By B.B. Medos <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted January 15, 1998
Summary: Set in the same L&C universe as the nfic SANCTUARY, this is the prologue installment of a series of regular fanfictions about various stages in Lois & Clark's developing relationship. Specifically, HOPE provides both mysterious background info as well as a different look at the pilot episode of L&C itself.
"Characters in this story are copyrighted by December 3rd Production, Warner Brothers, and ABC. No infringement is intended in any part by the author, however, the ideas expressed within this story are copyrighted to the author."
DEDICATION: This story is dedicated to my two children, Mark and Amy, who share my love of the modern myth of Superman and the timeless love story embodied in his two 'other' identities, Lois Lane & Clark Kent. I also want to especially thank my two alpha editors for continuing to prod me along, even when I balked and wanted to desert the ship. Enjoy your new careers with my blessings and all my love. <vbeg>
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Essentially, this is a prologue installment of a series of stories about Lois & Clark's developing relationship. HOPE is both mysterious background as well as another look at the PILOT episode of LOIS & CLARK. Oh, and one more thing, while each installment, or season, of this story will have it's own title, I have to admit that the universe I'm using and even parts of the story are the same as my previously created SANCTUARY nfanfiction, so I've jokingly taken to calling the entire desperate attempt to get these images out of my head and into words NEBS, for short, or …
A BEGINNING …
Or is it an ending?
And does it truly matter?
Because it's not the time,
Or place, that's important,
But what we do with the time we're given
And the people we meet along the way …
One second he was performing a series of intricate high- speed airborne maneuvers, totally in control, and the next he was plunging headlong towards the waters far below, completely unable to regain any form of control. For some reason, the ability to come to an immediate full stop at the incredibly high speeds and altitudes he was able to achieve during flight still eluded him.
It was extremely frustrating because, for him, control was everything.
Yet, even that momentary setback wasn't nearly as irritating as abruptly realizing that what he'd assumed was open ocean was not. Whenever he was doing his workouts, he always made sure there wasn't anything damageable within sight, so where the heck had this island come from?
Picking himself up out of the three foot deep water, spitting out both sand and seaweed in disgust, he looked around in considerable consternation. His eyes widened as he took in the cottage sitting against the backdrop of trees directly in front of him with something akin to dread. Islands were one thing, inhabitants were something else all together. This was not good. What was really unnerving was the old man yelling at him from the porch of said cottage.
"Well, don't just stand there, Skyboy. Come on in, supper's almost ready."
He blinked a few times before walking towards the cottage rather hesitantly. At the bottom of the steps, he stopped and eyed the old hermit with a mixture of distrust and amusement. He'd met plenty of hermits of all kinds in his travels, but something about this guy was unusual, enough to make him more nervous. "Ah, well … I really don't want to bother you, sir."
"Nonsense, Skyboy, no bother at all. Besides, supper IS almost ready and I might as well share it with you as anyone else." The stranger chuckled then stopped walking into the cottage to look back over his shoulder. "Oh, by the way, the name's Charlie."
"How do you stand the loneliness?"
The white-haired man leaning against the porch rail beside him didn't move. Didn't speak. Skyboy had almost decided his friend wasn't going to answer the question. Then again, Charlie had seemed distracted and withdrawn, even more than normal, ever since Skyboy had arrived on the island earlier that morning. Maybe he hadn't even heard. Skyboy started to repeat his query when the shaggy white head finally turned in his direction.
Skyboy stared at the other's expression of honest puzzlement, not understanding the reaction at all. "What loneliness? Being stranded on this island for one thing. How do you stand it?"
Charlie chuckled, but it ended up sounding more like a wheeze causing Skyboy to study him a little more closely than he had before. He immediately moved to help his friend lower himself onto the chair but was waved away. "What you call being stranded, I call peace. There's a difference. A very big difference."
"Well, I don't see it."
Charlie shrugged. "No, I don't suppose you do."
