By IRC Round Robin
Submitted April 1999
Summary: Metropolis must contend with a mini invasion of sorts when Lord Trey returns with some of his young students to visit the legendary *Lord Kal-El* and his *concubine*. ;) Later, Lois and Clark learn that sometimes you need to beware of Kryptonians bearing gifts. ;)
An IRC Round Robin by ChrisM <email@example.com>; Ckgroupie <NKWolke@t-online.de>; Eraygun <Eraygun@aol.com>; Lansbury <Lansbury1@aol.com>; Misha <firstname.lastname@example.org>; zoomway <email@example.com>; chrispat <firstname.lastname@example.org>; EmmyRose<email@example.com>
BLAST FROM THE PAST, PART 1: FIELD TRIP
"I'm tired of winter. I'm tired of being pregnant. I'm tired of this story, and I'm especially tired of no chocolate!"
Me too, Clark thought, as he listened to the love of his life letting off steam.
"I know these past couple of months have been tough, sweetheart—"
"Three! It's been *three* months, Clark!"
"Sorry, honey. I know it's been tough, but Dr. Klein said that the morning sickness should disappear soon, then you can go back to chocolate again." In fact, he thought, I'll personally fly to Switzerland and stock up.
"Oh, Clark, it's not just the chocolate, and I'm sorry to be so grouchy today." Another hormone-induced mood swing was hitting her and she could feel herself getting teary. "I don't know what's wrong with me lately."
Clark gave her a hug. "There's nothing wrong with you, Lois. You're just pregnant."
"Pregnant and moody and grouchy and—"
"Beautiful," he told her as he kissed her.
A big tear rolled down her cheek, but she was giggling a bit, too. "You're just saying that."
"Only because it's true."
Now she was able to chuckle, and the tears were completely gone. "Thanks, Clark. You always seem to know how to cheer me up."
"You're welcome. My pleasure, Mrs. Kent." He held her for another moment, then she seemed to remember that they were supposed to be getting ready for work, because she slipped out of his arms with a sigh.
"Now if only you could get us a more interesting story to work on, Clark, I'd be eternally grateful."
He grinned at her. "You mean you haven't enjoyed poring over those ledgers and account books, Lois?"
"You know I haven't. What we need is a good scandal or crime wave. Something more exciting than S&Ls playing fast and loose with depositors' cash."
"Well, we'll be able to finish this up today and then maybe Perry will give us a new story to work on."
"I hope so!" Lois responded fervently. "If I had some excitement in my life maybe I could forget how lousy I feel. I'm ready for *anything!*"
Clark held her coat so she could slip it on. "Be careful what you wish for, Lois," he reminded her with a grin.
"We're almost there!" Kara whispered excitedly to her friend Dara who was standing next to her, intently watching the monitors in the control room of the spaceship.
Dara nodded. It had been a long journey from New Krypton to Earth.
Lord Trey also watched the monitors, carefully directing the small ship towards Metropolis, the city he knew from his last visit two years ago. It would be interesting to see Lord Kal-El again, and he hoped it also would be informative to the pupils he had with him.
He hadn't been so sure it was the right thing to do, taking twenty young Kryptonians to Earth, but the citizens of New Krypton, those not part of the ruling families, were asking difficult questions about what had happened on Earth. The students who attended Trey's classes in Ancient Kryptonian Law and Culture discussed nothing else, and the Lady Zara had proved a surprising ally in their demand for more firsthand information.
Maybe he should try to reach Lord Kal-El before they arrived? He certainly would be surprised to see them.
Trey heaved a heavy sigh as he thought more about the prospect of seeing Kal-El again.
Jor-El and Lara had been his closest friends back on Krypton. He remembered the day young Kal was born. He also remembered the many arguments he had with Jor about his plan to send the child to Earth rather than New Krypton with Lady Zara.
But his attempts to change Jor-El's mind had been futile. Both he and Lara had been adamant about their decision and had even sworn him to secrecy about their plan.
He had intended to keep the location secret, but the passage of time had convinced him that despite Jor-El and Lara's feelings, Kal needed to be with his own people. And so he'd revealed his knowledge to Lady Zara when she expressed her concerns about the rise of Lord Nor and his disruptive influence in New Krypton's society.
Trey sighed again. Seeing Lord Kal-El fighting against Nor for the people of Earth only reminded him of how much New Krypton needed a leader like him. And to see him living on a backward planet in this tiny corner of the universe was just a bit much, though Kal did seem content there, whatever the reason.
Trey's musings were interrupted by the sudden appearance of Jax-Ur, one of his students, at his side.
"Excuse me, Lord Trey?"
"What is it, Jax?"
"I was wondering if you'd allow us to use the telecom to pick up some transmissions from Earth?"
Trey nodded. "Certainly. It would be wise for you and the others to obtain any additional information you can about Earth and its culture. Just remember to maintain shield integrity during your monitoring. Our ship must remained cloaked at all times, if we are to avoid being detected by the Terran military…"
Before he could finish his statement, Jax had darted to one of the ship's control panels and the entire vessel began to vibrate with the sound of what Trey perceived as electronically enhanced stringed and percussion instruments.
"What in Rao's name is *that*?!" Trey shouted.
"Earth music," Kara replied calmly from her station at the navigation console. "I've been monitoring this frequency for the last few minutes and the …" She hesitated and frowned slightly as she struggled to think of the proper Terran term … "*pronouncer*," she continued, "said, 'This is WMET - home of the hits - your 24-hour source for rock and roll!'"
Trey shook his head. Perhaps he should have thought more carefully about this trip and its impact on his charges after all.
As the ship went into a low orbit, Trey turned the controls of the vessel over to the student who was acting as co-pilot.
"Take the controls while I once again warn the others of the dangers of Earth and Earthmen. I don't want accidents while we are there. Only the gods will protect this strange planet, while I must stand between harm and misfortune for my charges."
The sounds of the Earth music were still echoing through the ship as he made his way towards his charges.
"Gather around quickly. We are almost there." He watched as the young Kryptonians made their way to him. "While we are visiting here there are a few things you must remember. First, we want to blend with the populace. That means, once there, refrain from using any strengths you might acquire. Do you all understand what that means?"
The tall one called Leva looked around at the others. She repeated in a sing-song voice. "Lord Trey has said again and again. 'If we couldn't do it on New Krypton, we can't do it on Earth.'"
Laughter could be heard from the back of the group.
"Is there something funny about that, Dara? Do you want to share with the rest of the group what you consider so humorous?"
"No, Lord Trey. I…I must have had something stuck in my throat. I beg your forgiveness for interrupting you."
"Well, see that you listen more carefully."
Leva and Dara's eyes met. Each gave the other a mischievous grin.
Trey, oblivious to the machinations of the Kryptonian teenagers before him, counted the gathered students quickly. "Now, I need four volunteers for the first group down to Metropolis."
He was nearly toppled over by the mass of students who stepped forward, and he scrambled a few steps backwards. Composing himself, he eyed the students closely. "Four volunteers, not forty."
"But Lord Trey, there are only twenty of us," Dara interjected.
"Yes, I realize that, my dear. Kara, Jax-Ur, Mir and…" Trey pointed at students randomly, then when Dara's lower lip started quivering, "Dara. You will accompany me to Lord Kal-El's domicile. The rest of you may divide yourselves into groups of four. I will accompany each group to the surface in turn."
The undercurrent of grumbles among the students left behind was mercifully telepathic, and not a peep of outward disgruntlement leaked from the unfortunates not chosen for the first foray. Trey caught the edges of a few 'It's not fair.' comments that leaked from his students, but mindful that discipline was a skill only mastered by time, he kept his own counsel.
Trey and his students emerged from their cloaked ship into the growing gloom of a Metropolis evening. The chill of night was swiftly settling on the city, with its companion neon glow of nightlife.
"Where are we, Lord Trey?" asked Kara silently as she sidestepped an imposingly smelly dumpster.
"I believe it's called an alley. There are apparently many in Metropolis." Trey sniffed once, then covered his nose and led them quickly away.
"These Earthers are so careless," Jax-Ur sneered as they dodged pedestrians right and left on the crowded sidewalk.
Dara shot him a much-practiced glance of disbelief in his utter stupidity. "At least they've still got their original home planet."
Jax-Ur looked down his nose at her, not a far distance, as she was an inch taller. "Like that's so special."
Kara elbowed him in the side and glanced quickly at Trey before admonishing them both telepathically to shut up before they looked like complete weirdos and were sent home without even meeting Lord Kal-El.
Trey smiled to himself as they approached the brownstone.
