|On Zod, dogs, and other things.|
|What: Superman meets Lois Lane for an interview set up by the government to decrease fears after the invasion of "Zod" a few months ago.|
It's just past 9pm local time and Superman is running late. He prides himself on being on time but sometimes the rest of the world just does not agree with his schedule.
At the edge of the rooftop of the Daily Planet, Superman floats upwards and softly onto the firm land. When he does so, he's already got the apologetic look upon his face. "Lois, I'm sorry I kept you. There was a gas leak in Pittsburgh that they needed help with. I hope you haven't been waiting long."
The reason he's here is not unlike the few times they've met over the past few years. Originally, Lois wrote his initial expose to the world and since then, he's been particularly cagey when talking to other interviewers.
Recently a General Zod, reportedly from another dimension, came and captured Superman and was eager to put the younger Kryptonian to death as he had done to a handful of others from other dimensions. Though the heroes of the world united to save Superman, Metropolis, and the rest of the planet, the whole ordeal was extremely unnerving for the human race.
During the encounter, Superman's identity as an alien was revealed, including his real name Kal-El. Though human life was largely spared, the widespread destruction of property had worried the government and the pencil pushers at the Bureau of Superhuman Affairs. It had been their idea to hold a press conference where Superman came clean about everything (well, almost everything). Superman readily agreed to it, but only if it was done through an interview with Lois Lane and not some press release or staged conference.
"How have you been?"
Please 뺋 for some others before you repeat your vote for her.
It's not just that Superman made her career. (He did. There's no getting around that.) It's not just that she followed this Blue Blur business until Perry told her she was out of her mind. It's not just that he's given her exclusives since the beginning. And it's not that she has a crush the size of Manhattan.
Well, maybe it's slightly that. More just related, really. Related to all the other things but /also/ the fact that he's just a wonderful, wonderful man.
And some people would argue that. He's an alien, they'd say. Not really a man, right? But there it is, right in the name she gave him. Super/man/. He's just that good, but he's just that human. Whatever he was born, whatever he can do.
It's all of this, probably, the /understanding/ of all this, that founds her unshakable belief in him. But that's not why he gives her the exclusives. She knows this.
It's also because she's not uncritical. She asks him tough questions. She doesn't give him softball interviews, not entirely. Not when it counts. Not, say, when people were killed. As much as she adores him (don't say love, /don't/ say love, it opens up a lot of avenues you don't want to explore just yet), she won't let him get away without giving answers.
She's sitting up there waiting, brooding over a cup of coffee and fiddling with her digital voice recorder. She doesn't know if she's going to enjoy this. It's going to be a rough story, but he'll give it to her straight. She'll make sure of that, even if he would anyway. Interviews happen on the roof often enough that she's had a table and chairs set up. Porch furniture, but comfortable.
When he arrives, she stands up and brushes herself off hastily, the corner of her mouth quirking in a smile. "Not too long. It gave me the chance to get a cup of coffee. I have some water, if you like." She gestures him toward the table, but she pauses when he's close and puts a hand on his arm.
"You know, I'm okay. I've been okay. How have /you/ been?"
Superman smiles as the hand touches his arm and goes in for a hug at first, before awkwardly thinking better of it and extending his hand for a shake that is way too close. He's got to bend his elbow and it looks sort of ridiculous.
For him, it's not just that she's a wonderful, wonderful woman. Or the fact that her Metropolis style is everything he's lacked in his life from growing up in a small town in the middle of nowhere. It's not because of her biting critiques or her reporting acumen, which is immense. For him, Superman requires that he does his interviews with her due to trust.
"Good. I've been really, really good." Superman smiles sheepishly and shakes his head. "Wow, it's been a really, really long time, hasn't it?" Well not really. He saw Lois in the office today, but that was under different circumstances and behind glasses so thick they make his eyes look like an owl's.
"I'd love a water, thank you."
He moves to take a seat, smoothing out his cape and folding one leg over the other. He rests his hands in his lap and smiles at her.
She does shake his hand. Warmly, too, even though it's a little awkward. No one's taking pictures, though. It's okay. It's okay.
Lois pours him a glass of water and nods, pouring out one for herself: "It has. Too long; I don't even remember. I see you now and again, but it's a little -- whoop, there he is, wave but don't blink or you'll miss him." She flashes another smile, but it's still a little strained. She's worried. Glad to see him, but worried all the same.
