I'm so sorry… I really tried to get this out quickly, but my inspiration ran dry about halfway through. I finally finished it (on vacation again) so here you are. Hope you like it...

Disclaimer: I don't own Superman. Duh.

"So, where's the door?"

"We're working on it!"

At least ten Kaenors were feeling along the side of the moon-base. Apparently, they had lost track of the door. The Earthlings, having strapped their guns to their backs (forget carrying anything that heavy in your arms the whole time), were standing around and watching.

"It's here somewhere," muttered Rizo (yeah, he ended up with them) as he skimmed his fingers along the smooth wall. "I could've sworn-"

Just then, a startled cry made everyone look toward the far left end, where a surprised Kaenor had just pitched headlong through the wall. A moment later, he came out, rubbing his head and grinning.

"Ouch… Found it, sire!"

"Excellent, Lorri! …Just watch your head next time. All right, we're going in!"

As the group proceeded into the building, Mairin and Joel followed Darre out of the crowd, holding hands so as not to get swept inside. Carl was tall enough to keep track of himself in the throng, but there was no human (or Kaenor) way possible to stay with the others.

Unless…

Suddenly, he made a decision. Standing his ground, he let the Kaenors walk past him until he was at the very back. Then he leapt into the air, concentrating on keeping himself up.

It worked; he already knew it would.

He had done it before.

Floating effortlessly over the group, he located Joel, Mairin, and Darre, who were standing aside as the others filed into the narrow entrance. None of them had noticed him; his launch had gone unmarked.

On a whim, he concentrated on going higher. He shot up about fifteen feet, stopped, and looked around.

Other than the sharp pebbles, the terrain was mostly flat. The base jutted sharply out of the level ground, situated in the center of a slight depression. More noticeable than before was the sky, granite gray in contrast to the rusty-red ground, and the comfortably warm atmosphere. He guessed it was no more than sixty-seven degrees.

Carl glided over the ten-foot structure with plenty of room to spare, stretching out in the 'Superman' position. When he reached the other side, he shifted to a sitting position in the air and looked for a moment.

Theta and Brenna were targeting the ventilator grille. Both were smiling as their shots hit home; Brenna's aim was almost as good as Theta's.

She learned that from me, thought Carl sadly. On my video games.

A sudden look of fury crossed his face. He crossed rapidly over the building and dove toward Darre with malice in his eyes.

Abruptly, he pulled up, curving to go up again. His passing made a slight breeze, ruffling Darre's hair. The Zoyl looked up, but Carl was already out of sight.

Resting lightly in the air above Mairin's head, Carl watched the last of the Kaenors trickled into the building through the walk-through wall.

Darre suddenly looked around. "Hey, where's Carl?"

Joel turned around; Carl was standing behind him, grinning broadly. "Whoa! Where'd you sprout from?!"

"Nowhere. I've been right here the whole time."

"Gosh, you've been quiet!" remarked Mairin. "I'm amazed!" Carl frowned, but said nothing.

"Come on, let's go in," said Darre. "By the way, did either of you boys figure out self-degravitation?"

Both boys shook their heads.

"Too hard," said Carl firmly.

"I don't think I'll ever get it," agreed Joel.

"Theta?" Theta? Theta? Theta…

"Shhh!" Shhh! Shhh! Shhh…

Jeez, I hate echoes…

Three abreast, the members of the Alpha division crawled down the ventilation shaft. Brenna had recalled by this time (as my intelligent readers must have noticed, duh!) that the 'crawling-through-the-ventilator' thing was in, at the very least, every other movie she had ever seen. (A/n: It's the most useful overused thing in the world. So sue me.)

Theta was at the front, leading the way, but she had insisted that Brenna stay several rows back. Nevertheless, everything Theta said or did came back as an echo to her ears.

"Where are we, Theta?" Where are we, Theta? Where are we, Theta…

"Almost there, Jared." Almost there, Jared. Almost there, Jared…

"I hope so." I hope so. I hope so…

I hope so, too.

"What was that?" whispered Orin.

The noise came again; it sounded like a far-distant echo.

"Could it be…" Lerag trailed off, eyes widening with fear.

"It's not them," Covo reassured him, tapping the Sensor panel displays. "None of the ships have moved."

"Our sensors don't cover the other side of the moon," reminded Kenta. "Who knows?"

"It's coming from there!" whispered Enna, pointing to the ventilator opening. Trian silently drew a laser handgun and crept over to the ventilator.

The noise, still indistinguishable, grew louder. The sound of dragging legs and slapping hands slowly became audible, mixed in a melee of muttered words.

