By Carolyn Schnall <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted July 1999
Summary: Lois and Clark plan a weekend away from it all. But, as usual in the lives of Lane and Kent, "it all" doesn't seem to want to leave them alone!
Lois, Clark, Perry and Jimmy all belong to WB, DC Comics, Dec. 3rd Productions, TNT, etc. No infringement on their rights is intended. All the other characters are mine.
Even though Bureau 39 seemed to have been disbanded, I thought that men like Jason Trask, and Colonel Cash, would always operate within the government. So here is an offering that bubbled up as a dream and became a story.
Just to forestall any possible confusion, the Carolyn who is mentioned in this story is not me but the character of Dr. Klein's girlfriend with the name given her in the series.
Anyone looking at the midwinter night sky in the Arinodack Mountains of New Troy one frosty moon filled evening might have observed a certain jauntily clad superhero carrying a woman and two suitcases. They had slowed from a red and blue blur in order to soft-land on the deck of a big, beautiful ski lodge in a remote area among the fir trees. On this night, however, there was no one around for many miles in any direction.
As Superman controlled his landing, he whispered softly to his wife, Lois Lane.
"We're here." He smiled down at her. She had fallen asleep on the way.
"We are?" she asked, blinking and bewildered, as she found her feet. "I'm sorry, Clark, I always seem to do that."
"I love it that you sleep in my arms. It's great that you trust me so much." He smiled his megawatt grin and she smiled back for a moment, then became serious.
"I do trust you … in ways that I never trusted another soul," she said softly. Then her smile returned. "And you give off so much heat!" She giggled.
"So do you!" He pulled her close to him so that her body was in direct contact with the Spandex Supersuit and with him inside the Spandex Supersuit.
They kissed passionately for a few moments, but Lois shivered despite the heat between them. Superman immediately broke off the kiss. He brought her to one of three sets of double glass-paneled doors that led to the deck. Pulling a key from his waistband, he unlocked one of the doors and lifted Lois over the threshold. They both giggled. This was another in a series of over-the-threshold carries that he had managed to execute since their marriage. It was becoming a tradition with them wherever they stayed together.
As he set her down, he flashed out and back again, having retrieved the suitcases and closed the door behind him. An instant later, he had located the nearest fireplace and lit it with his heat vision. In the next few moments, he sped through the house, lighting all the fires and turning on the central heating.
"It sure is a big place," he remarked when he rejoined Lois near the deck. "It was certainly nice of Willard Caldwell to lend us this place. I had no idea it was this huge."
"Well, he is a millionaire and he was grateful to you for saving his life."
"Yes, but I guess I just didn't expect it to be a mansion in the mountains."
"You're still so full of wonder!" Lois remarked, shaking her head at him.
"And you're wonderful!" He swept her up in another embrace. Grabbing the suitcases in the next movement, he whisked her off to the master bedroom. In an instant, the suitcases were unpacked and he was beside her once again, kissing her again with abandon.
"You know I love that timesaving device you emulate from time to time."
"That's good, because it leaves more time for the really important stuff."
"Yeah, the really important stuff," she repeated amorously.
The trucks rolled through the clear, cold night at a deliberate speed. Chain clad tires gripped the icy roads and grim-faced, determined, drivers maneuvered the twists and turns in the mountainous route.
In the lead van sat a frowning, humorless man. He checked the map in his lap often with the lamp around his neck. He was insistent that they reach their destination in the next few hours. No one would find them. No one would detect their presence. No one would stop them this time.
In the middle of the night, Clark was awakened from deep sleep. An alarm in Metropolis was sounding. Reluctantly, he left the toasty warm bed also inhabited by his lover, his partner, his wife, Lois. He kissed her gently and murmured that he would return as soon as he could. He spun back into the Spandex that had been discarded in the heat of passion on the floor in front of the fireplace. He took another second to reheat the fire with his heat vision and then he was gone.
Lois picked her head up off the pillow and whispered, for the umpteenth time. "Be careful, come back to me, I love you."
As he streaked through the skies back to the city, Superman heard her words. Making love with Lois was almost as revitalizing to him as was the sun. He felt strengthened, renewed, even energized. He could barely wait to return.
Lois rolled over in the morning and it took her only a moment to determine that her husband had not returned. The morning sun shone brightly into the room and she now found it impossible to return to sleep. She rose from the bed, catching a quick glimpse of herself in her naked state in the bureau mirror, and staggered to the large bathroom. She washed up and found her robe waiting for her on a hook on the back of the door, just like at home. She smiled at Clark's thoughtfulness. As she left the bathroom and looked for some clothes to throw on, she heard a sound from upstairs. A key was being fitted into a lock and the door was being opened. She was about to call out to Clark, when another sound caused her to abort the hail. It was the sound of many pairs of feet entering the house.
Clark would not likely have brought anyone back with him to interrupt this carefully planned weekend by themselves. None of the various treads on the floorboards upstairs sounded like Clark's. Lois was used to Clark's graceful, sure step. Despite his dense molecular structure, Clark never pounded the floor or the ground, nor did he shuffle or scrape with his shoes. Besides, he would have called out to her by now, if he were there.
Lois' instinct was to conceal her own presence at the moment. She was glad the bedroom was carpeted and that any noise she had made in the bathroom was over before the door opened. She stealthily moved to the bed and stepped up onto it. She carefully lifted her head so she could see out the windows over the headboard. There were several trucks lined up on the road leading up to the house. She was startled because she hadn't heard them pull up. Then she realized they must have arrived while she was still in the bathroom. She took a closer look. Each truck bore signs that were partially concealed. She strained to see the signs clearly. A gust of wind blew at the canvas cover off one of the signs. It revealed a letter and two numbers. B39.
