Tall wheat waving all round him. Sun shining down. Clark soaks the light in until he's fair to bursting with it. He sings like they do down in Paxico at the Emancipation Day festival. Before the war.
It's why August's his favorite month. Every year, he'd go with the Prides when they went to Paxico. He'd walk round Zeller's Grove. Every face he saw, just like his. Not just the Prides sharecropping for Old Man Lang two farms over, and the Ellises up by Blue Hill. Hundreds of faces. All sorts of folk he don't even know. Laughing and joking. Singing.
Clark sings. "Swing low sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home," and he swings his scythe. He has to use the scythe on account of the old tractor broke last spring and there's no parts for new. What with the war and all. Don't matter. He can swing awful fast. And if he don't notice just how fast, that's cause his mind is full of sunshine and music and friendly faces smiling back at him. As Mr. Kent says, he's way down deep in his darkie head.
Feels like winter when he says that.
Clark loves the summer.
It's only when he looks back and the whole field's mowed down that he wakes up to himself. He'd have thought maybe it was hand-a-God. Except for the scythe in his hand.
He almost runs back to the farm house. Almost goes to tell the Kents like a fool. But it's not like Clark hasn't always known he's different. Wears it for everyone to point at. There's that nigger boy the Kent's took in for help round the farm. Gathers up the harvest and he thinks. Carries it on his back like nothing. Because it is nothing. Walks down the fenceline he put up. Heavy rolls of barbed wire he carried out here with one hand. Drags his hand along the barbs. The barbs bend, but his skin don't break. He thinks. He walks. Not quiet though. He's never quiet. Not much point. Wherever he is, people point and notice him. Mr. Kent don't mind the noise long as he gets his chores done. Ploughing and planting and clearing and milking and can't remember the last time Mr. Kent came out with him to clear a field.
Clark sings, "Sometimes I feel, Like a motherless child, Sometimes I wish I could fly, Like a bird up in the sky," and he thinks why not. Drops the big old bundle and he runs. He's always run fast. Now he runs faster and faster. World around him picking up in a blur. Runs through Smallville, just a breeze. Right on past the "Nigger, Don't Let The Sun Set On YOU In Smallville" sign. Sun don't set on him there. He sings and he runs. Don't even care what it looks or sounds like. Faster and faster until his feet don't hardly touch the ground. He sings, "Sometimes I feel, like freedom is near," and his feet leave touch with the hot summer earth. August day and he's running toward freedom. Singing, "Sometimes I feel, Like freedom is near, But we're so far away," and he takes off. He's a flash of blue jeans and red handkerchief and whiteish shirt and black skin. Flying not like a bird. Like one of those darts they throw over at the pool hall in Blue Hill. He leaves a boom of sound behind him and he don't care. Flies away from the ground. Flies up where the air is thin. Closer to the sun and he feels it. Really feels it. Soaks it in. Way up here in the light, he can hear it all. Gunshots. Riots. Drumbeats. Beat of the earth. Beat of hands on meat. Sound of Mr. Kent calling his name.
Clark falls. Straight down like a nail falling into a board. Sees the farm rushing toward him. Mr. Kent standing there in the front yard calling his name. Mrs. Kent pulling on his arm, "Jonathan, calm down. You know what the doctor said about your heart."
At the last minute, Clark pulls up. Doesn't make a crater. Lands light as you please on the ground behind them. Says, "Yes, sir." Cuz even full of a cup of anger like corn moonshine on fire, he can't drop the sir and it makes him even angrier. Fists curled. Angrier than he's never been his whole life. Or he's always been and he never knew it.
Mr. Kent spins round. Starts in on him right away. Arms waving. Face red. "Where you been, boy? You left your bundle out in the field. Crows had themselves a picnic."
And Clark asks, "Mr. Kent, there something you should be telling me?"
"What you got in that fool head of yours?" says Mr. Kent. And he's small. Funny how Clark never noticed. Why Clark's a full foot taller than him, and he can't think when that happened. Wonders if its been since this morning and it may be. Day full of wonders. Of waking up. Of getting tall.
Clark asks, "Mr. Kent, tell me again, which orphan train did I come in on from Metropolis?" His voice sharp like that scythe that he left behind.
Mrs. Kent's all worn and faded with her smile at him. "Oh now Clark, you came on the last one, like we told you." She's got one of those worried smiles. Known Clark her whole life and she's worried what he'll do. "Clark, why don't you come round back. I've got some cold chicken put up for your lunch.
Their hearts are beating fast. They know something. Mrs. Kent's heart like bird. Mr. Kent's like a misfiring crop duster. They know, and it's his thing to know. Sun shining down and he's tall in the light. Soaking it in. "Tell me."
Mr. Kent's in his face now, "Nothing to tell, boy." Mr. Kent's face is red now. Wet angry eyes. Sun shining down.
That's when Clark hears it. He's asked the question and he hears it. Singing under the barn floor. He shoves aside the old tractor like it's nothing. It is nothing. He digs with his hands. Mr. Kent's yelling. Mrs. Kent pleading. He ignores them. Digs. It's not deep. Spaceship under the barn. He's slept not twenty feet away in the loft his whole life and there's a God damned space ship under the floor. And its singing to him. Singing who he is and where he's from. Singing his name, which sure as hell ain't Clark.
Somewhere, way down back, he can feel Mr. Kent grab him by the shoulder and try to yank him, but it don't move him. Don't hurt. It's like nothing's ever going to hurt again, except he knows that can't be true. A small panel slides open and a long clear crystal sings to him and its like the sound of singing in a grove. He picks it up.
