By Jon B. Knutson (email@example.com)
Summary: Perry assigns Lois, Jimmy and himself to cover a revolutionary new stress-reducing machine. They have wonderful dreams but also exhibit strange side effects.
Clark Kent and Lois Lane returned from lunch to the city room at the Daily Planet to find Perry White waiting for them. "Come in to my office for a minute," he said, not doubting for a second that Clark and Lois would follow him as he turned and walked across the city room.
Jimmy Olsen was waiting for them already. As Perry sat behind his desk, Lois' impatience finally got to her. "What's going on, chief?"
Perry took a few seconds to look at Lois, Clark and Jimmy. Clark, per his usual, was in his GQ best, wearing a smartly tailored blue suit and beige shirt. Clark's tie was another matter. Perry had often wondered where in the world Clark bought his ties… on Clark's last birthday, Lois wanted to buy a tie for Clark, but couldn't find a store in Metropolis that sold Clark's kind of ties, and she had asked Perry for help — help that Perry couldn't provide. Today's tie was one of Clark's more unusual ones… as far as Perry was concerned, it looked as though someone had tried to hand-paint fireworks while on hallucinogenic drugs, but Clark had identified it as some other design entirely… Perry had forgotten what.
Lois was as well-dressed as Clark. Perry had often overheard the women in the city room comment on how well Lois' clothes looked. The men had too, but their meaning was somewhat different than the women's. Lois' outfit today was one of her head-turners, Perry had to admit to himself… she had a bolero-styled black jacket over a cream blouse (which appeared at casual glance to be a little too low-cut, but continued examination revealed was more demure… it was the folds of it that made one wonder) and a knee-length black pleated skirt. Lois had surprised nearly everyone in the Planet office this morning by avoiding her usual flats or pumps, wearing short black boots instead.
Jimmy, on the other hand, looked as though he was auditioning for a vee-jay job on MTV. Given the nature of Jimmy's work, Perry couldn't exactly force Jimmy not to dress like a Generation X-er, but he had asked Clark privately to talk to Jimmy about his office wardrobe. At least today, Jimmy had chosen more office-type attire than his usual: A collarless tan dress shirt, not quite buttoned up all the way, black jeans, and boots. Jimmy had chosen to wear a leather jacket that day, but even the city room wasn't air conditioned enough to keep a leather jacket on for more than a few minutes.
Perry, of course, was in his standard dress pants, dress shirt, solid-color tie, and vest to match his pants. His jacket was hanging over the back of his chair, and the sleeves of his shirt were rolled up to the elbows. Perry had overheard in the past a long-running office joke that as soon as he took his jacket off, his tie loosened, his vest unbuttoned, and his sleeves rolled up automatically, without any assistance from Perry. He had privately laughed about this.
"Well?" Lois asked again, shaking Perry out of his reverie, but not before Perry realized that he had really come to think of this trio as being a family of sorts, with himself as the father figure. Even Cat Grant, who had left the Planet to pursue a career with a television entertainment program, had fit in to the family structure, even if it was simply as the "black sheep." Perry was still hurt that Cat had left, but understood her reasons.
"Lois and Clark, I want you to wrap up your current stories by the end of the day. Olsen, whatever photos you're working on that aren't finished by five will be covered by someone else," Perry instructed.
"Wrap them up?" Lois asked. "I've got too many more hours to invest in them to wrap them up!"
"Now Lois," Clark said, "I'm sure Perry has a good reason for this…" Clark turned to Perry. "Don't you?"
"That's right, Clark," Perry said. "I know things have been very hectic around here the last few months, and we're all feeling much more stressed than normal."
"No kidding," Jimmy said, which earned him a quick glare from Perry.
"As I was saying, we've all been feeling stressed, so I'm instituting a new stress-reduction program for all Planet employees… and we four will be the pilot program."
Lois frowned. "I don't like the sound of this… I remember what happened when you brought in a psychologist."
"This is nothing like that, Lois," Perry said, gesturing as if to allay her fears.
"So what is it then, chief?" Clark asked.
Perry pulled open a drawer of his desk and withdrew a file. Opening it, he showed the trio a photograph of an unusual-looking box with some flashing lights and dials. Attached to the box by a wire was a headset composed of earphones and opaque goggles. "I've got four of these units coming in by the end of the day today," Perry explained. "You put this headset on when you're ready to go to bed, and the box sends impulses that help relax you, allowing you to sleep better and reduce stress."
