By Nan Smith email@example.com
Disclaimer: The familiar characters and settings in this
story are not mine. They are the property of DC Comics,
Warner Bros., December 3rd Productions and whoever else can
legally claim them. Part of this story contains scenes and
dialogue from both the pilot and the episode "Strange
Visitor". Any dialogue from those episodes, or any other
episode of the series is hereby credited to the writers of
"Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman". Any new
characters, scenes, dialogue and the story itself belong to
This is the sequel to Teamwork. It begins the morning
after the capture of Barbara Trevino. Superman doesn't
exist yet. Lois and Clark have gone to Smallville and Lois
and Martha are in the process of making him a costume.
By Nan Smith
"I don't know," Clark said, studying himself doubtfully in
the full-length mirror. At least, the red, yellow and blue
costume wasn't as outrageous as the stripes or the leopard-
skin pattern. That one had reminded him vividly of Cat
Martha Kent surveyed her tall, muscular son in the skin-
tight outfit and nudged Lois. "Well, one thing's for sure.
No one's going to be looking at his face."
"Mom!" Clark protested.
His mother laughed. "Well, they don't call 'em tights for
Lois grinned, looking him up and down. "She's right,
Clark. I like this one the best of all of them."
Martha Kent stood back, examining the outfit clinically.
"There's something missing. Something ... " Abruptly, she
broke off and hurried to the bed. As Clark watched, she
dragged an old suitcase from beneath it and unsnapped the
"What's that?" he asked.
Martha opened it and took a folded blanket from within.
"The baby blanket we found you in so long ago. And this."
'This' was a roughly triangular shaped decal in yellow, and
on it, a stylized S. Martha Kent held it up to his chest.
"I think this is perfect."
"What is it?" Lois asked.
"It was in the ship," Martha said. "There was another
symbol like it on the ship itself, so it must have meant
something important, but I can't imagine what. Still, it's
associated with your origins, so I think it's appropriate.
What do you think, Lois?"
"I think it's a good idea," Lois said. "Just what the
"Okay," Martha said. "Go change out of it, Clark, and I'll
put in the final stitching."
Clark hesitated. "Are you sure?" He fingered the scarlet
cape. "I'm not so sure about the cape."
"I think it looks terrific," Lois informed him with a wide
grin. She gave him a once over and her grin widened.
"I love it!" Martha said, with enthusiasm. "It'll look
great when you're flying!"
"Does it have to be quite so tight?" he asked, knowing how
weak his protest sounded.
Martha nodded. "It cuts down on wind resistance," she
Clark sighed and wisely gave up the battle. He knew when
he'd been outvoted, and he was no match for two determined
women. Sometimes there were disadvantages to having a
mother and a girlfriend who were as strong-willed as these
two, he thought. He took one more look at himself in the
mirror and sighed again. Oh well, as his mother had said,
no one was going to be looking at his face. He wasn't sure
if that was a good thing or not. The suit certainly left
little to the imagination, and the thought of Cat Grant's
reaction made him cringe.
Lois seemed to read his thoughts. "It's not a bit fair
that you have such a gorgeous physique and you don't even
have to work for it," she remarked. "Cat's going to step
on her tongue when she sees you wearing that. I can't say
that I'll be able to blame her, either."
"Lois!" he protested, aware that his face was bright pink.
She laughed again, looking him over in a way that made him
blush more deeply. "It's okay, Clark. I won't tease you
anymore. Seriously, you look wonderful. More than
wonderful. Now go change so your mom can finish the
Obediently, he retired to the other room to change, aware
that his mother and Lois were giggling in the bedroom. He
peeled off the spandex, careful not to disturb the basting
that held it together. It looked like his plan might work
out all right, he thought. With the other alterations to
his appearance, it didn't seem as if anyone was likely to
recognize him. As Lois had pointed out earlier this
morning when he'd put on that outfit that looked sort of
like a modern day Robin Hood, it was as much the attitude
as the clothing. He'd have to maintain a somewhat
impersonal and distant air, quite unlike his normal self,
but that would have to be his alter ego's personality to
keep him separate from Clark Kent. With Lois to back him
up, they could manage this, he was certain of it.
A moment later, he emerged into the bedroom again to hand
over the suit. Lois had been looking him over
speculatively since he'd tried on the first of the trial
costumes, he thought, which was slightly intimidating.
Then he reminded himself that she'd already seen him in
considerably less and blushed again. He'd been doing that
a lot this morning.
Martha took the costume. "This won't take long. Why don't
you take Lois out and show her the farm, Clark? Or, you
could take her to town. I know a small town Christmas
isn't a match for Christmas in the city, but you might want
to introduce her around to some of our friends."
"You want to?" Clark asked. "We could drop by Maisie's
coffee shop. Everybody goes there."
"Well ... "
"Go ahead," Martha urged. "Let Clark buy you a hot fudge
sundae. Maisie makes the best hot fudge sundae in three
That did the trick. "Okay, why not," Lois said. "But how
are you going to explain being here when you're supposed to
be in Metropolis?"
"We flew in for our day off," Clark said, breezily.
"Everybody knows I have friends who are private pilots."
"Yeah, right," Lois said. "I remember when we were trying
to find out if you knew anything about planes, last week."
"Actually, I do," Clark said. "A friend of mine really is
a private pilot. He's given me some lessons. He said I
was a fast learner."
"I'll bet," Lois said. "Why didn't you remember when you
got in the cockpit, then?"
Clark shrugged. "I have no idea."
"Mm! This is delicious, Clark!" Lois dug into her hot
fudge sundae with enthusiasm.
Clark nodded, smiling. "As long as I can remember,
Maisie's has made one of the best hot fudge sundaes that
I've ever tasted," he said.
"Clark!" a female voice said. "I thought you were in
Lois glanced around, a spoonful of ice cream halfway to her
mouth. A slender, blond woman wearing a sheriff's uniform
was standing behind them, her fists planted firmly on her
Clark also turned. "Hi, Rachel. I had a couple of days
off, so I flew back home to pick up some of my stuff." He
turned back to Lois. "Lois, this is Rachel Harris, our
town sheriff. Rachel, Lois Lane, a colleague of mine at
the Daily Planet."
Rachel Harris had raised her brows questioningly. "She
came with you?"
"Sure. Lois and I are old friends," Clark said, blithely.
"She's been looking forward to seeing Smallville and there
was a free seat available, so ... " He let the sentence
Lois smiled at Rachel, wondering where the sheriff fit into
Clark Kent's history. She obviously knew him and had very
possibly grown up knowing him. Still, he'd already said
that he'd never met the right woman for him until he'd met
Lois, so it followed that Rachel wasn't a threat.
Rachel Harris was quite obviously evaluating Lois as well.
She smiled reservedly. "Oh, I see. Strictly professional,
huh? Well, Clark and I are old friends. He took me to his
high school prom."
"How nice," Lois said. "He and I met a few years ago at a
journalism convention in New Orleans. We're partners at
the Planet, now."
She saw Clark hide a smile but he didn't comment.
"Wait a minute," Rachel said. "I saw that thing about the
Rainforest Consortium on TV last night. That was you,
"It was you and Clark that broke it open, wasn't it? I
thought your name sounded sort of familiar."
Clark was nodding. "That's right. It was Lois who figured
out that Barbara Trevino was selling out the rainforests
for personal profit."
Was Clark bragging about *her*? Lois maintained a modest
silence but she couldn't help feeling a little smug.
Rachel nodded approvingly. "Nice work. Well, I have to
get back to work. We're organizing the police coverage of
the Christmas Eve Parade. Are you going to be here this
"Wouldn't miss it," Clark assured her.
The conversation was interrupted by the squawk of the radio
that Rachel carried on her belt and the sheriff excused
herself to answer. Lois watched her as she left the little
shop and then turned back to Clark. "I guess Smallville is
more modern than I'd expected."
"Yup," Clark agreed, his Midwestern accent becoming more
pronounced. "We even have real indoor plumbing and gen-u-
ine telephone service to most of the outlying homes now.
Before long we'll probably even have them new-fangled
Lois jabbed him in the ribs. "You know what I mean, Kent.
I wouldn't have expected a female sheriff."
"Smallville isn't that different from most small towns,"
Clark said. "Rachel's been the sheriff for a couple of
years now. Her mom died when she was little and her father
was the sheriff while we were growing up. She's wanted to
follow in his footsteps all her life. She packs a mean
left cross, too."
"Was she your high school girlfriend?" Lois asked. "She
seemed kind of ... well ... proprietary."
Clark shook his head. "No, not really. We were friends
for years, but I didn't actually have a steady girlfriend
in high school. Lana Lang and I dated during my senior
year and I'd invited her to the prom, but at the last
minute she came down with a terrific case of poison ivy.
Rachel's date had rolled his car out on River Road four
days before the prom and was in the hospital with two
broken legs, and she was kind of at loose ends, too, so we
ended up going together."
"Oh," Lois said.
"How are you two doing?" Maisie asked. She glanced at
Lois's sundae. "Is anything wrong with it?"
"Oh, no, not at all!" Lois assured her, quickly dipping her
spoon into the softening ice cream. "This is one of the
best hot fudge sundaes I've ever had. Clark was just
introducing me to Sheriff Harris."
"Oh, I see," Maisie said. "Rachel's all business these
days, ever since she and Roy broke up two days ago," she
told Clark. "I hear they were fighting about her job,
"Roy Decker?" Clark inquired.
"Who else? You'd think that if he wants her to be happy,
he'd get over being jealous of her being sheriff."
"I thought he'd finally given up trying to get her to
quit," Clark said.
"You know Roy. 'A woman's place is in the home, not a
squad car.' You'd think he grew up in the nineteenth
century instead of the twentieth." Maisie mopped up a drop
of ice cream on the little table. "I told Rachel a long
time ago that she should dump him and find herself a man
with a brain but you wait, they'll be back together in
another week and fighting over her job again in two."
"They'll work it out," Clark said. He looked across at
Lois. "Nobody's business is secret in Smallville."
"Oh?" she asked. "Then how come I haven't heard any dirt
Maisie laughed. "With Clark here, what you see is what you
get. You wait, though. Everybody in town will know he
brought you here to see his place before the day is out."
"'What you see is what you get,'" Lois quoted, after Maisie
had gone to help another customer. "Interesting."
Clark shrugged. "So, do you want to come back here for
Christmas?" he asked, deliberately changing the subject.
"Christmas is always the biggest party in Smallville."
"I don't know," Lois said. "I'd be intruding into a family
thing. I wouldn't want to do that."
Clark shook his head. "You wouldn't be intruding. Mom was
asking me about it this morning while you were still
asleep. Unless you have plans with your family."
Lois hesitated. "Not if I can help it. Mother will
probably be out of rehab by then, Dad will be 'working'
again, and the last I heard of Lucy, she was off in
Northern California living in one of those religious
communes and chanting for inner peace or some such thing."
"Then I can tell Mom you'll come?" Clark asked.
"Well ... I guess so. If you're sure I wouldn't be in the
"It's a date, then," Clark said. "I'll tell Mom when we
get back to the house."
Smallville, decked up for Christmas, reminded her of
something out of a postcard or a painting, Lois thought as
she and Clark strolled about the town. The storm two
nights ago had coated the landscape in white. The
snowplows had been busy and the main street was mostly
clear but the roofs of stores and houses were thick with
layers of snow and the park looked like a winter
wonderland. Children were playing, building snowmen and
snow forts, and they passed a group of kids in the middle
of a spirited snowball fight. The air was chilly but the
afternoon sun was warm on her face and she couldn't help
wishing for a moment that she had grown up in a place like
this. Metropolis was her home and she wouldn't want to
stay away from it for very long, but if her father had been
a doctor in Smallville, with the town grapevine as vigorous
as it evidently was, maybe he wouldn't have found it so
easy to conduct his extramarital affairs. Maybe her family
would have stayed together instead of becoming the train
wreck it had been.
Looking up at Clark, strolling beside her, she found
herself envying him his childhood. He'd been a foundling
whose origins were shrouded in mystery and yet he and his
adoptive parents had been a real family. She shook her
head abruptly. It wasn't the town or the city; it was the
people. If they had lived in Metropolis, the Kents would
have been no less a family than they were in Smallville.
And Clark wanted that kind of relationship with her.
She'd had a real family, once, but she'd long since given
up the dream of ever having one again. Her mother and
father had made a disaster of their marriage and her few
attempts at a real relationship as an adult had been
similarly disastrous. She'd concluded, after Claude, that
she simply wasn't lovable and that that kind of thing
wasn't for her. She'd resigned herself to it and thought
that she had armored herself against those feelings and
hopes forever -- and then, Clark had literally dropped into
her life and turned all that on its head. If she was
willing to take the chance, it was possible she could have
all the things that she had begun to believe were out of
her reach. With Clark. If she committed to him, she was
pretty certain that it would be forever.
Forever. It was a scary thought, but it was dazzling at
the same time. It was taking the chance that was the
hurdle. She'd taken that chance with Claude and it had all
blown up in her face. Clark was no Claude but she had the
feeling that the Fates were just sitting there, waiting and
watching for the opportunity to ruin things again.
"Clark -- " she began.
He looked down at her questioningly.
"For putting up with my superstitions."
"Oh." He dropped an arm around her shoulders and gave her
a slight hug. "Well, as long as you admit it's a
"It's really silly, but I can't help it," she admitted,
guiltily. "It's when things seem to be perfect that
something always happens to ruin it."
"Just as long as it doesn't go on forever," he said.
"It won't, I promise. Just until I'm -- "
"I know. Until you're a little more comfortable with it."
