By Nancy Lemieux <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Original Air Date: January 4, 1998
Summary: A dangerous Superman hate-group rears its head in Metropolis. But that's not what's sending Lois and Clark scrambling to find a drugstore. Episode 10 of S5.
Story by Nancy Lemieux and Adrienne Vukovic
Creepy. That's the word that always came to Julian's mind when he walked into that abandoned warehouse. It felt like all of a sudden he was in a bad gangster movie.
The brick building wasn't that extraordinary. A faded old sign spoke of Smithwick Mattresses with an ad on their firmness and durability. The doors and windows were old and sticking. Paint was peeling off the frames, and most of the glass panes were dusty and cracked, or broken — a legacy of several generations of youths who had enjoyed target practice. Boards had been put up in a weak attempt to keep out undesirables, but now they were broken and hanging.
The roof was partly caved in and debris was scattered both inside and outside the worn walls of red brick. Water dripped inside, creating pools that were disturbed only by an occasional breeze and the scurrying of small rodents.
Julian heard the door creak shut behind him as he stepped inside the warehouse. He shivered, feeling the darkness and stale air press in on his small stature. Why couldn't the guy ever meet him at a nicer place, like a park? At least you weren't worried about the roof falling in when you were out in an open space. And besides, parks weren't as creepy.
Julian shivered and made his way even further into the building, minding the weak areas on the floor that he had tested before. Weaving his way through the piles of debris, he reached the meeting area, expecting to find him there.
'Him'. It would be nice to have a name to go with his contact, but he hadn't supplied one, so Julian only referred to the man as 'him' or 'you' or 'hey you'. The contact had made that very clear from the start. Never try and find out his name. If Julian tried, he wouldn't live long enough to tell anyone.
A rustling sound broke into Julian's thoughts, and he raised his head in time to see a shadowy form move into the narrow beam of street light streaming in from a nearby broken pane. Julian hurried over to the man's side, mentally revising his report one last time.
"Well, what do you have to report?"
"I've recruited three new helpers, and they've run out of pamphlets. We now have six people working the halls, distributing pamphlets and inserting information in lockers. We're doing everything you want us to. But there's a problem." Julian hesitated, unsure as to how to continue.
"A problem? What kind of problem?"
"I think the vice principal is getting suspicious. He keeps meeting us as a group and asking why we miss so many classes. We're scared and we haven't passed anything out for two days now. What should we do?"
The man leaned down towards Julian's face, looked him right in the eyes, reading the fear there, then smiled. Backing away, he seemed to think for a second before answering.
"There's nothing to worry about. He won't find out about us. Just wait a day, then begin distributing these."
The stranger reached into a pocket of his coat and retrieved a large pile of pamphlets which he handed to the young man.
"Now, Julian, are there any more questions?"
"Alright, then, I'll meet you in warehouse three at eleven p.m. four days from now."
With that the man turned on his heels and swiftly walked back into the shadows. His footsteps faded away until Julian was left alone once more. He shivered, as if sensing the darkness start to press in around him, and turned to leave. Suddenly remembering his routine, he stopped and pulled a plastic bag from a pant pocket and rapidly stuffed the pamphlets into the bag, ne ver noticing one he'd missed. As he walked away, large angry letters could be seen on the front sheet:
"SUPERMAN MUST BE ELIMINATED"
Clark didn't need to use his superhearing to know that Lois wasn't feeling well. She'd barely made it out of the bathroom the first time before she'd had to turn around and run back in, reaching the toilet just in time. He sighed and quickly headed for her direction, ignoring her previous rebuff that she was fine and didn't need his help. The door was slightly ajar, and he could see her, kneeling on the cold bare tiles as she leaned forward, seemingly unable to stop the heaving. Quickly, he opened the linen cabinet and pulled out a face cloth, wetting it with cool water and wringing out the extra moisture.
He kneeled next to her and pressed his hand gently against her lower back, knowing she didn't like being around people — even him — when she was sick. Keeping his touch comforting and light, he then let his other hand brush the hair that was sticking to her sweaty brow before he applied the cold cloth to her forehead. She took a shuddering breath, and valiantly fought the need to heave some more. Clark's touch seemed to help, for in another moment she was strong enough to pull back and sit on her heels, letting out a shaky sigh.
Clark didn't lose a moment and pulled her to him, wrapping her in a warm embrace as she slowly sank towards him. He turned her head slightly, pushing back the fringe which had stubbornly fallen back into her eyes before bringing the wet cloth he was still holding to her mouth, wiping away the signs of her sickness. He felt her hold on him tighten, knowing it was her way of thanking him for taking care of her. Smiling, he placed a kiss on the top of her head and waited.
When she was ready she pushed away from him slightly, looking into his eyes with a mixture or tenderness and confusion.
"I … I … Thank you," she started, unsure how to continue.
"There's no need to thank me, Lois. You know that. I'm always here for you."
"I know. It's just that … well, I'm not normally sick like this. I can't remember the last time my stomach felt so upset." Her eyes seemed to brighten slightly as a memory came to the forefront of her mind.
"No, Clark, I do remember the last time I was this sick. It was when we were on that stakeout on the waterfront, and we'd eaten that Chinese food from Ralph's Pagoda!"
Clark remembered the evening she was referring to. In fact, that memory was seared into his mind. He'd seen her silhouette as she'd undressed before the glass, and he'd barely been able to suppress his need for her, wanting to pop just like that champagne cork. Shaking himself mentally for the slip, Clark then focused on later that night, when his superhearing had heard Lois stumble to the bathroom as she'd emptied her stomach. He'd wanted to go help her then, too, but knew she would have pushed him away. He couldn't repress a slight smile as he realized how much the situation had changed.
"What? Now you're smiling at my being sick?"
"No, Lois … I was — Oh, never mind. Do you need my help to get up?"
She shook her head and opted to grab the edge of the counter, pulling herself up onto shaky legs. Clark was relieved to see the streak of independence coming back. It meant she was really feeling better.
"I'm going to walk to the bed." She began, trying to put strength in her voice, but then faltered as she felt her knees weaken slightly. "Stay near me, okay?"
He heard the plea in her voice, knowing she'd need him. Clark resisted the urge to scoop her up and float them both to the bed, sure that Lois wouldn't appreciate his mothering. Instead, he put both his hands lightly around her waist, guiding her without providing real support. She slowly made her way to bed and gently lay down, sighing from the effort.
"Lois, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Clark. Really. I think it's just something I ate. That or the flu, but I doubt it, 'cause I haven't felt any of the other symptoms. You don't think it was because we ate too much chocolate fondue last night do you? I mean, I've never been sick from eating chocolate, and I doubt it would start now.
She stopped to take a breath, in too weak a state to babble on incesantly as she normally would. But the respite wasn't long as she launched into yet another tirade.
"Or it could be food poisoning. I mean, who knows if the veal piccata was really good at Luigi's. Maybe we should investigate him. That's the last time we go to his restaurant … Promise me, Clark, that we won't go back there. Last night was fun, but it's not worth this."
Clark smiled, lightly rubbing Lois' stomach as he'd done in the past.
Lois lightly patted Clark's hand which was still rubbing her stomach. She seemed to be taking another breath before continuing.
"I mean, it's strange. We've been to that restaurant dozens of times before and we've never had a problem. Maybe it's not that. Maybe it *is* the chocolate. I was feeling pretty stuffed when we went to bed last night, and let's just say that the extra 'exercise' we got after that didn't help settle my stomach, though I was feeling fine when I fell asleep. Maybe it's not food poisoning but just indigestion."
Lois stopped suddenly, pondering the possibility.
"Oh god, Clark! What if I had an indigestion from chocolate! That's the most horrible thing that could happen to me. But … wait … you weren't sick! Why weren't you sick? You ate the same thing I did … Oh, what am I saying? You swallow *bombs* in your spare time. Your stomach is probably lined with a triple layer of tempered steel. Of *course* you wouldn't be sick. That means I-"
She stopped talking when two of Clark's fingers pressed insistently on her mouth.
"Lois, you're babbling." 'Which is a good sign,' he added mentally.
She shot him a look as the smile in his eyes registered, but then she relaxed as her last words sank in. She *had* been babbling. Well, at least it had worked for her. Her stomach was feeling much better.
Lois kissed his finger, then pushed his hand away, moving up to a sitting position.
"I do *not* babble, Clark. I merely think out loud." She harumphed lightly and made to stand up. She felt Clark's hand on her shoulder, keeping her in a sitting position.
"Are you sure you're ready to stand up?"
"Yes, I'm sure."
She pushed his hand away and slowly stood up, keeping on the lookout for any signs of sickness that might come back. Despite a little light-headedness and dizziness, she felt much better, and made her way to the bathroom where she intended on continuing her morning ritual. Feeling her husband near her, she bent down to get her toothbrush and toothpaste, addressing him without turning around.
"See? I told you I was okay. Now go on and get ready or we'll both be late for work." When he didn't move, she turned around to face him, giving a questioning glance.
"I was just wondering if you want me to make you some breakfast."
She blanched slightly at that, her stomach not quite settled enough to manage food. She then gave him a weak smile and formulated her reply.
"Nah, I don't think I'm in the mood for breakfast. Why don't you just make me some coffee. I'm feeling better, so I'll just eat more for lunch. Okay?"
He nodded, and turned, walking towards the kitchen. Lois sighed, suddenly glad to be alone. She didn't like being sick, and she couldn't stand it when someone hovered over her when she was. Turning back to the mirror, she began brushing her teeth, hoping it would be enough to get the taste out of her mouth.