"Cool!" Jimmy enthused. "I read about this in 'Rolling Stone' last month!"
"I don't like the looks of it," Lois stated.
Clark turned slightly in his chair to look at Lois. "It's completely safe," he insisted. "In clinical tests, it's had remarkable results with people who had high stress levels, and improved their productivity."
Lois looked at Clark suspiciously. "I suppose you read about it in 'Rolling Stone,' too?"
Clark looked back at Perry. "Actually, I saw a segment on this on the Discovery Channel last weekend."
Perry spread his hands. "There you have it, Lois… it's safe, and effective. We'll see what kind of results the four of us have tonight, and tomorrow, I want each of you to write a story on whether or not it worked for you, and how well."
"I sense an ulterior motive, chief," Lois said.
"Okay, you're right… these gadgets are being provided free to the Planet in exchange for press coverage."
"Isn't that a breach of ethics?" Clark asked.
"Not at all… we're being given free reign to write whatever we want about it, good or bad, so long as we write something," Perry explained.
"But chief, I'm not a writer, I'm a photographer," Jimmy protested.
Perry gave Jimmy a patronizing group. "Weren't you just telling me last week how you want more writing assignments? Well, then, here's your chance."
"Great, just when I was getting used to being a shutterbug," Jimmy griped.
Lois gave Jimmy a nudge with her elbow. "Flexibility, Jimmy, flexibility." Addressing Perry again, she said, "Well, I suppose I have one or two stories that could be turned over to someone else if necessary… and my feature article's not that time-intensive. The remaining pieces are almost done anyway."
"Fine, Lois, fine," Perry said. "Clark, how about you?"
"Actually, chief, I was nearly finished with my current stories anyway, and was going to offer my help to Lois," Clark answered, but seeing Lois' eyes narrow at him, added, "but only if she needed it."
"And what about you, Jimmy?"
"I've got a couple of rolls of film to develop, but I could turn those over to Howie… there's a set of prints I want to handle personally, though."
"So it's settled," Perry said, rising to let the trio know the meeting was over. "I'll pass out the sets as soon as they arrive."
Lois, Clark and Jimmy left Perry's office to finish up their current assignments. At the end of the day, they had gathered at Clark's desk.
"So, what do you guys really think about this idea of the chief's?" Jimmy asked.
"Well, stress reduction is always a good idea," Clark offered. "There are a lot of studies that prove how harmful stress is to your health."
"But I like my stress," Lois protested. "I've earned my stress! I work best under stress!"
"The chief's only asking for one night," Clark pointed out with a smile. "One reduced-stress night isn't going to kill you, you know."
Lois threw her hands up, exasperated. "You two will never understand me."
Clark and Jimmy looked at each other and agreed, silently.
"What?" Lois asked.
Before Clark or Jimmy could answer, Perry joined them, carrying a cardboard box. "Well, folks, it looks like someone screwed up, we've only got one unit, so we'll have to trade off over the next four nights."
"Oh, that's a shame," Lois said unconvincingly.
"Well, Lois," Perry said with a grin, "since you're so disappointed, you get to have it the first night." With that, he set the box in Lois' lap and walked away.
"Wonderful." *** That evening, when Lois arrived at her apartment, she set the box containing the "Relaxer" on her coffee table, her mail on top of that, and went right to her answering machine to check for messages. The light indicated one message, which she played.
"Hi, Lois, it's Lucy. I thought you'd be home by now, but I guess I've figured the time difference wrong. I'm calling from Paris… you'd love it here, but I'm not getting much of a chance to see the sights, since I've got another flight going out in less than an hour. In the last week, I've been to Paris, London, Madrid, Miami, and Denmark, and all I've seen in each city has been the inside of the airport. Oh, well, I've been promised a longer layover next week on a flight to Bermuda… maybe I'll be able to send you a postcard. I should get some time in Metropolis in two weeks. Say hi to mom for me. Bye!"
Lois rewound the machine. Since Lucy had completed her stewardess training and was hired at LexAir, Lois hadn't seen much of her sister. Lois missed her terribly, but knew Lucy was enjoying her work… and Lucy certainly wouldn't want Lois to give up her job so they could spend more time together.
Lois looked in her refrigerator so she could decide what to have for dinner, but was quickly reminded that she'd been delinquent in her grocery shopping. A small take-out box from her favorite Chinese restaurant beckoned, but when she opened it, the odor nearly knocked her off her feet. "When did I put this in here?" she asked, frowning. She nearly put the box back in the fridge, but stopped herself, tossing the box in the trash instead.
