By Carolyn B. Schnall <email@example.com>
Submitted November 2000
Summary: Superman disappears from Metropolis and winds up in the future on board the Starship Enterprise. A Lois & Clark/Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover, and a sequel to the author's "From the Stars."
All the Lois and Clark:TNAOS characters belong to DC Comics, Dec. 3rd Productions, Warner Brothers, TNT, etc. The Star Trek: The Next Generation characters all belong to Paramount. No infringement on their rights is intended.
Thanks to Ultracape, Dawn, and Neil. Thanks to all the FoLCs who encouraged me to write a sequel to "From the Stars."
This is a what-if story that explores what might have happened if two of my favorite TV shows had met in a cross-over fanfic, as in ST:TNG meets L&C:TNAOS, for the second time. Some fans may recall a small role played by certain actress with the initials TH in an early ST:TNG episode. This is a sequel to my earlier x-over story, "From the Stars," which you should read first.
Lois Lane watched from her vantage point of a doorway several yards down the alley from where Superman was confronting the latest malcontents to challenge his authority. She had promised Clark Kent, her husband of six months and the world's Superman, that she would stay out of trouble and, since he had been especially sweet to her lately, she was attempting to repay him by doing as he asked. Much as it went against the grain, she stayed out of the line of possible fire. Clark would bring her the exclusive Superman scoop in short order.
She watched as he stood in his usual position, arms crossed, humoring expression on his face, hair slicked back, cape billowing. His legs were slightly spread, which she knew he did on purpose to look bigger than he actually was. He had practically patented the superhero stance and relied on it to project a no-nonsense attitude. Sometimes that was all it took to convince his foes to give up. Occasionally, a criminal made it worse by firing a gun at him. Clark never wanted to chance a stray bullet catching Lois if she stood too close.
The guys he had cornered were the formerly successful scam artists Lois had been chasing for a couple of days. They had snookered several unsuspecting citizens out of various sums of money, not to mention jewelry, all over Metropolis, and Lois had drawn them out by playing decoy. Clark had agreed to the plan only because he had been able to hover overhead as Superman. At the appropriate moment, he had swooped down and taken over.
His features turned stern when one of the con artists pulled out a pistol and fired it at the big red "S." Superman let the bullets bounce off this time, though Lois reflected that she got a bigger kick out of it when he caught them instead. She watched while Superman stepped forward and snatched the gun out of the other man's hand. Superman crushed the firearm into powder between his thumb and index finger. Lois stifled a giggle. Superman's head turned slightly in her direction as she made a hasty attempt to wipe the smile off her face.
The two cornered men charged Superman, who deftly grabbed each of them by an arm and soon had them tangled in one another's limbs. They complained loudly until Superman told them in a deadpan,
"You should avoid such entanglements in the future."
"What are you, a freakin' fortune cookie?" one of them responded.
Superman ignored him, having resumed his normal stance, and he turned to join Lois where she stood. He abruptly halted and glanced worriedly around him. The air outlining his form seemed to shimmer with color, gold dominating the hues, and the electrically charged field was spreading over him. Suddenly, he was gone!
A scream echoed through the alley. Lois had lost her Clark!
Clark felt dizzy, as he heard a hum and sensed vibrations on a molecular level. He had the odd impression he was not quite occupying space. The alley, which had contained the two perpetrators and the love of his life, and in which he had just been standing, had dissolved away into an enclosed space. It was a strangely familiar sensation and he flinched, a subconscious memory heralding the arrival of a great pain, which never actually came.
Gradually all the strange physical manifestations subsided. Clark looked around at a room that he dimly remembered from somewhere but couldn't quite place. There was a dreamlike quality to what he was experiencing, as if this were a case of deja vu. He was glad he had been steady on his feet when he left the alley because at this very moment he felt distinctly unsteady where he stood.
A gasp of recognition emanated from a console in front of him. There stood two people, a man and a woman, and he found he recognized them, too. The names Miles O'Brien and Barbara Robinson leapt to his mind. He suddenly suspected that he knew where he was. With a great sense of foreboding, he corrected himself, for he now remembered "when" he was.
"Clark! Is that you?" Barbara had approached him from behind the console while O'Brien busied himself with summoning people to the transporter room. Clark was startled that she called him by his "adopted" name, then remembered that all these people knew all his names.
"Oh no," he groaned. "Not again!"
His renewed amazement with Barbara's resemblance to Lois fought for attention with the fact that he was stranded back in what he had hoped had been a bad dream.
"Oh, Clark," Barbara said as she approached him. "I'm sorry, I don't know how that happened!"
Her eyes were wide and not just with admiration as in their previous encounter. She seemed dazzled. Clark realized that the Super-suit, in all its resplendent, colorful glory, could be an overwhelming sight upon first observation. He also recalled that he had been wearing black the last time he had seen her.
Clark heard a whoosh and turned toward the automatic doors across the room. In walked a man of great dignity, self- possession, and command. Clark recognized him. It was Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise. Clark stifled the next groan that threatened to escape his throat. There was no doubt that he had somehow been transported again to the 24th century.
"Clark!" Picard exclaimed, real pleasure mixed in with the reassuring smile that accompanied his proffered hand.
"Captain," Clark countered, wishing he could wholeheartedly return the compliment while shaking the hand and resuming the stance. It seemed like the only behavior appropriate while wearing the Super-suit.
Barbara made way for the captain and scurried back to the console. She and O'Brien tried to locate the transport that Clark had somehow replaced. As they worked the controls furiously, the captain pulled Clark to one side.
"That certainly is a big change from when we last met," Picard remarked, referring to Clark's outfit.
"My mother made it for me," Clark replied, somewhat preoccupied.
"Although I never expected to see you again, I certainly am glad you are here!"
Clark eyed Picard after his last statement, trying to come up with a suitable response that would somehow not sound as upset as he felt. He had been a real basket case the last time this had happened and he wanted to be in better control of himself this time. Moreover, he did not want to be in this time period.
