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If you have been a faithful reader of Superman, you may have detected some loose ends as 1999 drew to a close. If so, you may be interested in . . .

by Gary Wilbur

Lois could not suppress the smile as she stepped out of the elevator and headed toward the parking lot. It had been a very satisfying day, she thought, and a reporter couldnít often say that about a day at Lexcom. Normally it was infuriating to watch the "news" go by without being able to determine what was really going on. 'Thereís a hidden story behind so much of what gets published,' she mused. And today she had finally found part of a hidden story, one that would hopefully get Luthor what he deserved.

"Lex is such a sleaze." She actually said it right out loud as she buckled her seat belt and pulled into traffic. And then she smiled again as she thought that the only thing better than going home to her superhunk was feeling like a good investigative reporter again. As she approached the turn to Sullivan, however, the enormous implications of the material she had found flooded in on her again, so that by the time she pulled in at 1938, she was a cauldron of excitement born of outrage at Luthor, and joy at having found what he had done.

"This is it, Clark," she exclaimed even before the apartment door closed behind her. "This is the biggest Luthor story since Gretchen Kelleyís revelations."

Clark was already on his feet. He had heard her coming, of course. He had heard her heart rate, and knew something was up. And the novel on the computer screen was not progressing, anyway.

"What is it, Lois? What do you have there?"

"Remember Stryke and the D.E.O?* Well, Iíve been investigating that case since Stryke zapped into our lives, and it has led to a gold mine." With a dramatic flourish she opened her brief case and dumped a sheaf of photographs, file folders, computer printouts and handwritten notes onto the coffee table and the floor beside it. "It seems there has been a rash of Lexcorp projects changing people to monsters, from a thing called Project High Frontier to something that really only came to prominence after the Contessa took over: the Agenda. Remember the superpowered teens he was producing back before we were even dating? Well, that program was called Project Synapse. He has had all these projects with all these different names, but all dedicated to essentially the same thing: producing superpowered individuals. And you know that Metropolis has been riddled with monsters."

*(Superman: Man of Tomorrow #12)

"Lois, slow down," Clark interrupted. "Is all this certain? I mean, Luthor has a way of weaseling out of..."

"Oh, donít I know." She hesitated for just a second. "But just look at this stack of evidence."

Clark began leafing through the pile, first at normal speed, then faster and faster. "Where did you get all this?"

"Heh. I stole it. The old Lois Lane stealth. Oh, Clark, you have no idea what it took, but I have been careful. Nothingís missing, these are all copies. But just look at it."

"This is... amazing. The extent of it... well, itís even more than I suspected Luthor capable of. This one is dated way back when..." He stopped.

"Exactly," Lois said. "It all seems to start in earnest shortly after Superman appeared on the scene. Hmm. Think thereís a motive there? And since your battle with Doomsday,* someoneís been selling Doomsday bone fragments to these projects like redeemable Soder bottles."

*(Superman #75)



"Riot," Clark repeated, "That guy who was split into several different editions of himself. When I first encountered him, thatís what he was doing."

"Oh." Realizing there was nothing more to be said about that, she went on. "Anyway, hereís the part that would bankrupt Luthor if it were pursued: all his subjects came out on the short end of the stick in one way or another. They should all sue."

Clark sighed audibly. "Actually, Iím sure he has covered himself in some way. Look at this." He held up a copy of a signed waiver from one of the subjects, and Lois read it. It absolved Lexcorp and its subsidiaries from responsibility for any negative effects the experiment might have.

"Why, that..." Loisí unspoken obscenity hung in the air. "But the fact remains," she went on after a second, "that although all his subjects got some kind of enhanced power, they were all seriously damaged in some way. Loss of reasoning power, language skills, something. What they got was some kind of enhanced strength or sight or prescience. Remember Rock? Ugly. Remember Brawl? Increased strength, but losses in intelligence and memory. Each of them was part of one of these projects. And Clark, he has so many different contractors. You remember when I went north and found out about that polar bear and human combining project? Where they were kidnapping children? That was part of one of them, the Agenda."

Clark had been reading more of the jumble of paperwork. "A lot of this is from S.T.A.R. Labs," he said.

