Smallville Players III: The Final Curtain

By Barbara Pillsbury <megats1776@yahoo.com>

Rated: PG-13

Submitted: June 2003

Summary: The stage is set for the third story in the author's series "Smallville Players." What mysteries hidden in Smallville will come to the surface? Will Lois and Clark's relationship survive?

Smallville Players III: The Final Curtain is the third in an LnC elseworld series. (See Smallville Players - posted to the archives on July, 2002 and Smallville Players II: The Next Steps - posted to the archives on October, 2002)

In this world Lois Lane and Clark Kent are teachers at Smallville High School, and are participants in the Smallville Players, a talented community theatre group directed by Martha Kent; where they met, fell in love and became engaged in 1993.

As Smallville Players III begins in early 1994 and then returns to 1938 to span several decades, vacillating back and forth abruptly between the various years and between months within those years, as well as between several locations which highlight the lives of the characters that live there; I encourage the reader to pay very strict attention to the dates and places before each section. Hopefully this will be sufficient to enable the reader to navigate my jumbled mind.

Interlaced within this story is, as usual, a number of scenes from a theatrical play; but also interspersed are radio announcements, music and drama.

The use of a character's name—slash—Smallville name will allow the reader to envision the play within the play while

###

will set off the various radio broadcasts.

The pieces of material used from various other mediums will be cited and credited at the end of the story. I urge the readers to read the end credits as it will be informative and acknowledges my indebtedness to these sources.

As usual there are just so many people to thank: Erin, LabRat and Bethy who got me started, Tricia, Wendy, Karen, who kept me going, Carol, Meredith, Pam, and Saskia who made such wonderful suggestions and Cristina, Maria, Merry, Shells and Rose whose comments meant so much to me. But most of all my thanks goes out to Laswa, my incredible BR who has acted the part of my wonderful and insightful muse and to whom I dedicate this story.

***

Libby Barton took a gun And killed her family, everyone…

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 14, 1994 8:20 p.m. CST

Clark moved a lock of hair that had fallen over one of Lois' soft brown eyes, and gently placed it behind one ear. He gazed longingly at the beautiful woman standing in front of him. She was so brilliant, so gifted, and so utterly incredible. He looked deep into those eyes, searching for the love reflected there.

"…I…I can't wait that long. Where could we be married in a hurry—say tonight?" he said, as he reached out and lightly cupped his hand next to her cheek. He moved his thumb ever so slowly over her delicate cheekbone and leaned in to kiss her, as he had done so many, many times before. But this time it was completely different, this time they were…

"Stop!" Martha Kent's voice rang out from the third row of seats in the darkened auditorium of Smallville High School.

Clark pulled back and turned toward the sound of the shrill voice. Lois took a couple of steps back and folded her arms across her chest, a gesture closing him out—a gesture Clark had become all too used to this past week.

"What's wrong with you two?" Martha asked coming quickly up the steps to the stage. "You're supposed to be in love with each other! You're supposed to be engaged to be married," she explained, excitedly waving the script of 'Arsenic and Old Lace' at both of them.

Clark looked down at his feet, while Lois couldn't even meet Martha's gaze.

"Clark," his mother continued. "Try to focus. You're Mortimer Brewster, a very brash young critic for the Metropolis Star. It's 1938 and you're here, standing in the living room of your aunt's home, kissing the love of your life, your fianc‚e. You're trying to convince her to make it a very short engagement. She's somewhat apprehensive and you're reassuring her by showing just how much you love her," she directed.

"Lois," she went on, turning toward the woman, whom she had furtively hoped would one day be her daughter. "You're acting the part of Elaine Harper, Mortimer's fianc‚e. And, although the daughter of a minister, you're extremely passionate; and most of all, you're wildly in love with Mortimer Brewster."

Martha looked back and forth at both of them and sighed. "I just don't see it, and I definitely don't feel it." Painfully, she gazed down at where the engagement ring was now missing from Lois' hand. "Clark, Lois," Martha said gently. "Let's forget the play for a minute. Can't we please just talk about what's really going on with the two of you?"

Clark glanced up at Lois. He didn't want to talk about it. He wasn't even sure if he could continue with this pretence. Of course he was just rehearsing a play and he was supposed to be acting a part; and he, Clark Kent, *did* love Lois Lane; but Lois no longer loved him—she was in love with another man and it was his fault.

"Clark?" his mother asked?

Clark turned on his heels and resolutely walked off the stage.

***

Metropolis, New Troy Monday, February 14, 1994 11:30 p.m. EST

Richard Thurston picked up the phone in his hotel suite and dialed her number. As soon as he heard her voice, he smiled. "Lois, darling," he said. "I wanted to call you and ask if you received the flowers I sent today, to wish you a happy Valentines Day, and to tell you that I love you."

Lois Lane looked over at the two dozen long stemmed red roses, fanned out amidst several sprays of baby's breath, which resided gracefully in a crystal vase that now adorned her dining room table. She took a very deep breath, and calming her shaking voice, she answered. "Yes Richard, they're lovely. And when will you be back in Smallville?"

"I'm so sorry, dear, that I had to return to Metropolis for some business; but I should be home soon. I miss you."

"I miss you, too," Lois echoed numbly.

"Til' then, love," he said softly, and hung up the phone.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 14, 1994 10:35 p.m. CST

As Lois put down the receiver, a tear trickled down her cheek. She swiped at the teardrop and tried to gain solace from the framed quotations hanging on her wall— quotations by Thoreau, her favorite author. 'The only remedy for love is to love more' she read. Yeah, right!

She turned on her heels and walked deliberately over to the coffee table and picked up the glass case that held the beautiful quartz rock from Brazil, a piece of quartz that Clark had given to her four months before. Well actually it was Superman who had given it to her, and then Clark had finished the engraving on the pink stone, letting her know he was Superman and that they, uh…he loved her.

Clark *had* loved her. But he loved her no longer.

Lois thought of that evening's rehearsal and how Clark couldn't even *act* as if he loved her. Anger welled up inside of her, and she threw the case holding the precious stone onto the floor, where the glass shattered.

"No!" she yelled, and sank down onto the floor to pick up the pieces to try to…to what? Put it back? Back together again? Could she ever put what she and Clark had had, back together again? Could they ever re-ignite the love that they had once shared?

One of the shards pierced her finger and several droplets of blood fell, bringing her back to face reality. She glanced at her cut finger; and turning her hand over, rubbed the vacant spot where her engagement ring used to reside. The pain resulting from the cut finger was infinitesimal when compared to the pain she was feeling because of Clark shutting her out of his life.

She put her finger in her mouth and closed her eyes to try to stop the tears that were welling up inside her once again. Clark didn't love her any more. He didn't want her any more. Once again, she was all alone. Alone! For years she had believed being alone to be a good thing—to be on her own, independent, beholden to no one but herself.

Yet over the past few months, she had learned how wonderful love could be. Lois Lane, self-reliant, autonomous career woman—had felt how a nurturing and warm relationship could enfold her—keep her close, keep her safe.

She could still feel Clark's arms around her, his lips on hers—their desire moving them closer and closer to…but no! She wouldn't let her mind go there. There *was* no Clark! There was only Lois, alone again to face the world. No, there was Richard.

***

Metropolis, New Troy Monday, February 14, 1994 11:40 p.m. EST

Richard hung up and walked away from the phone toward his hotel bedroom, but stopped abruptly as he passed a gold- framed mirror hanging in the suite. He turned and regarded himself. He stroked his goatee and then adjusted the green paisley ascot he was wearing beneath his robe. He smiled at what he saw reflected there. Then his smile gradually changed to a more sadistic grin, the eyes a more powerful hue. The man in the mirror now appeared more familiar, closer to the face that once had been, the face prior to the plastic surgery—the face of Lex Luthor. The face that had "died" two months before.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, November 12, 1993 9:25 p.m. CST

The Smallville Players were moving methodically and dramatically toward the climax of their dinner theatre presentation. Suddenly, there was a blackout and all the stage lights went off, plunging the entire room into abject darkness.

The lights came back on, and as everyone's eyes adjusted to the brightness; they could see Lex Luthor lying dead in a pool of blood with Clark's hand on the play's dagger that protruded from his back.

"Nobody move," a voice yelled out from the crowd, and a man unknown to most of those in the room, rose and crossed over to Clark and the lifeless body of Lex Luthor.

The man drew a gun from a shoulder holster and pointed it at Clark. "Now, slowly with your hands in full view, move away from the body," he said firmly.

Inspector Henderson, with his drawn gun still on Clark, leaned down and with his other hand, felt Luthor's neck for a pulse; although it was obvious to all that Lex Luthor was dead.

"I…I…didn't do this," Clark insisted, backing away with his arms raised.

"Of course he didn't," Lois injected forcefully, jumping down from the makeshift stage to join Clark at his side. "He's Su…uh…not capable of doing such a thing!"

Henderson paced up and down before the group gathered in front of him. "Lex Luthor was a depraved, degenerate and corrupt man… He was responsible for the death of his own wife," the detective said looking at them. "Not only his wife, but Henry Brady, and Matthew Drake as well, not to mention his complicity in the misdiagnosis of Lois Lane and the scurrilous attack on Vivian Cox. So as Rachett in the play we have just witnessed, Luthor directly damaged five lives and hurt an additional dozen lives."

"So did they all do it together? Just like the play," Sheriff Rachel Harris asked. "Is that it?"

"Or is that what the perpetrator wanted us to think?" the Metropolis detective asked somewhat rhetorically. "Why not make it appear that the murder is life, imitating art. Why not *make* it look like a conspiracy, which would then shift the focus away from the real killer?"

Detective Henderson pulled up a chair and straddled it eyeing all of them. "Look everyone," he began. "I'm not Hercule Poirot and I'm not Superman, and believe me, in this instance I don't even want to be a homicide detective. You are all decent people who have been abused in one way or another by a particularly evil man. But unlike Hercule Poirot in your play tonight, the police cannot come up with an easy solution that allows the revenge, deserved or not, to go unpunished. We cannot allow someone to take the law into their own hands, and so the murderer must pay," he said standing up.

"Rachel," Detective Henderson said firmly. "Please arrest…Bill Saxon for the murder of Lex Luthor."

Just then, the double doors to the banquet room opened and two men pushed a gurney into the room. Rachel Harris pointed out the body to the Coroner's assistants. Entering behind them was Smallville's new Coroner who had only been on the job about two weeks. The attractive thirty- something-aged woman came up to Rachel Harris.

"You must be Sheriff Harris," the Coroner stated efficiently. "I'm here to take charge of the body." She leaned over and pulled the tablecloth down and made a cursory examination. She then signaled the two men to place the body on the gurney and remove it to the Coroner's wagon.

"I will begin the autopsy tomorrow morning," the new Coroner informed Rachel. "If you need anything just call me. Here is my card," she said following the gurney out.

Rachel stared at the card. It read Dr. Gretchen Kelly.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, January 8, 1994 10:00 a.m. CST

Lois and Clark snuggled together on the overstuffed couch that Martha Kent had in her bookstore. Clark smiled at his fianc‚e and took Lois' hand to his lips and gently kissed her fingers.

Lois smiled back at him and moved her hand to stroke the handsome face of her future husband. "It's funny about this thing," Lois said admiring the ring on her finger. "When I look down at it every day, I'm almost surprised to see it there. I think about it, and it what it means, and about you."

Clark glanced down at the ring and then looked deeply into Lois' eyes.

"We've been through a lot," Lois acknowledged.

"An awful lot," he agreed.

"But we're together now," Lois said, snuggling even closer, and will always be…"

Clark leaned in and gently captured Lois' lips in a brief kiss.

"Don't let me interrupt," Martha said smiling, as she brought them both a cup of coffee.

"No…No, Mom," he said, blushing just a little and then promptly returning his gaze to look lovingly at Lois, who seductively watched him from under her lashes. "It's okay," Clark told his mother, not taking his eyes off Lois as Martha sunk into the chair opposite them.

"So, have you two decided on the date for the wedding?" Martha asked.

"We know it's corny, but since it's Kansas, how about June?" Lois said to both of them. "That's what we were talking about before…before Lex."

"Let's not talk about Luthor," Clark said. He's dead and buried.

The bell above the door to the Cabbages and Kings Bookstore tinkled. Martha looked up to see Miss Barton, carrying her usual shopping bag, enter and head directly for the used and rare book section toward the back of the store. Miss Libby Barton was a regular customer who came into the store one to two times a month to purchase books. The elderly patron walked up one aisle and then down the next one. She browsed through several books and then with her selections clasped close to her, came forward to the cash register.

"How are you today, Miss Libby?" Martha asked, rising to meet her at the counter.

Libby Barton was about to say something when the bell over the door tinkled again and an exuberant Keith Haley burst through.

"I'll distribute these, Mrs. Kent," the young high-school student told her, grabbing a handful of posters from the counter and running out the door.

"How much?" the customer asked, without responding to Martha's question as she put the three books down on the counter.

"Thirty-one seventeen with tax," Martha explained, taking the stickers off the old books.

The older woman opened her small change purse she had extracted from her large shopping bag, and after a few moments, put the exact amount, most of it in small change, on the counter and turned to walk out. As she did, she stopped to investigate a large, colorful poster in the window of the bookstore. Miss Libby took out a piece of paper and a pencil and jotted down some information and then exited the store.

"Well, I'll be," Martha said, turning to Lois and Clark. "Who would have thought *she* would be interested?"

Martha Kent looked at the stickers still in her hand and shook her head. She placed the large colored labels on the spindle next to the cash register and made a note to herself to consider getting replacement copies of the just purchased books, 'House of the Seven Gables', 'Miss Lizzie: A retelling of the Borden Ax Murders and Mary Shelly's 'Frankenstein'.

***

Butler County, Kansas Saturday, January 8, 1994 1:30 p.m. CST

In an old silo south of Smallville—a silo heated by a long bank of electric radiators, several rats ran along the edge of a shelf, picking up and nibbling small kernels of corn. Their squeaks intermingled with the sounds of steam emanating from a large glass enclosed vat.

"Well? What is his status, Gretchen?" Nigel St. John asked off-handedly.

"His vital signs are fluctuating wildly," Dr. Kelly responded, as she checked several dials on a large machine attached to the vat.

Nigel examined the silo, shivered slightly and brushed perfunctorily at his suede jacket. "I certainly hope I haven't made the trip here for nothing," he said frowning.

"You were one of Lex's chief supporters in this community," Gretchen informed him. "Your concern is overwhelming," she said sarcastically.

"Mr. Luthor didn't invite my participation on the school board for my congeniality."

An almost imperceptible change in the level of beeping caught Gretchen's attention before she could have snapped back an answer to the tall callous man. She walked over to the machine and once again fiddled with the dials.

"What are you doing?" Nigel asked her.

"I've got to stabilize his electromagnetic field," she explained worriedly. "Otherwise we're going to lose him!"

Abruptly, bubbling sounds from the vat increased, as did a variety of electronic noises from several instruments, the loudest of all—an erratic beeping from the heart monitor. Intermittent hissing sounds ensued as jets of steam erupted from the vat. The electronic devices peaked, subdued, peaked again and then faltered, coming to a complete stop.

Gretchen Kelly and Nigel St. John turned to stare at the heart monitor as the spiked waves, displaying ongoing life signs, beeped irregularly and then flat lined. "No!" Gretchen shouted. "Lex?"

"It's over, Gretchen," Nigel told her emotionlessly.

"Oh no!" she cried, somewhat softly, as if resigned to the inevitability of her failed attempt.

"It was a noble experiment," Nigel informed her, putting his hand firmly on her shoulder.

Gretchen glanced over at the table toward a small red-bound leather book with the initials LB embossed on it and closed her eyes. It had been folly to believe that…that…

Suddenly an arm burst through the glass that had been enclosing the vat. It slowly twisted and contorted into a fist.

"Lex," gasped Gretchen.

The appendage stretched out, grabbed hold of the side of the vat and lifted the lid. Lex Luthor covered, in what could best be described as a kind of amniotic fluid, sat up, reborn.

"Lex," Gretchen said again with renewed assurance, stepping toward him as she realized that he had come back—come back to her.

"I…I can't believe it," Nigel uttered, uncharacteristically at a loss.

Lex Luthor's face distorted into an evil and vindictive visage. "Believe it!"

Nigel backed away from the vat and reached out toward the table to steady himself. The small red leather book fell to the floor.

The steam from the vat gusted out once again, flipping the pages of the small bound volume until it rested on a page where the shaky scrawl was barely discernable.

Sunday October 30, 1938 7:28 p.m. Success!!! Resurrection achieved!!! LB

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:00 p.m. CST

The house at 417 Maple Street creaked and groaned loudly as the wind, with which Kansans were only too familiar, played havoc with the fifty-year-old home. Several cracked and peeling shutters banged back and forth against the faded yellow wooden structure, and occasionally, strange sounds emanated from the attic.

Libby Barton, aged twelve, dressed in a blue gingham dress and white pinafore, was curled up on the large sofa with Jinx, a predominantly black cat save for a white spot on her left chest. Libby looked impatiently toward the stairs. "Aunt Lavin—i—a," she called out. "It's seven o-clock."

Lavinia Barton, a spinster in her late 50s, wearing a black cotton dress that was twenty-five years outdated, waddled down the stairs. Miss Barton was a short, plump woman, and waddling was the only way to describe how she got around. Lavinia pushed back a lock of her gray streaked hair and readjusted the pin that secured the straggling piece to the bun she always wore.

"I'm coming," she called out, continuing to waddle down the stairs. "I was checking the attic door. The wind sometimes…"

"The attic door is just fine," said a sharp voice coming from the kitchen. Lavinia's slightly younger sister, Leticia Barton entered the living room just as Lavinia arrived from upstairs. Although she was the younger of the two, everyone in town, and particularly in that house on Maple Street, knew which of the sisters ruled the roost.

"What's going on?" Leticia barked, as she eyed her sister and niece.

Although a spinster, exactly like her elder sister, all else was unique unto Leticia. She was tall and thin, and moved around the large Victorian house in a sedate manner. She wore her hair in a chignon tied at the back with a velvet ribbon, which matched the ribbon holding the cameo she always wore tightly around her neck. Her dress, though dated around the same period as her sister's, was pale pink in color. Leticia always wore pastels, while Lavinia was true to black. The townspeople believed that Miss Lavinia was in mourning, but no one knew for whom.

"The Mercury Theatre!" Libby exclaimed. "We can't miss that. Last month they did 'Sherlock Holmes' and last week, Jules Verne's 'Around the World in Eighty Days'."

"Well, young lady," Leticia scoffed, meticulously wiping her hands on the apron she wore. "Mr. Orson Welles has always been a bit over dramatic for me."

"Oh, Aunt Letty, please!" Libby whined.

"Please, Letty," her sister echoed.

"All right," Leticia acquiesced. "But I just don't see what you two like about that program."

Libby jumped up and ran over to the large Philco radio that held a prominent position in their living room. It was the only piece of furniture that allowed a visitor to note that it must be the 1930s; as all the other pieces, drapery, wallpaper and decorations were turn of the century.

Libby turned on the radio and adjusted the knob. After some static and a slight squeal, an announcer's voice boomed out. Lavinia encouraged Leticia to join her on the sofa; and while Lavinia expectantly awaited the beginning of the program, Leticia reached over and took up her needlepoint.

###

ANNOUNCER: …for the next twenty-four hours not much change in temperature. A slight atmospheric disturbance of undetermined origin is reported over Nova Scotia, causing a low-pressure area to move down rather rapidly over the northeastern states, bringing a forecast of rain, accompanied by winds of light gale force.

###

Outside the house on Smallville's Maple Street, the wind continued to whip through the trees whose leaves had, days before, deserted their limbs. Libby walked over to the window and, hopping up on the window seat, looked out, and then turned to stare at the old Grandfather Clock in the hallway. "Aunt Lavinia, I don't understand," the youngest member of the Barton household said. "It's after seven o'clock. What happened to the Mercury Theatre?"

###

ANNOUNCER: …Maximum temperature 66; minimum 48. This weather report is coming to you from the Government Weather Bureau… We now take you to the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park Plaza in beautiful downtown Metropolis, where you will be entertained by the romantic music of Ram˘n Raquello and his orchestra.

###

A melodic Latin tango issued forth from the radio.

"Humpf," Leticia sounded out. "Well, I've got much more important things to do," she explained. "I've more elderberry preserves to put up," she informed them as she put aside her needlepoint and sauntered back to the kitchen.

"This is really strange," Lavinia said to her niece. "For some reason they've changed programs. We can turn it off," she said, rising and walked toward the radio.

"No, Aunt Lavinia. I like this music," Libby said, as she extended her arms and started to dance around the Barton's living room. "I have a big secret, Aunt Lavinia. A very, very big secret," she said dramatically. "Someday I'm going to be a great actress just like on the radio."

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, January 8, 1994 8:10 p.m. CST

The radio played a soft tango, candles lit the room and two people, obviously very much in love, were enjoying each other's company.

"Hmmmmm," Lois murmured. "The chocolate mousse was practically obscene," she said smiling at Clark.

"Maybe I intended it as foreplay," he explained, his eyes full of desire.

"Clark, we…"

"You're right," he sighed. "But it's not going to be easy."

Clark stood up, leaned down to kiss her gently and then began to clear the dishes off the table.

"I'll never be able to compete with your cooking," Lois said glumly, changing the subject, as she rose to add some additional dishes to the stack Clark was starting by the sink.

Clark gently put his hands on her waist and turned her toward him. "I'll do the cooking," he said. "You have talent in other areas," he informed her and captured her mouth in a kiss. Their kiss began softly enough, but soon their passion deepened the kiss, as they moved together toward the couch. Clark pulled back to gaze into her eyes and Lois groaned, wanting the kiss not to end.

"June, huh?" Clark asked, his eyes hungrily regarding her. "I don't think I can wait that long. How about we fly off and get married tonight?"

"I want you so much," Lois said, looking into his eyes. "But…"

"Yeah, I know," Clark told her, glancing over at the radio. "Come on. Come dance with me."

Lois slipped back into Clark's arms. It felt so right, so…

###

KSML ANNOUNCER: This breaking news just in. Kansas State Penitentiary in Topeka is the site of a massive prisoner riot. The convicts have taken several hostages, among them the warden. And, it has been reported to this station that several gunshots have been fired.

###

Clark pulled back and Lois reached up to touch his cheek. "Go," she said.

He darted out the front door and Lois heard the all too familiar whoosh. She sat down on the couch and reached for her copy of "Arsenic and Old Lace". She might as well finish reading it and study a couple of scenes to prepare for the auditions coming up. She opened the script.

Elaine: What's going on in this house?

Mortimer: [Suspiciously.] What do you mean—what's going on in this house?

Elaine: You were supposed to take me to dinner and the theatre tonight—you called it off. You asked me to marry you—I said I would—and five minutes later you threw me out of the house. Tonight, just after your brother tries to strangle me, you want to chase me home. Now, listen, Mr. Brewster—before I go home, I want to know where I stand. Do you love me?

Mortimer: [Taking her hands.] I love you very much, Elaine.

Lois smiled to herself thinking how those words sounded coming from Clark's wonderful mouth—his smile, his lips, his… <Can't go there, got to get back to the script,> she thought. "Now where was I," she said aloud. "Oh yeah."

Mortimer: [Taking her hands.] I love you very much, Elaine. In fact I love you so much I can't marry you.

Elaine: Have you suddenly gone crazy?

Mortimer: I don't think so but it's just a matter of time. [They both sit on the sofa as Mortimer begins to explain.] You see, insanity runs in my family. [He looks upstairs and toward the kitchen.] It practically gallops. That's why I can't marry you, dear.

Elaine: Now wait a minute, you've got to do better than that.

Mortimer: No, dear—there's a strange taint in the Brewster blood. If you really knew my family it's—well—its…

Elaine: Now just because Teddy is a little…

Mortimer: No, the whole family… [He rises and points to a picture of Grandfather over the sideboard.] Take my grandfather—he tried his patent medicines out on dead people to be sure he wouldn't kill them.

Elaine: He wasn't so crazy. He made a million dollars.

Mortimer: And then there's Jonathan. You just said he was a maniac—he tried to kill you.

Elaine: [Rises, crosses to him.] But he's your brother, not you. I'm in love with you.

Lois grinned. A chance to say how much she loved Clark in front of an audience, how wonderful. She continued reading.

Mortimer: And there's Teddy, too. You know Teddy. He thinks he's Roosevelt. No, dear, no Brewster should marry. I realize now that if I'd met my father in time I'd have stopped him.

Elaine: Now, darling, all this doesn't prove *you're* crazy. Look at your aunts— they're Brewsters, aren't they? —And the sanest, sweetest people I've ever known.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:04 p.m. CST

Lavinia perched on edge of the St. Anne's chair, which occupied a place next to the radio, and watched her lovely young niece dance over to the sofa and pick up Jinx and then continue to "tango" around the living room.

Libby was such a beautiful child, Lavinia thought, as she noticed Libby's natural grace. So much like her mother, Lavinia recollected. Libby's mother, Lenore, was the youngest of the five children of Laslo and Lillian Barton, the founders of what now appeared to be a very short dynasty unless Libby had children one day.

Laslo had come to the United States when he was a young child. The Bartas, who had emigrated from Hungary in the 1870s and had Americanized their name to Barton, had made their living peddling snake oil and odd potions. Laslo had grown up learning about strange mixtures and concoctions, and had eventually become a scientist of some note. He met Lillian Langworthy in 1880 and they were married.

Laslo and Lillian had five children, Lavinia, Leticia, Lloyd, Linus and Lenore. Lillian Barton had taken to her bed after the birth of her fourth child, Linus, in 1894. As a result, Leticia, then the exact age that Libby was now, became the mother of the household.

Lavinia knew she was the one that ought to have taken on that duty, as the eldest; but she had always been a frightened, dependent child—never one to take charge of anything. Lavinia realized that giving up this role to Leticia, marked the beginning of her younger sister's domination; but Lavinia understood that that was just the way things had to be, especially when it became obvious that Linus would never develop mentally above that of a seven-year-old. The interruption in the music put a temporary end to Lavinia's musings.

###

ANNOUNCER TWO: Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News. At twenty minutes before seven, central time, Professor Farrell of the Mount Jennings Observatory in Chicago, Illinois, reports observing several explosions of incandescent gas, occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars. The spectroscope indicates the gas to be hydrogen and moving towards the earth with enormous velocity. Professor Pierson of the Observatory at Princeton confirms Farrell's observation, and describes the phenomenon as and I quote: like a jet of blue flame shot from a gun. We now return you to the music of Ram˘n Raquello, playing for you in the Meridian Room of the Park Plaza Hotel, situated in our beautiful downtown Metropolis.

###

Lavinia and Libby looked at each other briefly, but then Libby returned to her dancing, and Lavinia found herself thinking back once again.

Lavinia's mother remained confined to her bed for fifteen years following the birth of her second son, while Laslo Barton plied her with a variety of medicinal brews. Laslo's devotion to his wife, and his need to try to help her, pushed him toward experimenting into unknown territory. Strange odors and late night incantations became the norm at the Barton household.

The women of the town shook their heads when discussing the goings on behind the door at 417 Maple Street. The family members no longer attended church, sent servants to do the shopping and had no intercourse with the community.

The town and even the second generation of the family, had found it odd, then, that Lillian Barton who had been near death for these fifteen years, had wound up pregnant in her forty-sixth year of life. After an incredibly difficult confinement, Lillian died giving birth to Lenore.

The addition of a baby to the Barton family unit in 1910, generated new gossip around the town, but even the perpetual tongue-waggers, let the rumors surrounding the fifth Barton child's birth, eventually subside.

Such gossip, however, was not new to the Barton household, which had always provided fodder for the town's biddies. Leticia and Lavinia had remained spinsters to care for their mother and their retarded brother. Lloyd Barton had stayed at his father's knee, learning science and experimenting on a variety of animals. He had later gone off to Europe to study and showed up in Smallville unexpectedly from time to time.

As the years passed, the family's resources began to dwindle; and, although there were sufficient funds to make do, the extras had to go. Eventually the servants were discharged, and the house on Maple Street started to appear a little shabby. Lloyd's room was occasionally rented out by the Bartons to, usually, a single elderly man; but the boarder never stayed for long.

And then in 1926, at age sixteen, Lenore Barton became the most infamous of the entire family, when it was discovered that she was pregnant. As the family had been isolated, the identity of the father was debated among all the inhabitants of the town. Rape and incest were the words whispered behind the closed doors of the citizens of Smallville.

Laslo Barton delivered Lenore's baby on a dark and stormy night in March. And like her mother before her, Lenore died in childbirth. The patriarch of the Barton family took to his bed, and followed his daughter in death a few months later.

Lavinia regarded the lovely child and knew that Libby had brought joy into their house and no matter what the origin of her birth, she meant everything to the remaining members of the Barton family.

The music played for a few moments and as the piece ended, there was a sound of applause.

###

ANNOUNCER THREE: Now a tune that never loses favor, the ever- popular "Star Dust" by Hoagy Carmichael. Now once again, the romantic resonance of Ram˘n Raquello and his orchestra …

###

The music began but was shortly interrupted once again.

###

ANNOUNCER TWO: Ladies and gentlemen, we have arranged an interview with noted astronomer, Professor Pierson, who will give us his views of the event on Mars. In a few moments we will take you to the Observatory at Princeton, New Jersey. We return you until then to the music of Ram˘n Raquello and his orchestra.

###

The music began once again and Libby turned to her Aunt. "Is something happening?"

"I'm not sure," Lavinia told her, pulling her down to sit on the couch as the radio continued on.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, January 8, 1994 8:30 p.m. CST

Miss Libby Barton adjusted the volume and sat down on the couch as the radio continued on.

###

KSML ANNOUNCER: This is KSML bringing you an update on the prison riot at Kansas State Penitentiary. Thankfully, Superman has arrived and quickly quashed the uprising. Warden, Gary Young, who has been released unscathed announced that…

###

Libby turned and walked over to the window seat under the bay window at the south side of the living room. She lifted up the hinged top and rummaged through the odds and ends stored there.

###

KSML ANNOUNCER: Although the perpetrators have been sequestered, this station has discovered that the riot claimed two victims—a guard and a prisoner.

###

Libby took a deep breath, as she found what she had been searching for. She lifted up the box and opened it slowly. The round object vibrated and changed colors.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:07 p.m. CST

"Mars?", Libby asked her aunt. "Could people from Mars be coming here?"

###

ANNOUNCER TWO: We are now ready to take you to the Princeton Observatory where Carl Phillips, our commentator, will interview Professor Robert Pierson, famous astronomer. We take you now to Princeton, New Jersey.

PHILLIPS: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is Carl Phillips, speaking to you from the observatory at Princeton. I am standing in a large semi- circular room, pitch black except for an oblong split in the ceiling. Through this opening I can see a sprinkling of stars that cast a kind of frosty glow over the intricate mechanism of the huge telescope. The ticking sound that you hear is the vibration of the clockwork. Professor Pierson stands directly above me on a small platform, peering through a giant lens. I ask you to be patient, ladies and gentlemen, during any delay that may arise during our interview. Besides his ceaseless watch of the heavens, Professor Pierson may be interrupted by telephone or other communications. During this period he is in constant touch with the astronomical centers of the world … Professor, may I begin our questions?

PIERSON: At any time, Mr. Phillips.

PHILLIPS: Professor, would you please tell our radio audience exactly what you see as you observe the planet Mars through your telescope?

PIERSON: Nothing unusual at the moment, Mr. Phillips. A red disk swimming in a blue sea. Transverse stripes across the disk. Quite distinct now because Mars happens to be at the point nearest the earth … in opposition, as we call it.

PHILLIPS: In your opinion, what do these transverse stripes signify, Professor Pierson?

PIERSON: Not canals, I can assure you, Mr. Phillips, although that's the popular conjecture of those who imagine Mars to be inhabited. From a scientific viewpoint the stripes are merely the result of atmospheric conditions peculiar to the planet.

PHILLIPS: Then you're quite convinced as a scientist that living intelligence as we know it does not exist on Mars?

PIERSON: I'd say the chances against it are a thousand to one.

PHILLIPS: And yet how do you account for those gas eruptions occurring on the surface of the planet at regular intervals?

PIERSON: Mr. Phillips, I cannot account for it.

PHILLIPS: By the way, Professor, for the benefit of our listeners, how far is Mars from earth?

PIERSON: Approximately forty million miles.

PHILLIPS: Well, that seems a safe enough distance.

###

"You see, Libby," her aunt encouraged. "There's really nothing to worry about."

###

PHILLIPS: Just a moment, ladies and gentlemen, someone has just handed Professor Pierson a message. Professor, may I read the message to the listening audience?

PIERSON: Certainly, Mr. Phillips

PHILLIPS: The message reads: '8:15 P. M. eastern standard time: Seismograph registered shock of almost earthquake intensity occurring within a radius of twenty miles of Princeton. Please investigate…' Professor Pierson, could this occurrence possibly have something to do with the disturbances observed on the planet Mars?

PIERSON: Hardly, Mr. Phillips. This is probably a meteorite of unusual size and its arrival at this particular time is merely a coincidence. However, we shall conduct a search, as soon as daylight permits.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Professor. Ladies and gentlemen, for the past ten minutes we've been speaking to you from the observatory at Princeton, bringing you a special interview with Professor Pierson, noted astronomer. This is Carl Phillips speaking. We are returning you now to our Metropolis studio.

###

The music began permeating through the living room again. Libby turned questioningly to her Aunt. "A meteorite?" she asked the older woman.

***

Smallville, Kansas Tuesday, May 17, 1966 9:17 p.m. CDT

For just a brief moment the spring's night sky lit up as if it were daylight. Martha and Jonathan Kent, driving home from a town meeting; gazed up at the sky in wonder. Jonathan pulled the pick-up truck to the side of the road. "What was that?" he asked his wife.

"It looked like a meteor—somewhere over there, in Shuster's field," Martha replied.

They both got out of the truck and quickly, yet carefully, they made their way through the field over to where the fiery object had plummeted to earth.

Unbeknownst to them, a figure clad in red and blue, secreted himself behind a tree while watching the couple open what appeared to be a space ship of some sort, and take into their arms an infant—an infant that was to become the center of their lives and a hero to the whole world.

The figure from the future smiled, knowing that all was the way it should be; and he immediately took to the sky.

Behind a tree on the other side of the field, yet another spectator was watching the melodrama unfold. Miss Libby Barton, now forty years of age regarded the scene spread out in front of her. "Not again," she whispered, searching the sky expectantly. "Not again."

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:11 p.m. CST

"Aunt Lavinia!" Libby insisted. "Please tell me what's going on!"

Lavinia Barton, being totally unacquainted with anything at all scientific, was about to open her mouth and protest that she didn't understand what was going on, when the two in the living room heard the front door open and then slam shut.

Linus Barton, the younger brother of Lavinia and Leticia slowly entered the family home. He was dragging a large shovel and was covered from head to foot with dirt.

"Don't you get any of that dirt on my carpet!" Leticia called out as she entered the hallway from the kitchen.

"No, Letty," Linus said slowly. "I was just doing what you told me to do. I dug them holes in the cellar and I…"

"Yes, yes," Letty interrupted briskly. "Just you take yourself out and come in again the back way. Then go wash up."

"Yes, Letty," Linus replied, nodding.

"Uncle Linus," Libby yelled out. "Do you know anything about meteorites?"

"Huh?"

"Stop child," Leticia said to her niece. "Leave the man be. You'll have to ask your Uncle Lloyd. He's the science expert."

"But Aunt Leticia," Libby implored. "Uncle Lloyd has been gone for over a year, and you said he was going away for a long, long time this time. And the man on the radio said…"

"Hush! Your Uncle Lloyd is…"

The music on the radio stopped once again and the announcer's harried voice was heard once more as it interrupted Leticia's comments.

###

ANNOUNCER TWO: Ladies and gentlemen, here is the latest bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News. Toronto, Canada: Professor Morse of McGill University reports observing a total of three explosions on the planet Mars, between the hours of 6:45 P. M. and 8:20 P. M., eastern standard time. This confirms earlier reports that were received from American observatories.

Now, nearer home, comes a special bulletin from Trenton, New Jersey. It is reported that at 8:10 P. M. a huge, flaming object, believed to be a meteorite, fell on a farm in the neighborhood of Grover's Mill, New Jersey, twenty miles from Trenton.

###

"Well that's New Jersey for you," Leticia retorted. "We have no business being concerned. Now turn it off and just forget it."

But Libby moved closer to the radio as the announcer continued.

###

ANNOUNCER TWO: The flash in the sky was visible within a radius of several hundred miles and the noise of the impact was heard as far north as Elizabeth, New Jersey. We have dispatched a special mobile unit to the scene, and will have our commentator, Carl Phillips, give you a word picture as soon as he can reach there from Princeton. In the meantime, we take you to the Hotel Martinet in Metropolis, where the mellow sounds of Bobby Millette and his orchestra are offering a program of dance music.

###

Swing music filtered its way through the radio into the living room of 417 Maple. Libby guessed that there must be nothing to worry about, since the radio started to play music again. She picked up Jinx who had started mewing, and headed toward the kitchen to get the cat something to eat.

The kitchen was warm, and the aroma wafting throughout was enticing. Aunt Leticia was making her elderberry and raspberry preserves.

"Hmmmmm. Smells good," Libby said to her aunt.

The back door opened, and Jinx hissed and jumped out of Libby's arms.

"It's just Uncle Linus," Libby told the cat.

"Not at all." said a sadistic voice. "It's your Uncle Lloyd!"

Lavinia scurried into the kitchen just in time to see what sort of resembled her brother Lloyd, brandishing a rifle.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, January 10, 1994 2:00 p.m. CST

Lois Lane, English teacher, turned away from the black board and faced her American Literature Class.

"Welcome back," she said smiling. "I certainly hope you all had a great holiday. I know that I did," Lois told them.

She, indeed, had had a completely wonderful holiday. She glanced longingly at the ring on her finger and sighed. Lois Lane, independent career woman, activist, was now engaged to be married to the most wonderful man in the world. Somehow sensing his presence, she looked over at the door to her classroom as Clark Kent, history teacher and secret superhero walked by.

Clark Kent stopped and glanced through the glass window situated in the middle of the door to his fianc‚e's classroom and saw her look up and smile at him. She was so incredibly lovely. How much luckier could one man be? He smiled back and surveying the deserted hall, he mouthed the words "I love you".

Clark turned and walked briskly down the stairs and toward the administrative offices of Smallville High School. This was his free period and he had hopes of getting some time to himself to make some lesson plans. He was behind in his paper work as his alter ego, Superman, had been quite busy the last few weeks. Besides the occasional catastrophe or crime, he had become somewhat of a celebrity of late and had been requested to visit hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes and the like around the holidays.

Clark found that these last events were rejuvenating in a way, but very time consuming. Lois had been so gracious and understanding every time he had been called away. Their holidays had been wonderful, but they had been interrupted frequently. The moments he had shared with Lois, however, were filled with gradually mounting passion, and he was finding it difficult to maintain their agreement of waiting until their wedding night. <Five more months> he thought. It was going to take super strength to make it through.

He entered the administrative offices and saw Principal White's secretary, Beatrice Drake, busy as usual making copies. "Good morning, Beatrice," Clark said unable to take the grin off his face.

She looked up and smiled at the son of her life-long friend, Martha. "Your Mom left these for you," she informed him. "She said that you forgot to take them with you on Saturday." Beatrice glanced at the posters and then back at him. "Looks like a interesting one."

Clark took the posters that Beatrice handed him, putting them under his arm. He took one of the colorful posters and hung it up in the office. He stapled it to the bulletin board and stepped back to read it again.

*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*

…Smallville Players…

…Announce Auditions…

…for…

… "Arsenic and Old Lace"…

…A comedy about murder!…

…3:00 p.m…

…Sunday, January 16,1994…

Smallville High School Auditorium For

information call: 555-6771

*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*

"You going to audition, Beatrice?" Clark asked her.

"Of course," she replied.

Well, you had to hand it to his mother, to select a play about murder so soon after the killing of Lex Luthor, School Board Superintendent. He picked up the posters and wandered back to the teachers' lounge. Had it really been less than two months ago that Bill Saxon had stabbed Lex Luthor to death?

And now Bill had been… Maybe after Saturday's tragedy, his mother would want to change…Clark sighed as he thought back on the prison riot. He had gotten there as fast as he could, but not soon enough. He was able to isolate the perpetrators and stop additional mayhem, but he couldn't save the guard and the one prisoner who had been killed during the first hail of bullets. Ironically, the one dead prisoner was fellow teacher and thespian, Bill Saxon.

Smallville was shocked over Bill's death, just as they had been by Bill's act of vengeance two months before—the act that had promulgated his incarceration after he had pled guilty to the slaying of Lex Luthor. Granted Luthor had been an evil man, even Clark, Mr. Goody-two-shoes, could admit that. But the community still found it difficult to believe that the man they had known for years could have resorted to murder.

Clark got a cup of coffee and his planning sheets and sat down at the table. But his mind was no longer on his classes. He thought back to that Saturday night in mid November when the Smallville Players had been abruptly stopped right at the climax of their presentation of "Murder on the Orient Express" by the real-life murder of Lex Luthor. And, just like that detective thriller they were enacting, they were stuck by a snow storm in the Luthor Bank Building as they rallied to solve Luthor's murder.

Clark remembered how they all had looked to Bill Saxon to explain why a retired schoolteacher and friend to all of them had utilized the play's atmosphere to kill Lex Luthor.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, November 19, 1993 10:20 p.m. CST

"I guess I was really getting into my role," Bill said to all the actors in the room. "I have been sort of playing detective," he explained as he took the floor from the real detective, Inspector Henderson, and faced his audience. Bill Saxon, who had depicted Hercule Poirot so eloquently, was now in his element. He was an actor and he was portraying the role of a lifetime.

"And, what I found," he continued, "was a whole lot of wonderful, courageous people whom I loved, and who had been pushed to the brink of doing something incredibly stupid," he said emotionally, tears welling up in his eyes. "So," he sighed. "I decided to take matters into my own hands and do it first as a way of stopping all of you," he continued.

"Lex Luthor was a depraved and corrupt man. He was responsible for our pain and for the deaths of people we all loved. His destruction is a blessing for our community and for each of the lives he attempted to defile."

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, January 10, 1994 2:45 p.m. CST

Clark began to read the papers in front of him, lifted the cup to his lips, took a swallow and grimaced. The coffee was cold. As no one else was in the teachers' lounge, he pulled down his glasses and using his heat vision, warmed up the coffee.

Clark looked at the clock above the teachers' copy machine and realized he had been musing over Luthor and Bill's death for more than thirty minutes. In thinking about Bill's death, he knew that there was something else he needed to do. Clark walked down the hall to Barb Friskin's office and knocked.

***

Continuing to look at her ring, Lois' mind quickly ran through her life changes since she arrived in Smallville. <Had it only been four months ago?> she thought. Clark had been appointed her mentor to help her adjust to the new school, but it was her being cast opposite Clark in the Smallville Players' "The Male Animal" where they had been "forced" to spend many hours rehearsing love scenes that had altered Lois Lane forever. She smiled again as she remembered how their love had been sparked by their devotion to the social justice issues of that play and the problems of Keith Haley, who had spoken out about his sexuality.

Her love for Clark had grown over the weeks and then one night, Lois Lane, city woman, found herself on a Kansas hayride being beautifully kissed by a man she had once thought of as a "farmboy". And, later under the soft theatre lights, he had confessed his love and had asked her to be his wife; and then, incredibly, told her he was Superman. She smiled to herself as she remembered his fear that she would reject him; but Lois, knowing that she would follow her favorite author's advice and "love more", fell into Clark's arms.

Although, almost thwarted by Lex Luthor, Clark had remained true and steadfast, and was ready to share his entire life with her. He loved her. And Lois Lane loved Clark Kent. How could she not? He was so…

"Miss Lane?" Tom Mock, one of her students, asked.

"Oh, yes." she responded, shaking off her wonderful reverie. "Uh…we…we had a very interesting first semester in this class using the 1960s classic novel 'In Cold Blood' as the foundation for analysis, discussion and debate."

The students of the class glanced around at each other.

Lois smiled as her eyes met those of her students. She realized how far the class as a whole and each individual student had come since the beginning of the previous semester—how they had gained a new appreciation for diversity and commitment.

They looked up at their teacher and anxiously awaited the new and exciting assignment.

"This semester, we're going to analyze something a little older. We're going to study Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'House of the Seven Gables'," their teacher told them.

The class looked at each other once again, but this time groaned in unison.

***

Just as Clark heard Barb Friskin yell out "Come in," he heard another call, a call for help. He made his way instantaneously down the hall and ducked out the door that faced the back of the school, Clark checked around and noting that all was clear, spun into his suit and took off into the sky.

***

Barb Friskin, high school counselor, seeing no one enter, rose from her chair and walked over to the door of her office. She opened it and looked out into the hall. Shaking her head in wonder, Barb Friskin, walked back to her chair and sat down. She picked up a file from her in basket, and opened it. She glanced briefly at the intake assessment she had written when she had met with the student for the first time in early December. She wanted to renew her notes before she saw her again right after school.

This was going to be a complicated case—childhood sexual abuse always was. <Families!> Barb thought. They can be so caring, so nurturing, so necessary. They can also be so violent. Dysfunctional was a mild word for some families.

Could she even address this young girl's issues, when her experience with families was so far removed from functional as it could get? Her father had left the family when she and her sister were very young, leaving their mother to raise them and change into a bitter old women while still very young. Barb's sister had been killed by her own husband. She herself had been through a messy divorce. And through the counselor she had been reunited with her nephew and father only to have one imprisoned for murder and killed in a riot while the other had truly taken on the role of the sadistic scion to a corporation founded on deceit, betrayal and evil.

Barb opened the drawer of her desk. Was it only three months ago that she had considered using the gun that glinted up at her to kill Lex Luthor, the man who had murdered her sister and turned her nephew into an amoral sycophant? Her father had done it for her, so the gun remained unused. But was there more to be done? Barb slowly closed the drawer.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:16 p.m. CST

"Is that you, Lloyd?" Lavinia asked.

"Yup, had a little work done to my face. But it's me all right."

The family members looked at the rifle in Lloyd's hands. "Put that damn thing down," Letty shouted at her brother. "You aren't going to kill anyone."

Leticia Barton walked up to Lloyd and took the rifle. She opened the broom closet and shoved the rifle inside. Closing the closet, she turned toward the rest of the family. "I decide who gets murdered around here," she told them.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, January 10, 1994 2:45 p.m.

"I make the decisions, now!" Jaxon Luthor told the staff that stood in front of his desk. "I'm in charge and you'll do what I say. Now get out, all of you!"

Jaxon Luthor picked up the telephone and pushed a button. "Get in here!" he yelled into the receiver and slammed it down. Jaxon rose from his chair and began pacing the length of large paneled room. The door opened and Sheldon Bender, attorney at law, entered the office.

"Where are those papers?" Jaxon hissed in a somewhat poor imitation of his father.

"Here they are, sir," the small bespectacled lawyer said, handing the manila folder to him. "I just filed these at the court house. A very Happy Birthday, sir," he said, groveling.

"So, it's all legal, now?" Jaxon asked, perusing the papers. "I'm eighteen and I have full power. My father's attorneys no longer control anything."

"That's right," Bender told him. "You're in control of it all."

Jaxon smiled. "All right, get out and leave me alone."

Lex Luthor's son waited until the attorney had left and reached for the telephone once again. "Murder her!" he said to the person at the other end and put the phone back in its cradle. He slowly turned 360 degrees in the swivel chair, smiling to himself. Stopping, he opened a drawer, took out a box and lifted the lid. Once again he stared at the green glowing rock. "Soon, soon."

***

Linda Botts, assistant director, properties manager, costumer and general gopher for the Smallville Players, knocked on the front door of 417 Maple. She stared up at the old house and felt a shiver go through and through her. She wondered why in the world Martha had asked her to do this errand and why Miss Libby was interested in the Smallville Players. When no one answered her persistent knocking, she placed the script in the mailbox and left.

Miss Barton looked out of the window of her bedroom. As soon as Linda had moved off down the street, Libby went down stairs, took the script out of the mailbox and returned to her bedroom to sit in the chair by the window, Jinx number five curled up by her side. 'Arsenic and Old Lace', a comedy about murder, she read off the cover. Miss Barton smiled to herself. "That ought to be fun," she said aloud and then opened the script and began reading.

Aunt Abby: And for pity's sake stop worrying. We told you to forget the whole thing.

Mortimer: Forget! My dear Aunt Abby, can't I make you realize that something has to be done?

Aunt Abby: No, Mortimer, you behave yourself. You're too old to be flying off the handle like this.

Mortimer: But Mr. Hotchkiss—

Aunt Abby: Hoskins, dear. Hoskins.

Mortimer: Well, whatever his name is, you can't leave him there. Aunt Martha: We don't intend to, dear.

Aunt Abby: No, Teddy's down in the cellar now digging the lock.

Mortimer: You mean you're going to bury Mr. Hotchkiss in the cellar?

Aunt Martha: Oh, yes, dear—that's what we did with the others.

Mortimer: No! You can't bury Mr.—*others?*

Aunt Abby: The other gentlemen.

Mortimer: When you say others—do you mean—others? More than one others?

Aunt Martha. Oh, yes, dear. Let me see, this is eleven. [To Aunt Abby] Isn't it, Abby?

Aunt Abby: No, dear, this makes, twelve.

Libby Barton raised her head and put down the script. "Twelve," she said out loud.

***

"Come on guys," Lois Lane said to her students. "This ought to be fun. Everyone reads Hawthorne's 'Scarlet Letter'; we're going to do something a little different. And your concurrent assignment will be a chance to stretch your research skills—and something I think you can all get into. 'The House of the Seven Gables' is a romance. It's a gothic romance about love and murder," their teacher explained.

"So is our concurrent assignment to get romantic with someone or to kill someone?" Tom Mock queried.

The students laughed.

"No," Lois said, ignoring the laughter, as she picked up a book from her desk, opened it and read.

***

"Halfway down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst. The street is Pyncheon Street; the house is the old Pyncheon House; and an elm-tree, of wide circumference, rooted before the door, is familiar to every town-born child by the title of the Pyncheon Elm…

…the story would include a chain of events extending over the better part of two centuries, …a connection with the long past—a reference to forgotten events and personages, and to manners, feelings, and opinions, almost or wholly obsolete—which, if adequately translated to the reader, would serve to illustrate how much of old material goes to make up the freshest novelty of human life. Hence, too, might be drawn a weighty lesson from the little- regarded truth, that the act of the passing generation is the germ which may and must produce good or evil fruit in a far- distant time; that, together with the seed of the merely temporary crop, which mortals term expediency, they inevitably sow the acorns of a more enduring growth, which may darkly overshadow their posterity."

***

Lois put down the book. "What do you think that means?" she asked the class.

"Well," said Keith Haley. "It sounds like by learning about a house and who lived in the house, we get to know about the people who live there now. And that if evil people lived there once upon a time, the house and the people in it now would be influenced by that evil, too."

"That's what it says," Lois declared.

"Do you believe that, Miss Lane?" Cindy Brady asked.

"I want to know what you think," their teacher explained. "So the concurrent assignment is to form into six groups and each take one of the houses I'm going to list on the board, and to investigate its history. You're job is to research what was going on when it was built, who built it, the architectural style, and most importantly the story of the people who lived there."

"How did you choose the houses?" Tom asked her.

"Yes, Tom. Yours is one of the houses, but I'm going to ask that you be on one of the other teams."

"Hey, no fair," Tom told his teacher.

***

In response to the cries for help, Superman landed outside the back entrance to the Smallville General Hospital, where firefighters were already at work dousing the flames that were engulfing the second floor. Hospital workers were bringing out gurneys, rolling hospital beds and escorting walking patients out to the parking lot.

"Superman," the fire chief said gratefully. "Glad you're here. There was an explosion in the laboratory located in the east wing. We're having a tough time controlling the fire. Can you…"

Before the chief could finish his query, Superman flew into the window of the second floor laboratory and using his super breath, extinguished the fire.

Below watching the event was Coroner Gretchen Kelly, her wagon at the ready.

Through the smoke and haze, Superman was able to see two bodies lying on the floor of the lab. Superman examined the two and found Dr. Bernard Klein still breathing, but he was too late to save the other person crumpled upon the floor. Superman carried Dr. Klein to safety and then returned for the lifeless body of Dr. Antoinette Baines.

***

Lois smiled at Tom and the rest of the class. The class had come a long way together since she first entered their lives in September. They all had grown—they as students and individuals and she as a teacher. They're trip into activism, into celebration of diversity had made an impact on them all. And each and every one was all the better for it.

So now, as their comfort zone with each other had increased measurably, the students in the class found they could joke around, offer opinions and be creative without threat of reprisals.

"I spent part of the Winter Break down at the hall of records," Lois told her class. "And I found six houses that were built before the turn of the century and that had been the homes of one or at the most two different families for its entire existence. Lois turned back to the black board, picked up a piece of chalk and wrote the following names while the students jotted down the information.

Bash/Mock (circa 1860 523 4th Street) Kent

(circa 1862 807 Main Street) Friskin/Clark

(circa 1873 334 Elm Street) Johnson

(circa 1875 212 3rd Street) Taggart

(circa 1881 345 Maple Street) Barton

(circa 1887 417 Maple Street)

When Lois had written the last name on the board, the students gasped. Lois turned to face them. "Any problem?" she asked, remembering not too fondly, the reaction she had received last semester when she put the topics for discussion on the board. But what could possibly be controversial about this project?

"I'm waiting," Lois asked the group.

"It's the Barton house," Emily Cox explained.

"What about it?" Lois inquired.

"Well," said John Greene. "Old Lady Barton is the only one left living there now."

"And?" she urged him.

"In 1938, Miss Libby Barton murdered everyone in that house."

***

Cassville, New Jersey Sunday, October 30, 1938 8:16 p.m. EST

Unlike Libby Barton, another twelve-year old, living some one thousand miles away from Smallville, Kansas' heartland, was not distracted away from his family's radio that October night in 1938. "Mother," he called out. "You've got to listen to this. There's real trouble at Grover's Mill. A meteorite landed!"

Jason's mother came into the living room of the modest house on Spring Street and sat down next to her son. "Where's Grover's Mill?" she asked him.

"I don't know," Jason replied. "But it's twenty miles from Trenton and we're twenty- two miles away."

"Maybe they mean Francis Mill, that's just two miles up Cassville Road."

###

ANNOUNCER TWO: For those of you have joined us late, we have a special bulletin: It has been reported that at 8:10 P. M., eastern standard time, a huge, flaming object, believed to be a meteorite, fell on a farm in the neighborhood of Grover's Mill, New Jersey, twenty miles from Trenton. We take you now to Grover's Mill, New Jersey.

###

Jason and his mother could hear loud background noises and sirens behind the voice of the announcer.

