Bruce Wayne did not like secrets.
He kept many of his own, and was paranoid about keeping them safe from public scrutiny. But he did not appreciate others keeping secrets from him. His naturally cynical disposition always assumed the worst whenever he came across secretive behavior in others, and the only way to put his mind at rest was to uncover the secret.
Of course, Bruce did not understand that fact about his nature. He simply took his own inquisitive nature and deductive abilities as tools to be used for solving problems. It never occurred to him that there could be something darker going on with his need to know everything about everyone.
So when he decided to investigate Jonathan Kent’s strange recent behavior, he told himself that he was doing it for Clark. The curious circumstances of Non’s death were still unexplained. Why had he come to the University? Why was he after Clark? What was Zod? What had compelled Jonathan Kent to send that warning to Clark? So many questions needed to be answered. The safety of Clark and everyone around his was at stage. That was also what he told John after he drew him aside from the group, a few days after Non’s death.
“Something’s going on.” Bruce said to John. “Clark’s father was way too insistent that Clark not go after Non. I heard his voice. It wasn’t just fatherly concern that made him give Clark that warning. There was something else going on there.”
“He was afraid Clark would attempt to take matters into his own hands.” John reminded him. “Which is a legitimate concern, considering our past experience with criminals.”
“I don’t buy it. He was way too insistent on letting the police handle Non, and he’d never made such a warning in the past whenever Clark did something dangerous. We need to find out what the deal is with Non and Clark, and what made him come to the university on a suicide mission. And Zod. What the hell is Zod? We need to get to the bottom of this whole thing.”
John sighed. “So what do you propose to do?”
“I’m still thinking about it.” Bruce frowned. “I just want you to stay alert on standby in case I need backup. Clark’s too close to this to think rationally. We might have to handle this problem without him.”
John said nothing, but merely continued to watch Bruce closely through narrowed eyes as he elaborated his plans for looking into the Zod matter.
Bruce began with a basic search on Zod on his computer. The word yielded a few results, but there seemed to be no connection to Non and Jonathan Kent at all.
Next Bruce tried a search for Zod Jonathan Kent. Nothing emerged. Bruce tried different variations of the word Zod and several other keywords relating to Non, Jonathan Kent and Metropolis. Still nothing.
Bruce sighed, leaning back in his chair with a frown. He was going to need a more straightforward source to find the answers he wanted. And he knew where that source was.
* * *
“Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Kent.” Bruce said.
“Not at all, Bruce.” Jonathan Kent smiled. They were sitting in the mayor’s office the next morning. “I hope everything’s okay at the University?” He had a straightforward way of talking that was unlike anything that Bruce had seen in other politicians.
“Oh, yeah, everything is fine.” Bruce smiled. “I’ve just got a few questions. About Non.”
A shadow crossed over Mr. Kent’s face. “I suggest you let the police follow up on the murder investigation, Bruce.”
“I’m afraid that’s easier said than done.” Bruce said. “Non was targeting Clark and my other friends, and me. I can’t just sit by and wait for the poice who, no offence, I don’t really have a lot of faith in.”
“Bruce.” Mr. Kent’s voice had lowered as he leaned forward. “I know you have an interest in criminal matters. I also know you fancy yourself an amateur detective. But there is nothing for you to find if you’re planning to go looking for Non.”
“Why were you so insistent that Clark not go after Non?” Bruce asked abruptly. “What was the connection between Clark and Non that made him break out of prison reach the university? What or who is Zod?”
“Again, Bruce, the police is looking into the matter-”
“I don’t think they are.” Bruce said quietly. “I think they already know. I think you do, too. So how about telling me?” It was a gesture of respect towards Clark on Bruce’s part that he was not trying to trick Clark’s father into giving him information.
Again, a shadow passed over Mr. Kent’s face. But he did not try to deny the claim. “I do know some things, Bruce. But those things happened a long time ago. Decades ago, during the cold war. There is no point in dragging that matter up now to spoil the present. I understand we are dealing the circumstances of a dangerous criminal’s death. As Clark’s father, and the mayor of this city, I hope you believe I am intelligent enough to use my knowledge in the right way to help the police.”
“I’ve no doubt you will, sir.” Bruce said quietly. “But I think we deserve some more information. Non broke out of prison specifically to warn Clark about some kind of danger. And what affects Clark affects me and all our other friends as well.”
