By Nicola Baker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted June 2001
Summary: In this sequel to the author's "Flying Lessons," Jimmy has an accident.
This is the sequel to Flying Lessons. Although it might help to have read that first, it's probably not necessary. All you need to know is that Lois and Jimmy have superpowers.
Thanks go to Phil for sparking an idea in my brain… and Kelly and Tricia, my Betas.
Metropolis' newest superhero was flying. His blue cape was flapping in the wind of his passage as he made his way back to work after a rescue. He wasn't hurrying, just enjoying the sunshine. Thanks to that interview he gave himself last week, Perry was giving him more proper jobs, and it was much easier to get out of the office for rescues.
Rolling on to his back, he stared up at the clouds. An aeroplane passed, and he idly wondered if they were close enough to make out the emblem on his chest. He was quite proud of his superhero persona. Ace wasn't as formal sounding as Superman or UltraWoman. It was more… him, somehow. And he had to admit, the suit was something. The orange stylised A stood out on the dark green chest of his suit and gave the impression of youth, while the blue mask obscured his face enough that even Perry hadn't recognised him earlier that week. The orange belt and boots completed the outfit.
Suddenly, Ace was jolted from his reverie by a wave of panic. He lost altitude, and just barely avoided the tops of several buildings. The asphalt rushed up to meet him, dark in the bright summer's light. Jimmy's last thought was to hope that enough of his invulnerability remained to protect him.
"Jimmy's been gone a long time, Lois, I'm starting to get worried." Clark was perched on the edge of Lois' desk. She glanced up at him.
"Don't worry, Clark, he'll be fine. After all, what could possibly happen to him?"
"Hey buddy, you OK?"
"I'll take that as a no, shall I?"
His eyes opened a crack and he squinted into the darkness of the alley. There was a man looking at him with concern, surrounded by trash. Behind the man, Jimmy could see the mouth of the alley, and beyond it the city street was bathed in sunshine. He tried to sit up.
"Hey, I don't think you should be doing that, buddy, you need to see a doctor." The man tried to hold Jimmy down, but some of his super-strength remained, and he got unsteadily to his feet.
"Thanks, but I'll be fine," he said. "Could you just help me over to the sunshine?" The man complied. As soon as the sunlight hit him, Jimmy began to feel revitalised. Within a few minutes he thanked the man again and flew off unsteadily to haunts unknown.
"Jimmy! What happened? You look terrible!" Lois ignored an 'I-told-you-so' look from her husband, and ushered her young friend into the conference room. When they had closed the door, Jimmy sat down heavily.
"I crashed," he said, matter-of-factly.
"You… crashed?" Lois was surprised how stunned Clark looked. After all, he was the one who was worried about Jimmy.
"Yeah, I suddenly just lost control. I don't know why. It was really scary. I felt better once I got into the sun, but I still don't feel a hundred percent." Jimmy paused to let his story sink in. "Did this ever happen to either of you? Or to Resplendent Man?"
Clark considered this. "The only time I've ever lost my powers has been when there's Kryptonite around. Lois and Resplendent Man didn't have powers very long. Who knows if they would have lost them?"
"There was that kid," Lois added, "the one who everyone thought was Superman's love child. He lost his powers. Maybe humans just can't cope with all that power."
Lois glanced out of the window into the newsroom. She noticed that Perry was coming towards them.
"I think we should continue this discussion later. Maybe over dinner tonight. Until then, Clark should handle the rescues. If Jimmy's powers are failing, mine could too."
Clark sighed. It was supposed to be his day off, barring emergencies, but he did see the need. Don't be so petty, he told himself. "I agree. No more rescues for you two."
At that point, Perry opened the conference room door. He was in a good mood, because of all the news generated by the new superhero. "I hope you three are discussing work," he joked, "or I might just have to fire you."
"Oh yes, Perry, definitely work." Lois replied, nodding her head. Just not the kind of work you mean, she added silently. Luckily Perry didn't ask what they'd been working on, instead turning to Jimmy.
"I need you to do something for me, Jimmy." He turned and lead the way out of the conference room, trusting that Jimmy would follow. The cub reporter shrugged at his friends and went to see what Perry wanted.
"I'm going to take a trip over to where Jimmy was when he crashed. See if I can see anything that might have caused this."