###

PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, this is Carl Phillips again, at the Wilmuth farm, Grover's Mill, New Jersey. Professor Pierson and myself made the eleven miles from Princeton in ten minutes. Well, I … I hardly know where to begin, to paint for you a word picture of the strange scene before my eyes, like something out of a modern "Arabian Nights." Well, I just got here. I haven't had a chance to look around yet. I guess that's it. Yes, I guess that's the … thing, directly in front of me, half buried in a vast pit. Must have struck with terrific force. The ground is covered with splinters of a tree it must have struck on its way down. What I can see of the … object itself doesn't look very much like a meteor, at least not the meteors I've seen. It looks more like a huge cylinder.

###

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, May 18, 1966 3:30 p.m. CST

Jonathan Kent hurried into the kitchen of his home where Martha was warming a bottle of milk for their new-found son.

"There are government people in town asking all kinds of questions," he told her.

"You've got to destroy that…that…cylinder thing…that whatever it is," she insisted.

"The men in town say it's a Russian experiment gone sour," he told her. "The capsule should be safe until tonight. I dragged it behind some bushes. After dark, I'll go back and burn it."

***

Later that May 18th night, in the darkness that surrounded Shuster's field, Libby Barton held the unusual circular thing in her hands. It was a globe of some sort. Then she examined the space ship and her hand ran slowly over the letters etched in its surface. Then from where she stood, by the hidden space ship, Libby suddenly heard some twigs crack as Jonathan Kent made his way back to where he concealed the vessel that had brought happiness back into his wife's eyes.

Libby put the globe into her pocket, rearranged the branches to disguise the ship once again, and ran across Shuster's field and back toward her home.

Jonathan moved the branches and looked at the ship. He set down the gasoline cans he had brought with him to obliterate the evidence. He paused as he stared at the space craft. This cylinder had changed their lives. He had to destroy it. But how could he…?

***

Cassville, New Jersey Sunday, October 30, 1938 8:19 p.m. EST

###

PHILLIPS: …the object itself doesn't look very much like a meteor, at least not the meteors I've seen. It looks more like a huge cylinder. It has a diameter of … what would you say, Professor Pierson?

PIERSON: What's that?

PHILLIPS: What would you say … what is the diameter?

PIERSON: About thirty yards.

PHILLIPS: About thirty yards … The metal on the sheath is … well, I've never seen anything like it. The color is sort of yellowish-white. Curious spectators now are pressing close to the object in spite of the efforts of the police to keep them back. They're getting in front of my line of vision. Would you mind standing to one side, please?

POLICEMAN: One side, there, one side.

###

"Where's Father," Jason asked. "He knows all about this stuff."

"I know," his mother responded walking over to the window to look out. "Maybe he has to stay at Lakehurst longer because of this. Maybe the personnel at the Naval Air Station have been put on alert."

###

PHILLIPS: While the policemen are pushing the crowd back, here's Mr. Wilmuth, owner of the farm here. He may have some interesting facts to add … Mr. Wilmuth, would you please tell the radio audience as much as you remember of this rather unusual visitor that dropped in your backyard? Step closer, please. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mr. Wilmuth.

WILMUTH: Well, I was listenin' to the radio.

PHILLIPS: Closer and louder please.

WILMUTH: Yes, sir — while I was listening to the radio and kinda drowsin', that Professor fellow was talkin' about Mars, so I was half dozin' and half . .

PHILLIPS: Yes, yes, Mr. Wilmuth. Then what happened?

WILMUTH: As I was sayin', I was listenin' to the radio kinda halfways …

PHILLIPS: Yes, Mr. Wilmuth, and then you saw something?

WILMUTH: Not first off. I heard something.

PHILLIPS: And what did you hear?

WILMUTH: A hissing sound. Like this: sssssss … kinda like a fourt' of July rocket.

PHILLIPS: Then what?

WILMUTH: Turned my head out the window and would have swore I was to sleep and dreamin.'

PHILLIPS: Yes?

WILMUTH: I seen a kinda greenish streak and then zingo! Somethin' smacked the ground. Knocked me clear out of my chair!

###

"Wow!" Jason exclaimed. "Come listen, mother."

"I can hear just fine from over here," his mother told him and turned her head back to look out the window.

Jason was riveted to the radio, hanging on each and every word. His mother, Mary, stared out the window hoping David would get home shortly. She thought back on another day eighteen months before when she and David were equally fascinated by a radio broadcast.

***

Arlington, Virginia Thursday, May 6, 1937 7:25 p.m. EST

###

NEW JERSEY ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen. This is Herbert Morrison broadcasting live from Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. The great air ship, Hindenburg is about to come in for a landing… It's practically standing still now. They've dropped ropes out of the nose of the ship, and it's been taken a hold of down on the field by a number of men.

It's starting to rain again; the rain had slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it, just enough to keep it from — It burst into flames! … It's on fire and it's crashing! It's crashing terrible! Oh, my! Get out of the way, please! It's burning, bursting into flames and is falling on the mooring mast, and all the folks agree that this is terrible.

This is the worst of the worst catastrophes in the world! …There's smoke, and there's flames now, and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast…Oh, the humanity, and all the passengers screaming around here!

###

Mary looked over at her husband as he started to get up and put on his coat. "I'll be needed at the War Department," David told her as he put on his jacket.

"I know," she said to her husband, as she helped straighten his tie. "Being the wife of the Naval Commander in charge of finding boogie men, hasn't been easy."

She walked over to the coat rack and grabbed his hat and handed it to him. "Do you think it's saboteurs?"

"As Thomas Jefferson said, 'The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.'"

David kissed her gently and strode out the door. Mary sighed and walked into her son's bedroom. The ten-year old lay sleeping. He had had a cold for the last two days and Mary had put him to bed early. She leaned down and felt his forehead. The fever appeared to have subsided and Jason was sleeping gently. She walked into her bedroom. She opened the closet door and took out two large well-worn suitcases and began packing.

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday, January 13, 1994 5:30 p.m.

###

KSML ANNOUNCER: This is KSML, Radio Smallville with the news. At present, the Galileo spacecraft is about 150 million miles from Jupiter and its cameras will be able to see part of the planet's night side, where comet impacts are predicted to take place. Galileo will be capable of taking pictures, says a spokesperson from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. These pictures and infrared spectral scans must be tape-recorded for slow playback, which is expected in a month or two.

###

Clark came up behind Lois and encircled her waist with his arms and kissed the nape of her neck.

"Mmmmm," Lois murmured. "You're going to have to stop, if you want anything to eat," she explained, stirring the sauce on the stove. "Your mom gave me this recipe, and I don't want to spoil it."

"You don't have to do this," Clark told her. He moved his hand to turn off the burner on the stove. "I'm not really hungry…for food," he said, turning her around and pulling her into his arms. He kissed her lightly, then more passionately; and continuing to search out her mouth, he walked her slowly out of the kitchen toward the living room couch.

"You're getting really good at this," Lois informed him as she came up for air.

"You haven't seen anything yet," Clark told her. Maneuvering her carefully, he levitated them slowly until they were above the couch horizontally and then gradually, effortlessly, he lowered them gently unto the couch itself.

Lois ran her fingers through his hair as she kissed Clark intently. His body, lying on top of her, provided her with a feeling of warmth and safety she had never known before. His hand began unbuttoning her blouse. Lois knew that their resolve to wait was threatened. She hesitated for just an instant. Lois was uncertain, doubtful— maybe terrified was the word she was really searching for—because she wanted this so much…she wanted this relationship to work. She wanted him to… she really did, but…

Clark pulled back, his head cocked in that familiar way. "Lois," he said, reluctantly.

"I know. Go."

Lois watched Clark change into his suit. She smiled. She would never tired of seeing him do that spin thing.

Clark smiled back at her and hurrying out her door, he flew off.

Lois followed out onto the porch. She took a deep breath. It was probably a good thing that he had been needed. They had to talk, she decided. All of her past relationships had been so terrible and Lois didn't want this one to end that way. Deep down she knew that their love was special and their passion would never grow cold.

A gust of wind blew through the porch. She shivered in the cold January evening as she watched him streak across the sky.

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday, January 13, 1994 5:40 p.m.

Martha Kent looked down at the script she was preparing as the prompt book. She was enlarging the pages and leaving space in the left-hand margin for her notes.

She took a look at the pages she had just run off on the copier.

Aunt Martha: Mortimer didn't seem quite himself today.

Aunt Abby: Well, that's only natural—I think I know why.

Aunt Martha: Why? Aunt Abby: He's just become engaged to be married. I suppose that always makes a man nervous.

The Director of the Smallville Players stopped reading. A strange sensation had hit her—a strange premonition. <No,> she thought. Lois and Clark are fine.

***

Roswell, New Mexico Tuesday, July 8, 1947 3:40 p.m. MDT

Lou Ann Baker walked over to one of the tables in the Copper Kettle Caf‚. "Would you like me to warm that for you?" she asked.

"I'm sure it was a flying saucer," Mac said to his friend across the table and then looked up at Lou Ann. "Yeah honey," he said. "Warm her right up."

"Are you crazy?" Sheriff Wilcox asked him. "I know we been hearing lots about space ships and such recently. But here in New Mexico, nah!"

Lou Ann slowly walked back to the counter. She closed her eyes and remembered a day back in 1938, a day she would never forget. It was a hoax then—the alien threat. There had been no little green Martians. No, monsters didn't come from outer space, they came from right in your own home. The 1938 attack from Mars had been hoax— plain and simple. And just like then, it was a hoax now.

Lou Ann hoped that what had happened that October day was behind her. She had paid the penalty required by society— she had been put away for almost nine years. Four months ago, when she turned twenty-one, she had been released and had moved away from Smallville, Kansas. She had come to as remote a place as she could think of— Roswell, New Mexico. No one knew her here and she had started a new life. Libby Barton had become Lou Ann Baker.

But now aliens in Roswell, New Mexico. Would monsters always be part of her life?

The door to the caf‚ opened and two tall men dressed in military uniforms entered. They sat down on the counter. "Coffee," said one.

The other officer scanned the caf‚. "Which one is W.W. Brazell?" he asked Lou Ann.

"That would be me," Mac responded as he walked toward the officer.

"I'm Major Marcel," the Army officer informed him, "and you—you're taking me out to your ranch."

***

Cassville, New Jersey Sunday, October 30, 1938 8:21 p.m. EST

Jason walked over to the window and tugged at his mother's arm. "Come listen," he told her. "They're talking to someone from Grover's Mill."

"You listen," Mary told her excited son. "I'm watching for your father."

Mary looked up in the sky and wondered, fearfully. Her husband had been involved with seeking out those that wanted to hurt us. David had railed against invaders, saying that they wanted to destroy this nation. He had been thought a loose canon as he tried for the last eighteen months to prove that saboteurs were at the bottom of the Hindenburg disaster. She had tried to support him, but she was beginning to believe that David was imagining things— no alien power could be that corrupt. But now, maybe he was right; but the danger wasn't coming from across the Atlantic, it was coming from up there, outer space. Mary was frightened but she couldn't let her son know that she was scared.

###

PHILLIPS: Well, were you frightened, Mr. Wilmuth?

WILMUTH: Well, I — I ain't quite sure. I reckon I — I was kinda riled.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Mr. Wilmuth. Thank you.

WILMUTH: Want me to tell you some more?

PHILLIPS: No … That's quite all right, that's plenty. Ladies and gentlemen, you've just heard Mr. Wilmuth, owner of the farm where this thing has fallen. I wish I could convey the atmosphere … the background of this … fantastic scene. Hundreds of cars are parked in a field in back of us. Police are trying to rope off the roadway leading to the farm. But it's no use. They're breaking right through. Cars' headlights throw an enormous spot on the pit where the object's half buried. Some of the more daring souls are now venturing near the edge. Their silhouettes stand out against the metal sheen.

###

A faint humming sound came from the radio in the New Jersey living room.

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday, January 13, 1994 5:35 p.m.

The car's brakes weren't working! Vivian Cox pumped at them repeatedly, but the car kept speeding up, as it slid along the icy surface of Maple Street toward…toward the bridge.

Miss Libby Barton poised herself on top of the window seat as she peered out to see what was happening. Nothing that occurred on Maple Street got by Miss Libby. The Barton home was the last house on the street before one came to the bridge that crossed the Arkansas River, which traversed Smallville's eastside. The bridge was slated for renovation in the summer of 1994, as the state survey last fall had declared that it was sorely in need of repair, but that was six months off—now it could be hazardous.

The occupant of 417 Maple Street was about to go phone for help, when she saw Superman land just in front of the car and stop the runaway from crashing into the guardrail and careening off the bridge.

Suddenly, Miss Libby heard a faint humming sound coming from the window seat beneath her. She stood up and once again retrieved the globe that had been resting there for almost twenty-eight years. <It had belonged to that alien in the space craft,> she thought as she looked at the globe. <The alien who had since…>

Miss Libby smiled as she realized that she had been right to keep the secret. No one would have believed her. But knowing the Kents, she also knew that this particular alien would never be the monster people had feared long ago. Deep down she knew that the baby nestled in Martha's arms she saw back in 1966 had a destiny far beyond any little green man threatening the world in 1938 or 1947.

Miss Libby looked out her window, as the globe began to vibrate again. Jinx jumped up onto the window seat obviously attracted by the sound.

Out on the slippery street, Superman opened the car door to assure that the driver was okay.

Vivian Cox smiled up at him. "Thank you, Superman," she said breathlessly.

"Are you all right?" the man of steel asked her.

"Yes, I'm fine. Just a little shaky," she explained as Rachel Harris arrived on the scene.

Libby closed the curtain, picking up Jinx.

Superman's head jerked right as he heard something. Not a call for help this time, but an unusual humming sound that was vaguely familiar as if from a far distant memory.

***

"Move over! Let me try," Tom Mock insisted, gently pushing Emily Cox to one side.

Tom sat down at the computer and typed something on the keyboard. The screen changed and the menu from the Kansas State Genealogical Society appeared. "Got it!" he exclaimed.

Cindy Brady put her hands on Tom's shoulders, as she stared at the monitor. "Great!" she said excitedly.

"Wow!" Keith Haley echoed. "Now we're getting someplace."

The four students from Miss Lane's American Literature Class had been in the computer lab for several hours after school while researching their assignment. Jimmy Olsen, who taught computers at Smallville High School and was at his desk at the back of the lab, heard their exclamations, joined the group as they clustered around the computer.

"Sounds like you're on to something," Jimmy remarked.

"Yeah," Tom told him. "Look at this, everyone."

The screen displayed the entire family history of Laslo and Lillian Barton.

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday, January 13, 1994 6:00 p.m. CST

Lois heard the whoosh as Superman returned and landed on her back porch; and, as Clark, dressed back in jeans and a flannel shirt, he entered her kitchen and walked over to sit beside her on the couch.

"Vivian Cox almost went off the Maple Street Bridge."

"Is she all right?" Lois asked.

"Yes, she's fine."

"Something else happened. Didn't it?" Lois asked, looking at Clark's faraway expression.

"No, nothing, not really. Just sort of a flashback to a past memory that I can't put my hands on," he replied in a somewhat disconnected voice.

"You know, we've never really shared some memories," Lois said slowly. "I mean I know a lot about you—you're from a different planet, you can fly and you have hearing and vision gismos. But there's one or two things we haven't talked about."

"One or two things?"

"Well one thing," Lois said hesitantly.

"What thing."

"*The* thing."

"Oh," Clark said squirming a little. "That thing."

"Before you left, we almost. I mean we… We haven't had much experience togeth…I mean we…Oh God, I'm sucking the romance out of this just like a vacuum."

"No Lois, I know."

"I mean," she went on. "We've waited. And I'm glad."

"I'm glad too."

"But this is what's been bothering me. The other night I was thinking about my past relationships and I made a list. And they all wound up in the negative column."

"But now you have me," Clark said reaching his hand out to her.

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday, January 13, 1994 6:10 p.m. CST

Jaxon Luthor slammed down the receiver and turned to his computer. He typed in 'Resurrection', and a list appeared. The list held twelve names—a hit list. Jaxon printed off the list and calmly crossed off two names: Bill Saxon and Antoinette Baines. He angrily looked at the third name, Vivian Cox, and made a note to…

The door of the study opened and a man entered. He slammed the door shut and turned to his son. "I've been waiting at that damned deserted farmhouse for almost a week."

"Bender's got the paperwork just about completed. You're going to be Richard Thurston. You know Dad—Richard the Third?"

Lex chuckled. "I see you've inherited my sense of the absurd."

"Well," Jaxon said, now less fearful of his father's reaction. "If you're going to infiltrate the Smallville Players, why not a theatrical name. And, if memory serves, that's your favorite play."

***

"The point is," Lois said, rising to pace the floor of her living room. "I've worked through a lot of my fears. A…a lot," she explained as she walked back and forth. "Except one. And… And, it's not a fear really, it's more of a concern," she explained and stopped pacing to look right at him. "About *that* thing."

"Well actually you've brought up a good point. Because we haven't really talked about," he paused. "Our pasts."

"Right…right, exactly," Lois said a little relieved, and sat down next to him on the couch. "And… Well…I just wanted you to know…uh…why I've been a little skittish about crossing the intimacy threshold. And… And you've been so understanding that I thought maybe you were a little skittish too?" she asked hoping that she hadn't sounded ridiculous.

"Well, uh…my experiences have been…," Clark started, his face showing a sense of apprehension so unlike him.

Lois stared at him. He seemed so unsure, so nervous. Was there something in his past that he couldn't share? He had told her about being Superman, what other big secret had he failed to tell her?

"…uh…different."

"Mm hmm," Lois said, picking up a sofa cushion that was between them and putting it on her lap and scootching closer to him.

Clark looked at her. He took a deep breath. How was he going to tell her? His life had been so strange. He was not of this world, yet he had been part of this world for twenty-seven years. He wanted so much to feel like he belonged. His parents had given him much of that, but it has been Lois who has really moved him toward feeling ready to give of himself totally to someone. He had waited until there *was* a someone who knew everything and he guessed that knowing this was part of knowing everything.

"*I'm* a little different."

"Sure," Lois said, looking up at him and encouraging him to go on.

He took another deep breath and began. "I mean. I've had girlfriends. I've dated."

She nodded, her full attention on him.

"But *that* thing…" Clark said apprehensively. "…The intimacy threshold…the *big* threshold…" he said with a nervous chuckle. He sighed, looked down and then looked back at Lois. "I've never really…crossed it."

Lois' eyes went wide and the cushion she had in her lap, dropped to the floor.

"I…I've stepped right up," Clark said "—taken a good look but…"

"Oh my God!" Lois exclaimed and began taking deep breaths.

"Lois, I'm not from here. So I'm always asking myself 'Do I belong?' Am I really supposed to have a life here?"

"Oh my God!" Lois repeated.

"Lois. Are you listening? 'Cause I'm kind of pouring my heart out here," Clark said looking at her intently.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm just a little… C…could we get some fresh air?

"Sure."

Lois walked out onto the front porch with Clark following her.

"So what you're saying is…you're a v…vir…very patient man."

Clark turned her to look at him. "Lois I needed to be sure. I needed to meet the one person that I could share everything with."

"No, I admire the way you've dealt with this," Lois said stepping back and fidgeting. "I…I also feel a little…"

"Yeah?" Clark urged.

"I just wish you'd told me about this before. I mean this is big," Lois said pointedly.

"I didn't know exactly how to bring it up,"

"It just adds pressure to a situation that has plenty of pressure," Lois said, turning away again.

"Lois, there is no pressure," Clark told her emphatically, reaching out and turning her back again. "Because…I'm sure I made the right choice. You're the person I waited for."

Lois' faced softened as the tension drained and was replaced with warmth. She looked at Clark with understanding. Every day she learned more about this wonderful man— the man who loved her unconditionally, who supported her totally and who was her best friend—the man who she was going to marry.

She glanced over Clark's shoulder through the living room window and saw the precious piece of quartz enclosed in its glass case. "Friends…they cherish one another's hopes. They are kind to each other's dreams."

He had waited for her. His whole life, he had waited for the one person he could share things with. There had been friends, there had been his parents. But he needed that one deep relationship—the one who would provide that special support and love—the person to share his hopes and dreams.

"Oh, Clark," she said softly with a touch of anguish. "I just wish I had waited, too."

"No, no, no, n…," Clark insisted, shaking his head and beginning to understand her concern.

"Well, I do," Lois interrupted, shivering. "Especially since they were all practically federal disasters."

"Well then think of it that way," Clark said taking her hands and leading her out of the cold and back into the living room. "I'll be your first non-federal disaster," he continued, smiling that incredible smile of his. "And you'll be my first…

Clark turned his head suddenly.

"What do you hear?"

"Ah…bank alarm."

"Go, Clark!"

"I'm sure the sheriff has it under control. I don't want to leave while we're…"

"I'm fine…Go!" she exclaimed.

Clark spun back into the suit for the second time that evening and flew off. Lois sighed and shut the front door.

***

Superman landed at the bank building to find Rachel Harris just arriving. "I'll check it out, he told her."

Superman entered the bank and scanned everything. Nothing, no one there. His eyes lit on some exposed wires inside the time lock. He pulled open the box and using his heat vision, fused the wires.

"A wiring problem," Superman told Rachel and the bank manager who had just appeared on the scene. "Bank alarm went off accidentally. I took care of it."

"Thanks, Superman," they both said together.

***

Lois turned on the radio. KSML was playing some oldies music. Lois sank onto her couch. Her head was throbbing. This had, indeed, been a long day. She put her hand to her neck and rotated her head. Maybe she was coming down with the flu as her muscles were starting to ache. Lois began coughing. She couldn't get sick, not just at the start of a new semester. Lois tried to get up to get some juice and maybe an aspirin. She felt strange, she had no strength and she wasn't able to catch her breath. She collapsed back on the couch.

***

Clark flew up into the sky. As he returned toward Lois' he sensed something wrong. Using his x-ray vision, he saw Lois fall back on the couch and quickly flew through the window, shattering the glass and landing at her side.

"Lois!" he yelled.

She was unconscious. He leaned down and placing his mouth over hers, gave her mouth to mouth resuscitation. "Come on, Lois," he demanded.

Lois started to cough. Her eyes fluttered open and she slowly came around.

"What happened?" she asked.

"I don't know," he said. "But I'm flying you to the hospital, right now."

As the radio continued playing in the background, Clark gathered her into his arms and nudging open the door with his shoulder, he flew off with his precious cargo.

###

KSML ANNOUNCER: This is KSML, radio. Shots were fired at the Topeka Courthouse tonight during the arraignment of a suspected rapist. Father of the fifteen- year old victim opened fire wounding the suspect, a guard and killing Judge Deborah Joy LeVine.

###

***

"Well, Dad," Jaxon said, turning off the radio. That's number four on the list."

"What about Vivian Cox?" his father said looking at him sharply.

"We'll try again, and just like I kept Superman busy with the bank alarm and with saving Lois Lane, I'll make sure there's no interference this time."

"You'd better!" Lex hissed. "Your ineptitude is beginning to show."

"I'll show you ineptitude!" he yelled. "They'll all get theirs!"

"I want Lois Lane saved for last," Lex dictated.

"So do I," Jaxon said. "'He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious.'"

"Ah," Lex said smiling. "Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War'. I'm impressed! Maybe I miscalculated calling you inept."

"I'll make you proud of me. We'll get them all for what they did." Jaxon said fervently.

"There's another quotation from Sun Tsu where *he* miscalculated," Lex informed his son. "'Anger can revert to joy, but a nation destroyed cannot be restored to existence, and the dead cannot be restored to life.' We proved him erroneous, you and I."

"Right!" Jaxon echoed.

"So we're together on this. Lois Lane will be last, but I agree it would be fun to toy with her for awhile. Meanwhile Vivian Cox is next," he ordered.

***

Superman landed Lois at the hospital and then left to reenter urgently as Clark, coming to Lois' side.

"She has the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning," the doctor told Clark and then looked at Lois. "You should both check your house immediately, these accidents have happened in many old homes around here. She shouldn't return to her home tonight," he suggested returning his gaze toward Clark. "Superman gave her the best treatment for that poisoning, flying her through clean air. She should be okay now, as it was caught in time. But keep her up, breathing deeply and walking around or exercising. Don't let her go to bed for another five to six hours."

"You're coming with me," Clark told her, and was surprised that she did not put up a protest at all.

Once outside, Clark spun into his suit and picked her up in his arms. "Let's go on a little trip," he told her, as he flew her up into the sky. "Since the doctor said that plenty of fresh air is the best thing for you, I have an idea."

Lois smiled at him but shivered slightly. Using his heat vision, Clark warmed her up and headed south. They reached a warm secluded beach south of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, and he spun back into Clark's clothing.

"Let's just walk," he told her, taking her hand.

***

Kansas City, Kansas Thursday, January 13, 1994 11:50 p.m.

Vivian Cox boarded the red eye flight from Kansas City to Los Angeles. She looked at her watch as she sat down and buckled herself in. The flight should get her into LAX at about 1:15 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. That would allow her time to arrive at the hotel and get maybe six hours sleep before the 9:00 a.m. opening session at the Conference Center.

Vivian was pleased that she could be of help to her husband and represent Smallville at the small town mayors' conference. She had hopes of trying to convince the planners that such a conference should be held in rotating small towns around the country in lieu of major cities. She understood that hosting such a convention would be difficult due to its size, but what a boon it would be to each town.

She settled back into the seat and closed her eyes.

***

Playa Olas Altas, Mexico Friday, January 14, 1994 4:30 a.m. CST

Lois leaned back into Clark's arms as they lay against a small boulder on the beach. It felt so good to be there with the warm breeze, the sound of the surf, Clark's scent and his gentle strength enveloping her.

Clark pulled Lois even closer to him and kissed the top of her head.

Lois turned her face up to him, and kissed him. She sighed into the kiss as she opened her mouth and let his tongue explore. They pulled apart reluctantly and Lois reached up and removed his glasses and put them in his pocket. She softly caressed his face as she memorized each and ever facet of it—his eyes so gentle and full of desire, his chin so strong and sure and his lips, so soft and inviting. She kissed him again.

Lois held her hand up and looked at her ring yet another time. She would never get tired of doing that. Then she looked up at her future husband. "I never thought I could be so happy," she said. "You make me feel so complete."

"Lois, you make me feel so many things and all at once," Clark told her as he gently stroked her shoulder. "Happy. But kinda scared, too. Excited…calm…lost… found." He paused and looked deeply into her eyes as Lois reached up and ran her hand through his hair.

"I feel safe in a way that I've never known," Clark continued. "But in danger, too. This thing between us, whatever it is…it's stronger than me. Being with you is stronger than me alone. That's new to me," he finished, and pulled her into his arms and kissed her, deeply, passionately.

Once again, they unwillingly pulled apart. "Uh…we…have to…," Clark began.

"Hmmmm…yes…I know…" Lois finished dejectedly. "School in…" she said looking at her watch, "…three hours."

Clark spun back into Superman and lifting her in his arms, he sped them back to Smallville.

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, January 14, 1994 3:30 p.m. CST

Keith, Emily, Cindy and Tom were congregated around a large table at the Smallville High School Library.

"Hey, Emily. I heard about your Aunt," Tom Mock said. "Is she okay?"

"Yeah, Tom. She's fine. It was really funny, though."

"Why?" Keith asked.

"Well, Aunt Vivian just had her car checked by my brother over at the garage where he works," Emily explained. "Ben said it was in top notch condition—nothing wrong with the brakes."

"That is strange," Cindy agreed. "But not as strange as the stuff I found on the Bartas."

"Yeah," Keith Haley replied. "We should get to work. I gotta go cover a basketball game for the paper tonight, and we gotta lot to do."

"You start, Emily," Tom suggested. "You researched Laslo and Lillian." "Well," Emily Cox began. "Laslo Barta came to the United States in 1871, when he was just nine years old. He and his family made their money peddling snake oil remedies. They went from town to town mostly around Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas selling stuff that grew hair, or stopped rheumatism or kept you young."

"Yuck," Cindy said. "I remember some TV shows telling the story of those traveling peddlers, they were sleazes."

"Go on," Keith encouraged Emily.

"Well in 1880 when Laslo was eighteen, the family arrived here in Smallville and were promptly escorted out of town by Sheriff Kent."

"Sheriff Kent?" Cindy Brady asked.

"Uh huh," Emily replied. "Mr. Kent's great-great grandfather. There was a whole line of Kent marshals and sheriffs. Mr. Kent's father was the first one who didn't go into the family business."

"So how did Laslo wind up staying here?" Tom asked.

"Lillian Langworthy," she said smiling. "They saw each other and fell in love instantly. She hid him in her father's barn. He never left."

"Wow!" Cindy said. "He was only eighteen. Right?"

"And she was sixteen. They got married really young back then," Emily explained. "Well Laslo and Lillian were married. Laslo worked on her father's farm, but he kept on experimenting on oils and remedies and other brews."

"Lavinia was born in 1881 and Leticia was born in 1882," Cindy, who had the assignment of the aunts," interjected.

"Right," Emily agreed. "They continued to live with Lillian's father until 1885 when Mr. Langworthy died. Laslo took over the running of the farm, but was never very good at it. They had to sell the farm, and they moved into a small house in town. Lillian worked at the feed store, and Laslo got a job at the pharmacy. He wasn't a trained pharmacist, but he helped out around the store; and in his spare time, kept on experimenting in the back room of the pharmacy."

"So what happened?" Keith asked. "How did they get to the big house on Maple street?"

"You're not going to believe this," Emily told them. "But Laslo Barton was the one who really invented Coca Cola."

"Huh, no way!" Tom exclaimed. "They'd be billionaires. And look how Miss Libby lives."

"Well, that's the story, and it's probably only a story," Emily admitted. "I did go on line and I found this." Emily opened a folded sheet of paper and read: "Coca- Cola was invented in May, 1886, by Dr. John S. Pemberton in Atlanta, Georgia. The name 'Coca-Cola' was suggested by Dr. Pemberton's bookkeeper, Frank Robinson. He penned the name Coca-Cola in the flowing script that is famous today. Coca- Cola was first sold at a soda fountain in Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta by Willis Venable."

"So Laslo didn't invent it." Tom said. "The story goes that Dr. John S. Pemberton a pharmacist, stopped in at the pharmacy that Laslo worked at and…"

"And what?" Cindy asked.

"No one knows for sure," Emily explained. "But Laslo started getting some money from a strange source and neither he nor Lillian had to work again. Laslo designed the Maple Street House and they moved into it in 1887."

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:23 CST

Libby Barton ran back into the living room at 417 Maple Street and then yelled out for those in the kitchen to hear.

"Aunt Letty! They're saying that Martians have landed in New Jersey!"

"They've got nothing on what's landed here," Letty snorted, looking at her brother, Lloyd.

"Now Letty," Lloyd insisted. "You know that I'm not the only strange one in this family," he said as they trooped out into the living room and gathered around the radio.

"Listen!" Libby implored.

###

PHILLIPS: …I wish I could convey the atmosphere … the background of this … fantastic scene. Hundreds of cars are parked in a field in back of us. Police are trying to rope off the roadway leading to the farm. But it's no use. They're breaking right through. Cars' headlights throw an enormous spot on the pit where the object's half buried. Some of the more daring souls are now venturing near the edge. Their silhouettes stand out against the metal sheen.

###

A faint humming sound came from the radio once again.

###

PHILLIPS: One man wants to touch the thing … he's having an argument with a policeman. The policeman wins… Now, ladies and gentlemen, there's something I haven't mentioned in all this excitement, but now it's becoming more distinct. Perhaps you've caught it already on your radio. Listen:

###

There was a long pause before Phillips continued speaking.

###

PHILLIPS: Do you hear it? It's a curious humming sound that seems to come from inside the object. I'll move the microphone nearer. (Another pause) Now we're not more then twenty-five feet away. Can you hear it now? Oh, Professor Pierson!

PIERSON: Yes, Mr. Phillips?

PHILLIPS: Can you tell us the meaning of that scraping noise inside the thing?

PIERSON: Possibly the unequal cooling of its surface.

PHILLIPS: I see, do you still think it's a meteor, Professor?

PIERSON: I don't know what to think. The metal casing is definitely extraterrestrial … not found on this earth. Friction with the earth's atmosphere usually tears holes in a meteorite. This thing is smooth and, as you can see, of cylindrical shape.

PHILLIPS: Just a minute! Something's happening! Ladies and gentlemen, this is terrific! This end…the end of the thing is beginning to flake off! The top is beginning to rotate like a screw! The thing must be hollow!

VOICES: She's movin'! Look, the darn thing's unscrewing! Keep back, there! Keep back, I tell you! Maybe there's men in it trying to escape! It's red hot, they'll burn to a cinder! Keep back there. Keep those idiots back!

Suddenly there was the clanking sound of a huge piece of falling metal.

VOICES: She's off! The top's loose! Look out there! Stand back!

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed … Wait a minute! Someone's crawling out of the hollow top. Someone or … something. I can see peering out of that black hole two luminous disks . . are they eyes? It might be a face. It might be …

###

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, January 16, 1994 3:15 p.m. CST

The door at the back of the auditorium slammed as a man entered and began walking deliberately down the aisle to the stage. The eleven people sitting on chairs at the Smallville Players audition couldn't make out the person that was entering out of the darkness, due to the fact that the stage lights above them blinded the group.

As the man mounted the stairs and strode up onto the stage, he glanced at everyone sharply, instantaneously taking in all that surrounded him. He was obviously a man who was well versed in commanding attention; and he paused, dramatically, while almost a dozen pair of eyes stared at him.

The man knew, that given the simpletons in front of him, he had to appear gregarious and become "one of them". He flashed an ingratiating smile.

"I sincerely hope that this is the audition for 'Arsenic and Old Lace'," he asked them, using as kind and open a tone of voice as his genus could resonate. "I'm sorry to be so late, but as I'm new to your community, I sort of got lost. I hope I'm not intruding?" the man inquired graciously.

"No, you're not intruding at all," Martha said quickly, sensing fresh meat—a new man who was interested in theatre. She rose and walked toward him extending her hand in welcome. "And, yes these are the auditions. I'm Martha Kent and I'll be directing this piece. You'll meet the others as we go along. And you're…?

"Thurston. Richard Thurston." And noticing an empty seat, he looked back at Martha. "Is it all right if I sit down next to that lovely young lady," he asked indicating Lois Lane.

***

Roswell, New Mexico Tuesday, July 8, 1947 4:00 p.m. MDT

Lou Ann Baker, AKA Libby Barton, watched Major Marcel leave the restaurant with Mac Brazell. She put the coffee decanter on the warmer and turned back to the counter.

"They're not gonna find flying saucers," Lou Ann told the military officer who had accompanied Major Marcel. "It's all a hoax," she said, wiping off the counter with a damp cloth. "Things aren't as they seem."

"You're a lovely young lady," the Captain said to her, changing the subject.

"Thank you," Lou Ann responded tentatively, stooping down to get a bag of sugar to refill the shakers.

"When do you get off?"

"Nine o'clock," she responded as she stood up, amazed that the answer had come so readily. Lou Ann had had no experience with men and really hadn't wanted any. But this man… Something just attracted her.

"I'll pick you up after work, then."

"All right," Lou Ann said holding a sugar shaker in her hand and looking across at him as he rose and went toward the door.

"By the way," he said turning back. "I haven't introduced myself. Have I?"

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, January 16, 1994 3:10 p.m. CST

Martha looked around at the potential cast members. As usual, she was still lacking males, and *again* as usual, she had an extra female or two. Well, there was a lot of backstage work in this show—the women could help there; and, once more, she would have to go out and do the expected arm twisting to drum up some men.

"Welcome all!" she exclaimed. "I'm especially happy to see some new faces. Why don't we go around the circle and introduce ourselves?"

As the regulars said their name and what they did in real life, Clark stared at the two new participants: Richard Thurston, a complete unknown, and Libby Barton who would definitely be an interesting addition to the group. Clark had grown up knowing the rumors about the Bartons and about Miss Libby in particular.

Libby Barton took a gun And shot her family, everyone.

Although never participating in it himself as a young boy, he had heard the chants that children had uttered when they passed the house on Maple Street and threw stones at the windows.

Keith Haley and Cindy Brady, the youngest members of the Smallville Players' Troupe, introduced themselves while staring at Miss Libby Barton, and then looked at each other. Their project had just become a tad easier as they had automatically obtained almost unlimited access to one of their subjects.

"I'm Libby Barton," Miss Libby said, when it was her turn. "I guess most of you know me, if not personally, then by innuendo. I've lived in Smallville pretty much all my life except for a little over ten years when I was unavoidably detained elsewhere."

Most of the actors sitting in the circle of chairs fidgeted at first; and then, as they noticed her smile, chuckled a little at her remarks. It appeared that Miss Libby Barton was going to fit right in. She, as with most actors, was just a bit off center.

"Since I was a little girl, I've wanted to be an actress; so I'm really looking forward to being involved in this play, if I'm cast, that is," she continued, looking over at Martha. "It appears that 'Arsenic and Old Lace' would be right up my alley, as I've always been interested in…in…well, unique characters," she explained, smiling again.

As Wayne Irig began his introduction, Lois watched the two new people. Her students had told her about Libby Barton, and it appeared that she was definitely unusual. If she had killed all the members of her family, then she had already paid for her crime. But looking at the elderly lady whose gray hair framed an almost angelic face, Lois found it difficult to believe that Miss Libby was capable of doing anything that macabre. She glanced away from Miss Libby because it was Richard Thurston who now captured her attention…something about him…

Something about Richard Thurston disturbed Clark, as well. He couldn't get a handle on it, but there was something…

While Donald was going on ad infinitum about who he was, parts he had played, etc., Martha thought about how the group had gaped at Libby Barton when she first entered the auditorium. But the actors now seemed to relax, once Miss Libby had spoken. Perhaps her being involved will finally chill all the gossip. Martha, too, had grown up knowing about Libby. But, unknown to most people, Martha had a much closer connection, one that made her understand Libby and want to help.

Miss Libby took the opportunity, while eyes had refocused off her and onto Donald Botts, to look around at the members of the Smallville Players. They were a unique group of individuals, but it appeared that there was a feeling of camaraderie there— a feeling of family—something that Libby had lacked for oh so many years. She had remained practically a recluse, estranged from almost everyone and everything. Her few trips out of the house to the book store or the cemetery where her so-called family was buried were the only exceptions to her hibernation from the world at large.

Martha Kent continued to look at all the candidates for parts in the play. But she kept drifting back to Libby Barton. The Smallville Players' director had found it strange, at first, that Libby was interested in being involved with the community theatre group. But this *was* a play about murder and perhaps it was Miss Libby's chance to finally put a lot of things to rest, both for herself and for others. Martha had worried that over the years, Miss Libby had basically become more and more of a hermit whose only outlet was to read about murderers, and monsters. Martha strongly believed in drama being a type of therapy, and albeit a play about one of Libby's favorite subjects, at least it was an opportunity to get her out of that house more often.

Libby watched Martha's appraisal of the hopefuls for roles in the play and saw in her the ability to encourage, support and bring out the best in people. For years, Miss Libby's visits to the bookstore were more than just trips to get books, as she could have had them delivered. It was a chance to see Martha Kent and receive a different kind of look than those she sometimes received when she saw the occasional delivery man, series of housekeepers, or the odd tourist that took pictures in front of her house.

So she made a foray to the bookstore one or two Saturdays a month to purchase books— some of which she already had just to see Martha and to hopefully see one more person. Whenever she opened the door of the bookstore and heard the tinkle of the bell, she would pray that he would be there— Clark. Libby looked over at Clark and when their eyes met, she smiled. She had watched him grow up and realized what an incredible young man he was—the kind of young man she would have liked her…but she couldn't let her mind go there. Now that she was almost seventy years old, she had decided to terminate her self-imposed excommunication and reach out to the world and to do it with Martha and Clark.

As Libby looked at Clark, the former recluse remembered what had really been the ultimate deciding factor to alter her life today—to come to the auditions—to reenter the world with a bang—Superman. Superman had chosen to be out there, to dare anyone to ridicule his difference, to set an example. Superman was an alien. Aliens had, it seemed, always impacted her life—that fateful night in 1938, in New Mexico in 1947 and perhaps now. He was an alien from another planet, yet he didn't seclude himself away but opted to, not only make himself a part of this world, but to use his differences to make a difference.

Miss Libby smiled again at Clark. Yes Clark had made a difference in this world. Clark, that is, Superman didn't hide—didn't run away from life.

***

Cassville, New Jersey Sunday, October 30, 1938 8:25 p.m. EST

Mary looked out the window one last time. David wasn't coming home, at least not during the next few minutes when she needed him so much.

There were loud shouts coming from the radio.

###

PHILLIPS: Good heavens, something's wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now it's another one, and another. They look like tentacles to me. There, I can see the thing's body. It's large, large as a bear and it glistens like wet leather. But that face, it … Ladies and gentlemen, it's indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate. The monster or whatever it is can hardly move. It seems weighed down by … possibly gravity or something. The thing's raising up. The crowd falls back now. They've seen plenty. This is the most extraordinary experience. I can't find words … I'll pull this microphone with me as I talk. I'll have to stop the description until I can take a new position. Hold on, will you please, I'll be right back in a minute.

ANNOUNCER: We are bringing you an eyewitness account of what's happening on the Wilmuth farm, Grover's Mill, New Jersey. We now return you to Carl Phillips at Grover's Mill.

PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen (Am I on?). Ladies and gentlemen, here I am, back of a stone wall that adjoins Mr. Wilmuth's garden. From here I get a sweep of the whole scene. I'll give you every detail as long as I can talk—as long as I can see. More state police have arrived. They're drawing up a cordon in front of the pit, about thirty of them. No need to push the crowd back now. They're willing to keep their distance. The captain is conferring with someone. We can't quite see who. Oh yes, I believe it's Professor Pierson. Yes, it is. Now they've parted. The Professor moves around one side, studying the object, while the captain and two policemen advance with something in their hands. I can see it now. It's a white handkerchief tied to a pole … a flag of truce. If those creatures know what that means … what anything means!… Wait! Something's happening!

###

Mary ran into the bedroom and got a small suitcase and packed enough for a night or two. She hurried into the kitchen and opened one of the cupboards. Taking down a jelly jar hidden behind some glasses, she unscrewed the lid and took out the thirty- six dollars and forty-two cents that was there for emergencies.

She grabbed Jason and slipped a jacket on him. "We're leaving," she told him.

"What about Daddy?" her son asked.

"Jason Trask, we're getting out of here now!"

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, October 20, 1993 3:40 p.m. CST

Colonel Jason Trask, Jr. starred at Clark Kent. He had come to Smallville to track down a rock—a rock that came from the same planet as that alien, Superman. It was a rock that could kill the extraterrestrial.

Trask had been born for this job. His grandfather, David Trask had been a governmental agent searching out the alien horde from across the waters—aliens whose sole purpose was to conquer the United States. His grandmother had been killed in the panic that ensued after Orson Welles' broadcast of 'War of the Worlds', leaving his father to be raised by an angry and vindictive man who saw evil in every pocket of dissidents, protestors, and activists.

Jason Trask, Sr. had followed his father, David, into the service and had become the chief investigator searching out UFOs in the late 40s and then had helped to start Bureau 39, a covert organization whose sole job was to track down and eradicate aliens and alien activities.

Jason, Jr. had joined the service as well and had been attached to his father's unit in 1969. And, like his grandfather and father before him, had seen enemies where there were none; and, this obsession like many obsessions, would prove to be fatal.

"I'll make a deal with you, Clark," Trask informed him. "You give up the alien, and I will let you and the others live."

"What makes you think I would do that even if I could?" Clark responded glaring at the man in camouflage green.

"Because Superman came to Smallville about the same time you were born. There has to be a connection," Trask insisted. "Now tell me and live!"

"There's nothing to tell," Clark told him determinedly. "I'm learning all of this for the first time right now."

"I'm trying to save humanity from an alien invader!" Trask told him zealously.

"You have no proof of that." Clark informed him staring at him steadily.

"All right," the federal agent said calming down and circling Clark. "There's another possibility. Perhaps this alien has taken over your mind."

Clark looked critically at this man who supposedly worked for the government. <He is maniacal,> Clark thought. "Perhaps he has infused you with his power?" Trask continued.

"Nobody has infused me with power and no one has taken over my mind," Clark responded adamantly.

"Colonel Trask!" a voice called from outside. "We've found something!"

***

Roswell, New Mexico Tuesday, July 8, 1947 4:00 p.m. MDT

"What's your name?" the military officer asked.

"Lib…Lou Ann Baker," she replied.

"Mine's Jason Trask."

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, January 16, 1994 3:30 p.m. CST

Martha Kent scanned over the audition sheets that each of the potential actors had presented to her. As usual Donald Botts saw himself as the comic relief, and had put down that he was interested in the part of Teddy. Clark and Lois had specified Mortimer and Elaine, the two young lovers. Dan Scardino had also stated he was interested in Mortimer. Martha wondered what Clark would think if she cast Dan and Lois together. No, she wouldn't do that—not because Lois and Clark were engaged, but because Dan Scardino just didn't come off well as a young hero—he was more of a sleaze-ball type. Beatrice Drake wanted either of the two aunts—Abby or Martha. As did Libby Barton.

The director knew there was going to be one interesting problem with this play. There was a character named Martha and one named Jonathan. She would have to be explicit when talking about the characters of Aunt Martha and Jonathan Brewster so as not to be confused with the real people sitting around the circle. She looked around at the actors who were anxiously awaiting what came next. Then she took another glance at the sheets—most of which she could recite without even reading them.

Jimmy, Keith, Cindy, Wayne, and her own husband each had given her carte blanche as to casting. Now for the stranger—the Director of the Smallville Players carefully perused Richard Thurston's sheet. He had had acting experience, the sheet told her, predominantly Shakespearean roles. Then she looked at the line where the auditioner would mention the part he or she was interested in. The character's name, Jonathan Brewster appeared.

"Mr. Thurston," Martha said looking at the handsome man across from her. "You selected Jonathan Brewster as the part you would want?"

"Call me Richard, Mrs. Kent," he told her. "And, yes. Villains are abundantly much more fun."

***

Rosewell, New Mexico Tuesday, July 8, 1947 10:30 p.m. MDT

Trask threw her down on the bed and got on top of her.

"Stop! Stop!" Lou Ann yelled out, as he pinned her arms against the mattress… Please, don't," she cried.

"You little tease!" Jason Trask yelled, and slapped her across the mouth.

Lou Ann took that opportunity to use her free hand to reach up and scratch his face.

Trask's hand abruptly went to his bleeding face as he felt the indentations made by Lou Ann's nails. He sneered and punched her again and again. In her weakened condition, he was able to pry apart her legs.

Lou Ann, her lip and one eye bleeding and beginning to swell, looked up into the monstrous face over her and spit at him. Trask punched her one more time, and with that punch came blackness…

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, January 16, 1994 3:35 p.m. CST

Martha went over to the light board and altered some settings. At first the stage was plunged into darkness and then the "first electric" lit up to give them a more appropriate atmosphere for the audition.

"Okay," she said let's try a scene from Act II first, and I would like to hear some of the new people. Richard, you read Jonathan Brewster, Lois, read Elaine; and Keith, would you read Dr. Einstein just for now. Then I'll try some Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha scenes so I can hear you Miss Libby. We'll start at the middle of page forty-eight with your line, Lois. Do you see it?"

"Uh huh." Lois responded, as she and the other two stood up to face the director.

"Given that I have a husband named Jonathan, I'm going to call the Jonathan in the play, JB, which should eliminate some confusion, I hope. Anyway, in this scene," Martha explained. "JB has come home after a long absence. He has had plastic surgery done by a drunk Dr. Einstein who had seen the movie of Frankenstein the day before. So JB now looks like Boris Karloff," she said smiling. "What was really funny, of course," Martha continued. "Was that the actor who first played JB on the stage *was* Boris Karloff. That was the joke. Obviously *our* actor will need some unique make-up."

The actors in the circle smiled. "Cindy," Martha said. "To be honest, there's really no part in the play for you, but I would appreciate it if you could help with the make-up. Jonathan Brewster's face will take a lot of work."

"Of course," Cindy replied, somewhat disappointed but always up for the challenge of new things. "That would be fun."

"Anyway," Martha continued. "JB is a despicable, evil, depraved individual who has killed twelve people. He has come home to hide from the police and to conceal his latest victim whose body is in his car," she explained looking at Richard. "But, unbeknownst to JB, of course, was that the home he came back to already had twelve bodies buried in the cellar because Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha have developed a little hobby," she paused looking at all the actors.

"They use arsenic to poison lonely old men and then give them Christian burials in their basement." Martha clarified.

The actors chuckled at the morbid yet funny concept of the play.

"They have another nephew, Teddy who thinks he's Theodore Roosevelt and whenever they need a grave dug, they tell Teddy that another Yellow Fever victim has appeared and must be buried in Panama—the cellar. I'll explain about other characters as we go on. But this should give you all a little understanding of the plot."

"Maybe for this play we should say plots," Donald Botts interjected, laughing.

Donald waited for a reaction from the others and getting none, he sighed. "I was just trying to lighten the mood. Sorry."

Martha looked at Richard, Lois and Keith. "Ready."

They nodded.

Elaine/Lois: Miss Abby! Miss Martha! Miss Abby! Miss Martha! [The Script's directions state that: suddenly JB steps through the door and closes it.]

Richard pretends to do that.

Elaine/Lois: Uhhh! Who is it? Is that you, Teddy? [JB/Richard comes toward her as she backs into a chair.] Who are you?

Lois registered some fear as she is forced back into a chair.

JB/Richard Who are you?

Elaine/Lois: I'm Elaine Harper—I live next door!

JB/Richard: Then what are you doing here?

Elaine/Lois: I came over to see Miss Abby and Miss Martha.

JB/Richard: [To Dr. Einstein.] Turn on the lights, Doctor.

The script directs Elaine to gasp. Lois did so.

JB/Richard: [Looks at her for a moment.] You chose rather an untimely moment for a social call. The script tells Jonathan Brewster to cross over to the window-seat to look for Spenalzo who is the dead body Dr. Einstein has brought in from the car to hide. JB cannot find Spenalzo. He looks up, behind the table, Looks out the window, then comes back to the center of the room. Richard performs all of these maneuvers during the next couple of lines.

Elaine/Lois: I think you'd better explain what you're doing here.

JB/Richard: We happen to live here.

Elaine/Lois: You *don't* live here. I'm in this house every day and I've never seen you before. [Frightened.] Where are Miss Abby and Miss Martha? What have you done to them?

JB/Richard: Perhaps we'd better introduce ourselves. This [indicates Dr. Einstein.] is Dr. Einstein.

Elaine/Lois: Dr. Einstein?

JB/Richard: A surgeon of great distinction. [Continues to look under the table for Spenalzo, and not finding him…] …and something of a magician.

The people around the room laugh at Richard's interpretation of that line. Martha smiles as she realizes what a simply wonderful Jonathan Brewster Richard is going to make.

Elaine/Lois: And I suppose you're going to tell me you're Boris Kar…

JB/Richard: I'm Jonathan Brewster.

Elaine/Lois: [Drawing back almost with fright.] Oh—you're Jonathan!

Although no suggestions of movement were given to Jonathan Brewster's character at this point, Richard walked slowly toward Lois and stroked the side of her face with the back of his hand and then with an evil tone to his voice, read his line.

JB/Richard: I see you've heard of me.

***

Roswell, New Mexico Thursday, April 1, 1948 9:20 p.m. MST

Lou Ann Baker AKA, Libby Barton screamed. The pain was excruciating, and it appeared that not a single soul in the operating room was attentive to her needs at all. The labor-room nurse, Rebecca Schuler, looked over at Dr. Thorpe and frowned. She looked back at the young woman lying on the table, and her heart went out to her. The mother to be was so pale and scared, and she had no one to support her—no husband pacing outside, no parents clustering near the phone waiting to hear, no one. The nurse took her hand to try to comfort her. "Take a deep breath and blow it out in small pants," the nurse told Libby.

"What are you doing?" the doctor spat out.

"It's a new method I read about that they are trying in Great Britain. Dr. Grantly Dick-Read says…"

"Don't you tell me about delivering a child, especially a bastard!" Dr. Thorpe commanded.

The nurse bit her lower lip to keep from saying something. She knew that Dr. Thorpe had a history of punishing young women who…

"It's a breech birth," he bellowed suddenly. "Let's put her under."

***

Glouchester, Virginia Thursday, April 1, 1948 11:20 p.m. EST

Second Lieutenant Jason Trask, soon to be Jason Trask Senior, paced up and down the corridor of Walter Reed Hospital. He looked at his watch. He had been there for over three hours and he was getting incredibly impatient. He had much more important things to do than to waste his time here. The officer looked up to see Captain Stone, an older man with a warm smile, pushing open the double doors of the maternity section of the hospital and walking toward him. "You have a baby boy," the doctor informed him.

Jason Trask Senior nodded and turned to leave.

"Don't you want to know about your wife?" the doctor asked, his smile fading rapidly.

"Yeah, sure," Lieutenant Trask said off handedly, continuing his path to the exit.

"Well, your wife is doing just fine. You can go in to see her," Dr. Stone suggested to the back of the retreating officer.

***

Roswell, New Mexico Friday, April 2, 1948 7:15 a.m. CST

"Lou Ann," the nurse whispered, gently trying to awaken the sleeping patient.

Libby Barton opened her eyes to see Rebecca Schuler hovering over her.

Rebecca was a highly competent woman, who in 1948 would have been called a spinster being that she was in her mid thirties and unmarried. Most often described as a plain woman, Nurse Schuler had a gentle heart and a kind of nobility that was sometimes lacking in the male component of the medical profession. Dressed in a starched white uniform with a wide black band on her crisp cap that signified her senior status, Rebecca smiled at the patient in the third bed of the charity ward and took the young woman's hand.

"Where…where is my ba…?" the woman known as Lou Ann Baker said.

Dr. Thorpe will be here soon," the nurse interrupted her question, just as the doctor entered the ward and walked over to Libby's bed.

"*Miss* Baker," the doctor emphasized, accusatorily. "Your son died in childbirth, which is probably a blessing in disguise," he finished. "We will be discharging you this afternoon, as we need the bed for more deserving patients," he lashed out, turning on his heels and retreating straightway out of the ward.

Libby looked up at the nurse and began to cry. "I…I was r..ra…," she tried to explain as her crying intensified.

Rebecca took her hand. "It's all right, dear," she said. The veteran nurse looked over her shoulder toward where the doctor had withdrawn and then sat down next to Libby. "They just don't understand."

Dr. Thorpe, a tall, thin man with angular protuding features, let the maternity ward doors swing behind him, as he strolled determinedly into the hallway and turned right at the end of the corridor. He opened the door to his office and sat down behind his desk to look at the well-to- do couple inhabiting the chairs in front of him. "Your son is waiting for you in the nursery," he informed them. "He's a very healthy baby and meets each and every one of your criteria; so, if I can just have my check?"

The distinguished, but callous looking man took out a folded slip of paper from his inside jacket pocket and slid it pointedly across the desk to Dr. Thorpe. "As agreed upon," the new father informed him.

Dr. Thorpe unfolded the piece of paper and smiled. "Exactly!" he exclaimed as he rose and extended his hand.

