Submitted: January 2003
Summary: What might have happened to Clark if the Kents hadn't found him? Find out if circumstances turn a gentle soul into an Ultimate Soldier or an ultimate man.
This started as a little thought to explore what might have happened if Clark had been found by someone other than the Kents. This starts very early on and continues through into something you can recognize from the show. Although clearly different, I hope it keeps you interested and entertained.
I want to say a very special thanks to Avia for beta- reading this for me. I know she had to wonder what she'd gotten herself into. Also note that
denotes a change from one scene to another in the same timeframe. ### denotes a shift in time (and some shift may be longer than others). This story covers a lot of ground and at a very fast pace. So if you don't prefer those kinds of stories, this one isn't for you.
Usual disclaimers apply. I only borrowed the characters so I could play for a while. This doesn't really resemble the show all that much. I do hope it's worth the time to read it. It sure was a lot fun to write. Feedback is not only welcomed, but appreciated. Thanks again and enjoy!
The tiny silver vessel streaked through the dusk of the Middle American sky. Inside, unaware of the fate escaped from and that to come, the small infant stared into the darkness. Soon, very soon, this journey would come to an end and another would start.
"Sir, the UFO has landed in a field three miles from here."
The large man looked up at the younger one awaiting further instructions. "Do we have a team en route?"
"Good." The man led the way to the communications counter to listen as their team descended on the object their equipment had been so diligently tracking since it entered the earth's orbit some hours earlier.
"You are not going to believe this," came the voice over the loud speaker a few moments later.
"What is it?" demanded the commanding officer.
"It's a baby, sir."
Major Trask had been especially proud of his discovery five years earlier. The appearance of the silver vessel proved that there was indeed life beyond the bounds of this planet. But it was what was inside that had single handedly funded alien research well into the next century.
"He's remarkable," commented a voice to the Major's side.
Trask turned to see Doctor Dale Kent. "Yes. A scientific wonder."
"Not just scientific. Major, every statistic we have on this child seems to point to only one conclusion. He is indeed homo sapien."
"Human? Don't be ridiculous. He's an alien."
"So are Mexican nationals when they enter our country," the doctor told him sarcastically. "Look, Jason, I know you're still backing the theory that this child was sent here as some kind of front for a future invasion, but I think you're wrong. Clark has feelings…"
"Clark?" Trask glared down at the man. "You've named this creature?"
"The board was tired of referring to him as a number."
"The board has no idea what this creature is capable of. Mark my words, this…" He turned and waved at the window through which they had been watching the small boy. "…thing will cause an enormous amount of trouble."
"Come on, Jason. He's not going to cause any trouble."
"Oh really? Look at your figures, Dale. The creature is five years old and can read better than most middle school kids. It's never been sick. Broken bones heal in days."
Dale cringed at that statement. The military had insisted on the most inhumane tests in regards to the child in the next room. The Major had personally broken the boy's leg to prove the child had healing abilities beyond the realm of what was normal.
Trask turned and glared at the dark haired child as another skill was mastered with ease. "No. 'Clark' is definitely more than it appears to be. The military still has final say on what happens to this creature." The Major turned and glared at the doctor again. "There will be no tests in emotional capacity and there will certainly be no stimuli. Is that clear?"
Dale glanced at the child. "Yeah."
"Good. Prepare the alien for tactical evaluation. It's time we start grooming this creature to be useful until its old enough to reveal its plan."
Dale shook his head sadly as he watched the uniformed back of the officer turn the corner. The doctor had been convinced at the beginning of this mission that there may have been some truth to Trask's theories. But they had been studying the vessel and its navigational panels during the years it had been at the lab. If a small child had been sent to grow into a man that would lead his world to attack another, wouldn't he at least be able to access necessary information to know what he was doing? The United States military had not been able to discover anything other than the ship had been programmed to land exactly where it had. While that proved whatever world sent the small ship knew about Earth, it did not prove Clark was the front man for an alien invasion. He was a child. What could he possibly do?
Trask stood on the platform and watched with a huge smile as the scrawny boy lifted a drum and carried it effortlessly across the room. The drum weighed more than five hundred pounds. No normal ten-year-old boy should be able to do what this boy was doing.
This alien creature had been probed and studied relentlessly since it was found. Trask was convinced it would reveal a multitude of information about its origins and plans to come. However, until it turned five or six years old, the creature appeared to be just as normal as any earth child. That age was when it was noticed the boy was stronger than should be possible.
Of course, lifting heavy weights was just one of the things they were discovering this alien creature could do.
Over the next four years the scientists and military personnel at the laboratory watched as their alien discovery developed into somewhat of a super man. At fourteen, Clark was strong enough to lift vehicles. He had developed telescopic vision, x-ray vision, and an ability to hear things from miles away. He could run a great distance in a matter of seconds, and he could even shoot beams of heat with his eyes. He was truly an amazing biological wonder.
To the military, he was also a potential threat. While the scientists at the lab had discovered what was causing his unnatural abilities (His amazing biological make-up was powered by the sun.), Trask was instructed to groom the young man to respect authority. Clark was constantly fed information so that he was manipulated to believe the only reason he had his unique abilities was because of the government. It wasn't long before the information took hold and the boy believed that if he did anything to cause trouble, he would be taken 'offline', as Trask had put it. Clark was told he was a biological machine. He existed only because the military found him and restored his limited memory reserves in the computer that made up part of his brain. The young man had no reason to doubt what he was told. After all, he'd been bred from day one to believe he would one day be a negotiation tool for the US Military, although he'd never understood that.
Dr. Kent discovered that Clark's amazing abilities came from the boy's ability to absorb the sun's radiation. His body used the sun's rays as an energy reserve to allow itself to be able to do the things it could do. The day Dale discovered Clark's skin was becoming virtually impenetrable was the day the military began to form plans to make their 'discovery' even more useful. Led by Trask, an outline was formed to mold Clark into the military's 'ultimate soldier'. With his amazing abilities he would make the US Infantry almost obsolete. The doctor began to evaluate the reasons he'd become involved with this case. While Clark could prove invaluable scientifically, Kent was not so sure the young man should be groomed to be a killing machine.
Dale stood on the platform and watched as the grenade was thrown at Clark. He reached up and caught it without a moment's hesitation. It exploded in his hand with a silent thud. Trask smiled and ordered the next test be performed.
"What are you doing, Jason?"
"Preparing America's ultimate soldier."
"This is insane. We don't need an ultimate soldier."
"Sure we do. This creature is the answer to never having to live through another world war."
"At what price?"
Trask turned to the man angrily. "At what price? At no price. This was a gift… dropped in our laps. All we've had to do was groom it."
"Don't you see? There is a price. You're destroying a young man's life."
"Don't start with that rubbish again. 'It' is no young man. It is a machine. Nothing else."
"No. He's not. He's a living, breathing teenage boy. He has a heart, lungs, and a brain. He has feelings that he's never been able to develop. Think of the scientific significance if we started studying him with more emphasis on science."
"Significance of what? You can't possibly be thinking of this thing being turned into what? A regular man?"
"Think about it. His body has amazing healing abilities that could be studied to help cure cancers and diseases that have devastated the human race for years. And who knows what possibilities a child of his could render."
"This 'thing' will never be allowed to infect the human race. 'It' is a soldier. It will soon be the most powerful soldier alive. The United States will be untouchable." Trask glared at Dr. Kent. "You've been ordered to find a way to sterilize it. I suggest you do it."
"And what happens when your soldier dies? He's not immortal. He will die."
"That's why the samples will be taken. The military has wanted to clone humans for years. Now they have the perfect specimen to experiment with. No humans will have to be involved. If things go wrong…" He shrugged with a smug grin on his face.
Dale gasped at the man's insinuation. "You're planning to clone an army of your ultimate soldiers?!"
"Very good, Kent. With twenty soldiers like this one, no one would mess with us. And they could all be programmed to alleviate the alien threat when it happens." Trask turned back to the activities taking place on the field. Test after test, the creature was proving to be nothing short of phenomenal.
The color drained from Dale's face as the realization of what Trask had in mind sank in. If the military created an army of clones with the powers Clark had, the world wouldn't survive if something went wrong. He had to do something and he had to do it now.
"Are you sure, Dr. Kent?"
"I'm positive, Clark. You have a brain. You are no more a machine than I am. And what the government plans to do with you is insane. I can't allow it to happen. And neither can you."
Clark stared across the room. Dr. Kent had just told him everything he'd ever known to be true really wasn't. He wasn't some kind of half alien, half machine the government had found. He was a real person. He had a brain.
Dr. Kent peered into the corridor of the lab. It was well after hours so no one was around. He'd made the decision to get Clark out of this place and tonight was the night. The good doctor hadn't come to this conclusion lightly. He knew he'd be sacrificing monumental scientific breakthroughs, but at the same time he could be saving mankind from possible destruction. If Trask were allowed to lead a platoon of super powered soldiers, the world wouldn't live through the wrath that would surely follow. Besides, he'd long ago had to admit that the government's agenda for Clark's purpose on earth was one thing and his, as a doctor, was another. This boy was a living human being, and he deserved more than what they were planning for him to do.
"Just stay close," the doctor told Clark as he turned to lead the boy into the corridor.
Clark looked up at the man. "I don't know about this. Major Trask says that I'll be offline…"
"Clark! Are you hearing me, boy?" The doctor pulled out a file and held it up to Clark. "This is your file. If you come with me now, I'll let you read it as soon as we're in the car."
The man now had Clark's attention. The thick packet of papers had always been something Clark wanted to read. The manila file was never far from Clark or far from where they were running tests on the young man. He'd theorized that everything known about him was in that file. He'd been tempted on more than one occasion to use his gift of x-ray vision to take a peek, but feared what the Major would do if he was caught. If he read that, he'd know if Dr. Kent was telling the truth.
The young man stood and nodded at the doctor. Together they fled the sterile confines of the laboratory that had been the only place Clark had ever known.
Dale Kent glanced over at his passenger. The young man had read the contents of the file on himself immediately upon entering the vehicle the night before. Now he sat quietly looking out at the rising sun.
"I've never seen this before," the teenager replied without taking his eyes off the horizon.
"The sun breaking the darkness."
"It's called a sunrise."
"Beautiful," the doctor offered.
Clark turned to the man. "What does that mean?"
"It means something looks very nice to you. Beauty comes in all forms, shapes, sizes, and varieties. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
"Does that mean that something I find beautiful, you may not?"
"That's exactly what it means."
Clark looked back out at the rising sun. "This sunrise is beautiful."
"On this we agree." Dale watched the young man for several more miles before he spoke again. "How do you feel about what you read in the file?"
"Feel, Dr. Kent?"
"Yes, feel. Respond to; think."
Clark thought about that for a moment. "I think… that maybe I've missed a great deal in my life."
"Yes, Clark. You have. I'm sorry about that. I once believed that mankind could learn so much from the things I've done. At one time, we were learning… and growing. When we first discovered you, I was sure that history was in for a drastic change. Now I'm not so sure science has the right to mess in the lives of humanity. And I'm positive that government has no right."
"According to this file I am… human? Even though I have these powers?"
"Yes. You are every bit as human as I or anyone else."
Clark took that in a moment. He was about to speak again when the doctor did. "Clark, what you can do is nothing less than phenomenal. Yet, it could also be very deadly. The government has been training you to kill. Killing is wrong."
"As my duty?"
"Especially as your duty. You have been programmed to believe that's all there is to you. It's not. Clark, you are very much alive. You're alive and you breathe just as any other person. Now it's time you learn to live as any person does. That's why I'm taking you somewhere to have time to do that. You will be exposed to a whole new world. You will learn how to be 'alive'; how to live."
Clark's attention was fixated on the approaching bridge and the huge body of water under. "Dr. Kent! What is that?"
The older man couldn't help but smile. "It's called a lake, son."
The dark haired boy turned to the man with wide eyes. "I'm not a sun."
Dale smiled at him. "Not sun, s-u-n; son, s-o-n. It means male child."
"Do that again."
"That thing with your mouth."
"You mean smiling?" Dale did just that. Clark's eyes widened as he watched the man. "You can do it, too."
The young man furrowed his brow and was just about to attempt to smile himself, when he noticed a boat out on the water. "Stop!"
The doctor pulled the car to a stop and watched as Clark climbed out. The boy stood at the rail of the bridge to gaze at the small watercraft as it skimmed the crystal water. After several moments he settled back into the passenger seat of the car and the pair continued their journey.
It was early evening when Dale pulled the small car to a stop in front of a farmhouse. He cut the engine just as the front door opened.
The man on the porch stood speechless as he watched the doctor climb from the vehicle. Slowly he made his way down the steps.
"Jonathan," Dale said as he came within a couple feet of the man in front of him.
"Yeah. It's me."
"My God! They told us you were dead."
"I know." The man was near tears as he stared at his brother. "I had no choice. I've sold my soul to the devil."
The men stood there for several long minutes before Jonathan stepped forward and embraced his brother. After a few tears, a little laughter, and some small talk, Jonathan noticed the young man on the opposite side of the car.
"Hello, sir," Clark answered.
Dale turned to Clark and motioned for him to come around the car. When he stopped beside the doctor, Dale placed his hand on his shoulder. "Jonathan, this is Clark. Clark, this is my brother, Jonathan."
Jonathan stuck his hand out to shake Clark's. The boy looked down at it. Dale immediately demonstrated what to do. Clark repeated the handshake a second later.
"Clark is… well, maybe we can talk about it over something to eat," Dale offered at Jonathan's raised brows.
"Sure. Martha will be home from her…" Before he could finish his sentence, the woman in question came out of the front door.
"Jonathan, who's…?" They turned to face Martha where she'd stopped and stared at the men before her. "Dale!" she gasped before coming down the stairs.
"Martha." Dale was smiling widely at his sister-in-law. "You look lovely as ever."
"Dale?" She was within arm's length of him now and trying to convince herself that what she was seeing was real. "Dale Kent." She reached out and touched his cheek. "You are real."
"Yep." Dale covered her hand on his face. "It's a long story."
Martha smiled and hugged him. When she pulled back, she noticed Clark. "Hi."
"Martha, this is Clark."
Clark couldn't take his eyes off this new person. He'd never seen anyone like… whatever this was. Although he and Dr. Kent had just driven most of the day, he'd been subject to lying down in the vehicle most of the time so he wouldn't be seen. He hadn't seen anyone other than a man at that one gas station they'd stopped at.
Clark leaned over to Dale. "What is it?"
Martha raised her brows at the rude young man. Dale turned to smile at Clark. "Son, this is a woman."
Clark understood now. His training had never involved the human population unless it was to show him films of armies or terrorists. They were all men. But he had limited knowledge of animals. He knew there was male and female. He knew that to be true of humans as well, but he'd never actually seen a human female before.
"He's never seen a woman?" Martha asked incredulously.
"No. Before today Clark had never seen anything outside the laboratory. I was hoping to explain a little more to you over some dinner?" He said the last hopefully.
"Of course. Come on in." Martha turned and started toward the house.
Dale stopped at the top of the stairs to see Clark hadn't moved from his spot by the car. He was still watching Martha. "Clark?"
"Yes, Dr. Kent?"
"Yes, sir." The young man followed the adults into the Kent farmhouse. He stopped just inside the front door and let his eyes sweep the room. He'd never seen anything like this place. It was small and a lot dimmer than the rooms in the lab. And it smelled… it smelled…
"What is that smell?"
"That's pot roast," Martha answered.
"Yeah. Meat. Food."
"Oh." Clark vaguely understood. He's seen some of the men at the lab eating. He'd asked once what they were doing. The man that answered him hadn't been assigned to any of his areas again. The scientists had long ago discovered he didn't need to eat or drink. So food was something he'd never seen and certainly never smelled.
His eyes roamed the room. He saw something he recognized… books, lots of books. They lined shelves along one wall.
"Yes?" he answered from his conversation with Jonathan.
"May I have a look at those books?"
"Well, Clark, this is my brother's home. Maybe you should ask him."
Clark turned back to Jonathan. "Mr. Kent, would it be okay if I had a look at those books?"
"Sure it's all right. Read all you want."
"Thank you, sir." He moved carefully over to the case. Just before he reached for one, he spoke again. "Mr. Kent, I will be very careful with them."
"Okay." The man smiled as the boy pulled the first book from the shelf. "You can sit on any of the furniture."
"Thank you," Clark answered without looking up from his first selection.
"That's one heck of a story, Dale," Jonathan told his brother as they sat sipping coffee.
"All true, I'm afraid."
Martha glanced into the den. "That poor boy."
"That's why I got him out. Clark has the potential to be so much more. Think of the possibilities. If he were to use those abilities to help people…" The man took long breath. "A lot of people could benefit from his abilities. That was the purpose of the whole study into his biology to begin with."
"You had no idea that the government was going to turn him into some super soldier?" Jonathan asked his brother.
"No. Of course not. When we first discovered Clark, we had no idea he would develop into the incredible person he is."
Just then the boy in question burst into the room. He dropped a book in front of the doctor. "Is that what they want me to do?"
Dale looked down at a photo in a book describing the devastation war causes. "Yes, Clark."
"They want me to destroy entire cities? Countries? Kill women? Children?"
Clark picked up the book and stared at the photo. "I can't do that," he whispered.
"I know. That's why I got you out of there."
Clark nodded and turned to go back into the den.
"Clark, put the book away. It's time to eat," Martha told him.
He turned to face Martha. "I'm sorry… What's the word for sir when you're talking to a women?" he asked Dale.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. I do not need to eat."
She shot a look at Dale.
"Clark's body metabolizes the sun. He doesn't have to eat or drink."
She looked back at the boy. "Well, you may not have to, but it sure is nice to. Won't you try it?"
Clark glanced at Dale, then at the woman. Something in her expression made refusing impossible. "Yes ma'am."
"Good. Put the book away, then go down the hall and wash your hands and face."
A few minutes later, Clark was watching as the adults started to eat. He lifted his fork and stuck it into the meat on his plate. He cut the meat with his knife as he saw the others do before lifting it to his mouth. It was an overwhelming sensation when he first put the food into his mouth.
"Don't forget to chew, Clark. That means to mash the food between your teeth until it's small. Do that before you swallow."
