Kal-El could think of nothing but the human girl, Lois Lane, from the moment he met her. Yet Jor-El was resolute, and utterly refused to allow him to visit. Likewise he refused to allow Lois Lane to leave the house, which left Kal-El with no opportunity to interact with her.
He had so many questions! The information he could discover about her world, ‘Earth,’ was extensive, so much so that he found himself drowning in minutiae. Meanwhile, what the Kryptonians had already collated was too superficial, concerned mostly with military and technological capabilities. What Kal-El wanted was human culture, and he could best find that with an actual human to guide him.
Since his father was being unreasonable, Kal-El could only brood upon the problem. He had always been fascinated by the development of culture. From Lara he had inherited a love of history, and from Jor-El he had come to love the scientific process of investigating, testing, discovering. To be able to apply everything he knew to a completely foreign culture, one that had never before come in contact with an advanced species, was the overriding wish of his life. A dream such as that would not even have been possible on Old Krypton, as Kal-El’s generation called the world they remembered from holographic recordings. The restrictions against space travel that had existed before Chancellor Zod’s rise to power meant that contact with another sentient race was extremely unlikely.
And now here he was, in the midst of wildly improbable circumstances that had aligned to grant him this opportunity, with the object of his fascination almost at hand, and Jor-El refused to allow him to even speak to her! It was terribly frustrating, and Kal-El devoted his time to trying to design a resolution to the problem.
When next he spoke with Jor-El, he had already marshaled his arguments, ready to prove point by point that the wisest course of action was to permit him to interview Lois Lane. His father’s first words seemed to indicate that Jor-El was also ready to rethink his prior decision. “So my son, are you still determined to study this human?”
“Indeed, father, I am,” Kal-El replied eagerly. “If you will permit me to elaborate…”
“That is unnecessary,” Jor-El interrupted. “I needed only to know if your interest had waned. Since it has not, you may arrange transport for her for tomorrow morning. I will reset the tracking crystal to your signature when you arrive.”
Kal-El was frozen for a few seconds, all of his careful contentions dissolving. If they were resetting the tracking crystal, that meant… “Father, you mean to transfer her to my guardianship?” he asked, hardly daring to hope.
“Yes, my son.” Jor-El sighed, and his holographic image on the wall looked weary. “Lois of the House of Lane does not enjoy our hospitality, it seems. She is … discontented. I have hopes that company closer to her own age will brighten her spirits. Also, she has fixated upon the idea of gaining entrance to my laboratory, and of course I cannot permit her to do so. You at least have no delicate experiments to disturb.”
Kal-El barely heard him. Jor-El was giving the human to him. He would be able to study her full-time, learn all of her habits and opinions as closely as he could ever have wished. It seemed almost unreal that his fondest wish would be granted so easily, and he felt strangely exhilarated. Kal-El took no notice of the fact that Jor-El was acquiescing not because he felt his son was worthy of this charge, but because he himself could no longer tolerate Lois Lane’s presence in his house.
A sudden thought cut across his musings; he had made no preparations to house a human. He would have to see to her comfort, immediately, to soften the transition so soon after her travel to this world. “Thank you, Father,” Kal-El said with all the dignity he could muster. “I shall begin preparing to receive her at once.”
“See that you do,” Jor-El replied, and signed off.
Kal-El arrived with his hovercraft at the earliest decent hour, all but crackling with nervous excitement. All of his plans up until yesterday had relied on talking with Lois Lane; he had never imagined he would actually have her living in his house. This venture suddenly became more complicated when he had to account for her comfort and safety; the human girl would be entirely his responsibility. So he had spent the hours since Jor-El’s pronouncement in a flurry of activity.
Now he could only hope she would feel at home. The door sensors admitted him, and Kal-El stepped directly into a disagreement between his parents. “…give her some time,” Lara was saying.
“We have few other options,” Jor-El replied.
“I cannot think that uprooting her again will solve anything,” Lara replied, and then saw her son. “Kal-El, you are early.”
