We actually have something big we're planning on writing for you guys while we're off for that week and it's been a fan-request for this 'verse. Even on vacation, we'll be writing plotting and planning, but there will be no chapter. There's just not time in the schedule for it, as much as I wish there was. As I'm about to start the holiday season as a Customer Service Lead in a large department store, I'm going to need all of the relaxation I can get. I hope you all understand.
That said, we'll see you next weekend and then in two weeks for the next chapter of ATU! Now, enjoy!
General Sam Lane knew his daughter was furious with him. From her point of view, he probably looked like a heartless, autocratic sonofabitch. Well, that was fine with him. He had no intention of letting his daughter carry some alien’s bastard just because of some misguided and likely Stockholm syndrome-inspired emotions. Lois was seventeen after all, she couldn’t seriously mean to keep this child. Not with who the father was, not even if she imagined herself in love with him.
Sure, Lois hated him right now, but that was nothing new. He’d weather it as he had weathered all her other temper tantrums. He knew what was best for her and for their family. Once Lois got her head right, she might even thank him for making sure her little problem was taken care of before it became a big problem.
Still, he knew being there would make things difficult, so he sent an officer to take Lois down to the medic. Maybe by now she’d realized that this was going to happen, and that it was for the best overall.
Sam lost himself in reports; it was incredible how much paperwork the Army generated, even if a lot of it was paper only in name these days. Constant surveillance on the salt-mining operation, detailed profiles of all personnel involved as well as the hostiles, and now the notes from debriefing each of the returned hostages.
All of it kept him occupied for over an hour. By then, he should’ve had a reporter from the major he’d sent to escort Lois to medical. Disgruntled, Sam sent another officer to check on the first. If Lois was causing a problem in the infirmary … well, if she had to be sedated for the procedure, then so be it.
A few moments later, the young lieutenant burst back into his office. “Sir, we have a situation,” she said gravely.
Why was he not surprised to hear that? Lois would be the death of him. “What kind of situation, lieutenant?” Sam snapped.
At his gruff tone, the young officer paled and reverted to a boot-camp habit of throwing as many ‘sirs’ as possible into a statement in a vain attempt to avoid offense. “General Lane, your daughter was not in the infirmary, sir. I checked her room, sir, and found Major Francis tied to a chair. In his underwear, sir. He says your daughter knocked him unconscious and stole his uniform, sir. I sent him to the medic for his head injury, sir.”
A few years back, a medic had told Sam brusquely that if he didn’t learn to relax, all the stress he put himself under would eventually cause a massive heart attack. The medic had also told him that for a man his age, fit, in good health otherwise, sudden major cardiac arrests were called ‘widowmakers’, because the survival rate was very low. Sam had, of course, argued; with his position, he couldn’t afford to be mellow. ‘You can stay torqued up all the time and die young, or you can let the pressure off once in a while and live to see your kids graduate,’ the medic had said bluntly.
That visit, and the consultations that had followed, were why Sam closed his eyes, took a deep breath, counted to ten, and let it out while counting backwards from ten. Probably baffled the lieutenant, but he didn’t give a damn about her right now. Calm down, he told himself, and pictured the one thing that always grounded him: Ella’s face, the way her mouth turned up at the corners in a lovely smile.
Right. Thirty seconds of that to steady himself, thirty seconds of calm. That was all he could spare. Now he could be furious with his wayward daughter again.
Sam’s eyes snapped open and fixed the lieutenant with a hard, brilliant glare. “Get a squad out checking the fences,” he snapped out. “And another to search every truck and plane on this installation. Thoroughly. Get someone to call after every plane that’s left this morning to have them searched on arrival, too. She’s got an hour’s head start on us.”
The young woman looked momentarily nonplussed. “Sir, this is a level six restricted zone. With all due respect, sir, do you believe a teenage girl could’ve gotten outside the perimeter already?”
