Jor-El was jerked from his reverie by the hovering 'bot zipping into his line of vision, sounding a loud alarm. "What is going on, Kelex?" asked Jor-El. The 'bot hurriedly relayed:
"Lara has been lost from my line of communication and I fear is in danger. My signals have been rebuffed most violently."
"When did you last detect her?" Jor-El demanded, shutting down the systems he had been working on, and nearly running to the pad where H'raka waited, fitted with a a new saddle.
"Some time ago. I came as soon as I could, but the signal was weakening all the while."
Jor-El leapt aboard the warkite, and paused a moment as Kelex docked to the back of the saddle, and then with a screech, they leapt into the air.
"Tell me what you know," Jor ordered as they raced toward the council tower, H'raka dipping and swerving to avoid the whizzing air traffic.
"The signal of Jir-An was the last thing that I could pick up," the 'bot said, "but I am not certain where they are located."
"Do your best," panted the scientist. The tower loomed near and the warkite came in for a swift landing.
"H'raka, stay," Jor-El commanded, as he leapt to the groud, as Kelex undocked. "Follow my lead," the hoverbot instructed, and raced off down the passage, Jor-El right behind. The bot pulled up suddenly before a shut door, and Jor-El nearly collided with it.
"In here?" he asked.
"Do be careful," the 'bot said politely.
Jor brushed him off, and began to pound upon the door. "Jir-An!" he vociferated. "Jir-An, open this door, you coward! Do you hear me?"
There was a stirring within, but no answer. "I said, open this door, or by Rao – "
Just then, the panel was activated, and retreated into the ceiling. Jor-El dashed through, seeing Jir-An before him and demanding, "Where is Lara?
Then he saw her – hanging limply from the wall by her wrists, a breather locked over her face. Letting out a cry of rage, Jor-El started first for his wife, but stopped short, turning to regard Jir-An.
"What have you done to her?" he cried, advancing, his eyes blazing. "Speak!"
"She will be fine," Jir-An said, gesturing to the screen. "A few more minutes, and she will awaken."
"You son of Vohc – " Jor-El growled, advancing, his fists clenched. "How dare you lay your hands on her!"
"She was intended for me!" Jir-An snapped. "You ignored this sovereign right."
"What is it?" Jor-El hissed, gesturing toward the gas-filled breather. "What are you doing to her?"
"A scientist like you ought to have deduced – " Jir-An choked as Jor-El's hands closed on his throat. "Let go of me, you filthy -" He choked again.
"I do not want to kill you," Jor-El said in a measured tone. "But your deeds go beyond the limits of my mercy."
"I obey the orders of my general –" Jir-An managed.
Jor-El released him in a sudden movement. "Zod! What does Zod have against Lara?"
"Not against Lara." Jir-An smiled sinisterly, stationing himself before the room's control system which was connected to Lara's imprisonment. "A few more minutes, and her body will not be able to sustain the life that you forced into it."
With a strangled cry, Jor-El threw himself at Jir-An, grappling with him in effort to force him out of the way and shut down the system, and thus, release the lock of the breather. Jir-An was slighter in build than Jor-El, but tall, and the two struggled fiercely as Jor-El landed blow after blow upon his solid jaw and battered his aristocratic nose until it was unrecognizable from it's former glory. Jir-An was not completely outmatched and at last aimed a punch that landed solidly in the pit of Jor-El's stomach, and he doubled over in pain.
"Kelex!" he gasped. "Disable the breather!"
Jir-An's eyes widened as he dove for the hoverbot, catching it by the control collar and beginning an attempt wrestle it from the air. Kelex shook back and forth, dragging Jir-An from his feet and flopping him back and forth like a dog shakes a rat, while Jor-El raced to his wife's side, and began to try and wrench the breather from her head.
