"When the Best Isn't Good Enough"
Part One: "I Love Humanity, It's People I Can't Stand" [Quote from Linus/Charles Schulz]
Here she was in Smallville again. It was her home town but it wasn’t her home. She was a farm girl. She was home schooled. She was practically a newborn in an adult body. She was a far from normal person in a town full of normal people (not counting the occasional meteor freak). She felt loved and accepted on the farm. Here she was out of her element. She didn’t fit in. She felt more alone in a crowd then when she was by herself in the middle of the largest field on the Kent farm. She loved her parents. She loved God for giving her life, a standard for living and a second chance to be the person she wanted to be. She loved humanity, but people … she couldn’t understand. And she blamed herself because she was the one outside the loop. She wanted to go to the playground and play with dolls with other girls and make up games. She wanted to have friends and be liked for who she was inside. But she was too big for her age. She was too naïve for her age. She was too powerful for any age. Fortunately, she had parents that knew her issues and gave her the chance to grow up sheltered by their love and understanding.
Ryanna wanted to go into the drug store with her Mom, but Martha had told her to hang out outside the store and watch people interact. Ryanna wanted to run and hide. She was nervous from her last visit to town. She hoped that she wouldn’t see anyone who she had met that day would see her today or any other day. Plus she wanted to know what her mother was getting inside. Martha was tired all the time now and taking more and longer naps. She was loosing weight as well. Martha didn’t trust doctors so she self-medicated for whatever problems she had. Ryanna was studying medical books. She wanted to spy on what Martha was taking. Her mother was her world. It felt like they were physically connected. Her father was her buddy, her shield and her tutor in the art of silent strength, but her mother meant everything to her.
Ryanna stood near the entrance of the drug store and watched people. Then she noticed that one of them was watching back. He was a six or seven year old riding a small merry go round. He kept turning his head so that he could keep an eye on her as he went around. He noticed that she saw him staring and flashed a smile and winked at her. When Ryanna smiled back, he started showing off for her. He let go with one hand and then both. Ryanna got concerned that his antics were getting unsafe and gave him a disapproving look as she moved closer. The boy attempted to stand on the plastic horse’s back, but slipped and fell head first towards the pavement. Ryanna spun and lifted her foot in a high kick and held her foot high until the boy’s shoulder touched her foot. The boy gently pivoted about her foot and she caught hold of him when he was almost upright. She gently sat him down on his feet. The boy stroked her hands as she held him. A man ran over and said to the boy, “Thank the lady!”
The boy said, “Thank you, my lady. You have saved my life. I am now your property and will serve you faithfully all my days.”
The man turned to Ryanna and said, “Please excuse my son’s dramatic nature and thank you for keeping him from landing on the sidewalk. I was watching the way you moved. Do you mind if I ask you something?”
Ryanna said, “OK. I’ll tell you like I told the others. I’m not fat ... and they’re not fake.”
The man said, “What? Why did you say that?”
Ryanna answered, “Last time I was in town they told me that I was fat and had fake breasts.”
The man asked, “Who are 'they'?”
Ryanna answered, “Mom took me to a car wash in the supermarket parking lot. I told her I would wash the car but she said the car wash was for charity – so the band could go to Disney World. She left me with by the car while she went into the store to get some stuff and the ones washing cars were laughing at me for being fat.”
The man said, “You’re not at all fat.”
Ryanna said, “I know! But I had a loose t-shirt on – not a dress like this, and it kind of hung out. So I lifted it to show that I have a small belly. Then they said that my shirt hung out so far because I wore fake breasts. I didn’t even know they had things like fake breasts! I told them that I didn’t wear fake breasts. They said for me to show them just like I had showed them my belly. I told them no cause that’s private. They said my bra was padded and full of toilet paper so I reached into my shirt and took off my bra. I turned it inside out and showed them that there was nothing in it. One of them demanded to see it – said it might be inflatable or something. Then he wouldn’t give it back. He put it on and started walking around in it. When I reached to get it back one of them sprayed me with the hose and got me soaking wet. Then all of them just stood and stared at me. I think my hair was messed up or something. I managed not to cry. Mom came out and made me get in the car. I washed the car when I got home. I never got my bra back. I don’t like coming to town much.”
The man asked, “Were they young kids?”
Ryanna said, “They were older than me – maybe 15 or 16.”
The man seemed startled that Ryanna would be younger than a 15 year old. He said, “Well. I don’t think you are fat or fake at all. And I am certainly glad you were in town today to catch my son.”
The boy said, “Boy, I wish I had been at that car wash! I would have defended your honor and gotten back your bra.”
The man continued, “I wasn’t going to ask about your weight or anything like that.”
Ryanna asked, “Is what you were going to ask embarrassing?”
The man said, “No.”
Ryanna smiled and said, “OK. Ask away.”
The man said, “My name is Jerry Chan, by the way, and this is Lee. I run a small martial arts school downtown two doors away from the Talon. I noticed the move you made when you caught my son. Where did you learn it?”
Ryanna said, “I don’t think I learned it. It felt kind of natural.”
Mr. Chan said, “Well the way you move and carry yourself indicates years of training.”
Ryanna asked, “Really? Is that bad?”
Mr. Chan said, “Not at all. You have an un-natural grace.”
Ryanna asked, “Are you hitting me? I’m clueless to that stuff?”
Mr. Chan chuckled and said, “No, I’m happily married. I’m not hitting ON you.”
Lee said, “I’m not married! And I’m ready to settle down!”
Mr. Chan said, “Lee, cut it out. “ Turning back to Ryanna, he continued, “So you never had training in martial arts?”
Ryanna said, “Well, I got really sick about a year ago and I don’t remember anything before then. So if I knew martial arts, I would have forgotten it.”
Mr. Chan said, “Not necessarily, if you had trained to the point that your responses were intuitive and automatic, then you could retain some of your skills even without any memory about your training. But I believe the philosophy behind the skills is essential to be completely in tune with your abilities.”
