A Series Prequel:
Clone to Kent, A Process
Kon tried to get a sense of what was happening. It wasn't working. Too much. There was too much and it wasn't what he was used to and the other memories were trying to make something of it but this was beyond them as well, and it was all just confusing.
The arm around his shoulders tightened, pulling Kon closer in towards the taller, stronger, more real version of himself. The one he'd been trying to kill.
Identical in the blue and red, edged in gold, yet not. This was not one of his brothers, the ones he'd been raised to fight. This was... other. More than them. Kon was outside, in the open world, not a caged off version of it, and he was being protected by the one he'd come to kill.
Silence got his attention and Kon blinked, trying to focus on what was before him. People. Many people who had come to kill him but the other wouldn't let them.
One of them, dressed in a warrior's bathing suit of blue and gold and red, stepped forward and said something.
Those were breasts. Real ones, not covered up by a lab suit. Mostly covered by the pedals of shiny metal folding over them, but not entirely. Cleavage and breasts and... Kon jerked his gaze up, his face burning. He didn't have any experience with breasts, not really, but those other memories running around in him told him it wasn't polite to stare at them in public. This was public. Wasn't it? He wasn't in the lab, he wasn't with his brothers. It was elsewhere.
Red glossy lips curved up into a smile, and blue eyes framed by black thick lashes glinted in gentle amusement. She repeated herself, slower.
"What's your name?"
Kon blinked. They were talking to him. Instinctively, he twisted to look up at his other who held him so securely.
The face that was so familiar to him and yet wasn't. Most of Kon's brothers looked like him, exactly like him. They knew each other by the way they moved, held their heads, shrugged, lead a little left, blinked a little slower. This one, though, was not them. He was older, bigger, stronger. A wealth of experience and knowledge was in his face, a face with lines around the mouth and by the eyes. Small lines, but they were there, where Kon's might be someday except for them they knew those days would never come.
"It's okay. You're safe now." The voice was deeper, nuances of meaning and thought behind the words. Concern, reassurance, ... something more.
Kon gulped. All the eyes were on him, even the ones he couldn't see. He tried to ignore the hostile stares of the one in black and the one in green, and instead looked from the one who held him to the lady who had asked the question. She nodded, also trying to reassure, yet he sensed that if he made any move wrong, if he tried to kill the other again, then she would not be as nice.
Oddly, that felt good. He didn't want to kill the other. He'd never wanted to kill his brothers. It was the ones in the labcoats that told him to. Told him and his brothers and put them in green slime that hurt and Kon never knew if he was going to come out of one of the trips with more knowledge or more of a loss of will.
Only somehow, their will was broken, leaving him off-balance and not quite sure what to call it. He and his brothers, passing each other in the hallways, on their way to their tubes or to the rooms, yet never able to do just what they wanted, knowing the fate of those who tried, trying all the same, yet brought down each and every time. Freedom. Such a simple word, yet so strange to have.
"He can't talk. I don't even know if he can think. He's just a tool for one of Superman's enemies. I say we should take him in and figure out who sent him."
It was the green-clad one, holding the bow. There was the same anger in his voice as had been there the other times he'd spoken. Kon just hadn't been listening to them before, too lost in the melee in his mind. He was listening now, though, and he narrowed his eyes, not liking what he was hearing or the person saying it. That one reminded him of the scientists, dismissive of Kon and his brothers, not counting them as anything but what they made. Clones. Tools. Something to be manipulated and sent to kill, but never anything more.
"I am Kon," Kon announced, defying the green one. He was actually KN-5, but he was Kon as well, and he and his brothers liked the names better than the numbers. Though Xaf had liked being XF-23 better than Xaf. While he was still there, before Sal had killed him. Before Urn had killed Sal, before... but that was then. Now, he was Kon, and the green fellow was a jerk. "I can talk, and I can think, and the scientists..." Kon hesitated and turned again towards the one he resembled. Superman. "They wanted me to kill you. I'm sorry. I couldn't stop it."
Superman turned as well, so they were facing each other, shutting the others out and away. His large hands were on Kon's shoulders, his blue gaze steady. "It's okay. It's okay, Kon. You're with us now, and I won't let them hurt you again."
Strangely, Kon believed him. Something inside of him twisted, hurting and yet it was a good kind of hurt, like something healing. "Are you...?" Kon paused, not sure what to ask. "You look like me, like my brothers, but you're more than us."
"Brothers?" The word was spoken by many of them at once, both Superman and the lady and the man in black, and others. Their voices intermingled, and the sense of the word changed as well. From the man in black, somewhere off to Kon's right, a sharp warning, ready to do something, similar response from the lady, from others, worry in the mix, disapproval, anger. From Superman, surprise and a similar feeling of getting ready to do something, yet from him it was a different something, it was a something that Kon could trust, could let himself believe it. It was... protection.
Kon didn't look at the others, kept his gaze on the blue eyes so similar to his own, except that they weren't exactly. They... shaded. The blue wasn't quite blue. Kon frowned. "What color are your eyes?"