Sam laughed, a strange mix of pride and exasperation in his tone. “You obviously don’t know my daughter. Unless we’re lucky, she’s already gone. Hop to it, lieutenant!”
While her father was barking orders and sending men scurrying to find her, Lois was already in the air. The fatigues she’d stolen from Major Francis were a poor fit, but she managed with some judicious rolling and stuffing to look only disheveled. She’d known she was on a tight timetable, and further knew that her father would tighten the net around her as soon as he discovered her missing. So she’d jumped on the next cargo jet leaving the base, not even caring where it was headed.
For the moment she was secure, wrapped up in spare netting between two pallets of crates of used and damaged equipment being shipped back for refurbishment and replacement. Lois snuggled down, trying to stay warm in the unheated cargo bay, and plotted her next move. Wherever she landed, she’d have to get off base immediately. If she was lucky, that would be in the States, but it didn’t really matter. Lois had lived on base in Germany, the Philippines, and Gibraltar. She knew a smattering of enough languages to make herself understood almost anywhere. As long as she landed in friendly territory, which this cargo plane was certain to do, she’d be all right.
Sighing, she laced her hands together over her belly. It felt so strange to think that life was growing in there, even now, even while she plotted her daring escape. Right now cells were dividing—hell, she didn’t even know how far along she was. A tiny heart might already be beating in her womb.
Lois hadn’t planned for this; it shouldn’t have been possible. This was the worst possible time for a pregnancy, too. She was just a teenager, the father didn’t even know and he was on another planet, and her world was essentially at war with his. Lois knew she wasn’t ready to be a mom. Especially not this way. Knowing all of that, what her father had suggested was really the practical choice.
But Lois wasn’t practical. Not where Kal-El was concerned. This was his baby, too, and she wouldn’t have made a decision like that without him. Honestly, from the moment her father had told her she was pregnant, having an abortion wasn’t even an option in Lois’ mind. After all, who knew when or even if she’d see Kal-El again? With this child, no matter what happened she would have a piece of him with her, always.
Now she just had to see to it that they both stayed safe. And the best way to accomplish that was to do exactly what her father didn’t want done. As soon as I get off this plane, I’ve got to find the biggest newspaper in town….
Perry White stared at the teenage girl across from him, who’d just told him the most incredible story of his long and colorful career as a newsman. She looked right back at him levelly, her hazel eyes steady and sharp. This one was hard as nails, he could tell that much by the way she carried herself, and it lent credence to her tale.
When he’d walked in that morning and found her in his office—despite the fact that the building was still officially closed—she’d told him it was a wild story, one he probably wouldn’t believe, but she had to try. The public deserved to know what was really going on. At that point Perry had taken her for a kook, but he humored her. For one thing, she’d gotten past security to get in, yet she was just a kid and hardly threatening. For another, she made a decent cup of coffee, and drank it black like he did. Perry kept a coffee machine in his office for convenience—it was too much trouble to send an intern to the break room every half hour, and they managed to brew it both too weak and too bitter. The girl, however, brewed a cup he could not only stomach but savor. That alone would’ve bought her the indulgence of listening to her tale.
When he asked her to spill it, though, she’d demurred. “I need your help,” the girl—Lois Lane, she had a name like a street sign—had told him.
“What kind of help?” he’d asked, wary.
“Shelter. What I’m going to tell you is highly classified information, and the Army is already looking for me. I can’t stay ahead of them long on my own.” That was the classic quack story, ‘the government is after me’, but she’d said it quite calmly, with none of the usual paranoid glances over the shoulder. And the crazy ones usually went for FBI, CIA, maybe even NSA these days—no one picked the Army as the shadowy government agency stalking them.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Perry said, interested in spite of himself.
Lois had opened her mouth to speak, then hesitated, biting her lip. “I … I don’t know where to start,” she’d confessed.
“Begin at the beginning and keep on going until you run out of things to tell me,” Perry had said, sipping coffee and growing more intrigued by the minute. The crackpots were usually all too willing to talk, but this girl was almost making him work for it. Odd … unless she was telling the truth.
