'Five Faces Of Kal'
From "Science Fiction For The 21st Century' by R Bartlet (1999)

(An adaptation from the story of Kal-el / Clark Kent / Superman as told in comic books, on televisions and in movies. This being from the planet Krypton - whose natural parents were Jor-el and Lara, but who was later adopted on Earth by Jonathan and Martha Kent - went on, when he grew to adulthood, to become a reporter on the 'Daily Planet' newspaper in the city of Metropolis. In this adaptation, Superman's exploits are blended with the feats of ancient Greece's legendary hero Hercules, and with an enlightening young lady of the future named Essjy.)

Faster than a speeding bullet . . . more powerful than a locomotive . . . able to leap tall buildings at a single bound . . . Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird . . . it's a plane . . . it's Superman! Yes, it's Superman - strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman . . . who can change the course of mighty rivers; bend steel in his bare hands; and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the superhero way.

Where did he come from? The planet Ufora, in a distant galaxy. When Ufora's imminent explosion was predicted by its greatest scientist Jor-el; Jor and his wife Lara decided to bundle their baby son Kal into a spaceship whose coordinates had been set for earth. Unfortunately, Jor-el and Lara couldn't save their own lives, since they had made up their minds to stay behind and warn the population that their world was about to end.

That plan turned out to be a total waste, for the Uforanauts came to be divided over whether the two were mentally unstable or simply naive and arrogant (in the end, it must be said that it was naivety to believe they could open the eyes of their planet's inhabitants to the fact that unbelievable change was just around the corner).

Anyway, when baby Kal-el's spacecraft (called a UFO) landed in a remote region on earth, it and its tiny occupant were discovered by a middle-aged couple who happened to be driving nearby Jonathan and Martha Kent. They had always longed for a child, but had never been blessed with one -so, rightly or wrongly, they decided (after giving the matter a lot of thought) to take Kal back to their farm, say he was adopted, and lavish on him the tenderness stored up in their hearts over the years.

Time flew with no indication that Kal - who was renamed Clark possessed any extraordinary abilities. Now a young man in his early twenties; Clark had left his adopted parents' farm, moved to the city, and accepted a job as reporter with Metropolis' DAILY PLANET.

From Clark's point of view, easily the best thing about his work was regularly perusing the paper's scientific columns and having access to all the background material of the science reporters. This triggered an insatiable desire for accumulating knowledge. In no time at all, the PLANET's features on science weren't enough to satisfy him; and he graduated to buying specialised books and magazines.

Calling on all his study, Clark developed a theory stating how all space and time was composed of infinitesimally small pulses of energy. If a person knew how to utilise these pulsations, it would be possible to invoke a source of energy never tapped before. Directing this energy in a controlled fashion would allow one to perform otherwise impossible wonders - feats that peoples of ancient times could only describe as 'magic' or as 'miracles'.

Clark studied and studied more and more - he practised and practised all the conceivable methods of utilising what he termed 'cosmic energy pulses'. The day came when he could bend steel with his bare hands, leap tall buildings in a single bound, and fly (yes, fly) faster than a speeding bullet.

For a while, Clark (Kal-el) Kent contented himself by fighting for justice in the 20th century. As 'Superman', he put his powers to good use by detecting fires with his X-ray vision and extinguishing them with Super-breath; apprehending criminals, whose weapons never pierced his invulnerable skin; flying into treetops to rescue kittens who climbed up easily enough but couldn't remember the way down; and so on . . .

Then a strange thought lodged in his brain. All time is composed of infinitesimal energy pulses, but so is a video game. To be precise, video games are made up of the ones and zeros (the 'binary digits' or 'bits') dictated by computer programming. In turn, these bits are determined by, say, high and low voltages ie by pulses of electrical energy.

On a video screen, objects and events appear isolated, but everything is actually connected by the bits. In space-time, things also seem isolated from all other objects/events, but should be interconnected to form a unity by 'bits of space-time'.

Noting how every period is connected to every other, Kal-el realised how little he was actually achieving by fighting for truth and justice only in the present. To really do his bit for the superhero way, he must continue his endeavours in a wide variety of eras.

First, he journeyed some 24 centuries into the past to ancient Greece. 'There'll be plenty to do here', Kal mused.

