Unforeseen Consequences
By Nan Smith (deimos1@earthlink.net)
Rated: PG
Submitted: October 2001

Disclaimer: The familiar characters and scenes in this
story are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros. December
3rd Productions and whoever else may legally claim them,
and no infringement on their copyright is intended but the
new characters and the story itself are mine.

This story is part of the "Dagger" series, beginning with
"Dagger of the Mind". It consists of: Dagger of the Mind,
Dagger's Edge, Assassin's Dagger, Doppelganger, Blind Man's
Bluff, Countdown, Priorities, Vanishing Act, Charade,
Heritage and now, Unforeseen Consequences.

This story takes place approximately three weeks following
Heritage. A scene I saw in one of episodes of the Lex Files
trilogy, where Lois dreams that she's trying to interview
Queen Elizabeth and the Pope while super-babies are
increasing in number geometrically, was part of the
inspiration for one of the subplots. I've had the idea that
the A-plot is based on in mind since before LAFF 2000. It
only seemed to me to be a logical extension from events in
the series. Another author also picked up on the point for
one of his stories, however, as you will see when you read
it, this is considerably different from his idea. (I really
didn't steal it, Shayne! Honest! g)

Comments and criticism are invited.


"You know," Lois said, "our Christmases are a lot different
than the ones I had when I was a kid."

Clark lifted an eyebrow at her. "Is that a good thing or a
bad thing?"

"Just about anything would have been an improvement," Lois
said, with a tiny grin, "but, that's not what I meant.
Christmas with my parents isn't even an ordeal anymore, and
I think it all began to happen when I met you. Are you sure
you're not Santa Claus in disguise?"

Clark stroked an imaginary beard. "You've guessed my
secret, oh mighty reporter. I should have known I could
never keep my identity secret from you, forever. Of
course," he added, "that makes you Mrs. Claus."

Lois giggled. "I think I'd rather stay Mrs. Superman," she
said. "He's got a better figure than old Santa."

"And you've definitely got a better one than Mrs. Claus,"
Clark murmured, bending down to kiss her.

The elevator doors opened at that moment. Perry's voice
said, dryly, "I see you two are still conscientiously
giving the bullpen its daily show."

Clark straightened up with a faint smile, but he made no
comment as he followed Lois out into the newsroom. He heard
Jimmy's murmur of "Some things never change," and saw his
boss grin in acknowledgement of this sally.

Lois hung up her coat and continued on to her workstation
to drop her shoulder bag onto the floor and kick it under
the desk. Clark stopped to speak to Perry. "Chief, we'll be
leaving a little early this afternoon. Lois has an
appointment at her doctor's office and I want to be there
with her."

Perry frowned. "Is everything all right?"

"Sure," Clark assured him. "She's scheduled for a sonogram,
and I don't want to miss it."

"Oh." Perry grinned. "Don't blame you. I wish they'd had
'em when Alice and I were having kids." He raised his
voice. "Okay, everybody, Conference Room Two in five


Lois glanced up from her computer screen as Clark entered
the newsroom. It was just past two and the predictable so-
called "morning sickness" that had been plaguing her for
several weeks was beginning to make itself known. The print
on the monitor had the unpleasant effect of blurring before
her eyes whenever a wave of the nausea hit her, which it
had been doing with more severity this time than it ever
had with her three previous pregnancies. She closed them
and rubbed her temples, striving to take deep breaths until
it passed.

"Are you okay, honey?" Clark's voice asked, softly.

She opened her eyes and nodded, smiling with an effort.
"It's just the same old stuff," she said.

Clark rested his hands on her shoulders and began to
massage her tense neck and shoulder muscles. Lois closed
her eyes in relief. "That feels better."

"I think you should mention this to Dr. Klein, " Clark
said. "You've never had nausea this bad before."

"Every pregnancy is different," she reminded him. "And, as
much as I'd like to pretend differently, I am forty. It's
bound to be harder on me this time."

"Still, he ought to know," Clark insisted, gently. "If he
knew, he might be able to help."

Lois sighed. Even after eleven years of marriage, Clark
still did his best to play mother hen whenever he was
worried about her. "All right, I'll mention it this
afternoon. Happy, now?"

"I will be when you talk to him." His large hands never
ceased their massage. "After all, this is my wife and baby
that we're talking about here."

Lois closed her eyes again and leaned back into the
massage, feeling the nausea recede. "That helps a lot," she
said. "Thanks."

"Any time," he said.

"If you're giving those away free, I'll take one," the
voice of Candy Valenzuela, the society columnist, purred

Lois opened her eyes. Candy was standing across from her
desk, smiling her usual enigmatic smile and clad in an
outfit that was probably technically legal, but left very
little to the imagination.

"I only give these to special clients," Clark said in his
unruffled way. "Did you need something, Candy?"

The woman was probably five years older than Clark, Lois
thought, not for the first time, but she hid it well. She
saw Candy's gaze slide from Clark's face, down his body to
his shoes and back up. She gave a wistful little smile.
"Well, yes, but I guess I'll have to settle for passing
along the tickets to the Christmas Charity Ball." She set
the items on Lois's desk and glanced lingeringly once more
at Clark, then smiled and walked away, her shapely hips
well outlined in the tight, short dress she wore. Lois
found herself gritting her teeth.

Clark glanced at her. "Don't worry, honey," he said,
quietly. "There's only one woman in this room that I'm
interested in."

She found herself relaxing. "I know. I just wish women like
Candy had enough sense to see it."

"She'll figure it out if she doesn't know already," Clark
said. "I don't wear my wedding ring for a decoration."

Lois glanced down at the little pooch that she had already
developed in her middle. "She probably thinks I'm letting
myself go. I'm not even three months along and my clothes
are already getting too tight."

"Honey, you've had three children," Clark said. "It would
only make sense that you'd start to show a little sooner
than the first time. You haven't let yourself go. If I
didn't know better, I'd never guess you were anywhere near

"Really?" Lois brightened. "You're awfully good for my

He dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "I'm only saying
it because it's true."

"Lois, Clark, how about that piece on the redevelopment
plan for the south side?" Perry's voice broke through their
conversation. "We've got a deadline!"

"I'm waiting for a call back on that, Chief," Lois said. "I
need the answers to some questions about the whole

"Well, I need it in half an hour," Perry said, already
headed for his next victim.

"I'll do my best," Lois said.

Kelly passed her desk, carrying a donut box. She paused and
pulled the lid open, displaying its contents. "Would you
like one, Ms. Lane?"

Lois felt the nausea that had partially subsided with
Clark's neck rub, rise in her throat. She clapped a hand
over her mouth.

"Oops." The redheaded girl retreated quickly. "Sorry."

Lois stumbled to her feet and made a beeline for the
ladies' room.


Clark barely restrained the temptation to use his x-ray
vision to check on Lois as she vanished through the door of
the ladies' room. He would never have admitted it to her,
but the unusually difficult time she was having with this
pregnancy was worrying him a good deal. None of the other
three had been this hard for her. Jimmy had been born four
years previously, when she had been thirty-six, and she had
had very little in the way of difficulties. This time,
everything seemed to be the opposite. Even the fact that
Dr. Klein had assured him that he was watching her
carefully because her age put her into the increased-risk
category failed to comfort him. He had every confidence in
Bernie Klein, but that wouldn't stop him from fretting
until he knew everything was all right.

"Is she okay?" Jimmy paused beside him, glancing at the
door through which Lois had disappeared.

"I don't know." Clark bit his lip. "I'm worried, Jimmy.
She's never had it this bad before."

The phone on Lois's desk shrilled at that moment, and Clark
answered it. It was Lois's contact with the information
she'd been waiting for. Clark jotted down the relevant
details, thanked the man and hung up. Lois still hadn't
returned. He made up his mind. "Excuse me, Jim. Kelly!"

The young woman turned her head at his call. "Yes, Mr.

"Could you--um--could you go in there and see if she's all
right?" He gestured toward the ladies' room.

"Sure, Mr. Kent."


Lois washed her face in cold water and rinsed out her mouth
a second time. As she was drying her face, the door opened
and Kelly, the office gofer, entered. The redheaded girl
looked subdued.

"Are you all right, Ms. Lane? Mr. Kent's worried about

Lois nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine."

"I'm really sorry. I didn't think donuts--"

Lois held up a hand. "Please don't talk about food."

"Sorry." Kelly's face turned a bright red as she realized
she'd nearly made the same mistake again. "Are you feeling

"Well, let's say there's nothing more for me to bring back
up, so in that sense, I suppose I am." Lois straightened
up. "I better get back out there. Perry's waiting for that


A little over an hour later, Clark and Lois were in the
Jeep, headed for the Metropolis Women's Hospital, where Dr.
Klein had arranged for the sonogram to be done. It had
apparently surprised the administrators of the
establishment that the noted researcher, Bernard Klein, had
decided to resume a limited medical practice in obstetrics
some ten years ago, but since his presence on the staff
gave a certain amount of prestige to their organization, no
one had protested the arrangement.

"I wonder if Dr. Klein will be able to tell, yet, if it's a
boy or girl," Lois said. "Can you tell at ten weeks?"

"I have no idea," Clark said. "I could take a peek and find
out, if you want me to."

Lois shook her head. "I don't really want to know," she
said. "If I have to go through labor again, I want a nice
surprise at the end."

"I guess I can't argue with that," Clark said. "Have you
been drinking water like you were supposed to?"

Lois nodded. "What I could hold down. Just don't take the
Jeep over any bumps in the road, okay?"

Clark grinned. "I'll do my best," he assured her. "How's
the stomach?"

"Let's just not talk about that," Lois said, a trifle
grimly. "I'm trying to ignore it."

"Okay. Just be sure you mention it to Dr. Klein."

"Clark, you're nagging."

"Sorry." Clark pulled the Jeep into the parking lot and
maneuvered into a parking space. "We're right on time. Are
you ready?"

"I guess," Lois said. "I don't know why Dr. Klein was so
determined to do this now."

"He wondered if our dates were a little off," Clark said,
patiently. "And since our norm seems to be about two weeks
longer than the normal pregnancy, he wants to be sure. He
told you that."

"I know, I know," Lois grumbled. "He doesn't have to walk
around feeling as if he's going to burst."

She saw her husband grin again. "It's not funny!"

"I know," Clark said. "I sympathize, honey, I really do.
There's just something about the way you do that. I like to
hear you grumble. It's cute."

Lois shook her head as she opened the door, but she was
smiling. "It must be love," she remarked. "Only a guy in
love would think his wife's complaining was cute."

"Can't help it," Clark said. He got out and shut his door.
"Shall we go and get this over with?"


"Come on, Jimmy," Jim Olsen said. "We're going to pick up
Marta and Jonny. Feel like an afternoon snack?"

"Sure!" Jimmy Kent agreed, happily. "Where's Mommy?"

"Your daddy took her to see Dr. Klein," Jim told him.
"We're going to wait for them with your Aunt Sandi. She
said she was picking up pizza for you guys."

"Okay," Jimmy agreed. He confidently took Jim Olsen's hand
and, in the manner of four-year-old boys, half-walked,
half-trotted out of the Planet's day care center. "Can I
punch the elevator button?"

"Sure," Jim said, reflecting that his godson was quite a
talker--a characteristic he undoubtedly got from Lois. Of
all the children, except for CJ, Jimmy looked most like his
father, but Jim could see Lois in him in many subtle ways.
CJ, on the other hand, was a quiet, good-looking boy,
friendly and intelligent as were all the Kent kids, but Jim
had a pretty strong suspicion about his real origins. The
fact was, he knew Clark had no other blood relatives on
Earth other than his children, so the official explanation
that CJ was the child of one of Clark's distant cousins was
obviously untrue. However, there had been the story of the
Superman clone, ten years before--the one no one could
find. Jim had a pretty good idea where that clone was, but
he wasn't going to try to prove it. If CJ was the Superman
clone, Jim was ready to let the fact die an anonymous
death. It wasn't important, and he wasn't about to try to
bring it to light. The only way it might possibly matter
was if the knowledge ever came to the ears of Luthor or
*his* clone. As for the fact that Clark and Lois hadn't
told him; they'd probably figured he'd work it out for
himself, as he had Clark's secret identity. It didn't
bother him in the least.

Jimmy had pressed the call button and a moment later, the
elevator doors opened to reveal young Jimmy's other
godfather. Perry White grinned at the sight of Jimmy Kent
firmly gripping his namesake's hand. "Hi there, sport."

"Hi, Uncle Perry. Can I push the down button?"


The button had already been pushed, Jim noted, but that
didn't deter Jimmy, who proceeded to give it a firm jab.
The elevator doors slid quietly shut and they moved gently
downward to the first floor.

Two people were waiting to board and Jim and Perry stepped
back to let them on. One was a tall man and the other a
girl of about ten. Jim might not have noticed her if it
hadn't been for the look on her face. She was a thin child
with big blue eyes and hair of an almost strawberry blond,
but her expression said it all. The child was frightened.

Jim took a second look at her companion. He was well
dressed, unlike the girl, and the coat, and the hat pulled
down low over his face made it impossible to see much of
what he really looked like. Jim hesitated. He had no real
reason, but something felt wrong about this situation.

He gave the girl a smile. "Hi."

She didn't smile. Instead, she shrank backward against the
wall. Jim frowned slightly. If she was afraid of him,
wouldn't she be more likely to move closer to her--what?
Father? Brother? If that was what he was.

The elevator was moving slowly downward toward the
underground parking garage and finally came to a stop. The
door slid open and the oddly matched couple started to
exit. The girl began to cry. Jim took his nerve in both
hands and stepped forward. "Excuse me, sir," he said.
"What's wrong with the little girl?"

The man glanced at him. "Nothing," he said.

Perry frowned. He, too, took a step forward. "Who is she?"
he asked.

"My niece," the other man replied. "What business is it of

Jim bent slightly, trying to look as non-threatening as
possible. "Is this man your uncle, honey?"

A headshake.

Perry frowned. "If I'm wrong, I apologize in advance," he
said, slowly, "but I think I better call Security."

The taller man took a step backwards. "This is none of your
business. She has a dental appointment and she's afraid of
the dentist."

"In that case," Perry said, "you won't mind showing me your
identification. I don't think I've ever seen you around
here before."

The girl moved unexpectedly, jerked her arm from the grip
of her companion, ducked past the three men and ran.


"Can we get this over fast?" Lois asked as the nurse
finished arranging her as comfortably as possible on the
padded table.

Clark said nothing. Lying flat on her back, the slight
bulge in Lois's abdomen almost disappeared. The baby had to
be tiny, he thought. How Dr. Klein expected to determine
the actual gestational age was a mystery to him.

Dr. Klein smiled slightly, as if he knew something they
didn't, but that wasn't unusual. Clark cleared his throat.
"Lois, you were going to mention something to Bernie?"

She shot him an irritated glance. "When we're done, Clark."

"Is there a problem, Lois?" Dr. Klein asked, mildly. "You
know, I need all the information you can give me if I'm
going to do a good job as your doctor." Clark had to work
hard to keep his face straight. In the years since Bernie
Klein had become their family doctor, he'd learned not to
let Lois intimidate him, and had even acquired some skill
in handling her outbursts. He had freely admitted to Clark,
however, that dealing with her brought home to him how very
super Superman had to be in order to be husband and partner
to Lois Lane.

"Yeah," Lois muttered, grudgingly. "I'm having a lot more
morning sickness this time, and I get tired a lot easier. I
told Clark it's probably because of my age--" She broke
off, making a face at that. "He insisted I tell you anyway.
Now, can you tell him to stop worrying?"

Dr. Klein frowned a little. "No, I need to know these
things. It probably doesn't mean much, but I'm going to
want to do a few tests to be sure you aren't developing any
unforeseen problems, Lois. Eclampsia is more common in
pregnant women over thirty-five, for one thing, and this is
your fourth child." He glanced reassuringly at her. "It's
most likely nothing, as you said, but I need to make
certain." He turned to the technician who had just entered
the cubicle. "We're all ready Bonnie."

The next few minutes were taken up as Bonnie smeared the
conductive jelly on Lois's abdomen and located the correct
spot to place the hand unit. Numerous bleeps, thumps,
gurgles and a familiar swishing sound filled the room.
Clark couldn't interpret them, but he watched in silence as
the doctor and the technician peered at the screen. Dr.
Klein frowned. "Bonnie, take a look at this."

The woman leaned forward to examine what Dr. Klein had
indicated. After a moment, she turned, smeared more jelly
on Lois's abdomen and repositioned her sensor. Again, the
two medical personnel examined the screen.

"What is it?" Clark asked, unable to bear the suspense. It
was evident to him that Dr. Klein and Bonnie had seen
something unusual.

"Shh." Klein glanced at Lois. "Bonnie, move it a little to
the right..."

Clark reached over to take Lois's hand. She gripped his
fingers hard enough to cut off the blood supply if he had
been a normal man.

"I think..." Bernie Klein mumbled under his breath. "To the
left, just about an inch...oh boy!" He drew back suddenly.
"Ms. Green, can you find me Dr. Matthews? I'd like a second
opinion here."

The nurse nodded and departed quickly. Clark felt Lois's
hand clamp down even harder on his.

"Bernie," he said. "What is it?"

Bernie looked around at him. "I don't want to say just yet-
-I'd like Paul Matthews to check me on this." He appeared
to become aware of their sudden apprehension. "Oh, I'm
sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. It's nothing to worry
about--yet, anyway."

That could hardly be considered reassuring, Clark thought,
but whatever Bernie had seen didn't appear to be
immediately dangerous, anyway. He gave Lois's hand what he
hoped was a comforting squeeze.

Ms. Green re-entered the room, and a moment later a
slender, blond man entered. "You needed me, Bernie?"

Dr. Klein nodded. "I need a second opinion, Paul. These are
Mr. and Mrs. Kent. Lois, Clark, this is Dr. Matthews. Could
you take a look at this, Paul?"

"Sure." The blond doctor moved to the screen and Bonnie
called up several images of their earlier examination.
Matthews glanced at the technician. "Bonnie, let me see a
live view from the left side, please..."

The three medical personnel lapsed into unintelligible
jargon for a moment as the scene on the monitor shifted
back and forth. Finally, Matthews nodded. "No question of
it, Bernie."

Klein nodded, looking a little stunned. "Thanks. I owe you
one, Paul." He turned back to his patient as Matthews left
the room. "Um, we have a small problem..."


"What th--!" Perry's exclamation was broken off as the
stranger pushed him aside and bolted out of the elevator.
He didn't pause to look for the girl, but headed straight
toward the exit. The echoes of the child's footsteps were
retreating, but Jim could see no sign of her. Her companion
disappeared out the car entrance and was gone.

"Jimmy, call Security," Perry said. "Have them seal off the
garage. I knew something wasn't right."

"I'm way ahead of you, Chief." Jim picked up the emergency
phone, glancing at Jimmy Kent, who was watching the scene,
wide-eyed. "Stay there, pal. We're going to have a little

Jimmy nodded. "Was that a bad man?" he asked.

"I'd say so," Perry said, grimly.

Jimmy was looking around the dimly lit area. "She's really
scared," he said. "She's hiding in one of the cars."

There was a click as someone picked up the receiver at the
other end. "Security."

Jim met Perry's gaze for a second, but he said, "This is
James Olsen. We have an emergency down in the parking

It took Security only a few minutes to seal off the garage,
but Perry and Jim were more interested in the statement
made by young Jimmy Kent.

"What do you mean, she's hiding in one of the cars?" Perry

"I can hear her," Jimmy explained. "In here." He touched
his forehead. "She's awful scared."

