Chapter 6



In the doctor-recommended three-month recovery period between IVFs, Lois poured her energy into two foci: whipping the City section into shape and researching pregnancy. Doing the latter was easy. Dr. Chapel created a nutrition plan and exercise goals, monitored through weekly progress reports. Lois actually ate proper breakfasts instead of her usual five coffees and a strudel. She'd always been a carnivore so having protein in wasn't a stretch but she now downed vegetables like she heard wind of a blight. Between all of that, she took a rainbow of vitamins and supplements. Before going home, she ran five miles in the DP gym, upped her weight training to twice a week, and swam laps every weekend. She also switched from plain kick-boxing to mixed martial arts although she'd have to quit as soon as she received the IVF.

It wasn't all for the baby's health. She figured if somehow someone figured out Superman had a baby, she'd have to be able to take them down. Besides, all the aggression from her decreased caffeine, alcohol and junk food intake had to go somewhere. She refused to give them up entirely at least until she got pregnant again.

Her new position as managing editor was a lot easier in comparison. She had a good team under her. Clark, of course, held the veteran reporting position along with Anna-Marie Raven, formerly of the Canadian Globe and Mail. The Planet built a new trophy case just for the two of them and Lois, of course. In those august shoes, any other reporters would be intimidated but Satpal Dhillon and Ron Troupe rounded the group out nicely. Satpal could find dirt in a blizzard and Ron had the connections to pin them down. It didn't hurt that both wrote snappy copy, readable but not dumbed-down. The final member of the team was a rookie from art and comics, Kyle Rayner. Since Perry promoted Jimmy to head of the photography department, he rarely had the time to tag along for photos. Kyle appeared more comfortable behind his camera than out in the crowd but the kid would-- and once did-- hang upside down from a helicopter to get a perfect shot.

Lois rapped on tables as she headed for Perry's office. "Come on people! We can't have Monday Morning Masssacre without people to massacre."

"Ugh, that's the point," said Anna. She patted down her French twist. "There but by the grace of God go I."

"Hey, I'm the one who gave the go-ahead to lean on the senator's son for info. He has to yell at me."

"Remind me not to sit next to you."

Clark pulled an interdepartmental envelope from his outbox and put it in Lois' arms. "Infection rates for all the hospitals in Metropolis cross-referenced to the five biggest pharmaceutical companies that have their headquarters here."


"Antibiotics are a one-off deal but antidepressants are forever. Guess which drugs the pharmaceutical-funded hospitals push?"

"Just what I wanted to hear."

Ron arrived last as the team found seats in the crowded boardroom. "What did I miss?" he asked.

"Lois just dry swallowed a multivitamin the size of my pinky," said Kyle.

"Can I do six inches of copy on that?"

"Maybe for Entertainment."

Perry's Monday Morning Massacres were now as much an institution at the Daily Planet as the revolving globe. The bastard had only gotten more cantankerous with age, eliciting prayers for retirement from the weak of heart, but Lois loved him to bits. His criticism hit everyone from the managing editors directly beneath him to the intern who bought the breakfast muffins. Everyone got whipped, everyone received the whipping at a hundred decibels. But on the flip side, he also gave everyone's suggestion a fair hearing. That was how Lois stuck her foot in the door fifteen years ago as a lowly classifieds intern who'd stumbled on an unresolved story in the archives. He'd chosen her angle over a semi-celebrity reporter.

Perry cracked the whip as soon as the hour struck. "Business! Why are you still writing things the Star put in the recycling bin last week?"


"There's a Yale drop-out in Toronto whose Styrofoam-recycling business shot up a hundred fifteen percent in one quarter. Grill him. International--"


"Doing good on the peace talks breakdown but you need better photos. Where the hell is my head of photography?"

Jimmy raised his camera high. "Here, Chief."

Perry wagged a finger at him, "Get your people to take better pictures or I'm taking away your raise and giving it to someone with less talent but more backbone."

"Uh, sure thing, Chief."


Lois threw a stack of envelopes on the table. "There's plenty of evidence that pharmaceutical-funded hospitals are over-diagnosing depression to boost sales of--"

"Why is it, Lane, after all these years you still don't understand that I massacre people on Mondays." Perry jerked a thumb at his chest. "Me. The Editor in Chief. Not you. I tell you what to do because I have a real brass plaque and bribe the goddamn owner with a bottle of Patron every quarter."

Lois cocked her hip to one side. "I want to show you the big story."

