President Luthor had called a major press conference for the coming Friday. Coincidentally Friday was the 10 year anniversary of the disappearance of Superman. Speculation was that this timing was not coincidental. Especially as President Luthor had promised early in his first term to use all resources available to him as President to try to track down the truth as to what had become of Superman, Kal-El, last son of Krypton, adopted son of Earth.

Superman’s disappearance a decade earlier had quickly become the greatest mystery of all time. As with the Kennedy assassination in the previous century, conspiracy theories abounded. And more than a few had made millions off what had basically become a cottage industry – books, documentaries and on and on devoted to the “true story” of what happened. Each year, on the anniversary of Superman’s last known appearance, more than a few new books would come out with yet more “true” stories” But the real truth was no one knew what had become of the Man of Tomorrow.

Headlines at the time asked: “Where Is Superman?”, “Man of Steel Abandons Earth Again”, “Superman Dead?, “Superman Flees to Fortress with Love Child!”, “Has Superman Lost His Powers?”, “Scandal That Forced Superman Out of Heroics Business!” – and on and on.

All anyone could do is guess, and it was the wildest of wildest guesses. There had been no great battle or threat prior to Superman’s disappearance. The last sighting had been Superman appearing before a group called “Young Heroes”. An organization Superman founded for teens who had done something heroic. The last photos of him were from that event as he signed autographs on photos he took with each honoree. Nothing appeared unusual or out of normal with Superman during the event.

Superman flew away from the event – towards central Metropolis as reported by now retired Police Commissioner Maggie Sawyer who had walked Superman out of the event venue. That was the last time Superman was ever seen.

This despite the largest man-hunt (really Superman hunt) in history. All governments and the UN coordinated in the 6 month effort. Every inch of the Earth’s surface was scanned and analyzed using the latest satellite photo technology that could detect something half the size of one of Superman’s boots. The one thing the satellites could not detect was Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Only the JL knew its location and Batman and Wonder Woman were delegated to go to the Fortress in the hopes of finding Superman. But they found nothing – Superman wasn’t there. The Fortress was untouched and offered no clues as to what might have happened.

Adding to the mystery was …

Superman’s deadliest enemies had all been vanquished. From Parasite to Brainiac and Toyman, from Doomsday to Lobo to the Injustice League and Metallo. All were in “containment” of one form or another. None would ever again pose a threat to Kal-El.

The great battles were over by now – more than 20 years into Superman’s career. At this point most of Superman’s efforts were directed at quelling man-made and natural disasters. A formal attack against Superman had not been launched in years. Superman “sightings” were much less frequent than in the early and middle years – to the point that it was only 2 weeks after Superman’s appearance at the Young Heroes event that it was noticed he hadn’t been seen since then.

Lex Luthor and Superman had reconciled almost a decade before Superman’s disappearance. The two became close in the ensuing years. Lex using his genius to create new technologies in part based on Kryptonian science – knowledge provided to him by Superman. Lex also found a new career – entering politics and quickly becoming a highly respected US Senator.

On the 20th anniversary of Superman’s debut Lex gifted Superman with a kryptonite detector that had a unique quality – it could detect the deadly radiation through lead. Lex created a small nano-device which could be incorporated into Superman’s suit. It triggered an alarm if it detected kryptonite within 100 meters – even if the kryptonite was behind lead. Luthor developed this as a double fail-safe to protect Superman as the Man of Steel had already, working with CADMUS, been able to incorporate lead nano-elements into his suit. Essentially creating a lead shield around his body when he wore the suit.

Of equal importance, Luthor’s invention could be “amped up” with the ability to detect kryptonite at 40 kilometers. Indeed, in the weeks after the presentation of the gifts, Superman completed a slow, by his standards, “mapping” of Earth. Covering every square meter of the Earth’s surface and using the enhanced K-detector to find any remaining kryptonite. The planet-wide survey yielded just 3 small pieces of kryptonite. The largest about the size of a golf ball. This confirmed the general belief that kryptonite was all but non-existent on Earth. Superman encased the 3 pieces of kryptonite in lead and hurled them into the sun where they would be vaporized. This left only one piece of green kryptonite on Earth – the piece Superman had given Batman early on after the two first met. Only Batman knew it’s location and, aside from Superman, only Batman knew there was still one piece of the deadly element on the planet.

Almost immediately Clark Kent had secretly installed a version of Luthor’s monitoring technology at all the potential intake routes to his and Lois’s home. Water and sewers lines, chimney flue and air-conditioning ducts. Though his secret identity hadn’t been compromised in 20 years, he had to remain vigilante and especially now with CJ in the picture. As it was, one of the more ingenious and deadly plots hatched against Superman was an Intergang plan to slowly poison Superman to death by placing a kryptonite filter over the water intake pipe to his home. To trigger the plan Intergang needed to solve the mystery of Superman’s secret identity. They spent millions trying to do so and, fortunately, failed – with Superman eventually breaking up the plot and sending the perpetrators to jail.

Luthor’s technology was quickly incorporated into the CADMUS satellites which monitored Earth’s outer atmosphere for incoming meteors. Meant to destroy any incoming meteor on a collision course with Earth which was large enough to cause damage, the satellites also monitored meteors for kryptonite. Large or small, all kryptonite containing meteors were destroyed. With the lead enhancement, CADMUS was now able to guarantee that no more kryptonite fell to Earth.

Given all of this, the idea of foul-play being involved in the sudden disappearance was discussed but pretty much discounted early on. Planet Communications did an in-depth analysis using input from the scientific and law enforcement communities as well as from those who had personal relationships with Superman – including his physician Dr. Emil Hamilton. There had been a few claims made, in the months after Superman was last seen, that such and such group or individual had killed the unkillable man. But the claims were surprisingly few and those making the claims were all third-rate criminals or individuals looking for their 15 minutes of fame. They made their claims on blogs and over cells and all were immediately traced and checked out. The claims were proven false.

