Escape From New Krypton

By ML Thompson <>

Rated: PG-13

Submitted: January 2007

Summary: The First Lord of New Krypton, Kal of the House of El, finds himself injured, on a strange planet and in desperate need of help. Will he find it? And how far will Lord Nor go to make sure Kal does not return to New Krypton?

This is a fanfic based on the television show, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm borrowing these characters for a little fun and not for any profit. For a complete disclaimer, go to:

My thanks to both Carol Malo and Gerry Anklewicz for all their hard work Beta reading this monstrosity. They both gave great ideas and helped make the story much more enjoyable for you, the reader. Also, my thanks to everyone on the Fanfic message boards for your answers to all my silly questions. Finally, thanks to Janet Owens for editing this story for the archives.

I've actually had this story sitting on my hard drive for the past number of months, unsure if I was going to post it. You see, although I love writing, I find posting very, very difficult. It's like taking my child and flinging her to a rabid mob <g>. And it just seems to get more difficult with every story. But Carol has been bugging me to post so… I guess I'll give it a shot. Anyway, as a result, feedback is not only welcome, it is encouraged. Only feedback can let me know if enduring the stomach cramps that posting gives me is worth it. My email address is

When writing this story, I knew that the premise meant that I had to make Clark more aggressive, harder, more demanding. I mean, he wasn't raised to be the Kansas farm boy with loving parents and in a constant struggle to control his powers; he was raised to be the ruler. And it wasn't as if his parents were still alive. He had to be the 'ruler' from the time he was a child. So I felt I had to change his character. On the other hand, I don't want people thinking that means I don't like our Clark. I love our Clark — just like I love our Lois. But… Well, here's the story.

WARNING: This story contains some violence and the death of some minor characters.




A large fireball streaked across the evening sky finally disappearing below the horizon. A moment later, a tremor shook the ground on the outskirts of Metropolis.


Pain. Kal's first conscious thought was of unbearable, crushing pain in his chest. Still, he forced air into his lungs, knowing he had to breathe. The second breath was slightly easier than the first. Once he'd conquered the art of breathing, he looked around, noticing, amidst the rubble of what had once been his craft, sparks jumping from one of the panels. He tried to move, push his way through the rubble to reach the door. His leg rebelled against the effort. Still, he had to get out now, before the entire place was swarming with curiosity seekers. After all, his final descent had been more of a crash than a landing. But he'd lost consciousness during the final minutes. Only wishful thinking would allow him to believe his landing had gone unnoticed.

When he arrived at the door, he tried opening it, only to realize that it, too, had been damaged in the crash. As he was trying to figure out why it wouldn't open, his sense of smell noticed…


He spun around. Some of the sparks had sprung to life in a full-fledged fire. He turned back to the door. If he didn't get out soon, the fire would eat up all the oxygen. He felt a moment of panic as he began pulling blindly at the door.

Realizing what he was doing, he forced himself to calm his mind. Panic was certain to kill him… almost as certainly as panic would transmit his thought waves to the enemy. He took a deep breath, letting calm sweep through his body. It was only then that he saw the problem. A wayward piece of metal had wedged itself in the bottom of the door. He quickly tended to it. Once it was removed, he was able to pull open the door and hobble outside, only to collapse to the ground when his injured leg gave out beneath him.

Breathing hard, he reached out and touched the wound on his leg, drawing away a bloody hand. He must have re-injured it during the landing. Reaching for some of the soft, white, wet stuff covering the ground, he used it in an attempt to staunch the bleeding.

He allowed himself the luxury of a moment to get his bearings before, fighting against the pain in his leg, he rose to his feet. Turning around, he surveyed the damage to his craft. Whatever else happened, there was no way that thing would ever fly again. He was trapped on this primitive planet.

He closed his eyes, attempting to activate the cloaking device on the craft. He was unsuccessful. That meant… He wasn't looking forward to it, and he doubted it would do much good, but he had to at least attempt to hide the craft. The only things he had going for him was that it was small and was already half-buried in the ground. Knowing he had to move fast, he pushed aside his own pain and went to work.


Don't think too loud. Kal took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he attempted to calm his mind. Unless he was able to control his thoughts, they were certain to track him. Normally, controlling his thoughts was second nature. He could still remember Trey's admonitions on the subject. Kal had been sparring with Ching at the time.

"The future Lord of New Krypton's mind must not be filled with stray thoughts," Trey had said even as Ching's drei, a large staff, had come down hard against Kal's drei, causing him to stumble back in an effort to maintain his balance.

Kal's thoughts flooded back to the present when a bolt of lightning-like pain shot through him. Without conscious thought, his hand went to his leg. Blood. He was bleeding again. For all he knew, he'd been bleeding the whole time he'd been hiding the ship and heading out of the area. He'd simply pushed the pain out of his mind — a technique he'd learned from the time he was young. Sinking to the ground, his back to a building, he cut a jagged strip off the bottom of his shirt to use as a bandage. Once he had his leg bandaged, he allowed himself a chance to rest as his mind drifted back to Lord Trey's exhortation.

"You must learn to control your thoughts, m'lord. Make them serve you. Not the other way around."

"But, my lord," Kal had responded, "how am I to do that while engaged in battle?"

"Engaged in battle, in pain, sick… it makes no difference. One stray thought. One slip is all it takes for your opponent to know enough to bring you to your knees. And control your fear! I can sense it even from here. Emotions must be controlled for they, more than anything else, will betray you. Your opponent can ride your emotions into your mind. Never forget that."

Kal had let down his guard momentarily as he'd attempted to digest his teacher's words. He'd yelped in pain when Ching's drei smashed into his hand.

"No! No! No!" Trey's rebuke had been immediate. "You are allowing yourself to become distracted! Do it again!"

Kal had fought back the tears as the pain radiated out from his bloody knuckles. Twelve years old. His opponent fifteen — and almost twice as big. It was his first day with the new boy as his sparring partner. But Trey had insisted that it was not the size of the boy — but the size of his heart which would determine who would win the battle. And in the past few months, Kal had been defeating, on what Trey considered a far too regular basis, his former sparring partners. And so, this morning, Kal had been introduced to Ching.

The boy had only said, 'It is an honor, my lord,' and given a slight bow before attacking. Kal had been on the defensive ever since.

Kal felt his mind calm, allowing him to think. Surely they would not have followed him. After all, for hundreds of years the people of Krypton had not been to any world with a yellow sun. The mystics of old had expressly forbidden it — foretelling gloom and doom, as mystics were prone to do, if their commands were not obeyed. Kal had never been much of a believer in the mystics, but he figured it was enough to keep the forces of Lord Nor from following him there — assuming they had even figured out where he'd gone.

Forcing himself to his feet, he ignored the crippling pain in his leg. There were still miles to go. He'd simply have to control the pain and move before his leg stiffened up completely. He'd already put some distance between himself and his ship, but it was imperative that he keep moving. If they did track him to Earth, they would undoubtedly find the ship first. He planned to be long gone before that happened. And then… he'd take his chances with the yellow sun.

Concentrating, he forced himself to set one foot in front of the other. Pain shot through him every time the foot attached to his injured leg hit the ground. The alley was dark and deserted. His vision blurred. He had to find a safe place quickly. Taking a deep breath, he continued moving forward.

After a month of fighting, he was so desperately tired. Watching everyone and everything he cared about destroyed around him. Nothing mattered now. Nothing except, perhaps, living to fight another day.


People barely looked at Kal, his odd clothing or his blood and bruises, as he'd made his way through the streets. A side effect of being in a big city. Not that New Krypton was much better. Still, it was time he got inside, out of the sight of prying eyes. But where… and how?

He stopped in a quite neighborhood. Residential — if he was reading the signs correctly. But the lack of traffic would make it the ideal place. It would be harder for someone to sneak in here undetected — just in case they did come looking for him. He glanced around at the multi-dwelling buildings, wondering about the small colored lights many of them had strung on their balconies. Some mystic tradition, no doubt. Perhaps to keep the evil spirits away. Primitives, like the ones he'd seen of Earth on the ship's computer, always believed in evil spirits. No matter. One of these small dwellings would do nicely. Besides, something about this place just felt right.

He moved into the shadows and withdrew a large knife from his belt. Only one option existed. He needed a place to hide. He needed someone who could treat his wounds. So although he hated doing this, it really was the only way. No one… at least no one who was sane would offer him shelter in his current condition. Not of their own free will anyway. And he dared not go somewhere that normally provided such help — he assumed such places were available even in this backward society.

Now he just needed to wait for the right person. Someone who could be 'persuaded' to provide assistance. He closed his eyes and gathered his strength for the task ahead.


Lois Lane was in a rush. The commute home had taken longer than normal. Christmas traffic. It was only the beginning of December, for crying out loud. Surely people could wait until a more reasonable time before clogging up the roads with their endless parties and shopping trips. If she didn't hurry, she wouldn't be ready when Dan arrived to pick her up for their date.

It had crossed her mind to call and cancel the date. After all, she wasn't exactly in date mode these days. In fact, for the past month, she'd been in something of a funk. Nothing she could actually put her finger on. But for reasons she couldn't name, she felt… unsettled was probably the best way to describe it. A feeling that all was not right with the universe. And yet, when she tried to analyze the reasons for her mood, she'd found herself at a complete loss.

Things in her life were going well. She and Dan were into their second month of dating. He was her first serious relationship since Lex Luthor and… it was good. Not the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music good. But… good. Perhaps the way a pair of old slippers were good. It was… comfortable.

Things at work were going well, too. She'd just won her fourth Kerth award. She was at the top of her game. Perry had even given her a raise. Of course, it had probably helped that she'd let it slip that the New York Times editor had given her a call.

As a result, it wasn't anything she could put her finger on that had her in this funk. It just… was.

Still, Lois Lane was not a moper. So she'd thrown herself even more completely into her work. And that was the reason that, even if she wasn't 'in the mood', she wouldn't cancel her date tonight. Pulling herself up by her bootstraps was the only way to go. Besides, Dan was always fun and energetic — a good distraction for the unrest that had gripped her soul.

Swerving her jeep into a parking spot near her apartment, she got out, fumbling with her briefcase, fumbling with her keys. She managed to juggle the briefcase so that she could click the lock button on the remote entry for her jeep. It beeped once. Turning, she headed towards the steps to her apartment building.

Where he came from, she had no idea. She'd heard nothing. Seen nothing. But suddenly, he was holding her from behind, a knife blade pressed firmly against her throat.

She froze, fear turning the blood flowing through her veins to ice water.

"I do not wish to hurt you."

The man's voice was deep, steady, not the sound of someone drunk or stoned. But there was a determination, a desperation that came through loud and clear. And there was what he wasn't saying: 'but I will.' It might not be verbal, but the threat was definitely there. And she did not doubt that he meant it.

"Take me to your place of abode."

Place of abode? In spite of her current predicament, she couldn't help but be caught off guard by the expression. Her head turned slightly, trying to see who was holding her. She stopped when the knife was pressed even more firmly against her throat. She thought about using her Tai Kwan Do moves on her attacker, but immediately rejected the idea. She'd make her move. She'd teach him exactly what a mistake it was to mess with Lois Lane. But now was not the time. One move, even accidentally, and the knife at her neck could easily end her life before she had a chance. No. The time would come. But now was not that time.

She began leading him towards her apartment building.


No one had seen them coming into her apartment. Lois had mixed feelings about that. In spite of the circumstances, or perhaps because of them, Lois had been nervous about running into someone on the way in. Although the idea of someone seeing them and calling the police was not at all an unpleasant thought, she was afraid of spooking the man holding her. No. Her best bet for surviving this encounter was to wait until he relaxed his grip and then make her move.

"What are you doing?"

"Just getting my keys," Lois responded, holding the keys out where he could see them and then, moving carefully, inserting them in the various locks on her door.

Opening the door, she waited until he pushed her into the room. And then the moment came. His knife slipped off her neck as he turned slightly to close the door behind them. Jabbing him in the ribs with her elbow, she spun away from him, kicking the knife out of his hand before using her other foot to smash him in the ribs, sending him flying into the door.

As he crumpled against it, she recovered her stance, ready to attack again. She was shocked when his chin lolled against his chest.


Surely she hadn't killed him. Cautiously, she stepped forward, kicking the knife further away from his grasp. She let out a breath of relief when she saw his chest moving slowly. Killing him would not be good for her karma. It wasn't until that moment that she took a good look at him.

His face was streaked with blood and dirt, matting the several days' worth of stubble covering his cheeks and chin. Yet underneath was a jarringly white face except, of course, where the skin had been discolored by purple and blue bruises. A jagged cut ran from the center of his forehead into his eyebrow. According to her admittedly untrained eye, he hadn't received the bruises tonight, but the cut on his forehead was fresh and, like all head wounds, had bled badly. He was wearing a long black coat made in a style that was unfamiliar to her. It was wrinkled and covered with stains. His coat was open, revealing a torn black shirt and a bruised and blood spattered midriff. His black trousers were also crinkled and dirty.

Well, she couldn't just stand there.

The phone was on a table next to the door. She stepped across his still unconscious body, picked up the phone and punched in the number nine.

His hand instantly gripped her arm in a clutch that was close to being painful.

"Help me."

Lois was caught off guard, not by the words, but the tone with which they were uttered. It was not said as a request. In spite of the fact that the man was lying on the ground, it was a command.

"Like hell I will!" She moved to snatch her arm away from him when she suddenly stopped. On his finger was a ring that made her breath catch in her throat. She shook her head, trying to clear her mind, and pulled her arm away. She hit the number one on the phone.

"No! No, do not! Cannot… Do not. No authorities."

She hesitated. The smart thing was undoubtedly to call 9-1-1. They would help him. Besides, she was still ruffled from being held at knifepoint and then commanded to help him.

"No one can know I am here." Each word was a gasp as his eyes pleaded with her, softening the previous command.

"But I…" She looked at the ring on his finger once again. "Aw…hell," she muttered, hanging up the phone. She supposed he wasn't strong enough to be a real threat to her — if she were careful. It wasn't the wisest course of action. But what she had noticed… No. The very thought was crazy. Still, she couldn't help but suddenly realize that she was willing to take the risk.

All at once it struck her that now wasn't exactly the right time to be standing around thinking about his ring — or what it might mean. Right now, he needed help. Now how to do that? She couldn't exactly leave him lying inside the door, bleeding all over her carpet. But where to move him? There was really only one choice. She rushed to her bedroom and made some adjustments before returning to her uninvited guest.

"Okay," she said, crouching down beside him. "You're going to have to help me out here." She slipped his arm over her shoulder, put her arm behind his back and assisted him in rising to his feet.

At least during her years as a reporter, she'd learned a thing or two about first aid. She'd just have to hope it was enough. And if not? Well, she could always call for help then.

But for now… there were too many unanswered questions. And in spite of the circumstances that had brought him into her apartment, she had to admit, she couldn't help but wonder why he'd come to her. Did he know she was a reporter? Did he somehow sense what she had discovered in a small town in Kansas? Maybe. Regardless… she'd see what she could do on her own before calling for help. After all, this wasn't the first time she'd seen the crest he had on his ring. A 'S' inside a stylized upside-down triangle.

By the time she got him onto the bed and wrestled his coat off, he was barely coherent. Actually, he was not at all coherent. He was mumbling something in a language she didn't recognize. Still, she pulled off his long, black boots and made him as comfortable as possible even as she wondered what demons were tormenting him.



The Ceremony of Union was almost over. Trey bound Kal's wrist to Zara's with a gold rope, before handing Kal the wedding cup. Kal raised it to his lips before offering it to his bride.

Zara of the House of Ra was Kal's birth wife. Sent with him to New Krypton — the future rulers of their people. They were both seventeen, a little young for the Ceremony of Union, but given the circumstances, the elders had decided that it was best to solidify the young couple's relationship as quickly as possible. After all, the winds of discontent had already begun to move through the population of New Krypton.

Life on New Krypton had proven to be a challenge — much more so than had been expected. In the sixteen years since their arrival on this barren rock, almost half of the original population had died. Life was hard. It was only the continuity of leadership and the solid foundation of tradition that would keep the people united. Kal understood all of this — as well as his role in it. Besides, he liked Zara. She was pretty and smart and during their years together, he had become quite fond of her. It was much more than most arranged marriages could hope for.

Her father had been the First Lord of Krypton at the time of the exodus. Kal's own father's position had not been nearly as exalted. But he was the First Lord's second cousin. So the First Lord had decided that Zara's third cousin, Kal, would have the honor of marriage to his daughter and thereby become the First Lord of New Krypton. As a result, the marriage had been performed. Today, however, was a special day. After the ceremonies of today were finished, they would truly be man and wife.

Besides, there was Lord Nor to consider. Twenty-two years of age and already making rumblings of discontent. Given that by virtue of his birth, his standing was higher than Kal El's, he had begun to question the legitimacy of the birth marriage of Kal and his bride-to-be. As Trey had explained when first suggesting the idea of moving the marriage date forward, if Nor found a way to challenge the marriage before the Ceremony of Union was performed, everything could unravel.

A cheer rang through the crowd gathered as the final words of benediction were uttered, completing the ceremony. Only the act of union was left to perform, and still no sign of opposition from Nor.

Kal looked around. Nor was simmering on the far side of the room. Kal couldn't help but be amused. He looked around for his best friend, Ching, intending to gesture towards Nor so that Ching could also see the man's expression. Kal frowned slightly when he realized that Ching's expression was much the same as that of Lord Nor. He brushed it off quickly. Ching had never been much for ceremonies. So he was probably thinking about some tiff with his latest concubine.

Ching's status was not high enough to merit official access to the professional caregivers. But as a result of his friendship with Kal, and Ching's own natural charm with the ladies, he'd managed to bypass the rules and make regular use of the women meant to provide distraction and comfort for the leaders of New Krypton. Kal had been subjected, more than once, to stories of Ching's conquests. Although… Kal's eyebrows crinkled slightly as he led his bride down the hall towards the royal chambers where the final act of union between him and Zara would be performed…come to think of it, Ching's talk of his exploits had been almost non-existent in recent months.

Pushing that thought aside, he concentrated on what was to come as he stepped into the bedchamber. He could feel Zara's hand tighten on his arm and knew she was nervous. He was nervous, too. But with the knowledge he'd received from the professional caregiver assigned the task of providing him with instruction in this matter, he was confident he could lead Zara through this with only minimal discomfort. And then, if she felt up to it, they would join the festivities he could already hear beginning in the main banquet hall.



Lois didn't need to take the man's temperature to know that he was burning up. In fact, given his current state, it was hard to believe that only minutes before he — she didn't even know his name — had been holding her hostage.

She retrieved a wash cloth, soaked it in cool water and ran it over his face, hoping both to remove some of the dried blood and sweat mingled with more than a modest amount of dirt, and to help with his temperature. It seemed to work. At least he quieted slightly and his breathing became deep and regular.

Moving on to her next task, she proceeded to determine his injuries. When she finally managed to remove the remnants of his shirt, she was shocked by what she saw. The skin of his chest was almost entirely covered with bruises. There were also a good number of cuts and scars. Whoever he was, he had accumulated these over a period of time. Still, a number of bruises and welts were obviously quite new. And crossing one arm and his upper torso were a series of cuts, as if he'd been slashed several times with a knife blade.

The slashes were no long bleeding. Still, the dried blood and dirt surrounding them told Lois that none of these had received proper medical attention. She would have to clean them out. But right now… As she turned her attention to the leg he had wrapped in what appeared to be the missing piece of his shirt, he began to mutter again, resuming the battle with his inner demons.



Kal's footsteps were slow as he made his way back to the royal chambers. It had been a good day — albeit an exhausting one. He had finally managed to mediate a dispute over mining between two of New Krypton's most powerful clans — the Houses of Dor and Ren. Neither side was exactly happy with the results, of course. But Kal figured that meant the compromise was probably equally fair for both.

But the final signing of the contract would keep the mines active and the ore being processed, which was good for the workers on both sides who were trying to feed their families as well as for the society itself which was still trying to build and desperately needed those alloys to do so.

And there was nothing quite as satisfying as finishing up early. When he'd left this morning, he'd told Zara not to wait dinner for him since he expected he'd be with representatives of the two houses for most of the night. But here the sun had barely set and he was walking towards the royal chambers.

It would be nice spending an evening with Zara. Maybe they could take in a game of krasta on the vid-screen. It had been a long time since he and Zara had asked Ching to join them for the evening so maybe they could do that. Or perhaps he would see if Zara wanted to go out. The possibilities were endless.

Ching. He had become a good friend over the years. Still, Kal wished the head of his imperial guard would settle down and take a wife. Given that Ching, unlike those born to noble rank, had not had a wife negotiated for him at birth, he was free to choose from the many women of Kryptonian society who had not already been promised in marriage. Kal had even offered his and Zara's services to help Ching negotiate for a wife. Given the rank Ching had achieved, it was even possible he could, with Kal's help, negotiate for a wife from one of the lower noble families, thereby solidifying his position in Kryptonian society. But Ching had merely dismissed the idea, saying he had no interest in taking a wife.

But then Ching was the exception more than the rule. After all, he was one of the few people on New Krypton who had managed to rise beyond the standing of his birth to become head of the Imperial Guard — something no commoner had ever before managed to do. But his abilities, as well as Kal's trust in him, had made him the most logical candidate for the job. No one would dare challenge Kal's right to the throne while Ching was defending it. Even Nor had been forced to concede to Ching's superior talent and approve the appointment. A small smile settled on Kal's face as he thought about the look on Nor's face the day he'd been forced to approve that. It was worse than the look he'd given Kal on his wedding day. For a moment, Kal had almost thought Nor's head was going to explode.

Kal chuckled slightly to himself as a guard opened the door to the royal chambers for Kal to step through. It was good to be home. As the door closed behind him, Kal became aware that… something was off. But what? It was a feeling more than anything else. He hadn't felt it outside his chambers — which undoubtedly meant that the thought dampeners were on. Not that that was unusual, of course. In a society able to communicate telepathically, it was necessary to have technology that could allow one to think without such thoughts being picked up or recorded by outsiders.

He stopped just inside the door and concentrated on the feeling. It was Zara. After eleven years of marriage, he found their telepathic connection had grown, allowing him to pick up on her surface feelings — at least when she wasn't actively working to keep him out. But this… This was something new, feelings stronger than anything he'd ever felt before.

Cautiously, he headed in the direction that his feelings were taking him until he heard sounds coming from their bedchamber. Not unfamiliar noises, but… noises he wasn't quite ready to identify. Pushing open the partially closed door, he moved into the doorway of his room and stared in stunned disbelief at the scene before him.

No. Whatever else was happening it wasn't this. Arms, legs entangled. So caught up in each other that neither had as much as sensed his presence. And… he could feel his wife's pleasure. It surrounded him. It saturated the air, making it difficult for Kal to breath. In eleven years of marriage, not even during their most intimate moments together, had he sensed such a strong feeling of passion emanating from his wife.

He stood there for a moment in disbelief before stepping silently back. He was in shock. He knew that. But in a moment, shock would fade and then… No. The level of emotion that was sure to follow would be impossible to hide. And… he needed to be out of there before that hit. He backed towards the door as the sounds of lovemaking coming from his wife and his best friend chased him from the royal chambers. Once outside, he began walking, each step quicker than the one before, towards his offices. His last few steps until he could fling closed the doors and hit the thought dampeners were almost a run. And then, as the general noise that was always in the background in a telepathic society faded to complete silence, Kal stood in the middle of the room, the images he'd just seen flooding his mind.

Ching and Zara had betrayed him.

"No!" he yelled out to the spirits before sinking to his knees in the dense carpet, his chin falling to rest against his chest.



"Kine, Zara. Kine."

Although Lois was unable to understand the words, the anguish in the man's strangled gasp came through loud and clear.

"Shh. Shh. It's okay," Lois responded as she gently ran the cloth across his face.

He drew in a jagged breath, but relaxed under her touch.

When he again seemed settled, she turned her attention to the makeshift bandage on his leg. Did she dare?

She began gently prying at the cloth, but stopped when she realized that, although the black of the makeshift bandage hid it, the bright red blood on her fingers told her that this blood was fresh. Still, she needed to see his leg to determine how bad it was. To see if, in spite of her instincts which were warning her not to, she needed to call a doctor. But before she unwrapped the wound, she'd best be prepared. She got up and made her way to a linen closet, removing an old set of sheets. Placing them on the bed, she went into her kitchen to find a number of items.

Returning to her room, she cut the sheets into strips. After setting them beside him, she retrieved a bowl of water and a couple fresh wash clothes before cutting the shirt off his leg.

"Oh, god," she breathed when she finally saw the angry wound beneath it. She suspected that in spite of the other numerous injuries he had received, this was the main source of his problems.

This wound was deep. It appeared to have been caused by some sort of blade — a knife or even a sword. She carefully felt on the back of his leg and judging by the blood on her fingers when she withdrew them, it appeared this wound went all the way through his leg, severing both muscles and tendons. This wound might well have been made at the same time as the wounds on his chest. But this one had obviously received some new trauma recently causing it to begin bleeding again. Not surprising if it hadn't been treated correctly in the first place.

Still, it was bleeding again and so it was time for her to quit speculating and get to work treating it. She picked up the scissors and quickly cut his trouser leg. Once she'd carefully cut and pealed away the old material, she used the washcloth to clean out some of the dirt. Having completed that, she poured rubbing alcohol over the wound, flinching when he reacted in pain. She grabbed her newly made bandages, wrapping the wound as tight as she dared.

She stood up to inspect her handiwork. Not bad. Still, he needed a doctor to examine the wound on his leg. And even if he was afraid of the authorities finding him, he needed more help than she was able to give. His continuing fever told her the wounds were already infected. And a knife wound that went all the way through his leg… At the very least, he'd require stitches. So what…

She was snapped out of her deliberation by loud knocking on the door to her apartment. Dan! In all the excitement, she'd forgotten all about him! "I'll be there in a moment, Dan!" she yelled in the direction of the door.

Glancing back at the man in the bed, she satisfied herself that he was still asleep. Her hands were spattered with blood. So were her clothes. Moving quickly, she stripped off her clothes and washed her face and hands before slipping into her housecoat.

Another knock on the door, this one more insistent. Taking one more glance at her patient, she closed the door to her bedroom and headed for the door.

She was just about to open it when she noticed the knife lying on the floor. Retrieving it, she quickly stuffed it beneath the cushions on her couch before returning to admit her visitor.

"Hi, Dan," she said as she opened the door.

He stepped inside, closing the door behind him. "Lois, what took…" His voice trailed off when he realized she was in her robe. "I thought we were going out tonight," he said instead.

She gave him a wistful smile. "I'm sorry, Dan. Would it be okay if we went out tomorrow instead? I'm not feeling too well tonight."

"You know, I could always tuck you in." Dan wriggled his eyebrows suggestively while bringing his hand up to her cheek, telling her he was only half joking.

Lois forced herself to smile even as she turned slightly, causing his hand to lose contact. "I think we should leave that for another time." Stepping past him, she reopened the door, silently inviting him to leave.

He let out a breath, understanding the hint. After stepping into the doorway, he turned towards her again, leaning in to give her a brief kiss, before disappearing out the door. Giving a look of absolute relief, she closed the door behind him before leaning against it as her eyes settled on the door to her bedroom.

So now what?

It only took her a moment to make a decision. She needed help. And there was only one person she could trust to help her in this situation. Making her way to the phone, she picked it up.

Once she'd placed her call, she returned to her bedroom to discover that her 'guest' was tossing and turning restlessly in his sleep.



Kal moved silently as he pushed open the door to his bedchambers. He'd stayed at his offices half the night, trying to come to terms with what he'd discovered. How long had it been going on? How could they have betrayed him like that?

His first thought had been to bring them up on charges of high treason and see their molecules scattered over countless distant galaxies. For not only had his wife betrayed him, she had betrayed the First Lord of New Krypton with a commoner — a commoner who had achieved a rank just below nobility because of the trust his lord and master had placed in him. For that, they both deserved to die. He'd given them both his affections. He'd given them his trust and his loyalty. And they had thrown it back in his face.

In fact, he'd had his hand on the com-unit to call the guards to arrest them both when he'd hesitated. His fury had not yet calmed. Did he dare make a decision like this while the anger and grief were still flowing through his brain? If he was unable to separate his feelings from matters of this importance, he didn't deserve loyalty — he didn't deserve to be the First Lord of New Krypton.

The light of the moons coming through the window lit up Zara's face as she relaxed in sleep. Standing there, Kal found himself looking for some sign of betrayal on her face, something he had missed before. But he could find no indication that she was disloyal to him. A long time passed before he could tear his eyes away from her.

Finally, he stripped out of his clothes and slipped into his side of the bed.

Zara stirred.

Kal froze.

Rolling towards him, she looked at him through sleep-filled eyes. "How did the negotiations go?" she asked.

His stomach lurched. How could she act as if everything was normal? "Fine," he responded.

Her eyebrows furrowed. "What is wrong?"

Damn! He quickly quelled his feelings. "Nothing. Just distracted."

She reached over, gently running a hand across his cheek. "You work too hard," she said softly, tenderly even.

The muscles in his jaw flinched. "Duty above all else." It was an indictment.

The flicker of emotion that crossed her face told him he'd hit his target. She rolled away from him as if she would go back to sleep.

He felt a flash of anger. Without thinking about his motives, he reached for her, running his hand down her side and around her waist, dragging her to him. She quickly moved his hand, pulling away.

"Not tonight."

He let out a breath, which she seemed purposely to ignore, before relaxing back onto the bed and burrowing his eyes into the back of her head. How many times had he heard 'not tonight?' How many times had she pulled away from him still feeling Ching's hands on her body? How many times had she betrayed him?

"I am sorry, Kal," she breathed.

He wasn't entirely sure what she meant. Did she suspect he knew? Was she apologizing for pulling away from him? Was she apologizing for betraying him? Would he ever look at her again without seeing her with Ching?

He lay there, struggling with his thoughts for a long time after her breathing settled back into the regular pattern of sleep. His decision had been the right one — the one born of duty, not emotions. Together, he and Zara presented a united front to their people. If this came to light… He shuddered at the possible ramifications. Still, not only was his pride injured, but his heart was also badly beaten. The two people he should have been able to trust above all others, for whatever reason, had betrayed him. Even if the leader could live with that, how could the man?



"What?" gasped Ran. "But, m'lord…"

Lord Nor's hand darted out, wrapping itself around the other man's neck. "Yes?" he asked without giving Ran enough air to reply.

"I think what he is saying is that Earth has a yellow sun. We are forbidden to go to a planet with a yellow sun," Drull responded.

Nor rolled his eyes, dropping Ran to the floor. With rocket scientists like Ran and Drull around, his kingdom was secure. "I do not care if its sun is black," he informed both men. "I just care that our tracking of Kal's brain waves showed a small blip. And that blip came from…?"

"Planet 785938. The planet its inhabitants call Earth?"

"Very good, Drull. Now prepare to go. I don't care what a bunch of old men said about some mystic prophesy of a planet with a yellow sun. I want Kal. I want him brought to me. I want his death at my hands to be witnessed by all of New Krypton. As long as he is out there somewhere, there will be those who will attempt to make him into some kind of myth — hoping he will return someday. I will not allow that wannabe to undermine my authority. Dead, he's no threat. Alive he will become an icon, something for the people to place their hope in. And if I do not get to kill Kal, I just might have to settle for your dead bodies instead. I suggest you think on that."

"Yes, m'lord."

"What are you two still standing here for? Go!"

Ran scrambled to his feet and quickly he and Drull rushed from the room to follow their master's instructions. Only one thing was sure to be more dangerous than going to a planet with a yellow sun, and that was angering Lord Nor.



Kal struggled against the darkness. Opening his eyes, he looked around the unfamiliar room. "Kysee…?" His voice cracked.

"Hey, relax," said an older man. "I'm a doctor. I'm here to help you."

Kal tried and failed to remember how he'd come to be here. Before he could work it out, the darkness and the dreams overtook him once again.



Kal knew there was a problem the moment Nor entered the council chamber. For the past few years, Nor had been quiet and Kal had hoped the man had given up his ambitions. But today, a sense of dread filled him as his eyes met Nor's. Nothing on the other man's face gave him away, but Kal could sense almost a smirk in Nor's mind.

Kal glanced at Zara who was seated next to him, wondering if she was sensing the same thing. In the corner of his eye, he saw Ching's hand move to the hilt of his sword. So he felt it, too.

"Nice of you to join us, Lord Nor," Trey said from his position at Kal's right hand. "It has been a while since you have deemed fit to join the council."

"Well, I dare not miss so important a day," Nor responded, maintaining eye contact with Kal as he moved to his designated seat.

"Important?" asked Trey. "I know there are concerns about the crops this year, but…"

"Yes, there are. And my people want to know what our great lord and master plans to do to ensure that all the people are fed."

"The council has been working on plans to open trade negotiations with…" Trey began.

"In other words, you have nothing," Nor interrupted.

"Excuse me, Lord Nor," Kal began, "but that is not what Lord Trey said. And if you had deemed fit to attend any council sessions this past season, you could have given us your ideas. Or if you have ideas now, we would be happy to entertain them."

"Oh, I have one idea," Nor said, leaning back in his chair and linking his fingers behind his head. "I say that the spirits are punishing us for the sins of our leaders."

Kal tensed.

"And what sins would those be?" asked Trey.

Nor's eyes swung to Zara before looking back at Kal.

"For ignoring the fact that our great Kal-El's wife has betrayed him." His eyes drifted over to Ching. "We are being lead by a cuckold, my lords."

Kal, ignoring the gasp from his left, sprang to his feet. His hand rested protectively on Zara's shoulder as he fought back his anger — and his fear. This was the one thing that could cause the council to desert him. If he didn't handle this just right, it was over. A leader who was seen as weak would never be followed. And a man being made a cuckold would be seen as unable to control even his own wife. No one would follow such a man. It was obvious by the fear radiating off Zara that she realized the same thing.

'Control your feelings,' he snapped at her telepathically. It was a risk communicating with her telepathically, but the way she was transmitting her feelings was sure to destroy everything. Besides, the risk was minimal considering the fact that his hand was still on Zara's shoulder. He doubted anyone would be able to pick up on the short communication. And even if they did, he'd said nothing that could be used against them.

A small breath caught in her throat as she seemed to realize that he already knew about her and Ching. He could feel the apology forming in her mind and instantly broke the connection between them. For now, he had to deal with Nor. He couldn't do that and deal with his wife's guilt at the same time. Besides, he suspected she was about to say something damaging, something Nor could use to convict her. And right now, Kal's best hope was that Nor was fishing — that he was looking for a reaction or a mind slip that would allow him to confirm his theory. If that was the case, the only way to handle it was by not giving him anything that could be used against Zara and confronting the issue directly.

"If you have proof, Nor, present it. Otherwise, I will not have you making such accusations about me or my wife."

It was a fatal mistake — the opening Nor had been waiting for. A smirk settled on his lips. "Very well, my Lord."



"How is he?" Lois asked anxiously the moment her father emerged from her room, wiping his hands on a towel.

"He gained consciousness for a moment, but…" Her father made his way over to her. "Look, pumpkin, if we don't get that man to a hospital, he could die. He lost a lot of blood. I gave him some antibiotics to fight the infection and I stitched up his leg, but I don't have an x-ray machine in my bag to make sure there is no damage to his leg. Even if he lives, he might never walk again. He needs proper treatment. And judging by the bruise pattern on his chest, I suspect he has at least a couple of broken ribs. How did you even get him here? Or at least I assume you didn't do all that."

Lois rolled her eyes. "He walked," she said, neglecting to include the part where he had a knife to her throat.

"Then he's got a lot more inner strength than I do," Dr. Samuel Lane responded. "But why won't you let me take him to a hospital?"

"It's… complicated," Lois said, wondering if she should bow to her father's advice.

"It always is," Sam responded. He set down his black bag and placed both hands on her shoulders. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

She swallowed. No. No, she didn't. In fact, she had no idea what she was doing. All she did know was that after seeing his ring, it felt like the right thing to do. "I'm sure."

He looked at her for a moment longer before releasing her. "Here are some antibiotics," he said, reaching into his bag to place some items on the table. "He needs to continue taking these to fight the infection. I'll leave both syringes and pills. If he wakes up, give him the pills. Otherwise… I assume you remember how to use a syringe?"

She nodded. She'd made him show her how when she was a child, when showing an interest in medicine was the only way she could get his attention. In fact, she'd practiced for an entire day on an orange, determined to get it perfect for when he finally got home to see it. Unfortunately, he'd been too busy or tired or… whatever to take the time to appreciate all her effort. That was when she'd decided that no matter what else happened, she would never be a doctor. She was amazed he even remembered that he had taught her.

"Good. The instructions are on the containers. Otherwise, just try to keep his temperature down. And the bandage on his leg needs to be changed every day." He placed some more items on the table for treating the young man's leg before picking up his bag. "If you need me, you know how to contact me," he said as he headed for the door.

"Thanks, Dad," Lois said as she walked him out.

Once he was gone, she locked the door and turned back towards the bedroom. What exactly was she doing? She didn't even know this man.

She made her way to the bedroom, leaning against the doorframe as she watched the man's troubled sleep, wishing she had some magical way to calm him.

As she did, she thought once again about the symbol on the ring he'd been wearing on the index finger of his right hand. It reminded her of those old movies she'd seen where the nobles wore a signet ring so that they could affix their seal to important documents. She'd never thought to see that symbol ever again. Almost immediately, her mind drifted to the previous year. To a previous assignment. To Perry.



Lois stepped into the doorway to Perry's office. "You wanted to see me, chief?"

Perry rose from behind his desk. "Yeah. I need you to get packed."

"Where am I going?"

"I got a ticket booked for you on the next flight to Wichita, Kansas."

Lois' eyebrows rose. "Why?" she asked suspiciously. "What business does the Daily Planet have in Wichita?"

"Not Wichita, exactly. From Wichita you'll make your way to Smallville."

"Smallville? There's actually a place called Smallville?"

"I just got a tip that a farmer out there, a Wayne Irig, was thrown off his property by the feds who then start tearing up his place with bulldozers — something about pollutants in the soil."

"Send Myerson… Or send Ralph. I've got things to do, leads to follow, here."

"Now, Lois, let's keep an open mind. 'The Poisoning of America.' I'm seeing a Planet special investigation."

"Really? I'm seeing guys in overalls discussing hog futures."

"Private property rights versus the public good."

"We've got that story here in Metropolis."

"Urban and rural. It's the same story. Same problem. Sometimes it's easier to understand in a smaller setting. A microcosm."

Lois was starting to feel a little desperate. "Perry… It's… Smallville!"

"Yeah, I got you."

Relief flooded through Lois.

"That's probably how the first reporter at Love Canal felt. Say… didn't that reporter pull in a Pulitzer Prize?"

Lois' heart sank as, at that moment, she realized she'd lost the argument. She was going to Smallville, Kansas — to a meeting that, although she didn't know it at that moment, would change her outlook on life forever.



The unconscious man in Lois' bed started to mumble again, thrashing from side to side. Rushing to his side, Lois took a seat before reaching for the bowl of water. Taking a washcloth she began gently bathing the man, making soothing noises in an attempt to provide relief and comfort.



"Arrest them!" Nor demanded when the lights in the council chamber came back up.

"Now just a minute," Kal responded, setting aside his outrage at Zara and Ching for the indiscretion — making love on the beach of New Krypton's largest lake where no thought dampeners could control what might be picked up and recorded. Without that idiotic move, Nor might have had his suspicions, but without proof Kal could have quelled any rumors. But the images they'd seen, in living color, until Kal had commanded that the playback be stopped, had been undeniable. Still, there must be a way to control the situation. He just needed a little time to think things through. "Before we decide on any course of action, I think it is important that…"

His voice trailed off when the council chamber erupted as Ching, in response to Nor's command, drew his sword.

"Ching, no!" Kal commanded, but it was too late.

Nor's forces moved forward to be stopped by the first swing of Ching's sword. Moving with a skill that was second to none, Ching fought three men at once, swords clashing as he spun, holding each of them at bay. Kal called out to Ching again, trying to get him to stop. As long as he didn't kill…

Kal's thought trailed off and he almost felt it when Ching's sword plunged into one of Nor's men, killing him instantly. As if everyone in the room realized the significance of the moment, silence fell for a split second before… Ching moved fast, turning to fight the two remaining men.

Briefly, Kal hoped Ching would succeed. After all, what was left for either Ching or Zara here but humiliation and death? And in spite of everything, Zara was still Kal's wife and Ching, his best friend. Far better for all of them if they did escape.

But then… escape, at least for Zara, became hopeless when Nor moved, grabbing her and tossing her to one of his men as Ching, realizing he could not rescue Zara, began fighting his way to the door. The desire to grab his wife and help her escape was overwhelming. But Kal couldn't do it — not unless he was prepared to surrender his world to this monster. And everything inside Kal, every impulse he had been taught since birth, rebelled against that idea. So he stood, watching impotently as Ching fought his way to freedom while Zara, held by two of Nor's men, looked at her feet, an expression of hopelessness and humiliation on her face.

"My lords," Nor said, releasing Zara when Ching had finally escaped. "How can this man lead us when he quite obviously cannot even control his own wife or the head of his armed forces?"

Kal glanced around, realizing that Nor had the full attention of the council. Being labeled as a cuckold would brand him as a weak man — not one fit to lead the royal houses. A man who could not control his own wife would never have the blessing of the gods to lead the people of New Krypton.



Lois rose from the side of the bed. The man had calmed again. Stretching, she glanced at the clock. It was after two in the morning. Looking back at the man in the bed, she again caught sight of his ring and her mind drifted once again.



Lois used the bushes to sneak slowly closer to the large tent set up on the Irig property. After doing everything she could to find out what was going on from the outside, the only option left was to trespass onto the property and get a look for herself.

In spite of her hesitation about coming to Smallville and in spite of being subjected to what she could only describe as some sort of ritual crop worship on her arrival in the small community, she'd quickly figured out that something out of the ordinary was happening on the Irig property. A check at the town hall showed that no citations or permits had been issued on the Irig property. Nothing that would attract the attention of the federal government. She'd also obtained a working list of clean-up sites from the Environmental Protection Agency. Smallville hadn't been on the list. Then there was the woman who was entirely too competent to work for the government. Finally, Wayne Irig, the farm's owner, had simply disappeared. No. There was definitely something going on there — and not just some sort of environmental clean up.

She made her way slowly closer to her destination. The men around the tent certainly weren't EPA. They looked more like military. When she saw a dark-haired man exit the tent, she raised her camera, snapping off a couple of pictures. She'd bet her bottom dollar that he was in charge of this operation.

A few minutes later, her chance came. Using a knife to slit a hole in the side of the tent, she managed to sneak in only to discover an older man inside, tied and gagged. Rushing over to him, she removed the gag and began working on the ropes binding him.

"Are you Wayne Irig?" she asked, going with her hunch.

"Yeah. Who are you?"

"Lois Lane. Daily Planet. What's going on here?" The final ropes came undone.

"We got to get to the Kent's," Irig said, rising to his feet.

"But what…"

"How about we leave explanations for later. We gotta get out of here before those thugs come back."



Ran and Drull slipped further back when they saw the crowd of people digging up and exposing the remains of the crashed spacecraft. Their instruments, once they had gotten close enough, had led them to this spot. But now… they didn't dare get any closer.

"What do you think?" Ran whispered. "Do you think he could have survived that crash?"

"No," Drull responded. "Look, I got a bad feeling about this. What do you say we just tell Nor he is dead?"

"And if he is not?" asked Ran.

Drull shrugged his shoulders. "Without a craft, it is not like he is coming back to New Krypton. How would Nor ever know?"

Ran nodded slowly. How would Nor ever know? "Let us get out of here."



Kal flinched when the door closed behind him, locking him in the small cell. His eyes settled on Zara. She knew he was there. Of that, he had no doubt, but she didn't look up, didn't acknowledge his presence for a long moment.

"You came," she finally said.

"Of course I came." Walking closer, he took a seat on the far side of the cot. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a portable thought dampener, turned it on and set it on the cot between them.

Zara glanced at it before speaking. "I am so sorry, Kal. I never intended…"

"It does not matter now," Kal said, his voice flat.

"Yes! Yes it does," she responded, looking at him for the first time. "I need you to know that I respect you. I admire you. I never…"

Kal sprang to his feet. "Never what? Never intended to hurt me? Well, you did, Zara! Maybe we never had a love like the gods, Zen and Fath, but you were my wife! I have always treated you well!" Suddenly, he realized he'd lost control of his feelings. He lowered his eyes as he regained his calm. "It does not matter now." He sat back down on the cot.

An awkward silence filled the air.

"How long have you known?" The question hung in the air between them for a long time.

"For almost a year."


"They want me to sign your death warrant," Kal finally said, his voice once again devoid of all emotion. "Rumor has it that Nor will back down if I show myself to be a leader and sign the warrant to kill you for high treason."

"Then that is what you must do. You cannot let our people suffer because of my transgressions."

A lump rose in the back of his throat. "I will not do it."

"You have to."

"Do you not understand, Zara?" he asked, turning towards her. "Do you really think Nor will back down if I kill you? Do you think he actually believes the lack of rain is due to my being a cuckold? That is propaganda for the masses. What he is after is the throne. He is not going to let it go just because I have you killed."

"But surely the other houses will support you."

"How can they? My power to rule comes from my marriage to you. If I sign the warrant for your death, Lord Nor's rank is greater than mine. His case to be declared the undisputed leader only gets stronger if you are dead. The houses will not dare stand against Nor if he tries to claim the throne. He has been planning this for years, Zara. He has only been waiting for his opportunity." His voice dropped to a mere whisper. "If only we had a child…"

There was a moment of awkward silence. Years ago, the doctors of New Krypton had discovered that Zara was incapable of bearing a child. Since giving New Krypton an heir was one of her greatest obligations, her inability to have one had been a great failure — one he knew she felt keenly. She'd gone to doctor after doctor, trying anything suggested to correct the problem before finally admitting defeat. His throwing it up in her face now… He instantly felt bad — a feeling he wasn't entirely comfortable with.

"I am sorry, Zara," he said softly.

She waved his concern away, but he knew the damage had already been done. He sat silently as he struggled to find a way to make up for his careless remark.

She cleared her throat, and played nervously with her hands, making it clear that she had something she wanted to ask. Kal was fairly certain he knew the question. Maybe his fumbled comment had made her bold enough to ask. He could simply answer the question — not forcing her to ask it. But he couldn't do it. In spite of his previous blunder, he couldn't seem to force himself to make it easier for her.

"What about Ching?" she finally asked, not looking at him. "Is he still…"

"Alive? At large?"

She nodded slowly, all the while playing with her fingers.

"Yes to both questions. He has simply disappeared. The council has declared him an enemy of the state. If he is caught, his body will be disintegrated and his molecules scattered over countless distant galaxies. Hopefully, wherever he is, he will know enough not to return."

She gave a small nod, trying not to let him know her relief at hearing that Ching was still alive. But even with the thought dampeners on, her feelings came through loud and clear in her facial expression and body language. It was almost as if she had been dying inside until he'd told her that Ching was safe.

"So what are you going to do?" Zara asked, disrupting Kal's thoughts.

"What I have to. I will not just stand by and let that monster seize the throne. There are houses that I think I can still convince to remain loyal to our joined houses. If I can rally enough of them, maybe I can still convince Nor to back down. Rumor has it, though, that he has already assembled his forces."

"I wish I could be there with you… for you."

Silence fell again. Finally, Kal rose to his feet, making his way over to crouch down in front of her, taking her hands in his. "I wish you could be, too," he said softly before raising her hands and gently kissing her knuckles. "If I am successful, I will return for you — and we will try to find a way out of this mess."

He rose to his feet and walked towards the door.

"Goodbye, Kal. You might find this hard to believe, but I do love you. You are the best man I have ever known."

Kal leaned his forehead against the cell door for a moment before opening it and, without looking back, leaving the room.



His fever seemed to have broken. Lois was grateful for that. He still hadn't woken up, except briefly while her father had been there. But still, the anxiety that he was going to die faded into the background as each passing hour he seemed to get stronger.

Lois pulled a chair up next to the bed and settled into it to watch his chest rise and fall. It was strange, but sitting here with a half-dead man who had only hours ago held a knife to her throat, she felt more at peace than she had for the past month. In fact, she felt more at peace here than she had since that trip to Smallville.




The back door of the old but obviously well cared for farmhouse swung open and an older woman rushed out as Wayne opened the door of the old pick-up and stumbled out. She was followed closely by an older man. Still, Lois got to Wayne first, preventing him from falling.

"Let's get him into the house," said the man without ceremony as the two older people worked together to get Wayne inside.

Lois hung back, just watching as the woman got a bowl of water and the other man began treating Wayne's cut lip.

"Sorry. We seem to be ignoring you," the woman said, finally turning her attention to Lois. "I'm Martha Kent. And this is my husband, Jonathan."

"I'm Lois Lane," Lois responded, moving forward as Martha gestured her to take a seat.

"So what happened, Wayne? Where have you been? Those environmental guys told us they had relocated you. But then, when we didn't hear from you, we got worried."

"They didn't relocate me," Wayne said bitterly.

"So what happened?"

"When I brought that do-hicky to you the other day, I never imagined what would happen. Those government men showed up, asking me all sorts of questions about it."

"So what did you tell them?"

"I wasn't going to tell them nothing," Wayne responded defiantly. "I told them I didn't know nothing. They didn't believe me, of course." He touched his lip to demonstrate what they'd done to him to get him to talk. "If it hadn't been for this one…" He pointed to Lois. "…I'd have never gotten out of there."

The attention of Martha and Jonathan turned towards Lois.

"I work for the Daily Planet. My editor heard that a farmer had been thrown off his farm for an EPA cleanup. When I started snooping around, it became obvious that this was no EPA operation. And then I found Mr. Irig tied up in an operations tent they had set up on the property." She shrugged.

"So you snuck in and rescued him?" Martha asked. "Honey, don't you think that was a little dangerous?"

Lois smiled. "Most of my work is a little dangerous. Anyway, I wasn't about to let him stay there. So what exactly is going on?"

Martha, Jonathan and Wayne all shared looks.

"Would you mind waiting in the living room for a moment?" Martha asked.

Lois couldn't say she was very happy with this development. They were obviously trying to decide whether or not to trust her. Given that she'd saved Wayne, she couldn't say she liked being shut out. Still, it wasn't as if she had much choice. Nodding, she rose to her feet and went through the door Martha indicated. Just before it closed, she turned back to the people in the room. "Just so you know, I'd go to jail before revealing a source."

Once she was outside the room, she stopped, listening as well as she could through the door.

She didn't get a lot of the discussion. Only bits and pieces. 'Is telling the Daily Planet better than telling those federal men?' 'At least by telling her, we might have some control over how it is presented.' 'She did save my life.' 'I have to say, she gives me a better feeling than those government men did.'

Then the conversation fell silent as they made a decision — although Lois didn't know what that decision might be. Still, she rushed to the sofa, collapsing on it just as Martha opened the door.

"Could you come back in here, Lois?" Martha asked.

Lois had to admit, she was extremely curious as she entered the room to discover that Jonathan was gone. "So what did you decide? Am I trustworthy enough to be let in on what is happening here?"

"Sit down, Lois," Martha said, gesturing her to a seat. "I guess you're wondering what all the secrecy is about. But… well, we discovered something a couple of weeks ago that… is sort of sensitive."


She looked towards the back door when Jonathan entered holding a heavy looking metal box. She watched as he set it on the table.

"A couple weeks ago, lightning struck a tree in the back of Wayne's place. When he looked in the hole it left when it toppled over, he found these." Jonathan opened the box.

Lois looked in to find two items. One was a glowing green crystal. The other was a small metal ball with some strange lettering on it and an 'S' symbol inside a stylized upside down triangle. She looked up at the others for an explanation.

"Wayne didn't know what they were, so he brought them here," Jonathan continued. "We decided to send a small piece of the crystal to a lab in Metropolis."

"And?" asked Lois. "Did they find it was created by some kind of pesticide contamination? Is that what got the federal government interested?"

"No. In fact, they said…" Jonathan looked at his two other conspirators for backup. "They said it was like nothing they'd ever seen 'on the Earth.'"

Lois took a moment to let this sink in before responding. "So they think it came from space? But… why all the secrecy?"

"A couple days later, some government men showed up at Wayne's place. He didn't trust them."

"And with good reason… given what they did next," Wayne added, pointing at his face.

"So why not just tell them what you found?" Lois asked.

"Because they aren't here for scientific understanding. They are looking for a way to destroy anything that might be out there," Martha said. "And if this ball…" She pointed to the ball in the box. "…is connected with the crystal and came from another planet, then we know that there is sentient life out there."

Lois crinkled her eyebrows, still not understanding the problem. This could be big. So why were these people so reluctant to say anything about it?

"Lois, Jonathan and I were involved in riding the busses back in the sixties — fighting against segregation," Martha began.

"It was really something," Jonathan added. "Dogs, guns, beatings. One thing we learned was that people fear anything that is different, that they don't understand, that changes the status quo. We've met those men digging up Wayne's farm… and trust me, they are the same type that wanted to prevent us from riding the busses. If there is sentient life out there, those men want to destroy it — if for no other reason than because they don't understand it. We aren't about to be part of that."

Lois finally nodded. Idealists. Worried about the civil rights of aliens. And… given the way these federal types had trod roughshod over Wayne Irig, she suddenly understood their concern. But…

"Are you certain the ball is also from outer space?" Lois asked.

"No. The only thing we know is that it was found with the crystal."

"And are you planning to send it away for analysis?"

"After what happened when we sent the crystal, no." There was a moment of silence.

Lois looked between the others at the table. There was no way she could write the story without analyzing the ball. After all, this was life on other planets they were talking about. But then… really… was there much chance the ball really was from outer space?

"What if I told you I know people at Star Labs who could analyze it for you — discretely?"

"No!" said all three people in unison.


"Here," said Wayne handing her the ball.

She took it, turning it over in her hands. And suddenly… she could feel it. The ball didn't want anyone examining it. Unexpectedly, Lois found herself not wanting it to be analyzed either.

"What do you think the ball is?" Lois asked.

"We've been talking about it. We suspect it's some sort of probe."

"Why would someone send a probe?"

"Probably because they are as curious about us as we would be about them."

Lois nodded slowly. If they were right, this story was huge. But… the ball didn't want her to write it. She rebelled against the very idea, but still couldn't shake the feeling. A connection. Something that reached into her soul, begging her not to betray him… it. Besides, was the ball the real story here? Wasn't the story about the government men torturing a citizen in their effort to get a strange crystal of otherworldly origin?

After a moment, she nodded, her decision made. "Then we expose those government people using the crystal you found."

"And the ball?"

Lois shrugged. "As far as I know, it's just some sort of child's toy. I don't need it to expose this story. A government bureau using its power to kidnap a man, torture him and tear up his property all to get some meteorite. Trust me. Heads are going to roll."



Lois still wasn't entirely certain why she hadn't insisted that the globe be analyzed. And until she'd seen that same symbol on the ring of the man currently lying in her bed, she hadn't really questioned herself or her decision. She'd managed to bring down a man named Jason Trask and exposed a secret government agency known as Bureau 39. But as for the existence of life on other planets… Nothing had ever gone to print.

Still, Lois had never again looked at the stars quite the same way. Looking into the heavens, she could almost feel the same connection she'd felt the moment she'd held the ball. As if her fate were tied up with those same stars. It was a foolish, romantic notion, but one she was unable to shake. Not that she'd ever told anyone that — except for the Kents, of course.

Ever since that day, she'd kept in touch with the Kents. Something about that ball had bound them together. And only they were able to understand her feelings about it — because they had felt it, too. So when she'd seen that ring, a tremor of fear and a small thrill rushed through her body to settle in her heart. She couldn't turn him in. Not now. Not without some answers anyway.

She glanced over at the clock. It was almost six.

Getting up from her chair beside the bed, she headed for the phone. Perry was likely in the newsroom by now. Picking up the phone, she punched in the familiar number.

"Hi, Perry," she said when Perry came on the line. "I'm just calling to tell you that I won't be in today. I'm… sick." She stumbled slightly on the final word, not entirely comfortable with lying to Perry. "A cold or something." She tried to sound slightly nasal.

"Honey, this isn't a good day to get sick."

"Why? What's going on?"

"Turn on the television."

She made her way to the television, turning it on with one hand while holding onto the phone with the other. LNN instantly lit up the screen, showing a scene of people digging up what could, according to the correspondent, only be described as some sort of spacecraft. And on the side of the ship… an 'S' inside a stylized upside down triangle.

Her eyes flicked from the screen, through the open door of her bedroom to the man she could see sleeping in her bed.

"Who did you send over there?" she asked into the phone.

"I was just about to call you."

"I'm sorry, Perry. But I really can't."

She could hear a sigh come over the line.

"Fine. I'll send Myerson," he finally said. "Hope you're feeling better tomorrow."

"I do too," she responded before hanging up the phone and turning back towards her room. Making her way to the doorway, she leaned against the doorframe as her mind moved at a hundred miles an hour.

The symbol on his ring. The spacecraft. The strange language he seemed to be using during his fever-induced rambling. Could he be the reason she'd refused to tell the world about the existence of that strange ball last year? And why exactly did she feel this overwhelming need to protect him now?

Might he not be some forerunner to an alien invasion? What if she were risking her own people's future by helping him? He had tried to hold her hostage, after all. That type of behavior didn't exactly engender trust.

Still, her heart rebelled against the very idea of turning him in. On the other hand, she'd learned long ago just how unreliable her heart could be. She glanced over at the phone. Maybe she should just…

No! No, she couldn't do that — at least not until she'd heard his side of the story. She could only hope that when he did finally come to, he'd recall the story of the mouse taking the thorn out of the paw of the lion. Did that story have a happy ending?



Kal groaned in pain as he regained consciousness. The surroundings were unfamiliar. He instantly began struggling to rise.

"Wait," said a soft female voice, coming quickly to the side of his bed from where she had been seated in a nearby chair. "You're pretty beaten up." She slipped an arm around him, helping him move into a seated position before handing him a glass of clear liquid from a small table beside the bed.

He took the glass and stared at it for a moment before cautiously sniffing it. Satisfied it was water, he raised it to his lips, only looking at the woman again as he took a sip.

She was watching him curiously. It was the first time he'd really taken a good look at her and… Even though she was somewhat rumpled, he couldn't help but notice how beautiful she was. He felt a small, unfamiliar twinge touch his heart.

"Thank you," he said, breaking eye contact in order, with trembling hands, to set the glass on the table once again. Taking a breath, he swung his feet off the bed.

"Hey, what…" Her voice trailed off when she practically had to jump out of his way. "That's not a good…"

He rose from the bed.

He crumpled to the floor.

She rolled her eyes as she moved back to him, putting her arms around him to help him back into the bed. "Men," she muttered. "All that macho crap. 'I'm dying, but getting up — hey, no problem.'" She quieted in order to put all her concentration into helping him get comfortable. "So," she asked, "finished proving what a man you are?"

Kal looked at her in confusion, not entirely sure what she was talking about.

She rolled her eyes again and took a seat again on the side of the bed. "So why don't you tell me your name?"

"You did not call the authorities." It wasn't a question.

"I still could."

She met his eyes, communicating in a mere look that she was prepared to do that if he wasn't forthcoming with some answers. She gave it a moment to sink in. If she did choose to turn him in, he wouldn't exactly be able to stop her in his current condition.

"What's your name?" she asked again.


Her eyebrows rose. "Just Kal?"

"Kal…" He hesitated slightly, trying to remember what he'd seen on the computer records about the way the people of this planet identified themselves. He couldn't remember. He'd been spending so much of his time during the trip concentrating on learning the main language of the place on Earth the ship's computers told him he was going to land. Finally, he realized he'd have to guess. "Kal of the House of El."

He thought he noticed a small grin crinkle one corner of her mouth for a brief moment. But then it was gone.

"Well, Kal of the House of El, I'm Lois of the House of Lane."

He relaxed. He'd obviously guessed correctly on the appropriate way to identify himself. He only hoped her other questions were as easy. Still, there was something wrong with this picture. Why was he answering her questions? "Where is your husband?" he asked.

"I'm not married. So why don't you…"

"But then, do you not live with your family?"

"No. But enough about me. Why don't you start by telling me how you got so beaten up?"

He took a moment to recover from that information. How could she support herself without either a man or her family to take care of her?

Giving his head a shake, he directed his mind to the question. "I was thieved."

Lois raised an eyebrow. "You mean you were mugged?"

"Right. Sorry. I am still a bit…" He struggled to find the word. He noticed that she was watching him carefully. "…tussled."


He nodded.

"So, Kal, where are you from?"

"Umm… Ohio?"

"Was that a question?"

"No. No, of course not. I am from Ohio."

"Funny. That doesn't sound like a mid-American accent."

"I have been doing a lot of traveling recently. I must have acquired an accent during my travels."

Lois nodded slowly before picking up a small item from the table by the bed. Turning towards a black box, she hit a button, causing the box to spring to life, lighting up the room with…

Kal gasped when he saw pictures of his craft on the black box. "What…?"

"Now," said Lois, turning back towards him, "why don't we start again?"

He stared at her in disbelief. How had she figured it out? And now what was he supposed to do?

"Telling me the truth would be a good start," she suggested.

Kal looked at her, stunned. Had she read his mind? He didn't think the people of Earth were supposed to be telepathic. Besides, even if they were, he knew how to control which of his thoughts got out. So how had she done it?

"Look, we're not going to get very far here if you keep wondering how much to tell me. After you held a knife to my throat… And after I helped you anyway…" She gestured to him. "…I think we're intimate enough for you to tell me the truth."

He looked down then, realizing for the first time exactly how little he was wearing. Instinctively, he pulled the bedclothes up further his body.

A small grin quirked at one corner of Lois' mouth for a moment before disappearing.

Kal cleared his throat.

Lois let out a breath. "Okay, let's start again, Kal — is that your real name?"

He nodded.

"Where are you from?"

He let out a breath, finally conceding defeat. He'd proven only minutes before that he wasn't even strong enough to stand on his own. If she decided to betray him, she already knew enough to do so. And so far, even though he'd held a knife to her throat, she'd kept his secret — even nursing him back to health. He wondered if she knew the story about the kafta that took the thorn out of the paw of the netsel.

"I am from a planet called New Krypton."

Lois nodded, and he could see in her eyes that she knew he was now telling the truth.

"New Krypton," she said slowly. "Usually when you call something 'new,' it means there is an old one."

He nodded. "My people originally came from a planet called Krypton. When I was an infant, my parents sent me with a group to a new planet. We named it New Krypton."

"Your parents sent you to another planet when you were an infant? They didn't go with you?"

"Krypton's core became destabilized. It led to a reaction that resulted in Krypton exploding. There was not time to save everyone. So every family and every class was given a specific number of passes so that they could save as many young people and children as possible. Then, once those quotas were filled, the remaining positions went to those in our society who had something specific to offer — scientific experts, teachers, craftsmen, military men. That sort of thing."

"So your home planet is no longer there? Your parents were… killed when it exploded?" When he nodded, she continued. "I'm so sorry, Kal."

Something in the way she said it told him she meant it. But why should she care about some planet that, until this moment, she'd never even heard of?

"How many of you escaped?" she continued.

"In some ways, not enough. In others, too many."

"I don't understand."

"Life on New Krypton has been hard. We have had a lot of deaths there over the years."

"So… what are you doing here? Were you… looking for some place better?"

"No. It… was not exactly my choice to leave."

"I don't understand."



Kal brushed the damp hair off his forehead, breathing heavily as he looked around at what remained of his pitiful troops. Like him, they were beaten and bloodied. They'd been pushed back and battered again and again. Like him, they'd seen their friends fall in battle. They'd held their comrades' hands as they watched them die. But their grief was cut short as they lost themselves in battle once again.

Yet, in the faces of his men, he could see the determination he was also feeling. All of them imperial guards. All of them, to a man, ready to lay down their lives for him. All of them determined to fight 'til their dying breath. He couldn't have asked for better men. He doubted Lord Nor had men as loyal.

And yet… only the imperial guard had stood by Kal. Not that it had started out that way. At first, he'd begun to believe that he would be successful. He'd managed to persuade Gin from the House of Vele and Rack from the House of Swen to come out in favor of his continued leadership. Given that Kal was seen now, by the majority of the houses, as a cuckold, and therefore a weak man, the move by Gin and Rack had been shocking. Kal wasn't entirely sure if it was the force of his personality or that Gin and Rack realized, as Kal did, the horror of having Nor leading the people of New Krypton.

Maybe it was a mixture of both. Other houses began coming around, making noises about supporting Kal. Then it had happened. Both Gin and Rack had died of some mysterious, and fast, illness.

The thud had been heard around New Krypton. And try as he might, and Kal had definitely tried, he'd been unable to swing the other houses to come over to his side ever since. Nor had definitely timed his move perfectly.

Still, Kal had refused to back down. But no one would step forward unless others did so first — and proved that it could be done safely. In the end, all of his bargaining had served for naught. The lords had all maintained the Kryptonian ideal — pragmatism. In fact, most of them had reluctantly provided Nor with troops to bring Kal down. As a result, the war had been short. Of course, being short hadn't prevented it from being bloody. Even Kal was unable to see a good outcome now. Several hundred men could hardly stand against Nor's army.

But Kal still couldn't back down. Nor was a monster. Under him, no citizen would be safe, no law secure. Kal was determined that for as long as he could draw breath, he would fight for his people.

Sirens sounded, announcing that the enemy was again on the move. In a few short minutes, their final battalion was over-run by Nor's men. Kal drew his sword and dove into the battle, slashing out with his sword, fighting against overwhelming numbers. Sweat soaked his clothes and dripped off his chin as he continued to move, panting hard as he fought.

He didn't even see the sword that was buried in his leg — although he felt the stifling pain. He turned towards the man who'd inflicted the wound, using the man's distraction at having wounded him to plunge his own sword into the man's heart. The man's eyes met his in horror as he slowly sank to the ground, the life going out of him. And then, from behind, Kal felt something hit his head and everything went black.



"Well? What happened?" demanded Lois. "You're here — so you didn't die. But… why didn't you die?"

Kal shrugged. "Lord Trey."

"I don't understand."

"Trey was my counselor growing up. When the war came, he, like the others, did not dare support me. But when he realized my cause was doomed, he made arrangements to make sure that if the situation became hopeless one of my men would make sure that I escaped Nor."


"So when I regained consciousness, I was in the spacecraft you saw on the black box…" He pointed at Lois' television, which was softly playing in the background. "…Trey had left a hologram for me — telling me that he had loaded information about Earth into the ship's computer and programmed the ship's destination. He told me to live to fight another day. But…" Kal shook his head.

"What? You're alive. Isn't that a good thing?"

"Men died for me. Do you not see that? I tried to turn the ship around. I did everything I could think of to get back. But Trey must have anticipated that. I should have stayed there. I should have died with my men."

"No!" Lois was as shocked as Kal appeared to be by the strength of her emotions. Turning away from him, she rose from the side of the bed, struggling to understand why she even cared. "No, don't you see? Trey was right. You couldn't do any good for your planet if you were dead."

"And what good can I do for it trapped here — on this primitive planet?"

She subconsciously hugged herself even as moisture clouded her vision. "You're alive. That's got to count for something," she whispered as her fears for him the previous night flooded through her again. How could he even suggest that it would be better if he were dead? Although why it bothered her so much, she wasn't sure. Maybe it was just that she thought all life was precious and to hear him say that he should have stayed on his own planet, fighting to the death, went against her belief in the sanctity of life.

"How does this work?"

Kal's question interrupted Lois' unsettled feelings. She turned towards him to see that he was fumbling with the television remote. It was playing so softly, she'd forgotten it was even on. But now her eyes went to the screen and her ears began picking up the words.

"…a spokesperson from Star Labs confirms that the craft we see here was indeed in outer space…"

She took the remote from him and turned up the sound.

"…well, apparently when they analyzed a piece of the craft, it was emitting very weak cosmic rays, Tom," said the correspondent for LNN.

"And that means it's been in space?" asked the anchor.

"That's what they tell me."

"What else have you been able to learn? Was there any sort of indication of what type of creature might have been piloting the craft? Or was it on some sort of remote control device?"

"They're keeping a pretty tight lid on that. But something inside the craft has officials here spooked."

"Well, thanks, Steve," said the anchor. "We're going now to Sue, down at the Governor's mansion. Sue, can you hear us?"

"Yes, Tom. As you said, I'm currently waiting outside the Governor's mansion. We've been told that the Governor is meeting with the general in charge of New Troy's national guard and will be out to give us a statement when he's finished."

"Do we know what he will say?"

"No, Tom. We in the press corps have been trying to find out. But so far everyone is being very close-lipped. But the Governor should be out here within an hour or so and should be able to give us a better idea about what is going on then."

"Very good, Sue. While we wait for him, and for those of you just joining us, last night a large fireball…"

Lois turned towards Kal. "What might they have found that is scaring them?"

"I do not know. There were not any particularly powerful weapons, nothing like that on the craft."

Lois nodded slowly as she considered the situation. "I've got to get out there."

"What? Why? This…" He gestured towards the television. "…thing seems to be telling us what is going on."

"The press often knows more than it says," said Lois, grabbing some clothes from her closet and heading for the bathroom. "It can't say anything until it has confirmation, but there have to be rumors. And this is what I do. This is my job."

"You work?"

"I'm a reporter. My job is to dig out the secrets people, especially the government, don't want you to know and reveal those secrets to the public. And I'm good at what I do. In this case, I want to know what's going on in response to your landing before the public does. And the only way I can do that is by being there."

"I do not understand. Do your leaders just stand by and let you do this?"

The question caught Lois off guard. "Are you telling me they don't have reporters on New Krypton?"

"Of course not. The council tells the people what they need to know."

"How can you…"

"But that is beside the point," he interrupted. "You are not to leave this residence."

Lois' eyes flashed. "Excuse me?" If he knew what was good for him, he'd recant that last statement as quickly as possible.

"This is not your problem. When I am well enough, I will go. But until then, you are forbidden to leave your residence."

Lois narrowed her eyes. "You may be the First Lord of New Krypton… Oh, forgive me, former First Lord… But you are in my world now. And I take orders from no man."

"Then it is no wonder you have no man to take care of you."

Lois wasn't entirely sure if she had been more furious before in her entire life. "I don't need a man to 'take care of me,'" she began slowly, every word measured. "And the reason there's no man living here is because I haven't found anyone good enough. And furthermore, you are not my lord and master." Each sentence was louder, less controlled than the one before as the fury inside her increased. "If you want to stop me from leaving this apartment, you're going to have get off your butt and make me. Prove what a 'man' you are. If not, I've got a job to do. And not you… not anyone is going to tell me what I can or can't do." With that, she stormed towards the bathroom.


Even when she finished showering, Lois was still fuming. How dare he be issuing orders? He might have been some high muckety-muck on New Krypton. But right now… he was a guest in her apartment. It would serve him right if she kicked him out. He was just damn lucky she was such a good sport.

She had just finished up and was about to leave the apartment, not even intending to say goodbye, when Kal's voice from the bedroom stopped her.

"What?" she asked, coming to stand in the doorway, arms folded across her chest.

"Before you leave…" Kal seemed to hesitate, acting slightly nervous.

"Yes?" she asked again, extremely curious now about his reasons for wanting to talk to her. Maybe he was about to apologize. That was probably it. No wonder he was acting so funny. The Grand Pooh-Bah of New Krypton was obviously not used to giving apologies.

"Before you go," he began again, "do you think you could do something for me?"

"Yes?" she asked a third time, reasonably certain she was no closer to knowing what he wanted now when he'd first called to her, but suddenly doubting her previous thoughts about what he was going to say. What could he want her to do? And how dare he ask her for anything when he'd tried to order her around before? But… unlike his previous order, he suddenly sounded… almost differential.

"I am wondering if you could help me go to the…"

She raised her eyebrows as she waited for him to finish.

"…the water closet?" he asked, seeming slightly unsure of the expression and unable to meet her eyes directly.

"The…" It took her a moment to figure out what he was talking about. "Oh, you mean the bathroom," she said, unexpectedly amused by the expression he had chosen. Suddenly, what he was asking sunk in and her smile died. He was no longer the only one feeling… uncomfortable. Help him go to the bathroom? Nowhere in the description of her duties was helping him go to the bathroom. Maybe she should just tell him to… To what? Her mind drew a complete blank. Still… She wasn't a professional nurse. And this… No. She couldn't do that. But then, what did she expect him to do? Hold it until he could get up and go on his own. But what if he needed her to stay there with him the whole time to help him stand? How could she possibly survive the embarrassment?