"I have the big story: Superboy's mom."

Clark dropped his pencil. Lois crossed her arms. "Perry, is this another cross with--"

"Entertainment! You're working with City on this angle."

If Cat Grant dared ruin her Jimmy Choos, she would have stomped. "You remember what happened the last time Lane and I had to work together?"

"Five thousand dollars in damages, a testicular retrieval for Lombard and triple the revenue for the quarter. Why do you think I want to do it again?" He clapped his hands. "According to the biggest gossip sites, who's on the running for Superboy's mom?"

"Wonder Woman," someone behind Lois called out.

"Superman's intersexed. Like banana slugs," said Anna.

Lois smacked her forehead with her palm. "You're kidding."

"Nope. I think that's kind of a nifty idea actually. For all the technology we've got so far, men still can't get pregnant. Let Superman show the way to reproductive equality!"

"Black Canary," said that bastard from Sports, Lombard. "Hubba, hubba."

"Black Canary's only been in the Justice League for six years," Clark said.

"Hey, who said Supes was only boinking the visible heroes? If I was him, I'd be getting with a dozen girls a country."

"If you were him, we'd all be suffering PTSD from seeing you in tight pants," Lois snarled. "Perry, I really think the hospitals--"

"You did the interview when Superboy got hurt in Central Asia, such as it was. People snapped it up--"


"Polls went up about whether or not having Superboy and the rest of the Kiddie-League--"

"Young Justice," Clark and several others corrected.

"--should be considered endangerment of a minor or breaking some sort of child-labour law." Perry eagled-eyed the room. "The suits wants us to sell stories. And what sells stories?"

"Tragedy, sex and Superman," the staff chorused.

"Wrong! Right now it's tragedy, sex, Superman and Superboy. We've over-saturated the readers with tragedy. An expose on Superboy's mom covers the other three."

"Unless Superman's intersexed like banana slugs," said Ron.

"My granddaughters belong to every Superboy fansite out there. I googled 'Superboy' and got twenty million hits. According to the Hot Honey's We'd Total Prom List from Teen Vogue--" Perry brandished a garishly designed print-out-- "Superboy is number three. He beat out Pax Jolie-Pitt, for pete's sake! And our older readers can feel for Superman. He's an all-powerful being but he worries about his kid getting hurt. You can't make a mistake with this project."

"What about the part where we inform the public? Especially about criminal acts happening in their own backyard?" Lois demanded.

"Lane, we've had this conversation--"

"It's actually an argument."

"-- a million times before. We need to humanise Superman. He's a great guy, he does great things but the fact of the matter is, at any moment, right or wrong, someone's going to remember he's an all-powerful alien. We're helping him."

"By writing tabloid trash about his private life?"

"Yes. Grant knows this; people let their favourite celebs get away with anything because those stories make them feel like they're part of the stardust. You know this. You started this when you wrote that first personal interview."

Lois' eyes narrowed, meeting Perry's equally sharp stare. Beside her, Clark tapped his pencil against the proposal. "If we do this--"

"You can have a full-page exposé on the hospitals."


Clark raised his hand. Perry acknowledged him "Yes, Kent?"

"Out of curiosity," he said, adjusting his glasses. "Who do you all think Superboy's mother is?"

"Wonder Woman," was the unanimous answer.

That night, sensing her mood, Lois' martial arts instructor partnered her up himself. He didn't want anyone else in the class to get hurt.

The most difficult part of the entire pregnancy project was the waiting. After S.T.A.R. okayed Lois' for a second IVF in the fall, Clark had nothing else to do. He didn't know what scared him more-- the zygotes failing to implant or another positive result with all the possible complications. Some days he wished he'd never brought the subject up. He thought he'd grown out of selfishness a long time ago.

September became October which became November and when rescuing MSF volunteers from battlefields failed to ease his panic, he created side projects such as a translator for Maland Barda, the prisoner from the Krysybestan sinkholes. Victor built the electronic part but nothing on Earth could instantly translate millions of languages so Clark embedded all the languages in the Fortress' information banks into a toothpick-sized crystal to act as the translator's database.

He showed the translator to their mystery guest, currently residing in an annex of the UN Headquarters in New York City. He made a big production of inserting the crystal sliver into the main component of the earpiece, then hooked it around his left ear before pressing it on.

"No harm done to me," said Clark. "Now you try it." He turned the translator off and held it out.

