THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (VIII & Epilogue)
Written by MalloryDyatlov59 :: [Friday, 13 October 2023 10:03] Last updated by :: [Friday, 17 November 2023 12:06]
Check eighth and last chapter of this run of my fanfic about Superwoman! I've really enjoyed writing this fanfic, making AI concept creations and commissioning art from great people to illustrate the story!
For character context, introduction and fanart you can check here
For the first chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (I) - SuperWomenMania
For the second chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (II) - SuperWomenMania
For the third chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (III) - SuperWomenMania
For the fourth chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (IV) - SuperWomenMania
For the fifth chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (V) - SuperWomenMania
For the sixth chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (VI) - SuperWomenMania
For the seventh chapter of the fanfic you can check here SWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (VII) - SuperWomenMania
For a fanfilm about the story see here!(1) SUPERWOMAN 1948 - YouTube
Smalville, Kansas, Autumn 1935
With her super-hearing, Clara heard her father getting out of bed and going downstairs. She turned down the radio and returned to her books. Her father came into the kitchen with a tired face.
– Can't you sleep, Bunny?
– No, Pa.
Joe Kent sat down heavily across from her.
– Well, that makes two of us. Do you mind if I join you?
– No, not at all, Pa.
Joe turned up the radio again.
– I thought you were bothered by the sound of the radio, Pa…
– No, don't worry Bunny, I just can't sleep.
– Why, Dad? Are you all right?
– Yes, don't worry.
Clara used her x-ray vision, which she barely knew how to use, and which confused her so much. Her father's heart was weak and labored, worse than most hearts she knew. A pang of pain squeezed her heart and tears flooded her eyes.
– What is it, Bunny?
– Why don't you go see a doctor?
– I already did, it's fine, don't worry.
– No, it's not fine, I know it's not.
– I must be more careful, that's it.
– Why don't you… go to a sanatorium? Fred Danvers' father spent two months there and recovered… I can take care of everything… and Mother. You know, I can take care of what's left of the crop and the housework, really quick, and Mom can take care of the sales.
– I don't think so, I'd rather not leave you two alone. What you need to do is study and finish high school. As far as I know you still want to be a teacher.
– But it's not hard for me, I can do both, you should rest.
– Clara, we don't have money for a sanatorium, and it wouldn't change a thing. It's not about rest, it's about taking care of myself. Doing nothing in a sanatorium would make me nervous, and it would be worse.
– We have the money from my college plan.
– No way. Your college money is your college money and nothing else.
Noticing his daughter's tears falling from under her glasses, Joe reached over and kissed her on the cheek as he hugged her from behind.
– What are you drawing?
– A map of Ethiopia
– This war is a bad business; we'll see horrible things closer soon.
– I want to go there and help when the war is over.
– You don't have to go that far to help others, Bunny.
27 May 1949, Metropolis Bay, 17.30
With a precise punch into the monster's skull, Superwoman threw the creature several hundred meters through the air, at super speed she reached it again and hit it a second time. The blow hurt her, and she felt her shoulder go numb, but the creature flew another hundred meters and fell into the sea. With her x-ray vision, she could see it sinking like a stone seventy or eighty meters underwater. The creature could not swim, but it seemed to jump under the water approaching the city. Her heart was pounding, she felt intense pain in her chest and stomach…what the hell was that creature? Where was that damned Luthor? She felt fear and apprehension, Louis oh Louis!
She flew back to the ruins of Meredith Island, now shrouded in smoke, fire and debris, and concentrated with all her soul to listen to Louis' heart. It was still beating at a normal rhythm, he was close. She began to clear the debris at super speed. In the distance, she could hear the creature still moving underwater, jumping, sometimes getting tangled in fishing nets or the silt on the bottom, but she had little time. Soon it would be back on Meredith Island, or worse, approaching the city. Superwoman returned to the ruins where Luthor's experiment room had been. Where the dome had stood, there was now a gaping hole in the open sky. She began to cough heavily. Among the debris were metal plates of lead (which was two thousand times more toxic to her than to a human) and alloys of earth metals with kryptonite that Luthor had used. She felt enormously heated and tired as she coughed. To her, exposure to kryptonite was like a human playing barehanded with enriched uranium. The pipes had burst; water was trickling down a darkened hallway that descended into the basement. Louis' heart sounded closer and the interference softer. She ran at superspeed through the flooded or debris-filled corridors, clearing them. Finally, Louis' heart sounded very close.
– Louis! Louis, my love! It's Clara! Where are you? she cried.
She repeated the cry several times.
Help me! I'm here! I'm okay! Come closer!
Louis had heard her! He was all right! Clara began to sob.
– Keep screaming! I hear you!
Soon she realized where he was, anxiously kicking down a metal door to find herself in a collapsed room filled with debris and flooded to her knees. In a corner, safe from the collapsing ceiling, chained to a pipe and with water up to his chest, was Louis.
Clara rushed to him and kissed him passionately as she patted him down to make sure he wasn't hurt.
– Are you all right? You're not hurt…Did they do something to you?
Louis looked confused and exhausted but kissed her back.
– I'm fine Superwoman…Clara…I'm fine…What the hell is going on?
Clara gently ripped off the handcuffs that held Louis to the pipe.
– It's Luthor…and a creature from my world. What did he tell you?
– I saw him, I saw that kind of monster, he said it would be your doomsday.
Clara began to weep, and Louis hugged her tightly.
– Have you finished with this creature?
– No, and it's too close, I must get you out of here.
Clara covered Louis with her bright red cape and carried him at super speed through the flooded corridors that had already been cleared of debris. Clara flew through the large hole that had been Luthor's experimental dome and soon they were several hundred meters above Meredith Island.
Clara kissed Louis again.
– Louis, I must take you back to the city, please take your daughter and stay away from the bridges and the dock…I will try to contain and destroy this creature, don't go through any bridges. If you can, please get to Oyster Bay…Warn anyone you want, everyone at the Daily Planet…my neighbors…if you can get Krypto, who is at my house, my neighbor will open the door for you, you need to get away from…
– Clara, calm down.
– Louis, I don't know what it is or if I can handle it. You have to get away, you have to get out of town, you have to warn everyone…
They flew over the skyscrapers to Louis' balcony, where they carefully descended.
Louis watched her carefully. He hadn't noticed before, but Clara's face and hands were full of bruises, and her supersuit and cape had scratches and holes in them. There were some bloodstains.
– Clara…are you okay?
Superwoman floated closer and kissed him again as she hugged him.
– Please listen to me…I have to go.
Louis caressed her.
– Louis, are you angry?
– Please forget it, It doesn't matter anymore…
– I love you.
– I adore you, Clara, I adore you.
Clara stifled a sob and kissed Louis again.
– Louis…forgive me…everything is explained…no matter what happens…I love you, you are my world, you have made me so happy all these years…we both haven't had an easy situation…I adore you, you and Emily…I will always love you, always, no matter what…please don't forget…no matter what happens.
– I adore you Clara, I….
Superwoman could hear with her super hearing how the creature had finally managed to jump over the water, although it had fallen again. It was only a few meters away from jumping over Meredith Island.
– Louis I must go…if anything happens there is a series of letters in my third desk drawer in the office. I have written them to you over the years…too many things to say and explain. I love you, please don't forget that.
Before Louis, soaked and covered in debris dust, could say anything, Superwoman took off at super speed and he could only see a red and blue blur heading out to sea.
Barry Allen was having lunch in his small apartment in Chicago. A few minutes before he was rescuing people in Canada, and a few seconds before he was in his office. He was gorging himself on Coca-Cola, sausages, buns…Clara Kent, also known as Superwoman, always told him he had a disgusting diet.
The phone rang.
– Mr. Allen, you have a conference call from Magallanes, Chile, urgent, will you accept it?
– Is it a collect call?
– No, it is charged to the person who telephones you.
Oh, Chile, it has to be Bruce.
– Yes please, connect me.
The operator connected him and after a couple of seconds he heard a familiar voice.
– Barry! Where have you been? I've called you a dozen times at home and work!
– Hello to you too Bruce. Well, I was in Canada, and Texas, and well…moving around doing my job…I don't have super-hearing…I'm not Superwoman…have you been able to reach Arturo Curry?
– Yes, I have met him…listen to me, it doesn't matter right now.
– Why? is something wrong? Do you want me to call Clara?
– Barry…there's something in Metropolis. I just got a phone call from Alfred…a creature, some kind of monster, in the harbor. Superwoman is fighting it. You must go to Metropolis.
– A monster?
– Yes Barry, a monster.
– But it's a sea monster? Maybe Arturo Curry can help us.