Ryanna said, “If someone hit me, wouldn’t I block it or move if I knew marital arts?”
Mr. Chan said, “Probably, but why do you ask? Did someone hit you?”
Ryanna answered, “My adopted brother slapped me on the face and I didn’t move out of the way.”
Mr. Chan asked, “Did it hurt you?”
Ryanna said, “Yes, it hurt my feelings.”
Mr. Chan said, “But did it cause you physical pain.”
Ryanna answered, “No.”
Mr. Chan asked, “When you saw he was about to hit you, did you think it would hurt?”
Ryanna answered, “No.”
Mr. Chan said, “That explains it then. If you know a blow won’t hurt you, why avoid it. Let me demonstrate. Please take no offense, but I have special powers and I’m going to hit you and it will hurt you.”
Ryanna said, “No it won’t.”
Lee said, “Don’t hit her Dad!”
Mr. Chan said, “Quiet Lee. Young woman, I am going to attempt to hit you and if I so much as touch you, you will get a bad case of cooties.”
Ryanna’s eyes opened wide, she hadn’t read about cooties in her medical studies but she had heard rumors that they were extremely nasty. Mr. Chan threw an arm towards her somewhat slowly, she easily moved out of the way. Mr. Chan started throwing blows at her faster and faster and from every direction. A normal person could barely see his hands moving but Ryanna dodged every move he made. Then Mr. Chan stopped.
Mr. Chan said, “Yep. You were trained. Hey you have something under your nose.”
Ryanna asked, “Where?”
Mr. Chan put a finger under her nose and said, “Here!” Then raised his finger and tapped her under her nose.”
Ryanna shouted, “Ooo! COOTIES!”
Mr. Chan chuckled and said, “Sorry, I still have a few things I could teach you. Don’t worry. I don’t have cooties or any special powers and neither do you.”
Ryanna said, “I don’t have powers?”
Mr. Chan, “I meant you don’t have cooties. I am just an ordinary man with a lot of training. If you want, I can help you remember the martial arts training and philosophy that you have forgotten.”
Ryanna shifted from foot to foot as she considered the offer. She said, “Well, maybe. I don’t know. I can get by without doing anything fancy. But my Mom is getting pretty tired lately and she doesn’t have anyone to exercise with so maybe you could help her.”
Mr. Chan answered, “I’m sure I have some meditation techniques and exercises that would help her feel more vital and rested, but why don’t you exercise with her?”
Ryanna said, “I don’t need to, I’m strong enough.”
Mr. Chan said, “How do you know when you are strong enough? How do you know you won’t face something tomorrow that requires more than you can handle? If you don’t mind me asking, how much weight can you lift?”
Ryanna said, “It’s hard to tell. Do you like philosophy?”
Mr. Chan said, “Very much.”
Ryanna said, “If I stand on my hands, am I lifting my own weight or the weight of the entire world? Here, let me show you.”
Ryanna quickly spun around, bent over, placed her palms on the pavement and did a hand stand. Mr. Chan noted that her arms weren’t trembling at all under her own weight and that she didn’t seem to have any trouble holding her position. It was as if she were carved from marble. He found her strength of interest, but he had other concerns at the moment. He tried to get Lee to turn around but the boy was blissfully enjoying the view. Mr. Chan knelt next to Ryanna and said, “Miss, I see your point and this is all very interesting but you had better stand up. I don’t think you should do hand stands in public while wearing a skirt. Your underwear is showing.” Ryanna flexed her arms at the elbows and pushed off to spring back to her feet. Mr. Chan said, “Very impressive.”
Lee said, “I’ll say!”
Ryanna said, “That’s nothing. I can do all kinds of things.”
Sam said, “Show me.”
Mr. Chan said, “Young man, behave yourself.”
Ryanna said, “Did you see Pooh on my underpants, Jerry?”
Mr. Chan said, “No.”
Ryanna said proudly, “I have underpants with Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger. I got them at Sears. They don’t make them in my size but they stretch good and I like them.”
Lee said, “They must be Eeyore underpants because I just saw one very nice –ass!”
Mr. Chan said, “Lee, stop it!”
Ryanna frowned a bit, then lifted her skirt, smiled and said, “No, I was right. You see. Here’s Pooh and here’s his honey pot.”
Lee smiled and said, “I didn’t see the honey pot. Show me again.” Ryanna lifted her skirt again but Mr. Chan pushed Lee behind himself. “
Mr. Chan said, “Look Miss, ... what is your name if you don’t mind?”
Lee added, “And your phone number!”
Mr. Chan said, “Just your name. I apologize. Lee NEVER acts like this. I hardly ever hear a peep out of him. He’s normally painfully shy.”
Ryanna said, “I think he’s really cute.” Mr. Chan almost had to catch Lee as he nearly fell over. Ryanna continued, “I am Ryanna Lynn … Ryanna Lynn Kent.”
Mr. Chan said, “Miss Kent, … even if ….”
Ryanna said, “Call me Ryanna.”
Mr. Chan continued, “Ryanna, even if you are strong or fast or even the best at something – you can always be better. If you choose to compete with yourself, you can achieve things you never thought were possible. Like I said earlier, you never know when someone stronger will come along or a situation will come up that you aren’t prepared to handle. Meditation can help you learn to keep a clear and calm mind when some emergency happens.”
Ryanna answered, “But sometimes the best is way more that the situation calls for and the time and effort to be even better are a total waste of resources.”
Mr. Chan said, “You have a point, but I personally have never found self-improvement to be a waste of my time. Look, you said your Mother is slowing down a little. I can set up a program for her and since you are such a good friend of my son, there wouldn’t be a charge or anything. But I do believe that she would be more likely to follow through with a program if you participate with her. It’s just human nature. I’m not making a sales pitch here, but if you want help, I’m available. My son is a brown belt and I’m sure he’d love to work with you.”
Lee said, “PLEEEEASE!”
Ryanna said, “Ohhh. Thanks. I’ll think about it. I’ll talk to my Mom and see ….”
