Daddy's Little Girl
By Nan Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
This story is part of the "Dagger" series and follows
Christmas in Metropolis. The last three stories centered
around CJ Kent, but, as someone said to me, we have to give
the women equal time, so I hereby present the story of
Disclaimer: The familiar characters and settings in this
story are not mine. They are the property of DC Comics,
Warner Bros., December 3rd Productions and whoever else can
legally claim them, nor am I profiting by their use. Any
new characters, settings and the story itself belong to me.
Marta Kent stomped up the stairs of the Kent home, marched
into her room and slammed the door behind her. Dad had
gone off with CJ *again* and refused to let her come along.
Worse than that, they had been gone for almost two hours!
The last time Wyatt had gone with them, and when she'd
asked Wyatt where they had been, he'd just shrugged. "Out,"
"Well, what did you do?" she'd insisted.
Another shrug. "Nothin'."
Boys! They gave you about as much information as Mom's
stupid tropical fish! CJ had just grunted and gone off to
play the latest online game on the family computer and,
when she'd looked, Dad wasn't anywhere around. They'd
started disappearing at odd times a while back but she
didn't exactly know when. She'd just sort of started to
notice that sometimes she couldn't find either CJ or Dad,
and Mom didn't seem to know where they had gone.
Of course, right now, Mom had all she could do just to get
up the stairs. She'd gone on maternity leave from her job
last week and spent most of the day sitting around with her
feet up and working on the new computer that Dad had
insisted that they get. Of course, that wasn't surprising
since she was supposed to have triplets in about three
months. Marta didn't see how she was going to last the
whole nine months. She looked almost like she had just
before Jimmy had been born, now. Marta had overheard Mom
griping last night after she had gone to bed about losing
her figure and Dad had been getting smoochy. Marta had
plugged up her ears but she wondered if she ought to
mention that the walls in this place were too thin. It
seemed these days as if she could hear everything anyone
said in the house.
Downstairs, she heard the phone ring, even through the
closed door, and she heard her mother's slow footsteps
across the living room to answer. She picked it up on the
"May I speak to Lois Lane Kent, please?" a cheerful, female
voice inquired. Mom must have turned on the speakerphone,
"This is Lois Kent," her mother's voice said.
"Congratulations, Ms. Kent! You have won an all-expenses
paid vacation to Las Vegas! All you need to do to claim
your prize is to attend a short presentation on
Pleasanthill Resorts, held at the local -- "
There was a click. Mom had hung up on the solicitor, Marta
thought. Mom had the right idea. Dad was too nice; he'd
listen to what the callers had to say and then politely
turn them down. Mom didn't waste the time.
She glanced around her room at the new desk and chair she'd
gotten, along with a lot of other things, for her birthday,
last week. Her school books were piled on its surface and
her karate gi lay on the foot of her bed. She'd just been
promoted again, the day after her tenth birthday. Sensei
Bob said that she had a real talent for it.
Marta walked to the window and stood staring out at the
sunny, afternoon sky. She'd let herself get distracted
from the cause of her annoyance. Dad and CJ had gone off
without her, again! It just wasn't *fair*!
From somewhere above her, a piercing screech nearly lifted
the hair on her head before she recognized Jonny's voice.
"That's *my* ding dong!"
That figured, she thought. It seemed like Jimmy had
developed this incredible appetite lately, and nobody's
snacks were safe if they laid them down for a minute. He'd
even gone after the brownies she and Dad had made for the
school bake sale, yesterday. He hadn't liked it a bit when
Marta took them away and yelled at him for eating five of
the brownies. Listening to the riot that was currently
going on in the playroom upstairs, she sighed and marched
out of the bedroom. T he last thing Mom needed was to have
to climb the stairs to break *that* up!
When she arrived in the attic she flung open the door to
the playroom and stopped, appalled. Jimmy was screaming,
face and hands smeared with crumbs, icing and tears. Jonny
held a smashed mess that had been the ding dong and was
cramming the remainder of the cake into his mouth.
"What's going on here?" she demanded. "I'm gonna tell Dad
if you two can't behave!"
"Jimmy stole my ding dong," Jonny mumbled around the
mouthful of his snack.
"Didn't! It was *my* ding dong!" Jimmy wailed. "I
"Yeah, he found it on *my* shelf!" Jonny yelled back.
"I'm gonna tell Mommy!"
"Jonny, shut up!" Marta commanded. "Dad told you Mom
wasn't supposed to climb the stairs until he's here! Do
you want her to get sick? And Dad told you to ask before
you ate snacks, Jimmy!"
"You're not the boss of us!" Jimmy announced, angrily.
"*I'm* gonna tell Mommy!"
"You don't bother Mom!" Marta said. "She's supposed to
rest or she'll have the babies too soon! You know what Dad
Somewhere, not far away, she heard a "swoosh" similar to
the one she had heard a few times when Superman had given
them lifts to Grandma and Granddad Kent's farm.
"*What* is going on here?" their father's voice demanded.
Marta turned around in surprise.
Her father folded his arms and looked sternly at the two
"Jonny took my ding dong!" Jimmy announced, glaring at his
brother. "I found it!"
"It was *my* ding dong!" Jonny retorted. "He took it off
"Where did you find it, Jimmy?" Clark asked.
"Um ... " The four-year-old looked suddenly uncomfortable.
"What did Mommy tell you about taking things off your
brothers' and sister's shelves?"
Jimmy's lip quivered. Clark turned his gaze to Jonny.
"What did I tell you about grabbing things out of your
"But, it was mine!"
"You still don't grab. You should have told your mother.
We can always get another ding dong."
Jonny's lip began to quiver as well. Their father looked
stern. "There will be no dessert tonight for either one of
you. And no video games for the rest of the day. Both of
you, go down to your room and stay there until dinner
When Dad spoke like that, her brothers knew better than to
argue, Marta thought. She watched in silence as they filed
past her toward the stairs, hanging their heads.
Her father turned to her, and his expression had relaxed.
"Thanks for trying to help, Marta."
She shrugged. "'S'okay." The reason for her previous
annoyance returned and she scowled. "I figured I'd better
stop the fight since nobody was here but Mom."
He frowned slightly. "What's the matter, honey?"
"Marta ... " He paused. "You're still upset that CJ and I
didn't take you along, aren't you?"
She looked at her shoes.
"Honey, come on downstairs. I think your Mom and I need to
talk to you about something."
She scuffed her foot on the worn rug of the playroom. "I
don't want to come if you don't want me." She felt the
tears start to gather in her eyes and resolutely blinked
them away. "I wish I was a boy!"
Her father looked appalled. "That isn't it at all, Marta.
Your mom and I love you very much, and we don't want you to
be a boy! It was just -- well, it was something that we
didn't think you were quite ready for. But --" He broke
off. "I think it's about time you found out. You're going
to within a few months, anyway."
"Found out what?" she asked.
"Why CJ and I have gone off alone so much. Come on."
Her curiosity aroused, Marta followed her father down the
steps. On the second floor, she noticed that the door to
the boys' room was closed and she could hear the beep of a
hand-held video game.
"Somebody's playing on the Game Boy," she said. "It's sure
turned up loud."
Her dad cast her an odd glance and knocked on the door.
The beeping ceased.
He opened the door. Jonny was reading an adventure book
and Jimmy was sitting on the bed, apparently staring at the
wall. "I thought I told you two no video games today,"
their father said. Unerringly, he strode to the head of
Jimmy's bed and reached beneath the pillow. "Since I can't
rely on you to follow my orders, I guess I'll have to keep
this for you until day after tomorrow."
Jimmy's mouth opened wide in protest . "You just said
"That was before you disobeyed me." Clark switched off the
game, tucked it into the back pocket of his jeans and
glanced at Jonny. "A word to the wise, son."
"I told him not to," Jonny said, a little smugly. "*My*
Game Boy is in my dresser."
Jonny was old enough to know that when he broke the rules,
their dad would always know, Marta thought. Jimmy still
thought he could get away with things. It had always been
like that, though. Her best friend, Maria, often stretched
the rules at her house and her mom and dad rarely seemed to
catch on, but the only time Marta and her brothers ever got
away with anything was when Dad and Mom weren't around --
and not always then. They knew when you were fibbing, too,
and Dad always seemed to know when you were doing something
you shouldn't. She'd figured for years that it was because
they were the best reporters in Metropolis and were used to
"stripping away the walls of secrecy and revealing the
naked truth," as her mom was fond of saying. Marta thought
that would be pretty cool, and had just about decided that
when she grew up she was going to be a reporter, too.
Her father closed the door and glanced at her. "How did
you know Jimmy was playing a video game?"
She shrugged. "I heard it. The walls are pretty thin in
"What do you mean?"
"I can always hear what's going on around here," she said.
"I guess my ears are pretty good, though."
Clark's eyebrows rose slightly. "It sounds like I'm just
in time," he said. "Come on; let's go talk to your
What did he mean by that? she wondered. Dad was being weird
"Where's CJ?" she asked. "Didn't he come home with you?"
"I dropped him off at Wyatt's," he said. "They're doing
some kind of project for the science fair next week."
"Oh." She followed him toward the stairs. Her mother was
sitting on the couch with her feet up as usual and the
computer parked in front of her on the coffee table. She
glanced up as the two of them descended the stairs. "What
was going on up there?"
"Jimmy 'found' one of Jonny's ding dongs and Jonny resented
it," Clark said. "They're in their room until dinner."
"I'll be glad when Jimmy gets out of this stage," Lois
said. "I can't say the 'Fearsome Fours' is one of my
favorite stages in child development."
Clark laughed. "At least this time we knew what to expect.
Right now, though, we need to talk to Marta."
"Oh?" Her mother's eyebrows rose.
"Yeah. I think we need to give her 'the talk'. We almost
put it off too long. It seems she thinks the walls are too
thin in our house."
"Well, I can sure hear everything," Marta felt obliged to
"We knew it was coming," Clark said. "She's only eleven
months younger than CJ."
"I see." Lois began to hoist herself clumsily from the
sofa and Clark hurried forward to give her a hand. "I
guess it had to happen. Maybe we'd better find some place
where we can't be overheard."
By the time Clark had helped Lois up the stairs and into
the master bedroom, Marta, trailing in their wake, was a
seething ball of curiosity. Her mother and father were
acting stranger than she'd ever seen them act.
Lois settled down on the bed, braced up by half a dozen
pillows and Marta watched Clark close the door and lock it.
"Have a seat, Marta," he said, waving at the chair for
Lois's dressing table. "This is going to take some
explaining. It's why CJ and I have been going off alone
for the last few months. I guess, after this, you'll be
"I thought it was because you didn't want a girl along,"
she said, slowly.
Her mother shook her head. "Absolutely not, sweetie. I
wish you'd told us how you felt. It's a completely
Clark was nodding. "It has absolutely nothing to do with
you being a girl, Marta. It had everything to do with your
age. Part of it was that we needed for you to be as old as
possible before telling you. This has to be kept a secret.
You can't even tell Maria about it. It's important."
Lois was nodding. "This is a dangerous secret, honey.
Only a very few people know about it. Even your Grandmother
and Grandfather Lane don't."
"But CJ does?" she asked.
"We had to tell him last November, just as we're telling
you now. It wouldn't be safe for you not to know." Her
father went to sit on the foot of the bed, removing his
glasses as he did so. "Look at me, Marta. Who do I look
Marta opened her mouth to answer and closed it again. She
leaned forward, examining his face closely. A little
tingle, half of excitement, half of fear, began to run up
and down her backbone. "You kind of look like Superman."
Leaning back against the bed pillows, her mother gave a
soft laugh. "Got it in one try," she said.
"You're absolutely right," her father said. "I not only
look like Superman; I *am* Superman."
Marta shook her head, trying to take in what she was
hearing. Her father was *Superman*? "You're Superman?"
He nodded soberly. "I'm Superman, Marta. And you're my
She said the first thing that came into her head.
"*That's* why I can hear so well!"
Clark looked at Lois and Marta thought he was trying not to
grin. "She's your daughter through and through, honey."
"But how about CJ?" Marta asked at once. "He's adopted!"
"CJ is adopted," he agreed, "but he's still a relative of
mine. We told the truth about him -- we just didn't tell
*all* the truth. CJ's a Kryptonian with super powers, just
like me. His started coming in last year. He's been
learning to use them -- and that's why he and I have been
going off without anyone else. He needed to learn how to
use his super powers so he wouldn't hurt anyone."
"Except Wyatt! He knows?" For a moment, she was outraged.
"He knows. Do you remember how CJ and Wyatt helped catch
those crazy government agents just before Christmas? CJ
had to tell Wyatt a little about himself, to explain why he
couldn't go near the Kryptonite, Marta. We swore him to
secrecy -- and he doesn't know about me or the rest of you
kids, so you mustn't tell him about yourself. The less
that people outside the family know about us, the better.
He'll have to be told eventually, of course, but not for
some time. If he were to slip and tell someone about who
Superman really is, all of you could become the targets of
anyone who wanted to hurt me."
Put that way, it didn't seem so bad. "Wyatt wouldn't tell
anyone about us!" she stated with certainty. "He's the
smartest boy in the school -- except maybe for CJ," she
added reluctantly. It went against the grain to admit
something like that about your own brother, but as long as
he didn't hear her say it, it was probably okay.
"In any case, Marta, my powers and CJ's powers both started
to come in around the age of ten and if your hearing is any
indication, it's starting to happen to you, too." Her
father stood up, laying his glasses on the bedside table,
and took a couple of steps away from the bed. Without
warning, he became a spinning blur. The black of his jeans
and the white of his t-shirt were replaced by blue and red
and when the spinning stopped, Superman stood there in his
Marta shut her mouth only by force of habit. "Oh, wow!"
she breathed. "That is way cool!"
Superman stepped toward her, holding out a hand. "Would
you like to go for a short flight?"
Eagerly, she nodded. She had flown with Superman a number
of times before, not knowing that he was her dad, but the
flights had never been long enough to suit her.
"Don't be gone long," Lois said.
"We won't," Superman said. "We'll be back in time for me
to fix dinner."
"In that case," Lois said, "I'll just wait for you right
Marta watched as Superman opened the window and glanced
quickly around. "I don't see anyone." He slipped an arm
around her waist. "We're going to go out fast so no one
gets a look at us, okay?"
Marta nodded. Unexpectedly, her mouth felt dry. It was
one thing to fly with Superman when she thought he was this
all-powerful alien, another to fly with him when she knew
he was her father.
He glanced at her. "Why are you nervous, honey?"
"How do you *do* that?" she asked, suddenly. "You always
know when one of us is scared or mad -- you even know when
one of us is fibbing!"
He smiled. "I can hear your heartbeat speed up, and
different emotions produce different scents. Most people
can't detect those things, but I can. You'll be able to do
it, too -- when your powers develop a little more."
"Oh." Suddenly, the nervousness she had been feeling
disappeared. Superman might be just her father, but he was
"Here we go," he said.
There was a rush of air and the scene around her blurred
for an instant. When things steadied down again, Marta
realized that she was face down and staring at the city,
far below. Superman's arm clamped her tightly against his
side. It was the first time she had flown like this. All
the other times, he had carried her in his arms. The view
"Do you like it?" he asked.
She opened her mouth, but only one word came to mind.
"This is the way I see the world when I fly. I thought I'd
give you a taste of what you're going to be doing in a few
She took a deep breath. "Really?"
"Uh huh. I asked Dr. Klein about it. It seems that half-
Kryptonians should get all the super powers."
"Dr. Klein knows?" she asked.
"Sure. He's been my doctor for years. He's the only expert
on Kryptonians on the planet and it looks like we're going
to need him more than ever."
"You mean for CJ and the rest of us kids?"