She plucked it from Clark's hand, turned it around and shook it. Victor, who stood behind Clark, tensed, worried about his project. "Ahnes keh," she said, pointing to the kryptonian crystal.

"Translation crystal," said Clark. "Crystal. Um, Krypton."

Recognition widened her eyes and she spoke in her half-growled, consonant-biting language, gesturing to the floor then at Clark. One of the words almost sounded like "Krypton."

Clark shook his head. "Put the translator on." He pointed to the object in her hand then mimed putting it in his ear.

Seeing no other recourse, she did as was told.

[[Can you understand me now?]] Clark asked in Kryptonian.

[[Yes, although I must ask how you survived when so few War Dogs returned to Darkseid after your world fell into war.]] Maland leaned back distrustfully. [[Who is your leader?]]

[[I do not have a Kryptonian leader,]] said Clark.

[[Aaah, you deserted. Ignoble but at least you live. What are you called, Kryptonian?]]

[[Kal-el of the House of El.]]

Maland let out what could have been a laugh. Or maybe it was a snort. Heck, it could have been a burp for all they knew. [[The House of El, the heart of the war. Your civil war demolished the War Dogs and allowed the Lowlies to rise against Darkseid.]]

"What are you two biddies gossiping about?" Victor wanted to know.

"Apparently Krypton's civil war helped their civil war and I'm not sure if I should apologize or offer congratulations," said Clark. "She's holding her cards very close to her chest."

"I'd say that's a sure sign of being on the losing side. Have you asked her what she's doing here?"

"Will do." Clark returned his attention to Maland, smiling in what he hoped would be translated as sincerity. Instead, she stilled, like a deer caught in headlights.

"What did you do?" Victor hissed.

"I don't know. I just smiled."

"Maybe on her planet, you smile before you stab someone."

Clark stared up at his teammate "You watch too many science fiction movies."

"No such thing, Boy Scout."

He tried again. [[I apologise on behalf of our planet for keeping you sedated and incarcerated for such a long time. Your actions after leaving the pod were translated as hostile. My friends and I had difficulties convincing the local government otherwise.]]

[[You apologise for imprisonment.]] Maland bowed her head and lightly tapped her brow. [[Other worlds are indeed different from Apokolips. What does one do with an apology?]]

[[Uh, generally, we accept it.]]

[[I see. Very well then, you may give me an apology.]] She held her hand out.

[[Like this.]] Clark showed her, clasping her hand and shaking it slowly up and down. [[It is a greeting and a sign of peace, each side showing they hold no weapons.]]

[[What a strange land this is,]] said Maland. [[But you did not take me from my prison to show me the planet's customs. What is it that you want?]]

[[A sharing of information,]] Clark said. [[The joint leaders of the United Nations will release you into our custody provided you tell us about your planet and why you are here.]]

[[If you dislike the answer I give, what will you do?]]

[[I cannot answer for the UN but if you and your people intend to harm our world, short of killing you, I would do everything in my power to ensure you fail even if that means keeping you sedated for the rest of your life]] Strength crept into his voice, something she recognized by the twist in her lips.

[[You have held me for two forty-days and I harmed no one who harmed me first,]] said Maland. [[The young one who broke my pod in the outside, he resembles you. He is your spawn.]]

[[He is.]] Clark tensed slightly. Was she threatening Conner?

[[He is strong but has no technique. Such power should be trained three times as hard.]]

[[We are working on it. What is your answer, Maland? Will you take the deal?]]

[[Maland? What is that? Do you insult me, coward of Krypton?]]

Nonplussed, Clark said, [[Your name is Maland Barda, is it not? That was what you said earlier when we spoke without translators.]]

She bared her teeth. She might have been trying to smile. [[This translator is not Krypton-made else it would have interpreted my call name, the name I forged in Granny Goodness' orphanage. I am Big Barda, Darkseid's Elite, third only to the royal line of Apokalips, bred to lead Furies into battle and slaughter.]]

Clark was not liking her speech. Discreetly, he signalled "Ready on mark" to Victor. Victor's cybernetics hummed, his extra generators kicking in.

Hands gripping the table edge, she half rose from her seat. [[I could have crushed my guard with my bare hands and did not. I am Big Barda, traitor to Darkseid who cast aside a hundred years of honourable servitude to follow Prince Free, Second-Son, to a doomed rebellion.]]

Victor's fists clenched and unclenched. "What the fuck is going on, Blue? Is she going to kick our asses again or is it going to be death by monologue this time?"

Clark just shook his head and gestured, "Hold."