He nodded and did as he was told. The more he chewed, the more he liked it. Soon he was eating as if he'd been doing it his whole life. Drinking sweet tea was just as satisfying to the young man. When the ice clinked in his glass, he frowned at the container.
Martha smiled and poured him another full glass.
"Thank you, ma'am."
"Clark, there is plenty of food and tea. You can have as much as you want."
"Thank you," he said again as he sat his glass back on the table. "I think maybe I would like to have a little more."
Martha smiled and refilled his plate.
"Clark, do you remember what I said beautiful meant?" He nodded. "Well, this food tastes good. That means…"
"It's nice to your senses, especially the one of taste."
"Yeah." Dale smiled over at the boy as Clark shoved another mouthful between his teeth. He lifted his head and addressed the other adults. "Clark was only subjected to the things that the military thought important. Since he doesn't have to eat, they never saw fit to tell him about it. They have given him water from time to time, just to check his internal cleansing abilities."
"Does his body work like ours in that respect?"
"Yes. If he eats and drinks, he would react just like any normal person. Clark is human."
"So… when he needs to get rid of all that tea, it won't freak him out?"
Dale laughed slightly. This caused Clark to look up at the man. "No, Mr. Kent. I won't freak out. I've been given some kind of substance once a week for as long as I can remember to see what I could handle."
"What you could handle?" Martha asked.
"Yes. They've given me different kinds of liquids, solids, and so forth to see if it has an effect on my body."
Martha stared at Dale in horror. He nodded sadly.
"I'm afraid so. He's been forced to drink deadly chemicals, swallow biological agents, stuff like that. His body either processes it or expels it. So he does know what waste is."
Martha looked back over at the young man as he ate in silence.
Suddenly Clark stopped and looked up at her. "This isn't anything like that, though, ma'am. This is… good."
"Thank you, Clark."
"You're welcome, ma'am." He looked down at his empty plate. "I think maybe I should stop now."
"Not yet." Martha jumped up to get the apple pie she'd baked for dessert. "You have to have some of my apple pie."
Clark's eyes widened as his nose picked up this new smell. It was wonderful. "This is what I smelled earlier."
"Does smell good, huh?"
"Yes." He lifted a forkful of the pie to his lips. This was unlike any of the other foods. It was better than the sweet tea. "This tastes good, too," he said around a mouthful.
"Don't talk with your mouth full," Dale told him.
"Sorry," he mumbled after he swallowed.
The adults shared their pie as the young man before them finished up. When Clark was done, he went back into the den to finish his reading. He was about half way through the books on the shelves.
Martha kept glancing through the door at Clark as she listened to Dale and Jonathan. The dark hair sat atop a mind ready to learn and explore a world he'd never been privy to. She'd been shocked when she first saw him skim one of the books. Dale quickly told her Clark could speed read. He'd since told them all the things the boy was capable of doing. She was in complete awe. Her mind knew she should be scared or at least apprehensive. Instead she was intrigued.
She pushed up from the table and went into the den. Clark was sitting on the floor in front of the shelves. "Hi."
He looked up at the woman. "Should I get up?"
"No. But do you mind if I join you?"
"Ah, no, ma'am." Clark watched as she sat down next to him.
She peered at the book in his hand. "Shakespeare. Good choice."
"It's fascinating. I never knew people wrote things down just for other people's pleasure."
"They do. Some folks even make their money like that."
"I read about money in another book."
"I'm afraid that's the greatest evil in this world."
"Yes. It makes people do crazy things. But this…" He held up the book. "This talks of something called love."
"Yes. Love is a feeling. It's the way you view someone else. You want to protect them, look out for them, make money for them." Martha smiled at the young man. "It can also make you do crazy things."
"Like kill yourself?"
"Yeah. But this is just fiction."
"I know. That other book, the one about the war… Did those people do that for money or for love?"
"Those people did that for power. Do you know what that means?"
"Yes. Major Trask has never let me forget what that means."
"You do know that what they did to you is wrong?"
"Yes, ma'am. Dr. Kent says he took me away because it was wrong. He wants me to experience the world, the way it should be experienced."
Martha had been trying to figure out how to help this boy. Suddenly she knew exactly how to do it. "Clark, how would you like to stay here with us?"
"What? I mean, ma'am?"
"I think it would be wonderful if you stayed here with us."
"I was just telling Dale the same thing," Jonathan offered from the doorway.
"We have a friend at the adoption agency who owes us a few favors. I'll bet we could even get some legal papers for you."
"Good idea, Martha. I'll call him right now." Jonathan hurried back to the kitchen.
Clark rose from his seated position on the floor. "Dr. Kent?"
"It's okay, Clark. My brother will take good care of you here."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure." He went to Clark and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Clark, this is the way you should have been living. Not in some sterile, white lab. Stay here and give it a try, son."
"If you're sure."
"I'm sure. You'll see. In a month's time, you'll be a regular teenager."
"What's a teenager?"
Martha and Dale burst into laughter. This was going to be an experience they'd not soon forget.
Clark stood rigidly in the door of the small bedroom as Martha made up the bed for him.
"Mrs. Kent, where is the chamber?"
"Chamber? What chamber?"
"The one for…" Clark drifted off as what he was about to say hit him. "At the center, during the night hours, I was put into a chamber. I was told it was so they could input more information. I guess that wasn't true."
"No Clark. This is a bed. You sleep in it." She moved around the room as she straightened the bedclothes. "You lie down on it, close your eyes, and hopefully your body will rest even if your mind doesn't."
"Yes, ma'am." Clark approached the bed and was about to take his clothes off when something occurred to him. "Mrs. Kent, at the lab they put me in the chamber with nothing on."
She picked up some clothes Dale had given her for Clark. "Dale got these for you. In a few days, we'll go into town and get you some more."
"Okay. I mean, yes ma'am."
"Honey, you don't have to be so polite all the time."
Clark stopped, holding the clothes out in front of him. "Honey? Isn't that what bees make? I read that in one of your books."
"It is. It's also a term of endearment. People say it when they like someone else."
Clark's eyes widened then. "You like me?"
"I do." She smiled at him as he pulled the clothes to his chest. "Now you put those on and climb into bed. I'll check on you in a few minutes."
Martha smiled again and left the room.
Clark lay in the dim light from the lamp, looking at the room. This one was not like the rest of the farmhouse. It only had a couple paintings on the walls, a dresser, bed, nightstand, and the lamp. It was nowhere near as inviting as the other rooms in the house. He supposed this room must not be used much.
It was a while later when Martha peaked in on Clark. To her complete delight, he was sound asleep. Dale told them he was certain the young man would soon respond just as any normal person to the outside world.
Clark dressed in the clothes he'd had on the day before when he awoke the next morning. He found the other adults at the table, and soon learned the morning meal was called breakfast. He also learned breakfast was something he really liked.
"Come on, Clark," Jonathan told him. "I'll show you how to do the morning chores."
"Yes, sir." Clark followed the man out the back door as his eyes searched his surroundings. He stopped just outside the barn door when an old dog walked up to Jonathan. "That's a dog!"
"Yep. This is Toby. He's getting kind of old. I guess I really should get a younger one to help out around here."
Clark watched the older man pat the dog. "May I do that?"
Clark knelt and ran his hand slowly over the dog's fur. "He feels… funny," he commented, remembering the word from his reading.
"Think that's funny?" Jonathan nodded for Clark to follow him in to the barn.
"Now this smell is not good," Clark told him.
He laughed out. "No. It's not." He continued over to gather up the pails and the towels to do the morning milking.
"That's a cow!"
"Clark, meet Sally." The man dropped the stool and sat down. "Watch what I do."
Clark was mesmerized as Jonathan began milking the cow. Soon enough it was his turn. And though it took a few minutes, he was producing milk for his efforts. "I did it!"
"Keep going. I have to milk Meg."
"You have another cow?" He'd been so intent on this one, he hadn't seen anything else in the barn.
"Sure. Now be careful with her. She's sensitive."
"Okay." Clark continued with his task until Jonathan came back to get him.
"That's real good work there, son."
"You take these buckets in to Martha and don't spill any. Then hurry on back out here. We have a lot of work to do."
"Yes, sir." Clark held the pails effortlessly as he went back to the house. Martha saw him coming and held the door for him to come in. He sat the pails on the counter. "Excuse me. Mr. Kent says I have to hurry back."
Martha smiled as she shut the door behind him. He just may make it after all, she thought.
Clark had spent the morning in wide-eyed wonder. Jonathan had shown him things he'd only read about and some he hadn't ever heard of at all. The highlight of the morning was the tractor. It had only taken the teen's quick mind all of ten minutes to master driving it.
Jonathan had answered countless questions and swore he saw Clark smile when he was learning to drive the tractor. The young man was like a small child in so many ways and almost a man in so many others. He'd seen horrible images in his young life. A nice, quiet life on a farm was just what he needed.
Later in the day, Clark was stunned into silence as he watched Jonathan and the neighbor tend to a cow that was having difficulty delivering a calf. When it was all over, Clark asked to hold the small animal. He was told to be gentle and take care not to hurt the calf. He questioned Martha if she was concerned about his strength, but she quickly assured him she in no way worried if could control himself. She explained that many things had to be handled gently to keep from causing undo pain or suffering. He held the new calf with all the care he could muster.
By late that evening, Jonathan's friend had called back and told him things were all set on his end to start the paperwork to make it look as if the Kents had adopted Clark. The official story would be that one of Jonathan's army buddies had called and asked Jonathan to take his only son because of his impending death. With any luck, the paperwork would be ready in time for Clark to start school in September.
At the first mention of school, Clark had been entranced. He'd asked dozens of questions and dove back into the books. It wasn't until that night that he'd discovered television.
The next day, Dale said his good-byes and left. He told his brother that as far as the lab knew, he really had died in a plane crash the night he took Clark. His group had been sent to another lab across the country. At the last minute, Dale had decided not to go. Lucky for him he hadn't. The plane crashed, exploded over Texas a couple hours later. Dale theorized Trask had ordered the demise of the scientists because of a confrontation with the Major earlier in the week. Three of Dale's colleagues lost their lives in that explosion. Although he had no idea where to go from here, he knew he couldn't stay on the farm. He needed to see if he could do some convert investigations that may lead to a worry free life for Clark some day. For now, what he and his brother had planned to do would have to be enough.
So Clark was left to learn how to become a normal teenage boy. Martha and Jonathan Kent had enlisted to help Clark overcome the training to kill he'd undergone over the years.
Clark adjusted more quickly than anyone could have hoped for. It wasn't long before he'd mastered all the farm chores, had the barn so clean it almost shined, the back field had been cleared for the autumn crops, all the farm equipment had been rebuilt, and he had adjusted to living a somewhat normal life. He ate, drank, slept, bathed, and interacted just as any other teen would. Television and books had provided an unlimited resource of information on how people lived. He was fascinated and completely enjoyed his new surroundings.
Martha had had to remind him almost constantly on his first trip to town not to stare or ask too many questions. He apologized on the ride home, but she smiled and he did the same. An understanding between the two was established that day. Their next trip to town was much more enjoyable.
The older couple felt like they had gained a son as they watched Clark grow. The first time he saw a girl, the first time he saw a child… Everything was all so new to him. It was a wondrous thing to witness.
Clark couldn't stand it any longer. He had to make sure Martha was okay. He'd been listening to Martha moan for twenty minutes. She'd even yelled out once. He got up and went to the closed door of the Kents' room. He could just take a quick peak with his vision, but he and Martha had talked about that. She told him it was invading another's privacy. It was wrong.
He was about to knock when Jonathan groaned as if he were in pain, then there was silence. Maybe everything was okay after all. Clark listened another moment. The couple was laughing. Yes, they were okay. He went back to his room.
Funny how this seemed to happen often, at least three or four times a week. Sometimes it lasted much longer than tonight, sometimes only moments, but definitely often. Clark had wanted to ask about it, but was afraid he'd be told he had to leave if he did.
He rolled over and pulled the cover around his body. Whatever they did, it was over now. Soon he was sleeping soundly.
Clark carried Martha's purchases as his eyes searched his surroundings, just as they always did. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw a woman and small child coming out the hardware store.
"'Morning, Martha," the woman told her.
"Good morning, Tammy. How are you?"
"Still waiting." The woman patted her very pregnant stomach. "Only two more weeks."
"And how are you, Jake?"
"Fine. Who's that?" the boy asked, pointing at Clark.
Martha glanced back at Clark. "That is my son, Clark. Jonathan and I were asked by an old friend to adopt him."
"Isn't he a little old for that?" the younger woman asked, uncomfortable with Clark's scrutiny of her.
Martha noticed her discomfort. She turned to Clark. "Clark, it's not polite to stare."
"Yes, ma'am," he replied and dropped his gaze to the boy. "Hi."
"Hi. I'm Jake."
"Jake. I like that name."
"I like Clark."
Martha smiled at the conversation between the boys. "To answer your question, Tammy, no child is ever too old to be loved."
Clark's head shot up to look at the woman who'd said that. For a moment he wasn't sure what was happening to him. His heart was racing and his hands felt wet. He realized he liked what Martha had said. He smiled faintly and finished his conversation with the younger boy.
In the car, Clark turned to Martha. "Martha, what was wrong with that woman?"
"Tammy? She was pregnant."
Clark's mouth hung open. "Really? Humans procreate the same way animals do?"
Martha realized Clark didn't know what sex was. A long talk was in store for that evening.
Clark had never been so shocked in his life. Martha and Jonathan had just told him about sex. He now understood why it was his body was starting to react the way it had been doing lately. He was maturing. He also realized the strange noises coming from the couple at night was something they both were doing… to each other. He was suddenly very grateful those noises always stopped before he gathered the resolve to check on them with his special vision.
He covered his head with the pillow and growled in frustration.
The next day was the first day of school. Clark was listed as a senior and it didn't take long for him to realize he was going to enjoy the year.
Soon Clark couldn't be distinguished from any other teen among his high school peers. He learned quickly how to interact and was well liked by his classmates. Clark was, by all intents and purposes, a normal teen.
He'd asked the Kents to get him a pair of glasses with lead crystal lens so that any teenage temptations would be eliminated. He wasn't so much interested in anything particular, it was that he was incredibly curious about everything. He wanted to know how things worked and why. With his glasses in place and distractions aside, he quickly rose to the top of his class and discovered the joy of sports.
All the tests at the lab had long ago taught him how to control his powers. Finding out he was more than just a machine was more interesting than anything he could do on his own. He'd used his powers to help him learn more about this beautiful world he lived in. He soaked up knowledge like a sponge.
Clark also liked the Kents. Martha and Jonathan seemed to never tire of answering his many questions. He worked side by side with them, helping with farm chores and learning how to cook. They were teaching him so much. He'd even learned to laugh.
Martha watched as Clark stood in the falling snow. He was marveling at the texture as the flakes fell around him. He'd stretch out his arms and stick his tongue out, all the while laughing and smiling.
"He's amazing, isn't he?" Jonathan asked her as he came up behind Martha to watch Clark from the kitchen window.
"He is. I now know what it feels like to be a mother." She felt her husband rub her arms. "What if they find him someday?"
He turned her so he could see her face. "We've had this conversation. We both know that's a possibility. Someday they will discover Dale wasn't on that plane. We just have to feel confident that Clark won't allow them to take him back to that place. And you know we couldn't stop him if he ever decided to leave. We have to hope he'll always want to be here. Or at least come back again."
"I hope you're right."
Clark burst through the back door. "Hey! Come out and play in the snow."
"Oh, Clark. I have so much work to do," Martha told him.
"Please," he begged with sad eyes.
Martha put her hands on her hips. "Where did you learn to make that face?"
"Lana. She does it with her father all the time."
"Do you understand it's wrong to do that just to get your way?"
"Yes ma'am. But I really want you to come out… just for a few minutes. Please." He walked up to Martha and clasped his hands together. "Pretty please."
Martha couldn't stand that expression. "Oh all right. Just for a minute."
Clark beamed as he grabbed her jacket and held it for her. When it was on, he snatched her up and whisked her out the back door. She squealed as he plopped her down in a pile of snow and threw a snowball at her. She immediately launched one back. Jonathan laughed from his position at the window, but couldn't resist going to join them.
Clark felt horrible. Martha caught a cold as a result of their snowball fight. He picked up the tray with the chicken soup he and Jonathan had made to help her feel better.
"It's okay, son. She just has the sniffles."
Clark shot a sad gaze at Jonathan as he went up the stairs. "Martha," he called as he stopped at her open door.
"I have some soup for you."
She sat up and motioned for him to come in. He sat the tray across her lap, then stood gazing at the floor.
"I'm so sorry, Martha."
"Oh, honey. This wasn't your fault." When he wouldn't look at her, she patted the side of the bed. He sat hesitantly. "Clark, people get colds all the time. I'll be fine. You'll see."
"Are you sure?"
"Is there anything I can do?"
Martha smiled at him. "Yes, there is. You can read me a book."
"When I had colds as a little girl, my mom always read to me."
Clark smiled slightly as he went to find a book. He came back with a small notebook. Martha finished her soup as Clark started to read. When she was done, Clark sat her tray on the side table and climbed up on the bed beside her. Half an hour later he closed the book.
"That's all I have so far."
"You wrote that?"
"Yes, ma'am. Like it?"
"Clark, I loved it."
He beamed with her words of praise. She laid her hand on his arm when he started to get up.
"Stay with me. Let's talk."
He looked down at her hand on his arm. "May I… touch your arm like that?"
He placed his hand on her forearm and closed his eyes. "I can feel your heartbeat. I can hear it, too."
"Really?" He nodded as he opened his eyes. She lifted his hand and placed it on her chest over her heart.
His eyes shot wide open. "Wow!" She smiled at him. "Can you feel mine?"
Martha placed her hand over his heart. "Yep. It's faster than mine." Clark closed his eyes and his heart slowed to match Martha's. "How did you do that?"
"I don't know. I just can." He looked at Martha for several minutes before he lifted his hand to touch her face. "You're beautiful."
"Thank you. You're handsome."
Clark smiled as he withdrew his hand. "Thank you for letting me touch you."
"You know what I want?" He shook his head. "I would like to give you a hug."
Clark stared at her as if trying to decide if that was okay. Finally he leaned over allowing Martha to wrap her arms around him. Slowly his arms encircled her body.
