By Paul-Gabriel Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted February 2005
Summary: A response to a pair of challenges, this story touches on 38 more or less random items. With guest stars! Also features the creation (and destruction) of a piece of artwork carved into a french fry!
This was written in response to two challenges posted on the Fanfic Message Boards by Queen of the Capes. The Ultra Mega Super Scavenger Hunt Challenge ( http://www.lcficmbs.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=3;t=000382 ) had a list of 30 random items to be included, if possible, in a story. It looked pretty difficult until she posted the Hunting Out of Season challenge ( http://www.lcficmbs.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=3;t=000385 ) a week later. That one had a list of 8 items, all closely associated with babies (a crib, Barney, etc). The catch was that the story could not contain an actual baby. Somehow, thinking about that helped put the previous list into focus, and so this story was born.
As usual with scavenger hunt challenge responses, the story is pretty random. I did manage to get all 38 items into the story (along with a few others of my own invention ;) ), and I had fun doing it. Hopefully, you'll have fun reading it, too.
A big thanks to my BR, Sara Kraft, for her encouragement, laughter, and suggestions. Also for saving me from potential embarrassment and typos.
Also, credit where it's due… Thanks to Chick-Fil-A ( http://www.chick-fil-a.com ) for their inspiring and very funny ad campaign ( http://www.chickfilapressroom.com/eatmorchikin.asp or http://www.eatmorchikin.com ). Without them, this story would have had no place to start.
Finally, a fun fact for you… Extremely observant (and nerdy) readers will still probably not notice that the "random" numbers which appear in the story were actually pulled off a certain listing on the periodic table of the elements. Can you guess which one?
Lois Lane was not happy. In what was possibly their worst stakeout yet, she and Clark were stuck working at a fast food restaurant. She had chosen to work the counter, unwittingly dooming herself to spending hours dressed as the restaurant's bovine mascot, "Fossie the Cow." She braced herself as a customer, snickering at the outfit, walked up to the counter. "Hi, welcome to Cheerful Cow's Chicken Cabin," she said, her voice flat from more repetition than she cared to remember. "Can I take your order?"
"I'll have an order of nuggets, please."
Lois nodded, not wanting to speak any more than necessary, rang it up, then turned to shout over her shoulder. "One order of nuggets!"
Clark, working the fryer in the back room, got a bag of prepared nuggets out of the freezer. He sighed as he dumped them into the boiling oil. "You don't understand," he said mournfully, on behalf of the processed meat. "I coulda had class. I coulda been something. I coulda been a chicken tender, instead of a dried-up nugget, which is what I am."
A few minutes later, they were done. Clark pulled the basket out of the oil, dumped them out on the section of counter reserved for that purpose, and then transferred them to a box with tongs. He could, of course, have simply reached into the oil and plucked them out by hand, but that probably would have caused some difficulty if Lois happened to walk back and catch him at it. Besides, it would have gone against health regulations for him to touch someone else's food directly. "One box of holy chicken," he said through the rack when Lois came to pick up the box.
"Sure. It came to you straight from the fryer!"
Lois groaned, but couldn't quite hide her smile. She had to admit, if only to herself, that being with Clark made the whole experience more bearable. She handed the box to the customer, then resumed her excruciating vigil. Thankfully, the restaurant, new as it was, had very few customers.
In the back room, Clark decided to clean out the oil bin. For his own amusement, he sifted through the charred crumbs from the bottom as if looking for long-lost treasure. Sadly, this proved fruitless. He did, however, find a reasonably large chunk of crisp, overcooked french fry. Having nothing better to do, he began using tiny focused bursts of heat vision to carve out an image of Lois's face.
Back up front, a new customer approached Lois. "Gimme a hot dog," he said.
Inwardly, Lois perked up, a surge of adrenaline shooting through her. That was the password she'd been waiting for! Outwardly, she struggled to maintain her bored facade. "We don't have hot dogs, sir. We only serve chicken."
"I see," he said in all-too-obviously rehearsed tones. "In that case, I believe I shall try Fossie's Own Lemon Chicken Sandwich."
"Certainly, sir," Lois replied, acting casual.
"And may I have an extra helping of secret sauce, please?"
That was it. No chance of a mistake now. "The Lemon Chicken sandwich does not usually come with secret sauce, sir."
"Nevertheless, I believe I would like to try it. May I have the secret sauce on the side?"
"Of course, sir." Lois waited for the man to pay, then called back to Clark. "One FOLC, with extra secret sauce!" She started to turn back, then did a double-take. "Clark? Why are you staring at that french fry like that?"
