By Laura Davies <email@example.com>
Submitted: May 2003
Summary: Clark has gone with Zara and Ching to protect New Krypton from Nor. What effect will it have on Lois and their children? Will they be safe? A sequel to the author's "Forever And All Eternity I: Fate."
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. I'm just playing with them for a while. <G> Aw, heck. The main reasons for fanfic to exist is a basic dissatisfaction with the way a series ended (or didn't end), what-if scenarios, and/or a desire to mess with our favorite characters' lives. I'm just contributing! ;) Any resemblance to any other work of fiction is strictly coincidental. All characters besides those specifically mentioned in the series are figments of my chocolate and PEZ high imagination and belong to *me* and this version of New Krypton definitely belongs to me. <g> All other bits of weirdness can be attributed to sleep-deprivation. ;)
Authors note: My thanks goes out to the writers of the original New Krypton Arc. I also need to thank all of my wonderful beta readers who assisted in this project, Avia, Breanna, Doug, and Jenni. Special thanks go to my friends: Wanda, Mary, Lote, and Missy as well as all of the readers on Zoom's message boards for staying in for the long haul— it's taken seven months to get this far. Thanks to Missy, Chief Pam, Paul, Colin, SQD for giving me suggestions for a certain scene. I also need to thank the regulars on #lanekent… Without y'all this story would have never been begun, let alone finished. This is Book II, so I'm afraid you'll have to read Book I for this to make much sense.
Zara watched Clark as he fingered a pendant that hung around his neck. She supposed his wi… concubine on Earth must have given it to him before his departure. Her lips tightened as she watched him run his finger over its surface and open it. Perhaps convincing him to stay forever would be harder than she had previously thought. She simply didn't understand his attachment to this Earth woman… He was Kryptonian nobility and should be attached to his rightful wife… her. She rose from her seat and began to cross the room to speak with Kal-El…
Zara jumped when Ching came up behind her and unexpectedly laid his hand on her arm. <<Zara, don't.>> He sent.
<<Why not? He is *my* husband.>>
<<Zara, how many times do you have to hear that he loves his wife? What you're contemplating may very well drive him from us; he is only with us to protect his children from Nor. Don't rip his family apart more than we have already.>>
<<Ching, you are not my keeper! *I* am First Lady. *I* know what is best for me and for our people. Kal-El is *my* husband and consort. He is the key that will keep us from plunging into civil war. One single family is not so important when weighed against an entire civilization. I don't want his children to be hurt, but at the same time, he is necessary for saving my people! You, despite your heritage, are only a bodyguard and a lieutenant. You will obey my orders as well as Kal-El's.>>
Fire flashed in Ching's eyes as he nodded his acquiescence. Deep inside his mind, behind layer upon layer of shields where he hoped that Zara could not see, he vowed that he would help Kal-El preserve his family… even if it involved crossing Zara's wishes.
Zara stared at Kal-El for a few more minutes. She hadn't expected him to be broadcasting such great waves of… pain, loneliness, and fear. Momentarily, she wondered if she and the Elders of the council had been right to bring him to New Krypton. They weren't infallible—they were only Kryptonian after all.
With a shake of her head, she banished the thought; Kal-El was *her* husband… <He's also been married to someone else for six cycles,> a little voice in the back of her head said. <Yes. but—> Zara sighed, turned and began to walk back to her quarters.
Lucy listened as Jimmy explained Lois's current situation. Lois would probably not ask for help, but Lucy loved her sister, so she decided to take matters in her own hands. If Clark couldn't be there to help with the children, then it was time she came to the rescue. Her schedule at the hospital was hectic, but she was sure that her bosses would cut her some slack so that she could help with Kiley and Joseph.
"Jimmy," she began, "I have an idea… Lois is going to need help with the kids, and I know she couldn't stand having our mother there. We probably won't be able to see as much of each other this way, but I'm going to move in with Lois for a while to help out. Would you mind?"
Jimmy studied her earnest face for a moment before replying. He had only given her the cover story for Clark's absence; she was still in the dark about Clark's second career. "I tried to come up with a way to help, but I couldn't think of anything. Lois and the kids *are* family… I'll miss you, Lucy, but moving in with Lois is a good idea." Jimmy smiled. "There is one question I would like to ask you first…" Jimmy dropped to one knee and pulled a box out of his pocket. "Dr. Lucy Lane, I love you. I never thought I would meet someone like you… I feel like I've found part of myself that I never realized I was missing until I found you. I'll never rest until I know…" He opened the box, revealing a diamond ring. "I would share the rest of my life with you… Lucy, will you marry me?"
Lucy's face broke into a smile. She loved Jimmy; she had for a long time. Wordlessly, as her face lit up with joy, she nodded. She stood up, pulled him to his feet, and into a sweet kiss. "I love you, Jimmy Olsen." She said quietly as he slid the ring on her finger. "Now, you can help me pack." She grabbed his hand and pulled him towards her bedroom.
Kiley wandered into her parents' room with Clarkie-bear clutched firmly under one arm and her rag doll, Annie, clutched under the other. She couldn't sleep. It was far past her bedtime… she wanted her Mommy and Daddy. She rubbed the back of her hand across her eyes, scrubbing away the beginnings of tears that threatened to fall. "Mommy?" she said, snuffling.
"What is it, punkin?" Lois answered as she pushed herself up.
"Clarkie-bear, Annie, and me can't sleep 'cause Daddy isn't here. Can we sleep with you, Mommy?"
Lois turned back the bedclothes and motioned to her daughter. "Come on up, sweetie."
Kiley climbed into the big bed. She missed 'Feeling' her father's presence in the house. He had been gone for less than a day, but he was already so far away from them that it was getting hard to 'Feel' him anymore. She cuddled close to her mother, taking comfort in the fact that at least she was still there. <Hurry home, Daddy> she thought. "Please send Daddy back to us soon, God," she whispered quietly.
Lois hugged Kiley tightly and stroked her daughter's hair back from her face. Her mouth twisted into a wry smile as she heard Kiley's heartfelt plea. It was the same prayer she had carried in her heart and found herself whispering since the inevitable decision had been made. It wasn't long before Kiley's soft breathing told her that her firstborn had finally fallen asleep.
Lois turned her face to the pillow and breathed in Clark's scent. Soon she slipped off into dreams of Clark's return.
Clark flopped down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. He missed Lois and the kids desperately. He hadn't yet been gone a full day, but the fact that they were now millions of miles away and that he would not see them for months was a constant ache. Mentally, he pictured the brownstone, as it would look at this hour. Images of his family in their sleep flooded through his mind.
Mentally, he saw Kiley curled up with Clarkie-bear and Annie, fast asleep. His mind's eye flashed to Joseph curled up around Ted E. Bear in his toddler bed. He smiled at the mental image of his children cuddled up with the toys his mother had made for them upon their birth.
In his mind's eye, he saw Lois curled up in their bed with her nose buried in his pillow. He made an inarticulate moan of pain low in his throat; they needed him and yet he was far away. His fists clenched as a single tear rolled down his cheek. He buried his face into the pillow and prayed that he could go home soon.
Lois woke to the insistent ringing of the doorbell. She rolled over, looked at the clock, and groaned; 6 AM. Carefully, so as not to disturb Kiley, she slid out of bed, threw on Clark's robe, and padded downstairs to answer the door. She looked through the peephole and was surprised to see Lucy standing on the stoop.
Lois quickly unlocked the door and opened it. "Lucy?" she asked, "What are you doing here?"
"I heard about Clark going undercover," Lucy began, "and I thought you might be able to use my help with the kids… I talked to the hospital about switching me to day shift. I'm here as long as you need me."
Lois started to say something, but Lucy dropped the suitcase she was carrying and put her arm around Lois's shoulders. "Lois, you've done so much for me; you're my sister and you practically raised me. Let me help. Joseph and Kiley would be a handful even if you *weren't* pregnant…"
Lois hesitated then nodded slowly. She knew that she could use help with the kids, but at the same time, asking for help would be another reminder that Clark was gone. But since her sister was offering… "Come in, Lucy," she said quietly.
Lucy picked up her suitcase and walked through the inner door. "I'll take Clark's parents to the airport," she asserted quietly. "I'm on call today, but otherwise I'm all yours for the rest of the week." Lucy looked at Lois seriously. "Sis," she began, "What are families for but to help each other?" Lucy set the suitcase down and hugged her sister.
Lois stood passively in her sister's embrace and broke it after a few minutes. She turned around, expecting to see Clark's solid presence behind her and almost burst into tears with renewed grief when he wasn't there. The Kents were leaving, Clark was gone, and it felt like nothing would be right ever again. She hadn't felt so alone in years. Lucy had come with an offer of help when she needed it the most. Without Clark, her world was a much quieter, sadder place—but Lucy's presence would help fill the silence.
Lois choked back tears as she stumbled over to the couch and sat down heavily. She wanted her husband back. He had been gone for less than twenty-four hours, but she already missed him desperately. Just the thought of his months-long absence without means of communication hurt badly. A few lonely tears escaped from her eyes as she wrapped her arms around herself, momentarily forgetting Lucy's presence.
As Lucy watched her sister's collapse, her heart ached fiercely for the big sister who had always seemed indestructible to her. For as long as she could remember, she had looked up to Lois. Cautiously, she stepped over to the sofa, sank down on to it, and put her arms around her sister. Somehow, she knew that the best thing she could do at this moment was to let Lois cry on her shoulder. She knew how she would feel if Jimmy suddenly had to go undercover and not be able to contact her… especially if she had two small children to care for as well as being pregnant.
Wordlessly, Lucy gently pushed Lois's hair back from her face and hugged her tightly. She hated to see Lois fall apart, but at the same time, she knew how temporary this was. Her sister was a fighter; she would keep going until the happy day that Clark returned. So wrapped up was she in her sister's pain that she was surprised to hear a small sleepy voice at her elbow.
"Aunt Lucy?" the little voice questioned.
Lucy turned her head to find Kiley standing beside her. "What is it, sweetie?" Lucy asked.
"Why is Mommy crying?" she asked, her big brown eyes filled with concern.
Lois drew in a ragged breath, quelled the majority of her tears and held out her arms to her small daughter. "Punkin', I'm just sad because I miss your Daddy so much."
Kiley snuggled into her mother's embrace and hugged Lois. "Mommy, Daddy will be ok. I dreamed that he told me to tell you that he loves you an' that he's hurrying home."
A soft smile stole over Lois's face as the rest of her tears dried up. She gently stroked her baby girl's hair and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "I know, sweetheart," she said quietly. Somehow, holding Kiley made the bond she shared with Clark seem stronger; she could feel his love for her through it as if it were almost a tangible thing. As she held her firstborn close to her, the sadness of separation seemed to slip from her, replaced by a feeling of unconditional love that she had not known… until she met Clark.
Lucy released her sister and watched in amazement as Lois's tears stopped falling with Kiley's embrace. Sadness still lurked in her sister's eyes, but somehow in this moment, she was not quite as devastated as she had been a few minutes before. A hint of jealously entered her heart as she watched Lois and Kiley. She envied Lois her happy family. She hoped that she and Jimmy could marry soon… she wanted what Lois had, a home and maybe even children of her own—Jimmy's children.
Clark woke slowly, obeying some internal alarm that had nothing to do with ship time. He stared at the ceiling and absently reached out his hand to find the warm, soft body of his wife, momentarily forgetting that she wasn't with him. He frowned sleepily as his hand encountered the wall that his single bed stood against. His eyes flew open as memory flooded back.
<* Lois*> he thought longingly. For a moment, he could have sworn he felt her lithe, warm body next to his and her head lying on his chest.
The last time they had been separated for any length of time had been during their first aborted attempt to get married when Lex had kidnapped her. At least this time, she was safe. This time, he didn't have to worry about Lex Luthor hurting his beloved or their children. As long as the people he loved were safe, he could survive this experience. He hoped. He swallowed around the lump in his throat. He missed them terribly. He had been gone for less than twenty-four hours and already he would give anything to feel his wife slip her small hand in his, his children's arms around his neck, and to hear their childish voices calling him the name that had become so precious to him— 'Daddy'.
Slowly, Clark sat up and reached into the bag beside his bed for the journal that lay nestled in his favorite sweater. He counted himself lucky that he still had the few familiar items of clothing that had been in the bag; Zara had insisted upon taking the worn clothes he had arrived in away 'to be cleaned'. Somehow, he doubted he would ever see his favorite old clothes again. He opened the leather-bound book and stared at the smooth white paper underneath the cover before he reached over and pulled a pen from his bag. He uncapped the pen and stared at the paper a few more moments before he began to write.
Over the past few years, he had become used to having someone to confide in… since Lois wasn't available, he guessed that a journal would have to do. As much as he loved writing, he had always tried to avoid leaving a personal record of his life as both Superman and Clark Kent to try and ensure that the public would not finally put two and two together. This, however, was different. Not only had Perry made him promise to keep the journal but also he needed an outlet for the emotion that threatened to overcome him. He couldn't afford to give in to his sadness, loneliness and the fear that he would never make it home…
Zara sat cross-legged on her bed and pondered her birth- husband. He had seemed so happy when she had observed him with his family, but in the past day or so, some of the joy that had seemed to make up part of his character had faded… and she was responsible for that. While it was true that it hadn't been her idea to come and bring him to New Krypton, she still felt a little guilty for taking away some of his joy.
She knew that he was the best hope for her people… But all of her earlier motives now seemed… false in light of his now palpable pain. He was a good man—she knew that. Some people from New Krypton would have taken advantage of the powers granted to Kryptonians on Earth, but Kal-El had not.
Instead, he used his powers to help wherever he could with no thought of tangible reward. She admired him for that… and envied him in that he had found someone to love. Despite her protestations to the contrary and her rather predatory thoughts concerning him, she had begun to believe it was as Ching said—she did not really love Kal-El; it was just a crush.
She was within her rights to demand more of him… they *were* married after all. Somehow, she just wasn't sure what she wanted from him personally anymore…
Lois reached into the backseat of the Jeep, carefully unfastened the straps of Joseph's car seat, and picked him up. She grabbed her briefcase and purse and threw them over the other shoulder before she locked up the jeep and headed to the elevator. Gently, she pushed Joseph's hair back from his forehead and hugged him tightly as she entered the elevator and pushed the button for the lobby.
Joseph looked at his mother with wide eyes as his thumb began to travel toward his mouth. He reached for Lois's hair instead and grabbed a handful of her long tresses. "Why Mommy sad?" he asked.
Lois smiled sadly and kissed Joseph on the cheek. "Sweetie, I just miss Daddy."
Joseph threw his arms around her neck and gave her a hug. "Jo'eph miss Daddy too." He looked at her through solemn brown eyes. "Daddy come back," he said. His face broke into a sunny smile. "I love you." He planted a wet kiss on her cheek and laid his head against her shoulder.
"I love you too, scout," she said quietly and held him closer to her as the elevator opened into the lobby of the Planet. She walked slowly across the lobby toward the Planet's daycare facility and went inside. Reluctantly, she walked over to Ms. Linda and began to hand Joseph to her, but Joseph tightened his arms around her neck.
"Mommy no go? Mommy 'tay wiv Jo'eph?" he asked hopefully.
"Sweetheart, I have to go to work, I'll be back in a little while." Lois said, dropping a gentle kiss on his forehead.
"Jo'eph 'tay wiv Mommy?" he asked, as he gave her a puppy dog look.
"Scout," Lois began with a sigh, "you go with Ms. Linda and play with the toys, ok? If you need me, I'll be here really fast."
Joseph stuck his lip out in a pout for a minute and hugged his mother again. "I love you, Mommy," he said before loosening his grip and allowing Ms. Linda to take him.
"I love you too, Joseph." Lois said quietly before she quickly strode out of the daycare and headed toward the elevator. She pressed the elevator call button and waited impatiently for it to arrive. Finally, the doors opened in front of her and she hurried inside and pressed the button for the newsroom. Lois propped her body against the side of the elevator, sagging against the wall.
Resolutely, Lois refused to give into the tears that still threatened to fall. She felt as if she had been crying for a very long time and didn't want to give in again. Instead, she forced herself to think of the holographic message she had received the previous night as well as Clark's message to her. It would only be a matter of time before she could retrieve the globe from their safety deposit box and find out what Lara had meant by the cryptic message on the ship.
How could she communicate with Clark when, by now, he was thousands of light years away from her? It simply wasn't possible. At least, she didn't think it was… She felt a warm, comforting feeling pass through her. It was almost as if… Lois gasped and straightened up. Maybe there was something in the messages Lara had left for her after all; if she could feel Clark's love for her while he continued to travel further and further from their small family, than anything was possible. She squared her shoulders and strode out into the newsroom.
Clark closed the journal with an audible snap and stuck the pen in it. Carefully, he popped part of the back off of the wardrobe and slipped it in the compartment that he had discovered the night before. He wasn't sure just how far he could trust Zara; the almost predatory looks she had been giving him made him cautious enough to hide all of the important things, like photographs of his family, that he had brought with him. He wasn't exactly sure what had prompted this new cautionary behavior, but he had a feeling that Zara wanted to create a rift between himself and Lois… Zara wanted to take Lois's place…
Sooner or later, he would have to set her straight, but she had not yet done anything that he could confront her about. Clark closed the compartment, walked around to the front of the wardrobe, and pulled it open. He rifled through its contents, grimacing as he came upon some particularly ornate garments.
He sighed in relief as he came upon a set of plain clothes much like the ones he had worn for practice the day before. Quickly, he dropped his new mental shields and scanned the area for people as he had been taught. Finding no one, he pulled on the clean clothes and began to tidy up the room. He had been told that Ching would come for him when the time came, and he wanted to be ready…
Perry stood at the door to his office and watched Lois work. He grimaced in sympathy as he noticed the black smudges underneath her eyes… It was obvious to him that she hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. The last time he had seen her this broken up about something had been years before… when Clark had… 'died'. He knew that there were a few things that he needed to talk to her about today. He had decided, however, that it would be best to let her settle in before he told her of this decision. He glanced at his watch and changed his mind, she had been there long enough; she needed to know right away.
"Lois," he called, "in my office, *now*!"
"Coming, Perry," Lois said. She stood up, reluctantly made her way over to Perry's office, and walked inside.
Perry ushered her over to the couch, walked over to the door, and shut it tightly. He pulled up a chair in front of the couch and seated himself in it. "Lois, honey, how are you holding up?" he asked gently, concern written over his face.
"I miss him," she said quietly. "I've always been able to feel his presence… I know it may sound a little silly, but we've always had this… connection. Even in the beginning when I was so horrible to him, I felt it… It's only gotten stronger over the years, but…" her voice caught on the word as a lump formed in her throat. "It's getting harder to feel him…" she choked out. Lois drew in a deep breath. "I know he's coming home, but I can't help but worry…"
Perry moved to the couch and put his arm comfortingly around her shoulders. "Awww, honey. It will be okay. You know that Clark would walk on water for you or drown trying… So, what are you gonna do?" Perry pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to her.
Lois looked down at the handkerchief and started playing with the edges. "Just… Keep going. Clark will come home; I just have to wait until he can… Until then, I just have to keep breathing and take things one day at a time." Lois looked up from the handkerchief; her eyes brimming with unshed tears. "I need him, Perry, I need him…" she whispered hoarsely.
Perry patted her on the back and hugged her gently. "There's something I need to talk to you about, honey. I want you to wrap up all of your current investigations, and then I'm offering you an assistant editorship position until Clark comes back… I promised him to watch out for you; he'd kill me if I let anything happen to you or the kids. After you file those stories, you're officially desk-bound."
"I should have expected this," Lois grumbled.
"Now, Lois you know that this assignment would be coming in a month or so, anyway… and without Clark here to back you up, I'd just feel better knowing that you're not out getting into trouble. Besides, this job has regular hours, so you can spend more time with the kids…" Perry looked at her anxiously and hoped that she wouldn't put up too much of a fuss; he just wanted to ensure that she would still be there when Clark came home.
Slowly, Lois nodded her acquiescence. Normally, she would have argued with him, but she was simply too tired at the moment to fight him over it. It was company policy for her to be desk-bound at six months anyway… Perry had just grounded her a month and a half early. "Is that everything, Perry?" she asked quietly.
"Not…quite," he began hesitantly. "I was wondering if… maybe… one day in the next week or so… I could borrow Joseph and take him to the park for a long lunch… I figure that he'll be missing his daddy… and I want to spend some time with him… I'd like to spend some one-on- one time with Kiley too if that's all right… I know they miss Clark."
"Thank you," Lois said softly as tears threatened to spill out of her eyes. "You know that you're on the approved list to pick the kids up…"
Without a word, Perry carefully gathered Lois into his arms and hugged her gently. A spark of anger flared up in him against the New Kryptonians who had so callously torn this family apart. All he could do was to offer comfort to his surrogate daughter while her husband got closer and closer to what might be his final destination.
Lord Kav-Nor growled in frustration as his spy reported that Lord Kal-El was en route to New Krypton. His movements were now curtailed; it would more difficult to use Kal-El's family against him… without the benefit of the locator chip and the name Kal-El had used on Earth, they would be impossible to find among the masses of people who lived there. At least his enemy had decided to come to him; it was much more satisfying to eliminate the competition himself rather than by proxy. New Krypton would be under his absolute control. He would show the rest of the universe how sublime darkness could be… and then bring it, too, under his iron rule…
Martha sat at her kitchen table, playing with a cup of herbal tea. They had arrived home a few hours before… and she had yet to do anything but sit and stare at the now stone-cold tea. She knew that her boy had made the right decision. After all, with the threat to the children, no other choice could have been made…
Yet her eyes filled with tears as she thought of a world where the happy little boy she had raised could… It was bad enough that he had been forced into leaving the family that he loved so much behind, but combined with the fact that he could actually die… Martha shook the intolerable thought out of her head and stared blindly off into space.
Her boy was coming home. She had to believe that. He would be back from this trip to New Krypton in a few months and they would welcome him with open arms. Her baby *would* come back to them.
Abruptly, she stood up and ran into her studio. She grabbed her palette and some brushes and began to meticulously work on a painting of their family that she had started last week. Lovingly, she carefully began to fill in the shadows around the painstakingly painted figures. She had intended to give the painting to Lois and Clark for Christmas, but had changed her mind with recent developments… as soon as she could finish, she would give it to her daughter-in-law…
Ching led Clark to the practice ring to begin lessons in self-defense. Because of his promise to Lady Lois, Ching was determined to teach Kal-El to defend himself better than the majority of the nobles on the council. He wouldn't put it past Nor to try and assassinate Kal-El before the official acknowledgment of his rule. Unfortunately, unless Kal-El was the type that would insure fanatic devotion in his corps of bodyguards, men could still be bribed to allow a hired killer to slip through… By the time he was finished, he hoped to have Kal-El able to hold off an assassin long enough for help to arrive.
Ching hoped it would be enough; from Kal-El's memories, he knew he did not wish to face Lady Lois when she was angry. As they entered the practice room, he closed the door and turned to Clark. "Kal-El," he began, "What do you know of self-defense? That is, what do you know that doesn't involve superpowers? New Krypton, like Krypton, has a red sun…"
Clark smiled as a joyful memory surfaced. "I know some martial arts… my wife made me take lessons…" he answered with a far away look in his eyes. He remembered that night as if it were yesterday… Intergang had gained possession of kryptonite and tried to kill him… again. He had been lucky that Jimmy had been snooping around, discovered where they had been holding him, and disposed of the kryptonite…
When he got home, Lois had rushed over and hugged him tightly… babbling about how worried she'd been. She elicited a promise from him that night to accompany her to her Tae Kwon Do classes and learn how to defend himself… just in case. Lois had buried her head in his chest and murmured something about how she didn't wish their baby to grow up without a father…
"Lord Kal-El… Lord Kal-El!" Ching's insistent voice interrupted his happy memory of the evening that Lois accidentally let slip the news of her pregnancy with Kiley…
"Yes?" he answered with a sigh.
"I'm sorry to interrupt your memories, m'lord, but today I must find out what you know and teach you more… I promised your wife that I would make sure to return you in one piece… and I have no wish to incur her wrath…" Ching said gently.
Clark nodded mutely and began to follow Ching's instructions.
Lois parked in front of the First Bank of Metropolis and went inside to fetch the globe. Carefully, she opened the safety deposit box and pulled out the locked metal box that lay inside it. She stuck the box in her briefcase, closed the safety deposit box, and left the bank. Lucy had offered to pick up Kiley from preschool, so she had time to find out what messages Lara had recorded upon the globe for her. Lois climbed into the jeep and left for home.
A few minutes later, she walked into the master bedroom, closed the door, and sat in the middle of the bed with the box in front of her. She held the key in her hand, looking at the box in front of her with a bit of trepidation. Decisively, Lois jammed the key in the lock and with a fluid motion, pushed the lid up.
Lois eyed the glowing globe for a moment… As much as she wanted the information recorded on it, she felt a jolt of nervousness about handling it when it was glowing… She drew in a deep breath and snatched the globe from the box.
The globe began to hum and levitate over her hand as a hologram issued forth from it. The image was that of Lara, Clark's biological mother. Lara's image seemed to look straight at Lois before she began to speak. "My darling daughter," the image began, "If you are viewing this message it means that my son has been called away and you have discovered the message on the ship that carried him to Earth. It also means that you are his Kreh'kle'vshta. This globe and the messages upon the ship have been encoded to respond to your touch… the bond between you and my son enables this device to recognize you."
"My daughter, there are some things that you must know about the Kreh'kle'vshta bond. Children from the union of two such bonded people are said to be special—their abilities and gifts tend to develop earlier. Your little ones will be extraordinary. I only wish I could meet you and possibly even my grandchildren." The image of Lara smiled sadly before continuing.
"No matter the distance, it is possible for you to speak to Kal. Kryptonians are telepathic. While Earth humans are generally not, the Kreh'kle'vshta bond will enhance any latent abilities that exist. Though the bond is rare, it is well known from our history that those without the gift may still speak mind-to-mind with a telepathic partner… My daughter, I will tell you how this may be accomplished… in this manner you may talk to my son…
"Clear your mind, Daughter. Clear your mind and focus on Kal. Keep that focus and look within yourself for the Kreh'kle'vshta bond—the link between you. Once you have found it, focus on it and concentrate on talking to him. Send your thoughts on this link and he will hear you.
"This connection will remain with you always… It is said that the Kreh'kle'vshta bond remains in place after death; it is simply recycled in the next life. You and my son are now connected forever… Remember my instructions so that the lines of communication remain open. Take care of my son…"
The image faded from view as the globe went dark. Lois stared at it for a moment before locking it back in the box and placing the box on the dresser. She settled herself on the bed again and began to attempt to follow Lara's instructions.
Clark lay face down upon the bed in his quarters. He was supposed to be resting, but all of his thoughts were turned inside… to his heart, to Lois, to their children. He was tired. Ching had ran him around the practice room all morning and finally sent him back to rest. He had stripped off his sweat-soaked tunic and collapsed upon the bed. Restlessly, he pulled at the waistband of the too-tight pants they had provided… his suits were much more comfortable than the clothes he now wore…
He rolled over and winced slightly as one of his muscles protested the movement. He had only experienced soreness like this after being attacked with Kryptonite… a day and a half without the effects of the yellow sun were already starting to make its results known. He still had a few of his powers, but if the soreness of his muscles after a morning's exertion were any indication, by the time he arrived on New Krypton they would have completely dissipated.
Clark closed his eyes and began to imagine Lois, as she would be at that moment. His imagination and memory took him back to a happier time. His mouth curved into a smile as, in his mind's eye, he watched her bend over her keyboard typing furiously to finish a story before deadline. He imagined Joseph eating lunch, smearing it all over his face. He watched Kiley playing on the preschool playground with the other kids…
With a happy sigh, he surrendered himself to his memories and began to relive the last night with Lois. The memory was bittersweet, but remembering that night hurt far less than the emptiness caused by her absence from his side. <<Clark?>> he heard. He sat up suddenly, not quite believing the voice that echoed through his head… his heart leaped, it sounded like… Lois. <But it couldn't be> the little voice in the back of his skull argued. <Lois is on Earth…> <<Clark?>> he heard again.
Clark ran his hand through his hair before answering. <<Lois?>> He sent incredulously. <<Honey, is that you? How are you doing this?>>
<< Clark, I miss you so much! I love you. It has something to do with the fact that we're soulmates…>> Lois sent with some effort. It really wasn't easy to talk to him like this.