A tiny red button began to blink and then beside it appeared a blue light that glowed steady, as Jor-El muttered, "No, no..." under his breath. The quiet insistent hiss of gasses slowed and Jor finally released the cuffs on Lara's wrists; she fell forward onto him, completely inert.
Jor-El lay her down as quickly as possible, and saw Jir-An giving in to Kelex's adamant resistance, and when he met the scientist's gaze, his eyes were wild.
"Don't report me –" he began, but stopped short and broke into a run, bolting clean from the room. Jor-El sprinted after him, watching as the councilmember did not stop running, but with one last look over his shoulder, flung himself from the landing platform. Jor-El reached the ledge, pulling up, breathing heavily, and watched the figure fall – he waited for the moment when a warkite or ship would sweep up beneath him and carry him away, but none came. As the tiny form fell past the last planetary level, Jor-El set his teeth. A suicide, then. The true death of a fool.
Turning, and satisfying himself that H''raka still patiently awaited, Jor-El raced back into the room, and fell to his knees by Lara's side, his hands feverishly working at the iron grip of the breather. The blue light glowed steady now, and Jor-El gasped to Kelex, "Shut the system down!"
"I am trying, but there is an unbreachable –"
Just then the hinges gave, and Jor-El pulled the device from Lara's face, casting it aside, and lowering his face to her's to feel her breath, tepid, and unstable.
"Thalik gas," he muttered, smelling the fumes, his heart sinking to the pit of his stomach and throbbing there, making him feel sick. Hurriedly, Jor-El pressed his hands to her swollen stomach, praying to feel some movement there. There was a tiny quiver, but then nothing; Jor-El's eyes were blurred as he lay his head upon her, his mind begging for it not to be true, straining all his senses for some sign of life within. His efforts were unrewarded.
Jor-El straightened, gulping down his fear as he pulled Lara's head and shoulders into his lap and began to breathe into her mouth with his own breath, forcing the remains of the fumes out her nostrils. Lara coughed weakly, but her eyes remained closed.
He called her name. "Lara – Lara, wake up. Come back to me -" He choked. "Give a sign that you hear me."
She still did not move, but her breathing had become more regular, the disturbing bluish tint that had overcome her features fading and giving way to a deathly pallor. Her pulse was steadying... At last, she stirred, and her eyelids trembled.
"Lara –" he said eagerly. "Lara – talk to me. Look at me."
Slowly her eyes slid open, looking vacant and confused. They gradually focused on his face hovering close over hers, and she gave a small sigh.
"Kelex!" Jor-El demanded. "I need you to scan Lara immediately; tell me if the child –"
He broke off at the fear in Lara's eyes. "Jir-An – where is he?" she whispered.
"Do not worry." Jor-El shook his head, anger clouding his features. "What did he do to you..." he muttered, drawing Lara into his arms, and holding her close.
"Sir, the scan –" Kelex gently prompted.
"Of course." Jor-El avoided meeting Lara's eyes as he lay her back.
"The baby..." Lara breathed, realization dawning on her. "Oh, dear Rao, the baby..."
"Hsshh – lie still," Jor instructed, holding his breath as Kelex's core fluttered, but took no form.
"The results are indeterminate," Kelex finally said, and Lara took in her breath as Jor-El cursed.
"Do it again," he commanded, grabbing Lara's hand and squeezing until it hurt. Tears came to her eyes at the pressure, and she shut them, the tears seeping out from beneath her lashes and trickling down her cheeks.
"The gender is still indeterminate from the child's position," Kelex said at last, and Jor-El yelped.
"No, you fool! Is the child living!"
"Yes, sir. Ah. Here we are. He seems to be sleeping." Kelex's core took the perfect shape of their tiny son, curled into a tight ball, and squirming ever so slightly.
"Check his cell count – is he well?"
A moment later, and Kelex replied, "All seems to be well."
Jor-El let out a sigh and gathered Lara into his arms. "Curse that Jir-An," he managed at last. "I thought you both were lost..." And Lara wept silently in his arms.