Skyboy frowned, uncertain from the sarcastic note in the gruff voice whether he was being rebuked or teased. Sometimes with Charlie, he simply didn't know. "Either way, you're still alone."
"Maybe. Maybe not. But what it really gets down to is that one is torment, the other, comfort."
Skyboy lowered himself down onto the top step leading down to the beach and leaned back against the railing. He appeared to relax with his long muscular legs stretched out in front of him on the porch, but Charlie sensed the tension in the casual pose and knew from the troubled expression the youth tried to hide as he turned to stare out at the ocean waves in the distance that Skyboy had figured out the same thing he had.
Charlie was very close to death.
Maybe not today. Or even tomorrow. But … soon.
Charlie sighed, realizing the knowledge was more burden for his young friend than it was for him. At this point, death held absolutely no horror for him. The opposite was true. He welcomed it. Oh, he wasn't rushing towards it, by any means, but he'd reached the point where dying was more appealing than continuing to live. Besides, his physical body, at least, was tired. Tired of the continued fight to keep itself going.
Of course, he also knew the young pup in front of him had no way of understanding that concept. For him, life was just beginning. The irony of it was that Skyboy was so young he didn't even have enough memories of his own to warrant holding onto life and yet, instinctively, he did … with both hands. Not just for himself but for his friend and with the typical arrogance of youth was totally frustrated and baffled when he couldn't. Charlie, on the other hand, had reached the point where he had nothing but memories, good, bad and in-between, and perversely wanted to escape them and life itself in the process.
No, not escape them, not exactly. More … become one with them again.
Did that mean that he now felt the loneliness after all these years?
With a rueful shake of his head, his gaze returned to Skyboy. "There are many kinds of loneliness, my friend, some much worse than others. The worst kind has absolutely nothing to do with being around others."
"And that is?"
"When you can't stand your own company. That's when you're alone in the middle of a crowd. That kind of loneliness is torment. Of the soul."
"So you're saying you like staying here alone because you like yourself?"
Charlie began laughing so hard he started coughing again and couldn't stop. When the spasms eased and he was finally able to focus his eyes again, Skyboy was standing in front of him with a glass of water. With his friend's persistent help, Charlie took a sip then leaned back in the chair. He smiled. "I could, as you say, 'like myself' anywhere. I chose to stay here because there isn't anywhere else I want to be. I simply want to be here. Nowhere else."
"But … why?"
Skyboy blinked and fell silent, unable to answer the simple question. Finally, he whispered again. "Isn't there anyone you'd like to visit. I mean, I could … "
"No." When Skyboy looked crestfallen at the gruff answer, Charlie sighed and tried again. "The simple truth of the matter is that it's not my world, not anymore. This island … " The old man's voice trailed off, then he smiled before continuing, "Well, she's all that's left of my world. I wouldn't fit in the other … nor do I want to. Not anymore. Besides, I'm too old to change and too tired to make the effort in the first place."
Skyboy stared at the ocean. "Did you ever?"
It was Charlie's turn to blink at the quiet question. "Did I ever what?"
The old man's white eyebrows rose. "To be honest, I'm not sure. There were times I thought I did. There were also times I was positive I stood out like the oddity I always believed myself to be. That's one of the reasons I love this island. She takes care of everything, even me, and I don't have to care anymore. About anything."
Skyboy's head slowly turned towards his friend and he smiled, a soft wistful smile. "I think I understand."
And so, far into the unknown future or remote in the distant past, depending on whose eyes you gaze out of, or stare into, the one called Skyboy fought to hold his emotions in check as the white-haired man on the bed opened his eyes. He didn't like watching helplessly as the last of his friend's strength ebbed away. He'd never appreciated feeling helpless and appreciated it even less as he matured into adulthood.
Sometimes, though, there was nothing one could do, no matter how determined, how brilliant, or how … powerful.
Sometimes nature simply won the battle and death followed life.
Slowly, the older man's wrinkled hand reached out and he took it in his. Their eyes met, unwaveringly and his grip tightened as the other strained to whisper. "Exactly at the top of the island. You'll remember?"