Before she could finish talking, a shot rang out in the drug store and some people ran out of the store screaming. Ryanna scanned the store to see that her Mom wasn’t hurt then saw that no one else had been injured either. A man in a ski mask at the pharmacy counter had a garbage bag full of drugs in one hand and a gun in the other. He ran out of the store only to find Ryanna standing in his path. The man raised his gun at her and she smirked at him. Suddenly, Lee stepped out and delivered a punch to the man’s crotch. The man doubled over in pain. Ryanna’s jaw dropped in surprise. Lee turned and smiled at Ryanna. As Ryanna looked at Lee’s sweet face, she saw a gun barrel lifted to the side of his head and a finger pull the trigger. The boy’s face erupted and his limp body fell to the pavement. Ryanna’s body trembled as she stared at the boy’s lifeless body and the pool of blood flowing from it. When she looks up in rage at the man in the mask, the gun was again aimed at her. Mr. Chan rushed forward. The man swung his arm to get off a shot. The man’s finger was again moving on the trigger. Ryanna shouted “NO!” The glass storefront behind the man shattered. Ryanna’s eye’s flashed and the gun in the robber’s hand exploded. The man’s hand and forearm disappeared in the blast. Jerry looked at Ryanna standing there with red glowing eyes then he looked at what remained of his son. After only a moment’s hesitation he ripped off his shirt and began to make a tourniquet for what remained of the robber’s arm. Ryanna said in a strained and halting voice, “What … are … you …doing?”
Jerry didn’t turn from his task but answered Ryanna, “My son has left. This man needs my help.”
Steam poured from Ryanna’s eyes as she began to cry. Her eyes slowly returned to their normal green color. Martha rushed up to Ryanna and Ryanna dropped her head onto her Mom’s shoulder and wept. She started saying something to her mother, but as she said the words, she heard the same words in her head in someone else’s voice – the voice of a man who no longer walked the Earth and who Ryanna no longer remembered. She said, “It’s my fault, Mom. I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t fast enough. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t in control. Clark wouldn’t have let this happen!”
Martha lifted her daughter’s head, looked into her eyes, stroked Ryann’s wet cheeks with her thumbs and said, “Oh, NO, Dear. This is NOT your fault.”
When Ryanna could at last control her trembling and speak again, she said through her tears and soft sobs, “I’ll see you at home. Gotta be alone now Mom.” With that, Martha’s still raised hands were empty and her daughter was no where in sight. The crowd parted as the police and the ambulances arrived.
End of Part One of “When Best Isn’t Good Enough.”
Man, that hurts!
I dedicate that chapter to all who have died too young due to people who don’t see others as anything more than obstacles in their paths. Drug abuse is not a victimless crime. Handguns are not toys. Other people are not objects to be hurt -- or dispensed with because they cross your path at the wrong time -- or because represent something you don’t like or because you feel like it. I have to go wash my hands after typing this.
Part Two: "A Talk in the Park"
Ryanna sat on a bench in the park throwing pebbles into the pond. She had been there 3 or 4 hours now. She had no sense of time. As she looked into the water, she kept seeing Lee's face smiling back and then she would see what was left of him after a single gun shot. She thought about how she wanted to kill that man and how she had maimed him. For all she knew, he had died since she left the scene of the crime. According to her deeply held beliefs, she shouldn't have hurt that man. She should have rushed to his aid like Jerry had done. But even now, when she thought of Lee, she wanted that man dead. And now there was that voice in her head telling her that she wasn't good enough and blaming her for the boy's death. Ryanna's keen senses usually kept her aware of what was happening around her, but she was so lost in her grief that she was startled when a woman sat down on the bench next to her. Ryanna turned and looked into the woman's eyes.
The woman asked, "Are you OK?"
Ryanna said, "I think I am supposed to lie and say that I'm fine, but I'm not. I just saw a boy get his face blown off -- his beautiful, beautiful face."
The woman said, "Oh, I heard about that. That's a terrible thing to see. There's only one thing worse that I can think of -- it's when you've seen something like that so many times that it loses the impact on you and you find yourself thinking about what's for lunch."
Ryanna started to shake as she cried. She said, "I could never see that again! Especially not to someone I care about. I couldn't survive that!"
The woman said, "Non-sense, you already did survive it. It's horrible but you'll get beyond it. By the end of the day you'll be a step away from it and every day you'll take another step until this day is miles behind you. Believe me."
Ryanna said, "Believe you? Why should I believe you? I believe people all the time and they make a fool out of me. Who are you that I should believe you about anything?"
The woman answered, "That's a fair question. My name is Chloe Sullivan."
Ryanna said, "Oh! I'm sorry for being rude. I just don't feel good. Maybe you could help me understand. Your Dad says that you are the smartest person he knows."
Startled, Chloe asked, "You know my Dad?"
Ryanna said, "Gabe? He's my main man. He talks about you all the time."
Chloe said, "Are you dating my Dad?"
Ryanna said, "No, I don't date because I’m waiting for someone -- and all the books say you shouldn't date employees. But I don't think Gabe would sue me for sexual harassment."
Chloe asked, "You're his boss? I thought he reported directly to .... NO! Ryanna Kent? Clark's kid sister? Well I see good looks run in the family."
Ryanna said, "Thanks, but he's adopted so it doesn't count. We're the same species, but that's about all we have in common. And since I'm a girl and he's a guy, we may as well be from different planets. Well, that's another story."
Chloe said, "I know what you’re saying about men – and about Clark in particular. But I should have recognized you. You have that same weight on your shoulders that Clark always has. Actually, I should have known you from our last meeting -- back when you were known as Alexis Luthor. Of course I never saw Alexis cry or get upset over other people. Your face is much softer. Her face was tense ... and cold."
Ryanna said, "You knew Alexis? I am always afraid I'll meet someone who knew her. They know the awful things she did ... things I can't possibly make amends for. I'm scared they'll think that I'm not real -- that I'm just another of her lies. It makes me want to crawl into a hole somewhere. Tell me, what did ... I ... do to you?"
