By Niklas "Hawk" Jonsson <email@example.com>
Submitted March 1999
Summary: A rewrite of the pilot episode: Clark is different, the world is different, and the situation between our two reporters is certainly different from the show.
(Archive Note: This story has been reviewed by the Archive editing staff, however, the Swedish author preferred not to change his dialogue punctuation to the English standard.)
Author's summary: Clark Kent arrives in Metropolis, becomes a reporter at the Daily Planet and Hawk's own version of the first episode from the show takes place. Clark is different, the world is different and the situation between our two reporters is certainly different from the show.
Disclaimer: The usual mumbo-jumbo, you know the drill. Most of the characters aren't mine and I got large chunks of the story from the show even though I've added a few of my own touches. Hey, that's why it's called fanfiction! Read and enjoy, but please remember that I am an illiterate Swede so there's hordes of grammatical and other mistakes all over the place. I'm no expert in English names for chemical compounds either, but I hope you get the general idea. Niklas, Erik/John, HawkTech, HawkSoft Europe, Le Mat and The Pro are mine, all mine. Touch without permission and you die, get it?
Thanks: First and foremost to the astonishing Julie Gibson who did an *amazing* amount of work going through this story, finding and offering corrections for my various grammatical mistakes. Heaps of thanks, a couple of big kisses and a bunch of rib-cracking hugs go out to her. Also to my family, friends, relatives, feedbackers, schoolmates, people I've bumped into on the bus, the people fighting for animal rights, vegetarians, meat-eaters, everyone I've ever met, everyone I've ever seen, everyone I haven't seen and the rest of you as well. :) P-hew, that should cover everything … :D
Updates'n stuff: New stories, updated stories and sequels, can always be found first at Hawk's Galaxy and www.fanfiction.net, the two first places I upload my stories to when I'm finished with them. Feedback, comments, corrections or whatever, accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org, ICQ:21771860 or the guestbook at Hawk's Galaxy ( http://hem.passagen.se/hawkgts/ ).
" …." = Speech
* ….* = Screams/Emphasis
/ …./ = Thoughts
*/ … /* = Telepathy/Projected thoughts
~ ….~ = Translations
+ ….+ = Sounds/Radio/Telephone/Computers
** Changing Point Of View
- - - = Time passes without change in POV
He looked out of the window, the bus was getting closer to Metropolis. After travelling across most of the world perhaps he could find a place to call his own here. He relaxed and leaned back, the young girl next to him was sound asleep at last. She had spent hours talking to him, he had responded with an occasional grunt or a few neutrally spoken words. He looked at her more closely, she really was quite beautiful. Had he not felt such a tingle of anticipation from finally coming to Metropolis, he might have responded in another way, even made a few moves himself. But he was not in the mood, not even willing to make an effort despite her being a very pretty girl. He thought back on the last couple of years, he couldn't really believe that he had spent so much time away from home. He had visited his parents often, of course, but it was years since he had stayed at home for more then a week or two when it was time for harvest. He had seen so much, met so many interesting people, been at so many really great places but had still not found anywhere that felt right for him. He looked down at the girl again, he had seen many women as well but not found *THE ONE* yet. He remembered several fondly and he had a lot of happy memories of past relations. Rachel, Lana and others from his home in Smallville, back in Kansas. Jiribah, the princess he met in England, who taught him ballroom dancing. Jeanette from Paris, who helped him improve his French to a level normally reserved for native Frenchmen. Mariko in Tokyo, Sally in New York, Gretchen in Berlin, Natasha in Moscow and even more. Sometimes it seemed as if he found at least a girl in every place he visited. Animals, children and girls always seemed to sense something different in him, something that made him irresistible. Children would often come to him and start talking or cuddle up against him even though they had never seen him before. He always seemed to be able to know what animals were trying to tell him and they always seemed to enjoy his presence. Girls and women, as well for that matter, always seemed to treat him differently from other men, even other attractive men. They seemed to be able to trust him completely at first sight, some seemed to be able to shrug it off and some of them got angry with him for some reason. He had several times been yelled at for doing nothing more then to enter, say, an elevator or sitting next to someone on a bus. They would first look closely at him, start smiling and then blink a couple of times and then stare at him. Some simply looked away but the worst kind was the ones that started screaming and throwing things at him. The girl next to him suddenly moved in her sleep and rolled over against him. Her head against his chest felt good but he was not in the mood for this at the moment, perhaps later. He concentrated on her and discovered that she was awake, she was only pretending to sleep. He shook his head and sent her a few messages, she would probably think they were her own thoughts. */What if he's a murderer? Perhaps he's one of those creeps that rape women? Maybe he's gay?/* She suddenly twisted away from him and he could feel her fear, perhaps he had overdone that a bit so he sent her into a calm mood. He rarely used these powers because it felt too much like intruding on people's privacy. He could actually read people's minds like books if he wanted to, that felt wrong somehow so he had not done that since he discovered that he could actually do that. Another thing he could do was to sense what emotional state and physical condition people were in, he didn't even have to actually see people. He could feel them even through walls and different altitudes as long as they were no more then a couple of meters away. He could send messages to people as well, most people seemed to think that it was their own thoughts, at least no one had said anything about it so far. He had used it many times to clear up troublesome situations. Like the one time that he had managed to convince a terrorist that he forgot to load his gun so he ripped out his clip to replace it with a new one. He had then managed to knock him down without anyone getting hurt. Things like */There's something wrong here, I better run!/* had saved several people from falling objects or gotten them out of the way from speeding cars. He managed to get by by doing odd jobs here and there, his only "real" work was the things he wrote. He had started writing to his parents about the places he visited around the world and his mother had edited his letters a bit and then sent them to the local newspaper and they had started publishing them! After reading what the paper called "Kent abroad" he had started writing real articles that he sent along with the letters to his parents and the newspaper had continued to publish them and even paid him a little for it. He'd even done some freelancing for newspapers in the places he visited, he had gotten a couple of job offers, but he hadn't felt like staying at any of those places. He had other ways of getting money as well, if he was really short on cash he could always fish up a pearl or something like that. Fishing for pearls with his incredible powers was easy, for variation he sometimes dug up a diamond or two but those were harder to sell. Once he found a *huge* diamond, almost as large as his own fist. He had not managed to part with it though, he had thrown it in his old tree house along with a few other memorables from his travels. He supposed he could become rich by selling it or if he used his powers to make money constantly but that also felt wrong somehow, he only resorted to *that* when he really needed the cash like when he bought a laptop computer for himself or when his parents' barn had almost burned to the ground. He was so different from everyone else, not only because he had all these powers that apparently no one else had. He had discovered during his travels that most people wanted money, fame, men/women, fancy titles, expensive things and much more. All he really wanted out of life was a place to call *his* home, perhaps also meeting *the one* he would like to ask to become his wife. He had for sure met a lot of possible ladies but he had never really felt that any of them was *the one*. His parents were worried about that sometimes, his father was the one that expressed it the most but he knew that even if his mother put up a brave face about it, she wanted even more than his father that their beloved son would finally find someone who would "trap him, tie him up and drag him screaming to the altar" as his mother once said. He smiled at the memory and took a deep breath, he made a face and looked out of the window again. He had felt the air going from bad to worse and he was really surprised to see that the bus had already entered Metropolis. He shook his head in amusement, he had been so deep into his own mind that he never even noticed that they had went into the city. He had once been to Metropolis as a child when he went to school, he and his classmates had been to a couple of museums and exhibits before going back to Smallville. He had really liked the trip and the city even though, horrified, he had exclaimed that "This air sucks!" as soon as they had gotten off the bus. He smiled at that memory as well and tried to concentrate on the city. The bus was going to drop them off more or less in the center of Metropolis and he had no idea whatsoever about what to do once he got off the bus. He jumped off with everyone else from the bus, the girl he had been sitting next to smiled at him and he smiled back. It felt good being in Metropolis somehow, he did not know why, but he felt good just standing there outside the bus. He got his suitcase and talked a bit with the girl now that he no longer felt depressed. She was in Metropolis to visit her sister who lived just a couple of blocks away. He got her name, Tanya, and a tiny note with the phone number to Tanya's sister so he could reach her to the end of this week, perhaps he wanted to go out on a date? He smiled and said that he might take her up on that, waved goodbye and walked down the street where he saw a couple of cabs waiting for customers.
"Hey! I never even got your name!" screamed the girl as he reached for the door on one of the cabs.
"Clark Kent!" he screamed and waved again before he sat down inside the cab and asked the cabby to take him to a good and preferably cheap hotel.
"Sure thing buddy, nice girl." the cabby commented. Clark smiled at him and winked before leaning backwards against the seat, he wasn't really tired but he felt drained somehow. He had been awake for more then 29 hours by now but the excitement of once again going to Metropolis had kept him awake. He could manage without sleep for longer periods then this and he was sure that he could stay awake for 50 more before he would get really tired but he would not do that. Even though he wasn't really tired he would try to sleep some as soon as he had called his parents. He could visit them, he could be there in a couple of minutes but Metropolis felt so good that he decided to stay here and use the phone instead. The cabby dropped him off not too far away from central Metropolis, in front of a small hotel that he claimed was both good and cheap. Clark did not have his hopes up too high, but some of the places he had stayed at in Asia and Africa had been worse then *anything* that Metropolis could throw at him. He was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the hotel actually seemed to be better then what he had expected for the money he paid for his room. Sure it was small but it was well kept and the bed looked marvelous. He had spent the last couple of days in New York where he visited Sally Jameson, a girl he had met down in Australia a year or so ago. Back then they had a short romance but now they were just good friends so he had slept on her couch. She had been down to Australia in order to get over the fact that her boyfriend had left her and he had just come down from Japan in order to see what it was like "down under". They had met each other while scuba diving and they had spent two weeks together before Sally had to go home to New York. She didn't have a boyfriend at the moment so there had been no problems with him sleeping on her couch for a while. Clark took out some spare change and picked up the telephone in order to call his parents. The phone was picked up almost at once on the other end.
"Martha Kent." said his mother in the other end.
"Hi mom, it's me."
"Jonathan, it's Clark!" his mother screamed in the other end. He smiled and moved the phone away from his ear. "How are you, Clark? I haven't heard from you since Jamaica almost a week ago!" she asked nervously.
"Yeah, I left for New York the day after and spent a couple of days with Sally, you know the girl I met down in Australia? Yesterday I decided to leave and now I'm calling from Metropolis. How are you and dad?" Clark heard a click and then,
"Hi son!", his father had picked up the extra telephone.
"Hi, Dad. How are things at home?"
"Well, your mother is trying out her talents as an artist. I don't know what she's into now, she goes from one to the other faster than you!" his father said.
"I'm doing modern art, Clark. Your father is to dense too understand it. Are you still coming home for dinner, Clark?" his mother asked.
"Yeah, Mom. I wouldn't pass up the chance of your home-cooked meals for anything in the world!" Clark said truthfully. His mother was a truly great cook, she could make just about anything. He was not that bad a chef himself but rarely got the chance to make any food except when staying at some girl's place or when taking a temporary job at a restaurant or something like that.
"What are you going to do in Metropolis, son?" his father asked curiously.
"When are you going to stop travelling around the world?" his mother put in. Clark leaned against the wall but decided against it and instead jumped up into the air and floated on his back.
"I'm looking for a job, a real permanent job! I called Professor Carlton and asked him for a favor. I remember him saying that he once gave a real scoop to a young reporter named Perry White. Well, Perry White is now the editor at the Daily Planet so Carlton arranged a meeting for me. I'm going to show him some of my work and see if he agrees to hire me. If he does I'm really going to try and live here for a while, perhaps get myself an apartment instead of living in cheap hotels all over the planet." Clark explained to his parents.
"Work? Apartment? In Metropolis? What's so great about Metropolis, son?" asked Jonathan.
"Put a sock in it, Jonathan! If our son finally has decided to settle down, I for one will not tolerate you trying to scare him off!" Clark heard his mother explaining to his father in the background. He smiled, when Martha decided to do something, not even his powers were enough to prevent her from doing whatever she wanted.
"I'll call you later and I'll for sure show up for dinner as I promised, bye Mom and Dad." he finished.
"Bye, Clark." Clark hung up and got some change back from the machine.
- - -
The next day Clark went out to spend some time in the streets of Metropolis, the meeting with Perry White was not until the next day. He picked up a copy of the Daily Planet and took a seat on a bench in a small park where he sat reading *the* paper and munching on a danish he had picked up from a small bakery he had walked by on his way to the park. He browsed through the paper and then read the front page and the editorial again. Mr. White was a great writer but the thing that really got Clark's attention was a story by Lois Lane. He often bought the international Daily Planet so this was not the first time he had come across articles by Lois Lane. He liked her work. This time it was about a series of mysterious car thefts all over Metropolis. Clark nodded, he presumed that now when Lois Lane was on the case it was only a matter of time before this mystery was solved. She seemed to have a strange talent of doing what no one else managed to do. He had read about her knocking down robbers, working undercover with terrorists, busting weaponsmugglers and other dangerous assignments. A gang of thieves with a liking for fancy cars was no big deal compared to her story about the "Red death and jolly evening" society, a close-knit band of terrorists that had almost managed to kill the mayor of Metropolis a couple of years ago before Lois revealed their plans. He shook his head and left the paper on the bench in case someone else wanted to read it later. Clark jumped onto a bus for central Metropolis, he wanted to check out the big city. He took an available seat but only had it for two stops because then he turned it over to an old lady who got on the bus only to find all the seats taken. She declined at first but Clark rose and helped her onto the seat and then stood up for the rest of the way. Some people looked strangely at him but he ignored them, big city folks might not be the most polite people on earth but he was raised in Smallville, a place where everyone knew everyone and that made him what he now was. He saw a slimy fellow also standing after a couple of more stops reaching for another man's pockets and Clark rolled his eyes. He waited until the thief had his hands down the other man's coat before Clark reached out and tickled the thief who jumped and got his hands stuck in his victim's pocket. The furious would-be-victim spun around and delivered a straight right in the face of the creep. The thief fell backwards and Clark reached out to keep him from falling and hurting himself seriously.