Swallowing hard, she nodded slightly, making her way over to the bed. She couldn't quite look him in the eye as she slipped her arms around him, helping him rise to a seated position.

He was able to swing his feet off the bed on his own. But she almost buckled under his weight as she had to help him to his feet. Taking small steps, she helped him into the bathroom and over to the toilet.

"Do you know how this works?" she asked, the flush in her cheeks growing deeper.

He shook his head, looking at the bowl of water.

"Well… You… Well, you know… In there… Then there's paper for… Well, you know… there. Then you press the handle there and it makes… it flushes and… Well, there's a sink there for washing up. And towels. That's cold water and hot water and you just turn…" She reached over, turning the tap to demonstrate. "I think that's about it. Do you… Are you able… I mean, do you need me to stay here while you…"

"No!" he responded.

"Thank god," she breathed. "Okay, then…" She helped him maintain his balance against the wall before darting from the room, closing the door behind her and leaning against the wall herself. "Call me when you're ready," she called back to him, hoping that he wouldn't have a problem and have to call her before he was finished.

She was relieved when, once he called her, she found him decent and anxious to have her help him back to bed. As soon as he was again safely tucked in, she hurried out the door, wondering if a person could actually die from embarrassment.


Kal struggled to rise from the bed again the moment Lois left the apartment. He really should try to be gone before she returned. For all he knew, she would tell someone he was in her residence — someone capable of putting his picture on that black box. After all, if he'd understood correctly, that was her job — exposing secrets to the world.

It only took a moment for him to realize there was no way he was leaving this bed — much less getting out of this apartment. He'd been able to go to the bathroom by himself, standing on one leg and even taking one small hop over to wash his hands in the sink. But he hadn't, until this moment, realized exactly how much work Lois had been doing just to get him out of the bed.

Still, if she was intending to expose him, she could have done so at any point the previous night. So why would she wait until now? It made no sense. And besides… there was something about her, something he couldn't quite put a finger on, but it made him inclined to trust her. He'd tried, of course, to read her thoughts, to be sure she had no intention of betraying him to the black-box-people. But he'd been unable to do so. He assumed that was because she was of a different species — or at least at a different point in the evolutionary process, if his theory about the people of Earth were true. But as a result, he hadn't been able to get definitive proof that she would not betray him.

Finally, realizing he had no choice but to trust her, Kal relaxed. He wasn't going anywhere. If she chose to betray him, he had no way to prevent her anyway. So there wasn't much point worrying about it.

Still, he wasn't sure he'd ever met a woman who made him quite so furious — or confused him quite so much. She seemed willing to stand up against her own government to protect him. And yet, when he'd given her a direct order, she'd acted as if she didn't know her place in the order of things. He let out a breath. Lois of the House of Lane was definitely a puzzle. He just hoped that she continued to be on his side. Maybe he should have tried to smooth things over with her before she left.

He gave his head a shake. What had even possessed him to think that? One did not 'smooth things over' with women. Maybe Nor was right. If he couldn't even control a single woman, one without a husband or father to protect her, maybe he wasn't fit to lead.

He closed his eyes, trying to push the uncomfortable thought from his mind. The sun coming in the window began spilling across the bed. And although the warmth against his skin felt… great… still, warnings about a planet with a yellow sun plagued him. He had to try to stay out of the sun. But it felt so good, as if the warmth was sinking into his skin, actually healing him.

Unable to actually get off the bed, he still managed to move out of the way of the sun's rays. Totally exhausted now, he forced his mind to go blank. He'd just rest for a moment and then figure out what it was about Lois that had him feeling so off balance.

As he drifted off to sleep, he was vaguely aware that the sun had moved enough so that the rays were again falling across him. But… It was too much effort to move. Besides, it felt so, so good.


Leaving the apartment, Lois headed towards Star Labs. She hoped to have time to talk to Dr. Klein before going to the Governor's mansion. She briefly wondered why she was even doing this for that male-chauvinist creep currently sleeping in her bed. "Then it's no wonder you have no man to take care of you," she muttered sarcastically under her breath. Of all the chauvinistic, arrogant… She'd been engaged to the third richest man in the world. She snorted, thinking of how Kal would react to that little tidbit. If she'd wanted a man to 'take care' of her, Lex would certainly have fit that bill. Yet, she'd been the one to call off the wedding.

Still, why should she care how he would react to her almost-marriage to Lex? Kal was the most infuriating man she'd ever met. Maybe that was why he'd been overthrown. Maybe she'd have overthrown him, too. Perhaps she should be writing a congratulatory letter to Lord Nor instead of harboring the deposed leader of New Krypton.

Maybe she should just do as he had suggested — and let him go as soon as he was well enough to do so. After all, what was he to her? Stubborn. Demanding. Issuing commands. Everything she'd always hated in a man. And yet… there was something about him…

No! That was crazy! And she was crazy for even thinking like that. She was helping him only because of the connection she had made between him and that ball Wayne Irig had found.

She stopped. Star Labs was right in front of her. She'd worry about what to do with whatever information she could obtain later — when she wasn't quite as mad at Kal as she was at the moment. Now it was just too confusing.

Not seeing a parking spot, Lois pulled her jeep to a stop in front of a fire hydrant. Getting out, she headed for the doors.

"Sorry, miss," said a guard just inside the front doors of the building. "No one is allowed inside today without a special pass."

"I'm not just anyone," Lois responded. "I'm… a friend of Dr. Klein's. Just give him a call — let him know his… niece is here."

The guard picked up a nearby phone and placed a call while Lois held her breath. Truth was, she'd never actually had occasion to meet Dr. Klein. She only hoped he had a…

"Sorry," said the guard. "But Dr. Klein said he's an only child."

Damn. Lois took one final look past the guard before realizing that the security in the lobby seemed especially heavy today. Whatever was going on, someone was determined to keep it from the public. Sighing, she turned and headed for the door. First, she'd go to the Governor's mansion, see what she could learn there, and then she'd return here, try to find a way to get the information she needed.


The swarm of reporters in front of the Governor's mansion was made up of the usual suspects. Lois was confronted by the standard, 'Quit pushing, Lane,' as she made her way through the crowd, looking for someone from the Daily Planet. She rolled her eyes when she spotted Ralph. Still… Taking a deep breath, she made her way over to him.

"Hi, Ralph. What's happening?"

"Lois," Ralph responded, turning towards her. "I heard you were off sick for the day. Picked quite a day to get sick, too. It's been a madhouse. So what're you doing here?"

"Just checking things out for myself. Any word yet on what the Governor is going to say?"

"Well, I'm not sure I should be telling you anything. After all, Perry assigned this to me. And I'd hate to have you scoop it right out from under me."

"Come on, Ralph. Spill it."

"I'll tell you what, Lane. You agree to have dinner with me and I'll tell you anything you want to know. It's a win-win situation."

Lois resisted the urge to hit him. "Just spill it, Ralph."

"Okay, fine. Scuttlebutt is that he's going to declare martial law."


"Something found on that spacecraft has freaked everyone out."

"Any word on what might have been found?"

Ralph shrugged.

"What else can you tell me?"

"Word going around is that they are waiting to get roadblocks set up on all the roads out of Metropolis before the Governor will announce martial law. No vehicles will be allowed in or out of the city without a thorough search. And they are going to suspend civil rights and begin conducting house to house searches."

"What are they looking for?"

Ralph shrugged.

Lois clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. Maybe if she got moving now, she could get Kal out of the city before the roadblocks were set up. The signal that it was too late would be if the Governor… A sudden change in the atmosphere told her something was up. She looked towards the steps at front of the mansion just in time to see the Governor step out in front of a sea of microphones. Too late.



Ralph had been right. In Lois' experience, that was probably a first. Martial law. The suspension of civil rights. The national guard having the right to search homes without warrants. The Governor had said that there would be a systematic search made of every building in the entire city. The search could take some time. That was the only good news. The bad news was two-fold. First, Lois still had no idea what they were looking for. Second, it was only a matter of time before her apartment would be searched. And before that happened…

Lois pulled her jeep off to the side of the road in front of a payphone. Jumping out, she rushed to the phone and placed a call.

"Hi, Jimmy. I need you to do something for me."

"Sure, Lois. What's up?"

"I need to know exactly where every roadblock is being set up. And I need to know the search pattern being used to search the city."

"Sure. But… Well, it almost sounds like you need this so that you can figure out how and when to sneak something out of the city."

"Cute, Jimmy. I'll be in shortly. Can you have that information for me then?"

"Yeah, sure. What's going on, Lois? I thought you were off sick today."

"Change of plans," Lois said. "Anyway, I'll be in as soon as I can. There's something I need to do first."


The worst part of any stakeout was the boredom. The sun had set and Lois was into what she called 'stage two' boredom — the point at which she was ready to crawl out of her skin — when the door to Star Labs suddenly opened and into the street stepped a man she'd seen several times during news conferences — Dr. Bernard Klein.

Quickly getting out of the jeep, she followed him until he disappeared into a parking garage. Running then, she closed the distance between them.

"Dr. Klein," she yelled.

Dr. Klein stopped, turning to look at her.

"I need to speak to you for a moment."

"Do I know you?"

"Not officially. But you might have read some of my stories. I'm a reporter for the Daily Planet. Lois…"

"…Lane. Yes. I'm a big fan of your work. What can I do for you?"

"I think you know."

Dr. Klein tensed. "Ms. Lane, I'm afraid I don't have anything…"

"Dr. Klein, you can't approve of what is happening. We're under martial law. People's civil rights have been suspended. Don't you think people at least have the right to know why?"

Klein looked at her for a long moment. "I'm just not sure…"

"I won't use your name. I promise. And I have never violated my word to a source."

Klein let out a breath. "Okay. But… Let's sit in my car as we talk. I'm sort of nervous about talking out here."

Lois looked around. She couldn't see another living soul. But given how jumpy Dr. Klein was, it was probably easiest just to go along with his request. She nodded and then was silent as she followed him to a small, red sports car.

"Okay, so what's going on, Dr. Klein?" Lois asked once they were both safely inside. "What did they find in that spacecraft?"

"Evidence that there was an alien on that craft — and that it didn't die in the landing."

"So… they suspect that there is an alien loose in the city?" Okay, they could deal with that. After all, they were likely looking for a little green man, not the infuriating, although admittedly gorgeous specimen that was currently lying, barely clothed, in her bed. Her mind flashed back to the vast expanse of skin she'd seen while helping him to the bathroom. He certainly seemed to have all the parts of a man. The mere memory caused heat to rise in her cheeks.

"That's not the worst part," Klein said, dragging Lois out of her unintentional daydream.

"Then what is?" she asked.

"Well, the controls and chairs and… well, the entire set up in the craft indicates that the alien is about the same height and weight as a human. Two arms. Two legs. One head. Everything about the craft is set up for someone who looks completely like us."

"Just because something has two arms and legs doesn't mean it looks human."

"True. But then we found something…" He reached into his inside jacket pocket and withdrew a picture. "I brought a copy of it with me. Given the panic the authorities are in, I was afraid they might try to cover this up by destroying the picture. So I made a copy.

"The reason they are so panicked is that they think this picture proves that the alien looks human. And if that is the case, it could infiltrate society without anyone knowing it was even here. Doing… who knows what damage. It might even send reports back to its home planet about our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities."

Klein handed Lois the picture.

Lois couldn't quite stifle the automatic gasp that rose in her throat as she looked at the picture of Kal, standing straight, looking proud, almost aloof, his hair slicked back, dressed in some sort of ceremonial robe — all in all, looking very regal. Well… Kal had told her he was some bigwig and town halls, city halls, that type of place often put up pictures of the president. It very much reminded her of that type of picture. But with this picture… they would have no problems recognizing Kal when they found him.

"Can I keep this?" Lois asked, indicating the picture.

"Sorry, Ms. Lane. That is one thing that will link me to this leak to the press. Only a very small number of people have seen this picture so far."

"But what about the men conducting the searches? Surely they have seen this picture."

"My understanding is that they have been given police sketches and been told only that this individual has information about the craft that is vital to national security. But the photo itself and the fact that it was found on the ship is being kept under tight security. We don't know, of course, if this picture is of the individual who was in the craft. All we know is that it was mounted inside the craft. And why would an alien craft have a picture of a human? So they will look for this individual — but be asking everyone for identification. They are to bring in anyone without it."

"But that could mean bringing in thousands of people. Illegal immigrants, especially, wouldn't have proper identification."

"True. But we found blood in the craft — alien blood. Once we have everyone without identification in a controlled environment, we can run blood tests. It shouldn't take us long to identify the alien."

"But…" Suddenly, Lois was struck by an inspiration. "Maybe the reason there was a picture of the human on the craft is because the craft was actually made on Earth. Isn't that a more reasonable explanation than thinking an alien would look like a human?" If she could raise doubt in the mind of one of the most prominent scientists involved in this case, it might buy her some time to figure out what to do with Kal.

Unfortunately, Dr. Klein immediately shook his head. "There are alloys in that ship that don't come from Earth. That craft was made somewhere in outer space."


Kal awoke, missing the feel of the sun's warmth on his skin. In spite of his determination to stay out of it, he'd found himself, during those brief periods when he was awake, craving it. He wondered if a yellow sun was somehow addictive to Kryptonians — acted like some sort of drug. Maybe that was why Kryptonians were forbidden to come to planets with yellow suns.

That theory was further proven by the fact that now that the sun had set, he missed it. On the other hand, other than the black box which was still playing softly on the far side of the room, without the sun, it was dark. So it wasn't necessarily an addiction that was causing him to miss the sun.

"Lois?" he called out. When there was no answer, he took another approach. "Lights on." When nothing happened, he tried again, louder this time. "Lights on." Still, no light flooded the room at his command.

Remembering the device Lois had used to turn on the black box, he reached over and picked it up. He tried pushing numerous buttons, turning up the volume, turning down the volume and changing the picture on the black box to… He tilted his head to the side as he watched the barely clothed woman lying horizontal on the screen, her legs raised about five inches off the ground.

"…and one and two and three and down." She lowered her legs. "And one and two and three and up." She raised her legs again. "And one and two and three and down. And by now you should begin to feel the burn in your stomach. And one and two and three and down. And one and two and three…"

Kal's eyebrows rose into his hairline. Still, he forced his eyes away from the sight as he directed his mind again to his current problem — the lack of light.

He tried to sit up, surprised when he was able to do so without much difficulty. Carefully, he placed his feet on the floor and tried rising. He smiled when he was standing on his feet. That sleep must really have helped.

He cautiously made his way around the room, lit only by the blue light from the black box. There had to be a way to make light. But how? Spotting a switch of some sort on the wall near the door, he made his way over. He smiled at the small victory when he flicked the switch and light flooded the room.

Okay, so now what? Lois had not yet returned. Had something happened to her? Or was her absence proof that she had betrayed him. No. No, there was no point thinking that way. He was either going to trust Lois or he wasn't. And so far, she'd done nothing to betray his trust. She might still be the most infuriating woman he'd ever met. But nothing she'd done had led him to believe she wasn't trustworthy.

He ran a hand over the grimy stubble covering his cheeks and chin, suddenly feeling very much the need to be clean. How could he expect to think clearly when he was so grubby? He recalled what he'd seen in the bathroom. Making his way back there, he smiled. What he needed right now was to be clean. And it seemed Lois had the means to accomplish that.

Once Kal had finished his… he thought it was called a shower, if he recalled correctly …he began searching for something sharp to remove the hair off his face. He finally found a small, pink device with a sharp blade inside. He moved it across his wet bristles, satisfied that he'd found the right instrument when it removed the stubble. It was crude, but did the job. He was quite pleased with himself when he was finally able to study his smooth reflection in the mirror — even if he couldn't help but grimace at the number of small cuts he'd left behind.

He found it amazing how much each of these little victories meant to him. Now the only task left was to find his clothes.

Locating his shirt and trousers was not difficult. On the other hand, when he picked them up, he realized that they were not much more than rags. She'd obviously been forced to cut them off his body. Still… he had to find something. He couldn't very well be almost naked when she returned.

And so began his search of her apartment. Locating a shirt that fit was not difficult. He found one he suspected was far too big for her. It had a large number on both the front and back. But when it came to finding something to cover his legs, his task became much more difficult.

He paused when he found an item he suspected would work. It had a stretchy waist and at least he didn't need to worry about how far it would come down his legs. Besides, it sort of reminded him of the outfits the honor guard wore in the royal court. Satisfied, he put it on before resuming his search of her home — studying pictures and ornaments, trying to get a feel for the infuriating woman who had taken him in and cared for him even after he had held a knife to her throat. Should he leave before she returned or not?


"Where have you been?"

Lois looked up, startled out of her thoughts when she stepped off the elevator and heard Jimmy's voice. "I told you I had something to do, Jimmy," she said as she headed down the ramp into the newsroom.

"That was hours ago. I was just about to give up on you. Oh, and Scardino was looking for you."

Lois flinched.

"So was your dad."

Lois' eyebrows rose. She headed directly for her desk. If her father had called, it was undoubtedly about Kal. She needed to talk to him immediately — before that sketch of Kal hit the airwaves. She had to admit she was nervous about that conversation. After all, her father wasn't always the most understanding person. Still, there was little choice — now that she knew what had been found inside that craft. He was the one person who could betray Kal to the authorities. The mere thought of what the government would do to Kal if they got their hands on him left her feeling cold inside. No — even if he was a male-chauvinist pig, she couldn't let that happen.

That was where the final line was for Lois. After her fight with him this morning, she realized she might never exactly like Kal. But what the government would do to him was unconscionable. She wouldn't wish that on her worst enemy.

As for Dan… Dan was probably just wondering where she was. After all, it was after seven and she hadn't been at home to be picked up for their date. She could only hope that Kal hadn't answered the door. She doubted he would. But if he did… that would lead to more questions than Lois was willing to answer. She was only grateful that her relationship with Dan hadn't progressed to the point where he had his own keys.

On the other hand, she wouldn't particularly mind for Kal to realize that some men wanted her. Not that it mattered to her what Kal thought. It didn't. Not at all. She'd just like to see him, for once, at a loss for words.

"So did you get the things I asked for?" Lois asked Jimmy as she arrived at her desk.

"Yeah, sure." He pointed to a stack of papers on her desk. "It's all there."

"Thanks, Jimmy."

"Oh, and Perry was looking for you."

Naturally. Nodding, she picked up the phone. First, her father. Then, Perry. Dan… well, Dan could wait.

"Hi, Dad," she said when a familiar voice sounded over the phone line. Had he realized that Kal was the alien everyone was looking for? Or had he discovered that Kal had some other problem that he had overlooked? Whatever happened, she had to convince him to keep what he'd seen the previous night to himself.

"Hey, pumpkin. I've been trying to get hold of you for hours."

"I've been working on the story. I assume you've seen the news."

"I have. But that's not why I'm calling. I was just wondering how your friend is doing."

"When I left him, he was weak, but conscious and talking.

"Good. Good. Well, that's really all I wanted to know. So I guess I'll let you get back to…"

"Before you go, Dad…" Lois said, interrupting him before he hung up. When he fell silent, she glanced around to make sure no one was close enough to overhear her. "I need to ask you for a favor."

"What's that?"

She hesitated. What she was about to do would raise a lot of questions in her father's mind. But what were the chances that he wouldn't eventually see the sketch of Kal? When it did get out, everyone would be looking at it — looking for someone exactly like Kal. And if she didn't say something now, she might not get another chance.

"What is it, pumpkin?" he asked, reminding her that she was taking too long to make her decision.

"I need you not to ask any questions, but… no matter what you see… what you might learn… you can't tell anyone about the man you treated at my house last night."

For a long moment, silence reigned supreme.

"Are you sure you know what you're doing, honey?"

She closed her eyes. "I do, Dad. You're just going to have to trust me."

He seemed to contemplate what she was saying for far longer than Lois could stand. Still, eventually she heard him let out a slow breath. "Okay. I'll trust your instincts on this. But if you get yourself in over your head, you have to promise to call me."

"Thanks, Dad. I will."

Hanging up the phone, she headed towards Perry's office. She knocked on the doorframe and then leaned against it.

Perry looked up, a huge smile spreading across his face. "I knew a cold wouldn't keep you away today. Ralph told me you were at the Governor's press conference. Do you have a story for me?"

"No. But… Perry, I've got…" She hesitated. How on earth was she going to sell this?

"What is it, honey?"

"Look, I need some time off."

"What? Now?"

"Right now."

"But… Lois, this is the biggest story since… well, since the ice age. Aliens in Metropolis. How can you, of all people, walk away from that?"

"My reasons are… personal."

Perry got up from behind his desk, coming around to where she was standing. "You're going to have to do better than that, Lois. I've got all my people covering this story. We need you here now. Can't this wait?"

"No, Perry, it can't. I'm sorry, but a friend needs my help. I need to take some time off to do that."

Perry shook his head. "I'm sorry. I can't approve this. I need my best reporter on this story. You're just going to have to wait until…"

"Are you going to force me to quit?"

Perry fell silent.

Lois swallowed hard, almost unable to believe she'd just made that threat. Was she really willing to give up a job she loved for an alien she didn't really know and wasn't even sure she liked? She just hoped it wouldn't come to that. Her heart pounded painfully as she waited for Perry's answer.


Lois juggled her briefcase and a pizza box in one hand and her keys in the other. She wasn't entirely sure what New Kryptonians ate — what if they ate human flesh? Kal might look human, act human, even go to the bathroom like a human male, but he wasn't human. So who knew what he ate. The unexpected thought caused her to squirm slightly. Still, pizza had to taste better than human flesh.

She inserted the key into the first lock, wondering if Kal were even inside. After all, they hadn't parted on the best of terms. On the other hand, he hadn't exactly been in any condition to leave. But with that ego of his, she could almost picture him crawling out of her apartment on his hands and knees. That thought touched a nerve. For a reason, she couldn't name, she didn't want him to be gone.

"An awfully big pizza for one person."

She flinched. Dan. Turning, she looked at him, forcing herself to smile. She had hoped that when he hadn't found her home, he'd have left, deciding that she'd been detained by the story that was currently unfolding in Metropolis. She had to find a way to get rid of him before opening the door. If he saw Kal… She hated to think what might happen then.

"Sorry, Dan. But I'm sure you know what's been going on in Metropolis. Perry's had me running all day. I should have called and cancelled our date, but… I guess it just slipped my mind."

"Damn. And here I thought you'd decided to get a big pizza so that we could eat in tonight — and then I could tuck you in."

She let out a breath. "Dan, I told you before that I'm not ready yet to take our relationship to that level."

"So then… how long before you are ready?" He attempted to take her keys.

"No, it's okay," Lois said, moving her hand.

"At least let me unlock the door. After all, you've got that to hold." He gestured to the briefcase and pizza box.

"No, it's okay." She stepped up to the door, set her briefcase down, and began working the locks herself, hoping that at least her bedroom door was closed because she had no idea how she was going to explain having a man in her bed. Of course, that assumed Kal was still there.

"So who's coming over?"

"Excuse me?"

"That pizza. You really don't think you're going to be able to eat all of that yourself, do you?"

"No, of course not. I just thought that, since the next few days are bound to be hectic, it might be smart to have some cold pizza in the fridge."

"Why don't I at least come in and eat with you?"

"I'm just going to be grabbing a slice of pizza and sitting down in front of my laptop." She gave him what she hoped looked like an apologetic smile.

"So now I come second to a laptop?"

She let out a breath, stopping her task of undoing the locks. "Of course not." She looked at him for a long moment. "It's not personal, Dan. But you know what's going on out there. And I'm a reporter. It's what I do. This is the biggest story since the ice age. I'm sorry, but I'm going to be tied up for the next few days at least."

Dan reached out, turning the last key in the lock. Unable to think of how to prevent him, Lois stood by and watched him open the door. When it swung open, she glanced nervously inside, noting that the door to her room was closed. She let out a breath of relief. Kal must at least be strong enough to have gotten up and closed the door. That was important — not only because of Dan's presence, but also for what she had in mind given what she'd learned today.

"Call me when you want to get serious about us, Lois," Dan said, turning and walking away.

"Dan…" she called after him, but he kept moving. Watching him disappear, she sighed before turning to walk into her apartment. She didn't have time to worry about Dan at the moment. She'd straighten it all out after this was over — assuming he was still interested, of course. Frowning, she closed the door and turned the locks, puzzling over why it no longer seemed to matter if he was.


Kal was surprised to discover exactly how easily sound made its way through these primitive walls. Hearing the voices outside, he recognized one. Lois. The second, that of a man, caused him some concern. Had she brought someone back here with her? He'd listened in, trying to decide on the appropriate course of action. Maybe he should have left when he had the chance. Maybe he had, for the second time in his life, trusted an untrustworthy woman.

He shook the thought from his mind to concentrate on what was taking place outside the apartment. It didn't take him long to realize that Lois was trying to get rid of the man. It also didn't take him long to realize that there was some sort of relationship between this man and Lois. He found that thought unsettling. It wasn't that he was jealous. He wasn't. Why would he care what that infuriating woman did? His only concern was whether she would betray him.

When he heard the keys in the locks, he got up, closed the door to her room and turned out the lights. Still, he continued to listen until he was satisfied that the man had left. He heard Lois step inside her residence and close the door. His heart felt unexpectedly light when she opened the door to the room and his eyes met hers. She'd come back — alone.

At first, her expression seemed anxious and then, as she took in his appearance, her expression softened and she smiled.

"I like the outfit," she said softly.

He glanced down at himself.

"I guess we need to pick you up some clothes."

"That would be appreciated."

She smiled. "In the meantime, if you feel up to it, I picked up a pizza."

He crinkled his eyebrows.

"It's food," she clarified.

Not entirely sure, and yet feeling a rumbling in his stomach, he followed her into the kitchen where he saw a large red box sitting in the middle of the table. She gestured him to a chair before getting some plates and cutlery and placing them on the table. These were followed by a couple of glasses and a carton of something from the cold box. She poured some white liquid into the two glasses before setting one in front of him and taking a seat.

He picked up the glass and sniffed it.

She set a small container in front of him. "The milk is to help you take two of those." She pointed to the container.

"Milk?" Kal gasped, looking at the glass in horror. On New Krypton only infants drank the milk of their mothers. "Mother's milk?"

"Wh…" Suddenly, a smile appeared on Lois' face. "No. Cow's milk. On Earth only infants drink the milk of their mother."

Still slightly suspicious, he looked at the milk again. He wasn't entirely sure what a cow was. But at least it wasn't human milk. Did he dare? He cautiously raised the glass to his lips and took a small sip. Then, liking the way it tasted, took a larger sip. "It is good," he confirmed, setting the glass of milk down to examine the container she'd set beside it. "What is it?"

"Antibiotics. They will help you fight off the infection from your injuries."

He hesitated only for a second before opening the container, removing two pills, popping them into his mouth. If she wanted to betray him, she'd already had plenty of chances. It was time for him to trust her — the way she was trusting him.

"You clean up pretty good," she said before taking a sip of her milk.

He smiled slightly when he realized that not only did she seem unable to look directly at him, but a blush was also flushing her cheeks — almost as if she hadn't meant to say that last comment out loud. Given their fight when she'd left, he supposed he understood that. In spite of the lightness of their conversation, there was a strange kind of tension in the air between them.

"About this morning," she said, almost as if she had again read his mind.


She let out a breath. "Look, Kal, I know you were some bigwig on New Krypton. And I don't know exactly how things work there — and honestly, I don't exactly care. But if we're going to spend time together, you've got to learn that I'm not one of your servants. I don't take orders."

He nodded slowly. She was right. She was taking on her own government to help him. He had to try to remember that. Still… "I will keep that in mind. But, Lois, you are going to have to give me some time getting used to that. I have been giving orders all my life. And I am used to being obeyed."

"Then consider meeting me a learning experience." There was a teasing tone in her voice, although underneath he had no doubt she was deadly serious.

"Fair enough. Well, in that case…" He hesitated slightly. Maybe he should have asked before going ahead and using her facilities. "I hope it is acceptable that I borrowed your bathroom."

"And my clothes," she added, a grin again pulling at the corners of her mouth.

He looked down at his outfit. Why was it that every time she referred to what he was wearing she seemed almost… well, amused?

"I hope you don't mind my asking, but…" She paused. "…any particular reason you chose to wear my skirt?"

"Is that what it is called?" he asked, looking down at the garment he'd chosen to cover the lower half of his body. "It had a stretchy waist and I did not have to worry about it being long enough for me. Why? Is there a problem?"

"No. No." She seemed to assure him far too quickly. "Well, not if you're Scottish."


"Never mind. Although… are you wearing it Scottish style?"

He looked down at himself. "I do not know. Am I?"

She cleared her throat and quickly changed the subject. "So what do you say we eat?" she asked, opening the box.

Something in the way she asked told him that he'd been forgiven. His heart suddenly felt much lighter. It was an odd feeling — this need to have her like him. Never in his life could he remember caring if someone liked him. Not even Zara.

The smells that filled the room got Kal's attention, wiping other thoughts from his mind. He had no ideas what the people of Earth ate, but this smelled wonderful. His stomach rumbled again.

"Go ahead," Lois said.

He reached in and picked up a piece, smelling it before taking a cautious bite.

"This is wonderful," he said even before he'd had a chance to swallow. He took another much larger bite. "What is it called again?"

"Pizza." Lois laughed before she too reached into the box for a piece.

The next few minutes, Kal was completely oblivious to anything other than the delicious taste of bite after bite of pizza, stopping only to wash it down with the white stuff that she'd informed him was milk. It tasted good. Food on New Krypton was meant simply as a means to provide nourishment, but this… It was an experience for the senses.

Suddenly, he reached in the pizza box to discover that there was only one more piece remaining. He looked at Lois.

"Go ahead," she said, obviously getting quite a kick out of how quickly he was devouring the pizza.

"But did you not tell that man that you wanted to put some away to eat tomorrow?"

"You heard that?"

"Thin walls," he explained, although undoubtedly she must have known that.

"Where were you listening from?"

"The bedroom — why?"

"Because…" She looked at the door and then at her bedroom. They hadn't been talking that loudly. He'd obviously heard much more than a normal human would have. "You've got incredible hearing."

"Do I?"

She nodded.

"Oh. I was worried. Because if I could hear you as well as I did, anyone could have listened to our conversation earlier."

"Kyptonians must have better hearing than Earthlings. After all, no one from Earth could have heard us, Kal. Not through so many walls — or doors. And believe me, I'm an expert on just how much can be heard through a door," she added, giving him a smile. "Anyway, eat the last piece. I just told Dan what I did about the pizza to keep him from suspecting I had someone here."

Kal hesitated for a moment before grabbing the last piece.

"But… Well, that does bring up a point," Lois continued while Kal ate. "Have you been watching the television?"

"You mean the black box?"

She nodded.

"Mostly I just slept. Why?"

"Because, Kal, we've got a problem," she said before filling him in on what she'd learned during the day.

"Then I will leave. I am placing you in danger." He rose to his feet.

"No!" she exclaimed, jumping to her feet. "Kal, you'll never survive out there on your own. But I've got a plan."

He listened in silence as she withdrew a map of the city from her briefcase and laid her plan out for him. It was a good plan. Even if he was the commander, she seemed to have a good grasp of stealthy missions. He'd asked a number of questions, looking at the map she'd brought and questioning her decisions. Yet with every question, she seemed to have an answer. At the end, he fell silent, deep in thought.

"So what do you think?" she finally asked.

"Tell me why you are doing this — helping me even when it means going against your own government."

"I don't know," she answered simply. "I guess… I guess it just seems right."

He nodded slowly, thinking about her answer. In some ways, it reflected his feelings. For a reason he couldn't name, trusting her felt right. Still… "Are you certain you want to do this? If we get caught, your people are likely to see you as a traitor."

"My only question is whether you think you can do your part," she responded. "I mean, you seem a lot better this evening. Still… we can't get out there and then find out that you can't do it."

"I will do what needs to be done," he replied. She might be capable. But he was not about to be outdone. If she could do it, so could he.

"It's just… with your injuries. I'd really like to wait another day, but with the search pattern I saw, I'm just not sure we can afford to wait that long. And so far, they haven't imposed a curfew… Moving around freely in the dark will make it less likely that we'll be caught. I just hope you're up to it."

"I will be fine, Lois," Kal told her. Even if he wasn't fine, he would make sure she never knew that. Besides… he was slightly surprised by how much better he felt this evening. Maybe it was the pizza.

"Okay, I've got a couple of calls to make," she said. "And then, as much as I hate this, I think we need to leave."


Lois was pleased to see Jimmy pulling up outside her apartment. She grabbed the bag on the seat next to her and exited her jeep.

She'd called Jimmy before leaving on her shopping trip, telling him what she needed him to do. Then she'd gone to buy Kal some clothes that he could actually be seen wearing in public. Not knowing exactly what size to get, she'd been forced to ask one of the sales clerks who was approximately the same size as Kal what size he wore — and then she'd purchased three pairs of jeans. The size the clerk told her, one size larger and one size smaller. She could always return the clothes that didn't fit later.

She'd also picked up a sweater for him to wear over the football jersey he'd obviously dug out of the back of her closet. And she'd purchased a package of boxer shorts — which seemed a rough approximation of what he'd been wearing under his clothes — and socks. Finally, she'd picked up a few sundries — toothbrush, razor — although she suspected he'd used hers that morning — shaving cream and deodorant. She figured he could get away with wearing his long black coat and boots for now. After all, the color did a lot to hide the blood and dirt stains. The rest would have to wait until they had more time.

So Jimmy's timing was perfect. As soon as she satisfied herself that Jimmy knew his part, she'd have Kal get dressed and they could put this plan into motion.

"You're sure you understand?" Lois asked, taking her keys and handing them to Jimmy.

"Yeah. I drive your jeep through the roadblocks, take I95 south and get off at exit 7. Then I go to the Phillips 66 and leave your jeep, catching a cab back to town. I think I can remember all that. What I don't understand is why I'm doing this? And why can't I take my car?"

"I need to borrow your car."

"You don't have drugs in the car or something, do you?" Jimmy asked, only half joking.

"No, Jimmy," Lois responded, rolling her eyes. "So are you going to help me out or not?"

"Of course I'll help you out. But… well, what's this all about?"

"I can't tell you that."

Jimmy let out a breath. "Fine."

"Are you comfortable doing this?"

"Yeah, sure. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Right?"

"It will be fine, Jimmy. I promise, you won't be in any danger."

"Oh, hey, danger doesn't bother me."

"Of course not. Oh, and here's money for the cab." She set her bag down to dig some money out of her purse and handed it to him. "Now… Just one more thing. I need the keys to your car."



"So what do you think?" Kal asked, coming out to show Lois his new jeans.

She felt a not entirely unfamiliar rush of heat. Who knew he'd look that damn good in jeans? "Turn around," she suggested. "Okay, now I need you to bend over," she said, trying to sound as serious as possible.

He glanced at her over his shoulder.

"That's the way you tell if jeans fit," she said innocently.

Seemingly satisfied, he bent over.

Oh yeah. The way the jeans stretched across the muscles of his posterior made her… She drew in a breath through her teeth.

"Hey!" he responded, sounding slightly outraged as he straightened and turned towards her.

Damn. She'd forgotten about his excellent hearing. "What?" she asked, trying to keep the heat she was feeling out of both her voice and her cheeks. "Yep. I think those fit fine. So… how about we get ready to head out?" She turned then, proceeding to put clothes in the small pack she'd pulled out of her closet from her student days. Only then did she allow herself to smile as she thought back to her observance of his butt. She had to admit, it was fantastic. For a male-chauvinist pig, he sure had a great butt.

Of course, before he went to buy jeans on his own, she probably should tell him that bending over so that he could be observed from behind wasn't exactly a necessary requirement. She had to fight back a chuckle as she imagined the face of the salesgirl when he said, 'What do you think?' before turning around and bending over.

"Are you ready to go?" Kal asked, bringing Lois' thoughts back to the present.


Lois glanced over at Kal. His head was against the headrest and his eyes were closed. She was more than a little concerned. Only last night, he'd been completely incapacitated. Was this trip going to be too much for him?

Oh, sure, he'd seemed fine when she'd gone back to her apartment, but this trip was bound to be difficult. Still… she hadn't seen much choice. All the roads out of Metropolis had been blocked, every car was being searched. This was the only way. If only they could be sure no one would search her apartment within the next twenty-four hours, she would have elected to leave this for another day.

Besides, Kal wasn't the only one tired. She hadn't been able to get much sleep the previous night. A few broken hours at most. But they really had to do this now — or risk having Kal fall into the government's hands for who knew what type of interrogation and or even, possibly, experimentation. She could almost hear the arguments now. He's not human — so he doesn't have rights. How many times had that claim been made of various groups throughout history? She would not allow that to happen. And she knew of only one place where he would be safe. But that meant getting Kal out of Metropolis — now!

The streets were filled with people — most of whom seemed to be protesting martial law. After seeing the protests tonight, she had no doubt that a curfew would soon be imposed — maybe as early as tomorrow.

Turning off the main streets, she managed to find back roads through which she was able to slip, one after another, until she spotted what she was looking for. A sign showing the way to the New Troy Bluestone State Park. The park was a wilderness preserve for… she couldn't remember off the top of her head what they were preserving with this park. Some type of bird, but she couldn't remember which one. But she knew this park. It was where the high school kids participated in what was almost a national pastime — parking. And leaving Jimmy's vehicle in a place known for parked vehicles made for less chance that someone would report it before Jimmy was able to pick it up.

Driving into the park, she was glad to see that the gravel roads had been plowed since the last snowfall. She continued to drive. The more of this park she could drive, the less walking there would be. And that would definitely be better for both of them. Finally, however, the road ended.

Lois shut down the car and extinguished the lights before turning to look at Kal. Realizing the car had stopped, he opened his eyes.

"We walk from here," she said before opening the door and disembarking the vehicle. She pulled a large flashlight out of her pack and turned it on. "Ready?" she asked, looking at where he was now standing outside the car. When he nodded, she headed towards the trees. She knew there was a path — she'd been on it years ago. The only problem was finding it.


It felt like an eternity had passed and Lois was no longer certain they were even going in the right direction. But since the only other option was to sit down and give up, she kept putting one foot in front of the other.

She could hear Kal's increasingly heavy breathing behind her. She knew he must be in pain, but so far not one word of complaint had left his lips. She pushed a cold, wet branch out of the way. Her breath caught in her throat. Lights. Up ahead. She only hoped it was what it was supposed to be and not lights from Metropolis, proving that they had been walking in a circle.

Still, she headed towards them, down an embankment and across an indentation in the earth to head up the hill on the other side. A final rush of adrenalin allowed her to climb the hill quickly. Reaching the top, she let out a breath, not sure she'd ever been so happy to see a Phillips 66 in her entire life.

She turned to look at Kal, only then realizing he was no longer with her. Panicked, she swung her flashlight back down the hill to see that Kal had stopped half way up, his hands resting on his upper calves, bent over as he struggled to catch his breath.

She skirted back down the hill to him. "Hey, come on," she whispered, wrapping an arm around him in an effort to help him straighten up. "We're almost there."

"I am fine," he said immediately, pushing her arm away.

"You're not starting that macho crap again, are you?" she asked in frustration. "Look, Kal, twenty-four hours ago you were mumbling in some fever induced hallucination. Surely not even your best troops would reject assistance in that situation — even if it did come from a woman."

He looked at her for a moment before nodding.

"Good," she said, wrapping her arm around his waist. She grew suddenly concerned when she realized exactly how much help he needed to climb the remaining distance up the embankment.


Jimmy took another sip of coffee. Even the large amount of milk he'd added did little to quell the bitter taste. He looked out the window for what felt like the millionth time. He set down the cup and stared hard as two shadows appeared over the side of the hill. It took him a moment to determine that they were heading for Lois' jeep. Throwing a couple of bucks on the table, he rushed from the restaurant and headed at full speed towards the…

His pace increased when he realized that one of the people was Lois and the other, holding her, making sure she couldn't escape, was the man from the drawing Eduardo had brought back to the newsroom late that evening. He'd known something was wrong when Lois had called him. And now he knew what. That man, the one the national guard was so determined to find, had somehow taken Lois hostage.

"Yaaaahhhhhh!" he yelled, launching himself in the air, aiming directly for the man's chest.

Lois and the man seemed to look at him in horror for a moment and then… Jimmy could see nothing else as he crashed into the man, sending both of them to the ground. Jimmy didn't hesitate, didn't let up. In a moment, he was straddling the man, punching him in the face, the chest and the abdomen over and over as hard as he possibly could.


He was dimly aware of Lois' voice calling his name.

"Jimmy!" she yelled again, this time grabbing his arms.

"I think he's out," Jimmy said, panting proudly as he quit punching the man and ran the back of his sleeve over his mouth to remove the sweat and grime.

"Get off him!" Lois demanded, pushing him out of the way so that she could gently pull the unconscious man into her arms.

"I'll call the cops," Jimmy said, about to rise to his feet.

"You'll do no such thing!" Lois said, fixing him with a stare that would send fear into the most hardened criminal. "What the hell did you think you were doing?"


"Saving you," Jimmy responded in confusion. "He's the man in the police sketch. He was holding you hostage."

"He wasn't holding me hostage," Lois responded, turning her attention from Jimmy to address the man. "Kal," she whispered softly, stroking his face. "Come on, Kal. Answer me."

"Mmmm," the man groaned, opening his eyes. "What happened?"

"My idiot colleague attacked you."

The man's eyes left Lois' to look at Jimmy. Jimmy swallowed hard. "Sorry," he said sheepishly. "Little missed communication. I thought you were attacking her."

"Attacking…?" His eyes flitted from Jimmy to Lois as if trying to understand what had just happened. He pulled himself to a seated position. "No. No. I was not attacking." He reached up, wiping some blood off his forehead.

"Yeah. I just figured that out," Jimmy said apologetically. "Sorry."

"It is acceptable."


"He meant, it's fine," Lois clarified.


"So what are you doing here? I told you to drop my jeep off and catch a cab home. Why are you still here?"

"I thought you might be in trouble and I wanted to help."

"And you couldn't just ask me?" Lois let out a breath, calming herself. In the silence that followed, she seemed to settle down. "Kal, this is Jimmy. Jimmy, this is Kal," she finally said.

"Jimmy?" Kal asked. "So what house are you from?"

"Huh?" asked Jimmy.

"Never mind," Lois interrupted. "You mentioned something about a police sketch of a man who looks like Kal. Where did you see it? Does LNN have it yet?"

"Yeah. It's been all over the news. They say he knows something about these aliens. But… Lois, Kal sure looks like the same man."

Lois took a look at Kal before, seeming to decide he was fine, rising to her feet. Grabbing Jimmy's arm, she pulled him away from Kal.

"Jimmy, you can't say anything to anyone about Kal," she hissed.

"Sure thing, Lois."

"I mean it, Jimmy." Her eyes met his dead on and her tone left little doubt that she was serious. "Swear to me on your unborn children that you won't say anything."

Jimmy's eyes left hers to settle again on Kal. "It is him, isn't it?"

"Swear to me, Jimmy."

He looked back at her. "I swear, Lois. I won't say anything to anyone."

"Not even Perry?"

"Not even Perry. But… Lois, what's going on here?"

"It's better for you that you don't know."


"I'm playing with fire, Jimmy. And if anything goes wrong… it's best if I'm the only one who gets burned."


Lois looked over at Kal who was holding some tissue to the cut on his forehead and smiled. They'd done it. Not without a few anxious moments, of course. Or a little drama. But they were outside the barricades, driving along the highway as the sun began to rise above the horizon. Kal looked pretty beaten up, but he was alive.

Still, Lois had to admit that now that the excitement was over, she was beginning to feel more than a little exhausted. And by the looks of him, Kal could use some sleep, too.

Spotting a motel up ahead, she slowed down to take the exit. Kal sat up straighter, looking around as she pulled to a stop in the parking lot.

"Why are we stopping?"

"I need sleep. By the looks of you, you could use some, too. Besides, it's probably best if we travel at night — when you aren't as likely to be seen." She yawned.

"If you are tired, I will drive."

Lois raised her eyebrows. "Do you know how to drive stick?"

"I thought we were in a car."

"Actually, it's a jeep. But… something tells me it might be best if I drive. We don't want to get stopped — not if your picture is all over the news. And if you're not used to driving stick, it can get a little… hairy."

Kal touched his hair causing Lois to let out an involuntary giggle. "It means rough — sort of." Then she paused. This was a man who led armies. Maybe she should try a different tact. "Kal, we've got to be careful not to get stopped by the police. If they recognize you, they'll take you back. I'm sure you could figure out how to drive the jeep. But now is probably not the right time. Besides, we really should change the bandage on your leg — make sure there was no new damage." She waited, wondering if his pride would get in the way of good common sense.

After a moment, he nodded.

"Good." She opened the door. "Why don't you wait here while I get us a room? That way we don't run the risk of someone recognizing you."

When he nodded again, she got out of the jeep and headed for the lobby of the motel.


Kal stood by the jeep, looking out at the rising sun. There was something about seeing it again that was comforting. In fact, were he to close his eyes, he could almost feel the deflected rays sinking into his skin. It was a fanciful notion. The reality was that everything just looked better in the morning.

"Well, here we are. Home sweet home," Lois said.

Kal looked over. She was walking into a room. Giving the sun one final glance, he followed, looking around curiously. The room was simple. Two beds. Some interesting images on the walls. And a plush material covering the floor. And… Kal smiled. "A black box," he said, walking over to it. What he'd seen on the one earlier had him curious about what else it might contain.

"It's called a television," Lois said, walking over to the nightstand to pick up the remote and flick on the television. The 'black box' sprang to life.

Kal made his way to the television, running his finger over the images. "How does it work?" he asked turning to look at Lois.

"I don't know. But… well, I think I should check out your leg. Then I'll show you how to operate this thing." She indicated the remote.

"Oh, right." Without thinking about it, he began to undo his jeans. He stopped when he heard Lois give a startled gasp. He looked down at where his hands were undoing the button before looking back at her. "If you know of a way to check my leg without having me remove my jeans, I would be interested to hear it."

"Umm… Well, no. I guess it's just… It kinda caught me off guard." Still, she turned away from him, suddenly seeming very interested in the print of what appeared to be some four-legged creatures sitting around a table holding little bits of paper.

"What are those?" he asked as he pulled his jeans off and sat down on the bed.

"What?" she asked, turning to look at him. As if realizing that she needed to come over if she was going to check his leg, she walked towards him.

"The picture. You seemed really interested in it. So what type of creatures are those?"

"Huh?" she asked, as if she'd already forgotten there was even an image on the wall. She glanced back at the image. "Oh… dogs. Don't you have dogs on New Krypton?"

He shook his head. "Is this planet shared by your two species?"

"What?" She looked at the image of the dogs again as if hoping it would tell her what he was talking about. "Oh, no. No. Dogs aren't… I mean they don't… I mean, people keep dogs as pets."

"And the dogs don't mind?" He gestured to the image. "After all, they seem pretty intelligent."

Her eyebrows rose. "No. No, that's not… That picture… Dogs don't really sit around tables and play poker. They usually sleep on the floor and chase sticks. And they're really loyal to their human masters. That's just…" She gestured to the picture. "An artist's attempt at humor."

"I do not understand. Why would someone create something that is not true?"

"Don't you have artists on New Krypton?"

"Of course. But they do not make things up."

"Well, here they do."

He nodded, making a mental note that he'd really like to meet one of these dogs — and one of these artists.

"So… let's take a look at that wound," Lois said. Crouching down next to the bed, she began removing his bandage. "It doesn't look so bad. At least, there's no fresh blood on the bandage. I was sort of concerned that after our long walk and your tussle with Jimmy, you might have reinjured it." She finished removing the bandage.

"Wow!" she said, looking at the wound on the front of his leg before leaning over to look at the other side. "It looks…"

"…really good." And it did. The wound had healed over quite well.

"You took the words right out of my mouth," Lois said. "It must have been while you were kissing me." The final sentence was sung as she continued examining the wound.

"We were not kissing — were we?" Maybe kissing was done differently on Earth. There had been nothing about that in the Earth files aboard his ship.

"Huh? Oh, no. It's just a Meatloaf song."


She shook her head. "It's not important. But… that wound… do you usually heal fast?"

"No more so than anyone else. I guess you just took better care of me than you thought."

She looked up at him and he became suddenly very aware of how beautiful she was, even with dirty clothes and messy hair.

"I do not think I thanked you," he said. "That is something you do here, is it not?"

"It is."

"Then… thank you." His eyes met hers and a spark of… something seemed to pass between them. An electricity of some sort. He was almost certain it wasn't his imagination — that she felt it, too. They were only inches apart and it would take nothing for him to… His gaze drifted to her mouth as he found himself wondering what she tasted like. He leaned in slightly.

Realizing what he was about to do, Kal jerked back. "So anyway," he said.

"Umm… yeah. Well, let me just get the first aid stuff I brought and we can have that wrapped up again in no time and then we should get some sleep."

"Yeah," said Kal, not quite sure what had happened. For a moment, that iron will had melted and he'd been tempted to… But no. That was definitely not a good idea.


As she finished getting changed into an oversized t-shirt, Lois found her mind drifting back to what had happened only minutes earlier. She'd almost thought he was going to kiss her. And she hadn't moved away! What the hell was she thinking? Getting involved with this guy would definitely be a mistake. He was an arrogant, patriarchal jerk whom she had to handle with kid gloves. What could she even see in him? Besides, there was Dan to consider.

Dan might not be the male ideal, but at least he didn't order her around, insult her or think her opinion didn't matter because she was a woman. That was more than she could say about 'some' men. Yes, Dan was definitely the man for her — not some deposed ruler of a far-away planet who just happened to be drop-dead gorgeous. She gave her head a slight shake, rejecting the final, unsolicited thought. No. Getting involved with Kal would definitely not be a good idea. Besides, she didn't even like him. Okay, well, sort of. Sometimes. When he wasn't being a jerk. But then, how often did that happen?

Opening the door, she scrambled quickly to take shelter beneath the covers of her bed. Kal was settled into a chair in the light of the rising sun, playing with the television remote control.

"Oh, right. I was going to show you how to use that thing, wasn't I?" Lois said, squirming slightly at the thought of getting out of the protection of the bed.

"I think I am figuring it out," Kal responded, smiling at her as he hit a button and the channel on the television changed. "I thought I would spend some time watching the images on the television," he said, trying out his new word. "Unless it will keep you awake."

She was impressed. At least he was thinking about her instead of simply telling her he was going to watch television. She gave her head a shake, wondering when such a little thing had come to seem like such a big victory. "No," she told him. "Trust me, right now I'm so tired I doubt I'd be able to stay awake if the army invaded the room. Don't you have television on New Krypton?"

Kal shook his head. "We have vid-screens. They are round plates that you set on a table and three-dimensional characters appear on top of it. But they are only for sporting challenges or official announcements from the council. But this…" He pointed to the sitcom that was playing. "This is something we do not have."

"Just keep in mind that, other than the news, most of those shows are just make believe." Yawning, she rolled over.

"Even this one?" he asked.

She looked at the television over her shoulder to see Jerry Springer on the screen "Yeah. Especially that one," she said before placing her head back on her pillow. She was asleep within minutes.


It was official. He was addicted. In fact, he couldn't seem to get enough sun. For the entire day, he'd sat in the sun watching television and he felt better now than if he'd had a full night's sleep. He wondered if he should mention this sun addiction to Lois. But then he dismissed the idea. After all, what would she know about how a Kryptonian reacted to a yellow sun?

He glanced over at Lois. She was beginning to stir. She rolled over, looking at him through sleep-filled eyes. Still, he could see the thoughtful expression in her gaze.

"Did you sleep at all?" she asked.

He shook his head. "For some reason, I do not feel overly tired." He flicked off the television. "I have been wondering something, though."

She sat up, running a hand through her hair. "What?"

"Well… this reporter job of yours seems to give you a lot of freedom to come and go as you see fit."

Lois broke eye contact. "Oh. Well. I quit my job yesterday."

He crinkled his eyebrows. "You quit?"

She shrugged, looking as if it wasn't important.

"On New Krypton people do not quit their jobs. Sometimes they have to be removed if they are not doing their job, but it is always a great shame to the entire house when that happens. But they never quit."

She shrugged again. "Here people quit their jobs all the time."


"Look, Kal, it's no big deal." She glanced over at the clock on the nightstand. "Wow. I really did sleep." She stretched. "We probably should think about going."

"Oh, that brings up another question," he said, letting the issue of her quitting drop. She didn't seem to think it was important — so why should he? It was her world, after all. Besides, if it was important to her, why would she have quit? "Where exactly are we going?"

"To the one place where I know you'll be safe. Smallville, Kansas."

"Why are you so sure I will be safe there?"

"There's a couple there — Martha and Jonathan Kent. They can be trusted. But… well, I think you're going to have to tell them everything."

"I am not really comfortable with…"

"Kal, that sketch of yours is already out there — and I'm sure if you spent the day watching television, you've seen it numerous times."

"I have."

"They are going to know. Besides… Well, there's something I haven't told you yet. It's about something that happened about a year ago," she began before proceeding to fill him in.

Kal thought about that for a moment. He didn't know these people. So could he really trust them? Still, what she was saying did make sense. On the other hand… "I have been thinking about this. Maybe it would be best if I just turned myself over to your leaders. I'm certain if I explained to them why…"

"No. Kal, are you crazy?"

"But surely after they found out that I have no way of returning home or even communicating…"

"Kal, don't you understand? I don't know if there are more aliens out there. But if there are, until yesterday, the only people who believed in aliens were considered a little crazy. And I know our leaders. They won't be interested in why you're here — just that you are. To them, you'll represent a threat of the worst kind."

"But surely your leaders are rational people. They will see that I am not a threat to them."

Lois rolled her eyes. "Oh, at first they might act like they're welcoming you. But make no mistake, the moment you do something they don't like, they'll turn on you like a pack of wild dogs, devouring you. They'll imprison you, interrogate you, even torture you, trying to force you to tell them everything you know about New Krypton — its weaknesses, its vulnerabilities. Are you willing to give them that information?" She waited for him to shake his head before continuing. "Then you will be their worst nightmare — and they will be yours. If they can't get the information they want out of you, with torture if necessary, they'll subject you to scientific study — even experiments — trying to find out for themselves your vulnerabilities. Is that really what you want?"

"How can you talk that way about your own leaders?"

Lois narrowed her eyes. "Are you trying to tell me that your leaders are perfect? If that's so, why did Lord Nor overthrow you? And since he's the leader now, shouldn't you be supporting him? And come to think of it, if you knew what kind of man he was, why was he still a member of your council?"

Kal looked out the window. She was right. Right now on New Krypton there was a leader who cared about nothing but his own ambitions. He would use or threaten or even kill anyone who stood in his way. He would let the entire world fall around him if it served his own purposes. And yet, even though the houses had known what kind of leader Nor would be, they had failed to risk themselves in order to support Kal in opposing Nor.

Maybe she was right. Maybe his own system could use some improvements — at least as far as setting in place rules by which the Lords must abide. Such rules might have allowed him to deal with a leader like Nor long before now for the way he had treated those in his own house. "I guess there is room for improvement on both sides," he finally conceded.

She let out a breath. "Now that's something we can agree on." She pulled back the covers on the bed. "I'm just going to go have a shower. Then we really should get going."

He found he couldn't look away as she rose from the bed and headed for the bathroom. Her hair was a mess. Her over-sized shirt almost swallowed her body. But… he wasn't entirely sure he'd ever been more attracted to a woman in his entire life. One might almost think he liked a woman who stood up to him, challenged him, even contradicted him. No. That was crazy.

Still, he couldn't quite figure out what was prompting her to help him. Never once had she questioned his motives for being on Earth — and yet, if he understood correctly, questioning things was her job. She'd helped him, even going against her own leaders. And even when he'd suggested turning himself in, she'd refused to as much as consider it.

So… who was this Lois of the House of Lane? He suspected figuring her out was going to be both a challenge and one of the most intriguing endeavors of his life.


Lois glanced over at Kal who was curiously looking through the bag of goodies she'd bought when they'd stopped to get gas. The dark of the night was hiding his expression, but the way he was examining each item conveyed his interest. The junk she'd bought wasn't exactly high on the nutrition scale. But, other than the sandwiches they'd already eaten, it was all she'd been able to get. And since she didn't want to risk taking Kal to a restaurant, it would have to do.

He pulled out a cellophane wrapped Ho Ho and studied it. Lois was suddenly struck by the realization of how hard all this must be for him. He'd lost his home. He'd lost his friends. He'd lost his position in society. He'd lost his entire way of life. He'd lost everything — and now was being forced to adjust to a completely new way of life. New philosophies. New values. Even new food.

And yet instead of complaining about all he had lost, he seemed anxious to learn how to get along on Earth. Were their situations reversed, she doubted she'd be coping as well. He studied the cellophane, as if trying to find a way in. Maybe she should cut him some slack. After all, he did seem to be trying. And so far, if she was careful about how forceful she was, he seemed able to accept her suggestions.

"Just tear it open with your teeth," she suggested, realizing that her need to instruct him in something so basic was a sign of exactly how much he needed to learn.

She was pleased when he raised the item to his mouth and tore it open the way she had suggested. She couldn't help but smile when, after opening it, he sniffed the package. Keeping one eye on the road and the other on him, she watched as he cautiously reached in and withdrew the Ho Ho.

Warily, he took a small bite. "This is great!" he exclaimed, taking another bite.

She couldn't help but giggle. He was just so enthused whenever he found something else he liked.

"Do you want something?" he asked, even as he licked every last crumb from his hands.

"Yeah. Something chocolate."

"What is chocolate?" he asked looking in the bag.

"Boy, you really have lived a tough life, haven't you?" Glancing over, she removed a chocolate bar.

He watched for a moment, before finding a chocolate bar for himself.

She glanced over at him as he opened it. "Be careful, or you'll end up with a stomach ache."

He took a bite of the chocolate bar, taking a moment to savor the taste before responding. "I do not believe anything that tastes this good could hurt me," he said before taking another bite.

She rolled her eyes. He might have come a long way in listening to her. But some things were obviously meant to be learned through personal experience.

Reaching over, she turned on the radio, flipping through the channels as she sought for a source of news. It took a few moments to realize there was no news on at the moment. Well, if that was the case, it was probably smart just to let a channel play until the news came on.

"What type of music is that?" Kal asked.

"Soft rock."

"As in the stones you see lying on the ground. But 'soft'?"

Lois chucked. "They aren't related. And I'm not sure why it's called rock music. Why? Do you want to see what else is on?"


Once she pointed out how to change the channels, he took over the task, switching channels until he found something he liked.

"What is this?" he asked.

"This is called country music. Not exactly my favorite, but it's perfect — considering where we're going."

"Certain types of music are reflective of different parts of your world?"

"In a way — although lots of people in the city also like country music."

For a while, they were silent as they listened to the music. Finally, Kal broke the silence.

"They all seem to be about the same thing."

"You mean about getting your heart ripped out by love?" Lois asked, amused. "Well, country music is known for that. If your truck breaks down, or someone runs over your dog, or your girl runs off with your best friend, you can find a country music song about it."

"It is this love thing that has me a little confused."

Lois glanced over at him. "Surely people must fall in love on New Krypton."

"I suppose — but it is certainly not encouraged. And we would never write songs about it."

"Why not?"

"Because love makes you do things you should not be doing. It makes you vulnerable. Why would any society hold love up as some sort of ideal?"

"I used to think like you did," Lois admitted. "And I have to admit, I've had one or two federal disasters to confirm it. But then I met a couple who taught me what love could be — it's two people working together, making each of them stronger together than either would be alone."

Kal seemed to contemplate that for a moment. "I still think it's selfish. After all, it puts individual needs before the good of society."

Lois shook her head. "Wait 'til you meet Martha and Jonathan and then tell me that."



The sun was high in the sky by the time Lois pulled the jeep off the interstate and onto the back-roads of Kansas. She hadn't called ahead, hadn't dared for fear of the remote possibility that someone might be monitoring phone conversations. Still, she couldn't quite imagine how Martha and Jonathan would react to Kal. After all, she was certain he wasn't exactly what they were expecting following their previous discussions about aliens.

She spotted the old farmhouse up ahead and felt a familiar rush of contentment. It was odd how a city girl could find such a sense of peace in this isolated community. She looked over at Kal who was currently sleeping contentedly — and smiled.

She'd heard him shift uncomfortably in his seat for a long time after he'd finished eating all the junk food she'd purchased, and looking over at him, she'd been able to tell he wasn't feeling well. But he'd refused to complain. But now, he seemed finally to be resting comfortably. Maybe next time he'd believe her when she told him something.

She pulled into the driveway of the farmhouse and turned off the engine. Kal immediately opened his eyes.

"Where are we?" he asked.

"We're there." Opening the door, she climbed out of the jeep just as the door to the old farmhouse swung open and Martha rushed onto the porch.

"Lois!" exclaimed the obviously delighted woman, bringing a smile to Lois' face. It was always good to feel welcome.

"Hi, Martha," Lois said, even as Martha stuck her hand back into the house to grab a coat. Lois waited until she had the older woman's attention before speaking again. "I've got someone here I'd like you to meet."

Martha's gaze flicked from Lois to the man getting out of the other side the jeep. She gave Lois a look — slightly raised eyebrows. Lois immediately understood. She'd recognized Kal.

"Jonathan! We have company," Martha yelled towards the barn even as she waited at the top of the steps, still in her slippers, for Lois and Kal to join her.

Lois led the way, with Kal following a few steps behind.

"So what are you doing here?" Martha asked, giving Lois a big hug. "Not that you aren't welcome anytime. But with everything happening in Metropolis at the moment… You're the last person I expected to see here. Especially with company."

Lois understood all the hidden implications of Martha's question. She obviously knew that Kal was wanted by the authorities — and was trying to ask what was going on without letting Kal know what she was doing. "Well… a friend of mine…" Lois stepped back to indicate Kal. "…needs some help and… naturally, I thought of you."

Martha looked over at Kal.

"I'm Martha," she said, offering Kal her hand.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Martha Kent, this is Kal of the House of El."

Martha's eyebrows rose even as she let her hand drop when Kal neglected to take it.

"Is that Martha of the House of Kent?" asked Kal, struggling to understand the meaning behind the way Lois had introduced her.

Martha looked back at Lois, communicating instantly her need for an explanation.

"Oh, I should have told you," Lois said to Kal sheepishly. "People here don't exactly refer to people's houses. She's just Martha. Her last name is Kent."

Kal nodded slowly.

"Well," said Martha, not understanding what was going on, but obviously still determined to make her guest feel welcome. "It's nice to meet you, Kal from the House of El. Why don't we go inside and talk — instead of standing out here waiting to catch our death of cold." With that she turned, leading her two visitors into the house.


"Coffee?" Martha asked.

"That would be great," Lois said. When Kal looked at her, eyebrows raised, she knew immediately what he was asking. Would he like coffee? She didn't know. "It's sort of an acquired taste," said Lois. "But it's up to you."

"I will try some. Thank you," Kal said, directing the comment at Martha.

Lois bit back a smile at the look of confusion on Martha's face. She might know that Kal was wanted by the authorities, but she obviously hadn't yet realized that Kal was, in fact, an alien. Not that Lois could blame her. After all, aliens were short green men with one eye in the center of their forehead. But before Lois could explain, the back door opened and Jonathan stepped inside.

"Hey! I thought that was your jeep out front," Jonathan said, his face breaking out in a huge smile.

His smile was met by Lois' who rose to her feet only to find herself lost in a bear hug. She laughed in pure delight.

"Why didn't you call me?" Jonathan asked his wife, finally releasing Lois.

"I did," Martha said. "I told you you need to have your ears checked."

"There's nothing wrong with my hearing," Jonathan responded before turning his attention to Kal. "I'm Jonathan."

"I am Kal," Kal said, looking down at the hand being offered to him.

"Oh, Kal," Lois said, realizing that he had no idea what Jonathan was doing. "Here when we greet each other, sometimes we shake hands."

"Oh," said Kal, rising to his feet and taking Jonathan's hand, shaking it a little too vigorously.

Lois bit back a smile. At least he was trying. He'd figure it out eventually.

"So are you a friend of Lois?" Jonathan asked, sharing a look with his wife who shrugged her shoulders, telling him that she too was at a loss.


"Martha, Jonathan, why don't you have a seat?" Lois jumped in. "This is going to get… complicated."

Martha brought coffee over for all of them, putting condiments on the table as well as a plate of cookies. Lois waited until all of them were settled before looking at Kal, trying to figure out how to begin.

"I assume you've been watching the news," she said.

Martha and Jonathan shared a look.

"Yes. We were particularly intrigued by the symbol on the side of the ship," Martha responded immediately, obviously trying to be as cryptic as possible since they weren't alone. "And it seems the authorities are looking for someone who looks a great deal like Kal," she continued, finally getting to the point.

"Well…" Lois took Kal's hand and held it up, making the ring visible for them.

"I don't understand. Are you saying… What exactly are you saying?" asked Martha.

"Perhaps it would be best if I explained," Kal said.

All eyes turned to him.

Kal took a sip of his coffee. "This tastes just like trevo," he said, surprised and strangely comforted to encounter something familiar. He cleared his throat, getting his mind back on track. "Until about a month ago, I was First Lord of the planet of New Krypton. Another lord, Lord Nor, for years has had ambitions of being First Lord. Through an unfortunate chain of events, his chance came about a month ago. He made his move and I was deposed in a bloody civil war. In the last days of the battle, one of my men knocked me out and put me on the spacecraft you have seen on the television, headed for Earth. One of my silent supporters, Lord Trey, did not want me falling into Nor's hands."

"So you're… an alien?" Jonathan asked skeptically.

Kal nodded. "But I had been badly injured in the war. I lost a lot of blood and was barely conscious when my ship made its final descent into Earth's atmosphere. That was why I was unable to land undetected. When the ship crashed, I managed to get out. But I was unable to hide my ship successfully. The cloaking device must have been damaged in the crash. That is why they found it — and why they are looking for me."

"So how did you two hook up?" asked Jonathan. "Did you find out about the ship and go there and find him?"

Lois shook her head, about to respond when Kal spoke again.

"I came across Lois and, needing help, I forced her to help me at knifepoint."

"What!" exclaimed both Martha and Jonathan.

"Don't worry," Lois jumped in immediately. "He wasn't much of a threat. And he didn't seem to know that he was messing with Lois Lane."

"How much pain did you inflict?" Martha asked Lois, a hint of amusement in her eyes.

"I knocked him out. But then… I noticed the ring and… well, I decided to help him, anyway. Jury's still out on whether I did the right thing." There was a touch of amusement in her voice on the final sentence. Kal gave her a questioning look, just the same.

"Well, you seem to have done a good job," said Jonathan, still looking skeptical and noticeably troubled with the idea that Kal had forced Lois to help him at knifepoint. "It's sort of hard to believe that a couple of days ago he was barely conscious."

"He seems to heal quicker than we do," Lois responded. "But trust me, Jonathan, he was really out of it when we first met."

"That still doesn't explain why he looks so human," Jonathan said.

"I might be able to explain that," Kal responded, directing everyone's attention back to him. He let out a breath. "This is just a theory, of course. About six thousand of your years ago, the people of Krypton were made up of people with two distinct belief systems. One group, the largest group, believed that the future of Krypton lay in technological development. The other, a group we called the naturalists, believed that Krypton could only survive by returning to nature."

"But those are mutually exclusive positions."

"Exactly. And neither side seemed able to accept the other's right to believe and live differently. The war, when it came, was completely lopsided — as you can imagine. After all, the technology was all on one side."

"So what happened?"

"The naturalists were wiped out. But in the last days of the war, a number of their people escaped. Near the beginning of the war, two people left, apparently in search of a new home world in case the war went badly for them. A man of the House of Adam and a woman of the House of Eve. The writings remaining from that time period indicate that they settled on a planet called Eden. Over the years, however, the exact location of that planet has been lost. But there are those who believe the planet is your Earth."


Kal nodded. "A second group followed a number of years later — during the final days of the war. It was led by three men. Cain, Able and Seth, all of the House of Adam. According to the record, the total group numbered about six thousand people. If I am right, then that means our two populations have some common ancestors. We likely developed quite differently after that — especially since the gravity of our planets is different and because of your yellow sun. But…" He gestured to himself. "Obviously there are still some similarities."

Lois, Martha and Jonathan exchanged looks.

"Of course, it is just a theory."

"Oh, I'd say it's a good theory," Martha said. "Adam, Eve, Eden. Yeah, I'd say it's a good theory."

'We have those characters in our traditions," Jonathan explained.


"So anyway," Lois began, getting them back on track, "the reason we're here is that the government has figured out both that an alien arrived in that craft — and that he looks human. In fact, as you obviously know, they're looking for Kal. With that picture, and the fact that Kal doesn't have any identification, I knew we had to get him out of Metropolis," Lois explained. "Can you imagine what they'll do to him if they find him?"

Martha and Jonathan both nodded. Still…

"I'm still having problems with the idea that you held Lois at knife-point," Jonathan said, directing the pointed comment at Kal.

Lois cringed. If it had been up to her, she'd have left that part out of the story.

"It was not exactly my most noble action," Kal conceded. "But I was concerned that some of Lord Nor's men might have followed me — and I desperately needed help. But I promise you, m'lord. I had no intention of hurting her."

Lois' attention turned to Jonathan who was cautiously weighing every word Kal was saying. She was relieved when Jonathan finally nodded, accepting, albeit reluctantly, Kal's explanation.

"Well, we're glad you came to us," Martha said as if realizing that Jonathan was finally prepared to accept Kal.

"You'll be safe here," Jonathan added, confirming both women's evaluation of the situation.

"Thank you," Kal responded. "And I promise you, m'lord…"

"It's Jonathan," Jonathan corrected.

"I promise you, Jonathan, Lois is in no danger from me. I will never hurt her."

It suddenly occurred to Lois what was going on. Kal was making that promise to Jonathan because he saw Jonathan as the male in her life. Her hackles instantly rose.

"Hey, shouldn't you be making that promise to me?" she asked.

"Well, it goes without saying that if I promise him, I am promising you, too."

"But then promise me," Lois insisted.

"Lois, Kal just realizes that I consider you like a daughter and he wants to assure me that he can be trusted," Jonathan said, trying to explain Kal's actions. "It's only proper."

"What is that supposed to mean, Jonathan?" Martha asked. "His offence was against Lois — she's the one he has to make things right with."

"I just meant that I'm the man here and…" His voice trailed off when he looked between Lois and Martha to see them both, eyebrows raised, staring back at him. "Is it too late to say, 'I surrender'?" he asked.

"Did I cause some sort of problem here?" asked Kal. "Because I did not mean…"

"Don't worry about it, Kal," Martha interrupted. "Sometimes my husband has some wrong-headed, old-fashioned notions about 'the weaker sex.' It's not your problem."

"Wait a minute!" Lois said. "Let's not forget that this whole thing started because Kal promised your husband he'd never hurt me — instead of promising me."

All eyes turned to Kal, who instantly looked at Jonathan.

"Hey, don't look at me. I've fought this battle before. And I know when to beat a hasty retreat."

"Let's leave poor Kal alone," Martha said, suddenly feeling a little sorry for the baffled looking young man. "I'm sure he gets the point. Besides, there's something else I want to discuss. Your identification problem. I think I might have a solution."

"Are you certain, Martha?" asked Jonathan, obviously realizing where his wife was going with this.

"It feels right," Martha responded.

"What?" asked Lois.

Martha got up and, without explaining, left the room.

"What?" Lois asked again, this time directing her question to Jonathan.

"I'm going to let Martha tell you," Jonathan responded.

A moment later, Martha entered the room, carrying with her a large brown envelope that, although it was weathered with age, was in otherwise perfect condition. She sat down at the table, running her fingers gently over the envelope.

"On February 28, 1966, Jonathan and I had a child — a son."

"What?" gasped Lois. "Why didn't I know about this?"

"He only lived a few days. It was one of those unexplainable crib deaths," Martha said, the pain of the memory still a slight echo in her voice. "Anyway, we had named him Clark. So…" She passed the envelope over to Kal.

Lois watched curiously as Kal opened the envelope, withdrawing a birth certificate.

"Clark Jerome Kent." Kal looked up at the Kents. "Are you sure?"

"We're sure," Jonathan said for both of them. "We'd be honored if you'd become Clark Jerome Kent. And with that, you'll be able to establish your identity."

"We could even tell people around here that you're our nephew," Martha added. "That should keep people from questioning your appearance here."

