“Crazy last couple of days, huh?” Lois said.
She and Oliver had attended a social event at his former school Excelsior Academy two days ago. There, they met Oliver’s former colleagues Geoffrey, Alden, and to Lois’s surprise, Lex, who was accompanied by Lana. The reunion opened an old secret that returned to haunt them. Back at the school days, Duncan Allenmeyer, Lex’s old best friend, was killed hit by a car right after Lex joined Oliver’s group and started beating him.
After Alden and Geoffrey died under unusual circumstances, Clark and Lois started to investigate and found out that Lionel covered up Duncan’s real state. He was in a vegetative state for the last ten years and the doctors hired by Lionel were trying to revive him. Around the same time the reunion happened, Duncan started to receive a new treatment derived from refined meteor rocks, which gave him astral projection powers. Clark saved Oliver and Lex before they were the next victims. Duncan ended up dying due to an electric charge caused by one of Oliver’s new EMP arrow.
“Yeah,” Clark replied. He and Lois were at the kitchen of the farm. “I think Oliver learned from it, as Lex should.”
Lois shook her head. “But he won’t. You can try to hope, to root for him to change, but he won’t. Neither will Lionel. For them, there’s always an agenda behind their actions.”
He nodded. “You’re right. I know you’re right. I wish Lana could see things clearly like you do.”
“Again with this?” She said, sighing. “It’s her choice, and she’s gonna have to live with that. As for you, either tell her the damn truth or move on!”
Clark avoided her eyes, and then cleared his throat. “I didn’t call you here to talk about that.”
Lois threw her hands up and shook her head. “I give up.” Lois then crossed her arms. “What you wanted to tell me?”
“Show, actually.” He took a paper out of his pocket and showed it to her.
Lois looked puzzled. “Who’s this?”
Clark smiled. “Raya.”
“Oh, the woman that –“
He nodded. “Yes. Chloe has been searching for the Phantom Zone criminals, who she named Zoners. Apparently, Raya escaped as well, alive.”
“So what are we waiting for to start looking for her?”
“No. I’ll look for her, alone. Well, with a little of help from Chloe.”
Lois raised an eyebrow at him, annoyed. “Is it just me or are you shutting me off?”
Clark put the paper back in his pocket and went to the living room, sitting on the couch. “You know very well why I don’t let you to get involved.”
Lois followed him. “If I can’t help you with your alien weirdness, then what’s the use of those powers?”
“Look, I know you’re frustrated. All those powers and I’m here stopping you from using them. Just wait, okay? At least until I find Raya, maybe she’ll help us with the Fortress problem.”
“Fine.” She pouted. “But, FYI, if the situation needs me, don’t expect me to sit back and just watch it.”
He gave her a warm smile. “I don’t expect anything less from you.”
“Oakland, California,” Clark said, grabbing photographs that were on a table. Chloe had brought them so she and Clark could investigate Zoners related crimes.
“Local authorities determined it was made by a shooting star, but that was just wishful thinking,” Chloe said. Clark shot her a look. “Sorry. It impacted six weeks ago, right around the time you fell out of the Phantom Zone. It gets worse. He's already killed once. Two boys went missing on the site of the crater. All they found were human ashes and a basketball.”
“Sounds like heat vision.”
“Not unless your heat vision comes with a radiation setting. The ashes were off the geiger charts, and the next day, the nuclear facilities 20 miles away were hit.”
“Any idea why the Zoner would be there?”
“Well, aside from giving the five researchers a premature cremation, the radioactive material that they'd been working with was sucked dry.”
“It's almost like he was feeding off it. We need to check all the plants in the area.”
Chloe gave him a cocky smiled. “Hello? Um, have you met me?” She went to grab her purse and took another photograph out of it with the path of the attacks. “There have been a half a dozen incidents across the continent. The most recent one was just outside of Metropolis.”
“Chloe, these attacks form a straight line.”