"Frankly, sir, I would be happy to see you if I weren't worried about being stranded in this time."
Picard nodded in understanding. He turned toward the two transporter personnel.
"Have you got it?" he asked somewhat tersely.
"Just got hold of it now, Sir," O'Brien answered, as he looked up to watch the transporter platform. In a moment, there was a shimmering shape and then it became solid.
Clark glanced back at the pod-like object on the platform and immediately felt lightheaded. This was a different sensation than he had ever experienced before.
"The technion transport is now complete," Barbara announced in a relieved tone.
Clark shook his head and found himself suddenly smiling. The urge to laugh overtook him unexpectedly. He started to giggle and he felt his shoulders shake. In seconds, he felt himself laugh out loud uncontrollably. He felt like singing. He even felt like dancing. He tried to talk but the words would not come out without every syllable being slurred. The other three people in the room were stunned. He could feel their eyes upon him but he couldn't stop laughing long enough to care. Moments later, he thought he heard through what seemed like a great big pile of gauze that Picard had given an order. Barbara hurried over to him and grabbed him by the arms. Seconds later, she was leading him out of the room and down to sickbay and he was laughing all the way. He put his arms around her shoulders and, by the time they reached their destination, he was hugging her strongly. She felt so good to him but a little voice in the back of his mind was questioning what the heck was happening to him, and the little voice was trembling with humiliation and fear.
Barbara led him in to see Dr. Beverly Crusher, who seemed agreeably surprised at the dramatic entrance made by a gorgeous young man in a revealing outfit, in primary colors no less, who was laughing his head off. It certainly seemed an improvement over the suicidal mood he had been in when she had last encountered him. Barbara was explaining to Beverly that Clark had become like an amiable drunk in a few seconds flat.
"What caused this to happen?" Crusher asked, cringing slightly. Clark's strong, full-throated laughter hurt her ears.
Maybe it was the unexpected return visit from the twentieth century?"
"Well, I doubt it. This seems like a drug-induced state to me."
Barbara thought about it for a moment. "It was the technion!"
"Lois," Clark drawled as he proceeded to draw Barbara into his arms. She tried to push him away but he was super-strong and wouldn't let go.
"Can't you do something? He's calling me Lois again!" Barbara sounded worried.
Beverly eyed Clark's show of affection but did not reply. Instead, she cocked her head to one side and grabbed a medical tricorder.
"His vitals are returning to normal for him, assuming I remember what that is from the last time he was here, without looking them up."
Clark found himself sobering up as she said this, and felt embarrassed at his loss of control. His ribs hurt from laughing and that fact was causing him some alarm.
"I'm sorry, I have never felt like that before!" He had blushed as red as his cape.
"You've never been drunk before?" Barbara asked, incredulity apparent on her face.
"No, alcohol never effects me. I tried a few drugs when I was in college but nothing ever seemed to give me a high before this, except…"
"Except Lois, right?" Barbara verified.
"Yes, thank you for remembering and I'm sorry I mistook you for her again just now. I don't understand how that happened and I really don't feel like laughing."
"That's okay, Clark, and welcome back!" Crusher assured warmly. Clark's face fell when she said that, however.
"Thank you," he managed. "Just exactly what is 'technion,' by the way?"
"It is a crystalline substance found in space and it has proven very useful as an energy source for certain types of instruments. We don't know its origin but I can show you a schematic of the geological breakdown."
"Yes, please," Clark urged. Beverly walked over to the wall computer console and verbally commanded the sickbay computer to display the compound known as technion. Clark watched wide-eyed as the display proceeded from a photo-like picture down to the molecular level. It was pink and it was crystalline and it explained everything. It was a form of Kryptonite!
"Oh boy," he uttered in understatement. "No wonder!"
"You're familiar with technion?" Crusher asked in disbelief.
"Yes…, well, no, I mean…" Clark sighed and then started over. "This substance is a rock which we, in my time, call Kryptonite, except that I have been exposed to only green and red Kryptonite before this."
"Kryptonite!" Crusher exclaimed. "A substance from your home planet?"
"Which blew up shortly after my birth." Crusher and Barbara looked sympathetically at the young man without a birth planet.
Clark did not want to get maudlin. "The green version can kill me, the red version has a different effect each time, but this pink version—"
"Made you drunk like pink champagne!" Barbara interjected, laughing.
Clark would have attempted to chuckle, at least, in response to her statement but found himself distracted by how much she again reminded him of Lois. Her laugh even seemed to hit the same musical note pattern as Lois'.
"It can't be that serious, can it?" Barbara asked, first Clark and then Crusher. "I mean, he wouldn't die laughing, right? Huh?"
Clark and Crusher eyed each other solemnly. Barbara started to open her mouth again when Crusher answered her.
"That would be an ironically horrible death. Actually, I don't think we have enough data to know one way or another. Last time, our transporter put Clark in great pain and then in a coma, which didn't happen this time. So I think we should see what we can find out."
"Can't I just stay away from the technion?" Clark wondered.
"Well, the part of space we are headed for will make that difficult but I think I should let Captain Picard explain that to you."
Clark nodded and allowed Barbara to escort him to guest quarters until Picard could clue Clark in on Crusher's assertion.
Lois had somehow calmed down enough to call the police to pick up the two thugs and she had expertly explained that Superman had been called away unexpectedly, which was the truth. At least she hoped it was.
Her mind was still reeling from the disappearance of the love of her life. Someone had snatched him but she didn't know who. She immediately thought of Tempus and wondered if H.G. Wells was about to make an appearance, but, as more time passed, and neither of them showed up respectively to gloat sarcastically or help earnestly, she began to wonder if it could be someone else.
Of course, she thought, hitting herself hard on the head. The New Kryptonians! They were the only other ones who had demonstrated that they had the technology to do what she had witnessed. As she headed straight home, where she expected a visit from Zara or Ching, she seethed with fury. How dare they?
Clark stared at the ceiling of the bedroom in his assigned guest quarters and tried to be calm. He had pulled off the Super-suit and had replaced it with sleep shorts, but he had not slept.
