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Clark Superman

Family Reunion - Chapter 47 - Impact

Title: Family Reunion
Author:[info]mr_beeto
Fandom: Richard Donner and Bryan Singer's Superman MovieVerse (i.e., without Salkind corruption)
Rating: PG
Word Count: Chapter 47 - 5,206; Total - 200,786
Beta: dandello and htbthomas
Summary: AU Twist on Donner/Singer Movieverse: Tie the three films together into a cohesive whole, and provide a more credible and interesting reason for Superman to have returned to Krypton. The story starts here.

[  Chapter 46  ]     [  Table of Contents  ]     [  Chapter 48  ]

Author’s Notes:
The final act begins. Thanks again to the beta team of htbthomas and Shado Librarian, a.k.a. dandello.

Chapter 47 – Impact

Thursday, October 5, 2006 5:15PM EDT
Lois clutched the Navy blanket tightly around herself to fight off the chill as she walked down the stairs from the roof of the Daily Planet. She’d been shivering ever since the first dip in the Atlantic earlier that afternoon and redressing in her drenched clothing hadn’t helped matters. Kara had offered to dry her off with heat vision, but Lois had politely declined. She remembered Clark explaining that heat vision had been one of the harder powers to control, and she wasn’t about to become Kara’s guinea pig. Not when the little darling only had a few weeks of practice.

The group continued their descent down the steps, entertained by Jason and Kara’s amused description of the globe’s fall from its perch. The ‘waterfall’ the kids had described could only have meant that the globe had crushed the rooftop water tanks when it rolled off. No water tanks means no running water, Lois concluded. Well, looks like the bathroom breaks will have to wait a little while longer.

The children’s chatter dissipated into background noise as Lois’ thoughts turned to Clark, who was still miles above them, launching a massive, radioactive protocontinent into space. She also knew him well enough to read between the lines of what he had said on the seaplane. He wasn’t sure he’d survive. Even Jor-El seemed to hint that their success wasn’t certain. You had better come back alive, Lois thought desperately. I can’t lose you again.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Richard’s voice when they reached the landing at the thirtieth floor where their offices were. “Lois, I need to stop here and grab my things,” Richard said softly.

Lois nodded absently and ushered the kids through the door in front of her, her eyes widening in surprise at the mess they found. The wind was blowing briskly across the bullpen, sending the papers from the reporters’ desks all over the place. There were also piles of broken glass where there had previously been doors and walls and windows. “Geez…” Lois muttered breathlessly.

“The earthquake broke all the glass,” Kara said quietly.

“Stay close to me,” Lois commanded. “I don’t want you two getting too close to the edge.”

“We’re not gonna fall,” Jason told her confidently.

“Well, I don’t want anyone to see you not falling. Stay here with me,” Lois countered sternly. She led the children over to her desk, and quickly inventoried her desk top contents. A stack of printouts that had been growing on her desk had blown into the aisle along with a Kleenex box and a small notepad. She scrambled to collect her wind-thrown belongings, with help from the kids.

Richard walked over to them just as she piled the last of the recovered papers into one of her desk drawers. “I think I’ve got everything I need,” he informed her. “The laptop was fried in the EMP, so there not much point in lugging it along with us.”

“You should bring it anyway,” Lois suggested. “Clark might be able to fix it when he gets home.”

A wounded look momentarily crossed Richard before he schooled his expression, nodded his assent and returned to his office to pack up the laptop.

Lois felt a stab of guilt over Richard’s obvious pain and her thoughts turned to the impact of the afternoon’s revelation. Richard had maintained a somber countenance since leaving the plane on the roof, with his brow slightly wrinkled and his lips turned slightly down. She guessed he had been trying to wrap his head around the secret double life of his rival and what it meant for their relationship. Things clearly could never go back to the way they were before Clark returned and their façade of happiness had already begun to crumble. They would have to finally confront the problems that they’d ignored for years, and Lois loathed the pain that would cause him. He really is a good man, and he deserves so much better than this, she thought.

