By bobbart -- Bob Bartholomew <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: September 2008
Summary: Lois Lane doesn't believe in luck, but someone else looking at her life might describe her as lucky. Her life with Clark seems just about perfect, but their desire for a family may require more than just the normal measure of luck. A tale of Lois and Clark not long after the end of the series that explores the very nature of Superman.
Thanks to Dandello for being my BR and for the Writing 101 lessons that improved this story immeasurably. This work has also benefited from the masterful GE work of Terry Leatherwood. The patience with misplaced commas and other grammatical errors has been nothing short of amazing. Finally, I have benefited from having a wife that has been gracious those times when I woke her at 1:00 am with a question or idea.
Disclaimer: This is a fanfic based on the television show, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. I have no claim on the pre-existing characters whatsoever, nor am I profiting by their use. The new characters and story elements are mine. No infringement is intended by this work.
Time frame: Early season 5.
Lois Lane didn't believe in luck. Well, at least she didn't believe in the kind of luck that determined your place in the world. Luck didn't get her the best grades in school. When she had decided that she was going to work at one of the leading news organizations in the world, it wasn't luck that got her that job. And luck didn't put her at the pinnacle of her profession as one of the top investigative reporters in the entire world. She had drive, skill and determination. Let other people worry about luck.
This particular evening, Lois was in an especially good mood. She was enjoying the end of an almost perfect day. Earlier, she had spent a pleasurable afternoon walking around the city with her husband. She loved the city and knew that Clark felt the same way. They enjoyed soaking in the energy and sense of connection that came from living in Metropolis.
As she thought of Clark, Lois couldn't help but to shift her gaze to her partner. Clark was busy reading through a news magazine and hadn't yet sensed that she was looking in his direction. Lois found that her eyes were lingering on the love of her life. As the seconds ticked by, she felt a warm glow welling up from within. Perhaps not everything that was the best in life came only from hard work. She couldn't help but feel that Clark was truly a paradox made flesh. Here was simultaneously the strongest and most gentle man she had ever met. When he wore 'the suit' he emitted a confidence that inspired the world, yet as Clark he was so shy that it had taken him nearly two years to tell her who he really was and how he felt.
How he felt...
He had told her time and again that he had fallen in love with her the first instant they met. Yet even when she had tried to push him away... even when she almost married another man... even when they had actually gone on a date and the evening had ended with her slamming the door in his face for no reason... even after all that, he never gave up, never wavered, and never faltered in his love for her. Yeah, maybe there was something to be said for this luck business after all.
But luck wasn't what Lois was about this evening. The activity of the moment was all about talent. She and Clark had an established routine for the end of the weekend. In front of them was a pile of newspapers from all over the world. Years ago, Lois had found that there was an enormous amount of data that could be gleaned from the various other news sources. On more than one occasion, Lois had seen a small piece in another paper that had just *that* feel to it. To Lois, this sort of story felt like a thread hanging loose just begging to be pulled. Most of the time, when the thread got pulled, there was nothing more to that story. But every so often, pulling just the right thread, in just the right way, would cause a big story that had been hidden from sight to fall into the waiting arms of Lois Lane.
When Clark became her partner, it took a long time before she was willing to share this particular aspect of her career. But even before they were married, she had come to trust Clark and allow him to assist in this research. His job was to scan the other news sources and do the preliminary screening of stories. When he saw something interesting, he would pass it to Lois. He was a skilled reporter and his talents were more than adequate to recognize the difference between just another news blurb and something that had the potential to turn into a front page story. But by working together, and having Lois do a second pass on the stories, they were able to consider a much broader range of possible leads. Clark did the first pass because while his instincts were good, Lois had the 'magic.'
As she was considering the news articles that Clark had passed over to her, she was also keeping an ear on the television. Lois had found that the same talent that allowed her to identify a potential gem of a story in print could also key off of a passing comment from a talking head on the tube news. The local news was on and they had just finished describing a Superman rescue of a motorist earlier in the day. There was nothing newsworthy here since Clark had already submitted a small write up on that rescue, but she always enjoyed watching him in action.
As that piece ended, the anchorwoman started reading the teaser for the next segment. "Coming up, all you pregnant mothers out there had better hope you've made arrangements for daycare. We have a special report on the overcrowding crisis in Metropolis daycare centers."
She froze at this, the story she had been scanning before completely forgotten. Pregnant women... Children... Suddenly the evening lost its glow.
Lois realized that Clark was speaking to her. She didn't even notice how long it had been.
"Lois? Are you okay?"
She looked into to the face of her husband. The concern that was evident on his face told her that she had been in deep 'lock up' mode. She suspected that he'd probably tried to speak to her several times before she even noticed his voice. Recovering, she tried to respond in a normal conversational tone.
"I'm fine." She said in what she hoped was a casual tone of voice. "I just got distracted for a second."
"Really, what's wrong?" Clark insisted.
"Nothing," she replied. She really didn't want to talk about this. What had happened to the nearly perfect evening of just a few minutes before?
Now Clark's voice took on a somewhat pained tone. "Please don't do that. We've been together long enough that I know that look. It's fine with me if you don't want to talk about whatever it is, but don't pretend that there's nothing bothering you."
Now she was stuck. She wasn't going to deceive Clark even if this was a subject that would hurt him even more that her. Finally, she looked over to him with what she imagined was a pained expression. "It's that piece they ran a few minutes ago about the daycare overcrowding."
She could see from the reaction on his face that he already knew where this conversation would likely lead. However, Clark was never one to shy away from a difficult situation. Lois couldn't help but think right then that there was too much Boy Scout in him for his own good. Watching his face, she could see the instant when he arrived at the decision to talk this out. He asked cautiously, "Would you like to talk about it?"
"I don't know. I guess finding a daycare center is something that we'll never have to worry about."
As she said this, she could feel her so-carefully held expression beginning to break. The next instant Clark was there and she found herself in his arms. She heard his voice softly in her ear, "I'm sorry."
There was no going back now. Lois felt the tears starting to flow. "I never really wanted to be a Mom. I guess I never expected to be a wife either. Clark, things just changed so much when you came into my life. Now, the whole 'can't have children' thing just eats at me. Darling, I know how you feel about children, and that doesn't help."
"Lois, being with you is so much more than I ever thought I'd have. I know I've told you this before, but you make me complete."
He was so sweet. She pulled back just a bit and looked at Clark with a sad smile. "I know that. But I also know that you do want children. You had such a wonderful family life while you were growing up. I know that you want to have children, our children, so you can pass those experiences along. Don't try and tell me you don't want a family. You aren't the only one here who knows when something is bothering her partner."
Lois felt Clark move his hand to cradle her cheek in that way that she knew so well. When he next spoke, the emotional strain was evident.
"Yes, the whole incompatible-with-human-females thing bothers me." Clark leaned back on the sofa with a melancholy sigh. "I've always known that I came to this world in a spaceship. When I got old enough to understand biology, I realized that children would probably be impossible. Lois, I look so human. I feel so human. How could we have what we do if I was really that different?"
She could see that Clark was losing control of his emotions too. It looked like it was his turn to be near tears. She moved over to him and laid her head on his chest. "I know, Clark. If it weren't for the powers, you'd be physically indistinguishable from any other man." She sensed an opportunity to lighten this conversation. She looked up at him with suggestive smile. "That is, you would be indistinguishable from any other fabulously sexy hunk of a man."
They shared a tender smile, and then Lois thought to herself, Okay Lane, enough wallowing. Take some actions! In a more serious tone she asked Clark, "When was the last time you checked in with Dr. Klein on the status of Superman's fertility?"
"Well, it's been over a month. That last time I spoke with him, he seemed pretty sure that I wasn't compatible with human women. That hurt both of us so much that I just didn't want to deal with it any more. Besides, remember that your Dad came to the same conclusion?"
"Well, Dad got his memory erased before we had the chance to ask him why. Did Doc Klein ever explain why you can't have children?"
"No. At the time I just never followed up. Then, when your Dad verified the results, I guess I just didn't see the point."
We really needed to work through this, thought Lois. Finally, she replied, "Clark, please find out why. I just don't see how we can ever get past this issue if we don't at least try to understand."
"Okay. I guess you're right. I'll ask Doc Klein to set up a meeting to go over his conclusions in detail. Do you want to be there?"
"No." And then Lois added quickly, "Well, at least not yet. I don't think it would be a good idea for me to be involved unless we're going to tell Dr. Klein who you... who *we* really are. How much does he know about why Superman wants to know about his fertility with human women?"
Clark had a thoughtful look on his face. "I let him believe I was considering a relationship. I think I'd like to tell him that there is much more at stake than that. It might provide some extra motivation. Lois, for now I want to tell him I am in a committed relationship. Depending on what we learn, I think it may be time to bring him in on the secret. You know Dr. Klein. He can be trusted with this, and besides, he's a smart guy. Sooner or later he'll put the pieces together on his own."
Lois thought about her previous interactions with Dr. Klein. "I think you're right. I trust him and it will probably make a lot of things easier in the future. But, please don't tell him about us yet. I don't think that now is quite the time."
Lois could see that there would be no more work research for this evening. With another deep sigh she moved into Clark's embrace, closed her eyes and just let herself enjoy the togetherness that they shared.
By Monday morning, much of the feeling of despair that she had been feeling the previous evening was gone. While Lois wasn't feeling chipper, she had achieved a semblance of normalcy for the start of the week. This particular Monday had proven to be a bit quieter than usual, and she had taken advantage of the lull to get on the phone and refresh contacts with a number of her sources.
As afternoon arrived, Lois was at her desk typing up notes from that morning. She had to admit that between the issues that were raised with Clark the previous evening and the lack of any really juicy ongoing investigation, she was not really 'on' today. Clark had disappeared on a Superman call just before noon and she wondered what was taking so long. Usually, anything that took more than 15 minutes or so meant that there would be some sort of news flash. This time it had been over an hour and Clark was still gone.
About ten minutes later Lois felt a pair of familiar hands on her shoulders. She felt Clark leaning down so he could speak quietly in her ear.
"How's your day going?"
"Where have you been? I didn't hear a news flash for anything that looked like a major emergency."
"There wasn't." Clark glanced around quickly to make sure no one could hear. "The call was an ordinary robbery. While I was out and in the suit, I stopped by Star Labs and told Doc Klein that I wanted to meet with him this evening to follow up on the fertility research. He said that he would make time to review his notes and be ready to talk later. I have an appointment at 6:00 today."
Lois felt an unexpected rush of some of the despair from the previous evening. She found herself looking back at Clark with something of a blank stare.
"What?" Clark asked.
Lois gave a small shrug, "Nothing. I guess that I'm just scared. In some ways, it's easier not knowing. If it's really bad news then we don't even have hope."
She felt Clark put his arms around her as he replied, "I know. But we went all through this last night. We can't just keep letting this eat at us. One way or another, we need to move forward on this."
Lois sighed. "Yes. You're right. We did decide to do this and I'm not changing my mind. Clark, this scares me and I'm not in control. I've never been very good with that particular combination."
"Honey, learning more is what we can do to at least try to have some sort of control."
"I know," Lois replied. "Clark, please promise that you'll come right home when you get done at Star Labs. I need to know the situation and don't think I can stand to wait until after you finish your evening patrol."
"I promise I'll come right home. But Lois, if there is a real emergency..."
"Yes. If people are in danger, then I can wait a little longer. But Clark, this is really important. Okay?"
She could tell by the look on his face that he understood that this was important as he replied with a quiet, "Okay."
The rest of the afternoon dragged on very slowly. It's probably just as well that she was not in the middle of anything serious. Clark was obviously aware of how distracted she had been. He approached her in the late afternoon and suggested that they head home early so that they could at least start the evening at home together. Normally, she would have hated this idea of an early exit from work, but he was right and she just wasn't going to produce anything by staying in the office today.
Once they got home, Lois realized that her general feeling of anxiety was not going to get better just by being at home. Clark had tried to convince her to eat, but she was simply too wound up to consider food. When 6:00 finally arrived, she watched Clark spin into the suit to take off for Star Labs. It was with almost a feeling of relief that she saw him disappear into the Metropolis sky.
Bernard Klein had something of a different view of luck than did Lois. Like Lois, his achievements were largely a result of his skill and effort. His different perspective on luck was based in the fact that he recognized the inherent good fortune that had come from his being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.
When Superman had first appeared on the scene, Bernie had been in the process of establishing himself at Star Labs. His background of biology and physics was uncommon, and up to that point, there had not been a lot of situations that could make use of both sides of his particular dual skill set.
The appearance of Superman changed all that in a most profound way. Suddenly there was a person that seemed to be able to defy the laws of physics at will. Within the circle of scientists that made up the Star Labs community, the very first *big* Superman question was: "What is it in his biology that allows him to defy the laws of physics?" When the first opportunity came to work with Superman, even the more senior scientists had to concede that his background made Dr. Klein uniquely qualified to head up all Superman studies.
When Bernie had first been chosen to head the Superman research team, he knew that he had been granted a prestigious scientific post. Beyond that, he was simultaneously thrilled and a bit worried about working with an alien. Sure, Superman looked friendly enough from a distance, but what would he be like up close? Fortunately, he learned very quickly that whatever powers this alien might possess, he was among the nicest people that Bernie had met. The only thing that seemed to constantly set him apart from regular people, other than the powers, was his ever-present seriousness. Many of his fellow scientists wondered if that was just another aspect of his alien heritage, but Bernie wasn't so sure. Then, when Superman first approached him with questions relating to his fertility, Bernie concluded that however alien his biology might be, he apparently had all the emotional elements of any human.
Bernie was a bit anxious about the meeting this evening. Superman was long past just being a subject of study. He considered Superman to be his friend and wasn't looking forward to going over the details of the bad news about his compatibility with human women.
Superman was going to arrive by a special entrance on the roof. Some time ago, the two of them had established a protocol for these sorts of visits. There was a roof access that could be reached from inside one of the secure lab areas. The entrance itself was enclosed and had been specifically designed to allow Superman to enter and exit at super speed. This meant that when necessary, he could enter and leave Star Labs in secret. This entrance also had a compartment outside the door which concealed a buzzer that rang his office.
At what his clock showed to be 6:01, Bernie heard the buzzer. He hurried up the stairs to the heavily secured roof entrance. After verifying through the closed circuit TV monitor that it was Superman on the other side of the door, Dr. Klein began releasing the array of locking devices that secured the door. When the door could finally be opened, Bernie tried to be calm and offered a cheerful welcome of, "Good evening Superman. Please come down into my office so we can talk freely."
As they entered the landing, Dr. Klein reengaged the locks for the roof. It took an extra minute or so, but was absolutely necessary since this was far too sensitive an entrance to leave unsecured. Bernie led the way as they went down to the lab and into his main lab office.
They had barely gotten seated when Superman just jumped right in. "Dr. Klein, I appreciate your making the time for us to meet like this."
Bernie had been thinking about this conversation all day. He had something to say and decided that he might as well just go for it. He took a deep breath and replied, "I know better than most what you do for all of us. Even so, until you asked me to do this particular research, I didn't spend very much time thinking about your feelings as a person. Since that time, I've taken the opportunity to consider your personality and how you interact with people... Superman, I would like to ask you a question."
"Go ahead," Clark said.
This is it, Bernie thought, get ready to duck. He finally asked aloud, "Are you a fraud?"
He saw Superman's eyes widen. "What! What do you mean?"
Bernie relaxed a little at this reaction. If Superman didn't storm out at that first bold statement, then it should be safe to speak freely. Bernie continued, "I've met with you many times. I've seen your interviews on television and read your quotes in the newspaper. When I've seen you interact with others, you usually seem to be exceptionally formal. You present a public face of someone that might be devoid of emotion. Then you came to me and asked me to do this investigation. When you were requesting me to pursue this line of research, your demeanor was anything but formal. Afterwards, the more I thought about how you behaved when you made that request, the more I had to believe that the persona that you let the public see isn't the real person. So, I believe the *person* that you show the world is a fake. Am I wrong?"
This time there really wasn't much delay in Superman's reaction. As a small smile developed on his face, Superman replied, "No. You're right. Please believe me when I say that I have my reasons for showing only this side of who I am. It makes it easier for me to deal with most people, especially criminals. Many of the situations in which I become involved tend to work out better if I have an air of detachment. Dr. Klein, at some point it's likely that I will show you more of the person behind this suit, but for now I have to maintain my detachment."
Bernie was pleased that he had been so accurate in his assessment of Superman's real personality. "I understand that, but would you do me the favor of calling me Bernie?"
"I'd be honored, Bernie."
Superman's openness left Bernie feeling flustered for just a second. However, it was time to get to the reason that they were here. Thinking about the things he had learned concerning Superman and his biology was more than enough to get him energized as he headed into the technical side of this meeting. "Superman, you have no idea how exciting this line of research has been for me. These tests have contributed a great deal in understanding why you are the way you are."
Bernie couldn't resist pausing for dramatic impact, "First, and most promising, you're fully human."
"What do you mean?"
Bernie could see the confused look on Superman's face. "I did a complete biological analysis of your blood. In every particular, right down to your genetic code, you are exactly as human as I am."
"How can that be? After all, other humans can't do what I do. Also, do I need to remind you that I'm from another planet?"
At this, Bernie could hardly contain himself. "That's what's really exciting! I found that once I got past your super powers, all the regular medical tests showed you and your blood to be perfectly normal for a human. Obviously, you do have the powers, so there had to be something that was different. I kept looking and was finally able to isolate what makes you different from us non-super humans. What I discovered means that you would be best described as human-plus. However, it would probably be more correct to call you an artificially augmented human."
