Chapter 37: Heritage
At the first sight of the Fortress of Solitude, Jason gaped in awe. Although this was Lois’ fourth visit, she felt a fresh sense of wonder at its sublime majesty, especially seeing it through her son’s eyes. She looked at her son’s little face, watching the fear and worry of before giving way to excited anticipation.
She could only imagine what he was thinking right now. The cool guy Mommy worked with, the superhero he had seen through almost immediately, and connected with deeply, was his father. Awe, worry and amazed disbelief had to be mixing together in his child’s mind. He had not questioned the truth, at least not aloud – not when all the adults important to him had confirmed it. But even if he had questioned it, the seismic shift he was experiencing inside must make the truth impossible to deny. Like the five-year-old’s version of Occam’s Razor – the simplest explanation – I have powers, I must be his son – probably made the most sense.
They smoothly glided down through the immense dark crystal pillars, gracefully interweaving at unearthly angles. Seeing it again, she felt a vestigial sadness at its cold, crystalline beauty, now as dead as the world that spawned it. Lois turned her attention to Clark, his red cape rippling gracefully behind them as they descended. A look of deep sadness passed across his face and she knew he was heartsore about seeing this monument to his long-dead homeworld a shadow of its former glory. Did he feel another deep pang of hurt at the sight? Not only was he absolutely certain that Krypton was gone now, but his only link to it was gone as well… Her heart went out to him, as she watched him reaffix his mask of confidence for his son.
“Here we are, Jason.” Clark spoke in a quiet, cheerful voice, as he set them both down gently near the center of the structure. “This is where I learned where I came from.” His somber gaze traveled to the lifeless console. “Where I met my Kryptonian father for the first time.”
And the place where Jason was conceived, Lois thought with fierce pride. For some reason, it just felt right that this was the first place they’d brought their son after revealing his heritage to him.
“It’s so…” Jason seemed to search for the words. “…big. And cold…” He shivered, and Lois pulled him closer for warmth.
“I’m sorry… I wish I could make it warmer in here.” Clark gestured futilely over to the console. “After Lex Luthor stole the crystals, it just hasn’t been the same here.” He swallowed as if to push down his loss, and looked down at his son. “I could warm you up with heat vision, if you want.”
Jason’s eyes grew wide and he nodded quickly, eagerly. Lois watched Clark move the beam from her son’s feet to the top of his tousled head, the air rippling with heat as it traveled upward. The overflow warmed her just enough as well. And this time, there was not even a hint of eroticism in the gesture… instead, it felt almost like a warm blanket enveloping the two of them.
Jason shivered again, and she was sure it wasn’t from the cold by the faint smile that lit his small face. He then looked around again, more carefully. “So how did you find this place? Did you land here or something?”
“Well, it’s kind of a long story… My parents, the Kents, told me that they had found me and adopted me, that I was different. They warned me to be careful. But they didn’t tell me just how they found me.” As Clark talked, he slowly led them through the wide chamber toward the console, faintly illuminated by a shaft of natural light in the darkness. “After my father died, I found a green crystal…” He paused, remembering, “It somehow… called to me. I knew I had to take it up north. When I got here, I tossed it well away from me, into the snowy plain.” With a small smile that just touched the corners of his mouth, he added, “And this is what grew from that tiny ‘seed.’
“I’ve never really spent much time here… except right after it was created. This is where I learned all about my heritage.” He stepped with them onto the console dais. “There was a vast store of knowledge contained in the crystals here…” His face turned grave and sorrowful once again, and he traced the edges of one of the empty slots, lost in thought.
Jason looked absolutely awestruck with the sight of the gleaming device, even as dead as it was. He slowly reached a tentative hand toward it, and then flinched back. “Is it okay for me to touch it?” He looked back at his father questioningly.
Clark simply nodded.
As Jason gently touched the sides, standing on tiptoe to peer into the empty holes, Clark continued. “I wish that you could have seen my Kryptonian father’s image. Jor-El was quite impressive. A little bit stern and frightening, actually. But he had so much to teach me.” Clark began to settle a hand on Jason’s shoulder, possibly unsure of whether his touch would be welcomed, but going ahead anyway. Jason’s attention was completely riveted to the alien technology, and he didn’t react at all. “I hope I can be as helpful as he was in explaining all about Krypton.”
Full of unnamed emotions, Lois stayed silent, wanting to give Clark and Jason as much time to bond as possible. It was amazing to see them together, all barriers down, all secrets laid bare. To her eyes, it was almost as if a glow surrounded them, like a soft focus filter on an old Technicolor movie…
Wait a second.