“All set,” Richard hollered across the room.

A minute later, the group had resumed their slow descent to the bottom of the stairwell and Lois reflected that time seemed to slow down with each step they took. The afternoon’s ordeal had left her cold and tired, and she felt that they had certainly walked down enough steps by now to already be at the bottom. To make matters worse, the others seemed to be oblivious to the temporal distortion. Richard was easily keeping pace with her, and the kids were practically bouncing with energy. Geez, looks like that sunlight high is even worse than a sugar high, Lois lamented. How in the world are we going to manage that?

After a small eternity, they finally reached bottom of the stairwell, but just as they were about to open the portal, a shrill ring came from Richard’s satellite phone. He pulled the phone out of the inner pocket of his suit coat and politely answered, “Richard White… Hold on.” He held the mouthpiece against his shoulder and informed Lois, “It’s your dad.”

“Oh, sh–oot. I forgot all about him,” Lois admitted wearily.

“Should I tell him you’ll call him back?”

“No, I’ll take it,” Lois told him unenthusiastically. Richard handed her the phone and she answered calmly, “Dad?”

You hung up on me earlier,” Sam reminded her.

“I did? Oh, sorry about that. Kara was a little upset, and I needed to help her,” Lois explained.

Kara?

“Yes, Kara. You know, Jason’s sister?” Lois replied irritably.

Since when does he have a sister?” Sam asked incredulously.

“Oh, crap. I forget we hadn’t told you about her,” Lois muttered. “Hold on a minute.”

Lois looked over at Richard apologetically and said, “I don’t think I want them hearing this.”

Richard nodded and said, “I’ll take them ahead to Smallville. Try not to be too long.” He then opened the portal, and guided the children down the stairs. “All right, guys. Let’s go,” he said authoritatively.

Lois waited for the floor to rematerialize before returning her attention to the phone. “Okay, I’m back,” she said.

What the hell is this about Jason having a sister? Has White been running around on you?

“What? Dad, no, nothing like that!” Lois replied angrily. “Richard’s not…” She sighed and added quietly, “Jason’s not biologically his.”

What?” Sam bellowed. “Then who is the father?”

“I don’t want to get into that over the phone, but he’s a good man,” Lois explained. “He had some important matters to take care of years ago and had moved away from Metropolis before Jason was born. Before I even knew I was pregnant. Well, he’s back now, along with his seven year old daughter.”

So how’s this deadbeat suddenly got you babysitting his daughter?”

“He’s not a deadbeat – he never knew!” Lois shouted angrily. “He wasn’t exactly reachable while he was away, so I never got the chance to tell him until he moved back to Metropolis a couple weeks ago. He’d just assumed custody of Kara, after the poor kid’s mother passed way. She’s emotionally traumatized, he’s overwhelmed, and we’ve been helping.”

White must be thrilled with that,” Sam muttered.

“Not really. Dad, do we really have to get into this now? It’s been a rough afternoon.”

So I’ve gathered.”

“Dad…” Lois began impatiently.

Sam sighed and said, “Lois, I’ve been authorized to let you know that Luthor’s monstrous creation is in outer space now, and it looks like that lunatic was trapped on top when Superman launched it. It’s finally over.

“Not completely. Luthor and his thugs were preserved in stasis before the air ran out.”

What! How?

“Apparently, they have the right to due process under Kryptonian law and they couldn’t be left to die without a tribunal,” Lois explained. “Superman was ‘obliged’ to keep them alive, so we’re going to have to continue the fight in court once he brings them back to Earth.”

Well, Superman won’t be doing that anytime soon,” Sam said somberly. “After throwing that monstrosity out into space, he fell back to Earth. We tracked him all the way down and we’ve sent a rescue team to the impact site.”

“No,” Lois moaned miserably. “Tell me he’s going to be okay. He’s got to be okay.”

“Lois, that’s all we know about it right now, and all I’m authorized to tell you,” Sam said simply.