Chloe said, "Well, I was dating Lex for a while. One of Alexis's favorite games was finding ways to break up Lex's romances. I didn't think that she could break us up, but I was no challenge to her at all. Lex and I had history. I knew a different Lex and I liked to believe that the Lex I knew was still in there somewhere. I was deceiving myself. Alexis just opened my eyes for me. Actually, all things considered, I appreciate it."
Ryanna said, "I'm scared that she's coming back. It was bad enough feeling guilty about what Alexis did, but now I killed that boy -- I killed Lee."
Chloe said, "No, you didn't. I talked to some other people who were there."
Ryanna said, "Yes, I did."
Chloe repeated, "NO, you didn't."
Ryanna said, "YES! I could have stopped it and I didn't."
Chloe said, "Are you God?"
Ryanna said, "No."
Chloe asked, "Are you sure?"
Ryanna said, "YES!"
Chloe asked, "Did you know that that man was going to kill the boy?"
Ryanna said, "No."
Chloe said, "Well the only way that you could blame yourself is if are God -- if you knew in advance that the man was going to kill the boy and decided to let it happen."
Ryanna said, "I wasn't prepared. I could have stopped it if I hadn't just stood there and waited for the man to come to me."
Chloe asked, "So, the boy's father is to blame too."
Ryanna said, "NO!"
Chloe asked, "Wasn't he there? Couldn't he have moved faster and stopped it? Couldn't he have just stayed home and kept the boy from being killed?"
Ryanna said, "It wasn't his fault!"
Chloe asked, "So why are you the only one allowed to blame yourself?"
Ryanna cried, "But he smiled at me. He told me that he wasn't married. He picked me. He liked my underwear. He liked me ... and I liked him and he would have come to my house and played with me. He hit that man to try to protect me and to show off for me. He's dead because he liked me. He's DEAD!" Ryanna hung her head and cried.
Chloe rubbed her back and said, "It's not your fault. It's not. It rains. It snows. People are born. People die. The world spins. We can only control a small piece of the world. It's pretty egotistical to think we can control even our own lives let alone the lives of those we meet or care about. It's egotistical to blame ourselves for things beyond our control. It really wasn't your fault."
Ryanna said, "Mom said it wasn't my fault, but it feels like it is."
Chloe said, "Well your Mom is a smart woman. If she said it's not your fault, it's not. You're sad that you lost a friend in an awful way and don't know how to deal with it. You know, one time these men pushed me out of a window. I grabbed a ledge and held on and yelled my head off for Clark to help me. He didn't get there in time. I fell to the ground and I was in the hospital for a week. Clark didn't push me out the window. And I was the one that didn't hold on long enough. But Clark felt guilty because he didn't keep me from falling. He blamed himself."
Ryanna said, "Clark didn't save you?! Really?!"
Chloe said, "No, he didn't. He's not God either. He only looks like a god."
Ryanna said, "Yeah he does! And you know he's not really my brother, right?"
Chloe said, "Well, he certainly cares about you. When we talk on the phone he tells me about you."
Ryanna asked, "Really? Like what?"
Chloe said, "Well he's proud of you: all you've learned, the business you built and what it does, your orphanage, the way you take care of the farm and take care of your Mom and Dad. Then he tells me about things you like to do. He said you like to swing. Is that true?"
Ryanna said, "Yes, It's kind of like flying."
Chloe said, "There are some swings over there. Would you like me to push you?"
Ryanna said, "You don't have to."
Chloe said, "Come on. I'd really like to. You're a big girl but I think I can get you going."
Ryanna said, "Well I know how to pump my legs. So maybe you could just swing with me."
Chloe says, "That would be fun."
Ryanna asked, "Should we do that? Lee ...."
Chloe said, "I'm sure he wouldn't mind. Maybe he'll watch you swing."
Ryanna said, "He liked watching me."
Chloe said, “Then let's go while there's still some light. Then I'll drive you home. I'm sure your Mom is worried about you."
Ryanna said, "OK. Let's go. I'd race you but I'd win and you're older." She got up and headed for the swing then turned to Chloe and asked, "Do you have any dolls?"
Chloe said, "Can you keep a secret?"
Ryanna smiled a little and the two went to the swing set for a while.
End of Part Two of "When Best Isn't Good Enough."
Defetus XI: "When the Best Isn't Good Enough"
Part Three: "The Gymnasium"
Jonathan Kent was taking a break reading the morning newspaper when Clark walked up and said, "Hi Dad, what's up?"
Jon said, "Clark! It's good to see you."
Clark said, "I was flying by and I thought I'd stop in. It looks like you made some changes. I saw a parking area out in the field. It looks like an earth sheltered building out there too."
Jon said, "Yeah, Anna decided that Martha needed to work out so she built a gymnasium. Since that field got polluted it was of no use anyway. She did the excavation and most of the construction herself. Most of it is underground. Animals can graze on the roof. There's an underground running track that connects to the basement so Martha won't have to go outside when it gets colder. She lefts groups from town come out and use it."
Clark asked, "Why didn't Mom just work out in the basement? Or she could have gotten a membership at the YWCA. Isn't building a gymnasium a little extreme?"
Jon said, "Anna had her reasons. She doesn't like going into town anymore -- too many bad memories. And she wants to be with her Mom when she works out. She is using the gymnasium for a training program with a local man – Mr. Chan. Mr. Chan's son is the one who was killed in front of Anna. I think seeing the boy die made her scared about losing Martha too. Martha and Anna are nearly inseparable. You know Martha has always been everyone's friend, but she never really had a close friend other than me. But a woman needs a woman friend. When Martha thought that she had lost the baby, she stayed on the farm more and withdrew into herself. Anna has become the friend that Martha never had. They are incredibly close. They don't even complete sentences with each other most of the time. They can say volumes to each other in a single look I've never seen Martha so happy. She's tired and sleeping more these days but she's full of life and has that old twinkle in her eye. Anna knows how to keep Martha happy, so if Anna wants to build a gymnasium or whatever, that's fine by me. Anna and Martha are out there now for the morning workout. I'm sure Anna would love to give you a tour. You should spend more time with her, Clark. She hasn't been the same since that boy was killed and she could use all the friends she can get."