Very telling, according to the report, was that no Superman “souvenir” was ever delivered to any news or government agency. His boots, his cape, the wrist shields that controlled his suit’s nano-technology or anything else. Always in the past when one of his enemies believed they had killed the Man of Steel, they would send physical “proof”. Shortly after Nuclear Man defeated and apparently killed Superman in their battle over Metropolis, Superman’s bloody cape was sent to the Daily Planet. After Kal’s near-fatal subway battle with Metallo, the half-man, half cyborg had removed the boots, belt and red briefs from a prone Superman’s green body. Thinking Kal was dead, Metallo announced his “victory” to the world by tying the boots, belt and briefs together and placing them atop the Daily Planet Globe. There had been several other similar instances over the years – but this time nothing like that had happened.

As the Planet analysis pointed out, it was not so much that a new formidable enemy could not have risen, but that the means to challenge Superman were not there. Besides kryptonite, only sonic weapons, quantum-disruptors and enhanced plasma guns could harm Superman. The operative word being harm, only the quantum disruptor was thought to perhaps be able to kill the Kryptonian, but that wasn’t even certain. What was certain is that the nano-suit Superman started wearing a decade into his career had anti-quantum, sonic and plasma capabilities – basically it could neutralize such weapons. The Planet Communications’ report concluded there was absolutely no evidence to suggest foul-play.

And so it was, with all his great enemies gone, with kryptonite no longer a factor, with Superman handing leadership of the JL over to Batman, for the first time in his career Superman had real peace of mind. More important, for the first time since debuting as Superman, Superman had time – for himself and for the ones he cared about. As Batman would later recount, though Superman never said so, these were the happiest years of his life.

Lois Lane-Kent, now CEO of Planet Communications & Entertainment, confirmed Batman’s comments a few years later on the 5th anniversary of the disappearance. At the time she and James Olsen, chief of Planet Communications’ domestic news division, had co-produced a commemorative documentary on the life and times of Superman – his career, what he had meant to Earth and how he had changed humanity. In an effort to bring closure to the mystery, the documentary ended with the observation that, just as Superman had suddenly appeared one day 32 years ago, he had just as suddenly disappeared one day 22 years later. A fitting “bookend” to the legend’s life and times as the documentary noted.

In an interview just prior to release of the documentary, Lane-Kent confirmed that Superman’s last few years had indeed been his happiest. And not just because he had more time to himself and his loved ones, but because the people of Metropolis had changed in a positive way and that change was spreading throughout the world. Crime rates were down dramatically, graduation rates were up equally as dramatically, charity and philanthropy were at an all-time high.

She went on to observe that, though educational and medical buildings, parks and scholarship funds had been named after Superman during the years since his disappearance, if he were to come back now his real satisfaction would come from, not what humans had built to honor him, but how they had changed in their interactions with one another and their aspirations for their shared future. It was, she said, a fulfillment of Jor-El’s prophecy that “they can be a great people Kal-El, they only need someone to show them the way.” Superman had been that someone.

Despite Planet Communications’ efforts to temper interest in the mystery and get people to move past it, interest remained intense and only grew over the years. The legend of Superman lived on in the thousands of books written about him in the last decade – some fiction, some non-fiction, in websites and blogs – more were dedicated to Superman than to any other person or topic, in online Superman “fan-films” numbering in the thousands.

The ultimate showcase for the legend, the famous “Superman Collection”, had become by far the most visited exhibition in human history. This travelling “museum” had been assembled by Batman and others. It included several of Superman’s nano-suits as well as the only remaining original debut suit – the one that featured the infamous red trunks. It included the largest extant set of rare Superman photos as well as copies of every print and video interview Superman had ever given. An exhibition favorite was the “Great Battles” section. Recounting in detail the legendary battles – using original video footage or simulations – where video wasn’t available. Just as popular was a virtual tour of The Fortress of Solitude.

Ironically, the Fortress itself had been sealed off by Batman and the JL. A controversial move as many felt it should be turned into a scientific research center and a monument to Superman. Some of Earth’s greatest artists had proposed a 1000 meter high laser sculpture of Superman to rise above the Fortress. Easily seen from distant space, the light sculpture would continually change through a series of classic poses and image Superman in all his various suit incarnations. But Batman, considered Superman’s closest “family”, had final decision authority on questions regarding Superman’s legacy and how to honor it. After the JL put Superman’s 6 servor/androids into stasis, Batman had the Fortress sealed and determined it would remain so until a decade had passed with no sighting of the Man of Steel.

If there was any downside to all of this, it was that a cult of personality had built up around Superman in the last few years. Individuals “channeling” him, predicting his imminent return. Innocent at first, but 3 years ago 6 young people jumped to their deaths claiming Superman’s spirit would save them. Last year the number was 20 and this year, so far, 54. Mostly young people – the phenomena was spreading beyond Metropolis. But even that couldn’t take away from how Superman had transformed Metropolis and much of the world during his 22 year career.

And so it was that President Luthor’s announcement of a press conference on the 10th anniversary of the disappearance electrified the world and resulted in massive speculation as everyone waited for what was now being called “the anniversary press conference”.

White House, Rose Garden … President Luthor steps to the podium …

 

Note 1: The idea of Superman encasing kryptonite in lead and then hurling it into the sun comes from the Superboy TV series. After first encountering kryptonite and realizing the threat it posed, Superboy has Professor Peterson seal it in lead. The last scene of the episode was too cool – Superboy (John Haymes-Newton) spinning around faster and faster and then hurling the lead package towards the sun.

