Monday, July 4, 2011

Redefining Superman Part One

With the advent of the legal rights to the ownership of Superman reverting to the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in 2013 even the very name of Clark Kent, as well as the costume, Superman's origin story and other elements of the vast and rich history of Superman will no longer be usable by DC and sister company Time-Warner. With that in mind I decided to write a serialized story defining a possible event that could take place in the DC Universe in order to revamp the world's favorite and certainly greatest super-hero. Mind you, this is strictly a concept from my own imagination and not something DC is considering on using once they no longer have the full rights to the first and foremost of all the world's comic book heroes.

So, sit back, relax, and begin reading what I've written. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, perhaps you'd like to take a look at what else I've written, along with my fellow author Jackson Williams, which can be viewed by clicking on the titles of the covers displayed in the slideshow box to the right of this story.

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Redefining Superman

Chapter 1

   "Out this way, please, sir." The couple being led out of their apartment by the two Federal Marshals looked perplexed, as though they had no idea why they were being whisked from their home at three o'clock in the morning. They had barely found the time to get dressed in something other than their pajamas as the Marshals checked the hallway and led them down to the non-descript black sedan that looked like thousands of other cars just like it running throughout the city streets.
"This doesn't make any sense," the wife tried to object as the Federal Marshals checked the surrounding area outside the back door of the apartment building before allowing those in their charge to exit.
"Your ride is right over here, sir," the Marshals continued on as though the wife had not even said anything. "Watch your heads getting into the car, please." The agent held the door open as the still befuddled husband and his wife ducked down and entered the back seat of the sedan. He closed the door firmly, though trying not to make any more sound than necessary. It was, after all, early morning and a lot of people were sleeping in the surrounding apartments and condos. They didn't want to attract any more attention than was needed and absolutely none was needed at this moment.
"Do you even know who my husband is?" the wife leaned forward between the two Marshals as the one driving proceeded to check behind him on his left, ensuring that no cars were moving their direction, then pulled out into the street and headed away from the apartment building that had been this married couple's residence and home for the past few years, ever since they had gotten married.
"Are you listening to me?" the woman almost screamed her words.
"Honey," her husband took hold of her by the shoulder and gently pulled her back toward him. "Let these men do their jobs, alright?"
She turned and looked at her husband, her expression as curious toward him as with the Marshals who had hustled them out of bed and away from their home. Finally, the defensive wall she had erected about her in trying to keep the truth of what was happening to them as far away as possible came crumbling down. Tears filled her eyes and began streaming down her face. Her husband held his arms open and she fell against his chest, sobbing as though her entire life had come to an end.
"I can't believe this is happening to us," she cried openly against her husband's shoulder.
"I know, darling, I now. It's hard to accept that we have to leave everyone we love behind and start a new life somewhere else."
The admission of what was happening to them struck a chord within the wife's mind. She pulled back and looked hard at her husband, her eyes wide, almost as though she were seeing him for the first time and perhaps was blaming him for this upheaval.
He understood that look. He had thought the same things within his own mind as he knew his wife was thinking now. Then her face fell once more and the tears returned.
"Oh, sweetie, I know it's not your fault," she sobbed, the tears and anguish breaking up her words and making it harder for anyone to understand what she said. Fortunately her husband was highly skilled in understanding languages no one else knew, even extra-terrestrial alien languages. He could certainly understand the words of his sobbing wife. "You didn't cause this. All you did was your job; you saved eight billion people's lives. It isn't fair that you should be made to pay the price for something that came about just because you helped everyone else."
"It's okay, babe. We'll get through this. We have each other."
Those words alone made her think back to the people they were being forced to leave behind. Her parents would be the hardest hit. Her father had taken a long time to accept this man she had chosen as her life's mate, not knowing who he truly was and that he wasn't the meek and mild-mannered man he appeared. Now he would blame his son-in-law for the fact that his daughter was being taken from him and he'd never get to see her again; never get to see the grandchildren they might one day produce.
"Oh, my God, the children..." she barely whispered, but her husband picked up her words and for a moment seemed confused. Then his brows relaxed. He understood what she meant, having followed the line of reasoning he knew she must have wandering around inside herself.
"I'm so sorry, honey..."
"No. It isn't your fault," she emphasized once more. "All you did was what was right."
"Still, honey..." He held her close, kissed the side of her face closest to him.
"No, don't even think of apologizing to me about this." Her features were hard now, as though someone had taken her flesh and remade her out of stone or steel. She had finally come to terms with what was happening and was determined not to let her husband absorb the blame for it.
"You're right, Cl..."
"Ma'am," the Marshal in the passenger seat turned slightly toward her. "If you could refrain from using personal names for the time being, it would be greatly appreciated. There's no way of knowing who might be listening in or how good the technology is that could be used for tracking down the two of you."
