The posting schedule on this one will be every two weeks on Saturday. It will be running opposite weeks with Heirs: Sessions. Enjoy, all!
((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.))
Later on, when everything seemed unreal, Lois would remind herself how it began. It had been an ordinary Thursday, and she was bored. Lois was sitting in chemistry class, paying more attention to the fact that Bill was trying to surreptitiously copy Janet’s notes than to Mrs. Purcell’s third explanation of the formula on the board. She was beginning to wonder idly whether she could skip her last class and sneak out early. Scott Bracewell was trying desperately to impress her, and he had a car. Maybe she could talk him into skipping and taking her to the movies. Nothing more complicated than that; no omens, no signs, no warning whatsoever that the world as she knew it was about to end.
Then the fire alarm went off. Lights flashed, sirens blared, but fire drills were a normal part of school life. Only Lois noticed that Mrs. Purcell looked worried; everyone else just got up, some complaining, some delighted that class was cut short. Normal procedure was to go outside and take roll, but the principal’s voice came over the PA system, ordering everyone to proceed to the gym.
That was apparently unusual, and the other students chattered about it. Lois relaxed then; at her last school, they’d had terrorist attack drills every three months, and she’d actually been there long enough to do one. This sounded like that; gather everyone in the most defensible space, instead of outdoors and exposed. A new kind of drill explained Mrs. Purcell’s anxious look, too.
Only once they were all in the gym, the usual boredom of a drill didn’t take over. Two students were unaccounted for, and Lois caught several teachers with panicked looks on their faces until the pair were found in a bathroom.
Restlessness set in after ten minutes, but none of the teachers would explain. After an hour, a couple of boys tried to demand an explanation from the vice principal. Lois snuck over toward them, hoping to get a crumb of information, but they were soundly denied. And when one of them started to get loud – some jock she didn’t know – two of the coaches dragged him away.
Lois had begun to feel uneasy then. She found a quiet corner and took out her cell phone (never mind that they were forbidden in class, she always carried hers), but couldn’t reach her mother. Or her sister. Or, finally, her father.
They spent five hours in the gym, the student body passing from anxiety to boredom to apathy. School should have been over by then, but none of them had been released, and there was no news. When they were finally let go, most of the parents who came to pick them up were crying.
Lois’ mother wasn’t one of them. Lucy was sniffling, but Ella’s eyes were dry. Still, she hugged her oldest daughter tightly, as if she’d been afraid never to see her again. Lois hugged her back and reached for Lucy, too.
The three Lane women stood together by Ella’s car for several long moments, holding one another. Lois remembered that moment clearly. The scent of her mother’s perfume mingled with Lucy’s shampoo, the feel of Ella’s hand stroking her hair, the way Lucy had trembled the entire time.
It was the last moment Lois could remember when she felt anything like normal, the last time she felt safe.
The details came later. Astronomers had been watching a number of comet-like objects in the outer reaches of the solar system for several months. The trajectory didn’t seem a threat, but then one of the objects had broken away from the group and approached Earth. Lois remembered hearing about it in class, everyone excited at the prospect of a near pass by a comet.
Only instead of passing near the planet, the object had gone into orbit around it. That was highly unusual, and closer examination revealed that the object was a large crystalline structure. High-flying military planes had taken multiple images, and the proximity of the strange crystal had caused a great deal of curiosity and anxiety in many countries. Some argued that the crystal might be some strange form of alien intelligence, others thought it was a weapon, but no decision could be reached on what to do.
Then a number of smaller crystal structures detached from the main one and headed toward the planet’s surface. That was when the alert had first been called, when everyone had prepared for some kind of an attack.
Some countries fired on the crystal probes and destroyed them before landing. Some waited until they landed, then sent out military detachments to capture them. Others, especially in third world areas, couldn’t hinder the crystals’ descent. They didn’t seem hostile, and the ones that weren’t captured or destroyed returned to the parent crystal within an hour.
By then a full-blown panic had begun. Everyone had seen movies in which advanced alien societies came to Earth and took over. This surveying process struck an ominous note, and the leading world powers had an emergency summit. An experimental military spacecraft was sent up to investigate the parent crystal. The experimental craft was repelled by some force that scientists couldn’t quite understand and forced to land. Things were at a stalemate for a while, and then disaster occurred.