Note 2: In the context of this story, by the end of his career, Superman’s suit had evolved. Initially it was made from fabric that came with him on the spaceship. Lycra-like, the fabric was much more. It fit even tighter than lycra – no wrinkles at all (Christopher Reeve commented on how one of the big issues/problems with the suit in S:TM was to make it appear to not wrinkle). Plus it could stretch hundreds of times its relaxed size. Most important it was impervious to tears and such when worn by Superman and, even w/o Superman’s aura, it was extremely difficult to damage.

The Fortress AI comes developed the nano-suit over time with Superman’s input. The suit materializes when Clark touches his wrist shield to a certain area on his chest – it likewise de-materializes when he touches the spot while wearing the suit – revealing his street clothes underneath. Yeah, that’s how Clark manages to fit those boots under his regular shoes and socks. The miracles of nano-tech! The “red underwear” on the outside of Superman’s early suit (the Reeve/Cain/Christopher/Newton suit) is there for modesty’s sake only. It serves no functional purpose. The full-blown nano-suit in the context of this story resembles the new 52 suit, but is further enhanced. The development/evolution of the suit would make for a great story unto itself.

Note 3: In the context of this story, aside from kryptonite, the only known weapons that affected Superman during his career – as in slow him down and knock him off his feet – were sonic devices, high intensity plasma guns and the quantum disruptor. The former two can’t kill Superman. The quantum disruptor might be able to – so Luthor claimed when he developed it. But Superman survived a 1 hour barrage from 8 QD’s. It put him out of commission for a month but he returned to action apparently fully recovered. Only Superman knew the truth about the QD’s full potential and he kept that to himself. It is possible other weaponry had negatively affected him over the years, but that information was known only by Superman, Batman and perhaps Dr. Hamilton. Once later versions of the nano-suit were developed this all became a moot point given the suit’s ability to neutralize these weapons.

 

The press conference was scheduled in the White House Rose Garden so as to allow for the maximum number of reporters and officials. Still, it was an overflow crowd that awaited the President – speculative chatter among those present only going silent as the President appeared.

President Luthor looked intense as he approached the podium. He made no pleasantries before starting his prepared presentation.

“Ladies and gentlemen, its been a decade now since Superman disappeared. As you know the US government has coördinated a years-long search for him – or for an answer as to what happened to him. The UN, the Justice League, Interpol and a host of other agencies and groups have worked with us to bring closure to the mystery. I’d also like to personally thank Lois Lane-Kent of Planet Communications & Entertainment for providing complete support as well as resources to help in the investigation.”

The President continued.

“Today, I can announce that we think we have finally solved the mystery.”

The crowd of reporters and others erupted at those words. Their noise drowned out everything else in the Rose Garden. It took the President’s Chief of Staff ten minutes to quiet the crowd and he was only able to do so by threatening to have anyone who interrupted the President evicted from the press conference.

“Eight days ago CADMUS satellites picked up an unidentified object in the Ethiopian desert outside of Addis Ababa. After confirming that the object hadn’t been present 24 hours earlier on the previous scan of the area, CADMUS used high-definition imaging to determine the object was artificial and likely of alien origin. There appeared to be no activity around the object. CADMUS used the latest scanning technology to attempt to see through the object and into its interior but that effort proved fruitless.”

“CADMUS informed us of the situation and that they had dispatched a team to Ethiopia to carry out an on-site evaluation. We’ve had direct ongoing contact with their investigative team. The initial assumption was that the object was an extraterrestrial craft that had crashed in the desert. Though the curiosity was that CADMUS’s Earth atmosphere monitoring satellites hadn’t registered any ETs at the time.”

“The CADMUS team arrived onsite 6 days ago. Their external examination of the object confirmed the it was an alien craft that had apparently crash-landed on the desert floor. The side of the object – craft – had a gaping hole not picked up by the satellites. There was no sign of activity around the craft though the sand storms plaguing Ethiopia these past months would have quickly erased any tracks or signs of external activity.”

“After confirming it was safe to enter the craft, two team members went in. They found two beings inside and the craft was seemingly intact. At this point CADMUS informed us and also contacted the Justice League requesting Batman come to the site. The CADMUS team waited for the hour it took Batman to get to the crash site. Lois Lane-Kent, CEO of Planet Communications and Entertainment, agreed – at Batman’s request – to immediately dispatch the head of their International News Division to Ethiopia. He flew out of Metropolis for Addis Ababa within an hour of Batman’s request. He and Batman, with my consent and that of CADMUS and the Ethiopian authorities, have taken on overall control of the investigation. All of the information I am giving you today has been vetted by them for accuracy.”

President Luthor continued, tearing up as he spoke, “The two beings inside the craft were both alien, one of them is … was .. Superman. Both were dead!”

Regaining his composure, the President continued.

“It’s with great sadness and regret that today I must announce that Superman is dead. After ten years, and using all means at our disposal, Superman’s body was found 5 days ago in Ethiopia, near Addis Ababa, inside a crashed alien craft.”

The room immediately became tumultuous as reporters gasped and tried to quickly recover – shouting out questions to the President.

President Luthor stood silent for a while – tears streaming down his face.

Finally, his Chief of Staff got the crowd quieted – though sobbing could be heard throughout the Rose Garden.

“Thank you all – I know this is hard. Superman was more than just Earth’s adopted son, he was special to each of us in a unique personal way. For me, after we reconciled, he became the brother I never had. I’ve barely been able to sleep or eat since I learned of his death, so please bear with me.”

The President went on.