At first she had been about to tear into this upstart Federal Marshal for daring to tell her she couldn't even call her husband by his name, the name she loved more than any other, but then she understood what he was saying and her resolve relaxed.
She settled back against her seat, the arm of her husband wrapped about her shoulders, pulling her close so he could afford her all the protection he had within him.
"We can't even use our own names anymore," she whispered, her eyes blank, hollow, staring at no one. Her husband pulled her even closer.
"Whatever names we're given, I'll always love you. The name isn't important," he whispered back, his lips next to her ear so only she could hear him.
They snuggled together silently for nearly an hour and the wife had almost completely fallen asleep when the car suddenly skidded. The agent behind the wheel slammed his foot on the brake. Everyone in the car lurched forward, straining against their seatbelts.
"What's happening?" she asked, knowing her husband would understand she meant the question for him alone.
He barely turned his head to the left, looking over the top of her head. It was pitch-black outside. The location where they were had almost no street lights dotting the roadside as there had been within the limits of the city where they'd lived and worked. But he didn't need outside illumination in order to know what was happening. He had other senses beyond those of mere mortals - hearing, sight; all of it was so much keener than what these humans born on this planet could develop within them.
"We're being followed," he answered quietly. "And there are several cars up ahead blocking our path. Men with guns are up ahead, keeping us from going further."
"Oh God. "Cla..." she began, but stopped herself this time. Really, what difference did it make if she used his name? If they had already tracked them down and were trying to take them by force, would it matter if she spoke his name one last time?
"I'll take care of this," her husband reached for the door handle, but the Marshal in front of him was already turned completely around in his seat. He reached out and stopped his passenger from opening the door.
"Sir, please. We can handle this. We're trained for situations..."
"Marshal, I know you've gone through a lot of training and I'm sure you're perfectly capable of handling most situations," the husband had a look in his eyes that said he wasn't someone to be fooled with under circumstances like what they were undergoing at that moment. "But there are nine men before and behind us and only two of you. Do you really think you can handle this situation?"
The Marshall held the passenger's gaze for barely three seconds before he lowered his eyes in surrender. The husband opened the door next to him and felt gravel under his foot as he exited the car.
"Stay inside," he said, leaning down to catch his wife's eyes. He knew too well what she was like and didn't want her getting involved. She nodded, knowing she was out of her league as much as the Federal Marshals. Her husband closed the door and moved toward the back of the car as he walked, his gait determined. He surveyed the cars behind them and the men who had already gotten out of the cars, their weapons leveled toward the black sedan fenced in between them and the cars up front.
Nine men with automatic weapons, he calculated once more inside his head. He hadn't missed anything from his near total concealment inside the car. He made a notation within his mind of where each of the men was standing as he walked around the back of the sedan and along the side toward the front. He moved away, veering off from the sedan in case anyone began firing. He didn't want his wife getting hit by stray bullets meant for him.
Bullets. It never ceased to amaze him that after all these years criminals of all types still thought they could bring him down with mere bullets. Did they really think he was like they were? Hadn't he proven after all the scrapes he'd been in, all the criminals and hoodlums he'd captured that nothing manmade could harm him in the least?
His overcoat fluttered in the early morning breeze. Anyone watching in this darkness might have seen it as a cape flapping behind him. They would have mistaken him for who he was when he wasn't with his wife, when he wasn't working a normal job and "bringing home the bacon". Absently he removed the glasses from across the bridge of his nose, folded them and placed them inside his coat pocket. It wasn't that he couldn't replace them if they got broken, but that removing them made him feel more the man he was whenever he was without them. Having the glasses in place let him know which role to play and he needed to not be the meek and mild-mannered role at this moment.
More gravel crunched underfoot as he slowly passed the front of the sedan where his wife and the two Federal Marshals waited in safety. The only illumination at the moment came from the headlights from the many cars, both this sedan he had been riding in and the cars both before and behind him. Five cars - nine men.
Suddenly his body moved at a speed no human eye could follow. He knew that even high-speed resolution cameras following his movements would record what he did as a slight blur, possibly a misadjustment of the lens or an anomaly in the atmosphere at that moment. No one observing him would consider that the slight hazing of his form was because of his ultra-fast movements. His left hand scooped up enough gravel for the plan he had devised as he walked. He had kept the attention of their assailants focused on him, wondering what he was going to do. Perhaps they had realized mere bullets wouldn't do anything against him. Certainly no one had opened fire.
As his body straightened up he transferred a few pellets of gravel from his left hand to his right, tossing each one as a single missile as it reached his right hand and he pinched it between his forefinger and thumb, and then hurled it toward the man he had selected as the target for each pellet. The miniature missiles each struck their mark and one-by-one the armed men were struck in the foreheads, the gravel pellets sinking deeply within their skulls where they penetrated each man's brain. As soon as the brain realized it was no longer able to process the information needed for keeping this body alive it deactivated and shut down. The bodies shut down along with them and each man hit the ground in rapid succession. Nine dead men lay where live ones had the briefest of moments before.
