The Forest People, missing scenes. About nine pages of missing scenes. Originally these were mixed in with the other sections, but working in three different time periods got confusing and it felt like it took away from the original story.
These are all set post-story.
"They seem good trade partners," Elizabeth says, looking at the preliminary report prepared by Teyla. "The Colonel also thinks the anthropologists might be interested in some of the rock formations--according to Rodney, they date from around the time that the Ancients left Atlantis."
Lorne nods, giving Teyla's report a perfunctory glance before looking up. "How long did Colonel Sheppard say they'd be?"
"Until tomorrow, at least. Rodney wants one last stab at finding the source of those power spikes. Can you have a team prepared to go through?"
Lorne frowns, leaning back in his chair in an unconsciously lazy slouch that makes her hide her smile behind her hand. "Two of the anthropologists have asked for off-world experience and Parrish wants to check out some of the trade crops they're offering to check adaptability with Atlantean soil for the Athosians." Tapping a finger on the edge of the table, he tilts his head in thought. "I can have a team ready by the time the first team returns."
Elizabeth smiles. "That'll work.. Do you--"
The sudden klaxon of off-world activation breaks into the office. Frowning, Elizabeth barely has the chance to stand up before the gate tech looks up, frowning. "It's Dr. McKay's IDC, Dr. Weir."
Frowning, she walks into the gate room, feeling Lorne behind her, hand on his gun. "Open the gate."
The tech disables the shield, and Elizabeth slowly moves to the terrace, eyes on the rippling liquid surface. Rodney's, not John's. Hands closed over the rails, she waits, every hair standing on end as the surface remains unbroken.
"I don't like this," Lorne murmurs into her ear, so close she can feel his tension like her own.
The ragged figure that stumbles into the gateroom is unmistakably Rodney, dirty and weirdly wired, stuttering to a stop at the edge of the platform, vest clenched in one hand. Blue eyes scan the room, and she watches him drop back a step before he stops. "Close the gate."
"Rodney? Where is Colonel Sheppard?"
No one else comes through, though, and Rodney stares up at her, hands fisted at his sides, before he stares down the gate tech. "Close it."
She never sees him move. One second, he stares up at the balcony with a look of utter betrayal, mouth twisting--the next, the gate tech is on the floor with Rodney's foot in his throat, mouth working for air, and the gate dissolves as Rodney's fingers move blindingly fast over the controls.
Lorne's men surround him, stunners at the ready, Lorne pulling her back and two more coming from behind them.
"Carson," Rodney says, slowly straightening, twisting around to look up at her. "And a sedative. And maybe a mission report." Looking down, he sighs, then reluctantly moves his foot, watching the tech scramble away with a tilted head and slow, thoughtful smile. "Just so you know? I'd stun me now."
Lorne restricted her access to Atlantis' brig, leaving her with live feeds to observe him pacing the cell, pale and sharp and unsleeping in loose scrubs, wired higher than even enzyme addiction could have accounted for. He's not talking, but he's not fighting either, quiet and cautiously still with every blood sample that Carson takes.
She doesn't think it's because of the stunners, either, but his eyes stay on Carson's throat, still wearing the shape of Rodney's fingers, in a way that makes her nervous.
"Anything yet?" she asks Lorne, turning from the feed as he comes in.
"Carson's still running tests." He shrugs, one-shouldered, looking the worse for wear; three days of interrogation of an eerily silent Rodney McKay is enough to put anyone's nerves on edge. There are protocols to dealing with compromised expedition members, but Carson's run every test they have and come up with nothing. Not bacterial, not viral, no change in brainwave activity--at least, none that indicate a secondary personality--no parasites, no drugs, no detectable outside influences. The dark eyes meet hers, then dart down, fixing on Rodney pacing the length of the force shield again. "It held a Wraith," Lorne says, like that's what she's worrying about.
"And Rodney designed it," she answers, sitting back. "No one's been able to break through whatever Rodney did to block that gate address. They're not even sure how he did it, but we haven't been able to get a lock." Rubbing her forehead, she turns the feed away, leaning her elbows into the desk. "By jumper--"
"A year at least," Lorne says. They've gone over this before. "When the Daedalus gets back, we can send a team to--find out what happened."
She nods. The Daedalus won't be in communication for weeks, at least, depending on how long they stay planetside, if they aren't needed elsewhere. "Then I suppose--"
Rodney's voice, flat and strangely toneless, echoes from the laptop speakers. When she looks, he's staring right at the security feed.
"Doctor," Lorne whispers, and she reaches across the space between them, grabbing his wrist before he can pull the laptop away. "Dr. Weir--"
Enabling the microphone, Elizabeth leans toward the screen. "Dr. McKay?"
"Obviously." The voice loses the tone, going sharp with familiar irritation. "I need to talk to you." Arms crossed, he tilts his head, looking at her with a familiar, annoyed frown. "Look, we can play are you, aren't you Rodney McKay via network or you can come down here. I'm not doing this over security cam."
"I think it would be wiser if--"
"Here, face to face, no security cameras." Rodney's chin tilts up. "As a show of good faith, tell Radek that the left field's at sixty-five percent strength and has been for the last three days." At her catch of breath, he rolls his eyes. "So yes, could have got out any time I wanted to. Lorne, Carson, you, Radek. No one else."
Lorne frowns, staring at the screen over her shoulder. "Dr. McKay--"
"This isn't negotiable. And we don't have a lot of time. I'll see you when you've figured that out." Turning his back on the camera, Rodney starts to pace again, dismissing them from his attention with a turn of his back, pacing the edges of the cell again, lingering deliberately at the left side of the shield.
"I don't think it's a good idea," Lorne says quietly, but the look on his face tells her he doesn't have any better ideas. "I want security in there if you go in."
She nods, watching Rodney pace away. "All right. Let's find out what happened."
Elizabeth nods from the others side of the briefing table, her best, most efficient diplomatic mask in place, but Rodney can feel her tension even from here. Clean and in uniform, he feels--wrong. Wrong in a way that the planet had created in him, making cool blue-white walls and glass seem--unnatural, somehow. Cold, and sterile, and unwelcome.