Lois sighed hearing the knock at the door. It was like peddlers and phone solicitors knew when the wine was poured and the ER reruns were starting. Or in this case, when the milk was poured, but it was the principle of the thing …When she didn't get her dose of hospital angst lately, she became homicidal.
She opened the door and saw Trey. It was an awkward moment. It was as if her mind deliberately blanked. She knew him … from somewhere, but …
"Oh, God!" she shouted, and slammed the door. Trey, partially in the threshold, was propelled backward into his students.
"Claaaaaark!" Her baleful cry brought her husband instantly to the … rescue?
"Honey, what's wrong?" he asked as he looked around the room. He wasn't sure any longer what might trigger a mood swing. "Is TNT preempting ER with another "Back to the Future" marathon?"
"Clark," she said, grabbing the front of his shirt. "They're back!"
"*Who*?" Clark asked, feeling exasperated, and a little helpless.
"Your homeboys, the Kryps from the 'hood, the —"
Clark rubbed his temples. "Honey, is this about that 'Yo MTV Rap' nightmare?"
Lois, still holding his shirt, dragged him to the doorway, opened the door, and pointed to Trey and his young charges. Trey bowed politely just a second before Lois slammed the door again. "See? They're back!"
"Okay, calm down. I'm sure there's a good explanation."
Lois folded her arms. "Borrowing sugar? Collecting for the paper?"
Clark straightened his shirt. "Why don't we find out?"
"Let's not, and say we did."
Clark looked at her sympathetically, but sternly. "It'll be fine, Lois. I'm not going *anywhere* with them."
Lois nodded. "You're right. It's not like Earth recognizes the Kryptonian draft board."
Clark winked at her. "Exactly. We'll be okay."
Clark approached the door with Lois right behind him. Trey backed away as the door opened but beamed when he saw Clark, not the deranged Earth woman.
"Lord Kal-El! I am pleased to bring you greetings from New Krypton." He gestured to the little group of teenagers. "And I have brought some of your subjects to meet you."
Clark shook his head in bewilderment. "Trey. I thought New Krypton had an agreement with Earth. No more visits. Do the rest of the Elders know you are here?"
Trey looked a little uncomfortable. "Well, this isn't an official visit. The children here were curious about why you chose to stay on Earth and not return to your rightful place as their leader." He faltered to a halt under Clark's glare.
"Trey, I can't believe you, of all people, would go against the wishes of the Elders."
Trey looked even more uncomfortable. "I … uh, I just thought I would check to see if you might have changed your mind about returning."
Clark rolled his eyes. "Well, you're here now. You might as well come in."
He stepped back and Trey scuttled in, throwing an apprehensive glance at Lois as he passed her. The kids followed closely, trying not to stare at Lord Kal-El and his concubine.
Kara and Dara's eyes widened as they took in Clark's appearance. He was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt…unfamiliar attire to them. Both gasped and looking at each other began to giggle.
Lois watched the two young Kryptonians as they eyed her handsome husband, and cleared her throat in decided disapproval. They hurriedly began to exam the decor of the Kents' living room. Trey looked around to see what was going on and also came in contact with Lois' disapproving glare. He turned back to face Lord Kal-El, perhaps thinking his chances of survival were better.
"My humblest apologies, Lord Kal-El, for … invading your home in this manner." He smiled up at the young lord, but saw no answering smile in Kal-El's eyes. "If I may explain further …?" he continued nervously.
Clark sighed, looking over at Lois, his natural instincts for politeness warring with his desire to keep Lois calm and happy. Correctly interpreting Clark's dilemma, Lois rolled her eyes, then shrugged, granting her approval. Both Clark and Trey knew, however, that they were on borrowed time.
Clark gestured for Trey to sit down, then held out his hand for Lois to join him on the other love seat. She was glad to do so. It seemed like a good idea to make her claim on Clark as obvious as possible.
"All right, Trey," Clark said, "we're listening."
"Thank you, my lord." He paused for a moment to make sure his pupils were behaving themselves, then, apparently satisfied, he began his tale.
"You are a legend on New Krypton, Lord Kal-El."
Clark was startled. "What! Why? And, my name is Clark, or have you forgotten?"
Clark felt Lois squeeze his hand a little tighter and he glanced in her direction. She approved of this assertion of his Earth identity, and was letting him know it.
If Trey noticed their silent communication, he gave no sign, choosing instead to continue his story.
"My apologies … Clark. You defeated Lord Nor, destroyed his followers—"
"That wasn't me!"
"Perhaps not directly, my l— Clark, but Nor and his followers were killed, despite their apparently superior tactical position. You followed that by being merciful to the remaining Kryptonians, helping the Lady Zara to achieve her heart's desire, and then deciding to remain behind with … Lois."
Clark looked from Trey's intense face to those of his companions and had to suppress a groan. He had only done what he'd thought was right. How could things have gotten so out of hand?
"Being with Lois has never been a sacrifice," Clark asserted, squeezing his wife's hand. "Even when she's been without chocolate." Her gentle squeeze in return soon transformed into a tight clench that could rival the strength of her Kryptonian husband.
Clark winced in spite of himself. "I was kidding, Lois!"
"You said the "c" word, Clark," she whined. "It's not fair."
Trey's eyes darted back and forth between the couple, fixated in a look of pure bewilderment. What strange relationships these Earth people have, but, he reminded himself, Lord Kal-El was still a Kryptonian. His thoughts, and the couple's conversation, were suddenly interrupted when a loud bang resounded in the brownstone.
"Uh-oh," muttered one of the Kryptonian girls.
The girls had been poking around in the kitchen and had accidentally knocked over the breadbox in their curiosity. A large pile of Double Fudge Crunch bars lay on the kitchen floor, along with a package of Oreo cookies and a bag of Rosebuds.
Clark bolted up from his seat and dashed into the kitchen to find the source of the noise. Lois' intuition advised her to quickly follow her husband. Still perplexed about the couple's antics, Trey stood and joined the parade into the kitchen.
Clark rushed in, and was halted by the crunching sound beneath his feet. "Lo-IS!"
"Uh…umm…yes, Clark?" she cooed.
"What happened to the 'no chocolate' thing? So this is why your morning sickness has been so bad," he said, giving her a stern look.
"What *is* this 'chocolate'?" asked the quizzical Dara.
"The evil of Earth I had warned you about," interjected Trey. "Or at least in this household."
Lois' eyes bore into Trey's. "If Earth is so evil, then maybe you should go back to where you came from."
"Lois." Clark's voice betrayed his disapproval.
"I'm sorry, Clark. I'm just a little pregnant right now."
Trey looked stunned. "Pregnant?" He pointed at Lois. "Does that mean that she is going to …" he hesitated and stared at Clark.
"Have a baby?" Clark finished with a smile, as he pulled Lois closer to him.
"Yes, that's exactly what it means."
The older Kryptonian swayed a little and sat down at the kitchen table.
"Sheesh, and I thought my mother took the news hard," Lois said with a smirk.
"Trey are you all right? Would you like a glass of water?" Clark asked.
"No, no, I am fine my lor-, I mean … Clark. It's just this is something of a surprise." Trey sat quietly for a few moments and then suddenly stood up as if galvanized into action. "This changes everything." he said forcefully. "I must get word back to New Krypton and to Lady Zara and her consort Lord Ching."
"Why do you need to do that?"
Trey stared at them as if they'd suddenly achieved negative IQs. "Why, to start the plans, of course."
Clark moved in front of Lois. "What plans, Trey?"
Lois stepped around her over-protective husband with a sidelong 'Don't even try it' glance reserved just for him. Then she upped her glare to Killing-Glare-Mark 4, reserved only for Kryptonians, and demanded in the same tone as Clark, "What plans?"
Trey backed up to the kitchen counter. "The celebrations for the upcoming birth, of course." He swallowed as Lois settled her ruffled feathers. "And to elect a Regent from the Council and arrange a birth-marriage." He paused. "This could well prove fortuitous, as Lady Zara has confided in me that…"
Lois ratcheted her glare up to Mark 5, and Trey suddenly thanked Rao and every other deity that might be listening to him that the yellow sun of Earth provided him with invulnerability.
Then Clark again moved between Trey and Lois, his eyes blazing. "You will arrange nothing for my child. No celebrations. No Regent. No birth-marriage." He fairly spat out the last phrase.
"My Lord Kal-Clark! It is expected! After all, no one really believed that you would continue the House of El with a…"
"Lord Trey! This isn't evil!" Dara and Kara piped up from the quiet corner in which they had swiftly been erasing the last vestiges of evidence of Lois' chocolate stash. Their conscientious scientific studies were very much in evidence around the corners of their mouths.