[[I will tell you everything, give you everything I have if only you let me return to Apokalips and avenge Prince Free. I will wrench their heads from their shoulders. I will grind their eyes under my heels. I will raise my mighty hand and blast them all into oblivion and in my final breath, I will slay Darkseid, God-Killer. He dared send my prison pod away, banished, alone, when I could have died at my prince's side.]] With the pronouncement, Barda sat back in her chair, panting as though she'd run a marathon.

Clark leaned forward. [[What if I told you there were other pods?]]

Interview accomplished, Clark and Victor left the holding annex to meet Diana in one of the many lounges at UN Headquarters proper. Since she was here on official capacity, she wore her uniform. Ornately filigreed metal epaulettes hinged into her eagle-shaped half-cuirass. Similar armour sheathed her shins and banded her forearms. Like all Amazon objects, their beauty belied their use; the metal looked like gold but standard bullets shattered on the breastplate. Her vambraces, blessed by Olympian gods, deflected any projectile. Under the armour, she wore a red and blue version of the exercise costumes. After all, she didn't need the protection.

She stood when Clark and Victor entered the room but not because of any perceived ranking. She was an Amazon of Themyscira for longer than she'd been a part of the JL, royal etiquette didn't fade after a mere ten years in Man's World. "What news?"

"Ask ET," said Victor, pointing his thumb back at Clark. "They went on and on, one of them grunting, the other one trilling-- it sounded like rhino talking to a kazoo."

Grinning, he recited his conversation with Barda verbatim. "I don't think she'll be hostile," he said in the end.

Victor snorted again.

"I'm afraid 'I don't think' will be acceptable to the UN Defence Council," said Diana.

"You know as well as I do that absolutes don't exist," said Clark.

"What of her home world?"

"There's nothing in the Fortress about Apokalips or anyone named Darkseid. It's like someone wiped it out of the historical banks."

"Or she could be lying her rump off," Victor said. "It's a big, curvy rump. You can fit a lot of lying in there."

"She seems honest to me," Clark maintained.

"Kal, I thought we all agreed that your trust-o-meter is stuck on Disney. You trust Batman and he hates your guts."

"He is trustworthy, just narrow-minded, obsessive and completely lacking in self-preservation. Besides, the man who raised and trained Nightwing can't be that bad."

"Nightwing's trust-o-meter? Also stuck on Disney, the Saturday morning specials."

Diana intervened. "Do you think this Darkseid poses a threat to Earth?"

"I think it depends on who else is in those pods," said Clark. "Barda says to her knowledge, her prison pod was kept in, and I quote, the deepest molten pit where only traitors to Darkseid are doomed to suffer for all eternity, end quote."

"Are there many traitors to Darkseid?"

"Five in the history of his reign; she and Prince Free are two of them." Clark shrugged. "It's not a lot and we're going on the word of one person but I think any information is better than none at all. I propose taking Barda under heavy security back to Krysybestan. She can translate the rest of the pods so we know who's in there. If needed, we can prepare for a possible invasion by Darkseid."

Diana nodded. "Do you have any other suggestions, Cyborg?"

"As long as heavy security means we can launch a bazooka if she twitches the wrong way, I'm okay," said Victor.

"Very well then, we shall present this-- you look perturbed, Kal-el."

Apologetically, Clark said, "Would it be all right if you and Cyborg speak to the Council without me? The interview took longer than I anticipated and my family expected me hours ago."

"Oh yeah! It's Thanksgiving." Victor couldn't help but grin. "Man, I'm sorry to miss your mo-- uh, family's cooking."

"You're always invited, you know that."

"I'd love to but I promised Sara I wouldn't let her go to the big family reunion alone. Apparently, there's a creepy Uncle Mike."

Realising their conversation excluded Diana, Clark asked, "Do you have plans for Thanksgiving?"

She shook her head. "Etta and I attend her friends' dinners some years and in others, I have been invited as an official for dinners, but we have never celebrated it on our own."

An awkward silence came between them. Clark never quite knew what to do when his private life poked into League life. He trusted Diana almost as much as Ollie and considered her a good friend but he couldn't risk any more people knowing his civilian identity. Worse, Diana had always been open to him about her life. He'd met her partner, Etta, several times. If only Lois knew Etta resented the Wonder Woman-Superman contingent as much as she did.

"Go on, Kal-el," said Diana. "Carve your turkey."

"I've already missed that," said Clark. "See you both later and take care."

