But, anyway, on with the show!
I'll find you
I'll keep on trying.
I'll keep on trying.
Until my dying day.
I just need to know
I just need to know
Whatever has happened,
The Truth will free my soul.
The Truth will free my soul.
Wherever that you are, I won't stop searching.
Whatever it takes, I need to know…
Whatever it takes, I need to know…
~ Within Temptation, “Somewhere”
Ella and Jimmy were both in Perry’s office, and Ella used his phone to call several of Sam’s old friends in the military. While anyone else might’ve had to wade through a chain of command, General Lane’s widow was immediately handed off to someone who could actually help her.
“This is concerning my daughter, Lois Lane,” the two men heard her say. “She and my two grandchildren have been kidnapped by Lex Luthor. Yes, him. The one who caused havoc with long-range military weapons almost eight years ago… Why thank you, General Maggin. We know they’re on a yacht called the Gertrude. They left Metropolis harbor this afternoon. Is there any way…? … Thank you very much, sir. Yes, I’ll be at this number, but you’d do better to contact Richard White, Lois’ fiancé. He’s a pilot – he’s in the air right now, searching for her. Here’s his number…. Thank you.”
Perry was chuckling as she hung up the phone. “And what exactly do you find amusing about this, Peregrine?” Ella asked.
“Elinore Lane calls in the Army,” he replied. “You’ve got more contacts than some of my best reporters. I have no trouble believing that three-star generals still salute the phone when you call.”
“Why, thank you, Peregrine,” Ella told him coolly, but a hint of a smile curved her lips. “It’s nice to know you’re capable of something other than sarcasm…”
She trailed off in mid-sentence, those hazel eyes narrowing as she stared out the window over Perry’s shoulder. He and Jimmy both turned to look, seeing a glittering haze around the buildings further up the street. “What the heck is that?” Jimmy wondered aloud.
The haze was moving toward them … fast. A chattering noise distracted Perry, and he glanced down, scowling at the pens seeming to dance across his desk. He and Jimmy were both perplexed by the phenomenon.
Ella, however, had lived in Japan. She felt the tremor and knew what it was. “Earthquake,” she said quickly. “Perry, we have to get everyone out right now.”
“This building’s stood since 1938,” he scoffed. “No little shake is gonna…”
As if it had heard his challenge, the seismic wave struck with its full force at that moment. All the glass – the huge windows as well as the office doors and interior walls – seemed to explode. The expensive new flat-screen televisions fell from their brackets, and stacked papers slid to the floor everywhere. Perry, Ella, and Jimmy instinctively shielded their eyes, hearing panicked yells from the bullpen as the floor bucked under the reporters’ feet.
Once the noise of falling glass fragments stopped, Perry barked, “Everybody, outside, now! Take the stairs, let’s have an orderly exit. C’mon people, move!” They were all so accustomed to obeying that demanding bellow that his voice reassured them, and everyone started moving toward the stairwells. Lowering his voice, he asked of Jimmy and Ella, “You guys all right?”
“Fine,” Ella said, taking hold of the bottom of her blouse and giving it a quick shake to dislodge any fragments of glass. “James?”
“Y-yeah,” Jimmy replied, and then got hold of himself. “We’d better get moving.”
“Just what I was saying,” Perry grumbled, and they joined the press of people around the stairwells.
Kitty took a deep breath, and the knife came down. Her breath rushed back out with the force behind the blow, making a slight noise in the still air, and Lex’s eyes snapped open. His mind jerked from sweet dreams of Lois’ voice, pleading softly, into the reality of his death, inches away.
In prison he’d dealt with attempts on his life; he was a much lighter sleeper now, and he woke far quicker than he had six years ago. Lex reacted to the threat with reptilian speed, catching Kitty’s hands in his own and stopping the knife just above his chest.
Kitty looked down at him, trembling, rabbit-eyed with terror, her breath coming in a shaky gasp. Lex smiled up at her, and for one long terrible moment they froze like that, their eyes locked. And then the giant wave struck, the cabin seeming to rise and pitch, unbalancing Kitty. Lex yanked her hands forward across his body, plunging the knife harmlessly into the mattress beside him. She fell atop him, and Lex rolled them both over, keeping his grip on her hands tight as he pinned her under him.