<<I miss and love you, too.>> Clark started as he heard the chime that signaled someone knocking at his door. <<Lois, honey, I have to go. There's someone knocking at my door. I love you.>>
<<I love you, too, sweetheart.>>
Clark felt the telepathic link waver and break off. The feeling of Lois's presence by his side lessened. He sat up and sighed a little before answering the door. "Come in." He called.
Ching entered the room. "Milord," he began, "The Council wishes to speak with you." Ching rummaged in the wardrobe and pulled out a set of slightly more formal clothing than Kal-El had was wearing. Quickly, he laid them out on the bed. "You must hurry, milord. They will be waiting to have speech with you in an hour." Ching turned and walked toward the door. "I will be back for you in a few minutes." He walked out the door and headed back to the control room.
Clark sighed deeply and pushed himself off the bed. Talking to Lois had helped, but the last thing he wanted to do was speak to the men responsible for taking him away from his family. Slowly, he made his way to the sonic shower cubical to get rid of the traces of the exertions of the day. A few minutes later, he returned to his sleeping chamber to pull on the clothes that Ching had laid out for him.
He grimaced as he fastened the collar; it was far too tight for his liking… in fact the entire outfit was a bit snug… Clark walked over to the mirror and combed his hair. He was beginning to really dislike the ridiculous clothing they insisted that he wear. He tugged at the collar and wished that he were home in Lois's arms.
He walked over to the armchair that sat in the corner and picked up the hand-held computer that rested on the table beside it. Slowly, he began to read through the English translation of a Kryptonian law primer that Ching had provided. Ching would be back for him soon to take him to talk to the Council.
Kav-Nor paced back and forth in the front room of his mansion, deep in thought. He had to gain control… as he stood in thought Kal-El sped towards New Krypton. There had to be a way to stop Kal-El from taking the throne. He scowled as he contemplated the thought of his most hated enemy having power over him.
"Father!" he heard a small voice call. Kav-Nor turned around and scooped up his seven-year old son, Tak-Nor. He held his child close for a moment before a smile crept over his face. He settled the child on his hip and beamed down at him.
"Tak, you've just made me very happy… How would you like to get a new… playmate?"
Tak looked trustingly up at his father through big blue eyes. "I'd like that, Father." He said quietly. It was always best to agree with Father… he tended to hit Mama when she disagreed with him.
Nor smiled evilly; he had to contact the Council immediately.
Perry smiled to himself as he held Joseph securely in his arms and began to walk towards the front doors of the Daily Planet. The daycare facility employees had been surprised to see him; he rarely picked up one of the Kent children… especially not in the middle of the day. He hugged Joseph gently as he began to walk to a nearby park.
"Gan'pa Pewy?" A little voice interrupted his thoughts. "Where we goin'?"
"Well, scout," Perry began, "I thought we'd go to the park and feed the pigeons."
"Jo'eph like birdies." Joseph buried his face in Perry's shoulder for a moment before turning to look at Perry. "When Daddy come home?" Joseph asked.
"He'll be home soon, scout." Perry said as he lifted his hand to stroke the child's hair.
Joseph's thumb found its way to his mouth as his other arm crept around Perry's neck. "I miss Daddy," he said around his thumb.
"I know you do, kiddo," Perry said as Joseph sat up a bit straighter and began to look around. It wasn't long before they reached the park. Carefully, Perry set the child down and sat upon a nearby bench to watch. It was rare that he found time to spend with little Joseph like this, but he always enjoyed watching the child try and catch the pigeons. He smiled as he watched Joseph walk quietly up behind the bird and try to capture it.
"C'mere, Joseph," he called. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a sandwich baggie full of crumbs. "I've got food for the pigeons."
Joseph grinned winningly, came over, and thrust his hand into the bag that Perry held open for him. "Tank you, Gan'pa Pewy," he said happily.
Perry leaned forward. "Scout, what are you gonna do if you catch one of the pigeons?" he asked.
Joseph looked at him blankly and ran off to stalk the pigeons once more. It was obvious that Joseph didn't know what he'd do with a bird if he caught one… Perry supposed that the fun was in the chase; just as his fun was in attempting to catch Joseph. He didn't know what he'd do if he actually caught him; but he had to try…
He had missed out on so much with his own children and now his grandchildren that he wanted to catch every moment he could with the grandchildren that Lois and Clark had provided him with. He hoped long after he was gone that Kiley, Joseph and any other little ones that his heart- children produced would fondly remember times spent with himself and Alice. He'd have to remember to convince Lois to allow the kids to come over and play soon; Alice missed them terribly after a few weeks separation.
Perry sat in the warm sunshine for a while longer, giving Joseph more breadcrumbs when the toddler ran out. After a few more minutes, he looked at his watch and called to Joseph. "C'mon, scout! Time to go!" Joseph glanced back at him as a mischievous smile spread over his face. Giggling, he ran in the opposite direction. Perry chuckled and gave chase. Joseph stopped every once and a while and turned to make sure Perry was still on his trail.
"Gan'pa Pewy come get Jo'eph!" he called.
Perry caught up and swung Joseph into the air as the little boy squealed in delight. He pulled up Joseph's shirt, blew on his tummy, and grinned at the laughter coming from the little boy. His grandson would be okay… He knew that Joseph missed Clark, but during the child's short life, Clark had gone away for short periods of time before… In Joseph's mind, it was just like the newswriters convention in Washington that he had sent Clark to the month before.
"Scout, it's time to go back to play with your sister," Perry said gently as he headed in the direction of the Planet.
"Jo'eph want down," he demanded, "Jo'eph walk."
Perry chuckled and put Joseph down. Joseph flashed a 100- megawatt smile at Perry and walked alongside him, attempting to stretch his little legs into Perry's longer steps. Suddenly, Joseph stopped and threw his arms around Perry's leg. "I love you," he said with another smile. He let go as they approached the street.
"Joseph," Perry began holding out his hand, "Hold my hand while we cross the street."
"NO!" Joseph said, stomping his foot. "Jo'eph hold *own* hand." Joseph slipped his right hand into his left and started across the street. Perry rushed over to the child and snatched him away just as a car zipped over the place that the child had been standing just moments before.
"Joseph Samuel Kent! Don't you *ever* scare me like that again!" Perry hugged the child close. "You can hold your own hand, all right, but we're crossing the street together." Perry carefully crossed the street and made his way back to the Daily Planet, thankful that he had managed to catch his grandson in time for disaster to be averted. He'd have to tell Lois of this recent development… Just in case Joseph decided to try and cross the street by himself again… It seemed as if Lois wasn't the only one who had a tendency to jump in without checking the water level first.
Clark stood between Ching and Zara in front of the view screen. Warily, he watched the men who sat upon the Council Seat. The only person he completely trusted in this crazy place was Ching; the rest of them were at fault for his departure from home. It wasn't usually in his nature to be suspicious of people he hadn't met, but somehow his suspicion seemed warranted if he were to make it home alive.
"Kal-El, my name is Xek-Lo," a white haired man began in perfect English. "Thank you for coming to help us in our time of desperate need. Lord Kav-Nor is marshaling forces even as we speak. With you coming, he will have to stand down for the present… Law and tradition govern war, like everything else in our society…"
Xek-Lo's gaze softened as he looked upon Clark. "We are grateful that you survived to return to us as the leader you were born to be. When you arrive home, Kal-El, the remaining members of your extended family wish to meet you, our lost child."
Clark faced the Council and carefully assessed its members. "Sirs," he began, wishing to make his position clear from the beginning. "I will assist you in your quest for a peaceful New Krypton… But I have a life on Earth that I must return to. I knew nothing of any of this until Lady Zara and Lt. Ching approached me. My wife and my children await my return to Earth, and I have promised to return."
"Kal-El, we eagerly await your arrival… and we understand your position… Hurry to us to prevent Kav-Nor from tearing our world apart." Xek-Lo said.
With that the transmission cut off, leaving the trio in silence. "Why and how did he learn to speak English?" Clark asked finally.
"Xek-Lo is the only member of the Council that does; it's why he was the one to speak…" Zara began. "He is something of a linguist and studied your language once it was found out where you had been sent… We're not even sure where he managed to learn it, or even why he did, but we think it was just in case we ever found you… Don't worry about learning Kryptonian; your Aunt has the gift of Memory… she can give you the language when we arrive."
Clark nodded slowly to show he understood. The world and culture he came from seemed stranger the more he got to know about them…
Lord Nor stood in front of the door to the Council chamber, awaiting admittance. He had come to make his proposal today… Victory would be so much sweeter if it was given to him by the rule of law. He could always dispense with the Council once he had consolidated his power. Power and how it was used were the most important things.
Pain and Power. These things drove him to great lengths. Pain and darkness in particular fascinated him. People were his pawns. Their only purpose was to serve and amuse him. He found their pain particularly amusing…
He had never understood the wording behind the traditional covenant. To him, endless all-encompassing darkness was nothing to be afraid of. He loved the feel of being surrounded by it; he loved feeling its arms wrapped around him. Soon he would introduce the entire world to his joy. They would embrace it and help him initiate the rest of the universe into his darkness.
"Kal-El," Zara began quietly, "Come, I will show you the way back to your quarters… I am sure that you must have questions about your family on New Krypton." Zara headed to the door with Clark trailing behind.
She glanced over at her silent companion, mentally cataloging what she had to tell him. "Kal-El… Clark, you have some family left on New Krypton… Your mother's sister… Kyrin-Wys. She has a daughter named Kirim and a son named Grsek… and your Uncle, Ganul-Wys, is on the Council. Is there anything else you want to know about your family?" Zara looked at him expectantly. At the mention of the word 'family' she saw pain flash in Kal-El's eyes.
"No," he answered hoarsely. "My family is back on Earth… where I belong."
Zara looked at him worriedly. They needed him on New Krypton… and with the chip still in his arm Nor would be able to find both him and his wife and children. Silently, she led him to his quarters. "Here are your quarters, Kal- El… If you want or need anything, just call… "
Clark looked at her sharply. He still didn't quite trust her, but somehow he sensed that she was telling the truth. "Thank you," he said quietly before he turned and entered his quarters. He loosened the collar of the tunic and dropped down on to the bed. He missed her. He wanted Lois beside him…
Zara leaned against the wall and dropped her shields. With the way he was broadcasting his feelings, she needed to see if she couldn't manage to throw some shields around his emotions… Nor had strong empaths in his employ that could use Kal-El's emotional state against him… She carefully 'looked' into the room behind her and was sucked into the maelstrom that occupied his heart.
Zara slumped against the wall, shocked at what she found… Kal-El's emotions raged through her consciousness. His loneliness, pain, and grief over his absence assailed her… But at the center was great love for his wife, children and parents on Earth. Quickly, she threw up a shield around him, linking it to draw power from his own gifts.
Zara knocked hesitantly on Kal-El's door, and was startled when he answered almost immediately. "For what it is worth, Kal-El, I am sorry we had to drag you into this mess."
Zara turned and walked away quickly, leaving a bewildered Kal-El standing in the doorway and vowed to talk to Ching about teaching Kal-El to shield the empathic gift that he had to possess in order to draw her in…
Perry dropped Joseph off in the daycare center and went upstairs to his office. He sank down in one of his office chairs and dropped his head into his hands. If he had been one second later, Joseph would be seriously injured at best and maybe even dead. He knew exactly how lucky he had been. He didn't want to add to her pain … but Lois had to be told. He sighed deeply before heading over to the door.
"Lois, I need to see you in my office," he called.
"Coming, Perry," Lois called. She pushed away from her desk and walked over to his office. She had come straight back to the Planet in a happier mood after talking to Clark.
Perry shut the door behind her and motioned for her to take a seat. "Lois, honey… I thought you should know what happened today when I took Joseph out…" He cleared his throat and looked down at the floor uncomfortably. "On our way back from the park … he said he could hold his own hand; he wouldn't let me… and he ran out into the street… If I had been any slower…" Perry trailed off.
Lois closed her eyes for a moment, attempting to clear the images of her baby boy being hurt out of her head. She took a deep breath… "Is he okay, Perry?" she asked urgently.
"He's fine, Lois." Perry answered. "I just can't shake the thought of what might have happened."
Lois stood up and laid her hand on his arm. "But it didn't, Perry. Joseph is safe and so are you. Don't torture yourself with might-have-beens." She looked at him pleadingly before continuing. "Perry, I've been thinking… could I still work as an assistant editor from Smallville? Not right away, but I'd like to be there for the baby's birth. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, but since I have to fly commercial with Clark gone… I mean, with faxes and email, it would be just as easy to edit articles there as here… And I wouldn't have to worry about Joseph or Kiley wandering out into the street when I start blowing up like a balloon again…" she finished.
Perry looked at Lois consideringly for a moment before replying. "I don't see why not," he said finally. "So, when are you thinking of leaving us?"
Lois looked down at her hands. She knew that airlines didn't like to let women on the planes after their sixth month, so it would have to be soon; she was almost five months pregnant as it was and liable to pop out any day now. "Two weeks?" She said with a question evident in her voice.
Perry nodded, stepped forward, and pulled her up into an embrace. "All right, darlin', two weeks… Have you told your parents that Clark isn't here yet?" "No… I haven't," Lois said uncomfortably. "I mean, they're back together, but my mother is still likely to overreact…"
"Darlin'," Perry began, "you have to tell them, sooner or later they're going to come to visit…"
"I know, Perry, I know." Lois began. "Tonight. I promise," she said with a sigh.
Zara stared out the window and sighed. She had been sitting in the same place for the better part of an hour, trying to figure out what she should do about Kal-El. His emotions had surprised her… while she had known that he missed his wife and their family, she hadn't realized the depth of feeling that lay behind it.
For the most part, members of the noble class among her people simply weren't like that. Marriages were arranged at birth with little thought of love involved. In her case, her guardians had even encouraged her infatuation by telling stories of Kal-El that probably had very little basis in reality.
One thing she knew for sure, she and her people had no right to put him through more pain than he was already in. Zara vowed to do her best to see that his time on New Krypton was at least relatively happy… and that he would be able to go home as quickly as possible.
Lois sat on the sofa and stared at the telephone with dread. Ellen had mellowed over the years, but she was still afraid that her mother would deliver a lecture on how men couldn't be trusted. She picked up the telephone with trepidation and began to dial.
"Hello, Mother?" Lois began. "I… There's something I need to talk to you and Daddy about… Perry sent Clark away on an undercover assignment… No, we don't know how long… *Mother* he has *not* deserted me and he is *not* cheating on me. Clark would *never* do that! The kids and I are going to go to Smallville for the baby's birth… It may take Clark that long to crack this story wide open… No Mother, I am *not* trying to run away from you. Tell Daddy I said hello. I have to go now. Bye." She hung up the phone in relief. Now that her parents had been informed, it was time for communication of a different kind…
Lois walked into Kiley's room, dropped a soft kiss on the child's head, and pulled the blankets back up from where the little girl had kicked them. She stood there for a moment and watched her daughter sleep with her bear under one arm and her rag doll under the other. She turned and walked out of the room, carefully shutting the door behind her before entering Joseph's room to check on him.
She walked over, knelt beside his bed, and smoothed his hair back from his face before kissing him on the cheek. He looked so sweet and peaceful when sleeping that it was sometimes hard to remember what a holy terror he often was when awake. Gently, she tugged his thumb out of his mouth and covered his arm up with the blanket. Lois rose and quietly tiptoed out of the room and across the hall into the master bedroom, shutting the door behind her.
Lois settled herself comfortably in the middle of their bed and leaned back against the pillows. <<Clark?>> She sent with a grunt of effort and waited for an answer. She hoped that this would work a second time; as long as he answered her, she knew he was safe.
<<Lois!>> his voice echoed in her head clear as a bell. <<I don't know what you said to Ching, but he seems determined to make sure I can defend myself half-asleep with one arm tied behind my back>>
Lois sent laughter back to him… talking like this was easier the second time around. <<Sweetheart, at least we know that he's taking his promise to keep you safe seriously… >>
Clark answered. <<So what have you been doing, Lois? I wish I were there…>> he sent wistfully.
<<Clark, I talked to Perry… We'll be in Smallville in two weeks. Hurry home, sweetheart. I miss you.>>
<<I miss you too, honey. Love you… I have to go… kiss Kiley and Joseph for me.>>
<<I will. Love you too.>> With those last words, Lois cuddled down under the covers and drifted off to sleep. She spent that night and many nights to come happily dreaming of being with her Clark and sleeping in his arms…
"Lords of the Council. I, Lord Kav-Nor, stand ready to attack the capitol city, Ka'tra'anl. I will stand down my forces and send them home if a compromise is reached as to the true leader of New Krypton. We as a people know nothing of Kal-El or the world he was raised on. He is as alien to us as we are to him."
"Only one raised in our culture might possibly understand it. Therefore, I come before the Honorable Council today with a proposition. Let there be an alliance between the House of El and the House of Nor. My sources say that Kal- El has a four-cycle old daughter… the same age as my son."
"Such unions are not unknown in our illustrious history… I… rather Lady Zara and I will rule as regents for them until they are of age, and Kal-El may return to his life on Earth, leaving his daughter here to rule. By ancient law, Zara is her legal mother, so she would have as much protection as any other noble child would on our world… Zara may act as an advisor to the children until they come of legal age."
"Milords, please consider this proposal… for continuing peace on New Krypton." Nor bowed to the Council and left the council chamber. He had one of the Lords in his pocket. Soon his new plan would be set into motion. After all, children died so easily… Kal-El, his son, and his concubine could be taken care of afterward to further eliminate any claims on his seat of power. The concubine could be pregnant after all… Lady Zara would be easily disposed of after the children were out of the way… Becoming First Lord shouldn't be that hard once the Council agreed to his plan…
As soon as Lord Nor cleared the Council Chamber, the discussion commenced. The head of the Council, Lord Sarn- Ra, spoke first. "Nor's proposal makes a kind of elegant sense, but we must not forget who we are dealing with. Kav- Nor is, to be frank, insane. He should have been placed in the care of the mind-healers years ago."
"Such illnesses of the mind are said to be inherited… can we really afford to take the chance that his son will be as dangerously unbalanced? If we consent to this union, it is very possible that in twenty years we might be dealing with a lunatic for a First Lord." Sarn-Ra looked around for a moment. "Lord Fryn-Trey, you may speak next."
"I agree with Sarn-Ra that the idea has merit, but we are forgetting a few things. The child is half Terran… While we are almost genetically identical, Terrans are much more fragile than we are. Their planet not only has a yellow sun, but lighter gravity. My studies have shown that the Kryptonian genes are 99.9% likely to become the dominant ones, but there is a slight possibility that the child would not survive the radiation from our red sun or the effects of our heavier gravity." Trey looked at the rest of the Counselors seriously.
"I also oppose taking the child away from her biological mother and the only home she has ever known. We have already taken her father away from her… must she lose one parent or the other? From Lt. Ching's observations, Kal-El is not likely to leave his daughter here with us either. As long as she remains, so will he." Trey finished.
"So noted," Sarn-Ra said. "Lord Ganul-Wys you are recognized."
"According to our laws, both parents must consent to such an alliance," he began. "Neither Lord Kal-El nor Lady Zara have consented to this. From the reports, it is highly unlikely that my nephew would consent to marrying his daughter to Nor's son. Zara also is unlikely to do so… to grant Nor access to the child is tantamount to signing her death warrant. Nor has already kidnapped Kal-El's children once. By all rights, we should have left bodyguards on Earth with them. After all, they are of the royal household and should be under our protection." Ganul-Wys fiddled with the edge of his robe… He should have sent bodyguards with Zara and Ching to leave with his nephew's family. He hoped that he could still remedy the situation.
"The alliance is a good idea, but placing Nor at the head of our government as regent is not. The binding ceremony between Zara and Kal-El has not yet been solemnized. To agree to any of this now would be extremely premature. I move that we table the proposal and send bodyguards to Kal- El's family to protect them lest Nor make any more attempts on their lives."
"An excellent proposal," Sarn-Ra began, "Lord Jen-Mai, I believe you have something to say?"
Jen-Mai stood and faced his fellow Lords. He could not let them dismiss Lord Nor's request. After all, Nor… knew certain things about him that could get him exiled at the very least if they were to see the light of day. The money Nor gave him for supporting him in open council didn't hurt either. "Milords, all the points made have been excellent ones… But what better way is there to protect Lord Kal- El's firstborn child than to have her with us?
"The new quantum singularity drive has been shown to be faster and more effective than the old hyperlight drives and should be able to reach Earth in two weeks. She would arrive here soon after her father and be under our protection. We can also leave bodyguards with Kal-El's family to insure that Nor cannot attack them again." Jen- Mai sat down quickly.
"Does anyone else have anything they wish to say?" Sarn-Ra asked, looking around the chamber. "Since it seems no one has anything else to say, we will put it to a vote. All in favor of tabling the alliance for the time being please show by the uplifted hand." He looked around the room and noticed that all of the counselors had their hands raised… still, procedure must be followed…
"Any opposed by the same sign." Not a single hand was raised. "All in favor of bringing Lord Kal-El's daughter to New Krypton for her own protection and leaving bodyguards with his family, please show by the uplifted hand." All hands in the Council chamber raised… except one. "Any opposed by the same sign." Tentatively, Lord Fryn-Trey raised his hand.
"Yes, Lord Trey?" Sarn-Ra asked.
"Lords of the Council. I must once again voice my objection to taking the child from her biological mother's care. She is only four cycles old… such an experience would be frightening for her and potentially damaging. Surely her best interests must be considered."
"Duly noted…" Sarn-Ra thought for a few moments. Blood was always a bond he could not overlook… and Kal-El did have relatives on New Krypton… "We will send one of her cousins along to care for her and give all members of the party the language. The mother will know where her child is, and we will provide everything possible for the care and well being of Lord Kal-El's daughter. Lord Kal-El and Lady Zara will also be notified. Is this sufficient, Lord Trey?"
Reluctantly, Trey nodded.
"So let it be done. Outfit the quantum singularity drive prototype ship immediately for the care of Kal-El's firstborn. I will hand pick the bodyguards that will protect Kal-El's family. The ship will leave by the end of the week."
Nor snarled at the missive from Lord Jen-Mai. The Council had refused to make a decision… and they were decidedly against having him as regent in any case. <At least they decided to send for Kal-El's firstborn.> he thought. He supposed that half a loaf was better than none; Jen-Mai's clearance was not high enough to discover where Kal-El had lived on Earth… His family was inaccessible as long as he knew not where they were.
Even then, it would take far too long to fetch any of them to use to convince the Council into taking his course of action. They had played into his hands by sending for Kal- El's daughter… The ship had already departed… Darkness would be forthcoming.
Clark stood at the window, contemplating the starfield as it moved past him. More than anything, he wished he were home with Lois. He had been en route to New Krypton for three weeks and his prolonged absence from her had created a hole inside of him… a hole that could only be filled by Lois and their children. Without his soulmate, he felt like a shadow of his former self. He mentally prodded his memories of their life together. Remembering both the good times and the bad hurt, but the pain of remembering was infinitely better than the aching sense of loss that walked with him night and day. He missed Lois horribly. His wife. His beloved. His lover. His best friend. The mother of his children. His soulmate. Without her, he would never be whole again. Just being able to talk to her had brought a measure of healing, but he knew that until he could again hold her in his arms, it would never be complete.
Ching walked quietly up behind Kal-El. He had expected to feel pain coming from his Lord because of the separation from his family, but the gaping wounds he sensed went far beyond what should be. He had to find out what the cause of these open sores were… now was not the time to quibble about ethics; it was time for action. Carefully, Ching entered Kal-El's mind, searching for how to ease the emotional distress. His eyes widened in shock as he discovered… <It can't be…> he thought. <The Bond is rare enough among our own people…> It was true however. Lord Kal-El was one of the chosen who had found his Kreh'kle'vshta… And they had separated them.
Zara and the Council had to be informed. To meddle with the bond was said to bring death and destruction upon the entire society… Zara must be made to see sense; Kal-El literally belonged to someone else just as if his wife had tattooed her name and 'hands off' all over him. Silently, he broke contact, turned around, and went to see Zara.
"Zara?" Ching called as he stepped into her quarters.
Zara put the brush she was holding down and turned to face him. "Yes, Ching?"
"Zara, something has come to my attention… something you must know of."
"What is it, Ching?" she asked quietly. From the expression on his face, she knew that it was serious… and could mean trouble.
Ching sighed before he continued. "It would be easier to show you…" He stepped forward and lightly touched the back of her hands, allowing her to see his memory of what he had just discovered.
Zara nodded slowly and withdrew her hands from his. She was surprised to discover that she… missed the contact. "I see… And I was going to…" she closed her eyes in shock. "By the One Who Holds Us All! I didn't know… I didn't realize…" Zara looked at Ching again. "I must beg his forgiveness… if he will still help us, our 'marriage' will be in name only; I will even insist on separate rooms…" As Zara began to turn away, her mind inadvertently made more contact with Ching's than she meant to. She closed her eyes again and took a deep breath as she accidentally discovered his… She turned to him quickly, surprise flashing in her eyes. "You… *love* me?" She asked incredulously.
Ching hung his head before her, refusing to look her in the eye, his posture one of defeat. Convinced that she could never care for him, he had hidden his feelings for a very long time… Now that they had finally been revealed he was very much afraid. He glanced at Zara quickly and noticed not disgust as he had feared, but an air of quiet contemplation had settled over her.
Long ago, after their first meeting, Zara had recognized something within herself that could quickly turn to love. Ruthlessly, she had suppressed it, knowing that she could not choose Ching—her choice had been made for her long ago. She had nurtured her crush for Kal-El, knowing that he was safe to love for he belonged to her and she to him. Since meeting him, she had begun to recognize her crush for what it was but at the same time had tried desperately to hold on to it. She knew true love when she saw it… and she saw it in Kal-El's eyes for his wife. He and Lois obviously loved each other; she would do her best to re- unite them.
Slowly, Zara held out her hand to Ching. "I never knew," she began quietly as he took her hand. "I never thought you cared at all… I knew my crush on Kal-El for what it was… But you of all people know what my life is like— cajoling Councilmen into doing what is best for New Krypton. I never dare to show emotion for fear of being labeled as an 'emotional' woman… never can let anyone too close for fear of them either trying to use me or being used against me… My crush on Kal-El was different… showing emotion about the person you're married to is safe… especially since he wasn't around."
"I know, Zara," Ching said softly. Hesitantly he slid his hand into hers, lacing their fingers together. "I think… perhaps… we should go talk to Kal-El?" Zara answered with a sharp nod and they headed towards the observation room where Kal-El had been seen last.
Clark wandered over to a soft chair and sat down. It was hard to believe that in a few short days, they would be on another planet… Zara had mentioned something about getting the chip immediately removed from his arm upon their arrival and having the doctor give him inoculations for Kryptonian diseases. After all, he didn't have the proper antibodies and if he caught what might be, to them, a minor illness, there was the possibility that he might become seriously ill.
He didn't like the thought of getting sick; the only time he had ever gotten sick before he'd almost died. He supposed it would be a really good thing if he could obtain some medical information… after all, if one of the children ever got sick their Kryptonian heritage might cause problems… Clark pulled the locket out from underneath his shirt and opened it. He ran his finger gently over the picture, as if he could really touch them through the paper of the photograph. He was so wrapped up in his memories that he didn't hear Zara and Ching approach.
"Kal-El?" Zara's voice interrupted his thoughts.
"Yes?" he answered, closing the locket and tucking it away again.
"Clark," Zara began firmly, playing with a strand of her waist-length hair as Ching stood behind her and offered his moral support. "I need to apologize… I know I already told you that I'm sorry we had to involve you in this… But I just wanted you to know that I had thought to convince you to stay with us—I am sorry for that. After the Ceremony of Union, which makes it legal for us to…" Zara colored prettily, "…consummate the marriage, I will insist on separate rooms."
Zara regarded hum seriously, "If you had told us from the beginning that you and Lois are Kreh'kle'vshta… in your language it would be 'soulmates', this would have been a little more clear from the beginning… I swear by the One That Holds Us All that I will make sure that you make it home to your wife…" Zara trailed off.
"Thank you," Clark said softly, his eyes bright with unshed tears. "You can't know what this means to me…"
Ching leaned over and grasped Clark's hand. "Yes," he began quietly, "I think I do."
Lois sat in the living room, watching Kiley and Joseph play. She smiled as Joseph scooted his cars around the floor, making "vroom, vroom" sounds. It felt strange to be in Smallville without Clark… She still missed him horribly, but being able to 'talk' to him on an almost daily basis helped immensely. Lucy had been surprised when she was informed of their planned trip to Smallville, but she was happy to be able to spend time with Jimmy once more. With a weary sigh, she settled back in her chair and laid her hand on her distended abdomen. She smiled as she felt their baby kick.