"Bernie, how can I be human when we both know that I came from another planet?"
"That was possibly the most exciting discovery of all. I'm now convinced that humans and Kryptonians both came from the same original human race. When I first saw these test results, the thought that crossed my mind that perhaps both Krypton and Earth were originally colonies of some other planet. However, that idea just doesn't hold up to what we know of human and Earth biology. There is a huge body of scientific data that ties humans to other Earth-based organisms. So, even though I don't know how it's possible, somehow your ancestors originally came from here. Based on my analysis of your genetic code, I would guess that your people were separated from Earth somewhere between five and ten thousand years ago. I also suspect that may be why you were sent to Earth to live. If you weren't essentially completely human, there would be no basis for biological compatibility at all."
"Well, considering how I got here, I guess I can believe that. But what did you mean about my being artificially augmented? I don't use any kind of machines for my powers."
"Actually, the source of your powers is artificial. The artificial part operates at the cellular level. Your 'perfectly normal' human biology has been modified. I've found what appear to be nanotechnology additions to your human genome. These extensions seem to be located such that they don't interfere with normal genetic operation. And when I say normal operations, I am including reproduction."
"But you've said that I'm not compatible with human females?"
Bernie could see the hope spring forth in his friend's face as he asked that last question. Unfortunately, it was time to deliver the bad news. He took a deep breath. "I'm very sorry, but that appears to be true. Please let me get through the whole explanation and I think you'll understand the nature of the problem. I know this will seem like I'm not getting to the point, but believe me when I say that this is all very important. The information that I'm about to explain to you is central to the fertility issue. It will also give you a much better feel for who you are and how your body works."
Superman looked impatient but acquiesced. "OK. But I have to tell you that the fertility issue is very important."
Bernie felt like he needed to get through the rest of his explanation as quickly as possible. "We can detect these modifications. I have been calling them Kryptonian Extensions or KEs for short, but they are far too small and too advanced to analyze in any detail. I have no idea how humans ended up on Krypton, but I have a theory that on your planet, conditions were too harsh for normal humans to thrive. Based on what you've told us, I suspect that the gravity was too high and the light and heat levels were too low. I believe that these modifications were introduced to allow your ancestors to deal with the harsh Kryptonian environment."
Bernie found that he was leaning forward over his desk and, in his excitement, had started augmenting his explanation with hand gestures. He took a second to lean back in his chair and compose himself before continuing. "We know that your extra powers are related to sunlight. My belief is that the KEs were designed to use the lower energy of Krypton's red sun to boost the capabilities of your people so that living on Krypton would feel to them like living on a more hospitable planet such as Earth. When you came to Earth, two things changed. First, even if the Earth's sun were a low-energy red sun like Krypton's, the fact that Earth's gravity and general environment is less challenging would mean you would be far more capable than a normal human. Now, add in the significantly higher energy that our yellow sun produces and your powers go from superior to super."
Bernie watched as his friend took all this in. Finally Superman asked, "Are you saying that I'm some sort of cyborg?"
"That's true only in the crudest sense of the word. The additions you carry are at a very fundamental level and are integral to your biology. These modifications are inherited and as much a part of who and what you are as any naturally occurring characteristic."
Bernie saw the pained look on Superman's face resurface. "But if these additions are inherited and I'm still fully human, what's the basis for my not being capable of having children with a human woman?"
Bernie held up his hands defensively. "Please wait, I'm getting to that. The KEs seem to do two things. First, they facilitate repairs to your body. That's why when you do manage to get injured, you heal so incredibly quickly. However, they also produce a bioelectric field. This field is the key to your powers. The energy field has characteristics that are beyond the capabilities of our science to analyze in any detail. However, this field seems to be the source of all of your powers. Now, the key point, besides being the source of your power, the biofield sustains the KEs in your body. If the field is removed, the KEs shut down very quickly and your cells die. There's some sort of circular dependency where the KEs generate the field and the field sustains the KEs."
Bernie paused and took a deep breath, "And finally, that's the source of the problem. My tests show that any of your cells that are removed from your core biofield die quickly. What we found was that in every biological sample that we've taken from you, all living cells die within an hour or so of leaving your body."
Superman was speechless for a minute. Finally he replied in a despondent tone. "So what you are saying is that only a woman with a Kryptonian biofield can ever have my child."
This tore at Bernie's heart. He replied slowly, "I'm afraid so. There would have to be a Kryptonian biofield present to maintain your sperm long enough for fertilization to take place. Then it would have to continue to keep the embryo alive long enough for it to grow sufficiently to generate its own sustaining field. I just don't see how to achieve that in a human woman."
Superman's tone became pleading, "Isn't there any way to create an artificial field?"
"Believe me when I say that I have tried. This field has properties that I can't even begin to analyze. I have developed a mechanism for detecting it in a very rough form, but I'm nowhere near being able to create a field."
"But there is some hope to solve that issue?"
"There is some basis for hope and I wish I could say that we were close, but I won't lie to you. I will keep trying, but as of now I just don't see a solution."
Bernie watched as Superman seemed to consider this. After a moment the hero appeared to come to some sort of decision. Putting his arms on the desk, he leaned forward with an air of seriousness. "Bernie, part of what I wanted to tell you tonight is how important this is to me. Earlier this evening, you were talking about the fact that the person that I show to the world isn't the whole picture. Well, I'm not free to tell you everything at this time but can tell you that I'm involved in a serious, long term relationship with a human woman. This is very important to us."
Bernie knew that this was a milestone moment. Superman had trusted him with information that was of a highly personal nature. "I had sort of guessed that already. Remember that I said I had been giving a lot of thought to your situation. Based on what I know about you and what I could deduce, you would have never come to me with this issue unless you were in that sort of a situation." He reached over and put a hand on his friend's arm. "Please believe me. I will do everything I can. If I think of anything, I'll tell you immediately. But as much as I want to help, I can't offer a lot of hope at this time."
"I understand, Bernie. And thanks. Was there anything else before I go?"
Bernie suddenly remembered that he had another bomb to drop. "Well, as part of this work I figured out what Kryptonite does and why it affects you."
"Yes. The radiation from Green Kryptonite neutralizes your KE biofield. That same radiation also seems to interfere with the operation of the KEs, resulting in cell death. When you're exposed to Green Kryptonite, the loss of the biofield removes your powers and the KE induced cell death is the source of the pain. Red Kryptonite seems to disrupt the biofield but doesn't neutralize it. The Red also doesn't seem to harm the KEs. I'm still trying to figure out all the possible effects of Red. I imagine that there may be a variety of effects based on how your biofield was affected. As sorry as I am that I have provided bad news about your fertility, we have learned valuable information that will help us treat you in the future."
"Okay Bernie. I appreciate what you've done. Please keep working on this and let me know if you discover anything new."
Bernie escorted Superman back to the roof exit. After he left, Bernie couldn't help but feel that he had to find a way to help him with this problem. Here was a person that had devoted his life to improving the well-being of the people of his adopted planet. If there was any possible way for him to add to the level of happiness in Superman's life, it was his duty to help achieve that goal.
Clark Kent was a firm believer in good luck. After all, how does one get to be the lone survivor of a lost world without at least a little bit of good luck on your side? Beyond that, he felt supremely lucky at having been found and raised by what he had come to firmly believe were the world's best parents. And if that wasn't enough, he had found and married his soul mate, who just happened to be the most beautiful, wonderful and exciting woman in the world. Yes, generally he had been well-favored by luck. However, even for Clark, luck didn't always run positively. Tonight he was feeling as though he were depressingly deep in a rut of ill fortune.
As Clark left Star Labs, he decided to fly home a bit more slowly than strictly necessary. He wanted to have some time to collect his thoughts and decide exactly what he planned to say to Lois. He hadn't gone to Star Labs expecting good news. Of course, he had harbored a secret hope that Bernie would surprise him with an unexpected positive revelation. However, he knew beforehand that was extraordinarily unlikely. Fortunately, the news wasn't all bad. The fact that he was basically biologically human provided a good basis of hope for the future. In terms of what to say to Lois, he wanted to compose himself as best he could and accentuate the positive aspects of what he had learned.
When he arrived back home, it was obvious that Lois had been waiting nervously for his return. He landed on their balcony, stepped quickly inside and spun into street clothes. Lois was sitting in the living room holding a magazine. The look on her face seemed to reflect a strong feeling of anxiety.
As he moved to sit next to her, they made and held eye contact. As always, it was as if his wife could look right into his soul. Normally that experience would fill him with a warm glow. This time, however, he knew that Lois could see that he had little good news. He had spent the flight home trying to prepare for this moment. Looking into the eyes of his love, his so-carefully-considered 'positive spin' speech died without ever having been delivered. When he'd first entered the room, he could see a trace of hope still there in Lois's eyes. But as he gazed into those beautiful brown eyes, he saw those vestiges of hope fade. The next instant he was holding her in his arms.
Clark, overcome with emotion, finally broke the silence. "I'm so sorry."
Lois pulled back from his embrace just far enough to re-establish eye contact. "Clark, we already knew that the news wasn't likely to be good. Please, tell me what you learned."
After composing his thoughts, he relayed the essentials of his conversation with Doc Klein. He made sure to take special care to include the parts about Bernie's own observations and speculation about the real nature of the person inside the Superman suit.
When Clark had finished speaking, Lois was quiet for a moment while she considered what he had told her. Finally she said, "I think we'll need to bring him in on the secret of your identity before too long. Perhaps there will be tests or ideas that will come to mind if he has access to both of us."
"I agree," Clark said. "After this conversation, I really believe he'll be able to handle the responsibility of having that knowledge."
Lois's expression took on an air of deep thought. Clark guessed that she was reflecting on the news that he'd brought back. After a moment Lois finally spoke up, "I guess this isn't as bad as I feared it might be. I had biology in school. I had always thought that if there was going to be any physical incompatibility problem, it would be along the lines of your having a completely different genetic structure than a human. It actually does make me feel better to learn that there may be a way to solve the problem."
After only a brief pause Clark saw Lois take on an intense, but slightly optimistic look and then continue, "Clark, Bernie could have told you that children were an absolute impossibility due to fundamental genetic incompatibility. Instead, he told you that you are genetically human and that if there is any way to overcome the biofield/cell death issue, we may still be able to have children."
Clark watched as Lois went silent again. She was among the most intelligent and capable people he'd ever met. She would think through all the implications of the meeting with Dr. Klein. Suddenly, the expression on Lois's face changed to one of awe. "It just registered. This is a Pulitzer story. Visualize the headline: 'Proof that Ancient Humans Left the Earth.' How big is that?" Very quickly the smile took on a lighthearted look and Lois continued, "Well, I guess actually it's either a Pulitzer or tabloid trash depending on what type of proof we can provide. I can see the tabloid version of the headline, 'Alien Abductions Real! Are Your Children Safe?'"
It was his turn to smile. Lois was finding something positive to focus on. He finally replied, "Yeah. That occurred to me on the flight back. We need to be careful about how, when and even if we tell that story."
At that, the smile fell from Lois's face. "It's so unfair."
He'd been anticipating a possible downturn in Lois's mood as soon as they started talking. Now that it had come, he found that he didn't know what to do or say. He wanted so badly to make it better, but this was a job that seemed out of Superman's league.
As he was struggling for what to say, Lois seemed to regain some energy, "Clark, let's go away for a while."
He was relieved to hear energy in her voice. "Sure. Where do you want to go?"
When she replied, Lois's voice didn't just have energy; it was also filled with determination. "No. I don't think you understand. We never got to have a proper honeymoon. We each have over a month of vacation time built up. Right now, I think the world owes us some time. We need to get away and have some time for just us. The world can do without Superman for a few weeks!"
He was taken aback. They had gone away for a day or two now and then but he could tell that Lois was talking about something on an entirely different scale. "Lois, Superman can't take a vacation."
Lois got a very serious look on her face. She looked him straight in the eye and her voice took on a commanding tone, "Yes, he can. Go to the White House and the UN tomorrow and just explain it to them. Superman has been *on* every day for almost four years. Tell them you have some personal issues to deal with. Tell them you have to spend some time on New Krypton. Tell them whatever you want, but Clark, we need this."
Clark was struggling for a reply. Superman couldn't take time off, could he? But he could tell that this was very important to Lois, and was therefore also important to him.
Lois paused as if to gather her thoughts and then continued. "Clark, the world had to get along day to day before you came. Whether we can have children or not, there is an excellent chance that the world will have to learn to do without Superman at some time in the future. The police and emergency services can get along without you for awhile."
He recognized this tone. When Lois's voice took on this particular quality, she almost always got her way. Besides, she was right, they did need this time together. But he wasn't sure that he could live with himself if something bad happened while he was gone. He felt the need to point this out to his wife. "But Lois, if there is some sort of disaster, a lot of people could get hurt."
She replied so quickly that Clark suspected she was waiting for this particular objection. "Fine. Why don't you say that there will be a person with a way to contact Superman in the case of an extreme emergency? Tell them to put out a worldwide broadcast for help and the message will reach you. But make them understand that this is only for a real disaster-type emergency. Clark, I understand how you feel and I know that what you do as Superman is important. But you need this time! We need this time!"
The more time he had to consider the idea of a 'Superman vacation,' the better it sounded. He had once feared the possible consequences of having to abandon Earth on a permanent basis to go to New Krypton. This time it would be strictly temporary and there was no getting around the fact that Lois needed him to do this. As he pondered this issue, the question quickly reduced to one of, is Lois important enough to him to do this? Once he considered the question in those terms, the issue was no longer in doubt.
He finally responded, "This is a big change for me but you're right. We need the time and I need to do this for both of us. I'll start making the arrangements tomorrow."
Then another thought occurred to him, "Lois, someone is going to notice that you and I are gone at the same time as Superman."
She considered this. "Well, most people won't notice or think anything about it. But I'm sure Perry will put the pieces together. We'll need to tell him something."
He replied, "I'd like to tell him as much of the truth as possible. Would he accept the idea that there is a connection, but Superman swore us to secrecy as to the nature of where he was going and what he's doing?" Clark smiled sweetly at Lois, and suddenly stepped back and spun into the suit. "Ms. Lane, if I let you come on this trip, will you promise to keep a secret of where I'm going and what I'm doing?"
Clark stood there as Lois put her arms around his neck and she pressed herself up against him. Her expression took on a very provocative air as she said in her sexiest tone, "Superman, I promise I won't tell anyone the details of what you... what we will be doing while you're gone."
For Lois, this particular Tuesday morning just flew by. The melancholy that she'd been experiencing the previous day was gone and she was, in fact, feeling unexpectedly upbeat. She could hardly believe her own attitude about this whole 'getting away' thing. At one time, in the pre-Clark days, she had been of the opinion that vacations, or for that matter, any time away from work at all, was for losers. Now she was actually looking forward to the prospect of taking this vacation. She couldn't help but be pleased as she remembered the exchange that had taken place at bedtime the previous night.
Last evening she had tried to talk to Clark about what they should do on this impulse trip. Clark had gotten a mischievous look and simply asked her about what sorts of ideas she had for a dream vacation. After some very noncommittal responses from her, he had finally just said, "Let's see what Superman can come up with." She trusted him completely and had a feeling this would be a trip to remember.
The one downside of this morning had been the absence of her partner. As usual, they had started the day at work together, but shortly after arriving at work Clark had left to 'do some research.' Subsequently, he had been out of the office most of the day. The few times that she'd been asked about Clark's whereabouts, her story had been that he was out meeting with sources. In reality, if everything was going according to plan, he was doing a lot of traveling and explaining as Superman.
It was the middle of the afternoon when she looked up and saw his smiling face emerge from the elevator. Clark was clearly in a good mood and came straight over and planted a kiss on her lips. As much as Lois would have liked to follow that with another, he moved his head so that he could whisper in her ear.
"It was easier that I thought," Clark explained in hushed tones. "I met with several senior officials in emergency services. I found out that there were already plans in place to deal with a situation where Superman might be temporarily gone. There's also a process designed to broadcast a signal for help. I guess there were some smart people in the government who realized that one day Superman might have some business that would make him unavailable or difficult to reach. Lois, they were surprised that something like this hadn't come up sooner. After talking to them, I feel a lot better about going away."
Lois was glad that he seemed past feeling any guilt about their trip. She turned so that they were again face-to-face and collected another kiss. "That's the right attitude, Smallville. Someone owes me a dream vacation and I intend to collect."
Clark shifted his head and she realized that he was reading the text on her computer screen. "So, how's the article on Superman's departure going?"
"It's almost done, but I want you to look it over. I'm not used to writing an article that is so deliberately lacking in critical data for publication in the Daily Planet."
She watched as Clark read quickly through the announcement. "I think you're very close. I like the idea of keeping it as short as possible and a bit vague on the details."
Just then there was a familiar bellow from the direction of Perry's office. "Lane, Kent, in here now!"
As soon as the office door closed behind them, Perry let go with a question. "What in the name of Elvis is going on with Superman?"
Lois maintained a blank look as she watched Clark stare innocently back at Perry. After only a second Clark gave in and asked, "What are you talking about, Chief?"
She could see that Perry was in no mood for games. Perry knew them both very well and could probably tell that the two of them had information on this issue. He continued, "I've got reports coming in that Superman has been seen at the UN and the White House today. Are you going to tell me that you two don't know what this is about?"
