By Lori McElhaney <LoriMcE@aol.com>
Original Air Date: March 29, 1998
Summary: What if the one person who could do the most good for the city … suddenly became its worst nightmare? Episode 16 of S5.
As the clock behind him chimed three a.m., Dr. Morpheus looked out over the city lights. Striding to the cabinet, he pulled out several medicine bottles. He shook out several pills and swallowed them angrily. Laying down on the rumpled bed, he waited for the drugs to work, inwardly seething at his continued failure to sleep.
*Early morning, Metropolis Sleep Centre — Director's Office*
"Chimera," the voice said, curtly and authoritatively. "You guaranteed results, yet all I hear are more promises. I hear your top researcher can't even help himself — not exactly a ringing endorsement."
"Mr. Luthor, wait … Dr. Morpheus has an assistant who is brilliant, eager, hungry for glory. I think he can be persuaded to continue your research. The use of dream states to modify behavior or control attitude is possible, I believe. I'll get rid of Morpheus — if you'll fund us a little longer."
"Six months," the line hissed as the connection was broken.
Mr. Chimera let out his breath in a long sigh. He had an unpleasant duty to perform. But corporate donors were getting harder to find. Especially with the deep pockets Lex Luthor provided.
*Later that morning, Metropolis Sleep Centre*
Striding through the corridor of the Metropolis Sleep Centre, Dr. Morpheus nodded to the staff as he passed by. He was acutely aware of their scrutiny of his appearance. It was the ultimate irony: the head of the sleep disorder section was a chronic insomniac himself. The redness of this eyes and haggard looks were clear signals to his colleagues of another restless night. He sat at his desk and reviewed his technician's notes on last night's sleep lab.
'YES', he thought. 'It worked. Now I've just got to adjust the equipment, and … '
The intercom buzzed. "Dr. Morpheus," the secretary's voice chimed, "Mr. Chimera would like to see you in his office right away."
"What is it Daniel? I think we've made a breakthrough last night, I need more time to review this data … "
"Doctor," Mr. Chimera interrupted formally, "I've just met with the rest of the board and I have some unpleasant news. They have chosen not to renew your contract with us. At the end of the day, I'm going to have to ask you to turn over your case files and research notes and seek employment elsewhere."
"What?" thundered Morpheus, slapping his hand on the table. "Why?"
"This is a respected institute for research, but what pays for that research are the people who come here for treatment. I'm sorry, your physical condition conflicts with your work here. How can we market successful treatment when one of our directors, no less, has been unsuccessful in treatment himself?"
"No treatment is 100%, and my new line of research has shown promise … "
"Not again, Morpheus — sleep rays?" Mr. Chimera snapped impatiently. "We need facts here, not science fiction. And I am well aware that every case is different, and that there are no guarantees. This is not about any of that, although continuing that line of research against the Board's advice did not help your case any. This is about money and the public's perception of us. There are other places, other cities they could choose — but they come here because they think we're the best. We can't have any perceived weakness. This decision is final."
"Is this about those special projects you were trying to get me interested in? What have you gotten into, that you can let an outsider make research decisions?"
"That's really none of your concern." Mr. Chimera's voice was cold and distant. "Sometimes funding comes with certain expectations. That's true anywhere. But, the decisions about your tenure here were made by the Board and myself. Good-bye, Dr. Morpheus."
*Midnight. Dr. Morpheus' private laboratory*
Later that evening, Dr. Morpheus was determined to continue his work despite the earlier confrontation with Mr. Chimera. Electronic equipment filled the room. Boxes overflowed with tools and circuit boards. A small television, set to the all-news channel, droned in the corner. Looking over the machine in the middle of the room, he adjusted several settings. He talked aloud as he worked, "Science fiction, he says. No one wants to take chances. Wait until I show them. They'll regret letting me go." He rummaged through a box filled with electronic parts. "The last patients in the sleep lab reported, long happy dreams. The data logs showed that even after the ray was turned off, REM sleep was extended by more than two hours. With this new power source, I should be able to extend the range to cover the city. After the city has a few nights of nightmares, they'll see it's not science fiction." Morpheus paced, thinking furiously. "All I need now is an image for the people to focus on. The lab tests showed the ray worked best when the subject had something to build their dream on. I just have to encode the image in the beam, and … " As he mulled over the problem, an LNN news report interrupted him.
"Superman," the reporter asked, "How do you manage to help so many people?"
"Well, I try to help as much as I can. I guess it's a good thing I don't need a lot of sleep." Superman smiled.
"Lucky you," Dr. Morpheus sneered. A stillness came over his face, as he considered the screen. "Everyone knows Superman — he'll make the perfect focal point for my little demonstration. You may find your 'help' a little less welcome this week, Superman."