Lois gasped and then clapped her hand over her own mouth as she dropped down to a sitting position on the bed. Bureau 39! She was now worried someone might have heard her. She sat tensely still for few moments, barely daring to breathe, and half expecting the bedroom to be invaded by all the people who seemed to be moving about upstairs. No one came.
Finally, she moved slowly to the other end of the room. There was a set of wooden steps leading upstairs and a storm-cellar type door to separate the bedroom from the next level. The door was ajar but only very slightly. Lois relaxed slightly, realizing that it was not likely that anyone had heard her. In fact, she was now sure no one walking around the place even knew she was there. She just wasn't sure what to do next.
Superman was on his fourth rescue when he figured the sun would be rising over New Troy. He had answered the alarm in Metropolis, which turned out to be an amateurish attempt to rob a jewelry store. Having once done so successfully himself, he could tell the robber was not very talented. Nevertheless, he refrained from lecturing the guy.
After that incident, he rushed off to Siberia to assist in rescues from a derailed train. Just as that situation seemed to be under control, he flew down to the lower Pacific area to help a crippled British submarine rise to the surface. Soon he was on his way to Mexico, where a minor earthquake had caused a handful of buildings to collapse. Finally, he hoped he would be heading back to his wife. If he was very swift and very lucky, he might get there in time for breakfast.
Lois was getting distinctly hungry for breakfast and had developed a major headache due to the absence of her morning coffee. She had managed to dress, which was fortunate because the lower part of the house was getting cold and the fire had gone out in the bedroom. After finding a notebook and a pen in her bag, she positioned herself on the steps leading upstairs. She listened to all the snippets of conversation that wafted down to her perch and wrote down as much of it as she could.
She idly wondered where Clark was but knew well enough by this time that he would have returned by now if he could have. Thoughts of him and the extremely passionate lovemaking session they had indulged in together in front of the fire the night before helped raise her temperature a little.
As she sat there, thinking lascivious thoughts about her husband, she had not at first noticed that all the voices and footfalls seemed to have moved far away from the door to her room. When she did realize the relative silence, she carefully stretched out her legs and rose slightly up, pushing the bedroom door open cautiously as she did so. When no alarm arose, she became emboldened to open the door a few more inches. Finally, seeing no one around, she tiptoed up the steps and followed her nose to the kitchen, which was located nearby. In a few deft movements, she located and secured coffee, some donuts and a small collection of cold, left-over breakfast items. She found a small tray and hurriedly carried the food to the stairs leading down to the bedroom.
She was about to close the door, when she saw a manual lying on a table in the sitting room just a few feet from the bedroom door. She could just make out that the manual cover read 'Bureau 39' in black lettering. Unwilling to juggle more than she had to, she set the tray down on the second step down and she tiptoed back up to the sitting room. She was sure voices were coming back her way, so she grabbed the book and headed back down the stairs, quickly glancing around at the house in daylight. As she hurtled herself down, she remembered to close the door softly. As the door shut, she suddenly found herself slipping. Under her left foot was her pen, and she and it rolled precariously down the rest of the stairs. As her notebook, the manual and the pen accompanied her to the carpeted floor below, she tried to break her own fall, reaching for a handhold and finding none. Finding herself flying downward, she thought pragmatically of Clark and about herself as Ultrawoman. This reminded her of how it felt to be Clark, at least some of the time!
On his way back from Mexico, Superman found himself back in Metropolis. A five-alarm fire in a chemical warehouse near Hobb's Bay had lured him home. As he rescued warehouse workers and later, firemen, he worked without consideration of the time. As he assisted the fire department in properly dousing the fire, he suddenly realized that breakfast with Lois was out of the question.
As he verified that he was no longer needed, he launched up into the sky. Maybe Lois wouldn't be too mad if he made it in time for a late lunch.
Lois hurtled toward the floor with force, but she tried to be silent, using her dancer training to pull up and reduce the impact. As Lois hit the carpet with a thud, her breath was temporarily knocked out of her and her frame shook slightly with the impact. She glanced up the stairs fearfully. No one came running. Even more remarkably, the food and the coffee were intact.
With a sigh of relief and wide-eyed with amazement that she had remained undetected, she devoured the food, the coffee, and the contents of the manual simultaneously.
The humorless man returned to the now sunny sitting room and glanced about. Grimly he walked around the sofa, but found no manual on either end table, on one of which he was sure he had left it.
Hearing a thud, he glanced up. Probably someone had dropped a piece of equipment. He hoped it was not now going to be a broken piece of equipment. He would then have to break the person who dropped it.
The grim man prowled all around the sitting room and backtracked his movements into the kitchen. No manual. He was not forgetful. Perhaps someone on his staff had picked it up. He made a mental note to break that person, too.
He returned to the front living room, where his staff was waiting for their meeting to continue. He was now in a foul mood, and they knew it.
Superman flew back into the Arinodack Mountains. Finally free, he hoped to enjoy the rest of the weekend with his wife. That is, if he could calm her down, since he was sure she would be miffed at his long absence.
Then, he thought with a grin, he would want to heat her up. His fresh memories of their lovemaking the night before actually caused him to feel distinctly warmer but he forced that thought down. It was in the middle of the day, and there were people out and about below. Someone might be watching him with binoculars and see how flushed he might look.
As he approached the Caldwell property, Superman pulled up short. Could he have headed to the wrong house? Using his super vision, he could see that there was now a convoy of trucks parked in the extensive driveway and all the way down to the road. Caterers, he wondered? Perhaps he had unwittingly provided Lois with a chance to surprise him with a party.
As he got closer he saw that there was black lettering on the trucks. He boosted his supervision to read the lettering. B39!
He could feel his heart racing now, and not with desire! What the he..? Lois!