Kal looked at Lois. "What do you think?" he asked. "Do I look like a Clark to you?"

Lois studied him for a moment, his slicked back hair, his entire demeanor. He needed more than just a name. To keep people from knowing who he was, he needed… "I always think of a Clark as being a little… less put together. Try messing up your hair a little bit and… Glasses! I always think of Clarks as having glasses."

Kal looked back at Martha and Jonathan. "I'd be honored to be Clark, but I have to ask. Why are you doing this?"

Martha looked over at Lois. "Did you tell him about the ball?"

Lois nodded.

"Do you know what it might be?" Martha asked Kal.

"Maybe. But I would have to see it to be certain."

"Go get it, Jonathan," Martha said, rising to get everyone a fresh cup of coffee as Jonathan left the room. "So what did Perry White say when you told him you needed to come to Smallville? I can't imagine he'd be very happy about losing his top reporter right now."

"I quit," Lois said as casually as possible.

Martha spun around. "What?"

"I quit," Lois repeated. "It's no big deal."

"What do you mean it's no big deal? Honey, you love that job. How could Perry let you quit?"

"I don't think he meant to. But when he told me I couldn't have some time off, I asked him if he was going to make me quit."

"And he said?"

"He said that I'd have to quit. I think he was calling my bluff." She shrugged.

"Wait a minute," Kal interrupted. "I thought you told me it was no big deal."

"It isn't," Lois insisted, even though the gig was pretty well up. "I can get a job at any paper in the world."

"Yeah, but you love working for the Planet," Martha said.

"What was I supposed to do, Martha? Kal needed to get out of the city. And Perry didn't exactly give me a choice." She picked up her coffee and took a sip.

Kal and Martha both stared at her for a moment, each struggling with their own thoughts and trying to figure out what to say when Jonathan opened the door and stepped inside, carrying a heavy metal box. He placed it on the table.

"About a year ago," Jonathan began, keeping his hand on the top of the box, "a neighbor of ours, Wayne Irig, found this ball buried in his yard. Maybe… with you here, you can tell us what it is." He opened the box.

Lois noticed all the color drain out of Kal's face.

"He actually found a couple of things. One was a strange crystal and the other was a small ball." Jonathan picked up the ball.

Kal groaned.

"Close the box, Jonathan!" Lois exclaimed.


"Close the box!" Lois said again.

It took Jonathan a moment to react. Dropping the ball on the table, he slammed down the lid on the box.

"Are you okay?" Lois asked, rubbing her hand gently over Kal's back.

"Yeah. I do not know what happened. All at once I just felt… dizzy, I guess. Probably an aftereffect of the injuries I had."

"I don't think that's it," Lois said thoughtfully. Standing up, she made her way over to the box.

Jonathan stepped back to see what she would do.

She placed her hand on the top of the box. "Okay, I'm going to open the box. Tell me if the dizziness returns." She opened the box. When Kal instantly went pale, she slammed the box shut. "It's the crystal," she said. "I don't know how or why, but he's having a reaction to the crystal."

"What about the ball?"

"He doesn't seem to have a reaction to it," she said, looking at the ball lying on the counter. "But the crystal is definitely causing a reaction."

Jonathan instantly picked up the box. "I'm going to get this out of here," he said, moving quickly to take it back out to the barn.

As the door closed, Martha came over to give Kal a wet towel. Lois took it from her hand, causing Martha to smile. Lois ignored her, and whatever she might think of Lois' actions, taking a seat next to Kal, raising the towel to gently clean the sweat off his face. "How do you feel?" she asked softly.

"Better," he said. "The pain was gone as soon as the box was closed."

"Any idea what it was?"

Kal shook his head.

"Well, when the crystal was originally analyzed, we found out that it was a meteorite of some sort — from outer space. Does that give you any ideas?"

Kal shook his head.

"They said it gave off some sort of high beam radiation that doesn't affect humans," Martha added.

"Although I think it's a fair assumption to say that it does affect Kryptonians," Lois added. "But as long as we keep it in that box, it doesn't seem to affect him."

Jonathan chose that moment to rejoin the group.

"Jonathan, what was that box made of?"

"Lead," Jonathan responded. "I put it in there because, even though we were told that it didn't have any affect on humans, I wasn't about to mess with a radioactive substance. Sorry about that, son. I'd have never brought it in here if I had known it would affect you like that."

"It is okay," Kal responded. "I seem to be fine now. So… no permanent damage."

"Well, that's a relief," Martha said, turning back to her roast.

"Anyway," said Lois, "before all the excitement, Jonathan was telling you about a ball that Wayne found buried in his yard."

"Right," Jonathan jumped in, picking up the ball. He handed it to Kal. "In addition to the crystal, we found that. Any idea what it is?"

"Yeah. It looks like one of thousands of probes that were sent out by the council when they realized they were going to have to abandon Krypton."

"What?" asked Jonathan.

"Kal's original planet, the place where he was born, Krypton, was destroyed in some sort of explosion. So they sent some of their people, including Kal, to a new planet — New Krypton."

"But before we found New Krypton, we sent out a thousand probes, trying to find a suitable planet."

"So you were considering settling Earth?"

"I doubt it was ever seriously considered," Kal said. "After all, it has a yellow sun."


"Krypton and New Krypton both have red suns. In fact, we are prohibited from going to any planet with a yellow sun."


"No one knows. Long ago the mystics prohibited it. Something about a yellow sun being a danger to Kryptonian society. Sorry, I am not as up on the mystics as I should be."

"So our sun might be dangerous for you?" asked Lois, suddenly concerned.

"I imagine it was just mystics being… well, mystics," Kal said dismissively.

"Have you noticed problems from the sun?" Lois asked, obviously not satisfied.

"No, Lois. In fact, if anything it has made me feel stronger."

"What does that mean?"

"Nothing. I have just enjoyed the feel of the sun. It does not mean anything."

Lois nodded, not entirely convinced.

"Anyway, that is what this is," Kal said, changing the conversation back to the ball.

"What's the symbol on it mean?" Jonathan asked.

Kal glanced at the symbol. "It is the symbol of Krypton. Do you not have something like that here on Earth?"

"We have flags," Martha said. "Different ones for different countries, but I imagine it's sort of the same thing. A symbol that represents your planet."

"Exactly. And the ring… well, it is my signet ring. I use it for signing important documents."

"That's what I sort of figured," said Lois, before yawning.

"I think the kids could use a nap. Did you drive all night?"

Lois nodded.

"Okay, well, Lois, your room is made up. Kal, do you mind using the couch? Why don't you two take a nap? We'll finish talking when you're feeling a little more refreshed. Come up with some sort of plan for Kal."

"Before we do that," Kal cut in, "I need to know why you are doing this. Why are you helping me?"

Martha and Jonathan shared a look before Jonathan said, "Because it's the right thing to do."


"Where is he?" demanded Nor when his two flunkies appeared in front of him. By the way they remained, bowed at the waist, he felt their answer before they gave it.

"He is dead, m'lord," Ran said.

"If he is dead, where is his body?"

The two men stayed bowed.

"Answer me!" Nor demanded.

"He crashed into Earth, m'lord. There was no way he could have survived."

"There would still have been a body! If nothing else, why did you not bring me the finger bearing his signet ring?"

"Earth officials were everywhere. We could not get close," Drull attempted to explain.

"Did you at least see his body?" Nor felt his temperature rising. Their lack of answer provided Nor with all the answer he needed. "Get out!" he exclaimed. "And get back to Earth. I want Kal — alive or dead. I want him."

Neither man hesitated, scampering backwards out of the room. Nor stormed around for a moment before turning to one of his personal guards.

"Shem," he said, addressing a large black man, "summon Lord Trey."

"Yes, m'lord," Shem responded, heading quickly from the room to follow his master's command.


Kal lay on the couch staring up at the ceiling. The day had been great. In fact, he now had something he liked more than pizza, chocolate bars and Ho Hos — Martha Kent's roast beef dinner. Who knew food could taste that good?

Clark Jerome Kent. He rolled the name around in his mind. He was honored that they would take him into their family that way. It was almost unbelievable that these simple people were so prepared to help him. On the other hand, Lois had surprised him even more than the Kents. When she'd first told him she'd quit her job, he'd known neither the circumstances — that she had quit to help him — or that her job was so important to her. But given the way Martha Kent had reacted, he knew that, in spite of what Lois had told him, it was a very big deal. He wasn't entirely sure why she would have done that for him. After all, it wasn't as if they always exactly got along. She was one of the most stubborn women he had ever known. And yet… she'd given up a job she apparently loved for him. He wondered if she even knew why she'd done it.

He glanced at the wall that he knew separated them, feeling an unexpected closeness to her. He gave his head a shake and rolled over, unable to believe what a crazy thought that was. There were just so many things about her, about her world that he just didn't understand.

"Hey, you still awake?"

Kal looked towards the voice. He sat up when he saw Lois standing in the doorway to her room.

"Jonathan give you some pajamas?" she asked with a grin.

"Yes. It was nice of him, except…" He pulled at the waist, showing exactly how big they were on him at the waist.

"Trust me, I noticed. Just don't get up fast," she said, a touch of amusement in her voice. She took a seat next to him on the couch. "So how you doing?"

He took a moment to respond. "Sometimes, I know exactly what is going on," he finally said. "And other times… I feel as if everyone is talking a completely different language."

"Must be tough."

He nodded and for a moment they sat in silence.

"Is there something in particular you're wondering about right now?" she finally asked.

"Yes, actually."

"So… why not ask me about it?"

He shifted uncomfortably.

"What is it, Kal?"

"Promise you will not get angry?"

"I don't get angry… Okay, so maybe sometimes I get a little irked, perturbed even. And sometimes, I do get a little indignant or maybe incensed. And okay, so my temper might sort of flare on… What?"

"I think this is one of those times where I do not exactly understand what you are talking about," Kal said thoughtfully. "Are not irked, perturbed, indignant and incensed just other words for angry?"

She opened her mouth to respond when she realized that for the first time, she really didn't have a clue what to say. Suddenly, the humor of the situation hit her and she giggled.


She shook her head, looking over at him in amusement. "Nothing. I guess I do get a little angry at times. So what is it that has you so confused — other than my babble, of course?"

"You promise not to get angry?"

"I promise. Just tell me, Kal."

"Well, Martha and Jonathan…"

"What about them?"

"They seem to really care about each other…"

"They do. In fact, they taught me to believe in love."

"…but Martha contradicted Jonathan in front of guests."

Lois was confused. "She thought Jonathan was wrong." Suddenly, what he was getting at sunk in. "Oh, you mean how did she dare to do that when she's only a woman?" She felt her temper flare.

"You promised not to get angry."

Yes. Yes, she had. And Lois didn't lightly break a promise. Besides… she felt her anger dissipate when it suddenly occurred to her that he really was confused. He truly didn't understand. "Tell me about women on New Krypton," she said. Obviously, she needed to understand how things worked there if she was going to explain things on Earth.

"Women are treasured on New Krypton. They are great mothers. They solidify alliances between families. They provide comfort and care."

"Okay, let's stop there. How do they solidify alliances between families?"

"If two families want to solidify an alliance they might marry their eldest daughter to a member of another family's house. Or for minor agreements, they might use a younger daughter to…"

"Okay, I get the idea," Lois interrupted, knowing there was no way she could keep her promise not to get mad if he kept talking. "How do they provide comfort and care? Are some of them nurses or teachers?"

"No, professional caregivers."

"And what are those?"

"I guess you might call them concubines."


"To provide comfort to New Krypton's leading class."

She let out a slow breath, counting silently backwards from ten. When she was again in control, she spoke again. "So what about a woman's mind? Is that treasured, too?"

"Of course. Most husbands listen to their wives thoughts in the privacy of their own home, but…"

"…the husband has the final say. So tell me? What happens if one of these husbands is abusive? Does the woman have any recourse for protection against her own husband?"

"Well, there are not many incidents where a husband…"

"In other words, no," Lois said. She took a deep, cleansing breath. This was the way Kal had grown up. He'd obviously not been exposed to other ideas. She had to remember that. "Here things are different," she began. "A woman can do anything a man can do. For the most part, although her family might have some input as to who she marries, the choice is hers. She doesn't have to marry to have a man take care of her. If she chooses to marry, it will be because she wants to be with that man."

"Okay," said Kal slowly.

"A lot of remarkable women fought long and hard to get us to that point. And although there is still some way to go, attitudes that regard women as nothing more than chattels to be traded really aren't tolerated."

"So I noticed. In fact, some people tend to get really angry when they think they are being dismissed because they are a woman."

Lois looked over at Kal. When she saw the slight, almost affectionate, grin on his face, she looked back down. "Yeah, well…" She shrugged.

"And there is one thing over which I have no confusion…" Kal continued, causing Lois to look back at him. "…I've never met a woman whose opinions I respect more than I respect yours. In fact, I have met few men who are as brilliant, insightful or competent as you."

Lois smiled. "Well, see. You're learning already." She bumped his shoulder playfully.

He chuckled. "Yes, I guess I am."

Lois quickly looked back down when her heart fluttered in response to… something in his eyes. "So… How do you feel about becoming Clark Jerome Kent?" she asked, trying to get her mind off her unexpected response to whatever she'd seen in his eyes. When he was like this, questioning, vulnerable, her heart seemed to forget those moments when he closely resembled a Taliban wannabe. It was… dangerous.

"It is quite an honor that they would do that for me."

"I suppose we should start calling you Clark now," she rushed to continue, determined to push her previous line of thought out of her mind, "just so we don't make a mistake with your name when other people are around. And you'll need to get used to responding to it…"


"…after all, if people call you 'Clark' and you don't respond, it will make them suspicious. So really we should…"


She looked over at him again.

"Lois, I have one more question?" He waited until he was sure he had her attention before continuing. "Why did you quit your job for me?"

She searched her mind for a moment for a way to answer him. "I don't want to talk about this," she suddenly found herself saying. She rose to her feet. "It's late. I'm just going to…" She gestured behind her even as she slowly backed into her room.

"Goodnight, Lois," he said.

"Night, Kal," she responded, even as the door to her room began to close.

He continued to stare at the door, almost more confused now than he had been before she'd explained everything to him.



Nor stood on the terrace surrounding his home, staring off into the distance. Ran and Drull had just sent a message to inform him that Earth officials seemed to be saying they had found no life inside Kal's crashed spacecraft.

"You sent for me, m'lord?" Trey asked as he was escorted in to see Lord Nor. It hadn't been a request that brought him before the new First Lord of New Krypton today — it had been a summons.

"Yes," Nor responded. "I am just wondering if you would like an opportunity to explain your actions."


"You think I do not know that you helped Kal escape."

"What would make you believe…" Trey's voice was cut off when, from behind, a sword struck him clean through his heart. His eyes showed a moment of realization before he crumpled over, dead.

"Now," Nor continued, stepping over the bloody body of the chief member of his council, "summon Kir. Have him prepare my army for a little exercise."

"If I might inquire, m'lord, where are they to be sent?" asked Shem.

"Earth," Nor responded. "I think I would like to see this primitive planet with the audacity to shelter this traitor of New Krypton."


Kal woke up to the sound of voices nearby. It took him a moment to figure out that they were actually coming from the kitchen — Lois and Martha. He quickly tuned them out. Whatever they were discussing was none of his business.

He smiled when he spotted his clothes — clean and neatly folded on a nearby chair. If he were to venture a guess, he'd say that Martha had washed them. Unless, of course, he was letting his gender bias get in the way again and Jonathan had done it. Lois… Well, Lois had been as tired as he last night. He doubted she would have done it. She would be more likely to show him how to wash his own clothes — likely making some comment about not being his servant. A small grin unknowingly quirked at the corners of his lips at the thought.

As he rose from his makeshift bed, he felt relieved that his hearing seemed back to normal. He hadn't said anything to Lois, but after his encounter with that strange crystal the previous day, he'd discovered that his hearing seemed… muted. In fact, his entire body had felt somewhat sluggish. But this morning — he stretched — he felt great.

The sun was already high in the sky, lighting the living room with natural light. He walked over to the window and looked out, soaking up as much sun as he could before heading towards the bathroom. Once inside, he closed the door and turned his attention to what needed to be done.

First, there was changing the bandage on his leg. He quickly tended to the task of removing the bandage, only to stop in shock when he saw… nothing but pink skin. No wound. Not even a scar. He quickly looked at his other leg, wondering if somehow he'd mixed the two legs up and put the bandage on the wrong one. But… No. This made no sense. There should at least be a scar. So why… He glanced at himself in the mirror, as if hoping to find there the answers he sought. His eyebrows rose when he realized that his bruises, in fact any indications that he had ever been injured, were gone.

He gave his head a shake, feeling completely off balance as he stepped into the shower. Something about all this was wrong. In fact, the only possibilities were that he was somehow wrong about how badly he had been injured or, perhaps, more time had passed since he'd gone to sleep than he had originally thought. Maybe he had slept for several days — longer even. But, no! Even that didn't work. After all, he should at least have a scar.

Stepping out of the shower, he examined both legs again. The skin looked completely unblemished. Turning his attention to his reflection in the mirror, he was lost in thought. Absently, he picked up the can of shaving cream and covered his face before picking up the razor Lois had given him. He was brought out of his confusing thoughts when… he pulled the razor through the stubble on his chin and… nothing happened. Looking at the razor, he discovered that the blade had warped. What? He'd used this razor only the day before and there had been nothing wrong with it. So why…? He could hardly even form the question.

Still, there were extra blades. Removing the damaged one, he looked at a second blade. It appeared to be fine. Replacing it, he again dragged the razor through his beard. It, too, had no effect and this time, the blade actually seemed to have nicks in it, as if he had tried to drag it through slivers of diamonds.

He removed the blade, testing it carefully against his finger. He let out a breath. It was dull. No great mystery there. Lois had obviously obtained a package of dull, perhaps defective, razor blades. Growling in frustration, he tossed the razor blades into the garbage can. This was just not his day for shaving.

Washing the shaving cream off his face, he directed his attention to the rest of his grooming and dressing, only pausing briefly when he pulled his jeans on over his now completely healed leg.


"So what do we do now?" asked Martha, looking at Lois over her cup of coffee as they sat on opposite sides of the kitchen table.

Lois let out a slow breath. "Well, we've got to come up with some way to keep people from recognizing him. I guess…" Lois' voice trailed off when the door to the kitchen opened and Kal stepped inside.

"Good morning, sleepy-head," Martha said with a smile.

"How long did I sleep?" asked Kal, taking a brief, almost shy look at Lois before directing the question to Martha.

"It's almost noon."

"But I just went to bed yesterday?"

Martha crinkled her eyebrows. "Yes," she said slowly, trying to figure out what he was talking about.

"Good morning," Kal said.

Martha's eyes shot back to Kal. He was directing the comment to Lois. It was, in fact, the first words he had spoken to her.

"Good morning," Lois responded.

Martha suddenly found herself marveling at the subtleties of the English language. Anyone reading the words on a page would think they had simply exchanged a polite greeting. But there was so much more to it than that. Kal's comment had been — almost a question. Almost, but not quite. And Lois' answer had been said while glancing up at him from under her eyelashes, a coyness in her tone, almost as if she were nervous. Martha had to bite back a smile.

When they said nothing more, Martha took charge of the conversation. "So… how about some breakfast? Do you like pancakes?" Martha gestured to a spot at the table.

"I do not know," Kal responded, taking a seat where indicated.

"Then let's give them a try." She turned the heat on the stove's element and set the frying pan on it as she proceeded to mix up some more batter.

"Where is Jonathan?" asked Kal.

"He's been out working for hours. I'm afraid life on the farm starts early."

"I apologize. I should have…"

"Nonsense," Martha interrupted. "You've had a rough few weeks. I think you needed the sleep. Besides, you're our guest." After adding some pancake mix into the hot pan, she poured a cup of coffee and brought it over to Kal.

"Thank you," he said, taking the coffee. "So what were you two talking about when I came in? It almost sounded as if there is a problem."

"There is," Lois informed him, having found her way past the initial nervousness his presence seemed to cause. "We've been…" She suddenly stopped as she studied Kal. "You haven't shaved yet?"

"No. I…"


"What?" Martha asked.

"Well, look." Lois reached over, holding Kal's face with one hand for Martha to see him dead on. As Martha began to nod, Lois looked back at Kal. "Of course, there's still…" She reached up and mussed up Kal's hair. Then she looked back at Martha who was nodding vigorously now.

"What?" asked Kal.

"Oh!" Martha suddenly exclaimed. "Your comments last night got me thinking. I've got… Just wait here."

Without further explanation, Martha rushed from the room, returning a minute later and handing Lois a pair of men's glasses before turning her attention to flipping the pancakes.

Lois stared at the item. "Won't he have problems with the prescription?"

"They're for the Smallville Theater Group. There's only clear glass in them. But I suddenly remembered your comment about how someone named 'Clark' had to wear glasses, and…" She shrugged.

"They're perfect," Lois said, turning towards Kal and, without asking for his permission, placing them on his face. "What do you think?" she asked, directing the question to Martha even as her eyes remained on Kal, carefully evaluating the sight before her.

"Perfect," Martha responded.

"Are you two finished yet?" Kal asked. "I mean, do I have any say at all here?"

Lois and Martha exchanged glances before looking back at Kal and simultaneously saying, "No." Immediately, both women burst out laughing.

Realizing they were teasing him, Kal gave his head a slight shake. It was such a new thing — being teased. He wasn't sure he'd ever been teased before. And… he sort of liked it. It wasn't cruel, the way he'd always pictured teasing. It was… almost an act of affection.

"Oh, right," Lois said. "Your leg. Do you need my help to change your bandage?"


The way Lois' eyebrows rose instantly caused Kal to back down. "I mean, I have already changed it. It was doing fine." Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly fine. Maybe saying that he'd experienced some sort of miracle cure might be more accurate. Still… "It is fine, Lois," he repeated again. Until he could make sense of it, he really didn't want her to know there wasn't even a scar left. "So you really think these look okay?" He fingered his new glasses.

"Yeah," Lois said. "Between them, the different hair style and the unshaven look, you definitely look more like a Clark now than a Kal."

"So I take it this idea of a disguise means that they are still showing that sketch of me on television," Kal said.

"Yeah. The press has been having a field day — insisting that the government provide more information about the man in the picture."

"Your press is demanding action from your government?" Kal asked in disbelief.

"Yes. It happens all the time. You see, the government answers to the people. And a free press constantly demands that it do so."

"But I do not understand this whole… free press concept," said Kal.

Martha couldn't help but grin as she turned to tend to the pancakes, imagining how Lois was going to react to that question.

"In America, the government works for the people, not the other way around. That means that the people have to be informed — not only about what the government wants them to know, but more importantly about what the government doesn't want them to know. That's where the press comes in. We tell people what they need to know — so that they can hold the government responsible for their actions."

Kal studied her long and hard for a moment. "And if the people do not approve…?"

"They can change the government. Everyone votes and then the person who gets the majority of the votes becomes part of the new government — sort of. Unfortunately, too often people just vote for the party their parents voted for without paying any real attention to the issues of the day — or how the government has represented them in the past. But at least we try to inform the people so that they can make intelligent decisions."

Kal seemed to take a moment to digest all that. "Well, if you do not mind…" He gestured at the door behind him.

"What about your pancakes?" Martha asked.

"I will be right back. I just want to see…" He gestured to his face. "…for myself."


Kal stood for a long time, looking at his reflection in the mirror. They were certainly right about one thing — he didn't look like the First Lord of New Krypton at the moment. Still… He ran a hand through the stubble on his face. He was relieved he hadn't needed to tell Lois about his shaving experience a short time before. Maybe it was just dull razors. But… He got the feeling it was something else. At least, it was very odd that none of the razors had worked. And those odd splinter cuts in that one blade…

No. The shaving incident and the healing of his leg… Something very strange was happening here. And until he figured things out, it would be best to keep his own council.

Taking a deep breath, he headed back to the kitchen just in time for him to hear Martha call that breakfast was ready.

"Thank you for the glasses," he said, even as he set them on the table. "I will be sure to wear them when I go out in public. Until then… is there somewhere I can put them?"

"Sure," Martha said, taking the glasses and setting them on the windowsill before placing a plate of pancakes in front of Kal.


"Why don't you two kids head on into the living room? Jonathan will help me clean up the dishes," Martha said, gathering a pile of dishes from supper and carrying them over to the sink.

Kal hesitated, not entirely sure of the appropriate course of action.

Still, when Lois, after a half-hearted attempt to help, headed for the living room, he followed.

"So I understand Jonathan had you doing farm work today," Lois said casually as she settled onto the couch.

Kal nodded.

"How did you like it?"

"It was great. I feel… really super."

"Feels good to put in an honest day's work?"

"Honest day's work," he said thoughtfully, rolling the expression around in his mind. "I like that."

Lois smiled, watching as he settled himself onto the couch beside her.

"So did you get to milk a cow?"

"No. Jonathan said that they only milk them first thing in the morning. But he promised he would teach me tomorrow."

Lois laughed. "Spoken like a true farm boy."

"You think so?"

"Yeah. You sound… I don't know. Almost content."

His expression darkened.

"What?" Lois asked.

"I just… I should be trying to find a way back to Krypton. When I think what Nor might be doing…" His voice trailed off.

Lois looked down, chewing silently on her lower lip.

Just then, the door to the kitchen swung open and Jonathan stepped through carrying a tray containing a teapot, cups and condiments. Martha followed carrying platter with four pieces of apple pie.

"Jonathan and I have been talking," Martha said as she set the platter on the table and began handing out pieces of apple pie. "For the past few months, we have been considering taking on a hand to help Jonathan around the farm. And, Kal, well, we were wondering if you'd like to stay on here with us — at least until you get grounded. We can't pay much, but…"

"I would love to. And pay is not necessary. Just a roof over my head and some of your fabulous cooking is enough for me. After everything you have done for me already…"

"Then it's settled," Jonathan said. "But you'll need some money — clothes, incidentals, things like that."

"As for you, Lois," Martha continued, "we think it's about time you got back to Metropolis and made nice with Perry."

Lois looked anything but pleased.

"What?" asked Martha. "You've done what you can do for Kal. Go back, talk to Perry. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to give you your job back."

"I'm not ready to talk to Perry," Lois pouted.

"Lois, he was just doing his job," Jonathan said. "Given everything that's happening in Metropolis, can you really blame him for insisting that his best reporter stay?"

"I know. It's just…"

"…that you like to think you're different," Martha completed. "You are, Lois. But you're still a reporter. And Perry is still your editor. Go back. Talk to him. Straighten all this out."

Lois let out a breath. "I'm just not ready, Martha," she explained.

Martha nodded. "Okay, take a day or two. But, Lois, the longer you wait, the harder it will be."


Lois lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. She'd been in a funk since the conversation after supper. And she wasn't entirely sure why. Martha was right. It was time to go home. She'd done everything she could for Kal. He was in good hands. Still… She didn't want to go back to Metropolis.

It was probably just that she didn't want to have to face Perry. That was it. After all, what else could it be? Her presence wasn't needed here anymore. She'd done her good deed — rescuing Kal, nursing him back to health and even giving him one or two life lessons. It was time for her to get back to Metropolis, back to the Daily Planet and back to Dan.

Still, she wasn't quite able to shake the ache in her heart every time she thought about leaving. She forced those thoughts from her mind and focused on Dan. She had a lot to straighten out with him when she got back. Maybe she'd give him a call and invite him over for a romantic dinner at her place. She could even try cooking — or, more likely, order in. Whatever. Some time alone was definitely called for to settle things between them.

Closing her eyes, she allowed thoughts of Dan to consume her. Dan was a great kisser. It didn't take much imagination for her to picture them snuggling up on her couch, kissing. His arms pulled her closer even as her hand came up and stroked the stubble on his cheek.

Her eyes shot open. Oh, god, no. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be happening. Kal was an arrogant, male chauvinist pig with no life skills — except how to run a world, and what good was that to him here? So why was he invading her thoughts of Dan? She pulled the pillow around, burying her face in it.


Lois was leaving. Kal wasn't sure why that thought hadn't even crossed his mind until Martha had brought it up tonight.

It should have occurred to him that she'd eventually leave. After all, she'd had a life before he had arrived on the scene. Why would that change? But somehow… It was crazy. He was staying in Smallville with Martha and Jonathan, learning how to work on a farm. She was going back to Metropolis and to a job she evidently loved. Everything was the way it should be. So… why did the very thought of her leaving have him feeling so lost?

He looked at the wall separating him from Lois. If he imagined it hard enough, he could almost believe he could see Lois in bed, curled up on her side, burying her face in a pillow.

What was it about her that left him feeling so off balance? She was beautiful — yes. But he'd known many beautiful women, and yet none of them had affected him as she had. Was it that he wasn't used to women who said what they felt? Surely that wasn't the only reason he was off balance?

He watched as she rolled over onto her back and… Suddenly, he sat straight up. He wasn't imagining seeing Lois! He WAS seeing Lois! He closed his eyes, giving his head a shake before looking back at the wall. It was still there. He stared at it for a moment and then… he was looking through the wall once again.

He jumped to his feet, spinning away from the wall, his heart pounding as if seeking a way to escape its confined location. By the spirits, what was happening to him?


Ran and Drull stared at each other in frustration. This search was going nowhere. And Nor would be there soon. If they didn't find Kal before Nor arrived, they were both in danger of forfeiting their lives. But… where did they even start? Earth officials had not announced it if they had found him. And given the resources they were putting in to conducting a citywide search, Ran and Drull were pretty sure that they didn't know where he was. In fact, the only thing they knew now that they hadn't known before was that Kal's body hadn't been found in the ship.

And there was another complication. All of Metropolis, Earth's largest city, was being thoroughly searched for aliens. They had to find a place to hide. Preferably some place where they wouldn't be found either. They headed back to their craft. With the cloaking device activated, it was the safest place in all of Metropolis. Until they thought of a plan to find Kal, or placate Nor, it might be best to stay there.


When lunch time rolled around, Kal had learned to milk a cow, helped Jonathan make repairs to the tractor and realized that his 'seeing through the wall' episode the previous night had been nothing more than some bizarre dream. After all, there was no way he could actually see through walls. To think otherwise was absolutely crazy.

And… he had to admit, he felt good. Really good. Both emotionally and physically. Something about doing an honest day's work seemed to… just leave a man feeling whole inside. Well, at least 'wholer.' After a lifetime spent wheeling and dealing on the highest levels, negotiating agreements between greedy lords in an effort to maintain the peace and fighting a bloody civil war, there was just something so decent about milking cows and fixing tractors.

He stood, staring out the window when the oddest thing started happening. Large white… they looked like small feathers… began floating, ever so gently through the sky to land on the ground. What? A few of these small abnormalities were followed by others until the entire scene looked as if the clouds were flaking off, covering the earth with a white blanket until everything was purified.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?"

Kal turned to see Lois standing next to him.

"I just love this type of snow. So peaceful," she continued. "It's impossible to feel anything but awe on a day like this."

"Snow?" Kal said, looking back at the phenomenon taking place just outside the window.

"Haven't you seen snow before?"

Kal shook his head. "What causes it?"

"It's precipitation — like rain. You do know what rain is?"

He nodded.

"But it's too cold for rain, so it comes down as snow. But… well, you've seen it on the ground already."

He nodded. "I just… I guess I never really thought about where it came from. And this…" He pointed out the window. "…I never knew anything could be so beautiful."

"So I take it you don't have snow on New Krypton?"

"No. It must never get cold enough. But then New Krypton is closer to our sun — and it is smaller than Earth."

They were silent for a moment as they stood there, just watching as the huge snowflakes floated down from the sky.

"Come on!" Lois said suddenly, and, after putting on her boots and insisting he do the same, leading him into the yard.

Kal stood there, a slight smile on his face, as he watched Lois, her arms outstretched, her face tilted up to the heavens, her mouth open as she waited for a snowflake to land on her tongue.

"You try," she said, finally lowering her face to look at him.


"What? Not kingly enough for you? Too high and mighty, huh?"

"Of course not. I just do not think…"

His voice trailed off when she raised a single eyebrow in challenge. He let out a breath before tilting his head into the falling snow.

"What are you two kids doing out there?" yelled Martha from the doorway.

"Kal has never seen snow before," Lois responded.


Kal glanced at the older woman and nodded before returning to the challenge of getting a snowflake to land on his tongue. He sputtered, closing his eyes when cold, wet snowflakes hit his eyes and cheeks and nose before finally landing on his tongue, the cold quickly melting. It tasted like water. He wasn't entirely sure why that surprised him.

"Hey, you did it!" Lois exclaimed. "Not too bad for a king."

Kal smiled. He had to admit, he liked the way she seemed completely underwhelmed by his status. Never before had anyone made him feel so… normal.


"Jonathan and I spoke," Martha said as she put bowls of soup in front of the three other people sitting at the table and brought a final one over for herself. "And we think we should all take the afternoon off."

"And do what?" asked Lois.

"Well… I told Jonathan that this was Kal's first time seeing snow. And we thought… now that the tractor is going, we should take the opportunity to try it out. So after lunch, while Lois and I clean up…"

"…you and I will take a little trip over to the barn," Jonathan told Kal, keeping his response deliberately vague.

"What are you two up to?" Lois asked suspiciously.

"You're just going to have to wait and see," Martha said, beaming.


Lois stood at the window, her cheeks still flushed by the chill of the air outside, watching as Kal and Jonathan disconnected the sled from the tractor. She glanced over briefly when she felt Martha come up to stand beside her.

"He was so much like a big kid out there today," Lois said softly.

Martha smiled. "Well, a hayride can do that to anyone."

"Yeah, but him…" Her voice trailed off when she suddenly realized that she wasn't entirely sure what she'd been trying to say. But watching his excitement as he'd learned to drive the tractor and then when they drank hot chocolate from a thermos as they'd ridden in the hay on the sled through the falling snow… She wasn't even entirely sure she'd ever had as much fun.

"You really like him, don't you?" said Martha.

"Oh, he's okay," Lois said, trying to sound uncommitted.

A slight chuckle from Martha turned her attention to the older woman.

"What?" she demanded.

"Nothing," Martha responded. "It's just… well, you quit your job for him and… to put it frankly, you're still here."

"I just want to make sure he's settled in before I leave."

Martha looked back at Kal.

"He's cute," Martha said.

"Really? I hadn't noticed."

Martha's raised eyebrows caused Lois to change tactics.

"Okay, so maybe he's a little cute."

When Martha just continued to look at her in disbelief, Lois spoke again.

"Fine! A lot cute." Lois growled. "Okay, so he's drop dead gorgeous. But that's not everything, you know?"

Lois looked back out the window, knowing that Martha was not fooled. After a moment, Lois sighed. She needed to talk about this. It was eating her alive. And if she couldn't trust Martha, who could she trust?

"I don't know what it is with him, Martha," Lois finally said softly. "At times, I come close to hating him. And at other times… It's as if there is something… I don't know what… binding me to him."

"I knew it!"

"Martha, it's not funny. He's staying here. I'm going back to Metropolis. What future is there in that?" She let out a breath. "Not that it really matters. It's probably nothing more than hormones anyway."

Martha stilled, as if suddenly understanding the problem. "And without as much as a high school diploma, how can he get a job of any sort in Metropolis — and you can't imagine leaving Metropolis," Martha said, stating succinctly what Lois had yet to put into words.

"And look at him, Martha. He just seems so… happy here — as if this is where he belongs, as if he has always belonged here. But… as much as I love this place…"

"…you can't imagine living full time on a farm."

Lois shrugged. "But these feelings…" Her voice again trailed off, having no words to describe feelings she seemed unable to prevent. It wasn't love. It couldn't be love. And she had problems seeing how it ever could be. He represented just so much what she had always abhorred. But then there was this odd sense of… she wasn't entirely sure what… she got whenever he was around.


Jonathan slapped Kal on the back as they finished putting the tractor away. "What do you say we get some wood?" Jonathan asked. "Maybe have a fire tonight. I could use a fire after that outing."

"Sounds good," Kal responded, not entirely sure what Jonathan was suggesting.

Jonathan, however, didn't seem to realize that on New Krypton, open fires were not used as a source of heat and amusement. Instead, he simply nodded, heading around the barn to the log pile.

"Ever chopped wood before?" Jonathan asked as he picked up the chopping axe.

"I cannot say that I have."

"Well, it's not that hard. You just let the axe do most of the work. Here. I'll show you." Bending over, Jonathan picked up a piece of wood and set it on a larger stump. Then, stepping back, he raised the axe over his head and swung. The weight of the axe did most of the work, sending the sharp edge into the wood and causing it, in one simple movement, to split apart. "Do you want to try?" he asked.

"Sure," Kal responded, taking the axe from Jonathan.

"Uhh… son, that piece is a little big to start… Well, okay. I guess you've got the hang of it," Jonathan said, a laugh in his voice when the axe came down, easily splitting the piece of wood and burying itself well into the stump. "Except, next time, might I suggest you not put so much muscle into it."

"I did not think I was," Kal replied as he pried the axe out of the stump. He chopped a second piece before turning to Jonathan. "Can I tell you something?" he asked.


"Well, it seems as if I am… a lot stronger the past couple of days."

"Good food, clean living and exercise will do that for you."

"Yes, but… well, I mean, a lot stronger."

Jonathan crinkled his eyebrows. "How much stronger?"

Kal picked up a large piece of wood and tossed it in the air as if throwing a snowball only to catch it again without any effort.

"That's strong," Jonathan confirmed.

Kal shrugged as he set the log on the stump and raised the axe to chop another piece.

"Well, I wouldn't worry about it. You did say that the gravity is different on your world. That might be all there is to it."

"I guess," Kal said.

For the next number of minutes, they worked side by side in silence.

"Why don't you take some of this in?" Jonathan finally suggested. "I'll chop up a little bit more and follow with the rest."

"Sure," Kal responded, handing Jonathan the axe before bending over to collect some of the wood.

Slipping slightly in the newly fallen snow, Kal reached out to steady himself just as Jonathan swung the axe.



"Oh my god!" Jonathan gasped, tossing the axe aside to rush to Kal when his axe came down on the wood just as Kal's hand landed on top of it. He grabbed Kal's hand, expecting to see a number of missing digits, when… "Kal, how…"

"I do not know," Kal responded, seeing what Jonathan was seeing. He'd felt the axe hit his hand, but… no pain, no damage. In fact, there was no indication whatsoever that anything had happened. Not even a mark.

The two men stared at each other in disbelief for a moment.

"How is that possible?" Jonathan finally asked.

"I have no idea."

"On New Krypton…"

"…I would have been missing a couple of fingers," Kal confirmed, reaching over to pick up the axe. It was now time for both men to stare in disbelief at the finger-shaped indentations in the axe blade.

Jonathan stumbled back to collapse onto a nearby log.

"There is something else," Kal said as things began to fall into place in his mind. "Yesterday when I got up, I discovered… Well, in the final battle, before I left New Krypton, I was stabbed. A sword went all the way through my leg, but… Well, when I checked on the wound yesterday, it had healed completely. So had the bruises on my chest and a small cut on my forehead." He ran his hand through the stubble on his face. "Oh, and the reason I am not shaving… It did not actually start out as a disguise. It was… When I tried to use the razor Lois bought for me, it would not cut the hair on my face."

"Are you saying…? What?"

"I seem to be invulnerable. But, Jonathan…"


"Until I figure out what it all means, please do not say anything to Martha or Lois."

"Is there anything else?"

Kal hesitated for a moment. "I am not sure."

"Not sure?"

"Well, I wrote it off as a dream last night, but now…"

"What did you dream?"

"That I was looking through a wall — watching Lois sleep."

Jonathan's eyebrows rose.

"But I am sure that was just a dream," Kal insisted.


Kal worked at trying to build the fire in the fireplace the way Jonathan had instructed. When he finally had things set up, he reached for a match, lighting it and holding it to the paper. He let out a breath of frustration when it went out. Taking out another match, he tried again. When the second match went out without lighting the fire, he growled.

"Burn!" he said softly, staring intently at the kindling. He jumped back, collapsing to the floor behind him when… something shot out of his eyes causing the logs to burst into flames.

"Caught you off guard, did it?" asked Lois with a laugh.

"Uhh… yeah," Kal said, not knowing what else to say.

"Your first fire?"

Kal nodded.

"Well, it looks like you did pretty good. That's a really good fire you've got going."

"Yeah," Kal said reflectively. What had just happened there?

"What's wrong?"

Kal cleared his throat, finally rising to his feet. She might not have telepathic abilities, but… she was sure observant. "Nothing. I need to go help Jonathan bring in the remainder of the wood." Without waiting for her response, he headed back to the door.


Something was wrong. When Lois had got out of bed to go to the washroom, only to discover that Kal was not asleep on the couch in the living room, she'd become curious. She'd wandered around the darkened house before spotting him standing outside on the steps in nothing more than his shirtsleeves and pajama bottoms.

Grabbing her coat and slipping her bare feet into her boots, she headed for the door. The snow had quit some time ago and the sky had cleared, revealing an impressive number of stars. Still, given the temperature, what he was doing standing outside was a mystery to her. Grabbing Kal's coat from a hook beside the door, she flung it over her arm even as she began reaching for the doorknob.

She'd known something was bothering him at supper. And that feeling had only grown deeper as she'd watched him during the course of the evening. He'd been quiet, sulky almost — quite a change from the excited, impressionable boy earlier in the day. Yet when she'd asked him what was wrong, he'd rebuffed her.

Taking a deep breath, she turned the handle and opened the door, stepping quickly outside. This time, she would not be snubbed. This time she was going to find out what was going on.

"Kal?" she asked.

He turned and looked at her.

"It's freezing out here," she said, handing him his coat. "You're going to catch your death of cold. And, hey, it's not that I care, but after all the trouble I went through to save you, it would be a shame if you died." She hoped the little bit of humor would soften him up.

"Oh, I am sorry," Kal said. "I did not notice." He took the coat, slipping it on even as his eyes again returned to the heavens.

Her eyebrows rose. Didn't notice? How could he not notice how cold it was? Still… "Which star is yours?" she asked, stepping up beside him. He moved behind her, his head next to her cheek, his arm stretched out so that she could see where he was pointing. She swallowed hard, hardly remembering what she was supposed to be looking for when distracted by the feel of his hard body behind her, his warm breath against her cheek.

"That one."

She nodded slightly, forcing herself to concentrate on the star he was attempting to show her. Still, it wasn't until he lowered his arm and stepped away that she could think rationally. Hormones. Definitely hormones.

"Do you miss it?" she asked, pushing the previous thoughts and feelings from her mind.

The length of time he took to answer the question surprised her.

"A bit — I guess. There are… some people there that I miss — that I worry about. But… I love this place, these people." He looked over at her. "Thank you for bringing me here, Lois."

She glanced down, shuffling the snow with her feet. She was glad he liked Martha and Jonathan, and she supposed she was glad he liked the farm, too. But the more he liked the farm, the farther apart that left them. "So if it isn't homesickness… what's bothering you?" she asked.

He quickly looked away.

"Can't you tell me?" she asked, practically begging him to let her in, to let her help.

"There are… some things that I just have to sort through on my own," he said softly.

She let out a breath. "Fine. I guess if you haven't learned that you can trust me by now, there really is nothing more to say."

She turned, about to storm back into the house when he suddenly appeared in front of her, faster than she would have believed possible.

"This is not about you, Lois. It is not about how much I trust you. I just… I just need some time."

She stared into his eyes, her expression remaining defiant. And then he did the unthinkable. He cocked his head to the side and suddenly reminded her of a lost little boy and her heart did a back flip. She closed her eyes as the anger dissipated. "I guess I can give you that," she finally said. "Just don't take too long." The last sentence was definitely a warning, not sure if it was meant to convince herself or him that she wouldn't wait too long, no matter what a mere look from him seemed capable of doing to her heart.

"Thank you," he said softly, turning to look back out into the night sky.

She watched for a moment more before heading inside. He needed time. She could give him that — for now.

It wasn't until she'd closed the door behind her that she noticed Kal's boots sitting beside the door. She spun back around to see if he was outside in his bare feet. But… he was walking across the yard and his feet weren't visible. She shook her head. He must have borrowed a pair of boots from Jonathan. After all, even if he hadn't noticed that he needed a coat, no one could walk through the snow in bare feet without noticing it.

Sighing, she headed back to bed, determined to give her mind a few hours to rest before facing tomorrow, and decisions she really wasn't looking forward to making — in particular, if it was time for her to return to Metropolis and leave Kal behind her.


"So this is Earth — the planet with a yellow sun," Nor said, staring at the blue ball outside the window of the spacecraft.

"Yes, sir," the chief of his armed forces, Kir replied.

"And you are sure they have no idea we are here yet?"

"Absolutely. We activated the cloaking device as soon as we emerged from the wormhole. There is no way they have picked us up. But… well, we did discover something interesting."


"Some sort of electronic air waves. We had it translated using the computers and we found…" Kir led him to the computer where images were playing quietly on the screen. Reaching over, Kir turned up the volume.

"What is it?"

"Some sort of device that is used to communicate with the entire world."

"And that is what they choose to communicate?" asked Nor seeing the cartoon characters on the screen.

"That is only one of the images." Pushing a few more buttons he showed that there were a number of different images playing.

"Interesting," Nor said thoughtfully.

"So what is the plan, m'lord? Do you want me to mobilize the troops? We can storm the Earth, search it until we find this traitor."

"Not yet, Kir. I have an idea I would like to try first. After all, getting lost amongst a few billion people is really easy."

"What about Ran and Drull? Have they reported in yet?"

"Not yet. I have no way to contact them without the risk that Kal will pick up on the communication." Staring at the images on the computer screen, Nor dismissed the other man from his mind as his new idea began to take hold.


Lois was unaware of the sloppy smile that had settled on her face as she stood in the hayloft, looking out the small window as Jonathan attempted to show Kal how to drive the truck. She wasn't sure she'd seen as many starts and stops since the last time she'd taken a close look at Lucy's love life.

"Did you find it?"


Martha's voice from down below pulled Lois' thoughts away from the sight outside.

"The chicken feed."

Chicken feed. Right. She'd come up to get a bag of chicken feed. She looked around.

"I could always come up."

"No. That's okay. I see it." Lois bent over, picking up the twenty pound bag, hoisting it onto her shoulder and began working her way across the uneven floor of the hayloft.

"Are you sure you don't need my help?" Martha called to her.

"No, I'm…" Lois' reassurances were cut off when the toe of her shoe caught on an uneven board and she lost her balance. She let go of the bag, gasping as she reached out to grab the railing around the side of the hayloft. For a moment, she thought she'd prevented herself from falling until…


"Nooooo!" Lois screamed as the railing snapped, sending her over the side the hayloft. Her life seemed to flash before her eyes as the entire world slowed down. She felt nothing but air beneath her. Her arms flailed wildly. In the distance she could hear herself screaming as she tumbled down, face first towards the unforgiving ground of the barn. And then…

She gasped, hardly able to believe what was happening when she suddenly found herself in Kal's arms.

"How…" she gasped out, her mind trying to catch up with events. And then she looked down and her arms went tight around Kal's neck. "But…"

"You okay?" asked Kal.

"But…" She pointed to the ground which was still a good four feet beneath them.

Kal looked down, seeming to realize for the first time that he was flying. Almost like Wile E. Coyote, his legs flailed for a moment before gravity seemed to catch up with them and they fell, landing heavily on the floor, Lois still safely tucked in his arms.

He quickly set her down and they stood there for a moment, staring at each other in disbelief before they were snapped back to their surroundings when Martha rushed over.

"Everyone all right?" she asked, almost as if, to her, the flying was secondary. The main thing was to know that they were both okay.

"Yeah," Kal said, quickly setting Lois back on her feet. "Yeah, I am fine. Are you?" As he spoke, he continued to step back, as if by putting distance between himself and Lois, he could somehow erase what had just transpired.

Lois nodded mutely.

"Everyone all right?" asked Jonathan, rushing into the barn. "What happened?"


Kal stood just inside the door, looking out at Lois who was standing on the front porch, staring off into the distance. After the initial excitement in the barn had calmed down, Martha had hustled everyone inside to sit down while they tried to make sense of what had happened.

Jonathan had explained that he'd heard Lois scream only to turn to Kal in time to see him disappear in a gust of wind and a streak of color. From Kal's perspective, he'd heard Lois' blood-curdling scream, felt his blood turn to ice water and suddenly everything had slowed down. He'd found himself out of the truck, running towards the barn just as Lois tumbled over the side of the hayloft and plunged towards the ground and then… she'd been in his arms. He wasn't able to remember taking flight — his sole focus had been on reaching Lois. On the other hand, he wasn't even entirely sure he hadn't just jumped and then floated. Either was hard to believe. But jumping and floating seemed more likely than flying.

Martha had been the one to ask if this was the first time something like this had happened. And from there, every weird event that Kal had experienced in the past few days had come to light.

But in all of this, Lois had been surprisingly quiet. Once Kal had finished explaining everything that he knew, Lois had silently risen to her feet, put on her coat and boots and left the house. Kal understood. She saw him as some sort of freak. He couldn't say he blamed her, but for reasons he couldn't quite name, the idea of Lois seeing him the way he saw himself bothered him.

Slowly, he picked up his coat and pulled it on before stepping onto the porch.

She didn't turn as he approached. But he could almost hear… or was he actually hearing? …an increase in her heart rate, telling Kal that she knew he was there.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked after several moments of silence.

"I did not want you knowing what a freak I am becoming," he answered honestly.

She turned around, her eyebrows knitted together. "A freak?" she asked. "Is that what you think?"

"Well… come on, Lois. You cannot tell me that any of this is normal. Do other people in your world start fire with their eyes, or hear people's heart beats, or move so fast they become a swirl of colors, or float? I mean, why are you standing out here? Why were you so quiet when I was telling Martha about the things I seem to be able to do?"

"You think I was quiet because I think you're some kind of freak?"

Kal looked away. Why did she just have to keep asking that question? It was obvious what she thought.

"Kal, look at me."

When he didn't, she reached up, laying a hand on the side of his face to bring his eyes back to hers. It never even occurred to him that with his strength, he could have prevented her from succeeding in making him look at her. It was as if he had no strength when she as much as touched him.

"No," Lois said softly, maintaining direct eye contact with him. "People in my world don't float or… do any of the other things you mentioned. Do they on your world?"

He shook his head slightly, though not enough that he would in anyway disturb her gentle touch on his cheek.

"But just because you can do them here… Why would I think that made you a freak?"

"Then… why were you so quiet?"

"Because you didn't tell me!" She sounded exasperated. "All these strange things were happening to you, and you didn't think you could tell me. Do you know how that makes me feel? Like you don't trust me. And after everything we've gone through together… If you can't trust me yet, will you ever?"

"But this… Lois, something is happening to me. I am hardly myself anymore. How was I supposed to tell you about it?"

"Words, Kal. You link words together into sentences. It's really not so hard. You just tell me."

"But… are you saying you do not think I'm a freak?"

"Kal! You're not a freak! Do you have any idea what I'd give to be invulnerable, or to fly…" Suddenly, her face lit up. "Do you think you can be invisible?"


"I've always wanted to be invisible."

"Would you be serious, Lois?"

"I am. Come on, Kal. Try. Maybe… I don't know. Think… invisible." She stepped back from him, waiting.

Kal let out a breath before giving up. He closed his eyes and thought 'invisible.' When he opened his eyes, Lois was still standing there expectantly.

"I take it that did not work," Kal said.

"Damn! Well, I guess no one can have it all."


"So… I think what we need to do is to figure out what all you can do."

"No, Lois. I do not want…"

"Kal, don't you understand how special this makes you? Think of the things you could do with these powers. The good you could do. But that's not going to happen if you keep trying to pretend they aren't happening. What you need to do is to figure out exactly what you can do — and practice to make sure you are in control. After all, you don't exactly want to be starting fires with your eyes unless you intend to start a fire."

Kal studied her for a long moment. She honestly didn't look as if any of this made her think less of him. In fact, she seemed to think he'd been given an incredible gift. Her only problem was that he hadn't told her about what was happening to him. He gave his head a slight shake, marveling over how remarkable a woman this was.

"So…?" she finally asked.

He let out a breath before nodding.

"But before we start," Lois began, pointing at his feet, "it might be a good idea if you put some boots on."

He glanced down, noticing for the first time that he was standing in the snow in his bare feet — and wasn't even noticing the cold.


Four adults stood around the small washroom, staring in frustration at a number of now-broken items. Scissors. Razors. Even garden shears and a small electric saw. No one now knew exactly what to say. But as Lois had pointed out, it was a problem they had to solve. After all, if Kal's hair, both on his head and his face, continued to grow, he'd need a way to cut it.

Still, so far none of their ideas had worked.

"Well, I think we need a cup of tea and some apple crisp," Martha finally said, breaking the silence.

"Martha, tea and apple crisp isn't what we need right now," Jonathan replied. "We need to find a way to help Kal find a solution to his problem."

"And standing here obsessing is a better idea?" Martha rolled her eyes before turning to head for the kitchen.

The other three stood there in silence for a long moment before meekly following Martha.

They were settled at the table, listening to the kettle boil before Kal spoke. "What about that crystal?"

"The crystal?" asked Lois.

"The one your neighbor found in his yard last year. When I was exposed to it, afterwards I felt… sluggish somehow, as if I was not seeing or hearing everything I could."

"So you… what?" Lois asked in disbelief. "…think we should expose you to it so that you can shave?"

"It is just a thought."

"Are you crazy, Kal? Just a few seconds exposure and you looked as if you were about to keel over. And you want to use it to shave every morning?"

"Do you have any better ideas?"

"Not at the moment," Lois pouted. "But give me time."

Martha passed tea around for everyone.

Out of habit more than anything, when Kal picked up his tea, he blew on it to cool it down, staring in disbelief when it froze over.

"Okay," Lois said slowly. "I guess we have another power for you to practice."



"I do not know how I did it," Kal said in frustration.

"Let's just walk through it again," Lois responded as she and Kal walked slowly through the barn. She made her way over to the ladder to the hayloft and climbed it.

"Careful," Kal instructed.

"Don't worry, Kal. I'm not going to fall. I just want us to get a visual. I was up here." She stood on the landing just beside the broken railing of the hayloft looking down at Kal. "And you were in the truck. So what happened then?"

"We have been through all this before."

"So one more time. You were in the truck… Come on, Kal. Close your eyes and concentrate."

Kal closed his eyes, letting out an audible sigh. "Fine. I was in the truck when I heard you scream. Without thinking, I rushed into the barn. It felt as if everything slowed down and then I saw you, tumbling over the edge and I…"

"That's it!"

Kal opened his eyes, realizing to his amazement that he was floating.

"Okay, don't panic," Lois said quickly. "Just… float."

Kal held his breath, carefully looking down. When he began to sink, he pulled in a deeper breath of air and seemed to rise. When he let it out slowly, he started to sink. The next time when he rose, the breath he took was smaller, until finally he was able to go up and down without the corresponding breaths.

"Okay, good. Now…" She gestured for him to go sideways.

He raised his eyebrows, having no idea how to do what she was asking. "I am not certain I can do that, Lois. I mean… there is a big difference between floating and flying."

"Is there?"

"I would think so. I mean, just because I can float does not mean that I can…"

She let out a breath. "Okay, well what if we just…" Without finishing her comments, she took a swan dive off the landing on the hayloft.

Without thinking, Kal dove for her, sweeping her up in his arms and proceeding half way across the barn before he remembered that he didn't know how to do more than just float.

"Ha ha!" Lois exclaimed triumphantly. "I thought you didn't know how to fly. But… you didn't touch down and then just jump to where I was, did you? You flew."

"Are you insane? Lois, you just jumped off a hayloft."

"Would you lighten up?" She laughed when he looked at his hand, as trying to figure out how to lighten it. "It means relax. I'm fine. So… are you going to take me flying or not?" From where she was safely in Kal's arms, she wrapped one of her arms around Kal's neck and wiggled her feet.

Kal shook his head, staring at her in disbelief.

"Oh, come on, Kal," Lois said, her eyes dancing with laughter. "Don't be a spoil sport. I didn't get hurt. So come on… take me flying."

Kal lowered his head for a moment before looking at Lois and nodding. "All right. But I will just try taking you back to the hayloft."

Lois' smile, when it came, could have eclipsed the sun.


Her cheeks were flushed and she couldn't seem to keep the smile off her face. A quick lift over to the hayloft had resulted in another trip to the floor of the barn. And then… By the time Kal finally set her down, Lois was able to count the past hour as the single most remarkable experience of her life. They'd not gone far, just over the farm, enjoying the countryside from a completely new angle. She hadn't felt scared or cold — somehow drawing both safety and warmth from Kal's arms. And it had been… indescribable.

She still had goose bumps when Kal set her on the ground. Forcing herself to concentrate, she directed them on to other subjects.

"Okay, so what else should we practice?" she asked.

"There is no pleasing you, is there?" There was humor in his voice, as if he understood how much she had enjoyed that flight — as if he had enjoyed it as much as she.

"Yeah, right. Like you didn't enjoy that."

"Okay, so maybe it was a little fun," Kal conceded.

"A little, huh, Mr. Oh-wait-I-just-want-to-try-going-a-little-higher?" She waved off, his immediate desire to reply. "So what else do you want to practice?"

Kal crinkled his eyebrows as he thought. "That starting a fire with my eyes thing," he finally said. "After all, that one could be scary if I do not know how to control it."

Lois nodded. "Okay, let's work on the heat vision gizmo."

"Heat vision gizmo?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "Why don't we start easy — maybe make a small pile of sticks, see if you can light that."

"As long as we do it in the snow — just in case anything goes wrong."

"Good point."

They immediately proceeded to set up a safe practice sight. Taking a deep breath, Kal concentrated on the sticks. Nothing happened.

He growled in frustration.

"Are you really sure about this heat vision gizmo?" asked Lois.

"Lois, you think I would make something like this up?"

"Maybe the match just caught after you thought it was out."

"I know what happened," Kal said, his frustration level rising. "I looked at the logs and thought…"

Lois and Kal both gasped when a laser of sorts shot from his eyes, hitting the hand he was using to point at the logs.

"Ow!" Kal gasped.

"What happened?" she asked, rushing over and grabbing his hand. It was a little red, but not seriously damaged, although the hairs on the back looked somewhat singed. She brushed the small dead hairs off, checking carefully to ensure no permanent damage had been done before looking back at him for an explanation.

"I guess I missed the pile."

"But obviously you're right about the laser. Try again… Well, as long as your hand is okay."

Kal nodded, looking back at the sticks, smiling in satisfaction when this time they sprung to life. When he looked back at Lois for her reaction, she was staring at the fire, an intent look on her face.

"Shaving," she finally said. "I think I have an idea for how you can shave."


Kal stood in front of the bathroom mirror, steadying himself for what he was about to try. He'd practiced, of course, using his heat vision for shaving part of his arm. He'd even done it using a mirror, hoping to try it out on a less vulnerable part of his body before using this method on his face. And everything he'd done told him that this should work. Still…

"Are you sure about this?" Martha asked.

"He's practiced, Martha," Lois responded. "He's ready."

"I'm not so sure this is a good idea," Jonathan added. "I mean, what if something goes wrong?"

"He's got to try sometime," Lois suggested. "After all, it's not as if he can spend the rest of his life without shaving or cutting his hair."

"But why now? Why not wait until he's had a bit more…"

Before they could argue further, Kal looked into the mirror, activating his heat vision.

All three of the members of his audience fell silent as they watched him cleanly shave his face.

"Yes! I knew it would work!" Lois exclaimed, stepping forward and, without thinking, giving Kal a hug. Suddenly realizing she was in his arms, she stepped back, unable to meet his eyes. "See, I told you."

"Yes, you did," Kal admitted.

"How does it feel, son?" asked Jonathan.

Kal tapped his cheeks. "A little sensitive. But no more so than when I used to shave."

"So another problem solved. What's next?"

Everyone turned towards Lois, looking at her in disbelief. She didn't mind. She was thoroughly enjoying solving all of these problems and seeing Kal gain control over his powers.


"Lois, do you never take a break?"

Lois suddenly stopped. They had been going at this for hours — and she hadn't even noticed. No wonder that when she suggested they move on to figuring out how good his hearing was, he'd finally objected.

"I'm sorry. I guess I just get a little…"


She shrugged.

Kal shook his head, a grin on his face. "Well, given that your current obsession seems to be about me, I suppose I should feel flattered. I am not sure I have ever had a beautiful woman pay me so much attention — my every move, my every thought."

She cocked her head to the side. "What are you suggesting?" she demanded, more amused than annoyed by his obvious implications.

"I think someone is finding me completely irresistible. Cannot get enough of me." His voice was light, teasing.

It occurred to her that she'd never heard him tease before and… she kind of liked it. "So you think I have a crush on you, do you?"

"A crush?"

"That I like you," she clarified.

"Can you think of a better explanation?"

Reaching to her side, she picked up a handful of snow, forming it into a ball. He watched, obviously not understanding where she was going with this.

"Maybe I just think you're an annoying jerk who shouldn't be let loose on society without control of these unusual powers."

"Maybe." He walked closer.

"Or maybe I've just been waiting to do this." She threw the snowball at him.

He jumped back, not quite quickly enough to avoid her first strike.

"Oh, is that how you want to play?"

"Who said I was playing?" Lois rose to her feet, grabbing another handful of snow.

Before she had time to form it into a snowball, he had grabbed his own handful of snow, aiming his first missile at her. And the fight was on. Giggling, they soon ended up out in the yard, throwing snow even before it had been shaped into balls in an attempt to subject the other to more snow than they themselves had to endure.

Lois squealed when Kal finally grabbed her around the waist, holding her so that he could stuff snow down the back of her coat. Struggling, they both fell to the snow, laughter filling the air and… suddenly both of them stilled. He was leaning over her, holding her hands against the ground as the smile slowly faded from his face. Something changed in her as well.

"You have a crush on me," he whispered.

She almost whimpered, her gaze shifting from his eyes to his lips. She pulled her lower lip into her mouth, waiting, desperately wanting him to close the mere inches between their lips.

"Lois! Kal! Both of you need to get in here right now! There is something on television you need to see."

Martha's voice calling from the porch broke the spell. Kal quickly released her, moving away so that she could sit up.

"We're coming, Martha," Lois yelled back before, without meeting Kal's eyes, rising to her feet.


Nor turned his attention to the camera, looking directly into it.

"I am Lord Nor, First Lord of the planet of New Krypton. My forces are cloaked, directly above your planet. I have tracked a dangerous traitor to your world…" He held up a picture of Kal. "…and unless he is turned over to me immediately, I will destroy your world to ensure that he does not escape alive."

He gestured to Shem, who at the signal brought the Governor of New Troy over. The camera widened its view so that the audience could see the Governor as well as Nor.

"To prove to you my resolve…" He nodded at Shem who instantly slit the Governor's throat.


Lois gasped, sinking to the sofa in horrified disbelief. She knew that man. Okay, so maybe she'd never voted for him. And maybe she'd always suspected he was less than honest with the people's trust, but this… She had to forcibly remind herself that the broadcast was not yet over.


"You have three hours. I will be waiting at…" Nor turned to Shem.

"The New Troy State Legislature building," Shem added.

"I would suggest anyone with information on this traitor's location get it to me immediately."

The television screen went black.

Turning, Nor left the room.

"Why are you so certain this will work, m'lord?" Shem asked when he was certain he could not be overheard by the Earthlings.

"Because Kal is obsessively good. He will not allow this world to be destroyed. And the only way to do that is for him to turn himself in."

"And then we will leave this world untouched?"

"Of course not, Shem. This world has advanced well beyond the point our records indicate. It is only a matter of time before they become proficient in space travel. We will take steps to ensure that never happens."

"So we capture Kal and then destroy the Earth anyway."

Nor smiled. "See… You are catching on."


Kal watched the television screen as the realization of what he had to do sank in. There was no choice. He had to turn himself in — and the sooner the better. "I guess that is it," he said quietly, meeting Jonathan's eyes first. "I want to thank you for all your help, sir." He reached out a hand towards the older gentleman.

Jonathan hesitated for a moment before stepping forward to take Kal's hand. "It's been our pleasure, son. I only wish it hadn't ended this way."

"It will be…"

"No!" Lois' defiant exclamation turned the attention of both men towards her. She sprang to her feet. "I can't believe either of you. Kal, you're not going. He's planning to kill you. We just need some time. We'll find a way out of this — a way to defeat him. You can't give into tyranny and I can't believe either of you would even consider this."

"Do you not see, Lois," Kal turned towards her, taking her by the shoulders. "I have to go. I have to. If Nor realizes the powers he will have if he stays here, he will invade your world. I have to turn myself in long before that happens."

"I… I…" Lois' eyes shot to all three of the room's occupants, searching there for some support. Then, suddenly, she turned, storming out of the house, slamming the door closed behind her.

Kal looked back at Martha and Jonathan helplessly, trying to gather his wits. "Martha, thank you for everything." He stepped forward, bowing slightly to kiss her hand. "I never knew my own mother. But I would like to think she might have been like you."

Tears formed in Martha's eyes and he could tell that she wanted to do nothing more than to tell him he didn't have to go. But no words of that sort formed on her lips. Instead…

"Go talk to her, Kal," Martha said softly. "Don't leave without saying goodbye."

Kal let out a breath before giving a brief nod. Turning, he headed out the door.

Finding Lois was not difficult. Her footsteps in the fresh snow led directly to the barn. Stepping inside, Kal could hear jagged breathing coming from the hayloft. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard.

Every step of the ladder took ultimate effort. Part of him wanted to fly out of there, head back to Metropolis immediately. After all, how was he supposed to say goodbye to this woman?

Stepping into the hayloft, he spotted her sitting in the straw, her knees drawn up to her chin, her arms wrapped tightly around her legs. Steeling his resolve, he made his way over to her.

"If you're going, just go." Her voice, although somewhat shaky, was cold. She didn't even look up at him. "Just get out of here."


"Obviously it doesn't matter to you what I think. I'm only a woman, after all. And you're the great and powerful Oz. Why would it matter what I think?"


"Just go, Kal. You said you're going. So go! What the hell do I care?" She finally looked up, her tear-filled eyes hard, accusing.

Kal crouched down next to her. "Lois," he said softly, placing a hand on her shoulder.

She reacted immediately, pushing him away with a force he hadn't expected. He stumbled back. He wasn't sure how to handle this. He'd learned since he was young to control his emotions. So had everyone else on New Krypton. Seeing this woman so obviously emotional — and yet not being able to tell if she was hurt or angry — had him completely off balance.

"Just get the hell out of here!" she demanded. "I don't need your fake sympathy. Just go. I got along just fine before you came. And I'll get along just find after you're gone. So… Just go already."

"Lois," he said, more forcefully this time. Not knowing what else to do, he grabbed her, pulling her into his arms.

She made one half-hearted attempt to pound his chest with the side of her fist before she went limp in his arms, her jagged breathing the only sign of her continued distress.

He waited for her breathing to calm, simply holding her, rubbing her back, stroking her hair. He wasn't entirely sure what he would do now if she didn't get control of her emotions. Should he continue holding her? It seemed to be working for now. But… why did she have to be so emotional? After all, it was obvious what he needed to do. And besides, it wasn't as if he was overly emotional. Being emotional helped nothing. There was no point to it. He had to leave — that was all there was to it.

So why were tears pricking the backs of his own eyes as he held her, feeling her heart beating in time with his? And suddenly, the truth hit him with a force he wasn't expecting. He loved Lois of the House of Lane. Love. A feeling he'd never understood until this moment. And in an instant all the love songs he'd heard on the radio and instantly dismissed made sense to him.

He lowered his head, burying his face in her hair, not entirely sure how to deal with the unexpected flood of emotions. Never had he known anything this powerful. He breathed in the scent of her hair, tightened his hold on her, allowing himself to get lost in the feel of her soft body pressing against him.

Was this what the gods, Zen and Fath, had felt for each other when they had abandoned their worlds to be together? Was this the power that had driven Zara into Ching's arms? If so, he suddenly understood how someone who had been as devoted to duty as Zara had always been could have succumbed to behavior that was so contrary to her upbringing. Still, these feelings had to be controlled. There was duty to perform. And unlike Zara, he would not forget that.

When Lois finally calmed, Kal broke his hold on her, only letting her go far enough away so that his hands could cup her cheeks and he could look into her eyes.

"Do you think I want to leave you?" he asked intently.

"Then don't."

It was so simple. Just don't. But… "Lois, if I do not go, if Nor is here long enough to realize what tremendous powers he would have on Earth, do you think he will ever leave?"

"We can find another way. We can…"

"There is no time. Who knows how long Nor has been on your world already? I have to go now."

"I don't want you to die," she whispered.

The point of a sword stabbing into his heart couldn't have been more painful than hearing her softly spoken words. She was telling him that she felt for him what he felt for her. He had to forcibly remind himself of what had to be done. "I care about you, too," he softly whispered, moving to lower his mouth over hers, feeling as if he had no other choice. He had to know her taste. He needed this moment to carry with him as he walked to his execution. It was for her that he was returning, for her people, for her world.

Her hands slid around his neck to bury themselves in his hair in a manner he suspected would be painful for anyone else. That she kissed him back with a fierceness, a desperation, was unmistakable. Wrapping his arms around her, he met her desperation with his own, determined in that one moment to capture a lifetime's worth of love and joy. He rolled her onto the straw, his hands running up her body.

One of her hands left his hair to caress his hand as he fumbled to get it under her winter coat. Her body was soft and compliant under his touch and her kiss became less desperate even as it became more passionate. He could hear the soft moans of encouragement coming from the back of her throat as she wordlessly urged him on.

He managed to pull her shirt from the front of her jeans so that he could slip his hand inside. The first touch of his cold hand on the warm skin of her stomach sent shockwaves through him, sending his body urgent messages. He wanted her. She wanted him. What would be the harm in…

Suddenly, he broke the kiss, pulling his hand out of where it was already exploring just inside the waistband of her jeans. He couldn't do it. He couldn't do it to her. It wouldn't be fair. She might think it was what she wanted now, but it would only make the departure harder. Besides, it would lessen her value for attracting any future mate.

"We cannot, Lois."

"Why not?" she asked, pulling his mouth back to hers.

He groaned. She obviously wanted this as much as he. And she had made it clear that things worked differently on Earth. Still…he broke the kiss again. "Are you sure?" he asked. "I know things work differently here. But if we do this…"

"What?" she asked, slightly breathless.

"Will this prevent you from finding a worthy mate? Because I am still going to have to go when…"

Lois moved quickly, pushing him onto his back so that she was leaning over him. "I want you," she said simply. "I want this one time." She stared into his eyes for a moment, silently communicating to him her desires, before lowering her mouth, ever so slowly, until it was less than an inch away from his. Her hands captured his so that she was holding them against the ground, much as he had done to her when they'd been in the snow earlier.

He felt a groan rise in the back of his throat when she finally lowered her lips the rest of the way, slowly exploring his lips with hers. She pulled back then and he swallowed hard when he saw the depth of emotion in her eyes. Although no stranger to sexual relations, no one, not his wife, not the few concubines he'd been with for diplomatic purposes over the years, had looked at him the way this woman currently was. The need, the passion seemed to reach inside his heart, making him wish more than anything else that he was able to stay here, with her, forever.

The moment seemed to last an eternity before she moved in again, releasing the passion he'd seen in her eyes in her kiss.


Was she crazy? She had no doubt at all that this would never be anything more than a one-time thing. And Lois didn't do one-time things. Well, okay, so maybe there was Claude. But that hadn't been her choice. She'd thought they were starting something beautiful — so blinded had she been by that French charm. But this time… she knew Kal would leave, would do what he had to do. Still, she wanted this moment. Regardless of the consequences, she wanted this one moment with him. And she had no doubt there would be consequences. Nothing this intense came without a price.

Her lips left his to explore the remainder of his face, his throat, his ears, learning each part, learning his taste, his texture. A very masculine growl rose in the back of his throat, pushing her closer to the edge. Her growl matched his, seeming to push him further on as well.

He broke her grasp on his arms, rolling her back over so that she was, once again, at his mercy. Her eyes met his only briefly but when they did… She trembled when she saw the dark passion bubbling to the surface. She wasn't the only one quickly being pushed beyond the limits. And that was from just a kiss. What would happen when… Her thought trailed off when his hands slipped under her shirt to stroke the hot skin of her stomach. She could feel him fumble with the button on her jeans.

Her efforts matched his as she snaked her hands between their bodies. He moved into a kneeling position over her, making her efforts easier as she tugged at his button and zipper as his mouth again covered hers. She raised her hips, enabling him to pull her jeans off her legs.