*Lois and Clark's home, 348 Hyperion Ave*
Lois woke up as Clark slipped into bed beside her. Stretching sleepily, she snuggled into Clark's embrace as they lay spooned against each other in the bed.
"Everything ok, Clark?"
Clark nodded as he held her close to him, her presence always comforting to him after a long night patrolling.
"I had the best dream," Lois murmured sleepily, turning in his arms to look in his dark eyes. She reached up and smoothed his hair back from his forehead.
"Was I in your dream?" Clark asked, nuzzling her neck.
Lois smiled, entwining her legs with his as she replied against his lips, "You're always in my 'best' dreams, Clark."
*Meanwhile back at Dr. Morpheus' lab*
Morpheus took one last look at the settings of the machine. Taking a deep breath, he flipped the switch. "Sweet dreams, Metropolis, Mr. Sandman is on his way … "
*Back at Lois and Clark's home*
Lois dreamed …
She was flying … Superman was cradling her in his arms … the day was beautiful, bright and sunny with a warm breeze. Superman smiled down at her and suddenly everything changed …
It was dark with an ominous thunder in the distance and she was falling. She screamed for help and suddenly Superman was there, but just as he reached her he stopped and watched her fall …
Lois jolted awake with a start, and found her staring into Clark's worried eyes. "Lois, are you okay?"
Lois said, "I had a nightmare, Clark. I'm fine. It was just a dream." She glanced over at the clock. "It's two a.m., let's get some sleep."
"Honey, wake up," Clark cajoled.
Lois opened her eyes a slit, and saw Clark sitting on the side of the bed holding her coffee. 'Decaffeinated, of course,' she thought grumpily. 'This morning I could have really used the caffeine.'
"Are you sure you want to go in this morning? I know you were up a lot last night."
"I'm fine Clark, just give me a minute. Maybe if I pretend there's caffeine in here."
"I've been reading, Lois. Lots of women -"
"Not again, Clark," Lois replied exasperatedly. "I thought we agreed. No more books!" She noted the title in his hand: "You're Pregnant & Your Dreams Are Driving You Crazy." "It was only one little nightmare -"
"Two nightmares, Lois." He reached out to hold her hand, his eyes concerned. "Please tell me about them. This book says most pregnant women have intense and strange dreams. It helps to talk about them. It's just one way of adjusting … "
"Clark, put the book away in your 'library' and let's go. Perry wants that rewrite finished first thing this morning."
Clark sighed and put the book down with the other pregnancy books he'd purchased. He looked guiltily at the piles of books in the bookcase Lois was calling his "library." He promised himself right then that she'd never see the ones he was keeping in the treehouse at the farm. Or the printouts from the Internet that he had in a file at work.
Lois and Clark arrived at the Daily Planet, settling into their usual early morning routine. Jimmy stopped by Lois' desk, sighing. "Man, what a night - I kept having the craziest dreams."
"What kind of dreams, Jimmy?" Lois asked, her attention on the computer screen. She continued to type, her brow furrowing in concentration.
"Nightmares, weird ones. I'm just about to take this picture of this fire - and I'm balancing on this balcony to get 'the' perfect shot. Superman shows up, and I'm shooting pictures and he sees me. Great, huh? I get the picture, and the scoop from Superman. But get this, he flies up to me and pushes me off the balcony! So then I get back to sleep, but I have another one. Superman is in it again, and he's just letting people die. I'm trying to help, but I can't. I've never gotten so much sleep, but felt so tired in my life either."
Lois closed the file she was working on, all her reporter's instincts on alert. "That's strange, Jimmy. I had some dreams about Superman myself last night … "
"Dreaming about Superman, Lois? Hoo- boy, Better not let CK hear about those dreams!" Jimmy joked.
"Jimmy!" Despite her growing feeling of concern, Lois smiled.
Clark approached Lois' desk with a look on his face that she had come to know as 'trouble'. "Hey, Jimmy, what's up?"
He absently listened to Jimmy's response while whispering in Lois' ear, "We need to talk."
"Jimmy!" Perry bellowed from his office.
"Gotta go. Later CK." Jimmy ran off to Perry's office.
Lois followed Clark into the conference room. "It's not just Jimmy, Lois. He's about the fifth person I've talked to this morning that has had a bad dream about Superman. Was Superman in your dream, too?"
Lois nodded and noted the pain that appeared in Clark's eyes. "Yes, we were flying, and then I was falling, and you didn't catch me. Clark, you know that there's got to be something behind this — let's talk to Perry and see what we can dig up."
"Lois, wait. I've got to —" Clark did the hand-motion he and Lois used for his flying. "You talk to Perry, and let's see if Jimmy can find out anything useful."