The icy-expressioned woman, dressed in a gray suit and a small pillbox black hat with a lace veil, slipped on her gloves, carefully buttoning them before she and her husband stood up and coldly shook the doctor's hand in turn.

"Have you decided upon a name?" Dr. Thorpe asked them.

"Yes," the attractive woman said, matter-of-factly. "Alexander."

"That's a fine name," Dr. Thorpe said as he escorted the two toward the nursery.

The three stopped in front of the glass partition and looked at the array of bassinets. Dr. Thorpe went into the nursery and removing a tag from a bassinet in the second row, he whispered to a nurse who walked over to a desk at the far end of the nursery.

The nurse scratched out the name Baker, boy; and, carefully and precisely, printed the child's new name. She walked back to the where the child was sleeping and slipped the corrected tag into its holder.

The new parents looked at each other and then unemotionally, turned and looked at their new son.

The tag read: Luthor, Alexander.

"Lex," Max Luthor told his wife forcefully. "It will be Lex Luthor."

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, January 16, 1994 4:10 p.m. CST

"That's wonderful," Martha told them after the first reading. "But, Richard, before you sit down, I would like you to read something else. I know that you're only interested in the villain, and you really read him beautifully; but I want to hear the range of your voice quality. So, Lois, please stay up here and would you please read Elaine Harper again. And, uh…Richard," Martha continued, looking toward Clark. "I want to hear you read for Mortimer Brewster this time."

Lois looked over at Clark and turned back to Martha. Lois knew this day had to come. The last two plays they had been in together, she and Clark were cast as lovers. But Martha couldn't keep doing that. She had to give others a chance or else people would think that the shows were pre-cast, that is, etched in stone before someone new could try out. It was really important that Martha do this for the sake of the organization. Mortimer Brewster was the play's lead and one of the potential candidates for that part was her son. Pre-casting could prove a death knell to community theatres—auditions had to be totally open.

Martha glanced again at Clark. She knew what she was doing. She had absolutely no intentions of casting anyone other than Lois and Clark in the roles of Elaine and Mortimer, especially since Richard had indicated no interest in the role of the hero; but she had to let all those in the room know that she gave others the chance—that she could be persuaded to see things differently, especially if the actors gave her an interpretation of the characters that changed her mind. But deep in her heart, she knew no one could play Mortimer as well as Clark. Richard had shown some incredible acting talent, but he preferred the villain and since she desperately needed a strong actor in that role as well, she had no problem acquiescing to his preference.

She would later ask Dan to read for Mortimer, but give him a scene without Elaine. Dan and Lois had a little bit of a history and she didn't want that to erupt on her— but Richard was someone new—no chance there.

"Let me set the scene." Martha Kent said to the actors standing in front of her. "Mortimer is a theatre critic and Elaine is the daughter of a minister—very different from each other—very much in love. This scene is toward the beginning of the play. It's as close to a marriage proposal as Mortimer can get. He is flippant, creative, and articulate. Elaine is not as na‹ve as he thinks, and she will get what she wants. Okay, we're on page seventeen."

Mortimer/Richard: For a minister's daughter you know a lot about life. Where'd you learn it?

Elaine/Lois: [Casually.] In the choir loft.

Mortimer/Richard: I'll explain that to you sometime, darling—the close connection between eroticism and religion.

Elaine/Lois: Religion never gets as high as the choir loft. Which reminds me, I'd better tell Father to please not wait up for me tonight.

Mortimer/Richard: I've never been able to rationalize it.

Elaine/Lois: What?

Mortimer/Richard: My falling in love with a Minister's daughter.

Elaine/Lois: Falling in love? You're not stooping to the articulate, are you?

Mortimer/Richard: The only way I can regain my self respect is to keep you away from your father and in Metropolis.

Elaine/Lois [Taking a few steps toward him.] Did you say keep?

Mortimer/Richard: No, no. I've come to the conclusion that you're holding out for the legalities.

Elaine/Lois: [Crossing to him.] I can afford to be a good girl for quite a few years yet.

Lois glanced ahead and realized that the next part of the scene called for the two of them to get quite close. She glanced over Richard's shoulder toward where Clark was sitting. It was obvious that Clark was a little uncomfortable with her doing this.

Mortimer/Richard: [Takes Elaine/Lois in his arms.] And I can't wait that long. Where could we be married in a hurry—say tonight?

Clark watched the two of them. He knew he shouldn't be jealous, but he was. This was just an audition, and they were only acting. But there was something in Richard's body language that irritated Clark. He looked beyond them to his mother. She really wasn't considering this possibility, was she? She wouldn't cast Lois opposite this new guy. She couldn't!

Martha caught Clark's glare. She should stop the scene now. It had served its purpose.

But Richard was really getting into the scene. He thought back to that night in September when Lois had come to his apartment to persuade him to change an educational policy. Richard, that is, Lex had tried to kiss her then, but she had fought him off. Now he had a chance to correct that. He pulled Lois into his arms and kissed her.

***

Barb Friskin was working at her Smallville High School office. Yes it was Sunday, and yes she should be down the corridor at the auditorium auditioning for a role in the play; but her mind was not on that. She really wasn't in the mood to get involved in another production, but she had promised Martha; and Martha was a hard person to disappoint. But she just had so much work to do and so much to think about.

Since Lex Luthor's death, Barb's nephew Jaxon had been avoiding her. He had immersed himself into the Luthor mystique and had been thoroughly seduced by its power and prestige. All Barb Friskin's attempts to save him from the quagmire of the Luthor empire had been to no avail.

The counselor picked up a file and reread sections of the previously recorded material. She jotted down a few ideas to incorporate in the ongoing record. She reached for her tape recorder and then looked up at the clock and groaned. The auditions would be over soon, but Barb had a little time yet and this work had to get done. Well, she would just take a few minutes more to finish dictating her notes. She pushed the record button and…

***

"Clark," his mother told him. "I'd like you to try the same scene."

"No, I can't, Mom. I just heard…uh…I mean I remembered something and I'll try to get back as fast as I can," he informed everyone as he hurriedly took off out the door.

Only Clark's parents and Lois knew what was taking Clark out of the audition. The others sitting in the circle of chairs were puzzled at his reaction. Had he been that upset over Richard kissing Lois? Richard smiled. Being involved with this group was going to enable him to get some retribution.

***

Once into the empty hallway, Clark spun into Superman and burst into Barb Friskin's locked door to find Barb Friskin dead, the smoking gun still in her own hand.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:29 p.m. CST

The elder members of the Barton family, who were gathered around the radio listening to what only a few people in the country realized had been just the Mercury Theatre's rendition of "War of the Worlds", were no strangers to alien happenings. They had grown up with the bizarre, with the unusual, and with the ghoulish. On that eventful October 30th in 1938, they were being taken in, as were so many other listeners, with the idea that the newscast was real and that the end of life as they had known it was upon them.

The Bartons were ready to accept the macabre occurrence depicted on the radio as authentic, because they had been taught all their lives that nothing was impossible. Laslo Barton, their father, had believed he could extend life and perhaps even resurrect those who have gone to their graves. He had failed to save his wife as she lay dying; and as a result, he became maniacally obsessed with his experiments after her death. His only other obsession was his youngest daughter, Lenore who each and every day became more and more like her mother.

In order to keep Lenore in frilly dresses and add to her collection of dolls, Laslo needed money. The money would provide for Lenore in the way he wanted to, and would keep him in materials to continue the experiments that would someday net a return for those who were supplying his funding—those interested investors.

The town had believed the rumors of Laslo discovering Coca- Cola, and he had kept that gossip alive. Because, if they knew—really knew from where his money came and for what purpose his ill-got gains would be ultimately used—tar and feathers or torches and pitchforks would be the most benign of punishments. Up in the Maple Street attic, with a young Lloyd by his side, Laslo Barton conducted odd experiments on animals, corpses and even a lonely boarder or two, most of whom were now buried in their cellar. Linus always had his shovel at the ready and enjoyed the game of digging and filling up holes.

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, May 18, 1966 10:40 p.m. CDT

Major Jason Trask Sr. ordered the men to commence filling up the hole. He walked back to the military truck that was parked in the field and ran his hand over the craft they had uncovered and carefully prepared for transport. Another young soldier was on the truck completing a tag. Corporal Jason Trask Jr. looked up at his father, grinned and then wrote: "Smallville, Kansas 1966 — Bureau 39."

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:31 p.m. CST

Outside the house on Maple Street, the wind continued to whip wildly around; and, again, an unusual noise whistled through the attic. Leticia glanced up at the ceiling and back at her brothers and sister. She noticed that Lavinia had her arm around Libby who was frightened. This time a scratching noise came from above. Leticia left the anxious group clustered around the radio anxiously awaiting news concerning the Martians, and started for the stairs but was distracted back to the living room when a hissing sound followed by a humming sound, increasing in intensity, emanated from the radio.

###

PHILLIPS: A humped shape is rising out of the pit. I can make out a small beam of light against a mirror. What's that? There's a jet of flame springing from the mirror, and it leaps right at the advancing men. It strikes them head on! Good Lord, they're turning into flame!

Then there were screams and unearthly shrieks.

PHILLIPS: Now the whole field's caught fire.

A sound of an explosion was heard next.

PHILLIPS: The woods … the barns … the gas tanks of automobiles … it's spreading everywhere. It's coming this way. About twenty yards to my right …

There was a crash of the microphone…then dead silence.

###

***

The skies above Los Angeles Sunday, January 16, 1994 11:40 p.m. PST

Vivian Cox once more leaned back into her coach seat as the plane settled into its path toward the Mid West. The conference had been a huge success and she was eager to report to her husband and the Smallville Town Council.

The flight attendant was making her way along the aisle checking on drink orders, The man in front of Vivian had adjusted his seat causing the mayor's wife to realign her position somewhat. The woman next to her had thankfully gone taciturn after the obligatory introductions, the discussion of the woman's children, their jobs, where the two women had come from and where they were going.

Vivian looked out the window. The lights below like a starry blanket formed the broad expanse of the city of Los Angeles and appeared to go on forever. She sighed as she thought about her past life in the bustle of Metropolis and how she had been able to so easily settle down to be totally ensconced as the wife of a small-town mayor.

The flight attendant wandered down the aisle dispensing earphones in order to listen to the in flight movie or to music. Vivian paid the $5.00 and plugged the ear-phones into the radio station outlet.

###

…and in scientific news: Gamma-Ray flashes in earth's atmosphere have been observed by the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO), according to Neil Gehrels of NASA Goddard, who spoke at the AAS meeting. The GRO looks for gammas from across the sky out to the furthest corners of the universe; scientists had not expected to see them at our home planet, Gehrels said. He suggested that the flashes might be occurring over intense storms and may result from upward-going lightning.

###

A lightning flash lit up the sky. The jagged fingers spread out and illuminated the heavens above the Pacific Ocean below, as the jet climbed to achieve altitude and then banked slowly, to turn and head east. Another flash appeared outside the window just as Vivian Cox reached for her purse. Perhaps she should use this time to…A huge explosion ripped through the body of the plane and then dead silence.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:32 p.m. CST

Libby Barton, sitting on the couch in their Victorian living room, inched even closer to her Aunt Lavinia, while Aunt Leticia made her way up the stairs to the attic.

###

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, due to circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to continue the broadcast from Grover's Mill. Evidently there's some difficulty with our field transmission. However, we will return to that point at the earliest opportunity. In the meantime, we have a late bulletin from Los Angeles, California. Professor Indellkoffer, speaking at a dinner of the California Astronomical Society, expressed the opinion that the explosions on Mars are undoubtedly nothing more than severe volcanic disturbances on the surface of the planet.

ANNOUNCER TWO: Ladies and gentlemen, I have just been handed a message that came in from Grover's Mill by telephone. Just a moment. At least forty people, including six state troopers lie dead in a field east of the village of Grover's Mill, their bodies burned and distorted beyond all possible recognition. The next voice you hear will be that of Brigadier General Montgomery Smith, commander of the state militia at Trenton, New Jersey.

###

Fifteen minutes later, Libby Barton, aged twelve, looked at the bodies strewn around the living room floor. Jinx mewed and rubbed against her legs as Libby starred at the gun in her hand.

The door to the living room burst open and Sheriff Jerome Kent and two deputies entered the Barton house. The Sheriff walked over to where Libby was standing and carefully took the gun from her hand. He knelt down beside her and looked into her eyes. He saw her dazed look and picking her up gently, carried her over to the couch and laid her down. He then went over to the phone.

"Theresa," he said to the woman that answered. "Let me speak to Joe."

Joe Clark, attorney at law took the receiver his wife handed him.

"Hey Jerry!" Joe said. "What's up?"

"Get over to the Barton house as soon as you can. Little Libby Barton's going to need a damn good attorney."

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, January 24, 1994 1:15 p.m. CST

The attractive female attorney sat opposite a distinguished looking man, wearing an impeccably tailored suit, as they finished their coffee. She waved off the waitress when offered the desert menu, but allowed the young woman dressed all in pink to refill her coffee cup. She waited until the waitress had left them alone to address the man who was regarding her condescendingly.

"You have beaten around the bush for the last forty minutes, Mr. St. John," Mayson Drake-Luthor told him. "What is it that you want of me?"

"I don't want you to do anything for me," Nigel told her. "I have some pertinent information for you."

"What information?" she asked him taking another sip of her coffee.

"They've begun to die."

"Who?" Mayson asked him.

"Bill Saxon, Antoinette Baines, Deborah Joy LeVine, Barb Friskin, Vivian Cox."

Mayson looked at Nigel. "And…"

"*He's* doing it. He's seeking revenge. He's *alive*!"

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, January 28, 1994 3:35 p.m. CST

Martha Kent moved from around the counter and walked toward the window of the Cabbages and Kings Bookstore to post the cast list. She had waited over a week, until after the funerals of Vivian Cox and Barb Friskin, allowing the town to achieve some sense of normality. It seemed almost trivial to continue with the play, but the group had decided that even with the rash of deaths in Smallville, life had to continue.

Martha had considered changing the play, as a comedy about death appeared somewhat sacrilegious in a way, yet nothing else had come to mind. The potential cast members had seemed eager to participate; and, since there was another five weeks until the play was going up on the boards, there would be some distance.

Keith and Cindy were waiting around outside the bookstore for the cast list to be posted. Martha smiled at them, as she taped the announcement to the inside of the window and walked back to the counter.

"Okay, okay," Cindy said. "Who got what?"

"I'll bet Mr. Kent is Mortimer," Keith told her as he began to read.

"You don't think Mr. Scardino will get it?" Cindy asked him.

"Are you kidding?" Keith turned and shot back at her, and then noticed her saucy grin. "Oh! Right!"

"Of course, Mr. Kent should get Mortimer," Cindy retorted. "He's always the perfect hero. I mean he's super in those roles."

"It's posted alphabetically," Keith went on, ignoring her. "Let's see…"

"Libby Barton is Aunt Martha, Donald Botts is Teddy, Beatrice Drake is Aunt Abby and I got Officer Cohen."

"Who's he?" Cindy asked.

"Just one of the cops," Keith told her. "I knew I could only get a small part for this show, but Mrs. Kent is promising to pick a play where I would have a chance at a meaty role, before I leave in September."

"Go on," Cindy urged. "Who else got what?"

"Wayne Irig got Dr. Einstein. Mr. Kent got Mortimer."

"Surprise!!!!!"

"Don't be facetious," Keith said. "We both know he's the best."

"Well, I did think that Mr. Thurston was kinda handsome. Did he get what he wanted?"

"Hold on," Keith told her. "I'm getting there. Mr. Kent's Dad is Mr. Gibbs. That's another really small role so he would have time to work on the set."

"Right," Cindy said. "This set with all the doors, stairs up and down and the window seat, is going to take a lot of work. Go on, keep reading."

"Miss Lane got Elaine Harper."

"Well, that was a no brainer." Cindy shot back. "Well pretty soon, I'll be old enough to play those parts."

"And you'll be great," Keith said to her, smiling.

Cindy smiled back. "Okay, finish up!"

"It looks like Mrs. Kent did some arm twisting because Reverend Mock is going to play Reverend Harper."

"Does Tom's Dad know how to act?" Cindy asked.

"Preachers are always acting," Keith said. "At least if their sermons are any good. Mr. Olsen is Officer O'Hara, which is the cop with the biggest part. Mr. Scardino is Officer Brophy. And yes, Mr. Thurston got…" Keith started, but stopped when he saw Richard Thurston arrive.

Lex Luthor, alias Richard Thurston stopped outside the bookstore and read the list. "Interesting, he told the two young people," and turned to walk away."

"Are you pleased, Mr. Thurston?" Cindy asked.

The man knew he had to play a part, not the part on the posted list, but the part of a man who cared. He turned back and smiled at both of them. "Yes," I'm thrilled," he said. "I think it's really going to be fun."

Lex turned again and crossed the street. It was just as he predicted. Last week, after he had left auditions, gone back to his new apartment, lit a cigar, opened a bottle of vintage wine, and leaned back in a comfortable chair; he had attempted to put himself into the bourgeois mind of a middle-aged, small-town, pedestrian woman and cast the show in his mind. It had been too easy to look at life through her eyes and he instantly dismissed the exercise, as it offered Lex no challenge at all.

Lois and Clark would be the two lovers and he would be the murderer. This will be a passing amusement, a dalliance that will provide him with the opportunity and means to achieve his end. He smiled again as he continued down the street to the Luthor building, the Machiavellian reference still playing on his mind.

Acting the part of Jonathan Brewster wouldn't be taxing on his genus. Acting the part of Richard Thurston would take a little more effort, as he had to indulge in sophomoric hyperbole whenever he was around these rustics.

The character of Jonathan Brewster is supposed to have killed twelve people. Lex ironically ticked off the twelve names on his own list. Two months ago twelve people had wanted him dead and now, now he was seeking revenge. Well, five down. Five insignificant lives extinguished— insignificant nothings, who had sought to hurt or destroy him. They were dead and he was alive!

***

Smallville, Kansas Tuesday, February 1, 1994 3:30 p.m. CST

The Barton house four, as Tom, Cindy, Keith and Emily were calling themselves, met on the Maple Street Bridge overlooking the Arkansas River. The wooden structure built in 1934 as part of FDR's Works Progress Administration, spanned the river at one of its narrowest points.

The young students looked over at the house at 417 and Tom Mock took out his camera. From their vantage point on the bridge, they could get some interesting angles of the house. In fact, from certain perspectives, the house on Maple Street could even be termed somewhat gothic. Tom tried a variety of shots as he deftly perched on the bridge railing.

Lois Lane slowed her car down, parked by the Maple Street Bridge and joined the group.

"Glad you could make it, Miss Lane," Tom told her, climbing down. "We want to show you what we're doing."

"No problem," Lois said to her students. "How's it going?"

"Fine," Emily Cox said, quietly. It had been a little over two weeks since her aunt had been killed and, and since the school counselor had taken her own life; but she and the other students were getting on with their lives and with their work.

"We've written up a family tree," Emily continued. "We also got the history of the Bartons and we even got all of the stuff on the murders that the newspapers…"

"But, I still think we're still missing something," Keith interrupted.

"Missing what?" Cindy asked him.

"I don't know. The story just seems incomplete," he said, looking at the rest of his group. "Our assignment," he continued, glancing at his teacher. "Is to research the family as in the 'House of the Seven Gables'. We've *got* the basic facts, but there's no understanding, no depth. I don't know. I just think there's something there that we're lacking," he finished, looking over at the house.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:50 p.m. CST

Inside the house at 417 Maple Street, Libby Barton looked down at her hands, which were now handcuffed together. She watched callously, her face harboring a vacant expression, as her family's bodies were being taken away. Sheriff Kent leaned down. "I know this is a stupid question, but how are you doing, Libby?" he asked.

Libby looked up at him dazed, just as Attorney Joe Clark entered the front door. Following right behind Joe was his wife Theresa, who sat down next to Libby and put her arm around her. "Is this necessary?" she asked Jerry Kent, while indicating the handcuffs.

"Probably not," Sheriff Kent told Theresa Clark and unlocked the cuffs.

Libby rubbed her wrists where the cold metal had chaffed them and looked around at the people discussing her life; but she couldn't concentrate on what they were saying. It was as if she was far removed, a casual observer, as if she was simply a member of an audience watching actors on a stage who had no real ability to alter her world.

Jinx leaped into Libby's lap and curled up as if to protect her.

"We'll take her to our house," Theresa Clark told the sheriff. "She shouldn't be in jail."

"I'd take her to mine," Sheriff Kent told his friends. "But you know that Betty is due any time now," he explained.

"She'll be just fine at our place," Theresa told him.

"We'll get her to the courthouse when she's needed there, and I'm sure old Judge Murdock will release her to our care until all of this can be sorted out," Joe declared.

The official visitors left the house of death, each going their separate ways. As young Libby Barton, holding Jinx in her arms, got into the Clark's car, she looked back at the Maple street house.

No one had thought to turn off the radio, and the program continued playing to an empty house.

###

SMITH: I have been requested by the governor of New Jersey to place the counties of Mercer and Middlesex as far west as Princeton, and east to Jamesburg, under martial law. No one will be permitted to enter this area except by special pass issued by state or military authorities. Four companies of state militia are proceeding from Trenton to Grover's Mill, and will aid in the evacuation of homes within the range of military operations. Thank you.

ANNOUNCER TWO: You have just been listening to General Montgomery Smith commanding the state militia at Trenton. In the meantime, further details of the catastrophe at Grover's Mill are coming in…

###

As the Clark family car drove across the Maple Street Bridge, which creaked and moaned in the wind with the weight of the several cars traversing it; Libby took one more look back at the house on Maple Street and realized that things were never going to be the same again. Jinx rubbed against Libby's arm and climbed up behind her in the car. The cat stared out the back window as the bridge creaked once more and Libby turned around and looked ahead, wondering what lie in store for her.

***

Smallville, Kansas Tuesday, February 1, 1994 3:45 p.m. CST

The bridge creaked beneath the feet of the four students and their English teacher. Suddenly there was a loud crack, as one of the support beams gave way. The bridge began to lurch. The five yelled out and grabbed on to the side rail as the road fell out from under them.

Almost instantaneously, a red and blue flash appeared and flew under the bridge, lifting the support beam back in place. Superman, using his heat vision, shored the beam together more permanently and flew up to check on Lois and her students.

"Are all of you all right?" Superman asked, helping Emily up and, seeing that Lois was okay, refrained from rushing over to his fianc‚e to hold her to him.

Lois struggling to her feet and giving Cindy a hand, smiled over at him and nodded that she was fine, while Keith and Tom righted themselves.

Libby Barton, having seen what was almost a catastrophe, came quickly down the steps in front of her house and arrived at the bridge. "Is everyone okay? Is everyone all right? Why don't all of you come in for a few minutes and rest? I have hot chocolate on the stove."

The students looked at each other and then nodded.

"They'll be fine at my place, Superman," Miss Libby echoed the words of so long ago.

Superman, seeing that they were in good hands, flew off, and the five followed Miss Libby into the house that held so many secrets.

The Barton House four looked around the living room as they sat on the couch waiting for their hot chocolate. Cindy and Keith had spoken a couple of times to Miss Libby during rehearsals and had received some tidbits of information, but being in the house was going to give the four some new insight.

The house was much the same as it was that night in 1938— turn of the century wallpaper, now thoroughly faded, furniture circa early 1900s perhaps, and a large Philco radio taking up a lot of the floor space.

As Miss Libby brought the chocolate out on a tray, there was a knock on the front door. Lois took the tray from her and passed out the cups, as Miss Libby opened the door to Clark Kent.

Clark rushed over to Lois. "Are you really, okay?" he asked, concerned.

"I'm fine, Clark. Superman saved us all."

"Would you like to join us for hot chocolate?" Miss Libby asked.

"That would be nice," Clark said, and as all the living room seats were taken, propped himself on the window seat. Just as he sat down, a very soft humming began, a sound that only Superman could hear…

***

Cassville, New Jersey Sunday, October 30, 1938 8:33 p.m. EST

David Trask threw open the door of his house on Spring Street. "Mary!" he yelled out and moved rapidly through the few rooms looking for her. As he entered the bedroom, he noticed articles of clothing strewn on the bed and the floor. He looked into the closet and realized that a suitcase was missing.

When he returned to the living room, it was the first time that he was aware of the radio being on.

###

ANNOUNCER: The strange creatures after unleashing their deadly assault, crawled back into their pit and made no attempt to prevent the efforts of the firemen to recover the bodies and extinguish the fire. Combined fire departments of Mercer County are fighting the flames, which menace the entire countryside. We have been unable to establish any contact with our mobile unit at Grover's Mill, but we hope to be able to return you there at the earliest possible moment. In the meantime we take you — just one moment please.

###

During the pause, David walked into the kitchen and saw the emergency jar empty on the table. He moved back slowly into the living room, trying to figure out what to do next.

###

ANNOUNCER: (Whispering.) Ladies and gentlemen, I have just been informed that we have finally established communication with an eyewitness of the tragedy. Professor Pierson has been located at a farmhouse near Grover's Mill where he has established an emergency observation post. As a scientist, he will give you his explanation of the calamity. The next voice you hear will be that of Professor Pierson, brought to you by direct wire. Professor Pierson. The radio squealed.

PIERSON: Of the creatures in the rocket cylinder at Grover's Mill, I can give you no authoritative information — either as to their nature, their origin, or their purposes here on earth Of their destructive instrument I might venture some conjectural explanation. For want of a better term, I shall refer to the mysterious weapon as a heat ray. It's all too evident that these creatures have scientific knowledge far in advance of our own. It is my guess that in some way they are able to generate an intense heat in a chamber of practically absolute nonconductivity. This intense heat they project in a parallel beam against any object they choose, by means of a polished parabolic mirror of unknown composition, much as the mirror of a lighthouse projects a beam of light. That is my conjecture of the origin of the heat ray …

###

David Trask took a deep breath and sank down on a chair. He had warned them. He had warned them all. He had told those around him that there was a danger out there— hordes of invading beasts, jealously seeking to infiltrate—to suck out our very essence; and that we, as a nation, were vulnerable. Yes, he had believed that the onslaught would come from across the seas, not from beyond the skies—but the onslaught had arrived.

###

ANNOUNCER TWO: Thank you, Professor Pierson. Ladies and gentlemen, here is a bulletin from Trenton. It is a brief statement informing us that the charred body of Carl Phillips has been identified in a Trenton hospital. Now here's another bulletin from Washington, D.C. Office of the director of the National Red Cross reports ten units of Red Cross emergency workers have been assigned to the headquarters of the state militia stationed outside Grover's Mill, New Jersey. Here's a bulletin from state police, Princeton Junction: The fires at Grover's Mill and vicinity are now under control. Scouts report all quiet in the pit, and no sign of life appearing from the mouth of the cylinder … And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have a special statement from Mr. Harry McDonald, vice-president in charge of operations.

MC DONALD: We have received a request from the militia at Trenton to place at their disposal our entire broadcasting facilities. In view of the gravity of the situation, and believing that radio has a responsibility to serve in the public interest at all times, we are turning over our facilities to the state militia at Trenton.

###

David strode over to the window. The road in front of his house was clogged with people abandoning their homes. There were cars, trucks, bicycles—all loaded down with various possessions all grabbed in the heat of the moment. Scared men and women holding on desperately to small children's hands—older couples clinging to each other. Trask shook his head as he watched the attempted evacuation. Stupid people! Evacuating to where? Most seemed to be heading south and away from what they thought was the source of their terror.

###

ANNOUNCER TWO: We take you now to the field headquarters of the state militia near Grover's Mill, New Jersey.

CAPTAIN: This is Captain Lansing of the signal corps, attached to the state militia now engaged in military operations in the vicinity of Grover's Mill. Situation arising from the reported presence of certain individuals of unidentified nature is now under complete control. The cylindrical object, which lies in a pit directly below our position is surrounded on all sides by eight battalions of infantry. Without heavy field pieces, but adequately armed with rifles and machine guns. All cause for alarm, if such cause ever existed, is now entirely unjustified. The things, whatever they are, do not even venture to poke their heads above the pit. I can see their hiding place plainly in the glare of the searchlights here. With all their reported resources, these creatures can scarcely stand up against heavy machine-gun fire. Anyway, it's an interesting outing for the troops. I can make out their khaki uniforms, crossing back and forth in front of the lights. It looks almost like a real war. There appears to be some slight smoke in the woods bordering the Millstone River. Probably fire started by campers. Well, we ought to see some action soon. One of the companies is deploying on the left flank. A quick thrust and it will all be over. Now wait a minute! I see something on top of the cylinder. No, it's nothing but a shadow. Now the troops are on the edge of the Wilmuth farm. Seven thousand armed men closing in on an old metal tube…

###

Captain David Trask looked at the bars on his shoulder. Just how effective could the state militia be using traditional weaponry? If they had only listened to him, this country would have been researching who and what our enemies might be, and locating alternative means to destroy those who would dare to invade us.

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday, February 3, 1994 7:20 p.m. CST

Teddy/Donald Botts: CHARGE!

The script told Teddy to dash upstairs, stop at the top of the balcony and signal others to follow. Donald pretended to do this as he and the other actors were still rehearsing in the practice room, as the stage set had not as yet been finished.

Teddy/Donald Botts: Charge the blockhouse!

Rev. Harper/Rev. Mock: The blockhouse?

Aunt Martha/Libby: The stairs are always San Juan Hill.

Rev. Harper/Rev. Mock: Have you ever tried to persuade him that he wasn't Teddy Roosevelt.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Oh, no!

Aunt Martha/Libby: He's so happy being Teddy Roosevelt.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Once, a long time ago [She crosses below to Martha.]—remember, Martha? We thought if he would be George Washington, it might be a change for him…

Aunt Martha/Libby: But he stayed under his bed for days and just wouldn't be anybody.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: And we'd so much rather he'd be Mr. Roosevelt than nobody.

Rev. Harper/Rev. Mock: Well, if he's happy—and what's more important you're happy [He takes a blue-backed legal paper from inside pocket.} —you'll see that he signs these.

Aunt Martha/Libby: What are they?

The door to the practice room opened suddenly and banged shut. A small man stood in the doorway eyeing the participants. The actors stopped and turned toward the door. Lois, Clark, Richard and Wayne Irig who were sitting on the sidelines, waiting to rehearse their scene, quit reading their scripts and stared at the visitor.

"We're in the middle of a rehearsal," Mrs. Kent informed the man.

"I'm looking for Martha Kent," the man said.

"I'm Martha Kent," she responded.

"Well, you need to sign these papers."

"What are they?" Martha asked, realizing how bizarre this all sounded in light of the scene they had just been rehearsing.

"The Smallville Players is mentioned in Lex Luthor's will. You simply need to sign here and $100,000 is yours."

***

"Here's the $100,000," Jaxon said, throwing the wrapped bundle at the man dressed in black. "And here's your next assignment."

The man known—to those who had enough to pay him—only as the shadow, stuffed the money into a backpack, glanced at the picture and read the name on the sheet of paper, nodded and left the office.

***

Cassville, New Jersey Sunday, October 30, 1938 8:37 p.m. EST

###

ANNOUNCER: Wait, that wasn't a shadow! It's something moving … solid metal … kind of shield- like affair rising up out of the cylinder … It's going higher and higher. Why, it's standing on legs … actually rearing up on a sort of metal framework. Now it's reaching above the trees and the searchlights are on it. Hold on!

###

David Trask opened the cellar door and moved rapidly down the stairs two at a time. He took a key from where it was secreted behind a water pipe and unlocked his gun cabinet and loaded one of his rifles. He placed extra shells into a belt and strapped it on. He knew that his arsenal would have no effect, but he was starting to fear that it wouldn't be the Martians that would need repelling, but the so-called peaceable citizens running for their lives.

###

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, I have a grave announcement to make. Incredible as it may seem, both the observations of science and the evidence of our eyes lead to the inescapable assumption that those strange beings who landed in the Jersey farmlands tonight are the vanguard of an invading army from the planet Mars. The battle which took place tonight at Grover's Mill has ended in one of the most startling defeats ever suffered by any army in modern times; seven thousand men armed with rifles and machine guns pitted against a single fighting machine of the invaders from Mars. One hundred and twenty known survivors. The rest strewn over the battle area from Grover's Mill to Plainsboro, crushed and trampled to death under the metal feet of the monster, or burned to cinders by its heat ray.

The monster is now in control of the middle section of New Jersey and has effectively cut the state through its center. Communication lines are down from Pennsylvania to the Atlantic Ocean. Railroad tracks are torn and service from Metropolis to Philadelphia discontinued except routing some of the trains through Allentown and Phoenixville. Highways to the north, south, and west are clogged with frantic human traffic. Police and army reserves are unable to control the mad flight. By morning the fugitives will have swelled Philadelphia, Camden, and Trenton, it is estimated, to twice their normal population. At this time martial law prevails throughout New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. We take you now to Washington for a special broadcast on the National Emergency … the Secretary of the Interior …

SECRETARY: Citizens of the nation: I shall not try to conceal the gravity of the situation that confronts the country, nor the concern of your government in protecting the lives and property of its people. However, I wish to impress upon you — private citizens and public officials, all of you — the urgent need of calm and resourceful action. Fortunately, this formidable enemy is still confined to a comparatively small area, and we may place our faith in the military forces to keep them there. In the meantime placing our faith in God we must continue the performance of our duties each and every one of us, so that we may confront this destructive adversary with a nation united, courageous, and consecrated to the preservation of human supremacy on this earth. I thank you.

###

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday, February 3, 1994 7:30 p.m. CST

Martha Kent stared at the papers in front of her. This was incredible, but knowing where the gift came from, she was wary. "Any strings attached, Mr…uh…Mr.?" she asked the man.

"Sheldon Bender. And no."

"I'm sure it's fine, Martha," Richard said, moving toward her. "I've been asked by young Jaxon Luthor to advise him financially, and to insure that his father's original wishes were carried out. This is what Lex Luthor wanted— for the Smallville Players to carry on."

Martha, getting the okay from Richard, signed the documents and returned them to the outstretched hands of Mr. Bender.

The attorney placed the papers back into his briefcase. "I'll be posting these documents at the probate court and you'll receive your copies in the mail," he explained and scurried out the door.

"There's got to be a catch," Clark said, walking over to his mother.

"I know," his mother pondered. "But what?"

"No catch," said a voice entering the practice room. Jaxon Luthor stood in the doorway surveying the group. "My father had varied interests and many of them were named in his will. I'm here to let you know that this is no hoax."

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:59 p.m. CST

"It's all a hoax," Betty Kent told her husband, Jerry, as he walked through their front door.

"What's a hoax?" he asked, watching as his wife, who was nine months pregnant, waddle over to turn off their radio.

"All that carrying on about Martians landing and invasions and such. None of it is real. It's just a radio play for Halloween."

***

Cassville, New Jersey Sunday, October 30, 1938 8:45 p.m. EST

Captain Trask cleared a spot on the table near the window by throwing all its contents to the floor, and placed the rifle on it. He returned to the cellar to get yet another gun.

###

ANNOUNCER: You have just heard the secretary of the Interior speaking from Washington. Bulletins too numerous to read are piling up in the studio here. We are informed the central portion of New Jersey is blacked out from radio communication due to the effect of the heat ray upon power lines and electrical equipment. Here is a special bulletin from Metropolis. Cables received from English, French, German scientific bodies offering assistance. Astronomers report continued gas outbursts at regular intervals on planet Mars. Majority voice opinion that enemy will be reinforced by additional rocket machines. Attempts made to locate Professor Pierson of Princeton, who has observed Martians at close range. It is feared he was lost in recent battle.

Langham Field, Virginia: Scouting planes report three Martian machines visible above treetops, moving north towards Somerville with population fleeing ahead of them. Heat ray not in use; although advancing at express-train speed, invaders pick their way carefully. They seem to be making conscious effort to avoid destruction of cities and countryside. However, they stop to uproot power lines, bridges, and railroad tracks. Their apparent objective is to crush resistance, paralyze communication, and disorganize human society.

###

David hurriedly returned with the second rifle and placed it by its brother. He went into the kitchen to bolt the back door but heard some noise in front of the house. He moved swiftly back to his sniper position from which he could protect his home forgetting to lock the back door.

###

ANNOUNCER: Here is a bulletin from Basking Ridge, New Jersey: Duck hunters have stumbled on a second cylinder similar to the first embedded in the great swamp twenty miles south of Morristown. Army fieldpieces are proceeding from Newark to blow up second invading unit before cylinder can be opened and the fighting machine rigged. They are taking up position in the — foothills of Watchung Mountains. Another bulletin from Langham Field, Virginia: Scouting planes report enemy machines, now three in number, increasing speed northward kicking over houses and trees in their evident haste to form a conjunction with their allies south of Morristown. Machines also sighted by telephone operator east of Middlesex within ten miles of Plainfield.

Here's a bulletin from Winston Field, Long Island: Fleet of army bombers carrying heavy explosives flying north in pursuit of enemy. Scouting planes act as guides. They keep speeding enemy in sight. Just a moment please. Ladies and gentlemen, we've run special wires to the artillery line in adjacent villages to give you direct reports in the zone of the advancing enemy. First we take you to the battery of the 22nd Field Artillery, located in the Watchtung Mountains.

###

David Trask's rifle shattered the glass of his living room window as he thrust it through one of the pains and positioned it to ward off any possible attack.

Behind him the radio prepared an assault of its own.

###

OFFICER: Range, thirty-two meters.

GUNNER: Thirty-two meters.

OFFICER: Projection, thirty-nine degrees.

GUNNER: Thirty-nine degrees.

OFFICER: Fire!

###

Then the boom of a heavy gun came from the radio. Then silence.

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday, February 3, 1994 7:30 p.m. CST

Sheldon Bender left the high school and hastily walked toward the parking lot. He heard a noise and turned around in time to barely make out, beneath the dim illumination of a lamppost, what appeared to be just a shadow. It held up a gun and fired.

***

Cassville, New Jersey Sunday, October 30, 1938 8:47 p.m. EST

David Trask glanced over at the radio and then returned his attention back to his weapon. He adjusted the sight, looked through to the crosshairs and then slowly tightened his grip on the rifle. He altered his position somewhat to get the best view of the road in front of the house, while the radio continued calling a play by play of the attack.

###

OBSERVER: One hundred and forty yards to the right, sir.

OFFICER: Shift range … thirty-one meters.

GUNNER: Thirty-one meters

OFFICER: Projection … thirty-seven degrees.

GUNNER: Thirty-seven degrees.

OFFICER: Fire!

Another boom. Another pause.

OBSERVER: A hit, sir! We got the tripod of one of them. They've stopped. The others are trying to repair it.

###

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday, February 3, 1994 7:50 p.m. CST

Jonathan Kent, using an electric drill, was finishing up the last hinge on what was to be the all important window seat for the Victorian set of "Arsenic and Old Lace". He fastened the last screw and stepped back and surveyed his work. He carefully moved the large set piece to where it would finally reside in the Brewster living room and spent a couple minutes securing it to the 'flat'.

Taking one last look, he turned and walked out the back stage door of the auditorium and toward the Smallville Players' practice room.

As he entered, the cast was just completing a segment.

Mortimer/Clark: When the curtain goes up the first thing you'll see will be a dead body.

The script called for Mortimer to lift the window-seat and see the dead body, to drop the cover, walk away; and, then realizing what he had seen, do a 'double take', go back and look again. He is then supposed to back away and seeing Aunt Abby return to the room, rush over and abruptly sit on the window seat

Clark pantomimed this process while the onlookers snickered at his facial expressions and his over exaggerated movements.

Mortimer/Clark: Aunt Abby!

Abby/Beatrice: Yes, dear?

Mortimer/Clark: You were going to make plans for Teddy to go to that… sanitarium—Happy Dale—

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: [Pretending to bring legal papers from the sideboard to Mortimer.] Yes, dear, it's all arranged. Dr. Harper was here today and brought the papers for Teddy to sign. Here they are.

Mortimer/Clark: [Takes them from her.]

Jonathan walked over to Martha as the actors continued with their rehearsal. He sat down next to her, patted her hand as he leaned closer and whispered something in her ear. "Great!" Martha whispered back. "We'll try this again on stage in a few minutes."

Mortimer/Clark: There's a body in the window-seat!

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Yes, dear, we know.

Mortimer/Clark: You *know*?

Aunt Martha/Libby: Of course, dear, but it has nothing to do with Teddy.

The script dictated that Aunt Martha should be busy with arranging stuff on the table. Following those directions, Miss Libby puttered around as she pantomimed that action.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Now, Mortimer, just forget about it— forget you ever saw the gentleman.

Mortimer/Clark *Forget*?

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: We never dreamed you'd peek.

Chuckles erupted from the rest of the cast members. "Let's stop there," Martha informed them. The Technical Director, she indicated her husband with pride, has finished a very crucial element of the set—the window seat. And I thought we'd take a few moments, go on the stage and do this scene again, using the set piece so we can see if it will work."

Clark walked over to Lois and put his arm around her and escorted her toward the auditorium. Beatrice and Miss Libby strolled over just behind them followed by Wayne Irig, Donald Botts and Jonathan. Martha put her arm through Richard's as they took up the rear.

Richard shuddered inwardly as Martha's arm slipped through his. He put on what he imagined to be a plebian face and smiled at the woman.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 10:40 p.m. CST

Jerome Roderick Kent smiled down at the woman who held their baby son in her arms. He leaned down and kissed Betty on the cheek. "This has been an incredible night to welcome a new baby into the world—what with Martians, and everything."

The exhausted woman looked up at her beaming husband and smiled back. "Do you think it will happen in his time?" she asked looking down at her son.

"What will?" the sheriff asked her.

"I don't know. Space travel, trips to the moon, aliens coming to visit us."

"I'm sure that he will see wonders that we never even imagined in our wildest dreams. And I only pray that someday, someday…he will be as lucky as me and will find a wonderful woman to become his wife. And that he, too, will have a son that will be as special to him as my son is to me."

Betty gazed at her husband. "I'm the lucky one," she said.

"Well?" he asked her. "Have you decided on a name?"

Betty smiled down at her son. "Yes," she responded. "Jonathan. Jonathan Roderick Kent."

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday, February 3, 1994 8:10 p.m. CST

Jonathan Kent proudly showed off his handiwork. The actors surveyed the now finished stairway, winding its way up to the supposed second floor; and at the window seat which had been securely fastened to the partial wall under what was soon to be a window which overlooked the church cemetery— oohing and ahing appropriately.

A partially painted 'flat', with gravestones and leafless trees, was leaning over on the side of the proscenium as were several wooden doors that would soon be affixed to their frames.

The window-seat set piece was bordered with some unique molding to give it an elegant and somewhat dated feel. "It will look even better when it is sanded and stained," Jonathan Kent told them all. "But I thought you might want to see if it opens easily enough and will not wobble when all of you are sitting up and down on it. I will shore it up, if it doesn't work well."

"Okay," Martha said. "Let's give it a try. Places everyone! Beatrice, start with: 'Well, when Elaine comes back…' And let's see if you can attempt it without your scripts."

The actors placed their scripts on several chairs and took their spots on stage.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Well, when Elaine comes back I think we ought to have a little celebration. We must drink to your happiness. Martha, isn't there some of that Lady Baltimore cake left? [She walks down stage left.]

Aunt Martha/Libby: [Crossing to her.] Oh, yes!

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: And I'll open a bottle of wine.

Aunt Martha/Libby: [As she exits to the kitchen.] Oh, and to think it happened in this room!

Mortimer/Clark: [Has finished looking through papers, and is gazing around the room.] Now where could I have put that?

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Well, with your fianc‚e sitting beside you tonight, I do hope the play will be something you can enjoy for once. It may be something romantic. What's the name of it?

Mortimer/Clark: "Murder Will Out."

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Oh, dear! [She disappears into the kitchen as Mortimer goes on talking.]

Mortimer/Clark: When the curtain goes up the first thing you'll see will be a dead body.

And as the script told him to, Clark lifted the window seat and saw one.

"There's a body in the window seat," Clark told everyone incredulously.

"You've skipped ahead," his mother informed him. "The next line is…

"No, mom. There *is* a body in the window-seat."

All the members of the Smallville Players closed in around the window-seat to see Sheldon Bender lying dead.

"Well it's just a lawyer," Donald Botts informed them.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, October 31, 1938 9:00 a.m. CST

"Where is she?" Joe Clark, attorney at law, asked.

"She's still sound asleep," his wife answered. "She's had a pretty difficult night."

"Yeah, I know," Joe agreed. "But she's going have to face even harder times ahead."

"What's your plan?"

"Well, I'm not sure I have one," the lawyer admitted. "The doors were all locked, no sign of a break in, and everyone was dead in the house but her. To boot, she was holding the smoking gun, so to speak."

"There has to be much more than that," Theresa insisted.

"The Barton family has kept to themselves for so many years. I'm not sure that we can unearth any answers, especially since Libby won't let me ask the questions."

"But she's only twelve years old," Theresa Clark offered.

"Yet she killed her whole family."

"Do you really believe she could have done that?"

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, February 4, 1994 3:45 p.m. CST

Keith Haley rushed into Smallville's only bookstore. "She didn't do it!" he exclaimed. "She didn't kill them!"

"How do you know that?" Cindy asked, as Keith joined the two girls sitting on the couch in the corner.

"I've been reading the coroner's report that was used at the trial. And it just doesn't make sense," he explained. "Laslo Barton's entry wound had to be made by someone much taller. They tried to prove that Laslo was down on his knees when Miss Libby shot him, but not only would she have had to be above him but the gun would have had to be sort of twisted in her hand to have made that shot. I just don't think she did it."

"Well, why didn't Joe Clark, argue that? He was a pretty good lawyer," Emily said. "My dad told me how good he was and that he kept fighting for Miss Libby even after they put her away."

"Because Miss Libby told my father not to," Martha Kent responded, coming to join the young people.

The group looked up at Martha Kent who was offering the young people lemonade and cookies.

"There were some family secrets that my father promised he would not reveal and so no defense was presented at all.

"But she was only twelve years old," Cindy exclaimed. "Why did he listen to her? Shouldn't he have convinced her to reveal everything ?"

Martha put the tray on a small table and sat down across from the four high school students. "My father blamed himself for many years. He tried to persuade Miss Libby to present some kind of a defense. But she was a very headstrong young lady. She told the district attorney that she had done it and she wouldn't change her story."

The high school students looked at each other. "My father was able to get her incarcerated in a special facility and he worked diligently to try to get her out as soon as possible. She was finally released when she was twenty-one years old after nine years in that place."

"Nine years?" Keith questioned. "But, Mrs. Kent, didn't Miss Libby say she had been away for ten years. Where was she that last year?"

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, June 30, 1948 10:30 a.m. CST

The square in the middle of town was elaborately decorated for the Fourth of July. Red, white and blue bunting was everywhere as were flags and streamers.

Miss Libby Barton emerged from the green and white Topeka- bound bus that stopped in front of city hall. She carried a small, battered suitcase given to her by another waitress at the caf‚ in Roswell. Libby put the piece of luggage down and looked around. The town hadn't changed in the ten years she had been gone. It was still the same. Several people walked by and just glanced at her. The town hadn't changed, but she had. She had left a child of twelve and was now a young woman of twenty-two. She had lived in an institution for nine years, and she had borne and lost a baby.

Libby looked up at the city hall as a man descended the steps. "Hello Libby," Joe Clark said. "You're coming home with me, at least until we can open up your house and get you resituated. This is Martha," he told Libby and indicated the six-year old girl with blonde curls who was holding on to his hand. "She's here to help."

***

Cassville, New Jersey Sunday, October 30, 1938 8:49 p.m. EST

Mary Trask shoved a strand of hair out of her eyes and pulled her son Jason along the road. She came to an abrupt stop at a barricade where the sheriff's department had set up a road block.

"Everyone, listen to me!" a deputy yelled out. "There are no Martians! There are no Martians! It was just a radio program. Go back to your homes. Believe me! Trust me. There is no invasion!"

Mary saw her neighbor's automobile heading back toward Cassville road and waved him down. "Is it true, Stan?" Mary asked the driver and his wife sitting next to him, their valuables stuffed into the back seat. There are no Martians?"

"It was just a play," Katie Nowak told them angrily.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 5, 1994 10:30 a.m. CST

Lois, Clark, Martha and Jonathan were sitting in the Cabbages and Kkings bookstore discussing the play. "Well, what shall we do?" Martha asked them. "The number of deaths are reaching epidemic proportions and we have a decision to make."

The bell over the door tinkled and Libby Barton walked in and joined the group. Clark and Jonathan stood as she sat on the couch next to Clark's spot and looked across at Martha. "Don't cancel the play," she told them as the two men sat down again. "I know it's just a play, but it means a great deal to me, right now."

The others looked at the adamant woman. "Miss Libby," Martha started.

"Please," Miss Libby implored, as she clasped her large shopping bag to her chest.

Within its confines, lay the globe. Miss Libby was ready to use it as a bargaining chip. But she hoped she wouldn't have to. She knew that she was going to have to get it to Clark soon, but she really didn't want him to know that she had had it all these years.

The globe started to resonate and Libby could feel its vibrations. It appeared to be getting stronger. Obviously Clark could hear it, as he cocked his head. But it was also obvious that he had no idea what it was.

Miss Libby jumped to her feet. "I have to go," she explained and headed directly toward the door. Once there, she turned to face the four speechless people. "Many folks don't know how much I have secretly contributed to this town, and I really haven't asked for much except to be left alone. I'm now asking."

Martha looked down and then back up at Libby.

"Martha," Libby continued. "Your father tried to help me but I wouldn't let him. Please help me now," she begged as she opened the door, and then turned back yet another time. "I'm dying," she told them, "and I need to do this one last thing."

***

Cassville, New Jersey Sunday, October 30, 1938 8:51 p.m. EST

David Trask heard a noise coming from behind him.

###

OFFICER: Quick, get the range! Shift thirty meters.

GUNNER: Thirty meters.

OFFICER: Projection … twenty-seven degrees.

GUNNER: Twenty-seven degrees.

OFFICER: Fire!

###

Trask turned and fired.

###

ANNOUNCER: I'm speaking from the roof of the Broadcasting Building, Metropolis. The bells you hear are ringing to warn the people to evacuate the city as the Martians approach. Estimated in last two hours three million people have moved out along the roads to the north, Hobbs River Parkway still kept open for motor traffic. Avoid bridges as … hopelessly jammed. All communication with Jersey shore closed ten minutes ago. No more defenses. Our army wiped out … artillery, air force, everything wiped out. This may be the last broadcast. We'll stay here to the end … People are holding service below us … in the cathedral.

From the radio came the sound of voices singing a hymn.

ANNOUNCER: Now I look down the harbor. All manner of boats, overloaded with fleeing population, pulling out from docks.

The sad sounds of boat whistles appeared to come from a distance.

ANNOUNCER: Streets are all jammed. Noise of crowds like New Year's Eve in the city. Wait a minute … Enemy now in sight above the Palisades. Five — five great machines. First one is crossing river. I can see it from here, wading the river like a man wading through a brook … A bulletin's handed to me … Martian cylinders are falling all over the country. One outside Buffalo, one in Chicago, St. Louis … seem to be timed and spaced … Now the first machine reaches the shore. He stands watching, looking over the city. His steel, cowlish head is even with the skyscrapers. He waits for the others. They rise like a line of new towers on the city's west side … Now they're lifting their metal hands.

This is the end now. Smoke comes out … black smoke, drifting over the city. People in the streets see it now. They're running towards Hobbs River … thousands of them, dropping in like rats. Now the smoke's spreading faster. It's reached Daily Planet Square. People trying to run away from it, but it's no use. They're falling like flies. Now the smoke's crossing Sixth Avenue … Fifth Avenue … one hundred yards away … it's fifty feet …

A thud of a body falling echoed from the radio.

###

In his small home in Casswell, New Jersey—perhaps only a few miles away from the invading hordes of Martians, David Trask looked at the fallen body of his wife, his young son kneeling beside her crying and then returned his gaze to the radio as an announcer interrupted the tale of destruction.

###

ANNOUNCER: You are listening to a CBS presentation of Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air in an original dramatization of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. The performance will continue after a brief intermission. This is the Columbia Broadcasting System.

###

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 5, 1994 8:30 p.m. CST

Lois entered the small convenience store around the corner from where she lived. She smiled at Mrs. Grochawalski, the ample gregarious proprietor who normally had a warm welcome for the English teacher. In fact, Mrs. G., as the neighborhood referred to her, usually had lots to say. It was sometimes difficult to get away from her stories, but she was a dear soul, so Lois most often times stayed to listen.

Mrs. G. was not talking and instead her eyes appeared to be darting furtively toward the rear of the store. Lois stared at the older woman and then turned just in time to see a tall man in a ski mask walk toward her with a gun.

Lois paused for a moment. She had to do something. But what? Her heart was pounding rapidly. She took a deep breath and moved closer to him. "You really don't want to do this," she said anxiously.

"Shut your mouth," the man hissed, just as the door to the store opened and Lex Luthor alias Richard Thurston, walked in.

The man finding himself with three people facing him, waved the gun around and then pulled the trigger.

As the shot rang out, Mrs. G. screamed, and Richard jumped, pushing himself and Lois down. The gunman ran out the door and down the street.

Richard righted himself and pulled Lois to her feet. He ran out the front door with Lois following, to see Superman landing in front of the store. "You're bleeding," Lois told Richard as she followed him through the door, looking wide- eyed at the man who had just saved her life.

"I'm fine. It's just a scratch," he told Lois, trying to appear gallant. "Superman!" Luthor yelled, wrapping his wounded hand in a handkerchief. "The thief ran off that way. I'll see to Miss Lane."

Clark paused to regard Richard, a fleeting thought nagging at the back of his mind.

"She'll be safe in my hands," Lex Luthor told the man of steel.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 2:00 p.m. CST

"I guess I'm putting the decision in your hands," Martha said surveying the cast members. We've only been rehearsing about ten days and we have a little over a month of rehearsals left, so there hasn't been that great an investment placed into the play. We can reschedule."

"I think we should keep going," Keith told the rest of the group. "I know finding a body on the set is somewhat weird, but we shouldn't let that stop us. You know the old saying—the show must go on."

"It wasn't like it was someone we really knew," Donald Botts interjected.

Clark stared over at Donald. "He was still someone's son or husband, someone's father or friend. And it isn't like that's the first death or near death. Something strange seems to be happening in Smallville."

<Maybe we *should* stop the play,> Lois thought. There were all those inexplicable deaths and then there was also that incident last night—the shooting and what happened afterward at her place…

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 5, 1994 9:15 p.m. CST

Richard walked slowly toward Lois and took a lock of her hair, toying intimately with the dark strands and then placed it behind her ear. As Lois watched him with some apprehension in her eyes, he moved his fingers purposefully and turned his palm to stroke the side of her face with the back of his hand, the hand that Lois had recently bandaged for him.

JB/Richard: I see you've heard of me.

Elaine/Lois: Yes—just this afternoon for the first time.

JB/Richard: [Stepping toward her.] And what did they say about me?