<Unknown location, later that day.>
The crowd was talking amongst itself, waiting for the meeting to come to order. The noise was chaotic, but not too loud, keeping to a respectable level. A stranger glancing at the crowd would have seen an eclectic melange of backgrounds: everything from the well-attired businessman to the scabby-kneed teenage tomboy sitting at the far left corner of the room. These were people who would never normally mingle, yet they all talked to each other, with somewhat of a glint in their eye, their posture and tone indicating some conspiratorial knowledge. The speed and enthusiasm in their speech displayed passion, much as one might see in a fanatic group — not unlike the way some cults had been described.
Yet this was no cult. There was no great spiritual leader enticing them to shed their previous lives and look to the enlightenment of a commune. There was no real sign of brainwashing. No exterior one, anyway. These people were here because they shared one idea, one belief.
The movement towards the front of the room brought a hush to the crowd as they saw the leaders begin their ascent onto the front stage. Solemnly, those in charge moved to their respective places at the front. The crowd waited for the first in charge to sit, then the other leaders, and stayed silent, attentive.
All eyes were on the people on stage, and on the banner directly above them which displayed the society's name in bright red: the Society for the Hindrance of Aliens Residing on the Planet, or SHARP for short.
The Leader got up and moved towards a lectern of sorts, stopping to look over the faces below him. One would have been hard pressed to identify him on the street. He was the 'average' person one tended to have in their minds — average looks, average height, medium brown hair, and eyes whose colour was hard to name since it seemed to change depending on his humour and the light in the room. He greeted the crowd, then waited as all members responded as one.
"Greetings, oh Great Leader!"
Once silence reigned again, the meeting began.
"My fellow society members, it warms my heart to see you once again. Our numbers have grown some more, and I am proud of it. Our society, as I will remind the new members, is adamant about one thing — that Superman is an alien, a menace to mankind, and has to be taken care of which started with just a few members.
"Our numbers have now grown to the point where we may have to change our meeting place. This pleases me to no end. Our goal is one, and we are willing to do what it takes to achieve it. We continue to hunt down anything which may control or kill him, and so our hunt for the elusive green Kryptonite continues.
"This alien they call Superman, who walks and flies among us, cannot remain hidden forever. As more and more of you join us in our quest, we can accomplish a better surveillance. One day, my friends. One day, we will catch this man — this Superman — and know him. We will reveal him to all as the danger to society he is, and we will finally eliminate him."
He paused as the crowd erupted into cheers and clapping, then continued as the noise died down again.
"Our scientists feel the need to study him, but I feel the need to fear and hate him. We know nothing. He could have others with him that he is hiding. He could be a decoy, trying to pull us off the scent that others like him will come and take over the world. Their super strength will ensure their mastery over the human race. We will be enslaved and forced to do their bidding. We almost saw it happen once. I am not willing to see it happen again. All measure must be taken in order to assure the utter and complete destruction of Superman. Then, and *only* then will you be able to rest easy, knowing your families are no longer in danger."
The Great Leader pulled back from the lectern for a second, scanning the crowd as they began to whisper amongst themselves. He smiled, recognising the familiar nods as they disputed his arguments and came to the same conclusion. They were one. This understanding would bring them together and accomplish what they had set out to do.
Clearing his throat, he stepped back up, a sign that the crowd should quiet down. They readily did so, all eyes turning towards him in breathless anticipation. Without hesitation, the leader began the official part of the meeting, waiting patiently while the secretary read the minutes of the previous gathering, then listed the items on the table for the evening. Satisfied, the leader nodded, then turned towards the man at the leftmost portion of the stage.
"Mister Director of Information Distribution, what to you have to report?"
An older man, the Director rose quickly and moved forward, aware that all eyes had now turned to him. He seemed somewhat nervous, his face set in stern lines as he walked up to the podium. He stopped to run his fingers through his thinning grey hair and lowered the microphone to adjust to his five foot six height. His appearance also belied his role, appearing more like a friendly neighbour than a man who wanted nothing more than to see a certain Kryptonian dead.
However, as he took a breath to speak, he relaxed visibly and smiled to the onlooking crowd, suddenly taking on that neighbourly appearance.
"Honourable Great Leader, fellow Directors, distinguished members, I have very little new to report. The reason for this is that everything is moving smoothly. The last set of leaflets were quickly used up. The young men and women put to this task have done their job efficiently, and we have twenty-seven new members here tonight as a result. I would like to take a moment to welcome you, new members. I am certain you will find peace and understanding in our ranks, for you are among others who feel the way you do."
The Director stopped, giving his words a moment to sink in, and seemingly searching for what to say next. Again, the crowd began to nod and whisper to each other, affirming their unity in purpose. It was only when he began speaking again that the noise died down.
"I would also like to say that the production of the new pamphlets has gone well. I finished redistributing them to our volunteers, who have assured us that they will be dispensed swiftly and discreetly. Of that I am sure they are capable, as they have demonstrated this before. I have also enlisted a few new distributors, who are now in training, for as our numbers swell, we have a greater opportunity to spread the word. It would be such a waste to not take this opportunity.
"I think that the new format of the pamphlet will please you. You can take a copy on your way out. We've added the most recent, alarming information which one of my colleagues will be telling you about. The time is coming when we will have to take action against Superman, and it is therefore imperative to have the greatest number of supporters. I know you want to help, and I trust you will do so by helping with the dissemination of information. We must all work together to succeed, and we will win. Believe it, fellow members. Soon everyone will be SHARP."
With that, the Director stepped back to his seat among loud applause, and nodded to the Leader before sitting down. The meeting proceeded, with the Directors of Public Opinion, Resources, Finance, and the Strategic Committee each taking their turn reporting. Finally, the leader spread his hands, commanding silence as he prepared to speak.
"My fellow members, it is with a sad heart that I bring us to the final report of the evening. Our Director of Science and Technology has brought with her some most distressing news. I trust that you will pay full attention to what she says and will not disrupt her report, so that we may all be perfectly clear on the situation."
The leader moved back again, ignoring the stares from the crowd as they tried to understand his cryptic remarks. Instead, he simply motioned to the woman on the right of the stage to move forward. She stood up readily, turning to the sea of expectant faces. Standing straight, seemingly commanding attention from her 5'8" frame, she pinned everyone's gaze with her crystal blue eyes. Her business suit complimented the serious expression on her face as she continued to scan the room. Clearing her throat, she began to speak.
"My Great Leader, fellow Directors, distinguished members, it is with a sad heart that I must bring to you the latest news. Apparently we had underestimated Superman. His agenda has shifted again, and the latest news is that he is looking to procreate."
She paused while a murmur erupted from the crowd. Faces turned left and right as the members could not comment on this fast enough to everyone around them. The noise level began to grow as they excitedly responded to each other, having seemingly forgotten about the stage, until the roar was as loud as a highway during rush hour. A sharp, swift hit of the Great Leader's hand on the lectern made them jump and brought them back to attention, eyes not quite looking towards him as guilt flooded in.
The Director smiled her thanks to the Leader, swallowed, and took a breath. She then continued with her report.
"Yes, it is true. Superman has approached one of his allies, Dr. Klein from STAR labs, and has asked to have some fertility tests done. The first test came out negative, but upon Superman's insistence, the tests have been repeated. It is our job, fellow members, to ensure that the test never comes out positive. If Superman were to be compatible with earth women and find this out, he might begin a colony — a harem of sorts — and enslave us into raising his young. It is unacceptable. The women of the world will not bow down to his will! As long as the society exists, as long as *I* live, Superman will not ever be given the chance to procreate!"
The Director stopped for a second, catching her breath after her last, impassioned, words. The crowd did not respond right away, worried about further reprimands. Nodding to the Leader, the Director stepped back while the crowd finally went wild, clapping its agreement. After a few moments, the Great Leader brought his hands up again, bringing the members back in control. He thanked them for their time, and assured them that they would be contacted as to when the next meeting would take place. With this, he bade them a good afternoon and dismissed them. Everyone filed off down one of the corridors which lead to several busy downtown buildings. They each took their turn exiting in the appropriate area and moved along their way, never noticed by the passers-by.
<Townhouse, that evening.>
Lois was curled up on one end of the couch, enjoying one of her rare evenings off by reading a book. She felt herself relax as Clark reached out a hand to grasp her foot, beginning to massage it. Almost purring, Lois let the book drop from her hands as she closed her eyes and sank further into the sofa. Clark just had this amazing knack at giving massages, and this night was no exception. She felt him knead the bottom of her foot, then reach over and stretch her toes one by one, making each one do a gentle circle before releasing it and moving to the next. He was just moving towards her ankle when she felt him stop and tense. 'Oh no,' she thought. 'Not now.'
"Uh … Lois?"
"Just go, Clark, before I start regretting the fact I'm letting you go."
He let go of her foot gently and rose from the couch. She didn't bother opening her eyes, just felt the wind as he twirled into his suit — one of these days she'd have to ask him how he did that without getting dizzy — and heard the 'whoosh' as he took off through one of the back windows. Groaning in frustration, Lois opened her eyes and hunted for her book. She found it on the floor, lying haphazardly with a few pages folded at the spot where it had fallen. Reaching down, she pulled it up and flipped to the right page, trying to concentrate on the text while ignoring her other foot, which was protesting the fact that it hadn't gotten equal treatment. She sighed, mentally telling her foot to live with it. When Clark left, she never knew how long it would take him to return.
