By Marnie Rowe firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted July 2000
Summary: Lois and Clark must track down a strange new enemy who possesses Kryptonite. Things become doubly urgent when Zara and Ching show up on the scene.
All the legal disclaimers apply.
Lois was sitting at her desk in the newsroom, just thinking how ironic it was that when she had finally decided that she would like to have children, she discovered that she and Clark were incompatible. It just wasn't fair! Whining inside wasn't going to help any. Just then, sensing through their link that Clark was back from one of the umpteenth super-deeds that called him away from the office, Lois looked over to the opening elevator doors. A very irate and upset Clark was emerging, and clearly he was hurting. He met his wife's eyes across the newsroom knowing that, if he could just get close enough to her soothing presence, the pain he felt right at this moment would begin to ebb.
He had just started to move purposefully in her direction, needing to be with his wife. Right on cue, Perry emerged from his office and bellowed, "Lois, is Clar… Oh, Kent, you're back, good. Get in here you two, pronto!"
Lois shrugged as she met her husband's eyes. This was the price they had to pay for being 'the hottest team in town', and Clark changed direction as she got up from her desk. They arrived at Perry's door at the same time. Lois grabbed Clark's hand and gave it a squeeze knowing that he would appreciate the gesture. Clark did, and to acknowledge the show of affection, he pulled her closer to steal a quick kiss. Then he threw her a faint and tired little smile and Lois knew that she had helped him a little bit. Whatever he had just been through needed to be vented, but sometime later. They were due in the bear's den right at the moment.
Perry started talking as soon as the couple had cleared the door frame of his office. "Listen, I know that you two are working on that expos‚ of the Fifty-Second Precinct, but something else has come up that I want you two on…" Perry paused, as if to gather his thoughts, then continued, "I just got word from one of my best sources that there is something going on down at S.T.A.R. Labs, and I want you to use your contact, what's-his-name, Dr. Klein? to try figure out what it is. All my source could tell me was that it was something that wouldn't be exactly healthy for Superman and we can't let that be, now can we? We have to stop it. All right?"
At this last bit, Lois and Clark looked towards each other; Lois, in rising indignation, and Clark, ready to see if his beloved would explode, ready to temper most of her reaction if she was going to blow. But at his look, she met his eyes, the warmth and love he felt for her laying there plainly for her to see calming her down somewhat.
Perry, who looked up from his desk and saw that they hadn't moved and were lost in each others eyes, barked, "Now people!"
They boogied past their desks, quickly picking up what they needed, almost without slowing at all, and headed for the elevator.
As the elevator went down, Clark got 'The Look'.
Lois knew it meant that he was needed as Superman, so she just sighed and told him resignedly, "Go, I'll meet you at S.T.A.R. Labs, Okay?"
Clark nodded, leaned forward to give her a sweet and romantic kiss as he began nervously pulling at his tie. Then as the doors opened, all she felt was the 'whoosh' signifying that he had taken off faster than the eye could follow. She sighed again and thought that the poor ol' lobby would take awhile to get tidy again, nevermind what it had done to her hair, which was at that horrible and awkward stage of growing out. She checked it in the rearview mirror of her Jeep. She got in and found that it was still pretty much in place; the blowing had just softened the look a bit. She put the Jeep in gear and started to head to the labs where she knew she would find Doc Klein, speculating wildly on what they'd find.
Clark worried about what some wacko had come up with this time? He had never done anyone harm, so why did these people think they needed to find a way to take him out? Landsakes, he was just trying to help and he wasn't getting near enough time with his wife. Not that the average Joe out there knew that Superman was married, but it really put a crimp in their bonding processes. It was near to impossible to ignore the cries for help, but he really wanted to spend more time with Lois. He was torn.
He had heard on the police band that there had been a pile-up on a nearby freeway. He swooped down and surveyed the scene of the accident, trying to ascertain who was in need of his attention the most. As he did, he thanked God for that first aid course Lois had badgered him into taking with her. It definitely made prioritizing his trips to the hospital easier. He had gone back later, as Superman, and received some more training, primarily in diagnostics, using his X-ray vision to recognize the severity of the injuries, so that in helping, he wouldn't cause any more damage inadvertently. So when he saw a nine year old girl in the midst of the wreckage with a broken neck, he knew to strap her to a wayward van door and get her to the hospital since that would give the doctors a better chance to save the use of her legs. He let the triage nurse on duty know what he had seen through his X-raying so the girl could get the best care as soon as possible. It helped that the triage nurse was a fan of his, and so he had poured on the super-charm.
On his way to meet Lois at the Labs, he also took care of two muggings, a midday bank robbery and a near fatal mishap at a construction site. When he arrived where he and Lois had agreed to meet, he quickly spun back into Clark behind a dumpster and walked out with a nonchalant whistle, making his way to the curb to wait for Lois' arrival
A few minutes later she pulled around the corner, screeched into the nearest parking slot, and as she got out of the car, she slammed the door behind her with just a little too much vehemence. Knowing that she had just driven the length of the city in combat conditions or noontime rush hour, Clark just raised one eyebrow and gave his steaming wife a questioning little smile as she approached him.
"Next time, you take me with you, got it?" she said, jabbing his chest lightly, with one finger to emphasize her point. Clark grabbed the offending hand before she could hurt herself and pulled her close for a very steamy kiss. When he backed up, it was her turn for the questioning look, so Clark explained.
"Well that was for you talking me into getting the first-aid. It just saved a little girl her legs."
Lois assumed a smug expression, as if to say 'what did you expect?' She did not let go of Clark's hand as they entered the building side by side.
Quickly, they threaded their way through the maze of corridors that was S.T.A.R. Labs, to eventually reach Dr. Klein's office. He was involved in some incredibly cerebral experiment using ordinary household chemicals, wake of the Uni-bomber probably.
They stood for a while in the shambles of Klein's office until it looked as if he had passed the point of danger in combining the chemicals, and then when he stepped back, Lois cleared her throat. Startled, Dr. Klein jumped. Of course he had not even noticed them come in, he was so wrapped up in his present project. Lois thought dryly to herself that if someone had detonated a bomb just outside his office he wouldn't have heard it.
"Yes? What can I do for you today, Lois? Clark?" Dr. Klein asked, with a slight tremor.
Lois stepped forward. "Well, Dr. Klein, Perry got a tip that someone here at S.T.A.R. Labs is experimenting with something that could specifically hurt Superman. Do you know anything at all about it?"
Dr. Klein looked so shocked and upset that Lois felt that she should hastily reassure him. "Oh no, Dr. Klein, we don't think that you would have anything at all to do with something that would hurt Superman! It's just that we thought you might have heard something through the lab grapevine that could help "
As if that had prompted him, Dr. Klein immediately looked thoughtful. "Well, I did hear something that didn't make any sense to me at the time…and with this new information it takes on a whole new slant." He paused. "There was some scuttlebutt going around the Labs that a new scientist funded by a private organization was moving into the old portion of the building. Since then, no one has been able to find out what they are working on. As soon as they got in the building, all sorts of high tech security devices went up, and now you need special clearance to get to the hall that leads to the old wing."
"Do you remember the name of the scientist?" Clark asked intently.
Doc Klein looked up at the ceiling mumbling to himself. "Stork?, hmm no Shark?… no, no, no, oh what was his name now? Stark!! That's it. I remember now because the fellow looked nothing like the millionaire Tony Stark, and when I asked if there was any relation, he looked down his nose at me and said no…real cold fish that one. I could definitely see him doing something to ruin the best thing since sliced bread to hit this world in a long time." Klein had an expression that clearly showed what he thought of the man under discussion. Shaking himself out of his fugue, he brightened a little and continued. "Well he's out of the city at the moment, left a couple of days ago, so he can't be doing any damage right now anyway." With a pleased look he turned back to his experiment as Clark sighed, but before Klein could get reabsorbed, Lois asked the question that he should have known was coming after dangling that carrot in front of her nose.
"Do you have access to the old wing's hall, Dr. Klein?" she asked, in a sickly sweet voice
Clark groaned."Lois…" he said, in the long tortured tone of voice that he used when Lois was deliberately throwing her self in danger yet again.
Dr. Klein's expression turned to martyrdom as he faced them and sighed, "Yes, Lois, as a matter of fact I do. Am I guessing correctly that you would like me to escort you there so that you may nose around?" Not even waiting for her to answer, he gathered up his keys and identity tag. You could accuse Klein of being the archetypical absentminded scientist, yes but you definitely could not call him stupid.
Lois was in the grip of the story. Nothing would stop her now and both men knew it. Dr. Klein took point as they started through the maze that made up the S.T.A.R. Labs complex, unerringly leading them to a noticeably less used section of the building. Clark was unobtrusively scanning the path ahead when he was brought up short at the discovery of lead sheeting covering the whole interior of the old wing.
Leaning over, he whispered to Lois, "Bingo! The entire wing has been sheathed in lead and I can't see anything at all."
