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Chapter 36

The inoffensively handsome face would speak to a worldwide television audience for the second time in the past day.  In a conference room in the Galaxy Building Clark Kent looked remarkably ill at ease as his colleagues from newspapers and broadcast news departments on three continents questioned him about the extraordinary broadcast of yesterday evening.  Superman was unavailable, of course; Luthor was the last one to see him and the criminal had requested that he be placed in solitary confinement until the whole affair blew over. So Clark Kent was famous today.

"I simply happened to be caught at the culmination of a series of events," Clark shrugged.  "It's in my contract, I can show you if you want to see it, it says I can take my six-week vacation in increments on as little as twenty-four hours' notice.  I told my director Mr. Coyle that I would be gone for two weeks last Saturday shortly after the taping of an interview show I produce."

The reporter from Newark spoke up.  "We're not giving you any third-degree, Clark, even though you're an outrageously overpaid anchorman and you were only actually gone a week and a half and you always seem to pick up on the biggest stories around for no apparent reason except bum luck.  Just kidding."

"What we would like to do, actually," this was the London Time's Metropolis correspondent speaking now, "is find out precisely why it was that Superman chose you to preempt this alien potentate's planned hypnotic broadcast."

"I was the only one in the building at the time who could pass unnoticed through the news department here, and since I was just getting back from vacation, I wasn't around during the time Towbee the alien took control of the minds of everyone else here at Galaxy Broadcasting and everyone controlling TV and telephone and radio facilities all over the world.  I just slipped through the alien's guard during his one weak moment.  If Superman hadn't spotted me here before one of Towbee's agents did, the population of Earth might be mobilized on the way to conquer Alpha Centauri right now, and all the stars clearly visible to the naked eye at night might be physically disconnected from the gravity of the rest of the Galaxy.  And Superman might be no more than a historical fact.  My role in the whole thing was just that of Superman's tool to take the would-be conqueror off-guard."

Lois Lane stuck her head in the door of the conference room.  "Clark, it's time for you to see Mr. Edge."

"Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, it seems I'm an important person just now."

Edge arranged for himself and Clark to tape a joint statement about the previous day's extraordinary events for showing on Galaxy Broadcasting affiliates only. Clark would say how scared he was, and Edge would read telegrams from the President and the Secretary-General of the United Nations thanking Superman, wherever he was, for being a hero.  First Clark and Lois had to get past Steve Lombard to the elevators.

"Hey, Clarkie, we've got a bet going.  Whatcha doing for lunch, Lois?"

"Something else."

"I set it all up for after the news tonight.  Jimmy Olsen, Lola Barnett, and Pelé are going to judge my Bloody Mary against your mother's wonderful soft drink.  How about supper, Lois?"

"Sorry, I'm going to be busy filing my nails tonight.  Why are these elevators so slow?"

"I'd ask you to have dinner with me tomorrow, Babe, but Clark's gonna owe me a banquet at Tudor's after I win the bet, aintcha, Clarkie?"

In the elevator on the way up to the 36th floor Clark felt for the little lump in his jacket pocket.  It was a vial of a liquid spice for which he had traded a diamond chip on Oric.  A drop of it added to a pail of mop water would make the liquid irresistible to the human palate.  Imagine what it would do with the already ineffable taste of Mrs. Kent's soft drink mixture.  Steve didn't have a chance.  Clark had been busy making statements to police and reporters and Galaxy executives, signing papers and affidavits and that sort of nonsense since the world woke up again the night before.  Superman could avoid such clerical madness simply by flying away, but Clark couldn't.  Still, he declined to go home when Morgan Edge offered him the rest of the week off.  Instead Edge ordered a cot set up in Clark's office and told his star anchorman to get some sleep before the broadcast of the evening news.

The most powerful man on Earth was alone at last behind the locked door of Clark Kent's office.  Hidden from the world, he slid the flat leaden case out of his bottom desk drawer and ran a diamond-hard fingernail around the edge.  Inside were just a few pages handwritten in Kryptonese.  He read them.