"More sure of it," she amended. "I just have this awful
feeling that if we say it out loud, things will fall apart.
Thanks for not saying anything. It *won't* be forever -- I
"Good things are worth waiting for," he told her, quite
seriously. "I don't give up easily, once I've made up my
"Oh, Clark ... "
She slipped an arm through his, resting a gloved hand on
his sleeve. He glanced down at her again, smiling, and she
found herself smiling back.
"So, what do you think of my hometown?" he asked, changing
the subject quite deliberately.
"It's nice," she said. "Not a bit like Metropolis,
"No. It's funny, you know. I love Smallville, but I
already like Metropolis, too. There's something about the
city that appeals to me ... the excitement; everyone is
going somewhere. Something is always happening."
Lois nodded. "I know. That's exactly how I feel. I've
never wanted to leave Metropolis -- at least not
"Then I guess it's a good thing I decided to settle down
permanently there," he said. "When we get back, I need to
find an apartment. I can't live at the Apollo Hotel
forever -- although I haven't spent a night there, since I
was hired at the Planet."
"You've been too busy guarding me," Lois said, feeling
guiltier than ever. Clark had protected her single-
mindedly and she was letting her insecurities get in the
way of the relationship they both wanted.
"Lois, it's all right. Really."
"No, it's not," she said. "I'll tell you what; I know guys
who know guys. Maybe Big Louie can get you a deal on a
good place. I feel like I owe you some help, considering
that you've been too busy keeping me alive to do any
apartment hunting. I'll contact him when we get back."
"'Big Louie'?" Clark asked.
"Yeah. His daughter was my doubles partner in college."
"Uh huh. Big Louie does -- well, 'business' in Metropolis.
He's one of my sources."
"Oh." Clark raised an eyebrow. "I guess you must know
some real characters around the city."
Lois nodded, wondering for an instant if he was angling for
her to give him the names of her informants, then she
kicked herself mentally. If he was going to be her
partner, as she intended, he had every right to expect that
she would introduce him to her contacts. He wouldn't try
to steal them. Besides, he'd never given her a single
reason to mistrust him and every reason to trust him.
Clark was neither Claude nor (thank heaven) her father.
"Yeah, I'll take you to meet Louie," she promised. "And
"Bigmouth," Lois repeated. "I have no idea what his real
name is. He's been Bobby Bigmouth as long as I've known
him, and it's not because he's a snitch. He's skinny as a
rail and eats practically nonstop."
"Maybe he has a tapeworm," Clark suggested.
"I don't think even that could explain it," Lois said.
"The man puts away enough food for fifty tapeworms. I
think he must have a black hole where his stomach should
Clark laughed. He had a nice laugh, she thought. His
smile lit up his whole face and made her want to laugh with
him. What had happened to the suspicious, prickly Lois
Lane of a couple of weeks ago? That Lois was beginning to
seem more and more like a bad dream, fading gradually away
the longer she stayed in his company. She had been
replaced by one who was uncertain, but hopeful. If this
was being in love, then she had it bad for a man who had no
idea where he came from.
Speaking of which ...
"Clark," she said, "could you show me where your parents
"Sure," he said. "Shuster's Field is only a little ways
from the farm. We can take a short detour on the way
Shuster's Field was a flat, snow-covered plain, dotted with
trees and surrounded by a wooden fence. They pulled the
battered Kent pickup truck up to the gate and Clark cut the
"Mom and Dad were driving along this road when they saw
what they thought was a meteor in the sky," Clark said
pointing. "Come on."
"Where?" Lois asked.
"Dad said it landed just beyond that clump of trees. Let's
"You've never seen the spot?"
He shook his head. "A couple of years after the ship
landed, Old Man Shuster started using this pasture for
pedigreed cattle. Nobody was allowed in here. He was
paranoid about rustlers and anybody who even climbed the
fence was in danger of getting hauled off by the sheriff
"Even his neighbors?"
"Yeah. He was kind of a grouch. It got to be a bit of a
joke hereabouts. There was quite a flap a few years ago,
when a couple of guys snooping around in there turned out
to be from the DEA, looking for drugs. His stud bull
chased them both up a tree. Shuster called the sheriff to
arrest them -- he didn't know who they were, of course --
and the sheriff had to rescue them. It turned out they
were in the wrong place, or so they said. The whole town
was laughing about it."
Lois found herself grinning. "I'd like to have seen it. I
don't want to get chased by a bull, though." She craned
her neck. "How come I don't see any cows?"
"Well, for one thing, it's winter. You can't graze cattle
in the wintertime," Clark explained. "Besides, Shuster
died last year and his son sold off the property and the
cattle. Dad bought the land. He says he's going to use
part of it to raise corn. Anyway, the field's been empty
ever since. Come on."
The gate was chained shut but Clark slipped an arm around
her waist, took her hand and they floated easily over the
barrier. He set her down carefully on the snowy ground and
they started across the field toward the trees.
Lois found herself thankful that she had worn her boots.
The field was rough and uneven under the deceptive layer of
snow. Dead and broken stalks stuck through the crust,
jabbing at her legs. After a few moments, Clark stopped.
"Do you want to go back?" he asked. "It's not as easy as I
thought it would be. There's probably nothing to see,
Lois shook her head. "No, now that we're here, I'd like to
see the place."
"Okay." Clark kept a hand on her arm, obviously ready to
catch her if she stumbled, and they continued across the
And in the end, it was Clark who stumbled. They were
approaching the grove of trees that Clark had indicated was
their goal when he suddenly staggered and nearly fell.
Lois grabbed him. "Clark! What's wrong?"
"I don't know," he gasped. "I feel really weird."
"Weird how?" she demanded.
He leaned heavily against her. "Lois, something's wrong.
Let's get out of here."
Lois put an arm around his waist and they turned to retrace
their steps. They had gone only about ten feet when he
stopped again. "I feel okay, now. Hold it a minute."
"Clark, what happened?" she asked. "What's wrong?"
He hesitated. "I don't know. I've never felt anything
like that before."
"I felt ... I don't know, exactly. Like my strength was
draining away. My joints hurt, my muscles ached and I felt
light-headed. It must be like how I've been told ordinary
people feel when they're sick."
She was temporarily diverted. "You've never been sick?"
"And you feel okay, now?"
"Then what could have caused it?"
"I don't know." He was frowning, biting his lower lip.
"Could it be something about this place? How far are we
from where your ship came down?"
"Dad said it was just on the other side of these trees --
right by the big cottonwood tree."
"Okay, I'm going to go over there and look and see if
there's anything to see. *You* --" She fixed him with a
stern glare, "-- Stay here! Understand?"
"Okay." He looked worried. "Lois, be careful. Whatever
this was, it sneaked up on me gradually. I didn't realize
it for a few steps, but the closer I got to the trees, the
weirder I felt. And it worked the other way, when we
backed up. I think there might be something here that
"Well, I didn't feel anything, so whatever it is may not
bother me. I'll be right back." She patted his arm.
"I'll watch my step, Clark. Trust me."
He nodded, somewhat reluctantly. "Be careful," he
She marched determinedly toward the small grove of trees.
As far as she could see, everything looked normal -- well,
as normal as a snow-covered, country landscape could look
to a city girl. Beyond the grove, a single tree stood.
Nothing about it appeared to be unusual, but that was
probably the tree under which Martha and Jonathan Kent had
found the little ship bearing the baby whom they had made
She stopped, looking around in all directions. Nothing
seemed unusual. Slightly disappointed, she turned to
retrace her steps to where Clark waited.
"You're sure you feel all right, now?" Martha Kent asked.
"I feel fine," Clark assured her.
"You don't seem to be running a fever." She felt his
forehead. "What do you think it could have been?"
Clark shrugged. "I don't know. I've never felt anything
Lois broke in. "Martha, you and Jonathan probably remember
Clark's childhood better than he does. Was he ever sick?"
"No," Martha said. "He fell out of a tree once when he was
six and broke a leg, but he's never been sick."
"Never? Didn't he ever have a splinter that got infected?"
"No," Martha repeated. "He got a few splinters from
carrying wood sometimes, or when he was 'helping' Jonathan
with the chores -- " she smiled at her son, " --when he was
small, but they never seemed to give him a problem."
"No cavities, even?"
"No," his mother said, shaking her head. "Our dentist was
really pleased with the way he took care of his teeth. It
was a good thing he never needed braces, though."
"I'll say," Lois agreed. "Anyway, I guess we can conclude
that whatever the problem was, it's gone for now. But
something about that place might have caused it. Could the
ship have had something in it that might have been left
"I don't see how," Jonathan said. "We took Clark and his
blankets and the decal -- and I buried the ship the next
"In Shuster's Field?" Lois asked.
"No. I didn't want to hide it anywhere that there might
have been traces of the landing, or anyplace where it might
have been associated with us. I buried it out in Porcupine
Gulch, where nobody ever goes."
"Still," Martha Kent said, "something caused it, and that
something might be in Shuster's Field, since this happened
there and has never happened before."
"I flew over the field from four thousand feet and x-rayed
it, especially around that grove," Clark said, "but I
didn't see anything unusual -- especially since I didn't
have any idea what to look for. The problem is, that field
originally had one of the first settlements in the area on
it. There's junk like you wouldn't believe down there."
"Yes, I know," his mother said. "I think there was a
gambling hall there, originally, and a livery stable. They
didn't establish the current town limits until 1809."
"Why?" Lois asked, diverted.
"The river changed course," Jonathan said. "Some settlers
upstream dammed it up and there was a big flood. It
completely washed out most of the town and killed a lot of
people so when they rebuilt, they picked another spot."
"Hasn't it happened again?" Lois asked. "Why would Shuster
graze his pedigreed cattle in a field that flooded?"
"The flood washed away the settlement upstream, too,"
Jonathan said. "I remember reading about the local history
of Smallville in fifth grade. Anyway, a few floods later,
it broke the dam and the river returned to its original
course. But by that time, the town was already rebuilt on
its new site."
"So whatever we're looking for could be buried somewhere
around there?" Lois said. "I mean, it's been a long time
since you found the ship."
"Not that long!" Clark protested. "I'm only twenty-seven!"
"Still, that's long enough to bury something pretty
thoroughly," Lois pointed out. "Between the snow and dirt
and rain and so forth, not to mention Mr. Shuster's
pedigreed cows, it could get covered up pretty fast.
Besides, we probably wouldn't recognize it if we saw it.
If there's something there, it's dangerous. Clark almost
passed out." She planted her fists on her hips and fixed
him with the determined look that he was beginning to
recognize. "I think you should stay away from Shuster's
Field from now on until we can figure it out."
"I think that's a very good idea," Martha Kent said in a
no-nonsense tone. "There's no reason for you to go back,
"I guess not." Clark looked at Lois. "Still, it's a
little scary that there might be something out there that
can hurt me."
"I don't see why," Lois said. "The rest of us have all
kinds of things around that can hurt us, all the time. If
there's only one thing that can hurt you, I think you're
Clark laughed at her undeniable logic. Trust Lois to put
everything in perspective. "I guess you're right."
"Of course I'm right," she said, somewhat smugly. "This is
one mystery you're going to have to leave to us, though."
"I'll be cleaning up that field in a couple of months,
getting it ready to plow and plant," Jonathan Kent said.
"You can bet I'll be looking for anything unusual. We just
don't want to draw any attention to it now by doing
anything different than normal, if you're going public
soon. I still remember those men who came around after
your ship landed. We don't want them back."
It was fairly quiet on Wednesday morning when she and Clark
returned to the city. Lois always liked the times when she
had a day off in the middle of the week. The streets were
less crowded than the time after work when she had to fight
her way through rush hour traffic to get home. Another
benefit was the fact that she was able to tend to business
more easily than on weekends, when many of the places of
business had abbreviated hours -- and besides, every other
person who worked during the week was trying to accomplish
his or her own business at the same time.
A call to Big Louie produced the results that she had hoped
for, and by eleven o'clock in the morning, she and Clark
were climbing the steps to 344 Clinton Street, an apartment
house in one of the older sections of Metropolis, only a
few blocks from her own place. Floyd McDavitt, the
manager, was an enormously fat man with a balding head who
looked at them with a cynical expression in his brown eyes
and made the mistake of addressing his questions to Lois.
Fortunately for the manager, Clark interceded before she
committed homicide, by suggesting that he take them to look
at the apartment. McDavitt hunted around for his keys and
located them at last in a bottom drawer of his desk.
The apartment looked as if a Kansas cyclone had hit it,
Lois thought as he opened the door and gestured them
through. An F-4, at least, she amended. A short flight of
steps descended into a sunken living room covered with
debris. Dust and cobwebs coated every surface and the
windows were so filthy that she couldn't see through the
glass. A large, brown spider had constructed an intricate
web in one upper corner and the remains of her victims hung
pathetically from the strands. The carpet was torn and
dirty, stained with what looked like coffee, and trash was
scattered everywhere. The place smelled of mildew as well
as other less pleasant odors, and Lois wrinkled her nose in
McDavitt gestured around. "Quietest building in
Metropolis," he informed them, apparently unaware of the
siren as an emergency vehicle tore past on the street
Lois raised an eyebrow at Clark. McDavitt missed it,
glancing around, apparently oblivious to the mess. "New to
Metropolis?" he inquired, obviously sizing Clark up as an
"Not completely," Clark said. "I've been to Metropolis on
and off for years."
"Where do you work?"
"The Daily Planet." Clark's eyes met Lois's over the top
of his head and his eyes gleamed with amusement. "I'm the
new staff writer."
"Oh." The man regarded Lois, measuringly. "You married?"