"Do you know where they could be now?" she says, and Rodney swallows, seeing Lorne's sharpened attention. It feels like a betrayal, forcing out every word against the instinct of silence, *don't tell*, they aren't--they aren't--
"No," he says, not quite lying. He doesn't know where they are. If he was on the planet, he could find them without thinking. Here, he's too far away, aware only of vague restlessness, John's increasing anger, Ronon and Teyla's focused energy to find him. And the pull of it, the way he stared at the Stargate when he came in the control room, dreaming of the planet at night, waking cold and alone in his unfamiliar bed, wondering why he can't smell the forest. Feeling for John and Teyla and Ronon and finding nothing but humming silence, like a open radio channel without a receiver.
"We can track them," Lorne is saying to Zelenka, not quite a question, and Rodney tunes out the explanation of programs he helped to write. Lifesign detectors won't be enough, not there, not in a place even the Wraith don't hunt.
Shifting in his chair, Rodney tries not to shiver, uniform not nearly enough to ward off the chill.
"…scans from the original landing showed unusual readings at best. Finding them among thousands--"
"Millions," Rodney says, regretting it when attention focuses on him again. "Not thousands. Millions."
Zelenka blinks, pushing his glasses up with a finger. "Millions."
"Probably several million." Rodney keeps his gaze fixed on the wall behind Elizabeth's head. "Most of them--this is a week long event. It'll be days before everyone--" He stops again. "I don't know what happens after."
"Will Sheppard and his team be free of the influence when it ends?"
Rodney frowns. "They weren't exactly forthcoming on information. What little we had--" Wasn't given willingly. Rodney unclenches his hand from the arm of the chair, forcing down a flare of *go want now come back come home*, like every other second, and this could drive him crazy. "Probably. Maybe. I don't know."
"But isolation from the source helps," Elizabeth is saying. "I don't want to wait for whatever else is in store for them. For all we know, this may--" Change them, like it hasn't already. Rodney catches himself clenching his hands again, nails cutting into his skin.
"..it's a large planet," Zelenka is saying to Lorne, looking worried as he stares at his laptop. "With so many people--"
Rodney feels the words in the back of his throat, feels Elizabeth look at him, calm-eyed and understanding. She doesn't understand, not really, but she accepts, and that's almost enough.
"Finding them--won't be a problem," Rodney says slowly, and the attention is back, focused like six perfect spotlights. He's never felt more alone in his life.
"It won't," Lorne states slowly, and for a second, he sounds like John--Colonel Sheppard--curious and amused and believing all three. "How?"
Rodney draws in a slow breath. "They'll come for me."
"No, you're *not* getting it," Rodney says, fighting the urge to do--something. There are reasons on reasons that he's not armed right now; he has no idea what he'd do. "If they--look, when they come through, it's not--they're not going to instantly just--revert." He shouldn't have to explain this. They should *know*.
"Rodney," Elizabeth says patiently, "we're not leaving you in the gate room alone."
"Because you have some suicidal Marines? Look, I don't care how well trained they are. We're--not the same." He can feel Lorne's eyes on him, curious and disbelieving. "I *know*, and no one will get a shot off because they'll be dead before they can get their fingers to the trigger, and by the way, if the idea was to *kill them*, then I don't see the point of this. I don't even see the point of being here."
Turning, Rodney catches Lorne's arm, pushing him into the table, jerking his gun arm up behind his back and pulling the gun before Elizabeth finishes the word. Pressing the muzzle against the back of Lorne's neck, Rodney looks up. "What have we learned?"
Elizabeth doesn't move, stretching her hands out carefully at her sides. No threat. "Rodney?"
"If I can do it, and I've been off that planet for days, then they'll be able to, and let me just say, they're better at this." Lorne shifts under him; Rodney jerks his wrist higher, pinning him under his weight, kicking Lorne's feet apart to throw his balance. "Stay. Down."
Elizabeth licks her lips, gaze cutting between them for a moment before she nods slowly. Rodney holds Lorne for a second, just to make the point, and feels Lorne's body go limp. "Better. Now can we get on with this?" Not pack. Every instinct Rodney has is howling. Not pack. Not family. Not *us*.
Not a fucking *threat*. Rodney jerks back, dropping the gun.
When Lorne straightens, the dark eyes flicker away from his, and that helps him relax. Extending the gun, he looks between them. "They're going to come through hot. We can't afford--" He stops. "If it goes wrong, you'll have to kill us. And we only have one chance to do it right."
Rodney can feel the gate staff watching him as he watches the gate light up, chevron after chevron. Besides him, Elizabeth is tense as piano wire, hands fisted at her sides.
"Are you sure about this?" she says, like this is still a discussion that can resolve into something completely different. He shakes his head, not trusting his voice, watching the last chevron lock and the gate become water.
It hits him like the first time, and Rodney grabs for the rails of the gate to stop himself, trying to breathe through the sharpness of the connection, filling the hole he'd been living with for five endless days.
He feels them close around him, angry and afraid and relieved all at once *where are you*.
Elizabeth's hand on his arm is like a shock of cold water. Rodney jerks away, feeling her quiet gasp as he moves by her, his body prickling awake and alive. *where the fuck are you, come back, come home*.
John focuses them, and Rodney staggers at the single thought, as loud as a shout, pulling him three willing steps closer to the gate before he can stop himself. *Come. Back*.
"Find me," he whispers, Marines gathering with trank guns. Right now, he doesn't think they would be fast enough to stop him, and right now, he's not even sure he can stop himself. Closing his eyes, he focuses on them, the intent surrounding him like air, and it's like he hasn't breathed before now. "Atlantis."
Another step closer, and he can feel the Marines setting their aim. "Shut it down," he says, almost shaking with the need to move. The gate dissolves, and the emptiness returns, sharp as pain, and Rodney staggers, unable to stop himself from falling from the shock of loss. Christ, how had he done this before? How did he even want to?
"Rodney?" Elizabeth says, somewhere close and above him. Rodney tastes blood from his bitten tongue. "Did you--"
Rodney looks up, staring at the gate. He could get it open and be out before they could stop him. "They're coming."
When the IDC comes in, Rodney's on the balcony, Carson's sedative drawing him into an artificial calm that frays more with every second that goes by. The three Marines are armed with trank guns, Elizabeth observing from her office, the rest of the crew moved out of the gateroom.
Even knowing an entire battalion of Marines are waiting right outside the doors, Rodney feels too tense, energy flickering through him in uneven starts. With the shield still up, he can just sense them, and he drops the shield before something else can go wrong. He doesn't think they'll wait the normal few seconds for Atlantis to confirm identity.
