Lois' allergies smacked her sinuses as soon as her rental whipped past Smallville's welcome sign (Creamed Corn Capital of the World!). She eased up on the gas just long enough to swallow an antihistamine with the tepid dregs of coffee she got from a gas station fifty miles back. The little car icon on her GPS had a question mark above it as it "drove" through an apparently endless rectangle of green while the Trans-Atlantic robot voice reciting the audio directions repeated "Recalculating" with slow, depressed, weary tones of the condemned. It had been saying "Recalculating" for the past five minutes. Lois seriously considered putting it out of its misery but apparently the Planet's travel budget didn't cover stilettos rammed into car electronics. Damn austerity measures.
She hit downtown Smallville after another seventeen minutes of corn. The GPS had, with a staticky beep of joy, flashed the main street's name-- Main Street-- then lost its digital mind again when Lois breezed through the box stores and franchised restaurants of modern Americana. More corn whipped past the car. So much corn. Her sinuses might never recover from the corn.
The Kent homestead was the first left 'round the corner from Milly's Goat Cheese (est. 1998) sign then three miles past the burnt oak, according to the woman Lois flagged down because the GPS had let out a wibble and died. Her rental scuffed dust clouds, getting larger and thicker as she neared the honest-to-shit little white house on a hill. It had a porch, a rose garden, a wooden swing on a sycamore, and a windmill a quarter mile back. Lois couldn't make up something this all-American if she rooted through the Daily Planet's photo archives circa 1930.
Lois got out, straightening her shirt as she made her way to the front door. The place needed a lot of work: chipped paint, wobbly floor boards, and somewhere on the property, there was a squeaky weather vane. Lois wondered if she should get her pistol out of the glove compartment in case Mrs Martha Kent greeted her with a shotgun.
A middle-aged lady and her dog-- a Border collie cross by the looks of him-- answered although she didn't open the screen door. "Yes?"
The lady raised her eyebrows. She tightened her hold on the dog.
"I'm Lois Lane from the Daily Planet, and I'd like to talk to you about your son."
Kent's knuckles went white on the dog's collar. "Are you sure you have the right house?"
"You're Martha Kent, right? With a son, Clark Kent--" Lois held up the clearest photo she had of "Joe" from the Yukon expedition AKA "Jerry" from the diner-- "six-foot-two, black hair, blue eyes, and according to these adoption records, his birth date is June eighteenth--"
"Why are you interested in Clark, Miss Lane?" Kent asked. Lois heard the difference between "miss" and "mizz" which on any other person she'd take to imply that she, Lois, was young and green and therefore unworthy of her journalistic prowess but coming from Suzy Q Homemaker, it didn't quite seem right.
"Can I come in?"
"How I about I come out? Sit, Shelby." She disappeared into the house only to reappear in five minutes with a pitcher of lemonade and two tall glasses. "It gets pretty humid in the house this time of the year, Miss Lane. The porch is more comfortable for company."
Shelby nosed the door open to lie at Martha's side. The dog kept both eyes steady on Lois. Smart dog.
"Where's Clark now?"
Right now, Clark would give anything to have a greater working knowledge of structural engineering. The voices of the people trapped under this building decreased, out of exhaustion or oxygen deprivation, not death but in a few more hours...
"We've found the best way to do this," said the soldier working closest with him. A Master Sergeant according to his shoulder badge with "Stewart" stitched across his right chest.
Clark nodded for him to continue.
"The critical point, according to what you saw with your... uh... enhanced vision is that corner where three of the slabs are lying on these steel frames." Stewart sketched a diagram as he spoke. "This section is the heaviest and will need to be moved before the frame gives but it's balancing three smaller slabs up."
"What if I tip this edge up and east," said Clark, "taking the weight off the steel girders?"
"We'd have to put something along this edge, along the west to shelter the people from heavy debris."
"I can hold the slab up for as long as you need to do that."
"Good. At the very least, they'll be protected from the worst of the fallout."
If need be, Clark would cover all twenty of those trapped people with his own body. The steel sheets the army provided had enough flex to curve over them now that they were huddled close and he could use his heat vision to spot-weld some rebar at strategic angles. He hoped.
While the specialists secured girders and jacks on critical points of the wreckage, Clark flew in and out of the city, helping out in small ways: crushing the gun of a looter threatening a convenience store, freeing a woman trapped under her car, flying a boy to a hospital with a still-working generator to power his heart-and-lung machine. By the time he returned, Stewart gave him the okay.
He had to wiggle into a very narrow opening. Clark unlatched his cape; it would only get in the way. As he splayed on his belly in front of the hole, he said, "I'm coming down. Please stay in place until a member of the military forces helps you out."
"What's going to happen?" one of the trapped demanded.
"Please, get us out!" sobbed another.
"Who is that?" asked a third.
"I'm a friend," said Clark. He slipped in, braced concrete and steel on his back and straightened his knees. Metal and cement groaned. Several of the trapped people let out screams but Stewart's men moved quickly. Within fifteen minutes, all twenty were above ground. No other heartbeats thumped under this building. He headed for another disaster zone--
He wished he could call her.
"Clark, come on."
At least five other buildings in New Troy alone reported trapped people and the military needed him to--
"Clark Joseph Kent, get your ass to my hotel room now or I'm calling your mother."
Clark veered towards Lois.