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Clark Superman

Family Reunion - Chapter 51 - Not in the Cards

Title: Family Reunion
Author: mr_beeto
Fandom: Richard Donner and Bryan Singer's Superman MovieVerse (i.e., without Salkind corruption)
Rating: PG
Word Count: Chapter 51 - 4,401; Total - 222,362
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 50   ]     [  Table of Contents  ]     [  Chapter 52  ]

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

Chapter 51 – Not in the Cards

Thursday, October 12, 2006 8:05AM EDT
Richard pulled his car into the driveway of his house, automatically pressing the button on the garage door opener before he remembered that the electronics were certain to still be fried from Luthor’s EMP. The ‘Krypto-Tech’, as Lois called it, had made great strides in speeding up repairs, but there was no magic undo button to automatically put things back the way they were. It took time and an incredible amount of energy. Lois had informed him that it took only a little more than two and half hours to deplete the energy reserves on those starships, and in that time they consumed more energy than the entire Earth produced in a month. They were fortunate that it only took twenty hours for the ships to recharge before resuming their task.

Despite the progress, there was still a public perception that repairs were going slowly. After all, it had only taken a few milliseconds for Luthor’s EMP to blow through an eighty thousand square mile disaster area and burn out all powered electronics, including virtually every electrical transformer on the power grid. In the five days since the starships began their assignment, they just recently finished restoring the essential infrastructure of power, water and sewer, and natural gas, with repairs to landline communications scheduled to finally be completed later that morning. It would be well into the next week before work on the commercial centers began, and probably close to another month before the last of the consumer electronics was repaired. Still, Metropolis had been cleaned up enough for the drive home from the Planet’s parking garage to be tolerable, and Richard was anxious to check out the house.

He sighed wearily and shifted the car into park, staring blankly at the closed garage door in front of him for a moment before grabbing his laptop bag and marching up to the front door to let himself in. Once inside, he set down his laptop and surveyed the interior almost nostalgically. He reflected that it didn’t really feel like home. It reminded him more of a childhood visit to his grandmother’s house after she passed away, numbly walking through the lifeless house while the adults packed up the late matriarch’s possessions. What a difference a week makes, Richard thought.

He shook himself from his ruminations and gave the house closer scrutiny. The lights worked, but not the television, stereo or cable broadband modem. The refrigerator was dead, too, and he’d been forced to turn his head when he opened the door and confronted the stench of rotting leftovers, abandoned when they fled to Smallville after Luthor’s attempted hit on Clark. Richard quickly got to work cleaning out the refrigerator and tossing the spoiled food.

After he finished with the refrigerator, he quickly inspected the rest of the house before heading out back to check out his plane, which Clark had brought back to the house earlier in the week. Once satisfied that everything was in order, he returned to the house and settled in at his desk in the back room. He powered up his laptop, connected it to a cable from his cell phone and logged into the Planet’s portal, and began reviewing the morning’s international news.

The politicians overseas had apparently gotten over their initial shock at recent events and had resurrected their complaints of favoritism by the Man of Steel, calling the Kryptonian rules governing his technology ‘arbitrary’, given that the planet had been destroyed. They groused that the rules of a dead society should not prevent its technology from helping with their construction projects. Those complaints are only going to get worse, Richard pondered. Clark’s going to need to put out a statement to clarify things.

Richard had already heard the explanation, of course. Superman had sworn to abide by Kryptonian law when he began his training, which made it a matter of honor. Those rules were also now enforced by Jor-El’s A.I., as one of the security upgrades implemented following Luthor’s break-in. Even if someone like Luthor managed to get past the perimeter security and fool the biometric sensors and reach the console, they still wouldn’t be able to walk out of the place with its technology. The crystals were now permanently locked in an underground vault and the security protocols in the A.I. strictly governed access to the technology.

It also meant that Superman couldn’t make arbitrary exceptions to the rules either. Not only would Jor-El need to be convinced that the request was permissible under Kryptonian law, he’d also attempt to independently confirm any claim of urgency though an array of orbiting probes and interfaces into the Earth’s information networks. I’m not sure that those foreign politicians will be much happier to learn that HAL(1) is running things at the Fortress, Richard thought. Hell, it might freak out a lot of people here. Maybe Lois has some ideas on that…

Thoughts of Lois inevitably provoked reminders of his crumbling relationship, and Richard turned wistful. Once she got Jason and Kara on their school bus, Lois would be heading back up to the Fortress. She claimed that with all of the communications and transportation obstacles around the city, it was the best place for gathering the necessary information she needed for her stories. He couldn’t dispute the point and had to concede that her story production over the past few days had been spectacular. However, the choice of venue was also a painful reminder of her heart’s apparent choice.