"Well, for you, too. But there's more. There are other
half-Kryptonians around, Marta. Do you remember your
history about the New Kryptonian invasion nearly twelve
"Sure. Is CJ from New Krypton?"
"No. But after the New Kryptonians left, -- well, some
half- Kryptonian children were born. I know that's hard to
understand, but --"
Marta processed that. The origin of babies was no mystery
to her, having recently completed "Family Life" in her
fourth grade class. "Oh, Daddy, I know all about that
stuff," she assured him. "I guess some of the New
Kryptonians had sex with Earth women, huh?"
Superman was silent for a long moment. "Um ... yeah." At
the tone of his voice, she turned her head to look up at
him. Was it her imagination, or was her dad blushing?
"So, have you found any of them?"
He cleared his throat a couple of times. "Yes, I have. A
few. And I'm looking for more, with the help of some
friends. It's important for us to find them and teach them
how to use their powers before they accidentally hurt
"Are you teaching them?"
He nodded. "A couple of them. I'm watching the others."
Marta nodded. "I get it. When am I going to be able to
fly by myself?"
"Well, I didn't fly until I was eighteen, but it might have
been because I didn't know I could. CJ can't fly, yet, but
when I throw him into the air, he can control his rate of
descent, so it probably won't be long before he can keep
himself in the air. Actually flying, though, is something
we're going to have to find out about."
"But how come you don't know?" Marta asked. "The New
Kryptonians had super powers. You fought that nasty Lord
"Yes, but they only had the powers on Earth," her father
said. "They didn't have them on New Krypton -- or old
Krypton, either. I was the first Kryptonian it ever
happened to, so nobody knows exactly how it works."
"Oh." Marta digested that. "Where did CJ come from if he
didn't come from New Krypton?"
"That's a long, complicated story," Superman said. "Would
you like to go anyplace in particular?"
Marta allowed herself to be distracted for the moment,
promising herself that she would come back to the subject
"Could we go see Grandma and Grandpa Kent?"
"No problem." They shifted direction, gaining altitude
until the fluffy, white clouds that she had seen from the
ground were floating below them. "I think they'd like to
see you, too."
"So then, " Marta said, "Grandma Kent told me all about how
they found Daddy."
Lois smiled at her animated daughter. Marta had been
chattering about her trip to the Kents with Superman ever
since she and Clark had returned. It was a complete
turnaround from her mood earlier in the day. She and Clark
should have realized, she thought, that Marta might have
interpreted Clark's disappearances with CJ as an attempt to
exclude her because of her gender. Seizing the opportunity
when Marta paused to take a breath, she interjected a
question. "What do you think of all this, Marta?"
"I think it's cool," Marta said. "Someday I'm going to be
able to do the things that Superman does. I'll be able to
*fly*! And this Saturday, Dad's going to take me with him
and CJ to see if I've started to get any other powers."
She broke off at the sound of Clark's voice announcing
dinner, and a moment later, Jonny and Jimmy came clattering
down the stairs, followed a couple of moments later by CJ,
who had returned while Clark and Marta had been flying.
"Remember, Marta, that you have to be very careful not to
let Jonny or Jimmy know about this," Lois cautioned.
"Sure, I know," Marta said. "If they found out, they'd
tell all their friends."
"Exactly my point."
"Don't worry." Marta stood up from the footstool and
reached out to give Lois a hand to her feet. The child had
to brace herself slightly, but she didn't seem to be
putting a lot of effort into the task. Maybe the super
powers had been sneaking up on her without any of them
noticing, Lois thought, exactly as they had on CJ.
"You know, Mom," Marta said suddenly, as they started
toward the dinner table, "I wish I'd met Dad's other
parents. They must have been special, too."
"I think they were," Lois said. "But, why do you think so?"
"Because they knew they were going to die, but they saved
Dad. They sent him to Grandma and Grandpa Kent."
Now there was a profound thought from a ten-year-old. "I
think they did it because they loved him," Lois said.
"I'm glad they did it," Marta said.
"So am I." Lois put a hand on her daughter's shoulder.
"If they hadn't, I wouldn't have you or your brothers."
Marta squirmed, slightly. She was at an age when any kind
of sentiment expressed by her parents made her
uncomfortable. "I'm hungry!" she announced, quickly.
"What's for dinner, Dad?"
"Macaroni and cheese with ham, steamed vegetables and corn
bread," Clark told her. "And angel cake for dessert."
That drew groans from the two younger boys, who were
destined to miss their dessert, but neither of them
protested. Clark didn't impose penalties often, but when
he did, they had learned that he meant business. Lois
settled down into her chair and let him handle the dinner
and the kids. It seemed these days as if she didn't have
the energy to do more than walk slowly around the house and
otherwise spend most of her days in a chair with her feet
up. Dr. Klein told her that it was the effect of the three
growing babies and that after they were born, her energy
would gradually return, but that was still some time away.
He'd also told her to stay off her feet as much as possible
and to rest whenever she could, to try to prevent early
labor. Premature labor was always a possibility with
multiple births and it happened more often with triplets
than twins -- a statistic that made sense to Lois,
considering that she felt as big as a house now, and there
was, at least theoretically, still another three months to
Clark, of course, treated her like royalty. He waited on
her hand and foot, worried whenever she even climbed the
stairs more than once a day and had practically gone into a
panic the afternoon she decided that she wanted to make
corn fritters. Why she had suddenly decided she wanted corn
fritters she now had no clue, but at the time it seemed
like a good idea. Fortunately, Superman arrived in time to
put out the fire while it was still confined to the deep
fryer, and a little paint had taken care of the smoke
stains on the ceiling. It had caused him to hover over her
more than ever for at least a week and when he'd found out
what she wanted, he'd ended up flying to New Orleans to
acquire the genuine article. Honestly! It had only been a
little fire, and deep fryers weren't all that expensive,
"Salad, honey?" Clark's voice caught her attention and she
nodded. He presented her with a bowl of shredded lettuce
and cut vegetables with the cruet of salad dressing on the
side and while she was coping with that, poured her a glass
of milk. She suspected that Dr. Klein had told him to
watch her nutrition carefully, which was pretty easy since
he generally cooked all the meals. Fortunately, since she
had been known to burn water, her husband was an excellent
"Is there anything else you'd like?" he asked.
"I'm fine, Clark. Sit down and eat your dinner," she
He obeyed, settling into the chair at the head of the
table. Marta, sitting across from CJ, was busy stuffing in
the macaroni and side dishes as fast as she could. When
had their daughter developed such an enormous appetite? It
was probably fortunate for Marta that she had a Kryptonian
metabolism, or she might have had weight problems later,
Lois thought, enviously. On the other hand, the appetite
was probably because she needed the fuel for her developing
super powers. Marta, like her father, was undoubtedly
going to have a svelte figure all of her life, without the
slightest need to work at keeping it. Lois glanced down at
her rounded belly and sighed. Life was certainly unfair.
CJ was inhaling his dinner in a similar fashion. Clark met
her eyes and smiled slightly. "Hey, kids, it's not going
to run away. Slow down a bit."
Marta paused, her fork halfway to her mouth, and Lois could
see her consciously shift gears. The fork resumed its
journey but at a more modest pace.
They ate in silence for several minutes. Jonny and Jimmy
seemed to be trying to be on their best behavior and not
even a minor argument between the two disturbed the meal.
"Can I have more?" CJ requested and Lois saw that their
(nearly) eleven-year-old son had cleaned his plate.
"'May I'," Lois corrected.
"May I," CJ obediently rephrased. "I'm starved, tonight."
"Probably all that exercise this afternoon," Clark said,
passing him the macaroni. "More cornbread?"
"I'll have some more cornbread," Marta piped up. "I'm
really hungry tonight, too."
"I guess it's hereditary," Clark said. "Mom tells me I had
quite an appetite at their age."
"You still do," Lois pointed out.
"Well -- it's probably all that working out," Clark said.
Lois shook her head. "I don't have the room. Maybe I can
get a snack later, before we go to bed."
"I'll set something aside for you," Clark promised. "Did
you save some room for the angel cake?"
"Some," Lois said, and jumped as one of the babies kicked
her sharply in the ribs. "They're kind of active tonight."
"As far as I can tell, they're always active," Clark said,
stating the obvious. "Last night, one of them had the
hiccups all night long."
"How do you know, Daddy?" Jonny asked.
"Because your mommy's stomach was against my back," he told
him. "I could feel your baby brother or sister hiccuping
"Oh," Jonny said, helping himself to more macaroni. "Does
he still have the hiccups?"
"No," Lois said. "He stopped somewhere around five this
"I'm glad I don't get hiccups like that," Jimmy remarked.
He slurped down his milk, drawing a warning look from his
"Not so fast, Jimmy. You'll choke."
"Sorry, Daddy." Jimmy set down the empty glass. "I'm
Clark glanced around at the empty plates. "Is everybody
Nods all around answered the question. "All right, Jonny
and Jimmy, you may take your plates into the kitchen, rinse
them off and put them in the dishwasher. I think Galaxy
One comes on in about ten minutes. You can watch that, if
you want, and then bedtime. Got it?"
Jimmy looked longingly toward the angel cake that Lois
could see sitting on the kitchen island, but the child knew
better than to ask. After the two boys had gone into the
living room, Clark served the cake.
Lois ate her dessert slowly, thinking. Until recently, she
had been the main disciplinarian in the household.
Anything but a daddy of steel, Clark had been more willing
than she to let minor things slide, and much to her
amusement, Marta could wrap him around her little finger
with no effort at all.
Things had changed, however, when he'd had to assume most
of the management of the household. Once he'd seen how
difficult it was becoming for Lois, and Dr. Klein had
pointed out the increased risks of both miscarriage and
early labor, Clark had taken over with a no-nonsense
attitude that left the children in no doubt about who was
boss. Nothing was going to jeopardize Lois's health or
that of the triplets, if he had anything to say about it.
It amazed her at first how easily he did it. He never had
to raise his voice, but when he spoke in a certain tone, no
one argued. He'd explained it once by pointing out that
every day, Superman had to deal with much harder cases than
their children would ever be and that Lois had done a good
job with them from the start.
"They're good kids," he'd said. "They just had to get used
to daddy giving the orders instead of mommy." And he'd
been surprised when she'd gone off in a gale of laughter.
Marta turned to CJ. "I flew with Dad while you were gone."
Her older brother took a swig of the milk that went with
the cake. "Good," he said, with brotherly matter-of-
factness. "I figured it was going to happen to you, pretty
"Aren't you surprised?" Marta asked, seeming a little
"Nope. Linda's only a little older than you are and she's
had super-hearing and heat vision for months."
"Linda? You mean your girlfriend?"
If Marta had been expecting CJ to deny the allegation, she
was disappointed, Lois thought. CJ didn't turn a hair.
"Yep. It's okay, Dad," he added. "She already guessed
Marta was like her, weeks ago. I didn't tell her. She
thinks it's cool."
"How did she know?" Lois asked, slightly alarmed.
CJ shrugged. "I don't know. She just did. She already
promised me she wouldn't tell anybody, though."
"Thank heaven for small favors," Lois said. "Maybe
Superman should have a talk with her."
Clark nodded. "I think maybe he should." He pushed back
his chair and stood up. "Okay, kids, get the table cleared
and I'll be back in a minute as soon as I get your mom
settled down in the living room ... "
"Okay, Marta, concentrate on the stump." Superman sat
cross-legged on thin air, his expression intent. "You're
going to make it heat up."
Marta glanced uncertainly at CJ, who stood to her right
with Linda Lennox. Linda was a half-Kryptonian like
herself, and a few minutes ago, she had seen Linda set a
dry branch on fire just by staring at it. Linda pushed a
lock of curly, red hair out of her eyes and nodded
encouragingly at her.
Marta swallowed nervously and stared at the stump. What
was she supposed to do? Just think "burn"? Her eyes
started to water as she stared and for an instant, doubt
There was a pale, reddish, almost invisible shimmering in
the air between her and the stump and a tendril of smoke
began to rise lazily from the dead wood. Her eyes
smarting, she broke off and stared at the results of her
efforts. CJ strode over to it and rested a finger
fearlessly on the wood.
"It's warm," he announced. "And there's a little burned
spot here." He looked up at Marta and gave her a thumbs-up
sign. "Nice work!"
Marta approached the stump to see. Indeed, a small,
blackened spot about the size of a dime was still
"That's all?" she asked, slightly disappointed.
Linda had followed her. "For a beginning, it's pretty
good," she remarked. "I couldn't do much more than that
when Superman started teaching me. CJ was already doing
better than I was by then."
"CJ is a little older than you," Superman pointed out, with
a smile. "Don't worry, Marta, now that you know how,
you'll progress pretty fast. Let's finish our inventory
and see what else you're able to do."
Half an hour later, the tests were over and Marta rubbed a
sore arm where her muscles were protesting slightly.
Superman ticked them off on his fingers.
"Your super-hearing is the most developed, which I
expected. You're stronger and faster than an ordinary ten-
year-old girl, and you have traces of all the other super
powers except flight -- but that's not unusual since it
seems to be the slowest to appear. It looks like you're
right on schedule. I wouldn't rely on your invulnerability
for a while, though."
"I won't," Marta said.
"Now," he said, glancing at Linda, "there's one other
subject that I wanted to bring up. CJ says that you
figured out that Marta was like you, Linda. You remember
what we talked about not long after that -- 'incident' just
"Yeah." Linda nodded soberly. "Those Bureau 39 creeps
were crazy but they're not the only bad people around. We
have to be really careful not to let anybody find out about
us. I'm not going to tell anybody, Superman. If I did,
everybody would figure out who you really are."
Marta gulped. This was something that hadn't occurred to
There was a short silence. "And you have?" Superman asked.
"Sure, I have," Linda said, matter-of-factly. "I'll be
eleven at the beginning of July but Marta's just turned
ten. I mean, CJ could have been born a little early, but
the only Kryptonian left on Earth after the New Kryptonians
went away is you. That means you're Marta's dad and that
means you have to be -- well, it just does, that's all."
"Have you told anybody?" Marta asked. "Your mom, or -- "
Linda shook her head, looking suddenly very mature. "I
don't want my mom to know. It's not safe. If bad people
found out she knew who Superman really was, somebody might
hurt her to make her tell. And then if they found out,
they might hurt your mom and CJ and you and your brothers.
I'm not going to tell *anybody*!"
Superman nodded. "Thank you, Linda. That's very
CJ had moved over beside her. "Linda's smart, Dad," he
said, unnecessarily. "She didn't even tell *me*."
Superman looked searchingly at Linda for several seconds
and finally, his expression relaxed into a smile. "I guess
you can keep a secret," he said. "Okay, everybody, let's
head for home."
Linda's mother had arranged for her to stay at the Kents'
for the day.
Carolyn Lennox had been Carolyn Abernathy until her husband
had attempted to turn her daughter over to Bureau 39 and
been murdered by the rogue agency for his pains. She had
resumed her maiden name some months following the event.
Her job as a real estate broker made her work somewhat
irregular hours and, since her acquaintance with the Kent
family coincided with the loss of her husband, it had been
arranged for Linda to stay with the Kents when Carolyn was
The arrangement suited both CJ and Linda, Clark knew. The
bond that formed between the two children when they met had
only strengthened in the following months, and by now, both
Clark and Lois had accustomed themselves to the fact that
within a few years, Linda would almost certainly be their
daughter-in-law. It was also one reason that Clark wasn't
more concerned over the fact that Linda *knew*. The girl
liked both Lois and him, and he knew beyond a doubt that
she would never do anything to harm CJ.
The incident, however, brought up a subject that had
occurred to him a few times since the existence of other
half-Kryptonians had been brought to his attention. How
likely was it that the other super-children were going to
discover his secret? It wasn't as if Marta and the boys
could change what they were. When he had more time, he
needed to have a talk with Linda and try to learn exactly
how she had figured out the truth about Marta and thereby
what, if anything, they could do to prevent others from
doing the same. The New Kryptonians had known who he was.