It had taken her a little over two hours, starting from the Kryptonian invasion almost a year ago and running up to the present moment. During that time other reporters and staffers arrived to work, but Perry waved them all out of his office, engrossed in the girl’s narrative. Once she’d gotten started, Lois spilled it all, an almost cathartic run of events and details that were delivered with a journalistic frankness and clarity which Perry couldn’t dismiss.
In any other circumstances, he wouldn’t have believed a word of it. A slim teenage girl telling stories about journeying across space, being held captive on another planet, becoming involved in the resistance against their alien jailers while at the same time befriending her captor? And then, with the assistance of said captor, building an alliance with malcontents among the aliens and working her way home, only to find herself a veritable captive of the very military she was supposed to be aiding—the one in which her father was a Vice Chief of Staff? It sounded like the plot of a wacky science fiction novel. No, it sounded crazy.
Except … she wasn’t crazy. Perry would’ve bet every penny he had and quite a few he didn’t that this girl was utterly sane. Since she wasn’t nuts, then the story couldn’t be, either. And everything dovetailed with what he knew about the salt mining operation and the military ramp-up around it. All the little details matched, down to the clothes she was wearing—too big because she’d stolen them out of an unattended dryer at a coin laundry to replace the conspicuous stolen fatigues she’d been wearing when she got off the cargo plane she’d stowed away on.
“Can you hang around a bit while I check on a few things?” Perry asked her. “I’ve got a conference room you can use. Might even catch some shut-eye while you’re there. And I’ll see about something to eat, too.”
“Yeah,” she said, hunching up a little in the oversize sweater. From the look in her eyes, she maybe thought he didn’t believe her. It was a mistrustful look, one that said she hadn’t expected kindness and didn’t trust anything that seemed like it.
This was the kind of story that would rabbit on him if she thought he was gonna call the cops, so Perry put a hand on her shoulder as he stood up. “Listen, kid, I believe you. You’re either the most important person walking around Metropolis today, or the best damn liar I’ve seen, and I’ve covered the political beat. So I believe you, okay? But the first rule of journalism is always check your sources. Hang out here, I’ll have someone get you a sandwich, and I’ll make some calls. Don’t skate out on me, Lane. You’re right, you need some help, and I know people who can keep you safe. So come with me and then just stay put for an hour or so, all right?”
“All right,” she said, with a warmer smile.
On an impulse, he snagged a blank composition notebook out of his desk. Half the younger generation never used them anymore, typing every damn thing, but he always liked taking notes in long-hand. Perry handed Lois the notebook and a pen, and said, “If you remember anything else you think might be useful, jot it down. I don’t wanna miss an ounce of this story, you understand?”
The way her eyes lit up at that told him he’d just scored a win for the third estate. Perry ushered her into the conference room, sent an intern to get her breakfast, and asked one of his sharpest reporters to keep an eye on the conference room door just in case she decided to make a run for it.
And then he got down to business, calling up everyone he knew who might have information on the mystery girl. Starting with recent photographs of Lois Lane, daughter of General Samuel Lane, just to make sure she was who she said she was.
Within the hour, he’d learned enough to know the story checked out. This was gonna be the story of the century, hand-delivered to him by Lois Lane. Hmm, alliterative, it’d look good in a byline, and she had that hard-hitting delivery he liked in a reporter—except she was seventeen, he couldn’t have hired her anyway. Although he’d have to give her credit somehow. None of his embedded journalists or investigative reporters had been able to crack this story, and instead one of its major players had come straight to them.
Gotta thank the good old United States Armed Forces for having a base right upstate. If the plane she was on had refueled anywhere else, I wouldn’t have gotten this headline dropped right into my lap. And then he froze in the act of walking back to the conference room, his mind spinning.