Mr. Kent yells, "Put that back. That don't belong to you." But its the only thing that does belong to him.
No, that's not right. He belongs to himself.
He smiles at them then, like Mrs. Kent's always telling him to do, so he don't look so angry. Takes it all in one last time. Mr. Kent and the farm and cold chicken and minding hearts.
Then because gravity is just one more thing that don't hold him back anymore, he takes off to where he's going.
Chapter 2: Super Secret Adventures of an Investigative Reporter (So not all that Secret)
Lois has a secret identity and no one knows. That would be the part where it's a secret.
Okay, maybe its really pathetic secret and she has the not hiding anything tinted glasses to prove it.
That's not the point.
The point is she catches the M line and sits down by the door. A couple of teenage boys trying for dangerous with their careful duck-tail-hair-rebellion throw short words at her. They don't know her. She's a secret. They get off at the next station and she has the car to herself.
She doesn't take it personally. She's a smelly secret. She smells like a garbage dump. That would be the part where she's come from the dump. She grins at a billboard for a dishwasher. She'll take hers takeout if you please. She grins and she'd do a little raz mataz, but her feet are killing her. None of that matters. She's young. The night is young. It's Saturday. She's already got her copy in for a front page Sunday byline about three members of the City Council lining their pockets with a little sanctioned redlining. Thank God they hired some pathetic goon to kill her or it would be thirteen inches of copy about mortgages.
She's feeling pretty good, which is when the giant robot strolling down 75th decides to pick up the car and give it a shake. It's like she's been pricked by a pin. Her story's is going to be buried on page twenty-million. She holds on and snaps a picture as the robot tosses the car. The whole thing's flying. She briefly bitters that she doesn't have a damn Pulitzer yet and she's going to die smelling like rotten cabbage when something grabs the car. Now they're sailing through the air like some sort of gondola.
Nothing for it really but to finish what the robot started and smash open the window - who knew she'd use the brass knuckles twice in one day - and lean out for a look. There's a very black man in a very blue union suit with a very red cape and very red underwear flying the car up Vine street, and he's humming "Night and Day". She snaps a picture, but in black and white it's not going to capture how utterly wonderfully weird this is. The man looks over at her. "Don't worry, I've got you."
Lois slides back into the car. Mutters, "You've got me. Who's got you?" Considers the idea that he has himself.
Grins to herself, because she's got the pictures. Words forming themselves up into the front page to be.
He sets the car down lightly. He looks at her long and level. "You'll be safe here," and takes off in a blue-red-black blur.
She shakes her head. He doesn't know her yet. Ten dollars lighter and a bicycle richer, she's back on 75th, all the better to climb up a giant robot's leg. He's got a couple of friends. With ray beam eyes, which they are using to zap the holy hell out of this particular block. Underwear man is zipping around the ray beams and beating on them with a telephone pole, but he's just one man.
Lois gets in a panel and pulls a blue wire to see what that does. Apparently it makes the giant robot jitter like a beat poet, which she wished she'd known because she'd have pulled the red one instead. Her robot runs into a robot that underwear man has just hit. She waves at him as they all go crashing. Finds herself floating on air. He says, "Didn't I already save you?"
She shrugs, "I'm not the sort of woman that stays saved," wrinkles her nose to push up her sliding glasses, "even by a guy who can sweep a forty-foot robot off its feet."
His answering smile lights his face. Then he glances away. He doesn't know her yet.
She thinks what the hell. "You doing anything after this? Off to fight radioactive dinosaurs? Ice monsters? That flasher in Planet Square." He laughs and they're still floating. "Feel like a coffee? I'm doing a series of articles about truth, justice and apple pie. We could go get some." She waves a hand at the Four Seasons, glittering on its building top. "Think they'll serve us?" He snorts, and she rolls her eyes so they're on the same page.
He says, "I've already read that story. Anyway, I'd rather have key lime." He smiles at her as he sets her down on the ground and zips off to wherever flying men in underwear go. She lights a mental cigarette, because it was good for her, too.
But that doesn't get the story written. Gets down to business.
She looks back inside her robot. Really, if Lex Luthor wants his giant robots to be a secret, maybe he shouldn't put his initials all over the insides. Which pisses her off because those are her initials and they won't prove anything and Lois has not had a chance to win a Pulitzer with those initials. Yet.
L. Lane. Intrepid investigative reporter for a daily metropolitan newspaper. Indeterminately gendered. Indeterminate everything L. Determinate. Determined. That's her.
She takes a picture to express her annoyance. Frames her string of words.
Men and women tumble out of shops. One half shaved white bread specimen says, "Was that the flying negro?"
She sighs because forty-foot tall robots zapping buildings with ray beam eyes and it's the flying black man they notice.
Another prime specimen of white flight manhood says, "What do you suppose the S stands for?"
She says flat as she can, "Superman." Shakes her head. Laughs with all the irony that her body can hold. "I mean look at him. He's a Nietzschean Superman all wrapped up in a red cape." Her body can hold a lot of irony.
She leads with that headline. Superman, not the irony. Maybe some of the irony. Most of it she saves for later. After she calls in her story to the Planet. Messengers in her film. She never goes in herself for the obvious reasons, and Perry would rather have her byline.
She holds it all in until after she slumps into her apartment. Passes a picture of her family smiling back down at her. Leaves a trail of clothes to the bath. Takes off the blue tinted glasses that she doesn't need. Washes her hair, which she then irons flat. She looks at herself in her tiny mirror. Sees her parents's bones under her blended skin. Sees a poem of them in the shape of her face, of her eyes, which are nothing like almonds or sloes or what the hell ever. Smiles and winks and thinks about how it felt to fly.