Don't tell him you've missed him. Really don't say that right now. But she smiles back at him when she hands him the glass and settles back down. And for once in her life, she's almost lost for something to say. She's just relieved that it turned out as well as it did, after all.
"Good. Good's... good." And that sounded pretty fatuous, right? "After all that's been going on, you're still running to gas leaks in Pittsburgh. You don't just belong to us here in Metropolis anymore, if you ever did. Things seem to have this way of getting bigger."
"They really do, don't they? I remember back when we first started, this was all so new and the world just seemed so different back then. There are more heroes, which is great, but there are more enemies-both here and abroad. Each day I'm reminded about how important the work is that all the heroes are doing out there. And it's not even just the ones that everyone is familiar with. I mean, there's a young man named Tyke in Kansas City who claimed a gang ridden section of the town as his turf and cleaned up. The city council built a youth center there. It's phenomenal."
Superman takes a drink from his water, before setting it back down. "We really should get together once in a while. I missed you, to be honest."
Before she can respond, he's off to the next topic. "Well, according to the government, they're hoping that I open up more about myself. As you know, I've been sort of guarded and they feel that the people need to be reassured after everything that happened with Zod's invasion. That being said, any question is fair game. There are some, I'm sure, I can't answer for whatever reason, but you're welcome to ask me whatever you'd like."
He's still so damn... optimistic. She's convinced that there's not actually a cynical bone in his body: he believes the best, the absolute best of the entire world until they disappoint him. And even then, he thinks they were /capable/ of the best all along. She's finding herself smiling distantly, because she can imagine Tyke. Something about a backward baseball cap. A striped hoodie. A few short sentences and he's painted a picture.
He should be a journalist, she muses.
And then he says he misses her, and she opens her mouth to respond with 'now that you mention it' but she doesn't even get the 'n' out before...
"Right. That's... why we're doing this; you know, we really do someday have to get together for something apart from work." Though it's pretty much all work all the time for both of them. Does she ever /really/ go off duty? Does he? She fiddles with her recorder, starting it up in front of him and nodding her understanding and agreement. "Of course. And if you want something off the record, just say. So to start with, Superman: what did you know about Zod before he came to Earth?"
"I think that's a great idea," Superman says with a nod as if her idea of getting together was a final piece in some small puzzle.
When she begins to ask her question, he leans in and nods as he begins to understand where she's going with inquiry. He nods a few more times and sits back.
"Well, I'll try and go through things with you in chronological order. How I knew it, when I knew it and when some of those things changed."
"As you now know, my parents were not from this world. On Krypton, my home planet, General Zod attempted a coup. A former friend of my father, this much was relayed down to me via the information I came with. Zod, and some of his allies, were banished to a dimension known as the Phantom Zone, where Krypton sent its criminals. So, right away, I knew there was cause for alarm."
Superman repositions his leg and fiddles a bit with his boot. "Once I was captured, I realized that this was not, or perhaps not the Zod my father spoke of. This Zod's ship, somehow had the ability to hop between dimensions. He'd hopped to different Earths, each time killing the Kal-El (my real name) of that Earth. Luckily for me, he ran into a bunch of heroes here he couldn't handle."
There. That was it. That was the way to do it: she'd just asked Superman on a not-quite-date. She didn't completely believe she'd done it; more, she didn't completely believe that it had worked. No time for triumph now, though. Interview time.
Lois's brow furrowed a little as he continued: "Do you have any idea what the coup was about? Was Zod just hungry for power, or was there some deeper reason? And what is this Phantom Zone? Apparently it's more than just a prison. Some kind of exile away from Krypton? Another dimension, maybe?"
She listens to the rest and absently toys with a pen. Gone are the days that she'd just /write/ this down. "Luckily is right," she says. "So somehow he got a dimension ship. How was he able to kill the Kal-Els of other Earths, do you know? Is he just that powerful? And who exactly did he meet here?"
Superman nods, "Yes. Zod rebelled because he believed the Council-or the group that ruled Krypton-was not acting quick enough to move people away from the planet. He tried to recruit my father, Jor-El, to the cause. My father believed, correctly, that Krypton's mining of their planetary core would create a chain reaction that led to its destruction. But my father seemed, at least as far as I can tell, like a pacifist, and wanted a diplomatic solution. Unfortunately, Zod and my father were right, and shortly after being banished to the Phantom Zone, Krypton exploded. My father built a ship for me to get me off of the planet, and that's how I ended up on Earth."