She groaned, her hands exploring the hard muscles of his chest. After that, images were no longer clear in their frantic desperation to know each other's secrets. They were swept away on a tidal wave of desire. The rest of the world no longer existed. Even the cold of the air surrounding them was not an issue as they drew heat from each other's body and felt the fire of passion in their own. Lois was vaguely aware of him calling out her name to the heavens before the world shattered around her.


Lois slowly regained awareness of her surroundings to look up into the eyes of Kal. He was looking down at her and… she felt her breath catch in her throat. Never had she seen a man look at her like that, his emotions so readable, his heart so vulnerable, so open to her. Never would she have believed a man would look at her that way — let alone a man who always seemed so detached, who only days before had claimed to have no understanding of what it was like to be in love. She reached up, gently tracing the lines of his face.

"I have to go, Lois. I have to."

His voice was soft. His tone conveyed regret. She had no doubt that one word from her and he would be unable to do what he believed he had to do.

She again met his eyes, hers growing increasingly moist. "I know," she finally said, unable to make herself say the words that she knew would make him hers — even as it destroyed him. There was no choice. She had to let him go — to be the man he was. Besides, he was right. It was the only way to stop Nor. She'd known that from the first moment he'd mentioned the idea. Not that any of that knowledge did anything to stop the pain currently tearing her heart into ribbons.


Kal felt a lump form in his throat, his love for her increasing at the final acceptance he could see in her eyes. In some ways, it almost made it harder to leave. "I love you, Lois," he whispered, leaning in to give her one final soft, lingering kiss before letting her go, rising to his feet, doing up his jeans, and… after allowing himself one final look at her, disappearing in a gust of wind.


Lois watched the place she'd last seen him for a long moment before curling in on herself, feeling something go dead inside her.



"We just got a spike in Kal's thought waves on the thoughtwave transmitter," Shem said excitedly as he rushed into the room. "It seems his fear at your announcement leaked through. At least, that is the only explanation we can come up with for the huge spike in his emotions."

"Did it come when I first broadcast the message?" Nor asked.

Shem shook his head. "But close enough. Maybe the technology here does not send things as quickly as ours does. Or maybe he saw a rebroadcast of it or something. We really do not know. Do you wish me to try to find out, m'lord?

"Unnecessary," Nor said. "So where is he?"

"We were able to triangulate the signal. He is somewhere in the middle of the continent."

Nor's threatening smile turned instantly into a frown. "The middle of the continent." His eyes narrowed. "You troubled me with this? The middle of the continent? Why not just say we do not know where he is?"

"If we can get another transmission, we will be able to narrow the search further — now that we know where to look."

Nor waved away his subordinate in disgust. A leader with Kal's skill — Nor reluctantly conceded — was unlikely to make that type of slip more than once. On the other hand, he was pleased to know that Kal was scared of him. A small smirk quirked at the corner of Nor's mouth. Who would have thought it? Kal was a coward. Maybe he should consider another broadcast. Maybe that would really scare him. But… he needed some leverage.


Kal flew high in the air over the New Troy State Legislature building. He imagined seeing the roof drop away. He let out a breath when it actually did and he was able to see into the building. It was as he expected. Nor's troops were in firm control of the entire building. Dead bodies lay everywhere, unheeded by the Kryptonians around them. There were almost a hundred Kryptonians in the building. In one room, he spotted a number of living people, huddled together in fear while Nor's men watched over them. Hostages, obviously. Probably some important people who Nor figured he could use if necessary.

Surrounding the building was a barricade, manned by the soldiers of Earth. He wasn't entirely certain what they were waiting for. Perhaps they had been warned simply to contain the threat — waiting to see if this situation could be resolved without further bloodshed.

It occurred to him that since he was invulnerable, while Nor's forces were likely not, he could try attacking the building. But knowing Nor, his last command to Kir, the general in charge of his armed forces, was that if something happened to Nor, Kir was to destroy the Earth. Since Kal knew Kir, and that he was as amoral as his master, Kal had no doubt that order would be followed. And if Nor had brought his entire forces with him — at least those not required to ensure no move was made against him on New Krypton, there were likely twenty to thirty ships currently in Earth's orbit. Given the amount of damage Nor could inflict on Earth with numbers like that, even without superpowers, there was only one choice. Super powers or not, Kal had to turn himself over to Nor.

Still, the prospect of walking to what was most certainly his own execution, probably after some kangaroo court in front of all of New Krypton, was not easy. He closed his eyes, focusing on Lois. He could do this. He would do this. For her.

His mind flashed briefly to Zara. As far as he knew, she was still in custody on New Krypton. Surely Nor wouldn't have had the nerve to hurt her. After all, in spite of what she'd done, Zara had always been extremely popular on New Krypton. Would she understand what he had to do? He immediately realized she would. She understood the requirements of duty. In fact, he suspected she'd be proud of him.

It suddenly struck him that he hadn't thought of Zara except briefly now for days — not since shortly after arriving on Earth. He wasn't entirely sure why, but her betrayal no longer hurt the way it had. Was that due to Lois? He really wasn't sure.

Landing in a nearby alley, he straightened his hair, glad now that he'd been able to shave earlier today. If he was going to do this, it would be as the First Lord of New Krypton, with all the dignity that post deserved. He would not grovel. He would not beg. The people of New Krypton would be left with the memory of a man who had stood up to Lord Nor to his last breath. And maybe, just maybe, it would inspire others to rebel against the man who would be their tyrant.

Taking one final breath, he lifted his head high and walked towards the building being held by Lord Nor's troops.


Lois silently opened the front door, making her way back into the old farmhouse. She hoped no one offered sympathy. She was barely holding it together now. If either Martha or Jonathan showed her compassion, she would lose it completely.

She understood, of course, why Kal had to go. She also had no illusions about what he was doing — that he was signing his own death warrant. But as much as she was loath to admit it, Kal was right. For the sake of her world, he had to go back before Nor figured out the incredible powers he could have on Earth.

Martha and Jonathan glanced over at her, but said nothing. Martha moved over on the couch, gesturing for Lois to sit down beside her. Slowly, Lois made her way over, taking the offered seat. Martha's only concession to the pain Lois was feeling was that the older woman squeezed her hand. Even this gesture was almost too much for Lois so she silently directed her attention to the television.

The television was covering the situation at the State Legislature. Anchors were commenting on the current situation. The National Guard was there in force, surrounding the building, cutting off, or so they thought, any attempt by those inside to escape. It was odd seeing tanks in downtown Metropolis. Correspondents informed the audience that the President of the United States was currently trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

Lois' heart caught in her throat when in the background she saw Kal step out of the shadows, making his way towards the barricades. For a moment she wondered why he hadn't simply flown into the building. But then it occurred to her that he was trying to keep from doing anything that would reveal his powers. And making it past the barriers without any obvious sign of how he'd done so would raise unwanted questions.

It became obvious when the soldiers realized that Kal was not just some curiosity seeker, but the actual man who had brought this situation on them. Lois flinched when the rifle butt of one of the frustrated soldiers plowed into Kal's face. Kal collapsed, holding his chin, although Lois realized that the strike wouldn't have hurt him.

Instantly, Kal was surrounded by soldiers, guns at the ready.

"It appears that something is happening down there," a voice said over the television.

The cameras in the helicopters went in and out of focus as they attempted to zoom in on the activity. Lois held her breath as the camera caught Kal's face. It was odd the things one thought of at moments like this. In this case, all Lois could think was that she was glad he'd been able to shave. He looked every bit the king now. As honorable in defeat as she was sure he would be in victory. His head held high. A determined expression on his face. Not the cowering prisoner Lord Nor was undoubtedly hoping he would be. She felt an odd sense of pride as she watched him accept the restraints the solders were fixing to his arms.

"Yes, it appears that the criminal Lord Nor is looking for is there. We don't know if he is turning himself in or if he was captured. But it appears that this situation might be resolved without further bloodshed."

"Assuming, of course, that Lord Nor decides to have his troops leave without further demands," added another man.

"I don't see why he wouldn't," said the first. "He said he was here searching for a dangerous traitor. He has him now. So he should leave. After all, I'm sure he really doesn't want to face the strength of the American army."

"It's beginning to appear as if they are about to make arrangements to turn the prisoner over to Nor," the correspondent informed the audience as one of the soldiers at the barricades picked up a telephone.


Kal stood silently, a guard on either side, waiting for Lord Nor to allow him into his presence. He was fairly certain Nor's only reason for making him wait was to prove who was in control.

Determined not to let Lord Nor know about his powers, he hadn't fought off the men's rough handling. It was almost as if each of them took great pleasure in inflicting humiliations upon him. His only concern was whether Nor would decide to kill him here on Earth — and thereby find out that he was invulnerable. In his mind, he contemplated the situation, thinking of ways to manipulate Nor into believing that his position would be best solidified if Kal were killed back on New Krypton. In this, he could not, dared not, fail.

Suddenly, his hearing picked up something happening in the next room. Lord Nor was talking to two of his men. Kal knew them. Ran and Drull. The excitement being expressed by Nor's two henchmen was unmistakable. Kal concentrated until feelings became voices, loud and clear to his now extraordinary hearing.

"That is remarkable!" Nor exclaimed. "And how long did it take?"

"Only a couple of days, m'lord."

There was a moment of silence. "This puts a whole new perspective on things."

Kal crinkled his eyebrows. What exactly where they talking about?

"So… m'lord, what exactly would you have us do?"

"If you know about this, undoubtedly that traitor does, too."

Kal could even hear Nor clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth.

"So then… why did he turn himself in?" asked Ran.

"He is counting on the fact that we do not know about the powers a yellow sun gives us," Nor responded. "He wants to get us out of here before we do. That damn fool is trying to save the Earth. But if what you say is true… If we really are some sort of supermen here, then… why would we ever leave? Boys, I think we have just moved up the food chain."

Kal's breath caught in his throat. Too late. He was too late. Nor would never leave the Earth now. Kal's sacrifice was in vain. And, if he was understanding the situation correctly, Ran and Drull had already been on Earth long enough to acquire the same powers he had. That meant, if he took them on directly now, not only would he be dealing with Nor's troops and cloaked spacecrafts with weapons certainly powerful enough to destroy the Earth, but also two super powered individuals. Bad odds — even if he did have the best of intentions. He needed help. But… where on Earth could he find such help? Those men outside were no match for the ships in space. They were even less of a match for a super-powered Nor.

He had to do something. The problem was, he had absolutely no idea what that something should be. There was only one thing of which he was certain — that turning himself in now was no longer the right course of action. He would have to find another way to stop Nor. But first… there was the matter of the Earthlings Nor was holding hostage. He had to get them out of harm's way.


Lois leaned forward on her chair, staring intently at the television.

"Wait a minute… This just in," the anchorman said, his hand at his ear listening to someone off stage giving him some new information. "Lord Nor is apparently about to give a statement. We assume he will be announcing that he will be leaving Earth now that he has what he wants."

The image on the television changed to the room where Nor had given his previous address. Lois hated him even more now than the first time she'd seen him.

"We demand to know what type of game you are playing," Nor began. "You turn the traitor, Kal, over to us. But he escapes — taking with him the Earthlings who had been our guests. So you can blame him, and the human traitors helping him, for what we must do now." Nor gave a signal to someone off screen. "Say goodbye to your…" He seemed to stumble on the word. He looked to Shem.


The screen went black for a moment. When the anchorman came back on, he was listening to his earpiece. "Apparently, Lord Nor cut transmission. And… My god!" The screen behind him lit up to allow the viewers to see the Pentagon in flames. "They've destroyed the Pentagon!"

Lois unconsciously rose to her feet, looking in horror at the scene unfolding on the television. But… none of this made any sense. Kal would never run away. He didn't have it in him. That meant Nor was lying, determined that now that he had Kal, he would destroy the Earth anyway.


Lois spun around to see Kal standing in the doorway. She didn't remember doing so, but after staring at him in disbelief for a second, she must have run to him because a moment later she found herself lost in his arms, hugging him as if she would never let go.


After an initial greeting and a brief explanation of what had happened at the legislative buildings, Kal's attention was caught by the image of burning buildings on the television screen.

"What happened?" he asked, walking closer.

"The press is trying to get an answer," Jonathan said. "But right now their best bet is that the ships Nor came to Earth in are attacking military bases."

"It started right after you left him to come back here," Martha went on to explain.

"How many?" Kal's voice was quiet, but there was no mistaking the growing anger in his tone as he lightly touched the image of the latest disaster scene showing on the television.

"So far… about six facilities, including the Pentagon."

Kal turned towards them. "And where is this… Pentagon?"

"Washington, D.C. Near Metropolis."

Turning, Kal headed towards the door.

"Where are you going?" Lois asked, grabbing his arm to stop him.

"To help," Kal said simply before, after lightly stroking her cheek, disappearing in a gust of wind.


Lois stayed glued to the television as Nor's ships inflicted disaster after disaster. The Pentagon was only the first step in Nor's plan. So far, he'd stuck primarily to military targets. The hardest blow, by far, was seeing the White House in flames — although the press had made it clear that the President wasn't there when it happened. In fact, shortly after, President Garner had given a brief address, from some undisclosed location, to ask people to remain calm — although that was quickly getting more and more difficult.

The one thing, the only thing, Nor's ships seemed unable to do was to target individuals. As a result, and as ironic as it seemed, the Legislative building where Nor had set up his headquarters was still surrounded by the National Guard.

The U.S. government had tried to strike back, sending more than one smart bomb at New Troy's Legislative building. But it was surrounded by some sort of force field and the bombs had simply exploded upon contact with the force field, doing no damage to Nor or his troops.

In fact, Lois doubted that a single one of Nor's men had been killed. Of course, in a matter of days, none of it would matter — because if what she and Kal suspected were true, Nor's forces would be invulnerable.

Kal had been going to one site after another, trying to save lives. The television had been following his actions, and commentators were divided. Half of them blamed him for what was happening, the other seemed to think he was some kind of god — given that his powers had become known fairly quickly once he'd started helping out.

Still, there was no way he could continue like this. The shots she was seeing of Kal on television now had him looking exhausted. And all he was doing was trying to minimize the damage. They needed a plan. But what? How could they stop these New Kryptonians? And the more time they spent trying to work up a plan, the more time these bastards had to become invulnerable.

Besides, how could they fight back when Kal was spending all his time out on these missions of mercy?

Then, to Lois' mind, the unthinkable happened. Without any explanation, the cameras covering the legislative building in Metropolis suddenly went black. No cameras. No correspondents. No explanation — as if the press had simply ceased to exist. Lois' stomach was in knots as the hours passed. She tried calling Metropolis, but the phone lines were down. Perry. Jimmy. Cat. Eduardo. Ralph. Pete. Everyone. What had happened to her colleagues?

She tried contacting her father, but as with the rest, the phone lines were down. She called her sister in California. She'd known her mother had gone out there for a visit. Ellen Lane had instantly insisted on being put on the phone. She told Lois, much to the young woman's relief, that Sam Lane had left Metropolis and was currently driving out to California to join his family. Her mother had gone on to insist that Lois join them. The headache Lois had by the time she hung up the phone was nothing new.

Returning to the television, she resumed her vigilance. The hours passed. Lois tried changing channels. Still nothing about Metropolis. Was it still even there? Lois cursed. Lois paced. Finally, tearing her eyes away from the television, she turned to Martha and Jonathan.

"I've got to go back to Metropolis," she announced.

"What?" Martha and Jonathan both exclaimed in unison.

"We've got to come up with a way to fight back. And I can't help do that from here. Besides, I have to know what's going on."

"At least wait for Kal," Jonathan begged.

"And how long will that be? Will he even come back?" Lois let out a breath. "If he does come back, tell him where I've gone." She rose to her feet. "But I'm going. I have to be there."


Kal was exhausted. He'd been flying from disaster site to disaster site as fast as he possibly could, saving as many as possible from the deadly effects of Nor's attacks. From a position of safety far above the Earth, the warships were able to strike target after target without any risk to themselves. Like shooting fish in a barrel. If Kal had wondered if Nor was a monster before, he had no doubts left. The people of Earth were of no threat to New Krypton. If they had been, they'd have struck back by now. But even their nuclear weapons were useless — given the fact that they had no means of delivering such weapons to their targets.

Kal worked through the night and well into a second day, trying to save what lives he could — but always after Nor struck. He wished he knew how to stop Nor without destroying what remained of Earth in the process. But so far no ideas had come to him.

On more than one occasion, he'd looked into the sky, wondering if there was some way he could fly into space and stop the ships. But even if he were able to hold his breath long enough, and survive in a vacuum, how was he to stop a ship even he couldn't see — for try as he might, and even with his extraordinary eyesight and x-ray vision, he couldn't seem to crack the cloaking device protecting the ships.

Kal turned his attention back to his current task. The exhaustion was overwhelming. He'd been struggling for the past half hour, fearing that some of his thoughts were leaking out, letting Nor know where he was. His exhaustion, he was well aware, was not only physical but emotional. He was a soldier, but this… Even during the worst days of the civil war, he hadn't seen such unlimited, random destruction. Another explosion sounding in the distance directed Kal's attention to the west. Kal took a deep breath before heading towards the sound, wondering just how much more of this he could stand.


"It is done, m'lord."

Lord Nor turned, looking at Kir, the chief of his armed forces. "What is their status?"

"Every military base in the country has been destroyed. They are of no threat to us now."

"As if they ever were. As soon as we get these new powers, we will be unstoppable."

"What about Lord Kal? Could he stop us?"

Nor shook his head. "Still… he must be dealt with. I have sent Lord Jen of the House of Mai back to New Krypton to get something that traitor will be unable to ignore. Trust me, it will bring him straight to me."


Lois slowly, almost silently, drove her jeep through the streets of Metropolis. She'd driven straight from Kansas, never even leaving the safety of her own jeep except to get gas, food and go to the washroom. She'd eaten while driving and slept in the jeep when she'd been too exhausted to go on — all to get back to Metropolis as soon as possible.

And now that she was there… She could sense the difference in the city almost the instant she entered. The city was dark. No lights, not even traffic lights — notifying Lois that the power must be out all over the city. She had no idea if this was because of the government, the New Kryptonians or that those working for the power company had simply deserted their posts.

The roads were practically deserted. Everyone had either abandoned the city in the previous two days, or was staying inside, holding their breaths and hoping this was all some horrible dream. The roadblocks of a few days ago were gone — although their remnants still littered the sides of the road. Any place with groups of soldiers was a target. And as it became obvious that the military was helpless against this otherworldly threat, the men manning the barricades had simply fled.

She could see a red glow in the sky above various parts of the city and smell the smoke filtering into the jeep. She heard a distant explosion. Businesses with broken windows lined the streets. Broken down cars had been left abandoned. Litter was strewn everywhere. She wasn't entirely sure what she had expected upon returning to Metropolis, but a city in the middle of a war-zone was certainly not it.

So now what? She took a deep breath. There was really only one option — one place for her to go.


Kal closed his eyes as the spittle ran down his face. It wasn't the first time he'd been spit on since he'd started his mission of mercy. At best, he was regarded with suspicion and barely suppressed hostility. At worst, he was shot at. Still, ignoring the pain brought on by the woman's actions, he turned his attention towards the rubble of the collapsed barracks, digging with his bare hands through to the panicked voices he could hear coming from beneath.

It didn't matter what people thought of him, or did to him, for that matter. It was his fault that Nor was systematically inflicting catastrophic destruction on the Earth. If he had simply died like he was supposed to on New Krypton, Nor would never have come to Earth in the first place. So now… instead of only losing his world to that monster, he had inflicted him upon the Earth, too.

Steeling himself against his guilt, he put all of his concentration into his current task — of saving as many people as he could.


Lois cautiously felt her way up the stairway, wondering for the first time about her choice of destination. The Daily Planet, like the rest of the city, was dark, deserted. Still, it was the only place where she could think to go. So she continued on, cautiously making her path through the dark.

When she finally arrived at her floor, she had to feel for the door handle. Finding it, she pulled, opening the door. The entire place was in darkness. She sank down just inside, wondering what she was supposed to do now.

She sat there in silence for a long time, allowing herself to give into the self-pity. She'd driven until she was exhausted, coming to the only place she could think to come, only to find that for the first time, it was completely deserted. She could hardly believe how much she missed Perry, Jimmy, even Cat. Were they alive? Had they escaped the devastation? Or were they only a few of what was bound to be thousands, even millions of casualties?



Maybe she should have stayed in Smallville, waited for Kal. He had to return there eventually. But no. Not her. She'd had to rush back to the city with no plan, as if her mere presence in the city would bring Lord Nor to his knees.


Lois' head shot up as she strained to see in the darkness.


Lois rose to her feet. It couldn't be. Surely he would have a light of some sort.

"Perry?" she asked cautiously.


"Lois?" responded a familiar voice.

Lois stumbled through the darkness, ignoring every item she bumped into in her rush to confirm what her ears were telling her. She was surprised when she found herself lost in Perry's arms. Yet she hugged him as fully as he hugged her.

"Where the Sam Hill have you been?" Perry asked releasing her.

"It's a long story. What are you doing, fumbling around in the dark? I was sure no one was here."

"We've moved into the basement. Someone has to get the news out."

Lois laughed, strangely comforted by the familiarity of that comment. Trust Perry to be concerned about getting the news out when the entire world was crumbling around them. He took 'neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail, nor invading, conquering hordes' to a whole new level.

"What happened here?"

"What do you think? Apparently, Lord Nor didn't like the way we were reporting the news. His men paid us a little visit."

"Was anyone hurt?"

"Some. But no one was killed — which is more than I can say for LNN. Apparently, we got lucky. Two of the men who went over to LNN had unbelievable powers. I'm not sure why, but some of these guys have these powers and some don't."

"They all will eventually."

Even in the darkened room, Lois could tell Perry was trying to get a look at her expression.

"How do you know that?" he asked.

"It's a long story, Perry. And one that will take me some time to tell. So let's leave it until…" She glanced around. "…we're somewhere more comfortable. What happened to the city? The press doesn't seem to have any information about Metropolis. And all I've heard during my trip back is about the military bases Nor's ships are destroying."

"The Kryptonians have taken out the phone lines and towers for cell phones. Even satellite phones are down."

"Thus, effectively cutting Metropolis off from the rest of the world."

"We are still getting some television signals — but haven't been able to get anything out. I suspect they left some of the incoming signals up for a reason. But as of yet, we don't know what those reasons are. I suspect Nor wants to be able to get his message out to the world when necessary. There are rumors that Nor is holding a camera crew from LNN hostage in the legislative buildings.

"Some people still have C.B.s but those are just local. I currently have Burns working to get my old Ham Radio up and running — unfortunately, it broke down a couple of weeks ago. Never thought I'd need it for something like this. We'll have to ration the power, only be on at certain times, but… It's better than the alternative."

"And that is?"

"Using runners."

"So… what happened, Perry?"

"Well, it's been like living in a nightmare. First, there were the attacks by our military on the legislative building."

"I heard about that."

"Yeah, well… at first, we were thrilled. Our military was fighting back. But then…"

"The bombs exploded when they hit some invisible force field."

"But what you might not have heard is that some of those smart bombs… well, they weren't all that smart. The only place protected by the force field was the legislative buildings. So shrapnel from the bombs caused some collateral damage in the city. Other bombs missed the force field all together."

"Oh, god."

"Suicide Slum was the hardest hit. Two bombs. Direct hits. Given how run down the buildings are down there, fire spread through them like a match held to a newspaper. Many people didn't even have time to leave their homes. From what I've heard, some sections of Suicide Slum are still burning. That's when the panic started to get out of the city.

"After that, two men came out of the legislative building. According to Eduardo who was covering the legislative buildings… Lois, you're not going to believe this, but… lasers shot out of their eyes — taking out all the cameras and military equipment. They lit some of the soldiers on fire, pushed others out of their way like they were used tissue, killing every soldier and most of the news crews and curiosity seekers surrounding the building in a matter of seconds."

"Is Eduardo…"

"He's fine. But… all that was left behind after they were finished, other than a few lucky survivors, was ashes. Since then, Nor and his forces have pretty much had free reign of the city. They cut off communications and paid a visit to every news outlet in the city. That was when news was cut off to the outside world.

"Lois, these guys are seriously scary. I have no idea how we're going to stop them." There was a pregnant pause. "Well, I guess we shouldn't be standing around here and risk being seen or heard," Perry said, taking her arm and leading her towards the back stairs. "After we got the paper out yesterday, even after they had destroyed much of our equipment, they returned. Fortunately, they didn't find anything. But we're avoiding being upstairs as a result."

"So then, what brought you up here now?"

"Oh, right!" Perry said, changing directions.

Lois waited while Perry fumbled his way around overturned desks and chairs to make his way to his office. He returned a few moments later, holding something up for her to see.

"What's that?" she asked, trying to identify it in the dark.

"My red pen."

"You risked your life coming up here to get a red pen?" Lois asked in disbelief.

"Well… Ralph just submitted a story," Perry growled even as he took her arm and recommenced leading her towards the back stairs.


Lois came to a stop when she stepped out of the stairwell into the sub-basement. Pete from Sports and Eduardo were holding rifles while standing guard outside a door. Both rifles were quickly raised when the door the stairwell was opened and lowered when Perry and Lois stepped through the entrance. An oil lamp was burning, providing the only light to the hallway.

"Our sentries," Perry explained. "We think we're safe enough down here. After all, you can only reach this basement by using the backstairs and the Kryptonians aren't likely to know there is a sub-basement. Still… It doesn't hurt to take precautions." Perry nodded to Eduardo who turned to knock on the door. Shave and a haircut, two bits.

Lois' eyebrows rose. Anyone who didn't know that knock was likely not born on Earth. On the other hand, she supposed that was the point. From inside, she heard locks turning and a moment later the door opened. Lois followed Perry inside, to immediately be confronted by three more of her colleagues holding guns.

But before she could be completely thrown by the men with guns, her eyes caught sight of the rest of the room. It was large. A dozen televisions were playing, showing what was happening everywhere in the world. Yet, in spite of this display of electrical power, the room was lit mainly by candles and oil lamps.

"We've been able to get the old generator going. But with the lack of gasoline in the city, we're being very careful about how much we use," Perry explained as they made their way further into the room. "We work mostly at night, figuring that they are more likely to check things out during the daytime. We don't want to make any noise that might alert them to our presence down here."

Lois looked around at her colleagues. Gone were the business suits. Jeans and sweatshirts seemed to be the order of the day. There were injuries, too. Many of the people were sporting bandages or slings, she assumed from their run-in with the Kryptonians. And yet… she felt a surge of pride. She was part of this grossly outnumbered and outgunned band of reprobates who refused to bow down in the face of obviously superior forces, determined that their voices would not be silenced. She wondered how many other pockets of resistance were hidden in this seemingly deserted city. If the Kryptonians expected them to go down without a fight, they were seriously mistaken. For the first time since Nor had destroyed the Pentagon, she felt hope.

She spotted Cat slaving over something. Walking closer she realized it was a hand printing press. Cat was laying out the individual letters by hand. Making her way around the machine, she looked at the headline under the Daily Planet logo. 'Kryptonians Attack Military Bases.' Near the bottom of the page was an article about the best places to get water in the city.

"So the prodigal daughter returns?" Cat asked.

"It seems that way," Lois responded.

"Hey, careful there." Lois turned to see a man in his late sixties approaching.

"Andy Tucker?" Lois asked, looking to Perry for confirmation.

"What?" asked Tucker.

"Mr. Tucker, do you remember me? I'm Lois Lane."

"Yeah. Back in the day, we used to call you a fourteen pointer."

"Slang for a reporter," Lois said, recalling her last meeting with Andy Tucker. "I see you've got the hand printing press going."

"The Kryptonians did a lot of damage to the printing presses when they first came. So… We're going back to our roots," Cat said.

Lois instantly looked at Cat's hair. "I'm looking forward to seeing what color it really is, Cat," she said, unable to stop herself.

"Don't worry, Lois," Cat responded without missing a beat. "I brought enough color with me for two. So if you need any help, just let me know. After all, you couldn't look any worse with auburn hair. Who knows? It might even help — assuming that's possible."

Lois ignored the return jab — although she was comforted to know that some things hadn't changed. "Is the paper only one page long?" she asked, directing her question to Perry.

Perry shook his head. "We're hoping for five or six pages. Not much, but… at least we'll get the highlights out to those people who have no idea what is happening in the world."

Lois nodded before continuing to look around the room. Desks had been set up and people were working intently, using old fashioned, non-powered typewriters. She hadn't used one of those since her early days of high school. There were a couple computers, but those didn't seem to be used for typing up stories.

She saw Jimmy hunched over one of the computers. She made her way closer.

"Hey, Lois," Jimmy said enthusiastically getting up and giving her a hug — surprising her. "I've been worried about you," he said meaningfully.

Lois gave her head a slight shake, attempting to let Jimmy know that now was not the time for him to reveal what he knew about her sneaking Kal out of the city — not when she'd not yet had a chance to tell Perry. He seemed to understand the hint.

"What are you doing?" she asked, turning her attention towards the computer.

"We can't waste what little space we have on pictures," Perry explained. "Still, I've been having our photographers take digital pictures — without a dark room, it seemed like our best bet."

"Digital pictures?"

"Taken by digital cameras. I don't really know much about them either. Apparently they're something new. Jimmy managed to get his hands on a couple of cameras. When we get our phone lines back, we'll be able to get what's happening in Metropolis out to the world — together with pictures. At least, if Jimmy's right. If we can't get them out that way, we'll have to send someone out of the city with them. In the meantime…" He picked up some of the photos that had been printed and handed them to Lois.

She slowly flipped through the graphic pictures, her heart pounding to the point that she felt light headed as she saw the images caught on camera. Fires. Dead bodies. Everything she'd seen in pictures coming out of war zones — but these pictures were of her home.

Finally, she was unable to take it anymore. She set down the pictures and looked around at the rest of the room. No windows. One large room — except for one corner where a much smaller room jutted out. Looking through the open door, she could tell that Perry had commandeered it for an office. She continued her exploration. Other than the door through which she had entered and the door on Perry's office, only one other door existed. It was a large metal door on the far side of the room. It stood open.

"What's that?" she asked.

"That is where we sleep." Perry led her over to the doorway. "It was built during the height of the cold war. A fall out shelter."

Inside the room were boxes which were piled up in a way that gave some privacy for the cots and mattresses littering the floor. From the pipes crisscrossing the ceiling, blankets had been hung, creating the illusion of privacy. In one corner, she saw Denny, Jack's little brother. Two of the blankets swung open and Lois spotted Estella, Eduardo's wife, sitting beside two sleeping children. Obviously, some of her colleagues had moved their families in. She caught Estella's eye and smiled.

"We've been sleeping in here," Perry was explaining. "The boxes… they contain paper, ink, pens and… food and water. And the blankets… between them and the boxes we've been able to create living quarters — of a sort. But we've only enough room for one mattress per family. We've been stuck with whatever Jimmy has been able to dig up."


"He and Jack have become our scavengers. Jack's out right now looking for more first aid supplies. They've both been amazing. We'd never have been able to pull this off without their resourcefulness."

"Impressive," Lois admitted.

"We've got a few extra mattresses," Perry said. "That is… if you're planning to join us."

Lois immediately broke into a smile. "Do you really have to ask?"

"That's what I hoped you'd say. Listen, extra mattresses are in the back. Find one, fix up a place for yourself…" He tapped a pile of blankets and sheets at the door. "…and then come out and tell me what you know about all this."

He turned, heading back towards their makeshift newsroom.


Picking up some sheets and blankets, Lois headed towards the back of the shelter. She spotted a single mattress between two piles of boxes. Perfect. She tossed the majority of her load onto the mattress and removed her backpack, throwing it on the pile, before hoisting herself up on some boxes to throw a blanket over a pipe running along the ceiling to create some privacy in her small hovel.

Getting down, she saw an unlit candle and a package of matches sitting nearby. She grabbed both items, lighting the candle before heading into her temporary home. She worked carefully to get the sheets on the mattress before taking a seat, her mind drifting.

Where was Kal? Her mind drifted back to the images of him she'd seen on television before leaving Smallville. The first time she'd seen someone fire a gun at him, she'd practically died herself. When he'd been unaffected, she'd breathed a sigh of relief. Although she supposed she could understand people's suspicions, she hated that they couldn't see he was just trying to help.

She wondered if he'd gotten any sleep at all since Nor had first appeared on the scene. She hoped so. In fact, she hoped he was, at this moment, tucked into her bed in Smallville. Surely he must realize that even he needed to rest. If not for his body, at least for his mind.

Her mind again drifted. It seemed like forever since their short interlude in the hayloft. Yet she could still feel his hands on her body, his breath on her skin. Their stolen moment — as she'd come to think of it. It had been heated, and desperate and easily the most passionate experience of her life.

Pushing that thought, along with her current concerns about Kal from her mind, she directed her attention to Perry's comment. She was to go in there and fill him in on her whole Kal adventure. She wasn't entirely sure why she was so nervous about telling him about smuggling Kal out of the city. Maybe it was because of what had happened since. In the light of that, how could she explain her decision to Perry? It was much like the idea of telling her father that she'd slept with her prom date. She clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth as she considered that.

The sudden sound of gunfire startled her. Quickly blowing out the candle, she rushed for the door to the bunker, looking out into the room beyond.

Like her, others had heard the distinctive sound. Men and women picked up rifles, staring at the single entranceway to the facility. The gunfire must have come from outside. Pete. Eduardo. Lois glanced beside her to see in the half-light, Estella's frightened face as she too stared towards the door.

"Okay, everyone," growled Perry, "don't fire 'til I give the word."

Guns were raised, barrels pointed towards the doorway as they heard the familiar knock. Not a person moved. Not a muscle twitched as Perry made his way to the door. He placed his hand on the doorknob and took a deep breath before, in one swift motion, pulling the door open and ducking down.

Lois blinked twice when she saw what was beyond the door. Time seemed to stand still and then a shot rang out, hitting the man standing on the other side directly in the chest — only to have the bullet bounce off him and bury itself in the doorframe. She didn't remember making the decision to move, but a moment later Lois found herself running at full speed towards the door. "No!" she yelled, throwing herself between her armed colleagues and the man standing between Eduardo and Pete on the far side of the door. "Don't shoot!"

"He surrendered," Pete announced proudly as he and Eduardo both held onto their prisoner.

Lois ignored them, stepping forward in an attempt to pull Kal out of the grasp of the two men.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Lane?" Pete demanded. "He's one of them."

"What are you talking about?" Lois asked. "He's not one of them."

"He's right, honey," Perry said.

Lois turned around and stared at him before her eyes slowly took in each one of her colleagues who were staring back at her.

"He's Kryptonian," Perry continued. "We've all seen his picture."

Lois opened her mouth to respond before closing it again. This required more than just some half-assed, knee-jerk response. These people knew only one truth. The people of New Krypton had come to Earth to conquer them. And if she didn't chose her words wisely right now, they were going to… to what? What could they do to Kal?

She turned back towards the door. "Eduardo, what exactly happened out there? I heard gunshots."

"We shot him."

"Several times," Pete added.

Lois' eyebrows rose. "He doesn't look hurt to me." She glanced around. People seemed to be paying attention to what she was saying. "So what happened then?"

"He raised his hands and said he surrendered," Eduardo answered.

"Even though he knew you couldn't hurt him," Lois clarified.

"Yeah, I guess."

"What's your point, Lois?" Perry asked.

Lois turned towards her boss. "I know him, Chief. This is Kal. He's not a threat to us." When Perry didn't seem convinced, Lois continued. "Come on, Perry. You've been watching the news. Surely you've seen the pictures of him trying to help."

Perry's eyes left hers to return to the man being held captive in the doorway. "Okay, take him to my office," Perry said, stepping back to allow Pete and Eduardo to do as instructed. Then he turned to Lois. "And I want to see you in my office, too. And, trust me, I expect some answers!"

Taking a deep breath, Lois followed Perry towards his office. She stopped in the doorway when she saw Pete tying Kal's hands with duct tape. "Hey!" she exclaimed, walking into the room. "What are you doing?"

"Making sure he can't hurt anyone."

Lois turned to Perry. "This isn't necessary, Perry."

"I'm not so sure about that," Perry responded, gesturing for Pete to continue.

"Look, Perry, I'm willing to vouch for him."

"Oh, well, that makes all the difference in the world," Pete responded sarcastically.

"It used to," Lois fumed, looking back at Perry, sparks leaping from her eyes. He studiously avoided looking at her.

"It is all right, Lois," Kal said. "They are scared. And I do not blame them. I am fine."

She turned to look at him, her eyes conveying her apology for the actions of her colleagues.

"Whatever," Pete said before reaching out and pushing Kal's chest so that he fell back into a chair.

"Hey!" Lois exclaimed, rushing unnecessarily to Kal's side to make sure he wasn't hurt.

"That will be all, Pete," Perry said.

"Are you sure?" Pete asked. "I mean, maybe I should just stay here to…" He cocked his gun.

"Brilliant idea, Pete," Lois said. "Considering how well your plan to shoot him worked in the hallway."

"It's okay, Pete," Perry interrupted. "I'll be fine. Just close the door behind you."

Rather reluctantly, Pete stepped outside and closed the door.

"Okay," said Perry, turning to look at Lois once they were alone. "What's going on here? And this better be good."

"Kal, this is Perry White. Perry, this is Kal," Lois said, shooting Perry a look that clearly told him she was not impressed by his treatment of Kal.

"Just get on with it, Lois," Perry growled.

"Where do you want me to start?"

"Well… how about we start with you… Kal, isn't it? How did you find this place?"

Lois looked towards Kal. She had to admit, she was wondering that, too.

"After… well, just after, I went back to Smallville," Kal said, directing the answer to Lois. "The Kents told me that you had returned to Metropolis."

Lois glanced at Perry who was starting to look even more confused.

"When you were not at your apartment, I asked the Kents where they thought you would go. They said the Daily Planet."

"But the Daily Planet's completely dark," Perry said suspiciously. "So how did you figure out we were down here?"

"I was about to leave when I spotted Lois' jeep… uhh… Perry."

"You can call me Mr. White," Perry responded. He studiously ignored the look Lois gave him in response.

"So I knew you were around here somewhere," Kal continued. "I started looking around and I saw this room. Funny, though, I did not see you here, Lois."

"I was in the back room," Lois responded.

"What back room?" Kal asked.

Lois pointed through the window in the office towards the door to the fall-out shelter.

"That is odd," Kal said slowly. "I did not see that room."

"Now just wait one dog-gone minute," Perry said, interrupting them. "Looked around. Didn't see Lois. Didn't see the shelter. What the Sam Hill are you talking about?"

"I can see through walls, Mr. White," Kal explained.

"But… Are… What?" Perry asked, the color draining from his face. "Are you saying any Kryptonian could see us down here just by looking through walls?"

"Once they get their powers — yes, I imagine so."

"But…" Lois interrupted, getting up and walking over to the window in the office door. "Why didn't you see the shelter?"

"I do not know," Kal replied.

Lois turned back towards him. "Try now," she instructed. "Now that you know that it's here. See if you can see through the walls."

Kal tried for a minute before shaking his head.

"So what's different about that wall?"

"It is thicker," said Kal.

"I don't think that's it. After all, if you saw all the way down here, you had to look through an awful lot of walls. No. There's something different about that wall, but what?" She clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth for a moment. "I think it's the lead."


"Well, think about it, Kal. The lead protected you from that rock. And I imagine that there is lead in a fall out-shelter to protect from radiation. So the common denominator is lead."

"That is quite a leap," Kal said, still sounding more than a little skeptical.

"That's Lois' specialty," Perry said. "Leaps. But thing is… she usually turns out to be right."

"Maybe," Kal said. "But there has got to be a way to test it. After all, if lead is something that can keep a Kryptonian from seeing through walls, then we have got to get everyone somewhere that is made of lead," Kal said. "Can we move this entire facility inside that shelter of yours?"

"I don't think it's big enough. But I'm not sure there's a lot of choice."

"Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" Perry said, finally directing Lois and Kal's attention back to him. "No one's moving anywhere. Not until I get a whole lot more information."

Lois slowly returned to her seat, trying to figure out where to begin.

"Tell him everything, Lois," Kal said. "He needs the information to properly determine if I can be trusted."

Lois let out a slow breath. "Okay, Perry," she said, leaning back in her chair. "But… well, I've got to warn you, this is going to be a bumpy ride."



Perry stared at his star reporter in stunned silence when she finished her fantastic tale. "Okay," he finally said, "let me get this straight. You discover that an alien has landed on Earth and, not knowing if he's a friend or foe, you quit your job to smuggle him out of the city."

"Well, when you put it that way, it sounds a little crazy," Lois admitted.

"A little?"

"But, Perry, it wasn't crazy."

"Have you seen the news, Lois? Have you seen what's happening in this city?"

"That's not Kal's fault," Lois objected immediately.

"In a way, it is," Kal said, immediately silencing both Lois and Perry. "If I had not come here, Lord Nor never would have followed. Your world would not be suffering. This should have been handled back on New Krypton. Your world should never have been involved."

"That's not your fault, Kal. You can't take the blame for that."

"They are my people, Lois. I never should have left."

"And instead… what?… you should have let Nor kill you?" Lois' voice had risen with the last statement.

"Yes." Kal's answer, in direct contrast to Lois, was calm, almost stunningly so.

"Okay," Perry interrupted. "I think I'm still missing part of the story. Let Nor kill you? What's that all about?"

Kal took a deep breath before giving him a condensed version of the same story he'd told Lois and the Kents.

Perry leaned back in his chair as he digested everything. "So then… tell me why, when you were captured and taken to Nor…"

"He wasn't captured," Lois objected. "He turned himself in."

"Fine. But then why did you escape again? Nor would have left — not started bombing Earth."

"When I was waiting for Lord Nor to see me," Kal began, "I overheard him talking to two of his henchmen — about how they would get these incredible powers if they remained on Earth long enough. It took me a few days to get these powers. So I turned myself in, hoping that I could get Nor to leave before he found out about these powers. But Drull and Ran must have been on Earth for a while — probably looking for me. So they already realized how powerful they would be on Earth. Nor had no intention of leaving once he had me. So I escaped. I figured… hoped I could do more good for your people out here than I would in Nor's custody."

Perry nodded slowly. "Okay, so what happens next?"

"We have to move everyone out of here, Mr. White," Kal said.

"Call me Perry."

Lois gave Perry a look of gratitude.

"Right. Perry. So anyway, we move everyone out of here before Nor and his troops are up to full strength. Otherwise…"

"Actually," Lois interrupted, "if it is lead you can't see through…"

"We do not know if that is the case," Kal said.

"…but if it is, then… what about a lead-based paint? We could paint the walls and ceiling. We should also look into some sort of… soundproofing. Insulation, maybe — given your incredible hearing. And…" Her eyes lit up. "…can we get this information in the morning edition of the Daily Planet?"

"It's possible — provided that it's really lead you can't see through — and that lead-based paint makes any difference. But we have to assume that the Kryptonians will read anything we print," Perry said.

"True. But don't you think it's more important to let our people know how to protect themselves than anything they might do in retaliation?"

Perry nodded slowly. "Okay, let's do it. But first we need to test the theory."

"Jimmy! Do you think Jimmy could get some lead-based paint?"

"Why don't you ask him?"

Lois rose to her feet and headed for the door before stopping and turning back to look at Perry. "About that tape…" she said, pointing at the duct tape on Kal's hands.

When Perry nodded, Lois made her way over to Kal.

"It is not necessary," said Kal, simply pulling his hands apart, snapping the tape binding him.

"But if you could do that the whole time…" Perry began.

"I figured you would feel safer if I left it on," Kal explained.

Lois smiled, giving him a wink before heading out the door.


Perry watched as Lois made her way over to Jimmy. "That girl's like a daughter to me," he said softly, turning back to Kal.

Kal sat silently, not entirely sure how to respond. Lois had rebuked him when he'd assured Jonathan that he wouldn't hurt her. Still, that seemed to be the reassurance Perry was looking for. So what was he supposed to do?

"You hurt her," Perry continued when Kal didn't speak. "And you'll answer to me."

There was no doubt in Kal's mind that the older man meant his threat. "Fair enough," he said softly, hoping that was enough of a compromise to keep from offending Lois.



Jimmy looked up from where he was once again working at the computer.

"Hey, Lois, I just want you to know that I didn't say anything to anyone about Kal."

"I know, Jimmy," Lois responded. "And I appreciate it."

"But I have to tell you when those other Kryptonians showed up… Are you sure you should be trusting him?"

"I'm sure. But don't worry. I told Perry everything."

Jimmy looked relieved.

"But I have a favor to ask you — well, you and Jack."

"What's up?"

"I need some lead-based paint."

"How much?"

"As much as you can find. But… well, one can would be enough for now. Still, get as much as you can — along with paint brushes, tarps, things like that."

"I think we can swing that. There's a building supply warehouse not far from here. I got a number of our supplies there and I noticed a supply of old cans of paint. There might be some lead-based paint there. But even if not, we'll find some. When do you need it?"


"Oh." Jimmy instantly turned off the computer and rose to his feet. "We'll get right on it. Jack!" he yelled across the makeshift newsroom, attracting the attention of the younger man. "We got a job."

"One more thing. If you can find insulation, or something to use for soundproofing, too."

"Leave it to us," Jimmy responded.

Lois had to admit, she was impressed when Jack and Jimmy headed out. Perry had said they were the supply committee. And by the look of things, it seemed they were doing a good job. Who would have thought that between the two of them, they'd be as competent as a quartermaster in the average army.

"So what's the deal with the Kryptonian hunk?"

Lois rolled her eyes when she heard Cat's question.

"He's a friend," she said, turning to look at the other woman.

"A friend? So then… you won't mind if I take him for a test drive? You've got to wonder if imported is better than domestic."

"Is that all you think about, Cat? Sex?"

"Is there anything else?" Cat responded.

Lois clamped down on her instant feelings of jealousy. In her experience, imported was definitely better than domestic. On the other hand… it might have just been Kal. Or it might have been her. Or it might have been the circumstances. Or it might have been… Her mind drifted back to Kal's hands on her body.

"Earth to Lois."

"Huh?" Lois asked, forcing herself out of her daydream.

"You know, don't you?" Cat said, the excitement in her voice obvious.

"Don't be ridiculous, Cat," Lois responded. "Well, I better tell Perry what's going on," Lois said, heading towards Perry's office as fast as she possibly could. Still, she wasn't quick enough to miss hearing Cat's parting shot.

"That good, huh?"

"If you only knew," Lois muttered under her breath as she entered Perry's office.

"Knew what?" asked Kal.

Damn! She'd forgotten about Kal's hearing abilities. Had he been listening to that whole conversation? No. Probably not. Otherwise he'd know what she was responding to. On the other hand, how would he react to her description of him as a friend? The problem was… she really wasn't sure how she was supposed to classify him. When they'd made love, they'd both thought they'd never see each other again. So now that they had… She wasn't entirely sure where they stood with each other — or even how she wanted them to stand with each other.

"Lois, are you with us?" asked Perry.

"Sorry, Perry. Just thinking."


She shook her head.

"Actually…" Kal said, looking hard at Lois. "…if I could have a few minutes alone with Lois, I might have an idea."

Perry eyed Lois for a moment, waiting for her to nod before heading for the door.

"Are you okay?" Kal asked when Perry closed the door. "You look tired."

Lois felt her heart flutter. After what he'd been through, he still was concerned about her. Did that mean he still felt for her, was still in love with her? After everything he'd been through, after all the humiliations her people had inflicted on him, she could hardly blame him if he didn't. She wasn't entirely sure why it mattered to her. What she felt for him was lust, nothing more. Or was it? She shook her head, pushing thoughts of this strange pull she felt to him out of her mind. "I look tired?" she asked. "You're one to talk."

"Listen, Lois," he said, suddenly sounding much more serious. "If it is too hard for you to acknowledge that we are… friends, I will understand. After what my people have done…"

"What Nor and his troops did isn't your fault," Lois said, taking a seat next to him. "Besides, is that all we are? Friends?"

His expression softened, his hand coming up to stroke her cheek. "You know that is not all we are," he said, leaning in to gently brush his lips across hers.

Her heart unexpectedly fluttered.

He narrowed his eyes and studied her. "But, Lois, I am still the enemy. And I cannot say I blame everyone for thinking that. Being too close to me…"

"I like being close to you," she responded shyly.

"I am just worried that…"

"You let me handle Perry and the rest. But that's not exactly what you wanted to talk to me about, is it?" She looked towards the door.

"No. I brought something with me from Smallville."


"That green crystal. I put it in our jeep before coming down here — in the lead-lined box, of course."

Her eyes widened. "What?" she asked.

"I think it might be our only option, Lois. I think… given enough time, that rock might have killed me — or at least I think it did something to my powers. After I was exposed, my body felt sluggish and my hearing seemed… normal, I guess."

She rose from her chair, pacing the room before finally looking back at him. "You do realize that if you turn that rock over to… well, whoever, you'll be as susceptible to it as everyone else."

"Do you have a better idea?" he asked in response.


"Okay, listen up, folks," Perry said, commanding the attention of everyone in the room. He waited until silence reigned. After having listened to Kal explain about the green rock — even when he knew what it could do to him — he'd had to admit, he was convinced that Kal was on their side. The only problem was that Perry wasn't entirely sure he could convince his staff, especially without telling them everything. But right now, at least until they knew more, the less people who knew about the green rock, the better. "I've had a long talk with our 'guest' and I've come to a conclusion."

He looked around at his people. "Kal will be staying with us for the time being. Hey! I'm still talking," he growled when a general grumble of discontent rose from his staff. They again fell silent. "He told us that the Kryptonians will develop more powers over time. One of those powers is the ability to see through walls."

The grumble turned to something new — fear.

"How do we hide from an enemy who can see through walls?" asked Eduardo.

"Kal has an idea about that. He and Lois think that lead might be the solution. Right now, Jimmy and Jack are out looking for lead-based paints. When they come back, we'll try painting something to find out if he can see through it."

"And why should we believe him?" Pete asked. "Even if he can, what's to prevent him from claiming he can't?"

"I don't see that we have any other option but to believe him," Perry responded. "If he wanted to, he could already have called in the troops and the Kryptonians would have known we were here. Our bullets don't hurt him. Even the tape you put on his hands didn't hold him." His people still didn't look convinced. "Listen, folks, we're going to have to take some risks here. That's the only way we're going to win this war."

"You can't win this war," objected Pete. "You can only hope to survive it."

"Hey! I'm not listening to any of that kind of talk. If you really feel that way, then get out!"

Pete instantly fell silent.

"Okay, then. All of you, back to work."

He wasn't sure if he had convinced them or not as they returned to work. But for the time being, it was the best he could do. He was still in control. And unless they decided to mount a coup, which they didn't seem inclined to do at the moment, Kal would be safe enough here. Besides, what could they do to him? Sighing, he turned and headed back to his office.

"How'd it go?" Lois asked nervously.

"About as well as you'd expect," Perry explained. "I'm sorry, son. But it's going to take them a while to trust you."

"I understand," Kal responded.

"You shouldn't have to understand!" Lois exclaimed. "I've vouched for you. Perry's vouched for you. What more do they need?"

"It is okay, Lois," Kal said softly.

Perry was amazed as he watched Lois. As she looked at Kal, her face softened. Gone, almost immediately, was mad-dog Lane. And instead… unless Perry very much missed his guess, Lois had developed some serious feelings for Kal. He only hoped that she wasn't setting herself up for heartbreak. Although, how this could end well, he really wasn't sure. If they defeated Nor, unless he misunderstood, Kal would go back to rule New Krypton. And if not… it was only a matter of time before Nor killed Kal. Any way you sliced it, Lois was in for a world of hurt down the road. Although… given the way Kal was looking back at Lois, Perry couldn't find it in his heart to hate this young man. His expression was even easier to read than Lois' — he had obviously fallen in love.


Lord Nor held his breath and closed his eyes, willing his feet to leave the ground. He smiled when he was able to move his feet free of the floor.

"Very good, m'lord."

The distraction threw Nor off his game and he landed heavily. He opened his eyes in annoyance and glared at Shem.

"I trust you have a good reason for this interruption."

"Yes, m'lord. Jen has returned."

Nor's smile returned. "Does he have what I requested?"

"I believe so."

"Send him in."

Nor took a seat in the large chair he'd had set up in what he'd delegated as his throne room to wait for his guests. The room had been, before Nor's arrival, the legislative chambers. But personally, after hearing what the legislature's function was, Nor was convinced that this was a far better use of the space. He smiled when Jen entered, forcefully escorting his prisoner into the room.

"My, how the mighty have fallen," Nor said. Rising from his chair, he made his way over to the prisoner. Her clothes were in disarray and her face and arms were sporting a number of bruises. Nor grabbed her hair, pulling her head up. He lowered his face so that he was able to look directly into her eyes. "So, my love, did you have a pleasant trip?"

Without responding, the woman spit on him. She suffered a backhand for her act of defiance.

"Still have not learned your place, I see. Well, do not worry. You will."

The woman's eyes left Nor in no doubt about her hatred for him. "You will have to kill me before I ever support you."

He grabbed her face with his hand, leaving fingerprint indentations. "Be careful what you wish for, Zara. You just might not like the results," he warned before releasing her face and walking away. "Oh, and… you might be interested to know, my love," he said, turning back around at the last moment. "The council is considering dissolving your marriage to that buffoon. And I expect a favorable result."

"Only because you killed any of them that might have opposed you. Kal is my husband. And you will never be the man he is."

Nor returned to where she was still kneeling on the floor. "And… they are considering approving your marriage to me," he concluded triumphantly, taking a great deal of pleasure from the stunned look that appeared on her face. "Bring her to my chambers tonight," he instructed Jen over his shoulder as he left the room.


Kal stared hard at the newly painted piece of plywood.

"So?" Lois asked impatiently, unconsciously voicing the question on the minds of everyone gathered around them for this experiment.

Kal let out a breath, looking up at her. "I just… I have just started doing this. And I am not sure if I am just… exercising the wrong muscles, I guess."

"Well, try looking through the wall again to make sure you're doing it right. And then look back at the piece of plywood."

Nodding, Kal directed his attention to the wall, concentrating until the wall disappeared and he was looking at the hallway outside. Then he looked back at the board, concentrating on exercising the same muscles.

"Well?" Lois asked again.

"I think it worked, but…" He concentrated even harder.

A collective gasp rose from the crowd when the board burst into flames.

"Sorry," Kal said sheepishly, instantly extinguishing the flames with his freezing breath.

"So I take it that worked?" asked Perry. "Putting a coat of lead-based paint on the walls and ceilings should keep the Kryptonians from being able to look in here?"

"That would be my guess," Kal responded.

"And why should we believe you?" asked Pete.

"You do not have to," Kal responded immediately. "On the other hand, will it hurt anything to paint the walls on the off chance that I am telling the truth?"

When Pete seemed stumped by that, Lois smiled.

"Okay, folks," Perry said. "Let's get at it. And, Lois, how about writing up the story and giving it to one of the girls in our new typing pool?"

"Sorry, Perry. I've got an idea and I want to get out there, pound the pavement a little before the sun comes up. Get Ralph or someone to do it."

"Hey, I've got my own stories to cover, Lane," Ralph objected.

Lois rolled her eyes, walking over to the far side the room to grab her coat. Kal instantly grabbed his coat.

"Where are you going?" asked Lois.

"With you."

Lois, realizing that they were being watched, grabbed his arm, pulling him inside the shelter so that they couldn't be seen by their more-than-curious onlookers. "Kal, I don't think this is a good idea," Lois said, keeping her voice down to avoid disturbing those who were trying to sleep.

"I do not like the idea of you going out alone. If Nor or his people got hold of you, they would control me. Do you not see that?"

Her hand came up to his cheek. "Kal, this is my city. If anyone can find her way around it without getting caught by those thugs, it's me."


"Look, if you go with me, my sources will clam up. Your picture is everywhere. No one will talk to me if you're there. Besides, Nor has no idea who I am — or that I even know you. And… Kal, tell me something. When was the last time you slept?"

"I am fine, Lois. And if you are going, then I'm going. So…" He broke away from her, heading towards the newsroom.

Lois moved quickly, grabbing his arm and pulling him back. "You're not invited," she said, her voice now sounding slightly dangerous.

"You are not going out there, Lois. Not without me," Kal said. One of the disadvantages of not having English as his primary language was that he missed the warning in her voice.

"If you think sleeping with me gives you some sort of right to tell me what to do, you are sadly mistaken, buddy! This is my job! And you are not invited! Now if you want to do something useful, get some sleep. I have a mattress made up in the back. I'll return as soon as I can." Without waiting for him to respond, she turned and stormed towards the door.

Kal stared after her in stunned silence, feeling a little shell-shocked. For the first time in his life, he'd given a direct order, only to have it blatantly challenged — and by a woman. Would he ever get used to this planet? He wandered towards the door to the shelter just in time to see Lois stomp out of the newsroom.

"Who needs her? Too independent. Not understanding enough of the needs of the men in her life," purred a nearby woman's voice, directing Kal's attention to an attractive woman with strawberry blonde hair. "The name's Cat," Cat said, offering Kal her hand. "Cat Grant. And I can appreciate the needs of a strong man." She ran her free hand suggestively down his arm.



Kal looked down at the piece of paper in his hand one final time. He hoped it was satisfactory. After all, English wasn't his first language. It wasn't even his seventh language. Still, he thought it was acceptable. It seemed to answer all the necessary questions. On the other hand, he would know if he had succeeded in a moment.

"Perry?" he asked, attracting the attention of the Daily Planet editor.

"What is it, Kal?"

"I was wondering…" He walked over to where Perry was seated at his desk, handing him the paper. "Lois did not have time to do it before she left. And I was just thinking…" He shrugged.

"Well, thanks, Kal," Perry responded when he realized what he was holding. "But it's best to leave the writing of the stories to the professionals. Reporting is a… difficult… task and takes a long time to… get the knack of…" Perry's voice fell silent. After a moment, he looked back at Kal. "This is good," he said. "Did you do any reporting on New Krypton?"

"There are not reporters on New Krypton."

"Well, you've got the who, what, when, where, why and how down pat. The grammar is good, too. Take this out to the women in the typing pool. Someone will get this in the Daily Planet for tomorrow morning. And, Kal, thank you."

"I am just glad to help," Kal responded, taking his story about lead-based paint to the secretaries who were using the old typewriters to prepare the stories for tomorrow's paper.

Perry waited until Kal was gone before picking up the story Ralph had given him about lead-based paints. After taking one final look at the incredible amount of red ink on the page, he crinkled the paper up and tossed it in the garbage can.


Taking the jeep was a risk. But she couldn't see any other way to get the lead-lined box to Star Labs. Well, actually, that wasn't entirely true. She could have had Kal carry it. But… No. That wasn't exactly an option right now — not until he got it through that thick skull who Lois Lane was and what she was capable of doing.

It had been hours now since she'd left the shelter and… it had been a productive night. She'd spoken to Long Legs Lulu, a regular source, who had been able to tell her about a group of cops, led by Henderson, who were currently stockpiling arms under the police station. She'd even found out from Bobby Bigmouth that federal agents were gathering in a backroom in the federal building downtown. She had asked if Dan Scardino was with them. Bobby hadn't been sure but said he would ask around.

It briefly occurred to her to go to the federal building herself to check on Dan. But then she decided against it. After all, she really didn't want to deal with the whole Dan Scardino issue right now. She hoped he was okay, but otherwise… seeing him would just be too weird. After all, they hadn't really broken things off before she'd… Oh, god, she was a slut. Maybe she could even give lessons to Cat who was right now, undoubtedly, seeing how far she could get with Kal. She rolled her eyes. Kal wouldn't be taken in by her act — or would he? After all, what did she really know about this man, except that he seemed able to send her entire system into overload with just a look?

Pushing that disturbing thought from her mind, she made her way through the darkened streets without the benefit of headlights. Spotting the Star Labs building up ahead, she pulled over and turned off the jeep. The building was dark — like the rest of the city. Still, if there was one thing that Lois was coming to learn, it was that just because a building looked deserted, didn't mean it was.

Holding on to that thought, she got out of the jeep and made her way to the front entrance. She moved quietly from door to door, frustrated when each successive door proved to be locked. And then… a door moved. She pulled and it opened. A quick examination of the lock indicated that someone had already forced this particular door open. She stepped quickly inside, allowing the door to close while she gave her eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness.

Suddenly, lights were shining in her eyes. Voices shouting around her. She raised a hand, attempting to block the light as people rushed in, grabbing her. She moved instinctively, fighting back. People were everywhere. Her vision, now made worse by the bright light, was unable to tell how many, but she fought anyway — punching, kicking, biting. And then… she felt a sharp blow to the back of the head and… blackness.


"So what exactly do you look for in a woman?" asked Cat.

"Excuse me, Cat," Kal said quickly. "My brush seems to be out of paint." Kal heard Cat sigh when he left, getting a refill before continuing to paint in another part of the room. He'd spent almost more time avoiding her advances than he had painting. Still, seeming unable to take a hint, she had followed him around from spot to spot.

It wasn't so much that her behavior was making him uncomfortable; it was more that she was confusing him. Oh, sure. On New Krypton they had professional caregivers. But those women were not known for their sexual aggressiveness. They came when summoned, spoke when addressed and preformed their services when required. And as for women from noble families… No. None of them to Kal's knowledge ever flaunted their sexuality. Such a thing would bring such shame on the entire house. No decent woman would ever behave in such a manner.

On the other hand, no decent woman on New Krypton would make love to a virtual stranger in a hayloft unless he was at least her betrothed. Kal gave his head a quick shake. He was not on New Krypton. And what had happened with Lois was… different. It had meant something — even if the chances that he would ever be her husband were basically non-existent.

"Oh, man, these paint fumes are giving me a headache."

Kal looked at the young man who was painting beside him — Jack, if he recalled correctly.

"Is there any way to get some fresh air in here?" asked a third painter — a woman. Alice, Kal thought. Perry's wife.

"That's probably why he fed us this crap about lead-based paint — to kill us all with paint fumes," responded Pete.

Kal ignored him, the same way he ignored all Pete's little jabs. It was obvious Pete wasn't planning on trusting him at any time in the near future.

"Eduardo, Myerson. Why don't you take a couple of the guns and see if it's safe to open some doors, try to get a breeze down here?" Perry suggested.

The two men moved to do as instructed. Kal's hand stopped in mid-stroke. Suddenly, he wondered… Maybe. He placed his brush in the can and made his way over to where Perry was standing.

"I might have an idea, Perry," he said softly.

It took a few minutes to get everything set up and then everyone watched as Kal took a deep breath before slowly blowing it out. Air began to move. People rushed to hold onto papers. And a moment later, fresh air from the open doors began pouring into the basement, instantly clearing the air of the strong paint fumes. When Kal stopped, the sound of spontaneous clapping filled the air.

"Well done, son," Perry said, slapping Kal on the back.

"Way to go, man," Jack responded, lightly punching Kal's arm.

"Nice work," Alice told him.

Kal was almost embarrassed when everyone, one after another, thanked him for his help. Well, almost everyone. Kal couldn't help but notice the sour expression on Pete's face before he turned and walked away.


"Who are you?"

Lois tried to focus on the person asking the question even as she struggled to understand where she was and what was happening. "I'm…"

"I know her."

A man's voice from the back of the crowd directed Lois' attention to an older, balding man. "Dr. Klein?" she asked.

"Lois Lane. What are you doing here?"

Lois attempted to sit up. She was stopped by hands on her shoulders.

"It's okay. She's a friend," said Dr. Klein, pushing his way to the front of the crowd.

Lois sat up, rubbing the bump on the back of her head. "That's some welcoming committee you have there — hit first, ask questions later."

"Well, if you ask questions first and you're dealing with these Kryptonians…"

"Or some of the looters…" a woman Lois didn't know added.

"…you might not get a chance to finish your question."

"Fine," Lois said, wishing the headache would go away.

"So what are you doing here?" asked Klein.

"I came to talk to you."


Lois glanced around. "Could we talk somewhere private?"


The sun was coming up when Lois finally made her way back to the Daily Planet — and she had to admit, she was exhausted. Still, it had been a productive night. Dr. Klein seemed to think that he could do what she'd asked. So when Dr. Klein told them he was ready to go, they just might have a chance.

She ran a hand over her tired eyes as she stood just inside the newsroom. A fresh coat of paint covered the wall. She was amazed by the lack of any new paint smell given the paint and insulation job which had obviously taken place in her absence. Unlike the bustle that had marked the room when she left, there was hardly any movement now. A few people were bent over desks and a few candles and lanterns were still burning, giving the room a soft glow.

She stopped, picking up the now completed morning edition of the Daily Planet, flipping through it briefly until she came on an article by a… She smiled. Anonymous. She glanced around. Considering that it was an article about the benefits of lead-based paint, and that anyone else would have his or her name displayed prominently, she knew immediately who had written the article. She supposed he was right. Putting an article in the Daily Planet by Kal El would tell Nor exactly where to find him — or it would at least make the Daily Planet a main focus for the New Kryptonian's wrath.

As she read the brief article, she was surprised… and more than a little impressed. Who would have suspected he could write like that? A small grin quirked at the corner of her mouth. She was going to have no end of fun teasing him about being a reporter — given some of his more colorful comments about the profession.

Sticking the paper under her arm, she picked up a lantern and headed into the shelter. It was significantly darker now than it had been earlier — making her glad she had brought the lantern.

As she made her way closer to her primitive sleeping area, she found that a surprising number of butterflies had taken up residence in her belly. She didn't know, of course, if Kal would be there when she arrived or if he would have found another place to sleep. But the idea of curling up next to him… It was both exciting and, at the same time, a little scary.

Taking a deep breath, she pushed the blanket she'd erected earlier to the side so that she could step inside. Her heart gave a little jump before starting to pound when she saw him, lying on his side, his bare shoulders visible above the blanket. She watched him for a moment, but he didn't move. He was quite obviously asleep.

Her heart was still racing when she extinguished the lantern, sloughed out of her bra and slipped off her jeans. Stepping over him, she crawled beneath the sheets on the far side of the small mattress and lay down on her side, her back to him. She was just beginning to relax when she felt him stir. He reached out, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her back into the curve of his body.

"I am glad you have returned," he breathed sleepily into her ear.

For a moment she remained tense and then, as his breathing again settled into the pattern of sleep, she began to relax, enjoying the gentle pressure of his arm flung across her waist, the warmth of his body behind her. There were no bells, no blinding flashes of revelation, just a profound feeling of contentment, a feeling of rightness that encompassed her being. Was she in love with him? She doubted it. But there was something, something she couldn't put her finger on that made this man… right somehow. She closed her eyes and allowed his soft snoring to lull her into the most contented sleep she'd had in days.


Drull unceremoniously dragged Zara towards Nor's bedchamber. Her marriage to Kal was probably going to be dissolved. She, better than anyone, understood the significance of that event. Until now, although she'd suffered abuse at the hands of Nor's men, none would dare to touch her sexually for fear of the consequences of taking liberties with Kal's wife. But if her marriage to Kal was dissolved and Nor was approved as her future husband… She shivered.

She wasn't entirely sure why that thought hadn't occurred to her before. Of course marriage to her was his best course of action. After all, such a marriage would consolidate his power — bringing together the still fractured people of New Krypton. Even those who had wanted to support Kal would now be compelled to support Nor because of her role as his wife.

Still, none of that was exactly why she was terrified at the moment. Nor's comments before he'd left had made his intentions more than clear when he'd commanded that she be brought to his bed chambers. He was, even before her previous marriage was dissolved and even before her marriage to him was approved, undoubtedly intending to exercise his husbandly rights. And although she'd never exactly been in love with Kal, at least he'd always been gentle and had respected her ability to say no. Lord Nor was not likely to be as understanding.

"Well, my love, so good to see you again."

Lord Nor's voice contained a level of sarcasm that sickened her and a level of hunger that frightened her. He was dressed in his night robes and the entire chamber stank with the perfumes that she could remember from her wedding night. Her revulsion for him increased. She was still, at least officially, married to Kal. So his use of the incenses was almost blasphemous.

"Please, m'lord," Zara said slowly, keeping her eyes directed at Nor's feet in a gesture of supplication. "I do not wish to offend, but… it is improper for me to be here — not until the proper ceremonies are preformed." It was a long shot. Even she knew that. Especially since…

"Let us not stand on ceremony, my love," Nor responded, moving closer. "After all…" He grabbed her face with his hand, forcing her eyes to his. "…you did not stand on ceremony with Ching."

Even though she knew the accusation was coming, she couldn't help but flinch. Her relationship with Ching was sure to be her downfall now. Nor would use that in every way he could. And for now, it was to prove that he should be allowed to consummate their relationship without the proper ceremonies being completed. After all, she'd dare not say anything since, as all of New Krypton knew, she had no respect for the ceremonies anyway — otherwise she'd never have gone to Ching's bed in the first place.

Without releasing her face, Nor's lips descended on hers, forcing open her mouth and taking what he wanted. The next few minutes were a nightmare, growing in brutality with ever passing second. She struggled — only to discover that he was far stronger than she. She screamed, but, although there were guards just outside the door, no one came to her rescue. She tried biting, punching, scratching — until he'd laughingly informed her that he was invulnerable. Something about the Earth's sun. Still, he would let her fight, let her struggle, even letting her get away from him before, once again, pouncing — much the way a cat might play with a mouse — always holding the possibility of escape just beyond her reach as he took what she would never freely give.

Afterwards, she lay staring into the darkness as she waited for him to fall asleep. There was only one course left open for her. As silently as possible, she slipped out of his bed. She stopped when she heard him make a noise. Nervously, she glanced back at him, sprawled naked across the bed. Once she was certain he was still asleep, she moved again, sorting through his clothing until she found what she was looking for.

After running her fingers over the item, she headed through the soft light to his bathroom. She might not have been able to stop him from using her body, especially since he had developed these incredible powers, nor could she kill him, since it appeared he was now invulnerable, but there was one thing she could do. She could stop him from using her birthright to solidify his power or to hurt Kal who, if the rumors were true, was still alive. And there was only one way available to her to accomplish her goal.

Raising the knife she had found amidst his clothing, she held the point over her heart. She looked into her bruised eyes in the bathroom mirror as her mind drifted back to the beginning.



Zara grasped the paper in her hands as she headed down the hallway. Best in her class. That was what the mistress had said. She'd been so worried about this test. Kal had said she'd do fine, but she hadn't believed him. Well, he had been right — as usual.

She increased her speed. Moments like this were meant to be shared — especially with your best friend. Oh, she knew, of course, that Kal was more than just her best friend. He would someday be her husband. That thought was not at all troubling to Zara. Kal was the best. And she had images of them sitting in the big chairs in the throne room, residing over the grandest balls, no one telling them what they could and couldn't do.

Often when her mistress was rebuking her, Zara imagined what it would be like when she and Kal were in charge on New Krypton. She'd have fantasies about making her mistress stand up in front of the entire court and write one thousand times: 'I will not humiliate Lady Zara in front of others.' When she shared these thoughts with Kal, he'd remind her that power was not something to be abused and that her mistress was only trying to teach her what was right. Kal really could be a stick in the mud at times.

But not today. Today she couldn't wait to tell him about her test results. Pushing open the door to the sparring chamber, she was practically knocked off her feet, jumping out of the way as an older boy was slammed into the wall next to the door. She didn't know who he was, but still she watched as he raised his drei just in time to block Kal's blow. Quietly sneaking further away from the activity, she moved over to where Trey was standing as she continued to watch the fight.

She had to admit it pleased her to see that Kal appeared to be winning. Kal had been complaining about his new sparring partner for the past few weeks, frustrated that he never seemed able to get the upper hand.

"Come on, Kal," Zara cheered. "You can do it."

The boy with Kal looked over, putting him off his game as Kal struck a blow that sent the older boy to the floor.

She heard Trey's soft chuckle beside her.

Kal moved quickly to make good on his advantage, hitting his opponent when he tried to move before stopping him completely with the end of his drei against the boy's throat.

"Very good, m'lord," Trey responded, leaving his position next to Zara to make his way over to Kal. "Take advantage of your opponent's distraction to gain the advantage. Now… as a reward for winning, and by such a unique means, you will be given a fifteen minute break."

As Trey walked towards the door, Ching rose to his feet, his eyes never leaving Zara. She caught his eye before looking away, suddenly feeling unexpectedly shy. In her peripheral vision, she could see a slight grin quirk at the corner of his mouth as he headed in her direction. She glanced at Kal. He was over by the benches, wiping the sweat off his face with a towel.

"You always fight his battles for him?" Ching asked.