"If you ever try something like that again I'll tear you apart you no-good slime bucket!" the angry victim screamed to the man in Clark's hands. Clark smiled and at the next stop he jumped off the bus leaving the semi-conscious thief sitting on the floor of the bus. Clark took in the surroundings and smiled again, he had jumped off the bus just over the street from the Daily Planet. He looked at the huge globe, the logo of the Daily Planet and the large building itself. But he had nothing to do there today, that was for tomorrow. He checked out the area around the building and bought himself a hot dog with everything on it from a stand. /Not bad, not bad at all!/ he thought to himself while eating and walking. Clark picked up a guidebook to Metropolis that he had picked up in New York and decided to check out the Zoo, looking at animals was always a good way to spend a couple of hours. He hailed a cab and was just about to jump in when a short, bearded man in filthy clothes jumped into the cab and said,
"Thanks!" with the voice of a girl. "Go!" she/he said only now with a man's voice and slammed the door shut behind her/him. Clark leaned down and looked into the window, it certainly looked like a bearded man only there were some odd things about him. Clark adjusted his vision a bit in order to get a better look but the cab drove off and left him standing there looking confused. He shrugged and hailed another cab that he managed to get into without any strange men/women stealing it from him. He spent most of the day looking at animals and they looking at him, Clark could feel their curiosity. Animals always noticed him, always seemed to know that he did not quite fit in among the other two-legs. He called Tanya and went to a date with her in the evening, they went to see some old movie that she had to study for some class in college. He had seen it before but sat through it all and explained it to her. She wasn't stupid, she was actually very bright but Clark gave her a few hints about what to write about it. They had a quick drink at a pub and they said goodbye after that. Clark kissed her goodnight but did not invite her into his hotel room, he was too exited about the coming day to invite her up to his room and so he walked her home to her sister's instead.
Lois Lane paid for her chocolate and jumped into the elevator that just came down. Two men dressed in fancy clothes walked out. She snorted, accountants or perhaps members of the board. She did not recognize them so they were not reporters anyway, she pressed the button for the newsroom and waited for the doors to close. She saw them starting to close and started to smile, if she got the elevator to herself she might be able to get rid of that pebble that somehow had managed to find it's way into her right shoe. When the gap between the doors had closed down to an inch, a hand found it's way between the closing doors. Another hand joined the first and the doors were pulled open. She gulped down a quick breath and prepared to stare murderously at whoever it was. A man stepped inside and she gulped down another quick breath, he nodded at her and stared at the chart. He apparently found what he was looking for and reached to press a button but let his hand drop to the side. Apparently he was going to the newsroom as well, he glanced to her side and she quickly looked away. /God, is he a *hunk* or what?/ she thought to herself. She hoped that she had not blushed, it didn't feel like it anyway but, gosh, was she close! She glanced at him again, he stared at the numbers over the door and did not notice her looks at him. His trenchcoat was a little worn and a single shiver went through her body, when she saw what must have been a hole from a bullet on the left side of it. The man was gorgeous with that black hair and strange face, he looked like an American but he had some other traits as well, both Asian and European. He glanced in her direction again and she once again pulled her eyes away from him. He shrugged and looked at the numbers again, she felt a drop of perspiration crawling down on the side of her face and hoped that the elevator would stop and more people jump in so she wouldn't have to face him alone. She briefly considered pressing another button and jumping off at another floor, but he stood next to the buttons and getting closer to him was totally out of the question. She made a face, that … that *man* was driving her mad. /What right does he have to look *so* good?/ she screamed to herself. She got annoyed at herself, she was a reporter, *the best* reporter at the Daily Planet. She had faced armed men and women more times then she could count! /106 times … / said a little voice in her head and she growled inwards at it. The elevator finally stopped and she sighed with relief and rushed into the newsroom to get away from that man.
Clark gulped down several mouthfuls of air, that woman had been *the* most beautiful he had ever seen! He corrected himself mentally, he had seen and even had relationships with women that were more beautiful but there was something special about this one. He briefly wondered if he had blushed in the elevator but didn't think so. He relaxed and tried to keep his mind off of her, he knew that he *had* to find out just who *she* was. She apparently worked here though. If this meeting went all right, he would make a point in finding out just who *she* was. Even if it didn't go all right he would sure try to find it out anyway. Clark looked around in the huge newsroom, people were running around all over the place and more people were sitting at their desks writing. He saw *her* again, she emptied a bagful of something in a desk drawer and then sat down in front of a computer. /*She* works here!/ Clark smiled but tried to keep her out of his mind, he needed to concentrate on the meeting ahead. A young man came out of another elevator with his hands full of papers in a dangerously swaying pile.
"Ehh, excuse me?" he said to the young man. "I wonder if you could show me were to find Mister Perry White?" Clark asked. The young man nodded and balanced the pile of paper in his left arm and pointed to an office with his right.
"His office is right over there, if he's not there, just follow the screams." the young man said and walked down among the desks with his load of papers. Clark walked over to the office and knocked on the door.
"Just a minute, I'm on the phone!" he heard a voice through the glass door. He saw a man in his 50's or around that sitting behind a desk cluttered with papers and with a phone to his head. He could hear occasional words from within the office even without his enhanced hearing. It seemed that he could have gotten this appointment on a better day then today, Clark guessed that Mr. White was arguing with someone on the phone about something. He turned around and looked over the newsroom again from this angle, he smiled and drank deeply of the general mood and sense of excitement. "All right, come on in but this better be good!" Clark heard from within the office. He made a face to the world in general and took a deep breath before entering the office. "What bad news do you have then? I'm warning you right now, if you are from the IRS you might as well start running because I'm mad enough to risk the Jailhouse Rock at the moment!" said the man firmly and rubbed his forehead. "My doctor says my blood pressure is too high and that's not strange considering what I have to deal with! One more setback and I'll be ready to be buried in Graceland!" he finished and leaned back.
"Pava leaves." Clark said without thinking.
"Pava Leaves? Where the *heck* are you from to get a name like that?" Perry White asked.
"No, no, no. The Ulongu tribe eats Pava leaves to relax, it puts them in a meditative state of mind and it's supposed to be very healthy. I know it made me feel good anyway. I'm Clark Kent, I believe Professor Carlton called about me?" Clark asked.
"Pava leaves? Meditative? Oh, Clark Kent, yes now I remember. Boy, Professor Carlton. I haven't heard from him in years!" he said and looked into space for a moment before returning. "He said you were a *very* good writer, otherwise I'd told him to take a hike. And you'd better be one because I just now got a phone call from one of my top reporters who has ended up in a hospital for eight weeks! So pull out something you have written or I'll kick you out my very own self! This is *the* Daily Planet, we deal with war, crime, international emergencies, murder … " Perry said but trailed off when Clark sensed that someone entered the door behind him.
"Chief, I fixed the broken horn on your golf cart!" someone said and Clark smiled behind the cover of his left hand.
"Not *now*, Jimmy." Perry said.
"But … " came the answer but it was cut off at once.
"I said *not* now, Jimmy!" Perry said and became red in the face with anger. Clark heard the door closing behind him and he removed his hand from his face and adopted a calm, neutral face. "Yes, now where was I … Oh yes, Kent, I … " he started but got cut off again as someone else entered.
"Chief, I think there's a story here. The papers I got from that man this morning reveals that the space shuttle Messenger was sabotaged and that he knew about it! I really think there's a story here, Chief." a wonderful female voice said excitedly. Clark rose from the chair and faced *the* woman from the elevator.
"Lois! Can't you see I'm in the middle of something here?" Perry said from behind and sighed.
"Lois Lane — Clark Kent." he said simply and Clark put his hand forward in greeting. She simply ignored him and was fully concentrating on Perry.
"Nice to meet you … But, Chief, that man was one of the men who built the Messenger, Samuel Platt and … " her attention was brought elsewhere by that young man that had given Clark the direction to Perry White's office standing outside knocking on the window. Lois mumbled "Gotta go, Chief!" and practically ran out of the office without having even glanced in his direction once! Clark shook his head and sat down again. /So *that* was Lois Lane!/ he thought bewildered, now he knew who she was. Perry shook his head, rubbed the side of his head with his right hand and sat down in his chair again.
"She is supposed to be working on a mood piece of an old theater about to be razed down at 42nd street, but is she doing that? *Noooooo*, I tell you, if that woman wasn't the best damn reporter I've ever seen I'd … Now pull out some of your work and do it quick before I send you packing!" Perry said irritably. Clark blinked and reached down into his portfolio for something to show Mr. White. He pulled out a random paper, there were no piece that he was especially proud of, so any one of them would do just fine. "The *Borneo* Gazette? Mating rituals of the knob-tailed *Gecko*?! What in all of Graceland is this? You'd better have a real article somewhere in there or I'll put my Blue Suede Shoe so far up your … " he left the rest unsaid. Clark blushed, he had been sure that he had left that particular article at the hotel he was staying at. He pulled out a few random articles and checked them over so it was something that would be accepted as a real article. He handed over his work about the raid in Jamaica that had been published in several papers on Jamaica, front page material. He also handed over a piece he had written about the sloppy standards of a Russian nuclear powerplant that he had published in a Japanese magazine and along with that a English translation of that article. He also handed over a piece he had written about a huge fight at a football match in Florida, he had went by himself to see the game and had been just ten meters away from the fight when it broke out. He had written about it and it had been accepted in several large Florida newspapers. Perry White browsed through the Jamaican one and started to smile, he handed over the rest without even looking at them. "Clark Kent, welcome to the Daily Planet." he said simply and put his hand out for Clark who grabbed it thankfully and shook it.
Lois slammed the phone down and looked over to Perry's office, he was still busy with someone in there. She had not really noticed who it was, she had been fully concentrating on this story. She could feel a tingle in the spine, she knew there was a story here and she intended to write it! She thought back and remembered that she had been assigned to another piece, she was supposed to write some stupid mood piece on an old theater about to be razed. Since she wasn't in the mood for it, she sent a message to Perry about it and also announced that she was taking the rest of the day off to shop for her and her sister who temporarily lived at Lois' apartment since her former boyfriend had kicked her out. She pulled her things together and stepped into the elevator just in time to see *that man* walk out of Perry's office. Had he been the one Perry had been talking to when she intruded? She truly hoped not, she had ignored whoever it was and that guy was *certainly* not someone to ignore. The elevator doors closed so she missed finding out what exactly he was doing in the newsroom and why he had been in a meeting with Perry.
As Clark walked up to the elevators in the lobby, he encountered the young man who had directed him to Perry's office yesterday. The young man introduced himself as Jimmy Olsen, wannabe reporter and handyman. He offered to show Clark around the place and Clark gladly accepted. He was very good at judging people and he liked Jimmy at first sight. They stepped out into the newsroom and Jimmy walked him around, showing him all the stuff he needed to know and introduced him to a couple of people here and there.
"Don't look now but you are being watched." said Jimmy mysteriously but with a smile. "Over there to your right by the coffee machines are Lois Lane and Cat Grant, Lois is probably the best reporter ever born and Cat is into gossip. They don't really like each other so if you ever bump into them I'll give you a little advice, don't mention either of them to the other unless you want to be way over your head. Lois is strictly work, she is stubborn like no one else and she has a very short temper. Cat now, she is one *major* babe. Rumor has it that she makes a notch in her garterbelt for every man she takes to bed and that she has had to replace it several times already." Jimmy said while walking away from them. Clark tried to sneak a look at them out of the corner of his eye but could not really see them without turning his head around. He saw what must have been Lois Lane standing next to a tall woman with red hair, both of them looking in his direction. He could try and tune them in with his excellent hearing but the noise all over would probably make it impossible to hear what they were saying. Jimmy showed Clark to his new desk, the one that had been vacated by the hospitalized reporter. He left his stuff there and decided to grab a cup of coffee. He turned around to walk in that direction and came face-to- face with a *gorgeous* woman with red hair, probably that Cat Grant Jimmy had been talking about.
"Hi. New in town?" she asked sweetly. He looked her quickly up and down and decided to keep his eyes on her face instead of her more or less non-existent clothing. She shot her arm forward up against his face and he swiftly took hold of it to kiss her hand.
"Yes. Clark Kent, newly hired reporter here at the Daily Planet." he answered and placed a swift kiss on her hand before dropping it.
"Catherine Grant, ol' toothless employee here at the Daily Planet." she replied and moved closer. "If you want, I could give you a personal tour of this place and the rest of this grand city."
"Miss Grant … " Clark tried but was interrupted.
"*Cat*." she said firmly with a sensual tone to her voice.
"I'll have to take a raincheck on that, I'd like to get settled in here first. Perhaps later … Cat." he said firmly and carefully removed his tie from her hands. He dodged her and moved along to the coffee machines where he poured himself a cup of hot coffee and dumped in four lumps of sugar. He tried some and was pleasantly suprised at the taste. / Not bad at all! / he thought and moved down to his new desk. He checked out the computer, the hospitalized reporter had a password protection but Clark pulled out a floppydisk from his portfolio with a very good codebreaker that he put to work.
Lois pretended to read her article in today's paper, she had infiltrated the car-jackers and her story was front page news. Normally she *would* have read it but today she kept an eye on the new guy. *He* had been hired on the spot by Perry yesterday, she had not been able to get her hands on anything he had written yet but she had managed to hack into the Planet's personnel database. Clark Kent from Smallville, Kansas. She had searched other databases for entries about him and had come up with a suprising amount of stuff. At first she thought that Clark Kent from Kansas was some kind of phony identity but she had found articles about him. Apparently he had been a *very* promising football player back in Smallville, the sports section of the Planet had even mentioned him a couple of times back then. They all predicted that whatever team who managed to get Clark Kent would win the Superbowl, that was how good he had been. The guy had practically single-handedly put Smallville's football team on the top of the league. The last she had been able to find about him in the sports section was a small notice that Clark Kent had stopped playing football to travel for a while and that was more then five years ago. So he had not started playing again for some reason. One long shot into the new joint police records to see if he had a criminal record spitted out some rather interesting information. As far as the police was concerned he had never committed a crime in his whole life but he turned up several times as a crime witness and he was recorded several times as having stopped robberies, fights and even two rapes. A check of his passport after some more hacking turned up a horde of information, he had traveled across most of the known world and even been twice in some places. At first she thought that his parents must be rich as hell but a check on them showed that they were simple farmers back in Smallville. The new guy had gotten Richard's desk and was trying out the computer, she was just about to get up and move over to help him out. She had hacked into Richard's computer and she knew the password. She took several deep breaths and moved over towards his desk but stopped. He was running some sort of program from floppy and after about seven seconds he had broken the code and gotten access to the computer. He snickered and put the disk away, Lois saw him browsing through the computer checking things out. Apparently he knew his way around computers like a true pro, she shook her head and returned to her desk. She looked through his personnel file again and shook her head once again. According to this he spoke more than ten languages fluently! She looked and found the line "Knows his way around computers" in the middle of the comments Perry had written about him. She looked up and saw Cat Grant /The *slut*./ walking up behind him. She put her hands on his chair and leaned forward over his right shoulder. Lois strained to hear what they were saying but Perry suddenly appeared from out of nowhere.