"Thatís right." Lois was off again. "S.T.A.R. Labs got a special Lexcorp grant when this Thompson character came on board, but only if he was given free rein to conduct the experiments for one of the major projects. He started out as a big game hunter to find animals for the animal-and-human combining projects, but he really got into the mutant production end of things, all those guys like Inkling, and a lot of them children. Itís just staggering." She stopped and began rummaging through the pile on the floor until she found what she wanted. "Look at this one," she said, getting on her feet, "This one apparently escaped and was eventually killed in the Metropolis sewers. He gained knowledge of future events, but lost the ability to communicate with language. Imagine how frustrating that had to be."

Clark was riveted to the picture Lois held before him. "Lois..." He hesitated. "Lois, this picture is of Ripper, the creature who kidnapped Lucy."


"Ripper. Remember the one I..."

"Yes!" Now Lois couldnít take her eyes off it. "Yes. Clark, you told me how whatsisname Thompson.."


"Yeah. He killed him, didnít he?"

"In effect. Maggie Sawyer pulled the trigger, but Thompson made it necessary. And just as Ripper was trying to communicate something to me."

There was a long silence that Lois finally broke. "Clark, we have to do something. Guys like Stryke and Pierce and Rock and Inkling... they must be desperate to get their lives back. If they could be made into these things, then there must be a way to reverse the process." She waited for an answer, and when there wasnít one, she asked, "Wouldnít there be some way?"

"I donít know," Clark admitted. "Iíd certainly hope so, but..."

"Wait. What about your friend, Emil Hamilton?"

"Thatís a good idea, Lois. Heíd be the one Iíd trust most to know. Kitty Faulkner, maybe, but what with Burton Thompson exercising so much control over at S.T.A.R...."

Lois finished the thought for him. "Sounds like Hamiltonís our man, then. Why donít we just pay him a visit?"

They looked at each other for a moment, then they both darted for the phone.

Emil Hamilton was not one to be easily excited. In his younger days, associates had found it maddening to talk to a man so unflappable, so matter-of-fact, so... scientific. If any of them had been there to overhear his phone conversation with Lois and Clark that evening - they had him on the speaker phone so they could both talk - it would have confirmed their impression. The newspaper reporters were practically stumbling over each other to tell him what they had, and to ask for his help, but Emil might as well have been listening to a weather report. "Interesting," was all he said. But he did suggest they bring the material over to his place so he could take a look at it. And even though not much surprised him, he had to admit the speed with which they arrived was quite remarkable.

But what was even more remarkable was the story they told him, and the material they showed him. They had told him how they wanted to restore some mutated individuals to their normal state, how they believed Lexcorp was behind the whole thing, and how clandestine it had all been. Theyíd watched him as he perused some of the documents theyíd brought, pictures, lab reports, job assignments. He had taken his time, and they were patient. Finally he expressed what they were all feeling when he said, "Oh, my Heavens... this is outrageous."

"Yes, it is," Lois had said, and then they both had started talking excitedly again. Could he reverse these kinds of procedures, theyíd wanted to know. They wanted to find out how feasible it was to attempt a reversal before they raised any false hopes by contacting the victims. They expressed hope that he really might be able to help. And he had asked them to give him a few days to study the material they had brought to him.

Now the few days were up, and Clark Kent was at his door to find out what he could. Emil had no choice but to deliver the bitter truth.

"Glad you stopped by, Mr. Kent, although I wish I had better news for you," he started as Clark stepped into the room.

"Anything you have learned will be helpful, Iím sure." Clark accepted his gestured invitation to sit down . "What have you found out?"

Emil leaned on a nondescript piece of machinery and began: "Well, much as Iíd like to help, Iím afraid I canít. And although this sounds like an arrogant thing to say, I donít believe anyone on earth can reverse these processes with our present scientific knowledge."

Clarkís disappointment was more obvious than he wanted it to be, but he gave Emil a look that said, "I appreciate that you gave it your best shot," and then asked aloud, "What is it that makes you so certain?"

"Simply this. All these changes were made at the cellular level. Somehow Lexcorp has managed to alter their DNA. These changes are permanent."

Two thoughts flashed through Clarkís mind like lightning bolts, one instantly behind the other. One was "cellular level changes." How long ago had it been (certainly well before Final Night) that he had witnessed Brawlís death? He had wondered at the time about something his X-ray vision had revealed to him. Brawl had cancer, but it was being cured at the time he died. How could that have been? "Cellular level changes," thatĎs how. The second thought was, "These changes are permanent."

