By Craig Byrne (CraigByrne@aol.com) and Matt Combes (TheNando@aol.com)
Summary: Lois and Clark travel to Gotham City to cover the story of a new supercomputer invented by Waynetech that will eliminate the Year 2K problem. Along the way they encounter Intergang — and a few bats. (Episode # 16 of The Unaired Fifth Season)
The Daily Planet is one of the oldest newspapers in the United States. Founded in 1775, the Planet based its beliefs on high standards of journalism, to spread truth across the country.
The Planet had several sites over its 223-year history, the most recent building standing at the corner of Siegel and Metropolis boulevards. The building stood at ten stories, and inside were advertising departments, printing presses, and newsrooms. A particular newsroom was full of hustle and bustle on this day.
Reporters came in and out, and ran across the room, preparing for their next articles and getting everything in before deadline for the next day's paper. Perry White, the editor of the Planet, was very strict about deadlines, and had left stern orders that everything had to be in especially early, because the paper's reinstated owner, Franklin Stern, was coming downstairs later on for his quarterly progress review.
Amid the panic, two reporters seemed to be fine with all of it. One was a well-built gentleman wearing wire-rimmed glasses, and his partner was a slightly-growing-with-pregnancy yet still beautiful, daring reporter who was snacking on peanut brittle.
"What are you two standing around for?" Perry approached calmly. "Don't you know Mr. Stern's gonna be down here in twenty minutes?"
"We know, Chief," Clark said. "The story is already with Marcia in copy editing. Actually, chances are that it's already on your desk; we turned it in two hours ago."
"Are you sure we're talkin' about the same story? The whole thing on former Mayor Berkowitz's skiing accident? I mean, that had to have taken longer than that, with the interviews, and talking to his ex-wife… you sure you put enough time into this?" Perry inquired. How Lois and Clark could pull together an article in that time amazed him.
"Aww, okay. Carry on," Perry said, bewildered. "Wait a second—you know, actually, since I've got your attention…"
"Yes, Chief?" Lois inquired.
"How would the two of you like to make a little vacation, to attend a conference?" Perry asked.
"Well, actually Chief, we'd love to, but we just got through with that whole Trickster thing, and we recently got back from L.A., Lois is pregnant, and we're still a little tired, and—" Clark began before being interrupted by a "Clark!" in Lois's direction.
"Sure we'd like to go," Lois answered.
Clark looked over at her. "We would?" After the trip to Los Angeles, Clark didn't think leaving Metropolis again so soon would be such a good idea.
"Yes, we would. So where are we going Perry? Gateway City? Coast City? San Diego?" Lois babbled, before nibbling on more peanut brittle.
"Actually, ah… you two have been invited to the unveiling of Waynetech's new supercomputer in Gotham City. Not only is it working at twice the speed and sending Bill Gates rolling, but it also has functions that take care of the year-2000 problem everyone's worried about. I'm hoping the two of you can secure the Planet with an exclusive interview with Waynetech's owner and founder, Bruce Wayne. I'd ask Jimmy to come with you, but the poor kid is sick with the flu. So are you in, or am I gonna have to send Causer and Rogers out there?"
"Gotham?!? Gotham *City*? You have to admit Chief, Gotham is kind of, I dunno, weird…" Lois began, before chewing some more.
"Maybe. But don't you worry," Perry said. "We've got you two set up at the Gotham Nights hotel, in the *safest* area of town. I wouldn't worry so much, after all, the amount of times you two have been saved by Superman, maybe the Batman'll be watching over you as well."
"The *Batman*? Please," Lois said skeptically. "Urban legend, nothing more."
"Yeah, if he's such an urban legend, how do you explain the Flash?" Clark pointed out to Lois.
"Well, Clark, it's easy. Everyone knew about the Flash in Central City. We *saw* the Flash. Has anyone published an actual picture of the Batman? No. The criminals that have been 'stopped' by him? Lunatics. Which is why most of them are stuck in Arkansas Asylum for a VERY long time," Lois stated.
"*Arkham*. Arkham Asylum," Clark corrected.
"Same difference, they're there and we're here. But there's no such thing as Batman, not going to fool me," Lois argued.
The elevator bell chimed. Franklin Stern had arrived with the executive staff of the Planet to look things over. Lois threw her peanut brittle in her top drawer and ran her fingers through her hair to make sure she looked her absolute best.
Several hundred miles away, in a sub-basement underneath a Costmart store in Gotham City, Mindy Church sat in a very large chair. She turned around to reveal a knockout figure, legs to die for, long, blonde hair, a Marilyn Monroe-esque pout and a cigar. In front of her was a meek man, about 5-foot-4 with thick glasses. Not one to impress crowds, but definitely a man with a vast amount of knowledge.
"I have a kind of an idea, Mr. Edwards," Mindy said, going with her "dumb" act. "Since my people set up a store here in Gotham City, we haven't gotten into much of the action… but you know, if we—that's you and me—can get a hold of this computer the two of us could be super-rich… not to mention super-powerful."
"It's perfect!" Edwards exclaimed. "Finally I can get revenge at Bruce Wayne and his people for stealing my idea. I can be a household name! Michael Edwards will be the man who helped save the universe!"
"Right," Mindy said, humoring him but also knowing of her real plan: to unleash viruses in the duplicates of this main computer so that Intergang will end up with the only supply of good computer systems in the year 2000. "And best of all, no Super-duperman to get in our way."
"This is perfect!" Edwards chuckled before letting out an accidental snort. He and Mindy picked up two glasses of wine from a desk and had a toast. "To tomorrow!" Edwards said triumphantly.
The crisp, snow-laden evergreens whizzed through the window of the Gotham- bound train, the usually cold steel wheels now warm as they caressed the tracks over and over again. A great many faces peered out from their warm, train-booth windows to watch the rolling hills pass by and to feel the warm sun beat down on them, intensified by the glass. Two such faces, however, weren't as enamored with the beauty of the outside country as they were with each other in their own very private compartment.
Lois and Clark held their deep kiss, he cupping his hand around her face, while she used her hands to feel the solid chest she had felt so many times before. She slid her hands upward and around, attempting to clasp her hands together around his back … until she realized it was a little more of a stretch than it used to be.
"What's wrong?" Clark asked as he slowly pulled away from the kiss.
"The baby's interrupting us already, and it's not even born yet," Lois smiled.
"I guess we had better get used to it, hmm?" Clark moved his head down to the now-plump belly and rested the side of his face against it. "Hello … hello in there … can anybody hear me?" Clark cooed as he rubbed Lois's stomach. Clark suddenly pulled back and announced, "Whoa!"
"What? What happened?"
"I think we have a soccer player on our hands," Clark laughed as he bent back down, lifted up Lois's shirt a bit, and kissed her belly button. "Not that there's anything wrong with that," he whispered to the growing child inside.
Lois couldn't help but grin as she watched her husband become a child himself whenever his head was within a foot of her stomach. She rubbed her own hand over her slowly growing, orange-shaped abdomen and thought of how lucky they were and how much fun they would have being new parents … and then she thought of how good peanut brittle and mustard sounded right about now.
"Hmm?" Clark mused as he used his super-hearing to listen in on what he could.
"Could you pass me the travel bag over there? I need the peanut brittle and the mustard." Clark pulled up and looked at her strangely before digging through the various plastic baggies and jars in the tough red leather bag sitting on the floor. He produced a baggie full of caramel-brown peanut brittle and a squirt bottle of French's spicy mustard. Lois unzipped the baggie and took in a whiff of the hard candy, which stirred her saliva and made her stomach rumble. She immediately shook up the mustard bottle and put a hefty layer of it on a piece of the brittle and bit into it. She licked off a bit of the mustard that had stuck on the outside of her mouth, then laid back for a moment, savoring her bite, before plunging in for another.
"You know, hon, you keep eating stuff like that and you're going to make her fat!" Clark said as he rummaged through the rest of the goodies, looking for something a bit more … appetizing.
"Her? Who are you talking about?"
"Well, the baby, of course …"
"What makes you think it's a girl?" Lois raised an eyebrow at Clark as she bit down on another piece of brittle.
"I never said that it was a girl."
"But you said 'her.'"
"Well, yes, I did … but we call ships 'her,' and we call the Earth 'her' … it's just a way of giving something that doesn't have gender — or in this case a gender that we don't know yet — a kind of personification."
"So what do you prefer?" Lois quizzed.
"What?" Clark asked, puzzled.
"What do you prefer? Do you want a boy or a girl?" Lois was on a mission, and she was determined to get an answer before they arrived in Gotham.
"Wha … I … Lo-is …" Clark stuttered.
"Ah-ah. Answer. Or no more fun for you until we get back to Metropolis," Lois stated matter-of-factly as she crossed her arms over her belly. She knew she couldn't hold to that promise, but being this deadpan serious always helped her get her way, both as an investigative reporter and as a wife.
"Well … what do *you* want?" Clark inquired, trying to get the heat off him and to throw it back at her.
"I asked you first! C'mon, tell me … do you want a boy or a girl?"
"How about we count to three, and then we both say what we want? At the same time?" Both Clark's eyebrows went up in anticipation.
"Deal. You count."
"Alright. Here we go. One … two … two and a half … remember, you have to say it too … three."
Both of the words popped out of their mouths at the same time, and both of their mouths stayed propped open in surprise at each other's answer.
"Clark Jerome Kent! Why in the world would you want a girl?"
"Why? What's wrong with girls? I mean, I don't know if you noticed or not, Lois, but …" Clark leaned toward her as if he were going to tell a secret, then in a hushed voice he continued, " … *you're* a girl."
"And *you're* a boy … don't you want to … to … you know, throw baseballs and … bond and stuff?" Lois managed to get out.
"Of course I would … but those are reasons for me wanting a boy, Lois … why do you want one?"
Lois sat there and pondered for a moment, then came out with a resolute "I don't know."
"You know what I think it is … all your life you grew up as a girl on your own, with your dad always away on some gizmo, your mother … well, you know, and your sister locked away in her room. You had to survive on your own. I think you're afraid that if we had a little girl, she might have to do the same." Clark pushed Lois's chin up with his finger and looked her in the eyes. He smiled, "Am I warm?"