They had talked about how best to handle this meeting with Perry and had decided that she would take the lead in an explanation. "Perry, we do know. Clark and I have been working on the story."
"So what's going on?"
Lois took a deep breath and said, "Perry, Superman is going away."
Perry looked like he had been hit with a body blow. "What do you mean, 'going away'?"
Lois stayed with the 'official' story. "He's going to be unavailable. He isn't saying why and we can't provide any information either."
Perry sat heavily in the chair behind his desk. "Is he coming back?"
Clark seemed to be especially concerned at the hint of despair in Perry's voice and replied immediately. "Absolutely! This isn't like when he went to New Krypton and didn't think he was going to be back. This is strictly short term."
Lois could see Perry relax and his expression suggested a sense of relief. Then he stared intently at them for a few seconds. "You two know a lot more than you're saying."
She looked up at Clark for a second. She was supposed to be leading this explanation since generally she was much better at 'creative truth' than her partner. But before she could get back on track, Clark again jumped in, "Perry, Lois and I need a few weeks off."
From the shock evident in Perry's face, it was a good thing he was already seated. "What!"
Lois stepped in before her husband went too far off-plan. "Perry, Superman was at our home last night. We have an opportunity for a truly unique experience. Superman made me promise not to say anything to anyone about where he would be or what he would be doing. But Perry, this is a fabulous opportunity and we really need this time." Lois was very proud of that speech. Every word was absolutely true.
She could see that Perry was recovering quickly from the double shock of their Superman announcement and vacation request. After only a moment of consideration, he said, "With all that the two of you do for this paper I don't see how I can refuse." Then after a brief pause he asked, "So when does Superman plan to make an announcement?"
Lois smiled at this. "Well, it will be in tomorrow morning's Daily Planet. That is, if you think it's newsworthy."
By Wednesday afternoon, Lois had become convinced that the preparations for getting away were coming together more easily than expected. She really wanted to be sure that they had taken all possible steps to distance Lane and Kent, particularly Lane, from anything that might be interpreted as a Superman getaway. After all that they had been through last year about her having an affair with Superman, she didn't want to risk reopening that can of worms. Therefore, at her request, Clark had taken sole credit for the story that announced Superman's impending absence.
After the initial notice in the Planet, there had been an immediate demand for Superman to hold a press conference. In an effort to maintain as much distance as possible between the Daily Planet and Superman's impending absence, the press conference was to be held at Metropolis City Hall.
Lois covered the Superman press conference for the Planet. She was far too established as *the* reporter that covered Superman stories for her paper to pass on this. If she hadn't been there, her absence would itself have drawn the attention of the other reporters. However, knowing that it was likely that she would be questioned, Lois deliberately arrived only a few minutes before the scheduled time. Sure enough, as soon as she arrived at City Hall, she was immediately besieged with questions from other reporters.
"Where's he going?"
"Is he going to New Krypton?"
Lois didn't have any problem avoiding answering the questions of her so-called colleagues. They should know better than to ask her these questions. This press conference was for Superman, not Lois Lane. She simply reminded them that this had been Clark's story, not hers, and she really couldn't say anything until after Superman spoke.
The other reporters probably would have pressed for a more substantive response, but Superman had suddenly appeared overhead and was on final descent into the press area. He didn't waste any time and stepped right up to the array of microphones. As everyone scrambled into position, Lois hoped that she was the only person that could see the nervousness behind the facade of calm detachment that Clark always wore as Superman.
The announcement was brief and completely devoid of details. Clark basically said that he had business of such importance that he would be unavailable for an indeterminate period of time that might stretch to several weeks. He explained that his absence was being coordinated with other governments via the UN. He also made sure to point out that in the event of an extreme emergency he would be able to return on short notice. Basically he did little more than repeat the facts that had been in the Planet article. After just a minute Clark finished speaking and asked for questions.
Again, for Lois Lane to be anything other than aggressive on a Superman issue would have been too obviously out of character. As soon as Clark asked for questions Lois pushed forward and yelled out, "Superman?"
Of course, all of the reporters were yelling out questions but no one was really surprised when Superman said, "Ms. Lane."
"Since the announcement of your impending departure, there have been allegations that you have unilaterally decided to leave the world unprotected while you take this leave of absence. How would you respond to this charge?"
Many in the crowd of reporters were shocked. This question carried a serious negative implication and the tone was clearly confrontational. Based on their long history and well known friendship, many of them would have expected Lois to throw out a softball question for the hero to answer.
Lois and Clark had talked about this at length and had agreed to have her ask this particular question in as negative tone as possible to open the questioning. They felt that it would make whatever questions might be asked later easier to handle.
Clark replied, "Ms. Lane, it is my honor to help protect this city and my adopted planet in every way that I can. The decision to embark on this mission was made only after serious consideration. I assure you that I did not make this decision in a vacuum. I consulted with those that I trust most for guidance on issues dealing with my responsibilities. Only after I became convinced that the underlying factors that are driving my absence are truly imperative did I commit to this course of action."
There was a flurry of questions about the people that he consulted, but of course the response to all of those lines of inquiry was that the identities of anyone to whom he went to for advice had to remain confidential to guarantee their safety and continued objectivity.
Lois had helped Clark prepare for this part. They had spent nearly an hour with Lois trying to trip him up using everything from an overly aggressive questioning style to trick questions of the 'Have you stopped beating your wife' method. As she watched Clark get peppered with questions, she was almost disappointed. None of them were nearly as hard on him as she would have been.
She was glad that they had decided to be deliberately vague about where he would be. Per their preparations, he never said that he would be off-planet. However, he was careful to *not* answer those questions in just the right way so that his non-response could easily be interpreted to mean that he was going to New Krypton for the duration.
So, all in all, the announcement of Superman's departure had gone very well. She knew that the greater challenge would actually be related to Lois and Clark's absence. Early on they had decided that only Perry and Jimmy would know for sure that their absence really was directly tied to that of Superman. For everyone else the official excuse was that they were on an out-of-town assignment.
Perry had been questioning Lois about how long they would be away. She stayed with the vague timetable of more than two weeks but probably less than a month. Perry wasn't particularly happy about their absence or that non-commitment as to the length of time that they would be gone, but Lois knew that he could sense that there were forces at work that he dared not oppose.
It was Friday by the time all of the arrangements for their absence could be made. Lois had taken care of the more domestic issues such as having their mail held, briefing Jimmy on watching their house and taking care of the plants. Clark had been busy making sure that all of the appropriate plans were in place for Superman to be gone, as well as those oh-so-secret vacation plans. Several times during the course of that week, she had tried to ask about what he was planning for their trip, but each time his answer was always the same. Clark would just put on this secretive smile and say, "Something Super!"
It was dark outside when they were finally ready to leave. Clark had wanted to do one last patrol of the city before they left and she had realized that it would be easier to humor him on this. When he returned from that patrol, Clark took only a brief look around before turning to her and asking, "Are you ready?"
She stepped into Clark's embrace and hugged him as tightly as she could. After a few seconds she asked, "Why am I nervous?"
"We've never done anything like this before. I'm nervous too. I hope you like what I've planned."
She thought for only an instant. "I'm sure that I will. Let's go."
It was almost four weeks later that Lois again felt her feet on the patio of her home. She couldn't help but voice a 'Wizard of Oz' moment as she whispered, "There's no place like home." She watched Clark smile at her impromptu Judy Garland impersonation. Lois reflected that these had been the most amazing weeks of her life. She was confident that Clark shared that assessment.
Fortunately there had been no call for Superman's help during the time they were gone. They had checked the short wave radio a few times each day for an emergency call that had never come. With this freedom, Clark had shown her just what kind of vacation is possible when you have the Superman travel agency. Very simply, they had been everywhere...
Exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu...
Days on tropical islands so remote that they might have never seen the foot of man...
Nights alone where the only light was the moon and stars...
But it wasn't just the warm tropics. They had seen penguins in the Antarctic and Yaks on the Asian tundra. These were many of the places that Clark had experienced and explored alone during those wandering years before he had come to Metropolis. He had been ecstatic about sharing these with her.
But for all the incredible sights and experiences, the foundation of this trip had been the opportunity to have an extended period of time alone together. Above and beyond everything else that Lois had felt during these weeks was the sense of togetherness and connection with Clark. She had always known that they were fortunate in that they were able to work together, but this time had been incredible.
She felt warmed as she realized that they had just entered their home in the same way that they had gone everywhere during those three weeks, hand in hand. Once inside, she couldn't resist jumping into her husband's arms with a playful question, "Does it have to end?"
Clark held her close and smiled down at her. "I know what you mean. I've never known a feeling like this before."
He carried her over to the sofa and sat down with her still in his arms. "Darling, you know I felt a connection with you the very first time I saw you. Well, that's nothing to what I've felt during these weeks. The more time we spent together, the more I wanted to be with you."
Words simply couldn't express the joy and love that she was feeling at that moment. "Clark, I feel the same way. I'm pretty sure that I felt that same connection right from the beginning. I probably would have figured out how much I loved Clark Kent a lot sooner if it wasn't for... well, that distracting guy in the blue tights. After all, I was sure that I felt a connection to him. But I know what you mean. It's as if that connection that we both feel has grown even stronger. It's almost like what I felt before was the potential for us and now I know the realization."
Lois was delighted to have the next few moments occupied by gentle touching and kissing.
Some time later Clark finally broke the silence. "You know, it may turn out that Superman might have recurring duties on New Krypton that will require him to make more regular visits in the future. Do you agree, Mrs. Superman?"
She couldn't help but laugh at that and reply in a mock-serious tone, "Oh, definitely. I'm afraid that my husband has ignored these responsibilities for far too long."
There was a feeling of inner warmth and happiness that she had never known in the time before Clark. She leaned into her love and closed her eyes. "I can't believe what I'm feeling. What ever happened to Mad Dog Lane?"
Clark laughed softly and replied, "I think she's still around. Once we get back to work, I suspect it won't be too long before we come across a story worthy of her attention."
She thought about the changes that had worked their way into her life. "Clark, it's funny now to think that my first reaction to being teamed with you was 'What rotten luck!' You know, that's why I hate the idea of depending on luck. Sure, it's great when it goes your way but it's too easy for it to turn bad." Then Lois gave her husband her most tender smile, "But that's where you were different. You turned my 'rotten luck' into the best thing that's ever happened to me."
Clark couldn't resist replying, "Well that's actually my real super power. I turn bad luck into good luck for those I love."
For Lois and Clark, most of the rest of the evening was filled with activities that didn't depend on speech.
When she stepped off of the elevator and into the Daily Planet newsroom, Lois was almost surprised at the warmth of the welcome that she received. She thought back to the conversation from the previous evening and the marked improvement in her interactions with her co-workers as compared to the old pre-Clark days.
After only a few seconds she felt Clark tugging on her sleeve and noticed that Perry was signaling them to come to his office.
As soon as the door was closed, Perry came over and gave Lois a huge hug. "Darlin', you look great! I don't know exactly what was on your mind before you two left, but you look like you feel a lot better now."
Perry then got a more serious look on his face and got down to business, "So, what can you tell me?"
She was still beaming from Perry's greeting as she heard Clark reply a bit defensively, "We really can't tell you very much. I guess it would be fair to say that these weeks have been amazing, but not in a way that is anyone else's business." When Perry responded with a frown, Clark quickly added, "Perry, I promise you that none of what we did or saw represents news that would be worthy of the Daily Planet."
Perry maintained the skeptical look on his face. Lois finally jumped in, "Chief, what's it been like with no Superman around?"
It was clear to Lois that Perry knew she was deliberately changing the subject. After a brief pause he turned to her and answered, "It started out on the wild side. For the first day or two it felt like all the bad apples in Metropolis thought it was going to be a free ride. But the police were ready for that kind of reaction and all that ended up happening was a huge surge of arrests. After that, it got really quiet. And it's not just in Metropolis. It's like the whole world felt that if Superman needed to take a break, then everyone else should do their part to help out."
Perry paused for a minute. "I assume that Superman is back?"
Lois took this one herself. "He said that he'll be back to regular patrols by this weekend."
Perry pressed the issue. "So, do either of you have an article for me?"
She replied, "Perry, we talked about this and he doesn't want to make a big deal out of being back. I don't think he's very keen on the idea of a headline like 'Superman Returns' on everyone's front page."
Perry gave her a condescending look and said, "Lois honey, that headline will be there as soon as he's seen anyway."
Clark spoke up. "Perry, I'm confident that no other media outlet will get a scoop on the Planet when he appears."
Perry looked skeptical. "You sound like you have inside information."
From the look on his face, it was apparent that Clark realized he'd said too much. He responded with a noncommittal, "I might."
That evening Lois could see that Clark was feeling a bit guilty about refusing to provide Perry with a head start on recognizing Superman's return. She suggested that he time a patrol to coincide with the deadline for the Planet's morning edition. Sure enough, Clark had found an excuse to help out with a relatively minor traffic accident and was able to get that story submitted in time for the morning edition.
Perry got his headline. Superman was back.
Once it was time to get back to work, Lois had no problem diving in with as much energy and enthusiasm as ever. After being gone for those weeks, there was a vast backlog of stories on which to stay busy. With such a backlog, they were both was working longer days than usual. Lois was convinced that she was putting in so much extra time that if this kept up, in very a short time she would have more than made up for those weeks that she and Clark had been away. She really felt like her old self again.
Everyone in the office welcomed the return of the Lane and Kent reporting team. After an initial buzz about where they'd been and what they had done, things had gotten pretty much back to normal. Some of the more observant on the Planet staff may have noticed that Lois and Clark seemed to be together more and spent a lot more time in physical contact with each other.
A few weeks after their vacation Lois realized that she was late for her period. At first she refused to believe that this was anything other than coincidence. After all, that had been what had caused all of the anxiety in the first place. There was no way she was going to talk to Clark about this until she had something more definitive.
After another couple of days she broke down and got a home pregnancy test. Actually, she got two different tests that used slightly different methodologies. Both came back positive.
It was time to tell Clark
Lois knew that this was not going to be a typical evening. Along with Clark, she had put in a long day and was looking forward to a quiet dinner at home. She was still struggling for the exact right moment to tell Clark her special news. She was actually surprised at her feeling of unease. After all, this wasn't bad news. She could tell by the way he kept stealing secret glances in her direction that Clark knew something was on her mind. She thought about telling him over dinner, but during the meal she just never could find the exact right moment. Dinner conversation consisted primarily of news and work related chat.
After dinner, they retired to the sofa. As they sat down, Lois could see that Clark was going to press the issue of what she wasn't talking about. It was clear that he could sense that whatever was on her mind needed to be forced out into the open. After only a moment he asked, "Are you going to tell me what's been on your mind all day?"
"Was it that obvious?" Lois asked.
"To me it was," Clark replied.
Lois stuttered for an instant, "It's nothing bad. But... Well, I'm confused."
"Honey, what's going on?"
She took a deep breath. "I'm pregnant!"
She was more than a bit amused at the look on her husband's face. Apparently Clark had been caught completely off guard. "What? That's impossible!" Very quickly he seemed to realize what he had said. He came over and pulled her into a hug. "I mean, that's great! But honey, how?"
Lois suddenly needed the closeness of her husband and held him in a tight embrace. She finally replied, "I don't know. I was late this month so I took a home pregnancy test and it was positive."
"Could there be an error?"
At this she was almost annoyed. "Clark, I took two different tests." She quickly recovered from the annoyance when she saw the look on Clark's face.
He was clearly elated and moved to look her directly in the face. "This is wonderful news."
Then she saw Clark pause. He took a deep breath and with a concerned look on his face asked, "Lois, how do you feel about this?"
She replied cautiously, "Clark, I'm confused about how this was possible, but I am happy."
She had barely gotten that out when Clark exclaimed, "So am I!" He then picked her up in a hug and spun her around in joy. Further conversation was suspended in favor of a series of kisses.
After several minutes Clark finally asked her, "What do we do now?"
Lois had given this question a lot of thought already. "Well, if this was a normal pregnancy and we were a regular couple, I would see my obstetrician."
She waited as Clark thought for a moment and then said, "Doc Klein said that all the regular tests on me showed up as perfectly normal for a human. I think we should proceed as if there was nothing unusual about the pregnancy and you should see your regular doctor. Once the pregnancy is verified then we may have a talk with Bernie."
She was able to get her appointment within a week. The test results proved that the pregnancy was for real. Based on the tests conducted by her doctor, everything looked perfectly normal. Lois was put on prenatal vitamins and given the usual warnings about foods to avoid and the possibility of morning sickness. Now it was time to decide what to do about Dr. Klein.
Clark's position was clear in his initial response. "Lois, he knows the most about my biology. You and I have talked about this before and I think it's time to bring him in on the secret of who you are."
That had been her original opinion also. However, right now she didn't feel quite so confident in Dr. Klein's abilities. She finally offered, "Well, I felt better about the idea of bringing him in before. But to be honest," she put her hand on her abdomen, "I've lost a little confidence in his abilities. I mean, I'm really glad he was wrong in this particular instance, but based on this, do we still want to trust him?"
Clark replied, "I don't know what happened to cause the error, but Bernie is the best there is for Superman's biology. I think he's a good enough scientist to accept that he made an error and learn from it. Honey, even considering that he made an error, I still trust him. I guess the question is, do you?"
She pondered this for a moment. "Yes, I guess I do. He's a good man and he's always treated you right. If you're ready to trust him with our secret, then so am I."