She can practically feel the Pulitzer and it tastes like coffee. Justice. Sunshine?
She'll think of the right word later. Right now, she hums her dad's favorite Fitzgerald song and falls asleep thinking about playing on a swing. Drifts on the moment when she'd let go and fly.
Chapter 3: It's a bird. It's a plane. It's the End of the World as She Knew It. And She felt Pretty Good
In 1967, in honor of Loving versus Virginia finishing its climb through the courts, Lois throws a party. Well, has Kal-el throw a party. A snippet of story written in the long line at San Diego Comic-Con for the Smallville panel.
Wonder Woman wore a rust red chiton and twirled Penthilsea's actual axe. She'd borrowed it from her mom. Batman came as the Grey Ghost. Lois suspected it might actually be the costume from the second movie. Bats was like that. Rich kid with issues. Lots of poor baby me issues. Flash wore a lab coat and looked like someone out of a porn movie. It was the awful fake mustache, brown wig, and mirrored sunglasses.
The theme had been her idea. After all if Lois was semi-throwing a costume party because everyone was going to show up in costume anyway, tonight they could come as someone else. Because tonight it was a semi-different world than this morning.
Lois had dressed as Wonder Woman and the boots were killling her. Red high heeled boots. They gave her a new respect for Diana. Lois put her hands on her hips and flipped her hair over her shoulders. Practically gave herself whiplash and hair in her eyes. Hair stuck to her lipstick. So she stood there. Surrounded by super heroes dressed as other heroes. Picked at the hair stuck to her lips.
She heard him laugh before she spotted him in the crowd. He was dressed as a priest. A Kryptonian warrior priest in bright reds. Someone who'd fought at the battle of Rainbow Canyon and something else in the Jewel Mountains and several other battles in several other incredibly scenic places on Krypton, which was probably why it was Kal-el's favorite Kryptonian drama. Lois had grown up on foreign films. He'd even subtitled it for her when he'd first shown it to her. This shy little smile when he asked her if she wanted to watch it with him. Glancing away from her, because, oh, who knew. Alien men were still men.
He held out his hand and swept her into the first dance.
This was not a wedding.
Lois had spent weeks - years even - in stuffy rooms with white men on the right and white men on the left and white men talking in front of her and well, the universe got the idea. She'd reported every last syllable out of Loving vs. Virginia. Today she'd gotten to to type "Basic civil rights of man" and cheer, but on the inside. Then on the outside because it bore repeating with a loud whistle and a hand wave in the air.
This was a party. She'd thrown it together at the last minute. Well, told Kal-el to throw it together at the last minute, which meant really fast. He'd lasered an anatomically correct ice sculpture heart and gotten barbecue. That didn't explain the tiki torches stuck in the ice. That might have been Flash's idea. GL provided the heaters, bless him. Tonight this was not a fortress of solitude.
Loving vs. the world. World some really high number. Lois some other number. Today one number more. She grinned up and Kal-el spun her out and back. On her return, she ducked under his arm and then she spun him.
Tonight she was Wonder Woman and she had her hands on an alien warrior priest. One battle down. Some really high number to go. Fine. These incredibly uncomfortable red boots were made for crushing comfortable injustice. And dancing a foot off the ground.
Chapter 4: After the Sweltering Summer of Discontent
Kal and Lois march on Washington. They don't go alone.
I hadn't planned on writing anything re: the anniversary of the March on Washington, but reading the articles this idea came to me as I walked somewhere different, but all all the same the idea came.
August 27, 1963
Flies buzzed weakly from the window sill out onto the fire escape. Too hot to do much more than protest at the summer's last gasp heat. Kal'd lived in Metropolis long enough to know that the end of August always took Metropolis like this. If Lois weren't ripping apart their dresser for her mama's pearl necklace, she'd make a rude joke. Instead, Kal breathed and he could almost smell the old marsh that used to be here until his city rolled over it.
His Sunday best resting stiff on his shoulders and stiff leather on his toes, Kal felt even more an alien in his own skin. Day like this, he hardly knew what the never ending battle was for.
August had always been his favorite month. At that moment, the day felt tight in his chest, as if a giant robot hit him with a redwood tree in the chest. He said, "Maybe I should change suits."
Lois glared at him from where she'd found the pearls under a mound of mismatched socks. "Kal, we've been over this."
Kal sighed, because they had been over this and over this. Lois'd been covering uncivil rights protests all that summer. It had been a hundred years since Emancipation. It felt like it had been a hundred years since he'd learned to lift off the ground and still it seemed like the world was trapped the way it had always been. He'd turn around from fighting alien invasions to see Congress locked and loaded on not passing any sort of rights bill. He'd push back Mole men from the earth's core, to find state troopers hitting protesters with cattle prods. He'd turn his face to the sun and find a cloud in his way even up above the atmosphere with all the voices of the world calling out.
He tried to smile at Lois, who rolled her eyes. "And don't think you're not coming with me. Now put this on me." She turned around and lifted her hair. He fastened her necklace.
Emancipation had nothing to do with him, except, his fingers grazing the back of her neck, where it had everything to do with him. It was hard though. All he could do, and sometimes all he could do was make things worse.