"Not even close," Lois said, determinantly. Her straight-lined lips crept slowly upward into a smile. "I just want another little Superman around the house." She laughed and hugged Clark as the intercom system buzzed above them and a low, gravely voice spoke.
"We'll be approaching Gotham City within the next ten minutes … please make sure loose baggage are stowed in the overheads to assure they aren't thrown about when the train comes to a stop …"
"Guess that means the brittle goes back," Clark said as he stuffed the food back into the leather bag and shoved it up into the compartment above him. The intercom voice continued.
"… and I hope none of you have come here today with the intent of committing crime of any sort … for you never know where the *Batman* will be, watching you …" the voice said. It was indeterminable if it had been serious or sarcastic.
Lois rolled her eyes and mouthed the word "Batman" silently to herself, shaking her head.
In the outskirts of Gotham stood a stately mansion with a long, circular driveway and a "W" engraved onto the gates. The mansion belonged to Bruce Wayne, founder of Waynetech — one of the world's richest men, and also the keeper of a secret of his own.
After his parents had been murdered when Bruce was very young, Bruce was raised by the family butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred was very loyal, and despite being the family servant, Bruce had quite a bit of respect for him.
"More pate, Master Bruce?" approached Alfred from behind.
"What — oh, of course," the man said, turning to the butler.
"You seem a bit… distanced. Is everything all ready for the presentation Friday afternoon?" Alfred asked.
"Then what is the problem?"
"I just have a hunch, a feeling… that we're going to have visitors," Bruce replied.
"And what makes you so certain of that?" Alfred asked.
"This computer is going to solve a lot of problems in this country. Every time there's something like this in Gotham, someone gets loose and goes after it. I still believe, that by keeping it here, it'll be safer," Bruce said.
"Of course, sir," Alfred replied. "However, you must remember that you are but one man—and evil is legion."
"I know," replied Bruce.
Lois and Clark arrived at the Gotham Nights Hotel in Gotham City in the late evening, where they promptly checked in and hurried up to their room. The amount of marble floors and gold doorknobs made it clear that this was a fancy place.
As they approached the room, Clark dropped the suitcases on the floor to carry Lois through the threshhold. "Thank goodness for super-strength or you'd never be able to this," Lois said to Clark, noting the 20 extra pounds she has gained since becoming pregnant. Clark then gently put Lois down on the floor, feet first.
"Oh great, and now for the *fun* part of a trip," Lois groaned. "Unpacking." Before she finished her sentence Clark sped through and managed to unpack all of the bags they had brought for their trip. Lois looked back and forth, panning from the empty suitcases to the full drawers. "Never mind."
"So … Lois … how about some dinner?" Clark asked.
"Who am I to turn down food?!" Lois exclaimed. "Especially lately."
"Ha-ha," Clark chuckled. "Want me to go get it, and bring it back?"
"Nah," Lois said, "Let's go out. My treat." Lois reached for her purse and the two of them began on their way.
"Shouldn't we call a taxi?" Clark asked. "Unless you want me to carry you …"
"Carry me, Clark? I'm pregnant, not an invalid. I can do anything a non- pregnant woman can do … some things, even better. Come on, it'll be fine!"
After spending ten minutes debating between the many eateries on the Gotham Boulevard strip, Lois and Clark arrived someplace they *both* could agree on. Uncle Leo's Pizza.
"Uncle Leo's Pizza?!" Clark asked. "Lois … you sure you don't want something fancier?"
"No, this is fine," Lois said. "Besides, I have this craving for some pizza …"
Clark groaned. "This is going to be fun."
The two of them sat down at their booth and were served water before they began ordering. The two of them made idle-chit chat before a young waiter asked them if they were ready to order.
"Pineapple, double-mushroom, coconut pizza, please," Lois said to the young man.
"Coconut?!" Clark mouthed silently. The ever-intuitive Lois noticed.
"What's the matter with coconut?" Lois asked.
"I don't know … it's just … different. Since when did you eat coconuts on pizza?"
"Since I had an urge for coconut," Lois answered simply.
Clark knew his boundary. He decided to change the subject. "So Lois… you *really* don't believe in the Batman?"
"No. Should I have reason to?"
"None particularly. Maybe we'll run into him. That is, if he exists. I'd love to ask him a few things," Clark told her.
"Oh, that would be sweet. What with the Flash, and Batman, and all, I can see it now, pretty soon I'll be making excuses why my husband can't come to the phone right now because he'll be in outer space for his weekly super-hero meetings with Batman, the Flash, the Wonder Twins, and Gleek the Super-Monkey …" Lois said sarcastically.
"Super-hero meetings? Wonder Twins? Gleek? That's crazy, Lois!"
"Crazy. But probably as likely as Batman."
"Lois, if there was no Batman, then how would you explain Mr. Freeze? Or that 'bat-signal' the Gotham police commissioner sends out to get his attention?"
"It's a hoax. To scare criminals, let them think the Batman is gonna get them!"
"Okay Lois. You have to admit, there are billions of people in this world. I can't be the only one who wears his underwear on the outside and fights for good."
Clark then got a strange look on his face, as if he was hearing something.
"Clark? Are you all right?" Lois asked.
"Yeah, I think so. I'll be right back, it sounds like one of the nearby banks is being robbed." Clark ran out of the restaurant, and a streak of red and blue flew into the sky.
He then approached the area where he had heard the calls for help, the First Gotham Bank. Interestingly enough, once he got there, the two criminals who had tried to rob the bank were on the floor, sleeping.
"What happened here?" Superman asked one of the bystanders who was in the bank at the time of the holdup.
"We don't know. The bank robbers had us all facing the wall, and the next thing we knew, we heard this rumbling. When we felt it safe to turn around, they were already taken care of," the woman answered.
"Hmm…" Superman said. "Interesting. I'll take these two to the police commissioner, and I'll have them send some people for a full report." Superman then picked up the two criminals to make his "delivery."
A van pulled up on the corner of Westchester and DeVille, directly across from the stately Wayne Manor. It read "Cable Repair Systems" on the side, but inside the vehicle wasn't the usual fiber optics and plumber's crack. Rather, a large array of computers and electronics lined the walls, and in the middle, four figures crouched, waiting. All were dressed in full black, including black ski masks. Small headsets were being used as walkie talkies to communicates with each other, and at each's side, a holster sat, carrying a black 9 millimeter handgun. One of the figures grabbed an extra clip of ammo, while another faced a computer and made some calculations.
"Check … check … 1, 2, 3, 4 …" said one of the figures, tapping on the headset microphone with his finger.
"Alright already, Mick. We can hear you just fine. Lay off the tapping, man … you're makin' my ears bleed," said Johnny.
"Johnny, man, your ears are bleedin' 'cos you're too friggin' old for this, that's why," Mick remarked.
"You're not gonna make it past your twentieth birthday if you don't shut up so we can get on with this," Vinnie chimed in.
"Boys, boys … let's be civil, shall we?" Sheila broke in. "We're primed to go. The boss has given the okay. Sound off."
"One," said Vinnie.
"Two," said Sheila.
"Three," Johnny added.
"Quatre," said Mick. "Hey Sheila, after we're done with the job here, wanna go get a bite to eat? Maybe watch a movie … head back to my place?"
Sheila sighed. "Now why in the world would I want to do that?"
"Because je suis un gateau de beouf, my fine-haired femme fatale," smiled Mick.
"Get over yourself, Mick, and let's get the move on. Boss needs this supercomputer pronto. Everybody ready? Let's go!"
The back of the van opened and four dark figures filed out into the dark of night, making their way toward the front gate of Wayne Manor. Johnny took a gizmo off the side of his belt and wired it in to the computer-entry box beside the gate. After punching a few buttons and listening to the machine whir for a few seconds, a clicking sound was heard and the gates opened slowly and silently. They made their way in and stealthily moved behind trimmed hedges and trees, careful to avoid the view of the many positioned cameras mounted on the columns and ledges of the building. They met again at the front door.
"Man, that was easy," Mick said, taking off his ski mask.
"Yeah, well, Wayne isn't rich for nothing, Mick. Put your mask back on," Sheila whisper-yelled at him.
"I've seen some of Wayne's technology, Mick. We're not going to have an easy time getting to the supercomputer, trust me."
The supercomputer. The world's answer to the bug that plagued computers due to the fact that their dating system couldn't read past 1999, otherwise known as the Y2K problem. Bruce Wayne's technological superteam had created it, and it had only taken eight years. Wayne had acknowledged the problem before the rest of the world ever had, and kept the project a secret until he was sure it would be ready for unveiling. Now, instead of sitting in a vault as secure as Fort Knox, it sat in a briefcase under a glass casing, behind a five-lock door, in a room with no windows. Standing around the glass casing were four individuals, dressed in black.
"You were saying, Johnny-boy?" said Mick, grinning from ear to ear, and rubbing his hands together. They had all taken their masks off now.
"Hey, Mick, would you shut up already? We ain't done yet," said Vinnie, thwapping Mick on the side of the head.
"He's right," noted Sheila as she removed a glass-cutter from her belt. Making an almost perfect circle across the top of the casing, she pulled up and the suction from the cup brought out a very thin piece of glass. Sheila rubbed her finger along the edge of the circle. "Smooth as a baby's bottom."
"Hey, there's only one way to find out, babe," Mick said, moving his hand down her back slowly. It had almost reached its destination until Mick felt a very cold piece of metal under his chin. He immediately removed his hand, and Sheila stuck her gun back in her holster.
"Any more tricks like that, and you're going to be left here as evidence, pretty boy." Sheila spoke with a dangerous tone.
"I'd say all of you are going to be left as evidence."
All four of the henchmen turned around to the source of the voice. Instead they only found a long stretch of shadow in a corner of the room.
"Um … is it just me, or did anybody else just hear a voice?" Vinnie muttered as they shifted their eyes around the room nervously.
