Also, the bunnehs netted us with another potential series in the tradition of In Another Lifetime and So Close. Want a preview?
((Author’s Note: What if Lois was the alien? Imagine that Jor-El’s theories were accepted, and Krypton was evacuated in time to save the civilization. With the crystal technology, the Kryptonians could rebuild their lost world on an uninhabited planet. But the new planet, Krypton II, might not be an exact match, and they might have to find certain minerals somewhere else. Jor-El conveniently already knows much about this primitive, technologically backward planet called Earth…
If their initial approach was met with hostility by a planet full of people who’d seen too many space-invader movies, but they found something on this planet that they needed for their continued survival, the Kryptonians might choose to take human hostages back to their planet in order to keep the peace between their peoples and ours. Those hostages would have to be important to people in positions of power, such as General Sam Lane. And given the choice between sending his wife or one of his daughters off to a foreign planet, we all know whom he would choose. That’s how Lois Lane winds up being the alien curiosity on Krypton II.))
She fascinated him, and Lois supposed she could tolerate that better than his father’s cold disdain. She still hated being given over to Jor-El’s son as some sort of plaything, a toy to amuse the young man’s curiosity. The terms of her captivity – Kryptonians never called it that, but Lois knew she was merely a hostage – say that the House of El is responsible for her care, and Jor-El couldn’t tolerate her defiant glares for more than two days.
So she went to the great scientist’s son, whose fierce curiosity and broad range of interests are unlike the rest of the Kryptonians she’s met. Lois studied Kal-El warily at first, worried about his obsessive interest in her. Her father had told her, before putting her on the crystal ship, that she had nothing to fear from the Kryptonians. They were not a violent people, so averse to touch that a simple handshake was to them an intolerable intimacy. She would not be harmed, nor would anyone try to take advantage of her. How like her father to try reassuring her by telling her, in effect, “I’m sending you off to a foreign planet, but at least you won’t get raped.”
Kal-El wasn’t like the rest of his people, though. He didn’t look at her like some lower life form, didn’t talk to her as if she were slightly dumber than the average dog. He asked questions, tons of questions, referring to notes he’d made while reading every scrap of information his father had amassed on her planet. Lois had been alarmed at first by the way he watched her, and after a day of his intense scrutiny she’d lost her temper and demanded to know why he was staring at her.
It was hard to tell with Kryptonians, but he seemed to be a little older than she was, perhaps in his early twenties. Yet at that moment, he’d shuffled his feet like an embarrassed child, and told her shyly that he’d never thought he would get the chance to study an alien.
The word surprised her; Lois was accustomed to thinking of him as the alien. But it was she who was out of place on this world, one of less than fifty of her kind. Startled, she’d recognized his curiosity for what it was, and relaxed around him.
Above all else, Kal-El wanted to know what it was to be human. Lois’ quarters gradually began to fill with replicas of things from Earth, familiar furniture and trappings. One day she found Kal-El sitting on the bed he’d made for her, holding the framed photograph of her family and staring at it with a frown of concentration, as if the picture held some hidden meaning. His questions about her life were exhaustive, and when Lois finally grew tired of answering she curled up on the bed and hid beneath the pillow, overwhelmed by homesickness.
Kal-El fell silent, but he didn’t leave.
Lois Lane turned her back to him and curled up in the middle of her bed. In spite of his difficulty understanding human body language, her meaning was quite clear: she’d had enough of him for the moment. Kal-El sighed.
He’d asked too much of her, too swept up in his curiosity to think what his questions were doing to her. What had it cost her to dredge up those memories for him, tell him what life was like on her homeworld, especially here in this room that he had tried so hard to make familiar to her? Kal-El looked around, wondering how she saw this. Did she understand that it was his gift to her, his attempt, however futile, to give her some of the comforts of home? Or did it look ridiculous to her, a human-style bed and other furnishings in a room whose walls were made of softly-glowing crystals?
When his father transferred their human guest to his care, he’d been overjoyed. His interest in that primitive planet Earth had led him to exhaust every known source of information about it, spending many hours reading and re-reading every scrap he could find. To have an actual human being, raised in that faraway place, in his home had been the most wondrous opportunity Kal-El could conceive of.
All he had wanted to know was what it meant to be human. How strange, that their two peoples should look so much alike, yet behave so differently. Her society, with its casual contact and near-constant interaction, was so foreign to his own distant, formal world that it seemed as though they could not have evolved to be so similar. Kal-El could not get enough, spending every free moment with her, each answer leading him to another question, and another, and another.
But he had never, ‘til now, thought about how she must feel. Torn from her home, brought across the galaxies to Krypton, and handed into the keeping of an insensitive young man whose only apparent interest was prying into her homesickness… Yes, he had treated her badly, in spite of his good intentions.
How could he begin to make it up to her? She was unlikely to accept a formal Kryptonian apology. Such things did not impress her, and besides, it would be only another reminder that she was a foreigner here. He had to make atonement after the fashion of her people, to show her that he truly saw her as a person, and that his fascination with her culture was not the only reason he spoke with her.
For in this young woman from another world Kal-El had found a depth of determination and courage that startled him, and he admired her. He wanted her to know that, to feel that she had a friend here, on this planet that must seem so strange and cold to her.
Taking a deep breath, he reaches out and places his hand upon her, his bare hand on her bare forearm. They both freeze; she knows how antiseptic Kryptonian society is, how rarely even married couples touch. He suspects that she misses all the casual touches humans give each other, a handshake here, a hug there.
“I am sorry,” Kal-El says softly. To his surprise, this doesn’t feel like the sickening violation he half-suspected it would. It’s a pleasant intimacy to touch her.
She turns to him then, and he lets his hand remain in contact while she moves. Her eyes – that mingling of colors is called ‘hazel’ on her world, and it is unlike anything he’s ever seen before – flick down to his hand, then up to his face. He sees tears streaking her face, and he has never seen another person weep. Kryptonians do not often openly display emotion, preferring logic.
Kal-El’s hand moves seemingly of its own accord, rising to Lois’ cheek. He cups her face, brushing the tears away gently. His hand lingers there even after she’s stopped crying, and they both fall still, captured by each other’s eyes.