– I don't know if it's a sea monster or what it is Barry, get over there, Clara needs you…and Arturo Curry won't help us. I've had a very unpleasant exchange with him. He hates Kryptonians for destroying his ancestors from Atlantis and has no plans to leave Chile. He would never team up with Superwoman. I'll try to convince him again but forget about him for the moment.
– Okay, I'm on my way to Metropolis.
Before Bruce could say anything, Barry Allen, now the Flash, was running dozens of miles away.
Clara realized that because of the blows, she could hardly move at super speed without suffocating, and the faster she moved, the more blood tasted in her mouth and the more pain she felt in her body. Her hands were losing strength. Finally, the creature jumped onto Meredith Island. Superwoman tried to grab it by one of the protrusions or horns sticking out of its back, the edges slashed her hands, but she managed to lift it. However, the horns snapped, and the monster howled in pain and fell back to the ground. With enormous fury, the monster launched itself, almost crawling towards her. Superwoman managed to get up, but she did it too slowly, the monster began to move faster and faster. The creature that Luthor had assured her it would be her doomsday grabbed her by the leg and, like a rag doll, slammed her to the ground again and again. The blows to the ground didn't hurt, she was Superwoman after all. Her body turned concrete to dust and cut through metal with ease, but the monster's jerks on her leg that hurt her back nearly knocked her unconscious.
The monster was preparing to pounce on her when she saw a squadron of military planes flying over Meredith Island. The monster roared with rage when it saw them and tried to jump and reach one of them. Clara didn't know what kind of planes they were, but among them she recognized a B52, the ones they called flying fortresses. The planes scattered and raised their altitude, then one by one they began to make passes, dropping their cargo, bombs. Clara was surrounded by explosions and fire, she could withstand the temperature quite well and the explosions did not hurt her, but she was too sore from the beatings of the monster to get up. About thirty bombs fell in only five minutes. Superwoman could not see the monster, she could hear it roar, but she could only see fire, smoke and debris flying. But as soon as the effects of the bombs wore off, she was horrified by what she saw. The monster seemed bigger, stronger, with each explosion it seemed to absorb energy and swell as it mooed. The B52 approached Meredith Island again, this time too low. The monster reached it in one bound. Superwoman screamed and tried to take off, but fell into the water, while the pieces of the B52 and the monster fell into the sea, also in the middle of the fire.
Luthor watched closely from an inconspicuous freighter barely a mile from Meredith Island. He could see the monster growing in size and the bombs having no effect on it. By radio, he knew that panic had spread through the city and that thousands of people were rushing the bridges and roads leading out of the city. He sighed. Superwoman had been missing for several minutes…was she dead? Was she injured? There was no way to know. A private TELCORP plane, piloted by four mercenary ex-prisoners of war whom Luthor had bribed and tricked, was waiting for his orders to take off, loaded with the refined pathogen. If that didn't work, he would turn himself in to the military, which he knew were in checkpoint nearby, and ask the president for a nuclear bombing. According to his calculations, this would destroy the monster. The range of the bombs was about twelve miles. If the bomb were dropped now, the destruction would be very severe in Staten Island, Southern Brooklyn…but there would not be many casualties beyond a few hundred thousand. No more than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He himself had tried to make a bomb, but had not had access to enough uranium, although he knew exactly how to make it.
Luthor sighed and looked at the map. If Superwoman was really liquidated, the containment capacity of the monster was zero and it would be in the city in no time. The bomb would have too many effects there, but maybe there was no way around it.
In any case, there was still the possibility that the bombardment with the refined pathogen would injure the monster, slow it down, or even kill it. The main target did not appear, no doubt she was wounded in the worst case and therefore unable to flee from the atomic bomb.
I think I'll make it.
And then what? His career was already over, the Soviet extraction order was almost a death sentence. Maybe he wouldn't be so exposed in America, and the capture of Karla's network didn't really put him in a bind, but he had already crossed the Rubicon. The official version he had prepared would cause a monumental scandal and a political earthquake. He would be tried or executed. He had considered suicide. Luthor had several cyanide capsules, but only if he was sure that Superwoman was dead.
The official version was in the hands of Mercy Graves, who was on a forced vacation in Virginia. The order was to send such version to newspapers and officials the next day, but he could still stop it. If Superwoman died, he could say that the monster had come out of nowhere, mixing the pathogens without knowing where or how, following government orders. He had thought about it, that way he could just be negligent, save the company for his shareholders and have an honorable prison sentence. The scandal would be enormous, but he would live for years. Maybe he should try that first option when he talked to the President. But the most important thing was Superwoman's death, the rest was secondary. Luthor was willing to sacrifice himself and thousands of others.
Flash arrived in Metropolis and all he could see around him were traffic jams, panic, and planes flying over the city. He stopped several traffic accidents and muggings. At super speed, he moved through the water and approached the island where the monster was supposed to be. Superwoman was nowhere to be seen, just an island covered in smoke and fire with a terrible sound coming from it. Soon he saw a terrifying monster in the smoke. It had a humanoid shape, but was thick and deformed, covered with horn-like protrusions or broken bones growing out of its body, with a skull also riddled with deformities and horns. The monster could move fast, but not at super speed, it had not seen him. Suddenly he saw the monster leaping towards a B52 and could do nothing as the creature crashed into the plane, splitting it in two in an explosion and falling into the water amidst the burning debris.
Clara, where are you?
Superwoman sat up, coughing, with excruciating pain in her chest and back, surrounded by fire and smoke. She realized she was bleeding profusely from her mouth and it was hard to breathe…this can't be, this can't be happening to me…despite the headache, she could hear the monster jumping under the sea again, but this time it was not heading toward Meredith Island, but toward the middle of the canal, toward the construction site of the bridge that would connect Brooklyn to Staten Island. She couldn't stop it in that condition. At any moment she would lose consciousness.
She could still fly, so she began to float despite the pain, and soared over Meredith Island while the monster jumped over the sea and sank again, closer and closer to the small strait between Brooklyn and Staten Island. It was dusk and there was little sunlight left, but she managed to rise above the clouds and position herself where the sun's rays were most concentrated. At super speed she would have gotten much more, but she was not able to move very fast. The sunlight and its rays entered her body like a balm, the pain diminished. She could see some of her wounds beginning to heal. She stayed like that for several minutes, praying and thinking of her parents, of Jor-El and Lara, and Joe and Martha… You don't have to go that far to help others, Bunny… Live as one of them, Kala-El, to discover where your strength and power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kala-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show them the way. It is for this reason, above all, their capacity for good, that I have sent them you, my only daughter…Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins…It was not enough, the cries of thousands of people warned her that the monster had almost reached the city. She still felt sore, but she was stronger and could move with some speed, though much less than she normally could.
Thousands of people watched as a thin blue and red blur descended through the dawn clouds and launched itself at the monster that was destroying the bridgework, while another red blur moved around, dragging people from the area.
Superwoman fell on Doomsday at full speed, still sore and low on strength, but she managed to ram it with both fists from behind and throw it back into the middle of the canal, accompanied by debris from the bridge. There seemed to be no one at the construction site, and she was about to jump into the water to face the monster when a familiar voice stopped her.
– Oy gevalt Clara! What is that thing?
Superwoman hugged Flash, but he wasn't joking as usual, but with an expression of utter amazement.
– I managed to get thousands of people out of the construction site and the docks… Are you all right?
– Not too well… this thing is some kind of mutant from Krypton… I have to deal with it and get it out of here, please keep getting people out.
– What are you going to do?
– Try to push it as deep into the ocean as I can to buy time, then regain my strength with sunlight, come back for it and throw it out into space far away from here…
– Good luck, Clara!
Superwoman kissed Flash on the cheek and plunged into the sea. The monster was now heading towards Brooklyn, Superwoman rammed it again and pushed it deep. Pain returned to her hands, chest and back. The monster was moving underwater with more difficulty than she was, but it was unharmed.
Superwoman had an idea, she began to circle the monster at the maximum speed she was capable of until she managed to envelop it in a whirlpool of water, she tried to lift the whirlpool above the sea, but she was too weak. She still had the monster groaning inside the whirlpool as she slowly moved back out of the canal and into the open sea…but then several bombs exploded all around her. Those bombs or depth charges exploded underwater, doing nothing to her, but the monster seemed to absorb their energy. The creature grew again and was even able to move fast enough to lunge at Clara with a precise kick. Clara was pushed into the mud at the bottom and the monster managed to jump out of the water.
Luthor watched in stunned silence for several minutes as Superwoman reappeared, flew into the sky, and then returned to fight the monster. He punched the table. Superwoman and the monster dove underwater and a sort of whirlpool began to form. Waterplanes dropped depth charges on the center of the whirlpool.
