In the distant future, Kal-El has met his demise, and the Eradicator has taken control of Metropolis. The character once known as Superboy is now a middle aged adult with no intention of following after the man of steel's footsteps. Growing up, he felt as though he never had any opportunity for a private life, and as time progressed, a growing desire for privacy indulged the boy turned man to live the rest of his life as an ordinary human being working as an executive at Project Cadmus. Very few heroes now walk the earth since the man of tomorrow passed on, and as a result, crime is at an all time high. Heroes like the Eradicator and Batman continue their never ending battles, but due to their advanced ages, and from the lack of morale, they can barely keep up.
Superboy grew to adulthood a slightly bitter person. He always felt as though his role as a hero kept him from any privacy. Everywhere he went, he was mobbed by media hounds, fanatical cult sects, and the list goes on. He eventually couldn't stand it, and
when the time came to take Clark's mantle, he refused. He figured other heroes would be better suited for the role, and as an adult he wanted to live his own life. The former boy of steel noticed how crime had been picking up, but he turned a blind eye. He figured it was their own faults and their problems were not his responsibility.
The would-be Superman gave himself the name Paul Field.
One typical night Paul came home from work. He looked out his apartment window at the ravaged city of Metropolis and ignorantly wondered how the "dolts" could have done such terrible damage to a once beautiful city. It was at this moment when Paul Field felt his calling at a more given approach.
A figure came crashing through the window, whom Paul soon realised was the Eradicator. Incensed at the old hero's recklessness, Field demanded an explanation.
"This farce of yours has ended. Starting now, you will become earth's new answer to an escalating problem that is your fault," explained the Eradicator.
The Eradicator mentioned Metropolis and the rest of the world needed Superman again. Paul shouted back, "Well they can keep waiting because he's dead!"
"Dammit Paul, I've already lived through the desruction of two worlds, and I'll be damned if you think I'll let you destroy this one too."
Long after the Eradicator departed, Paul began to think about the situation he had been presented with. Should he continue Clark's legacy of the never ending battle, or continue his selfish quest for privacy and lack of commitment?
To find the answer he called an old friend on the vid com. It had been years since Paul had spoken to his old friend Kaliber, who had since become Qward's ambassador to earth. Paul knew that if anyone knew anything about taking responsibility for his actions, it was this former renegade Qwardian.
"Paul!" exclaimed Kaliber, "What a pleasant surprise! It's been years!"
Interrupting Kaliber, Paul explained he was reconsidering taking Clark's mantle and wanted his advice.
Kaliber paused. "A great earth philospher by the name of Emerson once said, 'Heroism feels and never reasons and therefore is always right.'" Since we were young, I always knew you were set out for this legacy from the beginning. Only you Paul can put an end to all the chaos."
Paul thanked Kaliber for their talk and knew his hopes for solitude were never meant to last.
In the weeks that followed, a constant blur cleans up the crime of Metropolis. Gangs are stopped, children can once again play outside, and the older generation feels like the Superman they grew to love finally returned. One fortunate reporter managed to meet the source of the activity, a man who very much looked the part, a selfless man of great strength and an even greater heart; the shield and the man seemed to say it all. When asked if he was indeed Superman, his reply was, "I'm just here to help."
Word spread of the return of the Man of Steel, and soon other heroes would follow in his path. In Keystone City, school teacher Bart Allen dons the scarlet garbs once worn by his grandfather, then his cousin, the costume of the fastest man alive, the Flash! In Fawcett City, crippled street person Freddie Freedman hears the story of a flying man and utters the name of one of earth's mightiest mortals. In a flash of light he becomes Captain Marvel! In Gotham City, Crown Prosecutor Tim Drake rejoins his aging partner, the Batman as the hero known as Nighthawk! Soon, Cassandra Landsmark, the princess of Aquaman, and many more heroes return to protect their people during this difficult time.
Paul had gained Clark's mantle. He was Superman. Or was he?
All Paul knew was that he was trying as hard as he could to right his wrongs, but deep down he felt as though he was only impersonating the world's greatest hero. No feat could take away his guilt for feeling so selfish.
Meanwhile, the military discovered on their radar an energy surge that very briefly appeared on their data banks coming into the Antarctic. Hours later, a plane is sent to investigate but mysteriously vanishes just at the Antarctic's rim.
What they didn't realise was that the surge was a living breathing being exhausted from its long painful journey. In the creature's isolation it laughs for it soon comes in contact with a familiar underground fortress. Upon it's entrance, the mechanical beings of the place accept the being without any defiance. What appears to be the being's arm ghastly arm transforms and melds with the fortress, soon leaving the being in complete control of the place. Soon a grin forms on its face.
In literally hours, earth is faced with a new chaos. Power outage is everywhere and not even a Superman knows how to stop it. Overloaded prisons have released villains long forgotten to wreak havoc on earth. Paul doesn't even notice in all the confusion that the Eradicator is missing from Metropolis. Villains from all walks of life have returned, including the Toyman, Dr. Sivana, Joker, Bane, and many more, who lead the revolts. Any working television set will tell the average viewer that it is now time for a new world order. Slowly but surely, an alien form of technology forms where ever the destruction lies from the damage the rogues caused.