May had only rubbed that in, when a good half the articles about Birmingham focused on the alien nigger freezing water hoses and throwing dogs around and not half what they should on the protesters being set on with those water hoses and dogs. Now, all those same papers were convinced the March on Washington would break into riots. This month's Time going on bout how DC was suffering "its worst case of invasion jitters since the First Battle of Bull Run". All over a peaceful protest for jobs and freedom. Cept no one could be sure that it really would be left to be peaceful.
Even the Deputy Organizer, Bayard Rustin himself called Lois asking her to pass on a message that her boyfriend should maybe keep a low profile from the festivities so as not to rile people up. She'd hung up the phone and said, "Kal, this time you're coming with me."
She put her hand on his shoulder. "We're going." She straightened his yellow tie with it's almost invisible Ss that meant hope in a dead language. How much hope could they have. They were all dead cept for him.
He could hear the steady beat of her heart. "You know there's no way I'd miss a story like this. How else will I get my Pulitzer?"
He smiled back at her.
He could have flown them to D.C., but that's not how they were going to do this.
The went to the meeting place a few blocks from their apartment. They got on one of the buses organized for hauling folks to DC. For the first hour or so, Lois jumped around the bus asking people questions. Kal sat next to a Pastor James, who was an AME preacher.
Kal said, "I just don't know if this'll actually do anything." His hands were steady of the stiff fabric of his trousers.
Pastor James said, "Son, I don't know what we're going to find there. Never been anything like this before. Just got to pray and have faith." Pastor James' heart had a slightly irregular beat. He was holding his worn Bible with both hands. His eyes were kind. He had to know who Kal was, but he didn't say a word about it one way or another.
Once the bus broke out into song, like they was headed to a revival, but mostly it was just quiet worried talking. People pretended to try to sleep through the middle of the night. Sitting in their Sunday best for the twelve hour ride. Kal watched the mile markers count down. He held Lois' hand when she finally settled enough to take a seat. He listened to bomb threats at airports grounding planes trying to keep people from coming. He did not jump out a window to save the day, because he wasn't being the alien today. He didn't want the papers to go on about him. This wasn't about him.
He listened to Lois heart as she slept, her head on his shoulder. She woke up when the sun peeked a wooly head over the horizon.
They got to DC. Lois was off and running, which was a sight in her Sunday going to meeting clothes, her mama's pearls and high heels. Kal followed after. He lost sight of Pastor James.
He followed Lois to where hundreds of thousands of Negroes waited in front of the Washington monument for the march to start. There were musicians and speakers. It made him think of those long ago days during the Emancipation Day festival down in Paxico. Except this was waiting and everyone was ready to get started. They were ready to walk.
Time came and went for the march to start, but there came no word. Without really deciding it, they just all started walking to the Lincoln Memorial. All around him people laughing and standing so close they were almost hugging. There were children and women with child and old folks, who just seemed to glow with the light of being there. People's clothes that said they worked inside kitchens or pushed mops, or drove trucks and worked in fields, freed from work on this Freedom day to come and be a part of this moment.
Lois' hand worked into Kal's. He said, "Don't you need to be talking to people for your story."
She waved at the mass of people slowly moving at their best and happiest. "No, I'm where I need to be."
It was then that the crowd started singing "We Shall Overcome." He could made out each of the quarter of a million voices singing not at all like one voice. They sounded like a laughing wave making its way down the mall. Kal let out a breath that he didn't know he was holding. He sang. This day wasn't about him. It was entirely about all of them.
Lois squeezed his hand.
He turned up his face to the sun, but just for a moment. It was around him that he wanted to look and listen.
Seemed when Rev. King stood up, he spoke the words Kal hadn't known he'd been looking for. The dream that he hadn't known he'd been thirsty to wake to. Fighting a never ending battle for Truth, Justice, and carving out some piece of the American way.
Lois handed him a handkerchief. He said, "I'm not crying."
She sniffed, "I'm not either. It's a trick of the nose." She quirked an eyebrow. "Come on, hero, it's not chasing a giant robot, but I've got work to do."
They made their way through the dispersing crowd and all Kal could think was the view was different from down here.
He was glad he'd worn his Sunday suit after all, because it hadn't been a revival, but he felt revived.
Chapter 5: Peace-Emissary
Diana, who would be called truth-bringer and peace-emissary, for she had fought for these names. But in heart, she did not yet wear them.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
She told him, "I have no quarrel with the color of your skin, but with your phallus," for she would have no unspoken truths between them. They that fought now side by side, and had shared bread and wine at a celebration that his lover had thrown.
In fact, Diana princess-of-Themiscyra had lent Lois Lane investigative-reporter her clothing, for it seemed that was the tradition at parties in man's world for some reason.
Even so, Diana, who would be truth-bringer, had to give this truth to Kal-el man-of-steel.
Though it was said of him that he was faster than a speeding bullet, his look lingered long and in such a way as to let her know that she'd made a Gordian of this. Then like a man, he glanced down at the bright-swathed lodging of the problem.
Before she could explain more fully, one of the lumpen creatures gripped a mantis' claw round his ankle and dragged him down into the wine-dark waters of this lake of Michigan.
She called out to Athena joiner-of-battles for strength and dove that she might save him, but he'd already pulled himself free. The thing had slashed his chest with that razored claw and for all the stories told of him, he bled like any other.
Kal-el super-man rolled his eyes at the wound and said, "I hate magic," but still a hero, he hummed under his breath and went to give the gift of greater battle to the swarming things that threatened the listing tanker on the spring waters.