The look she threw back at him was a cheeky, 'Natch, what did you expect?' After all, it was widely known that Superman was a frequent visitor to Dr. Klein, and he was always available to transport highly dangerous materials safely than was ever possible by any other means. There was also a tone to her look that told Clark that there was no way she was she going to back off now — she was too close. Clark knew there was no way he could stop her, and besides, he wanted to know what was going on. After all, it was aimed against him, and he was definitely human enough to want to know.
They passed through the new security at the hall door and proceeded to the next checkpoint where they stopped to examine the lay of the land. It was a fairly good setup, but between the two of them, they had cracked more intricate systems, so with a single look, they went to work. In a jiffy the door was open and they were slipping through, with Dr. Klein right close behind.
The top three levels of the building were a bust — mostly offices, nothing incriminating. But when they reached the third floor, Lois' hunch had panned out. They found a secret elevator located in the most opulent office. When they entered it, they found that it went down to a secret basement and a sub-basement which didn't seem to be accessible by any other means. So down they went. The sub-basement was what turned out to be the jackpot and the crapshoot all in one. As soon as the lead-lined doors opened, Clark knew that they had found something because he immediately got the sick and weak feeling that could only mean there was unshielded Kryptonite around. Falling victim to its effects, he turned to Lois, clutching at her arm. As he did, he hazily caught sight of the face of Dr. Klein, thinking 'Oh no! Why can't I ever tell anyone after I have decided to? Why do they always have to find out on their own?'
Alarmed by this new person let in on his secret, all he could do was moan… And then darkness closed in.
Lois felt more than heard Clark's moan as he started to fall. She turned to support him as he collapsed and noticed the telltale signs of Kryptonite poisoning in the sickly pallor and the beads of sweat on his face. Remembering Dr. Klein's presence, she barked at him to get the doors shut quickly. As the insulating quality of the lead doors allowed for Clark's slow recovery, she jerked upright and realized that it was Clark and not the Suit. Her eyes strayed to meet the good Dr.'s knowing that there would be some explaining to do, seeing realization spread across his guileless face, then consternation.
"Now I really wish I had been able to help with the fertility thing!" he blurted.
Sitting up now, braced against the side of the elevator, Clark shook his head groggily. Clark looked startled at Dr. Klein first, and then to Lois with a wry grin at this non-sequitur. Lois thought, 'Well, at least it wasn't the evil Aha! that we have heard in the past'. She sank down to the floor so that she was sitting beside her husband and so could rest her aching head on his strong shoulder with a sigh.
As the doors were opening, Dr. Klein was musing to himself, 'What the heck have I let these two drag me into this time? Oh, who am I kidding, I've been dying to know what was going on in here since the beginning, and this was the perfect opportunity…' He had let the thought trail off as he noticed that Clark wasn't looking so good. In fact, there was something familiar about his reaction that he couldn't quite put his finger on…something similar about his sudden ailment, like how Superman looked when he had to be treated for Kryptonite poisoning…wait, no, it couldn't be, could it?
He had heard Lois bark for him to get the doors shut. Bernard Klein, wacky and absent-minded scientist that he was, knew when to obey that particular tone in a woman's voice. He turned and pushed the button to close the doors. As soon as the elevator doors shut, he saw a sense of relief wash over Clark's face. Come to think of it, he really did look a lot like Superman…just take away the glasses and restyle the hair…
Klein straightened as he knew what this meant…that Clark?…was Superman?! It was so obvious if you thought about it, but then who would have connected the two men, other than as friends. Wait…what about all the sightings of the two together at the press conferences?…with that Stride woman and then the Doe fellow who ran for president? But no matter how they had managed those incidents, here was the truth in front of his face.
And then it clicked. When Superman had come to him for the fertility thing it was because Lois and Clark had wanted a baby, and now he felt doubly bad about the results. He could think of no other couple that was more deserving of children. But all that came out of his mouth was that inane comment of wishing that he had been more help with the fertility thing. Sheesh, they must think that he's more batty than usual. He should probably give them some reassurance that this secret would be kept in strictest confidence, like the doctor-patient relationship he shared with Superman…
Klein took a breath and addressed his two friends. "You do know that I would never tell anyone, not even under torture, about this little revelation right?"
His expression was that of a puppy looking for that reassuring pat on the head that says, 'You did good, boy,' and Lois melted, turning to a woman from the she-dragon that she had almost turned into. Clark, feeling his wife's newfound calm, reassured the doctor with a smile as they all got back on their feet.
"No, Doc, we didn't think that you would," Clark answered, some of his strength returning. "Actually, we have been considering telling you anyway, seeing as you're the closest thing to a family doctor that I have."
At this, the doctor smiled warmly. "Yeah, well it would make things a heck of a lot easier for the both of us. And, please, Clark, Lois…call me Bernard from now on. I've been meaning to ask you to do so for awhile now. We are something like friends, aren't we?"
While this situation was being resolved by the menfolk, Lois thought about how they were going to proceed on the story. She had formulated a fair plan of action and so that when Clark turned to her with his mouth open to ask, 'What now?' she just bulldozed ahead to put voice to her plan.
"Well, it's obvious that they have something like Kryptonite, and that has to be the first order of business. So, we are going back up and dropping Clark off upstairs…" She gave him 'the Look' that every wife in the world has mastered, as he started to protest, "…for only long enough to get the stuff under wraps so that Clark can join us." She glanced over to see if he was sufficiently mollified and continued. "Then we come up and…" Pausing, she turned to Clark inquisitively. "I can't remember, sweetheart, does the entire place being lined in lead have any effect on your super-hearing?"
Clark shook his head to indicate a negative. Lois went on without missing a beat, the little frown lines between her brows furrowed fetchingly.
"Or, I guess…we can just give you a shout to let you know that the coast is clear, and then," as she playfully poked Clark in the gut to illustrate her words, "when you, my love, join us, we go through the place with a fine tooth comb. Sound good?" Her face smoothed as the two men nodded their assent, and the elevator started its upward climb.
Clark exited the elevator at the basement level to wait, and began to worry as soon as the doors closed again. Very faintly, as he hadn't tuned his super-hearing up yet, he heard Lois admonish him, "Don't you start to obsess on me, Kent."
He had to smile. It did cheer him up somewhat, which was the effect that he figured that Lois was going for.
With the doctor at her side, on their way down to the subbasement again, Lois worried to herself about what they might find, but she would never have been able to even dream about what they actually did find. It was Bernard who made the first grisly discovery, and he thought to warn Lois by yelling, "I hope you have a strong stomach, or at least skipped breakfast!" It wasn't exactly the best of warnings as they go, but it was a warning.
Lois hovered outside the room, then steeled herself and went in. She nearly lost her entire stomach, never mind what might have been in it. The room was sort of set up like the morgue downtown. Lois was no stranger to death and its myriad of forms. She had seen her fair share of homicides and the autopsies that followed, but none were ever carried out to this extent. This was more like a dissection. What made it worse was that, with a start, Lois recognized that the subject was originally Lord Nor of New Krypton, someone that she had met. Or what was left of him anyway. She reached out and flicked back the sheet that was covering the worst of the cadaver, and all Lois could think of was how thorough they had been.
Bernard was over by the desk in the corner and startled Lois yet again by uttering a fervent "Yes!" She scowled as she looked over to see that he was poring over the reports on the body in front of her. Her eyes, straying over to the counter beside him, saw where the Kryptonite shard lay in a small lead box. Moving swiftly and purposefully she closed the box and as she did, noticed a small insignia etched into its top. It looked familiar but she couldn't place it.
Looking back to where Bernard was scanning through the report, occasionally slowing down and rereading bits and pieces here and there, Lois thought to herself that she might as well make herself useful and do a sweep of the rest of the place so that Clark could join them.
She went to the next room and found the treacherous council member, Jen Mai, in more or less the same state of piecemeal as Lord Nor. The Kryptonite shard was in plain sight next to the stretcher on a counter top much as it had been with the first room. Lois walked over, not really looking anywhere but her destination, as she had seen enough in the first room to more than last her, and upon reaching it, shut the offending stuff into its little lead box.
Noting the strange insignia again etched into the top of the lid, frustrated, Lois thought, 'I know I have seen this before, but where? Oh shoot, this is gonna drive me absolutely nutso!' In the last room of the corridor lay the two bully boys who were more or less intact except for the normal autopsy procedure. They shared a shard of the Kryptonite between them and it was on the trolley with the instruments. This piece didn't have a little box of its own so Lois picked it up and took it back to the room with the councilor and put it in with his. She was really beginning to think that there was too much of this glowing green stuff just lying around, especially considering who ended up having pieces of it to play with.
Lois made a quick sweep of the adjoining corridor and didn't find any more of the nasty glowing green stuff. "Clark, sweetheart," she called out. "It's all clear. You can join us now but you better be prepared for a bit of a shock."
