Also, the last fanmix for the fic is coming soon! Keep your eyes open!
Well, we promised you a little more action this chapter. I think we delivered. You tell me. Just be prepared for what happens next.
You know what must be done. Zod’s parting words to her were all the more chilling for the gentleness of his tone. It was as if he pitied her this, having to stain her hands with Luthor’s blood. In truth, Kala had found that she wanted vengeance. How dare Luthor harm Lana, one of the gentlest and most compassionate people on earth – and then her mother. Just the thought of Lois being harmed raised a towering cold fury in Kala, guilt over the way they’d last spoken fueling her rage. And if she didn’t make it…
No, that was not a direction in which she could allow her thoughts to drift. There was no other likely outcome. Luthor couldn’t win; as long as Mother had an ounce of strength in her body, no one would steal her life away from her, least of all someone like him. And that needed to be the end of those thoughts. Kala ruthlessly pushed any fear away, along with the weakness that chased it. She had no other choice but to focus on the task at hand. Luthor was presently in the security room, which she was sidling her way towards, movements as spare and soundless as she could make them. Zod was providing a distraction for her, upbraiding some of the security staff for their laxity. Luthor would want to move against him – and if Kala was stealthy enough, he wouldn’t know the danger until it was too late.
One guard, around the corner up ahead, his breathing an easy giveaway of his location. Mind firmly focused on her task, the girl raced forward, only to freeze directly beneath one of the security cameras, huddling in the tiny spot that was out of its view. The man waited, apparently protecting the security room further up the hall. Kala couldn’t hear anyone else between her and her goal; however, she kept her enhanced senses sharp. They were too close now for a mistake.
Do not hesitate against your enemies, Zod had said to her. But she did, a little thread of unease coiling through her. In some ways, despite the imminent threat to them both, her father’s teachings ate at her. This man might have been one of the ones who’d pawed and threatened her, or he might be someone like Schecter, a basically decent guy in a bad situation. Did he too deserve to die? Did she have the right to make that choice about a man she may or may not have ever see before?
The answer was instantaneous. No.
She could kill Luthor to avenge her family and herself, but she could not kill in cold blood just to remove an inconvenience. Events had yet to devolve to that level. Without another thought on it, Kala darted around the corner faster than any human eye could follow, slashing at the man’s neck with the side of her hand. She’d learned the blow in karate class years ago, a good way to disable an opponent without permanent injury. He crumpled, an expression of surprise beginning to form on his features, and Kala caught him. A quick check of pulse told her that the blow hadn’t been enhanced with enough of her strength to harm him seriously. Reassured, she let him slump to the ground and started to turn away.
And then thought better of it. Kala turned back to the goon – not one she recognized, she was rather glad to note when she looked closer at him – and rolled him over. There on his hip was what she wanted: a large pistol. Kala slipped it out of its holster, fumbled with it for a bit, and found the catch. The magazine slid out, and it was full. Kala put it back in place, found the safety and took it off, then jacked the slide, chambering a round. She had fired guns like this before, at the police firing range under Lois’ supervision.
This thought brought a slow smile to Kala’s lips, one no one amongst her family would have recognized. It was fitting that she would use skills learned from her mother, and a weapon much like her mother’s, to slay her mother’s enemy.
She had moved on then, almost to her goal and listening attentively for any potential interruptions, when realization struck: she couldn’t hear Luthor’s voice. Zod had said he was in the security room … what if he was wrong? A chill ran up her spine, one she refused to acknowledge. What if Luthor had moved since then?
Kala couldn’t afford to second-guess herself. The time to move was now, or there might never be another chance. There would be no more chances taken with her family’s lives. Someone had to end this. Raising her chin defiantly, Kala moved forward with renewed determination, her gun pointed upward, toward Luthor’s death.
When Elise and Lana got back to the hospital room, Richard told them that Jason and Clark had left their information-finding mission and gone to get Kala. Elise’s face went white, but Lana merely nodded, and closed her eyes for a moment. Richard knew she was praying for all of them.