Giving up, she decided to fax a delivery order for pizza, until she realized she was out of order forms. "Have I been eating that much pizza?" she asked herself. "Too much fat in those… and unlike Clark, I can't afford to eat whatever I want." She decided to take a closer look at her mail while trying to decide, and found a flyer from a new deli that had opened just across the street from her apartment building… and offered a special on take-out salad with lo-cal dressing. "That's the ticket," she said, heading for the door.
When she returned with her salad, she found a message from Perry on her machine, reminding her to use the Relaxer tonight… or else. Temporarily putting the salad in the refrigerator, Lois decided to change out of her work clothes before eating, deciding on a worn college sweatshirt and sweatpants that she'd cut off to create shorts. Laying those out on her bed, she undressed. Catching her reflection in her full-length mirror by the time she was down to her underwear, she turned to face it, moving from position to position occasionally to check her appearance. "I could've easily had another pizza without worrying," she decided, turning back to the bed.
After putting on her sweats, she retrieved the salad, noticing that she was missing a plastic fork from the deli, so she took a stainless steel one from her silverware drawer, and sat down on her couch, thumbing the remote control to turn the TV on. Opening the clamshell container the salad was in, she started to reach for the smaller dressing container when she decided she didn't like what was on. After putting the dressing on the salad, she decided she didn't care for the next channel's program, either. For the next few minutes, Lois took a bite of salad, and changed the channel, bite of salad, changed the channel. She was halfway through her salad, and hadn't decided on what to watch (occasionally looking around to try to find the TV Guide, unsuccessfully), when she landed on the Discovery Channel, which was showing a repeat of the program Clark had mentioned that afternoon. "That's just what I needed," she said, frowning. Completing her channel search, turned off the TV set. "Springsteen was right: 57 channels and nothing on. What am I paying for cable for?" Having lost her appetite by this point, she decided to put the remains of the salad in the refrigerator, even though she knew with the dressing on it, the lettuce would be limp before she had a chance to finish it.
Before retiring to her bedroom, she checked the locks on her door, making sure they were all set. On her way to the bedroom from the front door, she took her laptop computer from where it set on her desk and brought it in with her. Lois got under the covers, and opened up the laptop, starting it up. She launched her word processing program and continued work on her romance novel, the one only she and Clark knew about (and which Clark had better not reveal to anyone else if he knows what's good for him, she thought). After struggling with it for an hour and only writing two and one-half paragraphs, she gave up on it for the night, saving her changes and shutting down the computer. She set it on the floor next to her nightstand and picked up the paperback novel that had been sitting there unread for the last three weeks and decided tonight was the night to start reading it.
When she realized she'd read the second page three times in a row without retaining anything from it, Lois decided she was too tired to do anything but go to sleep. She'd turned out the light and started to snuggle into her pillows when she was reminded of the Relaxer. Turning the light back on, she retrieved it from its box, and set it on her nightstand, plugging it into the wall socket. Taking a brief look at the instructions, she set the dials accordingly, and turned it on. Getting back into bed, she turned off the light and put the headset on.
At first, she didn't think the machine was doing anything… but then gradually, she began to notice a series of pleasant modulated tones just before drifting off to sleep. For several minutes, Lois slept soundly, then she drifted into REM sleep, and began to dream…
Lois woke up suddenly, hearing a tapping on her living room window. "What the hell?" she asked, turning on the light and getting out of bed. As she walked in front of her full-length mirror, she suddenly stopped, and looked at herself. "Where did I get this outfit?" she asked.
Lois was dressed in a black nightgown… one that she had never before seen, much less bought. If the neckline had plunged any lower, it would have been rated R. Flowing, it still managed to reveal every curve, and Lois couldn't help but think that it did show her figure in its best light… especially when a turn revealed a slit up each side of it that nearly went up to her waist, occasionally showing a glimpse of leg.
The tapping at her window repeated, and Lois continued into her living room. Going to her window and opening the curtain, she saw Superman floating outside, his red cape billowing behind him. At Lois' touch, the window opened, and Superman drifted inside. "Superman," Lois said, her voice catching in her throat. "I wasn't expecting you… but then, I never do expect you when you show up."
Superman looked Lois' outfit over appreciatingly. "You look… fantastic," he said.