Three musical notes sounded strongly through the room and Clark realized they were the doorbell.
"Come in," he responded. As Picard walked into the sitting area, Clark got off the bed and met him a few steps from the sofas in the large quarters.
"I'm sorry if I woke you," Picard said, noticing Clark's state of undress.
"No, Sir, you didn't. I…can't sleep," he admitted.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Picard reiterated. He motioned toward the comfy-looking seats and they sat down together under one of the large windows, through which stars could clearly be seen twinkling like so many Christmas lights.
"I came to tell you something and to ask you something," Picard began.
"I have a feeling I'm not going to like this," Clark countered. Picard glanced into Clark's eyes at his remark but continued.
"What I have to tell you is that my engineer and science officers are fairly convinced that the technion is the cause of your unpredictable time travel, perhaps both times. We were carrying technion the first time and are transporting it this time."
Clark's furrowed brow was the only expression he betrayed. He was confused.
"But how did I come in contact with it in my time? I mean, I was being molecularly disintegrated last time. The technology seemed to be similar to your transporter."
"Well, I think it is possible that the substance used to do the disintegration part of the transport might have been a form of technion. If that is so, then you were subjected to it by your jailers."
Clark noticed that Picard avoided stating that said jailers were his own people and he appreciated Picard's diplomacy.
"But we don't know how I came in contact with it this time?"
"Well, I was wondering, since you were not familiar with the pink form of this element, you could come into contact with it and not be aware of its effects until a great deal of it was all in one place."
"That's as good a theory as any other, I guess."
"If we take this theory as a given, there may have been pink technion in your vicinity which served as a conduit through which you were unexpectedly transported in time and space. It could have been present again in your last location on Earth and then the conduit was reestablished."
"That sounds pretty fantastic, even to me." Clark was silent for a few moments as he ran the theory around his distressed brain a number of times. Perhaps he was still feeling the effects of this new pink version of his nemesis. Or perhaps he was just really worried he would not see Lois again. In any case, it seemed no clearer to him for the effort.
"We also think it might have something to do with an attraction that this element has to your unique physiology."
Clark's brows shot up and he wondered if there was really some truth to that part of the theory. He had not experienced, to his knowledge, any exposure to any form of Kryptonite until his first year as Superman, four years ago. Yet, he could not be absolutely sure about all the forms of the stuff. His powers seemed to develop steadily as he aged, so it would be hard to disprove the theory. On the other hand, perhaps it was only the pink form that was "attracted" to him. It was certainly ironic. Were it not so unseemly, he might even have enjoyed being inebriated for the first time in his life.
"What did you want to ask me?" Clark ventured. Picard seemed relieved and Clark realized that he had been so wrapped up in his own thoughts, he had not noticed that Picard had been waiting tensely for his next words.
"We are about to proceed to an area of space where we are assigned a very complicated mission. We are not even sure how we are going to accomplish the mission but your presence here seems to me fortuitous."
"We have a rescue mission ahead of us in a planetary system which boasts a unique phenomenon in which so called 'dead zones' surround each planet and moon. These zones counteract our usual technology and render most of our equipment useless. There is a colony of people who are stranded on the third planet."
"A colony?" Clark thought this seemed familiar.
"Yes, much like the New Kryptonians, from what you told me."
"I suppose they could even be New Kryptonians."
"Perhaps, except we know they are the Donnen party, seeking a new home. However, the reason we are carrying technion is because it is the power source of choice in the dead zone of space the Enterprise is to enter in order to effect the rescue."
"So you want to ask me for my help because they are like my people?"
"No, actually, I want to ask for your help because, according to our information about you, you will probably be able to fly through the dead zones where our engines won't work. If that is the case, you may be the only one who can carry out the rescue."
"But then I would be coming into regular contact with the technion, wouldn't I?"
"If you agree to help us, we will try to limit the exposure as much as possible."
"And how do I get home?"
"I frankly don't know. But I can promise you that we will be working on a solution all the way there and all the way back."
Clark saw the sincere look on Picard's face. The man had a positive way about him. His leadership ability and commanding presence were a powerful force. The man believed they would find a way and so he made Clark believe.
"I guess you need me and I need you," Clark stated, stepping up to the plate.
Picard looked even more relieved and held out his hand to Clark. Clark shook it and made a mental prayer that the mission would prove a success for them both.
Lois let herself into the townhouse and dropped all her stuff. Her purse and briefcase hit the floor as she stomped about in an utter and complete rage.
Those obnoxious New Kryptonians. They were never satisfied. Why couldn't they leave Clark alone? After all he had done for them. After all they had put him through. After all the havoc they had wreaked on the Earth. It was not enough that they had separated him from his loved ones, falsely accused him, nearly killed him! They had changed their minds and whisked him away again. Apparently, they could never live up to the noble ideals that Clark's biological father and mother had represented. No wonder Clark seemed like such a prince. He was the best of them and now they had him again.
After throwing half their possessions around the place in a total fit of outrage, Lois spent all the rest of her energy picking it all up and putting it all away. How she wished for her super-powered husband to come and set things right in seconds. How she wished for her super-powered husband to come home. How she wished for her husband!
*** At his request, Clark was issued a suit of clothes and boots that resembled the star-fleet uniforms worn by the crew of the Enterprise, except that it was all black and had no pips on the collar. He was also issued a comm badge, since it was the means by which doors would open for him and so that the captain and others could communicate with him as he moved around the ship.
At Crusher's request, he reported to the sickbay for tests on his reaction to technion. She started with small increments and gradually increased the exposures. He had not minded the tests until he started to giggle and then he was embarrassed.
Crusher seemed to sense his discomfiture and rearranged her tests so that he would not be subjected to the battery she originally had planned. She instructed the nurse to increase the amount of technion in the test sample.