"I see here that you want a 'task force' for your story about the Messenger? Where do you think I can find someone available to act as your 'task force' Lois?" he asked curiously.
"What about Peters?"
"Working on the arms treaty."
"The majors faulty taxation. Sorry Lois, you are on your own on this story." he said simply and walked into his office. She growled and ran after him, she entered his office behind him and closed the door behind her.
"Look, Chief, I need at least one *good* reporter." she said.
"You can have Jimmy, he's the only one available!" he replied.
"*Get* real, *Jimmy*?" she said and threw her hands in the air. Perry looked as if he was about to give her a piece of his mind when he suddenly turned his head to the computer when he heard the beep that announced that a new story had been sent for his approval.
"That's strange, I wasn't expecting a new story for at least another couple of hours. There's no one in here writing anything I've assigned but … " he pushed a few buttons and suddenly smiled beamingly. "Kent! I told him about that story of the theater you were supposed to write. He apparently went on his own and wrote a piece on it! I hadn't even planned on giving him an assignment yet and here's a great one. I just found your 'task force', Lois. Take Kent!" he said with a pleased smile.
"Kent? That … *hack from Microville*?" she asked faintly. Perry stared at her.
"Lois, have you been hacking into personnel again? I told you to stop doing that!" he said and shook his head in frustration.
"I need a *real* reporter, not a newbie I have to potty train and keep from doing beginner's mistakes!" she said in a strained tone of voice.
"You can have Kent and Olsen or you can do it on your own, take it or leave it." Perry said and waved at her to get out of his office. Lois was steaming, she found Clark attractive, *very* attractive but the man made her lose track of what she was doing. Besides, Cat had probably already sunk her claws into him so deep that she'd have to pry them out with a crow-bar before she could manage to drag him out of the office. Jimmy was cute but what she might need later on was a *good* photographer, Jimmy had promise but he had a lot to learn. He showed some promise as a writer as well but not enough for her to consider using him as a temporary partner. That left Kent, an unknown equation that made her lose track of what she was doing. She took a deep breath and walked pass Kent's new desk, she could make a try but she would probably have to do it herself.
"You are coming with me!" she said firmly and boxed his arm just to make sure he knew who she was talking to. She never expected him to even pay attention to her with Cat sitting on his desk leaning on his monitor but before she had walked more then eight steps he was beside her with his trenchcoat on. She almost missed a step in suprise.
"Do you mind if I ask where we are going?" he asked politely.
"We are going to talk to a man named Platt who says that the Messenger may have been sabotaged." she said quickly and tried to concentrate on not missing any more steps. She suddenly got angry and turned around to face him. "Let's get something straight here, I did not work my buns off to become an investigative reporter for the Daily Planet just to babysit some *hack* from noweresville. And one other thing, you are not working *with* me, you are working *for* me. You are lowman, I am top banana and that's the way I like it. Comprende?" she spluttered and pointed her finger at him while waving the other arm around like a helicopter.
"You like to be on top, got it." he said simply. He looked a little hurt by her sudden storm of insults but seemed to be able to shrug it off more or less at once. She made a face and saw him smiling a bit at her.
"*Don't* push me, Kent. You are *way* out of your league." she said and almost ran into an elevator that had just stopped to drop of a reporter coming in to type down some story. She spun around and saw a reflection of Kent on the doors when they closed, he was *smiling* smugly and shaking his head slightly. She felt just about ready to spit venom, crossed her arms and stomped her foot all the way down. The other people in the elevator who had learned to recognize the signs of an *angry* Lois Lane pushed buttons and got off the elevator as soon as possible. People who waited to jump onboard on floors they stopped at took one look at her and backed away from the open doors. She knew that most of the building knew her by sight, she had been awarded reporter of the month at least twenty times and pictures of her along with a copy of some articles had been on billboards all over the building. She also knew that even those that did not know what she looked like had heard about her temper and heard enough to stay away when they saw someone with black hair stomping feet with arms crossed. She fumed, later today she would be able to hear whispers whereever she went. "Look out, Lois is *angry* today.", "Do whatever she wants and do it the way she wants." or as the braver ones would say while scrambling for cover, "Take cover! Incoming!".
Clark followed the *mad* Lois out on the streets where she hailed a cab and scurried into it with the grace of someone who did that a lot. It reminded Clark of something and he looked more closely at her face. She suddenly turned her head around and stared at him.
"*WHAT*?" she growled at him and he knew where he had seen her before.
"It was you! You were dressed as a man with a beard and everything. You stole a cab from me yesterday." he accused with a boyish smile.
"I didn't *steal* your cab, I simply borrowed it." she said smugly. Clark only shook his head and leaned back, this was one *strange* woman. The cabby said something in a heavily accented English that was almost impossible to understand, Clark recognized the accent though.
~You're from Greece, am I right?~ Clark asked.
~Ahhh, it is so *good* to hear a decent language again. I have not been able to speak anything but English with anyone except by telephone since leaving Athens two years ago.~ the cabby said.
~What were you trying to say before?~ Clark asked.
~I was wondering were you wanted to go, the lady only said *drive*. She is a feisty one ehhh?~ the cabby asked and winked. Clark smiled and winked back at him.
"*What* am I missing here, could you speak a *real* language so I can understand it as well? Farmboy, what's he saying?" Lois asked.
"He was only wondering were we would like to go, that's all." Clark said and smiled at her. She mumbled something that did not sound like something a lady would say and then gave the address to the cabby.
~She *is* a feisty one, they make good wives once you've tamed them.~ the cabby said in a neutral voice. Clark choked a bit on that and laughed out loud, he had to remove his glasses to wipe away a few tears.
~I'm not sure I would like to be the one who tames *her*.~ he said when he was back in control of himself. The cabby laughed as well.
~Me neither!~ he said and laughed again. Clark did not dare to look at Lois at the moment but instead concentrated on looking out of the window.
"*What* are you guys talking about? Why are you *laughing* all the time?" Lois growled.
"He told me a joke from Greece, as simple as that." Clark said neutrally and really tried to keep himself from smiling or laughing.
"What was it?" she asked at once with a suspicious look in her face.
"It doesn't translate." he lied simply and looked out of the window again. They continued in silence for the rest of the trip, both of them looking out of their respective windows and the cabby sneaking looks at them in the rear mirror smiling all the time. The man, Platt, turned out to live in what must have been one of the worst slums in Metropolis, it wasn't as bad as Bombay or some other places Clark had visited but it certainly was worse then anything he had expected to see in Metropolis. Lois jumped out of the car as soon as it pulled over and left Clark to pay the cabby.
~She is a *very* beautiful woman, young man. You are one lucky guy. Once you've tamed her that is … ~ the cabby said and winked. Clark smiled and handed over the money for the trip and a few bucks extra for tip. He got out and took a few quick steps to catch up with Lois who had already entered the building without waiting for him. Clark smiled, she was determined to put him in his "proper" place but he could feel her general mood. She was attracted to him but was angry for some reason, not really at him but herself, but she took it out on him. He could take a closer look at her mind and find out but he preferred to stay away from that. Looking at other peoples thoughts was a kind of rape in his opinion. He browsed through the building with his x-ray vision because it looked just about ready to fall apart. It seemed stable enough though. /No need to "suggest" to Lois that we leave just yet./ She found the door they were looking for and started knocking irritably until it opened an inch or two.
"Yes?" they heard someone say from within.
"Dr.Platt? It's Lois Lane, from the Daily Planet." she said in a neutral tone of voice, Clark could feel her calming down. Following a story seemed to make her forget to be angry at herself. A man's face appeared and his eyes looked them both over suspiciously before opening the door completely.
"I thought you'd be alone, Miss Lane." he said suspiciously. "Who are you?" he asked Clark with a crowbar in his hands.
"I'm Clark Kent, reporter at the Daily Planet." he said and held out his hand. Platt looked him over closely and finally let out a breath he was holding.
"Yes … Yes, I can feel that you are telling the truth. Please sit down, both of you." he said and walked over to a table filled with papers, pencils, strange objects and a plate with a slice of old pizza lying on it. Clark looked around in the apartment, the few chairs that he saw had papers, books or something else on them. One of them featured a rat eating on a piece of bread. Lois did the same and shook her head.
"I don't think so." she mumbled. "Doctor Platt, why do you believe that the Messenger may have been sabotaged?" she asked and readied her notepad. Clark settled for looking at the apartment, there were books all over the place. Mostly about physics, electronics and a huge pile of various manuals from NASA. He only listened to what the two were saying with one ear while he *quickly* browsed through a couple of the books he picked up and every paper he could lay his eyes on.
… installed cooling devices!" Platt said irritably. Clark rewinded the conversation he had just heard while he read.
"To.. freeze the ion particles?" he blurted out and stared at Platt. Platt spun around to take a suprised look at him, Lois did the same but rolled her eyes in a shut-up-mr.hack-from-nowhere-you-dunno- what-you-are-talking-about manner.
"Exactly Mr. Kent! The frozen ions would turn the Messenger from an able space craft into a pile of burning junk!" he said and Clark saw Lois' jaw fall all the way to the floor in suprise. "It's all in my report, shortly after turning it in I was fired from my work. Before I even got home I was dragged into a moving car and shot full of drugs, I can't remember much of the following days but when I resurfaced from the influence of the drugs no one took me seriously anymore." Platt said sadly. Lois realized her mouth was open and closed it swiftly.
"Do you have a copy of that report?" she asked.
"Of course, what kind of scientist would I be if I did not keep my reports?" he said and started running around the place pulling out papers from the strangest places. When he pulled out several of them from an old shoe, Lois got tired of the whole idea.
"Why don't you put it together and then send a message to the Planet when you are ready, hmm?" she asked sweetly and stalked out of the apartment. Clark rolled his eyes and gave Platt a card with the phone number to the Planet where he scribbled down the number to his own desk on the back.
"Let us know as soon as you are finished, if I can't be reached, try for Lois or else Jimmy Olsen." he said and ran out after Lois who screamed into her cell phone at some operator at a cab company.
"You'd *better* make sure to send a cab over *real* soon or I'm going to write an inside article about your lousy service and imply some things that will put the IRS and the police on your backs!" she finished and hung up. A visit to EPRAD, the manufacturer of the Messenger really didn't pay off. Dr. Baines, the woman in charge was a very attractive young lady, but she didn't grant them access to anything they wanted when Lois asked for it. Clark walked closer after studying just about everything in her office.
"No exceptions?" he asked silently and smiled at Dr. Baines. She swallowed and put her hands behind her back, fiddling all the way.
"I'll see what I can do." she said breathlessly and stared at Clark with her eyes wide open and an adoring look on her face. He saw Lois rolling her eyes in the corner of his eye and tried very hard not to grin at the Daily Planet's star reporter. After getting that promise from Dr. Baines, they left her office and Lois mumbled to herself while walking out of the plant.
"A very attractive woman, young for her position." he said pleasantly, perhaps if he got Lois to talk she would loosen up a bit.
"A *typical* male reaction, as soon as a semi-attractive woman shows up your brain shuts down." she snapped sourly.
"Trust me on this, Lois. I'm *not* your typical male." he said and tried to keep the edge out of his voice, never before had he been so tempted to use his mind-reading powers on anyone. She was really *angry* at something and it had something to do with him. He could not figure out what it was he had done that could have made her so angry though.
"No? Just because she's … okay looking … "
"*Very* okay looking."
" … you automatically assume she's telling the truth."
"And you assume she's not? Does everyone have an angle? No honest people left in the whole world? That's pretty cynical, Lois."
"It's realistic, Clark, at least I don't go through life disappointed."
- - -
Back at the Planet, their attention was caught by a sudden explosion down in the sewers. A man came crawling out of a manhole all covered in dust.
"John! John!" he screamed down the manhole and collapsed. Clark didn't hesitate, he ran forward to the manhole, smoke billowed out from it but he showed no hesitation at all. He jumped down into it before anyone close by could try and stop him from doing so. His inhuman vision soon got results, he found a man lying down there. He picked him up and in the cover of the smoke he floated up to the hole where he raised the man up to street level and then pretended to use the ladder to get himself up. He blinked several times in order to make his eyes water and he pretended to cough while staggering away from the crowd. A woman in the crowd shouted that she was a nurse and she took care of the two men lying on the street, Clark noticed that the crowd was mostly centered on the woman checking over the two men and so he managed to walk away without anyone really noticing him, except for Lois Lane.
"Are you *crazy*, Kent? What if there had been another explosion, what if the fumes had been toxic, what if the tunnel had collapsed?" she asked incredulously. He pretended to be out of breath and leaned against the wall breathing heavily.
"Nobody else seemed about to do anything, that man down there was still breathing when I got him up. If he had been down there any longer I don't think he would have made it." he said and coughed again. He took a final deep breath and pretended to stagger towards the entrance with Lois forced to follow him. He spent a few minutes washing up before taking the elevator up to the office where he was greeted with cheers and claps of hands. He looked confused and then nodded. /Lois. She must have told the others about my little "adventure"./ he thought and made a face. He kept pretending to stagger a bit and made his way over to his desk, he glanced at Lois's desk and saw that she had already begun writing a story about the sever accident.
"Hey, CK! Nice work, I heard you saved the day." said Jimmy while sneaking up on him.
"It was nothing, Jimmy. I just went with my instincts." he said and coughed again for effect.
"Kent! Why did you pull a stunt like that?" asked Perry White who showed up from out of nowhere.
"I … I just did, Sir. I can't explain it. I just did what felt was right!" he said faintly.
"Judas Priest! Another Lois Lane! Teaming you guys up perhaps wasnít one of my better ideas." he said while shaking his head on his way back to his office. Clark looked around and walked over to Lois's desk where he sat down on an available corner to look at what she was writing.
"See anything you like, handsome?" he heard a voice from behind. He rolled his eyes and made a face. /Cat!/ he thought sourly.
"If you don't mind, Cat. I'm trying to read here … " he said and tried to focus on the monitor. She crossed her arms and leaned on his shoulders, he could feel her breathing down his neck. Lois had smiled slightly when he had rolled his eyes and made that face but now she looked angry again. He made his right hand into a fist and raised it in level with Cat's head at his right shoulder. "*Cat*!" he said and clenched and unclenched his right hand, she backed off and he could hear her walking away in a state of shock. He shook his head and continued to read, he could see Lois staring in surprise at him, but with a hint of a smile on he lips. /She must *really* dislike Cat, I wonder why?/ he thought and stopped reading. "Very good, Lois, very good indeed. But there's only one 'i' in 'Ions'." he said and borrowed her keyboard to make a few changes in her story.