"I'm hoping it's just you, Vinnie," Johnny said, reaching down for his gun.
"I'm sure you are," came the voice again, as another figure dressed in black stepped forward from out of the shadow, and a rather large cape flew up quickly and engulfed the room.
The knock on the door woke Clark. His eyes opened, and he looked around the room before realizing what the sound was. He sat up in bed, grabbing his glasses from the nightstand and his robe from the floor before rushing over to the door. He opened it, but found no one standing outside. Instead, at his feet, he found a bound newspaper, The Gotham Gazette. Clark glanced down the hotel corridor, but didn't see anybody. As a matter of fact, he didn't see newspapers at the foot of any of the other doors, either.
Bringing the paper back inside, Clark shut the door. He unrolled the paper to find the first headline standing out at him in large type: "Four Caught In Attempted Wayne Supercomputer Burglary." Surprised, Clark looked over to Lois. She was still in bed, moving every once in a while to a new position. He went back to reading the article. Four burglars, it said, broke into Wayne Manor the prior evening in an attempt to take the supercomputer — the very reason Lois and Clark were in Gotham in the first place. It went on to say that the four individuals would not diclose who they were stealing the supercomputer for, though it was obvious they were not stealing it for themselves, after police discovered a van full of highly sophisticated electronics and Gotham law enforcement internet researchers discovered a communications link hidden in one of the computer's databases. Officials wouldn't say how the four intruders were nabbed.
'How did they get this into a morning edition when it just happened last night?' Clark thought to himself. 'We should grab a few tips from the Gazette people before we go back to Metropolis …'
"Clark?" Lois was sitting up on the edge of the bed, rubbing her eyes. She looked at her watch, which told her it was 9:20.
"Hey, baby." Clark walked over to his wife and sat down next to her, wrapping his arms around her and their baby. He gave her a kiss, and then rubbed his hand over Lois's stomach. "Good morning."
Lois smiled as she was still in the process of waking up. "Good morning to you too. He was a good little boy last night … didn't keep me up at all," Lois said as she placed her hand over Clark's.
"Quiet, huh? Then there can't be any doubt … must be a girl," Clark said as he grinned.
Lois flashed him a look. "I'm not in the mood for that discussion this morning, Clark, really."
"Yes, ma'am," Clark said, going for another kiss. He'd been with Lois long enough to know how to get out of any situation where Lois "wasn't in the mood" — though more often than not, she usually was. "But I've got something you might want to see … check this out." Clark got up and handed Lois the paper. She scanned the article while Clark waited for her reaction. When he figured she had read far enough, he interrupted. "You see, the funny thing is, I didn't hear one alarm go off last night. Not even a silent one. You'd think with Bruce Wayne, mega-millionaire industrialist, I'd have heard SOME kind of alarm. I don't know what's going on."
"Well, neither do I, Clark, but I sure know that's one thing we're going to ask him. Let me give his office a call."
"I said I'm sorry, Ms. Lane, but Mr. Wayne isn't taking interview requests. What's released at the press conference is what everyone else will have to go on. No, I can't just 'make an exception.' … I don't care how many Kerth awards you've won … Ms. Lane … no, Ms. Lane … I'm sorry but we can't do that … Mr. Wayne has business appointments …" Bruce Wayne's receptionist, Maggie Scranton, impatiently tried to get a word in on the phone with Lois Lane. As she fidgeted in her seat and her face made different expressions in response to more pleas from the other end of the line, her boss walked by, overhearing Maggie's side of the conversation. Walking into the office, he picked up the receiver of another phone and listened. After a few seconds, he made hand motions toward his receptionist, and she stopped her barrage of turn-downs for a second. "Ms. Lane, if you could hold on just a mo — no, just please, hold on a moment.Thank you." She pressed the "hold" button and Muzak played on Lois's end of the line. "Yes, Mr. Wayne?"
"Maggie, I've reconsidered my decision about being interviewed … cancel my one o'clock with Mr. Brenner, reschedule it for next week, and replace it with Ms. Lane and Mr. Kent," said Bruce, straightening his tie.
"Um … yes, sir, Mr. Wayne. Right away." Maggie got back on the phone with Lois and took a deep breath before diving in. "Ms. Lane? Yes, there's been a change of plans. Mr. Wayne has decided to open up a slot for you. One o'clock. You and Mr. Kent. Yes, that's right. Of course you can. Have a good day." Maggie hung up the line. She rubbed the bridge of her nose under her glasses and muttered, "I hate when he does that."
Several hours later, Alfred approached Bruce as he was researching a pet project in the study. "Master Bruce?"
"Yes, Alfred?" Bruce asked.
"I was just wondering if there is there something I should get for you before your interview with the two reporters from the Daily Planet?"
Bruce rubbed his chin and grinned, before kneeling down in the Thinker position.
"Is something wrong, Master Bruce?"
"No, not at all," Bruce responded.
"You had a somewhat … peculiar response to those names. Do you know them?" Alfred inquired.
"No, I don't, but I know of them," Bruce said.
"Very well, sir," Alfred said. "Have you met them in the past?"
"Not really, Alfred. I've just always been a fan of their — work," said Bruce. Alfred excused himself and Bruce walked across the study to a filing cabinet, and pulled out an unmarked manila folder. He then walked over to a desk and pulled two pictures out — one of Clark Kent, and another … of Superman.
"I thought your people knew what they were doing," Mindy Church said to Michael Edwards as she puffed on her cigar.
"It's not that easy, Mindy … Ms. Church. The Batman is protecting it, I swear!" Edwards said nervously, fearing Mindy's reaction.
"Batman? Some man in a rubber suit scares you? Mikey… I thought you could do better than that," Mindy pouted, as she walked over and stuck her hand in Edwards' pocket. "I'm just worried that your little messy-messy is going to get the attention of Superman in Metropolis, and then he too will keep it away from us… especially with that nosy Lois Lane and her husband in town…" Mindy said. "Luckily, I have insurance." Mindy then pulled her hand out of his pocket.
Edwards reached inwards to see a small ring with a green gemstone. "What is this?" Edwards asked.
"Insurance," Mindy said. "Talk to the bomb guys, they'll distract Batman … and with this ring, Superman won't be a problem either. Not saying that he is here, but just in case … this one's not gonna go wrong."
The doorbell rang, and an older gentleman opened the door, clad in a definitive black-and-white monkey suit. "Ah. Ms. Lane and Mr. Kent. Mr. Wayne has been expecting you. Come in, please." Alfred turned and gestured to the main hallway.
Lois and Clark walked in, and both immediately had their attention drawn upward toward the immenseness of the mansion's interior. Columns were placed here and there, sculpted to perfection in a fantastic white and tan marble. Sculptures from different eras dotted the landscape of the large living room before them, from many different countries. A selection of wild animals, ranging from boars to lions to rather large aquatic reptiles stood either stuffed on the floor, or had their heads mounted on the walls. Above them hung detailed paintings, all biblical in nature … the fall of Lucifer, the flood of Noah, the plagues of Egypt, the crucifixion, and others. The mantle over one of the fireplaces held just some of the awards that the millionaire had won over the years … the mantle over the other fireplace was desolate in comparison: nothing but a single picture frame, in which was encased a rather weathered black-and-white photograph of a man, a woman, and a small boy.
Lois talked low so that only Clark could hear her. "Successful businessman, multi-millionaire, philhanthropist, wild game hunter, collector of ancient artifacts, and owner of the second Sistine Chapel. You think there's something this guy doesn't do?"
"Actually, Ms. Lane, I am also currently in the process of adopting a somewhat rambunctious young teen, but thank you for the kind words," Mr. Wayne said as he came into the living room from the side opposite them. Lois and Clark looked at each other, wondering how he could have possibly heard what she had said. He continued as he walked across the room to greet them. "But to answer your question … I don't cook. Couldn't for the life of me." He stopped and held his hand outstretched. "Ms. Lane. Mr. Kent. Pleasure to meet you both." Lois shook his hand, and then Clark. Bruce took a careful interest and fascination in Clark's hand as he shook it, looking at it as if it were a dissected animal he was to study. "That's quite a grip you have, Mr. Kent. Do you work out?"
Clark was hestitant to answer, but eventually came out with, "Ah … well … yes, actually, I do."
"That's great. You know, I'm really quite a fan of yours. Every morning it's coffee, toast, USA Today, The Gotham Gazette, and The Daily Planet. I really quite enjoyed one of your stories more than any other … let's see … about four or five years ago? Something about a woman in a building scheduled to be razed?"
"Yes, that was my first article for the Daily Planet, Mr. Wayne," Clark said, wondering why they were talking about him when they obviously came to interview Bruce.
"Yes, I guess it was. I suppose you could say I've been a fan of yours from the beginning. Oh, and please, both of you, call me Bruce."
Lois decided to break the conversation. "That's very casual of you, but if we were to call you Bruce, I'd have to let you call me Lois, and since this is a formal interview for a greater metropolitan newspaper, I can't have you calling me Lois, or calling him Clark, so if we could, we'll just call you Mr. Wayne … Mr. Wayne." Lois forced a smile. It was apparent she didn't seem too fond of him, and Clark could see that, but he didn't understand why.
"Fair enough, Ms. Lane. Please, come in and have a seat. Can Alfred get you anything? Tea? Soda?" Bruce offered.
"No thank you, Mr. Wayne," Lois and Clark said in unison. They looked at each other and smiled. They really were a married couple. Both of them sat down on a black leather couch, in front of which lay a carved oak coffee table. A copy of that day's Gotham Gazette laid on top of it. Bruce Wayne rested himself in a large, black armchair on the other side.
"I couldn't help but notice that you have a little one on the way … you must be very proud," said Bruce.
"Yes, we are," said Clark, now wondering, like Lois, if this was an investigative interview or if they were just here to make polite conversation for Mr. Wayne.
"Do you know yet?"
"The baby's sex. Boy or girl."
Lois and Clark each took a look at each other before Clark replied, "No, we don't know yet. I think we're going to wait until the baby's born."