Her eyes flashed in anger as they met Ching's. "Kal does not need my help to fight his battles. No one is better than Kal."

"I do not know about that," Kal said from the far side of the room. "I will take any advantages I can get — especially against Ching here." He walked over to join the other two. "Ching, this is Zara."

"Your wife," Ching said, obviously recognizing her name.

She moved closer to Kal, slipping an arm through his. "That is correct," she responded defiantly, ignoring the unfamiliar feeling of… she wasn't entirely sure what… churning in her thirteen year old stomach.



Zara's eyes focused again. That was then. Now… Kal needed every advantage he could get in this struggle. And there was only one thing she could do to ensure he had such an advantage. Reminding herself who she was and praying that if Ching was still alive, he would forgive her, Zara took a deep breath before plunging the knife into her chest.



Kal jerked awake, every muscle in his body tensing. He stretched out with his senses, trying to locate the source of the danger he was sure was upon them. But no matter how hard he tried, he was unable to sense anything wrong. The heartbeats and breathing patterns of the people in the shelter remained steady, indicating sleep. There were no approaching hoof-beats. So… what had woken him up?


Lois' sleepy voice cut through his thoughts. She turned in his arms, placing a gentle kiss on his lips, distracting him further.

"Nothing," Kal said. "Bad dream, I guess."

A grin quirked at the corner of her mouth. "Need something to get your mind off it?" she asked, sliding her hands suggestively up his chest.

Unable to resist the temptation, he leaned in, pulling her closer to kiss her properly. The electrical charge he got as his lips explored hers left every nerve ending in his body tingling. Still… "Lois, I just think…" He glanced around at their surroundings.

Lois followed his gaze. "Not a lot of privacy," she whispered, voicing his thoughts. "Which is why… I suppose we have to be quiet." Her eyes twinkled mischievously.

A low growl emerged from the back of his throat as he allowed himself to be persuaded by her words. Keeping his ears tuned in to the steady sounds of sleep coming from the people around them, his hands slid under her shirt, finding comfort and… He suddenly jerked away, a feeling of intense pain flooding every molecule of his body.


There was no mistaking it. Zara was in trouble. But why? And where?

"Kal?" Lois asked.

Kal shook his head, concentrating on the feeling, but now it was answered by only silence. "I need… I am sorry," he said, rising to his feet and heading out of their sleeping quarters. He needed to think, to try to figure out what exactly he had felt and what it meant. And he couldn't do that with Lois so close.

He didn't look back as he made his way to an empty chair in the newsroom and stared off into space. He sat there, searching his mind for some further indication of Zara but still found nothing.

He wasn't entirely sure how long he sat there, motionless, before the soft patter of feet caused him to look up. Lois.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

He nodded but by the look on her face, he knew he hadn't been very convincing. "I just felt… Lois, something happened. I am not sure what. And I know even less what to do about it, but… I know something terrible just happened."

She didn't seem to question this. Instead, she sat down next to him, picking up his hand and playing with it. "If you don't know what to do about it, I suggest coming back to bed. Whatever it is… I'm sure we'll know soon enough. In the meantime, wouldn't it make more sense to face it rested?"

"I cannot…"

"I know," she responded, not even letting him complete his statement. "Just… hold me. Let me be there for you."

He met her gaze, finding there only concern. He nodded. What was it about this woman? She confused him more than anyone he'd ever met in his life. At times, she infuriated him. And yet… no one had ever been able to touch his heart the way she could.

He allowed her to lead him back into the shelter. Curling up with her again, he pulled her even tighter as his thoughts turned to Zara. What had happened? What was wrong?


Lord Nor stormed into the room, looking around at the frantic activity. Beyond, he could see Zara lying on a bed, her tattered clothing matted to her body with the sickly, dark red blood. Spotting his chief healer, Nor made his way over.

"Is she going to live?" he demanded, keeping his eyes on the healers who were working feverishly on Zara.

"I do not know, m'lord," the older man responded. "She missed her heart. But she has lost a lot of blood. I am uncertain she is going to be able to hang on."

Nor moved quickly, grabbing the healer by the lapels and pulling him so close that the man could feel the heat from Nor's breath on his face. "Just know this… If she dies, so do you." Nor let the man go, pushing him away as he stormed from the room.

Zara! The woman had always been nothing but trouble. If she died, there would be no end to the difficulties that would cause. Died, while in his bed chambers — before her marriage to Kal had even been officially dissolved. Keeping the more independent houses in line would be more than a little challenging when that information got out — even if they didn't accuse him of killing her. Zara's house — the House of Ra — would most certainly rebel. The House of Lo was sure to follow. And who knew how many other houses would also rebel because, in spite of her act of treason, Zara had won a place in the hearts of the people. He had no doubt that, with her death, her past transgressions would be forgiven and they would turn her into a martyr. No. If Zara died, the civil war could go on for years.

Now if she'd died while with Kal, things would be different — especially if he'd been able to convince that idiot to condemn her to death by his own edict. Now… Now Nor's only hope for total victory was that she'd live. Damn that woman.

Zara simply could not die. Not now. Not until he used her to consolidate his power over the houses. Besides, if she died, he'd have no hold over Kal. Walking past one of the guards in the hallway, Nor gave the man a frustrated shove. The man slammed against the wall behind him. Nor needed something to do, something to keep his mind off this problem until he found out if Zara was going to live. Something fun.


Perry made his way through the shelter, looking for his star reporter. Pushing the blanket to the side, he stuck his head in. He was taken back for a moment by the sight of a young couple curled up together in sleep. He took a deep breath as his fears about what was happening between those two increased. Even in sleep, they seemed so happy, content in each other's arms.

"Lois," he whispered.

The couple stirred. Lois rubbed a hand across her eyes as she looked over at him. Kal turned his head, too.

"I need you to come with me — both of you," he clarified, allowing the blanket obstructing their cubbyhole from the rest of the shelter to fall back in place, before walking away.


"Why do I suddenly feel as if I've just been caught by my dad?" Lois asked as the sound of Perry's footsteps faded.

Kal turned Lois slightly so that he could look into her eyes. "Is this a problem?" he asked. "I mean, we are not betrothed or married and I… I guess I am unsure how things work here. Is this going to hurt your reputation?"

Lois thought about that while her hand came up and stroked his cheek. "It might help me get rid of the 'Ice Maiden' nickname. But, no, it's not likely to do my reputation as a professional journalist a lot of good."

"Lois, you should have told me. I would have found somewhere else to sleep last…" Her fingers on his lips cut him off.

"I needed to be with you last night," she said softly.

He studied her for a moment before nodding. He had needed her, too. Holding her, feeling her heart beat against him. Nothing else could have comforted him the way she had. And without knowing what this new day would bring… No. He understood exactly what she was saying.

"Anyway," Lois said, finally sitting up. "I suppose we should get moving. When Perry says now, he tends to mean it."

When she tried to rise to her feet, he unexpectedly stopped her. She cocked her head to the side, wondering what he was doing.

He sat up, leaning in to kiss her softly. "Morning."

A smile spread across her face. "Morning," she responded, suddenly realizing that this was the first time she'd ever woken up in the morning to find herself in a man's arms. Claude had been the closest — except that when she'd woken up, he'd been gone. But Kal wasn't gone. He was right there — with her. She felt a small ache in her heart. "We should probably get moving," she finally said, forcibly reminding herself that they didn't have time to enjoy the moment. But… there was always tomorrow.


"So what is so important, Perry?" Lois asked as she and Kal made their way over to where he was standing, hands folded across his chest, staring at a television screen with a bunch of other people. "I'd really like to get freshened up before starting work."

The crowd parted slightly so that Lois and Kal could get a glimpse of the camera footage playing on the screen.

"Myerson got this this morning," Perry explained. "When he realized what was going on, he managed to… liberate a movie camera from a technology store nearby."

Lois opened her mouth to ask what they were looking at before suddenly closing it again. She watched in horror as Nor and a bunch of his men rounded up some people, taking turns shooting them with their laser vision, turning some of them into living torches. With others, they used their laser vision to cut off arms or legs or simply cut them in two. Although the film was silent, the screams of the victims seemed to penetrate every surface in the otherwise silent newsroom. The difference between the terror of their victims and the almost party-like atmosphere of the Kryptonians was startling as they laughed and smiled, ate and drank, all the while trying to prove who could be the most precise in their aim or most grotesque in their viciousness.

At one point, a couple of Kryptonians hustled a number of women over to join the party. Earth woman. All appeared to be under the age of twenty-five. The women were passed between them as if they were joints in a room full of potheads. The men would kiss or grope them before passing the terrified women on to their friends.

"What did those people do?" Lois asked in horror as she tried to wrap her mind around what she was seeing.


Lois looked over at Myerson.

"Nor's men just went into an apartment building and dragged out a number of people who were hiding out there and then started their… target practice."

"Friends of yours?" asked Pete.

Lois spun around and looked at Pete who had directed the none-too-subtle jab at Kal. After giving Pete a glare, she directed her attention to Kal who, his eyes glued to the scene, looked as white as a ghost. Suddenly, he turned, storming towards the door.

Lois sprang into action immediately, rushing forward to grab his arm. He sloughed her off. Undeterred, she grabbed him again, finally stopping his movement. "Where are you going?" she demanded.

"To stop them. I will not allow this to continue!" He tried to pull away from her, but she tightened her grip on his arm.

"And what are you going to do?" she asked. "There are at least twenty of them — and only one of you."

"I do not know! But I have got to do something."

"Then stay here. Work with us. You're no good to us if you go out there and get yourself killed."

"She's right, son," Perry added, having made his way over to them.

"Let him go," Pete said, directing Lois' anger in his direction. "He's not one of us. We don't need him."

"Shut up, Pete," Perry growled.

"Look," Lois said, looking back at Kal, "we stick to the plan. At least it's got a chance of succeeding. You just need to hold on until we hear back from Dr. Klein."

"What plan?" Pete asked. "What's going on?"

Lois shot him one silencing look before turning back to Kal. "Come on, Kal. You've got to see that going out there now is suicide. There's nothing you can do for those people — for any of them. We've got to play this out." Then she held her breath while she waited.

Kal stared off into space for a long moment, one of the longest of Lois' life, before finally looking back at her. He nodded, a look of resigned acceptance on his face.

"Okay," Perry said, looking around at the staffers. "Burns?"

"Yeah, Chief?"

"You got that radio working yet?"


"Can you get a message to the outside world — maybe even make arrangements to smuggle that tape out of the city?"

"I think so."

"Then do it." Perry turned to look back at the television. "The world needs to understand exactly what we're dealing with here."


Zara knew only one simple truth as she regained consciousness. She had failed — again. Her first failure was when she'd let her feelings for Ching override her better judgment. That failure had resulted in Nor being able to strip Kal of power. Now she'd failed again. She had no doubt that Nor would use her to finish the job on Kal. She could not let that happen. If her death would help Kal, she was determined to die. It was the very least that she could do. It was also… an appropriate ending.

She forced herself to look around, evaluating her surroundings. The healers were otherwise distracted. She needed to move before they realized she was awake — finish the job she'd started in Nor's chambers. Gathering her energy, she tried to move her arms, panicking slightly when they wouldn't move. She glanced down at her arms. She was in restraints. Someone obviously was not taking any chances.

"Do not move." A healer suddenly realized she was awake and rushed to her side. "You have been hurt. You must relax. You do not want to start the bleeding again."

"Please…" Zara had to stop for a moment. Her mouth was dry, making speech difficult. The healer leaned closer. "Please… help me."

"That is what we are trying to do," the healer assured Zara.

"No… No, you do not understand. Please. Remove my restraints."

The healer began backing away. "M'lord instructed us to keep you restrained."

"Please. I just… feel so helpless like this. I will not tell Lord Nor. Just give me a few minutes of freedom."

The healer shook his head before turning and hurrying from the room. Zara closed her eyes, leaning back against the pillow. She had to find a way. She simply had to — preferably before Nor returned. It was the only way she could help Kal now. And it was the only way to redeem herself. Her mind again drifted back.



The night was dark. The two moons of New Krypton hung low in the eastern sky, overlapping each other. The soft sound of the waves could not be heard over the music drifting through the open doors to the ballroom. Inside, people laughed and talked and danced, plotted and schemed. The intrigues of court were in full force.

Zara stood on the terrace, looking towards the ballroom nervously, rocking on the balls of her feet, ready to make a quick escape. Beside her, Ching stood, looking out into the darkness, his hands on the railing surrounding the terrace. On the ledge was a thought dampener. Zara glanced nervously at it, praying that it was working.

"I cannot stand it anymore," Ching said softly.

"Ching…" She looked back to the ballroom.

"I am going to ask Kal to send me to one of the outer colonies."

She finally looked at him. "If you do that, I might never see you again."

"That might be for the best — for all of us."

"Do not say that," she begged. "I will die if I cannot see you."

He left his position, turning towards her. "And I die every day, not being able to touch you, to hold you, to make love to you."

"Ching," she rebuked, looking quickly back towards the ballroom. "We should not say such things to each other."

"Why not? We feel them."

"And this man… the one we both love… what of him?"

Ching was silent as he stared at her profile. After a moment, he let out a breath, turning back towards the ocean. "I will ask Kal for reassignment tomorrow."

"No. Please." She could hear a note of pleading in her voice, but she didn't care. She couldn't lose Ching. She just couldn't.

"Lord Kal has a council meeting after the party. He should be tied up with them all night. Come to my room."

"Ching, I cannot."

"If you want me to stay, come to me tonight. Otherwise, I ask for reassignment in the morning." With those final words, he pressed his room card into her hand, picked up the thought dampener, sticking it in his pocket, and walked away, reentering the party.

She watched until he disappeared before looking down at the card burning a hole in her hand.



She should have let him go then. It would have been better for everyone. Instead, she'd paced in the royal chambers for hours before finally giving in and going to Ching. She could still remember every detail of that night. The trembling in her limbs when she'd let herself into Ching's darkened room. The surprise in his eyes when he'd turned to look at her from his bed. The first touch. The first kiss. The first moment she'd lost herself completely in another person. She'd recognized it then for what it was — a turning point in her life. From that moment on, there had been no going back. And every day afterwards, she'd known what it was to live with guilt and shame.

Oh, she'd tried to end her relationship with Ching — on many occasions. But faced with the prospect of losing him, there had always been one more time — until they'd finally been caught. In some ways, it had almost been a relief. And maybe it would have been if it hadn't ended up costing so many people so much. Now there was only one way to redeem herself. And at least then, the guilt and shame would finally end.

"Well, well, well… Look who is finally awake."

Zara looked towards the doorway to see Nor standing there, his clothing spattered in blood. Hers? Or someone else's? Did it matter? She looked away.

"Is she able to leave the bed?" Nor asked one of the healers.

"I would like to keep her under observation for a while, m'lord."

"Observation? Then I guess she can be moved."

"Well, yes. I suppose, but…"

"Fine. Then get her up." He gestured to Drull and Ran who immediately moved to do as instructed. "And you are coming too," Nor said to the healer, grabbing onto the front of his lapel with one hand. "That way you can keep her under observation."

"Yes, m'lord," the healer said nervously, stumbling backwards when Nor released his lapel, giving him a small push as he did so.


"What's up?" Lois asked as she and Kal headed towards the people crowded around the televisions. Applegate had managed to get Myerson's tape of Nor's activities this morning out of the city and it had been playing on the various news stations ever since — credited, of course, to the Daily Planet. But this… this interest was obviously for something new.

"Apparently, Nor is about to give another one of his famous addresses," Perry growled.

"He thinks he can top what was caught on tape this morning?" Lois asked.

"Maybe he's planning to blame it all on an abusive childhood," Eduardo responded provoking a general guffaw from the crowd.

"Or maybe he's going to blame it all on too much sugar in his diet," Jack added.

"Yeah, or maybe it was all a trick of the light — it never really happened," Myerson said.

"All right. All right," Perry said, directing everyone's attention to him. "Let's calm down everyone."

People quieted, turning their attention to the screen as Nor's face appeared.

"Kal, are you listening? This message is for you."

People parted slightly to give Kal, and consequently Lois who was standing next to him, a clear view of the screen. The camera pulled back showing a woman, obviously seriously injured being held up by two of Nor's men. Her head was bent so that her chin was almost touching her chest. Her torn clothing was caked with blood. Nor reached over, grasping her hair, pulling her up to reveal a seriously bruised face.

Lois heard a sharp intake of air come from Kal and glanced in his direction. His face was taunt and a muscle twitched in his jaw. His entire body looked as if he was about to jump through the screen to strangle Nor with his bare hands.

"Remember her? Oh, yes. How could I forget? Zara is your wife," Nor continued.

Wife. With a single word, the entire world around Lois seemed to spin.

"Well, as you can see, she has been enjoying my hospitality. Quite a lot actually. In fact, last night I got a chance to… get to know her better — much the same way as the Chief of your Imperial Guard… Oh, what was his name again? Ching. That is right. Much the same way as the Chief of your Imperial Guard did. You know. Before he ran away like the coward he is. Said I was the best she ever had. Still, I see the appeal now. She is quite a scrapper, after all. I look forward to taming her, since you were not up to the job."

Lord Nor leaned over, planting a brutal kiss on the woman's bruised lips. The woman showed her first signs of life when she tried, although quite unsuccessfully, to break the kiss.

"She will continue to enjoy my hospitality — and my bed. Oh, did I mention? The council is considering that I might be a better match for her than you are. After all, unlike you, I will not let her make me a cuckold. Unless, of course, you want to challenge me for her. I will tell you what. You come here — talk to me. I might even give her back to you. A little worse for wear, perhaps. But then… is not that the way you like them?"

The image on the screen vanished. A second or so later, the anchor appeared and began to talk. But Lois wasn't listening. One thought was screaming in her mind, drowning out any others. Kal's wife. She didn't even notice when Kal began to move towards the door.

"Hey, whoa there, son," Perry said, putting himself in front of Kal. "Where do you think you're going?"

"Where do you think? I am going to get her back."

"Bad idea."

"You cannot stop me. She is my wife. I will not let Nor hurt her like this."

Kal's acknowledgment of the woman's status was almost more painful to Lois than when she'd first heard Nor refer to her that way.

"You have a wife?" she asked softly, directing Kal's attention to her for the first time since the woman had appeared on the screen. She was surprised at how calm she sounded. "A wife named Zara." She wasn't entirely sure why she added the woman's name. Saying her name suddenly made the whole thing seem too real. Moisture came unwillingly to her eyes.

Her eyes met Kal's and locked. Suddenly, the world seemed to come to a grinding halt.



After what felt like an excruciatingly long moment of eye contact with Lois, although, in truth, it was probably only a matter of seconds, Perry stepped between Lois and Kal, his attention directed towards Kal.

Kal couldn't say for certain, but he had the distinct impression that Perry had stepped between them in an effort to prevent Lois from having a full meltdown in front of her colleagues — although Kal wasn't entirely certain why she was so obviously upset. Did she really think the First Lord of New Krypton wouldn't have a wife? And it wasn't as if he had promised her a future. Quite the contrary, in fact. And none of this changed his feelings for her. So why was she so upset?

"Maybe we should take this to my office," Perry said quietly.

Kal nodded, following when Perry headed away. He dismissed thoughts of Lois from his mind. He knew now what he had felt the previous night. Zara — at the mercy of that monster. She was his focus now — she had to be. Dealing with Lois would have to wait. Not that he wasn't aware that she had followed the group that headed for Perry's office. Or that she was shooting daggers at him from her eyes as she stood in the background, leaning against the wall.

"I have to go after Zara," Kal said again once they were inside Perry's office. "Do you not understand that?"

"What I see, son, is that if you go after her, they will kill you. That tape Eduardo got this morning… Those men have every one of the powers you do. And there are a lot more of them than there are of you."

"Did you see what that monster did to her? How can you expect me to just sit by and…"

"You don't have to."

Lois' voice coming from the side of the room stopped both men in their tracks. Kal looked over at Lois. She wasn't looking at him; she was looking at Perry as she stepped forward.

"Lois, what are you saying?" asked Perry. "Are you telling him to go after her?" Perry's tone clearly conveyed the message that he was upset that Lois would take this so personally that she would recommend that Kal do something inherently foolish — something that would, in all probability, get him killed.

"No," Lois said softly. "But I can." She glanced around at the other, obviously stunned, occupants of the room.

Kal felt a cold shiver of fear shoot through his veins. What was she suggesting? And, more importantly, how could he stop it? After all, he knew from bitter experience just how futile it was to give this woman orders. Before he could come up with a response he thought had a chance of working, Perry spoke.

"What the hell do you mean that you can? Lois, you've seen what these guys are capable of."

"What's Nor's defining characteristic?" Lois asked.

Perry tilted his head to the side, trying to figure out where she was going with this. "I don't know," he said, waiting for her to continue.

"He believes he has the divine right of kings," Kal said.

She didn't look at him. In fact, Kal had the impression that she almost flinched at the sound of his voice, as if she was trying to ignore the fact that he even existed.

"His ego," she said, without acknowledging his comment.

"And that benefits us exactly… how?" Perry asked.

"Well, how could he resist a reporter who wants to tell his story to the world? And once I'm inside, I can rescue Zara."

"Lois, Nor has made it quite clear how he feels about the press," Perry growled. "Look at where you are. Hiding out below the Daily Planet."

"That's just because no one has introduced him to the concept of good PR — or the benefit of it."

"He's not going to let anyone in from the Daily Planet. Or if he does, he won't be letting them out again."

"Maybe not. But an independent reporter? Trust me, Perry. I can be very persuasive."

Perry snorted. He had first hand knowledge of the truth of that statement. "Still, I think it might be a little more difficult than that."

"Of course, it will be a little more difficult than that," Lois responded. "But go with me here for a minute. They are expecting Kal to come storming in, right?"

"Yeah," Perry conceded.

"They won't expect a human to walk in under their very noses. They are all going to be looking for Kal."

"Go on."

"Well, that's my advantage. They won't be expecting me."

Perry was already shaking his head by the time she finished.

"Come on, Perry. You know I'm right."

"I'll admit, the basic idea might have some merit, but if anyone is going in, it's going to be me," Perry responded.

"No," Lois said immediately. "Perry, think about this. The Kryptonians have a fatal flaw. They don't believe women are useful for anything other than as playthings."

Kal flinched, feeling the accusation in her words.

"So they'll never be expecting me."

"I'm not letting you go in there alone," Perry growled, even though it was obvious that her arguments were beginning to work on him.

"If you or someone else…"

"I'll go with her."

Everyone turned at the sound of a new person entering the discussion to realize that Cat was the one who had spoken.

"I appreciate the offer, Cat, but…"

"Look, Lois, it's a natural. Grant and Lane. The best team in town. There is no way, if the two of us go… partners… that they'll deny us access. Besides, you need someone to watch your back. And if there is one thing I know, it's how to distract men."

Lois thought about that for a moment before nodding.

"So what exactly would the plan be?" Perry asked, still sounding skeptical, but obviously listening now to every word.


To say that Lois felt betrayed would be seriously underrating the emotions she was feeling. Neither Claude nor Lex had hurt her this much.

And there was a part of Lois that wanted nothing more than to wash her hands of Kal and everything to do with him. But as she'd stood there, listening to Perry and Kal debate the issue of saving Zara, the images of the poor, bloody and abused woman on the screen kept haunting her. Zara had been unable to stand on her own, supported by two of Nor's henchmen. Her bruised and battered face, tangible evidence of Nor's abuse of her for all the world to see. And suddenly, she'd realized that as much as she might currently despise Kal for what he'd done to her, she couldn't let another woman suffer abuse at the hands of a monster named Nor.

But Perry was right. There was no way Kal could go in there and rescue Zara. So when the idea of going in herself occurred to her, her conscience had not allowed her to turn away. So she'd spoken up, improvising wildly as she had presented her plan. To tell the truth, she was a little surprised that Perry had gone along with it. Maybe, like her, he'd been unable to get the image of the blood on Zara's clothes or her bruised and battered face out of his mind.

She dragged her mind back to the present when Cat spoke.

"So what exactly are we doing at Star Labs?" Cat asked.

"There's a rock… Exposure to it seems to hurt Kryptonians. It might even be able to kill a Kryptonian. I'm not really sure."

"And how do you know this?"

Lois shuffled slightly. "It hurt Kal."

Cat was silent for a moment. "Talk to him, Lois."

"What?" Lois turned around, looking curiously at Cat.

"Kal. Talk to him."

"Look, Cat, this really is none of your business."

"You're right. It isn't. And I have to admit, the idea of having that hunk of a man available… I mean, talk about biceps. Mmm, mmm, mmm. The idea of exploring that body, running my hands over…"


"Oh. Right. Sorry."

Cat smirked, giving Lois the distinct impression that she was trying to provoke a jealous reaction out of Lois by drooling over Kal. But… No. No matter what Lois felt for Kal, there was no way she could forgive this. The man had a wife — one he'd conveniently forgotten to mention.

Cat wandered around the room, fingering various items as she continued, talking casually, as if she had no particular destination in mind. "Did you know I met Prince Charles once?" Cat began. "Really quite a charming man in person. Not at all what you'd expect. Although, once he'd start talking about horticulture… a girl's eyes could glaze over. Still… pity about him and Diana." She paused. "You want to know the difference between Charles and Diana and previous royal couples?" Cat asked.

"Huh?" Where was Cat going with this?

"Previous royal heirs cheated. In fact, it was almost expected. The difference with Charles and Diana is that Diana was the first royal consort to object."

"What are you talking about, Cat?"

"The fairytales lied. The prince doesn't find a woman, fall hopelessly in love and marry her. He finds the woman who will solidify his country's alliances, or who can produce an heir, or… for whatever other political purposes… Then he finds love wherever he can get it."

"That doesn't make it right."

"I'm not saying it does. But… Well, maybe it just never occurred to Kal that you would object. I don't think it ever occurred to Charles that Diana would object — not if he was discrete."

Lois thought about that for a moment. "That's just sick."

Cat shrugged. "Kal didn't grow up with the same values we did… Or, well, you did. Hey, they don't call them middle class values for nothing. Come on, Lois. I've seen the way he looks at you. And given the way he's been avoiding me…"

"Cat, I really don't want to…"

"Just talk to him."

Lois was relieved when Dr. Klein entered the room, cutting off her conversation with Cat. The last thing she wanted right now was to feel any sympathy for Kal. In fact, she wanted to hate him. She needed to hate him — it was currently the only thing keeping her from falling apart. Besides, no matter what the reasons, Kal was married. And that was something she wasn't getting past at any time in the near future.

"So what have you managed to come up with?" Lois asked, directing her full attention to Dr. Klein.

"Well, I've been working with the kryptonite to…"

"Kryptonite?" Lois asked.

Klein shrugged. "Well, I needed a name for the green rock. And since you said it was a meteorite… and you seem to think it's somehow connected to the Kryptonians… Kryptonite seemed as good a name for it as anything else."

"Okay, so what ideas have you come up with using the kryptonite?"

"Uhh. Well…" He led Lois and Cat over to his workbench. "You said this was all we had of the kryptonite, so one of my main goals has been to try to find ways to use as little of the kryptonite as possible — to make as many weapons as possible. But… well, without a Kryptonian test subject, it's hard to say if I'm using enough."

"I might have one for you," mumbled Lois.


"Umm… I just said it looks as if we might have a chance to test some of this stuff out," Lois responded. "We're planning a brief incursion into the legislative buildings." Reaching over, she picked up a green bullet.

"I reduced the kryptonite to a gel that I was then able to use to coat the bullets. The theory is that the kryptonite will allow the bullet to penetrate the Kryptonian's skin. So that would make it only as effective as any other gun. Unless, of course, the bullet doesn't go all the way through, increasing exposure, of course."

Lois picked up one of two small, dark colored bottles.

"With those, I reduced the kryptonite to a gas. It's sort of a mill's bomb."

"Mill's bomb?"

"Grenade. You toss the bottle, breaking the glass. The gas escapes, hopefully killing any Kryptonian in range."

"What's the range of the gas?"

Klein shrugged. "My guess… fifteen to twenty feet."

Lois let out a breath before wandering around, fingering various other stuff. "What's this?" she asked, picking up a clip for a gun.

"A clip for a gun."

"I know that," Lois said, rolling her eyes. "I meant… Well, it looks different somehow."

"Oh, that. Well, the one thing that we don't want is for the Kryptonians to be able to sense our weapons — or that we've got an effective weapon. So, given what you told me, I lined the clip with a lead coating. The same with the bottles. And…" He picked up a sheath for a knife. "This is also lead lined. I'm working right now on coating the edges of some knives, so that they will hopefully be effective on Kryptonians. The sheaths will keep the Kryptonians from having any warning before the knife is withdrawn."

Lois nodded slowly, picking up the grenades. Cat chose a gun, slipping in a clip full of kryptonite bullets. She loaded one of the bullets into the chamber and raised the gun, lining up the sites.

"Why do I get the feeling you've used a gun before?" asked Lois.

Cat shrugged.

"Just remember to use those judiciously. We have a very limited supply."

"So make every bullet count," Cat responded, spelling it out for him.

"And keep in mind, I can't promise these will work at all. After all, the chemicals I mixed the kryptonite with might have counteracted the substance which makes the kryptonite dangerous to Kryptonians. Or I might not have used enough kryptonite in the mixture. And I don't know if I used enough lead to keep the Kryptonians from knowing you have these weapons. Or…"

"Don't worry, Dr. Klein. We won't hold you responsible if it doesn't work," Lois said, cutting him off.


As Kal stood outside Perry's office, watching Lois and Cat study some documents on the desk, a dull ache settled in his chest. Since the moment she'd found out about Zara, Lois had been acting as if he didn't exist — and it was tearing him apart inside.

Still, he pushed his own pain to the side — it was nothing compared to what Zara was currently going through. And as much as he might be loath to admit it, Lois' plan had merit. But she needed help — help only he could provide. The problem was that there wasn't any way to do that when Lois was refusing to talk to him.

His heart did a flip when she unexpectedly looked in his direction. Their eyes locked and… He was just starting to smile when she suddenly looked away.

He sighed, looking down. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and stepped inside. She might not be ready to face him yet, but there were other issues here. Zara. And even if he couldn't confront Nor directly, he refused to be shut out. If Lois had a problem with that, too bad.

"Hey, good-looking," Cat said when he stepped into the room.

He saw Lois shoot Cat a look that could kill. Steeling his resolve, he walked deliberately up to the desk, seeing on it the building plans for the legislative building.

"So what is the strategy?" he asked.

"We're just orienting ourselves," Cat responded.

Once again, Lois shot Cat a look that clearly said that the other woman was a traitor for even talking to him.

"Could you just give us a moment here, Cat?" Kal asked.

"That won't be necessary," Lois responded immediately, seeming to forget her resolve not to acknowledge his presence.

"Oh, so I guess you will talk to me when it suits your purposes," Kal said.

This time, he did manage to get Lois' attention. If looks could kill, he'd be writhing in agony on the floor. But just as quickly as she looked at him, she looked away.

"I will not be shut out, Lois," Kal said, ignoring the fact that Cat was still in the room.

She looked back at him, folding her arms across her chest. "We're busy, Kal," she said. "Can't this wait?" The final statement wasn't really much of a question. It was more of a 'go away.' But Kal refused to be budged.

"You are upset. Okay, fine. I might not exactly understand why you are angry…" He ignored the noise of disbelief she made in response. "…but I will accept it. For now. But Zara is my wife. I have a right to be involved here."

"We don't need your help."

"No? Then tell me… how are you going to find out where they are holding Zara?"

"I don't…"

"And then, how are you going to distract the guards? If they are expecting me, there are bound to be a lot of guards keeping her safe."

"We'll find a way."

"All I would need to do is fly over the legislature and I could tell you where Zara is."

"He has a point there, Lois," Cat said.

"He does," Perry said, appearing in the doorway.

"Okay, fine," Lois said in exasperation. "You fly over the legislature and find out where they're holding Zara."

"And then… just before you make your move, I think I should cause a distraction. Maybe make them think that I am trying to rescue Zara. Nor is bound to send most of his men to try to apprehend me."

"He's making sense, Lois."

Kal could hear an increase in Lois' heart rate.

She narrowed her eyes, meeting his dead on this time. "Fine," she responded through clenched teeth.

Kal gave a nod. He was sure he'd done nothing that would help him win back Lois. In fact, he had probably just made things worse. But at least if he could distract Nor's men, it would give Lois and Cat a better chance of making it out alive. And maybe, just maybe, would even allow them to rescue Zara.

"Fine," he said sadly, even as his heart broke.


Shem rushed into Nor's room without thinking. He stopped when he realized his master was currently… occupied. The young woman, someone Shem didn't know, probably one of the Earthlings they'd rounded up earlier, scurried to cover herself.

"What is it, Shem?" Nor asked, even as he casually watched the young woman.

"I am sorry to intrude, m'lord," Shem said, trying not to notice the woman. "But we got a spike in Kal's brain waves."

Nor finally looked away from the woman, allowing her to flee the room. "And…?"

"He is somewhere in Metropolis."

Nor rose to his feet, grabbing his robe and wrapping it around him. "So… he is preparing to make his move. Make sure the guards know that anyone who lets him get away will answer for it with his life."

"Do you want to be informed the moment we sense him making his move?"

Nor nodded. "I want to be there when that buffoon is brought to his knees. Oh, and Shem…" He continued when Shem, after giving a slight bow, turned to leave.

Shem stopped, looking back at his master.

"Do we know what brought on this slip?"

Shem shook his head.

Nor gave a brief nod, allowing Shem to leave the room. The first slip by Kal, the one that had brought them to Earth, had taken place at about the time Kal had touched down on this planet. The second, shortly after Nor's first address. He had thought at the time that Kal's response had been from fear. But given that Kal had already developed his powers, how much fear could he have had? But this time… What had brought it on this time? After all, it was almost two hours since Nor's last address.

Was it important? Nor wasn't entirely sure. On the other hand, for a man with Kal's training to make slips… allowing his emotions to leak through, there must be some serious emotional or painful stimulus. Since he'd seen Kal flying around, pretending to be the hero, Nor knew Kal wasn't suffering pain. So what was causing Kal such emotional turmoil? He wished he knew. After all, it could be that Kal had a weakness. If only he could discover what it was, he would control Kal.


Was she insane? Rescuing the wife of the man who had betrayed her? This wasn't her problem. Wasn't her fight. Yet, here she was — pulling her jeep to a stop in an alley about six blocks away from the legislative buildings. She wished she could park closer, but even having an escape vehicle at the ready would be no help if Nor's men were after them. This would require… finesse, not speed.

Still, why was she doing this? Rescuing the wife of a man who had lied to her about his marital status. Okay, so maybe he hadn't exactly lied. After all, it had never occurred to her to ask if he had a wife. And why was that anyway? Had she not wanted to know?

"If you want to back out, Lois, no one would blame you."

Cat's quiet comment pulled Lois out of her thoughts. "I'm fine. Let's just get on with this."

A gust of wind outside the jeep caused both Cat and Lois to jump. Seeing Kal standing next to her window, Lois cautiously lowered it.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, her tone completely without inflection.

"I thought you would like to know the latest."

"Yes, we would," Cat said from the seat beside Lois. "Thank you very much." She gave Lois a look that clearly indicated she thought Lois was being rude. Lois didn't particularly care.

"Zara is still in the room she was being held in earlier. There are seven men guarding her. Three in the actual room. Four outside the only door."

Lois nodded and, without responding, began putting the window back up.

"Thank you," yelled Cat.

Ignoring Kal, Lois turned off the jeep. Kal had to jump out of the way when the door was suddenly pushed open. He said nothing, standing there as Lois got out. She turned, closing the door. She gave a start when she felt Kal's hand on her arm.

She spun towards him, dislodging his hand.

"You do not have to do this."

She gave him a look before turning to walk away. His hand on her arm again stopped her.

"I mean it, Lois."

"Fine. You mean it."

When she tried to pull away, he refused to let go. Instead he leaned closer. "I will not let Nor hurt you. No matter what. I just wanted you to know that."

Lois' emotions shattered, skittering sideways and leaving her in emotional turmoil. Not only the words, but the intensity with which he said them, penetrated the wall around her heart, unwelcome though that may be. "I know," she said softly, not meeting his eyes, before breaking away from him and walking away without so much as a backward glance. And she did know. She wasn't sure why she believed him, but she did.

Not that that changed anything. He was still married. And Lois didn't do married men. But…

What exactly did Kal's comment mean? Right now his wife was in the clutches of Lord Nor. And she was the one going in to rescue her. Did he mean that he would take greater risks for her than he was for his own wife? Or was she reading way too much into his comment? Maybe he just meant that he wouldn't let her die for doing what he felt was his responsibility. That was probably it. He was willing to try a method for saving Zara that had a greater chance of success than him storming the castle. But he wasn't willing to sacrifice her life — or Cat's for that matter — to do it.

She shook her head, trying to clear all these confusing thoughts from her mind. She hated this type of unanswerable question. None of it mattered, anyway. Not really. After all, Kal was married and Lois, fool that she was, was on her way to try to save his wife. But… could she live with herself if she didn't? The irony was… probably not.



Drull rolled the brown tube between his thumb and forefinger. The man who had tried to bribe him with it had called it a Cuban cigar — whatever that meant. Drull smiled in remembered amusement as he recalled the man using these brown tubes to try to bargain for his life. Not that it had worked. Drull had simply killed him and taken the tubes anyway.

Now… what was it the man had said? 'You light one end and then suck on the other.' Right. Holding the tube out in front of him, he gave it a blast with his heat vision. A flame appeared at the end. Sticking the other end in his mouth, he drew in a long breath before spewing out the smoke. Coughing, he tried to catch his breath. And this was what the man had used to try to buy back his life? He tossed the cigar on the ground and stomped on it, smashing it into smithereens.

Why was he out here anyway? He should be inside where he could at least sit down occasionally. Instead, Lord Nor had put him on patrol — guarding the front entrance. That was a joke. As if Lord Kal… Uhh… The Traitor Kal… was going to walk in the front door. No. The only guards with any real responsibility were the ones guarding Lady Zara herself. And it wasn't as if any Earthlings were going to try storming the gates. They'd learned today exactly what the Kryptonians were capable of. So… why was he stuck guarding the front doors? Surely one of the grunts could do it.

He was about to go inside to get himself something to eat — Lord Nor would never know — when he caught sight of something that made him stop. Two women… In fact, two very good-looking women — one with auburn hair, the other a brunette, were making their way towards his very position. Earthlings, no doubt. But… if all Earth women looked like this, he was certain he could find a way to remain entertained by them for quite some time to come. Lord Nor had taken advantage of his position earlier today, selecting the best-looking women for himself. On the other hand, Lord Nor wasn't here now, was he?

Drull leaned against the wall, his thumbs hooked in his belt, as he watched them walk closer. Allowing his x-ray vision to take over, he swept his eyes over both women, almost groaning as he did so. Oh, yeah. This was certainly worth the hours of worthless guarding he'd been forced to do today. He allowed his daydream to progress as they moved closer, fantasizing about what it would be like to have a threesome with two such gorgeous women.

He could hardly believe they were really coming in his direction. Were they insane — or did they just have a death wish? Either way, it was his good luck.


Lois discovered that 'being undressed by a man's eyes' could take on a whole new meaning with the arrival of the Kryptonians. The way the man at the front entrance was looking at both her and Cat left her with little doubt that he'd discovered a new way to use his unusual abilities.

But this did present a problem she hadn't exactly contemplated. What if they never made it past the sentry? After all, he might… and given the way he was looking at them, he quite possibly would ensure that they never made it to see Lord Nor. Still, it wasn't as if there were any point in turning around now. After all, the man could undoubtedly stop them… and would stop them, before they got more than a few feet, even at a dead run. The only option was to walk up to the building as if they owned the place.

Increasing her speed, she continued towards the front doors of the legislative building, holding her head even higher, trying to feign a confidence she didn't exactly feel.

"We're here to see Lord Nor," she announced as she came to a stop in front of the man.

As the man pulled a cigar out of his coat and chewed on one end while his eyes moved from Lois to Cat and back again, Lois was suddenly reminded of what she really hadn't liked about Lex Luthor — those damned cigars.

"I am Drull. And I do not think you really want to see Lord Nor. He cannot do anything for you that I could not," he responded, his eyes sweeping suggestively down Lois' body.

Lois tilted her head, forcibly ignoring the fact that he was undoubtedly using his x-ray vision to look through her clothes. "For your sake, I hope you don't mean that."

"Why not?"

"We're here to do Lord Nor a favor. If he finds out you were the one who stopped us… Well, I'm sure I don't have to tell you what will happen then."

Drull accidentally bit the end off the cigar, instantly spitting it out. His eyes narrowed and for a moment, Lois thought her bravado had endangered them further and then… Drull closed his eyes in apparent concentration. Lois glanced at Cat who, by a shrug of her shoulders, indicated that she was as baffled as Lois. Before Lois could question what was happening, Drull opened his eyes and spoke.

"What do you want with our lord?" Drull asked.

"Our information is for Lord Nor — and him alone," Lois responded, hoping the impertinent response didn't get both her and Cat fried on the spot.

Drull closed his eyes again. Suddenly, Lois realized that Drull was communicating with someone. But who? And, more importantly, how? He didn't seem to be saying anything — which he'd have to be if he expected someone to pick up what he was saying with superhearing. Was it possible that the Kryptonians had some additional power of which she wasn't aware?

"Shem, Lord Nor's man, wants to know your names," Drull said, unknowingly confirming Lois' theory that they were communicating somehow. But… how?

"I'm Lois Lane," she said, pushing the question to the back of her mind for future reflection. "And this is my partner — Cat Grant."


Lois had to admit, she hated the black uniforms all the Kryptonians seemed to wear. When this was over, assuming she survived, she was going to do everything in her power to see that a law was made outlawing the use of black in clothing. Of course, Kal had looked really good in… No! She couldn't think about Kal now. She needed all of her wits if she was going to make it out of there alive.

She watched every hall, every door as she was led through the legislative building, bringing to life her memory of the building plans she'd practically memorized, both to know where they were being taken, and to know where they had to go.

She was pleased when Drull finally stopped in front of a door and she still knew exactly where she was. Oh, of course, she'd been in the legislative buildings many times during her years as a reporter. But much of this particular section was off limits to both the press and the public. Not that she hadn't tried, on numerous occasions.

She held her breath as the door before them was opened. Lord Nor turned to look at them immediately. In person, Lord Nor was much more intimidating than the image she'd seen of him on the television. Not exactly an unattractive man. But there was something about him that was simply… ugly. It was something about his eyes — black with what almost seemed like a tinge of red, as if he was less than a second from searing them to a cinder.

"M'Lord, the Earthlings, Lois Lane and Cat Grant, have requested an audience with you."

Without responding, Nor walked closer, gesturing them inside. A small push from Drull accomplished the task. Nor circled them slowly.

"The reason we're here, Lord Nor, is that we're reporters and we wanted…" Lois began.

"Did I give you leave to speak?"

Lois fought off the impulse to tell him that no one 'gave her leave.' But even she was not so stupid as to sign her own death warrant — and she had no doubt that was exactly what she would be doing. One backhand and she would be dead on the floor. No. Even Lois Lane knew when silence was the better part of valor. Still, she squirmed slightly under the careful scrutiny he was giving both women.

"I think this one is a screamer," Nor said, fingering Lois' hair.

Lois baulked, acting instinctively to push away Nor's hand. She instantly realized her mistake when she found herself being held by Drull, hands held firmly behind her back as she was forced to face Nor. With her hands held behind her, she couldn't get at the grenades in the pouch around her waist.

A sinister grin twisted Nor's mouth in a way that made him seem even uglier as he stepped closer, ripping open her coat in order to run a hand up her body before grabbing at her breasts. She fought against the arms holding her as she moved, positioning herself to strike out at what she hoped might still be a vulnerable part of his anatomy with her knee. Just a few more inches closer and…

"My lord…"

Cat's voice stopped Lois, even as Nor turned to look at the other woman.

"Why would you want her when you can have me?" Cat purred seductively, stepping closer to Nor so that she could run her hands up his chest.

Lois cringed. She knew Cat was famous for her conquests. But she had no doubt that Cat's move was not made out of sexual desire, but as a desperate attempt to save her. Cat leaned in, running her tongue up Nor's black shirt, seeming to fascinate Nor. He laughed, running his hands through her hair. Only Lois could see Cat's disgusted face as she discretely removed a piece of lint off her tongue.

She shook her head. "Cat, don't…"

"Silence!" Nor demanded, holding up a hand and closing his eyes.

Lois almost gasped when she realized what was going on. The Kryptonians could communicate telepathically! Why hadn't Kal told her that? Had he been reading her mind this entire time? Before she could work herself into a frenzy over the imagined infraction, Nor spoke again — this time to Drull.

"Shem says the traitor, Kal, is making his move."

"Would you have me go to stop him?" Drull asked, tossing Lois to the side in preparation for leaving. She hit the wall with a crack, collapsing onto the floor, unhurt but definitely winded.

"No. You keep them here. I will return after I have taught that traitor a lesson he will not soon forget," Nor said before disappearing in a gust of wind, obviously intent on personally seeing that Kal was dealt with appropriately before returning to claim his prize.

"Well, let us see how we can keep ourselves amused while we wait for my lord to return," Drull suggested, leering at Cat as he stepped closer, obviously having enjoyed her performance for Nor.

Cat pulled her gun, but not quick enough. Drull was there in an instant, disarming her.

"These things do not hurt Kryp…"

Drull's voice trailed off when he heard the sound of breaking glass near his feet. He looked down in time to see a sickly green gas drifting upwards. He'd been so focused on Cat that he'd forgotten about Lois. He turned his gaze towards her now, followed by a step. Then his expression changed and he looked confused. After taking another look at the green gas which was now filling the area, his eyes went again to Cat.

"You, bi…" He took a step towards her, collapsing to his knees in pain, his hands covering his groin when Cat sank her knee into the newly sensitive location. His mouth was open in a silent scream as he crumpled to the ground.

For a moment, neither Lois nor Cat moved, watching as Drull writhed on the ground in agony until he suddenly went still.

"Great aim," Lois said, taking Cat's hand and rising to her feet.

"You, too," Cat responded, releasing Lois to pick up her gun. She turned back to Lois. "You know, I never thought I would say this, but we make a good team."

"Yeah. But I was wrong to think that Lord Nor would even be interested in hearing about the benefits of a puff-piece in journalism."

"No. He doesn't seem very interested in hearing anything a woman might have to say."

"Could be his downfall some day."

"Maybe even today."

As they spoke, they moved together towards the door, Cat making sure that the gun was ready and Lois, reaching to be sure her hand was on her second grenade.

"Well, let's not hang around here all day," Lois said before carefully opening the door to look outside. As she had hoped, Nor hadn't left guards outside, assuming one would be enough to handle two women. Taking a deep breath, she gestured for Cat to follow as she snuck into the hallway.


Kal flew through the sky as fast as he could, pushing the limits of these unfamiliar powers, determined to find the extra second, the extra strength that would allow him to escape. When Nor had made his move on Lois, Kal had made his on the legislative building. Diving down, he'd moved as fast as possible, taking out as many guards as he could before taking to the sky and escaping when Nor began pursuing.

At first, he'd been concerned about moving slowly enough to ensure that they didn't give up their search too quickly. But that hadn't been a problem. About thirty men had taken up the chase and at this point, Kal wasn't entirely sure that escape was going to be an option. Not that that particularly mattered — not as long as Lois, Zara and Cat were safe.

Still, given the choice… He pushed himself on harder, straining every muscle as far as he possibly could even as he heard the shouting behind him.


Lois' back was against the wall as she worked up the nerve to look around the corner. So far, they hadn't run into any of Nor's men. Kal's distraction plan must have worked. She felt a moment of concern for Kal. She instantly pushed that thought from her mind. She had to worry about her own safety at the moment. Kryptonians could easily see through walls. Still, if they didn't realize someone was coming, they might not think to look. At least, that was her hope. On the other hand, it did mean she shouldn't just stand there all day.

Taking a deep breath, she snuck a peak around the corner. One guard was standing in front of the room where Zara was apparently being held. She went to remove the grenade from her pouch. Cat's hand on hers stopped her. She looked at the other woman.

'How many?' Cat mouthed.


Cat held up her gun.

Lois nodded. She only had the one grenade. So if Cat could take out the guard with a bullet, it would give them a better chance. Still, she removed the grenade. She gestured to Cat, holding up the grenade and trying to silently explain her plan. When Cat nodded, Lois could only hope she understood. After all, the last thing they wanted was for the guard to hear them before they made their move.

Lois watched Cat take a deep breath before stepping around the corner, gun raised.

"Hey, good-looking," Cat said before a gunshot echoed through the hall.


Ran's head shot up at the sound of a gunshot being fired. He looked through the wall to see, much to his surprise, the guard outside the door fall. In an instant, he withdrew his sword and he and the man still with him guarding Zara headed cautiously into the hall. He stopped, startled, when he stepped, headfirst, into a green gas. He took one more step before the full force of the unknown gas hit him.

He collapsed to his knees even as his eyes met those of one of the women, a brunette, standing in the hallway.

"Get…" He never had time to finish his command as darkness overtook the incredible pain that was encompassing every molecule of his body.


Lois and Cat stepped over the prostrate bodies, carefully looking into the room. Realizing that the guards were gone, they rushed over to the bed where the woman they'd seen on television was strapped. Each taking a different arm, they began working on the restraints.

"How did you…"

"Kryptonite bullets and gas," Lois said, even though she knew that wouldn't explain anything. Still, the woman they were there to rescue seemed to accept the inadequate explanation.

"Who are you?" Zara asked.

"Kal sent us," Cat said even as the restraints finally gave way, freeing the woman.


Lois instantly bristled in the tenderness she could hear Zara's voice. Still, she jumped forward, wrapping an arm around Zara when her legs threatened to give out from beneath her. Moving as fast as possible, the three women headed back towards the door. Seeing that the green gas still hadn't completely dissipated, Lois instructed Zara to hold her breath as she and Cat practically dragged the woman through the deadly substance. It was the only choice. Still, she glanced nervously at Zara when they were finally clear of the gas.

Zara looked pale, but was still alive and conscious — which was more than Lois could say about the men lying on the floor. At least she was alive for now. That wouldn't last long, though, if they didn't get out of there before Nor's men returned. Still… the longer they could keep the Kryptonians from realizing that Zara was missing, the better the chances were that they would make it out alive. Helping Zara sit beside the wall, Lois gestured to the men lying on the floor in the hallway behind them.

"If we drag them back in that room and close the door…" she whispered to Cat.

Catching on immediately to Lois' idea, Cat nodded and the two women returned to try, as quickly as possible, to cover up Zara's escape.


Kal was breathing heavily as he stood inside the small cave, hoping he'd lost his pursuers. He'd flown as fast as possible until he was fairly certain he was out of sight of Nor's men before diving into a mountain, digging a hole in the side at superspeed. His x-ray vision had suggested this might be a good place to hide since there was a lot of lead in these particular mountains. Still, there was a disadvantage to his choice of hiding-place. Although his pursuers couldn't see him, he couldn't see them either. So he was entirely unsure if he had really lost them.

If he was wrong, and they realized they had misplaced him, they could be upon him before he had a chance to respond. And if he waited too long here, even if he had lost them, they might decide to retrace their steps.

Still, he closed his eyes, giving his racing heart a chance to slow down.


Nor let out a frustrated scream before directing his anger at the peak of a mountain, slicing the top off with his heat vision. Flying over, he picked up the mountain peak and flung it at his men. One of the men got caught behind it and was propelled with the solid rock into the side of a nearby mountain. The rock shattered, leaving a very stunned Kryptonian staring back at them from his dent inside the mountain.

"You four, retrace our steps. The rest of you, back to the palace. He will try again." With those final words, Nor took off, heading straight for Metropolis.


The trip out of the building had not been as easy as Lois had hoped. It seemed there were Kryptonians around every corner. Still, there was finally hope. One of the back doors was directly in front of them, and… Not a Kryptonian in sight. As if realizing how close they were to freedom, all three women increased their pace, knowing that a second after someone realized they had escaped, they would be caught — unless they were well gone before that happened.

Throwing open the door, Lois led Cat and Zara, Cat holding the other woman up, gun still clasped in her hand, outside. Only to find… A dark haired man, his black uniform making his nationality painfully obvious, stared at them in disbelief.

Cat raised her gun, but would it be fast enough? Lois held her breath, hoping the bullet would penetrate that thick Kryptonian hide before the man could react. After all, she had no grenades left if it didn't work.


Shem was frustrated as he led the group Nor had instructed to retrace their steps. It was an exercise in futility, he was sure. But still, he did as he was told, flying back through the mountains as he looked carefully in every direction.

Suddenly, something caught his attention. A fresh hole dug into the snow and rocks. He tried to see what might lie beneath, but was unable, for some reason, to see beyond the surface. Diving down, he realized he was looking at the entrance to a freshly dug cave.

He called quickly for reenforcements before stepping inside.


"No!" Zara's voice rang out loud and clear as she broke free of Cat's hold on her, diving at the gun just as it went off. "It is Ching." The bullet buried itself harmlessly in the ground.

Lois' eyes swivelled from Zara, surprised that the woman was able to find the energy or the inclination to save the Kryptonian, to the Kryptonian himself standing not more than ten feet away. Ching. Lois knew that name. But where… Suddenly, it hit her. Nor's speech about the man who had made Kal a 'cuckold.' "Well, don't just stand there catching flies," Lois said, realizing the significance of this man's appearance. "Fly us out of here."

"I just arrived on Earth yesterday. I do not have that ability," Ching said, even as he swept Zara up in his arms as if she weighed no more than a feather. "Which way?" he asked.

Lois hesitated momentarily, wondering if she was doing the right thing. But then, in an instant, the decision was made. Whatever issues Ching and Kal had, they really could use Ching's help getting the injured woman out of there. Besides… She watched Zara curl up in Ching's arms and immediately realized there was little chance of being able to pry her from her current location.

"Follow me," Lois said before taking off at full steam away from the building.


Lois paced restlessly in the living room of her apartment. Cat sat quietly in a chair watching her. Ching had taken Zara into the bedroom and, Lois assumed, was currently tending to her injuries.

The decision to bring Zara here instead of taking her to the basement of the Daily Planet had been made even before they'd commenced this mission. After all, if their theory was correct, a Kryptonian's powers came from the sun. The last place Zara needed to be, with her current injuries, was stuck in a place with no sun. Still… it was cold in her apartment. Not as cold as outside, and not unbearably cold, but without power, it was cold enough that she hadn't taken off her coat and had pulled out every blanket she owned for Zara's bed.

Lois made her way to the window, pulling the curtains cautiously to the side to look outside. Night was already falling. Soon they would have to decide whether to risk lighting a candle or staying in the dark to keep from being spotted by the Kryptonians.

Still… where was Kal? When he hadn't been at her apartment when they arrived, she'd become concerned. And with every passing moment her fear increased. What if they had caught him? What if they had killed him?

"I'm sure he's fine, Lois," Cat said.

Lois looked at Cat, trying to draw comfort from her words, but none was forthcoming. What would she do if Kal were dead? Suddenly, the issue of him having a wife, one, in fact, who was currently sleeping in Lois' bed, didn't seem quite so important. Maybe they could never be together, but if he was dead… She refused to finish the thought.

Not that she was in love with him. That seemed obvious to her now. Still, she seemed unable not to want him, not to want to feel his touch, to have him sleeping beside her. But there was nothing about him that she could admire — well, except maybe his bravery in turning himself over to Nor when he thought doing so would persuade Nor to leave the Earth or his actions in trying to save as many people as possible after Nor's attacks. Well, and okay, he'd shown a lot of intelligence and courage in bringing the kryptonite to Metropolis. He'd given them a fighting chance, as today's activities had proven. And, well, maybe he had been sort of adorable when she'd watched him learning to drive or figuring out how to open a hoho or standing in the snow, trying to catch a snowflake on his tongue or… She gave her head a quick shake, trying to bring her mind back to the question at hand. She wasn't in love with him. Right. She wasn't in love with him.

But dead? That thought left her, without her understanding exactly why, feeling as cold on the inside as the weather and lack of power was making her feel on the outside.


Zara regained consciousness slowly to find herself in an unfamiliar bed and an unfamiliar room. She sat up, startled, until the events before she had passed out came flooding back. Shivering, she pulled the blankets up further around her body.

"Ching?" she demanded with what little voice she had.

"I am here," Ching said softly, coming over from where he was standing on the far side of the room. He took a seat on the side of the bed.

She raised a hand, lightly stroking the beloved cheek.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

"I am now."

"I am so sorry I could not get to you sooner," Ching said. "Before that monster…" His voice trailed off as he found himself unable to say the words.

"I think it is pretty remarkable you were able to get to me at all. Were you working with Kal to help me get out of there?"

He shook his head. "When I came to Earth… I did not know you were here. I thought you were back on New Krypton. Until last night. I heard…" He played gently with her hand. "I heard your screams — in my head. I heard… everything he did to you. I spent today trying to find a way in. So when that door opened and you were standing in front of me…" His voice broke. "I am so sorry I could not get to you sooner." He took a deep breath, looking at her face. She wasn't meeting his eyes, telling him that she was thinking about the previous night.

"I tried to kill myself, Ching," she said softly. "It was the only way I could think of to prevent Nor from using me against Kal."

His chin quivered.

"We made a serious mess of things," Zara continued. "We never should have…"

"I know. And for pushing you into a relationship with me…" Her fingers on his lips cut him off.

"You did not push me into anything I did not want. I wanted it as much as you. But I… we cannot… we have to…"

"I know," Ching said, even as his head dropped. "I am here to end it, Zara," he said after a moment. "I am going to face him. That is why I came to Earth."

"Ching, no."

"I have to. I cannot run anymore."

"You have to go," she begged. "Kal will come. You know he will. He will come for me. And… you know what will happen if he finds you here."

"I am ready, Zara. It has to end… now. For all our sakes." His voice dropped. "I cannot live with the shame anymore."

She closed her eyes as a tear escaped from the corner of her eye, falling unheeded to the bed.

He picked up her hand, raising it to his mouth to kiss her knuckles. "But before he comes… Zara, there are some things you need to know — to help him save our world, this man we both love," he added, deliberately using the words she'd uttered and that he'd hated so much on the night they had first become lovers.


A sudden knock on the door almost caused Lois to swallow her tongue. Even though she'd been waiting for it for what seemed like forever, the sound was more than a little shocking in the darkened room — the only light they had allowed themselves was the light from the full moon coming through between the open curtains on the windows. Spinning around, she headed for the door.

"Make sure you know who it is," Cat whispered.

Lois turned, glaring at her. She might be a little… off her game at the moment, but she wasn't an idiot. Carefully, she looked through the peephole, her heart in her throat. It took her a moment to recognize the man outside her door in the darkened hallway. She let out a relieved breath as she turned the locks, opening the door and allowing Kal to enter. She had to fight the instinctive urge to throw herself into his arms. But then she noticed what he was carrying and her relief turned to confusion, and a moment after that, to anger.

"I brought pizza," Kal announced, walking in carrying three pizza boxes. "Hot and fresh. Just the way momma used to make it," he finished, citing the words on the box.

"Pizza?" Lois asked in disbelief.

"Yes. There were no workers but when I found the frozen pizzas, I decided to try to use my heat vision to cook them. I burned the first few to a crisp, but I think I got these ones just right."

"You went to get pizza?" Lois asked again.

"I thought we could all use some sustenance. I'm sure the owners of the place won't mind. It was for a good cause."

"I've been pacing around here, imagining Nor's men getting their kicks by using their laser vision to cut you limb from limb and you've been cooking pizza?" Her voice had risen considerably on that last question.

"I'm sorry. I did not think…"

"No, you didn't, Kal! For all I knew, you were dead. And yet you…" She gestured to the pizza boxes he was carrying.

"Well, I did go back to the legislative buildings to make sure you had all escaped first," Kal responded defensively.

"Oh, so you knew we weren't dead. But it never occurred to you that we might be wondering what had happened to you?"

"Relax, Lois," Cat said, rising to her feet and making her way over to take the pizza boxes from Kal. "He's fine — obviously. And after taking a look in your fridge, I can't say I mind him stopping for pizza."

"Look, Lois," Kal said, much more conciliatory as he allowed Cat to take the pizza, "I really am sorry. I did not think it through, I guess. I am not exactly used to reporting on my decisions."

"Just forget it, Kal," Lois said, really not wanting to be pacified.

"I just…"

Lois looked up when Kal stopped speaking. His eyes had left her and were focused on… She turned, glancing behind her to see Ching standing in the doorway to her room.

"You," Kal spat, using a tone that caught Lois completely off guard. Never had she heard that tone of voice come out of Kal's mouth.

Before she could explain, Kal had already stormed across the room, grabbing Ching and slamming him back against the wall.

"What are you doing here?" Kal demanded.

"My lord, I…"

"He helped us rescue Zara," Lois said, rushing to Kal's side and grabbing at his arm.

Kal glanced at her without really seeing her before looking back at Ching. Then, with a look of utter contempt, he dropped Ching to the ground and backed away.

Ching stood slowly. He took a moment to collect himself before cautiously withdrawing his sword. Lois' eyes flicked back and forth between Ching and Kal. She knew, of course, that Kal was invulnerable whereas Ching was not. As a result, the act, rather than terrifying her, had her captivated. Was this some Kryptonian form of greeting?

Ching stepped closer to a very unreceptive looking Kal, standing, his back to her kitchen counter, his arms folded across his chest, his eyes narrowed.

The two men never broke eye contact, acting now as if they had forgotten Cat and Lois were even in the room. As if understanding the situation better than she, Lois felt Cat's hand on her arm, pulling her back away from the two men.

Ching suddenly turned the sword around, offering the handle to Kal. "It is a husband's right," he said softly.

After a moment's hesitation, Kal took the sword. "You are invulnerable," Kal said, sounding slightly disgusted.

"No, m'lord, I am not. I only arrived on Earth yesterday." With those words, Ching dropped to his knees in front of Kal.

"Omigod," Lois gasped when she suddenly realized what was happening. Ching was giving Kal the opportunity to take his life — probably in a manner of what must pass for justice on New Krypton. Still, she found that she was so surprised that, for the first time in her life, no words would come that would allow her to stop the scene from playing out in front of her.

"Kal, please. No." The weak voice coming from the doorway to Lois' bedroom directed Kal's attention momentarily to Zara. She was leaning heavily against the doorframe, barely able to stand, her eyes pleading with him in a way her voice could not.

Kal looked down at the sword, placing both hands firmly on the handle before raising it to rest the point on Ching's shoulder.

"Kal, don't," Lois said, words finally finding their way through the unreality of the nightmare she was suddenly living. When he didn't respond, she grabbed his arm. "I'm begging you. Don't do this."

He looked over at her for the first time, his eyes glancing at her hands on his arm before meeting her eyes. What she saw there brought her heart to a complete stop. He was completely calm. Devoid of all emotion. A complete stranger. The change in him scared her. Gone was the caring man she'd come to know and in his place stood… a Kryptonian in every sense of the word. "This has nothing to do with you, Lois," he said, his tone of voice making it abundantly clear that he would not heed any argument. "Back away."

When Lois didn't move, Cat jumped forward, grabbing Lois and pulling her out of the way, leaving Lois to watch helplessly for what was probably the longest moment of her life. What happened in the next few seconds could change forever how she felt about Kal. Would she ever be able to look at him again without seeing this moment?


Nor stormed towards his room, pushing open the door with such force that it flew off its hinges and across the room. He stepped inside before noticing Drull's body lying on the floor. Growling in disgust, he stepped over the body.

"How many did they kill?" Nor demanded, looking back at Shem.

"I was going to say one," Shem said, looking down at Drull. "But I guess I should amend that to two. It seemed Ran is going to recover. But the other guard watching Zara's room is dead. But there is a problem, m'lord."

"Another one?" Nor asked.

"No one can get near the body of the dead guard."

"And how is that?"

"He has been shot… from what we can see. But… well, everyone who tries to get close seems to pass out."

"So he has been infected with something… some dangerous substance."

"It seems so."

"Then get some Earthlings to take care of the body. And find out what he has been infected with." He gestured in disgust to the dead body on the floor. "Take care of this one, too."

"Yes, m'lord," Shem responded, bowing slightly as he backed quickly out of the room.

When his servant was gone, Nor sank down into a chair, staring absently at Drull's dead body. Could this day get any worse? Earthlings. Somehow those two women had rescued Zara. But how had they known when to make their move? Nor suddenly sat forward in his chair. They were working together. Those two women and Kal. Kal had been a diversion.

He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth as he thought about that. If he hadn't known Kal better, he might have suspected that the women were two of Kal's concubines — or Earthlings he'd pressed into service for that purpose. But Kal would see that as 'dishonorable.' Nor had had his spies watching Kal's movements for years and he could probably count on his fingers the number of time's Kal had been with a concubine at all — and that was only when it was the politically expedient course of action, accepting another lord's gift of a night with his favorite concubine or something else similar. Kal's lack of use of the professional caregivers had been regarded, until his wife's betrayal, as his only vice. No, if those women were working with Kal then they were doing so voluntarily. And given the number of emotional lapses Kal had had over the past few days…

Nor smiled slightly. Kal had feelings for the women. Nor dismissed that thought immediately. Not both. That wasn't Kal's style. But one… Uhh… but which one? That question was easily answered. The brunette. Kal would never go for the strawberry blonde. He would be put off by a woman flaunting her sexuality that way. No, the brunette was the one who was creating such emotional turmoil in the former First Lord of New Krypton.

So… what had Drull said her name was again? He looked in disgust at the man lying on the floor. How dare he die when he had such vital information? Getting up, he walked over to Drull's body, giving him a kick, smiling slightly at the sound of breaking ribs. Served the man right for getting himself killed when Nor still needed him.

So now what did he do? Find her and he'd find Kal. Of that, he was certain. But without remembering her name, how did he go about doing that?

In the meantime, it seemed that there was some work to do to protect his palace against intruders — and some weapon the Earthlings had discovered that was effective against their Kryptonian enemies. He directed his mind to those problems. He would make sure that never again did he suffer the humiliation he had endured today.



"You had relations with my wife," Kal said, his voice giving no hint of emotion. No anger. No contempt. No pity. No nothing.

To Lois it was terrifying.

"Yes, m'lord," Ching said, looking at Kal's feet, too ashamed to meet his eyes.

"This has been going on for years, has it not?" It was not a question.

"Yes, m'lord," Ching answered anyway.

"After everything I have done for you, every trust I have bestowed on you, you betrayed me."

"I did, m'lord."

"And your actions gave Nor the excuse he needed to seize the throne, plunging our world into darkness. Your actions have resulted in the deaths of thousands of our people. And now, because of you, the people of Earth are threatened as well."

"Yes, m'lord."

"As Zara's husband, your life is forfeited to me."

"Yes, m'lord."

Kal took a deep breath, drawing back the sword. He held it there for a moment before letting out a breath. "I am not going to kill you, Ching," he finally said, tossing the sword onto the floor.

Lois' eyes, which had been fixated on the sword, suddenly shot to Kal's face. Gone was the cold look she'd seen there before, to be replaced by a look of weary sadness.

"M'lord?" Ching asked.

"What would be the point? It will not solve anything."

"But it is your right?" Ching asked, confused.

Lois shook her head. Was Ching trying to talk Kal into killing him? She quickly stepped forward before Kal could change his mind. "Look," she said, silently cursing the tremble of relief in her voice, "how about we all just retreat to our respective corners for a few minutes and let things calm down?"

Kal glanced over at her, as if only just realizing that she'd spoken, although not comprehending the words, before heading to the doorway to her bedroom to help Zara back to bed.

"Yeah," Lois said softly, watching as Kal swept Zara up in his arms and began walking towards her bedroom. She felt a sudden pain in her heart when she noticed how right they looked together. "You know," she said, walking quickly to towards the door to her apartment. "I'm not really feeling hungry at the moment. Maybe it's time Cat and I said goodnight."

Cat looked at her from where she was already stealing a slice of pizza and was about to put the end in her mouth.

"Cat?" Lois asked, willing the woman not to ask any questions — questions that Lois could still not quite get her mind around, let alone answer. "Perry's probably worried sick about us by now."

"Oh, right," said Cat, taking a large bite before dropping the rest of the piece back in the box and wiping her hands on the paper towel.

"But Lord Kal did not give you leave," Ching said, following Lois towards the door, as if trying to figure out how to stop her.

"Yeah, well, you tell your lord and master that I gave myself leave," Lois responded sarcastically.


"Just tell him. He won't blame you." Lois looked impatiently towards Cat, wishing that she would hurry up, before Lois was forced to face Kal again.

Too late.

Lois let out a breath of frustration when Kal walked back into the room, looking in her direction. "Might I have a moment with Lois?" he asked.

By the way Ching bowed and backed away, Lois had the distinct impression that Ching took Kal's gently spoken request as an order. Cat, on the other hand, had taken the opportunity to return to the pizza box. After glaring at her and silently condemning her as a traitor, Lois looked back at Kal, squaring her shoulders and folding her arms across her chest.

"What do you want to talk about, Kal?" Lois asked, raising an eyebrow, hoping her unreceptive stance would cause him to back down.

"Us," he said, keeping his voice low so that, hopefully, neither Ching nor Cat could hear him. "I want to know that we are going to be okay."

"Us?" she asked in disbelief. "There is no 'us,' Kal. There's a you and Zara. There may even be a Zara and Ching. But there is no us."

"Lois, you have to know that none of this has anything to do with how I feel about you. I love you."

Lois let out a breath. "You want to do this now. Okay, fine. Let's do it." Unlike Kal, she was making no effort to keep her voice down. "You have a wife. I don't do married men."

"It is not like that, Lois."

"Really?" she asked sarcastically. "Didn't I see you almost kill Ching for sleeping with… Oh, wait. What did you call it again? Having 'relations' with Zara?"

"It is not the same thing."

She couldn't help it. She snorted. "Not the same thing. Really, Kal? And exactly how is it not the same thing? We had sex. How is that not the same thing as what Ching and Zara did to you?"

"Lois," Kal hissed, glancing around. "People will hear you."

"People will hear me?" She glanced at the other occupants of the room, both of whom seemed to be making a concentrated effort not to pay attention to what she and Kal were talking about. "Good! Let them hear me. Kal and I had sex. In a hayloft, in case you're curious and then we almost made love last night. I could have sworn that was last night. Do you hear that, Zara?" she practically shouted towards the door to her bedroom which was standing partially open. "I had sex with your husband. But, hey, please don't kill me because he didn't mention that he had a wife."

She turned towards the door.

"Lois, please. Do not do this."

She spun back around. "Don't do this?" she asked in disbelief. "I'm not the one who did this, Kal. You are. Now, if I were you, I'd go make up with my wife. After all, I wouldn't want her seeking vengeance. Or is killing the people who sleep with your spouses a perverted example of Kryptonian justice?" She looked over at Cat who was no longer doing a good job at pretending she didn't hear them. "I'm going, Cat. If you want a ride back to the Daily Planet, I suggest you might want to leave now. I'll be downstairs." Without waiting for a response, she spun towards the door, opened it and stormed out, not bothering to close it behind her.

Suddenly, she appeared back in the doorway. "By the way, have you been reading my mind?"

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me. Since we met, have you been reading my mind?"

"No, of course not. Why…"

"Then why didn't you tell me Kryptonians are telepathic?"

"It did not occur to me."

"Just like it didn't occur to you to tell me you had a wife, I suppose."

"Well… yes. But…" Kal let out a breath. "Okay, when we first met, I tried to read your mind, to find out if you were planning to turn me over to your government. But I could not do it. Earthlings and Kryptonians must be on… different wave lengths, I guess. So even if I wanted to read your mind, I cannot."

She narrowed his eyes and studied him for a long moment, looking for any indication of deception. Then, without further acknowledgment, she turned and walked away. Maybe he wasn't guilty of that. But… there were still a lot of things he was guilty of doing. So did it really matter if he hadn't been violating the privacy of her thoughts? He was still a no-good, slime-sucking scumball. Satisfied with her analysis, she walked out the door to her apartment building, slamming it behind her, hoping that he would hear her final act of anger with the benefit of his super-hearing.


Kal walked slowly back to the bedroom after Cat followed Lois out the door. The pizza, which had smelled so good to him when he'd first cooked it, now had his stomach churning with acid. No longer hungry, he left Ching to eat while he returned to check on Zara.

She was sitting up in bed. Silently, he took a seat on the side so that he was facing her.

"Hi," she said softly. "You okay?"