“At this point we don’t have all the answers as to what exactly happened to Superman, so I will give a brief overview of what we think happened, take a few questions and then pass out a report prepared by Planet Communications. After reviewing that report, you will have more questions and so we have scheduled a follow-up joint press conference for Monday. The head of Planet Communications’ International News Division, who authored the report, will join me in that follow-up session. By then we should have more information to give you including an updated report.”

Hands went up as questions were shouted out. The President looked down while his Chief of Staff quieted the crowd.

Finally, gathering himself, the President went on.

“We know that Superman died 8 days after his last known appearance at the Junior Heroes event here in Metropolis a decade ago. We know the exact date and time as the monitors built into his suit, among other things, tracked his heartbeat. It – his heart – stopped, as I said, 8 days after he was last seen and there has not been a beat registered since then. We know that as the monitoring devices in his nano-suit were still functional and working when we found his body.”

“Why weren’t the monitor’s signals picked up 10 years ago?!” one young reporter shouted.

“Please, there will be time for questions after my statement. But, to your point, the craft had some sort of cloaking mechanism. It’s why CADMUS never picked up its entry into the atmosphere, or its eventual crash. The cloaking mechanism worked both ways – signals from within the craft didn’t escape it. However, the suit’s monitoring of Superman’s vitals was not something projected to the Watch Tower or to The Fortress so, cloaking or not, the monitoring wouldn’t have been detected anyway.”

Another reporter shouted out what everyone was thinking.

“But there is no kryptonite on Earth, your detector would have warned him if there was a stray piece of the meteor and, even if there was one, he was protected by the nano-lead shield the suit created around his body!”

The Chief of Staff pointed to a guard and to the reporter and, even as the guard was escorting the reporter out of the Rose Garden, President Luthor answered.

“The cause of death was not kryptonite poisoning. His skin was not green, as it would have been had he succumbed to a lethal dose of the radiation. The area has been thoroughly scanned for kryptonite, and none was found. It’s not clear what killed him. Dr. Emil Hamilton, his personal physician, will carry out a full autopsy and hopes to determine the cause of death during that procedure.”

“Full autopsy?!” shouts came from the crowd. “Superman’s body is still intact after all these years?!”

“Superman is … was …”, Luthor corrected himself, ” …a Kryptonian. Their bodies deteriorate, but apparently it’s a centuries long process. Superman was found laying face-down, atop the remains of a non-human, non-Kryptonian entity. His suit was intact, as was his body – he looked like he was sleeping except his skin was a translucent white with blood vessels and muscle tissue clearly visible through the skin.”

Again, the crowd erupted almost in unison.

“Non-human, non-Kryptonian!?”

“Yes, but the remains are scant and it will take the best of CADMUS to determine its origin. We know it was not Kryptonian as its body had totally deteriorated.”

President Luthor went on.

“It was Dr. Hamilton who declared Superman dead. He flew to Ethiopia on the Planet Communications jet. Dr. Hamilton spent a day trying to revive the Man of Steel but, sadly, to no avail. Batman brought the JL solar magnifier to the site in hopes it might help. It had saved Superman on several occasions when his injuries were so severe his hyper-healing process did not kick in. Unfortunately, there has so far been no response to massive doses of yellow solar radiation. I say so far as, even now, at the Watch Tower, his body is still under the solar magnifier.”

President Luthor again choked up and wiped his cheek.

James Olsen, head of Planet Communications National New Division, raised his hand.

The President responded – “you have a question Mr. Olsen?”

“Yes. Is the assumption that Superman and the alien fought and that they killed each other in that fight?”

“It doesn’t seem so. Based on what we have pieced together, it appears Superman, after detecting the disabled craft, entered it and saw its occupant hurt in some way. Naturally, he went over and tried to help. It appears he was bending over the alien when some sort of craft defense mechanism kicked in. We found 10 24-cm long needle-like shards embedded in Superman’s body – his neck, back and buttocks. Another half dozen lay near his body – apparently having missed their mark. This helps explain how we found the bodies – Superman laying face-down atop the alien’s remains indicating he’d been hit from behind with the projectiles as he stooped to help the craft’s occupant.”

“But how could needles penetrate his suit and his skin and, even if they did, 10 needles couldn’t kill Superman?!” a reporter blurted out before being escorted away.

The President went on …

“The shards are made of an unknown metallic-like element not of Earth origin. It could possibly be from Daxam or a similar planet. It’s known that a rare ore exists on Daxam which, when refined into a highly fused state and shaped into projectile form, can pierce a Kryptonian’s skin. Whatever the origin, these shards penetrated Superman’s nano-suit, his aura and his skin and embedded themselves several centimeters into his body. However, the cause of death may not have been the shards themselves, but some substance they injected into the Man of Steel. Some kind of super-toxin – a virus X like substance perhaps. There were dried remnants of something at each entry wound. We will know more after the autopsy and after the shards and the dried substance are fully analyzed.”

“Where is Superman now? Have the needles or shards or whatever they are been removed from his body!? Is it possible he could recover if kept under an the intense UV solar bath?” another reporter shouted despite the warnings.

“As I said, Superman’s body was taken to the Watch Tower by Batman. Dr. Hamilton and his associate Dr. Peterson removed the needles while Superman was still in the craft. His body is being exposed to massive doses of UV radiation at the Watch Tower – more UV radiation than was able to be delivered at the crash site. The craft and the alien’s remains have also been taken to the Watch Tower. Batman, as the next of kin, is making the final decisions on all of this as it relates to the Man of Steel.”

Continuing, the President surmised.

“Is it possible he could be revived? After 10 years? Unfortunately, this is no Doomsday situation. The wounds on Superman’s body had not healed as they did when he was assumed dead after his fight with Doomsday. All I can do is reassure you that the two most knowledgeable people in Kryptonian physiology have been brought in and are doing everything they can.”