“I… I’ve gotta go,” Lois said emotionally and she ended the call. She then quickly opened the portal, rushed down the stairs, and shouted, “Jor-El!”

“Is there a problem, Lois? You appear agitated,” the disembodied voice answered.

“I just heard that Kal-El was hurt. That he fell from orbit.”

“That is correct. He lost consciousness shortly after successfully propelling the abomination beyond Earth’s gravity well, and fell back to Earth.”

“He can’t be… he’s not… he wasn’t supposed to die…” Lois sputtered tearfully.

“Live signs are weak, but he is alive,” Jor-El informed her. “I am closely monitoring the situation.”

“You… are?”

“The orbiting probes we deployed to track the EMP also permit detailed scans of Kal-El. I am also able to listen in on the rescue workers at the scene through the microphone in his belt buckle.”

“I need to know what’s going on,” Lois declared. She opened the transportation chamber, and charged into it, demanding, “Bring me to the Fortress.”

-o-o-o-


Doctor Julio Gonzalez stood with his trauma team just inside the doors adjacent to the helipad at Philadelphia’s Hahnemann University Hospital, waiting for a National Guard helicopter to bring in an injured VIP the nearly fifty miles from Metropolis. That city’s hospitals had been overwhelmed from the events earlier in the afternoon and couldn’t accommodate him. Philadelphia had also been affected by the EMP and earthquake, but they’d been able to manually switch over their standby generator and had enough equipment between their portable units and those delivered by the Army Reserve to keep up with the trauma center’s spike in demand. It really came as no surprise that they’d medevac a Metropolis victim to Hahnemann.

The big surprise was the victim’s identity, which he had been asked to keep quiet. Not even the heavily armed National Guard security squad that had just recently been deployed by a Blackhawk helicopter seemed to realize just who it was they were sent to protect. However, their assignment clearly spoke to his stature, and they took the mission seriously, stoically standing guard at the door and searching the sky for the helicopter. Gonzalez only hoped he’d be able to help the fallen hero.

Finally, he heard the thrum of helicopter rotors and he peered out the glass doors for its source. Within moments, the Army National Guard medevac chopper came in for a landing and he burst out the doors with his team to meet them, with the soldiers in step behind them.

Once the aircraft touched down, the side door slid open and six of Metropolis’ Finest jumped out along with the paramedics. The honor guard of police officers gently lifted out a basket stretcher and brought it over to the gurney, afterwards purposefully positioning themselves between the hero and the soldiers. “He’s one of ours!” a brawny police officer pointedly shouted over the rotor noise.

“Understood, sir!” an anxious young staff sergeant conceded. “Consider us your backup.”

Gonzalez ignored the interaction between the protective forces and focused his attention on the hero. Though he’d been warned what to expect, he was still taken aback by the sight of the heroic victim with his famous costume peeking out from under the blanket. Gonzalez only gawked a moment before recovering and asking the paramedics, “What’s his condition?”

“Breathing became shallow in transit, heart rate’s less than thirty. Can’t get a reading on blood pressure,” one of the paramedics answered.

“Let’s get him inside, quickly,” Gonzalez ordered.

A few minutes later, they transferred him to the trauma ward and went to work. “Let’s get this off him,” Gonzalez instructed his team, gesturing to the skin tight uniform.

Nurse Betty Hudson grabbed a pair of scissors from the instrument tray and attempted to cut the shirt off at his collar. However, her efforts were in vain and after a moment of effort, she declared, “No good. I can’t cut through this.”

“We’ll just have to take it off in one piece,” Lily Thompson suggested, and the older nurse quickly managed to remove his shirt and pull off the cape. She then immediately went to work attaching EKG electrodes while Betty loosened his belt to free the remaining clothing and discovered the deep stab wounds in the process. “Doctor?” she said anxiously.

“Two penetrating stab wounds, no hemorrhage,” Gonzalez muttered. He focused the overhead halogen light on the wounds and grabbed a lacrimal probe from the instrument tray to inspect them. For the most part, the tissue within yielded just as it would have with a human patient. In the second wound, he encountered something rigid that seemed out of place. He traded the probe for a pair of hemostatic forceps and searched the wound for the foreign object. After maneuvering in the wound for a moment, he extracted a half-inch long fragment of a glowing green crystalline material.