Barbara Robinson entered the sickbay to check up on Clark's progress. Crusher was not surprised to see her, only surprised that she had not stopped by earlier. All the female crew, in particular, seemed to be going out of their way to be solicitous to the handsome young man from the past. Crusher thought this phenomenon was probably spurred by his forlorn facial expression.
As Clark braced himself for the last test, a nurse, who was transfixed by Clark's expressive eyes, tripped over her own feet. The technion she had been carrying went flying out of its lead-lined container and all over Clark.
Instantly, Clark was convulsed with laughter. His guffaws were uproarious, his giggles were contagious and his sides began to feel as though they were really splitting. As tears flowed down his cheeks, he looked about him anxiously. It was as though he were being tickled against his will. He had been lying on one of the examination beds in the center of the main sickbay room, and when the accident occurred, he jumped off the bed and was floating several inches off the floor. The staff, at first distracted by this super-feat, dived in to pick up the pink pieces but there was a lot of the stuff scattered all over the floor and furniture.
Barbara ran in and grabbed his hands, leading him, still floating, out into the corridor. As the doors shut behind them, he was alarmed that he was still laughing uncontrollably.
Barbara seemed to sense his growing panic and ran with him in tow down the corridor to his guest quarters. At some point, she felt herself being lifted off the floor as he seemed to understand where they were headed. He flew them along and several startled crew members, while amazed at the sight, had to get out of the way in the cramped conditions.
As they entered his quarters, he gently put her down, still laughing. His sides and stomach were really aching now and he headed toward the sofa under the big window. Barbara accompanied him, grasping him, trying to hug and soothe him.
Through the Kryptonite-induced haze, he saw Barbara but felt very confused. She called his name and then he could swear it was Lois he heard calling to him. He began to call Lois' name and had his hands on her arm and shoulder. He pulled her to him, terrified and yet, calmed by her touch. It had to be Lois. No one else seemed to have that effect on him. He drew her close and tried to stop laughing. Then he managed to stop the giggling long enough to kiss her firmly and fully on the mouth.
Barbara began to pull away, confusing him, and she tried to reassure him that she was not Lois but that she cared about him and didn't want him to feel alone. Clark shook his head, trying to clear out the gauze and the fog. All his muscles seemed to hurt and she was pushing him away. He tried harder to get her to kiss him back, finding it more difficult all the time to figure out what was going on.
"Clark!" she yelled close to his ear. His super-hearing was still working and he recoiled in agony, letting go of her and dropping to the floor, suddenly quite serious and sober.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Barbara babbled. Clark was amazed to find himself amused by this even though he definitely did not want to venture even a mild-mannered chuckle now that the full-blown, uncontrollable laughter had stopped.
Barbara was calling his name again in that oh-so-Lois-like voice and he suddenly had an insight into how Lois had felt when Alt-Clark had been brought in to help when he himself was missing from her universe. She had confessed her attraction to that other Clark and though he had accepted her confession at the time, he now felt he really understood her quandary. When the chemistry was so convincingly palpable, it was hard to intellectualize the truth, especially for him under the powerful effects of Kryptonite.
"I'm sorry, Barbara," he finally managed. "I get so confused while I am in that drunk-like state, I just…forgot." He lifted his head to look into her beautiful, Lois-like eyes, and he was almost lost again in the attraction. She smiled at him and he nearly reached for her. Instead, he abruptly rose off the floor and escaped into the bedroom. He knew it seemed rude to leave her like that but he was worried about his responses to her.
"Please," he called in to her. "Would you go reassure Dr. Crusher that I'm fine now?"
"Are you sure?" Barbara asked. "You can tell her yourself using the comm…"
"Please," he repeated, appearing in the doorway long enough to look her again in the eyes before stalking away from her. She was not his wife and he would do what he had to not to hurt her. A few moments later, he heard the doors whoosh as she left. He threw himself down on the bed and covered his eyes, moaning to his Lois, aching for her in the gloom of space.
Lois was frantic now. It had been two days since Clark's disappearance. She had stayed home, occasionally catching the news reports that purported Superman's disappearance. The two crooks in the alley had told the press what they had witnessed. Perry had called twelve times. Jimmy had come to ring the doorbell only to give up when Lois refused to come to the door. She feared she was going to do some real damage to Superman's reputation, not to mention Clark's secret identity. She didn't know what to do and she didn't know what to think.
After spending several hours doing little more than crying, she pulled herself together long enough to place a call to Smallville, Kansas. After a couple of rings, the kindly voice of Martha Kent answered and all Lois had to say was her name.
Martha, and then also Jonathan, talked to Lois in soothing tones, sharing their own fears, asking her gently what had happened, exhorting her to come to them.
She declined, asserting that Clark would come home first to look for her there, if he was going to return. After an hour or more of discussion, sympathy and reassurance, they all hung up.
Lois walked about the house, lost and lonely, unable to sleep, unable to fathom that she had not a clue as to what had happened to her husband. No visits had been paid by anyone with knowledge of him, neither New Kryptonian, future would-be Earth tyrant nor kindly presumed-dead science fiction writers. She finally dragged herself upstairs, swaying with exhaustion on the stairs, tears streaming once again in free-fall down her face. She stopped near the bedroom closet on her way to the bed and saw on a hook the last shirt Clark had worn before the caper in the alley. She picked it up and held it to her chest, sniffing his aroma from it, missing him with all her might. As she sank to the carpet, she moaned out his name. He had been gone from her for such a long time.
Clark had somehow fallen asleep after the embarrassing and painful technion accident. Crusher had visited him during the night to check up on him, not staying long but making certain that he was recovering and that he could hear her whispered apology. He had nodded in response, trying to get back to sleep. There was no sun here to help him recover and he was worried that his strength would ebb away before he could prove himself useful to Picard.