Lois went back to the first room with its two occupants, one dead and one dead to the outside world. Picking up the little box from its place on the counter she went down to the second room and grabbed that little box as well. Spying a lab-coat, Lois grabbed it and wrapped the two boxes together so that she could give them to Bernard for safekeeping. 'Whew,' she thought to herself, 'was that going to take some getting used to, I'm so used to calling him Dr. Klein."
Clark, who had been waiting in the elevator since she and the doctor had left, finally heard her 'all clear' signal. The warning that she had added about being prepared for a shock was puzzling, but then even with all that he had seen in his line of duty as Superman he could never get used to the depths that some people would sink to. He hit the button to take the elevator down to meet Lois and Bernard.
Hearing the elevator doors opening, Lois went to meet her husband, to at least give a summary of what she and Bernard had found so far. If Lois hadn't been able to read his body language so well, she would have never known how much of what she said affected him. But when she got to the description of the dissections, Clark paled so much that she knew that something was really wrong. 'Wow,' Lois thought, distressed that she had said something to so disturb her husband. 'That must have hit a buried fear or nerve or something!' Resolving to ask him about it later when they had more time, she went on to tell him about Bernard being entranced with the file he had found, and how she had not been able to get his attention since.
"Hey, Clark, can you scan the rest of the floor or does the lead interfere with your vision?" He didn't respond, so Lois waved a hand in front of his face to bring him back to reality. "Earth to Clark, hey Clark, come in."
He turned his head a bit and looked into her eyes. "Wha…? Oh…sure I can scan the place. It's just a little fuzzy around the edges because of the reflection effect of the lead; the interior walls are normal." He pulled his glasses down to the end of his nose and peered over them, slowly sweeping the subbasement with his x-ray vision.
Clark mused that Lois couldn't have known how the idea of being dissected like a frog was such a deep seeded fear of his, especially if anyone ever found out that he was Superman. Before he became Superman, he remembered his father always warning him about being different, how it could be dangerous to stray too far from the norm, and how it could lead to the discovery of his secret. If that were to happen, he knew that there were people out there who would want to study him, poke him, and prod him to find out the mystery of how his powers worked — and that was something he did not want.
As he scanned the offices in the subbasement first, Clark found absolutely nothing worth looking at too closely. Directing his attention to the other wing containing the laboratories, he visibly stiffened as he found the corpses, but still he took a good look to see if there was anything to learn from them and from what had been done to them. Then not being able to bear it any longer, he averted his eyes from the bodies, and began to study everything else in the room. It wasn't that he was squeamish — he had pulled enough people and corpses out of numerous disasters that the gore didn't overly affect him — it was the systematic way that they had been explored that made him feel ill.
After Clark had finished his visual sweep of the entire basement, he turned to Lois and told her what he had seen. "There are some folders in the filing cabinets with this strange symbol on them. It seems to be something that I have seen before but I just can't seem to place it."
Lois looked to Clark, and then maneuvered one of the boxes out of its lab-coat wrapping, where she had placed them for safekeeping, and showed him the emblem etched in the lid. "Is this what you see?" she asked him.
Clark looked at the etched design,"Yes," he responded. "Do you think we should round up everything that has that design on it? To look over, I mean, and if necessary…" Clark hesitated as he was about to finish what he had been saying, "destroy?"
His answer came out a bit forced, but he knew that Lois would understand some of his concern through the link they shared between them. At least he hoped that she would. Clark hated the thought of destroying anything they could possible learn from, but he also realized that he could not allow any of the information contained in the files to fall into the wrong hands. Evidently Lois was of the same mind, as she nodded sharply, her mouth drawn into a tight line.
After they had been through the entirety of the basement, all the files and anything else they had found were piled in a neat-ish heap at the elevator. They went to collect Bernard, which proved to be easy enough. He hadn't yet moved from the spot that he had been in when he had found the files that detailed the operations that had occurred. Clearing their throats proved to be insufficient in rousing the doctor, so Clark reached out and tapped Bernard's shoulder instead. That got the doctor's attention alright, and he jumped high enough off the floor to do a credible imitation of flying.
'Hmmm, pretty good hang time,' Clark joked to himself, amused at the level of fitness the good doctor had revealed…but then his mind turned back to the gravity of the situation they were in.
He addressed his two companions. "We have to get out of here and make sure that the Kryptonite is safely installed in Bernard's safe, along with the files…" Clark stopped short and thought to himself with a qualm, 'Wait a minute, we have to go through all the files first.' "Maybe the files should go to the townhouse instead, and then tonight we can go through them. We could stash them in the secret compartment until we decide what to do with them." It was as good a plan of action as any, and he shrugged his shoulders, silently asking Lois what she thought.
Lois nodded her agreement to her husband, and guided the bemused scientist over to the elevator. He was so deep in his concentration that it was as though he was a marionette and Lois the puppeteer. Lois could gently pull his strings and make him do her bidding.
After loading up the elevator with the purloined items and a very preoccupied doctor, they took it up to the top floor office, with Lois still pulling Bernard's strings and carrying her small bundle of Kryptonite, and Clark carrying everything else. They threaded through the maze of corridors again, this time with Clark taking point, and soon arrived back at the offices Bernard Klein enjoyed as his special privileges. He received these for all the times that he assisted in investigations for Lois and Clark, as well as for the police and certain government agencies. Not to mention being the physician of the most powerful being on earth.
Then there was the fact that he was so self-effacing as to help anyone who asked, sometimes to the point of his abilities being strained to the limit. The man always seemed to run at every challenge head on, even when the project seemed to be impossible. The most amazing thing was that half the time, if not more, he managed to save the day by solving the puzzles routinely thought to be impossible by anyone else's standards. Bernard Klein wasn't one to give in to popular rationales and beliefs; he thought that every problem was solvable if you just went at it in the right way, using everything possible at your disposal.
The two reporters followed as the scatterbrained scientist puttered about putting everything in the little niches that he created for them. The Kryptonite went in the safe, and some of the files were secreted underneath his other files containing 'stuff to do'. Lois and Clark wanted to say something, but didn't wish to break into the train of thought of the man that was now more their friend than just a valuable source.
Finally, Lois launched into rapid speech, unaware that she sounded rather like an auctioneer trainee. "Bernard, we have got to go and write this up, we hate to leave you now, but…"
She trailed off as Klein glanced in their direction, expressing surprise that they were actually still with him, and then made a quick shooing motion with his hand. "Well what are you still doing here? You can catch up with me later. It's not as if I have anyone to see or anywhere else to be." Dr. Klein's last self-disparaging remark showed a bit more bitterness than the couple was used to hearing from their friend, easygoing as he normally was.
Clark shot Lois a worried look; could it be that their secret was too much for the lonely man? She just shook her head silently, and moved towards the door. Clark obediently followed his wife.
As soon as they were in the relative privacy of the hall, she mumbled under her breath knowing that Clark could hear her. "No, I think this is something that he has been feeling for a while…he wants what every other happily married couple has — including us: a person to share his life with."
When Clark's eyes met hers, they were bright with tears and he could see the compassion she felt for Bernard in them. Clark reached over without saying anything, took her hand, and brought it to his lips in a gentle caress, hoping that it would ease some of her pain. With a grateful little smile, she picked up her pace, taking them that much faster to her Jeep in the parking lot.
When Lois was waiting to pull out of the parking lot, she felt Clark stiffen beside her. As she turned to see what was happening, she was surprised to feel something brush past her mind, faintly hearing the mental echo of a voice that she had never thought to hear again. She realized that she did actually hear the voice, sensing it in Clark's thoughts through their link.
"Was that Zara? What the hell are they doing back in our neck of the woods? You abdicated your title, annulled your marriage and you gave her and Ching the power to change what was needed. Why would they be back? What has happened now to bring them here?" Lois was babbling with a vengeance, something that she tended to do when she was upset or angry. Clark could see how she could easily be both. First, the bodies of the renegade Kryptonians, and now as if seeing them was a summons, Clark had just received contact from the other half of the equation: Zara. Clark wasn't too happy himself — Zara had been a little cryptic. Zara had asked if he and Lois would consent to join them on board the palace that evening. Tentatively, he agreed, pending Lois' opinion.
Clark turned to Lois and asked if she would like to go. He felt that he was obligated to, but Lois had some rather bad memories of the place, and he wasn't about to subject her to anything that would make her uncomfortable. To his surprise, she took the fact that she was invited as well to be a good sign, and readily agreed.
Since it had been a while since he had exercised the particular mental muscles needed to communicate telepathically, it took Clark a bit of extra concentration for him to communicate to Zara. However, he relayed to her that, yes, they would be happy to join them on the palace but they weren't finished work until seven, so was eight in the evening going to be OK? Zara replied that that was fine and inquired if they would be eating at home or would they dine with herself and Ching?
"Do you want to eat dinner up there?" Clark asked Lois.