“Headed directly towards you.”
Clark looked concerned. “Chloe...”
“I'll make a list of all the possible sites within a 100-mile radius.” She started to leave, worried. “I'll call you.”
After Chloe left, Clark kept looking at the papers. He then heard something outside the barn. When he started to head to the other door of the barn, a woman emerged from the shadows.
“Raya?” Clark said in a soft hushed tone
She smiled at him. “Hello, Kal-El.”
Clark gave her a small smile, still a little shocked to see her again.
They decided to take a walk on the field near the house. “I was afraid I'd never see you again. I'm sorry. I didn't want to leave you in the Phantom Zone,” he apologized.
“You had no choice. It's okay, Kal-El.” Raya saw his uncertain face and added. “And if it wasn't for you, I would have never escaped. I would have never seen all this. It's more beautiful than the world your father described.”
“How'd you find me?”
“Your father told me about the family he had chosen for you, about Smallville. It must have been hard growing up here by yourself.”
“I had my parents. I had my friends,” he said, hesitating.
“But no one who really understood you.”
Clark looked at her, knowing she was right. “You mean what was it like to grow up with such a big secret?”
She smiled. “And the amazing rush of racing trains, knowing nothing can hurt you.”
He smiled back. “I used to try to pretend not to notice, but sometimes I would catch my dad watching me when I'd picked something up that was impossible for him to even move. He wanted so much to know what that felt like.”
“But he never could.”
His face turned serious. “No matter how I think I fit in... Every day I'm reminded I'm not one of them.”
“You're not alone anymore. I'm here,” she said, smiling at him again.
Clark’s lips curled into a gentle smile. “Actually, I don’t feel so alone anymore. There’s someone I want you to meet. Her name is Lois, she is really great… Don’t tell her I said that to you.”
Raya looked puzzled. “Do you like her?”
He gulped. “Oh, no… Not the way you’re implying. She recently acquired kryptonian powers. Jor-El did something to her.”
Her eyes opened widely. “Humans are not supposed to have those powers, Kal-El. It’s beyond their body and mind capacity.”
Clark nodded. “I know that. I found it out the hard way. But there’s nothing I can do. Jor-El, the Fortress… It’s dead.”
“We have to find a way to bring it back. You can’t continue without your source of training.”
Clark hesitated. “I… I haven’t started my training yet.”
Raya couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “You must accept your destiny, Kal-El. You must save Earth.”
He frowned at her. “Save it from what?”
“Extinction. Your civilization is going to destroy itself, just like Krypton.”
“I don’t know if I can trust Jor-El anymore. He’d only brought pain in my life.”
“Pain is part of anyone’s journey, you can’t escape it.”
Clark didn’t say anything.
“Jor-El was a great man, Kal-El. Brave, strong… With the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known.”
“To be honest, that's not the Jor-El I imagined.”
“He was determined to save us. I remember helping him build your ship. He was so careful, planning every detail, down to your baby blanket.” Clark smiled at the last part. “I wish that he could see you now.”
Clark averted his eyes, regret on his face. “I haven't been the best son.”
“Your father was hard on himself, too. He felt guilty that he couldn't save Krypton. His only redemption was sending you to save Earth.”
“Maybe once he fix Lois’s problem, me and him can start over,” he said, smiling shyly.
They heard a noise coming from the barn. “What is that?” Clark spoke.
They superspeeded to the bard, finding a young and short black man there. “Who are you?” Clark asked.
The man turned to face them. “You’re the last son of Krypton. I've been waiting for this moment for a long time.”
Clark glared at him, recognizing the tone of his voice. “You're the one who's been coming for me.”
“And I think it will be worth the trip.” He then looked at Raya. “What's the matter, Raya? Don't recognize an old friend? It's me, Baern.”
“He's one of the Phantoms,” she told Clark.
“How do you like the new suit?”
“What do you want?” Clark asked, worried.