What she wouldn't give to have Clark beside her so that he could feel their child move! They had yet to discuss names, but it was still months until her due date, so they didn't have to worry yet. She half-closed her eyes and imagined Clark beside her, his strong arms encircling her in a loving embrace. It was the little things she missed the most, his soft breathing beside her at night in the darkness, his arms holding her close as they slept, the way he teased her when she needed it. Every day and every night, the prayer was the same—'Please, God bring him home to us quickly.'
"Mommy?" a little voice interrupted her musings.
Lois looked up to see her daughter holding a tiny teacup and saucer. "Yes, punkin'?"
Kiley held out the dishes, "Clarkie-bear, Annie, and me are having a tea party. Would you like some, too?"
Lois smiled and accepted the cup and saucer. "Sure, sweetie… I'd like that."
Kiley walked over to a small table where her 'tea things' sat. After putting cups and saucers in front of Clarkie- bear and Annie, she carefully picked up the teapot, walked over to her mother, and poured a light brown liquid into Lois's cup. "It's choklat tea, Mommy," Kiley said with a big grin.
"Thank you, punkin'," Lois raised the small cup to her lips and took a sip. It tasted like… chocolate milk. "Chocolate milk, sweetie?"
"No, Mommy. It's choklat *tea*." Kiley insisted.
Lois laughed, set the tiny cup and saucer down, and pulled Kiley into an embrace. "Chocolate tea, then," she agreed. "Thank you for the chocolate tea, Kiley."
Kiley wiggled out of her mother's arms to go put plastic cookies in front of her bear and her doll. "You're welcome, Mommy… Want some more?"
Just as Lois was about to answer, the doorbell rang. "Jut a minute, punkin'," she said as she levered herself out of the chair and headed towards the door. She opened the door, expecting to see the Irigs; they had been planning on visiting that day. She was shocked to see the slender form of a woman dressed in what she considered outlandish clothing… who was the exact image of Lara in the hologram. Quickly, she shut the door and turned to her children. "Kiley, take Joseph and go find your grandma and grandpa… they should be in the barn. *Now*."
Kiley took one look at her mother's face, and grabbed Joseph's hand. "C'mon, Joseph. Let's go find Grandpa."
Joseph wrinkled up his face. "No! Play cars."
Kiley grabbed the cars and stuffed them in her pocket. "We'll play cars with Grandpa. C'mon."
Joseph pouted for a moment before following his big sister through the house and out the back door. Lois watched them leave before taking a deep breath and opening the door. "May I help you?" She asked, struggling to keep her voice steady.
"Lois Lane-Kent?" the woman asked in a slightly accented voice.
"Lois Lane," she asserted quietly. "I don't use my husband's name much."
The woman inclined her head in response. "I am Kirim- Wys… your husband's cousin. The Council sent me to warn you… and offer you some protection from Lord Nor. May I come in to explain?"
Lois opened the door a little wider and ushered her inside. She really didn't know what to think. Why had they come back? They had already taken her husband from her… what more did they want? Lois collapsed into the chair she had vacated earlier, gesturing to Kirim-Wys to take a seat opposite her on the couch.
"The situation with Lord Nor has deteriorated," Kirim-Wys began. "A few weeks ago, he approached the Council with a proposal… he asked for an alliance between the House of El and the House of Nor." She paused for a moment and glanced at Lois, trying to figure out what her cousin's wife was thinking… "He has a son near enough in age to your daughter. His proposal is to marry them and put himself on the throne as regent. The Council has yet to make a full decision concerning that, but they are in agreement about one thing; Nor must not ever gain the seat of power."
"Lois, my father is sure that there is a leak in the Council. It may only be a matter of time before Nor's informant tells him where to find you and your children. We found you by the simple expedient of accessing the records of where your husband landed… especially since you were not present at the last location Lady Zara and Lieutenant Ching sent us a message from. If Nor's informant lets him see the records, he will find you, the children will be taken, and you and Kal-El's adoptive parents will be killed. The council sent me with the bodyguards your family is entitled to under ancient law as part of the House of El. They also sent me to bring the Heir, your firstborn, to New Krypton… to Kal-El. They believe that as the current Heir, she is in grave danger and will be safer with her father, surrounded by the Elite Guard until this matter with Lord Nor is resolved."
"Let me get this straight," Lois began, fire igniting in her eyes. "In the six weeks we've known about you, you've ripped my husband away from us, taken him to another planet where his safety and well-being is in question, and now you want to dump a covey of bodyguards on us and steal my daughter as well? Call your Council, however you do that and tell them that they can have my daughter over my dead and lifeless body. It's bad enough that you've taken my husband, you will *not* get my daughter as well!" She pushed herself up and pointed toward the door in an imperious manner. "Out. *Now*."
Kirim-Wys stood and quietly walked toward the door. "Milady," she began, "We only wish for your safety… I will be back." With that thought, she exited the house and walked off to disappear into the trees.
Martha and Jonathan came in a few minutes later, carrying Kiley and Joseph. "Lois, honey, what's the matter? Kiley said there was a strange woman here." Carefully, they put the children down and sat down on the couch. Kiley, sensing her mother's distress, came over and climbed into her lap. Lois hugged her tightly and kissed her on the forehead fiercely.
"Kiley, sweetheart, I need you and Joseph to go into your room and play in there for a while… I need to talk to Grandma and Grandpa."
Wordlessly, Kiley slid off Lois's lap and took Joseph by the hand. She knew something big was happening, but when her mom looked like that, it was best to obey without argument. She headed towards the stairs, pulling Joseph behind her. He resisted at first… until she offered to share the treat that Grandpa Kent had given her earlier that day.
Lois watched them start up the stairs before turning to Martha and Jonathan. "The woman's name is Kirim-Wys… she's Clark's cousin. She was sent to leave bodyguards in case Lord Nor comes hunting for us… and to take Kiley back with them because she's our eldest child." She drew in a shaky breath. "Damn them," she whispered hoarsely. "First Clark… now they want Kiley. Will it never end? Will they come back for Joseph and our baby next?"
Martha came over and put her arms around Lois, hugging her tightly. "We won't let that happen! They won't be allowed to take our grandchildren without a fight. How do we know that we can believe their intentions are good? Did she say why they wanted Kiley?"
Lois grimaced. "She says the Council wants to make sure that she's safe from Nor. They want to surround her with something she called the 'Elite Guard' to protect her. They think that Nor might be able to find us, take the children, and kill us. She said that they're leaving bodyguards to protect us just in case. They have yet to offer us any proof that they're on Clark's side."
"If they're telling the truth, and assuming we let them have her, are they going to send her to Clark?" Jonathan asked quietly.
"Yes," Lois answered slowly. "If she's telling the truth, and if we let her go."
"Are they convinced that she'll be safer there than she is here… does Clark know?" Martha asked.
"Yes… No…" Lois looked at her in-laws with anguish in her eyes. "I don't know…"
"Then I guess the question is, how do we keep them away from her…" Jonathan began. "Our safety is in our anonymity… and they'll take her when hell freezes over."
Lois's eyes filled with tears. She didn't want to send Kiley with these people… and with Martha and Jonathan on her side, she wouldn't have to. Nor would never get his hands on her little girl… none of the New Kryptonians would.
Clark pulled at the uncomfortable collar of the colorful, form-fitting tunic that Zara had insisted he wear. He wasn't looking forward to meeting the Council in person… or the Ceremony of Union that would make his 'marriage' to Zara legal in the eyes of New Kryptonian society. They were to arrive in Ka'tra'anl, the capital city, within the hour where he would almost immediately be confirmed as First Lord. He was thankful that Zara had come to him and apologized… She had assured him that she, as well as Ching, would do her best to see him safely back to Earth after Lord Nor was defeated.
Abruptly, he stood up and crossed the room, his boot heels clicking against the floor of the ship. Clark stopped near an observation window and stared out into the endless darkness of deep space. He closed his eyes and imagined Lois with him… she had always loved to fly among the stars cradled in his arms… Clark smiled-he could almost feel her arms slip around his neck and her small, lithe body press against his. He opened his eyes and glanced around the room; for a moment there, he had thought he smelled his wife's perfume.
Leaning against the wall, he tried to decide if he had finally lost his mind; it wasn't the first time that he had sensed Lois beside him, smelled her perfume, and even felt her arms slip around his waist and hold him tight. He sighed, sure it was a hallucination brought on by his longing to be at home with her and their children.
Some nights when he closed his eyes, he could see her and the evidence of her advancing pregnancy. He wondered if it really could be a sign that he was losing his mind… then again, it could be part of the fact that they were soulmates… Zara and Ching had implied that being Kreh'kle'vshta meant something special to Kryptonians, but hadn't said much about how it worked. Ching had promised that his Aunt would explain such things, hopefully, he wouldn't have to wait very long.
Kirim-Wys stood quietly as her crew put in a call to the Council. As the images of the twelve Lords shimmered into life on the screen, she stepped forward and bowed. "Lords of the Council," she began, "The Heir's biological mother has listened to our plea and, understandably, steadfastly refuses to allow her child to leave with us. I await your orders." Kirim bowed again and stepped back to wait for the transmission to go through.
"Lady Kirim," Sarn-Ra began, "are you sure that she will not permit the child come?"
"Yes sir… Her public thoughts as well as her words are definite on that. She already isn't too happy with the fact that we forced her husband to come to New Krypton… taking her child will most definitely not endear us to her." Kirim wisely decided not to say anything to the Council of Lois's pregnancy… after all, if there really were spies on the Council, it would put her cousin's wife in yet even more danger…
Sarn-Ra sighed heavily. Sometimes he hated this job. "Kirim, the Heir must be protected. Tonight, you must fetch her… Leave the message ball and the bodyguards; we know they will protect Kal-El's Terran family—the memories questioned them extensively. Report directly to me when you have left Earth with the child and come back to us at full speed. We will have the Naming ceremony for the child after you arrive. Take care of her for us, Kirim; we are counting on you."
Before she could reply, the transmission cut off. Kirim grimaced and began to make plans. She was thankful that she had convinced the Elders of the Council to include a two-way communicator in the message globe… That way, Lois could be assured of her daughter's safety. With a nod to the captain of the ship, Kirim hurried off the bridge and toward her quarters… she had a note to write.
Lois walked soundlessly into the children's room and carefully pulled the covers back up from where Joseph had kicked them. She leaned over and kissed her son tenderly before moving over to Kiley's bed. Gently, she tucked the blankets more securely around her daughter and pushed a curl off her forehead. She pulled a chair up beside the bed and sat down for a few minutes to watch her baby girl sleep.
Lois smiled as she watched her daughter. Kiley slept curled around her two favorite toys, Clarkie-bear was clutched tightly to her with one arm while Annie's dress was held tightly in the little girl's fist. The doll's dark brown hair was tangled wildly with Kiley's own. Lois kissed her daughter gently and wondered how anyone could contemplate taking her away… It was the same kind of wrong-headed thinking that caused Clark to break up with her 'for her own good' years before.
Lois tugged the covers up gently around Kiley and stood to make her way to the door. Days started early on the farm, and it was high time she joined the rest of the house in slumber. Lois changed into one of Clark's old football jerseys and slid underneath the blankets on Clark's old bed. His presence was still tangible in the room he grew up in. It had not changed much since the first time she had ever slept in it… remnants of his childhood still lay scattered all over the room. She hugged the pillow to her chest and let the good memories of this place wash over her.
Lois smiled as she remembered the times they had spent together on the farm, the lazy weekends away from work where Superman emergencies were unlikely to interrupt them. It was here that Martha and Clark had finally succeeded in teaching her how to cook… here that Kiley had been conceived… and here where the holidays had been spent together as a family even before the children came along. Lois cradled the memories close to her heart and as she fell asleep, she could have sworn that she felt Clark's arms around her.
Kirim walked into the transport with four bodyguards trailing behind her. The men were outfitted with a full kit and prepared to spend the next few months roughing it while they protected their Lord's family. If the conflict had not been resolved by then, replacements would be sent… They understood that their duties would include helping on the farm as needed as Kal-El's adopted father was getting on in years. Kirim checked the handwritten note and the message globe once more before tucking them into the pocket of her charcoal gray suit.
She hated to do this, but it was imperative that the Heir be kept safe on New Krypton while Nor was in position to gain power. They entered the transport and flew down to land in the farmyard. Silently, they exited the vessel and the men dispersed to secure the perimeter. They had devices with them to help monitor the property… if anything larger than a cat entered the Kent's land, they would know.
Kirim entered the house through an unlocked window and crept up the stairs, checking each sleeping chamber as silently as she could for the child. Finally, she found the children's room. She stared at the face of the little one who was the hope for New Krypton's future, barely registering the presence of the younger child in the next bed. She carefully untangled the Heir from the bedding and picked her up, making sure to bring along the toys that the little girl had clutched in her arms, leaving the message ball and the note on the little girl's pillow. She froze as Kiley stirred slightly and gently brushed a curl away from the child's face.
Kirim crept soundlessly out of the house through the same window and made her way back towards the transport, cradling the child close to her body. She entered the transport, laid the Heir down on a small couch before she opened her mind to give the men their final orders. She glanced over at the couch, noticing how the Heir had curled herself in a tighter ball around her playthings. <<Sev, Jau, Foler, and Vdi. Remember, it is your duty to protect Lord Kal-El's family. See that no harm befalls them or you will not just answer to the Council, you will answer to me personally. Assist them in any way they require; you are to obey their orders… Lady Kyrin gave you the language, so there should be no problems in communicating. But above all, don't let down your guard—Lord Nor has agents everywhere.>>
<<Yes, Milady>> came the response from all four of them.
Kirim nodded to the pilot, who immediately took off and flew back to the ship to make their way back to New Krypton. She picked up the little girl and carried her out of the transport. One of the officers offered to take her, but Kirim refused—she knew that the child was safe with her and she trusted few others with her charge's safety.
She walked quickly back to the child's quarters and laid her on the bed, covering her with warm blankets. She looked around the room, satisfied with the toys and other objects of childhood that lay scattered around the chamber. Tomorrow she would obtain clothes for her cousin and have her checked out by the ship's doctor—it would be necessary to have a locater chip implanted in her arm and she would need vaccinations against the diseases that she might come in contact with.
Kirim drew a soft chair up to the edge of the bed and arranged it into a reclining position… When the Heir awoke, she knew her presence would be required; the little one was sure to be scared when she awoke in a strange place far away from the people she loved.
Clark pulled at his collar nervously as they approached the landing site outside Ka'tra'anl on New Krypton. He clasped his hands behind his back and stood stiffly between Zara and Ching as the vidscreen began to come to life.
"Relax, Clark," Zara murmured, poking him with an elbow. "They'll give us an hour or so for you to meet your family here before the Ceremony of Union which will solemnize our alliance… Once it becomes known of your Kreh'kle'vshta bond with Lois, no one will expect us to consummate the union… It is said that to do so would bring destruction upon our race. They won't bite… hard." She looked at him with mischief dancing in her eyes and he couldn't help but smile a little.
"She's right," Ching whispered, "Your tek'l or… aunt gets to see you first. She has the gift of Memory, so she can give you the language… it will be like you grew up speaking Kryptonian…"
Clark took a deep breath and nodded as the image of the Speaker of the Council of Elders popped up on the vidscreen. "Welcome to Ka'tra'anl, Kal-El. My name is Sarn-Ra, I am the Speaker for the Council of Elders. We welcome you to your home, New Krypton. Your people joyfully await your presence. We will see you in the Palace in a few hours." Sarn-Ra bowed low and the image winked out.
"I'm not so sure about this," Clark muttered uneasily. "I'm just a reporter… How do you people expect me to lead an entire society?"
Ching grasped Clark's shoulder. "You're not just a reporter; you're also Superman… you've *been* helping to lead an entire world for nine years… And right now, all you have to worry about is meeting your tek'l—Lady Kyrin- Wys." Ching moved away from Clark, sat down at the control panel, and brought them in for a landing before standing and joining them.
The threesome made their way over to the correct wall and went through the exit. A small group stood waiting for them at the edge of the landing platform. An elderly woman stepped forward and walked gracefully over to where they stood. Clark gasped in recognition; the woman looked like an older version of the holograms of Lara from the globe.
The woman reached out and grasped Clark's hand. "My little lin'dra. How you have grown! " She began in heavily accented English. "The last time I saw you was at your Naming… somehow I expected you to still be the tiny baby my sister and her husband put in their ship… Come, Kal. We will find a quiet place so that I may give you your native tongue… and my personal physician must see you to deactivate the locater chip and give you some vaccinations…" She smiled at him softly, "We can also talk. My little love, I would very much like to hear of your life on Earth." Gently, she tugged him towards a hovercar while Zara, Ching, and the rest of the crowd tagged along. The car dropped them off at a large house and Kyrin led him into a small sitting room.
"Kal, I need your permission to do this… I want to give you our language… May I?" She twisted a long strand of hair around her fingers and looked at him quizzically.
"I guess so…" he said skeptically as he dropped into one of the chairs. "What do I need to do?"
Kyrin smiled and studied him for a moment. "Just relax," she said softly, "and drop your shields." She watched her nephew relax before walking over to him and carefully rested her forehead on his. She accessed her language memories and began to implant them in his head, building the language up from an instinctive level, just as it would be if he had grown up speaking it. He needed to know how to read and write in his native tongue as well, so she carefully added memories of written language with the memories of the spoken language.
With a happy sigh, she delicately broke contact and withdrew from his mind. "My little nephew," she murmured, "How I missed seeing you grow up… Zara told me that you have a family on Earth… I very much would like to meet the woman who stole your heart and the great-nieces and great-nephews that must be back there."
Clark started as he realized that not only was she speaking to him in a language that he'd never heard more than a few words of, but that he actually understood it. "Aunt Kyrin…" he began in perfect Kryptonian, "How am I doing this? I've never heard this language before…"
"It is the gift of Memory…" Kyrin began. "Those with the gift can impart memories… discern truth from falsehood… give language to others… and if they're not lucky or careful, fall into a state of never-ending Memory where they literally live only in their memories until they die…" Kyrin pressed a button next to her chair. "My physician should be here in a few minutes to remove the chip and check you out."
Kyrin regarded him with a slight smile. He looked as she had pictured him and almost as the hologram age progressions had predicted. Kal was her long-dead sister's only child… who must have children of his own by now. She had often wished that Jor and Lara had sent him to her rather than Earth, but Ching had said that her nephew was happy there. His happiness was what she had desperately hoped that he possessed for years. "Will you tell me about your family and your life on Earth?" she asked quietly.
Clark nodded and pulled the locket out from under his shirt. "Would you like to see what they look like?" he asked, opening the locket.
Wordlessly, she stood and came over to join him as he opened the locket. Kyrin smiled as the pictures came into view. "Is this your wife?" she asked, running a finger over Lois's picture. Kyrin looked at him suddenly. "She's pregnant isn't she?"
"Yes," he answered quietly as he caressed the tiny braided lock of her hair with one finger. "I didn't want to leave her… Her pregnancy with Joseph was difficult… she was sick and was confined to bed for most of it… even then, he came a month early and the doctors couldn't stop the labor. Come to think of it," he said thoughtfully, "Kiley was born a month early too."
Kyrin laid her hand on his arm. She wanted to hug her nephew and press a kiss to his forehead as she had when he was a baby, but despite her memories of him, he was a stranger and she was unsure how he would react. "And these are your children?" she asked, pointing to Kiley and Joseph in turn. "They're adorable!"
"That's Kiley, and that's Joseph." He said softly. "And these are my parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent."
"I want to hear all about them," she began, "But first, we need the doctor to see about the chip in your arm. Since we don't want you to get sick and you probably don't have immunity to our diseases, my physician also needs to give you the full complement of shots…" She tipped his head up so that his eyes met hers. "I know you miss them, Kal, but they will be all right… and it is very possible that you will be reunited with them soon," she said softly before she hurried off to answer the door chime.
Lois woke and stretched slowly. Her dreams the night before had been wonderful and filled with Clark. She smiled as she felt their baby kick. "It's okay, little one," she murmured, "Daddy will be home as soon as he can…" She swung her legs over the side of the bed and rose to dress. She pulled on one of Clark's flannel shirts and a pair of maternity jeans before heading to the kids' room to get them up and dressed.
Lois paused in the doorway, anticipating the peaceful sight of her little ones sleeping. She looked around the room, expecting to see both Kiley and Joseph curled up in their beds. Noticing that Kiley's bed was empty she hurried over to it, thinking that her daughter might have rolled out of bed in the night as she sometimes did.
<It can't be> she thought as her eyes lit on the pillow where a note and a globe exactly like the one from Clark's ship sat. <The globe is back in Metropolis in our safety deposit box!> Lois reached over and grabbed the note, hoping for some sort of explanation. Kiley had been learning how to write and loved leaving pictures lying around for her to find. It was remotely possible that Kiley was playing a game… despite the fact that the paper the note was written on was unlike any she'd ever seen before. Lois opened the note and began to read… at the first line, she fell to the ground in a dead faint from the shock of what it said…
Joseph opened his eyes and looked sleepily around the room. Something was wrong. Clutching Ted E. Bear close to him, he scooted out of bed and walked over to where his mother lay crumpled on the ground.
He leaned over and looked at her quizzically. "Mommy seepin'? Mommy sick?" he asked and waited for an answer. Upon receiving none, he laid his small hand on her cheek and began to pat it soothingly. "Mommy, *wake up*!" His lower lip began to tremble as he still received no answer.
"Mommy?" he said as he began to sob. "MOMMY!" he yelled, trying to obtain a response. Joseph tugged at her hand, frightened.
Martha hurried into the room, alerted that something was wrong by Joseph's cries. "What's the matter, sweetie?" she said before noticing Lois's crumpled form. "JONATHAN!" Martha yelled as she checked Lois's pulse and began to try and pull her up. Joseph abandoned his bear in favor of latching on to Martha's leg. He buried his face in her long skirt and held on for dear life.
Jonathan, after hearing Martha's cry, ran up the stairs and into the children's room. Upon seeing Martha attempting to move Lois, he ran over, shoved the globe out of the way where it promptly became lost in the bedclothes, and helped his wife lift her onto the bed. "Martha, what happened?" Jonathan asked.
"I don't know, Jonathan," Martha said as she reached down to disentangle Joseph's hands from her skirt and pick him up. "I'll stay here with Lois while you go downstairs to call Doc Robinson." Martha patted Joseph gently on his back as he hid his tearstained face in her chest. "Good thing he still makes house calls," she said softly.
Jonathan turned, walked to the door, and paused for a moment to look back. "Do you think she's okay?" he asked quietly. "I mean, with the baby coming…"
Martha looked at him with a touch of fear in her eyes. "I hope so, Jonathan… hurry!"
Jonathan hurried out the door and to the nearest phone. He hoped that Old Doc Robinson would hurry… He wanted to make sure that his daughter-in-law would be okay…
Kiley opened her eyes slowly. She sat straight up, noticing right away that she wasn't in her room with Joseph at her grandma and grandpa's farm. The room she was in was much fancier than her own… and someone was asleep in a reclining chair next to the bed. Kiley slid off the bed, taking Clarkie-bear and Annie with her. She didn't know where she was, but her experience of a few weeks ago had made her a bit wary. Carefully, she tiptoed around the still sleeping adult and started looking for a place to hide.
She spotted a wardrobe and struggled to open the heavy door. After much tugging, the door opened enough for her to slip inside and shut it behind her. Kiley burrowed behind the clothing and huddled in the corner. She was scared. Where was her family? She had gone to sleep in the familiar, loving atmosphere of her room at her grandparents' farm and woken up in a strange room with a strange person beside her.
Kiley's lower lip began to wobble as she contemplated her situation… Daddy was far away on New Krypton, so he couldn't come to help her. She buried her face in Clarkie- bear's fur and began to cry. <Daddy, Mommy> she thought longingly. She wanted her parents, her brother, and her grandparents. She wanted to be at home.
Kiley started as the door to the wardrobe swung open. She shrank back in the corner, hoping to avoid detection. She knew that the last person who kidnapped her had wanted to hurt her and Joseph… why should this person be any different?
Kirim winced slightly as she felt the waves of fear coming off Kal-El's daughter. She had heard of the kidnapping by one of Nor's creatures and she supposed that the child's fear was part of the after effects. She slowly held out her hand to the little girl. "Little one, you have no need to fear," she began, broadcasting soothing thoughts at the same time. "I'm Kirim, your father's cousin… your cousin, too. We're taking you to him."
Kiley looked at her suspiciously. "I don't believe you!" She shrank back in the corner, away from Kirim's outstretched hand. "*Daddy*!" she yelled, with voice, heart, and mind. "DADDY" she screamed again as tears fell faster down her face. Kiley curled up in a tight ball as far away from Kirim as she could. She looked up at Kirim. "Go away." She ordered through her sobs.
Kirim recoiled a bit from the child's mental screams. She made a low soothing sound deep in her throat as she reached into the wardrobe and pulled the sobbing child out. She carried the struggling child over to the couch and sat down, arranging the girl in her lap. "Shhh. Lin'dra, it's okay. You're a strong one, child. We'll have to see about teaching you how to control those gifts of yours."
Kirim drew the child closer to her, and began to murmur soothing, inarticulate nonsense in her ear. She stroked the crying child's cheek, knowing that the blood connection, the Lishra' kre'vatha, would help calm her. The blood connection was older than time immortal… For hundreds of years, it was speculated that it had something to do with their race being telepathic, but no one was sure. Blood literally called to blood… all it took was a connection of three generations, and they could feel it. Fathers to children, children to fathers, cousin to cousin. They were all bound by blood forever.
Clark leaned back in the chair as the physician, Hir-Qre, ran a device over his right arm. "Almost finished, Lord Kal-El," the doctor murmured. "This device is keyed to vibrate the molecules of the chip and disintegrate the biological components… the mechanical ones will be naturally flushed out by your body after the organics that keep it in place are gone…" he explained as he passed the device over Clark's arm a final time. "There we go," he said before he turned around to pull a few vials out of his bag.
"Now for those vaccinations…" Hir-Qre began to prep the needle carefully, gesturing for Clark to roll up his sleeve. He carefully inserted the needle into the top of the packaging for the vaccine and withdrew the correct amount. Just as he prepared to inject the vaccine, Clark suddenly sat straight up.
With a far-away look in his eyes he gestured the doctor away. "Something's wrong with Kiley," he said worriedly. "I can hear her screaming!"
"But Kiley's on Earth… or she should be," Kyrin said quietly. "How can you hear her from here?"
Clark shook his head. "It's in my head… she's screaming my name." Clark reached out his hand and grasped hers. "Let me show you," he said, before connecting her to what he heard.
<<Daddy!>> she heard, <<DADDY!!>>. It was the heartbreaking sound of a terrified child. "Lin'dra, if you can hear her, she can hear you… We'll find out what's going on; I promise. It's probably just a nightmare… I will have one of our long-range telepaths look into it for you… But right now, we need to keep you healthy." Kyrin gestured for Hir-Qre to administer the vaccination and stepped back.
Clark sat back and closed his eyes. Kyrin was right… It probably just was one of Kiley's nightmares… But nightmare or no, Kiley was his baby girl, and he would do almost anything to be there for her when she needed him. <<Kiley, punkin', hang tight… Everything will be okay. I love you.>> He gritted his teeth and hoped it would be enough. He desperately wanted to know what had so upset his little girl and set things right… personally.
Martha smoothed Lois's hair away from her face as Joseph's sobs began to quiet. Kiley wasn't in the room, but the door to the bathroom had been closed when she had hurried past, so she logically assumed that her granddaughter was in there.
Joseph rubbed his tearstained face once more against Martha's shirt before looking up into her face. "Mommy sick?" he asked anxiously as he tugged on Martha's sleeve.
Martha kissed Joseph. "Yes she is, sweetie. But your grandpa went to call the doctor. Doctor Robinson will make her better."
"Where Kiley?" Joseph asked.
"Scout, Kiley is probably in the bathroom," Martha said.
"Nuh uh," Joseph began. "Jo'eph seepy. Pitty lady up Kiley. Kiley go bye bye with lady. Where Kiley?"
Martha's eyes widened in shock. "We'll find out, sweetheart." She said quietly. Frantically, she began to scan the room, looking for some clue as to what had happened. She spotted a crumpled piece of paper on the floor near the bed and snatched it up. The paper was of a heavier weight than they kept around the house and it also seemed to be made of a strange material. Quickly, she scanned the note, growing angrier as she read.