Closing his eyes, Rodney thinks he can feel Elizabeth watching them, ready to give the order for the Marines to barge in the second something goes wrong.
When they emerge, the sheer *rage* hits him like flood, relief, frustration, John's terrible worry and betrayal, and finally, familiarity, slow and strange, as John stops, eyes flickering to the Marines before dropping to the floor, the trank dart sailing over his head and clattering off the edge of the gate.
One chance, Rodney had said, but that's not entirely true, and he moves now, pulling their attention even as they duck from the line of fire. His body still knows how to do this, watching Ronon disarm two Marines while Teyla takes out the third, *don’t kill, family, Atlantis, ours*, jerking John's attention the doors, *lock them out*.
He can feel Atlantis understand, locks coming down, responding to John and Rodney both as they focus their concentration, and the room finally falls silent.
The Marines are still breathing and that's all Rodney can ask. The gate shuts sharply behind them, and they all stagger at the cut of contact.
"We can't hold them forever," Rodney says slowly, forcing out each word when every instinct screams to return. He can get the gate open before anyone can override those locks, be back on the planet, be free. "John."
John stares at him, bewildered hurt so raw and sharp that Rodney's come down two stairs before he can stop himself. "If we go back, we won't be human. We won't even be animals."
John stares back at him, confusion swirling through his mind. Recognition, somewhere beneath it, slow and inevitable. *Home*.
Rodney takes a deep breath, nodding slowly. "This is home."
This is the beginning of Part II of the Yard. I have some outtakes as well--er, somewhere--of the other Lex's childhood with Kal in the AU. I might have posted this before? I dont' remember.
Clark's Kryptonian was accented almost as much as Mrs. Ross's, which helped. Leaning on his arm, she allowed him to guide her through the streets. She had a hell of a grip.
"What do you think?" she murmured from beneath the floppy straw hat. The sun reflected gold spheres in her sunglasses as she looked up at him. "The hub of the world."
"I thought that was New York," Clark murmured, guiding her from behind two pedestrians arguing in the middle of the sidewalk. It was eerily like Metropolis had always been, or at least, as much as Clark had seen of it. The only difference was felt more than seen--Clark knew his own kind when he saw them, dressed in a vague resemblance to human apparel with some sweeping cape thing that makes him think of Lex's comic book collection. The sense of entitlement is like a glow around them, thnough. Easy to spot in a human crowd.
The first time he was pushed into the gutter had been educational, to say the least.
"Is it--always like this?" For some reason, Clark had had completely different ideas of what an occupation looked like. Not quite so--normal. Armed encampments, concentration camps, vague memories of apocalypse movies and late night Sci-Fi channel---hell, humans bent over dragging cinderblocks to make the Kryptonian equivalent of a pyramid--that wouldn't have surprised him.
The utter normality did.
"It's not in the best interests of the conquerors to torture their conquered population," Mrs. Ross observed softly, eyes on the people ahead of them. Kryptonians were as powerful as he was, or so Mrs. Ross had been able to tell him so far. "Most of the problems were early on. Now, people have adapted." Raising a hand, she gestured to the busy street, full of the sounds of typical morning traffic, the skyscrapers still spiraling above them, and the early Monday morning crowds.
Her mouth quirked up in a smile as she looked up at him. "Saying atrocities these days is considered very melodramatic." She winced when her weight shifted too fast on a step, and Clark narrowed his eyes on the prosthetic that had replaced her leg to the knee. Easy stages, the doctors had told him. Her hands tightened briefly, mouth thin. "Don't start."
"He said a few hours." Backroom medicine wasn't new to Clark--he remembered Lex's acquaintance Toby--but there were *hospitals*. Functioning ones. Ones that Mrs. Ross, as an expatriate of sorts, couldn't step foot in. Clark thought about the ID cards they'd been given in Edge City, of the explanations and apologies. They'll do for getting into the city, but we can't do more than that. Don't use them unless you have to.
And losing a leg to the knee was too suspicious not to merit some kind of interest in who Elizabeth Chanders really was.
"I'm fine. I need to get some fresh air. Stop hovering."
"I'm not hovering. Let's go back to the apartment." Stopping short, Clark waited for her glare at him. "We've walked a mile. I--" Don't feel comfortable going farther. Don't want to see anything else. Really don't want to be noticed. Carefully, Clark turned her around so they faced the way they came. "Your skin is being rubbed raw."
"You're cheating." But she didn't deny it, either. She didn't fight him when they turned around, Clark watching for other pedestrians or the occassional Kryptonian. They tended to be--difficult. Strange. He didn't move like them or act like them, but they felt something, and it worried him. So far, no one had been interested enough to stop and figure it out, but Clark thought it might be only a matter of time.
"Wait." And damn, that's what he got for not paying attention. Stumbling a step, Clark caught himself before he pulled her over, just a little too much speed. A thousand warnings from his parents echoed in his head, and he almost smiled, because this wasn't what they ever could have feared about him revealing his powers.
The slim fingers tightened on his arm, and Clakr followed her gaze, curious, freezing on the vehicle that stopped in the middle of the street--Clark still wasnt' sure what to make of a car without wheels and looked nothing *like* a car--a group crowding around the door. Bodyguards, his mind told him numbly as he recognized the sigil of his house. Ducking his head, he wondered if there was any way it wouldn't look suspicious to be the only person walking away in the dead-stop of the crowds on the sidewalk.
Just because you think everyone could be out to get you doesn't mean they *aren't*, Lex's voice murmured in his head. Especially here, especially now, even with the image disruptors--and the idea of that *still* screwed with his head. He didn't look like himself, Mrs. Ross had told him, even if the mirror didn't show a damned bit of difference. It's not supposed to work on *you* sugar, just them. Don't worry. We've been doing this for almost as long as you've been alive.
But a tiny box in his pocket didn't change the instinct.
There was murmuring in the crowd--the El's, Clark came to understand, tended to avoid mixing with the rabble, prefering the rarified air of what used to be Metropolis' Southeast Side and occassional forays into the technology district, where the world became a better place with the application of physics-defying Kryptonian innovations, brought from their home planet to make rustication just a little bit easier on them all. Somewhere outside Metropolis, spaceships were being built again, and maybe a few thousand human scientists would have to debate whether there had really been such a terrible thing, that the Kryptonians had come. They'd made life so much better.