Suddenly aware of what she was wearing, Lois tried to cover herself, especially where the neckline revealed her.
"That's not necessary," Superman said. He held out his hand to her. "Come with me."
As if her hand had a mind of its own, Lois reached out and took Superman's hand. The two of them floated through the window, the curtains blowing aside in the slight breeze. Together, they flew over the Metropolis skyline. Glancing down, Lois only half-noted how high up they were, the headlights of the cars on the streets below appearing as pinhole points of light. But she was not afraid so long as her hand held the Man of Steel's.
Looking back at Superman, their eyes met, and Superman drew her to him, his arms holding her tightly, yet tenderly. Somehow, without words, their eyes conveyed a world of meaning, and their lips met, kissing passionately as their eyes closed.
When Lois opened her eyes, she was no longer flying with Superman over Metropolis. Instead, she was back at her apartment, standing in the bedroom. Instead of Superman holding her in his arms, it was Clark… and it felt completely natural for Clark to be there rather than Superman. Moving to Lois' bed, Clark leaned closer to her, and they kissed, even more passionately than the kiss of a moment ago. After what seemed like an eternity, they broke the kiss, and Lois reached for Clark's glasses, taking them off his face…
Lois woke suddenly, being instantly awake and fully aware. Taking off the headset, she heard her alarm radio go off, and she was able to turn it off before it got anywhere near the volume usually needed to wake her up. The morning sun was shining, sending golden rays into her bedroom in places where her curtains weren't closed completely.
"Wow," she said, setting the headset down and turning off the Relaxer.
When Lois arrived at the Planet that morning, Clark and Jimmy were amazed at how cheery and relaxed she was. Clark could only recall one time that Lois had been less stressful, and that was due to a chemical that had affected everyone in the newsroom. Jimmy looked at Clark after Lois gave them both a cheery "Good morning!" and asked, "Has Lois been replaced with a pod person?"
"I don't know," Clark said. "But I'm going to find out." Clark walked over to Lois, who was at the coffee bar, filling everyone's cups as they approached, and handing each person a muffin from a large box she had brought in with her.
"Coffee and muffin, Clark?" Lois asked, holding up Clark's cup.
"Thanks. Is that really you, Lois?"
Lois filled Clark's cup, saying, "Of course it's me, silly."
Clark accepted his cup and a muffin from Lois. "It's just that you're… so cheerful this morning. Most of the time, you seem to have to go through the evolutionary process every morning until you've had at least three cups of coffee." Clark knew he was baiting her, but decided to take the chance.
Lois laughed at the joke, a musical laugh that Clark hadn't heard from her before… and he hoped he'd hear it again. "Clark, you are so witty! I feel great this morning… when I woke up, I was so refreshed that I haven't needed any caffeine at all… and I didn't even make my usual stop for candy bars on the way in."
Clark just stared at Lois. "I guess the Relaxer really works, huh?"
"Of course it works! I might have to buy one myself. Now drink your coffee and eat your muffin… it's high fiber and low fat, you'll love it."
Clark, stunned at the change in Lois, took his coffee and muffin and walked to his desk, occasionally turning back to Lois, who was still handing out coffee and muffins.
"Well?" Jimmy asked, leaning to Clark and whispering conspiratorially.
"It's Lois, but a side of Lois we've never seen before."
The elevator to the newsroom opened, and Perry White stalked out of it. "Great shades of Elvis! When are the people in this city going to learn how to drive?"
Clark and Jimmy turned to face Perry. "Tough commute this morning, Chief?" Clark asked.
"You don't know the half of it, Clark… there was an eight-car pileup on the Metropolis Bridge, on the opposite lane from the incoming traffic, and every damn person in front of me had to slow down to a crawl to look at it. Then, as I'm getting ready to pull into the parking garage, some idiot cuts me off suddenly, without using his signal light! Unfortunately, that idiot wasn't a Planet employee, or I'd have him fired!"
"Sounds like you should have the next turn with the Relaxer, chief… look what it did for Lois," Jimmy suggested, gesturing to the coffee bar.
Perry stared at Lois, who was still smiling and handing out coffee and muffins. "Great shades of Elvis."
As the day progressed, Lois' good mood didn't change at all… which forced Perry to tell her to rewrite her story on the Relaxer several times, since Lois' story read less like a news story and more like a television commercial, making promises that no product could ever keep. Perry had to admit, though, that Lois was much more pleasant to deal with than normal… not that he'd have ever complained to her.