Superman flew over the city, zeroing in on the frantic screams of a mother. "Help, someone! My daughter's still in there!" Superman landed at the scene of an apartment fire. "I'll find her, don't worry."
Superman found the little girl cowering in the corner of her smoky bedroom. "Don't be afraid, I'll help you." He started to wrap his cape around her when she screamed "No, you're a bad man!" and tried to run away. Caught off guard, she slipped by him through the doorway. Just then, the ceiling caved in; although he reached her in time, some debris hit her. He took her outside to the waiting paramedics, and noting the fire was under control left, feeling shaken.
*Later that afternoon, Daily Planet*
Perry, Lois, Jimmy and Clark sat around the conference room table discussing possible ways to approach the story.
"Okay, people tell me what you've got so far … "
Noting the dark circles under the Chief's eyes, Lois didn't have to ask about his dreams last night. Tapping her pencil impatiently on the table, she replied, "Right now, not much — just a cluster of people who all had nightmares last night. I called the hospitals — calls to the Suicide Hotline were up 10% last night." She flipped through her notes, scanning them quickly. "The phenomenon seems to be centered around Metropolis; I checked with my contacts in other cities, and there haven't been any reports."
Perry turned to Clark, "Clark, can you contact Superman? It seems he was at the center of most of the nightmares. We ought to get some comment from him."
"I talked to him this morning and he has no idea what could be causing it. But he's concerned, a little girl almost died this morning because she was afraid of him and tried to run away during a rescue in an apartment fire this morning." Lois reached under the table and squeezed Clark's hand.
"Okay, we can run the apartment fire story as a sidebar to this one. I remember seeing some sleep doctor on T.V. lately? Jimmy?"
"Yeah, a Dr. Morpheus was on Metropolis Today a couple of weeks ago. They were doing a show about dreams and sleep therapies. He's a researcher at the Metropolis Sleep Centre."
Perry picked up his notes. "Lois, Clark, get over to this sleep center and see if you can get some background about what could cause this type of problem. Jimmy, check the 'Net and see what you can dig up on dreams and nightmares."
Jimmy spoke up, "How about we start a hotline for people to call about their dreams? Maybe we can get a lead that way."
"Good idea, Jimmy," Perry said. "Why don't you set that up?" Perry paused on his way out of the conference room, "You can also write the piece telling the public about it. We'll run it boxed on the front page, next edition."
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Perry asked. "I'm on it, Chief!" Jimmy hurried from the room.
*Metropolis Sleep Centre*
Lois and Clark waited for Mr. Chimera in his office. " Clark, I can't believe that woman stopped me on the street." Shifting impatiently in her chair, she continued. "It's like once a woman's pregnant, everyone thinks they can pat her stomach and give her advice. I was just stretching, Clark, and she tells me if I reach above my head for any reason, the baby could become tangled in the umbilical cord. I can't believe people believe that kind of folktale, much less pass it along." Her voice rose with irritation.
Clark grinned. "You didn't mind the one that said you're having a boy since you look so beautiful, because girls steal their mother's looks."
"Clark, you know what I mean, even Mother's been sending me clippings in the mail."
Clark just smiled. He stood up and looked at the awards and certificates that lined the walls of the office. "Did Jimmy have any information about this place?"
"Actually, this is one of the premiere sleep clinics in the country. They have people from all over come here for treatment. Mr. Chimera is the clinic director. Maybe he can give us some insight into these dreams."
The door opened and Mr. Chimera walked in. "Lois Lane and Clark Kent, it's a pleasure to meet you. Please sit down, how can I help you?"
"Thank you for seeing us, Mr. Chimera," Clark replied shaking his hand. "We wanted to talk to you about a story we're researching. Are you aware that a large portion of Metropolis experienced nightmares last night?"
"We've had some reports, yes. But I'm not aware of anything that could cause a large population to do this. Perhaps the experience was not as widespread as you think. Most people don't remember much of their dreams, and they may be feeding off each other's experiences."
"Well, what makes these dreams unusual," Lois interrupted, "is that in everyone we've talked to, Superman has been at the center of the dream. And in these dreams, he's not a force for good, but the instigator of death or evil."
"That is unusual, but I'm afraid I can't help you further. I'm an administrator here, not a doctor. Perhaps one of our researchers can give you some insights. I'll get my secretary to page one of them for you."
"Thank you, Mr. Chimera," Lois replied. "There was a Dr. Morpheus —"
"Dr. Morpheus is no longer employed with us," Mr. Chimera replied smoothly. "But we have many other respected researchers here, Ms Lane. If you'll wait here, I'm sure one of them can assist you."
*Outside Metropolis Sleep Centre*
Clark looked through Lois' notes. "We've got a lot of interesting stuff in here. I never knew so many people's health was threatened by sleep disorders. But nothing in here gets us any closer to what happened last night."