She assented with amusement, thinking how much it sounded like Joe and Judy Regular making a dinner date with their neighbors from down the street. How easily, she mused, you could get used to strange things as a matter of course, especially when your husband could fly.
When they reached the Planet, Lois summoned Jimmy the way everyone did — she hollered out his name. From the far side of the room she heard a faint response of, "Be right there, Lois." A minute later she was standing beside her desk and Jimmy was bounding up to her like an exuberant puppy.
"You bellowed, my Lady?" he said. Lois rolled her eyes at his wit, but continued anyway. "Yeah, I did. Can you see what you can dig up for me on a Stark? No relation to Tony Stark, the millionaire, but the guy that just got the research grant at S.T.A.R. Labs. Oh, and Jimmy, try some anagrams of the name too, just to see what pops up will you?" She softened her commands with a smile, and Jimmy was off in search of a computer so that he could practice his particular form of wizardry. Lois just shook her head as she watched him go, wondering if she had had that level of eagerness or energy at that stage in her life.
Feeling tired all of a sudden, she turned around to take a seat at her desk. Lois shot a quick glance at her husband who was already at his desk. Sensing her gaze on him, Clark looked up and gave her a warm smile. How did he know what she needed when she didn't know herself, Lois thought.
Buckling down, disgusted with her mental meandering, she got to work. She had conceived a story on what the government's scientists were being allowed to get into, raising the old 'could and should' debate. Lois was muttering imprecations to herself about the lineage of the scientists in question, pondering what it was that made people go after knowledge for its own sake, not thinking of the consequences that the unleashing of the knowledge could bring. After she had finished her rough draft and saved it, she thought there was no use going to Perry with it yet. There was not enough proof to publish — only conjecture.
She sat back and idly tapped her pencil against her heel, and wondered what Zara and Ching's purpose was in returning to Earth. Her gut was telling her it was something big. After all, no one travels god-knows-how-many light years just to make a social call. Especially considering that the people of Earth were more likely to shoot them rather than shake their hands. Well, she would find out soon enough, so there was no use chewing it over and over until they had even the smallest of clues. And she had told Clark how many times that he obsesses!
Perry chose that moment to hail his best reporting team, calling them into the lions' den. She assumed he was awaiting a report of their progress on the S.T.A.R. Labs story. How come Perry couldn't ever ask them what he wanted the same way that he told the rest of the staff? Well, on second thought, maybe it was better this way; Lois had a habit of arguing fervently in favor of a story if she thought that it was warranted, and Perry knew that tended to make the rest of his reporters rather unruly.
Clark finished his article and LANed it to the Chief before he got up, making sure that no one saw how fast he typed to do so. Walking over to his wife's desk, he offered her his hand to hold. It was one of those things that told Lois how much her husband loved and wanted to be with her. Together, like always, they made their way over to the office of Perry White.
They managed to make a break for it by seven thirty. By this time Lois was totally a slave to her curiosity. What had brought the New Kryptonians back to Earth? Were they going to come running to Clark with every little thing that went wrong? Lois certainly hoped that wasn't going to be the case. As if one planet's problems weren't enough. There was already enough to interrupt the time they had alone together as it was. They both had their jobs at the Planet, and then Clark had his second, self-appointed job as Superman. Anything else and they would have to make appointments to see each other, as they often joked about when things got really hectic.
Clark didn't say much as he handed her one of those ubiquitous black outfits that would help them more or less blend in at the palace. For his part, he changed into the black outfit that he had worn as Lord Kal-El. His mother had liked the way it looked as a basis for the Superman suit, but had insisted on adding a cape in the same shimmery blue of the El emblem so that he was balanced. Lois admired the way the improved outfit looked, and had to admit that she wouldn't mind if he wore it more often. Wouldn't that raise a few eyebrows? People were used to him in the blue and red suit, the black would make some wonder what had changed. She thought to herself that he wouldn't have to wear it outside of the bedroom…that would suit her purposes much better. A wicked little smile made her lips quirk up at the corners.
Zara and Ching's return to Earth was affecting Clark just as much as it was affecting Lois, if she had seen into his mind at that moment. He himself wondered what it was that brought them back to Earth and if he was going to be asked to once again abandon everything that he held dear. He didn't want to discuss it with Lois just yet, in case that was what was in the cards. He didn't want that to be it, and he didn't feel up to making that type of decision yet…or maybe it was that he knew what he would selfishly decide on: He wouldn't leave Lois again. Given his upbringing by his Earth mother and father, he knew that choice was not in keeping with the way that he felt he should decide. He wanted to have a lot more 'me' time, or as it was, 'us' time with Lois. Eternity sounded good. Really, there wasn't much sense obsessing to himself until he was in a frenzy. He had just better find out what they wanted before giving himself an ulcer, if that was even possible for a Kryptonian on Earth.
Clark walked over to where Lois was standing at the window to scoop her up. Before he took off, he turned her head gently so that he could meet her lips in a very long and satisfying kiss that was meant to reassure himself as much as her. When they came up for air, he found that they had already left the ground. That was about par for the effect of Lois' kisses on him. The day that their lovemaking didn't end up on the ceiling would be the day that the earth stood still. Getting his bearings after a moment, he found the location of where the cloaked palace was hovering over the city, and taking aim, he focused his will and got them moving in the proper direction.
To ensure the stealth of their arrival, they used the same small door to enter as Clark had used to escape to see Lois when they had the whole mess with Nor. Ching was hovering in the manner everyone does when you are waiting for something or someone…except of course that he was literally as well as figuratively hovering. Odd as it might have been, the sight reassured Lois more than any verbal assurances would have — something about that old adage that actions speak louder than words. The sheer humanness of him pacing was what showed Lois again that they weren't really so very different inside after all. Lois didn't see that a New Kryptonian showing even that much emotional agitation was unusual, and then to top it all off, when Ching saw them he smiled a big welcoming grin that wouldn't have been out of place anywhere on Earth, but in Kryptonian culture was not acceptable at all.
Ching noticed right away that his openness of expression had thrown Clark and Lois off. "Our stay on Earth contaminated us," he explained with a little quirk of his lips. "It showed us that it wasn't necessary to always play…poker?" He frowned slightly, knowing that he had gotten the last part of the saying wrong but then he shrugged, dismissing his error as irrelevant and continued.
"A lot of things have changed and that is part of why we are here, but I will let Zara do the talking. She is much better at it than I."
Clark and Ching shared a typically male smile of understanding between them as they thought of how women of all races and species seemed to have that much in common no matter where or by whom they were raised.
Abruptly, as if his day's quota of friendliness had been expended, Ching turned back into the palace proper and gestured for them to follow, leading them down to the royal apartments…a path that Clark had been trying very hard to forget. He found that he hadn't; it was permanently branded into his memory by the ceremony of joining that he and Zara had been put through upon his first arrival to the palace. His state of mind at that time hadn't been exactly clear, but he found that now he could probably trace the way blindfolded.
When they saw Zara they were stupefied. She was pregnant. Very pregnant. At least seven months or more along, judging by sight alone. Lois couldn't help feeling the sharp stab of envy that pierced her heart at the sight of the other woman's gravid condition. Lois knew that Clark wouldn't leave her for the world (either world for that matter) ever again, but still couldn't help but feel deep inside her heart, that if Clark had stayed married to Zara, the way that it had been arranged by his Kryptonian parents, that he would eventually have a child of his flesh. Having a child was something that Lois and Clark wanted very much, but so far had been unable to find a way to achieve.
It was obvious that the child that swelled Zara's belly was Ching's, who was still hovering around, focusing his attention on his wife. Zara was stricken shy at Lois and Clark's reaction to her condition, but she gestured them into the room anyhow. She had something on her mind — something big. Both Lois and Clark could see that clearly enough from the tension showing on her face. Knowing that her guests would be able to enjoy or even just eat their meals better if some of the mystery of their return was removed, Zara launched into her explanation of events, or more accurately, her plea for help.
"I know that we are the last people that you ever wanted to see again," she began, "and yes, we do want something from you." She paused and took a breath. "We want to live here. On Earth, that is."
Clark and Lois exchanged confused glances for a few seconds, and looked as though they were about to say something in response to this immense request.
Zara held up her hands to forestall any reactions, and realized she should not have phrased that quite so baldly as she did. "I guess I should explain to you further, considering that I was so obstinate about New Krypton being our home when we were here before. You are no doubt wondering what has happened to change all that. Well you see, New Krypton's sun has exploded."
Clark's and Lois' eyes widened at this shocking piece of news.
Zara sighed. "I know. Can we pick them or what? Anyhow, we managed to get enough warning this time, thanks to a trusted source, and we were able to get most of the young people to the palace, but there wasn't enough room for everyone. We were forced to leave a sizable part of the population behind as martyrs." At Lois' skeptical look, Zara smiled wryly before she continued.