Martha felt him start to shake. "Clark?" He turned his face into her neck. That's when she felt the wetness. He was crying. "Oh honey." She tightened her grip and cradled his head while he dealt with this new emotion.
Jonathan found them some time later. Martha was leaning against the headboard holding Clark's head in her lap. The boy was sleeping.
"Hey, what's wrong?"
"I think he learned he has feelings." Martha ran her fingers through Clark's hair.
"That's great, but he's on my side of the bed."
"Oh, Jonathan, don't make him leave."
"Martha, he's too big to sleep with us."
"No, he's not."
She looked down at the sleeping boy in her lap. In so many ways that's all he was: a boy. Yet, he was also becoming a man.
"Oh, all right," Jonathan mumbled as he climbed in beside the pair. "It's a good thing we have a king size bed." He settled on the other side of Clark, steadily mumbling. A smile graced his lips as he told his wife goodnight.
"Good morning," Clark said with a smile as Martha and Jonathan rolled over to look at him. He was standing beside the bed with a tray full of food. "Breakfast in bed." He sat the tray between them. "And don't get up. Chores are done, and I'm cooking a big lunch." He turned and headed for the door.
She waited until he turned to look at her. "Thank you."
"No, ma'am. Thank you." Clark smiled again and closed the door behind him.
Martha and Jonathan looked at each other and smiled. "He's such a good boy," she told him.
"Yes, he is."
With the snow came the holiday season. Clark asked a ton of new questions, read even more books, and decorated the house to look like a huge holiday display. He worked odd jobs in town to earn money to buy Martha and Jonathan a gift, while they thought he was working to have his own money.
Clark loved everything about Christmas. It took him two days to find the perfect tree. He refused to let Martha and Jonathan dissuade him from hanging the lights on the oak in the front yard. Even the barn held twinkling lights.
Although Clark was much too old to believe in Santa, he wasn't too old to help Jonathan play Santa at the local children's home. His eyes danced as much as the small ones' as he and Jonathan passed out the toys.
"Hey guys, wake up. Santa came!"
Martha and Jonathan watched as Clark left their room. They followed sleepily after a few moments. Both stopped in the door to the den to see the two large boxes in front of the tree.
"Told you he came," Clark said with a smile. "They're for you."
"Clark?" Martha walked over to the box that held a card with her name written in Clark's beautiful handwriting. She was near tears when she looked back up at him. "Clark."
She did cry when she saw the new sewing machine inside the box. "Oh, Clark."
"Do you like it?"
"I love it, but how?"
"All the money I was earning. I saved it so I could buy these gifts."
"This is really expensive, Clark."
Clark was heartbroken. He wasn't sure he'd done the right thing. He'd asked several of his friends about the tradition of gift giving and they told him they usually bought their parents and friends things they knew the people would like to have or needed. The only things Martha or Jonathan had talked about was what he'd bought for them.
"I just wanted to give you both something that you really wanted. Was that wrong?"
"No, honey. Not wrong. It's just… you didn't have to spend so much on our gifts."
"And you and Jonathan didn't have to let me stay here." His eyes pleaded with them to understand.
Martha could see the battle behind his dark eyes. "Oh, Clark," she whispered.
"Open yours, Jonathan." He was almost begging for acceptance now.
The older man smiled as he revealed the table saw he had been gawking at whenever he passed the hardware store in the last few months. "Son, this is too much."
"No, sir. It's not enough. You guys have given me so much. This is the least I could do." He watched their expressions for a moment. When they didn't seem happy, his heart sank even further. "They're both paid for. I promise."
"It's just… honey, you spent all your money on us."
"And you've spent all your money on me. I have new clothes, shoes, a new home. I have a life. I could never pay you back for all of that."
Jonathan grinned widely over at Clark. "Well, I for one love my gift. Thank you, son."
Clark flinched as the man reached to hug him.
"It's okay, Clark. A man's allowed to hug his son."
"I like the sound of that," Clark told him next to his ear as he took the offered hug.
Jonathan pulled back to look at him. "And I like having you."
Clark smiled, then turned to Martha. "Ma'am?"
"I love it, honey."
Clark grinned at her, waiting patiently for the hug he knew was coming. He wasn't disappointed. She embraced him tightly. Before she pulled back, she placed a kiss on his cheek. The young man covered the skin she'd touched her lips to with his hand. A new feeling was coming over him he didn't quite understand. All he knew is he felt great when Martha or Jonathan hugged him. He felt fantastic just now when she kissed him. He wouldn't mind more of those.
Jonathan even surprised Martha when he gave Clark the Mustang he'd picked up at a junkyard, swearing to fix up but never did. He told Clark they'd work on it together.
Over the rest of Clark's winter break, the barn was transformed into a garage. The Kent men spent evenings working on Clark's car and becoming friends. After the first of the year, the older man started giving the teenager driving lessons in the truck.
As January gave way to February, Martha began to notice the changes in her son. He was starting to become interested in girls. He often got calls from Lana Lang and had even taken her to a movie. Clark was truly finding his way in the world.
"Clark, do you know what a birthday is?"
The young man looked up at her over his dinner. "Yes. David Irig celebrated his birthday last week." He lowered his head sadly. "I don't have one."
"Sure you do. I read the file Dale left. It says they found you on May 17, 1966. They estimated you to be about three months old. Dale told us he took it upon himself to list February 28th as your birthday.
Clark looked back up at her. "What? He never told me."
"I know. Major Trask told Dale it was useless in your training and he wouldn't allow Dale to make such a notation in your file. Anyway, that's the day we listed on your adoption papers. It's next week, so I was wondering if you'd like to have a party."
"A party? Really?"
"Sure. It's not everyday a guy turns seventeen. We can invite all your friends from school and have music and snacks."
Clark's eyes danced like a small child's at the prospect of having his first birthday party. He told Martha he thought that would be wonderful.
Clark was cleaning up the gift wrapping from the den's floor. There had been about ten kids at his party and it had been a blast. Clark had danced for the first time in his life and enjoyed it. His friends had given him clothes or tapes for his portable player. Martha and Jonathan gave him a stereo for his room. He had been moved beyond belief. It was all so much. Yet, there was one thing he wanted he hadn't gotten. Truth was he'd have to ask for it and he didn't know how to do it.
Martha noticed Clark had something on his mind. She reached out and placed a hand on his arm and he looked over at her.
"What's wrong, honey?"
"Clark, you can't fool me. I know there's something on your mind."
Clark half smiled and pushed some more paper into the trash bag. "It's nothing."
"Was it the party? I thought you enjoyed it."
"I did. The party was great."
"The stereo? You didn't like it. I told Jonathan you were too old for it."
"No!" Clark grabbed her arm. "I love it. It'll be great to be able to listen to music in my room all the time. Really… It's just… well…" He moved over to the mantle and looked at a photo of himself and the Kents.
"Did you want something else? We can get you something different, but we'd have to take the stereo back. We can't afford both."
"No, ma'am. I like the stereo. I want to keep it." He turned wide eyes to her. "But if it costs too much, we can return it."
"No, honey. I saved my quilt money for it."
Clark smiled as he remembered the conversation they'd had about money at Christmas. It seemed he wasn't the only one who spent all of his own money on someone else.
"Clark, honey, you can tell me. It won't hurt my feelings if you want something else."
"I do want something else, but it won't cost money."
"No, ma'am." He paced back and forth in front of the mantle, rubbing his hands up and down his pant legs. "I want… I'd like…" He stopped and faced her. "I don't know how to say this."
"Honey, you can tell me anything."
"I'd-like-to-call-you-Mom," he said in an incredible rush.
Martha covered her mouth with her hands as her eyes welled with tears.
"Are you okay? Did I say something wrong?"
She came over and wrapped her arms around Clark. "No! You said something right," she gasped against his shoulder.
Clark smiled and pulled her further into his chest. "I think I love you," he whispered.
Martha drew back and stared at Clark. "Clark…" Her hand smoothed his cheek. "I love you, too, honey," she whispered back. "And I'd love for you to call me Mom."
"Hey. Is this a private party?" Jonathan asked as he caught the tail end of their conversation. "Or do you know how to say Dad, too?"
Clark looked over at the man, his dark eyes dancing with joy. He released Martha and embraced Jonathan. "I love you, too."
"Ah, boy. My boy. My son." Jonathan's hand patted Clark's back as he hugged him in return. "I love you."
No one would have ever believed you could love someone as much as the couple had come to love Clark. To them he didn't come to them as a teenage boy who had never lived before. He didn't come to them an alien from another planet. He came to them as a child in desperate need of parents. He also filled the void their inability to have children had left years ago. Clark had been born just for them. It was destiny that they were now allowed to live with and love this incredible young man.
"Mom?" Clark pushed through the back door. He was late getting off work and was scared his mother would be mad because he hadn't called. When she didn't answer, he instinctively knew something was wrong.
He stepped into the den and dropped to the floor in a crumpled heap, writhing in pain.
"Nice of you to join us, Clark."
Clark looked up at the eyes he'd hoped he'd never see again. "Trask!"
"Very nice of you to remember me." The man leaned over and held up the glowing green rock. "This is a nice little memento from your home planet. I told those smart ass scientists this thing would make you beg for your life." He reached down and roughly grabbed Clark's arm. "Let's go!"
"I'd rather die than go back with you," Clark gasped.
"Okay." He stood and went over to a figure Clark hadn't noticed before now. Martha was being held around her neck by one of Trask's men. "Maybe you'll come along to save her life."
"Let her go!" Fear gripped Clark as his eyes met those of Martha. She appeared to be more afraid of what would happen to him than she was about her own safety. She shook her head, silently asking Clark not to go.
"Sure. As soon as you agree to come back and fulfill your duty to the agency."
Martha's eyes begged Clark not to do it. He could almost hear her tell him to just go… get as far away as he could. Yet, he couldn't allow her to be hurt. He drew his gaze from her and glared at Trask angrily. "I'll go, just don't hurt her."
"Clark, no!" Martha wanted to scream at him. Their lives weren't worth the suffering she knew he'd face. A mother would gladly die to save her child. Martha was no exception.
Clark read her thoughts in her expression. There was no way he'd be responsible for her death or for that of Jonathan. He dropped his gaze so that he couldn't feel the intense pain coming from his mother.
Trask placed the rock back in the case he had for it. Clark's pain eased, but his powers were gone. The young man was forced to his feet. Trask faced Clark with a predatory glare. "You didn't really think I'd allow you to stay here forever, did you?" Clark simply glared back. The soldier chuckled wryly and brought a hand up to squeeze Clark's face roughly. "You are an 'it'; a freak of nature. You will never be allowed to live with humans."
Clark pulled away from Trask's grasp. "You can do whatever you want with me. Just leave them out of it." His eyes pleaded with Martha to understand his decision to do this. Hers simply screamed fear for her son.
Trask turned to face Martha and laughed loudly. "Isn't that cozy? You're protecting these traitors."
"They're not traitors!"
Trask turned back to face Clark. This time all emotion but anger and contempt was gone from his expression. "Anyone who would knowingly help the likes of you is a traitor! I should just kill them and be done with it."
Clark fought against the hands that held him tightly. This seemed to amuse Trask once again. "Relax, freak. They will live… for now." The soldier turned and started out of the door. "Bring him," he yelled back over his shoulder.
As Clark was dragged past the sofa, he noticed Jonathan's unconscious form lying on the floor.
"Is he okay?"
"Relax." Trask stopped just outside the door to glare back at… the creature. "He'll live… as long as you do what you're supposed to be doing." Trask came back inside the door, within inches of Clark's face. "From this day on, their lives will be in your hands. You do as you're told, and they live. Is that understood?"
"Yes." Clark turned regretful eyes to Martha as the soldiers started to pull him out the door. "I'm so sorry."
"No. We're sorry." She watched as the young man transformed before her. He seemed to turn in on himself, as if he knew whatever lay ahead would be worse than anything he'd known previously. Her heart ached as the beautiful spirit they'd watched develop started to fade.
"We love you," she mouthed as Clark was forced down the stairs and he gave her one last sorrowful gaze. He turned his head as if he was accepting his fate. As she watched her son be tossed into the back of a van, she vowed she'd do all she could to get him back. He didn't deserve the hell she knew would follow. He deserved to live and be happy, just as he'd been here with them.
Clark's face was mashed into the cold metal of the van floor as the engine roared to life. He would never forget his time here with these wonderful people. He'd always remember that he had parents that loved him and a life, a real life.
For now he had to concentrate on a way to make sure the Kents were never harmed because of him. If Trask drugged him, how would he ever know? Would they live? He may never know the answer to that, but he could do all he was told to ensure that was what happened.
He was also afraid of what would happen to him. Trask was sure to start his training again. This time it would be much more intense. He closed his eyes as he realized he would probably be trained to be someone he wouldn't like very much. As the fear gripped him, his body started to shake. Yes. He would do as he was told to keep the Kents safe. He'd also make sure Trask paid the price for making him into a monster.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Agency 39 has long fought to protect humanity," now 'Colonel' Jason Trask, addressed the various military personnel seated at the table in the huge auditorium. "For years people told us we were crazy. Chasing aliens, waiting on something that would never happen. Don't be silly, they said. There is no such thing as UFOs. Well, I'm here to tell you that there is. And I can now provide you with undeniable proof."
The cover was yanked from the small silver vessel. The crowd gasped. As whispers started to rise in volume, the man continued.
"Sure, this could be a joke. But it's not. And I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt because inside that ship was an infant. He was tagged S-517. For twenty years this creature has been groomed for this moment. Let me introduce you to the United States' answer to infantry. This is S-517: the Ultimate Soldier."
The doors behind the man opened and the impressive soldier stepped through. He was clad in black fatigues, boots, and a hat. His face was as rigid as stone, his eyes expressionless. He looked straight ahead as he awaited his instructions.
"S-517, at ease."
"Yes, sir," replied the man stoically and snapped into position.
The Colonel gave a brief description of the soldier standing in front of them. He noticed that several people were snickering. They were not convinced that the creature could do what he was telling them could be done. He shouted an order that could not possibly be performed by a human. The collective gasp sent a thrill down Trask's spine. A stream of commands to perform equally unique tasks were shouted from the egotistical Colonel. Each and every one was quickly followed by the soldier. The demonstration left no doubt that S-517 was far from usual.
"Colonel Trask, how do we know he'll follow any command?" asked another officer in attendance.
The Colonel smiled smugly. "S-517, undress."
"Yes, sir." The young man did as he was told, coming back to attention completely naked.
The man who'd originally asked the question laughed. "Guess that answers that."
"But is he trained to kill?" a higher ranking officer asked.
"S-517, kill Private Taylor."
"Yes, sir." The soldier searched name-tags until he spotted the private in question. The young man started sweating profusely as S-517 approached him. S-517 raised his hand to grab the soldier around the neck. Right before contact was made, the soldier stopped, his hand in mid-air. "Colonel Trask, sir, I cannot kill Private Taylor. He is one of ours."
A very relieved young man released the breath he'd been holding.
S-517 turned to face Colonel Trask, but did not look directly at him.
"He may be one of ours, but you were given a direct order."
"Yes, sir. That is why the order you have just given cannot be carried out. It is the mission of any good soldier to perform his duty and never leave a man behind. If I took this man's life, I would be violating that aspect of my training. My mission is to take out the enemy. Private Taylor is one of ours."
"I am your superior officer!" Trask almost yelled. His soldier had no right to disobey him. "Your 'mission' is to carry out orders. Kill Private Taylor!"
The soldier seemed to be debating that last order, but finally he spoke. "Yes, sir." S-517 leaned to grab the man again, this time wrapping a firm hand around the man's neck.
"Stop! That is a direct order." S-517 immediately dropped the Private.
Trask turned to face the General. "Someone asked for a demonstration, sir."
"I am satisfied with the Ultimate Soldier's abilities. S- 517, I am General Gordon, your superior."
"Yes, sir." The soldier spun and saluted the General.
"Colonel, the Ultimate Soldier seems to be all he was designed to be. Is he capable of handling hostage situations, terrorist threats, that sort of thing?" The General was speaking again.
"S-517 can handle anything. He has full tactical abilities."
"We don't need full tactical abilities. We're not at war," General Gordon told him.
"True, but with his powers, we will never have to be again."
"The Ultimate Soldier will not be utilized for active infantry unless the United States is threatened first." The General rose along with the rest of the men at the table and addressed Colonel Trask. "Your services in this program have been invaluable. Congratulations. Your new assignment." He held out a file to Trask.
The Colonel took the manila folder and read the contents. "S-517 is going on a recon mission?"
"Yes. We have a stranded team inside that hell-hole. Get them out."
"That's a direct order, Colonel. And don't forget the rest of that order. There are to be no casualties. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir," Trask ground out.
"Good." The group made their way out of the auditorium in silence.
Trask was left fuming. He'd spent every moment turning that piece of alien trash into something useful. And now all that training would be wasted retrieving people who got themselves into a jam. Special forces my butt, he thought as he stormed from the room to program his weapon.
One day, he thought. One day they'll all pay.
"Talk to me," the young woman said into her cell phone.
"Lois! Got something good for me?"
"That depends on what you have for me, Bobby."
"How does Project S-517 sound?"
"As in the military's Ultimate Soldier program?"
"That's the one. The word on the street is that the leader of Agency 39 is livid. His coveted Ultimate Soldier is being used for recon missions, as aids de camp, to deal with terrorist threats, handle bomb disassembly, stuff like that. I hear they even want to use this thing for federal disasters and what not."
"He feels the soldier should be used differently?"
"That's an understatement. He wants the U.S. to throw its weight around with his 'ultimate weapon'."
"So it's true the soldier is some kind of biological wonder?"
"And then some. He is awesome. Gotcha' an in to the private screening of his training skills on Friday at Fort Pierce."
"Bobby, you're the best!"
"Yeah, yeah. Just pay for the duck at Chow's."
"Consider it paid for. Anything else?"
"Yeah. At Fort Pierce you'll be approached by a man who wants you to look into some things."
"How will I know him?"
"He'll know you. Look, I've got to run."
"Yeah. I'll call when I'm hungry."
Lois dropped the receiver back into place and pumped her arm in the air. Finally, a story that may get her somewhere.