So it was that Perry decided to take the Relaxer home with him that night. He had been feeling especially stressful, since he'd had to stay late at the Planet for a meeting with the publisher. By the time he finally made it home, there was no traffic, but his wife, Alice, was already asleep. Fortunately for Perry, the late meeting was a dinner meeting, so he didn't have to worry about warming up leftovers.
He set the Relaxer next to his bed and changed into his pajamas quietly, not wanting to wake Alice, who was sleeping soundly. Sliding gently into bed, he leaned over to Alice and kissed her cheek, then settled into bed. Having previously read the instructions, he knew how to turn on the Relaxer, and did so, shutting off the light and putting on the headset.
At first, he didn't feel much like sleeping, but in spite of himself, he drifted off quickly…
The next thing Perry knew, he was sitting in the front row of a large theater. Next to him sat Alice… as young as she was when they were first married. One look at his hands told Perry he had miraculously become younger, too, and he felt more energetic than he'd felt in years.
He became aware of the rest of the crowd in the theatre… everyone was young, and dressed several decades out of date… but then, so were he and Alice, so Perry didn't worry about it too much. The crowd was screaming something Perry couldn't quite make out at first, but the screams and shouts finally coalesced as the crowd synchronized into cries of "Elvis! Elvis! Elvis!"
"Great shades of…" Perry started, but then a fanfare began, drawing his attention to the stage, which was covered with a large red velvet curtain.
An announcer, barely audible over the crowd, shouted, "Ladies, and gentlemen, the Metropolis Theatre is proud to present on its stage the King of Rock and Roll… Elvis Presley!"
As the curtain parted, the cries of the crowd grew even louder. To Perry's surprised delight, there was a four-piece rock and roll band on the stage — two guitars, a stand-up bass, and drum set. Gathered around an old-fashioned mike to the right of the stage were the Jordanaires, dressed in matching suits and narrow ties.
And then, he walked onto the stage: Elvis Presley, but not the Elvis that Perry had last seen in Las Vegas… the young, vibrant Elvis… lean and mean, hair slicked back, trademark lip curl in place… and he walked on the stage as if he owned it, and indeed, he did.
Elvis took hold of the microphone in one hand, and spoke into it quietly, the crowd miraculously quieting down to hear every word. "Thank you… thank you very much. I'd like to begin with one of my first hits."
Elvis' free hand rose into the air behind him as his body suddenly pivoted. Leaning towards the mike, he started to sing, "You ain't nothin' but a Hound Dog…"
… and the crowd went wild. Suddenly, the seats were no longer occupied as everyone suddenly was on their feet, Perry and Alice included. Perry's smile was so big, it almost hurt. He began cheering with the rest of the crowd, and when other couples began to dance in the aisles, he started to dance with Alice, as well.
After "Hound Dog," Elvis went into "Heartbreak Hotel," "One Night With You," and "Marie's the Name (His Latest Flame)" before slowing things down with "Love Me Tender," "Can't Help Falling In Love," and "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You."
It was the greatest show Perry had ever seen in his life, but the best was yet to come. After the last chords of "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" faded and the applause died down, Elvis took the mike from its stand, and spoke to the audience.
"Thank you, thank you very much. I understand that one of my biggest fans in Metropolis, if not the world, is in our audience tonight, and I'd like to bring him onto the stage with me."
As the crowd reacted to this with cheers and applause, somehow Perry knew Elvis was talking about him. Without realizing it, Perry found himself on stage next to his idol, who shook his hand, and then handed him a microphone.
"Folks, I think my good buddy Perry should sing this next song with me… what do you think?" Elvis asked.
The crowd roared encouragement, which was all Elvis needed. Cueing the band, Perry and Elvis sang "Viva Las Vegas" together. Midway through the song, Perry found that somehow he'd managed to have a scarf placed around his neck. Looking to the front of the stage, he saw Alice there, cheering him on. As he and Elvis started the last verse, Perry mopped his brow with the scarf and draped it over Alice's neck, as he'd seen Elvis do a hundred times before.
When the song finished, the cheers were even louder. Perry woke up and took off the headset. A quick glance at the clock showed him he'd woken up minutes before the alarm.
"Great shades of Elvis."
When Clark showed up at the Planet the next morning, he immediately noticed two things: one, that Lois, while still more cheerful than usual, wasn't quite the Mary Sunshine she was the previous morning. When Clark asked her to fill his coffee cup, she'd simply responded, "Fill it yourself, Clark… I have faith that you can manage it by yourself," before continuing to her desk.