That was why she was surprised when only five minutes later he reappeared in the living room, seconds before she felt the rush of incoming air.
"Clark, you know you have to stop doing that. One of these days I'll have some information laid out in neat piles of paper, and you'll just blow it all over the room with your entrance."
Clark's gave her a sheepish look, and she stretched her leg out, offering her other foot for massage. He took the bait and quickly moved towards her, acting guilty but giving her a smile that said he knew better. Okay … so she knew she wasn't the best at guilt trips. At least her other foot was happy, right?
Putting her book away and enjoying the soothing effect of her husband's hands, Lois relaxed back into the couch. In between yawns, she managed to ask him what the emergency had been all about.
"I heard an alarm at STAR labs. I rushed right over. It wasn't anything serious. Some experiment had overheated and was threatening to burst into flames, so I simply breathed on it to cool down. The scientists in charge were on their way over when I left."
Clark continued to knead the fleshy parts of her foot, allowing the silence between them to lull Lois to sleep. When she yawned for the third time in a row he let go of her foot and leaned in towards her.
"Looks like it's time to go to bed, Lois."
She looked up into his eyes, a protest already on her lips.
"But Clark, it's only eight thirty! We so rarely get an evening off, I don't want to waste it by going to sleep so early!"
"Who said anything about sleep?"
"Oh … " Her face lit up and she caught him winking at her.
"So now are you ready for bed, Lady Lois?"
"Lead on, Sir Clark!"
He lifted her in his arms and within a few seconds he'd flown them up to the bedroom.
"Oh Clark … I know you're fast, but I want you to take your time with this. After all, it's no good if you're faster than a speeding bullet … "
<Townhouse, the next morning.>
Clark was jolted awake as he felt the covers being pulled back and Lois jumping out of bed at full speed. She ran across the room, barely making it to the bathroom in time. He got to her just as she began to empty her stomach.
"Lois, honey? Are you okay?"
It took her a moment to answer, since she was fighting to stop the heaving and take a much-needed breath. When she did, her voice was weak.
"I … I don't know. I was awake and feeling fine, then you turned around in bed and suddenly I wasn't okay anymore. I had to get in here, and fast." She fought a second wave of nausea and rested her forehead against the cool tiles of the bathroom wall. After a few more breaths, she pushed herself up and made her way to the counter where she filled a glass of water, rinsing out her mouth and taking the time to try and understand what was happening. Finally, she turned around to face her husband, keeping a hand out to prevent him from trying to put his arms around her. She wasn't feeling that well yet.
Clark noticed the paleness of her face and the unsteadiness of her breath. He fought the urge to wrap Lois in his arms, understanding her need to regain control. Instead, he bit the inside of his lower lip, waiting for her to regain her composure.
"Clark … " She began, her voice barely above a whisper, "Why am I sick again? I had a light supper last night, and I wasn't sick yesterday afternoon, so it's not food poisoning. I don't feel like I'm coming down with the flu, so I haven't got a clue what's going on. I think maybe I should see a doctor."
Clark started to nod in agreement, getting up to phone an appointment to her family physician. He was halfway to the phone by the nightstand when he stopped as a thought crossed his mind. He turned, moving back to the bathroom door.
"Lois … what if … "
He never had a chance to finish his thought as her eyes rose to meet his. She interrupted him, reading his mind.
"You don't think … ?"
"Maybe you're … "
"No, it couldn't be, Clark."
"But doesn't it make sense? That maybe you could be … "
"Pregnant!" They both uttered simultaneously.
<Townhouse, same time as before the break>
Time seemed to stop as Clark looked at his wife, his mind needing time to process what it had just suggested. His wife's wide eyes were enough to tell him that he wasn't the only one with the problem.
"Uh, Clark … did we just say what I think we just said?"
Clark didn't answer right away but took his wife by the hand and pulled her into the bedroom, where he sat both of them on the edge of the bed. Once there, he looked into her eyes and answered her, keeping his voice soft and low with the love he felt for her.
"Wow … so?"
"What?" Clark asked, confused.
"So do you think I am?"
"I don't know."
"Did you miss your period?"
"I didn't, Clark, but it was really light. I figured it was because we'd been travelling to Scotland, so I didn't pay any special attention to it … Do you think … ?"
There was another pause as both considered the possibility.
"What do we do now? Should we ask Klein to perform some tests?" Lois asked.
"No. I don't think so, Lois. Let's not go that far yet. It could be a false alarm. You could have the flu or something … " Clark quickly curbed that remark when he saw his wife's glare. Okay, so maybe he was reaching a little, but he just wanted to cover all the possibilities.
"There's only one thing to do. We'll have to go out to a drug store and buy a pregnancy test," Lois said nervously.
"How about two? Just in case … " Clark added upon seeing his wife's questioning gaze.
"All right, Clark. We'll each get one. When we'll get to work we'll just go out as if to investigate something, and then we can simply pick up a couple of kits."
"Yeah, but wouldn't that be a little obvious? We're not exactly perfect strangers in this city, Lois. I think we should go to separate parts of town, buy the kits, and then regroup so we can test at home right afterwards. I don't want any rumours spreading just yet."
Lois relaxed visibly as the issue was resolved — at least temporarily. She kissed her husband on the cheek and sauntered over to the closet to pick her clothes for work. Yes, she was feeling much better, although the flutter in her stomach made her realize how nervous she suddenly was.
Clark took advantage of the lull in the bathroom to take a quick shower and shave. He walked into the bedroom after barely a few minutes. Lois was just buttoning up her jacket.
"I see you took your own sweet time in the shower," Lois teased. "Oh, Clark, I almost forgot!"
He walked up to his wife and wrapped her in his arms, pressing his lips lightly on her own for a second.
"Don't buy one of those tests you have to use first thing in the morning, okay? I can't wait that long."
Clark smiled. Lois impatient to find the results? Big surprise.
"Oh, and Clark?"
"Wipe that grin off your face."
<Daily Planet, mid afternoon>
Lois groaned as she tried to find something to finish this article that just wouldn't write itself. She couldn't believe that Perry had forced herself and Clark to stay in the newsroom until they'd finished writing their story, treating them as if they were a couple of green reporters. They hadn't had a chance to go out all day. Lois was itching to buy the pregnancy kit, and her frustration was simply making it harder to finish the article.
"Almost done, Lois?" Clark handed her a cup of hot chocolate. She looked at him gratefully, then realized that he wasn't at his desk anymore, meaning he was done.
"No fair! I don't have super speed to help me finish!"
Clark quickly read what she's written, then leaned in to whisper in his wife's ears.
"Tell you what, Lois. Why don't you drop something and I'll 'help' you finish."
Lois found a pencil and pushed it off the edge of her desk.
"Oops! Clumsy me … "
Lois bent over to pick up her pencil, giving Clark access to the keyboard. She heard the rapid click-clicking of the keys as he typed away, and by the time she'd retrieved the misplaced writing tool he'd finished.
"Look, Lois. All done." Clark smiled smugly as he hit the send key.
"Well, I guess that means we can go out and investigate our next story."
She reached for her coat and took her husband's arm. They were barely halfway to the elevator when she felt him stiffen. 'Oh no, not again.'
"Uh, Lois … "
"Yeah, go. But just make sure you pick 'you know what' up on your way back. I'll meet you at home, okay?"
"Alright, honey." Clark leaned in, kissing her on the cheek before he moved off to the side of the newsroom, disappearing in the storage room.
Lois sighed and shook her head lightly as she walked to the elevator. Superman really had horrible timing.
<Downtown, a half-hour later>
Lois glanced around her, making sure that no one was looking at her before she walked into the drug store. Inside, she quickly zeroed in on the right alley and walked towards a row of boxes. Her eyes perused a series of beauty products, medicines, and miscellaneous items as she tried to casually walk up to the right area. Once there, she began looking at the different brands of tests, suddenly wondering exactly which one to buy. Scanning the aisle and finding nobody around, she turned back to the tests and picked one up, quickly reading the description. Morning. Nope. Putting it back, she moved to the next one. Fifteen minutes. Nope.
With an exasperated sigh, Lois picked up the third box and began reading. Ten minutes. Splatter guard. Foolproof. Perfect. With a quick gleefully expelled breath, she clutched the pregnancy test to her chest and briskly walked towards the cashier. The woman gave her a knowing look before picking up the box and passing it over the UPC reader.
"It's for some research I'm doing."
The woman looked up at Lois, gave her a knowing nod, and turned back to the cash register. Lois counted to ten slowly, trying to think calming thoughts before paying the bill, taking the bag with the test, and placing it in her bottomless purse. As fast as humanly possible she walked out of there and headed down the street towards a cab parked at the corner.
Suddenly, she remembered that Clark had gone off to save the world, or something. 'Now, don't be sarcastic, Lois,' she berated herself, 'You know he's doing something important, and you shouldn't let your mood go sour because of one cashier's reaction.'
Clark would most probably forget to buy the test. 'Better safe than sorry,' she thought. Continuing past the cab, she walked on, knowing that there was another drugstore just a few blocks further.
<Same time, different location>
There was a whistling sound as a streak of red and blue made its way into an alley. A few second later, Clark walked out, straightening his tie. He looked around to get his bearings and headed east, knowing exactly where he was going.
Two blocks later, Clark spotted a sign with the writing "Pharmacie" and headed straight for it, pushing the door to go in. After a few moments he walked back out, bag in hand, moving back towards the alley. With a last look around, Clark made his way into the narrow path and twirled into his costume, taking off before anyone had a chance to walk by and risk a glance his way.