Lois and Clark rounded on them, and the two girls shrank into themselves at the blazing fire in the two pairs of eyes. "Um. We'll just be ah…leaving now." They backed quickly out of the kitchen, leaving the doors wildly swinging behind them.
"I think you'd better leave too, Trey," Lois warned him, struggling with playing the part of the logical half of the partnership.
Trey sighed and nodded. "I'll just collect the boys, and…" He swept the house with his x-ray vision. "Oh dear."
Clark double-checked. The girls were huddled over the last few Double Crunch bars, foreheads pressed silently together. The two boys who'd been there only a few minutes earlier complaining about Lois and Clark's taste in Earth music were conspicuously absent.
"Great!" Clark said, and gave an exaggerated shrug.
"Now what?" Lois asked.
"Where could they be?" Trey's words moaned out as if he'd received an IRS audit.
"Who!?" Lois asked.
"Out there," Clark sighed. "Among eleven million unsuspecting humans."
"Who, dammit!" Lois asked, and both Kryptonians fell mentally and orally silent.
Clark ran a hand through his hair. "Jax-Ur and Mir, the two boys. They're … gone."
"I've had bad ideas," Trey said, "and made bad judgments, but coming back to Earth in direct violation of the "no-fly zone" ban of Earth…" He shook his head and sat down heavily. "Mental illness used to be rare on Krypton, but I seem to have brought it back into fashion single-handedly."
Clark, feeling his natural compassion overriding his earlier outrage, patted Trey on the back. "We'll find them, Trey. I .. I'm sorry about losing my temper, it's just that—"
Trey looked up thoughtfully. "I find so much of your culture unfathomable. However," he said, recouping some dignity, "I finally understand that expression."
"Which is?" Lois asked curtly, her own compassion slower to kick into gear.
"Finding a needle in a haystack."
"Bars?" Jax-Ur asked, his unflaggingly haughty tone in place.
"Yes," Mir said as he walked up the crowded street. "There are all kinds of these .. social gathering spots." He consulted a phone book he had broken from its two-inch thick chain at the phone booth. "There's "cigar bars" and "bars and grills" and a bar for "aroma therapy"."
"Aroma therapy? Hmm, remember that 'dumber' thing we passed earlier."
"Oh," Mir smiled. "I believe it was 'dumbster'. Yes, I recall. Perhaps Earthers who have had their sense of smell abused go to an aroma therapy salon."
Jax-Ur considered that a moment. "But do Earthers have anything that actually smells *good*?"
Mir's expression became wistful. "Lord Kal-El's concubine smelled quite pleasant."
Jax-Ur shrugged. "Yes, I suppose she did," he admitted grudgingly.
Mir pointed to a large building near the waterfront. "'The Ace 'o' Clubs,'" he said and frowned. "Curious name, though their building advertises 'fine food and entertainment.'"
Jax-Ur nodded. "I would say it is a sign of class to advertise on your building. Shall we.. investigate?"
"In the name of science."
The two boys approached the building and stood outside for a few minutes watching the Earth people entering and leaving. They noticed that the people entering were showing something to a burly individual stationed at the door before they went in.
"What are they showing him?" Jax-Ur whispered to Mir.
"I don't know, but they seem to need it to get in."
Suddenly, Jax-Ur winced and covered his ears. "Ow. I think that superhearing Trey was telling us about just kicked in. He's asking them for ID, whatever that is."
"Then we'll just have to get some ID," Mir said, looking around. He noticed a couple of Earthers approaching, taking in their leather jackets, shaved heads and multiple piercings with interest. "Hey. Can you tell us what ID is and where we can get some?"
The Earthers goggled at them and the bigger one growled, "You talkin' to me, Pretty Boy?"
"Pretty Boy? Is that a derogatory name?"
The thug looked puzzled. "Yeah…I think. What's derogatory?
Jax-Ur straightened to his full height of 5'6". "You take that back. No one insults a member of the House of Ur!"
"Oh yeah?" The thug sneered and took a swing at Jax-Ur.
Jax-Ur easily sidestepped the blow aimed at his head, which caused the other man to lose his balance, spin halfway around, and fall right on his rather broad butt.
The young Kryptonians had never seen anything quite like that and they made the mistake of laughing. Other people … large, broad-shouldered people with assorted concealed weapons were converging on the scene. Things might have gotten ugly, but just then an even larger person thrust himself into the middle of the crowd.
"Awright, what's goin' on 'ere?"
At the sound of Bibbo's voice, the more prudent members of the crowd decided that they had business elsewhere. Jax-Ur and Mir stood, mouths agape, staring at the largest human they'd ever seen.
"You!" Bibbo pointed to the man sitting on the pavement, "Make yourself scarce, see!"
A couple of the men seemed inclined to argue, but Bibbo effortlessly picked one of them up by his collar and explained the situation to him. "I don't want no trouble outside my place. Ya got that?"
"Yeah, sure, Bibbo. Sure. Anything you say. We was just gonna teach those two punks a lesson for laughin' at Matt."
Bibbo set the man down and turned to look at the two Kryptonians. "I ain't seen youse guys around here before. Whatcha doin' here? Tryin' to start trouble?"
Mir actually found himself stuttering. "N-n-no."
Jax-Ur, with more bravado than bravery, stepped between the advancing Bibbo and Mir. "You'd better not d-do anything to us. We're friends of Ka— er, Superman!"
Bibbo considered the two youngsters before him. "So, you're friends of my pal Sooperman, eh? Well, we'll just see about that."
He grabbed them and ushered them towards the bar. "Ya don't look old enough ta be in here, but if youse are really friends of Sooperman, I guess I oughter look afta ya."
Jax-Ur and Mir looked at one another. Well, at least they were actually going to see the inside of a real Earther bar.
About an hour later, Clark, in the familiar red, yellow and blue outfit, walked through the door of the Ace o' Clubs. Up on the stage were two slightly inebriated young Kryptonians. Their invulnerability hadn't completely kicked in yet, it seemed, probably because they'd landed at night rather than in the daytime.
Clark didn't recognize the song they were singing, but he thought that it might be the Kryptonian version of "I Can't Get No Satisfaction."
Bibbo lumbered from behind the bar, belched and gave his 'fav'rit' a huge grin.
"Sooperman! I only half believed 'em when they sez dey wuz friends o'yours, but I guess that call to Miss Lois paid off," he said as he grabbed Clark's arm and began to pump it up and down.
Clark sighed. "Let's just say I know them, Bibbo, and leave it at that," he replied as he disengaged himself from the burly barman and made his way to the stage.
Clark winced as the two boys brought their song to a very loud —and very off key —finale, and then slumped to the floor.
Mir looked up and grinned and pointed at Clark. "See, Jax. I told you Lord Kal-El would find us."
Jax stood up and staggered over to Clark. "Yes, you did, Mir," he replied with as much dignity as he could muster in his intoxicated state. "It would appear I have underestimated you, my lord," he slurred to Clark with a deep bow.
Clark fanned the air as Jax's stale beer breath reached his sensitive nostrils. "Yeah, I've found you," he replied. "Now the question is what am I going to do with you?"
"Do you think Lord Kal, I mean, Clark will be much longer?" Kara asked Lois as she watched her prepare popcorn and fudge in the kitchen.
"Not if he knows what's good for him," Lois mumbled.
Lois turned her attention back to the popcorn. Even halfway across the room, the fudge was making her stomach churn, and while the sharp scent of butter and salt cut the nausea a bit, she mourned the loss of one of her favorite treats. After a long silence, she grew conscious of two pairs of eyes staring at her in amazement.
"What?" she finally asked.
"Well, it's just that…" Dara trailed off and Kara traded a thought-laden glance with her.
"You don't act like any concubine we've ever met."
Lois rolled her eyes. "That's because I'm not a concubine. When will those half-witted excuses for a Council that can't even find their own…" She glanced at the two girls. "Anyway, I'm Clark's wife, not his concubine."
Kara finished Dara's sentence again. "But Zara is Ka-Clark's wife. They've been married since birth."
Lois shook her head and smiled sadly. "Marriage isn't about whose kid is going to make the best dynastic alliance. It's about sharing yourself with someone who loves you and it's about how every moment you spend with your partner is the best moment of your life."
Dara sat back with a small 'oh' on her lips.
Kara pressed the point, a small wrinkle growing on her forehead. "But how do you provide for your family, your clan? How do you ensure the safety of your vassals?"
Lois looked her in the eye. "That's the job of society." Her eyes took on a glow. "That is every sane person's goal- to make Earth, or wherever, a safer, better place for everyone involved, not just one or two privileged or wealthy families."
