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24 July 2010 @ 02:04 pm
Heirs to the House of El: Devil Take The Hindmost (Part One)  
First chapter back since the SMFAs and I'm really hoping this chapter is worthy of the honors we were give. And once you're finished, brace yourself. We're quite literally a few chapters off closing this guy out. As in, closed out before the middle of October on our current schedule.

And you know what means. *evil grin* Be ready for anything. ;)


You think you have the odds,

You think you’re in control,

You think you’ve fixed the dice,

Well, I will gladly roll.

I’ll bet against the house,

I’ll even double-down…

~Andrew Lloyd Webber, ‘Devil Take The Hindmost’

It was Martha who answered the phone in Smallville, her relieved smile dimming once Lana began to speak.  She stood there without a word, listening gravely while Ben watched the expression on her face go from interest to concern, anger to sorrow.  Martha’s voice was quiet, almost deliberately so, when she finally spoke.  “No, Lana, it’s all right.  You did the right thing.  I’ll tell the others.  Stay safe, the three of you.  Please.  I’ll say a little prayer.  Call us later.”  After one last word from Lana, his wife placed the phone back in its cradle, closing her eyes for a long moment.  It was clearly to steady herself against what she had heard.

Ben could hear Lucy and Loueen talking in the living room, their voices soft.  He hadn’t heard Lana’s side of the conversation, but the look in Martha’s eyes when she looked to him told him it was almost as bad as it could be.  And this with his granddaughter still missing.  Ben had never been so worried for Clark and his family since he’d known them.  Drawing Martha into the circle of his arms, he held her close, letting her lean her forehead against his shoulder.  He rubbed her back, giving her time; after all the years he’d known her, and the decade of their marriage, Ben knew when words weren’t necessary.  Instead he offered her his strength and support.

Several silent moment slipped by before Martha drew away with a sigh.  “I need to talk to the girls.”

“I’ll be right beside you,” he told her, and they walked into the living room with his arm around her waist.  Ben could feel her taking a deep, deep breath as Lucy and Loueen looked up at them.  He didn’t need to know exactly what Martha had just heard to know that what she was about to tell them both was going to hurt.

 


 
“What the hell?  Pizza again?  Geez, Tobe, I’m starting to think you don’t know how to cook!”

“Shut it, Blondie,” the dark-haired woman snapped at Cat, but Jamie was already chuckling along with her.  Tobie glared at them both as she hung up the phone with the pizza place.  “I do know how to cook, I just don’t feel like cooking for you freeloaders.”

“Yeah, sure,” Jamie teased from the living room, leaning forward to look into the kitchen.  “That’s why I’ve never actually seen you cook in all these years, huh?”

That just prompted a snide look from her step-mother.  The little turn-coat would have to bring that up.  “Oh, I wouldn’t cook for your picky little self anyway.  You were that kid who wouldn’t touch a sandwich if the crusts weren’t cut off and the ratio of mayonnaise and mustard wasn’t exactly right.”

Jamie returned the arch look with exaggerated dignity.  “Mustard and mayo ratio is very important.  Especially when you’re ten and your mom’s girlfriend burns a pot of Campbell’s.”

That earned the girl a very frosty look.  She certainly wasn’t improving her lot this evening.  

 It was enough to provoke an unguarded snort of amusement from Cat, the blonde leaning against the kitchen counter before fixing her old friend with an affectionate smile.  “Oh, c’mon, Tobie, we have to give you hell.  You know Lois would do the same – and she can’t even boil water.”

The moment the quip was out, the three went silent.  All of them were worried about the Lane-Kents, and especially Lois.  Cat and Tobie had known their fellow reporter long enough not to have any illusions about Lois’ ability to be cautious when her kids were in danger. 

The uncomfortable silence stretched out until Jamie commented with somewhat forced laughter, “Yeah, well, Lois does make some pretty insane desserts.”

“And eats them,” Cat responded immediately, casting the younger woman a grateful look.  “I’ve seen that woman put away a whole pie by herself more than once, and she’s never gained an ounce.  She stresses out, she loses a dress size.  It’s crazy.”

