By Phil Atcliffe (Phillip.Atcliffe@uwe.ac.uk)
Rating: PG Date Submitted: 18-Sep-97
Summary: Lois saves the world — and doesn't even realise that she's done it!
Picture, if you will, a chamber inside a spaceship. In this chamber, the walls of which were covered by display panels and controls, were two humanoid figures; the accent is firmly on the "-oid" part of the word rather than the "human", because these figures could not be mistaken for a human by anyone who encountered them. Although they had the usual complement of appendages, compared to a typical Earth human the figures were short and slight, with an elongated head and no neck; they were hairless and had large, oddly-shaped eyes, no nose and a lipless slit for a mouth; their fingers were long and thin, but their toes were non-existent, each foot ending in a single broad pad; they wore dull grey coveralls which left their heads, hands and feet bare.
The two were currently looking at a screen full of information about the third planet out from a typical yellow sun. One "spoke": "Initial reports show this planet to have excellent potential for colonisation. Suitable atmosphere and solar spectrum, adequate resources and a flourishing biosphere. It is inhabitated, but pacification and control or extermination of the native sentients should be no problem; their technology is advanced, but not sufficiently so to present a problem to our military. And there is no trace of mentalics at all, neither biological nor mechanical."
"True," the other replied. "However, the survey is not yet complete; there is one land mass yet to be scanned. I suggest patience until all results have been integrated."
"That is wise." Both figures became silent.
Some time passed, and then part of one screen began to flash. The figures moved to take a closer look at the screen in question, then stepped back to regard one another.
"Can this be true? A *Kryptonian*, here?"
"It would seem so. The sensors have been checked and are not malfunctioning."
"This is most serious. A Kryptonian on this planet, under a yellow sun, could be catastrophic for our plans to settle here. The High Masters have not forgotten Zarquel-6."
"Indeed? I am not aware of the events concerning that colony, only that it failed. Are you permitted to explain?"
"Under the circumstances, yes. Zarquel-6 is primarily a water world, with little land surface. It was colonised in the usual fashion, but it was found that the limited amount of land available was occupied unusually quickly. Ships were sent out to locate further colony worlds before the population pressure became too great.
"One of the planets investigated by the Zarquel expeditions was Krypton. It was concluded that the combination of the red sun and the high gravity made it unsuitable for colonisation, but several inhabitants were taken as part of the standard biological survey. Most of the sample died en route to Zarquel-6, but one Kryptonian survived — to our infinite regret."
"Why? What could a single sentient do?"
"Enough. When the survey ship returned, the surviving Kryptonian was taken to a bio-laboratory for the normal taxonomic studies. However, before it reached the facility, it broke away from the keepers. Attempts were made to subdue it, but it proved to be immune to all available weapons and methods of restraint. The military were brought in to destroy it, but with no more success than the science centre workers."
"Do you tell me that the creature could resist weapons of war? That is impossible!"
"But it was so. Not only hand weapons, but battlefield armaments as well; even starship beam projectors proved unable to harm the specimen! And, unfortunately for the colony, the ability of the Kryptonian to survive attack was perhaps the least of the remarkable and dangerous powers that it began to demonstrate."
"What were these powers, and how did they lead to the loss of the colony?"
"Over the course of the next twelve cycles, the specimen developed an anti-gravitational ability, strength and speed far beyond that of any known biological or mechanical entity, greatly enhanced sensory capabilities and, most devastating of all, the capability to project focused beams of heat and high-frequency electromagnetic radiation from its eyes."
"How can that be?"
"The Masters do not know. It has been theorised that Kryptonian physiology is somehow able to directly utilise solar energy, so that the higher output of Zarquel-6's yellow sun super-energised the body of the survivor, but there is no data to support or refute this contention. The specimen vanished shortly after destroying the Colony's military forces, and no traces of it were detected thereafter anywhere on the planet.
"The High Masters decided that the colony should be withdrawn lest the Kryptonian return and attack. The inhabitants of Krypton were subsequently investigated in some detail by long-range probes; little was learned, but enough came of the studies for the detector to be designed. It has been fitted to every Coloniser ship since the Zarquel colony was withdrawn, but there has not been a positive reading on any other planet… until now."