Later on, no nation would admit to having fired the missiles. There were several with the capability, and one or more of them exercised it. The parent crystal was destroyed in orbit, fragments of it burning up in the atmosphere or falling to earth as meteorites. For a brief time world leaders loudly declaimed the aggressive act, while most likely being secretly relieved that the strange crystal was gone.
And then astronomers noticed the other comet-like objects from which the crystal had come starting to change course. They were headed for Earth. The inescapable conclusion was that this was an alien fleet, and by destroying the scout craft, humanity had raised the ire of the rest of the aliens. That was when the schools let out and Lois had gone home.
The news was full of developments and plans for defending the Earth, but Lois’ father never came home at all during the week it took for the giant crystals to approach Earth. That told her more than the news. It meant the military was working its top generals overtime to prepare for the threat.
The day finally came, when a swarm of those smaller crystal ships approached the Earth. Lois’ family, along with many other military families, was deep inside a secure bunker on the base while it happened. Again, to her frustration, she only learned what had happened after the fact.
The ships had parked in orbit and unleashed thousands of the little survey drones. Those were too many, too fast, to shoot down, and they zipped around the planet’s surface with impunity. Missiles fired at the orbiting ships were destroyed in space, the mobile drones sacrificing themselves. And then someone noticed that the drones were hovering over the missile silos and over Air Force installations. By the time the militaries of humanity mobilized to answer the new threat, the damage was done. A fine mist of crystal fragments drifted down over the weapons, and the humidity in the air caused them to grow.
By nightfall, none of Earth’s nations had a functioning air force or a single ground-to-air missile. Humanity cowered in their bolt holes, expecting an invasion.
Instead they received a message. Every television, every radio, every mobile phone, almost every communications device on the planet broadcast the same thing. The man who spoke it could have passed for human, but his accent was foreign in each of the several dozen languages in which the message was delivered. Lois heard it later, and the arrogant tone chilled her as much as the words.
“People of Earth: I am Supreme Chancellor Dru-Zod of New Krypton. We came to your world in peace, seeking information about the intelligent life of your planet. Our survey drones were met with hostility, but perhaps such a primitive race as yours could be excused its ignorance. However, the wanton destruction of the Rozz VI and murder of its crew cannot be forgiven. You could have enjoyed a profitable alliance with us, people of Earth, but your own savagery has determined our course of action.”
“We have nullified your power to attack our vessels. Though it is within our power to simply take that which we need from you, we wish instead to negotiate with you for certain resources which are abundant on this planet and scarce upon our own, in a manner befitting civilized beings. To do so we require some assurance that further hostilities will not be so rashly attempted.”
“To that end, an unmanned ship will land upon each of the inhabited continents of your world. You will deliver to these ships a number of goodwill ambassadors selected from the families of the highest-ranking military and political leaders of the major nations of this world. The total number of these ambassadors, and from which families they shall be drawn, will be encoded upon the ships in the dominant language of each continent. After forty-eight hours, as you reckon time, the ships will return to our fleet. Any nation which refuses to comply with our most reasonable request will be treated as a hostile entity.”
“The ambassadors will be brought to New Krypton and housed as guests of our prominent families. No harm will come to them so long as no further harm is done to our fleet. The transport ships will land in five hours.”
Lois knew when she heard the message, endlessly repeated on television and the internet. Her father was the Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army, a four-star general, a person whom only a handful of people in the entire country could say they outranked. Of course his family would be providing one of the ‘goodwill ambassadors’. There was no way around it.
She was certain when he came home. He kissed her mother, hugged her sister, and to Lois’ shock, hugged her as well. Both of them stiffened at the unexpected and rather unwelcome contact. The final piece clicked into place for her. Everything inside froze, not allowing any emotion to betray the flash of fear she felt. As soon as her father stepped back, taking hold of her shoulders, Lois said in an oddly flat tone, “I know. I’m the one going.”
The look of horrified disbelief on her mother’s face nearly ruined her resolve. “Sam, no!” Ella shouted, and Lucy started to cry.
“Ella, it has to be someone from my family,” Sam said in that terrible dry monotone he always uses to deliver bad news. “It can’t be me; they won’t allow military personnel. It can’t be you, Ella; I won’t – can’t – trust your health to them. It can’t be Lucy; she’s eleven, for the love of God. And Lois-”
“And Lois is sixteen!” Ella fired back. “Samuel Lane, you cannot possibly agree to this!”