Lois yawned and rubbed the back of her neck tiredly. "That Mr. Chimera's hiding something. Did you see his face when I mentioned Dr. Morpheus? I think there's more to this place than warm milk and counting sheep."
"You ought to go home and get some rest, I can coordinate with Jimmy and Perry this afternoon. I promise I'll come and get you if something breaks."
"I'm fine, Clark, let's keep digging. We ought to try to get in touch with this Dr. Morpheus. If he no longer works there, maybe he can tell us more about the place."
Lois and Clark made their way through the busy newsroom to their desks.
Lois waved at Jimmy to get his attention. "Jimmy, I don't think Mr. Chimera was completely honest with us. Maybe this thing is an experiment that got out of control. I want to know who's paying for their research. Do you think you can get a list of major donors for the past year? "
"Sure thing, Lois," Jimmy yawned, and turned to walk away.
"Wait, Jimmy," Clark stopped him from going. "Are you still interested in doing some investigating? We might need you to really help us out on this one. Since they know Lois and I at the clinic, we could need you to pose as a possible patient and nose around a little. How about it?"
"Are you kidding? You can count on me! I'll get on that research right away!" Jimmy bounded across the newsroom, stopping only for a 'Yes!' gesture.
Lois grinned at Clark. "Well, THAT woke him up."
Perry stopped at Lois' desk, a clipboard in his hand. "Did you find anything out at the Sleep Centre?"
Clark shook his head. "We've got some information, but no really solid leads yet, Perry."
"Okay, get the stories about the nightmares, and apartment fire on my desk. Maybe that hotline idea of Jimmy's will turn up something."
Clark turned to Lois. "Let's split this up. How about I take the apartment fire, then I'll check with Dr. Klein and see if he has any ideas."
"All right, Clark. After I finish the story on the nightmares, I'll see if I can get a line on Dr. Morpheus. If I can get an interview with him, I can insert it into the story for the late edition. I just hope there's not another anti-Superman group funding some research."
"Okay, Lois, just don't try to sneak out without me," Clark warned.
"Me, sneak?" Lois said in her best 'who, me?' voice. "Besides, like anyone could sneak past you. I don't envy this child, she won't be able to sneak out to meet boys with you around."
"She?" Clark asked.
"Until you tell me otherwise, 'Mr. I Won't Peek' -"
"Lois, the doctor couldn't tell on the ultrasound; let's just leave it at that. It's like Christmas, the anticipation is half the fun."
"I can't believe you're so relaxed — wait a minute, you haven't peeked without telling me have you?"
"No." Clark reached out, smoothing her hair behind her ear. "Let's get this done so we can go home. You've got to get some sleep after last night."
"Boy scout," Lois murmured under her breath. "And just so you know — I noticed you changed the subject. This discussion isn't over, Clark."
*Later that afternoon — Still at the Daily Planet*
Clark rolled his chair up to Lois' desk. "Perry okayed the stories. Did you get a line on Dr. Morpheus?"
"Not really," Lois said in frustration. "Dr. Morpheus' phone number has been disconnected. I've got an address, we could check it out on the way home."
"Sounds like a plan, let's go. Dr. Klein didn't have anything. He doesn't know of any hallucinogen that could cause everyone to see the same illusion." They were almost to the elevator when Jimmy stopped them.
"Lois, C.K. — wait — I think I've got something on the Sleep Centre. One of the major corporate donors this year is Lex Luthor."
"Great work, Jimmy. This time we're going to find something to nail him with." Lois's voice was filled with determination.
*Dr. Morpheus' Apartment Complex*
Lois pulled the car into the apartment parking lot. "I would have expected an important doctor to live in better surroundings," Lois said, looking around at the ramshackle complex. They walked up to the doctor's apartment, knocking on the door. Looking around quickly, Lois whispered, "Clark, check inside."
Lowering his glasses slightly, Clark focused on the apartment. "It's empty," he said.
"Stand in front of me, Clark, so no one can see me. Locks in this place should be a snap."
"Lois! We can't just … "
"Got it!" Lois whispered excitedly. "Come on, Clark, we'll just take a quick look around."
"We don't even know this man is involved with anything, Lois." Clark said as he followed Lois inside.
"Clark, why has he disappeared if he's not involved? We'll be careful, he'll never know we were here."
Except for the bare essentials, the apartment was devoid of any personality. There were no pictures on the walls, no books in the bookshelves. "Lois, look at this," Clark called from the bathroom. He held a medicine bottle in his hand. "The medicine cabinet is full of these things. A few of the drug names I recognize from our interview this morning. They are all sleep aids given to people fighting insomnia. It looks like Dr. Morpheus needed help himself."