"Ah, the element of surprise — a favorite of mine. I prefer girls myself … less prone to trouble the majority of the time." Clark beamed. "But boys are equally as enjoyable," Bruce continued. Now it was Lois's turn to smile. "But enough with the small talk. You two are here to question me over the attempted theft, correct?"
Now it was time to get down to business. "That's right, Mr. Wayne," Lois began. "I think the best place to begin would be motive. Do you have any idea who the burglars were working for, or who would want to steal the supercomputer?"
"Well, Ms. Lane, I would list them off for you, but I don't think I have enough fingers. Point is, anybody and everybody wants the Y2K supercomputer … from my biggest business rivals to terrorists to the lowly software clerk at the computer store. Anybody could have hired them."
Lois jotted this response down on paper in shorthand while Clark popped the next question.
"So why keep it here, on your estate? Wouldn't you consider it a wiser choice to place it somewhere with a higher level of security?"
"Trust me, Mr. Kent, this mansion provides some of the best security around. Discretely placed cameras outside, motion and heat sensors inside, trip wires and infrared in rooms containing valuables. This is a fortress."
Clark continued without stopping to think. "If that's the case, why didn't any of your alarms go off last night?" Both Clark and Lois realized his mistake as soon as he finished his sentence, but refrained from showing it in their faces. Bruce acted surprised.
"How did you know …"
Lois, always to the rescue, had an excuse already thought up. "We talked to the GCPD and managed to get ahold of the alarm records for the past 24 hours. We just happened to notice that Wayne Manor wasn't on the list."
Inside, Bruce Wayne was smiling, but with a straight face, he continued. "Well … that's true, Ms Lane. Which means the burglars were either very intelligent or very lucky. Based on the fact that they were caught, I'd opt for the latter myself."
"Exactly how were they caught?" Clark queried.
"They tripped the glass casing alarm, which doesn't run to the police, only within the mansion. As soon as I realized what was happening, I sealed the room. There's a 4-foot thick wall of steel hidden above and in front of the door frame to the room that held the supercomputer — and no windows in the room to escape from. Then I simply called the police and had them take the burglars away. No problems whatsoever."
Clark thought a bit before posing a rather unusual question. "What about the Batman?"
Lois looked at her husband with shock. Batman? Here they were in a serious interview with the millionaire who was going to save the computer industry and her husband was asking him about some arcane myth?
Bruce Wayne's eyes grew narrow. "What about him?"
"Well," Clark said, "Can he be trusted? Could he possibly also be on the list of suspects? That is, of course, assuming you believe in … him."
Lois decided to speak her mind. "Batman? We're here to talk about the supercomputer, not figments of people's imaginations."
"Actually, Ms. Lane, I believe that the Batman does exist," Bruce said as Lois threw up her hands. "And to answer your question, no, I don't believe that he would be involved. As much as he remains a mystery to the denizens of Gotham, I highly doubt that his tastes run toward the world of crime. Especially if you take into account the many times criminals have been found tied, gagged, or what-not, only later to repeatedly talk of this character and curse his name. The way I see it, the Batman is someone who strikes fear into the 'bad guys' if you will, but he's no criminal, Mr. Kent."
Lois reluctantly wrote down what Bruce had said, still not believing she was listening to a conversation about a fictional character. Bruce looked at his watch, then stood up.
"I'm sorry, but I really do have to cut this short. I wish I could stay and answer more of your questions, but I have a one-thirty with Bill Gates and a two o'clock lunch with the president, so I really must be going. I wish the best to both of you and good luck with your story." The two stood up as Alfred opened the front door. Bruce escorted them to the front steps of the mansion and waved as the couple made their way toward the gate. He shouted out to them before the were out of hearing distance, "Keep good care of that child! It's going to have some pretty great parents!"
Lois and Clark smiled and waved back as they headed to the car. As Clark opened the door to the jeep, he could see Lois looking at him. Even as they climbed in, he could tell she was watching him and shaking her head.
"What?" Clark asked.
"Clark … Batman?"
Lois and Clark settled back into their hotel room and began to compare notes.
"Interesting, isn't it?" Lois said, as she spread her notebook out on her bed.
"What is?" Clark asked.
"He seemed to know so much about us. Talk about one guy who does his homework," Lois noted. "Still don't know why he doesn't have better security."
"Well maybe the Batman is helping him protect the computer," Clark teased. Suddenly Clark was distracted.
"Clark? Are you okay?" Lois asked.
"Yeah, fine. Sounds like a mugging a few blocks away. Be back in a few honey." Clark said. He then spun around into his Superman and kissed his wife on the forehead.
As Clark zoomed out the door, Lois realized she was hungry yet again. She searched the room and realized there was nothing around to eat. "Hmm …" Lois thought. 'Well, I think I saw a Ralph's Supermarket about a block away, I'll just get something to eat there.' Lois grabbed her purse and entered the elevator to the hotel lobby. "It's dark out," she thought to herself, "but it'll only be a minute."
Lois walked down the barren sidewalk toward the supermarket, the only real sound being the click-clacks of her shoes hitting the cold concrete and echoing off unknown entities that loomed throughout the city.
"Haven't they ever heard of street lighting?" Lois thought to herself as she continued, noticing that there was only one street lamp — or in some cases, only one *working* street lamp — per block. Her stomach rumbled, and she looked down and patted her belly. "Don't worry, we're almost there, baby. Just another block."
Lois kept up her pace, her black Gucci purse banging into her side with each step. The street she was on rested beside a slew of old apartment complexes, rising nigh stories into the sky, each with a structure and design that looked like they came from the 1930s. Gotham was indeed the time-warp city, as many had dubbed it over the years. Between each section of apartment buildings were small, narrow alleys, littered with old metal trash cans and the occasional black cat. Cold, gusty drafts blew out from them now and then, as if to indicate that they were alive. They gave Lois shivers.
The sound came out of nowhere, and Lois jumped. She whipped around to take a look at what could have made such a loud noise, and found herself facing one of the many dark alleys as another gust of the frigid wind crept out and swirled around her, starting at her legs and working its way up, creating goosebumps. Lois held her purse closer and retrieved a small black and orange canister, her finger placed discretely on top.
One can never be too safe. Even when traveling in Gotham City, Lois thought. She slowly sauntered toward the back alley, Mace can poised with arms fully outstretched. She was ready for anything. Her eyes moved from left to right as she kept her head forward, scanning the alley. She reached the back of the alley — a heightened brick wall, over which a rusty-red full moon could be seen hanging in the sky. In front of her was only a pile of tattered cardboard boxes. Something soft brushed against Lois's leg, and she let out a stifled yell, moving her arms in different directions with the Mace canister, before flinging it down to the source of the distraction as a large, fat, black cat curled a figure eight between her feet, purring. Lois breathed a sigh of relief.
Lois thought to herself, "Guess you're overreacting now, Lois. You really need to get your mind on something other than food."
Lois's head shot up, looking to the ledge of the building to her right. There, half-concealed by the shadows and darkness, stood the figure of a bat. A towering wall of muscle, he looked ominous as he sat crouched on the corner of the ledge. It was unreal, but it almost seemed as if the light from the street lamps and the moon was *trying* to avoid falling on any part of him. More out of fear and amazement than anything else, Lois stammered, transfixed by the figure in front of her. After all, hardly anyone, even Clark, had seen, much less talked to, the Batman.
"Y-You … know me?" She managed to get out.
"Ms. Lane, the Daily Planet reaches far beyond New Troy. You and Clark Kent are quite the reporting team."
Great, she thought. A superhero with an appreciation for journalism.
Lois's babbling machine kicked in. "Um … thanks. I … I didn't know you read newspapers. Well, I mean, I'm sure you read newspapers, I mean you're human just like everyone else, right? … I mean it's not like you're an alien from another planet or anything who runs around in tights — I mean obviously you don't wear regular pants either, but at least yours are like rubber or something, but of course you wear a cape too, so you're not all that different, but then again you wear a mask and he doesn't and you're just … just …"
Lois stopped and realized there was no point to what she was going on about. She quietly closed her mouth and blushed a little at her embarassment, though one could not have seen it in the darkness.
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds as the dark knight stood motionless. He broke the silence with a single word.
Lois raised her eyebrows and motioned an ear toward him as if she hadn't heard what he had said. "What?"
"I assume you were speaking of Superman."
"Oh. Uh … yeah." Lois said. She realized how stupid she must sound to this guy, blabbering on uncontrollably and answering with one-syllable words. "Clark would be handling this much better," she thought. The thought of her husband kicked her reporting instincts into gear, which had laid dormant under the pressure of surprise, fear, and uncertainty.
"You'll excuse me for being a bit jumpy, Mr …" Lois said as she hinted for his true identity.
Batman didn't say a word. In fact, with the exception of speaking, he hadn't moved an inch this whole time.
"… Mr. Batman. I didn't mean to babble like that, it's just a habit that I have, you know. And the Superman thing, don't worry about it. I wasn't trying to, um, you know, compare you to him or anything, it's just that Superman and I are close friends …"
"So it seems." Batman's voice seemed to hint at something. Lois's mind cleared totally now, and she was ready to put on the defensive in order to halt anything that would lead to another fit with the tabloids.
"Close *friends*," she emphasized.
The next thing to come from his mouth took Lois full aback.
"Ms. Lane, I am fully aware of the alter-ego of Superman. There is no need to try and hide things from me. You are more than friends."
Lois was too stunned to say anything. Was Clark's secret out? Did Batman really see beyond the glasses? And if he knew, who knows how many other people he had told? Could she really trust a guy dressed like a gigantic rubber bat? As she stood there, unsure of what to say or do, Batman moved for the first time. Like a creature of the night, he moved with the shadows until he was on street level. He approached her until he got within a safe enough distance, staying in the shadow. The only thing Lois could make out was the bright yellow and black symbol emblazoned on his chest. She still couldn't think of anyting to say; it was definitely too awkward. If he was possibly wrong about who he thought Superman really was, she didn't want to give anything away, and if he really *did* know, well … she'd cross that bridge when she came to it.