The second thing Clark noticed was that Perry hadn't been in yet… but Clark attributed this to traffic problems again.
At 9:00, both Clark and Lois had started to worry.
"Traffic can't be that bad from Perry's part of town, can it?" Clark asked Lois.
"Not as long as I've been working here," Lois assured. "But there's a first time for everything, isn't there?"
"I suppose so," Clark answered. "But if traffic was that bad, wouldn't we have heard anything about it?"
"Look, Clark, if you're so worried, you could call him on his cellular phone."
Clark decided against it, and continued working on his latest stories, arranging interviews for later in the week, and coordinating with Lois on their coverage of a press conference that afternoon.
Shortly after 10:00, Perry strolled in, smiling. "Good morning, everyone!" he called out.
The newsroom suddenly went silent… even on Perry's best days, no one could recall him strolling anywhere… usually, a brisk walk was the most relaxed they'd seen. And Perry's greeting was much more enthusiastic than anyone was familiar with.
The most unusual thing about Perry's entrance, of course, was the time. "Where've you been, chief? We've been worried," Lois said, which drew a look from Clark.
"We… were worried?" Clark asked Lois, who just ignored him.
"Alice and I decided to go out for breakfast this morning, and spend some time together before I came into the office."
"Good for you, chief," Lois said, "What's power without it's little perks?"
"Exactly what I thought," Perry responded. "By the way, Lois, I've changed my mind about your first draft of your story… you were 100% right. The Relaxer is a miracle!"
As Perry strolled into his office, Jimmy walked through the city room to Clark's desk. "I've never seen the chief in such a good mood… maybe it's time to ask him for a raise."
"And spoil his good mood?" Lois called from her own desk. "Don't you dare! I could go for one day with Perry this relaxed."
Clark looked at Lois again. "I see you're back to normal again."
"What do you mean, normal?" Lois demanded.
"Well, after yesterday…"
"Yesterday was different," Lois said abruptly, heading to the coffee bar with her cup.
"Definitely back to normal," Jimmy agreed with Clark.
That afternoon, when Lois and Clark returned from the press conference, they were just in time to run into Jimmy. "I can't believe it… the best pics I've ever taken, and that bonehead screws up the developing!" Jimmy complained.
"Which pictures are those?" Lois asked.
Jimmy showed Lois and Clark a contact sheet. As the two looked it over, they couldn't tell what was on the film. "These pictures! From last night's Metros game!"
"You were covering the Metros game?" Clark asked.
"Tommy was supposed to, but he caught the flu, so I volunteered to cover for him… I got some incredible shots of the field goal that decided the game, and make the mistake of handing the film over to Jeff to develop and print so I could take another assignment… and he screwed it up!"
"Weren't those supposed to be in the morning edition?" Lois asked.
"The first three rolls were fine for the morning edition," Jimmy explained. "But these shots would've been perfect for the evening edition… and they're screwed up! I could scream!"
"Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy," Perry's voice called from his office door. "Come here a second."
Jimmy walked to Perry's office, trying to act coolly, but Lois and Clark could tell he was very angry.
Perry put an arm around Jimmy's shoulders. "These things happen, son… I'm sure your other pictures will be fine for this evenings' paper. In the meantime, I think you need to take the next turn with the Relaxer."
Jimmy calmed somewhat, but he was still upset. "Sure, chief, anything you say."
Jimmy, against his better judgment, decided to go out to a grunge club that evening, arriving home several hours later than he usually went to sleep. His apartment, which was sparsely decorated (his leather jacket ate up the money he'd been saving for a new couch, so an old hide-a-bed had to suffice) but greatly cluttered with magazines, newspapers, and other debris, seemed even warmer than it was when he'd left for work in the morning. He checked the thermostat, and found that while it was set at 65 degrees, the thermometer revealed it was 85 degrees in there.
"Great," Jimmy said, setting his leather jacket on the hide-a-bed, "just what I need, the thermostat's on the blink again."
Entering his bedroom, Jimmy opened up the windows, and set a cheap fan in front of one of them to blow cool air inside the apartment. Stripping his T-shirt and jeans (which were soaked in sweat from the heat already), he plopped himself onto his cot. He wasn't planning on using the Relaxer, despite Perry's instructions, but the heat wouldn't let him sleep.
