Summary: A great evil is loose in Metropolis, seeking to steal Superman's soul in order to bring about the end of the world. The fate of the world - and Superman - rests in the hands of four ancient heroes. Sequel to "Clarkus Maximus."
Disclaimer: I neither own nor make anything. All recognizable Lois and Clark characters, lines of dialogue, and plot points belong to DC comics, Warner Brothers, December 3rd productions, and anyone else with a stake in the Superman franchise. All recognizable Xena and Hercules characters, lines of dialogue, and plot points belong to Renaissance Pictures, Studios USA, Universal Pictures, and anyone else with a stake in the Xena and Hercules franchises. I'm just playing with my toys again.
Author's Note: Please read "Clarkus Maximus" before reading this story. It isn't an absolutely necessity, but it will certainly help in explaining how Lois and Clark know Xena and Gabrielle, as well as give you some background on them. I have done my best to make both fandoms as accessible as possible to the non-fans.
I have disregarded the Twilight of the Gods from Xena's 5th and 6th seasons. I never cared for the idea of Xena killing off most of Olympus. Also, as a Xena/Ares shipper, I DO believe that Ares truly loved Xena. This story takes place after Xena's death in Japan in the series finale. This story also takes place in Metropolis in the year 2011. One final change to the Xena storyline is that I ask that you envision the original chakram for this story, not the "new" yin-yang style chakram. It has no bearing on this story - I just despise the yin-yang one.
I am NOT using Kevin Sorbo as a real person. I am using the fictional disguise of "Kevin Sorbo" that Hercules uses in the modern-day episodes "Yes Virginia, There Is A Hercules" and "For Those Of You Just Joining Us."
And now - On with the show!
***Lois and Clark***Lois and Clark***Lois and Clark***Lois and Clark***
"Out of my way!"
"I'm gonna run you off the road!"
"Oh yeah? I'd like to see you try!"
"Get back here you coward!"
"Come and get me!"
"Oooh, better watch out there! You almost hit that eighteen wheeler!"
"Come on! Faster, car! Faster!"
Wheels screeched on the pavement as the cars jockeyed for positions, flying down the California coastline at breakneck speeds. Smoke belched from exhaust pipes, thick and black, before the sea breeze gently swept them away. The driver of the black muscle car swerved into oncoming traffic, trying to cut around the red sports car. Its tires left dark skid marks on the asphalt, as the driver cut the wheel sharply left, then right again. The blue sports car came alongside the red one, sandwiching it between itself and the muscle car. The drivers of both the black and the blue cars turned their wheels into the red sports car. Metal screeched and sparks flew as the driver of the red car tried desperately to escape the trap that he'd been caught in. He braked hard, intending to force the others to overshoot him, but it was too late. The damage to the car was too severe. Smoke poured from the damaged engine and the car exploded. Bits of flaming metal rained down on the street as the other cars sped away from the scene.
"Well, that had to hurt."
"Thanks for the help, but you're next!"
"Oh yeah? Give me your best shot!"
The driver of the blue car laughed, clearly satisfied with the turn of events, and taunting the other to try the same thing on him. Gunning the engine, he rammed his car into the rear bumper of the muscle car, which had managed to gain some distance on him. Cutting the wheel hard, the driver of the blue car forced his rival back into the lane of oncoming traffic. The black car's driver frantically tore the steering wheel left and right, trying to shake himself loose. Precious seconds were lost as he tried to free himself. But his efforts were to no avail. A double-decker bus smashed violently into the front of the black muscle car, destroying the vehicle instantaneously. The driver of the sole remaining car gunned the engine even harder, swerving around the slower vehicles on the road and tearing across the bright yellow finish line that was painted across the roadway.
Clark Kent threw his hands in the air victoriously, the Xbox360 controller slipping from his grasp and falling into his lap. Beside him, twelve year old Michael and eleven year old Hunter groaned in frustration. It was the fifth race in a row that their father had won that afternoon.
"That's not fair!" protested Michael, dropping his controller onto the couch. "You and Hunter ganged up on me!"
"All's fair in love and video games," Clark replied, affectionately ruffling his oldest son's ebony locks.
"Clark, play nice," Lois lovingly admonished her husband. "Or I'll have to take the game away from you."