"You mean you're going to see if there's any Kryptonite there. Clark, that's silly. What if there is? You would just end up crashing like Jimmy, and nothing would be accomplished at all."
"Lois, I know what I'm doing. I can feel the stuff from far enough away that it wouldn't affect me. Jimmy doesn't know what it feels like, so he might not have sensed it until it was too late." Clark waited until his wife reluctantly nodded. Experience had taught him that doing things without her permission was a recipe for disaster. He left the conference room and headed for the stairwell.
In the sky above Hobbs Bay, Superman hovered behind a cloud and scanned the area. He couldn't feel any of the symptoms of Kryptonite poisoning, but that didn't mean there wasn't a lead box with some in down there somewhere, with some villain just waiting to open it when he saw the brightly clad superhero. That's why he was hiding behind a cloud. Unfortunately, it wasn't helping. He couldn't see anyone walking around with suspicious lead-lined boxes, and he was reluctant to look into people's houses after he caught sight of something he would rather forget.
A cry for help reached his ears from the other side of the city. Taking a last look at the streets below, he flew towards the screams. As he emerged from the cloud, he felt a sudden bout of nausea sweep over him. He began to fall.
In a quiet out of the way alley in Hobbs Bay, a face could be seen in the sinister green glow coming from a small lead box. Quietly, the light winked out, and darkness reigned.
"Oh, that'll do nicely."
"Hey buddy, you OK?"
"I'll take that as a no, shall I?"
His eyes opened a crack and he squinted up at the man who was hovering over him. They were in an alley, surrounded by trash. Behind the man, Clark could see the mouth of the alley, and beyond it the city street was bathed in sunshine. At first it looked like paradise, but only by comparison. He tried to sit up.
"Hey, I don't think you should be doing that, buddy, you need to see a doctor." Clark brushed the man off and got unsteadily to his feet.
"Thanks, but I'll be fine," he said. He staggered over to the mouth of the alley, trying not to lean too heavily on the man. As soon as the sunlight hit him, Clark began to feel revitalised. Within a few minutes he thanked the man again and flew off into the distance.
The man's eyes followed the superhero until he was out of sight.
"Must be something going around," he said to himself. "That's the second one I've rescued today!"
Meanwhile, back at the Planet, Lois and Jimmy were beginning to get worried. Lois had told Jimmy where Clark had gone. Jimmy was horrified.
"But what if there IS some Kryptonite?"
"That's what I said, Jimmy." She sighed. Something prompted her to look up as the elevator opened, and she broke into a relieved smile. The smile soon faded, however, as she took in her husband's appearance. His shoulders were slightly slumped, and he had a look about him that said, quite clearly, Lois is going to be mad at me.
He was right.
Lois got up and stalked into the conference room. Jimmy followed slowly, reluctant to participate in what was surely to follow. When Clark reached the conference room, he cautiously entered and shut the door.
"What did I tell you? There was Kryptonite, wasn't there? And you crashed." It wasn't a question. Clark sat down heavily in a chair and sighed.
"You have every right to be angry with me, Lois. I ignored you, and I paid the price. But I think we can safely say that Jimmy's powers aren't fading. It was just the Kryptonite. Now all we have to do is figure out who has the Kryptonite and get it back." He looked at Lois beseechingly, and her heart melted. She tried not to let it show.
"I'll let you off this time. I think you've suffered enough. Now, about this Kryptonite. Where exactly were you? And how did you get that close without feeling it?"
"It must have been in a lead box. I didn't feel anything until I came out from behind the cloud. It was the same place that Jimmy crashed earlier. It was very strong; there must have been a lot of it, but I feel fine now, completely healthy. No lingering effects at all."
Jimmy looked oddly at Clark. "You know, that's strange, I feel weak still. Almost no powers at all."
Lois contacted Bobby Bigmouth to see if he knew anything about the Kryptonite, but for once the snitch came up dry, even when Lois offered ten three-course meals at a very posh restaurant. There were no witnesses, no rumours of large stashes of Kryptonite, and no Intergang plans to get rid of the heroes (no new ones, anyway). Lois was convinced that the whole thing was too well organised to be Intergang, who invariably left some clues, witnesses or evidence.