Suddenly, something thudded against the grating that covered the opening. The members of the base crew drew back in terror, except for the bold Trian.

"Halt!" he commanded sternly, pointing the laser with a steady hand. "Who's there?"

"Trian!" came a joyous exclamation from within.

In an instant, he had dropped the laser, unlatched the grate, and threw it aside.

"Theta! Theta!"

By the time Brenna crawled out of the shaft, they were locked in an embrace.

(A/n: For the record, Kaenors do not French kiss! I don't think French kissing is good [and gross to boot] and since they're my ideal people they don't do it.)

Soon, the control room was packed from end to end with Kaenors. There was laughter; there were tears; there was talk, and more talk, and even more talk.

Brenna looked around, feeling a little left out. There was no joyful reunion for her, just a long period of waiting.

"Brenna?"

She turned around and gasped. "What the-"

"I knew you'd be surprised."

"But- how'd you get here? You were with the others!"

Carl grinned. "Nobody notices me do anything. I just teleported over."

"Oh, for the love of Pete! Get back to your group!"

"Oh, all right. I don't care."

Before Brenna had time to interpret the look on his face, he disappeared.

"Hey, was that Carl?" called Theta from across the room.

"Yeah…" After a moment of consideration: Well, no. That couldn't be Carl. He isn't like that.

He's changing, and I don't know why…

"If Carl doesn't come back in one minute-"

Carl teleported directly in front of Darre, grinning maniacally. "Glad to see me?"

The Zoyl looked furious. "Carl, you idiot, never leave the group, I mean never, without permission!"

The boy shrugged. "I'm back, aren't I?"

"That's beside the point! We're on a mission, not a field trip! You can't just take off like that; we might need you at any moment!"

"You haven't found much use for me before. Why am I so important now?"

"Because – darn it, Carl, you're here to save the world! It's about time you started!"

Carl looked levelly at Darre, who looked something like a stick of dynamite next to an unwanted rock. "I wanted to check on Brenna."

The Zoyl melted like the last scoop of ice cream. "How is she? Is she all right?" he asked eagerly. There were some snickers from the surrounding Kaenors; Joel and Mairin grinned at each other.

"Fine, sire." Carl's tone was dead serious. "Just fine. She misses you already."

Joel could have sworn he heard a cricket chirp in the ensuing silence.

"Sire?" Rizo looked nervously towards the open end of the (you guessed it) dimly lit hallway. "Let's get to the hangar, shall we?"

Darre seemed to snap out of it. (A/n: 'It' is such a broad term; I love 'it.' *doubles over laughing*)

"Oh… Yes, let's go." He glared at Carl. "But if you try that again, I'll be forced to put some serious restrictions on your movements."

"How?" The question smacked of a challenge.

"By any means necessary."

Mairin looked worriedly at Joel. He gave her a halfhearted smile.

They scare me, Joel.

I know. They're really at each other's throats.

At least Brenna's not here.

Ooh, yeah. That would mean big trouble.

The hangar bay looked almost exactly like a small parking lot, except that there were ships instead of cars. There was even a sort of bike rack along the back wall, where several motorcycle-like things were parked. The ships were smaller than the ones on the planet, but they were sleek little things, mostly lead-gray, like Meian's sky. The motorcycle-things were all reddish-brown, probably to match the lunar terrain.

Mairin stared at the ceiling, which was split across the middle by a bar of black metal (or so it appeared to be). "Wow."

"I second that," Joel said with a grin. "Hey, Darre, what are those funny things along the wall?"

"Just mini-jets. Rizo, do me a favor and teach the Earthlings how to ride those while I organize the defense."

The redhead obliged, leading them over to the mini-jets.

"First, I'll get you familiar with the parts: seat, handlebars, pedals, handbrake, jets, and weapons." He showed them each of the parts in turn; each mini-jet was, essentially, a motorcycle with guns on the front and back, powered by jets in a round metal housing instead of wheels. Directly below the handlebars of each was a small compartment containing a handgun.

"They're really easy to ride. Just swing onto one, and I'll show you how to back up." He followed his own instructions; the Earthlings did the same.

"There are two pedals: forward and reverse." He pointed to each in turn. "This lever takes you up and down. To stop, you just squeeze the brakes. The triggers for the guns are here..." He showed them the buttons on the end of the handlebars. "I hope you can all steer. Let's go."

He pushed down with his foot very lightly on the left pedal. The mini-jet hummed to life and slid smoothly backwards, suspended an inch or so above the ground.