Somewhere over eastern Canada, he remembered Conner had training at the Watchtower today. He veered on a more easterly route. He might as well give Ollie and his son a lift back to Kansas. Ollie never missed Thanksgiving in Smallville, citing an incurable addiction to Martha Kent's pumpkin pie.

Once at the Watchtower, however, Young Justice met him with grave, guilty expressions. "What's wrong?" he asked Wondergirl.

"There was an incident in The Kitchen," she said. "Green Arrow isn't very happy with Superboy right now."

"Was anyone hurt?"

"Beastboy and Ray in the infirmary along with two other Leaguers and eight support staff."

"What?" Clark broke into a run.

"It was an accident!" Wondergirl called after him. "It's not his fault!"

Ollie was in his office on the third floor of the north annex. Clark took several deep breaths to keep from pulling the door out. He had to act like an adult and a member of the Justice League even with his best friend and teammate yelling at his son.

He knocked on the door. "Green Arrow, it's me."

The yelling stopped. The door opened. "You might as well come in," said Ollie. "You'd just listen in anyway."

He left Clark to close the door, returning behind his desk. Conner stood before him, shaking with stiffness. Clark briefly touched his son's shoulder then stood to the left of the desk, in a neutral position between the two.

"What's going on?" asked Clark.

"What's going on is I'm suspending Superboy from active duty until further notice," Ollie said.

"I didn't mean to--" Conner shouted.

"I don't care," Ollie snarled back. "Twelve people are in medbay with Cross right now and nine of them weren't even in The Kitchen."

Clark turned to his son. "Conner?"

"It's my E-field fluctuating thing," he said. "I thought J'Onn's exercises-- I don't know what happened! I pushed one of the robots out of the way and then everything started flying around me and I couldn't stop it and I didn't mean to hurt everyone--"

"But you did," said Ollie. "The Ray and Elongated Man tried to contain him. Whatever he did threw them hard enough against the Kitchen walls to knock them out. Then he ripped the doors open and slammed it against Beastboy."

"By accident!" Conner insisted.

"Everything loose in that hallway went airborne and all the doors look like they've been punched in by a crane. For God's sake, Sue and Marvin have concussions! I agreed to keep you on active duty if you got this under control but even after months of training under J'Onn, I'm not seeing any progress."

Conner crossed his arms and flopped back on the closest chair.

Clark cleared his throat. "Conner, could you excuse us for a minute?"

"If you're sure I won't murder people when I sneeze," he muttered but stomped out of the room.

"If you do, you're fired," Ollie shot back.

"Arrow!" Clark snapped. He closed the door. "You're being too hard on him."

"I know he's your kid, Kal, but that's the reason why I'm being so tough. You two are arguably the most powerful beings on this Planet. You don't have the luxury of having accidents because when you have accidents, people get hurt. People could die."

"I know that! I'm aware, every second of my life, that if I breathe the wrong way, I could cause a five-car pile-up. I broke three of my mom's ribs when I was seven because I hugged her too hard. I know, Ollie, and he does too. We're working on it. He just needs some time."

"And I'm giving him that time. You'd do the same in my place."

Clark pinched the bridge of his nose. "But did you have to do it like that?"

Sighing, Ollie finally fell onto his chair. "I can't treat him differently because he's your kid. Not even if it means I give up my portion of pumpkin pie tonight."

"You didn't have to shout. Just because you ripped the entire vigilante idea from Batman, it doesn't mean you have to mimic his attitude, too."

"Fine. The next time someone fucks up this royally, I'll play Enya and use the Sandwich Method of Constructive Criticism. Jesus, Kal."

Clark knew Ollie was right but he didn't have to like it. This was why he left disciplinary action up to Ollie and Diana. "My girl's going to rip you a new one," he said as a way of apologising.

His friend grinned. "She just does that to make you jealous. Go grab your kid, wipe the snot off his chin and let's go have that turkey. And I didn't rip the entire idea off of Batman."

"Of course not. It's a complete coincidence that, earlier in your career, you had an Arrowcycle, a teenage sidekick in bright colours and thematic weapons. Oh, and your voice-changer kind of sounds like him, too."

The best part of heightened strength was the pained grimace on Ollie's face every time he tried to sucker-punch Clark in revenge.

Lois Lane's City Team are played by
Archie Panjabi = Satpal Dhillon
Chiwetel Ejiofor = Ron Troupe
Anna Paquin = Anna-Marie Raven
Tom Welling = Clark Kent

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