Lex maintained a stoic façade during the entire briefing. He took in the information delivered by General Jack O’Neill, USAF Retired, as easily as if he’d been receiving a stock report. The former SG-1 commander found it eerie, the calm.
But the single most important part of the Luthor weaponry was the ability to control what others knew.
After the briefing, Lex returned to the residence with several portions of the highly classified files. He knew, simply knew, that his life had changed more during that briefing than he could ever have expected. It wasn’t due to the presence of aliens and it wasn’t due to the treaties with the Asgard or the Goa’uld threat.
It was due to his spouse.
A puff of air was his only warning before a comforting hand slid across his neck and pulled him into a strong embrace.
“You’re back early.”
The detachment in Lex’s voice caused a momentary hesitation before the embrace grew infinitesimally tighter.
“What’s bothering you, Lex?”
Rather than answer the question, he relied on an age-old tactic and redirected with one of his own. “How were your parents?”
Clark smiled slightly. “Honestly? Still freaking out that their son is the First Husband. Now you want to tell me what’s wrong?”
Lex looked around, before giving Clark a questioning look.
“I scan the residence daily, Lex. You know it’s safe to talk here.”
Lex took Clark by the hand and led him to a settee. Once seated, he kept that hand in his grasp. The file was tucked into the seat beside him, almost hidden by his suit and the upholstery.
“Clark, I’ve given some directives for you to be granted access to highly classified information… About our government’s knowledge of extraterrestrial life and its contact with the people of this planet.”
Clark froze for a moment before immediately easing his grasp. It was almost second nature, his x-ray of his husband’s hand to check for any accidental fractures or breaks. Lex flexed the hand but shook his head at the inquiring look.
“There’s no need for us to be worried. There is some suspicion that Superman is of otherworldly origin rather than a human mutation. However, since you’ve maintained our agreement only to operate near major disasters, he’s not considered an article of concern.”
“Lex… I don’t want to admit it but you’re scaring me.”
The bald man turned slightly. He lifted his hand to cup Clark’s cheek as he spoke in a low steady voice.
“We knew this was a possibility… that the government would know about you. When those damn stones were assembled, they led you to Antarctica. You told me that you could never get near the location that was calling to you because it was occupied.”
He paused with a question in his eyes. “I need to know if the people occupying the site were United States military.”
Clark nodded, the specter of long-buried grudges and years of secrets once again rearing their heads.
At the gesture, Lex sighed. He slid the file out from next to him and began to show it to Clark.
“I need you to listen to everything I have to say… and then… Well, then we need to decide what to do.”
And then Lex began to pass on the information he’d received in that briefing. That SGC knew more about alien races than he had ever expected. That Lex himself had plugged holes in that information with his own specialized knowledge.
He’d learned that a race called the Ancients had attempted to craft a servitor people and succeeded partially until the species rebelled. He’d learned that the Goa’uld were a larger threat to his planet than any of the billions occupying that blue-green globe. He’d learned that the SGC linguists had translated the Ancients' tongue and learned they called themselves the N’man. And that the Goa’uld were known in the Ancient tongue as the S’get.
Clark’s eyes grew hazy as Lex spoke in a mechanical tone. The facts were recited calmly and clearly. They were supported each step of the way by photographs of artifacts. Artifacts that Clark could read and understand instantly, the language on them known to him.
Lex continued to speak, telling now of a planet the N’Man had fled to in order to escape a plague, those who hadn’t moved on from corporeal life. That the last remnants of their civilization had established a utopia known as Krypton. That the planet was lost when the rebellious race joined forces for the destruction of their former masters.
Breaking his promise of silence, Clark choked out a desperate attempt to lighten the moment. “Well… I always knew I was probably the last of my kind. I suppose this confirms it.”
Lex reached out and clutched Clark’s hand, offering support. He was silent, waiting for his chosen mate’s questions. And he knew there would be questions.
“Assuming you’re right… How did all this happen so long ago and I’m only here now?”
Flipping to the back of the file, Lex extracted a set of ultra high-resolution scans. It showed a pillar, covered in glyphs.
“This was located recently in the Antarctic site. The linguists don’t have a full translation yet.”
He proffered the pictures to Clark, hopeful expectation in his eyes. “I was confident you could read it to me.”
Clark took the pictures, shuffling through them once. He changed the order, substituting a side in place of another until they were arranged to his liking. He spoke haltingly, paraphrasing the contents of the pictures.
“The plague swept through the N’Man. Those who did not move on were trapped in their paradise. The quarantine did not allow them to invoke the treaty. There was only one chance when the S’get came for revenge. An emissary.”
“Paradise was destroyed when the S’get turned the sun into a black hole. The emissary has not yet arrived yet we wait. The plague is here as well and we are dying.”
Clark flipped to the next section, closing his eyes for a moment.