Jim glanced at Perry. His boss was looking pensive.
Finally, he said, "You know, Jim, sometimes keeping a
secret is pretty hard."

"I know what you mean," Jim said. He felt his lips twitch.
"Good thing we were the only ones that heard that. But how
could Jimmy *hear* her?"

"Well...you-know-who is telepathic. His kids might be,

"Yeah." Jim knelt down in front of the little boy. "Jimmy,
do you know where she is?"

Jimmy appeared uncertain. "Kinda," he said.

"Can you take us to her?"

"Maybe," Jimmy said. "She can't hear me. She might run."

"Jimmy, she's going to get hurt if no one finds her," Perry
said. "Can you try?"

The little boy nodded. "Okay."

Jim stood up and took one of his hands, and Perry took the
other. Together, they let Jimmy lead them slowly through
the dimly lit parking area.

His steps were slow, but he hesitated only twice and
gradually, he grew more certain of his direction. Finally,
he stopped and pointed. "She's in that blue car."

"Are you sure?" Perry asked in a whisper.

The child nodded his head vigorously. "She's very scared
the bad man will find her."

"We won't let him," Jim said. He glanced at his boss.
"Let's split up. You take the right side and I'll take the

Perry lifted a thumb and started toward the small, blue
car. Jim pulled Jimmy with him. "C'mon, kid. Let's go help

They approached the car as quietly as they could, but when
Jim was less than three feet from the vehicle, the door was
flung open and the child tumbled out, scrambled to her feet
and tried to run. Jim snagged her by the arm. "Hey, wait!
We're not going to hurt you!"

She struggled desperately, but he hung on tightly. "It's
all right! You're safe! We won't let him get you!"

For a second she continued to struggle, and then the
meaning of his words seemed to penetrate. The fight went
out of her and she nearly collapsed against him.

"Easy there," Jim said. He was careful not to let her go.
"Are you okay?"

Scared, blue eyes looked up at him from a thin, freckled
face. Slowly, she nodded.

Perry was hurrying around the car toward them, and she
twisted her head around with a gasp of fright. The older
man stopped. "It's all right," he said. "I won't hurt you."

"This is my boss," Jim said. "You're safe now. We're going
to take you to a friend of ours at the police station.
They'll find your mom."

The girl shook her head vigorously, trying to jerk free.
Perry frowned.

"Don't you want to find your mom?"

She nodded.

"You're scared of the police?"

Again, she nodded.

"Hmmm." Perry was silent for a few seconds. "Why?"

No answer.

"Chief," Jim said, after a short silence, "this whole thing
is kind of weird."

"Yeah, I'd noticed," Perry said, slowly.

"I have an idea."

"And that is?"

"I think maybe we should take her to Clark. He might be
able to figure it out--and he's got the contacts, one way
or another, to handle it better than we can."

Perry gave a short bark of laughter. "You're probably
right. I'll talk to the Security guys and let them know
we're going to take care of it. Let's use your car."


"What do you mean, a problem?" Clark asked, sharply.

Bernie rubbed his hand across the sparse hair that still
adorned his head. "Um...there's more than one baby there."

"Is *that* all?" Lois burst out. "I thought something was
wrong with the baby!"

"Oh!" Bernie looked appalled. "No, nothing of the sort."

The relief Clark felt was almost physical. The thought of
twins wasn't nearly as intimidating as the thought of a
problem with their child. "You scared us, Bernie."

"I'm sorry." Dr. Klein looked guilty. "I sort of forgot you
were there."

That would have sounded ridiculous from anyone but Bernie
Klein, Clark thought. "So, that was the big problem? We're
having twins?"

"Huh? Oh, didn't I explain?"

"No, you didn't," Lois interrupted. Exasperation and
uncertainty had given her voice a shrill note that would
have put Clark on guard if he hadn't been so worried. "Why
don't you tell us?"

Bernard Klein looked harassed. "I'm sorry. It's just kind
of a shock--I never expected to have to handle a multiple
birth. Especially considering--" He didn't complete the
sentence, though Clark could probably finish it, himself:
'Considering that these are Superman's babies.'

Dr. Klein nodded at the technician. "I'll want to schedule
another sonogram next month. This is one pregnancy that I
want to track closely." He turned back to Lois and Clark,
scratching his chin, nervously.

"Dr. Klein, is there a problem?" Lois asked. "Lots of women
have twins."

The doctor started, as if someone had prodded him
unexpectedly. "Oh, no--didn't I say?"

"Say what?" Clark demanded, trying to remain patient.

Bernard Klein fidgeted, uncomfortably. "Uh--"

"Dr. Klein, *what* is the matter?" Lois practically

Bernard Klein gulped. "It's not twins," he managed, at
last. "It's triplets."


"I need to pick up Jonny and Marta," Jimmy explained.
"They're supposed to stay with Sandi at the townhouse until
Clark and Lois get back."

"How about CJ?" Perry asked.

"He's probably already at home. CJ has permission to stay
by himself in the afternoon."

"All right. Let's take care of that. I'll call Alice to let
her know I'll be a little late and leave a message for
Clark on his voice mail."

"Okay." Jim glanced at the girl, sitting in the rear seat
next to Jimmy's car seat. She still hadn't made a sound,
but she looked less frightened, now. He hoped Clark could
come up with some answers to their minor mystery. He didn't
like the idea of scaring the kid more than she'd already
been scared today. Dragging the police and Social Services
into this was only likely to make the situation worse.

Perry glanced at his watch. "Hmm, five o'clock. What time
was their appointment?"

"Four," Jim said. "You know doctors and hospitals, though.
They'll be lucky to get out of there by six. That's why
Clark asked me to pick up the kids."

Perry nodded. He glanced back at the mystery girl. "We're
going to take you to see a friend of ours who might be able
to help," he explained. "Would you like something to eat in
the meantime?" A timid nod answered him "Okay, as soon as
we pick up Jimmy's sister and brother, we'll get

"Sandi's getting takeout pizza," Jim said. "We might as
well feed her along with the others." He looked at the
girl. "Do you like pizza?"

Another nod. Satisfied, Jim started up the engine and
backed out of the parking spot. As he did so, he caught
movement from the corner of his eye and turned to look. For
a second, he saw two, nondescript men standing near a dark-
colored car, then as one, they turned away and all he could
see of them was their backs.

"Perry, look over there to our left. Do you recognize those
two guys?"

Perry twisted around. "Where?"

"They got into that sedan. They were watching us."

"Hmm." Perry glanced at their passenger. "Probably nothing,
but we better keep an eye on them."

"Good idea." Jim shifted into forward and pulled away.
Glancing in the mirror, he saw the taillights of the sedan
come on. The car was backing out of its parking space.

"Chief, can you see the license plate?" he asked.

Perry lifted his head to look into the rear view mirror.
"Yeah." He drew a pen from his shirt pocket and quickly
jotted it down. "Let's see what we can find out about

"Good idea." Jim glanced at the mirror again. "If he
follows us, do you want me to try to lose him?"

Perry hesitated. "Yeah, I think you better," he said, after
a second. "I don't want to get held up or something.
Especially with the kids in the car."

"Ditto," Jim said. They pulled out the garage exit and
turned right. A moment later, the sedan--seen in the light
of the late afternoon sun, it was a dark maroon color--
turned right, as well.

This didn't look good. Jim saw that the light ahead of them
was green and stepped on the gas. The afternoon traffic was
heavy; typical rush hour congestion, he thought as he wove
through the stopped or slowly moving cars, but the maroon
sedan followed close on his bumper.

"Make sure your seat belt is fastened tight, Chief," he
said. "And you kids, hold on."


"It's not twins--it's triplets."

The words fell into a silence. After several seconds, Lois
said faintly, "'Triplets'?"

Dr. Klein nodded slowly, a nervous smile on his face.

"Three?" Clark asked, not sure he'd heard correctly.
"You're joking, right?"

Bernie lifted an eyebrow at him. "Clark, would I joke about
something like this?"

"I guess not." Clark hadn't released Lois's hand. "Could
this be why she's feeling worse, this time?

"Maybe, maybe not. Multiple pregnancies are associated with
a higher risk of complications, so it may have something to
do with it." He turned to Bonnie. "Make me printouts of all
this, would you? And--" he gave a small grin, "make a good
one for Mr. and Mrs. Kent. They'll probably want it for
their baby book."

"While you guys talk this over, do you mind if I go to the
bathroom?" Lois demanded, acerbically. "Unless you need to
look at my insides anymore, that is?"

"No, I think we have all the measurements we need for now,"
Bernie said. He was silent while Clark helped Lois
solicitously up from the table and to her feet. When she
had left the room, he turned to Clark. "I know you're going
to have a hard time slowing her down, but she's going to
need to cut back her work schedule a little. Even at this
point in her pregnancy, triplets are harder on the system
than a single baby, and it *is* likely that it's behind
some of her symptoms. I'm going to want to schedule her for
some tests next week, just to make sure there aren't any
problems developing at this early stage."

Clark nodded, his mind racing over the implications of what
he had just learned. "Will she be able to travel to
Smallville for Christmas?" he asked. "She's going to be
upset if she can't."

Bernie smiled. "I think it will be all right," he said.
"Just make sure she gets plenty of rest. Fatigue may be
part of the trouble at this point. And, as she pointed out
herself, her age is a factor, even though physically she
looks much younger than forty."

"I wouldn't bring that up in her hearing," Clark said,

Dr. Klein grinned. "I didn't. She should continue with her
exercise as well, but carefully. Multiple births also have
a higher risk of miscarriage, so this is a word to the
wise. And, I want to know right away if she develops any
other problems. Pamper her a bit; it'll do her good. She's
got her vitamins, and her diet recommendations, right?"


"I'll depend on you to see that she eats right," Dr. Klein
said, "especially since you do most of the cooking, anyway.
Tell her she doesn't have to give up chocolate, though. I
think that would be an unnecessary stress to her system at
this point. And I want to see her here next month for
another sonogram." He was writing furiously on Lois's
chart. "Ms. Green will make the appointments for her. Drop
by the lab on the way out. I need some blood drawn for some
preliminary tests."

"I knew it," Lois said, re-entering the cubicle. "You're
Dracula in disguise."

Dr. Klein grinned. "I keep the coffin in STAR Labs'
underground vault. I'll see you in a few days, Lois."


"That's the second red light he's run," Perry said. "I'd
say he's following us, all right."

"Yeah," Jim said. "I hope he doesn't know his way around
here as well as I do."

"It's an out-of-state license plate." Perry kept an eye on
the vehicle in the right-hand mirror. "I can't see much of
the two guys, though. Their windshield is one of those
kinds that get dark in the sun."

"That might help us." Jim took the next corner under the
nose of the red light and almost immediately turned right
again down a narrow alley. He winced as the left front tire
bounced hard into a pothole. "Sandi's going to kill me if I
screw up the suspension. Oh well, I guess she'll probably
say it was in a good cause." They reached the end of the
alley and turned right once more onto a narrow back street.

"He just turned into the alley," Perry reported.

"Hang on." Jim accelerated somewhat, turned sharply into a
dim enclosure, slammed on the brakes and cut the engine.

Perry obeyed, holding his breath. Silence, for a long count
of fifty. Finally, Jim raised his head. "They went past.
Stay there." He eased the door open and slid out. Perry
stayed down, keeping an eye on the two children. The girl
was scrunching as low as she could get in the seat and even
Jimmy had ducked down in his car seat so that the top of
his head was below the level of the rear window. No one
made a sound, and Perry could hear the beating of his own
heart in his ears.

A soft, grating sound made him jump, but then he realized
that a door was closing. The light around them dimmed.
Jim opened the car door and slid into the front seat.
"Just sit still. They'll probably be back, looking for us."

"Where are we?" Perry asked.

"In the apartment garage of one of my contacts," Jim said.
"He's out of town for a couple of weeks. Something about
things being a little too hot for him at present." He dug
out his cellular phone. "I need to call Jonny's after-
school teacher and tell her I'll be a little late picking
him up."

Perry chuckled. "Reminds me of when I worked the city
beat." He looked back at their passengers. "Are you two all

Jimmy nodded. "That was fun! Can we do it again?"

"Later," Perry said. He turned to the girl. "How about

"Okay." It was the first word she'd spoken.

"Good." Perry knew better than to push things. If she was
feeling safe enough to speak, maybe they could get more out
of her in a little while.

Jim concluded his call and punched in another number. "I'm
going to call CK, too. Maybe he can help us out."

"Good idea."


Clark was sitting beside his wife in the waiting room for
the lab when his cellular phone beeped softly. He'd turned
it on after leaving the sonogram room and now, checking the
readout, he noted that he had a missed call. He flipped it
open. "Kent."

"CK, it's Jim."

"Hi, Jim. Everything all right?" he asked.

"Um--not exactly," Jim Olsen's voice said. "I haven't been
able to pick up the other two kids yet. Something happened.
I called Jonny's teacher, so the school knows, but Perry
and I wondered if you could help us."

"What's the matter?"

"Well, if you can get him, Superman would sure be useful,"
Jim said. "Perry and I are hiding out in a garage, with
Jimmy and a little girl who won't tell us her name, and two
guys in a maroon car are looking for us. Do you suppose you
could get Superman to help us out?"

"What did you...never mind. I'll see what I can do. Where
are you?"

"In a garage in the 700 block of Elm."

"Right. Hang on. I'll have Superman there as fast as I

"Thanks," Jim said. "Bye."

"What was that all about?" Lois asked.

Clark scratched his chin. "I'm not sure I want to know, but
I guess I'll find out. Will you be okay here for a while?"

Lois glanced at her watch. "Sure. If you don't get back in
time, I'll drive home."

"All right. I'll be back soon." He gave her a peck on the
mouth, got to his feet and hurried out the door.


Soaring through the air, Superman reached the 700 block of
Elm within a few seconds. Jim had said they were in a
garage on this block, and they were hiding from two men.
Floating high enough that observers were unlikely to notice
him, he scanned the area for anything suspicious.

A dark maroon car, its front windows open, was cruising
slowly down the street. The occupants, two men in their
mid-thirties by appearance, seemed to be peering closely at
the buildings on both sides of the thoroughfare, obviously
looking for something. That might be a coincidence, but it
wouldn't hurt to let them know that they were under
observation. He drifted downwards and assumed a sitting
position in mid-air next to the passenger window.

"You gentlemen look lost," he said casually. "Can I help?"

The head of the man in the passenger seat whipped around
and for a second Clark could have sworn his mouth dropped
open slightly. With an effort, Clark prevented himself from
staring. He'd seen this man before--or someone who looked
very much like him. But where? The association wasn't a
pleasant one either, he thought. The man wasn't
particularly striking in appearance; quite the opposite in
fact, but something about him made Clark's gut clench up
with remembered unpleasantness and fear.

But this wasn't the time to let them see what he was
feeling. With the skill that he had developed over years of
investigative reporting, he kept his face impassive. Both
men were looking at him now, and Clark got a clear view of
the other man's face. Again, he experienced the feeling of
familiarity, if not to the same degree. There was
definitely something here worth investigating, all right,
and he would be willing to bet his best cape that these
were the two men that Jim had told him about.

The car braked slowly to a stop. The passenger smiled
easily at him. "Yes, Superman. We were looking for the
Foxboro Apartments. Do you know where they are?"

"Certainly," Clark said. "They're on Palm, not Elm. You
want to turn right at the next street and keep going until
you hit Palm. They're right there." He lifted into the air
above the street again and watched as the car pulled away,
turned right at the corner and vanished after a few moments
behind the buildings.

Slowly, he turned his head and x-rayed the buildings on one
side of the street and then the other. Ah, there were Jim
and Perry, waiting quietly in Jim's car for him to come
rescue them. Clark smiled slightly. His youngest son was
strapped safely in the rear in his car seat, and beside him
sat a thin, freckle-faced little girl whom he had never
seen before in his life.

Or had he? He squinted thoughtfully at her. Something about
the child was vaguely familiar--not nearly as much as the
two men were familiar; more like a general similarity to
someone he knew or had known somewhere, but he couldn't
place it. This was definitely a mystery that needed

Carefully, he looked around, scanning the area with his x-
ray vision one more time. His eyes narrowed. The maroon car
was parked at the side of the street just around the
corner, masked by the first of the low buildings. One of
the men was speaking into a cellular phone.

Well, well, this was getting curiouser and curiouser, to
quote Lewis Carroll. As he tuned in his super-hearing, he
caught the tail end of the conversation. "...Alien is
present, sir. The target has disappeared, but the creature
may know something. Shall we keep him under surveillance?"

"Affirmative. It's essential that we retrieve the target.

The conversation ended abruptly. Clark considered.

What he'd heard wasn't pleasant. They'd referred to him as
"the alien", and "the creature" and, if he was any judge,
they sounded military. Whichever group they belonged to, he
didn't like the way they looked or acted and since they
were after Perry and Jim, that put them in the adversary
column. If that little girl was the "target", these guys
were in for a big disappointment, he decided. If it turned
out later that he was wrong, well, he'd just have to take
the consequences. He wasn't about to let them keep track of
him, and he had some friends to bail out. This looked like
a subject that Clark Kent should investigate, as well.
Xenophobic military or paramilitary organizations with an
interest in him weren't exactly on his list of favorite
people. If such groups were still around, he'd better find
out all he could about them and now seemed to be a good
time to start.

Slowly he drifted upward, thinking. What would be the best
way to get Perry and Jimmy out of there without letting
this pair know for certain that he had any idea what they
were up to? A quick scan of the car revealed no high tech
listening devices. Casually, he executed a slow and
graceful turn in the air and proceeded down the street away
from the 700 block of Elm at a pace equal to the speed of
the traffic. Let them think he was simply on one of his
regular patrols. Behind him, he heard the engine of the
maroon car come on, and keeping his attention trained on
them, he was soon satisfied that they were following him.

With one hand, he produced his cellular phone, confident
that his body and billowing cape prevented his tail from
seeing it, and punched the speed dial for Jim's phone.
After a short delay, Jim answered.


"Jim, it's Superman. I'm leading your two tails in the
maroon car on a wild goose chase. Wait a couple of minutes
and then you can come out."

"Right. Thanks, Superman."

"You're welcome." He tucked the phone into his belt, never
pausing on his way. A quick loop around an intersection
gave him a look at the men in the car. They were half a
block back, and both had their eyes fixed on him. Time for
another delaying tactic. His favorite cappucino stand was
right up the way....

A few moments later, he touched leisurely down on the
sidewalk and strolled up to the stand, waited patiently for
another customer to have his order filled and then stepped
up to the counter. "Hi, Billie."

The young, black woman serving the drinks smiled. "Hi,
Superman! Would you like your usual?"

He shook his head. "Not this time. I've got a couple of
guys following me, and I'd like to keep them busy for a few
more minutes. Can you fix me the biggest, most complicated,
most time-consuming thing you've got?"

"Sure thing! How about our super-deluxe double-chocolate
mocha, strawberry-creme, pineapple banana-whip cappucino
with extra foam? That should take a few minutes."

"Sounds perfect," he agreed. He leaned casually on the
counter, smiling at the passers-by who glanced curiously at
him while Billie prepared the drink. Time for a little more
eavesdropping. The maroon car had pulled into a space down
the street and he trained his super-hearing on its two

"What's he doing, now?"

"Looks to me like he's getting a cappucino."

"I didn't think an alien like him would drink cappucino."

"Trying to blend in."

"Must be."

They fell silent again.

"Here you go, Superman," Billie said.

"Thanks." Clark took the concoction, paid her, added a
substantial tip for her help and moved away from the stand,
sipping the drink. Hmm, this was pretty good, he thought.
Lois would like it, when she was feeling up to par, except
for the fact that it was probably loaded with calories and
Lois watched her weight very strictly.