"Professor..." he started, and paused. "Professor, thank you for your efforts. Itís tragic...but you said cellular level? Permanent changes? If I understood him correctly, isnít that exactly what you told Superman about his change to an energy being? And yet he returned to his original state. Isnít that true?"

Emil stood bolt upright and clapped his hand to his head. "Egad, but youíre right." He strode quickly to a corner where he had a cardboard box full of notebooks and manila folders, pulled one out and started looking through it. "What have I missed, here?" His lips moved as he re-read his notes. "Hmm. Maybe I should talk with Superman about this some more."

If ever Clark had heard a cue line, that was it. "Well, Professor," he said, standing and moving toward the door, "It would be wonderful to find the answer to this. If I see him, Iíll be sure to tell him to contact you. Iíll bet heís eager to figure this out, too." And as Clark closed the door behind him, Emil was still stoking his beard and muttering to himself.

It was difficult for Clark to wait a reasonable length of time before returning to Hamiltonís apartment. Nonetheless, it was a full 24 hours later when Emil heard the familiar rush of wind and looked up to see that inspiring figure in bright primary colors standing mid-air outside his window. The cape fluttered like an unfurled flag in the breeze, and the famous S shield caught the full rays of the sun.

"Superman!" Emil couldnít disguise his delight to see his friend, as he opened the window and the man of steel stepped in.

"Hello, Emil. Good to see you again."

"Good to see you. Letís get right to business, shall we? I take it you have been in touch with Clark Kent."

"I was at the old Daily Planet building, yes. And so was he. I hear you have a mystery to solve that involves my change to an energy being."

"Well, sort of," Emil began, leading the caped hero to a large counter covered with uncompleted gadgets and a pile of papers. "We have two very similar mysteries, and I hope that solving one will offer the keys to solving the other. I thought that interviewing you about your experience may shed some light on it all."

"I hope so, too. What do you have so far?"

"These pictures and reports that Ms. Lane and Mr. Kent brought over." He waved a folder in the air. "Lexcorp projects mutated each of these creatures in a way that involved changing his DNA. Each lost some ability, and each gained a new ability. That all sounds like what happened to you, doesnít it?"

"It certainly does, but I never went through any Lexcorp related processes." Supermanís brow wrinkled.

So did Hamiltonís. "Hmm. Well, the parallel exists. Take this fellow, for instance." Emil pulled a photo from a folder. "He lost speech ability, but gained the ability to see the future according to these reports."

Superman moved closer to the counter. "Yes," he said, "I recognize him. Thatís Ripper, so called because the SCU found this..." He picked up a pencil from the counter and wrote on the corner of a folder, R I P P E R. "...and thought it was his name. But we later began to think it was really picture writing of a sort."

Hamilton stared at the letters. "Good Heavens," he said at last, "He wrote this? And he had the ability to see the future? Why, itís your story, Superman. That first figure is you. See the cape?"

"What?" Superman took a close look.

"Itís you," Hamilton repeated. "It looks sort of like an R, but the vertical line is the body, and the circle is really on top of it when you look closely. Itís the head. And the other line.."

" the cape." Superman could see it plainly. Why hadnít he seen it before?

Hamilton continued. "And that line there is a phase field or some sort of process field, and the two Ps are the two Supermen, no capes, no doubt Superman Red and Superman Blue."


"Then we see these rays, see? No spine on the E. Rays, a great way to depict a big energy burst, and finally Superman restored to his - your - old self." The scientist stopped and smiled. "Thatís one theory, anyway."

Even a superhero looks funny with his mouth hanging open. "One theory?" he finally said, "Itís an excellent theory! Remarkable! Let me show you something." Superman grabbed the pencil again and drew the jagged line of a lightning bolt with a circle for a head. "See this? This is what he was trying to show me just before Burton Thompson shot him with a tranquilizer dart. Itís a perfect representation of an energy Superman. If youíre right, then this was his last ditch effort to make me understand. He was trying to warn me about what was going to happen."

Now Emil was animated, too. "This works so well," he offered, "That I think we really can use it as our hypothesis. I realize that you were already in your energy state before Ripper appeared on the scene, but I think that, in order to help you understand, he made the first representation of you in your normal state before you went through the phase field."

"You keep calling it a phase field, Professor, do you think thatís what it was?"

Emil looked up. "Well, letís just look at your experiences, Superman. You phased through Kandorís barrier a number of times, and that really is an unknown quantity. And the change really was at a basic, cellular level. So that would be my first guess, yes, even though you didnít change immediately. It could have started the process, though."