Clark said, "Ryanna doesn't want me as a friend, Dad. She thinks we'll be getting married some day. Every time I see her, I think she expects me to grab her and fly away with her. It makes me uncomfortable. Physically she may be grown up, but emotionally she's not ready for a serious romantic relationship. And as your daughter, she is supposed to be my sister."
Jon said, "The fact that she looks like your Mother probably doesn't help much."
Clark said, "What? Mom's a good looking woman and all, but aside for the hair color, I don't see any real resemblance. And her aura is all different. She doesn't even look the way Alexis looked."
Jon said, "Well maybe our eyes aren't wired the same way, but no one else seems to have a problem recognizing them as mother and daughter. Anyway, maybe you had better let Anna know where she stands with you. Don't let this go too long. I can't stand seeing Anna upset."
Clark said, "How can I let her know where she stands when I don't know myself. I have to be very careful when I'm near her. If I get too close, her scent can drive me nuts. And if I touch her skin, there's a definite flow of energy between us. I swear, if I hold her hand a minute, there's enough electricity there to light Metropolis for a year. But that's a physical thing, Dad. That's not the kind of mature love that comes from knowing someone's heart and mind. I don't want to be tricked by my own biology or by Jor-El's skill with genetics -- and I don't want Ryanna being confused by her genetic programming either. I'm sure she can grow beyond it. Dad, there's another complication. I'm dating a co-worker from the Daily Planet now. The woman is a little hung up on Superman, but in time she might settle for being with me. I think what I feel for this woman is the real thing. We have so much in common in the way we feel about things -- and the things that are different about us complement each other and make us whole when we're together. I hoped to bring her by, but I don't know how Ryanna would react. I was pretty fortunate that Alexis wasn't around much when I was dating Lori Lemarus or there might have been a fish fry. I know that, given time, Ryanna will find a soul mate and have a happy life with him."
Jon said, "Unfortunately, Anna can't be with anyone but you."
Clark asked, "Why would you say that?"
Jon said, "Anna had me close up Alexis's apartment for her in Metropolis. She didn't want the clothes or the jewelry or anything personal. But she asked me to get Alexis's computer files and any paper records she might have kept. She managed to get access to the computer for me but she refused wouldn't read anything filed on it. I'm glad she made that decision, believe me. She wanted me to go through everything and find any record of anybody that Alexis had harmed so she could try to make amends. Had I gone through those files before getting to know Anna, I would be too scared to have let her stay under this roof or get anywhere near Martha. I destroyed a lot of Alexis's diaries about what she felt about Martha. I made sure Anna will never know most of it."
Clark said, "What does that have to do with Ryanna being with other men?"
Jon answered, "There were doctor's reports about attempts to get Alexis pregnant. It seems that her body killed any human sperm that entered her."
Clark said, "So she can't have babies. That's pretty sad. I know she wants children some day."
Jon said, "I said HUMAN sperm -- we both know she can get pregnant. But she doesn't know that she was and I'd like to keep it that way."
Clark said, "She could still marry and adopt children like you and Mom did."
Jon said, "I hadn't finished. That wasn't all of it. Her body treats any attempt to get her pregnant as an attack and fights back. The more she sleeps with any one man, the greater the odds that he will be killed by anti-bodies from her. At least 3 men died from that that I know of. One actually died of a gunshot wound, but he was near death at the time due to sleeping with her."
Clark said, "So Alexis was romantically involved with different men."
Jon said, "I wouldn't call it romance. I think it was a case of using and being used. Lionel wanted to secure oil rights to a large area of China. He sent Alexis to "negotiate." There were many meetings over many months. Lionel took great interest when the man died. Then there was a Senator that Lex Luthor had gotten elected. He had a lot of legislation in process that was favorable to Lex Corp interests when a certain video hit the internet. Lionel was dead at this point so I think Alexis did this one on her own. It was pretty obvious from Alexis's journals that she had been pumping him ...ahem ... for information about Lex for quite a while before the video. His body had wasted away pretty bad before his recent death. He was only 42 years old."
Clark waited for Jon to continue. When he didn't, Clark asked, "And the third?"
Jon said, "You don't want to know."
Clark said, "Tell me anyway."
Jon said, "I don't think you could handle it. I know I'm still having trouble dealing with it."
Clark said, "I'm not a kid, Dad."
Jon said, "Remember later that you asked me to tell you this. Apparently Lionel Luthor was obsessed with having a child with the kind of powers you and Alexis have. I would like to think he would have had her artificially inseminated, but that wouldn't explain his medical problems at the time he died. The records show that Alexis was having regular pregnancy tests going back over seven years. Alexis made some mention in her journals about a place they used to go together where he could restraint her and physically punish her -- a place where she had no powers. Maybe that's how Lionel was able to live so long -- by doing what he did to her when her body was less able to defend itself. That could mean that there's some hope that a man could have a long term relationship with her without dying, but that would be pretty risky -- and I doubt that Anna would take that risk with anyone she loves. Clark, heard enough now?" Clark just stood there trembling. His eyes were glowing red. Jon said, "I told you that you wouldn't want to know."
Clark said, "Damn him! .... But who am I to judge him after ...."
Jon said, "HOLD ON! The way you told the story, she seduced you. She used red kryptonite on you. You weren't in control and weren’t with her by your own choice. I remember the look on your face when you realized that she was only 13 years old when you ... spent time with her. But she is no normal child. I don't think we can judge her on a human basis. She does things now that I can't believe even when I see them. Right now, out in the gymnasium, she is probably breaking cement blocks with her bare hands. Show me a normal 14 year old girl that can do that. I saw her break a stack of 8 the other day. It makes me think twice about grounding her."
Clark said, "Eight blocks is nothing for her -- you know that."