"And the other—you promise?"
For a moment, Skyboy didn't answer, couldn't speak, because he realized that last struggling effort to gain his pledge had been the older man's last and his friend's eyes were finally closed in an endless sleep. After a second, he nodded again, anyway.
"Yes, Charlie, I'll keep an eye on her for you. Always."
Or, the blink of an eye.
Eternity measured in seconds or millennia.
The passage of time is perceived so differently by the old than it is by the young. For someone at the end of a long and eventful life, a year, or even a decade, can seem extremely brief. For the young at the beginning of the journey, the same span of time can be a literal eternity. Sometimes, the human method of measuring time simply isn't an adequate way of describing a life of love. Sometimes, there is simply no one way to satisfactorily explain the connection between two individuals. Sometimes their love, and their story, is as unique as they are.
And what brings two such hearts together?
Destiny? Fate? An act of God, whatever one might call their own personal creator? Maybe, but if so, then that same supreme destiny is sometimes shaped by very physical, very human hands even though circumstances beyond their control force those hands into action.
For example, what could possibly cause two loving parents to choose to send a helpless infant across a vast universe to a completely unknown, solitary fate?
Determination? Without a doubt.
Yet, are any of those an adequate explanation?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Perhaps the secret of what motivated their final decision lies not in the circumstances which initially began their labor of love but in the destination they eventually chose for that beloved child. Maybe, through means which would seem almost magical to us, they saw all they needed in the eyes and hearts of the people waiting to receive him into their welcoming arms.
"My name is Jor-El and you are Kal-El, my son. The object you now possess has been attuned to you. That you now hear these words is proof that you survived the journey into space and reached your full maturity. Now it is time for you to learn your heritage. To that end I will appear to you five times. Watch for the light. Listen and learn. Time grows short and we continue to search. The immensity of space is both a blessing and a curse. In that near infinite variety there must be some place suitable. Hope and desperation drive us in equal measure. Lara works by my side. She's tireless and endlessly patient. Considering what is to come, this is my greatest consolation that we are together."
"This is second of the five times I will appear to you. You may wonder that I speak your language and not my native Kryptonian. Unmanned Kryptonian probes have explored every corner of the known galaxy and beyond. For thousands of centuries, we've received data back from those probes. I have every confidence that given enough time, we can achieve the conversion to a manned vessel but will we have the time? There is an ancient Kryptonian saying 'On a long road, take small steps.' Precision and care are the watchwords yet we still have far to go."
"There is no longer any doubt, the chain reaction has begun. As panic spreads, the population awakens too late to its fate. Our future is inevitable. At last the computers have located a suitable destination, a planet physically and biologically compatible with Krypton whose inhabitants resemble ours and whose society is based on ethical standards which we too embrace in concept if not always in deed. The inhabitants call it simply Earth."
"We have installed the hyper-light drive and tested it as best we can. So much is unknown. Contained within the sphere is the navigational computer that will guide the ship through the maze of hyper-space as well as this account of our final days."
"I try to picture where you are now as you hear this last chapter. What do you look like? Are you alone? What have you become? Lara and I will never know but that you should live to experience this, that is enough. We are content. We give you to Earth, to a realm called America and a place called Kansas. Remember us and do not regret our passing. All is fate." — from FOUNDLING
THE NEW COLOSSUS
By Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
— Inscribed on a tablet in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in 1908.
ONE SECOND INTO THE FUTURE, METROPOLIS, NEW TROY, USA, EARTH …
She sat alone in the cavernous room and that was just the way she wanted it.
Tonight, at least.
It was unusual for the City Room of the Daily Planet to be almost totally empty of workers and the frantic activity that characterized the place, but it did happen at odd times of the day and night. Of course, to be there when it happened one normally either had to be a member of the janitorial staff or overly dedicated to the job.
She wasn't a janitor.