"Mommy, I want what Superman's having," a youthful voice
announced. The speaker, he found, was a boy of about eight
who was eyeing the drink with interest. His mother's
expression was more skeptical.

Clark grinned. "It's actually not bad," he said. "But I
think this much caffeine wouldn't be a good idea."


The boy's mother smiled at Clark. "You heard Superman,
Jerry. That isn't for kids."

"But, I *want* it."

"No," she said, firmly. "How about a hot chocolate?"

Clark lifted off, careful not to spill his drink. The two
tails might or might not have any information with them
that he could use, but if they did, he needed to know it.
Jim and Perry had almost certainly had time to get away by
now. He gulped down the drink in two swallows, dropped the
cup into a trash receptacle and shot suddenly straight
upward into the sky.

The tails were startled, to say the least. Clark trained
his hearing on the car and grinned at the language issuing
from the vehicle. Again, he took out his cellular phone and
hit the speed dial.

"Hello?" Lois's voice said a few seconds later.

"Lois, this is Clark. I've gotten involved in something
important. I'm going to be awhile."

"So am I," his wife's voice said. "I'm still waiting. Did
you know there are at least thirty-seven magazines in this
room, each with their own unique, foolproof method of losing

He laughed. "Isn't that interesting? If that's so, this
should be the thinnest country in the world. If I get
finished before you're through, I'll be back."

"I'll give you a call when I'm done."

"That would be good. See you in a while. Love you."

"Be careful," she said.

"I will. We've got a mystery here. I'll tell you about it

"You better, mister. Later."

Clark tucked the phone away. Time for a little super-
eavesdropping and spying. If there was anything in that car
that might tell him something about these people, he was
going to find it. And it was going to be worth the time
seeing where they went.


"You guys go into the townhouse," Jim said. "I'll go pick
up Marta and Jonny. It looks like Sandi's here, so I'm
going to take her car. On the off-chance that I run across
those guys again, I don't want them to recognize this one."

"Good thinking," Perry said. "Come on, kids. Let's go get
some pizza."

Sandi Olsen met them at the door. "Hi, Chief! I didn't
expect you. Where are Jim and the others?"

"He's going to pick them up now," Perry explained,
shepherding Jimmy and the girl through the door ahead of
him. "Sorry to be late. We had a couple of strange things

"Oh? And who's this?" Sandi turned to the unexpected guest.

"That's a good question," Perry said. "She hasn't told us
her name, yet. We're going to try to find her mom for her
when she does. She's had a kind of bad experience."

"I see--I think." Sandi closed the door behind them. "Well,
why don't we break out one of the pizzas? Are you two

"Yeah!" Jimmy shouted, enthusiastically and galloped
through the entranceway toward the kitchen. The girl ducked
behind Perry's leg and peeked up at Sandi, cautiously. She
nodded, shyly.

"CJ and Wyatt are upstairs," Sandi said. "I promised I'd
call them. Why don't you take her into the kitchen and sit
them both down at the table? I'll be with you in a minute,
and then you can tell me what happened."

Perry nodded. "It's been a very unusual day," he said,

"Of course it has." Sandi gave a little laugh. "Every day
is unusual at the Planet. I work there too, remember?"

"How could I forget," Perry said. "I don't know how many
times Jim came runnin' to me for advice on how to impress
you. Where's my godson, by the way?"

"Asleep," Sandi said. "Finally. Go on, Perry, and I'll get
the boys."

Perry looked down at the girl who was still clutching his
pantleg. That wasn't such a bad thing, really. It meant she
wasn't afraid of him, as she had been of the guy in the
elevator. But what had at first looked like a simple child
abduction had rapidly escalated into something far more. He
hoped Clark would be able to find out something while he
was leading those two guys on a merry chase, and maybe he
could get the kid to talk when he got here. Clark seemed to
be very good at communicating with children.

He extended a hand to her. "Come on, honey. Let's go in and
sit down."

Jimmy was already parked in a kitchen chair when they
entered the kitchen and only a couple of minutes later, CJ
and Wyatt entered the room, followed by Sandi.

"Everybody grab a seat," she said, turning to one of the
large boxes sitting on the central kitchen island. "Does
everyone like pepperoni and sausage, or would you rather
have a vegetarian pizza?"

"Pepperoni!" Jimmy announced.

Sandi laughed and set the box down in the center of the
table. "Help yourselves." She turned to their silent guest.
"This is Clark Kent Jr. --called CJ by everybody, and this
is his friend Wyatt Dillon. I don't know, but did anyone
introduce her to the rest of us? This is Jimmy Kent, and
Perry White, the editor of the Daily Planet newspaper, and
I'm Sandi Olsen. My husband, Jim will be back in a little
while with Marta and Jonny Kent. I'm saving more pizza for
them, so don't worry. Eat as much as you want."

There was a scramble as the other children took their
seats. CJ smiled at the girl and patted the empty chair
beside him. "Hi. Want to sit here?"

She nodded again and slid into the seat next to him. Wyatt
reached for the largest piece of pizza and CJ stopped him.
"She's the guest, Wyatt. Let her have it."

The smaller boy looked surprised, but shrugged and took the
one next to it. CJ picked up the largest piece, dripping
with cheese, and deposited it on the girl's plate. "Here.
You look kind of hungry. My name's CJ."

"Hi." Her voice was almost inaudible. "I'm Linda."


The men in the maroon car fell silent after the initial
outburst. Clark floated patiently, listening. Finally, one
said, "I guess we'd better report in. The Colonel isn't
going to like this."

"We'll track down the two guys who took her. I got the
license number."

"One of them was the paper's editor. I recognized him."



"Maybe we should have a 'talk' with him."

"That's up to the Colonel. I think we better report in
person. This isn't the kind of thing that should go out
over the air. You never know who or what is listening."

Clark frowned. The more he heard from these two, the less
he liked it and the more certain he was that he'd done the
right thing. Well, just in case the military, or someone
else, was tracking him, he'd better give the impression
that Superman was just engaging in his daily activities. He
could keep an eye on the men from just about anywhere in
the air above the city, now that he'd identified and was
watching them. That was one of the reasons he'd never been
specific about how far his abilities extended, even to the
U.S. authorities. Most of them were probably good, well-
intentioned men and women of integrity, but unfortunately
there were always a few who weren't, and you couldn't be
completely sure that the wrong information wouldn't end up
in their hands. He could think of a few such individuals
he'd known personally. Their false assumptions about him
had, more than once, been all that had saved him and
persons he cared about from death.

He executed a wide, graceful turn in the air and cruised
across the sky toward the airport, but his attention never
wavered from the men in the maroon car. Neither said
anything more, but the vehicle was now wending its way
across town. He had every intention of finding out
everything he could about this group. And, in the meantime,
he searched his memory, wracking his brain in the effort of
recall. He had met both of these men; of that he was sure,
and the circumstances had been extremely unpleasant. He'd
had a closer association with the passenger than the
driver; he was almost certain of that too, but he'd met
them together. Where had it been? Superman and Clark Kent
both had encountered hundreds of shady characters over the
nearly fifteen years of his career in Metropolis and more
before that. Picking two men out of the rogue's gallery in
his head wasn't an easy task, even with a photographic
memory. He was sure to come up with the answer sooner or
later, but he'd rather it was sooner. Where had he seen

A military plane shot by on his right, headed south,
probably for Washington, DC. A glance at its sleek, silver
lines before it vanished to his rear, made something click
suddenly in his mind and all at once, he knew when and
where it had happened. It had been in association with the
military that he had met much younger versions of these
two. They had been among the Bureau 39 goons that had
assisted Jason Trask during his insane hunt for Superman,
nearly fifteen years ago. The car's passenger was the man
who had fired a gun at Clark Kent during that first
encounter, ironically enough on another plane, only a few
weeks after he and Lois had met.

But why would Bureau 39, of all possible organizations, be
interested in a little girl?

A chilling thought occurred to him. He hoped fervently that
he was wrong, but nothing he had seen so far had in any way
contradicted it. If it was true, then he had a big job on
his hands--one that he should have thought about, years
back. As a matter of fact, now that he'd thought of it, it
was something he was going to have to check out anyway,
Bureau 39 or not.

Be that as it might, however, he had neglected the agency
for far too long. It was apparent to him from the
conversation he'd overheard, that they hadn't changed their
attitude or their methods of operation at all--toward him,
or anybody else. Jimmy and Perry, as well as others at the
Daily Planet, could quite possibly be in danger because of
whatever had happened this afternoon. The rogue government
agency had already threatened, hurt and quite possibly
killed innocent people, and ignored the laws of the country
it purported to serve, all under the guise of protecting
humanity from a nonexistent alien invasion. No person and
no organization had the right to do that, no matter how
noble they believed their cause to be. He must have been
crazy to assume that Bureau 39 had been dissolved after the
death of Jason Trask. They'd gone underground, but they
were very much intact, judging by the evidence and for some
unknown reason, they had surfaced again.

Clark set his jaw, watching the maroon car as it made its
slow way toward an unknown destination. It was long past
time for Lane and Kent to expose the group for the
jackbooted thugs that they were. One way or another, this
time Bureau 39 was going down for good.


Linda. Well, at least they had a name.

Perry regarded CJ thoughtfully. It figured that he would be
able to get Linda to speak when no one else had been
successful. The boy was so like his father that it was
almost scary, although it kind of figured, he thought,
considering where CJ had almost certainly come from. The
editor grinned to himself. It would have been quite a
story, if he'd ever allowed it to be printed up in the
Daily Planet; one of those illustrations of irony that was
a lesson in itself. But the story would never be written,
no matter how tempting. The harm it would do outweighed all
other considerations in Perry's judgement. Lex Luthor
hadn't known it, but he'd done the world an enormous favor
when he'd tried to create the ultimate weapon against
Superman. He'd given them CJ Kent, who would certainly be
as much of a force for good when he was grown as the couple
who had adopted him.

CJ, on the other hand, couldn't seem to take his eyes off
Linda, and he was favoring her with his father's shy,
charming smile. Linda met his gaze and then looked down,
also smiling. Perry felt his eyebrows rising at the sight.

"Linda's a pretty name," CJ said. "I like it. What's your
last name?"

"Lennox," she replied, without hesitation. Perry turned his
face away to hide a grin. It looked to him as if CJ had
suddenly discovered girls and that the girl in question
seemed to like CJ, as well. He wondered what Lois would
have to say.

"Would you like to have some soda?" CJ asked. "Aunt Sandi
got some to go with the pizza."

Linda nodded again, as Sandi produced a two-liter bottle
from the Kents' refrigerator.

The doorbell chimed at this point. Perry turned toward the
living room. "I'll get it."

It was, as he had suspected, Jim Olsen and the other two
Kent kids. Marta and Jonny headed immediately for the
kitchen and the pizza, while Perry locked the door behind
his subordinate.

"Call me paranoid," he remarked, as Jim removed his coat,
"but I don't trust whoever those guys were."

"That makes two of us," Jim said. "I sure hope Lois and
Clark can figure out who they were, and what's going on.
And I'll be a lot happier when Clark gets here. I've got a
creepy feeling about all this."

"Yeah," Perry agreed. "Me, too. At least CJ managed to get
our mystery girl to talk to him. Her name's Linda Lennox."

Jim gave a snort of laughter. "Trust that old Kent charm
with the women. Wish I had it."

Perry grinned. "You're not doin' too bad, son. You got
Sandi, didn't you? Or, maybe it was Sandi that got you.
Look; go on in with the others. I need to call Alice again
and let her know I'm going to be a little later than I


The maroon car moved quietly into a shed next to a
familiar, dilapidated warehouse. Clark raised his eyebrows.
Bessolo Boulevard? It appeared that Bureau 39 was moving
back into old territory--or maybe they figured that since
the place had been theirs once and abandoned, no one would
think to look there, especially if no one knew Bureau 39
was on the move again. The place had been used to store
furniture meant for public buildings over the last fourteen
years, as far as Clark knew. It looked as if some changes
had recently taken place, though. This was getting more
interesting than ever; the rogue agency seemed to be coming
back in spades, returning to its old area of operation. Of
course, it was possible that the warehouse had some sort of
strategic importance to the group. That remained to be
seen. He decided to look it over carefully at the next
opportunity. It was too bad he and Lois hadn't thought of
that, way back when they had had a wide-open field. Quite
probably, the leaders of Bureau 39 had never given up their
paranoid belief that he was the point man for an alien
invasion. Why had he assumed that Jason Trask was the only
mental case in the group? Any organization like Bureau 39
attracted conspiracy nuts, and Lord Nor's crowd had more
than likely simply reinforced the paranoia. Who knew what
kind of delusions they had come up with in the years since?

He didn't like to think of the direction their imaginings
might have led them, but it wasn't something he could
avoid, much as he might want to. Whether Bureau 39 was
actually a true government agency anymore, or not, wasn't
really the issue. The real issue was the fact that there
was a group of extremely dangerous fanatics out there who
were willing to do anything and sacrifice anybody in order
to save the world--whether it needed saving or not.

The two men exited the car and approached a side door of
the warehouse. One of them produced a card and slipped it
into a slot on the doorframe and after a few seconds, the
door slid open.

Interestingly enough, the building didn't appear to be
shielded with lead. He floated silently above the
structure, examining the interior with his x-ray vision,
and drawing a few unpalatable conclusions.

The furniture was still present, taking up the warehouse
space, but that wasn't where the men were going. An
elevator in one wall, looking exactly like a utility
closet, took them down below the floor level to a basement
that he hadn't even realized was there. It wasn't lead-
lined, either. Bureau 39's bosses must have decided that
lead shielding would be more likely to draw Superman's
attention than a drab, furniture warehouse, and simply
relied on anonymity to protect their hideout. It had worked
well, and would have continued to work if chance hadn't
drawn his attention to the deception.

Well, he could kick himself for his complacence later.
Right now, he had some serious eavesdropping to do.


"Are you feeling better now, Linda?" Sandi asked.

Linda nodded. Her thin, freckled face had lost its scared
expression, though she stayed close to CJ, as if for
reassurance. Perry seated himself in the chair vacated by
Jimmy Kent and cleared his throat.

"Linda," he said, "do you have any idea what was going on,
this afternoon?"

Linda didn't answer, but the hunted look returned. CJ
frowned and shifted a little closer to her. "You're scaring
her, Uncle Perry."

Perry decided not to pursue that line of questioning for
the moment, but maybe another approach would yield better
results. "Can you tell us your mom's name and where you
live? If we can get in touch with her, we can get the two
of you back together as soon as possible."

Linda shook her head and looked more scared than ever.
"They'll hurt my mommy," she said. "Ben will hurt my

"Who's Ben?" CJ asked.

"Ben's my stepfather," Linda said. "He's mean."

"Was that him that you were with, today?" Jim asked. He was
leaning against the kitchen island, listening to the

Linda nodded. "He doesn't like me."

"Why not?" Jim asked.

"I don't know," Linda said in a soft voice. "He says I'm
disgusting. Mommy and Ben fight about me all the time. They
don't think I know, but I do." This was spoken in a quiet,
resigned tone.

Perry turned to look at Jim. "I think we better let this
go, for now. Somethin' real funny is going on here. I don't
like it a bit."

"Neither do I," Jim said. "Linda, just one last thing. Was
your stepfather really taking you to see the dentist, this

Linda shook her head. "He said he was taking me where I
belonged," she said, very softly. "He said he was going to
get rid of me for good."

"Did your mom know?" CJ burst out. The boy sounded angry.
"Did she let him?"

"Mommy didn't know," Linda said. "He said the people he was
taking me to would hurt her if I told her."

"Your stepfather is nasty," Wyatt said, in the direct way
of a child. "You oughtta tell the cops."

Linda shook her head, and Perry could see tears standing in
her eyes. "Ben said he was taking me to the police," she
whispered. "He said no one else would want me when they
knew what I was. He said I was dirty and disgusting, and an
abmi--abomnishon, or something...." She began to sob. "He
said I wasn't even a girl! He said mommy only kept me
because no one else wanted me. He said I was a monster!"

Perry got to his feet so quickly he nearly upset the
kitchen chair, surprised to find that he was clenching his
fists in anger. He thought he'd heard everything, and that
nothing could outrage him like this, but in a way, he was
glad to discover that he was wrong. This kind of thing
should infuriate any decent human being. "You listen to me,
Linda," he said, fighting to control his voice, "you're not
an abomination, or a monster, or anything else. If anyone's
a monster, *he* is."

"That's for sure." Jim's voice was trembling with what
Perry could see was pure, unadulterated fury. He had never
seen Jim Olsen so angry. "Don't worry about Ben, Linda. He
isn't going to hurt you or your mom. We won't let him. And
no police officer in his right mind would believe that
stuff. This guy is sick!"

Sandi glanced from Jim to Perry and back, then went to
stand by Linda's chair. "Linda, did he ever...did he ever--
*do* anything to you that he shouldn't? Did he ever touch
you somewhere that--"

Linda shook her head. "No. He said I made him want to throw
up." She sniffled, wiping her nose with the back of her

Sandi's face had gone white with anger. "What's Ben's name,
Linda? It isn't Lennox, is it?"

"No." Her voice was almost inaudible. "It's Ben Abernathy.
He wouldn't let me use it when he married Mommy. He said--"

"It doesn't matter what he said," Perry broke in, gruffly.
"I've heard enough about this guy. Linda, I'd like to call
a friend of mine. He used to be a policeman, but he isn't
anymore. I think he might be able to help us. And I promise
he won't hurt you. He's got two little girls of his own.
Will you let me call him?"

"Henderson?" Jim asked.

Perry nodded, never taking his eyes from Linda. "I won't
call anyone, if you don't want me to, honey, but I really
think my friend can help you and your mom."

CJ had moved to stand next to Linda, and now he took her
hand in his. Perry blinked, but said nothing. "I know who
he's talking about, Linda. Mr. Henderson is nice. He's a
friend of my mom and dad, too."

That seemed to do the trick. Linda nodded slowly. "Okay."


Clark followed the progress of the men he had dubbed Goon A
and Goon B. The two exited the elevator into the basement
of the old warehouse-which didn't look nearly as old or
run-down in here as it did, upstairs. The place had been
arranged, through the use of thin, metal paneling, like an
office. Various persons, men and women, moved about,
apparently intent on their tasks. The office that seemed to
be reserved for the mysterious Colonel was actually
completely enclosed--evidently, rank had its privileges
here, too, he thought.

Goon A paused for an instant, took a deep breath and
knocked gently on the door. A voice, tinged with a slight
southern accent, answered him. "Come."

Clark wrinkled his brow. He'd heard that voice somewhere
before, but where? He trained his x-ray vision on the room
and the walls dissolved before him. His eyebrows shot up.
Well, well, that explained a number of things.

Goon A and Goon B entered the room. Seated behind a heavy,
utilitarian desk, Colonel Ambrose "Rudy" Cash, formerly of the U.S.
Army, looked up from the paper he had been reading and
slowly removed the cigar from his mouth. "Well? What
happened to Superman?"

"Um...he, uh--left."

"Superman left?"

"Yes, sir. Straight up."

The former officer surveyed his two subordinates with a
bland expression. Casually, he placed the paper he had been
reading down onto the surface of his desk and almost
absentmindedly set a paperweight, carved into the shape of
a coiled serpent, on top of it. "Did he know you were
followin' him?"

"It isn't likely, sir." Goon B spoke up. "He spoke to us a
short time before, and didn't seem suspicious. He even
stopped at a sidewalk stand for a cappucino."

"Hmm." Cash laid his cigar down in the ashtray that sat on
one corner of the desk. "No sign of the girl?"