Perry had been thinking of this strictly as a story. Now he realized what he was dealing with was a matter of national—no, planetary security. He couldn’t break this story on the front page. As much as people the world over needed to hear that progress was being made and the hostages were being returned, Lois had mentioned that the Kryptonians were actively monitoring the internet. How long would it take for Zod and his cronies to realize what was going on? That could jeopardize the Resistance, both human and Kryptonian. And publishing the whole tale would risk the lives of all the hostages still on New Krypton.
Making the story public would make Lois safe, because she’d be an instant celebrity. The Army wouldn’t dare drag her off to a barracks somewhere once the whole world knew who she was. But Perry was betting once she knew the wider consequences, she wouldn’t want to break the story, either. She had friends on New Krypton still.
He walked more slowly into the conference room, thinking hard. Maybe, just maybe, he had a solution. Lois was still there, having devoured a large sub and a salad. “Well, Lane, your story checks out. But you knew that. So now I have a problem.” He laid it out for her, and she frowned.
“I can’t go public yet,” she said immediately, just as he’d suspected. “Not until the rest are back home, and maybe not even then. But when things change on New Krypton, then you can tell the world who the real heroes are—and that not all of them are human.”
“Right on. I know how to sit on a story when I have to, kid,” Perry said, nodding. He liked her integrity and common sense.
Her face fell then, and Lois looked very much like the worn-out teenager she was. “Now what am I gonna do?”
“Well, I had a few ideas,” Perry said. “I’ve got a friend in Congress, a real stand-up guy. Midwest farm stock, honest as the day is long, no idea what the hell he’s doing on Capitol Hill with the professional liars. Someone up there needs to know just what’s going on, because I bet you the news of the returning hostages hasn’t made it far out of the White House war room. And this guy has connections. He’ll know where to hide you, and who he can talk to.”
“Who is he?” Lois asked warily.
“Kansas senator name of Pete Ross,” Perry said. “He’s good people, I promise. Until I can make arrangements with him, you can hide out at my place. I’ve got a spare room, and until we break the story there’s no reason to suspect you were ever here.”
Lois nodded slowly. “Good. Because there’s one more complication I haven’t told you about, and it’s not in here, either.” She tapped the composition book lightly.
Perry raised a skeptical eyebrow. She’d waited ‘til now for this tidbit? “Oh yeah? What is it?”
The girl took a deep breath and nervously tucked her hair behind her ears. “My friend? Kal-El?”
“The one they sent you to, the one who started this whole Benefit Society thing,” Perry said, gesturing at her to spit it out already.
Lois blew out a breath, and actually blushed. “Well, uh, he’s … kinda more than a friend.”
Oh, hell, he’s not here, is he? Please don’t tell me she expects me to break her boyfriend out of Area 51! There’s only so many miracles I can pull outta my hat! “Oh really? Sounds like that’s more your business than mine,” Perry said with gruff nonchalance.
She winced. “Well, it’s gonna be your problem, and Senator Ross’ problem too soon enough. I … I’m pregnant. With Kal-El’s baby. He … he doesn’t know. And I don’t know how far along I am.” Saying that, Lois scrunched down in her chair in a little ball of misery.
“Great Caesar’s ghost,” Perry muttered. That was not at all what he’d been expecting!
For a moment he could only stare at the girl and blink. Well now. That made her decisions and her urgency a whole lot clearer. Her four-star daddy couldn’t be happy about this little bit of intel, either. “Huh. Well, you’re right, that’s gonna make it interesting. But if anyone knows how to hide you and the baby, it’ll be Pete. Besides he’s a sucker for a sob story.”
Lois tilted her head and looked at him quizzically. “You’re not gonna yell at me about how depraved I am?” she asked.
Perry snorted. “Kid, I operate strictly on a live-and-let-live policy where stuff like that’s concerned. But I gotta say, it’s a good thing you didn’t lead with the I’m-having-an-alien-baby angle. I’d’ve kicked you out for sure, no matter how good your coffee is!”
At that, he had the satisfaction of seeing the girl laugh.