“Lex … please … don’t…” Kitty whimpered, and the fear in her eyes was ambrosia to him. Even his cracked rib didn’t hurt, his veins singing with exhilaration, feeling more alive than ever. He chuckled softly as he transferred his grip, holding both her slender wrists in one hand while he reached for the knife. “Lex! No!!”
“Shh,” Lex purred, tickling the cold blade along Kitty’s cheek, down to where her pulse fluttered in her throat. “Hush now, and I won’t have to hurt you.” The tip of the knife slipped under her blouse, her breasts rising and falling with her rapid breath, and the blade caught at the top button. It popped off when he flicked the knife, and Kitty shuddered to see the gleam in Lex’s eyes as he added softly, “Much.”
Richard banked the plane, peering out the windows at the horizon. There was definitely something there…
The radio crackled to life; he was still listening to Metropolis tower, and he heard the warning go out to all the planes in the area. “Attention all flights, abort landing procedures immediately! Metropolis International appears to be experiencing an earthquake. Resume holding patterns… Divert if possible.”
Richard stared at the radio. “An earthquake? You’ve got to be kidding!”
“That wave we saw,” Lana said. “Something’s going on out to sea.”
“Luthor,” Richard muttered, and his voice had begun to take on some of the deep loathing that colored Lois’ when she spoke the name. “Whatever he’s done, it’s huge.”
Lana just kept silent, staring out the window as she tried to imagine how one man – no matter how brilliant or evil – could have caused an earthquake. Her attention only snapped back to Richard when she heard him say, “…take you home.”
“What?” Lana asked, looking at him incredulously. “Please tell me you’re not seriously talking about turning around and dropping me off someplace ‘safe’.”
He looked honestly perplexed. “Well, this is probably gonna be a little dicey…”
“As if I didn’t know that,” Lana scolded. She had to turn sideways in her seat to see his face, and the headphones brought every nuance of her voice to his ears clearly. “You listen here, Richard White. I may not be as good at this kind of thing as Lois – I’m not the type to carry a gun everywhere, I can’t out-curse a merchant marine, and I try to drive within shouting distance of the speed limit. But you are not going to pack me off home as soon as things get dangerous like I’m some kind of … of fluff-brained little cheerleader who doesn’t know enough to keep herself out of trouble! I knew what I was getting into when I volunteered for this, and I’m not backing out now.”
As much as he admired her spirit, Richard couldn’t help being a little skeptical. “So you’re telling me you’ve been in situations like this before and you know exactly how you’ll react?”
Lana crossed her arms and scowled. “No, Richard, I’ve never been in a situation like this before. Have you? Because I very much doubt you spend every weekend rescuing your fiancée and her children from the clutches of some megalomaniac. Sounds like a very strange hobby to me.”
“Okay, okay,” he said, chuckling at last. “Point taken.”
“Not to mention, it’s an earthquake,” Lana added. “I’m probably safer up here with you – I think.”
“Lana, I’m glad you’re here, all right? I just don’t want you in danger, too,” Richard said. “I’m not going to try to send you home.”
“Good,” Lana retorted, “because I’m not leaving you.”
Silence reigned for a long moment, and they looked at each other askance.
“I’m not leaving you to do this alone,” Lana elaborated. “Because you might screw it up.” Richard started laughing at her choice of words, and she added a trifle sharply, “Your gender can’t be trusted to go to the hardware store for a box of finishing nails and not spend $150 – and forget the nails!”
“Excuse me?” Richard actually looked away from the controls for a moment; he was already piloting the plan toward the anomaly on the horizon. He just couldn’t believe they were fighting the battle of the sexes at the moment. “Lana, your gender can’t be trusted alone in a department store. Lois can’t even leave Macy’s without some makeup or a new pair of heels.”