“To pay back your old man for giving me a one-way ticket to hell. But then he had to go and get himself eviscerated along with everyone else from that ice cube you call a planet. So I guess you'll have to do.” Baern then blasted energy beams at Clark, sending him flying through the barn wall.
The attack wore out Baern, but he still tried to attack Raya from behind with his superspeed. She anticipated and then kicked him in the face, sending him flying through the barn wall, too.
“Kal-El,” Raya went to check on Clark outside the barn, realizing that only his T-shirt was damaged by Baern’s attack.
“Where is he?” Clark asked. They realized Baern had escaped.
Clark was walking down the stairs of the house, he’d just change his damaged red T-shirt to a blue T-shirt. “I know my father told you where he sent me, but how did Baern know?”
“After Krypton fell and Jor-El was dead, the prisoners in the Phantom Zone discovered that he'd only managed to save his own son. The story of your survival was a myth, a rumor... One of hope for some of us and revenge for others.”
Clark looked puzzled. When he was about to say something, there was a knock on the door. Without waiting for someone to open it, Lois entered the house. “Hey, Smallville. You’re gonna love me. I’ve been doing some investigation and I found out that that friend of yours is here in Kansas.”
Clark looked delighted. “Lois…” He tilted his head, signaling for her to turn around.
Lois looked behind her. “Oh.” She then turned around and extended her hand, smiling. “Raya, right? I’m Lois Lane.”
Raya shook it, smiling back. “Nice to meet you, Lois Lane. Clark told me about you.”
“Whatever he said about me, don’t ever believe in him.”
Lois looked at Clark. “She’s really pretty,” she said, winking at Clark.
He rolled his eyes at the implication of her words.
“So, what you two kryptonian kids have been up to? Clark, have you show our visitor the greatness of our country, like donuts?”
“Actually, we hadn’t time for that. There’s a new threat out there,” Clark said.
Lois frowned. “What is it this time?”
“A Zoner. Raya was just telling me he wants revenge for my father locking him up in the Phantom Zone.” He looked at Raya. “If Baern’s been dreaming of killing me for the last 20 years, why he didn’t try harder to kill me?”
“I don't think he was expecting to fight both of us. He was weakening. His race feeds off radioactive energy.”
“So that's why he's so strong.”
“Baern killed hundreds on his own planet before he came to Krypton. But Jor-El managed to exile him to the Phantom Zone.”
“I'm guessing Baern is searching for a new energy source.
“It won't take him long. He can sense power sources. There's only one thing that can stop him... Your father's crystal.” Raya looked at the crystal that Clark had placed on the table earlier.
“What are we waiting for, then? Let’s take this bad guy down!” Lois spoke, excited.
Clark glared at her. “You’re not going.”
“Why? I can help you!”
“You can get hurt, for starters.”
Lois angered. “What a bunch of crap is that? I have the same powers that you have, you can get hurt as much as I can.”
“You know all the reasons, Lois. I’ve been listing them to you since day one.”
Lois shook he head, irritated. “Blah blah blah. You’re an idiot.” She went to the living room and sat on the couch, turning on the TV and refused to look at him again.
His eyes were downcast. “Let’s go.”
Raya only nodded, avoiding to get in the middle of their fight.
They left, and Lois still refused herself to look at the spot they were. Her eyes showed the clearly anger she was feeling.
Outside the house, Raya spoke. “You shouldn’t be so hard on her.”
“It’s not safe for her, Raya, you know that. You saw what Baern did to me, can you imagine what he’d do to her? I can’t let her to get hurt. If the price for her safety is her to get mad at me, so be it.”
Raya still looked concerned. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
Clark and Raya headed to the Daily Planet where they met Chloe. She told them that Jimmy photographed a mysterious object in Lex’s mansion. It was what was left of the box that Zod used to destroy Earth. Raya explained that it was actually the power core of Brainiac, a kryptonian energy core exponentially stronger than anything here on Earth. They realized that’s what Baern was after, it’d give him enough power to fuel him indefinitely and kill them.