Clark didn't hesitate or glance at Lois. "No."
This time, Clark did turn to give him a long look, a
slightly incredulous expression on his face and Lois
smothered the urge to laugh.
"I mind my own business," Floyd informed him. "Where you
"Kansas," Clark said. He strolled into the kitchen. "Nice
"A bit too open for my taste," Lois said. She opened a
cupboard. The door fell off in her hand.
"A few screws is all," the manager said. Lois and Clark
looked at each other. Clark moved to the sink and tried
the faucet. A stream of murky brown liquid gushed from the
"Minerals," the man said. "Good for the liver."
The balcony opened from one side of the living room on an
empty alley with a thrilling view of a brick, windowless
wall, Lois saw. McDavitt noticed her expression and spoke
to Clark. "Nice view. You can see out, no one can see in.
Walk around in the buff. I do."
The image produced by that remark was one Lois would rather
not have envisioned and the expression on Clark's face
nearly broke her control. She fixed her gaze on a peeling
plaster wall and fought a masterly battle with the impulse
to break into hysterical laughter.
"How much?" Clark asked.
"Nine-fifty," Floyd said.
"Nine hundred and fifty dollars?" Clark repeated, sounding
"You want cheap, go back to Iowa."
"Kansas," Clark corrected.
"Whatever. This is Metropolis. Nine even. Take it or
"Maybe I'd better ask Big Louie about that," Lois said.
"He might think nine hundred was a bit steep for this ... "
She peeled a ragged piece of plaster from the wall and
looked at Clark. " ... place."
Floyd gave her a sour look. "Eight-fifty. That's my last
Clark took the plaster from her and crumbled it in one
hand. "Do you mind if I make a few repairs?"
The man glanced at him and then at Lois, who raised an
eyebrow at him.
"I guess not," he said, reluctantly.
Clark looked at Lois. She nodded infinitesimally. "Okay,
I'll take it," he said. "When can I move in?"
"As soon as the check clears," the man said.
"Fine." Clark opened his checkbook and began to write.
"I'll have some extra keys made," Floyd said. He looked
back at Lois, whom he appeared to realize was the more
formidable of the two. "Is she gonna need one?"
"Of course," Lois said.
Floyd grunted. "Figures."
"Now what?' Clark asked as they emerged out onto the street
Lois glanced at her watch. "I guess we could go get some
lunch. Or we could make some sandwiches at my place. I
always have a few chores to do on my days off."
Clark shrugged. "If you have some supplies, I can make
something for us," he suggested. "I'm not as good a cook
as Mom, but I know my way around a kitchen. Then I can
help you with your chores, since I don't have much to do
right now. It's the least I can do after you helped me get
"Sure," Lois agreed. "I need to call Henderson and see if
I can pick up my car, too. My insurance company has to
'evaluate' the damage before they'll pay to fix it."
"Does your policy pay for assassination attempts?" Clark
"No, but it covers vandalism," she said.
"Close enough. Okay, why don't we stop by a market and I
can pick up some food, and we'll go to your place. How do
you feel about chicken salad sandwiches?"
The trip to the corner market didn't take long and some
fifteen minutes later, Lois was unlocking her apartment
door. Clark glanced at the window that he had covered with
cardboard when they had left, but apparently the manager
had seen to the repairs, Lois saw. Her fish were all
right, as Clark had assured her before they had gone to
Smallville. One of the cushions of her sofa lay on the
floor. She didn't recall leaving it like that, but in the
confusion of the moment, when someone had fired a rocket-
propelled grenade through her window, it could easily have
happened. She picked it up and restored it to its place.
Clark took the bag of groceries to the kitchen while she
headed to her bedroom to change clothing.
And stopped in the doorway.
Her dresser drawers had been pulled out and her clothing
was scattered across the rug. The stack of printer paper
with the research that Jimmy had done for her a couple of
weeks before had been strewn everywhere and her closet door
gaped open. The contents had been dumped carelessly on her
bed. Even the drawer of the bedside table lay upside down
on the floor.
He was beside her so quickly that it startled her. She
still hadn't accustomed herself to the speed of which he
was capable. "What's the matter?"
"Look." She gestured around at the chaos that had been her
Clark was silent for several seconds, taking in the mess.
"It looks as if someone has been searching your apartment,"
he said, slowly. "I noticed the drawer of your desk was
open, and your cupboards were, too. I guess we better call
"Yeah, I guess so," Lois said, still stunned. "But what on
Earth were they looking for?"
"Is anything missing?" William Henderson stood motionless,
looking around at Lois's bedroom.
"I don't think so," Lois said, uncertainly. "None of my
jewelry is gone and my other valuables all seem to be here,
too. If they took something, I haven't noticed it yet. I
think they might have been looking for something."
The detective frowned. "Do you have any idea what it might
Clark spoke up. "Inspector, do you think it could be tied
to the Trevino case?"
Henderson didn't answer at first. "You said when you
talked to me two nights ago that you thought there might be
a connection to LexCorp."
Clark nodded. "Hobbs Mining and Lexwood Logging are both
subsidiaries of LexCorp. If someone higher up is involved,
he might have been trying to find out if Lois had any
evidence of a connection."
"Did you?" Henderson looked directly at her.
"No," Lois said. "Nothing concrete, anyway. And none of
it was here."
The dour police officer shoved his hands into his pockets.
"Just as well. Officially, my report doesn't mention
LexCorp. A word to the wise, Lois: if you're going to
investigate them, don't let anyone know that you might
suspect that they're anything but what they seem."
"Let's just say that there have been other investigations
of LexCorp that have ended badly. Nothing has ever been
found that ever implicates anyone of importance but some
odd coincidences have been fatal for some of the
"Are you saying -- "
Henderson shook his head. "I'm not saying anything. Just
be careful." He turned toward the door. "I'll make a
report of the break-in. If anything shows up missing, let
"One question, Bill," Lois said. "Why didn't you just send
a regular officer? Why come here yourself?"
One corner of his mouth twitched. "Let's say, I have my
suspicions, too, and leave it at that."
After the officer had gone, Lois and Clark stood looking at
the mess around them and at each other for several minutes,
without speaking. At last, Lois bent to pick up a dress
shoe that had fallen into her bedside trash basket.
"Was Henderson saying what I think he was saying?" Clark
"That the criminal activity comes from the highest level?"
Lois said. "I think he was."
"But that would mean Lex Luthor, himself. Isn't he
supposed to be a philanthropist?"
Lois shrugged, looking around at the chaos of her bedroom.
"As far as I know, there isn't even a whisper about his
integrity, but he wouldn't be the first person with a
supposedly spotless reputation who turned out to have some
skeletons in his closet."
"I guess we need to do some closer investigation," Clark
said. "If he isn't behind it -- if it's one of his
corporate officers -- we need to clear him and nail the
subordinate. And if he *is* involved, we need to find out.
I've heard a little about him, and I read his unauthorized
biography a couple of nights ago -- all five of them. Rags
to riches, wrong side of the tracks, self-made billionaire,
owns dozens of companies, employs thousands of people. Man
of the Year, every year, a finger in every pie but rarely
appears in public. I can understand that part, I suppose,
but if he dodges the media, it's going to be a little
difficult to interview him."
"Maybe," Lois said. "Remember, I told you I've been trying
to get the first one-on-one interview with him. I think I
might have a way to do it."
"Yeah. The Luthor Foundation is sponsoring the Christmas
Charity Ball this year. It's tomorrow night and everybody
who's anybody in Metropolis will be at it. I'm going to
call Perry and see if I can get a couple of the Planet's
complementary tickets." She waded across her room to the
telephone. "After that, I guess the first thing to do is
to clean up this mess."
"I'll go finish making lunch," Clark said. "We can eat and
then I'll help you pick things up."
"Thanks, Clark." Lois glanced around her chaotic bedroom.
She had been somewhat suspicious of LexCorp before, of
course, but now she was much moreso. In a way, she
supposed, the break-in had been a good thing. It told her
that someone was still worried about what she knew and the
lack of any evidence might go some way to convincing Mr. X
of her ignorance. Hopefully, she thought, the fact that
the intruder had found nothing and that her article had
made no mention of any LexCorp connection, would cause
whoever was behind this to conclude that she hadn't added
up two and two. She might not have decided to probe quite
so deeply if someone hadn't chosen to tear her apartment to
shreds. That last, she knew, wasn't very likely, but at
least, now she was sure that someone still had something to
"I think," Clark said, "that I'm not going to quit watching
out for you, yet -- until I'm sure that whoever our Mr. X
is has decided that he's safe. I'm not going to relax and
discover that he's blown up your apartment or something,
Lois sighed. "In that case, why don't you sleep in my
living room tonight? I'd hate to think of you sitting
outside on that bench all night. It's starting to cloud up
He hesitated. "Are you sure? I'd be okay. I don't feel
"Clark, even you need sleep occasionally," she said.
"Besides, if it snowed, I'd probably feel so guilty I
wouldn't be able to sleep. Now, you go and finish fixing
lunch while I call Perry, okay? I'm not going to argue
He looked for a moment as if he was going to protest, but
she glared at him and at last, he gave in gracefully.
"Okay, okay. Far be it from me to rob you of a night's
sleep. I'll have lunch ready in a minute."
When Clark said a minute, that was literally what he meant,
she thought. She picked up the receiver and punched in the
number for the Planet's editor. As it rang, she heard the
unmistakable sounds of Clark moving about at more than
human speed, probably cleaning up her living room and
kitchen from the aftermath of the search. A few seconds
later, she heard the chop-chop-chop of a knife on a cutting
board as he began to prepare the sandwiches. The chopping
speed accelerated as she listened until it resembled the
purr of a distant motor. She grinned slightly.
Someone picked up the phone on the other end. Jimmy's
voice said, "Daily Planet, Editor's office."
"Jimmy, it's Lois. Is Perry around?"
"Oh, hi, Lois. Sure; he's in the conference room talking
to a police detective."
"A police detective? Why?"
"We had a break-in last night."
"Where was the night staff?"
"Oh, Harry was out covering a fire and Martin has the flu.
Anyway, they knocked our night watchman on the head and --
"What did they take?"
"Well ... they got your computer."
"Yeah. They took your computer."
"Oh, *great*! Everything was on that computer! Even my --
" She broke off. "Jimmy, ask Perry to call me when he's
finished talking to the detective. I need to talk to him
about something important. Somebody broke into my
"You're kidding! What did they get?"
"As far as I can tell, nothing. I think I know what they
might have been looking for, but they wouldn't have found
anything about it. Give Perry my message, okay?"
Clark was standing behind her when she hung up. "Somebody
stole your computer?" he asked.
"How did you ... " she began. He tapped his ear and
realization dawned. "Oh, right."
"What was on it?" he asked.
"My novel!" Lois said, indignantly.
"And all my contacts and research!"
"Don't you back it up on a floppy?"
Lois shook her head, angrily. "I never needed to before!"
Clark opened his mouth and closed it again, wisely
rethinking what he had been going to say. "Did it have any
of that stuff about the LexCorp connection on it?"
"No. I put all the information Jimmy got for me into my
bag. It's still there."
"So they wouldn't find anything?"
"No. Not a thing." She glowered at the mess around her.
Somebody was going to pay for all this inconvenience; that
was for sure.
"That's lucky, then. You better write down as many of your
contacts as you can remember, I guess. I don't know what
else to do about it."
Lois growled deep in her throat. "I do. It's personal,
now. Whoever is behind this is toast."
"A week!" Lois fumed as they left the repair shop three
hours later. "How am I supposed to manage for a week with
a subcompact while they fix my car? What's so complicated
about replacing a broken windshield?"
Clark shifted uncomfortably in the tiny bucket seat. Soft,
white flakes spatted against the windshield, leaving big
globs of snow that began to melt upon contact with the warm
glass. He didn't see how he was going to manage for a week
crammed into this thing, either. He was discovering a
completely unsuspected dislike for enclosed spaces, jammed
in as he was with his knees pulled nearly to his chest.
Lois glanced at him, irritation written plainly on her
features. "Clark, do you think if I park this thing at my
apartment that we could fly to the Planet to pick up the
tickets? I feel like I'm being squeezed on all sides."
"You took the words right out of my mouth," he said.
"I thought you looked a little uncomfortable," she said.
"That's an understatement," he muttered.
"Clark, are you claustrophobic?"
"You know, afraid of closed spaces."
He nodded. "I think maybe I am. A little."
"Why? I can't see your parents locking you in a closet for
punishment or something."
He laughed shortly. "No, I don't think so. But Dad says
the ship was pretty small. Maybe that had something to do
with it, if I was in it for a long time."
She turned onto the main drag and cussed as a larger car
tried to change lanes into her. The woman in the passenger
seat gave them a rude gesture as the vehicle cut sharply in
front of her, making her step hard on the brakes. "I'm
going to get killed if I drive this thing for a week.
Yeah," she added, returning to the previous topic. "That's
something I hadn't thought of. I wonder how long you were
in it? How old did you say you were when they found you?"
"The doctor told Mom and Dad that I was a little under
three months. Maybe ten or eleven weeks."
Lois shook her head. "Who would put a baby that age in a
ship and shoot it into space? And why?"
"I guess that's the million dollar question," Clark said.
"I'd like to see that ship someday," she said, a little
"Maybe in a few years I'll dig it up for you," he said.
"After we're sure that no one is looking around in
Smallville for my origins."
"Yeah," she agreed. "That's something we definitely don't
want." She made a face. "The darned snow is getting
"It's just another two blocks," Clark said. He glanced
uneasily out the window. This little car was definitely
*not* his cup of tea. The sooner he was able to get out of
it, the better.
