulling an ancient, old-fashioned wheeled carriage of some kind. She dusted herself off and stood up, looking around.
There were old-style concrete buildings all around her. Quickly she backed up a few steps up onto the street's sidewalk, so she would not get run over by the many other vehicles that were also on the process of puttering by there.
They were for the most part old-style Model T automobiles. Some had roofs; some did not. Others were antique-style trucks, and small bus-type vehicles. As she stood there, an old-fashioned trolley went by on the track that went down the middle of the street.
Her knowledge of Earth history allowed her to estimate fairly accurately that she was now in an old Earth city, some time around the turn of the 20th century. Probably New York. She noticed that the elaborately-dressed men and women walking by her were staring and gaping at her. The men were generally looking at her with smiles of approval; the women were gazing at her in utter indignation -- both probably because Mears was wearing a short skirt that showed an inappropriate amount of leg for the time. All the other women on the street were covered from neck to ankle in long voluminous dresses.
Mears quickly ducked into a nearby alley. Momentarily she looked back and observed Superman jump out of seemingly thin air, into the middle of the same street she had just quitted.
The Man of Steel spotted Mears, and he quickly sprinted into the same alley. When he reached her Mears threw her arms around him.
"Oh, I'm so glad to see you!" she exclaimed. "I thought I was here all by myself!"
Superman was a little surprised by the palpable affection with which Mears greeted him. However, he also realized that it did not displease him.
"I saw you fall into the Guardian," Superman told her. "Lucky I jumped into it too as quickly as I did. That's probably why I ended up in the same place as you."
He looked around.
"Incidentally, where are we?"
"From the look of the clothing and buildings, I would say early 20th-century Earth. Probably New York City."
"I wonder what universe we're in, though?"
"That I don't know. It could be mine; it could be yours; it could be a totally different one than the ones we're both familiar with."
"Well, I guess we might as well go back," Superman continued. "I believe Capt. Kirk said that all we have to do is ask the Guardian to return us, and it will."
"Oh, please, Superman," Mears pleaded, "Can't we stay here just a little while before we go back? This is an incredible opportunity for me as a historian to experience early 20th-century Earth history first-hand!"
Superman looked at her.
"Well, I guess it wouldn't do any harm," he said, "especially since we can go back anytime we want to. All right. But we obviously can't parade around here in these outfits!"
Mears indicated the brick building standing next to them. "I noticed when I came into the alley that this place is a clothing store," she said. "Perhaps we could go in the back way and ... 'borrow' a few things for a little while? We could bring them back when we're done."
Superman pondered this. Realizing they had little other choice, he agreed.
The pair continued down the alley to the back of the brick building, where they found a rear door. Superman stared at the door.
"What are you looking at?" Mears asked him.
"I'm using my X-Ray Vision to look inside the building," he said. "This door leads to a storeroom in the back of the clothing establishment, which is unoccupied at the moment."
"Then you really can see through solid objects?"
Superman grabbed the door's handle. Though it was locked he forced it open. The pair entered into the dark room.
"I can hardly see a thing," Mears admitted.
"I can see fine," Superman said. He gathered some appropriate women's clothing that appeared to be the right size for Mears, and handed them to her.
"Here. You get into these while I look for some clothes for me," he told her. "Put them on over your uniform."
Before long the pair came out of the store back into the alley. Superman was now dressed in a tan 3-piece suit, with a matching bowler hat. Mears had on a long, flowing light blue dress that featured a frilly white collar, bodice, and sleeves with it. A fancy white lace hat sat on her head. The outfit came complete with a matching purse that attached to her wrist with a loop. She had hidden her tricorder inside this.
"What do you think?" she said playfully, spinning around.
"I think you are a vision of fashionable loveliness, my dear Miss Mears," Superman told her.
"Thank you," she said, curtsying. "And may I say you are a strikingly handsome figure of a man as well."
Superman offered his arm to her.
"Shall we go, milady?" he said.