Afraid she was being held hostage, he increased his speed and altitude. He hovered directly over the house so no one on the ground would be able to distinguish him from a bird. He listened carefully for her particular heartbeat among the two dozen others down in the house. He pinpointed hers in an instant and sighed with relief. Normal sinus rhythm. She was not under any particular stress at the moment.
He plunged to earth. Pouring on the speed, he became a red and blue blur. Then the blur disappeared.
Lois heard the sonic boomlet signaling Superman's presence. She was really scared now. If the men in the house had heard the sound and recognized it, Clark would now be in great danger.
Suddenly she felt a whoosh, and Superman appeared, his arms instantly around her, his face a mask of concern.
"Are you alright?" he asked, anxiously whispering into her ear.
"Yes, I'm fine," she fibbed, trying to squirm out of his grasp. "Get out of here! You're in danger. That's Bureau 39 out there!" She tried to put as much force as she could into her frantic mouthing, knowing he could understand her perfectly.
"Not without you," he answered firmly.
"I have to stay. I'll have an exclusive!"
"Are you crazy?" although the look on his face would clearly tell her he already thought she had lost her mind, had she been receptive. "It's way too dangerous!"
"Think about it, Clark, everyone thinks there is no more Bureau 39. But here it is! I already have scads of notes on what they've been talking about. They are trying to set up a base of operations here."
"In Caldwell's house?" Superman shook his head. "Maybe they're the ones who are crazy."
The grim-faced man queried his staff. No one owned up to the dropping of equipment or the filching of his manual. His mood became nearly deadly.
The equipment now set up, he ordered it to be powered up. One monitor showed a series of blips. Within a few seconds, the blips increased dramatically in volume, length, and rapidity.
The leader stared down at the monitor and could barely believe what he was seeing.
"He's here!! Fan out! FIND HIM."
They had been arguing quietly for a few minutes and Clark was starting to wonder if the consequences of removing Lois from the house without her consent were actually worth doing it.
Then he heard the orders given upstairs. He spun into his Clark clothes just as the bedroom door was flung up.
"Where's Superman?" the leader barked at them.
Lois and Clark exchanged a look, and Clark sighed as Lois smiled sheepishly at the grim-faced man. She shrugged her shoulders.
Lois and Clark were hustled from the bedroom into a walk-in closet and directed to sit on the floor, back to back, while they were tied and gagged. Then they were left alone.
Clark did not move to free them immediately. He sat silent and motionless for several minutes. Lois decided he was listening for what was going on beyond the closet door. She lapsed into thought, remembering at least two other occasions when she and Clark had been in this position. The first time was just after she had met him. The second was right after the death of Mayson Drake. Dan Scardino gave her several gifts in trying to make it up to her. Lois now realized how Clark had slipped free of the knots so easily. She wondered now why he did not free them again in the same manner. Was he angry with her?
Clark listened intently to the conversations the leader was having with various members of his staff. They believed Superman was nearby. Some monitoring detector had been devised to determine his presence. Clark concentrated on what about his person could have tripped the mechanism but could not come up with an explanation. He had to figure it out, because such a device could prove very dangerous to him.
Clark brought his chin down so that he could peer over the top of his glasses. He tried to use his x-ray vision around the house. Most of it was revealed to him, but there were places his vision could not penetrate. There were three lead-lined boxes stacked together in the front living room area. He worried that they might contain Kryptonite. He also worried that they would guess who he was.
Moments later a gun toting man opened the closet door, peered in at Lois and Clark, then shut the door once more. Immediately, Clark broke out of his bonds and removed his gag. In the next second, he had freed Lois. He stood up, helped her to a standing position, and grabbed an overcoat off the nearest rack. He wrapped the coat around Lois and, before she could open her mouth to ask what he was going to do, led her from the closet. He used superspeed to whisk her out the back door of the house without detection. He spun into tights, scooped her up, and flew her away.
"I have to retrieve my notebook!" she told him, getting annoyed now.
"We also have to find out how they monitored my presence."
He looked grim and she realized, ashamed, that there was a bigger issue here. She had tried to get him to leave because he was in danger and he had done the same for her. She was still sometimes oblivious of her own peril while keenly aware that she had to protect him. Her focus on the notebook was an old habit not yet shaken. She should not have been so angry with him.
He landed behind a truck stop restaurant a county away and spun back into Clark. He hustled Lois into the restaurant. They took a booth in the back, as far away from other people as they could. After they ordered lunch and Lois had visited the restroom, she sat back down in the booth with him. He looked very worried.
"I'm sorry," she said as she snuggled up to him. He had been staring at the empty table and she felt full of remorse.
"Don't be," he responded. "I couldn't tell you what was going on. They had a device that could indicate that I was there. I don't know how they were able to develop such a thing, but it would be very dangerous if it were to get out."
"I just didn't know what you were up to. Besides, I could probably write the story from memory. Especially if I could start writing it real soon. Do you think I could get hold of a laptop?"
Clark flashed an amused little smile. As usual, he found her tenacity amazing. Worry nagged at him, though. He just couldn't get a handle on how the monitors could have picked him up.
"Perhaps there is something in Dr. Klein's files that would help."
He didn't answer her. Lois looked soberly at him as the food arrived just then. It was mostly breakfast food and Lois found that she was starving for it, once again.
"Maybe we should go to S.T.A.R. labs after we eat," she said between mouthfuls.
"Klein is probably not there. It's the weekend."
"But if we could break into his computer, I could write the story and you could look at your file."
He stared at her but was thinking about what she had said.
"After we eat, I think we should try to find Klein and get him to come in to the lab and help us. I think we should show up as Superman and Lois Lane If he asks where Clark is, we tell him he is chasing down a lead on an exclusive."