Lois looked around her at the people assembled for the demonstration. They were military, civilian law enforcement, civilian rescue, and a handful of press members. It appeared the military really did want to use this Ultimate Soldier for more practical matters rather than war tactics. She quickly found a seat when the Colonel came out.
The man introduced himself as Colonel Jason Trask. He gave a brief history of the Ultimate Soldier program, then introduced the biological wonder. Lois was surprised when one of the soldiers that had been standing to the Colonel's left stepped forward. S-517, as he was introduced, seemed like any other man.
And what an impressive man he was. Lois had to concentrate to keep her thoughts from roaming into dangerous territory as her eyes took in the wonderful specimen before her. S- 517 was about six feet of pure muscle. His fatigues hugged his powerful body like a glove. Dark hair sat atop a thick neck and broad shoulders. If this alien wasn't a man, he was doing a darn good impression of one.
Lois sighed a little dreamily and concentrated on the activities the soldier was starting to perform.
She sat mesmerized as the impressive demonstration took place. The soldier did things she didn't think possible. When he completed his performance by flying, with no help whatsoever, Lois was so stunned she dropped the pencil she had been writing with. She recovered and scrambled to retrieve the wooden item so she could write down possible contact names. Suddenly the thrill of a prize winning article ran through her. Things like this didn't happen every day, and she would be the reporter to expose the truth.
"We will take questions from the press now," the Colonel announced.
Lois shot to her feet. "Does he talk? I mean, other than answering commands?"
"Yes he does. S-517, step forward and talk to the lady."
"Yes, sir." The man walked to the edge of the platform. "Good afternoon, miss. How are you today?"
"I'm fine, thank you." Lois stepped a little closer to the soldier. "Can you make eye contact?"
"Yes ma'am." The man immediately looked directly at the woman. For an instant, his expression flashed something close to surprise. However, his reaction faded as quickly as it had appeared.
Lois didn't miss the hesitation on the part of the young man. She also couldn't help but notice that there was so much more behind his brown eyes. Whatever it was buried there called to her. She found herself wanting to know more than just the government rundown on him.
"Do you have a name?"
"No. Not a number. A name. Like Jack or Sam or something."
"Too bad. Everyone should have a name."
"Lane. Lois Lane, Daily Planet," she replied automatically to the Colonel.
"Miss Lane, please move on to more important questions."
Lois glared at the man before turning back to the soldier. "I refuse to call you a number, so I'll just ask my questions. What exactly are you?"
"I am a perfect biological soldier."
"Are you a machine?"
"S-517 is part machine. His brain is comprised of tiny, very sophisticated equipment," the Colonel hastened to point out.
"How is that possible?" Lois was looking at the Colonel as if daring him to prove it.
"Believe me, Miss Lane, we have asked that. Wherever he came from was, without doubt, a civilization far more advanced than anything we could hope to be any time soon. His race is remarkable."
"Yes. And now I want him to answer me." She faced the soldier again. "Are you a machine?"
"I am a perfect biological soldier," he answered again.
Lois thought that odd. He couldn't answer her directly. "You appear to be a man. Do you work like a man?"
"I breathe. I have a heart beat, internal organs, external organs. I do not eat, drink, or have to sleep often. So, no, I do not work like a man."
"Then with you lies the end of your race here on Earth?"
That stopped the soldier. He didn't know how to answer that. The Colonel spoke up. "Miss Lane, S-517 is the last of his kind. Now, do you have any more questions for him?"
"Just one," she answered with a glance back at the Colonel. She slowly turned to meet the soldier's gaze. "Do you mind if I touch you?"
The soldier flinched. "Ma'am?"
"Miss Lane?" Trask felt sick. Surely no self-respecting human could actually 'want' to touch this freak?
"I just want to see if he feels like a man or a machine. Surely you won't jeopardize the people's right to know."
The Colonel seethed in anger. It wasn't bad enough he had to parade his weapon around like some prized possession. Now he had to allow some noisy reporter who didn't have enough sense to distinguish the difference between a human man and a filthy alien touch him. What was next? Tea parties with the President?
"Look at me," she whispered as her hand rose to touch the stone statue of a man before her. He did as he was told. She watched as something happened behind his eyes just before she touched his face. "You don't feel like a machine to me."
He watched her carefully. His mind was screaming a thousand things all at once and he was unsure what was right anymore. His hearing picked up the Colonel's whispered command. 'Kill her, S-517. She's the enemy.' His hand lifted, set to grab her throat, but something in her eyes wouldn't let him complete the order.
Lois watched as his eyes reflected the war raging inside him. In an instant, she knew what was going on. She turned to look at the Colonel. "What did you tell him?"
"You gave him an order. What was it?"
"Miss Lane, are you paranoid?"
Lois focused on the man in front of her again. She took one of his hands in hers. "What did he order you to do?"
The man looked down at her hands around his. An image danced through his mind of another pair of hands holding his like that. His other hand lifted and surrounded hers. She was so warm and soft. 'Be gentle,' he heard in his mind. 'You should always be gentle so that you won't hurt anyone.'
"I have to be gentle," he said softly. He squeezed her hands hesitantly. Her thumbs rubbed across the top of his.
"S-517, let her go and prepare to go offline."
He looked at Lois as if wanting to say something. Finally he dropped her hands and snapped to attention. "Yes, sir."
Lois watched as he turned on his heels and marched to a tall, black case-like box. He backed inside and was still while another soldier strapped him in. The Colonel stepped over and touched him with a small box. The soldier's large body jerked and his eyes closed.
Trask turned to the crowd. "S-517 has to go offline to allow his body and mind to regenerate. He is in no pain and the shock to shut down his computer doesn't hurt him." He waved his hand and several soldiers laid the Ultimate Soldier's case back onto a lift and it was loaded in the back of a truck.
Trask turned to address the crowd and pass out some press releases about the Ultimate Soldier project, but the words were lost on Lois. She watched as the soldier was trucked off the field. The few moments they touched told her more than anything she'd read in their papers. The touch told her the truth. S-517 was not a machine. He was a man, albeit an incredibly powerful man, but still a man. She scrambled from the platform after she snatched one of the files from Trask. She intended to find out just what was going on here.
Trask watched her as she went across the field to the parking area. "Find out what you can on her," he whispered to one of his men.
Lois pulled open the door to her car and froze. A man had walked up to stand next to her.
"Yes?" She turned warily to the man.
"I need to speak with you… in private."
"No, no. Please. Bobby was supposed to call you. I need help, before they kill us all."
"Before who kills us all?"
"Trask and his army of Ultimate Soldiers. He's a madman."
"And he's planning to… what? Take over?"
"Yes. Look, meet me at the library down the block from the Planet in half an hour. I'll be in the computer archives. We can talk in private."
The man turned and hurried away. Lois jumped in her car and raced back towards town. She had been right. There was something huge going on here.
The black gave way to sunshine. A cool breeze blew across his skin. The crisp blue sky told him there was nothing he couldn't handle. He smiled and watched the birds play in the field. He'd missed the summer harvest. He would bet those fields were gorgeous then.
Slowly his breathing changed. It came faster as the images of perfect summer days gave way to the dark, to haunting images that were constantly invading his mind, people falling, dying at his hands. Blood, there was blood everywhere.
His hearing kicked in. The commands, the horrible commands. 'Kill them. Kill them all.'
Then there was a new sound he'd never heard before, soft whispers, nice tones. It was a voice. 'Look at me.' The voice sounded soothing. 'You don't feel like a machine to me.'
Not a machine. Not a machine. 'Be gentle.'
Suddenly his eyes popped open. He was in the lab. No one was there. He was back online, but the voices were coming again.
'You have a mind.'
'You are a man.'
He closed his eyes as the voices roared out of control. He didn't understand any of this. What was happening to him? As he struggled to catch his breath, he tensed, breaking his shackles with ease. For a moment he panicked. If Colonel Trask found him out of his case…
His eyes fell on some open files. Maybe he could just see what was written on those papers. He stepped over and quickly scanned the words. When he was done, he raised his head.
"I am a man," he whispered into the room. He moved around the room trying to find more information. Several moments later he slumped to the floor. His mind was a jumble of images and voices, but the one thing coming in loud and clear was the fact that he knew what Trask had written was true. If he didn't want to stay here, they couldn't make him. Yet, for some reason he couldn't make himself get up to go either. A tickle at the back of his mind told him that if he left, something bad would happen.
His hearing picked up Trask's voice outside. He made a split second decision to stay and see if he could learn why he felt he couldn't leave. He pushed up from the floor and in a blur he was settled back into his case. Trask and two of the scientists entered only seconds later.
Lois sat down next to the man in front of another computer. Apparently he wanted to make it look as if they were both doing nothing more than research and carrying on a casual conversation. Her insatiable curiosity led her to play along. "I'm listening."
"Miss Lane, my name is Dale Kent. To the government, my family, and anyone else, I am essentially dead. What I tell you today is highly classified… information your country never intends for you to know."
Lois listened intently as the man told her the real story behind the man known as the Ultimate Soldier. His name was Clark and he was a man, not a machine. Kent had been the scientist that led the research team that studied Clark when he was first found as a baby. That baby had been raised in a cold, sterile lab. He had been constantly tested and probed, brainwashed for humanity's sake, until the day Kent took him to a farm in Kansas. For nearly a year he'd lived as a normal teenager, then Trask found him and took him back.
"But how is he able to control him?"
"I have contacts-a friend on the inside. He tells me Trask found some kind of rock from his home planet. They say it's poison to him, makes him sick. I'm told Trask leaves him weak and fills his head full of the things he wants him to know."
"He's an animal."
"That's not the half of it. He wants to clone Clark, use his sperm to grow an army of super powered soldiers."
"So he does work like a man?"
"Oh yes. All of Clark's basic functions are the same as any normal adult male. But if Trask creates his clones, they can be implanted with computers before they become invulnerable and they would be a massive force in the hands of a madman."
"Do you think he's started that particular project yet?"
"Probably. If he has, God help us all."
"The lab, where's the lab?"
"It's in the side of a mountain in the middle of North Dakota. But there's another here in Metropolis. I hear that's where Trask has held Clark when he recaptured him four years ago."
"Here." Lois took out her notepad. "Draw me a map."
"You can't go there."
"I have to see what's going on."
"If Trask finds you, he'll have Clark kill you."
"I think he tried that today, but Clark couldn't do it. I knew I saw something in his eyes." Lois wrote something on the notepad. "Oh, and I need to contact your brother and sister-in-law. Maybe if they're willing to go public, we can force the government to release Clark. Alien or not, he's a man. And a man has rights."
"I wouldn't count on it."
"You said yourself not everyone is aware of what Agency 39 is doing. For all you know, they think Clark is a machine as well."
"I hadn't thought of that." He scratched his chin. "I tried calling my brother several times over the last couple years. If they're still in Smallville, they're not listed."
"I'll find them. Please… draw a map."
"Miss Lane, I don't think that's a good idea."
"Just do it. We have to get Clark away from that man. From what I saw today, he is suffering and isn't even aware of it. I've read that brainwashing can have all sorts of affects. What if the poor guy has a breakdown or something? He wouldn't even know what was happening to him. Besides, if Trask succeeds with his plans, the whole world will have to pay for it."
Dale blew an exasperated breath and started drawing. He didn't know if the young lady knew what she was doing or not, but she was right. Clark's time was running out. The doctor had been trying to go through every possible channel, without being discovered, to see if he could get Clark released from Agency 39. Knowing he couldn't do much without being discovered or getting himself killed, his hands were tied. But his thoughts were seldom far from the young man whose life he'd had a hand in ruining. Was it too late to repair the damage?
Jason Trask yelled at the top of his lungs, then threw the file in his hand across the room. The papers landed everywhere. "I can't believe those idiots!"
"Sir?" questioned one of his officers.
"They want to loan S-517 to the city of Metropolis to use as an emergency services help-mate. Of all the insane, moronic things to do with this perfect soldier." He turned and glared at the other man. "Initiate Operation Take-Over. We have to move now!"
Trask turned and walked over to stand in front of Clark. "You will help me change this world forever."
When the door shut behind Trask, Clark opened his eyes. He didn't know what was about to happen, but he knew he had to find out 'now'. He freed himself from his shackles and eased through the dark room. He thanked the powers that be for his incredible vision. A second later, he was floating down the corridor.
Lois had made sure to bring plenty of small flashlights with her, unsure of how many she'd need. This lab was not that big, but it was full of some of the most incriminating evidence in the world. She'd found and made copies of Clark's file. That information alone would bring Trask to his knees. The man had been performing the most insane tests on Clark. It was inhumane and cruel. When she was finished with the Colonel, he would be in prison for a very long time.
She pushed open the door to a small room. When she flashed her light she almost passed out. The room was full of glass cylinders that contained what looked like…
"My God. He 'is' cloning him." Lois froze when a noise from the other side of the room cut through the silence. She turned and flashed her light. There, sitting against the wall on the floor, was Clark. "Clark?"
His head snapped up when she spoke. He recognized that voice. It was one he'd been remembering in his mind most of the afternoon, but what did she say? He looked up as she came closer.
He was unable to respond and just stared at her.
Lois kneeled in front of him. "Are you okay?"
"Ah, yes. I'm fine." He blinked several times in an attempt to focus. This was the woman from the demonstration. What had she said her name was? "Miss Lane?"
"Yes. You remembered me?"
"Yes. What are you doing here?"
"It's a long story. What are you doing here?" She'd read the file. He was supposed to be drugged and in that hideous case.
"I was trying to find out what Trask was doing."
"You mean you… But I thought…"
"I woke up. I don't know how. When he came back, I pretended to be asleep. He's angry because Metropolis wants to use me to help the Emergency Services. He's starting something he called Operation Take- Over."
"I think he's planning to use you to try to take over the country."
"He said I would help him change the world."
"We need to get you out of here."
"I don't know. There's something in the back of my mind that tells me if I leave bad things will happen."
The meaning of what Clark said hit Lois like a ton of bricks. "I know what it is."
"Yes, but I can't tell you here." She rose and held out her hand to Clark. "Please. Trust me. Everything will be okay."
He looked at her hand. The images of touching her came back. She was so soft and warm. He wanted to feel that again. He reached up and clasped his hand with hers, then stood. She pulled him toward the door, but he stopped her.
"I can't leave these here. This is… wrong."
She looked around the containers. "Yes it is." She let Clark's hand go and took out her camera. "I'll take some pictures then we'll decide what to do."
He looked at his empty hand, wanting to feel hers again. Finally he looked up and watched her snap several pictures. She pulled open a freezer on another wall and gasped. He was by her side in a flash. The small vials stared back at him.
"Clark, this is your… sperm. My God! How much did they take from you?" He simply looked at her. "This is the substance your body makes to reproduce."
Clark's mind raced to understand what she was talking about. He could hear two new voices explaining to him the mechanics of human reproduction. His eyes dropped to his crotch. "They… they…" He closed his eyes and ground his teeth. Images of being on an exam table while a tube was forced into his body…
He reached out and grabbed the freezer case. "They did the procedure once a week," he said softly. "Once a week for nearly six months."
His eyes shot open when Lois touched his arm. "You're not scared of me?"
"Scared of you? Of course not." She rubbed his arm softly. "Let's get out of here."
He nodded. "I think I should burn this room up, starting with those vials."
"No. They'll know we were in here. Can you use some of your vision gizmo to just kill everything?"
"Your heat vision."
"Oh. Yes. I can kill all this with a quick shot. They won't notice for a while."
Lois could swear he almost smiled as he stood and stared intently at the vials. When he was done, he picked one up and looked at it.
"All dead. Sorry fellows," he said as he put the vial back.
Lois laughed softly as he turned and stared at the cylinders. Though the machines that had been keeping the clones alive were still running and everything appeared to be normal, Clark assured her all the tissue was indeed dead. He'd simply severed the life giving main vessels to each specimen along with a slight sting from his powerful eyes to assure none of Trask's 'soldiers' would be brought online.
When she opened the door to the lab, Clark put his hand on the jamb. "Should I… hold your hand?"
She was about to make her usual reply of a snide remark, but something in his eyes stopped her. "Would you like to?"
He looked down at her hand. "Yes."
She held her hand out and he gently took it in his.
"Gentle. I have to be gentle," he said absently as she led the way out the door. Ten minutes later they were standing by her car.
"You have to let go now so you can get in."
Clark looked down at the small hand in his. He knew he should let go, but for some reason it felt so good to hold her.
She watched him battle with her statement. "Look, get in. When we get out on the road, I'll let you hold it again."
That seemed to do the trick. Clark let her hand go and hurried around to get in the car. He watched her hand intently until she turned it over in invitation for him to take it again.
He wrapped his large fingers around her smaller ones as they made their way through the city streets. "I can drive a car," he said absently a few moments later.
"Yes. Although…" He furrowed his brows. "I can't remember how I learned." He shrugged, then thought of something he wanted to ask Lois. "Why do you call me Clark?"
"Because that's your name."
"No. I'm S-…" He stopped as more images and voices filled his head. A soft feminine voice and a strong, masculine one. His breathing started to get ragged as the faces materialized. It was… That's why he couldn't leave. Trask would kill them. "I have to go back. He will kill them."
"Some. Please, take me back."
Lois pulled off the road and turned to face Clark. "Clark, listen to me. I ran a search on the Kents today. They don't live in Smallville anymore. I can't find them."
Fear gripped Clark like a vice. "He's already killed them," he whispered.
"I don't think so. I ran checks for their deaths and didn't find anything." She lifted Clark's hand and covered it in both of hers. "We'll find them, but you can't go back."
Her touch seemed to pacify him. He watched as she squeezed his hand. "You're the only person that has wanted to touch me since I lived with them," he told her softly.
She met his gaze in the pale light shining through the windshield. "You must think people are pretty horrible."
Lois smiled softly before turning back to the steering wheel. "We need to get out of here."
"Where are we going?"
"To my apartment." She pulled back onto the road and within minutes they were walking through her front door.
Lois looked back at Clark. He was taking in her apartment very slowly. "Could I have my hand for just a few minutes?"
Clark hesitantly released her. "I'm sorry. That was wrong."
"To hold you when you didn't want to be held."
"No, Clark. I just need both hands to go to the bathroom."
That made him drop his head, his cheeks turning red. She had embarrassed him.
"You look around. I'll be right back."