She took his arm and smiled. They both strolled out of the alley.
"You know, I wouldn't mind that at all," Mears said to him as they walked down the sidewalk.
"What?" Superman asked.
"Being your lady."
Superman smiled at her. He was finding that he wouldn't mind that prospect either.
"Incidentally, is there something else I can call you besides 'Superman'?" Mears asked.
"Well, my original name when I was a baby on Krypton was Kal-El."
"May I call you Kal then?"
"And please, call me Carol," she added.
"All right -- Carol," he replied.
Soon they came upon a coal wagon with a horse hitched to it that was sitting by the curb. Superman stopped.
"What is it?" Mears asked him.
"I have an idea," Superman muttered. He picked a fist-sized piece of coal off the wagon, then turned away from the street and faced a nearby building. Then he closed his fingers around the lump of coal.
Mears watched, fascinated, as Superman squeezed the lump of coal. When he finally opened his fist, instead of coal there was a slightly smaller rough-edged diamond sitting in his palm.
"How -- how did you do that?" Mears stuttered.
"Simple. A diamond is formed when coal -- carbon -- is put under extreme pressure."
"But -- it would take tons of pressure to do that! You did it with your bare hands!"
Superman didn't reply. He looked around.
"Wait here a moment," he said. He walked a short distance down the block into a jewelry store. A short time later he came out. He walked back up to the coal wagon and stuffed a one dollar bill into a seam in the seat of the wagon.
"That's for the piece of coal," he said, winking at Mears. Then he went back to where the clothing store was and disappeared down the alley beside it for a few minutes.
When he came back, Mears asked him," What did you do?"
"I paid for the clothes," he said nonchalantly. "I left the money in the storeroom where we got them. I fixed the door handle I broke too."
Mears just stared at him.
"And now we have plenty of money to go wherever you would like for a fancy dinner," he told her with a smile. "As long as we're playing the part of an upper crust couple in the big city in the good old days, we might as well do it right, right?"
Mears just shook her head.
"Every time I think I have you kind of figured out, you do something else that totally astounds me," she said.
Superman took her arm again. "Don't worry your pretty little head about it," he replied. "Just enjoy the experience."
They continued walking. When they came upon a newsstand Superman stared at the newspapers piled out front. According to the papers, they were indeed in New York City. Then he looked over at a free-standing clock that was mounted on a post alongside the sidewalk.
Mears saw the look on his face. "What is it now?" she asked him.
"Today is April 14th, 1912," he said slowly. "Do you know what happened on that date?"
Mears shook her head.
"Approximately nine hours from now, the RMS Titanic is going to sink in the North Atlantic."
Mears mentally reviewed her ancient history for a moment. "You mean the passenger liner?" she finally asked.
"Yes. More than 1500 people will die."
They started walking again, but Mears couldn't ignore the look on Superman's face.
"What are you thinking?" Mears finally asked him.
"I'm wondering whether I could save the lives of all those people," Superman replied.
"You mean ... change history somehow?"
"But what might the long-term consequences be if you make such a drastic change in the way things happened?" Mears asked. "Dr. McCoy went through the Guardian a couple of years ago, and he drastically changed all of Earth history just by altering one event -- the death of one person. Because of what he did I'm told even the Enterprise ceased to exist for a while."
"I don't know what the consequences might be," Superman replied. "But, on the other hand, can I do nothing, knowing that more than 1500 people will freeze to death in the icy waters of the North Atlantic in a few hours, and I might have the power to change that? How negatively could it possibly affect future history if 1500 live, instead of die?"
They walked along in silence for a while.
"Kal, look at that," Mears finally commented, pointing.
Superman looked where she was pointing. A well-dressed young couple was walking on the other side of the street, and the woman was following a pet on a leash. But it wasn't a dog -- it was a young black bear. Yet no one else was paying any attention to them at all.
"That's odd," Superman said. "People in my world never had bears as pets. Especially in the big city. Did they in yours?"