He saw the girl’s eyes go to his cell phone, which was hooked up to its charger and lying on the room’s other chair. A guilty look crossed her face. “Just set it on the floor; no reason to waste seating space,” he suggested. “There’s been no real change yet. She’s still sleeping.”
“It’s not that,” Elise said slowly as she took the seat, carefully placing his phone to the right of the chair, near the wall. Richard let Lana have his chair, the redhead reaching out to take Lois’ hand that Richard had let go, taking her turn at watch. Richard moved to lean against the wall, his blue gaze on the girl curious. After a moment, Elise finally spoke up with a sigh. “My phone battery’s dead, because Jason and I didn’t bring our chargers, and it looks like your phone takes the same charger…”
Richard nodded agreeably. “Sure, plug it in. Mine’s got half a charge at least.”
Elise still looked pained as she did so, and Lana was the one to guess why. That parental sixth-sense did come in handy every once in a while. “When did your battery run out, Elise?”
The expression on the girl’s face told her that her intuition was right. “Yesterday,” the girl mumbled. “Actually, yesterday afternoon. I realized it was dead while we were out, but you guys had cell phones and I wasn’t really thinking about charging my phone under the circumstances.” Remembering, Elise couldn’t stop a wince.
Richard smacked his forehead into his palm. Oh, crap. Not good. As if there’s not already going to be a lot of explaining to do. “When was the last time you talked to your parents?”
“Yesterday morning,” Elise told him bleakly. “I didn’t even think of it again until I saw your phone there. I’m such a flake.”
Lana gave the girl a gentle smile. “You are far from a flake, dear. With all that’s been happening, I think all of us are justified in being a bit distracted. Don’t worry. Once we get home, we’ll help you smooth things over with your parents.”
“They don’t even know I went out of town,” Elise groaned as she reached down for Richard’s cell. Handing it to him, she plugged in her own. She turned her phone on, and once it established a signal it played a few seconds of music, which Elise quickly muted in deference to the fact that they were in the ICU. Even if the nurses had said they could use their phones, it was best to be discreet about it. Her wince on flipping it open spoke of fears fulfilled; her sigh, of their inevitability. “Oh, God, I knew it. Twenty-three texts and five voicemails. So much for going to MIT now. I’ll be grounded until I’m a legal adult.”
“They’re scared, hon. And I can’t say that I blame them. I’ve been in their shoes the last few days. Go ahead and use my phone to call them. That way they’re not already planning what to say before they even push ‘Talk’.” Richard tried to smile encouragingly, the lump in his stomach worsening at the memory of why his nerves were jangled at this moment, but Elise just looked miserable as she used his phone to dial.
He and Lana only heard half of the conversation, but it was enough. “Hi Mom… Yeah, I’m okay… No, I’m not. Listen… I know it’s important, that’s why I don’t break curfew… Yeah, this was different. I’m okay, I’m safe, and this was really important. Can I just explain? Please?” She sighed and leaned forward, bracing her forehead against one hand. Richard was about to take the phone from her and try silver-tongued sweet reason on her parents when she started speaking again. “I’m at Las Vegas Medical Center… NO, Mom, I’m at the hospital, not in the hospital, I told you I’m okay!” After another long pause, she snapped, “Mom, put Dad on the phone. Please.”
Lana and Richard both watched her with pained worry as she spoke to her father. “Okay, Dad, just listen before you start yelling, okay? Dad. Please just listen. Kala Kent ran away from home, and I was helping look for her… Yeah, Jason’s sister. Yes, my ex-boyfriend Jason. I’m getting to the Las Vegas part, okay? Stop asking questions and just listen.”
Richard waved a hand and mouthed ‘our idea’, and Elise nodded gratefully, giving both of them a harried look. “Right. Thank you, Dad. Anyway, her parents asked me to help, because I’m the last person she called before she ran away. Only she never made it to our house, because she got kidnapped. And then everything got really, really crazy, and I stayed with the Kents and the Whites because it was safer being with them than being alone at home.”