Clark perked up at this. "I'll see him tomorrow. How do you feel about Superman inviting him to come to the Kent's house to meet Superman's significant other? "
"I think that will work. Inviting him here will provide a big clue about your identity, but... well, so what if he does figure it out since we'll be telling him anyway."
The rest of the evening was filled with low voices, gentle smiles, and lots of touching and kissing.
Bernie Klein was only a little surprised to learn that Superman was in his outer office waiting to see him. He met the hero at the main entrance and invited him back to his private office. As Bernie closed the door, Superman asked, "Have there been any developments in the fertility research?"
He figured that this would be the issue. Bernie wished he could report a breakthrough, but all he could say was, "Well, I'm continuing the research but I don't have any news yet."
Bernie noticed that Superman looked as though his emotions were even more under control than usual. After pausing for a moment, Superman said, "Dr. Klein, I realize that I've been asking you to perform these tests with only half of the data. I want you to meet my companion."
This was an unexpected development. He had hoped that he would eventually meet this woman, but Superman was so private about that part of his life that Bernie was half-expecting that it would never happen. After composing himself, he replied, "I'd be honored to meet her. I assume that she's okay with this?"
"Yes. We've talked this over and we both think that it's time. However, I'd like to have you meet her away from Star Labs to protect her identity."
"That'll be fine." Bernie paused for a second. He felt that he needed to provide an honest assessment of the impact that this would likely have on the research. After taking a deep breath he continued, "Superman, I have to tell you that I don't know how much my meeting her will help my research. But, on the chance that it might provide some insights, I would like to meet her. You know I'll treat her identity with the utmost confidence."
"Bernie, if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't have suggested that you meet." Superman paused for a second. "Can we meet at the Kent residence? You know both Lois and Clark, and your visiting their house for dinner wouldn't seem overly suspicious. Will you be able to come tonight?"
His mind was racing. Why the Kent residence? They must have even more knowledge of Superman than was generally believed. He suddenly realized that his friend was waiting for an answer. "Yes, tonight will work. Are they going to be there?"
"Yes. They know everything."
Even though that only confirmed what he had been thinking, hearing Superman verify it so casually took him off-guard. "I knew you were close to Clark and Lois, but I'm surprised that you and your companion would be so trusting as to expect a pair of investigative reporters to keep a secret like your relationship."
"They can be trusted with this information. Try not to worry about it. Please be at the Kent residence at around 7:00 tonight. Do you have the address?"
"Yes, I have their information."
"Good. Then I'll see you tonight."
After Superman left his office, he had to take a few minutes to regain his composure. He was certain that this was going to be one of the most memorable evenings of his life.
Bernie arrived at the Kent home at five minutes after the hour. Lois and Clark met him at the door together and Lois greeted him. "Doctor Klein, welcome to our home."
He was surprised at how calm they looked. One would think that they had Superman and his 'significant other' visiting on a regular basis. "Thank you for having me over. And please, Ms. Lane, we aren't at Star Labs, call me Bernie."
Lois's voice took on a more relaxed tone as she replied, "I'd be happy to. But that means that had better be the last time I hear 'Ms. Lane' for the evening. This should be Lois, Bernie and Clark. Please come in and make yourself comfortable."
He was feeling decidedly unsettled as they led him into the living room. Before Lois or Clark could even begin to start a conversation, Bernie decided to deal with his own nervousness head-on. "When will Superman and his companion be here? I'm nervous and, to be honest, a bit excited to meet her. What's she like? My imagination tends to run away when I try to think of what kind of woman she must be. I tend to visualize some sort of female hero. Whatever her background, I can't help but think that she must be a really special woman."
He saw Clark smile and then reply, "Yes, she's an incredible woman and truly one-of-a-kind."
Clark paused for a minute and then continued, "Bernie, Lois and I would like to share some special news of our own with you."
He realized that Superman must be running late and the Kents were just trying to kill some time. "Yes?" he asked as he looked back and forth between them.
After a brief pause, Lois smiled and said, "I'm pregnant."
"Congratulations. That's wonderful!" Bernie said. The timing on this development seemed interesting so, after a brief pause, he continued. "It's fascinating that you two are starting your family now. I guess you know that Superman is trying to do the same thing."
Lois got a strange and somewhat distracted look on her face. Then she smiled and said, "Actually, we're all so close that it's not really surprising."
This was an odd statement, Bernie thought. So they really were all very close. Well, that's interesting and he was happy for the Kents, but he had come here to meet Superman's companion.
With just a trace of impatience in his voice Bernie asked, "So, when do you expect that Superman and his companion will be here?"
Clark cut in, "Do you think you could be wrong about Superman's ability to have children?"
This is starting to get annoying. Superman wasn't here and every time he tried to ask when he might arrive, they seem to want to change the subject. Oh well, Lois and Clark were friends also and he could humor them for a while longer. He considered the last question, "With a human woman? I don't think so. The test results have seemed to be fairly conclusive."
"But how would you feel if you were wrong?" Lois asked.
"Well, actually, I'd be delighted. First, the most exciting discoveries in all science start out with *something* being wrong. And second... Well, I saw the look on Superman's face when I first explained that he was incompatible with human women. Nothing would make me happier than to learn that, in this particular instance, I was wrong."
Lois smiled at this and said, "Well, Bernie, I guess you should be happy."
"What do you mean?"
"We told you. I'm pregnant."
What did she mean by that? The way she said he should be happy must mean that he was wrong about Superman's fertility...
Somehow that was related to Lois being pregnant...
Bernie froze like the proverbial 'deer in the headlights.' It was as if his brain went into sensory overload. When he finally recovered, he managed to stutter out, "What? You mean that Superman is...?"
He saw Lois nod slowly back at him.
Bernie sat silently as a rush of confused thoughts assaulted his mind.
Lois Lane is pregnant by Superman!
Clark is right here and she told me this right in front of him.
What's going on?
Bernie looked over at Clark. He was completely calm. He wasn't showing any outward signs of jealousy at all. As he stared at Clark's face, Clark's expression changed to one of a gentle smile.
His mind was still spinning. How can Clark be happy about this?
Then it struck him, that he had seen that face earlier today. Could Clark be...? No wonder Lois seemed to be around Superman all the time but married to Clark Kent. No wonder they are so close. Clark is Superman!
Finally, Bernie just had to shake his head. Then he looked over to Clark and said, "Now that I know, I can't believe I didn't put all the pieces together before. So, what should I call you, Clark... or Superman?"
"I'm Clark unless I'm wearing the suit. Superman is what I can do. Clark is who I am."
Lois spoke up in an almost impatient tone. "But back to business. I'm pregnant and you said that couldn't happen."
Bernie was suddenly even more excited. He thought back to his own words of just a moment before and realized that *something* really exciting was going on. He was going to get to do the research into what happened and why. Finally he replied, "We need to get you into the lab so I can run some tests. Can you come in tomorrow? As early as possible will be best. If you can both come in as Lane and Kent 'the reporting team,' I can give you an *interview* and we can run a few tests."
"Great, we'll be there," Clark said. "So, can you stay for dinner? I'm sure you have a lot of questions and now many of them can be answered."
The next morning Bernie was so excited about the pending visit that he could hardly function. He knew that the Kents would be in early, so he didn't even try to work on anything else. For the most part, his morning was filled with thinking about what tests to perform and making sure that all of his equipment was ready. For this first visit with Lois, he wanted to limit the tests to only the most noninvasive that he thought might provide valuable information.
It was barely 9:00 am when the receptionist notified him that Lane and Kent were here for his interview. Bernie went right out to meet them in the reception area. He then led them back into the Superman research section of the building.
As they entered the inner lab area, he turned to them and said, "This is really a perfect chance to try out a new sensor that I've been working on." He looked at Clark and said, "I was about to invite Superman in to test it anyway, so this is really fortuitous timing."
As they went through the next door, they entered a large lab with a solid door and no windows. Bernie turned and engaged a security bolt on the door. "Now no one can walk in on us by accident."
He led Lois and Clark to his new sensor apparatus. Down at the far end of the lab was an area that looked like some sort of huge shallow black cave with strange looking camera out front. He suspected that to the Kents, it must have looked like something out of an old B movie. While it would be obvious to a lay-person that this section of the lab was configured to do some sort of imaging, this particular camera was capable of a kind of imaging that had never been achieved before.
Bernie knew that various groups had been attempting to record the human bioelectric field for many years. The most well known was the Kirlian techniques, but these were generally known to be nothing more than crude images of high voltage electric discharges. What Bernie had developed was a sensor that could detect the unique field that surrounded Superman. It also proved to be capable of imaging the low level electromagnetic fields that were present in other biologically active entities. His studies of the behaviors of KEs provided the foundation for this sensor.
He tried to explain that they were going to be looking at. "This instrument is my latest development. It's capable of detecting a bioelectric field and has been designed to be particularly sensitive to Clark's Kryptonian physiology. This whole section of this lab is shielded against external energy and radiation. That black area is actually a copper hemisphere coated with a highly conductive non-reflective material."
The sensor equipment was already powered up and operational. "I made sure that this was ready before you arrived. Please watch the screen while I stand in the sensor area." He moved to stand in front of the camera. On the monitor, there was an outline of Bernie glowing pale blue-green against a pure black background. Bernie thought the image looked a lot like a simple thermal-imaging scan that people saw all the time on television. He continued his explanation. "You can see my normal human bioelectric field. I've taken scans of several different people of various backgrounds and what you see is pretty typical for everyone so far."
It was time to get the testing really started. "Now Clark, would you please stand in front of the sensor?" Bernie asked.
As Clark moved to stand in front of the detector, the difference in the appearance of his image was immediately obvious. For Clark, the glowing field extended farther from his body and instead of a steady blue-green, the field was a swirling mix of yellows and reds.
Lois had been standing behind Bernie in the control area. She remarked, "Wow, that's a bit obvious."
Bernie was too pleased to speak right away. This was the result he had hoped to see, but until he had Superman actually in front of the sensor, he couldn't be sure it was going to produce the result that he had expected.
Finally he responded to Lois, "Well, this machine is especially sensitive to exactly the kinds of energy patterns that make Superman's biofield unique. This sensor was designed specifically to look for a Kryptonian biofield. The fact that it detects a human biofield at all is just a fortuitous side effect of the overall design."
Lois was curious about the image she was viewing. "Why are there multiple colors that move around? Your field didn't do that."
"Actually, no normal organism shows any field like that at all. During its development, when I tested this on a range of people, the colors were always in the blue to green color range and always basically monochromatic. I've tried it on some extreme athletes and at best they are slightly more green that other people."
Bernie smiled as he thought to himself that this should be interesting. "Clark, please move out of the sensor area. Lois, would you please step in?"
As Lois moved into the sensor field and she saw her image on the monitor, Bernie heard her catch her breath. Her image was clearly green except for one small area centered in her lower abdomen. The area was small, really nothing more than a spot, but quite distinctive. In this one tiny area, Lois's image had a patch of yellow-orange.
"Please stand as still as possible for a minute while I get a magnified image."
Bernie adjusted the sensor to zoom in on just that area. When it was enlarged, the spot resolved into a zone of swirling red and yellow. He smiled and said, "I guess we don't need a paternity test to identify the father." As he studied the image more carefully he commented, "Your own field appears to be substantially brighter and more green than most of the people that I've tested earlier. Based on this, it looks like the baby's field is mixing with your own. I wonder how that will affect the pregnancy."
He went on, "Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to try a few tests to see if we can get a feel for how the pregnancy was possible. Lois, could you please move so that you're standing near one edge of the sensor area."
She moved a little to the right so that her green shape was at one side of the display.
"Clark, please go stand near Lois so that you're on the far left side of the sensor area."
Clark positioned himself so that he was about two meters to Lois's left. Bernie studied the monitor for a minute. He pointed at the right side of Clark's image. "There's a slight displacement of the field toward Lois. Clark, are you trying to do this?"
"No. Would you like me to try to manipulate the field?" Clark asked.
Bernie considered this. He wanted to keep this first session as short as possible and generate a set of baseline observations. There would be opportunities in the future for this sort of testing. Finally he replied, "Please don't try to do anything to the field, at least not today. We might try some tests like that later. For now, please just try to be relaxed. Would you both move toward each other so that you are about a meter apart?"
They both moved to cut the distance of their separation in half. The difference in the way their fields interacted was obvious. Clark's field practically reached out to overlap that of Lois. Her field seemed to be energized by the interaction with Clark's and the color brightened to a yellow-green.
As he studied the image, Bernie thought that it was really amazing. "Clark, are you sure you aren't doing that deliberately?"
"Bernie, I swear that I'm not doing it on purpose."
As he stared at the distorted field, Bernie wondered if that distortion would occur for any other person or was there really something about Lois that was triggering this effect.
"Lois, please let me take your place for a moment."
Lois moved out of the sensor's field of view and Bernie replaced her. The change in Clark's field was immediate. The Kryptonian field collapsed back to the size and shape that it had been when Clark was alone in the sensor field. His own field didn't seem to be energized at all by his proximity to Clark.
As he considered this behavior, it was apparent that either there was some sort of natural affinity between Lois and Clark or the manipulation the field was taking place at a subconscious level. Here was another set of conditions to test at some point in the future. Bernie stepped out of the field of view of the sensor shaking his head. So many possibilities...
"Lois, would you please go back to the same spot again?" he asked. Lois returned to her previous position and Clark's energy field immediately re-expanded to overlap Lois.
Bernie verified that the field size and interactions were essentially unchanged from earlier. It was time to move on to the next test. "Now, move a little closer and would you please hold hands?" he asked.
Once they touched each other, Clark's field spread into Lois. The sensor now showed that their individual fields seemed to merge into one continuous field that was dominated by the Kryptonian elements. This combined field was comprised of a writhing mix of all the colors of the rainbow. The reds and yellows of the Kryptonian field became the dominate colors, but in Lois's image, her green was still present. Bernie was fascinated by the mixing of their fields but hardly surprised. "Well, I think this explains a bit. But at this point it isn't that much of a surprise. I want to try something else. Stay close together but don't touch each other."
Lois and Clark, almost reluctantly, disengaged their hands. The intensity of the Kryptonian field in Lois fell, but the swirling yellow and red remained.
"That can't happen!" Bernie exclaimed.
"Dr. Klein, is something wrong?" asked Clark.
"No. It's just that my research into your biofield suggested that it could extend into another body or person, but it shouldn't persist once physical contact is broken."
Bernie thought for a moment, then asked, "Clark, let me take Lois's place again. I want to check something."
Lois moved out of the sensor area again and Bernie replaced her.
"Now Clark, would you hold my hand as if you were going to do something... super."
Apparently Lois found this amusing as she let out a short laugh. Clark just smiled and grasped Bernie's hand. As with Lois, the Kryptonian field surged into Bernie's body. Bernie studied the image on the monitor and commented, "Interesting. I don't feel anything."
Bernie continued, "Now Clark, let go of my hand."
As soon as contact was broken the red and yellow field in Bernie's body disappeared. "Now that's what's supposed to happen." Bernie remarked with a tone of satisfaction.
Again Bernie left the sensor field mumbling and shaking his head.
"Lois, please go back into the sensor area, hold Clark's hand again and then let go."
As Lois entered the sensor area, Bernie noticed that the Kryptonian field was present in her even before she grasped her husband's hand. Once she let go the field remained as it had before.
This has to be it, Bernie thought. For some reason, once the field was established in Lois, the Kryptonian field would linger. But what was special about Lois? More questions for later, he thought.
For now he needed to finish collecting data. Next was to determine under what circumstances the field in Lois would collapse.
"Clark, would you please back slowly away from Lois?"
Clark started edging away from Lois. Only when he was well out of the sensor area and approximately five meters away from his wife did the Kryptonian field, which had persisted inside Lois's body, finally disappear.
So apparently it was a distance effect. He had them come together and touch again to re-establish the field. This time, after they separated Bernie had them remain within a meter for several minutes. As long as they were within close proximity, the field showed no signs of weakening or collapsing.
"Lois, can you tell if the field is providing you with any special abilities?" Bernie asked.
"I don't know," Lois replied.
Bernie looked around the lab and noticed a heavy wheeled cart. He pushed it over to Lois. "Lois, can you please try to pick this up?"
Lois grasped the cart and tried to lift it. It rattled around a bit but didn't leave the ground. After another second or so Lois said, "I can't lift it. It feels as heavy as normal."
Bernie considered this for a few minutes. "That's all for right now. Can we go back to my office and talk for a few minutes?"
When they were all in his office with the door closed Bernie started outlining their findings. Looking at Clark he said, "First, the pregnancy appears to have been possible at all only due to Lois's ability to persist your Kryptonian field. I know she's your wife but I just don't understand how that can be possible. Clark, Lois, do you have any idea why you two may have some sort of special affinity?"
Bernie saw them exchange a thoughtful look. Then Lois spoke up, "Well, we're Soul Mates."
"Lois, I'm not sure that the fact that you're happily married would be a basis for affecting the bioelectric field."
Lois answered back quickly, "Bernie, when we use the phrase 'Soul Mates' it means a little more than you might think." She looked at Clark. "Our connection is way more involved than an ordinary couple."
Bernie was confused. "I'm afraid I have no idea what you're trying to tell me."
Over the next twenty minutes, Bernie heard the most amazing tale of time travel and soul tracking that he had ever imagined. At the end he finally asked, "Are you really serious about all of this?"
Clark replied, "Yes. I know how unbelievable it sounds, but it's all true. Lois and I are bound together throughout time."