Lois watched as he reached down to his waist and flipped open a compartment on a dark gray belt that she hadn't seen. Three lighted buttons rested inside. He pressed the top button, and just as he closed the compartment, a loud roar came from the end of the alley, and Lois turned her head to see a strange- looking contraption pull up by the sidewalk she had been on before this whole strange incident had happened. Sure, it had four wheels, but the whole thing had the look of … well … a bat.
"The Batcar … no. Auto-bat. No. The Batmobile. Yeah, that has a much better ring to it," Lois surmised to herself as she scanned the contraption.
Batman extended his arm toward the car, and in an almost magical fashion, the top slid back to reveal the pilot and co-pilot seats, nestled in among hi-tech gadgets and gizmos. He kept his arm outstretched, offering a ride to Lois.
"Guess I don't have much of a choice. I need to know what he knows about Clark," Lois thought. "You first," she said out loud.
"Hop in, Ms. Lane. It'll take you where you need to go. I must attend to some business first." And with that, he faded quickly into the night. It was then that Lois noticed the signal. High above the skyscrapers, imprinted on the clouds, the black and white bat slided silently across the golds of the gray, darkened clouds that forever plagued Gotham City.
"I guess Gotham isn't as crime-free as it used to be," Lois thought.
She turned her attention back to the Batmobile. She sighed, walked out of the alley, and approached the vehicle.
"Am I supposed to get in the passenger's or the driver's seat?" Lois wondered aloud.
— PLEASE ENTER THE PASSENGER'S SIDE — an on-board computer suddenly blurted out.
'Guess that answers that question,' Lois thought as she climbed on in. As she settled herself, the top slid forward to close, and a seat belt wrapped itself around her lap and over her shoulder. A loud rumble came from somewhere near the back of the car, and Lois was suddenly pushed back against the seat as it took off at a blinding speed.
Across town, Michael Edwards approached Mindy Church with some bad news. "Remember how you were afraid Superman was in town? One of our people was caught by him about 10 minutes ago, trying to mug someone."
"Muggers? Gee, we're really getting the bottom of the barrel now…" Mindy groaned. "Where is this guy Superman caught now?"
"He's being held at the Gotham City police station right now. I'm assuming he'll be in a low-security jail cell until whenever they choose for the trial," Edwards said.
"Interesting. Did you say low-security?" Mindy asked.
"Yes, Mrs. Church," Michael replied.
"Good. Send Garrison and Cartman in to, well, you know, 'take care' of him. We can't have him talking about our real plan. Meanwhile, we need to make sure that ring is ready," Mindy said.
Michael followed his orders, and arranged the hit.
"Good…" Mindy said. A computer screen came on in front of her with a picture of the Batman on one side, and Superman on the other. "The world's finest heroes won't be very fine much longer."
It took about ten minutes to get to her destination. The vehicle came to a screeching halt and then sat perfectly still. As white noise penetrated Lois's ears, the smell of burning rubber began to fill the cabin, which was then quickly sucked out as the internal vents kicked on. Lois sat still inside the Batmobile, waiting for its next move, but none came.
"Great. What now?" She asked to herself.
— PLEASE REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE VEHICLE — the dashboard computer said.
The seatbelt around her waist and shoulder unbuckled, retreating back to the secret compartments from whence they came, and the top of the car slid back. A wave of musty, stale air hit Lois like a torpedo.
Lois began to survey her new surroundings. The lighting, wherever she was, was terrible. She couldn't even see past the end of the Batmobile. Then the thought came to her. She walked back toward the open cockpit of the vehicle and leaned in towards the dashboard.
"Um … say, what do I have to do to get some light around here?" she questioned, as she stared intently at the on-board computer.
— LIGHT LEVELS MAY BE ADJUSTED BY VOCAL COMMAND — the computer spat out.
"Allllrighty then," Lois said with some look of confusion. "Um, turn the lights up. A lot. Please?"
The wave of light that suddenly emerged from high above her was nearly enough to knock her down. But it certainly did the job. As her eyes adjusted to the brightness, she found herself standing on a metal platform inside a very large cavern. All around her, stalactites hung from the ceiling. Oddly enough to Lois, they seemed to move every now and again, suggesting to the unaware spectator that they might be alive. It wasn't until Lois had her eyes adjust to the light that she realized exactly what it was that was making the stalactites look so malleable.
"Bats!" Lois half-shouted, half-screamed, as a horde of them flew off to find a resting spot that perhaps was a bit … quieter.
Lois turned to run, but was surprised when she looked down for the first time; a foot away from her was the edge of the platform … and below it, nothing but pitch blackness.
"Oh, just great. Not only does the guy have a cave full of flying rats, it's also a bottomless pit. Is today my lucky day or what?" Lois ran that thought through her mind as she backed up a step. She turned to her right and found a long, silvery steel bridge connecting her small platform upon which the Batmobile rested to what seemed to be a larger, more solid platform not too far away. Willing to risk anything to get to safer ground, Lois looked straight forward and walked briskly over the bridge. As she passed over it, she could feel warm drafts rising from beyond the depths, billowing up the side of her blouse and blowing her hair. Lois picked up her pace and half- jogged the rest of the way until she reached the other side. She turned around, looking back from where she came. It seemed to her like it was almost a thousand feet.
Lois turned around to investigate the surroundings on the platform she stood on. The platform fortunately stood against a solid, metal wall, rather than the cold rock that surrounded it. Against the wall, a vast array of monitors stood, each darkened. Below them all was what seemed to Lois to be a gigantic keyboard of sorts … unmistakably a computer system, but none like she had ever seen. Whoever this guy was, he was either the richest man in the world, or an alien. Lois didn't know what to think. But with her investigative instincts kicking up again, she decided to see if perhaps the computer held any information on its owner.
"Let's see … on button, on button, who's got the on button …" Lois ran her fingers an inch over the keyboard buttons and switches, looking for the one that would get the machine running. "Oh well," she said aloud, "I'm counting on you, 'Eenie Meenie Miney Moe'." Lois used her expert method of elimination and placed her finger over the winner. She brought it down slowly, unsure of her choice, then decided there was no other way, and began to bring it down on the button. The sudden KLANG in front of her hand made Lois jump back, as a sharp, black, metal object suddenly stuck onto the computer keyboard, right between the button Lois was about to push and another. The shape of the metal object looked oddly familiar …
"I wouldn't touch that if I were you, Ms. Lane," came the voice from above. Descending from the only darkened section of the cavern, Batman made his rest on the platform, and a long, black rope repelled from the rafters down to a device in his hand, which he then hooked onto his belt.
"So … what else do you have in that belt? Everything but the kitchen sink?" Lois said, her attempt at humor in a situation she found almost unbelievable. Batman took no reaction to the joke.
"The keys are fingerprint-oriented. You were about a quarter-second away from being electrocuted. Light levels thirty-five percent." The lights in the cavern dimmed.
"Oh … well … I should thank you then, hmm? Or should I? I mean, leaving a person here, free to do as they wish, even get electrocu—"
"I underestimated you, Ms. Lane," Batman interrupted. "You get yourself into trouble a lot faster than I thought."
Lois was taken aback by that statement. "Excuse me? Underestimated me? What are you, paparazzi in tights? Have you been tracking me down, taking pictures and getting info like the rest of the rabid dogs out there? You know, this is all probably some elaborate prank set up just to get information on me and my baby …" Lois remembered what "Batman" had said earlier about knowing Superman's alter-ego. "Actually, I bet this is something Clark dreamed up, isn't it? That little stinker, he knows I know Batman isn't real. Clark? Where are you? You can come out now!" Lois cupped her hands to her mouth and called around for Clark a few times, with no response. After a while, she realized that nothing was happening, and she turned her attention back to the man in the mask — and for the first time, she noticed his eyes; almost sunken into the mask, like a skull, and dark and foreboding. She could see how they might strike fear into the hearts of men.
"Done?" Batman inquired.
"Not in the least," Lois quipped. "Who are you? I mean, really?"
"That would be cheating, Ms. Lane. You know better than to ask those questions."
"All right, fine. Then why did you bring me here?"
Batman seemed silent on this matter. He didn't move; not even his breathing was apparent. Lois waited for her answer with an almost impatient attitude. He might be able to strike fear into the hearts of men, but she wasn't that scared of him anymore. After all, he was just a man in tights, right? No super powers, no relatives from another planet … "Yeah right," Lois thought. 'He's probably looking through my clothes right now.' It was clear that he wasn't planning on answering, so Lois went on.
"What did you mean when you said Superman had an … alter-ego?" Lois was extra-cautious.
Batman had no holds barred. "Your husband, Ms. Lane. Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet. Arrived in Metropolis in 1993. You gave him the name. You created him. You helped him thrive. You discovered your love for him, and you married him. Clark Kent. Superman. One and the same."
Shocked. That's how she felt. Other than herself, nobody had discovered Superman's identity on their own. But he knew. This "Batman" knew about Clark. And they knew practically nothing about him, other than the fact that he liked soaring rodents and the dark. She had to get this news to Clark … but not before she dug out the other information she still needed to know.
"How did you …"
"I think it's time to wrap this up, Ms. Lane. Rest assured the secret is safe with me. I have no issues with your husband. I simply wish to inform you. Now I do believe you should be heading back." Batman went down to his belt again, and came up with a small, hollow stick, slightly smaller than a straw. It was aimed straight at Lois.
"No, wait! I need to kn—" Lois's voice cut off as she dropped to the floor. The feather-ended dart stuck out of her arm. Batman walked over to Lois's limp body and stood over it. Lois could only see hazily for a few seconds before blacking out, but not before she heard Batman's words of comfort: "Don't worry, Ms. Lane. Your baby will be fine. I'm sure of that."
At the Gotham City police station, officer Doug Witter interrogated the mugger whom Superman caught an hour previous.
"Didn't feel so smart, did ya?" Officer Witter said. "Picked a bad time to go after some lady. Not only is the Gotham City Police watching the streets, and not only is Batman out there… somewhere out there… but now you have Superman to worry about." Officer Witter looked up to Superman. "You plan on being in town long, Superman?"