– Damn it! No! Noooooo! Noooooo! No!
Luthor screamed, pounding on the table.
A group of men armed with machine guns guarded the room. Luthor made a decision. He immediately radioed the New Jersey airfield where the pilots and the TELCORP private plane were. He gave the order to take off and bomb the place where the Monster and Superwoman were fighting with those strange glass warheads filled with a black liquid. He had no more time to waste. He had barely finished giving the order when the sound of machine gun fire rang out all around him. Shells were flying and the window of the freighter's wheelhouse cracked. Luthor dropped to all fours and hid behind the wheel while his henchmen exchanged fire with an unseen enemy who was also firing. No, no, no, it couldn't be.
He was trying to scramble up a ladder into the hold when a rifle kick knocked him down. He turned around in pain to find a US Army lieutenant looking at him with a mixture of anger and disbelief.
The monster jumped ashore in Brooklyn in front of Fort Hamilton, moving with increasing speed. The troupe retreated, and several tanks and portable batteries were firing continuously at the monster. Each cannon shot seemed to pierce the monster, but it regenerated and swelled. The monster roared in rage and, to the soldiers' surprise, shot a thick, hideous laser beam at them. Superwoman, moving faster than her physical condition allowed, managed to stop the laser beams with her cape, saving several soldiers from certain death. The monster lunged at her, and before she could react, it threw her forward with a violent blow to her back. Superwoman was blown into the air and her body went through the walls and ceilings of the fortress. She ended up buried in the rubble.
Free of Superwoman, the creature threw itself at the tanks and portable batteries, crushing and shredding them in seconds, and at the fleeing soldiers, crushing them with its hands or disintegrating them with its heat vision, killing about a hundred men in a few minutes. Planes passed overhead at high altitude, bombing the coastal strip of Fort Hamilton, not knowing that the bombs were making the monster stronger.
Superwoman, half buried in the rubble, could only hear a beeping sound. The monster's blow must have broken her a bone. She was unable to stand up. All the energy she had regained from the sun's rays was gone, and she was injured again. She felt like crying bitterly, but she sat up. She went down on her knees, trying to relax and forget the pain. You have to do it Clara, you can't give up now, you have to do it, thousands of lives depend on you, you can't fail now, you can't fail them. Letting out a scream that was a mixture of pain and hope, Superwoman took off.
Flash ran as fast as he could, clearing civilians and soldiers from the Fort Hamilton area. He managed to clear ten people per second. In about ten minutes, he had six thousand confused and disoriented men women and children on the other side of the canal, on Staten Island. Meanwhile, the monster was busy demolishing buildings around Fort Hamilton and Baker Beach Park and smashing cars and tanks. Most of the people had been rescued by Flash or had fled, but a few hundred unfortunates had perished under the rubble. The roar of the monster could be heard for miles around.
Superwoman had barely made it fifty or sixty kilometers, above the stratosphere. She had arrived almost bleeding to death, with excruciating pain in the middle of her body, and could barely move one of her arms. Below her, she could see the blue of the ocean and the green of the earth, and the clouds blurred as if they were small clouds of dust under her feet. She flew to stand in front of the sun's rays and closed her eyes. Superwoman tried to clear her mind and let herself float in space. Again, she felt the strength, again some of the pain disappeared, again the bleeding stopped. It was not enough, it would be hours before she could fully recover, but the World could not wait. As soon as she could move both arms and hands despite her weakness, she knew she was ready. A memory of her childhood, the first time she felt physical pain, the first time she saw her own blood, flashed through her mind. The look of surprise on her parents' faces as they healed her. The memory seemed miraculous to Clara, she finally understood.
27 May 1949, Metropolis Bay, 19.40
The small but powerful tanks under Colonel Brewster's command had decided to stop firing. Each shot seemed to enrage the monster more and more, driving it toward the military lines. If they left it alone, the monster would amuse itself by destroying the buildings around it. The area was evacuated, they had a few minutes, maybe a few hours, before it approached populated areas again. Panic gripped the entire city. The planes flew incessantly overhead, but the High Command had concluded that the bombing was inexplicably strengthening the hated monster. But where was Superwoman? She was disappearing and reappearing every time…everyone wondered how it was possible that she was not successfully fighting the monster or taking it away.
In the basement of a small house, Benjamin Parker, a bus driver, hugged his wife and sons, Ben Jr. and Richard. They had tried to flee the neighborhood, but the monster had cut them off. They had returned home and locked themselves in the basement of their tenement with another family and an old woman. They were in the dark. The monster's roar and the cave-ins sounded close and frightening. At Ben's direction, everyone had positioned themselves in the corners of the room where they would be less likely to be hurt by a roof collapse. Some people were praying, but Benjamin told them to pray quietly. They didn't know what the monster was doing to the people or if it could hear them. The monster sounded closer and closer as he hugged his wife and children tighter and tighter. A landslide and a roar sounded as if hell was beneath their feet…or rather, above their heads. Another collapse sounded too close, and a shower of wood and bricks fell in the center of the basement.
– Don't move," Benjamin cried to those sheltering in the other corners.
An ominous roar muffled his voice and a red light seemed to flicker among the ruins that covered them. A fiery sensation that lasted barely a second startled Benjamin, but immediately faded. Some kind of translucent red cloth protected him and his family. Immediately, he felt himself quickly and disorientingly transported to the ground. When he managed to sit up, he found himself beside his wife and children, surrounded by his neighbors, in a distant street. Superwoman floated in front of them, looking injured and exhausted, but smiling at them.
– I'm so sorry about your house, really sorry. Please leave, the military lines are just around the corner… I'll take care of the monster.
Superwoman landed and helped the old lady up with the help of the ten-year-old Ben Jr. who gawked at the superheroine.
– Thanks, buddy, take care of your parents and your little brother. We must take care of each other, right?
Superwoman winked at her son as Benjamin tugged at his and his wife's clothes and gave thanks for being alive.
Superwoman lifted a car with her hands and flew toward a cloud of dust and fire where the monster was.
– Come on, let's go, everybody," Ben Parker shouted.
In the Oval Office, President Truman bowed his head in despair, surrounded by key members of his administration and the army.
– Mr. President…
– Mr. President, Luthor is a monster, but he is right.
– Mr. President, the destructive event began three hours ago. It appears that the speedster Flash and Superwoman are managing to contain the monster on the south shore of Brooklyn, but the military reports are confusing, Superwoman appears and disappears and doesn't seem to be able to do anything but momentarily contain the creature. Every bomb we drop makes it stronger.
– We've evacuated nearly half a million people from Brooklyn and Staten Island to Manhattan and New Jersey. Right now, of the ten million people in the Metropolis area, all but a hundred thousand or two hundred thousand are out of bomb range.
– If the monster gets to Manhattan or New Jersey, it will be a massacre. We don't know how to stop it. We can do the bombing in an hour and a half. Is our only chance.
– Luthor assured us….
– Luthor is a traitor.
– We don't know for sure, maybe he was working alone. He hates Superwoman, he's always hated her. He took advantage of her security clearance and cooperation with us, but I don't see….
– We must summon the Soviet ambassador immediately.
– Luthor claims it was negligence, he tried to take his own life with a cyanide pill.
– Mr. President, I don't think Luthor is a spy, I think what he's done is unforgivable and creates an unprecedented political crisis, but we must listen to him with the bomb.
– Oh, please, McArthur, negligence… we found a TELCORP-owned plane full of the damn pathogens.
– As chief scientist, I refuse to let us use the pathogens, we could make the situation worse or hurt Superwoman.
– Luthor has already explained that he prepared the plane as soon as the monster appeared; they spent hours trying to contain it at the Meredith Island facility.
– He gave his employees all week off, he took his wife and daughter out of Metropolis… we're looking at a monumental betrayal, he's gone insane…
– Mr. President
President Truman spoke for the first time.
– Send the bomber with the nuclear bomb, we can't waste time. Once it's over the area, we'll decide. I want a direct line to the pilot and the military commander on the ground. I will make the decision. If Superwoman succeeds in containing the monster or taking it away, we'll wait a bit, and at the moment the monster is completely free again, we'll drop the bomb. We've got an hour and a half, right? That's the minimum. Let's pray that woman can get this thing out in time.