Lois pulled back in suprise and she could hear Jimmy behind them taking a deep breath before he made himself scarce. /*Nobody* besides Perry had ever even *dared* to suggest changes in one of my stories!/ she thought with her eyes wide open. /*No* man had *ever* refused Cat Grant anything!/ she thought with an inner giggle. She looked at the changes he made and nodded inwards. He was *good*, he might even be better then she was but that was something she would never *ever* ever confess to *anyone*! She could see people looking wide-eyed at the two of them, she could see them anticipating an explosion from her. Perry who heard the sudden silence from within his office walked to the door and saw Kent typing away at her keyboard. Her editor shivered suddenly and rolled his eyes.
"There now, what do you think, Miss Lane?" Kent suddenly asked and Lois turned her attention to the monitor again. She browsed through the article and almost growled. He had changed a few words here and there, added a few sentences and now it was a masterpiece. It had been *good* before but now it was *great*! She let out a sigh, rose from the chair to a chorus of gasps in the office from people expecting a temper tantrum and offered Kent her hand.
"Congratulations." she said silently and held out her hand . His eyes opened wide and he gingerly took her hand. Probably expecting some sort of trick she thought. "Your changes turned my article from good to great, I can't argue with that. But learn this, Kent. If you *ever* do something like this without my permission again, I *will* skin you alive!" she finished with a half-growl. She retrieved her hand from a surprised Clark Kent and sat down again to more gasps from the spectators. She stared at the shocked faces and scared them into action again. She also saw Perry in the corner of her eyes. He was holding on to his doorpost and shook his head in silence for a while before he recovered.
"Kent! Get *in* here!" he said and staggered to his desk in order to sit down. Kent obediently walked into his office but did not close the door as he should have done. She could hear everything they said since the rest of the office was still in a silent shock. "*How* did you do *that*, Kent? If it had been anyone else she would have had his or her hide in her collection right about now! Even *I* don't try to change her work before thinking *at least* twice about it!" he said with a note of respect in his voice.
"Well, I just reacted again. I didn't even think about it until I heard the gasps and saw everybody staring at me. By then it was too late, so I continued doing some changes. She must have *really* liked what I did. I don't have any other explanation, sir." Kent said with a note of wonder in his voice.
"Kent, you have got a *serious* impulse control problem." said Perry, still a little stunned from the previous events. She shook her head and picked up the telephone when it started to ring. It was Mitchell, her date for tonight's event, Lex Luthor's party. She knew what was up as soon as she heard Mitchell sneeze. She sighed. Mitchell was rather cute but he was also a hypochondriac, if he even suspected that there was the slightest chance of him getting sick he stayed at home. If he had started to sneeze he'd probably not eat anything but various pills and natural remedies for a week and not leave his apartment in two! She pretended to be understanding but could not resist to add,
"Don't call me, I'll call you.", in the end of their conversation. She rubbed her forehead, Lex Luthor was *big* news. She had tried to get him to agree to an interview for the longest time now, but the only result was refusals from one of his secretaries that she felt so close to by now that she wondered if she ought to send her a gift for Christmas this year. Tonight was her *big* chance to meet Lex Luthor in person, he would have a harder time refusing her then! /But I *will* not go alone, that slut, *Cat*, will tease me forever if I come alone!/ she thought and shook her head in defeat. She would have asked Jimmy, she was desperate but she knew that he already had a date for tonight. She saw Kent returning to his desk and saw him typing away on his computer. /Kent … / she thought and walked over to him. "I don't suppose you have a tuxedo?"
"I could get one … Why?"
"Do you have any plans for tonight, Kent?" she asked and saw his eyes open wide.
"What?" he asked suspiciously.
"Well, my date for tonight's party at Luthor's got sick so I … " she left the rest unsaid and waited for his response.
"Yes?" he asked innocently. /Incredible! Is he really so dense or is it just an act?/
"Well … Do you want to take his place or *not*?" she growled at him.
"So … This is a date?" he asked sweetly.
"Date?" she tasted the word. "Oh, *oh* you mean like in *Kansas* where you meet my parents and then try to give me a hickey in the vacant lot behind the Dairy Freeze? No, this is not a *date*, this is business!" she said, her voice dripping with contempt. *God*, but he was gorgeous. She could smell him even from this distance.
"Oh, I don't know. I thought I might turn in early tonight." he said with a smile. /This … This *man* drives me crazy!/ she mentally screamed in her mind.
"Turn in early? Instead of going to a party hosted by *Lex* Luthor!?" she asked him with her voice under tight control. He smiled at her.
"Well, since you ask so nicely I suppose I will accept your … 'Suggestion' to accompany you to this *grand* event." he said cheerfully with a smile that could melt ice. She was *not* about to melt though!
"Good, meet me there!" she said and stormed out of the newsroom. Since he was such a good reporter she'd leave it up to him to decide *when* to meet her there. If he had to wait? *So what*? He deserved it for treating her like this!
Clark soared high over the city, he floated "on" his stomach and was keeping an eye out for Lois Lane down in front of "Luthor's Tower". Clark had spent 30 minutes in the library reading everything there was to know about Lex Luthor, a fascinating man indeed. Clark had his doubts about how he could have gotten so much power when he literally started from scratch as a kid. He *could* have gotten where he was today by following the law but Clark doubted that *very* much. But it appeared that Luthor tried to pay for any crimes in his past. Lex Luthor spent *huge* amounts of money doing good deeds. He also never gave any personal interviews. According to the gossip at the office, Lex had turned Lois down at least fifty times this year alone! Clark had then flown home to Smallville, for a talk with his parents, before returning here to wait for Lois Lane to show up for the event. Suddenly he spotted her jumping out of a cab and he quickly swooped down to the corner of the building and walked quickly up the stairs. Lois stood stomping her left foot impatiently looking over the street so she did not see him closing in on her from behind. He stopped a few paces away and looked her over, she wore a *stunning* blue gown and she must have spent a fortune on her hair.
"Good evening, Lois." he said and saw her spin around in suprise. He looked her down and up and nodded to himself. "Lois, you look *stunningly* beautiful. If Lex Luthor doesn't grant you that interview tonight he *must* be out of his mind!" Clark said truthfully. She blushed but regained control over her body after a second or two.
"How did you know about that, Kent?" she asked curiously. He smiled and offered his arm to her with a flourish.
"After listening to some gossip at the office and then reading some about Lex Luthor I figured that your main reason for coming here was to get a chance of talking to him in person." he said as they were walking into the building.
"Well … I guess you are right, I'm not really that fond of big fancy parties like this. If anyone other then Lex Luthor had hosted this party, I most likely never would have went through all the trouble of going here." she said truthfully.
"Oh 'aint I the lucky bastard." Clark said with a smile.
"What was that?" she asked, a snappish tone creeping into her voice.
"If someone else had hosted this evet, I never would seen you like this. Uou look breathtaking, Miss Lane." he said and tried not to drool at the sight of Lois Lane in that beautiful outfit.
"You don't look so bad yourself, farmboy. You might get a shot at that hickey after all if you play your cards right." she said teasingly.
"Take care, Miss Lane. We uneducated farmboys can be suprisingly direct sometimes. If you talk like that I think a hickey or two will be unavoidable." he said and entered the elevator together with about fifteen other people.
"Clarkie!" he heard a voice behind him exclaim, he turned around and came eye to eye with Tanya.
"Hi." he said weakly, he could feel Lois's good mood evaporating for every second that passed.
"How nice to see you again. Oh where are my manners? Clarkie, this is Darryl Walsh. Darryl, this is Clark Kent." Tanya said and introduced the man she was with. Clark politely shook hands with the young man standing next to Tanya. He was slightly familiar but Clark could not quite recall where he had seen that face before. He had bright red hair and he supposed that women thought he was beautiful. What really caught Clark's eyes though were Darryl's eyes. Clark had seen that same look only once before, he had been interviewing an old Russian in a prison cell. The man had committed more then fifty murders that could be proven and confessed to committing at least two hundred more! He had spent more then thirty years killing people for fun, twenty in prison and when Clark had met him he was scheduled for execution. He had accepted what fate had in store for him, he had abandoned all hope and his deeds were clearly written all over him. Darryl Walsh had that same look in his eyes. The sort of eyes that had seen too much, knew too much. "Well, Clarkie. Aren't you going to introduce me to the lovely lady you are with?" Tanya asked and Clark pulled his eyes away from Darryl.
"Sure." he replied and tried to keep his eyes away from Darryls. "Tanya — Lois Lane. Lois, this is Tanya. We bumped into each other on the bus to Metropolis." he explained quickly and felt Lois' mood improve a little bit. The ladies shook hands and exchanged polite words about each others clothes and hair. Lois turned to Darryl and Clark could feel her surprise.
"Darryl Walsh, 'the hermit'! You don't need any introduction, I've read about you and your family." she said breathlessly. Clark suddenly remembered everything he had read about the strange family. They lived in a huge mansion outside Metropolis, an ancestor of Darryl's had fought bravely in the War of Independence. Ever since the mansion was built shortly after the war it had been very closed, nothing much reached the outside world about the strange Walsh family. Every male member of the family got named Darryl Walsh, Clark had never read anything about the rest of the family. In the Civil War, a Darryl Walsh had fought for the North and received much praise for his successes. Walshes had fought in both World Wars and the Vietnam War as well, always with great success.
"Mostly lies and gossip, Miss Lane." he said neutrally. "One should not believe everything there is to read in the papers." he said with a slight smile. He turned away from Lois and took a good look at Clark who felt himself shiver when the man's eyes measured him.
"I'm sure we'll be seeing each other again, Mister Kent. Have a pleasant evening with the lovely lady at your side." he said and offered his arm to Tanya who turned to Lois.
"I'm sure you'll have a nice time. He's a *great* kisser!" she finished with a whisper, Clark winced. Lois mood went from average to lousy in a split second and then before he could groan, it went to above average for some strange reason.
"*Is* he now?" he heard her mumble to herself. "Do you always kiss girls you bump into when traveling?" she asked him with a smirk.
"Why don't you follow me on a vacation and find out?" he asked with a slight smile and a twinkle in his eyes. She boxed his ribs and he pretended to be in pain. He saw her rub her knuckles though.
"Aouch, are you wearing a bullet-proof west or anything, Kent?" she asked and tried to clench her fist unsuccessfully. "That really hurt!" she said and frowned. He took her injured left hand and put his fingers on a couple of pressure points.
"Brace yourself." he said and pushed. She gasped and her eyes went wide open in shock. She ripped away her hand from him and cradled it in her right hand.
"Is that better?" he asked anxiously.
"Of course it's not … " she fell silent in the middle of the sentence and raised her left hand again, she clenched it without any problems and her eyes went even bigger than before. "How did you do *that*?" she asked incredulously.
"I spent a lot of time in Asia learning various acient ways to make life better." he said simply and offered her his arm again.
"Forget it, Kent! I'm going to find Lex Luthor and get that one-on- one within an hour. If I fail, you have my full permission to get me drunk and give me as many hickeys as you want!" she said and stalked off to find her prey. Clark smiled and walked around in search for something to drink, if she was going to continue teasing him like this he would probably need something to cool him off. Perhaps a glass or two of chilled champagne down the front of his pants would help.
Lois searched the room from one end to the other and back again without finding Lex Luthor. He had not made his entrance yet according to the people she met. She saw Clark all over the place, he danced with pretty ladies, talked with Jimmy whenever his date was out dancing with somebody else since Jimmy wasn't much of a dancer and she saw him talk with that strange man Darryl Walsh once. Darryl was a strange one, his eyes were a weird sight. She had seen eyes like that before, the eyes of someone who had seen horrible things too often. The eyes of a cold-blooded murderer was the closest thing that popped into her head but Darryl's were different. She couldn't explain exactly how they were different though. After Luthor she'd definitively try and get a interview with this Darryl Walsh. The room was filled with important men and women, she saw John Miller standing in a corner of the room chatting with Niklas Jonsson. John was the founder and sole owner of HawkTech, an up and coming company in the computer industry, he had recently acquired more then half of the stocks in Microsoft after Bill Gates mysteriously decided to retire. There were rumors that the feared assassin Le Mat had broken into his home and threatened Bill Gates to sell his shares, but Bill hadn't bothered to tell anyone his reasons for selling. Niklas Jonsson owned HawkSoft Europe, a company that was an independent part of HawkTech. She absently looked between the two of them and noticed the many similarities between John Miller and Niklas Jonsson. Their faces resembled each other, they had exactly the same nuance of blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and their noses were a dead match for each other. If she hadn't known better, she would have thought that they were twins. There were some things that set them apart though, John was almost 10 cm taller then Niklas, not because he actually was, but because Niklas wasn't standing straight, his knees were bent and his back was slouched. John had the build of an professional athlete while Niklas personified the nickname "Nerd". Two stunning women were chatting pleasantly and moved to block the route to the two famous persons whenever someone tried to get into the corner to talk with them. John and Niklas finished their conversation and smiled at each other before they joined the two women and walked off into separate parts of the room with the ladies. She saw Clark again as well, he was chatting pleasantly with a Japanese couple in their own language! He was just plain *incredible*, too strange to be considered normal. An interview with him might turn out to be just as interesting as one with Lex Luthor, John Miller or Darryl Walsh. She paced the room once again while waiting for Luthor to make his appearance, this time when she saw Clark he was dancing with Cat Grant! She almost growled out loud, before seeing this she had been determined to ignore Kent for the evening and concentrate on Lex Luthor. That was no longer possible, not with Cat around him.
"Mind if I cut in?" she asked sweetly and when Cat turned around to see who it was, Lois ducked under her arms and grabbed hold of Clark. He looked a bit suprised but not at all disappointed, he had *that* smile again. The one she had learned meant that he had said, was about to say something funny or had seen something amusing. She danced along and tried to keep track of her feet, he did not seem to have any problems with that.
"You are *very* good at this, where did you learn how to dance?" she asked curiously.