A couple of days later, the three reporters were no closer to finding out who had been behind the Kryptonite. No more attacks had been made, on any of the superheroes. Lois was doing rescues again, and although Jimmy wasn't back to full strength yet, he was insisting on helping. Clark understood the reason. He couldn't watch people in danger and not do anything, so he had no right to ask Jimmy to stop helping. They had agreed on one thing, however. Jimmy was not flying, and he wasn't doing major rescues on his own. It would do no good at all if he lost the power of flight when he was doing Mach 30 two hundred feet off the ground!
Jimmy's continuing weakness was starting to worry the trio of heroes. When Clark was exposed to Kryptonite his powers came back abruptly. They didn't come back half way and then slowly start to deteriorate, as Jimmy's appeared to be doing. He was now only slightly more invulnerable than the average person. A small fire probably wouldn't hurt him, but anything larger would almost certainly be painful. They decided to go and see Dr Klein.
The man picked up the sickly green rock and turned it over in his fingers. He appeared thoughtful.
"Mr Smith, we are impressed. It's been two days and there is no sign of that meddling do-gooder Ace regaining the power of flight. Your product shows considerable promise. We are worried, however, that there seemed to be less effect on Superman."
"I'm working on that small problem. It should be fixed within two weeks. Meanwhile, a little funding would speed the research along."
"Don't push your luck, Mr Smith. We are not renowned for our sense of humour."
Mr Smith nodded nervously, and left the room.
Two capes swished quietly as Superman and Ace walked into Dr Klein's office. The scientist was engrossed in the beakers of brightly coloured liquids in front of him, and didn't react to the duo's presence. Superman cleared his throat gently at what seemed to be a good point, when all the beakers were on the bench rather than in Dr Klein's hands.
Dr Klein jumped.
"Oh! Superman! I hope I didn't keep you waiting." He blinked, noticing the younger superhero for the first time. He seemed excited to meet Superman's friend, and immediately started asking questions.
"Ace! It's nice to finally meet you. I assume you're Kryptonian, well, New Kryptonian, since the old one… What made you decide to come to Earth? Can I see your ship? Superman won't let me see his. Are you related?"
Ace looked uncomfortable.
"I'm… a friend." Superman grinned, remembering his words to Lois the first time they met. Ace looked at him in confusion.
"Sorry. Private joke." He changed the subject. "If he's going to help we need to tell him, you know."
"I know. I'm getting into the habit of keeping secrets already."
"What's the problem? What do you need to tell me?"
Superman started to explain.
"A couple of days ago we ran into some Kryptonite. Ace hasn't recovered completely yet. But even I am back to full power, so why isn't he?"
The normally absent minded doctor picked up on that small clue.
"*Even* you? What's different about Ace?"
"I'm not Kryptonian." Ace spoke quietly from the other side of the room where he was seemingly engrossed in an experiment running there. He turned to face the inevitable onslaught of questions.
"You're not? But the powers?"
"Lightning, a conductor, a little luck. Instant superhero." He shrugged, and then looked very serious. "Actually, that's something I've been wondering. If I'm not Kryptonian, why does Kryptonite even affect me?"
Dr Klein looked thoughtful for a moment, considering the few facts he had at his disposal.
"I'm not sure, but it is possible that there is something about the powers themselves that is innately Kryptonian. When Superman is exposed to Kryptonite, it affects him physically — nausea, dizziness, and so forth. Since you didn't experience any of those symptoms, perhaps the Kryptonite would take away the powers and leave you unharmed."
Jimmy tried to understand the scientist's explanation, and then decided that it didn't matter. It was enough to know that Kryptonite would take the powers away. He got back to the immediate problem, the fact that his powers weren't returning.
"Can you help, Dr Klein?"
"Well, I need to do some tests. Can I have a tissue sample?"
The good thing about having no leads, Lois thought, was that she was so busy looking for one that she didn't have time to worry about Dr Klein's tests. She had been to see the scientist earlier that day to provide her own tissue sample. Dr Klein wanted to compare the two human-Kryptonians. He thought they would be different from Superman, which was a fair assumption.
It was a busy time for the superheroes. The criminals of Metropolis decided that since Ace wasn't being as public as he had been, they were relatively safe. The fact that there was still one more superhero than there had been before didn't seem to bother them. In one night, Superman and UltraWoman caught 15 small time crooks, 5 bank robbers, and 27 muggers.