“Is that what I think it is?” Betty asked.

“If it is, we need to get it away from him and shielded under lead,” Gonzalez declared. He dropped the object into a pan and added, “Betty, get that out of here. And remember that the police will probably want it for evidence, so let’s make sure it doesn’t disappear.”

“Got it.”

Just as Betty left the room with the deadly material, Lily shouted, “Code Blue! Flatline!”

“Get him started on epinephrine. One milligram, IV push!” Gonzalez ordered.

The nurse attempted to comply, but almost immediately reported, “Can’t. Needle won’t penetrate. It just bends.”

“Okay, let’s try something else. Shock at two hundred.”

“Will that work on him, considering?” Lily asked worriedly. “He’s not… human.”

Gonzalez nodded and after a moment of thought, he added, “All right. Charge to three sixty.”

“Ready.”

Gonzalez placed the paddles on Superman’s chest and declared, “Clear!”

The paddles crackled with electricity, the lights flickered, and the defibrillator sparked and smoked. Yet, there was no discernible reaction from Superman.

“Still flatline, and the defibrillator’s fried,” Lily reported.

“Then we switch to CPR,” Gonzalez decided. The nurse immediately moved a respiration mask into place over his face while Gonzalez attempted to begin chest compressions. However, the hero’s chest didn’t yield to the force. “Damn it, his chest won’t compress! How the hell do you administer emergency medicine to someone who’s still invulnerable when he’s practically dead?”

-o-o-o-


From the moment she stepped through the security doors at the Fortress, Lois had stood numbly in front of the giant floating display screens, watching the medical teams fussing over Clark. Though she’d been grateful for the audio feed that Jor-El had piped in during the trip to the Fortress, the three-dimensional reproduction of the probe’s data that was now before her seemed so real that she almost felt she was in the room with him. Hang in there, Clark, she thought desperately.

Code Blue! Flatline!” one of the nurses shouted.

“No!” Lois wailed. “Don’t you dare die on me, Clark!” Her legs went limp beneath her, and she dropped to her knees and sat on her heels. “Don’t you dare die on me,” she repeated weakly. The scene blurred through her tears, and her sobs grew stronger as the trauma team desperately tried to save him.

“Damn it, his chest won’t compress! How the hell do you administer emergency medicine to someone who’s still invulnerable when he’s practically dead?” the doctor complained.

“What do we do?” the nurse asked him.

“There’s nothing we can do,” the doctor declared sadly. “Let’s call it. Time of death… five fifty-three.”

No!” Lois hollered. You can’t give up yet! He’s not dead!”

“Lois,” Jor-El prodded gently. The holographic floating head looked over at her with a concerned expression.

“I can still feel him, like he’s in the next room… he can’t be dead,” Lois protested frantically.

Beep.

“Doctor?” the nurse inquired.

“We did all we could, Lily,” the doctor said compassionately.

“Doctor, we’ve got a pulse. He’s not gone yet.”

Beep.

“His life signs are stabilizing,” Jor-El informed her.

“Told you,” Lois muttered irritably. She wiped her eyes and returned her attention to the scene on the floating screens, oblivious to the blue aura that had formed around her or the thin blue line of light that passed from head to foot.

Beep.

“Pulse is slow, but steady,” the nurse called Lily declared. “Only about forty beats a minute.”

I wonder what’s normal for him,” the doctor commented. “All right, let’s get those wounds dressed, and then get him down to x-ray. I want to make sure there aren’t any more kryptonite fragments floating around inside those wounds.”

Beep.

“Extraordinary,” Jor-El commented.

“Huh?”

“I did not anticipate that your mate bond with Kal-El would be so completely formed,” Jor-El explained.

“Mate bond? You mean that psychic thing?” Lois wondered. She finally wiped away her tears, still watching the screen as the medical workers roll Kal-El out of the trauma room.