Clark knew he and Lois would only be in town until the conference on Waynetech's new computer, but with the recent problems, he may have to stick around for a while. Still, he didn't want to make any promises. "I'm not sure, actually. You all will make sure this guy doesn't get off easily, right?"
"Absolutely, Supes," the officer said. The officer then looked at the mugger's identification. "Seattle, Washington? You sure came a long way to mug someone. And I have to admit …" Doug said, looking at the picture of the mugger in his wallet. "You don't look like the type to, do this sort of thing. Especially with this Edwards Industries ID badge in here … I mean, heck, you probably make more than I do!"
The mugger looked angry, but had nothing to say. Clark was intrigued. "Hmm, Edwards Industries…" he thought. "Maybe I need to check them out. Something seems fishy."
Superman then turned to the mugger, "Edwards Industries …" Superman inquired, "… aren't they the folks who claimed to have solved the Y2K bug, the ones who were beaten to it by Waynetech?"
Officer Witter looked surprised at Superman's knowledge. "You read a lot, Blue?"
"..You could say that," Clark said. "You wouldn't happen to know anything at the recent attempts to steal Bruce Wayne's computer, now would you?" Superman asked the mugger.
"Okay, I admit it!" the mugger cracked. "Edwards sent me … he's planning to get the computer for himself!"
"Thanks," Superman said. "That'll be all, Officer Witter. Be sure he's properly taken care of. We may need him as a witness later on, if anything else comes up." He went out the front door and flew off the station steps.
A potato chip bag crinkled as Lois rolled on top of it. The sound brought her out suddenly of her sleep, and she jerked up. It took her a moment to realize where she was: back at the hotel. She rubbed both of her eyes to knock the haziness out, and was surprised to find herself in the unfamiliar surroundings. She was sitting up in the middle of the bed, surrounded by food. Empty cartons of Super-Choco-Chunk and Pistachio Nut ice cream, half-eaten chocolate bars, an empty doughnut box, balled-up potato chip bags, and a box of sweet and sour pork with two chopsticks leaning out of the side were in a messy pile around her.
"What in the world?" Lois thought to herself as she picked up the sweet and sour pork. It was still warm. A sound at the door took her attention off all the food for a moment, and she listened as someone outside the door jostled with the handle a bit. Finally getting it, the door opened and in walked …
"Clark!" Lois jumped off the bed toward her husband, wrapping her arms around him, squeezing him as hard as she could. She pulled away a moment and kissed him on the lips, holding it for a few seconds before backing off. Clark looked at Lois with a raised eybrow.
"Uh, Lois? Are you okay, baby?"
"Clark, you would not believe what just happened to me! I was walking down the street over there just to get some food at the grocery store, you know, some rice patties or chips and dip or a steak or something and then there was this noise in this alley, and I didn't know what it was so I went back there and I met him! He's a lot bigger than people say he is, with this really built chest — but not as built as yours, of course — and he has this belt with all these gizmos, and he let me take a ride in the Batmobile — that's what I call it — and it took me to this cave with a computer that almost electrocuted me and … and … I met him, Clark! I met him and he knows about you! He knows that you're —" Lois quieted down, realizing that hotel walls were about as thick as a piece of paper. "— that you're Superman, Clark. He knows."
"Whoa, whoa, hold up, Lois. You're not making any sense here. Who are you talking about? Who knows?"
"Batman!" Lois yelped. She quickly covered her hand over her mouth.
"Yes, Clark, Batman! You know, guy in the shadows, dresses like a rat, no one's ever really seen or talked to him … Batman!"
"Let me get this straight. We know no one's ever really seen or talked to him. Yet he decides to make you come into an alley, hop a ride in his … his …"
"… his Batmobile, drive you to his secret headquarters, and sit down and tell you that he knows I'm —" Clark made the familiar flying symbol with his hand.
"Right! Exactly! He said that he didn't tell anyone, but I don't know if we can trust him, Clark …"
Clark, for the first time since he'd walked in the door, looked past Lois, over her shoulder, toward the bed. He noticed all the food lying around, and turned back to Lois with a look that seemed to say "Oh boy, she's delirious." Lois followed Clark's gaze back to the bed, and realized what he must have thought.
"Oh, that. I really don't know how that got there, you know. One minute I'm standing with him in the cave, then he knocks me out with some kind of … blow dart …" Lois pulled up her sleeve where the dart had hit. There weren't any marks on her skin. "That's strange …" She pulled her sleeve back down and continued. "… and then I end up here, surrounded by food. But that's not the important thing. The important thing is that we find out who this Batman is how much else he knows about us, Clark!"
Clark rested his hands on his wife's shoulders. He loved her so much, and he trusted her, but it was obvious to him that none of this could have happened.
"Look," he said, "Lois, I think you just need to sit down and relax. Eating this much food can't be healthy for you." Clark bent down on one knee and rested his hand and the side of his head against Lois's stomach. "Or her." Clark realized his faux pas and back-tracked. "I mean, the baby."
"Clark Jerome Kent, what are you trying to tell me? That I just made this all up? Because if that's what you think, so help me …"
Clark stood back up and took Lois by the hands. "No, what I'm saying is that I think you've had a bit much to eat tonight, and you probably just had a nightmare. It's very reasonable; I mean, we're here in Gotham City on assignment, home of the infamous 'Batman,' who has only been seen by petty criminals. Both of us constantly have to be careful about not revealing my secret identity to anyone. You're also more protective now that you're carrying our baby. Mix that in with some … what is that, sweet and sour pork? Sweet and sour pork, potato chips, candy bars … ice cream … it's bound to cause some kind of reaction. You know that if you insist that it happened, I'll believe you. But you've got to admit, it's a bit far-fetched, Lois. Don't you think this could have all just been a wild dream?"
Lois didn't know what to say. She thought about what had happened. It had seemed so real. She could picture it in her mind as clear as day … but as she thought it over, and added in the fact that she had woken up in a bed full of food, she brought forward the notion from the back of her head that she may have well dreamt it all. She didn't want to admit it outright, but she decidedly backed down from her defiant temper at that moment. "I don't know, Clark. It's like it happened five minutes ago. I don't even remember eating this food. But I know … I mean I don't even believe in this guy, and here I am talking about meeting him! Clark?"
"Yes?" Clark looked directly into his wife's eyes.
"Am I crazy?"
Clark smiled and rubbed the back of his hand against Lois's cheek before he answered.
"Just a little bit. C'mon. Let's clear all this off the bed. I don't know about you, but I don't like sleeping in soggy … what is this …" Clark picked up an ice cream carton. "… Pistacho Nut?" Clark made a face, then wiped some of the ice cream onto his lips and leaned over and pressed his lips against hers, smearing the ice cream between the both of them. Both began to laugh.
"Mmm," Clark said, licking his lips. "You always pick the winners."
"Yes … I do," Lois commented, licking the ice cream from her own lips, then moving in to get rid of the rest of the ice cream on his.
Bruce Wayne sat inside the Batcave, still in his Batman costume, watching the several screens on his computer/video console. He could see the inside of the Gotham Nights hotel, and he knew that Superman had recently arrived at home. He was distracted by the sound of a man coughing.
"Ahem." It was Alfred, Bruce's trusty butler, with more condiments.
"Thanks Alfred," Bruce said. "So … now she knows."
"Knows which, Master Bruce?" Alfred inquired.
"She knows that I know Clark Kent's secret. With their help I should be able to stop that Edwards guy who I suspect is the one going after the computer," Bruce said.
"But wouldn't things have had the same effect if they didn't know you knew?" Alfred asked.
"Possibly. But there's also the element of trust here. Should I come into contact with Superman, I want him to know I am an ally and not a foe," Bruce responded.
"Very well, sir."
Wisps of wind blew past Clark's face as he flew through the dark sky. Sometimes you couldn't tell if was night or day in Gotham because of an immense cloud cover mixed with smog that sometimes rolled in over the city. But it was definitely nighttime now, as bright stars twinkled against the black sky. Clark was patrolling Gotham as Superman … the first time he had actually patrolled a city other than his own. But he felt that since one attempt had already been made to steal the supercomputer, he should keep an eye out for things. He'd been focusing most of his senses toward the Wayne Manor localized area for a better part of the night. Lois was back at the hotel, watching "I Love Lucy" reruns and chowing down on Honey Nut Cheerios.
tick tick tick …
It started out very faint … almost like somebody scratching their fingernail on a piece of wood. But as Clark's hearing picked it up …
Tick, tick, tick …
… it became louder, and he tried to locate the source of it, moving slowly in one direction and another …
Tick, TICK, Tick …
… until he was almost on top of it. As Clark looked below him, he saw a street filled with trash, a few bums, and a row of run-down buildings. He hovered down to the one that seemed to be the derivation of the sound. His bright red, yellow, and blue stood out against the dark and bleak look of the surrounding area.
TICK, TICK, TICK …
The sound was definitely coming from the pawn shop in front of him. Clark tried the doorknob first, without luck. Using only a little bit of force, Clark budged the door open. A musty smell flew up, and cockroaches scurried to their hiding places. Counters and tables and desks were covered in cobwebs, and what wasn't covered in those were covered in a ton of dust. Except for one object, which sat in the corner — a wicker basket.
TICK TICK TICK …
Clark opened the basket and looked inside. The LED display showed seventeen seconds left on the clock. A clock which was attached to a significant amount of plastique. Clark had no idea why a bomb would have been placed here, in a part of the city that had no importance or no one important in it, but that really didn't precedence. Clark had been through this routine before. He picked up the wicker basket, took it outside, and, spinning around like a tornado, chucked the basket heavenbound toward the thermosphere.
TICK TICK TICK …
Tick TICK Tick …
tick Tick tick …
tick tick tick …
tick tick …
The vacuum of space muffled the sound of the explosion as wicker basket pieces found their way into the orbit of the Earth.