"Cool!" Carl pushed his reverse pedal, a little too hard. The mini-jet zoomed backwards and nearly collided with a ship. The boy hurriedly squeezed the brakes, and it stopped instantly, throwing him onto the ground.

"You okay?" called Rizo as the others dissolved with laughter. Carl nodded, but he winced as he stood up, and again as he got back on the mini-jet.

Within five minutes, the Earthlings knew the mini-jets backwards and forwards (get it?) and were awaiting further instructions. Darre had set a dozen Kaenors on one side of the hangar, a dozen on the other side, and the remainder (something like thirty Kaenors) were guarding/inspecting the ships. There being seven mini-jets, the remaining three had been claimed, and three anxious guards were patrolling near the ceiling.

Suddenly, a boom (just like the boom they heard back on Kaen) sounded somewhere overheard. It was, as Darre had said, nearly deafening at close range. Everyone's hands flew either to their ears or their guns.

"Curses!" muttered Rizo. "Filthy Gomes. They're coming."

"Attention, Division Alpha! Come immediately to the hangar bay! Repeat; come immediately to the hangar bay!"

The crowd in the control room ceased their chatting and looked around

"Oh, drat," muttered one of the Kaenors. "What now?"

Theta wriggled out of Trian's arms and flicked the comm switch on the nearest control panel. She set the dial for 'Hangar' and spoke into the microphone. "You want us, sire?"

"Obviously! They're coming!"

A collective gasp arose from the crowd. Brenna shivered.

"We'll come right away, sire."

"Right. Bring the base crew."

"Yes, sire." Theta flicked off the comm and turned to the others. "We're outta here!"

The three Earthlings lined up on their mini-jets behind Darre, who had some sort of jetpack-thing strapped to his back. At a signal from the Zoyl, a Kaenor threw a big switch on a control panel. The giant doors on the ceiling slid open.

About a hundred feet up hovered a colossal... potato? The Earthlings recalled the view of the Gome ships from space. A wide, gaping hole in the bottom was spewing a gray evil-smelling gas. Mairin gagged, and Joel looked sick.

"Here," coughed Rizo, producing a can of something and spraying it into the air. "This'll have to do until they turn on the Purificator."

"The what?" But Rizo was no longer there. He had run off in the direction of one of the little ships, where they were distributing jetpack-things. The air smelled a lot better, in any case.

With a whoosh, a machine on the hangar wall came to life. Moments later, the air was clear and much more breathable.

Suddenly, a black shape hurtled out of the hole in the Gome ship. It appeared to be a triangular glider.

Attached to it was – you guessed it – a Gome.

Joel gazed in horror at the shape as it circled above, gradually getting closer.

Don't look, Mairin! For God's sake, don't look!

I'm not! What do they look like?

Well, take your worst nightmare.

Ugh, got it.

Add a lot of squashed bugs and stuff that grosses you out.

Eww!

Multiply the grossness by a hundred, and then make it human-shaped.

Is that it?

Nope. Give it... how do you put it... an evil feeling around it.

Yeah?

They're worse.

I'd better look.

You shouldn't... well, I guess you have to. At least you're prepared.

Joel's apt description applied well to the hideous – pardon me, much too weak a word – creature. When half a dozen more shapes flew out of the ship, the Kaenors swiftly got into position for the battle that was inevitably coming.

The Gomes landed about three minutes later. They were about the same size as Kaenors (ugh, I hate to compare them at all). As they landed, each closed what had looked like a glider, but was really a pair of black wings. They were armed with long-barreled lasers and smaller handguns.

Darre stepped forward. For a second, Carl was scared stiff that he would say, "We meet again, (fill in the blank)," the cliché of clichés for action movies (like the ventilator-shaft bit). All the Zoyl said, however, was, "I owe you a little something from that display, Tfr."

"Really?" The Gome at the front spoke regular English, but with a nasty twang on the little-used vowels. "I hope you enjoyed it. Isn't my wife beautiful?"

"If that's your wife," called a familiar voice, "then I'd hate to see your kids!"

Brenna – and, of course, the rest of the Alpha division – had arrived. Tfr looked worse, if at all possible.

"How dare you insult my wife!" he roared. He leveled his gun at Brenna and fired.

Heh... love cliffies... but my aunt's computer hates me. I absolutely will NOT be posting again until next year. *snorts* You can make the corniest jokes at the end of the year. Seriously, I'll try very hard to post chapter 12 before you're all senior citizens.

I know it's a little late, but... Merry Christmas! –Natasha Browning