“At least we use what we buy,” Lana shot back. “My ex-husband has enough darned spackle to last him until Judgment Day.”
Both of them stared out the window in huffy silence, watching the peculiar bump in the distance grow larger. And then, replaying the conversation in their minds and considering it in light of the anxiety that had only become more pronounced when Lois went missing, Richard and Lana both started cracking up.
Lois had gotten her hands in front of herself, and managed to stand up again in spite of the suddenly choppy seas. She started rifling through the cabinets and drawers, hoping, praying.
And coming up empty. Lex was thorough. He hadn’t left much in here, just a silicone spatula and a box of cereal forgotten in the back of one cabinet… But wait. In the bottom of the last drawer Lois tried, she found a heavy marble rolling pin.
Lois hefted it and eyed the porthole. Just maybe… She didn’t let herself think too much about it, just ran at the door and smashed the rolling pin against the porthole with every ounce of force she could muster. The shock of the blow ran up her forearms and jarred every bone in her body, making her stagger back to see the damage she’d caused…
Nothing. Lois swore softly as she looked the glass over; it wasn’t glass at all, but thick Plexiglas. Anything with ‘Lex’ in it is bad friggin’ news, she thought savagely, slapping her palm against the door angrily.
There was nothing to do but try again, and this time her efforts were rewarded by a tiny chip flying off the surface. Encouraged by this small sign of the porthole’s vulnerability, Lois struck at it again … and again … and again. Into every blow, she put all of her fear for the twins and all of her rage at Luthor, persevering even though her arms started to shake and her shoulders burned from the effort.
Ultimately, she had to take a break, leaning against the door and looking out at the helipad across the way. Lois was panting with exertion, and the porthole in front of her now had many tiny chips missing. Hopefully she was weakening the structural integrity of the damned thing.
She saw Stanford first, walking to the helicopter and looking over his shoulder nervously. Behind him came Kitty, clutching the Pomeranian like a security blanket and acting skittish as a stray cat. For a moment her eyes met Lois’ through the porthole. A bleak terror had taken up residence in them, and Lois could only surmise that the swollen lip and bruised cheek had something to do with it.
Circumstances didn’t give her much chance to pity, however. Right behind Kitty, Grant was holding Jason’s shoulders lightly and directing him along the walkway to the helicopter… Lois’ breath caught in her throat, eyes widening, as she saw Riley doing the same with Kala. And at the rear of this little parade was Lex, his hand in his pocket presumably keeping a grip on that damned kryptonite shiv. He saw Lois and waved to her, smiling cheerfully.
“No,” Lois whispered, but her voice didn’t stay soft for long. “Oh, no, you sonofabitch. No, you’re not… How dare you! Leave them alone! Where the hell are you taking my children, you bastard?!” She reared back for one penultimate blow, feeling something break as she slammed the rolling pin against the porthole and not knowing if it was her wrist or the pin or the Plexiglas.
Jason was already inside the chopper, Grant getting back out, and Riley pushing his sister up to it. Kala’s head whipped around at the thudding impact from the pantry, and two sets of hazel eyes met for just an instant. Lois couldn’t hear her daughter’s voice, but she saw the sudden light of mingled relief and terror in Kala’s countenance, saw her mouth moving to form a scream for Mommy. She almost broke free of Riley’s hands, darting so suddenly when she’d been quiescent for so long.
But Lex was there, and the shard was in his hand, and Kala backpedaled in terror of that green crystal. Lois screamed at him, knowing the room was soundproofed but not caring, screamed at him to leave Kala alone until she felt something in her throat give and her voice descended into a harsh croak.
Coughing, her throat on fire, Lois collapsed against the door as the men loaded Kala onto the helicopter. She looked out again in time to see the chopper lift off, trying to memorize which direction they were going.
I won’t let him win, she silently promised them. I’ll get out of here, and as soon as your father can hear my heartbeat, he’ll come after me. Then we’ll both come and get you. Hang on, Jason and Kala. Hang on, sweethearts, Mommy’s on her way.
With that thought in mind, she found the rolling pin and grimly set to work on the porthole again.