Get a grip, White, Richard scolded himself. You’ve already analyzed that to death and don’t have time to go through that again now. There’s work to do. He pushed the unpleasant thoughts from his mind, and dove into his work, quickly writing up and sending off a summary of the international sentiment to Perry. He then retrieved the satellite phone from his pocket and began calling up the Planet’s overseas staff to insure that his department’s stories were on track.

-o-o-o-

Thursday, October 12, 2006 10:35AM EDT
Perry had surprised Richard with a sudden summons. He had asked Richard to meet him at Berkowitz airport, and bring Ron Troupe and Jimmy Olsen with him. Apparently, Richard hadn’t been the only one interested in inspecting the damage that morning, and Perry had finagled a ride back to the city on Bruce Wayne’s private plane. Richard had barely finished putting together the International and Washington story budgets for the day before attempting the cross town trip, stopping in Midtown to pick up Ron and Jimmy from the Troupe house.

They’d been forced to take a circuitous route of countless detours on the trip from Midtown to Berkowitz, but Richard was surprised to find he didn’t mind the traffic, thanks to the friendly conversation from his colleagues. Ron was clearly steering the conversations to safe topics like their competition’s follies or the latest news from the Troupe family. Richard found it refreshing to be able to have a conversation about kids that didn’t end with them being compared to Superman at that age. Richard was relaxed and in high spirits by the time they finally arrived at Berkowitz.

When they reached the private gate, they were quickly ushered through and handed off to their escort, Claire Warner. “Good morning, gentlemen,” she greeted them. “I’ve got a cart to take us the rest of the way to Mister Wayne’s hanger. If you follow me…” She led them to an electric cart on the tarmac, and they were soon speeding through the rows of hangers.

When they reached Bruce Wayne’s hanger, they found Perry pacing outside the large open doors. “You’re late,” he complained brusquely.

“Half the bridges across the river either collapsed in the quake or have been declared unsound and closed by the Army Corp of Engineers,” Richard reminded him. “There was no easy way to get here.”

“Then I guess it’s a good thing we won’t be going back that way,” a male voice interjected.

Richard looked towards the source of the voice and discovered Bruce Wayne walking towards him, with his Learjet 85 parked in the hanger behind him. Also inside the hanger was a Bell 407 helicopter, sitting on a wheeled platform that was being towed out of the hanger.

“Mister Wayne,” Richard addressed the other man, while offering him his hand.

Bruce shook Richard’s hand warmly and then nodded his head at the helicopter, declaring, “I think we’ll get around the city easier on that.” After a moment’s pause, he added, “As a fellow pilot, I’m sure you appreciate the liberating mobility of aircraft.”

“Yes, sir,” Richard answered, smiling widely. “Unfortunately, I’m not yet qualified on helicopters. Yet. I keep meaning to go back for the training, but just never got around to it.”

“There’s still time and it’s well worth it,” Bruce assured him.

“I’ll have to look into it, then” Richard replied cordially. “Oh, this is Ron Troup, one of our reporters, and Jimmy Olsen, our photographer.”

“Gentlemen,” Bruce said cordially as he offered them his hand.

“Now that we have the introductions out of the way, let’s get in the air and get a good look at the city,” Perry grumbled. “And this is work, not a sight-seeing tour. Olsen, we’ll need good pictures, and Troupe, you’re writing up the aftermath story.”

“Got it, Chief,” Jimmy said cheerfully.

“Yes, sir,” Ron replied simultaneously.

The men boarded the helicopter, and as Bruce Wayne’s pilot climbed into the right front seat, Richard asked his uncle, “How was the trip in?”

“Better than yours, from the sound of it,” Perry replied. He paused as the helicopter lifted off, and peered out his window before he finally added, “It probably took longer in queue to take off and land than it did to get here. How was your ‘scenic route’, by the way?”

“After picking up Ron and Jimmy, we had to go all the way East through the business district, across the Hamstead Bridge, then circle back through the northern boroughs, and finally across the Racine Bridge and through Park Ridge.”

“It’s murder trying to get around with all the bridges out,” Jimmy complained.

“Well, I hear that the bridges are on the Kryptonian starship’s reconstruction schedule for Monday afternoon,” Bruce informed them. “If you’re lucky, at least some of them will be opened up for the evening rush hour.”

“They’re rebuilding all of them in a day?” Jimmy replied incredulously. “Didn’t they all take something like a year or two to build the first time around?”