Lana was nodding, and Richard gave Elise a thumb’s-up. All seemed to be going well until the look of disbelief crossed her face, rolling her eyes before closing them. She sighed aggravatedly at her father’s question. “No, I couldn’t just go stay with Aunt Margie! Look, the Kents had police protection, I was safer there…” The look of annoyed disgust at what he obviously said next would have been laughable if the situation had been different. “No, it had nothing to do with Jason… Yeah, I know, Dad. I’ve heard more than I ever wanted to about Giselle. Only she wasn’t really his girlfriend, she was a freakin’ spy… No, I’m not making this up! I’m a writer, but I’m not this good! Besides nobody’d believe this if it wasn’t true!”
“Story of my life,” Richard whispered to her, breaking the tension enough that Elise smiled at him gratefully and threw one hand in the air. “Anyway. Mr. White will back me up. He’s right here. We’re in Las Vegas Medical Center… Well, because Mrs. Kent got shot.” Elise yanked the phone well away from her ear immediately after saying that, and Richard could clearly hear her father’s startled bellow. “Dad. Dad… Dad! Just relax, I was safe the whole time, I was with the Whites and not in the line of fire… No, Dad, it was a figure of speech. What? The twins’ mom’s a reporter, it’s what she does… She was looking for Kala; the people who kidnapped her have a place out here. Which is where Mr. Kent and Jason are right now…”
Elise scoffed loudly. “Dad. I think we need a reality check here. Listen, this guy who kidnapped Kala? He’s not playing around. I’m a whole lot safer right here, with cops outside the ICU, than I would be on a plane home. Think about the big picture. Do you really want them taking that kind of chance? You guys are supposed to be back the day after tomorrow anyway. I’ll be fine until then. I promise I won’t get in any more trouble… Dad, I have the Whites and a floor full of nurses supervising me. I’ll be okay. Yes, I’m perfectly aware that I’ll be a candidate for Medicare before I’m allowed out of the house. I had expected that. Yes, I’ll keep the phone on now. The battery had died, that’s all. I love you.” She sighed long-sufferingly, rolling her eyes enough to make Richard chuckle.
Mercy drove past the hospital slowly, noticing two police cruisers parked out front. That boded ill. She parked at one of the casinos not far away, and took out her phone. Dialing, she asked the hospital operator for Lois Lane-Kent’s condition. “Are you a member of the family?” the woman who answered replied.
“No, just a friend. I understand you can’t give me details – HIPAA and all that. But you can tell me something, right?” She managed to put just the right note of pleading concern in her voice.
“Yes ma’am, we’re only allowed to give you a one-word description. In this case it’s critical. Now if you have the patient’s PIN…”
“Thank you,” Mercy said in tones of relief, and hung up. So the woman lived – she certainly had plenty of fight in her. And she was in critical condition, which meant she was in the ICU. That was one of the most secure locations in any hospital, but there were ways around any security.
Mercy looked over the buildings that comprised the hospital. It was expansive, every square inch projected wealth and quality. Just the kind of place that would have the absolute latest security features. This wouldn’t be a simple matter of stealing a white coat from a laundry room and waltzing in…
Her phone flashed, shrilling, and Mercy picked it up. It was an automated text message from security headquarters: the facility had been breached. Swearing, she abandoned the hospital for the moment, and raced back to the desert.
Luthor’s vengeance could wait. He needed her now.
When she finally hung up the phone, after more reassurances to both her parents that she was well-protected and that things would only be more complicated if they flew out here to the desert before this was over, Elise let out a discouraged groan and leaned forward to brace her head in her hands. “Okay, so I really could have planned this better. Or at least have made sure to keep the phone charged so they wouldn’t know. So much for genius-level IQ. In the end, grounded until senility will likely be for a month, and they’ll probably never leave me home alone again,” she said bleakly.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. We’ll talk to them,” Lana tried to comfort her, reaching to touch her shoulder with her free hand.