"No, sir. But we did identify one of the men who abducted
her. It was the editor."

"White," Cash said. He stuck out his lower lip for a
moment, obviously thinking. "You said there were two men?"

"Yes sir. I didn't recognize the other. It might have been
one of his reporters. I got the car's license number."

"Did you, now?" Cash said, genially. "Find out who it
belongs to," he added. "I want that girl."

"Sir, what do we do if she talks?" Goon B was obviously
worried. "If the alien finds out--"

""She can't tell what she doesn't know." Cash picked up the
cigar and took a deep drag.

"The mother can."

"She can be--influenced not to talk." Cash didn't seem
worried. "Find out about that car and who owns it. I don't
want to deal with Superman, but White has family and
friends we can work through. There's a good chance they'll
just return her to her mother, though. If they don't, there
are other avenues to explore."

Goon A spoke up. "You don't think it was deliberate?"

"Nah." Cash crushed out the stub of the cigar and leaned
back in his chair. "I think they were bein' good citizens."
He gave an amused snort. "They'll probably take the kid
back to her ma and congratulate themselves for doin' a good

"The mother could be a stumbling block. If the girl tells
her it was Abernathy that--"

"I'll handle that. We'll take care of the problem she
represents just as soon as we have the girl. I'd already
scheduled it. We'll just have to push up the timetable a

Goon B looked relieved. "How about Abernathy?"

"Taken care of." Cash leaned forward and placed his elbows
on the desk. "He wasn't reliable. If the wrong people were
to get wind of this, we'd be shut down overnight. That
fool, Trask, jumped the gun and nearly destroyed the whole
agency. I've worked too long and hard to bring it back
after he screwed up so royally. Now, at last, we have the
chance to present convincing evidence of the aliens' real
plan and show those idiot bureaucrats that the danger is
real." He leaned back in his chair. "Get movin'. We've got
a limited window of time and I don't want to waste it."

"Yessir." Goon B turned and departed. Goon A hesitated for
a long moment. Cash produced another cigar and took his
time clipping the end, lighting it and taking his first
long drag. At last, he looked up at Goon A.

"Yeah, Jones? Is there somethin' else?"

"Yeah." Jones seemed to be examining the corner of Cash's
desk with undue interest. "Sir, what if we're wrong? She's
just a little kid."

"She ain't a little kid. She's a monster--a thing. Don't go
soft on me, Jones."

"No, sir. I just wondered."

"Well, stop wonderin'. I'm an expert in tactics. Nor and
his buddies were just the sacrificial goats--the
distraction to keep our minds off the real danger, the real
invasion. I tried to stop 'em back then. Without Superman,
the plan wouldn't have had the ghost of a chance of
succeeding, but somehow he managed to survive. The girl may
be the first of this new batch, but she can't be the only
one. We've got to find out all we can about the critter
before it's too late for the human race."

"And Superman, sir?"

"You let me worry about him. STAR Labs ain't the only place
that had a piece of Kryptonite." He picked up the oddly
shaped paperweight and held it to the light. Even from his
point in the air, high above the city, Clark could see the
little, carved stone glowing a sickly green and felt a
chill crawl down his back. "That alien's been a spy for his
people for all this time, but we're gonna break his cover
when we show those pea-brained bureaucrats what we found."


Lois Lane walked slowly out of the lab, one hand pressing
down on the gauze bandage that adorned the inner side of
her left arm. Considering how much blood the technician had
taken, it was doubtful that she had much to spare, she
reflected, grimly. Every vampire that inhabited this place
must be getting his very own cocktail. Preliminary tests,
hah! If these were preliminary, by the time Bernie Klein
was done, she wouldn't have any blood left.

A glance at her watch informed her that it was six-fifteen.
There was no sign of Clark in the waiting room, so he must
still be involved in whatever he'd called her about.
Briefly, she considered calling him, and rejected the idea.
He'd sounded as if whatever he was doing was pretty
important, so she slipped into her coat and headed for the
parking lot where they had left the Jeep.

A familiar whoosh greeted her ears when she was almost to
the vehicle and an instant later, she wasn't surprised to
see Clark standing beside it, holding the door for her.

"Your place or mine?" he inquired, with a lift of his

"I guess we'd better go to yours," she said. "I have a very
jealous husband."

"What a coincidence," he replied. "I happen to have a very
jealous wife. I guess we'll just have to run away

"Sounds good to me," she said, tilting her face up for a

He obliged her with a more thorough one than was strictly
proper in an open parking lot, but no one saw them. After
giving her a hand into the passenger seat, he closed and
locked the door and went around to the driver's side while
she was fastening the safety belt.

"So what happened?" she asked, as he was starting up the
engine. "I gathered it was pretty important."

"Yeah, I guess you could say that." He seemed to be
concentrating solely on getting them out of the parking
space, but Lois recognized the pattern. Whatever had
happened, it was bothering him a good deal and he was
trying to organize his thoughts before he spoke. She
waited, trying to be patient.

"I ran into some old friends of ours," he began at last.
"The two guys who were chasing Perry and Jimmy. I'm sure
you haven't forgotten Bureau 39?"

It was just as well, she thought, that she wasn't driving
when he dropped that particular bombshell. They would
probably have gone off the road. "Bureau 39--you mean

"Well, no, not Trask. He's still dead, as far as I know,
but it's interesting that you should mention him. I ran
into somebody else who came pretty close to killing
Superman. Do you remember Colonel Cash?"

"What is this? Old home week for bad guys?" Lois asked.

"That," Clark said, "is a good question. Let me tell you
what happened...."


By the time he had finished, Clark was turning the Jeep
Grand Cherokee onto Hyperion Avenue. Lois was silent as he
pulled up before the townhouse and cut the engine. Sandi's
little compact car was parked just ahead of them, tight
against the curb. They really had to work out a better
system, she thought absently. Their garage held two
vehicles, but it was most inconveniently situated behind
the townhouse, which meant that to park in it, you had to
drive down half a block, turn into the alley and swing
around to the rear of the place. The garage was where they
usually parked the minivan that Jimmy's birth had forced
them to buy. Her Jeep was still her favorite, but you
simply couldn't fit four kids, two of them in safety seats,
into it with any kind of legality. What they were going to
do when the triplets arrived was anybody's guess. Buy a
bus, maybe.

A sudden thought occurred to her. "Alice!"


"They were going to check up on Perry! Did you warn Alice?"

"Oh, yeah, I phoned her," Clark assured her. "She promised
she wouldn't open the door without checking, and would set
off the house alarm if anyone she didn't know tried to get
in. I doubt there's much danger to her, anyway. They're
trying to be subtle, difficult as it is to believe. Trying
to break into the house of the Planet's editor might draw

"To say the least of it." Lois undid her seatbelt and
turned to unlock the door. Then, she noticed the expression
on Clark's face. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing, I guess," he said, doubtfully, "but it looks like
we've got quite a party going on in our house."

"A party?"

"Yeah. Sandi's there, and the kids, but so are Perry,
Jimmy, Bill 'Deputy Mayor' Henderson, and a little girl
with red hair and freckles, who I think is the one Cash is
after. They seem to be eating pizza. I guess we better find
out what it's all about."


Perry looked around at the sound of a key in the front
door. When Lois and Clark entered, he set his slice of
pizza onto the saucer he had appropriated for the purpose
and got to his feet. "Hi, kids."

Clark glanced slowly around and raised his eyebrows. "Hi,
Chief. Mind if we join the party?"

Perry chuckled. "Help yourself. Sandi bought pizza for the
kids and we're finishing off the leftovers."

Clark glanced at Lois. "Do you mind, honey?"

Lois shook her head, a surprised expression on her face.
"No. Any of that pepperoni left?"

"Right here." Sandi moved forward. "Would you like me to
heat it up for you?" Sandi, Perry was aware, undoubtedly
knew very well the problem Lois was having with her
"afternoon morning sickness", in spite of the fact that
Sandi was still on maternity leave. If she could handle
pepperoni pizza, it was all to the good.

"No, I think I'd like it better cold." Lois accepted a
slice and took a large bite. "Do you want to introduce us
to your friend, Perry?" she asked through the mouthful,
nodding at Linda.

"Sure." Perry turned to her. The little girl was sitting
quietly on the loveseat between CJ and Wyatt. The two boys
somehow managed to give the impression of a pair of
bodyguards so strongly that he had to hide a smile. "Linda,
these are Clark Kent and Lois Lane, CJ's mother and father.
Clark, Lois, I'd like you to meet Linda Lennox. Linda was
the person those two characters wanted. We haven't any idea

Clark nodded. Perry saw him looking closely at the child's
face, a slight frown on his. He walked slowly across the
carpet to her. "Hello, Linda. I'm glad to meet you. I see
you already know CJ."

"Hi." Her voice was almost inaudible.

Clark extended a hand and solemnly shook hers. "Jim already
told me a little about what happened to you when he phoned
me. We're going to try to find out what's going on.
Superman has been doing some checking on those guys who
were after you. He told me we need to find your mom so we
can help protect her from them, too. Can you tell us her

Perry watched, marveling at Clark's ability to connect with
Linda. She was smiling timidly at him. "Okay." She looked
first at CJ, who smiled encouragingly and gave her a small
nod. "Her name is Carolyn. Carolyn Abernathy."

"And, what's your address?"

Linda gave it. Perry looked at Jim and Henderson and shook
his head.

Henderson chuckled. "I wish we'd had you working for us
when I was on the force, Clark."

"Linda," Clark said, "why don't you and the guys here go to
the kids' playroom, upstairs. Wyatt and CJ will show you
where it is. We'll get hold of your mom and tell her where
you are. We don't want those guys to find out you're here,
so we're going to go about this very carefully. Okay?"

"Okay," she said. CJ and Wyatt got up and CJ pulled her
hand. "Come on, Linda. It's gonna be all right. My mom and
dad will fix things."

The three children headed for the stairs. Clark settled
onto the loveseat they had occupied and tugged Lois down
beside him. He murmured something to her, and Perry saw her

"How did the appointment go?" Jim asked. "Everything all

Lois swallowed a last mouthful of the pizza slice and began
to unwind the bandage from her arm. "If you consider the
fact that they practically drained me of blood, yeah, I
guess so." She examined the bruised mark on her arm. "The
technician missed the vein twice. When this is all over, I
intend to have a few words with Bernie Klein."

Perry saw Clark make a face. "I'm sorry, honey."

"Why? It wasn't your fault." She sighed. "I guess we might
as well come clean. There's more than one baby."

"Twins?" Perry was honestly delighted. "That's great!"

"No," Clark said. "Triplets."

There was a moment's silence. "Three?" Jim said at last.
"Wow. Way to go, CK...and Lois," he added after a moment.

Henderson gave one of his sardonic grins. "It figures,
Lois. I've never once known you and Clark to do anything
the easy way. Congratulations."

"Yeah," Lois said. "Well, be that as it may, we'll worry
about it later. Right now, we have another problem. Do you
guys remember Bureau 39?"

The name sounded familiar. Perry wrinkled his brow, trying
to recall. "Bureau 39--not that bunch of crazies that
thought Superman was an invader?"

"That's the bunch," Clark said. "They're back, and they've
got a piece of Kryptonite. According to Superman, the two
guys chasing you were from that lot--he recognized them."

"Oh, man!" Jim said. "I thought they'd disappeared when
their boss, Trask, was killed."

"They've got a new boss," Clark said. "None other than
Colonel Cash, formerly of the U.S. Army. From what Superman
overheard, he's been involved with Bureau 39 for quite a
while--at least since the New Kryptonian invasion. He may
even have tried to kill Superman along with Nor--at least
that's what he seemed to be hinting at."

"Well, at least it's nice to know all the nuts are in one
package," Henderson said, dryly. "Cash was court-martialed
and given a dishonorable discharge. I made it a point to be
present at his trial. I wonder if the Army knows where he
is, now?"

"Might be worth making a few inquiries," Perry said. "It
never hurts to let the bosses in Washington know what their
field agents are doing--if he's even with the government
anymore. Trask was a renegade and the boys upstairs didn't
realize it until he killed Johnson, after Trask's bunch
invaded the Planet that day. I wonder if they have any idea
what Cash is up to, now?"

"I've still got plenty of friends in the MPD," Henderson
said. "I can probably get them to make a few inquiries.
What did they want little Linda for, Clark?"

"That's a good question," Clark said. "They were talking
about aliens and Linda being part of an invasion force.
Superman said he thinks they've gone completely around the
bend, but they're after her mother, so we need to warn her.
They apparently are waiting for us to return Linda to her
so they can grab her again. Also, Chief, they recognized
you as one of the two who helped Linda get away, and they
got your license, Jim. They'll know who you are soon, if
they don't already. I already called Alice to let her know
what happened, but it might not be a bad idea if you two
were to stay alert until we can figure this out. Superman
said he was going to keep an eye on you, but he can't be

Perry nodded. "You're right about that. I better get home
as soon as I can."

Henderson got to his feet, limping slightly. The damage to
his leg that had tied him to a desk at the department was
never really a severe hindrance to him, but rules were
rules. He'd retired voluntarily at thirty years, gone from
there to a spot on the Metropolis City Council, and now, as
the Deputy Mayor, was looking for the top billing in the
next election campaign when the current mayor announced his
retirement. Personally, Perry thought the citizens of
Metropolis didn't know how fortunate they would be if
William Henderson became the Mayor and fully intended for
the Daily Planet to soundly endorse his campaign.

"I think I'd better take you, Perry," Henderson said. "If
anyone tries to stop you, it might make them think twice if
I'm there. Just let me make a call to some friends of

While Henderson made his call, Perry turned to Jim and
Sandi. "You two better be careful, too. Jim can tell you
about these Bureau 39 nutcases, Sandi. They're obsessed
with the idea that they're here to protect Earth from
little green men from Mars. You better have a good story
for them, if any of them come calling."

"What did you say? Repeat that, please...." Henderson's
voice was suddenly sharp, interrupting their conversation.
He listened for a few seconds and then spoke. "I'll be over
there shortly, Carl. I know a few things about the
situation that you don't. Right. See you." He put down the
receiver carefully.

"What's the matter?" Lois asked after a startled moment.

"If the Bureau 39 guys come around asking questions, you
can tell them you turned her over to the MPD, who are
investigating her kidnapping by her stepfather," Henderson
said, looking a little grim. "Her mother's at headquarters
now, in hysterics. Apparently, the stepfather was found
floating in the river half an hour ago. He'd been shot.
They've arrested the mother on suspicion of murder."


CJ and Wyatt escorted Linda Lennox up the stairs to the
Kent kids' playroom. CJ could still hear the adults talking
downstairs, and was just as happy that Linda couldn't hear
them. What they were talking about was scary. There was a
group that might work for the government that thought
Superman was an invader, and thought Linda was, too? What
kind of nuts could they possibly be?

He looked at Linda, and something in his gut clenched up at
the thought of anyone trying to hurt her. He still wasn't
sure what had happened when he walked into the kitchen and
saw her. She was thin and delicate, with red hair and
freckles, and had looked scared to death. Then she'd looked
up and met his eyes with her big, blue ones, and it was as
if some invisible fist had hit him a sharp clip in the
stomach. He'd realized suddenly that he was looking at the
prettiest girl he'd ever seen. Normally, CJ regarded girls
as one of those unavoidable annoyances that he had to put
up with, but in that instant, he'd only wanted to stop her
being scared, and to help protect her any way he could. He
hadn't been able to do much, but she'd seemed to trust him,
and that made him want to do more to help her. He'd been
awfully glad when his mother and father walked in.

He had a lot of faith in his mom and dad--not just because
Dad was Superman, but because they were Lane and Kent of
the Daily Planet. In the last few weeks, because of his new
knowledge of who Superman really was, he'd done a little
research on the Internet about the things his parents had
done over the years. It had been a revelation to him. He'd
always thought of them as just Mom and Dad; he'd been
stunned at all the things he'd found out about them. He'd
heard in school about how Superman had fought Lord Nor
hand-to-hand for the people of Earth. It was a new
sensation to realize that it had been his dad who had done
that and that he had risked his life to save all of Earth
from the New Kryptonians. His mom and dad together had
almost single-handedly brought down Intergang five years
ago and the list went on. He'd just about decided he wanted
to be an investigative reporter like them when he grew up--
and maybe a superhero like Dad as well. In the meantime,
though, he was going to help Linda as much as he could,
even if that was just by staying with her until Mom and Dad
sorted this mess out.

The children's playroom was actually the half of the attic
near the back of the townhouse that his parents--actually,
mostly Dad--had rigged up for them to use a couple of years
ago. Mom had complained that she couldn't hear herself
think when the three older kids were fighting over the
computer in the den and Jimmy had a videotape going in the
living room. They now had the small television that Dad had
formerly kept in the kitchen stationed in the corner of the
playroom, and the four different game systems were hooked
to it. He and Uncle Jim had put it together one Saturday,
CJ recalled. Uncle Jim sure knew a lot about that kind of
thing. There were a couple of bookcases with all the kids'
books, lots of board games, and Dad had promised that in a
couple of months, when he and Mom replaced the family
computer with a new one, they would let the kids have the
old one for games and homework.

Marta was already there and so were Jonny and Jimmy, when
Linda, Wyatt and CJ arrived. She was playing Tetris VI,
which took speed, coordination and tight concentration. CJ
had beaten it last year and hadn't understood what many of
his friends thought was so hard about it, although now he
wondered if the beginnings of his super powers might not
explain the ease with which he had beaten it. Marta was on
level 21 and still going strong.

"Not bad," he remarked casually, in passing. Marta didn't
even turn her head. CJ knew better than to bother her right
now, if he didn't want her to make his life miserable
later. His sister was a major pain in the neck a lot of the
time, but he had to give her credit for one thing; he'd
back her against any guy in the world who tried to make
trouble for her. Marta knew how to take care of herself.
Dad said she reminded him of Lois when he'd first met her,
and CJ had no trouble at all believing him. The only thing
that puzzled him was why Wyatt thought she was so cool.
Most of the time, he had no more use for girls than CJ did.

Linda stopped to watch Marta play, not making a sound.
After several minutes, with only the cheerful music of the
game to break the silence, Marta hit pause and turned her
head. "Hi," she said. "Want to play after me?"

Linda hesitated. "I've never played it," she said, clearly
longing to try.

"I'll show you how," Marta said, prosaically. "Just watch
me some more. After I miss, you can start on a lower

"Okay." Linda turned to look at CJ, who found himself
nodding encouragingly.

"Watch her," he said, surprising himself. "She's good."

Wyatt was already settling down on the floor to watch, as
well. CJ stood for a moment, then drifted quietly over to
the door again and leaned over the railing, listening to
the adults, two floors below.

"I guess we better get over there and try to straighten
things out," Uncle Perry was saying. "It wouldn't hurt to
have Superman tell them what he knows, too."

"You can bet those goons know where she is," his mom was
saying. "They might have even set it up. You better leave
Linda here with Sandi and me while you three go. Clark, you
find Superman and send him over, too."

Henderson's voice broke in. "Keep Linda out of sight,
whatever you do, Lois. I'll work things out with the guys
at the precinct. You know," he added, "I figured that once
I was off the force, I wouldn't get mixed up in this kind
of thing anymore. I guess I was wrong. It's good to get
back on the job again, even if it's just for a little

"No problem, Bill." CJ thought his dad sounded amused.
"We'll be glad to get you into trouble any time you like.
We always seem to be able to find it pretty easily."

"I always said the two of you were trouble magnets...." The
sentence was punctuated by the closing of the front door.