As she'd fought for the privilege to come to man's-world as an emissary of peace, she went to her own place in the battle. Swung her hands in fists and flung impossible creatures into the sky. As she fought, she composed a poem to their deeds. Taking comfort in the language of her sisters. Taking comfort for she was troubled with her earlier inability to explain herself. She looked up as the cloud-girt moon. Diana princess-of-Themiscyra called out, "Artemis bare-fisted give me strength."
"Do you have to do that?" asked Shayera hawk-girl, as she smote a blinking blood-red eye to a greater hue with her lightening-struck mace. The sound made Diana princess-of-Themiscyra miss home. Miss too the curve of a strong maiden's arms and a modest face gold-helmed. Sun-bright hair so unlike the night-dark of home.
She flew closer. Also, this made it the easier to wrap the creature in the lasso of truth. The creature had many mouths. But it spoke no truth from any of them. At least, it seemed that the thing could be flung all the better with the use of a golden rope.
Shayera hawk-girl laughed into the cloud-chopped sky. "Good one." Grinned a pleasing curved-bow of lips beneath her hawk-helm. Diana clay-child thought idly that here was one who saw her only as a woman. No memory of swaddling there.
Looked up. Felt her heart lift with the arc of the creature's flight. She ventured to ask, for even in this she felt that sting of wishing to explain herself, "Do you think I have offended Kal-el last-krypton-son? I merely wished to explain why I am hesitant to join his Justice-League."
Shayera hawk-girl swooped down and struck a creature such a blow that it rang bone like a bell. "Wouldn't worry about it. He probably heard you right then." She snapped off a trophy of ivory horn from the creature's jaw as it sank below the waves. She yelled, "He hears everything. Like big brother!"
Diana clay-child had only big sisters. She wondered what a brother would be like.
Another creature tossed past the watching moon seemed to support that Kal-el super-man heard all, but then there were more creatures and then the battle was won and Kal-el super-man seemed to want no more explanations from her. She covered her embarrassment by asking, "What do you think sent these creatures?"
He was silent. Diana had come to know that he was a man of some songs, but few words. Growing up, she'd been taught such a thing to be impossible, but it was so. Shayera hawk-girl covered the silence with words as one might throw a cloak over a pit. "I know a guy, who knows a guy. Come on." She gyred up into the sky-road. They flew after her.
Diana wondered if the flight of their passage seemed as slow to Kal-el super-man as it did to her. But she did not know how to ask. Wanted for him to understand her. Respect her. She said, "You were very impressive. My mother often told me of the bravery of Nubian warriors in man's-world."
He did not say anything for a very long time. Such that she'd wondered if he'd heard her and she should repeat herself. But clearly, he heard everything, because he said, "I'm not Nubian," and flew faster then.
Shayera hawk-girl laughed. "For a princess, you suck at this."
Then there were no more words until they came to man's great city of Chicago by the waters of the wine-dark inland sea. They flew over the ordered grid of it and past great-towers covered in stone monsters. The streets teemed with men. Women too. Tiny from distance. They pointed up at them as they flew. Called out unfamiliar names and Diana princess-of-Themiscyra felt the hot flush of their stares. Shayera hawk-girl wound through the towers and seemed armored to the gaze of men like Artemis arrow-showering. Diana clay-child coveted that calm like she would covet a cup of water in the midst of an ocean. Wondered what it would be like.
The towers grew shorter and blended into rows of houses. They swooped down among them. Close enough to see dark faces watch them through thick barred windows. Shayera hawk-girl alighted next to a building of cement with a bright-lit sign above it that declared that this building was Steve's.
It was a tavern. Narrow. Barely wide enough for the planks of wood that were placed in a U-shape down the center of the room. Much less for the people, men and women and children, who swarmed around the planks and watched the television attached to a wall.
Diana princess-of-Themiscyra crossed her arms without knowing why and the black-barman in the center of the U grinned at her. He was missing a tooth in a jagged line. She wondered if he had lost it in battle. Wondered if she should speak to him as an emissary of peace. Wondered what those words should be. How to earn in her heart the name peace-emissary.
Shayera hawk-girl slapped down some coins that bounced and lay flat on the boards. Slapped down her trophy of horn. "Three gins."
Kal-el super-man crossed his own arms then. "I don't drink."
"Yeah, yeah, boy-scout." Shayera hawk-girl picked up the first of the three small clear glasses that the black-barman lined up for her. "Didn't buy them for you." She winked from behind her gold-helm. Drank the glasses down in quick succession. She belched. Flashed a scimitar-smile.
A little dark-girl with her hair in tight black braids bumped against Diana princess-of-Themiscyra's leg. The girl looked past her. Held out her arms to Kal-el tomorrow-man and yelled, "Airplane." A smile spread across his face like lightening-struck. He picked the girl up. Carried her around the room one handed, as all the children screamed, "Airplane."
Diana clay-child could throw a tank, fly, and fight off thirty men with machine guns. Perhaps, that last was hyperbole. There had only been sixteen men, and one man with a revolver. New challenges. Nothing she had ever faced on Themiscyra. She should offer to fly one of the children. She should do something.
She sat down on a bar stool. She tried to order sweet spring wine, but they had none. She had a shot of thing called gin instead. It was far inferior to ouzo.
Amid the swarm, Shayera hawk-girl slipped away and spoke with a fat-man by a flat-green table in the small room beyond.
It was not what Diana princess-of-Themiscyra would have expected of this adventure with other heroes. The tavern, yes. Heroes drank to the Gods guardians-of-cities. Drank and traded words and poems. She had not expected this.