That might have been because of their advanced spying
devices or other information that he hadn't known about,
but if it was something simpler, such as hearing his faster
heartbeat, he could be in trouble.
As far as he could tell, Marta's heartbeat was still within
human range, but that was going to change in the near
future. CJ's and Linda's had already begun to do so, as
had Valerie Henderson's and that of the other three, whom
he had discovered in Smallville. He was going to have to
think long and hard about this, and maybe have a talk with
Dr. Klein as well.
Superman delivered the three children to the Kent home and
a few seconds later, Clark Kent was showing his press pass
to the security guard at the entrance to the Ocean Vista
Country Club. This was the location where the Metropolis
Celebrity Golf Tournament, which was held each year to
benefit the Metropolis Children's Fund, was about to begin.
Today, he was working a half-day, and had volunteered to
cover the event for Barney, in Sports, who had called in
sick Friday with the flu. It made sense, since Superman
had once again agreed to participate.
The club was typical of most such establishments. Clark
joined the crowd of spectators, dutifully noting for his
article, the names of the various celebrities who would be
engaging in the match. One was Landon Winters, the anchor
for the LNN Morning Report; another was Boris Johnson, the
star of the Boris Johnson Show. It took him an extra
second to recognize Harold Freeman, the host of the hugely
popular Metropolis Morning, which Clark had seen exactly
once. He had quickly decided that he had no interest in a
program dealing with cockroach cults, men with the
compulsion to eat scorpions, and reincarnated construction
workers who believed in running across expressway
overpasses, clad only in green paint, as an exercise in
spiritual freedom. Superman dealt with plenty of strange
people in his daily life. He had no wish to watch them for
entertainment, as well.
Quickly, he listed the remaining participants and hunted
around among the crowd of wealthy spectators for someone
with name recognition that he could quote. The son of one
of the golfers was present to watch his father play, and
Clark conducted a short interview to fill out the little
article and establish in the minds of several persons that
he was present. Superman had to make his appearance to tee
off with the other celebrities in a few minutes, although
he wasn't expected to play more than three holes.
His introductory notes completed, he made a quick exit and
seconds later, Superman swooped down to land next to the
other celebrities. A cheer went up from the spectators.
"Ah, there you are, Superman. Welcome." The speaker was
Aaron Pink, the short, cheerful, balding man who was
president of the Metropolis Benevolent Fund that always
arranged this thing. "We have a surprise for you. Our
organization has new, personalized clubs for you, this
year. Our members thought Metropolis's most famous citizen
should have his own." He covered the microphone with his
palm. "They'll be kept on display in the club over the
year, Superman, and they'll be available for your use at
every tournament, if that arrangement suits you."
He beckoned, and the skinny teenager, who had won the
yearly drawing to caddy for Superman, came forward with the
golf bag containing his clubs. The bag was emblazoned with
the Superman shield, and on the end of the grip of each
club, he could see a tiny replica of the larger one on the
bag. Somebody had a twisted sense of humor, he thought,
but he nodded graciously at Aaron Pink and extended a hand
to the caddy. "Pleased to meet you."
The boy shook his hand and his Adam's apple bobbed
nervously. "Pleased to meet *you*," Superman."
Clark smiled. "Do you have a name?"
The boy turned red. "Jake Wilson."
"It's nice to meet you, Jake." He smiled more widely.
"Come on, let's go play golf."
As he waited his turn to tee off, the random thought popped
into his mind that it was a good thing that Lois had made
an effort to teach Clark Kent something about golf, years
ago, or Superman would have disgraced himself the first
time he set foot on a golf course. As it was, he had
surprised everyone with a fairly creditable performance on
that day, now fourteen years back, when he had first taken
part in this yearly event. The gossip columns had been
full of speculation about whether the people of his planet
played the game of golf. One imaginative tabloid reporter
had gone so far as to publish his exclusive interview with
the space alien who had secretly learned golf from an
unnamed golf pro and taught it to the natives of Krypton.
It had greatly amused Martha and Jonathan Kent, and the
story subsequently joined many others in his collection of
tabloid articles that resided in the townhouse attic.
The players had advanced to the second hole when his super-
hearing picked up the high-pitched humming sound. Quickly
he turned his head from side to side, pinpointing the
source. It was coming from the golf ball perched neatly on
Boris Johnson's tee. Zeroing in on the ball with his x-ray
vision, he saw the cause at once. Inside the ball, the
timer of an explosive device was counting down. Within
seconds, the explosive within would detonate, killing or
injuring a number of persons nearby, including, quite
certainly, the golfer, himself.
Johnson began his swing and Superman moved in a blur. A
split instant before the club intersected the ball, he
snatched it from the tee and threw it straight up. The
explosion of the ball, three hundred feet in the air,
brought startled screams from the crowd of onlookers and
participants, alike. Without pausing, Superman scanned the
other golf balls in the possession of Johnson's caddy,
followed by the ones belonging to the other golfers as
well. Two more explosive balls, one timed for five minutes
after the first and the other, five minutes after that,
were disposed of in a like manner.
Superman dusted his hands and glanced around at the
startled spectators, reporters and several club officials
who were converging on the scene of the explosions. "I
think someone should call the police," he said.
By the time the police arrived, however, the reason for the
exploding golf balls had been discovered. During the
confusion, the country club's safe, containing the members'
dues in cash, which had been collected only yesterday, had
been robbed -- to the tune of two hundred and fifty
"Needless to say, the golf tournament was postponed," Clark
was telling his editor, several hours later. "It will be
played next month at a time still to be determined."
"Yeah, I figured something like that," Perry said. "Any
idea who might be behind this?"
Clark shrugged. "Good question. Somebody had to have
replaced those golf balls with the explosive ones, and it
had to have been done at the club, so the police are
checking out the employees who might have had the
opportunity. Superman talked to Inspector Zymack but the
m.o. doesn't fit any known criminals -- at least none that
are on the loose right now. It's a good thing Superman was
right there or it would have been bad."
"Yeah." Perry agreed. "Well, write it up and we'll get it
into the late edition."
Clark nodded, but he was still frowning as he settled down
to write his article. Something about the incident was
familiar. Somewhere before, he had crossed paths with a
criminal who endangered the lives of innocent bystanders in
order to commit his crimes. Well, over the years he'd
encountered several criminals who did that, but usually
they didn't go to such lengths to create their distraction.
Who did he know that went to that much effort to commit a
Fifteen minutes later, he transmitted his article to Perry
White and stood up. He had a trip to make. There was one
criminal, serving a life term, whose m.o. exactly matched
the one that he had seen at the golf course. It was high
time Superman paid a visit to Stryker's Island.
"Superman talked to the Warden," Clark was saying to Perry
White, sometime later. "He also spoke with Inspector Zymack
on his return. Of course, we don't know for sure, but the
m.o. is his."
"How in the name o' Graceland did he get out?" Perry asked.
"And, why didn't the police know about it?"
Clark hitched his shoulders, uncomfortably. "They didn't
know until a few hours ago, and even then, it never
occurred to them that he could have managed to get off the
island. Nobody's ever done it, before. They were still
conducting a search."
"What do you mean, 'they didn't know'?" Perry asked.
"Presumably, they knew where their prisoners were supposed
"Griffin was hospitalized in the prison infirmary last
night with severe stomach pains," he explained.
"Apparently, the doctor suspected an intestinal blockage
and ordered him down to radiology for some kind of scan.
An orderly showed up to pick him up and no one ever saw him
"Everybody assumed he was with somebody else, huh?" Perry
said. "Clever. Do they know who the so-called 'orderly'
"One of the other prisoners. Victor Howe. Ring a bell?"
"Vic -- not that sidekick of his?"
"Uh huh. Sentenced to forty years as an accomplice for
Griffin's attempt to kidnap the President. Superman also
found the remains of an inflatable boat mostly submerged
under one of the piers at the waterfront. He told Zymack,
so the APB is probably out by now."
"It sounds as if they had outside help."
Clark nodded. "It sure does. It's a place to start,
anyway." He glanced at his watch. "I need to get home,
Chief. I'll send in my follow-up piece from there."
"You're kidding," Lois said. "*Griffin*?"
"I'm afraid so." Clark said. He had settled down beside
her on the sofa and was about to engage in a forlorn hope.
"Honey, I hate to suggest it, but would you even consider
relocating to Smallville until Zymack's got him under wraps
again?" He rested a hand on her rounded tummy. "You're not
exactly in a condition to deal with him at this point, and
somehow, I doubt that he's grown to like you any better
since you helped send him to prison, thirteen years ago. I
can't be with you every minute, even though I'd do my best
Lois covered his hand with hers. "You're right."
"I know you don't like to run away," Clark continued, "but
this time, I really think..." He broke off. "I'm right?"
"Yes, you are." She smiled. "If I were only risking
myself, I'd argue with you, but it's not just me. It's CJ,
Marta, Jonny and Jimmy -- and these three." She patted the
place where her waistline had been. "There's no way I'll
He grinned and wiped his forehead with the back of his
Lois pretended to scowl at him. "Clark Kent, you know I
don't take crazy risks anymore!"
"Well," he amended, "not usually."
She whacked his chest lightly. "You're supposed to agree
"Superman doesn't lie," he said, trying to look pious.
"No, but Clark Kent does -- at least sometimes." She
reached for the phone. "I guess we should call Dr. Klein.
He might have some advice for me."
"I already talked to him. He doesn't like it too much, but
he had to admit that Griffin trying to kill you might be
more risky than your being in Smallville. He was going to
call Dr. Blaisdell, if you agreed to go."
"Isn't that the new doctor?"
"The new *obstetrician*," Clark said. "Smallville General
now has its very own, fully - equipped labor and delivery
suite *and* its own obstetrician working at the hospital.
No more women in labor having to drive all the way to
Cloverfield to have their babies."
"It's about time," Lois said. "Now, if the hospital had
more than twenty beds ..."
"Hey, what do you expect for a town the size of
Smallville?" Clark asked. "Anyway, Dr. Klein just said to
fly low and carefully, and for me to come get him if you
had so much as a hint of premature labor."
"But, how about your job, here?"
"I can work here and come back to Smallville when I'm off
work. And if you even think you might be having a problem
during the day, you're to call me via cell phone. Look at
it this way. Mom won't have to leave the farm quite so
soon, if you're in Smallville. You know she was planning
to be out here next week to help us out. It'll be easier
on her and Dad, too."
"That's true," Lois agreed. "I guess I'd better go pack."
"*I'll* pack," Clark said, firmly. "You're going to sit
and direct the operation."
"Clark, I'm not helpless," Lois said.
"No, but you're six and a half months along with triplets.
I've read everything I could find on the subject. Some
women make it all the way through with no trouble, but an
awful lot go into labor early. If you can hang onto them
for at least another month..."
"... They'll be much less likely to have complications,"
Lois finished for him. "I know, I know. Okay, you can do
"And Sandi will be here right after work to watch the kids
while I take you to Smallville. Then, I'll come back for
them." He lowered his glasses and glanced around the
house. "Where are CJ, Marta and Linda, by the way?"
"Wyatt came over to see CJ, and Maria showed up half an
hour later. They decided to go to the park. They should
be back soon."
Clark frowned. The children were together, he thought. It
was unlikely that Griffin would be looking for a bunch of
kids, and anyway, how would he identify them? He almost
certainly had another agenda besides revenge on Lois, and
he'd been out for less than twenty-four hours. Still, the
knowledge that CJ and Marta were in the park, unprotected,
made him a little uneasy.
It was the voice of the television announcer from the
Barrows' home next door that intruded on his thoughts.
Lois's voice cut through his sudden distraction. "What is
"There's an explosion in the subway near the Lombardy
"Go. I'll be okay until you get back."
He hesitated. Lois made shooing motions with her hands.
"Go! I'll lock the doors and check before I open them for
"Okay." He leaned forward to kiss her squarely on the
mouth. "Be careful, honey."
"I will. Go!"
Marta, Linda and Marta's best friend, Maria Hernandez, had
long since lost track of the two boys. CJ and Wyatt had
vanished shortly after their arrival in the park, off to
their "fort", where they engaged in their usual loud and,
to the girls, senseless games. Maria, Linda and Marta had
settled down in the afternoon sunshine and were engaged in
a Barbie fashion show. Maria had brought along her new
Barbie, and was busily parading her in front of the others
in her most recent incarnation: "Superwoman Barbie" in a
female version of Superman's outfit. In the light of her
new knowledge about her own family, Marta wasn't sure what
she thought of the idea. Her own doll was wearing a
glittering, satin costume, trimmed with fake fur and
sequins, and clutching a microphone: Vegas Barbie. Linda's
doll was a somewhat older model, but Marta had given her
several of her own Barbie's earlier ensembles, with which
Linda had seemed delighted.
It had been an exciting day for Marta. After watching
Linda and CJ demonstrate their super-powers, Superman had
tested her own developing abilities, and although she
couldn't do nearly as much as CJ, she knew that wouldn't
last. She was going to have super powers like Superman --
The first shock of realizing that her own father was
actually the hero who appeared on TV at least a couple of
times a week had left her feeling a little stunned. He was
in the encyclopedia, for Pete's sake! And in history books
at school! They had learned everything that anyone knew
about him in her Social Studies class when they had covered
the New Kryptonian invasion of Earth. After the shock had
worn off, she'd been left feeling slightly disillusioned.
After all, Superman was supposed to be this perfect hero,
but her dad wasn't perfect at all. Oh, he was smart, of
course, and he could do a lot of things, but he sometimes
got upset, and sometimes got mad, and sometimes he cracked
stupid jokes that made her blush just to think about them,
especially when he did it in front of her friends.
Superman wasn't supposed to do any of those things.
She still didn't quite understand why her friends all
thought her dad was so cool. They laughed at his jokes,
even while Marta was cringing, and when they ate dinner at
her house, they always cleaned their plates and said her
dad cooked the best food they'd ever tasted. And then, of
course, there was Maria's crush on Superman. It was
slightly embarrassing now, to think that her friend, who
was only a couple of months older than Marta, had a crush
on Marta's father! Her parents were really *old*! Her mom
was forty, and her dad was even older!
Of course, no one knew how old Superman was, because he
looked almost the same as he had in the first pictures of
him, way back before Marta had been born. When she hadn't
known who he was she hadn't thought about it, but now that
she did, it was something of a letdown. Sure, it was kind
of cool that he could fly and was actually from another
planet, but just the fact that he was her father took away
a lot of the glamour. It was kind of like the day that
she'd realized that Santa Claus didn't really exist, except
as an idea. Parents weren't anything special, really.
They were -- well, *parents*!
She loved her father, all right; there wasn't any question
about that -- but, even if he was Superman, and a hero, he
was still just her father. How could you get all excited
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw someone approaching.
She looked up to see a man standing some ten feet away,
watching them. Out on the street, a white repair truck was
parked next to the curb, and she could just barely see a
second man sitting behind the wheel. The guy was wearing a
white, one-piece outfit with a zipper up the front, like a
lot of the uniforms the repair guys wore, so he'd probably
come from the truck, but the way he was looking at her made
Marta glanced around. There were several people nearby,
including a policeman, so she wasn't particularly worried,
but she didn't like being stared at. She glared at the
man, meeting his eyes defiantly. He continued to look at
her for several seconds and then smiled slightly and turned
to walk toward the van. A few seconds later, he climbed
into the passenger seat and it pulled away.
The alarm on Marta's watch beeped suddenly, and she glanced
at the timepiece. It didn't seem possible that they had
already been here over two hours. She reached for her
Barbie case. "It's time to go home," she said. "I guess
we'd better get Wyatt and CJ."