“Precisely. Your mate bond is remarkably strong.”

“I don’t understand,” Lois complained.

“A moment ago, you indicated that you knew Kal-El was alive because you could feel him,” Jor-El reminded her. “A diagnostic scan confirms that you have a high energy state in the normally dormant area of the human brain required for the mate bond.”

“You scanned me?” Lois questioned irritably.

“It was necessary to confirm whether or not the bond was present,” Jor-El stated neutrally. “The existence of the bond means that your distress could distress Kal-El, even in his unconscious state and separated by this distance. To help him now, you must first help yourself.”

“I’m fine,” Lois insisted.

“You are emotionally drained and slightly hypothermic,” Jor-El corrected. “You need to tend to your health and rest your body and mind.”

“But Kal-El’s still hurt,” Lois protested.

“He is no longer in immediate danger,” Jor-El pointed out. “I will alert you if there is a change in his condition.”

Lois opened her mouth to object, but snapped it shut as she realized just how exhausted she really was. “I don’t suppose you have a hot shower somewhere around here? Or towels and some dry clothes I could borrow?”

“The items you have requested are available,” Jor-El stated simply.

Lois reply was interrupted by the bright blue lights that danced through the Fortress and coalesced into a female figure of human proportions. She was dressed in a shimmering white jumpsuit and had long auburn hair the exact same shade as Jason’s. “Greetings, Lois. I am Lara, Kal-El’s mother,” the woman announced. “Please follow me, and I’ll show you where to find the items you requested.” She turned and walked casually towards a staircase to the left of the console, and after a moment’s hesitation, Lois rose to her feet and followed her.

-o-o-o-

Richard let the hot torrent of water massage him and chase away the chills while he stood under the shower in Ben Hubbard’s house and reflected on the afternoon’s incredible ordeal and the astonishing secret it had unveiled. Clark Kent, clumsy farm boy from Kansas and Jason’s biological father, was also Superman, the amazing visitor from the planet Krypton. Though Lois had offered some clues to explain the seeming contradiction between the two biographies, there we’re still some large pieces of the puzzle missing, and he’d have to wait a little longer for the explanations. Lois had refused further comment on it after leaving the plane, insisting that it was too risky to discuss the ‘family secret’ in the city.

Surprisingly, he wasn’t entirely disappointed by the delay. He was grateful for the additional time to try to make sense of the amazing revelation. His thoughts turned to his Lois and Jason, and he tried to see his relationship with them through the prism of the truth. The truth was that Lois was in love with Clark. That fact was driven home by what he witnessed from Lois and the hero that afternoon, made clear as much from her actions as from the parting words he’d overheard between the two.

It was her determination not to let Luthor bait Superman into a trap when they were themselves trapped. It was the way she boldly dove off a speeding airplane into a cold Atlantic ocean to save him. It was the tender expression she offered him before he flew off to dispose of Luthor’s horror – a loving look that he had never seen directed at him. It was how, as Perry put it, she’d been a shadow of herself while Clark was gone, and came back to life once he returned. It was also the worry he saw etched in her expression during their descent down the stairs at the Planet – worry for Clark Kent, the man she loved. He concluded that Lois’ heart had probably always belonged to the hero, and that undeniable truth left Richard wondering if he had been the interloper, rather than Clark.

Another undeniable truth was that Jason was the son of Superman and possessed the same superpowers – powers that he had not yet mastered and which Clark was clearly best suited to help him with. Richard was also forced to acknowledge that Jason was quickly bonding with his long lost father and had even called him ‘Daddy’ on the plane earlier. Will I come in second to Clark with Jason too? Richard wondered. After all, what kid wouldn’t want Superman for his daddy?

He pondered the situation for a few minutes, and then decided, Well, there’s not much point in standing here feeling sorry for myself. He then abruptly shut off the water, grabbed the towel from the hook outside the shower, and toweled himself off.