Superwoman threw the car at the monster with all the strength she had left to test her theory. The two-ton car pushed the monster several feet, knocking it to the ground. The creature sat up and lunged at her, but she dodged in time. She grabbed another car and began hitting the monster at full speed with it. The monster seemed to recoil and was confused. Then she hit it with her fist in what should have been a knee, and although it was a painful blow for her, the monster fell back to the ground and flew several hundred yards, through houses and through trees. The monster was back at the water's edge. Superwoman hit it again and managed to push it into the ocean. She tried the whirlpool tactic again, swimming at super speed around the monster and managed to pull it into the center of the canal. The monster tried to emerge from the sea as Superwoman flew into the sky.
Colonel Brewster watched the battle through binoculars with bated breath. He saw Superwoman come out of the water and disappear into thin air…now she's gone again, what's happening, damn it, what's wrong with that woman, is she hurt? Night began to fall. From the disturbances in the water, it was clear that the monster was approaching the shore again. Then a very strange and hard sound startled him. Above him floated the huge hull of a freighter of some twenty or thirty thousand tons. The ship was flying at full speed, like an airplane… What the hell?
Superwoman breathed in and out. Twenty or thirty thousand tons was no effort for her under normal circumstances, but injured and exhausted, she was making the greatest effort. She had flown to Manhattan and lifted the biggest but empty freighter she could find. With her x-ray vision, she knew where in the canal the monster was, even though it was already dark. She dropped the huge ship onto the monster. The noise was deafening on both sides of the canal and the monster was trapped by thousands of tons of metal. Well, this will keep that thing entertained for a few minutes.
Superwoman flew to Meredith Island. She remembered her first teenage years, feeling intense anger after her foster parents explained her origins and showed her the capsule that had brought her to Smallville, and that they had buried. Clara hated that capsule. She understood nothing. She didn't know if it was the work of a mad scientist, or if it was from a strange country abroad, or if she was an alien like in the H.G. Wells novel. It was all immensely painful. One afternoon Clara lashed out at the capsule, hitting it several times in an attempt to break it, managing to dent it, but cracking her whole hand. Yes, metals with traces of Kryptonite could injure her; it had happened many times before. Superwoman descended through the gaping hole that had been Luthor's experimental dome. There were metal plates with Kryptonite on it, those plates had to be in the rubble. If the monster was Kryptonian, it was possible that the Kryptonite could hurt him. She had to try.
She searched among the rubble at super speed and found three metal plates with Kryptonite alloy. She could acknowledge it thanks to the strange greenish color and the stinging in her eyes and mouth as well as headache when she approached them. Then she set her plan in motion.
Kala-El, my child, this is your home. You are human, you grew up with them. It is a miracle that we are so much like them. When the first Kryptonians arrived on Earth, they were ecstatic, it was like a larger, more fertile version of Krypton, populated by beings so similar and yet so primitive. Krypton had its chance, and it failed. Your father and I want you to be proud of our sacrifice and what our civilization was or could have been. But you are also human, understand yourself as human. You owe it to them. You must be as Kryptonian as you are human. No matter how far detached you may feel from them, you must be one of them. That is our advice. We sent you to Earth to live, to live a full life. As a woman from Earth…
Her hands burned and she continued to cough, tears flooded her eyes. With her heat vision and super strength, she tried to bend and compress the metal plates. She tried again and again as she pounded the metal with her fist and heated it to near-melting with her heat vision. She punched, melted, and then blew the plates with her cooling breath. The process was exhausting, and she kept coughing, sometimes having to stop because she was choking. Her hands were swollen and full of burns.
Clara, I beg you, for God's sake. You must understand. We love you. We are your parents. We're not doing this to hurt you, or to spite you, or out of fear. You can't show your abilities. You can't. Don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. I don't mind you helping those who need it. I couldn't, it wouldn't be Christian. But you must do it quietly and in the dark….
One of the plates had already become an irregular cylinder with a sharp tip. Clara repeated the operation with the other plate, using her feet and elbows because she could barely feel her hands.
Miss Clara Kent, best graduate of the Mary Ann Day Brown High School… Clara, you must come with me, your father is seriously ill, your mother is with him… Clara, I can't marry you, I don't know who you are, it's too much, it can't be… Do you have experience as a nurse, Miss Kent? Yes? We need good girls in the Navy Nurse Corps, I'm glad you have experience…
She had already created another cylinder, the pain in her hands was unbearable. She had to stop to vomit. She joined the two cylinders with her heat vision. She had to use a third plate to give it thickness.
Miss Kent, believe it or not, I appreciate you as a reporter and I don't dislike your company excessively, so much so that I'm willing to overlook your continued rudeness and indiscipline. If you think this is charity work you can leave the Daily Planet and tell your acquaintances that you have resigned because you can't stand Louis Lane….Look up, is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It's Superwoman…Miss Superwoman, my cat has climbed a tree and doesn't know how to get down.
She managed to bend and melt the third metal plate with kryptonite. She lay on the ground on her back in exhaustion. Next to her was a spear made of a crumpled metal with greenish traces.
The monster that would later be known as Doomsday had once again leapt upon the south shore of Brooklyn. It was more rabid than ever and was leaping over buildings collapsing them with a single blow. It had trouble walking upright, so crawling at full speed like a hideous ape he dashed toward wherever it detected movement. In a few seconds an army battalion was wiped out. The monster was crushing a tank when it received a hard blow on its back and turned furious.
A weeping, exhausted, wounded Superwoman looked at the monster defiantly, who answered her by throwing terrible laser beams. Without letting go of the spear, the superheroine took off and at super speed drove the soldiers who had survived the monster's attack away from the scene. The monster chased her roaring and crawling, razing buildings and crushing cars in its path. Fortunately, the entire neighborhood was evacuated.
Superwoman stood in front of the monster holding her spear. When it lunged at her, she took off and flew slowly, letting the monster chase her. She led the monster to an empty esplanade that hours before had been a park. She stared at the monster. Its eyes were like two jagged sockets filled with fire. The monster suddenly let out an almost tearful roar, then another. Clara felt a pang of doubt or strangeness. After several roars it seemed to understand a phrase…something like Teke-Li-Li. The monster lashed violently at the walls and rubble while from its roars one could almost subterraneous make out that strange phrase, Teke-Li-Li...is it Kryptonian? Well…it doesn't matter, it's not a thinking being, it's a monster, I don't have to feel pity for it.
Superwoman brandished the spear that burned in her hands and launched herself at the creature. She managed to drive it through its head between its eyes. A dark liquid gushed out, fiery and fetid. The monster let out the loudest roar it had ever let out and struck Superwoman, who lost control of the spear and rolled several hundred feet injured. She managed to get back up as the monster shot bolts of heat out of its eyes at everything around it and howled in pain. She grabbed the spear again and flew and thrust it at super speed several times into the monster's chest, causing the hideous liquid to gush out. The monster fell to the ground writhing, its roars losing volume, but the strange phrase became clearer…Teke-Li-Li! Teke-Li-Li! The superheroine lost control of herself and stabbed the spear hundreds of times into the monster's body, until it stopped writhing, the lightning from the eyes ceased and she herself fell down exhausted.
– Mr. President? This is Colonel Brewster.
– Colonel Brewster…How are you?
– I've been better, Mr. President…. I've been better. I've lost two battalions almost completely.
– It pains me deeply to hear that.
– We've had no contact with the creature or Superwoman for several minutes… There is no sound of destruction or roar. Two reconnaissance planes have passed by, but we can't see anything because of the darkness and the ruins.
– Could they be underwater?
– No, they both came out of the water.
President Truman wiped a handkerchief across his forehead and turned to the others in the Oval Office.
– They lost contact with Superwoman and the Monster minutes ago…no sight or sound…order the plane to land at the nearest base immediately but be prepared to take off and drop the bomb, I'm ordering a total evacuation.
– Mr. President
– Tell me, Colonel.
– I think I see something.
Colonel Brewster gave the order to turn on the anti-aircraft lights without hanging up the phone. The light illuminated in the darkness against the stars a familiar female figure in a tattered red cape flying, carrying over her head some kind of monstrous, shapeless corpse. Both soared skyward, beyond the reach of the spotlights. A huge round of cheering, clapping, and wailing drowned out Colonel Brewster's voice.
– Mr. President, Superwoman did it. We just saw her. She flew away taking the creature with her…the monster seemed motionless. I think we're safe.
A wave of joy swept through the Oval Office as Truman slumped back in his chair and closed his eyes in exhausted relief.
May 28-June 10, 1949
With the first light of dawn, Louis Lane, accompanied by his daughter Emily, Krypto-Clara's dog-, and Pat, his still-wife, quietly returned to their Park Avenue home. They had been stuck on the freeway for hours until they received orders to return to their homes; the danger had passed. Pat had insisted on going with him and not being separated from their daughter. They put Emily to bed and sat facing each other in what had long been the living room of their home. Pat confirmed over the phone that their families were safe.