Jon said, "What she does when she's out in that gymnasium has to be based on a human standard."
Clark said, "That doesn't make sense. Her strength is part of her. It can't be turned on and off like throwing a switch."
Jon said, "You're wrong. She has a switch like that out in the gymnasium. She goes out there every day and works out like a maniac. She doesn't want to face another situation like that boy's death without being prepared."
Clark said, "That doesn't make any sense. For her to work out is totally pointless. Nothing on Earth could make her raise a sweat."
Jon said, "Go to the gymnasium. See for yourself. But watch your step. You don't want to get hurt out there."
Clark said, "OK. I think I will go see it. Through the basement?"
Jon answered, "Yes -- or the main entrance from the parking lot, but that one's probably locked. Take some swim trunks if you want to use the pool or the hot tub."
Clark walked down the stairs to the basement and down an additional set of stairs to the jogging track. A door automatically slid open upon his approach. He nodded his head in approval as he looked around. Ryanna was one first class carpenter. He thought that her choice of the red backlighting was unusual but interesting. He decided to take the track at a fast walk -- fast for humans that is. When he got to the glass gallery along the pool he felt a little strange. If he didn't know better, he might think he was winded. He passed an elaborate weight room and headed for some music he heard playing up ahead. He saw Martha relaxing in a chair and asked her how she was doing.
Martha said, "I’m great, Clark! Glad you're home. I finished my set but Ryanna is still going. It makes me tired just watching her. Still, when I was 19, I might have been able to give her a run for her money."
Clark laughed, "You? Maybe with any other girl, but not with Ryanna."
Martha said, "Outside, no. In here, yes. In here, I could probably take you on." Martha smiled, reached out and gave Clark a sharp slap on the butt.
Clark jumped and shouted, "Oww! Hey what's going on?"
Martha answered, "Don't ask me. Physics is Ryanna's cup of tea. I'm sure she'll be willing to explain it to you. Go on. Go talk to her. We'll see you later."
Clark walked on into the main room of the gymnasium. He was impressed by the basketball courts. It was a far cry from the hoop tacked to the side of the barn that he and Pete used when they played. In a side room, Ryanna stood in front of a mirrored wall doing a fast paced aerobics routine with some gymnastics thrown in. What shocked him was seeing that the back of her workout outfit drenched with sweat. Ryanna saw him in the mirror. She wound down her routine and shouted a command. The music stopped. Then she did a quadruple back flip and landed in front of Clark. She flashed a big smile, threw her arms around his neck, hugged him until his sides ached and gave him a big kiss on his cheek. She moved back a little with her arms still around him and looked into his face. She saw that his face was contorted so she stepped back from him and ran her hands through her hair to fix her appearance. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said, "I'm a mess. I must look awful."
Clark said, "No ... uh, no. You're looking fine. It's just the smell."
Ryanna stepped back some more and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I smell that bad?"
Clark said, "No. No, it's not bad. It's just ... just kind of a trick Jor-El played on us."
Ryanna asked, "What?"
Clark said, "Jor-El altered you to be like a Kryptonian woman."
Ryanna said, "Yeah. So?"
Clark said, "Well, you smell like a Kryptonian woman and I'm just not used to that scent. With you sweating like that, the smell is pretty intense."
Ryanna said, "So were you being polite when you said I don't smell bad?"
Clark said, "The last thing on my mind right now is being polite."
Ryanna said, "Well, I noticed you smell different than other men. I always kind of liked it."
Clark said, "I could really use some fresh air right now. Where's the door?"
Ryanna pointed and said, "It's over there. But be careful not to trip. The red solar field is on. You might hurt yourself." She followed as Clark headed towards the door. She said, "I don't really understand. You can't tolerate my smell but you say I don't smell bad. Clark, you're limping a little. Are you hurt?" Clark turned to open the door and Ryanna glanced down. Her eyes got really big and she said, "Did I do that? Is that what my scent does to you?" Clark went through the door without answering. Ryanna mumbled to herself, "Maybe I should bottle it." Then she went outside to find Clark sitting on a bench with his face in his hands.
Clark turned to Ryanna and asked, "Why would you do that? Why would you create a place where you can be hurt? If that technology fell into the wrong hands ...."
Ryanna said, "It won't. Do you want an explanation or an argument?"
Clark answered, "An explanation."
Ryanna said, "There were a lot of reasons. Mom is getting old and tired. She needs to work out and learn to sleep better. If she has someone else to work out with, she's more likely not to give up. Without the field turned on, a workout is nothing for me and Mom might not go along with it. We both need to do this together. Mr. Chan is teaching us meditation techniques. We meditate together. We do dance routines together. I plan activities to do with her that will bring us together as close as possible -- to get us synchronized. When we meditate, it's like we were still connected -- like before I was born. I know if I get close enough to Mom, I'll know what is wrong with her and be able to fix it."
Clark said, "Mom is fine. She's just getting older. You can't build a gymnasium and keep Mom and Dad safe from the world and the passage of time. I know the death of that boy gave you a taste of human mortality. Growing up is a hard thing. In the case of Mom and Dad, I'm not ready to grow up either -- but don't get obsessed with pushing Mom. It won't make her young again. But I don't understand why you didn't just TELL Mom that you had created that red solar field without actually making one and then pretend to be powerless in the gymnasium."
Ryanna said, "I think this feels more like an argument. First off, I don't lie to Mom. Sometimes I think she would like me to, but I don't. Second, the other reason for the gymnasium is that I need to train hard because I'm not good enough."
Clark said, "Ryanna, you are too hard on yourself."
Ryanna said, "The boy you mentioned -- Lee Chan. He needed me and I wasn't ready. That cost him his life. I don't intend to be unprepared if anything like that ever happens again."
Clark said, "We all feel that way at times, but you are fine the way you are -- without all the workouts."
Ryanna said, "You can say that because when you couldn't get to Chloe in time, she only spent a week in the hospital. Lee ended up on the sidewalk with no face!"