"To Lord Kal-El's family, the Kents.
The Heir is safely with us and guarded. I am sorry I had to take her, but Nor has made it a necessity… Despite your wishes to keep you with her, the Council of Elders has decreed that she be brought to New Krypton, placed in her father's care, and under the Council's protection.
You need not fear for her safety and well being. I will make sure that she is well taken care of. The globe I left in her stead will allow you to see her and bring some measure of reassurance. It also contains a message from the council. Four bodyguards have been left behind for your protection.
I am sorry.
How could they do this? They had already taken Clark with them, why did they have to have Kiley too? Martha clenched her fists in anger. She was beginning to question whether Clark should have even left with them. Why couldn't they leave her family alone? If they could steal Kiley from her bed, would they steal Joseph and the baby after it was born too? Would her family ever be rid of these people?
Joseph began to whimper again, so Martha took a deep breath to calm herself before turning back to her grandson.
Jonathan hurried back into the children's room. "Old Doc Robinson is on his way to check on Lois," he said. Jonathan stopped as he noticed the anger in Martha's expression. "Martha, honey, what's the matter?"
Wordlessly, Martha handed him the note. He scanned it quickly, his face tightening in anger as well. "They're long gone by now," he said quietly. "Unfortunately, I don't see that we can do anything about this… What are we going to do? Call the intergalactic police?"
"I know, Jonathan… If anything happens to that baby, I swear that they'll regret the day they were born." Martha sighed. "I also don't like the idea of having Kryptonian bodyguards on the farm…"
"Neither do I; but I don't see how we can get rid of them, and it wouldn't be right to unleash four potentially superpowered people on the world… Here at least, we can hide them and teach them to use their powers responsibly… and I won't hesitate to put them to work to earn their keep."
Martha grimaced. "There isn't that much to do around here in November… and the only place they can sleep is in the barn—I'm not letting them in the house if I can help it."
Jonathan nodded slowly. "Right now, let's wait for Old Doc Robinson to check out Lois… I'd better go find these guys and let them know about the doc coming to visit so they won't do something foolish…" Jonathan leaned over the bed and pushed Lois's hair back, stroking it lightly. He straightened up and hurried out of the room, determined to stop the bodyguards they had been gifted with before Old Doc Robinson got hurt.
Zara and Ching waited patiently with the others in the antechamber of Lady Kyrin-Wys's manor. Zara knew it wouldn't take long for the physician to administer the vaccinations to Kal-El… it was necessary for him to have them. They had not yet managed to completely conquer disease and they did not wish for Kal-El to sicken… with as little immunity he had to their illnesses, it would be like the plague of 9345… he might not survive the experience.
The Ceremony of Union was to take place as soon as they arrived at the Palace; all of the nobles would be there to watch their union be solemnized while it would be broadcast to the rest of the people by vidcam. After the Ceremony of Union, Kal-El would be the First Lord of New Krypton.
Zara smiled as Kal-El emerged from the sitting room with his tek'l close at his heels. "Come, Kal-El," she said quietly, "there is much to be done."
Clark nodded shortly as they headed back to the hovercars and started on the short trip to the palace. Zara sat next to him in the car, wondering how they could manage to carry out this farce. Political marriages were the most common type among the nobility, but they never took place when one of the participants was Kreh'kle'vshta with another.
The true state of affairs would have to be explained to the head of the Council fairly soon… It was inevitable that she would share a suite of rooms with Kal-El, but she would make sure that they had separate rooms within the suite. He had given up everything to come with her to save her world and protect his family. It was the least she could do.
Lord Nor stood concealed in the masses of nobility waiting for their new leader to arrive. Soon enough, he would be expected to swear his loyalty to his new Lord… and he wasn't looking forward to it. His vow would, of course, be false, but swearing loyalty to anyone went against the grain. He was Lord Kav-Nor, soon to be master of this planet and one day ruler of the universe.
He should not have to declare his fealty to another ruler… especially not one who would soon be pulled from the seat of power by one who was much worthier to wield it—himself. He, like Zara had heard tales of the last son of the House of El since childhood… and he hated Kal-El because of them. It was like growing up with a perfect, invisible brother.
In his guardian's eyes, Kal-El could do no wrong. For that only, he would see Kal-El dethroned, humiliated, and have his daughter taken from him. Later, he would keep him alive to watch first hand the destruction of everything he held dear… only after he had witnessed his own complete downfall would Nor let him die.
This world, as well as Kal-El's Earth, would be his for the taking.
Martha held Lois's flaccid hand in her own while Doctor Robinson began to examine her daughter-in-law. He carefully pried open one eye at a time and peered into them. "How long has she been unconscious?" he asked as he checked her pulse.
"Almost an hour now," Martha said, looking worried.
"There's no concussion, but it looks like she hit her head when she fainted… I'd like to bring her into the hospital overnight for observation. Has she been under a lot of stress lately?" Doctor Robinson looked at Martha and Jonathan expectantly.
Joseph squirmed in Jonathan's arms. "Mommy sick?" he asked.
Doctor Robinson held out his arms to Joseph who willingly went over to him. He tickled Joseph's tummy gently. "Little one, your Mommy is a little sick, but we're going to make her better."
Joseph threw his arms around the doctor's neck. "Tank you," he said sweetly.
"Yes, she has," Martha said.
"And how far along is she?" Doctor Robinson asked as he set Joseph down on the floor.
"She's around five months… why?" Jonathan said as he leaned over the bed to stroke Lois's hair.
Doctor Robinson grimaced. "There's a slight chance that whatever caused her to faint may cause some… complications… I'm going to order an ambulance… I need some of the equipment in the hospital to check her out and make sure that both she and the baby are okay… Can I use your phone? It's in the kitchen, right?" At Jonathan's nod, Doctor Robinson headed out of the room and down the stairs.
Joseph scrambled up on to the bed and sat beside his mother. "Mommy be ok?" He asked.
"Yeah, scout, your mom is going to be just fine," Jonathan promised. He leaned over, picked his grandson up, and shot Martha a worried glance. "Just fine," he repeated softly as if by saying it everything would be okay.
Zara and Clark approached the doors to the audience chamber with Ching following three paces behind to the left. Zara slipped her arm in his as they reached the doors. <<It's for appearances, Clark.>> She sent quickly.
He gave her an almost imperceptible nod as the doors opened automatically and they strode forward. Clark had been drilled in this maneuver over the past few weeks in transit to New Krypton. Zara let go of his arm and he walked forward, his empty palms open and his arms outstretched. He stopped a few feet away from the dais. As the audience fell to their knees murmuring his Kryptonian name, he greeted the Council of Elders. "Brothers in bonds, I greet thee thrice."
"Lord Kal-El, I am Sarn-Ra, chief among your Elders." A white-haired gentleman began as he stepped down from the platform and came forward to greet him. "On behalf of your people and the other Elders of the Council, I welcome you to New Krypton."
Sarn-Ra gestured to Zara. "Lady Zara, come forward." Zara quietly walked forward to stand next to Clark. Sarn-Ra placed Zara's hand in Clark's. "Let the Ceremony of Union begin," he said. Sarn-Ra stepped back as sonorous music began to issue forth from the corners of the room.
Simultaneously, Zara and Clark stepped forward to the dais and kneeled as Lord Fryn-Trey, dressed in full regalia, wrapped an ornamental rope around their joined hands. "Kal-El and Zara, married since birth. On this day, the 10th of Gysh'na we meet together to bring this decades-old union to fruition. Thou shalt be bound together as the rope now binds thine hands. Thy lives, once two, are now one. One life, one path to travel. May this binding bring both of thee joy, and thy children as well." Trey held out a wine cup to each of them in turn, from which they both took sips. "By drinking from this cup, thou hast entered into a covenant… and this union has become legal. In the name the One Who Holds Us All, this union is now declared, in this solemn assembly, to be legal, and its consummation sanctioned by law."
Trey helped them stand and turned to the crowd. "People of New Krypton, Your new First Lord and First Lady— Lord Kal- El and Lady Zara, may they rule long and in peace."
A cheer erupted from the crowd. They stood on the dais for a few more minutes before Trey led them out of the Council Chamber and down a long corridor. A young boy walked before them, swinging what looked like a censer as a bell- ringer walked behind them using his instruments to announce their approach. "Milord and Milady," Trey began, "here are your chambers. Dinner will be sent up in two hours, and your things will be brought from the ship, Lord Kal-El… have a nice afternoon and evening. Your first meeting with the Council is tomorrow morning."
As the doors opened before them, Trey and the boys left, leaving Zara and Clark alone. Together, they entered the royal apartments. Zara turned to Clark as the doors closed behind them. "Clark," she said quietly, "I'll talk to my uncle, Sarn-Ra, and the Chief Elder, Fryn-Trey, tonight and make our relationship clear… There's another room next door to mine that you can have. I'm afraid that while the upper levels of the Council will understand, the people will not, so we'll have to stay in the same chambers…"
Zara studied his face intently. There was something amiss… "Are you okay, Clark?" she asked softly.
Clark sighed heavily and flopped into a nearby chair. He felt horrible… He knew that it would be a marriage in name only, but it had felt akin to cheating on Lois when he let himself be married to someone else. He was also deceiving a planet full of people… it was like pretending to be Superman, but on a much grander scale. He had always hated lying—he wasn't very good at it either. It was another mark against the New Kryptonians that he now had to act a lie everywhere he went.
"It's this whole situation," he began quietly, "I just feel… horrible about it. I mean, now I'm a bigamist, I have to act a lie all the time, and I don't even really want to be here. I'd rather be at home with Lois and our kids."
Zara laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I know, Clark," she said. "I promise I'll do my best to help you get home after we defeat Nor… I know how much you miss them; especially Lois."
Clark sighed again, softer this time. "I do miss her… like I'd miss my right arm. I love her more than words can express…"
"Then I'll go take a look and make sure your room is made up while you talk to her! It's well known that the Kreh'kle'vshta bond lets the bonded ones speak to one another over impossibly long distances…" Zara gave his shoulder a final pat before heading down a hallway to check the room next to hers.
Martha, Jonathan, and Joseph waited impatiently outside the hospital room while Dr. Robinson finished the last battery of tests. A few minutes later, he walked out. "Mr. and Mrs. Kent, I'm afraid I have some rather unsettling news for you…"
"What is it?" Martha interrupted, looking anxious.
"Lois woke up briefly while I was examining her… To be frank, she freaked out. She was saying something about her little girl being stolen…" Dr. Robinson looked at them quizzically.
"Joseph and Kiley were kidnapped from their beds a few weeks ago," Jonathan explained, "We got them back, and Kiley is visiting her other set of grandparents right now."
"She's been having nightmares about the children being missing… especially since Clark was sent away undercover on assignment," Martha added softly.
Dr. Robinson nodded slowly. "That makes sense… I've prescribed a mild sedative for now that won't hurt the baby. The bad news is that Lois is showing signs of going into premature labor. I'm going to give her some drugs to stop that, but she needs to be kept in bed for at least a week and take it easy after that. I'm keeping her here overnight for observation as well."
"Thank you, doctor… may we go in and see her?" Martha asked.
"Yes… she was asking for you."
Jonathan picked up Joseph and followed Martha into the room. He hoped that Clark would be able to come home quickly… they needed him badly.
Kiley snuffled once more and looked up at the adult who still held her. "Why did you take me away?" she asked stuffily. "I want to go home."
"Lin'dra," Kirim began, "we wanted to make sure that you would be safe… We were afraid that Nor might try to take you away and hurt you. We're taking you straight to your father… Your mother knows where you are as well."
Kiley's lip began to tremble once more, "But I wanna be with Joseph and Mommy and the new baby will be born soon… I wanna help name her… and what does 'Lin'dra' mean?"
Quickly, Kirim moved to reassure her. "Little one, we'll try to get you and your Father home by then…" Kirim sighed. "Child, it's hard to translate… I suppose that the closest I can come to it in your language is 'sweetheart'… Now, what is your name, Lin'dra? We were unable to find out before we were sent to get you." Kirim pulled out a handkerchief and blotted the remnants of tears from the Heir's eyes.
Kiley looked at Kirim shyly through the long silken fringes of her eyelashes. Somehow, she trusted this person. She didn't know why… after all, this was the same person who had been with her when she had awakened, but somehow she knew that this person who called herself 'cousin' would not intentionally hurt her. "I'm Kiley Christine Kent," she said quietly. "What's your name?"
"I'm Kirim-Wys… your cousin." Kirim smiled at Kiley. "On New Krypton, do you know what your name is?"
Kiley shook her head vigorously.
"It's 'Kiley-El'… at least for now," Kirim said matter- of-factly. "On New Krypton, your Daddy's name is 'Kal- El'…"
"Is Mommy's name Lois-El?" Kiley asked, with an interested look on her face. "What do you mean by 'for now'?"
Kirim winced… this wasn't something she wanted to try and explain to a four-cycle-old child. "I'm afraid not, Lin'dra. If your Mommy and Daddy had been married on New Krypton, it would be, but our laws do not allow for marriages off-planet… and your Mommy couldn't come with us because the One did not build her body to withstand the higher gravity of our planet as we were built. When we get to New Krypton, we will have your Naming… and you will get your Kryptonian name…"
"Who is the One? What's gravity? Why do I need another name?" Kiley asked, trying to digest this new information.
Kirim sighed… It was going to be a very long journey…
Lois slowly opened her eyes and winced at the pain in her head. "Kiley," the word escaped with a low moan. The New Kryptonians had taken her daughter… and goodness only knew where in hell she was now. There was absolutely nothing she could do about it, either. It wasn't like the Smallville, or even the Metropolis police could hunt for her in outer space!
Slowly, she looked around the room, attempting to figure out where she was. The first thing she saw was Martha and Joseph asleep in the chair beside the bed. She was in the hospital… again. Lois grimaced—she *hated* hospitals! She closed her eyes and attempted to focus enough to talk to Clark, but the pain in her head prevented her from concentrating on anything for too long.
With a heavy sigh, Lois began to roll over on to her side and stiffened as she felt something like a cramp. It was much too early for Braxton-Hicks contractions… she hoped that something wasn't wrong with the baby…
<You're overreacting, Lane> she thought, <It's only one little cramp… everything will be okay.> With a heavy sigh, Lois pulled the covers further up around her. She wished that they had never heard of the New Kryptonians… and that they had been more militant in their denial of help at the first meeting. If they hadn't showed up, both Clark and Kiley would be safe at home with her.
With a heavy sigh, Lois closed her eyes and soon drifted off to sleep with thoughts of Clark and Kiley running through her head.
Zara walked slowly down the corridor towards her bedchamber. She hated seeing Kal's—Clark's pain and guilt over their course of action. She looked up to him… over the past few weeks, she had begun to see him as the brother she had never had. She hoped that he would come to see her the same way… as an ally, a friend… a sibling.
She passed the door to her chamber and strode up to the next door. She opened it, stepped inside, and palmed the lights up. Zara gasped in shock as she took in the decor. The last time she had entered this room, while the furnishings had been as rich as any in the Royal Chambers, they had not been meant for… a child. In her absence, the room had been stripped and completely remade into a child's dream room. In fact it was much like the room she had occupied as a child.
A large, heavy, white-painted canopy bed stood in the center of the room covered in a heavily embroidered pastel counterpane. The walls were decorated with paintings from their most beloved children's folktales and toys of every kind lay scattered around the room in colorful piles. A large bookcase stood against the wall, filled with picture storybooks of every description. The El crest seemed to play a large part of the decorating scheme…
Zara strode forward into the chamber and headed toward the closet. She threw open the door and peered inside. Inside, she found clothes appropriate for a four cycle old little girl… suitable for the heir to the throne of New Krypton.
Zara narrowed her eyes. She knew the law… the prepared room spoke of something she had not ordered… something that the Council of Elders had no right to order. Her Elders had some serious explaining to do. Quickly, she composed herself and let her eyes drift half-shut. <<Lord Sarn-Ra,>> she sent and waited for an answer.
<<Yes, Milady?>> came back the answer in her uncle's strong mind-voice.
<<Assemble the Council immediately.>> she shot back.
<<But Lady Zara, it is your wedding night.>> Sarn-Ra answered.
<<Wedding night or not, this cannot wait. I must see the full Council tonight… half an hour ago would be nice.>>
<<Yes, Milady,>> Sarn-Ra sent with a purely mental sigh.
<<Good.>> Zara sent and broke off the contact. She strode out of the room, shutting off the lights behind her. She walked across the wide corridor and checked in the room that lay across from it. She peered inside and nodded sharply to herself… it would do nicely.
Zara left the room and walked purposely toward the room where Clark sat… and where the doors led out. "Clark," she began as soon as she came into his view, "I have to leave for a little while. There is some… business I have to attend to… I promise I'll tell you about it later."
Sunk deep into his thoughts, Clark barely noticed when Zara entered the room. "Okay," he said absently as Zara slipped quietly into the outside corridor that led to the main part of the Palace.
Zara walked quickly to the Council Chamber, growing angrier by the moment. She reached the doors and stormed in, fire flashing in her eyes. Mentally, she made herself calm down before addressing the Elders assembled before her.
"Elders of the Council," she began, suppressed fury evident in her voice. "Why have you sent our people to steal Lord Kal-El's daughter from her home?" Zara glared at the men, daring them to come forward.
"Mmmilady," Lord Ekwe-Rit began, "Wwwe… did not precisely s—"
"Must I remind you that lying to me may be considered treason?" Zara said coldly.
Sarn-Ra cleared his throat, "Lady Zara. We did send for her… The new quantum singularity drive ship was dispatched to fetch her from Earth. We wanted to make sure that she would be protected from Nor's plans… and we left bodyguards to protect Lord Kal-El's family so that Nor cannot use them against him… us."
"So… let me get this straight," Zara began. Under the force of her anger the room became utterly silent. The Elders had never seen her this angry before… every muscle in her lithe body spoke of her ire. "You sent a virtually *untested* ship across five galaxies into a solar system where the only planet that contains life has no idea that we exist and, if discovered, could very well launch nuclear missiles at it, to rip Kal-El's firstborn away from her mother, brother, and grandparents?"
Zara's face hardened as she took a deep breath to continue her tirade. "You're bringing that child *here* to what has the potential to become a *war-zone* in a ship that we know may only work in *theory* to place her in further danger by the close proximity to Lord Kav-Nor? We all know that he has a vendetta against the First Lord and he will not hesitate to kill the child if he thinks it will bring him any kind of gain! By The One, he'll most likely want to kill her anyway just to see Kal-El suffer!"
Zara strode forward and brought her fist down with a loud thump on the rail in front of the Council of Elder's seats. "Darkness!" she exploded. "What were you *thinking*? Are you *trying* to get her killed before her fifth cycle?"
"Milady," Lord Jen-Mai began as he attempted to pacify her. He held out his hands in a conciliatory gesture. "An offer of a marriage alliance between the House of El and the House of Nor has been placed on the table… we felt that the child must at least be here… and that the offer must be considered. As her legal mother, you have the right to approve any offer made… that is, if you and Kal-El can come to an agreement about it."
"Never." Zara said firmly. "I would rather face the Darkness than allow that sweet child to be joined to any of Kav-Nor's get. Tak-Nor is a normal, nice little boy at the moment but his father's influence will change that rather quickly. As you so kindly pointed out, I *am* her legal mother. I will *never* allow any daughter of mine to be shackled to a madman or the child of a madman!"
Zara crossed her arms over her chest. "The safety of that child is now our first priority. I want no less than two of the Elite Guard near her at all times. Before the men are assigned, I want our best Memory to give them a truth- examination. In fact, with the exception of her father and myself, *anyone* who comes near her unless she is with one of us is to be put under examination."
Zara leaned forward and placed her hands on the bar in front of her. "She is to have all the vaccines for our diseases administered and quickly. If that child sickens because of your carelessness and foolishness I *swear* by the stars, the ground, and all things in between that I will see you punished to the fullest extent of the Law."
Zara shot a furious glare at each Elder in turn. "Tomorrow, before open Court, you will admit your folly and apologize to Lord Kal-El… the Old Way. And you'd better pray to the One that he is more forgiving than I—if it weren't for the fact that, according to Law, I can do no more than reprimand you, I would see you banished to your estates at the very least… But even I am not above the Law."
As one, the Elders stood and bowed to her deeply. "Yes, Milady," they murmured.
"You are dismissed," Zara said coldly. She turned and walked out of the door, wondering how she would explain this to Clark.
It was Sarn-Ra who spoke first. "I have never seen her this angry before," he said seriously.
Ganul-Wys looked over at his long-time friend and grimaced. "It's the instinct of a parent for a child," he began softly, "she may not realize it yet, but somewhere deep inside her, she knows that she is responsible for that little girl… I've seen it myself with my wife when she thought that Kirim and Grsek were in danger… though my wife is not quite as… formidable when she's upset."
"I think we had better do as she says," Xek-Lo said seriously. "Not only is she First Lady, but I don't think I'd want to cross her in this…"
Murmurs of agreement followed this remark as Sarn-Ra pushed a button to call the Elite Guard. "Her wish is our command," he said ironically as the guards began to appear. Quickly he gave them instructions to report to Lis-Mir, the top Memory for a truth examination. Those born with the gift of Memory could discern truth from falsehood with nothing more than a thought. They could literally see into the memories of others without help and the strongest ones could see through the densest mind-shield.
He dismissed them quickly and turned back to the other eleven men who comprised the Council of Elders. "Let us hope that Kal-El will forgive us… and we must pray to the One to keep that baby safe." With those words, the Elders dispersed; each sunk in his own thoughts of how to protect the Heir.
Nor smiled as he read Jen-Mai's missive. The Heir would arrive in two weeks… and he had plans to make. Kal-El's daughter would have to be the center of his scheme. After all, whether the Council approved the alliance or not, he could always force a marriage between his House and the House of El.
He had always wanted to marry Zara—it would strengthen his claim immensely, but he would have to wait until he could dispose of Kal-El. The Ceremony of Union bound them together for life… Such unions were permanent… unless one partner found their Kreh'kle'vshta.
Mentally he sneered at the concept. There wasn't a record of a Kryptonian finding their Kreh'kle'vshta in the past 200 cycles. It was highly unlikely that such a thing existed at all. <Bah.> He thought. <Tales for children.> He dismissed it from his mind and began to entertain more pleasant thoughts of becoming the absolute ruler of New Krypton…
Zara entered the suite with trepidation. She had been pacing the hall for over two hours, trying to come up with a way to inform Clark of the Council's idiotic decision. Frustrated, she twisted a strand of her long hair between her fingers, yanking on it occasionally. Zara heaved a sigh as she walked quietly over to where Clark sat. She could have sworn that he hadn't moved a muscle since she had left him a few hours earlier. Zara laid her hand on his arm to get his attention. "Clark?" she said softly.
A light snore was her only answer. Zara stared at her sleeping friend for a few moments, trying to decide what to do with him. She knew he was tired; Ching had been running him ragged in the practice-room so that if worst came to worst, he would be able to hold off one of Nor's assassins until help could arrive. Leaving him in the chair simply wasn't an option—not only would the servants talk, but sleeping in that position simply could not be comfortable.
<<Ching,>> she sent. <<Could you come and give me a hand, here? Clark fell asleep in the antechamber and he's too heavy for me to manage on my own.>>
<<I'll be right there.>> Ching sent in response. A few minutes later, Ching entered the suite and assisted her in taking Clark to the bedchamber across the hall from hers. While Ching supported his weight, Zara pulled down the bedcovers. Carefully, Ching lowered his lord on to the bed, pulled off his boots, and covered him up.
Zara and Ching walked quietly out of the room, closing the door behind them. "Ching," Zara began softly, "We have a problem… The Council went behind my back and sent Kirim- Wys to fetch Clark's daughter. I just found out and it's too late to stop it. I was going to tell Clark tonight, but he's obviously exhausted—it's not even dark outside yet." Zara bit her lip worriedly. "I'm going to try and keep her either with me or with Clark… neither he nor Lois will ever forgive us if anything happens to that child!"
Ching stepped closer to her and pulled her into an embrace. "Zara," he said quietly, "We'll figure it out. I promise." Ching caressed her hair gently. "I swore to keep Clark safe for Lois… I think that same oath applies for little Kiley as well."
Zara sighed heavily. "I guess the only thing we can do now is… wait." Zara brought her arms up around his waist and held him tightly. She hoped when Nor was defeated that the Council could be convinced to allow her to form a new marriage contract—with Ching. She was exceedingly grateful that she had finally noticed what had been right under her nose the entire time; she didn't know what she would do without Ching's love and support.
She smiled happily as Ching carefully pushed her waist- length hair away from her face. Zara looked up into his face, wondering at the love she saw in his eyes. With bated breath, she watched as he began to lower his head closer to hers. Even with all the time they had spent together, he had yet to kiss her…
A shiver of anticipation ran through her as his mouth drew closer to hers. She felt his warm breath on her skin and a sharp tingle ran up her spine. As his lips softly brushed her own she pulled him closer, deepening the encounter. Slowly, she opened her mouth under his, brought her arms up around his neck, and tangled her hands in his hair.
They broke off the kiss a few moments later, gasping for air. "Wow." Zara murmured softly.
"I love you," Ching said quietly.
"I know… I love you, too," Zara said. She took his hand in hers and began to gently tug him in the direction of the sitting room. "I think we need to talk…"
Kirim sighed in exasperation as she tried to get the bear away from Kiley for the fifth time that day. Normally, she wouldn't have even tried, but the bear was in serious need of a bath. A few minutes in the sonic washer and it would be as good as new, but Kiley refused to let it out of her sight. She had even tried to borrow it in the middle of the night, but the child had begun to wake up. She decided to try another tactic.
"Kiley. Lin'dra. You know how you got clean in the sonic shower last night?"
"Well, Clarkie-bear is getting dirty, too. We need to give him a bath."
"No." Kiley cuddled Clarkie-bear closer to her.
"Little one, doesn't your Mommy wash him sometimes?" Kirim asked patiently.
"Yesss. But that's Mommy's job. Daddy won Clarkie-bear for Mommy a long time ago… Before I was borned… Before they got married. Mommy gave him to me when I was borned." Huge tears began to well up in Kiley's big brown eyes. "Daddy an' Mommy are a long ways away…"
Kirim melted under Kiley's gaze. She gathered the child to her and hugged her gently. "Lin'dra, I'll tell you what. You and I will take Clarkie-bear to the sonic washer and we'll watch him wash, okay?"
Kiley nodded and rubbed her face against the sleeve of Kirim's gown. "Can Annie take a bath with Clarkie so that he won't be lonely?" she asked.
Kirim smiled, grabbed Annie off the bed, and handed her to Kiley before picking the child up. "Lin'dra, it's time your friends got their baths." She headed out the door and down the corridor to the sonic washing unit. Carefully, she lifted Kiley up to put the toys in the machine and helped her push the button.
Kirim pulled a chair in front of the machine and set Kiley on it. She absently stroked the child's hair as she began to contemplate the events of the past few days. The physician had given her a clean bill of health and Kiley hadn't objected to the vaccinations and the implantation of the chip… much. Over the past few days, she had learned much about children Kiley's age… she had been amazed to discover how much dirt the child could manage to find in the brand-new pristine ship.
While Kiley often seemed animated and happy, Kirim could tell that not all was right—a lingering sadness lurked in the depths of the child's eyes. Absently, she began to twist a few of the Heir's curls around her fingers. She was such a sweet little girl that her sadness hurt… Kirim wanted to make it go away, but she knew that the only remedy would be to reunite the little girl with her parents.
<<Captain,>> she sent, <<At our present speed, how long will it take for us to reach New Krypton?>>
<<It will take another two weeks, Milady>> came the response.
<<Can we achieve a greater velocity? The Heir needs to be reunited with her sire.>>
<<Yes, Milady. At top speed it will take a week, but it has not had as extensive tests performed on it as the one at which we are currently traveling.>>
<<Captain, on my authority, speed up. We were assured that the ship would function within defined parameters. The Council of Elders will not thank us if we dally.>>
Kirim dropped a kiss on the top of Kiley's head and prayed to the One that it would be sufficient for the child's emotional stability. She would break the news to her young charge that night… Hopefully, it would be sufficient to allay the tears that had fallen every night since their departure.