Lois grinned at him. She wasn't sure if she was proud of him for his ability to reason things out or if it was because he resisted most of her attempts to corrupt him.
Clark, whose appetite was rarely surpassed by anyone, was not actually very hungry but Lois was famished. She ate her food and some of his while he watched, amused but preoccupied. When she washed it all down with her second cup of coffee, Clark got up to pay the bill and came back to collect her.
They circled out to the back of the restaurant to seclusion behind a dumpster. He whirled from jeans and a t-shirt into the colorful Spandex while she watched, impressed for the umpteenth time. He picked her up and they flashed together into the sky. A scant few minutes later they had returned to their townhouse. As they entered, Lois shed the overcoat, and Clark searched in the desk for the telephone/address book. He found Dr. Klein's home number, dialed it while Lois booted up her laptop. She started typing while Clark, still in the Supersuit, explained to Dr. Klein why he should give up his Saturday off to help Superman.
The grim-faced leader of Bureau 39 was getting angrier by the moment.
His two hostages had escaped. His staff had been unsuccessful in locating them despite an extensive search through the house, the grounds, and the surrounding woods.
Worse yet, the monitor blip that had told him of Superman's proximity was now silent. He ordered the unit rechecked for malfunctions. How could he have gotten so close to his target and then lost him?
Something about the pair of events nagged at him. Lois and Clark Kent's belongings had been removed from the master bedroom for inspection. They revealed nothing of importance except a pair of silk boxers that seemed to belong to Kent. The grim man was not in the habit of noticing much about other men's underwear, but this pair was royal blue with a small Superman emblem in yellow and red. He vaguely recalled seeing the boxers offered for sale in a mail order catalog. Women seemed to like their men to wear such things. He shook his head,
What was going on here?
Lois and Clark's plan had altered in a short time. Lois voted to stay home and write the story while Clark would fly to meet Dr. Klein at S.T.A.R. labs. Clark was about to leave but stopped in his tracks. He came over to Lois at the desk and got down on one knee next to her chair.
"Did I tell you how glad I am that I found you and that you're okay?"
She stopped typing to look him in the eyes. The earnest love and relief were evident in his expression. She put her hands on his shoulders.
"No, but did I tell you I am so glad they didn't get Superman?"
No more words were necessary. He took her in his arms and crushed her to his chest. Despite her determination to write the story and have him keep his appointment with Dr. Klein, she felt, as she often did in his embrace, an overwhelming desire to collapse against him and share in the desire that threatened to overtake them.
Reluctantly, he pulled away, clearly moved, as was she. There were times when they struggled to let go of each other. Their hands seemed drawn to hold and caress, as if separation was painful. They had somehow learned that they could face anything together and that to be together was like life itself. Their bond was an elixir of which they both were eager to drink, making them drunk with one another, making them each desire to drink of the other some more.
As Superman used his superhuman discipline to will himself away, Lois tried to make it easier by turning back to work as soon as she could. She listened for the forceful wind that followed in his wake. She uttered a silent prayer to the fates that he would be safely returned. His life was so unpredictable, as their life together had been thus far, that she had learned not to take anything for granted. Typing the story, she realized more and more the danger they had both been in. Suddenly, she leaned forward over the keyboard and wept.
Superman streaked across Metropolis, over the Zoomway, past Stark's cutoff near the Neil David Stadium, toward S.T.A.R. Labs at top speed. He didn't want to keep Dr. Klein waiting because the man had given up his day off for him. On the other hand, every time Lois' life was endangered, he wanted nothing more than to be with her, take her up in a never-ending embrace and spend every living moment with her, watching over her, drying the tears he knew she was shedding.
He had unconsciously reached out to her in a psychic fashion that he had developed since returning from his sojourn with the New Kryptonians. The experience had changed him in many ways. No longer was he the one and only son of Krypton, doomed to take his race with him upon his own death, whenever that might occur. He knew he had a connection out there and he had taken great strength from that knowledge. It was a context, even if he did prefer to be earthbound figuratively, if not literally.
The experience had also taught him that the psychic connections he had often felt with other beings, especially when he "heard" calls for help, was inherited. His psychic connection with Lois seemed to have increased manyfold since his return and in his heart he knew it was not just from intimacy or increased experience. It was that he felt her.
She very rarely wept in his presence but he always knew when she wept, even when thought she was alone. He decided not to tell her, since she probably considered those moments private, even from him. He flew on.
Lois wiped at her eyes with her fingertips and tried to fight the impulse to be annoyed with herself for crying in the fist place. She knew two things at the same time and they conflicted with each other. She knew that the occasional impulse to vent emotionally was natural and could not be denied. She also knew that, especially before she met Clark, she had always despised the impulse. Even now, she did not feel comfortable shedding tears in his presence, though she knew he always took good emotional care of her.
As she forced herself to continue writing, a dreadful thought came to her. What if Caldwell had a connection with Bureau 39? What if Caldwell had knowledge of Clark's other identity? What if it had been a deliberate trap? Her fingers pounded the keys hard. Caldwell had seemed such a nice man. Now she was angry.
As he neared the huge science center, Superman slowed his speed. He was a well known visitor here. He dropped down in front and greeted the guard as he walked into the complex, heading for Dr. Bernard Klein's lab suite. As he came into the apparently deserted lab, he was reassured that Klein was there, somewhere, by the leather biker jacket emblazoned across the back with "The LabRats" hanging on the costumer.
Klein came out of one of the rooms toward the back of the spacious lab. All the benches revealed evidence of many types of research in progress. Klein himself was overseeing several different projects at once.
"Hello, Superman," Klein said as he donned a lab coat and came towards the Man of Steel. "What can I do for you?"