Lois sank down on the living room sofa and reached for the
last, remaining slice of pizza. Sandi Olsen slowly gathered
up the boxes for disposal in the trash while Lois chewed on
the now-tough slice.

"Mom?" Lois looked around at the sound of her oldest son's
voice. CJ was standing at the foot of the stairs, looking
unusually solemn.

"What is it, honey?" she asked.

"Those guys that were after Linda. Who are they?"

"Oh." Lois took another bite and patted the place next to
her. CJ obediently came to sit beside her and waited
patiently while she chewed and swallowed.

Sandi re-entered the room and was about to take a seat,
when the characteristic wail of a new baby broke the
silence. She sighed. "I guess the nap is over. I better go
get him." Turning, she hurried toward the den where five-
week old Perry Olsen had been sleeping. Moments later she
returned with a red-faced and cranky baby.

"He needs to be changed," she explained. "I'll be back in a

"Okay. I'll wait until you get back, then. You need to know
about these lunatics, too." Lois popped the last bite of
pizza into her mouth. It was amazing how good cold
pepperoni pizza tasted, after four weeks of sweet and sour
pork, green salad and iced tea. Not that the other items
were bad, but she was glad to find something else that
didn't turn her stomach in the afternoon. Come to think of
it, those pickled kumquats Clark had brought home from that
trip to wherever he'd been a couple of days before were
beginning to sound awfully good. Belatedly she wondered if
there were any green onions left in the refrigerator.

CJ didn't say anything, but she could tell he was upset.
Her oldest child never had been much of a worrier; in that
way, he was different than his father had been as a boy,
according to Martha Kent. Clark had worried about a lot of
things, which made sense, as he'd had a lot of things to
worry about. But CJ, in spite of his identical genetic
makeup to that of his dad, was the exact opposite. Perhaps
that was because she and Clark had been able to answer his
questions in a way that Martha and Jonathan hadn't been
able to answer Clark's, as much as they might have wanted
to. Clark still tended to obsess over problems; CJ, at
least so far, didn't.

Sandi returned to the room, carrying a newly changed and
much happier baby. She sank down into the rocking chair and
arranged him on her lap. "Okay, I'm ready."

Lois had been taking the time to organize her thoughts.
Misleading CJ was the last thing she wanted to do, but it
went against the grain to scare her ten-year-old son. On
the other hand, since these nuts had resurfaced he needed
to know the exact truth, and so did Sandi--suitably edited,
of course.

"Clark and I ran into Bureau 39 a couple of weeks after
Superman appeared in Metropolis," she began, abruptly.
"They barged into the Daily Planet newsroom with a fake
warrant and tried to get Clark and me to tell them how to
get hold of Superman. I guess they thought that since we'd
been the ones to write the first articles about him that we
must know how to contact him."

"You're kidding," Sandi said.

"Nope. It turned out that they were this ultra-secret group
that had been formed to protect the Earth from an alien
invasion. Jason Trask had worked for Project Blue Book way
back in the sixties. Somewhere along the line, I guess he
just went completely over the edge because he was out to
kill Superman. Anyway, they tried to lure Superman in by
throwing Clark and me out of a plane. Superman showed up,
all right, and they fired a missile at him, with
predictable results." She smiled slightly. "After that,
they vanished for a while, only to resurface again, out in
Kansas a few months later. They were looking for
Kryptonite, which no one knew about at the time.
Apparently, Jonathan and Martha's neighbor, Wayne Irig, had
found a piece in his field and sent it to a lab to find out
what it was. The next thing he knew, Bureau 39 showed up.
Clark and I went out to investigate what we thought was an
EPA cleanup, and Trask decided that Clark was in mental
communication with Superman. Believe me, the man was a
complete psycho. He tried to force Clark to call Superman
for help by threatening Jonathan, Martha and Wayne."

Sandi shook her head. "What happened?"

"Well, Clark managed to get out of the truck where they'd
tied him up and tackled Trask. They had quite a fight--they
even ended up in the pond there in the back yard of the
house. Clark won, and then Trask tried to shoot him in the
back. Rachel Brown--she was Rachel Harris back then--shot
Trask and saved Clark's life. But, when we tried to track
down the others in the group, they had vanished and the
government officials swore that Bureau 39 had been closed
down months before. We've never seen a trace of them since-
-until now."

"And now they're after Linda for some strange reason,"
Sandi said, thoughtfully. "Why would they decide a ten-
year-old girl is an alien invader? Even if they're all
crazy, they must have some kind of logic they're working
under--no matter how twisted it is."

"I don't know," Lois said. "As you say, there must be a
reason, but--"

Sandi continued to rock her baby, a scowl of concentration
on her pretty face. "I have a kind of wild idea. I'm
probably way off base, but see what you think. The New
Kryptonians invaded back in the summer of 1996. What if
they think Linda is a result of the invasion? She'd be just
about the right age." She shrugged. "I told you it was
really wild. Kryptonians look like us, but they aren't from
Earth. They probably couldn't even have children with
humans--but you know what has happened to the--um--female
population of countries here on Earth whenever one group
invaded another one. It wouldn't be surprising if the New
Kryptonians--" She glanced at CJ and her voice trailed off.

Lois stared at her, appalled. The idea had never occurred
to her--and *she* knew very well that humans and
Kryptonians could have children. There were three solid
pieces of evidence upstairs in the playroom and three more
on the way.

"I guess you don't think--" Sandi began.

Lois held up a hand. "Actually, I think you're brilliant,"
she said. "It doesn't matter if it's possible or not. If
Bureau 39's bosses think it's possible, then it is as far
as they're concerned and they're going to act as if it is."

CJ hadn't said anything, but the look he gave Lois told her
what he was thinking.

She glanced at the window. Outside, the sun had set and a
check of her watch confirmed that it was later than she had
realized. She hoped Clark and the other men wouldn't be too
long. This whole situation scared her in a way she hadn't
been scared in a long time. Criminals she could cope with,
but a bunch of people who thought their mission was to save
humanity from the evil invaders, no matter what the cost,
was another matter. If they figured out that Linda was
here, they wouldn't let a little thing like law or respect
for life stop them. And this bunch of lunatics had a chunk
of Kryptonite in their possession, which meant that they
probably had lethal designs on Superman as well. No, not
probably. They certainly had them. If Cash had tried to
kill Superman during his fight with Lord Nor, and
successfully covered the deed as an attempt to neutralize
Nor and his minions, then he would try again when the
opportunity offered.

"Mom?" CJ said. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing, honey," Lois said. "Are any of you guys still
hungry? I could heat up some frozen finger snacks for you."

"No, we're all full," CJ said. "Are you afraid those crazy
guys will come after Linda, here?"

Lois gave a small laugh. "Sometimes, I think you can read
minds. Yes, I guess I am."

"If they do, will they hurt us?"

"They might," Lois said. "They don't know she's here,
though, so I think we're pretty safe."

"I hope Dad gets back soon," CJ remarked, after an uneasy

"You and me both," Lois said.


After speaking to Police Chief Dobbs, Superman headed
toward home, leaving Perry, Jim and Henderson to sort out
the details of the story with Dobbs and Assistant D.A.
Peter Llwelling, who had been hastily summoned. He had
taken longer than he liked to be away from his family,
given what had happened this afternoon. He couldn't help a
certain amount of uneasiness about their safety and he
wanted to check on them before he went to the warehouse
once more. Dobbs hadn't been particularly happy at the
information given to him by Superman and the other three
men, but he reluctantly agreed to release Carolyn
Abernathy. The thought of a bunch of vigilantes with a
cause running around the city hadn't exactly thrilled
Assistant D.A. Llwelling, either, but both had agreed that
it looked as if Ms. Abernathy was an innocent victim rather
than a murderer.

He hovered in the air, high over the townhouse and scanned
it with his x-ray vision, checking, out of habit, to see
that things were all right before he entered. What he saw
sent him through the back bedroom window faster than the
traditional speeding bullet.

Lois lay sprawled across the couch and Sandi lay on the
rug. Baby Perry, in his infant seat in the den, was
wailing, unheard by his mother. Of the six older children,
there was no sign whatsoever.

Lois's heart was beating strongly and so was Sandi's, and
upon tuning his hearing to detect it, he could hear the
rapid heartbeats of the three unborn babies as well. With
that immediate concern alleviated, he trained his hearing
once more, striving to detect any other sounds.

Above him, he could hear the scurrying of some small
rodent, and faint squeaks in the region of the attic told
him that there was a mouse's nest somewhere, but there was
no sign of anything else. He sniffed, trying to discern any
odor, and at once detected a scent. Faint traces of some
sort of anesthetic gas hovered in the living room. The fact
that the door between the living room and the den had been
pulled to had probably prevented more than a tiny amount of
the substance from reaching the baby, he reasoned with the
part of his mind that wasn't gibbering in blind panic.

He knelt beside his wife, trying hard to control his fear.
"Lois! Wake up!"

She moaned faintly, but didn't open her eyes. Without a
pause, he threw open the living room windows, letting in
the crisp, cold December air. In an instant, he had
acquired a wet washrag and proceeded to slop water onto
first Lois's face and then Sandi's.

The baby's wails were becoming frantic. He whisked into the
den, picked up the screaming infant and returned to the
living room.

"Lois! Sandi! Wake up!" he pleaded again.

Lois coughed slightly and opened her eyes. She stared at
him blankly for a moment, then a look of horror crossed her
face. "Clar--Superman! They--the kids! Are they all right?"

Sandi moaned and opened her eyes, blinking at them, then
she pushed herself up slowly onto her elbows. "What--" Her
eyes focussed on Superman, holding Perry in one arm. "What
happened? Is he all right?"

He turned to give her a hand into the nearest chair. Lois
struggled to a sitting position, a strained expression on
her face. "The kids!" she repeated. "Are the kids okay?"

"They aren't here," Superman said, trying to keep his voice
level. "They've disappeared."


CJ braced his body against the rocking of the car and found
himself hoping desperately that he hadn't made a mistake.

The grey sedan was moving fast, and he could hear the
sounds of Jonny and Jimmy sobbing in the rear seat, and the
harsh voice of one of the men who had invaded the house
when his mom and Aunt Sandi had collapsed.

He had been holding the baby and walking him back and forth
in the den while his mom and Aunt Sandi talked softly in
the living room, when he saw both of them crumple in their
places. CJ wasn't exactly an expert, but he'd seen plenty
of spy movies. He pulled the door to the den almost closed
and rocked baby Perry gently, trying to keep him quiet,
wrinkling his nose at the sharp, nasty stink of the gas. It
didn't seem to be affecting him, although he'd gotten a
good whiff of it before he pulled the door to. After a few
seconds, three men had walked into the living room from the
kitchen. They checked both women, and then disappeared
quietly up the stairs. After a moment or two, CJ heard the
screams of his younger brothers, and of Linda. Gritting his
teeth, he stayed where he was. He couldn't help them, and
if he went running up there right now, he'd only get
grabbed, too. He heard Wyatt cry out in pain, and his
sister, Marta's yell of fury, followed immediately by a
pained bellow, apparently from one of the men.

Scared as he was, he had to grin. They hadn't known what
they were getting into by making Marta angry. If one of
them had hurt Wyatt, he'd bet anything that his sis had
made the guy pay. Marta would never have admitted it to
anyone, but CJ suspected she liked Wyatt. She was never as
tough on him as she was on other boys.

Meanwhile, he was thinking fast. The invaders didn't know
he was here, so that gave him time to do something to stop
them, but if these were those Bureau 39 goons that Mom had
told him about--which they probably were--they might just
have the Kryptonite around somewhere, which meant he
couldn't call his dad for help. On the other hand, he
couldn't let them kidnap Linda, or the other kids, either.
So, what should he do? If he called 911, the cops might get
here in time, or they might not, and he'd almost certainly
give himself away to these three creeps.

But, he could find out where they were going if he went
with them, if he could do it without being caught....

A story his mom had once told him about how she'd followed
some car thieves to the chop shop that dismantled them for
parts, popped into his mind and he considered it for just a
moment. If it had worked for Mom, then it could work for
him. He was even smaller than she was, so he should fit

But he'd need a way to call for help when he got to
wherever it was....

Gently, he put the drowsy baby down in his seat and snapped
the safety belt over his middle. Satisfied that Perry was
safe, at least for now, he ventured to open the door a
crack and peek out.

There was no one in sight. He wrinkled his nose at the
smell, but it didn't seem to be causing him any trouble.
Trying to breathe shallowly, he slipped out into the living
room and closed the door to the den behind him. An instant
later he was across the room and pulling the cellular phone
from his mom's purse. He could see that she and Aunt Sandi
were breathing all right, and the three guys had only been
holding handkerchiefs over their faces, so it must only be
some kind of knockout gas. Mom would be okay after she woke
up. He only hoped she didn't kill him later, after she
found out what he'd done but he wasn't going to let these
guys kidnap Linda again--or hurt his family and Wyatt.

The room was thick with the nasty-smelling gas, but it
still wasn't bothering him at all. That must be one of the
benefits of the fact that he wasn't human--or maybe his
partial invulnerability was the reason. Still, he didn't
dare waste time. He rummaged for another couple of items
from the purse and hurried toward the kitchen on tiptoe.

There was a nondescript, grey sedan parked in the alley
behind the house. Even in the dimness, he could see it
pretty clearly. This must be what Dad meant when he'd said
that he was going to notice his eyesight getting better and
better until he could see in the dark as well as he could
by day. It wasn't that good yet, but it was well on its
way. Dad had said that it had happened to him that way, but
he'd deliberately refused to notice the fact because he'd
been afraid of what was happening to him. That was
something CJ didn't have to worry about.

He let himself quietly out the gate. The trunk of the car
was locked, naturally, but CJ wasn't going to let that stop
him. He wasn't Lois Lane's son for nothing. His mom had
showed him how to pick a lock one day a few months ago,
just for the fun of it. In his hand, he clutched the lock
pick that she kept in her purse. It couldn't be that hard
to pick the lock of a car trunk, could it? Besides, now he
could *see* what he was doing if he concentrated hard.

Unfortunately, when the trunk opened, it sprang open
suddenly and he felt something inside the lock break. Sure
enough, the trunk wouldn't fasten when he climbed in and
pulled the thing down. He'd planned on closing it and
getting out through the rear seat like Mom had when the car
stopped, but this changed things a little. He was going to
have to hold the trunk lid shut and hope no one noticed.
Gripping it with one hand, he thanked his Kryptonian
heritage that he was already considerably stronger than an
ordinary ten-year-old boy. Gripping the metal, he waited,
trying to quiet his nervous breathing and to settle the
shakiness that was making his heart do back flips in his
chest. He wasn't Superman, but he was going to show these
guys that it wasn't just Superman who could cause them
trouble. Nobody went after *his* family like this and got
away with it.

The gate banged, and he trained his x-ray vision in the
direction of the sound. The three men were dragging the
five, struggling children out, and CJ noted with
satisfaction that one of them was walking in a distinctly
uncomfortable fashion. It looked like Marta had gotten him
where it hurt at least once. Not only that, but now that he
was looking for it, even with the blurry image supplied by
his x-ray vision he could make out the fact that the same
guy's wrist was bleeding heavily enough that blood had
soaked his cuff and was dripping onto the ground. CJ could
see a double row of cuts and bruises that looked remarkably
like human tooth marks on the man's wrist. Involuntarily,
he winced--if not in sympathy, at least in understanding,
and found himself hoping conversely, that his sister had
gotten a major blood vessel or something else useful. That
would serve the jerk right.

Marta was being held in a hammerlock by one of the other
men; apparently, they had concluded rightly that she
deserved the full attention of at least one person. CJ
grinned slightly at his little sister's language, in spite
of the situation. Mom and Dad would be appalled at the
phrase she threw at the guy hanging onto her--or at least
Dad would, he thought. Mom would probably have just washed
her mouth out with soap.

The back door of the car opened. CJ watched as the men
shoved their captives inside, and shut the door. A second
later, he heard the sound of some kind of locking system
clicking into place. Someone cursed. "Gimmie something to
wrap around my wrist. I'm bleeding to death here."

One of the others laughed shortly. "Serves you right for
underestimating a kid. Cash said one of 'em's a superkid.
My money's on her. Get in the car and stop whining."

A short time later, CJ found himself bracing his feet and
free hand against the insides of the car trunk as the
vehicle rounded a turn in the road. The trunk lid nearly
jerked out of his grip and he grabbed at it with the other
hand, sweat breaking out on his face. If the thing popped
up, it would certainly give him away. Desperately, he
straightened his legs somewhat and jammed his shoulders
into the trunk side against the swaying of the vehicle.

They were going fast; that much he could tell. Every time
they hit a bump in the road or went around a corner, he was
jerked this way or that and the trunk lid bounced. CJ
gritted his teeth, closed his eyes and hung on with
everything he had. Time passed with agonizing slowness as
they maneuvered through evening traffic. Eventually, he
began to hear a difference in the sounds of the city around
him. The honk of horns and other normal background noise
was becoming more distant, and the nature of the road
underneath the car's tires changed. The pavement was no
longer smooth, but uneven and rough, as if the surface was
in poor repair. Somewhere, he heard the whistle of a train.

Something jabbed irritatingly into his back. It didn't hurt
exactly, but it wasn't comfortable. He tried to shift
position and nearly lost his hold on the trunk lid again.
He'd better just put up with the discomfort, he decided. If
he did too much squirming around, he could very well make
things worse.

They rounded another turn and one of the back wheels hit a
pothole. The rear of the car bounced violently and he
banged his head hard against something metallic and sharp.
That one hurt. Probably the jack, he thought, grimly. Mom's
story hadn't mentioned all the pieces of junk that
accumulated in the trunk of a car over time. Still, if his
mother could handle this, he could. He had the advantage of
burgeoning super powers to help him, and she hadn't, yet
she'd done it and successfully brought down the bad guys.
He didn't intend for these particular bad guys to discover
his presence but at the very least, he could find out where
they were taking the other kids and call for help.

But who was he going to call? He hadn't had time to think
about that before, in his hurry. Not his mom. She would
come along with Dad, and if these characters whipped out
that Kryptonite stuff, it could hurt the babies. He'd heard
Dad say there were three of them. He might not be
particularly thrilled about more brothers and sisters, but
he darned well didn't want anything happening to them! He'd
never be able to forgive himself if it did, and it would
kill Mom and Dad. So Mom was out and so was Dad for almost
the same reason. But he had a few other choices. Uncle
Perry was too old, and besides, he'd probably tell Dad. The
same objection applied to his Uncle Jim, but....

Then the perfect choice hit him. Mr. Henderson was an ex-
cop, Dad trusted him, and best of all, Mom had the number
to his cellular phone on speed dial. He'd know what to do,
and maybe he could keep Superman away from the place.

The faint starlight leaking in through the partially open
trunk gave him enough illumination to hit the correct
button. He waited until the car encountered a fairly smooth
stretch of road, let go of the trunk lid with one hand,
punched the button for Henderson's phone, and grabbed the
trunk lid again before it got away from him. With his ear
against the phone, where it lay on the bottom of the
compartment, CJ gritted his teeth and waited while it
automatically dialed and then began to ring.

There was a faint click. A familiar voice said,

"Mr. Henderson," he whispered, fairly certain he wouldn't
be heard by the others above the noises inside the car,
"this is CJ Kent. I need some help...."


Henderson was speaking to a frantic Lois Lane when his
cellular phone rang and he answered it crisply.

The whisper from the other end was almost drowned out by
the sound of an automobile engine, but he was barely able
to make it out and what he heard brought him instantly on
the alert.

"Mr. Henderson, this is CJ Kent. I need some help."

He glanced at Lois, but asked, "Where are you?"

