On a weekend in late May, Lois and Lana headed to the general store. Lois was craving one of the huge kosher pickles that Silas kept in a barrel by the counter, and they had no other plans for the day anyway. They arrived in the midst of a heavy discussion on the front porch.
“Gonna rain by Monday,” Thomas said. “Friday night was clear. And my cows are lying down in the field.”
Ellzey disagreed. “Nah. There’s no wind, and we had fog this morning. No weather’s ill if the wind be still, and a summer fog for fair. Besides, my joint’s ‘d be achin’ if a storm was coming.”
“That fella on the news says there’s a storm system out west coming our way, but it’ll miss us and rain on Oklahoma instead,” Roy put in.
Lois paid them only glancing attention, returning the smiles and waves. She could almost smell those pickles, and Silas was dipping one out of the bucket for her even as she walked in. “Silas, you’re a lifesaver,” she sighed.
“No, I just remember when my wife was pregnant,” he laughed. “I knew better than to get between her and whatever she was craving. Want another to go?”
Lois grinned and bit into the pickle. The perfect crunch, and that eye-watering sourness that she craved. “Mmm. Maybe. I dunno why these are so good right now.”
“Vitamins,” Silas said with a shrug. “Or maybe something in one of the spices. Who knows? I don’t argue with pregnant ladies.” He grinned jokingly, and Lois laughed; she had been moody on and off, but today was a good day.
Lana grabbed yet another carton of orange juice—something else Lois craved with a fiery passion—and after some more chitchat, she paid Silas and they headed back home.
Lois’ restlessness was more pronounced than ever that weekend, much to Lana’s annoyance. The redhead caught her trying to move the crib—a Lang family heirloom—after reorganizing her closet and dresser earlier in the day. The older woman stood in the doorway, arms crossed and eyes full of disbelief. “Good grief, Lois, what has gotten into you? You can’t go moving furniture in your condition!”
“It needs to be over here so I can get right to her when she cries,” Lois said stubbornly. “And it’s not that heavy.”
“Shoo, I’ll move it for you,” Lana said, coming into the room.
“I’m pregnant, not crippled,” Lois snapped, her temper flaring forth.
Lana stopped, both hands on the crib, and looked at her for a moment. That was the redhead’s typical response to Lois’ anger. She didn’t yell back, she didn’t cringe, she never tried to pull a guilt trip. She just looked at Lois like she was now, a steady searching expression, and when she spoke Lana was calmer than ever. “It’s not me you’re mad at, Lois. And no, you’re not crippled. But you do need to be a little careful, especially now.”
“You’re the one who said exercise was good for me,” Lois muttered peevishly. She felt a little ashamed of her own temper, but Lana never scolded her.
“Exercise is, in moderation. Throwing your back out would be very, very bad.” The redhead smiled then, and something about Lana meant Lois couldn’t help but smile back. “You get that end, and I’ll grab this end, and we’ll move it together, okay?”
“Yeah,” Lois finally sighed. “You’re kinda too nice to be real, you know that?” She huffed a little on the question, picking up the crib, which wasn’t too heavy but certainly wasn’t light, either.
“Not hardly.” Lana chuffed a laugh, and waited until they moved the crib before looking at Lois. “Anyone as seethingly jealous as I am can’t be too nice. Just because I have more restraint than to show it doesn’t mean it doesn’t rear its ugly green head once in a while.”
“Jealous?” Lois asked, and then could’ve kicked herself for stupidity. She knew. Despite all of Lana’s knowledge and preparedness, there wasn’t a Pete Jr. running around the house, and that spoke volumes. The Rosses had evidently tried to have a baby, but…. “Lana, I’m sorry—”
“Don’t be. It isn’t your fault, Lois.” Lana put one hand on Lois shoulder and gave her a gentle, sad smile. “Maybe this was all part of the plan. Maybe the reason I don’t have a child of my own despite wanting one so badly is so that I’d be able to help you. Your daughter might be a bit more complicated than mine would’ve been.”
Lois’ hand was resting on the upper curve of her belly again, with no memory of putting it there. It was just the spot her hand gravitated to at rest. She smiled back. “Yeah, I can imagine. It might get a little crazy, Lana.”