Dear Kal-El,

I congratulate you on reading this message.  It seems that you have grown up and almost certainly done great things with your special abilities.  I must first thank your father, through you, for the remarkable gift of your Kryptonese language.  The planting of knowledge in full bloom inside the brain is most stimulating, though I understand it will last only a few more days and I must not bore you with an old man's capricious discoveries.

Your father Jor-El wanted very much for you to be raised in a virtuous environment and for that reason, unknown to you, I was aware of your impending arrival on our humble Earth several hours before you landed . . .

There it was, written in Kryptonese, in ink that had dried years before anyone on Earth, to Superman's knowledge, had ever heard of the planet Krypton.  Written at a time when the very notion of life of any sort on another world - let alone life with pretensions to intelligence—was considered to be a speculative metaphor at best.  And written by the possessor of the most celebrated intellect of this most fabulous century.

Einstein wrote of the exhilaration he felt at being spoken to in the Universal language of scientists, the language of mathematics, when the navigational unit transmitted mentally the trajectory of the infant Kal-El's rocket.  From the information imprinted on the physicist's brain by the navigation unit's telepathic recording he was easily able to calculate the time and place of the landing.  He explained:

You see, your father had the very best of intentions when he pleaded with me to raise you as my own son.  I would certainly have wanted to do so, but I believe I made the right decision in simply seeing to it that you were intercepted by those fine people Jonathan and Martha Kent.

I inferred from Jor-El's telepathic message that he put great store in virtue, and also that the greatest virtue, to a Kryptonian, was intelligence.  I learned that as a matter of course Krypton was ruled by a council of esteemed scientists, that the most revered individuals on your native world were those whose lives were concerned with creativity.  The theorists, the artists, the poets, the inventors.  It is not quite that way here on Earth, I realized.  Our ethical system places kindness and honesty above all, not achievement.  Simply by being who you were, your life was certain to be one of great achievement.  I reasoned that if you were to grow to manhood among us it would be a much better idea for your greatest influences, you foster parents, to be individuals who were wealthy not in achievement and intellect necessarily, but in the kindness and honesty and unshakable goodness which we here on Earth have valued so highly in the scant years of our civilization.

I thought of my children as I received Jor-El's message and I gave thanks that they had a fine mother rich in those virtues.  So I determined to go to Smallville as your father requested, but not to adopt you myself . . .

As he read the story of how Einstein happened upon the Kents in Sam Culler's hardware shop, the Man of Steel refused to recognize the existence of some moisture around his eyes.  That was a trait he had picked up on Earth.

He realized how directly the events of his life came to this time and place.  He realized that for the first time he now knew the whole story of his own life.  He realized how much his father had done for him, how Jor-El had with deliberation and brilliance given the Universe a superman.

I have read that orphans like yourself are often plagued with self-doubt, wondering if their parents would really approve of the way they conduct their lives.  Occasionally, I understand, people such as yourself even resent their parents for not being there to guide them.  I hope that this little note helps to assuage whatever of those doubts you may feel.

For myself, I am content.  I have learned that as I have always suspected, there are miraculous doings across the Universe and that there is much yet to be discovered.  I confess that before your father's navigational device disintegrated several days ago I could not begin to understand its mechanism.  That is just as well, it would be best for us to make our discoveries in order one at a time.  I thank you for joining us on Earth, Kal-El, and I will always regard you as an almost son.


A. Einstein

The man with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men sometimes wondered why he was so attached to this small world and its scurrying inhabitants.  In moments like these, though, he understood.  Nowhere had he seen greater valor than in these four billion humans who cried as easily as they laughed, who cheated as they were cheated, who seemed bound unbreakably to a tiny clump of water and dirt careening endlessly around a dwarf star, yet dared to dream of God.



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