"In the trunk of a car. There's three guys who've kidnapped
Linda and the other kids. They don't know I'm here."
Henderson opened his mouth but the whisper went on. "I've
got my mom's phone, but I can't talk long--they might hear

"Listen to me," Henderson said, "leave the phone on. Do you
know where you are?"

"No. I'll tell you as soon as the car stops."

"I'm going to try to have the phone located," Henderson
said. "Don't turn it off."

"Okay." The boy's whisper was hard to hear, but Henderson
caught the next words. "Don't let Superman come. I think
they have something that can hurt him."

"Don't worry," Henderson said. "I won't. Stay where you are
if you can."

"Okay." CJ's voice fell silent but Henderson could still
hear the sound of the motor.

He glanced at Lois. "Do you mind if I use the phone in your
den? I have to make a private call and I want to keep this
connection open."

"Who is that?" Lois asked suspiciously.

"Lois, I don't have time to discuss it. I need to make that
call right now." He was already striding toward the den.
"I'll be right back."


Superman cruised above the warehouse, scanning it with his
x-ray vision. The building was dark and one look told him
that no one was there. The cubicles were deserted and
bereft of equipment. Even the drawers of the desks were
empty of materials. He reversed course back toward the
townhouse. He wouldn't have believed that Superman could
actually find himself short of breath from sheer panic, but
he felt as if he couldn't get enough air. His mind screamed
at him to *do* something, and he'd rarely felt so impotent.
His children had been kidnapped and there was literally
*nothing* he could do.

He whisked through the window of the townhouse to find
Perry, Alice, Jimmy, Sandi and Lois standing about in the
living room and Henderson speaking forcefully into the
phone in the den. He caught only the last few words and in
other circumstances would have winced at the Deputy Mayor's
last phrase to the hapless subordinate on the other end but
at this moment, his sense of humor had deserted him.

"Superman, did you find anything?" Sandi asked. She was
clutching her baby tightly.

He shook his head. "The warehouse is empty," he said.
"Somehow, they got word."

"But how could they?" Alice whispered. "Unless there's
someone in the police department...."

"That must be how they knew Linda was here," Sandi said.

"That's what I think," Bill Henderson said, entering the
room and shutting the door to the den. "What they don't
know is I've got an ace up my *own* sleeve as well. I've
got someone using the global positioning system to locate a
certain cellular phone. And my guy *isn't* in the police

"What cellular phone?" Lois asked.

"Yours. And as soon as I know where it winds up, we'll know
where to go to find the kids. And *no*, Lois, you aren't
going and that's final. And neither are you, Superman."

"Who was that call from?" Lois demanded.

"CJ. He's in the trunk of their car with your phone and
they don't know it. You've taught that kid of yours better
than you thought, Lois. Of course, if he were mine, I'd
probably tan his hide after this stunt."

"Bill, I *have* to go." Clark felt his usually
stoic Superman persona coming dangerously close to cracking.

"Yes, and so do I!" Lois asserted.


There were times, Henderson thought, that the image of
cynicism and the poker face that he'd carefully cultivated
over his thirty years on the police force still stood him
in good stead. He glanced at Lois and then at Superman,
wondering if the Man of Steel had any idea how much his
face was giving away at that moment. He was about to
refuse, but then a thought made him reconsider. If he had
Superman along with him, at least he could maintain a
certain amount of control over what he did. He made a face.
"Dammit, Superman, I wish I didn't owe you so many favors.
All right, you can come if you promise to obey every order
I give you. If I tell you to stop, you stop. Do I have your

Clark didn't hesitate. "You have it."

"How about me?" Lois demanded.

"Absolutely not," Henderson said, flatly. "Lois, you're
pregnant with three babies. I won't risk them, too."
Especially, he thought, knowing now whose kids those were.
Oddly enough, his sudden realization wasn't really a
surprise. He'd have to think about that after this was all
over, but right now, he needed to focus on the job at hand.
He had some fanatics to take care of and some kids to

Lois opened her mouth to protest and closed it again,
seeming to deflate. "Why do you always have to be so
logical? You're right. But I want to know as soon as
they're safe."

"I promise you will--if only to keep you from doing
something stupid," Henderson said, with a sour smile.
"Lois, I don't want anything to happen to those kids,
either. That oldest boy of yours has more guts than is good
for him, but I've got to say he keeps his head. As soon as
we have a definite location, we'll go. I've got some guys I
trust assembling right now."

"Where's Linda's mom?" Sandi asked, in a subdued tone.
"Does she know what's happened?"

"No." Henderson shook his head sharply. "She's safe with a
friend of mine. I decided she'd be better off if no one
knew where she was, as soon as you called me. If there's
someone on the force who's in contact with these
characters, after what Superman overheard I don't want him
to be able to find her, and I'd as soon he didn't have any
idea that we're onto him." He glanced at Lois's strained
face and allowed himself to reveal a trace of human
emotion. "Lois, I'm going to get all those kids back safely
if it's humanly possible. You've got my word on it."


Inside the trunk of the grey sedan, CJ became aware that
the car was slowing down. Instantly alert, he gripped the
trunk lid more firmly, holding it as tightly closed as he
could. The car swayed as it turned and the tires crunched
suddenly on gravel. He could hear the rattle as small
pieces of stone were thrown against the undercarriage. For
some minutes, they moved slowly over the gravel road and
then the surface changed again to smooth asphalt or
concrete. CJ felt the vehicle brake, turn slowly, and then
come to a stop. Through the tiny gap where he held the
trunk lid closed, he saw a low light come on.

They were still in the open, he realized a moment later.
The light was on the porch of a big, old house that looked
as if it had seen better days. There was a clicking sound
and he realized the car's door locks had been released. He
watched with his x-ray vision as his brothers and sister
were dragged out of the rear seat, followed by Wyatt and
Linda. Marta squirmed determinedly as her captor hauled her
across the driveway toward the house. The man, apparently
frustrated by her lack of cooperation, spun her about and
slapped her, hard. Marta's head snapped sideways, but she
didn't cry. The look she gave him would have melted lead,
and CJ gritted his teeth promising himself to make that guy
sorry if he was ever able to figure out how to do it.

When they disappeared inside, he eased the trunk open and
slid out onto the ground, crouching low to stay in the
shadow provided by the body of the car. The trunk popped
open when he released it, but there was nothing he could do
about that. Reaching back inside, he retrieved the cellular

"Mr. Henderson!" he whispered.

"I'm here, CJ," Henderson's voice replied instantly.

"We've stopped. We're in front of a house--it looks kind of
old, but sort of fancy, too. They just took the other kids
inside. What do you want me to do, now?"

"Can you see the address?"

"No, sir," CJ said, the courtesy to adults drilled in by
his parents coming so instinctively that he didn't notice
it. "There's no number. There aren't any other houses
around, even. It looks like we're out in the country,
somewhere. We came in on a gravel road, and I can see a lot
of hills with pine trees all over them. I can hear a river
somewhere, too, but I'm all turned around. I don't know
which way I'm facing."

"Okay. Try to stay out of sight, CJ. We've got you
pinpointed and we're on our way. You're northwest of
Metropolis, in Hobbs Canyon. We'll be there in about twenty

CJ turned his head as a door slammed. Four men had emerged
from the house and he heard one of them speaking, softly.
"The signal's coming from this direction--"

"Sir, I've got to move," he whispered. "There's some men
coming. I think they've picked up the phone's signal,

"Shut it off," Henderson said, immediately. "Get out of
there, now."

CJ shut off the phone at once and scurried around the car,
bending as low as he could. The men were approaching, and
he could hear one of them swearing softly.

"The signal's gone."

"Well, where was it before it disappeared?"

"This way...."

There was a narrow band of shadow that bisected the puddle
of light that illuminated the driveway where the car had
parked. CJ looked back at the men who were walking slowly
toward the car, and saw the weapons in their hands. An idea
hit him then, something half-remembered from some spy movie
he'd seen at some time or other. He clicked the phone back
on, took aim and threw it underhand into the grass in the
middle of the shadowed lawn some forty feet away.

It landed with a muffled thump in the withered grass and he
noted the instant interest of the men. "Did you hear that?"

"Yeah. This way. The signal's back...."

They changed direction toward the phone. CJ bent low and
scurried through the narrow band of shadow toward the hedge
that bordered the house. Crouching beside it, he tried to
think, breathing softly. He couldn't stay here. When they
found the phone they would figure out what he'd done and
start looking around in other places. Without further
consideration, he began to make his way toward the rear of
the house, moving as quietly as he could. At least they
were probably expecting an adult, not a kid. He'd have a
better chance of escaping their notice than a full grown
man, at least for as long as it took for Henderson and his
people to get here.

Halfway around the house, he encountered a covered porch. A
network of crisscrossed wooden slats intertwined with dead
vegetation that ran from the ground to the overhanging
porch roof, dominated one side of the structure. Pausing
for only a few seconds to consider the wisdom of the idea,
CJ swarmed up the rickety, awkward ladder and scrambled
onto the wooden shingles at the top.

The brittle shingles crackled and crumbled under his feet
as his weight came down on them, and he tried to move
carefully toward the actual wall of the house. Shreds of
wood splinters showered from the roof toward the ground,
and he found himself wondering if this had been such a good
idea. If they saw him up here, he'd be trapped for sure.
Attempts to tread more lightly only resulted in more
showers of debris. He crouched against the wall of the
house, trying not to move while he decided what was the
best thing to do now.

There was a small window, barely larger in width than he
was, in the wall next to him. He hadn't seen it from the
ground, but it was certainly there. A torn screen covered
it, and inside he could see a sliding, glass pane covered
with dark curtains of some heavy, opaque cloth. But the
lock that should have secured the glass panel against an
invader was unlocked. Well, it was a chance. CJ ripped the
screen wide, leaving the tattered pieces dangling and
placed his hands flat against the glass of the window,
pushing upward.

For a moment, the stubborn pane resisted his efforts then
with a screech that should have awakened the inhabitants of
every cemetery for miles around, it slid suddenly open.

CJ froze, waiting for the inevitable moment of discovery,
but nothing happened. After a long, tense period of holding
his breath, he allowed himself to relax. Incredible as it
seemed, no one else had heard the noise.

He listened. There was no sound behind the curtains. From
the front of the house, he heard the voices of the four
searchers. They had discovered the cellular phone, and the
open car trunk. They were spreading out to search for
whoever had arrived in it.

CJ made up his mind, and began to worm his way through the
window into the old house.


"I could get there faster if I flew," Superman said.

"Forget it." Henderson shoved his foot down on the
accelerator as hard as he could. Behind him, five other
cars filled with determined men were racing at reckless
speed along the highway, sirens blasting. Cars in both
lanes of the road ahead of them pulled sharply to the sides
and stopped as the small fleet of civilian cars, armed with
sirens and flashing lights on their hoods, tore by.

The men were veteran law officers who had worked with him
during his years as an Inspector with the Metropolis Police
Department, men whom he knew and had trusted--sometimes
literally--with his life. More recently, they had worked
with him more covertly. They'd been the only ones he'd
dared call out on this action. He was going to have some
explaining to do to Chief Dobbs later, but he figured that
was a lot better than having Bureau 39's mole in the police
department, whomever he might be, give them away in time
for Cash and his followers to disappear, perhaps along with
the children. That wasn't going to happen. He wasn't going
to let them get away again.

They rounded a turn in the road, the back wheels of his car
skidding slightly, but he never slowed his speed.

"We're going to get these guys, Superman," he said,
quietly, his mild voice at odds with his intense driving.
"You know, I promised CJ I wouldn't let you come. He was
afraid they'd hurt you."

"I know how to stay away from Kryptonite!" Superman

"Yes, I know. But four of those kids...." He stopped for a
moment. "I have a vested interest in getting these guys,
too," he said, with apparent irrelevance. "You know that my
first daughter was born seven months after Sue and I
married, don't you?"

"I suppose," Superman said, evenly. "It isn't important,

"Yes, it is. I've been hunting Bureau 39 ever since I found
out what they were up to--two years ago," he said. "You
probably don't know that Sue and I speeded up our wedding
plans after we found out she was expecting. Terminating the
pregnancy was never an option. Valerie wasn't mine--except
that she is, in every other way. She--" He broke off as
they skidded around another corner and accelerated again.
The city of Metropolis had given way to countryside. "One
of the New Kryptonians decided he wanted Sue," Henderson
said, grimly. "A guy named Jen Mai. Valerie is half-

Superman almost covered his shock, but Henderson could see
it. "I found out someone was hunting up the records of
children born at about the right time," he continued. "I
have some friends who helped me--Lois would say I know guys
who know guys." He smiled tightly and abruptly killed the
siren. Ahead, a gravel road branched off to the right. He
slowed the car and took the road carefully. "Eventually, I
tracked the inquiries to a secret government agency that we
both know and love: Bureau 39. They've been trying to root
out the human-Kryptonian hybrids, Superman--kids who are
the innocent consequences of the invasion--and kill them.
I've been close to exposing them twice, and twice they've
gotten away, leaving me without any evidence. They know
someone's after them, but I've covered my tracks pretty
well--I don't think they know I'm their shadow, or I
probably wouldn't be alive, now. They're not going to get
away this time. No one--especially not the agent of some
faceless government agency--is going to take my daughter
away from me, whoever her biological father may have been."

Superman was silent a moment. "I'm sorry, Bill," he said,
finally. "I wish I'd known." He paused and added, "And I
wish you'd asked me for help with Bureau 39. I'd have given
it to you. I have a few investigative abilities of my own,
you know."

"Yeah, I suppose I should have, but I had more than one
secret to keep. This was a secret between Sue and me.
Valerie doesn't know, anymore than Linda Lennox knows. I'm
good at keeping secrets--and I had no idea you were keeping
one just as explosive as I was."

Superman smiled very slightly. "I had a feeling you saw a
lot more than you should have back there," he said. "You
were always too observant for my comfort level. It's a good
thing I trust you as much as I do."

"You need to work harder on your poker face," Henderson
said. "Your secret's safe with me, Clark. I wanted you to
know that. Now--" he slowed down until the car was moving
at a crawl, "you're going to promise me you'll do exactly
as I tell you. I am *not* going to go back and tell Lois I
let her husband get killed. And we're not going to let
these pseudo-Nazi goons get away again."

"You're the boss," Clark said, and Henderson could see that
he meant it. "Just tell me what you want me to do."


CJ squeezed through the window with no room to spare and
slid to the floor. He stayed on hands and knees for several
seconds, listening intently.

Somewhere below him, he could hear the voices of several
men speaking, calling to each other occasionally. Those
must be the guys outside hunting for him. There seemed to
be a lot more than four, now. At some distance from the
voices, he could hear Jimmy sobbing. His brother's voice
was coming from somewhere on the same level he was on. The
kids must be imprisoned on this floor, somewhere not far
away, probably under guard.

Forcing himself to ignore his brother's crying, he trained
his hearing on the other voices below them. One of them was
closer, probably in the house, itself. Whoever he was, his
voice had a distinct southern accent and seemed, from the
tone, to belong to someone in authority.

"I want whoever dropped that phone found," it was saying
and CJ could hear the irritation in it. "I'm gettin' plenty
tired of this guy, whoever he is. Every time it looks like
we've hit pay dirt, he shows up and throws a monkey wrench
in the works. We're gonna find out how these aliens' bodies
work, and how to kill 'em after they get their powers.
There's got to be some other weakness than one, lousy green


CJ had his position pinpointed, now. He trained his x-ray
vision on the floor, trying to locate the man.

The picture was blurry, but he wasn't hard to identify. The
short, cigar-smoking man in camouflage gear was leaning
back in a swivel chair, holding up something that glowed
green with a light of its own. CJ couldn't quite see what
it was, except that it appeared to be round, and about the
size of his own palm. Kryptonite! his mind screamed at him.
Dad had described the vicious stuff to him weeks ago when
they'd been out in the field behind his grandparents' farm,
testing his abilities.

"This is the only one I've been able to get hold of in all
these years," the man said. "The idiots in charge have very
foolishly ordered the destruction of any Kryptonite that's
found, anywhere, because it's a hazard to their *hero*,
Superman. *Hero*!" The speaker snorted. "They'll find out
the truth when we find our world taken over by them. With
all my resources, I was only able to get the one piece.
When the aliens launch their takeover, we're going to need
more than this thing to defend the human race." He set the
object down on his desk. "Did you send out reinforcements
to help with the search?"

"Yessir. I've got everyone but Davisson out looking for
him. He's guarding the kids."

"Then get out there, yourself." The voice fell silent for a
moment. "Is Dr. What'sisname on the way?"

"Yes, sir. And the operating room is ready. He should be
here in half an hour or so."

"Good. Go on, get out there, Captain. Find that guy. The
Bureau can't afford to be exposed too soon, or the human
race won't have a chance."

CJ got to his feet, still listening intently. The last
thing he needed was to get caught right now. Mr. Henderson
would be here soon with help. The twenty minutes he'd
promised were almost up. But an idea was forming in his
mind. He needed to get rid of that stuff, the Kryptonite
that the guy with the cigar had been playing with. Nobody
else must be allowed to get hold of it, for all their
sakes. He couldn't get anywhere near it, any more than Dad
could, and neither could Marta, Jonny, Jimmy or Linda. But
Wyatt could.

But, that meant he was going to have to tell Wyatt why.


CJ kept his ears tuned for further developments as he crept
down the hallway toward the room where the other children
had been imprisoned. He had to watch his step. The ancient
carpet had its share of tatters and holes, and places where
it had come loose from the tacking that had held it to the
floor. His super-hearing had gotten much more effective
after his dad had helped him learn how to focus it
precisely, and that was a big help. He could hear the slow
approach of several automobiles over the gravel road, and
hoped sincerely that Henderson was almost there. He was
going to have to do this fast, though. As much as he
trusted Mr. Henderson, if Dad wanted him to know about
Superman, it was up to Dad to tell him. And no one else was
going to get his hands on the Kryptonite if CJ had anything
to say about it.

As he moved, he was considering two things: how to distract
the guard in front of the door long enough to get the kids
out and how much to tell Wyatt. There was no way he was
going to tell him about Dad and the others--not yet,
anyway. He didn't think Dad and Mom would like it. There
had to be a way to get his help without giving away Dad's
secret. On the other hand, it was probably going to be
pretty obvious that CJ couldn't get near the Kryptonite.

Suddenly he knew what he was going to say. Dad had gotten
along for years by telling the truth--but not all of it. CJ
trusted Wyatt, but that wasn't really enough. Wyatt wasn't
quite ten years old; he was pretty reliable, but he was
still a kid, and it was possible he might make a mistake
and let the truth slip. CJ had the right to risk himself,
but not his family. That was up to them, not him. But part
of the truth might do, at least for now.

The upstairs of the house seemed to be laid out on three
sides of a square. There was a corner ahead of him, and the
hallway turned to the left. Some distance beyond that, it
turned left again. Through several walls, he could see the
kids, sitting forlornly in a small, dusty bedroom, and
outside their door, a single guard, just as he had
expected. Jonny had stopped crying although he was still
sniffling a little, and Linda was comforting Jimmy. Marta,
on the other hand, was prowling around the room like a
caged tiger looking for a way out.

CJ rounded the first corner and passed a wide staircase
curving gracefully downward, the broad steps uncarpeted and
scuffed. He'd hate to slip on that, he thought. Nearly
opposite it, was a closet containing several very dusty
pieces of clothing and a clutter of ancient junk on the
floor and hanging from hooks on the walls. CJ grimaced. He
was starting to get a mild headache from all this
unaccustomed use of his x-ray vision, but it certainly
saved him from having to open every door and check to see
what was inside.