"Yes Lois I know what your views on martyrdom are, but realize this: most of the people who volunteered to stay behind were from the older generation who had lived on the original Krypton. They felt that they had escaped death once before and that the young ones needed a chance to live. I know that what you saw of us before wasn't very complimentary, but there is something to be said for expediency. It didn't make much sense for those who had already lived a fair amount of time to save their own skins when the ones who hadn't had a chance yet for a whole life to lose theirs.
"But even though we tried to keep this disaster secret, the middle generation got wind of the impending disaster and the news spread all over the planet. There were riots and civil disturbances everywhere caused by people who wanted to live at any cost. Unfortunately, because of all this panic, it reduced our ability to effectively select the colonists we needed. The only adults we were able to save were those on the space station orbiting our moon, and most of those were women. We no longer have a sufficient gene pool to sustain what remains of our race. Now we find that we will have to interbreed with the people of earth. Merging our population into yours is our only chance for continued survival at all."
Clark broke in and asked, "Yes, but why did you come to us. Why did you not just go to the government and ask for asylum?"
Zara smiled at the question, which made so much sense to Lois and Clark but left her and anyone else from Krypton so totally in the dark. "That is precisely why we came to you. We have no idea of who we should approach or what we would need to say when we have found the proper people to talk to. We are as lost here as you were when you were trying to fit in our society. But now we are the supplicants and so it's left to us to try to fit in with the population. You know the policies of this world. You know the laws and the customs. We really need someone to be an ambassador for us. We were hoping that Superman would be that for us, his people in blood if not spirit. "
Lois gave the other woman a narrow-eyed look that conveyed how she felt of them asking this of her husband. He had gone to New Krypton to help and then found that he wasn't suited to be Kryptonian — not with the caring way he had been brought up. He felt things and for the most part he was an open book, not afraid to wear his emotions openly on his face — something that the Kryptonians didn't do in polite company. But he had seen the battle through to the end, getting blasted by Kryptonite gas by the US military for his thanks. That was the final straw that made him see he was Clark, not Kal-El.
It was just an accident of birth that he was Kryptonian. In everything else he was an Earthling as he has been raised. It wasn't something that he could change. He had helped them because of his upbringing. If he had been raised on a planet with a similar mindset to Krypton, he wouldn't have bothered to aid them. Not that the Kryptonians had seen that; they had needed him so they had come to get him. "The path of expediency. Always," should have been the mantra for the colony. But he thought that he could do this for them — after he talked it out with Lois, that is.
Lois, meanwhile, had thought that if there were more like Clark around then he wouldn't have to run off quite so much anymore. Also, it would be less of a danger if his origins came out. After all, he wouldn't be the only one anymore. All together, Lois approved of the move if the only way she would be affected was good, but in that case, who wouldn't? But then she had a jarring thought. Who and how would they police the inevitable bad seeds that would surface? They had them, she knew thanks to Lord Nor and his cronies. Was there a way to negate that possibility? Lois knew that the UN would hold that up as a detriment of the Kryptonians settling here. After all, how many groups of people invite someone who is so much stronger to settle in their territory? It would be like the mouse inviting the cat in his house. Lois felt that this was definitely a two- edged blade.
Zara broke into her thoughts, "We wish to exist in peace, and to let the principles of the natives guide us. We, Ching and I, have said that this was a sloppy planet but the reward of loving and the related emotions is definitely gone a long way in how we view our people's conduct. We have found ourselves to be lacking in a great deal that you have here. Things that are thought of as commonplace to you are eye-opening to us. We are willing to live under observation, if that will ease hearts."
The last was said with some obvious reluctance, but if their positions were reversed, Lois doubted that she would have made the same offer. It was generous to the extreme and it let Lois realize what they were willing to undergo to come to live here, the sacrifices that had already been made, and the abeyance of what was thought of as an innate right of the people of Earth. That is what made Lois' mind up. She would speak on their behalf. She would speak for the child that Zara carried and all the other children that were on the palace.
They deserved a chance, and if they were raised here then maybe they would turn out more like Clark than their parents, or not have the New Krypton mindset anyway. Lois definitely hoped that that would be the case for any children that she and Clark had.
Clark broke into the conversation. He had been watching his wife's face and knew that her brain had been going in overdrive since Zara had first broached the subject. He did not want to confer with Lois here in front of the Kryptonians, so he just suggested that they eat and talk more later. Much later. After he and Lois had a chance to confer tonight in bed.
The rest of the meal passed without much else being said, all of the diners present having their minds set on what they had been discussing just then, and without much fuss, they parted ways. Lois and Clark were thinking too much to even make more than polite noises as they left.
Back at the townhouse, Clark looked at Lois with an expression that said, 'Well, spill it, girl'. He knew his wife, nevermind the mental abilities of his partner, and knew that when the first words had come out of Zara's mouth it had set Lois' brain into overdrive.
Lois smiled wryly, and as she answered the unspoken question, she marveled yet again at how the most powerful man on this earth was able to look so much like a beseeching little puppy with those big brown eyes of his. "Well, I think the best plan of action would be to write a list of pros and cons."
Clark didn't say anything but went to their desk and got a pad of paper and a pen. He lined the paper with the clear headings of pros and cons, then he sat back with pen poised, waiting for Lois to make her arguments.
"First in the pro column, we'd be helping children."
Clark agreed with his wife wholeheartedly and wrote it down. It wasn't that he was letting Lois do all the work, but he did think that he might be a little too close to the situation to be objective in this particular case so he valued, the insights of his wife. He already had made a nebulous decision, but he wasn't going to do anything to finalize it until he and Lois had talked it almost to death. Working together, with both taking turns at playing devil's advocate, they had their list completed very quickly. This is what they had:
PROS -They would be helping children -Clark wouldn't be the only one anymore/he wouldn't have to run off quite so much — they were willing to be observed -Clark's secret wouldn't be quite as important to keep
CONS -how do they police the Kryptonians? -who would take them? -the Nor situation
"Well," Lois said as they looked at the list when it was complete. "I guess it isn't much of a majority in favor for the pros, but then again, in my mind, there are a few in the pro list that are real doozies." She favored her husband with a wry smile as she said this.
Clark loved her sense of humor, and he agreed with her in any case. She had made some very big points in the support of getting the Kryptonians to stay here on Earth. Clark spoke, "Yeah, I think that I had already sorta decided to help them, but I sure am glad that you support me and agree. And besides, with you in my court then how can I lose?" Lois melted at his last comment, teasing though it was. Successful journalist and wife, she still always needed the ego-boost that her husband embodied for her.
With their minds made up on their future course of action, they turned to much more immediate concerns, like the fact that they were wearing too many clothes in the privacy of their own bedroom.
The next day, while they were at the Daily planet, Jimmy came up to Lois with some disturbing ideas. His brainstorming session yesterday on her behalf had brought up some old news of the not very nice variety.
It seemed that his search on Starks had brought the fact to light that there were none with the name who were not related to Tony Stark, the CEO of Stark industries, in some way or another. And then when he did the anagram search there was one name in particular that jumped to his attention. That name was Trask, as in Jason Trask of the Bureau 39, whose paranoia about aliens had led him to blindly try to destroy Superman before he had even tried to find out at least what Superman's intentions were. He had been so convinced that Superman had been a scout for an invading army that he had taken appalling measures to try to eradicate the hero. Not two years, later Superman fought against some of his own people to protect the earth — people that he had not known still existed. As far as he had known, he had been the last of his race.
Jimmy had searched out the background of Jason Trask and found that the man had a brother. One who seemed to have inherited the same paranoia as his brother, but this one had medical as well as government experience. It was not a nice combination — one that certainly didn't bode well for the future of the any of the Kryptonians here on earth.
Clark had sent his assent to the Kryptonians in the palace to speak on their behalf telepathically in the morning on his way to work. It was still something that he was awkward at, not like his other abilities which were second nature to him, and he wanted to do it when no one could observe him. Zara and Ching were meeting them for lunch, this time in a deli close to the Planet. The meeting was to discuss their strategy — well actually for Lois and Clark to tell Zara and Ching what was going to happen. Or at least what they hoped would happen, and then outline a few of the things that could possibly go wrong.
Trask wasn't something that they had counted on having to fight, but they thought that they could do it barring any truly unforeseen impediments.
Superman stood up in the top end of the semicircle's arc to address the whole of the United Nations and their esteemed guests. Superman had startled the world when he called this assembly, and so anyone who was anyone had wrangled seats to attend even if they didn't have a voice in the proceedings. Lois of course was in the stands along with Clark's parents, and Superman had also brought Dr. Klein whom Superman felt would be needed before this was all over.
Clark began to speak his piece when he felt that enough of the attention was focused on him. He still didn't like the public speaking that came with the suit, but after five years he was resigned to it.