"They started it," he teased with a wink at his sons. "I never would have had to beat them if they hadn't challenged me in the first place."
"I don't care who started it. I'll end it," Lois said, laughter coloring her words.
Clark chuckled at her teasing tone as she swept into the room, eight year old Rebecca hard on her heels. There were smudges of flour on his daughter's face, clear evidence of the cookies that he had smelled cooking in the oven.
"Daddy, I made cookies," Rebecca stated proudly. "All by myself!"
"Hey!" Lois teased in mock indignation.
"Okay. Mommy helped. A little."
"Gee, thanks," Lois said dryly, causing Rebecca to smile and laugh.
"Oh yeah?" Clark asked, picking her up onto his lap in one fluid motion. "What kind?"
"Almond cookies," she said, grinning.
Clark smiled as he once more saw his wife's own smile on his daughter's face. "Well, I guess that means that I am definitely having dessert tonight after dinner."
"Speaking of, I was thinking that maybe you could zip out to get some Chinese food for us tonight," Lois said. "You know. From that place that we all like." She made a flying gesture with her hand, indicating that she wanted him to fly to China.
"Uh, sure," Clark said, letting Rebecca off of his lap and stretching as he stood. He crossed over to the game console and shut it off.
"Thanks," Lois said, flashing him a winning smile. "I've been promising the boys for a week that we would do this."
"All right!" Michael exclaimed. "Can I come with you, dad?"
Clark shook his head. "No, I'll need both of my hands free to fly all of that home."
"It's not fair!" Michael harrumphed, folding his arms over his chest in a perfect imitation of Clark's Superman pose. "I can't wait until I'm able to fly!"
Clark laughed. "You might be waiting a while. I couldn't do that until I was eighteen. And there's no guarantee that you'll inherit all of the powers that I have."
Michael made a terrible face and stuck out his tongue.
Clark laughed again. He was glad that he could finally speak freely about his alter-ego and abilities with his children. All three, even little Rebecca, understood the importance of keeping the family secret. He'd had to tell Michael and Hunter as they approached their preteen years, since that was when his own abilities had first begun to manifest. It hadn't been a moment too soon, as it had turned out. Two months later, both boys had begun to show signs of their developing powers. At first, Lois and Clark had kept their youngest child in the dark about Clark's abilities. But Michael was growing stronger by the week. And then Hunter had accidently set fire to Rebecca's favorite stuffed tiger with his emerging heat vision. Rebecca had been inconsolable for a week over the ruined toy, and there had been no getting around having "the talk" with her about the family secret.
The phone ring shrilly, shattering Clark's thoughts like a fragile piece of glass. He reached for the phone automatically. He cradled the headset between his shoulder and his head, using his free hands to scoop up the game controllers and put them away.
"Hello? Oh, hey Jimmy. What's up? Uh huh. Yeah, of course. Really? You're kidding! When? Centennial Park, west side. Uh huh. Yeah, I think Lois will be thrilled. Got it. Thanks Jimmy."
He hung up, aware of Lois' eyes on his back.
"What was that all about? Hot lead on the Germaine murder?" She sounded hopeful. "We've been stuck without a lead for over a week now."
"Not exactly. How'd you feel about doing a celebrity interview? We haven't done one since Bobby Flay cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for the soup kitchen in Hobbs Bay...what...six years ago?"
Lois nodded but shrugged noncommittally. "I guess that depends on the celebrity. Who do we have to cover? And isn't that Andy's area? Or is Perry so annoyed with us on the stall with the Germaine murder that he's relegated us back to puff pieces?"
"Kevin Sorbo," Clark replied. "And he asked for us specifically when he agreed to do an interview for The Planet. Apparently, that's the only way he'll do this."
"Kevin Sorbo? That guy who played Hercules on TV years ago?" Her tone said that she was less than impressed. "It couldn't be Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt?"
Clark nodded, choosing to ignore the second question. "One and the same. He's shooting a movie in Centennial Park; a sword-and-sandals fantasy film called The Dragon Master. We have to be there in an hour."
Lois sighed heavily. It seemed like every time she and Clark had a day off, something else popped up, calls for Superman aside. "Okay, I'll go get cleaned up," she said, resignedly.
"I'll call my folks to watch the kids," Clark said, trying to be helpful.