That’s not just my imagination… There was a dim, unnatural glow, growing stronger by gradations, at the base of the console. The same glow she had imagined seeing the last time she was here.
Lois stepped closer, unconsciously putting her hand on the side of the device. Suddenly, the light from within doubled, then tripled in intensity, and Clark grimaced, placing a hand to his temples.
“Ahh…” he groaned slightly, wincing. He stepped back, as if to distance himself from the now fully illuminated console, shining in the shadows.
“What’s wrong?” Lois asked, turning away from the console and worriedly placing a hand on his arm. She didn’t spare another moment to wonder why the console was behaving so strangely. Any time Clark felt any sort of pain, she was immediately concerned.
“I don’t know…” His eyes pressed together briefly and he shook his head. “It’s like a psychic… shout…” He pinched the bridge of his nose and frowned.
At the same instant, out of the corner of her eye, Lois noticed Jason bending down slowly, as though spellbound. When she turned back to him, she saw his hand outstretched, its movement assured and confident this time, toward a bright point of light on the face of the console. Before she could warn him to be careful, she watched as his index finger, almost in slow motion, merged with the spot, creating a dazzling fractal beam that spread in all directions…
When her eyes readjusted, Jason was standing before them, trembling, with a vivid green crystal cradled in his palm. A hidden panel seemed to be closing, the edges blending back into the surface of the device. In a small voice, Jason apologized, “It seemed to call me…”
With an air of extreme shock and reverence, Clark lifted the emerald crystal from his son’s hand, while Lois hugged Jason to her side.
“I thought this was gone forever… that Luthor took them all…” He momentarily closed his eyes again, obviously overwhelmed, and then opened them only to fix them on the object he was holding as though it were a treasure. He stayed frozen in place for a few endless moments, staring into the heart of the crystal as if trapped there.
“Um, Clark…” Lois cleared her throat gently. She released Jason and touched his shoulder tenderly. “What if we… put it into the console?”
He started out of his fugue state, giving her a startled, slightly sheepish smile, and then gingerly tilted the precious gemstone into the middle slot. It settled in with a slight click.
At the sound, light – cold, beautiful white light – grew, radiating outward from the console, until the whole of the vast structure was transformed from a chill tomb to a place of luminescent warmth.
Lois and Jason both jumped as the deep, penetrating voice echoed in the cavernous room. Beside her, Clark gave a gasp of relief that sounded almost like a sob. Lois looked up into the splendor of the tall, leaning pillars above. She was met with the image of a white-haired, lined, but handsome visage of the man she could only assume was Clark’s father, Jor-El. She had only seen his mother, Lara, the time before.
The phantom locked eyes with Clark, whose vibrant blue eyes were sparkling with tears, and they nodded in mutual recognition. “Father,” Clark greeted, his voice soft with emotion.
Then the regal head tilted downward and pierced the eyes of her little boy. “My grandson.”
Lois shivered. Jason trembled beside her, caught in the patriarch’s gaze, and she wrapped an arm protectively around his shoulders again. How did he know? Some sort of DNA recognition? But then how did Luthor manage to access the information…?
“Kal-El, the father crystal has responded to the blood of the House of El. In the event of a cataclysmic data loss, this crystal was stored within the apparatus, in a state of hibernation,” Jor-El’s image intoned.
A backup system, she thought, almost giddy with all of these strange experiences. Somehow, the crystal had responded to their combined touch.
The relief seemed to radiate from Clark in waves. His voice growing stronger, he replied, “I am very glad to see you again, Father. I was afraid I would never…” He stopped and shook his head, seeming to decide it didn’t matter now. “Father, as you must already know, this is my son, Jason.” Smiling down on him, he placed a hand on Jason’s shoulder, more firmly his time. “And his mother, Lois Lane, my…” He paused to look into her eyes, and then held out his other hand to her. “My soulmate.”
Lois gave him a shining smile as she took his hand, feeling a frisson of pleasure as his fingers wrapped around her small hand and his words echoed in her mind and heart.
“The system has detected that the boy is indeed your progeny.” Jor-El’s voice was grave. “I would not have imagined this was possible when we sent you here to Earth.”
Lois stiffened. Was that a faint bit of disdain she detected in his voice? The chill of respectful fear that had filled her when he first spoke was replaced with affronted anger.