He was, but not by much. “Is anything the matter?”
They glanced at each other, and Lara sighed. “I do not think this course of action is wise. But your father is correct, Lois Lane is unhappy here. I do dislike seeing her so persistently dispirited.”
“I will do my best to make her welcome,” Kal-El said earnestly.
“That is all we could ask,” Lara replied with a fond smile.
It was then that Lois joined them. She moved almost silently up the hall, and came to a stop just a little further away than was necessary or polite. Kal-El turned to smile at her, but she regarded them all with a serious, jaded expression. Everything about her, even the set of her shoulders, made it obvious that she regarded herself as an unwilling prisoner.
Kal-El could not help feeling disappointment. What had Jor-El said to her to make her so wary? He knew his father could be stern at times, but surely Jor-El would have known to be careful of their guest’s unsettled state.
Her eyes met his, and the coldness in her gaze was painful to see. Kal-El looked down with a sigh. All of his plans had to be put aside now in favor of the single goal of gaining her trust. Meeting her gaze again, putting all of his hopes for accord between them into his expression, Kal-El said in English, “Are you ready to depart, Lois Lane?”
Her voice was low and matter-of-fact, slightly rough. “Sure, why not? One house or another. What difference does it make?” Clearly, she was as his father had claimed, unhappy and resentful of the situation she found herself in. Really, could he blame her?
“I hope that it shall make a great deal of difference,” Kal-El replied gently. Something about his voice made some of the cynicism disappear from her expression, replaced by surprise. “Come. I have much to show you.”
Robots carried her belongings to the hovercraft, and one of them bore a pair of Lara’s plants. “Some of my Earth herbs were large enough to divide,” Lara explained when she saw Kal-El’s surprise. “They seem to prosper here.” The gift seemed to make Lois uneasy, as did the implied hope that she would also thrive. Nor did Kal-El miss the way Lois took one final glance at his mother as they departed.
She was silent throughout the flight to Kal-El’s home, constantly watching him out of the corners of her eyes. For the moment he repressed his curiosity; now was not the time to bombard her with questions. First he would let her get settled in.
His house was quite different from that of his parents, and Kal-El let Lois walk in ahead of him to observe her reaction. She halted abruptly in the main living area, wide-eyed. Kal-El smiled, waiting for it sink in. If she thought all Kryptonian homes were as spare of decoration as Jor-El’s, she had a right to be surprised.
Since the discovery of the planet Earth, Kal-El had been completely fascinated, and he had quickly acquired as many artifacts and replicas thereof as was feasible. Now that he had his own human guest, he had brought in additional items to make her feel at home. Surely he was the only Kryptonian on this planet who possessed a ‘coffee table’ made of dark veined crystal that closely resembled wood. And just as surely he was the only one who had set his viewing panes to display images of Earth: sunset over snow-capped mountains, the sweeping curves of red sand dunes, and a peculiar image of a city street taken from high within one of the aptly-named ‘skyscrapers’, which perspective made it appear like a strange sort of canyon.
Murmuring directions to his own robots, which then set about storing Lois’ belongings, Kal-El came to stand beside her. “What do you think?” he asked in her own tongue.
She seemed rather startled, as if seeing familiar items in this unfamiliar setting was disturbing. He had only meant to make her feel at home, and hoped he had not succeeded in merely unsettling her. “It’s … nice,” she finally said, but her tone sounded both amused and wary.
Well, it was best to start with small things. “I have learned some of your English, but I want to become more…” For a moment he groped for the word, then grinned at recalling it. “…fluent, yes, that is it. Toward that, let us speak your language as much as we can.”
That may have been the wrong approach, although he couldn’t understand why. Lois frowned a little at him then, her head tilted to the side. She simply watched him with suspicion for a long moment before asking him, “Why is it important that we do that? I’m starting to get the hang of Kryptonese. Is there a reason?”
He thought he’d been straightforward enough, but evidently not. Kal-El elaborated, remembering to give her the proper English honorific. “Your pardon, Miss Lane. I have never before had the chance to learn an entirely new language. Of course you will wish to learn Kryptonese also. Perhaps … perhaps we can devote the mornings to Kryptonese, and the afternoons to English?”