“Dr. Hamilton is not only the pre-eminent specialist on the topic, he was Superman’s personal physician for almost 20 years. Professor Peterson is second only to Dr. Hamilton in this area. Superman was known as the “Blur” in Metropolis for the 6 months prior to his formal debut – during that time his medical/scientific contact was Dr. Peterson. It was Dr. Peterson who discovered the link between the “green rock”, as Superman initially called kryptonite, and Superman – that both had a common origin. The planet Krypton.”

President Luthor was having a hard time continuing. He said he would take a few more questions and then end the press conference. He turned to the front row of seats and thanked Planet Communications’ CEO Lois Lane-Kent, who had sat quietly through the event, for providing resources and a team to help with the investigation.

President Luthor called on James Olsen again.

 

Mystery solved, the end?

Note 1: The reference to the “Blur” is a shout out to the Smallville series. In the final season Clark lived/worked in Metropolis and did super-deeds w/o the suit or an identity. He was called the Blur. A shame they didn’t have Tom wear the suit full-on in the last few eps. But rumors abound as they always have.

Note 2: The reference to Professor Peterson is a shout-out to the Superboy TV series. Professor Peterson was Superboy’s personal physician in the TV series and is the role model DC used for Dr. Hamilton. In the series he deduced to origin of Superboy as being Krypton based on the Boy of Steel’s reaction to the meteor which came from Krypton.

Note 3: Daxam is a Krypton like planet whose inhabitants are stronger than Kryptonians are under a yellow sun. The strongest of Daxam metals can pierce Superman aura/skin and, in a one-on-one fight to the death, a Daxamite can kill Superman, or any Kryptoniain. Although meteors from Daxam emit radiation, that radiation is not toxic to Kryptonians.

Note 4: Virus X is from the Golden Age of Superman lore. Not mentioned much it was, however, one of the ways Gog, in that somewhat recent series, killed Superman. Gog going back a few years at a time from the future and killing Superman over and over again until he, Gog, reached the present day. Basiclly a Kryptonian killer virus as deadly to Kryptonians on Earth as on Krypton. L&C did a spin-off on this idea in one of its eps.

 

Mr. Olsen continued, “What about Superman’s emergency distress device, it was linked directly to the Watchtower and individually to each JL member?”

“Superman had engaged his emergency distress signal. His hand was tightly clasped to it when his body was found. The cloaking mechanism, however, prevented the signal from reaching beyond the downed craft. Batman has confirmed this. His initial research on the technology verifies that it totally blocks current JL communication systems – systems which are a decade advanced from the one used by Superman.”

“Then how was the craft found?” Olsen pressed.

“The cloaking mechanism’s power source started to give out 2 months ago. That’s when CADMUS satellites first picked the craft up as a new object on the desert floor. It was picked up on one pass, but not on the next several – CADMUS flagged it as a “bogie”. However, on later passes, the object showed up again. A few weeks ago it was seen on all passes as the power source completely gave out. At that point CADMUS sent a team to investigate. That team found the craft with Superman’s body inside.”

President Luthor added.

“As sophisticated as the cloaking system is, it wasn’t effective against Superman’s hyper-senses. Though CADMUS did not detect the crash, Superman clearly did. This explains his flying to Ethiopia, following up on what his sense had picked up. There is no record of Superman informing anyone of what he had detected or of his flight to Ethiopia. This would not have been unusual, as Superman often flew to disaster sites immediately without first informing the JL or anyone else.”

“Just a few more questions,” the Chief of Staff barked out.

“Is there evidence Superman tried to get away after being wounded, maybe crawl out of the craft?” Cat Grant, self-declared “dean of reporters”, shouted out.

“No, once the needles entered his body, whatever they injected into him, it took effect almost immediately. Superman collapsed directly onto the alien. There is no indication that he was able to move. That is our guess. Superman was much larger and heavier than the alien. His body would have crushed the alien and, even critically injured, Superman would have pulled himself off of the alien, if he could, so as not to further hurt the injured being. There is no indication he was able to do that. The report handed out to you today includes photos of exactly how the two bodies were found and you can judge for yourselves.”

“This is not official, and I am getting ahead of the investigation, but it seems this was a tragic mistake. Superman going to help someone in trouble, that person – that being – thinking it was an attack by Superman responded by triggering a defense mechanism. Tragically, the alien’s weapon somehow was lethal to Superman. In the end, Superman seems to have died doing what he lived doing – helping others. A more fitting end to the Man of Steel’s life than if he had died fighting some powerful crazed beast.”

Tears again flowed from the President’s eyes, “None of us every thought the never-ending battle would come to an end. That is what makes this all so unbelievable. Superman, though, was never so sanguine. In one of his last interviews, he spoke of the immensity of the universe and how forces existed out there that none of us, even he, fully understood. Superman mused on his long career and that one day he might come up against a force that he couldn’t handle or overcome. His wish, if that ever happened, was that he be remembered that his death come about while trying to help others. In the end, Superman got his wish.”

The President called, once again, on James Olsen.

“It’s early, but where will the memorial service be held and will Superman be buried in his home city of Metropolis, or at his Fortress?”

“Yes to your first question. An ecumenical memorial service will be held at the Cathedral of the Son here in Metropolis. Details are being worked out with the Cardinal-Archbishop and leaders of other religions as well as secular leaders. There will be no casket, as Superman’s body will remain at the Watchtower for the time being.”

“To your second question, Superman will not be interred on Earth. That decision has already been made by Batman. The security needed to protect his body from being stolen and experimented upon or displayed as a trophy, as some would attempt to do, would be extremely costly and not foolproof. Even the Fortress can’t be totally secured. However, proposals to turn the Fortress into a peace and scientific research center and a monument to Superman’s legacy will now move forward. Batman today gave the green-light for that project. The long-proposed thousand meter high holographic sculpture of Superman, to rise above the Fortress, will be part of the project.”