Clark squeezed her hand. He must have detected her heart rate rising. “I never imagined it, either… but I am thrilled that it was possible. I am not the Last Son of Krypton after all.” Another warm smile suffused his features at the last statement, and he turned his azure gaze on Jason as he spoke, eyes full of pride and love.
Suddenly, another ghostly voice echoed through the enormous room. “Kal-El, the choices you made five years ago have had farther reaching effects than even I imagined.” The form of Clark’s mother, Lara, appeared in the crystal beside Jor-El, her golden beauty a contrast to his somber whites and grays.
“Mother.” Clark nodded in greeting. “It’s true. I regret some of the choices that I made back then. Trying to balance my personal needs with the needs of the world – this has always been a terrible struggle for me. So much that I abandoned the planet you sent me to protect in order to go chasing after shadows.”
As he spoke, his tone and words more formal than she ever remembered hearing from him before, the pitch of his voice grew deeper and sterner. “I thought I had to give up the one to have the other. First, I gave up my abilities to be with my true love, with almost disastrous results. Next, I obliterated her memory of the event and tried to become fully Kryptonian, even going so far as to go searching for our homeworld.”
Clark’s voice resonated in his chest, and he emphasized the next part carefully. “Now that I’ve returned, I see it was a fallacy to believe it is ever as clear-cut as that. You made me believe that I had to choose either ‘powers’ or ‘love.’” Slipping his arms around them, Clark drew both Lois and Jason closer to him. “In my son, and his mother, I see new possibilities.
“I tried to follow your rules, but I found that I could not. I need my family around me, supporting me. Only then will I be able to go on ‘saving the world.’ Power must be tempered by love.”
Lois had been watching Clark with mingled surprise and admiration during his speech, but now she turned to the faces reflected in the crystal structure. Jor-El’s face seemed even graver, while Lara’s was thoughtful. She hoped that the two would release him from the rigorous duty to which they had bound him, as she held their little silent, frozen-with-awe proof between them.
Clark continued, “I plan to be a father to my son in every way possible… and I will not give up my love of his mother.” He tightened his arms around them and stopped there, waiting bravely for some response to his strong remarks.
“Kal-El,” his father began.
Lois braced herself, ready to fly to her love’s defense in a heartbeat.
“You have made your decision, and I can see you will not be swayed.” Then, for the first time, the severe voice gentled. “The instructions we gave you were guidelines, my son, to safeguard the fragile Earth and its people, to prevent your powers from inadvertently causing harm or chaos. They were also there so that you would have some boundaries and guidance as you grew into and assumed your powers.”
“Excuse me,” Lois called to him sharply, unable to keep silent any longer. Jor-El tilted his head toward her, and arched an eyebrow. She stepped out of the protective circle of Clark’s embrace. “Don’t you think it’s a little unreasonable to expect C— Kal-El to follow the rules of a long-dead people?” She felt strange arguing with an artificial construct, but she would not hold her tongue. “He has lived here almost his entire life, was raised here… and now he has a family here!”
Lara smiled, possibly recognizing a kindred spirit in Lois. “Of course, some of these guidelines no longer apply now that you are fully mature, Kal-El. You are obviously intimately linked with Earth now.”
Jor-El’s tone, though not disapproving, now sounded somewhat… resigned. “I hope that your son will bind you even more strongly to the Earth and its people, so that you will never think of leaving it again.”
“I will not,” Clark affirmed with a brilliant smile of relief.
“It seems that you have found a remarkable woman in Lois Lane. She has won your love and produced a beautiful son.” Lara turned her twinkling eyes on Lois. “On behalf of the House of El, I welcome you as a daughter.”
“Thank you.” Lois spoke to Lara’s image, but looked into the eyes of Jor-El, who remained silent. He pressed his lips together, but nodded in acknowledgment. There was a solemn pause.
Lois figured that, at this point, Clark would begin to guide Jason through his history, now that the knowledge stored in the crystals had been miraculously restored to him. But instead, Clark lightly turned her toward him, taking both of her hands in his. “Lois, I’ve told you that I will never leave you again. I promise you that with all that I am. But if I’m going to have a relationship with you, the mother of my child, I’m finally going to do this the right way.”
Lois froze, almost unable to comprehend what was happening. He let go of her hands, and reached behind him inside his cape. “Here, in front of our son, and my parents, I want to ask you…” When he brought his hands forward again, nestled within was a sparkling band of gold. Her heart pounded as Clark’s eyes met hers.
“Will you marry me?”
Next: Chapter 38: Written