"It still doesn't give us any clues to the nightmares last night, Clark. First thing tomorrow, we work on the Lex connection. I know he's involved somehow."
*Later that evening*
Superman was out, patrolling the city when he heard Lois cry out "No!!!"
Racing back to the townhouse, he was relieved to see her thrashing about still asleep. "Not again," he thought, as he reached out to comfort her.
"Lois, wake up honey."
She blinked, her eyes trying to focus on him, her breathing erratic. She shrank away from his touch and he flinched. "Honey, it's me Clark, it's okay, you had another nightmare."
She relaxed and sagged into his arms. "Oh, Clark, I'm sorry, it was just so real. I … Stay with me, please, Clark."
Clark eased Lois back on the pillows and spun out of the Suit. Metropolis could survive the night without him. He slid under the covers and gathered Lois into his arms again. He felt helpless against this new threat to their happiness. "I've got to keep them safe," he thought, unconsciously caressing Lois' rounded stomach.
Lois walked into the kitchen and Clark jumped guiltily. "I'll call you back in a minute, Mom."
"What are you up to, Clark?", Lois asked warily.
"I .. I was just talking to Mom, Lois. Why would you think I was up to something?" Clark replied defensively.
"Clark, you look like a child trying to hide a cookie behind his back. What's going on?"
"I think you should go to stay with Mom and Dad, until this situation is settled. You need your rest. Babies dream too; how is all this affecting the baby? This isn't something I can protect you from here."
"So you just decided, without even talking to me, to ship me off to your parent's house? You really need to work on this partner angle, buddy!" Lois paced around the kitchen waving her arms. "You don't think I understand I need to be careful? Can't we ever discuss things together first, before you rush off trying to fix it?"
"What's to discuss, Lois? Just how much sleep did you get last night? How many times did you wake up, sweating, heart racing? I can't just stand by and watch you suffer without trying to do something!"
Seeing the almost desperate look in his eyes, Lois tried to calm down. Taking a deep breath, she said in a more normal voice, "Let's see what we can find out today, Clark. If this continues, I'll consider going to the farm, okay?"
"I'm sorry, Lois. He reached out to hold her close to him. "I just can't seem to help myself, sometimes. All of my life I've dreamed of this: a normal life, a wife, a child. I never thought I'd have it. Every time I start to relax and enjoy it, something happens to threaten to take it all away. Lois, if anything ever happened to you, to our child … "
Lois gave Clark a hug. "I'm fine, Clark. After this baby is born, we'll probably consider last night a full night's sleep. Let's get to work, we're going to solve this."
They made their way to their desks through a subdued newsroom. The ususal chatter and activity were missing. The most active part of the room seemed to be the area around the coffeepot, as bleary-eyed reporters tried to wake up for the day's work.
Clark picked up his phone. "I'll check with STAR Labs again, Lois. Why don't you see if Jimmy found out anything more on the Lex connection?"
Lois sat at her desk. She sipped her coffee, turned on her computer monitor. Picking up a pencil, she absently doodled on her notepad. Coming to a decision, she checked her Rolodex and dialed the phone. Trying to hide the nervousness in her voice, she spoke into the receiver. "I'd like to speak with Lex Luthor, please. Lois Lane, Daily Planet."
Almost instantly, Clark was at her desk. "What are you doing?"
"Investigating, Clark — that's what investigative reporters do, remember? I thought we'd get an interview, nose around a little. We can't just sit here and hope the story comes to us."
She sat up a little straighter, as the smooth voice came over the phone, "Luthor here."
"Lex, Clark and I are investigating the recent rash of nightmares in Metropolis. One of the things that we noticed is that you are a big donor to the Metropolis Sleep Centre."
"They do good work there, Lois. After my captivity I often had trouble sleeping; some of their techniques helped me. I can't see how they'd have anything to do with this. They *help* people sleep, not the other way around." Lex, paused, heaving an audible, and impatient, sigh. "And I'm tired of your insinuations that I'm a threat to Metropolis, Lois. If that's all, I'm very busy here."
Lex hung up the phone with a thoughtful expression. Immediately he regretted snapping at Lois. "These last few sleepless nights have affected me too," he thought. He picked up the phone again and dialed a number. "Mr. Chimera, please." He listened to the annoying 'on hold music' while he waited.
"Chimera, have you found him yet? Lane and Kent are nosing around. Be careful, but find him. Together, we can save Metropolis from this madman. The publicity for the Centre would be a side benefit, of course. Were any of his notes left at the clinic? Keep me informed. Lex rubbed his temples tiredly as he hung up the phone. "This could be the key to Superman's downfall," he muttered to himself. "If he can modify the machine to do this to a city, then it can be used to control minds." Pouring himself a stiff drink he lifted his glass in toasting gesture.
