Lois headed for her parking spot, and then remembered that her car was out of commission. And that seems so very coincidental now. Feels like it happened days – months –ago. Damn Luthor. He’s plotted this from beginning to end. She refused to let herself think what that meant for their chances of finding the twins. Luthor’s been beaten before. He may be smart, but he’s no match for
Beside her, Richard was already fishing his keys out of his pocket, and she mentally added, And Richard. He went to his car, a gunmetal-gray Saab Aero Sport Sedan which he adored about as much as Lois loved her Audi, and paused by the driver’s side door.
Blue eyes met hazel. “Do you want to drive?” Richard offered.
Lois smiled sadly. “You don’t want me behind the wheel right now, Richard. But thanks. I understand…” What an amazingly good man he is. Offering to give me control of something, even if it’s just a steering wheel. And I know how he feels about his ‘born from jets’ car. But no…
“Okay,” he said quietly, and unlocked the doors for both of them. “You want to head for the furthest out and work our way in?”
“Sounds good,” Lois muttered, looking at the list. “Go up
Silence ruled between them for a long time, each busy with their own tumultuous thoughts. Richard was finding it surprisingly awkward to be with Lois at the moment, questions about her meeting with Superman nibbling at his mind. Lois was swinging between anger and anguish, trying to be strong for the twins, but terrified for them.
After a while, Richard asked, “So what else did you find out?”
“You were gone a while,” he replied, not accusingly, his voice just curious as he kept his eyes on the road. “Since we’ve got a few minutes, tell me what happened.”
Oh, like that’s not awkward as hell. My conversation with my ex is so not any of your business. Lois sighed in aggravation, and said simply, “He recognized the crystals, and I made him take me with him to the Fortress. I’ve never … I never realized he could be so furious. Luthor’s in for a surprise.”
Richard’s eyebrows rose, but he changed the topic a little. “The Fortress. That’s twice you’ve mentioned it. What, does he have some castle up in the
At least it made Lois chuckle. “No, nothing like that. Well… It’s kind of… The Fortress of Solitude is where he keeps the remnants of his Kryptonian heritage. More a museum and library than a home. And no one – except me and that bastard Luthor – knows where it is.”
“How’d Luthor find out?” Richard was trying to keep her talking, stop her from plunging back into despair.
That worked; Lois bristled, her hazel eyes brightening with spite. “Somehow Luthor tracked him. And he led those Kryptonians – General Zod and his little friends – right to the Fortress. With Non carrying me as bait.”
Richard glanced at her. “But Luthor’s trial…”
Lois cleared her throat angrily. “I had amnesia; I’d seen Superman very nearly killed, or so I thought, and I’d been held prisoner by three psychotic intergalactic criminals, each with his powers. It was post-traumatic stress or something that made me block it all out. By the time I got the memories back, Vanderworth’s fancy lawyers had already gotten my testimony blocked, and Luthor was out of jail.”
Richard’s hands tensed on the wheel. “God, I hate how much money can do in the wrong hands.”
“Tell me about it,” Lois said softly, staring out the window as they threaded their way through traffic.
Perry’s eyes weren’t quite up to the microfiche, he grudgingly admitted, so he let Olsen search the archives while he handled the phones. Before he could even place the first call, however, his direct line rang. “Daily Planet, White,” he said gruffly into the phone.
“Peregrine White, you tell my daughter to drag herself off of whatever story you’ve got her chasing and get home right this instant. She and the twins are missing Nora’s birthday party!”
Perry winced. “Elinore…”
“Don’t even start with me, Perry. Lois isn’t answering her cell phone, and you’d think she would learn her lesson after what happened earlier this week. Don’t make me drive up there to get her…”
Perry closed his eyes, remembering that the phone was now in his desk drawer, turned off. “Ella, listen,” he said, his voice getting a little hoarse. God, he could hear the other kids in the background, and it just made the present situation all the worse.
“This had better be good,” she replied sharply, as Lucy called her name admonishingly from somewhere near the phone.
“It’s isn’t,” Perry told her, and something about his tone finally silenced her. “Ella, I think you should take the call somewhere away from the kids. I’ll hold.”
“Ella, go pick up the other extension. Do it.” None of his usual jocular flirtation now. Perry was all business.
“Lucy, do as I say.”
In a moment, Perry heard another receiver picked up, and after a pause, the first one was replaced in its cradle. “Well, Mr. White?” Ella said.
Perry took a deep breath and ground his knuckles against his eyes, hating what he would have to tell her.
“Your car or mine?” Lana said in the elevator, lifted an auburn brow at
“Well, you know, I only live a few blocks from work,” he replied with only half his attention. The rest was listening to Lois, trying to decide if she was going to be all right. So far it sounded promising.
“Ah. My car by default.” Lana nodded, reaching into her purse for the keys. “I warn you, it’s a rental. One my assistant picked, no less. I don’t normally drive a Cadillac.”
“She says I’m supposed to travel in style. I vetoed the red convertible, so she had to get a high-end Cadillac DTS instead. I mean, really. How pretentious can you get?” Lana said.
“Couldn’t you exchange it?” Clark was having trouble reconciling the Lana he knew, whose parents had been well-off by Smallville standards but were strictly Oldsmobile drivers, with the fashion designer who was presently walking up to a pale green Cadillac.
“All they had left were SUVs and a couple of sports cars. This was the most sensible option,” Lana replied. In spite of her disparaging remarks, she smiled fondly at the car. “It looks good with my hair, too. The color’s called Green Silk.”