"A Nigerian princess who studied ballroom dancing taught me a long time ago, I'm just glad I can remember some of it at least!" he said with a smile. He pulled her closer and she was about to protest when she saw Cat dancing with Jimmy close by. Instead of putting Kent in his proper place she drew him closer and put her arms around his neck. He seemed even more surprised and the smile wavered for a moment until she saw him notice Cat dancing near them. His smile then got even bigger and he whispered in her ear. "Someday you just *have* to tell me what you've got against Catherine Grant. I'll play along though, no worries." he said kindly and started taking fancier steps that she had a hard time keeping track of. He mumbled instructions to her that she had to strain to hear, his helpful advice made the whole thing easier and she even managed to make some fancy steps of her own with his help. Cat looked furious when people started giving her and Clark space to dance on and cheering them along. Lois started to get nervous, if everybody were watching then someone was bound to notice him whispering instructions. She looked up with the intention of asking him to stop but noticed that he did not move his lips! He was a Ventriloquist as well. He was smiling pleasantly but his instructions kept on coming without even a twitch of his lips. Clark finished with a final instruction and made a couple of last fancy moves and then stopped just as the music did. The whole crowd around them was cheering silently and politely clapping hands when they stopped dancing and Lois blushed furiously for a moment before she was back in control of herself again. She was about to give up on Lex Luthor and instead offer Clark Kent her heartfelt thanks when he suddenly bent downwards and whispered in her ear. "There he is, Lex Luthor himself." he said and glanced in the direction of the stairs. Lex was stopping every now and then and said a few words to various people, some of them he talked to in foreign languages. She took a step away and looked down to check out if everything still was in proper order.
"I will get this interview if it's the last thing I ever do!" she said determined and stalked away. She saw Clark out of the corner of her eyes, becoming surrounded by gorgeous women who wanted to dance with him. He smiled and winked at her before he took the hand of one of the women and swirled out on the dance floor.
Clark spotted Lois approaching Lex and saw them dancing, his little pointers came in handy because Luthor turned out to be just as good a dancer as he was, perhaps better. He overheard them talking and Luthor even agreed to an interview. Clark smiled, when Lois Lane wanted something, she certainly seem to get it most of the time. He danced a couple of dances and then excused himself, he found Jimmy and made certain to stay around him over at the food. Clark filled a plate and wandered around talking to Jimmy about various things, after a while something got his attention. Lex Luthor was walking around alone, without Lois Lane. He checked the room and soon spotted her, she was walking up the stairs to the door Lex had entered through. He shook his head in bewilderment and followed her, he reached her just as she was trying to pick the lock of the door.
"And what are you doing then, Miss Lane?" he asked Lois who jumped at his surprising appearance.
"I'm picking the lock to this door, stand there and look big so no one can see me working." she said testily and fiddled with the door.
"Working?" he said with a smile. "I didn't know you did breaking- and-entering for a living." he said pleasantly while covering her from the rest of the room.
"I'm being a reporter, you should try it sometime." she said and gave a sigh of satisfaction when the lock gave in and snapped open. She slipped inside and Clark followed.
"I think Luthor might consider withdrawing his interview when he finds out that you are snooping in his office!" he whispered to Lois who looked at everything with a piercing gaze.
"Shut up, farmboy! Just look around, this is reporting at it's best!" she said and walked into another room. Clark shook his head in amusement and bewilderment. He looked at the wonderful things Luthor had on display, there were quite a lot of them. Ancient weapons, old sabers, daggers, muskets and a small cannon on a stand. A well preserved knight's armor complete with shield and sword stood prominently displayed. Clark leaned closer to inspect a marvelous crossbow with the year of it's making ingrained in it, 1238. Clark shook his head and continued looking at the marvelous artifacts on display. He was so concentrated that he never even noticed that there was someone else in the room until suddenly he had the point of a sword against his throat. He looked down at the sword and identified it.
"Macedonian." he said simply and looked to the man holding the sword, Lex Luthor.
"It once belonged to Alexander the Great, he used it when he defeated King … " Luthor tried to explain when Clark interrupted him.
" … Darius the third and was proclaimed King of Asia." he said simply.
"You surprise me, I'm not often surprised." he said and turned the sword over to Clark who tested the edge and the feel of the weapon.
"Alexander was a great tactician with a simple strategy, 'Always seize the high grounds.'." Luthor continued.
"Lex! I hope you didn't mind, you have a beautiful home." Lois said when she came into the room from the one she had explored. "This is Clark Kent, the newest reporter at the Daily Planet." she introduced Clark who shook hands with Lex Luthor politely.
"Not at all, but you could have asked me and I'd been glad to show you my home. Have you seen the view?" he asked and opened a door out to a huge balcony with a press of a button on his desk. It was raining outside but there was a roof on the balcony protecting them from the weather. "The highest building in Metropolis! I must confess that I like the feeling that everybody in the city has to look up in order to see me." he said proudly. "But let's go down to the others, I have a little suprise for everybody that I think you will enjoy." he said with a greasy smile. Clark tried to shake off the feeling that Luthor was not to be trusted, but it stayed. Clark couldn't make himself fully trust the man for some strange reason. /I've been reading to much./ he tried to tell himself. /If he was still doing illegal things he would not be doing so many good deeds!/ he shouted inwards to himself. He followed Luthor and Lois down to the big ballroom deep in thoughts. Perhaps he ought to keep an eye on Luthor for a while, perhaps he really was an evil man? Clark shrugged it all off as the work of the "green-eyed-monster", he was probably only jealous of Luthor because Lois seemed so totally fascinated with the man. Luthor talked about the failed attempts to launch the Messenger and complete the space station, Prometheus, for a while and Clark was wondering what he might be getting at. Luthor then told everybody of his plans to build a space station of his own and a really impressive hologram of the planned station was shown. Clark stared at the text written on it. /Space Station Luthor./ The man had a huge ego, no doubt about that, but many people had that. This didn't necessarily mean that he was a criminal. He saw the rich computer nerd, John Miller, staring at the hologram as if it was a personal insult to him. He whispered something to himself and Clark absently tuned in to what he was saying.
"Memo to self: Find out just how far along the 'Space Station Luthor' project is." he said and looked closely at the hologram. "Project blueprint appears to be identical to HawkTech's small space station project, check for leaks and spies." he finished and shook his head in frustration. Clark looked more closely at John, there was something about his face, especially the nose and mouth that reminded him of someone from his past. He desperately searched his memory for anything to give him a hint of where he had seen John Miller before. He somehow found himself looking back to a time a couple of years back when he had been in Japan, studying Martial Arts with some of the best in the world. He recalled having practise interupted when he was studying the Kage-Mori branch of Ninjutsu by a new arrival, someone who looked almost exactly like John Miller did. His name hadn't been John Miller though, at least it hadn't been the name he supplied. When he arrived, Sensei Hatsu Yakamoto had sent one of his students to give the new arrival a little scare and get a brief evaluation of how good he already was. The student, a young man named Tameaki Iwata, had assaulted the newcommer with a knife. Tameaki had gotten a kick in the stomach for his careless attack and suddenly found himself facing a cautious opponent with two knifes in his hands. Temeaki had ended up in dire need of medical treatment with both his shoulders out of action and a broken nose. Hatsu had talked with the newcommer who he apparently knew from before, then given him the task of taking out Katherine Yakamoto, the old masters daughter. This time it had been the new guy who had been in need of medical treatment, Katherine by far surpassed everyone except Hatsu in skill, but the new guy hadn't known that. He had been admitted as a student and introduced to the others as Erik Jonsson. When Clark left two weeks afterwards to continue with his travels, Erik still studied hard. They hadn't really talked, but they had sparred once. Clark had the edge since his powers rendered him invunerable and tireless in adition to his slightly superior training, but he had still been hard pressed to defeat Erik who fought with determination and a speed that Clark had been hard pressed to match without drawing too much upon his superhuman powers. Clark then remembered something and looked down at John Millers left hand and his eyes widened as he saw the faint outlines of a scar there. He knew that scar, he had witnessed when Katherine Yakamoto had thrown a knife at Erik Jonsson in a dodging exercise. He had stepped out of the way, but hadn't managed to move his arm and hand fast enough. The knife had went straight through his left hand. Clark was now looking at a scar that perfectly matched that incident. He was now relatively sure that Erik Jonsson and John Miller was one and the same. John/Erik walked over to a girl standing on her own a few meters away and they both swept out on the dance floor after John/Erik had looked one final time at the hologram with a scowl on his face. The party continued after Luthors speech, but since Lois was apparently tired of the whole thing and wanted to leave, Clark gave in to her wishes and followed her home. She absently held on to his arm while walking, she claimed to need the fresh air to think. Clark laughed and tried to tell her about what fresh air really was like. She snapped at him and told him that she had indeed felt better air but this was all that was available. Clark shrugged and thought about flying off with her, that would definitively get her attention. He resisted that idea and kept her company in silence. She absently walked into the house and all the way to her apartment without even noticing him. She pulled out a set of keys and started unlocking several locks on the door, she pulled it open, walked into her apartment and had still not noticed him even though she still held on to his arm.
"Why, Miss Lane, what are you doing?" he drawled with a smile and saw her suddenly jump. /She really had forgotten all about me!/ he thought.
"Lois? Are you home already?" someone yelled from another part of the apartment. A young girl came running from within, dressed in a bathrobe and with her hair still wet. She looked a lot like Lois although she had a more brownish/redish hue to her hair. "Wow!" she said with an obvious hint of surprise when she saw the two of them, Lois still holding on to his arm. "Perhaps you want me to go out for a while so you can be alone?" she asked with a knowing smile.
"*Lucy*!" Lois screamed and blushed. Clark smiled and winked at Lucy who looked him up and down.
"You really picked a good one, Lois. Hi, I'm Lucy Lane, Lois's sister." she said and held out her hand in greeting.
"Nice to meet you, Lucy. I'm Clark Kent, reporter at the Daily Planet." he said and kissed her hand. She looked a bit surprised at that, perhaps she had expected a simple handshake.
"This is *not* what you think, Lucy! It's simply business, just that!" Lois said with a note of panic in her voice.
"Yeah *right*, sis. I'll be ready to go in a minute or so." she said and tried to scurry away but Lois stopped her.
"No need to, Lucy. I was just about to go home. Nice to meet you." he said and turned to Lois. "I had a really great time, Lois. Perhaps we ought to do this again sometime, without you trying to get a fancy interview that is." he said with a smile. "Good night to the both of you." he finished and walked out of the apartment, closing the door behind him.
"Wow, Lois. What a hunk!" Lucy said and winked at Lois. "Did you have a good time, sis?"
"I did actually, I *nailed* the interview with Lex Luthor!" she said with a huge smile on her lips and a sparkle in her eyes.
"Not that, sis. How was your date?" Lucy asked and rolled her eyes.
"Oh, that." Lois said. "Well it was … He was very understanding, I only went to get that interview, but he was very nice. We even danced a bit and he was *so* nice to me. He whispered instructions to me all the time and when people started looking at us dancing I noticed that his lips were fixed into a friendly smile. He is one of those people that can talk without moving their lips, ventro- whatever it's called. He made one mistake though, I was just about to give up on Luthor and start having fun with him instead, when Clark pointed him out to me. Had it not been for that I might had kicked you out of this apartment myself." she said with a embarrassed smile.
"How do you manage to work at all with him nearby, sis? He is *such* a great looking man!" Lucy said with a dreamy smile.
"I don't have time for things like that, sis, and with a man at my work?" she finished incredulously. "You remember what happened last time … " she finished in a subdued tone of voice and a single tear appeared in her left eye. Lucy embraced her and tried to comfort her sister, Claude was one of the few things that could break Lois's well built defenses.
Clark jumped out of the elevator and came face to face with Jimmy.
"Good morning, Jimmy. Where are you going?" he asked cheerfully.
"Hiya, CK. Dr. Platt called, I'm on my way to pick up his report." he said and jumped into the elevator before the doors could close. Clark walked over to get a cup of coffee when someone tapped him on his shoulder. He turned around and suddenly found his hands intertwined with Cat's. She spun around and forced him to follow so he would not break her fingers. They danced around for a few seconds before he could get away from her.
"Miss G … Cat, not at work!" he said and rolled his eyes.
"But Clarkie, we never finished that dance yesterday." she said, clearly disappointed. "How about that tour now, cutie" she asked.
"Perhaps another time, Cat. I'll have to take a raincheck. Some of us have to work you know?" he asked with a slight smile.
"All work and no play, ehhh? Don't wait too long, Clarkie." she said and walked away with her hips swinging. Clark rolled his eyes at her and enjoyed the show. He had met some quite pushy and forward women before but Cat was worse then any of them. She was beautiful though, perhaps he should agree. But that would make Lois so mad that she would never ever consider him as something else then a complete jerk. He still hadn't managed to find out exactly what had made the two women see each other as enemies. He shook his head and filled a cup with coffee, he saw Lois sitting by her desk and so he filled a cup for her as well. He did not have to worry about getting fat, or bad teeth so he had real coffee with milk and several lumps of sugar while Lois drank that decaf that made Clark want to vomit on the spot. He sneaked up behind her and put the cup on her desk while reading what she wrote.
"Thanks." she said absently and tapped along on the keyboard. She was writing a background on Lex Luthor, Clark frowned a bit. She was preparing for the interview with him. He didn't like the thought of Lois and a ladies man such as Lex Luthor alone but there was nothing he could do about it. He walked over to his desk and absently sipped on his coffee while reading some of the material from EPRAD about the Messenger. When Jimmy arrived later with the report from Dr. Platt, Clark groaned. The report seemed to have been written on what was available with whatever was available. One page had been written on an old restaurant menu with a childís crayon! Clark could have used his powers to do this really fast but not with Lois sitting next to him talking by herself about men and their strange habits. She finally threw her hands in the air and growled.
"Tired, Lois?" he asked teasingly. She stared at him and let out a sigh.
"I guess so, this doesn't make any sense at all! I wish I knew a place with good Chinese takeout." she wished out loud. He suddenly smiled and flashed her a huge grin.
"I know of a place, I'll be right back." he said and put on his trenchcoat.
"Don't you want to know what I want?" she asked.
"Hmm, I'll bring an assortment." he said and walked into the elevator. He hoped that no one noticed that he went up to the roof instead of down to the lobby.
Lois jumped when she eight minutes later noticed Clark setting down boxes of food on the desk. There were no visible logos on them and Clark didn't carry them in a bag.
"That was quick." she said and opened one of them. She picked up a little white ball with her hands and took a bite.
"I took a shortcut." he said with a smile and opened another one of the boxes. She chewed the sample and was pleasantly suprised by the taste.