She stared at him.
– Where is Clara, Louis?
– She left early this morning for Kansas on a medical matter…I don't know where she is - Louis lied with conviction.
They slept cuddled on the couch and their daughter found them there in the morning. She had never seen her parents cuddling before. Krypto paced around the house curiously.
At the Daily Planet, Perry Weiss lit up the umpteenth Havana cigar he had smoked in the wee hours of the morning. He had been in the newsroom for nearly 24 hours, like the captain who refuses to leave his ship. Half the newsroom was missing, but he knew mostly everyone was safe. At 2 a.m., Jimmy Olsen and his daughter Lucy arrived with photographs from Staten Island. The photographs could barely make out the Monster or Superwoman. One of the snapshots showed a huge ship falling from the sky into the ocean.
Perry opened the morning's first edition and went over the headlines while Cat Grant, who had also spent the night in the newsroom, finished her umpteenth scotch.
NIGHT OF TERROR IN METROPOLIS.
MONSTER EMERGES FROM MEREDITH ISLAND AND WREAKS HAVOC IN SOUTH BROOKLYN.
SUPERWOMAN DEFEATS THE MONSTER AND DISAPPEARS. THOUSANDS OF LIVES SAVED BY THE ARMY AND SPEEDSTER FLASH.
218 CONFIRMED DEAD, INCLUDING LEX LUTHOR. NEARLY 500 MISSING. LARGEST DISASTER IN METROPOLIS SINCE GENERAL SLOCUM'S FIRE.
GOVERNMENT HAS NO TRACE OF THE MONSTER'S ORIGIN AND IMMEDIATELY LAUNCHES AN INVESTIGATION.
CHRONICLE OF THE FOUR HOURS OF PANIC EXPERIENCED BY METROPOLIS' TEN MILLION RESIDENTS.
At noon, Benjamin Parker and his oldest son, Ben Jr., approached the ruins of what had been their home and neighborhood. The Army was patrolling the area and, with the help of the Flash, began clearing the rubble.
– Where is Superwoman, Dad?
– I don't know, son, she probably needs to rest.
Many miles away, Baroness von Gunther crossed the Mexican border with a false Czechoslovakian passport she had been issued just the day before. She had begun her flight the noon before, after a man with a strange Slavic accent handed her a note in a matchbox at the door of her hotel, telling her that the U.S. Army had discovered her treason. She was offered a reunion with her brother on the other side of the Iron Curtain. It was one more time in her life that she had switched sides. She felt a deep sense of desperation. She was picked up by a group of silent, Mexican-looking men in suits.
In West Virginia, in a beautiful country home, Leda Luthor mourned bitterly over the published news of her father's death, while her mother, Aline, read and reread the newspaper with a look of deep suspicion and stupefaction.
Far away, on the coast of Virginia, a group of military men arrested Mercy Graves at the hotel where Luthor had sent her days before, forcing her to hand over a series of letters and vinyl records Luthor had given her, as well as his instructions.
Martha Kent knew her daughter, so she waited a day or two for her to reappear. When she fought the Kryptonian invaders, she also disappeared for a few days. On the third day, she became very concerned. Clara, my love, where are you? Was she in Alaska, where her daughter had some kind of sanctuary? Was she busy saving people? The newspapers and radio stations wondered where the superheroine was. Her anxiety grew. She spent her afternoons on the phone, calling her daughter's house, her daughter's neighbors, who had not seen her since the day before the monster's arrival. She called Louis Lane's house but hung up when the phone was answered by a woman she didn't recognize as her daughter. She refused to call the newspaper office. At night she cried and turned over a picture she had of her daughter and her husband at her daughter's high school graduation…how far away 1936 seemed.
A week later, at dusk, a new car parked at the gate of her farm. The dogs approached the driver affectionately, some of them knew him. Pete Ross got out of the car dejectedly, and from the passenger seat got out a silent, pregnant Lana Lang. Martha liked them, they were good people. She had forgiven what to her was a betrayal of her daughter…but the three of them had always been too close, you couldn't have two loves, but one could get confused. She couldn't blame Pete Ross for breaking off the engagement to her daughter when he discovered her powers and where they came from…nor did she blame him when he quietly married Lana Lang after Clara left Smalville. She knew it had hurt Clara, but her daughter had insisted that there was no disloyalty or impropriety involved. They were a handsome young couple, and Pete had apparently had some success as a grocer and had opened a second store. He still had a broad smile and a naive face. He approached the porch door quietly.
– Mrs. Kent…
– Hi, Pete.
– We just came by to ask…
– How is Clara?
Martha sighed and looked at him sadly.
– She's fine, son.
Pete's face broke into a small smile.
– We… Lana and I… appreciate her very much… we still appreciate her very much.
Martha fought back tears.
– She's tired and busy, so don't worry. She also has a deep affection for you both.
Pete nodded and went back to the car. Lana Lang also nodded silently and followed her husband.
Late that night, the radio blared, "The government claims to have made contact with Superwoman. It was confirmed by the Secretary of State at the UN this afternoon. The superheroine is resting and recovering and will be back in action soon. There are great signs of joy in Metropolis and around the world."
Martha immediately knew it was a lie and began to weep bitterly.
Louis Lane spent his days in the dark in his office with the curtains drawn. He had written an article in a week about diplomatic tensions and the Republican Party's support for the President during the crisis. He had delivered his letter of resignation to Perry and Cat several times, but it had been rejected.
He told the same lie to everyone who asked him about Clara. Clara has gone to Kansas for a family medical matter, nothing important, but she is very stubborn, she only trusts one doctor and it is the one in her town, she will come in a few days, I have authorized her trip. Lucy Weiss and Jimmy looked at him suspiciously, and he saw fear and worry in their expressions. Perry also looked at him with sadness.
The anger and frustration were gone, he just wanted to get away, away from the paper and away from Metropolis if possible. Pat had returned home temporarily. They barely spoke to each other, but after the scare with the monster, it was the best thing for Emily for a while. His relationship with his wife was strange, like that of a distant sister or a sister-in-law caring for a widower. However, there was a certain closeness and mutual friendliness, and Louis now wished he had some kind of friendship with his ex-wife, as if she were the other castaway on a desert island.
Of course, he thought about Clara all the time, about her life, her secrets, the shadow play and double life they had practiced for four years. Sometimes he adored her and missed her passionately, and sometimes he wished he could forget her. Sometimes he felt unworthy of her, and sometimes he wished he could never speak to her again. He spent hours debating whether Clara Kent was a lie, a mask, a role played by a super-powered alien… and hours debating whether the lie was Superwoman, and the real woman was Clara Kent, a humble, sweet, somewhat stubborn woman born on a Kansas farm…and forced by a series of extraordinary events to become a goddess in the mad world of the twentieth century. He had not yet dared to open the third drawer of Clara's desk, where all those letters were. He wanted her to come back. If she came back, everything could be solved, even if it was by moving away from her. The coin would fall to one side. If she didn't come back, he would be stuck and wounded in time forever. Louis had received a strange call from Bruce Wayne asking about Clara, and he told him the same lie he told everyone…would Bruce Wayne be the Batman or the Flash? He didn't care. Louis was going to the church daily, he wanted to confess but was not sure about which were his sins.
Cat Grant cautiously entered his office.
– My dear Louis, you look like you're hiding.
– No, I'm just… well… I've resigned several times.
– You're breaking Perry's heart…he loves you like a son, and he thinks that if you concentrate and forget politics, you'll be the best at the paper, along with me and Clara.
Cat sat down on his desk and took his hand.
– Don't go away completely, accept the position of deputy editor of the weekly WORLD. The weekly is pure politics and diplomacy, you love that. Forget about reporting but stay close to us. You won't die for writing a little now and then, and you won't have to go through this office. Alina is a good friend of yours and mine, but she must find her way. She is a Russian who has been wandering around England and France for thirty years, she must adapt to America. She will be an excellent director for WORLD, but you have to help her.
– I'll think about it.
– Your father is still a shareholder in this newspaper, even if it's only a small percentage, and you're still part of the family. You have my and Perry's utmost confidence.
Cat looked sadly at Clara's desk.
– What do you know about the Woman of the Year?
– She's fine…she's still in Kansas….
Cat looked at him sweetly, obviously not believing him.
– Is she coming back from Kansas?
– I hope so.
– What if she doesn't come back?
– That would be a problem for everyone.
Cat snorted in disgust.
– She can't leave. She must stay, if she comes back, of course. We need her here. Perry would go up in flames if you both left at the same time. He has signed her promotion to senior reporter as soon as she walks through that door…I promise not to be monstrous to her and give her the freedom and leeway you've given her.