She returned a few minutes later to find him thumbing through her books. There was a stack on the forward ledge. She watched silently as he flipped the pages of one book, then preceded to another. She realized he was reading them and cleared her throat to get his attention.
Clark looked up at her. "I'm sorry. I like to read."
"I see. You can read them all, but in a bit. We need to talk."
"Okay." He placed the book on the others and followed her into the kitchen. Clark watched as she prepared coffee.
A few minutes later they were seated at the table with two steaming mugs. He looked down at the black liquid in the cup.
"Don't you like coffee?"
"I don't know."
"I forgot you don't have to eat or drink."
"I used to, when I lived with the Kents. But Mo… Martha never let me have coffee. She said it would stunt my growth."
Lois looked at him with raised brows. "I don't think you have to worry about that now."
This time the young man did smile. "I guess I am a big boy."
"Yeah." Lois sipped her coffee. "I think the first thing we need to do is contact someone in the government and see if we can't get you released from whatever claims that agency has on you."
"But the agency is part of the government."
"Not the good part. Perry has some contacts. We'll talk to him."
"My editor at the Planet, Perry White."
"I read the copy you had on the coffee table. You write really well."
"Thank you… I think."
Clark smiled again. "I can read."
"I know. It's just… I don't know how to treat you here. I mean, for four years you've been brainwashed…"
His eyes widened at that. She had told him she wasn't scared of him. Had she changed her mind? "I won't hurt you."
"I know that. You couldn't do it today when Trask gave you a direct order."
"How did you know that's what he said?"
"I'm not sure, but I could see in your eyes that you could never hurt anyone."
"Thank you. Your belief in me means a great deal."
Lois reached over and covered his hand with hers. "You need a friend and I want to help."
Clark looked down at her hand on his. "I'd like that."
"Good." She patted his hand. "How about we get on the computer and see if we can find the Kents?"
"Yes. I'd like to know if they're okay."
Clark got up to follow her to her desk in her bedroom, then turned back and picked up his coffee taking a good, healthy swallow. He looked down at the cup with disinterest. It wasn't the best tasting stuff he'd ever had, but… He took another gulp. It was nice to be drinking something again. Maybe he'd ask Lois if he could have something to eat.
Clark watched as Lois' fingers strummed the keyboard. He could read the screens faster than they could ever pop up, so he watched to see what Lois did to get the changes on the monitor.
She glanced up at Clark. He had been quiet, taking in every move she made. "You okay?"
"I'm fine." She smiled and read over another page. "I got it!"
"What?" Clark read the words carefully. "They're here. In Metropolis." His heart raced in his chest. He hadn't felt this way in… well, he couldn't remember when, but he felt good.
"There's a number. Call them. See if it's them. See if they're okay."
"I'm sorry. It's just… they were so good to me. I was…" He remembered things they'd said, things they'd done. What would things have been like if he'd been allowed to remain with them?
Lois rubbed his arm as she stood. "How about we go see them tomorrow? It's late."
"You're right. They're probably in bed."
"Yeah." Lois dug through a dresser drawer before pulling out a pair of shorts and a shirt for Clark. "Here. These should fit you."
Clark looked at the offered clothes, wanting to ask if they belonged to someone special to her. She answered for him.
"They're my brother's. Louis breezes in and out about three times a year. He leaves clothes every time."
"Breezes in and out?"
"Comes in, stays a day, and leaves again."
"Why doesn't he stay?"
"Louis is a professional baseball player. He's a huge disappointment to our father, but very much his own man. He's only a year older than me and earns more in a year than I'll earn before I'm thirty."
"Do you miss him?"
"Yeah. He's the best." She picked up a photo and held it out to show Clark. "That's him."
"Wow. He looks like you."
"Poor kid," she mumbled.
"Don't say that. I happen to think you look very nice."
"Thank you, Clark." She smiled and pointed to the bathroom. "Go shower. You do know how to do that?"
"I'm sorry. I need to quit asking you if you know this or that."
"It's okay. Some things I don't know about. I'll tell you."
Clark stopped at the bathroom door. "Miss Lane?"
"Please. Call me Lois."
"Lois… Would you mind if… maybe I could eat… something when I'm done?"
"I thought you didn't have to eat?"
"I don't have to, but I'd really like to."
Lois smiled then. "I think I would too. I'll fix us a sandwich while you shower."
"Okay. Thank you." He smiled and disappeared into the bathroom.
Lois looked up when Clark came out of the bathroom. Her breath caught as she looked at him. He was certainly one of the best looking men she'd ever seen. Louis' clothes were a little tight showing off a lot of Clark's attributes. "Feel better?"
"Yes. It's nice not to have to wear those fatigues."
Lois gestured to the tray on the bed. "Come and eat."
Clark nodded and settled in the chair beside the bed as he ate his sandwich. Lois was pouring through some files.
"What are you reading?"
"Your files. I copied them with my scanner tonight and printed some out while you were in the bathroom. You certainly are one hell of a man."
Clark's cheeks reddened at her words. For the second time tonight, he was embarrassed.
"You'll have to show me the flying again though. That's incredible."
"I think out of all I can do, I like that the most. I discovered I could do it about a year after the agency took me from the Kents. Trask was both happy and mad about it. He reminded me that Martha and Jonathan would suffer if I got out of line. He stepped up his brainwashing techniques after that."
Lois looked up at him in confusion. "Why is it you didn't remember the Kents when I found you tonight?"
Clark screwed his face, just as confused as she was. Until just this moment, he didn't even realize he knew what he'd said. Suddenly more memories came flooding through him. He could vaguely remember some of Trask's brainwashing techniques. Some involved… needles? Shock treatment? He closed his eyes a moment to concentrate on this new information.
He remembered the threats against the Kents when Trask first took him from the farm. At first, that's how the Colonel controlled him. That seemed to be enough until he started to fly. Apparently Trask felt Clark might use his new ability to escape and spirit the Kents away to some place safe, so he stepped up control techniques. Clark was often exposed to Kryptonite enough to weaken him so Trask could fill his head with images that were meant to control the powerful being. The control progressed to include injections of Kryptonite, undoubtedly in an attempt to keep Clark docile. The day Trask reminded him that the Kents would suffer was also the first shock treatment. He could very clearly remember one more after that day, then nothing. He drew a blank until this afternoon in the lab. Until he started to 'awaken' from the fog Trask had plunged him into, there was no way he could have remembered any of this.
Clark finally opened his eyes to look at Lois. "I remember shock treatments and needles. I guess my mind started to block everything out after a while."
"They say people do that… block out painful memories. Maybe your subconscious found it easier just to forget everything and follow orders without question."
Clark swallowed a mouthful of soda before he spoke again. "I was disappointed that those files didn't have more details about what Trask did to me. It would have made it easier to understand the things I can't remember."
"I guess Trask thought it too risky to put that kind of information in a file that could lead back to him and be viewed as inhuman and too severe. The things written that he did do border on maniacal, but could also still be viewed as scientifically necessary considering the fact that you have such powerful abilities." Lois looked down at a piece of paper she held. "According to this, your mind may also be what kept the brainwashing from continuing to work. Your mind works at what would be ninety percent of human potential. We only use about ten percent. What a waste."
"Me or humans?"
Lois looked over at Clark. "Humans. You are about the most remarkable person I've ever met."
"Thank you… I think."
Clark finished his sandwich and soda before lifting the tray to carry it back to the kitchen. He stopped outside Lois' bedroom door. "I'll be out here. I think maybe I'll finish those books."
"Okay. Good night, Clark."
"Good night, Lois."
"Where the hell is he?!"
"We're looking, sir."
Trask slammed his hand down on the desk as he fumed. He discovered the alien was missing this morning and he was not happy at all. His plan to lead the world into a new light was useless without his weapon. He jumped up and headed for the lab. He'd just have to step up the production of his army.
The ringing phone wrenched Lois from her sleep. She turned over and snatched up the receiver from its cradle. "Yeah?" It was way to early for niceties.
"Perry? What is it?" She craned her head to look at the clock. "It's not even six yet."
"Get your butt in gear! We're being invaded!"
Lois sat bolt upright in the bed. "What?!"
"There's a… a space ship on the White House lawn."
Lois jumped from her bed and ran to the living room to turn on her television. The sight that greeted her when she rounded the corner made her drop the phone.
Clark was… floating, in his sleep about two feet above the sofa.
"Lois!" Perry's voice yelling through the phone brought her back to her surroundings. She leaned and picked it back up.
"Yeah. I'm here."
"Just hurry down here, will ya'?"
"Give me half an hour."
Lois cut the connection and went to inspect her guest. She ran an experimental hand under him. He was definitely floating.
"Wow!" She jumped back when he sat up abruptly.
Clark's frightened eyes searched his unfamiliar surroundings. He'd been having horrible dreams in which Trask had killed the Kents. His breathing finally slowed when he saw Lois.
"Are you okay?" she asked him.
"Ah, yeah. I was… dreaming."
"Do you float when you dream?"
Clark looked down at himself, realizing he was indeed in the air. "Sorry." He lowered his body back to the sofa.
"Don't be sorry. You can float any time." She smiled at him before realizing what she'd come into the room for. She hurried to turn on the television. The scene playing out at the nation's capital brought a startled gasp from her lips.
Clark was on his feet and right behind her when he realized what he was looking at. There was indeed a spacecraft on the lawn of the White House. Several men, several very powerful men were making their presence known in a threatening way.
The scene changed as the camera focused on one of the men and the voice of the news commentator remarked, "Once again, the President has surrendered to this man. In his words, 'I have no choice. He has killed half the staff and is threatening to kill more'. There is also apparently some kind of force field over the White House grounds. Where do we go from here?"
Clark startled eyes met Lois'. "Clark, do you think…?"
"I have no idea. Trask said in those papers that he believed I was the front man for an invasion…"
"No, Clark." Lois placed her hand on his arm. "I don't know what happened that caused you to end up on Earth, but I don't believe it was to lead an invasion."
"How can you be so sure? Maybe they didn't make me into a monster because I already was one."
He took a step back when she yelled.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell."
"Does that… make you feel better?"
"Not really." Lois smiled shyly at him. "Although it can help… when I'm frustrated."
"I remember that means that you can't figure something out or remember something or get something done."
"Basically." Lois eyed the man standing in her living room. He was truly a living miracle. He was also convinced he was the monster Trask had told him he was. She stepped closer and reached out to touch his arm.
"Clark, 'you' are not a monster. I don't care what has been burned into that amazing brain of yours, but that's not one of them. What you can do is nothing short of phenomenal. Why that's possible should be seen as a gift, not something horrible." She stroked his forearm softly. "If you were really a monster, you would have killed me at the demonstration. You would have killed long before now. And the fact that you care so much about what happens to the Kents should be another indication that you couldn't possibly be some… freak like Trask says you are."
Clark had looked at her closely the entire time she spoke. The gentle tone of her voice and the soft touch of her skin did more to ease his fears than rational thought. He reluctantly nodded his head. "I hope you're right."
"I am." She offered him a smile and was momentarily surprised when he gave her a small one in return. "Listen, I have to go to work. Do you want to come with me? You could help me try to figure out what's going on with these aliens and we can call up the Kents."
"You sure it wouldn't be too much trouble?"
"Are you kidding? As fast as you can read…" She started for her bedroom. "I'll see if I can find you some jeans of Louis' so you won't have to wear those fatigues."
"Thank you." Clark glanced at the makeshift bed on the sofa. He was about to start folding the covers when a thought occurred to him. He straightened, smiled, then super sped around the room to clean it up. He stopped to find Lois staring at him with a smile.
"That is too cool," she told him as she held out the clothes she'd found.
"Thanks." He took the offered items and went to change.
Lois was dressed as well when Clark came out of the bathroom. She wanted to whistle at him. He had on blue jeans and a white tee shirt, but the effect was out of this world. "Ready?" she asked a little unsteadily.
"Let me slip my boots back on." He did so in under two seconds.
Lois was still smiling as she held out a leather jacket to him. "Put this on." He took it and slipped it on as she hurried into the living room. She grabbed up her bag and a few minutes later they were headed out the door.
Trask stood in disbelief as the General finished his request. "So now you need my Ultimate Soldier?"
"Colonel Trask, you forget this is 'my' Ultimate Soldier. And furthermore, I am your superior."
The Colonel just stood in silence as he was reprimanded by his superior. Finally the General ran out of steam. "Just bring in S-517."
Trask stood silent for several minutes. He hadn't reported the disappearance of the government's multi-million dollar Ultimate Soldier. "Trask! Are you disobeying a direct order?"
"I can't bring S-517 in, sir."
"Because… he's gone."
"We went to bring the soldier back on-line this morning and he wasn't there."
"You've misplaced the only defense we may have against this threat to Earth?" Trask couldn't answer the General. He didn't know what had happened to S-517. Nor was he sure he'd find it either.
The General rose to his feet. "He may be our only chance to stop those damn aliens from taking over Earth."
"Now do you believe it was the front man?" The General turned to look at Trask, his face clearly showing this new possibility. "That's right. I've tried to tell you since we found the creature. It was sent here as the advance guard."
"How, may I ask, did S-517 contact them? This has been your project. Are you telling us you allowed this to happen?"
"Of course not! It hasn't contacted them, not while it's been with me. Maybe that's why it disappeared. Have you thought of that? It went missing during the night and this morning the White House is crawling with aliens."
"Contrary to what you believe, I don't think it's scientifically possible for the soldier to have contacted them and they arrived here so soon." Trask glared at the scientist who had spoken. "Do you know that conclusively?"
"No. I am offering my expert opinion on this matter. We have theorized S-517 came from another galaxy. It would not have been possible for contact to be made last night and an invasion take place today."
"And don't forget you've trained S-517 to follow orders," added another officer. "You have led this team to believe your soldier would follow orders. Why would these orders be defied?"
Trask could only glare at the younger officer. He didn't need some snot nosed brat telling him about 'his' soldier. "We'll have him back and on-line before noon," he said flatly.
"See that you do." The General, followed by his team, exited the room.
Trask turned to the officer beside him. "What do we know?" "That he broke his shackles and walked out. None of the security devices were breeched. With S-517's super speed, he could have easily broken all the codes."
Trask was thinking that over when another man came in. "Sir, we have a problem in the lab."
"What kind of problem?"
"The soldiers, sir, they're dead."
"What?!" Trask ran out the room. It was beginning to seem that S-517 was causing him more trouble than he was worth. Finding him gone was bad enough. The last thing he needed was finding out his future was gone. How did one take over the world without a little powerful help?
Lois was immediately up to her elbows in work when she arrived at the newsroom and wasted no time putting Clark to work going through some research for her.
Perry stepped out of his office and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Clark speed reading through some files. Or was it the fact that the young man seemed to be working with Lois? Lois worked alone. Perry decided this was definitely a situation he had to investigate. He walked up to stare at the young man with wide eyes.
Clark's head slowly turned to look at the older man. When he saw the expression of the older man, he immediately stood to his feet. "Sir," he stated, as if waiting for further instructions. Perry was shocked by this young man's presence and wondered if the man had read the papers he'd flipped through. "Ah, did you just read that?" The older man gestured to the files Clark was holding.
"Yes, sir," Clark answered.
"Really? And what does it say?" Perry was still unconvinced.
"It tells of the government program known as Agency 39."
"39? As in the UFO chasers? Weren't they disbanded years ago?"
"I wish they had been, sir."
Lois swiveled in her chair to face the two men. "Perry, this is Clark. He's known to our government as S-517 or the Ultimate Soldier."
"What?!" Perry stared at Clark a moment before turning to Lois. "What the Sam Hill is he doing here, Lois? We could go to jail for having him here."
"Read this, Perry." She shoved the thin file of papers she had on Clark at Perry.
The man read for a long moment before he looked back at Clark. "Damn!" He took another look at the file before he spoke again. "Ah, Clark… I don't quite know what to say."
"I can completely control myself, sir. Although I'm not sure what all they did to me, I won't lose my mind or anything. I won't hurt anyone." Clark's eyes pleaded with the older man to understand and not be afraid of him. Though he was terrified about what was happening, it would make things much more difficult if this man were afraid of him. He was anxious to figure out what was going on and help in any way he could.
"No, no. I didn't think you would." Perry offered the young man a soft smile when he saw the rigid set of his jaw. It was obvious this man had been through things he didn't understand. The last thing Perry wanted to do was confuse him more.
"Perry, don't you have contacts in Washington?" Lois asked in an attempt to move the focus of the conversation away from Clark's emotional state over his powers.
Perry's gaze drifted back to Lois. He nodded as he tried to figure out where she was headed with this new train of thought. "Storming Norman."
"Could you call him and see what he can find out about the Ultimate Soldier program? The government shouldn't have control over Clark. He's every bit as human as you and I. We need to see if we can't break that hold."
"Absolutely. With all this hype with the take-over though, I don't know how successful we'll be."
"Chief, you might want to listen to this," came Jimmy's voice as he reached to turn the volume up on the monitors.
The apparent leader of the group that had taken over the White House was about to speak.
"My name is Lord Nor. I am from the planet New Krypton. I've taken it upon myself to come in search of the son of traitors to our world. According to the readings we've been picking up, his ship did indeed land here. It would be wise to produce this man because he poses a threat to both our worlds." Although he didn't speak the words, he, too, was threatening Earth with an undercurrent of menace. He smiled smugly to emphasize his point.
"He would have grown up from an infant, easily recognizable by his unique abilities…" Nor continued.
Clark's eyes met Lois'. "He's talking about me," he said softly.
"What threat does he feel I pose?"
"I don't know."
They turned back to the television monitors again. "His name is Kal-El, of the noble house of El…"
Once again Clark wasn't paying attention any longer because his hearing had picked up a voice… in his head.
<<<Lord Kal-El, you are hearing me with your thoughts. I am Zara, and I hope to be able to explain everything soon. Come to the parking garage of the building you are currently in.>>>
Lois had noticed Clark's strange expression. "What is it?"
"I heard a voice… in my head. She wants me to come to the garage."
Lois stared at Clark incredulously. "In your head? Like telepathy?"
Clark was just as surprised as Lois. "I know it sounds crazy…"
"That seems to be the understatement around here," Lois mumbled, a little exasperated by the turn of events in the last few hours. "And you say it's a woman?"
"Yes," Clark told her. "I'm not crazy. I know what I heard."