Superman was thinking. Some of Emilís theory was awakening his memory of those events. "I do remember," he began thoughtfully, "that after going through it one of those times, I was changed in some way." He looked straight at Emil. "I think youíre on to something, even though there are still a lot of unanswered questions."

Emil shrugged. "Well, thatís the way science works," he said. "Itís too bad the containment suit doesnít exist any more. Iíd love to get some energy readings from it. That might shed some light on the subject."

"What about Strange Visitor? You used some of the same fabric for her, didnít you?"

"Yes, but it never had any contact with you, Superman, either in your energy state or no."

"Youíre right. Of course."

"So, the reality is," Emil shook his head, "that we may never solve this mystery, although I hope someone does some day."

The two friends stood silent. Neither could think of a way to reopen the inquiry into the problem.

Finally, Superman said, "Well, Emil, I know weíre both going to be seeking clues to this. Donít give up hope. I know I wonít." Even as he said it, the man of tomorrow was feeling strangely that their conversation that day held the key to the mystery. As they shook hands, and as Superman took a short leap into the air for a gentle glide out Emilís window, he somehow knew that he was already acquainted with someone who knew the answer.

Visiting his parents in Smallville usually did a lot to help Superman clear his head and organize his thoughts, so thatís exactly what he decided to do as he left Emil Hamiltonís home and laboratory. The talk with Emil had certainly been enlightening in some respects, but had made other parts of the problem seem more unsolvable than ever. Yes, the flight to the Kent farm seemed the thing to do, all right. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, and except for an occasional bird being startled by a humanoid form zooming past at superspeed, nothing stood in his way. Where could the answer be, he wondered. He reviewed everything heíd said and heard at Professor Hamiltonís and his thoughts kept coming back to the same point: Strange Visitor. And every time he thought of her, he felt a strange kind of reassurance, an odd feeling that she was the one to talk to.

"That doesnít make sense," he heard himself say aloud. "And yet it feels as if it should make sense." He was approaching a small mountain range, and saw some beautiful pines on its slopes. A nice, peaceful place, he thought, and then, "Strange Visitor," he said aloud again.

"This is ridiculous," he thought as he swooped down for a light landing on the mountaintop. "The answer is available. I just know it. Something subconscious makes me keep thinking..." He stopped. Thatís it, he suddenly knew. There was something in his not quite conscious memory that was just barely evading him. "The Theta state," he murmured. "Thatís how to find this."

He had all day before he needed to get back to Metropolis, and he was pretty fast... He sat quietly in the leafy greenness and began the gentle, regulated breathing, the relaxed yet disciplined manner of thinking without thinking, observing without seeing. He could feel his heart rate changing, his brain waves altering, and he knew without knowing that he had entered the Theta state. The green around him was so green, the space above him so blue... He could feel without sensation what he needed to consider: Strange Visitor....Strange Visitor had not known, herself, who she was... sheíd been altered by a lightning strike into her energy form... she was a survivor of that flight... the being in her had kept her alive.... she was really Sharon Vance... Sharon Vance... Sharon Vance had told him years ago what he would have to do to defeat Dominus...* they were teenagers in Smallville... She told him, but she didnít know, herself... She didnít know... Sharon didnít know that she told him... She told him... She told him... Sharon didnít know... She knew... She knew because she knew Dominus... She was hiding from Dominus... She needed to hide from Dominus... Sharon was so young... I was so young... We were just kids... She told me as a teenager... She was just a kid... Couldnít be a teenager... It happened when she was just a kid... She should have died... I couldnít have saved her...No superpowers... I couldnít move that fast... I saved her... I saved her... He saved her... She didnít know... I didnít know... She knew... It was him... We worked together to save her... to save her ... We saved her... He saved her... Waverider.** We saved her by hiding her in Sharon... He saved Sharon by stopping time. I caught her. She knew because she knew Dominus. She knew because she was one of the Lords of Order. She was able to save Sharon from the lightning because she was...

*(Superman: The Man of Steel #89)
**(Superman #139)

Superman felt a surge of change, and he knew he was bringing himself swiftly back. He looked around quickly. It was just a normal mountainside. He rose into the air and flew to the rocky peak. He stood there momentarily, gazing across the landscape with that confident, determined demeanor that made him so much more of a commanding figure than that posture, that physique, that symbolic costume could ever do alone. Then he leaped heroically into that blue sky, one fist extended ahead of him, and flew back toward Metropolis. "Kismet," he thought. "I have to talk to Kismet."