"I'm not really certain on the particulars of the Phantom Zone, other than that it was a place where they sent their prisoners. Exile would be the best description, but I don't really have the particulars on that. I apologize."
"I never got a lot out of him about the other Kal-El's. I know he uses a powerful band of red-sunlight that stripped me of my powers. I'd prefer that to be off the record if you don't mind, just for my safety, but I imagine that's how he did it to the others. He had a formidable group of soldiers and tech with him. I cannot even be sure that he was sent to the Phantom Zone in his dimension, but he had a great amount of hatred for myself and family, so it would suggest he did."
"Misguided, then. But violently misguided, and he must have felt horribly betrayed. Still, you were just a baby at the time! His entire fight with you is over his disagreement with your father? Even considering what that disagreement caused. If he wasn't unbalanced before being sent to the... Phantom Zone, knowing what happened to his world must have been horrible."
Lois takes a drink of water as Kal goes on, musing over what he has to say: "How much of a chance did you get to talk to him? Was there any hope of coming to some kind of arrangement? And it /does/ sound like a global effort. A lot of people came together to answer that threat. Was it enough, would you say? How could things have gone better?"
"You know, I really don't know much more about Zod than that. I mean, I believe what happened to Krypton probably emboldened him. It probably made him feel justified." Superman grimaces a bit, "I forgot to mention that it was my father who turned him in to the Council. That probably goes a long way into explaining his hatred."
Superman shakes his head, "Not much, really. It was the normal gloating. I think he'd killed so many versions of me that he felt a chat would be beneath him. There were no negotiations."
"As far as how things worked, the tide turned when the govern-and this should be off the record too-the tide turned when they used weaponized versions of Kryptonite-a material that is toxic to Kryptonians. Essentially, the paranoia of the government-perhaps justified-came full circle to save the world in the end. And while things got pretty crazy up there, in the end Dr. Fate kind of, well, did his thing."
"I think things would have been better if we'd been better prepared. I've taken extra precautions with some heroes I trust to prevent such a thing from happening again." Superman promised not to divulge Tony's Kryptonite experiments, and he honors that promise. "Unfortunately, the particulars are classified and I'm not at liberty to share them."
"I expect not. If I started publishing people's weaknesses, I think I'd stop getting interviews pretty quickly." Lois doesn't quite smile when she says it, but there's almost a smile in her voice. "How was it possible to mobilize so many heroes all at once? And was there any way to draw him off from populated areas, prevent collateral damage? And can you think of anything that isn't classified -- broader communication networks, say, or telescopes or satellites or something like that -- that can help us prevent something like this happening in the future? As far as Zod is concerned, what exactly happened to him in the end?"
"Yes, I suppose that's right," Superman laughs at Lois' bit about losing interviews. She tells it like it is, but certainly has a keen awareness of the precipice of success in the news industry. "I think the location of Zod's attack was the reason so many heroes were able to react so quickly. You know, many of us register through the Bureau of Superhuman Affairs, so we're able to network a bit. I'm also a member of the Justice League. Speaking of the Justice League, we've taken some extra precautions to prevent such a thing from occurring without warning again, but, again that's something I'm not at liberty to talk about." He's only been up to the Watchtower once, but it was pretty high tech stuff. "In the end, Dr. Fate sent Zod back into the Phantom Zone and fixed the rupture that the latter had created. It'll be a long time before that Zod is here to hurt humans again. And when he does, if he ever does, we'll be ready."
"But there are other Zods. Not the one from this dimension, perhaps, but others that could come. If the Zod from this dimension was put into the Phantom Zone by the Kryptonians and Dr. Fate sent the one from that other dimension into the Phantom Zone too..." Lois isn't entirely sure how the physics of that work, but she's hoping it's a lot more complex than her worries suggest. "Do you think we really /will/ be ready? We might be closer to expecting it, but there's a saying about the military that might carry over to this: we're always perfecting the last war. Sometimes we can be unprepared for the unexpected. Are you confident that these confidential preparations are going to sufficiently prepare us? And if you are, /how/ can you be confident? How can we be confident?"