Back on the ground, Clark contemplated the reasoning behind the bomb placement, and then it hit him. It was a distraction, it had to be. Someone knew that Superman was in town, and they were trying to get him away from the supercomputer. Launching himself from the street, he became a blur of red as he made his way back toward Wayne Manor. He came to an abrupt halt directly overhead, surveying the surrounding area with his X-ray vision. His head came to a sharp stop as his X-ray vision passed over the acreage to the right of the mansion. What he saw next nearly blew him away.
An immense cave system, running deep underground near the mansion. That in itself might not have been so surprising — after all, there were many underground caves in the New England area. But certainly none with electronics lining the walls, or metal platforms and shafts and poles … and definitely no guys dressed up in a rubber bat costume watching a computer monitor! Clark had to rub his eyes a moment to make sure his vision was working correctly, then he used his telescopic vision for a better look. Zooming in, he found a figure he'd talked about … said that he'd believed was real … but never really, really thought would be sitting here in front of him! Clark focused his attention on the computer monitor that the Batman seemed to be intrigued with … and found himself on the screen. The Batman was watching him as he hovered above Bruce Wayne's mansion!
Impacted by this dazzling new revelation that the Batman was indeed real, Clark's first instinct wasn't to go after him or to inform Mr. Wayne just yet — although Clark was sure that the millionaire would be very interested to know that the mythic dark knight lived right beneath him, one of the last places anyone would look. No, his first instinct was to rush back to the hotel to find Lois, and so off he flew.
As the Man of Steel took off, another van rounded the corner and parked itself across from Wayne Manor, hidden under the shadows of the buildings. Inside, another group of Intergang misfits watched their viewscreens.
"He's gone. The bomb was scheduled to go off around this time … he probably went to check on the damage. That'll keep him busy. Probably got the Batman out of his rat hole too, wherever that is," one said.
"So are we ready?" asked another.
"About. Get your gear together … and don't forget this, just in case he decides to come back." A small box was produced, and as it was opened, tiny rays of green light darted out, illuminating the van. The box was quickly shut.
Clark returned to the hotel room that he and Lois shared to tell her the news. "A cave system, below the mansion…" he began explaining while taking off his cape.
"Ha! I told you so. Food fits, my a — err, tushy," Lois said, correcting herself.
"Tushy?" Clark raised an eyebrow and grinned.
"Well, you know, Clark. Got to watch my language for when the little one comes around. I don't want him going around with a potty mouth," Lois said.
"Especially if it's a girl," Clark added. "Anyhow, I saw these caves, lined with electronics … and in them I saw what appeared to be … the Batman. It looks like he's monitoring this whole situation as well."
"Well, duh, Clark," Lois said. "Oh my god …" Lois's face took one of revelation. Clark could see pieces of a puzzle connecting in his wife's intuitive brown eyes.
"Oh my god, what?" Clark questioned.
"I can't believe I — I mean, we — didn't realize it before!" Lois exclaimed.
"Clark, don't you realize? The caves? The appreciation for journalism? The lack of security? The fact that he could tell us *exactly* the first article you wrote at the Daily Planet? I can't believe I never made the connection, Clark!"
"What connection, Lois?"
"Bruce Wayne is Batman!" she conluded excitedly. "It all makes sense …"
Clark laughed, and then spoke under his breath. "Knows the guy for a day and figures it out, yet she knows me for two years and didn't have a clue…"
"What did you say, Clark?" Lois said, hinting for him to speak up.
"Oh, nothing," Clark said. Clark then picked back up his cape and put it back on. "Lois, I think I need to talk to Bruce Wayne. Maybe I can make an arrangement for us to stay over there … I mean, since he knows … and that way no more 'distractions' will keep us away from the computer."
Clark kissed Lois on the forehead and flew out the hotel room window.
Outside of Wayne Manor, three more Intergang thugs tried to get in to get after the Waynetech supercomputer. "I can't get over how easy it was to get onto Wayne's property, Dawson," said one of the thugs, a brown-haired young man in his mid-20's. "It's like he *wants* this thing stolen so he can get some big insurance or something … but not like I care."
"Watch it, you two," said the third thug, a tomboyish female. "Can't get too cocky. Here, push me up so I can get in through this window." The two men pushed her through. The brown-haired male, Bill, was second to go through with the ringleader, Dawson, going through by being pulled up by his hands.
"What about the Batman?" Dawson whispered to the other two.
"Edwards is takin' care of it," Bill said. "It's all good. Superman's probably lookin' into this bomb thing too, probably tied up at the police department or somethin' stupid like that."
"If he does show up, I have insurance," the female said.
"Sam, I'm impressed," Dawson told her. "Now what is this said 'insurance'?"
Sam pulled out the ring box, which revealed a ring with a chunk of green Kryptonite placed upon it. She placed the ring on Dawson's finger. "He comes near us and we'll make him weak in the knees," Sam bragged.
Bill was already near the other side of the room. "According to Edwards' map, we go in through this door, and then in the next room … and then over three rooms … then down a flight of stairs …"
"Shhh, Bill," Sam warned, "we practiced this one dozens of times, remember? We don't want anyone hearing us …"
Superman was about to land on his flight to Wayne Manor when he noticed a broken window on the lower left window on the right hand side of the house. He swooped down below to invesigate when he noticed fresh footprints beside the garden. He decided to enter the window and see if someone forced entry into Wayne Manor… in case another heist was underway.
Upon his entrance he looked around the room in which he entered, finding nothing but books. Interestingly, several of the walls were lined with lead; for what reason he was totally unsure. However, with concentration Clark swore he could hear something.
"Right this way," said a voice he picked up. "Past the study, and on the way to the —"
Superman rushed into action. He levitated a few feet above the ground slowly rather than using super-speed so he would not be heard, so he could catch the felons by surprise.
"Five locks on this door," Bill said, turning around to Sam. "Piece a'cake." Bill pulled from his jacket several gizmos he could use to break the door open.
"I don't think those will be necessary," said a voice. The three of them turned around to find a man dressed in blue and red. "I'm sure Mr. Wayne will appreciate learning that yet another attempt has been made to steal his computer, but he'll appreciate it even more that it wasn't successful," Superman said, grabbing Bill by the jacket.
"I don't think so," Dawson said. Dawson then clenched his fist and pointed his fist at Superman. On his finger was a glowing ring of green that illuminated the room. Clark kneeled down in pain.
Bill returned to the safe-cracking. "Almost there, four down, one to go," he said.
"Dawson … you're going to be OK?" Sam asked.
"Of course I will, I can handle this. You know, you keep worrying I'm going to have to call you Samantha," Dawson said.
"We're in!" Bill bragged. Sam followed him in.
Superman cowered in pain. Dawson placed the ring up on a fireplace mantle, out of Superman's reach. "They need my help. Besides, it's not like you can reach this," Dawson said. The three felons entered the room where the computer was held.
Silence followed. Superman was confused.
He managed to get together enough power to crawl. He still wouldn't be able to reach the ring, but he did have enough power to get out of harm's way, possibly even trip up the burglars. He crawled into the room where the computer was held. Looking in, he saw Dawson, Sam, and Bill — all gagged, and all tied up. A note sat above. Clark smiled as he read it. He looked over across the room and noticed something interesting. "A sun lamp?" he wondered. He looked at the lamp quizzically before realizing that Bruce must have realized what the sun lamp would be there for.
After several minutes of soaking under the sun lamp and reviving his powers, Superman flew the three criminals to the Gotham police station, and handed the commissioner the note that Batman had given him.
"Lock them up for a long time," Commissioner Gordon read aloud. He then looked to the bottom of the note and saw a little drawing of a bat.
"He did it again," Gordon said. "So, Mr. ahh …" Gordon began, looking down at the booking papers one of the thugs was filling out. "Mr. Dawson. Care to inform us who it is who sent you? Or will it require an extensive trial? Or maybe we should bring the Batman back?"
"No, no, not the Batman!" Dawson panicked. "I'll tell ya … it was Edwards … Michael Edwards … you can find him at Gotham Tower, room … ah, which was it? Room 192."
"Thank you," Superman said, as he turned to Dawson. "Commissioner, if you excuse me … I've got to go get someone."
With that, Superman flew out the window. He arrived at Gotham Tower, worked his way into room 192, and inside he found Michael Edwards, standing alone. Superman took him and brought him out, and then surveyed the room for other accomplices. He saw nothing.
Several floors below, watching a viewscreen, Mindy Church watched as her latest accomplice got dragged away. Sure, she didn't get what she wanted, but again … He was expendable. Mindy Church never got caught.
Clark hovered silently by a stalactite inside the cave, waiting. It had escaped him at first, but now he knew Batman's secret, and it was time to confront him about everything. Clark didn't know exactly when he'd come back to the cave, but he had time to spare.
The sound of heels making contact with metal echoed off the walls and brought Clark's attention toward a spiral staircase concealed in a far-off corner. He watched with close intent as a figure made its way to the bottom … a figure dressed in black … and white. Alfred walked into the light of the walkway connecting the staircase to the platform containing the computer consoles. He looked up toward Superman, adjusting his glasses.
"Good evening, Mr. Kent … Mr. Wayne regrets his tardiness, but he will see you now," Alfred said.
Clark, surprised that Alfred knew of his presence, began looking around him for any sign of the Batman.
"I'm right here, Clark." The voice seemed to emanate from all over the cave. "You found the cave …" Batman walked into the light from the shadows below and behind Clark. "… I'm just as easy to find. That is, if you have X-ray vision."
Clark slowly floated down to the platform that Batman stood on. There they were, face to face. Two superheroes. One in blue spandex, the other in black rubber.
"I won't ask … why you are what you are …" Clark started.
"Then don't," Batman replied. He dug his fingers under the eyeholes of his cowl and pulled back, revealing the face of Bruce Wayne. "We both know now, Clark, and that's the way I wanted it. Since you arrived in Metropolis, I've known. When you stopped the bus with your hand. The lady who saw you … her name is Rebecca Mullins. She's a friend and associate of mine. Having seen firsthand the kind of things society can produce — the people I've put away, I was the only one who believed her. So I researched. And I discovered your secret. You fascinated me. At first I thought you were just some brawny muscle flying around in tights and a cape. But after a time I figured out why you did what you did. A reason totally different from the one that made me who I am. But there's a part of us that remains the same; something we share. So I only saw it fitting that you know who I am as well."