She waved the bowl of popcorn, spilling white kernels across the counter. "It's my job as a reporter to find those people who have abused their position or their wealth and expose them and to inform the public of what they can do to make society a better place."
Kara's puzzled frown deepened, but she subsided into silence.
Lois placed the bowl down on the counter and felt two familiar arms wrap around her expanding waist.
"Thank you," Clark whispered in her ear.
He twirled a lock of her hair around his finger. "For just being you." He kissed her cheek, and brushed his lips lightly across hers.
"I take it you found them?" she murmured as she returned his kiss.
"Um-hmm." He sighed and drew away. "Time to send them home."
"But first," Lois said softly, "I think you should make a few things clear to Trey."
Clark smiled weakly. "Honey, there's nothing he can do to or for our child, but—" Clark looked into her gently pleading eyes. "I'll have a talk with him."
Lois sighed with relief. "I love you too, Clark."
Clark walked into the living room where he had left Trey and Jax-Ur and Mir. The two young men were dozing side by side, the effects of fermented hops taking a toll on their unaccustomed palates.
Clark took a bracing breath and faced Trey, who seemed to be busying himself with a small calculator device.
He glanced up. "Ah, Clark, I'm making departure calculations. The remainder of this field trip is canceled. I and my pupils will be leaving you shortly."
Clark nodded. "That's great, Trey. I … well, I want to make sure that we part company on good terms and an understanding about—"
"I don't know if it's a son or daughter," Clark said and raised a hand. "And before you feel x-ray inclined, I don't *want* to know."
"Very well," Trey acknowledged. "However, I believe you would be passing up a wonderful opportunity if you don't at least consider having your child raised and educated on New Krypton."
Clark's expression of incredulity matched his thoughts. "Trey, you've got to be kidding. I'm not going to send my child to New Krypton, Old Krypton, or Old Miss. Lois and I will raise this child, if you don't mind too much."
Trey's expression remained placid. "Of course, Clark. I didn't mean to imply that you and your wife wouldn't be raising your child. You and Lois can come to New Krypton. We can easily devise a pressure suit for her."
Clark removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He laughed, but without really laughing. "Neither I nor Lois are going to New Krypton, and quite frankly, if you tried to put her in a pressure suit, you'd be up to your knees in floor."
Trey frowned. "I don't understand how anyone could resent a life-saving pressure suit."
"That's just it, Trey," Clark said and sighed with exasperation. "You don't understand *life*."
Trey shrugged. "What's to understand? Life is the absence of death. A very simple equation."
Clark shook his head and sat on the arm of the sofa. "Okay, Trey, then how about the *quality* of life?" he asked. "When I met Ching and Zara, I wondered why my father sent me to Earth instead of New Krypton as he was apparently ordered to."
Trey lowered his gaze. "It was heresy."
"Exactly," Clark smiled. "I have a feeling my father was a passionate man."
Trey folded his arms. "Too passionate. Too … different."
Clark's smile widened. "I gathered that when I met Ching and Zara. They were cold, logical … pragmatic."
"Naturally," Trey agreed. "The ideal of Krypton and its teachings."
"And my father, Trey?"
Trey softened. "A great and brilliant man, and a good friend." Trey cleared his throat, emotion almost overtaking him. "But he was so far outside the mainstream of Kryptonian law and teachings—"
"That he was branded a heretic."
Trey nodded. "I warned him not to send you here, but his mind was made up. He said—" Trey cut himself off and lowered his head.
Clark touched his shoulder gently. "He said …?" he prompted.
Trey raised his head and searched Clark's eyes. How like his father he was. "He said when you opened your eyes on a new world, he wanted it to be a place of passion and feelings, like Earth. That he did not want you on a world that no longer understood nor had a name for … love."
"Don't you see, Trey? I'm living the life my father wanted for me. For a long time I didn't feel like I belonged here, I wondered why I was sent here. My Kryptonian heritage was stolen from me by a madman named Trask, but you know what, Trey?" Clark smiled. "I wouldn't trade anything I've experienced here for a hundred years of peace and logical contentment on New Krypton."
Trey nodded. "I told your father that he was banishing you to a chaotic wilderness. He told me that you would be a hero to Earth," Trey said, shaking his head. "How he knew this, I don't know, but he said that the job of a hero is to bring meaning to chaos." Trey finally looked up. "For what it is worth to you, Clark, he loved you very much."
Clark tried to swallow but couldn't. He blinked several times, fighting back tears of mourning for the death of a man he never met. "Thank you, Trey," he said, his voice hoarse. "If it makes you feel any better though, it's Lois, more than Earth, or Krypton, or even Never-Neverland, that gives me that feeling of belonging. I wanted to be a hero for her, and she helped me be a hero for everyone else."
Trey smiled with grudging admiration. "Are you saying she's Superman?"
Clark laughed softly. "She's half of him, yes. The best half."
Trey stood and offered his hand. "She is indeed, Lord Clark Kent."
He tapped the two young men to awaken them, and mentally called Kara and Dara from the kitchen where they had been helping Lois break … wash dishes.
The two young ladies hurried from the kitchen and fell in step with their groggy male counterparts. Dara turned to Clark. "Your wife could certainly teach the women of our planet a lot of things."
Trey pushed Dara along. "She'd never get into the pressure suit, and I don't want to be up to my knees in floor."
"Excuse me, sir?"
"Never mind," Trey smiled, but then stopped as the students began retrieving their traveling satchels that had lain unused by the door since their arrival. Taking one from Jax-Ur, Trey removed a small statue. It was shaped a bit like a trophy of some sort.
Trey handed it to Clark. "We brought you this Kryptonian artifact, and during the hectic events of the visit, I almost forgot to give it to you."
Clark smiled, but looked puzzled. "Thanks … Not to seem ignorant, but .. what is it?"
"It belonged to the El family. Something your father would have sent with you to Earth had he thought of it, I imagine."
Clark examined the curiosity. "Well, I guess I'll never know what it is, but just knowing it came from my father is enough. I appreciate you bringing it to me."
"I was happy to, Clark," he said, smiling a final time as he and his pupils exited.
Clark held the object in his hands and examined it. "I wonder where I should put it?"
"How about next to the Kerths?" Lois suggested. "It looks sort of like one," she added, studying it with a frown.
"Thank you, honey," he murmured, placing the artifact down and wrapping his arms around her. "Thanks for understanding. I know this hasn't been easy."
"Well, nothing for us has ever been easy," she stated with a grin. "I'm only hoping labor will be the exception to the rule. And 'the terrible twos.'"
"And 'threes'," he added.
"'Fours' too, I guess."
"Yeah, by that time he or she will probably be flying."
"Good babysitters are hard enough to find," joked Lois. "We'll have to get someone who's got a pilot's license."
"Super," muttered Clark under his breath, just realizing what he had said.
Lois started to giggle and Clark joined in soon after, answering her laughter with a rain of kisses on her face.
"Sometimes I can't believe that I'm the luckiest woman alive."
"Then we're a perfect match," added Clark. "*I* am the luckiest man alive because I have you."
"The luckiest man with the deepest, chocolate-colored eyes." Lois bit her lip. "Uh-oh. I said the 'c' word again."
"How about a 'b' word, Lois?"
"Baby?" she guessed.
"Ah yes. That's what got us the other 'b' word in the first place."
Clark scooped Lois up into his arms and carried her up the stairs. In the darkened hallway, he fumbled for the door and whisked them both into the warm familiarity of their bedroom, shutting the rest of the world outside.
As he laid Lois down on their bed, he accidentally knocked open the door to their night table. Another crunching sound beneath his feet greeted his ears.
To Be Continued …
BLAST FROM THE PAST PART 2: RETURN OF LORD KAL-EL
An IRC Round Robin by Misha <firstname.lastname@example.org>; zoomway <email@example.com>; chrispat <firstname.lastname@example.org>; CrystalW <JCWimmer@aol.com>; Eraygun <Eraygun@aol.com>; Lansbury <Lansbury1@aol.com>; ChrisM <email@example.com>
Lois sat on the couch, turning the gift left by Lord Trey over and over in her hands, muttering to herself.
"Lois!" Clark called out from the kitchen.
"What is it, Clark?" Lois snapped, setting the thing down hard on the coffee table.
"You're muttering about Krypton again."
"It doesn't look like a Pulitzer."
"I know." Lois sighed and regarded it again. "More like a Kerth, I think, only chartreuse."
"It doesn't look like a…" A tray of snacks appeared in front of her on the table, bumping the object over a few inches. Clark was silent for a moment, his head settling next to hers.