"I'm confident because this invasion forced the government and the heroes to the edge. To use potentially lethal force against these Kryptonians. We have the technology. We have the plan. And we know the stakes." Superman sits back in his chair and looks at Lois a long time. "We're here to be honest, right?" Another pause. "This needs to be off the record-"
"Just today, I met General Zod. But he's not the General Zod who attacked me. A strange coincidence given tonight's interview with you. But this Zod seems more interested in re-uniting with his family and getting to know the few remaining Kryptonians left in the galaxy. The one link between the two is how straightforward they both were. With the first one, there was absolutely no deception. None from this one either. His son landed here some time ago and is safe, healthy, and happy. His wife is currently unaccounted for. But, I stress-this cannot be printed. People will panic. I guarantee he is no threat. And if he thought to be, he'd have a whole new thing coming to him."
Lois's eyes open wide at the admission. She hadn't actually expected to be so on the mark with her prediction. Definitely not this quickly. "Another Zod is here? That's big news. Huge news. If you insist that I keep quiet about that... I /can/, but how sure are you about this? From what you tell me he sounds like a straightforward man, but I'm not convinced that him being here is something to be complacent about. I know people would panic; I can see /why/. He's under your personal guarantee? But he can't stay hidden forever. The public is starting to understand about different dimensions. About different versions of people. Do you think he'd consent to an interview? Something like what I did for you. I'm worried, though. If the people realize you're hiding his presence... good intentions or not, they're going to feel betrayed."
"There's a simple way of course," Superman shrugs his shoulders. "I'll ask him. And my guess is that he will want to help distinguish the difference between himself and the previous Zod. I honestly feel as though he really just wants to see his family again. And I know what that's like. I only met him earlier this evening; I'm certainly not hiding him. But I want to take this just a tad slow. He has none of the technology he had. None of the weaponry either. At best, I could stop him. I've had longer to soak in the yellow sun here. At worst, he and his wife attack, and we solve the problem." Superman's eyes look pleading, "I need you to trust me. I'm not saying he's altruistic. I'm just saying that the scenario is different."
"And I will." Lois reaches out, putting a hand on the back of Kal's. "Look. I trust you more than... than anyone I can think of. I know you have our best interests at heart -- and his. But that's just the thing. You're the most optimistic guy I've ever met. I'm not saying we should drag him into the floodlights and put him on trial. There's few things more likely to turn him against us than that. But you came to Earth and you found a place to love, a place you want to protect. I believe you when you say you're going to keep an eye on him. But I worry about what someone who isn't as... as /you/ as you are is going to think of who we are. When this comes out -- not if, but when -- we need to be the ones to tell the world. If it's revealed before that, it could be an even greater disaster." Imagine if Cat Grant got hold of the story.
Superman reaches his hand around to hold Lois' as she touches him. "You're right in everything your saying, Lois, but if Zod is revealed-and if he is telling the truth-the government and other heroes will kill him. They have the technology. They have weaponry to hurt him. And they will not hesitate to use it. What's at stake is a difficult political question here. If he was banished to the Phantom Zone for crimes he committed against a race of people who, for the most part, no longer exist, do we on Earth have the right to uphold Krypton's ruling? Worse, would we be justified in killing him for what a doppelganger did? I don't know if I trust him. I really don't. But to me, I've always believed in looking for the best in people and reacting when they prove me wrong. Despite his relationship with my father, he deserves a chance, I think. To me, it's realistic that he's really just looking to reunite with his family. It's the same thing I'd do with my birth parents, or if I lost one of my Earth parents. I would gather that you'd do the same if given the option to reunite with your mother." Superman winces, hoping he doesn't strike a terrible chord with someone he cares so much about, but from his perspective it's the honest truth.
"They /can/. It doesn't mean they /will/. I hope you've impressed upon him how important it is that he's not public about his identity." Lois holds that hand tightly, but she's still not comfortable with this. "It's not a question of upholding his sentence. But you've already run into one General Zod who despised you. I'm not saying I'm unwilling to take your word for it. I trust you. So if you trust him, then talk to your fellow heroes. Talk to the rest of the Justice League, the Avengers, whoever you think best. Quietly let them know what to be on the lookout for. It's not a question of following every move he makes. /This/ Zod hasn't committed any crimes, but if he does, or when he goes public with his name, your friends won't thank you for keeping secrets."