Clark said, "Ryanna, Please. I've been there. There will be times when we fail. It's tough to face but we have to. We have to or we couldn't continue. And the world needs us to continue -- not as infallible super creatures that solve all their problems for them, but as people that protect them until they mature as a species. Ryanna, you don't need to kill yourself training this hard. Don't tell Diana Prince that I told you this, but you are no doubt the strongest, fastest, most powerful woman on Earth."
Ryanna said, "Person on Earth."
Clark said, "Pardon?"
Ryanna said, "I am probably the most powerful PERSON on Earth. But there is more than just the Earth in this universe. And even on Earth, there is too much to do for one person like me if I don't use what I have to best advantage. That means understanding myself, understanding my powers, understanding my mission and purpose and training to be the best I can possibly be."
Clark said, "I think you are going too far with this."
Ryanna said, "I think your friend the Bat might agree with me that you are not going far enough."
Clark smiled and said, "Ouch! Look, I'm sorry that I criticized you. I think it's great that you want to excel. I've been very impressed with what you've been doing. Believe it or not, I've considered using you from time to time as my secret weapon against crime. In some ways I was more effective before I went public. In time, I think you could be a good -assistant to me."
Ryanna said, "Well, gee thanks. And I think with a little training, I might let you -assist ME. But I think you'll have to learn to wear your red underpants on the inside of your costume first."
Clark laughed and said, "I don't know what's gotten into you!"
Ryanna said, "Just say it. You think that I'm getting egotistical. I'm not. You are. You think you're good enough. But one day some big, bad alien like nothing we've ever seen will come here and beat you to death because you couldn't imagine anyone more powerful than yourself. Me. I'm not egotistical. I know that there are things more powerful than me in Heaven if not on Earth -- but there's no one more powerful near me at the moment."
Clark said, "I think you're the one that wants an argument, not a discussion. You have been trying to provoke me since I got here."
Ryanna said, "I didn't say you smelled."
Clark said, "Are you trying to get me to give you a spanking, little girl?"
Ryanna said, "We'll save that for another time. You need a demonstration. Do you know how your powers work? Really know?"
Clark said, "I believe so."
Ryanna said, "Your body generates a field around you that protects you and repairs your body. Your body operates on energy so that wastes don't build up in your muscles to tire you."
Clark said, "I know."
Ryanna asked, "Do you know how to extend your field?"
Clark said, "It's limited. It extends up to an inch from the surface of my body."
Ryanna said, "It's your imagination and control that's limited." Ryanna ran off and returned in an instant with a 5 foot long tree branch. She said, "Burn the tip off this branch." Clark flashed his heat vision and the end of the branch turned to ash. "Again," she said. Clark poured his heat vision onto the branch but it wouldn't burn. Ryanna said, "Oooo! That feels good. My aura now covers the branch -- and it is much longer than one inch. At the moment, the branch is as invulnerable as I am. Your energy is simply flowing into my aura and giving me a snack." Ryanna generated heat in her hand and the stick became ash and disappeared in a breeze. She kneeled, put a hand on the sidewalk with her fingers spread and said, "This is what happens when I push on the sidewalk when my aura is tight to my skin." Ryanna pushed a hole through the sidewalk that was the shape of her hand. She pulled he hand out of the hole and placed it back on the sidewalk next to the hole. She said, "Watch what happens when I extend my aura over one block. Watch close because I have to fix this later so I don't want to do it twice." Ryanna pushed again and the entire block moved an inch deeper into the soil. Ryanna moved her hand to the next block and said, "Now I'm extending my aura over the entire sidewalk skipping over the one I pushed down. I’ll push until all the blocks are even again." Ryanna pushed until the sidewalk was even again. The one she said she would skip didn't move. She stood and said, "This is the difference between punching a hole through a mountain, shattering a mountain and moving a mountain. I've seen videos of you in action. You use you aura this way ever day without knowing how you do it."
Clark said, "Very impressive!"
Ryanna said, "It's no parlor trick. I think you need more convincing. Maybe you need the spanking. Look, there's someone behind you. I think it's me."
Clark still saw Ryanna in front of him, but her arms reached around him from behind and lifted him ten feet into the air. Now a single Ryanna had him held tight. She said, "Break free. Do your best. Don't worry about hurting me. Imagine that your life depends on it. Maybe it does. Maybe I'm Alexis." Clark struggled but could only move a little. Ryanna said, "I am holding you rooted by Earth's magnetic field. Now I'll use the old Sol's field too. Try to move now." Clark couldn't move at all. Ryanna said, "I'm about to make a mistake. I'm going to let go. Either run or grab me. If you can't hold me, I'm going to get you again and you may get your spanking." Ryanna let go and they hung in the air looking at each other. Clark made his move and grabbed her. Ryanna relaxed in Clark's grip a moment and said, "So good to be in your arms again." She slipped from his grasp so quickly that she seemed to disappear. "Better run for it," she said. He began to move and found her tight up against him, staring him in the eye and holding his hands firmly pinned behind his back. Ryanna said, "I could hold you here all day, Clark. Do yourself a favor. Don't settle for being the best man on Earth. I want you to be better so that I won't have to worry about you anymore. You've been lucky a few times. I would rather you be prepared than lucky. I don't ever want to have to see you hurt."
Clark gasped, "Please Ryanna. Let me go. I can't think. Your scent is too overpowering."
Ryanna said, "But I like your scent ... and I like what my scent does to you."
Clark said, "Ryanna, please stop,"
Ryanna smiled and said, "Don't worry, Clark. I won't bite you."
Clark said, "You did the last time."
Ryanna suddenly let him go and hung suspended in air in front of him. She said, "I NEVER bit you. I wouldn't do that. I was only trying to show you something. I thought maybe you would train with me so there was less chance of you getting hurt. I don't want to lose you. That's why I did this Clark. My family means everything to me. I wouldn't scratch you or bite you or ....WAIT a minute. Did SHE bite you? Did ALEXIS bite you?"