“The Fortress will be opened to the public. This is something Superman would have wanted, and Batman wants to honor that. Logistics on how to do this and preserve the environment will be worked out with Environmental Action and other conservation groups. Part of the reason for not burying the Man of Steel in his Fortress is a desire not to turn it into a target, given that public access will be a key feature of the monument. The primary goal is total public access, in complete safety, to the monument. Initial plans are to fully chronicle the Man of Steel’s life and times. Images, stories, displays, many never seen before, will be featured. It will be complete. A virtual history of Kal-El’s life – from his Metropolis debut, to his rise to global icon and symbol for hope, to his last mission and tragic death in Ethiopia. Re-creations of the downed craft in which Superman died and of how his body was found will be created and placed in the Fortress, though access to them will be restricted.”

“We anticipate the Fortress will become Earth’s most famous and most visited monument, as well as one of its pre-eminent scientific research centers.” President Luthor paused, gathering himself.

Seeing her chance, Cat asked, “Back to the threats. Are the threats to his body really that great?”

“Not from Earth sources. Superman has transformed humanity in ways we can’t even fathom. Batman and others are worried about non-Earth threats. Zod is still alive and out there, as is Lobo. The Wrath has not been seen in 15 years, but was reportedly trying to resurrect the Superman Revenge Squad when last heard of. Batman will not allow Superman’s body to become a trophy for one of his old enemies or a source for experimentation. The decision is final. The Man of Steel will not be buried on the planet.”

Again, the President paused and wiped a tear from his cheek.

“Pardon me, Mr. President,” a voice rang out, “but this monument and the burial seem surprisingly well thought out – given we learned of the death just two weeks ago. This story does fit together quite, what shall I say, conveniently. A little too neat maybe? No mystery. For the record, didn’t you almost kill Superman on at least four occasions? Weren’t Batman and Superman mostly at odds – some might say enemies of a sort? When did Batman become Superman’s next of kin? I must have missed that announcement! Yet you and Batman are driving the investigation?!”

The questioner’s tone was dubious, almost confrontational. This was de rigueur for Edward Fallberg who took no prisoners.

Fallberg was known for being in-your-face to everyone he questioned, President or not. CEO of the National Informer, Fallberg had transformed the former National Enquirer into a respected news and entertainment source. The Informer was second only to Planet Communications in the industry, and no love was lost between the two corporations. His implication, that Luthor and Batman had reason to see Superman out of the picture, would have made for a typical explosive Enquirer headline from the good old days.

Fallberg’s question changed the tone in the Rose Garden for a few seconds and, knowing he would be evicted, Fallberg got up and left even as guards quickly approached and took him by both arms.

“I think that question comes out of ignorance.” President Luthor tersely replied. “Stirring up things may be par for the course for the Informer, but it has no place here, today of all days. I will not dignify the question with a reply.”

Amid all the confusion caused by Fallberg, Cat saw a chance to get in another question.

Like Fallberg, she was dubious about all of this. There’d been a connection between Superman and the Daily Planet and later Planet Communications, that was more than coincidental. She never quite figured it out. Clearly, it was still in place. It was Planet Communications personnel involved in the investigation, Planet jets ferried Dr. Emil Hamilton and others to Ethiopia, and now Jimmy – she refused to refer to him as James which he preferred, was getting the lion’s share of questions. Cat thought back to a dinner at Jimmy’s house six months after Superman’s disappearance. She had excused herself from the table looking for the downstairs’ bathroom. Taking a wrong turn, she mistakenly entered a closet. In the process she knocked a box off a shelf. It fell open and a small green glowing rock rolled out of it. Kryptonite? What would Jimmy be doing with kryptonite? There supposedly was no more left on Earth. Later Cat broke into Jimmy’s house and searched high and low for whatever she had seen, but found nothing. Maybe she had too much to drink? Maybe it was a rolled up green sock she saw? It was a mystery she had kept to herself all this time – something she hadn’t thought of in a long time.

“So, Mr. President,” she shouted out, “Superman will be buried in the Watchtower?”

The President paused, then went on.

So, enough clues yet to figure out what happened to Superman?

Note 1: Daxam technology is far advanced from that of Earth. The strongest Daxam metals are the only metals in the universe that Superman is unable to bend or break free from. The canon is contradictory on this but Daxamites are physically stronger than Kryptonians – or they are not. LOL.

Note 2: The Wrath storyline is very cool in part because he’s a “villain” who can take on and take down Supes w/o kryptonite.

Note 3: The Superman Revenge Squad is silver age. It was highlighted in a 1960s comic “School For Superman Assassins”. An alliance of Superman’s non-Earth enemies bent on destroying the Man of Steel.

 

“No, Ms. Grant. Batman has had an offer from leaders of the planet Daxam. They’ll provide one of their interstellar space vehicles as a pyre of sorts for Superman’s body. It will carry Superman on his final flight to the sun. The ship will use worm hole propulsion technology to reach the sun in one year – Earth time. Before it actually reaches the sun, the ship and Superman’s body will be vaporized and become part of the sun.”

“His powers came from our sun, were a gift from our sun, and so it’s fitting he should now become one with the sun. No one will ever take his physical body to display in a trophy case as his body will cease to exist. His spirit, however,” Luthor teared up, “will live on in all of us.”

“But, is there hope that a massive solar radiation exposure …” Yahoo News reporter Gerry DiNome called out before being cut-off.

“That will be all for today.” the Chief of Staff shouted out as President Luthor turned and walked out of the Rose Garden and back into the White House.