Sharon Vance, Strange Visitor, was not difficult to find. What was difficult was the fact that she was unaware of Kismetís essence within her. Waverider had planned carefully to keep her unaware of that fact, so that Dominus could not find Kismet in her conscious thoughts. But the safeguard that protected Kismet from Dominus could hide her from Superman, too. How could he talk to her without Sharon knowing? It had taken the Theta state to bring this knowledge to his own conscious memory. It was troubling to realize that now that he was conscious of Kismetís whereabouts, he could be the means by which Dominus could someday find her. It was a good thing that the reality-warping madman was still trapped in the Phantom Zone.* Superman didnít like to think about what could happen if he should ever escape. Yes, it was definitely safer to keep Sharon unaware. "Iíll have to talk to her subconscious," he thought. "But she canít know Iím doing it. Iíll have to talk to her while sheís asleep."

*(He was put there in Superman: King of the World)

It was a quiet night, with only the sounds that can come long after midnight in a quiet suburb of Metropolis. A figure with a billowing cape glided silently through a second-story open window, gently touched down and kneeled at the bedside of Sharon Vance.

"Kismet," he whispered.


"Kismet, itís me, Superman. I know youíre there, and I think you can hear me." He waited and heard nothing but the distant traffic and Sharonís breathing. "Can you hear me? I need your help, Kismet. Please, can I talk with you?"

Still nothing.

"What am I doing?" he thought. "Here I am, surreptitiously in the bedroom of a nice young woman, attempting to invade her subconscious mind..." He felt a wave of embarrassment, and he quickly got to his feet and turned toward the window.

But before he could take a step he felt a sudden rush as if he had stepped off a precipice into thin air. He blinked, and he was in space, gazing at the vastness, the darkness, and the myriad of celestial bodies appearing as distant lights. And he heard the quiet, gentle voice that still seemed to fill the immensity of space: "What do you want?"

"Kismet!" Superman had talked with Kismet before. He knew what to expect, but it was still overwhelming. "Kismet," he said again, more calmly, "Youíre my only hope. No one can tell me what happened when my powers changed. I donít know how it happened, why it happened, or if it can ever happen again. And there are others who have changed in a similar manner."

"I know of these individuals," came the voice.

"You do? Yes, of course you do. And Iím sure you know what happened to me, too. I really need to know this Kismet."

"Superman, youíre asking me to reveal a lot. The cosmic levels are beyond us for a reason, you know."

He felt a surge of hope. She was going to reason with him. "Yes, I do know. But scientists are constantly discovering parts of the cosmic secrets and improving our lives by their discovered knowledge. And this one affects me so personally... I mean, I completely changed. My powers were completely different. Kryptonian constructs didnít recognize me. Surely my knowing why can only be a good thing. And especially if it enables us to help other mutated beings back to a normal life..."

"It wonít. The knowledge of what happened to you is related to them only by surface appearance. There is purpose to most things, Superman, including your power change, but the knowledge of its origins will ultimately do you no good."

"Could it possibly harm me? I donít see how. And not knowing, when I could learn it from you, is incredibly frustrating. Itís as if a mystery novelist left all kinds of clues to the end of his story and then never wrote the final chapter. I canít force you to tell me, of course, and I canít ask you to compromise your principlesÖ but how can this be compromising them?"

There was a long silence, and then Kismet said, "You argue persuasively. And because of our unique bond I feel I really do owe you this one." Another pause. "All right. But I can never do this again, I canít be your gateway to the secrets of the universe. And be warned, this may be more than you were prepared to hear, more than youíd really like to know about yourself."

SupermanĎs relief was palpable: "Thank you, Kismet. I think Iím prepared for this."

"Weíll see." And she began her narrative: "When you were taken into space for your trial by the tribunal,* you encountered the sorcerer Tolos and his bottle city. He tried to capture you for his collection of unique beings then, but when you escaped him he followed you to earth and made another attempt. The use of Misaís visor inhibited his ability to get you completely phased in, but your body did partially adjust to the phase process. It did so by making a very basic change in your cellular structure, causing you to begin losing solar power from your cells. The partial phasing changed that quality that allowed them to hold a solar charge. Had you completely phased in, the complete change made, your cells would have retained their solar processing capability. But the phasing process had only started, not completed. So from that point on, you began losing as much power as you took in. And every so often, if the conditions were right, you lost power in energy bursts. Your cells could no longer be recognized as Kryptonian, and thatís why, at the fortress, the robots didnít recognize you,** your heat vision failed you, and an energy burst destroyed the restrainer harness.