In the air, he began to relax. It had taken longer than necessary to repair that crack in the hydroelectric dam, and he'd almost forgotten to get the pregnancy test. Luckily, he'd remembered as he'd headed back south towards Metropolis, and stopped off to buy it. Speed-reading had allowed him to pick the best test, and he smiled to himself as he thought of his wife. She was probably at home right now, pacing as she waited for his arrival.
The sound of an alarm caught his attention and he sighed. Lois would have to wait a little longer. Apparently, Superman was in great demand today.
<A few minutes later, Metropolis>
Lois smiled as she approached the second drugstore. Three more minutes and she would be home-free. Taking another glance around her to make sure she wasn't being watched, she walked inside. Repeating the same ritual as last time, she headed down the appropriate alley and ended up in front of the pregnancy kits. She glanced over the boxes she'd examined in the previous drugstore and picked up one whose instructions she hadn't read before. Not satisfied, she put it back and picked up another box. When that didn't work, she kept looking through the boxes until she found one that suited her. Once again, she headed towards the checkout line.
The clerk gave her a knowing smile, much like the one at the last drugstore had done. Lois fumed. Why did they automatically assume that she was buying it for herself?
"It's for an investigation I'm doing."
"Yeah. Of course."
With a huff, Lois handed over the money and grabbed the box, not waiting for the change or even a bag. She pushed her way outside, looking back to see the clerk smile smugly. As Lois turned back to see where she was going, she bumped into someone and dropped what she was carrying.
"Oh, I'm sorry miss. Here let me help you."
Lois looked up when she heard the familiar voice.
"What … uh … What are you doing here?"
"The Chief had me pick up his dry-cleaning down the block from here. And then I'm was off to find those Baklavas he wants from this strange bakery halfway across town when I bumped into you."
Jimmy suddenly bent down to pick up Lois purse and package. He was handing it to her when he actually stopped to read the label on the box. He looked up at Lois, one eyebrow lifting as a confused look spread across his face.
"It's … research, Jimmy. Bobby Bigmouth told me there's a crime ring that's selling products that are below acceptable quality levels. Apparently it involves anything that has to do with home tests. Clark and I have split up, and we're investigating. I'm taking a random sampling from each drugstore in this area of town, to have them looked at by an expert at STAR labs, so we can show they're defective. That way, we'll be able to break that criminal ring."
Lois looked at Jimmy, hoping he was buying it. He stared at her incredulously for a moment, then simply nodded his head as a genuinesmile appeared on his face. Yes, he'd bought it.
"Tell you what, Lois, since you're going through the stores in the area, I'll give you a ride. It'll save you money on cab fare. "
"Oh, no, Jimmy. Really. It's alright." Lois started, trying very hard to not look like she was desperately trying to get away.
"I'm almost done anyway." She continued. "Besides, I need the exercise. I'll find a few more drugstores in the area, and then I'll just head along to the garage to pick up my Jeep. That way I won't have to pay for cabs anymore." She gave Jimmy her biggest smile, praying the line she fed him would work.
"Nonsense, Lois. I'd love to help you. You know I love to do some investigating, whatever it might be. Besides, if you want a good sampling, you're going to have to buy more than that. Come on, it'll be fun. And … " Jimmy stopped, looked around, then resumed speaking with a lowered voice. "It'll give me a chance to stay away from the Planet a little longer. I gotta tell you, I don't know what's gotten into the Chief lately, but I just don't want to go back yet. I caught him staring at one of his Elvis photos for fifteen minutes the other day, as if it was hypnotizing him."
Lois tried her best to laugh at what he said, although she could feel a knot tightening in her stomach, and finally nodded.
"Okay then, Jimmy. Let's go."
She followed him as he walked towards one of the car, not really paying attention to what he was saying.
<Two hours later>
Clark flew into the bedroom window, quickly changing into some casual wear. That fire in the industrial park had taken much longer than he'd expected, and he was late. He could only guess what state Lois would be in from waiting for him this long. He hung the suit in the bathroom, hoping to let some of the smoke smell air out, then picked up the bag he had been carrying and headed downstairs to the living room. Seeing no sign of Lois, he pushed the door leading to the kitchen, seeing his wife's back as the room came into view.
"Lois, honey, I'm sorry I'm late. I got caught up on the way … "
He stopped, staring at the kitchen table. Lois hadn't heard him and was concentrating on the series of boxes on the table. Her chin was resting in the palm of hand as her elbow leaned on the table, and her expression seemed dazed.
"Uh … Lois?"
She finally turned towards him.
"Oh! Hi, Clark. Where've you been."
"There was trouble with a hydroelectric dam up north of the border that was threatening to break, and then when I was flying back there was a fire … " He stopped, frowning as he swept another glance across the table. "I thought we'd said we'd each buy one kit?"
Lois sighed and recounted the fact she'd bumped into Jimmy and had been forced to do some fast talking.
"I had no choice. If I didn't buy others, he might have gotten suspicious."
"It's okay, Lois. We can do this. Which one did you *want* to buy?"
"This one … " Lois pointed to one box.
"Good, then let's get started."
"Alright. Let's have your test kit, Clark."
He handed her the box and gave her time to look at it.
"Uh … Clark. Why are there two sets of instructions?" She stopped, examining the box more closely. "And why is one of them written in French???"
She turned to look at him, noticing his sheepish expression and bowed shoulders. He refrained from making eye contact until after he'd spoken.
"I had to go north to repair the dam, Lois. I was running late and almost forgot to buy the kit. I had to make a quick side trip on the way home."
"Where exactly did you buy this?"
He continued to avoid her gaze and didn't volunteer the answer, so she eventually decided to just dig her hand into the bag and pull out the receipt.
<Ten minutes later>
Clark was sitting on the edge of the bed, getting dizzy as he watched his wife paced back and forth.
"This is driving me crazy, Clark. How long does a test take? This timer has to be off. I mean, I'm sure it's been more than ten minutes and we should already have the answer by now. It's not making any sense. Maybe there's something wrong with the timer. What time is it? Never mind, I'm just nervous, I guess. So what time is it? Wait … I just asked you that. I don't know why I asked you twice in a row, I mean -"
"Lois," Clark interrupted. "You're babbling."
"I know, I'm babbling, aren't I? I can't help myself. I'm just so nervous. I mean, what if I *am* pregnant. Or what if the test isn't able to tell me if I'm really pregnant, I mean it's not like any of these are made for Kryptonian pregnancies … Oh my god, what if it's not a normal pregnancy! Clark, what if-"
She stopped again, feeling her husband's index finger pressing on her lips.
"Shhhh. It's almost over, honey. The time's practically up and then we'll know for sure. Now, I just want you to take a deep breath and calm down, okay?"
She nodded and he tentatively pulled his finger away. She was just opening her mouth to speak when the timer went off with a loud 'ding'.
Both looked at each other, and ran to the bathroom, with Clark beating Lois by a mile. They stopped in front of the counter, frozen with fear. Lois reached out and grabbed her husband's hand, squeezing lightly. He turned to her, smiled, and kissed her lightly on the lips. They parted, took a deep breath, and turned to look at the test results.
Within the space of a few seconds they read the test results, then both turned to look at each other. Lois stared at Clark, her mouth open to speak.
"Lois … STAR labs! The kryptonite vault alarm has gone off!"
Before she had a chance to blink, Clark had zipped out of the bedroom and was well on his way to STAR labs. She didn't move, simply staring at the spot her husband had just vacated.
Superman landed at the main entrance to the labs and ran inside, heading straight for the kryptonite vault. Reaching it, he found no breach. Scanning the area, he saw no signs of an intruder. Satisfied, he quickly zipped down a corridor and found a guard, picked him up, and ran back to the vault. Dropping the dazed man right in front of the vault's door, Clark quickly mumbled a "Stay here until the police arrive" and left before the dust had had the chance to settle.
Within 30 seconds, Clark flew back inside, changed, and whooshed to the exact spot he'd been just vacated — the spot that Lois was still staring at. Clark went to speak, stopped himself, took a breath, and paused. Finally, he seemed to regain the ability to speak.
The sound snapped Lois out of her daze.
"Kryptonite? What did you say about kryptonite?"
Clark put both hands on his wife's shoulders in an attempt to reassure her.
"It's nothing, Lois. It was a false alarm. I left a guard in front of the vault, and the police can investigate when they get there. As far as I know, it was a short circuit in the system that made the alarm go off."
Lois nodded, letting the news sink in.
"Wow." She added, then looked into her husband's eyes and smiled.
<One hour later>
Clark held his wife securely in his arms. He was sitting at the kitchen table, looking at the various pregnancy kits and results. Lois was sitting in his lap, her arms around his torso and her face nestled against his chest. Clark tightened his hold around his wife, and leaned down to kiss the top of her head.
"Wow." They both said simultaneously.
Lois giggled. They sounded like a broken record. It seemed to be practically the only word they'd been able to say in the last hour.
"I can't believe it Clark."
"Yeah, I know what you mean, Lois."
"We think about it … "
"Dream about it … "
"And then we find out you have a cycle that we have to figure out."
"Yeah. Well, guess what, Lois. I guess we didn't have to figure it out."
"I prefer to think that we were industrious enough to have it pay off."
Lois smiled at her husband's remark. Oh yes, they'd certainly taken every opportunity to try.
"I still can't believe it."