"What the hell," he finally decided. He got out of his cot, and set up the Relaxer. His apartment didn't have many electrical outlets, so he had to scrounge up an extension cord to plug it in. Making sure the "alarm on" knob was pulled out on his wind-up clock, he turned on the Relaxer, put on the headset, and laid down again. Shortly, he didn't feel the heat anymore, and fell asleep…
Jimmy found himself in his best clothes, holding his camera, and standing outside the stage door at the club he was at earlier that evening. Before Jimmy could wonder what he was doing there, the door opened, and that evening's band, "Bombshell," walked out of it. Bombshell was an unusual band, being comprised entirely of very beautiful blonde women, hence the name. Jimmy was a big fan of the group, and had a crush on the lead singer, Linda Parks. The group was dressed in their usual torn shorts, leather miniskirts, boots and fishnet stockings.
The band saw Jimmy with his camera, and immediately started to pose for him. Not believing his luck, he started shooting pictures.
Suddenly, Linda screamed and pointed to the right. Jimmy lowered his camera and saw a group of young men who'd been kicked out of the club earlier. There were five of them, and they all five seemed to be even larger than he'd remembered them.
One thing he hadn't remembered about them were the guns they were brandishing. The apparent leader of the group walked forward. "Me and the boys here didn't get a chance to show our appreciation for your performance tonight," he said. "I think we deserve that chance, don't we guys?"
As the rest of the group agreed with the leader, Jimmy suddenly realized that he wasn't wearing his usual watch… instead, it was the experimental one he'd acquired from S.T.A.R. Labs, with the supersonic signal that only Superman could hear. He thought he'd kept it in his bottom desk drawer at the Planet… but wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Seeing the group's attention was diverted towards Bombshell, Jimmy activated the watch. Strangely, he could hear the signal, which seemed to make a sound like zee… zee… zee…
In seconds, Superman flew in, and landed between the toughs and Bombshell. "Is there something you needed me to do here, Jimmy?"
"These boys here are annoying my friends," Jimmy said. "Could you deal with them?"
"Sure," Superman said with a wink. "Anything for my pal!"
As Superman walked towards the toughs, who began to empty their guns at the Man of Steel, sending bullets ricocheting, the members of Bombshell gathered around Jimmy. "You're Superman's pal, Jimmy Olsen!" Linda Parks said.
"That's me," Jimmy said, puffing up his chest.
"Boy, are we lucky you were here," Linda continued as Superman began to take the guns out of the toughs' hands, bending them out of shape.
The toughs decided they'd had enough, and started to run away.
Superman turned to Jimmy. "Anything else I can do for you, pal?"
"That should be fine. Thanks, Superman!"
"Any time, Jimmy!" Raising an arm, Superman began to float into the air, saying, "Up, up and away!"
Jimmy and the band waved at the Man of Steel as he flew off. Turning his attention to the girls, Jimmy said, "You were saying?"
Linda said, "The girls and I were thinking… we'd like to show our appreciation to you for helping us out… and we can be very grateful…"
To Jimmy's delight, the girls surrounded him, beginning to kiss him and rubbing themselves against him in the most enjoyable way…
Jimmy's alarm went off just as he woke up. He took off the headset and sat up, shutting off the alarm. "Holl-eee cow."
Clark was due for several surprises that morning. The first was seeing that Lois was far from normal again. From the first time he saw her that morning, she did nothing but complain… the elevator was too slow, the coffee wasn't strong enough or hot enough, her computer wouldn't do what she wanted… she even flat-out told Clark that she hated his dinosaur tie.
Perry was back to his usual self that morning… when he came in at 8:16, due to traffic problems again. Clark had started to count the number of times Perry said, "Great shades of Elvis!" but lost count sometime after 25. He'd also decided to go with Lois' last draft of her story, and was rewriting his first draft.
Lois utilized that as another excuse to continue complaining until lunch time, when her complaints switched to the sandwich she'd ordered for lunch.
In the meantime, Clark ran into Jimmy, who was apologizing to Jeff about the screw-up with his film from yesterday.
"It could happen to anybody, Jeff… don't worry about it," Jimmy said to Clark's amazement.
That was the last straw for Clark. He strode purposefully to Perry's office and closed the door.
Perry was in the midst of rewriting his story of his Relaxer experience. "What can I do for you, Clark?"
"Chief, there's something strange about that Relaxer. The morning after one of you have used it, you're in a great mood… the next day you're back to normal, and if Lois is any indication, the third day afterwards you're even more irritable than normal!"
