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Strange Visitor
Samuel Hawkins


Chapter 5:
A Discussion of the Societal and Personal Impacts of a Super-Powered Teen.

Lana raised a finger and was about to point it accusingly.  Clark was Superboy, she was increasingly certain, and his parents were covering for him again.

Only this time, she thought, they weren't doing their usual good job at it.

She was just about to comment on this, when Pete interrupted.  "Well, yeah, but we came up Taylor Street," he noted.  "Clark cuts across Jack Potter's back field sometimes."  Lana looked at Pete, who added in an almost teasing voice, "I think he hopes that Sally Potter will be laying out by their new pool."

There was a moment of silence as Lana's gaze turned into a mild glare.  Then Pa said to Mr. Jones, "Miss Lang here is always checking up on Clark's  whereabouts." He chuckled and, in a stage whisper, added, "Seems she suspects him of being Superboy."

Lana's cheeks reddened, especially when Mr. Jones joined in.  "Well, I'm sure Clark is flattered.  Will he be wearing his cape during dinner?"

Hearty laughter from the three males followed.  As Lana's face flushed, Pa couldn't help but feel a bit guilty at her embarrassment, and noticed that both Mr. Jones and Pete seemed to share this sentiment.  But it was necessary, he knew, and hopefully the social rebuke would help to dampen  Lana's persistent suspicions.

Even if only for tonight.

There was a noise from the rear of the house.  "Hey," Clark said as he emerged from the kitchen.  "How is everyone?"

As everyone greeted Clark, Lana noted that she hadn't heard the back door close.  You usually did, she knew, given that squeaky spring that Mr. Kent had been talking for years about changing.

No squeak meant that he hadn't used the back door.  But how else could he have come in? 

She almost brought this to everyone's attention.

But then she decided that maybe she wouldn't.

At least not tonight.

"Dinner's ready," Ma Kent announced once Clark had said hello to Mr. Jones again.  Everyone found a seat, and after comments on how wonderful everything looked and smelled, dug in.

Dinner went both well and quickly.  During and between generous helpings of Martha's renowned chicken potpie, mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits, everyone had ample opportunity to catch up with one another.  They talked about Pete's part-time job at the drugstore, and the psychology class Martha was taking at the community college, and the tool shed Jonathan was building in the back yard, and the calf Clark was raising for the state fair, and Lana's recent trip with her father to South America.  As usual, the globetrotting Miss Lang was able to supply the most interesting recent experience.  Mr. Jones was particularly fascinated by her report of an artifact she and Professor Lang had discovered in the Yucatan earlier that summer.

"And it was plastic?" he asked.

"Um, sorta," Lana replied.  "But more like luminous, very thin metal that behaves like plastic.  Dad said he had never seen anything like it.  He dated it to the late Paleolithic, and said that there was no way that the local inhabitants, or anyone else on Earth at the time, could have made anything like that.  Or probably even now.  He thinks it's pretty convincing proof of extraterrestrial visitors."  She flashed a smile that could, and had, melt the heart of a titan.  "Of course, since Superboy came along, Dad is a lot more willing to say so in public."

Mr. Jones nodded eagerly.  "And the markings, you say that they looked like Japanese script?"

"Well, they did to me, but Dad describes them as some type of 'mathematical art.'  They're really pretty.  The symbols are all multi-colored, and no two seem to be exactly alike.  Dad doesn't think he'll be able to ever interpret them."

Mr. Jones' eyes seemed to alight with the glow of recognition.  "That's ... fascinating, Lana.  Your father is most accomplished in his field.  Will this piece be on display anytime soon?"

Lana shrugged.  "I doubt it.  He's still studying it.  I can probably get you a look at it though, if you like."

Mr. Jones seemed to almost agree, but then looked slightly to the left of Lana's shoulder.  He hesitated a moment, then smiled and shook his head. "That's okay, dear.  I think I can wait until it's displayed."

Under his breath, he whispered, "Fascinating."