Elaine/Lois: Only that there was another brother named Jonathan—that's all that was said. [Calming.] Well, that explains everything. Now that I know who you are — [Hurrying to door.] I'll be running along back home. [She tests the door and finds it locked. She turns to JB.] If you'll kindly unlock the door.

Richard crossed toward her.

Lois backed up a few steps as he walked toward her menacingly. Then, just before reaching her, Richard stopped suddenly; and then bowing, turned to the door and unlocked it. As he opened the door partway, Lois started toward it. Richard turned his head abruptly and then stopped her with a gesture.

JB/Richard: "That explains everything"? Just what did you mean by that? Why did you come here at this time of night?

Elaine/Lois: I thought I saw someone prowling around the house. I suppose it was you.

[JB has second thoughts and closes the door and locks it, leaving the key in the lock.]

JB/Richard: You thought you saw someone prowling around the house?

Elaine/Lois: Yes—weren't you outside? Isn't that your car?

JB/Richard: You saw someone at the car?

Elaine/Lois: Yes

JB/Richard: [Coming toward her as she backs up to the left of the chair.] What else did you see?

Elaine/Lois: Just someone walking around the house to the car.

JB/Richard: [Moving even closer with a sinister look on his face.] What else did you see?

Elaine/Lois: Just that—that's all. That's why I came over here. I wanted to tell Miss Abby to call the police. But if it was you, and that's your car, I don't need to bother Miss Abby. I'll be running along. [She takes a step toward the door. JB/Richard steps in her path to block her exit.]

JB/Richard: What was the man doing at the car?

Elaine/Lois: [Excitedly nervous.] I don't know. You see I was on my way over here.

JB/Richard: [Forcing her to back away again.] I think you're lying.

Richard looked over to the spot where Dr. Einstein would be standing.

JB/Richard: I think she's lying. Breaking into a house this time of night. I think she's dangerous. She shouldn't be allowed around loose. [He seizes Elaine/Lois' arm.]

As the script demanded, Lois screamed.

Elaine/Lois: Take your hands off me—

Clark burst into Lois' living room and grabbed Richard's arm. "Let go of her!"

"Clark," Lois began and started to laugh. "We're just rehearsing."

"Clark, old man," Richard began. "You don't think I…"

"I don't know what to think," Clark said looking at both of them.

Lois' smile faded quickly. "You thought what?" she asked incensed. "You believed I encouraged Richard and was now in some sort of danger? And you burst into my house to save me like some su…?"

"Lois, I…" Clark began.

"Mr. Kent," Lois went on, not allowing him to interrupt. "We need to talk. Richard," she said, turning back toward him. "I'm incredibly sorry, but I need to be alone with Clark right now. Thank you so much for saving me when I *really* needed saving," she said eyeing Clark.

"Thank you, Lois for the comfort and the care," he said indicating the bandage. "If you need anything, just call. I'll be there."

"There's something wrong about that man," Clark said as Richard closed the door behind him. "All these strange deaths began happening when he came to town. I think he's dangerous."

"I guess someone who fights for truth and justice, has to see lies and evil in everything and everyone so he knows whom to attack," Lois spat out angrily. "So you come charging in here like some obsessed body guard…accusing…"

"No, Lois," Clark said deliberately. "It's…I just worry about you—now more than ever. I love you."

"Do you?" Lois asked indignantly as she turned away from him.

"You know I do," Clark replied, coming up behind her. He put his arms around her and kissed the nape of her neck.

"Don't", Lois said half-heartedly.

"You want me to stop?" Clark asked softly, starting to nibble on her ear.

"Mmmmmm," Lois sighed, "Never," she murmured turning and kissing him, the argument forgotten.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 2:10 p.m. CST

Lois shook her head from her reverie and looked back up at Clark and then over toward the director. Strange things *were* happening. So many people had died. Maybe the play should be cancelled before something else happened.

"Well," Martha asked. "What do the rest of you think?"

"I agree with young Mr. Haley," Richard interjected. "Besides, there's the money."

"Money?" several of the cast members echoed.

"The $100,000 bequeath is contingent upon maintaining the Smallville Players performances as scheduled. A cancelled show means reneging on the will's requirements and relinquishing the endowment."

Martha looked at Richard with puzzlement. She knew that Clark was unsure about the newest member of the group and now she began to wonder about where his loyalties were and who he really was. For the first time her joy at having another male member of the troupe was no longer coloring her ability to assess the men beneath the fa‡ade he presented. There *was* something devious about the man. She could see it now. What was his game? Who was Richard Thurston?

"We shouldn't let the money make our decision for us," Martha said softly.

Miss Libby looked around at everyone. "I'm sure all the deaths were just coincidental; and although people die all the time, we've probably seen the last of the rash of unexpected deaths."

"I'm not sure, Miss Libby," Clark began and then cocked his head. "But…uh…uh… but if we're going to keep going, I…I…forgot my script in my classroom. I'll be right back."

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, July 4, 1948 1:15 p.m. CDT

"I'll be right back Theresa," Clark said, as she went through the back door into the kitchen. She emerged into the hot summer day a moment later carrying a platter with sliced watermelon on it. She placed the fruit on the picnic table that was set up in the Clark's back yard.

Young Martha looked up at her mother, eyes shining.

Libby Barton smiled at the family. She had been staying with them only a few days, but in that short of a time she had come to realize what a family is supposed to be like. It was obvious that Theresa and Joe loved each other and that they doted on their daughter, Martha, and would always want what was best for her.

Joe smiled back at Libby. The young woman especially liked Mr. Clark. He seemed to care about what happened to her. Mrs. Clark was great even when she spoke her mind out, which she did often. And little Martha had begun to look on Libby as an older sister, following her everywhere, always wanting to be with her.

"Can I take Martha for a walk?" Libby asked the Clarks.

Theresa looked over at Joe with trepidation.

"Of course," Joe said unconcerned. "You go on. I'll help Theresa with the dishes. Just meet us over at the town square by 2:00. That's when the band starts playing and then the unavoidable speeches begin."

"But one of those speeches is yours," Theresa reminded him as she kissed him on the cheek before removing the left over fried chicken, potato salad and baked beans.

"I know," Joe responded. "That's why it's unavoidable."

Martha eagerly took Libby's hand and smiled back at her parents as the two walked around to the front of the house. Martha started skipping and tugged impatiently at Libby's hand to encourage her to walk more rapidly.

Libby Barton's feet moved hurriedly taking her and the enthusiastic young Martha toward Maple Street.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 2:15 p.m. CST

Two ambulances pulled up to Pompeii's, a small Italian Restaurant on the East side of Smallville. Vincent Martinelli, the owner was outside, pacing up and down. The short squat man with salt and pepper hair wrung his hands as he gazed at the ailing people. Four of his patrons were stretched out on gurneys and several others were lying on the ground. Groans were heard from several of the victims.

Superman landed as Dr. Kelly and Dr. Klein approached him.

"Superman," Dr. Klein said. "One man is dead, but the others can be saved if we can just get them to the hospital on time. We need your help because there are too many for the ambulances to carry."

Superman nodded and lifted two people into his arms and flew toward the hospital.

Dr. Klein moved over to the gurneys and began supervising the remaining victims' care as they were loaded into the ambulances.

Dr. Gretchen Kelly crossed over to where the isolated man lay dead on the ground, a sheet covering him. She lifted the mantle and looked once again at the familiar venerable face of Nigel St. John.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, July 4, 1948 1:45 p.m. CDT

Libby Barton crossed over to the East side of Maple street and walked silently for several minutes. Martha continued to skip along side of her. Several people carrying blankets, and small American Flags were heading in the opposite direction toward the town square. A few paused to look at Libby and her little charge. Being a small town, they recognized Martha Kent; but were unsure about who had hold of her hand and was determinedly striding in a direction away from the Fourth of July activities. But as Martha continued to look up at Libby with affection, the townspeople, smiled and continued on.

As Libby and Martha arrived in front of 417, the one remaining Barton paused on the sidewalk in front of the house and looked up at the eerie edifice which was sorely in need of attention.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 2:10 p.m. CST

JB/Richard: Come in, Doctor. This is the home of my youth. As a boy I couldn't wait to escape from this place—now I'm glad to escape back into it.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: [Shutting door.] Yah, Chonny, it's a fine hideout.

JB/Richard: The family must still live here. There's something so unmistakably Brewster about the Brewsters. I hope there's a fatted calf awaiting the return of the prodigal.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Yah, I'm hungry. [He suddenly sees the fatted calf in the form of the two glasses of wine on the table.] Look, Chonny, drinks!

JB/Richard: As though we were expected. A good omen.

Richard and Wayne Irig raised the two glasses to their lips as Aunt Abby/Beatrice stepped down a couple of stairs and spoke.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Who are you? What are you doing here?

Richard and Wayne Irig put their glasses down. JB/Richard turns to Aunt Abby/Beatrice.

JB/Richard: Why, Aunt Abby! Aunt Martha! It's Jonathan.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: [Frightened.] You get out of here!

JB/Richard: [Crossing to Aunts.] I'm Jonathan—your nephew, Jonathan.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Oh, no, you're not. You're nothing like Jonathan, so don't pretend you are! You just get out of here!

JB/Richard: [Crossing closer.] But I am Jonathan. And this [Indicating Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig.] is Dr. Einstein.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: And he's not Dr. Einstein either.

JB/Richard: Not Dr. Albert Einstein—Dr. Herman Einstein.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: [Moving down a step on the stairs.] Who are you? You're not our nephew, Jonathan.

JB/Richard: [Peering at Aunt Abby/Beatrice's outstretched hand on the staircase banister.] I see you're still wearing the lovely garnet ring that Grandma Brewster bought in England. [Aunt Abby/Beatrice gasps, looks at ring.] And you, Aunt Martha, still the high collar—to hide the scar where Grandfather's acid burned you.

As the script directed, Aunt Martha/Miss Libby's hand went to her throat. As she did the gesture, Libby's mind went back to a bygone time as she remembered her own Aunt Leticia's oft time similar gesture—her aunt Leticia who also wore a high collar and a cameo broach to hide a parallel experiment by Libby's grandfather. Libby bit her lower lip as she remembered that house and the lines that Richard had uttered earlier about escaping that place.

Yes, Libby had also escaped as had the Jonathan of the play, but only after each one of her family had been murdered.

***

Cassville, New Jersey Sunday, October 30, 1938 8:53 p.m. EST

David Trask stared at his dead wife, the blood still ebbing out of her. He stooped down as if to touch his wife but stopped his hand before it caressed her. Instead, he walked over and lifted a shocked young Jason into his arms. Trask sat down on the rocking chair which had been in Mary's family for two generations and slowly began to rock his son.

The noise of the frightened people had subsided as the fleeing crowds dissipated and returned from whence they came.

The small living room in Cassville, New Jersey took on a macabre feeling as father and son listened to the somber music fade from the radio with the body of Mary Trask sprawled out beside them on the floor, while the final solemn words of the commentator became the only sounds piercing the night.

###

PIERSON: As I set down these notes on paper, I'm obsessed by the thought that I may be the last living man on earth. I have been hiding in this empty house near Grover's Mill — a small island of daylight cut off by the black smoke from the rest of the world. All that happened before the arrival of these monstrous creatures in the world now seems part of another life… a life that has no continuity with the present, furtive existence of the lonely derelict who pencils these words on the back of some astronomical notes bearing the signature of Richard Pierson.

I look down at my blackened hands, my torn shoes, my tattered clothes, and I try to connect them with a professor who lives at Princeton, and who on the night of October 30, glimpsed through his telescope an orange splash of light on a distant planet. My wife, my colleagues, my students, my books, my observatory, my… my world… where are they? Did they ever exist? Am I Richard Pierson? What day is it? Do days exist without calendars? Does time pass when there are no human hands left to wind the clocks? …In writing down my daily life I tell myself shall preserve human history between the dark covers of this little book that was meant to record the movements of the stars… But to write I must live…

###

David Trask looked down at his son who had fallen asleep. "We *will* live—live to fight them another day."

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 2:50 p.m. CST

Clark walked quickly back into the rehearsal room adjusting his tie. "Sorry, couldn't find my script," he explained. "I gather, we are going to continue with the play."

The other actors nodded.

"I guess I'm in the minority," Clark told them all. "It's just so bizarre. I mean another person…"

"Another person, what?" Richard asked.

"Nothing," Clark replied staring at Richard.

Martha walked over to her son. "Is everything all right?" she asked.

"Yes, Mom. It's just…never mind. What scene are we doing?"

"We're starting on page twenty-nine," Martha explained.

"Got it," Clark responded although not enthusiastically.

"Donald, can you go get Jonathan. Since we decided to keep going with the play, he went to work on the set. Tell him that we're up to his scene."

Donald Botts went to the door but just as he was opening it, Jonathan Kent walked in.

"Just in time, dear," Martha Kent said to her husband.

Beatrice, Miss Libby and Clark took their places.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: That's the doorbell. [Crosses to the door and opens it.]

Gibbs/Jonathan Kent: I understand you have a room to rent.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Yes. Won't you step in?

Gibbs/Jonathan Kent: [Stepping into the room.] Are you the lady of the house?

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Yes. I'm Miss Brewster. And this is my sister, another Miss Brewster.

[Mortimer crosses to the phone and dials.]

Gibbs/Jonathan Kent: My name is Gibbs.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: [Leading him to the table.} Oh, won't you sit down? I'm sorry we were just setting the table for dinner.

Mortimer/Clark: [Into the phone.] Hello—let me talk to Al. City desk. What? I'm sorry, wrong number. [He dials again.]

[Gibbs/Jonathan Kent looks at Mortimer/Clark.]

Gibbs/Jonathan Kent: May I see the room?

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby. Why don't you sit down a minute and let's get acquainted.

Gibbs/Jonathan Kent: That won't do much good if I don't like the room.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Are you from around here? I mean is this your home?

Gibbs/Jonathan Kent: Haven't got a home. Live in a hotel. Don't like it.

Morter/Clark: [Into the phone again.] Hell. City desk.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Are your family from here?

Gibbs/Jonathan Kent: Haven't got any family.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: [Sensing another victim.] All alone in the world?

Gibbs/Jonathan Kent: Yep.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Well, Martha—

[Aunt Martha/Miss Libby pantomimes going to the sideboard and getting a bottle of wine, a wine glass and sets them both on the table. Aunt Abby/Beatrice eases Gibbs into a chair as she says her next line.]

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Well, you've come to just the right house. Do sit down.

Mortimer/Clark: [Into the phone.] Hello, Al? Mort. I can't cover the play tonight—that's all there is to it, I can't!

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: What church do you go to? There's an Episcopal Church practically next door. [The script tells her to walk toward the window, and then sit on window seat.]

Miss Libby pretended to do it, sitting on the couple of chairs being used for the window seat in the practice room. From her vantage point, Libby watched the rest of the actors. She was the one who had convinced them to continue on with the play. Most of them seemed a bit hesitant, but Libby knew that she had to do this. She looked at Clark who was continuing to pretend to be talking into a phone. He appeared to be the most worried about all the mysterious deaths that had been happening in Smallville. She trusted Clark's instincts. Maybe he had something.

Libby thought about Vivian Cox, Barb Friskin, Antoinette Baines, and Sheldon Bender. And now Clark had earlier run off to…to…probably a job for Superman and when he returned he had hinted at—maybe another death. If you added Bill Saxon's death at the prison and Judge LeVine's death in Topeka, it could bring the total to seven. Seven deaths but what had they in common?

Libby Barton was what you might call a devotee of murders. She had read about so many of them that she had become a sort of expert on it. Miss Marple was one of her favorite fictional characters and Miss Libby fancied herself just as capable as Jane Marple in figuring out murders. But were these murders? A prison riot, a plane explosion, a suicide, a fire, and a mis-aimed gun. The only absolute murder was the body in the window-seat—Sheldon Bender.

Was there someone out there killing people? Miss Libby's mind flickered briefly back to the murders of long ago. So many people killed. Her aunts, her uncles and then there were all the bodies in the cellar.

Had she been right to make the theatre group continue? Was this a way to deal with those hidden demons of long ago? Would she now be able to tell the truth? But should her needs take priority? What if the killings going on now in 1994 were linked to her past or to the play or to what—to what?

Her next line was coming up. Libby redirected her attention.

Jonathan Kent was continuing.

Gibbs/Jonathan Kent: Do you serve meals?

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: We might, but first just see whether you like our wine.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: [Getting up the window-seat.] We make it ourselves. It's elderberry wine.

Mortimer/Clark: [Hangs up the phone and crosses to the table. He sees the wine, gets a glass and pours a drink. Gibbs/Jonathan Kent has his glass in hand and is getting ready to drink.]

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: [Sees Mortimer/Clark pouring wine.] Mortimer! Eh eh eh eh!

[Gibbs/Jonathan Kent stops and looks at Aunt Martha/Miss Libby. Mortimer/Clark pays no attention.]

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Eh eh eh eh!

[As Mortimer/Clark raises the glass to his lips, Aunt Abby/Beatrice reaches up and pulls his arm down.]

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Mortimer. Not that!

[As the script dictates, Clark/Mortimer pretends to not comprehend. Acting dumb, he puts his glass down on the table. Then he suddenly notices his father acting as Mr. Gibbs putting a glass to his lips about to drink. Clark points across the table at "Mr. Gibbs" and gives a wild cry. Mr. Gibbs/Jonathan Kent looks at him, putting his glass down. Clark, still pointing at "Mr. Gibbs", goes around above the table toward him, his eyes wild.]

The actors sitting in the rehearsal room began to laugh, especially at Jonathan Kent's reactions. Martha smiled at her husband, realizing that he had remembered what she had told him to do and that he was following her directions explicitly.

[Gibbs/Jonathan Kent, seeing a madman, rises slowly and backs toward center stage then turns and runs for the exit. Mortimer/Clark follows him. Gibbs/Jonathan Kent opens the door.]

Mortimer/Clark: [Pushes him out.] Get out of here! Do you want to be poisoned? Do you want to be killed? Do you want to be murdered?

[Mortimer/Clark closes the door after him. Then he turns and leans on the door in exhausted relief.]

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Now you've spoiled everything. [She sits.]

Following the blocking designed by their director, Miss Libby moves over to sit next to Beatrice. Both the ladies look at Clark expectantly.

[Mortimer/Clark crosses to the center of the stage and looks from one to the other.]

The two actresses glance at each other and then back at Clark.

Mortimer/Clark: [to Aunt Abby/Beatrice.] You can't do things like that. I don't know how to explain this to you, but it's not only against the law. It's wrong! [To Aunt Martha/Miss Libby] It's not a nice thing to do.

[Aunt Martha/Miss Libby stands and takes a few steps away from him.]

Mortimer/Clark: [Crosses closer to her.] People wouldn't understand.

Miss Libby's eyes filled with tears and she ran from the rehearsal room.

"Let's take five," Martha Kent told her actors, and followed Libby out of the door.

***

Butler County, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 3:00 p.m. CST

"It wasn't a nice thing to do," the young Luthor said, smiling at the man in the ski mask who was counting the money that Jaxon had thrust upon him. "Mr. St. John was an old and trusted friend," Jaxon reminded him, continuing to grin sadistically. "And last night that convenience store…"

"No, not nice at all," the man repeated. "Good thing I was able to make bail. Working for you has proved to be very lucrative," he said as he pocketed the money and turned to walk out of the underground granary.

"Did you complete the other assignments?" Lex's son asked.

"Yeah," the man said turning back to look at his employer. "The next three have already been rigged—one at any moment, and the others tomorrow morning. And as arranged, I will expect final payment tomorrow night."

"No, I think I'll give you your final payment now." Jaxon told him as he removed a gun from his coat and fired point blank at the man.

Jaxon leaned down and retrieved the money clasped in the dead man's hand.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 3:10 p.m. CST

Coroner Gretchen Kelly looked at the dead man lying on the autopsy table. She unclasped his hand and retrieved the crumpled piece of paper that was secured within it. Resurrection, she read. Gretchen tore the paper into several strips and hurled it into the nearby wastebasket.

Dr. Kelly signed the file she had just completed. She smiled as she read it once again. Deceased: Nigel St. John, Caucasian, Male, age 54. Date and time of death: February 6th, 1994, 2:00 p.m. Cause of death: Botulism Poisoning.

Gretchen placed the file folder on top of several others. She glanced briefly at the names and causes of death indicated on the tabs of each of the manila files. She had recently ruled Antoinette Baines' death an accident and had been on tap to announce Barb Friskin's death as a suicide.

She had done exactly what Lex, the love of her life, expected of her; and Dr. Kelly was happily anticipating spending the night with him at his new apartment. Thank goodness they didn't have to meet at the abandoned farmhouse any longer. Lex was now ensconced as Richard Thurston, and as such, he would soon put an end to the Smallville Players, and then he was going to be hers, all hers.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 3:10 p.m. CST

The actors watched as Libby Barton ran from the room. Martha signaled to the rest of the cast to remain where they were while she rushed after Libby.

Clark stood quiet for a moment, and then closed his script and returned to sit next to Lois who was attempting to memorize the next scene she was in.

Lois watched as Clark walked toward her. She thought about getting up and going somewhere, anywhere, but just remained silent and closed her eyes shutting everything out. Life was becoming difficult and she felt that she was being pulled in so many directions at the same time.

She was a teacher, and an exceptionally good one. But recently she seemed distracted. Yet, why wouldn't she be? She was engaged to be married to a superhero and their lives were anything but simple. And then most of her spare time had to be devoted to the play. Thank goodness she didn't have that big of a role. It just felt like…like the separation between life on stage and off was losing its definition. The two worlds were colliding head on.

Elaine Harper, the character she was playing, was madly in love, which Lois totally understood. Elaine was smart and somewhat sophisticated for a minister's daughter of 1938 and yet…and yet…Elaine wasn't sure what was happening around her. She was unable to discern that trouble was brewing and put her faith in simplistic answers. Elaine almost was childlike in her ability to judge people and required "looking after". Had Lois herself fallen prey to that subservient role? Had her real life become one where she needed to be "looked after"?

Lois sighed. Last night *had* been a roller coaster ride. First there had been the robbery at Mrs. G's convenience store. The thief had brandished a gun at the two frightened women. Lois bit her lower lip as she remembered the incident and how close she had come to being killed when Richard Thurston entered the store. The nervous gunman fired and Richard jumped in front of the bullet meant for her and saved her life.

A few moments after the gunshot had rung out, Clark, as Superman, arrived on the scene and while he captured the robber who had bolted out of the door, Lois had encouraged Richard to come back to her place so that she could bandage his hand. She owed him that much, at least. Clark had shown a slight irritation at her decision, but she had dismissed it.

Once at Lois' the two had decided to use the time to go over one of their scenes together. Maybe it *was* a silly thing to do. But perhaps it was a way to relieve the situation—perhaps it was a means of escaping the reality and hiding in a fantasy for awhile—but Lois had inwardly thanked Richard for his consideration and suggesting this method of defusing the tension.

The scene demanded Richard as the prodigal brother, Jonathan Brewster, to be menacing to Lois who as Elaine Harper had found herself face to face with this monstrous looking man who had a fondness for murder. Richard played his role extremely well and Lois had no trouble gasping and screaming as he approached her.

Clark's second attempt to save her that night was as unsuccessful as the first. He had burst in like a bull in a china shop and just as untactfully had insinuated that she and Richard were…were…

Lois thought back at how angry she had become and how she had lashed out at Clark. Maybe it was the situation, maybe she was just exhausted, maybe it was the deaths of the people she knew and her own second brush with death. Maybe it was everything rolled into one, but she had said things she wished she hadn't. Yes, they had made up but…then…

Lois closed the script she was really not reading and wondered about Libby and Martha. Clark was using this time to grade a few papers he had brought with him to work on in between scenes. Clark never needed the time to go over lines. He only needed to glance at them a few times, run the scene once or twice and he was able to commit everything to memory. Superpowers did have its up side. But it also had its down side.

Lois looked at Clark who reached out to take her hand. She got up and walked toward the window and looked out at the night sky.

Richard watched the lack of exchange and smiled. He thought back to the night before. Saturday had gone just as he had planned it. It was the beginning of the end.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 5, 1994 9:20 p.m. CST

Right after the somewhat heated exchange between Lois and Clark that Saturday night, Richard Thurston walked away from Lois Lane's house and returned to the convenience store where he had parked his car. He had successfully planted the first seed of doubt—the seminal occurrence that would lead to the demise of Lois and Clark's engagement and eventually to the finale of the Smallville Players. He and he alone was going to ring down the final curtain on these amateurish dilettantes—on these nonentities, these silly ciphers. How dare any of them, whether in fact or fiction plot against him, dismiss his power, attempt to end his life?

Lex Luthor was put on this earth to reign supreme. Nothing could ever stop him.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 5, 1994 9:20 p.m. CST

Miss Libby Barton was using Saturday night to go over the lines for Sunday's rehearsal. She said her line out loud.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Abby, what *are* we going to do?

Libby stopped and decided to try the line again with a different inflection.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Abby, What are we going to *do*?

That was better. Libby looked at Aunt Abby's response.

Aunt Abby: Well, we're not going to let them stay more than one night in this house for one thing. What would the neighbors think? People coming in here with one face and going out with another.

Libby closed her eyes and began her next line.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: I will not let Jonathan…

Miss Libby Barton stopped suddenly. Her script fell to the floor.

She looked at the book lying open to the pages of that scene. Reminiscences were hitting her. Almost sixty years before her uncle had walked through a door with a new face to cover his villainy—a new face to conceal…murders.

There were murders here now. Could he be back—back hiding under a new face to conceal his nefarious misdeeds? No, it couldn't be. But…but…maybe if she said it out loud, it would have credence. "Jonathan Brewster…Richard…Lex!!!!" she exclaimed.

***

Lex drove away from the convenience store. He glanced at his watch. Saturday, February 5th, 9:20 p.m. If he calculated correctly, Nigel St. John was just hanging up from his follow-up phone conversation with Mayson, the conversation he, Lex, had written. "Mayson," he spit the name out. "Not much longer, you female miscreant— you disloyal siren," he protested. "But first I need you. And before you, we lose Nigel."

Lex was sorry to eradicate such a faithful factotum especially when he carried out his assignments so proficiently. But there had to be no loose ends.

Richard Thurston looked at his watch. At this point, Mayson would be making a telephone call—a call encouraged…maybe too dulcet a term. Ah! A call manipulated by Nigel, he corrected.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 5, 1994 9:20 p.m. CST

"So I should keep doing this?" Clark asked her as he continued to kiss her.

"Hmmm, yes." Lois told him capturing his mouth again. "I mean no!" she said pulling back.

"Wha..t?" Clark asked startled.

"I can't think when you do that."

"Let's not think," he said, leaning down toward her waiting for her response. "Well, can't you take a hint?"

"Hey, that's my line from the play," Lois chuckled.

"Well, maybe *we* should rehearse a scene as well," Clark told her, trying to kiss her again.

"Now you run along home. And I'll call you tomorrow," Lois told him pushing him gently.

"Wait a minute. Now who's doing whose lines?" Clark reminded her. "Mortimer says that."

"Caught me! It's been a long day, Clark. And we should…"

"You're not still angry, are you?" Clark asked as he took his hand and cupped the side of her cheek. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "It's just that I get worried about you."

"I know," Lois said. "But you have to stop being such a mother hen. You can't always be there, and I have to be able to handle some things on my own."

"You're so stubborn," Clark told her, taking her arms and putting them around his neck, as he leaned in to kiss her.

She heard Clark's words while his incredible eyes focused on her lips, encouraging her to move ever closer to him. Just at the moment their lips were about to touch, she removed her arms from his neck only to place them on his chest as she pushed him back yet again. "I'm not stubborn," she said, with a semi-stern tone in her voice.

"Loissss," Clark hissed as he put his arms around her waist and tried to pull her back against him, but Lois wasn't cooperating.

"*I'm* not the one who's stubborn, you are the one who is stubborn and who keeps saying that I'm being stubborn, but who's the stubborn one here now. I mean just don't try to tell me what to do," Lois said.

"You're babbling," Clark informed her putting his finger on her lips. "Don't talk, just kiss me!" he said deliberately.

"Don't try to be masterful."

"Not that *is* one of Elaine's quotes from the play. Okay, I'm game. Mortimer then says—When we're married and I have problems to face, I hope you're less tedious and uninspired!" he told her chuckling.

"Ooooh, I hate that line," Lois told him. "But then I get that great comeback. Let's see. Oh yes. And when we're married, *if* we're married—I hope I find you adequate!"

"Is this adequate enough?" Clark asked as he pulled her into his arms once again and kissed her gently—then deeper, and just as he tried to maneuver her toward the couch, the phone rang. Lois sighed and walked over to pick up the phone. "Yes," she said quizzically. "It's for you, Clark."

***

Mayson waited for Clark to pick up the phone. After her previous meeting with Nigel St. John and his urgent phone call, she had to talk to someone. Someone *had* to learn that Lex was alive and that the deaths in town could be attributed to him.

"Clark," Mayson said instantly. "I have to see you right away. I really have to talk to someone about this."

"About what?" Clark's voice came over the phone.

"Please meet me at the Silver Unicorn. And don't tell anyone. Not even Lois. This concerns her and I don't want to scare her."

Mayson heard several protestations from Clark's side of the conversation.

"Clark," Mayson continued adamantly. "We were very good friends once, and I need you. Lois' life depends upon it."

***

Clark stared at the phone and sighed. He had to help Mayson, but with Lois' current attitude about this evening's events, this was all he needed.

"I'll be right there." Clark responded hanging up the phone, as he turned to avoid Lois seeing the concerned look that must be in his eyes, since he wouldn't be able to explain.

"What is it, Clark?" Lois asked, knowing something was wrong. She thought the woman's voice was familiar but she wasn't really sure—maybe one of Clark's students. But calling him this late at her house, it must be something serious and she wasn't about to let him go away without telling her what was happening.

"I'll be back soon," Clark told her. "There's something I need to do."

"Not return a video," she chuckled. "This sounds like one of your phony Superman excuses when there's no need to do that. Remember, I know you're Superman now," she reminded him hoping that the levity would allow him to explain.

"No, I…I… Something else," he explained and hurried out the door, leaving a stunned Lois behind.

"You're so stubborn," she said out loud and slammed the door.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday February 5, 1994 9:30 p.m. CST

Libby Barton opened the door to the attic. Richard Thurston had to be Lex Luthor. He had joined the cast because he wanted, no needed, to play Jonathan Brewster—he had wanted to be near the Smallville Players to seek revenge for that night last November. That made so much sense but yet it didn't. Lex Luthor was dead. He was dead, dead, dead. If Luthor was alive, there could only be but one explanation and the explanation was here amid all the memories of a past life she wanted to forget.

Libby stood in the open door, not ready to set foot over the threshold. If Richard is in actuality, Lex, he must have been…but he couldn't have been…but then what other explanation was there?

Miss Barton wrestled with her fears and stepped into the attic—the attic she had not dared enter since the last time when she first returned to Smallville in 1948.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, October 30, 1948 2:15 p.m. CST

It had been ten years, ten years since her family had died. Libby again stood in front of the house at 417 Maple and looked up at the door, this time alone—no little Martha in tow. She had made this pilgrimage several times since she returned to Smallville last July. But this time it was different. This was the anniversary of…

Her eyes drifted up to the round window at the top of the house, the one that held the attic behind it.

Libby's first remembrances were of that window—playing up in the attic while her aunts worked in the laboratory—a section of the attic that was barred from her—but the window was in the part of the attic that held old clothes, old toys and trunks of different things to discover. By the age of six, Libby knew all the treasures that that nook of the attic held in its recesses. She would dress in her mother's or grandmother's clothes and dance around in front of a large mirror and then peek out of the window pretending to be a princess in an ivory tower.

She learned to ignore the sounds and smells coming from the enclosed room that took up about three-quarters of the attic. Aunt Lavinia had explained that she and Aunt Leticia were making special preserves and were growing and cultivating herbs in that room and that since some of the herbs could be dangerous if not used correctly, it was best that Libby did not go in there.

The nine years after the night of the murders that she had spent locked away in that institution had given her time to think and reflect—to try to understand who she was and why she was. The physical prison from which she had recently been released was not as bad as the emotional prison in which she had enclosed her own soul. The pain she had suffered losing her child was only part of the penance she saw as her just deserts.

Today ten years later, the now twenty-two year old Libby entered the house and slowly walked into the living room. She surveyed the sheets used to cover up the furniture and walked toward one cloaked piece. She removed the sheet and stared at the radio. Libby grasped the knob and then released it. That would be an exercise in futility since the electricity in the house had not been turned on.

Libby recovered the radio and climbed up the stairs toward the attic. Her arm reached out to turn the door handle. She took a deep breath. She had avoided both the attic and the cellar since coming back to Smallville although she visited the house once a week. Somehow if she didn't visit those areas, they didn't exist, the past didn't exist, the demons—the ghosts were quashed.

***

Silver Spring, Maryland Saturday, October 30, 1948 3:15 p.m. EST

The young man looked down at the solitary grave by the Hydrangea bush. He had avoided the gravesite since coming back to Washington, D.C.; although he got as far as the cemetery gates several times. Somehow if he didn't visit, it hadn't happened, the past didn't exist, the demons—the ghosts wouldn't haunt him or enrage him.

Jason was expected home, but today was an important day. It had been ten years since that supposed hoax—the Martian invasion of New Jersey. Yes, it had been a hoax then, but the young Trask knew better. He had seen the evidence in Roswell, he had talked to others who had had similar experiences; and, most importantly, he had helped convince the recently established Department of the Air Force to create Bureau 39 to meet the onslaught that was destined to come—to meet it with all that he and others like him could muster.

Jason clutched the single lily he held in his hand and slowly the anger rose up viscerally from deep inside him. He crushed the lone flower and flung it down. The newly promoted First Lieutenant attached to the special-forces unit delegated to work on suspected alien activity, turned on his heels and fled. One petal hung in the air and slowly wafted down to finally alight on the grave marker, the grave of Mary Trask.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, October 30, 1948 3:20 p.m. CST

Libby's hand held the doorknob to the attic. Opening the door would be reopening a door to the past that she had tried to spend ten years forgetting. But she knew that she had to face it sooner or later.

She was now living with the Clarks and paying her way by helping to take care of little Martha. Mr. Clark was attempting to track down the source of the Barton's income and see if the funding was still available for Libby. She was now the owner of the house at 417 Maple and Mr. Clark had paid the taxes each year to maintain the house for her. But it was in sad need of repair and totally unlivable and, even if she could have moved into the house, Libby had no way to support herself. So she had to be content with the weekly visits.

She slowly opened the attic door. The familiar part of the attic was as she had last seen it—trunks and boxes piled up holding the fond memories that belonged to the innocent childhood of an unaware twelve-year old. Libby turned and entered the abandoned laboratory. The young Barton moved toward the long table sitting in the center of the segregated room and gingerly reached out to touch it. Visions of her aunts, uncles and…and…her… No, she couldn't think about it.

Libby opened a drawer in the center of the table and removed a small bound volume. She clasped it to her chest and slumping to the floor, she began to read.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 5, 1994 9:30 p.m. CST

The sixty-seven year old Libby opened the door to the attic. Although having hidden her family's dastardly legacy many, many years before, she didn't hesitate for a moment and made directly for the loose floorboard right under the round attic window. She bent down and pried open the dried gray clapboard to reveal a metal box about eighteen inches square. She lifted it out and held it in her lap as she sat on an old trunk.

Libby closed her eyes and although long ago sitting in a court room where she decided that there couldn't be a god, prayed to some higher power, and then opened the box. The dying woman, who if she had been someone other than Libby Barton, would want the book to be there—be there for herself—to somehow change her own terminal prognosis and create her own immortality. Miss Libby did want the book to be there—but to satisfy herself that it wasn't being used—being used by a vindictive villain.

Libby opened her eyes. The book was gone and Lex Luthor was alive.

***

The very much alive, although physically altered, Lex Luthor parked his car across from The Silver Unicorn, a bar and grille frequented by the more affluent members of the Smallville community. Lex watched as Clark Kent rounded the corner and walked into the establishment now owned by Luthor Inc.

Clark looked around the restaurant and discovered Mayson Drake sitting at a table for two situated by the corner window that overlooked the river on one side and yet could also easily see those that entered the restaurant.

Mayson looked up and attempted a slight smile.

Clark joined Mayson at the table. She had obviously been crying and looked scared. "What is it, Mayson?" Clark asked her concerned for both the woman sitting there and for about what the attorney had said might be harmful to Lois.

"I don't know how to tell you. I don't know if you will be able to believe me," she sniffled.

"We've known each other for a very long time. Our mothers are best friends. We were good friends; but, when you first came back here and joined forces with Lex Luthor, I did lose trust in you."

"I know," Mayson replied.

"But," continued Clark. "You really redeemed yourself and showed your loyalty when you came to tell Lois and me about Lex's diabolical scheme. I know that you are no longer a part of what remains of the empire he built. I trust you now and I *will* believe you."

Clark took Mayson's hand and held it.

Mayson leaned in and kissed Clark gently on the lips.

***

Outside in front of the Silver Unicorn, two people watched the friendly interchange between Clark and Mayson—Lex Luthor sadistically monitoring his creation from across the street behind the safety of tinted glass and Lois Lane who had just arrived on the scene.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 5, 1994 9:35 p.m. CST

Libby Barton closed the attic door behind her. Should she call, and if so who? Rachel Harris? Martha Kent? Clark? And what should she say? Should she warn them and tell them of the danger that was now running rampant in Smallville? Would they even believe her? Would they believe that some citizens of Smallville were targets of an evil reincarnation? Did *she* even believe it?

***

Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland Saturday, October 30, 1948 7:45 p.m. EST

Jason Trask turned the key in the door of the small house assigned to him and his family. After his assignment in Roswell, New Mexico, Trask had returned to Washington D.C. The newly separated service known as the United States Air Force had taken on the sole responsibility of investigating alien activity and Lieutenant Trask had been one of the first to volunteer, joining a highly select group on August 2, 1947 known as Bureau 39.

As he walked into the kitchen, Helen Trask turned to glare at her husband. "You missed dinner," she informed him, coldly.

As Jason was about to retort, the sound of a baby crying stopped his response. "Go, take care of him," the officer commanded and strode into the living room.

The radio was playing some music and Trask was about to walk over to turn it off when the particular song sparked a memory. The music stopped.

###

WWMD's tenth anniversary special of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre presentation of "War of the Worlds" will continue after this message.

###

Helen entered the living room carrying the seven month old Jason Jr. and sat in the rocking chair as she attempted to lull the baby back to sleep.

Jason Sr. sank down onto the couch and as if paralyzed, staring off into space, he listened, transfixed back into his twelve-year old world.

###

PIERSON: Exhausted by terror, I fall asleep…it's morning… Sun streams in the window. The black cloud of gas has lifted, and the scorched meadows to the north look as though a black snowstorm has passed over them. I venture from the house. I make my way to a road. No traffic. Here and there a wrecked car, baggage overturned, a blackened skeleton. I push on north. For some reason I feel safer trailing these monsters than running away from them. And I keep a careful watch. I have seen the Martians… feed. Should one of their machines appear over the top of trees, I am ready to fling myself flat on the earth. I come to a chestnut tree. October chestnuts are ripe. I fill my pockets. I must keep alive.

Finally I notice a living creature… a small red squirrel in a beech tree. I stare at him, and wonder. He stares back at me. I believe at that moment the animal and I shared the same emotion…the joy of finding another living being. I push on north. I find dead cows in a brackish field. Beyond, the charred ruins of a dairy, the silo remains standing guard over the wasteland like a lighthouse deserted by the sea. Astride the silo perches a weathercock. The arrow points north.

I come upon an undemolished house, strangely neglected by some whim of the advancing Martians. Presently, with an odd feeling of being watched, I caught sight of something crouching in the doorway. I made a step towards it, and it rose up and became a man! — a man, armed with a large knife.

STRANGER: Stop… where did you come from?

PIERSON: I come from … many places. A long time ago from Princeton.

STRANGER: Princeton, huh? That's near Grover's Mill!

PIERSON: Yes.

STRANGER: Grover's Mill… (laughs as at a great joke.) There's no food here. This is my country… all this end of town down to the river. There's only food for one… Which way are you going?

PIERSON: I don't know. I guess I'm looking for — for people.

STRANGER: (nervously.)What was that? Did you hear something just then?

PIERSON: Only a bird … A live bird!

STRANGER: You get to know that birds have shadows these days… Say, we're in the open here. Let's crawl into this doorway and talk.

PIERSON: Have you seen any … Martians?

STRANGER: Naah. They've gone over to Metropolis. At night the sky is alive with their lights. Just as if people were still livin' in it. By daylight you can't see them.

PIERSON: Then it's all over with humanity. But there's still you and I. Two of us left.

STRANGER: They wrecked the greatest country in the world. Those green stars, they're probably falling somewhere every night. They've only lost one machine. There isn't anything to do. We're done. We're licked.

PIERSON: Where were you? You're in a uniform.

STRANGER: Yeah, what's left of it. I was in the militia — national guard… Wasn't any war any more than there's war between men and ants.

PIERSON: And we're eat-able ants. I found that out… What will they do with us?

STRANGER: I've thought it all out. They'll begin catching us systematic-like — keeping the best and storing us in cages and things. They haven't begun on us yet!

PIERSON: Not begun!

STRANGER: Not begun! All that's happened so far is because we don't have sense enough to keep quiet… botherin' them with guns and such stuff and losing our heads and rushing off in crowds. Now instead of our rushing around blind we've got to fix ourselves up.

PIERSON: But if that's so, what is there to live for?

STRANGER: Well, there won't be any more concerts for a million years or so, and no nice little dinners at restaurants or theatres or art galleries. If it's amusement you're after, I guess the game's up.

PIERSON: And what is there left?

STRANGER: Life… that's what! I want to live. Yeah, and so do you. We're not going to be exterminated. And I don't mean to be caught, either, and tamed, and fattened, and bred, like an ox.

PIERSON: What are you going to do?

STRANGER: I'm going on… right under their feet. I got a plan. We men as men are finished. We don't know enough. We gotta learn plenty before we've got a chance. And we've got to live and keep free while we learn, see? I've thought it all out, see.

PIERSON: Tell me the rest.

STRANGER: We've got to choose the right people to start over again with.

PIERSON: You've thought it all out, haven't you?

STRANGER: I've got it all figured out. We'll live underground. I've been thinking about the sewers. Under Metropolis are miles and miles of 'em. The main ones are big enough for anybody. Then there's cellars, vaults, underground storerooms, railway tunnels, subways. You begin to see, eh? And we'll get a bunch of strong men together. No weak ones; that rubbish — out.

PIERSON: And which am I?

STRANGER: And we've got to make safe places for us to stay in, see, and get all the books we can — science books. That's where men like you come in, see? We'll raid the museums, we'll even spy on the Martians. It may not be so much we have to learn before — just imagine this: four or five of their own fighting machines suddenly start off — heat rays right and left and not a Martian in 'em. Not a Martian in 'em! But men, the right men who have learned the way how. It may even be in our time. Gee! Imagine having one of them lovely things with its heat ray wide and free! We'd turn it on Martians, we'd turn it on men. We'd bring everybody down to their knees.

PIERSON: That's your plan?

STRANGER: You, and me, and a few more of us we'd own the world.

PIERSON: I see…

STRANGER: Say, what's the matter? … Where are you going?

PIERSON: Not to your world… Goodbye, stranger…

###

"Jason," Helen began. "Jason."

Jason looked over at his wife and his son now sleeping in her lap. The future of this world had come down to a few select people—those who saw the danger—those who knew that the earth was a target, a target to be constantly defended against enemies from beyond.

Helen stared at her husband and then looked down at her sleeping son. She was beginning to be frightened.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 5, 1994 9:35 p.m. CST

Libby Barton was frightened. Someone had the book—a someone who used it to resurrect Lex Luthor. She made her way slowly down the stairs to the living room. Maybe she was just being paranoid. Was Richard Thurston really Lex Luthor? Was he connected with the strange, bizarre deaths that had been plaguing Smallville of late? Or had Libby's morbid sense of the macabre fueled by years of guilt, isolation and despair created a need to see villains around every corner. She walked over to the radio and stroked the antique—to see Martians where there were none.

***

Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland Saturday, October 30, 1948 7:50 p.m. EST

###

PIERSON: After parting with the artilleryman, I came at last to Metropolis. I reached Fourteenth Street, and there again were black powder and several bodies, and an evil ominous smell from the gratings of the cellars of some of the buildings. I wandered up through the Thirties and Forties; I stood alone on Daily Planet Square.

I walked up forty-second street, past the Capitol Theatre, silent, dark — I watched a flock of black birds circling in the sky. I hurried on. Suddenly I caught sight of the hood of a Martian machine, standing somewhere in Centennial Park, gleaming in the late afternoon sun. An insane idea! I rushed recklessly across the street and into the Park. I climbed a small hill above the pond at fiftieth Street. From there I could see, standing in a silent row, nineteen of those great metal Titans, their cowls empty, their great steel arms hanging listlessly by their sides. I looked in vain for the monsters that inhabit those machines.

Suddenly, my eyes were attracted to the immense flock of black birds that hovered directly below me. They circled to the ground, and there before my eyes, stark and silent, lay the Martians, with the hungry birds pecking and tearing brown shreds of flesh from their dead bodies.

Later when their bodies were examined in the laboratories, it was found that they were killed by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared… slain, after all man's defenses had failed, by the humblest thing that God in His wisdom put upon this earth.

Before the cylinder fell there was a general persuasion that through all the deep of space no life existed beyond the petty surface of our minute sphere. Now we see further. Dim and wonderful is the vision I have conjured up in my mind of life spreading slowly from this little seedbed of the solar system throughout the inanimate vastness of sidereal space. But that is a remote dream. It may be that the destruction of the Martians is only a reprieve. To them, and not to us, is the future ordained perhaps.

###

<A reprieve,> Jason thought. <Right! Although only a radio drama, it foretold his future, his ultimate destiny.>

###

PIERSON: Strange it now seems to sit in my peaceful study at Princeton writing down this last chapter of the record begun at a deserted farm in Grover's Mill. Strange to see from my window the university spires dim and blue through an April haze. Strange to watch children playing in the streets. Strange to see young people strolling on the green, where the new spring grass heals the last black scars of a bruised earth. Strange to watch the sightseers enter the museum where the dissembled parts of a Martian machine are kept on public view. Strange when I recall the time when I first saw it, bright and clean- cut, hard, and silent, under the dawn of that last great day.

###

As the music faded in and then out, Jason rose and turned off the radio. He knew that truths were intertwined with the fiction presented by the Mercury Theatre. Lieutenant Trask had himself seen the cylinder from Roswell, New Mexico, now hidden safely away by the military. He knew that it was his job to insure the safety of the planet—his job to guard and watch.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 5, 1994 9:35 p.m. CST

Tears came to Lois' eyes as she sat in her car directly in front of the window displaying the two. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. Clark wasn't like that. He wasn't. She knew him. At least she thought she did. She knew that Clark had had a life before he met her and that Mayson had been part of that life. But she and Clark were engaged. She looked back as Clark put his arm around Mayson comforting her.

No, no, not Clark—never Clark. But the Lois Lane jinx— that could not be denied. It wasn't him. It was her. Lois closed her eyes as the old fears came bombarding back upon her—smothering her.

She could hardly breathe while the nightmare unfolded in front of her. Lois shivered as the bitter cold enclosed her and she felt a knot growing in her stomach. There they were—the all too familiar feelings back to haunt her. The memories too strong and overwhelming to push back to where they should be—hidden, shrouded beneath her facade of capable and not easily bruised invulnerability. It was Superman who was invulnerable, not her. She could be hurt, hurt deeply.

What had she done to cause them all to desert her? They had all left her—her father, the few boyfriends in high school and college and then Claude. But Clark she believed had been different. Clark would never… But she should have known better than that—she should have known that Lois Lane was never destined to have that kind of happiness. She watched immobilized as Mayson put her hand on Clark's chest and moved closer to him.

Lois gathered what strength she had left and pressed the accelerator. The car seemed to drive itself back to her house and she tumbled out and somehow managed to make her way to the bed and throw herself on it sobbing.

***

"You can tell me." Clark told Mayson.

"Lex," Mayson began. "Lex…

"Make that louder," one of the bar's customers yelled, as he pointed to the television.

Sharon Brady, part-time waitress, complied as the attention of all of the bar's patrons were drawn to the news of a train derailment taking place less than 30 miles from Smallville. As some toxic chemicals were being hauled, the TV announcer was informing the public about possible evacuation of the public within a 50-mile radius.

"I've got to go, Mayson," Clark told her. I'll call you.

Mayson watched as Clark ran out of the bar and around the corner.

Her eyes were drawn back to the television when she heard the positive shouts of the patrons as Superman zoomed onto the scene and carried off several tanker cars.

Mayson slowly walked out of the Silver Unicorn just in time to catch a glimpse of a familiar figure leaning against the door of a car. The man looked over at Mayson and his look was one of defiance—try to stop me, it seemed to say. The face was different—but the demeanor. She hurried away. Nigel had been right. Lex was not dead.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 3:10 p.m.

After completing the St. John autopsy, Gretchen smiled again. As far as everyone was concerned, Lex Luthor was dead and no one would connect Lex or any one single person to the death of the man lying in front of her or of the deaths of Bill Saxon, Judge LeVine, or Vivian Cox. And with her help, Baines and Friskin could not be linked to anyone working on resurrection as well.

Sheldon Bender's death had to be declared a homicide, but it was the only one among all the deaths. But it would go unnoticed as part of a pattern, even though Rachel Harris was investigating it. An inept and understaffed little sheriff's office would never be able to uncover anything.

Dr. Kelly picked up the small book again. She ran her thumb over the embossed initials on the front of the cover—L.B. Resurrection was working and she had nothing to worry about. Her life was about to change and she would have everything she wanted, especially Lex.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, July 14, 1952 8:30 p.m. CDT

Libby Barton, aged 26, may finally have what she wanted. Joe Clark had discovered the contract Libby's grandfather had with Kesselring Chemical, a company interested in hair restoring. The company had purchased the rights to the ancient snake oil remedy and promised a yearly income to Laslo Barton or his descendents. The amount wasn't earth shattering, but it was enough to support Libby conservatively for the rest of her life. There was a sufficient amount in the account, given that Libby hadn't withdrawn anything for fourteen years, which would enable her to reimburse Mr. Clark for the back taxes, fix up the Maple Street house and get Libby some things she needed.

With the Clarks' help, Miss Libby moved into the Barton house. The house was painted, the shutters fixed, and a new roof put in place.

On this evening, Libby had invited Theresa, Joe and Martha Clark over for dinner. "Imagine," Libby said out loud. "Dinner guests in this house."

After dinner, Libby escorted her company into the living room. She turned on the old Philco radio and asked the three to sit down. "Would you like some coffee?" she asked Theresa and Joe. "And how about some cookies, Martha?"

"Yes, cookies," the young girl told Libby after her parents had nodded in response to the coffee.

Music emanated from the radio and Martha got up to dance around. Libby looked at her young friend as she returned from the kitchen. Jinx number two rubbed against Libby's legs as the cat followed her owner toward the living room. Was it fourteen years ago when she was a na‹ve, happy young girl of twelve as Martha was now, dancing around that same living room?

###

KSML ANNOUNCER: This is KSML the voice of Smallville, Kansas with a special report. Newport News, Va. 7:10 EDT, a southbound Pan American Airways plane at 8,000 ft. nearing the Norfolk, Virginia, area observed six glowing red, circular objects approaching below the airliner; objects flipped up on edge in unison and then sped from behind and under the airliner and joined the in- line formation, which according to a crew member, "climbed in a graceful arc above the altitude of the airliner." Another member of the crew, stated that "the lights blinked out one by one, though not in sequence." The crew is being thoroughly interrogated by an Air Force team of investigators.

Several similar events have been reported in the last few days all over the Washington, D.C. area, said an undisclosed source.

###

Libby Barton sank down on the couch. "Please leave," she told her guests. "It may be starting again."

"What's wrong," Martha asked her friend, as her parents encouraged her to walk out the door.

"Libby just needs to be alone, now," Martha's father told her, turning to look back at the dejected young woman rocking back and forth on the couch.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 3:10 p.m. CST

Martha Kent walked out into the darkened auditorium after following Libby's flight from the practice room. The ghost light, a theatre light that illuminated the stage just enough to prevent accidents, shone out as a small beacon of comfort. As soon as Martha's eyes adjusted to the modest amount of light, she saw Libby Barton sitting in the aisle seat of the very first row.

Martha walked down the steps from the stage and sat down beside Miss Libby and took her hand.

"I thought I could do this, Martha," Libby Barton began. "I thought I could finally face the world and battle those…those…de…demons of so long ago," she stammered and began to cry.

"Shhhh," Martha said softly. "You don't have to explain."

"Yes I do, Martha. My…my family were…are monsters—all of us. We k…killed… kill people."

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 3:10 p.m. CST

Richard turned to the other cast members in the rehearsal room who were waiting for Martha and Miss Libby to return. "I need to make a phone call," he explained. "Let Mrs. Kent know that I should be back soon for our scene," he said smiling over at Lois.

***

Gretchen flipped through the pages of the diary in her hand. The yellowed sheaves highlighted years of experimentation, years of frustration and years of murders. It told the gothic tale of a man's desperation to resurrect his lost love. And when that quest became unattainable, it chronicled his fall from grace—his decline into depravity and madness.

The scrawl became harder and harder to read as Laslo Barton found himself further and further from reality.

But then suddenly in February of 1927, the scrawl changed into the broad, strong strokes of determination, as another Barton took over the journal entries and carried on the work of her father. Leticia Barton became the resurrector— the giver *and* the taker of life. Gretchen placed the book into the pocket of her lab coat and patted it.

Dr. Kelly walked over to the radio-electron microscope. She had been having problems with it this afternoon. Gretchen smiled again as she fiddled with the microscope's wiring.

The phone rang and the coroner picked up the receiver. "Yes, Lex," she said. "Of course I love you but I'm still in the lab and just as I told you I need to fix the…"

All of a sudden as she turned the knob on the microscope with her free hand, the sprinkler over her head burst and a flood of water started to cascade down. In recoiling from the drench, Gretchen touched the exposed ends of the wires she had been working on while the water splashed over her. A surge of electricity coursed through her and as sparks arced through the ends of her hair, Gretchen keeled over dead, the phone receiver dropping to the table and the book in her pocket igniting.

***

Clark watched Richard leave the room. He still couldn't pin point the gut feeling he had about that man. Clark looked at Lois whose eyes darted right back to her scrip. He was surprised by her coldness. Had he done something? Well, he hadn't returned to Lois' after his visit with Mayson and his subsequent call to help with the train derailment. That job took quite a while as he helped clean up the area and get people to a variety of hospitals. Clark had assumed it would be too late and that he would talk to Lois in the morning.

When Sunday morning came, Superman's services were once more required. He had left a message on Lois' machine telling her about an earthquake in India, another task that necessitated hours of work.

