SPIFFY DISCLAIMER THINGIE!

Ah don't own anybody heah! They are all the property of DC and Marvel comics and Ah am just borrowing them! Ah promise to return them relatively unharmed when Ah am done! Hee! This is a fanfic for entertainment purposes only. And if'n anybody can figure out how Ah can make money doing this, for God's sake speak up now!

Rated P for Pure as the Driven Snow:):)

Tarnation! Ah have no bloody idea what this thing is! Elseworlds? What If? Imaginary Story? Don't ask moi! But it surely was fun to write:):) For those of moi's readers who may not be familiar with all the characters lurking in these pages, Ah have provided a SCORECARD at the end of the story:):) Enjoy!

Ah need to thank all moi's faithful beta readers GenXlegacy, DarkMark, 'rith, and all the rest! Ya'll are the greatest, folks!

Extra special thanks to Mark Waid and Alex Ross for "Kingdom Come" and their wonderful insights into Superman and Batman, et al!

And to Menchem and Ashman for Ah have adapted the lyrics to their song, "Feed Me Seymour" from Little Shop Of Horrors

The Last Herald Of Galactus

A Super Tale by Dannell Lites

He stood cradled in the great hand, staring up into the strange square pupils of the World Devourer's eyes. Beneath him, through the soles of his boots, he could feel the waning energy, the fading life of the great being he served so loyally and he was afraid. Afraid of being alone again. Of being the last ... If the World Devourer did not feed soon then he would die.

He could not allow that.

And yet .. the price ... the price ...

"What troubles you, Herald?" demanded Galactus(1). Swiftly, the other looked away.

"Nothing, Master," he said and felt the scarlet cloth of his cape flutter in the breeze of Galactus' breathy, answering reply. "Nothing troubles me." For a moment, the huge eyes clouded with the advent of unimaginable power and strong emotion.

Could it be grief he spied there on those stern, gigantic features?

Perhaps.

But perhaps not.

He was prone, he suspected, to projecting emotions upon his Master that, perhaps, might not be there. Because he wished it so.

"No so, Loyal One," returned Galactus, "but we shall speak of this later. Now you have a task to perform, do you not?" The other felt his heart sink as Galactus raised him level with his own huge countenance, staring at him; depending upon him for his life. "I hunger Herald, I hunger!" he cried. The pain in that thunderous voice tore at his Herald's heart. Slowly, Galactus closed his hand and then opened it once more in a great flash of energy.

"Fly, Kal-E(2) of Krypton, fly!" ordered the Devourer of Worlds. "Find me a planet, my loyal Herald! Find sustenance for Galactus!"

Endowed once more with the Power Cosmic, Kal-El, the Last Son of Krypton, blazed away, setting the heaven's alight in the wake of his search for a planet with energy to sustain his Master.

**************************************************************************************

And he found one.

The planet spinning majestically below was beautiful; a vibrant blue-green jewel teeming with life. Laughing, he plunged down through the oxygen rich atmosphere. The pale pastel colors shone against the starkness of space, catching the eye. The warm green bespoke of life and growing things. The cool blue of it's watery womb promised peace and tranquility. He'd almost reached the surface before he realized that the energy bursts and EM spectrum disturbances all around him were the planet's inhabitants, trying to drive him off with primitive weapons.

How *dare* they? He was Kal-El, the Herald of Galactus who went when and where he pleased. Apish fools!

Angry now, he lashed out with his heat vision, destroying many of their toys, easily avoiding the rest with agile grace. In the beginning, he meant to leave these beings in peace. It was his custom to find uninhabited worlds for his Master to consume. If this obvious ploy displeased the World Devourer, Galactus said nothing. The two, Master and servant, never spoke of it. But he was caught by the splendid beauty of this world and so paused in his quest long enough to admire it.

His mistake.

An orbiting laser defense satellite sprang to life, stinging him, insect-like, with tens of thousands of joules of coursing energy. Rather distracted, he could not evade and was ill prepared for the missile that exploded against his chest.

Down, down, he fell, burning like a meteor, through the planetary atmosphere until he struck the ground below with a blow that shook it, making it tremble and writhe in protest.

**************************************************************************************

Martha Clark Fordham Kent glanced up into the bright, blanketing sky above Smallville, Kansas and clapped her hands in delight.