The brunette looked back at her gratefully and heaved another sigh. “It’s going to suck, no lie, but let’s be realistic. Someone had to come out here with him; at least I knew how much trouble I was going to be in. With the way he was feeling before we left, Sebast would have gotten himself killed trying to fight for Kala, if he could have talked Jason into bringing him. No matter what the punishment is, it was worth it just to know where he was and what was happening.”
“We probably should’ve sent you home – but I’m glad you’re here and safe.” Now it was Richard’s turn to sigh. “And we will try to reason with your parents once we’re all back in Metropolis. It’s not like you had a party or stayed over with some guy.”
Elise gave a tired grin that also belied the worry that was starting to creep back in now that the most immediate task was done. “Yeah, Jason is a bit more than just ‘some guy’.”
Unwilling to see her start to fret again, Richard shot her a teasing smile. “Oh, don’t worry, Elise. We won’t tell your parents we left you two alone in a hotel room all night.” As usual, the comment did just what he wanted it to: prompting an embarrassed grin from Jason’s newly-reappointed girlfriend.
That was when Lana added in a quiet tone, “Or that you were almost shot or drowned.” When Richard gave her a dubious look, she crossed her arms. “I don’t lie, but I don’t have to tell them the whole truth, either. It would just worry them. And we can’t explain why Elise was ultimately safe without giving away the secret.”
Richard found that he really couldn’t argue with that. “It’ll be okay,” he tried to reassure Elise. “Trust me, I was that kid who drove my parents crazy. It’s never as bad as you think it will be.”
“Why am I not surprised?” Lana sighed.
Richard couldn’t hold back a fond chuckle as he leaned forward to squeeze Lana’s hand. “Ladies, I’m going to go get something from the cafeteria while they’re still open. Want anything?”
“Just a salad. Later on we’ll have to get real food.” Lana looked to Elise, but the girl only shook her head, too bound up in her own thoughts now. With that, Richard headed out, passing through one security door and making a little small talk with the police officer stationed outside it. Anything to distract him from his trepidation for Clark and Jason, even now facing down unknown odds for the second time. From his fear for Kala and what she could have faced. And from the possibility that Lois would never open her eyes again, just sleep for the rest of her life. Now that one fire was put out, several more burned hotter.
The hospital layout was fairly straightforward, with the ICU waiting room just outside the actual ICU. Instead of a cramped little corner, it was spacious and open to the hallway, with plenty of cushy chairs and couches. Richard glanced in, wondering if those people were upset about not being allowed in. Sometimes you just gotta have Superman pleading your case…
And then his gaze lit on a dark-haired woman reading a magazine. That was enough to startle him out of his dark thoughts. She looked familiar, her bearing especially, but Richard couldn’t place her. He paused for a second to get a better look, and she lifted her gaze from the magazine. Her blue eyes were inquiring, not a hint of recognition, and Richard smiled apologetically as if he’d thought she was someone else before walking on. Don’t let on you recognized her – no way do I want to explain to Clark that he accidentally gave away Wonder Woman’s identity. Richard allowed himself a quiet chuckle as he got into the elevator. At least he knew they were safe, with protection like that in addition to the police. And with a sign like that, just maybe it was all going to work itself out just fine.
Laser vision seared a column down through the facility, vaporizing sand, stone, concrete, and lead shielding in an instant. Alarms began to go off, and pandemonium reigned. Security staff swarmed toward the intruders, but the slanting shaft had pierced multiple levels of the building. Kal-El and Jason wound up on the lowest floor, the older Kryptonian lifting his head. “I hear her,” he said, his voice harsh with strangled relief.
Jason’s heart gave a wild kick of sheer joy. For the last day or so, he’d been growing steadily more worried about Kala. Even as more immediate concerns pressed on him, in the back of his mind the thought that his twin was in danger continued to grow, gnawing at him. Now they were finally here, finally coming to rescue her, and the relief was overwhelming.
Kal-El turned, trying to home in on the sound of Kala’s heartbeat. The security people were holding back, fearful, and for the moment Kal-El ignored them. Jason eyed them warily, watching his father’s back.