Dreams about New Krypton floated through his subconscious all night long. He had a nightmare about fighting his enemies without super-powers. A being resembling Lord Nor had appeared in the dream and the havoc Earth had experienced during the New Kryptonian's brief reign had recurred in dream after dream. The apocalypse experienced by Earth seemed to Clark to be a direct result of Nor's interference. Clark knew he had been anxious about a possible connection since his first visit to the Enterprise. Now he feared that the Utopian future that H.G. Wells had witnessed and tried to protect was lost forever, replaced by this Federation directed future, while Clark's own legacy was obliterated. He was uncertain of the meaning of this except that he seemed to be losing himself.
He also keenly felt during the dreams what it would have been like for him had he gone all the way to New Krypton and stayed. He would have been a very ordinary being there, as he was in danger of turning into here and worse yet, he would be without his Lois. He refused, even in dream-state, to accept Barbara as a substitute, for that seemed to him to be inordinately disloyal to Lois, and he tossed in his sleep in defiance of it.
Finally, Clark woke to Barbara's breakfast for him in bed. Considering his recent resolve, even in his sleep, he decided that he could not be rude but that he would have to remind her of his situation. In addition, he had to learn how to lock his door.
"Barbara," he started, sitting up. The blanket slipped down and Barbara was starring at him again, as she had on his previous visit. He pulled it back up and opened his mouth to speak to her when she exclaimed,
"I know, you're going to remind me that you are married and that I should be leaving you alone and that you don't want to hurt me and that you have to conserve your energy and that you need to rest after what happened yesterday but I was worried about you and you seemed so ill yesterday and…" Clark was amused and amazed by this very Lois-ish riff but as he moved to answer her, Deanna Troi requested entry.
"Hello, Deanna," Clark greeted her as she stepped into the bedroom. Her eyes widened slightly and Clark instinctively pulled the blanket up again.
"Hello, Clark, Barbara," Deanna responded in measured tones. "How are you feeling today, Clark? I believe you have been having a difficult time."
"I'm fine," he affirmed. Deanna blinked, clearly not believing him but also seeming to sense that he was not going to admit anything else. "Barbara, why don't you put down the tray where Clark can reach it and then we can give him some privacy?"
Barbara blushed and then moved very quickly, placing the tray on the bedstand, and heading out the door, waving and muttering her leave-taking as she went.
Clark let out a sigh of relief and Deanna gave him a small smile of reassurance. Then she left, as well. Clark fell back on the bed and examined his dreams in the cold light of Enterprise day. His future seemed so uncertain.
Lois had parked her Jeep at the airport and she took the first plane to Kansas, where she rented a car and drove the last leg to Smallville. She had spent a good deal of this time avoiding talking to anyone, covering her head and face, and worrying about Clark. She was worried about her decision to go to Kansas but she had decided that she needed to be with his parents and that Clark would look for her there once he read the note she had left for him. She was also worried about something else — she was late.
She supposed it could be due to the extreme stress she had been under for the last half week but she also knew that her cycle was not usually affected by all the odd and strange events that had befallen her and Clark in the last four years. She did sometimes experience intestinal distress and huge hungers, but her monthly periods were almost never late. And this time she was late by several days.
She reflected that it was a bad time for her to have left Metropolis. Her gynecologist was there and when she considered the ramifications of a pregnancy by a Kryptonian, she knew that she should have verified the possibility. But she could not bring herself to think about that just yet. There would be time later, she hoped, if she did not automatically miscarry. She could not bear to think of it, but every few minutes the worry rose back to the surface. She tried to concentrate on where she was, on where she was going, on whom she was going to see, and on whom she hoped she was going to see again.
Finally, after what seemed like endless driving through wheat fields, she pulled off the main road and onto the side road leading to the Kent farm. Somehow, knowing she was back where Clark had grown up made her feel closer to him. She looked out over the surrounding area as much as she could, buoyed by the powerful beauty of the place, and touched by the sense of loneliness that she knew Clark had experienced all too much. She realized that flying there with him had spoiled her and that she had somehow missed the simple fact that this place, so dear to him, had shaped him and yet, had held him back. He had been shielded by it and secluded by it — wide open space that closed him off from his destiny. She sensed that he felt that way now, wherever he was.
She drove into the farmyard and, as she turned off the engine and emerged from the car, Clark's parents walked out of the house and onto the porch. As she walked to the porch steps of Clark's home, she collapsed, exhausted, into the warm, open- armed embrace of Clark's family.
Clark had mulled over his situation for hours and realized that most of what kept him in bed was a hangover-like reaction to the technion. He experienced a headache and muscle aches but he was also fighting a deep depression. It seemed that the ship just seemed to cause that reaction in him. In many ways, it was like the New Kryptonian palace he had been in. It reminded him of the horrible experience he had had there and his last visit here, which had nearly caused him to lose his mind.
Somehow, he had found his way back to Lois then, and somehow he was going to find his way back to her now. He just didn't know how.
Lois sat in the Kent's kitchen, taking some comfort in the slightly old-fashioned quality of the cabinetry, yet taking in the familiar sight of the microwave oven on the far corner counter. Martha was bringing steaming cups of cocoa to the table as Jonathan entered from the barnyard. They took seats on either side of her, saying very little, waiting for her to speak first.
Lois glanced into their faces and took a fortifying sip of the sweet, welcome drink. Then she began to tell them in a low, unemotional voice the entire story, including the events leading up to the incident in the alley, Clark's disappearance, and every other thought or feeling she had experienced since that time. She even told them that she thought she might be pregnant, her voice cracking when she finally got to that part.
Jonathan grabbed her up in a hug that so reminded Lois of the hugs Clark gave, that she gave in to the emotion and sobbed in his arms. Martha rubbed her back and murmured encouraging words. Lois could tell they were both very worried about their son and about her and her possible pregnancy. She wanted to comfort them back but felt unequal to the task. Then she decided that she would be letting Clark down if she didn't make an attempt.
She disentangled herself from Jonathan's embrace and dried her eyes. She looked them each in the eye, sat up straighter in her chair and tossed her hair back from her face.
"I know he seems to have been gone a long time and I can't express to you how grateful I am for your support but I'm not giving up on him. He's going to come back if he can. I just know it."