"You do that," she said, stumping unhappily up the stairs to their bedroom.
Martha and Jonathan had moved to Metropolis permanently a few years prior. They were getting older and the farm had become too much work for them, even with the hired hands that they had employed. And they had both wanted to be close to their grandchildren. Clark loved having his parents so close by, but it still hurt to know that the farm had been sold. He dearly loved the place and had many fond memories of it. He also regretted that he hadn't been able to help out in running the farm, and felt partially responsible for his parents having to sell the place. But his duties as a reporter, superhero, husband, and father hadn't left him much time to get out to Kansas on a regular basis.
Lois' sister, Lucy, had also moved back into Metropolis around the same time as the Kents. As a result, she often pestered them to use her as the kids' babysitter, as did Lois' parents, who had since remarried one another. Lois was still thankful for the machine that had sapped out their bad memories of their first, failed marriage. But with the two boys exhibiting their powers, often unintentionally, Lois and Clark had become solely dependent on the Kents as their babysitters. At least they knew how to handle a child with special abilities. After all, they had raised Clark, and had done a fine job of it, if Lois was any judge. And, of course, no one in the Lane family knew of the family secret. Lois and Clark intended to keep it that way.
Clark picked up the phone and dialed his parents. In no time at all, he'd arranged for them to come to the house to watch the kids. His eyes strayed to the three where they sat watching the TV. They argued over what they would be watching later that evening, until they finally settled on The Lord of the Rings. And just like that, peace reigned once more in the living room. Clark smiled as he watched them.
Perfect half human, half Kryptonian children.
Perfect blends of Lois and himself.
Michael, the oldest, who was the spitting image of Clark and who'd inherited his mother's competiveness. Hunter, who had Clark's eyes and crooked smile, along with Lois' nose and penchant for getting into trouble. Little Rebecca, the baby, who was her mother's clone in every way, especially in her inquisitiveness, though she had Clark's quiet strength.
Lois had insisted that each child be given a Kryptonian name, along with their legal name. She had wanted to keep their heritage alive for them. And so, Michael also bore the name Jon-El, in honor of Jonathan Kent. Hunter's Kryptonian name was Jor-El, in honor of Clark's biological father, the man who had done everything possible to save Clark's life, even when it had meant the heartache of sending his infant son to Earth to escape Krypton's demise. Even Rebecca had a Kryptonian name - Marla-El, a combination of Martha and Lara. Each child knew of their secret name. And each child knew that they were in the deepest of troubles if either one of their parents used that name to call them.
As always, even after all of these years, the thought of his kids staggered Clark, and threatened to bring grateful, happy tears to his eyes.
The kids he had been told that he would never have.
The kids that he and Lois had once despaired of ever having.
The kids who were the center of Clark's universe.
The kids who were living, breathing miracles.
Clark sighed softly to himself, completely content. As always, the thought struck him that he was truly the luckiest man alive. He loved his job - both of his jobs, to be exact. He was married to the love of his life, a woman who made him happy in every way. And together they had the three greatest kids in the world. Yes, he was a lucky, happy man.
The chiming of the doorbell jostled him out of his reverie. He opened the door and ushered his parents inside. All three of his children rushed to greet their grandparents, nearly knocking Clark down as they stampeded past, excitedly talking over one another. Clark chuckled and took the opportunity to hurry up the steps and change into more professional attire. Black pants, a white shirt, his favorite maroon jacket, and maroon tie dotted with tiny white hibiscus flowers. It wasn't his favorite tie, but in recent years Lois had insisted that he add some less garish ties to his wardrobe. He checked out his reflection in the mirror, then finger-combed a few stray locks of hair into place. Lois emerged from the bathroom in a light weight gray skirt, white top, and matching gray jacket. Clark eyed her appreciatively as she did the same to him.
"Ready?" he asked, as he straightened his tie once more.
On her nod, they both went back down the stairs and into the living room.
"Martha, Jonathan! Hi! Thanks for coming on short notice," Lois said apologetically. "Seems to be a trend lately though."
"Nonsense, we love spending time with our grandkids," Martha said, smiling.
"I know. I just hate not being able to give you more advanced notice. Boys, turn the TV off now please," Lois said. "I want those book reports done tonight before bedtime. Rebecca, sweetie, I want you to work on your homework too. Dad and I will be home as soon as we can."