Bernie just sighed, "Well, I don't know how to argue with that. I guess with that sort of connection, I can't be surprised at the behavior of your biofield. But even then, you two need to have stayed close together continuously for the field to be maintained. When we spoke last night you told me that during the time that Superman was supposedly gone, you were actually spending time alone together."
Clark looked sheepish. "Actually it was sort of a second..., well really, first honeymoon."
"Would it be fair to say that you were together pretty much all the time for those weeks?"
Both Lois and Clark nodded at this question.
"Now, this is important. Did you go extended periods of time where you were never separated from each other by more than five meters or so?"
Clark blushed and said, "Well Bernie, this was a very personal time for us."
He held up his had defensively. "I'm not trying to pry, but think for a minute. This may have implications that could affect to your ability to conceive children in the future."
At this Lois spoke up. "After the first few days I'm fairly certain that we were almost always within that distance of each other. I would guess that there were only a few times that we were separated by a greater distance than that, and then only for only a very few minutes."
This was really all the information that he needed. Based on what he had just observed in the lab it seemed fairly obvious what had probably happened.
"That's it, then. My belief is that during that critical time you were together so much that your combined field sustained the new baby. The field remained intact long enough for the baby to attain sufficient size to generate a self-sustaining field. I suspect that this means that you can take similar steps to have more children in the future if that's what you want."
Bernie watched Lois and Clark reach out for each other and clasp hands. He could sense that they needed to end this for now and stood up. "Lois, can we go to the hematology lab? I'd like to get some blood samples to see how your system is reacting to the baby."
They all went to a small lab just down the hall. After Bernie had prepared Lois's arm and was about to take the blood sample, he paused for a moment.
"Lois, I'd like to see if persisting Clark's field will provide you with any invulnerability."
"How are you going to do that?" Lois asked.
"Clark, hold Lois's hand for a second then let go. But stay right here next to Lois."
Clark did as Bernie asked. Then Bernie said, "According to the tests that we just did, Lois is now persisting a low energy field. Let's see if I can draw some blood."
Bernie had to fight some nervousness as he got ready to insert the needle into Lois's arm. However, the needle had no problem penetrating Lois's skin and drawing the blood was uneventful. When they were finished Bernie said, "Well, the low energy field doesn't seem to provide any powers. I'll run these tests tonight and I should have the results ready for you by tomorrow."
The next day Superman came by the lab to get the rest of the results from the tests.
Once in private, Bernie said, "As near as my tests can indicate, this will behave like a perfectly normal pregnancy. I would advise Lois to use her regular doctor. It would provide valuable data if she could come in about once a month for blood samples and other minor tests."
Clark replied, "I'll pass your request along to Lois. I'm sure she'll agree, but she really has to make that decision herself." Clark started to leave and then turned back, "Bernie, I can't thank you enough for all that you're doing for us."
Bernie was humbled by 'Superman' thanking him in this way. After struggling for words for a second he finally replied, "It really is my privilege to be able to help you and Lois. I have come to think of you my friends."
Clark smiled at this. "And that's how we have come to think of you." And he turned and left.
Twenty months later...
Clark sat at his desk as the end of another day at the Planet drew near. Working at the Daily Planet was different these days than they were in those heady, exciting days of his first years on this job. This newspaper was still an exciting place to work and he loved the thrill of investigative reporting almost as much as Lois did. The change didn't come about due to losing interest or enthusiasm. The difference was that now he had an even broader range of responsibilities due to the wonderful but demanding presence of a third person in his life.
As the end of the day approached, he had begun to wonder if he would see Lois before heading home this evening. At that moment he heard an oh-so-familiar heartbeat coming from the elevator shaft. Shortly thereafter, the elevator doors slid back to reveal the woman that had made him complete. As she strode out of the elevator, displaying that same confident attitude as when they had first met, Clark couldn't help but notice that even after having been a mother for a year, she was still the most beautiful woman that he had even seen. Clark let his eyes roam over the appealing figure of his mate. She certainly looked quite a bit different than just a year ago...
Clark had been fretting over the approaching birth just as any expectant father might. Lois was nearing her due date and he was obsessing about when and under what circumstances the baby would come. He had visualized several possible scenarios by which Lois would go into labor. His great fear was that it would happen while he was out as Superman on an emergency, and their baby would be born without him being present.
Another scenario, and the one that he really hoped for, was that one day while they were both at work, Lois would start feeling contractions. This outcome would result in a calm and orderly trip to the hospital. As it turned out, that didn't happen either.
Instead, it was several weeks before Lois's due date. They had been enjoying a quiet evening at home just relaxing. At eight and one half months, Lois was, to put it bluntly, huge. For the past several weeks they had curtailed most of their evening activities, and their television was getting more of a workout than it had for most of their marriage. This evening they were watching an episode of one of the spin-offs of Star Trek when Lois had felt a slight twitch in her abdomen. Clark had seen a grimace of discomfort flash on her face and when she had put her hand to her swollen belly, Clark had started to get nervous.
"Lois, is everything okay?" Clark asked.
After just a minute, Lois said, "I don't think it was anything to worry about. I've had those sorts of pains a few times so far and it's gone now. If I feel anything again I'll let you know. Besides, we still have weeks to go before the due date."
At this, Clark had calmed down and they went back to watching the show. They went to bed that evening thinking no more about it. However, at just after 1:00 am, Lois had gotten up to use the rest room and discovered that the twitch earlier in the evening had not been 'just another' pain.
Clark had been half awake when Lois had gotten out of bed. Still, the phrase from Lois caught him off guard.
"Clark, I think we should go to the hospital."
"Honey, what's wrong? What do you feel?"
"I don't know. This might be the beginning of something, but I've never done this before. I'd feel better if we went to the hospital. I really think something's going on."
This exchange put Clark in 'emergency response mode' as much as any more traditional emergency ever had. However, Lois remained calm. Whether it was natural instinct or simply her long experience as 'Lois Lane in a stressful situation,' she had simply reminded Clark of their preparations and they had left for the hospital.
Lois's pregnancy had been surprisingly normal. Clark thought that possibly the only thing that was remotely noteworthy was that Lois was feeling exceptionally energetic even late into the pregnancy. Early on, they had speculated that carrying a half-Kryptonian baby might have caused Lois to feel tired and lethargic. Instead, as the baby got larger, Lois had said that she actually felt stronger. Her obstetrician had insisted that everything was within normal limits, and her energy levels just reflected her overall state of good health. Dr. Klein had suspected it might be tied to the growing Kryptonian biofield from the baby. Whatever the source of Lois's general feeling of good heath, the pregnancy progressed in a perfectly normal manner.
Lara Lane Kent was born on May 28 at 6:43 am. Lara didn't know yet whether or not she believed in luck.
Clark was extraordinarily happy that, as with the pregnancy, all appeared normal at the time of birth. There were no clues to the hospital staff that this was anything other than an ordinary baby girl.
Lois's approach to his desk snapped him out of daydream mode. As she reached his desk, Clark looked up at her and said, "Hello, beautiful. How was your afternoon?"
Lois replied, "Okay. I was just out making the rounds. Bobby Bigmouth is disappointed that we haven't come up with any new delicacies for him to try lately. He said that if we aren't careful he might have to see if some other reporting team needs a reliable source. I reminded him that we have access to food sources that no one else knows about. Otherwise it was a quiet outing."
Then Lois leaned in close and lowered her voice, "While I was out, I went by Star Labs to ask Bernie about a one-year visit for Lara sometime within the next week or so. He said that we can bring her by whatever evening is most convenient for us and to just give him a day or two notice."
She then straightened up and said, "You look like you're almost ready to head home. Give me a few minutes to store my notes and we can leave."
As she turned away, Clark was reminded of Lara's first visit to Star Labs.
The first time their daughter had visited Star Labs was about a month after she was born. It was early in the evening and this trip to Star Labs was to take place using Superman Airways and the special roof entrance. During Lois's pregnancy, they had been able to cover for most of her visits by having Lane and Kent do a Star Labs series. However, there was really no way to use that as a justification this time. Lois was still on maternity leave and every excuse that they considered just wouldn't pass a reasonableness test. If there was any important reason to do this during the day, they could have presented some justification. But the reality was that an evening visit worked just as well.
Clark noticed that when they all reached the Superman lab, the biofield sensor was already powered up and waiting. Clark turned to Bernie and asked, "Bernie, what tests did you want to do for this visit? We would really like to keep this trip as short as possible for Lara."
Bernie replied, "I had expected that. All that I want to do tonight is image Lara in the biofield sensor and draw some blood to test for the presence of KEs."
As they carried Lara into the sensor area, Bernie spoke up, "I need to scan Lara when she is as alone as possible. Would you both move so that you're behind me?"
They moved away from Lara and stood in the control area behind Bernie. Clark was watching the monitor and as he cleared the five meter distance and noticed that there seemed to be no change in the intensity of Lara's biofield. The sensor showed a clearly Kryptonian field, albeit much less intense than Clark's.
"Clark, would you please leave the room for just a minute? I'd like to make sure that her field isn't drawing energy from yours."
Lois spoke up. "Bernie, don't take this wrong, but we aren't both going to leave with Lara here."
"Lois, you should stay in the room. I'd just like to have a reading with Clark well out of the area."
"How far away do I need to go? You don't want me to leave the building, do you?" asked Clark.
"No," Bernie replied. "If you could just go to the far end of the hallway for a minute or so that will be fine."
Clark left the room and walked down to the end of the hall. After just a moment he saw Lois step out of the lab carrying Lara so that she was looking down the hall. He heard Lois talking sweetly to Lara. "See, there's your daddy. Down there." Then Lois looked up at Clark and said, "All done for now."
As they re-entered the lab, Bernie was just finishing shutting down the sensor equipment. He looked up from the control panel and said, "There was no decrease in her field from when you were in the room. She clearly has her own low intensity Kryptonian biofield. I suspect that the lower field intensity is related to her size and the overall KE count. Clark, I believe that may be why, when you were growing up, your powers didn't kick in until you were nearly an adult. I suspect that a person first needs to attain a certain minimal physical size to generate a field-strength necessary for super power capabilities. After that, I suspect that there is a learning process relating to control the powers and manipulate the biofield."
Bernie paused for a few seconds with a look that suggested that he was making sure that he had covered everything. Then he asked, "Can I get some blood from Lara for testing?"
After first glancing at Lois for her approval, Clark replied, "Of course."
A few days later Dr. Klein came over for dinner with the test results. "Lara's blood shows a lower concentration of KEs than yours, Clark. I suspect that she's too young to assign any meaning to her KE levels. The lower concentrations in her blood could be due to her youth and size, it could be due to her being only half Kryptonian, or it could be some combination of both. This test will establish a baseline for future measurements and I'm sure we'll learn more as she grows."
All that they really knew for sure was that she was healthy and not yet super-powered, and for both of those they were extremely thankful.
Clark had finished getting ready to leave for the day. Lois was almost finished packing away for the evening as he went to her desk to wait. While he was standing next to Lois's desk, his super hearing clicked in. Clark could hear a report of a robbery taking place across town. He paused for a moment to concentrate on the alert. In the past this would have been time to either think up some excuse for a quick exit or give Lois 'that look' so that she would know why he was rushing out. However, this time after considering the nature of the call and what he could determine of the pending police response, he decided that this issue could be handled without Superman's intervention.
As his concentration lapsed and his attention returned to the here and now, he noticed Lois watching him intently. After only a second he said, "It's okay. I don't need to go."
Lois reached out, gave his hand a gentle squeeze and said, "Thank you."
A substantial change in both their overall relationship and approach to parenting had taken place a few months after Lara's birth. After one particularly stressful day that had combined an unusually high level of Superman activity with Lois being overwhelmed by the combined demands of work and providing for Lara's needs, they had what they later referred to as 'The Superman Argument.'
His recollection was that it had started out as just another extra busy day for Lois. She had been trying to get back into her career and was carrying the larger burden of Lara's care. For Clark, the Superman calls had started exceptionally early that day. This meant that Lois had to handle all of morning 'start of the day' routines on her own. Since this was a workday morning, it meant that she had to step up to the additional duties of getting Lara ready for day care. Normally this was Clark's responsibility since he could take advantage of super speed to get everything done on time. If this would have been the only Superman distraction of the day, the extra early morning chores would not have triggered 'the argument.' Today, that was not to be the case.
As the day progressed, Clark continued to answer a higher than average number of Superman calls. Lois was facing the double duty of both covering for his absence and doing part of his work for him. Naturally, this was a day that Lara happened to get sick while at daycare. Apparently the Kryptonian resistance to disease, if Lara was to inherit that capability, wasn't going to kick in until she got a bit older. Lois was asked to take Lara home at least until the fever had cleared up.
It was somewhere during that day that Lois ran out of patience. Neither Lois nor Clark knew it at the time, but a line had been crossed.
Clark arrived home that evening having first checked in at work. He didn't know what he was walking into and made the mistake of looking like *he* didn't have a really bad day. Once Lois greeted him with an icy stare, he was astute enough to pick up that she was in a really bad mood. After a brief greeting to Lara, he went about trying to figure out how to calm Lois down as well as starting dinner. Unfortunately, before he was half way done, he heard another emergency call. This time, Lois noticed immediately when he got 'the look' again. Clark had turned off the burners and was starting to leave when Lois blew.
He hadn't gotten more than a step out of the kitchen when he heard, "Clark, don't you dare leave!"
He turned to face Lois and asked a bit defensively, "What?"
"Clark, we need you here tonight!" Lois practically yelled at him in a tone that was a mix of anger and exasperation.
At first he was confused. Lois knew he wouldn't leave unless he had heard a call. Through his confusion he managed to stutter out, "But Lois, someone might get hurt."
Lois went on in only slightly calmer tones, "I know that what Superman does is important, but Clark, stop and think for a minute. Are Lara and I important?"
The implications of this question caught Clark off guard, but the answer was easy, "Lois, you know that both of you mean the world to me."
"Then you need to find a way to work some balance into what you do as Superman. Are you really going to tell me that every call that you answer is an emergency that can't be handled without Superman's help?"
She had calmed down significantly but Clark could tell that he was still on thin ice. "Well... Lois, often I don't know for sure until I get there."
"I love you and I wouldn't dream of asking you to stop helping when you're really needed. But please try to let the Metropolis emergency services do their own job those times that you aren't really needed." Lois took a deep breath. "So, go ahead and do the Superman thing. But we need to talk about this when you get back."
Clark concentrated and listened intently for a few seconds. "I don't need to go. Everything seems to be under control now."
After looking guilty for a second, Clark stepped over to Lois and engulfed her in a hug. After a minute he finally said, "Lois, I'm sorry. I really should have realized how all this was affecting you. Now that I think about it, I guess it's long past time that Superman learns that he can't answer every call for help. At least, he can't do so and still meet his other responsibilities."
That evening they had agreed that Clark was going to have to cut back on Superman's availability. It pained Clark not to be able to respond to every call for help, but he could see that there was no way to meet all of his growing family responsibilities without curtailing the time spent as Superman.
In some ways, this change actually improved the overall effectiveness of Superman. There had been a few times in the past that Clark had been occupied on a minor rescue when something much more important would occur. By prioritizing his responses, he was able to be sure that Superman was really where he was most needed. Superman still responded to enough calls so that, for the most part, the citizenry of Metropolis didn't notice the decrease in Superman's activities.
Support from Lois was all that made it possible to for him to maintain the new filtering that he did on these emergency calls. He knew that this had also helped her general ability to deal with those times that he did need to put in an appearance as Superman. After that evening, Clark realized that even before Lara had arrived, there had been a change in Lois's reaction to his hearing a call for Superman. Over time she had transitioned from being happy to help with an excuse for him to get away, and excited to be in on the secret, to more of a business as usual attitude where having Clark disappear was just part of their lives.
The demands of Lara's appearance had resulted in a new stage of Lois's reactions to his hearing a call for help that came to a head that night of the argument. The new approach that he had adopted, where he didn't rush off as often, had helped a great deal. Long ago, Lois had learned to recognize the signs that meant he had heard a call for help. The look on her face each time she saw him hear a call and then decide to stay, told him that she appreciated that decision and that he was totally committed to her, Lara and their shared family responsibilities.
After just a moment more Lois had finished at her desk. She looked up at him and said, "All ready. Let's go."
As they headed for the elevator, Clark thought about the fact that they tended to leave a bit earlier than in the pre-Lara days. They had anticipated and planned for the changes that Lara would bring. However, actually living through them, especially in the beginning, had proven to be more unsettling than they had anticipated.
At first it was difficult fitting Lara's care into their professional lives, but with a lot of help from Lois, the Daily Planet had established a day care center in the building. It proved to be very popular, and soon had children from not just employees of the Daily Planet, but also from people who worked in nearby businesses. This made it much easier for Lois and Clark to get back to being investigative reporters while still maintaining a close connection to Lara. As was the case most evenings, the day care center was their next stop before leaving for home.
The Daily Planet day care center was unusual in that there was more security than was normal for this sort of establishment. The entry area was monitored with a camera that was tied into building security. There was also a security door that separated the outer reception area from the child care area. Signing a child in and out was a carefully monitored activity.
When the center had first been established, picking up and dropping off children had been pretty much like other day care centers. However, all that changed one day a few months ago...
That particular morning, Clark had started out in an especially good mood. The previous day, he and Lois had authored an investigative piece on a large extortion ring that had hit Metropolis the previous year. This had been the first really big 'Lane and Kent' expose since Lara's birth.