She was a reporter and not just any reporter. She was quite possibly the best investigative reporter currently working in the newspaper business. Tenacious, stubborn, determined, and instinctively brilliant when it came to sniffing out crime and the humans responsible, she'd earned the grudging respect of her peers through the simple expedient of not knowing what it meant to quit.
Which partially explained her presence in the newsroom at almost midnight on a Saturday night finishing up an expose concerning the dirty dealings going on between a local politician and a known crime boss when she could've been somewhere else. Anywhere else. The story she was putting the finishing touches on had taken weeks of dogged investigation on her part, some undercover and some the 'in-their-face' journalism she was known for. And it had taken every ounce of tenacity she possessed to confirm the hidden link between State Senator Millicent Wood, well-known champion of the moral right who thought sex WAS a four-letter word, and Karen 'Kitten' Brown, the most ruthless crime 'lord' to hit Metropolis in years, a true man-eating tiger in the disguise of lady. At first, even her editor hadn't believed her gut-level hunch that the pair were partners-in- crime, but she'd found the evidence. Not to mention, almost gotten killed in the process. So, she was quite proud, and deservedly so, of the resulting headline grabbing, front-page screaming article and knew her editor would be doubly pleased, as well. It was a job well-done.
Pride in her work, however, didn't explain why she was quietly crying as she typed.
Perry White, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Planet, was furious. He frowned at the papers in his hand before bellowing across the newsroom. "LANE! My office! NOW!"
His displeasure wasn't at all appeased when Lois Lane didn't immediately trot over to meet him at the office door. The very fact that the petite brunette intentionally took her time strolling in his direction told him his gut instinct was right on the money. She already knew what he was getting ready to explode over.
Well, naturally. The woman wasn't the best damn reporter he'd ever seen for no reason. She did know exactly what journalistic crime she'd committed. Apparently intentionally.
Of course, he also wasn't the top editor of the greatest newspaper in the world for nothing, either. Abruptly, he changed tactics. Instead of exploding, he took a deep calming breath and smiled as she entered his office then motioned for her to sit down as he closed the door. He almost had to swallow a chuckle as her eyes narrowed while she perched cautiously on the edge the chair in front of his desk.
Taking his time, Perry moved around his desk to face her. "Great expose on Senator Wood, Lois. You nailed her and took a large bite out of Kitten Brown's organization at the same time."
Lois smiled, while still looking highly suspicious of his sudden mood change. "Once I found out about the investment firm's involvement in her campaign last year, the rest was easy. And the chain of evidence lead right to good ole Kitten's back door."
White sat down and grinned. "Maybe easy for you, but most reporter's wouldn't have realized there was story hidden in there in the first place. Good job." He glanced down then tapped the papers now on the desk between them. "And the write-up you gave it. Powerful. When the voters read this, she'll be lucky to get elected dogcatcher next year. That is, if she stays out of prison that long."
"Well, you know what they say—"
"However, I was wondering what the hell this was."
Lois blinked at the sudden switch, then frowned as she watched him pull another paper out from under the article on the Senator. "What?"
Perry waited until she shifted back into the chair in an attempt to appear unconcerned then shook his head and forefinger at her. "Don't play innocent with me, Lois Lane. We've had this discussion too many times in the past for me to buy your act now."
"Seriously, I have no idea—"
"Okay, I'll play along. Explain to me this little piece on the automobile accident."
"Oh, that." Lois shrugged nonchalantly. "Happened right in front of my apartment building, practically in front of my eyes. A teenager accidentally runs in front of a car and dies before the paramedics can arrive. It was an accident. The family is grieving. The driver is in a state of shock. The boy is dead. End of story. Nothing new. Back page stuff. What's to explain?"
Slightly surprised that he hadn't already picked up on the significance of the accident's location, Perry leaned back in his chair and studied her face silently, trying to hear what she wasn't saying. It occurred to him she wasn't nearly as nervous as he'd thought. Controlled was more like it. Tightly controlled. Almost rigidly controlled and determined not to let anything show emotionally.