Suddenly he stopped in his tracks. That was it. Now he knew
exactly what to do. It might be a little risky, but it
wouldn't really be that hard....

A few minutes later, he paused just around the corner from
the room where the kids were imprisoned and took a deep,
steadying breath. A man was sitting in a folding chair just
outside the door and, unlike the two downstairs, this guy
wasn't wearing a uniform. Instead, he was casually attired
in jeans and a T-shirt. CJ's eyes widened and under his
nervousness, he felt a tiny bit of anticipation. That was
the guy who'd hit Marta. Talk about luck! If he could pull
this off, he might even enjoy it--just a little.

Feeling slightly guilty but determined, he surveyed the
area, making sure he knew exactly what he was going to do.
Then, he stepped out from behind his cover.

"Hi," he said, calmly. "Catch!" He threw the ancient
baseball he had retrieved from the closet as hard as he
could at the guard's astonished face, turned and ran.

Behind him, his super-hearing picked up the sound of a loud
smack as the ball impacted on some part of the guard's
anatomy, and a very human yell of pain and anger. There was
a metallic crash as the folding chair went over on the
floor and feet pounded after him. CJ ducked into his hiding
place behind the next corner and waited, watching with his
x-ray vision. He suspected he was going to have a monster
headache after this was all over, but if things worked out
all right, it would be worth it.

The guard came thundering around the corner, and CJ
congratulated himself briefly on his aim at the sight of a
red, swollen mark encompassing the man's left eye and part
of his cheek where the ball had apparently struck. Now, if
the guy took the bait, he would be okay. If not, he might
be in trouble.

The guard skidded to a halt, staring for an instant at the
piece of cloth protruding from the crack between the closet
door and the frame. He yanked the door open with an
exclamation of satisfaction. "Gotcha, you little--"

CJ charged. His shoulder struck the guard at waist height
in the middle of his back, shoving him forward into the
closet and the tangling pieces of clothing hanging from the
clothing rack. It took only an instant and he had slammed
the door after the man. He thrust the key, which had been
hanging by the door a few moments earlier, into the lock
and turned it with a decisive click. That should hold him
for a bit. The doors of the old house seemed to be heavy
and solidly made, but CJ had very little faith in the
lock's holding for more than a few minutes. He returned to
his previous hiding place to retrieve the old, metal
ironing board from the spot where he had stashed it
earlier. With care, he braced it tightly against the door
under the knob, with the other end rammed firmly against
the railing of the staircase. That should hold him long
enough for CJ to get the kids out, though he didn't want to
count on it for much longer than that.

The guard was yelling and pounding on the door, but his
cries were muffled by the thickness of the panel. CJ didn't
envy him, stuck in the cramped, dusty closet, but he didn't
stop to worry about it. He hurried back toward the room
where the kidnapped children were imprisoned.

Marta whirled toward him, eyes wide when he yanked the door
open. Her mouth fell open, but for once, he managed to jump
in ahead of her questions. "Come on! Let's get out of here
before we get caught!"

"CJ?" His sister stared at him in shock. "What are you--"

"Come on!" CJ gestured them out into the hall. "Don't make
any noise, okay?"

After a stunned second, they obeyed him. CJ pointed down
the hall in the opposite direction from which he had come.
"That way!" he whispered. "Hurry!"


"How did *you* get here?" Marta whispered, accusingly.

"Tell you later. I don't have time to explain." CJ checked
back the way they had come, but so far, no one appeared to
have noticed the change in their status. "Mr. Henderson's
on his way. You guys just have to stay out of sight until
they get here." He pointed to the cord hanging from the
ceiling. "If Wyatt and I give you a boost, can you grab

"Sure." Marta cast him a puzzled look. "Why?"

"That's a door to the attic. If you pull it down, the
stairs will come down and you can go up them and pull the
door up behind you."

"How do *you* know that?"

CJ sighed deeply. "Because I saw one once, at somebody's
house. Can we argue later? I don't want them to catch you
guys again."

"Us--what about *you*?"

"I've got to do something really important." At the
rebellious expression on her face, he added, "Somebody's
got to stay with the little kids 'til Mr. Henderson gets
here. Come on, Marta. That guy that hit you could get out
of the closet any minute, and if he does, he's gonna be
pretty mad."

"How did *you* know about that?" she demanded.

"Because I saw him, dopey! He's locked in a closet, but he
might not stay there very long. Hurry up, will you?"

She glared at him for a minute, then gave in. "Okay, but
you're gonna explain it to me later!"

CJ didn't give her a chance to change her mind. He glanced
at Wyatt. "You take one side and I'll take the other.

Implementing CJ's plan didn't take long. The steps hadn't
been used recently, judging by their reluctance to budge,
but it only took a couple of minutes to get them down to
floor level. Marta looked doubtfully at the dark opening
above them. "You want us to go up in *there*?"

Wyatt looked questioningly at CJ, who nodded. He looked
back at Marta. "I'm game if you are."

"I need you to help me," CJ said. "Come on, Marta. You're
not scared, are you?"

Marta bristled. Wyatt saved the situation and forestalled
another argument by saying, "Marta's not scared of
anything, CJ."

CJ saw Marta's face change. He hastily retrieved his
misstep. "Look, I know it's dark, but you'll be pretty safe
up there. Put something heavy over the hole so if anybody
tries to get in they'll have to push it off. Mr. Henderson
ought to be here in a few minutes." He turned to Linda, who
was standing next to him. "Can you help her, Linda?"

Linda nodded. She turned to Marta. "I'm going," she said,
suddenly. "I'm not afraid of spiders or anything." Without
another word, she began to ascend the ladder.

That seemed break the impasse. Jonny and Jimmy followed
Linda up the steps. Marta put one foot on the bottom step
and looked at the two boys. "You guys be careful," she
said, unexpectedly.

"We will. Hurry!" CJ glanced down the hallway again. Still
nobody, but he couldn't shake the feeling that he was
running out of time.

Marta went quickly up the stairs. As soon as she
disappeared, the two boys pushed up the bottom section and
the attic stairs folded up neatly. The ceiling trapdoor
swung shut with a soft, sigh of air, leaving the cord
swaying slightly. Wyatt looked at CJ. "Now what?" he asked.

"Come on," CJ said. "We need to get something. There's a
guy down there--he's got a chunk of Kryptonite; you know:
the stuff that can hurt Superman. He's crazy--he thinks
Superman is some kind of evil invader and wants to kill
him. We've got to get hold of it before Mr. Henderson gets

"How do you know all this?" Wyatt asked. "What's going on?
How did you get here, and how come those weirdoes grabbed
us, anyway?" He rubbed his arm, and CJ abruptly noticed the
large bruise in the shape of a hand that discolored the
skin. He swallowed.

"Look, I'll explain it all to you later, okay? I need you
to help me now, though."

"Okay. What do we do?"

"Well--" CJ pointed. "There's some back stairs that way.
The last I saw, the guy was in his office and the stuff was
on his desk. I'm gonna try to distract him, and you run in
and get the Kryptonite. It's a piece of green rock."

"I dunno," Wyatt said. "Why don't I distract him and you
can go get it? You know what it looks like."

"Because I can't," CJ said. "Besides, he might catch you."

"He might catch you, too," Wyatt said, reasonably. "Why
can't you?"

CJ swallowed. He'd hoped to avoid answering the question,
but Wyatt, as he expected, was too curious. The little guy
didn't make straight A's in fifth grade because he was
stupid. Well, here went nothing.

"I can't touch the stuff," he said. "I can't even get near
it, because it'll hurt me, too--just like Superman."

Wyatt cast a skeptical glance at him. CJ took a deep
breath. "These guys--Bureau 39--they're crazy, Wyatt.
Remember the stuff we studied in history about the New
Kryptonian invasion, and how Superman fought the leader--
Lord Nor?"


"And you remember how the Army hit them with poison gas
that had Kryptonite in it? It killed Lord Nor and his top
lieutenants, but it didn't quite kill Superman."

"Everybody knows about that," Wyatt said, impatiently.

"Well, these guys--they think Earth is being invaded again.
They think that some kids here on Earth are half-
Kryptonian, from when the New Kryptonians invaded, and
these Bureau 39 creeps think they're gonna try to take over
Earth. They think Linda's one because she was born about
the right time."

Wyatt looked slightly doubtful. "That's dumb. But--"

"I heard the guy with the Kryptonite say that they're
bringing in a doctor to find out how her body works," CJ
said. "I think they're gonna dissect her, if we don't stop
'em." He swallowed. "Wyatt, they're right about the half-
Kryptonian kids--but the kids aren't trying to take over
the Earth. They don't even know what they are yet."

"Then, how come you know about it?" Wyatt asked.

"You know I'm adopted, right?"

Wyatt nodded. "Yeah. But--"

"I found out about it last month--right after Superman
saved us from Biff and the other guys that day. I didn't
know before that. Superman said he started getting his
powers when he was about ten and that I was starting to get
'em, too. Remember how I beat Biff at arm-wrestling? He
says that some day I'll be like him, but that won't be for
a long time and he said I shouldn't tell anybody unless I
really trusted them, because if bad guys found out about
it, they'd try to kill me and my family. Anyway," CJ
concluded, "that's why I can't get near the Kryptonite.
It'll hurt me, too." He looked Wyatt straight in the eye.
"Now, are you gonna help me, or not?"

Wyatt stared back at him for several seconds, and finally
nodded. "Okay. You're gonna tell me more about it, later,
aren't you?"

"Sure. But let's hurry. Mr. Henderson's people are almost

"How do you know?"

"'Cause I can hear 'em coming. Come on. The stairs are
through here." He pushed aside a tattered curtain to reveal
a wooden door, which, when opened, revealed a narrow,
uncarpeted flight of stairs.

"How did you know that was there?" Wyatt asked.

"Sh," CJ said. "I'm trying to hear."

"Oh." Wyatt fell silent and CJ strained his ears.

"I don't hear anybody down there," he said, after a minute.
"Come on."

The stairs emerged into the kitchen, of all places. CJ
rubbed his forehead and squinted his eyes, peering around
with his x-ray vision. The picture was blurrier than ever
and his head started to throb but he could make out the man
in camouflage gear standing by the window in what must be
the living room, peering out into the dark. In his office,
the chunk of Kryptonite was lying on his desk next to a cup
of what was probably coffee.

"What're you doing?" Wyatt asked.

"Checking where people are. The guy's looking out the
window in front of the house. Everybody else is wandering
around outside."

"How do you know that?"

"X-ray vision. I told you I was starting to get some of
Superman's powers."

"Cool. Do you have to switch it on, or something?"

"Huh? What are you talking about?"

Wyatt shrugged. "I saw you rub your head. Do you have to
switch it on?"

"Oh." CJ grinned a little. "No. I've never used it this
much before and it's making my head hurt. Come on. Mr.
Henderson will be here in a minute."


"What's going on?" Henderson asked.

Superman, Henderson and nine other men were bunched in a
small, determined group at the row of pine trees that
marked the edge of the old Packard estate. The Man of Steel
drifted slowly upward until his feet were some ten feet
above Henderson's head. After a long moment, he floated
down again.

"There are about twenty armed men wandering around the
grounds," he reported. "They're wearing night vision
goggles and they seem to be searching for something--or

"CJ," Henderson said. He gave a soft laugh. "I guess they
haven't caught him, yet. That kid's got talent."

"Definitely," Superman said, and Henderson heard the barest
note of pride in his voice.

"Is Cash one of them?" he asked.

"No. Goons A and B are there, and I recognize a few of the
others. I think Cash must be inside, still."

"All right, here's what I want you to do, Superman. Fly in
overhead and start picking off the guys outside as quietly
as you can. I don't want them to have any idea that
anything's happened until it's too late--but don't set foot
inside. If the Kryptonite's here, you can bet Cash has it
and I don't want him to have any warning--or any chance to
destroy the evidence--got it?"

"Got it."

"All right, go."

Superman rose silently upward again and vanished. Henderson
turned to his men. "Everybody got your instructions

Determined nods all around answered him.

"Okay, put on your night eyes and move out."


He wasn't going to be able to get this guy to chase him, CJ
thought. The man--Colonel Cash, according to the
conversations he'd overheard--didn't look as if he'd done
any running in years. They were going to have to figure out
how to get him out of the living room by some other means.
The den, where Cash had set up his office, opened off the
living room, and Wyatt wasn't going to be able to get in to
swipe the Kryptonite with him standing right there....

CJ sighed. He'd heard the distinctive swoosh of air over
the house twice now, which told him that his dad was in
action out there somewhere, doing something. He should have
known that even Mr. Henderson couldn't keep him away
altogether, but at least he wasn't coming into the house.
He was being pretty quiet, too. If CJ hadn't had super-
hearing, he wouldn't have noticed the sound.

"What are we gonna do?" Wyatt asked.

CJ looked around, searching for an idea. The kitchen was
large, compared to the kitchen in his home, but the
appliances looked like something out of an old movie, he
thought--a *very* old movie. There wasn't even a
dishwasher, and the stove and refrigerator looked as if
they had been built in the dark ages. In one corner a
small, narrow door opened to reveal an antique water
heater, and next to it on the wall was one of the boxes
like the one that held the circuit-breakers for the
townhouse where he lived.

A sudden idea hit him and he opened the box.

For a moment, he was puzzled. CJ had, more than once, had
to go reset the circuit breaker. The townhouse was pretty
old, although it looked modern compared to this crumbling
building, and every now and then someone would overload a
circuit. Marta was always running the microwave without
making sure the dishwasher wasn't running--or vice versa--
and blowing out the power in the kitchen. CJ was usually
the one that Mom sent down to the basement to fix the
problem, since he was the tallest. What he was looking at
didn't look anything like the circuit breaker box that he
was used to.

Wyatt came up beside him. "What's the matter?"

"I've never seen a circuit-breaker box that looked like

"Oh," Wyatt said, in a matter-of-fact manner. "Those are
fuses. You screw them in. They work like the circuit-
breakers in your house."

"How do you know?"

"Hank showed me how to fix 'em at our apartment--in case
one of 'em blew when he wasn't there. It happens all the

"Well, do you know how to *un*-fix 'em? I want to put out
the lights in here."

Wyatt caught on at once. "Sure. You just unscrew 'em from
the sockets. Like this." He proceeded to demonstrate.

Nothing seemed to happen, but it was probably for some
other part of the house. CJ set about unscrewing a second
one. The kitchen light went out, leaving them in darkness--
at least, CJ realized, it was darkness for Wyatt. He could
see pretty clearly.

"Did Hank tell you how to shut off all the power at once?"
he asked, without any real expectation of an answer.

"Sure," Wyatt said. "It's the big switch right above the
box, I think."

CJ couldn't quite reach the switch, even standing on his
toes. There was, however, a kitchen stool over by the
counter and he hurriedly went to acquire it. Once the item
was in place, he scrambled onto it and threw the switch.

The almost unnoticeable background hum of power died.

"Hey!" The bellow came from the living room. CJ grasped
Wyatt's wrist and tugged him across the room toward the
hallway. Avoiding the man who stumbled from the living room
into the hall wasn't difficult for CJ. His night sight
might not be as good as his father's, but it was a lot
better than an ordinary man could claim. He and Wyatt
stepped into the spacious dining room which opened off the
hall while Colonel Cash went by, feeling his way with
outstretched hands.

Once the man had passed by, CJ again headed for the living
room. When they reached it, the door to the den, opening
off the living room, was obvious; an eerie glow of a pale,
ghostly green filled the opening. CJ let go of Wyatt's arm.

"That's it," he whispered. "I can feel it a little, even
this far away. Get it. Hurry."

Guided by the green light, Wyatt crossed the room and
vanished into the den. CJ moved backward a few steps. The
feeling was a strange and unpleasant one. His joints had
begun to twinge, his stomach felt mildly queasy and his
muscles ached as if they had been overworked. He felt
distinctly disinclined to get any closer to the poisonous
chunk of rock.

The green glow vanished suddenly, although the effects of
the Kryptonite radiation remained. CJ guessed Wyatt had
concealed the stuff inside a bag or box. That was smart, he
thought. It would make it that much harder for Cash to

He jumped when the lights came back on. Cash had found the
power switch. He ducked to the side, out of sight of anyone
in the hall, hoping that Wyatt would step on it. He could
hear faint sounds as if his friend were rummaging around in
the desk drawers or something. What was he doing in there?

Cash hurried back into the room and headed immediately for
the den. CJ did the only thing he could think of: he stuck
out his foot. Cash tripped and went down on his face with a
yell of surprise. "Wyatt!" CJ shouted.

"Run!" Wyatt yelled back, and the door of the den slammed

There wasn't anything else to do. CJ turned and ran.

He ducked into the kitchen, looking around for a place to
hide, but as he had known, there wasn't any real place once
the man knew he was here. He bolted for the stairs. Cash
came lumbering into the room as he took the steps two at a
time and CJ could hear him puffing and wheezing as he
followed. He emerged into the upstairs hall and raced down
it, scanning the rooms with his x-ray vision, looking
desperately for a place to hide. What he saw waiting for
him made him put on the brakes.

Striding purposefully down the hall, the guard whom he had
locked in the closet was headed toward the sound of his
footsteps and he didn't look happy. In one hand, he
clutched his sidearm. CJ yanked open a bedroom door and
ducked inside just as Cash arrived at the top of the stairs
behind him. CJ slammed the door and rammed the locking bolt

He knew that wouldn't hold for long, especially against the
guard's pistol. Cash was armed, too, and he didn't want to
think what the two would do to him if they caught him. He
pushed a chair under the knob and ran to the window.
Peering down, he gulped. It was a good fifteen- or twenty-
foot jump into bushes, but the crash of a heavy shoulder
rammed against the door made him decide.

He yanked at the window. It was stuck, and he didn't have
time to argue. He backed up, gathering what was left of his
nerve. For a second, he hesitated, but the explosion of a
gunshot in the hall jolted his faltering courage. He was
partially invulnerable. With luck, he wouldn't break
anything too important.

There was a second shot, and a third. The wood of the door
splintered. CJ ran at the window, closed his eyes and


He went through the window headfirst with his head tucked
to his chest and his arms across his eyes to protect his
face from flying glass. He barely felt the shock as his
head struck the windowpane and the shattering glass didn't
cut him as far as he could tell. Then the ground was
rushing at him and he braced himself for the crash.

It didn't come. Instead of falling, he was floating toward
the ground, not lightly but slowly, like something out of a
movie. His feet came down onto the lawn, several feet
beyond the spiky plants and he stumbled and went to his
knees on the dead grass. The crusting of frost crunched
under his weight and here and there, isolated patches of
old snow from the snowfall last week glinted dully at him
in the faint moonlight.

Considerably shaken, CJ stopped to take several deep

A shot from above struck the ground to his right, and he
rolled sideways. One of the men was firing at him from the
broken window. He scrambled to his feet with the impetus of
sheer terror and ran. Another shot went past his head,
close enough for him to feel the wind against his cheek.

A pair of hands grabbed him as he rounded the corner of the
house an instant later and dragged him against the wall of
the building. CJ struck out in blind panic, but someone
seized his flailing hands and a voice whispered in his ear,
"CJ, it's all right! It's me!"

He wrenched his head back and discovered that he was
looking into the face of William Henderson. The relief was
so great that he felt dizzy for an instant. Henderson
released him and let him sit down.

"Are you okay, kid?" he asked.

Numbly, he nodded. "Yeah, but Wyatt's still in there! And
the other kids--"

"Take it easy. We've got it under control." Henderson's
voice was low and calm as he pointed. CJ gulped at the
sight of three men going in the front door of the big
house. As he watched, Superman appeared from the direction
of the road and stationed himself high above the building,
apparently to watch for escapees. "We've got all the exits
covered, son. It's all right. Cash and his buddies aren't
going to get away this time."