Picking up the receiver again, he punched in a number. "General Moreland, please. Lex Luthor calling. General, I wanted to talk to you about this Superman problem … Yes, I know you still consider him a threat … Well, of course I understand … Do you think any of these nightmares are a leftover from the Lord Nor problem? … They all did leave didn't they? … The military saved the day that time, I understand … I'm sure you keep an eye on Superman, correct? … I think that may be wise … Good day general. I'm glad you're keeping an eye on a potentially dangerous situation."
Clark pushed his notepad across the table in frustration. "STAR Labs seems to think that something is causing a change in brain chemistry, but they're no closer to how, or why. There's still a lot we don't know about the brain and dreams. But if this continues, it could be dangerous. When people don't get enough of REM sleep, they become more irritable, they lose the ability to perform complicated tasks, coordination suffers. The city could be in real trouble."
"We've got to find this Dr. Morpheus, I just know he's involved somehow," Lois replied. "Jimmy managed to get a patient list from some of his sleep studies. We could interview some of them and see if there's a connection."
"In the meantime, why don't you go home and try to take a nap, Lois. I'll do the interviews and then we can see what we've got."
"C - l - a - r - k," Lois said warningly. "Look, I've got a compromise. You can fly me to your parents to sleep tonight. BUT, then you have to come and get me in the morning. That way, I'll sleep — but we still work on this TOGETHER. No arguments -"
Clark's eyes brightened with relief. He hadn't looked forward to another discussion like this morning. "No arguments, Lois. I'll call Mom and tell her we're coming."
*Kent Farm, that evening*
Clark and Jonathan closed the barn for the evening. "You haven't said much tonight, son."
Clark sighed and stared unseeing up at the night sky. "It's so hard, Dad," he said, his voice cracking a little. "It used to be a little embarrassing, the way people looked at Superman. But now, it's … "
Jonathan waited for Clark to gather his thoughts. "You could stay here tonight, too, Clark. Get a good night's sleep, instead of rushing off half the night."
"You don't know how tempting that is, Dad. The other night Lois had a nightmare. For a split second when she woke up … she had that same fear in her eyes." Clark took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "But, I'd just be running away, and you taught me that running away never solved anything. Maybe I can find something that will stop this."
"You and Lois will find a way to fight this, Clark. The people of Metropolis don't want to feel this way about you. Once this is over, I'm sure everything will be all right."
"I don't know, Dad. Nightmares touch people pretty deep. I told you about that anti-Superman group, and … " He paused, lowering his voice. "Don't tell Lois about this, Dad, but I think the military is following me around again. I've noticed several of the same people at rescues; I remember them from the military guard when Nor was here."
"You don't think they're behind this do you?" Jonathan asked.
"No. But after learning about their weapons development, I'm sure they'd love to know how this is happening." Clark said bitterly. "I'd better get back to Metropolis."
Jonathan put his hand on Clark's shoulder. "See you in the morning, son. Remember your mother and I are always here for you."
Going back to the house, Clark saw Lois waiting on the porch. "I'd better get back to Metropolis, Lois." He spun into the Suit. Reaching up, she drew him down to her for a long kiss. "I love you." Clark stepped back, caressed her cheek and took off into the sky.
Lois remained on the porch watching the sky after Clark left.
"Thank you for doing this for him, Lois." Martha Kent stood in the doorway. "He just wants to keep you both safe, but I know how hard it was for you to leave."
"He's got enough to worry about right now. Tensions are beginning to run high with Superman. He doesn't know how to handle the resentment people are feeling. Several groups have canceled appearances by Superman. He might not be suffering the nightmares like everyone else, but he's hurting, too. I wish I knew how to stop this."
"You'll find a way, Lois. Come on inside, I've got a few chocolate chunk cookies I've been hiding from Jonathan waiting for you."
*5 Days later*
Over the next few days, the pattern remained the same. Night came and, with it, nightmares. Beds were no longer looked upon as places of cool, quiet calm, but rather as a place of dread and anxiety. Tempers flared, patience wore thin, babies cried. Metropolis had become a place of worry and fear. Gang wars escalated, traffic and workplace accidents skyrocketed as exhaustion eroded coordination. And at the center, Superman — revered as he raced from rescue to rescue — reviled as the focus of their nightmares.
Clark flew away from his latest rescue, the obscenities the man shouted ringing in his ears. With a burst of speed he hurled himself across the sky. But he couldn't put distance between him and the hurt each rescue brought him.
Arriving back at home, he looked for Lois. It was time to take her to the farm, his parents were expecting them for dinner.
Lois was watching LNN showing coverage of his last rescue with tears running down her face. Even the commentator had a tinge of hostility in his voice when reporting about Superman. Turning off the TV, she held out her arms. "Come here," she said. He sank into her arms, shoulders shaking with the sobs he couldn't hold back any longer.