"Hello. I know that this isn't something that you ever expected me to do, but there has been a new development." He paused, smiling wryly, then continued. "Actually, I guess you could call it a repeat development. My people, the Kryptonians, have suffered from a series of bad luck. The planet that they settled on after our planet of Krypton exploded has suffered the loss of its sun as well. So now they need a place to stay. I was hoping that you all would allow them to settle here, on Earth."
Pandemonium reigned as the import of what Superman had just asked registered. The frantic shouting was both positive as well as negative
Then someone had the presence of mind to ask a very good question. "How many persons would we be expected to absorb into the populace?"
This was the cue for Zara and Ching to enter through the windows high up in the assembly hall. Zara's obviously gravid condition caused another stir among the councilors and statesmen.
Clark rolled his eyes a bit at the uproar, but then he raised his voice to quiet them. "Excuse me, please. If you are quiet then all questions will be answered." At the slight edge to his voice, the world leaders calmed down, not really wanting to aggravate one of the most powerful men on Earth.
Clark motioned Zara forward and introduced her. "This is the Lady Zara-Ra. She is the ruler of all New Krypton. The man who accompanies her is her consort, Lieutenant Ching. All I ask of you is that you listen to their plea for sanctuary, and give it serious consideration."
Everyone listening was struck by the honest empathy projected by the Man of Steel Never had he asked anything of the world that he had helped so much. Now he did. This was enough to make even the most hardhearted among them sit up and take notice.
The representative of the US was the first to speak. "Where, exactly, did you want to settle?"
Clark and Lois had anticipated this question, and they had instructed Zara how to answer it.
"We will go wherever we can be assimilated the easiest. The majority of us are children and some women. Everyone else had to be left behind. There simply wasn't enough time or room to save everyone." Zara made this statement quietly and with feeling, having been told that emotions were better to be worn than hidden as they were used to doing. It had the desired results. They were refugees as far as most of the people there were concerned now. People who had fallen on bad times and now needed help to get back on their feet.
But not all watching felt the same. A man in the back of the auditorium stood, sensing that if he didn't speak soon then he would lose any empathy he might have from the group. Dr. Klein noticed him stand and nudged Lois, saying quietly into her ear, "That is Mr. high-and-mighty Stark."
Lois had the strangest feeling of d‚j… vu when she looked at the man. Just like the symbols etched into the boxes they had found in the lab, she was sure that she had seen this man before. That is when it struck her where she had seen them both before. The tangle in Smallville with Bureau 39! Pulling out the pad she always had with her, she wrote 'STARK' in capital letters. Then as she wrote the letters in a different order, she crossed out the ones she had used and voila! She was right! The letters rearranged slightly spelled out TRASK. Jimmy had been right.
She groaned, in pain. They thought that they had seen the last of Bureau 39 and any of that clan a long time ago! Why did the dratted organization keep rearing its ugly head? Knocking on the wood of her chair in a prearranged signal for Clark to listen to her, she spoke in a quiet conversational tone about the information that she had just dredged out of her mind. She saw by the expression on his face that he had heard her. If it weren't so serious, the expression gracing the face of the Man of Steel would be really funny. He looked almost constipated.
But it was a serious problem, and Lois had a feeling that the very same expression graced her features. Therefore it wasn't funny by a long stretch. Martha and Jonathan had heard what she said to Clark as well, and they were also dismayed. This was not the best time to figure this out, that was for sure. The man, who Lois and group knew to be a Trask, strode forward, clearing his throat loudly.
"This is what we were expecting — an invasion force." He said ringingly, "My brother Jason Trask and I, Christopher, were censored for stating that this 'Superman' was the fore-guard of an invasion, softening us up so that they could move in and take over. But now the truth comes out! They tried to take over with that Lord Nor in charge, but then when brute force failed, they now they plan to take advantage of our softhearted natures and worm into our society by coming to us as supplicants. I say we throw them out! Don't let them in to take over because that is what will indeed happen."
Standing silent for a bit to let his words sink in, the man who had revealed himself to be Jason Trask's brother waited for his words to be acclaimed as the universal truth. So he was rather surprised to find that not many people were looking at him with the light coming on in their eyes. In fact, most were avoiding looking his way. This wasn't right. They were supposed to see the clarity and reason behind his words, and then view him as their savior.
A woman in the lower stands stood to address the group of statesman. Christopher Trask recognized her after a moment as Lois Lane Kent — a woman notorious for her relationship with the alien, first as a moony-eyed, love-struck fool, and then as a friend to him after her marriage to that Kent fellow. Christopher had no idea what the man who married her thought of her past, but he wouldn't have touched her with a ten-foot pole. There was no knowing what she had caught from her association with Superman. Ironically, in part, that was what she was about to speak about to the assembly.
"My husband, Clark Kent, and I spoke to Superman before he called this meeting. He wanted to hear how we would address all of you, and then get our reactions to his…predicament." She paused for a moment to let the gathering appreciate her understatement. "We asked to see the refugees, and what we found was mostly children — Babes in arm to teenagers, with very few women and men. And then not enough people present to even have a viable gene pool if they moved on. They are going to have to interbreed with us to keep from dying out. So let me ask you, if that is what you think constitutes an invasion force, then how is that threatening? They need us to survive. If anything, it is in their favor that they are going to become one with the human race."
There were a few that still looked like they didn't want to believe her. She thought of something else — a point that would show the gathered personages how much the New Kryptonians were like themselves. "Listen, all they want to do is save their children. How are they any different than us as a people?" That said, she sat down, leaving them to think over her last point.
As Lois sat down, Dr. Klein stood up to air his own thoughts. "I am Dr. Bernard Klein," was his nervous self-introduction. "I work at S.T.A.R. Labs in Metropolis, and through that tenure, I lucked out to get the distinct honor of being the personal physician of Superman, and am lucky enough also, I think, to call him friend." Bernard looked over to where Clark was standing as if looking for confirmation on his statement.
Clark saw and gave him a slight smile as if to say, "You know it."
"He has been straightforward and honest with me in all our dealings — at least what he was able to be without giving up too much of his personal life. The same as any world famous person would guard their privacy jealously if you just take a moment to think about it." Up until this point in his narrative, Bernard's voice had taken on the singsongy quality that people tend to use when they have something memorized and professors fall into when talking about a subject well known to them. Now, his voice hardened, as if his dislike and mistrust of his subject had taken control of his vocal chords. "This man Trask, on the other hand, was using an assumed name, Stark, to do research at S.T.A.R. Labs in a secret underground bunker he had lined with lead. He had also gone to ridiculous lengths for security purposes." A moue of disgust crossed the doctor's normally mild features. "Understandable, really, when you find out that his research was the incredibly detailed dissection of that Nor guy and his accomplices. The particular type of dissection he had done was very thorough — the kind that can help a great deal, or on the other side of the coin, can greatly hinder or harm. Now with what I just heard him spewing, I think that his ultimate goal was to harm. Superman."
Bernard's voice now took on almost a pleading quality. "Now I have seen Superman do nothing but good for us, and Earth in general. Mr. Trask's actions are remarkably like that of a bigot. The theory to kill anything different from us is just that: bigotry in the extreme, and I thought that we had outlawed bigotry in any form a long time ago. Why would we ever want to backtrack to that kind of barbarism, again?" With that out, more than he had said to anyone in a long time, Bernard sat down abruptly to avoid drawing any further attention to himself, happy that at least he had been given the chance to make his point.
Now a person representing the New Troy and the greater Metropolis area stood to address the assembly. It was the mayor's husband. The question that he brought up was one that Lois, Clark, and company knew was going to be quite a hurdle. It was brought up in such a manner, also, that it would be taken seriously — not like the hysterical ranting of Christopher Trask.
"What about that fellow Nor? What was he in your hierarchy? Was he a person whose views and tactics were supported by the majority of your people?"
Clark's muscles tensed at this question, but Zara had been expecting it, and she stepped forward to answer. "No, Nor was an aberration to our people too. The man had incited strife in the colony to such a degree that we were forced to come here to collect Lord Kal-El in hopes of diffusing our situation back home. But then we found, when we returned to New Krypton, that he had somehow got wind of the fact that he would have super- powers here." Her expression was wry. "I'm afraid that was too much of a draw to his grasping ego. He wanted to rule New Krypton, but then when he saw this verdant world, it drove him over the edge. He no longer wanted to subjugate just the New Kryptonians; he then wanted to set himself up as lord and emperor of Earth."
Her face took on an odd cast as she had an unpleasant revelation. "He wanted to rule over the Kryptonians and enslave your people. No, I would say that he wasn't your average, run- of-the-mill citizen. He was like your Hitler, if what I saw and studied of your world's history when I was here before was correct. He was a madman and a wanna-be tyrant who had persuaded certain parts of the populace to go along with his schemes. And when the general populace saw what he was doing with their support, they were absolutely appalled."
Showing that she wasn't totally ignorant of their history and laws reassured the majority present of her desire to fit into their society at large. That she, or Superman, wasn't pleading was another good sign of the willingness to leave the decision in the hands of the gathered notables was another reassurance.