"Jonathan, look!" she cried to her husband of many years, pointing into the firmament. "A falling star!"

"I see it, Martha, I see it!" exclaimed the Kansas farmer with a smile.

The white haired man pulled his new Ford pickup off to the side of the road and, hand in hand, together, he and his wife watched as a miracle unfolded.

"Make a wish, Martha! Make a wish!" Jonathan chuckled.

With a sigh, she did.

No one, however, could have been more amazed than she when it came true.

**************************************************************************************

He woke screaming in a tongue that only two living beings in all the Universe understood, now.

"No!" he shouted in the liquid accents of a planet he knew only in dreams, "No! Don't leave me! Please don't leave me ... " But the shade of his father Jor-El faded into misty oblivion, calling his name. His heart racing, he reached for the comfort of his fathers hand, in vain. Jor-El of Krypton, like his world, was gone. Leaving behind only a single survivor to mourn.

"Jonathan!" Martha Kent called. "Come quick! He's awake!" When the stranger tried to rise from his bed she held out a hand to his broad chest. "Easy there child, easy," she soothed him. The sound of her soft voice seemed to comfort him and he lay back down with a small grimace of pain.

"Well, now," opined Jonathan Kent from the open doorway, "you're looking a mite better, son." To Martha's dismay, those dark brows knitted themselves together in a frown.

"Jonathan, I don't think he speaks English. He doesn't understand you."

Martha stroked the night dark hair and smiled to reassure him as the bright blue eyes closed, peacefully, and the harsh sound of his breathing slowed to a steady rhythm. Within moments the young stranger was sleeping once more.

Such a handsome boy! Martha thought. But who was he? When she and her husband followed the path of that blazing falling star to the cornfield on the south forty of their small farm the last thing they expected to find was a young man, unconscious and still glowing with heat like a coal, or a wood ember.

"Land sakes, Martha!" she could still hear Jonathan exclaim. "That thing looks like it's coming down right on our place!"

His face alight with delight and wonder, Jonathan Kent quickly started the Ford S-10's engine once more and sped off into the deepening twilight. With a shake of her head, Martha gusted a sigh of exasperated amusement. Truth be told, even after all these years she still couldn't cotten to Jonathan's fondness for the strange things he found in those science fiction stories of his. "Look, Martha!" he would often exalt, waving a brightly colored magazine under her nose in Fordham's Drug, "A new story by Asimov!"

"Yes dear," was her frequent response, "Robots ... or is it another 'Foundation' story this time?"

The prospect of actually seeing or perhaps touching a piece of something that fell from the sky, that came from beyond the Earths domain was clearly exciting for her husband. Martha smiled indulgently. She had to admit she was a bit curious herself. But as she understood these things it was most likely just a piece of nickel-iron rock, however exotic it's previous locale. Still, it was nice to see Jonathan so happy and excited. Although not too exciting she hoped. Jonathan's last medical exam was quite encouraging, Doc Whitney assured her, but her husband had still to fully recover from his heart attack of the previous winter and Martha found herself worrying about him more than she liked.

They were less than half way to the remote farm they owned when the earth tremor hit, almost driving them off the road. Stubbornly, Jonathan fought the swerving pick up and kept them from the yawning ditch and the specter of an accident on such a lonely stretch of road as this. Gasping in fear, Martha held on in wide eyed dismay as Jonathan once more set their truck racing in the direction of the falling fragment of heaven.

"Our place all right," declared Jonathan. "Over on the edge of the woods in the south pasture, I'll warrant!"

When they first approached the thing from the sky, the heat was so intense that even Jonathan, determined as he was, found himself driven back by the blast.

"Careful, Jonathan!" Martha admonished, afraid he might be burned. Oh that man and his passion for unearthly things was a caution! Undaunted, Jonathan retreated reluctantly to the safety of his Ford pick up, wiping his brow with a large red checkered handkerchief.

"We'd best wait for it to cool, I reckon," Jonathan smiled.

"I reckon so," returned Martha tartly, adjusting Jonathan's rounded spectacles on his nose and checking him closely for injuries. He patted her hand.

"I'm fine, honey," he assured her and was rewarded with a smile. Even after nearly thirty years of marriage, Jonathan Kent still saw his wife as the prettiest girl in Smallville County. Lord willing that was never going to change.

"Jonathan, look!" Martha cried suddenly, pointing at the fallen star.