"Aww, mom! It's only Friday!" Michael complained.
"Yeah," Hunter put in. "No one does homework on Friday!"
"No buts about it," Lois said firmly. "If you get it done tonight, then you don't have to worry about it all weekend. And maybe we can do something fun on Sunday."
The two boys sighed, all too familiar with their mother's tone. Resistance was futile.
"O-kay," they said in unison, breaking the word into two separate syllables. "Can we at least watch The Lord of the Rings later?"
"Only if your homework is finished."
The two huffed in annoyance, mumbling about how this turn of events was not fair.
Clark pulled out his wallet and slipped a few bills out from the leather folds. He gave them to his father, pressing them lightly into his palm.
"Just in case the natives get restless and we don't make it home in time for dinner, order a couple of pizzas. Say, did I eat you guys out of house and home when I was their age?"
Martha chuckled and nodded. "We could hardly keep up with that metabolism of yours, until your body started to convert sunlight into fuel."
Clark shook his head, amused. "Well, it looks like that appetite got passed on to them along with at least a few of my powers."
"Aww, you promised us Chinese food," Hunter said, pouting.
Clark looked at his father and shrugged. "Pizza, Chinese, whatever you guys want. Text me if you need anything. See you guys in a little while. Be good for your grandparents, okay?"
He and Lois gave their kids a quick hug and kiss. A moment later, they were out the door and in Lois' aging Jeep. Clark had offered, on several occasions, to buy her a new car. But each time, Lois had staunchly refused. She loved that Jeep and was determined to drive it into the ground before getting rid of it. Clark didn't mind too much. He had plenty of fond memories in that car - all times when he'd been able to sit and talk with Lois, more or less uninterrupted. And little Rebecca had been created in that car, late one summer night when a terrible storm had forced them to pull off the road on their way to an out of town event. But, sooner or later, Clark was sure that they would need to buy a van to tote their family around town.
Lois slid into the driver's seat as usual, started the engine, then pushed the car into gear. Clark pulled out his smart phone, ran a search on Kevin Sorbo, and began to read off facts about the actor to Lois so that they could begin to shape their interview questions. Not more than fifteen minutes later, Lois pulled into a spot on the street alongside Centennial Park. She grabbed her purse and Clark grabbed the notebook and pen that they always kept in the car for spur of the moment stories. He was always the designated note taker when they were together, since he had no trouble jotting down everything that was said in an interview, thanks to the discreet use of his super speed. And if he couldn't use his speed, his flawless memory stored the quotes so that he could jot them down later for use in their stories.
They walked briskly down the cracked asphalt path, heading for the western end of the park. The late September air was still warm, despite the cool rain that had fallen the previous day. Bursts of red and yellow stood out among the still-green trees, a sure sign of summer's passing. As they walked, a bright orange leaf broke free from a maple tree and landed on Clark's head. He reached up and flicked it off, while a squirrel chattered unhappily at him. Up ahead, they could both see the wooden barricades keeping back the curious onlookers, as two men dressed in black and silver dueled it out with prop swords. Beyond that, the facade of an aged castle stood imposingly in the distance.
"Is Jimmy coming?" Lois asked, as they walked side by side, her head swiveling from left to right as she looked for their friend.
Clark shook his head. "No. He said that he got some photos earlier. He's covering the grand reopening of the Metropolis Children's Hospital right now."
"Guess we're too senior for stories like that now," Lois said, laughingly. "It's been a while."
"Nah," Clark said with a grin. "But Perry's got that new group of interns. The hospital reopening is the perfect little story for them to get their feet wet on."
"You know, I always hated those kinds of stories," Lois said.
"What changed?" Clark asked, already knowing the answer, but playing along anyway.
"I started doing them with you."
As they approached the barricade, a flustered production assistant was addressing the onlookers, reminding them that they could take pictures but that the use of recording devices was strictly prohibited. Clark approached the man, favoring him with a friendly smile.
"Can I help you?" the production assistant asked when Clark motioned him over.
"I hope so. I'm Clark Kent and this is my wife Lois. We're from The Daily Planet. We have an appointment to interview Mr. Sorbo." Clark flashed his credentials.