There wasn't much more to be said by the applicants, but much to discuss for the UN. The Kryptonians were dismissed, and most who had come to gawk at the aliens left at this point in the proceedings also.
As Lois stood, the President of the US called out to her, "Lois, a moment please if you would."
Smothering a smile at the dumbfounded expressions gracing the faces of her in-laws and Bernard — that the President of the United States knew her by name — she made her way to where the distinguished gentleman was seated.
He leaned back in his chair to look at her as he made his request. "Lois, can we call you and your husband when we have reached a decision? You and your husband have the best system set up for contacting Superman than any of us might have."
Fighting now to keep her smile in, Lois nodded her assent, and then turned quickly before she baffled the poor man by laughing right in his face. She didn't know why but all of a sudden this all struck her as hilarious. The hysteria passed just as suddenly as it had hit her, and by the time that they were all out of the building, she was shaking. Martha put her arm around her daughter-in-law to steady her as they made their way to where the Jeep was parked.
Clark and the other two Kryptonians were meeting them back at the townhouse. Lois and the older Kents were taking Bernard with them and they were going to stop and pick up desert on the way home. The 'super' guests were stopping somewhere to get dinner — probably from China or somewhere like that. Clark knew what she and his parents liked, and after seeing Bernard eating in his lab, they knew that he would eat basically anything.
Clark and his complement of their guests had already made it home when Lois and crew pulled up in the Jeep. He raised an eyebrow questioningly at all they had bought when he came out to help bring it in. Lois shrugged. She had decided that if they were in the grocery store anyway, then she might as well stock up on some of the things that they had been running low on. Clark left Lois and his parents with the pies and cakes while he grabbed up the rest of the groceries effortlessly. After taking a quick glance around to make sure that there was no one around to witness it, he applied a little bit of superspeed to get the door for his wife and parents. He motioned for them to proceed him inside the door, and then he was in and had everything put away in the kitchen before they had even made it to the couch in the living room. It was handy, not having to hide his full abilities among these people — so much more could be done with just a little application of his superspeed.
Zara and Ching were sitting on the couch holding hands, an unconscious gesture of the couples' high emotional state. Public gestures of affection were frowned upon in Kryptonian society. But then again, they had said that they wanted to be more like the people of Earth, so maybe it wasn't quite as out of character as Lois thought.
They decided to eat informally, scattered around the living room. It was an uncomfortable dinner. Everyone was too tense and uncomfortable while waiting for the UN to make the call that would tell all assembled in the living room that the New Kryptonians were going to be allowed to stay.
Lois had been eyeing Zara's belly with longing, wishing that she was the one to be having a baby, but then she sighed. It was medically impossible for humans and Kryptonians to interbreed, at least as far as she and Clark knew. That's when it hit Lois! She all of a sudden sat straight up and turned to Zara as she realized that there must be a way. After all, the Kryptonians needed to be able to crossbreed with humans if they were going to survive.
Lois blurted out, with no regard for dignity, "Zara, Clark and I haven't been able to conceive, but if you stay here on Earth, there has to be a way, right?" Martha heard the undercurrent of deep longing in Lois' voice. She recognized it so quickly because she wasn't a stranger to the emotion herself. It was the way she had sounded before they had found Clark. Then as her daughter-in-law's words sank in, her heart leapt with joy. It was possible for Clark to be a father to a child with Lois. It was possible that she could and would be a grandmother!
Clark turned to watch Zara and Ching closely when he heard his wife's question — he so badly wanted to have children. This was very important to him and it would make the inconveniences that the New Kryptonians had put him and Lois through worth every second as far as he was concerned. Zara's face turned to them, surprise evident on her features, and said.
"You mean you haven't figured it out yet? It's so simple. All you need to do is bridge the gap in your physiology's."
Clark and Lois looked at each other as Zara's words made them see what it was that they needed to use… "Electricity!!" they chorused.
Bernard was totally lost, and why he had not been able to help was that the whole incident with Resplendent Man had been buried so thoroughly that no one had made the connection of Superpowers being shareable, not only transferable through the use of the red Kryptonite laser. As he had not been the personal physician of Superman at the time, it wasn't something that he would have even thought to experiment with. After all, the Man of Steel was powered by solar energy which was akin to electricity, but not one and the same.
"What are you talking about???" Bernard asked the room in general, his voice almost a wail. Like anyone, he hated to be left out of the loop.
To answer him, a new voice entered the conversation. "The powers granted to us by your yellow sun are transferable by large amounts of electricity. Without us losing anything, we can power up humans so that they are just a little less powerful than us."
Bernard turned to see a vision — a woman with long brown hair, studious eyes, and a body that would be at home in any lab. His heart did a funny little flip-flop as his eyes met hers. She ducked her head after a moment of wordless communication, a light flush dusting across the planes of her cheekbones.
She looked as if this powerful emotion that she was experiencing was something so new and strange to her that she had no idea at all how to deal with it. Lois and Clark, as well as Zara and Ching, had seen what had passed between the two scientists and they knew what was happening. After all, each couple had experienced it for themselves respectively. Dr. Bernard Klein was smitten, and it looked as if the strange Kryptonian woman was just as infatuated with him. The topic under discussion was probably what added a whole new dimension to the recognition of their being each other's soulmates between them as well. It would make them more determined to find a way for Kryptonians and humans to interbreed, just in case…right?
The new arrival introduced herself as Kela, a minor noble of the house of Ra, who had devoted her life to science. Thinking that she would never find a man suitable to be her mate, her life had been so totally involved with the studies that she had chosen that it had excluded all else. And it was that devoted study of hers that had allowed them to get the warning that the red sun that their planetoid orbited was unstable. It was due to Kela's research that they had saved as much of the youth populace that they had.
When she had discovered the anomaly in the radiation of their sun in her readings, she understood through her study of the former sun of Krypton what was happening. Kela went directly to her cousin Zara who, knowing Kela was a no-nonsense woman totally devoted to her chosen life's path, had acted and started the evacuation of the children to the palace almost immediately. When further monitoring of the sun's radiation spikes in Kela's readings had indicated that, if they did not leave the system of New Krypton immediately, they would be annihilated, they had left.
And it was just in time. As they had made the jump to hyper- space, the sun had already begun to implode, the first deadly rays making the jump rougher than usual, even from as far out as the moon. And again it was Kela that to whom Zara turned to make the calculations that told the survivors that, if they didn't find somewhere that was hospitable to them in climate as well as species, they wouldn't be able to survive anyway. That was when Zara had the idea to go to Earth. After all, Kal had flourished there — or better, she reminded herself, to call him Clark. It was his chosen name. Zara found that it had already been in the back of her subconscious as a choice, but her cousin's conclusions had just made the idea to emigrate to Earth a logical choice as much as it had been made on the instinctive level. Logical of course being the far more palatable course to the Kryptonian race than instinctive on any day of the week.
Lois had a thought that the idea of the Kryptonians coming to settle here on Earth was pre-ordained by the fates. The fact that she and Clark were soulmates, and now Bernard and Kela, made it look like…how many other matches were there going to be? Was this going to be commonplace — the meeting of souls between a Kryptonian and Earth native? If it was then they needed to get the New Kryptonians out there into the general populace, that would make it harder for the powers that be to get rid of them. Except that the majority of the refugees were children and how would they know when they had found their soulmate? Or was it even possible that children could recognize their soulmate if they found them? There were too many confusing ideas running through Lois' mind all at once. Lois realized that she was babbling in a hyperconscious stream to herself, and determined that she needed to be alone with her husband. Hopefully, she would be able to get her mental equilibrium back.
Standing so quickly that she made everyone around her jump back in startlement, Lois grabbed Clark by the hand and pulled. She wasn't trying to move him against his will, but to let him know that she wanted him to accompany her.
Effortlessly rising at her pull, giving the illusion that she pulled him up off the sofa where they had been sitting together, Clark followed his wife's lead. He was confused as he was tugged off in the direction of the patio attached to the townhouse. He had expected her to take him in the direction of their bedroom.
As soon as they reached the relative privacy of outside, Lois pulled him down into a soul-shattering kiss that would have been deadly to any other male that wasn't a Kryptonian. But Clark was just happy to be caught up in the moment with his wife. After she pulled away a bit, he sagged back to rest against the wall. His eyes caught hers as he was asking silently what had brought that on — what was bothering her. Lois just sighed as she found her gaze caught by the questioning gaze of her husband's warm chocolate eyes.
She turned away to break the spell between them, as well as to hide the tears that had started to well up as her mental equilibrium returned. "It's just that…" she paused to gather her thoughts a little better. "It's just that we had only just gotten used to the fact that we were unable to create children together, and now we have this whole new hope thrust upon us." She moved into his embrace to rest her head against his strong shoulder as she continued. "What are we going to do now, Clark?"