"Yeah.. Think about it, Lois. In less than nine months from now we're going to be … "
"Parents." They managed to say at the same time.
"Amazing … " Lois added, a dreamy look in her eyes, and she worked her way even deeper into her husband's embrace.
<Daily Planet, late the next morning>
Clark observed his wife as she talked on the phone. Her make-up had covered up the morning's pallor. However, this morning she hadn't been as sick as the two previous days, and he hoped this meant that the morning sickness was not going to stick around too long.
Lois got off the phone, and turned to her husband's inquiring eyes.
"It's a go, Clark. I managed to call that Ob/Gyn friend of mine, and she'll see me tonight to confirm the pregnancy."
Clark smiled, happy that the appointment had been so easy to get. He wanted absolute confirmation of the news. Proof undeniable. And … He frowned slightly as another thought hit him. He wanted to make sure that the mother and baby were going to be healthy.
Lois saw her husband's expression change from elation to worry, and she opened her mouth to speak. Unfortunately, Jimmy — with his impeccable sense of timing — chose that moment to barge in on them.
"Hey guys, how's it going?" Jimmy asked, looking at the couple before him. Something had changed, but he couldn't figure out what.
"Fine, Jimmy. So, what have you got?" Clark smiled at the younger man.
"Why does everybody assume that I only come by when I have something to talk about, or research to hand in?"
"We don't, Jimmy, but I think the folder in your hands is a dead giveaway." Lois smiled as well, gracing Jimmy with her excellent humour.
"Okay. Guilty as charged. I guess you guys aren't the Planet's best investigative team for nothing." Jimmy grinned, pleased with his joke, and handed the report to Clark. "Here they are, the police reports on the latest break-ins at STAR labs."
"Thanks, Jimmy." Clark said, looking at the young man expectantly. Jimmy was simply staring at the couple, obviously in the mood to chat. However, when he realized that they weren't receptive, he cleared his throat, mumbled an excuse and took off towards the coffee machine.
"Well, what does it say?" Lois asked.
"Give me a minute."
Clark looked around to make sure no one was watching, then picked up the folder and quickly leafed through it, speed reading the reports. Lois waited, impatient to hear more, and was getting up to move towards her husband when she saw frown cross his face.
"Clark? What is it?"
"This is strange, Lois. I've been to STAR labs twice because of the recent incidents."
"Yeah … so?"
"So … it turns out that STAR labs has filed quite a few reports over the last few months."
"What kinds of reports?"
"Experiments ruined, machinery damaged, labs broken into … Looks like sabotage."
"Sabotage? Do they give a reason why?"
"No. They haven't found one yet."
"Where is this sabotage taking place? In which departments?" Lois asked.
Clark scanned the pages again.
"It's hard to say. It seems to be spread out. There isn't a specific area that's being touched."
Lois stopped as an idea struck her.
"Uh … Clark? Has there been any sabotage in Dr. Klein's lab?"
He frowned and flipped to another page.
"Yeah. He's reported two machines that were tampered with, and some vials were purposefully smashed. Why?"
"Do you think that maybe … there was more sabotage?"
Clark stopped, confused. He stared at his wife, trying to understand what she was talking about, and then it hit him.
"Lois, you don't mean that someone might have sabotaged our experiments?"
"That might explain why we always got negative results on the fertility tests, despite what we were told by you-know-who."
The couple stared at each other, then simultaneously reached for their phones.
<Daily Planet, same time>
Clark seemed to rethink something, then reached out to stop Lois from dialing.
"What is it?"
Clark didn't say anything right away, only took his wife by the arm and led her to the conference room.
"I think we have to think this through. We might just be doing something rash."
"Clark, we have to go to Dr. Klein and ask him to redo the tests."
Clark looked at his wife and shook his head softly.
"We can't. What reasons are we going to give him? He's going to ask why we want the tests redone."
"Isn't it obvious? I'm pregnant." She said rather loudly, then stopped and looked outside the window to see if anyone had heard. Fortunately, the floor was its usual chaotic self, and no one seemed to pay attention to the couple in the conference room. Satisfied, she focused once again on her husband.
"I realize that, Lois, but you're married to Clark, not Superman. Clark isn't the one being tested for fertility problems … "
He stopped in mid-sentence, apparently pondering something else, and then his face changed, setting itself into firm lines He'd obviously come to a decision.
"We're going to have to tell him."
"What?" Lois asked, confused, then stopped as she realized what her husband was saying Her expression changed to one of discomfort. "Why?"
"Because, Lois, we don't have a choice. If we ask Dr. Klein to redo the tests, we'll have to give him a good reason why. This," Clark paused, gently placing his hand on his wife's stomach," is a very good reason. Besides … " His voice tapered off.
"What? What is it, Clark?"
Lois heard him take a shaky breath before he resumed.
"Besides … I've been doing some thinking just now. I'm different, Lois. We don't know my biology and we don't know what might happen. To the baby … To you … You're going to be seeing your doctor friend tonight, but what if that's not enough? We don't know what we're dealing with. We're going to need some expert medical supervision, and who better than Dr. Klein? He's the only current expert on Superman's physiology."
Clark stopped, brushing a lock of hair off his wife's forehead.
"It makes sense, Lois. We have to do it."
He looked into her eyes, waiting for her decision. She took a moment to think about it, then nodded and pulled him into an embrace, tears in her eyes.
<Later that afternoon, STAR labs>
Dr. Klein was hunched over his desk, examining a printout with columns of numbers and the odd graph. His concentration was unperturbed by the fact that Lois and Clark had entered his office and were walking up to him. In fact, it wasn't until Lois cleared her throat that he jumped and turned towards them.
"Oh! Hello you two. I didn't hear you come in."
"We can see that." Clark answered good-naturedly.
"So, to what honour do I owe this visit? Is this a business or a social call?"
"I'm afraid it's business, Dr. Klein." Lois said.
"Alright." Klein's face became serious. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, Dr. Klein," Clark started hesitantly, "We're heard about the recent troubles at STAR labs … "
"Ah yes," Klein interjected. "It's been puzzling us. There seem to be random events of sabotage of my and various of my colleagues' work. We don't know why it's happening, what they're targeting, or who's going to be affected next. It's quite unsettling, really."
Klein stopped for a second, contemplating the situation, then turned back to the couple.
"So, I take it you two are writing a story on this?"
"No, not quite." Clark answered. "We're here because we'd like you to re-examine the recent tests you did on Superman."
Clark froze as Klein gasped, obviously surprised.
"Yes, Dr. Klein, we know."
"I … I … I guess that makes sense. After all, you are Superman's closest friends, or so I assume. Here … " He paused for a second, calling up a file on his computer. "Let me just print out the results and we can take a look at them. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes."
A few mouse clicks later the hum of the laser printer could be heard in the next room.
"So … Why exactly do you want me to re-examine the results?"
"Because," Clark started, "we have reason to believe that the results are wrong."
"You're saying Superman's not infertile? How would you know?"
"We've heard from a very good source that Superman is indeed fertile." Clark stopped, looking at Lois, who nodded her understanding. They were both remembering Pops and the events that had conspired a few months ago when they had traveled to the future to meet their descendents..
"And we also learned," Clark continued, "that Superman's fertility seems to happen through a cycle of some sort. That's why he wanted to have several tests done … to try and figure out the length of the cycle. In a sense, to be able to know when he is and isn't fertile."
Klein stared at them, his mouth wide open.
"That's absolutely amazing!" He stopped for a moment, letting the information sink in, then continued. "But all the tests have come out negative … "
"Yes, we know," Clark interrupted, "But we've gathered proof from a few sources … "
Clark stopped to look at his wife, then turned back to Dr. Klein.
"And one of them is absolutely irrefutable."
Klein looked eagerly at Clark.
"Really? What proof?"
Lois interrupted. "I'm pregnant."
Klein didn't register the implications right away, but rather simply zeroed in on Lois' last statement.
"You're pregnant? Lois, that's wonderful!"
Klein grabbed Lois in a bear hug, practically choking her in the process. He then moved back, looking at her as his brain started to work.
"But I don't see what this has to do with Superman." He stopped. "Don't tell me that the rumours of you and Superman were true after all … You're not his girlfriend, are you?"
"No. I'm his wife."
"But … but … you and Clark … oh … *oooooohhhhhh*!" He said, as his eyes flew wide open and his mouth narrowed to form that second, drawn-out 'oh', followed by his jaw dropping to the floor as the idea started to sink in.
Klein reached back for his chair and sat down hard. Lois and Clark waited somewhat calmly while the doctor slowly regained his breath, re-hinged his jaw, and got over the surprise. The couple looked at each other anxiously, worried that they'd made the wrong decision by letting this man in on the secret. 'Is he up to this?' They seemed to ask themselves. But it was now too late and all they could do was wait for Klein to regain the ability to speak.
The sound in the lab changed as the printer rolled out the last sheet of data. Still silent, Klein got up and walked to the other room to pick up the sheets of paper. The return to a semi-normal routine seemed to have done him some good, for when he returned to his office he was his old self again. There was once again a spark of life in his eyes, and you could practically hear the wheels turn in his head.
"Absolutely amazing, Clark. Uh … Superman … How … What should I call you?"
"Clark is fine, Dr. Klein." Clark answered, breathing a sigh of relief now that the tense moment had passed. He tensed again as another thought crossed his mind.
"Uh, Dr. Klein … you're not going to tell anyone, are you?"