Clark looked up guiltily from the Mona Lois. "Uhm, no reason." Reluctantly, he swallowed the evidence, destroying what had been, quite possibly, the world's first masterpiece done in the medium of oil on potato. "One FOLC with extra secret sauce," he said, hoping to distract her. "I'll get right on it."
Thankfully, his strategy worked. Lois, remembering the excitement of finally hearing the password, turned away. He watched as she went back to the counter, and, as they'd arranged, surreptitiously took a picture of their customer with the camera hidden in her nametag. Confident that his partner was properly occupied, Clark went to do his part. He set the chicken to grilling, then went to the hidden vault to get the "extra secret sauce." This was what they'd come for. They had gotten a tip that something was being smuggled, but they still didn't know what, or who, was involved. He carefully removed a small, generic-looking plastic tub, pocketed another one at super-speed, then closed the vault. It was the only way he could get a sample without being observed by the security cameras or setting off the alarms.
Soon, the chicken was ready, and he prepared the sandwich according to the exacting company instructions. When he was done, he passed it, along with the secret sauce (whatever that was) to Lois, who gave them to the customer in a take-out bag. He hurried out, leaving Lois and Clark to wait through the rest of their mind-numbing shift.
Back home that night, Lois plunked herself on the couch, frustrated. They'd started off with little information. They had painstakingly gotten themselves into position, worked for days under conditions that alternated between excruciatingly boring and appallingly embarrassing, and finally, they'd heard the password. Despite all that, they hardly knew any more than when they'd started out. Someone was clearly smuggling something, and they were clearly being very careful about it. Lois's curiosity was still burning brightly, but her frustration was mounting rapidly.
To take her mind off things, she decided to turn on the TV. She was immediately presented with herself dancing with Lex at the White Orchid ball. The scene had become all too familiar in recent times. Lex had limited his public appearances, so there wasn't much in the way of stock footage. "… but the question is," some pundit or other was saying, "can Lex Luthor, who was pronounced legally dead last year, still be jailed?"
Hastily, Lois changed the channel. She did not want to be reminded about the supposedly dead ex-fiance who had kidnapped her barely more than a month ago, but the media seemed determined to give Lex's trial even more coverage than they had OJ Simpson's.
"Today's winning lotto numbers are 36… 18… 4…"
That wasn't much better. Lois hit the remote again.
The picture changed, showing a man in camouflage gear holding a rifle. "Now, we've been sitting quietly in this here quagmire for three hours," he whispered. "At this point, we look like just another part of the landscape. So Bob here is going to blow the duck whistle, and we'll see if we can bag ourselves some dinner!" There was a quacking sound, and then a duck appeared on screen.
Horrified, Lois changed the channel.
"… she then places on her door a Mezuzah, which contains a scroll with the sacred prayer… Shma, Israel…"
Lois wasn't sure what this was about, but found she wasn't in the mood to find out.
"Holy Montezuma's Revenge, Batman!" "Quick, Robin! To the BatRoom!"
Lois found that she was also not in the mood for campy 60's reruns.
"Super Kung-Fu Chimp Fighting Force Go!"
A cartoon monkey of some kind was fighting some presumably evil human. Lois didn't want to know.
The picture changed to show a small, childlike puppet dinosaur of some kind. Lois had just enough time to wonder about this before the explosion. A larger dinosaur stepped out from behind what seemed to be a rather thick shield wall. "We're going to need another Timmy!"
At that moment, some distance away, Clark Kent's own frustrated attempts at channel surfing were interrupted by a phone call.
"Start spreading the news…"
"Barry?" Clark asked, thinking he recognized the voice of the person who had suddenly and inexplicably chosen to sing to him.
"…I'm leaving today!"
There was a small clicking sound, and then the voice was replaced with a dial tone. "That was… odd," Clark said to no one in particular as he hung up the phone. He headed back for the couch, but, before he got there, he heard a knock at the door. Confused, he went to open it. Barry Allen, AKA The Flash, was on the other side. "Barry? What are you doing here?"
In response, Barry started singing again. "I want to be a part of it… Met-rop-o-lis!"
