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Strange Visitor
Samuel Hawkins

Chapter 6:  Good Friends

After everyone had downed at least two helpings of everything, Ma brought out the desert, and the group moved into the living room.  Over coffee, milk, and huge slices of the chocolate pie that perennially captured the blue ribbon at the Small County fair, Mr. Jones prompted the youngsters into talking about what they wished to do after high school.  As he listened, Jonathan Kent observed that Mr. Jones hardly ever talked about himself with the kids.  It was somewhat strange.  Normally, kids would tag along after an adult from out of town because of the stories of exotic places they might hear.  But these kids loved being around Mr. Jones for a different reason.  He listened to them.  Intensely.

"Well, I hope to go to college," Pete was saying.  "I'd like to study engineering.  Electrical engineering, maybe.  Gotham State has a great EE program, so I'd like to go there.  I just hope I can get a scholarship.  My folks won't be able to help me out much, so I have to get good grades if I want to go."

Mr. Jones looked at him carefully and nodded.  "I'm sure things will work out, Pete."

Pete nodded.  "I sure hope so."

"I think they will," Mr. Jones said, and after making a mental note to place a call tomorrow to an acquaintance in admissions at Gotham State, asked, "Well, Lana, what about you?  You planning to be a world-famous archeologist like your father?"

Lana smiled, but it quickly faded. "You know, I don't know.  Not really.  I mean, I love going on digs with Dad, but ... I just don't know.  I'm not sure it's for me.  Matter of fact, I don't think I know what I want to do."

Mr. Jones smiled.  "Awareness of one's own uncertainty is often the most valuable kind of information, Lana.  I'm amazed at the age at which young people are asked to choose their career.  To be forced to decide what you're going to do with the rest of your life before you're even sure what life is, is ridiculous."  He stopped.  "I'm sorry.  I don't mean to get carried away.  It just ... amazes me." He shook his head again.  "So what about you, young Mr. Kent?"

Clark didn't hesitate.  "I'm going to be a reporter."

Mr. Jones nodded.  "You seem certain about that."

"I am," Clark agreed.

"That's interesting.  Why?"

This answer took Clark a bit longer.  Partially because he couldn't mention that part of his reason was the rapid access to breaking events the news business would provide a Superman.  But also because there was another reason.  One which he had not yet quite articulated to himself.  "I ... I guess I'm not sure.  It just ... seems important."

"Well," Pete offered encouragingly, "you can help people by being a reporter."

"Yes," Clark agreed, "but it's more than that.  It just seems that it's important that someone is there to get the facts down straight.  To record what happens ... without taking sides."

Mr. Jones smiled.  "I have an acquaintance in the newspaper business in Metropolis.  I suspect that you two would get along quite well."

Clark smiled, and was about to ask the name of Mr. Jones' acquaintance, when the lamp beside the sofa began to flash.

"Oh, drat," Jonathan said quickly.  "That light again."

"That's weird," Lana remarked, "It started doing that last time I was here."

The flashing, some in the room knew, meant that Superboy was being called by either the President, the Pentagon, the Governor, the FBI Director, or Chief Parker.  With each flash, Clark had to wince.  As Pa stood and began to fiddle with the lamp, Clark began to fidget and look around.  How could he get out of this?

Though Pete Ross was only now deciphering the purpose of the flashing lamp, the fidgeting was something he knew well.  It meant that Superboy was needed.  Pete sometimes wondered if he would have figured out his best friend's secret if he hadn't discovered him changing to his costume two months earlier on a camping trip.  He liked to think so, but suspected that he wouldn't have.  His nature, Pete Ross knew, was just not sufficiently suspicious to have ever considered that his mild-mannered childhood friend could also be the most powerful being on the planet.

Lana, on the other hand, was a different story.  And whatever he could do to help allay her suspicions, he would.

Suddenly, Pete began to cough violently.  Though Lana and Martha and Mr. Jones all reached for him, he waved them away.  "It's my allergies," Pete said between coughs and a passable phony sneeze.

"I thought you grew out of those," Lana said.

"Comes ... back sometimes.  I just need ... some antihistamine tablets."  He coughed again, then added, "Don't ...  have any at home though."

"I can get you some," Clark offered immediately.  "We have them down at the store."

"Would you?" Pete said.  "I'll pay you back tomorrow."

"Don't worry about it," Jonathan said.  "You hurry on Clark."

As Clark headed for the back door, Pete said, "Thanks, Mr. Kent.  Clark, could you bring them by my house?  I should probably get going anyway."

"Sure thing, Pete," Clark said as he hurried out.

"Well, I'd better get going too," Lana said.  "Thanks Mr. Kent.  Thanks Mrs. Kent.  Dinner was wonderful."

"It sure was," Pete, whose cough seemed to have improved, added.

"Well, thank you," Martha said.  "And you know you're welcome any time.  Seems like we don't get to see nearly as much of you two as we used to."  Jonathan raised an eyebrow at his wife, who quickly recalled why Pete and Lana weren't around so often anymore.  "Uh, Clark stays so busy these days."

"Oh, us too," Pete said.  "Well, thanks again." Then he turned to Mr. Jones and extended his hand.  "It was sure good to see you Mr. Jones.  I hope we see you again soon."

Mr. Jones shook the young man's hand, and as he did, a peculiar look crossed his face.  He stared intensely at young Pete Ross for a moment, then raised an eyebrow in surprise.  A moment later, he said, "You are a very good friend to Clark."

It was Pete's turn to look a bit bewildered.  Then Mr. Jones added, "And Lana."  Mr. Jones turned to her and took her hand and held it firmly for the briefest moment.  "It's good to see young people who are so close.  You two take care.  I hope to see you again."

As always, Mr. Jones made them smile, and then they said good night.

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STRANGE VISITOR Copyright 2000 Samuel Hawkins.  All rights reserved.  This story is neither authorized nor endorsed by DC Comics.   Superboy and all related previously established characters are TM DC Comics & © DC Comics, Joanne Siegel, and Laura Siegel Larson.

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