“Crazier than escaping from military lockdown, stowing away on a cargo plane, hiding out with a newspaper editor, and then getting into a car with a complete stranger for a two-day trip to go live in small-town America with said stranger for a few months? Oh, and doing all this while pregnant and at an age when your biggest concern should’ve been what to wear to prom?” That time, Lana’s grin was brighter. “I imagine your standard for ‘crazy’ is a bit higher than mine by now, Lois. The thing is, you have no choice except to go with it, and since you’ve become my friend, there’s no way I’d refuse to help you.”
Impulsively, Lois hugged her, emotions switching from surly to guilty to overwhelmed by compassion. “I’m glad you’re my friend,” she muttered.
“And I’m glad you’re mine, too. Even if you do have terrible pickle-breath.” Lana gave her an extra squeeze to let her know that was in jest.
When they stepped back, Lois grinned, a brilliant idea dawning. “Well, since you put up with my pickle-breath and me drinking up all the orange juice in the county, I guess the only suitable payback is to ask if you’d like to be the godmother.”
That clearly floored her, Lana blinking in amazement. “You … you’re serious? Really? You want me to be the godmother?”
“Who else, Red?” Lois asked. It felt exactly right; a year ago she hadn’t known the name of the senator from Kansas, much less who his wife was, but right now she counted Lana among her closest friends.
“I’d love that,” Lana finally said, and looked away to dash a tear from her eye.
Months of fruitless searching lay behind General Lane’s staff, and there could be months more ahead. That damned editor Perry White had completely stonewalled them. They’d checked every place he had been and everyone he’d called from his home phone number, tapping credit card receipts and phone company records with ease. His internet access was monitored, and Sam read every email himself, looking for clues. They’d even had him followed for weeks. And what had they found? Nothing.
The old bastard was smart, though. All the evidence indicated that he had severed contact with Lois once he sent her off. Sam ground his teeth in impotent fury. No one had stymied him like this—except Lois herself.
There were only two options left. The first was to drag White into custody. Homeland Security would do it, if told he was withholding information of national importance, and everyone had a breaking point. They’d get the information out of him eventually. But that was a can of worms Sam didn’t want to open. First off, the idea of subjecting an otherwise law-abiding American citizen to imprisonment and water-boarding didn’t sit well with him. Perry White was no terrorist. He’d taken Lois’ side, but that didn’t earn him this kind of trouble.
Besides, the man was a newspaper editor. No matter what he said or signed, he would publicize his experience. And when it came out that the runaway intelligence operative he’d concealed was Vice Chief of Staff General Lane’s own daughter, well, that would look very bad. Sam might find himself facing a court-martial for misuse of power. As it was, not arresting White was getting him some heat from a few highly-placed individuals, but he pretended to be convinced that the editor really didn’t know his source’s whereabouts. If those pressuring him had any inkling that Sam thought Perry White knew at least who he’d handed Lois off to, they’d demand that his arrest, and then Sam would hang for it when the headlines came out. No, ‘I was only following orders’ was no excuse to the American people, or to Sam himself.
So they did it the second way, the slow way. The last purchase on White’s credit cards that was definitely for Lois was some clothing. And they knew she hadn’t been with him when they’d initially questioned him. So between those two dates, White had to have contacted his mysterious source. If he was any less canny, he would’ve made a phone call from his office, home, or cell phone, but Sam’s staff had already exhausted those possibilities. No one had suddenly changed their habits in ways that might suggest they had a pregnant runaway teenager living with them.
Now the search was expanding to other phone lines in the Daily Planet building, of which there were a daunting number, and pay phones near Perry’s house and workplace. Those records had been delivered today, and Sam spent every spare moment poring over them, trying to eliminate any obvious discrepancies.
Sooner or later, he would find his daughter. And then, once he was sure she was all right, there’d be hell to pay.
The morning of Memorial Day dawned hot and bright, the sky casting a red glow through the window of the bathroom where Lois was rearranging the scatter of her stuff across the countertop. For months the jumble of cleanser, moisturizer, toothpaste, deodorant, hairbrush, and all the other countertop flotsam hadn’t bothered her at all; she knew where everything was and how to find it. Today it annoyed her, much like the disarray of her closet had irritated her Saturday, and the random arrangement of canned goods in the pantry had bothered her yesterday.
That kind of obsession was very unlike Lois, who had always cultivated a state of barely-controlled chaos to rebel against her father’s strict sense of order. She didn’t realize what it was a sign of, though. Lois’ attention was taken up by the sudden sharp pain in her stomach. She winced, pressing a hand to her side. Even her digestion had been affected by the pregnancy, and occasional stomach cramps were nothing new.