"No! Of course not!" The man replied emphatically. "I understand the need for secrecy, and I'll guard this secret as I have others in the past."
He waited to see Lois and Clark's nod of approval before returning to a question that he'd thought up just a few moments ago.
"So how did you manage to pull this off for so long? How do you hide your 'superness' every day?" Klein paused. "How many people know?"
"As few as possible," Lois interjected, impatient to get back to the matter at hand. "And we'll fill you in on it later. We think we'll be needing some of your biomedical expertise. But first, there's something more pressing that needs to be taken care of."
"Oh! Yes, of course, the tests. Let's see … "
The doctor began to sift through the information, jotting down notes here and there along the column as he found something relevant. Suddenly, he stopped.
"This is strange … "
"What?" Lois and Clark asked simultaneously.
Klein took a few seconds to look at the information again before answering.
"When I wired up this lab, I set up some safety devices. In case a system went down, there were some independent back-ups. When tests are performed, the data is then sent to the main storage area," Klein pointed to the room where the printer was, "to my assistant's computer, and to mine."
"Now here," Klein continued, pointing to the printout, "is the data I downloaded off my computer. This is where things get strange … "
Klein paused again as Lois and Clark moved in to take a closer look at the numbers the doctor was pointing to.
"A number this high means that the result was positive."
Klein looked at Clark.
"You are, in fact, fertile. Or at least you were at that time."
"Big surprise." Lois snickered, rubbing her stomach. "And it looks like he was at least another time."
"But how come you didn't reach this conclusion beforehand?" Clark inquired.
"I don't know."
Dr. Klein moved around the couple, and exited the room to fire up the main computer as well as his assistant's.
"But we just might find out in a minute."
A few moments later the data had been printed out from the other sources. All three were sifting through the information.
"Got it!" Lois exclaimed, holding up a sheet of paper.
Both men turned towards her, and she handed the paper to Klein, who examined it for a second.
"Yes, this is the test I had performed. The date matches the one on the printout from my office computer, but the numbers are different."
"What about the third computer?"
There was more shuffling of paper as Klein tried to find the appropriate page.
"Aha! Here we go." Klein paused, reading the results. "And the results are different here as well, showing Clark to be infertile."
"Could this be a glitch in the program?" Clark inquired.
"Not likely. If the downloading of information was wrong, it would appear the same way on all three computers."
"Then it means the information was changed manually?" Lois asked.
"Yes. That would be the only way."
"But if someone were to purposefully change the information, why wouldn't they change it on yours too?"
"They may not be aware of the fact that I have this back-up file on my disk, Lois. You see, I always access the information through the main storage area. The files on my office computer are never touched. They're simply there as a safety precaution. Besides, the files are invisible, so one wouldn't know they were there by simply looking through the directories on my computer — assuming they made it through the password protection."
"Alright." Lois conceded. "So we're left with someone who willfully changed the data on Superman's fertility. Now we just have to figure out who."
"The most logical choice would be Dr. Klein's assistant." Clark proposed.
"Clarice? No, she wouldn't do that? I've known her for years, ever since she was a junior scientist trying to find a research position. I trust her. I can't think of a single reason why she would do something like this. No … it has to be someoutside source."
"But wouldn't someone have to be very well acquainted with your computer system to get in and change the information?" Clark asked.
"And wouldn't they have to know or be able to figure out the passwords for both the main computer and Clarice's office computer?" Clark continued.
"Yes." Klein answered, appearing more and more disconcerted.
"Then wouldn't it be logical, Dr. Klein, that the most likely suspect is indeed your assistant?" Clark finished.
"I suppose that makes sense." Klein conceded. "But you're still just guessing. We'd have to have proof. How can we do that?"
"Leave that to us." Lois suddenly spoke up. "I have an idea … "
<STAR labs, late in the evening>
A knock came on Dr. Klein's door.
A tall woman, dressed in casual clothes, walked into the office hesitantly.
"I got your message. You wanted to see me?"
"Yes, yes. Come in, Clarice. I'm sorry to disturb you on your day off … but this is important."
The woman moved in hesitantly, her blue eyes gazing into her employer's face.
"You sounded worried on the phone. What is it?"
"I'm sorry if I gave that impression. It's not that I'm worried. I'm just curious about something … about some results which don't seem quite right."
The woman frowned and moved forward as Dr. Klein leafed through a pile of papers and picked up two of them. She was biting down on her bottom lip and holding her hands tightly. Klein ignored the signs of nervousness as he calmly pointed to some marks he'd made on both sheets.
"What results are these?"
"They're the tests on Superman's sperm, Clarice. You remember, you did several of them over the past few months?"
"Yes. Yes, of course I remember. These had to be handled with great care. You wanted a full work-up on them, to determine their fertility. And … " She paused, seemingly searching for the information in her head. "If I remember correctly, we found he'd been missing a key enzyme, which made it impossible for him to fertilize a human woman's eggs since the sperm wouldn't make it through the protective barrier."
"That's right." Klein confirmed. "But there's a problem."
"What?" Clarice leaned towards him some more, trying to get a better look at the figures on the two pages which were sitting on Klein's desk. He picked them up and handed them to her, allowing her some time to look before once again pointing to the circled figures.
"You see, Clarice, I've spent part of the day cleaning house. With all the sabotage going on lately, I thought it best to get rid of any extraneous information and get a hard copy of most results. At the same time, I thought it'd be best to look over the results of some of the critical experiments we're doing, to make sure that someone hadn't somehow hacked into our main system and modified any of our results. That's when I discovered this."
Klein tapped on the piece of paper, taking advantage of the momentary silence to observe his assistant's reaction. Her breathing was increased slightly, and a thin sheen of sweat was beginning to appear across her brow. He decided to move in for the kill.
"You can't imagine my surprise, Clarice, when I re-read the results on Superman's tests and found out that in one of the experiments he was fertile. I don't remember seeing these numbers before. Do you?"
The woman moved back a step, taking on a defensive stance and a haughty air.
"Surely you're not accusing me of this, are you?"
Klein smiled and gave her his best reassuring gaze, turning on the charm to an almost buttery-sweet level. 'Pull out the insulin,' he thought. 'I'm going to need it if I keep this up for another five minutes.'
"Oh no! Of course not. I'm simply worried. You did those tests in the evening, and it wasn't until the next day that we tallied the results and looked at them. I think someone may have hacked into the system and changed the results before we read them."
"Changed the results? But why?"
"I don't know, Clarice, but I can guess. It could be someone with a grudge against me … Possibly someone with a grudge againstSuperman. Or someone who managed to find out about the tests results … " He paused as an idea struck him. "Someone who wanted to make sure that Superman's fertility never got out."
Klein held back the fact that he'd noticed the slight reaction on the woman's face. It wasn't much, but the slight widening of her eyes as he mentioned his latest idea was more than a give-away. Now he just had to be careful how he continued.
"That's unbelievable. I don't understand how someone could possibly hack in here. They'd have to be absolute wizards. STAR labs' computer system is notorious for its impregnability." Clarice said emphatically.
Klein had to work very hard not to smile at the last word, since it reminded him of what he'd just heard from Lois earlier that day.
"You're right. That's why we'll have to start an investigation. I imagine that the authorities, as well as the directors of this facility, will want to know exactly how someone managed to access our systems and modify the information. I'm just glad," he paused, lifting the piece of paper with the positive result and holding it in front of her, "that we had another back-up system that wasn't affected so the original results are still filed."
Again, Clarice reacted. It wasn't much. Klein had to give her an A+ for effort, but the beginning of a sharp intake of breath, another little series of beads of sweat, and a slight widening of the eyes was all he needed to see. The trap had been set, and the bait was nicely nibbled. Now all he had to do was let it close in on the culprit.
"Well," Klein continued, "I guess everything's alright in the end. We're just fortunate to have had that extra back-up system." He paused, supposedly realizing the time. "Oh, I'm sorry Clarice. Look how late it is. You should be home right now, relaxing. I so hated having to call you in on your day off. Why don't you go back home now. I'll see you tomorrow morning, alright?"
"Yes. Of course. Good night." Clarice answered, nodding her head slowly and turning to leave. She was obviously preoccupied.
The assistant walked out of Klein's office, and the clicking of her heels could be heard, growing fainter and fainter as she moved towards the elevator. The door to the closet in Klein's office slowly swung open and Clark walked out. Silently, he closed the door, winked at Dr. Klein, and gave him the thumbs up. Klein responded in kind and waved as Clark turned and walked out the door. Well, walked wasn't quite the right word. He seemed to be floating just above the ground. Close enough so it looked like he was walking, but high enough that his feet never actually touched the ground, ensuring complete silence as he tailed the assistant. 'Amazing,' Klein thought, and he turned back to his desk, returning to his paperwork. It was now in Superman's hands.
<A few blocks from STAR labs>
Clark continued to float-walk half a block behind Clarice. She was looking around her constantly, but he managed to stay in the shadows. Seemingly satisfied that she hadn't been followed, her walk changed to a more resolute one and she crossed a street, heading for an alley. Clark waited until she had crossed the street and analyzed his options. If he stayed behind her, he'd be walking into an alley with light at his back while she'd be in the dark. That meant she might see him if she turned back to look. He couldn't risk it. Instead, he quickly darted a look in every direction to make sure no one was nearby, and simply floated up into the night sky — high enough so that no one would be able to see him against the dark clouds of the night sky.