Despite the President’s departure, the Garden remained loud with chatter from the hundreds of reporters who’d attended the event. No one wanted to leave it seemed, but for a few. Lois Lane-Kent and her group quickly got up and made their way through the crowd and to the exit. Not far behind was Cat Grant who needed to meet someone.

One hour later, Newton’s Pub, Washington DC:

Cat Grant knew Edward Fallberg. It was more than a casual acquaintance – Fallberg had been trying to get Cat to hire-on at Enquirer Communications for a while. Cat always turned down the offers, though it would have meant a large salary increase. She took great pleasure in her unique position at Planet Communications as “dean of reporters”, but mostly she took delight in being a thorn in the side of Lois Lane-Kent and the board.

Fallberg frequented Newton’s Pub, not far from the Planet’s Washington DC offices, and Cat had a hunch he’d be there.

Entering the dimly lit bar, she saw him sitting at a corner table engrossed in his laptop.

Sitting down opposite him she opined, “It does seem a little too neat.”

“And what are you referring to Cat?” Fallberg, tongue in cheek, said as he looked up.

“I don’t need to draw you a picture Ed.”

“No you don’t, and yes it does. Everything fits too perfectly. All the puzzle pieces come together in a week after a decade of intense mystery? It begs the question as to what really happened.”

“You left before it was announced, but Superman will be buried in space or rather in the sun – his body will be launched towards the sun in a modern-day version of the ancient pyre. A nod to how mythological heroes were buried.”

“Mythological heroes or not, it’s very convenient. Even a Kryptonian’s body would be incinerated as it neared the sun. A body seen only by a select few, a supposed autopsy at the Watchtower – oh, but there will be photos! Why is everything about this restricted to a small inner circle? Sending him into space actually makes stealing his body easier, and wasn’t that the reason for not burying him in Metropolis?! Did anyone ask about that?” Sarcasm permeated Fallberg’s words.

“No, the press conference immediately ended after that announcement. So, you have theories as to what really happened?”

“It’s speculation and, given the whisking away of all the evidence, that may be all it ever is.”

“Just as with the Kennedy assassination last century.”

“Yes.”

Fallberg continued.

“To answer you question, I see two possibilities. First, that it is what it is. Superman died in a tragic accident a decade ago, or it was foul play. A conspiracy among a small group of highly intelligent people with reasons for seeing him gone or, more likely, experimented upon. A group that had access to resources – both material and monetary.”

“And you’re suggesting?”

“The obvious. Luthor and Batman. With a few others perhaps. They’re controlling all the information, so they’re likely candidates – the inner circle if there is one.”

“What about Jimmy Olsen? I saw something odd at his house a few months after the disappearance. It looked like kryptonite.”

“Interesting. Olsen and Lane-Kent are potential accomplices. Planet Communications is facilitating things for the President and Batman. Didn’t Olsen rise quickly from lead photographer at the time of Superman’s disappearance until now he’s head of the domestic news division? Lane-Kent greased the skids it seems. Why? Were the two ever an item?”

“An item, please – we are talking Jimmy Olsen here! He had a bromance thing going with Clark Kent, but that was about it. But, yes, he did rise quickly and I saw what I saw at his house – though I’d had one or two too many drinks at the time. What about the crash in Ethiopia? It would have been easy to stage.”

“I agree Cat. What the President said may be true but, if one were to stage an accident like this, what better place than the remote Ethiopian desert. If it was staged then Superman likely didn’t die a decade ago, but recently. To be honest Cat, my theory has as many holes in it as the official explanation. Just saying, so feel free to shoot more holes in it.”

“Let’s go with your theory. Luthor, Batman, Lane-Kent, whomever did this – they’d likely capture, not kill, Superman. Studying him indefinitely makes more sense than dissecting him immediately. The knowledge his physiology could provide! Maybe he was harnessed as an energy source? In any case, it’s likely they somehow caged him and kept him caged for a decade. Finally, getting all the information they could from him, they killed him.”

“The idea of using Superman as a perpetual energy source is intriguing. Harnessing his living energy-rich body means, of course, he’d be kept alive indefinitely. Years ago a secret CADMUS study dealt with the Kryptonian body as an energy source and speculated it might rival 500 nuclear facilities. The study was theoretical but considered so controversial the findings were destroyed – supposedly at Superman’s request. This would’ve been very hard to pull off for a decade with no hint getting out. Batman not withstanding. Where did they keep Superman? Who had access to him or knowledge of his captivity? Surely, the whole JL was not compromised. On top of which, no miracle new power source has emerged in recent years.”

“So, what can I do to help get some answers to these questions?”

“Attend Monday’s press conference. Get information about the autopsy. Everyone be there besides Hamilton. How will it be documented. Will that documentation be released and when. If not, why?”

“I’m going to track down Professor Peterson. He seems out of place in the group. He might inadvertently reveal something.”

“Good, we’ll see what we come up with. The Enquirer will investigate this indefinitely but, realistically, until we can turn up some hard evidence or contradictions in the official story, getting to the truth will be difficult.”

“It comes with the territory Ed. Bottom line, no one is perfect and, if there was a conspiracy, there will have been slip-ups.”

“True. I suspected Luthor was involved from the get-go and spent a lot of time investigating him. So far no slip-ups on his part – if he’s involved. This would have cost billions to pull off and it would have generated even more in profits. Luthor’s personal financial records show nothing suspicious for a year prior to the disappearance to the present day.”

“You can track that?”

“Can and have.”