"I didn't say you didn't." She stopped when she realized Clark was walking toward the elevators. "Wait! Where are you going?"
Clark turned to face Lois again. "I'm going to see what she wants."
"Just like that?"
"Yes. She says she can explain things."
"And you think it's wise to believe this 'strange' woman? She wants you to come to the parking garage," she told him with a flourish of her hands, expecting him to understand the ridiculousness of the situation.
"What choice do I have? There are people hurting others because of me. I have to go." He shot her a regretful glance before heading toward the elevators again.
Lois grumbled and followed him to the elevator. If she couldn't talk him out of this, then she was going, too.
A few minutes later they were stepping off the elevator to face three black clad individuals.
"I am Trey, chief of the elders," the white haired man spoke.
"Am I… this son of traitors Nor spoke of?"
"You are Lord Kal-El, our rightful leader," Trey told Clark.
"How do I know this?"
The dark haired woman with the two men stepped forward. "I am Zara. At present, I am the leader of our people. We uncovered information discs given to the former council chief by your birth parents before their death."
Clark's eyes widened. "Their death?"
"Yes. You were born on Krypton, our mother planet. Your father, Jor-El was a scientist and he discovered the planet was about to explode. Myself, along with several other babies and various others were taken from the planet on an expedition in search of another planet in which to inhabit. We settled on a planetoid we named New Krypton."
"How does that make him your leader?" Lois spoke up.
"Jor-El's son, you, by succession of power through alliances between noble houses, 'is' our rightful leader," Trey told them.
"Wait," Clark said with a raised hand. "This is all so confusing. Slow down and explain this slowly."
"On our world noble houses are joined together to keep alliances strong. That's done by unions at birth," Zara began the explanation.
"You mean, you're married? As babies?" Lois asked.
"Yes," Zara answered. "One noble house is joined with another to make the ruling house even stronger."
"And you were… joined with Clark?" Lois didn't miss Clark's expression of shock and disbelief. It was exactly the way she felt, too.
"Yes. Lord Kal-El and I were united by ceremony upon my birth as I am two months younger. We were joined only two weeks before I was taken from the planet. It is our understanding he was sent away only hours before the planet exploded.
"It was never our intention to come for you…"
"Then why did you?" Lois had heard enough. These people sounded like quacks. If they really didn't want Clark, why come at all?
"We were not even sure if you were alive until Nor found you three months ago," Trey continued. "He has spent the last several years searching the various planets that have intelligent life in hopes of finding you."
"And why would he want to find me?"
"With your abdication, he would inherit the throne," Zara told him flatly.
Clark nodded. "If I abdicate, will he leave?"
"I wish it were that simple," Zara replied.
"Why isn't it?" This time it was Lois asking the question.
"Nor is a monster." For the first time, the third man had spoken. "He has led troops against the throne for several years, mercilessly taking innocent lives. If he were to take the throne, our world would perish."
"So how did he find out about Clark?" Lois crossed her arms and waited for an answer she could swallow.
This time it was Trey who answered. "Until just a few years ago, the former council chief had kept your possible existence a secret. He had an alliance with Jor-El and had vowed to the man to protect you at all costs. It wasn't until Nor started quoting ancient laws in an effort to take the throne did he reveal that you could possibly be alive. "
Zara took up the explanation again. "However, the council and myself decided that I was quite capable of leading our people. And because I am your wife, Nor realistically cannot claim the throne as long as I rule. Thus, we saw no reason to justify a search for you, not knowing if you could ever be found."
"But you allowed Nor to search?" Lois half accused.
Zara gave the woman a disapproving glance before continuing. "Somehow Nor found out that Lord Kal-El could be alive. Even with the possibility, Nor could never take reign until Kal-El abdicated his rule."
Clark looked at the trio of people for several moments, not sure whether he believed them or not. Even if he did, what could he possibly do to stop this Nor? Was he supposed to go to New Krypton in hopes that the rouge Lord would follow them back? And what then?
"How do expect Clark to believe he is this… Lord you say he is? You've offered no proof," Lois was quick to point out.
"Your ship… the one you arrived in as an infant? Have you seen it?" Zara asked Clark.
"On the nose is an emblem… much like this one." She pulled out a black suit with the same emblem as the one on the ship. It was shaped like a stylized 'S' in a triangle. "This is the crest of your house, the crest of El. It was also on your ship."
Clark's eyes widened when he saw the suit with the emblem. "Yes," he managed to say softly.
Trey looked seriously at the young man. "Why would we say you were Lord Kal-El if it were not so? You have powers, the same ones we have since coming to this planet."
"And the same ones Nor has," Clark said in tone that indicated he'd just realized how serious this whole situation could be.
"How did you get here?" Lois interrupted. "It just occurred to me to question why you came to Clark. For all we know, you could be agents of this Nor."
"We took a smaller ship once Nor had left.," Trey told Lois. "Once we learned of Nor's intentions, we knew we had to come and warn you."
"Warn me?" Clark's brows were furrowed in confusion. His mind was racing so fast with all this new information, he wondered if he'd ever be able to get his equilibrium straight again.
Trey spoke up again. "It was Nor's intention to come here and charge you with treason."
"How is that possible?" Lois asked incredulously. She glanced at Clark, who had become a little pale with Trey's words.
"Kal-El failed to fulfill his duty when he and Zara were not officially united in his twenty first year. Further, it is custom that an heir be produced during the first year. This has not happened."
"How could I be charged with treason for things I had no idea I was supposed to do?" Clark was beginning to become panicked. It was looking as if he would be made to pay a price for something else he didn't understand or have any control over.
"It would have been Nor's contention that your heritage was provided for you in your ship. He would further contend that it was your responsibility to learn those customs. In doing so, you would have been aware of your duties and responsibilities."
Lois snorted audibly at Trey. "That's ridiculous."
"We agree. None the less, it would not have stopped Nor."
"You keep saying would have and talking in the past tense. What does that mean?"
"Sources tell us Nor no longer wants to just rule our world. He wants to rule this one as well. He has decided that he will simply kill Lord Kal-El, then take over Earth."
Clark's face turned white. The implication of that was deadly. With his powers, Nor could easily kill everyone on Earth.
"How do I stop him?" he asked with determination.
"Clark, no! You can't do this alone," Lois pleaded with him.
He looked at her sadly. "Lois, I have to try. I can't let him kill innocent people."
"But he has a whole army. They'll kill you." She reached out to place a hand on his arm, hoping the contact would offer her as much comfort as she hoped it would offer him.
He looked down at her hand on his skin. The feelings that swept through him each time another person touched him still overwhelmed him, almost to the point of disbelief. Finally he raised his eyes to Lois'. "Then I have to hope I've succeeded before I die." He faced the three New Kryptonians with an expression as rigid as stone. "What do I do?"
"By the laws of our land, you are our ruler. What Nor has done by invading Earth is illegal. However, given he's bent on taking over, he will not heed your command to withdraw," Zara told him.
"And he doesn't recognize you as our leader," the third man spoke up again. Lois decided she didn't like this man. He was looking at Clark with contempt.
"But," Trey continued. "in accordance with the law, you have to issue him the order to surrender. He will most likely counter your order and insist you be charged with treason. If this happens, you have the right to challenge."
"What does 'challenge' mean?" Lois asked hesitantly, although she felt sure she knew.
"To challenge means you will have to face Nor in hand to hand combat using the weaponry we call the Dre," Trey informed them.
"A task you will most likely not survive." It was the third man who said this. Apparently he'd already tried Clark and found him guilty of some crime.
"Ching, please," Zara told the man. "My Lord, Ching will train you to use the Dre. When you face Nor, we will provide back-up in the form of a substance from our mother planet. It has deadly results when Kryptonians are exposed to it."
Clark's eyes widened in horror. "You mean Kryptonite?"
"That's not what we call it, but it seems you know what we speak of."
"Only too well," Clark mumbled. "Long story. You were saying?"
"Shall you fail to defeat Nor, he will be destroyed."
Clark blanched at that. He hated the thought of anyone having to die, and especially because of him.
"If Nor's as evil as you say he is, what makes you think if I defeat him, he will surrender?"
Zara and Trey looked at each other for a long moment before Trey spoke. "My Lord, it is our hope that if you defeat him, he will be unable to surrender."
Clark was silent, his expression unreadable, until he realized what Trey really meant. He took a step backward, his fear of taking another life threatening to make it impossible for him to breathe.
Lois, too, understood what it was Trey meant. Instead of fearing the unknown, she unleashed her rising anger and frustration. "Why don't you just tell him you want him to kill Nor?!" The three strangers' expressions didn't waver. "Why did you come here? You could have… destroyed Nor long before now."
"Nor had committed no crimes that could be proven," Zara said.
"What?!" Lois was going beyond angry now. "He led troops against your authority."
"Yes, but he was never so forthcoming with his actions…"
Lois huffed and threw her hands into the air, cutting off Zara's sentence. "So you wait until he openly attacks innocent people?!"
Clark watched the emotions on the faces of the three people before him. They seemed unconcerned with Nor's actions, even now. In fact, he was hard pressed to gage their emotions at all. Since he stepped into the garage with them, they hadn't showed much concern at all for anyone.
"Lois is right. If all you want me to do is kill him, why can't you do that yourselves?"
Lois crossed her arms hastily over her chest and glared at Zara for an answer.
"Nor is still Kryptonian. He wants to rule, yes. But to do so with respect from his people would be even better. If you claimed your position as leader, then challenged him, he would see it as a chance to gain that respect. It would be an opportunity too good to pass up."
Clark could only stare at the people. Lois was shaking her head in disbelief. He felt much the same way, but knew he had no choice but to try to stop this mad man. If he did nothing, Nor would kill millions of people. Allowing that to happen would be no different than doing some of the evil things Trask had hoped he would do one day.
Just as he was about to ask how he went about taking his place as the mighty ruler of his people, the building shook as a blast thundered outside. Clark instinctively reached for Lois. The garage shook with unforgiving force. He tucked Lois against his chest and leaned over her to take the brunt of the falling debris. He didn't worry about the others. They were Kryptonian and they could fend for themselves.
"Hold on," he told Lois over the sound of the chaos. He held her tightly and whisked them from the garage. Clark deposited Lois on the sidewalk down the block. The three Kryptonians were by their side. They all watched as a small spaceship hovered above the buildings and shot blasts at the row of mortar and brick down the block.
Lois watched as Zara closed her eyes and concentrated intently. The ship was obviously one of Nor's. Whatever Zara did, it worked because the ship turned and disappeared in a streak.
Zara faced Clark. "He will tell Nor you want to speak with him."
Clark nodded but turned when Lois grabbed his arm.
"Clark, Perry and Jimmy…" She was pointing at the burning Daily Planet building.
Clark didn't hesitate and he zipped into the building.
"We should help him," Zara told the others. "These people have done nothing to deserve this."
Trey and Ching followed her lead and entered the buildings that had been affected to help carry people to safety. The four super beings worked quickly and efficiently, moving from one building to the next to make sure everyone was safe. Clark used his knowledge of his various powers to blow out the flames. Zara and the others did the same. They also used their strength and powers to secure the structures and make sure none were in jeopardy of falling and causing any more damage.
Clark returned a few minutes later to where Perry and Jimmy were staring wide-eyed at the super activity.
"Ah, son, I need to thank you. We'd be dead if it wasn't for you."
"It's the least I could do. All this…" Clark waved his hand around, "happened because of me."
"Clark, this was not your fault." Lois reached out for his arm.
"Isn't it, Lois? Nor is here for me."
"You didn't 'make' him come. You can't control what a man does. You, of all people, should know that."
Clark sighed deeply and looked around at the chaos and confusion. What was he supposed to think? This Lord Nor came to find him. He 'was' responsible for this mess.
Lois let her hand slide down his arm and into his hand. "Clark, you didn't ask for any of this," she whispered.
Clark seemed to respond to that. His eyes fell to their joined hands. It felt so good to have contact with another person. He took a deep breath and met Lois' eyes again. "I have to try to fix it though."
"I know." Lois squeezed his hand and offered him a slight smile.
"Could you… could you see if you can find the Kents for me? I would feel better knowing they're safe."
"I'll go to the address we found. Don't worry. I'll find them."
"Thank you, Lois."
"You don't have to thank me." The sting of hot tears made Lois blink before continuing. "I want to help you."
Clark reluctantly released her hand and turned to the other Kryptonians. Together they lifted into the air and disappeared. Lois was left to stare with the others on the sidewalk. The fate of the world rested with those four individuals. She prayed the man that had been so cruelly mistreated his whole life would be able to cope with the trials that lay ahead for him.
Zara felt the most expedient thing to do was to take Clark to their ship so Ching could instruct him in the use of the Dre. She contacted Nor and requested a meeting with him. He was told his leader was at hand and prepared to take his place on the throne. Nor gladly accepted the invitation to talk to the council and his esteemed Lord for later the same afternoon.
Lois left the Planet in a haze of confusion. Rescue workers were struggling to gain some kind of hold on the situation. At first the destruction seemed a lot worse. It appeared the most damage had occurred in the east wall. An outside wall was hit by the blast from the futurist weapons of the more advanced race of people, leaving a gaping hole. It would take a few days before things would be operational inside the Planet building again. It had faired far better than several of the smaller buildings on the block, but enough damage was done to force only a small paper to be produced within the publishing building of the owner of the Planet across the street. Perry was all business as he ordered his most diehard employees back to business as usual. The Daily Planet would not be scooped as long as he was editor.
It was several hours later before Lois made her way to the address she and Clark had found for the Kents. She lifted her hand and knocked on the door of the apartment.
An older, graying lady opened the door. "Yes?"
"Are you Martha Kent?"
"Yes. Do I know you?"
"No. I'm Lois Lane." Lois thrust her hand out to shake the older woman's.
"Yes," Lois answered with a smile.
"Oh, I'm a big fan of your work. As a matter of fact, I was going to call you later this week to see if you could help me with a personal problem."
"Really?" Lois asked, wondering if Martha may have wanted to talk to her about the same thing as she wanted to talk to the older woman.
"Please. Come inside." Martha held the door open for Lois to enter. "Can I offer you something to drink?"
"Actually I am thirsty."
"Please have a seat. I'll be right back." Martha smiled and went into the kitchen to get them some iced tea.
Lois eased down on the sofa and waited for the woman to return. She could easily see why Clark had loved the older lady. There was a softness in her eyes that invited confidence.
"As I was saying," Martha told Lois as she came back into the room. "I was going to call you to ask if you'd help me with a problem I have." Lois nodded as the woman took a seat. "The government took my son and they had no right to. They are holding him against his will and refuse to acknowledge they even know who I'm talking about."
Lois leaned to sit her glass on the coffee table. "And your son's name is Clark?"
"Yes." Martha was clearly shocked this young woman would know about Clark.
"I've met him."
"I got a tip a few days ago about the government's Ultimate Soldier program."
"That's him!" Martha gasped.
"I know," Lois said. "I attended the demonstration at the Fort yesterday. When I went back last night to… check the place out, I found Clark."
"You found him? Is he okay? What have they done to him?"
"Relax. He's fine…"
"Oh my." Martha lifted her hand to cover her mouth. "Really okay?"
"For now. He didn't remember a whole lot at first, but he remembers you and your husband. Colonel Trask has told him from the beginning that if he didn't follow orders, you would be killed. Later he was drugged, brainwashed, and eventually received shock treatments that led to him blocking everything out but surviving another day. Clark's mind finally had enough and it started to override the brainwashing."
"But… he's okay now?"
"I think in time he will be. Clark's been through a lot and he needs to be surrounded by people he can trust and be in situations where he can feel secure." Lois sighed and wrung her hands nervously. "Mrs. Kent, the invasion today is by a man who wants to kill Clark. There are others, claiming to be friendly, that say Clark is the ruler of their planet. He's gone to try to save Earth from this mad man."
Martha turned to look across the room. How would Clark handle such a thing after all he'd been through? Was the poor boy ever going to enjoy some type of peace?
Martha turned and stared at the woman before her for several minutes before she spoke. She'd seen heartbreak over and over again in her life, living through the disappointment of never having children only to be given the opportunity late in life when a teenage boy had found his way into her life and subsequently into her heart. She'd lived through one roadblock after another in hopes of finding that boy and returning him home where he belonged. The woman before her had just lifted an incredible burden from her mind. She felt she needed to at least explain what happened. "I should have contacted you long before now."
"You mentioned you were going to do that earlier. Why?"
"Jonathan and I were at the end of our rope. We were out of ideas about what to do next."
"So, you've been trying to find Clark?"
"Yes. When Trask first took him, we had no idea how to help him. Where did we start? This agency was top secret. How did we begin to go about finding our boy? Of course…" She paused briefly. "I think we felt we were in over our heads. We were scared," Martha admitted softly. "We'd seen Clark's file. We knew Trask wanted him to become an automated killer. We feared Trask wouldn't hesitate to kill Clark. He had that horrible rock…"
"That's Kryptonite," Lois told the older woman.
"I don't care what it is. All I know is it made Clark sick. He was in a lot of pain. And we were so afraid Trask would use it to kill Clark. For all we knew, he already had."
Lois waited while Martha struggled with her memories.
The older woman looked back at Lois. "We'd fallen head over heels in love with that boy. He was our son and we were determined to do something to help him."
"But you haven't been successful?"
Martha shook her head. "We started making calls to congressmen, senators, Jonathan's old army buddies… anyone who we thought could tell us anything. Nobody would even acknowledge that there was such a thing as Agency 39. Many accused us of being paranoid or crazy. At one time we were even threatened with imprisonment for talking against the government. We were told there was no such agency and even if there was, it would never hold anyone against their will."
Martha took a sip of her tea. "We refused to stop though. We sold the farm and moved here in hopes of being able to accomplish more in the city. Unfortunately, we didn't discover much more than we knew beforehand until the public announcement of the government's Ultimate Soldier program. We immediately started making calls. We were able to talk to a General Gordon who denied that Clark, or the Ultimate Soldier as he called him, had ever been out of the laboratory. He told us Trask had a file that could account for every moment of the soldier's life, none of which included myself or my husband. When we argued that Clark was human and was being held illegally, he sent a file of papers that state Clark is a machine and because he is, he's property. They even produced a bunch of registrations and what not that said they had the right to keep Clark."
