FINALEShi Hao Xia Savings and Trust
Two Months Ago"All right, everybody down!"
shouted a gravely voice, coming from a man decked from head to toe in hi-tech armor. "This place is now officially under the gun of the one an' only Barrage! You don't try anything stupid, and I don't blast any of you to dust!"
As the panic-stricken crowd cowered before him, the armored man sneered, brandishing the massive cannon slung under his right arm."Well, maybe I don't blast most of you, anyway,"
he said. "Depends on my mood."
A green-uniformed security guard began to approach him from behind, drawing a taser from his back pocket. Before he could reach him, however, Barrage wheeled around, smashing the man across the jaw with the barrel of his cannon. With a sickening crack
and a spray of blood, the guard crumpled to the ground, a loose tooth clattering across the tiled floor."Ohhhh, man,"
said Jimmy Olsen, peeking out from behind a teller's desk a few yards away, snapping photos of the armored criminal, "this is really bad.""You're telling me,"
Lois Lane said as she fumbled through her purse for her voice recorder. "This is the third place Barrage has hit in the past five days. There's no way a loser like this should be able to operate in Metropolis without Superman shutting him down in a hurry.""No kidding,"
said Jimmy, his timbre beginning to shake nervously. "Where the heck is the big guy, anyway?"
Lois sighed, her own worry plain as day across her face.
Clark had been staying over at her apartment when, in the small hours of the morning, he had gotten out of bed to 'check on something.' He hadn't been back since.
She'd gotten used to him vanishing in a split-second to go tend to some emergency on the other end of the world, but he was usually back within a few minutes, an hour or two at the most.
This time, however, nobody had seen or heard from Superman in five days.
She knew danger came with the job, but this was Clark
, a man who could shrug off death rays and bunker-busters like they were nothing. This was a man who was caught in a nuclear blast, and was back on his feet an hour later.
What the hell could have happened to him?"Wish I could tell you,"
she answered, not wanting to see what the thug with the cannon was about to do next.
Sure enough, Barrage turned his gun on the downed security guard, the barrel beginning to glow a bright blue."Looks like you people need an example,"
he said, sporting an eager grin as he charged his weapon. "This is what happens when you fu--"
The interior of the Shi Hao Xia Savings and Trust Bank erupted into a storm of flying papers and upended furniture as a gale-force wind blasted through the room. A blur of blue and red, mixing together into a violet comet, surrounded Barrage for a moment, the sound of crunching metal and electrical sparks emerging from inside the blur.
Jimmy peered out from behind his cover, and as the chaos cleared, he was able to snap a photo of Barrage, now unarmed and stripped of most of his suit, held by the scruff of his neck by a familiar figure."That's enough of that....Barrage, was it?"
said Superman, his old T-shirt and jeans replaced with a sleek blue uniform. "You're not hurting anyone else today.""What the--""Superman!"
Lois exclaimed, jumping out from behind the desk to approach the Man of Steel. Frankly, she wasn't sure if she wanted to kiss him or slap him across the mouth. "Where the hell have you been?!"
Caught off-guard somewhat by the question, Superman gaped for a moment."I, erm, I think I should finish dealing with this guy first before going into that,"
he said, embarrassed."Oh, he's easy,"
Lois scoffed. "Philip Karnowsky, a career criminal who's been working as a hold-up man for various syndicates for a few years now. This whole 'Barrage' routine is new, though. He hit the Shen Li Po Gardens five days ago, killed twelve and injured another thirty or so. Then two days ago he leveled Shen Lo's Electronics, killed five and injured six. This is his third job this week.""This isn't a 'job,' lady, this is a war!"
Karnowsky snarled, struggling in vain against Superman's grip. "I'm a one-man army, an' this isn't--""Oh, and that 'one-man army' bit?"
Lois continued, "You really shouldn't have been so obvious with your targets. All three of the places you hit are owned by the Sheeda Triads. That's why I knew to be here today. The Sheedas are the biggest rival to Intergang in the city. So while you're pretending to be some independent lone-wolf lunatic, it's blatantly obvious you're really working for Bruno Mannheim, aren't you?""That would explain where he got his gear!"