“They’ve crippled our military and delivered a very specific threat, Ella. If I won’t do it, I assure you, the Joint Chiefs of Staff will come here and take one of you rather than allow the entire North American continent to get embroiled in war with an enemy that so overmatches us.”
“Momma, it’s okay. It really is. I’ll go,” Lois said again, trying to sound brave. All the little pieces of her world, the day-to-day dramas of knowing if she had her algebra homework, if Eric Patterson was going to make her tell him for the hundredth time that she wasn’t going to prom with him, if Lucy was going to steal any of her Ben and Jerry’s like the last time, were fading away by the instant. But she wouldn’t show it, couldn’t let her mother see how it affected her. She’d fight it and they’d look to her or Luce. That couldn’t happen. “I always wanted to travel. I mean, how many teenagers can brag that they lived on another planet?”
Ella choked down a sob and embraced her, Lucy clinging to her big sister’s side. But Lois’ eyes stayed locked on her father’s. He nodded slowly. “We have two days. We’re already hacking their systems for data through the same route they hacked ours. I’ll see to it you’re given every scrap of intel we can find on them, Lois.”
She nodded back. A part of her was crying out, wanting her daddy to protect her, but Lois had long ago learned to silence that whimpering child inside her.
The other hostages – Lois had no use for this ‘ambassadors’ bullshit – wept and clung to their families as the appointed hour approached. She didn’t. Lois hugged her mother and her sister, her eyes dry; she’d done all her crying alone in her room at night, pressing her face into the pillow so none of them would hear the sound. And then she marched at her father’s side up to the strange crystal ship waiting in a Kansas field.
She allowed no hint of her terror to show in her expression or her bearing. As much as she resented, even despised her father, Lois also took a certain bitter pride in him. And the daughter of General Lane was not going to cry. No, she was going to approach her fate with all the courage and fortitude the human race could muster.
Lois had been briefed, relentlessly, memorizing every shred of intelligence her father could lay hands on. She was privy to military secrets about the Kryptonians that three-star generals were unqualified to know. And as they walked the final few yards – without turning around, she would not look back for final glimpse of her family, could not look back without bursting into shameful tears – General Lane murmured the latest intel to her in lieu of goodbyes.
“You’ll be safe,” he told her. “They are not a violent people, Lois; you could probably take down half a dozen of them, if not for their robotics technology. They abhor personal contact, and even then mostly on ceremonial occasions. Some plague in their past left them phobic of contamination; for them, a handshake is an intolerable intimacy. Not even married couples customarily touch one another. And everything we’ve found about this ‘guest’ arrangement shows it to be exactly that. They plan on housing you in the homes of their highest-ranking and most illustrious people. Some of them think that by doing so, even we barbarians can be taught a measure of civilization.”
He bared his teeth in a silent snarl at that, this tall broad-shouldered granite-faced man whom she had never been able to please, not from the very moment of her birth. “They don’t understand us, not in the slightest. They think we’ll take this meekly, let them take our spouses and children away from us. They’re wrong. We will never cease trying to get you back – and I know you will remember you are a prisoner among hostile forces.”
They were nearly at the ship, a faintly glowing golden-white structure sitting incongruously among flattened corn stalks. It was much larger than it seemed from afar, and bright lights spilled down the ramp toward which Lois was inexorably approaching. Lois looked straight ahead until her father’s hand caught her shoulder and turned her to him. “Lois.”
“Yes, sir?” Manners were expected in the Lane house, but she could shade the simple syllable ‘sir’ with enough contempt to render it coarser than any profanity. Then, though, her voice was neutral, clipped, everything wrapped down tight around the core of sheer terror howling like a tornado within her.
“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, on any parent, on any child. It’s the cruelest choice anyone can make. But if someone has to walk into enemy territory with their head held high and show these aliens what dignity and courage mean, then I’m glad it’s you representing us. Do you understand?”At that moment, as she walked unbowed to what could easily be certain death or lifelong imprisonment on a foreign, hostile world, then he chose to be proud of her. Lois felt herself start to shudder, but controlled it. She would not break down. “I understand, sir.” Without another word, she turned away from him and boarded the ship that would take her to her fate.