"Lord have mercy!" her husband gasped, gazing at the rapidly cooling object lying in his cornfield. "Why, it looks like a *man*!"

**************************************************************************************

In the dream, he is smiling, happy and loved; surrounded by others of his own kind. They greet him. "Ho, Kal-El! Greetings to the son of Jor-El!" they cry. "You are well, my son?" inquires his anxious mother, Lara. Rising to join his father in their laboratory, Kal-El of Krypton, youngest member of the ruling Science Council and proud heir to the House of El, assures his mother of his continued good health, smiling at her motherly concern

In the dream, his father and other members of his large and illustrious family gather to see him Joined with the dark tressed, beautiful Lyla Lerrol, Krypton's most famous emotion-movie actress. In the dream he is never alone.

But the dream shifts and flows, changing shape before his despairing eyes. No longer is he the adorded first son of Jor-El. As always, his father is gone. No longer is he cradled safely in the company of others like him. There are no others. No, there is only one. Before him looms the visage of Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds. Like him, Galactus is the last of his kind. There are no others like him. Kal-El has often wondered, in idle moments between the stars, if this disturbs Galactus. If so, there is no sign of it. Most likely he will never know the answer to this and many other questions. Galactus is ... Galactus.

"Kal-El, my loyal Herald," thundered the voice of Galactus, "what troubles you?" Always the same question.

"Nothing, Master."

Always the same answer.

"Speak, Herald!" ordered Galactus. "You trouble me."

"Master ... " He gazes reluctantly up into the face of his savior and only companion. "Who am I? Where do I come from?" For many long minutes Galactus was silent. The great square pupils of his eyes widened. The World Devourer blinked and his Herald stood astonished.

"Master?"

More silence. And then Galactus opened his closed hand to reveal a jewel, glowing softly green like a growing thing. "Here is the answer to all your questions, Kal-El of Krypton," said Galactus. "Your father has provided for your education, Herald. Learn well."

When the jewel rose and sank into his forehead there was cold, great cold. And knowledge. Great, wondrous knowledge that flooded him like rainwater after a storm.

"Kal-El, my son," whispered a deep, pleasant voice, not at all like the voice of Galactus. "Hear me! I am Jor-El, your father ... "

And through the eyes of his father he saw mighty Krypton, the world of his birth: the Jewel Mountains, the Fire Falls and the Scarlet Jungle. Meteor Valley spread itself before him in all it's glory. The wonders of his birth-world were laid out for like a feast and his father , this Jor-El, was his guide. And the people! So many people.

His mother Lara smiled at him and the beauty of it stole his breath away. Never had he seen anyone smile before. He looked like his mother. Such a simple thing ... But until that moment he'd not known it. There were no mirrors in the mighty planet-sized starship that was home to Galactus and he was not vain in any case.

So many, many people ...

His staid uncle Zor-El, who moved to Argo City to be free of the shadow of his elder brother, the brilliant scientist and statesman. Who is plodding and steady, but very through, in his research into the mysteries of interdimentional travel and the science of erecting force fields. Unlike his brother Jor-El, whose mind soars on the winds of Krypton like a flamebird on the wing.

His lovely aunt Allura, wife to Zor-El, whose whole world is wrapped up in the tiny person of her infant daughter Kara, cooing and gurgling happily in her mother's arms.

His uncle Nim-El, the weapons master, twin to Jor-El his father, who was nothing like his peaceful brother at all. His cousin Don-El, the son of Nim-El, the Police Chief of the city of Kandor.

Rowdy, laughing Jaf-El whose hair, red as the sun of Krypton and of the Sun God, Rao, who kindled it in the heavens. Because of his hair, a rare color indeed on Krypton, Jaf-El is marked for the priesthood, but Jaf-El does not want to be a priest.

And he was Kal-El ... The Star Child.

The visions fade, waning and flickering like the dreams they are and he grasps after them in futile despair.

"No, no! Come back!" he pleads, but silence is his only answer. When he looks to Galactus, the World Devourer says nothing, standing like a statue with no sign of feeling on his cool metallic visage.

"What - what happened to them, Master?" he cried. "Where are they now?"

"They are dust on the Cosmic winds, my Kal-El," said Galactus. "With his last breath, your father Jor-El gave you, his only son, into my hands. Then he, along with his world, perished."