Maybe it was the strange happenings in and around the play and in Smallville that Lois was concerned about. The rash of deaths were having their toll on everyone. At least the most recent calls for help had been outside of Smallville. At least… Clark turned his head. Another call.

"I'll be right back," he told those assembled. "I'll see if Mom and Miss Libby need anything," he explained as he left the room bumping into Richard who was returning. The two men regarded each other coolly and then Clark remembering the urgent sound he had heard ran off down the hall.

***

Superman arrived at the coroner's office, just as the fire department pulled up. Both they and Superman had heard the fire alarm go off.

"Superman," the fire chief exclaimed. "We meet again. There was no fire, apparently, but the alarm caused a sprinkler to open and as there were exposed wires in the lab, Dr. Kelly was electrocuted. There's nothing you can do."

Superman entered the lab and looked around. He flew up and examined the sprinkler. It didn't look as if it had been tampered with. But something was wrong. There had been too many "accidents" of late. He noticed a piece of paper in the wastebasket—a paper torn into many fragments. He picked up the minute pieces and using super speed, put them together. "Resurrection," he said out loud.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 4:00 p.m. CST

"Resurrection," Libby Barton said aloud.

"Resurrection?" Martha Kent repeated.

"My grandfather thought he was God. He believed he had power over life and death. He brought monsters into the world. I was one of those monsters."

"No, no, no, Libby." Martha implored. "You're not a monster."

"We killed people," Libby repeated.

"You never did," Martha told her. "I've always known you never killed anyone."

Libby Barton looked over at Martha. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. "Martha," she said finally.

"It's all right," Martha told her.

<No it's not,> Libby thought <I killed *him*>.

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, May 18, 1966 7:45 p.m. CDT

Libby Barton held the globe in her hand as she sat in her living room. The colored sphere was part of that space ship, the one that brought the baby to earth. This time it wasn't a hoax, this time it wasn't someone else telling her that Martians had invaded, or flying saucers had come to rest on a farm, or UFO's were visible overhead. This time, Libby Barton had finally seen it herself.

The globe vibrated slightly and then fell silent. What should she do with it? She stroked Jinx number three's soft fur as the cat climbed into Libby's lap. The entire town already thought she was crazy, but she had Martha and Jonathan Kent to back her up. But would they? They had carried the baby to safety and an entire day had gone by without them sharing the event with the world. Libby knew that Martha had wanted a baby of her own and this might be her only chance.

Libby heard some scuffling and then there was a knock on her door. Jinx jumped off Libby's lap and leaped unto the window seat. Libby watched the cat and following her, she promptly secreted the globe into the window seat and opened the front door. Standing in front of her was a man she would never forget—Jason Trask Sr.

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, February 6, 1994 4:30 p.m. CST

Lois opened her script and methodically went over her lines. She closed her eyes as she worked on committing a specific line to memory. When she opened her eyes, Richard was standing in front of her.

"He leaves you alone quite often. Doesn't he?" Richard said moving to sit down next to Lois. "Now, of course, if *I* were your fianc‚e, I wouldn't let you out of my sight—not even for a moment," he said quietly.

"I…I…I guess that's a compliment," Lois said, hesitantly.

"A woman as beautiful as you should be quite used to compliments. But I see that you're not," Lex told her. "That's really quite a pity, Lois. Don't you realize that you were put on this earth for a man to pay homage to."

Lois looked at him. Her instinct should have made her hair stand up on the back of her neck as listened to the flattery roll so glibly off his tongue. But somehow today, today she needed to hear it—needed to know that Lois Lane could be the focus of someone's attention.

Lex smiled. She would be putty in his hands. She must have been hurt in her past for her to be so susceptible now and so ready to be used again. He thought about when he first met her last September and their dinner together. Luthor's toying with her last year must have only increased her vulnerability. He had known women like this—women who had no vestiges of self-importance left. His wife had been one—a woman who didn't understand the power she could possess and who was, instead, a victim—an easy prey—the kind of woman that Lex enjoyed.

Richard Thurston took Lois' hand. "He doesn't deserve you," Lex told her.

"Uh..It's nothing of the kind—we're going to be married right away," Lois said reaching for something to say— anything at all and eventually spouting the line she had just memorized from the play—the first response that came to mind as she heard familiar footsteps approaching.

Clark entered the practice room adjusting his tie and headed straight for the two of them. "Rehearsing again?" he asked.

"Yes," Richard responded, as he moved away.

"Lois we have to talk," Clark said. "You seem so…so…"

"I know," Lois said. "Let's go someplace."

The two left the practice room and headed down the high school hallway toward the west doors. Several high school students were coming out of the music room where a meeting of the choir was taking place. Clark saw them coming their way and taking an opportunity, opened the janitorial closet door and pulled Lois inside.

"Are we okay?" Clark asked her, pulling the cord to light up the small cranny.

Lois paused and tilting her head up, gazed into his eyes.

Clark cupped the side of her face and stroked her cheekbone with his thumb. "Are we okay?" he asked again. "Lois, please…please tell me we're fine."

Lois took a deep breath. "I don't know, Clark. I really want to stop being so angry and scared and I want so much to be able to trust. But I just don't know what to feel. I'm not actually as good at romance as I look."

"Really," Clark said softly, suddenly realizing more than before that Lois was as apprehensive as he was.

"I mean my life has been basically about work and I just need to figure out some things."

"Being in a relationship is completely new to me," he said moving his hand down to take hers. "And if I blow this, I lose everything."

"I know that I don't always say what I feel and that I keep my fears to myself," she told him.

"And I'm not used to sharing," Clark responded. "I've kept secrets for such a long time, it's hard to open up. Just know that I've loved you from the moment I first saw you and that you're all I want, all I'll ever want."

Lois ran her fingers through his dark hair and pulled him toward her.

Clark leaned in and kissed her gently. "I'm really beginning to love this closet," he told her and kissed her more ardently.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 7, 1994 7:15 a.m. CST

Sharon Brady moved efficiently from table to table, filling the salt and pepper shakers that sat at each station. The waitress looked up as Mayson Drake-Luthor entered the Silver Unicorn and took her place at the same corner table she had occupied Saturday night.

"Coffee," Mayson said when Sharon approached the table, pad in hand. "Black," she added.

Sharon nodded and walked behind the counter to pick up the coffee carafe and returned carrying the carafe and a large mug. She placed the mug on the table and filled it with coffee and set down the small carafe. "Anything else?" Sharon asked Mayson.

"You can bring another mug," Mayson told her. "Clark will be joining me and he likes lots of sugar and cream."

###

KSML ANNOUNCER: This is KSML, Smallville's own radio station with the weather. The Mid-west is in for a cold snap as arctic winds from Canada dip down to give us what might be record lows.

###

Sharon turned and walked hastily back to the counter. She reached up and shut off the radio and looked back to monitor Mayson. As soon as Mayson was occupied watching out the window, Sharon took a few steps toward the telephone at the end of the counter. She paused a moment, but then picked up the receiver and dialed a number that she had looked up yesterday. She had almost made the call the day before but had decided against it. She really wasn't one to interfere. She really wasn't, but Lois Lane had done so much for her daughter; and Mayson, well Mayson had been married to Lex Luthor the man who had caused the death of Sharon's husband.

"Hello," Sharon said when Lois picked up the phone at the other end. "Miss Lane, this is Sharon Brady, Cindy's mother. No, nothing's wrong with Cindy. I work at the Silver Unicorn and you should get over here fast."

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, May 18, 1966 7:45 p.m. CDT

Colonel Trask looked at Libby Barton. "I'm with the Air Force on special assignment. May I come in?" he asked not waiting for an answer but striding forcefully into the entry hall.

It was obvious to Libby that the man who pushed his way into her home did not recognize her—did not realize that they had…had…

"What do *you* want?" Libby demanded, trying to stop the man from entering further into the house.

"Two vehicles were seen leaving Shuster's field last night," he explained barging in to the hallway. "Yours was one of them," he told her turning abruptly to face her. "I haven't found the other one as yet, but you'll give me that information, won't you? And you'll tell me everything else I want to know."

"I submitted once to you, I won't again," Libby spat out, picking up Jinx into her arms and carrying the cat to the kitchen. She closed the kitchen door and turned to glare at her unwelcome guest.

The Colonel walked closer to her. "You do look familiar," he told her slowly. "But I don't…"

Libby slapped his face right across a scar that had marred him for the last nineteen years. "Perhaps I'll give you another scar to join that one," she said bitterly.

"Ah! The little slut from New Mexico. Funny you should pop up in towns where aliens have landed. Well maybe you're in cahoots with them," he accused, grabbing her arm viciously. "You're going to tell me the names of the others in it with you and who's harboring the alien invader."

"Never! Never!" Libby yelled, pulling out of his grasp. "Get out!"

"Not till I get what I want and maybe a bonus as well."

Trask seized her hands and forced her into the living room and onto the couch.

Jinx scratched at the kitchen door and began whining loudly.

Libby struggled as the monster held her down. Trask let go of one of her hands to reach down to unzip his pants. "No!" Libby screamed and with her free hand stretched out to pick up a pair of scissors in the embroidery basket by the couch. Without a moment of hesitation, Libby thrust the weapon into the small of his back.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 7, 1994 7:20 p.m.

Lois listened to the hesitant voice at the other end of the line as she finished the piece of toast in her hand. "It's all right, Mrs. Brady," Lois said swallowing. "I know you don't do this kind of thing often and that you're calling me because you think it's right and not because you're some small town busybody. I understand, and I thank you for your concern. But don't worry," she paused listening to Sharon. "Yes, of course. Thanks again. Bye."

Lois hung up the phone and paced around the living room. She wasn't going to let Mrs. Brady's call upset her. Even though Lois had told Cindy's mother that her call hadn't been the work of a small town gossip, it felt like one and Lois knew better than to buy into it. But…but… There Lois went again—letting her insecurity get the best of her. She wasn't going there—emotionally or literally. She wasn't. Lois walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table, picking up another piece of toast and biting into it.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 7, 1994 7:30 a.m. CST

Libby Barton was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and going over her lines. When the front doorbell rang.

Libby went to the door and opened it, seeing Keith Haley standing there.

"Hi, Miss Libby," Keith said. "Is it too early in the morning or can I ask you some questions about this old house?"

"Come on in, Keith. What kind of questions?" Libby asked him warily thinking about the bodies in the cellar—the ones from 1938 and the one from 1966.

"Well," Keith responded sitting down at the kitchen table and taking a doughnut that Miss Barton offered him. "My class is studying the history of some of the houses in Smallville as part of a project."

"I see. And you got stuck with this one," she said, trying to keep her voice sounding light.

"Sorta," Keith said. "There are four of us working together. And in doing the research, we came up with some blanks and I just thought…uh…I just thought that since I've gotten to know you a little better because of all the rehearsals and stuff that I should just come out and ask you."

"Okay," Libby Barton told him. "I'll make you a deal. Go over this scene with me and I'll answer some questions."

"Sure," Keith told her. "I don't have a first period class, so I have some time. I'll be glad to help."

Libby Barton opened her script. "Page sixty-six," she informed Keith. "You'll have to read Jonathan Brewster, Dr. Einstein and Aunt Abby's parts, she requested, handing him the script.

Libby took a breath and from memory began the scene.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Have they gone? We thought we heard somebody leave.

Keith reading JB: Just Mortimer, and he'll be back in a few minutes. Is there any food left in the kitchen? I think Dr. Einstein and I would enjoy a bite.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: But you won't have time.

Keith reading Aunt Abby: No, if you're still here when Mortimer gets back, he won't like it.

Keith reading Dr. Einstein: He'll like it. He's gotta like it.

Keith reading JB: Get something for us to eat while we bury Mr. Spenalzo in the cellar.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: He can't stay in our cellar. No, Jonathan, you've got to take him with you.

JB/Keith: There's a friend of Mortimer's downstairs waiting for him.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: A friend of Mortimer's?

JB/Keith: He and Mr. Spenalzo will get along fine together. They're both dead.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: They must mean Mr. Hoskins.

Dr. Einstein/Keith: Mr. Hoskins?

JB/Keith: You know about what's downstairs?

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Of course we do, and he's no friend of Mortimer's. He's one of our gentlemen.

Dr. Einstein/Keith: Your chentlemen?

Aunt Abby/Keith: And we won't have any strangers buried in our cellar.

JB/Keith: But Mr. Hoskins—

Aunt Abby/Keith: Mr. Hoskins isn't a stranger.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Besides, there's no room for Mr. Spenalzo. The cellar's crowded already.

JB/Keith: Crowded? With what?

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: There are twelve graves down there now.

JB/Keith: Twelve graves!

Miss Libby looked at Keith and paused. "Yes, there are twelve graves in my cellar."

"That's not the next line, Miss Libby." Keith told her.

"I know, Keith."

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, May 18, 1966 9:30 p.m. CDT

Libby Barton turned over the last bit of dirt as she covered the grave. She looked around the cellar at the other mounds of earth sheltering the bodies placed there by her Uncle Linus. One more mound wouldn't make a difference.

What did make a difference was that Jason Trask would no longer be around. He would no longer be able to hurt Martha or the baby that she and Jonathan had taken into their home.

Libby remembered the look on Martha's face when she held the infant boy in her arms for the very first time. They were meant to be a family—a family that gave to each other and nurtured each other. Martha had been part of a wonderful family that had helped and supported her and provided help to Libby Barton. Martha now deserved to be happy and no matter how Libby had to accomplish it, she couldn't let them lose that baby—that happiness.

Libby knew what it was like to lose a baby. She thought back to that day in 1948 and the look on the doctor's face. The doctor had said that she deserved what happened. Perhaps Libby Barton had deserved to lose her little boy, Trask's little boy.

She looked down at the grave beneath her feet. Maybe this was a way to achieve penance of some sort. Trask was an evil man. He had hurt her before but he would never hurt Libby again and more importantly, he couldn't reach out to hurt the only people she loved.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 7, 1994 7:30 a.m. CST

Lois Lane sat in her car. She shouldn't be doing this, but her own insecurity—her inadequacy when it came to relationships propelled her toward what might prove to be a disaster. She reached out to slip the key into the ignition. She stopped. Lois looked out the window as she mulled Sharon Brady's words around in her head.

Why couldn't she trust, why couldn't she believe, why did she have this inner need to make sure? She pulled the key back and stared at it. Something told her that going to check on Clark was wrong—she had to trust him.

But once again her own history, her own need to know, her fears took over. She turned the key in the ignition…

***

Jaxon Luthor nodded as the butler placed a tray of bagels, whipped cream cheese and an assortment of fruits in the center of the large dining room table of the fifth floor apartment. Entering from a secret side door upon hearing the butler dismissed, Richard Thurston strode over and sat down opposite his son. He reached for a strawberry and popped it into his mouth.

"Gretchen's gone," Jaxon said. "Was it wise to get rid of her so early in the game. Don't we need her to validate the deaths of the next casualties?"

"She was becoming a nuisance—a clinging vine," the elder Luthor mumbled uncaringly, another strawberry making its way to his mouth. "And," he said eyeing his son "I *don't* need anyone."

Jaxon got up from the table and stepped toward the window. He looked down upon the town square below. He would continue to carry out the orders his father gave him for now. But soon, very soon his father would need him. Jaxon could have let his father stay dead; and as a result, everything would have come to him. But this way was so much better. This way Lex Luthor would learn that all he had, he owed to his son.

"Is it time, yet?" Lex asked Jaxon.

Jaxon turned away from the window and walked over to the desk. He picked up a pen and leaned down to check out the list in front of him. Seven names were now scratched out. The remaining names of Lois Lane, Clark Kent, Martha Kent, Jonathan Kent and Mayson Drake remained. He poised the pen over the list. Any minute now, just like Gretchen Kelly and the others, one of those last names would be history.

***

Metropolis, New Troy Friday, October 8, 1993 8:10 p.m. EDT

Gretchen Kelly drummed her fingers on the table of the front corner booth at the River Styx, a bar on Hyperion and Forty-seventh. Gretchen took a gulp from her third Vodka and Seven and signaled for the waitress to bring her yet another.

Dr. Kelly turned over the empty glass and stacked it on top of the other two in the shape of a pyramid. As she stared at the tablecloth, the neon sign in the front window of the bar reflected on the white linen. The symbols ??????????shone green beside the triangle of glasses. Gretchen looked up at the window and realized that it was the bar's address 1313, in mirror image. Thirteen-thirteen, of course. That symbolized the kind of a day she had experienced, and Lex asking that they meet here and his being late, was just frosting on the cake.

Lex Luthor slid into booth next to her just as the waitress placed the fourth drink in front of Gretchen. "Getting a wee bit drunk, are we?" Lex asked, obviously quite displeased. "You know how I feel about people losing control," he barked, taking the drink away from her.

"You've been in Metropolis for over a week and didn't call me," Gretchen charged.

"I had business," he shot back. "If this is going to be a 'Poor Gretchen' conversation, I'll take my leave."

"No, no!" Gretchen implored, putting her hand on his arm before he could get up. "It's just been a long day. I…I…attended the reading of my grandfather's will."

"Am I supposed to feel sorry for you?"

"No, impressed," Gretchen told him. "My grandfather was Josiah Kesselring, head of Kesselring Chemical Corporation."

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 7, 1994 7:40 a.m. CST

"You said you had some questions about this house," Libby Barton reminded Keith.

"Yeah," Keith said putting down the script. "We know your grandfather built the house but there were lots of rumors about where his money came from."

"Oh that," Libby said somewhat relieved.

"We heard that he had discovered Coca Cola."

"No," Libby chuckled. "Not Coca Cola. Actually it was snake oil."

"Huh?" Keith asked.

"A remedy that cured warts, Rheumatism and restored hair."

"Oh," Keith responded.

"A company by the name of Kesselring Chemical bought the formula and gave my grandfather stock in the company as payment. The stocks provided a life time annuity for him and his descendants—namely me.

"So there's only you left, now?"

"Yes," Libby told him. "Thankfully so."

"Why, Miss Libby?"

"Nothing, Keith. But yes, I'm the last of the Bartons."

***

Roswell, New Mexico Friday, April 2, 1948 9:40 a.m. MST

Nurse Rebecca Schuler stood at the window watching the Luthors drive away with their new son. Normally she was very happy to see a successful adoption—the matching of an unwanted baby with an anticipating family.

Somehow, however, this particular adoption just didn't feel right. Not only did the mother, Lou Ann Baker, want her son, but the Luthors seemed to consider the child a piece of property—something to carry out their needs.

Rebecca looked down. In her arms she held a baby girl just twelve hours old. "No one's going to adopt you, little one," she said, looking at the baby's deformity and sighing. "But maybe you're the lucky one," she said looking at the retreating car. "Say goodbye to your brother," the nurse said, holding the baby up to the window.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 7, 1994 7:40 a.m. CST

Mayson Drake-Luthor looked out the window of the Silver Unicorn eagerly anticipating Clark's arrival. She had to warn him, warn him that Lex was alive and responsible for the deaths of so many people.

Mayson had thought about going to see Rachel Harris, but was unsure that Rachel would believe her. Mayson needed an ally, and Clark would be the only one who could help her convince the sheriff. She needed proof and Clark could help her get it. Mayson had seen Lex. Of course, he didn't look like Lex, but she had recognized him anyway—something about the way he held himself, the all-knowing, egotistical bearing of a man who believed he held all the power in his hands.

"Mayson," Clark said gently as he sat down at the table. "I'm sorry I had to leave so abruptly the last time. Your message this morning did sound urgent. What's wrong?"

"Clark. You've got to help me!" she implored. "Lex…Lex…" Mayson began, fear coming into her eyes.

Clark put his arm around his old friend. "It's okay. What about Lex?"

Sharon Brady came up to the two. "More coffee?" she asked.

"No," Mayson told her abruptly.

Sharon returned to the counter, refilling two customer's mugs. She looked up and sighed as she saw Lois Lane enter the restaurant and walk toward the corner table.

"What about Lex?" Clark repeated.

"He's…" Mayson began, but stopped suddenly with a look of surprise on her face as Clark's fianc‚e approached the table.

"Lois?" Clark questioned as if disbelieving his eyes. "Wha…why?"

"Clark was only…" Mayson interceded.

Clark rose and took Lois' hand. "I…"

"Don't try to explain." Lois said, pulling her hand away. "I know what's going on."

***

Metropolis, New Troy Friday, October 8, 1993 8:30 p.m.

"Well, maybe a might impressed," Lex told Gretchen. "Josiah Kesselring was a powerful man. But he squandered away some opportunities."

"And hurt a lot of people," Gretchen added. "Among them my mother. After my father died, grandfather threw us out of the house. We changed our name to Kelly and we never looked back. I got through Med school all on my own, never asked for help even when my mother died," she explained retrieving the drink Lex had set aside and taking another gulp. "I never wanted anything to do with the great and powerful Josiah Kesselring. I was shocked when the lawyers called me about his will."

"So, I gather he was making amends and left you a fortune," Lex smiled at her and moved closer.

"No," Gretchen retorted, lifting her drink to her lips again and swallowing. "All I got wash thish," she said, as her words began to slur, and she pulled a small book from her purse.

"There may be some valuable information in it," Lex offered, as he took the book and flipped quickly through the pages. "Perhaps the number of a safety deposit box, or the location of an account in the Cayman Islands, or a secret formula for curing Cancer—all of which could involve millions."

"Huh!" Gretchen countered finishing her fourth drink. "Just shome poetry that old Joshiah wrote. And it'sh not even good poetry," she said loudly, her glass crashing to the floor.

Lex rose and tossed some money onto the table. "You're becoming an embarrassment. I'm leaving."

"Please, please. Don't go. I need…shu," Gretchen begged sloppily as she grabbed his arm again.

Lex jerked free and walked out.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 7, 1994 7:40 a.m. CST

Lex Luthor walked into the Silver Unicorn. He had originally thought that he would remain at the Luthor Building while the next scheduled incident occurred so he would be far away from the calamity and not be possibly implicated, but he frankly wasn't able to deny himself the opportunity of relishing the mishap in person. Besides, it had been planned so well that no one could connect the illusive Richard Thurston to any of the recent goings on in Smallville or to the next happening. And Lex realized that it would be so much more fun watching it all occur— watching and perhaps even encouraging their little plebian world to fall apart at the seams.

Lex stroked his goatee as he moved into the restaurant as he cherished the words that would soon come tripingly off his tongue. Now that he was ensconced as an actor, he candidly couldn't resist making an entrance and participating in the dialog. He spied Lois, Clark and Mayson at the corner table and made his way deliberately toward them.

Lois looked at Clark. "I know what's going on," she repeated. "And…and…I want to help," she offered sitting down. "I sort of…uh…accidentally heard the message you left for Clark," Lois explained to Mayson. "And if there's anything I can do to help, I will."

Mayson smiled, but the smile soon left her lips as she saw Richard Thurston approaching.

As he walked toward them, she knew—even more than before— that he was evil incarnate—that he *was* Lex Luthor risen from the grave.

"Lois, Clark," Lex said, interrupting them, a smile hiding the disdain he felt within him.

"Richard," Clark said, frowning. "We were just…"

"Ah, Kent old man," he intoned joining them. "You can't have the two loveliest women in Smallville all to yourself. You're simply going to have to make a choice."

Mayson rose and fumbled for her purse. "I…I…really have to be going."

"Wait, Mayson," Clark entreated, rising.

"No, No. I can't stay," she insisted and hurried out of the restaurant.

Clark put his hand in his pocket and threw some money on the table. He took Lois' arm squiring her with him and immediately followed Mayson out the door.

Richard waited a beat and then leisurely proceeded to the door.

Mayson rushed to the parking lot, got her keys out and opened the car door, sliding in quickly. She angrily thrust the key into the ignition and turned it. A spark shot out and an explosion rocked the area.

Several pieces of metal vaulted away from the car. Clark first ducking one missile, but then absorbing a force that would have propelled a normal man across the lot, reached the car and pulled off the driver's door, allowing Mayson to tumble out into his arms. Her eyes fluttered open and she reached out and seeing the "S" beneath his torn outer garments, smiled up at him. "I…I should have figured that out—Mr. Goody…Two-shoes…Now I know that you've got to do something," she said breathlessly. "Ri…Ri… Resurrection."

Mayson's body went limp. Clark put two fingers on her neck to check her heartbeat. He closed his eyes as he realized that the person he had known as both girl and woman, the old friend that he had just been talking to, who had tried to seek his help—had tried to confide in him, was now lying dead in his arms.

Clark pulled his coat around himself, shook his head sadly and laid Mayson down.

"Uhhhhh," Lois groaned.

Clark turned to see Lois lying on the ground a few feet away, her head bleeding, and Richard's arms around her.

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, February 9, 1994 3:30 p.m. CST

Beatrice stepped onto the empty stage at the high school auditorium. She walked over to light board, stage left and flipped on one of the "specials"—a Fresnel, gelled in soft pink that formed a pool of light on the previously dark stage. She then crossed over to the wardrobe closet, stage right, and pulled out a feather boa and a large floppy hat. She donned the hat and wrapped the boa around her neck and moved center stage.

Mayson's mother closed her eyes and then thinking back, she bit her lower lip and looked out toward the empty seats as she started to recite.

"After the dark death of autumn and the cold barren winter, how I wish this rock might be taken from my heart," she paused. "Oh for the days of my childhood when my soul was pure."

Clark slipped carefully into the darkened auditorium and quietly watched Beatrice Drake command the stage.

"I slept right here in this nursery, looking out at the orchard from this very room. All of it, all of it—dressed in white. My lovely orchard."

Clark began to applaud softly as he walked down the aisle toward the stage.

"Who's there?" Beatrice asked.

"It's just me, Clark—a great fan of yours."

"Checkov's 'The Cherry Orchard'," Beatrice acknowledged. "One of my favorites. We did it seven years ago while you were away at college."

Clark walked closer and smiled up at her.

"I'm not ready to go, yet," Beatrice told him.

"I know," Clark said softly.

"They're going to put my baby into the ground and I'm not ready to say goodbye."

"We have some time," Clark told her gently.

"Martha's going to cancel the show. Isn't she?"

"I'm sure she is."

"Please, please, don't let her, Clark," she said the tears she had been holding back, starting to fall.

"Bea!" Martha's voice came from behind Clark as she entered the auditorium.

"I know what you're going to say, Martha. You think I'm overly distraught and I don't realize what I'm doing or saying," Beatrice said slowly, her tears abating.

"Please listen," Martha implored.

"No. You listen to me. We've been friends for a very long time and I need you to understand something. I've had four important parts to my life. My husband, my daughter, my job and this theatre group," Beatrice explained.

Miss Libby entered the auditorium and walked down the aisle to where Clark and Martha were standing.

"I've lost my husband, in June I'll be retiring, and now I've lost my daughter," Beatrice said, tears starting to flow again. "Don't destroy the one thing that I have left. The theatre group is now my only family. You just can't cancel the show. Remember this, Martha? Theatre is drama and passion, mystery and comedy and life. And life must go on."

"But it's just one play. There will be others," Martha responded. "Our audience will understand."

"Once you cancel a production, it's hard to bring credibility back. Besides, I need this play now. I need something in my life *now*. I want the show to go on. I need my life to go on."

"And so do I," Libby Barton called out climbing up on stage and putting her arm around Beatrice.

"Me, too," Keith echoed as several more of the Smallville Players filed in behind Martha.

"I agree," Lois added as she joined the actors at the foot of the stage."

"Are you sure, Lois?" Martha asked looking at the bandage covering Lois' wound. "You had quite a bump."

"I have a thick skull."

"And a stubborn streak to go with it," Clark sighed.

"That's an immense part of her charm," Richard offered.

Several of the Players looked at Richard and then at Clark.

Lois eyed both of them—Clark, Mr. Mother Hen and Richard, Mr. Suave. Her head was throbbing but she wasn't sure if it was the result of the injury or of the two men's view of who she was and what she needed.

One pair of eyes, especially, stared at Richard Thurston. Libby Barton knew she was right—knew he was Lex Luthor— but what could she do about it? If she told anyone, they would think she was that crazy old murderer—that dotty old woman who hid herself away in that old house on Maple Street. No one would believe her. If she tried to prove it, she would have to tell the whole story—the whole sordid story. And what good would that do now? But what about all those deaths? And more importantly, would there be others?

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, February 9, 1994 5:20 p.m. CST

"What about the others?" Jaxon asked his father. "Are we ready for the final four?"

"Five," Lex stated.

"Five?" Jaxon asked.

"Yes, thirteen instead of twelve."

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, February 9, 1994 7:40 p.m. CST

The Smallville Players had agreed to continue on with the show, but there was an uneasiness, an uncertainty that even Martha couldn't eradicate. But her best friend wanted this, and Martha who had begged, cajoled and coerced community members to participate in the theatre group since its inception, couldn't find it in her heart to deny Beatrice anything.

Rehearsals had moved out of the practice room and onto the stage. The actors were all off book and were using props. With opening night now a little over two weeks away, most of the set had been completed with just a few minor adjustments and finishing touches to be done.

Martha watched as Miss Libby, Beatrice, Wayne Irig and Richard took their places to continue the scene that they had been working on prior to the latest tragedy. She sighed. "Okay, let's pick it up from your line, Richard."

JB/Richard: Twelve graves!

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: That leaves very little room and we're going to need it.

JB/Richard: You mean you and Aunt Martha have murdered…?

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Murdered! Certainly not. It's one of our charities.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: [Indignantly.] Why, what we've been doing is a mercy.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: [Gesturing outside.] So you just take your Mr. Spenalzo out of here.

JB/Richard: [Still unable to believe.] You've done that— here in this house…[Points to the floor.] …and you've buried them down there!

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Chonny—ve've been chased all over da vorld—dey stay right here in dis house and do chust as good as you do.

JB/Richard: What?

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: You've got tvelve and dey've got tvelve.

JB/Richard: [Slowly.] I've…got…thirteen.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: No, Chonny, tvelve.

JB/Richard: Thirteen! [Counting on his fingers.] There's Mr. Spenalzo. Then the first one in London—two in Johannesburg—one in Sydney—one in Melbourne—two in San Francisco—one in Phoenix, Arizona…

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Phoenix?

JB/Richard: The filling station. The three in Chicago and the one in South Bend. That makes thirteen!

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: You can't count the von in South Bend. He died of pneumonia.

JB/Richard: He wouldn't have got pneumonia if I hadn't shot him.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: [Adamant.] No, Chonny, he died of pneumonia. He don't count.

JB/Richard: He counts with me. I say thirteen.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: No, Chonny. You got tvelve and dey got tvelve. [Crossing to the Aunts.] The old ladies are chust as good as you are.

[The two aunts smile at each other happily.]

Miss Libby complied with the stage directions but looked askance over at Richard. Twelve bodies did reside in her basement—eleven killed by her aunts and grandfather as they experimented on the Barton Resurrection formula, and one killed by herself to save the Kents. She glanced fleetingly at Martha who was watching the unfolding of the scene as she had directed it. Martha had been a godsend to Miss Libby when she had returned from Roswell. Babysitting her had been a wonderful diversion—a child to hold and to replace the one she had lost. And, when Libby first moved back into her house alone, Martha would visit, bringing her tales of what went on outside the door of 417 Maple Street.

Libby had to have killed Trask, she had to have prevented him from hurting Martha, Jonathan and the little baby they had fallen in love with.

The little baby! Miss Libby looked over at Clark as he waited to make his entrance in the scene. He had become such an incredible man—such a worthwhile addition to the Kent family, to Smallville and to the world. What she had done had been surely justified.

Clark tried to focus on listening for his entrance but kept watching Lois sitting out in the auditorium. She was not in this particular scene and was going over her lines for the following scene they were to rehearse next. Clark thought about the last thirty-six hours. He knew that Mayson had had something important to tell him…something that led to her death.

Rachel Harris was investigating but given the limited resources of her small department, could the answer be discovered? And, Lois…Lois had been hurt. The quick trip to the hospital resulted in several stitches and a warning to take it easy, but she had been in her class, teaching today and now here she was rehearsing with the rest of them. These deaths, these accidents, these murders? Someone had to be responsible.

Libby Barton returned her gaze to Richard who would be saying the next line. Yes she as the Brewsters in the play had twelve bodies in the cellar. What was Richard's or should she say Lex's toll? Did he also have twelve?

JB/Richard: Oh, they're as good as I am, are they? Well, that's easily taken care of. All I need is one more to make thirteen, that's all—just one more.

[Mortimer/Clark enters, hastily closing the door behind him, and turns to them with a nervous smile.]

Mortimer/Clark: Well, here I am!

[JB/Richard turns and looks at him with the widening eyes of someone who has just solved a problem.]

***

Metropolis, New Troy Thursday, October 14, 1993 6:00 p.m. EST

Dr. Gretchen Kelly paced back and forth in her apartment. Lex had to be right. He knew about these things. There just had to be something in that book—a puzzle to solve within the words of the poems. There just had to be.

###

WMNT ANNOUNCER: This is WMNT the sounds of Metropolis with breaking news. Metropolis police just arrested a suspect in the series of robberies that have plagued the city for the last month. The thief known as the crossword robber because of the different word puzzles he left behind as a calling card at each robbery was finally apprehended with the help of Superman who was waiting at the site of the next robbery. Superman and the police deciphered the acrostic left at the last crime and were able to anticipate the robber's next move. In other developments…

###

"Acrostic! That's it!!! That's the key to the fortune!

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, February 9, 1994 7:55 p.m. CST

After finishing his scene, Richard sat in the first row of the auditorium and glanced over at Lois and then at Clark who now had taken center stage to work on one of their scenes. Lex Luthor had made his fortune forecasting the actions of others. He could sense the tension—he could tell that something was wrong in Paradise and Lex was ready to step in and offer a shoulder to cry on.

Elaine/Lois: Mortimer!

Mortimer/Clark: What's the matter with you, dear?

Elaine/Lois [Semi-hysterical.] I've almost been killed.

Mortimer/Clark: You've almost been — [He looks quickly at the Aunts.] Abby! Martha!

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: No! It was Jonathan.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: He mistook her for a sneak-thief.

Elaine/Lois: No. It was more than that. He's some kind of maniac. Mortimer, I'm afraid of him.

Clark crossed toward Lois. She *had* been almost killed the day before. And if you count the accident on the bridge, the hold-up and the gas in her home, there had been four attempts on her life. This play was getting too real. Clark, as directed, took her hands.

Mortimer/Clark: Why, darling, you're trembling. [He seats her on sofa and crosses to Aunt Martha/Miss Libby.] Have you got any smelling salts?

Clark's mind started to wander. He knew he shouldn't allow that to happen while acting out the scene. But they had just buried Mayson that afternoon and yet here they were on stage. He looked over at Beatrice. She wanted it. She said she needed it. But he couldn't keep his focus on the play because something was nagging at the back of his mind. Why had so many people they knew died? There had to be a connection. The murders really began when Richard came to town. Who was he anyway? Clark hadn't liked the way he was fawning over Lois and now… He stared out into the auditorium. But he had no proof—just hunches. Maybe the play was finally getting to him.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: No, but do you think some hot tea, or coffee…?

Clark didn't respond.

"Clark," the voice of the director rang out. "Where are you."

"Huh," Clark responded. "Sorry."

Mortimer/Clark: Coffee. Make some for me, too—and some sandwiches. I haven't had any dinner.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: We'll make something for both of you.

[Mortimer walks over to Elaine, sits next to her and takes her hands again as Aunt Abby/Beatrice removes her hat and gloves and puts them on the sideboard, while she talks to Aunt Martha at the same time.]

Lois looked down at her hands being held securely, yet gently by Clark. They had been through a lot these last few days. Even though they had all agreed to go on with the play, he had wanted her to skip rehearsal because of her injury, but the doctor had said she was fine and she found solace being on the stage, especially being on stage with Clark. She looked up into his worried eyes and smiled. But Lois noticed that the concern didn't fade with her reassuring look. No, Clark's eyes appeared different. The warmth, which could always enfold her, was gone.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Martha, we can leave our hats downstairs, here, now.

[Mortimer/Clark turns and sees Aunt Abby/Beatrice and releasing Elaine/Lois' hands, steps toward his Aunt.]

Mortimer/Clark: You weren't going out somewhere, were you? Do you know what time it is? It's after twelve. [The word twelve rings a bell.] TWELVE! [He turns to Elaine/Lois.] Elaine, you've got to go home?

Elaine/Lois: Whaa-t?

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Why, you wanted some sandwiches for you both. It won't take a minute. [She exits into kitchen.]

[Mortimer/Clark is looking at Elaine/Lois with his back to Aunt Martha/Libby. She crosses to him with dead man's shoe in hand.]

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Why, don't you remember—we wanted to celebrate your engagement? [She punctuates the word "engagement" by pointing the shoe at Mortimer's back. She looks at the shoe in wonderment. Wondering how that particular shoe ever got in her hand. She stares at it a moment—the other two do not see it, of course), then puts it on top of the table. Finally dismissing it, she turns to Mortimer/Clark again.] That's what we'll do dear. We'll make a nice supper for the both of you. [She starts out the kitchen door, then turns back.] And we'll open a bottle of wine! [She exits out the kitchen door.]

Mortimer/Clark: [Vaguely.] All right. [He suddenly changes his mind and runs to the kitchen door.] No WINE! [He closes the door and comes back to center stage as Elaine rises from the sofa to him. She is still very upset.]

Elaine/Lois: Mortimer! What's going on in this house? What's going on with you?

Mortimer/Clark: [Suspicious.] What do you mean—what's going on in the house—or with me?

Elaine/Lois: You were supposed to take me to dinner and the theatre tonight—you called it off. You asked me to marry you—I said I would—and five minutes later you threw me out of the house. Tonight, just after your brother tries to strangle me, you want to chase me home. Now, listen, Mr. Brewster—before I go home, I want to know where I stand. Do you love me?

Clark looked at Lois. Of course he loved her, but look what's happened to her since he became part of her life. She had been attacked by some students, almost raped by Lex Luthor, and then Luthor had altered laboratory records to make her think she was HIV positive. She had received carbon monoxide poising, near death on a collapsed bridge, been almost shot by a hold-up man and now yesterday she had been hurt in an explosion that had taken the life of Mayson Drake. Yes, he loved her—more than life itself—but he couldn't keep on letting *her* life be jeopardized.

Lois was looking at him quizzically. What was he thinking? His mind was surely not on the play.

Clark reached out and pushed a lock of Lois' hair out of her eyes and in so doing saw the bruise that graced her forehead, a bruise that he had been responsible for. <Maybe Lois and I shouldn't be together,> he thought.

"Clark," Lois encouraged. "Your line?"

Mortimer/Clark: [Taking Elaine/Lois' hands.] I…I…love you very much, Elaine. In fact I love you so much I can't marry you.

The line caught in Clark's throat, but he managed to say it, although haltingly. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Clark knew. Clark knew that he had to say the exact same thing to Lois. But not here, and not now. He had to get her alone.

Elaine/Lois: Have you suddenly gone crazy?

Mortimer/Clark: I don't think so but it's just a matter of time. [They both sit on the sofa as Mortimer/Clark begins to explain.] You see, insanity runs in my family. [He looks upstairs and toward the kitchen.] It practically gallops. That's why I can't marry you.

Elaine/Lois: Now wait a minute, you've got to do better than that.

Yeah, he would have to do much better than that when he talked to Lois later. He would have to make her understand, understand that it was better this way. Understand that they could never be married.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, October 30, 1993 10:45 a.m. CST

Grace Kaye, the temporary housekeeper for Libby Barton, carefully finished washing the windows in the dining room and then moved on to the same chore in the living room as her employer came down the stairs wearing a coat and carrying a purse and a hat.

Miss Libby picked up the mail that Grace had placed on the hall table. She looked at the invitation for the Smallville Player's special dinner performance of "Murder on the Orient Express" to take place in mid November. She threw it in the wastebasket. Although murder stories intrigued her, dinner with Lex Luthor and the creme de la creme of Smallville, did not.

Libby looked into the mirror and placed, then adjusted the hat on her head using hat pins to secure it. It was the fifty-fifth anniversary of her family's death and she had her duty to perform. She went to their graves every year on the 30th of October and what? Paid homage—no. Thought back fondly on memories—no. Remembered them— yes, remembered and spent time self deriding and deprecating.

She had read about funeral rituals—eating the sins of the fathers, dressing in sackcloth and ashes, rending clothing. None of it seemed sufficient—none of it seemed to be able to wash away the transgressions.

<If it could only be as simple as Grace's actions,> she thought as the housekeeper easily cleaned the windows. "I'm going to the cemetery, Grace," Miss Libby informed her. "When you're finished today, that will be the end of your assignment. The placement company has your payment and will get you another job, I'm sure. But as you know, I just have housekeepers for a while, four times a year to do some rigorous work. I've enjoyed having you here these past two weeks," she said handing her an envelope. "Here's something extra and I hope things will go well for you."

"Thank you, Miss Libby," Grace told her, taking the tip and nodding.

As soon as the door closed behind Libby Barton, Grace Kaye removed her glasses, dark wig, and apron. She looked out the window and waited until Libby Barton had walked down the street a ways.

Gretchen Kelly ran up the stairs to the attic. For the last two weeks she had covered every nook and cranny in the house looking for the secret hiding spot of the journal that held the Resurrection formula. Lex Luthor had been right, there was something in the book of poems Gretchen had inherited. There was a message that led her ironically to Smallville, Kansas, the home of the man she loved—the man she planned to marry. Right under his nose, in his own back yard, resided a formula that could make millions for its possessor, if only she could find it.

During her two-week stint at the Barton house, Grace, that is Gretchen, had not without difficulty, found a cellar with twelve graves and had also found a shimmering, vibrating globe hidden in a box she had carefully jimmied open—a box secreted under some lace tablecloths in the window seat. But she had yet to find what she came for.

Libby Barton hardly ever left the confines of the house, but when she did, usually to go to the book store, the supposed housekeeper had in a carefully choreographed search pattern begun at the bottom of the house and worked toward the top. But it had been very slow going. The various closets and bookshelves in the house had yielded nothing.

Gretchen realized that what she had discovered in the cellar and in the window seat had value, and could be used against Libby in the future, but they were nothing without the journal. The formula was what was important. She looked at her watch. She had to work quickly to examine the one remaining area she had as yet to search— the attic.

At first the attic retained its secret, as Gretchen could find nothing. Glancing at her watch again, she ran over to look out the circular window to see if her employer was wending her way back. As Gretchen moved toward the window, a board beneath her foot creaked.

Jinx number five arched her back and hissed as the cat watched the housekeeper move hurriedly down the stairs, grab her coat and open the front door.

Gretchen Kelly, clutching the small bound volume beneath her coat, walked out the front door of the house at 417 Maple—the house that held the secrets of life and death.

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, February 9, 1994 9:30 p.m. CST

"I know we've had a long rehearsal and that it's been an especially trying day for all of us, but let's do just one more scene and then call it a night," Martha told the group. "We'll take it from page seventy."

Clark took his position halfway up the staircase, while Miss Libby and Beatrice placed themselves at the foot of the stairs looking up toward him.

Mortimer/Clark: The police! [Mortimer/Clark turns to face them.] You can't go for the police!

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Why can't we?

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Miss Libby knew why *she* couldn't contact the police, that is Rachel Harris. First of all no one would believe that Lex Luthor was alive and in the guise of Richard Thurston. They just wouldn't give credence to anything that Libby Barton, who had supposedly killed her entire family, could tell them. Why would they accept that such a woman—a woman who was currently in a play portraying yet another eccentric old lady, who killed people—was in her right mind? Why would they believe her when she told them that a dead man had been resurrected and was running around killing some of the best people of Smallville? It sounded implausible to even Libby, and yet Libby had lived through so many inconceivable and bizarre moments.

Secondly, if she revealed everything—Laslo Barton's formula, the bodies in the cellar, the rape, her baby, Colonel Trask, the globe—all in order to prove that what she told them was the truth, so much more would come out. Including, the one secret she shared since Clark came to earth almost twenty-eight years ago—the fact that Martha's son was an alien being, that he had gained super powers as he grew to manhood; and, that for the past five months, he had become the light and hope of the world.

Mortimer/Clark: Because if the police find Mr. Spenalzo, they'll find Mr. Hoskins, too. [Crosses to Aunt Martha/Miss Libby, takes both of her hands in his, and looks at her with deep concern in his eyes.] And, that might make them curious and they'd find out about the other twelve gentlemen. They'd find out all about *you*.

<No, you> Libby Barton thought, gazing into Clark's eyes and then noticing a far away expression in them.

"Mom," Clark said, turning out toward the director. "Can we call it quits? I'm sure everyone is tired and I…I…"

"Uh…yes," Martha replied, understanding. "You're right and…and you have to run that errand for me before the store closes," she explained as Clark came down from the stage and hurriedly began striding up the aisle past Lois who was sitting with Cindy.

"Clark," Lois called out, running after him. "I'll come with you."

"No!" Clark insisted strongly, turning to intercept her. And, noticing the bruise on her forehead once again, started to reach up to touch her but stopped himself. "You can't…I'll be…I'll see you later," he stated abruptly as he turned and pushed open the auditorium door.

Richard walked up behind Lois who was watching Clark run out the door. "I'll be glad to see you home, Lois."

***

After righting a large truck on the interstate and insuring that all were well, Superman flew up into the night sky. The cold air never affected him, but for some reason a chill coursed through his body.

***

Down below, Richard was escorting Lois into her living room. "You should really lie down. Sometimes a nasty bump on the head can be worse than it looks even a couple of days later."

"Now you sound like Clark," Lois informed him, sitting down.

"But *he's* not here when you need him."

"He…he's…" Lois began…

"…not establishing the correct priorities," Luthor finished, moving into Lois' kitchen and starting some tea. "Aspirin in the bathroom cabinet?" he asked.

"Yes, but…"

"No buts, young lady."

"I really don't need anything," Lois insisted.

"If that head of yours is not throbbing now, especially after the workout Martha gave us, it may soon be," Lex countered loud enough for her to hear, as he walked into the bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet and retrieved the aspirin. He closed the cabinet door and looked at his reflection in the mirror. "You're doing your finest scene," he said quietly as a sadistic grin crossed his face. "Now for the maudlin, sappy repartee."

***

Superman wasn't exactly sure where he was going, he just knew that he had to fly, that he had to think. He should be going back to see Lois, but he wasn't ready to face her yet. Not until he had worked out what…how…he was going to tell her. He turned and headed south. Down below he saw the beach they had shared. Was it just a little over a month ago?

Clark turned around and flew back toward Smallville. It was really late, but he knew that his parents would still be up. They always were after a long rehearsal—sitting at the kitchen table having tea, just sort of a winding down ritual—particularly tonight after so much had happened.

Superman landed at his parents' back door, spun into jeans and a sweater and went into the kitchen.

"Is everything all right?" his mother asked, seeing his face and knowing him all too well. "I'll get you some tea."

"I'm fine," he answered. "Just had to fix an overturned oil truck on the interstate. Oh and tea would be great."

"How's Lois?" Martha inquired, getting a cup and sitting down again. "After the accident and…"

"That's actually the reason I'm here," Clark told them, joining his parents at the kitchen table and pouring himself some tea.

"What is it, Clark?" his father asked.

"It's…" Clark began letting out a deep sigh and then taking a couple sips of tea. "Sometimes I…I feel like maybe Lois and I shouldn't even be together."

"Did you two have a fight?" Martha wondered out loud, still sensing that something wasn't right.

"No! It's just…it's Lois. I…I'm worried that…I'm worried that I'm a jinx," Clark said, getting up to put his cup in the sink.

"A jinx?" his father asked incredulously.

"Yeah," he told them turning around. "Let's face it. Ever since she came to Smallville and met me, she's been beaten up, almost shot, poisoned by gas, wounded by an explosion and who knows what else?

"B..bu", Martha began.

"And it's all been basically because of me."

"Have you talked to Lois about this?" his mother asked, as Clark sat back down at the table.

"Well not exactly. It's just so uncomfortable especially since we've made a commitment. I don't want to break it off; but it's because I love her so much that I'm beginning to think that it's the right thing to do…" he paused. "…right for *her*. It's just going to be uncomfortable to talk about it."

"Well, honey, loving a person means having the courage to talk about something," Martha insisted. "Even if it is uncomfortable. You've got to talk to her about it. Communication is key."

"I guess," Clark said hesitantly as he got up to walk toward the door.

"Son, no matter how much you love somebody," Jonathan said deliberately, "there's no way you can protect them from all the evil in the world, even if you *are* Superman."

Martha nodded and put her hand on her husband's arm. Martha had always been the one to proffer most of the advice to their son, but Jonathan could always get to the heart of the matter quickly and succinctly.

Clark turned to the door again and started to open it.

"And remember, honey," his mother needed to say. "Lois knows what it means to be involved with you. It's her choice too."

***

Richard Thurston sat down next to Lois. "Well, you're going to have to make a choice," he said.

"A choice?" Lois asked him.

"Yes, Bayer or Bufferin."

Lois smiled and took two tablets from Richard's outstretched hand. "Water or Tea?" he asked her.

"I'm not sure I'm into making more decisions," Lois chuckled.

"You may have to make several more soon," Lex told her. "Just remember that I'm here if you need anything."

"Thank you Richard, but you should…"

"Yes, I know. You're spoken for," he acquiesced, as he got up to leave. "Just know, he said, turning back to her, "that I've been admiring your from afar for these past few weeks. You're an incredible woman and you should be revered. I think Clark doesn't realize how extraordinary you are," he admonished, taking her hand, turning it palm up and kissing it.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, November 12, 1993 8:00 p.m. CST

Gretchen Kelly sat at a back table of the banquet room unnoticed by Lex Luthor. On stage the Smallville Players had begun "Murder on the Orient Express". Gretchen watched angrily as Luthor held Mayson Drake's hand in his. He turned it palm up and kissed it, an action that had once been reserved for her.

Dr. Kelly had run out of the Barton house two weeks before, carried her find to safety and then placed the journal she had discovered into a locked desk drawer at her new office. Gretchen had been hired as the new Smallville Coroner recently. She had had a friend of hers in Metropolis refer her for the vacancy and had interviewed and accepted the position surreptitiously during her off hours from her housekeeping stint for Miss Libby.

Gretchen had planned to approach Lex at this dinner, slide into a seat by his side, push the journal toward him and offer both it and herself to him. But seeing Mayson Drake and hearing about their marriage had interrupted her scheme. She fled from the building only to be called back professionally less than two hours later to procure the murdered body of the man she loved.

***

Dr. Kelly's assistant had received the call and the night shift had jumped into the Coroner's vehicle and headed out. Gretchen Kelly now dressed in her greens entered the Luthor Bank Building once again.

The Smallville Players were on the stage, but looked up as the double doors to the banquet room opened and two men pushed a gurney into the room ahead of the new Coroner.

Rachel Harris pointed out the body to the Coroner's assistants.

"You must be Sheriff Harris," the Coroner stated efficiently. "I'm here to take charge of the body." She leaned over and pulled the tablecloth down and made a cursory examination.

She then signaled the two men to place the body on the gurney and remove it to the Coroner's wagon. "I will begin the autopsy tomorrow morning," the new Coroner informed Rachel. "If you need anything just call me. Here is my card," she said following the gurney out.

Once in the cold night air, Dr. Kelly took a deep breath. The storm had abated and her assistants loaded the gurney into the vehicle. Gretchen sat in back with the body as her assistants drove the "meat wagon". She pulled the covering down once more and looked into his face. "Well Lex, darling," the new coroner purred. "You'll soon belong to me."

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, February 9, 1994 10:45 p.m. CST Three months later, the resurrected Lex Luthor disguised as Richard Thurston left Lois' house and walked out to his car. He turned and leaned against the door to his deep green Mercedes. He pulled out a cigar and lit it— his omnipotence, in his own mind, assured.

If he knew his enemy, and Lex Luthor believed he did, Clark Kent should be arriving at any moment. Richard took a puff and smiled slightly as he thought about a confrontation he had had earlier on stage with the young Mr. Kent.

JB/Richard: Oh, Mortimer—I'd like to have a word with you.

Mortimer/Clark [Standing up to him.] A word's about all you'll have time for Jonathan, because I've decided you and your doctor friend are going to have to get out of this house just as quickly as possible.

JB/Richard: [Smoothly.] I'm glad you recognize the fact that you and I can't live under the same roof—but you've arrived at the wrong solution. Take your suitcase and get out! [He starts to cross above Mortimer, anxious to get to the window-seat, but Mortimer/Clark makes a big sweep around about the table and comes back to JB at down stage center.]

Mortimer/Clark Jonathan!—You're beginning to bore me. You've played your one night stand in this town—now move on!

JB/Richard: My dear Mortimer, just because you've graduated from the back fence to the typewriter, don't think you've grown up…[He takes a sudden step up stage around Mortimer and gets to the window-seat and sits.] I'm staying, and you're leaving—and I mean now!

Richard chuckled. Yes, Clark was leaving and Lex Luthor was staying.

Luthor took several more puffs and watched the column of smoke waft into the air. Things were going exactly as planned. "Well, Lois, darling" he exclaimed. "You'll soon belong to me," he said aloud.

***

Lois sat on the couch and tears came to her eyes—tears she had been holding back the last two days. Bill Saxon was dead, Barb Friskin was dead, and now Mayson Drake was dead. She had been almost killed several times, and now, now there appeared to be a…a strangeness, a coldness between her and Clark.

She raised her hand to rub the large bruise as her head began to throb. The tears continued to flow slowly down her cheeks as she picked up the small glass case that enclosed the delicate chiseled pink stone she loved so much. She put it back down as she heard a soft knock on her door.

Lois hurriedly swiped at the tears and went to open the door. As soon as she saw Clark's worried face she jumped into his arms. Clark stroked her hair and then moving her away, he reached out to touch the abrasion on her forehead.

"I should've protected you from this," he said self accusatorily.

"No," Lois said tears starting to fall again. "It's not your fault.

"But I *feel* responsible."

"You shouldn't," Lois said, moving back into his arms.

"Sure I should," Clark said, pushing her away and holding her at arms' length. "I love you and that's what makes it so difficult," he paused and looked intently at her. "Lately, every time I'm off being Superman, I think about all the accidents and deaths that have been going on right here in Smallville, and I think what if it's Lois. What if it's her turn, and I'm not here to…"

"Clark…"

"Lois," Clark said sitting her down on the couch. "What if this whole thing is because of Superman. What if all the deaths and accidents are in someway connected? What if the person responsible forces you to reveal that Clark Kent is Superman? We're engaged! They would do anything to you to get to me."

"But that's the worst case scenario," Lois insisted.

"Maybe not," Clark replied.

"So, what do you want me to do? Pretend I don't know you?"

"No, Lois. What I'm saying is that it's…it's hard. It's just hard. Harder than I ever thought it would be."

"We can make it work. I know we can," Lois urged, reaching up to move the hair from off his forehead and to gently trace the side of his face as if trying to commit it to memory. <She must remember this,> she thought as she looked into his eyes, at last beginning to fully understand that this—touching him in this way—might be for her very last time.