Both figures were silent for some time, then one "spoke" again. "What, then, does this mean for the potential colonisation of this planet? Must we interdict this star system and continue our search?"
"Perhaps not. The Kryptonian is the only known obstacle to securing this planet for the Masters. If it can be removed, colonisation could proceed as usual."
"How, then, can we remove the Kryptonian? Surely not by force."
"That is true. Perhaps a lure…" The figure became silent, deep in thought. After a time, it went on, "Yes, a lure seems to be the sole possibility in the time available. We must locate the Kryptonian precisely, so that we may use the Mentalic Probe."
"Is the Probe, then, effective against Kryptonians? Why was it not used on Zarquel-6?"
"It is only partly effective. It cannot be used offensively, nor can direct mental interrogation be performed, but a superficial emotional scan can be made, and that is sufficient to obtain the data needed to construct and program a lure."
The figures turned to nearby control panels and began to work them. Time passed. Eventually, one of them reported to the other, "The Kryptonian has been located. It is currently in a major urban area on the coast of the final continent to be surveyed. The visirama has been locked onto it, and we should be able to observe it now."
"That is good. Activate the visirama and prepare the Probe."
A large flat surface along the top of the control banks began to glow, and soon a three-dimensional image formed above it. It showed a group of humans engaged in incomprehensible tasks inside a building. In the centre of the image was one particular human — a tall, dark-haired male, wearing some form of artificial vision correction device. He was sitting at a primitive-looking computer, operating equally-primitive controls.
"Where is the Kryptonian? I can see only natives."
"That is it in the centre of the image — the male. He appears to have joined the society of the native sentients as one of them."
"When he possesses the powers that were exhibited on Zarquel-6? That is hard to believe. Why would he do such a thing? Or is it that he does *not* have the abilities that concern us?"
"I do not know. Let us observe further before activating the Probe."
Impassively, they watched the object of their interest go about his baffling tasks for a period. Suddenly, he looked up from the computer screen, then left it and headed towards an unusual-looking portal (passage through it was controlled by a movable panel that was hinged down one side! Very strange). Once through the portal, the Kryptonian removed his vision correctors and outer garments to reveal a second, brightly-coloured inner set, and flew at high speed out of a smaller opening set in the wall of the building.
"Ah. There is proof that the Kryptonian has indeed acquired the abilities that you spoke of. We must proceed with the plan to remove him before this planet can be colonised."
"Yes. The visirama will maintain contact with him and record his activities while we prepare the Probe."
The figures turned back to the control panels, while the image followed its target as he removed several humans from the vicinity of a fire, intervened in an armed combat between two groups of humans and took a number of wounded combatants to medical facilities before returning to his origin point, where he resumed his original appearance.
"Good. He has slowed down. The Probe had difficulty in remaining focused on his mind while he moved at such high velocities. Now that he is stationary, it can begin to analyze his emotional make-up and extrapolate to provide the appearance and personality of his ideal mate. We may then use the constructors to build an android which will be the perfect lure. It will convince him to leave this planet to be with it, and colonisation may proceed once they have left this system."
A pale green beam came from a peculiar-looking apparatus on one wall, shining across the chamber and into the visirama's image. It played about the head of the image of the Kryptonian, surrounding the face and hair of its target with a soft glow. Symbols began to flicker across some of the display screens at high speed, and the process continued for a significant interval before one large screen lit up with an image of a human female. A nearby screen was filled with several lines of text.
"Ah. The Probe has completed its initial extrapolation. Let us examine its conclusions."
"Yes. The physical appearance of the Kryptonian's optimum mate is not unusual. Dark hair, brown eyes — a common phenotype. To the best of my knowledge, the female would be considered physically fit and reproductively attractive by the standards of both this planet's sentients and those of Krypton. So much might be expected, in fact.
"The required intelligence level is high — remarkably so, but still within the acceptable limits for a lure.
"The personality profile is interesting, however: the lure's programming must not only simulate a strong, independent character with considerable drive and ambition, but also include the capability for strong emotional commitment and great loyalty, and exhibit a intricate range of other traits, including vulnerability and compassion."
