Triaxx2, Averroes: Thanks for your reviews
"First impressions of Smallville, huh?" Kara asked, leaning back in her chair. "Well, let's see. Argo-" Kara was cut off by ring tone of her cell phone, which also doubled as her Justice League communicator.
Susan watched expectantly as Kara opened it and looked at the screen. Kara punched a button with her thumb and placed the phone to her ear.
"Hi, Aunt Martha," Kara said, winking at Susan. "What's going on?" There was a pause while Kara listened, then she said, "Ok, we'll be back soon," and hung up.
"Something come up?" Susan asked curiously. Kara grinned. "In a manner of speaking," she said mysteriously, then laughed at Susan's expression. "Pete just called. He said it's lunch time and your folks are wondering what's keeping us."
Susan glanced down at her watch. After her folks had arrived at the Kent home, Susan had had to talk her mother out of dragging her home. "It was only a seizure, Mom," Susan had said. "I've had them before. I'll be fine now that I have my pills." By consent amongst Pete, Clark, Kara and Susan, Mr. and Mrs. Ross weren't told about the attempt on Susan's life. That would wait until later, if in fact, they were ever told at all. Nor were they told that the Justice League was getting involved. That had seemed a little unfair to Susan, but she had to agree with Pete when he pointed out that the more people who knew a secret, the less likely it was to stay a secret. So Susan and Pete, between them, had calmed their mother down and gotten her and their father to go home, but not before extracting a promise that Kara would come over for lunch at noon.
"Yowtch!" Susan exclaimed. "I didn't realize we'd been gone that long!" She stood up. "I guess I'd better get dressed."
Kara smiled and shook her head. "Much as I love flying," she confessed, "what do you say we take the express route back?"
Susan gave her friend a questioning look, then her eyes widened. "The teleporter?" she asked excitedly. Kara just nodded.
The teleporter deposited them behind the big hay barn that dominated the Kent farmstead. Susan noted that the spot was sheltered on all sides from prying eyes.
"Convenient," she commented. "Is that why things are laid out the way they are?" she went on, gesturing at the surrounding structures.
Kara shook her head. "Not really," she explained. "This is where Clark and I come and go from, and he initially chose it because it's sheltered, but it was like that before he even came to Earth. The fact that it's handy for the teleporter too is just a happy accident."
Susan nodded thoughtfully. "I suppose you don't even really need the teleporter," she mused.
"You're right about that," Kara agreed as the two headed around the barn. "I can get to the Watchtower on my own pretty quickly, and I do love to fly, so..." Kara trailed off as the Kent farmhouse came in view. Jonathan, Clark and Pete were sitting on the front porch drinking iced tea and talking amongst themselves.
"Typical male behavior," Susan observed dryly, "Loafing while poor Martha slaves over a hot stove."
Kara chuckled. "You've obviously never eaten Uncle Jonathan's cooking," she said.
Susan blinked, then frowned thoughtfully. "Now that you mention it, I don't think I have. Bad?"
"Well, let's just say that if he was a cook in a restaurant, you could eat the food, but you wouldn't hurry back," Kara said diplomatically. She waved to the group on the porch. "Hey guys," she called to Clark and Pete. "Uncle Jonathan, Susan and I are going to head for her place for lunch now. I'll be back this afternoon." To Susan she said, "I just have to get my purse. I'll only be a minute." Then she disappeared through the front door.
Susan settled on the porch rail and looked at the trio before her.
"Did you and Kara have a good time?" Clark asked solicitously.
"Yes we did, Clark," Susan said levelly. "I have to say I learned a lot," she added with a slight catch in her voice.
Pete studied his sister's expression, then turned to Clark and said, "She can't decide whether to be angry with us or excited."
Susan stamped her foot on the porch. "Peter Ross, don't you go spoiling my fun," she said sharply, wagging a finger at him, unable to hold off the smile that spread across her face. "It was amazing! The whole thing!"
"I'm glad you enjoyed yourself," Clark said with a smile. "Just let me know if you ever want to go back." He gave Susan a frank look. "Of course, you'll be discreet about all of this?"
Susan feigned zipping her mouth shut, locking it and throwing the key away.
"My lips are sealed," she promised solemnly.
"I hope not," Kara said as she reemerged from the house, "Otherwise you'll have a hard time eating."
"More meatloaf, Kara, before I put it away?" Susan's mother asked.
Kara eyed her mostly empty plate, then the platter Mrs. Ross had in her hands. She was about to take it back to the kitchen and put the remaining meatloaf in the refrigerator.
"Very tempting," Kara said after a short period of contemplation, "But I'd better not. Have to watch my figure you know."
Mrs. Ross nodded understandingly, and Kara smiled. Susan's mother was old enough, at fifty-nine years of age, to have seen the beginning of the feminist movement, but it hadn't had the same impact in rural areas as it had in the big cities. As a consequence her attitudes tended to be a little 'old fashioned'. But only as regarded herself. She had done nothing to stop her daughters from following their own paths in life, indeed had encouraged them. So her eldest daughter had become a doctor, another a pilot for a major airline and yet another was working her way up the corporate ladder at the largest bank in Wichita. Sharon Ross, though, was content with the life of a homemaker. Not, of course, that bearing and raising ten children hadn't been a lot of work, Kara had to admit. Her own parents had been sorely tried by just four children, a large family by Argoan standards.