“They don’t have to be completely rebuilt,” Bruce pointed out. “The towers are still standing and with relatively minor damage, or so I’m told. Same for the main cables and anchorages. All Superman’s ship really needs to do is replace the road deck and suspender(2) cables.”

“Will they get Roosevelt Tunnel fixed Monday, too?” Jimmy wondered.

“That’s out of scope,” Richard explained. “Remember what they were saying about the Kryptonian legal restrictions? Since the tunnel wasn’t damaged as a result of abused Kryptonian technology, they can’t use Krypto-Tech to repair it. They’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way. Same thing for the Hancock Building, the Vanderworth Mansion and the Pleasant Acres apartment towers that Luthor firebombed.”

“Oh,” Jimmy said quietly, his voice full of disappointment.

“By the way… any word on when our building’s scheduled for repair?” Ron asked tentatively.

“I’m hearing Wednesday,” Perry answered. “They’re getting the grocery stores, restaurants and the associated supply chains back up before they do office buildings.”

“Even if repairs are completed Wednesday, it might still be another week or two before we’re allowed back inside,” Bruce added. “Apparently, Superman’s sworn statement isn’t good enough for the mayor, who’s insisting that the city needs to inspect all the high-rises before reissuing occupancy permits. Even with out-of-state volunteers helping, it’s still going to take quite some time to test fire alarm and suppression systems, and verify the integrity of the structural steel with their ultrasonic equipment.”

“Things will get back to normal eventually. In the meantime, we’ll be shipping in the paper from Gotham,” Perry declared, before returning his attention to the view out his window. After a moment, he added brusquely, “ Now, this isn’t a social club, there’s work to do. Pay attention to what’s going on down there.”

“We’re on it, Chief,” Jimmy assured him, and the men redirected their attention out the windows as the helicopter began its sweep over the city’s Northwest boroughs.

-o-o-o-

Lois let out an aggravated sigh and leaned her head against her left palm. Though the Fortress certainly provided the most current information on reconstruction, she’d grown weary of that story and was anxious to move on to her next target: Judge Walter Kilpatrick of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third District in Newark. Lois was certain that he’d been suborned by Luthor into overturning his conviction with the flimsiest of legal excuses. However, her efforts were frustrated by the ongoing drama in the EMP disaster zone and her would-be allies’ near total obsession with it.

She’d also been stymied by Jor-El, who after having been so helpful recently, had resumed his obstructionist role. He outright refused to scan Luthor’s memories for the events leading up to his acquittal, citing privacy doctrine. Jor-El insisted that he’d need evidence of a violation of Kryptonian law in order to access those memories, and accusations that Luthor had corrupted the American criminal justice system simply didn’t qualify. The big floating head had not yet been convinced that it was part of a conspiracy to rob the Fortress, which should have been a qualifying violation. The argument was giving her a headache.

Lois looked up at Jor-El and groused, “I know you want to know how Luthor pulled that off as much as I do.”

“What I may want is not relevant,” Jor-El pointed out. “I am responsible for enforcing compliance with Kryptonian law, and I must fulfill that duty.”

“The evidence we need is right there, in Luthor’s mind, and you have him trapped up there making it a simple matter to ‘interrogate’ him,” Lois complained.

“However, we require evidence of his wrongdoing under Kryptonian law before we may consider memory extraction.”

“We know what he did! That’s probable cause!”

“We suspect him of additional crimes. However, that is just supposition. We lack sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation for additional crimes against Krypton.”

“Some help you are,” Lois grumbled.

“If we disregard our laws when they become inconvenient, then we would be no better than the criminals we seek to incarcerate,” Jor-El declared sternly.

“Whatever,” Lois replied irritably.

After glaring at Jor-El for a moment, Lois shifted her attention to her laptop and opened her email client. Though there was no shortage of messages, most of the incoming email was automatically filed in an archive folder, since the sender addresses were not on her whitelist. Of the mail that had made it past the filters, the recent messages were mostly from family members or her Planet colleagues, though she discovered a surprising exception. She navigated her mouse down to Harold Vanderworth’s email titled, “Likely Luthor Legal Defense” and double-clicked on it, her eyes widening in surprise at the content. She quickly pulled out her phone and dialed the Kennebunkport number he had listed in his email.

Harold answered on the second ring, “Hello, Lois,” he greeted amiably. “I’m glad you got my message so quickly.”

“You don’t really think Luthor could skate over this, do you?” Lois asked insistently. “Sounds to me like some blowhard defense attorney’s trying to validate his existence on the morning show by making outrageous statements about Luthor’s situation. That was not false imprisonment.”