Metropolis had never been built to withstand an earthquake. As the wave of seismic energy passed through the city, windows shattered, signs fell, streets buckled, and citizens panicked. Superman found himself pushed to his absolute limit dealing with multiple crises, and all the while in the back of his mind he prayed that Lois and the twins were still all right.
Even as he dealt with all of it, he worried about those he loved the most. Out at sea, the yacht would feel little effect from the earthquake – its size would protect it, if it met the waves head-on. And Richard and Lana were in the air, safe from the chaos on the ground. Perry, Ella, and Jimmy were at the Planet … in the center of town…
He caught a falling construction worker while barely pausing in his flight, setting the man down and rocketing toward the building he knew so well. His x-ray vision quickly revealed that everyone had gotten out of the building safely in the first tremors, and Superman slowed, taking a deep breath. But the rain pattering down around them perplexed him; why was it raining in front of the Planet, and nowhere else? Superman looked up, and saw the gigantic globe balanced atop the cistern on the roof. His mind froze as the metal structure began tipping forward ever so slightly…
Fortunately, his body reacted to the threat instantly. No time to fly around the buildings blocking his path; the Planet globe came tumbling down incredibly fast once gravity caught hold of it. Superman went through the office building next door, punching through steel and plaster, no more than a red and blue blur past the empty desks.
Not even the quickest camera could’ve captured him as he ducked under the globe. Catching it was easy; holding it balanced was not. Superman had to lower the massive structure very gently, though it pleased him to hear Jimmy’s camera whirring down below. This ought to win him a Pulitzer of his own, he thought distractedly as he landed, looking for some place to set the globe down.
A wrecked car would have to do, and Superman let the weight of the globe crush it. I’ll have to come back for that later, he thought, glancing at the crowd. Jimmy was staring at his camera as if it had suddenly turned to gold – which it might as well have. Perry, who had been standing right where the globe would’ve landed, was mouthing Great Caesar’s ghost.
And Ella Lane hurried down the steps into the street, while everyone else hung back. “Superman!” she called as she came right up to him. “Superman, Lois Lane is missing. She’s … we think Luthor has her.”
“I know, Mrs. Lane,” he replied. “Clark Kent told me. I’m on my way there as soon as the city’s secure.” He didn’t have time to say more than that, and flew off to the next crisis.
Which left Ella staring after him, looking troubled. “You all right, Elinore?” Perry asked gruffly. “Never thought I’d see one man drive two Lane women speechless.”
“He knows who I am,” she mused aloud.
Lex hummed to himself as he watched the screen on the little black device he held. It looked like a PDA, but had no brand markings. It presently showed a map of Metropolis, streets in glowing green against a black background. One red dot moved rapidly around the screen, leaving faint afterimages behind it.
Kitty was sitting across from him, the twins on either side of her. None of them would’ve sat beside Lex if their lives depended on it, and they were perfectly willing to cram into one seat together to avoid him. Even Tala growled softly at him.
“Twenty minutes to location, boss,” Stanford said loudly, and Lex nodded.
“Good. He’s still busy,” Lex replied absently. The alpha-wave tracker had gotten a lot sleeker since the prototype that had led him to the Arctic years ago, and it was an even more efficient means of keeping tabs on his nemesis.
Kala and Jason glared at him. Lex had placed the shiv in his pocket, but that was no real insulation, so they both felt weak and feverish in its presence. At least he hadn’t actually touched them with it. Both twins were beginning to hate Lex Luthor … but of course Kala would have to be the one to say something about it.
“My mommy’s gonna kick your butt,” she announced.
“Your mommy will have a hard time finding me where we’re going,” Lex replied easily.
“Our daddy’ll get you. Both of our daddies will,” Jason muttered sulkily. “Superman never lets the bad guys win.”
Lex chuckled. “Oh, I have plans for your daddy, too.”
“Lex, leave them alone,” Kitty said, but a hard look silenced her again.