Superman blinked, and in that moment, his eyes changed color to a dark green hazel, slightly brown at the edges, lighter green in close to the pupils. He blinked again and his eyes were blue again, but this time an even lighter shade of blue than then been before. Kon stared, fascinated.
"Kon, you have brothers?" Superman's voice was gentle.
"Yes. The other clones." Kon thought of the rows of tubes where they grew. The siblings his own age, the ones younger, the ones just starting out. The numbers of them already dead. He looked at Superman. "Can you save them?"
... ... ...
Kon walked down the street, still shocked and dazed. He wasn't sure what was going on, couldn't really think of much besides that blackened ruin of a building he used to be in. It hadn't been a home, not for him or his siblings, not really, but it was all that they had known, and now it was gone. Blown to smithereens, twisted re-bar, shattered stones, melted glass. Bones. There had been bones there; he'd seen them before Superman had put himself between Kon and it and taken him away. They'd left the others there, as Superman held Kon tightly and flew him away.
There had been a brief stop at another place where Superman had changed from the red and blue to a grey suit, white shirt, dark blue striped tie, putting glasses upon his nose and making himself look different than he'd been. From a locker, he'd pulled out some other clothes and asked Kon to see if they fit. Numbly, Kon had obeyed, and now they were here.
A busy, noisy city, people streaming down the sidewalks, yet managing to avoid them despite their lack of attention. Cars, horns, lights that changed green to red, red to green, with a moment of yellow between where everything speeded up and slowed down at the same time. Kon knew about cities, cars, and traffic lights, just as he knew many things that he'd never experienced. It was both strange and familiar at the same time.
What was really familiar was the arm around his shoulders, the strong hand holding him securely. Superman hadn't left Kon once, and he was there beside him now.
They went into one of the buildings, going up stairs, down a hallway, meeting somebody mid-way.
"Hi Clark," was the easy greeting from the shorter man, the woman beside him echoing the greeting.
"Hi," Superman... or Clark? replied easily.
Kon knew it was Superman, yet the person beside him didn't look like Superman, and he had green eyes, and he answered easily to the name 'Clark'. But then, Kon responded to both 'Kon' and 'KN-5' just as easily. Different names, same person.
Clark's hand tightened on Kon's shoulder briefly, then loosened. "This is... my son, Conner."
Kon missed whatever the others said, his mind whirling around what Superman had said. What Clark had said. He missed everything until he and Clark/Superman were inside one of the doors along the hallway which proved to be an apartment part of his mind supplied (either that or a condominium, another part supplied as well). Kon told both parts to shut up so he could concentrate.
He looked over at Superman. "Conner?" The other part was more important, but he was still grappling with it. The name was easier to ask about.
"I'm sorry," the one who looked so much like him yet not like him said with a tired smile, "I should have mentioned that before. I wanted to get us home, and away from the others. They would have wanted to talk to you more, and, well," Superman paused for a moment, "here's better."
Kon knew that Superman had wanted to protect him, to keep him safe, away from the others, somewhere secure. The room was messy, newspapers laying over the couch and end-table, a laptop perched half-hazardly on the couch's top, looking like it might fall off at any moment, coffee mugs, plural, sitting on the end-table, one of them underneath the paper. The rug hadn't been vacuumed in awhile, there were fingerprints on the window, and it felt like a home. Somebody's home. His home? Superman... no, Clark... he was Clark here, Kon knew. Clark had said, 'us'.
"Superman is what they call me when I'm in costume and doing... stuff." Clark waggled his hand sideways to maybe indicate flying. "At home, though, I'm Clark Kent. Here. I work at the Daily Planet," he waved vaguely at the end-table, or more likely the newspaper on it, as Kon focused and saw the banner. "We keep the identities separate so no one knows, so we can have a normal life."
What, Kon wondered, was a 'normal life'?
"Since you're Kon to the rest of the League, here you have to have another name too, something more like mine, to be a part of... well, anyhow, I thought you might like Conner? If you don't, we can find something else. Something that you'd like. Sorry, I should have asked you first. I just didn't think until we saw my neighbors and then it came out. I'd been thinking, running names in my head, and I liked Conner, but if you don't, we can do something else, something that---"
"Conner's fine," Kon cut him off. Clark was babbling, nervous and yet trying to be reassuring. It wasn't something Kon had ever seen before, and it was nice. It was also nice being named by somebody who liked him. Not a number, not a name that was just convenient, but something that meant something to the person who named him. Conner. A name that fit within the normal world (what was normal? Kon still wasn't sure), yet was something close to his other, and also somewhat reflected Superman's other name, Clark.
And there Kon was again. At that other part. "Son?" All the various meanings of the word flashed through his mind. The sun up in the sky, the Son of Man, the Asian name... his mind, though, kept circling back to the basic, simple, son. A male child of a father. Well, of parents, but here was Clark, calling him---
"You are flesh of my flesh," Clark said, his voice now steadier and full of something strong. "That makes you my son. You are my son."