"Mmmmm, this is out of this world!" she said and leaned back while putting the rest of the ball into her mouth. Clark shrugged and started eating from all the boxes. Lois stopped talking and ate everything in sight, she sunk back in her chair when finished and enjoyed the feeling. "You just *have* to tell me where you got this, Clark. This was *the* best Chinese food I've ever had!" Lois said in a begging tone of voice.
"I don't think so." he said simply. "If I keep this to myself you have to go through me when you want some and then we can eat together." he said with that strange smile of his all over his face. She shook her head at this strange man, but secretly thought that it was a good idea. Perhaps she should start eating Chinese more often? Lois hoped that she did not blush again, what would people think if they saw her blushing whenever this man said something like this? Clark reached over and offered her a fortune cookie, she cracked it open and looked at the piece of paper inside the delicious cookie.
"It's in Chinese!" she said and rolled her eyes, why did the silly buggers write in Chinese instead of in English? She was about to lash out to the world in general when Clark reached over and grabbed the piece of paper from her hand. "Oh, don't tell me you read Chi … " she tried but was cut off.
"'A good horse is like a member of the family.'." he said and returned the note to her without cracking the smile she knew he had hidden somewhere within. Sometimes she thought of him as a walking smile.
"I hate those, that is not a fortune!" she said and rolled her eyes again. Then that smile blossomed and he stared at her with a sparkle in his left eye. /He looks *so* good when he does that./ she thought and swallowed a breath of air. He was distracting her from the story again, she never used to behave like this before he started at the planet. "You are a strange one, Kent. But I've got you figured out now." she said with a smug smile she had to force along to achieve, she needed to put him at a disadvantage before he swept her off her feet.
"Really? It didn't take you very long." he said, still smiling.
"I *am* an investigative reporter, it's my work to figure things out in a hurry." she said and felt the smile becoming more natural. He just kept staring at her and smiled, he looked so much like a happy puppy when he did that. She had to grab on to her dress in order to keep her hands from touching him. /He was impossible! Is there nothing that will keep him off my back?/ she thought and rolled her eyes. "Don't fall for me, farmboy. I don't have the time for it." she said and returned to the report from Doctor Samuel Platt. /Geez, I sound like such a snob, he must think that I'm crazy./ she thought and tried to keep a blush off her face. "On your feet, Kent. We'll go over to Platt again. Perhaps he can help us piece this mess together." she said and put all the papers in her bag.
Clark felt that something was wrong as soon as they found the door open, Platt had almost as many locks and bolts on his door as Lois did.
"Lois, wait." he said and tried to come up with a reason for him to go in alone.
"Cut it out, Kent. I've seen it all. War, crime, famine … " she said and kicked a rat out of her way. He almost smiled but the creepy feeling kept him from it, there was definitively something very wrong here. It was then he saw the sparks coming from a chair turned away from the door. He looked down and saw feet in a bowl of water and heard a strange sizzle from the chair. He caught up with Lois just as she walked around the chair and saw Dr. Platt sitting in the chair with his feet in the water and electrical wires connected to him. Clark lowered his head, Platt was dead. He did not have a pulse anymore, he would have heard it even from where he stood. Lois gasped and turned to Clark for comfort, he put his arms around her but she recovered within two seconds. She calmly looked the corpse over and studied everything in sight before she retrieved her phone from a pocket. The police arrived later and after looking everything over gave the simple conclusion suicide. Clark groaned inwards and Lois did more then that, Clark had to drag her away from the shocked police officers before any of them recovered enough to take her into custody. Some of the things she said shocked even Clark and he had heard a *lot* of filth during his travels. "All right, Kent. You can let go. I'm calm now." she said when he had her out on the street. He looked her over carefully and stepped away from her to stand in front of the doorway into the building. She stared suspiciously at him and rolled her eyes at him. "Not much more we can do tonight, Kent. Let's go home and we can start early tomorrow. I'll pick you up." she offered and clearly expected no objections from him. Clark flashed a weak smile despite the horrible murder of Dr. Platt. He believed that it had been suicide about as much as Lois did, that is, not at all.
- - -
"There has to be some way I can use my gifts and still live a normal life, Mom. I don't think I can just step aside when people need my help, I just can't!" Clark said into the telephone.
"If someone finds out about you they will drag you off to some laboratory and dissect you like a frog!" said Jonathon and Clark chorused him. It wasn't the first time his dad had used that argument in order to make him not use his powers in public.
"I know, Dad. But what else can I do? I *have* to help people who needs me but I don't want to give up my chances of a normal life either." he said and shook his head, he had said that a lot of times and he had then been unable to come up with a solution for it. Now he thought he might be onto something that could solve this. "But I have an idea. Mom, do you still have that sewing machine?" he asked.
"Yes, Clark. Why?" she asked curiously.
"I think I need some kind of outfit." he said hesitantly but never got around to explain further because there was a knock on the door. "Mom, Dad, it's Lois, I have to go." he said into the phone.
"Is she there? Well, well now … " he heard his Mom say in the voice she always used when he talked about his girlfriends.
"Take care, son, and be careful!" Jonathon piped in.
"Bye, I love you both." Clark said and hung up on them. He walked to the door and opened it, Lois was just about to knock a second time but she froze and stared at him in silence. "Hello, Lois?" he said hesitantly. She shook herself.
"I said nine, I thought you'd be naked … um, I mean ready." she said and whipped her eyes up to his face. Clark looked down and saw that he only wore a towel. His parents had called while he was still in the shower.
"Oh, make yourself at home. This will only take a second." he said and walked into the bathroom. His state of (un)dress didn't bother him at all, he had lived for a whole month with a tribe in Africa where he had been completely naked most of the time.
Lois stared at Clark as he walked into the bathroom with only that towel covering his private parts. She gulped down air in a throat that felt completely dry. She looked into a shelf for a glass she could drink something from and was greeted by a incredible sight. Several sorts of cookies and candy of all sorts. She stared off towards the bathroom door in a state of shock. She found a glass standing on the bench that looked clean enough and opened the refrigerator looking for a soda. What she saw made her open her mouth in shock, candybars, chocolate, jam, biscuits and a few high- fat takeout leftovers. She closed the door and put down the glass, this guy was incredible. /How can he eat all this and still look like *that*?/ she asked herself. She turned to the bathroom door and it opened, revealing a dressed Clark Kent coming out looking as if he had had several hours to make himself ready. She stared at him so hard that he looked down to see if anything was wrong before she turned away from him, preparing to leave. She was overwhelmed with curiosity though so she spun around.
"Explain something to me … You eat like an eight year old but you look like Mr. Hardbody. What's your secret and can I have it?" she asked and stared at him. /How did he dress so fast?/ she wondered.
"I never gain any weight so I don't have to watch what I'm eating." he said with a nervous smile. It was so unfair, he could eat all that and look like he did while she had to work out once a day and still watch what she was eating in order to keep her weight.
Clark sneaked up behind Lois, he had just talked to Mrs. Platt and her daughter, Amy, and found out some surprising things. She was still doing a background on Lex Luthor, the talk of the newsroom was all about this interview, Lex Luthor had never given anyone a personal interview and he rarely answered questions about him as a person. Now Lois Lane of the Daily Planet had nailed an interview with him. She kept on writing without noticing that he was just behind her and he tried to keep his eyes on what she was writing instead of her but it was impossible.
"Lois, what would you say if I asked you out tonight?" he whispered in her ear. She jumped and he could hear her pulse racing, she was probably just as suprised as he was. This was not something he had planned but he had blurted it out and now it was to late. She spun around in her chair and faced him with a stunned look on her face.
"Clark, I would … I say … yes." she said and looked almost as suprised as he must have done.
"Great! I'll pick you up at … eight?" he asked hesitantly.
"Yes, that will be … Oh no, what am I thinking? I can't go, I have something else to do tonight." she said and looked both disappointed and happy at the same time.
"Luthor?" Clark asked, a little hurt by her rejection.
"Yes, I just have to do this interview, Clark." she said silently. Clark understood her, but it would take ages before he dared to ask her out again. He thought about Luthor and made a face without thinking. "Clark!" she said. "This is the most important interview of my life, I would have done anything to get it!" she said and looked a little hurt as well. He was just about to tell her that he understood but his feelings got the upper hand.
"*Anything*, Lois?" he asked with a sneer. She pulled back and stared in shock at him, he was just about to ask for forgiveness when she stood up.
"I have three rules, I never get involved with my stories. I never let anyone else get there first and I *never* sleep with anyone I work with!" she said and stormed off in a rage. Clark closed his eyes and breathed long, deep breaths of air while leaning his head back for a couple of seconds before he felt ready to face the world again. He returned to his desk under the watchful eyes of the newsroom. No one could have heard what they were talking about except Lois's last screamed words about not sleeping with anyone she worked with. The gossip mill would have a lot to talk about today, he absently thought.
"Kent! Get down to the police headquarters and demand to speak with a guy named Henderson. According to my sources, there's a guy here in Metropolis that has hired The Pro!" Perry came from out of nowhere and almost scared Clark out of his clothes.
"'The Pro'?" Clark asked. "Who is 'The Pro'?" Perry stared at him and shook his head.
"The Pro is an assassin, a highly skilled professional. Rumor has it that he's really hired by the government but that he takes jobs on the side from people willing to pay his price. If he really is here in town, we can expect some truly spectacular assassination really soon. See if the police know anything, it's a long shot but get on it right now!" Perry said and waved him away.
- - -
Clark spent the whole evening down at police headquarters without any results. Henderson was silent and no one else was willing to say anything about The Pro. Clark gave up and decided to try at a library. But didn't find anything about The Pro anywhere. At last he went up to the newsroom and used his skills as a hacker on the police network. Five minutes later he was able to pull out a file on The Pro. Clark stared in shock at the information. According to the police database, The Pro had committed more then a hundred assassinations and murders that they knew of. No one knew who he really was and the descriptions of him varied from time to time. They had fifteen different drawings of him with different hair colors, beard in some pictures, clean shaven in others and one with a huge wart on his nose. Clark looked closer at the assassinations, he did not seem to have any particular mode of operations. Some were shot with a sniper rifle from a very long distance, some were shot at close range, some had been strangled, some had been knifed, some had been beaten to death in close combat, some had been poisoned, some had been in the middle of explosions, some had been hit by cars and one had been struck dead by the landing gear of a low flying airplane! The Pro apparently managed to bypass extremely advanced security measures like they weren't even there, do his stuff and then sneak away without anyone noticing him. No information about current whereabouts, aliases or anything that could help finding him. The man was a ghost, a deadly ghost. The final note on the document was a shock to Clark.
"The Pro is not to be apprehended, keep under surveillance but do not interfere. Notify The Lark if spotted." he parroted. Clark spent two more hours looking for information about The Lark without success, it was obviously a codename for something, but for what? A quick check at Interpol increased the list of assassinations made by The Pro with about fifty more spectacular assassinations. Here the final note was a bit different. "The Pro is not to be apprehended, stay away from him at all costs! Notify The Golden Eagle if spotted." No information about either The Lark or The Golden Eagle anywhere at the Interpol database. Clark spent a few more hours putting together information about the various assassinations connected to The Pro without any real results. The victims were more often then not big time criminals, corrupt politicians, financial tycoons suspected of economical crimes and people like that. But then there were others, like a mother of four children that was clean according to the police, she had been beaten to death and her children strangled. A chief of police who had been pushed off a bridge, a stern judge who had been beaten to death with his own club, a reporter who had gotten his own articles stuffed down his throat until he choked to death and many more that apparently were in no way connected to any criminal activities. Clark leaned back and rubbed his eyes, he had stayed up all night browsing through all he could find on The Pro. He could have used his incredible speed to do it but he never even thought about doing it that way despite being all alone in the newsroom. He put all his work in a pile and leaned forward on his crossed arms to rest a bit, he did not need to sleep but he needed some rest.
Lois walked into a strangely silent newsroom and walked all the way to her desk before she saw why it was so silent, even Perry whispered his instructions. Clark had his head on his crossed arms and was snoring lightly, apparently no one had dared to wake him up yet. Perry noticed her and picked up a thick folder from Clark's desk before walking over to her.
"The poor thing must have been working all night, I don't know where he got all the information and I'm sure that I don't want to know either because it looks as if he got some of it from some sort of police or intelligence agency. According to my sources, The Pro is in town, Lois. Something is about to happened and we are the only paper in town with this knowledge!" he said excitedly and waved the folder in front of her. "When you've finished with this sabotage story I want you and Kent working full time on what The Pro is doing here!" he said in a more normal tone of voice. Lois heard a grunt and Kent apparently woke up. He stared around and smiled while blushing, he blinked a few times and then he looked as if he had slept a good night's sleep in a proper bed instead of a few hours in a uncomfortable chair. He got up and walked over.
"Chief, Lois, I wonder if anyone of you know anything about something called 'The Lark' or 'The Golden Eagle'?" he asked hesitantly. Lois shrugged, she had never heard anything about it.
"Where did you find out about that, Kent?" Perry asked quietly while glancing around the newsroom.
"When I was looking at information about 'The Pro', if the police spot him they are not supposed to arrest him. They are to keep an eye at him and notify 'The Lark'. Interpol agents are told to stay away from him and notify 'The Golden Eagle' if they spot him." he said just as quietly. Perry looked horrified and shocked.
"Both 'The Lark' and 'The Golden Eagle' are nicknames for an unlisted telephone number in D.C., the only thing answering is a machine that doesn't give any information at all, its just the beep. The only ones with access to that answering machine is the President of the United States and some of his trusted advisors! Any message left at that machine is sure to reach the President with a minimum of fuss!" he said in a strained tone of voice and Lois understood why. If the president of USA was in any way involved with "The Pro", it was knowledge that could be fatal.
"But how can the president be so exposed? Any police with a tad of brains can puzzle out that 'The Pro' is involved with the president after reading the report on this assassin." Clark said doubtfully.
"I doubt that anyone in the police knows anything about this number, ordinary policemen probably don't have access to any information about 'The Pro'. The chief of Police probably do and if they know anything about 'The Lark' or 'The Golden Eagle' it's probably only the number they are supposed to call. I know only because I once had to call it myself, a dying man revealed it to me and asked me to call it. He then said who had access to that number. You have not heard this from me and don't even dare to ask why I had to call that number!" he finished in a stern tone of voice. He looked around again and resumed his normal voice. "Now finish this story and start working on 'The Pro' later!" he commanded and stalked off to shout orders to other reporters. Clark sneaked a look at Lois but did not know how to ask for an apology after the things he had said to her yesterday so he just walked away. He sat down at his desk where he tried to access The White House private network, it was probably one of the largest, perhaps the largest central of information in the world. It was also supposed to be secret, Clark only knew about it because he had found a file about it when he hacked into the Pentagon a couple of years ago. He almost gave up at once upon seeing the first screen that greeted him, it was scrambled beyond belief. He clenched and unclenched his fists a couple of times and then started working. He was so engrossed in his work that he didn't even notice Lois and Jimmy leaving the newsroom.