This gang was particularly nasty and was suspected as being behind a large number of deaths. In many ways they were a run-of-the-mill extortion ring, but they had added a few twists. Their approach to their victims was simultaneously more subtle and sophisticated than the average extortion ring. Before approaching a potential victim, they would send a series of anonymous mailings that were nothing more than newspaper clippings of fatal accidents. When they finally did approach their victims, they were always careful enough to have never been caught making their 'sales pitch.' Part of their pitch was always the understanding that this was a one-time offer that would not be repeated. Their targets were always given two weeks to consider their offer. If the payments were not initiated within that time, the victim received one last communication. This last message was simply a notice that they were now marked for death.
In every case where the final note had been received, the target, and often many members of their family, ended up dead. The final trademark of this group was that they would wait, often a long time, before acting against their victim. On more than one occasion, one victim or another would cross them and believe that they had successfully circumvented their influence, only to end up dead several months later. During the course of their investigation, Lois and Clark had found one instance where the victim appeared to have been 'taken out' a full ten months after refusing to pay.
It had been Lois that had finally gotten to one of their inside men who wanted out. She, with a little 'super' help from Clark, had been able to get enough solid evidence to put away all of the leadership. Clark was frustrated that some of the story was still under wraps while the police continued their investigation, but the case had broken two days before with mass arrests of the gang leadership. The initial story on the gang and its capture had been the lead story in the previous day's morning edition of the Daily Planet. This story, and the investigation behind it, might be Pulitzer material and was certain to garner at least another Kerth nomination for the Lane and Kent writing team.
Shortly after they arrived at work that morning, Clark had to leave to assist at a fire in an apartment building on the other side of the city. Fortunately, the fire had been limited to an isolated section of the building and Superman had been able to get everyone out without anyone sustaining serious injury. When he returned to the office he found that Lois seemed to be very upset. He went over to her and found himself engulfed in a fierce hug.
"What happened?" he asked Lois.
She handed Clark an envelope. "This."
The only addressing on the envelope was 'Lois Lane.' Inside was a computer-printed note on a single piece of paper. It read, "Revenge is a dish best served cold."
This was one of the 'Mark of Death' messages used by the gang that they had just exposed. This was the message that they sent to individuals who had actively worked against them.
Lois was almost in tears. She was in some sort of distraught babble mode that Clark had never seen before.
"I can't believe how this is affecting me. I used to get stuff like this all the time and my attitude was somewhere between 'whatever' and 'catch me if you can.' All of the sudden I realize that there's a lot more at stake that just me. What about Lara? What about us? Clark, I'm afraid, and I don't know how to be afraid."
Clark considered the note as he continued to hold her. "Honey, you know we can be careful." He leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Besides, you know that we have a *super* advantage that whoever sent this doesn't know about."
"I know, but now there's Lara. I guess I should have expected this but somehow I didn't."
Clark, along with Lois, spent the rest of the day at the police station. The police agreed that the threat appeared to be from the same group that had just been exposed. It was somewhat disturbing to Clark because he had been convinced that all of the leadership of the gang had been identified and arrested. This note meant that there were still enough working operatives who had apparently avoided the round-up to at least make a threat.
The aftereffects of the note were almost as disconcerting as receipt of the note itself had been. The police insisted on providing protection over the next few days for himself, Lois and Lara. Their presence made it difficult for him to get away for Superman activities and, on a couple of occasions, there were emergencies that Superman simply missed. Fortunately, after the second day, Lois, in vintage Mad-Dog-Lane mode, had finally convinced the police that she and Clark could take care of themselves. Part of the source of her success was based on the fact that the history of this gang suggested that there would be no immediate attempt on their lives. The gang had never waited less than a month to follow though on one of these threats.
About the only thing that was different after that first few days was the increase in security for the Planet's day care center. The management team realized that, in their business, additional security would be a good idea on a full time basis, so that stayed.
It had taken several weeks but Clark was relieved when they were finally able to settle back into a routine. He made sure to be a bit more watchful and insisted that Lois also be more careful in her activities. He had installed a sophisticated security system in their townhouse, but other than that, they got on with their lives.
One continuing point of confusion was the source of the threat. All the evidence that they could find, even with Clark using his powers to the utmost, continued to indicate that the sweep that had preceded their article had successfully beheaded the gang. As near as he could discover, all of the gang's activities had come to an end that original evening. The revenge note was a threat from a group that, by all appearances, no longer existed.
They had long since gotten used to the process of picking up Lara and the high-security procedures had become routine. After they had their daughter, they headed back to the elevator for the journey to the parking garage.
Clark was playing with Lara in the elevator when it arrived at the correct floor. As they started from the elevator to their car, Lara, who had just begun to walk, wanted to play 'chase me' with her dad. There was ample opportunity to play since, as was their habit, their car was located in a lightly used area at one edge of the garage near an outside wall. This had proven to provide a convenient exit route for times that Superman needed to make an aerial departure. For Clark, the trip to the car was a meandering path full of Lara-led circles and loops.
Clark noticed that Lois's footsteps had stopped and as he looked up to see her smiling at them he heard her say, "I used to think that all I had to worry about was the occasional blonde. Now I find you chasing younger women."
As Clark considered a reply, Lois inserted the key into the car door. Instantly, the car disintegrated in a ball of flame.
It wasn't a normal 'kill the occupant' car bomb. This was an 'erase all traces of their existence' bomb. For one horrified instant Clark froze. His first instinct was to use super speed to protect Lois. But she was on the other side of the vehicle and in just that instant she had already been engulfed in the terrible explosion. In that fraction of a second Clark saw the light of his life go out.
But he quickly remembered that he had another concern. The explosion shock wave was heading toward Lara but hadn't reached her yet. Clark was able to make use of that super speed and protect Lara by shielding her with his own body.
As strong as the explosion was, it was nothing to him. Shrapnel from the explosion pummeled his back and some of his clothes were torn, but Lara was safely shielded as the explosion shock wave passed.
Lara was crying and he didn't know how to comfort her. They had both lost the light of their lives and it was his fault. He was Lois's husband! He was Superman. He had failed to protect the most important person in the universe. He couldn't move. If he could move, why bother? Without Lois, there was nowhere to go.
It only took a second for the tears to start. All he could do was hold Lara and try to provide some comfort as best he could. He was crouched on the floor of the garage building in the aftermath of the explosion with Lara still in his arms. His eyes were still closed and in that instant he couldn't imagine ever wanting to open them again. He couldn't help muttering very quietly...
"This can't be..."
"I'm sorry, Lois."
The whole world was spinning. After the roar of the explosion, that might as well have ended his own life, he was oblivious to everything but holding his daughter while dealing with the million tons of grief that had just fallen on him.
Through his grief he felt a light touch on his shoulder and heard the impossible.
His head popped up and a miracle occurred. Lois was standing right in front of him. Faster than thought he was standing and they were all in a three-way hug.
After an eternity of bliss in Lois's arms, he finally muttered, "I'd thought I'd lost you. How?"
"I don't know. The car blew up right in my face. I should be dead. Clark, I... I barely felt it."
He stepped back to get a better look at Lois. Most of her clothes were blown away and she was actually clothed in nothing more than tattered rags. He quickly removed his suit jacket and draped it over her shoulders.
"Honey, I don't know what happened but I think it would be best if we were somewhere else until we figure out what to do. How would you feel about a quick trip to Smallville?"
Lois nodded. The proximity of the outside edge of the parking building again proved valuable as a convenient exit. Clark gathered them both together and did a super speed exit skyward.
Martha Kent wasn't sure if she believed in luck so much as she believed in fate. She certainly wasn't about to complain about any lack of luck in her life, but she had long since been convinced that fate seemed to play a much larger role in her life than simple luck. She often thought that her life was ever so much more interesting than her friends and neighbors could ever believe or even imagine.
She was highly intelligent and possessed many of the gifts that made other women, such as her daughter-in-law, a force to be reckoned with. At one time she had visualized a career and possibly even fame spreading out before her. However, fate intervened and she fell in love with a simple farmer.
When she had first met Jonathan Kent, she was determined that any life with him was not for her. He was nice enough and a good man, but she had plans. Martha had been genuinely surprised with herself when she had even agreed to go out on a date with him. When that first evening was over, she had ended up having a wonderful time and realized that she felt an affinity with Jonathan that she had never felt before. Since she knew that her plans called for a completely different life than she would be able to share with Jonathan, he seemed a convenient and safe diversion. As she had no intention of this relationship going anywhere, she was free to relax and enjoy herself in his company.
In retrospect she should have seen his proposal coming. By the time it happened, they had been going together steadily for many months. When, from her perspective, Jonathan had proposed right out of the blue, she had been in shock. Afterwards, she was certain that "What! Of course not!" was probably not the response Jonathan deserved. Her immediate reaction had been to stay as far away from him as possible until she could leave Smallville. This changed when she learned that his reaction to her rejection was to use his tractor to drive around his farm plowing up snow. She hadn't meant to hurt him so badly and was worried that if he didn't stop he would end up with pneumonia.
Their second round of dating was intended to be low key. She just wanted Jonathan to know that she liked him but wasn't interested in more. This time his proposal was again a surprise but not nearly so much of a shock. She was really proud that her response was a so much more reasonable, "Jonathan, I like you very much but I can't marry you." However, the result was disturbingly similar. She was at home feeling miserable and Jonathan was out plowing snow again. This time she resolved to let him freeze. After a few days she was very disturbed to realize that their prolonged separation was hurting her also. Finally, for both their sakes, she went over to the Kent farm and dragged him off that darn tractor again.
The third time she rejected his proposal, she wasn't nearly so confident. By then she realized that, like it or not, he might be a permanent fixture in her future. This was the first time where they continued to talk after she said her oh so gentle, "Jonathan, you're very important to me, but marrying you just isn't in my plans." The next day when she learned that he was out plowing snow again, she suspected he was only doing that as part of a game to see how long it took her to come over and make him stop. Sure enough, shortly thereafter she had him off the tractor.
There was a fourth time...
The fifth time she said, "Yes."
Much later, after receiving the news that they couldn't have children, Martha was devastated. By now she was committed to Jonathan and being a farmer's wife. They had built a wonderful house that was designed with children in mind. During this period of time, Martha had become convinced that fate was truly conspiring against her. She was correct about fate having special plans for her, but not at all in the way that she thought during those dark times. Little did she know that fate had carved out an extraordinary path for both herself and Jonathan.
As for Jonathan and his view on luck, he always had and always would see himself as a simple farmer. However, the woman that he adored had agreed to marry him *after* saying "No" four times. His son was a world famous hero. His daughter-in-law was a world-renowned journalist. And he had a beautiful new granddaughter. Jonathan Kent thought he was the luckiest man on Earth!
This particular afternoon Martha had been going about her normal routine. Since the arrival of Lara, these activities had become even more of a genuine pleasure. Moving around the house and doing chores had become a constant reminder of how wonderfully her life had turned out. Lois and Clark were visiting far more often since her granddaughter had been born and signs of their presence were everywhere. In many ways the Kent farmhouse had almost become a second home for her son's family.
It was late in the afternoon and she was beginning to think in terms of Jonathan being done with his chores for the day and what to do for supper when she was suddenly overcome with a wave of despair. It was as if a still, cold air mass suddenly filled the house. Martha was so shaken that she simply had to sit for a moment in the living room. After less than a minute, the feeling left as quickly as it had come. Even though she felt better now that the phantom cold had cleared, Martha decided to simply wait and recover for another few minutes. She had picked up a 'Metalworking in Art' magazine and was reading an article on the use and welding of nonferrous metals when she heard a knock on the kitchen door.
Martha got up quickly and headed for the kitchen. It was probably one of the neighbors just stopping by for a late afternoon visit. As she entered the kitchen she saw that Clark had come in and she could see Lois just behind Clark.
Bursting into a huge smile, Martha said, "What a wonderful surprise. To what do I owe this chance to see my family?"
As Martha looked on, Clark stepped to one side and Martha could get a better look at Lois. She was amazed at what she saw. Underneath Clark's business jacket, Lois's clothes were a mess. She looked as if she had been in some kind of accident or fire.
"My God, Lois, are you okay?" Martha exclaimed.
She stepped up to Lois and held her a comforting hug. As Martha held Lois in her arms she was struck by the strong chemical or gunpowder-like smell that seemed to be all over her daughter-in-law. From over her shoulder Martha heard Clark say, "Hi, Dad. I'll explain later, but could you please take Lara to the other room and play with her for a few minutes? I promise we'll fill you in later."
Martha turned to see Jonathan scooped up Lara and head for the other room. As her husband left the room with Lara, she asked her children, "What happened?"
Clark replied, "Mom, we don't know for sure. Our car blew up and Lois was right there."
Martha focused her attention on Lois. "Lois honey, are you all right? Your clothes look like you were very close to the explosion."
"I was *in* the explosion. It went off right in my face and Clark was on the other side of the car." Lois took a deep breath. "I thought I was dead."
Martha could sense that Lois was near collapse. "Why don't we go upstairs and get you cleaned up and replace those clothes. Clark, while Lois and I are busy, please go talk to your father and let him know what happened."
Martha went up the stairs with her arm around Lois. She could see that the younger woman was still a bit shaken up. As they reached the top of the stairs she turned to her daughter-in-law and suggested, "Lois, why don't you soak in the bathtub for a while. It'll help you relax and give you a chance to get that bomb smell off."
"That sounds wonderful. Let me go to our room and get some fresh clothes."
"I'll pick you out some clothes. Let's just get you in the tub."
She herded Lois into the bathroom. Martha got the water started while Lois removed the rags that, just a few minutes earlier, had been her business suit. She was sure that Lois would want the water to be pretty much as hot as she could stand it and adjusted it accordingly. Given that Lois was still covered with bomb stuff, she added a generous helping of bubble bath to the water. After a minute she stepped back so that Lois could get into the tub while it continued to fill.
"You just relax and I'll be back in just a minute with some clothes. Is there anything special you'd like me to get?"
"No, Martha. Whatever you find will be fine," Lois said as she stepped into the warm water.
It only took her a minute to put together a suitable outfit based on what was in Lois and Clark's room. By the time she returned to the bathroom, the tub was full and Lois was soaking with her eyes closed.
"Here you go," she said as she set down the bundle of clothes. "Is there anything else I can do?"
"No, thank you. But could you ask Clark to come up? I'd like to talk to him."
"I'll do that," she replied. "Would you like me to have him wait so you can wash a bit? You still have bomb soot on your face."
This seemed to remind Lois of her condition and she suddenly looked about for some soap. "I didn't even think of how I must look. Please ask Clark to wait just a few minutes and then come up."
As she descended the stairs, she could hear Clark talking to Jonathan, "...just don't know quite what happened. We were expecting that there might be some sort of attempt on our lives but today we just got caught off-guard. The explosion was..." Clark paused for a moment. "It was just horrible. I saw shards of metal from the car door hit Lois as the explosion engulfed her. For a minute, I was sure I'd lost her. I've never felt anything like that before. Dad, for that moment I didn't know how I would go on." And at barely above a whisper, Clark added, "I didn't want to go on."
Jonathan saw her at the bottom of the stairs and apparently thought that her appearance would be an opportunity to shift the conversation to something more positive. He turned his attention toward her and asked, "Is Lois okay?"
She replied, "She seems fine. Clark, she wanted you to give her a minute to get cleaned up and then come see her. So, what can you tell me?"
Clark first glanced in the general direction of the upstairs bathroom then said, "Mom, I don't really know. That explosion was huge and Lois was right in the middle of it."
"From the way you describe the explosion, it sounds like it was the kind of thing that only you could survive unhurt," Jonathan said.
"I know. The only explanation that seems to fit just doesn't make any sense." Clark replied.
"Ultra Woman," Martha said.
They were all quiet for a few seconds when Clark finally broke the silence. "Yes. But how?"
Clark again looked in the direction of the bathroom and said, "She seems ready for me now. Please excuse me." He took just a second to squeeze Lara's hand and headed up the stairs and disappeared from view.
"What do you think is going on?" Jonathan asked.
"It has to be another Ultra Woman kind of thing. I don't know how it happened since Clark still has his powers. But if that explosion was as strong as Clark says, then we've been truly blessed." She paused for a moment. "Honey, I had the strangest feeling just before they arrived. Clark said that for a minute he thought Lois was dead. I think I felt it too."
At this Jonathan's head jerked up. "Me too! A few minutes before they arrived I was working in the barn and all of the sudden I just felt miserable. I had to sit down."
Martha stepped over and engulfed her husband in a hug. "I guess we're all caught up in Clark's Kryptonian telepathy a little bit."
She took Lara in her arms. "Are you going to be doing that someday too, little one?" She turned to Jonathan and suggested, "Why don't we take advantage of some time with our granddaughter?" and headed into the room where Lara's toys were located.
They had been playing with Lara for only a few minutes when Clark reappeared at the bottom of the stairs. "Lois is fine. She'll be down in a minute and we can all talk then. Is Lara doing okay?"
Jonathan replied, "She seems fine. You'd never know that she was right next to an explosion only about half an hour ago."
That got Martha thinking, "Clark, does anyone in Metropolis know that you're all alive?"
Clark's eyes went wide, "No! Oh my goodness, I need to make some calls."
He bolted into the other room and presently you could hear that he was talking to someone on the phone. After about ten minutes he came back into the room.