The world twisted and changed shape, writhed with a sickening motion that left him nauseous for an instant. But when it righted itself, he was standing in a large laboratory. The world shook and convulsed crazily. Through the clear front windows of the lab he witnessed the toppling of tall towers, the destruction of mighty building ... heard the screams of people, it seemed.

"You will care for him?" inquired an anxious voice that he did not at first recognize, it was so muffled in weariness and despair.

"We have struck a bargain, Jor-El of Krypton. You have the word of Galactus," proclaimed another, very familiar voice. "Your son will live. He shall be my Herald." Through the eyes of Jor-El there passed an instant of great suffering. He hesitated. But, just then, the earth shook itself again like a great wet dog and Jor-El clutched the precious bundle held closer to his body, as if to protect it's fragile existence. Galactus waited.

Another, more slender hand, gently pushed the colorful red, blue and yellow blankets away from the face of the sleeping infant and stared into the opening blue eyes of her child. Lara Jor-El leaned down carefully, so as not to wake the baby, and tenderly kissed him. Without hesitation then, Jor-El handed the child into the outstretched hand of the World Devourer.

"Rao protect you, my son," he whispered and Kal-El watched the towering figure of Galactus fade from sight, carrying the infant Kal-El away from death and destruction. His last image was of his father Jor-El, doomed along with his world, as he reached to take his weeping wife Lara into his arms in a tight embrace.

For many cycles after that his dreams were full of the wonders of Krypton and her people. In the dreams, he was a cherished part of a large family; a large world and a thriving culture. He was not alone.

In the dreams.

But, this time, when he woke from his dreams, he was not alone.

Feather light and fragile as gossamer in his hands that could rend steel and change the course of mighty rivers, rested another hand.

"Land sakes, child!" exclaimed Martha Kent, "you tossed and turned so I was worried about you." She patted his hand in reassurance, and although he did not completely understand her she was sure, she watched him relax into the pillows with a sigh. Her smile was warm.

"Are you hungry?" she asked, her bright blue eyes twinkling. "I'll just bet you are. Growing boys are always bound to be hungry!"

Instinctively, against his will, his hand clutched at hers for an instant when she moved off to leave him. Was he being abandoned again? But the slight squeeze she gave his hand in reply helped to calm him and he flushed with embarrassment as he released her.

"It's all right, now," she said softly, in understanding, "I'm right here. Just going into the kitchen is all. I'll be back directly, don't you worry none. There's a fresh pot of hot, homemade chicken soup on the stove. It's good for what ails you, I say. Why, I read that very thing in one of Jonathan's 'Scientific American magazines just the other day!" Warily, he watched her bustle away.

Could he trust her? He thought perhaps he had no choice. At the moment he was weakened; the Power Cosmic lay dormant within him, waiting. And her mate? What of him? Neither of them looked to be formidable, true. But he had learned many things in the service of the World Devourer and trust was not one of them. It was not easily come by. His Master hungerd. He should go from this place; he knew this. And yet ... And yet ...

He feels safe here. Safe with these people who have cared for a stranger they do not know with no hope of material reward. They are kind. And he ... he is in need of ... kindness.

When the woman returned she brought a wonderful aroma wafting in her busy wake. His sensitive nose recognized the smell of food and he realized for the first time that he was hungry. For him, eating was not strictly necessary, but it had, upon occasion, brought him pleasure. He dared to smile.

"Now that's better!" the woman said merrily and he understood that his happiness pleased her. The flavor of the soup was delicious and he marveled at the many textures his sensitive palate brought him. "Try this," Martha Kent urged him and laughed when his eyes widened with indescribable pleasure at the taste of her freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, still hot and gooey from the oven. He gobbled his way through all four of them on his plate and the accompanying glass of cold milk with such joyful abandon that Martha was terribly gratified.

Chuckling, she wiped away the milk mustache, chocolate smears and cookie crumbs from his mouth with a corner of her apron. When he held out his empty plate and pleaded, "Droma?" or some such, the farmer's wife needed no translation.

"'Please, sir, may I have some more'," she laughed fully, now. "Maybe I should name you Oliver." She studied the distressed young stranger carefully. "No," she finally decided. "You don't strike me as an Oliver, somehow. I - I always planned to name my first son Clark. Could be I'll call you Clark. Would you like that?"

"Droma?" he said again, hopefully, widening his blue eyes in entreaty.