*(Superman: The Man of Steel #50)
**(Superman: The Man of Steel #61)

"When Final Night occurred, it disguised the fact that your body was losing power anyway. And when it was over, and your superpowers gone, they could not just come back by absorbing solar energy, because your cells would not hold a solar charge. Thatís why Brainiac-5ís plan didnít work. When you later went to Cadmus for testing, the problem probably would have been discovered if Misa had not been sabotaging the tests.

"Then a few different things happened to complicate things even more. One was your encountering the sentient energy discovered in the Antarctic. This was a creature of Terran energy, threatened by the invasion of the scientists, and therefore looking for a gestation chamber for its offspring. And your partially-phased cells were perfect for it. So she deposited her energy child there, Terran energy inhabiting the cells that solar energy used to inhabit, or at least the being that would grow by absorbing other energy, converting it to Terran energy within your unique cells. Kandorís phase field still acted as a magnet to your partially-phased cells, trying to complete the phase in, so it fluttered whenever you were near it. And in this state you next encountered Metron, and his plan to re-absorb solar energy by direct immersion in the sun itself.*

*(in the Power Struggle storyline)

"Metronís plan worked because he took into account the distortion in your phase parameters, and compensated for it. It almost didnít work, though, because your friend Hamilton had invented a matter vibrational harmonizer designed to put out-of-phase elements into phase. Riot had stolen it and was trying to use it to rephase himself into one being. But those vibrations tended to counteract Metronís adjustments, and if the Guardian hadnít accidentally shorted out the harmonizer, you and Metron would have been killed at the heart of the sun.

"So at this point you were carrying the beginnings of an earth-energy creature, and you had just been jump-started with solar energy which you could not keep for long. Metron had made it possible to charge you up, but your cells had not changed: they still would not hold the charge for long. When you took Lois to the fortress, you once again were pulled into the phase-field of Kandor, but due mostly to Scornís escape, you were once again prevented from completing the phase of your Kryptonian cells.* But this time, that element in you which, properly phased, would allow solar recharging, now resided in Scorn instead of you, a result of both of you phasing at the same time. So even if your cells had completed the phase process you still could not process solar energy. This became important later on when you and the Atom did phase completely into Kandor, completing the process and releasing poor Scorn from that magnetism you had for him up until that moment. From this point on, with your phasing finally balanced out, the only thing that prevented you from processing solar energy was the missing element, the element now residing in Scorn.

*(Superman #122)

"Meanwhile, even before that complete phase into Kandor, the energy-child needed energy to grow, and you had gotten it off to a good start when you transported Cauldron to the center of the earth and got bombarded with beta rays. Then, in adventures with the Atomic Skull,* and Metallo,** and later with the Parasite, your cells absorbed energy which "fed" the energy-child and crowded out any solar energy that was left. So you, Clark, were powerless as yourself, but when you tapped in to the phase of the energy-creature you were carrying, you learned to use that energy to continue your never-ending battle for truth and justice.

*(Action Comics #732)
**(Adventures of Superman #546)

"The Contessa is immortal, descended from humans and the Circle, an ancient race you encountered early in your career. She is the one they were seeking when they troubled you so. She has been around for centuries and has learned the value of power. She has many children with great power as well, one of those powers being the ability to disguise themselves by morphing into the shapes of animals. Her dog, Nikolas, is not just her dog. This power may have given her the idea for her Agenda project. She had seen both you and the Alpha Centurion as power sources she did not want to lose, hoping to turn you to her own good use someday. So when this happened to you she opted to donate a fabric for your containment suit and save you. Or maybe she just wanted to irritate her husband. You were, in a sense, pregnant. Thatís why you were gaining weight.

"This was not only a grave situation for you, but for the earth itself. As the energy-child grew, it awakened the Millennium Guard, destined to break from their cocoons, the "Dragonís Teeth", when signalled by a disturbance in the earthís energy. This certainly was an anomaly: earth-energy residing in a creature outside the core of the earth. You. So they hastened that day predicted by several ancient cultures, including that one which produced the Medallion of the Damned. They foreshadowed the coming of the Millennium Giants. But it was another event that actually triggered the giantsí arrival: Superman Red and Superman Blue.