"Well, okay, I guess it sort of does. Except for the Kryptonian lettering."
Lois stared at the array of bean sprouts, celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and a few unidentifiable vegetables on the tray in front of her. She poked one crisp carrot with a sprout. "It's healthy."
Clark nuzzled her neck, oblivious to the censorious tone in her voice.
"It's good for you and the baby." He took a celery stick and stirred it in the dip. "Try it."
"It looks like mud, Clark."
"It's hummus, and it's really good."
Lois turned to look up at him with disbelief. "You would choose to eat this over a bag of Twinkies?"
Clark flushed. "Well, ah…" He slid around Lois and sat down next to the couch. "Not really."
"But if you eat it, I'll show you what I got you for dessert."
Lois groaned pitifully. "No chocolate?" she asked in a small voice.
"Clark, nothing is better than chocolate." Lois looked up into her husband's eyes. "Well, okay, one thing." A smile escaped her lips.
Clark produced a small dish with dramatic flair, and lifted the lid to reveal a mound of dark brown chips. "Carob." He smiled at the quizzical look on Lois' face. "Fake chocolate."
Lois gingerly took one of the innocuous little chips and sniffed it. Nothing. She nibbled on the edge, then popped several more into her mouth, closing her eyes and letting it melt over her tongue. "Not chocolate, but it'll do." She sighed and snuggled into her husband's embrace, reaching for more carob chips. "You're the best.
Clark laughed softly and held her close. "Only the best for you."
The first change was a tiny one. A small beam of stray sunlight hit the object. The yellow-green crystal glowed in the sunlight, flashing red deep within its heart. The curtains fluttered, blocking the sun, and the glow died.
Lois stared at her closet, attempting to will her wardrobe to fit her expanding body. Finally, her telepathic command unheeded, she reached for one of her maternity suits. A sudden thought arrested her movement. She stared at the closet, puzzled.
"What happened to all your ties?"
"What do you mean? They seemed a little bright, I wanted to tone down the color a little."
"Tone down? But…"
"Car pile-up downtown. I'll meet you at the Planet." Lois felt the whisper of a kiss on her cheek as the curtains blew suddenly open and he was gone.
The morning sun slanted across the collection of crystals in the display cabinet, warming the collection of journalism awards and the Kryptonian curio. As the sunlight highlighted the dancing dust motes, the single green figure glowed faintly, growing in intensity until the sun passed overhead and the sunbeams cast their light elsewhere.
"You feeling okay, Kent?"
Clark looked up at his editor. "Fine, Perry, why?"
"This piece is not your best work. Re-write it." Perry slapped down an article on the desk in front of him. From across the way, Lois' eyes widened.
"What's wrong, Chief?"
"It doesn't sing, Clark. You've got a real handy way of making copy sing like the King, and this one's got laryngitis."
Lois glanced at the copy Perry had returned. She shrugged. "Well, Clark, I have to agree with Perry. This is kind of … flat."
Clark frowned. "It has all the facts."
"So does a grocery list, Clark, but nobody wants to pay to read one."
Clark seemed unconcerned, even a bit disinterested. "Mr. White told us three years and seven months ago that we need facts. Well, he has them."
Lois leaned back and folded her arms. "You left out days, hours, and seconds, Clark, and it's been about that long since you called Perry 'Mr. White.' Are you feeling okay?"
Clark thought a moment. "I did say 'Mr. White,' didn't I?" He smiled, but it was the first time Lois could recall a smile looking out of sync with his face. Like it was an effort for him to conjure the expression. "Don't worry, Lois, I'm fine," he said, trying to sound reassuring. "Maybe I'm thinking a little too much about the baby, and not enough about work lately."
That sounded reasonable to Lois. She had to admit thoughts of the baby would break her concentration. She stroked his shoulder. "Good," she smiled. "I was afraid red Kryptonite had been slipped into your coffee."
Clark laughed, but again, it was off somehow. It wasn't *Clark's* laugh. "Not that I'm aware of." He then tipped his head to the side.
"What are you hearing?"
"Some type of traffic imbroglio," he said, loosening his tie. "I won't be long."
"Imbroglio?" Lois repeated as he vanished.
She tapped a pencil absentmindedly as she stared off in the direction Clark had left. Jimmy dropped some files on her desk.
"Slow day?" he teased.
"Hm? Oh, hi, Jimmy," she said, relieved that at least he didn't seem to be a pod person version of himself. "Have you noticed anything different about Clark?"
"CK?" Jimmy thought a moment. "Just that his wardrobe is kind of … Wall Street today. I thought maybe he was going to a funeral or something."
Lois sighed. "Maybe it's just my imagination. I mean there's no reason he wouldn't use 'imbroglio' I guess."
"Imbroglio?" Jimmy said, and smiled conspiratorially. "Isn't that the new Italian cologne that makes women so wild they rip men's clothes off in the commercials?"
Lois rolled her eyes. "Yes, Jimmy. I can barely keep my hands off of Clark."
"Cool," he beamed. "I'll get some on pay day," he said, and headed for the elevators.
Lois brushed a strand of hair back. "Maybe it's the pregnancy. Hormones, mood swings, floating, and it makes men seem like idiots." The phone rang. "Lois Lane. Superman did what? Oh, god, I'm on my way!" She slammed down the phone. "Hold the elevator, Jimmy!"
Later that evening, Lois picked at the remains of a particularly unappetizing meal as she listened to her husband talk to his mother on the telephone.
"Yes, Mother. Everything is satisfactory here…Yes I know I haven't called recently…There has been no logical reason to call."
Lois sighed. She could imagine Martha's response to that statement but after the way Clark had been acting for the last few days, it didn't surprise her. She jumped when he appeared beside her.
"Here, Lois, you talk to my parent. She seems to be upset about something, and I hear a call for help."
Lois rolled her eyes but took the phone. She listened for the familiar whoosh before she spoke.
"Martha! I am so glad you called. Clark has been acting really strange, and he's getting worse." Her eyes welled with tears, to her annoyance. She hated getting so weepy all the time. She brushed the tears away angrily. "It's like I'm living with a stranger. First he started wearing depressing colors. Then his writing started to read like a textbook, and he didn't seem to care. He cooks disgusting food and says taste doesn't matter if it's nutritious. And he hasn't kissed me in three days!!!" she wailed.
Lois sniffled as she listened to Martha's soothing reply. "But it's not just Clark acting this way. It's Superman, too. Today he told the police that he refused to handle any more traffic problems. If people couldn't learn how to drive competently, that wasn't his problem … Oh Martha, I hate to ask, but could you and Jonathan please come? Maybe you can figure out what I should do."
"Don't worry, sweetie," Martha said soothingly. "I'm sure it's nothing serious. Clark may be just overtired. But if it will make you feel better, Jonathan and I will be there on the first available flight. Now, why don't you go get some rest. You're sleeping for two after all."
Lois chuckled. "All right, Grandma, I'll do just that."
"What was that all about?" Jonathan asked as Martha hung up the phone.
"I didn't want to worry Lois, but something is seriously wrong with Clark. We need to get to Metropolis."
"What's the matter?"
Martha shook her head. "I don't know, but something's wrong with our boy and I'm going to find out what it is."
Lois walked glumly into the newsroom the next morning. She had tried to wait up for Clark the night before, but had fallen asleep. When she woke up this morning it was clear that he hadn't been home that night at all.
A quick scan of LNN showed that there were no disasters, natural or otherwise, requiring Superman's assistance after the initial fire down on the docks of Hobs Bay. So where the heck was he?
As she sat down at her desk Jimmy walked by.
"Hey, Lois," he said happily. "Where's CK?"
"Oh, hi, Jimmy. Clark is … well…he's … " Lois hesitated.
"I had an appointment," Clark said, suddenly appearing beside Jimmy.
"Cool, CK. Anyway, I was just wondering if we're still on for the Met Nets game tonight?"
Clark grimaced. "The what?"
"The Metropolis Nets play the Gotham Goons tonight! Didn't you say you'd gotten tickets from one of the players?"
"Ah. Yes, I had obtained a promise of the tickets, but when Charles called, I declined to pick them up."
Jimmy just stared. "What is with you today, CK?"
Jimmy watched him for a long moment, then retreated, shaking his head.
"Are you feeling all right?"
"Physically, I am excellent, as always, Wife. Mentally, however, I have a conundrum with which I wish to present you."
Clark took her elbow and pointed her in the direction of the conference room. Lois felt herself steered across the newsroom by an implacable force.