Clark nodded, "Yes."
Ryanna said, "Did you two fight? What else did she do to you?" Clark didn't say anything. He blushed a deep red. Ryanna's jaw dropped and she lowered herself onto the grass and sat down. She stammered, "Oh ... OH! That's not fair. And I don't remember anything. Was it that bad? Is that why you don't want me now?"
Clark said, "It would be inappropriate for us to be together that way."
Ryanna said, "But she was an evil, evil person and you did it with her. Is that what kind of woman you like? You like criminals who have sex videos on the internet ... and Mermaids. Too bad I don't smell like a fish instead of like some Kryptonian woman. Maybe if I lived on an island with a bunch of women who hate men you'd think I was attractive. Are you still dating Wonder Bra Woman?"
Clark said, "Look, Alexis tricked me. She used red kryptonite to take away my inhibitions. She seduced me. I didn't know who she was until it was too late. I didn't realize how young she was until much later. It's not something I'm proud of."
Ryanna said, "So if I want you to find me attractive, I'd have to get you under the influence? Kind of like getting you drunk so you could stand being near me?"
Clark said, "I was attracted to Alexis the first time I saw her. I used to see her around Metropolis and wanted to meet her. I always thought she was gorgeous ... and you are prettier than she ever was. Alexis ... Alexis had a hard life. I didn't love her for being evil. I made a mistake before you were born and Alexis paid by living a life with Lionel Luthor that I can't begin to imagine. You, on the other hand have Mom and Dad to raise you. You're becoming the amazing woman you were meant to be."
Ryanna asked, "So, does my scent remind you of Alexis? Is that why it bothers you so much?"
Clark said, "Yes, it reminds me of her, but it bothers me because it makes my body want to do things that I know in my head and heart are wrong. Jor-El tried every trick in the book to control my future and yours. I don't want to be tricked. I want to choose my own path -- and I want you to have the freedom to choose as well."
Ryanna said, "I've always wondered about sex and how it would be – especially since I’m different and all. I never thought you would have known me that way. I don't think it's fair that you should know me and I don't know ... anything. Tell me. How did Alexis compare sexually with Earth women?"
Clark said, "I wouldn't know."
Ryanna's eyes widened a moment and then she asked, "So did I ... did Alexis like doing it? Did you drive her crazy with passion?"
Clark answered, "With Alexis, you never knew what she was really was thinking or feeling unless she was really angry. She was trained to deceive and she was good at it. In the end, she tried to humiliate me by paying me for getting her ... for servicing her." [Clark thought, "Careful, you almost blew it."]
Ryanna stared at Clark like he was a toy in a store window that she wanted but could never have. A stream of tears started running down her cheeks. She said, "I can't deal with this. I thought I was getting a second chance, but Alexis is reaching out to destroy my life. I don't have a chance with you, do I? I never did. Alexis spoiled it all for me. You and I being together was the only reason for me to even exist. I have no reason for being here now. I have no reason to live!"
Clark stared at her a while not knowing what to say. Finally he asked Ryanna, "What is your first memory?"
Ryanna said, "You were smiling at me and then you kissed me."
Clark said, "As I recall, you weren't very thrilled at me doing that."
Ryanna said, "I was just a kid then. That was 16 months ago!"
Clark continued, "I just want you to know that I wasn’t under the influence of red kryptonite when that happened."
Ryanna said, "Oh ... OK ... Thanks."
Clark said, "And right there and then I committed to be there by your side forever if you needed me there -- but you didn't. You did great. You came back and became a better, stronger person. Better than you were. Better than I am."
Ryanna cried, "But I DO need you! You're the only one like me! Only you could possibly understand me."
Clark said, "You are more like other people than you think. You are going to be fantastic. But there is one other very important thing for you to know. Are you listening to me, because this IS important?!"
Ryanna said, "I'm listening."
Clark continued, "There are many, many reasons for you to be here that have nothing at all to do with me or with re-building Krypton or with making babies. What you said about there being no reason for you to live is WRONG. A lot of people's lives are so much better because you've been here. A lot of babies will grow up smart and strong because your company improved the world's food supply. Many people are depending on you. Do you know that? I have to know that you understand that."
Ryanna said, "I know."
Clark said, "Jor-El is dead. He was dead long before what was left of him in that key from my spaceship ever said a word to either of us. Our lives are our own. Our destinies are ours to make. His ideas shouldn't rule our lives."
Ryanna said, "I was his idea."
Clark said, "You were his BEST idea."
Ryanna said, "You told me you kissed me that first time because you wanted to."
Clark said, "Yes, that's true."
Ryanna said, "Could you kiss me again? Like the first time. I promise I'll like it this time."
Clark said, "I'd rather not. At least not until you've taken a shower. Your scent is a trick to influence me just like the red kryptonite was a trick Alexis used on me. It's a matter of principle. I'd rather love a person for who they are rather than how they smell. I'd rather have a woman win me by touching my heart than to win me by touching red kryptonite to my skin."
Ryanna said, "So you don't really care about me. You thought it was Alexis waking up when you kissed me. You don't want to hold me or kiss me or touch me. Why don't you just fly away?"
Clark said, "Compromise, Ryanna. Go take a shower and I'll kiss you."
Ryanna answered, "You compromise. Take a shower with me and I'll shower."
Clark said, "I couldn't do that!"
Ryanna said, "You COULD but you won't. Kiss me now! I can't wait!"
Clark said, "You COULD wait, but you won't."
Ryanna said, "You're right. I won't."
With that said Ryanna jumped up and wrapped her arms around Clark's neck. This time she didn't kiss him on the cheek. This time she didn't use the sun's magnetism to hold him. She used something much more powerful -- her own magnetism. And Clark found that either he couldn't resist or didn't want to. When at long last they had finished their kiss, they each said a quiet good-bye and excused themselves. They flew along separate paths but both soon plunged into icy arctic waters. Neither one found that the water cold enough and both would be unable to sleep for days.
End of Part Three: "Gymnasium"