Jason hadn’t realized he’d left his calculus book at the apartment until he needed it for homework—which, since today was his late lab, he was doing homework in the middle of the night. Dad was busy; he was on the news again, out in the Pacific dealing with a cruise ship that had gotten in the way of a cyclone while carrying a full complement of passengers. Besides, Jason just felt weird about asking Superman to bring him a textbook. Even if Superman was his dad, it seemed disrespectful.
So he bounded over to Metropolis himself, changing into uniform first. Likely no one would see him in the dark, but he never knew when he’d end up stopping a robbery in progress or helping someone’s cat out of a tree. It was best to be prepared. Superboy couldn’t afford to be seen in jeans and a t-shirt, or worse, the pajamas he’d changed into before realizing his book was missing.
By the time he reached Metropolis city limits, Jason was grateful for that precaution. He didn’t have Kala’s hearing, but within the city he could hear his mother’s heartbeat, which was elevated, and her voice, which was swearing under her breath. Worried, he pushed his strength another notch, leaping high about Metropolis in an effort to locate her.
What he saw baffled him. Something big—red and blue and bright white—had Mom and was flying around with her, making crazy loops in the sky. Jason’s brow furrowed as he started to descend from his leap, already planning his next trajectory to take him closer. Mom wasn’t actually too scared, more ticked off than anything else. So he wasn’t frightened either.
At least, not until he landed on parapet of a tall apartment building, and finally got a good look at what had Mom. Bizarro. Oh, hell. This wasn’t the family’s first little go-around with him; Dad had had several encounters with him in the last year or so, often enough that the pros and cons of his skill-set were well-known amongst the family. Bizarro had pretty much all of Dad’s powers, some of them switched around slightly, and a different set of weaknesses. Worse, the creature wasn’t in the same zip code as sane. Yet another tragedy to lay at Luthor’s feet. And now he had Mom, mostly because he thought he was Superman and had this crazy idea that he needed to save Lois Lane. It was sad, but Jason couldn’t dwell on pathos when at any moment Bizarro might drop his mother, or squeeze her hard enough to crack a rib. She’d been through this sort of thing a time or two with him already, but there was only so much sense even she could talk into him.
And of course this happened while Dad was out in the middle of something complicated and serious. With a rueful grin, Jason remembered himself and Kala talking to Mom in the hospital after Nevada, telling her that it was now their turn to protect her. I guess I just called in to duty, he thought, and sprang after the creature.
Never mind that his heart was racing. Jason had one huge disadvantage in this fight: Bizarro could fly, and he couldn’t. That made catching him much more difficult. Unbeknownst to Jason, his pulse sped up even further as adrenaline coursed through him. This was one task at which he couldn’t fail.
Kala was feeling tense and unhappy as the bands broke down their equipment at the end of the show. Being a singer, and a girl whom no one was supposed to know had super-strength, she ended up carrying the mic stands to the van and stowing them. That was fine by her, as she didn’t especially want company at the moment.
Her mood could have been because she now had to figure out how to manage the recently-enlarged band after the tour ended—which was only a couple weeks away. Ned and Robb were making plans to move to Metropolis, since Kala, Morgan, and Sebast already lived there. Both of them were accustomed to the often hardscrabble life, but Kala knew she couldn’t just leave the living situation up to them. It was her band, she had to help support them. But it wasn’t like Kala could let either of them stay with her. Dad wouldn’t approve of random boys living on the sofa even if he didn’t have a secret identity to protect, so she’d probably have to help them find an apartment, and possibly chip in some of the principal from her trust fund for a down payment. Luckily the two were getting along well and could share a place.