The light ahead of them changed to red and Lois stepped on
the brakes but the car continued forward toward the
intersection, sliding over the thin sheet of water that
coated the street, courtesy of the melting snow. "I can't
Clark shoved his door open and thrust one foot out onto the
street, dragging it along to slow the car's momentum. They
skidded to a halt against the curb. Lois simply looked at
him in silence for a moment.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah." Slowly, she released her death grip on the wheel.
"Let me guess. Your favorite cartoon show as a child was
"Actually, it was 'Tom and Jerry'," Clark said.
"You could have fooled me." Lois leaned back as far as she
could in the tiny seat. "Wait until my heart slows down.
I want to get this thing to my place and get out of it.
I've faced down mad bombers and assassins but this car
really scares me."
"That makes two of us." Slowly, Clark drew his foot back
inside and closed the door. People passing by glanced
incuriously at them.
After a moment, Lois pulled cautiously out onto the street
again. A large bus blew his horn at her and she jumped,
but fortunately the remainder of the trip was marred by no
further incidents. As she shut off the engine, in front of
her apartment house, Clark opened the door and stepped out
into the snow. A moment later, Lois joined him.
"Well, amazingly, we're still alive," she said,
acerbically. "Let's go up to the roof and you can fly us
to the Planet."
"I think the alley will do just as well," Clark said.
"Nobody's going to see us in this."
Together, they ducked into the alley and a moment later
they were airborne. Clark took them straight up until they
were well above most of the buildings that lay between
Lois's apartment and the Daily Planet. It was unlikely
that anyone would see them, but still, he thought, the
sooner he started wearing his outfit, the better.
Lois seemed to have the uncanny ability to read his
thoughts, he was reflecting an instant later. There was no
other explanation for her next question.
"When are you going to start wearing your new outfit in
public?" she asked.
"I don't know. I need to pick the right time to, um ... "
"Make your debut?" she filled in.
"Yeah, I guess so. How do you think I should do it?"
"Well, probably if you just show up at an accident or
something, that would work," she said. "We'll have to talk
this over. Remember, you promised I get the exclusive."
He touched down on the roof of the Planet. "You'll get
it," he promised. "Just as soon as I figure out how I'm
going to manage this."
"We'll come up with something," she said. "Let's go pick
up those tickets and then go reserve a tux for you, unless
you have one of your own."
He shook his head. "I'm afraid not."
Lois opened the door to the stairs. "No reason you should.
Come on. I want to check over my desk and make sure the
burglar didn't take anything besides my computer."
Perry White looked around as the door to the stairs opened
and Lois and Clark emerged from the stairwell. He raised
his eyebrows at the sight. He had never seen Lois Lane so
comfortable with even a temporary partner before, but she
seemed to get along extremely well with the new guy, and
the fact was, Kent appeared to be a winner, even after only
a few days. He'd saved Lois's life several times while she
was being stalked by Finn and together they had brought in
a headline story. He'd had a feeling about the young man
when he'd interviewed.
Still, there had been the break-in last night and then the
information that Lois's apartment had been ransacked.
Something was definitely up.
"Lois!" he barked, as the two reporters descended the ramp
into the Pit. "In my office!"
He saw her say something to Clark, who nodded, and the two
of them separated. Lois turned toward his office and Clark
headed across the room toward Jimmy.
He held the door for Lois and let her precede him into the
office. "Lois, by any chance do you have any idea what the
guys who broke in here were after?" he inquired, closing
the panel after him.
She didn't answer at once. When she did, he was surprised
to see a glint of anger in her eyes. "Someone very
powerful is trying to be certain I haven't made the
connection between Barbara Trevino and him."
Perry felt his jaw drop. "*What*?"
"You heard me, Perry. Clark and I think that there's a
much bigger fish behind this thing than just Trevino -- and
a lot more going on. I think he doesn't want to kill me if
he doesn't have to -- that might make someone suspect that
there's more to it than just the attempt to mine the
rainforest. Fortunately, I didn't have the information
they were looking for on my computer or in my apartment."
Perry stared at her. "Do you mind fillin' me in?"
She shrugged. "The Trevino thing just scratched the
surface. There's a lot more. Clark and I have some leads,
and we're following them. We have evidence of a tie-in to
a business conglomerate here in the United States."
"I see. You don't want to tell me anything."
She looked directly at him. "Chief, you're safer not
knowing anything about it, believe me."
He stared back at her, trying to read her expression.
"You're serious, aren't you?"
She nodded. "As a heart attack, as I've heard you say.
This is bigger than any of us had any idea in the
"Hmm." Perry frowned at her. "You're sure you can handle
"We can handle it," she assured him. "Clark and I work
pretty well, together."
He had to consciously think about not letting his jaw drop
a second time. Lois had had four partners in the last year
and all four of them had sworn that Lane was crazy and that
he'd quit before he worked with her again. Her opinion of
each of them hadn't been even that complimentary. "You
want to keep Kent as a partner?"
She nodded. "He saved my life six times in three days,
Perry, and I wouldn't have gotten the Trevino story without
"Six times." She looked straight at him. "I've never had
a partner like him."
"I'll say. You usually chew them up and spit them out."
"They weren't Clark," she said, unarguably. "I needed a
partner who could keep up with me, and none of the others
could do that. They didn't have any imagination and they
weren't willing to take the risks necessary to get the big
stories. Clark does and he has the experience and skill to
do what needs to be done. Our styles are different but
they complement each other and we somehow manage to get
along, even when we disagree. I want him as *my* partner,
Perry. He'd be wasted on anybody else."
Perry grinned. "Lack of confidence isn't a big problem
with you, is it?"
Lois shrugged. "I'm the best and you know it. Do I get
"Who am I to argue with success?" He glanced into the
newsroom where Kent was talking to Jimmy. "I guess he's
"Thanks. By the way, can I pick up those tickets, now?"
"Oh -- uh, right." He reached into his desk drawer and
produced the requested items.
She took them and tucked them into her purse. "We have a
few things to work on today, Perry. We'll see you in the
"I thought this was your day off," Perry said.
"It was, until I walked into my apartment this morning.
It's probably a good thing I wasn't there last night."
Starting to settle into his desk chair, Perry stopped. "Uh
... do I want to know that?"
"Huh? Oh. I was staying with some friends. Clark
suggested I shouldn't stay at my place alone until we were
sure the hit man had been called off."
"I thought Finn was in custody."
"He is. I'm talking about the second hit man."
"*Second* hit man? Lois, what in the name o' Elvis's blue
suede shoes is goin' on?"
"It's not important, now, Perry. What is important is that
Clark and I attend the party tomorrow night. As soon as we
have something more concrete, we'll let you know."
It wasn't until she was out the door that the next question
popped into his mind. She was going to that party to try
to meet Lex Luthor, the multi-billionaire philanthropist
and businessman. Did it have anything to do with this
mysterious figure that she and Kent were now linking to the
Trevino case? Luthor?
The thought seemed beyond the realm of probability, but if
Lois and her new partner were on to something involving
LexCorp, she hadn't been kidding when she said it was big.
For an instant, he considered the feasibility of calling
her back and demanding an explanation, then rejected it.
He wouldn't get one, if he knew Lois, until she was ready
to talk. She worked best with the lightest of hands on the
rein, as Perry had discovered early in her career at the
Planet, and that technique had frequently resulted in
stories for the Planet that left its competitors in the
He glanced out into the newsroom again. Lois was rummaging
through her desk drawers and he saw Jimmy hand Clark a
large, thick envelope. Clark clapped the boy on one
shoulder and crossed the room to Lois. His star reporter
said something to her partner, who nodded and held up the
envelope. Briefly, he thought back nostalgically to the
days when he had been an investigative reporter. He had
thrilled to the excitement of the chase, tracked down
obscure leads that sometimes took him places he hadn't even
considered. In many ways, Lois reminded him of himself
when he had been in her place. That was one of the reasons
that she had become his protegee.
He wondered for an instant if his behavior had ever been as
frustrating to his own editor as Lois's was for him and
then decided that it wasn't possible. That was one area
where she definitely had the advantage.
With a sigh, he turned back to his computer. He still had
Finkelstein's article to edit and as usual it needed a lot
of help. Sometimes he wondered why on Earth he'd let Alice
talk him into hiring her cousin's wife's brother. The
guy's only talent seemed to be sniffing out scandals that
belonged in the National Whisper far more than the Planet.
He steeled himself for the task and began to read.
"Is that what I think it is?" Lois asked, looking up from
the search of her desk drawers.
"These are the photos of the files I took at Hobbs Mining's
Brazilian office," Clark said. "Jimmy developed them for
me. My bet is that the originals disappeared as soon as
the authorities moved in on them."
"I wouldn't take you up on that bet," Lois said. "Anything
"I'd rather wait until we're in private," Clark said.
"Remember what Henderson suggested."
"Yeah." Lois said. "Good idea. As far as I can tell,
nothing's missing here except my computer so I guess we can
go. We still have to reserve a tux for you."
"Okay," Clark agreed. He glanced over his shoulder and the
slightest of frowns flickered across his features. "You
know, Finkelstein is beginning to annoy me. Doesn't the
guy know of any kind of relationship between a man and a
woman that doesn't involve immediate sex?"
"In a word," Lois said, "no. Even Cat has turned him down
at least twice that I know of." She stood up and shoved
her chair under her desk. "I hope Perry replaces my
computer quickly. I'm going to need it."
They left the newsroom via the stairs and a moment later
were launching from the roof into a snowstorm that had
grown heavier during the time they had been in the Daily
Planet. Lois pulled her coat tightly around her body and
snuggled up against Clark. He smiled, pulling her a little
closer. "Have I told you that I'm in love with you, Lois?"
he said, softly. "I am, you know. For the first time in
"I think it's the first time you've said it right out,"
Lois said. "I think I'm in love with you, too, Clark. If
I'm not, it's a darned good imitation. I don't think I've
ever said how much I appreciate it that you haven't
pressured me, though. I've thought I was in love before
... but it wasn't like this."
"Is that a good thing?"
She nodded against his chest. "For one thing, I know you
love me back; you aren't trying to get something from me."
"Well, I wouldn't say I'm not trying to get something," he
said, a slight laugh in his voice. "I want *you*, for the
rest of my life. Those are pretty big stakes for any guy."
"That's a little different," she said. "You know what I
His arms tightened around her. "Yes, I do. I shouldn't
joke. I know you're a little nervous about it -- and you
have every right to be. But Lois, even if the other guys
in your life were incredibly stupid, that doesn't mean I am
-- at least about you. They didn't know what they had or
they couldn't handle it; one or the other. It wasn't you
that failed; it was *them* -- for trying to make you
something you're not, for being too blind, or just too
self-centered to realize what they had. I may not be the
world's most insightful man; I've done plenty of dumb
things in my life, but I know that much."
Held tightly in his arms, it was impossible to raise a hand
to wipe away the teardrops that had begun to fill her eyes.
He glanced down sharply. "Don't cry, Lois! What did I
His voice sounded faintly alarmed. She sniffled slightly.
"Nothing, really. You're really very convincing, you know
"Oh." There was a smile in his voice. "I mean every
"You've known me barely more than a week!"
"I know. So what? I was sure in less than an hour. The
only reasons I didn't say anything then were because I knew
you'd think I was crazy -- and because I didn't know
whether or not I was already married. I didn't really
think I was, because I couldn't believe I'd fall so hard
for someone if I were in love with someone else, but I
needed to be sure."
She turned her face into his shoulder. "Maybe we could try
that date thing you were hinting at the other day."
"Do you really want to?" She could hear the faint note of
excitement in his voice.
She nodded. "Like I said, you're very convincing."
"Okay, how about Friday night?"
He certainly didn't waste time, she thought, and couldn't
help smiling. "All right."
He had begun to descend, and a few seconds later, he set
her gently on her feet in a narrow alley. The snow had
become quite heavy and was beginning to collect against the
walls and in the gutters. The sidewalk was lightly coated,
as well, and the footprints of the few persons intrepid
enough to brave the storm were starting to fill with fresh
flakes. A brisk, slightly damp breeze blew more flakes
into her face as they stepped out of the shelter of the
"I hope we don't get snowed in," Lois said.
"Me, too," Clark said. He waved at a little shop halfway
down the block. "There's Edgar's Tuxedo Rental. I've
rented from them before."
"Really? I thought you said you're new to Metropolis," she
"I am. But I can go anywhere in the world to get things,"
he reminded her. "I've been in and out of Metropolis for
years. I've even read your articles in the Daily Planet.
I only wish we'd run into each other before."
"So do I," she said, wistfully. "That was you who saved
Bertolli's Lear jet, wasn't it?"
He nodded. "Yes. I'd flown into Metropolis for a friend's
wedding. I was on my way back to Smallville when I saw the
plane hit by lightning."
Lois shook her head. She knew intellectually that he had
pushed aside the Nightfall asteroid and most of the other,
smaller ones in the swarm but it was still hard to wrap her
mind around the fact that he was strong enough to land a
jet plane. He *looked* like an ordinary, human man -- an
exceptionally well-built and good-looking one, to be sure,
but still a man. On the other hand, she had seen the other
things he could do, including not only surviving a fall
from the roof of a three-story building (she still winced
at the memory of that) to shattering the blade of a
battleaxe that hit him on the head. Not to mention the
flying. Maybe she'd be more able to absorb it when she saw
it, sometime, she thought.
The bell tinkled as they pushed through the door into
Edgar's Tuxedo Rental and the woman behind the counter
looked up. The store was almost empty. A single customer
brushed past them, tucking a receipt into the pocket of his
overcoat as he left the store.