Perry stopped what he was doing. "I'm sure it's nothing to worry about… after having a really good day, it doesn't take much to ruin a day after that.
"Speaking of which, tonight's your turn with the Relaxer, Clark… maybe you'll feel differently after you've tried it."
Clark looked doubtful. "I'm not sure I need it, chief. I don't really get that much stress."
Perry stood up and put a hand on Clark's shoulder. "Clark, you've just been telling me how strange people are acting around here… and you wouldn't be in here talking to me about it unless it bothered you, right?"
"So something's got to be stressing you. Try it for one night, and see how you feel tomorrow."
Clark sighed, resigned. "If you say so, chief."
That evening, Clark had to eat his dinner quickly, as his super-hearing picked up a siren outside his apartment, as well as several gunshots. As the evening progressed, there were several incidents around Metropolis that required Superman's help, and Clark wasn't able to return to his apartment until 2:00 in the morning.
"Thank goodness I don't need that much sleep," Clark thought as he made his way to bed, taking the Relaxer with him. He set it up next to the bed, and turned it on. A short burst of super-breath turned off the light switch, and then he put on the headset.
As the modulating tone started, Clark began to hear something else… something in a range that only he could her consciously…
…and he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
The next morning, Clark showed up at the Planet with the Relaxer. When he entered the city room, Lois took one look at him with the Relaxer in his hands and ran up to him, trying to take it from his hands.
"Clark, I need to use this tonight… I didn't sleep a wink last night!" she pleaded.
Clark could easily believe that… there were circles under Lois' eyes that weren't completely hidden by a badly-done makeup job. Holding the Relaxer over his head, where Lois couldn't reach it, he said, "You don't want to use this at all, Lois… trust me."
Lois' mood turned suddenly dark. "Damn you, Clark, I told you I needed it!" she screamed There were tears forming in Lois' eyes and she started hitting Clark on his chest.
Perry White, hearing this, stormed out of his office. "Great shades of Elvis! What the hell is going on out here?!?"
"It's this Relaxer, chief, it's…"
"Don't call me chief!" Perry demanded.
"Perry, this machine was tested on people using it daily for a week… there were no tests done for the period after the testees stopped using it. It's addictive."
"I don't believe you," Perry said, gruffly.
"Look at Lois!" Clark said as Lois tried vainly to jump high enough to take the Relaxer away from Clark. "She couldn't sleep last night because she didn't have it… you're going to go through the same thing tonight, and Jimmy will have to face it tomorrow."
As if realizing the truth in what Clark was saying, Perry said, "Great shades of Elvis."
Lois, Jimmy and Perry were taken to Metropolis General for treatment, Lois having to be sedated before she was taken. The three were in adjacent rooms for their treatment while the Relaxer was analyzed in detail by S.T.A.R. Labs.
Clark spent the entire weekend providing moral support to his friends through the worst of the withdrawal symptoms, never complaining for a moment.
By the following Wednesday, Lois had recovered with the help of relaxation techniques taught by Metro General staff members. Clark was there when she was discharged.
Before leaving the hospital, Lois and Clark paid a visit to Jimmy and Perry, who were now sharing a room.
"The Relaxer's been pulled from the market," Clark announced. "And the inventors are being prosecuted by the DA's office… on top of a multiple class action suit against them."
"I still can't believe it," Lois said. "I felt like I was a junkie needing a fix."
"You were, in a way," Clark said. "That was part of the inventor's strategy… they'd lend a unit or two out to businesses with stress problems, and when people got addicted, they'd buy one for themselves… often lending them to friends for a night, which would get them addicted."
"Thank god you didn't use it," Perry said. "Whatever made you decide to ask Superman to check it out?"
"I knew it had to have some kind of sound-based system," Clark said, "and given that, Superman was the logical choice to check it out. Actually, if it weren't for the addictive subsonic messages, it wouldn't be that harmful… but it wouldn't work, because those subsonics somehow directly affected the pleasure centers of the brain… it must've given you three some incredible dreams."
Lois, Jimmy and Perry looked at each other, remembering the dreams spawned by the Relaxer.
Lois finally spoke up. "Dreams? I don't remember any dreams caused by the Relaxer."
Perry and Jimmy agreed with Lois' experience all too quickly, but Clark let it go.
"Anyway," Lois said, "I'm all ready for a nice, stress-filled day at the Planet."