Given Mrs. Ross' perspective it wasn't surprising she'd support a girl's worries about her figure, instead of chiding them for being too body conscious. But she meant well.
Susan's father pushed back his chair and began clearing the table.
"Go help your mother with the dishes, Susan," he said as he gathered up plates and silverware.
"I'll help too," Kara offered, following Susan to the kitchen. The girls set to work while Susan's mother went elsewhere. Kara couldn't help but smile. She'd learned the very first time she'd eaten at the Ross' that when Susan's father said, "Help your mother with the dishes, Susan," he really meant, "You do the dishes, Susan." It was the way the Ross' did things. Mr. Ross set and cleared the table, Mrs. Ross cooked, and Susan cleaned up after, just as her older brothers and sisters had done before her.
"At least I only have to wash dishes for four people," Susan had said more than once. Her oldest siblings had cleaned up after as many as twelve, and that was when it was just the family.
"I'll wash, you dry?" Kara suggested.
"Works for me," Susan said, taking a dish towel out of a drawer. Kara started filling the sink with soap and water, then donned the pair of elbow length rubber gloves Susan's mother kept under the sink.
Susan gave Kara a peculiar look. Kara quirked an eyebrow at Susan.
"I don't want to get dishpan hands," Kara explained, acting as if she was shocked it wasn't obvious.
Susan burst out laughing, and Kara chuckled.
"Oh, that's funny," Susan said when she calmed down. After a moment, though, Susan's expression went serious. She glanced around, then whispered, "Why do you do it? I mean, you could probably stick your hand into molten lava without getting burned, so a little warm water shouldn't be any problem."
"For the same reason I wear glasses, use sunscreen, and pretend I'm no stronger than a normal person. I want to fit in, and I don't want people bugging me twenty-four seven for help."
Susan looked shocked, and Kara clarified. "I mean, I like helping people, but can you imagine what it would be like if everyone knew?" Kara affected a mockingly demanding tone. "Kara, would you use your heat vision to melt the snow off my driveway? Kara, my car is stuck in the mud. Would you lift it out for me?" Kara let her voice go normal again. "That sort of thing."
"I see your point," Susan agreed. Kara picked up a plate from the pile beside the sink and started scrubbing.
While Susan and Kara washed the dishes, chatted, and made plans for the evening, in another part of Smallville a man was contemplating the vagaries of fate. He had set out to do a simple thing: kill Susan Ross. And he had failed. Perhaps it was because his plan was too elaborate. A distinct possibility. Needless complexity was a flaw of many of his schemes, a flaw he worked hard to control, but which he never succeeded in suppressing entirely.
He had studied his target carefully, learning her habits and routines. Ambushing her on her Saturday morning run, when she would be all but alone, had seemed like an obvious thing to do: it reduced the number of potential witnesses (and survivors) considerably. Using the prototype combat hovercraft he'd designed seemed logical, since it had both the speed and mobility to run down anyone on foot, almost no matter where they tried to find safety. Automating it and programming it to track it's target via a passive homing device had appeared to be no-brainer. Getting the target to carry said homing device at all times had been tricky, but means and opportunity had presented themselves and been taken advantage of. It seemed that he had left nothing to chance. But he obviously had. He'd overlooked some variable, and it had bitten him in the ass. Not only had Susan Ross survived her rendezvous with Death, the hovercraft had been totaled, and hauled off by parties as yet unknown.
Probably, whoever had the hovercraft now wouldn't be able to trace it to him. It had been impossible to avoid leaving evidence behind when he'd had it constructed (his employees didn't know the true purpose of the machine they'd been fabricating and had left fingerprints all over it, inside and out) but he'd disassembled the machine and cleaned every component before reassembling it himself.
He returned his attention to the monitor of his computer. He was analyzing the telemetry from the hovercraft, trying to figure out exactly what had happened. He sighed. If only he'd mounted a TV camera on the front of the damn thing. Oh well. A lesson learned for next time. He frowned at the screen. If he was interpreting the accelerometer data correctly, the hovercraft had struck what amounted to an immovable object just before it reached its target. What sort of object wasn't clear. The hovercraft's radar hadn't seen anything that the onboard computers considered an obstacle, so what had it hit? He resolved to head up to Marlow Ridge and see what he could find out. Whatever had happened, young Miss Ross and her friend hadn't reported anything to the police. That was interesting, and bore looking into.
The man stood up, stretched, and decided to grab some lunch while the computer did its work. He stepped out of the room he'd been sitting in, into an adjoining room that was similarly furnished. A woman sitting behind a cluttered desk looked up at him and smiled.
"Going to lunch, Mr. Healey?"
Trevor Healey smiled back. "That's right, Joyce. I should be back in an hour or so."
While his secretary adjusted the chart she kept of who was where, Healey left the workshop/lab he owned and headed for his car. He would solve this latest problem and try again. Susan Ross would die, and Trevor Healey's first step toward avenging himself on Donald Ross would be complete.