"Can I help you?" the woman asked.
Clark gave her his wide smile. "Well, I think I need a
"Have you rented here before?" she asked.
"Yes. My name is Clark Kent," he told her.
"Let me check our records," she said. She went to the
little desk that sat near the entrance and flipped through
a thick book that lay open on the surface. Lois looked
around. The shop was small and tasteful, with thick, soft
carpet, now somewhat muddy at the entrance. In the display
window, two mannequins modeled the wares offered within.
Racks of formal clothing hung on all sides. The thought of
Clark in a tux caused her to stop and take a deep breath.
Just the mental image made her feel slightly breathless.
The woman was back. "I see you've rented here several
times. Are there any changes we need to take into
"No," he assured her.
Lois let her attention wander as the little ritual
continued. The snow outside was still growing thicker.
Traffic had slowed as vehicles moved cautiously through the
blowing flakes and the stuff was now collecting on the
street as well, wherever the wheels of passing cars weren't
beating it into a muddy slush. She glanced at her watch.
It was now past four in the afternoon. Rush hour was in
full swing and this storm was going to make it difficult to
get anywhere in decent time.
Except, she reminded herself, that she didn't have to worry
about traffic. There were definitely advantages to
traveling by air. Especially, when you knew the pilot.
"Okay, all set," Clark said in her ear and she almost
jumped. He was tucking a receipt into his pocket.
"Be careful out there," the woman said. "It's snowing
"Christmas weather," Clark said. He opened the door for
Lois and followed her out into the snowstorm.
The alley, which had been conveniently empty when Clark had
landed, was now occupied by two transients and a large,
cardboard box. The men had set up their makeshift shelter
over a grating, from which arose a plume of steam. Lois
pulled her coat more tightly around her, looking around for
another place where they could take off. The snow was
coming down steadily, tiny, glittering flakes that brushed
against her face like ghostly fingers.
She leaned into the upward slope as the sidewalk began to
slant uphill. Clark reached out to take her hand as they
moved along the slippery walk -- which turned out to be a
good thing when her foot went out from under her a few
steps farther on and she stumbled against him. He steadied
her, instantly. "Are you okay?"
"Sure." She gripped his arm, regaining her balance. "I
guess you don't have trouble on ice, huh?"
"Not usually, no."
"Mind if I hang onto you?"
He grinned. "Be my guest."
The light at the corner changed to green and they stepped
into the street. Lois glanced at the rows of cars, each
driver squinting impatiently out through the veil of
falling snow at the traffic and pedestrians.
Halfway across the street, the blast of a horn interrupted
her thoughts and she glanced quickly up the hill at the
lines of stopped cars. A bus was careening toward them.
As she stared, paralyzed, the driver swerved into the
center turn lane to avoid crashing into the bunched
vehicles, but it was obvious that the measure was only
prolonging the inevitable. In an almost detached way, she
watched its approach, thinking abstractedly that there must
be a problem with the brakes. The bus swayed dangerously
as the driver maneuvered frantically right and left, and
Lois saw people pause in mid-step, frozen in place at the
sight of the juggernaut barreling toward them.
A gust of air beside her should have alerted her, but it
took a split second to realize what was happening. A
streak of blue and red shot toward the bus and an instant
later, he was standing directly in its path. Her heart
seemed to jump into her mouth as she saw the huge vehicle
plunging toward her partner. Even knowing that he couldn't
be hurt, all her instincts screamed at her that he was
about to be crushed.
She barely heard the chorus of screams, as she stood
frozen, staring at the tableau for disaster that loomed in
front of her. The bus struck her partner and bore him
backwards, but now she saw that it was deliberate on his
part. His hands were sunk deeply into the front section of
the bus and he leaned into it, bracing his feet against the
slippery asphalt, gradually slowing its forward rush.
All at once, the frozen scene unfroze. People scattered in
all directions, diving out of the path of the oncoming
But the bus was slowing down. Even as she watched, Clark
brought it to a halt in the middle of the crosswalk that a
moment ago had been filled with people. For a second,
nobody moved, then the crowd converged on her partner.
Recollecting herself, Lois rushed forward as well, only to
see Clark lift into the air. There was a collective gasp
from the crowd as he rose over their heads, his scarlet
cape flapping in the breeze. For an instant, he hovered
and she saw him wave, and then he was disappearing upward
into the cloud of flakes.
Lois stared after him, marveling at his command of drama.
A second later, Clark appeared beside her, placidly
watching the crowd of suddenly milling people.
"Hi," he said. "How was that?"
She stared at him, open-mouthed, for a long second and then
began to laugh.
He raised his eyebrows. "What's so funny?"
"You!" she said, still chuckling. "You do something that
incredible and you act like there was nothing special about
He shrugged. "The only thing special about it is that I
did it in public. What did you think?"
She took his arm. "It was great. Now what?"
"Now we go back to your place. The next time I'm needed,
I'll just show up again. Sooner or later, people will
"I think they already did," she said, dryly.
"You know what I mean. And after that, you can interview
me and get the exclusive, just like I promised."
"You're sure you don't want your name on the article?"
"Positive. The less I'm connected with the guy in the red
and blue outfit, the better it will be."
"I see your point," she said. Suddenly, she stopped short.
"That bus," she said.
"What about it?"
"Not this one," Lois said, waving at the bus, now blocking
traffic in the middle of the street. "The one a few months
ago that nearly crashed into a bunch of people, right in
front of the Planet! The one with the handprint in the
front of it! Jimmy got a picture of it. That was you,
too, wasn't it?"
He looked guilty. "Yeah."
"One witness saw you but she couldn't describe you, and
nobody believed her," she said. "*I* didn't believe her."
"Well," he pointed out, "it really is kind of
"Not anymore," Lois said. "Or at least, not for long."
"I don't know what Perry's going to think of these
interviews," Lois was saying twenty minutes later as she
and Clark walked away from the confusion around the bus.
"Mass hallucination?" Clark suggested.
"Maybe. But he won't be able to explain the picture I took
of your handprints on the bus," Lois said. "And after
you've been seen a few more times, he'll be gloating over
the fact that I was there when you made your debut."
Clark grinned. This should be interesting, to say the
least. He'd expected to be nervous when he made his first
appearance in the suit, but when the event actually
occurred, he'd been much too busy preventing a disaster to
worry about what people were thinking. "Well, the first
thing he's going to ask is if you've been drinking."
"Probably," Lois agreed. "But I wasn't just interviewing
witnesses. I was a witness, too. There's a phone booth."
She headed toward it with a determined stride, only to
nearly slip in the icy deposit that coated the sidewalk.
Clark caught her arm.
She regained her balance. "Yikes! Thanks, Char -- Clark."
"That's the first time you've called me Charlie in a couple
of days," he said, amused.
She ducked her head. "I still think of you as Charlie a
lot of the time but I'm working at it."
"I don't mind," he said. "Just as long as you don't call
me Charlie in front of Perry or Jimmy."
"Or Cat," Lois said. "I won't." She glanced back at the
crowd milling around the bus. "Speaking of which, we're
going to have to think of a name for you while you're in
"Sure. People are going to want to know what to call you.
'Hey you' isn't particularly impressive."
"Impressive?" he said. "I've never thought of myself as
"Take it from me, you are. I'll think of something," she
said, determinedly. "Right now I need to make that call to
Clark didn't let go of her arm. "It's pretty slippery.
Come on, let's get in the air and out of here. You can
call the Planet from your apartment while I get a couple of
things from my hotel."
The police had arrived and the crowd around the bus hadn't
dissipated in the least as they walked away. Clark scanned
the area and located an alley halfway down the block from
which he could launch into the air. A short time later,
they stepped through the door of Lois's apartment.
Lois headed straight for the telephone and dialed the
Planet. While she talking, Clark opened the window and
looked out. The snow was still coming down heavily, of
course. He debated a moment and then grinned. An instant
later, he was wearing the blue and red outfit and had taken
to the air. If someone saw him flying, all the better, and
he could make certain that no one saw him enter the Apollo
Hotel. As a matter of fact, a slight detour might be in
Suiting the action to the thought, he flew past the Daily
Planet, making sure to slow down as he went past the
newsroom windows, aware of the startled expressions on the
faces of three of his co-workers, and a few seconds later,
he was quietly entering the Apollo Hotel. Quickly, he
gathered up a change of clothing suitable for the office on
the morrow, and a loose-fitting sweat suit. Satisfied that
he had the supplies he needed for the next twenty-four
hours, he departed openly via the front lobby and a few
seconds later was heading back toward Lois's place.
Lois was just hanging up the telephone as he stepped back
through the window. "Very cute, Kent," she said with a
grin. "Perry thinks half the newsroom has lost its mind.
Ralph and Eduardo are swearing they saw a flying man in
blue and red go past the window."
"They did," Clark said.
"I know they did. Now all we have to do is be sure other
people see you, as well." She crossed the room to snap on
the television. "It looks like the storm is the big story
right now, though."
As she spoke, the picture shifted to a newswoman standing
in the snow, clutching a microphone and speaking excitedly.
"To repeat, the unidentified plane collided with flight
642's wing tip barely ten minutes ago. There was never any
communication between the Tower and the other plane, and no
one knows where it came from, but the results may be
catastrophic for the 797, which is attempting to make an
emergency landing here at Metropolis International
Airport," she announced. "Fortunately, all other planes
have been routed to other airports because of the storm,
and the passenger plane, which was headed to Chicago, was
near Metropolis International when the accident occurred.
The spokesperson for the airline has given us a little more
information. The pilot is Captain Avery Grant, of Duluth,
a former Air Force veteran and a seven-year employee of
Eastern Airlines. His co-pilot is Jennifer Timmons, also a
veteran pilot. If anyone can get this aircraft down
safely, these two have the best chance. The damage
sustained by the plane ... "
Clark dropped the bundle of clothing. "Lois ..."
"Go," she said, immediately.
Impulsively, he leaned forward and planted a quick kiss on
her cheek and then he was out the window and headed for the
airport, a sonic boom echoing over the city in his wake.
The 797 wasn't difficult for him to find, even in the
nearly blinding snowstorm. For one thing, the snow might
as well not exist as far as he was concerned, and for the
other, it was the only aircraft in the vicinity. Clark
poured on the speed, barely aware of the sonic boom that
rattled windows all across the city as he exceeded the
sound barrier in his hurry to reach the stricken jumbo jet.
The damaged wing was on fire, he saw, as he rocketed toward
the plane, and part of it was gone. That the pilots were
somehow able to maintain even marginal control was
something of a miracle in his opinion, but the huge craft
was making its approach when he arrived. Little pieces of
the shredded wing were continuing to fall away, and it was
going to take more than a miracle to get this bird safely
on the ground without help.
Fortunately, the help had arrived.
Clark came up under the enormous belly of the plane just as
another section of the wing came away and the aircraft
began to slip sideways. Faintly, inside, he could hear the
gasps and cries of the terrified passengers, but right now
his real attention was on the plane, itself.
In a manner reminiscent of the Lear jet, he picked his
spot, directly between the wings, and made contact. The
smooth metal gave him no place to grab hold, but this time
he had no reason to conceal his presence, so he literally
sank his fingers into the plane, making his own handholds.
The huge craft was both heavier and more unwieldy than the
smaller Lear jet had been but it was nothing next to
Nightfall. Slowly, working with the plane's momentum, he
steadied it and began the approach that it could no longer
make on its own.
A quick blast of freezing breath put out the fire, thereby
greatly lessening the chance of an explosion. Snow swirled
around him and the jumbo jet; the remnants of the shattered
wing groaned alarmingly in the wind, but he gritted his
teeth and eased his burden toward the runway, forcing
himself not to hurry. Any sudden move could cause more
debris to fall off the already damaged structure and
possibly hit someone or something on the ground.
Gently, as if he were carrying a baby, he descended, well
aware of the confusion that must currently exist inside the
cockpit. Well, that could all be explained later. Right
now, the important thing was to get the plane and its
passengers safely down.
Watching on the television, the first indication Lois had
that Clark had arrived at the scene of the emergency was
the appearance of the 797 through the thick veil of blowing
snow. It was floating toward the ground as lightly as a
feather, and in the background, she could hear the confused
chatter of voices with the frequently repeated phrase
"flying itself". The plane drew closer and at last she
could see the little speck of blue and red midway between
the wings that told her -- as if she didn't already know --
that Clark was there, and that he was responsible for the
Carmen Alvarado, the LNN newscaster, seemed to be struck
speechless at the sight. The gigantic aircraft floated
forward, toward the news camera and past, and at last, the
camera's focus zoomed in on Clark's figure as he guided his
burden toward the hangar. The bright red of his cape
seemed to blaze against the white background, and Lois held
her breath as he set the jumbo jet gently down on its
belatedly lowered landing gear.
Fire trucks were converging on the plane, and for an
instant, Lois was afraid that the LNN news crew would get
the exclusive that Clark had promised her. She should have
known better, however, she realized a few seconds later.
As the first of the emergency personnel arrived, he lifted
from the ground and hovered for an instant just above their
heads, as he had after saving the bus a short time ago in
order to allow the witnesses a good view of him, and gave a
little wave. Then, he vanished straight up into the
snowstorm, leaving the news people and the rescuers gaping
"Wow," she murmured. "That is just super." She stopped
almost in the middle of the thought. "That's it," she
whispered. "Clark, I've just figured out what to call you.
And it even matches the 'S'."