By the time they arrived back at the Kent house, four
blocks from the park, it was definitely getting toward
evening. April in Metropolis was usually warm during the
day and chilly at night. Marta always slept with her
window wide open, but she hadn't noticed the cold,
recently, and if she'd thought anything about it at all,
she might have figured that they were having a warm snap.
Later, it would get downright hot, but that was still two
or three months away. She always liked the spring weather.
Even rainstorms were exciting and she particularly liked
thunderstorms. It was fun to stand at the window, watching
the rain and the flashes of lightning and feeling the
ground shake when the thunder was close by.
"Aren't you cold?" Maria asked, pulling her sweater more
tightly around her shoulders.
Marta shook her head. CJ glanced at Marta but said
nothing. Wyatt had zipped up his jacket, but CJ's hung
open, and her brother seemed as comfortable as she was.
People passing on the streets were wearing their coats and
jackets buttoned up tightly, and for a moment, she was
puzzled. It seemed that everyone was chilly but CJ and
Then, it hit her. Superman flew around in freezing weather
and never seemed in the least cold, even dressed in that
tight, Spandex suit. This must be another effect of her
beginning powers. She didn't get cold -- at least, not
much. Someday, she would be like her dad and the cold
wouldn't bother her at all -- and probably not the heat,
either. Come to think of it, she'd never seen her father
sweat, even on the hottest days when all the rest of them
were fanning themselves and turning up the air conditioner.
A glance at Linda confirmed it. She had buttoned up her
light sweater, but she didn't seem the slightest bit
uncomfortable. After a few seconds' consideration, she
untied her sweater from around her waist and slipped it
over her arms. Her dad did everything everyone else did,
even when he didn't need to. It must be because he didn't
want other people to realize that he was different. Marta
would have to remember that from now on.
As they were climbing the steps to the townhouse, she
happened to glance over her shoulder at the setting sun.
It was almost invisible behind the top of LexTower, and the
big, lighted sign was hard to see with the sunlight blazing
out from behind it that way. As she was turning back, a
white van rounded the corner. She squinted at it,
curiously. That looked a lot like the one that weird guy
had gotten into, back at the park, only this one had a big
decal on the side. She shrugged and dismissed the thought.
She was probably letting her imagination run away with her
The door was locked, and CJ pushed the buzzer. After a few
minutes, her mom opened the door and let them in. "You guys
are a little late," she said. "I was starting to worry."
"Sorry," CJ said. "Where's Dad?"
"There was an explosion in the subway. He went to get the
story for the paper," her mother answered. Across the
room, Marta noted that the television was on and the
picture showed Superman ripping open crushed subway cars
with his bare hands to allow the rescue workers access to
the people inside. The thought hit her again that it was
her father doing those things. It seemed impossible,
although she knew it to be true. Maybe Dad was a *little*
more special than she'd thought. He sure looked pretty
heroic right then.
Her mother was locking the door behind them. Marta saw her
push the extra latch closed and fasten the chain and gave
her a curious look. What was going on?
"It's getting late," she said. "Clark can give you a ride
back to your house as soon as he gets home, Maria."
"Sure. Thanks, Mrs. Kent," Maria said. She headed for the
stairs, trailed by Linda. Marta started after them and CJ
and Wyatt headed for the kitchen. Boys! Marta thought.
They never thought of anything but their stomachs! Even
Wyatt was constantly stuffing himself. Still, she guessed
he was anxious to catch up with CJ. He had just turned ten
in February and was still shorter than Marta.
Her mother had settled down on the couch again, and now she
winced slightly and put a hand to her stomach. "That was a
funny one," she said.
"What was?" Marta asked.
"You know those painless contractions I told you about?"
Marta nodded. She knew all about those. Mom had grumbled
about them most the time that she had been expecting Jimmy.
"That one hurt a little." She frowned, rubbing a hand
lightly across her rounded middle. "Oh well, one of the
babies probably had an elbow in the wrong place."
Marta frowned, too. Dad had already told her to call him
if Mom started having pains across her stomach. He'd said
that Mom might not want to call him away from an emergency
for what was probably a false alarm, but that he wanted her
to let him know, anyhow. He'd made Marta swear she would
call him right away at the first sign of anything that
didn't seem right.
She started for the stairs once more. If she tried to call
Dad from here, Mom would tell her not to make a fuss over
it. There was a phone, however, in her parents' bedroom.
She would use that one.
Clark's cell phone beeped softly as he forced open the
doors of the last car to let frightened and shaken-up
passengers out. He stepped back to allow the rescue
personnel to enter and retrieved the little instrument.
"Superman," he said, mindful of the paramedic who looked
quizzically at him as he squeezed past.
"Daddy?" It was Marta's voice. "You told me to call you if
"Is she having contractions?" he asked, quickly, belatedly
noticing the firefighter who gave him a curious glance at
the question. Oh well, it was too late to do anything
about that, now.
"I don't know. She had one of those Brax -- uh, those
things that don't hurt --"
"Braxton-Hicks contractions," Clark said, this time keeping
his voice low.
"Yeah, those. Only she said it felt funny and that it
*did* hurt. She said one of the babies might have his
elbow in the wrong place or something. I didn't know if I
should call you, but you said to if *anything* seemed
"You did the right thing," he told her, at once. "I'll be
there in a few minutes. I've about finished here." He
thrust the cellular phone into its hiding place and turned
to give the disaster scene a quick survey. The fires were
out and rescue personnel seemed to have the situation well
in hand. The man coordinating the effort was only a short
distance away, in conference with three of his
subordinates. Clark approached and waited for him to
finish giving his instructions.
At last, Chief Rostoff turned to him. "Yes?"
"Chief, I have another emergency I need to get to. Is
there anything else you want me to do before I go?"
Rostoff shook his head. "Thanks, Superman, but I think we
can handle the rest. You beat the Jaws of Life, hands
"You're welcome." Clark was gone on the word. Two minutes
later he was walking up the stairs of the townhouse. When
he unlocked the door and it still wouldn't open, he lowered
his glasses and checked. Lois had kept her promise. Both
the bolt and the chain lock were fastened. He rang the
bell, and after a short wait, Marta opened the door.
"Is everything okay?" he asked.
"I guess," Marta said. "There was just that one, but -- "
"That's okay," he said. "Remember, I told you to call."
He looked past her to where Lois sat on the sofa, her feet
propped up on a pillow. "You can go on upstairs, now.
I'll take over."
"Okay." Marta followed him into the living room and headed
for the stairs. Upstairs, Clark could hear a videogame
going full blast, accompanied by the bleeps and chirps of a
computer game, as well.
"How did it go?" Lois asked.
"Apparently someone set off a homemade bomb just past the
Lombardy station," Clark said. "Part of the roof came down
and the train plowed into it. Lots of people hurt, but no
one was killed."
"Well, you'd better write it up for the paper," Lois said.
"After that, you can pack for me. You need to take Maria
Clark nodded and went into the little den where they had
set up the new computer. It took him no more than a minute
to write up the story, including a short quote from
Superman, and he transmitted it to the Planet, but all the
time, most of his attention was centered on his wife and
the babies' heartbeats.
It was some half an hour later, when he was carefully
folding a pair of maternity jeans for Lois, that she
"Ow," she remarked. "That's the second one of those."
Clark had been listening. The slight change in blood flow
that marked a contraction was fully audible to his ears,
when he made a point of listening, and now, he lowered his
glasses and focussed in on his wife's abdomen. "Lois, that
was a contraction," he said.
"I know." She looked impatient. "I've been having them
all along. You know that."
"No, that was a *contraction*." He dropped the jeans and
reached for the phone. "I'm calling Dr. Klein."
"Clark, don't be silly. One of the babies probably was
poking me with a knee, or something."
"Even so, I don't think we should take the chance," he
said. "You know the chances of premature labor are higher
with triplets. We need to be sure. Dr. Klein said that if
it happened, they might be able to stop the labor if it
hasn't gone too far."
She opened her mouth instinctively to protest and shut it
again. Clark dialed the number for Dr. Klein's cell phone.
"You're about three centimeters dilated, Lois," Bernie
said. "I'm going to hook you up to a monitor. If it *is*
early labor, we should be able to stop it, at least for
now. The longer you can hang onto those babies, the
"I know that!" Anxiety was making Lois's voice sharper
than Dr. Klein thought she intended. "Let's get on with
Clark put a hand on her arm. "Bernie's doing his best,
honey," he said. "Try to relax, okay? It can't be doing
you or the babies any good to get upset."
Lois turned to glare at her husband, but to the scientist's
surprise, she closed her mouth and nodded. Clark slipped
his large hand around hers and squeezed it lightly. Dr.
Klein turned to the technician. "Let's get her set up."
"You'd better call Sandi," Lois said. "Tell her that we're
going to be awhile."
"I will. I'll call your mom and ask her to take over,"
Clark said. "Sandi's going to need to get home,
"There's a phone in the hall," Dr. Klein said, helpfully.
He watched Clark kiss his wife gently on the cheek and
stride to the door, and the thought flitted through his
mind that most people had a completely wrong idea of
Superman. People thought of him as awesomely powerful,
able to bend steel with his bare hands, bounce bullets from
his chest without a blink (although, Bernie had never seen
him do so. He caught them, instead, so the projectiles
didn't ricochet into an innocent bystander), and generally
the stern, unflinching hero in the face of adversity. In
reality, Superman was an incredibly gentle person, who
loved his family and would do anything to help the people
of his adopted world. If he hadn't been, he wouldn't have
willingly taken on the impossible task of being Superman,
subjecting himself and his family to the inevitable
difficulties and sometimes the downright pain that went
with the job.
The technician had disappeared into the next room and now
returned with a rolling cart loaded with equipment. Dr.
Klein stepped back to allow her to position the sensors on
Lois was looking frightened, although he was sure she would
deny it if asked. It was amazing to him that Lois Lane
could face down pathological killers, mad bombers and
deranged scientists without a second thought, but this
situation genuinely scared her. Well, naturally, it scared
her, he reminded himself. These were her babies, and
Clark's, that were at stake.
"If this *is* early labor, it hasn't gone far," he found
himself trying to reassure her. "I'm pretty sure we can
stop it before it goes much farther. Even another two
weeks will make a big difference, you know."
She nodded, and he saw that she was watching the door
through which her husband had disappeared. At that moment,
it opened and he stepped into the room. Watching his
patient, Bernie saw her relax slightly. Superman to the
rescue again, he thought, then firmly squelched the
whimsical thought as Clark crossed the room to take up his
place beside his wife.
"What's happening at home?" she asked.
He slipped his hand around hers again. "I got Sandi on the
phone and brought her up to date," he explained. "Jim
drove Maria home and brought pizza for the kids. Carolyn
picked Linda up about twenty minutes ago and Wyatt's
staying the night, like we arranged last week. I told
Sandi I was going to get hold of Ellen and ask her to take
over so that she and Jim could go home."
"What did Mom say?"
"Sam is going to drive her over. She said for me to tell
you not to worry. So did Sandi, so all you have to do now
is relax and let Bernie do his job."
"Just so long as I don't have her over here, driving me
crazy," Lois muttered. "It's not that I don't appreciate
her help, but I don't think I could take it, right now."
Bernie hid a smile. Ellen Lane might have been an
excellent nurse, but her bedside manner around her daughter
and son-in-law often left a good deal to be desired and he
was quite sure that her presence in these circumstances
would not benefit Lois. He'd met her at a number of social
events involving the Kent family. She reminded him
strongly of his late Aunt Gertrude who could take a
pleasant family gathering and turn it into a massive
migraine for every other person present. He was quite sure
that Ellen meant well, but her method of demonstrating
concern and affection for her daughters inevitably tended
to express itself in criticism, and usually made everyone
within hearing extremely uncomfortable.
"Don't worry, Lois," he found himself saying. "If anyone
shows up here wanting to see you, I've left orders that no
one is to be allowed in without my personal permission."
Marta Kent loaded the last dish into the dishwasher and
poured detergent into the receptacle. She glanced over her
shoulder to where her older brother was wiping the counter.
"You missed a spot," she announced, with sisterly smugness.
"Didn't," CJ said. "That's a tomato sauce stain." He
rinsed the sponge. "I'll have to use some bleach on it
like Mom does. Do you know where Dad keeps it?"
Normally, Marta would have been surprised at his attention
to such a small detail, but she and CJ had learned from
experience that, though their father might let them get
away with it, Aunt Sandi was worse than a drill sergeant
when it came to a clean kitchen. She didn't let you get
away with *anything*.
"The bleach is in the basement on the laundry shelf," she
said. She closed the door of the dishwasher and turned it
"You're supposed to run the hot water first," CJ said.
"Otherwise the dishes don't get clean."
Marta made a face. She hated it when her brother was right,
but if the dishes didn't get clean, Dad would make her do
them over. By hand. She shut off the dishwasher and
turned on the hot water.
A sudden rustling sound under the stove caught her
attention, and she saw CJ glance at it. "Another mouse,"
he said. "I hope Mom lets us get a cat, like she was
talking about the other day. I don't like mousetraps and
poisons and stuff."
Marta recalled the time at Grandma and Grandpa Kent's last
Thanksgiving, when Patches, their calico cat, had caught
the mouse. That hadn't been very nice. Still, having mice
running around in the house wasn't so great, either. The
options of catching them in traps or letting a cat do the
job didn't appeal to her, but they couldn't leave things
the way they were, or so Dad had said, especially after
he'd found his best charcoal suit with the sleeve chewed by
a mouse, last week. Why weren't there any better choices,
anyway? Couldn't Dad catch them and take them into the
country, or something? He was Superman, after all!
In the living room, the doorbell rang. CJ glanced in the
direction of the front door and she saw him narrow his
eyes. "It's Grandmother and Grandfather Lane."
He was using his x-ray vision, Marta thought, wistfully.
Oh well, Dad had said hers would come in soon, just like
The doorbell rang again. CJ glanced upward. "Uncle Jimmy's
rocking Perry in Mom and Dad's bedroom and Aunt Sandi is
getting Jonny and Jimmy ready for bed. I'll get it."
Wyatt poked his head into the kitchen. "Somebody's at the
"I'll get it," CJ said again. "Get the bleach, would you,
Marta? I'll fix the counter when I get back."
Marta wasn't sure about this. Didn't Dad use that cleanser
from the spray bottle? Still, maybe that had bleach in it,
too. She hunted around under the sink, but the spray
bottle failed to materialize. Well, bleach was probably
the next best choice. Marta opened the door to the
basement. The stairs were dark and she switched on the
light before descending the long flight of wooden steps.
The basement was definitely cooler than the rest of the
house. She wasn't exactly cold, but she noticed the
temperature difference. The sudden rustle of motion below
made her pause for an instant, and then she remembered the
mouse. Maybe getting a cat wasn't such a bad idea after
all, she thought. There sure seemed to be a lot of the
She had reached the shelf where Dad kept the laundry items
and was standing on her toes to reach the bleach, when she
noticed that the window that opened in the opposite wall,
just at ground level, was broken. That was the source of
the cool draft she was feeling. She'd better tell Dad when
he got home from the hospital with Mom.
She frowned a little. Mom would be okay, she told herself.
Dr. Klein was a good doctor and he'd never let anything
happen to Mom or the babies. Meanwhile, she and CJ needed
to finish the kitchen. Besides, she wanted to get out of
the basement. For some reason, tonight the place gave her
The bottle of bleach was just barely within reach and she
nudged it toward her with the tips of her fingers. It
reached the edge of the shelf and fell, and Marta caught
it. Turning toward the stairs, she found herself hoping
that when she grew up she would be tall. Being short had so
many disadvantages. Mom wasn't very tall, and she always
wore high heels at work and complained that they made her
feet hurt. Marta didn't want to wear shoes that hurt her
feet. On the other hand, maybe when she got to be
invulnerable, high heels wouldn't hurt and she wouldn't
care if they pinched her toes or not.