'In this century, Greeks are usually at war, either with their countrymen from a neighbouring city-state or with the Persians. While I'm here, I can have a chat to Democritus and his teacher Leucippus.'

Kal's superhuman exploits on the Grecian plains quickly earned him a place in history as the hero Heracles (Hercules). Though he always refused to harm the so-called enemy. Heracles never missed an opportunity to place his invincible body between the projectiles of catapults and soldiers who were threatened with injury or death from those projectiles. It might be argued that Hercules acted partially on these occasions. for he always defended a particular side - however, this side was always the one to which history accorded victory.

When he discoursed with Democritus and Leucippus, Heracles pointed out that in many years, philosophers would misinterpret their concept of 'indivisible particles'. Because the English word 'atom' comes from a Greek word meaning 'not cuttable', the indivisible particles of Leucippus and Democritus would later be identified with the atomic theory of John Dalton. In reality, 'indivisible particles' is the Greek way of describing 'bits of space-time' and 'cosmic energy pulses'.

Coupled with the super powers displayed on the battlefield, Heracles' insights into the future resulted in his being elevated to the status of a god. Unfortunately, some of the records of ancient Greece have suffered considerable distortion in the last 2,000 years: consequently, 20th century society ascribes the greek gods and heroes to legend .

Kal-el was feeling pleased with himself. 'I've enjoyed great success in the 1900s as Superman, and also 2400 years earlier as Hercules. It must be time to balance the scales and go to the 44th century A.D. I wonder what it's like there . . .'

On arrival, Kal-el was greeted by a woman who looked and acted how he imagined a female version of himself would. Picking up on his sudden shyness, the young lady stepped forward and addressed our time traveller.

'Hello, Kal. Welcome to 4390. I've been assigned to show you around and explain anything you wish to know. Just call me EssJy. Before you say anything - and I'm sure you have a lot of questions - let me assure you that we've taken a special interest in your life, including your recent adventures in ancient Greece. You won't find any physical labours to do here, I'm afraid - but there's more than enough mental labour (ie learning) to keep you busy.

'By the way, learning is the real purpose of life in all the places and times you've come from. People living in those times get so caught up in the happenings in one particular spot at one particular moment . . . They forget the rest of the universe, as well as the past and the future . . . Consequently, they lose all sense of perspective and can't remember that their only purpose in being is to have new experiences, get whatever joy and knowledge they can from those experiences, and share their knowledge with whomever they can.'

Relaxing, Kal-el's eyes plunged into the depths of his guide's strangely familiar eyes: 'What did they say about me in Greece immediately after "Hercules" disappeared, EssJy?'

'They think you died and went to join the immortal gods on Mt. Olympus. Well, you aren't dead, and this isn't Olympus; but we are immortal, Kal! This is a complex subject, but I'll tell you all about it later.'

'And are you gods?'

'Personally. I don't like to think that way. Though it's certainly true that, prior to the 1900s, every person who encountered one of us thought: "It's one of the gods", "It's one of God's angels" or "It's someone from another planet." In coming here from that Mediterranean land of nearly 5000 years ago; you gave up the 12 labours of Hercules but I guess you have journeyed to the realm of the so called "gods".'

During the course of his tour, Kal-el discovered that his guide was, in fact, himself . . . uh, herself . . . uh, it's all a bit difficult to understand.

First, a cell was taken from Kal-el's body. Genetic engineering was carried out on the sex-related traits of chromosomes to give them feminine characteristics and the cell was cloned. Second, a truly unique supercomputer analysed the histology (microscopic anatomy), biochemistry and interconnections of Kal-el's brain tissues. This analysis was, in effect, a model (simulation) of his mind which was transmitted to the cloned brain in the same way that waves are beamed from a television station. In other words, Kal's mind has been duplicated and now exists in his original brain as well as in the cloned brain. (The latter isn't actually a clone because a clone is identical to the original.)

Oriented by this discovery into an unfamiliar mode of neural connections, Kal's brain gave rise to this conviction: 'Her name isn't Essjy; it's S.G. Does that stand for Spirit Guide?' (In the decades around 1900, a medium conducting a seance regularly called upon a spirit guide to lead her, or occasionally him, into conversations with the supposed dead.)

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