"So why appear to Lois? Why not just come directly to me?"
"Lois didn't believe Batman was real. Besides, you're married. You shouldn't be keeping secrets from each other, Clark. If you were going to know, then so should she."
"Fair enough. So now we both know. What now?"
"Now we go about business as usual. Mild-mannered reporter. Business mogul. Superman. Batman."
"And I suppose your idea is that if I need you, or you need me …" Clark hinted.
"I doubt I'll need you. But the option is always there."
"Agreed," said Clark. He looked around him. "So … quite a place you have set up for yourself."
Bruce smirked, the first time Clark had seen "the Batman" smile. He turned toward a set of computers and ran his hand over a switch, turning on a monitor.
"I've decided to move the supercomputer to a better locale … it gets a little annoying being disturbed every night by inexperienced burglars."
Clark took a few steps toward the computer station. "Do you have any idea who's behind the attempted thefts?"
"I have my … theories," Bruce said, pushing one of the buttons on the console. A low rumbling sound vibrated through the cave. On the monitor, Clark could see the inside of a room, and a door at the front of it opening slowly, sliding to the right. It wasn't until the light hit Clark straight on the face that he realized the door was opening up right behind them; a piece of the wall slid to their left, revealing a room full of interesting artifacts. A walkway grew from the room's entrance to the platform they stood on. Clark followed Bruce as he made his way to the room.
Inside, Clark found an unusual array of objects: on one side, a large Tyrannosaurus Rex, looking ferocious. On the other side, a penny almost as large as the dinosaur. Other various things littered the room, almost like trophies. The supercomputer sat in the middle of the room under a glass casing. On a stand next to it rested a small metal box. Bruce picked up the box and walked over to Clark.
"I think this belongs to you to do with as you please," said Bruce, handing Clark the box. Clark simply stared at the box in his hand for a moment, before handing it back to Bruce.
"No. You keep it. It's safe here … won't fall into the wrong hands. And who knows, maybe someday you might have to use that. I hope it will never come to that, but we can never be sure. So it's yours. Just don't make a habit of wearing it often. It … uh … wouldn't match your outfit." Clark smiled, then stuck his hand out toward Bruce, and they shook hands.
"Quite a grip you have there, Mr. Kent," said Bruce. "Do you work out?"
Clark just smiled and flew out of the Batcave, looking forward to being back in the arms of the woman he loved.
The train began its course back toward Metropolis. Lois and Clark boarded, and promptly entered their small "suite."
"Quite a day, wasn't it, Lois?" Clark asked.
"Hmm?" Lois said, not paying attention to what Clark was saying. Lois, instead, was searching through her purse for more peanut brittle. Clark reached into his inside jacket pocket and handed some to her.
"I love you, you know?" she said. "You know, I was wondering …"
"Yeah. I just find it interesting that people like the Flash and Batman wear masks to hide their identities, yet all you needed was a pair of glasses to get me fooled. But more importantly, it got me to thinking about something," Lois said.
"Which is … ?" Clark asked.
"Well, you weren't Superman, well, you know with the costume and all, until the day of the Prometheus colonist shuttle launch, right?"
"Right." Clark said.
"Well … if you weren't Superman then … then what were the glasses for?"
Clark began to chuckle. "You know, it's one of those interesting mysteries in life. But, believe it or not, there *is* a good reason. My powers developed slowly, and my vision powers were among the last to develop, well into my late teens, just before flight. Up until then, I really was nearsighted, and I'd just gotten into the habit of wearing glasses, and they became part of my self-image, so I continued to wear them even after I no longer needed them."
"Really? That's it? Not some evil ploy to stop galactically stupid people?" Lois joked.
"Nope," Clark said.
The two of them became relaxed.
"So … this 'adventure' … with Batman and Bruce Wayne and a supercomputer … is this a story you're going to tell our son one day?" Lois asked.
"Well, that's something else I've been thinking about Lois. Son. Daughter. We can't determine what our baby's going to be, and neither of us should feel any kind of disappointment if our child isn't the right sex. It really doesn't matter to me *what* we have, and I hope you can feel the same way. The important thing is that I have you, you have me, and Baby Kent will be lucky with both of us," Clark stated.
Lois just held Clark's hand and smiled before speaking. "Of course, Clark. I can appreciate a little girl just as much as I can a boy … just as long as you're there with both of us." Lois paused to think. "You know, it must be hard …" Lois began, changing the subject a little.
"What would be?"
"I'm thinking of Bruce Wayne. Lost his parents at a young age, raised almost exclusively by a butler for the rest of his life. While it may seem a lot more glamourous than what I had, I still couldn't imagine what it would be like to have no one …" Lois said.
"Well, you … and our child … won't have that to worry about," Clark said. He then kissed Lois's forehead. "She … or he … will be stuck with us."
As the train shot like a rocket along the tracks toward Metropolis, the happiest couple on the planet held each other warmly, fingers interlocked. It was time for them to start thinking of the future; of a life that they had both only dreamed about as they grew up. But they both knew this was no dream. It was a real love, and nothing on Earth could ever keep it from moving faster than a speeding bullet.
WORLD'S FINEST COMMENTS
An Afterword by Matt Combes
"World's Finest" wasn't always the plan.
As a matter of fact, "World's Finest" went by a whole other name. The idea for a Batman meets Lois and Clark episode came up sometime in late 1997. Naturally, any FoLC would be apprehensive about introducing another superhero into the mix. But the pitch that was put forth seemed like a great idea. Back then it wasn't called "World's Finest," it was called "Jewel Of The Vial," and it was pitched by one of our writers, Beth Washington. The story called for Bruce Wayne and a reformed Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) to head to Metropolis rather than Lois and Clark heading to Gotham, to attend the unveiling of an addition to the museum — a rather large diamond. And it turned out to be one of those mad scientist types, etc., etc., and in the end, both Clark and Bruce learned each other's secret identities.
But that was not be. Due to unfortunate circumstances, the pitch and the story were declined for use as an episode. But we knew that we still wanted to do a Batman/L&C episode, and we knew that you, the readers, did as well, based on the majority of the poll results (Batman was the most requested superhero guest appearance). But none of us really felt the urge to do it. Most of the TUFS writers were Lois & Clark fans and writers, and didn't know that much about Batman at all, other than the movies.
So they idea lay dormant for a couple months, until finally Craig decided to pick it up and run with it. Knowing it would be a formidable task, I jumped aboard as well. Seeing as how both Craig and I are avid comic book fans as well as Lois & Clark fans, we also felt we were probably the most qualified for the job. And so the project began. It took a little while to come up with a definite plot, but we knew what we wanted in the end; Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent would each know who the other really was. Bruce Wayne was, after all, Batman, whom they call the world's greatest detective. Galactically stupid he isn't, and the glasses are no match for the wits of a man such as him. Obviously it wasn't going to work the same way around, so we had to introduce a way to have Bruce Wayne *tell* them, which wasn't an easy task. Fortunately, it was already done for us.
Way back when, when the Krypton Club was in full force, I had decided to start a sort of "Choose Your Own L&C Adventure" series. You know what those are … where you read a story up to a point, then you get two or three choices, you pick and then turn to that page and continue until you come to another choice or a dead end? Well that was the plan, except it would be for L&C. Unfortunately the whole idea fell apart, but not before we had already started working on our first story for CYOLNCA (nifty anagram, isn't it?), which was, obviously, Batman meets L&C. I had already written the scene where Batman met Lois in the alley. All I had to do was change a few sentences here and there to catch up to the current time (because the scene was originally written during the summer between third and fourth seasons), and voila! There was a cornerstone to the story. But the rest was definitely hard work.
The idea to have Lois and Clark fight over the baby's sex was mine. And it was I who chose which parent would pick which sex to prefer (I hope that was clear). I'll admit I did let my own preference interfere a little bit, because I've always wanted to have a little girl when I'm married so I can be the overprotective father type, but at the forefront of my mind, I seriously think that Clark Kent would prefer to have a little girl in his arms than a boy. His sensitivity as a man is perfectly suited for it. And vice versa for Lois. Her brashness and hard instinctiveness have me picturing her with a son rather than a daughter. So I planned to have them debate over it (you can call it arguing if you want) until the end (when *everything* gets resolved in a story), where they would decide that they can't determine the baby's sex, so they shouldn't even bother. All that matters is that they love each other and the baby, and, boy or girl, everything'll be just great.
Craig brought a little humor to the mix with the idea that Lois should be skeptical of Batman … that she should believe he doesn't exist, which is ironic for obvious reasons. Not only was it a great idea, it fit perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle with my aforementioned Batman/Lois scene. If she didn't believe in him, what better way to remedy that than have her meet him face to face? And we pulled in the opposite for Clark; he was a believer. After all, he's from a whole other planet himself. He's had to put faith in what he couldn't physically see before now … many years ago … when he knew he loved a woman named Lois Lane. So it's only natural that he be the more open- minded of the two.
By the way, for those that don't know, "World's Finest" is borrowed from the comics. It's a title used to describe the old comic book series in which Batman and Superman would team up regularly to fight their rogues gallery. We went through a host of other names before settling with an oldie but goodie; "A Hard Day's Knight," "Knights in Gotham," "Gotham Knights," and so on and so on. Pretty much anything with "Knight" or "Bat" in it, we went over. We decided that if we couldn't agree on a title, we'd stick with the fallback, "World's Finest." And so there you have it.
I know many people will probably complain about this episode due to the fact that it had Batman in it, but they're in the minority, according to the TUFS poll. I just hope that for the rest of you, you enjoyed this episode as much as we did putting it together. It was quite an experience. We'd also like to thank Joel Ellis Rea for the contribution of the idea to have, once and for all, the question of Clark's glasses answered. And the biggest of thanks goes to Kat Picson, who not only did a fantastic job with last-minute editing, but who also prompted me, in her own way, to get the job done, and done quickly.