"Yes, Lois, you're right!" Martha responded. Jonathan tried to summon an encouraging smile.
"That's the spirit," he managed, a slight tremor evident in his voice. This time, she hugged him.
It seemed to Clark that a very long time had passed, perhaps several days, when he finally received notification by Captain Picard that the Enterprise was within a few light years of their destination. Clark reported once again, upon request, to the sickbay.
As he entered the main examination area, Dr. Crusher greeted him with thanks and showed him once again to the center exam table. On a utility table nearby were some devices he couldn't recall seeing before.
He hopped onto the table and sat with his legs dangling off the side. Crusher came to his side and pulled the utility table close by. Clark noticed that Geordi La Forge and Data were also in attendance. Clark nodded a greeting to them.
"These are technion devices," she began, gesturing towards the table. "We developed them using as little technion as possible. One is a communication device and the other is a technion phaser. These are standard Federation Away Team equipment."
Clark nodded and he now surmised that Geordi and Data had lent a hand in retooling the devices Crusher referred to, but was preoccupied with why the devices were not causing the usual allergic reaction — neither a giggle nor even a smile.
"I'm about to deactivate the force field surrounding them. You may then experience the same reactions you did before. But just to warn you, we synthesized some of the green variety to counteract the pink. You may also therefore experience some pain."
Clark now understood that the advanced technology was taking the place of a lead-lined box. He steeled himself and nodded again, then called a halt.
"Doctor, I will not be needing the phaser. I never carry a weapon. However, I can see that being in contact may be necessary. So if we can proceed with just the communicator, I would appreciate it."
Beverly paused, nodded her agreement, then took a moment to inform the Captain. She picked up a medical tricorder and adjusted the force field so that one device only was inside it. Clark immediately felt the effects of the other as soon as it was outside the force field. His head began to pound and he felt lightheaded. Worse yet, a groan escaped his throat and he had hoped not to have another embarrassing moment with so many witnesses.
Clark saw the concerned look in the doctor's eyes, took a deep breath and pressed his lips together. There was no other way and he knew it. He straightened up and mentally determined that he would put up and shut up. He would carry out his commitment to Picard. Then he would find his way home. Lois was waiting for him and he could get through this somehow so he could get back to her.
Lois turned over in the single bed in Clark's old room. There was a quiet, soothing atmosphere in this room that she loved. The light seeping in through the curtains seemed to be heralding a spectacular Kansas day. She glanced around at the now familiar objects that Clark had left behind long ago when he had embarked first to college and then on his world travels. She took the same comfort she knew Clark had taken from their presence.
By her standards, it was fairly early in the morning, though she knew that Jonathan and Martha had probably both been up for many hours by now. Lois kept resolving to herself that she was going to get up with them and lend a hand, but in the three days that she had been there, she had not felt up to doing more than moping about. She tried putting on a brave face but could not distract herself. She could not cook as well as Clark's parents and she was a city girl with no experience with farm animals or crops. She had managed to collect some eggs, but that was about it.
A stiff, severe cramp asserted itself in her lower abdomen with some ferocity. Lois hauled herself up out of the bed and into the bathroom. She was astonished to find that she was bleeding. She stared at the red, sticky fluid without comprehension at first, wishing for caffeine and clarity. Then she knew. She was not pregnant. At least, not anymore.
As she cleaned up and staggered back into the bedroom, she was not sure why she was not hysterical. If Clark came back, they could try again. But if he did not…
She wept quietly into her pillow for a few minutes, almost unable to bear that last thought. Then she forced herself to calm down. She stood and wrapped herself in Clark's old robe, noting that it went nearly twice around her. She had to break the news to his parents. She would tell them what she had to believe. It was a sign that he was coming back. And that was all there was to it.
Clark stood in the immense shuttle bay in his Super-suit and tried not to look too wide-eyed at the vast view of the stars it presented. Although he had been in space countless times, there was something about the way the open bay doors framed the vista that Clark thought underscored the impressive human accomplishment that this starship represented.
He glanced over to the growing group of officers to his left. There had been a briefing about the mission in the bridge briefing room after which he had expected that he and Worf would proceed together to the shuttle bay and he would fly off to the planet in the dead zone. The briefing seemed to last a long time despite his request that they not make a big deal about the mission. The crew was being thorough but Clark had wanted to get started. When the briefing finally ended, the entire assemblage followed him to the shuttle bay. He felt a bit like the Pied Piper, especially since several other crew members had joined the entourage.
This phenomenon had occurred on Earth several times. It had something to do with people wanting to watch him fly and see how he looked in the Suit, or so Lois had told him. Clark found himself scanning the crowd for Barbara's face. He saw Data and Deanna, Geordi and Worf, Riker and Crusher and even her son, Wesley. Clark nodded toward Picard, trying to project more confidence than he felt. Finally, standing in the far corner, he saw Barbara, looking especially like Lois, her face a mask of anxiety and excitement. He felt his concentration slip but he steeled himself. He was ready.
Dr. Crusher stepped forward and affixed the technion/Kryptonite communicator to his "S" and he fought the lightheadedness and pain for a few moments. Then he stood up straight, scanned the crowd one last time and took off and out toward the planet surface, trying to ignore the collective gasp of the onlookers. He fervently wished he were headed toward Earth and Lois.
*** Lois picked up the phone for the umpteenth time and dialed her mother's number. As it rang, she nearly hung up again. Then she was struck with how ridiculous it was. She held the phone with both hands and stayed the course.
Finally, her mother picked up the phone and, with her usual tendency toward over-excitement, greeted her caller with a falsely cheerful voice.
"Hi, Mother," Lois began. She waited while her mother launched into her patented line about Lois and Clark disappearing and how she was so worried and that she had been forced to change her anxiety medication again and that Sam was also worried and that he had been ready to call in the police since no one knew where Lois was.
"I'm sorry, Mother," Lois finally interjected. "Clark and I are visiting his parents. That's all."