"Not that I know of," Mears replied.
Superman noticed something else also. Some of the vehicles in the street only had three wheels instead of four. And some of them sported colors other than black -- something he didn't think Model T's were known for. He remembered Henry Ford's famous statement at the time that the cars "come in any color you want -- as long as it's black."
The pair moved on, spending the rest of the afternoon strolling in and out of various stores. Mears was fascinated with seeing history come alive before her eyes, and she greatly enjoyed Superman's companionship. Though he enjoyed himself too, Superman seemed mentally preoccupied a lot of the time.
Finally they both stopped for dinner in an exclusive restaurant. Mears was delighted at the opportunity.
"Kal, is this a date?" she asked coquettishly, after they had been seated.
Superman was blankly staring at a clock on the wall. Mears's comment brought him back into focus.
"Oh -- sure. Sure, Carol," he said. "I can't think of anyone I'd rather do this with. You're very pleasant company."
"But you're still thinking about the Titanic, aren't you?" Mears asked.
Superman nodded. "Yes. Yes, I am. There's only a couple of hours to go now."
"You really want to try to save those people, don't you?"
"Yes. I do."
Mears got up from her chair. "Then let's go," she said.
Superman threw some money on the table, and they both left the restaurant.
Once outside, Superman told her: "You can't go with me."
"Oh, yes I can," she said. "You're not leaving me behind!"
"But it's extremely dangerous. This ship is fated to sink. What if I don't succeed in rescuing her?"
"Then you'll still be there to keep me out of trouble, won't you?"
Superman realized that he wasn't going to win this argument. They headed down the street and into a nearby alley, and Superman stripped his 1912 suit off to reveal his Superman costume again. There was a blanket hanging on a nearby clothesline, and Superman took it (after pinning a 5-dollar bill to the line). He handed it to Mears.
"It's liable to get cold out there," Superman told her.
Mears wrapped herself up in the blanket, and Superman lifted her up into his arms.
"I'm not worried," she replied. "I know you'll keep me warm. And safe."
She put her arms around his neck and kissed him.
Superman found that he was beginning to feel something very special for this woman from the 23rd century too. But, trying to focus on the situation at hand, he took a running start and leaped up into the air with his wrapped-up burden. At first Mears held him tightly around his neck. But when she realized she was perfectly safe she relaxed a bit. She looked down and watched as the nighttime lights of New York City passed by below her. She couldn't believe that she was actually flying through the air with this incredible man.
Before long there was nothing but water below. The air steadily got colder, and Mears pulled the blanket over in front of the lower part of her face. Soon she could see the pinpricks of some lights on the horizon.
"That's her," Superman announced.
Before too long Superman landed with a thump on the ship's upper deck amidships, about halfway back from the bow. Since it was long after dark and the night was cold, there were few people on deck. He set Mears down, and she pulled her tricorder out of the purse she had been carrying.
"We got here just in time," she said, consulting the device. "It's about 11:35 P.M, the ship's speed is about 22 knots, and ... the iceberg she is fated to hit is dead ahead!"
At this declaration Superman immediately jumped over the ship's railing and plunged downward into the sea. Some yards below the surface he turned about and rocketed through the water toward the bow of the ship. When he had reached it he rammed his shoulder against the steel hull of the liner and pushed with every ounce of his superhuman strength.
Slowly, very slowly, the nose of the massive vessel began to turn to port.
First Officer William M. Murdoch, the officer on duty on the ship's bridge, turned to the wheelman, Quartermaster Robert Hitchens.
"Hitchens, why is the ship turning to port?" he asked.
"I don't know," the wheelman answered. "It's doing it all by itself!" He struggled with the wheel, but the ship seemed determined to go its own way.
Frederick Fleet, the Titanic's lookout high up in the ship's crow's nest, suddenly spotted a large black shape just to starboard of the ship. Quickly he banged the crow's nest bell three times. At the same time he lifted the phone to the ship's bridge.