He nodded, giving her a smile which he was certain didn't go all the way to his eyes. "I suppose you heard all that."

She nodded in response and they stayed there in silence for a long moment while Kal played distractedly with the corner of a sheet.

"You love her, do you not?" Zara finally said.

Kal looked up, searching her eyes. There was no jealousy, no hint of hurt or reproach. Just understanding. In fact, at this moment, he felt as if, for the first time in years, Zara was looking at him with a completely open expression.

"Yes, I do," he finally answered honestly.

She nodded and there was another long moment of silence.

"It hurts, does it not?"

Not quite sure what she was referring to, he looked back into her eyes.

"Love," she clarified. "It hurts."

He gave her a wistful smile. "Maybe that is why we Kryptonians have fought so hard against having emotions."

Her smile matched his. A shared humor that neither found particularly funny.

"Do you remember that old tree outside our summer residence?" she finally asked.

"The one you used to say was spooky?" he asked, his smile this time genuine.

She nodded. "I was sitting out on the terrace one day about a year ago. It was just after the end of the rainy season. And I spotted two squirrels. They were chattering so loudly that I really thought they might wake the dead. But I watched them, for a long time, chasing each other freely up and down and around the tree. And I thought to myself… would it not be wonderful to love so freely."

Kal felt his heart ache. "You have been living with the pain of love for a long time, have you not?" he asked softly.

She looked down, playing with her hands.

"It is okay, Zara," Kal continued, laying his hand over hers, a new understanding of her making its way into his consciousness. They were married, not by choice. But because it had been expected of them. Never had anyone asked them for their opinion on the subject. And never had he questioned it — or how Zara might feel about it. And yet, other than her relationship with Ching, never once had she given him reason to regret having her for a wife. She'd been supportive, attentive, understanding, often wise and she understood the intrigues of the court much better than he usually did — everything the First Lord of New Krypton could possibly need in a wife. But… what had it cost her to be his wife when for… who knew how long… her heart had belonged to another?

And yet, unlike Zara, he'd been free to pursue love. Although, until now, he had never done so, he'd at least had the option open to him. "Maybe Lois was right," he said softly.

Her eyes came up again, sending a questioning look in his direction.

"When she asked how what she and I did was any different from what you and Ching had done," he clarified.

"But…" She hesitated, as if not entirely sure what he was trying to say. "It is different. You are the First Lord of New Krypton. I am your wife."

"And how does that make it different?"

He watched while she struggled to find an answer.

"Since I met Lois Lane," he began when she couldn't seem to answer him, "I have been questioning a lot of things I have always taken for granted. Maybe… Maybe she is right. Maybe there is no difference."

"So… what are you saying? Are you giving up Lois?"

He gave a humorless chuckle. "There is nothing to give up. You heard her. She is never going to forgive me for not telling her about you. The truth is… it honestly never occurred to me. Sorry."

"It is all right. I guess on New Krypton, everyone pretty much knew… well, that we were married."

"It would have been a little hard not to know," Kal agreed. "But giving up Lois was not exactly what I was talking about. I was wondering…" He hesitated, glancing towards the door. "Would you like me to send Ching in here? I am guessing he would really like to spend some time with you — make sure you are all right."

"I…" Her voice trailed off and Kal could tell that she was trying to find the right answer.

"The truth would be the right answer. Would you like to spend some time with Ching? I could use having a bite to eat, anyway." He stood up, waiting for her to answer.

"I would like that," she said softly, looking down at her hands. Then, she quickly looked up at him, as if wondering if it was really okay for her to admit that.

"I will send him in," Kal said, leaning over to give her a kiss on the forehead before turning to leave the room.

As Ching headed into the bedroom, a confused expression on his face and a plate of pizza in his hand, Kal turned his mind to what he had just done. Had he really given Zara his permission to be with Ching? It was almost inconceivable to him. And he wasn't entirely sure what that meant for his marriage. After all, if they did defeat Nor, they were still faced with the same problem as before. Zara was his wife. And he knew, without question, that the people of New Krypton would never accept the idea of the First Lord of New Krypton's wife being with another man. Still… if he were hurting like Zara, given that Nor had beaten her cruelly, and Lois was just outside the door, wanting to be with him… No. He'd done the right thing. At least for now. But he was going to have to give this situation some serious thought at some time in the very near future.

For now though, his thoughts turned back to Lois.


"My Lord Nor?" Shem said as the lackeys cleared Drull's body from Nor's chambers.

Nor looked up, gesturing his assistant closer even as his eyes drifted to what was clearly evident in Shem's hand.

"One of the men brought me this. I thought you would want to see it right away."

Nor took the paper and turned it over in his hands before shoving it back at Shem. "Why would I care about an old copy of that Daily Planet book… or whatever it is?"

"It is called a newspaper, m'lord."

"Newspaper… book… what is the difference? Why would I care about either one? We already neutralized those pesky people. What were they called again?"


"Right. Neutralized them. Destroyed their means of publishing those interfering papers. Why would I want to see an old one?"

"This is not an old newspaper, m'lord. It has today's date on it."

Nor quickly grabbed the paper back, staring at the date at the top. "You are sure this is today's date?"

"Yes, m'lord."

"But we destroyed their equipment."

"They must have found another way to print the paper."

Nor rose to his feet. "Send some men back there to…" His voice trailed off when he noticed one of the headlines. Having not bothered to perfect the art of reading English, but extremely interested by the use of the word he recognized as 'Kryptonian' in one of the headlines, he handed the paper back to Shem. "What is this about?"

"It says…" Shem glanced at the article. "Kryptonians cannot see through lead."


"Yes, m'lord. It claims that we cannot see through lead — and even suggests using something called a lead-based paint to coat the walls so that we will not be able to see through them."

"We cannot see through lead?" Nor asked.

"Not according to this."

"Find out if this is true…" He tossed the paper back to Shem.

"And if it is?"

"Then we know that Kal is helping them," Nor responded. "Otherwise, how would they have ever known?"

Shem nodded.

"Also, I want you to take a team back over to the Daily Planet. I want these people found — now! Oh, and Shem…"

"My lord?"

"Be sure to check any area you cannot see through. And…" Nor hesitated as another idea occurred to him. "…bring me as many of them as possible — alive."


Cat stared at Lois' profile in the dark jeep as Lois drove them back to the Daily Planet. Lois' jaw was set and she was staring straight ahead. Cat's eyes drifted down to the way Lois' hands were gripping the steering wheel.

"Lois…" Cat began.

"Don't! Just… don't."

Cat hesitated. She'd been about to make a smartass comment about letting the steering wheel live. But… Lois' tone of voice told Cat that she was in serious pain. And in spite of the tongue-in-cheek relationship they'd developed over the years, Cat had to admit that deep down, she admired her colleague.

"I just want you to know that I won't say anything to anyone about… well, you know."

Lois' eyes finally left the road as she glanced over at Cat. "Thanks, Cat," she said softly.

Cat nodded. "Just don't expect me to hold your hand now and start singing Kumbaya."

Lois instantly let go of an unexpected snort of laughter at the unexpected image Cat's words had conjured up.

Cat, satisfied that she'd lightened Lois' mood somewhat when she saw Lois' left hand let go of its iron grip on the steering wheel to rest casually on her leg, redirected her gaze to look out at the silent city.


Lois was feeling somewhat calmer as she pulled the jeep to a stop and got out. Lois had parked a few blocks from the Daily Planet to ensure that the vehicle was not observed. They would walk the rest of the way.

After Cat's promise — and her 'typically Cat' comment — Lois had been able to think more clearly about the situation. She wasn't entirely sure what had attracted her to Kal in the first place — an alpha male if there ever was one. He'd been dogmatic, overbearing and arrogant. He'd dismissed her, time and time again, because she was a woman. It really was no wonder that he'd neglected to mention that he had a wife. So why was she feeling as if someone had reached inside and ripped her heart from her chest?

She gave a small sigh. Yes, Kal was all of those things, but… Watching him on the farm, seeing the way he approached every new experience with such wonder, such innocence. Innocence. She gave a small snort, quickly clearing her throat as cover when she realized the noise had attracted the attention of Cat who was walking wordlessly next to her.

Still, Lois' mind flashed back to the wonder she'd seen on Kal's face when he'd seen snow for the first time, or his excitement upon discovering pizza and Ho Hos, or his enjoyment of the hayride. It all seemed like another lifetime now. Her favorite moment undoubtedly had to be the first time… in fact, it had been the only time… she'd heard him laugh. Their snowball fight. It had been such a fresh sound. In many ways, it had seemed to startle him as much as it had her — as if laughter was something he didn't have much experience with. But other than those few moments when he'd seemed more like a little boy than a king, what could she possibly see in him?

Okay, so maybe she had been impressed by the way he'd responded to Nor. First, turning himself over to that monster in an effort to get him to leave her world. And then, by his efforts to save those who had been injured by Nor's attacks on the Earth. Not that any of that made any difference now. He was married. And, as Lois had informed Kal, she didn't do married men.

Besides, she wasn't in love with him. She wasn't. After all, Lois Lane could not be in love with a married man. It had been… lust. After all, she told herself firmly, what woman could resist the body of a god, the face of a movie star and that devastating smile? See? Lust. Nothing more. Nothing, certainly, to get worked up over just because he had proven himself to be just like every other man in her experience. She wondered how many women her father had neglected to inform that he was married. Really, was it so strange that Kal had acted that way? No. And that was why forgetting about him… and this strange and definitely unsettling connection she felt to him… was going to be easy.

She directed her mind back to her surroundings as they came closer to the Daily Planet. If they were sloppy, if they didn't take great care and someone saw them entering the building, they could endanger the lives of all their colleagues. And that was something she would not risk.

A small noise up ahead suddenly brought her instincts to life, causing the hair on the back of her neck to come to attention. She wasn't sure what the sound was, but it brought her to a halt. She reached out, grabbing Cat's arm to stop her too. Some type of 'swooshing' sound. But… what did it mean?

"Lois, what…"

"Shh," Lois interrupted, all of her senses directed to figuring out what she'd heard.

"Lois…" Cat began after they'd stood there in silence for a minute.

Lois simply held up her hand and Cat fell silent. Lois could sense it. Every instinct she had told her that danger lay up ahead. And after years in this business, Lois knew to trust those instincts.

Finally, moving again, she snuck forward in the black of the night, directing Cat closer to the building so that they could slip along next to it.

Click. Click. Click. Click.

"Take off your shoes," Lois instructed when she heard the noisy sound of Cat's heels hitting the sidewalk.

Cat seemed to know enough not to question Lois' instincts. Bending down, she quickly removed the shoes, carrying them in her hand.

Cat had just straightened up, hurrying to catch up to Lois who was already a good ten feet in front of her when…

An explosion! No, not an explosion. Not exactly. More like… a demolition. The sound of falling rock and plaster. Screams.

Lois didn't even remember making the decision to run until suddenly she was tackled from behind, sending her sprawling to the ground in front of her. She yelped and a hand instantly covered her mouth.

"Lois, look," Cat whispered into her ear.

Lois instantly quit struggling. Cat had stopped her and it was just as well because in her usual haste to get to the story, heedless of the danger, she'd been running straight towards a gaping hole of what had, only moments before, been the back wall of the Daily Planet — a hole around which stood a half dozen men all dressed in the typical black Kryptonian garb.

Lois and Cat lay there, watching in helpless silence as the sounds of fighting and screaming reached them from inside the building and then… men, women and children were being hustled, bloodied and bruised, outside the building, herded like cattle or like those old World War II pictures of Jews being rounded up by the Germans.

Lois had to stifle a gasp when she saw Jimmy, holding his arm as if it were broken, stumble into the street. Falling slightly, he was grabbed by a Kryptonian and carelessly tossed in the direction of the other Planet employees as if he were no more significant than a fork-full of old hay. Her entire body tensed as if she were a giant spring, just waiting for the moment to spring forward.

"Not now," Cat whispered into her ear from where she was still holding Lois down. "Now is not the right time."

Lois gave a small nod. Cat was right. As much as every sinew in Lois' body might be crying at her to help her friends and colleagues, there was nothing she could do for them at the moment — except get herself killed. Still, lying there, she watched as Jack, Alice, Eduardo and Stella, their hands firmly grasped and… Lois felt a small whimper rise in her throat…their children slowly joined the crowd. All of them bloody and bruised. She fitted names to faces as the crowd continued to grow. Myerson… Karl… Cindy… Wally… Stan… Virgil… Maxwell… Roy… And on and on the list seemed to go.

Finally, the procession slowed to a trickle and then died out all together. Everything stilled except for the sound of muted crying coming from somewhere inside the group of Planet employees and families. A large, black Kryptonian stepped forward.

"Is that everyone?" he asked, looking at their terrified prisoners.

"Yes," another man answered. "Well… everyone who's not dead," he added, seeming to find the final comment quite amusing.

Perry! Lois looked at the crowd again. Where was Perry? Her heart began to race. 'Everyone who's not dead.' So where was Perry? Panic began to rise in her throat.


Kal took a single bite of pizza, chewing it. And chewing it. And chewing it. Finally, he swallowed before tossing the remainder on the plate. For some reason, the pizza wasn't nearly as good as he remembered. And the acid burning in his stomach wasn't helping. He leaned back in his chair.

It was then that his hearing clicked in. Ching and Zara softly talking in the next room. He gave his head a shake, trying to tune them out. Yet try as he might, the words, and the tone with which each word was uttered seemed to leak through.

Zara was opening up to Ching about what had happened with Nor in a way Kal knew she would never talk to him. Each word spoken was barely more than a breath as she poured her heart out to Ching, but the emotions behind them were almost deafening. Even from this distance, Kal could feel the anguish behind her words.

The fact that Zara was so willing to let Ching see her emotions told Kal more than almost anything else could. He snuck a quick peak through the wall. Ching was sitting in a chair at the side of the bed, holding Zara's hand, their heads close enough together that they could hear each other's words. And Ching… The distress on his face told Kal just how much he was being affected by Zara's story. Tears slipped slowly down Ching's cheeks, mingling with Zara's. The sight nearly broke Kal's heart. At the same time, he couldn't help but envy what the two of them seemed to share.

So much for Kryptonians being unemotional. No. In a flash of sudden clarity, Kal realized that the image of the emotionless Kryptonian was a myth. They were as emotional as any Earthling. They had just learned to control those emotions through societal pressures, pressures that had been exerted since the day of their births. His own experiences with Lois, and his stolen glimpse at the relationship between Ching and Zara told him that.

He absentmindedly went to take another bite when a sudden terror tore at his belly. He dropped the pizza, springing to his feet. Lois! Lois was in trouble. Without conscious thought, he rushed towards the door. No matter what she might feel for him at the moment, Lois was in trouble. And nothing else seemed to matter.



Lois' heart was in her throat as she and Cat carefully picked their way through the rubble that surrounded the hole in the Daily Planet. Once through the hole, she stopped, digging into her purse to remove a small flashlight. She turned it on, making her way down the stairs, Cat following closely behind. At the bottom, she spotted a candle and lit it before pushing open the door which was hanging precariously by a single bolt, to look inside their former hideout.

She instantly spotted a familiar suit on a body next to the door. The candle went out when she dropped it in her rush to get to Perry. She dropped down beside him, hand touched his shoulder.

She let out a breath of relief when she heard Perry groan. Cat must have found the candle because there was light again when Perry rolled over, his hand instantly going to a large gash on his head.

"Thank the King," Perry said, rising to a seated position. "You're alive."

"I'm alive?" Lois asked in disbelief, picking up a nearby blanket and wrapping it around his shoulders. "Are you okay?"

He lowered his hand and looked at the blood to be found there. "I think I'm fine." He used the corner of the blanket to wipe off the blood. Taking a closer look at his wound, Lois felt relieved. Although there had been a fair amount of blood on his face, the injury itself didn't look deep.

"Can you stand?" Lois asked.

"Yeah. I think so," Perry responded, letting her help him rise to his feet.

Once he was standing and Lois was satisfied that he wasn't about to fall over, she looked around the room, lighting more candles.

Cat was on the far side of the room, tending to Pete who appeared to have what was sure to be an impressive shiner by morning.

Spotting someone else lying on the floor, Lois rushed over. She reached out, carefully turning him on his back. She sunk to the floor next to him when she saw Andy Tucker's lifeless eyes staring back at her. Tears well up in her eyes. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked over to see Perry squatting beside her.

"Those bastards," Lois breathed.

Perry nodded his agreement.

Both froze when a noise was heard coming from inside the fallout shelter.

"Who's there?" Perry called, rising to his feet and grabbing a nearby hole-punch, raising it like a weapon before cautiously approaching the shelter.

Lois, too, rose to her feet, turning to meet Cat's gaze. Cat had obviously heard the noise as well. Turning back towards where Perry was stepping carefully through the door to the shelter, Lois rushed to catch up.

"Great Shades of Elvis!" Perry exclaimed, nearly jumping out of his skin when Lois' hand touched his back.

"Sorry," Lois whispered.

Perry turned his attention back to the shelter. It was then that a small movement behind one of the sheets caught both Perry and Lois' attention. They slowly snuck forward, holding their breath. Perry gingerly reached out, taking hold of the blanket and then, taking a deep breath and silently counting to three, ripped back the blanket, hand holding the hole-punch raised and ready to swing when…

"Don't hit me!"

"Danny!" exclaimed Perry, instantly lowering the hole-punch. "What the Sam Hill… Why didn't you answer me?"

"I was afraid it was them."

"No, son. It's okay. They're gone." Perry helped the young man to his feet and the three of them made their way together out of the shelter.

"Jack? What about Jack? Did they hurt Jack?" Danny asked.

"He was okay when I last saw him," Lois rushed to say. "He was being taken with a group of others, but he was fine."

"What about Alice?" Perry asked.

"She was there, too. Fine, though, Perry."

"Jimmy?" Perry continued, wiping a hand across his forehead to brush away the trickle blood still coming from the open gash.

"It looked like he'd hurt his arm, but he's alive."

Perry nodded. He opened his mouth again, as if he would say something else, when a sudden rush of wind causing everyone in the room to dive to the floor. The 'swoosh' sound, the one she hadn't recognized before, was now a noise she would never again fail to identify.

Suddenly, Kal stood in the middle of the room. People looked up slowly. Kal's eyes sought out Lois, assuring himself that she was all right before looking around the rest of the room. Spotting Andy Tucker, he made his way over to the body, using his enhanced powers to check his vital signs. Giving a small sigh, he checked out the rest of the room, spotting another body partially buried under some rubble.

Riveted to his every move, their eyes followed as Kal made his way there, moving some rubble to expose…

Lois' breath caught in her throat. Ralph. "Is he…"

"He is dead," Kal said simply.

"Oh god," Lois breathed. He might have been a jerk, but…

"You!" Pete exclaimed.

Lois spun around just in time to see Pete hurling himself into Kal.

"Bastard!" Pete continued, pounding on Kal with all his strength.

Kal did nothing to stop the man's attack. It took Perry pulling Pete away from Kal to stop the ineffectual beating.

"This isn't Kal's fault," Perry growled as he tried to calm Pete.

"It is okay, Perry," Kal said, slowly rising again to his feet.

"This is all your fault! It should have been you, not him!" Pete continued, struggling against Perry's grip on his arms.

Perry was unable to hang on and a moment later, Pete was free. But, although Kal braced for another attack, Pete ignored him, making his way over to where Ralph was lying on the floor and dropped to his knees beside the body.

"No," Pete breathed before bending over the body, his own body racked with sudden sobs.

Lois' eyebrows rose. Ralph was one of the creepiest scumbags she'd ever met — almost crude in his approach to women. But by the way Pete was acting… She gave her head a shake. It was none of her business. Still, there was another issue to deal with.

"Are there any other…" She gestured at Ralph, unable to say the word.

Kal looked around again, carefully, before nodding. "There is one more over there," he said softly, before walking over to where a young woman was trapped under an overturned desk. Grabbing the desk, he quickly freed her prostrate body.

"Diane," Perry said softly. "Is she…"

Kal shook his head sadly.

Lois closed her eyes. It was just too much. She had only spoken to Diane on a few occasions, but… she was a colleague. Besides, Lois had liked the other woman.

"What happened?" Kal asked.

"What the hell do you think happened?" Lois snapped. "Nor! That's what!"

She felt Perry's hand on her shoulder, calming her. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "I just…" She shook her head.

"What happened to everyone else?" Kal asked.

"The Kryptonians took them," Cat said, finally joining the conversation.

Kal cocked his head to the side. "They did not kill everyone?"

"No," Perry said. "Why? Is that important?"

"It might be."

"So what do we do?"

"We move quicker than we had originally intended," Kal said. "Did anyone else escape?"

Perry nodded. "Some of our people were out digging for stories when this happened. They have yet to return."

"You mentioned earlier that there are other groups in hiding. Is there any way we can contact them?"

Perry headed over to the Ham Radio. "Maybe," he said, flicking it on. "Just give me a few minutes and I'll be able to tell you if the Kryptonians found anyone else."

"Good. Our first step has to be to determine our assets. If there are others, have their leaders meet us here in a couple of hours. This is probably the safest place to be at the moment. I doubt they will come back here again tonight. To do so would be to admit that they were not thorough — and none of Nor's men would ever dare admit that to him."

"If there's anyone I can't reach by Ham Radio, we'll have to send someone out to find out if they were found by Nor or if they simply don't have a radio. I guess I could…"

"I'll do it."

Everyone turned to see Danny standing there.

"It could be dangerous, son," Perry said.

"We're going to try to save my brother, right?"

"Yes, we are," Kal confirmed.

"Then I'll do it." When no one seemed convinced, Danny continued. "I know every alley and sewer in this city. I can do this." He stood up taller, as if trying to prove he wasn't just a kid.

Kal and Perry shared a look.

"Alright, son. You've got the job," Perry said.

"Good. Now that that is settled, I will take care of…" Kal gestured towards the body. He was about to turn to attend to Diane's body when he felt Lois' hand on his arm. He turned towards her.

"Thanks, Kal," she said softly.

His hand came up, gently touching her cheek before he turned back to his unpleasant task.


Kal entered Lois' apartment, making his way towards the bedroom when he didn't see anyone in the living room. Walking to the door, he saw Zara curled up in Ching's arms — and both were fast asleep. He was amazed to realize that he almost hated to wake them — let them enjoy each other's company while they could, before the burden of being Kryptonian would tear them apart forever. And it would. If they defeated Nor, the people of New Krypton would never accept Zara having a continuing relationship with Ching — at least not as long as Kal was alive.

Still, Ching was easily the best soldier on New Krypton. And right now, Kal and the people of Earth needed his expertise. Not that Kal had exactly forgiven Ching. He wasn't entirely sure he ever really would. Forgiving Zara was somehow easier. Maybe it was because Zara had never chosen to be his wife whereas Ching had chosen to be his friend. Or maybe it was that somehow Ching had broken the bond between men, the unspoken promise never to make a move on a friend's wife. Or… maybe it was something else. Kal didn't really know. Still, he needed Ching now. And, as always, Ching would be there for him.

He cleared his throat. Zara and Ching opened their eyes sleepily. It seemed to take them a moment to recognize him. Suddenly, Ching sprung to his feet, quickly putting distance between him and Zara. He was fully clothed and was sleeping on the top of the blankets while Zara had been fully clothed underneath. And yet…

"I am sorry, m'lord. I did not hear you come in," Ching said, his eyes fixed firmly on the carpet. "I did not mean to…" His eyes flicked over to Zara before heading back to the carpet. "She just could not get comfortable and so…" His voice trailed off again. "Nothing happened between…"

"It is okay, Ching," Kal said, cutting him off. "I did not wake you for that. I just… Well, something happened and I need your help. Zara, do you think you will be okay on your own for a little while?"

Zara sat up. "What happened?" she asked.

"The Daily Planet was attacked. A number of people were taken by Nor. Others are dead. We are planning to strike back."

"Lois? Cat?" Zara asked, suddenly coming fully awake.

"Both okay. But… Ching? I need your help. No one understands warfare like you do."

"Certainly, m'lord."

"I am coming, too," Zara said, pulling back the covers on the bed and forcing herself to her feet.

"Zara, you are not…"

"Nor is my problem, too, Kal," she said, meeting his eyes dead on. "I am partly responsible for his actions. I have to be part of the solution."

"You are not well. You need…"

"I need to be there."

Kal furrowed his eyebrows and stared at her for a long moment. Was it because of the way Lois had reacted anytime he'd tried to stop her from doing what she believed she needed to do? Was it for some other reason? He really didn't know. Letting out a breath, he nodded.


Lois sat, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, watching the flames leaping from the fireplace Kal had dug into the wall at speeds that left Lois' head spinning. She huddled closer. The cold outside was quickly seeping in, giving a tangible feeling to the night's events.

She glanced over at the makeshift morgue Kal had set up on the far side of the room and shivered. Pete was sitting beside Ralph's body, staring absently into space. She'd tried comforting Pete, but he'd brushed her off. Somehow in his grief, he was blaming Ralph's death on her because, as he had put it, she was the one who had brought Kal here.

Kal. Lois' mind instantly drifted. Kal had… confused her tonight. When she'd rushed into the Daily Planet, for the first time in her life she'd known the meaning of real fear. And that fear had only diminished when Kal had arrived. He'd seemed instinctively to know what had to be done. She supposed she shouldn't really have been surprised when he'd easily taken over — even Perry seemed to have accepted his leadership — after all, Kal had been trained to lead since the time he was a child.

She thought about that for a moment. What must it have been like to know, all your life, exactly what your future would be? To be raised to do only one thing — to lead? How would he have been prepared? After all, he would have to be hard — if she judged what things were like in Kryptonian society correctly. And given the way he often seemed simply to expect to be obeyed… She let out a small sigh as she watched the flames attack a new piece of wood, causing the fire to flare brighter.

Marriage… like everything else… was probably not his choice. His marriage had undoubtedly been arranged. What was it Cat had reminded her? Something about getting married to solidify alliances and produce heirs. But then, wasn't that what Kal had told her? It seemed like a lifetime ago now. Was a marriage made under those circumstances the same as one entered into freely? On the other hand, could Kal have said no? He was the king, wasn't he? So he must have wanted to marry Zara? Mustn't he?

She shook her head. No wonder she was so confused. These unanswered questions simply seemed to go round and round in her mind.

But his marriage wasn't what had confused her tonight. It was… the unexpected feeling she'd had, even in the midst of her fear, when Kal had simply taken over 'command.' She'd never needed anyone. Never. She'd prided herself on that fact. But she, quite simply, had needed Kal tonight. Why?

Was it just that he was more detached from the situation? And why, now that he had left, did she find herself feeling… just a little bit lost? Was it because he was the only one she knew with superpowers? Was it because she knew that if the Kryptonians did return, Kal was the only one who stood a chance of protecting them against those powers — and she had no doubt that he would die before he let Nor get his hands on her.

She gave her head a shake — not entirely comfortable with that knowledge. Still, for whatever reason, there was something about Kal that made her feel safe in his presence, and just a little lost when he wasn't around.

"Thinking about Kal?"

Lois tensed when Perry sat down next to her. "No. Just wondering exactly how we're going to defeat Nor."

Perry let out a slow breath. "I was a reporter during the Vietnam war. For a time, I lived with the men in the trenches — not that there were actual trenches in Vietnam, but… well, you know what I mean. I lived with them, went on patrol with them… Trying to understand what they were going through so that I could convey it to my readers."

"And what did you learn?"

Perry clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "That war changes a man," he finally said. "Killing… Watching your friends die… Living in fear… All of it changes a man. A lot of the men I knew over there… Well, they never really got over Vietnam. They came back to homes that they no longer recognized. Oh, their homes hadn't changed, but they had."

"And you think that will happen to us?"

"Yes. But… Well, that's not exactly what I was referring to."

Lois glanced around, spotting Cat taking a seat beside Pete. Having assured herself that their conversation couldn't be overheard, she looked back at her boss and mentor, waiting quietly for him to continue.

"You said that Kal was fighting this war for about a month before he came to Earth. He watched his friends die. He probably even killed men. Certainly he ordered men into harm's way, knowing many wouldn't come back. An experience like that… it hurts a man's soul. I didn't really recognize that Kal had that same pain until tonight."

"What do you mean?"

"The men in Vietnam… When I first arrived, I went to this bar with some of the men. They were demanding, obnoxious… Or at least that was how I perceived them. And then I lived with them in the trenches for a month. Bad food. Hungry most of the time. Dirty. Scared. And then… we were attacked by the Vietcong… It was bad. I watched many of those same men die. Men that I'd thought were obnoxious only a few weeks before. And… The next time we were in that bar… I was probably the most obnoxious one of all. Surviving the battle makes you feel… so many conflicting things. Invincible. Vulnerable. Blessed. And, at the same time, it makes you feel guilty."


"That you survived when others died. I realized then that the men were trying to… deal with the conflicting feelings… with no real idea of how to do so. They were also trying to seize the moment, not sure if they'd ever have another chance — knowing that many of them wouldn't."

"What does this have to do with Kal?"

"Tonight we saw Kal in full battle mode. He was focused. He saw what needed to be done to survive, and did it." He took a moment to gesture to the cleaned up rubble, the fixed door, the fireplace — all the things Kal had done. "I think before… He's sort of been floundering, as if not entirely sure how he fits here — a lot like the men did who came back from Vietnam." He gave a small snort. "Of course, none of that probably really applies to Kal. After all, he would have been more like the generals — sending men into battle while he stayed back and waited for news."

Lois shook her head. "I don't think it was like that — at least, not towards the end."

Perry's eyebrows rose as he waited for her to continue.

"He told me about the last battle. Most of his men were dead and they were waiting for the final assault. He was even wounded before one of his men knocked him out and put him in a spaceship bound for Earth. So… he probably does know what it's like to be 'in the trenches' so to speak. But… Why are you telling me all this?"

Perry shrugged. "No reason — really. I just… I just think I understand Kal a little bit better tonight. And…" He looked at Lois, their eyes meeting in the soft glow from the fire. "I trust him to help me get Alice, Jimmy and the rest back."

Lois nodded slowly. For some reason, so did she.

"But, Lois…"

She looked towards him again.

"Kal undoubtedly has a lot of scars. Just… be careful."

"Don't talk crazy, Perry. There's nothing happening between Kal and me. He has a wife. You should know me better than to think I'd ever be involved with a married man!"

"Did I ever tell you about the time Elvis…" Perry's voice trailed off when both he and Lois heard a 'swoosh' outside, followed quickly by the jingling of the wind chimes Kal had set up as an early warning system. Had the New Kryptonians returned? Had Kal been wrong about the safety of this place?

Both instantly froze, as did the remaining occupants of the room. Every eye was focused on the single entranceway — knowing that if it were the New Kryptonians, there was little point in running. The sound of a collective breath being taken as breathing resumed seemed loud when Kal finally entered the room, followed by Ching and a weak, but obviously determined, Zara. Even Pete looked as if the terror he had feared had suddenly been abated.

Lois' first thought was relief that Kal was back; her second was relief that she'd been saved from another Elvis story.


Alice White looked up from where she was fastening a homemade splint to Jimmy's broken arm when the shiver of a cold breeze caught her off guard. She, along with the rest of the prisoners crammed into the small room, felt that shiver turn to fear at the sight of a man all of them knew — a man, dressed in black, a look of glee in his eyes as he observed his prisoners with cool detachment. Alice was instantly left with the distinct impression that he was sizing them up, trying to decide which would be the first to die.

"Welcome, all," Nor began, a slight sneer on his face. "I am so glad you decided to be our 'guests.' I trust you all feel at home here. After all…" He gestured towards the men standing, arms folded across their chests, at the exit. "…we would be extremely disappointed if any of you decided to leave."

Alice rose to her feet at the back of the room, her anger flaring in response to Nor's sarcasm. They weren't guests. They couldn't leave. It all made Nor's comments simply… infuriating.

"So… who is your lord?" Nor demanded.

Everyone looked at each other in confusion.

"When I ask a question, I expect to be answered." Nor nodded at Shem who immediately stepped forward, backhanding the nearest available person — Myerson. Myerson flew across the room, hitting the wall and falling unconscious to the floor.

"You killed our lord," Alice said immediately, realizing that Nor must be asking who was in charge.

Nor turned towards Alice who was currently stepping closer. A frown pulled at one corner of her mouth as her mind flashed back to the image of Perry attacking one of the Kryptonians when the man grabbed her — and then watching in horror as Perry was hit by the man, falling in a heap to the floor, not a single muscle in his body moving. The sound of her screaming his name still echoed in her ears.

She'd made an effort to reach her husband, desperate to know if he was still alive, only to cringe in pain when the man tightened his grip on her arm as he propelled her in the opposite direction. In the back of her mind, the hope still existed that Perry was alive — although she had no intention of passing that information on to Nor.

Nor looked over at Shem for confirmation.

"That might be, m'lord. Anyone who resisted was killed."

"So who are you?" Nor asked Alice.

"Alice. My husband was in charge. He was killed by your men." She cursed the slight tremble that infected her voice on the final words.

Nor stepped closer and Alice had to force herself not to flinch.

"Then maybe you can answer my question. For your sake, I hope you can." He paused, letting the threat sink in. "Two women — one a brunette, one a redhead — came to see me earlier today. What can you tell me about them?"

Alice shrugged. "I don't know who you're talking about."

"They said they were reporters. Is not that what you do?"

"Just because they said they were reporters doesn't mean…"

Shem grabbed Alice from behind.

"There are lots of reporters in Metropolis," Alice continued quickly. "What makes you think they have any connection at all to the Daily Planet?"

Nor raised his hand, preparing to strike.

"I know who they are."

Skip Wallace, whose mother had gone to college with Alice, had spoken up. His words caused Nor's attention to be directed away from Alice who instantly found herself being tossed to the side.

"Their names are…"

"Don't, Skip," Alice begged. "You're mother wouldn't…"

"Lois Lane and Cat Grant," Skip continued in spite of Alice's plea.

"There," Nor said. "You see how easy that was? You just might make live guests after all. So…" Nor approached until he was standing only inches in front of Skip. "…where do I find this Lois Lane and Cat Grant?"

"I don't know," Skip said.

Nor's hand instantly reached out, grasping Skip's throat. His grip tightened, cutting off Skip's oxygen. Skip clawed helplessly at Nor's arm as his face turned red.

"Let him go!" Jack yelled, jumping Nor from behind, his arms wrapped around Nor's neck as he clung desperately to the Kryptonian.

After that, things seemed to erupt. Alice watched as the people rounded up from the Daily Planet attacked their captors, ignoring the overwhelming odds. At first, it seemed there might be enough of them to make a difference — at least enough to allow some of them to escape. Simply too many people for the Kryptonians to handle at one time. And then, Nor spun around, causing Jack to lose his grip and fly across the room, crumbling to the ground. Nor yelled… and Kryptonians were suddenly flooding the room. Bloodied and clearly beaten, the Daily Planet's people quickly ceased their attempt to escape, sitting on the floor, leaning against walls, bent over injured colleagues. Alice heard both Jack and Myerson groaning and felt relieved that they were both still alive.

"Kill them!" Nor exclaimed, pushing back his now ruffled hair and tucking in his wrinkled shirt. "Kill them all!"


"How did your search for other survivors go?" Kal asked Perry as he took a seat with the others near the fire.

Lois had taken a moment to introduce Perry to Ching and Zara. Since Pete had not left his position beside Ralph's body and Cat already knew the other two Kryptonians, no other introductions were necessary. Still, Lois watched intently as Zara struggled against her injuries, taking a seat further away from the group, as if relegating herself to the background. Was that so that she could stretch out or was she taking a more… submissive seat?

"Not bad," Perry responded, bringing Lois' mind back to the conversation. "We had to send Danny to check on the people we know are hiding beneath the Federal Building. After that, he had instructions to get Dr. Klein as well."

"Is Klein going to be bringing his weapons back here?"

"Not sure. I suppose it depends on how much he has — and whether he has enough people to carry them. I told Danny to tell him to at least bring some samples — so we know what we have to work with. Don't worry," Perry continued, looking at Kal, Ching and Zara. "I told him to bring it in a lead box so you should be safe enough from the effects of the kryptonite. I assume the weapons worked tonight," he said, looking at Cat and Lois.

"Like a charm, Perry," Cat responded.

"So what about the other groups?" Kal asked.

"We did manage to reach a few other groups with the radio. There's a group under the Metropolis P.D. and another hiding out in City Hall. Both groups promised to send someone."

"Could your radio transmissions have been overheard by the Kryptonians?"

Perry shook his head. "We communicated in Morse Code — unless Kyptonians know Morse Code."

Kal shook his head. "Anyway, we should try to come up with a strategy to present before the others arrive. Our main concern has to be those ships in space. Kir is in charge of those. Only one could destroy your entire planet. And there are probably twenty to thirty so…"

"Twenty three," Ching said. When Kal's eyebrows rose, Ching continued. "During the past month, I have been making inroads into the various houses. The intelligence I have been receiving as a result has, so far, been good. Also, I should let you know that I did not come to Earth alone." He paused for a moment, looking from face to face. "Four other men came with me."

"And how long have they been on Earth?"

"Same as me — two days."

"So you'll probably be getting your powers sometime tomorrow," Lois said.

"Is that the amount of time the others needed?" Ching asked.

"Probably… Pretty close at least," Kal responded. "I did not notice anything different until the third day. And it was longer than that before I flew. But I suspect that was because I really was not expecting… well, this to happen. But three days… That is probably pretty close. By the third day, I could not shave without using my heat vision — so at the very least, I was invulnerable." Kal paused. "So you have four men with you. Add you and I and we have six — that is about four ships for each of us. Of course, that leaves the problem of finding them."

"Can't you just use your x-ray vision thingy?" Lois asked.

Kal shook his head. "I tried."

"And flying aimlessly into space… assuming we could survive the vacuum is not likely to work. No matter how fast we can move, they could strike back, destroying the planet before we could neutralize all of them. Also, do we know yet if the men aboard those ships have superpowers?" Ching asked.

The implications of that possibility were instantly grasped by all the occupants of the room — and the impossible odds they could create.

When no one responded, Ching continued. "Even if they do not, Kir's a good soldier. He undoubtedly has his ships spaced out, at various distances from Earth, encircling the planet."

"But why?" Perry asked. "After all, it's more than clear that we don't have anything that can hurt his ships."

"He would have established their position when they first arrived. Spacing the ships out would be for two reasons. First, having them situated too closely together would make a larger target for any attack from Earth. And second, spacing them out would ensure that they could strike anywhere on Earth at a moment's notice," Kal said. "I doubt he'd have changed it since.

"And besides," Kal added, "if we do destroy all the ships before taking care of Nor, they will undoubtedly kill all the prisoners they took tonight."

There was a moment of silence as that final statement sank in for Lois, Perry and Cat.

"Do you think that was why he took them as prisoners?" Cat asked. "After all, you seemed slightly surprised that he hadn't simply killed all of them."

"He still might," Kal said quietly, well aware of the ramifications to all the people in the room. "But… no. I think they are alive because Nor thinks he can use them against me."

"Why would he think they would be of any use in controlling you?" Perry asked.

"Lois, did you say anything about the Daily Planet when you spoke to Nor?" Kal asked.

Lois looked over at Cat. "No. We'd decided that since he wasn't a big fan of the Daily Planet simply to maintain that we were independent reporters. Why? You think the attack on the Daily Planet tonight was because we managed to rescue Zara?"

"It makes sense," Ching said, rolling this new information around in his mind. "He undoubtedly made the connection between you, Zara's escape and Kal. From there… he was probably just looking for reporters who could lead him to the two of you."

"But how did he even find us? We painted the entire area with lead based paint," Lois continued. "Unless…" Her facial expressions changed when it finally hit her what must have happened. "The article in the Daily Planet about lead based paint. Why didn't we think of that?"

"What are you talking about, Lois?" Perry asked.

"He must have seen a copy of the article."

"We knew that was a possibility," Perry continued.

"But… he must have decided to find out where the newspaper was being printed. And he obviously decided to look here first."

"And when he realized that we knew about lead based paint," Perry continued, finally catching on, "he simply looked for any walls he couldn't see through."

Lois nodded.

"Do not blame this on yourselves," Ching instantly jumped in. "After all, when he found out the paper was still being printed, he would have looked here first anyway. And trust me, he would have torn apart the entire building before he would have accepted that you were not here."

"Okay, so even if you could fly into space and destroy all the ships, even one of which could literally destroy the entire planet, our friends are all going to die — that's what you're telling us?" Lois asked.

"There is… one possibility," Ching said hesitantly.

"What is that?" asked Kal.

"Could we talk in private, m'lord?" Ching responded.

Kal looked around. "This concerns their world, too. I think they have a right to be privy to anything we discuss here."

To Lois' eye, Ching looked unconvinced, nervous even. He obviously disagreed with Kal's decision. But his lord and master had spoken so he did as bidden. Lois found it hard to understand that type of blind obedience. Still, since it would allow her to hear what Ching had to say — without pushing her ear against the door, that was — she wasn't about to try to correct his archaic thinking.

"The men who came with me are survivors from your Imperial Guard…"

"But you said only four came…"

"Actually, only three of them are actually members of the Imperial Guard," Ching corrected.

"But… where are the others?" Kal asked.

"Dead, m'lord. Nor killed them, almost to a man. Or seriously injured. The three who came with me are the only survivors."

Kal closed his eyes as images of faces, of friends, of loyal servants passed through his mind.

"Anyway," Ching continued, "during the past month… I have been doing something a little… unconventional."

"What is that?" asked Kal.

"I know that the lords of the various houses failed to support you because they feared for their lives and their positions in society. But there are others, commoners, who would support you if…"

"I do not like where this is going," Kal warned. "You are suggesting having commoners turning on their lords."

"I am, m'lord," Ching said softly, but resolutely.

"I took a vow when I was made First Lord of New Krypton to protect our society. If I sanction this…"

"The men would support you," Ching continued, determined to get this idea out in what Lois imagined was an unusual display of defiance given that Kal obviously did not want him to continue. "But they would only do so if they did not fear repercussions from their lords."

"So you are asking me to completely dismantle the class system… You know I cannot do that."

"It is the only way to stop Nor, m'lord," Ching said. "There are men on those ships, men who are simply waiting for a code word to be sent telepathically by me, and they will turn on their masters. They know what Nor will do to our society, but they will not act without a clear sign from you that they will not be punished for this breach of trust."

"I said no, Ching!"

"So…? what?" Lois asked, rising to her feet. "You let Nor destroy both our worlds just because you want to cling to some archaic way of life?"

"It is not that simple," Kal objected. "If the class system goes, what will replace it? Our entire society would come apart."

"Oh, so your society would be better off if Nor defeats you? My world would be better off? You'd let both our words go to hell so that a bunch of inbred old men can hold on to their little kingdoms? I can't believe you!" Turning, she stormed from the room.

"Could I have a moment alone with you, Kal?" Perry asked, rising and gesturing towards the door to his office.

Kal glanced around before nodding, standing and following Perry from the room.


Nor's men moved to obey his order.

"M'lord," Shem said, gesturing for the men to stop. "Are you certain this is the best course of action? After all, even if they will not tell you where these women are, they still might be useful."

"How so?" Nor asked, looking around at his prisoners in disgust.

"They, too, are reporters. If Kal and the women came to rescue Zara, is it not logical to assume that they might also attempt to rescue these reporters?"

Nor smiled. Shem was right. "Very well — let them live. But…" He grabbed Skip from where he was still lying on the floor, forcing him to his feet and wrapping an arm around his neck. "Just know that this…" One quick twist and a snap could be heard throughout the room. Skip's head lolled to the side and his open, terrified eyes went dead. "…is what will happen to anyone who defies me or my men. Dropping Skip's lifeless body to the ground, he turned and walked out of the now completely silent room.



Of all the stupid, pig-headed, stubborn, arrogant… Lois fumed silently to herself even as she tore back the blanket covering her sleeping space and stepped inside. After taking a moment to light a candle, she plopped down on the mattress. She couldn't believe Kal. Ching had a brilliant idea — and yet Kal, in his stubbornness, refused to even consider it! Of all the idiotic, narrow-minded, obstinate…

Her thoughts were brought to a halt when the blanket was cautiously pushed back and Zara appeared next to Lois' mattress.

"Might I come in?"

Lois sat up a little straighter, suddenly feeling as vulnerable as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. She shook her head, trying to rid herself of the Perry-like thought.

"Sorry," Zara said, backing away.

Lois sprang to her feet, pushing the blanket aside. "No, that's not… I wasn't shaking my head at… Do you want to…" She gestured Zara in before taking a seat once again on the mattress, signaling for Zara to join her. Maybe Lois' actions with Zara's husband had been innocent, but still… Zara was the wife; Lois, the other woman. As a result, Lois' heart was in her throat as she waited for Zara to speak.

"Kal loves you, you know," Zara said softly.

Lois blinked. How was she expected to respond to that information — especially coming from his wife?

Zara chuckled. "You are wondering why I am telling you this," she said. She let out a breath. "Kal is my best friend. He has been there for me all my life and I hate to see him in so much pain."

"But… he's your husband."

"I am well aware of that. I cannot remember a time when I was not promised to Kal. The son of Jor-El was not exactly the expected choice for my husband. Kal's father did not have the highest standing. The youngest son of the youngest son. My father, on the other hand, was the First Lord of Krypton — and I was his only child. But my father had a lot of respect for Jor-El and…" She shrugged her shoulders.

"So… you didn't have a choice in marrying Kal?"

Zara chuckled. "Being born the only child of the First Lord of Krypton… No, I most certainly was not consulted about my future husband."

"What about Kal? Surely as a man…"

"Kal and I were both infants when we were promised," Zara interrupted. "Not that he ever objected to the marriage — at least not to me. Although… I doubt it ever even crossed his mind to object. Kal has always believed in duty and I think he would see marriage to me as falling into that category. And until you came along… I doubt he ever even questioned the way things were."

"Did you question it?" When Zara hesitated, Lois pushed on. "You did, didn't you?"

Zara didn't answer the question — although, in truth, it wasn't exactly a question. "I met Ching when I was in my thirteenth year," Zara began instead. "He was a commoner, but he was a good fighter, so he was made Kal's sparring partner. Kal and I went through the Ceremony of Union when we were both seventeen. And by then… Please do not misunderstand. Nothing had happened between Ching and me before the wedding. In fact, neither of us had even said how we felt. But there was… an unspoken understanding… or maybe more of a connection between us."

"You loved him."

Zara paused, thinking about the question. "Love is not something that we are encouraged to think about on New Krypton — except in the most superficial way. In fact, the word for 'love' in our language — 'sinto' — means more… a deep feeling of trust. But… I remember the day Ching first voiced his feelings for me as if it had happened yesterday. Kal and I had been married almost three years. In fact, it was a week before the anniversary of our union. Kal and I were spending it at the summer palace. As Chief of the Imperial Guard, Ching was there, too — in charge of security."



The morning could only be described as beautiful. The reddish glow of the sun shining down on the surface of the lake, the cool breeze ruffling her hair. The afternoon was likely to be warm, stifling even. But right now… Zara couldn't say she'd ever seen a more beautiful morning.

She wandered along the shore to a place where the overgrowth jutted out into the water, blocking her path. Not one to be deterred from her mission, she fought her way through the overgrowth so that she could continue on her journey by the shore.

This particular beach did hold any dangers for her. Nor did it hold any real secrets. After all, she'd traveled this particular path more times than she could count. Every inch of this area was covered by the thought dampeners. Their own private haven, guarded diligently by the Imperial Guard. Although, in truth, since Kal tended to spend most of his time during these holidays pouring over reports and briefs that often piled up back at the palace, it was more like her own private haven.

She took a deep breath, enjoying the fresh smell of the flowers just coming to life in the newly risen sun. She had to admit, this was her favorite time of the day. Everything so new and fresh. Everything so full of possibilities. It was impossible not to be happy on days like this. Happiness seemed to ooze from every rock and crevice.

She stopped to watch a small frog in its effort to hop from a rock onto a nearby log. She smiled when the small creature missed the log, falling into the water only to look up in disgust at its attempted destination.

The sound of a splash coming from just around the next point caused her to pick up her pace. Maybe a deer or a fish was putting on a performance worthy of her attention. She came around the point, her eyes searching out the water beyond.

She came to an abrupt halt when she was confronted with a sight she had not expected. She knew that head of dark brown hair, those broad shoulders. She knew the small scar that creased his forehead, just above his left eyebrow. She knew the tiny lines that appeared at the corners of his eyes when he smiled. The way he moved. The way he smelled. The way he would run his right hand through his hair when he was deep in thought. She knew everything about him.

She watched, unable to look away, as he dove again below the surface. When he rose from the waves this time, he was nearer to her. Although, by the complete lack of self-consciousness in his movements, she knew he had not yet spotted her. She should leave, go before he became aware of her presence. Yet she stood there, just watching as the water ran freely down his bare chest.

He began walking towards the shore. She had to go. Now! In a moment it would be too late. The thought trailed off when she suddenly realized he was not wearing anything. She stood, eyes riveted to him, silently committing every inch of his body to memory, as he continued to get closer. And then… the unthinkable happened. Whether he heard something, some small catch in her breath or simply sensed the presence of another destroying his solitude, he looked directly at her.

For a moment, she could see… something flicker across his face. Some hesitation, perhaps? Some desire to dive again below the surface of the water? And then… just when she was thinking she should turn and leave, a small smile crept onto the corners of his lips and he walked closer.

She looked down, unable to meet his gaze and at the same time, seemingly unable to walk away. Her heart began pounding more quickly, sending her already heated blood pumping faster through her veins. For a moment, she thought he would approach, but instead, he headed a little ways away from her. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and saw… in part relieved and in part disappointed… that he'd headed to a small pile of clothes.

She turned her full attention now to the water, staring unseeing at the gentle waves lapping at the shore. Yet her hearing was focused on the man behind her, the small sounds she associated with him putting on his clothing. And then… silence.

She fought the urge to turn, to find out if he was still there or if he had already left. And then… she felt it. He was standing behind her. Not touching. Never touching. He wouldn't dare. Nor, for that matter, would she. Yet he was so close she could practically feel the hairs on her neck, arms and shoulders reaching out for him, begging to touch him.

They stood like that, in silence for what felt like a lifetime. His voice, when it came, was right next to her ear, spoken so softly that no one but she would ever have been able to hear him. Not even the most sensitive recording equipment would overhear his words. Not that the place was bugged. It was swept twice a day to ensure that nothing like that could happen there.


Her body trembled at the mere sound of his voice speaking her name.

"Do you have any idea how many times I have dreamed this?" he asked.

"Dreamed what?" she asked, uneasy about how deep and throaty her voice suddenly sounded. She could almost feel him smile.

"You. Me. Here. Do you have any idea how I feel about you?"

She closed her eyes. She should tell him to stop. She knew she should. She should turn, leave, get away. She stood, rooted to the spot, feeling the heat of his breath against her cheek.

She should tell Kal that Ching needed to be immediately reassigned. She wouldn't. She knew she wouldn't. Just as surely as she couldn't tell Ching to stop, she wouldn't tell Kal about this encounter. No. She would live this moment a million times in her dreams — but never would a description of it pass her lips. She silently begged him to continue — to say the words she so desperately wanted to hear.

"Just the thought of you," he continued, as if hearing her unspoken plea. "Your hair. Your face. Your eyes. Your voice. The way you move. The causes you champion. The way you think. The way you are trembling right now. Everything about you. The thought of touching you, of holding you, of kissing… I have not been able to as much as think about touching another woman in years. You are all I want."

"Do not, Ching," she said, finally finding her voice. "We cannot say such things to each other."

"Why not? We feel them."

She screwed her eyes even tighter shut. He knew. As much as she had always known how he felt, he knew she felt the same. By the spirits, what was wrong with her? She should turn, tell him he was wrong. Tell him she belonged to Kal — that she could never return his feelings. Tell him that he should get on with his life, find a wife, marry and have lots of children. Only yesterday Kal had suggested to her that they help Ching find a wife. She should tell Ching that she was going to do exactly that. So why wasn't she? Why was she standing there, wishing with all her heart that he'd put his arms around her, pull her back against his hard body?

He wouldn't touch her. She knew he wouldn't. He wouldn't dare.

"Ing santra judion di le saguin eila crees kanto," he whispered softly, sending a trail of fire from where his breath caressed her ear down into the pit of her belly.



"Ing santra judion di le sanuin eila crees kanto," Lois repeated when Zara slipped into what must be her native language. "What does that mean?"

"It is an old Kryptonian saying," Zara explained. "From a much more sentimental time in our history. Roughly translated it means… 'language does not do justice to the desire you create in my heart.'"

"Roughly translated, it means 'I'm in love with you,'" Lois supplied. For a language without a word for love, it could mean nothing else.

Lois felt an unexpected stab of jealousy. To be loved so completely — and by the way Zara had described this simple encounter with Ching, Lois had no doubt that she was being given a first hand glimpse inside something so special that it left her in awe.

"So what happened then?" Lois finally asked, desperately wanting to hear the end of the story.

Zara shrugged. "We stood there in silence for a moment longer and then he turned and walked away. I did not watch him go. I did not move. For the longest time, I just stood there, staring out at the water. I must have lived that single moment in my mind a thousand times after that. Funny, is it not? We never touched. I hardly spoke… But still, it is a moment I cannot help but treasure — in spite of how it all turned out."

The final phrase caused Lois to crash back to Earth with a vengeance.


Perry picked up the chair that had been carelessly tossed aside during the New Kryptonians' raid and set it upright behind his desk before gesturing for Kal to do the same. Sitting down, he carefully studied the young man sitting before him for a long, silent moment. He'd asked Kal to join him in his office after Lois had run off in order to ensure that they could talk in private. Perry had some things he wanted to say — things that would be better said inside these walls.

"You crushed Ching's idea out there pretty quickly," Perry began carefully. "Mind telling me why?"

"What he was asking me to do would destroy my society," Kal said.

"And letting Nor win… That wouldn't destroy your society?"

"I cannot let him win, but… There has to be another way." Kal leaned back, letting out a slow breath as if trying to find the words to explain. "Perry, life on New Krypton has been hard. It has hard starting over, trying to build a thriving society on a cold, hard rock. And only now is the death rate beginning to slow. If I destroy the class system, what would replace it?" When Perry opened his mouth to respond, Kal held up his hand indicating that he was not yet finished his explanation. "In fact, Zara and I have for years been planning to make changes — particularly, we want to get rid of some of our more archaic practices. The right of lords to summarily execute people in their own houses. The practice of trading or selling members of your house to other houses — tearing families apart. Things like that. And since meeting Lois, I have realized that other changes might also be in order — particularly on the role of women in our society. But these changes would have to be made slowly. Over time. If I just destroy my society with no plans in place to replace it… Many would die in the resulting confusion."

"So what exactly is the system you have now?"

"It is a class system — made up of various houses. Lords and commoners. And over it all is the first lord."

"Can people move between the various classes? What I mean is could someone who was born as a commoner ever become a lord?"

"It has happened. But it is very rare."

"So no matter how talented someone is, all they can hope for is to rise to the top of their class."

"Even rising to the top of their class would be difficult. After all, people typically just fill the same role their father had."

"So you have people working jobs who might be better suited to other jobs."

Kal studied him for a long moment. "I never thought of it that way," he finally confessed.

"So wouldn't your world be stronger in the long run if the people who were best suited, best equipped to handle a job could hope to obtain it? Wouldn't such a system keep people like Lord Nor from being such a threat to your world?"

Kal clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth as he considered Perry's words. "A lot of people would still die in the short run."

"But your society would be stronger in the long run — better equipped to help your people survive on what you refer to as that cold, hard rock." When Kal didn't speak, Perry continued. "Some people on Earth would claim that to live without the freedom to find your own way, to make your own choices, to reach your own potential, is no life at all. They'd rather die than have no freedom of choice. Maybe you don't understand that because you are the First Lord on New Krypton. But your people… I suspect some of them are more than aware of what it is like to have no choice."

"I had no choice either," Kal said quietly, his eyes meeting Perry's.

Perry paused, suddenly understanding the young man before him much better — and finding that he actually liked what he saw. Unlike many leaders, the mantle of leadership sat heavily on his shoulders. He was not in love with the power. He simply felt he had no choice, and given that, was determined to do what was right for his people.

"You do now, son," Perry responded.

Kal studied the older man for a long moment, lost in thought. Maybe Perry had a point. Ching had been given a job that far outranked his status — and he'd served his duties well. And Zara had always given good advice. And, of course, there was Lois. She was a woman. In his world, she never would have had a chance to flourish. Maybe Ching and Perry were right. Maybe his world really would be stronger if the class system was demolished.


"What about Kal?" Lois asked, her voice sounding small in her ears. But with all this talk about Ching, Lois found herself dying to know how Kal fit into all of this. Still, it had taken her some time to work up the nerve to voice the question since Zara had spent the last few minutes informing her exactly how special Ching was — everything from the size of his feet to his remarkable rise through the ranks to become Chief of the Imperial Guard.

Zara immediately looked rebuked, as if realizing that in her excitement at finally being able to be open with someone about Ching, she'd forgotten entirely about Kal. Her husband. The man she'd come in here to talk to Lois about.

"Kal," Zara said softly, looking down at the band of union she wore on her arm. The band, placed there at the Ceremony of Union, had never been removed. It could not be removed without specialized equipment. It bound her to Kal for life.

Lois' gaze followed Zara's to see a gold band with a familiar 's' symbol. She wasn't entirely sure of the symbolism of that piece of jewelry, but she instinctively knew that when Zara looked at it, her mind was on Kal. She felt a stab of pain. Zara's gesture reminded Lois only too clearly of Kal's connection to the other woman.

"It might have been different if we had grown up on Krypton," Zara went on to explain. "After all, on Krypton, I would not have grown up thinking of Kal as my brother. Oh, I would have known who he was — that he was to be my husband. We probably would have even crossed paths on occasion. Banquets. State events. Things like that. And I would probably have been swept away by those deep, brown eyes and that impressive physique. I would probably even have found his quiet manner intriguing. But… even though I can appreciate him as a man… I have never really seen him as one. He was always just… Kal — I think because we grew up together." She looked over at Lois. "Oh, do not get me wrong. I care for him deeply. He is gentle, caring, loyal…"

"Loyal?" Lois almost choked on the unexpected description. "Kal slept with me without even telling me about you. How is that loyal?" Why was she bringing that up? Was she insane? This was the last thing she wanted to be talking about with Zara.

Zara sighed. "Lois, I am not sure how things work on Earth, but on New Krypton… Maybe it would help if I told you a little story. We had only been married… I guess about a year at the time. And it was the first time this issue had come up. I might have brought it up earlier — but it just never even occurred to me that he would do what he did."



Zara paced nervously in the living area of their quarters. She'd done everything. At least, she thought she had — given the servants the night off, checked the thought dampeners, closed the blinds, made sure they were completely secure. Just to be sure, she made her way over to the wall, checking the thought dampeners again.

She wished Kal would arrive. And at the same time, she was dreading it. Would he tell her the truth? She just wasn't sure. Still, even if the rumors were true… By the spirits, what if the rumors were true? How would they get past it? It could ruin everything.

No! No, now she was being crazy. She knew Kal. He simply wasn't capable of… No. It couldn't be true. But… if he lied to her… No. She would know. She would look into his eyes and she would know. No mincing of words. She'd ask him straight out. And she would know by the look in his eyes if he were telling the truth.

'And if the rumors are true…' a little voice in the back of her mind taunted her. She suddenly felt the strength drain out of her legs and stumbled over to a chair, collapsing onto it.

They would find a way to deal with it. Just like everything else. They would find a way through it — together. Provided he told her the truth. But… would he?

By the spirits, she simply did not know. Until today, she'd have sworn he would tell her anything. They'd been in a union for over a year now. And he'd never deceived her, never misled her. If there was something he could not tell her, he simply told her so. But this… She'd never expected to have to deal with something like this. Not from Kal.



"So what did he say?" Lois interrupted. "Was he cheating on you?"

Zara turned curious eyes on Lois, a hint of amusement in them. "Have you always been this impatient?" she asked. Then she sighed. "If only it were that simple," she said before lapsing back into her story.



The opening of the door sent the blood pounding through Zara's veins. She stood in the half dark room, in her anxiety having forgotten to turn on the lights.

Kal spotted her immediately, closing the door behind him.

"Lights," he said softly, causing the definition of the room around them to increase. He walked closer. "Zara, are you okay?"

"How was your day?" she asked, her voice sounding strange even in her own ears.

"Long," he answered, his mind obviously not on his words. He tilted his head to the side as he studied her. "But… how are you? Did something happen?"

She opened her mouth to ask her question but found that the words died on her lips.

He took her arm, leading her over to the lounger. Once she was settled on it, he took a seat next to her, taking her hands in his. "What is it, Zara?" he asked softly.

She searched his eyes, looking there for the answers she needed, hoping that the question could simply go unasked, that she would know the truth without putting words to thoughts. "There is a rumor going around," she finally said, breaking eye contact.


She looked up. "You," she answered softly. "And…"

"You are concerned that it is true?"

She searched his eyes again, but once again could see not even the slightest indication that he knew what she was talking about.

"What is the rumor?" he finally asked. When she still didn't answer, he squeezed gently on her hands. "Talk to me, Zara. You have always been able to talk to me. You know that."

"It's just… Kal, the rumor is that Lord Jen offered you Kirna for the night when you concluded your business with him. She is a beautiful woman. His favorite concubine."

Kal looked down. "And you are worried because I accepted his offer."

"What? No. Kal…" Her voice trailed off.

"Zara, I did not sleep with her," Kal continued. "I accepted — because it would be a horrible insult for me to refuse such an offer — you know that. But then… after he had left, I simply said goodnight and left as well."

"But that is just it!" she exclaimed, rising quickly from the couch to turn to look at him. "By the spirits, the rumor is that you… that you…"

"That I what?" he asked, rising to his feet as well.

"That you… prefer men."

"Prefer…" His voice trailed off when it sank in what she was saying. "What?"



"What?" Lois exclaimed when it sank in what Zara was saying. "You thought… Zara, Kal's not gay!"

"Gay?" Zara asked.

"A homosexual. Prefers men," Lois continued. "Zara, you've got to trust me on this. He's not gay."

Zara studied Lois for a long moment. "I guess you would know better than anyone," she said softly.

Lois narrowed her eyes, trying to understand that statement. What was Zara telling her? "Are you saying that you and Kal have never…"

Zara's laugh interrupted her. "Lois, we are married."

"Then what…"

"It is just…" Zara paused, collecting her thoughts as if not entirely sure how to explain. "There has never been any… I am not even sure how to describe it. But, between Kal and me there has never been any…"


"Sparks." Zara seemed to mull the words over in her mind for a moment before nodding. "That is probably as good a word to describe it as any," she said. "There have never been any sparks between us. Until you came along, until I saw the way he looks at you, I was never really sure. I mean, he denied it, of course. But… I guess I was never really sure."

Lois studied the other woman, not entirely sure what Zara could have seen during the short period of time that she'd seen her and Kal together. But Zara was already continuing her story.



"How could you even imagine that such a thing is true?" Kal demanded.

"It is not me, Kal," she said immediately. Okay, so maybe that wasn't exactly true. On the other hand, she might have thought their sex life was normal, too — except that she knew that passion was possible. She felt it every time she as much as glanced in Ching's direction. It was a feeling she'd never had with Kal. Was that her? Or was that… him? Maybe the rumors were true. But… even if they were, if he was denying them, than she had to accept what he said. But that still left them with a problem — a big one. "Did you really think Kirna would not tell what happened? Did you think that afterwards Jen would not demand to know every detail?"

"But tradition says that such things are private. That they are not to be…"

"That is your problem, Kal. You think everyone plays by the same rules as you. You always have. Jen probed. Kirna talked."

"So what did you want me to do? Refuse his gift?"

"By the spirits, no! You might as well tell him that his children are ugly and his wife is unfaithful."

"I just… Zara, this tradition of offering one's concubine… It is barbaric. It felt… wrong."

"In other words, you were not attracted to her."

The blush that rose in Kal's cheeks told her that she was right.

"That still does not make it right," Kal hurried to add.

"I do not care what it is," Zara responded. "Do you know what a rumor like this could do? To you? To me? If they think you do not like women…"

"Our marriage would be dissolved. And you…"

"…would be forced to marry Nor," she completed for him. "And everything we have been working for, all our dreams for our world would be destroyed." She turned her back to him, steading herself against a nearby table, her terror at the thought of a union with Nor striking fear to her very core.

Kal came up silently behind her, gently wrapping his arms around her. "Maybe," he said softly. "Maybe I just do not happen to think that Kirna is as beautiful as you."

She turned in his arms, her eyes meeting his. And she smiled before letting him enfold her against him. Her cheek against his chest, she spoke again. "Has anyone ever told you, Kal of the House of El, that you can be a real charmer when you want to? But… that does not solve this problem — and you know it."

Kal sighed. "So what do you want me to do?" he asked quietly, even though the answer was painfully obvious.



"So you… Zara, tell me you didn't tell him that in the future, he accept such 'gifts.'" Lois said, the color draining from her face.

"There was no choice," Zara responded. "Lois, on New Krypton, a rumor of being… How did you put it? Gay? Such a rumor can ruin a man. He is hardly regarded as a man anymore. Of course, there was an unpleasant side effect of our decision."

"What?" Lois asked, wondering what could possibly be worse than sending one's husband to another woman's bed.

"Jen, of the House of Mai, took Kal's rejection of Kirna personally. If Kal liked women, then Jen's best concubine must not have been good enough for the First Lord of New Krypton. He has been a loyal follower of Nor's ever since."

"You know, the more I learn about your world, the less I like it."

Zara raised her eyebrows.

"I'm sorry," Lois said immediately, not wanting to insult the woman before her. "It's just… Zara, I don't get it. You have an affair and your world crumbles. Kal does and… it's almost applauded."

"Are you saying there is no difference on Earth between a man having… an affair, as you put it, and a woman?"

"No," Lois responded before hesitating. "Infidelity is a man's misdemeanor and a woman's felony," she said softly.

"Excuse me?"

"Nothing. Just… something I heard once. I guess there is a difference, but… Don't your marriage vows promise fidelity."

"A woman's do."

"But not a man's," Lois completed before shaking her head. How could a society advanced enough to have conquered space travel be so backwards in relations between men and women?

"And on Earth? Are the vows the same between a man and a women?"

Lois was about to respond in the affirmative before hesitating. "Love, honor and obey," she said softly. When Zara crinkled her eyebrows, Lois went on to explain that although these days, most people didn't include 'obey' in a woman's vows, it hadn't been all that long ago when every woman took that vow.

"So maybe in some ways we are not so different," Zara said.

The thought irked Lois, but she couldn't completely deny it. There were still some ways to go before complete equality would be achieved. And in some areas of the world, even more so. The difference between Earth and New Krypton was, in some ways, just a matter of degree.

"Anyway, I was actually very lucky that Kal was my husband," Zara said. "He only used concubines when he had to — for diplomatic reasons. Unlike other lords, he never kept any concubines of his own. In public, I was always the woman on his arm and by his side. And he always told me when duty forced him to take another woman. In fact, when I found out that I could not bear him a child… an heir…"

"What?" asked Lois when Zara's voice trailed off.

Zara's brow crinkled in a way that told Lois that Zara was suddenly immersed in some painful memories. "As the First Lady of New Krypton, one of my primary responsibilities is to bear Kal an heir. But… after we had been married a few years and there was no sign of my getting pregnant… I took it upon myself to find out if something was wrong." She gave a sad smile. "Kal was devastated when I told him I could not have children. He would make such a wonderful father," she said softly, a sudden tenderness in her eyes.

Lois couldn't help but suddenly realize that, even though Zara might not be in love with Kal, she sincerely cared very much for her husband.

"Tradition demands," Zara continued, "that in such cases, I find a woman for Kal, one who can…"

"Stop," Lois said, holding up a hand. She knew where Zara must be going with this and really didn't want to hear it.

"He refused," Zara said. "He said he would not do that to me — that we would find another way. Lois, if he had taken another woman, if he had done that, even though it would have been… a humiliation for me, we would not be in this position now. I would have claimed the child for my own and that child… he would be the next in line for the throne. Nor would never have been able to claim that he was the rightful heir when Kal was disgraced by my actions."

Lois met Zara's eyes, wondering if Zara was blaming Kal. But what she saw there came close to breaking her heart. Zara was blaming herself, feeling that she should have insisted, forced Kal to have a child with another woman. "It's not your fault," Lois said softly.

Zara gave a humorless laugh. "Kal was loyal to me — as loyal as our society will allow. And this is how I repay him. Do not blame Kal for all of this. He is a good man. The best I've ever known. And when I see the way he looks at you… I want that for him. He is my best friend. I want him to know what it is like to be, as you would say, loved." There were tears in Zara's eyes when she finished.


"What is it, Lois?"

"If he really is this 'great guy' you claim he is, why didn't he tell me about you before we…" She made an erratic gesture with her hands. "Let me have the choice."

"I do not think it even occurred to him."

"How could it not occur to him?" Lois asked skeptically.

"On New Krypton, everyone would have known Kal was my husband. Besides, when did this happen?"

Lois' mind flashed back to that one painful and passionate encounter she'd had with Kal — when they had both believed that he was heading off to his death. There had been no future — for him — for them. Just as there had been no past. There had only been there and now. The rest of the world had ceased to exist. No Dan for her. And… she realized with sudden clarity, no Zara for him. It had been as if that one moment was all there was — and in that one moment they had both been determined to live and love enough for a lifetime.

"I thought so," Zara said softly, obviously seeing something in Lois' expression. "Lois, I do not know if this will help, but… at least know this." She waited until she was certain she had Lois' attention before continuing. "You are the first woman Kal has ever voluntarily chosen to be with. Kal might not always make the right decision, but he will never knowingly make the wrong one."

The sound of rustling outside the blanket told Zara and Lois that someone was coming. Sure enough, a moment later the blanket was thrust aside and Perry stuck his head inside.

"We're continuing our strategy session," he explained. "I thought you might want to be there."


Lois saw Kal pacing in front of the fireplace as she, Perry and Zara entered the room. She was deep in thought. Zara had given her lots to think about. Too much, in fact, to allow her to evaluate all of it now. Besides, there were more important things to do — convincing Kal that he was being an idiot immediately sprang to mind.

She sat down and was just about to open her mouth when Kal spoke.

"Ching, are you sure we have men on every one of the ships?" he asked.

"Yes, m'lord. Those I spoke to have been quietly garnering support ever since. We have more than enough to neutralize the threat from space — provided you are prepared to give the command."

"The timing of this would have to be precise," Kal continued. "Otherwise, a ship where our people had not already taken over could destroy the Earth before a move could be made against it."

"I have been thinking about that. How fast can you fly?"

"I can be around the Earth in a matter of minutes. Why?"

"Then I think two of us could handle sending out any telepathic signal to launch the attack. We would have to do it from different places on Earth to make sure we hit all the ships. A mass as large as the Earth would undoubtedly block transmission. But if we can fly fast enough, two of us can probably do it."

"Then we should take out the ships just before we make our move on Nor. Our men on the ships will have to make sure that communications are instantly secured. If anyone does manage to tell Nor that we are making a move on his ships, he will kill the hostages before we can stop them."

"Does that mean you're agreeing to Ching's terms?" Lois asked in disbelief.

"It does seem to be our best bet for stopping Nor," Kal responded, looking directly into her eyes.

Lois quickly broke eye contact. What had changed Kal's mind? He'd seemed so definite in his rejection of Ching's idea. Yet… what had Zara said? That he might not always do the right thing, but he'll never knowingly choose to do the wrong thing. She glanced back at him. He'd already turned his attention back to the others.

"Okay, so that means we still need a plan for dealing with Nor. I think I might have an idea about that. On New Krypton there is an old custom. The Right of Challenge."

"Right," Ching responded. "It allows two nobles vying for the throne to settle their differences privately."

"Settle their differences privately — how?" Lois asked, having a sneaking suspicion that she wasn't going to like this idea.

"It is a duel. It would take place between Nor and me," Kal responded.

"Why do I suddenly get the feeling that this duel isn't exactly a dart game where the person closest to the target wins?" asked Lois.

"It is done with traditional dueling staffs — the drei."

"And," Ching added, "if you win, we will not have to worry about Nor again. And without his leadership… his followers will be easy enough to mop up."

"Wait a minute!" Lois said, when something Ching had said sunk in. "How do you know you won't have to worry about Nor anymore? Surely he won't just give up because he loses some contest. Unless…" Her eyes darted between Ching and Kal. "Unless… Oh my god," she whispered. "This contest is to the death, isn't it?"