*Dr. Morpheus' Lab*
Tiredly, Dr. Morpheus picked up a cell phone from his bag. Dialing a familiar number, he waited for the phone to be answered.
Mr. Chimera picked up the phone with a curt "Yes?"
"How does it feel, Daniel?" Dr. Morpheus asked. "How does it feel to try and function on less and less sleep? Do your eyes feel like sandpaper? Do even small tasks seem difficult?"
"It's Jacob, now is it? Where was our friendship last week when you dismissed me?"
"Have you been causing this havoc? You actually got that invention to work? Come and see me and I'm sure we can work something out."
"No, Daniel, you just want to exploit this for that special project of yours. You still don't get it. I guess you never will. I'm turning the machine off, everything's over." He wearily hung up the phone.
Another siren blared in the distance, and Dr. Morpheus walked over to the window. He heard voices arguing angrily in the street and his shoulders slumped. "What have I done?" Leaning against the window frame, he seemed to shrink within himself. He walked to the machine in the center of the room and reaching out with a shaking hand turned it off. It just didn't seem to matter anymore, any of it. Although he could modify the instrument back to its original design, he'd come to realize over the past week the awful potential of his invention. He'd had blinders on before, just wanting a semblance of a normal life. And it had seemed within his grasp when his funding and career were yanked away from him. He didn't feel he could trust anyone, not even Daniel, not to exploit this.
Perry said, "Let's get this meeting started, people — where's Clark?"
Clark ran into the conference room, adjusting his tie. "Sorry Chief — my ehh … appointment ran late. "
Lois said, "When Jimmy posed as a potential patient, he was able to find some patient lists for us. We interviewed the patients in Dr. Morpheus' last sleep treatment. They were receiving an experimental treatment that was to try to extend REM sleep. They each were told to focus on an image they found peaceful: a child, a beach. He had some kind of instrument that he told them would keep them in REM sleep longer. These researchers were looking for a nonchemical way to treat depression. Studies have shown that the longer people are in REM sleep the more likely they to wake up feeling positive and upbeat."
"All of these people told of their dreams being more vivid and real," Clark continued. "I don't know how he did it, but I think he's modified the instrument to actually change people's dreams. But I can't figure out why. There's been no demand for anything. Superman says he's never met this Morpheus, so why Superman is figuring in everyone's dreams is still a mystery."
"Unless … " Lois thought out loud.
"Unless what?" asked Jimmy.
"Well, the patients said that this was the third trial. Until he gave them an image to focus on while falling asleep, they didn't feel as rested. Superman's known to everyone in Metropolis. If he could transmit a suggestion with this machine … "
"Well, if that's true, than this is worse than we thought," said Clark. "If he can do that, then this thing could actually be used to control people's thoughts. Who could stop you, if you can attack people in their dreams? We've got to find this guy. If someone truly evil got their hands on this machine, the problems we've got now will seem like nothing."
"Yes!" Jimmy exclaimed from the end of the table. "It works!"
"What is it Jimmy?"
"I think I've got something here," Jimmy offered. He turned his laptop to face Lois and Clark. "Ever since this started, the Daily Planet has been running a hotline for people to tell about their dreams, right? I've been working on a program to try to find a pattern. Well, one of the questions people have to answer when they call is what part of Metropolis they're calling from. This map shows Metropolis; the dots are where people called from."
Lois interrupted, "That's citywide, Jimmy."
"Wait, Lois. Now this is the number of nightmares they had each night. Black is five or more, down to white for one. See the pattern? The frequency of the nightmares declines in concentric circles around this area. It's got to be where the machine is."
"Great work, Jimmy," Clark exclaimed.
"Perry?" At Perry's nod, Lois said excitedly, "We're on it, Chief. Let's go, Clark." She was out the door in record time, with Clark following close behind.
"Good work, son." Perry slapped Jimmy on the shoulder. "Okay, people, let's get ready for a front page scoop!"
*A Metropolis City Street*
Lois stopped the car and Clark opened the door. "Wait, Lois." He cocked his head to the side, listening. "It sounds bad." He sighed. "I've got to check it out. Stay here." With a quick look around he spun into the Suit and took off into the sky.
Lois waited impatiently, scanning the skies to see if Clark was returning. Finally, she got out of the car and looked at the warehouse building surrounding them. Thinking to herself, 'He'd have to be high up, otherwise there would probably be interference with the beam. He'd have to have access to some high voltage to give it the power to broadcast city wide …' She looked over the buildings and noticed one building that stood out over the rest. "I'll just take a quick look and check it out."