Clark put his hand over hers and then took her hand away from his face. He had to go through with this. His whole life had been one in which he had had to keep people at a distance—he couldn't let them know, couldn't let them really get to know him. And now, now that he had brought someone close to him, she was in danger. He should never have allowed this to happen. He was meant to go through life alone—to live a solitary existence.

"Lois, I know I can't control everything. But I can control people not using you to get to me. And so that's why I came…to tell you."

"Tell me what?" Lois asked, biting her lower lip.

"To tell you…to say," Clark said softly, struggling to get the words out. "We…we just can't be together anymore, Lois."

She had almost been expecting the words—those terrible words. But as soon as the sound of them reached her ears, it was as if her heart ceased to beat—everything stopped— everything came to a standstill.

"I'm sorry," Clark whispered and turned his head as he heard a siren. "I…I have to go," he said, abruptly rushing out of the house almost relieved. He darted down the block a bit making sure he was out of the glare of the street light and spun into his suit. He flew off glad for the call but realizing he was a coward to want to get out this way.

Lois could hardly breathe. Clark was gone. He didn't want her. It was over. She sank down, clutched a sofa pillow to her chest as she sobbed into it.

There was a soft knock on the door. "Clark!" Lois exclaimed, getting to the door as fast as she could.

She opened the door and walked into Richard's waiting arms.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 21, 1994 11:20 a.m. CST

Clark sat on the edge of his classroom desk and surveyed his fourth period American History class while they finished a quiz. He was both physically and emotionally exhausted, as he had had little sleep for the past two weeks.

Superman had been kept busy since that night he had broken up with Lois, and Clark's emotions were presenting a dichotomous flip-flop. He was pleased that he had been so distracted as to not dwell on his break-up with Lois nor on her growing relationship with Richard, a man he was increasingly uneasy about. And, yet Clark was deeply troubled over the number of seemingly unrelated catastrophic occurrences that were calling out to him. Was he simply more aware of them as his focus needed to be shifted away from Lois, or was there really an epidemic of natural disasters, criminal activities and downright stupid acts of benign neglect that required his attention?

The most recent was a fire at a granary south of town early this morning. Superman had gotten to the scene when the inferno became unmanageable for the county's volunteer fire brigade to handle. He had used his super breath to extinguish the blaze. Upon checking the granary for remnants of embers that might ignite again, Superman found the remains of a body burnt beyond recognition and the case was turned over to Rachel Harris.

Clark could still smell the smoke and the water soaked grain as he collected the quiz papers and then returned to sit on his desk and faced his class.

"On a warm spring Saturday in March of 1911," their teacher began. "The worst factory fire in the history of Metropolis occurred in the Asch building at the northwest corner of Washington and Greene streets, where the Triangle Shirtwaist Company occupied the top three of ten floors. Five hundred women were employed there, mostly Jewish immigrants between the ages of thirteen and twenty-three," he continued, getting up to pace in front of the students.

Two members of his class, who sat in the front row, watched their teacher as he lectured, noticing the trace of sadness in his voice.

Carol looked over at her best friend, Annie Holland, and sighed. Mr. Kent was *so* hot. Both she and Annie thought so and they both knew other girls who agreed with them. Miss Lane was so lucky. Carol shook her head and tried to focus on what her teacher was saying instead of on his brown eyes and incredible body.

"To keep the women at their sewing machines," Clark went on, "the proprietors had locked the doors leading to the exits. The fire began shortly after 4:30 p.m. in the cutting room on the eighth floor, and fed by thousands of pounds of fabric it spread rapidly. Panicked workers rushed to the stairs, the freight elevator, and the fire escape. Most on the eighth and tenth floors escaped; dozens on the ninth floor died, unable to force open the locked door to the exit. The rear fire escape collapsed, killing many and eliminating an escape route for others still trapped. Some tried to slide down elevator cables but lost their grip; many more, their dresses on fire, jumped to their death from open windows."

Clark paused to look at his class as they listened intently.

"Pump Engine Company 20 and Ladder Company 17 arrived quickly," he told them. "But were hindered by the bodies of victims who had jumped. The ladders of the fire department extended only to the sixth floor, and life nets broke when workers jumped in groups of threes and fours. Several of the young women had become impaled on the iron railing that enclosed the factory as they jumped for their lives. Additional fire companies were summoned by four more alarms transmitted in rapid succession."

Clark sat on the edge of his desk once more and his voice softened.

"A total of 146 women died in less than fifteen minutes, more than in any other fire in the city's history. Although there was widespread revulsion and rage over the working conditions that had contributed to the fire, many defended the right of shop owners to resist government safety regulations, and some in government insisted that they were, at any rate, powerless to impose them. The owners of the company were charged with manslaughter and later acquitted, but in 1914 were ordered by a judge to pay damages of $75 each to the families of the twenty-three victims who had sued."

"That was the only result of it?" Annie asked, hoping for additional attention from her teacher.

"No," Clark answered her. "The Factory Investigating Commission of 1911 gathered testimony, and later that year the city established the Bureau of Fire Investigation which gave the fire department additional powers to improve factory safety. The event crystallized support for efforts to organize workers in the garment district and in particular for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. It remains one of the most vivid symbols for the American labor movement of the need for government to ensure a safe workplace."

Clark walked to the black board and picked up a piece of chalk and then turned to face his class once again.

"Across the street from the burning building stood a 29- year-old woman—a woman who watched the carnage with tears in her eyes—a woman who vowed that something like this would never happen again."

"What did she do?" Emily Cox asked.

"An amazing amount," Clark answered. "The strength and courage of this woman," Clark lectured, and then paused as he heard and recognized the unmistakable soft footfall of Lois Lane as she walked down the hallway outside his classroom. He looked over toward the door and being careful not to use his x-ray vision, watched as she passed by the window.

Clark's heart practically stopped as he caught sight of her. He had had a strong and courageous woman who loved him. How stupid had he been, how incredibly asinine…

"Mr. Kent," Carol called out, her hand waving about.

"Yes, Carol," Clark responded, looking at the young woman.

"What did she do exactly?" Carol asked gazing up at him intently.

"Who?" Clark asked, looking back at the window hoping to get another glimpse of Lois. He automatically reached up to move his glasses down, thought better of it and turned toward the class.

"The woman outside the burning building," Keith called out from his seat at the back of the classroom.

"Oh, yes," Clark responded. "She began to advocate for changes in the labor laws—to insure the health, safety and security of all working people."

Their teacher walked over to his desk and picked up a book. He opened it to a previously marked page. "Let me read a quotation from her:

*Out of that terrible episode came a self-examination of stricken conscience in which the people of this state saw for the first time the individual worth and value of each of those 146 people who fell or were burned in that great fire…We all felt that we had been wrong, that something was wrong with that building which we had accepted; or the tragedy never would have happened. Moved by this sense of stricken guilt, we banded ourselves together to find a way by law to prevent this kind of disaster…It was the beginning of a new and important drive to bring humanity to the life of the brothers and sisters we all had in the working groups of these United States."*

Clark closed the book, returned it to his desk and walked back to the blackboard and turned again toward his students.

"In 1933 she became Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor and the first woman cabinet member in our history. She was instrumental in creating the Social Security Act of 1935," Clark explained. "She and other women like her contributed a great deal to our country and that's what we as a class are going to examine next."

The students looked at each other.

"Okay. Does anyone know what special event is next month?" their teacher inquired.

"St. Patrick's Day," Emily Cox offered.

"Spring Break," piped up John Greene.

The class laughed.

"Actually," their teacher said turning to the blackboard and writing. "It's Women's History Month," he explained writing the title on the board. "And we are going to celebrate it by having each one of you research a woman who has impacted our country, and then you'll present your findings in an oral report.

As Clark raised his arms to quell the groans, Carol looked over at Annie and then called out, "I think that will be a wonderful assignment, Mr. Kent."

Several of the male students in the class rolled their eyes.

The history teacher took out a baseball cap from his desk drawer and reached into his pocket. He placed about thirty slips of folded paper into the hat and walked down the first aisle of students.

"Pick a name" he explained as he proffered the hat to Carol Ehm.

"Abigail Adams," Carol called out as she read the name in her hand.

"Some consider her the first feminist in our nation's history," Clark explained to the class.

"She was our second first lady, right?" Carol asked, batting her eyes at him.

"Correct, Carol," her teacher nodded, moving on quickly.

"Dorothea Dix," John Greene read after pulling out a slip of paper.

"Investigator of the deplorable conditions in mental asylums in the 1850s," Clark explained.

"Susan B. Anthony," Annie Holland said. "I know her. Women's suffrage and stuff."

"Good for you," Clark said, smiling.

"Eleanor Roosevelt," Tom Mock called out. "Good, an easy one."

Clark continued around the room with Emily Cox getting Jane Addams, first woman Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the settlement house movement; and Keith Haley getting Sojourner Truth, former slave who worked tirelessly for abolition and women's rights.

Cindy Brady reached out her hand and picked out a slip of paper. "Resurrection," she read.

"Oh, sorry. That shouldn't have been there." Clark retrieved the piece of paper from Cindy's hand. With everything that had been going on, Clark hadn't thought of that note that he had found in the wastebasket of the Coroner's office. It had been Mayson's last word as well. He had forgotten about the piece of paper and now he stared at it. It must have been on his desk at home and he had accidentally gathered it together with these slips when he prepared this exercise.

He vowed to himself to work on it soon. It must have something to do with what's going on.

"The hat, Mr. Kent," Cindy said looking at him oddly.

"Oh, right," Clark responded. He simply had to get a simpler life. Being Superman and Clark Kent was becoming too much. Clark's life was complicated enough on its own— teaching high school, advising students, the Smallville Players, and Lois. Well, now just spending time trying not to think of Lois. And, of course, he also had Superman to contend with. He had lost Lois as a result and now he was losing himself. But he couldn't give up Superman because Superman provided Clark the opportunity to fight for justice and truth and to do what he needed to do—make a difference.

Cindy reached once more into the hat. "Frances Perkins," Cindy read out loud, looking quizzically at her teacher. "Darn, someone I don't know."

"Yes you do, Cindy. Frances Perkins was that 29-year-old who stood up for what she believed and worked hard to make a difference—something we all need to strive for.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 21, 1994 7:25 p.m.

Martha watched her son as he paced the stage waiting for Richard to arrive. She had not scheduled any rehearsals of scenes that put Clark and Lois together since Valentine's night when it became obvious that the two needed some time apart before portraying lovers on stage once again. Thankfully, they had completed blocking their scenes together and both of them knew their lines. The director believed that they could wait to do all those Elaine and Mortimer sections when they began the final series of run throughs of the entire play, which would start tomorrow. In the meantime, she had just worked around their scenes.

Tonight's rehearsal was a rather difficult one. It was the scene in which Richard's character would be attacking Clark, that is Mortimer. Although they had blocked it, walked through it a couple of times with scripts in hand, this was the first opportunity for the scene to be done off book and a more intensified utilization of character to be displayed.

Martha looked up the aisle of the auditorium. Richard was late. She knew that he had been dating Lois and that they dined together frequently. She glanced back up at Clark whose feelings she could always read. He was upset and in emotional pain. Martha knew that he had regretted the decision he had made, and now realized that it may be too late to go running back to her. No, he shouldn't run back to Lois. <He should fly back>, Martha thought.

The door at the rear of the auditorium opened and Richard entered looking self- satisfied and arrogant—the perfect characterization for Jonathan Brewster—a characterization that Richard was more at home with. Tonight's rehearsal would allow him to drop the fa‡ade of candy-coated Richard and be Lex Luthor. "Sorry I'm late," Richard declared, although Clark could sense little or no contrition in that statement at all.

Clark climbed to the "second floor" of the set as Richard bounded up the stage steps to take his place in the "Brewster living room."

Wayne Irig, who'd been going over his script, joined the two adversaries on stage. Wayne, playing Dr. Einstein, a character subservient to Richard's role, but a man who really didn't enjoy hurting others as did the maniacal Jonathan Brewster, looked up the stairs at Clark and then back down to Richard who stood center stage.

The two men were obviously getting right into character, as Wayne Irig sensed the growing animosity and malice erupting between them. It looked like it was going to be really easy for him to act as a nervous Dr. Einstein while Jonathan Brewster prepared to murder Mortimer.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 21, 1994 8:05 p.m.

Lex Luthor, in his masquerade as Richard Thurston, took center stage—a position that was becoming increasingly gratifying to a man of Luthor's ego.

"Okay, Wayne," Martha directed. "Everyone's in their places. Take it from your line."

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Come on, Chonny, let's go up, yes?

JB/Richard: You're forgetting, Doctor.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Vat?

JB/Richard: My brother Mortimer.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Chonny—tonight? Ve do dat tomorrow or da next day.

JB/Richard: [Seething.] No, tonight! Now!

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: [Begging.] Chonny, please—I'm tired…

JB/Richard: [Crossing over to Dr. Einstein.] Doctor, look at me. You can see it's going to be done, can't you?

Wayne looked at Richard. The hatred in his eyes was obvious. Richard Thurston was doing an incredible job acting in the sadistic, malicious over confident role of Jonathan Brewster.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: [Retreating.] Ach, Chonny—I can see. I know dat look! O.K., ve do it. But da quick vay. Da quick twist, like in London [He uses his hands in a quick twisting motion and makes a noise suggesting strangulation.]

JB/Richard: No, Doctor, I think this calls for something special. [He walks toward Dr. Einstein/Wayne with a look of evil anticipation.] I think perhaps the Melbourne method.

Clark awaiting his entrance cue, listened to Richard's malevolent interpretation of his last line. From his delivery, Clark could tell that Thurston was obviously deriving great satisfaction from the thought of killing Clark's character. As Clark moved slightly to the left to get a better look at Richard, he knew that his earlier uneasiness about the new member of the Smallville Players had grown into a stark realization that Thurston was not the man he seemed—that there was something beneath the fa‡ade of graciousness.

Clark ran his hand through his hair impatiently. Only a few more lines and he could join the two men on stage, but for some reason it seemed interminable—giving him much too much time to ponder his recent decisions.

From his position behind the masking of the second floor, it was now beginning to be all too apparent that Richard had plans for Clark. Richard had already stepped into Lois' life and Clark was becoming alarmed that Lois couldn't see Thurston for what he was. But it was no longer Clark's job to protect her. Hadn't he relinquished that role when he had broken off their engagement two weeks before? Hadn't he been the one who had stupidly denied their future together? Hadn't he been the one that had thrust her right into Richard's waiting arms?

Wayne Irig, as directed, shook his head slowly, and deliberately walked away and then turned back to look at Richard.

Out in the auditorium, Martha Kent made a few notes on her large legal pad. She had to tell Wayne that her previous direction—a direction, which suggested quite a long pause between Richard's line and that of Wayne's, just wasn't working. The pause was uncomfortable for the audience and slowed down the action too much. Wayne's next line should come right on top of Richard's previous line—the line talking about the Melbourne method. It would be much more effective that way.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Chonny—no—not dat. Two hours! And ven it was all over, vat? Da fellow in London vas chust as dead as da fellow in Melbourne.

JB/Richard: We had to work too fast in London. There was no esthetic satisfaction in it—but Melbourne, ah, *there* was something to remember.

Richard crossed over to look out the set's window as he said his line. He moved the curtain and fingered it with hand while he waited for Wayne Irig to follow up with the next line. Lex took that instant to gloat. Yes, they, too, will all remember the revenge that he, Lex, had executed upon those that would dare defy him. Only a few left to make his retaliation complete.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Remember! [He shivers.] I vish I didn't. No, Chonny—not Melbourne—not me!

Lex continued to look out the stage window that Jonathan Kent had built. On three flats that masked the Brewster's living room window, Jonathan had painted a gothic representation of an old cemetery complete with grave markers, all of which were askewed and overgrown with twisted ivy and weeds. Luthor's mind wandered as he envisioned names on each of the tombstones: Bill Saxon, Deborah Joy LeVine, Vivian Cox, Barb Friskin, Nigel St. John, Sheldon Bender, Gretchen Kelly, and Mayson Drake.

The Technical Director had also painted one large imposing mausoleum on the center flat—supposedly to house an important family's remains. Luthor smiled to himself as he pictured the name of Kent emblazoned on that monolith and beside it two additional graves: Lois Lane and Superman. But he couldn't let himself take pleasure in this diversion. Richard, as the blocking called for, turned to look over his shoulder at Dr. Einstein/Wayne with a cool, calculating expression. And then slowly, very slowly, articulated the next line.

JB/Richard: Yes, Doctor. Now…where…are the instruments?

Martha smiled and jotted down another note. That reading of the line was flawless. Richard had Jonathan Brewster down pat. His grasp of the character's ego, need for power, ruthlessness, and amoral affectation was perfect. It was as if he were…

Martha looked up from her notes and stared at Richard Thurston.

On stage, Richard took a couple of steps toward Wayne.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: I von't do it, Chonny—I von't do it.

JB/Richard: [Advancing on Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig more.] Get your instruments!

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: No, Chonny!

JB/Richard: [Going to the cellar door.] I'll get them, Doctor.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 21, 1994 8:15 p.m. CST

Libby Barton had left rehearsals when Richard Thurston had entered. They were done rehearsing Aunt Martha's parts and Libby needed to go home and rest—she needed to go home and deal with her conscience.

Miss Libby entered her house, threw off her coat and looked at her cellar door. She walked toward it, put her fingers up to feel the wood grain and slowly slid her hand down to the doorknob and grasped it. Libby Barton closed her eyes. Keeping secrets! That's what all of this had been about. Her family secrets! Was she ready to reveal all? Could she tell everyone that Lex Luthor was alive and the corpses in the cellar were the stages Laslo Barton had gone through to achieve the formula, the formula that resurrected Luthor? No! She wasn't ready.

She removed her hand and walked away from the door, the door to the graves that rested beneath her. But if she didn't tell, and something happened, it would be her fault. Gratefully the deaths had stopped. But was it just a hiatus? Were there more being planned? Was Luthor ready to kill again?

***

On the set of Smallville Players' 'Arsenic and Old Lace' JB/Richard opened the cellar door and started down the supposed stairs; while at the same time, Mortimer/Clark started down from the "second floor" and arrived to face Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: [Anxious to get Clark/Mortimer out of the house.] Ah, you go now, eh?

Mortimer/Clark: No, Doctor, I'm waiting for something. Something important.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Please—you go now!

Mortimer/Clark: I have nothing against you personally. You seem to be a nice fellow. Take my advice and get out of this house and get just as far away as possible.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Trouble, yah! *You* get out.

Mortimer/Clark: [Crossing to center stage.] All right, don't say I didn't warn you.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: I'm varning you—get avay quick.

Mortimer/Clark: Things are going to start popping around here any minute.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Listen—Chonny's in a bad mood. Ven he's like dis, he's a madman—tings happen—terrible tings.

Mortimer/Clark: Jonathan doesn't worry me now.

But Clark *was* worried. There were so many pieces, but his mind couldn't seem to connect the dots. There was Miss Libby and her supposed murders, there were the mysterious deaths in Smallville, there was Richard's arrival on the scene and there was this play and everyone's deep seeded need to perform it.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Ach, himmel—don't dose plays you see teach you anyting?

Mortimer/Clark: About what?

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Vell, at least people in plays act like dey got sense— dat's more dan you do.

<Sense,> Clark thought. That was true! A lot of sense *he* had. He couldn't make heads or tales out of everything that was happening. And so much was happening— Lois, all the deaths, Lois almost dying, Richard, Lois and Richard, Miss Libby's house, Lois and her class assignment, a play about murders, a play with Miss Libby as a murderer, a play with Richard as a murderer, a play with Lois in danger, and a play where the hero figures it all out. But he couldn't—he couldn't figure it out. He couldn't…

"Think!" Martha called out.

"Right, mom," Clark responded.

Mortimer/Clark: [Interested in Dr. Einstein/Wayne's observation.] Oh, you think so, do you? You think people in plays act intelligently. I wish you had to sit through some of the ones I have to sit through. Take the little opus I saw tonight for instance. In this play, there's a man—he supposed to be bright… [Jonathan Brewster/Richard enters from the cellar with the instrument case, stands in the cellar doorway and listens to Mortimer/Clark.] …he knows he's in a house with murderers—he ought to know he's in danger—he's even been warned to get out of the house—but does he go? No, he stays there. Now I ask you, Doctor, is that what an intelligent person would do?

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: You're asking me?

Mortimer/Clark: He didn't even have sense enough to be frightened, to be on guard. For instance, the murderer invites him to sit down.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: [He moves so as to keep Mortimer/Clark from seeing Jonathan Brewster/Richard.] You mean— "Von't you sit down?"

Mortimer/Clark [Reaches out and pulls an armchair to him so it winds up stage right of the table. He does this without turning his head from Dr Einstein/Wayne.] Believe it or not, that one was in there too.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: And vat did he do?

Mortimer/Clark: [Sitting in the armchair.] He sat down. [And as directed by Martha, Mortimer/Clark keeps his back to Jonathan Brewster/Richard and overdramatically gestures to explain the stupidity of the actor he had seen earlier that evening.] Now mind you, this fellow's supposed to be bright. There he sits— just waiting to be trussed up. And what do you thing they use to tie him with.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Vat?

Mortimer/Clark: The curtain cord.

[Jonathan Brester/Richard does a double take as Martha directed him to do and spies the curtain cords on either side of the window situated in the left wall. He crosses, stands on the window-seat and cuts the cords with a pen- knife he has removed from his pocket.]

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Vell, vhy not? A good idea. Very convenient.

Mortimer/Clark: A little too convenient. When are playwrights going to use some imagination! The curtain cord!

[Jonathan Brewster/Richard has got the curtain cord and is moving in slowly behind Mortimer/Clark.]

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: He didn't see him get it?

Mortimer/Clark: See him? He sat there with his back to him. That's the kind of stuff we have to suffer through night after night. And they say the critics are killing the theatre—it's the playwrights who are killing the theatre. So there he sits—the big dope—this fellow who's supposed to be bright—just waiting to be trussed up and gagged.

[Jonathan Brewster/Richard drops the loop of curtain cord around Mortimer/Clark's neck and draws it taut.]

***

Lois opened the curtain of her bedroom window to let the moonlight stream in and turned off her bedside lamp. She had finished grading some papers and needed to finally get to bed early. She had been out with Richard almost every night and since he had a long rehearsal scheduled, this would be her first chance to get some needed rest. She got into bed and closed her eyes, but *his* face was there in front of her—Clark's face. She sighed as she remembered touching his face that last night— the night he had broken her heart.

Lois couldn't shut him out of her thoughts. She tried to sleep, but Clark was there, hovering just beyond reach. She had to do something to keep from thinking of him. Glancing over at the script by her bedside, she decided to run her lines—a little exercise that she tried to make time to do every night—just saying her lines out loud and imagining the responses.

Lois looked out the window at the full moon that shone through the bare branches of the trees. It gave a sort of gothic feel to the room—exactly what she needed to get her in the mood for the author's words. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and quietly began her lines from Act II.

Elaine/Lois: "We're here alone together.

She paused and silently recalled Clark's next line.

Mortimer: I know I'm acting irrationally, but just put it down to the fact that I'm a mad Brewster.

Elaine/Lois: If you think you're going to get out of this by pretending you're insane—you're crazy. Maybe you're not going to marry me, but I'm going to marry you. I love you, you dope.

A tear slowly tracked its way down her face as she imagined Clark's next line.

Mortimer: Well, if you love me, will you get the hell out of here!

Elaine/Lois: Well, at least take me home, won't you? I'm afraid.

Mortimer: Afraid! Afraid of a little walk through the cemetery?

Lois paused, as she thought of the blocking that Martha had given her. She was supposed to walk slowly and seductively around Mortimer and then coming up right in front of him, deliver the next line.

Elaine/Lois: Mortimer, will you kiss me good night?

Lois heard something—she wasn't quite sure what. She opened her eyes. The eeriness of the room, the lines about the cemetery, caused her to very carefully sit up straighter in bed. She turned her head and saw a shadow of a man in the doorway of her bedroom. She should have been afraid, but the outline of his body was so tauntingly familiar. He walked slowly toward her. The moonlight illuminated his face—the face she loved. "Clark!"

"Yes, I'm here," he said sitting on the edge of the bed and taking her in his arms. "And I *will* kiss you good night."

"Oh, Clark," Lois said and kissed him passionately—her lips parting, letting him explore her mouth with his tongue.

"Lois do you want me to…" he asked.

"Yes, oh yes," she whispered, pulling him back to kiss her again.

Clark carefully slipped onto the bed and beneath the covers next to her as his mouth continued to seek out ways to inflame her while his body molded itself next to hers. His hand cupped the side of her face and then turned slowly so that the back of his fingers traced her cheekbone down to her chin and then ever so tenderly stroked and caressed her neck to move down as he gently fingered the lace edging of her night gown.

Lois felt herself responding, wanting him desperately. She reached up to encircle his neck and found nothing there. She opened her eyes and realizing that she had been dreaming, sank back into her pillow. She turned over and burying her face in its softness, began to sob.

***

"Stop it!" Martha Kent called out to Richard from the dark.

The characters on stage looked out at the director expectantly.

"Uh…uh…" Martha began. She knew that she had no earthly reason to have interrupted the actors. As a director, she was applauding the reality that Richard gave to his performance; but as a mother, her instinct to protect her young was paramount. But even that was no excuse because Clark was invulnerable and was impervious to Richard's attempt to strangle him. Yet, it was the look on Richard's face that she was reacting to. He was simply enjoying this way too much. It appeared to Martha that Richard's instincts were to destroy rather than preserve. And, again, that seemed all too familiar to her—as if she had encountered him before—in some old memory.

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, May 23, 1966 1:40 p.m. CDT

###

KSML ANNOUNCER: This is KSML news. The U.S. Air Force assures us that the strange light seen over Smallville last week was a downed weather balloon which has since been retrieved. Now for sports. Smallville High School's Cyclone Baseball team was successful in reaching the regional play-offs. They will face the West Topeka High School Tigers on Saturday.

###

Jonathan reached over and turned off the radio. "I think we can relax a little, now."

Martha Kent sat in the rocking chair that Jonathan had built for her and softly cooed to the baby in her arms.

There was a loud knock on the door. "Jonathan," his wife called out.

"I'll get it," Jonathan said simultaneously.

At the door stood two men, both in traditional gray suits. They flashed government identifications and without waiting to be invited, made their way into the living room.

"What can we do for you?" Jonathan asked, glancing nervously at Martha and their new son.

"We're visiting all the homes within a two mile radius of Shuster's field," the taller of the two agents explained.

Martha and Jonathan looked at each other.

"Have you ever seen this man?" the other agent asked Jonathan, showing him a photograph. "He was on assignment here and has turned up missing."

Jonathan looked at the picture and then showed it to Martha. "Nope," he said, somewhat relieved that he could answer honestly. "Never have seen him. What about you, Martha?"

Martha stared at the picture. She spent a long time taking in the sadistic features of the man in the photograph. "No," she said succinctly.

The two men surveyed the couple. "So, Colonel Trask did not come to question you about the meteorite that landed in Shuster's Field," the first agent asked suspiciously.

"I don't know anything about a meteorite," Jonathan responded truthfully. "The radio said it was a weather balloon."

"I would definitely remember if I ever saw that man," Martha interrupted them.

"Thank you," the second agent replied signaling for his partner and himself to leave.

"Do you think they'll be back?" Martha asked Jonathan once they were out the door.

"I think they're just looking for the Colonel and not for this little one," Jonathan said as he walked over to Martha and placed a kiss on his son's head. "Clark's ours. We'll just have to be careful for awhile."

***

Smallville, Kansas Monday, February 21, 1994 10:15 p.m. CST

Martha carefully watched the players on the stage. Why had that old memory come back to her now? The face in the picture bore absolutely no resemblance to the man on stage except for maybe the eyes—something about the eyes. Well she had to tell the actors something. After all, she had stopped them.

"Richard," Martha began. "That's exactly what I want. It's just sadistic enough." <Maybe too much> she thought, unless it was just because it was Clark. Clark didn't require her to watch out for him, not now, not like when he was a baby. Yet, Martha knew that at times he still needed her. He especially needed her now—now when he was so lost without Lois.

"Uh…Clark I have two notes for you. One concerns a scene that we will be doing Wednesday. I know it's odd that I stopped you now, but the thought just came to me and I didn't want to forget it. The other note *is* about this scene. Just have patience with me."

Wayne walked up to Clark and removed his gag. "Well, Madame Director," Clark said smiling. "It's hard to argue with you especially since I'm bound and gagged…was gagged," he corrected. "But I'll debate the changes if you want me to."

"I don't think you'll want to," Martha insisted. "In your last scene with Elaine, I'd like you to add a kiss. I believe that when Elaine jumps into Mortimer's arms that a hug just isn't enough. *You* aren't doing enough," his mother demanded emphatically. "It's the reconciliation scene where you admit your lunkheadedness. The two of you, uh…have been upset, angry and lost and you need to show the audience that you've found each other again," she explained as she glanced over toward Richard who was knotting and unknotting the cord in his hands.

"Okay, mom," Clark responded, realizing a lecture when he heard it.

"I'll tell Lois about the change tomorrow," the director informed him. "Also, Clark, in this scene when you say your line about 'He sat there with his back to him', can you make the chair jump just a tad to emphasize the line. That will be funnier and juxtapose the sadistic character Richard is presenting."

Clark looked at his mother and smiled. He could make the chair fly if she wanted it to. "Sure, mom," Clark told her.

Martha tilted her head slightly and realized the inside joke and chuckled. "Fine. Now just go back the two lines and let's try it again from your cue, Wayne."

Wayne stuffed the gag back into Clark's mouth and moved to his position.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: He didn't see him get it?

Mortimer/Clark: See him? He sat there with his back to him. [He makes the chair jump.] That's the kind of stuff we have to suffer through night after night. And they say the critics are killing the theatre—it's the playwrights who are killing the theatre. So there he sits [He adds another jump.] —the big dope—this fellow who's supposed to be bright—just waiting to be trussed up and gagged.

[Jonathan Brewster/Richard drops the loop of curtain cord over Mortimer/Clark's shoulder and draws it taut. At the same time he throws the other loop of cord on the floor beside Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig who leaps to Mortimer and gags him with a handkerchief, then takes his curtain cord and ties Clark's legs to the chair.]

JB/Richard: Now, Mortimer, if you don't mind—we'll finish the story. [He goes to the sideboard and brings two candelabras to the table and speaks as he lights them. Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig remains kneeling beside Mortimer/Clark, making sure the cord is secure.] Mortimer, I've been away for twenty years, but never once in all that time—my dear brother—were you out of my mind. In Melbourne one night, I dreamed of you—when I landed in San Francisco I felt a strange satisfaction—once more I was in the same country with you. [Jonathan Brewster/Richard has finished lighting the candles. He crosses down right and flips the light- switch darkening the stage. As JB/Richard crosses, Dr. Einstein/Wayne gets up and counter-crosses to the window- seat. JB/Richard picks up the instrument case at the cellar doorway and sets it on the table between the candelabras and opens it, revealing various macabre-looking surgical instruments both in the bottom of the case and on the inside of the cover.] Linda Botts, standing at the rear of the auditorium was waiting for that piece of business. She came down the aisle and sat down next to Martha in the audience and whispered to her. "Is that the kind of case and instruments you wanted, Martha?" she asked. "It seems that our new doctor in town, Dr. Post, the one that replaced, Toni Baines, has a collection of old instruments and he was incredibly helpful to me."

"It's perfect," Martha said, still eyeing Richard's fascination with this scene and his inability to resist fondling the instruments as he considered which to use. Martha knew that she had asked Richard to create that kind of a character, but he seemed more type cast than she had originally thought.

JB/Richard: Now, Doctor, we go to work! [He removes an instrument from the case and once again fingers it lovingly, as Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig crosses and sits on the chair at the left of the table. As directed, Wayne appears none too happy about all of this.]

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Please, Chonny, for me, the quick vay!

JB/Richard: Doctor! This must really be an artistic achievement. After all, we're performing before a very distinguished critic.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Chonny!

JB/Richard: [Flaring.] Doctor!

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: [Beaten.] All right. Let's get it over. [He closes the curtains tightly and sits on the window-seat. JB/Richard takes three or four more instruments out of the case and fingers them. At last, having the necessary equipment laid out on the towel he has removed from the case, he takes out a pair of rubber gloves and begins to put them on.]

Clark, who as Mortimer, is still bound hand and foot and was pretending to struggle, but not too much as it would be so easy for him to burst his ties. Also, he was not in the habit of upstaging the actor who the audience was supposed to be focusing on. Clark was, as an actor, as he was in real life, generous and supportive. He never craved center stage. But he was now watching a man who obviously did. Richard was in his glory—a maniacal madman who loved murder and who had Lois in his clutches. This was wrong, seriously wrong, and no matter what his current relationship with Lois, Clark *had* to do something about it.

JB/Richard: All ready for you, Doctor!

And Clark was going to be ready for Richard. He would finish the rehearsal and begin some investigating. Clark thought about the slip of paper that was resting in his pocket. <Resurrection.> It had to mean something. But what? There hadn't been any unusual deaths in Smallville since Mayson; and Superman had kept him so busy that he had put the idea of some sort of conspiracy out of his mind. But looking at Richard, refreshed the hunch he first had—that Richard's appearance in Smallville was too coincidentally tied to the string of deaths. Clark's attempt to not dwell on his break up with Lois, also had him redirecting his energies away from his first inclinations. But now, now he had to.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: I gotta have a drink. I can't do dis vitout a drink.

[He takes a bottle from his pocket. Drinks. He finds that it's empty and rises.]

JB/Richard: Pull yourself together, Doctor.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: I gotta have a drink. Ven ve valked in here dis afternoon dere vas vine here—remember? Vere did she put dat? [He looks at the sideboard and remembers. He goes to it, opens the left cupboard and brings the bottle and two wine glasses to the down stage end of the dining table.] Look, Chonny, ve got a drink. [He pours wine into the glasses, emptying the bottle. Mortimer/Clark watches him.] Dat's all dere is. I split it with you. Ve both need a drink. [He hands one glass to JB/Richard, then raises his own glass to his lips. JB/Richard stops him.]

JB/Richard: One moment, Doctor—please. Where are your manners? [He moves down stage to the right of Mortimer/Clark and looks at him.] Yes, Mortimer, I realize now it was you,—you and the others who live in this provincial town who brought me back here…brought me back so I can seek my revenge…so I can make all of you pay for what you had done to me…so I can…

Clark, Wayne and Martha were staring at Richard. The lines were close to what the author had written, but yet different.

"Sorry," Richard said. "I got carried away with the moment."

"Can we go back and try it once more," Martha asked.

"There is nothing impossible to him who will try," Richard quoted.

Clark stared at Richard in astonishment and then looked down at his hands that were bound to the chair. He could easily break those bonds and reach into the pocket where the single word, written on a folded piece of paper lay—to look at it, to read it once again—to have it stimulate his thinking. Resurrection—was it possible?

Clark looked back at the man who was circling him. Had Richard's ego allowed him to think so little of those around him that he could allow this evening's slip? Or was Clark imagining things. As Richard circled in front of him and bent down to look at his hated brother, Clark hung his head down and looking over his glasses at Richard, utilized his x-ray vision to see traces of facial scaring.

There is nothing impossible, Richard had said. A quotation from Alexander the Great— delivered so eloquently by none other than Lex Luthor.

JB/Lex Luthor: One moment, Doctor, please. Where are your manners? [He moves down stage to the right of Mortimer/Clark and looks at him.] Yes, Mortimer, I realize now it was you who brought me back here…[He looks at the wine, then draws it back and forth under his nose smelling it. He apparently decides that it's up to his standards for he raises his glass in a toast…] Doctor—to my dear dead brother… [JB/Luthor sneered at Mortimer/Clark whose eyes had taken on a much more determined look.]

***

Topeka, Kansas Tuesday, February 22, 1994 3:25 p.m. CST

Superman landed outside Topeka's Hall of Records and instantaneously darting behind a small utility building, came around the other side as Clark Kent, adjusted his tie and entered the rotunda. He hurriedly noted the building's directory and found the departmental office that he needed.

A young dark-haired woman was at the counter and looked up when Clark came through the door. She smiled when she saw the incredibly attractive man heading toward her. "Can I help you," she asked, attempting to make her somewhat unpleasant and frequently whiney voice sound more seductive but falling short.

"Yes, Ms…"

"Kipling," she said, batting her eyelashes. "Veronica Kipling."

"I need to check on a birth certificate, Ms. Kipling," Clark explained.

"Just as long as it's not a marriage certificate," she said laughing loudly and looking at Clark's hand. "You're not married, am I right?" she asked blatantly.

"No, at least not…no," Clark responded, hesitantly.

"Well then. I'm here to please. And just call me Veronica," she said coyly putting her hand on Clark's. "You must work out a lot," Veronica added as her hand moved toward Clark's bicep.

"No, not really," Clark answered, taking her hand. "But I would really appreciate it if you can you help me find the records of a Richard Thurston."

Veronica tilted her head and then looked behind her to see if any of her coworkers were nearby. "Come with me," she said, taking him toward her computer situated in the back of the large office.

***

Smallville, Kansas Tuesday, February 22, 1994 4:00 p.m. CST

Cindy Brady stared at the computer screen as she began work on her assignment for Mr. Kent's History class. <This was going to be easy,> Cindy thought as she found the web site for Frances Perkins.

She read:

***

As I look back on the tragic years since 1929, it seems to me that we as a Nation, not unlike some individuals, have been able to pass through a bitter experience to emerge with a newfound insight and maturity. We have had the courage to face our problems and find a way out. The heedless optimism of the boom years is past. We now stand ready to build the future with sanity and wisdom.

***

Obviously Frances Perkins was as, Mr. Kent had told his class, a very remarkable and courageous woman. She had helped put the intricacies of the Public Welfare and Social Security Systems together and in so doing had created a legacy for domestic policy that lasted until today. Back in 1935, Ms. Perkins couldn't possible have known the extent of that program, the millions of lives it would impact, or how each person would be consequently tied to their social security number. Today so many records are linked to that number—the number we are all given at birth. The number that…

<Wow! Of Course!> Cindy thought. She punched in some additional information and a different menu appeared. She tried a few combinations of things, frowned, paused and tried something else. She then smiled as the screen changed color and the specific material she needed scrolled by her eyes.

***

Smallville, Kansas Tuesday, February 22, 1994 4:30 p.m. CST

"Where is Clark?" Beatrice asked Martha Kent. "Did he get the message that we wanted to go over this one particular scene before the others got here and we had to begin the dress rehearsal?"

"Yes, Bea," Martha replied. "I know he got the message. But he had a couple of…uh errands to run. We could start without him. I'll read his lines from out here."

Libby Barton and Beatrice Drake moved to their spots and looked at the door through which Clark should be entering, and Beatrice delivered her line to an empty spot on the stage.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Mortimer, where have you been?

Clark heard his cue and hurried on to the stage adjusting his tie. "Your timing is perfect," Miss Libby said to him.

"I'll give you your cue line again," Beatrice told him.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Mortimer, where have you been?

Mortimer/Clark: I've been over to Dr. Gilchrist's. I've got his signature on Teddy's commitment papers. [He pats his pocket where the papers resided.]

When Clark touched his pocket, he, in reality, felt the papers that Veronica Kipling had provided him with. He now possessed copies of a whole slue of legal documents that all pertained to one Richard Thurston—birth certificate, driver's license, diplomas, tax records—but what was incredibly interesting was the fact that every one of them, every single one, was filed on the same date—two days before Thurston walked through the auditorium door to audition for 'Arsenic and Old Lace'.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Mortimer, what is the matter with you?

"Huh?" Clark asked, his mind having been elsewhere. "Oh, I'm sorry ladies. There have been some things on my mind lately. Let's keep going."

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: [Crossing to a spot below the dining table.] Running around getting papers signed at a time like this!

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Do you know what Jonathan's doing?

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: [Looking at Mortimer/Clark.] He's putting Mr. Hoskins and Mr. Spenalzo in together. It's a terrible thing to do—to bury a good Methodist with a foreigner. [She crosses to the window-seat as she finishes the line.]

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: [Crossing to the cellar door.] I will not have our cellar desecrated!

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: [Lifting up the window-seat, looking in and then dropping it.] And we promised Mr. Hoskins a full Christian funeral. Mortimer, you've got to stop Jonathan. He is down there burying them now.

Mortimer/Clark: [Crosses to the cellar door.] Oh he is, is he? Well, let him. [He shuts the cellar door.] Is Teddy in his room?

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Teddy won't be any help.

Mortimer/Clark: When he signs these commitment papers, I can tackle Jonathan. [He takes the papers out of his pocket and looks at them.]

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: What have they got to do with it?

Mortimer/Clark: You had to go and tell Jonathan about those twelve graves. If I can make Teddy responsible for those, I can protect you, don't you see?

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: No, I don't see.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Well, if you're not going to do something about Mr. Spenalzo, we are.

Mortimer/Clark: I *am* going to do something. We may have to call the police in later, but if we do, I want to be ready for them.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: You've got to get Jonathan out of this house!

Clark paused. He knew his next line. But Miss Libby was right. He had to do something and do it right now.

"Yes I do," Clark told them as he walked toward the 'aunts' and took Beatrice's and Libby's hands, moving the two women toward the edge of the stage. "And I'm going to need your help ladies. And yours too, Mom."

"What is it Clark?" his mother asked coming up on stage.

"Mom, Beatrice, Miss Libby," he began. "This may be hard to believe but Richard Thurston is…" "Lex Luthor," Libby Barton finished.

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday, February 24, 1994 1:10 p.m. CST

Lex Luthor sat behind the massive mahogany desk that was once his and now belonged to his son, Jaxon. Resurrection had worked. He was alive. But he was Richard Thurston, an interesting dalliance, but not who Lex craved to be. Thurston was an actor and he had Lois Lane, but he lacked power, he lacked control. And, when he dealt with others, there no longer was the cowering fear in their eyes—the look that fed Lex's hunger, provided him with the necessary sustenance for existence.

Since his resurrection, Lex, alias Richard, had assumed the role of financial advisor to Jaxon and was ministering to all of the Luthor holdings. He, in essence, had become Jaxon's silent partner. His name, that is the name of Richard Thurston, now appeared on all of the ever- increasing facets of the Luthor Empire. But it was simply not enough. He had to have it all!

Luthor walked over to the bar and poured himself a Brandy. He gazed down at the warm color of the liqueur and swirled it in his glass, smiling. Lex looked into the mirror behind the bar, noting that his reflection no longer sported the goatee as he prepared for his on-stage role; and grinning, he then raised the glass toasting himself. "Here's to seizing opportunities," he said aloud, paraphrasing Sun Tzu and crossing back to the desk. Lex opened the middle drawer and took out the list—the list with eight scratched out names and five remaining. He reached for the pen that rested in its marble holder and added yet another name— Jaxon Luthor.

The door opened and Jaxon Luthor entered the study.

Lex silently tore the top sheet of paper off of its pad, folded it and put it into his pocket.

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, February 25, 1994 3:55 p.m. CST

Clark reached into his pocket and removed the additional evidence that he had collected the last few days and spread it out on a small table at his mother's bookstore. Sitting across from him was Libby Barton who was going over her documentation and some notes she had made.

###

KSML ANNOUNCER: This is radio Smallville with the weekly community calendar. The American Red Cross is having a blood drive tomorrow at the United Church. Donors are welcome from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. And don't forget tonight is opening night for the Smallville Players presentation of the comedy 'Arsenic and Old Lace'. Tickets are on sale at the door for tonight's presentation and all day tomorrow at the Cabbages and Kings Bookstore for Saturday night's show. As there will only be two performances of this classic, director Martha Kent suggests that you get to the High School Auditorium early tonight and tomorrow to insure you get seats. So, from Dave Thomas at KSML, I say — Break a leg guys!

###

Martha Kent was busy closing up the store, but she stopped to listen to the announcement and then walked over to the counter to shut off the radio. She grabbed a sign from beneath the cash register and taped it in the window to announce that the store would be closing early due to opening night of the play.

The bell over the door tinkled as Beatrice Drake entered. Martha locked the door behind Beatrice and closed all the curtains.

"Well who goes first?" Martha asked as she and Beatrice sat down at the table beside Libby and Clark.

"Gentlemen first," Libby said. "What have you got Clark?"

"All right, I was to check on Bill Saxon, Deborah Joy LeVine and Vivian Cox."

"I understand about Bill Saxon. I just don't see what…how the others could have any connection," Beatrice muttered.

"It was just a hunch because that's when all of this seemed to start," Clark explained. "And, they all *do* have a connection to Lex Luthor. Bill Saxon, as you know, killed him; well…we all thought he did. Judge LeVine sentenced Jaxon and Lex to do community service—something he didn't like and Vivian Cox helped to defeat him at the school board meeting."

"Lex would kill the Judge and Vivian because of that?"

"Luthor's ego knows no bounds. He would do anything," Clark retorted.

"So what exactly did you find out?" Martha asked her son.

"A prisoner involved in the Topeka State Penitentiary riot had a visitor the day before. The visitor was an Edward Hanson," Clark informed them, looking at his notes. This Hanson was also in the courtroom when Judge LeVine was shot and I also found out that he was able to get a job as a baggage handler at the Los Angeles Airport for a few days. The NIA is searching for him but haven't been able to track him down."

"How did you get all that information?" Beatrice asked.

"I had some help," Clark told her awkwardly, adjusting his tie.

"Well, I guess it's my turn," Beatrice said to the others. "All right, my assignment was to check on the deaths of Sheldon Bender, the man at the granary and…and… Mayson," she explained softly.

"Are you okay?" Martha asked.

"Yes," Beatrice replied taking a deep breath. "I need to do this."

"I've known Rachel Harris since she was a child," Bea went on. "She and Mayson were friends…well Rachel was kind enough to talk to me. She has been working hard on these three murders. The bomb in Mayson's car fits the M.O. of, ready for this, an Edward Hanson and a gun recovered in the sewer drain near the high school was traced to the same guy. The DNA results that Rachel ordered on the body found in the granary are a positive match to Hanson, so I guess he's now dead."

"So, maybe a stone wall there," Clark suggested. Mom?" he asked. "Did you find out anything?"

"Gretchen Kelly pronounced the deaths of Nigel St. John, Antoinette Baines and Barb Friskin as accidents and a suicide; and then she, herself, accidentally died," Martha explained. Mayor Cox opened up the city's records when I told him that what I was doing might ultimately link up to the cause of his wife's death. He seemed incredulous, but trusts me.

When I searched Dr. Kelly's office, I discovered this," Martha said as she put a disc on the table. "Jimmy helped me open it and I found the altered results of the autopsies along with the true results. Nigel St. John was actually poisoned, Dr. Baines was drugged before the explosion at the hospital happened and Barb Friskin was shot from at least six feet away and the gun forced into her hand. A tape recorder found in her office recorded the sound of a door opening, the shot and the door closing—nothing else."

"So Dr. Kelly's death was probably not accidental as well," Clark mused. "Miss Libby?" Clark encouraged.

"My job was to check on Jaxon and Richard. Thanks to Veronica Kipling, the name you gave me, Clark, I found out that Richard is now a sort of silent partner to everything that Jaxon owns, that is, that Lex used to own. I also discovered that large sums of money have been removed from various accounts just before the deaths and that the payoffs had been transferred to or deposited into accounts of, guess who, Edward Hanson who was once an employee of a Metropolis company that Lex owns. And, even more interesting, Hanson's power of attorney, namely one Richard Thorston has recently retrieved all of the cash in Hanson's account.

"So," Clark began to sum up. "Lex is Richard Thurston. He used Edward Hanson to kill eight people and then he or maybe Jaxon murdered Hanson."

The women all nodded. "But," Beatrice added. "No one will believe us. We have this wonderful theory and it all ties together. But it's based on a faulty premise—that Lex Luthor either did not die or has somehow miraculously been revived."

"Resurrected," Clark said, pulling out the small piece of paper and adding it to the pile in front of them.

"When I searched the coroner's office," Martha paused and slowly looked over at Miss Libby, "I also found this," she said, placing a singed and blackened small red-bound leather volume on the table—a volume with a discolored LB on the cover.

Miss Libby closed her eyes. "I guess it's time to tell you all a story."

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, February 25, 1994 5:05 p.m. CST

Lois looked at the small volume of David Thoreau's 'Walden Pond' that lay on the nightstand next to her bed. Clark had given her this first edition for Christmas. She didn't have to open it to remember the words he had written on the inside cover, which were the same as… Lois opened the drawer of the nightstand in her bedroom to look once again at the pink stone—the stone once encased in crystal—and the words etched into it. She shoved the drawer shut. She had to stop doing that. She had to forget—forget his gentleness, his warmth, his kisses.

"Oh, Clark," she whispered, as she pictured him holding her. No! He had broken her heart. He had hurt her just like the other men in her life, just like… No! Lois ricocheted back—Clark *was* different and she missed him— she missed him terribly. The pain that resided in the pit of her stomach just wouldn't go away. The numbness of her existence over the past three weeks couldn't relieve the pain.

Each day she walked by Clark's classroom and had wanted to whisper his name, to say something that only he could hear—to beg him to reconsider their lives together. Her past had been abysmal and now without him, she had no future to look forward to.

But Clark didn't want her in his future. He didn't appear to be suffering as she was. Because he was, after all, the man of steel. And steel couldn't get hurt, steel couldn't…couldn't feel.

But that wasn't true. Lois knew better than that. Clark could feel and Clark could get hurt—maybe not physically— but she knew that she had hurt him in the past and that his hurting her was painful to him. Logically she knew why he believed that their separation was the best thing for both of them—but he was wrong.

During 'hell' week—the week of technical rehearsal, and dress rehearsals, she had had to act with Clark every night. She had to hold him, to kiss him, to tell him she loved him. He appeared stoic during rehearsals, but at times Lois sensed that if he could take back these three weeks, he would.

But is that what Lois really wanted? If Clark asked her to come back, would she fall into his arms? He had hurt her, hurt her terribly. And even as much as he might still love her—his need to protect her—would always be there. Maybe he was right. Superman was meant to be alone and Lois was…

There was a knock at the front door. That would be Richard. He was picking her up to take her to the play.

***

There was a knock at the door of the bookstore. The three at the table ignored the sound as they listened, mesmerized, to Libby Barton's gothic tale of horror that was her family.

"A grandfather who conducted scientific experiments, two weird aunts, a cellar full of bodies," Beatrice interjected. "This is all too familiar," she reminded them as she thought about the play that would be opening in less than three hours.

"Don't forget, an evil brother who comes back with a different face. My god, this is bizarre," Martha concluded. "Are you sure someone didn't sit down and write this scenario. How in the world are we going to get anyone to believe this?"

"We're not," Clark said. "We can't tell people the whole story. We have to get Lex on just one charge and get Rachel to arrest him. I'm sure that once behind bars, Luthor will plead out this entire mess, rather than have the whole ugly truth come out."

"But what can we get him on?" Beatrice asked, as they all heard the incessant banging on the door continue—no one wanting to move from their spot. "We couldn't even get proof on his previous crimes. I know that he killed his wife, Cindy's father and my…my husband. He just seems to be above the law."

"No one's above the law. We'll find something," Clark told them as Martha reluctantly got up from the table and opened the door to Veronica Kipling.

"Is Clark here?" the woman asked. "I've got something else for him."

***

I've got something else for you," Richard told Lois as he turned her around and placed a diamond necklace around her neck.

"This is too much," Lois told him, putting her hand up to touch the stones.

"We have to celebrate opening night, don't we?" he asked, taking her hand and kissing her palm.

Lois withdrew her hand. "We should get going," Lois suggested. "It takes over an hour to change your handsome face into that of a monster."

***

"He's a monster," Beatrice told the others as Martha brought Veronica back to where they were working. "He has to be stopped. We have to do…to do something." she urged, trying to gain control of her emotions.

Veronica handed several copies of documents to Clark. "I was in the neighborhood," she said smiling at him. "Maybe these can help."

"How?" Clark asked, offering her a chair.

"Well," Veronica said. "This is a copy of a notice going out to Jaxon Luthor and Richard Thurston regarding their entry into sports promoting. It concerns the regulations regarding steroids and other illegal substances that sports figures occasionally indulge in."

"So, were they trafficking? Can we use that?" Clark asked.

"Apparently there's not enough proof to get them on possessing or dispensing drugs. But there is this," Veronica said shuffling the papers and pointing to a bill of lading. "It seems that the Luthors received a shipment of anabolic steroids masquerading as sports equipment, from an underground lab in Texas—one that the feds were watching. But when the feds got to the Luthors, they could find nothing."

"If nothing was there," Martha interjected, "Then he can't be arrested."

"Well, not exactly," Veronica responded, pointing to a final piece of paper.

"Kansas officials require drug dealers to purchase drug tax stamps as soon as the seller takes possession of the illicit substance. Luthor can be gotten on failure to pay the tax," she explained.

"You're kidding," Beatrice said to her.

"It worked for Capone," Clark reminded them.

"Kansas actually has a law that requires drug dealers to pay a tax to do something that is illegal in the first place?" Martha asked incredulously.

"That's not the stupidest law on the books," Veronica told them. "Throughout Kansas, it is illegal for restaurants to sell cherry pie a la mode on Sundays. In Wichita, it is illegal to carry a concealed bean snapper. In Lang, it is illegal to ride a mule down Main Street in August, unless the animal is wearing a straw hat, and in Natoma, Kansas, it is illegal to throw a knife at any one wearing a striped shirt."

"How…how…?" Miss Libby asked looking her.

"Just bits of extraneous trivia," Veronica explained. "My head's full of useless stuff."

"Well, ladies. It looks like we've got our work cut out for us," Clark said looking at his watch. "But we have to get to the theatre. We'll meet after the show and plan our next moves. We've only got until tomorrow night before Richard may disappear."

***

Cindy Brady put the last touches on Richard Thurston's face and stepped back to survey her work. He looked as close to Boris Karloff as she could muster. She had squared his face somewhat, darkened his eyes to make them appear sunken in, added height and mass to his forehead and placed a couple of scars in pertinent locations on his face and neck.

"Well Richard Thurston is no longer here," Cindy said smiling. "Welcome Jonathan Brewster."

"Great job," Keith told her as he entered the dressing room.

"Thanks," she replied. Got to go do the ladies, now," Cindy said and took off carrying her large make-up kit.

Veronica Kipling came waltzing around the corner of the cyclorama almost plowing into Cindy as the make-up artist came out of the men's dressing room.. "Is Clarkie around?" she asked Cindy Brady. "Oh never mind. I see him," she said rather loudly as she noticed Clark entering the back stage area.

Lois came out of the women's dressing room looking for Cindy and turned to see a young woman come running up to Clark.

The clinging brunette put her arm into his and looked up at him adoringly. "Oh Clarkie," Veronica tried to purr but it came out more like a sick cat than an engaging one. "Here are some flowers for good luck," she told him as she turned to look at Lois who had moved closer. "My Clarkie is the star of the show. Are you anybody?"

Lois angrily took a step toward her and Clark hastily moved between the two women. "You don't want to go there," he told Veronica.