“I’ve been telling you for years that she’s got to be harboring the biggest tapeworm in Metropolis,” Tobie cut in, trying to tell herself that they weren’t whistling in the dark.  “Besides, you’re one to talk.  You’re not far behind, Cat.  Remember when your mom would send you care packages in college?”

That prompted a fond, reminiscent smile.  “Oh, yeah, her oatmeal raisin cookies – but they’re good for you.”

“So good you ate ‘em for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”  Tobie was smirking at her, tone droll.

Jamie shook her head, unable to help a chuckle.  The tales her aunts spilled when they were together never failed to amuse her.  “You guys always devolve into the nostalgia thing after a while.  I have to say, I think I’m glad I didn’t know you when you were in college.”

Tobie was finally grinning, remembering just a few of their crazier antics. “You’re damn right you’re glad.  We were the Three Bitches of the Apocalypse.”

A sudden loud crash from down the hall brought their laughter to an abrupt end, all three freezing in their seats.  No one said a word as they traded apprehensive looks.  The sound had come from Maggie’s study.  But before any of them could make a move to check on the situation, Maggie herself appeared in the kitchen, her eyes cold enough to burn.  Tobie was the first to speak, trying to read her face.  “What’s wrong, hon?”

“Sit down.”  Maggie’s voice was uncharacteristically harsh, doing nothing to relieve their anxiety.  When the three women just stared at her, she growled, “Cat, Tobie, sit the hell down, now.  I’ve got news you won’t be able to hear standing up.”

That was enough to get them moving, Cat dragging up a couple chairs from the breakfast nook while Maggie was pulling a bottle of scotch down from the cabinet and poured herself a shot.  All eyes on her now, she took an instant to bolt down the liquor before speaking.  “Giselle’s dead.”

Jamie flinched, the two journalists winced.  That was unexpected, totally justifying Maggie’s reaction.  “Aw, shit,” Tobie sighed.  That was going to seriously screw any of the inside information Maggie was hoping to get on Luthor.  Which was going to put a serious damper on helping Big Blue or Lois find out his exact location.  Damned if the bastard didn’t have the best luck in the world.

“That fucker has someone in my jail,” Maggie was snarling, pouring another shot.  Tobie got up to grab glasses for herself and Jamie, snagging a can of ginger ale for Cat so she’d have something to sip.  Meanwhile Maggie continued, her voice low and threaded thickly with her outrage, “The coroner’s office hasn’t figured out what killed her yet, but it’s not accidental.  I know it’s not.  Luthor got to one of my people, somehow.”

“That might not be the case.  Mom, it could’ve been one of the other inmates,” Jamie tentatively ventured, not wanting to believe it. 

Maggie’s expression didn’t change, the fire still in her eyes.  “She was strictly sequestered.  I did everything but hold her friggin’ hand while she was in my jail, and he still got her somehow, killed her right under my nose.  But that’s not the worst news.” 

She poured another round and drank it like it had personally offended her.  With the strong liquor burning its way down her throat, she barely managed to say the rest.  “Lois has been shot.”

As an officer of the law, Maggie had trained her mind to observe and recall, taking in scenes like snapshots that were indelibly imprinted on her analytical mind.  But after all these years, she had many things she wished to forget, and the expressions on the faces of her friends and daughter at the moment were among them.

Jamie was still young enough to be shocked that someone so close to her could be hurt so badly, especially after the earlier attack on Lana.  Cat and Tobie looked as if they would be physically ill, wounded as badly as Lois herself.  Maggie felt as though she’d punched them both with those words, hating the way the blonde’s mouth pulled down at the corners and the gathering moisture in the normally-stoic brunette’s eyes.

Despite that, Tobie, a cop’s wife and a born survivor, was the first to recover wits enough to speak, though her voice was rough with emotion she couldn’t quite conceal.  “How bad is Lane?”