The conversation drifted on as the second helpings were served.  The kids related to Mr. Jones how the previous school year had went, their anxieties about beginning high school in a few weeks, and how summer had been great, particularly since Superboy had turned a spot in Miller's Creek into a fantastic swimming hole.  Of course, the subject of Smallville's newly world-famous resident had a habit of coming up in the conversation.  It was almost unavoidable.

"And how was the spring dance?" Mr. Jones asked.

"It was great!" Lana bubbled.  "Superboy showed up for a little while!  And he danced with me!"

Or:

"I noticed that the road through Conner's Cove was finished," Mr. Jones remarked.  "Last time I was in town I heard that the state wasn't going to be able to complete the project."

"They weren't," Pete exclaimed, "so Superboy did.  It was incredible!  He did it in just a couple of hours.  They let us out of school so we could watch.  It was incredible!"

Or:

"Clark, are you keeping busy at the store?" Mr. Jones asked.

"Yes sir, pretty much," Clark answered.

"Well," Lana elaborated, "there are lots of tourists in town now.  They come to see Superboy."

And so it went.  At one point, Mr. Jones commented on the changes wrought by the appearance of the teen phenomenon from another world.  "Well, I suppose things have been turned upside down here, since this ... uh ... Superboy first appeared.  I must admit, I've been a bit worried that Smallville's new status as his home might have somehow ... tarnished your wonderful town.  Changed it, in some way."

Lana was the first to respond.  "Oh no, no way.  Things are more exciting, of course, but nothing bad has happened to Smallville."

Pete chimed in, "That's right.  It's still the same Smallville."

Clark spoke a bit more cautiously.  "I think ... I think that Superboy has tried real hard to not disturb things too much.  Real hard.  I ... I don't think you have to worry about Smallville ever changing."

Mr. Jones nodded slowly.  "Of course not."  He replaced his coffee cup on its saucer and almost smiled.  "After all, the young man has probably grown up around here himself.  I'm certain that a different Smallville would be the last thing he'd wish to see."

Jonathan Kent took a drink of iced tea and leaned back from the table.  "I think that goes for everyone in town.  Oh, folks kicked up a ruckus about the boy at first, but things settled back down to more or less normal in a few weeks.  We get a few tourists, but they don't stay long.  They get kinda bored waiting for a look at Superboy.  There's only so many times you can visit that Superboy Museum that Tom Jefferies has set up over in his hardware store.  Especially since all he has on display are a couple of pictures and the fender off a '49 Packard that Superboy accidentally put his handprint in."  When the kids had finished laughing at their memories of that incident, Jonathan added, "Mostly the tourists are kinda disappointed.  I think some of them expect us to have the boy on display in the town square when he's not out on patrol."

Mr. Jones did smile now.  "Well, Smallville is a jewel," he said in his slow and thoughtful manner.  "I'd hate to see it spoiled in any way.  Though I'm sure that won't happen."

"Me either," Jonathan said softly.

Changing the subject, Mr. Jones said, "That was quite an event around here this afternoon."

"Oh," Clark asked, "you, uh, you got to see that?"

Mr. Jones nodded.  "Yes, I did.  That robot was certainly impressive."

Lana hadn't heard the news, but caught on quickly.  "Oh.  Was Lex at it again?"

Clark nodded.  "Yeah.  But Superboy melted down his robot this time.  And, uh, I heard that he caught Lex.  Took him back to the Reform School."

Pete smiled at the news that their former classmate was at least temporarily locked away, but then shook his head sadly.  "I just don't know what's gotten into Lex.  He was always ... kinda stuck up, but as smart as he is, you kinda understood it.  This though ..."

Mr. Jones raised an eyebrow.  "You kids know this Lex Luthor?"

They all nodded.  "Not for long, really," Pete answered.  "His family had only been in town about three months before ... the ... thing that happened."

"What was that?" Mr. Jones asked.

No one jumped to relate the story, so the task fell to Pa Kent.  When he'd finished explaining about the lab and the chemicals and the fire, Lana said,  "I mean, I can see him being upset about his hair, but he's just gone completely insane.  And the way he hates Superboy ... you should see the way it twists his face.  It's scary."