"What did you see?" came a voice on the other end of the phone.
"An iceberg, close by on our starboard side," Fleet replied.
"Thank you," the voice said.
Within minutes the iceberg had vanished into the blackness behind the ship. Fleet sighed in relief. That iceberg came awful close to the ship, he thought. If it had been any closer, we would have struck it.
On the ship's bridge wheelman Hitchens announced that he had regained control over the wheel. He turned the wheel back starboard, correcting the slight course error that had occurred when the ship had veered to port.
Back amidships Yeoman Mears watched the colossal iceberg glide by the side of the ship and disappear into the darkness. A moment later, Superman came flying up out of the water and landed on the deck next to her. He tossed his head, pushing his wet hair back up off his forehead with his hands.
Mears dropped the blanket from around her shoulders and flew into his arms, wet as they were.
"You did it!" she cried. "You did it! The ship missed the iceberg! We're safe! The ship isn't going to sink!"
# # #
Mears huddled in Superman's arms as they flew high over the ocean back to New York.
"I still can't believe that you were actually able to change history back there," Mears told him. "I wouldn't have thought that was possible."
"I'm not so sure I did," Superman replied.
Mears didn't understand that response, but she made no further comment.
Soon they were both back over New York City. Superman landed in the alley that they had originally arrived in, next to the clothing store.
"I guess it's time we returned," Superman said.
Mears nodded agreement. She stripped off her 1912 outfit, dressed once more in her Starfleet uniform.
Seconds later, on the Guardian's planet, Kirk and Spock watched as first Mears and then Superman came leaping back out of the Guardian's viewscreen.
"Glad to see you're back!" Kirk told them. "You were only gone a minute or so. In the meantime we were able to chase off Kor and his cohorts. At least temporarily. What happened to you two?"
"We ended up in 1912 New York City, instead of the 1950s," Superman told him.
"Do you want to try again?" Kirk asked.
Superman shook his head. "No," he replied. "I think it's unlikely that I would be able to end up where I want to. I think I would rather go back to the Enterprise with you."
"Suit yourself," Kirk said. "In any case, I think we need to get out of here before Kor and his cronies decide to come back." He took his communicator off his belt and flipped it open.
"Kirk to Enterprise. Lt. Kyle -- four to beam up."
After they had all returned to the Enterprise, Superman and Yeoman Mears went up to the ship's bridge and went over to Mr. Spock at his station.
"Mr. Spock, can you help me with a question?" Superman asked.
"Certainly," Spock replied.
"Look up in your history records April 14th, 1912, and tell me if it says the ship RMS Titanic sunk on that date or not."
Spock lifted his right eyebrow in puzzlement.
"I know it sounds a little crazy, but please look it up anyway," Superman insisted.
Spock did as he was asked. "Yes," he finally replied, looking up from his computer. "Computer records document that the RMS Titanic did indeed sink on that date in the North Atlantic, at precisely 11:40 P.M. ship's time. Do you want the exact longitude and latitude where it went down?"
Superman and Mears looked at each other.
"No," Superman told Spock. "That won't be necessary. Thank you."
Superman and Mears left the bridge, headed back toward his cabin.
"So that's why you were able to change history so easily," Mears said. "It happened in another universe -- not yours, nor mine. The Guardian must have sent us back to 1912 in the wrong universe."
"Yes," Superman replied. "I suspected as much, after seeing how there seemed to be a number of subtle differences in the culture where we were that were different from that of both of our own pasts."
They walked along in silence for a moment.
"However," Superman said at length, "It is fascinating to contemplate that in some other universe, somewhere, the people on board the Titanic did not die on that particular night."
Mears nodded in agreement.
# # #
The next day, Mears came to visit Superman in his quarters.
"I'm so glad to see you!" she gushed, hugging the Man of Steel. "I've been on constant duty since we got back from the Guardian's planet, or I would've been here to see you sooner."