The distrustful look grew, those strange eyes on his, and she seemed to be looking for something in his face. Trying to read something she must feel she needed to know. Her brow furrowed, then she took a deep breath and sighed it out. Slowly, her expression not entirely pleased, she gave a hesitant nod. “All right. Let’s do that then. It’ll make it easier to understand you, at least.”
“I would have you understand me, Miss Lane,” Kal-El replied with complete sincerity. She only stared, and he wondered what was running through her enigmatic mind. Instead of pondering it, though, he continued, “Come, let me show you to your room.” With that he led her to a spacious room in which her few belongings were already placed. Thin translucent panes of crystal allowed natural light to flood the room during the day, and Lois was familiar with the fact that the crystals making up the walls and ceiling would store solar energy and give off light and heat as necessary.
At first he simply gave her a moment to look around. Her lack of reaction was beginning to worry him; all of her senses seemed a trifle dulled, as if the fiery spirit he’d glimpsed that first day was wearing down beneath the stress of captivity. Therefore it was his duty to remove as much stress as possible.
“Now we must key the doors to admit you,” he told her. She knew the routine of the coding the crystal panels already, and placed her palm against the one inside her room. It was the work of a moment, and he said brightly, “Now only you and I may enter here.”
One of her dark eyebrows quirked up then and that narrow look was back in her eyes. A little of the boldness came back into her voice then. “And why would you need access to my room?”
Her question surprised him at first. He opened his mouth to reply that it was his house and of course he had access to every room of it, but that was not truly a reason. It was simply a custom, and he had no special need to uphold it. If she were truly a guest and not a prisoner, then he ought to make every effort to ensure her comfort, especially in such matters as peace of mind.
“You are correct, Miss Lane. There is no need to deprive you of privacy.” He made a few changes to the panel, then stepped back. “There. Now if I come to your door, my image will be projected into the room, and you need only press this panel to admit me.”
A brisk nod. And again that silence, her gaze never leaving his. There was once again that feeling that she was searching for something within his being, a tiny frown turning her lips downward. Just when he had decided that she would speak no more, Lois asked, “And what’s expected of me here, if you’re my ‘host’? What rules are we working under? Am I still under house-arrest?”
Her questions flustered him for a moment – not so much the content as the sharply querying tone. “Ah, I … I had hoped to learn more about your world and your people. That is the only expectation I have of you. As for ‘house-arrest’, you should not be abroad in the city alone, but it would be my pleasure to accompany you wherever you wish to go.”
Her expression made it clear that she was considering his words before she nodded again. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her fingers creep to curl around the silver chain that held the quartz tracking crystal around her neck and fidget with it. It seemed an unconscious gesture, but reminded him exactly where she stood. “All right, then. I understand. Is it too much to have a few minutes to adjust to all of this before we start? I’m pretty out of it for the moment.”
“I had planned to give you the day to yourself, to settle in,” Kal-El told her. “Please, take all the time you need. You may join me in the living area if you wish. Otherwise, I shall look for you at the midday meal.” With that he bowed to her – an Earth custom denoting respect, or so his research said – and removed himself from her room.
What a strange creature she was! She appeared somewhat younger than he was, but carried herself with a confidence that made her seem his elder. Kal-El could not fathom her thought processes. He had seen her display no fear or consternation, almost as in control of her responses as a Kryptonian, yet her caution indicated that she was unsettled.
Would it be possible to befriend her, to show her that the circumstances which brought her here offered an opportunity unparalleled in the history of both their races? Or would that wariness cloud every interaction between them? Kal-El sighed, wondering what exactly he’d taken on when he accepted his father’s offer.
No matter what was to come, he had taken responsibility for Lois Lane, for her health, safety, and well-being, and Kal-El never shirked his duty. Besides, no amount of sober reflection could extinguish the hope that she would one day look upon him as a friend.