Sullivan Kent and Jor-El
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
A single thread in a tapestry
Through its color brightly shine
Can never see its purpose
In the pattern of the grand design
And the stone that sits on the very top
Of the mountain's mighty face
Does it think it's more important
Than the stones that form the base?
So how can you see what your life is worth
Or where your value lies?
You can never see through the eyes of man...
-The Prince of Egypt, "Through Heaven's Eyes"
It wasn't every day that Sullivan Kent heard disembodied voices speaking to him.
In fact, it had never happened before now. Good thing, too. He liked to think he was pretty sane, and hearing a voice speaking out of emptiness, echoing in this vast space, kind of creeped him out.
Sully dialed up his superhearing a bit, and confirmed that there was nothing in this giant glowing ice sculpture except him. He couldn't even hear the telltale hum of machinery. The place was vacant.
And yet he'd definitely heard a voice.
Maybe it was time to recheck the sanity thing.
"Uh... hi?" he said tentatively.
The voice spoke again. It sounded like the voice of God, or at least the way Hollywood movies imagined God would sound-- stern, deep, and British.
"Welcome home," it said again. "I am pleased that you have finally made your way here."
Not his imagination, then. It was real. Cautiously, he made his way further into the structure.
"Um, what exactly is this place?" he asked the voice as he paced through the icy columns.
"This was your father's Fortress of Solitude," it intoned. "But now it has passed to you."
Sully remembered Batman's voice: Your father's Fortress of Solitude, in the Arctic. There you will find a repository of information, about your father as well as his people.
Which still told him diddlysquat, really. He'd kind of expected alien technology to look sleek and metallic and state-of-the-art, maybe an underground James Bond kind of thing with banks of computers. Instead, the place looked, well, primitive, as if someone had hewn out massive chunks of ice and erected the structure by hand. It was really huge, but not exactly high-tech.
"And you would be?"
The voice spoke solemnly. "Your grandfather."
Sully jerked to a startled halt and stared upward. "My what?"
"I am your father's father, Jor-El. Or rather, a copy of him."
"A copy." Sully thought about that. "Like a clone?"
"An artificial intelligence," the voice answered. "I possess the original Jor-El's memories and will. I was designed to teach your father everything he needed to know in order to help this world."
Sully suddenly remembered his dad's wry words: There's no such thing as a superhero major.
Except, apparently, there was. Evidently he was standing in the hallowed halls of Superman University.
"So you taught my dad... what?" He walked further into the structure, looking around. He still didn't see a thing that made him think of James Bond. He just saw a whole lot of ice-- or was it crystal? Either way, it sure didn't look futuristic. "About his world? About his powers?"
"Both," the AI answered. "Although he refused to spend an adequate amount of time here. He would only come here on occasion. Had he taken the full training, he would have been able to do more. I hope that you will agree to the full training."
Sully squinted suspiciously at the icy walls. If his father hadn't been willing to do it, he wasn't sure why he should be. Except, well, his dad had been Superman, and he... wasn't.
He could probably use all the help he could get.
"How long would the full training take?" he asked, tentatively.
"Approximately three years."
Sully's mouth fell open, and he stared at the walls. "Are you shitting me?"
"I am unfamiliar with that idiom," the AI intoned.
From its cool tone, Sully had the feeling that it was perfectly familiar with the idiom, but was informing him that it didn't care for the rude language. Well, screw it. He wasn't going to worry about offending a machine.
Still, this was his grandfather. Sort of.
"I mean.." He tried for a politer tone. "There are all these people who need me." He waved a hand in the air, underscoring his point. He'd picked up the habit of talking with his hands from his mom, who waved her hands so ferociously when she talked that when she got excited, sometimes people around her had to duck to avoid a black eye. "And they need me now, not three years from now. I can't sit around on my ass for three years."
"In the long run, the world will benefit from your training."
"Sure, if someone doesn't launch a nuclear missile or unleash killer robots or let loose a plague in the meantime. I mean, three years. God only knows what could happen. I can't be gone for three years."
"Then your answer is no?"
Sully glared upward. "My answer is hell, no."
There was a long silence. At last the voice spoke.
"I offered the same choice to your father," it said, sounding pleased, "and he made the same decision. You are your father's son, Sul-El."
Sully frowned at the name. His middle initial was L, short for Lane, but no one ever called him Sullivan L., and no one had ever shortened his first name to "Sul" before, either. Most people just called him Sully. But he decided not to argue about something as irrelevant as his name right now.
"You're telling me this was a test?" he said. "You wanted me to decline?"
The AI spoke calmly.
"If you have so little faith in yourself, and so little concern for the world, that you would agree to cloister yourself here for three years... then you would not be worthy of that symbol, Sul-El."
Sully glanced down at the S on his chest, and sighed.
"I'm not," he said softly. "I make too many mistakes. I need help."
"Of course you do. So did your father."
Sully glanced up. The idea that his father had been less than perfect was still a strange concept to him. Batman had told him as much, but Sully found it hard to believe. After all, Dad had been Superman. Not just a man, but a legend.
"So my father refused the training, too?"
"Yes." The AI spoke solemnly. "He chose a friend's wellbeing over the training. I stripped him of his powers, and still he fought to save the world. It was then that I knew that for all his failings, he was worthy to wear that symbol."
Stripped him of his powers? Sully blinked up into the dim reaches of the structure. It might not look futuristic, but apparently it was more than it appeared.
Apparently his "grandfather" was no one to fuck with.
"I need some training," he said at last, looking up earnestly. "I know I do. And... and I'd like to know something about my father's planet, and my father. But I can't leave Metropolis alone for years. I just can't."
"Very well, Sul-El. One week of intensive training, then you may return at intervals for additional lessons."
Sully thought about that. "I need to let my mom know, tie up a few loose ends..."
"No." The voice was implacable. "If you are truly committed to this, then let us begin now."
Sully recognized that this was another test. He frowned, considering it. His mom was going to totally freak out if he disappeared off the face of the planet for a week. Considering she'd just lost his dad a few months ago, he didn't want to do that to her. He thought Barri Allen a.k.a. Impulse, the girl he was starting to fall for, might worry about him too. And school... well, if he missed a week of school he might as well just drop out entirely.
And Metropolis. His city needed him.
He remembered Batman's words: I will watch over your city while you're gone.
Sully's first priority had to be his city. Not school, not Barri, not even his mom. The millions of people who lived in Metropolis were his focus now.
But Batman had been watching over Gotham for twenty years or more. His city was in good hands.
And if he took this training... hopefully it would make him a better guardian of his city. A better Superman. Maybe, just maybe, he'd finally begin to feel like his dad's suit fit. Maybe the damn cape wouldn't weigh quite so heavily on his shoulders.
There was so much he didn't know. So much about his father, about his father's planet. About his own powers. His life was a single thread, woven into his father's life and the life of this planet, a tiny piece of a vast tapestry he could only catch glimpses of.
He needed to know more.
He remembered the AI's casual assertion that it had depowered Dad, and wondered if he could trust the machine. But he shrugged the concern aside. Batman wouldn't have sent him here if he didn't think the AI was trustworthy.
At any rate, if he was ever going to learn everything he needed to know, this was his only chance.
He looked up at the shadowed ceiling high above, and nodded.
"I accept," he answered. "One week."
"Good, Sul-El. Let us begin."
A blue light surrounded Sully, and he sank into a kind of trance, absorbing everything the AI showed him, while a tapestry of knowledge wove itself around him.