A short time later, he pulled Martha’s truck into the drive at the Kent farm. When he walked into the house, he found the kids helping Ben and Martha set the table for dinner. Richard was curious just how much the kids had told the old couple while he was in the shower. Of course, there hadn’t been time for much discussion when they finally returned from Metropolis. Martha took one look at her untidy visitors, and quickly shepherded Kara up the stairs to change into dry clothes and urged Richard to go over to Ben’s place to do the same. Richard had been eager to do so and had gladly accepted her car keys.

“Hi, Daddy,” Jason greeted him, interrupting his thoughts.

“Hey there, Kiddo,” Richard replied with false cheer. Maybe I won’t lose him completely.

Martha peeked in from the kitchen and warmly greeted him. “Well, you’re certainly looking much better now, Richard.”

“A hot shower does wonders,” Richard commented wearily. “So, have the munchkins filled you in?”

“I think we got the gist of it. My goodness, what a horrible ordeal you’ve all been through,” Martha replied. After a beat, she apprehensively added, “It sounds like you’ve probably figured out a few things about our family, too.”

Richard sighed and said, “Yeah, you’ve got a super family here. And don’t worry about the family secret - it stays a secret.” He paused a moment and added, “This is going to take some getting used to… And here I thought that nothing could ever top last week’s bombshell...”

Ben chuckled and said cheerfully, “It threw me for a loop too, when I found out. But it really didn’t take very long to realize that what they can do doesn’t change who they are. Clark’s the same person now as he always was and the kids aren’t really all that different from any other kids their age.”

Except for the flying part, Richard thought. Aloud, he numbly replied “I’ll try to keep that in mind.”

“Thank you for protecting our family, Richard,” Martha told him sincerely. “And don’t forget, you’re part of this family, too.”

“I never considered not protecting them and thanks,” Richard declared. After a beat, he asked, “Where’s Lois?”

“She hasn’t come back yet,” Martha informed him. “Jason said she had a call from her father and wanted to speak to him privately just before you came through the portal earlier.”

“She still should have been here by now,” Richard commented anxiously. “I really hope she isn’t trying to chase down another story lead.”

“You might want to check with Jor-El, see if he knows where she is,” Martha suggested. “You can talk to him downstairs.”

“I’ll do that. Thanks for the suggestion.”

“I’ll come with you,” Ben decided. “I need to stretch my legs a bit.”

“I want to come, too!” Jason declared.

“Me, too,” Kara echoed.

“I think it’d be better if you two stayed here and helped your grandma,” Ben suggested gently. “We won’t be long.”

After the children reluctantly returned to setting the table, Ben and Richard walked out the front door. Once the two men got inside the barn, Ben gently asked, “Is everything all right, Richard? You’ve been looking like you just lost your best friend?”

“Maybe I have,” Richard replied quietly. “I think I finally realized what I’m up against.” He opened the trap door in the barn floor and held it open for Ben.

Ben stopped at the top of the stairs, and turned to face Richard, insistently telling him, “Richard, nobody here is going to try to come between you and Lois, least of all Clark. He’s been especially adamant on that point, and that hasn’t changed just because you know about his super self. Once you look past those extraordinary abilities and the exotic heritage, he’s really no different than any other man.”

“But he’s still the man that Lois is in love with,” Richard stated sadly.

“Son, you’ve had a couple huge bombshells dropped into your lap in the past week or so,” Ben reminded him. “It’s barely a week since you learned about Jason’s paternity. You need to give it some time before jumping to conclusions like that.” The old man turned and headed down the stairs, the cellar light coming on automatically as he descended.

Richard followed Ben down the stairs, and quietly asked, “Five and half years isn’t enough?”

“How’s that?” Ben asked.

“That’s how long Lois and I have been engaged,” Richard explained. “I could never get Lois to even begin to think about planning a wedding because she really never wanted to marry me. If I hadn’t guilt-tripped her into it, she never would have accepted my ring. She’d have gladly gone it alone and waited for Clark to get back. And now he’s back, and I’m in the way.”