Conner had never had a father before. Some of the memories had fathers, and mothers, and brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and... there were families in those memories that were not his own, so he knew what a family was, what a father was. He also knew the technical definition of the word, with the encyclopedia and other information downloaded into his mind to give him a structure to work within. Knowing, though, wasn't the same as knowing. Being. Existing. Having.
The green eyes that looked at him were hopeful. Bracing for a rejection, but still hopeful. Wanting him. Wanting Kon. Conner. Whoever he was. Superman knew nothing about Kon, only the little bit Kon had told them about the tubes and the lab as they'd flown to try and rescue the other clones. Kon knew he and the others were clones, the scientists had called them that. But that hadn't been family. He and his brothers had been family, the little they could make of what they had. The little that was now gone with the destruction of the lab. What Superman offered in that one simple word, though... that was something else.
"I'm a clone, not a son," Conner spoke the words, getting them out despite his own desperate longing for something else, something more. "I was created to kill you."
Clark's eyes sparked behind the glasses, shimmering with a faint red light and then shading to a more familiar blue color, the hint of red still there. "You are my son. I don't care who created you, or why, you're my son now." He stepped forward, a movement so strong and forceful that Kon nearly stepped back, but if there was one thing they'd learned, it was not to retreat unless it was strategically useful, and never to show fear.
Kon stood steady and was prepared to be hit. He was unprepared for Clark's arms to go around him and for him to be held close to Clark's body and for Clark to tilt his head down onto Kon's and rest there, enveloping Kon completely.
Conner had never in his short life been hugged before. He had wrestled, grappled, and thrown his brothers and also some scientists one of the few times he'd tried to escape, but he'd never been hugged. When he was little, he'd been picked up and held by the scientists who would take him out of his tube to measure and sample him. But that wasn't hugging, and the little phase never lasted long for any of them. Develop the embryos, check them for defects, then back in the tubes to be grown to toddlers with hair and eyes and thinking. If they passed those tests, then into the immersion tubs for their first learning, then back for more growth. Kon was probably only a year or two old by how the rest of the world measured time. In all that time, he'd never been hugged.
His brain whirled, processing the feel of Clark around him, the sound of Clark's heartbeat, the very care that he could feel emanating from Clark.
Superman had flown between KN-5 and the people who had come to save Superman from Kon. Superman had saved Kon when there was no reason on earth to do so. Now, Clark was holding Conner, and telling him he was his son.
Awkwardly, Conner raised his arms up and tried to return the hug. "Dad," he tentatively tried the strange word out. The funny thing was, though, that it wasn't strange as it left his mouth. As soon as he heard himself say the word, it felt right. It belonged with the person who was holding him now, the one who had promised to protect him. His dad. Conner had a dad.
First one tear, then another slipped from his eyes as he thought of his brothers. Mik would have loved having a dad. It had been too late for Will a week ago. But Stu, Sal, Matt, Kev, Kirk, Wob.... They all could have had a dad. If Kon had broken free a little sooner, if he had told them about the others sooner, if he had ... no. There was no point in thinking that. He had tried to break free of the conditioning while fighting Superman, with as little success as there ever had been in the trials. KN-5 was the perfect weapon against Superman, with all his abilities and the order to kill embedded in his bones.
"You shouldn't be near me," Conner gulped and pulled himself out of Clark's arms. He backed away, wanting the embrace but knowing he shouldn't.
"Kon, it's okay." Clark stayed where he was, arms still partially raised, his gaze on Conner patient and soft.
Kon closed his eyes so he wouldn't have to see it. "I might try to kill you again. That's what I was made for."
There was a gentle touch on his head, a stroke down through his hair that was the opposite of the impersonal grooming he'd occasionally had. Then Conner was gathered back into strong warm arms.
"You won't." A deep, confident voice promised him. "You won't. You're my son, and you're with me now, and that's all that matters. We won't let them have you. You're safe with me, and I'll protect you."
Clark continued to stroke Conner's hair while Conner relaxed into his father's arms. He didn't know why he should believe Clark, but he did. As long as he was with Clark, everything would be okay.
"Dad," Kon said again, savoring the righteousness of the word. It was something he'd never known he'd wanted, yet here with his father, it meant everything. "Dad."
"Son." Clark promised in return. "You're Conner Kent, my son, and I love you."
Conner wasn't sure what that meant, but it sounded good. He held onto his father and knew that whatever his life to this point, things were going to be different now. He had a father. He had a family. He was the luckiest of all clones, and while he felt guilty for being the only survivor, and he wished with all his heart that it could be different, he had this. He had Clark, Superman, Dad. A father.
Family. Together, with him as the son and Clark as the dad, that made them a family. Kon opened his eyes and glanced around the room. If they were family, that meant that this was a home.
A family and a home. Conner was the luckiest of all clones ever, and he promised silently that he wouldn't ever forget it and he'd never make Clark sorry for taking him in. Family. Father. Home.