It was a good thing he'd thought of wearing a pair of black jeans and a black sweater. And the appreciative looks Lois had given him right before he'd left home had shown him that the colour wasn't only suited for sneaking around. He couldn't wait to get back home and get some of what his wife had promised him with her eyes.
Shaking his head to help clear it of those distracting thoughts, Clark noticed that Clarice had now exited the alley and was walking along a street in one of the city's prominent commercial areas. She quickened her pace, apparently not reassured at having to walk in this area late at night, and then stopped in front of a rundown hobby store. She pulled out a key, looked around to make sure no one was nearby, and unlocked the door.
As she moved inside, Clark switched to his X-Ray vision to track her movements. She walked in, stopping to put her purse under the counter and press a button which opened a trap door in the floor. She seemed to sigh in relief as she moved towards the opening in the floor, walking down some steps. Clark quickly looked to see what was beyond the stairs and noticed a tunnel made of concrete that moved down the block. Satisfied that there wasn't any lead to obstruct his view, other than the occasional pipe, he decided to follow the assistant's progress from the air rather than risk being spotted by following her in the tunnel.
He hovered along, keeping up with the woman's pace, and followed the meanderings of the tunnel as it moved through the city's underground. A few other tunnels — coming from businesses, private homes, and even a school - met up with the tunnel she was presently in. Clark looked on in wonder, trying to fathom all this. Finally, Clarice reached a door at the end of the tunnel. It was a large iron door that creaked as she pulled it open, leading to the basement of a warehouse … A warehouse which didn't have any stairs leading to the basement, meaning that no one knew of this chamber's existence.
As Clark scanned the room he saw other iron doors, which he looked behind to see more tunnels moving off in all directions. This was a very elaborate system. How had he ever missed it before? How old were these tunnels? It was hard to judge, but the concrete did not look degraded in any way, so it might have been that the system of underground passages was new. It had been a few years since he'd made any large-scale X-ray sweeps of the Metropolis underground. That must have been why he hadn't noticed the tunnels before. But he was aware of them now, and he'd do something about it. The entrance to that basement had to be blocked, before some other group found it and used it as their hideout.
In the meantime, Clark returned his focus on Clarice, who'd enter the basement and was heading towards a corner with a few offices. She stopped, looking through an open door that lead to some kind of an auditorium, then continued along her way to the first office where a man was sitting at a desk. Clark saw her knock on the door and go in. He decided now would be a good time to tune in his superhearing, and concentrated on what the two said.
"Director?" The man began, obviously surprised to see her. "What are you doing here at this hour?"
"I had to see you, Great Leader. I'm afraid I have some very important news."
"What is it?" The man got up, walked to the woman, and guided her to a chair. "Sit down, dear. You're looking quite flushed. Now, tell me what's the matter."
"It's the labs, sir." Clarice continued, apparently unappeased by the man's voice. "I've just been summoned to Klein's office tonight. He showed me some results." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "The results of Superman's fertility."
The Leader took in a sharp breath, obviously surprised at this turn of events.
"The results you'd changed?"
"But how did he find out?" The man asked.
"I don't know, sir. All I know is that he somehow had another set of data. I thought I'd changed all the information, but he had another back-up somewhere with the original results."
"Can you find this place and change the results?" The Leader inquired.
"I suppose I could, but I don't see much point in it now, sir. He already knows the positive result exists. It would only make him more suspicious if the back-up system was changed."
She stopped, suddenly realizing the full impact of the situation.
"Oh, Great Leader, what am I going to do? He didn't say anything tonight, but I fear that he suspects me. What if he calls the police? What if he tellsthem that I'm behind the series of sabotages at STAR labs? Do you think he might know about this Society?"
"Calm down, Clarice." The man offered in his most soothing voice. "Alright, perhaps they can trace back the change of information to you. Did you use your computer to change the database results?"
He paused as the woman nodded in answer.
"Well, I think we can still arrange something. I wouldn't worry. As for the other sabotages, you haven't been caught now, after much police investigation, so I'm not worried. And the Society? No. Klein couldn't possibly know about it. If he had, someone would have certainly tried to stop us already."
Clark had heard enough, and he decided this was his cue to make that dramatic entry he always loved. Spinning in the air, he changed into his Superman suit and headed down towards the ground, choosing to break through the tunnel Clarice had walked in and force open the iron door to reach the basement.
At the loud noise of impact, the two society members jumped but barely had time to react further as Superman pushed his way into the office. Their eyes flew wide open and their jaws dropped as the object of their hate suddenly appeared in front of them.
"I hate to disappoint you," Superman said in his strongest voice, "But someone is stopping you now."
Before the two had a chance to run, Superman picked them up by the collar and lifted them off the ground, chuckling silently as the two ineffectually moved their legs as they tried to get away.
"I've heard everything I need. Your society will be taken care of. Not to worry. I'm sure you'll see them again … In jail."
With that, Superman made sure his grip on the two culprits was tight and made his way out of the basement, flying straight to a Metropolis police department.
<Daily Planet, the next day>
The headline of the paper of Lois' desk read "Two SHARP Leaders Arrested." Jimmy, standing near Lois, listened enraptured as she recounted the details of the arrest.
"So Superman tailed Clarice from the lab, found the secret hide-out for the society, broke in, flew the two culprits to one of the Metro PD precincts, had them arrested, and then dropped by our house to tell us the whole story."
"That's amazing," Jimmy added, awe in his voice.
"The police are investigating the Society, searching through the offices for a list of the other members and a more thorough idea of the activities perpetrated by the group. Superman has destroyed the tunnels leading to the basement, and he's helping with the clean-up at STAR labs, as well as checking for more signs of sabotage.
"So far, they've been able to charge them both with sabotage and hacking into STAR Labs' database to modify the results, and collusion. They're searching the offices for evidence of other illegal activities. They've also caught a couple of society members who were entering the basement and are questioning them to try and get a clear idea of what the society was doing."
"There's one thing that puzzles me, Lois."
"What's that, Jimmy?"
"Well, I understand that the Society would want to falsify the results of Superman's tests, but why commit other acts of sabotage? Why do something that would get so much attention when they wanted to stay undercover?"
"I was wondering about that myself, Jimmy," Lois answered, "but it turns out that there was another reason for the sabotage. Last night, Clarice confessed to purposefully destroying her colleagues' work. When asked why, she answered that it was all they deserved."
Jimmy looked on, confused.
"It turns out," Lois continued, "that Clarice had been a young, promising scientist when she graduated from college. She applied to STAR labs for a senior researcher position, but was refused. She never accepted it, and later on got hired as Klein's research assistant. As soon as she was in she started plotting her revenge, and that's exactly what she did. This was her way of getting back at STAR labs for not hiring her."
"Oh, I see." Jimmy nodded.
"But what I really want to talk about is Superman's fertility tests." Perry interrupted, joining in on the conversation. He'd been close enough to eavesdrop on what had been said, and chose this moment to move up to the desk.
Lois visibly cringed, hating that this aspect of the story had come out.
"You know, Perry, I really wish we wouldn't have to print that."
"I don't see why not, Lois. It's big news. And the city deserves to hear big news."
"Yeah, I understand that, Perry," Lois paused, her mind racing as she tried to come up with an acceptable reason. "But I think that this might hurt more people, especially Superman, if it was found out."
"Why?" Perry asked, genuinely perplexed.
"Because … " Lois hesitated, then latched onto an idea and continued. "I think it would be dangerous. There was already a society against Superman. It's not the first, I agree, but it probably won't be the last. When they heard about Superman's tests for fertility, they began plotting more seriously to destroy him. We've got most of the leaders arrested by now and the police are still searching for the others as well as the members, but if news leaked out about Superman … "
She paused, hoping to add a dramatic effect.
"Well, who's to say that other societies won't start up. This time they might not be secret." Lois sighed, her face turning into a frown as she realized something.
"There are many people who love Superman for who he is, and for what he does, but I'm afraid there are still many people out there that think of Superman simply as an alien who should be tolerated. If word got out that he's actually able to fertilize a woman's ovum … Well, I'm afraid there might be mass hysteria. There's already been one case of a woman claiming to have Superman's baby … " Lois paused, frowning as she remembered that poor child, then unconsciously placed her hand on her own stomach as she realized that she was the only one who could *truly* claim to be having Superman's child.
"I … I'm just saying, Perry, that I don't think it would be a good idea to publicize this too much. It might do more harm than good."
Her boss considered this for a minute, and seemed to make up his mind.
"Alright, Lois. You have a point. But before I let this go there's one more question I want to ask you."
She cringed, worried about what it might be.
"Okay … "
"I just want to know," Perry continued, "why Superman would have those fertility tests done in the first place."
Lois' mind went into overdrive as she tried to come up with a suitable explanation for this.
"You know, Perry, I asked him that myself. And … uh … he had several reasons for doing this. But mostly, I think it's for curiosity."
"Yeah, you know. He's so much like most men — in looks, size, and so on. I think he just wanted to know if he was like them in that way, too. Besides, he wanted to make sure he had definitive proof in case another woman showed up claiming to have his baby. Unfortunately, the results didn't solve that problem."
Lois paused, thinking some more.
"But I think that it's also because he might just want to eventually find someone. You know, love a woman as much as Clark loves me. And if he ever settles down with someone, I think he'd like to know ahead of time whether or not he can have children."
This time Lois stopped as she felt tears begin to form in her eyes.
"Hmmmm … " Perry scratched his head in thought. "I wonder what that would be like, a world with baby Supermen flying around."
Lois couldn't suppress a chuckle. "You never know. It might happen." 'Sooner than you think.'