"Dr. Klein, thank you for coming in especially for me. I have a puzzle to solve that could save my life."
Klein's manner became serious as he listened to Superman give him an account of the device that had picked up his presence. He booted up his computer, and together, Klein and Clark sat over the monitor, scanning through the top-secret medical file Klein kept on the hero.
"It reminds me of when you were electronically tagged by Diana Stride."
"Except I don't feel as though I've been tagged, and that time I knew something was wrong, even though I didn't know what it was right away."
Klein nodded, and turned back to the file.
"Have you been exposed to any radiation recently, like during a rescue or near a disaster, something nuclear maybe?"
Superman thought back on the last few months but there didn't seem to be anything resembling Klein's definition that he could recall. He shook his head.
"How about something simpler, like the dense nature of your molecular structure?"
"I wondered about that too, but how could they build a machine to detect that? I have wondered about that ever since that bomb planted by the Churches was dismantled."
"I have been trying to figure out that one ever since, too. I've also heard that the government started some such research around the time of the New Kryptonian invasion and it was probably based on the technology used by the Churches. I assumed that the funding for that ended when the New Kryptonians left."
"Dr. Klein, Bureau 39 seems always to be operating both under and outside of the auspices of the government. If even one person saw value in continuing the research, all they would have to do is reclassify it as an even more valuable secret project and proceed with the work."
Klein shook his head.
"I don't understand how there could still be people who doubt your sentiments after all that and still feel threatened by you enough to build that kind of contraption."
"The fact is that someone did, and I have to figure out how to find them before they find me."
Klein appeared to be lost in thought for a moment while he drank some amber colored fluid from a beaker. He was playing with a keychain in the design of the three monkeys, Hear No Evil-See No Evil-Speak No Evil, which Lois had given him once as an impromptu gift. He had not understood that she was actually teasing him about his monkey tendencies, because he was genuinely pleased to get it. He had used it for his lab keys ever since.
"Okay, let's make a leap of logic here. Anyone who could possess that contraption probably has Kryptonite in their possession as well. Perhaps we could equip you with a monitor of your own against the Kryptonite."
"Can you?" Superman was so excited, he had jumped off his stool. "I mean, I never thought that was possible."
"Well, neither did I," Klein confessed. "After you told Lois Lane that I was trying to make an antidote, she was joking around one day about how it was too bad that we couldn't make an early warning system against Kryptonite, and that way you would never have to get near it ever again and wouldn't need the inoculation. I didn't think it was feasible at the time, but I never forgot her suggestion, and maybe now is the time to attempt making one. It would be faster than trying to figure out what made that bomb tick."
Superman had started to smile when Klein mentioned Lois, and by the time he had finished speaking, Superman was grinning.
"That's a great idea!" Superman was trying to keep focused but he wanted to run right back to Lois and thank her for being so brilliant. It was not the first time that an idea of hers had come between him and disaster, and it was not likely to be the last.
"Well, I don't think I can throw something really reliable together in a few minutes. And we would have to make it small enough to fit into your utility belt."
"Uh, Dr. Klein, I don't have a utility belt. I think you are thinking of Batman."
"Oh, of course, how stupid of me," Klein was really annoyed with himself. He took another swig from the beaker.
"No, not stupid," Superman said quickly. "The belt idea is a good one. In fact, if you could make it fit into my belt buckle, that would be perfect!"
To punctuate his statement, Clark removed the buckle from the belt at his waist and handed it to Klein. Klein's eyes widened at how small the buckle actually was. Clark had an inspiration.
"Maybe something that would fit inside a watch casing?"
Clark had remembered the special signaler watch S.T.A.R. labs had come up with nearly four years ago. He idly wondered if that had actually been a Klein project. He would have to remember to ask about that another time. He knew Klein well enough to know that the man, though a genius, could too easily be distracted.
"Perhaps I could meet you back here tomorrow in the morning?"
"Sunday morning?" Klein seemed to be resigned to his fate. "Okay, at nine, no earlier."
"Okay, nine," Clark repeated. "I'll get you some days off next week with the director, I promise."
A flurry of activity inside Caldwell's house had replaced the manic search outside of the house.
The Bureau 39 staff was now engaged in a computer search of Superman merchandise. Kent's Superman boxer shorts had given the director some new ideas on how to find his prey. The use of the Superman symbol had to have been authorized as a trademark for merchandizing.
A few hours of effort produced one lead. MB Enterprises, Inc. It had its base in Metropolis. That was the city in which Superman had made his home. It was also where Kent lived.
"Prepare to pull out tomorrow morning. We roll at dawn." The director glanced at the master bedroom where he would most likely sleep. In disgust, he removed the used sheets from the bed.
Superman had left S.T.A.R. Labs in an infinitely better mood than the one in which he had arrived. The answers where not all there yet. Klein still couldn't account for the technology Superman had encountered. Still, a Kryptonite detector might give him just the edge he needed.
It was Saturday night in Metropolis and the traffic patterns had shifted below Superman's flight path in the expected ways. Downtown was now crowded only around the nightspots, not the business centers.
Clark idly wondered if he should get some exotic take out food on his way home. He and Lois had not planned to spend the weekend there and the food supplies were probably not inspiring. Lois' cooking had certainly improved but his own cooking still dominated. He didn't have to eat but had never tested his abilities to go without for more than two or three days. Then he had eaten a great deal and still was not sure if he had actually been hungry or eager to engage in a well ingrained habit. He chuckled. He could never be sure Lois would be pleased if he surprised her by providing food or if she would take it as a lack of faith in her ability to prepare meals. They both wrestled with tradition at times.
He decided that Chinese food was always a safe bet. Instead of going all the way to Beijing, he stopped by as Clark at their favorite restaurant in China Town. After paying for the food, he returned to their town house as Superman.