Jimmy said, snapping pictures of the apprehended killer. "Everyone's saying that Mannheim's been dealing with experimental super-weapons, trying to find the firepower to take on metahumans like....well, like you. Barrage is--...was packing a one-of-a-kind particle projector cannon, one that STAR Labs was saying could have flattened a city block if he went all-out with it!""A particle cannon, eh?"
Superman said, looking at Karnowsky with a raised eyebrow. "That might have actually hurt if you had the chance to hit me with it.""Y-you....you p-piece of--....."
Karnowsky stammered before shouting out. "I'LL KILL YOU!""No you won't,"
Superman responded, not even the least bit phased by the criminal's threat."Anyway, now that he's taken care of,"
Lois cut back in, whipping out her voice recorder, "Let's get to the important question: where have you been for the past five days? How come this moron was able to get away with killing seventeen people while you were gone?"
The tone of her voice made it perfectly clear to the Man of Steel that this wasn't Lois Lane, his lover and closest personal confidant, asking questions for her own sake. This was Lois Lane, the hard-nosed reporter, asking questions to a powerful man who needed to be held accountable."It's.....it's kind of a long story,"
he answered sheepishly. "One that I don't necessarily want to just shout out in public."
Lois, not happy with having to wait but knowing she wasn't going to get her answers just yet, gave Superman a nonplussed look, then put her voice recorder away."Rooftop, one hour,"
she said, determined to do this on her terms. "Make sure they put this guy away, then I want something I can use."
Rooftop of the Daily Planet
One Hour Later"......I can't use any of this,"
Lois said, throwing up her hands in frustration."Sorry, but it's the truth,"
Clark shrugged, an apologetic look on his face."True or not, if I run this, Perry's going to kick me out in the street, if he doesn't have me sent to the looney bin,"
she said, pacing back and forth. "I mean, Superman disappears for five days, comes back with a new suit-- which, off the record, does a phenomenal job of showing off your pecs-- and when asked where he's been, what do I tell everyone? That you were exploring an abandoned alien colony at the North Pole? That you were nearly trapped forever in some kind of black-hole dimension by your robot butler? That your new suit is based on an ancient extraterrestrial version of the Knights of the Round Table, made for you by your birth-parents' ghosts?""I know it sounds crazy--""It sounds certifiably insane, Smallville,"
Lois cut him off. "And for all I can prove, you might have just made it all up.""Come on, Lois, you know me,"
Clark pleaded."That's right,"
Lois nodded. "I know you. I believe you. I trust you. You tell me that you've spent the past five days clearing out some mysterious Fortress of Solitude, and I'll stand by you.""'Fortress of Solitude,' heh,"
he chuckled. "I'm using that.""But that's not the point,"
Lois said. "Even if I'm able to convince Perry to let me run that story, how do you think the public is going to react-- let alone people like Luthor or Godfrey-- when they hear that not only is Superman from another planet, but he's got a secret hideout full of crazy alien technology? How long before half the world's governments are banging on the door demanding you share Kryptonian secrets with them? Or before some nutjob finds a way in to get their hands on a doomsday device? Hell, how many obsessive Super-stalkers are going to end up freezing to death in the Arctic Circle hoping to find your secret getaway and sneak a picture of you naked in the shower or something?""I don't know,"
Clark admitted, scratching the back of his head. "I don't want to just hide it away and act like it's not there, but I don't know what's in it. I still need to make sure if it's safe for Ea--....for people to explore. If the things in the Fortress can actually be used for humanity's benefit, or if there's a risk of accidentally releasing something that might hurt people. Then, I can start letting in people I trust. Until then, I don't know.....maybe we just sit on the story?"
Lois rubbed the bridge of her nose, trying to suppress a stress headache."You've really put me in a tricky situation here, Smallville,"
she said. "People died while you were gone, and they need to know why you weren't there. I'm not going to write a lie, but there's no way they'll believe the truth. And if I just sit on it, well....that's another one added to the great big pile of Clark Kent's secrets I've been building at the expense of my journalistic integrity. It's getting pretty damn difficult for you to be you, for me to be me, and for us to be, well...us.""...are you saying we shouldn't be...us?"