One criminal in particular has been imprisoned for decades. To many, he was known as a powerful, yet petty thief. His time incarcerated has left him to rethink his life's direction. "What good did it do me in the long run?" he asks himself day in and day out of his incarceration. His prison disallowed him any movement at all, and he was always in pain, though no pain could account for his wish to right his wrongs. If he only had a chance.
That chance came in the from of a voice in his prison from out of nowhere. The voice promised to release all the prisoners and ensured he'd leave pieces of the earth for them to rule with him. As the glorified deviants set out to ravage and conquer, this prisoner hesitated. He knew it wasn't worth it. He also knew he saw some heroes trying to stop the chaos, and he knew he had to help. Using his amazing abilites, He stopped the invading forces with ease. One hero looked at him and asked:
"Thanks for your help. I'm Nighthawk. You're....."
"...I'm here to help," was the prisoner's response.
Back at Cadmus, Paul had set up a meeting at Cadmus where he arranged a meeting with as many heroes as he could. Batman led the meeting and explained that the one person who could have caused this destruction had to be the Cyborg. He mentioned the military's discovery of a strange anamoly in the Antarctic, and the missing plane sent out to investigate it. He compared the alien technology that was slowly forming around from the prisoners destruction as the work of Kryptonian technology likely from the Antarctic's Fortress of Solitude where Superman kept relics stored of the planet Krypton. Even Paul was shocked by this revelation for even he barely knew of the place's existence. The adverse effects of the warnings to prepare for a new world order, according to Batman, was the Cyborg's ability to manipulate communications systems, just as he had done with Engine City years ago. This also explained all the prisoners being strangely released. Both Batman and Paul recognised the Fortress because they had both been there and saw its potential threat to create another warworld, just like the Cyborg always ranted of building in years past.
Batman also mentioned the military aircraft managed to keep images of what could be seen of the Antarctic. Again, they saw a massive force field that appeared to surround the whole Antarctic, and again they noticed the Kryptonian technology that erected the fields.
"It's impenetrable. If we were stop him, we'd have to get past this field. It's likely not even Superman could do it," commented Batman.
"So how do we get past the field then?" asked one hero.
"The only thing I can think of is to find something that can bond with technology much like the Cyborg can and counteract the control of the fields. As of yet, I know of nothing that would penetrate them."
"I do," replied Nighthawk who just entered the room with a very large comrade, "I do believe our phrase should be, 'miracles can happen.' Surely you remember this guy....." The room full of heroes were silent with shock when they met the "saviour" Nighthawk brought with him.
Many heroes went on to the Antarctic to battle the Cyborg, though some heroes including Batman, stayed behind to keep the attacking forces under control as best as he could. Many heroes left for the Antarctic knowing they might never come back. Nighthawk knew this was the last time he'd see Bruce alive. He wished he could remain with the Dark Knight, but he knew he had his duty, just as Bruce had his.
Paul kept his mind on the mission and remained confident of the mission's success. In front of his peers. In reality, he was scared stiff. He kept thinking to himself, "Clark could have done better."
In hours, the team approached the antarctic. In their midst was an uncaring field they knew they had little chance of breaking through on their own. On Paul's command, they attacked by land, sea and air. The attack was tremendous. The field and the perimeter defences surrounding them defended itself, and many heroes were easily annhilated. This was naturally a decoy for Nighthawk to use his secret weapon in the form of a missile.
The missile was actually Metallo, the prisoner who in his last few hours of life had rescued Nighthawk and his comrades from the devastating attacks of the rogues sent by order of the Cyborg. In all the years he spent in his confinement, he knew this was the one moment of his life worth anything. Dying no longer mattered, he just had to make this one last act count. His missile form bonded with the Cyborg's massive structure and halted the force fields, if only for a fleeting moment. In this moment, Metallo was killed almost instantly. In his last fleeting moment, he felt redeemed.
Paul was the only hero who made it past the fields. A mouth suddenly opened near the centre of the Antarctic. The reluctant Man of Steel knew it had to be him, and also knew it had to be a trap. Regardless, Paul flew right into the mouth of the massive island.
Upon Paul's entrance, he was attacked by inner perimeter defences. He managed to take out the attacks with ease. He thought he was ready for who he was to encounter next.
Paul was hit from behind in a fit of rage. Whoever hit him, he figured, had to be the Cyborg. Paul turned around and smashed his fist into his opponent. The blow sent his attacker flying, but in closer view, Paul realised his antagonist was the Eradicator.
"You?" remarked a shocked Paul, "How could this be?"
"Prepare for a new world order," responded the Eradicator, devoid of emotion.
The Eradicator hit Paul with a devastating pulse of energy. In the background, a figure soon joined him in the attack. Paul was knocked unconscious. The Eradicator turned to his comrade as the mysterious foe smirked. The Cyborg then said, "Let's prepare, shall we?"