Jimmy worked on the lock and after just a couple of seconds he managed to pick it open.
"That's amazing, Jimmy! Where did you learn how to do that?" Lois exclaimed wonderingly. She was not bad at picking locks herself but she was not even close to being this good.
"Reform school." he said off handedly. "It was a bum rap." he finished and held the door open for her to enter.
Clark worked the keyboard like a madman, pages of code were flying by at superspeed but to no avail. Every time he unscrambled a screen and managed to crack the code he ended up with another scrambled screen and another code. He kept on working though, sooner or later he'd find a way through this mess. When he heard the door open he slowed down to normal speed again but kept his eyes on the screen and kept on tapping on his keyboard until he suddenly felt cold metal pressed against the back of his head.
"One 'rong move'n ya'll be feedin' the fish t'night." said a heavily accented voice silently from behind him. A hand reached out for the keyboard and Clark blanched at the sight of the hand. It was a pattern of old scars and parts of the flesh had been exposed to enough heat to burn away some flesh. A few keys were tapped and the scrambled screen was replaced by a blank one as he was disconnected from a computer system he wasn't supposed to know existed. "Stop yar foolish attempts o' hackin' this system. If ya ever try somethin' like this again, Mistah Kent, Ah'll make sure ya'll regret it for the rest o' yar life! Neither ya or yar parents will outlive yar next attempt by more than a day or two at the most. Ah also know o' yar intrusions into the police'n the Interpol. Don't try anythin' like that again either'n forget that this monologue ever took place." he whispered and then the cold metal was pressed even harder against his head. "Don't move, don't turn 'rond'n ya'll be all right. Try anythin'n ya'll die." said the man behind Clark and he could feel him moving away. When he was half-way to the elevators Clark threw himself to the floor and tried to catch a glimpse of the unknown man only to see him run towards the elevators completely dressed in black with a hood over his face. Clark ran to catch up with him but the unknown man somehow sensed that Clark was moving, spun around and started shooting. Clark threw himself to the floor and shuddered in shock as sudden fiery explosions tore the office to pieces. Each bullet from the gun exploded with the power of a hand grenade. The gunman moved into a waiting elevator, kicking away a small wedge holding the doors open on his way in. He then crossed his arms over his chest when the doors closed, standing and somehow managing to convey utter smugness with his stance. Clark got up from the floor and reached for the fire extinguisher with a curse, he couldn't follow the perp because he now had company. Perry and the others who had been having a meeting in a conference room peeked out just in time to see the doors close on the gunman in the elevator.
"Clark! Great shades, what happened?" screamed Perry and stared at the destruction in his newsroom.
"Dunno, Chief, a terrorist perhaps?" he said hesitantly and managed to extinguish the last flame. "He just walked out of the elevator and started shooting before he jumped back in." lied Clark smoothly.
"Where's Lois and Jimmy?" asked Perry suddenly. "Do you know where they are?"
"No … " replied Clark slowly. "I assumed they were in there with the rest of you." said Clark who had been escused from the staff meeting.
"No." said Perry and frowned. "I'm not suprised about Lois, but Jimmy usually tells me when he's going somewhere." Clark looked over at Lois desk and sighed as he saw what she had pulled out before she left. /Information about Antoinette Baines, EPRAD and the Messenger./
"I have a hunch, Chief, I'll go check it out." he said and shrugged into his trenchcoat when the last of the burning flames had been taken care off.
"Well, Lois, such a shame that you didn't bring along your hunk of a partner, he is a *very* attractive young man. If I stay in Metropolis after this, I might just ask him out. I can't wait to see what he's hiding underneath that trenchcoat of his." said Toni with a faraway look in her eyes. A small smile appeared on her lips as she scratched her chin with the pistol.
"Stay away from him you, certified *slut*." snapped Lois and stared darkly at Doctor Baines.
"Lois … Such bad language. I really expected more from a respected reporter like you."
"When you are talking with trash, you have to talk in a language they can understand." snapped Lois and spared a glance at Jimmy who was still unconscious. "What did you do to him?"
"Nothing compared to what I'm going to do with you … " whispered Toni and smirked at Lois.
Both their heads wipped towards the sudden noise and saw a door coming flying through the room as a dark shape rushed into the room and rolled into cover. /Clark!/ thought Lois as she saw his face for a split second. Toni gestured for her handyman to take care of it and he moved over in the direction Clark had taken with his UZI prepared.
"Clark! Watch out!" screamed Lois before she was silenced by the butt of Toni's pistol.
"Silence." snapped Toni and aimed her gun in the direction Clark had taken. Lois heard a strange sizzling noise from above and looked up. She frowned as she saw the chain of a large winch suddenly melt as if some sort of acid was eating through it. She opened her mouth to comment on it when it suddenly broke and came falling down right onto the head of Toni's henchman who dropped to the floor, unconscious.
"Drop it." said Clark suddenly and Lois wipped her head around to see Clark standing behind Toni with a large pistol in his right hand directed at the back of her head.
"I still have my gun directed at sweet little Lois Lane here." snapped Toni. "If I'm dying, I'm going to take her with me." she snarled and turned her head around to look at Clark. "Can you handle that, Kent? Being responsible for the death of two women?" she asked with contempt. Clark's eyes were practically glowing as he stared at Toni, he spared a glance down at her and his eyes softened for a moment.
"No." he replied after a few seconds. "Besides, this is only a lighter." he said and pulled the trigger. A small flame appeared out of the guns barrel and flickered out as Toni exhaled with obvious relief. He shrugged and put it back into one of his pockets.
"Very droll, Mister Kent. I'm afraid that you will have to join your partner here. Sit down and don't move." she ordered.
"Told Perry I needed a task force … *Task force*! What do I get? Amateurs. I still can't believe you came barreling in here like a 500-pound gorilla. If you really thought we were in trouble, *why* didn't you call the police? *Don't* tell me, I already know! Because you're like every other man in Metropolis! You've got this testosterone surplus that says 'I can do it myself!'. Baines has to kill us now, I don't know why she hasn't done it already." snarled Lois behind his back. He sighed and tore the lock away from the chains he had been secured with.
"Lois I've somehow managed to … " he started to say.
"Mess everything up? No kidding!" she snapped at him.
"Now hold on a second. I'm not the one who snuck in here … " he tried to interrupt.
"What are you saying? Are you saying that this is *my* fault? At least I had the guts to come in here … " her tirade silenced for a second. "What am I saying? This probably is my fault … " she admitted silently. "Oh God … " she breathed. "I sometimes do things … You know, like jumping into the pool without checking the water level first. But … Clark, it's the only way I know how to do it. How to get the job done. How to get the respect that I want, the respect I deserve!" she admitted with an emotional voice. He thought about trying to tell her again that he had managed to liberate himself but stayed silent for some reason. "You remember when I told you about my three rules?" she asked. "Well … I've broken every one of them." she admitted. "I somehow manage to *always* get involved with my stories … "
"You slept with someone at work?" he interupted, his voice tinged with disbelief.
"Yeah … " she admitted.
"It wasn't … Jimmy, was it?" he asked as the image of her and Jimmy being intimate invaded his mind. He looked over at Jimmy, the kid was still breathing at least, even if he hadn't regained consciousness yet. He was more or less all right though, it wasn't anything serious.
"Don't be ridiculous!" she snapped. "It was a long time ago when I first started at the Daily Planet … " she explained. "Claude. He was French. I must have been in love with him, or thought I was … anyway. One night, I told him about my story … And the next morning when I woke up, he was gone. So was my story. He won an *award* for that! He didn't even thank me for my input." she complained bitterly. He thought about what she had said for a moment or two.
"I guess when you're in love with somebody, it doesn't matter how smart you are or how many rules you set for yourself. You're still vunerable." he said, trying to make her feel better.
"We're only human … Oh what difference does it make now anyway, we're just gonna die!" she wailed.
"Lois … You know what you said, about respect? I just want you to know that everyone on The Planet … *everyone*, thinks you're just about the *best reporter they ever met … Perry told me that at the day I was interviewed." he said, a smile coming to his lips as he recalled their first meetings. First the taxi incident, then in the elevator and when she barged into Perry's office. He had fallen in love with her on the spot, he already cared more about her then anyone else he knew with the sole exception of his parents.
"He did?" she asked silently.
"Yeah … Not that it really means anything coming from a *hack* from Nowheresville, but, I think you're pretty terrific too." he admitted.
"Oh Clark … I'm sorry! About everything! I know it's too late for apologies, but I never meant … " she sobbed out but was interrupted as Toni walked into the room again.
"Well, I hope you'll forgive the accommodations … Then again, I never was much of a hostess." she said and looked down at the three of them.
"Answer one question … *Why*?" asked Lois, all traces of her sobbing a few moments ago had just vanished out of her voice. She was now cool and collected again, a reporter in every inch of her body. He knew without seeing her that despite the fact that she was tied up like she was, she would look as regal as a queen in her own castle.
"It's simple, Lois … *Profit*. Outer space is no different then any other new frontier, it will belong to them who gets there first … and seize the high ground." explained the bad doctor. Something she said made Clark remember something though. /Seize the high ground? Luthor! I knew there was something was wrong with that guy!/ he thought.
"You're in league with Luthor!" he exclaimed. "It was his plan, wasn't it? He ordered you to sabotage the Messenger so the Prometheus project would fail. Then he would put his own station up there and earn billions from creating his own vaccines in a zero gravity laboratory!"
"Clark! That's preposterous!" exclaimed Lois. "Are you really *that* jealous?!" asked Lois, disbelief plain in her voice.
"Actually, Lois, he's right … More or less." admitted the doctor. "*Very* good, Mister Kent. But you got a few facts wrong. He didn't order me to do anything. I came up with the idea, suggested it to him once I had him in my bed and he agreed. He loaned me a henchman … " she said and pointed at the still unconscious man lying partly buried underneath a pile of iron chains. " … And he helped raise me into a position of power here at EPRAD so I would be able to arrange everything we had planned together. Then you three came along, I'm afraid I'm going to have to do something about that." she said. "It's a lovely evening. Sorry you won't be around to enjoy the rest of the it … But accidents do happen." she said and smirked down at them.
"Accidents?" asked Lois slowly, still somewhat shocked by the doctor's revelations.
"Yes … You see, while dismantling the orbital maneuvering system … DeMonoMethalHydrogen leaked … and mixed, with the NitrogenPetroOxide … Unfortunately, the blast killed three *nosy* reporters who didn't bother to read the signs … " she said and sighed theatrically. Clark just looked coldly at her as she slowly bent down and placed a single kiss on his lips. "See you later … not." she whispered and then scurried out of the room as the two liquids were slowly pouring out of two large barrels, slowly running down towards a drainage where they would mix. Clark tore the chains away from his hands, spun around and tore the chains away from Lois as well. He grabbed her arm and pulled her up into an upright position.
"Clark! How did you?!" she asked but Clark cut her off.
"Missing link … Come on!" he snapped and bent down to pick the unconscious Jimmy up from the floor as he pushed Lois along towards the exit.
/Oh hell … / he thought as he heard the sizzle as the two fluids mixed behind them.
As he heard the blast, he took off into the air, keeping them a meter or so above the ground. One arm around Jimmy and the other one around Lois's waist. He kept them ahead of the actual explosion and touched down into a large mud puddle when they were at a safe distance from the billowing flames from the EPRAD facility.
"Ah! Oh! Aouh! What happened?" yelled Lois as she dried muddy water out of her face. The filthy liquid dripping from both her face, hair and clothes. He supposed that he himself looked about the same, he sure as hell felt drenched anyway. But he figured that the water would cool them down and give them some protection from the heat, so he had touched down there on purpose.
"I don't know. I guess the force of the explosion must have carried us here." he said doubtfully, not really comfortable about lying to hide his mysterious powers.
"Look!" she exclaimed and pointed towards a helicopter that had just taken off. He zoomed in and saw Toni at the controls. Before he was able to come up with some excuse to run away or at least destroy something on the chopper with his Heat vision, it exploded.
"Oh!" she exclaimed.
"Ah!" he yelled and felt like screaming. /Luthor! I just know it!/
"*Ouuuuuhhh*." groaned Jimmy who turned around and looked at them with glazed eyes. "I feel *bad*." he said and fixed his eyes on Lois. "The next time you want someone to come with you, call for the National Guard or the Army." he said and Clark chuckled despite their situation. He helped Jimmy and Lois to get back onto their feet and hugged them both closer to himself, keeping his arms around their shoulders.
"What a team we are!" he exclaimed and chuckled again.
"No offence, CK, but count me out okay? I want to live long enough to become a reporter. Doing those obituaries the chief wanted seems pretty appealing to me at the moment."
"All right, Kent and Lane. Sounds pretty good doesn't it?" he asked and looked down at Lois.
"*Lane* and Kent, farmboy." she told him firmly but with a smile on her lips.
- - -
"What do you mean we can't write anything about Luthor?" asked Lois. "I heard what she said!"
"Hard facts, Lois! Hard facts is the name of this game. I am *not* going to have an article in my newspaper saying that the most powerful man in Metropolis is responsible for this mess. Until you two has some good, *solid* evidence against him, Luthor is not to be mentioned or implied in your article." said Perry firmly. "I might not like the man myself, but until there is proof to suggest otherwise, he is *not* going to be mentioned in your story. Am I making myself clear?" asked Perry and stared them both in the eyes.
"Yeah." said Lois.
"Yes, sir." replied Clark after a moments hesitation.
"Good. Now get out there and rewrite the article." ordered Perry and sat down at his desk. As Clark stood up, he noticed a small package on the desk.
"'Pava leaves.'." Clark read out loud as he examined the scribblings on the box. He smiled and left the room without saying anything else. Perry had arranged for a small celebration that was slowly starting to gain some momentum in the newsroom. Neither he or Lois would be able to join in it for a while longer though, they had to rewrite the story first so that Lex Luthor wasn't mentioned or implied in it. Clark felt like screaming, the man was a horrible monster who should be in jail! But nothing had been found that could be used against him, the man was nothing if not cautious.
