"If you can sense the interference in your past," said Superman, "why do you need the tracking device?"
"When you have a stomach-ache," retorted the Doctor, "can you tell how many feet down your digestive tract the trouble is?"
Superman was about to respond that he didn't get stomach-aches, but that if he did get one he would in fact be able to locate it as exactly as he wished; however, just as he decided that that might not be tactful, the console central column came to rest.
"We're here," said the Doctor.
Superman and the Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS. The landscape was utterly barren. The TARDIS had landed in the foothills of a mountain range. The sky was streaked with a sunset-rainbow of colors, primarily orange, which complemented the blue of the TARDIS. This though the sun was directly overhead.
"Where are we?" Superman asked.
"Gallifrey," said the Doctor. "Quickly!" He started off toward a little building about fifty yards off, shaped like an Eastern temple with a domed roof, at the very foot of a mountain.
In the house they followed the sound of a baby crying to an interior room. They found a man wearing orange and red robes of extraterrestial design in the same room as the baby's crib, sitting in a nearby chair. Superman recognized J.J. in the crib instantly.
Standing just inside the room, a transmat trail leading off him like a leash, head to toe in black as usual, the Master held his Tissue Compression Eliminator on J.J.
"It's all right." The Doctor sub-vocalized, knowing Superman would pick it up. "This must be the previous attempt Luthor said the Master made. We know we come through this."
In fact, almost before the Doctor had started speaking (or rather not-speaking), Superman was in motion. Before the Doctor had finished the second sentence, the Master was held off the ground by the collar in one of Superman's hands and the TCE was ground to dust in the other.
"Not recommended," growled Superman, blowing the remains of the TCE off the palm of his hand, "for children under 3."
"You musclebound idiot," barked the Master. "This is no business of yours!"
"It is now."
"Well, then I shall just have to enlist some expert help for my next attempt," sneered the Master. He slapped his left shoulder with his right hand, glowed red for an instant, and disappeared - Superman saw the converted energy zoom back along the path of the transmat trail.
"Let him go!" said the Doctor - now in the room too - before the Master was even all gone. "That's not what we're here for."
The other Time Lord - Superman, having known no Time Lords by name rather than by title, began thinking of him as the Father - was taking a good look at the Doctor. "You," the Father said. "Why are you here now?"
"At our first meeting," said the Doctor, "you spoke of role models."
The Father looked over to Superman. "Bravo," he said.
J.J. was still wailing. It was obvious to Superman that the baby needed nothing but to be picked up and held; and it was just as obvious that the Father had utterly no clue why the baby was upset, even though from the Doctor's report the Father had already raised at least one child. But now he got up and picked the baby out of the crib to give it to Superman. J.J. quieted almost right away.
The Doctor and the Father regarded the baby in Superman's arms. "He'll want to visit you, you know," the Doctor said to the Father.
"Why?" said the Father.
"Because you're his father and he has in him what you wanted him to have."
The Father was confused. "But I can't care for him. That seemed to matter the first time we met. I can't be the parent he wants. I don't have it in me. You know that or you wouldn't be here now."
"He knows," said the Doctor. "He doesn't care, really. He just wants to know you."
The Father shrugged. "He's welcome," he said to Superman.
Superman nodded. "For now I think we'd better get him home, though."
"Who was my mother?" the Doctor blurted.
The Father gave the Doctor an appraising look, then shook his head. "The time will come," was all he said.
The disappointment was obvious on the Doctor's face. "Well, let's go."
Father looked up at him at that. "One way or another," he said, "that is not true."
John thought about that as he watched the central column rise and fall. It was the same sort of cryptic comment Father always made when skirting the true facts of John's origins, not to mention his own. As the central column came to a rest and they exited the capsule, he made a decision. "Listen - I'm eighteen now, and a legal adult. I think it's time you told me who exactly I am - who you are, where you're from, and why you wouldn't have me live with you. The doctor's always said I would find out when I was an adult."
He trailed off as they stepped out into the living area of Father's house. There were three men waiting for them there. John had never seen anyone but his father in this house, nor met anyone else during his visits here, besides the hermit who lived halfway up the mountain in whose foothills the house rested.
These men wore robes stylistically related to Father's, but much fancier, and with unusual flaring headdresses that stuck up from behind their shoulders like headboards on beds. Two of them, one in black and one in green, had the same impassivity that Father always displayed, but the other was definitely angry about something. His robes were red and orange, like Father's, but his outfit was topped off with a sort of sash, and he carried a wand or sceptre.
Apparently the third had overheard much of John's speech. "Yes," he said, "tell us how this young one came to be."
"He is my son," said Father. "He is half Tellurian." John had heard Father use that word to mean 'human' before. "He has been fostered by the greatest hero in Tellurian history." So far Father hadn't told these men anything John didn't already know.
"How?" the spokesman snapped.
"I secured the donation of a Tellurian female zygote," said Father, "and combined it with mine."
One of the silent men, in green robes, seemed to be minutely shaken. "Do you mean," the spokesman asked, fully aghast, "that this child has genes from only two parents?"
"Yes," said Father.
"Who was my mother?" John blurted.
"That doesn't matter!" the spokesman shouted.
"It does to me," John retorted.
The spokesman's face hardened as, ignoring John, he faced Father again. "You are chief of eugenic services. A great trust is yours. You have betrayed that trust."
"On the contrary," said Father unmoved. "Our gene strains have become tired. They need revitalization. I am true to the spirit of my trust, and not the letter, which are at odds."
"What's this all about?" John demanded.