Clark himself sighed; it was something that he had been trying to put to the back of his mind. But since Lois had brought it up, he had to think about it. He did not try to fluff the issue either. He answered her from his heart. "I have been trying not to let my hopes rise up and drown me, but honey," he reached down to cup her face with his hand, "I must admit that the notion does make me feel very…" he paused and she took advantage to slip her head back to its resting place on his shoulder, loving the way that she could hear his heartbeat deep in his chest from the position.
He cradled her closer, instinctively knowing that was what she needed — an anchor to the world — and tried to find the right word to express what he needed to tell her what he was feeling. "Euphoric, I guess, is a good term, but there are levels that I dare not try to deal with right now — not if I am going to have to appear as Superman in the near future."
A sardonic smile crossed his handsome features as he finished with a smart-alecky comment. "Can't have the hero of the city all red and puffy eyed for no reason, now can we?"
She leaned back to look him in the eye, and he continued on a more serious note, "Well if I didn't appear that way in front of the UN, then I could hardly do it now, could I?"
Lois had to give him that. If he had received any news that would have upset him, they would have already seen evidence of it on his face. But she also could clearly see the barely restrained emotions that were seething in the depths of his soul. After all, they were mirrored in her own.
They both jumped as the phone rang inside, and they went in to see Martha pick the handset up off its cradle.
"Hello?" she asked pleasantly, and then motioned for Lois to come to get the receiver. Lois moved forward out of her husband's loose embrace to grab the handset from her mother-in- law's slightly shaking hand. She could hear Martha muttering as she moved away, "Sheesh, the president calls them himself — doesn't bother to designate that task to an underling. What else?"
Lois found with that warning that she could keep her cool remarkably well while she was talking to one of the world leaders who had called her. Normally she would have been a little flustered as well, but not in front of Zara and Ching was she going to blow her cool and in control outward demeanor.
Lois turned and hung up the telephone after making all sorts of agreement type noises, then slowly turned to face her house full of guests that were collectively on the edges of their seats. "Well, our esteemed bunch of leaders has decided that you are going to be allowed to emigrate!" The last part of what she said was almost crowing, Lois was so happy. She was quick enough to note the extreme look of relief that passed over the features of Bernard, and the heartbreaking joy in the faces of Zara and Ching that their child would have a safe place to grow and thrive, as well as any others that they might have.
Clark gave out a whoop, spun into his Super duds, and grabbed Lois up in his arms and spun her around, with her giggling like a schoolgirl the whole time. Bernard reached over and picked up Kela's hand tentatively but soon knew that he had done the right thing when she squeezed back gently.
The house positively rocked in celebration for the remainder of the night. Superman had made a brief appearance to thank the world publicly for allowing his people to emigrate, and to ask that any coverage be of a tasteful nature. The last bit was aimed at the obviously salivating tabloid rags at the ultimate edge of the gathering, but he promised that there would be plenty of interview chances in the upcoming week.
Then flying faster than anything that might be able to track him, he went back to his wife and parents and friends. Soon after he had gotten home, Perry had called as well as Jimmy. They had wanted to know where they could meet the Kents, both young and old, to celebrate. Lois had thrown her hands up in the air and just asked them over. Perry had arrived with Alice, and Jimmy had found that he liked the girl he had asked out on Clark's advice to be fascinating after all — so much so that she and he were engaged despite their first date being far from what would be called spectacular. No one else had called that anyone there had wanted to invite, so it was just a small gathering of friends celebrating their good fortune. But how they celebrated…
The next few weeks were rather hectic, and thankfully, nothing else really happened other than the struggles to get all the refugees settled onto their new home planet. Bernard and Kela had used their time well and had already fashioned a very inconspicuous device to allow a mild electric current to pass through a mixed Kryptonian/Earthling mating. After a ridiculously short amount of time, they had a fully functioning prototype, and so Lois and Clark were the guinea pigs to see if the gizmo would really work.
Four weeks to the day after the Kryptonians had been told that they were going to be allowed to stay, Lois and Clark both received calls at work that made the day seem to be impossibly long. As soon as they had finished what they were working on, they were out the door. Clark was dying to know what it was that Lois was holding so close to her chest, and she in turn, was curious to know what news Clark had received, but they both, to each other's chagrin, had decided to keep silent until they had made it home.
But when they reached the Jeep Clark did something that was unprecedented: he took the keys from Lois and opened the passenger door for her, and then he walked around to get into the driver's seat. Lois knew that this was part of her answer, so she went along a bit meeker than if she had thought that Clark had meant anything else by his actions. She therefore didn't give any outward sign of her surprise when Clark turned into S.T.A.R. Labs after he had been heading that way from the Planet, with only a brief stop at the florist on the way.
When they walked in, Bernard was waiting for them in the lobby, a stunned look on his face.
"So, Bernard," Lois questioned her friend, "what brings you here?"
The bemused scientist faced where the voice had originated and began to babble. "Oh boy! I have never, ever seen anything like that before, and it was so glorious and beautiful. Lois, I had no idea — absolutely no clue to what being truly present was going to mean. I also have the most incredible respect for womankind even more than I ever had before now, and to be painfully honest, I am also extremely grateful that I am NOT one! A woman that is."
Lois had already guessed what they were doing here, but if she hadn't by now, what Bernard Klein had just rambled on about made it that she knew without a doubt, and she had more to add to the subject, but not right yet. She wanted to let the glory be hogged by another until she stole the spotlight.
In an abrupt move, Bernard spun on his heel and began to walk away without even checking to see if they were following. They did follow though, and he led them through to a part of the complex that they had been to before, but now was to be used for another purpose entirely. The Kryptonians had wanted the privacy that the wing at S.T.A.R. Labs had offered them, and had improved it a bit so that it was even better. When your immediate neighbors could see through walls, it was a good idea to use a building that slowed that down.
They had improved the offices into apartments and converted the basements into a medical center…adding lead to all the walls and floors. So now they had quite a comfy living area, seeing that a lot of the children had been fostered out to various people that had been personally approved by Superman under his set criteria. Not too surprising was that they were all very happy with whom they had been placed. He had used his own adoptive parents as a template set, not that he had broadcast the little tidbit to the general populace.
Lois recognized soon enough that they were heading down into the basement level, and that was all the confirmation that she needed for her mind to solidify her suspicions. Soon they were walking into a room where a very tired looking Zara was lying back, holding a bundle wrapped in swaddling blankets. She looked up as she heard the noise that her guests had made as they entered. Kela was off to the side, marking down on a chart a bunch of strange characters that were the Kryptonian equivalent of writing, and then under them the English words, for documentation purposes. Ching was hovering on the other side of Zara, looking down with an incredulous look at the bundle in Zara's arms that was his child. Zara's face lit up as she saw who her guests were. She held up the bundle so that her friends could see the baby's face and said, "I would like to introduce you to Zois, named after a very special woman, but with Kryptonian tradition. The first Kryptonian to be born on earth."
Lois just stood stunned at the honor that Zara and Ching had shown her. They had named their baby girl after her.
"We had planned to name a boy after Clark," Ching threw into the silence, which had descended at the baby's name being spoken.
There was something else that Zara wanted to make sure of though as well, and she decided that there was not going to be a better time. "Clark and Lois, Ching and I have something to ask of you." She paused as Ching gripped her shoulder in reassurance. "We would like it if you would stand as her name parents, a tradition that is very like that of your godparents."
Lois and Clark were echoing the position of the couple that they were facing unconsciously, so when Lois moved forward, Clark knew that she was going to by the imperceptible shifting of her weight, and he was right with her.
When they reached the bedside, Lois held out her arms in an easily recognized gesture, and Zara handed up the baby to Lois. Lois looked down into tiny features and said out loud, "Well, young lady, I know that you are going to have a wonderful life with your parents, but if they can't be with you, Clark and I will make sure that you know what kind of people they were." Lois faced her husband and asked him, "Right, Clark?"
He could see the tears as a sheen over her dark eyes, magnifying the intensity that was always there. His own eyes misted a bit as he reached down to stroke the newborn's scalp. "Yes, we would be honored to be your daughter's name parents," he murmured to the parents of the child.
The intense longing that was written all over Clark's feature's prompted Lois to speak sooner than she had intended. "Well, at least we know that you won't be alone in your heritage for long." The quiet words were uttered in the general direction of her husband, as well as to the child she held in her arms.
Clark's eyes snapped to lock with his wife's and she smiled fit to split her face in half.
"Yes, Clark. We are pregnant! The gizmo worked."
For the second time in weeks, he grabbed his wife to spin her around in the air, gently this time because of the baby that she was holding. And for the second time in a very short time period, he whooped out loud! It was a good thing that they were in a reinforced building because sound levels of the type voiced would have brought a normal building down in no time.
Everything was right with the world as far as he was concerned. He wasn't alone in his powers anymore. He and his soulmate, Lois, were having a baby and none of their children were going to be as alone as he had been growing up.