The tour had been wonderful, but the band was only making enough to cover costs. Since they weren’t signed yet, once they got back home they’d have to work at staying solvent. All of them were going to have find jobs while they got the next album together—time for Kala to head back into the wonderful world of retail. That thought alone was enough to turn her stomach. It was always too tempting to use just a touch of her heat vision on customers who completely ransacked a display she’d just finished straightening. Of course, she could also wait tables—and control the urge to brain any idiots who pinched her butt. There were other options, but most jobs with flexible hours and no degree requirement meant working with the public in some fashion, and usually working with them when they were at their worst.
Of course, her anxiety could’ve also been because she and Dustin still hadn’t talked about where their relationship was going. Traveling together was one thing, but was he coming home to Metropolis with her? Or was she going back to Smallville with him? She might be able to swing Smallville for a couple weeks, and the rest would do her good. Smallville was nothing if not relaxing, and she was always welcome at the farmhouse.
That presented its own problems, though, because how would she be able to look for Metropolis apartments for the boys while she was in Smallville? Not only that, it was Smallville. No more overnights, no more snuggling up to Dustin—she’d have to steal time to be with him, and even then they’d probably set tongues wagging all over town. It would be better if he came to Metropolis, but then where would Dustin end up staying? Not at her place—Jason was okay with her dating his best friend now, but Mom and certainly Dad weren’t going to let him stay in her room. Besides, there were too many secrets to keep. Kala had the funds for a hotel room, though Dustin probably wouldn’t like letting her spend it on him. He was charmingly old-fashioned like that.
The easiest option was to just tell Dustin the truth. Then he could stay in Smallville, she could stay in Metropolis, and she could use her flight and speed to sneak out and see him. Of course, there was a whole truckload of problems with that brilliant little idea, starting with the fact that the family secret was a secret for a very good reason, and no one had been told since Ella. The rest all found out on their own.
Not only that, but what if Dustin found out his girlfriend was half-alien and freaked out? Kala didn’t like to contemplate that possibility. She had to admit that anyone who learned such a thing might feel betrayed that she’d kept such a secret for so long. Kala couldn’t blame Dustin, if he was upset by it. The family secret was the stumbling block in all potential relationships. She’d been almost relieved with Nick, knowing that it wouldn’t be forever. Kala had known from the start she’d never have to face the idea of when—or even if—to tell Nick what she really was.
All of it was too heart-achingly complex to deal with at the moment. What she wanted was a moment alone, a moment to just breathe and be herself. Thinking that, Kala trotted back out to where the boys were carefully breaking down Ned’s drum set. “Hey, guys, I’m gonna chill here for a bit,” she told them. “I just need to think. I’ll get a ride and meet you at the hotel later, okay?”
“Everything all right, mami?” Sebast asked, only a second before Dustin said, “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just a lot on my mind.” She smiled for them, keeping her expression light. Anxiety was churning her stomach like a cement mixer, and if she let them see, neither of them would let her leave. Robb and Ned and even Morgan didn’t know her quite that well yet.
“You sure you can catch a ride?” Dustin asked.
“And not with Captain Creepsauce, no matter how much you wanna fold him up and stuff him in the glove box,” Sebast chimed in.
The mention of Alan made her laugh, and that seemed to convince them a litt more. “Nah, it’s okay. I’ve got cab fare if I need it. Just don’t get in trouble without me around to save you from yourselves, okay?” Kala raised one eyebrow warningly, looking especially at Sebast.
He only grinned broadly back at her. “Gentlemen, I believe this means we’ll be hitting the hotel bar.”
Kala groaned and shook her head, hugging him anyway. “Behave, Chupi. I won’t be gone that long.”
Dustin still looked doubtful, and Kala kissed him. His arms slipped around her waist and he squeezed her extra tight. “It’s okay,” Kala whispered against his ear. “I just need to think without a fog of testosterone around me.”
“I could stay here with you,” he murmured back.
Oh, that was a knife in her heart. Dustin had developed friendships with the guys, but she still felt like she was dumping him off on them. But Kala couldn’t take him with her. Not where she was going, not without telling him the secret—and no matter how much she wanted to, she wasn’t going to do that. “I just need to wander around an empty stage with my own thoughts for a bit, Dustin. I love you. I promise, it’ll only be like an hour.”