Looking at their list,
Lana nodded as they both buckled their seat belts. “I think I knew which one, too. The ‘for lease’ sign in the front window looks fairly old.” As she steered the Cadillac out of the garage and onto the street, she glanced at
Lana nodded. “Sounds wise. Of course, Lois is probably planning to shoot locks off doors and God knows what else.”
“Richard won’t let her,”
“Easy, boy, you don’t have to get all defensive,” Lana said, raising an auburn brow at him.
“Lana, I didn’t mean…”
The redhead sighed. “
“You made your feelings on this topic perfectly clear at the restaurant the other day,” Lana said, forestalling his objection. “But even if you’re uncomfortable admitting you love her, it’s still true.”
“And Richard’s still her fiancé,” he pointed out, rather abruptly.
“Clark … he’s not blind, either,” she said, not noticing the alarmed look on
Blue eyes opened wide, and for a moment no answer was forthcoming. “Lana … I don’t know what you’re talking about…”
Oh, the heck with it. If he’s searching for them, he ought to at least know. “
The glass floor was black as pitch now, and the twins stayed away from it. It just looked way too creepy, like anything that wanted to could just swim up from underneath and take a bite out of them. Of course, that forced them away from the skylight and into the deepening darkness.
After several minutes of tense silence, Kala whispered, “Jason?”
“A little.” His tone was so hushed that only she could’ve heard it.
Another pause as they watched the shadows grow, seeming to pulse with malevolent life. “Me too,” Kala finally murmured, and leaned against his shoulder.
In the moment before absolute blackness descended on them, before hope of salvation vanished forever, the overhead lights suddenly came on. Instead of cheering, the twins flinched, the bright lights stinging their eyes. “Ow,” they complained in unison, trying to shade their faces with their hands.
The main door opened, and a friendly voice called, “Hey, it’s getting kinda dark in here. Thought you guys could use the light.”
Blinking rapidly, Jason recovered first. He recognized the man who entered the room and locked the door behind him as the same one who’d brought their meals. “Thanks,” Jason said cautiously. “It was gettin’ dark.”
“Me, I don’t like the dark,” the man told them. “You never know what’s in it, right? Better to have lights on at night. I even keep my lamp on in my bedroom – the guys tease me about it.”
“That’s mean,” Kala opined. “How come they tease you?”
“Well, ‘cause I’m a big guy,” he replied as he moved toward the couches on the other end of the room. He was carrying several blankets and a couple of pillows, and he started to arrange these items into beds for the twins. “They think I’m a scaredy-cat because I’m a grownup and I don’t like the dark.”
“They’re mean,” Jason said sullenly. “They hurt me an’ Kala when they brought us here.”
The big man went still for an instant, then turned around. His eyes were suddenly scary, but his voice when he spoke was more outraged than angry. “They hurt you?”
“Squeezed my arms, threw us in here,” Kala replied, intrigued now.
“I didn’t sign up for no job that involves hurtin’ kids,” the man said. “And it ain’t gonna happen where I can see it, lemme tell ya. I’ll have a little talk with those other guys, and they’ll leave you alone from now on.”
“Mister, can you get us out of here?” Jason asked, trying not to let his voice tremble at the thought.
He came over toward them, not too close, and sat down at the piano bench. “Kids, there’s nothing I’d like more than to jump this ship and take you both with me,” he said sincerely. “But we’re already out to sea, and I don’t know how to steer this boat. The only other way out is the helicopter, and I can’t fly that, either. We’re stuck.”
That news depressed the otherwise irrepressible twins. For a few minutes they sat in silence, absorbing the inevitable. But eventually the thought of their father – their real father – coming to their rescue cheered them again. He could fly, after all.
The man touched the keys of the piano lightly, playing a few notes. “You know, I never even got your names. I’m Brutus.”
The twins hesitated a moment longer. He didn’t seem mean, like the others. He was trapped in this situation, like the twins; he was afraid of the dark, just like them. Kala was the first to give her name, and Jason followed suit.
Brutus nodded. “Nice to meet you, kids. Well, do you need anything else?”
“You’re leaving?” Jason asked.
“Well, Mr. Luthor has stuff he wants me to do,” he replied. “That guy … I wouldn’t want to upset him, you know?”
They both nodded. “Are you coming back?” Kala said.
He grinned at them. “With breakfast in the morning. I’m gonna switch the side lights on and the overheads off, okay? Make it easier for you guys to sleep. It won’t be too dark, though.”
“You’re sure?” Jason’s voice trembled a little, though he tried to hide it. Kala scooted a little closer to him, looking up nervously.
“Nah, it’ll be fine. See that bar along the wall? There’s a light set under each one of them, every couple feet. You’ll have plenty of light. They’re dimmer than the ones overhead.”
The twins nodded, both still a trifle wary. Brutus went out, giving them a brief wave, and they heard the door lock.
What they had both thought was a merely decorative strip of metal, running along both walls at about shoulder height to an adult, now proved to be a low-intensity light. A moment after those lights switched on, the brighter overheads went out.
It was dark … but not too dark. With the reassurance provided by the lights, the grand ballroom became intriguing and mysterious instead of forbidding. The light also began to attract fish to the glass. Not giant, scary, child-eating fish, but pretty little darting fish. The twins dragged the sofa cushions, blankets, and pillows over the glass floor and stared into the magical underwater realm.
A casual observer might have thought the children were enjoying a holiday, but no one who knew them well could mistake the signs of strain. Jason wasn’t taking the opportunity to show off his science knowledge by naming the various types of fish, and Kala wasn’t claiming that he made some of them up. In fact, both of them were nearly silent, and not arguing with each other – a sure sign to those who loved them that things were far from normal.