Kal approached her carefully, squatting in front of her and taking her hands in his. She didn't pull away — she couldn't. In fact, the entire world seemed to fade and suddenly there were just the two of them, the tension between them almost tangible. Still, it took her a moment to meet his eyes, searching them desperately in hopes of discovering that she was wrong. "No," she whispered when she realized she wasn't. She fought off the sudden dizziness that seemed to be pulling at her brain.

"It is the only way, Lois," Kal said softly.

"What are the odds that you can beat him?" Perry asked, his words breaking the tension between Lois and Kal.

They suddenly released their grasp on each other, as each became aware of the world around them, and Kal stepped away, clearing his voice as if just now realizing they were not alone.

"He has pretty good odds," Ching said, warming up to this idea. "I have been practicing the drei with Kal for years. He is good."

"Not as good as you," Kal added.

"Still, Nor tends to be sloppy. Oh, he is good, but you are careful. You do not make stupid mistakes. So, yes, I would give Kal good odds." He paused before adding, "Unless, of course, Nor cheats."

"And what are the chances that Nor won't cheat?" Lois asked silencing the room. After a moment of no one saying anything, Lois continued. "Then Kal cheats, too."

"Lois, I cannot cheat. Not at The Challenge."

Lois was about to respond when something changed in Kal's eyes.

"Of course… there is nothing to stop me from taking advantage of his cheating," Kal said slowly even as a plan began to form in his mind.

"We need to be sure that all of New Krypton sees the fight," Zara said.

"I think that can probably be achieved — once we have access to the communications system on the ships," Ching said. "The signal could be transmitted to every vid-screen on New Krypton.

Kal nodded slowly. "And we would need a place for this fight that will allow you to rescue the Planet employees while Nor and I fight."

Just then sounds could be heard coming from outside the room. Everyone inside fell silent, letting out breaths of relief when Inspector Henderson and a couple other police officers made their way into the room.

"Is this where we're all meeting?" asked Bill.


Everyone seemed to have forgotten he was even there. But Pete was watching and listening intently. They didn't care. They didn't care that Ralph was dead. All they cared about was each other.

But… as he'd sat there silently fuming, he'd realized that there was nothing he could do about it. Kal, the one whose fault this was, was invulnerable. His fists still hurt from when he'd tried to beat him earlier.

Kryptonite. His ears had perked up on the word. He wasn't entirely sure what it was. But he now knew, thanks to Perry, two very valuable pieces of information. First, it could hurt… maybe even kill a Kryptonian. And second, that Dr. Klein would be bringing the substance in a lead-lined box.

He watched in satisfaction as Dr. Klein entered the room, followed by that kid… Danny, wasn't it? No matter. The important thing was that Dr. Klein was carrying what appeared to be a large container. He set it down almost the instant he entered, indicating that it was heavy. Lead-lined? Probably. His eyes stayed focused on that box as he allowed the fury to build in his chest.



After the arrival of Henderson and a couple other officers, Dr. Klein arrived with his dangerous cargo. Soon after that, more people began to filter in. People from the Mayor's office, including the mayor himself. Employees from the Daily Planet who had been out on assignment during Nor's attack. Applegate, Burns, Hank, Johnson, Simmons and Langdon had all returned. Every time someone new entered, the same explanation had to be given — what had happened to the Daily Planet, who had been taken captive and who had been killed. It was difficult reliving it so many times. And every time, the individual hearing the information had to both process it and deal with the fear and grief that always came with the news of friends missing or dead.

Lois was talking casually to Perry when four strangers entered the room.

"Who are they?" Lois asked.

"I have no idea," Perry responded.

They watched as Kal and Zara made their way over to the men, greeting them warmly.

"They must be the Kryptonians who came with Ching," Perry said. "I'm going over to meet them. You coming?"

Lois hesitated for a moment. Did she really want to be that close to Kal? Her conversation with Zara had confused her. Things no longer seemed quite so black and white. Until she sorted through her thoughts and emotions, keeping some distance seemed wise. Still, her curiosity was killing her. Besides, they were in the middle of a national emergency. It might be a good idea to meet these men who could potentially help them rid their world of Nor.

Never having been one to follow the safer route, she gave Perry a nod and the two of them together made their way over to where Kal and Zara were talking to the men.

"Lois, Perry," Kal said once they were close enough. "Allow me to introduce Bia, Harp and Chil."

Lois gave a slight nod at the men. Perry stuck out his hand, withdrawing it again when it was ignored.

"And this…" Kal smiled, clasping the shoulder of the fourth man. "…is Mi of the House of Ke."

Lois' eyebrows rose. This 'man' looked as if he had just started to shave.

"Bia, Harp and Chil are all members of the Imperial Guard — and as such, are members of my house. But Mi is the youngest son of the House of Ke."

Lois tilted her head to the side, trying to understand. Obviously this was of significance to Kal. But… "I don't…"

"It indicates that the House of Ke, while unable to support us directly, are hoping we will win," Zara explained. "If Nor questions it, they will claim that Mi is in rebellion against his house. But it is a signal to us, especially given the fact that they sent their son and not a servant, that they are on our side."

"Okay," said Lois slowly. "So this is good?"

"Very good," Kal responded, giving Mi a large smile.

Lois nodded. She couldn't say she exactly understood. It seemed to her as if the House of Ke was trying to hedge its bets — making sure that no matter what happened, they would be protected. But, hey, it wasn't her world. "Well, then, I'm glad you're here, Mi."

"So am I, m'lady," Mi responded.

"My lady?" Lois shared an amused look with Perry. "You know, I could probably get used to that. But, seriously, my name is Lois."


Lois gave her head a shake. "But aren't you a little young to be fighting?"

"I am in my seventeenth year, m'lady," Mi responded, sounding slightly offended.

"On New Krypton, a boy becomes a man when he enters his sixteenth year."

"Oh, sorry," Lois responded. He still didn't look old enough to her. On the other hand, a Kryptonian with powers was still a Kryptonian with powers.

Kal turned towards the men then, his entire demeanor changing. Lois found herself suddenly thinking that he looked every bit the commander. He barked out some orders in Kryptonian to the men who, after a brief nod, turned and headed away.

"I sent Mi and Bia out for sentry duty," Kal explained. "In the meantime, I told Harp and Chil to get something to eat before getting some sleep. I will send them out to relieve Mi and Bia in about four hours."

"But they didn't take any guns," Perry said.

"Guns will not be very effective if Nor's men return," Kal said. "And we do not want them to accidentally shoot one of your people. No. They will just keep watch and give us as much notification as possible of any danger."

The conversation having come to an end, Lois drifted away. She could see by the look in Kal's eyes that he was hoping they could have a moment alone. But Lois wasn't ready for that. Not now. Not until she got some sort of grip on what she was thinking, feeling. Did being given permission by Kal's wife to be with him make a difference? She just didn't know anymore. Of course, none of that kept the fury from rising inside her every time she thought about how he'd never told her he had a wife before she… before they… She quickly pushed the images threatening to emerge to the back of her mind. No. Now was not the time to be thinking about these things.

In an effort to distract herself, she looked back at the door to the Daily Planet, seeing who else might have arrived. Mayson Drake was there, along with a few of her colleagues from their hiding place below the Court House. Lois had interacted briefly with Mayson a few times during the course of her career. She'd always seemed an honest, smart, dedicated woman and Lois was glad to see that she had survived — at least to date.

Still, Lois was getting impatient. The longer it took for all of them to get there, the longer it would take before they could begin working out the details of their attack on Nor.

"Lois! Thank god! You're all right."

Lois turned towards the sound of a familiar voice calling her name only to find herself unexpectedly lost in Dan Scardino's arms. As if there were no one else in the room, Lois' eyes instantly met Kal's over Dan's shoulder. She caught the look of devastation on Kal's face and quickly closed her eyes.

Dan. She'd almost forgot about him. Her boyfriend. Not that she'd had a lot of time to ponder things. Of course, that hadn't stopped her from obsessing about Kal. But, Dan… She allowed herself to wrap her arms around him, her hug and her relief that he was alive genuine.

"I've been imagining all sorts of things," Dan continued. He pulled back far enough to look in her eyes. "What happened to you? You disappeared even before all this happened. Where did you go?"

She could still feel Kal's eyes on her and was certain that he was listening to every word. She opened her mouth to respond, but… how was she supposed to respond? What was she supposed to tell him? Especially with Kal overhearing every word? She closed her mouth again. And then…

…without allowing herself an opportunity to think through her motives, she reached up, tangled a hand in Dan's hair and pulled his mouth down to hers. He didn't seem to object to her change of the subject, gathering her more tightly against him as he deepened the kiss.

"Okay, you two. Break it up," Perry growled. "We're about to start our strategy meeting."

Dan pulled back and looked at him. But Perry's eyes weren't on him. They were on Lois, definite disapproval in them, before he turned and walked away.

"What was that about?" asked Dan, as they headed towards the chairs that had been set up for that meeting.

"We'll talk later," Lois said, suddenly feeling more than a little bit guilty. Almost involuntarily, she took a quick look at Kal. The pain on his face as their eyes met brought her feet to a complete stop.

"Something wrong?" asked Dan.

"No. What could possibly be wrong? People dead. Kryptonians overrunning the Earth. Friends captured. Us stuck down here. What could possibly be wrong?" She met Dan's eyes then, seeing the confusion in them. "I'm fine," she said softly, resisting the urge to look back at Kal.


Kal couldn't believe the amount of pain he'd felt at seeing Lois in another man's arms. Was that what she had felt when she'd found out about Zara? If so, maybe he could understand why she'd been so upset with him. On the other hand, what did her kissing that other man mean? He was pretty sure he was meant to see it. He had hoped that, with time, he might actually be able to resolve things between them. But now… seeing her with that man… what hope was there that he and Lois could find a way to settle things between them?

His mind was diverted from its present confusion when the man who had been introduced to him as the Mayor of Metropolis stood up at the front of the assembled crowd. Kal quickly took a seat.

"If I could have everyone's attention, I suppose we should get on with it," said the Mayor, a short man with an imposing moustache and a somewhat nervous demeanor. "Now the first thing we need to do is to vote on a secretary, someone to take the minutes of this meeting so that afterwards there's a record of…"

As the man continued to speak, Kal shot a look at Perry, wondering exactly how this man had come to be in charge.

"Uhh… Mr. Mayor," Perry said when the Mayor paused in his speech.

Kal was amazed by how much more of a leader Perry seemed, even seated, than the Mayor did with his high, almost whiny voice.

"I recognize Perry White, Editor of the Daily Planet," the Mayor said.

"The reason I asked all of you to come here tonight was because we have… a plan for defeating these Kryptonians."

"Perry," the Mayor interrupted, "if you're suggesting we mount some kind of assault on the Kryptonians, I'm afraid I'm going to have to put a stop to that idea right now. Most of you are private citizens. You can't decide to declare war on a foreign power. Only the federal government can make such a decision. No. It's our job to try to figure out how to survive this until our military acts. Now the Daily Planet's suggestion of lead-based paint is…"

"The United States Military isn't going to act," Lois objected.

"Now that's where you're wrong, little lady," the Mayor said.

Kal didn't have to look to know that Lois was bristling in response to the condescending words and tone of the Mayor's voice.

"The United States military is the greatest military force the world has ever known and…"

"And they've been completely destroyed by Nor's forces. If we don't act, Nor is going to take over the country, the world," Lois continued.

"Haven't you been paying attention to what's going on out there?" Dan added. "These guys can't be hurt by our military. They can't be killed by our bullets. If Perry White has a plan to stop them, I say we listen."

There was a general mumble of agreement.

"Now, folks," the Mayor said in a patronizing, obviously meant to be placating, tone of voice, "let's just hang on here. This isn't a free for all, or a press conference," he added, directing the last phrase directly at Lois.

Kal's eyebrows rose. The man obviously knew Lois, making his reference to her as a 'little lady' all that much more of an insult.

"You'll all get your turn to speak," the Mayor continued. "But there are rules to follow."

The mumble of agreement turned into a grumble of discontent.

"I'd like to table a motion, Mr. Mayor."

Kal turned his head to see that Mayson Drake had spoken.

"Yes, Ms. Drake," the Mayor said, obviously delighted that someone was playing by the rules. "What's your motion?"

"I move that we elect Perry White to chair this meeting."

"Now hold on a minute…" the Mayor began.

"I second the motion," Henderson instantly added.

"Discussion?" Mayson asked.

"No," the Mayor said. "Now as the ranking civilian leader here, I'm in charge of this meeting and…"

"Okay, so who votes in favor of the motion?" Henderson asked.

Every hand rose, even those on the Mayor's staff. The only hands that weren't raised, other than that of the Mayor, were those of the Kryptonians, who were looking at the others as if they had all lost their minds.

"Those opposed?"

Only the Mayor raised his hand.

"Motion carried," Henderson said. "Perry, it's all yours."

"Thank you, Bill," Perry said, rising to his feet.

The contrast between the two men was startling. In charisma, in stature, in confidence, Perry White seemed to eclipse the Mayor. Perry kept his eyes on the Mayor for a long moment until the other man sank to his chair in defeat. Only Kal could catch the words mumbled under his breath… something about mutiny.

"Okay, so as I was saying," Perry said once he was satisfied that the Mayor had given up the floor, "we think we have a plan for defeating the Kryptonians. I'm going to hand the floor over to Kal of the House of El now to outline the plan for us."

Kal rose to his feet somewhat hesitantly. Given what he had just witnessed, a mutiny, Earth style, he realized that he couldn't simply outline the plan. These people had no reason to trust him — and given the power they collectively seemed to have, he realized that before they would even listen to his plan, he would have to win their trust.


Lois was somewhat nervous when Perry relinquished the floor to Kal. Although he was a big part of this plan, the idea might be better received coming from Perry. After all, Kal was Kryptonian. Surely there were some who would resent him as a result, making it less likely that they would even listen to what he had to say.

Her nervousness began to abate as she watched. He didn't instantly dive into the plan, simply expecting everyone to approve it without question — which was what she had feared. Instead, he began by giving them a reason to listen, a reason to trust him. And by watching his audience, she could tell he was making a positive impression. She was surprised by the sudden feeling of pride that welled up in her chest. He was a quick learner and, even if he still was a lying cheat, she couldn't help but find herself echoing Perry's sentiments earlier — she trusted him to get them through this.

After introducing himself and explaining to them why their fight was the same, he launched into his plan, outlining it succinctly, even filling in more details. Finally, he looked back to Perry.

"I think that about sums it up," Kal said. "Mr. White?"

Perry stood, looking at Kal in much the same way Lois knew she was.

"Thanks, Kal," he said.

Kal nodded and took a seat.

"Any questions?" Perry asked.

"Yes," Henderson said. "You said that we would be freeing the hostages during your duel with Lord Nor. Any ideas about how we're supposed to even get into the building?"

"I used to work as an aid to the Governor," Mayson said, "before I took the job with the D.A.'s office. There are tunnels under the legislature. They've been sealed off for years. I think they might even be lined with lead. But with a little Kryptonian help…" She smiled at Kal causing Lois to frown. "I think we could get in that way."

"Good," Perry said. "Anything else?"

"Yes," Henderson continued. "You mentioned weapons that were effective against these Kryptonians. Could you give us a bit more information?"

"Dr. Klein might be best to answer that," Perry said, surrendering the floor to Klein.

"Umm… yes," Klein said, nervous about addressing so many people at once. "Ms. Lane provided me with a rock that seems to emit a high level radiation. I call it kryptonite.." He continued on, explaining the weapons he'd managed to make. Bullets, knives, gas bombs. He went on to explain that he'd brought some samples, but that he'd rather not show them here — given the presence of their Kryptonian friends. His explanations and responses to questions were, at times, too technical for his audience to follow. As a result, when he mentioned that Lois and Cat had used these weapons, everyone immediately wanted Lois to explain their effectiveness.

Lois rose to her feet, telling the audience about their adventure earlier in the day — or actually, given the hour, the previous day. Lois was unaware that Pete, who still had not joined the others, was listening intently to every word. After all, everyone was listening intently, wanting assurances that these weapons of Dr. Klein's really would work.

Once everyone was satisfied that they had an effective arsenal, Perry suggested that they take a short break so that anyone who wanted to examine the weapons could do so. They decided that, in order to ensure that the Kryptonians in the room were not affected, those who wanted to see them should meet in the fallout shelter.

There was a new excitement as everyone rose to their feet during the break. It was as if hope had been reintroduced to the battle-weary crowd. People talked excitedly, discussing what they had heard. Lois slowly rose to her feet and stretched. The majority of people were heading towards the fallout shelter. Lois, however, given that she had already seen Klein's weapons, looked towards the small kitchen area where the Daily Planet staff, for the past number of days, had eaten. She was about to head in that direction when she noticed that Kal had beaten her to it. The last thing she wanted at the moment was to talk to Kal, so she sank back into her chair. Her heart began pumping harder when she noticed that Dan had joined him there.

Why wasn't he in the fallout shelter? He hadn't seen the weapons. What could he possibly want to talk to Kal about? And, more importantly, what would Kal tell him?


"Kal… It is Kal, right?" Dan Scardino asked.

"That is correct," Kal answered cautiously.

"We haven't met. I'm Agent Daniel Scardio. D.E.A. But please, call me Daniel."

"Daniel," Kal said, giving his head a small nod before turning towards the coffee machine.

What did this man want? He'd seen how Scardino had greeted Lois. In fact, if Kal knew Lois, he was fairly certain he was meant to see their greeting. So… what was Lois' relationship with this man? And, more importantly, what had she told him about them? Was he here to exact his revenge for Kal's violation of his… Well, she wasn't his wife. Of that he was fairly certain — given events. If only he'd taken more time to learn exactly how relationships between men and women worked on Earth. He doubted they included duels or retribution for having sex with another man's partner, considering Lois' reaction to him and Ching. But still… Perry's comments about what he would do if Kal hurt Lois told him that Lois' opinion of how things worked on Earth was not exactly… how things worked on Earth.

Still… although Perry had certainly threatened Kal and even though Kal had gone on to hurt Lois, Perry hadn't followed through on his threat. Was that an indication of how things worked here? Kal didn't know. Maybe the warning was as far as things went. Maybe it was simply talk.

"So.. you're from New Krypton," Scardino said, picking up a cookie.

"That is correct."

"So how did you come to hook up with Perry White?" Scardino took a bite of the cookie.

Kal's eyes darted to Lois who was watching them from the far side of the room. She immediately looked down. Okay, so that answered that question. Lois hadn't said anything to Scardino. So… how did Kal answer the question? His eyes returned to Scardino who was looking at him expectantly.

"I… uhh… I met up with this Earth woman." Officially, Kal had no reason to think that Scardino even knew Lois so maybe that would work. "She worked for the Daily Planet and… well, I was hurt and she helped me. So when, after Nor arrived, she came back here, I did too."

"You met an Earth woman. And she nursed you back to health," Scardino said, lowering his voice conspiratorially. He placed his hand over his heart dramatically. "Sounds like the beginnings of an epic love story to me."

Kal's heart skipped a beat. If only. "I doubt it," Kal responded, trying to affect a casual air. "Besides, I'm married."

"But if you hadn't been…?" Scardino responded, his grin widening. "Hey, what the wife don't know won't hurt her."

"Uhh.. that is not…"

"So what are you two talking about?" Lois asked, having gotten too nervous to remain on the far side of the room.

Kal let out a breath of relief. Surely Scardino would stop talking about this with Lois here.

"Kal was just telling me how he met an Earth woman and I was just suggesting that he go for it," Scardino said playfully even as he draped his arm around Lois's shoulders.

Lois almost choked on her own tongue.

"That is not…" Kal responded.

"Oh, come on. We're all friends here," Scardino said. "You can tell us. So… who was she — this woman that's haunting your dreams at night?"

"Uhh… Dan, quit teasing Kal," Lois responded nervously, hoping that was what he was doing — and that he hadn't sensed something. "He's not from here and might take it the wrong way."

"Hey, sorry, Kal. No harm intended."

"Umm… no problem," Kal said, looking everywhere but at the couple before him.

Lois was instantly struck with the stray thought that Kal should never play poker.

"If you will excuse me," Kal said. "I need to talk to…" His eyes swept the room, looking for someone he knew — anyone he knew. "Ching," he finally completed. Relieved, he headed quickly away from the kitchen area.

Dan turned to watch him go while Lois made a show of getting herself a cup of coffee, desperately trying to stop her hands from shaking.

"What do you know about this Kal guy?" Dan asked.

"I… uhh…" Maybe she shouldn't play poker anymore either.

"I just don't trust him. He's hiding something."

Lois swallowed hard before turning to face Dan. Normally… well, if there was anything that could be called normal about this situation… normally, she would probably just ignore Dan's last remark. But if he had come over here in an effort to find out for himself if they should be trusting Kal — after all, a big part of this plan required that they trust Kal — then she had to make sure he didn't convey his doubts to the others. That could ruin everything.

"Well, you were asking a complete stranger about his sex life. What did you expect?"

"Maybe, but…"

"Things undoubtedly work differently on New Krypton. Maybe men there don't brag about their conquests."

"All men brag about their conquests," Dan corrected.

"Oh, so if we were lovers, you'd talk about me." She regained confidence. A good offence was better than a bad defense.

"No, of course not."

"But you just said that all men brag about their conquests."

"I… I didn't mean me. I just meant…"

She raised her eyebrows, waiting for him to continue — although she hoped he wouldn't.

"Look…" He reached for her.

She reluctantly allowed him to pull her closer.

"Maybe you're right. Can we just forget this?"

She let out a breath of relief, even as the guilt inside increased. "Sure, but… About Kal…" What about Kal? Was she going to tell him? She quickly slapped that impulse down. Not here. Not now. Knowing Dan, it would lead to a scene. And that was the last thing they needed at the moment.

"What about Kal?"

"Uhh… I've had a few discussions with him," she said, congratulating herself on the fact that at least she wasn't lying about that. After all, an omission wasn't exactly a lie — was it? "I think we should trust him."

He studied her eyes carefully for a long moment and she fought the urge to look away. He wouldn't know anything by looking in her eyes. He couldn't.

"Okay," Dan finally said, pulling her to him for a quick kiss. "I might not exactly trust him. But I trust you. So if you say…"

"I do," Lois said, hoping desperately that this was the end of the conversation. She wasn't entirely sure how much more guilt she could stand. Dan trusted her. If Dan slept with another woman… She quickly pushed that thought aside. No. She would not think about this right now. She wouldn't.

Pulling away from Dan, she picked up her coffee cup and took a sip. She dared not look in Kal's direction, although she knew his eyes were on her.


Pete was frustrated. No one seemed to be paying him any attention, which was good. But he'd come into the fallout shelter hoping to steal one of the weapons. But Dr. Klein had only brought one of each of his various weapons. So how was Pete to take one without it being missed?

Spotting a clip full of bullets, he casually made his way in that direction without being too obvious. Picking it up, he turned it over in his hands as if examining it. Satisfied he wasn't being watched, he quickly clicked one of the bullets from inside and stuck it in his pocket.

His heart pounded and blood rushed through his veins while he waited to be let out of the shelter.



Kal glanced towards the door of the fallout shelter when it began to open. He felt a wave of dizziness as people began to emerge. Glancing inside, he saw Dr. Klein affixing the locks on the lead box. A moment later, the dizziness passed. Giving his head a slight shake, he headed back to his seat so that he could wait for the meeting to resume. He hoped he could avoid being cornered again by Scardino.

He rolled the name around in his mind. Lois of the House of Lane marrying into the House of Scardino. And the way these people seemed to introduce themselves, she would become Lois Scardino. Was she serious? How could she even think of getting involved with that man? She was meant for someone better. 'She's meant for you,' said a little voice in the back of his mind. 'Yeah, right. Like that's ever going to happen.' No. She'd made her feelings on that particular subject perfectly clear. But still… Scardino?

His eyes involuntarily drifted over to the man in question. His brightly colored shirt, not tucked into his scruffy jeans. His black leather jacket. Even the way he was slumped down in his chair, sprawled out as if he didn't have a bone in his body. What could she ever see in a man like that?

"Hey, scoot over."

Kal's attention was redirected to Lois as she took a seat beside Scardino. Scardino instantly sat up, giving her room to sit down next to him. Kal felt a lump in his stomach when Scardino's arm came to rest on the back of Lois' chair. Lois' eyes met Kal's briefly before looking away.

"Okay, everyone…" Perry's voice sounded out above the general conversation in the room. "…why don't you all take a seat so we can continue?"


Pete scurried through the darkened allies, his fingers resting on the precious object in his pocket. When he'd emerged from the room and seen Kal's reaction, he'd realized immediately that he couldn't stay there. He would only return when he was ready to make his move. And then… he would make sure Kal regretted Ralph's death for however long he might have left to live.

Fortunately, no one had been watching as he'd slipped out the door. His only challenge had been getting past the two goons outside, although the sudden wave of dizziness both had experienced had made that task relatively easy. He was actually pleased by his unexpected encounter with the Kryptonians. If their reactions were any indication, he did, indeed, have an effective weapon. Now all he needed was to make his way home so that he could get his gun.


"I have a question," Cat said when the meeting started up again.

"What is it, Cat?" Perry asked.

"Well… how are we going to notify Nor about this meeting? It's not as if we have working phones."

"Once Ching gets his powers," Kal responded, "I am going to have him fly around while communicating the challenge to Nor."

"So telepathy is something you only have when your superpowers are working?" asked Lois, slightly confused. She had thought it was something the Kryptonians could do even on New Krypton.

"No, it is something we can do even if we do not have the powers."

"Then I don't understand," Lois said, voicing the thoughts of the rest of the room's occupants. "Why does Ching have to wait until he has his powers to send this communication to Nor?"

"There are machines," Kal continued, "that can trace communications back to their origin. In order to prevent that from happening, Ching will have to keep moving."

"Then couldn't someone trace the communications being sent to the ships?" Henderson asked.

"They could. But it is not likely. First, you have to be aware that a transmission is coming in order to trace it. Second, the men sending the transmissions will be moving from spot to spot, like Ching. That should minimize the danger."

"There is one thing that I've been wondering about," Dan said. When Perry gave a nod, Dan continued. "Well, you said that our task will be to free the hostages — and then to enlist them in this battle."

"That's right," Perry said.

"So shouldn't someone tell them what's going on beforehand?" Dan asked. "Otherwise, when we get inside and find them, they won't know the plan. We could end up wasting a lot of time explaining things."

"I'm not sure that's going to be possible," Perry responded. "Sure, it would be great if we could let them know the plan before we go in, but… Well, hey, if anyone has some great idea here, I'm all ears."

"I'll go," Lois said.

"What?" Perry asked.

"Think about it. I let Nor capture me. He puts me in with the other hostages. I tell them what's going on."

"No!" Kal exclaimed, rising to his feet.

"We don't need to get this information to them badly enough to risk your life, Lois," Henderson said.

"Nor won't kill me," Lois objected. "He has to know that I was working with Kal. He'll be sure to keep me alive — as leverage. I'll be perfectly safe."

"You do not know that, Lois," Kal said.

"He might decide to barbeque you on the spot — just for kicks," Dan added.

"Why should you be the one to go?" Cat asked. "He knows who I am, too."

"No offence, Cat. You were great today. But I've got more experience at dangling over the jaws of death."

"But he was more interested in me."

"Just because you threw yourself at him."

"Well, it was more effective than your approach. Haven't you ever read that book 'How To Win Friends And Influence People'? I don't think…"

"Now, wait, wait, wait!" Perry interrupted. "Neither of you are going!"

"Is that an order, Perry?" Lois asked, danger flashing in her eyes.

"It is!" Perry growled, meeting her fire with fire. "You are both still employees of this paper. That makes me your boss. You remember the concept, don't you? I'm saying ix-nay to this idea."

"But, Perry…"

"I'm sorry, Lois. But this one is just too dangerous. If we really do need to get the information to the hostages, we'll find another way. Otherwise, we'll let them know what's going on when we go in there. In the meantime, I think we should move on to other issues."

Lois fumed as the discussion was directed to other topics. Dan. Henderson. Kal. Even Perry. What did they think she was anyway, some helpless female? Still, she said nothing more as a plan began to form in her mind.


The meeting had broken up and Lois was sitting on her mattress, putting on her shoes when Zara stuck her head in.

"Do you have a minute?" Zara asked.

"Just," Lois responded.

"Going somewhere?" Zara asked.

"Yes. I'm going to go with Dan. The plan's in place. So I'm not needed here at the moment."

"Dan? The man you were sitting next to during the meeting?"

"Uhh… yeah," Lois said, breaking eye contact with Zara.

Zara sighed.

"Look, before you start telling me again what a great guy Kal is and how I should…"

"Actually," Zara interrupted. "That is not what I wanted to say."

Lois looked up then, watching silently as Zara pulled the blanket closed behind her.

"Lois, I saw your expression when Kal and the others rejected your idea of letting Nor catch you. You are not… I mean, you are not thinking of doing something foolish, are you?"

"No. Of course not," Lois replied. After all, her plan wasn't foolish.

"Good," Zara said. "Because Nor would not have to kill you to make you wish you were dead."

"I'm not going to do something foolish, Zara. You can relax." She stood up and grabbed her jacket. "But tell me something…" Lois said as she zipped up her jacket. "Why didn't you raise this concern out there?"

"It was not my place," Zara responded.

"Wasn't your place," Lois repeated. "Why? Because you're a woman."

"Lois, things are different on New Krypton."

"But you're not on New Krypton now."

"I know that."

"Tell me. Do you have any other concerns about this plan — concerns that you didn't raise out there?"


Lois cocked her head to the side, waiting for Zara to continue.

"But… it is not a concern regarding you," Zara said. "Do not worry, I will raise it where it will do the most good." She turned, as if to leave when Lois stopped her.

"I have a question," Lois said. "Mi from the House of Ke… I'm not sure why you think his appearance here is such a good thing. It seems to me as if the House of Ke is just hedging their bets."

Zara smiled. "Exactly."

"Then I don't…"

"The House of Ke obviously still believes we might have a chance of winning. Otherwise, they would never have risked sending Mi," Zara explained. "And for the past thousand years, the House of Ke has produced some of our best strategists. It is a very good sign."

Lois thought about that for a moment. The House of Ke, which was known for its strategists, still thought Kal, Ching, Zara and no more than a handful of others still had a chance of beating Nor's forces. Zara was right. It said a lot about how the House of Ke regarded Kal's small, seemingly insignificant group. No wonder Kal and Zara had been so pleased.


Kal stood watching, feeling helpless to do anything to stop it when Lois slipped her arm through Scardino's just before the two of them made their way out of the Daily Planet. He'd watched in frustration as Perry had tried to talk her out of leaving. But she'd been right. The plan was in place. All that was necessary before implementing it was for Ching and the others to get their powers. So why shouldn't she stay with Scardino in the meantime?

Except… what he wouldn't give to spend these few remaining hours with her.

"I'm sorry, son," Perry said, giving Kal a pat on the back before heading away.

"Umm… Perry," Kal said, turning to look at the older man even as he forced thoughts of Lois to the back of his mind.

"What is it?"

"May I borrow your office?" he asked.

"Sure," Perry said, gesturing towards the office. "I'm going to grab a bite to eat anyway."


Kal sat down at Perry's desk and pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. By all rights, he should be writing this on the proper parchment and with sanctified charcoal. But under the circumstances, this was the best he could do. He thought for a moment before beginning to write, the familiar lines and squiggles he'd learned in childhood. Once he was finished, he looked over the document before affixing his signature and pressing his signet ring against the paper, leaving his mark. Rolling it up, he found some masking tape in Perry's desk. Removing it, he used it to ensure the scroll remained together and again used his signet ring on the masking tape, ensuring that it would be clear if it were opened. Wax would be preferable. But since that wasn't an option… He sighed. He just hoped this would accomplish what he needed it to accomplish.

Taking out another sheet of paper, he began, once again, to write, this time more slowly as he struggled with the unfamiliar alphabet. Once he'd finished, he dealt with it in the same manner as the first document.

He was just finishing up when the door opened slowly. He looked up to see Zara standing in the entranceway. He gestured her inside.

She looked at the two scrolls lying on the desk before meeting his eyes. "Do you not think it is time we talked?" she asked in Kryptonian.


Pete pushed open the door of the large warehouse, stepping carefully inside. Looters had obviously already been there, but hopefully, they wouldn't have taken the item he needed. He switched on a small flashlight as he made his way through the aisles until he found the one he was looking for.

Grabbing the role of lead foil tape, he pulled off a strip, wrapping it carefully around his gun clip before reloading the gun he'd retrieved from his one room apartment. He had to be careful. If that damn Kryptonian sensed the danger, his whole plan could be destroyed and Ralph's death would go unavenged. He would not allow that to happen.


As Lois, Dan and the rest of the group from the Federal Building neared their destination, Lois grabbed Dan's arm, holding him back as everyone else headed into the building.

"Lois?" Dan asked.

"I just… I think we need to talk," she said.

"Don't you think we should get inside first — where we're less likely to be spotted by Nor's men?"

Lois looked around. It seemed safe enough to her. "I… I just want to make sure we can talk privately," she said.

"Sounds serious," he responded, turning towards her.

She shifted slightly, unable to make eye contact.

He took her arm, directing her over to a park bench near the building, covered by shadows. They took a seat.

"So tell me what's wrong," Dan said, moving to put his arm around her shoulder.

Lois shifted away.

"Oh, oh," Dan said, lowering his arm. "This can't be good."

"I'm sorry, Dan," Lois said softly, keeping her gaze focused on her hands.

"You're breaking up with me, aren't you?"

Lois' failure to respond gave him his answer. He rose from the bench, turning away from her to stare out at the darkened city.

"It's not you…" Lois started to say, rising to her feet.

"Then who…" He spun around. "Is there someone else?"

Lois looked down. "As if…" she muttered softly. "No, Dan, I'm not involved with someone else. But…" she hesitated. "When I was away, I…"

"Who is he?" Dan demanded, not even having to hear the rest of what she had to say.

"It's not important. I'm not involved with him anymore."

He grabbed her upper arms, forcing her to meet his eyes. "Did you sleep with him?"

She immediately looked down.

He let her go. "For crying out loud, Lois, we've been dating exclusively for a couple months and I've barely got past second base. Is he why? Have you been involved with him all along?"

"It's not like that," Lois objected. "It just… happened."

"But you're not involved now?"

"No," she said softly, swallowing the sudden lump in her throat and wishing she could just get out of there.

"Then… Lois, we can get past this."

Her eyes again met his.

"Don't get me wrong. I don't understand. I'm mad. Furious. And yes, if I ever meet this guy I'll wring his neck. But I know we can get past this. So if you're breaking up with me because you expect that I'm going to break up with you…"

"Dan, don't do this. Please."

"Hey, I think I'm being pretty mature about this," Dan said.

"You are," Lois responded. "And I'm sorry, but… Dan, it's just not going to work for us."

"But you said this guy is out of your life."

"He is. There's no future there, but… I'm sorry, Dan. I know I owe you a better explanation. I just can't give you one." She let out a slow breath. "I'm sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen. I never meant to hurt you. You're a great guy. And some girl is going to be really lucky. It just can't be me." She began to head away.

"Hey, where are you going?" Dan asked, grabbing her arm.

"I'm going to go back to the Daily Planet."

"By yourself? Lois, it's not safe to be wandering around the streets of Metropolis — especially now. The sun will be up before you can get back to the Planet. I can't let you go out there on your own."

Lois gave him a sad smile. "I'll be fine, Dan. I'll jog. I'll be back long before it gets light and I could use the exercise." Before he could respond, she moved over to him, planting a light kiss on his cheek. "Bye, Dan." Turning around, she began jogging away, her heart racing. She hoped she could be out of sight before he realized what she was doing.

Once she turned her first corner, ensuring that he could no longer see her, she changed course, heading towards her true destination.


Zara closed the door behind her and took a seat across from Kal. "Why did you not tell them everything?" she asked softly, continuing to communicate in their native tongue on the off chance of someone overhearing them.

"I do not know what you are talking about," Kal responded, also speaking Kryptonian.

Zara looked at the scrolls on the desk between them. "So I guess I'm just imagining things then."

He spread out his hands as if he didn't understand.

"I know that understanding the politics, the intrigues of the court has never been your strong suit," Zara continued.

"I just never understood the point," Kal corrected. "If everyone does what is right for their people, it should all work out for the best in the end."

"Just like with the magistery…"

"Exactly. If two houses have a dispute and each retains an uninvolved counselor… Neither counselor knows where the truth lies, but if each presents his client's case competently, than the magistrate should be able to determine the truth of the matter."

"You still believe that, do you not?"

"With all my heart."

She nodded slowly, amazed that in some ways he'd manage to remain so innocent after all these years. He still believed, and that was what made this… Her eyes flicked down to the scrolls… so tragic.

"That is how I know what you are planning," she said. "I doubt even Ching has figured it out."

Kal tilted his head to the side, as if he didn't understand where she was going with this line of dialogue.

"You took an oath — to uphold the traditions of our people," Zara continued. "You could never violate that oath. And that is exactly what you would be doing if you dismantled the ruling houses of New Krypton. At the same time, you gave your word to Ching, and I have never known you to break your word. That can only mean…"

"Look, Zara, maybe some things are just better left unsaid."

"No, Kal. If this is our last conversation, then I have to know, for certain, that I understand."

He fell silent.

"If both you and Nor die in the duel, there will be no clear successor to the throne. I can think of… over a half dozen viable candidates." When he remained quiet, she continued. "So who have you named as regent while the issue is settled?"


She nodded slowly. "And since Trey has never taken the oath… Are you sure he will implement your wishes?"

Kal nodded. "I have spelled it out very clearly for him," he said, finally gesturing to one of the scrolls. "And I have never known him to go against my wishes — well, except when he sent me to Earth. But, yes, I trust him, especially since I want you to see that my will is read after the duel. With all of New Krypton knowing my final wishes, he will not dare go against them."

"And if the houses do not accept this? If they rebel?"

"It might happen," Kal conceded. "Some people might die. But as was pointed out to me earlier today, at least as many people will die if Nor is not defeated. And maybe change always comes with a price. But I really believe this will make our people stronger in the long run." He rose to his feet then, coming over to squat down beside her chair. "I would appoint Ching regent instead of Trey, but…"

"I know," Zara interrupted. "If you appoint a commoner to dismantle the ruling houses, you are guaranteeing a civil war. Trey is the better choice."

He nodded. "Still… listen to me. Keep Ching close. You will need him if this gets ugly. There is no better soldier on New Krypton than Ching. And I have no doubt that he would give his life for you. Trust him."

"Kal…" Tears began to well up in Zara's eyes.

He gave his head a shake, rising quickly and turning his back to Zara, reacting to the pain he had seen in her eyes. When he had himself under control, he turned back to her, picking up the scrolls. He handed the larger one to her. "This is my will," he said, placing it in her hands. "And this one…" He tenderly caressed the smaller of the two. "Would you do me one final favor?"


"Give this one to Lois after… Well, just after."

"I promise." Zara got to her feet, taking the scroll from him and placing both on the table before wrapping her arms around him. He responded, holding her close. "Do you want some company tonight?" she whispered.

Kal pulled back so that he could look into her eyes as he shook his head. "Be happy, Zara," he said softly. "And know that you were always a great wife to me. Always."

Her sad smile quite clearly said that she didn't agree, but that she adored him for saying it.


Zara was deep in thought as she headed towards the fallout shelter, giving a brief nod to Perry White, Bill Henderson and Dr. Klein who were seated in some chairs, talking quietly, as she passed by. She had to admit she was relieved Kal didn't want her company tonight. And not because of Ching. She was glad that Kal hadn't guessed and that her voice had remained steady as she'd made the offer. But after what had happened with Nor… she wasn't entirely sure she could ever be that close to another man again.

Ironic. If she had understood Kal correctly, and she was sure she had, he had given her his blessing to be with Ching. If his plan worked and the current houses were denied their power, that might even be possible. And yet here she was, wondering if she would be able to be intimate with anyone ever again.

Not that she wouldn't have been there for Kal tonight had he wanted her. She would have forced those memories of Nor to the back of her mind, or at least tried to keep Kal from guessing what she was feeling, in order to give him the comfort he needed. She was only glad it hadn't been necessary.

As she stepped into the shelter, she spotted Ching sitting on one of the mattresses. He looked at her, began to get up, but then settled back down when she gave him an almost imperceptible shake of her head. Even if it hadn't been for her experience with Nor, she wouldn't have wanted to be with Ching. Not tonight. Tonight she wanted to remember all the good times she'd had with her best friend.

As she settled onto a mattress on the far side of the room from Ching, she found herself thinking about how well she felt — at least physically. Not that all her injuries were healed. Still… she felt much better than she should. Too bad the powers one got from a yellow sun didn't heal the heart as easily as they healed the body. Pulling a blanket around her, she closed her eyes, allowing herself to remember better times with Kal.


Perry, Henderson and Dr. Klein looked up when the door opened, tensing slightly until Pete walked in.

"Where were you?" Perry asked without getting up.

Pete looked at him briefly before looking around the room.

Perry and Bill shared a look before looking back at Pete. Something was wrong here, but what?

The door to Perry's office opened and an exhausted Kal stepped outside, running a hand distractedly through his hair.

Bill noticed it first. He was on his feet, yelling 'No!' even as Pete withdrew his gun and fired it at Kal. The sound of the bullet echoed through the enclosed space as Henderson tackled Pete.

Kal's expression was one of shock before, grabbing at his chest, he fell, almost as if in slow motion, to the floor.


The sun was rising as Lois reached her destination. She leaned her back against a building, just out of sight of the legislative buildings, steading herself. She was right about this. Someone needed to tell the Daily Planet employees what was happening. Otherwise, they wouldn't be ready for the part they needed to play in this. And she was the logical choice — but for the fact that she was surrounded by overly protective men.

Taking a deep breath, she straightened up and stepped around the corner, walking towards the legislative buildings. Nor wouldn't kill her. She was too valuable to him alive. She had no doubt she could convince him of that fact. 'Nor wouldn't have to kill you to make you wish you were dead.' Zara's words unexpectedly flashed through her mind. She'd been too angry to hear them at the time. But suddenly their meaning sunk in.

What the hell was she doing? It wasn't even as if anyone knew she was here. This wasn't bravery, it was absolute insanity. She had to get out of here while she still could. Quickly turning around, she headed away.

"So what have we got here?" asked a grinning man in the black Kryptonian uniform as he blocked her retreat.

Lois swallowed hard. Too late. This time she really had gone too far. Damn that infernal tendency of hers to jump in without checking the water level first.



Ching sprang to his feet, fully awake, when the sound of the gunshot echoed through the room. Without waiting to figure out what was going on, he dashed into the adjoining room, coming to an abrupt halt when he saw a man he did not recognize being held down by Bill Henderson.

"What the Sam Hill did you do that for?" Perry White demanded.

"It's his fault!" the man on the floor shouted even as Henderson continued to restrain him. "It's his fault that Ralph is dead! Damn him! Damn him to hell!"

"It's Nor's fault!" Perry bellowed, heading aggressively towards the man on the floor.

Ching sprang forward, slightly surprised by how quickly he seemed able to get between Perry and the man on the floor. He did not understand what was going on. What had made the loud noise? And what was happening with the man on the floor? Still, he had the feeling that the man being restrained was in danger from Perry. But why?

He was just about to give voice to his questions when he heard a groan coming from a different corner of the room. Turning around, he suddenly spotted his lord lying on the floor. Forgetting instantly about Perry, he headed towards Kal. He stopped when he was hit by a shooting stab of pain. Not sure what was happening, he stumbled back.

Perry seemed to realize what was happening before Ching had a chance to evaluate the situation.

"Get out of here," Perry barked, giving Ching a slight push back towards the shelter even as he rushed over to Kal.

Ching stumbled back towards the entranceway to the fallout shelter. He watched Perry drop to his knees beside Kal as it finally sank in what must have happened.

"What is going on?"

Ching tensed when Zara appeared beside him, her hand landing gently on his back as she looked past him to see what was happening.

"By the spirits," she breathed when she saw Kal on the floor, and, suddenly, she was rushing past Ching.

He moved quickly, grabbing her and pulling her back.

"Let me go!" she yelled, pounding against the arms holding her.

"Kryptonite," he said.

It took a moment for the meaning of the word to sink in and then she went limp in his arms.

"No," she breathed.


"I am Udi. And you and I are about to get to know each other really well," the Kryptonian said, stepping closer to Lois.

He reached out, grabbing her around the waist and, quicker than she knew what was happening, pulled her against him, lowering his hot, wet lips to her neck.

"I don't think you want to do that," she said, trying to inject a confidence into her voice that she didn't feel even as she desperately tried to squirm out of his arms.

"Oh, I think I do want to do this," the Kryptonian responded, moving his hands inside her coat.

She yelped when his hand found a breast, fondling it roughly, painfully.

"Nor… I have to see Lord Nor," she said, her hands pushing frantically at his.

The Kryptonian laughed, not in the least affected by her struggle. "You can see Lord Nor all you want — after I am finished with you."

She was spun around so that he was holding her from behind. One hand on her breast, the other heading lower.

"No!" she exclaimed. "No! Please, no." The last phase was a plea as his hand began fumbling with the button on her jeans. She tried, quite ineffectively, to prevent him from undoing her jeans.

"Oh, yes. I think so."

She fought back, pounding, scratching, kicking, biting. But she was powerless to stop him. His teeth were nipping painfully at her neck. His hand on her breast was rough, leaving her with little doubt that she would have bruises. But for Lois, true terror came in a blinding rush when his hand slipped inside her jeans, hungrily pushing its way between her legs.

"Help, Kal!" she yelled at the top of her lungs. He was her only hope. She could only pray that somehow, someway, he would hear her.


"Son, can you hear me?"

Kal looked up through a fog of pain, trying to focus on the face of the man kneeling beside him. He looked… familiar somehow. But at the moment, he couldn't quite place him. He tried to move, but had to stop. Never had he known pain this intense. He was unable to move, unable to focus, unable to think.

"Okay, just relax," the familiar looking man continued.

Perry. Right. Perry. That was the man's name.

"Dr. Klein is going to try to get that bullet out of your shoulder."

Dr. Klein. Oh, right. The doctor that… He closed his eyes tightly, fighting off another wave of mind-numbing pain. The doctor that… Kryptonite. The doctor had shot him with kryptonite?

An anguished cry escaped his lips when he felt something sharp digging into his shoulder. Were they trying to kill him slowly? If only he could think straight.

"Let him die!" The yelled words were so full of rage that Kal was unable to tell if they had been screamed by a man or a woman.

"Get him out of here!" Perry exclaimed, looking somewhere over his shoulder.

"You're going to have to hold him down," Dr. Klein said. "I can't reach the bullet. I'm going to have to go deeper. And I need him to stay still."

Instantly, hands were holding him hard against the cold floor. Perry's hands. Someone else's hands… He couldn't see who the other man was. He tilted his head slightly to see Henderson leaning over him.

"Who's got Pete?" Perry asked.

"Ching," Henderson said. "Since he can't come over here, he took over for me so that I could help you."

"I'm glad you gentlemen didn't go back to your respective places tonight," Perry said.

The conversation faded into the background when a sound like Lois screaming his name echoed in his mind. She was in trouble. He didn't know how he knew it, but suddenly it was tearing at both his heart and his mind. "Lois," he begged, interrupting the conversation around him. "Have to get to Lois." He struggled against the hands holding him. He had to find her, to help her. She needed him. The world tilted and spun and suddenly blackness overtook him.


Lois stumbled forward when the Kryptonian's hands unexpectedly left her body. Kal had heard her. He had come. She was safe. Her overwhelming relief turned to confusion when she realized Kal was not there. So… what had prompted her tormentor to release her?

She took a step away from him, but his hands shot out again, this time grabbing the edges of her jacket to prevent her from fleeing.

"How do you know Kal?" he demanded.

Lois cocked her head to the side. So that was why he'd stopped molesting her. Kal.

"How?" he demanded again, this time giving her a slight shake. "Do you belong to Kal?"

She gave a bit of a start and was just about to object that she didn't 'belong' to any man when something in the Kryptonian's eyes stopped her. Fear. But… why fear? Kal wasn't there. Her call for his help had failed. So why… Suddenly, it hit her. He obviously was afraid that… "I belong to Kal," she confirmed.

He released her, stepping back further.

"That's right," Lois continued, a new confidence rose in her chest as her mind flashed back to Ching kneeling in front of Kal, offering his life as penance for sleeping with his wife. Maybe it wasn't just wives that prompted Kryptonian lords to kill. "I belong to Kal. Do you have any idea what he'll do to you if he finds out you were touching me?" She involuntarily shivered when her mind flashed back to where exactly he had been touching her. She quickly pushed the thought aside, forcing herself to focus on scaring the hell out of her would-be rapist.

The increased fear in this man's eyes told her she was succeeding. As long as he believed she belonged to Kal, she was safe — at least from him. Lord Nor, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter. After all, Zara had also belonged to Kal and Lois was well aware of what Nor did to her. Still, maybe she could avoid Lord Nor all together.

She took another step away from her abuser. "I'll tell you what. You let me go and I won't tell Kal that…"

"That is not how this is going to work," the Kryptonian said, reaching out to grab her again, this time respectfully holding onto her coat and being careful not to let his hands get anywhere near her body. "If you belong to Kal, then you need to come with me. Lord Nor will want to talk to you."

Damn! Okay, so maybe it was too much to hope that he'd let her go. But at least the immediate danger had passed. And for that… hell, she'd have claimed she was Nor's favorite concubine.


Kal regained consciousness with a start. He must have been moved while he was unconscious because he was now in the fallout shelter, lying on one of the mattresses. His hand instantly went to his shoulder, gently touching the white bandages. It still hurt, although the pain was far less intense than it had been before he'd lost consciousness.

"Hey, look who is awake."

Kal smiled when his eyes met Zara's. She was sitting next to his mattress, gently playing with his hand. Perry, Klein, Cat, Ching and Henderson instantly moved closer, surrounding his bed.

"What happened?" Kal asked, trying to fit the pieces of the last… Who knew how long? Minutes? Hours? …together in his mind.

"From what we've been able to figure out, Pete stole one of Dr. Klein's kryptonite bullets when everyone was examining the weapons in the shelter earlier. He got a gun and shot you," Perry said, filling him in. "Don't worry. We've got Pete restrained. Applegate is guarding him now."

"Pete?" Kal said, trying to place the name.

"The man who attacked you earlier. Ralph's friend."

Kal nodded slightly, remembering. "But…" Kal glanced around at everyone. "What about Lois? Is Lois all right?"

"Lois?" asked Henderson.

"Son, Lois went back with Dan Scardino to the federal building. Don't you remember?" Perry asked.

"No," Kal said, shaking his head as he attempted to hoist himself up on his arms. The pain was intense, but still he persisted, even when Henderson and Perry both put a hand on his shoulder to restrain him. "Lois. I heard Lois," Kal insisted, desperate to make them understand. "She is in trouble."

"I'm sure she's fine, son. Scardino will make sure nothing happens to her. She made her decision. You have to let her go."

Suddenly, the effort of struggling against the two men in his current condition was too much for Kal. He collapsed back onto the bed and closed his eyes. Maybe Perry was right. He stretched out with his mind for any indication that Lois was in danger, but found nothing. Maybe the terror he'd sensed before was nothing more than his need for her, combined with the fog and confusion that had followed him getting shot.

"Do you have any of your powers?" Dr. Klein asked, moving in to take Kal's pulse and check his wound.

Kal concentrated for a moment before shaking his head.

"Any idea when they might return?" asked Henderson. "Or if they will return?"

Again Kal simply shook his head.

"Well, that's it then," Henderson continued. "Your plan was predicated on the fact that you would fight Lord Nor in this challenge thing. I guess we have no choice but to delay until your powers…"

Henderson's voice was cut off by someone rushing into the room, breathing hard. Given what had recently transpired, everyone reacted, lunging at the intruder. It only took them a moment to realize they had overreacted.

"Quite a welcome," Dan Scardino said, taking Henderson's hand to help himself up off the floor while he tried to recover his breath.

"What are you doing here?" asked Perry. "I thought you were going back to the federal building."

"It's Lois…"

"What about Lois?" Kal demanded, instantly back on alert.

"She's gone," Scardino said.

"Gone!" Kal asked in disbelief. A sudden surge of adrenaline allowed him to scramble from the bed. "What do you mean 'gone'? How could she be 'gone'?" Each question was louder than the one before. "I knew it!" Kal said, not even bothering to grab his shirt as he rushed for the door to the shelter, hoping against hope that she'd be there, that she'd followed Scardino back to the Daily Planet. "I knew she was in trouble," he continued when she wasn't there.

"Wait a minute!" Dr. Klein objected. "You're not strong enough to…"

There was no need for him to complete his sentence because at that moment, the blood rushed from Kal's brain as a result of his sudden activity and he collapsed to the floor in a dead faint.


"How did you let this happen?" Kal demanded from his position back on his bed.

"Hey, don't blame me for this!" Scardino responded. "She said she was coming back here."

"And you believed her?" Kal exclaimed. "How could you have been so foolish? This is Lois Lane we are talking about. Did you really not know that she was likely to try something like this after we rejected her idea?"

"I'm no idiot, but she distracted me by hitting me with…" His voice trailed off. "And what is she to you?" he demanded. "You seem to be getting awfully worked up here for someone who barely knew her."

"She is a friend."

"A friend?" Scardino's eyes narrowed. "You're him, aren't you?"

"I do not know what you are talking about."

"You're the one she was telling me about before she took off, aren't you? She's the one who found you when you were injured?" He turned towards Zara. "Does your husband have any morals at all — or does he just see it as his right to sleep with any woman he wants!"

"Agent Scardino," Perry said, injecting as much authority into his voice as he could. "There's no point to this. What we need to do now is to figure out how to find her before she does something stupid."

"If she was intending to have Nor catch her, I suspect we're already too late for that," Henderson said. "What we need to do is figure out how to get her back."

Kal turned away from where he was still glaring at Scardino, forcing his anger down to get his mind to focus on the problem. Perry was right. There would be plenty of time for recriminations later. For now, Lois was in trouble. So where to begin? Assets. A lesson by Trey from years ago invaded Kal's mind. 'First, assess your assets.' "Ching, how are your powers coming along?"

"I… I am not sure, m'lord."

"Well, can you fly?" If he could fly, he might be able to get to the legislative buildings and get Lois back — assuming, of course, that she was not yet in Lord Nor's clutches.

"I am not sure how…"

"Just close your eyes and concentrate on floating."

Ching did for a moment before shaking his head when he couldn't seem to do it.

Kal growled. "Okay, what about x-ray vision? Give that a try."

After a moment, Ching shook his head. "The blanket flickered a bit but, no. I cannot see through it."

"So you cannot see into the legislative buildings to find out if she is even there," Kal said in frustration. He thought for a moment before continuing. "It seems to me that my powers developed at different rates of speed so… keep trying. What about speed? How fast can you run to the front door?"

Everyone gasped when Ching became a blur and, a moment later, was standing at the front door.

"Okay, so we have that," Kal said.

"But how does that help us?" Perry asked.

"Ching, I need you to transmit a message to Nor for me — and I need you to run as fast as you can while you do it so that they cannot trace you."

"Transmit?" asked Perry.

"I can send a telepathic message to Ching and he can forward it to Nor. My voice. My words. Only if it is traced, it will appear to come from wherever Ching is — keeping them from knowing that I do not have my powers or tracing it back here. But…" His voice trailed off for a moment. "We have to make our move as soon as Ching and the others have their powers — and the sooner the better."

"But how do you expect to beat Nor without your powers? You're the one who will have to fight him, after all," Henderson asked.

Kal let out a slow breath. "I think I might have an idea about that."


"So you belong to Kal, do you?" Lord Nor asked, an amused twinkle dancing in his eyes even as he gave a flick of his wrist, indicating without words that he wanted Udi to leave the room. The man gave a brief bow before hurrying to obey the unspoken command.

Lois didn't respond. Instead, she leveled her chin and looked Nor straight in the eye with what she hoped looked like utter contempt. The only other option was to let him see the fear tearing at her belly. He would love that. And that was why, no matter what happened, she was not going to let him see her fear.

Nor's eyes lost their amused twinkle even as his hand darted out, grabbing her chin in a painful grip. "So which one are you?" he asked, leaning in so that his breath was hot against her face. "Cat Grant or Lois Lane?"

"What's it matter to you?" She knew she was playing a dangerous game. Still, her only hope lay in two concepts. First, that he wouldn't kill her because she was too valuable to him if she was alive. And second, that she could be enough of a bother that he wouldn't want her. It was a long shot — but at the moment, it was the only one she had.

She worried that she'd gambled and lost when his hand tightened on her face. Then, with a grunt, he released her, giving her a small push. She landed on her butt. A man rushed forward, grabbing her and pulling her to her feet. His solid presence behind her made it impossible for her to back away.

"Do you have any idea exactly how unpleasant I could make your stay here?" Nor asked, moving in again so that he was only inches in front of her.

She subconsciously pushed herself harder against the man behind her, but didn't respond. She didn't dare let him hear her voice tremble.

Nor reached out to draw the back of his hand down the side of her face. She pushed it away.

"I belong to Kal," she said, not knowing what else to say that might stop him.

"You belong to Kal, do you?" Nor's expression became one of disgust. "Women, small children and furry household animals… How does Kal engender such loyalty?" he asked the man standing behind Lois.

"Because, unlike you, he's a decent man," Lois spat, slightly surprised to realize that she really did believe that.

His eyes returned to her. "And that is why the weak follow him."

"Weak…" The word settled in her mind. 'Women, small children and furry household animals.' Nor had been trying to insult Kal. Only the weak would follow such a leader.

"That is why Kal's time on New Krypton is finished," Nor continued. His eyes returned to the man holding her. "That is why I will win. Because…" He paused. "…I do not care how many people I have to destroy in the process."

Lois instantly believed him.

"He would not even condemn one to keep his kingdom — would not even sign the warrant for the death of his faithless wife. You… I will keep alive for precisely that reason. Kal's sense of honor will never allow him to leave you here with me. I might have miscalculated when he came for Zara." He grabbed Lois' chin again. "I won't make those mistakes with you. Kal is mine. And you will bring him to me. In the meantime… what do you say we have a little fun."

Her chin still in his grasp, she was unable to turn away when Nor's lips landed hard on hers.

And just as suddenly as he had kissed her, his head snapped up and he got a far away look on his face — a look that she was coming to know. Someone was communicating with him telepathically. Kal had come. Everything would be all right. Or… would it? Had she just given Nor exactly what he wanted?



Lord Nor knew the voice in his head. The 'former' First Lord of New Krypton. He glanced at Shem, silently mouthing the words 'trace this.' Shem nodded, closing his eyes to send the command to his men. Even if Kal wasn't going to come to him to collect his concubine, his need to protect her would be his downfall.

'Yes,' Nor answered, in a singsong-like voice.

'I believe you have something that belongs to me.'

Nor opened his eyes, allowing them to travel down the length of Lois' body, letting every bit of the lust he was feeling be transmitted through his connection with Kal. 'I might have something that did belong to you,' he responded. 'But it looks like she is about to trade up.'

Nor instantly felt anger come through the connection and smiled.

'It is me you want, not her,' Kal said.

'Actually,' Nor responded, 'I want both.'

The fury that answered his comment surprised him, jolted the smile off his face and subconsciously caused him to take a step back. Anger, he had expected. He'd intended to taunt Kal, keep him off balance. But… he instantly knew that he'd gone too far and for the first time in his life, he felt some small amount of fear towards Kal.

'You cannot have both,' Kal's voice growled. 'Now prove to me she is still alive.'

'Why should…' Something suddenly made him stop. He looked at Lois who was watching him intently. "Kal insists that I prove you are still alive."

"And how is that my problem?"

Nor's hand instantly darted out, grabbing the impudent woman.

A look of fear flashed through her eyes and then, confusion. A moment later, she seemed to come to a decision. "Tell him… tell him… hayloft."

Nor, somewhat skeptically, passed on the single word and instantly felt relief come through the connection. 'Okay, you know she is alive so here is the way this is going to work…'

'No! I am telling you how this is going to work!'

Nor was about to respond when again he stopped. The fury might have calmed somewhat, but there was something in Kal's tone that made Nor suddenly cautious. He'd believed Kal to be a weak man, propped up by an overindulgent aristocracy. Not someone to be taken seriously. But there was something… something new in Kal's tone of voice that made Nor hesitate.

'This has gone on long enough,' Kal continued. 'You and I are going to settle this the way it should have been settled back on New Krypton. The challenge.'

'Are you challenging me?'

'I think you have already made the challenge!'

Nor hesitated. Kal was good with the drei. And right now, Nor had the upper hand. Why would he compromise that by taking a chance on the challenge?

'Or are you too much of a coward to stand up to me face to face?' Kal asked when Nor didn't respond.

'You do not scare me,' Nor said.

'Good. Then the challenge it is.'

Nor opened his mouth to respond, but couldn't think of any way to get out of this without sounding like a coward himself.

'I will send Ching to meet with your man to work out the details,' Kal continued. 'In the meantime…'

Something in Kal's voice changed.

'…if you harm one hair on Lois Lane's head, I swear that the challenge will not be the worst of your problems. I do not care if you have Kir destroy the entire world, both worlds, I will make it my mission in life to find you and when I do, I will tear you limb from limb. I will be your greatest nightmare.'

Nor swallowed hard even as his eyes fell again on the woman in front of him. Never had he heard such controlled rage in another man's voice. And he did not for one minute doubt the sincerity of Kal's words.

'She is too plain for me anyway,' Nor said, making a sudden decision. She wasn't worth it. No woman was. Breaking his connection with Kal, he turned to address Shem.

"Any luck tracing the call?"

Shem closed his eyes for a minute, communicating with one of his men. "No, m'lord. He must have been moving the entire time."

Nor growled, turning away from them.

"What would you have me do with her, m'lord?"

Nor stopped, turning back to look again at Lois. "Put her with the others. And, Shem…"

"My lord?"

"Make sure no one as much as touches her. If she is hurt in any way, if she gets as much as a hangnail, I will hold you personally responsible. And trust me…" He grabbed onto the front of Shem's shirt and stared directly into his eyes to communicate exactly how serious he was. "…you will not like what happens then."

Releasing Shem and giving a flick of his wrist to dismiss them both, he turned and walked away, leaving a stunned Lois and Shem staring after him.


Lois was surprised when she found herself being escorted by a firm yet gentle hand on her arm, down a long hallway. She had no idea what had just happened. When Nor first got that far off look in his eyes, she'd been convinced that one of his men had spotted Kal coming to get her out. She had mixed feelings about that. Oh, yeah. She'd wanted to get away from Nor. And yes, she'd been terrified that she was in way, way over her head. But at the same time, there were two things that she hated about Kal coming to rescue her. First, it would give Nor a chance to kill him. And second, it wouldn't allow her to do what she'd come here to do — get a message to the hostages.

Not that it had looked as if she was going to get a chance to do that anyway. Nor's behavior made it only too clear that taking her to the other hostages was just about the furthest thing from his mind. Until that message…

Her second moment of confusion had come when Nor told her he needed to prove to Kal that she was alive. At first, she'd been defiant. But then it sank in just how ludicrous the demand was. If Kal was, indeed, on the other end of that telepathic message, which he must have been, then surely he could just do a quick fly-by to find out if she was alive. So why had he demanded proof?

Her final moment of confusion had come when not only had Nor told Shem to take her to be with the other hostages, but had also threatened Shem if any harm came to her. It made no sense. Unless… Unless something Kal had said scared Nor. Certainly, whatever had been said during that conversation had changed Nor's treatment of her. So… at least that was good.

Two men stood outside a large wooden door. They came to attention when Shem approached.

"Open the door," Shem ordered.

The doors were pushed open and Lois suddenly found herself staring at a host of familiar faces. She let out a breath of relief. They might be bruised and bloodied, but just the sight of them brought tears of happiness to her eyes. They were, for the most part, all okay.

"Make sure no harm comes to her," Shem commanded the men guarding the room. "If anything does, you will answer to me."

"But what if she tries something?" one of the men asked.

"Stop her. But do not hurt her. Not a single mark. Nor will take any violation of this order very, very personally."

With that, he gave her a slight push, sending her stumbling into the room, before the door was closed behind her.

"Lois," Alice said, rushing forward to embrace her husband's surrogate daughter. "They got you, too, did they?"

"Actually…" Lois began before stopping. Nor's men were just outside the door. So how was she supposed to communicate the plan without them overhearing? With a flash of inspiration, she knew what to do. "An-cay everyone-ay eak-spay ig-pay atin-lay?" she asked.

The occupants of the room smiled, wondering why they hadn't thought of it themselves. In a world overrun by Kryptonians with superhearing, it was the perfect way to communicate. Only someone growing up in an English-speaking country would know Pig Latin.


Ching was lost in thought as he made his way over to where Zara was sitting. He took a seat next to her, staring at where Kal was talking quietly with Henderson.

"Those two seem to be getting along pretty well," Zara said, making casual conversation.

"Hmm…" Ching responded.

"What?" Zara asked, turning to look at him for the first time.

"Huh? Oh, sorry. I was just… Zara, something is going on here. Something Lord Kal is not telling us."

"Why… Why do you say that?" Zara answered guardedly.

"Zara, what is going on here?" Ching asked, knowing instantly by her careful answer that she was holding something back.

She met his eyes then. "Ching, there is something I have to tell you," she said before proceeding to fill Ching in on the plan.

Ching listened emotionlessly. When Zara finished, he rose to his feet.

"Where are you going?" Zara asked, grabbing his arm. "If he had wanted you to know what he is planning, he would have told you himself."

Ching looked into her eyes for a long moment before responding. "Trust me, Zara. I have a plan, too."

Then, instead of going to speak to Kal, he surprised her by going to speak to Dr. Klein.



Ching stretched, coming slowly, almost regretfully, out of the warm cocoon of sleep. Without opening his eyes, he sat up.


He swore softly, opening his eyes when his head hit a hard surface above him. He stared at it for a moment before… What the…?

It took him a moment to realize what he'd hit. The ceiling. Glancing down, he gasped when he spotted his mattress a good seven feet below him. A moment later, he was tumbling to his mattress, hitting it with a soft thud.

Jumping up, he headed over to Zara's mattress, ignoring all the sleeping bodies around him.

"Zara," he whispered, gently shaking her shoulder.

Zara came awake with a start, her eyes showing terror as she focused on Ching.

"Zara, it is all right. It is just me."

Still, it seemed to take Zara a moment to recognize him. When she did, she quickly broke eye contact, obviously trying to keep him from seeing how badly he had scared her — or to realize the cause.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"Fine," she responded briskly. Then she looked up again, this time laying a hand over his. "I am fine," she repeated, this time her voice sounding much more reassuring. He suspected that she was trying to bury her emotions in an effort to reassure him. But the pounding of her heart told him she was anything but calm.

He looked at her for a long moment, trying to decide if he should follow up. He had no doubt that she'd been dreaming of Nor — or at least having some Nor-induced dreams. Still, she seemed not to want to talk about it.

"So…" She looked around, seeing the various sleeping people. "…why did you wake me? Is something wrong?"

He shook his head. "It is just…" He closed his eyes and concentrated, knowing that he'd succeeded in floating when Zara let out a startled gasp. He opened his eyes, allowing himself to fall to his position beside her once again. "Give it a try," he suggested.

"I arrived on Earth after you — and every ounce of strength I have has been going into fighting my injuries." She looked down at her arms, suddenly realizing her bruises were gone. She looked up at Ching. "My face?" she asked, knowing that her eye had still been severely bruised when she'd gone to sleep the night before.

"As beautiful as ever."

"No," she said in frustration, knowing that he'd say that even if she were hideously injured. "I want to know if the bruises are gone."

"Every single one," he responded.

"Really!" she said, her hands coming up to touch her face.

"So try floating," he encouraged.

She closed her eyes and concentrated as he had, but her butt remained firmly on the mattress. She shook her head.

"Okay, well, I am going to check out my other powers. And I am going to check with the other men, see if they have their powers yet."

Zara nodded, allowing herself to lie down again, just luxuriating in the fact that her bruises were gone. She suspected the knife wound in her chest was probably still there, but… at least the visible signs of Nor's abuse were fading fast. If this plan didn't work, if they didn't succeed in killing Nor, she was not going to allow him to take her alive. There was no way she was going to go through that again. She just hoped that Lois was all right.


Once it was determined that all the Kryptonians other than Kal and Zara had their powers — except for the fact that Mi didn't seem able to fly — it was decided that they would set their plan in motion. The first step was for Kal to send Ching to meet with Shem to set the rules for the challenge. They decided the challenge would take place at sunset.

Kal had to acknowledge that there were about a million things that could go wrong with this plan. On the other hand, it really was the only chance they had. Besides, there was Lois to consider. The longer they delayed, the more chance that Lois would suffer Zara's fate. He thought he'd given Nor reason not to touch Lois. In fact, he'd been convinced of that. Otherwise, injuries or not, superpowers or not, he'd have been hard pressed not to head over to the legislature buildings and tear through the walls with his bear hands trying to find her. And that, he had to admit, would have been disastrous.

"Okay," Kal asked, looking around at the others. "Before Ching meets with Shem, let us divide the teams up and make sure we all know what we will be doing — so that we do not miss anything. Henderson, I would like you to lead the group going in by the tunnels."

"I can do that," Bill Henderson replied. "Last night, Mayson Drake said she'd be able to provide us with a blueprint of the tunnels. I'll follow up on that. Also, we'll need one of the Kryptonians to bust through the barriers and… well, see around corners."

"You can take Mi. His strength and x-ray vision seem to be working. In fact, everything seems to be working… he just cannot fly."

"Fine," Henderson said. "Also, I need some communication devices. And I think we should have a base set up back here to coordinate things just in case it's necessary."

"I think it would be best if we only communicated using Morse Code — since the Kryptonians are less likely to understand a bunch of dots and dashes than they are human voices," Perry said.

"Okay, that means there have to be at least two people with Henderson's group, one person in my group, and one person back here who knows Morse Code," Kal said.

"I know Morse Code," Scardino said.

"So do I," said Perry.

"Me, too," Cat said, surprising everyone.

"So do I," Klein added.

"And I want to be in Henderson's group," Scardino added. When everyone looked at him, he continued. "If their first task is to rescue the hostages, then I've got to be with them."

"I'd be glad to have you," Henderson said.

"I'll go with you, too," Klein said. "There might be people with injuries among the hostages. I don't normally do clinical work. But I might be of some help making the injured ambulatory."

"Good. Then I'll go with the group serving as witnesses to the challenge," Perry said. "Cat can man the radio here."

"Actually," Kal said, "I would prefer that you stay here, Perry."

"If you're trying to bench me…"

"No, that is not it," Kal said, cutting him off. "But if things do fall apart, we are going to need someone here who might be able to quickly formulate a back-up plan. For example, once Henderson's group splits up, the group we are sending out immediately — the children, any injured, and anyone else who does not feel up to participating in the second part — we might have to improvise in order to get past whatever Kryptonians they have acting as guards. I would prefer that you be the one responsible for that."

"I assume you'll be leaving people with me to help with this back-up plan."


"Fine," Perry grumbled, obviously realizing that Kal was right, but not liking the idea of staying behind — especially when some of his people would be in harm's way, especially when his wife was also behind those walls. Still, if wild improvising was needed at the last moment, he was probably the best person for the job. "If possible, I'd like one of the Kryptonians to stay as well. After all, we might need someone who can move fast."

"I can give you Harp."

"Fine," Perry responded. "Also, I'll see what cars we can round up that still have gas. They might be helpful — especially if there are any serious injuries."

"So, Cat," Kal said, "I guess that means you are with me and my group. If you are okay with that."


"Now, the rules of the challenge are very clear. The number of people who are to observe will be limited to a fixed number on each side. So we have to decide how many people we need before Ching meets with Shem. I want Bia and Chil outside the legislative buildings after they send the message to the ships, just in case a Kryptonian or two decides to try to flee after Nor is defeated."

There was a general noise of approval. No one wanted a few odd Kryptonians left behind if they did defeat Nor.

"Ching, I would like you there with me," Kal said. "We need at least one superpowered individual with us. And they will likely be suspicious that we have something up our sleeves if you are not there. They do not know about Bia, Chil, Harp or Mi. But they know that you are here."

"Yes, m'lord."

"Also, they will think I have my powers, at least at first, so that should help."

"I will go with you, too."