Mr. Jones looked thoughtful.  "I suppose it would be traumatic for that to happen to a teen-aged boy.  But other kids come through worse things.  Were there any signs of antisocial behavior before that incident?"

Everyone sort of shrugged.  "I guess Clark would me the one to ask about that," Lana said.  "He knew Lex better than the rest of us."

As everyone looked to Clark, Mr. Jones noticed that the lad had become somewhat silent.  And, most dire of all, he seemed to be picking at his mashed potatoes.

Feeling the expectation to respond, Clark said, "It's ... it's hard to say.  Lex was ... is ... so smart, that it's ... well, it was kinda hard to say what was normal for someone like that.  You kinda ... wanted to give him more leeway."

Mr. Jones looked closely at Clark, then nodded.  "So maybe," he said, "whatever has caused young Mr. Luthor to behave in this way was present before he lost his hair.  Long before.  It might have come out eventually in any event."

"I suppose that's true," Clark admitted, "but ... he seems so certain that Superboy is responsible.  For everything.  Like Lana said, you can't miss seeing how much he hates  Superboy.  Seems like ... he wouldn't hate him so if he weren't to blame.  At least a little bit."

Mr. Jones raised an eyebrow.  "Perhaps."  He paused, then added, "But I doubt it's that simple."  Clark was about to respond when Mr. Jones cut him off.  "Do you think that Superboy feels responsible for the change in Luthor's behavior?"

"Sure," Clark said automatically.  "I mean ... I think he probably does.  He's ... kinda mentioned to me that he really wishes he had done things differently with Lex."

Mr. Jones nodded.  No one spoke while he paused to pour more gravy on his potatoes and reach for another biscuit.  Very casually, he said, "I guess that surprises me.  I've seen and read a few interviews with this Superboy.  He didn't seem arrogant to me."

As Mr. Jones was sitting in the midst of something akin to a Superboy Fan Club, this last statement flew with something akin to the aerodynamics of a greased brick.

"He's not," Pete protested.

"Not at all!" Lana agreed.

"Sakes no!" Martha offered.  "He's ... well, he seems like such a sweet boy."

Jonathan and Clark remained silent.

Mr. Jones seemed to shrug, and began to butter his biscuit.  "Oh, well, you folks would know him better than me.  It's just ... well, you know, it sounds like the young man is perhaps taking a bit too much on his shoulders."

"What do you mean?" Martha asked.

"Well, it seems to me," Mr. Jones said with a slight chuckle, "that when people look at some new thing, they usually find what they were already looking for.  Folks tend to hunt for ... confirmation of what they already believe, I've found.  I suppose that if you have someone as different, and powerful, and honest as Superboy seems to be, then he will give people all sorts of justification for the way that they're already thinking.  Some of these will be things that Superboy intends, but I suspect that some of those things will surprise him.  And some of those things, as in the case of poor Mr. Luthor, will unfortunately be bad."  He paused as Clark's expression shifted.  "I just hope that this young Superboy understands that he can't prevent that.  Human nature, after all, was around long before he came along.  No more than any of us, he can't control how people perceive him.  He can only try to do what he thinks is right."

Clark seemed to consider that carefully.  "And I certainly hope," Mr. Jones added, "that Superboy wouldn't think that he's responsible for the choices that everyone else makes.  Even his friends.  That would be ... a trifle condescending, don't you think?  After all, everyone is entitled to make their own choices.  Even bad ones."

No one spoke for a while.  They seemed to be thinking about what Mr. Jones had said.  Then Clark lifted a hunk of potatoes aloft and stared at it.  "You have a point," he said.  Then he popped the potatoes in his mouth, and smiled, at more than just the taste.  "A good point," he added, and smiled again.  "I'll have to mention that to Superboy the next time I see him."



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STRANGE VISITOR Copyright 2000 Samuel Hawkins.  All rights reserved.  This story is neither authorized nor endorsed by DC Comics.   Superboy and all related previously established characters are TM DC Comics & © DC Comics, Joanne Siegel, and Laura Siegel Larson.


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