The spokesman turned to him. "You are not human. You are a Time Lord." Ah - so Them are Time Lords. Whatever that means. "This is the planet Gallifrey, where you belong, and you shall never leave it again. You shall be given a Time Lord name, and never use your Tellurian name again. You shall never see your foster family again. Nor most likely, depending on his eventual disposition, your ..." The spokesman almost spit the word. "Father."
John was stunned by this statement - but not by surprise: at the realization that he'd half expected it. The doctor had known. This was what had upset Mom and Dad. But Father had said it wasn't true that he'd never see Mom and Dad again, and Father never said anything he didn't know for a fact. Still, John didn't like it. "You can't do this to me."
"Do not argue with the Lord President of the High Council," said Father.
John was startled; Father never gave commands like - well, like a father. "You're just going to let them do this to me?"
"It is inevitable."
John clenched his teeth. "At least let me see my teacher again first."
"Your past life is over -" started the Lord President.
"He speaks of ..." Father pronounced a polysyllabic name that John had never heard before.
That got a reaction - from even the other two. The Lord President breathed deeply twice, then said grudgingly, "Very well. But do not linger."
John looked over to Father, who nodded. He left the house, heading up what he thought of as "the mountain in the back yard".
"Yes," said the Doctor, rolling the coordinate tumblers on the TARDIS control console. The console central column started moving, and the Doctor turned to him. "How are you doing?"
"I'm happy," said Superman, "and scared out of my wits. Of all the things I've ever done, parenthood is... Lois and I were already thinking about this, but we thought we'd have the normal nine months' warning."
"You'll do fine," said the Doctor. "To paraphrase something once said to me: one can't gripe much about one's upbringing when one likes so much how one turned out."
"Who said that?"
"Doctor, why did you say that this was a job for Superman, when you didn't know till we were on our way that J.J. was in danger?"
The Doctor folded his arms and leaned back against the console. "Someone once said, 'With great power comes great responsibility.' Now, you've thought of yourself as an Earthman all your life ..."
"I didn't know I wasn't an Earthman until I was grown."
"The first time we met, you said to Lois, 'Clark is who I am. Superman is what I do.' Superman needs to be more than just your night job."
"You know it means more to me than that," said Superman without rancor. "What are you saying? That I need to be Superman, I can't be Clark any more?"
"Of course that's not what I'm saying. You couldn't stop if you wanted to. That's why ..." the Doctor nodded at the infant in Superman's arms. "You think of yourself as Earth's champion - and that's true and just and should be. But Earth is only one planet. You can also be so much more, to so many more people. And you will be. You must be, if he is to learn from you what I have learned. I wasn't just blowing steam when I spoke to my father of role models."
Superman nodded. "I'll try."
"There is no try. You will. Just keep your mind open." The central column came to rest and the Doctor opened the doors. "Here we are, last week. Time for your stork run."
Superman looked from the adult to the child. He wrapped his cape around the baby for protection from the effects of high speed. He left the TARDIS, and was back empty handed inside of a second.
Father stood. When he didn't move toward John, John went to him and hugged him. The Time Lords made expressions of distaste.
"Have you anything to say?" said the one in the black robes to Father, obviously fishing for some sign of repentance.
Father thought a minute.
"Yes," he said finally. "His respect must be earned."
"Our J.J." It wasn't striking Lois right any more either. "You know, it was one thing to give him a new, fresh name when we didn't know who he was ..."
"Who he's going to be," Clark said. "You know, most people get to imagine what their kid'll make of himself."
"Most people don't get picked by an intergalactic hero to be his parents, either. Hey," Lois said before Clark could respond to that, "that's almost what you did. When we were in 1966 you could've picked other parents if you wanted."
"The thought never occurred to me."
"Well, the option was still there. Q.E.D." But Lois wasn't done proving what made her the reporter she was. "We must be going to call him something else. Remember when the Doctor showed up and we called him J.J. - the Doctor didn't recognize the name."
"You're right." Clark found this an encouraging indication that he and Lois were already, instinctively, of their own free will, playing their correct roles in this time paradox of the Doctor's arrangement for his own upbringing.
"We're going to have to come up with a cover story too," said Lois. "Or hide him for nine months while I stuff progressively larger pillows down the front of my shorts any time I go out of the house."
Clark liked that prospect about as much as Lois evidently did - not at all. "Well, when I took him to Dr. Klein I told him the straight truth. Without mentioning our real names, of course. We could just say Superman found the baby and left him with us."
"I don't think your secret identity would survive public acknowledgement that we're raising a half-extraterrestial baby."
"Maybe not. Let's see. Mom and Dad know the truth." Jonathan and Martha Kent had extended their vacation in Metropolis when J.J.'d shown up. "Well, they will when we tell them what's happened today. Maybe we can say he's the child of out-of-town cousins who died in a car accident. That's one of the stories they were thinking of using for me, and we'll have my parents to back it up."
"All right. So what'll we name him? We can't call him 'the Baby Doctor'."
"Hm. An Earth name for the Doctor. ... Something neutral - something universal. Generic, maybe."
"How about ... " Lois thought a moment, then smiled. "John Smith?"
Clark grinned. "Perfect."
This story is the second in a three-story cycle about the Doctor's father. See a special Father story index.
There's a LOIS & CLARK/BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER crossover, Strange Visitor on my cartoons index; but you might want to read Posterity first even though it's set afterward.
On my comic strip index there's a series of four-panel strips called Last Son of Krypton that illuminates the Doctor's lifelong relationship with Superman.
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