Toiling back up the stairs with the bleach in one hand, she
again heard the rustling below her and grimaced. That sure
sounded like more than one mouse down there. Maybe that
was where they had their nest or something. She hoped that
she could persuade Dad to try to catch them and fly them
out into the country, somewhere, instead of getting a bunch
of traps, or even a cat, although kittens were cute.
Pushing open the door at the top of the stairs, she
switched off the light and exited into the warmth of the
kitchen, closing the panel behind her.
"So, kids, what do you usually do at this time of night?"
Sam Lane asked.
Marta glanced at the clock. "It's eight o'clock," she
announced. "Jonny and Jimmy have to go to bed and CJ and
Wyatt and I get to watch Animal Comics. Mom and Dad let us
stay up until eight-thirty on weekends."
CJ nodded vigorously. "That's the rule. When we turn ten,
we get to stay up an extra half hour."
Sam considered the statement. "Sounds fair to me. Okay,
boys, upstairs and brush your teeth. I'll be up in a few
minutes to read you a story. What would you like?"
"Daddy's reading us 'The Wizard of Oz'," Jonny said.
"Okay, the Wizard it is," Sam agreed. He glanced at Marta.
"Does your dad read you and CJ any stories, Princess?"
Marta nodded. "Dad is reading CJ and me 'A Martian
Odyssey'," she said.
"'A Martian Odyssey'?" Sam said, raising his brows.
"Don't you want to read something more for girls?"
"*Girl* stories?" Marta said, in utter disdain. "Those are
"Oh." Sam was slightly taken aback. "Okay, I guess we'll
read about the Martians, then."
Ellen Lane raised an eyebrow. "You have to remember, Sam.
This is *Lois's* daughter you're talking to."
"Good point," Sam said, wisely refraining from making a
remark that Ellen would, he was sure, find insulting.
Marta might be female, but she took after Lois, and Lois
had never followed the crowd. When she had been a child,
he'd often found her more like a boy than a girl. She'd
idolized him when she had been little, he thought,
wistfully. He'd been foolish to ignore her just because of
her gender. It was too bad that it had taken so long for
him to figure that out, but here before him was another
tough little girl, his granddaughter, so like Lois as a
child that he sometimes imagined that she was her mother
all over again. He wouldn't make the mistakes he had made
with his own daughter a second time. "Why don't you and CJ
and Wyatt go watch your show while I read to Jonny and
Jimmy and then we'll read about the Martians."
"Just one Martian," Marta said. "His name is Tweel."
"Oh." Sam had no idea which story this was; he'd never
been particularly into science fiction as a teen.
"Grandma Kent gave us the book," CJ said. "It's part of
That made more sense, Sam thought. Martha Kent had wide
interests in just about everything. Sam had never met a
more curious or intelligent person than his son-in-law's
mother. Martha and Jonathan Kent were certainly the main
reason that Clark was the kind of man and husband that he
was. Sam didn't give an iota of credit to Ellen's often-
voiced suspicions that Clark's tendency to vanish at odd
moments meant that he was having an affair with another
woman. Sam knew the signs of an unfaithful husband from
personal experience and Clark didn't show a single one.
There was undoubtedly an explanation for the strange
behavior but that particular one wasn't it. His habit of
disappearing didn't seem to bother Lois in the least, and
that convinced Sam that she knew what was behind it. The
fact that she hadn't told Ellen what it was in order to end
the argument left him slightly curious, since Lois quite
obviously detested the subject when Ellen brought it up,
which she frequently did.
Marta, CJ and Wyatt headed up the stairs to the playroom
and the two, younger boys raced for the bathroom. Ellen
looked after them. "Clark's a good father. I only hope he
doesn't break Lois's heart. I can't help but wonder..."
"Ellen, Clark loves Lois, and he's crazy about his kids,"
Sam found himself saying. "The last thing on Earth he'd do
would be to hurt her or them."
"I can't help it," Ellen said, fretfully. "The way he
Sometimes, Sam thought she could read minds. "He's a
reporter, Ellen. Lois would know if it were anything more
than that. Our daughter isn't stupid."
Ellen shook her head. "She makes excuses for him," she
said. "I think she doesn't want to see it."
"He doesn't act like a cheating husband. I've never seen a
man more in love with any woman than Clark is with Lois,"
Sam said, repeating his earlier thoughts. "I think there's
another reason, and I think Lois knows exactly where he
goes and what he does."
"Then, why doesn't she tell me?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe she doesn't think it's
anyone's business. Maybe he's a secret agent or
something." Sam broke off the sentence, quickly. "Ellen,
they've been married for over eleven years. They have one
of the most solid marriages I've ever seen. Don't borrow
"He's no secret agent, Sam. I'm certain there's a woman
Sam barely suppressed an incredulous laugh. "Have you ever
seen him so much as look at another woman, Ellen?"
"No, but -- "
"Daddy isn't cheating on my mom," Marta's voice said from
above, sounding cross. "Daddy loves my mom. You shouldn't
say things like that, Grandma."
Sam glanced up, appalled. His granddaughter was standing
on the upstairs landing, and if her expression was any
guide, she was furious. She glared at Ellen. "I know why
my Daddy goes away, sometimes, and so does Mommy, and my
mommy says people shouldn't gossip, especially when they
don't know what they're talking about!" The little girl
turned and marched in the direction of her room. A second
later, Sam heard her door slam -- hard enough to shake the
Ellen looked just as horrified as he felt. "Oh, my god,
what have I done?" she whispered. She started toward the
Sam caught her wrist. "I don't think that's a good idea,
"I have to talk to her -- "
Sam let her go. "I don't think she's going to listen."
Ellen ignored him and hurried up the steps. Sam followed,
more slowly. Jonny and Jimmy were standing in the hall,
watching the scenario, wide-eyed, and from above he heard
the door of the playroom open. A moment later, CJ and
Wyatt were peering down, obviously drawn by the sound of
the slammed door. Sam closed his eyes for an instant.
This was rapidly spiraling out of control. He made one
more feeble attempt to stop his wife. "Ellen, I don't
Ellen knocked on Marta's door. "Marta --"
"Go away, Grandma," Marta said.
Ellen tried to turn the knob, but, not to Sam's surprise,
the door was locked. "Open the door, Marta."
"No!" Surprisingly, she didn't sound as if she were
crying, Sam thought. Instead, her voice sounded coldly
angry. "I don't want to talk to you! You don't know
anything about my daddy or you wouldn't say things like
that about him!"
"Then, why don't you tell me?"
"Because it's none of your business!" the curt, childish
voice informed her grandmother, through the door. "Go
In spite of the seriousness of the situation, Sam had to
hide a smile. Nobody would have had the nerve to tell off
his wife but his granddaughter. Marta Kent had all the
fire and courage of her mother and the bluntness of a
child. The combination was impressive.
Ellen looked helplessly at him. "What should I do?"
"I think you'd better let her alone," Sam said. "You'll
have to tell Clark or Lois about it, though. Maybe one of
them can smooth it over."
"Sam, I can't!" A trace of panic crossed his wife's face.
"Marta certainly will if you don't," Sam pointed out the
obvious. "You know that, don't you?"
"Sam, I can't tell Clark that I --"
"Don't you think that he already knows what you've said
about him?" Sam said, copying Marta's bluntness. "Lois
has probably told him, anyway."
"If you're wrong, and I think you are, she's told him," Sam
said. "It won't be a surprise. I think it can wait,
though. They don't need any more crises right now."
"Dad knows all about it," CJ's voice said from above. His
voice was completely flat and his face was unreadable.
"And he's not cheating on Mom. Marta's right, though."
"People shouldn't gossip about things they don't know
anything about." CJ turned and went into the playroom,
followed by Wyatt. Sam stared after him. CJ was normally
a quiet, extremely polite child. He must be pretty angry
to say something like that.
Ellen buried her face in her hands and Sam heaved a sigh of
despair. Even he had underestimated the reaction of the
older Kent children. This wasn't going to be pretty. He
put a hand on his wife's arm. "Come on, Ellen. I think
the best thing you can do right now is to leave it alone.
Let's go back downstairs."
Uncharacteristically chastened, Ellen nodded.
"Are you going to read to us, Grandfather Sam?" Jonny
"Sure, sport," Sam said. "Go get into your pjs and I'll be
It was only after he'd gone downstairs again and into the
kitchen to get a cup of coffee to quiet his jangled nerves
that the question occurred to him.
How had CJ known the subject of the conversation that made
his sister so angry? He'd been in the playroom until the
slammed door had brought him out. The boy must have
hearing as good as Superman's to have heard them speaking.
The thought startled him, and he hurriedly dismissed it.
CJ was a smart kid, and had undoubtedly put two and two
together from the situation and the conversation between
Ellen and himself in the upper hall.
Only, how had he known what Marta had said, inside her
room? Her voice had been audible to Sam, but just barely,
and he'd been standing right outside her door. Was it
After a moment, he shook his head. CJ was a relative of
Clark's, adopted by Lois and Clark when his teenage mother
couldn't keep him. He even looked like Clark. Besides,
Superman was an extraterrestrial, no matter how human he
appeared. It wasn't possible. Still ... Sam decided that
this was a theory that he had best not mention to Ellen, or
"You're having contractions," Bernie said.
Lois gripped Clark's hand. "What can we do?"
"We're going to administer drugs to stop your labor,"
Bernie said. "It hasn't gone beyond the point of no
return, yet. This is going to mean you have to change your
lifestyle for the rest of your pregnancy, though."
Clark saw his wife clench her jaw. "What do I have to do?"
Bernie glanced at him and then looked back at his patient.
"You're going to have to stay in bed. Flat. And if that
doesn't work, we'll have to elevate your hips. We need to
keep those babies where they are as long as possible."
There was a long silence. "Okay," Lois said. "Let's get
on with it."
Only Clark knew how tightly her hand was grasping his. As
the medical personnel moved around, rigging an intravenous
setup, the sound of a radio in the other room reporting a
pileup on the parkway made him tense slightly, but he
gritted his teeth. This time, the emergency services were
going to have to do without Superman. It was more
important that he be here with the most important person in
his life, while she was undergoing the most stressful
situation that she had ever endured, than that he go out to
"What is it?" she asked.
"Clark." She fixed him with a stare that told him that she
wasn't going to accept that. "*What* is it?"
He bent until his lips were less than an inch from her ear.
"Accident on the freeway."
She squeezed his hand and released it. "Go."
"Go!" she said. "The quicker you go, the quicker you'll
Still, he hesitated. She glared at him. "Move it, Clark!"
Unwillingly, he smiled. "Aye aye, ma'am. I'll be back as
fast as I can."
Bernard Klein put a hand on Lois's shoulder. "I'll be here
with her, Clark. Go."
Still reluctant but obedient, he turned and hurried out the
The accident was between a van, carrying a group of
teenagers, and a pickup truck with a middle-aged couple
trapped in the cab. The paramedics were coming but still
several minutes away; he saw their flashing lights below as
he passed overhead on his way to the scene and an instant
later, swooped in for a landing.
Swiftly, he ripped the door from the pickup and freed the
passengers with the care that he had learned over the
fifteen years that Superman had been handling situations
like this. The gas tank was leaking, and it was of
paramount importance that he get everyone away from the
truck as fast as he could.
Leaving the couple under the care of a motorcycle cop, he
hurried to the van. Even while working on the pickup
truck, he had been aware of the scent of alcohol issuing
from the vehicle. Two members of the Highway Patrol had
managed to force a side door halfway open when he arrived
and willingly backed away to let Superman complete the job.
While they carefully pulled the shaken teens free of the
wreck, he worked quickly to stem the bleeding of the girl
who had been in the front passenger seat.
Amazingly enough, all the participants had been wearing
seat belts and the girl was the most badly injured of the
four. He applied pressure to the severed artery in her
leg, while reassuring her that the paramedics would be
there momentarily. Sure enough, the white truck with its
flashing blue lights pulled up less than five minutes later
and he was able to surrender his post to one of the medics.
He turned to one of the police. "Do you need me anymore?
I was in the middle of another situation when I heard the
The man shook his head. "No, I think we can manage.
Thanks for the help, Superman."
"You're welcome." He launched himself into the air and
headed back toward the hospital.
Halfway there, he decided to make a short detour. The
escape of Kyle Griffin from Stryker's Island had not
escaped his memory, nor had the fact that the man had a
special hatred for Lois, whom he blamed for his
incarceration. He wouldn't put it past Griffin to track
down her current home and start planning some method of
revenge on her. Neither had he forgotten the fact that
Griffin and Victor must have had some outside help in their
escape. Whoever that person was, he or she could have all
the information the Prankster needed in order to gain his
revenge on the reporter he blamed for his misfortune. That
he might not be planning any such revenge didn't rate more
than an instant's consideration. Unless the man had
changed drastically, he would be after Lois.
Hovering over the townhouse, he tuned his hearing to the
sounds within the building.
"Have you ever seen him so much as look at another woman,
Ellen?" Sam Lane's voice sounded skeptical.
"No, but --" That was Ellen.
"Daddy isn't cheating on my mom." He heard his daughter's
voice and, if he was any judge, she sounded mad. "Daddy
loves my mom. You shouldn't say things like that,
Ellen's often-expressed suspicion of his disappearances was
apparently the subject of the discussion, Clark thought.
Only, this time, Marta's new super-hearing had picked up
her grandmother's remarks. Clark hung in the air,
listening to the subsequent uproar, wincing occasionally.
When the argument had run its course, he rolled his eyes.
Life in the Kent household was lively tonight, and Ellen
would certainly have food for thought for a time. He didn't
have much hope that Marta and CJ's defense of him would
have much of an impact but he was proud of his children.
He'd have to speak with them about the subject tomorrow,
but right now, he needed to get back to Lois.
Quickly, he scanned the neighborhood. Everything seemed
quiet, or at least normal. The Grandon children were
fighting over the possession of the TV remote again and he
could hear the mutual insults of a pair of tomcats squaring
off in the alley that ran behind the townhouse. Halfway
down the block, a white van with an enormous cartoon
termite, its six legs in the air, painted on the side, was
parked against the curb. Large, black letters identified
it as belonging to "Killzem Termite Control". Nothing
seemed out of the way. Reassured, he turned in the air and
headed back toward the hospital.
Sam Lane descended the stairs, still holding the book that
he had just finished reading to CJ, Marta and Wyatt. Ellen
was moving around in the kitchen, probably making more
coffee. He shook his head. In a way, the upset between
Ellen and the children was partly his fault. He'd given his
wife reason to suspect men of unfaithfulness by his own
extramarital affairs in their own married life, years ago.
He'd learned the hard way and so had Ellen. Unfortunately,
she had carried that mistrust on to her daughters'
marriages to the point where the slightest doubt translated
into instant suspicion. Lucy's husband, Jay, openly
avoided her. Clark didn't, but sometimes Sam could see
Lois gritting her teeth when her mother brought up the
subject of Clark's frequent absences.
There was a family portrait on the wall by the foot of the
stairs and he studied it for several moments. It had been
done a couple of years before. CJ was about nine, Marta
eight, Jonny about four and Jimmy was a baby, sitting on
Lois's lap. Clark stood behind his family, one hand on
Lois's shoulder. CJ, seated beside his mother, grinned his
father's grin at the camera.
Sam leaned forward. CJ looked remarkably like Clark and
like his younger siblings. All of them had their father's
slightly Asian eyes. Otherwise, Marta looked a good deal
like Lois, but the stern expression she wore as she stared
solemnly at the camera, reminded him of someone else.