Martha pulled up the blankets and tucked them gently around her daughter-in-law. Doctor Robinson had performed some tests that suggested that premature labor was a distinct possibility. So while he had signed her release papers from the hospital the previous day, he had insisted upon her getting strict bed rest for at least a week. Lois had regained consciousness for a little while in the hospital, but Dr. Robinson had given her a light sedative… he said that the extra sleep would be good for her and help her heal…
Martha smoothed the bedclothes one last time before going into the children's room to straighten it up and make the beds. She was worried and frightened for Clark and Kiley. Her lips twisted into a grimace of pain that matched the ache in her heart as she thought about her two lost ones. Clark had been her miracle, but Kiley had been an even greater one. Her children had been told that conception was an impossibility… and then Lois had become pregnant. When she had held her grandchild for the first time, she knew that the baby was the greatest miracle of all… She *knew* that they would find their way home together, but having Kiley stolen—no matter the what the supposed 'good' intentions were and Clark already in that far-away place hurt horribly.
Martha slowly pulled the covers into place on Joseph's bed and tucked them in securely. Next, she moved to Kiley's bed. As she shook out the blankets, the globe that the New Kryptonians had left rolled off the bed unnoticed and soundlessly hit the carpet. It continued in a path that ended in a stack of Joseph's toys. Martha finished her self-appointed task and walked slowly back to Clark's childhood bedroom. As she sat in a chair beside the bed, she stroked Lois's hair gently and prayed for the safe return of her son and her oldest grandchild.
Zara knocked softly on Clark's door. <<Clark?>> she sent, and waited for an answer. She had to tell him— he deserved to know.
"Coming," Clark called as he came to the door. He stood uncertainly in the doorway and tugged nervously at the collar of his tunic.
Zara inspected him quickly. "You'll do," she said with a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. Then, remembering why she had come, Zara bent her head to look down at the ground and played with a strand of her hair nervously. "Clark… I found out something last night that you're not going to like… I don't like it myself… I-I-I got pretty mad about it in fact… I haven't lost my temper like that in years; I usually can't afford to."
"What is it, Zara?" Clark asked quietly.
Zara ducked her head further down, studying the carpeted floor as if it were the most fascinating thing she had ever seen. "Without my knowledge or consent, the Council of Elders decided that Kiley would be safer here… so they sent the new prototype of a quantum singularity drive ship to go get her. Apparently, Nor approached them with a proposition… a concubine provided him with a son named Tak who is Kiley's age. As long as he acknowledges the child, Tak is his legal heir… He offered a marriage alliance between the House of Nor and the House of El…"
Clark's face clouded over with rage. "They want to marry *my* baby daughter off to the son of a madman? They snatch my four-year-old little girl from her mother and her home in some sort of insane plan…" Clark's hands balled up into fists. "I tell you, Zara, they will marry my little girl off to one of Nor's get when hell freezes over," he snarled.
Zara laid her hand on his arm. "It's okay, Clark… They can't agree without our consent anyway… According to Kryptonian law, the Council must have the agreement of the parents as well as the agreement of the First Lord and First Lady… I already told them no. I'm sending her back as soon as we can spare the ship… and if we're lucky, Nor will have been defeated, and we can send you home with her as well. They're going too fast for us to even contact them…"
Clark took a deep breath. "But they think she'd be safer here? They're bringing *my* little girl into what might become a *warzone*?! Are they crazy?"
"I swear to you, Clark," Zara began, "I will keep her safe. It wasn't my idea… but she will get back to Earth… to your wife… safely. They should be slowing down within encoded communications range fairly soon… you can see her and talk to her then… and we can tell them to turn around." A slightly evil smile crossed Zara's face and mischief danced in her eyes. "I told the Council that they had to apologize to you—the old way. It dates back a few thousand years ago to when the First Lord was more like an emperor… and courtiers could be beheaded if they didn't bow properly. I know it won't make this situation get much better, but it will be fun to watch."
Clark closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. He needed to be calm—he didn't think he could afford to yell at the Council. Zara reached out and touched his arm once more. "My Lord, the Council of Elders awaits…"
"Zara, I need to contact Lois… can the Council wait? I'm worried about how she's taking it. I mean, it's only been a few weeks since Tez kidnapped the kids…" Clark looked at her expectantly.
Zara's face softened. "Yes, they can wait…" She reached out, took Clark's hand, and led him into the antechamber toward one of the soft chairs. <<Ching,>> she sent, <<Please inform the Council that we need a few minutes…>>
<<Yes, milady>> came his reply.
Clark took a deep breath and closed his eyes. <<Lois?>> he called. He waited a few minutes before trying again. <<<*Lois?*>> He frowned worriedly and began to concentrate on the bond. Nothing came from their connection but silence… and darkness. He could still feel her, so she wasn't dead, but still… Somehow he got the feeling that she was unconscious. Was she hurt? What had happened? He opened his eyes and looked worriedly at Zara. "She's not answering!"
Zara frowned grimly. "Something more that the Council will have to answer for… I think we had better go meet with them…"
Clark, after hours of instruction, knew the protocol. "Yes, my Lady," He said as he held out his arm to Zara.
Zara rested her hand on the soft sleeve of his court attire and walked by his side as they exited the Royal apartments. Ching and three other bodyguards from the Elite fell in around them as they walked. She gave him directions telepathically as they wound their way through the maze of the Palace. The doors to the Council opened before them and they entered.
The Elders fell to their knees upon Kal-El's entrance and bowed down to the ground. "We are exceedingly sorry," began Sarn-Ra, "For our presumption in sending for thy daughter." Each Elder apologized separately then rose to join the group of those who had already made their apologies. After the last Elder apologized, they bowed before him as a group, and began to chant ritualized pleadings for forgiveness. Clark glanced at Zara and saw a glimmer of mischief still evident in her eyes. <<This is… weird.>> He sent, feeling uncomfortable.
<<Just wait,>> she sent with a rather evil chuckle behind her mind-voice. <<It gets better… the First Lord who instituted this had a strange sense of humor…>> Just as Zara finished the thought, the Elders began to do a strange dance to the beat of their chant. <<I know you've heard the Earth phrase about… um.. singing for your dinner… here it's dancing for forgiveness… or at least it used to be…>>
Clark suppressed a tiny hint of a smile at the sight of the dignified Elders' weird performance, but at the same time, he couldn't help but worry—he didn't know where his daughter was, he couldn't contact Lois, and he didn't know what was going on at home. As he watched the Elders dance, he couldn't help but feel a bit uncomfortable—the customs of this place were extremely outlandish… and he was not quite successful at suppressing his anger at what they had done to his family.
His little girl was in danger because of them… Lois's lack of response was most likely due to the fact that they had snatched his baby daughter. <<Definitely weird… but this doesn't excuse what they've done…>> he sent, anger flowing freely though his transmission. The dance ended as the Elders once again sank to their knees and bowed low to the floor.
Zara nodded to the Elders. "You may rise," she said quietly. "Make sure this does not happen again. The child will be here in a few weeks; as soon as they are within encoded communications range, the order must be given for them to turn back… We require the latest reports on Lord Kav-Nor's activities."
As the Elders hastened to comply, Clark stopped them with a wave of his hand. "Elders of the Council," he began softly, determination visible on his face. His hands clenched into fists as he folded his arms across his chest. "Just in case Lady Zara has not made this perfectly clear to you… The House of El will be united with the House of Nor over my dead body."
Clark glared at the members of the Council, taking on a presence he rarely had except as Superman. "How *dare* you kidnap her? By doing so, you've placed her in more danger… On my parents' farm, she was protected by anonymity! You have taken that away from her. Now, my four-year-old will be the target for every whacko, every assassin, and every madman on New Krypton!"
Clark's voice contained a hint of steel and anger shone through visibly on his face as he continued. "If *anything* happens to my daughter, I will do *everything* in my power to see all of you punished within the confines of the law. Is that clear? We also *must* know if anyone was… hurt when you stole my little girl."
In one motion, the entire Council bowed before him. "Yes, Milord," they murmured.
"Lord Kal-El, according to Lady Kirim," Sarn-Ra began, "No one in the house woke… No one was hurt at all."
"For your sake, you had better hope that your information is correct. Continue… We require the information on Nor's activities," Clark said. He was still worried about Lois, but the only thing he could do was wait until she contacted him…
"Milord, Milady," Sarn-Ra began. "Nor withdrew his troops from around Ka'tra'anl a few hours before your arrival. It is our opinion that he will re-group until he has a plan… Nor would rather take the kingdom by law than by force—he wants this world whole, not torn apart by war."
Trey walked over and handed them a palm-sized computer. "Here are his troop deployments and their current locations… The Guard has been called up and all of the people from the surrounding countryside have been relocated within the walls for the time being." Trey regarded Clark seriously. "He only has enough troops to attack one city at a time… but if he does it right, he could have us under siege here for quite some time."
Other members of the Council began to come forward with information. Jen-Mai smiled to himself—they did not know of Nor's exact troop deployments… and he intended to keep it that way.
Jonathan watched the bodyguards warily from the kitchen window as they began to do the chores for him. In curiously accented English their ranking officer, Captain Foler had explained that they were to help with the chores… and that they were there to keep his family safe until his son could return to them. Apparently, one of the reasons that these particular members of the Elite Guard had been picked was for their background in farming. All four of them had been raised on farms… and many of the animals on New Krypton were similar to the ones indigenous to Earth.
He held his grandson on his lap while Joseph happily played with his cars. "Vroom, vroom," the little boy said as he ran the cars all over 'Gampa road'.
"That's right, scout," Jonathan said absently as he ruffled Joseph's hair.
"Gampa, Jo'eph potty." Joseph said, squirming slightly in his grandfather's grasp.
Jonathan got up and carried Joseph upstairs to the bathroom. "Need any help, scout?" he asked.
"Jo'eph do." Joseph asserted as he climbed on to his special seat.
Jonathan smiled at his grandson and waited patiently for him to finish. A few minutes later, he pulled up the child's pants and held him up to the faucet to wash his hands.
"Gampa down," Joseph demanded after his hands had been washed. Jonathan put him down and watched him run towards his parents' room. He leaned against the wall for a brief moment and prayed that Clark and Kiley would be home soon. He pushed himself off the wall and went downstairs, carefully latching the baby gates behind him.
Joseph toddled quickly into his parents' room in search of his mother. He spotted her on the bed and walked over to her. Lois was sleeping peacefully with one hand dangling over the side of the bed. "Mommy seepin'," he said quietly. Joseph planted a wet kiss on her hand and went in search of his grandmother.
"Gan'ma?" he called as he wandered into his and Kiley's room. Martha wasn't in the room, but he spotted something new… a toy that he'd never seen before. Joseph wandered over and touched the toy. "Pitty ball," he said as he reached over to pick it up. He stood up and passed the ball from hand to hand before putting it down and rolling it as fast as he could.
Joseph chased the ball into the hallway before it rolled to a stop and he picked it up once more. He held the ball with both hands and began to walk down the hallway, still looking for his grandmother.
"Joseph!" he heard his grandmother's voice call.
Joseph reached the landing at the top of the stairs. He grinned happily and stuck one hand in between the spindles of the staircase and waved. "Hi Gan'ma!" he called. Joseph stood on his tiptoes and dropped his new toy over the edge of the banister. He squealed happily as he watched it fall through the air.
The ball landed with a thump that made Martha wince. She walked over to look at what he had dropped and was surprised to discover a globe almost identical to the one that had been in the ship with Clark when they had found him. She picked up the globe and stuck it in the large pocket of her apron to examine later before climbing the stairs to get Joseph.
Martha leaned down and picked him up. "How would you like to go help Grandpa, scout?" she asked as she swung him around to straddle her hip.
"Jo'eph help," he said with a sunny smile.
Martha laughed and kissed him on the cheek before heading downstairs. She couldn't help but think, as she carried Joseph into the kitchen, that she and Jonathan were getting far to old for this kind of thing… Her son was on another planet, her daughter-in-law was under light sedation upstairs, the same aliens who had taken her son away had taken her granddaughter as well, and they had a two year old to chase. Life couldn't get much more interesting than that.
Kirim handed Kiley a nightgown and helped her pull it over her head. As Kiley scrambled into bed, Kirim picked a book of Kryptonian fairy tales to read for a bedtime story. She walked over to the bed and pulled up the blankets around her young charge. "Lin'dra," she began, "I have some news for you."
Kiley looked up at her worriedly, "Is it good?" She asked.
"Jal'her'a, it's very, very good," Kirim picked up a brush and began to run it through the child's hair.
"What does jal'her'a mean?" Kiley asked.
Kirim laughed softly. "It means "little one," she said as she began to braid Kiley's hair. They had gone through a similar routine every night since Kiley had joined them. At first, the heir had resisted having anyone in on her bedtime regimen. She had informed everyone that she could manage on her own… at least until they got to New Krypton… and her father. She had stringently objected the first few nights to having her long hair braided—her parents had never braided it at bedtime, so why should it be braided now?
"Jal'her'a, I talked to the captain today…" Kirim got to the end of the braid and bound it securely with a ribbon. "He said that we should reach New Krypton in about a week…" she brushed the remaining curls at the end of the braid into one ringlet. "Which means that you'll get to see your father very soon."
Kiley turned around and looked at her hopefully. "Does that mean that Daddy and me can go home?" she asked.
"Lin'dra, I'm afraid not… at least not right away…"
Kiley sighed and settled down in the big bed. "Okay, " she said, sounding resigned. "I miss Mommy and Joseph and Daddy."
"I know, jal'her'a, I know." Kirim caressed Kiley's hair gently, pulled out the book, and began to read Kiley a story. She finished the story and, with a quick kiss on Kiley's forehead, Kirim stood up to leave the room. "Goodnight, Kiley," she said softly.
Kiley watched her leave the room before sliding out of bed and kneeling beside it. She carefully folded her arms as she had been taught and began to pray. "Please, God," she began, "make them let Daddy and me go home soon…"
Kirim sighed as she heard the small voice through the cracked open door. Not for the first time, she wondered how they could have conspired to cause this one family so much heartache. As Kiley's voice continued to speak in her room, Kirim quickly went through her own nightly rituals and slipped into her bed with an electronic book for company. She hoped that they could defeat Nor quickly…
Lois opened her eyes and slowly began to scan the room. She vaguely remembered the events of the previous day. She glanced at the clock and was surprised to discover that it was already past Joseph's bedtime. How could she have slept so long? Her eyes widened as she remembered one fact about the day before—the New Kryptonians had taken her daughter.
"Kiley," she whispered as her eyes filled with tears. Lois hugged the pillow close to her body as silent tears slipped down her face. Once again, her child had been stolen from her while she was asleep. This wasn't even something they could report. What would she say? 'Officer, aliens stole my little girl?' They'd send her to the state asylum immediately. It was a story worthy only of the Dirt Digger.
Lois took a deep breath and tearfully began to compose herself to talk to Clark. Over the past few weeks, the daily telepathic communication had made it easier to talk to him like that. By now, it was almost second nature to be able to hear him… <<Clark?>> she sent as she wiped away more tears. <<Sweetheart?>>
<<Lois, what is it? I've been worried…>> Clark's anxious voice sounded in her head.
<<Clark… they came… and took… Kiley>> Lois's tears began to fall faster as she thought of her missing daughter. Was she okay? cold? hungry? scared?
<<Lois, honey, she's okay. I promise. Zara says that the Council was in contact with Kirim right after they left Earth, and they should be in range for images today.>>
Lois felt a warm feeling sweep over her, just as if Clark had just pulled her into an embrace. <<Did Zara order this?>> she demanded as her tears began to slow. <<I fainted when I found the note and hit my head.>>
<<Are you okay, honey? I don't know what I'd do if something happened to you! To answer your question… Zara didn't know until we got here and she found a room prepared for her. She's promised to get her home as fast as she can… and Ching says that his oath to you extends to Kiley as well.>> Clark concentrated on sending his love and support through the bond. He could 'feel' that she was crying and he wished he could hold her and comfort her as he had so many times before.
<<I'm fine!>> Lois sent impatiently. <<Promise me that you'll make sure that she'll be okay?>>
<<I promise, sweetheart. I love you. Zara says to tell you that she plans on keeping Kiley close to her, and that she will personally guarantee that both of us will be home soon. She says that the globe will show you holograms of Kiley and probably even me when I'm near her… it's something to do with the chip they're putting in her arm… Zara says that they'll deactivate it when she can manage to get us home…>>
<<Clark,>> Lois began, <<I love you, too>>
<<Honey, get some rest… please? I need you and the baby to be healthy…>> Clark wished he were there, holding his beloved.
As her worries for Kiley began to recede, Lois yawned. The conversation with her Clark had taken more out of her than she realized and she was suddenly tired again. She smiled sleepily… it almost felt like Clark was beside her, holding her close. She knew he was on New Krypton, but she could practically feel his familiar warm bulk beside her, the weight of one of his hand on her stomach while it felt like the other one was occupied in stroking her hair. <<I will… love you.>> Lois drifted off to sleep, holding the images and feelings close to her heart.
Jonathan walked quietly into Lois's room. He hadn't been able to sleep, so he had gotten up to check on his family one more time. Logically, he knew that the bodyguards were outside to make sure that they would be safe, but it was his responsibility to protect his loved ones. Jonathan lowered himself into the chair next to the bed and looked at Lois.
Jonathan pushed her long hair away from her face and caressed it gently. He was exceedingly thankful that she would be okay. He had loved her as if she were his daughter long before she and his boy had even started to date. As far as he was concerned, she was as much his daughter as Clark was his son.
Jonathan stood and straightened the bedclothes. He carefully pulled them up around her, concerned that she would get cold. Years ago, he had performed the same joyful task for his little boy. He remembered those days with nostalgia as he leaned over the bed and kissed his daughter on the cheek. Jonathan gave the blankets one final pat before walking quietly out of the room.
He strode down the hallway and entered Joseph's room. He crept up beside the child's bed and watched Joseph sleep for a few minutes. He smiled at the sight of Joseph curled up on his tummy with Ted E. Bear underneath one arm.
Silently, he crept out of the room, crossed the hallway, and entered the master bedroom. As he slid back into the bed, Martha cuddled up next to him. "Are the kids okay?" She asked sleepily.
"They're fine, Martha," Jonathan answered. He put his arms around his wife and stooped down to steal a kiss from her. He leaned back against the pillows and closed his eyes—the morning would come far too soon.
Captain Foler stared off into space lost in thought. He *had* to talk to his charges… he daren't let them go anywhere without a bodyguard… perhaps even two. If Nor had come when they had taken Lord Kal-El's concubine—wife to receive medical attention, the damage would have been irreparable. He was a captain in the Elite Guard… the last line of defense between the headcases and assassins and the Royal Family.
His people owed Jonathan and Martha Kent a great debt. They had taken in an orphaned foundling from another universe and raised him to be a good man. Without them, Lord Kal-El might not have been worthy of his heritage… His duty would have gone unanswered while Nor took over the planet… and perhaps more. Foler wasn't kidding himself; he had long known the evils that some men would stoop to in order to gain their selfish desires. Nor was, perhaps, the most evil man he had ever come across.
It was his privilege and honor to protect the parents that had raised his Lord as well as Lord Kal-El's Terran wife and their children. He prayed to the One that Nor would ignore this small family… with only three men under his command, it was unlikely that they could hold off a superior force. Briefly, he wondered if the Kents would trust them… After all, they had taken away both Kal-El and the little girl. Fervently, he hoped they would—if Nor decided to come after them, he and his men were their best hope for survival.
With a shake of his head, he got up and walked over to the bedding he had laid out earlier. It was night here, and his guard shift would come around far too quickly. Between the four of them, they were maintaining a twenty-four hour watch on the house to make sure that no intruders entered it. Vidi was currently on duty and he would be up in another three hours. He lay down on the blankets and closed his eyes. Foler's last conscious thought was that he would have to speak to Lord Kal-El's family in the morning to make better arrangements for their protection.
Martha walked into Lois's room, carrying a tray of breakfast. She carefully set it down on the desk before turning to Lois, who was sitting on the edge of the bed with her feet dangling over it. "Lois, honey, what are you doing trying to get out of bed?" Martha said reprovingly.
"But, Martha—Mom, I need to…" Lois gestured in the general direction of the bathroom.
Martha strode over to the side of the bed and helped her stand. "All right, I'll help… but after that you are going straight back to bed." She put her arm around her daughter and supported her as they walked over to the bathroom. When Lois emerged, she helped her back to bed and placed the tray over her lap.
Listlessly, Lois picked up her fork and began to move food around on her plate. Despite the conversation with Clark the night before, she was still very worried about Kiley. Where was her little girl? Was she okay? Sad? Hurt? Lois pushed the tray away. "Thanks for bringing me breakfast, Martha, but I'm not hungry." she plucked at the bedclothes and wished that Clark and their little girl were with her. Suddenly, she remembered the globe that Clark had mentioned the night before… "Martha," she began, "Clark mentioned something about a globe… he said that it was left for us when Kiley was taken…"
"It's in the pocket of my apron downstairs," Martha said.
Lois swung her legs over the side of the bed. "I'll get it," she asserted.
"Lois Ellen Lane-Kent!" Martha began. "You get back into bed, eat your breakfast, and take your medication! The doctor said you were to stay in bed for at least a week."
"But…" Lois began.
"No buts, young lady! I'll get the globe for you." Martha's voice softened. "Honey, you have to take care of yourself and the baby… I'll get Joseph and the globe… You just stay in bed and rest!"
After watching to make sure her daughter followed her instructions, Martha hurried down to the kitchen, grabbed the globe, picked up Joseph, and headed back upstairs.
"Gan'ma?" Joseph questioned as she hoisted him up onto her hip.
Martha brushed a kiss across his cheek. "Your Mommy's awake, scout… I thought you'd like to go see her…"
Joseph's face brightened. "Jo'eph see Mommy?"
"Yeah, scout… we're going upstairs to see her." Martha opened the gate and climbed the stairs, closing the second gate behind her. Joseph squirmed excitedly, impatient to get to Lois.
Martha walked into Lois's room and deposited Joseph on the bed. "*Mommy*!" he squealed as he threw his arms around her. "Mommy beder?" he asked.
Lois hugged Joseph tightly. "I'm better, sweetie." She smiled at him, thankful that the New Kryptonians had not taken him as well. <<Clark, bring Kiley home!>> she sent quickly.
Joseph leaned down and kissed Lois's stomach. "Hi baby." Joseph laid his ear against his mother's abdomen. A few minutes later he looked up at her with round eyes. "Jo'eph hear baby heardbead." He said as he kissed her stomach again. "Baby come out soon." He said sternly, crossing his arms across his chest.
Lois laughed. He looked so much like Superman… She hugged Joseph again before shooing him off the bed. "Go play, sweetie," she said softly. "Mommy has some work to do… we'll read some stories together later, ok?"
"Okay, Mommy," Joseph said sweetly before running out of the room.
Lois watched him go before she turned to Martha. "Thank you," she said quietly.
Martha came over and gave her a much-needed hug. "Oh, honey, you're welcome!" Martha placed the globe in Lois's lap and gathered up the breakfast tray. "I'll be back in a little while… I think maybe that message is meant for you…" Martha left the room and shut the door tightly behind her.
Lois stared at the globe as it took light and began to glow. Carefully, she reached out and picked it up.
The globe took off from her hand and began to float upward. Her mouth tightened into a frown as a hologram issued forth from the object. Twelve men sat upon padded chairs in front of her. One of them stood and began to address her. "This missive is for Kal-El's Terran wife. I am Sarn-Ra, Speaker for the Council. I am addressing you in the language of your people, rather than our native Kryptonian… If you are viewing this message it means that Lady Kirim-Wys has succeeded in her mission of acquiring the Heir for a journey to New Krypton so that she may be protected from the nefarious Lord Nor. Milady, please believe me when I assure you of her continued safety and well-being."
"Your child will be given everything and protected by the Elite Guard until such a time when it will be safe for her to be returned to you. When you wish to see her, hold this globe in your hand, concentrate on her, and her image will appear. Milady, please accept the gift of the bodyguards. By the laws of our society, since you were not united to Lord Kal-El on our world, you are considered a concubine… However, as a member of the House of El, you are entitled to our protection. Thus, we have sent four members of the Elite to you to make sure that Nor cannot harm you, your child, and Kal-El's adoptive parents."
"Be well. May your mind be at ease. Be safe, Milady." The image winked out, and the globe floated down to rest in her hand, leaving Lois alone in silence. She took a deep breath and concentrated on Kiley while looking at the globe. A screen like hologram emanated from the globe. She watched for a few long minutes as the image panned across a heavily decorated curvilinear room and settled upon a familiar little face.
Kiley was sitting on a crooked-legged chair dressed in rich-looking, unfamiliar dress, flipping through a book filled with strange characters. Clarkie-bear sat upon her lap, while Annie, dressed in an identical outfit, sat beside her. Lois's breath caught in her throat as her baby girl looked up suddenly… a hint of sadness peeped out of her large brown eyes. Her hair, instead of the familiar braids, was arranged in cascading curls with jeweled pins holding it back from her face.
With an aching heart, Lois watched as Kiley set the book down on a nearby table and picked up her toys. Kiley's mouth moved as she told them something and tears began to slip from the corners of her eyes. Lois reached for the image, desperately wishing that she could hold her little girl and wipe away the tears. As her hand penetrated the hologram, the image vanished.
Carefully, Lois put the globe on the nightstand before she rested her hands on her knees. She could talk to Clark, but she could neither see nor touch him. She could see Kiley, but comforting her was an impossibility. "Why?" she whispered hoarsely as she rolled over, buried her face in the pillow, and began to sob.
Martha, who had been walking by Lois's room, heard her daughter's sobs and entered. She walked across the room, silently sat upon the side of the bed and began to pat Lois on the back, offering what comfort she could.
Kiley clung tightly to Kirim's hand as the shuttle began its final approach to the landing pad near Ka'tra'anl. Frightened, she held Clarkie-bear close to her while Annie dangled from her hand. With a soft bump, the ship landed and the door appeared. Kirim tugged gently on her hand as she began to walk toward the opening in the side of the ship. Obediently, Kiley walked with her and exited the small shuttle.
Kiley stood in front of the throngs of people shyly as Kirim spoke in an unfamiliar language to the waiting masses and they began to cheer. Her head jerked up as she 'Felt' a familiar presence that had been missing for the past few months. She dropped Kirim's hand and began to scan the landing platform. With a squeal of glee, she ran across the pad and threw herself into her father's arms. "*Daddy*!" she yelled as his arms came up around her and he lifted her up.
"Kiley!" he exclaimed, his face breaking into the first real smile that any of the New Kryptonians had ever seen from him. She wrapped her arms around his neck tightly, and her toys fell unheeded to the ground. Clark held her close to him, thankful that he finally knew she was safe… at least for the time being. He still wasn't all that happy that she was on New Krypton at all, but it felt good to be able to hold his little girl once more.
He had heard from Lois the night before and was horribly worried for her. Old Doc Robinson had been by to see her… Still unhappy with her condition, he had decreed another week in bed was the answer. He needed to tell her that their little girl was with him… and that between himself and Zara, she would be safe. "I missed you, punkin'," he said quietly and he caressed her hair gently with one hand.
"I missed you, too, Daddy," she said, burying her face into his shoulder. She pulled back for a second and looked at him through tear-filled eyes. "You're not leaving again, are you?"
Clark kissed her on the cheek softly. "I'm not going anywhere, sweetie… you are going to stay near me or your Aunt Zara until both of us get to go home to Mommy, okay?"
Kiley nodded, laid her head on his shoulder once more, and began to cry. She had missed him so much… and being surrounded by total strangers for so long had been pretty hard.
Clark patted her back soothingly and began to walk toward the edge of the platform as Ching picked up Kiley's forgotten toys. He walked down the steps leading to the platform and was immediately approached by Lord Sarn-Ra.
"Lord Kal-El," he began, "We must have her Naming immediately… right now, by Kryptonian law, she is Nameless… and thus not protected."
Clark looked at Sarn-Ra in exasperation. "She *has* a perfectly good name," he began, "her name *is* Kiley Christine Kent… and that's enough of a mouthful for a little girl her age."
Sarn-Ra shook his head. "But that is her *Terran* name… she must be traditionally Named in order to be your legal issue. Otherwise, she is simply an unwanted, Nameless orphan… Her name is after her grandmothers… traditionally that is."
The corner of Clark's mouth quirked up. "She has three," he began, "What's her name supposed to be… Lara Martha Ellen-El? I think I much prefer the name her mother and I gave her!"
"No, Milord… Unfortunately, the Terran grandparents do not count… by the laws of our society, Zara is legally her mother… Her name is Lara Ziveh- El." Sarn-Ra said.