He held the bag of still steaming hot food, as he called out to Lois, who was not sitting at the laptop on the desk in the living room. He didn't get an answer, so he listened for her heartbeat. She was upstairs and, by the slow steady rhythm of her heart, napping. He sped upstairs with the food, arriving in the bedroom as Clark.
He studied her features as she slept, not wishing to wake her, remembering his missed opportunity of waking her that morning with a caress. He lightly touched her hand and realized that her temperature had dropped. Instead of reaching for a blanket, he did what he had wanted to so many times that day. He covered her with his own body and woke her in the most pleasant way he could think of.
Dr. Klein worked late into the night on various ideas to help his friend, Superman. He started with a wristwatch and realized that none of the samples on hand could hold the tiny computer he thought would be required. He began by using one of the many tiny computers handy in the lab and programmed them to scan and recognize the properties of Kryptonite that were found on Earth. Then an alarm would be needed for when it scanned elements that were extraterrestrial. Klein briefly worried that there might be other such items on the planet besides Kryptonite, but he was running out of time. He tried to use a small computer that might have a chance of fitting into Superman's belt, but none of the already small devices was quite small enough. Then he realized that the alarm would have to be silent so that Superman would not attract attention to himself with his own detector.
It was now after three in the morning and Klein was exhausted. He shuffled off to the cot he kept in the small room off the lab and promised himself he would only need a short nap.
In the early hours of the morning, Clark used his heat vision to warm the food he had brought home. Lois set the table and they sat together in the breakfast nook, sitting as close to each other as possible, he in his sleep boxers, she in a silk robe.
"Do you have a plan?" Lois was asking as they passed each other rice and chopsticks.
"Sort of," Clark answered with that mock smile he made when he was uncertain.
"Sort of tell me," she teased.
"Well, it kind of depends on whether Klein can come up with that Kryptonite detector. Did I remember to thank you, my lady, for such an intelligent and useful idea?" He had taken her free hand and was nibbling on each knuckle in a most grateful manner.
She giggled, letting him kiss knuckle for a few more moments before answering,
"You did thank me but you may thank me again, Sir Clark, anytime!"
They sat in mutual admiration for awhile, Occasionally remembering to eat. Finally, Lois prodded him, literally, with one chopstick.
"Back to the kind of plan, Loverman!"
"Okay, I'll go see Klein at nine as we arranged, and see what he was able to come up with. You get Perry and the FBI and Caldwell to meet at his house. I'll meet you at the house and maybe we can catch those guys in the act."
"Don't I have to get there first and disable the Superman detector?"
"Yes, so I have to say I am glad you had that nap!" He laughed as she grabbed the nearest item she found and threw it at him. As he super-dodged the fortune cookies, she shook her head ruefully.
"No fair," she complained.
"Oh, I think it's completely fair!"
"You would!" she responded tartly. "By the way, when you get to the house can you please look for … "
"Your notebook, I know," he interrupted.
"No, your Super shorts," she said with a grin.
"Uh, Lois, I have those upstairs."
"No, they were in your luggage."
"No, I was wearing them."
"No, not those Super shorts. The Super boxers I got you."
"Oh, those." He smiled briefly, remembering how she had enjoyed it the first time he had ever worn them to bed with her. Then he startled Lois by dropping the chopsticks.
"Lois, they were in my luggage?"
"Yes," she answered, getting worried.
"I didn't see them. You're sure you packed them?"
"Yes," she responded, trembling slightly.
"And your notebook."
"Yes, my … notebook." Her heart was pounding now and she didn't know why.
"This is not good," he said, the stricken look on his face belying the mild manner in his voice. Without his glasses, she seemed to find it easier to read his moods.
"Because they know we're Lane and Kent."
"So we're Lane and Kent."
"So they know we know Superman."
"So they know we know him. So?"
"And they know Superman was there today."
"And they know I know they were there too."
"And they will probably look through our stuff for clues."
"They probably will."
"And they probably will find the Superman boxer shorts."
"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God," Lois babbled, grabbing Clark's hand. The warm strength she found there calmed her almost as much as his next words.
"Let's not jump to conclusions."
"But what if they do?"
"Let's hope that Klein comes up with something useful."
At four in the morning, beeps sounded all over the mountain house, as men stirred reluctantly from slumber. They had trucks to load, places to go, Superman to seek.
The leader was already up and prowling about. The detector, the lead-lined boxes, and the Kents' luggage was all to go into his vehicle at the head of the convoy.
"Yes, Captain," said each man as they received their orders. He wasn't called "Taskmaster Trask" for nothing.
The grim leader returned to the master bedroom and looked briefly at the picture he had placed on the nightstand of his deceased brother Jason.
"Today will be the day," he promised the image.
At seven a.m., Lois called Perry White, who was not thrilled to be awakened at that hour on a Sunday morning. He listened to her and promised to get his FBI contact on the phone. Then Lois called Caldwell, who was very upset by her call but agreed to come with her to his mountain house if she drove him. As she left the house, she hugged Clark and promised to stay out of trouble, if she could.
At eight a.m., Klein woke with a start, roused by the vibration of his beeper. His girlfriend Carolyn was paging him. As he dialed her number sleepily, he held the beeper in his hand. He tossed it in the air and caught it a couple of times as the phone rang and continued to finger it while he spoke to his brilliant and beautiful colleague and companion. After some mushy moments and some playful promises, they rang off.
Klein puttered about at his lab bench, looking for some coffee, all the while holding the beeper absentmindedly. He glanced at the clock and at the all failed Kryptonite detector prototypes. Each one was either too large, or too loud, or too limited in memory. He was beginning to dread the return of Superman in less than an hour because he had not been successful. Superman had only been really cranky once and it was because he had been shrinking at the time. Klein disliked disappointing the Man of Steel.