Mr. Kent stood up. “You talking, but not listening, Bruce. This conversation is getting us nowhere.” Bruce slowly rose to his feet as well. Jonathan Kent stared at the young man sadly. “You’re a good kid, Bruce. I’m glad Clark has you for a friend. But there are still some things in this world that you don’t understand. Please. For your sake. For my sake. For Clark’s sake. Please forget about Non. I’m asking you to do this one thing, if you value Clark’s happiness at all.”
Bruce said nothing. Jonathan Kent observed him for a moment, then turned away with a low sigh. Mr. Kent’s secretary came in to usher Bruce out.
Bruce made his way back to the University with Mr. Kent’s voice still ringing in his ears. He could still hear Mr. Kent’s final words as he sat down in front of computer in his room. Mr. Kent had made his position clear. It was now up to Bruce to follow or ignore his advice.
Back in his room, for a long time, Bruce sat staring at his open computer screen. The optimistic part of him wanted to believe Mr. Kent, give up his search and leave the matter to the police. The cynical side of him put the worst shade on Mr. Kent’s words and what he was trying to hide. It was now up to Bruce to decide which part of his mind to heed in the present situation.
After a long pause, he leaned forward and opened Google, entering the words Zod Cold War American Military.
* * *
The next afternoon, John Jones was called to Jonathan Kent’s office building by Bruce. The two met at the gates of the building, and John saw that Bruce was looking uncharacteristically agitated.
“I don’t know what to do.” Bruce said abruptly as John came up to him.
“What do you mean?” John asked cautiously.
“I don’t know what to do about Mr. Kent.” Bruce stared at John in frustration. “I don’t know how to go about resolving this matter without hurting Clark.”
“You think you have found your answers?” John asked.
“I’ve found the only answers that fit.” Bruce said. “I finally knew which era to begin my search on Zod in. Turns out I had to go all the way back to near the end of the Cold war in the late 1980s.”
“What did you find?”
“I tracked Mr. Kent’s activities at that time. He was listed as a corporal during the war, but the references I gathered about his activities at the time clearly point towards the fact that he was working as a spy. He went to Russia on several occasion, and was captured and detained by the Russian secret service for two years.”
“You found all this evidence online?” John cut in.
“I hacked the government’s website, of course.” Bruce waved the unimportant detail aside. “They won’t know. Not the first time I’ve done it. The point is, Jonathan Kent was returned to America amid suspicions that he had divulged secret information to the Russian government. They’d found out some secret project America was working on at the time. Something called project Krypton. Anyway, for a time, it seemed the government was going to convict Mr. Kent. But then another ex-Russian turned American national was convicted of the very same crime. His name was Glenn Jacobs. At least, that’s the name he adopted after coming to America. But you and I know him as Non.”
There was a long silence while John stared at Bruce. “And you think this means…”
“Isn’t it obvious? Jonathan Kent had Non framed and sent to jail for his own crimes.” Bruce said. “That’s why Mr. Kent was livid when he found out Non was at the University. That’s what Non was doing in Clark’s room. He was trying to tell Clark the truth about his father. Zod must have been the first part of some message Non was trying to write out for Clark.”
“This…” John shook his head slowly and sighed. “Bruce, all these facts… your theory is-”
“I know it sounds crazy.” Bruce cut in. “I couldn’t believe it either. But it’s the only explanation that fits all the facts. That’s why Mr. Kent was trying so hard to keep the truth from Clark. He was trying to hide his own guilt.”
Again, John was silent for a long moment before speaking. “So what do you plan to do now?”
“That’s just it. I don’t know what to do.” Bruce stared at John, the frustration in his expression more pronounces than ever. “This isn’t a normal criminal. This is the mayor of Metropolis we’re talking about. And Clark’s father. Any steps I take against Jonathan Kent puts me in direct opposition to Clark, and you know how emotional he is. He won’t listen to reason.”
“Bruce.” The two turned and stared in surprise at a tiny grey haired, clear eyed woman standing behind them.
“Good morning, Mrs. Kent.” John broke the silence. “How nice to meet you. Clark did not tell us you were in Metroplis.”
“I came here today.” Martha Kent was looking at Bruce. “Jonathan called for me. He told me we needed to talk about something. Are you all right, Bruce?”
“I’m fine.” Bruce forced a smile past his shocked expression. “It’s good to see you.”