"No, she doesn't, Clarkie," Lois echoed, able to mimic Veronica's voice, and turned to go back to the women's dressing room.

"Lois," Clark called out.

"She doesn't take rejection well, does she?" Veronica offered, as Clark took a few steps after the departing Lois. "Clarkie", Veronica cooed, reaching out to stop him. "Can you take me to my seat?"

"Just go to the box office and tell Linda that you're my guest. She'll give you a ticket." Clark explained not looking at her, but gazing after Lois.

"Okay. And I'll see you after the show. Right? Clark?"

Clark looked down. "Sure," he responded reluctantly.

Veronica turned to walk out the side door toward the lobby.

***

In the lobby, Martha was welcoming several friends. She saw Veronica and helped her get a ticket and guided her to a seat in the center section.

Alice White entered the lobby carrying a bouquet of flowers. "How do I get these backstage to Perry," she asked Martha who had come up to greet her.

"I'll get them to Perry after the performance. It's bad luck for him to get them before the show. Actors are a highly superstitious lot and as a result, there are many superstitions related to the theatre," Martha told Alice. "I'm not sure I even know all of them. But let's see—you don't give flowers to an actor before the performance, only after. You don't mention the play 'Macbeth' by name; you don't whistle anywhere back stage but especially not in the dressing room. You don't say good luck to an actor, instead you say break a leg; and you don't peer out from behind the stage to look at the house."

Alice smiled at her. "Okay, I won't tempt fate. But please remember to give him the flowers later."

"Don't worry, I will." Martha looked at her watch and realized it was almost time to go back stage and talk to her actors. "Enjoy the show. You'll be surprised at how wonderful Perry is," she said to Alice "I always believed that he had the flare for the dramatic," she explained and then hurried out the side door to get back stage to her actors.

***

Lois was about to throw caution to wind as she took a peek from behind the curtain, which she knew was a definite "no- no" in theatre, but she couldn't resist. In the third row aisle seat, sat Veronica Kipling. She had her compact out and was reapplying some lip gloss. Lois shook her head. This Veronica person definitely was not Clark's type. But did Lois really know Clark's type? Did Clark even have a type? All she knew was that Clark had loved her and now, now he was dating that sophomoric bimbo. Lois glared at her.

"Lots of people are there?" Perry White asked her and took a peek over her shoulder. "Whew," he whistled low. "I wonder if Alice is there yet."

"Don't whistle," Lois told him, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "It's bad lu… Oh never mind," she said almost to herself, realizing that she had already had violated one cardinal rule. "Break a leg, Perry," she said and walked back to the dressing room to recheck her make-up.

Perry watched her leave and shook his head. Cindy came up to Perry. "I've finished everyone's make-up but yours, Mr. White."

"Well, I'm not on for quite awhile, can we wait a bit?" he asked.

"Sure," she replied as Perry headed back to the men's dressing room.

Clark was putting on his suit coat as Perry entered. Dan Scardino was lying down on the couch. Keith and Jimmy were sitting on some chairs, going over their scene together. "Are you nervous, Perry?" Clark asked him.

"Nope, just fine. Did you know that Elvis got nervous before every performance? Yep, he used to throw up regular as clockwork."

"Hey, not another Elvis story," Dan begged, sitting up. "Oh, Kent," he began.

"Yeah?" Clark responded, realizing again why Dan wasn't one of his favorite people.

"That girl you brought is sure some babe! She's got a bod on her."

"I didn't br…" Clark began and abruptly stopped. "Scardino, uh…I have to help Beatrice, Libby and my Mom do some special things for the Smallville Players after the show tonight. Could you possibly escort Veronica out for a drink or something and then make sure she gets home, safely?"

"But isn't she with you?" Dan asked.

"No, not exactly *with* me," Clark explained. "I would really appreciate it, Dan."

"Sure, okay, no problem," Dan said grinning.

Clark walked over to the mirror. He adjusted his tie and he, too, smiled. No problem for Dan, but one big problem off his hands. Now he could devote his energy to getting through the play tonight, getting Lex tomorrow and getting Lois back.

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, February 25, 1994 7:40 p.m. CST

"Well," Martha said looking carefully at the assembled cast waiting for their usual opening night pep talk. "This really has been a very difficult time for each and every one of us," she said looking first at her old friend, Beatrice Drake, and then at Libby Barton.

"And I realize that as we have followed the philosophy of 'the show must go on', we have probably offended every theatre hobgoblin in the process and most likely broken several fundamental rules of theatre superstition along the way. I'm just glad that, at least, we're not doing the 'Scottish Play'," she said carefully.

"Scottish Play?" asked Perry.

"Yes, Macbeth," Donald Botts said quickly and then cupped his hand to his mouth.

Martha glared at him. "I'm not usually a superstitious woman, but we have worked so long and so hard that I believe we need something to help us do what we have to do," she said eyeing Clark, Libby and Beatrice. There *is* a way to override any theatre faux pas that we might have engaged in," she explained passing around a sheet of paper to each of the actors. "If we intone this speech together, we will extinguish the possibility of failure and scare off the bad gremlins."

"Now surely Mrs. Kent," Richard interjected condescendingly. "You don't really believe this nonsense. Do you? People create their own success. 'If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles'."

"Sun Tzu, 'The Art of War'," Clark stated looking over at him. "This is not a war, Thurston."

"All encounters are like warfare, Kent."

"Right," Clark said sharply. <And our war escalates now, Luthor!> he thought to himself.

"All right, everyone," Martha said, waving the piece of paper at them. "Let's all get into a circle and read this together. Needed or not, we can get the theatre spirits on our side; and if nothing else, this is a good vocal exercise to get us going for tonight's show."

The cast of the Smallville Players production of 'Arsenic and Old Lace' moved to form a circle and in unison read out loud:

If we shadows have offended, Think but this,—and all is mended,— That you have but slumber'd here While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend; If you pardon, we will mend.

And, as I am an honest Puck, If we have unearned luck Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue, We will make amends ere long;

Else the Puck a liar call: So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends.

"Now," Martha continued. "Let's all join hands and have a moment of silence to remember friends and loved ones that are no longer here."

Jonathan, standing in between Martha and Cindy, took their hands. Richard standing next to Lois on one side and Miss Libby on the other, took Lois' extended hand but didn't reach out for the older woman's offered hand.

Miss Libby looked over at Richard contemptuously, and then reached out with her other hand to take Martha's waiting palm on the other side of her. The two women smiled at each other and Martha squeezed Libby's hand.

Perry seeing Thurston neglect Libby, moved from his spot by Jimmy and Keith to stand beside her and clasped her unoccupied hand.

After Richard took Lois' hand, she looked to her left, paused and then took the hand that Clark extended toward her. Out of habit, their fingers interlocked. The warmth of Clark's hand encircling hers felt strong, yet gentle and reassuring.

The two looked at each other.

Clark could see the pain resting just beneath the surface of Lois' brown eyes and knew that he had ridiculously put the hurt there. Three friends had died—friends who would never again feel the warmth of someone they loved. Yet he had pushed his one love away, and had done it by choice. How stupid could one man be? He had given in to fear and cowardice—he the man of steel, the great superhero had let criminals dictate to him.

Lois bit her lower lip and looked away from Clark.

Clark watched her turn away from him and toward Richard. He couldn't have lost her, he just couldn't.

He thought back to the first play he and Lois had performed together. Her character in that play was the one who was ashamed, scared, uninspired—so far from Lois' real persona. Clark knew the real Lois. She had been so magnificent, so brave and so creative in her quest to achieve what was right for those around her and for her newly adopted community. How in the world could he have behaved like a half-witted lunkhead when he had that model as an example? The words of Professor Tommy Turner came back to haunt him.

Tommy/Clark: …and if we surrender to prejudice and dictation, we're cowards.

Clark remembered how Lois had looked at him when he argued for truth and justice during that play. If only she would look at him that way again.

He refocused as he heard his mother begin the final words of encouragement.

"Now I know all of you will do your best. It's hard doing a comedy given the tragedy we have endured of late," she acquiesced. "But there was a character that I once played on stage that had this great line. It was 'laughter through tears is my favorite emotion'. Right now we can help bring some laughter into people's lives so, okay, everyone get out there and have a great show," Martha told her cast.

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, February 25, 1994 7:50 p.m. CST

Jaxon Luthor stood in front of the massive desk where his father had stood the day before, and pulled open the center drawer. He once more checked the contents of the locked lead box. Yes, the Kryptonite was there ready for use. Alongside the box was his father's script for the play. Jaxon flipped through the pages reading some of the lines and especially the copious notes the elder Luthor had made.

Jaxon's father had written critiques about the author's words and about Martha Kent's interpretation—none of which were flattering.

Several lines jumped off the page.

Mortimer: Well, Teddy was always my favorite brother.

Elaine: Favorite? Were there more of you?

Mortimer: There's another brother—Jonathan.

Elaine: I never heard of him. Your aunts never mention him.

Mortimer: Now, we don't like to talk about Jonathan. He left very early—by request. Jonathan was the kind of boy who liked to cut worms in two—with his teeth.

Next to this line, Lex had written: A poor description of a visionary character but it does bring back memories of a young Jaxon.

Jaxon stared at the note, anger rising in him. He flung the script across the desk and as he did so, it came to rest by the note pad Jaxon's father had been using the previous day.

The Luthor scion removed a pencil from the desk drawer and started to carefully shade the blank page that was now on the top of the pad. The indentations of eight scratched out names appeared as did five, no six remaining names. Jaxon stared at his own name at the bottom of the list and reached for the phone.

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, February 25, 1994 8:15 p.m. CST

As scene two began, Lois took her place in back of the flats that masked the Brewster's front door. Clark, Miss Libby and Beatrice were on stage providing the audience with exposition.

Mortimer/Clark: All right—now—who was the first one?

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: [Crossing from above the table to walk toward Mortimer/Clark.] Mr. Midgely. He was a Baptist.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Of course, I still think we can't claim full credit for him because he *just* died.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Martha means without any help from us. You see, Mr. Midgely came here looking for a room—

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: It was right after you moved into Metropolis.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: And it didn't seem right for that lovely room to be going to waste when there were so many people who needed it—

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: —He was such a lonely old man…

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: All his kith and kin were dead and it left him so forlorn and unhappy—

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: —We felt so sorry for him.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: And then when his heart attack came— and he sat dead in that chair [Pointing to the armchair beside the table.] looking so peaceful—remember, Martha— we made up our minds then and there that if we could help other lonely old men to that same peace—we would!

A few slight titters came from the audience.

Mortimer/Clark: He dropped dead right in that chair! How awful for you!

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Oh, no, dear. Why, it was rather like old times. Your grandfather always used to have a cadaver or two around the house…

The audience laughed a little more loudly.

"Well, they're warming up," whispered Jimmy who had slipped quietly in behind Lois. Jimmy was not due on until the middle of Act III, but he hated to wait it out in the dressing rooms and he loved to watch the show from the wings.

Lois nodded, but her eyes were fixed on Clark.

Mortimer/Clark: And that's how all this started—that man walking in here and dropping dead.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Of course, we realized we couldn't *depend* on that happening again. So—

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: [Crosses to Mortimer/Clark.] You remember those jars of poison that have been up on the shelves in Grandfather's laboratory all these years?

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: You know your Aunt Martha's knack for mixing things. You've eaten enough of her piccalilli.

More laughter.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Well, dear, for a gallon of elderberry wine I take one teaspoonful of arsenic, then add a half teaspoonful of strychnine and then just a pinch of cyanide.

Mortimer/Clark: [Appraisingly.] Should have quite a kick.

The audience howled, and Lois could hear, above all the others, the irritating laughter of one particular member of the audience. She frowned.

"Well," Jimmy whispered. "CK has them all in the palm of his hands, especially the chick he brought. She's really a look…ooops sorry Lois."

Lois turned to retort Jimmy's statement but stopped when she realized it was just about the cue for her entrance. <So Mr. Clark Jerome Kent has the audience on his side, including little Ms. Kipling.> Lois thought. Well, she'll spark an even better performance out of him. Martha had mentioned during the last week that Lois wasn't sexy enough—that she wasn't coming on to Clark the way her character should be continually doing.

Martha's vision of Elaine, which she had explained several times to Lois, was that Elaine being a Minister's daughter had heightened that character's need to play against type— to be seductive, enticing. Martha believed that Elaine should have Mortimer drool over her and, therefore, would cause him to constantly be fighting with himself to make his character push Elaine away while he deals with all the twists and turns of the plot.

Okay, Lois would do just that. She smiled. She would create a much more flirtatious character and on stage, she would have him begging for mercy in no time. And then, off stage, Clark would come crawling back to her and then she…she would simply toss him aside, the way he did her.

[Mortimer/Clark crosses to the window-seat, kneels down, raises the cover and looks in. Not believing, he lowers the window-seat cover, rubs his eyes, and then raises it again. This time he really sees Mr. Hoskins. He closes the window- seat hastily, rises, steps back. Morter/Clark runs over and closes the curtains over the window. He backs up to just above the table and sees the water glass sitting there, which he picks up, and raises to his lips. He suddenly remembers that poisoned wine comes in glasses and puts it down quickly. He crosses to the cellar door and opens it.]

Clark's opening the cellar door was Elaine's cue. Lois walked in, put her bag on the desk and walked deliberately toward Clark.

Mortimer/Clark: [Speaking with faint surprise.] Oh, it's you.

[Elaine/Lois goes to him and takes his hand.]

Martha had directed that she do this particular action, but then Lois took it further. She looked up at Clark seductively, and then pulled him over to the window- seat and shoved him down, sitting on his lap. Lois ran her fingers through his hair and then stroked the side of his face playfully while saying her next lines.

Elaine/Lois: Don't be cross, darling! Father could see that I was excited—so I told him about us and that made it hard for me to get way. But listen, darling—he's not going to wait up for me tonight.

Lois began nibbling at Clark's ear.

Mortimer/Clark: Uhm…uhm…

Clark Looked down at the window-seat, which was his supposed action. But then he frowned, stood up holding Lois in his arms and set her on her feet abruptly.

Clark stared at Lois. What had gotten into her? This was not the way they had rehearsed this scene. Was she telling him that she…No! There was a hint of mischief in her eyes now. Well two could play at that game.

Mortimer/Clark: You run along home, Elaine, and I'll call you up tomorrow.

He turned her and gave her a small slap to her behind, shoving her toward the door.

Lois turned on her heels.

Elaine/Lois: Tomorrow! But that's so very far away. [She throws her arms around him and kisses him on the lips.]

Martha watched the action on stage from her seat in the back row. What was Lois doing? Her line was simply "Tomorrow!", and Martha did not block that last kiss. As the director, she had told Lois that there appeared to be no chemistry between the two of them recently. Perhaps Lois was finally getting into character a little more and Clark was responding.

No, Martha realized. Lois had a purpose in all this. <Ah, Veronica,> Martha thought and then smiled. Well, knowing her son, Clark had already added that slap and would continue reciprocating. She normally would be angry at the change of blocking and added dialog, but…maybe this was the push they both needed. She chuckled softy. Tonight's show was going to be fun.

***

The curtain came down and the house lights went up, signaling intermission. Martha stood up and hurried out of the auditorium. The first half of the show had gone exceedingly well. The audience was obviously enjoying it, but not as much as she was—especially as she watched the cat and mouse give and take of Elaine and Mortimer.

Martha could sense the passion beneath their looks, the restrained desire with every touch and the suggestive innuendo of each phrase they uttered. It was exactly how she had wanted it to be. Their acting was perfection. Hopefully the two of them could see that they were no longer acting—that they deeply and fiercely loved each other and that nothing could or should interfere with that love. Least of all *him*.

Martha rounded the corner and turned down a hallway.

***

At the same moment, Beatrice Drake hurried off stage and grabbed her set of keys. Libby Barton joined her and they both moved quickly down the hall for the planned meeting. They heard footsteps and looked behind them to see Martha Kent coming from the front of the auditorium to join them there. As they moved into the classroom, Clark was already there pacing the room, waiting for them.

"Do you think she'll do it?" Libby asked the other three.

"She just has to," Beatrice responded.

Clark walked up to Beatrice, taking her hand. "Rachel, will. I'm sure she…," he began and then got a faraway look in his eye. "Mom," he said, moving toward the door. "I forgot to get my props ready for the third act. You three talk to Rachel and fill her in on the plan. I have to go."

***

Lois looked at her face in the mirror as she repaired her make-up. The additional brief teasing kisses she had added to the script during Acts I and II had eroded a great deal of her lipstick. She smiled at her reflection as she realized that her actions on stage had had an amazing impact on Clark. His delivery of lines was more breathless, his touching her more eager and his eyes more intensely demanding. She *had* him.

Now in the final Act she would pull away, she would be cold, she would be standoffish which is what the script called for—but she would make sure that underneath that aloofness was a hint of 'you can have me if you want me'. But she would not give in. She would not let him win. He could have his Ms. Kipling. She had other fish to fry. She opened the drawer at the right side of the make-up table and glanced at the velvet box that contained the diamond necklace Richard had given her.

Lois sighed, closed the drawer and looked up into the mirror and gasped. Behind her own reflection she saw that of a monster. She sighed again as she realized it was Richard. He came toward her and put his hands on her neck and moved his cold fingers slowly to massage her. Lois shrugged him off. "Don't, Richard. I have to fix my make-up and hair, and change my costume."

"What is it Lois?" he asked.

"Just getting into character for the last act, getting ready for the final curtain, I guess."

***

Sheriff Rachel Harris walked up the aisle to the lobby. The note that Linda Botts had slipped her just before the curtain went up asked that she meet Beatrice during intermission in classroom 177, which was just down the hall from the auditorium. Rachel wondered what would cause the actress to use those few minutes she had to rest, to speak to her. The Sheriff knew that Beatrice still had questions about her daughter's death, but Rachel hadn't any more news to tell her since they had spoken two days before. This had been hard on Mayson's mother, Rachel knew that; and it was difficult for the Sheriff to inform Beatrice that the investigation remained stalled.

When Rachel entered the room, Beatrice pulled her in and closed the door. The Sheriff looked at the small group of anxious women.

"We only have about ten minutes," Beatrice told her daughter's childhood friend. "So just listen to the three of us."

***

Highway 17 Just outside Smallville, Kansas Friday, February 25, 1994 9:40 p.m. CST

Superman landed hurriedly and pulled open the door of the wrecked car and removed the man to safety.

"My little girl," the man yelled.

Since the door on the passenger side was mangled, Superman ripped open the top of the car and carefully lifted a young child of about three out of the snarled metal.

"Is she, is she?" the father asked with fear in his eyes.

"She's alive," Superman told him. "But she's hurt badly."

"Do something, Superman," the man begged.

"I'll fly her to the hospital. I can hear one of the sheriff's cars coming. Get them to take you there."

The man of steel flew up into the sky with his small charge. He noted the time on the clock tower as he passed it. <Please, Lois. I need you to cover for me.> He thought.

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, February 25, 1994 9:42 p.m. CST

The lights in the lobby blinked several times to inform the audience that the show was about to start again. The patrons chattering happily to each other filed back into the auditorium. The house lights dimmed and then blacked out. Two audience members hurried down the aisle to their seats.

Martha slipped into her seat in the back row.

[After Intermission, the curtain rises on an empty stage. The window-seat is open and the audience can see that it is empty. The curtains over the windows are closed. All doors except the cellar door are shut. Aunt Abby's hymnal and black gloves are on the sideboard. Aunt Martha's hymnal and gloves are on the dining room table. Otherwise the room looks the same as it did before Intermission. As the curtain continues to rise, the audience hears a row from the cellar, through the open door.]

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: You stop doing that!

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: This is our house and this is our cellar and you can't do that.

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Ladies! Please! —Go back upstairs vere you belong.

JB/Richard: Abby! Martha! Go upstairs!

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: There's no use your doing what you're doing because it will just have to be undone.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: I tell you we won't have it and you'd better stop it right now.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: [Entering from the cellar.] All right! You'll find out. You'll find out whose house this is. [She crosses to the front door, opens it and looks out. She then closes it.]

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: [Entering.] I'm warning you! You'd better stop it! [Crosses over to where Aunt Martha/Miss Libby is standing.] Hasn't Mortimer come back yet?

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: No.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Where do you suppose Mortimer went?

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: [Moves down stage, further away from the cellar door.] I don't know, but he must be doing something—because he said to Jonathan. 'You just wait, I'll settle this.'

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Well, he can't very well settle it while he's out of the house. That's all we want settled— what's going on down there.

Miss Libby and Beatrice look toward the door expecting Clark to enter hurriedly, but as in the rehearsal a few days ago, they are looking at an empty spot on the stage.

"I…I hope that Mortimer gets here soon," Beatrice Drake ad libbed, looking worriedly over at Libby.

Lois, who was standing in the wings, stage left, realized that the ladies were in trouble as Mortimer had not made his entrance. Where could Clark be? He wouldn't miss an entrance. Where…she knew where. Lois rushed behind the masked door and quickly entered the living room.

"Where is Mortimer?" Lois said, stalling for time.

"That's what we were wondering," Libby responded, she too beginning to understand.

Beatrice looked back and forth at the two of them, deliberating what to say next.

Lois began pacing the living room set. "He's…he's always running off like that. It's like being engaged to Su, uh… some doctor or something. It's really hard," she said dropping onto the sofa.

"I know, dear," Libby Barton told her, sitting down next to her, realizing what she needed to hear. "But he loves you so very much."

"Does he?" Lois asked, looking at Miss Libby with tears welling up in her eyes.

"Of course he does," Beatrice added and sat down on the other side of Lois.

"Mortimer worships you," Libby said, stroking Lois' hair as she stared directly at her, knowing that Lois would understand.

"Maybe too much," Lois said looking from one to the other. "He's always trying to protect me, keep me safe, and by doing that control me."

"Thoreau said, 'the remedy for love is loving more'," Beatrice said.

Lois smiled at Beatrice. "I know, and I *do* love him so much," she admitted. "But you saw how he treats me. He just keeps pushing me away," she explained and looked out toward the audience as if just remembering that they were there. "Uh…every time I came into this house he…uh…Mortimer told me to go away."

Out in the audience, Martha was holding her breath. Clark should be back soon, but what was going on, on stage, was incredible. Lois* was incredible and Martha realized again how wonderful that young woman was and how stupid her son had been the last few weeks. How could he have thrown away this relationship?

Clark adjusted his tie and moved to stand behind the masking of the front door. He listened, realizing that Lois was out there with Libby and Beatrice. He knew, he just knew that she would always be there for him. Clark heard Lois say that she loved Mortimer, but that Mortimer… No, she wasn't talking about Elaine and Mortimer, she was talking about them.

Clark entered through the living room door.

Beatrice looked at him relieved, and returned to the script.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: [Crossing to Mortimer/Clark.] Mortimer, where have you been?

Mortimer/Clark: I've been over to Dr. Gilchrist's. I've got his signature on Teddy's commitment papers.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: [Rising and joining Aunt Abby/Beatrice.] Mortimer, what is the matter with you?

Clark walked over to Lois, knowing that he had to figure a way to get her off the set, he pulled her up off the sofa. "I love you…Elaine, but you have got to get out of here!" he exclaimed pushing her toward the door.

Lois sighed and opened the front door.

"But not before this," Clark told her and turned her around. He pulled her toward him and captured her lips in a quick kiss. "Thank you," he whispered and kissed her again. He gently pushed her through the door and closed it.

Lois leaned against the back flat after she exited the door. She took a deep breath and then reached up and touched her lips. The brief kisses had only left her wanting more. She closed her eyes. When she opened them, Richard was standing there looking at her.

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, February 25, 1994 10:25 p.m. CST

Martha Kent, sitting at the back of the auditorium, laughed loudly along with the rest of the audience as Mr. Witherspoon/Perry paused at the foot of the stairs, considered "charging the blockhouse", shook his head slowly and then walked sedately up the stairs toward Teddy/Donald Botts' room.

The director was pleased with Perry's handling of the scene. She had been so right to ask Beatrice for her help in order to coerce the Principal into joining the cast.

The four other actors on stage looked away from the stairs and then back to each other.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Well, Mortimer, now that we're moving, this house really is yours.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Yes dear, we want you to live here now.

Mortimer/Clark: No, Aunt Abby, this house is too full of memories.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: But you'll need a home when you and Elaine are married.

Mortimer/Clark: Darlings, that's very indefinite.

Elaine/Lois: [Rises and crosses to the left of Mortimer/Clark.] It's nothing of the kind—we're going to be married right away.

Lois put her hand on Clark's arm as directed by Martha and gazed sweetly up at him. She had been playing with Clark, torturing him and teasing him all evening. The character of Elaine had allowed her to do that. But for every step forward she took, she would take another step—step and a half back, pulling away from him, hurting him.

Lois noticed a glint of pain beneath his usually warm and inviting brown eyes. How had they let this happen to them? Was there a chance that he…that they…? <Concentrate!> she practically yelled at herself. You simply can't let him hurt you again. You're in charge now. Toy with him—but don't let him get to you, don't let him make you want him.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Mortimer—Mortimer, we're really very worried about something.

Clark tore his eyes away from Lois' and took a couple of steps away from her toward "the aunts."

Mortimer/Clark: Now darlings, you're going to love it at Happy Dale.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Oh, yes, we're very happy about the whole thing. That's just it—we don't want anything to go wrong.

Miss Abby/Beatrice: Will they investigate those signatures?

Mortimer/Clark: Don't worry, they're not going to look up Dr. Einstein.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: It's not his signature, dear, it's yours.

Miss Abby/Beatrice: You see, you signed as next of kin.

Mortimer/Clark: Of course. Why not?

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Well, dear, it's something we never wanted to tell you. But now you're a man—and it's something Elaine should know too. You see, dear—you're not really a Brewster.

[Mortimer/Clark stares at the aunts as does Elaine/Lois.]

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Your mother came to us as a cook—and you were born about three months afterward. But she was such a sweet woman—and such a good cook we didn't want to lose her—so brother married her.

Mortimer/Clark: I'm—not—really—a—Brewster?

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Now, don't feel bad about it, dear.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: And Elaine, it won't make any difference to you?

Mortimer/Clark: [Turning slowly to face Elaine/Lois, his voice rising.] Elaine! Did you hear? Do you understand? I'm a bastard!

[Elaine/Lois leaps into his arms, and as redirected by Martha during their last rehearsal, kisses him. The two aunts watch them as they kiss, glancing at each other now and then.]

Clark's kiss was supposed to be simple, sweet and brief; but as soon as Lois' lips touched his, he was swept away. All evening she had been taunting him, seducing him—yet keeping him just out of reach. The kisses had been great, but he desperately needed more. He urgently raised his hand, cupped the side of her face and deepened the kiss.

Lois knew she should pull back once again, but she couldn't. She sighed urgently into his warm, inviting kiss and instantly and completely matched his ardor, causing the aunts to look at each other.

Lois had missed him—his touch, his scent, his taste. All of her senses grabbed hold of the moment and hung on for dear life. This time it wasn't a dream and she needed this. She needed him. Lois had been living a cold, vacuous existence. There was no life without him there, wanting her, loving her.

Clark loved and needed her so much. Holding her in his arms like this made him complete. He had, all of his life, constantly grappled with thoughts of a far distant planet and of a people he never knew. Why was he sent here? What was his destiny? It was Lois who pointed him toward the answers to those questions. It was Lois who made him realize who he was and how he could make a difference.

Libby started to say her next line, which would have interrupted them, but Beatrice's hand came up to stop her. Miss Libby smiled at Beatrice and nodded. After a few more seconds of allowing them to kiss, "Aunt Martha" sighed and said her line.

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby: Well, now I really must see about breakfast.

As Lois didn't respond with her following line, Miss Libby coughed and ad-libbed.

"Mortimer…uh…Elaine? We hate to interrupt, but…but…"

Lois and Clark didn't seem to know where they were. The play was just a fantasy, the play was unreal. It wasn't 1938 and they weren't in a Victorian house owned by two charming innocent ladies who populate their cellar with the remains of lonely old roomers. There wasn't a brother who looked like Frankenstein or another brother who thought he was Teddy Roosevelt. There wasn't a Richard and there wasn't a Veronica. The only real thing was the two of them hungrily devouring each other.

Out in the audience, the Smallville Players' director smiled to herself. Normally she abhorred it when actors took it upon themselves to adlib unless another actor had gone up on their lines or hadn't arrived for their entrance. But during this evening's performance, adlibbing had been the rule rather than the exception. It had been needed to cover for each other and she *had* been grateful to Lois for helping out when Clark wasn't there. She should be angry at their changing everything when it wasn't necessary.

And yet this time, once again, Martha Kent inwardly applauded the adlibbing and thanked the two older women for giving Clark and Lois the chance to see that they really loved each other and that nothing should interfere with that love. They were too young to realize how quickly the years go by, how precious time is and how important having someone to share that time becomes.

Martha watched the two older women move about the stage and her face saddened. She was so grateful for Jonathan, Clark and her life. Libby was facing death and Beatrice was facing life alone. No one should be wasting the precious moments given them, least of all Lois and Clark who were meant for each other. No one should look back at a life of regret, a life of what ifs.

The director of the Smallville Players thought back on her life—no regrets, none— not really. She had taken a little time to accept Jonathan's proposal of marriage, but that was definitely the right choice as had been taking home that bundle they had found in Shuster's field—the baby wrapped in a blue blanket that had become their joy. She sometimes believed that her inability to have her own child, provided her with the opportunity to be there for Clark. Now it was Lois' turn. Clark had only to make it happen.

On stage, Lois and Clark had pulled apart as Libby's urging finally got through to the two younger actors.

As the unreal world of the stage became real again, Lois grasped the inconsistency of the moment. Clark obviously desired her but he didn't want her. He needed her to share his life but not be part of it. He wanted to hold her close but needed her to keep her distance.

"I really do need to see about breakfast, Elaine," Miss Libby repeated, as Lois stared blankly at Clark.

Lois realizing that it was her line and that she needed to get back into character, took Clark's hand once more and turned to Miss Libby.

Elaine/Lois: [Leading Mortimer to the door at the right side of the stage and opening it.] Mortimer's coming over to my house. Father's gone to Philadelphia, and Mortimer and I are going to have breakfast together.

Mortimer/Clark: Yes, I need some coffee—I've had quite a night.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: In that case I should think you'd want to get to bed.

Mortimer/Clark: [With a sidelong glance at Elaine/Lois.] I do.

Lois and Clark exited off stage with Clark's arm around Lois' waist as originally blocked. On stage the two aunts smiled as they saw Elaine and Mortimer leave and then turned to see Richard in the part of Jonathan Brewster pulled from the kitchen back into the living room, the police officers at his side. While Richard finished delivering his final lines, Clark turned Lois around.

"Lois, I…," he whispered and cupped her cheek once again.

"No," she said softly and put her hands up on his chest to push him away.

"No?" Clark asked, whispering again. He stared at her, not wanting her to move him away, to shut him out again. He closed his eyes and pleaded silently that the last two and a half weeks hadn't happened. He would give anything if he hadn't broken their engagement just to safeguard her. His over-protectiveness and righteousness had finally gotten in the way. Why couldn't he have trusted that Lois and he could conquer anything—that they would be there for each other? He opened his eyes as Lois retreated out of his embrace.

"Clark," she said, pulling him toward the dressing room area and watching behind him for Richard's final exit. "I'm sorry about that kiss on stage. I know that I started it— that I began teasing you during the whole show. I…I don't know why I let it happen," she told him, walking toward the dressing room door. "I guess I needed to get back at you," she said turning once more to face him. "Because remember it was *you* who broke up with me—you who hurt me."

"I know, but I need to be with you," Clark interjected insistently, fearfully knowing where this conversation was leading. He began to cross toward her.

"Until the next time you decide to break my heart for my own good," Lois responded, tears in her eyes, as he once more stood so close to her, his dark eyes searching hers. She closed her eyes and then mustering up all of her courage, looked up at him, the tears no longer there. Instead, there was a sense of resolve, a sense of purpose.

She breathed a deep sigh. "I survived it this time," she said emphatically. "I don't think I would again," she added, turning her eyes back to the stage.

"And Richard?" he asked.

"Richard…I don't know. He says he's in love with me."

"Lois, I have to tell you. Richard is…"

"I don't care if Richard is…is the monster he is portraying on stage. I'm not running *to* him, I'm running *away* from you. Maybe you *do* love me, but love doesn't mean you can define me. I define me."

"Lois, I'm completely in lo…"

"No! Don't!"

"Don't what?" Richard asked, coming up to the two of them.

"Don't…don't move. We have to line up for curtain call," Lois responded taking Richard's hand and guiding him to their spots on stage right where Clark's father and Keith were already waiting in position.

Clark leaned against the door of the dressing room, his eyes to the heavens. He took a deep breath. He had to regain his composure, as he was the designated person to give the curtain speech—a very important speech that he and his mother had worked on carefully.

Donald Botts, Jimmy, Wayne Irig, Dan and Dr. Mock came from the dressing room and moved to stage left. Clark took another deep breath and joined them.

The actors on both sides watched as the concluding lines were spoken.

Mr. Witherspoon/Perry: You don't see much elderberry wine nowadays—I thought I'd had my last glass of it.

Aunt Abby/Beatrice: Oh, no—

Aunt Martha/Miss Libby [Handing him a glass of wine.] No, have some of this.

[Mr. Witherspoon/Perry toasts the ladies and lifts the glass to his lips, but the curtain falls before he sips.]

The audience applauded loudly as behind the curtain, Perry and Miss Libby moved to join those off stage right while Beatrice came to stand beside Clark behind the proscenium.

"We did it," Beatrice said attempting a smile as tears welled up in her eyes. "Thank you so much, Clark."

Clark leaned down and gave Beatrice a kiss on the cheek.

The curtain opened again as Jimmy, Dr. Mock, and Dan entered from stage left while Keith, Perry and Jonathan Kent entered from stage right. When they met in the middle they all bowed and took a step back.

Donald Botts and Wayne Irig walked in from stage left as Richard came from stage right to stand between them. Donald and Wayne bowed and then Richard bowed, applause swelling proportionately.

Lois entered from stage right and Clark moved to meet her center stage. He took her hand and they walked forward and bowed, as the audience acknowledged their performances warmly.

Beatrice and Libby walked on stage amidst increased applause and joining hands moved forward for a final bow. They separated and Clark walked up to stand between them as Lois moved back to join Richard, taking his hand.

Clark raised his arms to quiet the audience down. He waited politely and looking over to where his mother would be standing, nodded and then began to speak. "We want to thank all of you for your applause," he said smiling and then looked out at all their friends and neighbors with a more somber look.

"This year our community of Smallville and especially our theatre group has suffered the loss of some very special people," he paused. "We want to dedicate our performances to them."

The audience applauded graciously.

"The Smallville Players," Clark continued, "has been the recipient of a magnanimous donation—an incredibly generous amount that we have decided to donate to the Aids Clinic in the name of our departed friends, Bill Saxon, Barb Friskin and Mayson Drake," he said squeezing Beatrice's hand.

Richard stiffened as he began to realize the enormity of what was about to happen. They were all imbeciles. Imagine giving away $100,000. They were a struggling group —a small community theatre in a small town—and they gave away $100,000. Ludicrous!

Lois noticed the change in Richard's posture. She dropped his hand and stared at him. He appeared disconcerted by the announcement. Well, it was a surprise to her as well, but a nice one. The look on Richard's face was repellent. But chalking it up to it being the monstrous make-up still masking what must be Richard's true feelings, Lois relaxed a bit and realized that he just couldn't be upset by the Players' wonderful gesture.

Lex Luthor shook off the incredulousness he harbored for these back woods dolts and attempted to get back into character. Richard Thurston would be sympathetic, bolstering, and shouting the praises of such a colossal, albeit moronic, overture of goodness.

Richard took Lois' hand once again and smiled at her. "Wonderful inspiration," he whispered to her, and leaned down to kiss the top of her head.

"The Aids Clinic is just really getting underway and has somehow lost most of its funding source," Clark went on. "So, we have decided to take it on as an ongoing charity. The Aids Clinic will be renamed Cherry Orchard Clinic and three cherry trees will be planted in memory of our three friends," he explained, looking over at Beatrice who, once again, had tears in her eyes.

Lois watched Clark as he spoke. Her eyes also glistened with tears as she heard Clark's words and felt his commitment. He was an incredible man and she was reminded of the respect and admiration she had for him.

She looked back at Richard. Comparing the two had begun to be an ongoing occupation. But how could she compare them? Clark was Superman. No! That wasn't the point. She had long ago given up thinking of Superman *as* a man. He was an idea, a hope, a guardian to us all. Clark was the man—an extraordinary man, even if he never was a Superman. He was kind, intelligent, gentle, strong, compassionate— obstinate, stubborn, bull-headed, contumacious and every other synonym she could possibly think of—after all she was an English teacher. Oh! One more! Of course, the word that seemed to describe him perfectly — Lunkhead!!!!

"But our donation is only a start," Clark continued. "The Clinic needs more. So, we are asking all of you to help us. Coming down the aisles on your left is Catherine Grant and Cindy Brady, both members of the Smallville Players and on your right is Sarah Goodwin, the new High School Counselor and Psychological Consultant to the Aids Clinic. With her is Dr. Bernard Klein, Medical Consultant to the Clinic. They are carrying buckets that will be passed out among you, so please, everyone," Clark said, radiating that wonderful smile of his, "dig down deep and be as generous as I know all of you are. Again the cast and crew thank you for being here and for supporting us."

The cast walked off the stage amidst loud applause. Clark watched Lois and Richard move away together as pain gripped his stomach. He had only felt pain like this once before, when he had been exposed to Kryptonite. <So that's what heartache feels like> he mused bitterly.

***

In the woman's dressing room, Lois finished removing her make-up. She had a few minutes as it would take Richard quite some time to remove his. Lois gathered the many flowers that were on the table that were addressed to her. She had roses from Perry, Jimmy, Beatrice and Libby and a really sweet bouquet from Jonathan Kent. There was also a small box with a note attached. "To Elaine from M," the envelope read and Lois smiled. Martha was just so wonderful. Always very appreciative of the work that the cast put into a play. She invariably presented each actor with a gift commemorating the show in some way—perhaps inside the box was a lace handkerchief or a small jar of elderberry preserves.

Lois went over to hug Beatrice and Libby, and then left the dressing room. Beatrice scurried out after her. "Lois," Beatrice began. "I'm so glad you supported me and that we went on with the play. Thank you for doing that for me."

"You're welcome," Lois said, giving her another hug.

"I want to do something for you," Beatrice told her.

"You don't have to."

"I do!" Beatrice exclaimed

"Remember on stage, when I quoted Thoreau?" she asked Lois.

"Yes. I do."

"I know you are a fan of his words and so am I. Listen to his words, Lois," Beatrice implored. "He said: 'Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.' Wake up Lois. You know what your dreams are!"

"Lois," a determined voice called out. "We have to go."

Lois shook her head. "I can't, Beatrice," Lois told her and turned to walk out with Richard.

***

Back in the dressing room, Libby Barton felt the pain shoot through her. She reached for her bag and taking out a small vial of pills, quickly swallowed two. The pills were having less and less an affect on the deep down center of the pain, but still helped to take some of the edge off. Libby realized that the end was drawing nearer and that it wouldn't be pleasant. She took a deep breath and willed herself to deal with the pain. There were things that were left unfinished. Not just the second night of the play, but…

"Are you all right, Miss Libby?" Cindy asked as she came into the dressing room to put away the make-up things and to hurry and catch up with Keith and some of their other friends.

"Yes, Cindy. I'm just a little tired. See you tomorrow."

Cindy closed the make up kits and returned them to their cupboards. "See you tomorrow," she echoed.

***

The well-wishers, family and friends of the various cast members had taken their respective actors out to celebrate and Martha waved them all off, congratulating them. She smiled as she saw Libby and Beatrice leave together. It was nice that they could lean on each other during what, for them, must be a trying time.

Martha looked over at Jonathan Kent as he was adjusting levers on the light board, closing everything down. She sighed. Jonathan was a wonderful husband—supporting her, nurturing her, loving her. She turned and saw her son standing alone.

It can't be this way. Clark deserved more than this. Most of his life he gave to everyone, helped everyone. She had feared that he would wind up alone, but the moment Martha met Lois, she knew otherwise. It would be otherwise, if she had to move heaven and earth—it would!

***

Out in the parking lot, several of the actors were congratulating each other again and making plans for after the show.

"Miss Lane!" Keith called out. "Why don't you and Mr. Thurston join us?"

"No!" Richard said sharply. "We have plans," he explained, toning his voice down a bit as he saw Lois' reaction. Richard took her arm gently and escorted her toward his car.

"*We'll* come with you," a shrill voice yelled out, as Veronica Kipling ran over to the group.

Lois turned to see Veronica clinging not on Clark's arm, but on Dan Scardino's.

"Danny and I would *love* to come with you. Wouldn't we Danny?"

"Aren't you here with Clark?" Jimmy asked joining the circle of actors, with his date, Sarah Goodwin.

"No," Veronica responded petulantly. "He said he had to do something with his mother. I didn't realize he was that kind. Believe me, you don't have to drop a house on me to know when I'm not wanted. Men!" she exclaimed to Sarah as she followed her and Jimmy. "You can't live without them and you can't shoot them,"

Richard opened the car door as Lois continued to be distracted by what the group was saying. "Lois?" Richard asked. "I do have a reservation at Pompeii's."

"Can you just take me home, Richard? I'm really tired."

***

Martha walked over to Clark who was leaning against the back of the proscenium. She reached up to stroke her son's face. "You look tired and we have an incredibly busy day tomorrow," she told her son. "And remember, we're planning a very early start. I know you don't need much rest, but tonight you should at least try to…"

"I've really lost her, mom. And it's my fault. All my life I've lived with not knowing where I'm from. But without Lois, I don't know where I'm going."

"Clark. From the day I first held you in my arms, I knew where you were going and what you were going to be. And the day I first met Lois, I knew that she was going to be an immensely important part of your life. Trust in yourself and most of all trust in her."

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, May 18, 1966 10:30 p.m. CST

"Well, Martha?" Jonathan asked? "I guess we've finally got what we always prayed for."

"He's beautiful," Martha said, holding the sleeping infant in her arms.

The baby stirred, opened his big brown eyes and looked up at his new parents.

"Clark Jerome Kent," his mother said softly.

"We're not sure where he came from," Jonathan told his wife as he reached out with his finger and watched his son grab on to it and smile up at him. "But one thing I do know. He's going to be loved, and he will be something incredibly special, just because *you* are his mother."

***

Smallville, Kansas Friday, February 25, 1994 11:10 p.m. CST

Lois watched Richard drive away. She took a deep breath and shut the front door. She took off her coat, throwing it on the back of the couch, grabbed a vase from the kitchen counter and arranged the roses and wildflowers. She carried them to her dining room table and placed them there. She picked up her coat to hang it up in the closet, and felt the box she had placed there on her way out of the theatre.

She took the small box out of her coat pocket and looked at the envelope attached. 'To Elaine from M.'. Lois opened the note. 'Things do not change, we change—Henry David Thoreau', the note read.

Lois opened the box. Inside was a beautifully simple charm bracelet. The charms dangling from the silver link chain were a schoolhouse, a book with the letters HDT engraved on it, an ear of Kansas corn, the initial 'L', and the masks of comedy and tragedy.

Martha could really be so kind, Lois appreciated. Each charm individually selected were so representative of Lois' life here in Smallville. The last two charms, however, were puzzling. They were a hay wagon and a small piece of pink quartz rock. She, of course, understood them—but Martha?

Lois looked at the note again. 'To Elaine from M.' she read one more time. Oh…oh…of course, Mortimer, she realized, not Martha. The gift was from Clark. Now it made all the sense in the world. Only Clark would… Lois held the bracelet delicately in her hand. Her other hand went up to her neck to feel the expensive diamond necklace. Lois looked at Clark's gift and then put the bracelet down on the table.

***

Back stage at the Smallville High School auditorium, Martha took her son's hand. "Have some faith, dear."

Clark bent down and gave his mother a kiss. "I love you, mom."

"I know," Martha told him. "Now let's talk tomorrow's changes."

***

Rachel Harris left the high school auditorium after the play and went straight to her office. She picked up the phone and dialed a long distance number. She realized that it would be after midnight at the other end—it would be tomorrow.

***

Beatrice Drake took the roses she had been given by several cast members and placed them in a vase. She carried the vase and set it in front of a picture of Mayson she had on her living room bookcase that contained most of her favorite things. "Tonight was for you," she whispered, kissing her fingers and touching the silver framed portrait. "And tomorrow…"

***

Libby Barton entered the house at 417 Maple where the ghosts of the past used to haunt her every day. Somehow, tonight, they seemed far away in some remote recesses of the past. Another stab of pain coursed through her body. She sank down on the sofa. Jinx number five jumped into her lap. <Please,> she prayed, stroking the cat. <If there is a god out there, let me get through tomorrow.>

***

Lex Luthor smiled as entered the study at the Luthor stronghold. From the look on Clark Kent's face when he and Lois had departed, Luthor had won that battle—but there was more of the war to come.

Jaxon Luthor watched his father close his study door and he looked at his watch. Twenty-four more hours and Lex Luthor alias Richard Thurston will take his final bow. Now if he could just wait until tomorrow.

***

'…we change', the note had read. Both of Lois' hands went around her neck where she unclasped the necklace and set it on the table next to the bracelet. Eyeing both of them, she gently picked up Clark's gift, his perfect gift and put in around her wrist. She touched the pink quartz and looked back at the necklace on the table. What should she do? "Tomorrow, I'll decide tomorrow."

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 26, 1994 8:30 A.M. CST

Martha Kent massaged her son's shoulders as they sat in her kitchen waiting for the others. "Clark," she began. "It will all work…"

"I know, mom," he said, smiling as he interrupted her.

There was a knock at the back door and Libby Barton and Beatrice Drake entered the warm, inviting room, which smelled of coffee and freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

"Sit down, please." Martha encouraged. "We have lots to do," she informed them as she went over to the stove.

Martha got them all coffee and sat down to join the conspirators. "Here are the new pages that Clark and I rewrote last night," she explained, reaching for the sheaves of paper in the center of the table and handing the copies around. "So, now let's put the plan into action. Beatrice, you are in charge of working with Rachel Harris. You've got to make sure that what we need gets here *on time*," she urged emphatically.

"Absolutely," Beatrice said.

"I'll talk to Dan, Jimmy, and Dr. Mock," Clark chimed in. "I'll get them clued in on what's going on and give them their new scripts. Dad already knows. Now Miss Libby, you take care of Cindy and Keith while Mom will handle Donald, Wayne and Perry.

"I gather that we're not letting Lois in on this," Beatrice said looking at Clark.

"No," Clark told her, pausing. "Not…not yet."

***

Roswell, New Mexico Friday, December 3, 1993 8:50 a.m. MST

Rebecca Schuler-Lathrop, age eighty-one, looked up at her daughter from the hospital bed she occupied. "Can you take me home? I…want to die…in my own bed," she requested. "You're the head doctor, the chief of medicine. Do something!"

"Mom, I…," Dr. Liz Lathrop began. "You don't have much time left."

Rebecca looked around her hospital room. "I worked for almost fifty years in…this hospital. You'd think I'd…I'd consider it home."

Dr. Lathrop sat down on the edge of the bed, looked at the feeble woman, and took her mother's frail hand. "Shhh!," her daughter said.

"Well…you're…here with me, Liz," the dying woman said struggling for air.

A nurse, standing nearby, took the oxygen mask off its portable stand and began to place it over Rebecca's nose and mouth.

"No…Liz…" the fragile woman said, gathering her strength. "Can we…we be alone? I…have to…talk to…you."

"Don't, mom. Just…," she began and then signaled for the nurse to leave.

"Liz… When you were born…they…they…were going to put…you…into an institution. I took…you home with me and…later when Brian and I were married, we…we…adopted you. I have always loved you…but you were not mine."

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 26, 1994 8:45 a.m. CST

Cindy Brady sat at her home computer again and once more tapped into the web site that she had found earlier. She had located the folder she needed, but had been repeatedly denied access to the information she craved. She had tried a variety of pathways and combinations. She attempted one more thing—and then there it was—the file that held the secret.

***

Roswell, New Mexico Saturday, February 26, 1994 7:45 a.m. MST

Dr. Lathrop sat at her home computer again and once more tapped into the web site she had found earlier. Ever since her mother's death last December, she had been attempting to find out who she really was. She tried one more thing— and then there it was—the file that held the answer.

"Eureka!" exclaimed a voice behind her.

Dr. Lathrop turned to see a man dressed in blue and silver.

"I know the secret, I know the secret," he chanted.

"You know?" the doctor asked the stranger.

"Yes, and I'm an excellent dancer, too."

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 26, 1994 10:15 A.M. CST

Three of the Barton-house-four were gathered at The Cabbages and Kings Bookstore that Saturday morning to go over their findings.

Martha Kent was on the phone, talking quietly. "That's right, Wayne. Glad you understand and that you'll help. Your character doesn't have any changed lines, but you needed to know what was going on. See you tonight."

Just as she hung up, the phone rang. "Yes Libby, they're both here," she said into the phone. "Do you want me to talk to them? I mean they're right here, I can do it for you," Martha paused, listening. "Oh, all right. I'll let you do it. I've already spoken to Wayne and to Perry. But I can't get through to Donald. He must be talking to everyone in town, trying to extract praises for last night's performance. I guess I'll have to go over there," she said into the phone and paused again. "Yes, I'll make sure they stay for a while."

"Keith?" Martha asked, hanging up the phone and then walking toward the door. Can you watch the store while I go see Donald and Linda? I won't be gone long, they just live around the corner."

"Sure, Mrs. Kent," Keith told her.

The bell over the door tinkled as Martha walked out into the street.

"Okay," Tom Mock began. "Our report is due Monday, let's review what we've got and put all the puzzle pieces together."

"Well we know that Libby Barton's family was really weird," Emily Cox reminded them. "When her grandmother died, her grandfather tried all kinds of experiments to bring her back to life. Neighbors say there were bizarre smells and noises coming from the house and there was talk of people disappearing after they visited there. When nothing worked, Laslo gave up and died." Emily explained.

"Libby was born in 1926 but no one knows who her father is. There were rumors of incest," Keith told the group.

"Ewwww," Emily said. "I know we've talked about this before. But it's still icky."

"On October 30, 1938, the night of the 'War of the Worlds' radio hoax, the whole family was killed except Libby. And *she* was accused of the murders." Tom added. "But Keith, here, is sure she didn't do it."

"Wait a minute!" Keith interrupted excitedly. "There's something really simple that we've been overlooking."

"What?" Emily asked.

"Where is that article on the murders?" Keith asked as he shuffled the papers around.

"Here it is," Emily told him, handing him the enlarged microfiche copy.

"Okay," Keith said. "The bodies that were found were Leticia, Lavinia, Lloyd, Linus and Laslo. But Laslo had been dead for about eleven years when the murders took place. How could his body be there?"

"So either he was still alive…" Emily started.

"Or he had been resurrected," Keith finished.

"But who resurrected him?" Emily asked. "And how?"

"And who really killed him and the rest of the family if Libby didn't?" Tom demanded.

"There's still the other problem," Keith inserted.

"What problem?" Emily questioned.

"Where was Libby Barton for the one year following her release until she returned to Smallville."

"What has that got to do with anything?" Tom asked.

"I, don't know, exactly," Keith told them. "It just seems like we need to know that to have the complete picture."

"So we have more questions than we have answers," Emily told the group.

The bookstore bell tinkled loudly as the door burst open to let Cindy in. "I've got it," she yelled. "And you can thank Mr. Kent. I was working on my report on Frances Perkins, you know the woman that started Social Security…" she explained as she plopped down in a chair next to the rest of the group "…when an idea occurred to me. I hacked into the Social Security Administration records. It took some time and doing, but I found this," she explained waving several pages at them.

"How…how…" Tom stopped her, grabbing the sheets.

"I wasn't Jaxon's girl friend for nothing," she said smiling slightly.

"What did you find?" Emily asked.

"Libby Barton's name was changed to Lou Ann Baker and she lived in Roswell, New Mexico from 1947 to 1948."

"Roswell?" Tom put in. "Wasn't that where…?"

"Yeah," Keith acknowledged. "Flying Saucers. This is getting weirder by the minute. Aliens, ghosts, maybe zombies," he said shaking his head in disbelief.

The bell over the door tinkled softly.

"You haven't heard it all," Cindy continued. "I also searched the data bank from New Mexico's Bureau of Statistics. Lou Ann Baker gave birth to a son on April 1, 1948. According to the records it was a still birth."

"So it ends there?" Keith sighed. "The baby died."

"No," Cindy said. "Not exactly."

"Well, don't keep us waiting."

"Oh this is too much fun," Cindy said teasingly.

"Hey," Keith Haley said coming over to where she was seated and mimed twisting her arm. "Let's hear it."

"Okay, okay," Cindy relented. "On April 4, 1948 a preliminary adoption request was posted at the court in Roswell, for the adoption of a baby boy born to an L. Baker on April 1st. The adopting parents were Roxanne and Maxwell Luthor. The child became Lex Luthor."

"Oh!!!" came a strangled voice as Miss Libby collapsed on the floor.

"She must not have known," Keith said hurrying to her. He knelt beside the older woman and cradled her head. "Go get a glass of water," he instructed Emily. "And Tom, go get Mrs. Kent."

Just at that moment, the bell over the door tinkled yet again as Clark entered the store. "I'll go get help," he said after immediately surveying the situation, and ran out.

***

Libby Barton's eyes fluttered opened as she felt two strong arms encircle her and lift her up. She tilted her head to look into the concerned eyes of Superman.

"I'll get her to the hospital," Superman told the young people.

"No! No you won't!" Miss Libby barked at him. "I'm just fine! Not put me down this instant!"

"Are you sure you're all right?" the man of steel inquired.

"Yes! Isn't your super-hearing working? Put me down I say!"

"Yes, Ma'am," he responded, smiling, and put her down gently on her feet.

"And Martha Kent," she said as Martha entered rapidly through the door. "Don't you dare even think of going on for me. I know that you know everyone's part and have been coveting mine. But I'm going on tonight! Nothing, do you hear me? Nothing is going to stop me! Not even the devil himself!" she said eyeing the students.

Martha smiled at the older woman. "Of course, Miss Libby. You'll be there with bells on."

Superman turned to go.

"Wait, Superman. On second thought," Libby said looking up at Clark. "I *could* use a ride home so that I can get some rest. All right young man," she said to Superman, moving closer to him and holding her arms up. "Just do what it is you do and get me home."

"What happened?" Martha asked the four high school students after Superman flew off with his charge.

The four looked at each other and then all of them began to speak at once.

"Wait, wait," Martha said holding both her hands up. "You tell me, Keith," she demanded.

"We were talking about our project, Mrs. Kent. You know the history of the Barton house and the people in it."

"Right, Mrs. Kent," Cindy agreed. "And she overheard something we said."

"Oh, Lord," Martha said under her breath. "When you first told me about this and began asking questions, I should have known that this would be trouble. I don't know why I didn't tell you to stop. People could get hurt."