Finally locating the coffee, he started to put the beeper back in his pants pocket, his hand brushed up against Superman's belt buckle mixed in with his pocket change. He extracted the beeper and the buckle from his pocket and held them in his hand. They were nearly the same size. As he closed his hand, the two items, the yellow buckle and the blue beeper clicked as they came into contact. And in his head, something else clicked.
Clark left the townhouse as Superman and streaked across the city in its quiet, sunny Sunday mode. It was so peaceful and calm, it was hard to imagine that just a few miles to the north, there were men who seemed to be actively trying to trap and kill him.
As he arrived in Klein's lab, he noticed the altered condition of Klein's lab bench. But Klein was there and, as he labored over his project, he was singing to himself.
"I've done it!"
"Here ya go, big fella," and Klein handed him his creation. It was Superman's yellow belt buckle, encompassing Klein's blue beeper, and it had a red screen on one end.
"My beeper turns out to have just enough memory to hold the anti-Kryptonite programming. Should you get near any, it will vibrate and no one else will know you have been warned." Klein's tone was triumphant.
"Have you tested it?"
"Yes, but if you would like a demonstration … " Klein pointed to a box on the bench. "It's a really small piece of Kryptonite."
"Okay," Superman said, attaching the buckle to the belt at his waist.
Klein carried the box to the other end of the large laboratory and gingerly opened it. Immediately Clark realized he could feel both the Kryptonite and the vibrations against his belly.
"Will it work at long range?"
"Well, turn it off, I'll close the box and you go down the hall. I'll open the box and you let me know if it works."
They repeated the experiment, and Superman was so excited, he bounded back into the lab and hugged Klein.
Klein, feeling very dramatic, forestalled any more talk.
"Go north, young man!" And Superman heeded his command.
The gleaming white convoy of trucks, their B39 signs unfurled, followed the ribbon of winding icy roads out of the mountains on their way to the great teeming city that was their destination.
Every hamlet and village through which they sped was quiet. As they neared the city, they had a choice of roads through the more populated areas, the mini-city where commuters spent their non-working time.
Captain Trask followed the shortest route.
On the other route, a small convoy of cars and vans led by a silver Jeep Cherokee was making its way toward the house in the mountains. Neither convoy saw the other.
Superman streaked through the sky in a direct line from S.T.A.R. Labs to the house. As he neared it, he saw he was too late for the trucks and too early for the FBI. He x-rayed the house and saw that it had been left as he found it when he and Lois had first arrived. Except for the overcoat he knew he had taken from the closet, there was no evidence that anyone at all had been in the house for days.
There was no point in waiting there. He launched higher in the air and headed back southward, hoping to spot the caravan of FBI vehicles he was expecting. But first he caught sight of the line of huge spotless white trucks reflecting the winter sun.
No time, he thought, and sped to catch up to them.
Lois, in her Jeep with Perry and Caldwell, arrived at the house with the small parade of FBI vehicles right behind them.
They all piled out and advanced to the door of the house. It was quiet and peaceful inside, neat and clean. Caldwell looked around and the FBI began to check for fingerprints. They found nothing.
Lois hurtled down the stairs to the master bedroom, looking for her luggage and Clark's. There was nothing there! Her notebook was nowhere to be found, and Clark's Super boxers were missing as well.
Caldwell replaced the overcoat he'd gotten back from Lois in the closet from whence it had come.
Perry and Lois met in the kitchen, and Perry shook his head.
"No evidence, Lois. They did it again. If it weren't for the coat, I'd say you had dreamed being here at all."
"No scoop." Lois could barely believe it.
"I'm sorry, honey, no scoop. We can't use your story if there is no evidence to back it up. Where's Clark?" Perry asked her. "Wasn't he supposed to meet us here?"
"He was but I don't know where he is, Chief," Lois answered glumly, getting more worried by the minute.
Superman came up behind the last truck in the convoy. He followed discreetly for a few minutes. As the convoy began to round a sharp bend, he struck. He used his heat vision to blow out the tires on the left side of that last truck. He slowed its lurch off the road and disabled the radio. In seconds, the two men in the truck were tied up in their own seat belts, somewhat rearranged.
On to the next truck.
In the space of about ten minutes, he had disabled all but the last two of the trucks. As they rounded another bend, he took out the second of the two in much the same manner as the ones before it. The lead truck increased its speed. He heard the leader shouting into the radio but getting no response. There was nothing left of his convoy. And the voice was furious.
Superman flew over the final truck. He blew the tires out as he hovered overhead. The truck lurched sideways and Klein's Kryptonite beeper vibrated against Superman's belly. He increased his altitude but not before he heard the monitor in the truck reveal his presence.
The truck careened down the road sideways, which alarmed Superman. He streaked ahead and moved two vehicles out of harm's way. Finally, he saw a ravine off one side of the road. He grabbed the truck and, despite the weakening he was beginning to experience from Kryptonite exposure, propelled it off the pavement, over the guard rail and down. He watched for the men in the cab. As the driver bailed out, Superman caught him, and setting him down by the guard rail, which he bent around the man in a metallic hug. Starting back towards the truck, he saw that the leader had scrambled onto the top of the cab and was making his way towards the back of the truck itself. His clothes were ripped and h was bleeding. He was clenching his teeth and the resultant facial expression made him appear fierce and slightly crazed.
Superman headed towards him, but the beeper was vibrating again and he knew he had to keep his distance. The man made it to the back of the truck. One door had been thrown open by the force of the plunge into the ravine. The man ducked inside and emerged moments later, carrying the monitoring device, and a box of Kryptonite. He was also now armed with a rifle.