– I don't think she and I… that's over….
Cat got up and walked around the office.
– Women and men are very complicated. You know my… "condition", we may share the same taste. And of course, I do not understand love perfectly well…Love is a very hard issue…you and Perry are the only ones here who know how hard it's been for me…leading a double life for love is not easy at all…nor is feeling sick.
– No one thinks of you as sick, Cat.
– I think of myself that way sometimes. And practically all of society, and maybe they are right.
– Don't be silly, Cat, please, Perry and I would never…
– What I mean is that I've lied and led a double life for love…you do a lot of things for love, even bigger things than lying.
Cat, you know it, you know it perfectly well, it's obvious, anyone with two eyes and some attention will find out…what an embarrassment.
– We chase shadows, but we are shadows too…an Argentinean writer said it when I was in Buenos Aires last year…I liked it. Clara is a good girl…and a great woman. And you are a good man. If it can't be, it can't be, but let's try to be in the same boat, don't you think?
– I agree.
– For me it's a relief that it's Clara… that Clara is the way she is.
Louis waved his hand to stop the conversation. Cat nodded.
– Well, I'll try to make her feel comfortable and free. I'll take her for a silly, rebellious country girl now and then, so she doesn't run wild and remains a discreet girl. I'm going to leave her in this office. I know she needs privacy and a big window. And I'll keep Katz and Menken from bothering her too much. Maybe I'll have Ronald Troupe fill in for you on your issues.
– I'm fine with that.
– Well, let's go to Perry and explain it to him. Remember, you're a son to him.
They both left the office.
Far away, Venus, Solar System
Superwoman crossed flying the hot, gaseous atmosphere of Venus. She had been traveling through space for several days, receiving more direct sunlight than she had ever received in her life. She was hungry, tired, sleepy, she had never held her breath so long… but the closer she got to the sun, the stronger she felt, and the less she actually had to hold her breath. Superwoman could also move faster. Those days had been strange for her, like a strange dream. She doubted she had been awake or conscious during the entire journey. It was strange to propel herself through space, it wasn't exactly flying, it was more like swimming or gliding. All her wounds had healed, but some scars remained on her hands and body. She had always prided herself on the perfection of her skin, but now she was proud of those wounds as well. She was still pushing or dragging the corpse of the monster that was not her doomsday after all, which seemed to have frozen during the journey in space.
Superwoman felt as if a long time had passed, as if things had an enormous logic for her, and most of all, she felt calm and at peace with herself. She felt a strange warmth and gratitude, and pride in having done her duty. She wanted to go home to Earth, but she was at peace.
Venus was a scorching, desert-like place, with a strange yellowish light, full of fire and storms. Hell must be like this place. Flying over the surface of Venus was not unlike Earth, although it felt a little lighter. Her suit was half undone, she felt embarrassed, but fortunately no one could see her. A mountain was throwing lightning and a strange fire, Superwoman flew over it, it was a volcano. She could see a fire pit. The monster's body was softening and deforming. Without even looking at it, she threw the creature's body into the fire of the volcano, which seemed to devour it indifferently. She stared at the flames of the volcano for some minutes…Teke-Li-Li… What could that mean?
It's over, I have to go home.
Like a bolt of lightning, she took off and, in a few seconds, as if she was a particle of light, she found herself outside Venus, reaching out to the sun in the middle of space. She had never felt so strong, so light, so at peace.
Time to go back.
She pushed herself to full speed. Space lost its shape, everything was a tunnel of blurred light, interspersed with memories of her own life and desires, but she knew she would find herself home eventually.
Smallville, Kansas, June 10, 1949
Martha was walking the dogs in the field as she watched the sunset. She carried a Bible, a photo album, and a portable lamp. The sunset was warm, and the cicadas were chirping. She thought about sitting in a tree that Joe had cut down many years ago when Clara accidentally trunked it while jumping. Martha was still sad and nervous…where would her daughter be…she turned automatically towards her house and on the second floor of her house, in Clara's bedroom, she saw a light on.
Martha screamed at the top of her lungs and ran towards the house, knocking over the lamp, while the dogs followed her barking. Before she reached her house, Clara, dressed in a simple nightgown, was standing levitating in front of her.
– My dear Ma!
– My daughter… Where have you been?
– I had to recover and get rid of the monster far away from here… I will tell you everything.
Mother and daughter hugged each other crying.
Hours later, Clara was in the Fortress of Solitude, sitting on a cyclopean metal stool while Kelex buzzed around her, repairing her Superwoman costume and cape.
– Soon it will be ready, Milady.
– Who taught you to talk like that, Kelex? How many radio shows do you listen to a day?
– 67 from 14 countries, Milady.
– And why Milady?
Kelex didn't answer, the robot concentrated on emitting a kind of laser that replicated the texture next to a tear in her suit or cape. Soon the supersuit was fully repaired and shinier than ever. Superwoman extended her cape and watched herself on a wall as dark as obsidian that acted as a mirror.
– Kelex, please bring me up to date on the events of the past two weeks.
The robot began a rambling summary of everything it had picked up over the radio. The robot had learned just about every language on Earth by listening to the radio and translating it into Kryptonian, but the construction of its human language sometimes seemed strange. In the superheroine's absence, diplomatic tensions between America and its allies and the USSR had reached a breaking point, as had crime. The government was accused of lying about Superwoman's status and about the origin of the monster, which had been blamed on negligence in a private, illegal experiment by the late Lex Luthor.
– Lex Luthor, dead?
– That was what the Radio said, Milady.
Clara couldn't believe it.
– Kelex… it means something in Kryptonian, "Teke-Li-Li."?
– Yes, Milady, it means "the eternal course," it's a popular statement from Krypton's past, from the era of space exploration, between fifty and eight thousand years before the destruction of Krypton. Such a motto later fell into disuse. It speaks of the Kryptonians' manifest destiny to dominate all species in the universe and spread to the stars. Of their duty to colonize, conquer, multiply and know the entire universe.
Teke-Li-Li… The Eternal Course
– Thank you, Kelex, you can go back to listening to the radio, dear.
Superwoman looked thoughtfully at the robot, without humanoid features, with strange and cyclopean shapes, but strangely kind and for which she felt a kind of affection. The robot seemed to sincerely enjoy listening to the radio and had learned to read books and remember their contents. Perhaps one day she could share Kelex and his vast knowledge with Earth's scientists.
Superwoman left the Fortress of Solitude and took off at superspeed, thinking of the phrase the monster had said before it died… Teke-Li-Li… The eternal course… Zod had also referred to this phrase during his confrontation with her. And Luthor? Was he really dead?
Radio around the world reported Superwoman's return and all her rescues and appearances everywhere. Superwoman's first rescue was helping a Girl Scout trapped in a canyon in Wyoming, scolding her and taking her back to her hometown. Then came muggings and accidents, humanitarian aid, a landslide in Ethiopia, a fishing boat wreck in Portugal. In the wee hours of the morning, spinning like a top at super speed, she formed a whirlwind and took into the stratosphere all the horrible London smog that was collapsing the hospitals. Everywhere she went she received applause and glowing looks of appreciation. She felt happy and fulfilled.
Superwoman's return scuttled Stalin's plans for increased military and diplomatic pressure, and the U.S. delegation walked away from the negotiating table over the status of Romania and Poland. Many criminals were convinced that the superheroine would not return, and Superwoman had more work to do than ever since her red-caped beginnings. She flew around the world nonstop for 24 hours, helping anyone in need. Then she flew to Washington D.C. to talk to the president.
Superwoman listened with shock and sadness as President Truman explained how she had been completely unaware of Luthor's plans and actions.
– …it is national security, Mrs. Kala-El, and the protection of our democracy. It is the greatest betrayal of the last century in our country. If the truth were known, paranoia about espionage would be total, and our entire intelligence and technological effort would collapse. The political atmosphere would be unbreathable, and we would be forced into a much more open confrontation with the USSR. We are using Luthor's betrayal to pressure the USSR government for a peaceful solution in Eastern Europe, and we have stopped almost all experiments with Kryptonian technology or elements…we are willing to sign treaties with the USSR to stop the arms race and research into alien technology with offensive intent. If we can bring Stalin to the negotiating table, perhaps joint working groups can be formed for the space race and to guarantee the right of self-determination for Eastern European countries. ….
– 812 people died, Mr. President, 812, and millions could have died.
– Fortunately, you were there to prevent it.
– Luthor is being held illegally! The truth is being hidden from the American people and the world!
– To avoid chaos, war, and death. Truth and peace are two different things.
– Luthor deserves a fair and public trial!