Ben walked over to the opposite wall, and placed his hand on the cinder block as he said, “Open Sesame.” The wall dematerialized to reveal the second staircase, and Ben started down the steps, while gently telling Richard, “Son, I don’t know the facts here well enough to speculate on your relationship. But you still need to give yourself some time to think things through before throwing in the towel. And once you’ve thought it through, talk to her about your concerns. Who knows, maybe you can still work your way through it.”

“Easier said than done, and it may be too little too late,” Richard muttered unhappily.

“Well, you certainly won’t get far with that attitude,” Ben commented.

Richard sighed and said, “All right, I’ll mull it over for a couple days before I broach the subject.”

“That’s better,” Ben replied cheerfully. He reached the bottom of the staircase, and a thin blue wall of light swept across the room. Once the light faded, Ben inquired, “Are you there, Jor-El?”

“Yes, I am here, Mister Hubbard,” a disembodied voice answered. “How may I be of assistance?”

“We were expecting Lois to follow us through the portal to Smallville, but she never arrived,” Richard informed him. “We’re getting a little worried and were hoping you might have an idea where she went.”

“She is here at the Fortress, Mister White,” Jor-El answered simply.

“The Fortress?” Richard muttered in surprise. “What’s she doing there?”

“We’ve been monitoring Kal-El’s condition since he fell from orbit.”

“He fell?” Ben echoed worriedly. “What happened?”

“Shortly after propelling that abominable protocontinent beyond Earth’s gravity well, he lost consciousness due to the severe exposure to the umbiexium three-ten radiation emanating from the monstrosity,” Jor-El explained.

“What’s umbiexium?” Richard wondered.

“I believe the common name for the material is kryptonite.”

“Oh, my,” Ben muttered worriedly. “Is he all right?”

“Rescue workers transferred him to Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, where they extracted a fifty gram fragment of the umbiexium three ten from a wound in his back,” Jor-El informed him. “His life signs have since stabilized, but he remains unconscious.”

“But he’ll be all right, won’t he?” Ben pressed.

“His recovery is progressing as expected,” Jor-El answered enigmatically.

“Lois is probably still worried sick about him,” Richard concluded. “Jor-El, can you patch us through to Lois?”

“Lois Lane is currently unavailable,” Jor-El replied neutrally.

“Unavailable?” Richard questioned incredulously.

“Richard, around these parts, that can mean that the lady’s powdering her nose, and a gentleman knows better than to interrupt,” Ben said gently. “The important thing is that she’s okay, and though Clark might not be out of the woods yet, he survived the encounter with that monstrosity.” Ben turned his attention back to Jor-El and added, “Thank you, Jor-El. Please let us know if there is any change in his condition. Use email or IM. I don’t want the kids overhearing this and getting upset.”

“As you wish.”

“How can you be sure that they’re not listening in on us now?” Richard asked. “I know Kara’s got superhearing, and Jason’s hearing could be just as sharp for all we know.”

“When the outer door is sealed, as it is now, it forms a unidirectional acoustic barrier,” Jor-El informed them. “The children cannot hear us.”

Richard’s brow wrinkled in confusion and he commented, “That seems… odd. Why an acoustic barrier? And why unidirectional?”

“Because Clark and Martha need to be able to talk privately about things without disturbing Kara, but he still needs to be able to hear her if she starts having another nightmare or a panic attack,” Ben explained. “Once he decided to install a portal in here, the barrier was an obvious design feature.” He paused for a moment, and then added, “Come on, Richard. Let’s get back upstairs and make sure those kids stay happily distracted until we have some better news on Clark.”

Richard nodded his acquiescence and said, “I’ll do my best.” The two men then left the chamber, and climbed the stairs back up to the barn cellar. You better pull through, Kent, Richard thought. From what I’ve seen and heard this afternoon, the world desperately needs Superman, despite certain editorials to the contrary. And so do Lois and the kids.

[  Chapter 46  ]     [  Table of Contents  ]     [  Chapter 48  ]

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