Clark blinked away the instinctive bitterness, watching the emergence of Kal. It--might have been him, he thought, but not close enough for identitiy dissonance, not since the first time, sitting on Mrs. Ross's bed after the surgery on her leg to make the prosthetic work, watching the screen that showed him in three dimensional splendor. Announcing the end of the terrorists in the Badlands during a press confernce. Looking more adult than Clark could ever claim, cropped hair and cool smile. It was like--nothing he could describe, even as Mrs. Ross had groped for the remote that turned off the screen, like it could ever erase the memory from his mind.
"I thought he was dead," Clark had heard himself whisper.
"No," she'd said simply, looking at him with wide, understanding eyes. Her hand had closed over his in a brief squeeze. "You're nothing like him."
Not anymore, with too-long hair streaked blond and the clothes of a lower class Metropolian. He'd never moved that way, though, like he owned the world and knew it, never just didn't *see*, like the peopel staring at him weren't even there. Like--
"Christ," Mrs. Ross whispered, and Clark wondered if sh'ed hurt herself, but her eyes were fixed on the group leaving the car. Kal's head towered above them all, but--but--
Shorter than Kal, thinner than Clark remembered, when he could stand to, watching with sharp eyes. Kal was talking to him in a low voice, like there wasn't an entire city on hold for them, then Lex nodded sharply.
"They haven't let him out of the compound since he arrived," someone said, like this was hugely important, national news. Maybe it was. Lex Luthor had come home to Metropolis. It had been on all the news programs. "He's the one who--"
"Shit. Shut *up*." And the voices stopped short. Clark could guess what they would say. The one who helped end the terrorist threat in the Badlands. Not just the massacre, but the destruction of the Smallville caves, the only rebel stronghold in the state.
"Clark," Mrs. Ross whispered, but Clark tuned away her voice. Lex wasn't limping, though Clark had heard stories of extensive reconstructive surgery, emergency calls to every competent Kryptonian surgeon in the world. The stump of his arm ended in a gloved hand, the most advanced in prosthetics, unlike the shaped plastic on Mrs. Ross. He looked pale, but that wasn't anything new.
Clark watched them go into the building and wondered if he could be sick now or wait until later.
It'd taken Clark three days to wake up.
They hadn't been scared of him, and at first, he couldn't make any sense of it. Then again, he couldn't make sense of anything at all. Life was shaded between sleep and eat and *don't move* and rest, and it was days before he realized Mrs. Ross was the one who sat by his bed, holding his hand.
Dark eyes and thin lips, watching him with narrow curiosity. Playing cards when the hours got too long and Clark got too restless.
"Justa few more stairs," Clark told her, gripping her hand as hard as he dared. The apartment building had once been a warehouse, now remodeled into modern urban living, the tenth floor devoted to caring for rebels that needed somewhere to hide, to heal, to take a break, or maybe just to forget for a while. Clark could, a little, if he didn't look too long at what were considered normal household appliances that didn't look anything like what he'd had at home.
"And you just--believe me." Clark remembered staring at Mrs. Ross that third week, when he'd felt so close to normal that he almost expectd to be able to open the window and see Smallville outside. "I don't--"
"I saw Kal." She'd been shufflign cards for their third round of poker. He'd sucked, and she was great at it, and that was why he'd kept playing. "A lot has happened in the last few years. This--"
"Are you listening to what you're saying?"
She'd given him an amused frown. "Clark. We were conquered by *aliens*. My suspension of disbelief is probably my defining characteristic. We've studied the meteor rocks for years. It's not impossible--the Kryptonians are studying interdimensional travel in their most prestigious laboratories and science centers. That they could ahve succeeded, using the properties of the rocks--that's not a shock."
"But why *would* they? What the hell would be the point of me and Lex being dragged here?"
The way she'd looked at him after had made him wonder if she was as good a liar as Lex was. "I don't know. Perhaps it was a side effect while they were experimenting--oh yes, child, they do experiment in the badlands when conditions allow it, especially with the rock."
Clark wondered how many humans had been caught up during those, then pushed the thought aside. He didn't want to think about that, either.
The list was growing by the hour, the things that wanted to flood his head, and there was a kind of morbid curiosity to see how long it took to break.
Coming to their apartment, Clark swiped his card, pausing for recogntion and permission to enter. Carefully, he steered Mrs. Ross toward the chair by the window, where she could get late afternoon sun. She'd never admit she needed rest, but the warmth would soothe her into the sleep she didn't think she wanted. Clark gave the window a glance before stepping back, going to what passed for the kitchen for drinks.
"So tell me about him."
Mrs. Ross looked better after six weeks in relative safety, in relative peace. Hell of a lot better than any cave system; Clark had almost forgotten about windows and glass and esoteric things like bath tubs. He thought Mrs. Ross might be having the same kind of strange glee, just knowing that there were actual *bathrooms*, with tile, and sinks, and fixtures, and *toothbrushes*.
Or she could be as jumpy as he is, even now, in this bright room, filled with familiar furniture. Not just soaking in the sun, though that was part of it. A huge part of it, that Clark never understood before, the difference between dusty darkness where feeling unwell had become a habit and this. It was only now he could understand what had been happening to his body.
"He's smart. He gets Bs and Cs in school. He drives too fast." Picking at the edge of her blanket, he shrugs. "He's my best friend. We've been friends since I came down--in the meteor shower. Pete and me--we did everything together." He smiled a little in memory, taking the cups and balancing them carefully as he walked back. Moving human-slow wasn't necessary anymore, but it was a kind of false comfort. He wasn't like them. Not even in the privacy of their apartment.
Her hand touched his when he came back, and he looked down, seeing the dark, clear eyes fix. He was telling her fairy-stories to pass the time.
"Now tell me about Clark."
Clark ducked his head. "There's not that much to tell."
They'd moved beyond having listeners outside the doors; it's a relief, since God knew, Clark needed to talk, even when he didn't have words. He'd listened then, curled up on a bed by the window, sunlight soaking into his skin, hearing the slow, even cadence of her voice, telling him the story of the world. Absorbing it was impossible; it was reading War of the Worlds, Orson Wells, Isaac Asimov, maybe vaguely X-Files or Outer Limits, but it wasn't real. The scars on her back; those were real. The missing leg; that was real. The shaved head and burns were real, all the reality Clark could handle. Everything else was superfluous.