“The House of El, foremost of our people, was chosen. The emissary will be sent with the origins of the S’get. Kal-El is the last hope of our people.”
Lex took the reproductions from Clark’s hand as they shook. He pulled the unresisting man into an embrace, tucking the dark head into the crook of his neck and shoulder.
“I can authorize your entry into the Antarctic facility but I don’t want you to go. If there’s any chance that this plague still survives…”
The bald man swallowed heavily. “I will not risk you, Clark. Not even for this planet.”
The answer was mumbled into the fine fabric of the president’s dark suit. “We can’t keep this to ourselves.”
Lieutenant Goldberg twitched as he waited impatiently for an answer deep within the mountain.
At the barked response, the airman nearly stuttered his information. “General, sir. The President is on his way down.”
“The President, sir. He arrived a few minutes ago. He’s on his way down.”
“The secret service has not been cleared for entry.”
“It’s just him, sir. He walked up with the First Husband. They had the correct clearances with them.”
The groaning buzz in the airman’s ear told him the connection had been closed. As he replaced the receiver, he sighed heavily and shook his head at his duty partner.
Jack O’Neill had been looking forward to an easy day. Yes, they had a relatively new President. But he’d been hopeful when the man had taken the briefing stoically. Now, he was hosting a couple’s day out in Cheyenne Mountain.
The halls cleared before the hurrying officer as he set a pace more suited to an off-world excursion than inside the facility. As it was, he stood ready when the elevator stopped at the main entrance to the SGC’s compound and slid open.
“President Luthor, Mr. Kent, welcome to Stargate Command.”
Lex stepped out, completely business. Clark followed, carrying a large, boxy briefcase. The president ignored the wide eyes of SGC personnel as he addressed the general.
“We need to speak with you in your office, General. It may be best if Dr. Jackson joins us.”
Jack’s eyes narrowed in both curiosity and suspicion. This, then, was the other shoe. He’d known stoic politicians were always a bad sign. But ‘dumb flyboy’ was occasionally a useful fallback position.
Lex nearly smirked before controlling his features. “Dr. Jackson. If you will lead the way?”
It was an odd little caravan that proceeded through the hallways and onto different levels. The two suited men received stares, but their trio wasn’t interrupted. Until, that is, the bespectacled scholar bumped into the general outside his office.
“Jack… Just the person… Look, I finished the translation on the Antarctic obelisk.”
“Dr. Jackson.” Jack’s attempt to interrupt the one-track mind was unsuccessful.
“You will not believe this… Listen. The Ancients created the Goa’uld, right…”
“But, they may also have the key to destroying them…”
The singular consumption of a brilliant mind in its findings caused Clark to grin widely. Lex shifted, a potent glare warning his spouse to keep his mouth shut. Although they both remembered clearly the geekish glee that had accompanied the bald man’s knowledge of Clark’s origins, those were private memories shared between the two of them.
“And it seems that all we need to do to find that key is find the emissary… It’s a person, or a place, or a thing, called Kal-El.”
The General’s sarcasm was thick as he rolled his eyes. “Oh, is that all.”
Daniel Jackson looked up from his documentation to spear the military man with an exasperated sigh. “Jack…” Then his gaze lengthened, taking in the two suited men. “Mr. President?”
Lex stepped forward, offering a hand smoothly. “Dr. Jackson, this nation owes you many thanks.”
Daniel’s eyes widened. He darted looks between his long-time friend and the man currently in charge of their country.
Lex continued, maneuvering their group into the waiting office. “Now, gentlemen, Clark and I need to have a word with you.”
When the two new arrivals were done speaking, both the General and the civilian linguist were staring at them with gaping mouths. Lex and Clark were comfortable in their seats, waiting for some response. Finally, that response came from O’Neill. He had never been known as a man of tact.
“You’re telling me the First Husband is an alien. That you may be a living, breathing Ancient?”
Lex rolled his eyes, but allowed Clark to field the incredulity.
“That’s precisely what we’re telling you, General.”
Interrupting his colleague before he could either anger or alienate their visitors, Dr. Jackson spoke up from the side of the office. “This would be rather easy to confirm, Jack.”
At the blatant ‘huh?’ look, Daniel continued, “The device that we’ve been using to test if an SGC member can run Ancient technology. Their systems were controlled by mental interaction. If there’s been some mistake, then it won’t work.”
Although the linguist had prevented himself from outright saying, ‘If the First Husband and President belong in the loony bin,’ Lex couldn’t help but scowl slightly.
“What I want to know is how the Ancients died out a millennia ago, but you’re here…”
Lex, comfortable with the theoretical physics, answered the question. “We know that Clark was sent in a ship at the time his homeworld was being destroyed. If that was due to a black hole, then it’s impossible to tell how much time passed before the technology was able to get him far enough away from the event horizon to negate the relativistic effects.”