"Superman!" he shouted.
"Don't you think this is over now?"
"No," the man responded, angry and belligerent, as he set the box and the device down on truck on which he stood. "This will not be over till you are dead."
"What is the point of pursuing me?"
"I am Captain Jeremiah Trask." The man paused, noticing recognition on Superman's face. "You are responsible for the death of my brother."
"From what I heard, he caused his own death, trying to shoot a man in the back and being stopped by an officer of the law."
"That man was you."
"That man was Clark Kent."
"And Clark Kent is you." Trask raised the rifle and aimed at Superman, who felt the beeper vibrate against his belly again, and realized that the bullet was made of Kryptonite. He blanched as Trask shot at him and turned sideways but it wasn't quite enough. The bullet hit his belt buckle and the beeper was dislodged by his own hand trying to intercept the bullet. The beeper fell out and shattered on the rocks.
Superman barely noticed though, because his hand was burning where it had glanced against the bullet. He grimaced in pain and anger. Trask was crazy and dangerous.
Superman felt weaker in the next moment and looked toward his attacker. Trask had opened the lead box and was reloading the rifle with a Kryptonite bullet. Superman realized he had to act at superspeed. He launched toward Trask, knocking the rifle from his hands, but passed very close to the Kryptonite. Trask lost his balance and grabbed for the nearest thing to hand, which was the device. But it was not heavy enough to stop his fall, and Trask snagged it along with the box of Kryptonite as he tumbled off the top of the truck.
Superman saw Trask fall. He tried to reach him … felt sluggish … was in pain. He could barely open his eyes enough to see where the man had gone. Then he heard a scream. Superman looked in the direction of the scream and finally discerned that the man was at the bottom of the ravine, one corner of the Superman monitoring device having bisected his body where he lay. Superman listened for a heartbeat. There was none.
Superman attempted to enter the truck to rescue Lois' notebook and their luggage, but in vain, as there was more Kryptonite in the rear. There was nothing to be done but wait for the cavalry, hoping that things could be set to rights soon. He did so as Clark Kent. He was not feeling particularly super.
When Lois and Clark returned to their townhouse on Sunday evening, they were exhausted. Clark was carrying their luggage. Lois had regained her notebook and Clark his Super boxers. Lois and Clark were hungry and quiet.
Perry had allowed Lois to rewrite the story based on what was discovered in the trucks and she had been able to do so with little difficulty due to the recovery of the notebook. When she had shown up with the FBI and Perry and Caldwell, she had been alarmed to find Clark sitting by the side of the road, looking decidedly ill. He told them all what had happened, saying Superman had brought him along. Lois and Clark had decided to share a byline based on the interview Superman had "given" Clark. The FBI was a long time deciding to release their luggage but Perry and Caldwell had added their influence, one on the side of meeting the next Daily Planet deadline, the other on the side of hoping to prevent unauthorized use of private property in the future. The FBI, embarrassed to find that Bureau 39 had existed under their noses, relented.
Clark had called Klein from the newsroom and told him how the beeper had helped but had been destroyed. He informed Klein that Superman would be appreciative if Klein would try again working on the detector that the FBI would deliver to him as well as another beeper for future. Klein readily agreed.
As Clark brought the suitcases up the stairs at human speed, Lois watched him, worried that he didn't look recovered. She went into the kitchen, dropping the items she carried onto the desk as she passed it. She wanted to surprise Clark with a delicious meal but there was little to work with. She wished she had super powers so she could run out and back in seconds with something exotic, appetizing and hot. When Clark didn't come back down the stairs, she abandoned her search through the pantry for ingredients that could be thrown together into a quick meal. She went up the back stairs and proceeded to the bedroom.
Lois noticed that the suitcases had been unpacked and put away. Clark was lying on the bed, still clothed, eyes closed.
"How are you feeling?"
Clark roused himself. Lois hadn't realized he might be asleep, just resting.
"I'm okay," he yawned.
"Sorry, darling, do you want to just go to sleep?"
"No," he said, pulling her to him on the bed. "I want to cuddle with the better half of Lane and Kent."
His tone was teasing but Lois noticed that he still appeared pale and tired.
"Are you upset about anything."
"Yeah," he said softy. "I wish our weekend had been that quiet, insulated- from-the-world kind of thing we had anticipated."
"Me too," she agreed. "But we learned a lot of things that will help Superman in the future."
"Yes, thanks to you," he said gently.
She was pleased, but she had to know what else was on his mind.
"What's the matter?"
"I don't know. I guess I thought it would end differently."
"Trask figured out your secret, didn't he?"
"Yes, he did."
"From what you told me, you could have rescued him if it hadn't been for the Kryptonite. Just like Lex."
Clark winced at the name. He tried never to mention him and admired Lois for her ability to think clearly about the situation.
"Yes," he agreed, not wanting to draw it out. "But when I knocked the rifle out of his hands, I caused him to lose his balance and then he fell and died."
"That was in self defense! What else could you have done?"
He shook his head. They lay together on the bed for a long while, silent and thoughtful. Finally, Lois got up and walked to the phone. She dialed the local pizza parlor and ordered up their favorite pies. She suggested he shower while she waited for the pizza.
A short while later, she came into the bathroom wearing a blue silk robe. Clark was about to come out of the shower, when he heard her. Peering out from behind the shower curtain, he used his x-ray vision, pleased at what he didn't find under the robe. She seemed to be turning her back on him, and he saw his shield across the back of the robe.
"I promise never to take the matching shorts on a trip with us again," she said with mock solemnity. Then she pulled said boxers out of her robe pocket and flung them at him. As he caught them, he grinned for the first time that evening,
As he followed her into the bedroom, he was suddenly feeling much better.