Lois slumped into her chair. She had just returned from another rescue, and was about to re-start — for the tenth time — the story that she was supposed to be working on. The phone rang. Lois groaned and glared at it for a moment before answering it.
"Lois, could you get a hold of your friends, please? I need to see them." Lois easily recognised Dr Klein's voice. She briefly wondered whether to be offended at the fact that Dr Klein thought she had so few friends that she'd know exactly who he meant, but decided she didn't have the energy.
"You mean Superman and UltraWoman, I assume?"
"You wanted to see us, Dr Klein?" Superman looked outwardly calm, but inside he was uneasy. Dr Klein must have the results of the tests he was running on Lois and Jimmy's cells. Clark hoped that the news was good. It had been nice not to have to worry about his friends getting hurt. If they lost their powers, they would be just as vulnerable as they had been before.
Dr Klein looked at the three superheroes standing in his office. He thought they looked worried, apprehensive. He could alleviate some of the concern, at least. He addressed UltraWoman first.
"The tests that I was running on your tissue sample were very interesting. If I didn't already know that you weren't Kryptonian, I would have been worried, but I think they are normal for a human-Kryptonian mix such as yourself. The cells are very robust, it was fascinating really…"
"Dr Klein?" Lois said. "Could you get to the point?"
"Oh, sorry! I'm fairly certain that your powers are not fading. You are perfectly healthy. In fact, I exposed your sample to Kryptonite, and although it had an effect, it was very minimal. It would probably only weaken you slightly."
"But?" Asked Jimmy impatiently. He knew from the doctor's posture that there was a but.
Dr Klein sighed. "But the cells I took from Ace are somewhat different. Instead of repelling any attack on their structure, they are actually deteriorating. Spontaneously. It took me a while to figure out where I had seen cells doing this before, but eventually it came to me. Do you remember that boy who had superpowers for a while…?"
Dr Klein continued, but Jimmy was no longer listening. He was already way ahead of the scientist. That small boy lost his powers. Which meant that Jimmy was going to lose his as well. The young hero felt an incredible sense of bereavement and he turned away from the surprised doctor. He knew his behaviour bordered on rude, but he didn't care. Wallowing in self-pity, he lost track of the conversation until he heard Clark interrupt the flow of words coming from the doctor.
"Dr Klein? Could you summarize that, please? In English?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, Superman!" Dr Klein paused for a moment to decide how to word what he wanted to say. "Ace is still fairly young. His body, just like that little boy's, is still growing, changing. Until it settles down, any powers would just fade as those changes occur. Kryptonite should only have a minimal effect, as it does on UltraWoman, but because the powers are fading anyway, the Kryptonite appears more potent."
"So, in effect, he's growing out of it?" Clark looked relieved. At least there wasn't some new form of Kryptonite out there that would affect humans. He could stop worrying about Lois.
"Mr Smith, your modified Kryptonite has been very useful. Not only has it incapacitated Ace, where normal Kryptonite failed, but it also affects Superman from a greater distance than unmodified Kryptonite. We are very pleased. Now all that remains are the loose ends."
The man placed a manila envelope on the table in front of him. Then he walked away. Opening a small safe in the wall, he pulled out a gun, hiding it from Mr Smith with his body. Mr Smith reached forward to pick up the envelope, taking his eyes off the man as he did so. It was the last mistake he would ever make.
The man smiled.
"The loose ends, Mr Smith. *All* the loose ends."
On the roof of the Daily Planet, a solitary figure stared out into the night. He closed his eyes, feeling the wind on his face and imagining he was flying.
James Olsen sighed and rested his chin on his hand. A slight noise warned him before a hand descended on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Jimmy. If there was any way…"
"I know, Clark, it's just, it's not fair, y'know?" He turned to face his friend. "I could do so much good with those powers, but just because I'm still growing, I don't have the chance."
The two reporters were silent for a moment. Eventually, Clark spoke.
"You still can, you know. Do good. You're not just the office grunt any more, you're a reporter. That has to mean something. And when you've stopped growing, we can find a thunderstorm…"
"True." Jimmy seemed to have a thought. "I *can* help. After all, only a seasoned reporter could come up with as many *believable* excuses as you and Lois need."
Clark looked shocked for a moment, and then the two friends, reporters and sometime superheroes burst out laughing.