Waking around the building, she noticed a side door slightly ajar. Peering inside, the building looked deserted, the only sounds coming from the street outside. Stepping inside the building, she picked her way over dust-covered boxes and equipment until she noticed one area that was different. This area had obviously been disturbed recently, with trails in the dust indicating something had been dragged along the hallway.
Opening a door, she found a room lined with electronic equipment. One large machine dominated the center of the room, with power cables snaking out of it on all sides. The room appeared empty, and she approached the machine cautiously.
"Not much to look at, is it?" a man said quietly from the doorway of an adjoining room.
Lois took a few quick steps backward in surprise.
"Don't worry," the man slurred his words. "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm Dr. Morpheus, and this is my creation. My salvation … and my undoing."
Sparing a quick look outside the window, she took a deep breath, saying, "I'm Lois Lane for the Daily Planet. Tell me why you've done this." She took a few steps closer to Dr. Morpheus.
He held up a hand to stop her. "I just wanted people to understand … to show some compassion … Feel how it is for people like me … You have a cold … you get sympathy … You have a fever, people tell you to take it easy … but you can't sleep? People tell you to drink coffee and get back to work … This machine was going to be my cure. But it's too late for that now. Now that *they've* seen what it can do."
Lois broke in excitedly, "Who are they? Tell me and we can stop them."
Obviously having trouble concentrating, Morpheus spoke disjointedly. "Special projects section … why not take the money? … just a means to an end … Daniel said … " Pushing himself away from the door, he took a determined step toward the machine. "There is only one way to stop them. I've burned my notes, and I must destroy the machine. And what's in here … ," patting his head," … will be gone soon."
Lois rushed forward as he slumped to the floor. He grabbed her hand. "Promise me you'll destroy it, Ms Lane … please." His head lolled to one side, as he slipped into unconsciousness.
Just then there was a whoosh of wind and Superman arrived through the window. "Lois," he began.
"Clark, I think he's taken an overdose of pills. We've got to get him to a hospital." As Superman picked the doctor up to carry him, Lois placed her hand on his arm. "I promised him I'd destroy the machine." When Clark hesitated, she said quietly, "He knew that there were people out there waiting to misuse it. He was willing to die for that." Clark nodded and focusing his heat vision on the machine, melted it.
"Maybe he kept a diary or something," Clark suggested. "I'll be right back." Shifting Morpheus in his arms, he flew off toward the hospital.
Returning a short time later, Clark landed in the alley behind the building. Seeing no one around he spun out of the Suit and joined Lois in Morpheus' lab.
"Find anything useful?" He tried to keep the irritation out of his voice, but didn't quite succeed.
"I don't think so, but most of these notes don't make sense to me. Maybe STAR Labs can tell us more. He said he burned his notes on his invention. How is Dr. Morpheus?" Lois didn't miss the strain in Clark's voice.
"They were working on him when I left, we can call the hospital later." He couldn't hold back any longer. "Lois why didn't you wait for me? Traipsing around an abandoned building, confronting a possible madman by yourself; is this how you define partnership? Being 'careful'? What if things had gone wrong, and I hadn't been able to get here in time? Just because everything worked out fine this time doesn't make it okay."
"Maybe I should have waited for you, Clark," Lois replied defensively. "In fact, I did wait for a while. I *am* more cautious because of the baby. But this is who I am. I can't just sit on the sidelines. This is who you fell in love with, Clark, remember?"
As Lois spoke, Clark felt most of his anger draining away. "When I flew back to the car and saw you were gone, I was so worried, Lois … "
"We'll work it out, Clark. Both of us, together. She held out her hand. Partner?"
Clark reached out to take her hand. "Forever."
METROPOLIS SLEEPS screamed the headline from the afternoon edition of the Daily Planet. "Good work, everyone." Perry proclaimed. "Now get out of here so we can do it again tomorrow."
Clark turned off his computer, and shrugged into his suitcoat, preparing to leave after their long day. "Wait, Clark," Lois said. "I just want to check with the hospital about Dr. Morpheus before we leave. You know, he wasn't really evil; he just wanted some compassion and understanding." She spoke into the phone. "Admitting, please."
Her eyes were troubled when she hung up the phone. "They say that he's in a deep coma and they don't hold out much hope for recovery. They are going to monitor him there for a time, but if he doesn't improve, he'll be moved to the Happy Hollow Rest Home, the Sleep Centre is taking care of it."
"I just feel Lex is involved in this somehow." Lois pushed back her chair and stood up to leave. "And we don't have any proof — again."
Clark put a comforting arm around Lois, saying, "Let's go home. Time for some sweet dreams."
*Happy Hollow Rest Home, Administrator's Office*
Voices drifted out of the office into the hall … "Yes, sir — we'll do our best. If the information's there we'll get it … "
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) 1998 to the author.