"If the energy-child residing outside the core of the earth was an anomaly, then its being split in two was a super-anomaly. Hereís how that happened. While the cyborg was trying to disperse your energies, Luthorís people were trying to break down Scorn.* Elements released from Scorn into the ether at that point found their proper home by their natural magnetism, and that missing element needed to process solar energy in a normal Kryptonianís cells was back with you for the first time since Scornís escape from Kandor. You may recall the weird feeling you had when that element recombined with you. But the strain on your body of trying to maintain the integrity of the energy-child, process solar energy, and cope with the cyborgís attempts to disperse all your energies, resulted in the unprecedented recombination and split into two distinct aspects of your personality: Superman Red and Superman Blue, each still housing and utilizing the energy of the earth-energy creature. Is it any wonder the Millennium Giants were called forth?

*(Adventures of Superman #555)

"Although you and the worldís superheroes saved the earth from the giants, the depleted earth-energy would have doomed the earth. But you were the repository of an incredible reserve of earth-energy: the energy-child. And when you were resolved to expend all the energy you had, it was earth-energy that you expended, and it went right to the earth, healing it. And by the same token, its departure from your completely Kryptonian and completely phased cells left them ready for a flood of energy from the rays of a yellow sun, reuniting you in all respects. The earth was healed, and so were you: Superman, the hero you had always been.

"You are, once again, one of the most unique individuals on this planet, Superman. Your ties to earth are as strong as any ties to Krypton, and you were destined to be the champion of this world in ways that, up til now, you could never have imagined."

Superman blinked, and he was once again standing beside Sharon Vanceís bed. But now Sharon was sitting up. Her eyes were open, but focused far beyond him. He had seen that look before, when she had warned him about Dominus years ago in Smallville. "Sharon. Kismet. IÖ Iím overwhelmed. All that was going on?"

"All of that." It was still the voice of Kismet. "A story which might never have been told. A story the world may never know or need to knowÖ but you will know. Let it give you strength in times when you feel you canít go on, because those times will come." She started to lie back down.

"Wait. What about Kandor? Whatever became of Kandor?"

"Kandor still exists in its own plane of reality, even though you lost track of it when your fortress was destroyed."

"AndÖ and Scorn?"

"Iíve already told you far more than I ever intended." Her eyes were closed now.

"Is he safe? Is he okay? What of Ashbury?"

She would be barely audible, now, to anyone without super-hearing, and she was starting to sound more like Sharon. "You need not concern yourself with Scornís safety. His story is his story. I only agreed to tell you yours. Ashbury may or may not ever see him again. But can you say her life was not made brighter by having known him? Be grateful for the love you have in your life, Superman, and be assured that life has many new directions to take you. Ask me no more."

Superman pulled himself to his full height and turned to the window. There was the faintest glimmer of dawn. He stepped out into the morning air and rose thoughtfully to a point high above the city he loved, to a point where he could see dawn clearly breaking, and began a pensive circling, as his thoughts took shape. "Maybe itís because of my reality-bending experiences with Dominus," he mused, "Or maybe because of learning about Hypertime, but I canít shake the feeling that if the world had been made aware of my carrying the energy-creature it would have opened up an entirely different set of events for my future. But that future, whatever it would have been, is gone forever. Odd. Itís almost as if my life were being written by a certain author, and that author has changed as we approach this next year. Or maybe thoughts of the new millennium have me waxing philosophical. Useless to dwell on it, I guess."

He turned toward the apartment building where Lois was still sleeping. Heíd use superspeed to go there, in order not to be seen, but in a minute, he thought, in a minute.

"Itís ironic to think how Luthor taunted me about never having children," he thought. "And I donít, itís true. But in a strange sense Iíve carried a living being, a fact that no one ever really needs to knowÖ but I must admit I care about this world as strongly as I suspect I would about my own flesh and blood. And as much as Luthor loves his daughter, his love for power could eventually cause him to lose her. And even if that happens, heíll no doubt still go on, because ultimately itís his lust for power that sustains himÖ as much as this sunÖ and this worldÖ sustain me."

With a burst of superspeed he flew toward home and Lois and a new day.