Her father grabbed the phone and Lois nearly broke down and told him about the bleeding but she bit her lip and listened while he repeated the tale about how he and Ellen had tried to contact both Lois and Clark at home and at the Daily Planet and that the whole world wanted to know what happened in the alley when Superman had disappeared.
Lois wanted so much to tell them her fears but they did not know the secret and telling them was supposed to be a decision she and Clark were to make together. She weathered the torrent of worry, asked about her sister Lucy and finally managed to ring off with the promise that she and Clark would visit but that right now they were ducking their fellow members of the press. She made them promise not to say where she was and they agreed, with protestations of love. She wished she could relay them to Clark.
Clark actually welcomed the flight to the planet in the Super- suit. It felt more normal to him than anything else in his stay in this century. He had decided to wear it rather than the Federation-like uniform he had been sporting for that very reason. Being Superman did give him a big charge that was only rivaled by his love for Lois.
Clark sped along toward the atmosphere and touched the communicator to activate it, grimacing as his skin came into contact with it. The technion and the Kryptonite were threatening to break his concentration but he renewed his focus and increased his speed. Picard's voice had responded and Clark managed to ask him to stand by, and let him know that the device was working.
As Clark broke through the atmosphere, he could tell that the reddish sun here did not break through the atmosphere very efficiently. He wondered how the colonists had managed to survive, mindful that his own people had faced such conditions as these, by their accounts.
He located the colony compound and hovered discretely at first, trying to gauge conditions. It was daytime here, but there did not seem to be anyone about. Clark landed, finding the air a little thin, the gravity a little light. He found that it took some of his super-strength to cope with the difference from Earth's norms, which were also the settings on the Enterprise. Clark looked around and then spotted what appeared to be a small child, a girl, crawling out to him from the relative shade of a roughly hewn shack.
Clark stepped forward and lifted her gently to her feet. She looked him up and down with wide eyes.
"Who are you?" she asked in a tiny voice.
"The people on my planet call me Superman. I'm here to rescue you."
Clark was rewarded with a dazzling smile from the small girl. She ran from him, yelling at the top of her lungs, a surprisingly loud sound, summoning her neighbors, her parents, her friends. Scores of ragged looking humans and humanoids emerged timidly and gathered around her and Clark. They registered a range of emotions from disbelief to gratitude to relief and Clark was suddenly very glad he had agreed to carry out this mission. He could see that they were near starvation and that he had to get them all to the Enterprise as soon as possible. Some of them touched Clark gingerly, as if they did not quite believe he was real.
After some time, the colonists understood that they had to quickly gather only that which they could carry and board the ships that had brought them there. There was a general hubbub, but so eager were these people to leave this wretched place, that there were very few problems. Still, Clark was very busy helping move those people whose health had not held up and also those items deemed necessary to retrieve but too heavy for the colonists to manage on their own.
There were five large vessels in which to transport the colonists, and they each reminded Clark of the space station on Earth that he had rescued just as the New Kryptonians had arrived. He was going to have to lift and propel each one of them to the Enterprise because refitting them all with new technion driven engines was no more viable than it had been to refit the Enterprise, now station-keeping just beyond the zone.
Fortunately, the lighter gravity helped him, but the first vessel was heavier than he had thought it would be. He knew he was facing the limit of his abilities, especially with the lack of exposure to a yellow sun for so long. But he was more determined than ever to get the job done. And so he hoisted each ship into the atmosphere, proceeding into space and onto the Enterprise, in turn.
He felt himself getting weaker and more tired with each run. Every time he had to contact Picard or his crew, he had to touch the device that threatened to break him down. In his present state, he knew that after the mission he would be good for nothing for some time or until he reached a yellow sun. As he lifted the fourth ship, he felt his knees start to buckle but renewed his determination.
He would not stop and rest on the Enterprise as long as he knew there were more colonists to retrieve. Finally, he pulled the fifth and final transport off the planet, every muscle complaining, and hit the communicator for the last time to signal his imminent arrival with the last transport. He felt the pain travel up his arm and thought he was going to drop the colony ship as a guffaw nearly escaped his lips.
He eased the ship in through the shuttle bay doors and set it down, every fiber of his being wracked with exhaustion and strain. Somehow, he managed to give it a soft landing. The transport doors opened wide and the little girl Clark had first seen came running towards him, her arms spread wide to hug him. Clark's vision blurred as he tried to bend over to greet her, but instead of receiving her thanks, he keeled over in a colorful heap and the little girl screamed.
Numbly, Lois packed her bag in an automatic way, paying little attention, except that all her stuff had started out on the bed and now was in her suitcase. A small voice inside her head told her she should care how she had packed so that her slacks would not be wrinkled when she got home but the rest of her brain was not listening.
She had finally come to the conclusion after five days that she could no longer hide out. Her job and Clark's were probably in jeopardy and she needed to protect that part of their lives for his return. She was still trying to make herself believe in that return even though each passing day seemed to cast new doubt on the possibility. It was time she faced the music and Perry White.
She had not yet decided what to tell Metropolis and the world about the whereabouts of Superman, or of Clark, but she knew she would come up with something before she left Kansas. She intended to discuss it with Clark's parents at dinner that evening and she would set out in the morning. She still hoped that when she got to Hyperion Avenue, that Clark would somehow be there waiting for her.
She tried not to think about the bleeding or of the pain she felt at Clark's absence, except that every other thought led back to one or the other. Then she felt sure she knew that Clark was alive. Then she had a strong feeling that he was injured or near death. Once more, the tears raced down her cheeks as she closed the suitcase.
Clark awoke slowly and painfully, a part of his brain hoping he was in his own time and place. But as his senses each awakened, he knew even before he opened his eyes that he was on the Enterprise. His Super sense-of-smell had picked up the peculiar combination of chemicals and gasses that made up the shipboard atmosphere, including scents that he had encountered only here or else aboard the New Kryptonian mother ship.
His head threatened to explode and this was not helped by the growing depression. This, too, was a remnant of his previous visit to this time and place. He finally opened his eyes and glanced about the sickbay. There were many other people nearby, but he was in a small room off to one side. His Super- suit had been removed, adding to his discomfiture, and he was clad only in a gown and shorts.