When he mentions her mother, though, she closes her eyes and tightens her hand on his for a moment. "I know. I know how important it is to have that link," she says softly. "But that, combined with that beautiful, crazy idea that we're all decent people underneath, could get you into a lot of trouble."
Superman nods and squeezes her hand. "Well, it's that crazy idea that's gotten me this far. And I'd honestly be worried that if I had more pessimism I wouldn't be able to do what I do with a healthy conscience. The people need me to be the way I am. If I only believe in my friends, and not my enemies, I'm not sure I'd consider myself fit to do what I do."
Superman exhales and nods, "But I'll take your advice and do a little more legwork." His old grin returns, "It's pretty good advice."
He's right. Of course he's right. It's just that Lois has never trusted anyone completely in all her life. Everyone has feet of clay; it just might take some time to find them. That's the crazy thing about Superman, of course: he's just /too/ good. If he has a flaw, it's that he believes in people too much.
"Well, you know what I always say," Lois replies with a slight smile. "The best weapon we have against ignorance -- against anything -- is communication and clarity. Why do you think I'm a reporter?"
Superman's head tilts back as he laughs, "I'm sure there are hundreds of reasons you're a reporter, Lois. You're the best one there is. That's why I'm here." He tilts his head earnestly, "Are there any other questions you might feel would be helpful for the public to know about me to set their minds at rest? I imagine the news that I was an alien was jarring to some."
"About you? Lots of things," Lois replies with a chuckle. "I realize you can't tell us everything safely. But. Well. Mostly what we already know is that you discovered your powers early, honed them, and then came to Metropolis to use them to keep the city in order. Can you tell us anything about your parents? The ones who raised you, but also... do you know anything about your mother and father on Krypton?"
Superman nods, "I come from the Central Timezone and my family was heavily into agriculture. They're both still doing well and I talk to them every day." Superman tilts his head as if reconsidering. "Well, I talk to my mom everyday. My dad isn't really a talk on the phone type." Superman sighs a bit forlornly, "As far as my birth parents, they were both scientists. I get the feeling that they were pretty prestigious in their time, but my father and mother would never have admitted that. My father's name was Jor-El. My mother's name was Lara."
"Lovely names," Lois muses. "What do you know about your home? You must have been very young when you came to Earth; do you remember anything? And if not, how do you /know/ anything about where you came from? About what Krypton was like?"
"Everything I know about Krypton was what I was given in the chronicles of its history from my father. He included a lot of things to help my knowledge in the ship I arrived in. And to be honest, it's the only link I had to my first home for a long time. It's weird. I learned about my ancestry the same way someone might learn about the history of their immigration to the United States in a text book, or through ancestry.com or something." He tries to think about how to explain Krypton. "As far as Krypton itself, I've been told it was a highly technological world that prided itself on its exploration and its judicial system."
"Probably a lot more complicated than that," Lois replies dryly. Nothing's ever that simple, after all. Gleaming spires, shining windows, but who lies beneath? What's life like for the rest? "Still. A whole alien world. There's more aliens than you on Earth now, but... Well. A refugee from a dying homeland, and you land in the United States. Bring me your tired, your poor. All the rest. If that's not fate, then I don't know what is."
Superman chuckles and nods, "Well, my ma used to always say that I was the ultimate immigrant. I guess I'm lucky I ended up here." Superman takes another swig from his water and smiles at her. "Listen, I need to get going pretty quick here, but I wanted to check and see if you had any food allergies or preferences. I-I don't really go on a lot of dates and I want to make sure it's a good one when we meet up next time."
There's a few things that Superman says there, but there's one word that keeps echoing in the back of Lois's head. "Ah. Dogs. Really allergic to -- not exactly going to be a problem for /dinner/, obviously, but you know me. I'm always willing to try something new. And on all of our behalfs? I'm glad you ended up here. But no matter where you ended up, I think you would have been basically you. Rich or poor, in a democracy or a dictatorship, I can't quite imagine you /not/ being who you are. But don't let me keep you. I think I have enough for now."
Superman laughs, "No I don't imagine dogs will be much of a problem. As to the person I am, any credit goes to my Earth parents. Any critique falls on me." Superman stands and reaches out to shake Lois' hand once more. "It was great seeing you. If you have any other questions, let me know. Looking forward to seeing you again." With a slight wave he floats up and begins to soar away.