- - -
"Were you scared Jimmy?" asked Anette from sports.
"Scared? No. No, ladies, not at all. I was … I was more concerned with the larger issue." stuttered Jimmy, surrounded by gushing women as he told them his version of what happened. Clark smiled but kept his mouth shut, Jimmy deserved his five minutes of fame. "Unless we got out of there alive, the colonist launch could blow up as well." he said and managed to sneak his arms around Dana from research and Brenda from accounting.
"I just spoke to ground control over at EPRAD, they went back over the colonist launch vehicle with a fine-tooth comb. Found the same coolant problem in the protective vense and fixed it. Launch is all set for tomorrow morning." reported Perry and his announcement was followed by wild cheers from everyone in the newsroom except Lois and Clark who were a little subdued due to the fact that Luthor seemingly had gotten away with what he had done. "It's a no-go for you, Lois, no reporters allowed." said Perry silently when he had made his way over to the two of them.
"But, Chief. Imagine the Daily planet getting an *exlusive* personal account on being *on* the colonist transport!" Lois said with a voice that was somewhere between whining and persuasive. Clark suppressed a grin and the urge to shake his head.
"No can do, Lois." said Perry and shrugged.
"All right, another time. Maybe." she replied and Clark was instantly on the alert. She looked as if she agreed and had decided to stay out of it, but he felt her resolve and knew without even looking into her head that she somehow would be onboard the launch vehicle, no matter what.
"Mhm. Now, Clark, you'll be pleased to know that Platt's widow and daughter are back onboard." said Perry and turned towards him instead. Clark blinked and rewound what Perry had just said.
"Thank you very much, sir. I appreciate that." he said after a moments hesitation. He looked after Perry as he left without saying anything else. He was just about to follow him and tell him about his 'suspicions' when Lois stepped in front of him.
"Anyway, Clark … I just … Well, I want to thank you for all your help getting us out of there." said Lois and he instantly forgot everything about telling Perry as she smiled shyly up at him. He stood straighter and smiled down at the lovely woman. /God, she's gorgeous!/ he thought and decided that he should respond in some way to what she had just said. He felt tongue-tied around her, his mind worked slowly and thoughts of her invaded his mind every few seconds.
"I'm glad it worked out." he said and was proud of the fact that he managed to say that without stuttering or hanging his tongue out to drool at the sight of her right next to him.
"And … " she began and slowly moved closer to him. "One other thing … " she practically purred and he felt his mind slowly close down as she leaned slightly towards him. "If you *ever* breathe a word of anything I told you in there, I will *deny* it and I will … " she told him in a no-nonsense way. He relaxed as his mind shifted into proper gears once again and he interrupted her with a smile on his lips.
"You can trust me, Lois." he told her and looked into those deep eyes.
"Right … I've heard *that* one before." she said, plopped a party- hat onto her head and joined the party. He chuckled and grabbed a glass of bubbly as he followed her example.
- - -
"I don't know about this costume thing, Clark." said his fathered doubtfully when he had told his parents about his idea. After finishing up the story, and getting tired of the festivities, he had left for Smallville to discuss the idea he had.
"It'll work! It has too. If I have an effective disguise, I won't have to worry about people finding out about me." he told him, trying to sound sure of himself even if he himself had started to get a little doubtful about the whole idea.
"Come on, let's get started." said Martha and he relaxed, his mother fully supported him in this and she had bought a carload of cloth to make a costume out of.
- - -
"Mom … Do I even *want* to know why you had the whip and *this*?" asked Clark and held up a black leather whip and a dark brown leather pouch for male genitals. That was when he saw something he never had seen before, not even when he had walked into his parents bedroom without knocking when he was seven. His mother blushed, turned red as a tomato and looked at the floor for a split second. "Mom?!" he exclaimed. He knew that his mother had been pretty wild in her youth, but the pouch couldn't have been more then two or three years old. He blushed himself as he tried to get the mental image of his father with the pouch and whip out of his head. He dropped both objects and absently wiped his hands off on a yellow cape they had discarded as a *bad* idea.
- - -
"I look like a bandit out of the wild west in neon pink tights, Mom!" he complained and removed the cloth covering the lower part of his face. He even had a holster with two fake revolvers.
- - -
"A trenchcoat? I look like the sort of man who might jump out of the bushes and display my … private parts!" he said and removed the black hood from his face.
"What about that one?" asked Martha and closed her eyes for a few seconds.
"I don't know." replied Clark through the door. "What do you think?" he asked as he came out and looked at himself in the mirror. Martha nodded approvingly, this was the best one yet, the cape especially looked great on him.
"Well, one thing is for sure, nobody is going to be looking at your face!" she exclaimed.
"Mom!" he protested and blushed slightly.
"Well, they don't call 'em tights for nuthin'!" she told him and giggled. She looked him over once again. "I don't know, there's something missing … Something … " she trailed off as she suddenly got a flash of inspiration. She pulled out the box of memorables and opened it.
"What's that?" asked Clark curiously.
"The baby blanket we found you in so long ago … And this." she said as she held up the strange insignia, the 'S' shield. A few minutes later, it was attached to the suit and she nodded firmly. It was perfect. "Your folks would be proud of you … We sure are." she told him and gave him a fierce hug. Ever since last year when they moved the shuttle he had arrived in and found the strange globe, she sometimes thought of his real parents. He never talked about it, but she knew that he often thought about them. He returned the hug and stroked her back, knowing somehow that she needed comfort right now.
"Thanks, Mom. I'm not … so sure about the cape though … " he said slowly as they parted and he looked at the mirror again.
"Oh really? I love it! It will be great when you're flying." she told him proudly.
"Hey, you two, come on in here! Launch vehicle is about ready to go up." yelled Jonathan and they walked into the living room where he was looking at the news. It was live from the launch. "Colonists are just about all onboard." he told them quietly and looked at the screen as if he was mesmerized. He hadn't even noticed what Clark was wearing yet. "Historic occasion. Remember when you were a kid, Clark? When we watched the first moon landing?" he asked and turned around. He blinked in suprise and fell silent as he saw Clark in his uniform.
"What do you think?" asked Clark and smiled broadly.
"That's my boy!" exclaimed Jonathan and practically beamed with pride.
"Oh, that's right! What if somebody recognizes you?" asked Martha worriedly. She didn't want anyone to find out about her little boy.
"I don't think they will, Mom. Because it won't … be … me." said Clark and removed his glasses. She and Jonathon shrugged and all three of them turned around to watch the launch her son and that woman reporter had saved from disaster. When the launch was halted, Jonathan turned around to say something to Clark, but both of them only found empty space and the door closing. They smiled at each other and turned around to watch the TV.
Lois couldn't believe her eyes when the strange man suddenly appeared. /What … the … hell … is … this?/ she wondered. /Candid camera?/ He grabbed the bomb and tore it apart with his bare hands.
"Hey, get away from that! What kind of a lunatic are you? That's a bomb!" she exclaimed in suprise but fell silent as he suddenly put a part of the bomb into his mouth and swallowed. She thought her eyes were going to pop out of their sockets when he suddenly burped with a hand covering his mouth.
"Excuse me." he said and smiled slightly. /Holy … / her mind felt sluggish and she was unable to do anything except ask one question.
"What the *hell* are you?!" He shrugged and walked out to meet the colonists who had walked out in force to find out what was going on. "There was a bomb … He … He … He … ate it!" she exclaimed and indicated the weird man with the tights and red cape. His eyes locked on Amy Platt and he crouched down in front of her.
"Hi." he greeted her and Lois's heart melted as she saw how the girl locked eyes with him and smiled slightly.
"Hi. I like your costume." she told him. /Me too … Damn! What *a* butt!/ thought Lois as the cape flopped aside and revealed buns of steel to her hungry gaze.
"Thank you. My mother made it for me. What's your name?"
"Amy. Amy Platt. Who are you?" asked the little girl and looked him over.
"I'm a friend … " he said hesitantly.
"Can you teach me how to fly?" asked the girl. /Yesyesyes. Me too?/
"Not fly. But once this lab is operational, walk. That's very possible." said the wondrous man calmly.
+Attention colonists. The mission has been scrapped. Prepare to disembark.+ came the message from ground control through the loudspeakers followed by a chorus of protests and exclamations of disappointment from the colonists.
"Thatís it then. It's all over." said one of the colonists.
"Why?" exclaimed Lois.
"Once the thrusters has been fired, they have to be replaced." said Platt's former wife.
"We loose our launch window." explained the first colonist.
"Yes." agreed the Platt widow.
"We just have to forget about Space Station Prometheus."
"No. You don't. There's nothing wrong with this transport vehicle or the station. You only need to get there." said the caped crusader confidently.
"How are they supposed to do that?" asked Lois.
"Easy. I'll give them a boost." he said flippantly and walked outside, closing the door behind him.
"I still don't believe it! A man who flies!" exclaimed Perry and looked at the pictures he was holding.
"But, Chief, it's all over the TV." said Jimmy. Cat once again looked him over and thought about him. He was cute, but for some reason, she hadn't approached him just yet. She didn't know why and it annoyed her to no end.
"Oh, Jimmy, don't believe everything you see on TV! I'll tell you one thing though, whoever pulled off a hoax like this is … is a … " grumbled Perry but fell silent, staring in shock out through one of the windows. Cat followed the direction of his gaze and almost fainted as she saw the flying man approaching the window with Lois in his arms. "Great shades of Elvis!" exclaimed Perry and Jimmy started taking pictures with the camera he was holding.
+click+ +click+ +click+ +click+
"I see it, but I don't believe it." said Cat as the flying couple landed right in front of Lois desk. One eyebrow shot up and her mind raced. Cat wasn't a great believer in coincidence, it could have been pure chance, but she didn't think so. This guy knew where Lois worked …
"What? A man who flies?" asked someone behind her.
"No. Lois Lane. Finally, literally, swept off her feet. Too bad he's an alien." she said flippantly to cover the way her mind was working at the moment. Not many people knew it, but she had the highest IQ of anyone in the building. If it hadn't been for a little incident in the principal's office during her studies, she would probably have been working at Star Labs as a scientist right now. She didn't really mind though, her current occupation was much more fun anyway. If she had continued with her studies, she probably would have ended up as a total geekette, buried in her research. Once she left school, she had turned from a closed-up shy ass-kisser into the woman she was today. After she colored her hair red, she hadn't regretted a single thing in her life except for the fact that it took her so long to realize what a waste her life had been until she was kicked out of school for seducing a teacher on the principal's desk.
"I-I think, considering that I saw you first, you owe me an exclusive." stuttered Lois and Cat emerged from out of her ponderings to concentrate on the flying man and Lois Lane. She smiled a little at the fact that the normally unshakable Lois Lane was reduced to stuttering in the presence of this guy.
"Is that the rule?" he asked and something clicked in Cats mind, she *knew* that voice.
"Well, no. But I'd appreciate it very much." said Lois breathlessly. He only smiled and took off, slowly flying towards the window. "Wait a minute! How do I find you?" screamed Lois after him and ran towards the window.
"I'll be around." he said and suddenly vanished with a 'woosh'.
"Real smooth." exclaimed Jimmy as Cat made her way over to Lois Lane, hoping to get a clue to if Lois had realized what she just had, the identity of the flying man.
"Did you find out what the 'S' stands for?" she asked and looked closely at Lois.
"Super … " she breathed. "Superman! Oh. Oh." she exclaimed and stared at the window being closed with eyes large as teacups.
"Hey, hey, hey, let's get back to work! We've got a newspaper to run!" yelled Perry and everyone started to walk back towards their desks except for Lois who was still staring at the window. Cat shook her head in disgust, Lois had no clue whatsoever. /What is she? Galactically stupid?/ Cat looked over at Clark's empty desk and smiled to herself. What would she do with what she knew? She looked over at Lois again and shook her head again. Lois reminded her too much of how she herself had been before she realized how wrong she had been. She had disliked Lois from the moment she saw her, buried in her work, no social life. Lois Lane was a constant reminder of how she herself had been, it brought up a lot of bad memories. Lois apparently sensed her dislike and they had developed a instant hate of each other on the day they met.
+clap+ +clap+ +clap+
Lex applauded mockingly as Clark walked into his office after Lex had opened the door for him.
"Astonishing debut … Superman!" said Lex and Clark raised an eyebrow at him. "Haven't you heard? That's what they're calling you, it's international news." explained Luthor with a smile on his face. "So, to what do I owe this 'honor'?" he asked, trying hard but failing to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
"I came to tell you I know who you are … Who you. *really*. are. I suppose on it's face it was a good plan. Destroy Prometheus so that you could put your own space station in it's place. Then not only would you make billions from the patents of the vaccines developed, but you would also be the supposed 'savior' of the space program." said Clark firmly, crossing his arms over his chest as he stared at Luthor.
"Well, it's an interesting theory, 'Superman'. But, I'm afraid that's all it is."
"You are also responsible for the death of at least three people. Commander Latterman … Samuel Platt … Doctor Baines … Those probably aren't the only skeletons in your closet."
"So you've become both my judge and executioner?" asked Lex mockingly.
"Like any other citizen on the planet, I must obey the law. I am not above it. You seem to believe that you are."
"I hold … a certain position in this city." he replied with a pleased grin.
"Yes … And there is *nothing* that would please me more then to see you dethroned and behind bars like any … common … criminal. That day will come."
"I trust not. But … As they say … Let the games begin!"
"Oh, one more thing … If you ever need to find me, all you have to do is look up."
- - -
"Morning, Lois." said Clark when he walked up to her the morning after.
"Clark! Where've you been?" asked Lois cheerfully and grabbed his arm, pulling him with her over towards the elevators.
"Around." he replied.
"Well, not that it's anywhere near as exiting as the stories you covered on the Smallville Press, but, Superman was in the newsroom and I just about nailed down the exclusive." she told him with a pleased grin that went from ear to ear.
"Clark, you should have seen him! Up close, he is the most … magnificent figure of a man that I have ever … " she said dreamily and trailed off as her eyes glazed over.
"Sounds like he made quite an impression on you?" Clark asked and tried to hide his pleased grin at her reaction.
"He did … Mm. *Why*?! Are you jealous?" she asked suspiciously and looked at him.
"Of Superman? Should I be?" he asked flippantly.
"Puh-leaze!" she exclaimed.
"Where are we going?" he asked as the elevator doors opened for them.
"Terrorist shoot-out on sixth. … And, Kent, I'll ask the questions." she told him and sighed a happy little sigh as the doors closed on them.