Clark shook his head. He hadn't expected to see Flash again so soon. The two heroes had met only a few short months prior, at a charity event in honor of National Mr. Ed Remembrance Day. It had been a fund-raising party of some sort. Clark still wasn't clear on the theme. The thing that had mattered to him was raising money for animal hospices. At least, that's what he'd repeatedly told himself as he'd found himself inside a giant crib trying to feed a horse with a bottle of formula. Flash, meanwhile, had been darting back and forth to an oversized closet full of stuffed animals, handing out favors to the party guests. Elsewhere in the room, for reasons Clark still didn't understand, Barney the Purple Dinosaur, wearing a bib, had attempted to feed mashed peas to an injured pelican (borrowed for the occasion from the Pelican Man Bird Sanctuary in Florida). The pelican, unfortunately, had seemed to be more interested in biting Barney than the peas. On the other side of Clark's crib, there had been a man wearing a dress and a Groucho-style fake nose. Holding a rattle in one hand and a mobile in the other, he had done his best to entertain a moose. Clark had been told that the moose represented Canada, and that the man was there to make some kind of profound artistic statement. The statement, unfortunately, had been entirely lost on Clark. To him, it had just looked like something out of "Let's Make a Deal."
After the party, Clark had just been preparing to depart when Flash had called out to him. The hero from Central City, it seemed, had wanted a private moment to introduce himself. *Really* introduce himself. As not only the Flash, but as Barry Allen, police scientist. He'd explained that he admired Superman a great deal and that he hoped to establish a trusting working relationship. Barry, it seemed, wanted to establish a network of heroes so that, if need be, they could pool their resources.
Clark had been shocked at first, but had had to admit that it sounded like a good idea. The two had talked for a while, and then, somewhat hesitantly, Clark had shared his own personal information. They'd kept in touch since then, speaking at least briefly every few days. They had talked about going to meet other heroes across the country, but hadn't gotten very far. Both their lives were simply too hectic.
"So, Clark," Barry said suddenly, bringing him back to the present, "how many Gotham vigilantes does it take to screw in a light bulb?"
Clark shook his head. "Uhm… None? That's what Alfred is for."
"Well, you're half right. The correct answer, at least according to Wally, is… 'None! Batman *likes* it dark!'"
Clark chuckled dutifully. "What brings you to town, Barry?"
"I'm following a case, or trying to. Didn't get too far back home, so I thought I'd try my luck here. Unfortunately, the department wasn't prepared to send me based on what limited evidence I had. Of course, if I'd had any more evidence, they would have turned the whole thing over to the feds. So, I took some time off, called in a few favors, and… you are now looking at the Daily Planet's brand new police consultant!"
"Wow. So, what are you working on?"
"I'm not sure, exactly. I've been hearing some rumors about Intergang funding some new research, but it's all been pretty vague."
"Hmm. So what brings you to Metropolis?"
"Well, it seems like whatever's happening is happening here. There's something being moved this way, anyway."
"Sounds like something Lois and I have been working on. Vague clues about some kind of chemicals being smuggled around, but we're still not sure what. We got a sample of it to a friend of ours at S.T.A.R. Labs, but he's kind of absent-minded. So far, all we've learned from him — and we only found this out because of an accident — is that his lab rat won't eat it."
"Chemicals, huh? That might fit in with —"
Barry's musings were interrupted by a sudden flash of light as, out of nowhere, Tempus appeared! He was accompanied by a mysterious and beautiful dark-haired woman.
"Hello, Clark. Or should I say Superman?" Tempus leered. "I am your worst nightmare! This here is my lovely wife, the Mistress of Evil! I found her with this nifty little gadget from the future. Wonderful invention, really. Apparently, they got the idea for it from watching an old movie called 'Weird Science.' Who says nothing good ever came from the movies? So, after I stole the thing, I told it to search for my perfect mate, and there she was, waiting just a few centuries away!"
"Why are you here, Tempus?" Clark demanded.
"To humiliate and destroy you, of course… Wait a second. You know who I am? And… Who's this?" Tempus squinted at Barry. "You look familiar… Hmm… You're the Flash, aren't you? What are you doing here? You're not supposed to be here yet!" Tempus pulled a strange-looking instrument out of his pocket, and peered at it closely. "This isn't 1994! What happened? What's wrong with this thing?"
"Let me look at that for you, darling," said the Mistress of Evil.
"Yet another reason I'm glad I rescued you from that evil woman's doghouse, dear," Tempus replied as he handed the gadget over. "You're always ready to help, and so good at fixing things!"
The Mistress of Evil poked and prodded at the device, whatever it was, for a few minutes. Then, just as suddenly as before, there was a flash of light. She and her evil husband disappeared.
"Well…" Barry said after a moment. "That was… unusual."
"Not really," Clark replied, thoughtfully.
"Oh. Well, then… You were saying…?"