The remaining heroes outside the field saw a massive rocket fly into orbit from the Antarctic. Judging by the fact that the field was still up and they couldn't pass, they knew that wasn't a good sign.
Paul awoke aboard the shuttle.
"And you call yourself Superman?" asked the Cyborg, "You're no Superman. You call yourself a hero? I'm not going to lie to you, I wasn't always sure I'd ever make earth my warworld. But with you as their Superman, you've made it very easy."
The Cyborg brought his face very close to Paul's.
"You have failed them. I will make earth mine. And you call yourself Superman!"
Paul was enraged but could do nothing since he just realised he was held in an impenetrable body cast he couldn't get out of. Next to him was the Eradicator, standing emotionless, plotting the ship's course to what was to be Paul's final destination.
"The Eradicator is part of the fortress, ergo, in part when I control the fortress, the Eradicator is also my slave. Right now, he's plotting the course of your last trip. See, this matrix will soon enter a black hole in which even a Superman, including one as pathetic as yourself, can die. I am along merely just so I can watch you and the Eradicator die. That will be my greatest victory of all!" The Cyborg laughed hysterically.
"Please! Eradicator, listen to me! You created the fortress! You can fight his control! Fight it! Do it for earth! Do it for Clark!" exclaimed Paul.
"Too late whelp," remarked the Cyborg, "you're already dead."
What didn't seem obvious to either Paul or the Cyborg was that a tremendous battle was going on inside the Eradicator's mind. Hearing Paul plead like that reminded him how hard it was for him to lose Clark and how difficult it's been for everyone on earth as well. The Eradicator knew his life was going to end anyway, but he had to make sure the Cyborg would threaten no one ever again. He knew what had to be done to stop him.
"Funny how power is to some people," remarked the Cyborg. "That's what I think of those rogues I've sent on earth. They're really power hungry aren't they? Don't they realise I probably could destroy the earth and them as well? I'll spare no one when I make earth mine. I care about as much for those cursed gnats as I care about Superman. They're just...."
Suddenly, several screens just turned on inside the matrix where Paul, the Cyborg and the Eradicator, could see that the people of earth, including the rogue prisoners, had heard every word of the Cyborg's plans. Suddenly, the humans all started working together, including the humans, to destroy the Kryptonian technology that was slowly reforming the earth. At this same moment, Paul was freed from his body cast and attacked the Cyborg.
"I'm to blame for this," remarked the Eradicator, "You're a twisted fiend Henry Henshaw, and I'll make sure you never come back to earth again!" The Eradicator joined Paul against the Eradicator.
"I can hold him off Paul," the Eradicator explained, "earth needs you. There's a smaller matrix at the other end of the shuttle Henshaw was planning on taking back to earth. Take that and leave before we enter the black hole!"
"I'm not going to leave you here!" Exclaimed Paul.
"You have no choice. Leave now!"
Paul boarded the shuttle just as the Eradicator and the Cyborg's battle was starting to destroy the very matrix they had been riding in. As the shuttle entered the hole, it exploded just after Paul managed to leave in a smaller matrix. History seemed to repeat itself as a new Superman was rocketed to earth.
In the weeks that followed, memorials were set out to honour those who had sacrificed their lives to save earth. Paul had the Fortress set an eternal flame in an "E" shape to honour the Eradicator's courage at earth's greatest time of need.
Paul still didn't feel right about taking Clark's mantle. He felt very responsible for this terrible tragedy. If he hadn't been so irresponsible, none of this would have happened. Ironic how a man who once loathed the idea of selflessness and publicity, when a tragedy like this made him feel all the more like dedicating his entire existence to helping those in need. He wanted to feel worthy, but he couldn't. He tried speaking with Kaliber about his guilt, but all Kaliber seemed to do was annoy him with other useless anecdotes.
Paul decided he had to visit Lois.
Lois Lane now lived in Smallville with her young son Mike, the only son she and Clark had ever had. As Paul grew closer to Clark, he met Lois. She was about the closest thing to a mother Paul ever had. Though they hadn't spoken in years, Paul always knew Lois could give great advice.
Upon seeing Paul, Lois embraced him. She knew full well he was the Superman the media had been speaking of, and she was thrilled to see him. She immediately sensed his troubled mind. Paul admitted how guilty he felt and asked her if she thought he was worthy of the mantle.
Lois was in tears.
"You've done Clark proud Paul. You cannot blame yourself for this terrible event, Clark wouldn't have handled it any differently than you did. If you want to know if you're worthy, just look to the people. They love you for who you are and what you've done. You are loved so much by so many. The mantle is yours Paul. Take it, with my blessing."
Somewhere in the conversation, Mike entered the room. Paul told the young boy he was his uncle Paul. If he ever needed him, he would always be there. And with that, Paul flew off into the sky, ready to make the Superman legacy his.
As Mike saw Superman fly away, he looked puzzled. Lois took him inside and started pulling out scrapbooks and began to explain why Mike was different from the other children. She also began to explain how Paul was taking over his father's role as well.
"Who knows," remarked Lois, "Maybe there will come a time when people look back at your life and say, 'these were the adventures of Superman as a boy!'"