“She’s in the ICU in Las Vegas.”  Maggie’s voice was monotone, keeping grief and rage at bay.  “He shot her twice – she was in surgery for hours.  They think if she gets through the next day or so without further complications, there’s a good chance, but no one really knows at this point…”

The four women blindly reached for each other’s hands, holding on tight as Maggie continued to speak.


 

 
“My son,” Jor-El began, and faltered.  Kal-El could hear Jason’s heart rate picking up, and willed the boy to silence.  This was the first time he’d ever seen Jor-El hesitant.  Telling him about the twins had short-circuited the AI’s programming, but not even then had the hologram been so bereft of his usual certainty.

Kal-El took a deep breath, but didn’t take his eyes off of Jor-El.  “Father, please.”

“What is it you require of me, my son?” Jor-El finally said.  “For if I were to tell you all I know of Dru-Zod, we would be ensconced here in the Fortress for many days, and you cannot afford the delay.”

That was a bit startling.  “You knew him well?”

Jor-El sighed.  “We were well acquainted.  In fact, we were friends.  I know Dru-Zod perhaps better than his supporters did, and that is why I fear for Kala.”

Jason started to move, and Kal-El motioned him back.  There was more to tell.  “Father, how did this friend come to swear vengeance upon you?”

“When the extent of his villainy was exposed to the Council, he and his two staunchest supporters were condemned to the Phantom Zone, which I had discovered.  That was considered so dire a sentence that only a unanimous vote could confer it.  I was the last to vote, and he held me personally responsible for his fate.” 

Jor-El seemed lost in memory.  “It is ironic that Dru-Zod often said he must put principles above personal feelings.  He justified many atrocities with that excuse.  Yet when I did the same, condemning him who had been my friend and confidant, who had interceded with the Council on my behalf, who had kept secret those aspects of my research that were forbidden, he was outraged. 

“I had to agree with the Council that he was unredeemable, a clear and persistent risk to the stability of our society as long as he remained alive on Krypton.  I knew him better than they.  I knew that if he was convinced that only his absolute rulership could save our planet, he would stop at nothing to attain that goal.  In that, we were agreed – that Krypton’s present course could only end in destruction.  We differed in that he believed it was worth spending the lives of tens of thousands of our people in violent civil war to spare the rest from the doom our folly had bought us.  I … I did not believe that slaughter would beget safety, nor that dictatorship would bring us peace and prosperity.  He was not the sort to release his hold upon authority when his purpose was served, as I well knew.

“Worse, to prove my own loyalty to their cause in light of my troubles with them in the past, certain members of the Council strongly suggested that I present the case against General Zod.  So to him, it seemed as though I alone accused him before the Council, I alone brought the charges against him, and when the rest had tendered their vote and removed their holographic countenances from the Council chamber, I alone passed judgment upon him.  No wonder, then, that with so many years in the Phantom Zone to whet his fury, he has waxed diabolical in his madness.”

Silence fell upon the Fortress.  Kal-El could feel these new revelations sinking into his consciousness, through the layers of love and duty wrapped tightly around the core of rage, fear, and grief.  He could not summon the anger for a sharp retort about how it would have been good to know this earlier.  All he cared about, right now, was getting Kala back so he could return with her to Lois’ side.

“Father, I am grateful for your honesty,” he began.  “And I appreciate that your knowledge of General Zod’s personality will be an asset in the coming battle.  Can you tell us what to expect from him?”

“Having once sworn vengeance against my heirs, he will never renounce that oath to make common cause with you or yours,” Jor-El told him wearily.  “He might appear to do so for a time, but in the end Dru-Zod serves only himself.  And that, my son, is what you should fear most: that Kala has been persuaded to ally with him.”

 

 
 
On the Verge of: sleepysleepy
Beautiful Noise: Florence and the Machine-Howl
 
 
 
januaried: emote + lovejanuaried on July 28th, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC)
Very good opening! I love Ben's perspective on Martha.

Oh, the ladies. That was painful to read for them. The last line is fantastic.

Doesn't Kal-el already know this? LOL. Oh, Jor-el knows what he's doing to Kala! Excellent! Good scene, onto the next part. This chapter's coming out great so far. :D