"This is a very complex requirement. Can the lure incorporate such a range of factors?"
"Yes, although the android will need to be modified to incorporate extra memory and processing power. The estimate of memory needed for the intelligence and personality programming is nearly the upper limit for the entire operating system of a standard android design. It can be done, however."
"We must begin the fabrication process at once. I will transfer the Probe data to the constructor unit."
They began to work again. After some time, one stepped back from the control screens and looked up at the image in the visirama. It let out a startled cry.
"What is it? Why do you exclaim so?"
"The plan has failed. We will not be able to remove the Kryptonian. We must abandon this planet and search for another colonisation site."
"What do you mean? Why has the plan failed? How can it fail before it has even been put into action?"
"Look! Look at the visirama!"
The other figure looked… and understood. There was the Kryptonian, still dressed as a typical inhabitant of the planet, leaving a building through one of those odd portals. What had spelled doom to their plans, however, was his companion. A female; dark-haired, brown-eyed, fit, "attractive" — in short, the physical embodiment of the Kryptonian's ideal woman as determined by their data collection and processing system.
As they watched, she reached up and kissed the Kryptonian. A simple Probe established that the female was emotionally attached to the alien, and, to further frustrate their plans, it became apparent that she also matched the ideal psychological profile for the proposed android.
"Curse! You see? Our lure can have no effect on the Kryptonian if he has already met a female with the perfect profile. He will never leave this planet if *she* is here."
"Can we not eliminate her, or replace her with our lure?"
"No. Do not be ridiculous. We cannot be certain of eliminating her within the necessary time, not without leaving an obvious trail that would lead the Kryptonian directly to us."
The other figure shuddered at that thought. "And replacement?"
"It will not work. They have known each other for several of this planet's sun-rounds. It would take us almost as long to gather enough data to program the android properly. No duplicate can replace the female soon enough, if at all. He would detect the substitution."
"And the lure cannot replace her in his emotional make-up?"
"No. A lure's personality is necessarily basic. This can usually be explained away, or even used to heighten the attraction if done skilfully, but it will only work if the target has no emotional attachments, or those that he does have are not close to his optimum requirements.
"But *her* — she *is* his optimum. She is the ideal female for the Kryptonian, and we can do nothing to tempt him away from this planet."
"Very well. We must continue our search elsewhere."
The spacecraft began to move away from the Earth, disappearing into the blackness of deep space, heading towards the nearest suitable star, just over 4 light years away.
"And *that*, kids, is how your mother saved the world without even realising that she'd done it…" Clark looked at his children, now fast asleep. 'Another successful bedtime story from the fertile mind of Clark Kent,' he thought wryly. 'The only problem is, how do I top *that* one tomorrow night?'
He carefully tucked the blankets around his son and daughter, then quietly left the room, turning on the night light as he went. Outside in the hall, he found his wife leaning comfortably against the wall with a slight smile on her face.
"Were you listening?" he asked, also smiling. Lois loved to listen to his bedtime stories, although she would never come into the children's room while he was telling one, lest she keep the kids awake — or that was the reason she gave, anyway.
"Um-hmm," she said, pushing herself off the wall and walking up to him. She put her arms around his neck and looked deeply into his eyes. "So…" she purred langourously, "I'm your ideal woman, am I?"
Clark's smile broadened. "Yes, you are," he replied tenderly. "And you know it."
"In that case, Kent," Lois murmured, "I think that I'd better work on living up to my reputation. I wouldn't want you to be lured away by some badly-programmed imitation, now would I?"
She swung her legs off the floor with a little hop and Clark caught her in his arms. She lowered her head to his shoulder and they were still for a few moments, just enjoying the quiet and the closeness of each other. Then Lois reached up to kiss Clark and he carried her into their bedroom, the door shutting silently behind them.
[Author's Note: This one comes from an old Supergirl story, in which aliens created the "perfect" android mate for Kara in order to steal her super-powers. They were planning to do the same for Superman, and I remember noticing that the female android that Kara imagined them using to trap her cousin had dark hair and didn't look too different from a certain reporter…
Thanks again to Kathy Brown for her help, and to Debby Stark for hers. Don't just sit there, tell me what you thought of it! — PA]