Kala was seething. The bad bald man hadn’t let her see her mother – he’d let Jason see her, and of course her brother had told her about it, but the reality of Mommy-on-the-boat didn’t really strike her until she actually saw her mother through the porthole. And then she’d been livid, trying to get to Mommy, but Lex had threatened her with the green rock again.
“You’re gonna wish you were nice to us,” Kala grumbled. “You’re gonna say sorry-I-didn’t-mean-it, and nobody’s gonna believe you. ‘Cause you’re a bad, bad man.”
Lex only smiled at her, and the rest of the helicopter ride was spent in tense silence. Gradually the shadow on the horizon drew nearer, and revealed itself to be a modestly-sized island.
“Not quite as big as we hoped,” Stanford fretted.
His visions of a kryptonite continent fading, Lex appraised the landmass. It was still big enough to make a nice base of operations – not to mention the kryptonite that could be mined from it. “Size isn’t everything,” he mused as they circled the island.
“You’d know,” Kitty whispered poisonously. Lex turned to her, a cold look in his eyes, and Tala’s lips peeled back in a savage snarl.
Ignoring the dog – it was high time he chucked the little furball overboard – Lex warned, “Katherine, you’re in danger of becoming superfluous.”
“I hope she kills you,” Kitty said. “He might be too good a man, but Lois Lane will rip your heart out with her bare hands if you ever give her the chance.”
“Such charming sentiment, my dear,” Lex replied. “Are you still angry with me for earlier?”
He’d spoken in tones of such tender solicitation that Kitty was sickened, and turned to look out the window, hugging Tala tighter.
Stanford didn’t like the conversation going on behind him, so he ignored it and landed the chopper on a flat patch of crystal. It looked like dark stone, its color and translucence suggesting Metropolis’ worst smog coalesced into solid form.
Lex practically bounded out of the helicopter while the blades were still spinning, saying to Stanford as he did so, “Fire up the ultrasonic signaler. By the time he gets here, I’ll be ready for guests.”
Aftershocks were still trembling the foundations of the city. A suspension bridge had become twisted, its roadway hanging by only a few cables. He knotted the broken cables back together as a temporary fix, and flew stranded motorists across the river to firm ground. Subway trains had jumped their tracks – he flew down the tunnels to right them and carry injured passengers to safety. Tenement buildings in Suicide Slum had collapsed entirely, and Superman located the survivors and moved tons of rubble to rescue them.
Some of this work simply couldn’t be hurried, no matter how keenly aware he was of the danger to Lois and the twins. This was a taste of his future: the rest of his life, he’d be balancing his duty against his obligation to his son and daughter, and if he was lucky, to their mother.
Just a little faster… Please, Lois, be all right. Keep the kids safe just a little longer for me, please… I’m on my way.
At that moment, a sharp noise cut across his delicate hearing, making him freeze in midair. The voice he least wanted to hear resounded in his ears, carried on ultrasonic waves.
“Greetings, flyboy. This is your old friend Lex. I’d like to request your attendance at my little housewarming party. I’m sure you’re very interested to see the other guests of honor. Come find me eighty miles offshore, and come quickly – I might get impatient and start the festivities without you.”
That was very close to a blatant threat. Superman paused, listening; the city was still crying out for his help, but Metropolis did have emergency workers. He had to make a choice … and with the worst of the disaster averted, he chose to take on Luthor.
Turning in midair, he rocketed toward the anomaly on the horizon.
Lois had to rest again, and she was leaning against the opposite wall when the door opened from the outside. At first, seeing on the tall, broad-shouldered silhouette, hope leaped up in her chest. But then Riley stepped into the room, grinning broadly, and Lois’ smile of joyful welcome fell. “You,” she growled.
“Hello, beautiful,” Riley said. He was carrying a collapsible police baton in one hand, and kept flipping it like he was in a parade or something. The expression of long-awaited happiness on his face nauseated Lois. “I’m going to make you famous.”
“I’m already famous, you moron,” Lois retorted.
“Oh, feisty,” Riley said happily. “I like the spirited ones – they last longer.”