He'd asked why; that was a stupid question, and not a stupid one. Torture was for when there was something you wanted, and there was nothign she had they could use. This was *play*, maybe. Something Clark, hypped up on red meteor rock, might have understood. This was something that Kal understood.
Her hand on his brought him back. "I doubt it."
Clark shrugged, trying to get used to the plain, warm, *clean* cotton. It was sinking in--not everyone lived like rats under the ground. Some lived in perfectly normal houses and cities, built centers to treat the wounded, plotted death and destruction to the enemy, all under the amused eye of Kryptonians themselves. It was against everything Clark had ever heard about rebels and rebellions.
"Just me." His hair kept getting in his eyes. Kal cropped his short, and Clark didn't look at a pair of scissors these days without flinching. He'll cut off his own fingers first. "I do stuff. I go to school. I hang out with my friends." Clark thought of Lana, pushing the memory aside for later, private brooding. "I watch the stars." A smile started twisting his mouth up, and he couldn't quite control it. "I wonder who my people are."
He didn't look at her, even when her hand tightened, fingers pressed to invulnerable skin and unbreakable bones.
"They're not all bad." He couldn't help looking up at the amused drawl of her voice. "Don't look like that. They're like any race--species, I suppose, in this case. Good ones, bad ones, stupid ones--"
"Cruel ones." Her bones seemed so fragile. "You don't--I mean, you don't have to say--"
"There are those that help us." Her mouth quirked up in a slow smile. "In their own way. Let them swing around trees, watch their strange indigineous ways, leave them alone to do their thing, like any dedicated sociologist studying a strange and primitive culture. Not many acutally think they should have to leave the *planet*, but they don't mean us ill."
"That's not comforting."
She'd been the face he woken up to--utterly normal, like he'd been sleeping over at Pete's. A second that felt like forever, where Clark was sure it was all some hallucination that had finally ended, but even his idiotic subconscious knew better and let him know it, too. She'd sat by his bed, swathed in bandages, his living, breathing wall of protection. She'd looked into his eyes and smoothed back his hair and said, "Who are you, child?" and he had no idea how she knew, but she did.
She'd said she'd tell him what had happened, when he was ready to hear it. He wasn't ready yet.
"Did--when you saw him--he looked okay?" That was the only thing he'd wanted to know. Eveything else was pointless.
"No, but that doens't mean anything. They--let's say they can heal even better than they can destroy. And they have a lot of motivation." What that motivation was, Clark didn't want to know, wasn't sure he didn't already. Kal knew, though--Kal knew what was worth the life of Mrs. Ross, of the people fleeing the badlands. "Kal was with him, Clark."
That wasn't comforting, either.
"Clark." Her hand had tightened again, getting his attention. "It's time to leave this room."
And here Clark had thought she liked him. "No."
Sitting up, Mrs. Ross had pushed a pillow up behind her, and Clark jumped to help. She was getting stronger every day, but she was still too thin, tired too easily.
"You can't hide forever." He hadn't deserve the gentleness. "Clark, look at me. We'll go out into the city, you can look around, get used to--"
"You think people won't recognize me?"
Her slow smile had told him she didn't reconcile it any better than he did. It was safe here, Clark thought. It was safe because for these people, it wasn't real. "Here? They won't." She shook her head as her fingers brushed his hair. "Kal wasn't their legend."
"To-may-to, to-mah-to." The smile seemed to fade just a little, and Clark knew she was remembering Kal.
They hadn't--image disruptors had done something, but most of it was Kal himself, who was nothing like Clark Kent, nothing like the kid sitting with an aging rebel leader in this bright, alien room.
"Tell me about Lex. Your Lex."
Clark caught his breath, looking into the kind, determined eyes. She'd lived through more than he could imagine. And now she wanted to hear this.
"I--" Clark stopped. "I--he was my friend. Is my friend." Was, is, past tense, present tense. Lex, hero of the occupation, bringing down the nasty Badland rebels--he was everywhere, even when he wasn't there at all, his name on everyone's lips. Clark wondered how he'd woken up, remembered the fierce joy of knowing he was alive, even if inaccessible. "Lex is complicated."
"Everyone's complicated, honey." Sitting back, she glances down at the prosthetic, then sighs, reaching down to unfasten it. "Better get this off.
"He's not theirs." That's the second thing Clark had said, with the first flash of news reports in the language he'd learned to hate.
Mrs Ross had looked at him with pitying eyes and then away.
"He's not. Their Lex is dead. He's *mine*." Even to himself, his voice had been too high, too sharp, too—something. "He's my world's. He's not—he tried to die to save us."
Mrs Ross had turned off what passed for a television, looking into his eyes.
"Right now, he's Kal's, as long as Kal wants him to be, honey. I know what Kal can do. You don't."
Clark thought of the borrowed memories, shuddering from the ones written into Mrs. Ross' skin. "I know. I know what he can do. And I know what Lex is." That Lex would compromise himself and everything to a point, and that point was the thing he'd never been sure of. Never even knew what to *call* that feeling, that inner knowledge of Lex's balance of morality and expediency, how delicate it was to walk, and how often Lex stumbled to the wrong side. That had worried him. But this--this didn't worry him.
Title: The Yard: Outtake
Author: jenn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: It's that they can't lose.
Kal knows a lot more about Lex than most people, even the scientists who studied him and study with him, even Mother, who knows Lex's chromosomes by heart and his psychology by rote, even Father, who still can't quite beat Lex at human chess, even though it's supposedly childishly easy.
Kal's had years to think about the program and its development--Lex is part of the first generation of them, the baseline all others have followed. Some people hadn't understood the model, but Mom had explained it to him when she thought he was old enough to understand.
"Conquest isn't about taking over, *chia*. It's about making them want to be conquered, accept it, even welcome it." She'd been observing the school that day. Kal remembered that, and remembered that she had looked--energized. Over dinner, she and his father had had a long discussion that hadn't made any sense, but then she'd smiled at Kal and asked if he'd like to go to visit the school.
He remembers being a little overawed--the children weren't kept on planet at all. Something Mother had said about psychological conditioning and how it made it easier, but it had still been so--huge. Kal doesn't remember the ship at all.
There were observation points for every room, even the dorms where they slept. Huge monitors were forever watching, but Mother liked direct observation, and led him to a comfortable room that faced what looked like a normal child's playroom. There were blocks on the floor and messes of paper and glue and sharp things that humans called scissors, scattered with strangely normal looking children.