"Airplane!" The children screamed, "Airplane." Two children were flown around the room. One on each hand.
Diana forced herself to sit still. Nodded at the unfamiliar room. Crossed her arms again.
Which was how it was until Shayera hawk-girl returned and yelled, "Supes, my guy knows the guy." She shoved her trophy of ivory at the black-barman in his bar. "Hold onto this for me will ya." Then she strode out the door. Her wings brushed the horse-shoe that hung over the lintel. It curved up to hold luck in.
Diana princess-of-Themiscyra brushed it with her hand to take blessing from it as she followed.
The sky-road took them to a small park and at the park's center, a tower with no doors. It was much more to the shape of her expectation. It was gold stone and marked with the signs of Egypt. Egyptian gods with hawk's heads.
Shayera hawk-girl called out to those who dwelt within, but there was no answer. Kal-el man-of-steel knocked, but his great blows brought only dragonflies that blue-buzzed from the places where his hands struck. He waved them away from his face. He said, "I hate magic."
But Shayera hawk-girl's mace made a more than adequate opener of doors. They flew inside the tower, which was larger on the inside than without and put Diana to mind of her philosophical studies, but for all the black space that winked star crossed sky-roads at her, there was no time.
A living dead-man, dark-gray, lay on a slab of grain-bright stone. The wizard of the tower chanted over him. The sea-king had joined with the wizard, which explained the lake creatures. What followed was a chariot-flail of fists and feet. Shouting, the wizard threw them through doors light-carved. Diana princess-of-Themiscyra found herself in a place of great-stone heads and pea-soup waves. She was the better fighter than the sea-king. She thought. But as they fell into the water, they both prayed to Poseidon bull-of-the-sea . Her prayers were not answered.
The sea-king ruled both the wine-dark and pea-soup seas. Also, she could not breathe under water. Woke to find herself back in the sky-road tower. Blinked at Kal-el super-man, his arms folded and the sea-king in a wet unconscious pile with the living dead-man. She felt her face flush, for she had not fought for the privilege of being an emissary of peace to man's-world to be beaten by water.
Then it seemed that Doctor-Fate, the wizard of the sky-road tower, was carrying out a ritual to save the world from an invasion of Old Ones, who were streaming into the world. Which explained the lake creatures. She felt a flush of shame at her earlier conclusions.
Let go of shame in the following battle that was of such span that the throat of the singer-of-songs would close at the indescribable-cyclopean nature of the melody, which is to say they fought against creatures with the heads of squids.
The living dead-man, Solomon Grundy monday-born fought beside them. Not a sacrifice. A seeker for the lost half of his soul. Stolen a century before. Fought and bent his will to Doctor-Fate's spell.
Diana fought at Kal-el super-man's side and listened to his song as he fought the indescribable things that flew between the worlds. He sang, "Way down yonder in the graveyard walk, I thank God I'm free at last," and punched a thing into the beyond.
Wishing to answer him, Diana sang the hymn of Demeter at the crossroads. She struck her blows and flew. Her voice a counter to his as they held back the night, "O Demeter, never may that man be my friend who is hateful to thee, nor ever may he share party-wall with me; ill neighbours I abhor."
She fought at Shayera hawk-girl's side, who did not sing. She thought that here was one with no phallus. But a mace that she swung in time to the beat of her wings. Winged-Nike.
The sea-king she ignored, even as she planned a way to next test mettle with him on more even ground.
She fought, while behind them, Doctor-Fate sealed the space between the worlds and Solomon Grundy monday-born died. Again.
And Shayera winged-nike wept for it seemed he was her friend.
They gathered around and mourned the loss that the world would not know.
Doctor-Fate opened a door in the tower with no doors and they emerged back into man's-world.
It was on fire.
Sirens wailed in a chorus as if Persephone vernal-maiden had once more been dragged into the underworld. Buildings smoldered, but lately they had burned and Diana's eyes watered from the gas-of-tears that gusted up on the winds.
They flew into it. Cooling smouldering buildings. Rescuing the trapped. Shayera hawk-girl drove off looters with her mace lightening-struck. Yelled something that Diana princess-of-Themiscyra could not hear.
Kal-el super-man floated a still bright point in the sky. Motionless. He did not move.
Shayera hawk-girl yelled, "You coming," and flew in the direction of a group of men in green uniforms.
Kal-el man-of-steel went the other way.
Diana princess-of-Themiscyra found herself following the other fork in the sky-road after him.
Flew over rows of houses. There were no men and women walking down the streets. No swarming children in the blush of spring. The buildings were all closed up.
Steve's was closed. Diana clay-child wondered if the horse-shoe was still upturned. Wondered why she hadn't given a child an airplane ride.
A woman stood in the center of the street taking pictures. She had a gas mask on under a bright blue hat. She glared at them through the thick lenses.
Kal-el super-man said, "Lois?"
The woman, Lois Lane investigative-reporter, pulled off her mask despite the lingering gas-of-tears. Blinked. Shook her head. Breathed in and breathed out. Coughed. Gritted her teeth. Took another picture. "I have work to do."
"What is happening?" Diana princess-of-Themiscyra heard herself ask the question.
Lois glanced at her. "Oh, look heroes. I don't have time for this. Gotta call this in." She walked away from them toward a pay phone box. It lay on its side. Lois took it's picture.
"Lois?" It was spoken like another question by Kal-el super-man.