Unfortunately, Clark realized they were too late when he went to visit Lex at the hospital after an attack and Lana told him that it was destroyed.
Raya then asked Clark to take her to the Fortress. “Raya, I told you the Fortress is dead. Why are we here?” Clark asked.
“It's our only hope to defeat Baern.” She took a look around, sad to see the current state of the place. Dark, lifeless. “This was all we had left of our home, Kal-El.”
“And now it's gone, too,” Clark said in a defeated tone.
She shook her head. “It was more than that. The Fortress was a storehouse for all the knowledge in the universe... At least all that we had.” Her voice showed her disappointment. “How could this happen?”
Clark felt ashamed, useless. “I'm sorry. I don't know how to bring it back.”
“Your father wouldn't have given up so easily.”
“I haven't given up. I don't know what else to do. I've tried everything.”
“Everything except the training your father wanted for you,” she replied, her tone accusatory.
Clark stared at her. “So, why are we here?” His voice was raspy.
“Baern is too dangerous to attack anywhere else. With the power he absorbed from the box, he could wipe out half a continent.” Raya approached the mainframe console.
“If he's that strong, will the crystal still work?”
“It should, provided we stay alive long enough to use it.”
“I'm not sure it'll be that easy just to lure him here.”
“I'm gonna see if I can reroute whatever residual power is left... Just enough to send out a signal... To let Baern know you're here.”
“’I’m sorry, you’re not cool and kryptonian enough to join our VIP group,’” Lois was still at the farm, drinking a beer and barely paying attention to the TV, trying to imitate Clark’s rough voice and failing miserably at it. “Stupid Smallville, stupid powers. I hope he trips and falls face-first into a kryptonite rock.”
Suddenly, somebody bursted into the house. Lois looked at the visitor, shocked, and got up. “Who are you?”
“Where’s Kal-El?” He asked.
Lois raised an eyebrow. “Two plus two makes four, you must be Baern.”
“You’re friend of Kal-El, human?”
“For you is Miss Lane,” she smirked.
Baern was becoming annoyed. He then approached Lois and raised his hand to her neck, trying to squeeze it. Before he could press it further, Lois held his wrist and freed her neck from his grip. Baern looked surprise at her. “Surprise, surprise,” she smirked. She then threw a punch at him, sending him flying through the house wall. “Mrs. K is gonna kill me for destroying her house.”
Lois went outside to check on Baern. He was on the floor, wiping the blood coming from his mouth. “I underestimated you,” he said.
She was distracted when she heard Martha entering the house, agitated by the noise caused by the destruction. When Baern was about to attack Lois with energy beam, both he and Lois heard a high-pitched humming. “I’ll deal with you later,” Baern said, and then left.
Martha approached Lois. “Lois, what happened?”
Lois had her hands on her ears, the pain annoying her no end. “I can’t talk right, Mrs. K.” She then ran, following the uncomfortable noise.
Martha looked confused.
The signal coming from the Fortress stopped, just like its console. “That's all the power I was able to draw. Hopefully it'll be enough,” Raya said.
“That sound... I've heard it before.”
“Every Kryptonian family has a unique tone ... a beacon to identify itself. Baern's sure to recognize yours.”
Clark nodded. “And follow it straight to me.”
“So this is Jor-El's famed Fortress of knowledge,” Baern spoke, having just arrived at Fortress. Clark and Raya stared at him. “I thought it'd be bigger.”
Lois also arrived there, but decided to not reveal herself.
“It doesn't matter. You won't be staying long”, Clark told him.
“Big talk, big man. I'm surprised you're still standing. I guess Jor-El was right about how the yellow sun affects you Kryptonian cockroaches. But I'm back. And now ... I'm supersized. This is the perfect place for the fall of the House of El.”