Just looking, Kal couldn't see much of a difference between them and himself. Physically weaker, he knew, and less fast, less intelligent, far more given to unusual emotional outbursts for no reason he understood. He wondered why none of the proctors were stopping them from making such a mess, then his breath caught as a little girl started giggling and blocks began to slip into the air.
Kal's breath caught. "I didn't know humans could do that."
"They can't. Make sure a recording is sent to my room," his mother said to one of the other scientists.
Now that he watched--yeah. Other children were doing other things. One girl kept making his eyes hurt when he watched her--it took a minute to realize her skin was moving. *Moving*. Before his eyes, she shifted into one of the proctors, and the proctor smiled indulgently before murmuring something that Kal couldn't understand. Looking up at his mother, he saw her smile.
"English," she answered. "The majority of the children are from the North American continent, where we landed. You'll start learning it this year, of course."
Of course. Not many humans spoke Kryptonian well. Fewer seemed to even want to. Kal didn't understand that.
"If they aren't human--" he trailed off uncertainly. In classes, they'd learned all about Earth from their teachers, and they'd said--
"Mutants. These children are--different." Someone was writing on a screen--Mother took it and glanced down, nodding shortly. "Good. Subject A-1m4 is progressing, then?"
"Not--very well." The tall man hesitated and then shook his head. Kal wondered what they were talking about. "He refuses to respond to any stimuli offered by the proctors or the researchers. Frankly, doctor, we're not entirely he's completely--"'
Mom touched the screen, pulling up a file. "I'm not seeing anything in these test results that makes me believe he was mentally damaged by the exposure." Her eyes narrowed in interest, and Kal wondered what she was seeing. "Are you sure this is accurate?"
"His genome was sampled and sent through the computer several times."
"Humans don't have a learning curve this fast." Flicking through rapidly, his mother nodded. "This correlates with what was sent to me by the department head. This sounds merely disciplinary."
The man sighed, eyes rolling. "He refuses, doctor."
"He's a child. Basic conditioning should have seen soem results by now."
If it were posible, Kal would think the other man was grinding his teeth. "Some. Not enough. He will obey direct orders, but refuses to communicate in our language. He--acts out in unusual ways. We have a human psychologist also working with him, but she has failed to find the root of the problem. I've asked for a more--rigorous traing procedure, but there is worry that his mind may not--survive intact."
There'd been failures, Kal knows now. Several had been mistakes in the original program, and the results, while flawed, were still useful. But then, they were still learning, and there were too few of these children for them to risk more with untested procedures.
Then, especially, it was critical.
"Who are they?" Kal had asked when the man finally left, clutching the screen and looking unhappy.
"Humanity's future. Your future, too." His mother had been watching carefully. "They were--given to us, under our protection, to be raised with our ways. They are extremely important to our plans, Kal. That's why they're kept here."
"The rebellion?" Kal watched another child setting paper on fire. A proctor didnt' seem upset, simply watching as the paper crackled, then uttering a sharp command. Instnatly, the paper was left as char, big brown eyes staring up, wide and worried, until the proctor crouched beside him, murmuring quietly.
"A few were--taken from us." His mother's mouth was tight. "We haven't been able to get them back. Mor, pull me up the file on Subject A-1m4. I might as well see what should be added to the current regime."
Kal watched his mother cross to a knot of scientists in the middle, then turned his attention back to the room.
"...a thermonuclear device? Here?"
"...we don't know how he found the materials, though we suspect that his comprehension of the language aided in his--"
"Let me understand. You can't get him to speak it, but you think he's capable of hacking our databases? I'd say he's making tremendous progress, except for the fact that, apparently, he's building crude atomic weaponry in the labs. And crude or not, it's functional, is it not?"
Kals' attention was caught by one of the boys--though all of them were almost identical, small uniforms of plain grey, some with shaved heads, which hsi mother said meant they'd jsut come back from testing. It doesn't hurt them, she'd explained carefully. We simply need to know more about them.
He must have been among those in tests. Curled in the corner, he was reading something that looked depressingly thick--from here, Kal could see the title was one of the physics books that Dad kept on his desk at home. Very blue eyes were scanning the page, and Kal wondered about the variety of human life--so many differnet variations in teh spectrum, unlike Kryptonians, which Mother called 'fatally inbred'. This was part of that, too, though Kal wasn't sure how.
The other children were more interesting, though, and Kal watched them demonstrate strange things--things his people could do, but some things they couldn't.
It was sharp enough to be heard through the glass, and Kal instnatly felt the pressure of the scientists gathered around to watch. Kal watched in interest as Lex straightened--ah, the one reading--looking over at where an entire panel had begun to act strangely, blinking on and off.
"The little bastard turned off the oxygen. They've been breathing nitrogen for the last hour." His mother's voice was--hushed. "I don't believe this. The failsafes--"
"We're guessing he organized several of the other more--unusually gifted to help." Even to Kal, they sounded more awed than angry.
"Find out how. And bring me a copy of his reading list and everything he's accessed on his terminal." Mother had smiled then, and Kal had wondered why this kid pleased her so much. "I'll want an interview at the next cycle. See to it."
Kal doesn't know what happened then--neither does Lex, since it wasn't done while he was completely conscious. The human psychologist, Lorena-Parsons--and what a strange name!--had been present and he'd studied both her notes and his mother's, but they don't tell him much more than what he already knows. Mom had had Lex transferred to a secure facility in Metropolis for future treatment, and it was two years before Kal met Lex again.
That had been--well, interesting. Kal hadn't really understood how fragile humans were until one of the other students had thrown Lex into the wall. Kal doens't remember much more than that, except that Lex had told him not to worry and bullies were bullies everywhere, even among Kryptonians. They just got to be sure of their superiority. Which, he'd said, would be interesting to break.
That's when Mother started phase two, right after Lex was placed in isolation and the debates began.
"What I'd like to know," Father had said thoughtfully, "is how he foudn kryptonite in Metropolis. Or did he somehow break into the lab?"
Mom had been intrigued by that as well. "Unrefined and polluted," she'd answered thoughtfully. "But otherwise, very high quality. He's very resourceful."
"He's a danger." That was from one of the other scientists. "I dno't see why you find this encouraging."
Mother had smiled. "Intelligence, resourcefulness, creativity--and we have no evidence except his confession."
The man had frowned. "This is supposed to be reassuring?"