He scanned the copy again, gathering his thoughts, then picked up the other article and held them both up side-by-side. In one hand, he was holding a first-class piece of investigative journalism. The esteemed politician's crimes were all laid out in concise clear unmistakable terms, yet pulsing underneath the words was the passion of the reporter writing them. The outrage she shared with every other citizen over a public official letting them down. The determination to do whatever it took to change the situation and not let it happen again. Or if it did, find out about it.
His gaze shifted to the shorter piece. Again, all the facts were there. Names, addresses, comments from the paramedics at the scene, medical reports. All of it. Cut and dried. Everything was included that any good reporter would include. Any rookie reporter, that is. And that was the problem in a nutshell. Lois Lane wasn't just a good reporter and she sure as hell wasn't a rookie. She was a great reporter. Or at least, she could be when she let herself.
Suspecting in his heart there was more to the story than she was telling didn't make his job any easier, however.
Still, they had a paper to put out and he had to give that priority.
"Lois, I don't care if this piece is destined for the bottom of a bird cage. It could be better. Rewrite it." His eyes met hers. "You know what I want. Now do it."
"Yes, sir." Lois took the copy from his hand and turned to leave without argument. At the door, she stopped and spoke softly without turning around. "Chief?"
"Have you ever held someone in your arms as you watched the life fade out of their eyes and known there was absolutely nothing you could do about it?"
Before his brain could form a response to that startling question, she was out the door, heading towards her desk with quick steps. Perry White sat in silence for a long moment, then banged a fist on the desktop as he hissed to no one in particular.
Two weeks later, Lois had all but forgotten the exchange with Perry, if not the cause of it, when she barreled into his office to ask for permission to look into possible sabotage on the space shuttle, Messenger. Since she rarely asked for permission in the first place, at least, for prior permission, before barrelling headlong into trouble, she mistakenly assumed she was being a dutiful reporter.
Or better than she normally was, at any rate.
It also never occurred to her that Perry wouldn't give her his complete and undivided attention, either.
"LOIS! Can't you see I'm in the middle of something here?
Perry sighed and motioned to the man standing in front of the desk. "Lois Lane. Clark Kent."
"Nice to meet you." Lois blinked back at the stranger she hadn't even noticed was there for at least a second before her brain returned to more important issues. "Anyway, he worked on the Messenger—"
"Wait! Wait! Wait a minute. What happened to that mood piece I gave you about the razing of that old theater on Forty-Second Street?"
Perry's ranting didn't faze her. She was, after all, used to it. "I wasn't in the mood."
"You weren't in the mood! Now look, Lois, you can't come in here and tell me you're not in the … "
Noticing Jimmy Olsen waving frantically, Lois spun on her heel. "Oh, I got to go, I'll catch you later."
Within minutes, she had forgotten all about that incident also, at least until the next day when the stranger reappeared with a report on the razing of the theater on Forty-Second Street.
"Beatrice was eighteen when she made her debut. Warren G. Harding was President, the unknown soldier was interred at Arlington, and Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees. She came to say good-bye, as we all must, to the past and to a life and a place that soon would exist only in a bittersweet memory."
Lois stared into space in a daze as she listened to the copy Perry was reading, torn between irritation that the man had stolen her story, never mind that it was one she hadn't wanted in the first place, and awe at the smoothest copy she'd ever heard.
Jimmy's heartfelt echo of her own thoughts snapped her back to attention. And reality. "Ummm … yeah, if you like that sort of thing."
"You know, Kent, there's only one attribute I value more than experience and that's initiative. Clark Kent, welcome to the Daily Planet."
Before Lois could decide her opinion of that turn of events, her attention was again pulled away from the stranger, make that new co-worker, by an announcement on the television of the explosion of the Messenger, confirming her earlier suspicions.
Time to go to work.