"I do declare!" Martha smiled, "how could a body resists someone who likes their cooking that much?" With another reassuring pat to his hand, she moved off. When she returned, she had three extra cookies for him, more milk, and some colorful picture books.

"I thought these might help," she said. "I hoped, once, that Jonathan and I were going to be parents. I - lost the baby, but I still have these. Just never could bring myself to get shut of them ... well, you know how that is ..."

"Bay-bee?" he inquired with a frown when he spied her gathering tears.

Martha Kent wiped her eyes, opened "My First Picture Book", and pointed to the bright image of a young boy.

"Boy," she instructed, enunciating with care.

"Boy-ee," he repeated around the cookie he was still chewing.

"Not with your mouth full, Clark," she chided.

By the time Jonathan came in from the fields with the setting evening sun the boy was speaking in choppy, incomplete sentences.

"Glory be," murmured an astonished Jonathan Kent. "He's a smart young fella."

The days that followed were happy ones. "Clark" learned quickly and seemed to enjoy physical labor. As Kal-El, he had never been planet bound for long and he discovered to his surprise that he liked the feel of warm wind in his face, the texture of rich soil in his hands. The accomplishments of farming, planting a seed then waiting patiently for it to take root and grow amazed and delighted him.

"Look!" he cried, pointing at the sprouting tomato vines he had planted just the previous week in Martha Kents vegetable garden with wide, wonder-filled eyes. "It's *bigger*!"

Most of all, he relished the company of Jonathan and Martha Kent.

For the Kents there were many unexpected things about their young guest ...

"Where should I put it, Pa?" the boy asked one day.

"Sakes alive, Clark!" gasped Jonathan, staring at his newly acquired 'son'. But regardless of how many times he blinked and rubbed his eyes to clear them, Clark still stood there, holding aloft the elderly farmer's battered John Deere tractor with one hand.

"Over there," he finally responded weakly, pointing to a patch of relatively dry ground.

Obediently, Clark set the heavy piece of farm machinery down, light as a feather and turned back to face his new father with a smile. Thoughtfully, Jonathan Kent wiped his forehead, then began to absently polish his rounded spectacles, watching the young man with care. At the look on his face, Clark lost his smile.

"Did - did I do something wrong?" he ventured, biting his lip uncomfortably. He was very anxious to please. "The tractor was stuck in the mud. Should I have left it there?" Jonathan slipped an arm around the boys broad shoulders in comfort and patted him reassuringly on the back.

"No, no," he said, "you didn't do anything wrong, boy; nothing." Clark's look of gratified relief touched the old farmer's heart. "But son ... we've got to talk a bit. You need to be careful about things like that." Unbidden, his eyes drifted to rest on his two ton tractor sitting innocently to the side of his field, now; free of the mud. "Some folks might be ... frightened by such as that. Not everyone would approve. You understand?" Solemnly Clark nodded and Jonathan began to breath easier.

"You're a good boy," he chuckled.

It was simpler than he expected for him to fit himself into the nearby tiny rural Kansas town of Smallville. "My nephew," explained Martha Kent proudly, "my youngest sister's boy, Clark, come to stay a spell." In pubic, he called them "Aunt Martha" and "Uncle Jon" ... but in private, when he called them "Ma" and "Pa" they did not correct him.

Smallville was slow moving and peaceful, full of people in all their endless diversity. Clark became very popular, very quickly. He always had time to stop and talk. He never seemed to tire of hearing all the local stories, those turgid folktales of the past. He was fascinated by almost everything. As if it were all new and shiny bright like a child with a new toy. He was a good listener. No one appeared to notice that he rarely spoke about himself.

Soon, he found himself embroiled with the complexity of women. Her name was Lana. Lana Lang. And she had the most amazing hair he had ever seen. Red, the color of crackling flames and the sun of vanished Krypton. Never in all his travels had he quite seen its like. When they danced at the New Hope Baptist Church Sunday Social, tongues wagged and lips smiled. Dazed, blushing and stammering, Martha Kent lead him home with a laugh.

And not once during that golden time did he allow himself to think of Galactus his Master ... or of his aborted mission. But his dreams were haunted; full of dead and dying worlds and the harsh demanding face of the World Devourer.

It all had to come to an end, of course.

And eventually, it did.

End, Part One

Part 2