Clark glanced at the Speaker, anger evident in his expression. "*Zara* is not my little girl's mother… Her *mother* is at home on Earth… where both of us belong!" Clark took advantage of his longer legs and strode ahead, whispering comforting words to the small child who still snuggled up to him, holding onto him as if she would never let go.
Sarn-Ra tagged after his Lord, trying desperately to keep up. <<Zara,>> he sent. <<Lord Kal-El is being… difficult about the Naming.>>
<<Well, wouldn't you be in his position?>> she sent back, sounding irritated. << Try and put yourself in his place! Here you are, happy and secure. You have a wife who loves you, parents who love you, and two adorable little ones. Suddenly, these strangers come out of nowhere and you have to go with them to prevent assassins from murdering your family. Next you're taken to a strange place, married off to someone who *isn't* your wife. Then your eldest child is stolen from your wife, brought to where you are, and you're told that her name has to be changed and that her mother is not legally her mother? Wouldn't *you* be just a *little* difficult about it?>>
Sarn-Ra sighed. <<I think I see what you mean… but the Naming must take place, you know it as well as I.>>
<<I'll talk to him… the Ceremony wasn't completely set up yet, was it?>>
<<We'll have the Naming, Lord Sarn-Ra… I promise… it's too necessary to forego.>>
Sarn-Ra watched as Lord Kal-El entered the royal transport, still cradling the Heir close to him. It was obvious both from his reaction and Zara's that his child was special… She was their hope for the future of New Krypton. In a way, he did understand his lord's reaction to renaming Lara, but it was necessary.
She must have the names appropriate to her station in life. Lara Ziveh-El would someday be their leader—she would follow in her parents' footsteps and become the ruler of New Krypton. Silently, he entered his hovercar and gave his driver orders to drive to the palace. There was much to be accomplished before the Naming.
Zara paced slowly toward the grand entrance hall of the palace. She had wanted to accompany Clark to get Kiley, but some pressing business had come up at the last minute— Nor had started moving troops a little closer to Ka'tra'anl. He had pulled back upon Kal-El's arrival, but it seemed as if he had decided to start pushing again… just a little. Fervently, Zara hoped that they would be able to solve this problem quickly, without incident.
As much as she abhorred the Council's actions in bringing Kiley to New Krypton, the pragmatic side of her was extremely glad of her presence. It would do the people good to see the Heir, the hope for their future, standing beside herself and Clark. With a clear line of succession tangibly established, it would be much harder for Nor to begin his civil war.
It also helped that Kiley Kent could easily charm any adult she came into contact with. Zara had been in touch with the captain of the ship… not only had he been quite taken with the Heir, but she had also managed to wrap every crewmember she met around her little finger. That kind of charisma would be extremely useful…
She reached the grand entrance hall and settled down in a chair by the door to wait for Clark and Kiley. She had to convince him to go through the Naming—without it, they could not legally put her under the protection of the Elite Guard. She understood his point of view, but they too had to follow the Law.
Zara stood and exited the building to wait for Clark and Kiley on the front steps. She smiled sadly as their transport pulled up to the entrance and opened. "Welcome home, Milord," she said quietly. Other vehicles pulled up behind the transport and people began to disembark. Zara took Clark's hand in hers as he came to stand beside her and face their people. "Citizens of New Krypton," she began, "We wish to have time with Our daughter before her official Naming; We have been separated for far too long."
The people immediately dropped to their knees and crossed their arms over them. Then, they raised their arms crossed against their chests, closed fists near their shoulders, and bowed their heads. "Yes, Milady," they said in unison.
At Zara's words Kiley stiffened in her father's arms before she began to take a more active interest in her surroundings, her tearstained face peering interestedly over her father's shoulder. Tentatively, she extended her hand and waved to the assemblage. Several of the people smiled, gratified to see their hope waving to them.
<<I'll explain inside.>> Zara telegraphed as she tugged Clark toward the door. Quickly, they strode towards the royal chambers. Zara opened the doors quickly and motioned Clark and Ching inside, leaving the rest of the bodyguards to guard the doors. She motioned them over to the chairs and watched them sit before taking a seat herself. She watched as Clark shifted Kiley so that she was sitting in his lap.
"Clark," she began in English so that the child might understand, "I'm sorry, but the Naming must take place." Zara regarded Kiley seriously.
"I know," she affirmed quietly. "Kiley, I'm Zara… You can call me Aunt Zara if you like."
Kiley looked at her solemnly. "You're one of the people who took my Daddy away," she began reproachfully. "And outside you said that you're my mommy. You're *not* my Mommy!"
"Kiley," Zara began, "Come here, please? I promise that you can go back to your Daddy in a few minutes."
Kiley looked questioningly up at her father. At Clark's nod, she obediently slid off his lap and walked over to Zara. As she stood in front of her, she kept looking back at Clark, as if looking away would make him disappear.
Zara reached out and gently took Kiley's hand. "Jal'her'a, I know I'm not your Mommy and I have no wish to try and take her place." Gently, she brought her hand up to the little girl's face. "Kiley, I promise that I will take you and your Daddy back home so you can be with your Mommy and Joseph…"
Kiley looked up at her hopefully. "Promise?" she asked.
"I promise." Zara affirmed.
"But why did you tell all those people that I'm your little girl?" Kiley looked puzzled.
"Lin'dra," Zara began softly, "Because your Mommy and Daddy weren't married here on New Krypton, the laws here don't recognize that they're married… I'm going to try and fix that, too… Kiley, according to the laws here, I'm your mother—it's so that you're protected from the bad people like Lord Nor. We're going to make sure that you're safe until I can take you home… until then, I need you to stay close to me and to your dad, okay?"
Slowly, Kiley nodded. "Who is Lord Nor?" she asked.
Zara brushed Kiley's hair back over her shoulders. "Lord Nor is a very bad man who wants to be King of New Krypton. Your dad came here to help us make sure that doesn't happen—to keep you safe."
Kiley began to look fearful. "Does he want to hurt me? Did I do something bad?"
Carefully, Zara leaned forward and took the unresisting child into her arms. "Jal'her'a, you did nothing wrong," she began, hugging her gently. "And Lord Nor will never hurt you; I won't let him… Your dad won't let him."
Kiley looked at Zara trustingly. Her Daddy trusted this person… and she could 'Feel' that Zara was telling the truth… there was also something behind her words; it was the same kind of fierce protectiveness that she had sometimes felt from her mother… Kiley put her arms around Zara's neck and impulsively kissed her on the cheek. "Aunt Zara," she began, "Won't people think it's funny if I call you that?"
Zara looked at the child in surprise. The caress had surprised her, but this statement surprised her even more… the child was only four cycles old! "Lin'dra, you may be right… but your mother is at home on Earth, and I won't ask you to call anyone else but her 'Laj'hon'a'." Zara stroked Kiley's hair as the child hugged her tighter. <<Clark, thank you for letting me explain this,>> she sent.
<<Zara, you know more about this than I>> Clark answered, his mind-voice full of wry irony. <<I wouldn't know how to explain this to her… your customs and laws are just plain strange!>>
<<I'm going to send her with Ching for a few minutes… We need to talk about her Naming.>> Zara thought at Clark.
<<I don't see why she needs another name. I *like* the one Lois and I gave her!>> Clark telegraphed waves of anger at even the suggestion of stripping yet something else from his little girl.
<<Clark, calm down. I promised to explain, and I will!>> Zara sent before turning her attention back to Kiley. The mental exchange had been quick—Kiley still clung tightly to her as Zara's hand continued to caress the child's hair. Zara lifted the child and held her on her knee. "Kiley, are you okay with this?" she asked quietly.
Kiley burrowed closer to Zara, aware of her only as a source of comfort and solace. "Noooo…" came the muffled reply. "I want my Mommy… I wanna go home and Daddy come too."
"I know, lin'dra, I know." Zara rested her cheek on the top of Kiley's head, holding her close. "I promise that everything will be okay…" Gently, she began to broadcast waves of comfort and love to the child, letting her know without words that she was loved, cared for, and would be protected.
Slowly, Kiley pulled away and began to look around. "Where's Clarkie-bear and Annie?" she asked suddenly.
Zara pressed a kiss to the child's brow before she answered. "I think I saw your friends with Ching," she said softly.
Ching smiled, stood, walked across the room, and kneeled beside them so that he was at eye-level with the child. "I think these are yours," he said with a gentle smile, holding the dropped toys out to her.
Gravely, Kiley took the toys from him and cuddled them. "You're the other person who took Daddy away," she began. At Ching's nod, she pushed on. "And you love Aunt Zara like Mommy and Daddy love each other… are you going to marry her?"
Ching smiled and gently took Kiley's hand in his. "I'd like to," he said, "But there are lots of things we have to fix before I can do that… If I'm really lucky, and if she says yes, I'll get to marry her after you and your Daddy get to go home… Would you like to see your room? We'll come back in a few minutes, but I think your Dad and your Aunt Zara need to talk."
Kiley looked at Clark questioningly. "Daddy?" she said hesitantly, unsure if going with this stranger was a good idea.
"It's okay, punkin'," he said quietly, "You can go with Ching and I'll be there in a few minutes. I'll be right here if you need me; I love you."
"All right, Daddy," she began, "I love you, too." Kiley slid off Zara's lap and smiled up at Ching. "Okay," she said, and followed him as he began to lead her down the corridor.
Zara watched them go with a small smile adorning her face. "She's beautiful, Clark," she said quietly.
"I know… she looks like Lois…" he began softly. "Zara, what is this 'naming' and why does Kiley need a new one? Her name is perfectly good!"
Zara pulled her hair away from the back of her neck and attempted to twist it up before replying. "Every Kryptonian child who is claimed by their parents has a Naming. I guess you could say that it is similar to a, um, christening?" She looked at Clark questioningly, not sure if that was the proper term.
She let her hands fall to her lap as her fingers played with the skirt of her gown. "Only if the parents refuse the Naming, then they refuse the child… refusing the Naming is tantamount to denying the child's existence. Fortunately, such a thing is rare… and when it happens, the child is legally an orphan… in that case they are offered for adoption and their adoptive parents follow through with the ceremony."
Clark stared at her, appalled. "You mean that if this ceremony is not performed, the parents have *abandoned* the child?"
"For all intents and purposes, yes." Zara stated quietly. "Fortunately, there has never been a shortage of couples willing to adopt… You can see why we must have a Naming for Kiley; if we do not, she will be lost to us forever."
Clark slumped in his chair, his posture a gesture of defeat. He looked at Zara, his unhappiness over the situation showing clearly on his face. "But why do we have to change her name?" he asked quietly.
"This, too, is tradition… Any child of the royal household is named after their grandparents. At least, for public usage. The preferred method for girls is that both names are chosen as a token of both Houses… boys are usually named after their paternal grandfather." Zara twisted a strand of hair around her finger. "Kiley's name on the records *must* be 'Lara-Ziveh-El', traditionalists will say that you are disowning her otherwise. If she grew up here, she would then choose a name to go by. For me, it was Zara; she could be Lara *or* Ziveh. However, her new name will only be temporary—I promise that I will get both of you home."
She looked at him sorrowfully. "I wish it were different in this case, Clark, but this is the way our society has worked for over a thousand years. Many of the problems your world has had with unwanted children don't really exist here because of all of this."
Zara met his eyes squarely, looking serious. "All of our children have homes where they are loved and cared for… It's not a perfect system, but it *does* work… at least for the most part. Our world is like any other—we have our good people, our bad people, and people who are a mixture of both… just like your world. But our traditions and laws have alleviated or minimized many of the problems that Earth still faces."
Clark looked at her with resignation in his eyes. "Is there nothing we can do about this? Kiley has already been ripped away from home… must her name be stolen as well?"
Zara stood, walked across the room, and laid her hand on his arm. "Clark, she is still Kiley—her name will only be different on the records. Many families name their children traditionally and call them by different names…"
Clark sighed and slumped down in his chair. This still bothered him immensely, but nothing about his situation was comfortable. "I guess if it must be done… When will it happen?"
Gently, Zara took his hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "This afternoon," she said before releasing his hand. "It will be all right, Clark. Kiley will stay near us… Nor will not get his hands on her, I promise." Zara stood and quickly walked across the room to the hallway. She wanted to check on Kiley and Ching—just in case. She strode down the hallway and quietly entered Kiley's room.
Zara smiled as she found Kiley curled up in Ching's lap as he read her a story. <He'll make a good father someday,> she thought. She turned as she heard Clark enter the room behind her.
Kiley's head shot up, she slid off Ching's lap and once again hurled herself at her father. "Daddydaddydaddy!" she called happily.
Clark simply laughed and scooped her up in his arms. "Kiley, punkin'," he began, "Zara promised that you would get to see me in a minute…" He hugged her tightly, happy to have his little girl… the only physical link to his Lois he had… in his arms.
"I know, Daddy," Kiley began, "but I missed you."
Clark kissed her on the cheek and hugged her fiercely. "I love you, punkin'," he said softly. He walked over to the Kryptonian equivalent of a rocking chair and sat down, settling Kiley on his lap.
"I love you too, Daddy," Kiley replied, throwing her arms around him.
"Sweetie, would you tell me how Mommy, Joseph, Grandma and Grandpa were doing before you came here, please?" Clark asked, tickling her gently.
"They're okay, Daddy," Kiley replied. "Mommy cries lots 'cause she misses you… I think Grandma cries some too… When are we going home?"
Zara, not wishing to intrude upon the reunion, gestured to Ching and quietly exited the room, leaving Clark to answer his daughter's questions. "Ching," she said softly, "Will you stay outside Kiley's door and make sure that they're not disturbed for a while? I get the feeling from her that she's missed him terribly… and they deserve some father- daughter time…"
"Of course," he replied quietly. "You're right… they need a chance to reconnect—we all know that the children from a Kreh'kle'vshta union have a special relationship with their parents… and that they need the contact that we have denied them by taking Clark from Earth… We must resolve this soon, or we will have performed a great disservice to the House of El…"
Zara stood on her tiptoes and stole a quick kiss from him. "Thank you," she said with a smile. "I have to go contact the Council about the Naming… I love you." She ended quietly.
"I love you, too," he answered with a broad smile. "I'll make sure that they're not interrupted… now hurry! The sooner we can get through this, the sooner we can figure out what to do about Lord Nor."
Zara threw him one last smile before entering the quiet of her bedchamber. She sat gracefully in a soft chair before she prepared to contact the Council. <<Lord Sarn-Ra>> she sent quickly and waited for an answer.
<<Milady?>> came the response.
<<The Heir's Naming will proceed on schedule; we will see you this afternoon.>>
<<Yes, Milady. It will be done.>>
Lois corrected the last sentence of the article, opened her email, and sent it to Perry. She was thankful that it was the last article of the day; being an editor wasn't exactly her favorite thing to do. She closed down her laptop and carefully put it on the nightstand beside the bed.
Lois settled back against the pillows and considered getting out of bed. She knew that she was supposed to stay put, but she was tired of not being allowed to get up. She didn't think getting up to stretch would do any harm, but it was extremely hard not to get caught. If she didn't know better, she'd think that Martha had somehow gotten superhearing from Clark. It was uncanny how her mother-in- law always managed to show up just as she was either getting up or thinking about doing it.
Distantly, she heard the phone ringing downstairs. She smiled briefly; with Martha distracted, it would be the perfect time to get up and walk around for a bit. Lois pushed back the blankets and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Carefully, she stood up and began to try and work some of the kinks out.
Lois grimaced as the baby began to turn somersaults. "Shh, little one," she whispered, rubbing her stomach. "Mommy just needs to move around a bit; she doesn't do sitting still very well." She walked over to the door, determined to stretch her legs before going back to bed. Just as she was about to grasp the doorknob, the door opened.
"Lois!" Martha said. "Honey, you need to get back to bed!"
Lois pushed some hair behind her ear. "But Martha—Mom, I just wanted to get up to stretch," she looked at her seriously. "You know that I'd never do anything to hurt the baby!"
Martha, momentarily forgetting the phone in her hand, put her arms around Lois and hugged her tightly. "I know, sweetie," she began softly, "but you still need to go back to bed!" She carefully escorted Lois back over to the bed and helped her into it.
As Martha began to pull the blankets up around Lois, she belatedly remembered the phone she still held. "Lois, honey, your mom is on the phone for you," she held out the phone to Lois, hoping she would take it.
Lois grimaced before taking the phone from Martha. She knew her mother loved her, but she was always difficult to take—Clark was one of the few people who could always manage to deal with her. "Hello, Mother?" she said, speaking into the phone.
She winced as her mother began a tirade about her actually having the audacity to get out of bed in her condition. "Mother," she interrupted, "One, I'm pregnant, not dead and two I was only getting up to stretch… You know I would never do anything to hurt the baby… Yes, I know that the doctor wants me to stay in bed and that he has me on medication because the baby tried to come far too early… Mother, you are *not* coming to Smallville to take care of me— I'm *fine*… Yes, I've heard from Clark—he's okay too… You're *what*? No! Mo-ther! " She handed the phone to Martha , sighing heavily.
"Martha," she began pleadingly, "Please? Can you convince my mother *not* to fly out to Wichita tomorrow?"
Martha took the phone and laid her hand on Lois's arm gently. "I'll try, Lois," she said quietly.
She put the phone up to her ear. "Hello, Ellen… You really don't need to come out here to see us… We're perfectly fine—and we're taking good care of Lois… Old Doc Robinson comes by every week to check on her and he's just a phone call away… Ellen, yes, I know that you're a nurse… Right, you are qualified to take care of Lois… We live on a *farm*, we handle more pregnant creatures in a year… Yes I know that Lois isn't a farm animal, Ellen, she's your daughter and that you love her… Sam *is* a good doctor—and it would save in medical bills… *Ellen* the Planet health insurance is paying for this… You two do *not* need to fly out to Wichita tomorrow! Of course it wouldn't be an imposition… but you're coming anyway and you'll stay in a motel if you have to? You insist and you won't take no for an answer? You remember how to get to the farm from your last visit so you're renting a car and driving out from Wichita? Ellen, you *don't* need to do this!"
Martha sighed heavily. "We'll see you and Sam tomorrow," she said, sounding resigned as she disconnected. "I'm sorry Lois," she began quietly, "your mother has determined that you need her and I could barely get a word in edgewise. Your parents will be here tomorrow."
Lois reached for Martha's hand and squeezed it briefly. "The only person who can talk her out of things like that is Clark," she whispered. She looked up at Martha. "I miss him," she said simply, "I want him home—not haring across the universe with Kiley tagging along behind him." A single tear escaped and rolled down her cheek.
With gentle fingers Martha reached out and brushed it away. "I know you do, honey. Being able to talk to him isn't the same as having him with you," she brushed a strand of hair away from Lois's face. "A few years after we'd gotten Clark, Jonathan had to go on a cross country trip because a distant uncle had died and he was the only living relative. I couldn't go because Clark had just started school, and we couldn't take him out for the amount of time it would take to make the trip. Jonathan called every night, but it just wasn't the same." Martha put her arm around her daughter for support. "I know what you're going through, honey," she finished quietly.
Lois drew in a deep, shuddering breath. She had thought that she had no more tears to shed, but sometimes it was brought home to her how much she needed her husband. Thankfully, she clung to the promises that he and Kiley would return home as soon as they could—she didn't know what she'd do if Clark didn't come back. Realistically, she knew that she would have to keep going; Joseph and the baby would see to that. However, she didn't see exactly how she could manage with Clark completely gone from her life. If the connection between them was ever severed, she wasn't sure that she could live—it would merely be an existence. "Thank you for trying, Martha," she said softly.
Suddenly, a thought crossed her mind that made her push herself into a more upright position. "How are we going to explain Kiley's absence and the bodyguards to my parents?" she asked.
Martha took a deep breath. "Between the three of us, we'll think of something…"
Captain Foler strode the perimeter of the Kent farm, watching alertly for any sign of trouble. So far it had been an easy assignment, but they couldn't afford to become complacent. They had obtained Earth clothes in order to fit in when they accompanied the Kents whenever they left the safety of the farm. Every morning at the crack of dawn they held practice; it simply wouldn't do to grow flabby from lack of exercise or to lose one of their charges for lack of fighting trim.
There were also these new… powers that they had somehow developed. He made sure that all the members of his team learned to control them as quickly as possible. It was obvious to him that unless they controlled these abilities, the new gifts might end up controlling *them*. It was also a horrifying thought that unless the powers were brought under control, they could seriously injure or even kill the very people they had been sent to protect.
Long ago, each one of them had sworn an oath to keep the members of the royal houses from harm. It was their duty, their honor, their joy. Being a member of the Elite wasn't just a job—it was a way of life. It was their birthright. From childhood, those born in martial families trained diligently in hopes of being accepted into the Elite. They were the best of all and received special training to protect the House of Ra and the House of El from assassins and worse.
The nobility were usually given some form of self-defense training. It was frightening for him to think that if Nor decided to attack, he and his men were not just the last layer of protection, they were the only thing standing between the House of El as it currently existed and total annihilation. With that sobering thought in mind, he continued his patrol, making sure that the protections had not been breached.
Ching watched Kiley and Clark, a soft smile spreading over his face. Watching them, he couldn't help but think of his plans for the future. Someday, he wanted what Clark had. He wanted to marry Zara and raise a family with her— just as Clark was doing with his Lois. As he looked at Kiley, he dreamed of holding a little girl of his own—just as pretty and smart as she was.
After all the time he had spent dreaming of Zara, he was ready to settle down with her. However, the problem of Nor must first be solved, the Ceremony of Union annulled, and they must obtain permission from the Council of Elders to marry. Carefully, he closed the door to Kiley's room and moved into the sitting room to wait for Zara. Here in the Royal Apartments, under layers upon layers of ancient shielding, it was unlikely that Clark and Kiley would be disturbed. He understood their need to reconnect. After all, it was obvious that Clark was his baby's hero—and he had been away from her for over a month. The little one needed to assure herself that her dad was really there.
Lost in thought, Ching started a bit as he 'felt' Zara come up behind him. He turned around, reached out, and took her hand in his. "Hi," he said quietly. "Is everything taken care of?" Smiling slightly, he gazed down into her eyes.
Zara reached up and gently caressed his face with the back of her hand. "Yes," she began softly, "The Naming is set for this afternoon." She looked at him as a troubled expression settled on her face. "This whole mess is our fault—if we had sent Nor to the mind-healers when he first started showing signs of madness, none of this would have happened! Instead, we let him go on his merry way until we had to go and fetch Clark from Earth to sort out the whole fiasco." Agitated, Zara yanked a strand of hair, as if tugging on it would do some good. "Now not only have we torn him away from his life, but we've stolen his daughter as well and we're about to rename her and steal more of her identity! What kind of monsters are we?"
Ching reached out and gently grasped Zara's arms. "Ka'lindra, we're not monsters. We're stupid at times, misguided at others, but for the most part, we're not bad people." He slid his hand under her chin and tilted it up, forcing her to look at him. "Zara, you know as well as I do that this couldn't be foreseen. It's one of the inherent problems with customs like birth-marriages—things happen that we can't always control. Everything *will* be okay. I promised Lois that I would bring Clark home. That *will* happen. We'll solve our problem with Nor and take Clark and Kiley back to Earth where they belong."
Ching reached out and pushed Zara's hair out of the way. "We'll convince the Council to let us get married before we take them," he said softly. "I love you too much to watch them sacrifice you to an alliance-marriage." Carefully, he gathered her into his arms and held her close.
Comforted, Zara slid her arms around his waist. "I love you, too," she murmured softly. She pulled back for a moment, and tipped her head up, silently asking for a kiss.
Ching smiled as he brought his head down close to hers. Her eyes fluttered closed as he hesitated for a moment. Slowly, he brought his mouth closer until it hovered over hers. He brushed his lips gently over hers once before capturing them for his own. He swept his tongue over her slightly parted lips. As she immediately opened her mouth and melted into the kiss, he slipped his tongue inside her mouth and began to explore every crevice. A few moments later, he breathlessly broke off the kiss and leaned his forehead against hers. "I love you," he whispered hoarsely.
Zara planted a quick kiss on his lips. "I know," she said as she took his hand in hers. "I hate to intrude on Kiley and Clark, but I have to find clothes for her to wear to her Naming. Come on," with that, she tugged him back down the hallway toward Kiley's room. She stopped in the middle of the hallway and turned to look at him. "Would you mind going into Clark's room and getting out the clothes he should wear to the ceremony?" Zara asked quickly.
Ching leaned down and kissed her quickly. "Not at all," he said, a smile crossing his face. He took her hand in his as they resumed walking towards the sleeping chambers.
Lord Nor looked in the mirror and smoothed a wrinkle out of his tunic. He had to look perfect for the Heir's Naming. It simply wouldn't do to meet the First Lord, the First Lady, and the Heir dressed anything less than immaculately. He knew better than to hope that they had not informed Lord Kal-El of the present political situation, but it was common knowledge that people who lived on backwater dirtballs like Earth were more gullible.
It was entirely possible that the fool would be trusting enough to play into his plans. Tak's mother should be getting him dressed as well. It was imperative for the children to get along if he were to succeed. None of the members of the nobility had yet been introduced to Lord Kal-El. The Heir's Naming would most likely be used for that purpose, so their formal best would be required.
Nor smiled evilly. If he could convince Tak to play with Kiley, it would be simplicity itself to take her with them upon leaving the palace. Technically, kidnapping the Heir would mean execution on Traitor's Hill, but since he would soon rule New Krypton, it shouldn't be a problem. He just had to find a way to lure Zara away as well. Soon he could marry Zara as he had always wished to and the betrothal between Tak and the Heir would be solemnized. He just had to find a way to rid himself of Kal-El's hold over the people.
As a thought impinged upon his consciousness; Nor threw back his head and began to laugh. He knew exactly what to do…
Quietly, Zara crept into the room and over to Kiley's closet. She opened the door and began going through the clothes, looking for the naming dress she knew would be there. Finally she located it hanging in the back. She pulled it out before turning to Clark. A slow smile crossed Zara's face as she took in the sight of Kiley, fast asleep on Clark's lap as he rocked her gently.
Clark looked up and smiled suddenly. "I don't think she's really been sleeping very well," he began softly as he brushed his daughter's hair tenderly away from her face. "A few minutes after you and Ching left the room, she just kind of dropped off."
Zara walked quietly across the room and gently kissed the child on the top of her head. "The Naming isn't for a few hours, so we can let her sleep—I just needed to find the proper clothes for her to wear at the ceremony."
Clark simply tightened his grip on Kiley, his posture showing that he was still uncomfortable with the idea. "I still don't like it," he said softly. He looked down at his little girl and smiled as she sleepily cuddled closer to him.
"I know, Clark," Zara said as she turned around to lay the clothes on the child's bed. "I promise that this will only be temporary—she's still Kiley Christine Kent as far as I'm concerned… and still yours and Lois's daughter."
Clark stroked Kiley's hair gently, thankful to be holding his baby girl. "I know," he began, "but she doesn't belong here—neither of us do… despite all of the precautions we've taken to make sure she will be safe; she is in danger here. If she were still at home with Lois, Nor couldn't find her to put her at risk." He looked up at Zara, his mouth twisted into a wry smile. "With that damn chip in my arm, I had no choice but to come—I thought that my little girl had more options than I did.
Clark rested his cheek on the top of Kiley's head. "Lois and the kids need me… I set my priorities about saving the world a long time ago—my family needs me more than the world does."
Zara turned to face him hesitantly. " It's important that you stay here with us for the time being… It wouldn't be that hard for Nor to find your family; Tez did it and there are records of where your ship originally landed. It's common knowledge in the Council that it landed in Smallville, Kansas. Clark, I know we haven't made much progress concerning Nor… It's just a matter of time."
"How much time?" Clark asked urgently. "A week? A month? A year? Longer than that?"
"I don't know," she answered quietly. "I just don't know."
Kiley stirred and opened her eyes. "Daddy?" she asked, hoping that it hadn't just been a dream.
"It's okay, punkin'," he began softly, "I'm right here."
Kiley threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. "I thought I dreamed you," she said quietly.
Clark returned the hug and kissed her on the cheek. "Punkin', I'm right here and I'm not going any further from you than the next room if I can help it, I promise."
Kiley buried her face in his chest and snuggled closer to him. "Don't g'way," she murmured sleepily. Her eyes drifted closed as she fell asleep again.