Baern shot energy beam at Clark, who tried to deflect it with the crystal, but was thrown backwards, dropping the crystal.
“Paying for the sins of your father can be a bitch.” Baern fired again, this time Raya stepped in front of blast, protecting Clark. Before he could kill her, Lois threw herself on Baern, knocking him down.
“Lois!” Clark shouted, surprised. Before Baern could hurt her, too, Clark retrieved the crystal and then approached him, absorving his energy with it. Baern tried to shoot at Clark one last time, but he was becoming powerless as the crystal got stronger. The phantom finally left the man’s body and was banished back to the Phantom Zone.
Clark knelt besides Lois to help her to get up. “Lois, you shouldn’t. You could’ve –“
Lois refused his help. “I can get up by myself. Go check on Raya, I think she’s hurt.”
Clark nodded, a little hurt by her coldness. He went to check on Raya, who was still lying on the floor. Clark picked her up. “Raya! Raya!”
She started to open her eyes, feeling a sharp pain. “I’m fine, just a little hurt. Lois saved me.”
Clark smiled at Lois, who was checking on the unconscious boy that Baern had possessed. “Yes, she did.” He then looked at her, still smiling. “And you saved me.”
With a little difficulty, Raya stood up. “The crystal... It has enough power now. We can restore the Fortress now.”
Lois looked at her. “That means I –“
Raya nodded, giving her a warm smile. “You can have your old life back.”
Lois’s smile grew by the second.
“Lois…” Clark spoke, trying to apologize to her.
“It’s okay, Smallville. I’ll be fine, you won’t have to worry about me anymore.”
Why did his heart ache after hearing that? Was he afraid to lose this connection to her or was it the fact she didn’t need him anymore? “I’ll always protect you, Lois,” he said, without giving it much thought.
“It’s starting.” Raya had already transferred the energy absorved by the crystal to the Fortress, its system starting to recharge.
“Jor-El?” Clark spoke.
“Kal-El, my son.”
Both him and Raya breathed a sigh of relief.
“Hello, Jor-El,” Raya greeted.
“Raya. I’m grateful you managed to escape the Phantom Zone.”
“All thanks to your son, Kal-El.”
Clark cleared his throat. “Jor-El, before you went dead you helped my friend, Lois Lane.”
“Hello, mister… El,” Lois greeted, uncertain.
“I’m aware of that, my son.”
“There’s a problem, though. She started to develop powers like she was some kind of kryptonian.”
A bright light then surrounded Lois. Five minutes later, it disappeared. The three of them waited Jor-El to spoke.
“The process is irreversible.”
“What?” Clark and Lois said in union.
“Lois Lane was in a state of almost death when she was brought to me by Martha Kent. To save her, I had placed kryptonian cells in her system, making it possible to her to recover from her injury. However, this Fortress internal system was failing, and I could not remove some of those cells.”
Clark looked apprehensive. “What are you saying?”
“The kryptonian cells started to multiplicate inside her, replacing her human cells. Lois Lane is now a full kryptonian.
Sadness, disappointment, hopeless, all visible on Lois’s face. She was fighting against the tears, but until when would she resist? And why to resist at all?
Clark kept looking at her, feeling her sadness. He wanted to comfort her, telling her everything would be alright. He just needed to believe in it first.
Raya spoke. “Jor-El, isn’t it dangerous? Humans turning into kryptonians.”
“It is a rare case. I believe the kryptonian cells were able to took over Lois Lane’s cells due to the fact they were almost dead. Nonetheless, it is essential you both keep this case a secret. Our blood is one of the most intriguing subjects of the universe, it can save millions of lives, but it can also means the destruction of the entire universe.”
“Kal-El, my son, I apologize. I had failed you.”
Clark barely paid attention to Jor-El’s apologize, his attention focused on Lois, her silence hurting his soul.
“I told you Clark, I’m fine. You didn’t have to bring me home,” Lois sighed.