Certainly not, but If some smalltime player like Velasco’s thought of that angle, you can be sure that Luthor will, too,” Harold replied seriously. “My legal team thinks that the defenses Velasco suggested are thin as ice, especially given that most of the events in question happened outside U.S. territorial waters. But then again, the premise that you could overturn a conviction if a witness from the original trial wasn’t available nearly a decade later was equally thin, and look what happened.”

“He must have gotten to the judge, somehow,” Lois insisted.

That’s the most likely explanation. And Kilpatrick is still on the bench.”

Lois sighed irritably and angrily declared, “We can’t let some corrupt judge open up another loophole for that monster to crawl through.”

No, of course not. But it’s going to take a cooperative effort to prevent that, and that includes cooperation from Superman. Do you think that that somebody from the Planet can get a hold of him?

“I think it’s a given that you’ll have his cooperation, given what that madman did to him,” Lois assured him. “What do we need to tell him?”

That we need time,” Harold explained. “It’s going to take time for legal research, time to prod our Washington representatives into action, if necessary, and time to bulletproof the prosecution’s case. We need Superman to… delay… bringing Luthor back to Earth until after we’ve completed all of the legal legwork.”

“I doubt he was in much of a hurry, especially when he’s still pulling triple shifts in the disaster zone,” Lois commented. “I’m sure he’ll recognize the wisdom of postponing any plans to retrieve Luthor from that monstrosity for the time being.”

We may also need to discuss our strategy with him at some point, but that’s not critical right now,” Harold replied. “Can we count on you to get our message to Superman?

“I’m sure someone from the Planet can get the message to him,” Lois promised. In fact, I’ll call him as soon as I hang up.

-o-o-o-

Thursday, October 12, 2006 9:15PM CDT
Richard noticed the rhythmic breathing from the bed beside him, and set down the book on wolves that he’d been quietly reading to Jason. A quick check confirmed his suspicion that the little boy had fallen asleep and Richard tip-toed out of Clark’s childhood bedroom, shutting the door carefully behind him. He immediately noticed Lois in the hallway, standing in front of the open door to Kara’s room. Inside, Clark was attempting to guide his daughter into dreamland, providing softly spoken direction that was barely audible from the open doorway a few feet away. In the dim illumination from the downstairs lamps, Richard noticed an oddly contented look on Lois’ face as she observed the tableau.

Lois seemed to suddenly notice his presence, and quickly lifted a finger to her lips in a gesture of silence, and Richard nodded his assent. He then joined her outside the open door, silently watching his rival attend to his paternal duties. She goes down so much easier when Clark is here to tuck her in, Richard observed. Good thing he’s been able to schedule a break for Superman right around bedtime.

Finally, the murmurs from the room ceased, and Clark stood up and silently crept out of the room and closed the door. After spending a full week at the Kent farm with full knowledge of the family secret, Richard was familiar with the routine to avoid Kara’s sensitive hearing. He quietly followed Clark and Lois down the stairs, where they paused only long enough to wave goodbye to Martha and for Lois to grab her laptop before walking out the front door.

Once outside, Lois turned back to face Clark, pointing a finger to her wrist and then holding up her palm to him with her fingers splayed as she mouthed the words, ‘About Luthor’.

Five minutes to talk about Luthor, Richard summarized.

Clark shook his head and made a flying gesture with his hand. Richard didn’t catch the words he mimed, but he understood the general idea.

Superman is needed elsewhere, Richard translated.

Lois’ shoulders sagged slightly and she nodded her acquiescence and then mouthed the words, ‘Be careful’. After a quick nod of his head, Clark disappeared in a blur and Lois resumed her march to the barn. Richard quickly fell in step behind her, following her down into the cellar and past the portal entrance.

Once the portal entry sealed behind them, Richard said sympathetically, “Relax, Lois. Luthor’s not going anywhere. There’ll be plenty of time for the lawyers to prepare for him.”

“Luthor’s not the only one we have to worry about,” Lois explained. “We need a peek inside Judge Kilpatrick’s records to look for evidence that Luthor bribed or blackmailed him. Before he has a chance to destroy it. We can’t risk him setting Luthor loose again.” She wiped her hand over the sensor and opened the door to the transportation chamber.

Richard followed her into the chamber and sat down opposite her. “I assume you suggested that in the voice mail you left for Clark when you phoned him earlier,” he commented.