They kissed. Just at that moment, the computer on Superman's table beeped. Superman flipped the switch to answer it.
"This is Capt. Kirk," came the voice over the intercom's speaker. "We've got a strange object showing on our long-range sensors. It should be visible on our main viewscreen shortly. You might want to see it. I think it may be that space-time warp that brought you here."
Superman and Mears looked at each other. Quickly they both sprinted out of Superman's stateroom into the outer corridor.
# # #
Superman and Mears stood just behind Kirk's command chair and stared anxiously at the Enterprise's main viewscreen.
"Coming up on visual range," Lt. Sulu announced.
A small, blue-green speck appeared in the center of the screen.
"Maximum magnification," Kirk ordered.
The image on the screen wobbled momentarily. The blue-green speck became larger.
"That's it," Superman announced.
"Estimated time of contact, Mr. Chekov," Kirk said.
"At this speed, about 33 minutes, Captain," Chekov replied.
Kirk swiveled his chair around to face Superman and Mears, a questioning look on his face.
"Give us a minute, Captain," Superman told him. Superman quickly guided Mears up onto the upper level of the bridge, near the door of the turbo lift. He took Mears by the shoulders. She looked pleadingly up at him.
"Carol, I have to try to get back," he whispered to her. "As much as I want to stay here with you, I belong in my own world."
Tears began to form in Mears's eyes.
"I know," she said quietly. "I know."
They embraced, and then Superman kissed her.
He turned to Kirk. "Captain, if you could just give an order to your shuttlecraft hanger deck crew to open the bay doors enough for me to get out, I'll take care of the rest," he said.
"Done," Kirk replied. "Go. ... And, it's been a pleasure to know you, sir."
Superman smiled. "It's been the same for me, Captain," he said. He looked at Mears one last time, and chucked her under her chin.
"Remember me," he said. Then he disappeared into the turbo lift.
Kirk gave the order to the hanger deck crew over the intercom on his command chair. Then everyone's eyes focused on the bridge viewscreen. Within a few minutes Superman's flying form came into view at the very edge of the screen. He arrowed directly through the blackness of space toward the roiling space warp in the screen's center.
"How does he do that?" Sulu muttered.
"I don't know," Chekov replied, fascinated. "Not even Russia has men who can fly through outer space without a space suit!"
Just then Superman's figure disappeared into the heart of the space warp.
He was gone.
Mears buried her face in her hands. Kirk got up from his chair and went over to her. He guided her over to Uhura's communications station. Uhura surrendered her chair to Mears, who sat down and cried. Uhura put her hands on Mears's shoulders, trying to comfort her.
"Steer a course around that thing, Mr. Sulu," Kirk ordered somberly. "We don't want to get sucked into it too."
# # #
Superman came tumbling out of the other side of the space warp. He was still in outer space, but now the Enterprise was nowhere in sight. Yet nearby he could see the shining blue ball of the Earth beckoning him. He righted himself and headed down toward it.
Before long he found himself flying over the familiar buildings of Metropolis once more. He found the Daily Planet building, looking like it always did, and banked down toward it. He went back through the window of the same unused office where he had originally left, and landed. He retrieved his Clark Kent clothes, right where he had left them, and covered his uniform with them.
Minutes later he was back in Perry White's office once more.
"I was able to contact Superman, Chief," Kent said. "He investigated that aerial anomaly of yours, and he found it to be nothing more than a harmless atmospheric disturbance. Since then it's disappeared. So you can tell the Pentagon not to worry about it."
Kent left White's office. Later, after leaving work, he changed back into Superman and flew up to the summit of Mt. Blue Peak, just outside Metropolis's city limits. It was a place he often went when he needed to be alone. It was dark by that time, and he sat down on a large rock. He looked up at the night sky, staring at the bright stars twinkling there.
And he remembered the beautiful young woman from the 23rd century who had once loved him -- and how, for him, that Tomorrow was now Yesterday.
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"