The man glanced at what Clark offered, then spoke rapidly into his headset. After a moment, he nodded absently as the reply came through.
"Follow me," he said, motioning another production assistant over to handle the crowd in his place. He looked relieved to leave the crowd behind, even if only for a few moments. "Mr. Sorbo is expecting you. He's waiting for you in the tavern."
"The tavern?" Lois repeated.
The production assistant nodded, then turned on his heel and led them through the set, carefully winding his way around scenes that were currently being shot or rehearsed. To their left, a couple of knights were doing battle with a mechanical dragon head. A few puppet masters made the head bob and attack, just missing the actors as they worked the jaws. A short jet of flame erupted from the dragon's maw as the actors jumped to either side. A couple of stunt coordinators stood to either side, with fire extinguishers ready in their hands, just in case. To their right and further down the path, townspeople were celebrating in the village square as a ragtag band played a jaunty tune on makeshift instruments. The director yelled "Cut!" and the extras went back to their starting marks to run through the scene again.
Soon enough, Lois and Clark reached the tavern that had been constructed. Their guide knocked a few times, then opened the door after being beckoned in. He announced their arrival and swiftly left to return to his post. Clark could hear him speaking into his headset again, reassuring the other production assistant that he would be back in a moment. Then he turned his attention to the tavern. The building was pretty isolated from the rest of the set, as though it were a lone inn situated in the middle of the woods for travelers on their way to the grand castle city. Built of wood, it stood two levels and boasted a hanging sign that swung in the light breeze. The Wayfarer's Crossing, it said in brass letters.
"Come on in," encouraged a voice from within.
Lois and Clark entered into the tavern. A burst of cool air greeted them, momentarily surprising them. There was a low hum of an air conditioning unit, barely audible to their ears against the grunts and yells that echoed over the park from a fight scene being rehearsed nearby. Large windows let in plenty of natural light. And seated in the middle of the room at a small round table of roughly cut wood, sat Kevin Sorbo, dressed casually in jeans, sneakers and cream colored t-shirt . His dirty blonde hair hung to his shoulders, reminding Lois of pictures she had seen of him when he'd been playing the part of Hercules. He rose to greet Lois and Clark, extending a hand to them.
"Hi, thanks for coming. It's so nice to meet you both."
"It's our pleasure," Lois assured him.
"Sorry we couldn't meet in my trailer," Kevin continued. "The air conditioning unit in it broke down about an hour ago, but the one in here is just fine." His words came out in a rush as he firmly shook Lois and Clark's hands. Clark was surprised at the strength in the actor's handshake. Kevin gestured to the wooden chairs. "Please, take a seat. I've been a big fan of your work for a long time now. That's why I asked for you two to be the ones to do this interview. Can I offer you something to drink? This is the only ancient tavern in town with a mini fridge." He grinned.
"No, but thanks," Clark replied, pulling out a chair for Lois before seating himself. "Mini fridge?" He raised his eyebrows in amusement.
Kevin laughed. "The crew likes to party here after wrapping up the more difficult scenes. And a lot of the guys eat their lunches in here. It's a pretty relaxed set for a hugely expensive summer blockbuster."
"It's a pretty impressive set from what we've seen," Lois said.
Kevin grinned again. "Yeah, it is. They really went all of for this." He looked around the tavern fondly, almost nostalgically. "So, should we get down to business?"
"Oh, let's do."
Lois and Clark looked up sharply. The voice had come seemingly from nowhere. Clark noticed that Kevin didn't look perturbed in the slightest. Angry, perhaps. And undeniably annoyed. But most definitely not surprised.
A blue spark appeared by the bar, then expanded into the shape of a man. There was a flash, and a man materialized before their eyes. He was an imposing fellow, with short cropped ebony hair and a neatly trimmed mustache and beard. Muscles rippled in his massive arms and his dark eyes fairly smoldered. He was dressed in black leather pants and a matching vest, beneath which his bare chest was visible. Each of the garments was studded with small nodes of silver, and he wore a pair of matching gauntlets and a silver earring shaped like a sword dangling from his left ear. A medallion hung about his neck on a sturdy leather cord. A sword hung in a scabbard on his left hip. The man eyed them all levelly, no expression visible on his chiseled face . He leaned casually against the bar.
Kevin sighed heavily. "What do you want, Ares?"