“Of course, but he’s a bit preoccupied with the disaster zone. Luthor tries to take over the world and Clark thinks it’s his fault, and feels guilty if he takes a five minute break from cleaning up the mess,” Lois complained. She looked up toward the ceiling of the chamber and stated authoritatively, “Take us to the Fortress.”

After a brief pause, Richard added, “It’s obviously not his fault, but you can’t blame him for being preoccupied with the disaster zone. It’s still… well, a disaster zone. There are probably still a lot of calls for help. It’s getting better, though.”

“I suppose,” Lois agreed reluctantly.

They avoided each other’s eyes and fell into an awkward silence. Richard recalled the new marching orders Perry had issued that afternoon, insisting that he needed to join the other editors in Gotham the following day. We’re out of time, Richard concluded and he broke the silence, sadly declaring, “Lois, I can’t do this anymore.”

“What?”

Richard snorted mirthlessly and commented, “Five years with my head in the sand living in a fantasy world, and I suddenly discover that I can’t pretend anymore.” He looked intently into her eyes and added, “I can’t pretend that nothing’s wrong, that we still have a future. I know that things can never be like they were before Clark came back.”

“Richard, I haven’t been fooling around with Clark,” Lois insisted defensively.

“I know,” Richard acknowledged unhappily. “You’ve both been trying to do the right thing, and you’ve tried to pretend that nothing’s changed. But it has. Our relationship’s suddenly become platonic, among other things… You’re not in love with me, Lois. You never were.”

“Richard, stop,” Lois pleaded. “I really do care about you.”

“I know. But you’re in love with Clark,” Richard declared. He finally tore his eyes away from her and added, “I can’t stand in the way of that. Even if by some miracle, I were able to cajole you into actually marrying me, you’d end up resenting me for it. You’d always be wondering what could have been with Clark.”

Lois wiped an errant tear from her cheek and murmured, “I’m so sorry, Richard.” She pulled the engagement ring from her finger and held it out to him as she added, “Please believe that I never meant to hurt you.”

“I know,” he replied somberly as he accepted the ring. “Doesn’t help a lot right now, but I know.” After a brief pause, he added, “Just do me a couple favors…”

“You know I will if I can.”

“I don’t want to lose Jason, too,” Richard stated sorrowfully. “Promise me that I can continue to be a part of his life.”

“Richard, you’re still his daddy, and Clark and Martha both have made it clear that they’ll never stand in the way of that,” Lois said adamantly. “Of course, you’ll always be a part of his life. You needn’t have doubted that.”

“Thank you,” Richard told her sincerely. “That means a lot to me… One more favor?”

“Sure.”

“Don’t announce another engagement in the bullpen,” Richard said sadly. “Just elope and get it over with.”

“You want me to elope with Clark?” Lois asked incredulously.

“Actually, I want you to marry me,” Richard replied. “But we both know that’s not in the cards. Even if Clark had never come home, it was never going to be. And since your future clearly lies with him… just get it over with. Besides, you’ll have an easier time adopting Kara if you’re married to her father.”

“Adopt her?” Lois echoed in surprise. “I hadn’t even begun to consider that…”

“Whether you’ve been aware of it or not, you’ve already assumed a maternal role with her and she’s accepted you in that capacity,” Richard told her seriously. “If she hadn’t, she never would have flown back to the plane last week when you all-named her and counted to three… Lois, she needs a mother and you’ve unconsciously volunteered.”

“Richard,” Lois began hoarsely. “I… I don’t know what to say.”

“Me either. It’s going to be awkward for a little while,” Richard observed. He paused for a moment added, “I won’t be coming into the Fortress with you. I think I’ll just head back to Smallville and start packing.”

“You don’t have to do that so soon,” Lois pleaded. “There’s no hurry.”

Richard shook his head and then said, “It’s not because of this. Perry’s indulged me as much as he’s able, but tomorrow I’m to head up to Gotham and hunker down at the Gazette with the other Planet editors. I’ll be there until we’re ready to move back into our building. Sounds like it could be a couple weeks. Once we get back, we’ll work out the logistics… and how we explain this to Jason.”

Lois nodded her head and quietly said, “You’ll call if you need anything, right?”

“Of course,” Richard confirmed, and then another awkward silence settled over them while they both reflected on five years of memories from the life they had tried to build together before its predictable collapse.

-o-o-o-

(1) The HAL 9000 was the artificially intelligent computer that ran amuck in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
(2) The ‘suspender’ cable is the cable that holds the road deck to the main cable on a suspension bridge. Refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspension_bridge for details.

Chapter 50  ]     [  Table of Contents  ]     [  Chapter 52  ]

Comments

(Anonymous)

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Hello.
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