Lois wasn't surprised. Trask had attempted to cover his tracks. What he hadn't counted on was Clark waking from the haze he'd been in all this time.
"What did you hope I could do?"
"I thought maybe a few articles could get the public to support Clark; make them aware of what was going on."
Lois nodded. She fully understood what Martha thought. She'd often used techniques like that in pursuit of a story. Intimidation and public knowledge of what was going on often led to surprising results. Lois briefly wondered what the government would have done if Clark had still been under their control when Nor attacked. Immediately she answered her own question. They would have ordered him to kill Nor. If he'd failed, Kryptonite would have been utilized. As that thought occurred, she looked at Martha with wide eyes.
"What if the government uses Kryptonite to kill Nor…?"
"And Clark?" Martha finished Lois' statement with a trembling voice. "I don't think they would hesitate to sacrifice Clark to eliminate this threat."
"Neither do I," Lois agreed. "We have to hope Clark and the other Kryptonians can stop him before it comes to that. I'll see if Perry can get in touch with his contact in Washington to see what steps we can take to do something about Clark's situation."
"What can Jonathan and I do?"
"You can…" Lois stopped and glanced around the apartment. "Where is Mr. Kent?"
"He's working. Both of us had to take jobs when the money started to run low," Martha told Lois with a small smile. "We've spent everything trying to prove Clark was real and that he existed."
"You don't have to explain anything, Mrs. Kent."
"Please call me Martha."
Lois smiled at the older woman. "Martha," she confirmed. "I think you and Mr. Kent should sit tight…for now. Clark wanted me to find you and make sure you were okay."
Martha smiled then as she remembered the intelligent boy Clark had been. What was he like now? Was he still scared and uncertain? Did he have the potential to feel the emotions he'd started to experience before he was taken? So much had happened to him in the last four years. Had it changed him into someone Martha wouldn't be able to recognize any longer? She wanted answers to all those questions and so many more. But she'd be happy to just see the boy she'd come to think of as her son. Reluctantly, she tried to content herself in the knowledge that he was okay and out of the hands of Trask. She prayed fate wouldn't be so cruel as to lead him from one form of death at Trask's hands to another death at the hands of Nor.
Lois tentatively reached out to touch the other woman's hand. "He will be okay."
"I sure hope so," Martha said as tears started to pool in her eyes. "No one deserves the things he's had to deal with."
Lois could only nod. Martha was right. Clark didn't deserve being poked and prodded at like he was some kind of 'thing', then be shown how wonderful life could be, only to have that jerked from you as well. He'd lived through brainwashing, forms of torture, and exposure to a substance that was lethal to end up facing another threat of death by a strange people that should be bowing to his commands. Could life get any crueler for Clark?
Clark landed on the lawn of the White House a few feet away from Lord Nor, donned in his black suit with the crest of his house proudly displayed across the chest. He looked around at those present. Several of Nor's soldiers were there as well as a news camera crew. It appeared that the evil Lord was just as vain as he was insane.
Since Nor first labeled Clark a threat to Earth on live television, he'd insisted a camera crew remain close at hand to broadcast his actions to the people. He wanted them aware of his capabilities when the time came for them to surrender. Though not completely adverse to hostile take- over, it would be so much more expedient if the population readily accepted their fate as Nor's subjects.
"At last," Nor said. "I meet the Lord of the famous House of El. My, aren't you just the picture of nobility?"
"Lord Nor, I claim my right as leader of New Krypton. I order your immediate surrender and withdrawal from this planet."
"Now just who are you to order me to do anything?"
"I am your leader!" Clark called on his military training and conditioning to deliver that statement. It wouldn't do for him to show Nor just how uncertain he was about his position as leader of an entire world.
"You are not a leader! You are the throw away of traitorous parents who obviously didn't intend for you to ever be ruler of all.
Clark couldn't deny that. His birth parents didn't ever intend for him to lead his planet. He liked to believe it was their intention for him to have a real life here, with people who would love him and care for him. Much like the Kents had done.
"Again, I order you, by the laws of our people, to surrender and depart from this planet. These people have not warranted your evil attentions. Leave now and justice shall be lenient."
Nor put his head back and laughed out loud. "Don't be ridiculous. Why would I want to leave here? I am a god."
"Then I challenge you. In accordance with the law, and because you refuse to carry out a direct order, I exercise the right of challenge. You and me. Winner takes all."
"Oh, I wouldn't dare turn this down. Noon… tomorrow. A place these people call the Grand Canyon."
"I'll be there." Clark lifted into the air a few feet above Nor and stopped. "Oh… in further accordance with the law, your men are ordered to surrender. They must leave this world before we meet. Ching will oversee their surrender and departure from this planet."
"Very well." Nor waved a dismissive hand and turned to go back inside the White House.
Clark flew back to the spaceship to continue to prepare for the duel.
Colonel Trask slammed his fist against his desk in anger. His army of super soldiers had been destroyed. He could only guess who could have been responsible for killing them. It wasn't bad enough that his puppet had escaped and killed his hope for showing the government what incompetent idiots they were, but the freak had declared he was the leader of the maniacs that were trying to take over the world.
The Colonel cast another glance at the television screen where moments before that creature had issued a challenge to the other creature who had invaded this country. Just what the hell were those disgusting aliens trying to prove? They would take over Earth and everyone on it. Of that Trask was certain.
Trask had argued his point about the Ultimate Soldier being the front man for an invasion until he was blue in the face. Though he had a few supporters, the government, or what was left of it, was willing to let the duel take place. They argued that S-517 was their only hope to defeat this Nor and restore some kind of peace. Well, Trask knew better. Once Nor was taken down, the alien would lead the rest of his people to take over. This showdown was nothing more than a big production for watching eyes so that some kind of trust could be established. Then when their guard was down, the aliens would move in.
The Colonel was not about to let that happen. He would insure the future of mankind. He would make sure every one of those alien bastards died. That's what he should have done long ago. If he'd killed that freak as a baby, none of this would have happened.
Trask turned and barked a few orders into his radio. He'd make sure this duel would be the first and last thing the great Kal-El ever did as leader of his planet.
Clark spent the rest of the afternoon preparing to fight Nor. Ching was a skilled fighter who handled the Dre masterfully. It was lucky Clark was a fast study. He picked up the finer points at once and beat Ching nine out of ten matches. The one thing he found hard to comprehend was that it was in his nature to kill.
Ching had explained that it was in Clark's Kryptonian nature to become part of the weapon. There was a point at which all else faded and the man became the weapon. He could easily kill his opponent then. Clark told Ching he did not feel those instincts and did not think he could kill anyone. Ching told him regretfully that it was felt the more compassionate man would not survive against the evil Lord Nor. Clark was left to watch the man walk away with a saddened heart.
Against the protests of Zara and Trey, Clark left after dark. He had to make sure Lois and the Kents were okay.
"Coming," Lois called as she went to answer the knock at her door. She had spent the afternoon covering the attack on the Planet and Clark's challenge to Nor. She'd watched with the rest of the world as the leader of New Krypton ordered Nor to surrender. She'd also watched with a sinking heart as Nor accepted the challenge.
She was surprised to see Clark on the other side of the door when she opened it. "Hi!"
"Hi. May I come in?" he asked hesitantly.
"Of course." Lois stepped aside to let him in. Once he was inside, Lois waved a hand toward the sofa. When he was sitting, she eased down beside him. "I talked to Martha."
"Is she okay? What about Jonathan?"
"Both are fine. Jonathan was working, but Martha was very happy to hear that you were okay. She's scared to death about this challenge… like everyone else," she quickly added. She'd almost said, 'like I am', but wasn't sure if that admission would scare Clark. She knew he was frightened and uncertain as to where he stood as man. She opted to steer the conversation away from her feelings. "They've been trying to find you and get you back."
Clark's eyes were wide with surprise. "They have?"
"Yes. Would you like to go see them?"
Clark wanted to say yes and go to them as fast as he could, but with all that was happening he didn't want to bring more trouble upon them. They hadn't been associated with him in years and maybe it was best to keep it that way. He didn't want anyone to have another hold over him to get his cooperation. It would be too cruel to give them false hope by going to them now. What if he failed to survive the duel with Nor? They would be forced to lose their son all over again. For now, knowing they were okay would have to be enough.
Lois sensed his hesitation and reached out to lay her hand on his. "They never stopped thinking of you as their son."
Clark's eyes fell to their joined hands. "I wish I had remembered them long ago."
"Don't. Clark, what happened to you was not your fault." She lifted his chin so their eyes met. "I'm going to do all I can to help you get your life back."
"Do I have one?"
She cocked a brow at him as if waiting for an explanation.
"A life?" he clarified. He didn't feel he did. He'd walked to Lois' so that he could put his many thoughts in order. He was so confused and scared. What happened beyond tomorrow? If he survived the duel, would he end up back in some laboratory being studied 'for the good of mankind'? Or would he be forced to lead people when he couldn't even lead himself?
Lois could almost feel his emotions. The pain from so many years of not knowing anything about who he was or why he had super powers; the confusion he must have dealt with as his mind told him killing was wrong even though he was being trained to do just that; the fear of people who had cared for him dying if he didn't do everything he was told to do; it was all coming to a boil and Lois could see the emotions in his eyes. So much had happened to this man. He'd seen the evil in human nature and yet here he was, fighting to save those who he'd only ever seen do horrible things. How did one come through that? How did one heal after being put through the things he'd been subjected to?
Her hand went up to cup his cheek tenderly. She could tell it stunned him because his eyes closed and he started to tremble.
Clark had to close his eyes. Her hand felt so good on his skin. She was warm and the comfort that the touch provided was causing feelings in him he hadn't felt since being with the Kents. He felt overwhelmed by the emotions and leaned into her palm as the sting of hot tears burned behind his lids.
When a sob escaped his lips, Lois pulled his head to her shoulder to offer him the comfort he needed. She tightened her hold on him as he cried softly.
Clark lifted his hands slowly to grasp her sides. Only one other person had offered this kind of comfort to him before. It felt good then and it felt wonderful now.
After a while Clark calmed. He turned his head so that his cheek lay against Lois' shoulder. He was unwilling to lose the comfort she offered.
"I don't want to move," he whispered.
"You don't have to," she told him as she continued to stroke his cheek. Without thought, she turned her head to kiss his forehead.
Clark pulled back far enough to look at Lois when she kissed his head. No woman had ever put her lips to his skin before except for Martha. And when she did it, it never felt like this. He stared at Lois, his eyes questioning her actions.
Lois saw the warring emotions in the dark eyes looking up at her. For the first time in her life, she wanted to follow her heart instead of her reporter's instincts. Her heart was telling her this man was special… special to her. She leaned forward and pressed her lips to his.
Clark's eyes widened to the size of basketballs as Lois' lips made contact with his. It registered that she had her eyes closed so he did the same, squeezing them tight. He didn't dare move for fear that she'd realize what she was doing and pull away. When she pressed more insistently into him, he nearly passed out. This was unlike anything he'd ever known. The Kents had told him once that men and women often engaged in this kind of intimacy when they were attracted to one another. He'd also seen the teenagers at his high school kissing many times. He vaguely remembered a girl had showed interest in him and expressed a desire to do this, but he had never felt the same desire and hadn't participated with her or anyone else. There was always the thought at the back of his mind that if a woman knew what he really was, they couldn't possibly want to do this with him.
Lois pulled back briefly, her eyes boring into his. She leaned forward to kiss him again, but Clark pushed against her.
"Lois…" His last thought roared to the forefront. Why was Lois doing this?
"Clark, it's okay. I 'want' to do this."
"You do?" he asked with raised brows.
Clark was about to let go of the questions running around in his head, but something stopped him. He pulled away from Lois' embrace and stood to pace the floor.
"How could you?" he threw at her. How could she want to kiss him? An alien? A freak?
"Lois… I'm an… alien."
"Clark Kent!" Lois shot to her feet. "Don't you dare say it! If I saw you as anything other than a man, you wouldn't be in this apartment!" She saw him take a step back at her tone, so she calmed. "Clark, you 'are' a man. Granted you have some very remarkable abilities, but I just think that makes you special, not a freak or a creature or whatever else Trask used to describe you. 'I' would certainly never think of you as any of those things. Those are awful words created by horrible people who didn't know any better."
Clark wanted so much to believe her. He really did. But Trask had bore it into his very soul that he was not worthy to be considered anything other than some kind of abomination. During the last few hours he'd remembered more and more from his life at the laboratory. Since he was a child, old enough to understand what he was told, Trask had used horrible words to describe him. After a while, you tend to believe what you hear. He sighed, tears threatening again, and hung his head.
Lois closed the distance between them and lifted his head. "Clark, I can't explain the things I feel for you. I don't want to. I can tell you this: I think you're incredible. You're a beautiful, intelligent man who deserves a life just like anyone else. You deserve to have someone comfort you, hold you, and… kiss you."
Clark's hands lifted to her sides again. "And you want to do those things?"
"Yes," she whispered as she leaned to kiss him again. She drew back immediately to gauge his reaction. He wasn't quite as shocked this time, but he was clearly not convinced she meant what she said. His expression was one of uncertainty.
He sighed and pushed away from Lois to pace again. "Lois, I don't even know who I am. How could you possibly want to give me those things?" He didn't wait for an answer before he was speaking again. "From the time I was old enough to understand things, I've been told I'm some alien freak. I was told I'm a creature, nothing more than a sophisticated machine. I would only ever be good for taking orders and carrying them out." He shoved a hand through his hair and turned to face Lois.
"The time I spent with the Kents was wonderful. It's the only time I've ever felt I'm this human those files say I am. But… I wasn't there long enough to really believe it. After Trask came for me, things were a lot worse than they were when I was young."
"You remember more of what happened?"
"Yes. I was poisoned on a regular basis with that Kryptonite. While I was weak and unable to stop him, Trask would order the scientists to take blood and semen samples so he could create his platoon of ultimate soldiers. I was strapped to a bed and forced to endure the tests while my body was wracked with pain from the exposure from the Kryptonite. I would spend hours listening to propaganda films and audio feeds telling me all about the kind of monster I am. It was engrained in my mind that I was nothing more than a machine that could be turned on and off at will. When I started to fly, the exposure to Kryptonite was followed by shock treatments… just to remind me who held the power," he said sourly.
Lois felt her heart break for him. His voice was so soft and sad. She couldn't imagine what those things had been like for him.
"While you say you want to… hold me and… kiss me, I ask myself what happens when you realize just what it is you're doing?"
"Clark, that is not who I am. From the moment I first saw you, there was something about you that screamed out to me. It was as if your soul was begging mine for help."
He half chuckled at that. "So you're telling me this is what? Fate? That you're meant to help me?"
Instead of being angry about his outburst, she grew more compassionate. "All I'm saying is that I feel things for you I have no idea how to control. And I'm not sure I even want to," she finished in a whisper.
He looked at her with an expression that seemed to beg her to be telling the truth. Yet, his mind still wouldn't let him believe what his heart was telling him.
Lois stared at him for several long moments before making a decision that could have monumental effects. She closed the distance between them and reached down to take his hand.
Clark could only follow her as she led him into her bedroom. Every protest he mustered was silenced with Lois' lips or a finger over his. He tried to tell her that he couldn't do this, that he couldn't accept what she was obviously offering. She kissed him each time he spoke. The only thought in her mind was the overwhelming desire to share this experience with him. Clark insisted she would realize what a mistake she'd made afterward. She smiled and held his face while she deepened the first kiss. His body responded to her and in the pale light from the window, Clark let Lois Lane carry him across the threshold of manhood.
Clark lay in the dark watching Lois. She was lying on her back, her head turned to him. She smiled at him through the warm haze of their afterglow. He lifted his hand to trail a finger down her cheek, her neck, and between her breasts.
"Mmm," was his reply. His hand stopped on her stomach. "Why did you do this?"
"What? Make love to you?"
"I wanted to." Lois rolled over to face him. "You can't possibly think I may feel about you the way Trask said people would if they knew about you?"
"I guess not. This was…" Clark let his hand smooth over her hip. "This was…" He looked up at her. "Books can't describe what happened here."
"I hope not." Lois grinned and laced her leg around his to pull herself closer.
Clark laughed softly as she nuzzled his chest. "Lois…" He pushed her hair off her face and held her head back so he could see her eyes. "You'll never know what this means to me."
"I think I do." She lifted her hand to his cheek. "It meant so much to me as well." She kissed his lips softly. "Clark, no matter what happens tomorrow, I want you to know I don't regret this."
"And after tomorrow… What if I succeed and beat Nor? I don't want to go with those people. Not now."
Lois grinned widely. "I was hoping you'd say that."
"But what will I do here? I have nothing. And I won't go back to that lab."
"You better believe it! When I get through with my expose on the lab and Trask and what the government has done to you, they'll be falling over themselves begging you for forgiveness." She ran her fingers through his hair. "And you do have something. You have the Kents and… me."
Clark's eyes filled with tears as he looked at Lois. "Do you mean that?"
"I do," she told him.
Clark moved first to kiss her. He had been terrified when Lois started to undress him. Her gentle hands and soft kisses worked to sooth him quickly. Soon pure animal instinct took over and for the first time in his life, Clark realized he was a sexual being. The things she did to him were amazing. And she soon had him participating as much as he was receiving.
He rained kisses across her cheek around to her ear. "Could you… show me a little more of what you like?" he whispered to her.
Lois laughed softly as she yielded to the insatiable man she'd created.
Clark sat straight up in bed. The movement woke Lois as well.
"Shhh," he told her as he listened to the voice in his head.
<<Kal-El, I've taken a little extra insurance out to see that I am the victor in this game you're playing. Sources tell me that at one time you were close to some earthlings called 'Kent'. If you want to see them alive again, you will surrender to me immediately. Come to the Canyon. Now!>>
Clark bolted from the bed to dress. "He has the Kents."
"Oh, Clark. Why would he take the Kents?"
"He says they're insurance that he'll win. He wants me to surrender. My guess is he doesn't want to fight me at all."
"Coward," Lois mumbled as she hurried to dress. She stopped when she noticed Clark was staring at her. "What?"
"You're not going."
"Oh yes I am."
"No. You're not."
Lois put her hands on her hips and glared at Clark. "You may be a super man, but I'm a reporter. I intend to cover this for the Planet."