CJ leaned back against the wall of the house feeling tears
welling in his eyes. He wasn't going to cry in front of
Henderson, he told himself fiercely, wiping them away with
the back of his hand.

Henderson didn't seem to see them. He squatted down by CJ,
resting a hand lightly on his shoulder. "You know, kid, if
I was your dad, I'd be pretty proud of you--but I'd tan
your britches, all the same." He grinned as CJ looked up at
him, startled. "I doubt it would do much good, though,
considering who your mom is. Do me a favor, though, would

"What?" The word was a little wavery, but Henderson still
didn't appear to notice.

"Wait until you get a little older before you do something
like this again, will you?"

"I didn't exactly do it on purpose--at least not all of it.
It just sort of happened."

Henderson looked at him, obviously skeptical. "Uh-huh. If I
didn't know there was no Lane in you, I'd swear that was
your mom talking, kid. I don't want to have to bail you out
too many times before you're grown, okay? I've got enough
grey hair as it is, and your mom and dad put a lot of it
there." He gave CJ a pat on the shoulder. "You did a good
job tonight, CJ. Thanks."

CJ took a deep breath and pushed away the urge to cry.
"You're welcome," he said.


The prisoners weren't talking. Henderson had expected
nothing less, but he didn't look worried, Clark saw. The
evidence they had found in Cash's office in the old Packard
house, was more than enough to convict the rogue agency
twenty times over. Cash's demand for a warrant produced a
grin from Henderson. "Don't need one," he told the red-
faced man. "We have a witness."

Clark stood still, arms folded and watching Cash with an
expressionless face. He had to work to keep it that way.
He'd been securing his last captive next to the cars when
he'd heard the gunshots and realized that the renegade
colonel was attempting to kill CJ. His son must have moved
pretty fast, however. By the time he'd realized the danger,
CJ was around the corner of the house, with Henderson. He
was going to have to reassess his son's developing powers
in the next few days, he thought. CJ seemed to be
developing them at a somewhat faster rate than anyone had
expected--of course, the only example anyone had to judge
them by was his own, and he hadn't realized anything was
happening at first, and then tried to pretend it wasn't
happening for much longer. And after he couldn't pretend
any longer, he'd deliberately tried *not* to use them. If
he'd known and accepted them earlier, he might have
discovered their use sooner than he had.

Wyatt and CJ had their heads together, and he resisted the
urge to eavesdrop on their conversation. If they had shown
him anything tonight, it was that he could trust the two of
them. In his hand, he held a bag that was designed to
protect film from x-ray machines at security checkpoints.
Wyatt had handed it to him quietly a few moments after he
had emerged from Cash's office, where he'd barricaded

"It's Kryptonite, Superman," he'd said. "You better do
something with it."

Marta and Linda had Jonny and Jimmy by the hands. As he
watched, the two older boys walked over to them, and he saw
CJ reach out to take Linda's free hand. The expression on
his face--and hers--said it all, and he had to smile. CJ
had developed his first crush and Linda had found her hero.
It would probably be over in a week, he thought, but CJ
would never look at girls the same way again.

Then, a sobering thought hit him. CJ was a full Kryptonian,
and Linda was probably half. The bond between Lois and
himself had formed instantly and if it was the same with CJ
and Linda, it was quite possible that he was looking at his
future daughter-in-law. He might have to take a closer
interest in Linda Lennox than he'd thought--especially if
she started to develop super powers in the near future. And
there was the matter of Valerie Henderson, and who knew how
many other half-Kryptonian children out there. It looked as
if he was going to be much busier in the near future than
he'd at first anticipated.

Henderson approached him, finally done with seeing to the
disposition of the prisoners. "We've got transportation
coming," he said. "Dobbs isn't very happy, but there isn't
much he can do. *I* didn't make any arrests, after all. My
men did."

"Any information on the mole?" he asked.

"We're making progress," Henderson said. "We'll get him. I
just called Lois, like I promised, by the way."

"Thanks," Superman said. "I better get the kids home."

Henderson nodded. "Borrow my car," he said, tossing him the
keys. "Just drop it off here afterwards."

"Thanks," Superman said, again. "Bill, I can't thank you
for what you've done for me. If you ever need anything, all
you have to do is ask."

Henderson smiled, dryly. "I may take you up on that," he
said. "Valerie's going to need some help, I think."

"You've got it."

"I'll give you a call. Now, take those kids home."

Superman nodded. He raised his voice slightly. "CJ, you and
the other kids come with me. I'm going to take you back to
the Kents' house. Any of you guys object to flying in a


"You know," Lois said, "in a way, it's kind of nice to know
we're not the only ones in this situation."

"What situation?" Clark asked.

"You know--raising superkids."

"Yeah. I bet we're the only ones around with more than one,

"Well--yeah." Lois looked over to where CJ, Wyatt, Linda,
Marta, Jimmy and Jonny were grouped around the television.
"You don't really think CJ and Linda are--"

"It's possible," Clark said. "We're going to need to keep
an eye on them, anyway."

"Yeah." Lois eyed the little redheaded girl thoughtfully,
hoping he was wrong. Linda was thin and freckle-faced, and
not at all the kind of girl she'd thought of as a potential
mate for CJ, but then, as she'd often told Clark, CJ wasn't
the same as his father, regardless of their genetics. And,
in spite of all that that had happened to Linda this
evening, she seemed to have come through it remarkably
well. Maybe there was more to her than it looked like on
first impressions. "I guess it might be okay--not that CJ
would let anything either of us said make a difference
about who he decides to marry, anyway."

They turned to descend the attic stairs. Clark was keeping
an unobtrusive hand on her elbow, Lois noticed, but she
didn't say anything. Her husband would always be protective
of her, no matter how often she ordered him not to be, but
at least nowadays he wasn't nearly so blatant about it.

"I don't think we need to worry about it for a few years,"
Clark said, resuming the conversation. "At least it's a lot
better than a birth-marriage." Lois made a face. "Don't
remind me. So, when is Inspector Henderson going to get
back here with her mother, anyway?"

"When he gets finished with all the red tape, I guess,"
Clark said. "Did you ever call Wyatt's parents, by the

"I couldn't get hold of them," Lois said. "They don't
answer their phone. I did leave a message on their
answering machine, though."

"Well," Clark observed, "I guess Laura and Pete are having
a good time in Las Vegas. I can't say I really blame them.
Those out-of-country construction jobs must be tough.
Imagine if we only saw each other three or four times a

"Maybe that's why they have so many kids," Lois suggested.

Clark laid his hand across the almost unnoticeable
roundness of her abdomen. "I guess we'll be in no position
to talk in a few months."

"That's a little different," Lois said. "We didn't exactly
plan on triplets."

"True. Oh, well, we can tell them when they get back. I
hope Laura won't have a complete breakdown when she finds
out what happened."

"I don't think much fazes Laura," Lois said. "I'll try to
downplay it as much as I can, though."

"I think that's a conversation I don't want to hear," Clark
observed. "We're going to have to talk to Sandi, you know.
Jim says he thinks she suspects."

"Alice thought so, too. I guess the circle is going to be
expanded a little wider, huh?"

"Well, at least they're all good friends," Clark said. "We
probably couldn't have kept up the secret this long without
their help."

"Probably not," Lois said. "Superman is kind of a team
effort, after all. And now, Henderson knows, too?"

"Yeah. But he and Sue have Valerie to worry about, you

"Are you going to teach her how to use her powers--if she
develops any? We don't really know if half-Kryptonians will
have super powers, yet."

"I think I don't have a choice. I talked a little about it
to Bill when I returned the car. He says she's already
developing the super-hearing. At least he thinks so. She
needs to know how to control her powers so she won't
accidentally hurt someone."

"Oh." Lois looked sober. "I guess there's going to be more
turning up, huh?"

"Probably. The New Kryptonians were here for eight days.
Not every...assault would have resulted in a baby and some
of those that did wouldn't have been carried to term. I
doubt we'll be dealing with hundreds of half-Kryptonians
here. I think we're going to find a few more in Metropolis
and probably some in Smallville. Maybe a dozen or so. It'll
keep us busy for a while, but it's nothing we can't

"I guess we should have seen this coming," Lois said. "It's
funny that I never even thought of it. I guess it's just as
well that we have a few people who can help us."

"Yeah. Don't blame yourself. I never saw it, either, and I
should have. I wish Bill had told us about Valerie, but I
understand why he didn't." Clark turned his head. "Speaking
of which, his car just pulled up."

A moment later, the doorbell rang. When Clark opened the
door, Bill Henderson stood on the porch, accompanied by a
tiny, dark-haired woman, dressed in a rumpled business
suit. Except for her eyes, she bore no resemblance at all
to her daughter, but Henderson stood back to let her enter
the townhouse ahead of him. "Lois, Clark, this is Carolyn
Abernathy, Linda's mother. Ms. Abernathy, these are Lois
Lane and Clark Kent."

As young as Linda was, she was already almost her mother's
height, Lois thought, as she acknowledged Henderson's
introduction and led their guests into the living room.
Linda must take after her father, whoever he'd been. The
chances were she'd never seen him--or maybe she had. Nor's
followers had not been that numerous, and she'd been around
them for several days. Clark had said that the child
somehow looked familiar, and Lois, too, had experienced the
same feeling when she'd seen Linda Lennox for the first
time, though she couldn't pin the feeling down.

When they had taken seats, Clark made a quick trip into the
kitchen to return with the coffeepot and a tray of cups.
Lois knew for a fact that there had been no coffee a few
minutes before, so she had to assume he'd somehow managed
to produce it at super-speed. "Coffee, anyone?" he

Henderson glanced at his watch. "Yeah, I'll have one," he
said. "It's nearly eleven-thirty. Where are the kids?

"No." Lois glanced at her watch as well, surprised at the
lateness of the hour. "None of them would be able to sleep
a wink until they unwind a bit. I've got them watching a
videotape guaranteed to calm them down before I put them to
bed. Tomorrow's the first day of Christmas vacation, so I
figured we could make an exception just this once."

Henderson nodded. "I can relate to that. I gave Ms.
Abernathy a quick run-through on what happened. What she
had to say clears up a few things."

Clark poured coffee for both of them, and handed Lois a cup
of mint tea that he'd made for her, then sat down next to
her on the sofa. "I see. Ms. Abernathy, I'm sorry about
your husband."

Carolyn took a sip of coffee. "Don't be. Ben was--" She
broke off and took another swallow. "Ben stopped being the
man I loved a long time ago. He couldn't accept Linda; he
hated her. We haven't been a family for a long time."

Out of the corner of her eye, Lois looked at Bill
Henderson, who had married the woman he loved and accepted
her daughter in spite of what had happened. For all the
cynical image he tried to present to the world, this simply
reaffirmed her already high opinion of him, although she
would never admit it to him out loud.

"He tried to hand her over to Bureau 39," Clark said.
"Didn't he know what they'd do to her? They would have
killed her, just like they tried to kill Superman. Surely,
he wouldn't have wanted that."

Carolyn nodded, and Lois realized her hands were shaking slightly.

"He must have known, but he didn't care. To him, she was
a *thing*, because she wasn't all human. He must have seen
the opportunity to get rid of her." She swallowed. "I should
have known I couldn't trust him. Mr. Henderson says she
wasn't hurt. She *is* all right, isn't she?"

"She's fine," Lois said. "All of them are, although from
what Superman told me, Private Houston may never be the
same again."

"He's lucky he's not singing soprano," Henderson said,
dryly. "Their daughter kicked him in a pretty delicate
area. I hope Marta never gets mad at me, Lois. That girl of
yours is a small tiger."

Clark grinned, proudly. "Just like her mom."

"I didn't send her to karate so she could learn to make
brownies," Lois said.

Carolyn gave a soft laugh. "Good for her," she said. She
finished the coffee, and without asking, Clark poured her
another cup.

"So, that explains why Bureau 39 was involved," Henderson
said. "Superman volunteered to help teach Linda how to
control her powers when they appear, so she won't
accidentally hurt someone, Ms. Abernathy. I think that's a
wise idea. But first, she needs to be told why."

"I know." Carolyn sighed. "I kept hoping it wouldn't
happen, that she'd be like everyone else and I'd never have
to, but she isn't going to be, is she?"

"No," Henderson said. "I'm sorry."

"I'll ask Superman to drop by your place sometime next
week, if you like," Clark said.

"I'd appreciate that."

"Would you like me to call her?" Lois asked.

Before Carolyn Abernathy could reply, Linda appeared in the
door and ran to her mother. Lois saw that Clark was smiling
as Carolyn hugged her.

"Mom!" Linda said when Carolyn released her, "I'm so glad
you're here! I want you to meet CJ! He rescued us!"

"Who's CJ?" Carolyn asked, looking slightly bewildered.

"Our son," Lois said. "She's right--he did help."

Carolyn nodded. "I'd like to meet your friend, honey," she
said, "then I think we should go home. You can tell me all
about what happened, then. Okay?"

"Okay," Linda said. "CJ's really cool, Mom, and his sister,
Marta's teaching me to play Tetris VI, and even Wyatt's
okay." Lois struggled to keep her expression bland at
Linda's sudden burst of excited chatter. The child
certainly wasn't shy, now. In fact, once she smiled, she
was actually a pretty girl. Maybe CJ wasn't as blinded by
his new crush as Clark had thought.

CJ entered the room slowly, and allowed Linda to introduce
him to her mother. He was, Lois noticed, on his best
behavior; he politely shook Carolyn's hand and gave her his
father's charming smile, but the look he turned on Linda
while they were saying good night told Lois everything she
had wondered about. With a slight sinking feeling, she
glanced at Clark. He raised an eyebrow, but she pretended
not to understand the expression on his face. Okay, so he'd
been right about their son and Linda Lennox. It was going
to take her a little time to get used to the idea that in
eight or ten years, this little girl would probably be her
daughter-in-law. She wasn't quite ready to face that yet.
They were still kids! Darn Kryptonian biology anyway!


Marta was waiting for CJ when he returned to the playroom.
The videotape had finished while he had been saying goodbye
to Linda, and Jonny and Jimmy were looking sleepy, although
both resisted vigorously the suggestion by Wyatt that they
should go to bed.

"All right," she said. "You promised to explain how you got
to that house. And what were you and Wyatt doing after we
went into the attic!"

"I hid in the trunk of their car," CJ said. "I had Mom's
cell phone, and called Mr. Henderson for help. I didn't
want you to stay locked up there; I was afraid they'd hurt
you before Mr. Henderson got there, so I got you out. That
was all there was to it."

"How did you find us?"

"Your door was the only one with a guard in front of it."

"How did you get rid of the guard?"

CJ sighed. "I got him to chase me and shut him in a closet.
Anything else?"

Marta blinked at him, obviously surprised at the story.
"What were you and Wyatt doing, anyway?"

CJ looked at Wyatt. "That creepy colonel had some
Kryptonite. We were trying to get it away from him in case
Superman showed up--which he did."

"Oh--but how did you know he had it?"

"I saw it. What is this--the third degree?"

"Okay, kids, bedtime," his mom's voice announced clearly.
CJ looked over his shoulder in relief. He was starting to
feel thoroughly cornered by his sister's inquisitiveness.

"But, Mom--" Jonny whined, "I don't want to go to bed. I'm
not tired."

"Move it," Lois said, unimpressed by her offspring's
protest. "You too, Jimmy; you're asleep on your feet.
Marta, quit pestering CJ. He's had enough for one evening.
Go on to bed, now. Your dad and I will be in to say good
night in a few minutes."

"How about CJ?" Marta asked, a little resentfully, "I don't
see why he gets to stay up just because he's a year older."

"He and Wyatt are headed for bed as soon as your dad and I
talk to him," Lois said. "CJ, would you and Wyatt come
downstairs for a few minutes, please?"

CJ gulped. Mom and Dad had never spanked him in his life,
but in the back of his mind, he recalled what Bill
Henderson had said. Still, maybe he better not jump to
conclusions. He went out of the playroom and down the steps
with Wyatt on his heels. Behind him, he heard his mother
speaking to his younger siblings, sending them off to brush
their teeth before bedtime.

His father was sitting on the sofa with his feet on the
coffee table as CJ had seen him do many times, only to
remove them guiltily when Mom pointed out that his shoes
were going to ruin the varnish. So far, the varnish
remained intact but CJ thought it was funny the way his mom
could boss around Superman the way she did--not that Dad
ever seemed to mind. He turned his head as CJ and Wyatt
entered the room and smiled reassuringly at them.

"Don't look so worried," he said, mildly. "You're not in
any trouble. Come on in and sit down."

CJ obeyed, and Wyatt settled on the ottoman of the nearest
armchair. Clark smiled at them.

"You two had quite an evening," he said. "Superman told me
what you did. I'm impressed."

"Thanks," CJ muttered. "We couldn't do much else, really."

"You could have, but you didn't," Lois said, entering the
room behind them. "Although, how I'm going to explain it
all to Wyatt's mom and dad when they get back from Las
Vegas is something I'm not looking forward to."

"You didn't do anything," Wyatt protested. "That weirdo
colonel did. Besides, nobody got hurt."

"That's true," Lois said. "Anyway, that's for the future.
CJ explained that he told you where he came from, Wyatt."

Wyatt nodded. Clark leaned forward. "You understand that
you mustn't tell anyone, don't you--not even your mom and
dad, or your brothers and sisters?"

"Sure, I know," Wyatt said. "I don't want anybody to try to
hurt any of you guys. If somebody bad found out, they might
try to make CJ do bad stuff for them, once he's got powers
like Superman."

"That's exactly it, Wyatt," Lois said. "The more people who
know, the more likely it is that somebody will accidentally
tell somebody else, so you have to keep this a secret. You
can't even tell Marta or the others, yet. Okay?"

Wyatt nodded. "Sure, I know," he said. "I promise. I won't
tell anybody."

"Thank you, Wyatt," Clark said. "Tomorrow Superman's coming
by to take CJ off somewhere to see how his powers are
coming along--he said you could come if you wanted. Would
you like to?"

"Sure! That would be cool!"

"Okay, then." Clark got to his feet. "That's all we wanted
to talk about. You guys did a good job, and we're proud of
both of you. You better head for bed, now, though. It's
past midnight."

"'Night, Dad," CJ said. "G'night, Mom."

"Good night, Mr. and Mrs. Kent," Wyatt said.

"Good night, boys," CJ's father said. "Don't forget to
brush your teeth."

"We won't," the boys chorused.

CJ headed for the stairs. He didn't feel in the least
tired, but he could see that Wyatt was yawning. It was
funny; he ought to have nightmares tonight, but he didn't
think he would. He felt pretty good about the whole thing,

"First dibs on the bathroom," Wyatt announced.

"No problem," CJ said. He went on into the bedroom to
change into his pajamas while Wyatt headed for the main
bathroom. A few minutes later, CJ could hear him vigorously
brushing his teeth. He grinned, suddenly. He could see a
lot of new things happening in the next few months, and a
future filled with possibilities--telling Wyatt the whole
secret in a few years, seeing Linda again and helping her
learn to use her super powers. He pulled on his favorite
pajamas--the ones with the Batman logo on the front--and
was waiting a few minutes later when Wyatt emerged from the
bathroom with a dab of toothpaste on his chin and his face
washed to just in front of his ears. His friend looked up
at him, a questioning expression on his face.

"What are you grinning about?"

"Nothing," CJ said. He went on into the bathroom to brush
his teeth, unable to stop smiling. It was going to be a
great Christmas, and a great new year. He could just feel

The End