Clark held his daughter securely, wishing he were at home with Lois. Their separation still ached, despite the telepathic connection between them. He desperately wanted to have both his wife and their son in his arms so that he could hold them close to him as well. He pressed a kiss to Kiley's forehead and halted what Zara had started to say with a single look as he continued to rock his sleeping little girl. When he returned to them, he wasn't sure if he would ever want to let go.
Martha reached out a hand to steady Lois as they walked slowly down the stairs. She had wanted to hold this family meeting upstairs in Lois's room, but her daughter-in-law had insisted upon having it downstairs in the living room where they could all sit down comfortably.
As they reached the first floor of the farmhouse, Martha ushered Lois over to a comfortable chair in the living room and took a seat by Jonathan on the couch near her.
Lois settled back on the cushions and smiled as Joseph abandoned the pile of blocks in the corner, came over to her, and held up his arms in a wordless plea. She picked him up and settled him on her ever-diminishing lap before looking up at her in-laws.
"What are we going to tell my parents when they show up tomorrow?" she asked quietly. "How can we explain Kiley's absence and the presence of four bodyguards that insist on keeping tabs not only on us, but on everyone who comes to visit? And how can we explain their developing superpowers?"
Martha cleared her throat and glanced over at her daughter- in-law. She knew Lois was desperately in need of cheering up… A smile stole over her face as she thought of something that just might work. She shot Jonathan a look that plainly said that he should follow her lead before she began. "We could tell them that the President lost his pet chipmunk—the little critter jumped out of Air Force one— and these nice gentlemen are here to find and retrieve it." Her smile grew broader as she continued. " They might just have to stay a while longer because it's taking forever to find that wily chipmunk!"
A slow smile spread over Jonathan's face. "Do you think that they'd believe that they're well-intentioned paranoid farmers from down the road… and that they're sleeping in our barn because they're afraid of rabid chickens and that's why they're so shifty-eyed and have guns?"
"What about this?" Martha asked mischievously, "Someone's taken one of our cows and left a complete mechanical duplicate instead, and we don't want those rascals getting away with it again!" She looked over at Lois. "Would they buy that?"
The corners of Lois's mouth began to turn up into the beginnings of a smile. "No more than they'd buy that there's kryptonite under the snow that's making it come alive and start eating small animals, pets, and children," she said as a hint of laughter began to lurk in her eyes.
A wide smile began to spread over Jonathan's face. "How about hay is worth a disgusting amount of money now and they're here to protect it… or we found a vein of gold or diamonds on the property?"
"Jonathan!" Martha groaned, slapping him lightly on the arm. "We could always say that Wayne Irig's bull won't stop trampling my flowerbeds!"
Lois looked at Martha skeptically. "In November?" She smiled suddenly as she realized that she could use something she had said years before… by now, both Jonathan and Martha had heard about her old opinion of small towns. "We could tell them that there was a robbery in town… someone got away with $20 from the register at the Tasty Freeze and we got nervous…"
"We could say that they're on loan from the mental institution because they've been having fantasies about living on a farm… it's a program sort of like the Make-A- Wish Foundation runs," Martha suggested.
Jonathan considered it for a minute before shaking his head. "Martha, Ellen wouldn't like us if she thought we were letting more loonies get near Lois and the grandkids." He smiled suddenly. "We could tell her parents that the bodyguards are from the military's experimental 'Fresh Air Fund' outreach program."
"They're not bodyguards, they're exchange students," Lois suggested as she began to laugh.
Martha ran her hand through her hair absently. "They're the prototypes of the next generation of genetically engineered soldiers…" She grinned suddenly, "then we say that we could tell them more but then the soldiers would have to kill them!"
Lois started laughing harder. "My father would love that… We could say that Clark has another family and his other wife is jealous and has tried to kill us… But when Clark gets back, I'm afraid that my mother would find a way to kill him if we use it!"
Martha grinned, "They're delivering Clark's Cheese of the Month shipment, and they have to deliver it in person, so they're hanging around until he gets back?"
Jonathan groaned. Over the years, the Cheese of the Month club had become something of a family joke. "*Not* one of our boy's best excuses! How about: 'Look around. Open lands, no one around… just one more little fence between us and the rest of the world.' Would that work?"
"I don't know," Lois gasped as she struggled to stop laughing. "It sounds like you're paranoid and planning on turning the farm into a cult complex or something!" She took a deeper breath as her laughter began to die down. "Let's be serious now… we need a really good excuse," she said quietly as she hugged Joseph.
She looked down at her son and smiled. He was sucking on his thumb contentedly as he leaned against her, his big brown eyes staring intently up into her face. She knew that Martha and Jonathan had been taking good care of him while she had been stuck in bed, but she had sorely missed having him cuddle up to her like this. It was almost his nap time anyway, and if they were lucky, he would soon fall asleep.
Holding her baby boy like this made her long to have Kiley back in her arms. She needed to feel her little girl's arms thrown around her neck once more just as desperately as she needed Clark back. It seemed as if an eternity had passed since he had left with the New Kryptonians almost two months before. Telepathic communication simply wasn't enough.
Lois kissed Joseph lightly on the crown of his head before turning back to her in-laws. "As fun as that was, we have to come up with *plausible* explanations… I'm not sure I really want to tell my parents the truth," she finished quietly.
"I know you two told them before," Jonathan began hesitantly, "but with what your father does, I'm not sure I want him to know either… I know it's probably silly, but I just can't seem to dismiss the idea that there are some crazed scientists out there that would love to get their hands on Clark… and the little ones," he fell silent for a moment as he stared at his hands.
He studied them carefully, as if his life depended on it. They were work-worn, calloused—worn with years of wresting a living out of the soil to provide for his family. For most of his life, he had used them, not only to till the dry Kansas dirt, but also in succoring and protecting his loved ones. He sat for a few more moments, lost in thought. "We could tell them that Clark is undercover in the government at the behest of the President… and that he sent secret servicemen to make sure that if Clark's cover is broken the bad guys won't be able to come after us."
Martha nodded shortly. "That's plausible enough to work… we could say that friends of the family offered to take Kiley with them on their trip to Disneyland to explain her absence. But Ellen is planning on staying until the baby is born, so it won't hold up forever." Martha stood and walked across the room to where Lois sat. "Honey, we have to face it; Sam and Ellen will probably have to be told the truth. If it were only Clark being gone and the bodyguards, we could explain it away… but with Kiley on New Krypton, we're going to have to tell them the truth."
Martha took Lois's hand gently. "Sweetie, I know that this is hard, but it's something that you're going to have to talk over with Clark… Telling your parents that you two have been lying to them for over six years is going to have immediate consequences on both of you." She leaned down and dropped a swift kiss on the top of her daughter-in- law's head.
Lois looked up at Martha and sighed. "I know, Martha… I know. I've known all along… I've just been fighting it." She hugged Joseph tightly. "Last time, knowing that Clark is Superman brought my parents nothing but misery—I just don't want them to go through that again…"
"Whatever you decide, Lois, we'll support you," Jonathan stated firmly.
Martha squeezed Lois's hand reassuringly. "I understand sweetie… will you promise me that you'll at least think about it and talk it over with Clark?"
Lois nodded slowly and pushed Joseph's hair back from his forehead. "I will," she said softly.
Martha leaned over and gently pulled a sleeping Joseph off of Lois's lap. He stirred slightly as she settled him on her shoulder, but soon fell back into a deeper sleep. "It's time for this young man to be in bed," she said quietly.
Lois let go of Martha's hand and struggled to stand up. "I want to put him to bed," she said hesitantly.
"Lois," Martha began, "You know you're not supposed to carry anything heavy… and Joseph definitely qualifies."
Lois looked at Martha pleadingly. "Please? I just want to tuck him in—I haven't in weeks!"
Martha looked at her daughter-in-law for a minute. Lois had a fair imitation of Clark's lost-little-puppy-dog look adorning her face. She shook her head and sighed before helping her up. "I'll carry him for you," she said simply.
Jonathan watched them go upstairs and chuckled. There were few things that would vanquish Martha faster than that look… of course Clark had taught Lois to use it to her best advantage. Slowly he stood up and headed out the back door. If Ellen and Sam would be arriving the next day, he had bodyguards to talk to.
Lois leaned over Joseph's crib and tucked the blanket in around her sleeping son. "Have a nice nap, scout," she said softly. She pressed a kiss to two of her fingers and touched him on the forehead. "I love you."
Joseph stirred and opened his eyes. "Song, Mommy?" he said, pulling his thumb out of his mouth.
Lois tugged the blanket back up and began to rub his back. "Of course, sweetheart," she answered. She began to sing his favorite lullaby quietly. She watched, smiling inwardly as his eyes began to slip closed. As the last note of "Brahm's Lullaby" died away his eyes shut completely and the sound of his soft breathing told her that her baby boy had fallen asleep again.
She smoothed his blanket one last time before leaving the room and gently shutting the door behind her. Martha was right—she needed to talk to Clark. She met her mother-in- law on the way past her room and reached out to give her a hug. "Thanks, Mom," she said quietly.
Martha hugged her back before placing her hands on her hips. "You're welcome, sweetheart. Now back to bed young lady."
Lois sighed, made her way into her room, and climbed into bed. She needed to talk to Clark anyway… and she might as well be comfortable doing it. <<Clark?>> she telegraphed and waited for an answer.
<<Lois? Honey, are you okay?>> came the answer. <<You don't usually contact me in the middle of the day… Kiley is asleep in my lap right now.>>
<<Is she okay?>> Lois sent anxiously.
<<She's fine—just tired. I don't think our little girl has been sleeping well since they took her.>>
<<Clark? Keep her close to you. If she's with you, then I know she's safe…>>
<<I promise, honey.>>
<<Sweetheart, we've got a problem. My parents decided that they were the best choice for taking care of me, so they're going to be here tomorrow…>>
<<Honey, are you okay with it?>> He sighed mentally. <<I wish I were there… If I were, they'd have no reason to come.>>
<<Not really… but we can't talk my mother out of it. Clark, I may have to tell them the Secret.>>
<<Honey, I love you. Your dad took it pretty well the last time, and your mom didn't flip out too badly, so if you have to tell them, then do it. We'll deal with the consequences when I get home.>>
<<Are you sure? And… is home still here on Earth? I mean, you said that Zara was treating you like a brother now, but she's kinda pretty, if you like that style, and you *are* married to her…>> she sent, her mental voice sounding small and scared.
<<Lois, honey—home is wherever you are. Are you sure that this is the same Lois Lane that once said, 'Don't fall for me, Farmboy' to my face?>> Clark teased gently. <<I told you a long time ago that it's always been you, and it always will be. I love *you*. Forever. You're stuck with me, because I'm hopelessly stuck on you.>>
Lois smiled as she felt his hand caress her hair and push a strand of it behind her ear. <<Clark, it's just that I'm so fat now… and you're so far away…>>
<<Honey, you're not fat, you're *pregnant*—and extremely beautiful. And I'm coming home to you…>>
<<How do you know that? You haven't seen me in almost two months!>>
<<Darling, you're *always* beautiful, but you're even more gorgeous when you're pregnant. I love you, Lois. You and our kids mean *everything* to me.>>
<<I love you, too, I miss you… I even miss being teased!>> she sent as she felt the faintest hint of pressure on her lips. It was as if he were giving her the barest whisper of a kiss. <<Sweetheart, stay with me for a while? Baby Kent is starting to demand a nap… stay until I fall asleep?>>
<<Of course, honey.>>
<<I love you, sweetheart.>> a small smile turned up the corners of Lois's mouth as she felt his solid presence settle in beside her. Intellectually, she knew that he wasn't really there, but she had long since stopped questioning how she felt after talking to him. It almost always felt like he was really there, holding her close to him, offering her comfort when she most needed it. She sighed softly as she felt his arms settle around her and slipped into a dreamless sleep.
Jonathan strode out to the barn, intent upon speaking to the captain. Quietly, he walked through the door, his eyes scanning for the familiar face of Captain Foler. A man stepped forward out of the shadows and challenged him.
"Milord. How might this humble servant be of service to you, O adoptive father of Kal-El?" the man asked, bowing low.
"Lieutenant Vidi? That is your name, right?"
"Lieutenant, I'm looking for Captain Foler—do you know where I can find him?" Jonathan asked quietly. He wasn't really comfortable with all of the bowing and scraping that these strangers seemed to find necessary in his presence, but he supposed he could deal with it until Clark came home.
"Yes, Milord; I will get him for you." The young man closed his eyes for a few minutes. He appeared to be having an internal conversation, perhaps even an argument. "Milord, Captain Foler will be here shortly," Lt. Vidi said, bowing low once more. "Is there anything else I may do, Milord?"
"Please stop all of the bowing to me?" Jonathan pleaded. "It makes you stick out around here—this is Kansas, not medieval Europe! And, please… call me Jonathan… or Mr. Kent if you must!"
"Yes, Milord," Lt. Vidi said quickly. "er… um… Mr. Kent. What else do you require?"
"Nothing, thank you," Jonathan said quietly.
Lt. Vidi started to bow before he caught himself. He grimaced and walked away, shaking his head and muttering about Terrans and their strange customs. After all, bowing to one's Lord was only polite and proper. They owed it to him to show the proper respect—as the man who had raised their First Lord, Jonathan Kent was entitled to the greatest of honors.
Because of him, their world could be saved from the ravages that Nor would heap upon it. It was to be heard in whispers only that Nor was bent upon dragging their world into Darkness—only Kal-El could prevent it. All of the ancient prophesies pointed to him—the child raised on another world who would, because of what his parents taught him, stop a madman from taking over Krypton. They also said that through his example and that of his child, he would lead their world into a Utopia… Lt. Vidi shook off those thoughts and returned to his duties.
A few minutes later, Captain Foler strode quickly through the door. "Milord Kent," he began. "What might this humble servant do for your lordship?" He said as he bowed low.
Jonathan shifted from foot to foot, still uncomfortable with the strange behavior the Kryptonians exhibited in his presence. "Captain," he said softly, "We have company coming. Lois's parents will be here tomorrow and there are some things you have to know—they don't know about you and they don't know where Clark came from. They don't know anything other than that he's adopted… and they really don't know that he and Kiley are on New Krypton."
"Yes, Milord," he answered softly, "I see how that could cause… problems. I will order the men to keep a low profile and to practice these new… abilities we have developed where Milady's parents will not see us." He looked at Jonathan quizzically. "Will that suffice, Milord? I realize that having at least one of us accompany you when you venture out is not very convenient to this situation—but it must continue for your own safety."
Jonathan sighed. "I don't see why we're not safe in Smallville," he grumbled softly.
"Milord," Captain Foler began, "Smallville looks safe to me… but I am sworn to my duty and currently that is to make sure that you, as Lord Kal-El's father and the rest of his Terran family is safe from the likes of Lord Nor." He bowed deeply once more, his palms flat against his thighs. "Until the Council of Elders says otherwise, you are my Lord and I and my men will protect all of you with our dying breath. We are sworn to this—breath, blood, and body. We will keep you, Lady Lois, Lady Martha, and Master Joseph safe… I believe our vow now includes Lady Lois's parents as well. Until the problem with Nor is resolved, we are yours—we owe you allegiance."
Hesitantly, Captain Foler stepped forward and laid his hand on Jonathan's shoulder. "It is our pleasure and honor to serve you, Milord," he finished.
Jonathan reached out to grasp the Captain's hand. "I know you probably had as little choice as to coming here as my son did when he left for New Krypton," he began quietly. "I just wanted to let you know that the Lanes will be here sometime tomorrow…" He looked up at the earnest young man and marveled how, in so many ways, this bodyguard reminded him of Clark. "…and to say thank you. I also have to ask you to stop bowing all the time—we don't do that here in Kansas… tell your men not to as well, it makes you stick out like a sore thumb… and please, call me Jonathan."
"You are welcome Milord… Jonathan. I will inform the men… Now, if you will excuse me, I must go tell my men of this news—we have two more people to protect." With another low bow and a nod, Foler strode out of the barn and headed off into the fields.
Jonathan watched him go for a moment before heading up to the house. Hopefully, Lois had talked it over with Clark and would know what to tell her parents when they got there the next day. He had yet to see Ellen Lane truly upset, but he had a feeling that she was the source from which his daughter-in-law had inherited her legendary temper… and he was sure that if Lois and Clark decided to tell the truth, they would most likely receive a dose of it.
Zara laid her hand on Clark's arm. "It's time, Clark," she said softly. "I hate to wake her up, but I need to get her dressed for the ceremony."
"Let me do it, Zara," Clark asked quietly. "I'll get her ready to go…" He caressed Kiley's hair gently. "It's time to wake up, sweetie. C'mon Kiley-bug, wake up."
Kiley's eyes fluttered open slowly. "Daddy?" she said hesitantly.
"I'm right here, sweetie," he said softly, hugging her tightly.
Kiley's lower lip quivered. "We're still on New Krypton… away from Mommy and Joseph, aren't we?"
"Punkin', I promise that we'll go home as soon as we can; I miss Mommy and Joseph too."
Kiley hugged Clark and buried her face back in his chest. "I love you, Daddy."
"I love you, too, sweetheart," he replied. Clark stood up and settled her on his hip. "It's time to get dressed, punkin'… we've got that silly Naming ceremony that they want us to do."
"Don't wanna," Kiley mumbled. "I wanna go home."
"I know, sweetie," Clark answered softly. "I want to go home, too. But we're stuck here for a little while… and it's time to get you dressed. Okay?" He stroked her hair gently, unwilling to break contact with his small daughter. She was his physical link to Lois—at times in the past month, he had almost begun to think that his life on Earth had been a dream when compared to the realities he was now living. Holding Kiley made it seem real—his Lois and their life was waiting for him on Earth. And he would give anything to be back there at that moment.
"Okay, Daddy," Kiley said, sighing softly as she laid her head against his shoulder.
Clark dropped to his knees beside the bed and set her down carefully, giving her one more gentle hug and kissing her on the cheek before he released her. "Come on, punkin', it's time to get you ready to go." He pulled the dress off the bed and held it out to his baby girl. "They want you to wear this, Kiley," he said quietly.
Kiley scuffed the toe of her shoe against the ground before she turned around so her daddy could unfasten the buttons on her dress. "I can't reach, Daddy," she said softly.
Clark unbuttoned the old dress and carefully pulled it off before putting the new dress on Kiley and buttoning it up for her. Just as he was reaching for the soft slippers that matched the dress, Kiley turned, hurled herself at him, linked her arms around his neck, and refused to let go. "Don't g'way, Daddy," she said as a sob caught in her throat.
He stroked her back gently and held her as he seated himself on the floor. Clark rearranged Kiley so she was sitting in his lap. Slowly, he began to rock back and forth, comforting her. "Shhh," he began, "I'm not going anywhere, sweetie."
Slowly, Kiley's sobs quieted. She pulled back from him for a minute and dropped her arms, tearstains still evident on her face. "Promise?" she asked, a quaver in her voice.
"I promise," he affirmed quietly as he produced a handkerchief and wiped away the traces of tears from her face. He brought the handkerchief up to her nose and held it there. "Blow," he said.
Obediently, Kiley blew her nose into the square of cloth before cuddling up closer to her daddy.
Clark rested his cheek on her hair as he began to rock slowly back and forth. Kiley had never been a very clingy child, but he recognized her need to stay close to him— hell, he needed his baby near him as well; two months away from Lois, Kiley and Joseph were two months too long!
Zara dropped to her knees beside them and, sensing Clark's inner turmoil, laid her hand on his arm. "Everything will be okay, Clark," she said softly. She tugged off Kiley's shoes gently and replaced them with the matching soft slippers. " Lin'dra," she said, "I promise that everything will be okay—I plan to either keep you with me or with your father until it's safe to send both of you home." She reached out and touched the child's cheek lightly. "Now, the Naming Ceremony is soon… will you let me fix your hair and get you ready while your Daddy goes to change clothes? He'll be right across the hall…"
Kiley nodded hesitantly and hugged Clark fiercely. "You'll just be across the hall?" she asked.
"I'll be back as fast as I can," he said reassuringly.
"I guess it's okay then," she said. "I love you, Daddy."
"I love you too, Kiley," Clark answered, hugging her gently.
Kiley stood up and held her hand out to Zara. "C'mon, Aunt Zara," she said, the beginnings of a smile on her face. "I guess we have to play pretend until we can go home."
Zara took Kiley's hand and squeezed it lightly. "Yes, we do, lin'dra, but it will only be for a short time, I promise." They walked hand-in-hand over to the small dressing table. She lifted Kiley up, set her on the bench in front of the table, picked up a brush and began to brush out the long curls.
Clark watched Zara brush and arrange Kiley's curls for a few minutes before he left to go change clothes. He grimaced; he really wasn't looking forward to getting dressed up in high court gear—it was a nuisance. With a heavy sigh, he picked up the first heavily embroidered silken garment and pulled it on.
Lord Nor walked slowly down the hallway to Tak's suite of rooms. Much still had to be accomplished before he could take over, but he was confident that it would not be long before he came into power. He entered his son's room quietly, glancing around to find the child. "Tak!" he called.
It was absolutely necessary to bring the child with him to the palace if his plan were to succeed. Nor paced back and forth as he impatiently waited for Tak to appear. His mouth tightened into a grimace—the boy was taking far too long. "TAK," he shouted with both voice and mind.
Tak-Nor sidled slowly into the room, his big blue eyes wide with suppressed fear. "Yes, Father?" he said, his voice higher than usual with terror. He had seen his father in moods like this before—usually before his mother got a beating, and he was sure that if he did anything to provoke him, he would be his father's next victim.
"Come here, boy," Nor said gruffly. He didn't want to hurt or frighten the child—at least not while Tak was still useful to him. After all, though he could always breed more sons, none of them would be the right age, as this one was now, to cultivate the heir. Such opportunities were not to be wasted.
Tak walked slowly toward his father, dragging his feet. "Yes, Father?" he repeated, calmer now.
"Tak, son. Today we are going to the naming of the heir. You are to be nice to her—she will be useful to me."
"C-c-can Laj'hon'a come?" Tak asked hesitantly.
"No, your mother can *not*. In fact," Nor smiled cruelly, "she is dead to you until I get the power that rightfully belongs to *me*—and she *will* be dead unless you do as I say."
Tak bowed his head to hide the tears that had begun to gather in his eyes. "Yes, Father," he whispered, sure that his mother would die soon—and it would be his fault.
"Good boy!" Nor crooned. As he reached toward the boy, Tak held himself very still, trying desperately not to flinch as his father ran his hand through his hair to tidy it. "Now let me take a look at you—you must be presentable to meet the princess." He looked critically at Tak before nodding in satisfaction. "You'll do." He held out his hand imperiously to his son. "Come child. We must leave for the palace." Nor turned and hurried out of the room. After a few moments, Tak followed, trotting at his father's heels.
Zara twined one of Kiley's curls around her finger, coaxing it into a long ringlet. She glanced down at the child as she moved on to the next curl, noticing the sad expression on her face. "What's the matter, little one?" she asked quietly, reaching for a jeweled pin that lay on the dressing table.
A single tear trickled down Kiley's face. She sniffed and wiped it away before answering. "I wanna go home," she said with a hiccup, "I miss Mommy an' Joseph—an' I want Daddy to come with me!"
Zara slid the pin into Kiley's hair before dropping to her knees and pulling the little girl close to her in a gentle hug. "I know, lin'dra, I know," she pressed a kiss on to the child's forehead, "I know you miss them—and that you want to go home. I don't blame you… they shouldn't have brought you here and we shouldn't have taken your daddy away."
Zara began to caress Kiley's hair hesitantly. "Lin'dra, I promise that I will make this right—I will get both of you home and I won't let anything horrible happen to you."
Kiley burrowed closer to Zara, aware of the adult only as a source of comfort. "Promise?" she asked, her voice quavering a little as she hiccuped again.
Zara gathered her closer, heedless of the tears that were soaking into her own Naming clothes. She began to rock back and forth slowly, stroking the child's hair gently as she sang an age-old lullaby softly. "I promise," she affirmed before resuming her song.
Kiley buried her face in Zara's neck and linked her arms around her new aunt's neck. As her tears soaked into the collar of Zara's ornate gown, the words of the song began to penetrate her grief-filled consciousness.
*"Little one, you are safe now,
Little one, you are loved.
The Darkness has passed—
the time of fear is almost over."*
Kiley began to relax, not registering that the words were in a language more foreign to her than the Kryptonian that had been around her constantly for weeks.
*"Little one, we will protect you,
Little one, no harm will befall you.
The Darkness cannot come here—
we have pushed it back."*
Kiley yawned, giving into the soothing effect of the ancient lullaby. She snuggled a little closer to Zara, taking comfort in the first lullaby she had been sung since being snatched from her home.
*"Little one, sleep safe and sound,
Little one, where you are is soft and warm.
The Darkness will not return—
we will keep it at bay."*
Zara patted Kiley on the back, thankful that she remembered the traditional lullaby. She pressed a feather-light kiss into the child's hair, continuing her soft song. It was a lullaby that had lulled generations of Kryptonian children to sleep—its origins had long since been lost to time.
*"Little one, we are here,
Little one, we love you.
The chosen one will come—
he will drive back the Darkness forever."*
Kiley sighed softly as her eyes began to slip shut. She still longed for Home, and all that the word entailed, but Aunt Zara was being so nice to her. "Thank you, Aunt Zara," she murmured, anything further that she might have said was lost in a huge yawn.
*"Little one, you are well,
Little one, everything is fine,
The chosen one and his child will lead us—
lead us out of the Darkness and into light."*
As Kiley once more slipped into dreamland, Zara let the lullaby wind down slowly, the ancient Kryptonian words die to a whisper as she continued to rock the child slowly back and forth.
Zara stood up slowly and settled the little girl in her arms before grabbing a handful of bejeweled pins and a small tiara from the dressing table. <<Clark?>> she called softly, not wishing to intrude upon him.
<<Zara? Is Kiley okay? I'm coming!>>
Before she could send anything else, Clark came running into the room still hurriedly shoving his shirttail into his pants. Zara looked up at him and smiled. "She's fine, Clark," she said quietly. "I just wanted to ask if you'd hold her so I can finish putting this stuff in her hair."
Clark reached over and gently took Kiley from Zara. He walked over to the rocking chair and sat down, settling her in his lap. Kiley stirred and turned towards him, burying her face in his shoulder. "I'd be happy to," he began quietly, "Kiley was our miracle child—the doctors told us that Kryptonians and Earth humans were biologically incapable of having children… I've missed holding my little girl." Clark began to rub Kiley's back soothingly as she started to move around restlessly. "Shhh," he murmured, "I'm here, sweetie." She quieted at the sound of her father's voice and slipped into a deeper sleep.
Zara grabbed a brush, walked over, and started to finish arranging the child's hair. She finished her preparations and carefully set the tiara in place, pinning it securely. "Clark," she began, "I'm sorry. We never should have taken you away from Earth—we should have foreseen what Nor would do; we should have prevented the necessity."
"It's okay Zara—I would rather that you hadn't come for me either, but we can't change the past… But to paraphrase something a very smart person once said to me, you're only one person; you can't do everything… What you can do is enough—and you can get us home." Clark kissed his daughter's cheek tenderly.
"This person sounds very wise… who is it?" Zara asked quietly.
"My wife," Clark answered with a wide smile.
"Want me to take her so that you can go get your boots and your tunic?" Zara asked quietly.
Clark shook his head. "I'll take her with me and lay her on my bed while I put on the rest of the stuff that goes with this cursed outfit," he said with a grimace. "I miss jeans and flannel shirts," he muttered.
Zara grinned. "I heard that," she teased gently, "I'll have the palace tailors come up with something—though we use material like that for grain sacks!" She looked at him speculatively, picturing him wearing aforesaid grain sacks. "I don't think wearing grain sacks would suit you," she said, mischief dancing in her eyes. "As much as you hate Kryptonian court gear, it *does* suit you."
Clark laughed and tugged a lock of her hair gently. "I never had a sister… but at times like this, I almost believe that you're somehow mine," he said teasingly.
Zara smiled slowly, "I think I'd like that," she said thoughtfully. "Now scoot! The bodyguards will be here in a few minutes to escort us to the Audience Chamber, and you need to finish changing!"
Clark laughed, tugged her hair once more and headed toward the door, tightening his grip on Kiley as she stirred restlessly. He crossed the hallway, entered his room, and laid Kiley on his bed.
"Daddy," Kiley moaned, stirring slightly.
"Shhh, it's okay punkin'" Clark murmured, stroking her hair gently.
Kiley's mouth turned upwards in a slight smile. "Stay with me, Daddy," she said sleepily, "don't g'way."
Clark leaned over and caressed her cheek softly. "I won't sweetie."
