by Starsky Hutch 76
John Shakespeare had known his life would never be the same once Kent entered it. He never knew just how much, though. When he looked around at the great expanse of the Fortress of Solitude, he began to get some idea. His eyes moved over the huge, cavernous main hall, taking in the many trophies from Superman’s adventures that hung from the roof — a battleship, satellites, meteors, spaceships, and more.
“This… this is quite a place you’ve got here,” John said.
“That’s an understatement, if I’ve ever heard one,” Ron laughed.
“It’s just a little something I threw together,” Superman said, smiling. “You should see the Batcave.”
“I’ve seen the Batcave,” Jimmy whispered to Ron. “He’s being modest.”
Overhearing with his super-hearing, Superman stifled a smile. “Let me lead you gentlemen over to the lab area. We can proceed from there.”
Superman led the way, followed by Jimmy Olsen, Ron Troupe, John Shakespeare, and young Kent. The small boy held one of the wiggling puppies that he had brought with him. It was one Superman had picked out — a female.
The laboratory was a large room filled with scientific devices, computers, and a large work table. Several doorways led into the large room. Ron flopped down wearily in one of the chairs around the work table. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Man, this place is big!”
Superman knelt beside Kent. “You know, Kent, when I was just a young Superboy like you, it was pretty lonely. I used to wish there was someone else out there like me. Someone with the same abilities as I could play with. That’s why I was so glad I met you. I want to introduce you to someone. Her mother was someone pretty special to me — my cousin, but she was more like my sister. Now her little girl is just as special to me. And this puppy you brought is for her. Kent, I’d like you to meet Jasma.”
The small blonde girl stepped out from one of the doorways and walked up to Superman and the young boy. Kent handed the shaggy white puppy to her. “This is for you,” Kent said.
A huge smile crossed Jasma’s face, and she buried her face in its fur. “Thank you!”
“You have powers like me?” Kent asked.
“Uh-huh,” Jasma said.
“You wanna play?” Kent asked.
“OK,” she said. Quickly reaching over and tapping him, she said, “Tag, you’re it!” and flew off.
“No fair!” Kent said, flying after her. “We hadn’t started playing yet!” The puppy yipped after them happily.
Superman watched them, smiling as he stroked Krypto’s head. So that’s what I was missing all those years. Another pang of worry shot through John Shakespeare. Despite his words earlier, would he try to keep him? And if he did, how could he stop him?
Superman rose up with the hair sample he had taken from Kent earlier. “It could be a little while until I get the results. Would you like for one of my robots to give you the tour?”
“Sure,” John said. “Who knows when I’ll be back to the Fortress of Solitude?”
“Quite a bit, probably,” Superman said, “considering how those two took to each other.”
That set John at ease. “I’ll still take that tour, though,” he said, smiling.
A Superman robot showed up and said, “You summoned me, master?” It was easy to see who was the real Superman and who was the robot. The robot still sported some battle damage from its battle with Lobo.
“How about you two?” Superman asked Jimmy and Ron.
“I’ve already taken the tour a number of times. I’ll hang here.”
“Could I catch up?” Ron asked. “Right now, I really need to go to the bathroom!”
“Just around the corner and to the left,” Superman said, pointing the way.
After Ron walked toward the restroom, it was just Superman and Jimmy. “So Jasma is Kara’s daughter?”
“Yes,” Superman said. “I found out about her recently, shortly before her father was killed.”
“So you did have a kid. It just wasn’t Kent,” Jimmy said, shaking his head. “My best pal had a kid, and I didn’t even know about it.”
“I would’ve told you, Jimmy,” Superman said, “but things were kind of crazy with the invasion.”
“That’s not even what really galls me,” Jimmy said.
“Then what is?” Superman said, turning in Jimmy’s direction.
“I can’t believe I never put it all together sooner. I guess it just took the same changes happening in both your lives to make me see it–” He reached down to the work table and grabbed Ron Troupe’s glasses from the spot where he’d left them. He placed them on the face of the startled Superman. “–Clark.”
Superman sighed as he removed the glasses. “I always knew this day would come. I just didn’t know if it would be you, Lois, or Perry.”
“It wasn’t something you thought you could share with us — your closest friends?” Jimmy asked.
“I trust all of you,” Superman said. “But think about all the times you’ve all fallen into enemy hands at one time or another. If they suspected you knew, you’d really be in danger.”
“So what now, then?” Jimmy asked. “You use super-hypnosis to make me forget?”
“What’s the point?” Superman said with a half-smile. “You used your own abilities to figure it out. You’d just do it again.”
“You’ve got that right,” Jimmy said, grinning. He took the glasses from Superman and sat them in the exact position in which they were before.
Ron Troupe walked back into the room and said, “Wow. Even the bathroom in this place is impressive. Looking up from the john and seeing stalactites hanging over your head is a little intimidating, though.” This drew laughs from Superman and Jimmy.
“So, did I miss anything interesting?” Ron asked.
“Oh, nothing much,” Jimmy said. “Just catching up on old times.” He gave Superman a wink, setting the Man of Steel at ease.
“So where do you plan to go from here?” Ron asked.
“I want to check out this DNA sample; see if Kent is really Kryptonian, Daxamite, Madaxite, or even a possibility we haven’t considered,” Superman answered.
“Sounds like it could take a while.”
“Possibly,” Superman said. “Possibly not.”
“If it’s not too late, then, I’ll take that tour,” Ron said. “I’ll just be in the way around here.”
“You wouldn’t be in the way,” Superman said with a grin. “But I’ll signal my robot for you.”
The robot showed back up with John Shakespeare. “You’ve got to see the alien plants!” John said. “That singing Venusian flower was pretty amazing. It sounded almost human. It was eerie!”