She padded out to the kitchen, where Lana was making breakfast. At least the morning sickness was gone; Lois had gotten very sick of dry toast for breakfast every day, when she could keep even that down. The delicious smell of pancakes filled the room, and the two women said their good mornings as Lois got herself a glass of orange juice. Lana had the radio tuned to a country station—the only classic rock they got had a rather risqué morning show—and after the current song ended, the weather report came up. Lois listened with half an ear. “…And a sixty percent chance of afternoon showers from the storm system to the east,” the meteorologist concluded.
“Huh. I guess Mr. Thomas’ cows were right,” Lois said.
“Maybe we should see about getting them on the Weather Channel,” Lana joked, flipping two pancakes onto a plate for Lois.
She grinned happily; Lois wasn’t normally a morning person, either, but if she wasn’t sleeping, she might as well get up and have breakfast. “Maybe. Oh, and the sky’s really red. That’s another one of those weather proverbs or whatever. ‘Red sky at morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight.’ Not that anyone around here sails much, I guess.”
“Personally I’ve always thought the sky looked fairly red at sunrise and sunset,” Lana replied with a shrug.
The day was completely ordinary. Most of the shops in town were closed, so Lois lounged in the backyard hammock while Lana tended to her garden. They brought the radio out, too, eventually switching over to Lois’ favorite station. She made sure not to tease the redhead for humming along with a few songs.
It was a lazy, restful day, punctuated by going over to Silas’ house for a cookout. Almost every house they passed on the way had an American flag out front, and Silas’ wife had put out red, white, and blue cups and plates on the backyard picnic table. Everything seemed a bit too loud for Lois, voices carrying a trifle too far, the excited laughter of the kids next door just a shade too piercing. But there were hotdogs and hamburgers and huge salads and corn on the cob, and even peaches and watermelon done on the grill for dessert, which tasted a lot better than Lois initially expected. She and Lana finally rolled home in the afternoon feeling very overstuffed.
Lois soon had cause to regret overindulging. She no longer had enough room in her belly for that much food, and her grumbling stomach told her off. The pains were intermittent, but grew sharper. Lois gritted her teeth and bore it, cursing herself for being a gluttonous moron. There was no point in telling Lana, who would only fret over her.
The plan had been to watch a movie that afternoon, but Lois’ pick from Netflix turned out to be a dud, so she and Lana surfed the channels for something better. While they were in the middle of debating over two films—one sci-fi and one drama—the TV blared a high-pitched tone, and a tornado watch for their county scrolled across the bottom of the screen.
Lois glanced at it without much interest. The first few times that had happened, she’d been worried, but Lana reassured her that it merely meant conditions were right for a tornado to form, not that one was necessarily on its way. The basement was already stocked in case of emergency, and Lana had shown her the fortified walls and ceiling that would protect them in case of a storm. She felt safe…
…and winced at another pang. Lana looked over with concern, and Lois waved her off. “Just gas pains. Too many hotdogs.”
“They were really good, weren’t they?” Lana agreed with a chuckle.
In the end they watched the sci-fi movie, which was pretty good, and Lois headed to bed for a nap afterward while Lana caught up on correspondence. The stupid gas pains woke her up within an hour, and she went out to the kitchen for some ginger ale in the hope that would soothe it.
“Hey, Lois?” Lana called from the study. “Did you take the radio in your room?”
“No. We had it outside this morning. I’ll go check.” Maybe a short stroll would help settle her stomach.
Sure enough, the radio was sitting underneath the hammock. Lois brought it in, stopping halfway to the door. Something seemed … odd. The wind was pushing against her back, but the clouds in the sky were flowing toward her. She couldn’t help remembering one of the front porch crowd saying that rain was certain when clouds moved against the wind.
Well, rain had already been predicted for the day. Although the sky was awfully strange-looking, and there was one big cloud on the horizon that didn’t seem to be going anywhere, unlike the smaller, fluffier ones racing above. Lois went inside, bringing the radio to Lana. “There’s definitely a storm on the way,” she said.
“We’ve still got the flashlights out from the last one,” Lana sighed. Three weeks ago they’d lost power for almost an hour during a violent thunderstorm. “Thanks for bringing the radio in.”
“You’re welcome,” Lois replied. With all that weather lore on her mind, the question that popped up wasn’t surprising. “Are there any sayings about a green sky?”