Kiley rolled over and put her arms around her father's hand, trapping it as she hugged it to her and snuggled close. "Love you," she sighed.
Clark dropped a kiss on her forehead before gently extracting his hand and reaching for his forgotten tunic. He pulled it on with a slight grimace… he wasn't too sure that he liked wearing clothes like these; they were too fancy for a farmboy from Kansas—and they reminded him, in color at least, of Daniel Scardino's shirts!
He straightened the tunic and grabbed the gold-chased belt that Ching had laid out for him. He put it on and grabbed the soft, low boots that accompanied the outfit. As he pulled them on, he was extremely thankful that there wasn't a sword to go with the mess he was wearing. He figured that if they had given him a sword, he could have stepped into any RenFaire and blended in perfectly.
Clark picked up the last item—a thin gold circlet stamped all the way around with the El crest, and jammed it on over his head. He walked over to the mirror and looked into it, pulling a face at his reflection. While some Superman groupies might like the way he looked at that moment, he thought the clothes and ornaments just made him look silly. He walked back over to the bed and picked Kiley up. "Time to wake up, punkin'," he said quietly.
Kiley nestled her head against his shoulder and yawned sleepily. "Nuh, uh," she muttered, still half-asleep.
"Come on, sweetie—it's time to get up."
Kiley opened her eyes and looked at him. "I'm still sleepy, Daddy."
"I know you are, punkin'—and as soon as we get this Naming nonsense over with, the sooner you can go to bed, okay?"
Kiley threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly before planting a very wet kiss on his cheek. "Ok, Daddy." She looked at him and smiled sweetly—Lois's smile, he thought distractedly. "Daddy, can I walk an' hold your hand?"
"Sure you can," he said laughingly. Clark set Kiley down and offered the child his hand.
She took it gravely and they walked out the door into the hallway where they met Zara. Kiley grabbed Zara's hand without hesitation and pulled both of the adults toward the door. "Let's get this over with," Kiley said a little grumpily.
The bodyguards met them at the door and trailed them to the audience chamber. Clark ignored them with resignation—he was becoming accustomed to having them follow him around. All too soon, they arrived at their destination. Clark swallowed nervously as he leaned down to swing Kiley up into his arms and settle her on his hip.
He felt almost as if giving her another name was a betrayal—not just of his daughter, but of his wife as well. It was Lois who had chosen Kiley's name during her pregnancy. They had made a deal—for their first child, she got to choose a girl's name while he got to choose a boy's… Renaming his baby daughter was like sweeping away the last remnants of her mother's legacy to her.
He knew it was only temporary, but the thought rankled. It simply went against the grain to do something that could potentially harm Kiley. For the millionth time, he wished he were at home with Lois. Unconsciously, his hand stole up to clasp the locket she had given him. He held it tightly, as if by holding it, he could actually touch his beloved wife. He desperately wished that he had her strength to lean on—it was simple really, he needed her. Together, they could conquer anything—it was what made their marriage work.
Clark took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and focused on Lois. He thought of her smile, her small hand slipping into his, her arms around him when they were facing something truly difficult. He expelled the breath quietly as they approached the dais. As he opened his eyes, he could have sworn that he saw her out of the corners of his eyes. He drew in a breath sharply as he felt her arms slip around him and hold him tight.
Clark stood up straighter and faced the gathering crowd, taking strength from the feeling of Lois's presence. Slowly, the last of the nobles filed in and, as one, sat down upon the cushioned benches that had been prepared for their exclusive use.
Lord Trey stepped forward and pounded his staff upon the ground three times. "Let the family of the child step forward at this time." He stepped back and bowed low to Clark and Zara. Sarn-Ra and his wife stepped forward and climbed the dais to stand behind Zara. They were the only family she had left—all of the others had not heeded the warnings and had perished when Krypton exploded.
Ganul-Wys stepped forward, bringing his family with him. Kyrin and Kyrim came to stand directly behind Clark and Kyrin put her hand on his shoulder in a supportive gesture. Grsek came next, his wife, two-year old, and their newborn baby with him. He joined the throng behind Clark and sent a brief mental hello before he picked up his oldest child and settled her on his hip.
Trey stepped forward once more and regarded the crowd seriously. "Who presents the child of Kal-El to be Named?"
"We, her family do," said both families in unison.
"Bring forth the child."
Clark stepped forward and carefully set Kiley on the small throne prepared for her. She shot him a look of wordless protest at being forced to leave her daddy's arms, but settled into the chair and began to smile slowly at the crowd.
"The Naming of a Royal Child is a very blessed event. For years, we have been without an Heir—now the First Lord has been returned to us, and his Heir has been brought along as well." Lord Trey stepped forward and laid his hand on Kiley's shoulder. "People of New Krypton, the name she shall be known by in this life, the name that shall be written upon the records, and the name by which she shall be known in the Light to come is Lara-Ziveh-El. May the Darkness forever shun her and turn away from her presence." His hand came to rest behind the tiara on her head.
"Lara shall be taught in the wisdom of her people so that one day she will govern wisely over our fair world. Oh ye fair ones, behold the heir to the throne of New Krypton, and your princess—Lara-Ziveh-El, out of the House of Ra, into the House of El!"
Kiley started at his words and looked around wildly. Clark stepped forward and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. She relaxed slightly, but to anyone who was watching closely, the signs of her fear at Lord Trey's words were easy to see.
The crowd stood as one and dropped to their knees before bowing their heads to touch their foreheads to the floor. "My people, you may now come forward to present your gifts and meet our new Heir!" Trey opened his arms to welcome them as they stood up and began to walk forward in family groups.
Kyrin-Wys opened her mind to assess the loyalty of the families as they came forward—just in case. After all, she had just rediscovered her nephew; she didn't want to lose him because her carelessness had allowed an assassin to slip by. Briefly, she wondered if he would let her mother his little girl a little—after all, she knew that he had never wanted his child to come to New Krypton. She thought that little Kiley might need her… the Lishra'kre'vatha would help.
Kyrin glanced over at Clark and narrowed her eyes as she saw a slight, barely-visible figure standing directly behind him. The shimmer of light that made up the person seemed to be hugging him around the waist, lending him support. She turned her head for a better look only to discover that, where she had supposed someone was standing was only empty air. Kyrin shook her head to clear it and again focused her attention on the crowd in front of the dais.
Her attention sharpened as Lord Nor strode forward, tugging his reluctant son along with him. Her mind recoiled from reading the sewer she knew resided inside Nor's immaculately groomed skull and she knew that he was not to be trusted, so she turned her focus to the child. She sent out a careful tendril of thought towards the boy and was shocked when she was yanked into a miasma of terror and guilt. She found the focus of both emotions rather quickly when she stumbled upon a recent memory of Nor threatening the little boy's mother. This memory was linked to others of Lord Nor beating Eyindl-Qua, Nor's concubine and Tak's mother.
With a shudder, she yanked herself free and made her way over to Sarn-Ra. Kyrin whispered her findings to the Speaker of the Council before resuming her place near her nephew. She wasn't surprised when Sarn-Ra stepped forward to speak.
"People of New Krypton. I am sorry to interrupt this auspicious occasion, but a matter that must be immediately dealt with has come to my attention. Lord Kav-Nor. You have violated the laws of our society." Sarn-Ra paused and waited as the people began to react to this unwelcome news.
Lord Nor glared at his accuser and dug his fingers into the boy's shoulders. "Darkness!" he spat. "Why, whatever are you talking about?"
"One of our chief Memories has just told me of your behavior concerning your concubine, Eyindl-Kqa and your son, Tak-Nor. Such behavior is unacceptable—it is unlawful to beat one's concubine. It is unlawful to terrorize and use emotional blackmail on one's child. Kav- Nor, it is my judgment that the child, Tak-Nor be immediately removed from your custody." Sarn-Ra had to stop again to allow the crowd to quiet down.
"He shall reside at the palace and his needs will be taken care of. You are also ordered to produce the boy's mother—as her Lord, it is your responsibility to protect her from harm; not to hurt her yourself. This is the law—it shall be done."
Lord Nor snarled, snapped his fingers and shoved Tak forward. "Take the sniveling, whining brat. He is of no further use to me, anyway!" His mouth twisted into a cruel parody of a smile, "But you *will not* take my property from me—Eyindl has been mine since I took her from her House and she shall remain with me! Keep the boy—I can get more, stronger sons… Eyindl will do for their mother as well!" He turned and stalked out of the audience chamber, slamming the door behind him.
Tak fell to his knees and his hands hit the ground as he reached out to stop his face from hitting the hard marble floor. He pushed himself up slowly and looked at the older man in astonishment. "You mean that I don't have to live with Father anymore??? And that Mama is going to be safe?"
Sarn-Ra stepped down from the dais and picked up the seven cycle old boy. "Yes it does, little one. You don't have to be afraid anymore."
A single tear ran down the boy's face. Sarn-Ra wiped it away and carried him up to the dais to stand with the First Lord and his family. He set the child down and turned to face the crowd as the noble families resumed presenting themselves to the First Lord and his clan.
Tak began to look around him with interest, his fear fast fading outside of his father's presence. His eyes widened as he caught site of the princess.
Kyrin could still hear some of the thoughts that were running through the boy's head. Absently, she noted that he would require training soon. He broadcast his foremost thought to her loud and clear—he found Kiley to be absolutely beautiful. Mentally, Kyrin groaned and cursed herself for a fool. Just what they needed; Tak-Nor developing a crush on Clark's daughter. She knew that she would have to warn Clark of this developing situation later. She heaved a huge sigh and turned her attention back to the procession of noble families.
No other family threw up the red flag—though Jen-Mai and his family gave her some niggling doubts. She was relieved when the ceremony was finally over. She watched with a smile as Clark picked up Kiley and carried her out the door. Kyrin hadn't missed the sleepiness in the little girl's expression. Kyrin observed Sarn-Ra as he took Tak's hand and led him towards the Ra's apartments. With a smile, she happily took her husband's arm and left the audience chamber.
Clark carefully pulled the hairpins and the tiara out of his sleeping daughter's hair and laid them on the dresser. He smiled and dropped a kiss on the top of her head as she snuggled closer to him. He undressed her carefully and pulled a nightgown over her head before carrying her over to her bed and tucking her in.
Silently, he dropped to his knees beside the bed and, taking his baby's flaccid hand in his own, began to pray with a fervor he thought he had lost long ago. He hated being away from Lois and Joseph. He hated living away from Earth. Most of all, he hated the feeling that he was powerless to protect his family. He wanted to be with them; to take Kiley and run back home—to Lois. Since fleeing back home wasn't an option, his only recourse was prayer—pray that his family would be safe, pray that Nor would leave them alone, pray that, when he finally was able to return, that Lois would want him back. Pray, pray, pray, pray! He felt like he'd rather scream.
He loved her; needed her. He still just had a few niggling doubts that she would forgive his… desertion. He hadn't dared talk to her about it—she needed to get some reassurance from him, not to hear about his own insecurities. Clark reached out and gently brushed a curl away from Kiley's face.
He tugged the blankets up around her and made sure that Clarkie-bear and Annie were within reach. Clark stood up and quietly left the room, making sure that the door was left cracked open behind him. He entered his room and yanked off the fancy clothing, leaving it in piles on the floor for the servants to sort out. Clark threw himself on the bed and buried his face in the pillow, clutching the locket tightly in one fist.
Clark sighed heavily. He missed Lois. He missed accidentally eating her long hair when the wind blew it too close to his face. He missed kissing her, sleeping with her head pillowed on his chest, making love with her… He missed cooking because she still wasn't very good in the kitchen. He wanted to go home; that meant wherever his Lois was.
Clark groaned softly. Thinking about her wasn't going to help him get to sleep. <<Lois?>> he called out mournfully, hoping for an answer.
<<Clark, what's the matter?>> came the soft reply.
<<Nuthin'>> he answered. <<I just wanted to talk to you… I miss you.>>
<<Clark Jerome Kal-El Kent! There is *too* something wrong I can feel it!>>
<<Spill it, flyboy.>>
<<Sweetheart, um, I guess… um, I'm just kind of… scared.>>
<<Farmboy, you're more than scared—you're terrified! I can feel it from here. What's the matter, honey?>> she asked.
Clark drew in a deep breath. <<I'm scared that, because I, well… deserted you… and they took Kiley away… that you won't want me back,>> he admitted quietly.
<<Clark, sweetheart, I love you.>> Lois began. <<You *had* to go; they didn't leave us a choice. It wasn't your fault that they stole Kiley—and she's safe now. As long as she knows that we love her, she should be okay.>>
Clark began to smile slightly as he felt her arms come around him. <<But, I still *left* and I promised that I'd *never* do that.>>
<<Sweetheart, *it's not your fault*! You didn't want to leave; I know that. I *love* you. Remember? I'll love you forever…>>
<<…and throughout all eternity,>> he finished softly.
<<You've got that right! Clark, I know that you'll be home as soon as you can. I miss you.>>
Clark felt a faint pressure against his lips and smiled. <<I love you,>> he sent as he began to feel her rain ghostly kisses all over his face. <<Stay with me, honey? I need you here with me,>> he finished quietly.
<<All you have to do is ask, sweetheart,>> came the reply.
Clark sighed softly as he felt her small body curl up in his embrace. He laid his hand against the round bulge where their child was growing, convinced that Lois was really there with him, even though she was light years away. <<I love you,>> he whispered into her thoughts as he closed his eyes.
<<I love you, too,>> he heard as his breathing evened out and he fell asleep.
Zara puttered around her bedroom, carefully pulling the pins out of her hair and shaking it free. She removed the slender gold circlet that was embossed with the intertwined symbols of her House and Clark's and laid it one her dressing table.
She had a feeling that the next few weeks would be difficult. After all, there was still Nor to take care of, and now there was a lonely little girl in the room next door whom desperately missed her mother. Silently, she cursed the decision her father and the Council of Elders had made. They took a happy little girl from her home and turned her into the frightened, sad creature who was living next door.
Zara had caught brief glimpses of the real child in Clark's presence. She sincerely hoped that the experience hadn't hurt the baby—four was a very young age to be subjected to such trauma. Silently, she vowed to protect Kiley—she would make sure that the child would be reunited with the family that had been left behind.
With that thought, Zara quickly stripped off the gown she was wearing in favor of a comfortable shift and robe. She arranged herself on the bed before closing her eyes to concentrate on finding Kiley's sleeping mind. She threw out a line to the little one, forming a tenuous connection that would allow her to know if the child was in distress. It was the same sort of link formed between mother and child before birth on her world…
Zara sighed and climbed underneath the bed coverings. The next day would be a long one—there was still the matter of the custody of Nor's son to resolve. His name would not be changed, but it was essential that a noble household raise him—he was still Kav-Nor's heir, and as such he had to learn of the responsibilities that came with his birth. For tonight, however, she need not worry, her father had put him in her old room for the night.
Zara closed her eyes, but just as she was about to drift off, she felt a tug from the direction of Kiley's room. Quickly, she threw back the covers, hurried out of the room, and to the child's bedside.
"No, nonononono, NO!" Kiley screamed. She sat straight up in her bed and began to cry. "No," she whimpered.
Without conscious thought, Zara gathered Kiley close to her and began to rock back and forth, making comforting noises. "Shhh, what's the matter, jal'hera?" she asked softly. "It was only a dream…"
Kiley sniffed and buried her face in the front of Zara's shift. "The bad man who hurt that big kid took Daddy an' he was hurting him," she cried softly.
Zara pulled Kiley in her lap and began to stroke her long hair as she rocked gently back and forth. "Lin'dra, he won't hurt your Daddy—I promise. Shh, it's okay." She held her closely for a moment and began to hum the lullaby softly.
"I want to see," Kiley said, snuffling as tears streamed down her face.
Zara put Kiley down on the bed before standing and picking her back up. She settled the little girl on her hip and began to walk towards the door. "We'll go see him… and then we'll come back in here. Lin'dra, your Daddy is probably sleeping right now."
Kiley leaned her head against Zara's shoulder. "Want Daddy anyway," she said tearfully.
Zara kissed her on the cheek as she crossed over the threshold into Clark's room. "See?" she whispered softly. "Your Daddy is sleeping, he's safe."
Kiley turned to look at her father. "Mommy's there too," she asserted quietly, pointing to a slight shimmer in the air next to Clark.
Zara took a closer look and was surprised to see a slight indentation in the pillow beside him. "Yes she is," she affirmed. "Your Mommy and Daddy are what you would call 'soulmates'. Because of how the One made us, it means that such things are possible; telepathy is part of it."
Kiley stared at Zara in puzzlement, momentarily forgetting her earlier distress. "What's 'telepathy'?" she asked.
"It's where you can talk to another person without speaking out loud," Zara explained, using the simplest terms she could think of to put it in. "Now, lin'dra, it's time to go back to bed." She hoisted the little girl a bit higher on her hip and left the room quietly.
"Aunt Zara?" Kiley asked, fear returning to her eyes.
"Can I sleep with you tonight? It's dark in there an' I'm afraid of the dark. An' will you sing to me?"
"Of course, lin'dra. Of course." Zara changed directions and headed to her room, thankful that there was a rocking chair in there as well. She entered the room, sat down in the chair, and arranged the child comfortably in her lap. Zara grabbed a tissue and blotted Kiley's face matter-of- factly before she began to rock back and forth. Zara kissed Kiley on the forehead before she began to sing.
*"Little one, the nightmares are over,
Little one, there is nothing to fear,
Dreams hold nothing to fear—
the evil darkness has passed us by,"*
Kiley snuggled closer to Zara as she began to rub her back gently, trying to soothe her out of her fright.
*"Little one, sleep safe and sound,
Little one, I am here beside you,
The Darkness will not find you—
I will keep it away."*
Kiley began to calm and her eyelids grew heavy. Zara continued to rock her and rub her back soothingly, praying to the One for this precious child's safety.
*"Little one, your parents love you,
Little one, all will be well,
The Darkness cannot find you—
We will stop it's coming."*
Kiley's eyes closed as Zara continued the song. Noticing this, Zara began to simply hum the tune as she stood up carefully and placed the child in the large bed. She stole quietly out of the large room and hurried to get the stuffed bear that had been left in the tumbled bed coverings in Kiley's room. She snatched the bear out of the bed and hurried back to her own chamber where the little girl had begun to toss and turn in the bed, mumbling in her sleep.
Zara placed the bear in the child's arms before tucking the covers around her securely and climbing into the other side of the bed. She stroked the child's cheek softly, sending feelings of comfort and safety through the tenuous link between them. "Shhh, jal'hera," she said softly. "It's okay, you're safe." Kiley quieted and slipped into a deeper sleep. Zara placed one more gentle kiss on the top of the child's head before she, too succumbed to the waiting arms of slumber.
Joseph sniffled as he pulled himself out of his crib and headed towards his mom's room. He pushed open the door and toddled over to where Lois lay sleeping. "Mommy?" he said questioningly.
Lois opened her eyes and regarded her small son sleepily. "What is it, scout?" she asked.
"Mommy, Jo'eph wanna 'leep wiv you. Jo'eph scaird! Mon'ter!" he rubbed a hand across his face, smearing the remnants of tears that lay on his cheeks.
"Climb on in, sweetie," she said softly, patting the bed next to her.
Joseph scrambled up onto the bed and under the covers. "Love you," he said with a sunny smile. "Baby sister say she love you, too," he patted her stomach and planted a wet kiss on it. He stuck his thumb in his mouth and snuggled close to her.
Lois stared at her son in shock for a moment before she brushed his hair back gently and kissed him on the cheek. "Baby sister, huh?" she murmured. "It's possible, I suppose. Even if I was hoping for another little boy." She sighed softly and hugged her son close to her. "I guess it's time to start discussing names with Clark," she whispered as her eyes began to close. Slowly, her breathing evened out and she fell asleep.
Martha peeked into Lois's room and smiled at the tableau before her. Her daughter-in-law and her grandson were curled up next to each other, fast asleep. It was well past midnight and the Lanes would be there relatively early in the morning. She tiptoed into the room and gently tucked the blankets in around her family before quietly leaving the room to get some sleep herself.
Clark woke suddenly and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He got up quickly and went to Kiley's room to check on her. He could have sworn that he had heard his little girl screaming, and he had to reassure himself of her safety.
He was shocked to find her tumbled bed empty in the middle of the night, so he hurried over to Zara's room—she would know how to call out the guards to find his missing baby. He knocked once on the door before entering. He sighed in relief as he saw Kiley tucked into the middle of Zara's otherwise empty bed.
Kiley sat up and yawned sleepily. "Daddy?" she said in a sleep blurred voice. "The Council called Aunt Zara. It's lonely in here without her an' I don't like the dark." She held out her arms to him in a wordless plea to be picked up. "Can I sleep with you?"
Clark immediately swung her into his arms. "Of course you can, punkin'" he said as she snuggled into his embrace and laid her head on his chest. <<Zara, Kiley woke up and asked to sleep in my room, okay?>> he sent quickly.
<<Sure, Clark,>> came the distracted response.
<<Why did they want you in the middle of the night, anyway?>> he asked.
<<Just a small matter… nothing to worry about>>
He frowned, sensing that it was just an excuse. He also sensed that Zara had matters under control and she thought that his little girl needed to be taken care of first. Clark strode out of the room and across the hall where he tucked Kiley into his bed. "Goodnight, punkin'. I love you," he said softly, dropping a kiss on her cheek.
"I love you, too, Daddy," she said sleepily before her eyes drifted shut.
Clark climbed into the large bed and watched his daughter sleep for a few minutes before he allowed himself to resume his interrupted slumber.
Lois carefully made her way down the back stairs into the living room, gripping the banister tightly. Her parents were supposed to arrive at any minute, and she definitely didn't want to greet them in her bedroom upstairs, not with what she had to tell them.
Lois got to the bottom of the stairs and started to cross the room, lost in thought. She grimaced as she thought of their inevitable reactions. Sam would most likely be okay, but she was sure that Ellen would take the news badly. Her mother had always hated not to be in on every detail of her daughters' lives and their secret was not only the biggest thing that she had neglected to inform her mother of, but the most important.
Joseph came running into the room and his little face lit up as he caught sight of her. "Mommy!" he squealed happily as he hurled himself at her, grabbing her legs in a huge hug. "Up," he demanded, releasing her legs and holding his arms out to her.
Lois laughed and took his hand in hers as she hurried over towards her favorite armchair. She sat down in it before pulling her little boy into her ever-diminishing lap.
He snuggled up to her and patted her tummy. "Hello baby 'ister," he said happily. Joseph leaned over kissed Lois's stomach. "Jo'eph love you."
"She loves you, too, scout," Lois said, hugging him tightly. She looked up as the front door opened and her mother walked in with her father lugging the bags bringing up the rear.
"Lois!" Ellen called. "What are you doing out of bed?" she scolded before Lois could say anything.
"Mo-ther," Lois began, "Doctor Robinson said that I can get up for short periods of time and that it won't hurt the baby."
"Princess!" Sam said happily as he dropped the suitcases with a thump, leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. He smiled and swung Joseph up into his arms. "And how's my favorite grandson doing today?" he asked, tickling his tummy.
Joseph threw his arms around Sam's neck and planted a wet kiss on his cheek. "I love you Gan'pa Lane." He gave his grandfather a sunny smile and another hug before squirming to get down.
"Do you want down, Joey?" Sam asked.
Joseph's little face clouded up. "Me *not* Joey," he insisted. He squirmed out of his grandfather's grasp, fell to the ground and began to cry. "Me Jo'eph!" he yelled through his tears. He climbed to his feet back into the chair with Lois before burying his face in her chest, still crying.
Lois checked him over for injuries and enfolded him in a comforting embrace. "Shhh, it's okay, scout."
Joseph began to quiet, his little body cuddling closer to his mother. Ellen began to look around the room, searching for something or someone. "Where's my favorite granddaughter?" she asked quickly. "I haven't seen her or talked to her in months, and now that I'm here, she should be around to give her grandmother a kiss. Lois I don't care what the jackass doctor says, with the problems you've had with that pregnancy since Clark went haring off on that idiotic undercover assignment, you should stay in bed until that baby's due date." Ellen started to pace back and forth impatiently while continuing her rant.
"That is, unless you want to have *another* preemie on your hands without Clark here to help take care of it. You'd think you would have learned your lesson with Joseph, but no, you wanted more children and you wouldn't listen to your mother that since both he and Kiley were born a month early and you were so sick with him that you should at least wait another few years until you two started trying for another." Lois tried to interrupt, but gave up in favor of continuing to comfort Joseph.
"But what do I know?" Ellen continued. "I'm just your mother, the woman who spent 32 hours in labor giving birth to you. I swear, you listen to Martha Kent more than you listen to me and *I'm* your mother!" Ellen came up for air and took a long look at her daughter and her grandson.
Lois looked up at her. "Mother, Daddy, I was going to say that it's nice to see you, but you really shouldn't have come all the way out here." She stroked Joseph's hair gently and dropped a kiss on the top of his head. "Mother, you know that the doctors have averaged being about a month off with me, both Kiley and Joseph were perfectly healthy babies and I'm sure this little one will be, too."
Lois rested her hand on her swollen belly and took a deep breath. "It's also not Joseph's fault that I insisted on chasing leads out in cold rainy weather when I already had a cold… that's what made me get sick, not carrying my son."
Joseph looked up at Lois worriedly. "Mommy sick?" he asked.
Lois hugged him. "No, scout, Mommy's fine," she answered.
"'tay," he said and brought his thumb up to his mouth. "Love you," he said around it.
"I love you too, sweetie," she said quietly. Lois took a deep breath and looked at her parents again. "Kiley isn't here because she's with Clark."
"*What*???" Ellen said, looking shocked. "I knew that your husband wasn't all that smart when he went on a deep cover assignment, leaving you four months pregnant with his child, but this is nothing short of imbecilic! *What* can he be thinking to take a four year old child on a dangerous assignment?! I don't know what you *ever* saw in the man, Lois, but you can do better!"
Sam fiddled with his tie, not really knowing what to say. "Ellen, calm down. Princess, I know that Clark is a good man and that he makes you happy. There *must* be a logical explanation for this, and I want it."
"Mother, Daddy, there's something you two need to know…"
Lord Nor sipped his wine and smiled at the images playing before him on the vidscreen. Phase one of his plan was complete. He had altered the chip in his son's arm to transmit the surveillance video in the palace to him. He now had visuals of every area of the palace to which the child had access. He swirled the wine around in his glass, chortling over the fact that the Speaker and the Chief Memory had been stupid enough to take the bait and take his unknowing plant into the palace. Through the boy's chip, he would be able to track the Heir's movements. He chuckled to himself as he contemplated his perfect plan for world domination.
Soon he could implement his plan for a… kind of palace coup. He contemplated the ruby red wine still in his goblet and frowned. Perhaps it would be best to wait a few weeks in order to lull them into a false sense of security. After all, he would only get one chance for his plan to succeed. If he failed, it would be certain execution on Traitor's Hill—and that would mean that the self-righteous goody-goodies that ran this puny planet would win.
<Yes,> he thought with an evil chuckle. He would play a waiting game and further consolidate his power base. It would also be… wise to wait until Tak became the Princess's playmate. After all, it simply wouldn't do to let them corrupt his son. Nor threw back his head and began to laugh.
Deep down in the bowels of Kav-Nor's manor, Eyindl-Kqa shivered at the sound of her Lord's laughter as it echoed throughout the great stone pile. "What kind of monster have I given myself to?" she wondered fearfully. She had expected much of his harsh treatment of her, after all, hadn't her father treated her the same way? But her son… She would give anything to know if he was safe. Kav had come to her and informed her of her baby's death, telling her that it was all for the best anyway—he had said that he should have saved himself the trouble and strangled the brat right after he was born.
Eyindl pressed her body closer to the cold wall of her prison. What kind of monster had she linked her fortunes to? If only she hadn't succumbed to the first charming man who offered to take her away from her father's House, if only she had made him marry her! Her family had turned their faces from her when she had become his concubine—if she had married him, at least she would have somewhere to run to and some means of support if she divorced him. She had gotten herself into this mess, and it was up to her to get word to the Council to get herself out of it.
She had shamed her family and caused a major scandal when she had run away with Kav-Nor instead of submitting to the marriage that had been arranged for her since birth. Perhaps she really did deserve every beating she had ever gotten—from both her father and from her Lord and Master. Eyindl hid her face in her hands and began to sob.
To Be Continued in Forever and All Eternity III: Destiny.
(c) Laura Davies 2003, All Rights Reserved.