"Lois, you could get hurt or worse, killed."
"That's a chance I have to take."
Clark could only stare. He'd just been introduced to 'Mad Dog Lane'. He could tell by her stance that she was not going to give in.
"If you haven't noticed, I'm incredibly stubborn." She pulled on the rest of her clothes. "I take offense to some psychopath trying to take over my planet." She glared up at Clark when she'd finished with her shoes.
Clark lifted his hand to her face just before he placed a brief kiss on her lips.
"What was that for?" she asked him.
"I felt like doing it. Was I wrong?"
"No, no! I liked it."
"Okay." He rubbed her arms gently. "Now, you can come with me on one condition… Lo-is," he said as he noticed the look that clearly asked if he was serious.
"I want you to stay with me or as near to me as possible. If you're at my side, I can protect you."
"I don't need you to protect me."
"Lois!" His tone was pleading now.
She rubbed his cheek. "I'll stay close."
"Thank you," he whispered, relieved she'd agreed. The last thing he wanted was for her to get hurt. And heaven forbid she should get killed. That was something he couldn't stand to think about. No. He'd meet Nor and hopefully figure a way out of this whole mess.
She smiled and started for the door. "Come on. We have a planet to save!"
"We?" he asked as he quickly finished dressing.
"Of course," she said with a grin and disappeared behind the bathroom door.
Clark could only shake his head at the little fireball. Lois Lane was certainly unlike anyone he'd ever met before, except maybe for Martha Kent. He briefly wondered if the woman he'd come to know as his mother would like this other woman he'd come to know as his… lover? He shook that thought away. If he didn't save her, save them all, he'd never know.
Clark landed on the cliff beside Zara, Ching, and Trey. He'd contacted them before he left Lois' apartment. In preparation for the duel, Ching had corralled all but three of Nor's henchmen and those that had been subdued were already aboard the mother ship Nor had come to Earth on.
Two of three goons left with Nor held Jonathan and Martha Kent.
Clark set Lois on her feet and took a few steps toward the other group.
"Stop! I'll have their throats cut." And to emphasize Nor's point, the blades trained on the Kents' throats dug into their skin.
"No! I'm stopping." Clark held up his hands. "What do you want?"
"I want you to abdicate your rule to me."
"Even if I do that, you'll still kill these people. There would be no one to stop you."
"There's no one that can stop me now," Nor pointed out.
"You're right. If this is what you choose, no one can stop you," Clark agreed in an effort to calm him. Clark's eyes flashed to the two people being held before he spoke again. "Why are you holding these people? They've done nothing to you."
"Oh really? They helped shelter you." When Clark's eyes widened, Nor knew it was true. He had received a tip the night before that informed him if he wanted to get to the traitorous alien, he should take these earthlings. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Nor didn't hesitate to do just that.
"You're right. I did live with these people. That doesn't mean you have to kill them to get my attention. If you let them go and agree to leave Earth, I will gladly surrender to you."
He turned to look at Lois. "I have to do this," he told her softly.
"Your surrender won't make a difference. It will only give him the freedom to rule both worlds without contest."
Before Clark could say anything, Nor spoke again.
"Why would I leave Earth when I could easily rule these weaklings?"
"You're right. You could. But if you stayed, you'd never be free. These people are resilient. They'd fight you relentlessly. And they know about the substance that can kill you." That registered with Nor. Clark hurried to continue. "If you leave Earth, leave these people alone, release the Kents, I will gladly offer up my life."
"Lord Kal-EL, I must warn you of this action…"
"Trey, I cannot allow him to kill these people," Clark told the council chief.
Trey was about to protest further, but something in Clark's eyes held him at bay. He bowed to his leader his acceptance of this decision.
Nor stood, glaring at Clark. Finally he reached a decision. "Release them."
Jonathan and Martha were released and quickly made their way to Clark. There was no time for a reunion. He shoved them behind him toward Lois and faced Nor again.
"I will follow you in the mother ship with Zara and the others. Once we are out of this galaxy, I will surrender to you."
"How do I know you won't back out at the last minute?"
"You don't. I guess that's the chance you'll have to take." Clark stared the other man down.
Nor was still not willing to give up his hold on this pitiful planet. He could be a god here. The masses would yield to him. But with Kal-El's surrender, he'd get the same respect on New Krypton. That was too much to pass up.
"Very well. I will take the lady there as your guarantee that you'll follow," Nor told Clark as he indicated Lois.
"No! She stays here. On that I will not budge."
"Then we have no deal."
"Nor, do not act foolishly. Your troops are secured on the mother ship," Trey told him. "What Kal-El offers you is most gracious. You know the penalties for the infractions you have committed."
"Yes, but we're not on Krypton any more are we?" Nor smiled evilly and turned to address one of his men.
Clark was sure he was about to succeed in his plan to protect the Kents and Earth when he heard the whistle from an unknown source. He looked around just in time to see a missile hurdling at them. It landed with unforgiving force in the middle of the small group.
Lois, Martha, and Jonathan were coughing uncontrollably. The air was filled with an eerie green mist. When Lois gained control of herself, she lifted her head to survey the area.
"Clark?" He didn't answer. "Martha? Jonathan?"
"We're here," called back the older woman.
Lois waited a moment for the air to clear. She gasped when she saw Clark's prone form lying on the ground underneath Ching. "Clark!"
She rushed to the two men, followed closely by Martha and Jonathan. Ching was rolled off Clark's lifeless body.
"Please don't be dead. Please don't be dead," Lois chanted as she rolled Clark over to his back. "Clark!" Her hand smoothed over his face.
"Don't worry, Ms. Lane. The government would never risk destroying millions of dollars worth of invaluable equipment."
Lois lifted her head to see Colonel Trask. Of course! He must have been the one that leaked the tip to Nor about the Kents so he could lure Clark and the rest of the New Kryptonians to the same place. He must have been hidden in the cavern behind them.
"He is 'not' equipment!" she yelled. "He is a man! A living, breathing man!"
"Be that as it may, this creature is mine." Trask motioned for his men that had arrived in several vehicles. They immediately descended on the scene and Clark was wrenched from Lois' grasp as the soldiers carried him and the other Kryptonians to the waiting jeeps.
Lois and the Kents were taken into custody and soon the area was secured.
Lois and the Kents were taken to a military base an hour's flight away. They weren't told where and were told they were being held for questioning in connection with the invasion of the alien force.
By the end of the day Trask was being heralded as the savior of the planet. His deadly injections would be used to keep the super powered beings submissive until the government decided what to do with them. However, Trask's biggest problem appeared to be a small reporter with an attitude.
"I want to speak to the President! You have no right to hold me or the Kents. We have done nothing wrong!"
General Gordon entered the room Lois was pacing in full battle mode. "Ms. Lane, I am General…"
"I know who you are. Why are holding us against our will? We have done nothing wrong."
"You were with the Ultimate Soldier. You could be charged with possession of government equipment."
"General, Clark is not equipment. He is a man. Last time I checked, slavery was illegal, even by our government."
"S-517 is not a man."
"Yes. He is. Why don't you open your eyes? Trask has been feeding you lies. Clark has no computer in his head. If he did, don't you think he would have short circuited or something with everything that's been going on? Instead he offered to leave to protect Earth and he did that on his own. His 'mind' overrode the brainwashing. And haven't you wondered what this substance is Trask is using to control these people?"
"And I suppose you have all the answers?"
"Yes. I have evidence at my apartment that states the things Trask has done to this man are both inhumane and immoral."
The General considered the woman's words. He didn't like Trask. He never had. There was just something about him that didn't ring true. "Okay, Ms. Lane. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. I'll take you to get this evidence. If it convinces me of what you say, then we'll… talk."
"I want your guarantee that Clark will not be given any more of that substance until you've seen what I have."
"Ms. Lane, these aliens have to be controlled…"
"Please," Lois pleaded in a softer tone. "Just promise me you won't expose him to any more of that poison. It can kill him, General. If what I'm saying is true and he dies, you're a party to his murder. Even the government has no right to kill him because of what he 'might' do."
The General sighed. The woman was right. No one had the right to take life without just cause. And he certainly didn't want to be a party to anyone's death. "You have my word. S-517 will not be harmed."
"Clark. His name is Clark."
"Fine. Clark will not be hurt further."
"Okay. Let's go."
General Gordon sat in stunned silence as he stared down at the papers on the table. He'd just read the file on Clark that Lois had scanned a couple nights before. It was apparent everything the young reporter had tried to tell him was true. S-517 was not half machine. He was all man. According to the scientific evidence, he was very human, very much a man. The things that had been done to the innocent child and later to the man were horrible. This was a file the General had never been privy to.
"Do you believe me now?"
The General looked back up at Lois. "Yes."
"And what do you intend to do about it?"
"General, Clark is a man. You cannot hold him against his will."
"I am aware of that. However, the fact still remains that he has abilities beyond anything we could ever imagine. We can't have a man with that kind of power just walking around."
"And what if he agrees not to hurt anyone?"
"How could we ever believe that?"
"Well, how about this…?"
Lois proceeded to lay out future plans for Clark. She just hoped he would agree.
Clark finally surfaced from his haze sometime during the night. He was in what appeared to be a hospital room. It only took a moment to realize he was in an exam room of some sort. Immediately his fear surfaced and threatened to overwhelm him. He was back in the lab. He had to get out.
Clark turned his head to see the face of the woman he thought had been lost to him forever. "Martha." Why was she here? Surely she wasn't supporting the government's efforts to keep him subdued.
Martha seemed to understand the fear she saw in his eyes. "Relax, Clark. You're safe. And the name's Mom to you," she said through tears. "Don't you forget it."
Clark relaxed, able to see the truth of Martha's words shining in her unshed tears. He lifted a shaky hand to touch her face. "I've missed you."
"Oh honey. I've missed you." Martha pushed his hair off his forehead.
"Is that what you are? My mom?"
"Always," she declared.
Clark sat up enough to engulf the small woman in a hug. At once he felt the same rush of feelings he'd felt the first time she'd hugged him. Last night with Lois these feelings had been much more intense. At long last he was coming home.
"Hey, can I get in on that?" Jonathan smiled down at the duo from where he stood behind Martha. He had waited patiently during the reunion between mother and son.
Clark leaned back to see Jonathan behind Martha.
"Surely you have a hug for your dad?"
Clark smiled and sat up more to hug his dad. "I've missed you, too."
"Oh boy. We've missed you." Jonathan clapped Clark's head as he pulled away from the embrace. "And we've tried to get you back."
"I know. Lois told me."
"We know. She told us you two are pretty close. You've been asleep a while and we've had time to get acquainted."
Clark looked over at his mom. "She's great."
"We know. She's bargained with the government and another planet to send you home."
"Lois worked out your release."
Clark looked past them briefly. "Where is she? And where are we?"
"We're in a facility Trask had us brought to after he shot you and the other Kryptonians with that gas. He was holding Jonathan, Lois, and myself for questioning. Lois wouldn't hush ranting until General Gordon came to talk to her personally. She convinced him to go with her to Metropolis to see your files." Martha paused and smiled at how the reporter had refused to allow Clark to remain locked up by the government. "Once he was convinced you were human and not some machine, Lois started outlining a plan for you to help the people of Earth with your powers so you could stay here."
Jonathan moved to sit on the edge of the bed. "Trey woke up about an hour ago and Lois had a long talk with him. New Krypton will continue to be ruled by Lady Zara and they are taking Nor back to scatter his molecules… in accordance to the laws he's broken."
Clark lifted his brows as he listened to the things that had happened since he'd been incapacitated. It seemed things had changed drastically. "And you say Lois worked out a deal with the government so I could stay on Earth?" The couple nodded in unison. "And I don't have to live in some laboratory or submit to scientific tests?"
Martha reached out to take one of his hands. "Son, Lois even got the government to offer you full citizenship."
For the first time in his life he felt pride. Lois was remarkable and she wanted to be his friend and maybe more. Clark smiled brightly as his gaze roamed the room. "Where is she?"
"Sleeping." Martha indicated the other side of the room with a tilt of her head.
Clark turned to look the other way and for the first time he noticed the cot along the far wall. Lois was sound asleep. Once again, he felt his heart fill with emotion for this woman. It was funny how in a day's time she'd become so much a part of him. At that moment, he understood the concept of love.
Trask glared down at the newspaper before him. It announced that Earth would soon have a 'Superman'. The spineless twits that headed the government were making that freak the savior of humanity. Worst of all, they were charging him, a decorated Colonel, with treason. Well, Jason Trask surrenders to no one.
He lifted the handgun. The black steel reflected the light as he drew it near his mouth. If he couldn't lead his people out of darkness, he sure as hell could end this with dignity.
The shot rang out in the silence of the night. A once brilliant military leader had taken his life.
"We are most grateful, My Lord," Zara told Clark. He stood with her and the others outside the transport that would take the only biological connection he had in the universe away from him for good. "Are you sure you won't come with us to rule your people? You would be an asset."
"My place is here, Zara. I was sent here for a reason. I'd like to think that my birth parents wanted this to be my destiny. I will stay and insure the safety and tranquility of this world and you will rule wisely over your people. You have been trained from birth to do so. I, on the other hand, still have to learn how to live."
Zara smiled and bowed. "We will never forget you, Kal-El."
"Nor I you." Clark bowed, then shook Trey and Ching's hands. He watched with the small gathered crowd as the ship lifted and disappeared into the blue sky.
Clark looked down at Lois. "None," he told her.
Lois grinned and accepted the offered hug from the most powerful man she knew.
Clark Kent lived the life he never dreamed he would. Lois had bargained with the government for Clark's freedom. As part of the deal with the government and with Lois' persuasion, he was now known to the world as Superman. In his other persona, he wore an electric blue spandex suit with a flowing red cape. The large yellow stylized 's' graced the front of the suit his mother so lovingly sewed. When he wore the suit, Clark used his powers to help the people of Earth. He intervened in natural disasters, accidents, and crimes. He had single-handedly put many criminals behind bars. Most importantly he'd saved millions of lives, starting with the entire planet the day Nor was carted off to face charges of numerous crimes against the people of New Krypton and those of Earth.
Clark now lived with his parents in their small apartment in Metropolis. His father took a job as a security guard at the Daily Planet. His mother was a teacher's aid. The couple relished in being able to live with the son they'd been without for so long.
And Lois… Thinking of her always made Clark smile. True to her word, she had remained by his side. She had helped shape him into the man he'd become. She was his friend, his confidant, as well as his lover. Clark continued his intimate relationship with Lois, although it had been toned down considerably. They often parted at the end of the day at her front door. But once in a while, Lois dragged Clark inside her apartment and refused to let him leave until morning. Of course, they didn't part then either. Lois had convinced Perry to hire Clark as a researcher and junior reporter at the Planet. In the two years since then, he'd become one heck of a reporter. He and Lois had earned numerous awards as a team and he'd recently earned one of his own. Lois couldn't be more proud.
As always when she sensed his presence, Lois looked up when the elevator doors opened. She smiled at Clark as he strode toward her.
"Hey gorgeous," she told him when he neared.
Even after their time together, Clark still blushed when Lois complimented him.
Lois grinned. Clark didn't usually say such words in public. He must have felt a little daring today.
He settled on the edge of her desk. "I wanted to ask if you'd like to go out with me tonight?"
"Really?" He nodded. "Where to?"
"Ah, it's a surprise."
She smiled at him brightly. Tonight would be perfect to ask him what she had in mind.
"Sounds great," she said happily.
"Great. I'll pick you up at seven."
"I'll be ready."
He smiled that megawatt smile that could melt ice, patted her hand, and stood to go to his own desk to work. He would have a hard time containing himself before the evening arrived.
"This has been an incredible evening," Lois told Clark.
"Mmm, it has." He nuzzled his face against hers where he leaned into her from behind.
Lois traced a pattern over his hands as they continued to look down into the valley below them. Clark had flown them to a beautiful cliff side on one of the Hawaiian Islands. They had shared a romantic dinner on a blanket and talked about nothing of relevance. Now they stood looking down at the lights of a village.
"There's something I need to ask you."
"You can ask me anything."
Lois turned in his arms to gaze up at him. "I love you," she told him with conviction.
"And I love you." That was something they'd long ago established.
"I'll always love you."
"And I you," he assured her.
She rubbed his strong sides. "That makes this easier."
"Clark… will you… will you marry me?"
Clark stared at her for a moment before his lips spread into a smile. He pulled a small velvet box from his pocket and opened it to reveal a beautiful engagement ring.
"Only if you'll marry me," he told her.
"You were planning to ask me tonight?"
"I was." He took the ring from the box and held it at the tip of her finger. His eyes searched hers for an answer.
"Yes," she whispered.
He grinned and slipped the ring onto her finger. He raised it to his lips and planted a soft kiss on the object before leaning to kiss Lois.
"You have made me the happiest man on Earth," he told her when he tucked her against his chest.
"I think I can make you happier," she told him.
Clark drew back to look at her in confusion.
"Clark, we should plan this wedding for as soon as possible."
"Why? Lois, I couldn't be much happier than I am right now. And we don't have to hurry to get married. We have all the time in the world."
"No… we have about seven and half months."
Clark continued to stare at Lois. Her words made no sense to him. Why would they have seven and half months?
"Lois?" He was staring at her with an expression of utter confusion now. He couldn't understand why Lois would think they had only months to be married. When he failed to comprehend, Lois lifted his hand and placed it on her stomach. It took another moment before realization took place in Clark's mind. His eyes widened in surprise as they darted from where he'd been watching his hand on her stomach to her eyes. His expression asked Lois the question his lips were unable to form.
"Yes," she said through a watery smile.
Clark pulled Lois against him tightly, tears streaming down his face. His world had come full circle. Born an infant destined to die on a doomed planet, he was sent galaxies away to a fate worse than anything he could have imagined. He'd lived a life no man should have to endure. He'd also been led from the darkness into the light by this remarkable woman. Lois was Clark's pulse in a world that would have otherwise been void of life. He would have never dreamed anyone could feel anything for him let alone love him. Not only had Lois done that, she'd given him so much more. With her and his parents, Clark had thrived. Now it seemed he would carry on. He'd once been an Ultimate Soldier. Standing here, with this woman and his future in his arms, he felt like the ultimate man.
"I love you, Lois."
"I love you, Clark."