It was over two hours later that he appeared in her window
again, and Lois had been watching the television with
growing bemusement. Some forty minutes after saving the
jumbo jet, Clark had resurfaced, this time at a weather-
related, multiple car accident on the expressway. After
physically moving stalled traffic to allow emergency
vehicles through, helping the emergency services extricate
trapped drivers and passengers, and apparently rushing a
number of the more critical patients to the emergency room,
he had flown off once more.
Pictures of Clark bringing in the plane, lifting vehicles
to clear the way for the paramedics and fire trucks and
ripping doors and roofs off wrecked cars to free the
injured were replaying every couple of minutes on the
television, and commentators were speculating wildly about
the mystery man in red and blue. She had just gotten off
the phone with Perry for the third time when he stepped
through the window and spun in place, emerging from the
miniature whirlwind as her friend and partner.
"Wow," she said. "That's a new move."
"It's a quick way to change," he said. "I found something
interesting, by the way."
"The other plane."
"Huh?" For a moment she was confused, then she remembered.
"Oh, the one that hit Flight 642?"
"Yeah. I found it. It was a small jet. They haven't
identified it, yet."
"And?" she asked.
"It was mostly in pieces, of course -- scattered over about
two miles of ocean floor. It must have hit the water at
full speed -- but somehow, the cockpit was pretty much
intact. The thing that I don't understand was that there
wasn't any sign of the pilot."
"Couldn't he have bailed out?"
Clark shook his head. "I don't think so. The cockpit was
squashed, but it was still closed. I don't see how he
could have gotten out. Were you able to see on the
television how badly destroyed the wing of the 797 was?"
"LNN showed it."
"Take it from me, nobody could have survived that kind of
collision. What amazes me is that the passenger plane
managed to stay in the air as long as it did. The rescue
crews and the Coast Guard were still searching the area
when I left, but I don't think they're going to find
anything. There wasn't anything to find."
"Are you saying there wasn't a pilot? That it was some
kind of drone?"
"I can't think of any other explanation. Of course,
something may turn up later. I talked to a couple of the
guys running the search. They told me to come back after
they've had more time to look things over and check out the
cockpit section I dredged up, and they'd let me know what
they found. But, Lois, I searched the whole area pretty
thoroughly on the slight chance that the pilot was somehow
thrown clear. I even scanned the water a couple of miles
outside the search area. I didn't find anyone, dead or
"Could he have -- you know -- sunk?"
He shook his head. "I looked."
"How could you -- oh, yeah."
"As a matter of fact, I pulled the cockpit off the bottom
of the ocean," he said. "There wasn't any way that I can
see for the pilot to have escaped -- even if by some
miracle he survived the collision."
"I'll take your word for it." She thought it over for
several seconds. "Okay, suppose it wasn't an accident.
Why would someone want to ram a 797? Insurance? Or, maybe
..." She broke off.
"To kill someone who was on it?"
"It sounds pretty farfetched, doesn't it?" she said.
"Still, I've seen less likely scenarios." She reached for
the phone. "I'm calling Jimmy. We're probably completely
on the wrong track here, but if it wasn't an accident, it
won't hurt to know something about that plane -- who was on
it, who would profit if it crashed ... and then you and I
have to sit down and do that interview. I just got off the
phone to Perry before you got back. He was practically
incoherent. You're big news ... Superman."
"Superman?" Both his eyebrows had crawled up.
"Well, the 'S' has to stand for something, and what you've
been doing today has been pretty super. If you've got a
better name, I'd like to hear it."
He looked for a moment as if he would like to protest, but
at last, he shrugged. "Okay, you win. Superman it is."
Perry White leaned against a desk in the nearly deserted
newsroom and resisted the urge to tear his hair out, since
he didn't have much to spare anymore.
Outside, the snowstorm blanketed the city and he wasn't
looking forward to the drive home, but at the moment, his
attention was focussed on the newsroom monitors.
The man in the red and blue suit that Lois had reported on
had made two more spectacular appearances since the bus
incident and he hadn't had a single reporter on either
scene. He watched the monitors replaying the rescue of the
plane and the man's assistance at the chain-reaction
accident on the Expressway and shook his head. Lois's
first story had struck him as ridiculous but then it had
been *Lois* reporting it, so he'd been forced to give it a
few seconds of consideration. But, now ...
He was still tempted to believe it was all some sort of
elaborate hoax. A man who could fly, not to mention
perform all the other incredible things he'd seen on
television today, was almost beyond the realm of belief,
but Lois had seen him in person, or so she said...
Through his open office door, he heard the beep from his
computer that informed him that he was receiving a fax.
With a sigh, he shoved himself upright and made his way
back to his office, wondering who would be sending him
anything at this time in the evening. Maybe he should
leave it for the night editor ...
Two minutes later, he was reading the fax a second time in
tense excitement. How she had done it he had no idea, but
Lois had produced another miracle for the paper. The
exclusive interview with 'Superman', the mysterious, flying
man whose image was still showing on the monitors in the
other room, would be splashed across the front page of the
Daily Planet in the morning. Once more, thanks to Lois,
the Daily Planet had scooped the competition and run rings
around every other paper in town. It was this kind of
thing that allowed him to put up with her sometimes
outrageous behavior, her occasional temper tantrums and the
frustration that frequently tempted him to climb the walls
of his office ...
There was a knock on his doorframe. Perry looked up to see
Jimmy standing there. He raised an eyebrow. "What're you
still doing here?"
"Lois asked me to do some research on that plane that
nearly crashed this afternoon. I thought I'd make a run to
the corner deli and get some dinner, since I'm going to be
here for a while longer. Did you want anything, Chief?"
Perry shook his head. "Thanks, son, but I'm just about
ready to leave. Did she say why she wanted it?"
Jimmy shrugged. "When does she ever? She wants the
passenger list and for me to find out who might profit if
somebody were to crash the plane. Sounds like Mad Dog Lane
might be on the trail of something big."
Perry glanced back at the fax. Was it possible that this
Superman guy had told Lois something she hadn't put in the
article? Trust Lois to turn the incredible super man into
one of her sources. "Could be," he said. "I'll see you
tomorrow, kid. Good night."
"Good night, sir." Jimmy grinned and turned away toward
the elevator. Perry got to work, making a few, very minor
changes to the story and wondering what more there might be
to it that hadn't been said. Oh well, he'd talk to her
tomorrow and tell her to try to find out more than the very
sketchy amount of information on the man's background that
was presented here, although the part about the rescue was
riveting in its own right.
He finished and read it over one last time before sending
it on to the printer. Getting to his feet a moment later,
he reached for his coat, reflecting that it had been
another normal, if interesting, day at the Daily Planet.
Hopefully, Alice wouldn't have given up on him yet. He'd
promised to try to make it home on time for once and he was
at least an hour late. Oh well -- that was the newspaper
He left the office, turning the light out behind him.
"Superman sure has made a splash," Lois said, glancing at
the television, where the video of Clark's rescue of the
797 was replaying yet again.
Clark made a face. "I'm not sure I'm ready for all the
notoriety," he said.
"You kind of have to expect it," Lois said, prosaically.
"It goes with the territory. Just watch out for the
Clark groaned slightly, dropping his face into his hands.
"It's a good thing I'm fast on my feet."
"That's for sure. Being able to fly is a plus, too. I
don't want a bunch of women slobbering over my guy --
except maybe from a distance."
"Your guy?" He lifted his head quickly. "Do you mean
She nodded, firmly suppressing the slight twinge of
reluctance to admit it. This superstitious behavior wasn't
her style, really. Why should acknowledging that she and
Clark Kent were in a relationship, albeit a very early one
that was already serious, be so scary? She took risks to
get her scoops, didn't she? Those risks reaped big
dividends, so to speak. If she refused to take them, just
because some of them had turned out badly, she'd be no
better than some of her colleagues who fancifully styled
themselves as reporters. Previous risks she had taken with
her personal life hadn't turned out well, but that was
before Clark Kent had fallen into her life. He was
completely different from the other guys, and more than
just because of his incredible abilities. Was she going to
throw away this chance at happiness because of a fear of
risks? That would be cowardly and Lois Lane wasn't a
coward. She'd almost given up on finding the right guy.
Hadn't she been thinking since a day or two after she had
found him that she wished they had met sooner? Was she
going to shove away the man she had been waiting for all
her life now that she had him -- if she wanted him --
because she was suddenly developing a case of cold feet?
"Yes, I mean it."
He smiled at her. "I'm glad."
How did he *do* that? One smile and her heart was
fluttering like a teenage girl's.
"Clark," she said, "are you sure?"
"Sure of what?"
"About me." She picked up her copy of the Daily Planet
that lay on the sofa and folded it carefully. "You don't
know me very well. You've seen me at my best; you haven't
seen me at my worst. There's a reason that they call me
Mad Dog Lane."
"I know. I can hear pretty well, you know. I've heard
more people then Ralph talking. Quite a few have been
speculating about how long it's going to be before I annoy
you and you annihilate me."
"And that doesn't scare you? I mean, they know me better
than you do."
He reached out to remove the paper from her hands and she
realized she had been shredding the edges and that
newspaper confetti lay all over the rug by her feet. "Do
they really know you better than I do? Do they know that
the aggressive woman who works in their office, who scares
her partners half to death, feels as if she isn't someone
worth being loved, or even liked? Do they know that she
takes the risks she takes because she feels like she has to
prove she's worthy of respect? -- a completely unnecessary
task, by the way. And do they know she's loyal and
courageous and intelligent, and absolutely fascinating?"
"They're too scared of me to even think of it," Lois said.
"If you decide to tear into me, I'm pretty sure I can take
it, although I don't promise not to fight back." he said,
quietly. "You don't just walk away from someone you love
when you disagree, even if it's a pretty vigorous
disagreement. You try to work it out. Mom and Dad have
had fights, but they're still married because in spite of
everything, they still love each other. They knew that
even with all the anger and hurt feelings, the relationship
was worth the effort and they managed to work things out."
He rose from his chair and moved to sit beside her on the
sofa. "That's how I feel about you, Lois. I don't know
why it happened, but it did." He reached out to take her
hand. "Maybe it's one of the differences about me; I don't
know but I am sure of one thing: that it's for life."
She squeezed his hand. "You're incredible, did you know
that? Somehow when you're talking to me, all the doubts
sort of disappear. And Clark, I *want* you to fight back.
I don't want a guy who lets me walk all over him. I want
someone I can respect."
"I'll try to be that," he said. "And I promise to do my
best to fight fair." Slowly, giving her the chance to move
away, he slid an arm around her shoulders and scooted a
little closer, pulling her against his side. Lois found
herself relaxing against him, recalling the evening they
had spent in front of the fireplace two nights ago.
"Can we watch something besides the news?" he asked. "I'm
getting a bit tired of seeing myself in action."
"Okay." She picked up the remote control and switched the
channel. "I think Lethal Weapon is playing. Is that all
right with you?"
"No problem," he said.
Lois set the remote down. "It's kind of nice like this."
"Sure is." He pulled her gently back against him. "Do you
"No." She rested her head against his shoulder. "It feels
Silence descended on the room except for the chatter of the
television. Lois glanced at him, wondering if he would try
for more, now that they were alone together in her
apartment, but he simply smiled at her, his arm resting
lightly on her shoulders. Her return smile turned into a
yawn. "Oops, sorry."
"That's okay." He glanced at the wall clock. "Do you know
it's nearly ten?"
"The movie is half over," Lois said. She glanced at her
window, but the darkness beyond was complete. Not even the
usual glow of the city lights was visible through the
falling snow. "It would just figure that we'd get snowed
in when the Christmas Charity Ball is tomorrow night."
"It will probably be over by tomorrow," Clark said.
"Hopefully, they won't cancel the party just for a little
"I hope you're right." She yawned again.
"You're tired," he said. "It's been a busy day. Why don't
you go to bed? I'll just settle down in here."
"Are you going to float in your sleep again?" she asked.
"If I do, I promise not to leave any dents in the ceiling,"
he said, solemnly, but his eyes were twinkling.
Lois found herself giggling. "I'd love to have to explain
that!" She yawned again. "Why don't you take the bathroom
first. You take a lot less time than I do."
"Okay." He stood up and gave her a hand up from the sofa.
"Back in a few seconds." With one hand, he scooped up the
bundle of clothing he had brought from his hotel and
literally disappeared. Shaking her head slowly, she shut
off the television and turned toward her bedroom. From the
bathroom, she heard the water come on and a faint whooshing
sound and then he was walking out of the bathroom, clad in
the sweat suit, his hair ruffled and damp from the shower.
"It's all yours."
"Wow," she said.
The sun was shining brightly on a transformed city when
Lois and Clark stepped from her apartment building the next
morning and she squinted her eyes at the blaze of light
reflecting from the snow that coated every flat surface
except the street.
The snowplows were busy, she saw, and snow was piled high
on both sides of the thoroughfare. Pedestrians were
bundled up in coats, boots and mittens, with thick scarves
wrapped around their necks as they made their way along the
"Are you sure you want to walk?" Clark asked.
She nodded vigorously. "People are going to be paying
attention to the sky today," she said. "It wouldn't be a
good idea, at least for a while."
He glanced at her feet. "Well, those are very stylish snow
"You think so?" Lois regarded the footwear critically. "I
got them a couple of months ago. They don't give me much
"Why do you want height?" he asked.
"Image," she said, dryly. "I'm a lot smaller than most of
the male reporters."
"Believe me, you don't need it," he said. "You're
formidable enough just as you are."
She looked down at the toes of the boots again to hide a
smile. "I have to admit, they're more comfortable than the
heels, and definitely a lot more stable in the snow."