She'd never felt so out of control in her life, not even on one of the many occasions when she'd been thrown off a building. What was this 'wife' business, anyway? Conundrum? Clark was Mr. Encyclopedia, not Mr. Dictionary … Her thoughts looped in wild tangents as Clark guided her to a seat at the conference room table in complete silence. When he let go of her arm, she checked her elevation. Her feet seemed nailed to the floor, they felt so heavy.
"Clark, what the heck do you think you're doing? You've been looking forward to the game for weeks now! You practically begged Chuck for three days straight to get those tickets, and now you're just not going to pick them up? And what's with this 'wife' crap? I have a name!"
Clark raised an eyebrow as her tirade halted with Lois standing braced against the table. "You are my spouse, are you not?"
Clark gestured for her to take her seat again, and Lois slid back into a sitting position.
"As such, you have a vested interest in my future, a thing which I have spent many hours contemplating."
"And?" Lois tried not to sound like her voice was a winter wind off the Arctic, but failed.
Clark seemed not to notice. "I wish to share the fruits of my contemplation with you."
"I'm listening." Lois' voice warmed to the average temperature of Fairbanks in February.
"Well, after the fire by Hobs Bay, I attempted to lecture the inhabitants on proper fire safety procedures, but they simply failed to heed me, so great was the emotional impact of their gratitude. I instead retreated to a snowbank in Antarctica with which I am familiar." A slight grimace betrayed Clark's sober facade, but it was banished almost immediately. "I briefly contemplated constructing a retreat for myself on that spot. After careful consideration, I decided that it was an unwise course of action, considering our offspring's Terran heritage and your own inability to handle extremes of temperature. Thus, too, the ideas of a retreat on the Moon or perhaps one in the Sun were discarded."
"Retreat? What are you talking about, Clark?"
"Why, an answer to the cumbersome alias of Clark Kent, and a domicile for myself as Lord of the House of El, my spouse," he gestured to Lois, "and our offspring."
Lois rose and placed her palms on the table. "Okay," she said, with surprising calm, considering she expected Clark to grow antlers any moment. "This has gone on too long to be a gag, and I don't think they're casting for "Spock, The Musical", so you can't be auditioning. So *something* else is going on. What is it, Lord Clark-El?"
Clark blinked for a moment, as if he were a computer processing illogical and contradictory information. Lois could see the struggle. Something internal was consuming the man she loved. She walked around the table. Her tone softened.
"Clark, what's *wrong* with you? There's someone else looking at me through your eyes. Who *is* he, Clark? Let me help you."
Clark shuddered for a moment. "Lois?" His eyes were warm, and deep, but only for a moment. They quickly returned to ice.
"I am in no distress," he finally managed to say.
Lois swallowed hard. Clark was 'missing,' or 'usurped' was perhaps the better word. Someone or some *thing* was overpowering him, but not defeating him. He was still there, but she had no clue as to how to free him. She'd wait for reinforcements.
"Your parents are coming out for your dad's birthday."
"My adoptive father's natal anniversary is five weeks hence, Wife."
Lois closed her eyes a moment. She had an overwhelming urge to scream, but then her mother had warned her about aliens.
"True, Cl—Husband, but you have to consider the logic of the planting season. This time of year there is less work to be done."
He nodded an acknowledgment. "Of course. Quite remiss of me to discount their agrarian career."
"I'll be working on a cake this afternoon. We celebrate 'natal anniversaries' with those."
"Affirmative. I have no aversion to celebratory customs. They are a festive part of Krypton as well."
Lois raised her eyebrows in recognition. Clark was having a 'strange visitation' from another planet. Now how to send the 'intruder' packing would be the hard part.
Lois faked her best smile. "So, you sound as if you remember Krypton. Funny, I thought you had no memories of living there."
"I.. that is…"
Lois, seeing Clark struggling, took advantage of his confusion. She grabbed his lapels and kissed him hard. He moaned and seemed to respond, but then pushed her away.
He straightened quickly, trying to regain his breath. "You put your tongue in my mouth."
Lois shrugged. "It was cold," she said, and hurried from the room before he could deliver a treatise on lingual bacteria. She could only hope the Kents had arrived. If not, maybe she'd have to visit STAR Labs … or a witch doctor.
Lois stood outside the conference room, thinking furiously. This was getting scary. She had to think of some reason that would sound logical enough to get Clark out of the Daily Planet for a while at least. There was no way people weren't going to notice the change in him, and at the rate things were going, he wasn't going to care about keeping his identity secret for much longer.
She looked back into the room. Clark had sat down again and seemed deep in thought.
"Clark?' she called softly. He looked up at the sound of her voice, and for a second, his expression softened and he started to smile. Before she could even begin to smile back, all expression left his face again, and she found herself staring into a pair of icy brown eyes.
"Yes, Wife? Did you have something you wished to impart to me?"
Lois winced at the coldness in his voice but forged ahead. "Yes, Husband, I do. I think it might be logical for you to pick your parents up at the airport and leave the writing to me for today at least."
That infamous eyebrow rose again. "Yes. Mr. White has not been pleased with my efforts lately. Perhaps you are right.
Lois breathed a sigh of relief. That had been easier than she had hoped.
"All right. I'll see you back at the house." She moved in for a goodbye kiss, but froze at the look in his eyes. "Bye," she squeaked and left the conference room again.
Lois had some difficulty repairing Clark's stories. Normally, she found the facts, and Clark added the emotions. She wasn't used to changing roles with him. She reminded herself that she had won Kerths long before they had been a team, and dove into the stories with as much enthusiasm as possible.
More than two hours later, feeling emotionally drained, she managed to get away from the Daily Planet. Perry hadn't been truly happy with the stories, but he hadn't been able to find anything exactly *wrong* with them, either, so he had allowed her to leave and meet Clark as he checked on a lead. She wondered if she'd ever get good at the lies she had to use to explain her life.
Lois climbed the steps to the brownstone with as much energy as she could muster. She needed Clark, her Clark, on days like this. She needed his understanding, his support, and his love. With a sigh, she unlocked the door, and almost hoped that 'Husband' was busy this evening.
When she saw the lights were on, she assumed she would not get her wish. However, to her surprise, she found herself caught up in a warm hug as soon as she had closed the door.
"Oh, Honey, it's worse than we thought," Martha said, squeezing Lois' hands gently. "He didn't say two words to us before he left for an emergency…nothing!"
"I've never seen him so detached," Jonathan added. "He kept calling me 'Father'."
Lois nodded, and to her dismay felt tears slip from her eyes. She had known that she was right, that Clark's behavior was completely abnormal, but there had been a part of her that had hoped it was a case of prenatal hormones run amok.
Martha took Lois back into her arms and soothed her as she had Clark when he was a child. "We'll get through this. We'll get our Clark back. There's nothing in this world that's stronger than the love he has for you, and that will bring him back. I'm certain of it.
"I wish I could be as certain," Lois said, wiping tears as she pulled out of her mother-in-law's embrace. "He's like a different person. I look into his eyes, and it's like seeing into an arctic winter."
Martha nodded her agreement. "He didn't even say goodbye when he left. He just said, 'I'm needed, Mother,' and flew out the window."
Lois sat and allowed Martha's words to echo in her mind. Nothing in this world could keep her and Clark apart. That was the problem, though. She felt as though it was *his* world causing the problem. He was as cold and distant as Ching and Zara had been when they'd put him through test after test to determine if he was 'worthy' of New Krypton. It was almost as though he were turning into one of them.
She wondered briefly if it could be some latent Kryptonian virus that kicked in at this late date. No, she thought, there would be no way to confirm that without Dr. Klein's assistance, and she couldn't see Clark consenting to see a doctor when he felt as though nothing were wrong.
"There are times he slips through," she said quietly. "Times that he's almost himself." She shook her head as though she was in pain. "I can't keep him with me, though."
Martha took Lois by the arm, and guided her over to the couch. While Jonathan made her a cup of tea, she and Martha went over the possibilities. By the time Jonathan joined them with three cups of tea on a tray, they were no closer to a solution.
Lois winced when she heard Clark's entry through the window. She had never thought that she'd dread her own husband's arrival. She corrected herself …this man was not her husband, but her Clark was in there somewhere, and she would find him.
As she heard him approach, she stood and faced him. Before he could say a word, she grabbed him by the front of his cape and pulled him in for a kiss. As before, there was a moment of response before the resistance. She held on, though, pressing her lips closer to his and sliding her arms around him beneath the cape, holding him tightly.
She kissed him until she was breathless, until her own light-headedness caused her to break the kiss so that she could gain some oxygen. She looked up into stunned brown eyes, and hoped for a miracle.
But there was no miracle tonight. The stunned look quickly faded and the 'iceman' was back. Lois' heart sank as Clark disengaged himself from her embrace.