Perry seemed satisfied with this, congratulated her again on a story well done, and moved away. He stopped after a few paces and turned back.
"Oh, Lois. I almost forgot … "
She simply looked at him, with no idea of what he was about to say.
"Jimmy's told me about that drugstore package scam that you were investigating. When can I expect that story on my desk?"
Lois froze, wondering what he was talking about. Suddenly she realized he was referring to the pregnancy tests. Panicked, she searched for an answer and finally found an old favourite.
"We're still working on it, Perry."
He gave her a funny look, apparently wondering about her reaction, but simply nodded, mumbled "Okay" and turned back to head towards his office with Jimmy in tow.
Lois let out a sigh of relief, slumping back into her chair.
"Well, that was interesting." Clark whispered into her ear, causing Lois to jump. "I just walk in and there you are, silent and with a look of panic on your face, taking some time to answer to Perry. So tell me," Clark winked, "what was that pregnant pause about?"
Lois gave him a dirty look and refused to answer, slapping her husband as he let out a chuckle.
"Clark, you scared me … and don't tease like that." She gave him a stern look to go with that reprimand, then her face softened.
"So, how's the clean-up coming along at STAR labs?"
"It's going quite well, and don't change the subject, Lois."
"I wasn't." She gave him her best Cheshire Cat grin. "I was just updating Jimmy on the story, and defusing a serious situation … "
Clark gave her a confused look.
"Perry was asking about Superman's fertility. I managed to convince him that it was better if the public didn't find out about that little detail." Lois paused, wrapping her arms around her husband and pulling him in for a quick kiss. "I want that all to myself."
"What? You don't want to make Superman happy?"
"I thought I already did." She smiled up.
Clark's eyes were alight with joy.
"You do, Lois. In more ways than one … " He waited until she looked at him questioningly. "I stopped by that doctor friend of yours on the way back. The results had just come in — fast lab work. It came out positive and everything looks normal. We're gonna be parents."
Lois' smile grew wider and she pressed herself more tightly against Clark, sharing her joy.
Meanwhile, Perry and Jimmy were looking on at the couple as they finished their conversation.
"What do you think those they're up to, Chief?"
"Hard to say, son. With Lois and Clark, you can never be sure. But whatever it is, it's probably big. And I bet that there's more to this drugstore kit story than meets the eye."
"What? You think they're hiding something?" Jimmy paused, thinking. "You know, I didn't quite buy her explanation. But why else would they get so many different kits? You don't think … "
"You never know, Jimmy." He grinned.
"Chief, you can't seriously mean it — that they needed a pregnancy test. I can see Clark as a father, but Lois? A mother? I don't think so! There's something else you're not telling me … "
Perry simply smiled at the young man and turned away, whistling. He paused, turned his head back to face Jimmy and said:
"Gotta work on those reporter's instincts, Jimmy."
He then continued on his way back to his office, stopping himself from whistling and opting instead for a short, quiet yodel.
<Metropolis police department, District 7 holding cell, evening>
The police department had been rather quiet all morning, and as a result only two figures were huddled in a shadowy corner of the holding cell, whispering in a conspiratorial manner. If someone had looked close, they would have seen a man and a woman, talking with their heads near each other to keep the conversation private.
"What do we do now?" Clarice asked, obviously worried.
"Nothing. We wait for the lawyers to get here. They are faithful society members. They'll get us out."
"And what if they can't get us out? I confessed to a great many crimes tonight. I'm going to go to prison. And there's a good chance you will too."
The Great Leader chuckled.
"It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make, Clarice."
"Well, I'm not."
"It has already been decided, Clarice."
"What? What's been decided."
"It's a simple plan. In the event that I'm captured, I and whomever is captured with me takes the blame for everything. We allow the police to believe that no other director is out there, and then whomever is left chooses a second-in-command. It's a foolproof back-up plan. No matter what happens to us, the society *will* prosper. As long as Superman is out there. As long as aliens try and control our lives, we will fight back." The Leader laughed heartily, secure in his knowledge that his plans would be followed to the end.
"The plans have been laid out carefully, Clarice. Don't worry. The new Society will not be discovered. They will learn from our mistakes. And we will rest easy, knowing that our actions were for the greater cause."
The chief lapsed into silence, resting his head against the wall as he contemplated his last words. A grin was spread across his face. Clarice, on the other hand, looked worried, and her hand fluttered to her face as she began biting her nails — the reality of her situation finally sinking in.
<Penthouse of a high rise apartment, a little later>
Luthor was sitting at his desk, looking at his copy of the Daily Planet while drumming his fingers on the desk. Stopping this, he pulled open one of the side drawers and took out a miniature tape recorder.
"See what I can do to help put this SHARP society back on its feet. I'd hate to see such energy go to waste, especially when we share so many common goals. After all, I *will* be the one to bring Superman down, but in the meantime they're a lovely thorn in his side. They deserve my help."
He put the tape recorder back in the drawer, locked it, then turned off all but one small lamp in the corner of his office, dimmed it until it barely shone. He moved to one of the large windows to contemplate the sky.
Beth walked into her husband's dark office. She waited until her eyes had adjusted to the low level of light, then found the familiar silhouette as he stood near the window, gazing up at the stars.
"Lex? Why aren't you in bed?"
The tall, lithe man turned around and smiled at his wife.
"I'm sorry, dear. I just couldn't sleep."
"What's on your mind?"
"Just business … nothing serious. I've been thinking about this organization that might need some help."
"Organization? Like a charity?"
"Yes. A charity of sorts. They and I are after a common good, and they've been having some trouble lately, so I thought I'd give them a hand."
Beth smiled and wrapped her arms around her husband.
"It's nice to hear you play such an active part in building a better society. I'm proud of you, Lex."
He placed his hand on her chin and lifted her head slightly so he could softly kiss her forehead.
"You really like it when I help out my fellow human, don't you?"
"Yes I do," Beth smiled in response, her eyes taking on a devilish gleam. "As a matter of fact, why don't I show you just how much I like it."
Lex felt his wife's grip tighten around him, and turned them around, guiding them towards the hallway.
"Yes … show me."
<Townhouse, same time>
Clark sighed contentedly and tightened his arms around his wife. He felt her weight press against him as he pushed back and forth … back and forth. The creaking of the wood floor and his wife's breathing were the only sounds he heard as he continued to rock to and fro, content to be sitting in the rocking chair in the bedroom with his wife cozily settled into his lap and pressed up against his chest.
He stared off into space, willing his mind to push away all the week's troubles and concentrate instead on the slight rise and fall of his wife's ribcage as she slowly breathed in and out, close to sleep. He felt her press into him as she took a deep breath, then move away as she released it. Right afterwards, she pushed herself up and faced her husband — a smile on her face.
"Watcha thinking, farmboy?"
Clark laughed, surprised at the endearment her wife had chosen. It had been a while since he'd heard that expression, and it hadn't exactly been a compliment at the time.
"I was just thinking of what it's going to be like to become a father."
Lois smiled lazily and leaned in to kiss her husband. Clark lost track of his movements and the chair slowly stopped rocking as he concentrated on his wife's mouth, tightening his embrace before beginning to let his hands wander over her body. He traced his fingers along her rib cage, then moved towards the front, heading for the navel — one of his favourite spots. As he started rubbing his hand on her stomach — hoping to get a nice reaction from her — he stopped, realizing what was underneath his hand.
Clark pulled back, gazing at his wife with all the love and wonder he possessed. She understood and smiled, placing her hand over his and applying a little pressure, almost as if this way they could actually feel the baby, even though it was too early.
"Do you realize how much our lives are going to change?" Clark asked, wonder in his voice as well.
Lois nodded, a smile appearing on her face as she thought of something.
"I'm not kidding, Lois. Our lives are going to be very different with this new person in our lives."
"I know." Lois nodded, looking directly into her husband's eyes to prove her sincerity. Then her look changed to mischief as yet another idea crossed her mind. "I hope *he* has your nose."
"I hope *she* has your persistence," he countered, then continued, "but not your flair for trouble."
He didn't even try to escape the playful thwap that his wife gave him.
"Just as well we bought the bigger house," Lois continued, teasing. "With all the grandparents giving mounds of presents, this baby could turn into one really spoiled child."
Clark froze as his wife's words hit him.
"Grandparents! Lois, we haven't told our parents yet!"
Lois shook her head, a stubborn look on her face.
"Uh-uh. I'm not going to tell my parents yet. With the way my mom took over the wedding preparations, there's no way I'm going to let her loose with a baby on the way. In fact, I'm going to stay away from that conversation for as long as possible.
Clark groaned his agreement, but stopped to consider something.
"What about my parents?"
Lois' expression changed as she thought of the Kents. She could only imagine how Martha and Jonathan's faces would light up when they heard the news.
"Well, I don't mind telling them. Should we give them a call tonight? Maybe make it a conference call, 'cause I'm sure they'll both want to ask us questions."
Clark pondered this option, then shook his head.
"Nah … I think we should enjoy the news a bit longer. I'll tell you what … We're going to visit them next weekend, right? Let's wait until then to tell them. Besides," Clark smiled, "I want to see their faces when I tell them the news."
Lois winked conspiratorially and leaned into her husband, eager to capture his mouth once again.
Characters in this episode are copyrighted by DC Comics, December 3rd Production and Warner Brothers. No infringement is intended in any part by the author or the Season 5 group, however, the ideas expressed within this episode are copyrighted (c) 1997 to the author.