"He didn't lie when questioned. That much of the program has been internalized. Nor did he balk when asked to give the identities of those he contacted to get his supply. A small but worrisome rebel nest has been exterminated through his information. I think this counts as a success."
They'd all looked at each other for a long time. "What did he say when he was told?"
More quiet. Kal had wondered where this was going.
"Did he give his reasons?"
Mother had glanced at Kal, who had looked away. "Yes. Apparently, he was defending someone."
Lex had come to their household that year. This was phase two, Mother had explained. She hand't explained other things, but Kal at that point was old enough to know where to go to listen.
"Have never been an issue, nor his learnign curve. The healing factor has been increasing steadily at seventy five percent improvement per year. Puberty has apparently catalyzed his body into accepting more change than we expected. He's been through two manipulations so far and his body has recovered from both without mishap."
"Does he understand the culture he'll be entering?" Dad had been worried about that one.
"He's been exposed to nothing else. Like the others, adaptation rates are extremely high. We're placing out twenty of the original thirty five among families most likely to engender loyalty and obedience in them. Lorei personally supervised the subjects' continued education. We think they're ready for full integration."
"And the conditioning?"
"Refreshed twice a year." The man had been thoughtful as he consulted the padd he carried with him. "The emotional separation from their species is as complete as it can be without full immersion among us.
Lex worked too hard, Kal thought, waking up just enough to hear the soft sounds of hte keyboard coming from next door. Pushing dark hair out of his face, he slipped onto the floor, rubbing sleep from his eyes. He was always working, though--Mom said it really wasn't a human thing, just a Lex thing, so not to worry about it.
Most of the rooms were better about blocking excessive sound, but at the beginning especially, Mom had worried about Lex adjusting and they'd left his room unaltered. Not to mention that at the time, the rebels were still infiltrating the city and Lex had been in a lot of danger In the long run, it had been a good idea, even if it took Kal's sleep sometimes. Especially now.
Not that he minds.
Padding across the thick carpet, he touched the door lightly and waited for it to open--Lex had programmed in a few failsafes for when he was working on something important so he wouldn't be distracted. It wasn't one of those nights, though--the thick wood slid silently open, and Kal yawned as he walked inside.
Dark, per usual, with only the screen in the corner casting a pale blue glow over the room, random code scrolling across in a hybrid of Kryptonian and English, though Kal's English was good enough, it didn't extend to computer code other than the basics for programming. Lex was working way beyond the basics, though, and Kal narrowed his eyse to see if he could at least recognzie the source from the equations.
"Gene splicing this time of night?"
Lex, in a comfortable lounge, kicked a heel onto the floor from the desk, keyboard almost slipping from its position braced against his knees.
"I wanted to run a few simulations before bed," Lex answered, eyes still trained on the screen. He didn't seem any more distracted than usual. "They're running some time sensitive experiments, so no non-necessary computer use. This doesn't have all the range of the mainframes, but better than by hand."
Pulling another chair over, Kal studied the screen. "You're isolating chromosomal abnormalities?"
"Mutation by kryptonite in human subjects, trial six. It's only transferrable to offspring one quarter of the time, and viably at sixteen percent." Lex's voice had fallen into an almost hypnotizing cadence--Kal could see why the other students preferred him to the professors, and not just because of Lex's higher learning curve. "I'm trying to isolate what makes them able to handle the changes--it's not matter of type, it seems, but inherent genetic abnormalities from the norm in the population."
Kal frowned at the screen--no, he wasn't going to be able to read that, no way--then glanced at the fingers moving rapidly over the keys. In deference to Kal and his family, he usually used the silent model, but sometimes, Lex liked the soft clatter of keys. Soothing, he'd once explained to Kal.
"What are you finding?" Mom says the labs aren't any closer to isolating than they were when the program started. There didn't seem to *be* a pattern, though she admitted her unfamiliarity with the full range of the human genetic pool was partially responsible. Kryptonians just didn't have this kind of variety anymore--dangerous, she'd told him when Lex had first come to their house. And the computer systems were woefully underdeveloped--technology closer to barbarism than anything, even with the use of the ship's computers to supplement, Mom murmured often enough. It'd be decades before they were anywhere close to the level of technology Krypton had enjoyed before end times.
"No discernible pattern yet." Lex closed his eyes briefly, fingers stopping long enough for one hand to come up, massaging his temples idly. "When we see second generation reproduction, we'll know more, but first generation hasn't entered puberty yet, and your mother doesn't want to rush the developmental stages."
"But you're sure there is one."
Lex looked at him now, wide blue eyes, circled in violet shadows like bruising. He'd been awake too many hours, even for his body. "I know there is one. If we could get the viable reproduction rates higher, it'd be easier. Males survive longer overall, but females consistently breed true. It's--there, something that makes them different. We're just not seeing it yet."
Kal nodded slowly as Lex's eyes were caught again by the screen, knowing what Lex wasn't saying either. Females and a small handful of males, and Lex was speculated to be one of them. Kal knew the entire community was waiting on the day Lex was considered physically mature enough to be entered into the equation. Preliminary studies indicated his chances of reproducing successfully were very high. He'd indicated he was ready two years ago, when he'd passed his sixteenth birthday, and samples had been taken, but no move to integrate him into the program had begun yet.
Kal's had a good idea why, even if Lex didn't.
"What about the crossbreeding?" Kal asked. He could ask his mother, but she was way too far into being a scientist to give him an understandable answer. Lex worked with all levels of the community, including the younger students and the mutant subjects. He knew how to break it down for ordinary consumption.
"Failure rate is one hundred percent in pure human/Kryptonian," Lex answered, eyes still on the screen. "But the last round indicated viability in twenty-two percent. We're still not sure where the breakdown occurs *in utero*, though it's always past the first trimester.. It's being speculated that implantation into a host might change the odds instead of the creche." Lex sighed, leaning into the chair more deeply. "The Kryptonian genetic pool is too limited. We need a higher sampling."
Well, yeah, and Lex wasn't the only one saying that, but try to explain that to the entire damn race. "We're weird about that."
"You're weird about cloning, too, but at least that makes sense. Six thousand licenses were set for reproduction within the established parameters, and there was only a sixty-seven percent viability rate. You're no where near being viable as a species if there isn't a massive expansion." Lex's hands clenched. "Everyone wants to have children, and none of them want to do the work to assure they get ones that will survive to birth. Jesus."