Sam squinted at the picture of his granddaughter, trying to
place the occasion, but couldn't quite pin it down.
He turned his attention to Jonny. The little boy's eyes
were exactly the same as those of both Marta and CJ, and if
Sam hadn't known how impossible it was, he'd have sworn
that Jonny was CJ's biological brother as well as his
adoptive one. The chubby, baby face had his father's
determined chin and the same brilliant, white-toothed
Sam blinked suddenly. He'd seen that smile on someone else
recently on the front page of the Daily Planet. It
couldn't possibly be what he was thinking. Lois's crush on
Superman had faded years ago, although the Man of Steel
remained a friend of the Kent family -- but there had been
that picture on the front page of the Dirt Digger, the
first year Lois and Clark had been married -- that shocking
scandal about Superman and Lois...
But, that had been revealed as a smear campaign, he
reassured himself. Lois and Superman had denied it and Jim
Olsen had produced proof of the fraudulent photograph...
But, CJ and Jonny could have been miniature versions of the
Man of Steel. And Marta, looking sternly into the camera,
could have been his sister. Or his daughter.
But, he'd already gone over that. Superman was an extra-
terrestrial. The possibility of his being able to produce
children with an Earthwoman wasn't even worth considering.
But his gaze strayed back to CJ again. That white,
dazzling grin was Superman's.
But, it was Clark's, too. Sam reached into the pocket of
his jacket and removed his reading glasses. Slipping them
on, he began to study his son-in-law's photograph with a
growing sense of discovery. Perhaps, he thought, Lois's
infatuation with Superman hadn't exactly faded, after all.
If what he thought was true, then he had the explanation
for Clark's sudden disappearances right in front of him.
"What are you doing, Sam?" Ellen's voice said, behind him.
He barely concealed his start. "Ellen, don't sneak up on
me like that!" He turned around, removing the glasses. "I
was just noticing how much CJ looks like Clark. There's a
strong family resemblance."
"I wouldn't be surprised if he *is* Clark's," Ellen said,
darkly. "I never really believed that story about a
teenage cousin ... "
"Ellen, don't start that again." Sam wasn't about to let
this conversation go any further. "You're already in the
kids' bad graces for even suggesting something like that
about their dad, and I don't believe it for a second.
Clark doesn't show any of the signs of a man having an
affair. Believe me, I know from experience." He fixed his
wife with a stern stare. "I learned my lesson, sweetheart.
I made life hell for you and for the girls, and I'll never
be able to forgive myself for it -- but don't transfer it
to Clark. All you do is annoy Lois and upset the kids.
There's some other reason he takes off the way he does.
Lois knows what it is, and if she wants us to know, she'll
tell us. I'd be the last man alive to defend a man who was
cheating on my daughter, but I'm as sure as I can be that
it isn't another woman. In the first place, Lois would
never put up with it if it was, and I think you know it."
Ellen stared at him, seeming shocked at his vehemence. He
pressed his advantage. "If you want Lois and her family to
be eager to see you instead of just putting up with you,
drop it. As Marta so eloquently put it, it isn't any of
"But -- "
"Ellen, do you want to keep Lois as your friend as well as
your daughter? Do you want your grandchildren to like
"Of course I do! But --"
"Then let her handle her own life and leave her husband
alone. I've kept quiet about this long enough. Clark is
Lois's choice, not yours. From what I've seen, in his eyes
the sun rises and sets with her." Sam met her eyes
steadily, trying to get across to her his utter
seriousness. "Take it from me, she doesn't appreciate your
attempts to meddle. From what the kids said, you're not
operating with all the facts. You already made one mistake
this evening. Don't make it worse."
Ellen seemed to be struck speechless for several seconds.
She opened and closed her mouth several times but no words
came out. Then she seemed to wilt. Her eyes filled with
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "Have I really been that
Sam put an arm around her. "Ellen, I know you love Lois,
and so does she. So does Clark, which is why I think he
doesn't make a fuss about the subject. But there are
limits to everything. You don't want Lois to start
avoiding you because you can't let something go, do you?
She and Clark are in the middle of a crisis. They don't
need more stress, right now."
Uncharacteristically subdued, Ellen nodded. "You're right.
They don't." She glanced up the stairs. "Do you think I
should apologize to Marta and CJ?"
"I don't think it would hurt. I think it can wait until
She glanced up the stairs and he followed her gaze, but no
one stood there, listening. Sam allowed himself a small
measure of satisfaction. Maybe he had gotten through to
her, although habit would probably bring her back to the
subject eventually. He didn't enjoy Lois's obvious
unhappiness when Ellen brought up the question of Clark's
disappearances. He'd done more damage to his family in his
younger days than he could ever make up for, but at least
he could try to help Lois and Clark out, now.
"Can you hear anything?" Lois asked, for the hundredth
time. She shifted slightly in the bed, careful not to move
the arm where an intravenous cutdown delivered medication
in a steady metered dosage into her veins. "How is it
Clark squeezed her hand. "Lois, you ought to be able to
tell. Have you had any more contractions in the last
couple of hours?"
"No. But I still want to know what they're saying. Come
on, give!" The forceful sentence was delivered through a
yawn. Even in a personal crisis, drowsy from the
medication she was receiving, the famous Lane curiosity was
in full gear, Clark thought. Or maybe *because* it was a
personal crisis. He lowered his glasses and glanced
through the wall at the monitoring station.
Bernie Klein was just walking in. The scientist bent
slightly to study the monitor. "How is it going?"
The technician glanced sideways. "The contractions seem to
be stopping, sir. The last one was nearly three hours ago,
at twelve-twenty-six, and it wasn't much of one as
"Let me see it."
The woman did something to the controls. Bernie leaned
forward again. "Hmm. Good. If it goes on like this, in
couple more hours, we can reduce the dosage and see what
Clark pushed his glasses into place. "So far, so good.
They're going to give you a little more time and then lower
the amount of the medicine you're getting."
"Good," Lois said. There was a slight slur to her words
that he had noticed ever since they had started giving her
the drug. "This stuff may be a new wonder drug for
stopping contractions, but it makes me feel weird. Did you
know you look funny, all out of focus?"
"I imagine I would," he agreed, smiling. "Honey, why don't
you try to sleep? I think the situation is under control
She nodded, letting her eyelids flutter closed. Clark
squeezed her hand slightly. The knot in his gut that had
been sitting there like a lump of lead for the last several
hours had begun to unwind. It might be a bit early to
relax completely, but it was beginning to look as if Bernie
Klein had pulled off another small miracle.
A soft knock on the door alerted him to the presence of
Bernard Klein, himself, who opened the door quietly and
slipped inside. "Hi, Clark."
"Is she asleep?" The scientist nodded toward Lois.
Lois opened one eye a crack. "Almost."
"I thought you'd like to know, the medication seems to be
working. We're going to keep the dose at this level for a
couple more hours and then start lowering it slightly. If
we can take you completely off of it, we will. If not,
we'll maintain it at the lowest dose we can for as long as
"I don't suppose I'll be able to get out of bed, though,"
Lois said, sounding grumpy.
The scientist shook his head. "I'm afraid not. We might
allow short trips to the bathroom, depending on how things
go. It would be better if Clark could carry you there,
Lois harrumphed and fell silent.
Clark turned his head. The radio broadcast, turned on low
at the monitoring station, had been interrupted with a
Bernie Klein had noticed. "Emergency, Clark?"
He nodded. "There's been an earthquake. A 6.2 quake in
the Los Angeles area."
"Go," Lois said, at once. "I'll be okay, Clark. I'm going
to go to sleep, anyway."
Bernard Klein gave a half-smile. "I'll keep an eye on her,
Marta Kent awoke suddenly and completely.
A glance at her bedside alarm clock told her it was close
to three in the morning and the house should be completely
silent, but there was someone moving around out there.
From somewhere downstairs, she heard the scuff of a shoe
and a faint thump as something fell to the rug.
Marta frowned. Quietly, she slipped out of bed, not
bothering with her bedroom slippers and tiptoed to the
door. As she did so, muffled footsteps started up the
stairs. Marta froze by the door, listening. If it was
Grandmother Ellen, she didn't want to speak to her. The
reason for her earlier anger with Ellen returned full
force. How could her grandmother even think that Daddy
would ever cheat on Mom? Marta was a little unclear on the
details involved in one person "cheating" on another, but
she knew that sex was part of it, and that it somehow
involved one or the other parent and another person that
wasn't married to either one of them. Even the idea that
Dad would want to be with somebody besides her mother was
upsetting. Her father wouldn't do such a thing, and it
made Marta furious to think that Grandmother Ellen would
say things like that about him.
The footsteps reached the landing and came toward her door.
Marta tried to breathe quietly, straining her ears and the
beginnings of her super hearing.
"The master bedroom is the one at the end," a male voice
said, in barely more than a whisper. "From what I could
see from the street, this one belongs to the girl."
Burglars? Marta ran a hand over the lock on her door. It
was still locked. She'd fastened it after Grandfather Sam
had finished reading to them last night. Somehow, though,
she had to alert the others in the house.
The doorknob jiggled under her hand. Someone was trying to
open her door.
Marta held her breath.
"Locked," the voice whispered. "Can you get it open?"
"What are you going to do?" another male voice asked.
"Kidnapping is a federal offense!"
"Do you think that matters? I've been in prison for
thirteen years. Lois Lane is going to pay for it."
Again the doorknob jiggled. Marta drew in her breath. If
she screamed, that would probably wake up everyone in the
But the only grown-ups here were Grandfather Sam and
Grandmother Ellen, and Grandfather Sam was nearly seventy
years old. If there was a bad man out there, as there
seemed to be, he might hurt them. Besides, what if he had
Quickly and quietly, Marta crossed the room to her window
and pushed it upward. They had practiced fire drills often
enough. She was supposed to open the window and yell for
The street below her room was empty, except for a white van
with some kind of dead bug on the side parked right across
There were sounds out in the hall, now, and for a moment,
she wondered why nobody else in the house was hearing them.
Then she remembered that what was loud and clear to her
wasn't loud for ordinary people. CJ was the only other
person in the house who might be able to hear the noises,
and his room was farther down the hall. Besides, he was
probably sound asleep.
Marta pushed out on the screen as hard as she could. It was
a cloth screen, not one of the more solid metal ones. It
ripped easily across and she tore it sideways. Below her,
a ledge ran around the building. Marta glanced over her
shoulder at the door. There was a scratching sound and
another slight rattle of the knob. Without hesitation, she
slithered backwards through the window, her bare feet
searching for the ledge.
From her door, she heard a click, just as her toes touched
the ledge. Quickly, she turned, grasping the windowsill
and placed her back to the wall, then moved carefully
sideways, pulling the window almost closed. Behind her,
she heard the door open and footsteps entered her bedroom.
This wasn't a good idea, she thought. If anyone looked
out, they'd see her on the ledge and she'd be stuck, but
there was no going back, now. Hugging the wall, she slid
sideways. The ledge was maybe a foot wide. If she made
herself small and very flat against the wall, she'd be all
Footsteps crossed the rug. Silence for an instant, and
then the first voice spoke again. "She's gone!"
Marta edged to the right, an inch at a time. She needed to
get out of reach of anyone standing at the window. For an
instant, she made the mistake of looking down and wrenched
her eyes up. She was only maybe twenty feet above the
sidewalk, but that was high enough. If she slipped, she
was bound to break something at the very least.
"Wait a minute." The voice in her room spoke suddenly, and
the footsteps approached the window. Marta scooted a little
farther to the right, pressed back against the wall. The
storm drain ran down the wall just a few feet beyond her
The window scraped up. Marta slid sideways again. Her
bare foot came down on something sharp and she winced
involuntarily. She definitely wasn't invulnerable, yet.
It didn't hurt much, at least not exactly, but it wasn't
A head was thrust through the window. Marta risked another
step sideways, nearly overbalancing, and grasped the storm
drain with her right hand.
"Well, hello there." The dark-haired man was looking
directly at her, smiling. It might be dark out here, but
the reflection of the streetlights gave him enough light to
see her, even if the moon wasn't up anymore.
Marta gripped the storm drain and glared back at him,
daring him to come after her. *CJ* she thought. *Come on,
wake up! You're Super, too! Can't you hear all this
The dark-haired man reached his arm out the window and
Marta saw the handgun he held.
"Not a sound, sweetheart," he said. "Come on back."
Marta only half heard him. If she came back, he was going
to kidnap her to hurt her mom. Dad and Mom had warned her
about people like this and told her to do everything she
could to keep such people from getting their hands on her.
Mom had told her one time that if a kidnapper tried to make
her get into his car by waving a gun at her, that the
smartest thing she could do was to run and scream her head
off. It was hard to hit a moving target with a handgun,
Mom had said. Her chances were better that way than going
along with a kidnapper, unless there was no other choice.
Well, this wasn't exactly a car, but Marta was smart enough
to realize that the difference didn't matter. She had to
get away and find help before this person, whoever he was,
hurt her family.
Before she could stop to consider the distance to the
sidewalk, she pushed away from the ledge. Grasping the
drainpipe, she fell toward the ground, twenty feet below.
Wyatt Dillon came awake with a start, certain that he had
heard Marta's voice. The room was quiet, except for CJ's
breathing. He was still orienting himself, when his friend
stirred and pushed himself up on an elbow. "Marta?" he
Maybe he hadn't been dreaming after all, Wyatt thought.
Maybe CJ's super hearing had picked up her voice. He got
out of bed. Marta had sounded scared. She'd probably just
had a bad dream, he rationalized, but underneath, he didn't
believe it. Something wasn't right, he thought, although
he couldn't have said what made him think so.
He made his way to the door, stepping over the pile of his
clothing that he'd left on the floor last night. Just
about to open the door, CJ's whisper stopped him.
"Don't go out there, Wyatt! Somebody's in the hall!"
Maybe he and CJ hadn't been the only ones to hear Marta
yell, he thought, reaching for the knob, when CJ's hand
caught his wrist. "Burglars!" he whispered.
"But Marta's in trouble," Wyatt said, before he even
considered why he was so certain of the fact.
"I know," CJ said. "But getting ourselves hurt isn't gonna
help her." He reached past Wyatt, locking the door. "Come
CJ didn't answer. Instead, he crossed to the window and
slid it open. As he did so, the sound of an explosion
nearly made Wyatt jump out of his skin. For an instant, he
thought it was a car backfiring.
"Somebody's shooting!" CJ said. Belatedly, he reached
back, grabbed the jeans that lay across the foot of his bed
and yanked them on over his pajamas.
The doorknob rattled.
"This one's locked, too!" somebody whispered.
"Forget it! I want that girl!" The other voice was
slightly louder than the first one. "Come on!"
Footsteps retreated down the hall. CJ waited several
seconds and unlocked the door. "Wyatt, call my
Grandfather! I'm going to find Marta!"
Grasping the drainpipe, Marta fell toward the ground,
twenty feet below.
The drainpipe bent under her weight and slowed her plummet
toward the street. Halfway down, the mistreated metal
broke and she fell the last few feet to land with a
bruising thump on the pavement. At the same instant from
above, came the report of the pistol. She saw dirt spray up
from the street a good six feet away. With the agility she
had learned in her Tae Kwan Do class, she rolled to her
feet and ran.
Except for the parked vehicles, the street was empty. Not
far away, she heard the yapping of Mr. Parker's beagle and
the howling of the Siberian Husky in the Rowling household
but there was, naturally, no one to be seen. Where the
heck was the cop car that went by the townhouse at night?
Marta ran to the door of the Grandon house and hammered on
the door. "Help! Help me!"
The light came on in the upper window and a sleepy voice
called out, "Who's there?"
"Marta Kent! Help me!"
"Go home, Marta," Mrs. Grandon's voice called, sounding
annoyed. "It's after four!"