"The truth shouldn't hurt anyone," Keith said softly.

"You're all a little na‹ve," Martha explained. "Yes, truth is a wonderful ideal to set your target on. I've always believed that. I've also felt that each of us should stand up for something and not let others dictate our thoughts, actions or our own truths," she stated, turning to head for the counter as she saw some customers coming toward the store.

"But…," Cindy began.

Martha turned back and looked at them. "But those truths should come from the person themselves," Martha finished. "You know that more than anyone, Keith," she added, putting a hand on his shoulder as she recalled Keith's 'coming out'.

The bell tinkled as several people entered the store to buy tickets for the performance.

"Keith, Cindy. Can you get to the theatre early?" Martha asked as she moved around behind the counter and took the box of tickets out of a drawer. "I need to tell you something about some script changes, but it will wait until then. It looks like I'll be busy for awhile."

"Yes, Mrs. Kent," Keith nodded.

The four young people walked out of the store.

"Do you think Miss Libby will be all right?" Cindy asked as they moved on down the street.

"I'm sure she'll be fine. You heard her," Keith said.

The four walked on in silence.

"So the family tree ends with Lex Luthor's death," Tom Mock reminded them of what they had been talking about.

"Not really," Keith said shaking his head. "There's Jaxon."

"Right," Cindy said, looking around at the rest of them. "And one more."

"Who?" they all asked, coming to a stand still and looking at her.

"Lex Luthor had a twin sister."

***

Somewhere in the time-space continuum.

"Where are we going," Dr. Liz Lathrop shouted to her companion, as flashes of light and thunderous sounds passed her by.

"Smallville, Kansas," the man yelled. "And, no. I didn't make it up, although it does paint a fully accurate picture. Perhaps Insignificantville or Trivialville or even Paltryville would be just as apt."

"And why are we going there?" she asked him.

"As I told you," he said, almost strutting in a sitting position. "You and I have a prominent future there!!!!!"

***

Topeka, Kansas Saturday, February 26, 1994 6:35 p.m. CST

###

AIRPORT ANNOUNCER: Flight 302 from Metropolis will be delayed. Estimated Time of Arrival — 8:10 p.m. at Gate B7. Flight 302 from Metropolis will be delayed. Estimated Time…

###

Beatrice hurriedly rushed to the phone at the Topeka Airport. She waited expectantly for someone to answer at the other end.

"Smallville High School Auditorium Box Office," Beatrice heard Linda answer.

"Get me Martha and quick!" Beatrice exclaimed.

Beatrice paced up and down in front of the telephone stand, the receiver in her hand. "It's me, Martha," she said into the phone. "The plane has been delayed. What in the world should I do? I can't leave, I can't take the squad car back. We have to wait for the plane. So I…I guess I won't make it on time. Martha! You…you'll have to go on for me," she argued and waited for a response.

Beatrice listened for a moment. "The plane will be here in an hour and a half," she replied. "And, with the sirens blaring, we will make it to the theatre just in time for the last Act," Beatrice, with fingers crossed, told Martha.

Rachel joined Beatrice by the phone. She glanced at the Arrival Board, which was just now flipping in the changes.

"Martha, It's all right." Beatrice continued into the phone. "You can do it. You know every line, every move, and it will give you the opportunity to be on stage when that added section is enacted. You know that it's really *you* who should be there then to see it happen—to make sure that all goes well. I had my chance in the spotlight last night—and what a glorious moment it was. It's your turn now."

Beatrice looked at Rachel and nodded. "We'll wait for the…uh…package and we'll get there as soon as we can," she said into the phone, again. "Break a leg, Martha."

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 26, 1994 9:35 p.m. CST

Keith Haley, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White and Dan Scardino were waiting anxiously in the dressing room. "It's almost my cue to go on," Jimmy told the other three. "Where is…?"

"Right here," Rachel Harris said, as she brought her friend, fresh from a 90 mph speed run, into the dressing room. The four men grinned as they saw Lieutenant Detective William Henderson walk through the door.

"You get him ready," Jimmy told the others. "I've got an entrance to make."

Jimmy walked over and hid behind the masking of the Brewster's front door as he awaited his cue. On stage were Clark, Richard and Wayne.

***

Libby Barton came into the woman's dressing room. Lois was curled up in an overstuffed chair, double-checking her lines for the next scene. She looked up as Libby came in. Since Lois had such a small part and as she spent most of the time in the dressing room, she also had the job of helping the two aunts with their costume changes. "Do you need anything?" Lois asked 'Aunt Abby'.

"No, I'm fine dear."

Martha Kent entered the dressing room, nodded at Libby and then smiled at Lois. "Well, we've got a few minutes to breathe," she told them and sat down at one of the make-up tables. "It's the attempted killing of Mortimer scene."

Libby moved over to sit down next to Martha. "So that package you've been waiting for has arrived?"

"Yes. It's here."

Lois looked at the two women quizzically. "Is something going on?"

"No, dear." Martha said. "It's just me trying to be director and actress all at the same time."

"I wanted to tell you, Martha that you've been really great. So glad you could step in for Beatrice," Lois said. "Have we heard from her? Is she feeling better?"

"Yes, we've heard from her. She is just fine. Everything is fine," Martha grinned.

"Then everything's ready for the next scene?" Libby asked the director.

"Yes," Martha replied. "I just saw Jimmy move to his spot and he told me that all the police officers were prepared."

Libby turned around in the chair and looked into the make- up mirror. So many thoughts ran rapidly through her mind. Her son was alive. Her son was Lex Luthor— another Barton, another monster—the son of the man who had raped her and who she had killed. She dabbed some powder onto her face to bring out a little color in an otherwise pale appearance. She had to be strong as she was going to help put Luthor away—away where he belonged—in a cage. Libby bit her bottom lip as she felt a jolt of pain. She took a deep breath and turned back to Martha.

"I hope it all goes okay." Libby said to Martha apprehensively.

"What's going on?" Lois asked noticing Libby's face. "We've done this scene dozens of times. What could go wrong?"

The two older women looked at each other.

"Well," Martha said to Lois. "I've sort of added an extra touch to this scene and I think it is worth watching. Why don't we go stand in the wings."

***

On stage, Richard Thurston was thoroughly enjoying his sadistic role as he moved slowly and maliciously around Clark, maniacally threatening him.

Teddy/Donald Botts: [Appears on the landing and blows the bugle.]

JB/Richard: [Looks up at him angrily, as he now realizes that he can't spend time taunting his victim since the police were sure to arrive to quash Teddy's bugle playing again.] Now we've got to work fast! [He crosses above to the left of Mortimer, as Dr. Einstein moves in front of their victim.]

Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig: Yah, the quick vay—eh, Chonny?

JB/Richard: Yes, Doctor, the quick way! [He pulls a large silk handkerchief from his inside pocket and wraps it around Mortimer's neck.]

From off stage Jimmy heard his cue and gave it a beat for the audience to see the handkerchief around Clark's neck. Then he pushed open the door and entered very excitedly.

O'Hara/Jimmy: Hey! The Colonel's gotta quit blowing that horn!

JB/Richard: [Joins Dr. Einstein/Wayne Irig to stand in front of Mortimer/Clark, hiding him.] It's all right, Officer. We're taking the bugle away from him.

***

Back in the male dressing room, Perry was helping Detective Henderson to change into his costume and Keith was giving him his lines. Dan was slapping some make-up on the Inspector; and Jonathan Kent, who usually portrayed Lieutenant Rooney, had come in from working the light board, to explain the blocking. Jonathan turned to Dan. "Here's your new prop."

"Thanks," Scardino informed him, as Jonathan hurried back to make an important light cue that was coming up. Dan turned to Henderson. "You all set?"

"Gentlemen," Detective Henderson insisted, looking from one to the other. "I've got this. No problem."

***

On stage, Jimmy, as Officer O'Hara using a nightstick in hand for emphasis, was walking up and down telling Clark about the play he had written, word for word.

Jonathan Kent pulled several levers and the lights blacked out for three seconds indicating the passage of time and then come up with Richard asleep on the couch, Clark still tied up, Wayne Irig dosing in a chair and Jimmy still holding forth acting out his play within a play.

Libby and Martha gently shoved Lois to the wings on stage left.

Martha noticed Lois' quizzical look. She had to tell her *something*, but for the past couple of weeks, Martha had stayed away from anything personal—from offering any advice other than in the guise of director. She knew that Lois and Clark loved each other. They were just scared. Well who wouldn't be? All couples had problems, but having Superman to contend with was hard. Harder, she was sure, then they realized it would be. Martha shook her head. Even *she* was thinking of Superman as an extra character in their relationship. She had cautioned Clark when he spoke in the third person, and now she was doing it as well.

"Lois, I've missed you," Martha whispered, as Libby took a few steps away to allow them privacy.

"Martha," Lois whispered back. "I've been right here."

"No. No you haven't, not really. Clark loves you," she insisted and seeing that Libby was out of earshot, continued. "He has struggled with the knowledge of his powers for so long. He hid them and tried to blend in with everyone else. But he really couldn't. It broke my heart watching him hide so many things, afraid that he would always be alone. When you two became engaged, I knew that he had finally found that one person he needed. But he just doesn't know how to make it work. He was scared, Lois, because he loved you so much."

"You know I love him," Lois said softly.

"Then tell him and make him tell you. Together you can get through this."

Lois looked out on the stage. She reached into her pocket and felt the bracelet that she had placed there to keep close to her. Clark, portraying Mortimer, was tied up with a gag around his mouth. All you could see were his eyes. Although about twenty feet away from him, Lois could see those dark animated eyes, even beneath the stage lights reflecting on his glasses. His deep brown eyes were darting around nervously, while as Mortimer he was trying to figure a way out of the situation he was in.

Clark's eyes lit on Lois standing in the wings. He held his breath for a second as he stopped fidgeting in the chair and his eyes softened.

Lois' lips parted as an overwhelming desire ran through her.

Three actors dressed as police officers of various ranks came up beside Lois ready for their entrance. Dan winked at her and Keith moved his hand to a thumb's up signal. Lois looked at the third actor…it wasn't Clark's Dad, it was…it was…

Dan and Keith moved by Lois and burst through the front door on cue.

O'Hara/Jimmy: [Goes to Brophy/Dan.] Hey, Pat, whaddya know? This is Mortimer Brewster! He's going to write my play with me. I'm just tellin' him the story.

Klein/Keith: [Crossing to Mortimer and untying him.] Did you have to tie him up to make him listen?

Off stage, Lois stared at Detective Henderson. "What…what…"

The Detective put his finger to his lip. "Shhh." He looked down at the script and took a few moments to review his lines.

In the wings on stage right, Perry White and Jonathan Kent were watching the actors intently.

Brophy/Dan: [Sees JB/Richard on sofa.] Who the hell is this guy?

Mortimer/Clark: That's my brother.

Brophy/Dan: Oh, the one that ran away? So he came back.

Mortimer/Clark: Yes, he came back!

[JB/Richard stirs as if to get up.]

Brophy/Dan: [Crosses to phone and dials, then talks into phone.] This is Brophy. Get me Mac. [To O'Hara/Jimmy.] Okay, O'Hara, I'd better let them know we found you. [Into phone.] Mac? Tell the Lieutenant he can call off the big manhunt—we got him. [Pause.] In the Brewster home {JB/Richard hears the end of this and suddenly becomes very much awake, looking at all the police.].

In the wings Martha looked at Libby and crossed her fingers.

JB/Richard: All right, you've got me! And I suppose you and that stool-pigeon brother of mine will split the reward!

[Officer Cohen/Keith and Officer Brophy/Dan both grab JB/Richard by an arm.]

JB/Richard: Now I'll do some turning in! [Struggles.] You think my aunts are sweet charming old ladies, don't you? Well, there are thirteen bodies buried in their cellar. [Gazing at the police with contempt.]

Libby, standing off stage, bit her lower lip as an old picture came back to haunt her. No! She had to try to concentrate on today. She had a role to play both on stage and to help her new friends. The past had to stay where it was—every bit of it. She looked at Lex Luthor. She should have known—those evil eyes—a Barton trademark.

Henderson took a few steps closer to the door through which he would be entering, took a last look at the script and handed it to Lois.

Brophy/Dan: [Releases JB/Richard's arm, then to Officer Cohen.] Go on down in the cellar with him, Abe.

Officer Cohen/Keith: [Drops JB/Richard's arm, backs down stage a step and looks at him.] I'm not so sure I want to be down in the cellar with him. Look at that puss. He looks like Boris Karloff.

[JB/Richard at mention of Karloff, grabs Officer Cohen by the throat, and starts choking him.]

Officer Cohen/Keith: Hey—what the hell—Hey, Pat! Get him off me.

Brophy/Dan: [Takes out a blackjack.]

From off stage Jonathan Kent watched carefully as Dan with the real blackjack in hand, threatened Richard.

Brophy/Dan: Here, what do you think you're doing!

At this point the script called for Dan to hit Richard and for him to fall unconscious, face down. Lex steeled himself. He took a quick surreptitious glance at the floor—at where Martha had told him to end up. He smiled to himself as he had just about finished his acting stint in what Lex could call a triumph. He knew he was so much better than any of these amateurs—these dullards. He glanced over into the wings and saw Lois standing there. Well, perhaps Lois was up to his standards.

Luthor was almost sorry that the show had run its course and tonight was the last performance. He had in his own mind, glibly berated the neophytes attempt at acting. What did these greenhorns know about theatre? Yet, he had sensed a passion among the performers—a passion he was almost jealous of—a camaraderie that had become a family.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Martha Kent in the wings. The maternal director had guided all of them toward reaching deep within themselves and being the best that they could be. Perhaps if he, Lex, had had a mother like Martha, then he…no, no! Family wasn't all syrupy and gooey. Family was power.

The senior Luthor knew that his son, Jaxon was in the audience. Now that all of the members of the Smallville Players considered him a friend, he and Jaxon could catch them all off guard and seek his final revenge. And then he, Lex could… But he had to concentrate, as Luthor, alias Richard, saw Dan moving his arm to lower the black jack. Richard prepared himself to act as if he were hurt.

But Richard did not have to act. The blackjack came down upon him and he slumped to the floor unconscious, part of him draped over Keith.

Officer Cohen/Keith: [Pushes JB/Richard off of him.] Well what do you know about that?

Gearing himself for his acting debut, Detective Henderson turned to smile at Lois and then, as his entrance called for, knocked on the door.

O'Hara/Jimmy: Come in.

Lieutenant Rooney/Lieutenant Henderson: [Enters quickly slamming the door after him.] What the hell are you men doing here? I told you I was going to handle this.

Officer Cohen/Keith: Well, sir, we was just about to…

Rooney/Henderson: What happened? Did he put up a fight?

Brophy/Dan: This ain't the guy that blows the bugle. This is his brother. He tried to kill Officer Cohen.

Officer Cohen/Keith: All I said was he looked like Boris Karloff.

Rooney/Henderson: [His face lights up.] Turn him over.

Brophy/Dan: We kinda think he's wanted somewhere.

Rooney/Henderson: Oh, you kinda *think* he's wanted somewhere? If you guys don't look at the circulars we hang up in the station, at least you could read True Detective. [Speaking louder.] Certainly he's wanted. In Indiana! Escaped from the prison for the Criminal Insane! He's a lifer. For God's sake that's how he was described—he *looked* like Karloff!

Officer Cohen/Keith: Yeah?

Rooney/Henderson: At first we all thought he was dead, killed after the escape. But he wasn't. He was resurrected somehow, had his face changed and came back to seek vengeance on those who he believed caused his downfall. You are all decent people who have been abused in one way or another by a particularly evil man.

Lois stared at the body lying unconscious on the stage floor. Henderson had just delivered a new line—a line that she remembered hearing him utter once before when Henderson spoke about Lex Luthor—a new line, she realized, written just for her. Martha Kent moved closer to Lois and put her arm around her. Miss Libby came up to Lois and took her hand.

"L..Luthor," Lois gasped, her stomach tightening.

"Yes, dear. Dan and Keith are dragging him away to turn him over to Rachel Harris. Henderson, Clark, Wayne and Donald are continuing the scene. Now come with us."

Libby and Martha took Lois back to the dressing room. "This is going to be difficult," Martha told her. "But I'm going to ask you a tremendous favor. You have to go on stage in a few minutes and help us finish the play."

"Martha, I…I…," Lois said sinking into a chair.

"We know, just trust us. There's someone else who's sitting out in the audience who's working with Luthor and we need you to be strong. If we stop now, he'll know that we know."

"All right, Martha."

Lois stood up and took a deep breath. The knot in her stomach had disappeared and in its place was a sort of relief, a strange calmness. Richard was gone but it didn't matter. It didn't matter at all. He had only been a…a what? Refuge? Diversion? No. Neither of those. He had been a means of revenge—to hurt Clark as she had been hurt. What kind of a woman was she? She sat down again and covered her eyes as tears began to flow.

"Oh, Martha. I needed to hurt Clark. He…he…"

"I know, Lois. He was incredibly stupid. He made a mistake. But he knows it. Just go out on stage. Help us and give Clark another chance."

"You mean he really still loves me? Even after…?"

"Of course, he does. He always has and he always will. Now get out there and act with him."

"What about Richard's final lines in the play?"

"Don't worry, we made some additional changes; but nothing you have to fret over," Martha explained. "Just go out there and go with the flow."

Libby and Martha walked over to the masking behind the dining room for their entrance.

Lois moved to stand by the front door to await her cue. It appeared that everyone was in on the changes but her. She shook her head slowly. Normally Lois would have been angry to be kept out of the loop. But she understood why—because she had been blinded by Lex. At least now she was included in what was going on, well sort of. Lois knew that she simply had to keep her wits about her and be prepared to adlib when necessary.

Perry White came up next to her. He had dawned his ugly brown suit. He had put on a moustache and added some paunch to his stomach for good measure.

"Hi Perry," Lois whispered.

"Lois," Perry whispered back. "You know that I try not to interfere with my employees. It's just…well…just…," he said continuing to keep his voice low. "Clark loves you and you love him. Don't ever lose that."

Lois looked at him and smiled. She put her arm on his. "Ready for our entrance, Mr. Witherspoon?" she asked.

***

Rachel Harris and two deputies placed handcuffs on Lex Luthor and put him into the patrol car. Luthor stirred. "Let me go, you Visigoths!" he yelled, as the car started up and drove toward the Sheriff's office.

***

Witherspoon/Perry: [Walks over to Mortimer/Clark.] Mr. Brewster, you sign now as next of kin.

The actresses portraying the two aunts whispered to each other as Clark signed the document.

Mortimer/Clark: Yes of course. Right here?

Witherspoon/Perry: That's fine. Mortimer/Clark: That makes everything complete—everything legal?

Witherspoon/Perry: Oh Yes.

Mortimer/Clark: [With relief.] Well, Aunties, now you're safe.

Witherspoon/Perry: [To aunts.] When do you think you'll be ready to start?

Aunt Abby/Martha Kent: Well, Mr. Witherspoon, why don't you go upstairs and tell Teddy just what he can take along?

Witherspoon/Perry: Upstairs?

Mortimer/Clark: I'll show you.

Aunt Abby/Martha Kent: [Stopping him.] No, Mortimer, you stay here. We want to talk to you. [To Witherspoon.] Yes, Mr. Witherspoon, just upstairs and turn to the left.

[Perry as Witherspoon put his brief case on the sofa and went upstairs. He paused for a moment per direction, shook his head and continued upstairs] The aunts kept glancing furtively up the stairs while talking to Mortimer/Clark.]

Aunt Martha/Libby Barton: Well, Mortimer, now that we're moving, this house really is yours.

Aunt Abby/Martha Kent: Yes dear, we want you to live here now. Mortimer/Clark: No, Aunt Abby, this house is too full of memories.

Backstage Dr. Mock heard his cue. He picked up the Bible and walked toward the Brewster's front door entrance. He paused behind the masked panel that hid the exits and entrances of the actors. He and Clark had worked this out and he was sure that he knew what to do. Dr. Mock smiled over at Jonathan Kent who was ready to enter from the dining room door at the prescribed time.

Aunt Martha/Libby Barton: [Looks over at Clark and smiles.] But you'll need a home when you and Elaine are married.

Clark glanced around the set to see all the actors in their places. They all knew what was to occur, that is all except Lois Lane.

Mortimer/Clark: Darlings, that's very indefinite.

Elaine/Lois: [Rising from the couch where she had been sitting.] It's nothing of the kind—we're going to be married right away.

Mortimer/Clark: Yes, right away. In fact right now!

Lois looked over at Clark. That wasn't the line. Were these the changes? Clark usually didn't go up on lines. Aunt Abby, that is Martha Kent was supposed to say…but people were moving to what looked like pre-assigned spots on the set. Jonathan Kent had entered to stand beside his wife. Perry had returned from upstairs and took her arm and escorted her to the center of the stage to stand beside Clark. This looked real. Oh my god! It *was* real!!! Reverend Harper, uh…Dr. Mock was entering through the Brewster's supposed front door.

Clark turned Lois to face him. "I fell in love with you the moment I first saw you. I've never stopped loving you, not even for an instant. And I will go on loving you for the rest of my life," he told her gently, putting his hand up to cup the side of her face. "Marry me now," he pleaded, his eyes searching into her soul. "Right here, right now— in front of all of our friends and family. I can't live without you. I was so wrong to push you away. You mean everything to me. Please, please say yes."

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 26, 1994 10:15 p.m. CST

Clark pulled Lois into his arms and kissed her. Through the kiss he whispered: "Lois, I love you. Marry me."

Tears welled up in Lois' eyes as she stepped back to stare at the incredible man who once again had asked her…asked her to… She closed her eyes. Was the Jinx at long last over? Should she tempt fate and… <Stop thinking, Lois> she shouted at herself. You have spent your adult life risking everything for your work, for the causes you believe in. Risk now! Feel! Don't think!

Clark waited, hoping against hope.

Lois looked up at him with confidence in her eyes, and in a warm and steady voice said: "Yes, Mortimer. I'll marry you," she began, matching the deep look into his eyes, "…right here, and right now."

Martha Kent slipped her arm into her husband's, smiled up at him and mouthed the word "finally".

From the wings, Beatrice Drake, now fully "recovered" from her so-called illness, moved closer to the entrance to watch along with the other cast members already in the places Martha Kent had directed they take for this added scene.

Lois and Clark joined hands and turned to face Dr. Mock.

"We are gathered together in the presence of family and friends to join two incredibly extraordinary people in a life-time of togetherness," the minister began. "They have made a commitment to making this world a better place and because both of them are an active part of our community and have found love here, our world *is* a better place."

Jimmy stepped up and gave two rings to the Reverend.

"Will you…," the minister began, winking at Clark, "…Mortimer, take this woman as your lawfully wedded wife?" Dr. Mock asked Clark. "Will you love her and cherish her as long as you both shall live?"

"I will," Clark responded, slipping a ring onto Lois' finger.

The audience sensing something unusual, looked at one another.

One audience member in particular realized that the Smallville Players had moved from enacting a play into real life. And, if it were real life, then his father…his father *had* been arrested.

"And will you, Elaine, take this man as your lawfully wedded husband? And will you love him and cherish him as long as you both shall live?"

"I will," Lois said breathlessly, looking into Clark's eyes and then sliding the ring on to his finger.

Jaxon Luthor slipped out of the auditorium and ran out to the parking lot. Two men whom he had previously hired were leaning against the car waiting for his signal—a signal that was supposed to take place at the end of the play. Jaxon opened the car door and leaped into the back seat. "Head for the sheriff's office fast!" he yelled.

***

On stage, the Reverend Mock looked at the couple in front of him and smiled. "Earlier tonight, right in this very room, I spoke about Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha's kindness and generosity," he reminded them. "Let me now wish that for the two of you. Be kind to each other and be generous with your support, your understanding, your time and most of all with your love," he urged them looking around at all the friends and family on the stage and at those in the audience.

Lois and Clark once again their hands joined, beamed at each other, scarcely breathing—their eyes holding fast onto one another as if for dear life—as if they could never get enough.

"At this time, by the power vested in me by this state," the minister intoned. "I now pronounce you, man and wife."

Clark turned toward his wife and put his hands up to gently cup both sides of Lois' face and slowly and tenderly drew her to him, kissing her softly.

***

The three men arrived at the sheriff's station just as Rachel Harris and her deputy were escorting their charge from the patrol car. Jaxon's two associates pulled out guns and forced the two holding Lex Luthor, to back into the sheriff's station. Rachel and her deputy were placed into a holding cell while Jaxon made his way out of the front office with the sheriff's keys in his hands.

"You two take the patrol car and follow us," Jaxon ordered as he uncuffed Lex. "My father and I have some unfinished business."

***

While the two aunts asked Mr. Witherspoon to join them in a last drink to the bride and groom—the lines that Martha and Clark had rewritten to segue from the wedding scene back to the author's ending of the play; Lois and Clark hand in hand exited the stage. They turned to look at each other. "Hi wife," Clark said.

"Hi husband," Lois echoed, putting her arms around his neck.

Clark kissed her passionately and then pulled back. "You're okay with this, right? I mean it isn't exactly as we had planned."

Lois looked down at the ring that Clark had slipped onto her finger a few moments before. "No, not like we planned— better. Clark, it was *perfect*. It was super," she told him smiling. "But I guess from now on you're Mortimer and I'm Elaine."

"Well, Elaine is a pretty name and is at least is somewhat close to your real one. But being stuck with Mortimer," he smiled. "I'm not sure about that."

"Hey, is this legal?" Lois asked. "I mean with Dr. Mock using those names in the ceremony."

"Yep," Clark told her. "You're not getting out of it that easy. You know that sign- in sheet that Mom stuck under your nose before tonight's performance. That was actually the marriage license. And as long as that has our real names on it, and Dr. Mock finalized it with his signature after the ceremony, the wedding is legal."

"So I'm really your wife, and you are my husband," Lois said and leaped back into his arms to kiss him again and again and…

Clark pulled back once more and cocked his head.

"What is it?" Lois asked, all too familiar with that look.

"Sheriff's station!"

"Go! We'll do the curtain call without you. Be careful and hurry back."

***

Superman landed at the sheriff's station and rushed inside. He bent back the cell's bars and released Rachel and her deputy.

"Where's Luthor?" he spat out.

"I'm not sure Superman," Rachel responded. "I overheard something about unfinished business."

"The theatre," Superman said, getting a molten look in his eye and taking to the sky.

***

The cast took their bows and exited the stage. The audience, family, friends congratulated the actors who taking flowers and presents with them, departed from the theatre. The various members of the Smallville Players were to come back on Sunday to participate in strike and a cast party—slash—wedding reception. But tonight they were off to parts unknown. Martha and Jonathan Kent began picking up strewn programs, shutting down lights and closing up the auditorium as Lois helped gather up costumes and props.

"Well, if it isn't Lois Kent," Luthor sneered. "Jaxon told me all about it."

Martha, Jonathan and Lois turned to see Luthor, Jaxon and two other men standing on the set. Luthor strode around the Brewster living room glaring at the three Kents as the two men held guns on them.

"And where's the *lucky* bridegroom?" Lex spat out and receiving no answer, turned viciously to accuse Jaxon. "You've botched this up as usual," Lex sneered at his impotent son. "When will you learn to know your enemy well enough to predict their every move?"

"Take that rope over there and tie them all up," Jaxon ordered the two henchmen, ignoring his father's outburst and securing one of his subordinate's guns.

The thugs tied the three hostages to chairs.

"Him, too!" Jaxon said indicating his father.

"What?" Lex yelled out.

"You didn't predict *this*. Did you, father? It's not my name that's been added to the list, but yours. I'm giving the orders now. You'll simply have to take the bridegroom's place—something you've been itching to do anyway," Jaxon said and turned to the other two men. "Take the car and go to the airport. I have a small plane waiting. I'll be along soon. I'm anticipating one more victim. And I want the pleasure of assassinating the last five myself."

Jaxon's underlings exited as commanded.

"Yes," Jaxon said to his captives. "All I need is one more, that's all—just one more. Isn't that your line from the play, Dad?" Jaxon asked. "Just one more," he repeated. "Number thirteen."

As if on cue, a whoosh was heard and Superman crashed through the ceiling of the auditorium.

"Let them go, Jaxon," Superman said forcibly, crossing his arms across his chest.

Jaxon smiled. He put the gun down on the table behind the couch in the Brewster living room, and took a lead box out of his coat pocket. A piercing pain shot through Superman as Jaxon opened the metal container and walked deliberately toward the man of steel.

Lois strained at her ropes as Superman collapsed into a heap on the floor. "Please," Lois sobbed. "Don't do this!"

"Good job, son," Lex called out. "Now stop this nonsense and untie me!" his father demanded of him.

"No!" Jaxon responded.

"You do what I tell you…you insignificant, inept little nonentity!"

"Insignificant! Inept! Nonentity!" Jaxon growled back. "*I* was the one who funded Gretchen Kelly's experiments to resurrect you. *I* was the one who had all of your enemies killed—Bill Saxon, Mayson Drake, Vivian Cox, Dr. Baines. And it was I who eradicated all the people that stood in our way—Aunt Barb, Sheldon Bender, Gretchen, and Nigel," he sneered, his face reminiscent of his father's in its heyday. "You… have…done…nothing!" he said spacing out each word for emphasis. "It was all me and only me."

Lex surreptitiously fidgeted with the ropes that bound him while pretending to be engrossed in his son's tirade.

"All my life," Jaxon continued. "All my live, you've been ashamed of me and treated me like your bastard child—the son from the left side of the blanket. But I was your legitimate heir—the offspring of a noble line—the only seed of your loins—the eventual patriarch of your descendents. Why did you, in fact, disown me? Now, now it will be my pleasure to discard you! But first…"

Jaxon walked even closer to Superman, box in hand. The rays radiating over the edge of the receptacle continued to impact on the man of steel, causing him to writhe in pain.

Lois felt what could only be described as a cannon ball settling in the pit of her stomach as she shared the pain that was causing Clark to curl up into an agonizing fetal position as she tried to make eye contact with him. "No," she moaned, every fiber in her being aching alongside Clark's.

"Don't," Martha Kent whispered, adding her entreaties to Lois'.

"Please, Jaxon," Lois begged again, forcing herself to exert pressure on the ropes that secured her to the chair. "This is killing him. You can't…" she pleaded, wanting desperately to reach out to Clark, to hold him. "Jaxon, don't do this. You have your whole future ahead of you. You don't have to impress your father by becoming like him. You can be better than him. You can make something out of your life—make it have some meaning—make a difference."

Jaxon walked over to Lois and slapped her across the face. "I've wanted to do that since you first came to Smallville. I already meant something in this town. I *was* important and you—you spoiled everything," he said striking her again.

"Leave her alone," Superman gasped. "Don't hurt any of them, I'm…I'm begging you."

Lex's bounds gave way just an iota.

Jaxon chuckled. "The man of steel, begging. See, Dad," Jaxon said, looking at his father and pointing to himself. "This insignificant, inept nonentity has Superman at bay. And now I will finish everything," he sneered taking a few more steps toward Superman's crumpled body. "Since all of you are so theatrical, I believe the appropriate metaphor is that I'm ringing down the final curtain."

"Close the box," spoke a determined voice from behind Jaxon.

All faces turned toward the sound to see Miss Libby Barton standing there with Jaxon's gun in her hand. "Don't even think of moving," she told Jaxon. "According to all the stories around here, I'm not at all opposed to using this thing."

Lex Luthor gave one last tug, and the ropes gave way. He leapt to his feet.

Libby turned on him abruptly. "Don't," she warned, pointing the gun directly at him.

Lex took a few steps toward her. "I don't believe you *are* capable of violence," Luthor ridiculed.

"You'd be surprised at what I can do when I have to. Don't make me prove it."

Luthor laughed sadistically, continuing to move toward her.

"You are an evil man," Miss Libby said evenly, without emotion. "And you've sired an evil son. I should have recognized from the beginning that we're related."

Lex stopped his gradual movement in her direction. "Related?" he asked.

"Yes, dear," Miss Libby said. "You, I am sorry to say, are my son. And you…," she spat out, scrutinizing Jaxon. "…are my wonderful grandson," Libby Barton said bitterly, a trace of sadness in her voice that could probably only be detected by those who knew her well. "Old Laslo Barta would be incredibly proud of both of you."

***

Smallville, Kansas Sunday, October 30, 1938 7:37 p.m. CST

The music on the radio swelled up and out as the Barton family, still gathered around the Philco, listened intently, waiting for the updates on the invasion from the stars.

###

ANNOUNCER: We interrupt our production to introduce our producer and director, Mr. Orson Welles.

ORSON WELLES: This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character to assure you that The War of The Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be. The Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo! Starting now, we couldn't soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night… so we did the best next thing. We annihilated the world before your very ears, and utterly destroyed C. B. S. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So we'll return to our story and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian…it's Halloween.

###

"Yes, it's Halloween," said Laslo Barton coming into the living. "I thought I'd leave my attic hideaway and join in on the fun," he said holding a revolver in his hand. "My children…" he said, looking at all of them "…seem to have been playing trick or treat and I guess it's now my turn."

Gun shots rang out as Laslo turned the gun first on his daughters, then his sons. Libby Barton with Jinx in her arms ran into the hallway and cowered in the corner by the cellar door. "Don't, grandfather," Libby begged.

"Grandfather," Laslo sneered. "I guess it's time you knew, little one. I'm not just your grandfather. I'm much more. I'm an oddity like those Martians talked about on that radio program you seem so fond of. And you're an abomination, Libby because I'm also your father. You're probably too young to understand, but your mother, that is my daughter and I…"

Libby became numb.

"Your mother died because of you…and because of me. Your Aunts had me drugged with their elderberry wine all these years and imprisoned in the attic where they kept me barely alive. I guess they couldn't really kill me. Which is strange because they killed so many others—anyone who came close to our hideous secret, and they had poor Linus bury the bodies in the cellar. They told everyone I had died and put one of the recent corpses into a casket and had it buried. They hoped that by doing that, they had also buried our depravity."

Libby backed up a few paces and held on more tightly to Jinx who struggled and hissed.

"But a few months ago, I finally won out," Laslo told her. "I died!!!!. But your aunts, couldn't leave me to rot in a hell of my own making. Leticia, who had riled against the malignancy that was her father—was seduced by the divine power that resurrection would provide. She had found the journal—the journal which chronicled my failures. You see, I was being paid to find the secret of eternal life. I never did," he said almost wistfully. "But Leticia discovered the answer. Remember, little Libby, she was the one who always had the knack for mixing things," he explained laughing.

Libby looked left and right but saw no way out. The evil expression on her grandfather's…no …her…her…father's face chilled her to the bone.

"Now I'm here to bring justice by eradicating this family and especially the anathema, the monstrosity I created— you."

Libby couldn't move, she couldn't think, she couldn't feel.

Laslo Barton walked toward her, gun raised. As he approached her, Jinx leapt from her arms and attacked the older man. Backing away from the onslaught of the claws reaching out for his face, Laslo stepped back over the threshold of the cellar and careened backwards down the stairs. A shot rang out and the bullet pierced the heart of the debauched man.

They were dead, they were all dead. Twelve-year old Libby Barton slowly and cautiously moved down the stairs, picked up the gun and returned to the kitchen.

***

Smallville, Kansas Saturday, February 26, 1994 11:40 p.m. CST

Sixty-eight year-old Libby Barton slowly and cautiously held the gun on the two Luthors. "I've always wanted to be a great actress, she told the assembled group, and my first part was as an aunt who killed men with elderberry wine— how ironic. *My* aunts also had a fondness for elderberries and murder."

"Put the gun down," Martha told Miss Libby. "You really don't want to kill anybody."

"I have to, Martha," Libby Barton told her. "I was once told I was an abomination, not meant to walk this earth, that I wasn't even human. I've lived with the memory of monsters all my life—my father, Lex's father. *They* are the abomination. I know that you've always wondered why I only read stories of depravity. Maybe it made me feel more human, less depraved. Humanness I have finally discovered is based upon caring and loving. Neither Lex nor Jaxon can love. But I can now. I finally love this town and all of you who opened your hearts to me. It's only been for the last two months that I have felt human. So I have to do this."

Superman groaned as the Kryptonite continued to impact on him.

"Now *you* close that box," Libby told her grandson.

Jaxon shut the lid of the lead container, stopping the bombardment of rays.

Lex Luthor took the opportunity while everyone's eyes were on the box to make a lunge at Libby.

She turned instantly and fired the gun. Lex fell to the floor, dead.

Jaxon rushed to his father. As detestable as Lex had been to his son, Jaxon still needed him in his own sadistic way—needed him alive to prove his own existence, his own power. He kneeled down and seeing that his father was dead, turned and moved quickly toward the murderer. Libby's gun rang out again and Jaxon was propelled over and then down. He lay dead, sprawled on top of what used to be his father.

Superman had tried to stop the bullets but could not move. The other prisoners were equally prohibited from intervening.

Miss Libby bit her lower lip and stared at the bodies heaped on the floor. How reminiscent it felt. Her eyes glazed over as she stared at the carnage and she slowly sank to the floor.

"Untie me, Miss Libby," Lois said softly. "Let me help the others. Let me help you."

The remaining member of the Barton family rose slowly. "I'm not done," she informed them.

"No, don't," Superman told her, realizing what she was going to do by the resolute expression on her face.

"It has to end now!" Miss Libby told them forcefully. "Don't you understand? Don't any of you understand? I'm dying anyway. Let me choose the way I go out. Let me end this!"

She looked around at each of them and chanted:

Libby Barton took a gun And killed her family, everyone.

"You can't," Martha said.

With great difficulty, Superman rose to his knees. "Miss Libby," he said. "I'm not going to let you do this. Whatever it takes, I'm going to stop you."

"I don't think you're strong enough yet, Clark, or fast enough," she said, staring at Superman. "Yes…yes I know," she explained as the Kents eyed her. "I've known since the day Clark arrived here on earth."

Lois gaped at her.

"I have never told anyone, Lois. I just couldn't. I had lost a child, or so I thought and knew what wanting a child felt like. I saw the light in Martha's eyes when she first held you, Clark," she continued, turning to him, "and I couldn't take that away from her. And, as you became first a young child—a caring youngster who didn't chide me like the rest—then a teenager who helped with my yard work, carried my bundles, and delivered books—how could I reveal your ancestry? Then six months ago, you became Superman. Why would I destroy that? You have been a model for us all—someone to pin our hopes upon—someone who stands for truth and justice," she finished and paused.

Libby looked down at the gun.

"Don't," Lois begged.

"It's my turn to stand for justice. This is justice and my final curtain," Miss Libby said and turned the gun on herself and began to pull the trigger.

Two red beams emanated from Superman's eyes and Libby Barton dropped the red-hot gun just as the door flew open and Rachel Harris and a deputy burst into the room.

***

***

Epilogue

Smallville, Kansas Friday, March 4, 1994 10:15 a.m. CST

The Barton house four stood at the front of the classroom. Their presentation was the final one the American Literature class would hear covering this particular assignment. Over the past five days Ms. Lane's students have been discussing "The House of the Seven Gables" and the various houses and families of Smallville, Kansas. And now it was their turn.

Cindy Brady, Emily Cox, Keith Haley and Tom Mock looked at each other and Cindy took a step forward.

"In reading 'The House of the Seven Gables'," Cindy began. "We sort of feel satisfied by the ending of the romance. Everything seems to be just perfect. Holgrave gets back his traditional family property—the house of the seven gables. The old curse over the Pyncheons is gone. The order restored. The Judge dies, Phoebe and Holgrave will even marry and therefore tie the two very different families together. Hepzibah and Clifford escape the house of the seven gables to live on a beautiful country estate. But why does this bother us?"

"We are upset," Emily Cox said, taking over. "Because maybe it's too perfect. The influences of the past upon the present cannot simply end with the reestablishment of the right order. The past and its curse keep on working on the characters and those that come in contact with them. It was a happy ending, but it seems a concession on the part of Nathaniel Hawthorne—a concession to his readers. Are all endings happy?"

"For the past two months, Keith, Emily, Cindy and I…" Tom stated. "…have been studying the house at 417 Maple—the house that belongs to the Barton family. Our research has led us far afield—to Hungary, to a radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' 'War of the Worlds', to Roswell, New Mexico, to our own auditorium's presentation of 'Arsenic and Old Lace' and most of all to one woman's personal hell."

"Hawthorne seems to believe that past misdeeds cannot fully become reversed," Keith explained as he stepped forward and opened the book they had been studying to page 313. "'If, after a long lapse of years,…" he read. "…the right seems to be in our power, we find no niche to set it in'," he finished putting the book down. Lois smiled as she listened to the four students. She realized that they and the few new friends of Libby Barton had learned much and had experienced much in the last few months. The mystery behind the door at 417 Maple has been revealed to a select few and its influence felt on many. She took a deep breath. Were the four going to tell it all?

"The four of us believe that we are supposed to think that the sins of the fathers do visit upon the children," Keith continued. "And all of us sitting in this room need to reflect on that idea. Are we, as young people, burdened by what went on before us? Or can we also believe that lives can change and that it takes a lot of courage and support from others to overcome those sins? Hawthorne's book is an exercise in dichotomy. Things are never what they seem. Appearances and reality are not the same. Good is evil and evil is good. What we think we know is not necessarily the truth."

The four students looked at each once again. "We discovered the truth, but it's a truth with happy and unhappy endings," Keith explained to the class. "And, it's a truth that will remain locked away."

"Some of us believe that the ending of this book we have been reading is anything but happy for the characters," Tom stated. "Oh, yes! The bad guy dies, the good guys get each other. But even the good guys have lost so much. They have lost feelings, lost ideals, lost a liberal philosophy."

"But," Cindy added. "There are those of us who believe that the reader hasn't lost. The reader has gained something— hope. Hawthorne's irony gives us hope. A hope that's especially important for each of us sitting here—a hope that the transgressions of those who came before us will serve as a lesson," she added, picking up the book and reading. 'And wise Uncle Venner, passing slowly from the ruinous porch, seemed to hear a strain of music, and fancied that sweet Alice Pyncheon—after witnessing these deeds, this bygone woe and this present happiness, of her kindred mortals—had given one farewell touch of a spirit's joy upon her harpsichord, as she floated heavenward from the 'House of the Seven Gables.'

Smallville, Kansas Sunday April 17, 1994 8:20 a.m. CST

The newest doctor on the staff of Smallville General hospital limped slightly as she walked down the hall and approached the door to room 221 and entered slowly and quietly. She grimaced a bit as she felt a slight pain in her leg. After several operations as a child, the only residue of her birth defect, was her left leg's lameness and occasional aches during times of bad weather.

Liz walked over to the bed and took the chart off the end of the bed and leafed through the pages. Last stage, Ovarian Cancer she noted. The doctor glanced over at the orders and saw a DNR notation—a do not resuscitate and the name Martha Kent as power of attorney.

Researching further back into the chart, she read once again the medical history of the patient. No childhood diseases, no early hospitalizations. Caesarian section and birth of twins on April 1, 1948 at Roswell Municipal Hospital.

Liz moved over to the side of the bed and took the feeble woman's hand in hers. She looked up to see Martha Kent entering the hospital room.

Libby Barton opened her eyes and saw the two women hovering over her. She closed her eyes for the last time as the monitor beside the bed beeped once more and then flatlined.

Dr. Liz Lathrop walked over to the window and watched the sky empty a spring rain on the pavement below. She turned to look at Martha Kent who was gently arranging Libby' hair; and turning back, Liz Lathrop closed the curtains.

***

Smallville, Kansas Thursday April 21, 1994 4:30 p.m. CST

The Smallville Players encircled a newly dug hole in front of the Cherry Orchard Clinic. Jonathan Kent steadied a sapling Cherry Tree in his outstretched hands. Martha opened the urn containing Libby Barton's ashes and sprinkled them into the opening that would soon house the young tree.

Jonathan Kent placed the Cherry Tree into its spot next to the three others whose pink Cherry blossoms were just freshly budding.

"Libby Barton," Martha began, "is finally at rest. She's far away from the monsters and demons that had invaded her life. In one of Libby's favorite books, H.G. Wells' 'War of the Worlds', the curate asks. 'What does it mean?…, What do these things mean? …Why are these things permitted? What sins have we done?'"

The friends of Miss Libby watched Martha, waiting patiently for her to continue.

"Miss Libby believed that the sins of her fathers continued on in her. A little twelve-year old girl took on the troubles of her family and tried to make amends. She struggled as do the rest of us with sin and punishment, with lies and truths, with injustice and justice. Are there answers, answers to guide us? Wells' book searches for answers as we all search. 'What good is man if we collapse under calamity?', the book tells us, 'Think of what earthquakes and floods, wars and volcanoes, have done before to men!' And yet we endure." Tears collected in Martha's eyes. Jonathan put his arm around her shoulders and Clark took her hand. "Does H.G. Wells give us answers? The only response from the narrator is 'There is still hope'. And I believe in hope for us all and I know Libby did, too. She found hope in the last few months of her life and none of us should let her down. We have to continue to hope as we all face life together."

Clark took a shovel and turned the soil around the sapling. He passed the shovel on to some of the other theatre members who had gathered to remember Libby Barton. Each took a turn adding earth to ashes under the budding tree.

***

Smallville, Kansas Tuesday, April 26, 1994 11:25 CST

Lois put her head on her husband's chest as they snuggled in their bed. She draped her arm around him and sighed, then tilted her head up and began to kiss him.

"Again…," she murmured.

"Hey! I'm not sure I have the strength. After all I'm only human," he said laughing.

"More…" Lois moaned, as she kissed him again and again.

"It's a good thing I *am* Superman. I don't think a normal man could keep up with…"

"Shut-up," Lois teased, kissing him harder.

"Your wish is my command, Lois," he said, kissing her deeply and rolling over on top of her.

"I love you so much," Lois told him after they had made love for the second time that night.

Clark smiled. "Lois, you are the most important thing in my life," he said kissing the top of her head as she snuggled into him again.

Lois looked at the clock on the bedside table. "Happy Anniversary," she told him, as the digital clock turned over to 12:00.

"Huh?" Clark asked.

"It's been two months since we got married, and I have a present for you," she said smiling. "You remembered our one month anniversary and gave me that wonderful crystal case to enclose my beautiful quartz rock. So now this month it's my turn."

Lois hopped out of bed and went to the closet. She pulled out a large package all wrapped in Christmas paper. It had reindeer, snowmen and several Santa Clauses printed on bright red paper.

"What's this?" he asked her smiling. "Isn't it a bit late or early for Christmas."

"I know how you love Christmas," Lois told him. "So I thought I'd give you an early present."

Clark sat up and unwrapped the gift. He lifted the lid of the box. Inside was a smaller box. Clark glanced at her. "You're crazy, and I love you," he told her smiling, and proceeded to open box after box.

Inside the smallest box was an envelope. Clark glanced at Lois and then opened it.

Merry Christmas Daddy, I'll see you on the 25th of December Signed: Christopher or Noelle.

***

Smallville, Kansas Wednesday, April 27, 1994 6:30 a.m. CST

Dr. Liz Lathrop walked gingerly down the hall of the Smallville Medical Building and approached the door labeled Dr. Post. Due to the morning rain, her leg was cramping up. She knocked gently and then opened the door and entered Dr. Post's office.

"Here are Mrs. Kent's charts," she said handing the material to the doctor. "Was she as pleased as you believed she would be when you told her of the positive results yesterday?"

"Yes," chuckled Dr. Post. "I was my brilliant self when I informed her. And as expected of these gallactically stupid 20th century simpletons, she exhibited unbridled enthusiasm over an elementary biological quirk of nature."

"Did she take the, uh…pre-natal vitamin supplements with her?"

"Duh, of course. How dare you question my capabilities," he said, rising and crossing to her angrily.

The woman stood her ground as he walked toward her with an evil expression in his eyes.

"I found you and brought you here so you can get what's coming to you. In return, you are to be my font of medical knowledge and do what I tell you to do," he demanded and then continued with a litanous discourse about his plans.

Liz ignored his diatribe as her mind thought back to this depraved man's arrival literally on her doorstep. She knew that he was sure it was his facile flow of promises and his hypnotic allure that had assuaged her to leave the only home she had known and travel with him to this place.

He believed her to be a simple, docile, na‹ve woman. But Liz could never be considered a victim—an easy prey for men to take advantage of. Her beginnings and her education had been geared to insuring that she would be empowered, that she would be the intellectual and strategic superior of any man—a dominant force in her own life and in the lives of those she touched. No one, especially no man, would make her cow tow—make her less than what she was.

When they had arrived in Smallville several weeks ago, she had received the guided tour of the edifices that would become the cornerstone of her existence and of her power, once she eventually seized her proper role in the community.

She, as rightful heir to the Luthor fortune, had seen Lex's stronghold and had walked by the house at 417 Maple, the last of which held a particular attraction for her. Unbeknownst to her supposed mentor, she had secretly returned to the latter, and had stealthily obtained access to its interior coming away with several secrets that the house contained.

She smiled at Dr. Post as if she acquiesced to her subservient role and slipped her hand into the pocket of her uniform. Her fingers encircled the round globe-like sphere and she could just about feel the barely discernable vibrations that emanated from within its core.

Liz Lathrop would serve her so-called master and would wait patiently until the opportune time to take control.

***

Clark cradled his wife in his arms. He kissed the top of her head, once more, and then raised her face toward him to capture her lips again.

Lois snuggled securely against him. She eyed the clock and sighed. The alarm would soon ring and they would have to get up in order to get ready for school. She loved teaching and she loved the students; and, she usually looked forward to getting to work especially since the man she loved worked there as well. But last night had been wonderful. They had basked in their love and in their extreme happiness and she wanted desperately to dawdle some more.

The clock changed to 6:45 and the alarm sounded just a split second before the radio blared on.

###

KSML ANNOUNCER: This is KSML with the news. University of Michigan scientists state that recent experiments utilizing animals have proven that time travel is possible. Dr. Hardy of the University's Marshall Laboratories states that…

###

Clark gazed lovingly at his wife as she turned back to him and then held her even more closely. "I love you, little one," he said leaning down and kissing her tummy. "And I love you," he said pulling Lois into his arms and giving her a gentle kiss.

Lois reached out and turned the radio off. As she did so, her arm knocked over a small amber vial that perched on the edge of the nightstand.

Lois turned back and kissed her husband again. Not able to stop there, the two deepened the kiss and Lois realized that preparation for work would simply have to wait.

The amber vial rolled over and over and finally came to rest against the back leg of a chair, label side up. It read: Take one a day with breakfast. Dr. Tim Post.

***

Tim Post walked over to the window of his office and looking down, examined what he would term the bucolic, provincial farming citizens who, as ritual dictated, were getting an early start on their day. "And if Smallville History 101 serves me," the time traveler continued. "I'm here at exactly the right moment to prevent…" he chuckled evilly. "…prevent the progeny of that perfect passionate pair from creating that beautifully beneficent but boringly overrated utopian society," he explained as he reached up to take the cords in his hand and then dramatically closed the curtain.

***

Martha Kent had gotten to the bookstore quite early that morning. Something told her that it was going to be an eventful day and she had much to do. She hadn't even had a chance to unpack her last shipment of books and shelve them.

Jinx number five, relaxed now in his new home, curled up beside Martha who had squatted down on the floor to begin her work.

Martha opened the box and began to take out the books one by one. This was one of her favorite parts about owning a bookstore—the anticipation as she touched each book and perused the titles that would soon open a child's eyes to the wonder of the world around him, or bring back bittersweet memories to an older person's life, or challenge the opinions and beliefs of a stagnant society to see the options that creativity could invoke.

This shipment was no exception. She gazed at the book titles and thought back on the events of the last few months: Chekov's 'The Cherry Orchard', Hawthorne's 'The House of the Seven Gables' and H.G. Wells' 'The War of the Worlds'.

Martha opened the last book and read a quotation by H.G. Wells on the inside cover of the book jacket. "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."

The bell over the door tinkled and Martha looked up surprised. She hadn't thought she had unlocked the door.

There in front of her stood a diminutive man in a dated suit, and bowler hat. Jinx scooted over and rubbed against the legs of the visitor welcoming him. The stranger leaned down and stroked the cat, then walked over to the window and opened the curtains to let the spring sunshine in and, smiling turned to cross toward Martha.

"Mrs. Kent," the man said. "I see you've been reading my book."

THE END

Watch for Smallville Players IV: Encore Coming this Fall.

I know that many of you may gloss over the citations — but I encourage you to read these and you may find some of what is cited below interesting.

Citations:

Of course, you will all recognize our beloved characters and pieces of dialog from Lois and Clark: The New Adventures. (1993-1997) Specifically credited as writers are: Dean Cain, Brad Buckner, Eugenie Ross-Leming and Chris Ruppenthal.

The little poem cited at the beginning of the story and within the fanfic is an adaptation of the children's rhyme: 'Lizzy Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty wacks' — source unknown.

'The House of the Seven Gables' is by Nathaniel Hawthorne and was first published in 1851.

The theatrical play "Arsenic and Old Lace" is by Joseph Kesselring, originally presented by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse at the Fulton Theatre in New York, on August 18, 1941, starring Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, Allan Joslyn and Boris Karloff is used here through permission of Dramatists Play Service. No lines in the play have been altered as to content but are exactly word for word as the author wrote them—other than to remove references to Brooklyn and change New York City to Metropolis and the New York Times to the Metropolis Star. One character's name in the play was altered from Officer Klein to Officer Cohen— having a play with a Jonathan and a Martha was enough confusion.

The radio play "War of the Worlds" is based upon the novel of the same name by H.G. Wells and adapted in 1938 for The Mercury Theatre of the Air by Howard Koch and Orson Welles with cast members Orson Welles, Ray Collins, Joseph Cotton, John Houseman, Agnes Moorhead, Paul Stewart and Everett Sloane. (Some additional adaptation, once again utilizing the sites and sounds of Metropolis in lieu of New York City, have been freely made by this author.)

The Newscasts related to the Hindenburg (1937), the UFO Washington D.C. sightings (1952), the Jupiter space shot (1994) and the Gamma Ray phenomenon (1994) are directly from newscasts and newspapers of the day.

Information utilized regarding the Roswell, New Mexico incident and members of that community is from a variety of newspaper articles and the Roswell, New Mexico web site.

Clark's lecture on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (1911) is from a newspaper account of the event (again altering the site from New York City to Metropolis) and utilizes this writer's knowledge of Frances Perkins.

The quotations by Frances Perkins were obtained from the Frances Perkins web site.

The laws cited by Veronica Kipling are real laws that are on the books today in the state of Kansas. There actually *is* a Lang, Kansas.

The utilization of Puck's last speech from William Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (1595) is a traditional incantation to eliminate theatre ghosts, to overturn broken theatrical superstitions, and to insure success.

A portion of the Barton House Four's class report was from information gathered out of an essay on 'The House of the Seven Gables' written by Jan Helten, September 1999.

The quotations utilized at Libby's memorial service was directly from H.G. Wells' 'War of the Worlds' (1895). The quotation Martha reads from the inside book jacket of Wells' novel is from H.G. Wells' 'Outline of History' (1920).