He arched his eyebrow again. "You must learn to control yourself, Wife," he said, his voiced laced with disapproval. "Such emotional outbursts are not appropriate in front of my adoptive parents."
Lois shuddered a bit at the chill in Clark's voice, then turned to Martha and Jonathan.
"Honey, we've seen you and Lois kiss hundreds of times," Martha interjected.
"That's right, son…"
"That may have happened in the past, but such displays will not occur in the future. They are the reflection of an undisciplined intellect. One that is incapable of controlling its emotions."
"Clark…" Lois began.
"Please, Wife, do not call me that."
"And I request that you also refrain from using that name," Clark continued, pointing at the Kents.
"Well, if we're not to call you Clark," Jonathan asked, "what are we supposed to call you?"
Lois excused herself to the kitchen. "I'll make us something to eat. I know you both must be starved from your trip."
As she moved past the phone it began to ring. She reached to pick up the receiver but a hand was quickly placed over hers.
"Do not bother with that, Wife. You are correct. My adoptive parents need nourishment. See to it immediately. I will take care of this."
As she pulled her hand from under his, their eyes locked. What she saw sent a chill through her.
"I'll do it now. Martha … Jonathon, would you like to come with me and give me some help? Cla—Kal-El is going to answer the phone." The phone was on its fourth ring.
Clark picked it up. "Greetings. Kent domicile."
On the other end of the line a chuckle could be heard. "Hey, CK, who you trying to impress, the Queen of England?"
"Master Olsen, why are you calling? Do you need assistance?"
"Where's Lois? The chief wants me to verify a detail from the article she just wrote. Is she around?"
Clark stood rigid as he listened to Jimmy talk. "I will see if she can come to the phone."
Clark placed the phone on the table and moved into the kitchen. All three occupants looked up as he entered.
"Wife, your presence is needed by the young Master Olsen. He is waiting to speak to you on the phone."
"Thank you. I'll get it in here."
As Lois picked up the phone, Martha and Jonathon put the food they had prepared on a tray.
"Son, would you please carry this into the dining room for your mother? I'll bring the coffee."
Lois watched as Clark carried the tray through the swinging door. She heard him again remind his parents to call him Kal-El. Her eyes met theirs and they quickly moved from the kitchen.
She put the receiver to her mouth. "Hi, Jimmy. What's up?"
On the other end of the phone a very confused Jimmy waited patiently. "Hi, Lois. Boy, what's with CK? Has he been watching a Star Trek marathon or something? He sounds just like that Mr. Spock character."
Lois chuckled. "That he does, Jimmy." Trying to change the subject before Jimmy could make any more observations about Clark's behavior, she quickly continued. "What can I help you with?"
"Well, Perry wanted to know if some of the statistics you quoted were correct." Lois started to jump in with a justification, but he went on, "But I checked 'em myself. Y'know, I think he really wanted to know if Clark's feeling okay." He was met with silence. "Lois?"
"To tell you the truth, Jimmy," now there's a good one, she thought, "he's not feeling quite like himself lately."
"Hey- that reminds me- he's not the only one. Did ya hear about Superman's latest stunt?"
Lois heart dropped to the pit of her stomach. "Ah, no, Jimmy," she managed through a suddenly dry throat.
"Oh, he showed up at the UN with a proposal for world order. The thing was an inch thick, dry as the Sahara, and basically spelled out … oh, man, what was the quote? Oh yeah- 'proper positional strata for a logically organized society.' He's … hey- you think maybe one of those Kryptonians is back and trying to masquerade as Superman?"
"I don't know, Jimmy." Lois felt the receiver shake against her head, and she snugged it up with her shoulder, wringing her shaking hands in front of her. "What did the UN do?"
"Well, they're still arguing over a response, but I heard Perry muttering something about proactive strikes and Kryptonite when he was on the other line just now."
"Jimmy, were you listening at his door again?"
"Good. Keep it up. If you hear anything- call me."
"Sure thing, Lois."
"Thanks, Jimmy." Lois let the receiver slide from her shaking hands to the cradle. Silence, broken only by the muffled clink of silver on china from the dining room, settled over the kitchen. She angrily blinked away the tears welling in her eyes and reached for the phone again.
"Doctor Klein, please."
"Oh, Lois, it's always good to hear from my favorite pregnant patient," Klein said cheerfully. "Well, my *only* pregnant patient, actually—"
"Dr. Klein," she said softly. "I need your help."
"Though if I had other pregnant—"
Lois heard a glass-breaking sound in the background and Klein sighing loudly. "There's a stain that won't come out," he muttered.
"Dr. Klein, I *need* your help."
"I'm sorry, Lois. I heard about Superman at the UN. I don't mind him wanting to take over the world, really, but he sounded a little … well … nuts."
"He's not *nuts*. He's just not … Clark."
"Well, I can see what I can find out, but Ruth phoned and said he's finally displaying messianic tendencies."
Lois shook her head. "Maybe that's what Clark *really* needs. A psychiatrist."
"I'll drop by as soon as I can get away. I'll pick up Ruth on the way. She's been counseling a basketball player with green hair who changed teams—"
"I'll be waiting," Lois interrupted, and hung up the phone. She took a deep breath and left the kitchen.
She entered the dining room to see a very unusual scene. Jonathan, the usually quiet, supportive man whose biggest concerns had been getting the crops in on time, and not being late for pie, was red-faced with anger.
Clark, placid in his new position as Lord Kal-El, regarded him with curiosity. "You are not my biological father, therefore I see no reason to address you as such."
"Listen to me, Clark Jerome Kent," Jonathan said, slapping his hand down on the table so hard the knives and forks jumped. "A man that diapered your pink behind, taught you right from wrong, took you fishing, and dried your tears when you cried about being 'different' *is* your father. Any other man responsible for you being here is a sperm donor!"
"No, Martha, I've tried it his way, now he's going to try it mine. I've had all I can stand of this nonsense. I'm a farmer, he's a farmer's son, and not some *Lord* of Krypton."
"Dad, I…I'm…sor—" Clark immediately rose from the table. In a blur, he was gone.
As the breeze from Kal-El's departure died down, the three looked at each other in shock. Lois' eyes filled with tears again, and Martha put her arms around her.
"Oh, Martha, what are we going to do? That isn't our Clark." Lois brushed at her damp cheeks almost angrily.
Martha patted her back and looked over at Jonathan. For once, she was at a loss.
Jonathan thought for a moment. "Maybe if we can figure out what's causing this, we can come up with something. When did you notice Clark starting to change?"
Lois pulled away from Martha and sat down at the table. "Let's see. I think I noticed he was acting a little odd shortly after the Kryptonians visited."
Martha gasped. "Kryptonians?"
"Yes. Didn't he tell you? Trey brought some New Kryptonian teenagers to see Earth, and he also brought Clark something that had belonged to his family…a crystal sort of trophy thing."
She got up and led the way into the living room where she retrieved the strange looking object from the cabinet. "Here it is." As Lois picked up the artifact the globe began to glow slightly and it hummed. "That's odd," she remarked. "It didn't do that before."
"It doesn't look dangerous," Jonathan remarked as took the object from Lois. As soon as the thing left her hands it fell silent and stopped glowing. "I guess it doesn't like me," Jonathan said with a wry smile.
Just then the doorbell rang, making them all jump. Lois looked a little more cheerful.
"That must be Dr. Klein and Dr. Friskin. Maybe they will have some ideas."
She rushed to the door and opened it to find the two doctors locked in a fond embrace. "Ahem."
The doctors jumped apart guiltily. "Oh! Lois…er, um…"
Lois smiled slightly and gestured for them to enter. Dr.Klein looked a bit startled when he saw the Kents. "Oh, I thought it was Superman who was having a problem. Where is he?"
"He is. That is, he was … here," Lois assured him, stumbling over her words. Taking what she hoped would be a calming breath, she managed a smile. "I'm sure he'll be back."
Lois was frantically trying to figure out how to separate Dr. Klein from his ladylove, since she didn't yet know about Clark's secret. Apparently, however, Dr. Friskin sensed that the slightly distraught young woman in front of her wanted to speak to Bernie in private.
"Don't you just hate guests who arrive and immediately ask where the powder room is?"
There was a half-hearted attempt at laughter from those gathered in the living room. As it died away, Martha stepped forward and offered to show the good doctor the whereabouts of the facilities.
Lois threw Martha a grateful look, but her attention was already on forming a coherent explanation for Dr. Klein.
As soon as Martha and Ruth had left the room, Lois grabbed Klein by the arm and practically dragged him over to one of the sofas, pushing him down onto it and then plopping down beside him.