"Help!" Marta screamed. "Somebody's trying to kidnap me!"
"Go *home*, Marta," Mrs. Grandon's voice said again. "I'm
going to call your parents!"
No wonder the Grandon kids acted the way they did, Marta
reflected, if Mrs. Grandon didn't pay any more attention to
her own kids than she did to Marta. She glanced over her
shoulder as the front door of her home opened and two men
charged out. She jumped from the steps and ran as hard as
she could down the block, looking for a place to hide.
Behind her, she could hear the motor of the van start up
and the squeal of tires as the vehicle peeled away from the
But, maybe Mrs. Grandon had a point. Dad was Superman.
Maybe if she yelled for help, he'd hear her. She sucked in
Sam Lane jolted awake at the pounding on the bedroom door.
"Dr. Lane!" Wyatt Dillon's frantic voice came faintly
through the panel. "Dr. Lane, please wake up!"
The boy sounded thoroughly scared. Sam threw back the
covers and dropped his feet to the floor. "Just a minute!"
Ellen stirred, pushing herself to a sitting position.
"What's the matter?"
"I don't know." Sam grabbed his robe and hurried to the
door, tying the sash. He flung it open, to see Wyatt, his
eyes the size of saucers, waiting for him. "What's wrong,
"Marta's in trouble!" Wyatt looked in the direction of the
stairs, pointing. "There were burglars!" The door to
Marta's room was open, Sam saw, and her room light was
blazing. As he followed Wyatt's glance, CJ emerged from
his sister's room.
"She's gone!" he announced. "Her window's open and the
screen's ripped. The drainpipe is all bent, too."
"What's going on?" Ellen asked. She craned her head to see
over Sam's shoulder.
"We heard Marta yell," CJ said. "Right after that, I heard
somebody in the hall -- men's voices -- and then, somebody
was shooting, outside!"
Sam glanced quickly at his wife. "Ellen, call the police,"
he directed. "I'm going to find Marta."
Ellen wasn't Lois Lane's mother for nothing. Instead of
panicking, as some might have done, she nodded briskly and
went to the phone. Sam pushed his feet into his shoes
without bothering to tie the laces and hurried to the
stairs. Wyatt and CJ had vanished and he heard the front
door slam. "CJ!" he shouted.
Behind him, the door to Jonny and Jimmy's room opened and
Jonny stuck his head out . "What's going on?"
Sam felt the urge to tear at his hair -- if he'd had any
left. "Kids, go back into your room and get in bed."
"But what's *happening*?" Jimmy asked, trying to see past
his older brother.
"We had a burglar. Go back to bed, now. Everything's all
"A *burglar*! Did you call the cops?"
"Yes, Jonny, your grandmother called the police."
"Did he steal anything?" Jonny inquired.
"We don't know, yet. CJ and Wyatt scared him off."
Jimmy crowded past his brother. "Did he steal our TV?"
"I don't know, Jimmy. Go back to bed!"
Ellen stepped into the hall. She fixed the two youngsters
with an intimidating glare. "If you two don't get back in
your beds *right now*, I'm going to call your mother!" she
said. "Your grandfather and I are going to check and be
sure everything's all right!" She planted her fists on her
hips and eyed the pair of them sternly. "Do I have to tell
your mom you don't listen to your Grandfather Sam?"
Jonny shook his head vigorously and retreated into his
room. Jimmy pouted. "I want to see if he took our TV!"
"If he took the TV, I'll let you know!" Ellen countered.
Reluctantly, Jimmy followed his older brother. As soon as
the door closed behind them, Ellen turned to Sam. "I got
the police. They're sending a squad car. Where are the
boys and Marta?"
"I don't know. CJ and Wyatt went downstairs and I heard
the door slam. I think they may have gone after Marta."
"What's Marta doing out there?"
"I don't know, but CJ said she wasn't in her room and the
window was open." Sam yanked on the tie of his robe to
tighten it. "I'm going after them. Can you handle things
"Sam, be careful. Something's very strange, here."
"When *aren't* things strange when it comes to Lois and
Clark?" Sam asked. He bent to tie his shoes. "Let me get
CJ's baseball bat," he said. "If I run into the burglar,
at least I won't be unarmed."
As CJ and Wyatt opened the door, Wyatt heard the roar of an
engine and a white van pulled away from the curb. Far up
the street, he could see a small, dark-haired figure
running down the sidewalk, as she passed under the pool of
light cast by a street lamp.
He let the door slam shut. "There she is!"
"Where?" CJ demanded.
"There!" Wyatt bolted down the steps, nearly stumbling,
and took off after her. He had no doubt at all in his mind
that the running figure he had seen was Marta. Ahead of
him, the van accelerated after her and, somewhat belatedly,
Wyatt saw the connection. The van was the only moving
vehicle on the whole block. What if the burglars had come
in it? That guy in the hall, whoever he was, had said he
wanted "that girl". These guys were trying to kidnap
CJ passed him as if he was standing still, but Wyatt kept
running. His friend might be a super boy, but even CJ
couldn't handle a couple of grown men all by himself! He'd
heard Sam Lane tell Ellen to call the police, so all he and
CJ had to do was stall things long enough for the cops to
The big van swerved into the alley halfway down the block,
and a second later Wyatt saw CJ turn down it as well.
Marta must have gone that way, he thought. It was almost
as if he could hear her running footsteps ahead of him.
Ahead, a pair of red taillights showed him that the vehicle
was moving slowly, probably because of the narrowness of
the alley. On both sides, the walls of the old townhouses
crowded in, leaving barely enough room on either side for
the van to pass. Once, he distinctly heard the scrape of
metal on stone when the driver must have misjudged his
Suddenly, the motor cut off and a moment later, he heard a
mumble of voices. There were two men ahead of him, he
thought. He couldn't hear CJ's footsteps, or Marta's, now,
but he knew she was up there. A voice spoke a cussword,
and silhouetted against the dim, red light given out by the
taillights, he could see CJ moving slowly forward as silent
as a ghost. The body of the van blocked most of the
illumination from the headlights, but he could see enough
to realize that the men were having trouble opening the
doors wide enough to squeeze out.
"Don't move, sweetie." He heard the voice that had been
swearing a moment ago. "I'd hate to have to shoot you."
"Get away from me!" Marta sounded angry as much as scared.
"No, I don't think so." The voice seemed amused. "You
look just like your mother, did you know that?"
Marta used a four-letter word and Wyatt found himself
"Your mother put me in prison," the voice continued. "I've
been there for thirteen years. Now it's my turn. This is
going to be the best prank of my career -- to make Lois
Lane pay for what she put me through."
"If my mom put you in jail, then you deserved it," Marta's
voice said. "And she'll put you back."
CJ was pressed up against the van as Wyatt arrived. He
patted the white, metal door and then put a finger to his
lips. Wyatt nodded. Slowly, CJ peeked around the side of
the van, and Wyatt stood on tiptoe, trying to see through
the rear window. His eyes barely came to the bottom of the
glass and a pair of curtains was pulled almost closed, but
perhaps half an inch of space remained between them.
Peeking through the gap with one eye, Wyatt could see a
slender, dark-haired man with a streak of silver over each
ear standing perhaps five feet from Marta, and in his hand
was a pistol. A wooden fence blocked the alley, and
against it several trash cans and half a dozen garbage bags
were stacked. To her right, a pudgy, balding man fidgeted
The dark-haired man waved the weapon. "Come on, sweetie.
Get in the van."
Marta shook her head. "Come and get me."
Wyatt bit his lip. He and CJ needed to do something! They
couldn't let this guy grab Marta! But, he had a gun!
Wyatt wasn't sure what he was going to do but he knew he
wasn't going to let that guy take Marta without a fight.
He almost jumped when CJ touched his arm. His friend
beckoned silently and Wyatt saw that he was holding a piece
of broken concrete about half the size of a baseball in one
hand. He put his lips barely an inch from Wyatt's ear.
"Follow me. Get in the van and take the keys. They're
still in the ignition. Then he won't be able to drive
The impulse to ask how CJ knew was never acted on. He
must, Wyatt realized, have looked with his x-ray vision.
He found himself nodding, and an instant later he slipped
around the edge of the van after CJ.
Sam Lane shoved open the door of the Kent townhouse. Far
down the street, he saw a single, small figure running
barefooted through the puddle of light cast by a
streetlight. Judging by the build, that might be Wyatt, and
he was obviously in a big hurry. Sam took a tighter grip
on the baseball bat and descended the steps to the street.
Trying to hurry, he strode after the running figure.
CJ crept forward, Wyatt on his heels. Their smaller bodies
allowed them to slide more easily between the van and the
wall of the neighboring building than the adults. CJ
stopped at the door of the van and Wyatt saw that it hadn't
latched when it had swung closed. CJ eased it open and as
soon as it was wide enough, Wyatt squeezed through the
opening and scrambled into the cab.
The key was in the ignition. Wyatt pulled it out and
stuffed it into his pocket. Glancing at the passenger
door, he saw that it was unlocked and quickly shoved the
button down. Quietly, he pushed down the locking button of
the driver's door as well and slid out of the cab.
CJ had slipped past the door and was crouched down by the
front wheel. Marta had backed up until the big garbage
cans were just behind her, and for an instant, in spite of
the headlights of the van, she looked directly at Wyatt,
then her eyes moved away to focus on her pursuers. The two
men who faced her seemed somehow baffled. The chubby man
fidgeted, looking as if he wished he were anywhere but
here. The man with the gun had his back directly to Wyatt
and CJ, and it was a little harder to tell what he was
He moved a couple of steps closer to Marta. "Come on,
kid." The humor in his voice seemed more forced. "You
don't want me to have to shoot you."
"I'm not coming." Marta said. In the headlights, she
looked scared but determined. "You're going to kill me,
"You're as irritating as your mother." The man took a step
forward. "Come on."
Wyatt eased the door of the van very gently shut and
pressed in the latch button until he felt it catch. Both
doors of the big vehicle were now locked, and he held the
The chubby man had begun to back slowly toward the van. It
was at that instant that CJ stood up and hurled his chunk
of concrete straight at the back of the man in front of
There was a reason, Wyatt knew, that his friend was one of
the best starting pitchers on the Metropolis Eagles, the
local Little League team. Very few batters from opposing
teams liked to go up against CJ Kent, even before his super
powers had started to come in and Wyatt knew why, as he was
often the catcher. On more than one occasion, he had
walked away from a game with his glove-hand stinging from
multiple fast balls thrown by CJ.
The missile struck squarely between the man's shoulder
blades with a thunk that made Wyatt wince in involuntary
sympathy. At the same instant, Marta dropped to the
ground. Placing her hands on the dirty asphalt, she swept
out with one foot in a fluid motion that took the would-be
kidnapper's feet neatly out from under him. He hit the
ground with a bruising thump and a solid "crack" as the
back of his head struck the pavement. The handgun went
flying. It landed almost at CJ's feet and, with the
presence of mind that Wyatt most admired in his friend, CJ
instantly kicked it under the van.
The chubby, balding man had squeezed to the passenger door
of the van and was now tugging uselessly at the handle.
After several fruitless seconds, he gave up and inched his
way toward the rear of the van.
But CJ was moving forward to the spot where the dark-haired
man was sprawled awkwardly on the pavement. Wyatt
"Come on, Marta," CJ said, never taking his eyes from the
unconscious figure. "Let's get out of here."
Marta nodded and circled the man. "Won't he get away when
he wakes up?"
"I locked the doors of the van," Wyatt said. "He can't
drive anywhere. Let's hurry. Maybe we can find a cop."
"We better watch out for the other guy," CJ said. "He took
"He didn't get far," a familiar voice said.
"Grandfather Sam?" Marta pushed through the gap between
the van and the building and Wyatt followed.
Stretched on the asphalt, the second man lay perfectly
still, and Sam Lane stood over him, holding CJ's baseball
bat at the ready. CJ's grandfather glanced quickly over
them and his gaze settled on Marta.
"Are you all right, honey?" he asked.
"I'm fine," Marta assured him.
"Marta took out that guy," Wyatt said. "She kicked his
feet right out from under him."
"I saw most of it." Sam looked at his prisoner. "Get up,
buddy. I want you to drag that guy out here. And don't
try anything." He stood back as the man got slowly to his
feet. "Marta, you stay here with me. CJ, you and Wyatt go
call the police. There's a pay phone out on the street
about two doors down. Stick together and don't take too
"Yes, sir." CJ's teeth flashed in the dimness, glowing red
in the taillights of the van. "Come on, Wyatt."
Lois woke from an uncomfortable sleep to find a sleepy-
looking nurse adjusting the setting on the tiny device that
monitored the drip rate of her IV. The woman glanced at
her when she stirred and gave her a smile that turned into
a small yawn.
"Excuse me," she said.
"That's okay. What time is it?"
The nurse checked her watch. "Nearly five-thirty. Dr.
Klein wants to reduce your dosage and monitor you for
contractions for a while."
"Okay." Lois swallowed, trying to tell herself that Bernie
knew what he was doing. Still, it would be nice if Clark
could come back, soon. She knew that Superman was needed
in California, but she needed him, too. Lois Lane was too
tough to admit that something scared her, but this
situation was one she'd never been in before, and she was
The nurse apparently realized it. She rested a hand gently
on Lois's shoulder. "Don't worry, Mrs. Kent. At the first
sign of any trouble, we'll increase the dosage, but this
drug has a very good success rate. It's new, as Dr. Klein
may have told you."
"Yes, he did."
"He may not have told you that he worked with two of the
best obstetrical researchers at this hospital, to develop
it. The man is amazing."
"I know," Lois said. "He's a friend of our family. It's
reassuring to know he had a hand in it."
"I thought it might be." The nurse glanced around at a
knock on the door. "Oh, hello, Mr. Kent."
"How are things going?" Clark asked, stepping into the
"So far so good," Lois said. "I'm glad you're back."
"So am I." Clark stood aside to let the nurse exit and
then came to bend over the bed and drop a kiss on Lois's
lips. "I'm sorry it took so long, honey."
"How was California?" Lois asked. It was amazing how much
better she felt with him in the room.
Clark grimaced. "Not too good. I'm glad it wasn't any
worse. The quake was north of Los Angeles, but the power
was out in most of the city and a private hospital
"Yeah." He pulled the chair he had been using earlier in
the evening next to her bed and sank into it. "The second
story telescoped right down into the first. Fortunately, a
portion of it was under reconstruction, so that part of it
was empty, but two nurse's aides and a janitor were killed,
and a lot of people were hurt. At least, Superman was able
to help with the evacuation."
On cue, his cellular phone beeped softly. Clark slipped
his hand into the inside pocket and removed the device.
"Who would be calling us, now?"
"I hope there's nothing wrong at home," Lois said.
Clark flipped the phone open. "Kent." A pause. "Bill?"
"Henderson?" Lois asked. "What's he doing, calling at this
Clark frowned. "Is something wrong, Bill?" Silence again.
Lois saw her husband's eyebrows go up. "Is everyone all
"What's the matter?" Lois whispered.
Clark shook his head, still listening as the city's deputy
mayor spoke. "You're kidding! Do you need me, right now?"
Silence. Lois controlled her impatience until he spoke
again. "Okay, thanks for calling to let me know, Bill.
Yes, Lois is doing fine, for now. I'll talk to you later.
"So, what happened?" Lois demanded, as he slowly tucked the
"Well, he didn't give me all the details, but apparently
CJ, Marta, Wyatt and Sam caught Kyle Griffin and his
Lois nearly sat up straight. "*What*?"
Clark had a faint grin on his lips. "Do you ever get the
feeling our kids are following in our footsteps?"
"Maybe you'd better call the house!"