“Really?” Lois said, sounding bored. Keep him talking, she thought to herself, surreptitiously eyeing the doorway. She backed away, hoping to draw Riley far enough into the small room that she could dart past him. “Seems to me like anything more than thirty seconds would be wasted on you.”
“Witty banter, I like that, too,” Riley said. “Most of my films don’t exactly have much dialogue. You’d make an interesting change of pace.”
“Oh, please,” Lois groaned. “Spare me, all right? Do you even know how much you sound like every pathetic loser in junior high who wanted me to go to the spring dance?”
“And you were too busy running around with the boys who smoked outside the gym, right?” Riley asked, teasing. He stayed close by the door, but now he was smacking the baton against his palm. Maybe she’d rattled him – maybe he was just psychotic.
“No, actually,” Lois spat, sidling along the wall. “I was the leader of the kids who smoked behind the gym. And before you imply something disgusting, most of them treated me like I was just one of the guys.”
“How charming. Don’t try getting past me – if I have to hit you, I’d like it to be on camera.”
Lois didn’t know what was creepier – the casual way he tossed off that line, or the cheerful little smile when he did. “And I thought Luthor was nuts,” she growled.
“Oh, you’re right about him,” Riley said. “He’s not keeping-three-hundred-cats crazy, but that man isn’t right. He let you break a rib, remember?” Even worse than the smile was Riley’s amused chuckle.
Definitely psychotic. Lois glared at him, getting nothing but the grin and the rhythmic tapping of the baton. How the hell am I gonna get myself out of this? Okay, Lane, this is the part where you come up with a terrifically brilliant plan. The audience cheers, and you beat the crap out of the bad guy.
Any minute now…
Kal-El circled the island at a safe distance, thinking, I know this is a trap. I know it is. Luthor has access to kryptonite, he’s had the crystals, he has Lois and the kids – he might even have all three of them here as bait. I have to be careful…
And even while he thought that, a part of him was screaming to hurry, to get it in high gear; there was no telling what Luthor was doing to Jason or Kala right now, no telling what he might’ve done already. Dark possibilities lurked beneath his conscious thoughts, but he wouldn’t let them be voiced even in his mind. Some things were too terrible to contemplate.
Kal-El moved in a little closer as he continued around the island. It was crystalline in structure, he’d expected that; the stone was strangely dark, though. For the moment he was looking for signs of movement, of a trap, and left analyzing the exact molecular structure for later. If there was a later.
Which, given the fact that he was facing Luthor, and Lex had had this all his own way from the beginning, there might not be a later. He’s driven me back and forth like Shelby running the chickens, Kal-El thought ruefully. The worst thing is, I know I’ve been herded, but what else could I do? How could I choose between Lois and the twins – our twins – and the fate of hundreds of innocent bystanders in Metropolis?
This is just what Jor-El warned me about. Lois and Jason and Kala are in peril because of me. Everyone in Metropolis was in danger today because of me…
No. Lois would smack me for that. They’re endangered because Lex Luthor needed a little distraction while he was setting up his master plan. He’s the one to blame here, he’s the one…
He didn’t. He wouldn’t dare…
Kal-El had almost finished his circuit around the island when he saw it, and stopped abruptly in his flight. At this point, the island’s surface dipped down abruptly, like a small canyon. The open end of the canyon sloped to the waterline, leaving a broad avenue up to a very familiar structure of interlocked crystals.
He did. Luthor, you utter bastard.
Fury at this latest insult coupled with his fear for those he loved, and his guilt for having gotten them all involved. Abandoning caution, Kal-El blasted to the open space in the middle of the canyon, landing with a resounding boom that cracked the crystal floor for many yards around him.
Seething with anger, he raised his eyes to the ugly, dark mockery of his Fortress, a blasphemy against that place and all the memories it held for him.
“See anything familiar?” Lex called sardonically, his voice echoing.
Kal-El turned, loathing in his eyes as he saw Luthor coming out of the anti-Fortress. That expression – equal parts wrath, outrage, and disgust – said everything that he needed to say.