One of the men approached, and Kal-El held out a warning hand. “I have no interest in fighting with you – I want what I came for, and that’s all. Stay back,” he commanded, still focused on locating Kala’s heartbeat in all of the echoes. The man just sneered, and took something out of his pocket.
Kal-El gasped, and Jason felt a wave of weakness sweep over him. Kryptonite, he thought, and his father staggered. Kal-El had learned how to cope with its radiation and face his fear on the island so long ago, but the pain and weakness were still shocking whenever he was exposed.
The security guards closed in. Jason saw his father’s face, white with pained surprise, and looked past him at the guard holding the deadly rock. “Hell no you don’t,” he growled, and leaped at the man.
Jason had martial arts training, but he wasn’t using it. The lightheadedness and throbbing ache made that much control impossible. Nothing could take away his strength, his anger, and his youthful resilience, though. He crashed into the other man, grabbing his wrist and forcing the kryptonite away from his body. While the security guard tried to keep his footing, Jason caught his belt and lifted him. Then all he had to do was throw, and the man’s weight was nothing to a boy who tossed tractors.
Yelling in surprise and fear, the guard landed on his rump and skidded several more yards. That was far enough for Kal-El to clear his head of the worst of the radiation, and he grabbed Jason’s arm. With a single leap they were away from the guards and on the next floor up. “She’s higher,” Kal-El muttered. He turned to jump again…
…Jason sucked in a breath. There was General Zod, floating before them with his arms crossed, just watching them with a perfectly supercilious look. Both of them froze, staring. Kal-El saw his old enemy again and was disturbed that Zod looked no different. He himself had a little gray at his temples, but Zod looked exactly as he had the day he’d been defeated. “So we meet again, heirs of Jor-El,” he intoned, and the voice was just as it had been sixteen years ago.
Jason had only seen Zod in person once, and that was earlier today. For him, the first reaction was not disbelief and dismay, but seething rage. He lunged at the older Kryptonian, too furious for finesse.
Of course Zod batted him away easily, but that broke Kal-El’s shock, and he joined the fight. He was close enough to forgo his powers and make it a fistfight, which Jason soon joined. The security staff were happy to stay out of it, especially once a stray punch took out a section of concrete wall.
The fight took place at super-speed, which made Jason feel frustratingly slow. He tried to gauge the right moment to jump in and grab Zod, hopefully hindering the General enough for Dad to take him out. When he did, it wasn’t graceful or elegant, but he hung on to the other Kryptonian and almost dragged him down. Kal-El struck with all his strength, and Zod staggered from a blow that could have caved steel.
He was as invulnerable as the other two, and dodged the next punch, dragging Jason with him. “You errant puppy,” Zod scoffed, and seized the boy by the hair. The pain startled Jason into letting go, and Zod shoved him, hard. He hit a railing and lost his balance, falling to the level below. Jason didn’t notice the dent he left in the concrete floor, but as he rolled to his feet he saw security closing in again.
Above him, Kal-El’s eyes went red as he closed with Zod again. The General dodged the heat vision to deliver a sharp uppercut to his enemy’s chin, and his own eyes flared crimson. Kal-El grabbed him by the neck and turned his head just enough that Zod’s heat vision sliced into the ceiling far above them, instead of searing Kal-El’s face.
Security started to flee as concrete dust rained down. Jason jumped back to the upper level, swinging over the railing and landing just as one of Luthor’s henchmen approached the battling Kryptonians. The man reached into his pocket, mostly likely for Kryptonite. Jason seized the steel railing and yanked, a large piece snapping loose in his hands. He charged the guard, sweeping the piece of railing through the air, and the man wisely fled without ever drawing his kryptonite. Then Jason turned back to his father and the foe.
Kal-El and General Zod grappled for advantage. The General was trying to break his enemy’s grip, but Kal-El had shifted his grip to a stranglehold. Both of their faces were locked into almost identical snarls of determination and hatred. Jason approached, the piece of railing at the ready.
But General Zod’s eyes flicked to something beyond them, and he suddenly went limp in Kal-El’s grip. A second later, Jason heard his sister’s voice, raised in a frightened shriek. “NO! Father, release him!”