"Dr. Klein, you've got to help us. Clark is getting further and further away from us, from himself, every time I see him."
Jonathan stepped forward, holding the Kryptonian artifact by one end. "We think it might have something to do with this … thing."
Klein took it from him and turned it all around, examining it from all sides. "Why?" he asked. "It looks harmless enough." He shook it slightly and held it up to his ear.
"We're not sure of anything, but Clark started acting weird sometime after the New Kryptonians left."
Dr. Klein looked skeptical. "Lois, they've been gone for months—
"No, not those … the other ones."
"What other ones?"
"It's not that important." Klein still looked confused however, so she decided to take the time to elaborate.
"So, you see," Lois concluded, some few minutes later, "Clark didn't start doing these bizarre, retro-Kryptonian things until after Trey and the others had left."
"Well," Klein admitted, scratching at his chin, "I can see that you have a point, Lois, but Clark's behavior could have been caused by anything."
"Like what?" Jonathan asked, impatiently.
"Well, did they give him anything to eat while they were here?"
Lois shook her head. "I don't think so."
"Did he go on their ship?"
"No. I wasn't about to let him out of my sight this time," Lois told him firmly.
Klein reached forward to pick up the object again. He held it for a while, just studying it. "The carving on the base is quite lovely," he said, softly. "It kind of reminds me of some of the fertility totems I've seen," he added as he began to stroke it.
"Dr. Klein!" Lois said sternly, hoping to recall his wandering attention. She didn't want him bringing up chimps' mating calls or anything like that. Things were complicated enough.
"Sorry, Lois, I do tend to lose focus sometimes," Klein said with a shrug. "Let me take a took at these carvings."
"I didn't know you could read Kryptonian," Jonathan interjected.
"Well, I've been studying the carvings on Cl—" he looked around nervously for Ruth, "I mean Superman's ship. Maybe something will look familiar." Klein took out a small jeweler's eyepiece began to closely examine the artifact. "Yes, this one is the symbol for the family name - I recognize that."
Suddenly a commanding voice rang out from the window.
"Put that down!"
In an instant Clark was at the sofa, and as he snatched the object from Klein's hands Lois noticed that it had begun to glow again. But this time the glow was brighter and the hum was almost deafening. Giving Lois, Klein, and Jonathan a look of pure fury, he placed it back in the corner where it became dormant again.
That was when Lois noticed that Clark was no longer wearing his regular Superman suit. Instead he was wearing a skin-tight black suit, similar to the one he had worn when he was with the New Kryptonians, but this time the outfit had a matching black cape and he had a blue metallic headband to match the blue bands on his wrists.
"Cl—Kal-El, what happened to your suit?" Lois asked.
"The other costume was inappropriate."
"Far too garish and outlandish."
"Garish? You liked it just fine when I made it for you, Clark." Martha stepped into the room, her cheeks burning.
Clark flinched minutely. "It was adequate for the time."
Martha fairly growled, and Jonathan moved to her side. "Now, Martha…"
"Don't you 'Now, Martha' me, Jonathan. Our son is behaving like a spoiled six-year-old and I won't stand for it." She reached for Clark's ear and he backed off, fear and a silent plea flashing in his eyes.
"Clark!" His head swiveled towards Lois as his body slowly floated into the corner. She placed a hand on her stomach. "You wouldn't want your child to act like this, would you, Clark?"
His head swung from his wife to his mother and back. "No." The whisper was dragged from his lips.
"You're being affected by that trophy-thing, son. You don't do this." Jonathan stepped forward, and Clark shrank back another floated inch.
Clark closed his eyes. The three…four heartbeats that he knew so well were closing in on him, surrounding him. Part of him screamed tactical advice, logical arguments, but it was slowly being drowned out by three angry heartbeats and one steady, silent flutter. He shook his head, a small, helpless jerk.
Lois asked quietly, "Does it have an off switch, Clark?"
His voice was frozen, but he nodded. The heart rates surrounding him picked up.
Her beloved voice, quiet despite her racing heartbeat, the steady flutter underlying her desperation, asked, "Where, Clark?"
He shook, but found his voice. "Press the 'el' sigil on the under side."
He listened to the rush of footsteps toward the precious object, trembled violently as he heard the base scrape as someone picked it up, and slumped to the ground as the tiny crystal flashed red/white again and then dulled.
He didn't hear Lois' strangled 'Clark!' and he didn't feel her arms cradle his head close to her. He didn't smell her sweet fragrance or taste the silent tears that dropped to his pale face. But the tension in his body and the lines on his face were erased as if they had never been.
Silence reigned for several long seconds, each of the occupants of the room listening to the sound of their breathing and their racing hearts. Then a flush echoed through the townhouse.
Ruth reentered the living room with a smile and a hesitant, "Is it safe to come out now?"
She saw that Clark had appeared out of nowhere while she was gone, and now rested on the couch, his glasses askew, his hair mussed and the afghan pulled up to his chin. Lois sat with his head in her lap, cradling him carefully.
"Oh my, is Clark all right?"
"He's fine, Ruth," Martha assured her. "He's just had a long day."
"Oh." Ruth's voice sank to a whisper. She turned to Klein. "Did you see Superman, Bernie?"
Klein nodded, finding his voice. "Oh, yes." He showed her the thing in his hand.
"I didn't know they gave out awards for superheroism."
Jonathan snorted, coughed and excused himself from the room.
"It's a Kryptonian artifact, Ruth. It was somehow affecting Superman's behavior."
She nodded, her forehead creasing. "There certainly are a lot of Kryptonian things that affect the mind. It suggests a high degree of telepathic activity."
Klein nodded enthusiastically. "I've often thought that, Ruth. In some of the tests I've performed, Superman has shown a remarkably high level of upper alpha waves, much more than is normal in humans. The pattern is just slightly different from a normal level of alpha waves…"
"So he's on a different wavelength? Is that why he hasn't demonstrated obvious telepathic abilities?"
"Exactly! It's probably a wavelength unique to Krypton, and I'll bet it was duplicated here as a means of mental data transfer." Klein waved the object, and Martha removed it gently from his hands.
"Whatever do you mean, Bernie?"
"Well, cupcake, you know I've been studying Superman's spaceship, and based on the technology I've examined there I think that this device was meant to be benign. It's probably some sort of repository of Superman's family history and was meant to link up telepathically with him and provide information — guidance perhaps, except…"
"Except here on Earth something made it malfunction," Lois interrupted.
Klein nodded. "Exactly. Maybe exposure to the sun gave it a *super* charge, so that instead of just imparting information it actually tried to take over and control Superman. This is pure speculation on my part and I really need to study it some more to make sure." Klein's gaze wandered off into space. "This technology could revolutionize the telecommunications industry!"
Ruth pointed him towards the door. "I'm going to take him back to his lab before he thinks to start testing that."
They left, Klein muttering something about 'highlevelalpha-pathictranscommunicators.' Silence descended on the Kent household once more.
Clark swam out of choking blackness and opened his eyes with a gasp. Above him, Lois slumped in the corner of the couch, her eyes closed, her breath feathering the strands of hair in her face. He reached up a trembling hand to cup the side of her face. Her eyes fluttered open.
"Hi, honey," he whispered up at her, and she leaned into his hand.
Lois shook her head slowly. "It's not your fault, Clark."
"I almost moved us to the Antarctic, honey!"
"You couldn't make me move if you tried, superpowers or no."
Clark grimaced. "True, but I would have tried, if…"
He shrugged. "Under all that logic, that emotional straitjacket, there was one thing that I couldn't do."
Lois shifted a little, and Clark floated up a tad to let her settle into a more comfortable position. "What's that?"
"I couldn't keep you out of my thoughts." Clark reached for her hand. "You're my wife, my other half, and no matter what else I wanted to do, I couldn't do it without you." They laced their fingers together.
"Not even rule the world?"
Clark wrinkled his nose. "Oh god, I'm gonna have to apologize to the UN, aren't I?"
"You'd better apologize to your mother first."
Clark nodded. "She deserves better than I treated her. Her and Dad."
"And the UN?"
"They can wait until I give *you* a proper apology." Clark smiled up at his wife.
Lois arched an eyebrow. "Oh? I was hoping for something more along the lines of an improper one."
"As you wish, Wif-mmmff!"
**NOTE** The authors wish to acknowledge with thanks the influence of the comic book story arc known as "Day of the Krypton Man." Interested readers can find the tale of The Eradicator in Superman #41, Adventures of Superman #464, Superman in Action #651, Superman #42, Adventures of Superman #465, and Superman in Action #652 (March & April 1990).