“What kind of friend would I be if I don’t stay by your side in a moment like this?” He gave her a shy smile.
Lois would make a remark at his commentary, and that’s how he knew she wasn’t fine.
She cleared her throat. “I hope the boy’s okay.”
“He will be.”
“I gotta say, Raya is pretty, smart, strong, confident –“
“Are you interested in her, Lois?” Clark smirked.
Lois shot him a look. “Just saying, you don’t have to look further to move on.”
He rolled his eyes. “Raya and I are just friends.”
“C’mon, you two are the last of your kind, you’re perfect for each other.”
“Well, technically, you’re a kryptonian now. Does that mean we two have to breed?”
Lois sighed. “Touché.” She then looked at him, concerned. “Just, please, try. Try to love someone else. You’re a great guy, you deserve better than to wait forever for someone who already chose someone else.”
“I will, if you promise something.”
“What?” She looked puzzled.
“We won’t fight like that again. Banter is okay. Banter is good. Fights like that one are not.”
She gave a little laugh and nodded. “Deal. You’re pig-headed, but not idiot.”
“Good.” Clark then looked at his watch. “I gotta go check on Raya.”
“Go, I’ll be fine,” she gave him a tight-lipped smile.
He headed to the door and opened it. “Good night.”
Clark then left.
The smile fell from her face, her expression turned serious. She sat on the couch, looking at her hands. A tear dropped on the palm of her hand. Soon, tears started rolling down her cheeks and the painful sound of cry could be heard.
Lois heard a closing door sound and looked up. It was Clark, he was waiting for her breakdown. She thought about hiding her face, wiping her tears, but she couldn’t hide it anymore. Neither she wanted to.
Clark went to her and without hesitation hugged her. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he said, teary-eyed.
Lois cried more, she let it all out. The pain, the fear. She let herself be comforted in the embrace of the man who had been her best friend and strength this past month.
Clark reached home later that night. His mother and Raya were talking in the kitchen. “Hey,” he greeted.
“How’s Lois?” Raya asked.
“She’s resting,” he replied, his tone sad.
“Raya told me what happened, I hope Lois’s okay,” Martha said.
“She will be. She just need the people she loves the most to get through this.”
Martha nodded. “I’ll visit her tomorrow.” She then looked at the clock. “I really need to go to sleep, I have to wake early. Raya, it was lovely to meet you. You can stay here as long as you want.”
“Thank you,” Raya said.
Martha smiled at the two of them. “Good night.”
They both answered back. Clark then spoke. “Was everything alright with the man Baern possessed?”
“Yes. His name is Lamar, by the way.”
“I’m happy to know.”
Raya looked at him, realizing his mind was elsewhere. “You’re worried about her.”
He knitted his eyebrows. “I just wish I could’ve done more, ease her pain.
“You’re giving her the best thing a person can give to another, Kal-El. You’re by her side when she needs it the most. She’ll need you more than ever from now on.”
“I hope you can help me with that.”
Raya gulped, averting her eyes.
Clark frowned. “What?”
“I’m not staying on Earth. Not because I didn’t love it here. But I feel that my mission is elsewhere.”
“I’ve been suffering staying in the Phantom Zone, that is true. However, it’s also true that there I felt good knowing I could protect worlds from becoming targets of that criminals. Earth is your home, you are its savior. I want to protect other worlds that doesn’t have someone like you.”
Clark looked sad. “What happened to ‘You’re not alone anymore’?”
Raya gave him a smile. “We both know you’re not, Kal-El. And she’s much more special to you than me.”
“Raya, I don’t –“
She started to leave to sleep. “You two care about each other, more than you’re willing to admit. And once you do, you’ll realize what I’ve known since the first time you mentioned her name to me.” She went upstairs, disappearing from his sight.
Clark wanted to refute her words. He really did. He simply couldn’t stop the smile that appeared on his lips.