The walked along in silence for some minutes. Lois found
that, even with the boots, the icy sidewalk was slippery
and availed herself of her partner's arm for stability.
She pointed to her usual shortcut through the park as they
approached it. "Shall we go the short way? I doubt there
are any muggers with battleaxes waiting for us, today."
"Sure," he said.
"Lois!" a voice called, and she looked back to see Linda
King hurrying toward them down the sidewalk.
"Huh?" Clark glanced around. "Isn't that ...?"
"Linda King. Watch your step."
The reporter for the Herald skidded to a stop beside them.
"How did you do it?" the woman demanded.
"Do what?" Lois asked.
"Scored an interview with this Superman guy!" She glanced
at Clark. "Do I know you?"
"No," Clark said.
"You were with Lois at the Trevino interview the other day,
weren't you?" She held out a hand. "Linda King."
"Clark Kent," Clark said.
"Nice to meet you." Linda turned back to Lois. "How on
Earth did you do it?"
"I was just in the right place at the right time," Lois
said, truthfully, if unhelpfully. There was certainly no
point in going into detail.
Linda stared at her. "You know what I mean. Every
reporter in the city is willing to kill for an interview
with him! How about an introduction? Professional
courtesy, or something?"
"Sorry," Lois said, ironically. "I'm late for an
appointment with my 'psychotherapist'. Can't miss any more
of them, you know. I might suspect that something was
going on with Barbara Trevino and the Rainforest
Consortium. Oh," she added, snapping her fingers, "I guess
something *was* going on with them." She raised an eyebrow
at the other woman. "Too bad you didn't have a clue. Come
on, Clark. We're going to be late if we don't hurry."
As they walked away, Clark gave a small grin. "Meow?" he
suggested. "Do I sense a certain competitiveness between
"Just because I wouldn't have Paul on a silver platter,
now, doesn't mean I've forgiven her for stealing my story,"
He laughed. "Whatever happened to Paul?" he asked. "Or,
do you know?"
She shrugged. "I suppose he's on some paper or TV station
somewhere, but I haven't heard of him since I graduated."
"I suspect he can't say the same of you," Clark murmured.
"I heard about you even in Europe. I've seen your stuff in
the international edition of the Planet. That thing where
you saved the space station was amazing. It isn't
surprising that Linda is jealous."
"You know," Lois said, "that's something I think I'd better
look at again."
"What? Linda's jealousy?"
"The space program thing. Ever since we found the LexCorp
connection to Barbara Trevino, it's been kind of bugging
me. I didn't think of it at the time, but when the space
station project got into trouble, there was an offer by Lex
Luthor to build a private space station -- Space Station
Luthor. After this latest thing, do you suppose he could
have had something to do with the problems that they were
"Possibly," Clark said, slowly. "It's an interesting
point, anyway. But wasn't there a scientist who died in a
helicopter explosion that was supposed to have been the
"Yes. Antoinette Baines -- just like Barbara Trevino was
supposed to have been the ringleader in this latest thing.
Somebody in LexCorp is behind this, Clark, I just know it."
"Maybe Luthor, himself," Clark said. "I'd say the evidence
kind of points that way."
"Maybe. Or maybe some other high-ranking company officer.
I don't want to make any specific assumptions until I have
more information. I wonder how many times some scheme of
our Mr. X has fallen through and a subordinate has taken
the fall for whoever actually masterminded it?"
"That's a good question," Clark said. "He'd have to be
very careful at covering his tracks, though."
"I'd call a helicopter explosion a pretty good way of
getting rid of inconvenient loose ends, wouldn't you?" Lois
said. "I hope Henderson is taking precautions with Barbara
"Me, too. He sounded to me as if he has his suspicions,
"Maybe we need to do some research into Dr. Baines's
associates in the weeks before she was killed in that
"I think you're right," Clark said. "Did Jimmy ever get
Barbara Trevino's phone records for us, do you know?"
"I think that once she was caught, he didn't think we
needed them anymore."
"Well, I want them, too. And maybe Jimmy can hunt around
and find Dr. Baines's phone records, if they're still
available somewhere. I want to see if there's a connection
"Geez, you guys don't want much, do you?" Jimmy sighed.
"Okay. Actually, I've still got Trevino's phone records.
I'll get 'em for you, and I'll see what I can do about Dr.
Baines. Here." He thrust several sheets of paper at Lois.
"Here's the passenger list and the other stuff."
"Great." Lois took it and turned her head at Perry's
"Okay, everybody! Staff meeting in five minutes!"
"Gee," she said, "I wonder what that's about?"
"Three guesses," Clark murmured.
"I don't think I need them." Lois quirked an eyebrow at
him. "Come on."
Perry had tacked the front page up onto the bulletin board
along with several photographs taken from the LNN
broadcasts and the one that Lois had taken with her 35 mm
at the scene of the bus rescue. People filed in, all of
them looking over the contents of the bulletin board as
they took their seats. Cat Grant, she saw, was examining
the picture of Clark in the red and blue suit, lifting a
woman out through the roof of her crushed car. The gossip
columnist was practically drooling. For once, she barely
gave Clark a glance as he took his seat next to Lois at the
Lois considered that it was a refreshing change, but
unlikely to be permanent. She leaned back in her chair,
watching her coworkers as they filed in. Ralph gave the
contents of the board a long look and then turned to
whisper to Jerry Mitchell. The man glanced at him and
raised an eyebrow. On the other hand, she saw Clark's
brows snap together and he turned in his seat to direct a
glare at Ralph.
"What?" she whispered.
"Ralph," he said. "Now it's you and Superman."
"*What*?" Her whisper was loud enough to draw a curious
glance or two from persons seated nearby.
Perry hadn't missed the byplay. "Is there something you'd
care to share with us, Lois?" he inquired.
She glared at Ralph. "I'll take it up with Finkelstein,
later. My hearing is a lot better than he thought."
Ralph paled. Satisfied that she'd made her point, Lois
turned back to Perry and smiled, brightly. "Never mind,
Chief. I'm sure Ralph understands."
In the background, somebody snorted.
Perry glanced at the ceiling for an instant as if invoking
Divine help and then jerked a thumb at the bulletin board.
"I don't have to tell you people that this is the biggest
story of the year. A man who can fly, lift a jumbo jet,
rip doors and roofs off of cars -- and, according to what
he told Lois, is here to help. Our publisher called me at
home last night. He wants to know all about this guy, not
just what he sees fit to tell us. I promised him that we
at the Planet wouldn't rest until Superman was ours. Are
we clear on this?"
Clark moved convulsively and Lois spoke up. "Chief, this
isn't fair. I should have the exclusive on the follow-up.
Those are the rules."
"The rules are off," Perry said. "This is too big."
"Forget it, Lois. Superman's fair game. Every reporter
for him or herself. Speaking of which, Kent, where were
you while Lois was getting this interview?"
Clark hesitated for an instant and Lois jumped in. "Chief,
it was his day off, too! I just happened to be at the
right place at the right time! Clark has been needing to
find an apartment and bodyguarding me since he got here
hasn't left him a lot of time to do it."
"Oh." Perry glanced at Clark, who nodded briefly. "Hadn't
thought of that. Okay, boys and girls, that's the word
from on high. Find me Superman!"
The phone chose that moment to ring and he picked it up.
The crowd of reporters was breaking up. Cat returned to
her study of the photos of Superman and Lois stood up,
tugging at Clark's arm. "Come on."
"Somewhere that we can talk."
He followed her from the conference room. Lois promptly
marched to the adjoining one and locked the door behind
them. "We should have expected this. I figure every paper
in town has the same orders out to their people. They're
all going to be after you."
"Yeah, I gathered that," he said, sounding resigned. "The
problem is, I can't give anybody any more information about
myself. I don't have any more -- at least, nothing that
I'm willing to talk about and I'm not going to make up
something just to make Perry happy."
"I don't expect you to," Lois said. "I had to act a little
upset when Perry suspended the rules. It wouldn't have
been in character for me not to get mad but I'm not going
to pursue you -- except for current scoops, of course.
You'll just have to make it a point to avoid the others."
"I'm not sure I can do that, forever," Clark said, "but I
probably don't have a choice. I guess I didn't expect this
"Well, now you know. We'll cope," Lois said. "It'll be
all right. It might not be such a bad idea if you were to
report on Superman once in awhile, yourself. You don't
want to be the only reporter in town who never gets a scoop
"You're probably right. What are you going to do to
Ralph?" Clark asked.
"Give me time. I'll think of something artistic. Ralph's
a gossip, which wouldn't be so bad if he'd confine it to
his work but he seems to think it extends to his
colleagues, as well."
Clark shrugged. "Mom always says the trouble with gossips
is that while they'll talk to you about someone else,
they'll also talk about you to others. Anything is fodder
for a gossip, and if they haven't got anything to talk
about, they'll invent something."
"Ralph should be working for the National Whisper," Lois
said, crossly. "I have no idea why Perry hired the guy,
but it was the worst idea he ever had." A knock on the
door made her break off. Jimmy was waving several sheets
of paper at them. Lois opened the door. "Are those
Trevino's phone records?"
"Yeah. For the last six months. I'm working on the ones
for Dr. Baines. It might take me a while, though."
"Thanks," Lois said, taking the offering. "Just get them
for me as soon as you can. It's important."
"Will do. Um -- " Jimmy hesitated. "The Chief wants to
talk to you in his office."
"We'll be right there," Lois said. She saw Clark lift his
head. Was he doing what she thought he was doing?
"Um, Lois, I just remembered, I have to meet that source --
"Go ahead," she said, immediately. "I'll see what Perry
"Thanks," he said, quickly and squeezed past Jimmy to hurry
toward the ramp.
Lois left the conference room and headed toward Perry's
office. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Clark
disappear through the door to the stairs and an instant
later, she heard a familiar sonic boom.
"What in Elvis's name was that?" Perry asked, as she
entered his office.
"I think it was a sonic boom," Lois said.
"Some idiot pilot is going to be in trouble," Perry
muttered. "That's illegal over the city."
"Um ... that's the sound Superman makes when he exceeds the
sound barrier," Lois said. "He did that, yesterday. I
"The guy can really fly that fast?" Perry asked, sounding
She nodded. "Superman is pretty incredible."
"I can see that. Where's Kent?"
"He was supposed to meet one of our sources," Lois said.
"What did you need?"
"I wanted to know if you can arrange another interview with
Superman. Your article was good but the information was
pretty sketchy. Where did he come from? How did he get
here? How long has he been here? Did he have anything to
do with the way Nightfall changed course? That's seems
awfully coincidental, if you ask me. I want some follow-
ups. And," he continued, "what did he tell you that you
didn't put in the article?"
Lois rolled her eyes. "Chief, that's a lot of questions.
He suspected that the plane that hit the passenger jet was
a drone and that the collision was deliberate. Clark and I
are trying to verify that, and find out who might be behind
"He told you that? Why?"
"He said he knew my reputation," Lois said. "Should there
be any other reason?"
Perry sighed. "That was a silly question, wasn't it? Next
time you see him, see what else he'll tell you. And ask
him about Nightfall, would you?"
"Will do," Lois said. "Is there anything else? I need to
look over this stuff Jimmy got me."
She had barely closed the door behind her when Perry jerked
it open. His bellow of "Turn on the monitors!" nearly made
her jump out of her skin. Jimmy rushed to obey and the
monitors came on with a blast of sound. Hastily, Jimmy
moderated the noise level while the occupants of the
newsroom stared at Superman as he whisked in and out of the
upper floors of a burning building, rescuing trapped
Jimmy bolted for the stairs, camera in hand. Perry tugged
instinctively at his hair. "Why is this happening? We
*still* don't have anybody at the scene! Friaz!"
"On my way, Chief." Eduardo grabbed a notebook and pen
from his desk and followed Jimmy. The door closed behind
Lois pursed her lips and crossed to her desk. The chances
were good that Superman would be gone by the time Jimmy and
Eduardo got to the scene of the fire, but Clark could write
up the details. Having Superman as a partner was looking
better and better.
The scene on the monitors shifted to the LNN weather
forecaster, and she lost interest. Seating herself at her
desk, she began to study the names on the passenger list.
If Clark was right, someone on this list might very well
have been the target of attempted murder. The chances were
that she wasn't likely to spot anything just by looking at
the names, but maybe Jimmy could find a little information
on them, like addresses or jobs, or ...
Her mental meandering skidded to a halt at the sight of one
of the names on the list. Josef Carlin. Where had she
heard that name before?
Carlin Investments, that was it. Hobbs Mining was a
subsidiary of Carlin Investments, which was in turn a
subsidiary of LexCorp. Was it possible there was some kind
of connection between Josef Carlin and LexCorp? That was
definitely something Jimmy was going to have to research
for her when he got back. There might not be anything to
it, but if someone on that plane had been targeted for
murder, and might be connected to LexCorp, then she wanted
to know what that connection was. If, for some reason, his
continued existence could be awkward for someone in the
upper echelons of the company, she might be able to pin
down who it was -- besides Barbara Trevino, that is -- to
whom she had posed a danger.
Clark returned well before Jimmy or Eduardo. Lois looked
up from her study of the phone records and beckoned to him
as he stepped off the elevator.
He made his way quickly to her desk. "Got something?" he
"Maybe. A name. And Barbara Trevino called a couple of
numbers quite a lot in the past six months -- especially in
the last couple of days before you caught her." She
glanced briefly at the editor's office where, beyond the
blinds, Perry could be seen pacing like a caged tiger and
lowered her voice. "You should write up Superman's rescues
at that fire. Better include a short quote. Perry's about
to rupture a seam."