"Bill was going to give them a ride home from the police
station. He said Marta kicked Griffin's feet out from
under him, and he's in the hospital with a hairline skull
fracture. Evidently, he cracked his head pretty hard on the
street. He's going to recover, but maybe from now on he
should keep in mind that our little girl doesn't kid
"I'm sure that she had a good reason," Lois said.
"Everybody's all right, though?"
"So he said."
"Well, I want to know what happened!"
"So do I. I'll give them time enough to get home and then
give them a call."
In spite of her best efforts, Ellen couldn't get to sleep.
Sam's call from the police station concerning the capture
of Kyle Griffin had relieved her immediate worry but
something that she couldn't put her finger on wouldn't let
her relax completely.
Part of it was the attempted kidnap of Marta right out of
her own house. That sort of thing had happened now and
then and now it had nearly happened to her own
granddaughter. It was only luck that had wakened Wyatt and
CJ in time for them to realize what was going on. Marta
had apparently managed to defend herself ably enough, and
it sounded to Ellen as if the man had gotten exactly what
he deserved. She hoped the headache he was bound to have
after he woke up would teach him a lesson, but the whole
thing had left her understandably shaken.
How had the man gotten into the house? The question had
been revolving in her brain for the last hour.
Ellen would have bet her life that she and Sam had fastened
every lock on the doors and windows and that the house had
been completely secure when they had gone to bed. When Sam
had gone after Marta, Ellen had called the police again and
then made a circuit of the entire house, making sure that
everything was locked up tight. She hadn't been able to
find anything unlocked, anywhere.
The police hadn't arrived, of course. CJ's call to the
police station had caused the squad car to be diverted to
pick up Kyle Griffin and his companion, thus resolving the
situation, but the question still nagged at her.
Had he actually come in through the front door? But the
locks had been fastened, including the chain lock and the
sliding bolt, as well as the deadbolt! And none of them
were broken, so how could that have been the entrance?
Ellen couldn't figure it out, but she would be extremely
glad when Sam got back. Unable to sleep, she slid out of
bed a second time and reached for her robe. Checking the
locks one more time was probably futile, but it couldn't
hurt and maybe she would find something she had missed.
"Grandmother Ellen?" The small figure of Jimmy Kent
appeared in the doorway, his older brother behind him.
"What's the matter, Jimmy?"
"Me, too," Jonny admitted. "I hear funny noises
Ellen didn't hear anything, but the children's ears were
admittedly better than hers. "What do you hear, Jonny?"
"Just funny noises, like somebody's moving around down
"Maybe the burglar came back," Jimmy said. "Can we come in
there with you?"
Ellen hesitated. "All right, you can come in and we'll
wait until your Grandfather Sam and the others get here. I
don't think the burglars came back, though. Your
Grandfather Sam said the police arrested them."
"Maybe there's another one," Jimmy said. He tugged on his
brother's hand and entered the bedroom. Jonny closed the
door and punched in the locking button.
Ellen glanced doubtfully at the button. That kind of lock
could be easily unlocked from the outside. Maybe she was
being silly, but the fear of the children was beginning to
affect her as well.
"Maybe there's somebody hiding in the basement," Jimmy
The basement! Why hadn't she checked the basement? There
were glass windows in the basement, which opened at ground
level! If no other lock had been broken in the main house,
how about the basement? She hadn't even thought to check
Come on, Ellen! she chided herself. You're letting your
imagination run away with you! Just go downstairs and lock
the basement door and then, if anyone tries to get in,
he'll be stuck. Besides, who would be down there, now?
The intruders are in police custody and everything's all
right. But, somehow she couldn't make herself open the
door. After a second's thought, she walked across the
room, picked up the small, wooden chair that sat under the
window, and placed it against the door with the back jammed
under the doorknob.
"Grandfather Sam and the others will be here, soon," she
said. "We'll just wait here until they arrive, okay?"
The boys nodded solemnly. Then, Jimmy sniffed.
"Grandmother," he said. "Do you smell smoke?"
Startled, Ellen inhaled, trying to detect what the child
already had. Indeed, there was a slight smell of smoke in
the air. Jimmy must have an acute sense of smell to detect
it, however. The smoke detector hadn't gone off and she
knew for a fact that the battery was new. She'd been there
when Jimmy had climbed up on a stepstool under the watchful
eye of his father, to replace it and then test it. He'd
seemed to get a perverse pleasure out of pushing the test
button repeatedly until Clark had firmly lifted him down,
to everyone's relief.
"I have to go find out what's smoking," she said. She
removed the chair. They might be afraid of possible
intruders, but a fire was more real and immediate. "Come
with me, but stay on the stairs, okay?"
Solemnly, the two little boys nodded. Ellen opened the
door and started down the hall.
The smell of smoke was slightly stronger in the hall and it
was as certainly coming from below. At the top of the
stairs, she flipped on the lights and began to descend,
with the boys on her heels. Reaching the halfway landing,
she turned to Jonny and Jimmy. "Stay here."
The boys nodded, and she was conscious of them leaning over
the bannister to watch as she descended the remaining steps
and flipped on the lights at the bottom.
The smell was coming from the kitchen. Ellen paused and
after a moment's indecision, she crossed the living room to
the fireplace and appropriated the poker. The fact that
the boys had heard sounds down here was foremost in her
mind. If there was an intruder, she didn't intend to go in
As she headed for the kitchen, the smoke detector went off.
At the door, Ellen hesitated and then carefully tested its
surface. It was cool, so she pushed it cautiously open.
A haze of smoke greeted her, but at first, she couldn't see
any source. Then, she saw that the smoke was thicker by
the door to the basement. It was leaking from beneath the
basement door and as she realized this, the door burst
open, accompanied by a belch of smoke. The figure of a man
staggered out, coughing, and lurched toward her. Ellen
Bill Henderson pulled his car up in front of the Kent
residence. The living room windows were ablaze with
lights, which, he supposed, wasn't surprising, considering
the events of the night. He cut the engine. "Okay, kids,
Sam Lane opened the passenger door and thrust out his hand.
"Thanks, Mr. Henderson. It was good of you to give us a
"Not a problem," Henderson said. "It was a pleasure to
meet you. Your daughter has made my life interesting for
years, to say the least." He grinned. "She and Clark are
good friends. I owe them a lot -- but don't tell Lois so.
She'd think I was going soft." He glanced over his
shoulder at the three children. "As for you three, I've
said it to CJ before. Try not to do something like this
again until you're older, okay? I'm getting too old for
this kind of thing. You did a good job, though. Griffin's
never going to live it down."
"He was trying to get even with Mom," CJ said. "I heard
him say she put him in jail the first time."
"She did," Henderson said. "And the second and third
times. Let's hope this is the last time."
CJ turned his head abruptly. "The smoke detector just went
off in the house!"
Henderson didn't hear it, but it made sense that CJ would.
Exactly why the adopted son of the Kent family appeared to
be developing powers like those of his father was something
he'd never asked Clark, but he thought he could make a
fairly accurate guess. He thrust open his door and jumped
out. "Come on!"
Sam Lane followed, accompanied by all three of the
children. As they mounted the steps to the townhouse,
Marta and CJ both jumped. "Grandmother Ellen is
screaming!" Marta said.
The front door was locked and there wasn't a key among
them. Henderson pounded on the door. "Can anybody hear
No answer. He was about to thrust his shoulder against the
door when Marta said, "I hear Jimmy! He's calling
"Jimmy, open the door!" CJ's raised voice sounded like a
treble version of Clark's, Henderson thought, irrelevantly.
"Let us in!"
Several seconds passed and Henderson had almost decided
that the little boy hadn't heard, when suddenly the lock
turned and the door was pulled inward.
Jonny and Jimmy, still in their pajamas, stood there, and
Henderson could smell smoke and see a greyish haze in the
air. He turned to Sam. "Keep the kids out here. I'm
going to see ..."
CJ went past him, too fast for Henderson to grab him.
"This way!" he called back . "Grandmother's in the
"CJ!" Sam shouted, but if the boy heard him, he paid no
attention. Henderson cussed softly, but wasted no more
time. He clapped his handkerchief over his mouth and
As they approached, the door of the kitchen burst open and
an older woman who must be Ellen Lane, emerged. Her eyes
were wide with fright and in one hand, she clutched a
"What's on fire?" Henderson demanded.
"I think I killed him!" Ellen gasped.
"Killed who?" CJ asked.
"A man!" She seemed to become aware of Henderson at the
same moment and lifted the poker, threateningly.
"No, Grandmother!" CJ caught the object in one hand. "This
is Mr. Henderson!"
Ellen Lane staggered and seemed almost to collapse.
Henderson grabbed her. "Who did you kill?"
"There was a man! He came out of the basement. There's a
fire down there!"
Henderson grasped CJ by the arm before he could charge into
the kitchen. "CJ, get your grandmother out of here. I'll
see what happened. And you'd better call the Fire
CJ nodded and took his grandmother's arm. "Come on,
Grandmother," he said, quickly. "Let's get outside."
Henderson cautiously pushed open the door to the kitchen.
The room was full of smoke, and more was pouring from the
open basement door. On the floor, a man lay sprawled on
his face, and Henderson knelt quickly by his side.
It was instantly evident that Ellen Lane hadn't killed him.
Henderson could see him breathing, and when he rolled the
intruder over, he could see a large, swollen lump above one
eye. In the hazy conditions it was a little hard to tell,
but Henderson guessed him to be somewhere in his mid to
late seventies, and something about the wrinkled face
seemed familiar. Still, these things could be sorted out
later. With one hand, Henderson shoved the basement door
shut and turned his attention to hauling the semiconscious
man to his feet.
The fellow was coming to and he groaned and began to cough
as Henderson pulled him upright.
"Come on, buddy," Henderson told him. "Unless you want to
suffocate in here."
A sudden "whoosh" filled the room and Superman was standing
there in all his colorful glory. "Can you manage all
right, Bill?" he inquired, quickly.
"No problem," Henderson grunted. "You'd better put out the
fire before it does any more damage." He turned toward the
exit with his staggering burden, aware that behind him,
Superman had disappeared into the basement of his home.
"So, Superman put out the fire," Clark told Lois. "There's
some minor damage, but fortunately, we're covered by
insurance. But the cap to the whole thing was when
Henderson recognized the guy your mom beaned with the poker
as Griffin's father!"
"What?" Lois said. "I thought he was serving a forty-year
term, just like Victor!"
"Apparently, they let him out because of his advanced age
and health problems," Clark said. "I don't know what
they're going to do with him now, but I'd say he definitely
violated his parole. They're holding him on charges of
breaking and entering, as well as suspicion of arson. It
solved the mystery of how Griffin and Victor got in, too.
The basement window was broken." He shook his head,
grinning slightly. "I'd say that by now, Griffin and
company should have learned their lesson not to mess with
Lois Lane -- or her relatives!"
"He won't," Lois said. "If he didn't figure it out in
thirteen years, he isn't going to."
"Probably not," Clark agreed. "However, CJ thinks Wyatt
did figure out something, so I think we're going to have to
talk to him. Marta heard Ellen scream when nobody else but
CJ heard. Wyatt isn't stupid, and he's been acting a
little 'funny', according to CJ, ever since."
Lois made a face. "Oh well, I figured we wouldn't be able
to fool him for long. At least, he's showed he's
trustworthy about CJ."
Clark nodded. "That's what I thought."
There was a knock on the door of the hospital room and
Clark glanced around. Bernie Klein stood in the entrance.
"May I come in?"
"Sure." Clark said.
The doctor entered the room, glancing back and forth
between Lois and Clark. "Am I interrupting?"
"No," Clark said. "We were just discussing last night's
"I saw some of it," Klein said. "It's on the front page of
the Planet. And the Prankster is in the prison ward up on
the eighth floor. I thought you might like to know that
after I read the story, I took advantage of my position to
talk with his doctor. He's awake and furious, vowing
Lois nodded at Clark. "What did I tell you? He didn't
learn a thing."
"I'm not worried," Clark said. "By the time he gets out
again, if ever, Marta won't be vulnerable, anymore."
"That's what I figured," Bernie said. "If you ask me, the
man seems to be seriously unbalanced."
"Unfortunately," William Henderson's voice said from the
doorway, "not in a way the law recognizes. Being a
sociopath isn't considered insanity. He's being
transferred back to the prison ward at Stryker's Island
today. He'll be charged with various crimes, which will
add about a thousand years to his life sentence, not that
it matters. Hopefully, they'll be a little more careful
with him, the next time."
"Hopefully," Lois said. "Come in, Bill."
Henderson entered the room. Looking slightly embarrassed,
he removed a hand from behind his back to reveal a small
vase of flowers. "Um -- this is from me and the guys at
"Thanks, Bill." Lois took the vase and sniffed the
flowers. "They're beautiful. If you don't watch out,
you're going to blow your hard-bitten image."
Henderson chuckled. "I guess I can afford to. Call it
practice, with the campaign for mayor getting in gear."
"Well, you've got my vote," Lois said. "Thanks for the
help, last night."
"No problem. Your parents and kids did most of the work."
He turned to Dr. Klein. "How's she doing, Doc?"
"Pretty well. I was going to tell you, Lois, that we're
going to keep you here and monitor you until tomorrow
morning and then, if everything seems okay, we're going to
send you home on bed rest until the babies are born."
"Oh brother," Lois said. "This is going to be an exciting
couple of months."
"I'll rig up a television in the bedroom," Clark said.
"And I can bring you downstairs every morning to the couch.
And there's always the computer."
Lois made a face. "Sounds like fun."
"We'll make some arrangements for someone to help you when
I'm not there, too," Clark added. "It's only a couple of
months. You should take the opportunity to rest. After
those little characters are born, we're both going to be
busier than ever."
"Tell me about it," Lois said. "Okay, Bernie, I promise
"Wyatt?" CJ's voice called from the bottom of the attic
stairs. At the sound of his best friend's voice, Wyatt
Dillon looked around from the television screen, where
Marta was demolishing the castle walls of the evil
"Better go," Marta said, without looking around. "I think
Dad wants to talk to you."
He got to his feet. The realization last night, that Marta
was one of the super children, about whose existence he had
learned only a few months ago, was still something he
hadn't quite managed to work out. He'd thought that she
was Mr. and Mrs. Kent's real daughter. She *had* to be
their daughter. There was no way she could be one of the
kids left behind by the New Kryptonians. There was only
one way that could be so, and it was a little embarrassing
to realize after all this time that Mr. Kent had to be a
Kryptonian -- the only Kryptonian left on Earth. He
understood why they hadn't told him. If anyone found out
that Mr. Kent was Superman, his whole family would be in
danger, and the more people who knew, the more likely it
was that somebody would slip. Still, it left him feeling a
Marta shut off the game abruptly and got to her feet.
He turned around. "Yeah?"
"I only found out last week."
"Oh." That made him feel a little better.
"Thanks for helping me, last night."
He felt his face turning warm. "Um ... you're welcome," he
Marta grinned. "Come on. We're keeping Dad waiting."
CJ was standing in the hall. "Dad would like to talk to
you," he said.
"Yeah, Marta said he did."
"I'm sorry I couldn't tell you," CJ said. "I had a right
to tell you about me, but I couldn't tell you about Dad."
Suddenly, Wyatt began to laugh. "How come everybody knows
what I figured out?" he asked.
"It was pretty obvious, the way you were looking at
Superman last night," Marta said, prosaically. "I already
told him we could trust you."
"Oh," Wyatt said.
"Will you three get down here?" Clark's voice said from the
foot of the stairs. "Sam and Ellen will be back with Jonny
and Jimmy in half an hour. I'd like to finish this talk
Wyatt followed Marta and CJ as they clattered down the
stairs. Clark was standing in the middle of the living
room, and as the trio arrived, he waved them to the sofa.
"Okay," he said. "Let's start with the essentials."
Before Wyatt's eyes, he began to spin.