Lois paused for a moment as she thought it over, then shook her head."No, no way in hell,"
she said, her conviction returning. "We'll make it work. You do a thousand things every day that are just plain impossible. I think I can deal with 'difficult.' Besides, I remember how mopey and moody you were when you were trying to go it alone; no way I'm letting you go all navel-gazing again."
A wave of relief washed over Clark, and he gave a smile that could light up Glennmorgan Square."Good, that's....great actually,"
he said. "I, erm, I still need to tell Mom about everything, but once I get back, I'll cook dinner tonight. Sound good?""You'd better, you owe me after running off like that,"
Lois said, putting her arms around him. "And hey, whatever questions about yourself, or your home, or whatever else might be bugging you, you don't have to go looking for that by yourself, okay? Whatever happens, you and me? We're in this together. Got it?""Got it,"
Clark smiled, as Lois's hand cradled the back of his head to pull him close for a long, deep kiss.
All of their individual worries, all of their doubts and concerns and fears for the future, all fell away as they embraced. None of it mattered compared to this.
Clark Kent, Kal-El of Krypton, may have been the last of his kind.....
.....but come what may, he was not alone.
The Danvers Farm
Outskirts of Midvale, Delaware
The night was quiet and still, the air of late fall just cold enough to turn the dew into a thin layer of frost that would be thawed by sunrise. A few clouds drifted lazily through the deep inky black sky, glittering with stars that, just a short drive away in Metropolis, would be drowned out by the lights of the city itself. For nearly a mile in all directions, the only creature stirring was a rabbit that had gotten through the fence and was gnawing on a head of lettuce.
The Danvers Farm was well known to the people of Midvale, but somewhere they rarely visited. Devoutly Amish until the last generation or so, the very large family was known for having the best pumpkins in the tri-county area, as well as the worst social skills. This of course led to all sorts of unsavory rumors circulating about them, but in truth they mostly just kept to themselves and had trouble keeping up with the rest of the world. Fred Danvers, his wife Edna, and the immense network of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived on the farm or in the surrounding country were well-meaning people who were all too happy to welcome guests and visitors, but couldn't get their heads around using a smartphone, let alone adjust to a world populated by superhumans, and would just as well not be bothered by it.
The cold night air began to stir, at first a gentle breeze, slowly growing into a powerful whirlwind. The rush of air grew stronger and louder, rumbling like a freight train before a bright flash of lightning and a thunderclap that might have woken the dead sent the confused rabbit in the field scampering away into the night. At the heart of the whirlwind, flashes of white and deep black flickered in and out of existence, barely perceptible sparks at first, before they began to take shape.
As the wind grew to the strength of a tornado, tearing up the ground near the heart of the whirlwind, the flashing white and black formed a swirling sphere, a three-dimensional hole in space that began to suck in air and dirt and anything else caught in its pull. Just as the storm grew to its most violent, the white and black lights gave way, and suddenly the air being pulled towards it was pushed away, the sound like a bomb going off.
Where the hole in space had been, there was now a shining silver pod, about six feet in diameter, polished to a mirror shine.
The lights in the Danvers farmhouse had come on, and a lanky, middle-aged man, still wearing his pajamas and bed robe but carrying a double-barreled shotgun, wandered out of the house to approach the silver sphere that had appeared out of nowhere."Is everything okay, Fred?"
a voice called from back inside the house."Stay inside, honey,"
Fred Danvers called back to his wife. "I, er, I don't rightly know what I'm lookin' at here. Keep the kids inside until I say it's--"
Suddenly, a line of golden light appeared to split the silver pod down the middle. Nervously, Fred held his shotgun up, not sure if he was being visited by an angel, a devil, little green men from Mars, or some elaborate prank. The pod opened, bathing Fred with light so bright he had to look away.
came a voice from inside the pod. "Y-you stay back now, y'hear?"
Fred stammered, the gun rattling in his trembling hands. "I-I- don't wanna h-have to h-h-hurt you, but y-you need t-to--"
Before he could realize what was happening, a smaller silver orb emerged from the larger one, and began to circle around him. Fred could feel a tingling inside of his head, like something was poking around inside his brain.
On instinct, he raised his gun to fire, but a hand reached out from the golden light and, with one finger, turned the gun aside."I'll ask again,"
said the voice, belonging to a beautiful young woman with long blonde hair. "Where am I......and where is Kal-El?"