Kal's eyebrows rose. Zara never spoke up at these types of meetings. Not that she didn't let him know her position afterwards. But this was something new. And that comment had sounded more like a demand than a request. "Zara…"

"I need to be there, Kal."

He studied her for a long moment. She didn't have the powers the rest of the Kryptonians did — and she'd only recently been seriously hurt by Nor. His instincts told him to protect her.

"Cat's going. And for all they know, I have these powers, too," Zara continued. "So that might be of some use. Besides, I need to be there, Kal."

He let out a slow breath before nodding. Cat was going. Lois was already inside. So if Zara felt she needed to be there, he would support her. Besides, the people of New Krypton would likely take the reading of his will better if she did it. If there was one thing of which he was certain, it was that in spite of everything, the people liked her. It had always made him proud.

"Okay, well, I think that should be all. The fewer people we have, the fewer people they will be able to have attend the challenge. And since we know that all of their witnesses will have superpowers, it is best to keep their numbers to a minimum. So… is there anything else we need to discuss?"

"Yes," Zara said, surprising Kal a second time. "We need to make sure that the proceedings will be broadcast on New Krypton."

"And Earth," Perry, always the newspaperman, said, spotting an opportunity when he heard it. "Last I heard, Nor was holding on to a couple of cameramen from LNN — for those times when he has wanted to address the Earth. Ching, when you meet with this Shem guy, make sure that they will be able to broadcast the challenge for Earth."

Ching looked briefly at Kal, who nodded his approval. "Yes, m'lord," Ching responded.

"Also," Perry added. "I'd like to get some pictures for the Planet. Cat, would you be prepared to take a camera?"


"Just make sure it doesn't interfere with your responsibility to transmit messages," Henderson said. "The important thing is for all of us to get out of there alive."

There seemed to be general agreement among everyone present. Satisfied that everything had been covered, Kal instructed Ching to set up a meeting with Shem.


"It's Cat, is it not?"

Cat turned at the sound of Ching's voice. Her eyes slid down his body and a grin quirked at the corner of her lips. "That's right. And you're Ching, right?" She offered him her hand, held palm down in front of him.

He nodded, looking briefly at her hand.

"Could I speak to you privately for a moment?" he asked.

Curious now, she gestured towards a more private section of the room. Once they were basically alone, he glanced around before removing something she recognized from inside his coat.

"In addition to any other weapons you are going to take, I would like you to take this."

"A Kryptonite gas bomb? Sure. But… won't it hurt you, Kal and Zara if I actually use it?"

"Yes. And that is why I want this to be the only gas bomb we take into the challenge. And please, do not use it, no matter what happens, unless I ask you to."

She narrowed her eyes.

"Please, m'lady," Ching said. "I cannot explain all of this to you. I just ask that you do this for me."

She looked at the gas bomb for a moment before shrugging. She supposed she could do that. Besides… who could resist a good-looking man who called her 'm'lady'? "I have a small backpack I could take. I could stick it in there. After all, I'll have the radio and the camera, too. As for my own protection, I'm intending to take one of those kryptonite knives — in a sheath, of course, so that Nor and his men don't sense it."

"Thank you, m'lady."


"Are you sure?" Nor asked, looking quizzically at Shem.

"Yes, m'lord. They have been talking nonsense for most of the night."

Nor narrowed his eyes. "Show me," he said.

A moment later a holographic image of the room holding the hostages appeared.

"Or-nay is-ay azy-cray if-ay e-hay oesn't-day ow-knay at-thay e-way ill-way ight-fay ack-bay," a young man was saying.

"I-ay on't-day ink-thay or-nay is-ay e-thay ightest-bray ight-lay on-ay e-thay istmas-chray ee-tray," another man responded.

Nor waved his hand, causing the scene to disappear. "Have you checked Earth languages? Could they be speaking a different language."

"I did, m'lord," Shem answered. "And it is not an Earth language."

"And all of them are talking this way?"

"Most of them — at least some of the time. They intersperse it with English. Should we check it out?"

Nor shrugged. "There is nothing to check out. Fear has made them lose their minds."

"But so many of them…"

"One person loses his mind, it is like a plague. The weak-minded are like that. All that much better for us, though."

"How so, m'lord?"

"If they have gone crazy, they are not going to be giving us any serious trouble, now are they?"

"No, m'lord."

Just then Shem tilted his head and closed his eyes.

"What?" Nor demanded when he opened them again.

"Ching just contacted me. He wants to meet with me to discuss the terms of the challenge."




Shem smirked at the man holding him, his arm across Shem's throat, against the wall.

"Do you know how easily I could kill you?" Ching asked, his eyes flashing dangerously. "Even with your powers… I am sure a simple blast of heat vision would do the trick. And if you say another word about Zara…"

Shem's smirk increased. He knew that calling Zara a common whore would put Ching off balance. And, apparently, it had worked.

"Your master would not appreciate you killing me. After all, we are supposed to be negotiating the terms of the challenge."

"My master would forgive me." Still, Ching stepped back, allowing Shem to drop unceremoniously to the floor.

"Uhh… Just like he forgave you for making him a cuckold?"

Ching narrowed his eyes.

"I must admit, I am surprised to see you here — back with him. Or… could it be the Lady Zara you are back for?"

"You son of a weak-minded beggar."

"Temper, temper. But tell me… has Lord Kal really forgiven you… or does he just need you?"

"If I were not certain that by the time this night is over, you would be on your hands and knees begging for mercy from my lord, I would…"

"You are the one who will be begging for mercy, Ching. And it will not matter who wins. Lord Kal might need you now, but when this is over, he will turn on you. Do not let a woman lead you down the path to destruction. Join us, now. My master will make sure you are adequately compensated."

"I would rather suffer death at the hands of Lord Kal than glory at the hands of that monster you serve."

Shem gave an overly dramatic shrug. "Very well. It is your decision. And if you're willing to give it all up because of some common whore… Sorry," he said immediately when Ching's eyes flashed again. "Just forget I said anything. So… Let's get down to business."

For the next few minutes, details of the challenge were hammered out. Both agreed that Earth and New Krypton should see the entire fight by use of the vid-screens and cameras. Any discussion during the fight would take place in English since vid-screens had instantaneous translation — and both agreed that the people of Earth as well as those of New Krypton should know and understand what was happening.

Both also agreed that their troops should be kept in their barracks until the fight was over. There would be three witnesses from each side at the challenge. Ching had managed to get Shem to agree to their number by appearing to compromise on where the challenge would take place.

Ching suggested they hold the challenge at the Metropolis stadium. Shem disagreed. It would be easier to set up the large room in the legislative buildings to send out the signal to the vid-screens. Ching pretended to succumb to the request for a venue. After all, since there were tunnels under the legislative buildings, and they couldn't know if Nor would bring the hostages to any new venue, the legislative building was the best choice.

The challenge would be to the death — as was the custom. And the loser's will would secede every possession and ally they had to the other.

Finally, it was agreed that the challenge would take place two hours after sunset on that very night. The business finally concluded, the two men wrote out the terms and each affixed his name on behalf of his master. And then, finally, they took their leave.


"How did it go?" asked Nor when Shem returned.

Shem handed him the official terms of the challenge.

Nor opened the scroll and examined it for a moment before looking back at Shem. "And Ching… Is he really back with Kal?"

"Yes, m'lord. It appears he is."

"Any luck at convincing him to abandon Kal and join us?"

Shem shook his head.

Nor growled. "Ching is the best soldier Krypton has seen in at least a couple generations. The smartest thing Kal ever did was making him Chief of the Imperial Guard. He just should have kept him away from his wife."

Shem chuckled.

Nor lapsed into silence for a long moment as he looked out the window at the darkened city. "Ching could be the wild card here. We need him to join us — or at least betray Kal. Surely with everything that has happened, there must be some rift between Kal and Ching that we could exploit to turn him."

"I think he might have his doubts about Kal. But the man remains disgustingly loyal to Zara. If you could promise to give Zara to him…"

"Never!" Nor exclaimed. "I need Zara to consolidate my power. And Ching knows that. There is no way I could ever get him to believe that I would give her to him."

"You do not have to," Shem said. "He knows you need to marry Zara. But what you could do is promise that after the marriage, you will send her into seclusion and make him head of her honor guard."

"No! I intend to tame that little she-devil. And I will not…"

"You do not have to follow through on your promise. Just make the promise. He must be aware that our chances of winning this battle are far better than Kal's. If he really cares about Zara, I think he will take the deal. It is, after all, the only real chance he has of saving her."

Nor studied Shem for a long moment before a smile began making its way across his face. "Make the offer."


Ching headed towards his mattress after giving his report regarding his meeting with Shem. He figured he could do with a couple hours of rest before heading into battle. He rolled his eyes. He didn't need rest. What he needed was some privacy — he needed to think.

As much as he hated to admit it, some of Shem's comments were really bothering him. Why had Kal forgiven him — or had he? One minute, Kal had been attacking him for betraying him and the next he was being allowed in to Zara's bedroom. Was Shem right? Was the only reason Kal had 'forgiven' him because he needed his expertise? And would he, if Kal won, find himself on the receiving end of Kal's anger?

And worse… had Kal really forgiven Zara? What if his forgiveness of Zara was just an act, too? Rescuing her from Nor might have been nothing more than determination to keep Nor from having something Kal believed belonged to him.

He leaned back on his mattress and closed his eyes. He might be an expert on warfare and strategy, but he'd never been much for understanding the politics of things.

Perhaps he should ask Zara. No. If he knew Zara at all, she would defend Kal with her dying breath. This was one question he was going to have to answer for himself.


Ching recognized the voice in his head immediately. He'd last heard it only a short time ago. He found it odd that Shem would contact him so openly. On the other hand, it wasn't as if Kal had any of the equipment necessary for overhearing or recording such communications. Then again … maybe this was a trap, an attempt to engage him in dialogue so that Shem could trace the conversation back.

Getting up, he headed through the Daily Planet.

"Where are you going?" Zara asked when she saw him heading for the door.

"I think I should exercise my powers — make sure they are in top shape for tonight," he said, giving her a quick smile before heading out the door, leaving her frowning after him.

'What do you want, Shem?' he asked telepathically after he took to the air. 'Do you have another insult against Zara that you forgot to make earlier?'

'I should not have done that. I just hate to see a man of your abilities throwing everything away over a woman.'

'So glad to know you care,' Ching responded sarcastically. 'Are we supposed to be friends now?'

'I will probably never like you. And I have no doubt you will never like me, but… you do care about Lady Zara.'

'What is that to you?'

'If you help us bring Kal to justice, Lord Nor will…'

'What? Give me more riches than I can spend in a lifetime?'

'No. He will spare Lady Zara.'

Ching hesitated. 'I do not believe you. Nor needs Zara. She is the one person who can make his rule seem legitimate.'

'You are right. He needs to marry her.'

'Then we have nothing to talk about. Your lord is a monster. I will do everything in my power to keep her from falling into his hands ever again.'

'I think there is a way for you both to get what you want.'

'Really? And what is that?'

'He will marry her. But he will not consummate the marriage.'

'Right,' Ching said sarcastically.

'Instead, he will send her into seclusion. And he will make you the chief of her honor guard. She might need to make the odd public appearance with him, but other than that… she will be all yours. Think about it, Ching. Lady Zara despises Lord Nor. Why would he want to keep her around?'

When Ching didn't respond, Shem continued. 'You can save her, Ching. Lord Nor wants you to help him. And when Lord Nor does not get what he wants… Well, let us just say I fear that Lord Nor will take out his anger on Lady Zara if you reject this offer and he wins.'

Ching silently thought about Shem's comments for a long moment. 'You have a deal,' he finally said before slamming closed their telepathic connection, nausea filling his stomach.


The doors to the room where the hostages were being held were suddenly flung open and Shem, flanked by two other Kryptonian guards, entered. They stood in the entranceway for a long moment before Shem's eyes met Lois'.

"Her," Shem said before turning and walking back outside.

The two guards made their way through the crowd, grabbing Lois' arms and dragging her to her feet.

"Leave her alone!" Jimmy said.

"Don't touch her!" Alice exclaimed when the guards began pulling her towards the entrance.

"It will be okay," Lois tried to reassure them, not entirely certain she believed it herself. Still, it wasn't as if there was anything to be done but to accompany these men wherever they were taking her. She only hoped that Nor hadn't decided to finish what he'd started when she'd first arrived. "Where are we going?" she asked as she was escorted down the hallway.

Her guards remained infuriatingly silent.


"Zara?" Kal asked, gesturing for her to follow him. When they had some privacy he continued. "I have made some changes to my original will." He handed her the new scroll.

"What is…?"

"There were just… Well, a few small changes I needed to make."

Zara looked at the scroll for a long moment before looking back into his eyes. There was something he wasn't telling her — and by the look on his face, had no intention of telling her. After a moment, she nodded. She knew him well enough to know that whatever changes he had made, he was intending to keep them to himself for the time being.



The series of dots and dashes coming over Perry's radio quickly informed those gathered around that the group led by Henderson was now safely in the tunnels and were just waiting for word to go in to rescue the hostages.

Kal nodded at Ching. "Give the signal to Bia and Chil to send the message to our people on the ship to make their move. And then meet us near the legislative buildings when you hear whether or not they were successful. We cannot move until we know that the ships are secure."

"Yes, m'lord," Ching said before, with a small bow, heading out the door.

Kal turned to Zara. "Are you certain you want to do this?" he asked.

"I am, m'lord," she responded.

He nodded before turning to Perry, offering the older man his hand.

"Good luck," Perry said, firmly shaking Kal's hand.

"Thank you, Perry," Kal responded before he, Zara and Cat headed out of the Daily Planet.


"Okay, here's the plan," Henderson said. "Once we rescue the hostages, Dr. Klein, you and Mi will be the ones to lead the injured, and the young and anyone else who wants to leave out of the building."

"Would not I be of more use to you in there?" asked Mi.

Henderson shook his head. "There are children among the hostages. You are the best equipped to see that they don't run into any of Nor's forces on the way out. And Dr. Klein… you'll be with them.

"Agent Scardino, as our other expert in Morse Code, I'd like you to be the one to stay with those of us responsible for making sure that Nor's men stay in their barracks."

"No problem," Scardino replied. "Although, I have to tell you that I'm going to make sure Lois is with the group that's leaving."

Henderson looked at Scardino, eyebrows raised, but didn't respond. He suspected Lois was going to do whatever Lois was going to do regardless of Scardino's wishes. He only hoped Scardino was wise enough to back off when she refused to leave. On the other hand, given what had happened when Zara had been in Nor's clutches, she might not be in any condition to help. Still… he pushed that thought to the side. The last thing he needed to do at the moment was to think about Lois being hurt in such a way.

He looked around at his motley crew. They were checking their weapons — both the ones they intended to use and the ones they were bringing to give to the hostages who would be joining them. They all looked scared, but determined, and Henderson felt a rush of pride. It was an honor, no matter what happened, to lead such people — willing to go up against overwhelming odds. Never had he been quite so proud to be human.

Just then a series of dots and dashes could be heard coming in over both Dr. Klein's and Dan Scardino's radios. Time to move.


Where exactly was she? Lois pounded against the walls of the heavy glass of the cage she was in. She knew, of course, that she was in the legislative chambers, now devoid of any desks or chairs — except for the big one at the head of the room which she suspected Nor was using for a throne. What she didn't know was how this glass cage had come to be there. Obviously, the Kryptonians had built it. But why? Maybe they intended to use her as leverage if the challenge did not go Nor's way. On the other hand, she suspected she would have a front row seat to the challenge, given the fact that a large stage had been set up in the middle of the room. She supposed she would just have to play this by ear.


Kal and his three witnesses, Cat, Zara and Ching, walked up to the front doors of the legislative building. The doors opened as they approached. Kal recognized Ran immediately.

"Lord Nor is ready for you," Ran said as he escorted them inside.

"I trust this is being broadcast to both New Krypton and Earth," Kal said as they stepped inside the legislative chamber.

"Yes, m'lord," Ran responded, pointing to the vid-transmitters that had been set up around the room.

Kal looked over at Ching who was studying the transmitters. When he caught Kal's eye, he nodded. "Good. What about Earth?"

Ran gestured to two men in the corner, dirty, obviously terrified, but still operating their cameras — the same cameras that had been used to get Nor's messages out to the world.

Kal smiled, but that smile turned to a frown when he spotted a glass room — or perhaps a cage was a more accurate description — on the far side of the room. And inside…

"What is the meaning of this?" Kal demanded, pointing towards Lois.

"I thought she might want to see the proceedings," Nor said unapologetically as he floated into the room to land in front of Kal.

"This is not proper," Kal hissed. "You have Ran and Shem and…" He looked at the third man. He looked familiar, but the name escaped Kal. "You have your three witnesses. She should not be here."

"She is in a different room. And as you can see, she has not been touched. But…" Nor leaned closer to Kal. "When I kill you, I want her to have a front row seat. After all, the loser's property goes to the winner," Nor responded, making it very clear what he intended to do next.

Kal bristled but didn't respond, relieved at Nor's comment that Lois hadn't been touched.

"And so nice to see you again, my lady," Nor continued, directing his attention to Zara. "Although, I must admit that I am a bit surprised you had the nerve to come. So what do you think? Should we conduct the Ceremony of Union as soon as your husband is dead? After all, I am sure you are as anxious as I am to end this silly civil war."

"I just came to watch 'my husband' kill you," Zara responded.

Nor began to reach for her, stopping only when Ching took a small step forward.

"Uhh… but, yes," Nor said, his eyes meeting Ching's. "We have a deal, do we not? Time to prove where your loyalties lie."

Without missing a beat, Ching turned, grabbed Kal and propelled him unceremoniously to the glass cage on the far side of the room, grabbing the kryptonite gas bomb from Cat on his way by.

"What are you doing?" Zara demanded, her eyes wide with shock.

"Saving you," Ching responded, opening the door to the cage and pushing Kal inside.

"I am sorry, m'lord. But it is the only way," Ching said before stepping back, throwing the kryptonite gas bomb into the room and closing the door.

Lois rushed at Ching and the open doorway, but was easily pushed back. Turning around, her eyes settled on Kal as the kryptonite gas began to rise around him. He looked startled for a moment, as if unable to believe this was actually happening, before practically collapsing into Lois' arms.


Mi looked through the corner and stopped. Turning back to Henderson, he held up four fingers.

Henderson nodded. Four Kryptonians were guarding the room. He gestured to Mi to step back. If the information Mi had given them was accurate, then the majority of the Kryptonians were still in their barracks — except for those in the legislative chambers and the four outside the door to this room.

Removing a kryptonite gas bomb from his belt, he took a deep breath, doing a backward count from three before stepping around the corner and throwing the gas bomb before disappearing back behind the corner.

"What the…" The Kryptonian who noticed the broken bottle first had his comment cut off by coughing.

Henderson glanced at his watch. If someone yelled out, the Kryptonians still in their barracks might be summoned. Five seconds. The coughing continued. Ten seconds. Fifteen seconds. Eighteen seconds. Silence. Henderson looked at Mi and pointed at his eyes before indicating the wall separating them from the Kryptonians.

Mi nodded and looked back towards the corner. "They are down," he whispered.

Henderson nodded, still he waited another ten seconds before stepping around the corner, his gun with the kryptonite bullets raised. He inched slowly forward, nudging the first body with his foot. Finally satisfied that all four of the Kryptonians were unconscious he turned his attention to the door.

Mi had indicated that no Kryptonians were inside. Still, the only difference in appearance between a Kryptonian and a human was their choice in clothing. And surely Mi wouldn't know all the Kryptonians whom Nor might have with him. Taking one final look at his gun, he placed his free hand on the doorknob took a deep breath and turned, pushing the door open and raising his gun as he looked into the room.

Every face in the room looked up at him from where people were sitting on the floor. Henderson quickly stepped inside followed by Scardino.

"Everyone okay?" Henderson asked, his eyes continuing to search the room.

"There are no Kryptonians in here, Inspector," Alice said, rising to her feet. "But…" She gestured over to a dead body lying at the side of the room. "…we have suffered a number of injuries and one fatality. Skip — the son of a friend of mine from college."

"Where's Lois?" Scardino asked.

"They came and took her about an hour ago," Alice explained as everyone began rising to their feet. "But she told us what's going on."

"Okay, then those who are leaving now, go with Dr. Klein. The rest of you…" More of the men and women from the rescue team stepped into the room. "…we have some weapons for you."


Lois grabbed Kal, holding him as he knelt on the floor, coughing uncontrollably. When he couldn't answer, she began waving her arms wildly, trying to make the green gas disperse.

"Kal, please," she begged, her heart in her throat. He couldn't die. He just couldn't. She had to know that he was all right, that he still had enough of his powers to get them out of there. "Don't do this to me. Come on. Fight it."

He looked up at her, giving her the impression that he was trying to do as she asked. But that ended the moment his coughing fit resumed.

When the gas refused to scatter, she jumped back to her feet, rushing the door, trying to push it open. It remained solid. She continued throwing her shoulder against it even as her eyes focused on the activity taking place in the room beyond.


"You betrayed me!" Zara yelled, throwing herself at Ching with every ounce of energy she possessed. Nor's men stepped forward, ready to assist Ching, stopping again when it became obvious that Zara's attack was having no effect.

"I saved you!" Ching yelled back, grabbing her arms firmly before pushing her away from him.

"He is correct, m'lady," Nor said, giving a majestic bow. "I agreed to spare you if he agreed to betray Kal for me."

"And you believed this son of a weak-minded beggar?" Zara asked in disbelief. "Shing ashta, ramn," she spat, noting the shocked look on Ching's face as a result of her strong language. She didn't care. She had never felt so hurt, so angry or so betrayed. When he didn't respond, the fury continued to rise in her chest. "You killed us," she hissed. "Just as surely as you killed Kal."

"Zara, please. I did what I had to do."

"And now I will do what I have to do," Zara threatened, even as her eyes welled up with tears.

The confrontation between Ching and Zara was delayed by Nor's whole-hearted laugh. He had left them to jump up on the dueling platform.

"Is it not touching?" he asked rhetorically even as he looked around the room, obviously turning his attention to addressing those watching on New Krypton. "Look at our esteemed First Lord…" He gestured towards the glass enclosure where Lois was again leaning over Kal, gently wiping his face as he lay, curled in the fetal position on the floor. "He was betrayed by his right hand man. Not once, but twice." He turned around. "First, he lets this man… this commoner make him a cuckold. And then, even when he knows what this man is capable of… he trusts him again. And…" He pointed back at Kal. "…look how it ends. It is tragic. Tragic. Someone so weak that he trusts the same man twice has absolutely no right to be first lord among us.

"I see no need for this challenge to go on," Nor continued. "Lord Kal El is not a worthy opponent. Therefore, I declare his marriage to the Lady Zara…" His voice trailed off when Ching jumped up on the dueling platform with him. "Ching, if you will just wait a moment, you will be adequately…" His voice trailed off a second time when Ching leaned over and picked up both of the dueling dreis.

"What are you doing?" Nor asked.

"Have you not read the laws regarding the challenge, m'lord? I am challenging you."

"That law only applies to lords. And you are nothing but a commoner."

"Read the law again. If a lord, after the terms of the challenge have been set, is killed…" Ching pointed over at Kal who was now lying very still inside the enclosed cage. "…then his servant may stand in his stead and fight the challenge in his name and on his behalf. It is to prevent one lord from murdering another in order to prevent him from entering the challenge."

"But you are the one who killed him," Nor objected.

"On your behalf, my lord. All of New Krypton heard you claim credit for Lord Kal's death."

"This is not what I bargained with you for!" Nor exclaimed.

"I know," Ching responded. "But… I am asserting my right to challenge you in Lord Kal-El's name." With that he tossed one of the dreis to Nor. "Or are you too much of a coward to fight me like a true Kryptonian? Are you too cowardly to fight a mere commoner?" He slowly circled Nor. "You know the really ironic part. Lord Kal did not have the powers that you and I do."

"He does too. I saw him do some pretty remarkable things," Nor objected.

"You did. But he had a little… accident yesterday. If you had fought him today, you would have won. One blow was all it would have taken. But you could not risk that, could you? You just had to use me to do your dirty work. Well, guess what, m'lord? It backfired. Because now, you are fighting me. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with my powers." He twirled the drei at superspeed as if it were a baton.

Zara's breath caught in her throat when it suddenly sank in what was happening. Kal must have helped plan this. Knowing that he had to die anyway, and knowing that he didn't stand a chance of defeating Nor without his powers, he had told Ching to kill him so that Ching could stand in his place at the challenge. The muscles in her legs suddenly went weak and she sank to the floor as her eyes remained riveted to the stage.


The Kryptonians' eyes remained on the vid-screen in their quarters. They had been told to remain in their barracks unless their lord needed help. Nor had expected that Kal would x-ray the building before attending the challenge and it was important that they appear to be following the rules. They were only to break the order if Nor required their assistance. Well, now looked like the time for them to move.

"Fall in," Jen of the House of Mai commanded the men.

The Kryptonians immediately put on their swords and followed Jen as he headed for the door. He opened it and stepped outside. Suddenly, he was hit with a sudden wave of excruciating pain. He stumbled back inside the room, watching green gas drift up in the hall beyond. What…?

"Hi, y'all," a friendly-sounding man, his gun raised, said from his position on the other side of the hall. "My name is Inspector Henderson. And I believe that you're required to stay in your quarters until the challenge is finished. I would advise any of you who want to live…"

His warning was interrupted by one of the Kryptonians rushing into the hall, and collapsing in pain on the floor before he reached the other side.

"Now, as I was saying…" Henderson continued as the man groaned in pain. "I would advise you all to stay in your barracks where you can't get hurt."

Jen looked through the room's ceiling to see green gas in the room above them. Then he turned his attention to the other walls and the room below them. They were surrounded by green gas.

"That's right," Henderson said. "You're surrounded. And we have enough people and enough gas to ensure that you continue to be surrounded for some time to come. So unless you want to end up like… What's his name?" Henderson asked, stepping forward to nudge the now unconscious body of the man on the floor with his foot.

"Udi," Jen said.

"Fine. Well, if you don't want to end up like him, I suggest you stay in here. Oh, and be careful about gas coming through under the door."

Jen gestured for one of his men to step forward and close the door. All the men took an instant step backwards. "Close that door!" Jen demanded, obviously not willing to step forward himself.

When one of the men finally did step forward long enough to slam the door closed, Henderson broke out laughing. He turned to Scardino. "Let them know that the Kryptonians in the barracks are contained."

Scardino smiled, pulling out his radio and sending the message.


"Yes!" Perry exclaimed when Scardino's message came over the radio. His voice was followed by the triumphant exclamations of those around him when he translated the message.

Perry still wasn't entirely sure what was going on at the challenge. Had Ching betrayed Kal or not? Still, he had to admit, he was relieved that Nor was still being challenged. Even if this was an attempt by Ching to take over New Krypton, he couldn't be any worse than Lord Nor.

Still, his heart was in his throat as his eyes remained focused on the single television they had managed to get working. Ching and Nor were slowly circling each other, each getting used to the weight and feel of the drei.


Cat leaned over and whispered in Zara's ear. The mission to keep Nor's men in their barracks had gone as planned. Zara nodded, relieved. She was almost certain now that Ching and Kal had arranged all of this. After all, if Ching truly had been working with Nor, the mission concerning the hostages and the men in the barracks could have been compromised, too.

She continued to watch Ching, her heart in her throat as Nor landed the first blow.

The fight was on, both men showing a remarkable expertise with the drei. Zara knew how Ching handled the drei, but this was her first time seeing Nor's movements up close. Although she had never used a drei herself — such things being considered inappropriate for a woman on New Krypton — she knew from watching enough matches that so far the two men appeared to be well matched. On the other hand, it quickly became obvious to her that Ching was holding back, sizing up his enemy, looking for his weaknesses. Of course, Nor might well be doing the same thing.

She flinched when Nor's drei slammed hard into Ching's hand. But Ching barely noticed. It suddenly occurred to her that with their powers, the drei might not be powerful enough to allow either to kill the other.

Still, Ching retaliated to Nor's strike with a series of blows, pounding the other man quickly back as Nor fought to maintain his balance.

Zara's heart leapt when Ching followed up his attack by swinging at full strength so that the drei landed hard against the back of Nor's legs. Nor collapsed back onto the stage, his own drei skittering away from him.

Ching instantly stepped forward, holding the end of his drei just above Nor's head. Nor's hands came up to protect himself from the blow that was sure to follow.

"No!" Zara yelled when she saw Shem and Ran dive for Ching, grabbing his arms before he could land his final blow.

Zara's warning gave Ching just enough time to swing his drei at Ran, killing him in an instant, showing that the drei could indeed kill a Kryptonian if swung powerfully enough. Still, Ran's death did not serve any purpose since Nor's third witness stepped into his place, grabbing Ching's free arm and sending his drei to the floor before he could wiggle free.

"Well, well, well," Nor said, his grimace turning to a smirk. "That was exhilarating."

Brushing himself off, Nor rose to his feet, bending over to pick up Ching's drei.

"So…" Nor said. "…let's finish this."



The freed hostages began making their way into the Daily Planet. Seeing Alice and Jimmy, in particular, was the only thing with the power to tear Perry's eyes from the television. Still, after giving Alice a quick hug and Jimmy a smile, he directed his attention back to the screen. Alice and Jimmy stepped up beside him, as did all the returning Daily Planet employees. The room was silent as they waited for a triumphant-looking Nor to approach his now helpless victim.

"Look at that, Chief!" Jimmy exclaimed suddenly, focusing on something happening in the background.

A moment later, someone jumped between Nor and Ching.

"Who's that?" Alice asked.

"It looks like Zara," Perry said.

"Kal's wife?"

Perry nodded. A moment later, Nor's face, which was the only face they could see given the camera angle, went blank and he stumbled, collapsing against Zara. He opened his mouth before whatever words he'd been about to utter died on his lips as he collapsed to the ground, dead.

"What just happened?" Alice asked.

"Look!" Perry said, pointing to the knife now sticking out of Nor's gut.

The two men who had been holding Ching looked in disbelief at their lord for a moment before the significance of his death seemed to sink in. They released Ching, slinking quickly into the background.

Suddenly, the entire Daily Planet erupted in triumphant cheers. Perry sank blankly into a chair, almost unable to believe that it could really be over.


When Zara realized that Nor had broken the rules of the challenge, she knew she needed to act. Grabbing Cat's backpack, she'd begun rustling through it for something she'd seen Cat put in there earlier — a kryptonite-laced knife. Weapon in hand, she'd run towards the men, only removing the knife from the lead-lined sheath at the last moment. Still, she'd swayed slightly at the effect of the kyrptonite. Not letting that stop her, she'd plunged the knife into Nor where she knew it would do the most damage. She watched in relieved satisfaction when Nor collapsed to the ground, dead.

Still, she didn't take time to enjoy the moment. Moving as fast as she possibly could, she headed towards the glass cage in which Kal and Lois were being held captive. She was fumbling with the door, trying to get it unlocked when Ching stepped up next to her, simply grabbing the handle and tearing the door off.

"Is he…?" Zara asked, not daring to step inside the area contaminated with green gas.

"He hasn't taken a breath for the last ten minutes," Lois said. "I need…" She stood up, grabbing Kal's arms and beginning to drag him towards the door.

"We cannot," Zara said simply. "You are going to have to get him out of there on your own."

"I'll help," Cat said, pushing her way past Zara and Ching to help Lois pull Kal out of the deadly gas.

Once outside, Lois leaned over, affixing her mouth to Kal's as she attempted to push air back into his lungs. He couldn't be dead. If he died, she'd kill him. She simply refused to let that happen. She continued working frantically to get him to breathe. She felt for a pulse. For a moment she thought she felt something and then it was gone.

"No!" Lois yelled, pounding on his chest before leaning down to fill his lungs with air once again.


She ignored Zara's voice, continuing to alternate between hitting his chest and giving him mouth to mouth resuscitation.


She ignored Cat's voice.

Hands grabbed at her shoulders. She pushed them away. He wasn't dead. Any moment now he was going to open his eyes and start coughing. And she would bawl him out for scaring the hell out of her like this. She pushed more air into his lungs from hers.

"Live, damn it!" she said, lifting her mouth from his.

"Lois…" This time Zara knelt down next to her, her arm around Lois' shoulder. "He's gone."

"No." Lois' voice was little more than a whisper. Tears began falling and the room seemed to blur. "No, he can't be gone. No. No. No." Her final words were barely more than sobs as she pulled Kal's body into her arms, burying her face in his neck as she finally let herself accept the truth. Kal of the House of El was dead.


Zara stood slowly and nodded to Ching. He immediately stepped forward, picking up Kal's body.

"No!" yelled Lois, grabbing Kal's arm. They weren't going to take him from her. She wouldn't let him.

"Lois…" She felt Zara's arm around her shoulders. "He has to be given a proper Kryptonian burial."

Lois turned tortured eyes towards Zara. "I just want to tell him… I just want him to know…"

"I know," Zara responded. "But there are still things that need to be done. Ching will take good care of him." Zara nodded to Cat who immediately came over, helping Lois move over to a bench along one of the walls.

Zara's own eyes were filled with tears as she looked once more at the devastated woman before climbing solemnly onto the stage. Nor's blood was still on her hands and cloak. A small smear of it showed clearly on her left cheek. Still, she ignored it. Instead, reaching inside her cloak, she pulled out a scroll.

"This is the final will and testament of Kal of the House of El," she explained before proceeding to read the contents. She had been right. Kal began, after the usual invocations to the spirits to watch over those he had left behind, by explaining that Ching had not betrayed him. He had only done as Kal himself had instructed him to do. He then proceeded to lay out his plan for the future of his people. Finally, he left all his worldly possessions to Zara, named Trey as regent and gave Ching the position of Zara's royal protector.

Zara's voice broke several times as she read the words and remembered the heart of the man who had written them. When she was finished, she rolled up the scroll and looked around, turning her attention to the people on New Krypton who she knew were watching. "The mystics of old were right. Coming to a planet with a yellow sun has forever changed our society. We cannot merely go back to the old ways." She paused. "Kal gave his life because he believed in our people. He believed in the nobility of each and every one of you and he sacrificed himself to secure our future. I pledge my life to seeing that his wishes are fulfilled. And I feel entitled to call on everyone, noble and common, to do the same."

Having finished addressing the people of New Krypton, she turned her face to the television cameras. "And to the people of Earth, I wish to offer my deepest regrets for the damage that has been done to your planet. You can rest assured that every soldier involved will be brought to justice. And my people will make war reparations to all the victims of this terrible attack. I also wish at this time to extend the hand of friendship to the people of Earth and in particular to President Garner. I hope he will agree to meet with me to discuss the future relations of our two peoples."

Having no idea how her message had been received, she stepped off the stage and returned to Cat and Lois. "It is time for us to go," she said softly.


"And where exactly do you think you are going?"

Shem stopped. When his lord had been killed, he'd tried to fade into the background and slip quietly out of the building. And he'd thought he'd succeeded. Until… that voice.

He turned slowly around to see a man floating to the ground mere feet in front of him. The man's clothing said that he was Kryptonian, but it was the patch he was wearing that caught Shem's attention.

"You are with the Imperial Guard?" he asked in disbelief. "I thought you had all been…" He paused, hesitating.

"Slaughtered by your lord?" Chil asked. He gave an ironic laugh. "No. We are still around. Only each and every one of us is more devoted to Lord Kal-El now than we were on the first day of this war. Would you like me to call the others or will you come quietly with me?"

"Others?" Shem's voice sounded small even in his own ears. More devoted. He wasn't sure that was even possible. In his experience, the Imperial Guard was almost fanatic in its loyalty to Lord Kal-El. His shoulders slumped. So if the Imperial Guard was still around, it was really and truly over. There was nowhere left for him to run.



Champaign corks popped. People laughed and hugged. Music filled the air, sending many people out into the street to dance.

In sharp contrast, Lois sat on a chair by herself, barely noticing the merriment of those around her.

Kal was dead. She still wasn't sure how to define what had existed between them. Was it lust? Maybe. But if that was all it was, why did she now feel as if part of her was missing? This wasn't how things were supposed to end — holding his lifeless body in her arms.

Zara had filled her in on the reasons Kal had to die as they had walked back to the Daily Planet. He'd lost his powers. He'd never have been able to defeat Nor if he tried facing him powerless. Besides, if he did live, he would be forced to break his oath — and that was something Kal would never be able to do. Damn him, anyway!

If Lois hadn't gone to see Nor, would Kal have waited long enough for his powers to return? Had her hasty actions led to his death? The mere thought was like a knife tearing at her gut. How was she to go on now? A part of her had died with him. And she hadn't even had the chance to tell him… had the chance to say… She didn't even know what she wanted to tell him. What was this connection between them? She didn't know. But it was almost tangible, something that seemed to bind her soul to his. So what did she do now that the connection had been severed?


Lois looked up at the sound of a man's voice. Dan.

"I'm sorry he died," he said simply.

Lois gave him a wobbly smile, truly touched at his sincere-sounding comment.

"Since he's… well, gone, I was wondering if you might be willing to give us…"

Her face dropped when she realized where he was going with this.

"I'm sorry," he corrected. "Later."

He turned, leaving Lois alone with her thoughts once again. She pulled in a jagged breath, barely noticing a person sitting down next to her until the woman spoke.

"Kal asked that I give you this," Zara said, removing a scroll from inside her cloak. "After he… After the battle. I hope it helps."

When Lois took the scroll, Zara got up and moved away, giving her the privacy she needed to deal with this unexpected development. Lois stared at the scroll for a long moment, running her finger over the familiar looking seal, the seal that had kept her from calling the police that first night when he'd come to her house and held her hostage — demanding that she help him.

A small smile tugged sadly at one corner of her mouth as she recalled spinning around and kicking him in the chest, sending him backwards into the door where he crumpled to the floor.

Only days ago.

Only a lifetime ago.

And now she was left with a large hole in her chest that she doubted would ever be filled. Did she really want to open the scroll or would it only cause more pain? She stared uncertainly at the scroll, even as her fingers made the decision for her. Her fingernail slid carefully under the seal, infinitely slow and careful so as not to destroy Kal's mark. It was all she had left of him now — that seal and these words, whatever they might be.

Her first thought as she opened the scroll was that the writing was hesitant, tentative. Like someone who was working with an unfamiliar script. The second thought was that this was both the first and last time she would ever see this particular handwriting. The thought caused her to pull in a jagged breath.

She ran the back of her hand across her eyes, removing enough moisture so that she could read the blurry words.

'Greetings and Salutations to Lois of the House of Lane from Kal of the House of El.'

Her lips quirked into a soft smile. Only Kal…

'Where to begin? There is simply so much I want to tell you. And yet as I sit here now, looking out into a Daily Plant without you in it, words seem reluctant to come.'

He must have written this after she had left the Daily Planet. Maybe he already knew that she was in Nor's clutches.

'Knowing that I won't be returning from this challenge, one of my biggest regrets is that I will never have the chance to make things right with you. So I guess, as you might put it, I am trying to get the last word. I must admit to getting some small pleasure imagining the look of disgust you are bound to have on your face as you read those last words.'

Something between a sob and a laugh escaped from her throat and she quickly raised a hand to cover her mouth.

'Anyway, here is what I want… what I need you to know. As I look back over my life, everything I have ever done has been about duty — except for one thing. Loving you.'

The tears began anew and she found herself going back and reading the last two sentences again and again before moving on.

'I suppose that is what makes this so ironic. The only thing I ever chose for myself — and yet in so doing, I managed to hurt you terribly. And for that, I will be eternally sorry.'

Her finger slowly traced the last sentence. She suspected he was not the only one who would be eternally sorry. What she wouldn't give just to tell him once that she forgave him.

'When I originally set pen to paper, I intended to give you all my excuses, my reasons for hurting you. To explain about my relationship with Zara — how it was more of a partnership than what you might consider a marriage. To tell you that, other than you, the only women I have ever been with were chosen for reasons of political expediency. And to let you know that I have never experienced anything, any passion, any connection, any level of emotion that comes close to what I experienced with you in a hayloft in Smallville, Kansas. It was my one moment of absolute perfection.'

She fought to hold in the small sob that rose in the back of her throat.

'But all of that seems so inadequate. I guess all I can really say is that reasons matter not. All that matters is that I hurt you. And for that, I am so sorry. I only pray that some day you will be able to remember me fondly.' And it was signed. 'My eternal love and devotion. Your humble servant, Kal.'

Lois slowly rolled up the scroll, fighting against the pain in the back of her throat, the tears burning in her eyes, and the ache in her chest.

"Are you okay?"

Lois looked up to see Cat standing in front of her. Lois looked back at the scroll, subconsciously holding it protectively against her body. It was too personal to share with anyone.

"I'm going to take that as a no," Cat continued after observing Lois' actions.

Lois gave a humorless laugh, as a tear trickled down her cheek. A commotion in another part of the room caught the attention of both women. It seemed that Ching had returned with some news and was sharing it with Zara, Perry and Henderson. Lois and Cat got up and made their way over to join the group.

"What's going on?" Cat asked.

"Well, first, all of Nor's men are now safely back on the ships. We exposed them to a small dose of kryptonite gas and they have lost their powers so there is no chance that they will be able to escape before we can get them back to New Krypton to stand trial for their crimes."

"Well, good," Perry growled. "And good riddance to bad rubbish, I say."

"Second, we have heard back from New Krypton. First…" He looked at Zara. "…there is some bad news."

"What is it?" she asked breathlessly.

"Apparently, Trey is dead. Nor killed him."

"No," Zara responded. "Who will become regent if he is dead?"

"Uhh… well, there might be some good news on that front. Apparently, messages have been coming in almost since the moment you finished your address. There is quite a movement taking place on New Krypton. People have begun gathering in the streets. Nobles and commoners alike. Pictures have begun appearing all over."

"Pictures?" Zara asked.

"Pictures of you — reading Kal's will. And underneath the pictures is a single sentence. 'I pledge my life to seeing that his wishes are fulfilled.' And the people on the streets are chanting a single, solitary theme. 'We want Zara.'"

Zara's mouth dropped open as she stared in disbelief at Ching. "You cannot be serious," she finally said.

"I am totally serious. I took… probably half a dozen messages myself. The people are calling for you to come home and to lead them in implementing Kal's wishes. Apparently, you are being hailed as the Lady Warrior — the one who killed the would-be tyrant, Lord Nor. Even the nobles are calling for you. They are afraid that riots will start if you are not appointed regent."

"I cannot believe… I mean, this is…" Zara began, looking oddly at everyone when they simply stared at her. "What?" she asked.

Ching pointed to her feet. She was floating about a foot off the ground.

"Great," Zara said. "My powers would have to manifest themselves now." She floated back to the ground and was instantly surrounded by people offering their congratulations.

"There is something else you should know," Perry said.

"What is that?" asked Ching.

"Well, just before you got back, a message came in over the radio. President Garner wants to meet with Zara."

"Well, good," Zara responded. "I need to meet with him, too. Not only do I need to make arrangements to pay war reparations, I want to talk to him about negotiating a trade deal."

"A trade deal?" Perry asked.

Zara sighed. "Before all this started with Nor… The people of New Krypton are on the verge of a famine. We desperately need food to get them through the rainy season. And I understand that your people value gold."

"That would be a safe bet," Perry said.

"Then maybe we can reach an agreement. After all, gold is something we have. And a person cannot eat gold."

"Well, it looks as if you'll have your chance," Perry said. "He's asked you to meet him in a couple of hours."

"I will be there." She glanced down at her feet. "Even if I have to fly to get there."

"There is one final thing," Ching said. "It is about Kal."

"What about Kal?" Lois immediately asked.

"Zara, Lois, Perry and Cat, I need the four of you to come with me."


Lois wasn't entirely sure she wanted to be here. As the group approached her apartment building, it began to sink in what was going on. Kal's funeral. She, Cat, Perry, Zara and Ching were probably the five people who had worked the closest with Kal since he had arrived on Earth — well, except for the Kents, and Ching probably didn't know about them.

And given their obvious destination, she really wasn't sure she wanted to do this. Seeing him, lying where? On her bed? So cold and still. She shivered. If she saw him there, how would she ever be able to walk into her apartment again?

She wanted to run away, to hide, to avoid this moment. And yet she found herself, inexplicably drawn along, unable to escape her fate. In spite of it all, in spite of her fear, she needed to see him, to run a hand down his cheek, to lean over and place a soft kiss on his lips, to whisper her forgiveness into his ear. She needed to see him one final time before they put him in the ground, or whatever it was that Kryptonians did at their funerals.

She felt Zara take her hand as they walked. She glanced over. Zara was staring ahead, her face as pale as Lois suspected hers was. The pressure Lois could feel on her hand told her that Zara was seeking strength from her as much as she was giving it. It was odd that the one person who she felt closest to at this moment was the wife of the man she was dreading letting go. And yet Zara, more than anyone else, could sympathize with Lois' feelings. The two women held onto each other for dear life as they arrived at the door to Lois' apartment.

"We are here," Ching said before opening the door.

Lois stood frozen to the spot, staring in disbelief into her apartment. Kal. Standing in the middle of her living room — staring back at her, his face softening into a smile.


A mere whisper on his lips, but it felt like a scream that echoed through the room. She stood frozen to the spot, unable to tell reality from fantasy. Was he an apparition? Had she entered the twilight zone? She'd held his lifeless body in her arms, attempted to push air into his lungs. She'd watched him die. Every excruciating moment of it.

"Go." Zara's softly whispered voice directed Lois' attention to the other woman. Tears were flowing freely from Zara's eyes. "Go," Zara said again, this time gesturing her head towards Kal.

And then as if in a dream, Lois started to move, her legs barely more than an afterthought as she flew across the room and into Kal's arms. He was warm and breathing and… oh, god… very much alive. This wasn't a dream. From the safety of his arms, she began planting kisses over every square inch of his face, completely oblivious to the people making their way into her apartment. They didn't matter. Nothing mattered except the soft warmth of his cheeks, his lips, his eyelids, his throat as she sought out all the bare skin she could find, determined to touch it all, to know that he was really alive.

The sound of Perry clearing his throat finally reminded Lois that they were not alone. Embarrassed, she drew herself out of Kal's arms, stepping back to let the others greet him.

The last person to step forward was Zara. Lois found herself shifting uncomfortably when Zara stepped into Kal's arms and he enveloped her in a warm hug. She tried to look everywhere but at husband and wife. As a result, she saw Ching, looking as uncomfortable as she felt. His eyes met hers and a sense of understanding seemed to pass between them.

Zara stepped out of Kal's embrace before reaching up to cup his cheeks. "How?" she asked, looking directly into his eyes.

How? The single word brought Lois back to reality. When had she lost all cognitive ability? All she'd known was that he was there, that he was real and alive. But how? That was the question. Well, that and why he had let her believe that he was dead.

"Let us all sit down," Kal said. "Then I will explain everything."

He waited until everyone was settled before choosing a seat next to Lois. She found herself watching him from under her eyelashes, unable to look at him directly, but afraid that if she let him out of her sight, he would vanish and this would all turn out to be a dream. She wished she could touch him, just to know that he was really there.

He must have sensed her need because he reached out, gently taking her hand in his. She fought back a jagged breath. She shouldn't be sitting here, in front of his wife, holding his hand. But she couldn't seem to pull away. She needed that gentle reassurance too much.

"So why don't you start at the beginning?" Perry said, directing everyone's mind back to the subject at hand.

"When I became First Lord, I took an oath," Kal began. "Part of that oath was to uphold the traditions of our people." He took a deep breath. "I am ashamed to say it, but when Ching first brought up the idea of dismantling the class system in order to convince commoners to help us in our fight against Nor… I guess part of the reason I was so adamantly against it…" He let out a breath. "I knew that I could not break my oath, and that was what was being asked of me. That left me with only one choice. I had to sustain injuries during the challenge that would lead to my death. Of course, I had to be sure to kill Nor first.

"Anyway, then I lost my powers. And…" He looked at Lois. "…and I knew that we could not wait for me to get my powers back. The problem was that without my powers I knew that if I went into the challenge, Nor would win. And that would not save our worlds. So Ching and I came up with this plan."

"That you would pretend to die and Ching would fight in your place?" Perry asked.

"No," Ching said. "No, when I met with Shem… it became quickly obvious that he was trying to undermine my relationship with Kal. I suspected he would be open to the idea of my changing sides. So I spoke to Kal. I knew he was planning to die in the course of the fight, so I presented my plan to him."

"And by controlling what happened to Kal, the two of you could just make it look like Kal had died," Perry said again.

Ching let out a breath. "Actually, no. I knew Kal would never agree to deceive the people of New Krypton that way. Our plan was that I would actually kill him. I am the one who altered the plan. I went to Dr. Klein and asked him to prepare a kryptonite-type bomb — would look like it, act like it, but be harmless to a Kryptonian."

"So that's why you wanted me to take that particular kryptonite bomb with me," Cat said.

Ching nodded.

"But… I saw you," Lois objected. "You weren't breathing. You didn't have a heartbeat. I touched you. You were dead."

"When Ching threw me in the cage with what I thought was kryptonite gas… I expected to be hit with the same pain I had felt when being shot with that bullet. But when there was nothing, no pain, it suddenly occurred to me what Ching had done. At that point, I had a choice — make it clear that Ching had betrayed Nor or make it look as if I was in a room with real kryptonite gas. I chose the latter."

"But that doesn't explain the lack of breathing or the heartbeat," Lois objected.

"Well, I tried holding my breath and… I don't know… I found out that I did not seem to need to breathe. It must be part of these powers."

"But you didn't have your powers."

"When the powers developed the first time, they did not all come at once. I guess the ability to hold one's breath is one of the first powers to return."

"And the heartbeat?"

"I concentrated on trying to slow my heart rate and… it worked."

"Another power?"

Kal shrugged. "Well, since getting air to the body is the reason for the circulation of blood, maybe when you do not need to breathe, you can also slow down your circulation."

"But why didn't you tell anyone?" Lois continued. "You let me believe you were dead."

"I did not have any choice. I had to 'play dead'. And even now, as far as both Earth and New Krypton are concerned, I am dead. Otherwise, everything we worked for could fall apart. I asked the four of you to come because… well, because I thought you had the right to know. When my powers return, I am planning to fly out to Kansas and tell the Kents as well. But other than the seven of you, everyone else has to believe that I am dead."

"So what happens now?" Perry asked. "Are you going to be able to go back to New Krypton?"

Kal shook his head. "I am too well known on New Krypton. It would only be a matter of time before someone would recognize me there. I was thinking it might be easier to get lost somewhere here on Earth, maybe change my appearance, take on a new name."

"Well, if you're ever looking for a reference to help you get into the news business, give me a call. You've certainly got the knack for writing an interesting story."

"I will, m'lord… uhh… sir?"

Perry nodded.

"But I am really not sure what my plans are at the moment."

Lois knew that he was looking at her, but she couldn't quite bring herself to look back. She only knew one thing at the moment — he was staying here, on Earth. And suddenly her heart was racing like a jackrabbit around in her chest. She wasn't sure whether to be thrilled or just downright terrified.

Conversation moved on, as they are known to do. But Lois was lost in a haze, not quite capable of focusing on anything but the unexpected information she'd just received. Oh, she knew, of course, that Ching was filling Kal in on the latest developments regarding Zara. And that Perry was telling him about those people who had been killed or injured while in Nor's custody. He was also given information about the current situation regarding Nor's followers. But her mind was trying to get itself around the fact that he was staying.


Perry and Cat were the first to take their leave. Next Zara rose to her feet, followed by Ching.

"You are leaving?" asked Kal.

Zara nodded. "I am supposed to be meeting with President Garner. I am going to try to negotiate a trade agreement to get us some food so that no one starves during the rainy season."

A slow smile lit up Kal's face. "You are going to be a remarkable regent," he said.

She blushed slightly.

"Which reminds me…" Kal lifted his hand and studied his signet ring. "I think this belongs to you now," he said, removing the ring.

Tears came to her eyes as he slipped it on her finger. He gathered her in his arms and whispered into her ear. "Be happy, Zara. And if you think Ching can do that for you…"

She pulled back so that she could look into his eyes.

"…I know you do not require it, but you have my blessing."

She swallowed hard. "I might not require it, but… Thank you, Kal. And just so you know…" She glanced over at Lois before looking back at Kal. "…I want you to be happy, too."

"So," he said, clearing his throat in an effort to break the level of emotion in the room, "are you going to come back here and say goodbye before you leave for New Krypton?"

She shook her head. "I don't think it is wise. Coming by to see you again could make people curious — and if they get suspicious and start snooping around…"

"For a people with x-ray vision and superhearing… it would not be difficult for them to figure out I am still alive," Kal finished for her.

They looked into each other's eyes for a long moment.

"I am going to miss you terribly," she said before drawing him into her arms for one final, heartfelt hug.

"I am going to miss you, too, little one," he responded.

When he released her, he reached out and touched the band of union on her arm. "Well, the good news is you are going to be able to take that off now," he said. "I know you have always hated how it itches."

She laughed, stepping further away from him. "Is that your way of telling me you are releasing me from my marriage vows?"

"Only if you agree to release me from mine."

"Then we are in agreement."

Kal turned towards Ching, stretching out his hand in a definite human gesture. Ching looked at it for a moment before taking the hand. Kal surprised him by pulling him into a hug. "You have been a good friend to me." Kal glanced at Zara before looking back at Ching. "I have one final command for you."


"Take care of Zara."

"I will, m'lord."

"It is just Kal now, Ching. Or… Or better yet, call me Clark."

"Clark," Ching repeated.

"So is that your new name?" Zara asked.

"I think so. So what do you think? Do I look like a Clark?"

She studied him for a moment. "I'm not sure. I always think of a Clark as wearing glasses."

As Ching and Kal continued to talk, Zara made her way over to Lois. "In case I do not get an opportunity to see you again, I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed getting to know you."

"I've enjoyed getting to know you, too — in spite of the circumstances of our first meeting," Lois added, thinking back to her fight with Kal and her yelling about their relationship towards the door of her bedroom.

However, when Zara went pale, Lois suddenly realized that her comment had reminded Zara of her time with Nor.

"About Nor," Lois said, keeping her voice low. "Are you going to be okay?"

Zara gave a half smile. "I still have flashbacks," she said. "But… killing him… killing Nor… there was something very liberating about it."

Lois smiled. "I bet." She looked over at Ching. "So… you think you're going to be able to… get past it?"

Zara's gaze followed Lois'. "It might take some time, but… yes. I do." She looked back at Lois, with a smile that lit up the room. "Do not walk away from love, Lois," she said. "There is nothing else in the universe quite like it."

Lois automatically looked at Kal who seemed to sense her eyes on him because he immediately returned her look. When their eyes met and he smiled, Lois' stomach suddenly felt as it was doing a belly flop off the high-dive.

"Or maybe you already know that," Zara added, amusement in her voice.

"Huh?" Lois asked, pulling her mind away from what Kal seemed able to do to her with just a look in an attempt to focus on Zara's words.

The other woman just laughed.


Lois fumbled uncomfortably around her kitchen, more than aware that she and Kal were now alone in her apartment. And although she'd thought there were a million things she'd tell him when she'd believed him dead, she could not seem to find a single thing to say now that she actually had the chance.

"I was thinking about where I might go once I get my powers back," Kal said.

She noted that he sounded as nervous as she. Still, he was obviously trying. She turned towards him. "Oh. And where's that?"

"Well, I was thinking that the offer to stay on at the Kents' farm for a while might still be open."

"Right. Right. I'd forgotten about that. But what about Perry's offer? I know he didn't exactly say it, but I suspect he'd consider offering you a job at the Daily Planet if you asked him."

He tilted his head to the side and studied her. "Is that what you want me to do?" he asked.

She was about to respond that it was his life, but then she stopped. Did she really want him to take a job at the Daily Planet? A place where, if they couldn't sort things out between them, she'd be forced to see him, to work beside him every day. Was she ready for such a big step? Working together was… almost like marriage.

He let out a breath, obviously realizing the reasons for her hesitation. "Actually, I think it might be best for me to stay with the Kents for now. I think people around here might recognize me, even with a beard, a different hairstyle and a pair of glasses. Maybe when things calm down a bit. Besides, it would probably be smart for me to learn more about your world before settling down anywhere. I do not want to be making mistakes that will give me away."

"But what about us?" The words seemed to slip out before she had a chance to stop them. This was what she wanted, wasn't it? Not to have him in her workspace. But in order for that to happen, he was going to have to leave her.

Kal stepped forward, taking her hands. She focused on their joined hands for a moment before meeting his eyes.

"Once my powers come back, there is no reason I could not fly into Metropolis whenever you want."

"Like…" She tilted her head, looking at him through her eyelashes. "…maybe going on a date or something?"

"A date?" he asked.

When she looked away, as if slightly embarrassed, he continued.

"I guess that just gives me one more word that I need to learn the meaning of," he said. "But… something tells me I just might like this word," he continued thoughtfully.

Color flushed her cheeks.

As if he read something in her expression or body language, he stepped closer, pulling her gently into his arms even as his mouth sought out hers.

"No," she gasped as she jumped back.

He looked confused.

"I didn't… I just…" She stopped, unable to find the words she wanted to say.

"I am sorry," he said. "I guess I was thinking that… I guess I jumped to the conclusions that maybe you had forgiven me." He headed back into the living room.

"But… Kal, stop. You weren't wrong. When I thought you were dead, I knew that I had forgiven you. In fact, one of my big regrets was that I didn't think I'd ever be able to tell you that."

"So then…" He walked closer. "…what is the problem?"

"It's just this…" She stepped forward, lightly patting his chest. "…what is it?"

"Is this question something I do not understand because I am not from Earth?"

She let out a breath. "Okay, well… I guess it's no secret that I can't seem…" Her voice trailed off and she tried a different approach. "This pull… this connection… this whatever it is between us… I mean… No matter how angry I get at you… I still…" She growled in frustration, wishing he would just fill in the pieces. "I still…" Her hand gestured between the two of them.

"Want me?"

She squirmed, more than a little bit uncomfortable. He had to be enjoying this. She glanced at him through her eyelashes, but he seemed anything but amused.

"It is almost like," he said instead, "you want to walk away, you want to forget about it because it simply hurts too much, but you cannot. All it takes is one look, one casual touch of hand against hand and you are right back in as deep as before, even deeper."

She looked up, startled, meeting his eyes.

"The reason I know this," he continued, "is because that is exactly how I feel. This connection, as you called it… I know not what it is any more than you seem to."

"It scares the hell out of me," she whispered, looking down at the floor between them.

He took a step forward, causing her to take an immediate step back. He let out a breath. "Lois, it scares me, too. When I think that I have lost you, it scares me more than you could possibly imagine. But I think the only option here is to take a chance and see where it leads."

"I don't know if I can do that," she said, continuing to look at his feet.

He was silent for a moment before stretching out his hand. He didn't touch her; he let her have the choice. She stared at the hand for a moment before reaching up and cautiously placing her hand inside.

"Come here," he said, leading her into the living room and over to the sofa. He waited until they were both seated and he had released her hand before speaking again. "What is scaring you so much?"

She met his eyes before looking back down, finding herself missing the feeling of her hand in his. "I don't know if I can trust you," she finally said.

He drew in a sharp breath and she flinched. She knew she had hurt him, but when it came right down to it, that was the bottom line. Trust. He no longer had a wife. Well, okay, so maybe technically he did. There had not been a formal divorce decree, after all. But as far as the world — both worlds — were concerned, Zara was a widow and Clark Kent had never been married. And both he and Zara had made it very clear during the course of their conversation that they were each considering the other free.

Zara. Yes, she had even forgiven him for not telling her about Zara. Given how totally unexpected their first time together had been, believing he was about to be killed by Lord Nor… yes, she'd forgiven him for that. But still… What if Kal again turned into the patriarchal jerk he had been when she had first met him? Could she really trust him not to — especially if they got involved in a serious relationship? Would he become overbearing, expecting her to jump at his every 'command'? He seemed to have grown, to have changed a lot since she'd first met him, issuing commands as if she had no choice but to obey. What if she gave him her heart and he became that man again?

She suddenly felt sick to her stomach. She would give anything to welcome him with open arms. In fact, it was killing her not to. But when she didn't even know for certain what she was feeling, how could she take that risk? Maybe it would be best if she walked away now, while she could still do so.

"Lois…" He moved closer, pulling her into his arms. "Just give us time. I promise, I will prove that you can trust me."

She whimpered, desperate to believe him.

A moment later, a finger under her chin tilted her face up just in time to meet his lips with her own. One whimper turned into two. He deepened the kiss, cautiously tasting her. Feeling powerless to resist, she opened her mouth under his, allowing him entry even as her entire body began screaming for his touch. As if hearing her unspoken plea, his hands pulled her closer, running over her back and through her hair as their mouths touched and parted again and again, ever increasing in rhythm and tempo.

Breathing grew heavy as his hand slid down her side and began working its way under her shirt. Her arms tightened around his neck as she leaned back, pulling him with her onto the couch so that the weight of his body rested against her even as she felt the heat from his hand on her stomach for the first time.

Time stopped. Cognitive function ceased. Nothing existed except them and now… and feelings. Wave after wave of feeling. Need, desire, lust, all mingled together. She hooked her foot around his calf, desperate to increase the contact between them. His lips finally left hers so that he could plant kisses over the rest of her face, tug on her ear and explore every inch of her throat.

"See, Lois," he breathed against her skin. "We can make this work."

"No!" His words had been like a bucket of ice water suddenly being poured over her entire body. "No," she begged, pushing at him, squirming to get out from under him. Once free, she scrambled to her feet, backing away from the couch as if it were on fire. "No," she said again, this time much softer.

She took a moment to get her breathing under control before looking at him. His rumpled hair. His flushed skin. His heavy breathing, in time with hers. The sad confusion in his eyes. All of it tore at her heart, begging her to go back to him, to continue with what they had been doing. But… she couldn't.

"Don't you see, Kal?" she asked, begging him to understand. "This is the exact problem. Obviously we don't have any problems with…" She gestured to the couch, indicating what they had been rushing towards. "But that doesn't solve anything. Obviously, I'm in lust with you. But is it more than that? Or am I so willing to…" She gestured towards the couch again. "…because there's nothing else between us?"

When he didn't immediately respond, she picked up her coat and headed for the door. When she arrived there, she opened the door before turning back towards him. "I think it would be best if I headed back to the Daily Planet for the night," she said before walking out the door and closing it softly behind her.


She heard him painfully whisper her name just before she headed down the hall and out of the building, welcoming the cold of the early morning hours.


The sound of people singing 'Silent Night' wafted past as Lois headed down the darkened street. It seemed that the rowdy partying that had been taking place when Nor had first been defeated had been replaced with something new. Something much more reflective. She shook her head. She'd entirely forgotten. Christmas was only days away.

Her footsteps slowed and finally she stopped by a light pole, one of the few the Kryptonians hadn't torn from the ground to use as javelins during their terror spree. She stepped up to it, marveling that it had come through the last week unscathed. She placed a hand on it before leaning closer, touching her forehead to the cold surface, hard and solid beneath her touch as moments, images ran through her mind. Kissing Kal in her apartment just now. The sense of belonging she'd felt the first night, in fact the only night she'd spent in his arms. Holding his oh too still body in her arms when she'd believed he was dead.

She closed her eyes as that final image took hold again, sending a shiver through her that had nothing to do with the crisp winter air.


Kal wandered listlessly around Lois' apartment, absentmindedly putting out the candles he'd lit earlier in the evening. When only one candle remained, he made his way over to it. It was on the coffee table in front of the couch. Sinking to the couch, he promptly forgot about putting out the candle as images invaded his mind. Lois in his arms. Lois pulling him over so that he could feel her soft curves pressed solidly to his body. Lois looking at him with an expression of absolute horror on her face.

It was the last image that stayed with him. He'd thought if he could just show her how good they were together, she'd realize that there was no way he could ever betray her. That she could trust him with everything. That he'd never hurt her. He'd obviously been wrong — again. Why was it that he didn't seem to be able to do anything right were Lois Lane was concerned?

And now she was gone. And if the look on her face as she'd fled her own apartment was any indication, it was over between them.

His head snapped up when the door to the apartment suddenly opened and Lois was standing in the doorway. Even in the light of the single candle, he knew she had been crying. He longed to go to her, to comfort her, but he dared not move for fear that the apparition would disappear.

"Okay," she said, her voice all business as she stepped inside and closed the door. "Here's how this is going to work. You're going to take the Kents up on their offer to become a farmhand. Once you get settled in there, you're going to call me, ask me out on a date. If that date goes well, we might try for another date. But there will be no more of…" She gestured to the couch where the activities earlier had taken place. "No more deep kisses. No more wandering hands. We'll talk. We'll get to know each other. And we'll see if we can build a relationship. Until that's done, there won't be any more…" She swept her hand in the direction of the couch. "Is that understood?"

"Yes, m'lady," he said, almost too stupefied to talk.

"Good. Now, I'm going to be spending the night here. It seems that when I'm not with you, I keep seeing your still body lying in my arms. I won't be able to sleep with that image in my head." She tossed her coat over the back of the sofa and headed towards her room. "And I need some sleep if I'm going to be any use at all tomorrow."

He stood in stunned silence as he listened to her wander around her room. When she again appeared in the doorway, she was dressed in loose, baggy clothing.

"Well?" she asked. "Are you coming?"

"I… but… Well, I guess I just did not think you would want me to…"

"I'm not going to wake up in the night and wonder if you're alive or dead," Lois said impatiently. She started to turn before stopping and looking back at him again. "Providing… I can trust you, can't I, Kal?" she asked. "We do have an agreement, don't we?"

After her comments earlier about not being sure if she could trust him, he knew exactly what she was saying. She needed him tonight. She needed to feel him sleeping next to her to drive off the nightmares. At the same time, she was offering nothing more than the chance to hold her in her sleep. Even if his entire body was begging for more, he would prove to her that she could trust him.

"You can trust me, Lois," he responded.

"Good. Then… what are you waiting for? Put out that candle and come to bed."

A goofy smile settled on his face as he followed her commands. He'd thought it was over. But here he was, about to be given the chance to hold the most incredible, fascinating, stubborn woman he'd ever met in his arms for the entire night. Not much could top that.


Lois snuggled up against Kal's chest, listening intently to the steady beat of his heart under her ear, and was finally able to relax. He was alive. And he was here. The rest… the issue of where their relationship might go would wait. For now, this was enough.

She closed her eyes and let his arm pull her closer. She felt him plant a soft kiss on her forehead before whispering words she'd heard only once before, words that he didn't think she would understand. As a result, she knew they had not been said in an attempt to impress her — but merely because he needed to say them.

"Ing santra judion di le saguin eila crees kanto."

But she did understand the words. They were the same words Ching had said to Zara one night on a beach light years away from Earth. 'Language does not do justice to the desire you create in my heart.' The only way a Kryptonian had for saying 'I'm in love you.'

She raised herself up, leaning over him to look in his eyes. The emotions she saw there caused her heart to swell. Moving forward, she pressed her lips to his in the briefest of kisses. When he looked slightly confused, she just smiled, snuggling back down against him. Suddenly she just knew that everything would work out all right in the end.


Extras (from the DVD version) to follow:


Deleted Scene: The following scene was deleted because to be funny it had to cross the pg-13 threshold. I'm posting it here with the offending word ***

out. Just know this, the word starts with 'f'. This scene takes place while Lois and Kal are driving from Metropolis to Smallville shortly after Kal arrived on Earth:

"Why are we stopping?" Kal asked when she pulled the jeep into a service station.

"We need gas. Besides, I'm hungry. I suspect you are, too."

"Some more of that pizza would be good for me."

Lois smiled. "Sorry. I doubt they have pizza. But… I'm sure I can find something you'll like." Pulling up in front of the pumps, she stopped the jeep and opened the door.

"How about I order the gas? I could use the English practice."

"Sure," Lois responded. "Just make sure they fill it up."

"I understand."

Lois turned, heading towards the convenience store attached to the service station.

"Fill it the ***


Lois suddenly swung back towards the sight of Kal addressing the gas station attendant. What was he doing? The important thing here was not to attract attention.

"What the ***

are you waiting for?" Kal asked again when the attendant simply stared at him.

Lois rushed back over, grabbing Kal's arm and, after giving the attendant an apologetic smile, pulling Kal away. "What are you doing?" she asked urgently. "We can't attract attention."

"I'm doing what I said I'd do — getting him to fill the jeep with gas."

She stared at him in disbelief for a long moment. Did he really not know… "Kal, where did you learn that word?"

His face lit up as if hoping she'd notice that he'd learned a new word. "Did I use it right?"

"Well, yeah, I guess, but… Kal, where did you learn it?"

"Some military show on television this afternoon. They used it a lot. I was worried that I might not have used it right. After all, they never did actually explain what it meant."

She took a deep breath, not sure if she should laugh or yell at him. "Kal, that word… the 'f' word… you can't just go around using it all the time."

"Why not? They did."

"I'm sure they did. But… Kal, you just offended that guy."

Kal turned and looked at the attendant who, although he was filling the car, was still looking over at him in disgust. Kal let out a breath. "I thought…"

"It's okay," Lois said, cutting him off. "It's just… well, in the future you might want to run words like that past me before using them. I mean, ML can't even keep this section in the story since it's rated pg-13. So you've got to watch what you say."

"Oh… oops. Sorry, everyone. I am new here and unfamiliar with the rules. I certainly did not mean to offend anyone." He looked back at Lois. "So… what exactly does '


' mean?" he asked.

"Oh, boy," Lois said softly.


Interesting Kryptonian Facts:

The Netsel and the Kafta:

In case anyone is interested, a netsel (from the story of the kafta that took the thorn out of the paw of the netsel) is much like a panther. But instead of being black, they are pure white. In fact, Zara has one as a pet back on Krypton. In many ways, they are like very large house cats. However, in others they are more like dogs in that they become fiercely loyal to their masters and will often become vicious if they feel their master is being attacked.

Oh, and a kafta isn't a mouse. It's actually more like a turtle — although it has a neck that resembles a very small giraffe. A little hard to describe and, unfortunately, I couldn't find any pictures of them on the internet. I would imagine, though, that in order to remove a thorn from the paw of the netsel, a kafta would have to use its mouth.

The kafta is actually considered a delicacy for the netsel, which is what makes this story so powerful in Kryptonian lore.

Kryptonians and Firearms:

Another interesting Kryptonian fact that you might not know is the reason why the Kryptonians don't have guns but instead rely on such things as knives and swords. There was a time in their history where they did have something that was basically like a gun. But as gun crime became popular, the scientists invented a device that could be worn that created an invisible shield around the wearer. This 'shield' would not only stop the bullet, but it actually propelled it back at the shooter — usually killing him. Well, as you can imagine, guns very quickly became obsolete.

Zen and Fath:

You may recall that when Kal confronted Zara about her betrayal, he mentioned that they had never had a love like the gods, Zen and Fath. Well, the story actually came from a time far in the past — even before the founding of Krypton.

Zen and Fath had each been gods in their own right, each controlling their own solar systems. The solar systems they controlled orbited around each other, and once in every few hundred thousand years, they would come within a distance where Zen and Fath could see each other. But they couldn't speak and still stay in their own solar system. And since if either left his or her solar system, the solar system would be doomed without a god to watch over it, they could never as much as talk. Still, even though they had never spoken, they became infatuated with each other — waiting for those few moments when they could see each other again.

So on one rotation, when they saw each other, their feelings of loneliness and their need for each other had caused both of them to abandon their own solar systems, intending to join the other in his/her solar system. When they had met between the two solar systems, each realized what the other had done and they watched helplessly as both solar systems were destroyed without a god to watch over them. Still, as the story went, they remained together, hopelessly devoted to each other for the rest of eternity, neither caring what it had cost them to be together.


On occasion, you may have noticed that the Kryptonians sometimes had a slightly different way of expressing themselves than the Earthlings. Although the Kryptonians have a remarkable ability to pick up languages, some of the subtleties of the English language take a little more time to perfect. However, I am sure it wouldn't take much longer before their speech patterns would become much more natural.

Space Travel:

Kryptonians have learned to make use of wormholes for space travel, allowing very quick transport between Earth and Krypton. (See Stargate for more information. <g>)



The relationship between Zara, Ching and Kal was influenced in part by the relationship between Guinevere, Lancelot and King Author I've read and seen in movies over the years. Two movies in particular which have influenced my thinking are 'Camelot' and 'First Knight.' In fact, I believe in 'Camelot' there is a conversation between Guinevere and Lancelot where Guinevere refers to Author as 'the man we both love.'

I have no idea who to credit this statement to: "Infidelity is a man's misdemeanor and a woman's felony." But I'm reasonably certain it isn't mine.