Two days later, with uncovering the saboteurs of the Messenger behind her, Lois Lane was ready for another, even bigger, challenge. Being the only journalist covering the historic completion of Space Station Prometheus. First hand. From space. This time she didn't ask for permission.
Mainly because she'd already been told no.
As she waited in line, in disguise, to board the transport vehicle with the other colonists, she had a chance to reflect on her latest triumph. Shared triumph, that is, because she had to give the newcomer, Clark Kent, a lot of credit. She'd had ample opportunity to be reminded of his existence during the investigation, because Perry had given him to her as assistant. Well, it wasn't so much a gift as a peace offering. One designed to give Perry peace, not her. One she wasn't sure she was happy about, even now that she didn't have to work with him any longer.
Still, for a rookie, Kent was constantly managing to surprise her.
Like his reaction to Samuel Platt's murder. Clark had gotten downright irate with that policeman over his joking comments making light of the man's death. The man had heart, one had to give him that. She just hoped he didn't get it shredded here in Metropolis. And then there was his reaction to Mrs. Platt's earnest plea that they not let his daughter, Amy, grow up thinking her father had committed suicide. In fact, when she thought about it, Clark had been very passionate throughout the investigation about Platt's obvious good intentions in trying to help mankind and his own daughter's unfortunate disability by making the station a reality.
Lois still thought Kent was naive about human nature, but his constant reminders about the good which could come from the space station's research were part of the reasons she'd become determined to be on board when it was completed. After covering so much corruption, greed, death and destruction the last few years, it would be fantastic to be on hand when something so phenomenally positive and good was accomplished.
Not to mention, the great story it would make.
Nobody was more surprised than she that the story she got was even bigger than she'd ever been able to imagine in her wildest dreams and finding the bomb wired into the transport vehicle was only the beginning of the incredible experience.
Things only became utterly unreal when HE walked in.
"Hey, get away from that. What kind of a lunatic are you? That's a bomb. And—" Before her amazed eyes, he calmly popped the bomb into his mouth and swallowed the explosion.
Or what she assumed was the explosion because he then burped. And apologized. "Excuse me."
A lunatic with manners, obviously. Lois gaped and gasped at the same time. "What the hell are you?"
"There was a bomb. He … he … he … ate it." Listening to herself when she attempted to tell the colonists what had happened was almost as unbelievable as seeing it happen in person. Still for some reason, she felt compelled to make the explanations. She sure as heck wasn't leaving until …
His soft greeting snapped her head around and she began staring again. Speech was beyond her. In fact, most of the adults appeared spellbound by his appearance, in more ways than one. Only Amy Platt seemed capable of carrying on a coherent conversation while the rest of them stood there in shock. "Hi, I like your costume."
"Thank you. My mother made it for me. What's your name?"
"Amy … Amy Platt. Who are you?"
"I'm … a friend."
"Can you teach me how to fly?"
"Not fly, but once this lab is operational, walk. That's very possible."
*ATTENTION COLONISTS, THE MISSION HAS BEEN SCRUBBED. PREPARE TO DISEMBARK.*
The collective groans by the assembled colonists at the announcement of the loudspeaker were followed by the commander's shaking his head. "That's it then. It's all over."
Lois snapped out of her daze enough to question. "Why?"
Mrs. Platt explained. "Once the thrusters have been fired, they have to be replaced."
The commander continued. "We lose our launch window. We'll have to forget about Space Station Prometheus."
Lois swallowed hard as she stared helplessly at Mrs. Platt and Amy. All their dreams and hopes ruined forever. It wasn't fair. Not now.
"No … you don't. There's nothing wrong with this transport vehicle or the station. You only need to get there."
Her attention centered on the stranger again, Lois breathed in and out softly, trying not to let the small seed of hope she suddenly felt show in her face and voice. "How are they supposed to do that?"
"Easy. I'll give'em a boost."
"What he can't do, it doesn't matter. It's the idea of Superman. Someone to believe in. Someone to build a few hopes around. Whatever he can do, that's enough." — from NEVERENDING BATTLE