Lex was a scientist, like Mom--at dinner, Kal and Dad were given these kind of lectures every day.
"Not everyone's looking at the big picture." Though they were getting it now, or so Mom indicated. "You should get some sleep. Your'e not going to remap the mutated genome tonight, you know."
Lex grinned. "I can." He hit the keys a few more times, pulling up a frighteningly complex graph. "A few hours ago, the lab called up to Lara and asked for my presence." He seemed--excited? Huh. Kal tried to work out the patterns. Green, red, yellow, blue, black line--percentage rates. "It looks as if we could break the second trimester cut off."
Oh. *Oh*. That explained the excitement. Kal leaned closer, follwing the green. "Yours?" So that's why Mom had been so smug this week. "Alora, right?"
"Girl or boy?"
Lex smiled more. "Girl. She's carrying fifty percent of my genes, even after the manipulations. If they can get her into the seventh month--"
Kal laughed softly. "So that's why you're up late. How's Alora?"
"Bitchy." At Kal's look, Lex snickered softly. "You spent months learning English and you're still not up to the colloquialisms. This has to be my fault."
Kal grinned but kept his eyes on the screen. Alora had been watched very carefully since conception had occurred--the fifth in this batch, but the first that had taken. "They're sure?"
"Normal heartbeat, normal respitory function. She's ahead of the curve in both normal human adn kryptonian development. They can induce at seven months if there are complications with a high possibility of viability. If this works--" Lex's voice trailed off thoughtfully, but his eyes were on the screen. "Alora said I could name her."
Kal thought about it. "What else?"
"Sixteen in the second batch, subject c-284a. All in the first trimester, but no signs of deterioration. Lena will be first generation, but if all goes as her genome indicates, she'll be able to pass on her characteristics either way." Lex leaned back, eyes closing. "They sent over an extrapolation of her probable development. House El has precedence, of course, but Alora's already contracted for the second if Lena is viable."
Lena-El. Kal caught his breath at the way Lex said it. The first true crossbreed, viable to human and Kryptonian breeding. Though really, Lex didn't qualify as human under the current law.
"You'll have a daughter."
Lex made a soft noise. "I've asked to be present for the birth. Alora and your mother both agreed." Straightening, Lex pushed hte keyboard back onto the desk. "At least now I know why your mother and the other researchers didn't push for me to enter the program when I asked."
Kal shook his head, thinking of the child. If Lex was personalizing her already, the chances must be even better than he was saying. "Alora's my third cousin."
"They chose her for a reason. She's far enough from you to breed true, should you want to." Lex's eyes flickered down in amusement. "She'll be pretty. You might like her."
"I don't need my future mapped out that much." Kal hadn't wanted to be contracted yet--Mom had been against it too, but at least now he knew why. She'd been waiting for this. Great. The way Lex was studying the screen made Kal wonder, though. "How many others?"
"Five from me, along with the sixteen in the creche from the last round, ready for implantation into their respective mothers." Lex hesitated, then pushed through. "Your mother and I were discussing how many--offspring would be viable. If subject c-284a comes through, that will make only two available males. There is some--consideration for the future."
This explained a lot, though, and Kal considered it. They used to travel a lot more, but the last two years, his parents had grounded them to Metropolis. Safest city in the world, epicenter of the program, and yes, he'd noticed Lex was watched a lot more than he used to be. Bodyguards, for goodness sake, like Kal couldn't protect him on his own. "Don't tell me--you asked to be intergrated into the program full-time."
"I can research while they run the tests. It wouldn't be that much of a change, really. I'm hardly home anyway."
Kal rolled his eyes. "Yes, the life of a pampered lab rat, very appealing."
"They'd give me a mainframe to myself."
"Your objectivity would be compromised."
Lex frowned. "I'd be the genetic parent, not their father. I can certainly maintain my objectivity." Lex sighed. "Lara refused anyway."
Kal knew this part--Mom had explained. Lex had had three years of conditioning before he came to their house. Obedient, yes, but that streak of rebellion tended to come out in the most obscure ways. No one wanted to lose the few mutated humans they'd managed to keep.
Like that thing Lex did at sixteen--a human club, for God's sake? Kal still remembered the terror in the house, the way the city had been scoured top to bottom, before Lex had been found and brought home, somewhat hung over and very, very high. It didn't happen often--Kal could count a half a dozen times that Lex had been caught, and it was almost always when he was under stress. What he wasn't so sure of was that Lex was always caught.
He suspected Lex got out a lot more than anyone knew, even considering the scrutiny he was under now. Of course, that was assuming he wasn't kept entertained at home, and Kal was beginning to think that maybe Lex should be.
He'd talked to Mom about this, too.
"You do understand the difference between human and kryptonian, don't you?" his mother had asked. Kal had almost been offended.
"As well as the girls Lex has been sleeping with." They could control themselves just fine. Lex's broken wrist had been an accident when someone's levitation kicked in unexpectedly. She hadn't been allowed to touch Lex since. Too much possiblity for damage.
"They're a great deal older than you." Mom had been looking at the computer screen while she talked but now was looking at him. "Kal--"
"We encourage intimate bonding in a familial setting, strengthening ties," Kal parroted softly, watching his mother's eyebrows go up. "You helped write the policy with the ones we took."
"He's shown no signs of--"
"Maybe I just want him."
Lara had smiled, flicking hte computer console dim and looknig at him over her desk. "I imagine you do."
Kal was silent. "He was contacted by the rebellion, you said. They had his brother."
Lara's mouth had tightened. "Lex hasn't shown any signs of being interested in his half-brother or anything to do with the rebels."
"He hasn't met him yet, either." Kal had taken a deep breath. "I don't think he'd--turn on us. But why make it more difficult than it has to be? He--you know he goes into the city. If they were smart, they'd send the boy there for Lex to meet." Kal had worried about that a lot. "His mother's out there, too."
Lara's lips had tightened. "She is unimportant." Lara really didn't like being reminded Lex had genetic family--Lionel Luthor was quite enough, thank you. Cutting ties had been standard, but in this case, Lex hadn't exactly been upset when his access to his father had slowly been restricted. It had been logical--Lara had been among the first to recognize the need for some human intergration into their population, especially considering the needs of the program. "Are you worried about his conditioning--"
Kal wasn't really, but he knew other were. "I just don't see why all his primary bonds shouldn't be arranged as well."
Hmm. Sometimes my WIP folder creeps me out.