He smiled slightly, drawing back from her. “I know that feeling. Sometimes you just gotta have solitude. I’ll see you later, then. Love you too.”
With that, Kala wandered off, getting herself lost in the crowd before finding her way to an empty spot backstage. Her stomach was still in knots, her palms were starting to sweat, and her breathing had gone fast and shallow. It felt like the onset of a panic attack—and all she wanted was to get up in the sky, get away from everything, go for a flight and clear the dust from her mind. Maybe then she’d be able to figure out why she was so tense.
She checked for bystanders, saw no one, heard no one, and leaped for the sky. Mere seconds to go from ground level to thirty thousand feet, the sun stronger at this altitude, the world below her charmingly distant. For the first time in an hour, Kala could breathe again, and she drank in the sunlight with her head thrown back and her eyes almost closed. This was perfect…
…except she still felt that nagging anxiety. Kala scowled; usually a sunbath cured everything that ailed her, at least temporarily.
Then it hit her. This was something like a panic attack.
It just wasn’t hers.
Whirling in midair, Kala whipped out the mask that was always folded up in a hidden pocket, and hit her top speed headed toward Metropolis and her twin.
Bizarro’s flying made Richard’s worst antics look like a gentle hot-air balloon ride. Lois tried to hold back her nausea as the creature took her on what it probably considered a gentle sightseeing tour.
That was the thing to remember about Bizarro: he wasn’t necessarily evil, not in the way that, say, Lex Luthor was. It was far too easy to manipulate Bizarro, and he seemed almost unaware of the danger he caused. Lois could pity him—if he hadn’t been bouncing around the sky with her like a pinball.
She was just about to try reasoning with him—which was always a headache-inducing exercise—when Bizarro lurched sideways in the sky with a pained roar. Lois found herself clutching the creature’s blocky arm as it fell several hundred vertigo-inducing feet, and then leveled off again.
Bizarre hovered for a moment, looking all around with a furious scowl, and Lois was able to see the reason he’d stopped. Jason sprang up to them, landing a solid right to the back of Bizarro’s head while the creature was looking in the opposite direction. “Don’t worry,” he said before gravity called him back.
Oh yeah. Now I’m worried, Lois thought, as Bizarro turned and glimpsed her son. “You am friend!” he snarled, and Lois knew enough about his weirdly backward speech pattern to recognize the threat.
“Leave him alone!” she shouted, but of course Bizarro wasn’t listening. Instead he dove at breakneck speeds toward Jason, who managed to kick off a building and evade him. Given Jason’s lack of flight, it was only a matter of time before Bizarro caught him. And there was nothing—absolutely nothing—Lois could do about it.
In most situations she could find some kind of advantage—connive or cajole her way out of it, if kicking ass wasn’t an option. Not right now. Bizarro was locked on to Jason, and he’d forgotten he still held Lois. All she could do was hang on and search desperately for some brilliant solution…
…Bizarro suddenly dropped again, tumbling through the air. The flight so far had been like a roller coaster from Hell, but this was worse, this was free fall from a fatal height, and Lois couldn’t help screaming as Bizarro let go. Suddenly she was loose, without his invulnerable bio-field protecting her, and the wind buffeted her. The night sky and the city lights swapped places in her view, over and over. She was starting to get dizzy, her stomach left behind in the air.
At moments like this, any reasonable person would’ve assumed Lois was thinking, Where the hell is Superman?! Honestly, she was too shocked to think it. The only coherent thought running through Lois’ mind for the first three seconds of falling was simply, Ohshitohshitohshit! C’mon, not like this. You gotta be kidding.