“I’ve also researched Drs. Hamilton and Peterson. So far nothing suspicious, but I’ll run a deeper trawl on them. Peterson has only been to Metropolis twice since Superboy left Capitol City to settle in Metropolis and become Superman. His claim to fame was his discovery of what Superboy and the “green rock”, as it was first called, had a common origin – namely the planet Krypton. Peterson didn’t stay in touch with Superman and didn’t further research kryptonite after Superboy moved from Capitol City. He’s nothing like Hamilton who researched the meteorite’s properties for years. Hamilton was also Superman’s personal physician and had access to information about him no one else did.”

“Maybe it’s nothing Ed, but Lois is having a dinner party for Bruce Wayne this weekend. I’ve tried to get an invite, but won’t. Maybe Wayne is involved? He supposedly has ties to Batman.”

“Interesting. He’s worth billions. Maybe Wayne is the missing link. I’ll research his financial dealings and his links to Batman.”

“You know Ed, I’d love to break into Lois’s home and be a fly on the wall at that dinner! Can you help me do that?”

“Not a chance Cat. The Kent home is just as secure as mine. You’d be caught right away. Wayne will bring his own security to boot, making the impossible even more so.”

“Is eavesdropping an option?”

“Unfortunately, no.”

“So, we may never know the truth is what you’re saying?”

“That’s the nature of life, isn’t it? When Superman first disappeared I spent a year trying to track down what everybody assumed he had – a secret identity. That he walked among us – maybe in Metropolis itself – as a nondescript human. It should’ve been easy to find his other identity given the complete disappearance of the Man of Steel and working backwards from that. But nothing. Maybe the speculation was wrong and he didn’t have a dual identity. Maybe he lived at the Fortress in off-hours and, if rumors were true, Wonder Woman lived there too. I concluded it was unlikely Superman had another identity. But the supposed secret identity mystery made for great press and sold a lot of papers.”

Turning his laptop towards Cat, Fallberg said, “Listen to this.”

“… There was no choice, we’ve gone over this a million times. This protects everyone, stops the suicides and allows CJ total freedom in what … trust he makes the right decision even if… want”

“Sounds like Lois.”

“It is. My monitor picked it up as she left the Rose Garden. That’s all I got. Sentence fragments. It’s hard to figure out what she meant and whom she was talking to. Not much to go on. You know her – maybe you can make sense of it.”

“I’ll give it a try. Lois and I have never been on good terms, but I find it hard to believe she would knowingly be involved in a plot to take out Superman.”

“Love hath no fury, Cat … you know the saying. Remember Lana Lang. She and Superboy were an item when she worked as an intern in Capitol City at the same time Superboy was operating there. Superboy moved to Metropolis and, shortly after, he and Lois became an item. Lana came to Metropolis several times to try to talk to Superman. She supposedly attacked Lois in the Daily Planet offices during one of those visits.”

“So I’ve heard – a catfight that, sadly, I missed.”

“Clearly Lana had lost it. She suffered from depression all her life because of the death of her parents in a meteor shower in Smallville when she was just a child. This may have pushed her over the edge – causing her infatuation with Superman to turn into hate for him. Eventually, she tried to kill herself and Superman by jumping off the Planet building.”

“Sad. She took a cue from Luthor, placing a necklace with a kryptonite lock over Superman’s head as he flew in to stop her fall. She thought a fall from the 90 story building would kill a weakened Superman – just like Luthor believed a weakened Superman could be drowned in a pool. Luthor lived to fight another day – Lana didn’t.”

“It’s the pattern that’s interesting. Superman and Lois ceased to be an item after several years. Lois settled for Clark Kent. Superman was alone it seemed, and maybe that made Lois happy in a vindictive way. If she couldn’t have him, then no one could. But then Superman and Wonder Woman were rumored to be together. Maybe Lois’s Superman infatuation turned into something dark and dangerous when she saw him with another woman?”

“I don’t know Ed. Dr. Hamilton determined that humans and Kryptonians are sexually incompatible. The sex would be great, but Lois would’ve died during the “event”. What a way to go out though. But seriously, Lana and Lois could never have consummated a relationship with Superman. Lois is no Lana. Lois moved on – Lana never could.”

“It’s a tangled web Cat. I’ll be in touch.” With that Fallberg excused himself leaving Cat alone to ponder the day’s events.

The following Sunday – Bosworth Lane, Metropolis.

“I’ll get it,” Lois’s voice called out from the kitchen as she scurried to answer the doorbell.

Opening the front door, a handsome, well dressed man stood on the porch. A bottle of wine in his hands.

“Bruce, you’re early!”

“I thought I might help in the kitchen.”

“You know me Bruce, no man enters my kitchen when I’m cooking a special dinner.”

“Kidder Vitners – my favorite Bruce.” Lois said as she took the wine and led Bruce to the sitting room. “I’ll be back in a second and get you a cognac.”

“Lois, I think I can manage that myself – besides, do I smell something burning?”

“What!” Lois turned and ran towards the kitchen. Once she got there Bruce shouted, “Just kidding!”.

“I’ll get you for that Bruce! By the way, the laptop is loaded with information for Monday’s presser – you might be interested in what …”

The end……

This chapter pretty much ties things up.

Note 1: The story uses the Superboy TV series premise that Clark moved from Smallville to Capitol City to go the college. It was in Capitol City that he made his debut as Superboy, met Lana Lang, first encountered Lex Luthor and met Professor Peterson.

Note 2: The meteor shower that accompanied Kal’s craft to Earth and fell on Smallville comes from Smallville. Lana’s parents died in that event.

Note 3: Cat Grant comes from Lois and Clark. Portrayed as a reporter and rival to Lois. Like Lois, she had the hots for Superman.

Note 4: This chapter has 4 shout outs to actors involved with Superman projects over the years. One is easy to catch, two others a bit harder and the fourth is one only the best Superman trivia buff will know.

 

 

 

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