"Huh? Oh, right! We got a sample of the chemicals today, but we still don't know much. Say… if your case is related, and you are a police chemist… analyzing these things is what you do, right?"
"All day, every day. When I'm not, you know, running around fighting crime…"
"You want to take a look at it?"
"Sounds like a good idea to me!"
"Well, then, tomorrow we can get the sample back from S.T.A.R. and you can…"
"Tomorrow? Why not go now?"
Clark sighed. One of the downsides of working with the Fastest Man Alive was that he seemed to be rather short on patience. "It's late, Barry. S.T.A.R. Labs is closed."
"So? It's your sample, right? And I'm the one who'll be doing the testing. It's not like we need them to be there…"
Clark made a mental note to avoid introducing Lois to Barry. "Barry, you're a police officer. Doesn't breaking and entering seem a little wrong to you?"
"It's for a good cause. Besides, we won't be breaking anything. I'll vibrate my molecules and phase right through the wall. You can do that too, right?"
"Well, er… I can't say that I've actually tried…"
"Piece of cake. Trust me. Let's go." Barry dashed off, becoming a red blur as he went. Clark, seeing no alternative, followed.
Superman and the Flash strode through the empty corridors of S.T.A.R. Labs. "You know," Barry said suddenly, breaking the uncomfortable silence, "there's something about this situation…"
"You mean the way it's illegal, ill-advised, and, frankly, somewhat childish?"
"No… I mean… experienced crimefighters, creeping through an eerily darkened building, all too aware of the slightest sound, on the trail of some villain whose identity we don't know, with little more information than that there are strange chemicals somehow involved… It feels like there's something that needs to be said…"
"'This is crazy?'" Clark suggested.
"I was thinking more along the lines of… 'All right, gang. let's split up and look for clues!'"
Clark just shook his head and directed Barry to Doctor Klein's lab.
Clark jumped, then identified the noise as having come from the cage in the corner of the room. "Oh. Hi, er… Rat."
"Uhm, we're just here to retrieve a sample. Everything's fine. Sorry to have disturbed you."
"Right. Okay. Er… why am I talking to a rat?"
"Sorry. No offense."
Clark, noting Barry's odd look, and feeling more than a little sheepish, quickly located the sample. "Got it," he said.
"Great! Hand it to me, and I'll just run a few tests…"
"Taking back the sample is one thing, but using S.T.A.R. Labs equipment?"
"Oh, fine. We can use my lab. I know the equipment there better, anyway."
A minute or so later, the two heroes were in Central City. Flash led the way to his lab, then proceeded to run a battery of tests at super speed. Clark had trouble keeping up with everything he was doing.
After a moment, Barry paused, waiting for the results of the tests. Noting his friend's confusion, he took some time to explain his work. Clark, well versed in science (in part thanks to his photographic memory), was able to understand most of it. Unfortunately, he did have some trouble with the fact that Barry kept accidentally talking at super speed.
It took several more rounds of tests, but Barry finally reached the conclusion that the chemicals were designed to interact with the body's metabolism in some way, suppressing it for short periods. He couldn't be sure of the exact intended effect, since he didn't know how the chemicals were to be mixed, or if anything else was to be added to them. It was enough, however, to give them a start.
It didn't take too long after that for a full-blown Lane & Kent investigation (with the help of Superman and the Flash) to uncover the truth. Stanley Gables was arrested less than a week later. His virus was destroyed, but his plans for a "resurrection" pill were given to top medical researchers. Already, plans for new treatments for serious diseases and newer, more effective anesthetics were beginning to develop.
In one hospital room, however, a certain patient was not so happy. Bill Church, Sr., recovering from his recent heart attack, nearly had a second cardiac episode when he heard that the promising scientist (who had unknowingly been in Church's employ) had been captured.
His nurse rushed in to help him. "There, there," she said, hanging up the phone for him. "Everything's all right."
He growled, still distressed.
"Awww," she said, soothingly, holding him close. "Muggy, muggy, I'm your little monkey-muffin, Cheeze-face!"
He smiled and let his cares dissolve in her sea of blondeness.
"That's right," she said. "Nurse Mindy is here, and she's going to take care of you good and proper."
Something about what she'd said briefly alarmed Bill. Something about the way she'd said she was going to "take care of him…" But… nah. It was just the result of having spent years in charge of a vast international criminal organization. Monkey- muffin, plotting against him? He laughed out loud, startling her. Then he relaxed once more into her embrace and let her give him what he really needed… heart medicine.