– He will receive it. Under the laws of national security and war. Luthor is a colonel in a foreign army, as far as we know, and has held a Soviet passport for five years. He is being treated as a prisoner of war of the highest sensitivity.
– This is a fraud of the law!
– Are you a lawyer, Mrs. El? I thank you with all my heart for what you are doing, and I want you to help us make peace with the Russians and avoid wars… and monsters. The government will pay half of the victims' compensation, take some of the responsibility for letting an "irresponsible" Luthor conduct dangerous experiments. We will expropriate and break up TELCORP into several companies, and completely redirect our relationship with the alien technological and organic remnants. You know the whole truth, but don't tell me how to run my country. Or run for office. You want to save lives and peace? Taky my place, or don't you ever lie?
Superwoman ducked her head in doubt.
– I have a gift for you, Mrs. El," the President said as he signed and sealed a piece of paper, "This is an authorization to visit Luthor in his prison. So, you can see the trust I have in you. But don't do anything foolish, or you'll regret it. You are a citizen with the same duties and rights as everyone else.
Superwoman landed in a desolate wasteland in Kentucky, where the President had directed her to go. It took her a while to find the place. A small military base in the middle of nowhere. They seemed to have been alerted to her arrival. She was distressed and offended when the base guards pointed at her. She was met by the base commander who told her that he had already spoken to the President and carefully reviewed the sealed letter the President had given to Superwoman.
She entered silently, amidst looks of suspicion from the soldiers that she could not understand…well, it seems they have decided to have a different relationship with me in the government. In a corner of the base, inside a barbed wire fence, was a row of flowerpots, and she immediately recognized Luthor. He was not wearing prison pajamas, but civilian summer clothes, a pair of pegged pants and a white shirt. She approached the barbed wire. Luthor glanced at her without turning.
– I was wondering when you'd show up.
– I warned you many times that you'd end up in prison, Luthor.
Luthor turned with a mischievous expression.
– This is, Kala-El, not a prison. It's an illegal detention center. I am a missing person. I was arrested in violation of my constitutional rights, denied a fair trial, and treated like a secret foreign prisoner of war. All while lying to the world about my whereabouts and my death, and lying to my family…is this the American way?
– You caused the deaths of hundreds of people…they say you are a traitor.
– The United States of America is an administrative accident and a productive unit, it is stupid to be loyal to it…I am a patriot of humanity.
– You could have killed millions.
Luthor looked at her thoughtfully.
– That is a price I was willing to pay. You, unless someone stops you, will be directly or indirectly responsible for many more millions of deaths and ultimately the extinction of mankind or all that is good about being human.
Clara was frustrated by Luthor's cruelty and harshness.
– You understand nothing, Luthor, absolutely nothing… a man as brilliant as you, and with so many supposedly good feelings… how did you get into so many crazy things and become an outlaw and a murderer?
Luthor turned back to the flowerpots.
– Because I do not follow your rules or your lies. You claim to stand for love, truth, justice and the American way…but you stand here before me and allow a citizen, no matter how criminal in theory, to be deprived of a fair trial to which he is entitled by law. You allow obscene lies to be told to the entire American people and all the peoples of the World…Anyways your own life is a lie, you probably lie to yourself…too many remnants of a human education. But sooner or later you will understand the truth and you will understand that you are not one of us and you'll never be. You will understand that we are not compatible. I only hope my fellow humans are ready for that day.
Luthor smiled as he saw a tear fall from one of Superwoman's deep blue eyes.
– They won't kill me, Kala-El, and they won't send me back to the USSR. They need me, I know you best, I know your kind best. I lost control, some incompetent Soviets let themselves be captured and left me unprotected. The alternative was to end up here immediately or to end up here and try before taking one last shot to finish you off. And I almost succeeded. I was half an hour away from bombarding you with the pathogen…
– What is the pathogen?" Superwoman asked him in an authoritative voice that hid some fear.
– Oh… they didn't tell you? That's a good sign!
He's provoking me, he just wants to provoke me.
– Kal-El, both in Washington and in Moscow they know that eventually they will have to do something with you, against you. They will continue to work on it. I am being punished here because I have broken their bureaucratic rules and outdated loyalties. But I know you best. I haven't even told them your secret identity, that little game of double life you cling to so tightly. It's my life insurance. They have a psychological profile of me, they know I'm physically weak but mentally strong. Torture would be useless; I would die or be useless before I could speak. Kala-El's "human" identity is my little secret, it will be until they present me with a good plan to protect humanity and get you out of our lives.
– You'll never get out of here, Luthor.
– I am the man in the iron mask. It's not important that I get out of here.
– I pity you, Luthor. You're consumed with hate and fear. You have a twisted and delusional view of love for others, love for your fellow man. You are much less human than I am. You are alienated from all of us…I believe in forgiveness and redemption; I will pray for you. You will have plenty of time to think about what you have done and the lives you have taken. May you understand, repent, and find peace. I'll visit you from time to time… you're not crazy… I hope you can't be a monster…
Luthor tried to play a contemptuous laugh but was left with an awkward grimace. Superwoman looked at him with infinite sadness, the soldiers were keeping a safe distance.
– Kal-El, don't forget that you are complicit in an illegal detention and disappearance, and a great lie to the American people and the entire world.
Superwoman turned her back on him and took off noisily. She was lost in the heights.
Moscow, KGB Headquarters, June 12, 1949
In an austere white room, a man in a general's uniform handed out folders to civilians and military personnel.
– Here is the report on the event in Metropolis two weeks ago and the return of the creature known as Superwoman.
– What do we know about Luthor?" another uniformed man interrupted.
– Arrested by his government at an undisclosed location. In any case, we must forget about him.
– He is a colonel of the Soviet Army and was our best agent. We have never had an agent so well positioned in the high spheres of the enemy. Thanks to him we have the atomic bomb, a working principle for the hydrogen bomb, and we know the specific state of all American research in alien technology and biology- interrupted a fat but elegantly dressed civilian.
– But no doubt, because of his upbringing and psychiatric problems, he had obvious limitations that we were unable to detect in time. He was a romantic, hysterical, egomaniacal bourgeois…basically Hitler with considerably more intelligence and no racial prejudices…and he was never properly educated in socialism. He had too much power and autonomy to be a loyal agent.
– We want the Politburo to take responsibility…who had the fantastic idea of sending the body of a living Kryptonian we took from the Americans back to Luthor in Metropolis? We lost a useful agent, however deranged, and a first-rate offensive weapon. The logical thing to do would have been to keep the body and get Luthor's extraction - The intervention of this civilian startled everyone in the room… to take responsibility…
– Luthor did not want to be extracted, it is one of his inconsistencies and hysterics. And we lack the technology and raw materials to experiment on the body of a living Kryptonian, Luthor had it.
– It is an unforgivable mistake. We were as impatient and hysterical as Luthor.
– The Americans are still working on weapons to neutralize Superwoman. They never know when she might turn against them. She is an alien, after all.
– In this connection, I want you to know that we have sent to Metropolis one of our best agents, Ballerina, who served us so well in the war and in the 1930s, and who is an excellent spy in reactionary circles. Harold, another of our jewels, has just arrived in Washington.
– What will Ballerina do?
– Watching people Luthor has identified as part of Superwoman's entourage or interest. We are very close to discovering her secret identity and therefore her weaknesses, the human factor of the Superwoman case.
– If there is any human factor there…I have my doubts…
– We already have Baroness Von Gunther in Moscow. We are all repulsed by fascists, but she is a brilliant scientist, and she has a great deal of information about American technological efforts that complements the information Luthor has sent us.
– That's all well and good, but I think the priority is to discuss the radio signals we're receiving from space, from a place we've calculated to be near Titan. The presence of more aliens is of immense severity, and we need a containment plan. I think we must deal with this radio signal problem on a planetary scale and not from a political point of view. We must convince Comrade Stalin to share this information with the Americans… there must be no repeat of 1946, nor can we rely on Superwoman…
Planet Building, Metropolis, June 11, 1949
Louis Lane nervously read the front page of the newspaper…
A full-length photo of the superheroine flying above the crowd took up the rest of the front page. Louis was relieved. He had cried for the first time since the liberation of Dachau when he heard on the radio of Clara's return. The joy in the city was total. At the newspaper, the exaggerated joy of Lucy Weiss and Jimmy Olsen made him suspect that they knew what he also knew. But anger and fear soon returned. He did not want to see her. He was happy and relieved that she was back, but he didn't want to see her or talk to her. But he had to. It would be a hard pill to swallow and then he would be at peace.
He heard some greetings and a familiar voice outside the office. Clara was there. His heart skipped a beat. She heard Cat Grant's voice.