"Thanks, Mom. With everything that happened I'd completely forgotten about that. I called Lucy and Perry and asked them to pass the word along to Lois's parents, Jimmy Olsen and any of our other close friends. I also called Inspector Henderson of the Metropolis Police Department. I told him that we had all managed to escape the explosion and were fine but in hiding. I explained that Superman had helped us escape the bomb and that I asked him to fly us to Smallville for few days. He really needed to know that we were okay. If he started an investigation and only found out later that we were alive but didn't report in, we might never be able to get him to trust us again."
Just as Clark finished this explanation, Martha saw Lois at the top of the stairs. Clark moved quickly to meet Lois at the bottom of the stairs and took her in her arms. They looked at each other for a moment and shared a single emotion-filled kiss. Under other circumstances Martha might have felt embarrassed at watching such an overt display of affection, but these were anything but ordinary times.
After a minute Lois and Clark turned to Martha and Jonathan. Clark said, "I guess we need to figure out what to do."
Martha asked, "Do you think you know what happened?"
Lois replied, "Well... Yes. As near as we can tell I'm super powered again." Lois smiled, "I guess Ultra Woman is back."
"Are you sure?" Jonathan asked. "You seem to have invulnerability, thank goodness, but what about the rest of the powers?"
Lois looked at Martha, "Martha, when you filled the bath tub, was the water hot?"
"Yes. I thought you would want it hot." Martha said.
"Yes, I did. Thank you. But when I got in, it didn't feel that hot. When you went to get my clothes, I tried turning up the heat. I ended up with the water on full hot and it never felt any warmer. At first I thought you just didn't have any hot water, but then later, when you were all talking down here, I realized that I could hear everything you were saying perfectly clearly. Then, when I concentrated, I could look right through the walls and floor and see you." Lois turned to Clark, "I could see Clark checking on me while I washed."
As Clark blushed, Lois continued, "At that point I figured that most of the powers were in place so I tried heating up the water with heat vision. When the bath water started boiling, and it didn't bother me, I was sure that both heat vision and invulnerability were in place. While I was getting dressed I tried out this..." and Lois levitated about a foot off of the floor. She continued from her levitated position. "So that seems to take care of everything but super strength and I'll test it later. I suspect it will be there too."
Martha realized she was staring at Lois open-mouthed. Then she looked back and forth between Lois and Clark, "How is this possible? When did it happen?"
Clark responded, "Mom, we just don't know. Until the explosion we didn't notice anything."
At this point Jonathan spoke up. "Lois, would you please come down? It's a bit disconcerting to talk to you with you floating in the air like that."
Lois blushed and dropped suddenly to the floor. "Sorry. Once you're up there it can be easy to forget."
Clark mumbled, "Tell me about it," and squeezed Lois's hand.
Lois continued, "The only thing that comes to mind is that ever since Lara was born I've felt very healthy. My feeling is that the powers have been developing slowly for some time. I think I fell back into the habits I developed while I was Ultra Woman of being careful about the extra strength without really noticing what I was doing."
Lois turned to her husband and said, "Clark, we've talked about some of this before. When you are going about your day-to-day activities, do you have to work at not using super powers?"
"No. For everyday tasks I just automatically use normal levels of effort. When I need to do something special, like super strength, I have to make a conscious effort to use the extra power."
Lois responded, "I think that's what happened to me. If the extra powers came in slowly, I suspect that I was making subconscious adjustments in the amount of effort I used for daily activities. Up until today, I haven't been in a situation where I needed to fly or use extra strength. The extras were just kind of there in the background waiting to surprise me when I needed them."
Martha stepped over and put her arm around Lois and said, "Lois, under the circumstances we're all really happy about this surprise."
Lois was thoughtful for a moment. "I guess we need a trip to Star Labs."
Clark went in the other room to call Dr. Klein to ask if they can come in for some important Superman tests. When he returned he said that Bernie would be ready for them in about an hour.
Martha spent most of the next hour playing with Lara. Clark and Lois had gone to an isolated part of the farm to allow Lois to practice using her powers. It was just about an hour later that Lois and Clark got ready to fly back to Metropolis. They had asked if Lara could stay in Smallville for a day or two while they dealt with Lois's powers and the car bombing.
As they prepared to leave, Martha held Lara and listened to what would have to be as impossibly odd as any husband/wife disagreement in the history of mankind.
"Clark, of course I can fly myself. We've never flown together like this before. It'll be fun!"
"Honey, what if your powers fail?"
"But they might. What would happen if they did?"
"Would you catch me if I needed help?"
"You know I would."
"So, there's no reason I can't fly myself with you nearby. Right?"
Martha was practically laughing out loud by the time Clark had agreed that there was no real risk.
Yes, fate seems to have always had a special place reserved for Martha, and apparently, all of her family.
Bernie had been fretting for much of the evening. When he first heard the news flash that there had been an explosion at the Daily Planet, he had been moderately concerned. Then later, when the reports came in that the three members of the Kent family were missing, he got positively worried.
Bernie had admitted years ago that he was all too close to the stereotype of the reclusive scientist. He only had a few groups of real friends and most of them were colleagues. Clark, Lois and now Lara were like family to him, and their disappearance in the bombing had left him feeling shaken. Of course he knew that Clark was in no danger, but Lois and Lara were as vulnerable to being hurt as any other person. He was still fretting when his phone rang.
"Bernard Klein speaking."
"Hi, Bernie, this is Clark."
"Clark, I'm so glad to hear from you. I've heard about the explosion. Were any of you hurt?"
"No, we're all fine... Um, Superman was able to rescue all of us at the last second when the bomb went off. We're in hiding until we can figure out who planted the bomb and what to do about it."
"I'm really glad that everyone is okay. That was what I was hoping for when the news didn't report any fatalities and only indicated that your family was missing."
"Superman wanted me to ask you if he could come by later. There were some issues relating to the explosion that he thought would merit your attention. I believe there are some tests that he would like you to perform."
"Please tell Superman that he can come by whenever is most convenient for him. I know he's always very busy, and I imagine that your bombing has made his day even more complicated than usual."
"He asked me to tell you that if you were free, about 10:00 tonight would be a good time for him."
"I'll have the lab ready at 10:00."
"If I see him before then I'll tell him that you'll be waiting. Thanks."
"Don't mention it. And, thanks for calling. You, Lois and Lara are like family to me and I was really worried."
"Bernie, I'm only sorry that we didn't call you sooner. We'll be in touch."
After the call ended, Bernie went about getting ready for the visit. Clark had not said what this would be about, but he guessed that maybe Lara had been near the explosion and they wanted him to check her over. With this in mind, he spent the time after Clark's call making sure that everything in the Superman lab was ready and that no one else was around.
By the time the roof buzzer sounded, he had been ready for ten minutes. He hurried up to the entrance since he didn't want Lara to be out in the elements on the roof of Star Labs for any longer than necessary.
As he let them in, he commented, "Good evening, Lois, Clark. I saw the news report. You both look pretty good for a pair of 'possibly dead' people. Where's Lara? Is she okay?"
"She's fine," said Clark. "But something else happened that we need to know about. Can we take a look at Lois in the biofield sensor?"
Bernie was confused. "Of course," he said. "But I had figured that you were going to be having me look at Lara."
Clark responded, "No, Lara is fine. When the bomb went off, I was able to shield her completely. She was only frightened for a moment. We're here about something else entirely."
He led them down to the lab. Since he had expected it might be needed, albeit on someone else, the biofield sensor was already turned on and ready for use.
He walked over to the control area and said, "Lois, go ahead and please stand in the usual place."
As Lois walked toward the primary sensor area, he shifted his attention to the main monitor. As soon as she entered the field of view of the sensor, it was obvious that something was very different.
He had seen Lois imaged in two different ways by this sensor. There had been the 'pregnant with Lara' image where Lara's Kryptonian presence was visible in Lois's human biofield. That had been the image they had seen that first time. Throughout the pregnancy Lois had been imaged regularly and they had been able to track the growth of Lara's Kryptonian field. The other image of Lois was when she had been in contact with Clark and she was displaying the low-energy field that only she seemed to be able to persist.
The image today was very different. He was half-expecting to see that Lois was pregnant again. As soon as Clark had asked that Lois be imaged, another pregnancy seemed to be the most obvious reason. However, when Lois stepped into the sensor area Bernie was amazed. She was showing a full-strength Kryptonian biofield that, at first glance, appeared to be every bit as strong as the one around Clark.
He looked around quickly to verify that Clark was nowhere near Lois. Clark had stopped behind the control area and well outside the five meter range where he could be having any kind of affect on her biofield. After studying Lois's image for only a second or two more, he looked back and forth between them and said, "I guess you expected something like this. Will you tell me what happened to make you ask for this test?"
It was Clark who responded. "Bernie, it was the car bomb. I was able to shield Lara from the blast but Lois was caught right in the middle of the explosion."
Lois added, "When the bomb went off I was right next to the car. The force of the explosion was powerful enough so that it shredded my clothes. I felt the impacts where the metal and glass fragments hit me. Despite all that, I wasn't hurt at all and only barely felt the force of the explosion."
Bernie's mouth fell open. "Lois, I'm so glad you're all right. Do you have any idea how this happened?"
Lois laughed briefly at Bernie's response. Then she said, "That's what we were going to ask you."
Bernie was trying to recover. "From what you say, it would seem that you have at least some of Clark's invulnerability. Do you know if you have any of the other powers?"
"Yes, I have the full set of Superman's powers, just like last time."
That caught Bernie by surprise. "Last time?"
Clark looked a little defensive. "Oh, well, Bernie, I guess there are still a few things we never quite got around to telling you about. Do you remember Ultra Woman?"
Of course I remember her, Bernie thought. Then he went on aloud, "Yes. I remember there were a lot of questions about her identity. Later, after the New Krypton incident, I remember reading speculation that she must have been a visiting friend or relative from there."
Lois cut in, "Not exactly. I was Ultra Woman."
This seemed to be getting stranger by the second. "What? How? Why didn't you tell me this before?"
Clark got an embarrassed, defensive look on his face. "Umm... Oops."
Lois provided a bit more eloquent reply. "Bernie, we're sorry. We weren't trying to hide this from you. We've just been in the habit of not saying anything to anyone. You get so used to keeping secrets that it becomes the norm. To be honest, we just haven't thought about this episode since it happened. As to how I ended up being Ultra Woman, Clark got hit with a Red Kryptonite laser and his powers were shifted to me."
Bernie was struggling to both recover from the shock of the news and figure out how this new information fit into what he knew about Kryptonian physiology and Red Kryptonite. Finally he said, "So you were Ultra Woman. I guess that explains why Superman and Ultra Woman seemed to be such... well, 'good friends.' You do realize that there had been a lot of tabloid-type speculation about your relationship."
Clark got an annoyed look on his face. "Yeah, we remember. Now it seems sort of funny, but at the time we were still in the process of defining our relationship and that sort of speculation was... let's just say, 'not welcome.'"
He considered this for a minute. "Oh. Well, the idea of your powers being able to be transferred as a result of a high energy pulse from Red Kryptonite is consistent with what I've discovered over the last few years."
Clark seemed surprised at the easy way Bernie accepted that his powers had been transferred. "What do you mean?"
At this, he felt a bit proud that all the work he had done enabled him to understand what had probably happened and provide an explanation. "Remember that I found that Red Kryptonite radiation directly affects your biofield. That energy, if concentrated and amplified via a laser, would probably provide enough focused energy to completely displace most of the energy from your biofield."
Clark interjected, "Bernie, if my biofield was removed shouldn't I have felt pain? You've said many times that the KEs die without a Kryptonian field."
Doc Klein responded, "Since you didn't die and, from what you say, you also didn't experience any pain, I would have to guess that a residual, low energy field remained. It would be similar to the low-energy field that you share when you exert your super powers. It wasn't strong enough to induce super powers, but it kept your KEs alive.
He turned to Lois and continued. "We know that the low-energy field that Clark shares isn't strong enough to support powers. Well, my research into the biofield and Red Kryptonite suggested that it may be possible to displace a full-strength Kryptonian biofield. I suspect that if this were to happen to Clark, he would lose his powers until the field strength could be rebuilt by his KEs. Lois, I'm not really surprised that if you had been along the line of displacement, the full strength field would have locked on you and provided you with temporary super powers."
Lois looked concerned. "What do you mean by temporary?"
"Lois, please wait just a second." He turned to Clark. "Did you lose your powers for a period of time?"
Clark nodded. "I lost my powers. We thought it was permanent."
He smiled at both of them. "No. Such a transfer would only last until the high-energy field faded. Since there were no KEs in Lois to maintain the field, it would have been strictly temporary. I would guess that Clark's powers would rebuild at about the same rate that your 'acquired' powers would fade. Within a short time, probably no more than a few weeks, everything should have been back to normal."
Bernie thought for a moment. "Is that what happened with Resplendent Man? I seem to recall that Superman still had his powers during his brief appearance."
Clark responded with an exasperated sigh, "I had almost forgotten about him. I did keep my powers during the 'Resplendent Man' episode. He got his powers as a result of a freak lightning strike."
Bernie was excited about this new information. Based on what he now knew about Clark, this was all too easy. "Let me guess." Bernie looked at Clark. "You got hit by the lightning and the energy passed through you and into him?"
Clark seemed only a little surprised at Bernie's quick assessment on what had happened. "Exactly."
"That all fits with what we now know," Bernie said. "If the circumstances were just right and the energy levels and frequencies aligned correctly, I could see the influx of energy boosting the Kryptonian biofield well beyond your normal levels. If there was a path that would allow the energy to flow into another person, I could see how it would carry a displaced high-strength biofield just like the Red Kryptonite. However, in this case it would make sense that only the excess field would be displaced. Just like with the Red Kryptonite, the 'acquired' powers would be temporary and would fade with time."
Suddenly Bernie remembered something else. "I just remembered, that little kid that the woman was claiming to be Superman's 'love child.'" Embarrassed, he looked in Lois's direction. "Oh, sorry. I guess that created some stress."
Lois frowned. "You could say that."
"Yes, well, my recollection is that his powers were related to a lightening-induced transfer. Of course, with no KEs, his abilities were temporary. But, to this business, I gather that to the best of your knowledge there were no lightning strikes or Red Kryptonite lasers this time?"
Clark replied, "Not that we noticed."
"So, the first thing we need to do is get a blood sample from Lois and see if KEs are present. That will tell us a lot about what's going on."
Lois asked, "So, what should we do for now?"
Bernie thought for a moment. He didn't want to make any sort of recommendation that might get Lois hurt. He thought it would be best to err on the side of caution. "Well, I wouldn't expect a sudden drop-off of your abilities as long as you stayed away from Kryptonite. I guess my recommendation would be for you to avoid using powers in any way that, if they failed suddenly, would cause you or someone else harm. I guess I'm trying to say don't pick up a bus and carry it over your head."
Lois nodded and said, "That makes sense. What about flying?"
"Well, as I said I don't think the powers would suddenly just 'cut out.' I would recommend that you not fly on your own any more until I can see if you have active KEs. Although, based on the apparent strength of your biofield, you're probably safe to use the powers for at least a few days. Please just be careful and use your best judgment."
He paused for just a minute and then asked, "How can I reach you?"
Clark spoke up, "Lois Lane and Clark Kent are in hiding for the moment. Until we know more about the source of the bomb, we'll be keeping a low profile. Why don't I come in tomorrow as Superman and you can let me know what you find?"
"Very well," he replied. "Based on Lois's biofield reading and what happened with the bomb, I won't be able to draw a blood sample unless I use the Kryptonite method that I use to extract Clark's blood for testing. Lois, please come with me into the other lab." He looked at Clark, "Clark, you can come if you want to but there are trace levels of Kryptonite involved and it might be better if you stay here."
Clark asked Lois, "Dear, would you like me to come?"
"No. There's no point in both of us being exposed to Kryptonite."
He led Lois into the hematology test lab and took a blood sample. Shortly thereafter he led them both up to the roof exit and then returned to the lab to start the analysis. He couldn't help but think that life as Superman's doctor was always full of surprises.
Lois had to admit that she was starting to get all too used to standing on the roof of Star Labs. Bernie had just let them out after verifying that she had a Kryptonian biofield and taking some blood to test. While the biofield sensor was painless, getting poked for the blood sample was not. Needles are bad enough without also having to worry about Kryptonite. Bernie had assured her that he used this method with Clark all the time and that there shouldn't be any excess pain other than that of a normal needle prick. Well, maybe he was right, but it still hurt.
As they were getting ready to leave, she noticed Clark reaching for her with the obvious intention of carrying her back to Smallville.
She pulled back just a bit and asked combatively, "What do you think you're doing, Farm Boy?"
"You heard Bernie. He's not sure your powers will stay."
"I also remember hearing him say that I should be fine for at least a few days."
She wasn't interested in whatever 'but' Clark would manage to come up with. She was suddenly in a good mood for the first time since that awful bomb had gone off and didn't feel like being reasonable. At the word 'but,' she had slipped into super speed mode and leapt for the sky. As she zoomed skyward, she couldn't help but invite Clark to play with a giggly laugh and the parting invitation, "Try to catch me." After all, even though his propensity for excess caution did annoy her from time to time, she loved him beyond measure, she enjoyed being with him and besides all that, when he did relax, he really was a lot of fun.
Once Lois got him started, Clark seemed happy to play, and by the time they set down in Smallville they had been airborne for over an hour. Lois was delighted to discover that air tag with a playful and affectionate partner can consume a lot of time as well as being great fun.
Later that night they talked at length with Clark's parents. Lara had been put to bed and the four adults were sitting in the living room.