Dr. Crusher came into the room and bent down to whisper softly to him that he was going to be alright, that he should sleep some more and that she would try to seclude him so that there would be as little noise as possible to bother his headache. He nodded, realizing that sleep seemed very appealing.
He closed his eyes and thought he heard Picard's voice telling him gratefully that he had done a good job, that all the colonists were saved, and that the ship was headed back to Earth now.
Then Clark dreamed of Lois, kissing Lois, loving Lois…
Lois came down to dinner, hoping her eyes did not appear as red as they really were. She trusted the Kents completely but did not think it was good for them to be able to tell she had been crying even if they were the only other people on Earth who really understood why.
Jonathan was cooking his spicy fried chicken in her honor and Martha was putting the finishing touches on one of Clark's Super-capes that he had left with her for repair.
"Can you fit that in your suitcase?" Martha asked.
"I think so," Lois responded absentmindedly, as she hugged the cape in her arms. She stood like that near the kitchen table while Martha and Jonathan exchanged looks. Lois then roused herself from her faraway thoughts.
"We have to decide what to tell people about the disappearance of Superman and of Clark Kent," she announced. She sat down at the table and Clark's parents sat down too. It was going to be an interesting dinner.
Clark felt as though it was taking a very long time to recover from his collapse. The journey home seemed to take a long time too. The technion and Kryptonite that had been used in the communicator, combined with the enormous energy output it had taken to rescue the colonists, plus the lack of a yellow sun to rejuvenate him, had laid him very low. He might have asked to be taken to the nearest yellow sun but felt that it would only delay the journey home.
Eventually, Clark recovered enough to return to his quarters, to dress and to receive visitors. Practically the entire crew seemed to have dropped in on him, either to express admiration for his feats or to inquire about some detail regarding the planet or his recovery. A few asked about Earth in the 20th and 21st centuries and some of the colonists came to apprise him of their unending gratitude. Clark, who normally loved talking to people, found the visits to be an ordeal, especially Barbara's visits as he felt he had to stay away from her. Then Barbara brought the little girl he had met first on the planet.
Clark was touched when the small child ran to him from his doorway and threw her arms around him. She hugged him tightly around the neck and he carefully hugged her back. She seemed so delicate that he was afraid she would break. Finally, she asked him where the pretty suit was and Clark was unexpectedly moved. He was relieved that Barbara had not stayed.
"I hope to wear the suit again soon," he whispered to the little girl. She stayed with him for a few more minutes, then she left, kissing him sweetly on the cheek. When she was gone, Clark called on Picard in his ready room off the main bridge.
"When we reach Earth, I would like to try and re-enact the transporter accident that brought me here. I think it will be my ticket home."
Picard's face was a mask at first but then his features softened.
"Of course, we will even run simulations on the holodeck to see if we can find the cause."
Clark only vaguely knew what he meant but in a few days he was pleased to receive a report that the transporter team would be ready to re-enact the exact circumstances. All he had to do was figure out where they should drop him off. He would not be able to fly right away, at least not for a few hours. Home, he thought. That was where Lois was. And somehow, he felt sure he knew exactly where she was going to be.
Lois wandered out into the fields after dinner. It had been rather an exhausting meal. Lois and Martha and Jonathan had discussed almost to the point of argument what to tell the rest of the press about Superman as well as what to tell people about Clark and had not come to an agreement. Finally, Martha had suggested that Lois should say whatever she had to in order to protect Clark and that Lois might not know exactly what to say until she got back to the Daily Planet. This had ended the discussion over coffee and pie and not a moment too soon, as far as Lois was concerned.
She wandered towards the west, following the setting sun, as it turned the horizon a multitude of colors. The wheat was waving about and Lois lost track of time, finding comfort in the tranquility of the scene.
As the light faded, Lois realized that someone was walking way out there in the distant field. She could not see very clearly, since the setting sun was at the back of the lone figure moving toward her in silhouette. She wondered who could be out there at this time, trespassing on the Kent farm. Perhaps it was Wayne Irig. After the stress of the last few days, she began to wonder if there really was someone out there or if it was just a wheat-induced mirage. She mentally made a note to give her "Farmboy" Clark a piece of her mind for not warning her about hallucinogenic crops.
As the lone figure got closer, she realized with a start that there was something familiar about the roll of the shoulders, the deliberateness of the stride, the confident athletic grace of the movement. The figure seemed to be advancing in the rhythm of a stately march, like something by one of her favorite composers, Beethoven or better yet, Holst. Perhaps The Planets, the Jupiter movement in particular. Though it was twilight, she thought she saw something brightly colored waving in the breeze behind the figure's wide, square shoulders. Her heart began pound. She dug her nails into her palms to make sure she was not dreaming.
Without conscious thought, her feet gained speed and her breathing became a series of short pants as she surged forward through the field. She recognized him. She could hardly believe it. It was Clark. It just had to be. If it turned out to be Mr. Greenjeans from the next farm, she would laugh it off or cry about it later. That was her Superman coming towards her through the rye, or the wheat, she was sure of it, and she couldn't stand how long it was taking to get to him.
She was reminded of that time when she had thought he'd been killed by gangsters before she knew the secret and he had miraculously come back to her out of the shadows. She heard herself laugh out loud towards the big graying sky. She could see now the big red and yellow "S" shield on his broad chest and the gleaming white teeth of his animated smile. And in the next moment, she was in his muscular arms, his full lips on hers, his strong hands holding her.
"Oh, Lois," he murmured against her lips.
"Clark, Clark, don't ever leave me again," she exhorted, nearly swooning as she gazed into his loving eyes.
"I never will," he promised instantly, then added, "Not if I can help it."
She managed a giggle, expecting that he would tell the story of his adventure in due time and continued kissing him as he swept her up and carried her back to the farmhouse. All was right at last with the world of Lois and Clark.