– Luckily Superwoman got back before you did, Clara…we were told by Louis that it was a doctor thing…What did they tell you?
– Oh, I was just really freaked out by some articles about heart disease and wanted to make sure my doctor ruled it out.
– Here's the least hypochondriac woman in the world- Katz interrupted sardonically.
– Actually, and this is a consensus around the world, the worst patients are and always will be men, which is why Moliere's The Imaginary Sick Man has a man in the lead role," Cat said.
Clara slipped away; she was also very nervous. With her x-ray vision she could see that Louis was standing in his office, dejected. She had too many mixed emotions. Clara sighed and went in.
Louis looked at her with kindness and some distance. She was wearing a cream suit, a burgundy shirt, a dark ribbon in his hair and a hummingbird brooch. She was not quite aware of the look of love and longing she was giving him. Clara shut the door behind her.
– You're back.
– I'm glad to see you.
Clara rushed towards Louis to kiss him, but he stopped her with a sweet gesture on her shoulders and instead gave her a short, light hug. Clara felt enormous pressure in her heart.
– I think we need to talk Clara, maybe later when you're calmer and more settled… and tell me how you've been.
– I'm fine Louis, I had to go far away to recover from my wounds and make sure that the monster was completely destroyed.
– I'm happy to hear that.
– And you?
– I… I'm leaving the paper today.
– I'm going to be deputy editor at WORLD magazine, same publisher, same building, I'll still report to Perry…but I won't be involved much, it's a transition period. Opinion columns. A season, until Alina Brystova-Baker, the new editor from London, is more settled.
Clara's chin trembled.
– What about me?
– Perry and Cat have some very good news for you, I can tell you. You're a senior reporter now, with this office all to yourself. Cat is going to give you very few orders… you're going to keep your autonomy.
– I mean us.
Don't do this to me, please, you stupid man, you said you loved me, that it didn't matter….
Louis looked at her with a sad expression and turned away.
– I think the situation is very difficult and confusing right now and we need to think about it.
– Louis, you said you loved me and that it didn't matter!
He reached over and took her hand.
– Keep your voice down, for God's sake!
– What happened these days? Didn't you miss me? Weren't you worried about me?
– These days have been hell; I haven't stopped thinking about you.
– Don't you love me?
– Yes, I love you, but…
– But you had to comfort me because I had to kill a monster and I just saved your life.
– It's not that, Clara…
– Then what is it?
Please don't, Louis, you still don't understand, don't do this to me.
Clara, I don't know who you are, I don't know who you are, I can't, I can't stand it.
– Clara, right now I don't know who I love… I don't know exactly who you are… or what you need. I don't think I'm the right person to accompany you.
– Louis, everything I've done….
– Clara, I don't blame you for anything, absolutely nothing. I don't even think that what you've been doing all these years can be called lying. But God bless you, be aware of who you are, all these years I've…
– I am exactly the same woman, the same… I am always Clara Kent… there is not a moment of the day when I am not Clara Kent… Superwoman is just what I do. The duty I must fulfill.
– I need Clara Kent but I don't understand Superwoman… and the world needs Superwoman.
– Of course, the world needs Superwoman," Clara replied in a low but passionate voice, "Unfortunately, it does. I can't give up helping others or being Superwoman.
– I didn't ask you to.
– It is my eternal course…
– Excuse me?
– I say, being Superwoman and helping others is my eternal course…" Tears streamed down her face, and she felt as if she had understood something she had refused to understand for a long time.
– Indeed… it is so, it cannot be otherwise. I can be with Clara Kent and give myself to her. But I cannot live to share Superwoman with the world. I am a mortal, and I cannot live with a goddess.
– I'm a mortal too… or didn't you know that monster almost killed me?
– Clara, I…
– Please read my letters, read them… I don't want to talk anymore, I can't…Read them. Read them. There are too many things to say and right now I feel very tired and upset. All these years…
– We've been in love in silence, while you hid from me that you were the super-powerful being I denounced as a danger every week in the press and on the radio.
– And what did you want me to do?
– I told you that I didn't blame you for anything. This is a difficult situation to get out of. We need time and nothing guarantees that we will succeed.
Clara wiped away her tears, not sure if she was angry at Louis, at herself, at the red cape she wore under her clothes, at the world, or if she was just upset and disappointed. Cat Grant unexpectedly opened the door.
– My dear Atalanta and Hippomenes, Alina is here.
Louis left the office in one bound and closed the door behind him. Clara wiped her tears and cleaned her glasses as she put her makeup back on. She went out. In the center of the newsroom, a group of people surrounded a remarkably elegant woman in a huge hat. She looked a little older than Clara. She had a round face, like a little girl or a doll, but feline green eyes. All her hair was hidden inside the hat, which looked like an extended turban. Perry Weiss kissed her hand.
– Alina dear, this is Clara Kent, I would tell you that she is one of our young promises, but she has more than fulfilled her promise… Clara, this is Alina Brystova-Baker, the new editor of WORLD magazine.
Clara held out her hand with a vague smile.
– No hands, Cherie, I'm Russian and English but educated in France, give me two kisses… I've been told you're a really wonderful lady.
Aline kissed her twice on the cheek. She forced the pronunciation of each word, sometimes insisting on a French accent, sometimes as if she was Russian, and other times as if she was Scottish. Clara felt intimidated by Alina's flamboyant presentation.
Alina tugged at Louis' cheeks.
– I've known this stripling since he appeared in Paris in 1933, and then I was with him in Spain in 1936 and 1937…better forget that, dear? Franco's nationalists did not believe that a Russian Jewess, even if she was a beautiful white émigré, and an American Jew, even if he was baptized, sympathized with them. They nearly shot us in Santander. That was rude.
Some people smile uncomfortably.
– We've all been around a lot; the world is really loko-loko, Alina said with a big smile.
Some flattering laughter broke out.
– Alina was in the anti-Nazi resistance in France! -Perry said to the others
– It's just that the war touched me in Paris when I was trying on evening growns, and I couldn't escape to London. Captain Baker took advantage of it to get rid of me, and I had some modest adventures…but Perry's an exaggerator…I did deliver a few letters once. But I was mostly hiding from the Vichy filth in a basement writing a war diary.
– It's one of the best sellers in France.
– How is General DeGaulle Alina?
– He is such a gentleman, such a handsome man, such a good father… I can't wait for him to come back to power and give the Communists a broom. Right now, the three greatest men in the world are General DeGaulle, the Pope, and Ben Gurion, even though he is a socialist. Now… which one of you will take me to the best restaurants and bars in Metropolis? Di liebe is zees, nor zi iz gut mit broyt!
Perry laughed loudly while lighting a cigar and replying in Yiddish to Alina's jokes.
– Cat, I didn't know you had a lost European twin sister-Clara tried to make a joke, but nobody laughed.
Lucy Weiss grabbed Clara's arm; Lucy had just realized Clara was back.
– You make me the happiest woman in the world by being back here…and don't listen to this parrot. She's a quirky friend of Louis and Cat from the French center right. She got the WORLD Magazine position because she's friends with half the politicians in London and Paris," Lucy whispered.
– I have a lot to tell you," Clara told her in a very low voice.
– I know, I know…
Clara's super hearing picked up Alina talking softly to Louis.
I'm looking forward to working with you, my ochi-chyornye, you haven't written to me for months! You're a very absent-minded boy…oh, Kim Philby is in Washington as First Secretary at the Embassy, he's looking forward to seeing you and all the Angleton boys. He gets funnier and more charming every day.
An editor loudly interrupted the scene.
– The Toyman has escaped! They don't know how! A damn tunnel to some pipes! They can't find him!
A murmur of astonishment ran through the newsroom.
– Who is the Toyman? -asked Alina
– A psychopath…a former inventor and entrepreneur. He went crazy in the Great Depression and became a serial killer. He's been in prison for over fifteen years…he's the one that put explosives in toys. He killed 47 people-answered Louis.
– Ah, what a lot of characters you have here in Metropolis, is going to be a very funny life.
My eternal course…
Clara slipped out and went to her office, quickly making sure no one noticed. A human eye would have barely noticed the scene, but Clara removed her hair tie and let her curl fall over her forehead. She took off her glasses and jacket as she opened her shirt to reveal her blue tights and the red and yellow crest of the House of El. She pulled down her stockings and skirt as she unfolded her red cape. She looked at herself in the windowpane for a moment. She looked strong and beautiful herself, despite her look of sadness.
Up, up, and away!
She opened the window and flew into the sky to descend upon the prison from which the Toyman had escaped.
Joy was returning to her heart.
This is a job for Superwoman!