Lana’s brow furrowed. “Green? Why would you ask that?”
“The sky outside looks pretty greenish.” Lois shrugged. She’d never seen a sky like that before. It seemed to fit the surreal feeling of the movie they’d watched rather than this sleepy Kansas town.
“Wait. You mean the sky’s green right now?” Lana began to look truly alarmed, and snapped the radio on even as she turned to her computer and went to her favorite weather site.
“Yeah. What’s it mean? Rains of frogs?” Lois joked to dispel the rising anxiety. Her stomach didn’t help by hitting her with a savage cramp that seemed to wrap right around to her back. She couldn’t help a groan, both hands flying to her back as she tried to stretch it out.
“No, it … Lois? Are you all right?” Lana’s expression was frankly worried.
She tried to grin and knew it wasn’t working. “First it was my stomach, now it’s my back. It’s been going on all day. Just indigestion from eating too much.”
“If it was going on before the cookout, it’s not from that,” Lana said seriously.
“Yeah, but I’ve been having these gas pains a lot…” Lois began, and suddenly was cut off by a new pain, sinking sharper and deeper into her midsection, and lasting longer than the others. She was unable to stifle a whimper.
“Good Lord and all the saints in heaven,” Lana said, her eyes going wide. “Lois, that’s not gas. That’s contractions. You’re going into labor. Come on, we need to get the midwife over here.”
The next few minutes were a bustle as Lana led her into the bedroom and got her settled. Calling the midwife was more trouble than it should’ve been; the house phone was dead, probably due to a line knocked down by the incoming storm. And her cell phone was having trouble picking up a signal.
“It’s gonna be a while,” Lois groaned, feeling her belly turn to stone. Now the pains were unmistakable, but they were still spaced out. They both knew first-time labor tended to last for hours, so they had time to reach the midwife.
Lana finally got a call to dial, only to reach a busy signal. “This is ridiculous,” she grumbled, a rare display of temper.
“Hey, it’s fine,” Lois said, breathing slow and deep. “I mean, we both read the book, right? And kids are born at home out here all the time. You’re a country girl, too, you’ve seen like, cows being born and stuff.” She was trying to reassure herself as much as Lana, fighting the worry wrapping itself around her heart with every contraction. A foolish wish for Kal-El to be here, somehow, someway, flitted through her mind before the next pain.
When it eased, Lana was sitting beside her, holding Lois’ hand. “My parents let me breed the mare I had in high school, and I was there when she foaled. Somehow I don’t think the vet’s advice to me is going to be much use here. Not unless this baby is standing up within an hour.”
Lois smiled weakly. “You never know. So tell me … urgh, dammit, that hurts … tell me what a green sky means.”
“Oh, it’s just a superstition,” Lana said, and Lois knew she was being lied to. She narrowed her eyes at the redhead.
Before she could speak, they both heard the rattle of hail on the roof. Hail? In May? Lois frowned in disbelief. Meanwhile Lana looked up, and her expression was one Lois never expected to see: unadulterated fear. “Lana, tell me what the hell is going on,” Lois snapped.
Taking a deep breath, Lana began, “Now remember that most of them are mild and don’t do more than rip off a few shingles, but…”
The loud wail of the tornado alert siren cut her off.
On New Krypton, Kal-El’s home was a shambles. The Consulars had gone through like a whirlwind in their frustration at having missed the traitor, finding an incredible amount of contraband in their furious search. General Zod—he had stopped thinking of himself as Supreme Chancellor when it became clear that he was once again at war—stood in the center of the living space, ignoring the recorded message to the boy’s parents.
Clever boy, deflecting suspicion from his parents. But then, the House of El had always been clever. Jor-El would have sense enough to denounce his son’s actions as he had his brother’s, especially since Kal-El had proved to be, if anything, more outrageous. Dru-Zod had decided to let the message stand, for now, and appear to accept it as true. Jor-El was still useful in his current position.
Ursa stalked to his side, a crystal in hand. “We found this in the human’s room,” she said, passing it to him. Curious, General Zod placed it into the console.
On the holographic display, a schematic popped up, and Dru-Zod grinned. He was no ship-designer, but he had consulted extensively with Jor-El on the building of the transport ships, wanting to stay informed. As a result he knew a few things about the design of interstellar craft and what weaknesses must be avoided.
“The son has made the same mistake the father narrowly avoided,” he chuckled, nodding toward the delicate crystal structure. “That ship will never reach Earth.”