"So how long will you be staying?" Jonathan asked.
She answered quickly, "If it were just me and Clark, I'd want to head back immediately. There has to be a ton of new evidence from the bombing. Right now I'm really mad! Even if I didn't have the extra insurance of Clark's powers, I'm on the alert now. I know how to be careful and I want to go after these people."
Martha spoke up. "Honey, I know you want these people, but you need to keep in mind that Lara is also at risk."
Lois had to bite back the sarcastic retort that she almost delivered. Before she could say anything at all, she realized that Martha was still speaking.
"Now I know you won't do anything to put Lara at risk. That's not what I'm saying. If you really want to go after these people, wouldn't it be better to let Lara stay here for a few days? After all, you and Clark can visit whenever you want."
Clark spoke up. "Lois, I think Mom's right. I believe that leaving Lara here is what we should do. We can start an investigation immediately, but once they realize that this bomb missed, they may target our house. It's easy for you and me to make ourselves hard-to-get, but Lara might be a tempting target."
Lois finally had her chance to reply. "I agree with all that. We'll leave Lara here and just stay completely away from our home for a while. I'd like to keep as completely out-of-sight as possible and do a stealth investigation. If the powers do stay with me for a few days, between Superman and Ultra Woman I'm sure we can run these people to ground."
As was his way in most of these family talks, Jonathan had been sitting quietly and listening to the more gregarious discuss the issue. When Lois mentioned Ultra Woman, he finally spoke up. "Lois, did anyone see you when the car blew up?"
"No." Lois replied. "Clark, what did Bill Henderson say when you spoke on the phone?"
"He told me that there didn't seem to be any witnesses to the explosion. The police were planning to review video from the security cameras to see what evidence might be there."
Jonathon cut in, "There are security cameras? Does that mean that there's security video of Lois surviving the explosion."
"No, there won't be." Clark replied. "We park in that spot because there is a gap in the camera coverage there. Sometimes I need to make a Superman exit and having the car there is convenient."
"I just thought of something else," Martha said. "Lois, you need to be careful to not let the powers show. Normally that wouldn't be a big problem, but what if there's another attempt on your life and this time there are witnesses? You'll be fine, but it might be obvious that you have super powers. That isn't something we want to get out."
"I understand, Martha," Lois said. "That's another reason to conduct the investigation under cover. It's best if we just don't make our presence known for a while."
The discussion continued for a while longer but didn't produce much in the way of results other than to validate the decision of leave Lara in Smallville.
Later that evening, as Lois was preparing for bed, Clark asked her if she would mind his being absent for an hour or so to do a regular patrol of Metropolis.
"Of course I mind," Lois replied.
The startled look on Clark's face told her that was not the answer he expected. She walked over to him and put her arms around his neck. "I can't help being a little bit selfish. I have first dibs on you and I never really want to share." At this, she brought her lips to his to drive home the point of how much she enjoyed his company. At the end of this particularly passionate kiss, she continued, "But I know that being Superman is part of you being you and I do have to share. So, I guess the real answer is, 'No, I don't mind too much but please try to hurry back.'"
This triggered a huge smile from Clark as he said, "I love you."
To which Lois deadpanned, "I know."
Lois woke up early the next day. She did that all the time now, and she had been thinking it was part of being a new mother. While that still may be part of the equation, she had a feeling that her newly discovered super powers were the major contributor to her newfound morning energy.
After they finished breakfast, she put in a call to Inspector Henderson. They needed to touch base and she wanted to give him the opportunity to hear her voice since yesterday he had only spoken with Clark. It only took a minute to get through and he sounded surprisingly cheery on the phone.
"Lane, I thought I'd be hearing from you today."
"Hi, Bill. I have to say I'm glad to be hearing your voice. Someone made a serious effort to make sure that I wouldn't be talking to anyone after yesterday."
"Yeah, that was some bomb. There's nothing left of your car. How in the world did you and Clark escape that blast?" Henderson asked.
"We were just lucky. Superman had stopped by and just happened to be standing next to me when I put the key in the car."
"After what Clark said about Superman flying you to Smallville, I thought it might be something like that. When I first saw the remains of the car I didn't see how anyone could have survived. But then we couldn't find any human remains and besides, you and Kent aren't 'just anyone.' I know how close you two are to Superman and his saving you had to be a possibility."
Lois thought it best to try to move the conversation away from Superman. "What have you been able to learn about the bomb?"
"Did you know that the spot where you park your car isn't covered by the parking building security cameras?"
She was thinking that it wouldn't be wise to admit that they had picked that spot deliberately. She replied using the most innocent-sounding voice that she could muster. "Really? We'll need to find a safer place in the future."
Henderson went on, "You might want to do that. Did you know that the Planet garage has two different sets of security cameras?"
"I knew that the system was overhauled last year. I don't really know much about the details. Clark studied it once but I haven't had any reason to pay much attention to it. Why?"
Henderson explained, "Well, when the security contractor was designing the upgrade, he decided to leave all of the existing cameras in place. The new system uses cameras that are much smaller and designed to be easy to conceal."
"What are you getting at?"
"Lane, you're always so impatient. Anyway, after the explosion we pulled the garage security video. We weren't surprised to find that a few hours before the explosion there were a series of outages as if some of the cameras were being disabled. Fortunately, only the older, more obvious cameras were taken out. Some of the new cameras actually cover the older cameras. When we reviewed the video from those, we actually had footage of the guy disabling one of the older cameras. At one point he walked straight into the picture and we got a full frontal image of his face. Even though your car wasn't covered, we saw him approach that area carrying a briefcase and then leave about a half an hour later."
She was excited by the prospect of finding the person. "So, do you think you can find out who it was?"
"Don't you give us any credit at all?"
"Bill, you know I do. I just think that from time to time regular police methods can be a bit... slow to produce results."
"Well this time we weren't slow. We had the guy identified by late last night and we raided his apartment early this morning. We got him and enough bomb-making evidence to easily tie him to your bomb."
"That's great. Do you have a connection that explains why he bombed my car?"
"Actually, we do. Once he saw the evidence we had against him he got desperate to try to make any deal possible. He was able to give us enough information to make the connection to his employers. For him, this was just another contract hit. One of the critical pieces of data that he provided was the date that he got the job. Apparently the extortion ring that you helped put out of business a few months ago had learned of your investigation. Our belief is that they intended to have you removed immediately, but somewhere the message got scrambled and your hit got treated as one of their delayed-time jobs. Our bomber got the contract only a day before we shut them down. There wasn't anyone left to correct their error and change yours to be an immediate hit. As for our bomber, he didn't know that the people who hired him were out of business. He knew that the extortion ring had been taken down, but he didn't know enough about them to realize that they were his employers for this job."
"That's great news."
"This is what can be accomplished by sticking with those *slow* methods that you seem to take such delight in circumventing. I expect you and Kent to remember this next time we ask you to let us pursue an investigation by-the-book."
She could hear the satisfied tone in Henderson's voice. For once, she didn't mind. This was a huge burden to have removed from her shoulders. She was so relieved that she almost missed that Bill was still talking.
"...do you think you and Clark can come in and give a statement? There's no reason to stay in Smallville now."
"As soon as we can contact Superman we'll ask him to bring us back to Metropolis. Hopefully we can come in later today. And Bill, thanks."
"Just doing my job."
As soon as she hung up the phone she shared her news with the rest of the family. This meant that they could all return to Metropolis immediately.
When it came time to leave for Metropolis, at first Lois thought it sounded all too much like a replay of their trip to Star Labs the previous evening.
Lois was hovering a foot off the ground in front of her husband. "Clark, I'm fine. I feel as strong today as I did yesterday. This isn't taking any effort at all."
"Lois, we went all through this last night. I know how much you enjoy flying but we really should be careful."
"I am being careful. I'm not off flying by myself. I promise that I'll fly right along with you today. I even promise no funny business or air-tag on this trip."
She could see Clark was trying to think of a reason to say no. He was so overprotective sometimes. After a minute he finally said, "Okay, you're right. As long as we stay together and high enough that I have plenty of time to catch you in case your powers falter unexpectedly, then I can't think of any reason you can't fly most of the way. But Honey, consider that it's daylight now. I don't think it would be a good idea for the two of us to be seen flying back into Metropolis. Not unless you want me to zip back to Metropolis for your suit and you're ready to stage a return of Ultra Woman."
This time Clark had a good point. She was in no hurry to resurrect Ultra Woman and they couldn't afford to have two people seen flying. Lois finally answered with, "Why don't I fly under my own power from here to just outside the Metropolis metro area. Then you can carry me the rest of the way. If anyone sees us we can say that you had helped Clark and me to hide out for the evening and you are returning me to the city."
Clark was apparently not planning more protests. He spun into the suit and asked, "Shall we go?"
The flight back to Metropolis only took about twenty minutes. When they started getting close to the city, there was no reason to land. Lois just flew in close and let Clark gather her in his arms. She had to admit that while flying definitely had its advantages, being carried by Clark with her head resting on his shoulder wasn't exactly torture.
As Superman, Clark left Lois at their doorstep. Clark then did one of his super-speed exits and then came walking around the corner as Clark. They went into their home and quickly got ready for work.
Once they arrived at the office, Lois didn't want to waste any time. Their attempted murder was a hot story and she had the obvious inside information. They had decided that the story would naturally split into two parts. Clark took the personal touchy-feely side where he would discuss their perspective as a family which had barely escaped a car bomb. Lois would take the more hard-hitting side which talked about the extortion ring that had started this, and an alternate piece on the bomber that had actually set the explosives. Even though the work was largely split, they both worked together on the final drafts of all of the segments and they would all be run under the Lane and Kent byline.
As Lois was putting the finishing touches on her part their story, Clark had finished his section and was calling Dr. Klein to ask how the tests were going. When he got off of the phone, he came right over to her desk. They had a standing rule that all conversations about Star Labs had to fit within the confines of potential investigations or articles. So, Lois knew exactly what Clark was talking about when he started discussing Star Labs.
"Lois, I just talked to Dr. Klein at Star Labs about those tests we asked him to perform regarding the car bomb."
"Yes?" Lois asked.
"He believes he has the bulk of the tests complete and would like us to come by this afternoon so that he can show us the results of his analysis."
"Was he able to give you any information about what he has found?"
"No. He seemed reluctant to say anything until all of the test results are available. We'll just have to wait and get that information from him in person."
As for getting the story submitted, Lois ended up being relieved that they had mostly worked up their assassination attempt stories ahead of time. Their appearance caused quite a stir, and not only in the news room. Their day included everything from police interviews to courtesy stops by the day care center. The caregivers were relieved to learn that Lara was fine and would be back in a day or so. It was late afternoon before they could get free to make the trip to Star Labs.
Upon arrival at Star Labs, via the front door this time, Lois found that Bernie was ready for them with his test results. As soon as the door to Bernie's office was closed, he opened up. "This has been the most amazing day since I learned about your pregnancy and your secret. First things first... Lois, you better get used to those powers. At the cellular level your blood is just as Kryptonian as Clark's."
She didn't expect this. After everything Bernie had said the previous evening, she was convinced that this was going to turn out to be another temporary biofield transfer just like her first stint as Ultra Woman. That was why she had been so insistent about flying as much as possible. She wasn't sure she knew how to deal with having the powers on a permanent basis. Finally she asked, "How could this happen?"
"Well, I went back and analyzed all the blood samples that we had stored during your pregnancy. Apparently you were infected by your daughter."
Infected? She wasn't sure she liked the way that sounded. "What do you mean, 'infected?'"
"The earliest of your blood samples showed no KE presence that I can detect. About half-way through your pregnancy KEs start showing up in your blood. They are barely there but present nonetheless."
Bernie paused and suddenly looked very embarrassed. "I feel bad that I didn't notice immediately, but by that time I had stopped running the KE screening tests on your blood. We ran those tests early on but we kept getting negative results and those tests are both complex and time consuming. Lois, I'm really sorry, but to be honest you were doing fine so there was no cause for concern."
At this Lois was more than just a bit annoyed and fixed Bernie with a stare she normally reserved for a corrupt politician that she was about to expose.
Bernie paled under the glare he got from Lois but pressed on. "In later samples the KE density increases but even in the last samples they were still very low and not anywhere near up to Clark's or even Lara's levels. My theory is that the initial KE presence was maintained by Lara's biofield. By the time she was born, the KE density in your blood was just barely high enough to generate a field that could sustain an independent KE environment. The field wasn't strong enough to induce super powers but it was enough to keep the KEs alive and reproducing. Based on the growth rate that is suggested from my analysis of your previous blood samples, I suspect you have been fully super for just over a month."
Lois hadn't gotten to be who she was without developing an ability to react quickly to the unexpected. By now she was generally past being annoyed at Bernie for failing to run those tests. Now she was inclined to question the accuracy of his predictions. "Bernie, how confident are you in these results?"
At this Bernie took on a more assured look. "I'm really quite confident. I've been up all night running every test I can think of. I have now re-tested all of the blood samples that were stored during your pregnancy. I've also cross checked the blood sample that I took last night against samples of Clark's blood. I just don't see much room for error here. Lois, this may seem a bit overwhelming but I believe you've started the path to a new kind of human."
Bernie paused at this. "Actually, not a new kind... His kind," he said pointing at Clark.
Before Lois could say anything in response to that, Bernie continued, "We now have reason to believe that the children of a super individual will themselves be super. Also, based on these results, I suspect that if a normal woman can become pregnant and give birth to a super child, she will have a reasonable probability of inheriting the KEs from the baby and herself develop super abilities."
Even for Lois this was a lot all at once, and she was feeling a bit unsettled. She was actually struggling for what to say when Bernie continued.
"Lois, Clark, I would like to ask a follow up question about the time when Lois was Ultra Woman."
Lois paused to compose herself and then said, "Yes?"
"To be honest, I've never been entirely happy with the idea that the two of you being 'Soul Mates' being the only explanation as to why the low energy Kryptonian biofield persists in Lois. I mean, I don't *dislike* the idea, but I'm uncomfortable with an explanation that I don't understand and can't test. In some ways it doesn't matter, since the fact that it does persist is what was most important for your reproduction issues. However, your Red Kryptonite Ultra Woman experience got me thinking. I ran some simulations last night and found that just having the high-energy field transferred from Clark shouldn't have made Lois more likely to have the ability to persist a low energy field. Then I remembered that, from what you said yesterday, you didn't know that Lois's field would fade and Clark's field would rebuild. Could you please tell me the rest of what happened?"
Lois and Clark exchanged glances and Lois continued, "Well, I was Ultra Woman for a few days and then I got shot with the Red Kryptonite laser and my powers were transferred to..."
"Wait!" Bernie jumped in. "You were exposed to a high energy Red Kryptonite energy blast while you still had the high energy Kryptonian field?"
Lois replied, "Well, I still had the powers."
"That's got to be it. You were carrying Clark's energy field and were exposed to concentrated Red Kryptonite radiation. I'll bet that exposure made your system permanently hyper-sensitive to Clark's field and is the source of your ability to persist the low-energy field without having to maintain physical contact. Lois, you may not have thought so at the time, but your adventure with first getting and then, most especially, losing Clark's powers the way you did is probably the reason that you have Lara, and as a byproduct, your own abilities now."
Lois stared at him for a few seconds and then said, "So Doc, you're telling me that the reason that I was able to have Lara... the reason that I survived a car bomb... and the reason that I have super powers now all goes back to a crazy scheme by two sisters and a Red Kryptonite laser?"
Bernie couldn't help but smile as he considered a response. "Lois, I guess you're just a very lucky woman."
Lois and Clark looked quickly at each other and burst out laughing.
Bernie waited for the laughter to die down and continued, "Lois, there is one more thing. Consider the implications of having your own Kryptonian biofield."
Lois was not in the mood for this sort of game and apparently Clark saw that immediately, "Doc, Please!"
"Sorry," Bernie said sheepishly. "Lois, your next pregnancy won't require a month-long getaway vacation. You and Clark are now as compatible for children as any other couple."
At this statement, her feelings flipped from irritation to joy. She found herself reaching for Clark's hand. Clark seemed to have reacted the same way and their hands met half way. Lois turned to find her love already with his gaze fixed on her. No words were necessary to know that he was feeling the same joy and love that was filling her at this instant.
Bernie was obviously feeling a bit embarrassed by what he had triggered because the next sound Lois heard was Bernie saying, "I really don't have anything else to tell you for now, but I can't thank you enough for allowing me to be even a small part of all this."
She was only a bit disappointed when Clark managed to break away from her gaze and address Bernie. "Well Doc, I hope you still feel that way in the future. I think you have gone from being 'Superman's doctor' to being 'Superman's Family's doctor'."
"I couldn't be happier than to have that title."
A little later, Lois was walking out the front entrance of Star Labs holding the hand of the person who, as of now, was even more her partner than before. Clark didn't seem to have an immediate destination in mind and she took advantage of this to lead them toward one of the secluded alleyways that seems to be so common in Metropolis. As they neared the alley, the look on Clark's face made it clear that she had been heading for a secluded area that would allow an aerial exit without attracting attention.
She turned to Clark and asked, "What now?"
There was a glint in Clark's eyes that suggested he had something unexpected in mind. "I don't know, my love. It appears we have a lot to talk about." Then a huge smile appeared on Clark's face. "But first, how about an air tag rematch?"
Without even an instant of delay, she disappeared. There was a blast of sound that signified a super-speed exit mixed in with Lois's laughing voice receding rapidly in the distance, "Catch me if you can!"