General O’Neill nodded. He really needed to include Carter on this. “Uh huh… Well then, Mr. Kent, if you agree, we can see if you get a response.”
Clark smiled easily, nodding. They’d both known coming in that this wouldn’t be a simple experience, or quick. “There’s just one more thing, General.”
Reaching into the case he’d been carrying, Clark withdrew first a sheaf of papers. These were almost instantly leapt upon by Dr. Jackson. They covered the Kawatche caves and everything Clark could recall of his language.
“This… This is an alphabet comparison, a grammar primary, and a dictionary?”
The President nodded. “Clark was teaching me his language. We thought a copy of the documents he was using might help your department.”
It became very quickly apparent that Daniel would rather be immediately back at work rather than continuing to sit in a meeting. Those simple printouts in his hands were a modern, alien Rosetta stone.
“And the other,” Clark finished his revelations from the case with a glass jar. Inside the liquid was a floating object.
The two SGC employees leaned forward to peer, but quickly leapt back when they identified the contents. The General, still slightly suspicious and waiting for the Candid Camera crew to leap out, pointed at the jar.
“Where did you get a Goa’uld symbiote?”
Lex smirked. “There was a nest in Smallville, Kansas. Inside the caves discussed in the notes Dr. Jackson is holding. At the time, I had my company remove them to a safer location. When your departments have confirmed the information we’ve provided so far, I will arrange to have all the research and findings regarding the creatures transferred.”
Clark had been nervous at first, having to actually prove his declarations. While he had been fairly confident, it was still nerve-wracking. But now, as the light around him coalesced into symbols that rotated in counterpoint, he smiled.
“This isn’t some sort of testing device, General. This is a copy of the four species’ treaty.”
Lex was watching his spouse. He was barely suppressing the urge to fidget. He hadn’t been the President when alien contact was initiated with the Stargate. But, he was going to be the sitting President when the humans kicked galactic ass.
It appealed to his inner geek.
“It’s never done this before.”
The General’s words echoed in the room as they watched the characters. The most anyone had ever managed was a light source. Nothing had ever responded in quite this fashion.
“Mr. President, Mr. Kent, I don’t know if we can thank you enough for coming forward with this. This is going to put the entire Stargate project years ahead of our current projections.”
Neither responded to Dr. Jackson as Clark gestured at his husband. Lex’s attention was immediately drawn to a section of glyphs that Clark was whispering about to him.
“Danny, what’s going on?”
Dr. Jackson shrugged at the General’s question. He was just as lost as his friend. Finally, the President turned with a hand on Clark’s arm and addressed them.
“Clark assures me, gentlemen, that he can direct the device to remain this way until you’ve recorded the text. In the meantime, we’d really like to see the Stargate.”
The control room was almost a disappointment after the other toys they’d played with so far. The technicians were doing their best to keep their eyes front. The President had nowhere near that level of control as he paced about, peeking and looking at every bit of computer.
The friendly exasperation in Clark’s voice caused the bald president to pause in his examination of the star chart board. At his inquiring glance, Clark smiled.
“You’re making them nervous.”
While not a single one of the technicians would have admitted to the accuracy of the First Husband’s words, they all breathed an almost coordinated sigh of relief when the President halted his inquisitive behavior. But the relief didn’t last long when the oddest question came from him in exchange.
“General, can you tell me why you’re using a computer system to activate the Stargate when you’ve established that it’s an Ancient device?”
Jack O’Neill raised an eyebrow in inquiry. “How else would we control the Stargate?”
“How do you control the other technology in use?”
Clark halted Lex’s train of thought with a light hand on his shoulder. “I don’t think they’ve had anyone on staff that could just dial, Lex. That’s an awful responsibility if the person loses control on a transmission of people.”
The General followed the implication fairly quickly. “Are you telling me that the Stargate could be dialed by mental interface the way we would use other Ancient artifacts?”
Lex shrugged. “It’s certainly a possibility.”
They both looked to Clark who rolled his eyes. The technicians could only watch the exchange in utter confusion as the dark-haired man replied; “I could try.”
Carter was pissed. It was going to take six hours to get the computer systems set back up. They’d only been taken down because the President and his spouse wanted it disconnected. It didn’t relieve her ire that she’d been utterly unable to get a satisfying answer from the General on why he’d okayed the idea.
The control room was quiet, everyone peering down into the gate room trying to discern the conversation between the General and their visiting dignitaries. The piercing noise of the gate siren suddenly cut through the anticipatory silence.
“Do we have an incoming wormhole?”
An airman replied in shock, “No, Ma’am… Chevron One’s encoding.” After a moment’s pause, he continued, “Chevron One is locked.”
“What the hell?”
Samantha Carter stared down into the gateroom. At the foot of the ramp and slightly to the side, the trio of men stood still.
And beyond them, the Stargate was dialing.