As they walked off, Jimmy said, “I’d nearly forgotten how amazing some of the stuff you have here can be. Almost makes me wish I’d gone with them.”
“I can always call the robot back,” Superman said.
“That’s OK,” Jimmy said. “To be honest, I’d like to be here when Jasma comes back. It’s good to know that a little bit of Kara has been left behind.”
“Yes, it is,” Superman said. “It really is.”
Superman went over to one of the futuristic devices in the lab. He placed the hair on a slide and then inserted it into the machine. After pushing a few buttons, a DNA helix appeared on the large computer monitor that took up much of the wall.
“That’s Kent’s DNA?” Jimmy said as more of an observation than a question.
“Yes,” Superman said. “Does appear to be Kryptonian. Half-Kryptonian, anyway.”
“Who are the parents?” Jimmy asked.
“That’s what we’re about to find out,” Superman said. He pressed another set of buttons, and the helix on the monitor began to unwind into two separate strands.
“Great Scott!” Superman exclaimed, staring at the two strands.
“What is it?” Jimmy asked.
“The DNA of the parents!” Superman exclaimed. “They belong to me — and to Lois!”
“How?!” Jimmy exclaimed. “Man, I’m glad Ron’s not in here. I mean, when you and Lois were dating, did you–?”
Superman gave Jimmy a sour look. “Did I ever ask you about your and Lucy’s personal life?”
“In other words, none of my business,” Jimmy said.
“In any case, Lois and I don’t have a secret love child,” Superman said. “I’m not even sure it would be possible.”
“So where did this kid come from?” Jimmy asked.
“I don’t know,” Superman said thoughtfully. He moved to another console. “Whenever anyone enters the Fortress, they’re scanned for unusual radiation. His quantum signature is normal, so Kent is from this time and universe.”
“Could he be some sort of clone,” Jimmy asked, “using your DNA?”
“Possibly,” Superman said. “But why turn him loose? Why send him to Earth in a rocket-ship made to look like the one I came to Earth in?”
“The rocket!” Jimmy said, snapping his fingers. “Could you trace it back to where it launched from?”
“Good idea, Jimmy!” Superman exclaimed. His hands moved over the computer at super-speed. A backward representation of the ship’s landing came on screen. When it stopped, it was at a random, empty point in space.
“Well, that was no help,” Jimmy said. “Sorry, pal.”
“Don’t beat yourself up, Jimmy. Now we now he was brought to that area of space. Why, though?”
“Other than Van-Zee and his wife, are there any other instances of Earthlings and Kryptonians mating?” Jimmy asked.
“No, not that I know…” He stopped short as his gaze landed on a statue of Bizarro Number One peering at him from one of the entrances. “…of.”
“What is it, Supes?” Jimmy asked.
Superman raced back to the other console and pulled the DNA helix of Kent Shakespeare back up on the screen. “I think Kent and I have met before.” He hit a button, and a full body image of Kent appeared next to the helix.
“What?! When?!” Jimmy exclaimed.
“This code has been rewritten,” Superman said. “I didn’t see it before, because it was such a thorough job.” He typed in a few changes to the sequence, and the image of Kent began to crystallize in one spot and spread until it covered his whole form. The image became that of the son of Bizarro-Superman Number One and Bizarro-Lois Number One.
“Oh, my God,” Jimmy gasped.
“It’s not the first time he’s been human,” Superman said. “He was human when Kara and I first encountered him as a baby. (*) It turned out to be a larval stage in Bizarro child development. I have no idea what’s changed him back.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Son of Bizarro,” Superman #140 (October, 1960).]
“So, what are you going to do now?” Jimmy asked.
“Nothing,” Superman said. “From what I see here, the metamorphosis is permanent. He won’t be changing back.”
“You’re not going to tell John, then?” Jimmy asked.
“The Shakespeares have been through enough worry and heartache. I’m not going to be the one to add to that,” Superman said. “Hiding out in the mountains all this time, always worried they were going to lose a child they’d come to love as their own. There’s no need to give them anything more to worry about. His old parents are dead, along with all the citizens of the old Bizarro World. And for all purposes, he’s no longer a Bizarro. He’s Kent Shakespeare, now, a normal boy. He should have a chance to live a normal life.”
“Yeah, but–” Jimmy stopped himself as Kent and Jasma flew back in, followed by the shaggy white puppy. Krypto barked happily at the sight of them.
“Daddy,” Jasma called as she landed by Superman and tugged on his cape. From the expression that came onto his face, it was obvious that she was someone who could get away with tugging on Superman’s cape, despite what the Jim Croce song said.
“What is it?” Superman asked.
“Kent and I want some ice cream, but we don’t know how to make the machine work,” she said.
“Can you do it for us?” Kent asked.
“Sure,” Superman said, smiling. He pressed a button on the computer console and said, “X-234?”
“Yes, Master?” the robot answered.
“When you’re done with the tour, bring John and Ron over to the den. We’ll be having ice cream.”
“Yay!” Kent and Jasma cheered, causing the puppy to begin yipping excitedly.
“Den?” Jimmy mused. “There’s a good example of the difference between you and Batman. The Batcave doesn’t have a den.”
“The Batcave doesn’t have an ice cream maker, either,” Superman said with a wink.
“I think I like your hideout better, then,” Kent said.
“Me, too,” Superman said, smiling down at the boy as he mussed his hair playfully.
As Jimmy followed behind as Superman led the two children off by hand, he realized Superman was right. Despite his powers and any unusual circumstances regarding his birth, Kent Shakespeare was simply a child. And like all children, he deserved the best life that anyone could give him.