"This is me not dealing very well, okay." Lois shook her head. Looked at him for a long time. Laughed with no sweetness to it. "You don't know." She shook her head. "How can you not know." She stared at him. "They shot him. There were riots." She spread her arms wide. Spitting words like Artemis arrow-showering. "And it was Pandora's box flung open." She coughed. Brushed her eyes. Kept speaking. "An apocalypse that loosed furies brooding in the shadows of America's sullen ghettos." She looked up. "Three days ago. That was my byline." She let go of the camera. It dangled on leather straps around her neck. She sighed. "Where have you been?"
Kal-el super-man said, "Lois, what are you talking about?"
She closed her eyes. "They killed King."
Kal-el super-man shook his head then. Stepped back on Lois' look and words. "Yeah. I know. I feel..." She laughed as one does with the hand-of-Ares on their heart. "I'm a reporter. I'm not supposed to have feelings. Just tell it like it is." Their eyes met, the lovers.
Diana clay-child wondered what it would be like to share such a look.
Kal-el super-man nodded then. A rush of air and a sonic boom. A flash of color straight up. Lois turned her camera to the sky.
A mark appear on the cheek of the moon. Diana princess-of-Themiscyra looked up and said, "Perhaps the gods will take up your king as a constellation." A stray bullet in a high arc from some far shot place descended. Lois ducked. Diana peace-emissary pushed it away with her bracelet, calmly as she'd been taught, though her heart raced. She said, "As you go to gather your story, can I follow and listen. I would hear why Ares warlike hand is so hard upon this place."
Lois looked at her and took her picture. Titled her head. "Sure." She tilted her head. "Try to keep up."
Diana nodded and followed her. Walking on the ground.
Later, much later, the crater on the moon's cheek got its name from the slain peace-king.
Diana peace-emissary raised a glass of bubble-bright wine. Lois Lane investigative-reporter ran off to make a phone call. Shayera hawk-girl rolled her eyes. Kal-el super turned his face to the sun through the tinted glass of the window.
They did not take long in this. Monday born may live again. And again. The arc of history, as she'd been told, was long, and yet there was much to do in arc.
Still not quite where I want it to be, but after some wrestling, here is where the story rests.
Because in my head, Diana is an ancient Greek princess cast up on this other world of now. In an effort to be slightly less confusing with the variety of epithets, I have gone with Name epithet, rather than epithet name.
Notes for this chapter
"It was Pandora's box flung open -- an apocalyptic act that loosed the furies brooding in the shadows of America's sullen ghettos." by Edward Kosner, taken for Lois' byline.
Chapter 6: Apartment. Job. Date
They have an apartment. He has a job. They have best date ever. Several times.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
He has a Fortress of Solitude.
(Lois looked around. Stepped over an ice beam and laughed. “Kinda drafty doncha think?”)
They have an apartment in New Troy. People in all the apartments around them living their lives. An apartment. On a street. Technically a lane. Actually, no. A street. Alley out back.
Some nights, when the world didn't need saving, he goes up to roof. Looks up at the stars that no amount of smog or light pollution can dim to his eyes and he listens. On the far distant plains, he can hear a train warning people out of its way. Up along the coast, a fog horn calls out. Three floors below, he can hear Mrs. Para whisper to her wail of a baby, “Shhhhhh.” He can hear.
"You're up early." Lois squirms onto the lawn chair next to him. She shivers and he wraps his arm around her. She whispers these loving words into his neck, “I fixed the drip in the toilet. It needed a new flapper.”
He kisses her cheek and pulls her up next to him. Points to a star and tells her its name.
Flood. Tidal Wave. Tornado. Earthquake. Derail. Aground. Kitten. Fire. Bomb.
(She tickled him. It didn’t work, but Lois was never one to give up on an quest. “I never thought I’d find someone who made me feel lazy.” He laughed.)
He has a job. Not the thing where he flies around and saves the day. That is. Not. A. He doesn’t know what that is.
(“You want to hear what’s going on, it’s that or a bar.” Lois looked him up and down. “Barber shop.” Laughed until he smiled.)
Behind him Eddie is telling everyone all about the “Ex-Cub Factor”, which will absolutely prevent Gotham from taking the Series this year and possibly make it fall into the sea. Kal hopes not. Cities are heavy.
He shaves Ricky with a straight edge and chats about parking. Taxes. Those students down in Greensboro sitting-in at the White lunch counter at Woolworths. The weather. Whether Tina will ever notice Ricky. There’s a rhythm to it. Easy to fall into. He falls.
And if no one ever talks about Kal being Kal-el, being Superman, because they haven’t put it together or are polite, he doesn’t know. He’s not here to save the world. Not right now. He agrees with Eddie. This year, Metropolis will take the Pennant, but Gotham had better not fall into the sea. Then he grins, because he doesn’t live in the crazy city and for a moment, this moment, all that’s important is Bay Rum Skin toner and Ricky’s sad, sad, sad love life.
“Best date, ever!” Lois drops from the top of the Cobra statue and unties Professor Myrnes.
Kal-el’s a little busy fighting the giant Cobra, which is actually five times larger than the statue. Radioactive. Magic.
He wonders if crazy cultists from the pre-dawn of time before humanity would ever consider taking up knitting.
(He’d had to abandon the picnic basket when the robot Buffalo stampeded through the park. Lois still had the orchid he’d given her tucked behind her ear. She yelled, “Best date, ever!” He scooped her up and flew her to a tree top where she wouldn’t stay. “You always say that.”)
Neither the crazy cultists nor the giant Cobra take up knitting. Lois finds time to write about it. She also finds time to interview the Greensboro Four.