So fast was the maneuver that barely had a second passed by the time the man made a complete 360 degree turn. His left hand dropped the remaining pellets of gravel and he dusted his hands together as he continued his walk, which brought him around the front of the sedan and back to the right side of the vehicle. He re-opened the back passenger side door and slid within, seating himself next to his wife.
"You can continue on now," he spoke in an even tone to the driver. The words were barely passed his lips before the car shot away from its standing point, gravel spitting out from beneath the four tires. The sedan sped away from the cars that had attempted to pen them in, leaving the corpses for someone else to deal with. Already one of the Marshals had sent a text message that a clean-up crew was needed, giving the location along the back road leading out from the city.
No one spoke the rest of the trip. The wife replaced her head against her husband's shoulder, her eyes fluttering once more as she succumbed to the sleep she so desperately needed, her conscious mind telling her everything was going to be just fine as long as her husband was in control of their lives. He was able to protect her under any circumstances.
The husband himself considered the events that had led to their being placed within a program similar to the Witness Protection Program, though they hadn't witnessed anything.
No, he had been the one involved in the scenario when the armada of alien spaceships had approached Earth and sent down the message that they demanded Earth's Protector, its Champion to be sent out to meet with them.
He had answered the challenge, not knowing what was in store and had not been surprised when the aliens set down the terms for his surrendering this planet over to them. If he resisted they threatened to destroy the entire planet by a barrage of weaponry from all the ships now surrounding this mudball hanging in space. Earth would be destroyed in a similar manner as the Champion's birth world had many years ago. If he complied they would enslave mankind and rape the Earth of its minerals. Eventually it would be unfit for the survival of any sentient life form, but that would take centuries, according to the aliens.
He proposed something different; that he be allowed to fight one battle in defense of his adopted world. If he lost they could do as they pleased with Earth and its inhabitants. If he won they would leave and never come back to threaten his planet again.
The aliens revised the terms once more, stating that if he won they would pull back from the Earth and allow it to continue with its existence as usual, on the stipulation that he cease being its Champion, that he sit back and not use his powers, allow the planet to exist without him as it rightfully should so it could mature as any other world in the natural order of life.
He thought hard over this stipulation and finally agreed.
The battle had been fought. Five of their ships against him alone. He had won the battle in less than fifteen minutes. The aliens had been surprised, but angered, believing they had been tricked. They advised him that although they would adhere to the terms of their agreement with him, they would be watching and listening to everything that happened on this planet. If any sign of him using his powers came to their scrutiny they would immediately attack without another warning. Earth would be decimated.
Once word of this reached the leaders of Earth's nations a conference was held. The outcome was that in order to keep the aliens from discerning anything harmful, the Champion and his wife would be placed in protective custody and given new identities. Eventually he would be allowed to resume protecting Earth, but only under a new identity for that as well. Something completely different from the well-known outfit he had worn most of his life. He would have to alter how he used his powers so they seemed different, perhaps lesser than before.
Some of the world leaders wanted him to give up completely on using his powers, but the rest of the world affirmed that humanity could not survive without him assisting in the way he had for so long already. The then-recent episode in the space surrounding their world was proof enough of that fact.
He agreed and now he and his wife, whose name he could no longer even mention out loud, assuming the aliens had already learned his secret identity and the name of his wife, were heading for the place where they would begin their lives anew. For a time they would live the most normal human existence possible. Then slowly he would begin to "develop" his new powers, in case the aliens were able to learn of anyone with new powers, which presumably they would.
He sighed quietly, not wanting to awaken his wife. His had been a name known throughout the world. He had become Earth's greatest hero and the most revered figure for morality and righteousness. That was why he had used the gravel to kill those men who threatened them. Just as he had obliterated the five alien ships and their crews instead of merely disabling them. Never before had he taken a human life. The aliens would know that. Certainly they might wonder over his destruction of their fellow aliens, but consider that he saw them differently than he did the Terrans. Therefore, if they learned of the confrontation, and most certainly they had been the ones who had instigated it if not outright planned it in order to trick him into using his powers so they could destroy his world, they at least would assumed these men had been killed by someone else, perhaps with normal weapons, being killed by bullets. They might assume the Marshals protecting him and his wife had killed these men.
He was going to have to rethink his entire way of life. Do things differently from now on. He could no longer be the same hero he had been, but someone more ruthless against criminals who would harm innocent lives.
Once more he sighed. Perhaps he had lived within his status quo too long and it was time for a serious shake-up of his life. Perhaps it was time to redefine being Superman.

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