"Only in a general sort of way," said the Doctor. He whipped yet another example of Clarke's Law that Clark had never seen before out of his pocket. It emitted soft beeping noises as he waved it around the room. "I don't know who's taken the baby or why, just that he was in danger."
"There's no physical evidence of an intruder," said Clark. He was scanning the house with his super vision, for the third time, on top of the two walkarounds he'd done during Lois' initial scream.
"Transmat," said the Doctor tersely, looking at the readout screen on his feinberger. "Check the near ultra-violet spectrum," he added to Clark.
Clark adjusted his pupils and retinae. "Yes - I see a trail leading off toward downtown." As usual he was unable to relate the color of what he saw to the vocabulary of the human visible spectrum.
"Wait -" said Lois, even in this extreme the instinctive investigative reporter, "I thought the definition of teleportation was to move from one place to another without passing through the space between."
"Not as matter, no," said the Doctor, "but as energy. Unless it's a relative dimensional effect like the TARDIS - but that would be gross overengineering for simple matter transmission through space without any time displacement. Most transmats use a matter-to-energy-to-matter conversion process. That's why, even when we're a planet that doesn't yet have transmat, we instinctively say, 'Beam me up' - we assume an energy beam is involved."
"It's not a very coherent beam," said Clark. "At least, not as coherent as I'd expect from something that had that much information to carry for any distance."
"Do you mean you don't think J.J. survived?" gasped Lois.
"If they wanted to harm him there are easier ways," said the Doctor. "This -" he waved his sensor device at the energy trail "- only means they can't have taken him far."
"We have to go find him!" said Lois.
"Yes - and we have to be careful," said the Doctor.
"Because," said Clark, "following him is exactly what they'll expect us to do."
John didn't really know who the doctor was - just that he was someone who worked with Mom and Dad, and had been go-between for his adoption. John figured that meant the doctor was one of Them, whoever Father was one of, but John obediently didn't ask.
"John!" The doctor was the only person besides his three parents who could be relied on to never, ever call him Johnny; not that he saw the doctor often. "I just stopped by for a moment's talk with your parents. Many happy returns of the day." And with that he was gone. Dad said he said goodbye to everyone like that.
"Anything serious?" John asked. Dad had stood from where he and Mom were sitting together on the couch. Mom looked like she'd been crying, but like she'd finished and settled down. "Is something wrong?"
"Please sit down, John," said Dad.
John was a little nonplussed. Usually he only got please sit down when Mom and Dad had found out about one of his "crusades" before he was ready to tell them. But right now there wasn't one they didn't know about.
He sat down.
"There's something I want to tell you," Dad started.
"Now that -" Mom stopped before she said whatever she'd been going to say.
"Now that you're old enough," Dad said. He gave her an odd look, as if she'd been about to say something she shouldn't have. Apparently Dad'd just been to the office, because he was wearing a suit and tie. He pulled the tie off. "There's something about me you should know."
Dad unbuttoned his shirt, pulled it open, and removed his glasses. Under the shirt was, in red and yellow, a stylized S in a symmetric irregular pentagonal field - the most famous symbol in the world.
They'd piled into the car. Clark was driving, since he didn't need a special device to track the energy trail. Fortunately it was almost due east, which meant it was just about parallel to their street.
"Oh - a twinge of cosmic angst," answered the Doctor with an awkward smile.
"Is J.J. that important to history," Lois asked, "that you could just feel it when something was going to happen to him? Who is he?"
"Something like that," said the Doctor. "Could we discuss this later? I'll tell you everything when we're through this."
"Here we are." Clark pulled up to a factory building about half a mile from the house. It looked abandoned, but the transmat trail led right into a second storey window.
Lois got to the entrance first. She pulled and pushed on the door but it was locked. Clark saw the Doctor reach in his pocket, but before the sonic screwdriver even cleared the fabric of the Doctor's coat, Clark had wrenched the doorknob assembly out, reached in for the bolt and crushed it.
"You could have just melted it," the Doctor suggested.
Clark regarded the powdered metal of the bolt in some surprise. "I could have changed and followed the trail by flight. I didn't even think of it till now."
"You reacted like a human, not a Kryptonian," said the Doctor.
"I love you," Lois said.
Clark smiled at her. Then the three entered the factory. Clark led the way up some rickety stairs, pointing out a rotten step that Lois or the Doctor would have fallen through without the warning. Clark's depth perception didn't need the Doctor's tracking device to identify the room which the transmat trail had entered from the outside, but the Doctor had it out anyway. Clark went into the room first.
It was a large room, formerly the factory's employee cafeteria. In the very center was a huge complex construction comprised of jungle-gym pipes, and a variety of lethal devices trained on a hammock deep within the structure. On the hammock, in what Clark could tell with his super senses was natural sleep, was J.J.
Sitting calmly in front of the structure was a familiar figure, holding what Clark didn't have to be told was a remote control.
"Luthor!" snapped the Doctor.
"How good of you to come," said Luthor.
"You knew we'd come," said Clark. "What do you want?"
"I? Nothing, really. Stay back." The three had pulled up in surprise at the sight of him, started forward again as Clark spoke, and now halted when Luthor brandished the remote control. "I have no reason to use this if you don't give me one."
"You were killed," said Clark. "With the clone of Lois, when the tunnel collapsed. I saw the body."
"You saw the body when I jumped off the skyscraper too," said Luthor. "Maybe that was a clone, in the tunnel, like the other Lois. Maybe I'm the clone. Does it matter?"
"Why are you doing this?" Lois bit out.
"The Master put me up to it. Said because of Blinovitch limitation he couldn't try again himself."
"'Again'?" said the Doctor.
"The Master?" Clark blurted. "What does he care about J.J.?"
Luthor frowned. "You mean," he said to Clark, motioning at the Doctor, "he hasn't told you?"
"Told us what?" Lois looked at the Doctor now. Several behavioral indicators only Clark could perceive showed she'd about reached her limit.
"This isn't really the time," said the Doctor to Luthor in a singsong voice, as if the criminal genius was about to give away a surprise party.
"What's the Master's interest in - what did you call him - J.J.?" Luthor asked rhetorically. "It's very simple, when you realize it's time travelers you're dealing with. Who does the Master hate most in the universe?"
"What's the Doctor got to do with this baby?" Lois demanded, glaring at the Doctor now almost as much as at Luthor.
"Don't do this," said the Doctor. "This is not the way."
"If you were a time traveler," continued Luthor almost cheerfully, "and hated someone that much; no. If I were a time traveler, and hated someone that much - what would I do about it?"
Clark looked from Luthor to the Doctor. A moment before Luthor concluded his oration, Clark saw it himself. After all, the Master had tried to do this to Superman once, too, occasioning the Daily Planet reporters' first meeting with the Doctor.
"This baby," said Luthor, "is the Doctor."
END OF CHAPTER 2
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