At the end of July, she takes him out for a shake at the every person lunch counter at Woolworth. He gets a chocolate shake with a cherry on top. He drinks. “Best date ever.”
She steals his cherry and says, “You always say that.”
This takes place in 1960-ish.
Not quite sure where the idea for this came from, but sadly Lois still doesn't get a Pulitzer for her interview with the Greensboro Four. She does enjoy her shake though. And yes, apparently, since he doesn't work as investigative reporter, Kal works at a barbershop.
Chapter 7: Notes - No Story - Just Notes
Notes on some of the thinking behind the preceding 4 chapters and potential ideas for other entries, which may be added at a later time.
The short version is that I'll probably keep adding contained chapters with further adventures of the characters in this universe. Here are some notes on what may be covered.
Okay, first of all, this is an absolutely incredible challenge and since entries keep coming in, I hope it just keeps going.
What follows are Notes that I'd like to remain in the end so I'm adding them as a separate chapter, which as I add I'll keep moving back in order.
This story, which you've presumably read since you've reached the notes, comes from a discussion at a DC animation panel at Comicon. The writers when asked which "What if" scenario they would like to explore, one (I don't remember which) replied, "What if Kryptonians were black. Little Kal-el lands in 1930s Kansas." With all the history that implies. As I wrote it, since this Kal-el wouldn't have a secret identity, the idea curled up that Lois should have one, glasses and all. Sort of.
I had actually, initially intended to write a great deal more story with Kal-el in a mirrored version of Clark's life, a la "Superman: Red Sun" but pulled up as I realized that while this "Clark" would be unlikely to be able to get a job at the Daily Planet, there was no way this character would want to live a half life. A lie of any sort. He doesn't want to be Clark Kent of Smallville. His otherness is something that has never been concealed. He has always been othered. His story here is coming to the realization of the nature of that otherness. The joy and light of it. He isn't the reaper in the field. He's the child of the sun.
Still, when this Kal-el swears by Rao, he'd be self aware enough to know he's thinking of the warmth of earth's sun. Life's like that.
In his head, this Kal-el is also not Superman. That's Lois being funny. He's Kal-el, last Kryptonian. He wears that outfit because that is Kryptonian clothing. It's not a costume. Well, except in that way all clothing is costume. It's not a union suit. It's not spandex. It's a symbol of a lost and unachievable home.
So Lois' comments about the underwear are her being (un)intentially obtuse. She is only human.
Also, although, I didn't write it, but it's all in my head, he does own more than one Kryptonian outfit. Most people do own more than one set of clothes. Although, given the programming in the crystal sent with him by his father, what he wears doesn't have a lot of understanding of history and context. When his cousin, Lara/Supergirl, shows up some time in the 80s, she'll take one look and tell him that he's wearing the equivalent of a t-tunic, an obi, a fedora and patent leather mary-jane shoes.
At which point, Lois will laugh and laugh and laugh. Because she's like that. Then she'll arch an eyebrow, and he'll laugh. She always will make him laugh. Meanwhile, Lara will roll her eyes, because she's sixteen. And it's the 80s. Lara will have been on Earth two minutes and will already be wearing a neon tank top and have very big hair.
I had an idea for a scene with Jimmy, but it didn't really pan out. Mainly because it felt like a retread of Lois' scene.
When what I really wanted was to overleap several obligatoryish, Kal-el fights Zha-Vam scenes, which in all fairness I have an idea to make work in context. But I wanted to get to the Superman escorting Ruby Bridges to school, complete with Norman Rockwell painting. Superman's hand held out toward the viewer as he catches a bottle in flight. I think when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, Kal-el's so filled with an anger that he can't afford to express that he flies to the moon and pounds a crater into the man on the moon's cheek. That empty space would be named the Martin Luther King Jr. crater. So much empty space
Sometime in the 70s, Lois would be at a dinner honoring someone. Reporters all around. A white colleague, who still doesn't know who L. Lane is, would comment that this Kal-el, no, this Superman, is beyond race. By which he'll mean that he's so cool, that he's practically white. At which point, this Lois will pick up a pad of paper and say, "Excuse me, I have to write your obituary for after you eat shit and die." If Kal-el had a secret identity, he'd hear her say that and fall in love that little bit more. But he doesn't. Wouldn't. She'd still say that though.
Which is why Lois' section burbled up. At first, I was thinking of her as passing as white to pay off the secret identity concept, but that seemed a violation of the spirit of the challenge. Rather it seemed the more I thought about her, and she stepped into view, she's a mix of things. A secret non-secret. She's a woman journalist. L. Lane. She's a mix of races. Black father. Puerto Rican mother. Born on an Army base abroad. Raised in other countries. Surrounded by Americans. Not in America. Always an other. Indeterminate. Determinate. She's Lois Lane.
When in the 90s, Doomsday kills Kal-el, because he always does, she'll be a gray haired woman holding her ever young love. Weeping and a tattered American flag. She'll write an article that will finally win her that Pulitzer. Bitter ash. Until he rises from his grave. Because he always does. I think she'll call him an asshole for dying. Make him get her Chinese takeout from that mall in Taipei. No the other one. Because she's like that. That's when she takes up hang gliding. Because she's also like that.
All of which is to say, I only wrote a fraction of what sort of splatted in my head, because I edited this story compulsively. Moving words backward and forwards, until my gracious Beta, capricious, fixed my grammar and ended the editing.
Thus far after the challenge, I've added Loving versus Virginia and the day Martin Luthor King Jr. died. On the off chance nothing more gets added, I wanted to move my notes here. Urging on other entries.