Before she could think about trying to increase her surface area like a skydiver to slow her fall, before she could wonder where the hell her husband was, before she could even think that this time she might actually die, Lois was caught. Relief flooded through her. About damn time. Lois grabbed onto her rescuer’s shoulder, ready to meet Kal-El’s blue eyes with a quip about meeting like this.
Except this wasn’t her usual savior. She was looking into hazel eyes the exact same color as her own behind a simple black domino. “You really do have issues with everything that flies,” Kala laughed.
That threw her completely. “What’re you even doing here?” Lois questioned, honestly startled. To the best of her knowledge Kala should’ve been in a hotel somewhere out West, exhausted by a grueling tour schedule, due to call home Thursday.
“You know Lizardboy’s ulcers are contagious,” Kala said lightly. As always, the mention of the strange bond between the twins sent a chill down Lois’ spine—or that could’ve been the sudden acceleration and deceleration as Kala swooped up into the night sky before depositing her mother on a convenient rooftop. “Let me go help him beat up Bizarro and I’ll be right back,” were her parting words.
She flew off before Lois could say anything else. Once upon a time, it had been Lois’ most terrifying nightmare to watch her children fly away from her. Right now, it was just a major irritation. “Dammit, Kala,” Lois growled under her breath, still trying to convince her stomach that she was standing on solid ground.
Anyone else would’ve started trying to get back to street level, but Lois was a reporter. If she was going to write up this story, she needed a decent view—and this happened to be a good spot.
At first Jason thought the sudden, powerful jet of air that knocked him from the sky meant yet another foe had entered the fray. He managed to land without doing more than superficial damage to a concrete parapet, and turned to scan the sky for Bizarro, his mother, and the new troublemaker. What he saw was terrifying: Lois free-falling.
Before he could jump toward her, a dark blur swept her up and set her down again. Jason pounced at it, and Kala caught his arm in midair. “Hey, Dopey. Didja miss me?”
“You dork,” he groaned, and hugged her, letting her flight support them both. “Thank you.”
“No problem. Can’t have you randomly scaring the crap out of me and then leave you to deal,” she replied, hugging him back. Only for a moment; Bizarro was only stunned by the slipstream of her flyby, and would be back in action any second. Jason held onto her as Kala soared, seeking a better vantage point.
He hated flying with her. Actually, Jason hated flying in general, preferring to keep his feet on the ground, but he especially hated his twin’s particular interpretation. Kala loved flight, the more extreme the better, and she thought nothing of zooming straight up—or straight down—thousands of feet at a blistering pace. At that moment, she’d accelerated up so fast that Jason felt momentarily weightless, his feet automatically scrambling for something to brace against and finding only empty air.
“Relax, Chicken Little,” Kala laughed, her eyes merry.
“Shut up, we need to find—there he is!” Jason pointed toward the blur he’d just seen zipping between buildings … on a course for Lois.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” Kala growled, and dove.
Jason squeezed his eyes shut. He would say they were dropping like a stone, but a stone would only accelerate as fast as gravity pulled it, some nine feet per second. Kala blew past that, easily doubling or tripling the force of gravity. At her speed, the fall was sickening.
He only opened his eyes when he felt Kala pull out of her dive. “Gotcha, you sonofabitch,” she said, rising to hover again as Bizarro barrel-rolled across the space between buildings.
“Keep buzzing him,” Jason advised, little as he liked what that meant for him. “We need to get him out of the city.”
“Sure thing. Remind me again, what’re his weaknesses?” Kala nonchalantly dove again, sweeping close enough to swamp the creature with her slipstream. This time he rose to follow them, less disoriented than before, and she leveled out headed toward the bay.
“Mostly sunlight,” Jason managed to say, trying not to squeeze Kala’s arm too hard. She didn’t have enough invulnerability to overcome his strength; he had to keep telling himself that.
“Well, crap,” she muttered, jinking to avoid Bizarro’s charge.
At least they were now over the water, with less threat to civilians. “Slow down a bit,” Jason said, bracing himself to jump.