“You too. Let’s go meet Jonathan.” She walked into the building, and almost before they were aware of it, Bruce and John found themselves following her.
“We were here because-” Bruce began slowly, trying to think up an excuse.
“I know why you are here.” Martha Kent cut in quietly. “Jonathan told me about your conversation with him yesterday.”
She glanced back at him, and Bruce could not suppress a squirm of guilt. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Kent, but I needed to find answers. Clark and those close to him are in danger because of whatever happened between Non and your husband.”
“Nothing happened between my husband and Non.” Martha Kent still spoke calmy. They had reached the waiting room outside Jonathan Kent’s office. The secretary looked startled to see Mrs. Kent.
“Could you please give us some privacy?” Mrs. Kent said politely. The girl looked even more startled. She scurried out of the room, casting a bewildered eye back on the three.
“I’ve called Clark.” Mrs. Kent informed the other two. “I’m not angry with you, Bruce. Your actions have remined Jonathan and I that we owe Clark the truth.” Her voice trembled at the end, but her eyes were clear when they turned towards John.
“Could you come in to meet Jonathan?” She asked him. “You seem to always know what to say, John. And we really need someone like that right now.”
“Of course.” John said, nodding.
“You can wait for Clark here, Bruce.” Mrs. Kent said, turning to him. “He should be here any moment now.”
Bruce did not say anything as John and Mrs. Kent entered the mayor’s office, where Mr. Kent rose to greet them. His wife said something to him, and Jonathan Kent’s eyes flickered over to look at Bruce through the window. He did not look angry, but merely resigned.
Bruce felt helpless as he stood and watched John speaking to a deadly serious Jonathan Kent, and Martha Kent, who seemed on the edge of tears. Bruce fought the urge to take out his mobile to tell Wally to start a new search on his computer about Martha Kent’s past. He could not shake the feeling that he had made a mistake. He could not make head or tail of Mrs. Kent’s appearance, or why she would feel the need to call Clark to the office, or ask for John’s help.
John’s expression had grown more somber as he listened to Mr. Kent. No one in the room was looking out at Bruce. Finally, John rose and made his way back out of the office with a heavy tread.
“Well?” Bruce said urgently, as John came up to him, turning briefly to watch Mr. and Mrs Kent sitting pale and huddled together in the office. “I hope you didn’t tell him about my theory, John. And I hope you were able to get some useful information out of them. Do you think my theory fits into whatever Mr. Kent told you?”
‘NO, Bruce!” John turned on him suddenly and sized his shoulders. “It was NOTHING like that. Your entire theory was false. For once, you were wrong. Is your mind capable of comprehending that fact?”
Bruce stared at John, at a loss for friends in the face of his friend’s uncharacteristically furious tone.
With an effort, John seemed to get a hold of his emotions. He released Bruce’s shoulders.
“We need to leave.” He said at last. “We’ve trespassed far too long on the Kent’s private matters as it is.”
They heard footsteps approaching the waiting area, and a few seconds later Clark Kent came into view. He stopped short when he noticed his two friends standing in the waiting room.
“Hey.” Clark stared at the two of them in surprise. “What’s going on? What are you two doing here?”
There was a long silence. “I…” Bruce hesitated.
“Clark.” John cut in. “I think you should talk to your parents right now. They are waiting for you in your father’s office.”
“Son?” The office door opened, and Jonathan and Martha Kent emerged. Both their faces looked drawn and haggard.
“Dad, what’s going on?” Clark asked, his frown deepening as he looked at his mother’s white face. “Are you all right, ma?”
“Sweetheart, you should sit down.” His mother spoke quietly as she gestured towards the waiting room sofa. “Jonathan and I have something important to tell you.” Clark hesitated for a moment, then slowly walked over to the sofa and sank down on it, keeping his eyes trained on his parents.
“I’m sorry, son.” Jonathan Kent began slowly. “There is something that I should have told you a long time ago. I would have, if I were a braver man. But I have waited too long already. It’s time you learned the truth.” Tears had formed in Martha Kent’s eye and were trailing slowly down her cheeks.
“We’ll give your family some privacy.” John said, grabbing Bruce and dragging him away from the room. Bruce did not protest. Jonathan Kent did not seem to have heard them. His next words were addressed to his son.
“Clark… We are not your real parents.”
Bruce stopped walking, and so did John. They both turned at the same moment to look at their friend, and thus both were witness to the worst moment of Clark Kent’s life.