He had followed her glance. "Right. That shouldn't be a
problem. What's the name?"
"Josef Carlin. It may be nothing but a coincidence, but do
you remember Carlin Investments?"
"The company that owns Hobbs Mining? Sure. It's a
subsidiary of ... "
"The LexCorp connection again."
"Maybe," Lois said, cautiously. "That's what I want Jimmy
to check out when he gets back. If we're going to take on
LexCorp, we have to be absolutely certain of our facts."
"That's for sure," Clark agreed. "Look, I'll just write up
the fire story and then we can get to work on this. Maybe
the DataNet will have some stuff on him. Is there an
address or anything else to go with that name?"
"Just where he bought the ticket. Jamaica. He had a
round-trip ticket from Jamaica to Chicago. I wonder where
he was going?"
"Well, if it turns out there's some kind of connection to
LexCorp, maybe we can find out." He strode to his desk and
dropped into the chair. A moment later, his fingers were
flying over the keyboard almost at the limit of human
speed. Finished in record time, he transmitted the article
to Perry and leaned back. Lois rose and went to sit on the
corner of his desk.
"Yep. Jimmy's photos should go well with it. He got there
just as I was leaving. I think he may have gotten a couple
"Did you see Eduardo anywhere? He left a minute or two
He shook his head. "Nope. I'd have stayed but I heard a
woman being mugged a few streets over and went to help."
In the editor's office, Perry had stopped pacing and was in
his chair, leaning forward to read something on his
computer screen. Lois felt her eyebrows climbing at the
sight of a smile on his face. "Perry looks happy. Okay,
let's get down to business. I wish I knew how to handle a
computer the way Jimmy does."
"So do I," Clark said. "Still, I have a few advantages to
compensate. Let's try the DataNet first ..."
Jimmy returned some twenty minutes later, followed shortly
by Eduardo Friaz. Jimmy was cautiously optimistic; he had
managed to catch two good shots of Superman in flight as he
left the scene of the fire, which, while not the dramatic
photo he had hoped for, could at least be said to be more
than other newspapers in the city had. Eduardo wasn't as
pleased. His cab had been caught in a traffic jam and he'd
only managed to arrive in time to interview the fire chief
about the fire and Superman's assistance in evacuating
victims. The superhero had been long gone.
Lois listened to Jimmy's breathless explanation and nodded.
"Well, fortunately for you, Clark was talking to his source
only a little ways off when Superman arrived, so between
you and Eduardo and him, we're pretty well covered. As
soon as you get those prints developed, Clark and I need
Jimmy winced. "Lois, I haven't even got the record of Dr.
Baines's phone calls, yet. You need *more* research?"
"I'm afraid so," Clark told him, grinning slightly. "It's
important, Jimmy, or we wouldn't bother you about it today.
I know you're pretty swamped, but we really need the
"There's a name on the plane's passenger list that we need
background on," Lois said. "We got some preliminary stuff
on him from the DataNet, but we need you to find out more
about him. His name's Josef Carlin, home of record:
Jamaica. He's the CEO and part owner of Carlin
"Carlin?" Jimmy said, frowning. "That sounds familiar."
"Carlin Investments is a subsidiary of LexCorp," Clark
said. "Believe me, this is getting more convoluted all the
"Everything sort of ties into LexCorp, doesn't it?" Jimmy
said. "Trevino, and now this guy."
"Yeah, but don't talk about it," Lois said. "We aren't
sure of anything, yet."
"My lip is zipped," Jimmy assured her. "Does this have
anything to do with the break-in the other night?"
"Maybe." She hesitated. "Jimmy, this could be pretty big,
if Clark and I are anywhere near right -- and it could be
dangerous if the wrong people think you know anything about
"You're not kidding, are you?" They shook their heads in
unison. He whistled softly. "Maybe I'd better take a few
security precautions of my own -- other than my password,
that is. I mean, nobody's likely to be snooping around on
my computer, but --"
"If somebody knows you do the research, they might decide
to see what you're looking into," Clark said. "A little
security might not be a bad thing."
Jimmy shrugged. "Good point. Okay, as soon as I finish
the pics, I'll get right on it."
"Ready for lunch?" Clark asked. Lois nodded, dropping the
passenger list onto her empty desk.
"I sure hope Perry gets me another computer pretty soon.
This is getting really inconvenient."
"I heard him talking to Accounting about that," Clark told
her in a low voice. "He's trying to get them to come up
with the money from the discretionary fund and one of the
paper-pushers is giving him the bureaucratic runaround.
She wanted to know if it was really a necessary expense.
He was muttering all kinds of dire threats when he hung
"So do I get my computer soon, or not?" Lois asked. "I
guess I could bring in my laptop from home, but it's really
"I think so, but you can use mine if you need one until
Jimmy emerged from the darkroom and headed for Perry's
office. Lois reached for her handbag. In the background,
the "ding" of the arriving elevator sounded but she paid no
attention until its doors opened and at least a dozen men,
all carrying firearms, swarmed out, charging down the ramp
and the stairs. Lois stared, mouth open, as they spread
out across the room, blocking exits and covering the
occupants, but not before, out of the corner of her eye,
she saw Jimmy duck into the supply closet.
A large man had remained by the railing and now he stepped
forward, waving a paper over his head.
"This is a warrant issued by Federal Court!" he announced.
"Everyone step away from your desks!" He turned from the
railing and strode confidently down the ramp.
The door of the Editor's Office burst open and Perry
emerged, looking as outraged as Lois felt. "Nobody comes
busting into my newsroom like this!"
"Take it up with Washington," the man said, thrusting the
paper at Perry.
Perry took it. "Order to produce evidence ... compel
testimony ... Lois Lane?"
One of the invaders pushed her aside and began to rifle
through her desk. Lois reacted instinctively and lunged at
him. Her assault was so unexpected, the man staggered back
and sat down with a bruising thump on the floor.
"Get out of my desk!" she snarled.
A second man grabbed her and found himself with an armful
of twisting, fighting woman. A third man moved in, only to
discover himself face to face with the very solid form of
Clark Kent. The agent holding Lois, hampered by the
necessity of not harming his prisoner, allowed her to twist
Lois straightened up and discovered a grim-faced Clark now
standing still, facing the man whom he had blocked and
looking down the muzzle of a semiautomatic pistol. There
was a long moment of complete silence.
The leader broke the tension. "Put it away. He's just a
The man holstered his weapon. Lois whirled to face the man
whom she considered to be the perpetrator of this outrage.
"Yeah, reporter! As in protected by the Constitution!"
He didn't quite sneer, but he might as well have.
"Impressive document, the Constitution. It gives Federal
courts the right to issue warrants like this one -- which
says I get what I want!"
"And what exactly is that?" Clark asked.
The leader looked him over insolently. "You're Kent,
correct? Lane's new partner?"
"I want Superman and I'm not leaving until Ms. Lane tells
me where I can find him."
Lois pushed the instant fear out of her mind to deal with
later. "Even if I knew, I wouldn't tell you!" she snapped.
"I don't answer questions from nameless bullies. Who the
hell are you people?"
"That isn't important, Ms. Lane. What's important is that
the government find this 'Superman'' immediately. It's a
matter of national security."
"Well then, I guess we're at a standstill," Lois said. "I
don't talk to anybody unless I know who I'm talking to."
The leader strode forward to loom threateningly over her.
"Some people might call that treason."
Undaunted, Lois glared back. "Yeah, and some people might
call you a -- " She glanced at Clark and bit off the
sentence. "Forget it."
The leader gestured to two of his men. "In that case,
we'll be taking your computer and your notes."
Lois grinned, nastily. "Be my guest, but you'll have to
find it first. There was a break-in night before last and
they got my computer. As for my notes, there's nothing
there that I can't replace." She turned and raised her
voice. "Somebody call the cops! No legitimate Federal
agents would refuse to identify themselves!"
"Nice, Ms Lane," the leader said. "I'd advise no one to
follow that order."
"Too late." To her surprise, she heard Jimmy's voice. The
junior photographer stepped from the supply closet, a
cellular phone in one hand. "I already did. They're on
At that instant one of the men who had remained in the
background stepped forward and spoke softly in his leader's
Perry hadn't moved. Now, he cast an approving look at
Jimmy and turned back to the bigger man. "Why don't you
get the hell out of my newsroom now, buddy, so I can get
our lawyers on the phone and start suin' your butts off!"
No one answered and the black-clad men were already moving
swiftly and silently toward the elevator. As the Planet
staff watched, motionless, they crowded quickly into the
car and the doors closed behind them.
It was Cat who broke the silence. "It was horrible the way
they treated us, Perry! That agent frisked me, twice!"
Perry grunted under his breath and turned to one of the
other staffers. "Biederman, let's get Legal on this right
away. Lois, you and Clark get out of here, now. Make
yourselves scarce. If those goons come back with
subpoenas, I don't want to know where you are and I don't
want you anywhere they can serve you. Wear your beepers.
I'll call you when we know something more."
"See anybody?" Lois asked.
Clark pushed his glasses into place. "Nope; no sign of
them. Let's go."
Quickly, they ducked through the Planet's side door and
made their way down the alley toward their pre-planned
"I wish we could just fly," Lois grumbled. "But right now
it wouldn't be a good idea."
"No kidding. Who do you suppose those guys were?
"Maybe. But there was something wrong with that whole
deal." Lois paused at the exit from the alley and peeked
"You think they weren't legitimate?"
"I don't know," Lois said. "I don't know what they were,
but there was definitely something weird with that
situation -- or weirder than usual."
"Is life around the Planet always like this?" he asked.
"Not always. Sometimes it gets *really* strange." She
looked over her shoulder at him. "Do you mind giving me
some help here? I don't see anybody but that doesn't mean
He lowered his glasses and swept the area. "No sign of
them. Where are we going?"
"Back to my place long enough to pick up some clothes for
me and then I guess we should find a place to hide out for
awhile. But how about the Charity Ball tonight? I've been
angling for a way to meet Lex Luthor for months and -- on
the exact day I'm going to the same event he is -- these
guys show up!"
"We'll go to it," Clark said. "You have to meet him. If
that mob of goons decides to crash the party, we'll fly out
a back window or something. The Lexor is a pretty big
hotel. If we take off from the top floor, nobody's going
to see us from the street -- especially at night."
"Unless they're using night-vision goggles or something,"
Lois said, pessimistically.
"From over a hundred stories up? I think we can manage all
right. Trust me."
He was rewarded when she threw him a slight grin. "Believe
it or not, I do. Okay, let's go. Keep alert."
"My eyes are peeled," he said.
The street in front of Lois's apartment house wasn't
deserted but the traffic was fairly light when they reached
their destination. Clark checked the entire area for any
sign of suspicious individuals but saw no one watching
"That doesn't mean they aren't," Lois said. "I'm sure
whoever they are, they probably have more people than the
ones that showed up in the newsroom."
"I'll be listening for them," he assured Lois. "If I hear
anything suspicious, I'll have us out of there before they
get to your floor."
"Okay." She nodded, looking around anxiously. "Let's go."
They crossed the street and hurried through the front door
of the apartment building. Clark scanned the stairwell for
occupants and then whisked them to the fifth floor without
waiting for the creaky elevator.
When Lois unlocked the door, he lowered his glasses again,
taking a closer look at the interior of her apartment. He
put a hand on her arm and touched a finger to his lips.
Lois paused in mid step. "What?"
He pulled the door closed. "Watch what you say in there.
Your apartment is bugged."
Clark's pager began to vibrate. He retrieved it and
checked the number. "The Planet's calling. Shall I ...?"
He gestured toward her door. Lois bit her lip for a moment
and then nodded. Quickly, he pushed it open and made his
way to the phone.
Perry answered on the third ring. "Kent? Tell Lois to
turn on her pager. And come back to the office, right
away. The warrant's a fake!"
"It's as phony as a lock of Elvis's hair from a Memphis
souvenir shop! Both of you get back here as fast as you
"Um ... right, Perry. Will do." Clark hung up.
"What?" Lois asked.
"Perry wants us to do something for him." Clark spoke to
fill in the gap in the conversation while he indicated the
bug he had spotted under the edge of Lois's coffee table.
Lois bent to examine the little device and he could see her
frowning. Without speaking, she stood up and crossed the
room to her fish tank. Still in silence, she sprinkled
food into the tank and thrust the little cardboard
container into the drawer of the nearest table.
"Let me get a couple of things and we can go," Lois said.
She disappeared into the bedroom and Clark heard her
rummaging around. The sound of drawers being pulled open
and pushed shut was followed by the click of a closing door
and then the snap of a catch. Lois emerged from the
bedroom, carrying a suitcase. "Okay, let's go."
Without further speech, they left the apartment and Lois
locked the door behind her. "I don't suppose it matters,
since it didn't stop them last time," she said, dropping
the key into her handbag, "but I don't want to leave it
"At least it should stop the ordinary burglar," Clark said.
"Perry wants us to come back. The warrant's a fake."
"Yeah," he said.
"Oh, well, that's a *whole* lot better," Lois said, her
voice heavy with irony.
"Oh, definitely," Clark said, matching her irony. He held
out a hand for the bag and Lois surrendered it. "What's in
"Clothes for the charity thing tonight and night gear. I'm
not staying anywhere near my place as long as some group of
unidentified thugs is keeping an eye on it."
"Or an ear," Clark agreed. "Smallville, here we come for
another night. At least they won't be able to find us
there. Superman doesn't leave a trail."
"If your parents won't mind, I'd like to," Lois said. "In
the meantime, though, we need to identify these people. If
they think it's their job to hunt down Superman, we're
going to find them first!"